Continuing Tales

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 19 of 39

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Thor phoned Jane every day and each time he made a point of asking Loki if he wanted to speak with Darcy.

Loki refused, in part because he found the phone a peculiar means of communication. He didn't want to chat with a disembodied voice; he wanted to talk to Darcy. But also, because he assumed she was still angry with him and besides, what would he say? "Having fun. Wish you were here," like some vapid Midgard postcard?

He most certainly wasn't having fun, and neither was Darcy given her living arrangements. His awareness that her state of pseudo-incarceration was indirectly because of him struck a single note of guilt inside him, which in turn, made him angry. Anger then triggered the memory of her face when he called her insignificant, when he almost called her stupid.

He saw with knife sharp clarity the instant when his words ripped through her. She was strong, stronger than anyone, including herself, ever gave her credit for. In the years to come, when she outgrew the bird-brained facade, she'd be formidable. But he'd easily found the chink in her armor and made her bleed. The note of guilt became a scale, chords, melody, and built a symphony of self-recrimination, heart rending and in a minor key.

Which made him angrier.

Why should he feel guilt over her silly emotions? She was nothing...

"Liar," he muttered, slumping in his seat against the vehicle's door, eyes seeing but not entirely registering the landscape outside the SUV as it maneuvered through the suburban outskirts of New Orleans.

"What?" Thor leaned toward him. "But it's the truth. Green Bay's quarterback fumbled and the 49ers recovered the ball."

Loki stared blankly at Thor. Apparently he and Steve Rogers, who sat next to Thor on the opposite side of the backseat, were discussing football. They were returning from what SHIELD had described as a minor suppressive mission. Rogers got the dubious honor of riding with Thor and Loki because he was too polite to object.

Thor and Rogers, it seemed, were currently bonding over American football.

"I wasn't talking to you," grumbled Loki. Steve glanced around the vehicle as if he expected to find someone else in the car. Concern moved across Thor's face. In his head, Loki laughed. The two twits believed he was hearing voices. Playing along might have been amusing, but he really wanted to be left alone. "I was merely speaking a thought aloud, a private matter."

The SUV slowed and halted at a stoplight. Movement caught his attention. A green minivan was stopped next to their vehicle and a young woman, blond hair, probably in her late twenties, stared out the window and right at him. He returned the stare, wondering if she could see him. The SHIELD vehicle's windows were nearly as black as the finish.

The woman smiled shyly and Loki shuddered. Most likely she was an ordinary mortal who saw a good looking man in the vehicle next to hers, but he had good reason to keep a low profile, even among mortals.

He, of course, had no fear of ordinary mortals. There were other reasons, much more dangerous reasons, to keep a low profile, first and foremost the one that rhymed with...Thanos. What did rhyme with Thanos, anyway? As soon as the silly thought crossed his mind, he groaned. Out loud.

"Loki, what's wrong?" asked Thor, his broad face long with concern. Rogers stared at him as well, but wary, not worried.

Loki put his fingers to his forehead and muttered, "My head is infected."

Thor and Rogers stared at him, nervous and wide-eyed.

Yes, lads. It's true. Loki's gone off sanity again. Flee for your lives! Because the two fools' eyes were near leaping from their sockets and bouncing under the seats, he gave a dismissive wave. "A pointless jest." With a Loki-appropriate sneer, he turned away.

He had a term for the peculiar little notions, like rhyming the names of his enemies, that had plagued his mind of late. Darcyisms. The woman was like a virus. In his brain.

Viruses, however, usually only served to destroy and weaken the host. This one proliferated in his head, shoving aside the dulling, self-pitying miasma, and infesting him with a sense of purpose. For what, exactly, he didn't know yet. Nothing too terribly altruistic, of course. He was still, well...himself. Whatever the schemes, certainly plural, that grew in the womb of his mind, they were unlikely to feature quite as much violence as the previous. Something subtler, because, unfortunately, Darcy was likely to frown on anything involving the death of humans or other collateral damage. Even more unfortunately - infuriating, really - her opinion now mattered. Worse still, he couldn't bring himself to extricate her from his life.

If only he'd had the sense to kill her months ago...

With unwanted devotion, the memory visited him almost nightly as a dream.

Odin's face, composed of broad strokes and familiar beard. Then, "Stupid boy..." and the rending of his memories.

Next blood. First a sharpness of flesh parting, followed by the warmth of blood flowing over skin. Then the bright exaltation of pain, a twisted release, a sweet evasion. They could try to make him feel, demand the recompense of guilt, but he'd give them nothing. Not even hate. Blood, slick and hot, then sticky and cold, then dry and stiff as armor. The bones in his hands might crack, but what did he care? Spells and once instinctive access to magic gone, he was naught but a shell.

Odin's visage was above him once more, blood on his big hands and thick fingers. "Loki, what have you done?"

Through cracked lips and bitten tongue, Loki snarled, "Everything. Same as you."

