Continuing Tales

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 21 of 39

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After Loki and Thor left on Friday, Jane and Darcy had gathered their things and made the drive to the SHIELD facility, a security escort in a black SUV following like an obedient puppy. "Feels kind weird, just you and me, huh?" observed Darcy. Jane nodded sadly, probably already missing Thor.

As they passed the Richards's house, Darcy waved goodbye to Rocket and Meteor. The lab lizard, sitting on the dashboard before her, turned its attention from her boobs to look out the window. Darcy glowered at the reptile.

Loki's pet and probable spy had slithered into her room while she was packing and then accompanied her and Jane as they left the house. When it trotted across the porch, Inkblot, who'd been sitting on the porch steps, pounced on it.

"No!" said Darcy.

In just a heartbeat, Inkblot yowled and leaped backwards. The black cat landed a few feet away, yellow eyes blazing at the little lizard. "Told you," said Darcy to the feline as she dragged her heavy suitcase through the sand and gravel to the SUV.

The lizard peered expectantly up from the ground at Darcy as she climbed in the vehicle. With a sneer, she slammed the door hard, leaving it there. Jane gave her a questioning look and Darcy shook her head. "Start the car, let's go." The engine rumbled to life and the SUV began to roll toward the street.

Her resolve broke just before they reached the street. "Wait!" Jane hit the brakes and Darcy unsnapped her seatbelt and opened the door. The lizard, a tiny gray form on the tan sand, was still where she'd left it. "Get in," she said. It zipped right over and she bent to help it into the vehicle.

Jane grinned. "Shut up," said Darcy, holding back a smile.

Darcy and Jane were each given their own small apartment on Floor Two, which lay right under Floor One and the administrative offices. Darcy's apartment consisted of one large room that functioned as a combination living and dining room with a small kitchenette. A stacked washer and dryer were hidden away in a closet. There were two doors at the back of the main room, one to a bathroom, the other to the bedroom. The style of the apartment's furnishings was sleek contemporary, made with materials like pale blond bamboo, stainless steel, and crisp brown leather. Not her style, but nice. The living room was equipped with a widescreen TV and a bitchin' stereo system with an iPod jack.

Darcy set her ID and key card on the table, and the lizard, riding on her shoulder, scurried down her arm and hopped onto the polished surface. "Nice pad," she said. From what Max and other guards had told her, most of the staff apartments weren't this posh. No doubt this was a perk of being the perceived girlfriend of SHIELD's favorite bad guy. She wondered if SHIELD would have given her a cot and shiny metal prison toilet if they knew she and Loki were on the outs.

Claws slipping on the table's shiny metal legs, the lizard half fell to the floor, gave its tail an angry lash and then began to scurry along the room's perimeter. Darcy watched it, a thought forming in her mind.

"Hey!" She clapped her hands to get the creature's attention. "What do you bet this place is full of bugs and I don't mean spiders. Make yourself useful. Seek and destroy." The lizard watched her with unblinking dark eyes.

With a sigh, she got her suitcase and purse and went into the bedroom, muttering, "And now, I'm talking to lizards." A minute later, however, she heard a loud hiss and a pop. Soon after, the little striped reptile wandered into the bedroom and began to nose about. It disappeared under the dresser and a second later, hiss, then pop. Darcy wrinkled her nose at the smell of something burning. "Just don't set the whole place on fire, huh?"

About thirty minutes and at least a half dozen destroyed listening devices later, Darcy was done unpacking. Because she figured he was the only one who could really understand her predicament, she fired up her laptop and sent Sean a message: "L and T off saving the world. J and I in protective custody, trapped underground, 7th plane of hell. Hope your mom is OK. See you soon."

She gathered her key card and ID and crouched, hand on the floor. The lizard hurried up her arm and onto her shoulder. "Let's go see what being Thor's not-old lady got Jane."

Jane's apartment was just as nice, but decorated in Arts & Crafts mode with lots of oak Stickley style furniture. Darcy sent the lizard off to de-bug Jane's place as well.

"It's really nice, isn't it?" said Jane, as she hung a light jacket on a hanger. "Too nice."

Darcy said nothing and took one of Jane's shirts from her suitcase, refolded it and put it in a drawer.

"This is because of Thor," said Jane a little bitterly. "SHIELD is trying to make nice with Asgard."

Darcy folded another shirt. Even though she'd had the same thought, different Asgardian, she said, "Give yourself more credit, Jane. You're the principal investigator on a major scientific project." Jane gave her a dubious look. "It's true. I still don't understand half of what you and Loki talk about, but I know your research is giving SHIELD a serious technological edge." The more she talked, the more it made sense. Jane was important, all on her own.

She eyed her own reflection in the mirror, noting her hair was smooshed from the baseball cap she'd worn earlier. Me, I'm just the research assistant. Taking a brush from the dresser, she ran it through her hair. Feeling the prickly sense of someone watching her, she turned.

Jane smiled. "You're important, too."

"Puh-lease. You'd be way better off with some brainiac astrophysics post-grad type."

"Who'd call my ideas ludicrous." Jane walked over and took the brush from Darcy's hands. Moving behind her, she ran the brush through the hair on the back of her head. "Who would probably freak out about Thor and Loki, especially Loki." She lapsed into silence, concentrating on brushing Darcy's hair. "Who wouldn't be my friend."

Looking over her shoulder, Jane met Darcy's eyes in the mirror's reflection. "We are friends, aren't we?" asked Jane.

Darcy turned and grinned at Jane. "Dude. Totally."

Looking at the brush, Jane said, "I've been so wrapped up in my research for so long sometimes I think I've lost the ability to be anyone's friend."

"That's bullshit and you know it," said Darcy. "You could pull your nose out of the books more often, but you're nothing like the trolls in other labs. They probably turn into statues when exposed to sunlight."

Jane laughed and Darcy grinned, remembering what Ryan, the facility manager told her when he showed her the apartment. "SHIELD's got a huge movie library for streaming. Let's have a girls' night. Chick flicks, popcorn. Ice cream, if I can find some in the break room."


When Darcy shut her door that night after saying goodbye to Jane, the uglier parts of the day's events - Fury arriving with the news that there had been another murder, her fight with Loki - collapsed on her like a ton of bricks.

In the short term, a rom-com film festival, plus popcorn and booze, were a terrific distraction. No ice cream was available in the break room, so Darcy had wandered around the few floors that she could access, looking for something more potent. Alcohol was forbidden in the facility. So naturally, it only took Darcy a few minutes to find a guard, who knew another guard, who knew another who ran the equivalent of a Prohibition-Era speakeasy out of a utility closet. She bought a bottle of white wine that went on to die a quick death at her and Jane's hands.

Possibly because of the alcohol sloshing in her bloodstream, she leaned, back to the door, staring at the strange apartment she had to call home for the several days. Or maybe, the door needed her to hold it up. Yeah, that.

Mostly, she didn't want to take another step into the lonely room, buried deep under the desert sand, and so not home. The bedroom door was a dark rectangle against the pale beige wall of the main room. Loneliness tugged at her heart and she cursed herself. How did she get so used to having him around, in her bed, after such a short time?

Don't think about him.

If Loki could win medals in the ignoring people Olympics, then Darcy would be bowed under the weight of gold in the put-aside-the-bad-stuff-and-move-on competition.

Lately, her ability to erect an impenetrable wall (with gun turrets and guards), between herself and the past was failing more and more often. If this was a sign of some newfound maturity, she would rather be a child.

Crass. Childish.

She shut her eyes. Opening them, a flicker of movement caught her eye: the lizard, disappearing behind the entertainment center, perhaps looking for a place to leave reptile turds. The little beast did eat. Jane, being Jane, had offered it a tiny bit of her dinner, chicken masala, which it devoured eagerly. It also enjoyed popcorn.

With the lizard vanished behind the furniture, the lonely knot tightened, partnered with sadness that leaked through a hole in her emotional walls.

"You are nothing. You are are a stu-"

What did she expect? That she could actually reach him? That there was anything left to reach?

Sure, he was gorgeous, and smart, and sometimes funny, but he was also a murderer, just like the nutbar who had killed Max and Andy, and...what was his name?... King, Arnold King. It made her a little sad that she could hardly remember the man's name. That's how it went, people died all the time, their passing unnoticed by most of the rest of the world.

Thoughts turning gloomy, she could almost see Loki's point. Against the vast passage of his long lifetime, mortals' lives flickered and died like dampened matches. That, however, didn't make it okay for him to use her, because that's what she knew he'd done. For whatever reason, he thought playing nice with Jane's assistant might gain him some advantage. Perhaps he thought he could fool Papa Odin into thinking that he had made like Thor, been redeemed by a mortal's love, blah-blah-blah, romance-cakes.

She could see why he chose her. He'd probably heard the muttered gossip about what she was and specifically, wasn't. Darcy Lewis, the incompetent science assistant who thought a "quark" was a duck imitating a dog and a "gluon," a clump of mascara. (Okay, those were the first things that still came to mind when she heard those words, but she knew their correct definitions.)

"I had a big red target on my ass," she said to the boring bathroom mirror - no cool illusions in the background - after she washed her face. Except a few months were all Loki could stand in Darcy's company. Whatever he thought he might gain by befriending her, faking it, anyway, just wasn't worth the hassle of actually dealing with her.

A spasm lurched in her diaphragm and rose as a short gulping sob in her chest. Through the sudden flood of moisture in her eyes, the lizard, who was doing a little spinning dance on the bathroom floor, glittered in the light. Loki's little spy, watching her cry.

"No. I'm not crying over him. Nuh-uh." She crossed her arms over her chest, blinked away tears and made for the bedroom. When she sat on the bed, the lizard scurried up her leg, and then jumped to the nightstand. Find the funny, find the funny.

She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "I hope The Hulk turns Loki into his personal squeaky toy."

Triangular head cocked to the side, the lizard watched her.

Lifting her right hand, she closed it around an imaginary toy. With a scrunched up face, she said, "Arrrrgh!" and then, "Squeak, squeak, squeak," while clenching and unclenching her fingers.