"No, Loki. What have you done? What have you done?"

Loki smirked and dove into the sanctuary of pain.

His memories of the night he left Asgard, what little there was of them, began like the dream. A face loomed over him, broad and bearded. Odin. No, not Odin. His blasted son. The resemblance ate at Loki, sneaking past the fortress of pain. Nothing like you. The truth was always before you. You should have known all along.

"Be gone," he croaked, bent and twisted hands moving in the habit of a spell to banish the brute. He sat on the hard floor, pressed into a corner, with no recollection of how he got there.

"We have little time. Come, Loki." Thor's strong grasp found bruises and a gash on his arms, under his armor. Though he thought he was inured to pain, even delighted by it, he cried out.

"I am sorry, brother, but you must move. Now." Thor hauled him to his feet.

"What are you doing?" rasped Loki.

"We are leaving. You and I."

"Idiot." Magic not an option, he tried to brace his feet against the hard ground. "Take me from this place and Odin's magic-"

"I know about the spell," interrupted Thor. "It makes no difference. We go to Midgard." Thor hefted him easily into his arms, which was a good thing because something in Loki's left knee made an ominous crack.

He stopped resisting because he didn't have the strength and besides, in any minute, Hiemdall's gaze would fall on their escape and they'd be caught. Loki wondered what Odin would do with his golden son then.

They moved through the dark and secret pathways in Asgard's prison, past the cells of immortal prisoners long forgotten. Small things chittered in the wet, stony passages, some emanating tiny malevolent magiks of their own, but Thor and Loki slipped unbothered out into the night.

Loki lost consciousness, awaking to a long rattling equine snort. "Stand still, stupid lout," grumbled Thor, "else I will chop you into meat for Odin's ravens." The smell of horse and leather tack filled Loki's nose as he was lifted awkwardly into the saddle. He swayed but didn't fall because Thor leaped on the animal's back and wrapped an arm around his waist.

"It's a wonder you did not steal Sleipnir," Loki muttered. This animal, though extraordinarily large, had the usual complement of four hooves.

Thor chuckled. "I considered it. Then I realized it was the sort of foolhardy action that you have often chided me for."

Eyes moving up the animal's neck, Loki noticed their mount was one of Sif's favorites, an enormous, long-legged destrier with a curious blaze that ran up its face and onto one ear like a splash of white paint. Although the beast had a foul temper, Thor had probably chosen to "borrow" it because it had a remarkably smooth gaits. Loki passed out again.

When he awoke, they had ridden deep into the shadows of a forest, only starlight for illumination. Thor had both arms around him now, holding him in the saddle. Loki felt Thor's slight shift in the saddle as he halted the horse. Thor dismounted, and Loki slid gracelessly off and into Thor's grasp again.

His wounds ached, but not as much as before. Were they already healing? He needed their pain to keep worse things at bay. He pushed his magic, what power he could access, into his wounds and was rewarded by agony.

Thor walked through the forest for a time, the chirping night insects and rustle of things scurrying in the underbrush, their sole companions. Loki fought to stay conscious, struggling to determine their location, even though he knew the geography of Asgard as well as anyone.

His mind was like a house whose architecture had been utterly remade. He wandered through strange hallways into unfamiliar rooms filled with broken relics of a past he couldn't remember. Even if he were inclined to return and delve into the mysteries therein, he found himself lost, unable to return to the same place twice.

For a time even his short term memory was faltering and the details of their flight from Asgard and the month after, murky at best.

Which was a pity, because the exact means of their escape intrigued him. But the few enquiries he'd made of Thor, halfhearted attempts really, since to do otherwise would require a conversation with the buffoon, had been met with stubborn reticence.

That night, Thor tromped deeper and deeper into the forest, the trees growing closer together, the underbrush thicker. "So we're walking to Midgard, then?" Loki had muttered during a short spell of lucidity. "Fortunate that we are immortal, else we'd die of old age before we ever got there."

Thor chuckled, but offered no explanation. Hours passed, Loki spending most unconscious. At first, he thought the voices part of a dream. The absence of motion, Thor had stopped walking, brought him back to a state of not-quite consciousness.

"I am in your debt," Thor said. "We both are."

"Yes, you are," said a male voice. Loki blinked blearily and squinted in the direction of the voice, blind left eye sending lances of pain into his skull. There was a place between two trees where the darkness seemed blacker, but no other visible sign of the speaker.

There were gaping abysses in Loki's brain, but the habit of reaching out and exploring with magic so ingrained that he tried anyway. He could feel power inside him, but couldn't remember how to connect to it. Impotent fury thundered in his head, and he did the only thing he could; he shoved his rage into the wounds on his body, tearing at the scabs and tiny spots where flesh started to knit.

Someone was whimpering, a pathetic sound. Loki realized it was him and hoped neither Thor nor their mysterious companion had heard.

Unfortunately, the mysterious person had. "He's almost dead," said the voice. It sounded irritated, as if his impending demise was an inconvenience.

"He will recover," Thor responded, voice redolent with the usual noxious confidence.

"He can't do magic. For a sorcerer, that is death."

"His powers will return." Loki could hear and feel Thor's deep breath, as he struggled with his patience. "You said you could do this. Open a passage? Without the Bifrost? Beyond Heimdall's sight?"

"You've been out of his sight for the past five hours."

Something in the voice sounded wrong. As if the speaker was one thing (something familiar that he could not quite place), but spoke with the inflections of something else. He turned the problem around in his head, but the best he could come up with was, "Not Aesir."

But his truncated attention span reached its limit and he drifted, weak focus set on keeping his injuries from healing. There it stayed even when Thor's new friend neatly manipulated space-time and ushered them off to Midgard.

Disinterest was a good thing, because if he'd thought too much about it, their mysterious benefactor's obvious magical prowess would have triggered furious jealousy and Loki was committed to feeling nothing but pain.

Their passage didn't so much move them through space, but rather space moved through them. In the shattering silence of their journey, where light and sound and even a sense of self lost all meaning, Loki nonetheless felt a strange comfort. This he still knew, the enormous and simultaneously infinitesimal spaces inside space. It called to his magic and he felt a muted, but welcomed response in his being.

The world at the end of their journey struck at him, hard and gratingly loud after the sweet oblivion of nothingness. They were high on a wooded mountaintop where the freezing wind tore at trees whose only recourse was to rub their limbs together in creaky, squeaking protest. At ground level, the snow swirled in crazy eddies, ice cold flakes beating like tiny feet against his skin and armor. Forest litter under crusted snow broke noisily under Thor's heavy tread.

Thor exhaled a steaming gout of air into the frigid air. Loki could feel Thor's muscles tensing against the cold. Loki's response was something entirely different, a kind of welcoming that he always felt in this sort of environment. He'd once felt a measure of pride at his hardy nature. Now, it sickened him and he drove his revulsion into his injuries, agony rising again, a boon companion. Again, unbidden, a moan escaped his lips.

"All will be well, Loki," said Thor, clutching him tighter. "They will sense we are here, they will come."

"They" turned out to be SHIELD. They arrived in a blazing riot of floodlights, the head pounding chop-chop-chop of helicopter blades; they bristled with weapons and barked orders like petulant dogs. Loki pondered the possibility that his ever-noble brother had finally come to his senses and delivered him to a final deadly judgment with his enemies.

That was ridiculous, of course, since the pitiful mortals probably couldn't find the means to truly end him. And Thor, in true form, threw them both on SHIELD's mercy, all the while holding to two demands: first, that Loki not be harmed. And more importantly, that they not be parted. Thor hadn't yet seen the effects of Odin's binding, but he knew his sire well enough to recognize the danger in the enchantment.

Ordinarily, the very sight of Loki would likely have been enough for SHIELD's overeager foot soldiers to cheerfully unleash everything in their technological arsenal at him and Thor. By coincidence - interesting coincidence - Director Nick Fury - had been visiting that far flung outpost in the Sierra Nevadas, near the border between California and Nevada. Fury kept his human dogs at heel and Thor and Loki were brought into custody.

This didn't mean that SHIELD welcomed their errant, immortal Avenger back with open arms, particularly given the company he kept. Despite Thor essentially debasing himself by swearing all manner of fealty like a lowly knight, the business of what to do with him and Loki remained undecided for weeks. Thor devoted most of his time trying to coax Loki to eat and fretting over his wounds.

"If you would just-"

"I'm not taking off my armor, here, among these creatures."

Thor would sigh and then lay a big hand on Loki's face, eyes on his wounds, his blinded eye. "You should be nearly healed by now. Is this a function of the spell that binds us?"

Loki, of course, would not answer.

The week before they moved into the house in the desert, he and Thor were in yet another small cell, Loki on the bed, facing the gray wall. Every cell in his body throbbed in agony, all wounds, broken bones, so determined to heal despite his best efforts, now re-broken, raw and bleeding. Odin's spell was a masterpiece.

"I am sorry," Thor said for at least the tenth time. "It had to be done. We had to prove-"

"Shut up," whispered Loki.

The bedsprings protested Thor's weight as he sat down. White hot agony ripped though Loki's body as Thor rolled him onto his back. "Here. I was given some bandages. At least let me set the bones in your hands." Loki had neither the strength to resist, nor to endure the pain and he fell into darkness.

The maddening itch from layers of dried blood, welded to skin, undergarments and armor, woke him. Ignoring his body's protest, he pushed himself up to his elbows and shifted so his back was against the wall.

Thor sat on the other small bed, staring at the floor. "What if they plan to cast us out after all?" A rare note of desperation shaded his voice.

Loki studied Thor for a moment. It was good to see him wracked with self-doubt. His gaze dropped to his bandaged hands, which still throbbed. Thor, however, had done an admirable job of setting the bones right. Gratitude slid in over usual resentment.