The lizard lowered its head to the nightstand's surface, looking sort of sad, if that were possible.

"What? Too soon?" The little animal blinked slowly.

"Your loyalty is pointless," she said. "He turned his back on you too, almost left you in the Santa Fe Plaza. If it weren't for me, you'd still be there, dodging clumsy tourists. By now, Tex would have caught you and turned you into a pair of boots." Teeny, tiny boots, the kind that might hang from a key chain.

The lizard spun around, facing away from her and then flipped onto its back, white belly pointed skyward, legs limply out to the side. Darcy leaned forward and down, studying it a little worriedly. Had it just died? The flutter of tiny ribs let her know it was still breathing.

"That's how you sleep? You're as weird as he is."

Darcy's gaze dropped to the crisp tan Berber carpet, then panned to the tall bamboo armoire that served as a closet. Her eye stopped on a one of the door's handles, cast in aluminum with a swirled pattern on the face. That conjured the image of the dark red rose that Loki had given her. The tune from the Asgard waltz on her iPod, wistful melody against an upbeat rhythm, echoed in her head.

Just another part of his game. Hate him.

Shutting her eyes as more treacherous tears blurred her vision, she went back to feeble humor. Squeaky toy for The Hulk. That ploy turned against her as the funny image of toy Loki morphed into battered and bloody Loki, giving way to the Loki from her nightmare, lying on the porch, emerald eyes glazed with death.

"The part with you...gone, that couldn't be true. Because you can't really die, right?"

"Everything dies, Darcy."

"Shit!" She pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes, so hard that she saw spots. "I'm screwed. The nightmare is going to come back," she said to her reptile companion. "I forgot Loki's magic repellent device thingy."

With a scritch-scritch of tiny claws, the lizard righted itself. It looked around the room and then shot off the nightstand and hurried across the carpet, striped body undulating like a snake. Stopping at the dresser, it jumped, slipped, then jumped again, feet finding purchase on the shiny bamboo and scaling its way to the top. Without pausing, it zipped across the top and into her purse, only its gray whiptail in sight. Something made a plastic crackling sound.

"Need a tampon?" she asked, dryly.

Back legs appeared after the tail, claws digging into leather as the lizard pulled itself slowly from the purse. A second later, the rest of the lizard emerged, followed by a thin brass stick.

"The hell?" The stick had legs and it was feebly resisting the lizard's efforts to extract it from Darcy's purse. The sheets tangled in her legs as she scrambled out of bed and she nearly went face first onto the floor in her rush to see what had emerged from the purse. The lizard looked up at her, almost smugly. The expression reminded her of Loki and she gave it a death glare.

The reptile's quarry stood on her purse, swaying on skinny segmented brass legs. Antennae constructed from thin copper wire and some sort of clear filament waved rhythmically. When she bent for a closer look, a faint hum reached her ears.

The lizard was back to leering at her boobs. Darcy snapped her fingers in its face. "A portable magic repelling thing? Shaped like a stick bug?" She recognized the device as what he'd been messing with before their fight. The lizard's response was to bob up and down, kind of like reptile pushups.

Darcy considered the robo-bug and then gently plucked the thing from her purse. Vibrations purred through her fingertips and the bug lifted its tiny metal head toward her, black crystal eyes catching the light. She planned to set it on the nightstand, but the lizard rushed to the spot, immediately flipping over, eyes shut, reclaiming its place. Thinking it was a better place anyway, she set the metal insect atop the bed's headboard.

Finding a weird comfort in the funny little device, she switched off the light. "I still hate him," she told the darkness defiantly.


By Friday, a week after Thor and Loki had gone off to play hero and unhappy sidekick with the Avengers, Darcy could feel her sanity begin to fray like an old sweater. Returning to her room that evening, she paced the living room like a stir crazy zoo animal. At this rate, she was going to start flinging her own poo. Her situation made her think of Loki, powerful, immortal, but broken and trapped on Earth among mortals, and a trickle of pity leaked past the hate she'd been nurturing all week.

The accommodations given to her and Jane were spiffy, but she hated everything about the place anyway.

There were no yipping coyotes at night, but instead the constant drone of the climate controls. The air was stuffy. It felt like being stuck on the longest airplane flight ever. The coffee, of course, didn't have the delicious chocolate taste. The cereal from the break room tasted the same, but mornings were boring without Thor and Loki. The gym had treadmills and stationary bicycles, but she loathed both; they made her feel like a hamster on a wheel.

On Monday, Pam invited her to dinner with two other guards. Darcy accepted and the practice continued throughout the week, in part because Jane, without the motivation to go home and play house with Thor, stayed in the lab working till midnight or later. On Wednesday morning, Darcy came in to find her sleeping at the table, having never gone back to her apartment.

The only daylight Darcy saw was when she and Jane dropped by the house at lunch to feed Inkblot. They were accompanied by a terribly nondescript guard, named, appropriately, Bob. Darcy couldn't tell if Bob was a Loki hater or not because his only facial expression could be best described as "awake."

"He's a robot, one of SHIELD's newest designs," Darcy told Jane after they returned from the house on day.