"They won't," said Loki. "We are too great a prize"

At this, Thor brightened and Loki closed his eyes and fed his frustration into the splintered bones in his hands.

They left the facility in the desert, the place they would visit almost daily later, with an escort of guards, all vibrating with loathing. Loki smirked, enjoying their hatred, and limped along a corridor, supported by Thor.

"Say what?" he heard one of the guards mutter to a comrade. "They're moving them in with Jane, Darcy and Erik?"

"Not Erik, man," replied another. "He booked it out of town the minute these two showed up."

"So it's just Jane? And Darcy? Poor Darcy, what did she do to deserve this shit?"

Another guard, presumably higher ranking, snapped at the two men. "Zip it!"

Loki's mind reached instinctively for the names. Jane and Erik, he knew. The other, however, hung just out of grasp - one of Jane's associates? Someone of no consequence, although to Loki, the Loki that was, even the inconsequential could be put to use. But pondering the matter meant setting aside the focus on his self-flagellation, so within minutes, the name fell from his thoughts.

Walking through the corridors and out to the black vehicle cost him all his strength. In the vehicle's backseat, he leaned against Thor, helpless and barely lucid. Thor put an arm around him and for a few moments, the centuries fell away and they were again young and Loki safe at the side of his older brother.

His mind cleared and skittered back in horror at such maudlin sentimentality. Opening his eyes, he set his eyes for the first time on the barren landscape. This was their new home? A place painted in a palette of brown and tan, human hovels scattered about the landscape as though dropped by a great wind? The sooner he put his plan in place and escaped this torture, the better.

He shut his eyes and entertained a recurring fantasy where his fingers were wrapped around Jane Foster's neck, vessels bursting in the whites of her terrified eyes, as he choked the life from her body. His breath quickened, and groin tightened with exquisite blood lust. The fantasy ended marvelously with Thor doing what should have been done centuries ago, and killing him.

Jane opened the door when they reached the steps and Loki studied her openly, this woman who had so charmed Odin's spoiled son, she, in the flesh.

She struck him as nothing extraordinary, typical of Thor's tastes, an elegant beauty with expressive brown eyes that stared at Thor lovestruck. Interestingly, he thought he also detected a suggestion of irritation in her demeanor. Thor made some feeble jest and she laughed nervously. At least she didn't giggle. Had she tittered like one of the preening ladies of court, gazing adoringly at Thor, Loki might had flung himself at her, right then and there, and with his last strength, killed her.

They stood for a time in the shabby home's common area, making small talk, with Jane glancing worriedly toward a narrow hallway. "Oh, there's Darcy," she said as someone emerged from a room and made for them.

Darcy? The name spoken by the guards?

Darcy, it turned out, was a bespectacled girl who smiled warmly at Thor.

She wore close-fitting black pants, white leather shoes, and a long-sleeved, formless, hooded jacket that obscured the details of her body, though he had a sense of the ample breasts and the swell of hips beneath. He felt a faint stirring of heat in his groin, the remnants of arousal from murderous fantasy. Odd little white wires emerged from her ears and disappeared under her clothing. An ugly brimless hat, wool by the looks of it, covered her head. Her hair was long and a nice shade of deep brown. All in all, despite her hideous clothing, she was pretty little thing, with generous red lips and blue eyes.

Giving him a cursory glance, she addressed Thor. "This is Mr. Big Bad?"

"Lady Darcy Lewis, may I introduce my brother, Loki..." Thor glanced uncertainly at him, and Loki knew he was probably wondering which surname, Laufeyson or Odinson, to use. Neither, you dolt. I have no father.

The girl lifted her chin in a pugnacious manner, and eyed him with a mixture of revulsion and wry amusement. "And you brought him die?"

"No," replied Thor, with overdone cheer, "his wounds look far worse than they are."

Really, brother? Then perhaps you'd trade bodies with me for a time?

"He looks like ground meat," replied the girl. "Wrap him in plastic and Styrofoam and sell him for $2.99 a pound."

Loki glared at her, his gaze sketching a masterpiece of pain for her. She glared back, undaunted and he felt something uncoil within him. Realization. From this impudent chit, he immediately knew that he would always get the truth, not the pandering half-truths trafficked by Thor. But in the girl's defiance, she'd accomplished much more - transformed herself from prey to something else. Prey never made eye contact; prey didn't stand its ground when it had room to flee. Nothing kept the girl in the room, a few feet away, but she remained, feet planted securely on the tan carpet, meeting his stare.

But his hate was all he had. He sneered and turned away, knowing as he did that he ceded her a victory. Stupid girl. The sheep does not face the wolf.

His own defiance was soon defeated by a broken body. His vision darkened and when he awoke again, consciousness a slippery thing, he was in Thor's arms. Choking on self-loathing, he kept his eyes closed.