Bob would, however, make a big show of entering the house before the women, gun drawn, ready for what, Darcy didn't know. Jane and Darcy would exchange an eye roll behind his back; Darcy would then mouth, "Ro-bot," at Jane, and for some reason, they'd dissolve into stupid giggles.

Sean returned to New Mexico on Friday, pale and worn. Thinking he needed the sun as much as they did, she dragged him along with her and Jane on the daily trek out to the little house trailer in the desert. Interestingly, around Jane, he retreated even farther into his shy boy persona.

On Saturday morning, she ran on the hated treadmill until her legs felt like limp noodles and sweat poured off her body even though the gym's climate controls, like the labs', were stuck on "arctic." Returning to her apartment, she found Ryan, the facilities manager, at Jane's door.

Jane smiled brightly at Darcy. "Ryan says Thor and Loki are coming back today. We can go home."

Even though she was a sopping, sweaty mess, Darcy flung herself at Ryan and gave him a big hug. "Sorry, dude," she said afterwards, brushing apologetically at the dark splotch on his midnight blue shirt, "Sometimes, it sucks to be the bearer of good news."


In theory, the impending return of Darcy and Jane's immortal roommates was good news. At five o'clock that evening, she and Jane were allowed to go home, albeit with Bob going through his commando routine throughout the house. Darcy was tempted to yell, "Boo," just to see him jump. But startling a man with a loaded gun was too rash a move even for her.

In practice, the Asgardians' return meant the return of not only Thor, but his brother-not-brother who Darcy now hated. To be honest, she couldn't hate him now anymore than she could six months ago when they first met. But hate was all she had and she was sticking with it.

They were supposed to get in around eleven, so Darcy went to bed at the absurdly early hour of nine. It was so nice being back in her room, that she actually fell asleep soon after head met pillow.

The clomp-clomp of feet on the wooden porch, reverberating though the home's framing, awoke her along with the splash of light from a vehicle's headlights through her windows. Turning onto her side, she curled her knees toward her chest, and tried to slow her breathing and drift back to sleep. Of course, trying to make yourself fall asleep was as easy as slamming a revolving door. Knowledge that he was back in the house jabbed energetically at her consciousness, making sleep impossible. Footfalls made the floorboards squeak, doors opened and shut with dull thuds, Thor's laughter rose in deep contrast to Jane's.

The minutes dragged on interminably as she battled with her brain's refusal to go unconscious, which of course, made her angry and more awake. She wanted absolutely nothing to do with him and was desperate to see him again. The distant wail of a siren came from somewhere in Puente Antiguo and she thought, Whatever that's about, I didn't do it.

She lapsed into a silly argument with her eyelids, which wanted to pop open. Nothing to see here, stay shut.

Loki pretty.

Loki's a prick. Shut. Sleep.

The noises of Thor and Loki's return subsided and the silence grew, feeling like a presence all its own. Sleep, dammit. Because, what else could she do? If it were day, she could go for a long bike ride or run, pushing on until the burn in her lungs and legs exorcised him from her thoughts.

Minutes stretched in ways that must have violated several laws of physics. Grim anticipation started to lose out to her body's relief to be back in her own bed, without tons of claustrophobia-inducing dirt over her head. She had started to fall asleep when the awareness of him prickled at her consciousness, sending little tremors up her spine.

He came in through the door, like a normal, non-magical person. She wondered if he'd be arrogant enough to think he could climb back in bed with her. Pity she hadn't thought to put her Taser under the pillow. It really couldn't hurt him, but maybe a good zap would make his hair stand on end like one of those troll dolls her friend Kelly collected.

Opening her eyes, the first thing she saw was the lizard snoozing on the nightstand, white fish belly pointed to the ceiling, unaware of its master's return. The metal stick insect, on its new perch on the lampshade before the window, glittered in the moonlight.

Apparently, Loki's attention went to the same thing. His familiar smooth voice broke the silence. "The automaton really isn't necessary here. The other device is more effective."

If her fingers weren't itching to wrap around his skinny neck and throttle him, she would have admitted that she thought the bug was pretty. The God of Mischief had a surprising artistic side. Put together from tiny segments of copper, brass and steel, the magical device resembled an expensive piece of Art Deco jewelry.

Without turning in his direction, she said, "Whatever. Get out."


An angry combination of sigh and snort escaped her mouth. She sat up and scoured the dark shadows by the door. Finding him, she hit him with a fiery glare. "This is my room. My kingdom. I rule here. Get out. Not just get out. Get the fuck out."

"Make me," he said with an infuriating smirk.

Her eyebrows shot toward her hairline. "Oh, you so don't want to go there, Loony Tunes. I'll make you squeal like a Justin Bieber fan girl."

"You and what army?" The smirk got wider.

Automatically, she looked at her desk, where the Taser sat, and calculated the distance. Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw a gleam of teeth as he laughed quietly. Oh, no, he did not think this was funny. Hearing the sound of something scratching on wood, she turned and saw that the lizard was awake, its head moving back and forth, watching her and Loki. "Sic 'em," she said, knowing damn well the little beast wouldn't attack its master.

It sprang from the nightstand and shot across the floor, a pale streak in the moonlight. A tiny yellow flame flashed in the darkness, and then another, and another.

"Oh, shit," she said as Loki's tall dark form moved, foot stamping hard on the carpeted floor. "No! Stop! You'll kill it."

She was across the room in an instant, trying to capture the angry little dragon lizard, which was doing a spectacular job of not getting turned into a red splotch on the carpet. "Stop. Bad lizard. I mean, good lizard, but stop anyway." The thing really needed a name. "Off. Down. Whoa." Pain spread up her fingers as she grabbed for it, missed and got a handful of flames. "Ow! Fuck."

"Enough." Magic vibrated through her and cinnamon sank into her skin. The lizard flailed furiously, suspended a couple feet off the ground. Loki reached down and grabbed it.

Fearing he'd crush it, she rose to her feet. "Please. Don't. It's just a dumb animal."

Loki rolled his eyes. In his hand, the lizard struggled a bit more, tail smacking against his hand and wrist with sharp snaps, little flames shooting out of its mouth. "You turned it against me." Under his glower, the little creature slumped, frustrated and limp in his hand.

If she did, she didn't know how. "Yeah. Because I'm awesome. Give it back." She held her hand out, wincing as the motion stretched burned skin.

"You're hurt," he said, setting the reptile in her hand, fingers brushing her palm.

She tried to ignore the tingles his touch produced. "I'm fine." Like you give a crap. Obviously feeling cocky, the lizard belched another flame in Loki's direction. Turning before Loki changed his mind and slew her unlikely protector, she walked back to the nightstand and set it down. "Stay," she said to the lizard.

Refusing to look at him, she got back in bed, pulling the covers over herself. "There some reason you're here? Slumming? Visiting the stupid and insignificant?"

"You cannot believe my words held any measure of truth."

Flipping onto her side again, she set her attention on the lizard, who watched Loki warily. "I know I'm not stupid," she said, with a conviction that surprised her. "I believe you think I am."

He didn't respond immediately, and the silence opened like a chasm between them. "Truly, Darcy?" he said after a minute. "Knowing me, as you do?" Another pause. "Seeing through me, as you do, can you envision a reality where I would have the patience to tolerate stupidity for any length of time?"

"A few months is a blink of an eye to you, right? No time at all."

He laughed, the sound low and bitter. "I've suffered far worse for much longer, but this situation, trapped amongst mortals," she could hear his sneer, "with Thor, is less than ideal. A few months has been at least several long blinks of an eye."

At that she sat up and found him still cloaked in shadows, out of the light cast by the full moon through the window. "Jokes, Loki? Truly?" She spoke the last word as he had, except she'd never been much good at accents. Reaching over the lizard she grabbed her glasses and put them on so she could give him an in-focus death glare. "You say awful shit to me, hurt me," her voice cracked, "and then think you can just waltz back in acting like nothing happened? I don't even think Thor would be that dense."

Even with her glasses, his face was a pale blur, body a tall patch of dark gray in the murky shadows, but she could see the tension build in his body, the anger drawing his mouth into a hard line, eyes black and burning with inhuman anger. She cocked her head, taking on her irreverent armor, waiting for the next round of sharp words to hit her.

When he didn't speak right away, she said, "This is where you say, 'I'm Loki of Asgard,' and tell me I have no right to speak to your arrogant, pigheaded self." She rolled her eyes. "For such a supposedly smart and sneaky guy, you're totally predictable." The lizard tensed and Darcy slapped her hand down on the nightstand, over its tail, preventing another kamikaze run at Loki.

The fire of anger in her belly flared and then inexplicably, spluttered and died. Her shoulders slumped and she set her gaze on a spot a few feet to his right, suddenly emotionally exhausted. She'd been rehearsing this confrontation all week, but now, with him before her, her clever scripted dialogue slipped from her mind. "Unless you plan on doing something original, go away."

Silence, this time more like the Grand Canyon than a simple chasm, widened in the darkness. Under her palm, the lizard's tail tugged and she lifted her hand. "No," she said firmly to her tiny guard dog.

"Would an apology be 'original?'"

Lifting her attention from the floor, she studied him. Moody, exasperating bastard that he was, his expression had turned sort of befuddled, almost boyish, anger now exchanged for a slight twitchy energy.

"Only if it's sincere. Lies are your M.O."

He took two hesitant steps toward her and stopped, looking oddly awkward. "If you were truly 'insignificant,' I would not have struck at you. If you were 'nothing,' it would not have mattered that I thought you were doing Thor's bidding. If you were stupid, I would not suffer this need for your company." His eyes took in the room in a disorderly sweep, before meeting hers. "You confuse me, unnerve me, leaving me feeling rudderless, you make me..." He shivered, a touch of anger rising in his eyes. "You make me feel." His fists clenched.

"You are my friend." As he spoke the last word, Loki flinched, as if the word hurt. Darcy felt her anger give way, just a little, to pity. "I am unfamiliar with such an entanglement, particularly when it is given freely, without hidden agenda or seeking benefit." He let out a soft laugh. "Neither is Thor, for that matter. Nothing is ever quite so simple in Asgard. Not for a prince, certainly not for one such as me."