The rumble of Thor's voice vibrated through him, Jane's voice in soft response. For a time, the girl said nothing and he wondered if she was as bored by the blather as he was. Pity that boredom wasn't lethal, that it might free him from this humiliation forever. He started to drift off when the girl spoke.

Then she was there, small fingers fumbling on the heavy bracer that protected his lower arm. She dropped his arm, none too gently, on his body, and hot agony shot up from his hand. Consciousness began to slip away. He forced his eyes open and studied the girl, a mixture of revulsion and fascination swimming through his fractured mind.

She assessed him coldly and then her expression changed, blue eyes widened, lips parting slightly and she looked afraid for the first time. Actually, she seemed to be on the cusp of some profound and dangerous discovery, but unwilling to acknowledge what lay clear before her.

What an odd creature. Perhaps she's as mad as I am. He closed his eyes.

Soon after, Jane sent the girl off to buy more bandages and medical supplies. "You don't bandage rotten meat," the girl complained, "You throw it out." Thor had responded with mild indignation, reminding her that Loki was a Prince of Asgard. Loki, however, almost smiled. The girl had a point.

As she stomped out the door, Loki heard her mutter, "Princess of Ass..."

Once, she would have paid for her insolence. She would have screamed until she could scream no more and then, somewhere beyond agony and death, screamed more. In the weeks to come, the lazy notion of wandering into her room one night and choking the impudent out of her surfaced in his mind, but never really took hold. What good would it do? Thor might kill him for the girl's murder. Then he'd be dead and Thor still happily with Jane.

Save for his goal of killing Jane and dying by Thor's hand, he had little interest in anything, loss of magic and memories leaving him with a heavy lassitude. Absent any mischief, he gave up and let himself heal.

After three weeks, by Midgard reckoning, the bones in his hands had knitted, the many cuts and gashes on his body scabbed and healing. During the day, the women went off to SHIELD's newest facility, a place he was eventually supposed to go to teach magic to Thor's mortal pet. You may as well teach a pig to waltz, for all the use it would be. For now, he was spared that indignity at least, until his injuries had healed fully.

All day, Thor wandered about the house and sometimes the grounds, anxious and bored. Boredom. The one thing Loki shared with the oaf.

One day, a weekend, which meant the women hadn't gone to work, he decided he was tired of lurking alone in the room he shared with Thor. At this point, the fool was still making a show of returning to the room late at night having spent most of it with Jane. Loki didn't care one whit if Thor was tupping a mortal. He just wished Thor would stay with his whore all night.

The numbers on the clock on the dresser read "1:24." He eyed the device, the need to dismantle it and study its workings making his fingers itch. He got up and dressed - using what little magic remained to him - in simple Asgard garb, because he had no intention of playing at mortal. Pulling a book from the pile that Jane had brought him, The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, he limped out to the living room.

Jane and Thor sat close together at the kitchen table, insipid smiles on their faces, looking at a publication that mortals called a magazine. His stomach lurched.

"Loki," said Thor cheerfully, obviously surprised. Loki ignored him, taking in the rest of the room. He moved toward the couch, thinking it looked like as good a place as any to sit.

Growing closer, he found the girl was stretched most its length, her head on the arm rest, a blanket covering her body. She was asleep. For an instant, the desire to limp back to his room took root. Then he remembered he was Loki and she was...he couldn't remember her name. Stupid mortal girl. Yes, that would do. He wasn't going to be intimidated by Stupid Mortal Girl.

Sitting on the far end of the couch, he started to read. It was going well enough until he felt pressure on his thigh. The girl's foot as she stretched, taking up more of the couch. He saw her eyelids flutter and she awoke. The foot's toes poked him, exploring and then she lifted her head and stared groggily at him. "It lives," she muttered, her head flopping heavily back on the arm rest.

"Move your foot," he commanded.

"Move yourself. I was here first," was her muffled reply.

He glared at her, the effect lost since her eyes were shut. "I thought beds were for sleeping."

"Mmmm. And sex, too," she said with a sleepy leer. Remembering the suggestion of ample breast under her clothing, he felt a mild twinge of lust and cursed himself.

"Shouldn't you be in your bed, not out here, in the common area?"

"Dude, it's past noon."


"Only deadbeats and bums stay in bed past noon."

He stared across the room, feeling the wash of warmth from the heating vents. No, it wasn't Stupid Mortal Girl, it was Completely Insane Mortal Girl. "Move your foot, you are touching me."

"I don't have cooties. Much."

"Move your foot."

"Fuck off, Loony Tunes."

"Darcy," began Jane, "You really should - "

"Loki, Lady Darcy was there first," interrupted Thor.

They were all stark raving mad. He reached for magic and for a second thought it had abandoned him entirely. Then he grasped a thread and managed to gather a cluster of hot energy that he shoved at the offending appendage.

"Ow!" She pushed herself to her elbows, glaring daggers at him. "No magic!" And then she kicked him. Kicked him. Loki, formerly King of Asgard.