Darcy felt herself nodding in understanding. After all, she had spent four years studying the various ways humans tried to screw each other over using political structures. It wasn't hard to imagine that a monarchy like Asgard was driven by insincerity, backstabbing and ass kissing, same as any other place, but with an immortal twist.

"My words to you were cruel. I cannot say they were not meant to hurt because they were. My intention at the moment was to drive you away." Out-of-character vulnerability owned his lean face. "I hope I haven't. I hope you will accept my apology."

His honesty pulled at her heart, but she pushed the feeling aside. "Will this be your pattern? Tear me down, then expect forgiveness because you flashed your pretty green eyes at me?" Shaking her head, she added, "Because, nuh-uh, I'm not climbing on that dysfunctional, abusive ride."

A slight smile arched his mouth. "You are suggesting I should learn from my mistakes."

"Yeah. Silly me."

Bitterness swept over him, making him look tired. "I am, was...a prince, briefly a king. I'm not accustomed to the informal framework that friendship takes here on Midgard." He gave her a sad look. "I will likely fall into old habits and anger you. My temper will still get the best of me at times."

He took another step closer. "But I will endeavor never to belittle you or wound you as I did that day." With an almost shy smile, he added, "And I expect, when I remind you of your place, you will continue to remind me of mine."

Her own grin broke through. "Expect it, be ready for it, brace yourself." Oh, crap, she was easy. One cute little smile and her backbone vacated the premises, probably hunting for a body with more willpower.

They stared at each other, suspended in the quiet that was broken by the occasional outburst of a cricket under the window. His face was startlingly open, a kind of question in his eyes, but he turned away first. She ran a curious look over him, finding something that didn't quite make sense. Before she could ask, he strode up to the window, and examined the lizard and stick insect like a general inspecting the troops.

"The device worked, then?"

She nodded. The last of her anger dissipated and the need for him started to burn inside her, kindled by his proximity. The full moon energetically beamed white light through the blinds, casting hard stripes of light and dark on him. She blinked through her glasses, trying to make sense of his clothing. "What are you wearing?"

"An artifice."

She sat up straighter and scowled. "I don't like it."

To this, he looked down at her, a mixture of irritation and confusion on his face. "Wasn't it you who wanted me to play along, blend?"

Her eyes played up and down his tall frame. "Yeah, I did, but I didn't mean this." She met his stare, noting that his eyes were shadowed by dark half circles. "I don't want you to go picking fights with everybody on the planet. But you're still Loki of Asgard. I bet Thor doesn't have to blend this much." She squinted, seeing something odd about the whites of his eyes. "I said play along, not lose yourself."

"Ah, well, the next time the matter arises, I should tell them that Darcy doesn't approve," he said with grim smile.

"Sure, why not?" She pulled her knees to her chest, the covers pulling against her legs. "Thor does what Jane tell him to do. Pepper owns Tony. If Steve had a girlfriend, he'd be 'Yes, ma'am-ing' 24-hours a day."

His gaze rose from her, finding something fascinating about the paintings of sunflowers over the bed. "You are implying a parallel between those relationships and ours."

She dropped her gaze from him to stare across the room, where the stripes of moonlight fell against the far wall, broken by a tall, lanky shadow. "I guess that's stupid. We're barely friends."

"You know that isn't true," he said, his voice shadowed with frustration. He was staring out the window again.

"Right. You tolerate the idea of friendship in exchange for ice cream." With a wry face, she added, "Which makes you kind of a dessert whore."

"Where once I sold my soul for an army and infinite power, I now trade it for frozen treats."

"Honestly, you've traded up. Armies are overrated." Scooting toward the head of the bed, and drawing her legs to hang over the edge of the bed, she patted the spot next to her. "Sit down. You're making me nervous." She pulled off her glasses and set them down, giving the lizard an affectionate scratch on the head.

The bed shook slightly under his weight as he sat, curiously, without his usual hesitation. Up close, she saw that there were splotches of red in the whites of his eyes, like little red blossoms on dendritic vessels. Without thinking, she put her hands on the sides of his face, turning him to her. "What did they do to you?"

He sneered. "I did it to myself." He closed his eyes as she move her hands up, fingertips tracing over his eyebrows from the center of his face outward. "The unmaking of manmade materials, concrete and steel, is a straightforward enough spell, but best optimized with an efficient transfer of energy." He opened his eyes. "It took some experimentation to find pathway that put the least strain on my body."

Darcy frowned. "So they have you doing magic on command?"

His mouth twitched with a bitter smile. He reached to her, cool fingers touching her collarbone near the hollow of her throat then moving up till his hand was around her neck. "I missed you," he said.

Her hands were still on his face. "Why? None of the Avengers unnerving enough for you?"

He tilted his head, as though listening to something she couldn't hear, and for a second she realized that the guy with his hand around her neck had been recently insane. The guy who Jane had said, "...looked at me like he wanted to rip my throat out with his bare hands."

"My beloved monster," he said. His lips pressed against hers in a quick kiss, cautious, as if he expected her to reject him.