He grabbed her foot, feeling easy-to-break bones beneath his fingers. With just an easy twist, her ankle and most of the bones in her foot would shatter. He smiled, anticipating her agonized shriek.

"Hey. Let go. That's one of my favorite feet!"

"LOKI!" bellowed Thor.

She stared expectantly at him, dark eyebrows raised, blue eyes hard with anger. Behind him, he heard Thor rise from the chair. Her foot was small and warm and full of life in his hand. It would be so easy; break the bones as they'd been broken in his hand, leave her crippled because mortals didn't heal as his kind did.

But when she jerked her leg back, he let go and gave her a hate-filled glare. "What-ever," she said, and settled back down to sleep.

Minutes later, her feet were again pressed against his thigh and he ignored them. Well, not exactly ignored, as their touch burned against his awareness. Beyond Thor, when was the last time anyone had touched him with anything other than violence? There was no kindness in her touch, but perhaps that's what made it tolerable. Contact without any maudlin, cloying emotion.


"Loki, are you well?" asked Thor, yanking him from his reverie. Loki blinked, noting that the vehicle had drifted from the suburban sameness to the edge of the Garden District, where SHIELD maintained a small command post in a stately manse on a quiet oak-lined street.

Without turning his head from the view, Loki glared at Thor out of the corner of his eyes. No, he wasn't well.

Compelled by his agreement to cooperate for Darcy's sake, he'd agreed to wear the black, leather pseudo-armor favored by SHIELD's operatives. In the interest of keeping the operation low-profile. The target was some evil genius, thaumaturge with delusions of megalomania who needed to be put down quickly and quietly. It seemed that by and large, the public took a dim view of loud explosive confrontations, even in the interest of "good."

The greater humiliation came when SHIELD, through Natasha, had asked him to quietly open the target's concrete bunker with magic. "No problem, right?" Natasha had said with a smirk. He couldn't, of course, admit otherwise.

By now, the stress of separating chunks of concrete and reinforcing rebar with magic had turned the whites of his eyes a spectacular shade of red. He was tired and would have liked nothing better than to find some dark corner and sleep peacefully for several hours. The one advantage of exhaustion was that it did wonders for banishing his nightmares.

Thor's concern, however, was asinine, since he'd seen him in far worse shape. "Peachy," Loki replied, mimicking Darcy, sarcasm and all, and giving in to his "infection."

Confused and nonplussed, Thor glanced at Rogers who shrugged and translated, "I think that means he's okay."

Loki turned his attention to the window and watched a young couple walk with their dog down the sidewalk. He stiffened his shoulders in a way that Thor had to know meant he wanted to be left alone. The faint sound of Thor's sigh followed and for heartbeat Loki felt a twinge of guilt. He obliterated the stupid sentiment immediately, reminding himself that the dolt was the reason he was here, baggage to be dragged about on the golden prince's adventures. Asgard, Midgard, whatever the realm, nothing ever changed.

He sniffed, scowling at the chemical stench of new vehicle. His current predicament apparently required that he spend inordinate amounts of time traveling in the back seat of an SUV. At least, back in New Mexico, he had better company.

Longing rose in his heart, the emotion stunning in its sudden breadth. He missed her. Impudent, impertinent, infuriating mortal who thought she could tell him what to do. He glanced down at his clothing. She told him what to do and like a stupid mooncalf, he obeyed. An angry breath hissed out between his clenched teeth.

The weight of Thor's hand fell on his shoulder. "Loki?"

With a snarl, he shrugged off Thor's touch. "Unhand me, oaf."

"Brother, you are in pain," Thor persisted.

He rounded on Thor, rage throbbing in his blood, ready to vent his frustration on the fool. In the front seat, the driver, a SHIELD agent, eyed them in the rearview mirror. Rogers watched, posture stiff and alarmed. Idiot mortals watching the immortals' drama.

Loki wasn't giving them any more entertainment. With great effort he reined in his anger, although it fought him like a runaway horse. Thor's hand was back on his shoulder. Loki glared at it to no avail. "The pain will pass," he said. "I have no need of mothering."

Thor nodded, fingers tightening briefly on Loki's shoulder before moving away. Loki went back to his disinterested viewing of the passing houses. Beyond a mild headache, his overuse of magic had caused him no significant pain. His ridiculous attachment to Darcy, however, wrenched and twisted his psyche, leaving him feeling defenseless.

It had begun innocuously months ago, with her as a tiny spark that pricked at him, irritating because all he had wanted to do was slide away into sweet dark oblivion. And every time she provoked him, he unintentionally moved away from the darkness, turning his face to the light. Now six months later, he found himself once again in the world, new plots growing in his mind. Old resentments were still intact and he had no intention of giving them up, but he could see how they had weakened him, clouded his thinking.