Like that'll happen. "I missed you, too." Her hands fell away from his face, coming to rest on the unfamiliar contours of the SHIELD body armor.

His other hand moved to her neck, both on either side, his thumbs pressed to her pulse. "If you would have me," he began, "I would take you, tonight, in this bed."

Darcy's fingers twitched and tightened on the stiff leather; she swallowed, her heart thundering in her rib cage. "You"

The hands at her neck tightened, and she could feel her racing heartbeat flutter against his thumbs. "I would make love to you, a slow exploration of each and every place on your body, that when touched in the precise manner, strips you of all reason and makes you mine." Pulling her toward him, he pressed his forehead to hers. "But, I fear my need makes that impossible, at least, in the immediate." He closed his eyes. "I cannot hurt you, but I cannot be gentle either." Pushing away lightly, he lifted and scrutinized his hands. "In wanting, I am deprived of patience, with no aptitude for preamble or subtleties..."

Darcy took his hands in hers, aware that her own were unsteady. "I think here on Earth, we'd just say you want it now and you want it hard, fast." She shrugged with a cocky confidence she didn't feel. "It's safe to say the feeling is mutual."

Deftly turning his hand in hers, he lifted her left hand to his lips and laid a single kiss on the knuckles of her ring and middle fingers. With any other guy, the gesture would have been cute and sexy. From Loki, it was vested with the weight of chivalry, with everything he was, an undercurrent of promise and honor.

"Are you certain?" he asked, with a slight lift of a dark eyebrow and Darcy's unspoken history in his eyes.

Well, crap. That was how it worked, wasn't it? If she could see through him, the reverse was true. "N-no," she said. To be honest, she thought she was beyond this; it had taken a few years, but she had reclaimed her sexuality. But her recent lovers had been young men, amusingly overconfident, or charmingly awkward, and totally non-threatening.

Mimicking his action, she pulled his other hand to her face, pressing his knuckles to her mouth, remembering white bandages steeped in crimson. The hand in hers was big but put together from long, elegant bones covered in unscarred skin, fingers tapering to slim fingertips. Nothing like Thor's big meaty paws, but still preternaturally strong.

"You need not do this, certainly not for me." His voice carried bitterness, though not directed at her. "Least of all for me." He freed his hands, gave her shoulder a companionable rub and turned to look across the room.

"No," she said resolutely. "It's for me." She leaned against his side, all his terrifying strength at her side. Even dressed in mortal clothes, he was still Loki; on the slightest whim, he could force her to do anything and she'd be powerless to stop him.

Her fingers began to investigate the leather and heavy cloth. "I need to take," she said, finding a seam and following it, searching for a buckle or other fastener. This stuff was worse than his Asgard armor. Not as sexy, either.

Cautious, he looked down at her hands on him, then sideways at her. Then his arms were around her, holding her tight. She shivered with fear and desire, but mostly desire. "Tell me," he said, "what I can do."

"Remind me that it's you I'm with, and not..."

His strong hands pushed her back from him and he trapped her in his smoldering gaze, chest rising and falling, expression burning with the suggestion that he wanted to tell her something important. Instead of speaking, he scooped her up and set her in the center of the bed. Covering her body with his, he laced their fingers together, pinning her hands to the bed. The burn on her hand smarted, but she used the pain to shield against fear.

He paused, face inches from hers. "Darcy." Her name was a question.

Trapped under him, she could feel old anxieties just under her desire for him. He shifted his weight, parting her legs with his knees. Leather scraped the soft skin on her thighs. She moved her legs, her bare feet following the contours of his lower leg and heavy boots. The long planes of his face added up to unnaturally handsome, alien, and yet irrationally familiar.

"Loki," was her answer.

He pressed his mouth to hers, hungry, almost bruising. Her heart racing faster than she thought possible, she forced her fears into the kiss, opening her mouth to him. Heat coursed through her as his tongue invaded her mouth. Lying beneath him, his mouth fierce with all he wanted to do to her, what she desperately wanted as well, she felt a barrier weaken inside her, and she gave herself to the desperation of the kiss.

Abruptly, her hands were free, and his hand at her waist, pushing up her T-shirt. Without his usual grace, he shoved the cotton material roughly, losing patience and pushing under fabric, his warm hand curving around her breast. His thumb circled her nipple and every cell in her body seemed to come alive. Her back arched, pressing into his touch and he broke the kiss. Their gazes met and he held her trapped with the urgency in his eyes.

A tiny hint of mischief sparkled in his eyes and he withdrew his touch, attention full on her face. She shivered at the loss and he flicked his thumb, just grazing sensitive flesh. Once, then again, a fleeting touch, then longer, then just a whisper. Her eyelids fluttered, as she melted under this hint of what he could do.

But he wasn't lying when he said he lacked patience. Rocking back onto his knees, he tugged at the bottom of her shirt, already bunched under her breasts, growled under his breath and ripped the fabric, yanking it back, exposing her to the cool night air. He tugged the garment off as far as it would go, pushing it partway down her upper arms like a button-up shirt. He laid a kiss on her bared shoulder, one hand on her previously neglected breast, thumb doing that terribly clever teasing thing.