He cast a sly glance Thor. There were other ways, much subtler ways to conquer his "brother's" precious Earth. The problem was that he could no longer frame his plans in any manner that did not include Darcy. Memories shattered, magic still recalcitrant, he remained broken and she had somehow slipped in, fitting herself to him like the missing piece of a puzzle. The exasperating woman was his friend, but the idea was more than a little bewildering since he couldn't remember a time when someone sought out his company without some ulterior motive.

Of course, none of this might have mattered if she had a face like a Chitauri. Pretty women were the norm in Asgard, and Darcy was ordinary by Aesir standards. But Loki wasn't given to attraction to homely women and Darcy was far from unattractive.

Initially, when he first found himself drawn to her, he assumed that it was merely the coincidence of geography. Quite simply, she was female and within his grasp. Of course, were that true, he would have already seduced her, long before she had ever shown the slightest whiff of interest in him. And certainly, once she offered herself, he would have used her, again and again.

In fact, he found his reluctance to bed her disturbing. He had never had legions of women swooning over him like Thor, but there were always those eager to lay with powerful men, and he had been the second in line of succession. His memories were clouded, but he knew it was unusual for him to go long without sex. Given the opportunity, he took it.

On reflection, he had to admit that with Darcy, he had the chance to feel more than a lover's hands upon him, but rather the touch of someone who truly cared for him. The notion was terrifying and exhilarating.

He knew he was lost on the day that the first SHIELD guard was murdered, when he saw her limp across the front porch, blue eyes haunted. In that instant, his world collapsed into nothing but the space that she and he occupied, and he was consumed by one thought: to find the person who caused her injury and flay them alive, one shrieking inch of skin at a time. That thought was supplanted by the need to keep Thor from helping her, to keep the oaf's hands off her.

He grimace at the memory, recognizing his insecurities in the reaction. Darcy often commented on Thor's good looks, and Loki had assumed, that like every other female who crossed the thunder god's path, she was smitten. In retrospect, he realized her observations were merely Darcy being Darcy, and not a sign of unrequited pining for Thor.

Instead, it was him, the man she called Mad Science, that held her interest. He allowed himself a slight smile.


She'd captured his interest early, though largely as a convenient target for mischief.

"We're really letting him out of house looking like that?" Darcy had said the first time he and Thor accompanied her and Jane to work. She stared up at Loki, too boldly. He scowled. She responded with a smarmy smile.

"You mean the Asgard clothes?" Jane stopped before the door, digging in her purse, searching for keys or iPad or phone. "He won't wear anything else."

"I mean the hair. He looks like he's been attacked by a demonic Flowbee. 'Member that thing, from the infomercial when we were kids?"

Jane shot Loki a nervous glance and choked back a laugh. Thor asked, "What do you mean?"

"I mean," said Darcy, "Remind me not to get my hair done at Thor's salon."

"It isn't that bad," replied Thor, hurt.

That evening Loki wandered into the bathroom and surveyed Darcy's grooming supplies, his eyes lighting on her hair conditioner. Her comments on his hair didn't bother him; he was temporarily beyond much vanity. He was merely bored and in the mood for mischief. Unfortunately, he miscalculated something in the balance of red, green and blue light.

Of course, Darcy made a point of letting him know his mischief had backfired. "Check it out!" She stood in the hallway the next morning, blocking his path to the rest of the house, a big grin on her face. Taking a chunk of her hair, she held it up so that it caught the morning sunlight that spilled in from the living room window. "Best dye job, ever."

The color, deepest indigo, was flattering on her, not that he'd admit it. "Move, or I will move you."

She ignored his command. "Have you seen Thor? Apparently he's been borrowing my hair conditioner."

"Thor?" The name escaped his lips before he could stop it.

"Lo-ki!" Thor emerged from Jane's room, Jane at his heels. She looked as though she were about to sprain the muscles in her face trying not to laugh. "Undo this magic, now." On Thor, the spell hadn't reacted as well and the golden prince's hair was a dreadful shade of puce that clashed terribly with his beard.

Loki made the mistake of turning back to Darcy, who was now laughing. "Move!" he snapped.

She let him pass, but said between laughs, "You smiled. I saw that."

In truth, though he imagined crueler torments, he never had the heart to do much to her beyond mild trickery. By April, his interest carried a measure of fondness (which, of course, annoyed him). Everyone tried to engage his attention, either through putrid kindness (Jane or Thor), or by trying to raise his ire (everyone else). Darcy did neither, instead simply treating him as she did everyone else, with a mixture of brutal honesty and humor.

He had first felt the ghost of attraction on a spring day, when the New Mexico sun began to reassert its fierce hold on the region. They were climbing out of Jane's SUV, Darcy still riding in the front seat with Jane, Loki in back with Thor. Darcy led the way to the house, key in hand.

"Awesome." She hurried up the steps and placed her hand, palm down on the white metal siding by the front door. There was a small twig from one of the native bushes hovering against the wall. As Loki approached, he saw it move and realized it was some sort of insect. The creature climbed slowly onto her hand and she held it up for Jane and Thor to see.

"Stickbug," she explained to Thor. "It's officially spring. No more cold."

Jane smiled. "That means spiders, too."

"Way to be a downer, Jane," Darcy said with a pout. Catching Loki watching her, she smirked. "It's skinny and green. The Loki of the insect world."

He almost responded with the observation that flies must be the Darcy equivalent. But at that point, he still dealt with everyone, including her, with silent scorn. Nevertheless, he waged a small battle with the slight smile that tried to take over his mouth. Though he'd lobbed the comparison at many, he was rather certain he'd never been compared to an insect before.

She stuck her tongue out at him and then unlocked the door. Jane and Thor entered the house and Loki made to follow, but paused to watch as Darcy walked down the stairs and to a gray clump of native bush. She extended her hand so that the insect could climb onto the plant. The creature, however, had decided that Darcy was a more pleasant habitat and refused to be moved. The sun picked out gold and reddish highlights in her hair, along with the few purple strands that remained. Her light jacket hid any view of her breasts, but the black tights she wore showed off shapely thighs. Loki pressed his lips together, a mild surge of lust building in his body.

"Oh come on, off!" Unaware of his scrutiny, she gently prodded the insect. "It's spaghetti night and I'm starving." Underneath ordinary lust, another emotion grew, shortening his breaths. She suddenly pulled at him like a lodestone. He reached out and without thinking, gave the insect a magical nudge, sending it off her hand and to the bush.

She turned and met his stare. Embarrassed, though not sure why, he spun and stomped in the house, certain his peculiar feelings were Thor's fault. Everything was Thor's fault.


At his side, Thor laughed and nudged him too hard with an elbow. "That is a good jest, isn't it, Loki?"

Loki scowled, wondering, not for the first time, if Frigga had dropped Thor on his head, repeatedly, as an infant. That would account for the thick skull absent any contents.

Of late, he had started to feel his grip on the idea that everything was Thor and Odin's fault slipping away (now, it was largely Odin's), but he still believed prolonged conversation with Thor ate away at his own intelligence.

Darcy didn't approve of his derision toward Thor and she'd quickly tired of his protests that they weren't brothers. On one occasion, though, she'd slipped and describe Thor as "not the brightest penny in the jar." Loki may have loved her for that alone.

The word love was insufficient, trite, a description of something fleeting and grounded in simple lust.

Every night he'd spent in her bed had featured the battle with his immediate impulse to take what she offered. But when he looked at her, he was hit by the powerful recognition that the connection between them ran deeper, that she would still hold his interest long after the initial novelty of skin on skin faded.

She knew what he had done and, as far as he could tell, hadn't forgotten, hadn't forgiven him for his crimes. Instead, she had, in what he now knew was her habit, set his past aside, and turned her focus on his present, which to be honest, wasn't that much better, though at least, absent murder and destruction. And that, seemed enough to stand at his side.

The SUV turned left at one street, then right on another. Thor and Rogers were now talking about fast food, with Thor enthusiastically extolling the virtues of a hot meal, served up in under five minutes and Rogers bemoaning the loss of patience in the American people, that quality and good customer service were sacrificed to haste. It was the most intelligent conversation they'd had thus far.

Loki remembered the night Fury and his men had come out to the house, under the auspices of justice, but really just playing a mummer's game. How Darcy had stood before Fury and his muscle-bound minions and made the case for his innocence. Until she'd spoken up, he hadn't much cared if the Director hauled him away, the idea sweetened by the anguish it would cause Thor and Jane.

When asked if he'd killed the guard, he'd considered cheerfully confessing to the crime he hadn't committed, just to see the horror on Thor's face. But he could feel her eyes on him, and the truth spilled from his lips, albeit cached in a bit of nastiness. She'd taken his side and in that instant he was compelled to follow through. Afterward, he had sniffed around the scene of the crime, feeling, for the first time in months, an interest in something.

The guards' deaths were of no consequence to him. And though it no doubt impressed the mortals, the manner of their murder was a relatively simple magical working. Initially, his interest was piqued by two things: Darcy's amusing quest for justice and, the peculiar familiarity of perpetrator's magical signature.

Until quite recently, Loki had assumed the murderer a minor dabbler in the arcane, no one to be taken terribly seriously. Now, recent events suggested otherwise and Loki chastened himself for complacency.

The vehicle slowed and turned into a narrow driveway. Ahead a metal garage door rose. From the outside, the garage appeared to be the standard two-car variety, but it led to a larger underground structure. Loki sneered, wondering at SHIELD's fondness for underground facilities, particularly in areas as flood prone as this one.

The SUV stopped and Rogers opened his door and jumped out. Thor looked at Loki expectantly, glancing down at the door handle. Loki, still lost in thought, didn't move. He ran his gaze over the familiar landscape of Thor's face, sifting through the rubble of his memories from the night they'd "escaped" from Asgard.

A disconcerting theory began to take form in his head.

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 19 of 39

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