She put her hand on his shoulder, muttering, "Dude, lose the leather." Being Loki, he ignored her, clever mouth following a hot trail along her collarbone, down over her right breast, onto the ticklish skin on her ribs and stopping at her panties. He paused, hands on her hips. His eyes asked the question and she sat up. Grabbing a handful of his hair, she kissed him hard, nipping his lower lip. She drew back and tugged at his collar. "I hate this."

Crossing his arms, fingers spread, hands at his shoulders, he shrugged the top section of the body armor off with a dizzying mix of magic and muscle. The black, form-fitting long-sleeve shirt beneath must have been Asgardian in origin, judging by the stitching at the collar and sleeves. This he shucked off the mundane way, peeling it up and over his head.

Moonlight cast him in stark chiaroscuro and Darcy hissed in a breath. Fully clothed, he was Thor's lanky, rather frail brother. The body before her could probably benefit from more regular meals, but he was no flabby wimp. Her eyes followed the contours of hard, well-defined muscle and she felt a flush of blood rising to her skin, nerves firing with electric intensity between her thighs. Centuries of following Thor on his adventures had done Loki's body good.

She started to touch him, but he snagged his fingers in her panties' waistband and moved down her body, freeing her of the undergarment. He hopped off the bed and shed his boots and the rest of his clothes. Darcy had just enough time to get a quick look before he returned, fitting his mouth to hers and shoving her onto her back. Nope. Not a wimp down there, either.

Their kiss was frenetic, almost sloppy, teeth hitting teeth, panting into each other's mouths with raw need. With very little finesse, his hand groped her, fingers spread, palm rubbing over her chest, breasts, then circling the slight swell of her stomach, and up and down the outer curve of her thigh, like a blind man seeing with touch. She writhed under him, a yawning sense of emptiness between her legs.

He lifted his body, looming over her, gaze devouring her naked body. "Later," he said, breathless.

"Yeah, later," she said, hands at his waist, pulling him down to her. She was ready, but a nervous tremor ran through her as he paused at her entrance. He set a gentle hand on her face, keeping her eyes on his as he entered her. Slight pressure became sharp invasion as he slid inside her in one strong move. His eyes lost their focus and she let out a little whimper at being so filled, almost to the point of pain.

At first his movements were slow, and she knew, despite his fierce need, that he was restraining himself, allowing her to get accustomed to the way their bodies fit together. Retreat, advance, each time at a slightly different angle or speed, his hips pressing against the oversensitive skin of her inner thighs.

She moved her hips, matching his rhythm and he began to quicken the pace. Once again taking her hands in his, he eased himself down to her, her breasts tight to his bare chest, his long body pinning her to the bed.

His motions started to lose their subtlety, each thrust more forceful, demanding. A spike of fear prickled her subconscious, and then worked its way to her consciousness. The feeling of being trapped, helpless, grew and she began to lose track of where she was, who with. "Wait...I can't."

It took him a second, but he did. Pressing his forehead to hers, he paused. And then he did something unmistakably Loki. He kissed her carefully, once on each cheek, then on her forehead, and then between her breasts, and at each point of contact warmth sank into her skin, suffused with the delicious taste of cinnamon.

He made a funny cross-eyed face and the sensation of heat and cinnamon flared between her legs. Through her muzzy haze of lust and panic, she nevertheless grinned. "Oh, hell yeah. That. More."

Drawing back and then forward, he pushed the tingling magical energy into her core. It coiled around her nerve endings, finding pathways into the rest of her body. She curled her toes in pleasure. Skin burned against skin as once again he pressed her to the bed with his body. He began as if he had never stopped, hard and fast, with little hint of his previous control. She wrenched her hands from his, ignoring the pain from the burn on her fingers and wrapped her arms around his torso, fingertips clenching on the hard muscle of his back.

He nuzzled his face in the hair at the top of her head. "Darcy." His voice was gentle, but his thrusts almost an assault, as he were trying to purge himself of anger, frustration and misery, as if his memories and magic could be found within her. The ferocity of his lovemaking still stirred the past in her, but she could still feel the magical taste of him. Her skin felt as though it had thinned and he was pouring into her.

She arched and met each bruising stroke with her hips, fingernails biting into his flesh. He was exorcising some of his demons in her and she did the same, taking him deep inside, using him, reducing him to the exquisite and shattering touch of lean, muscular body and delicious magic.

She felt herself dissolving, waves of pleasure originating from the place where they were joined, driven by the relentless rhythm. Sensing her completion, he slowed his pace, but not the force of his movements. He fondled her left breast, then right, teasing the nipple and a bright connection shot from her breasts down to her shivering, clenching flesh.

As her first release began to fade, he continued on, face buried in her hair, pummeling her with unflagging energy. The impacts pushed her toward the headboard and she grasped his shoulders so he could drive deep into her depths, A new climax began to build and she forgot how much his power terrified her, or perhaps she didn't and the overwhelming sense of him, on top of her, claiming her, bore her past the ghost that lurked in the back of her mind.

Or maybe it was the stupid, irrational trust she held for him.

His completion was announced with an almost startled gasp in her ear. The sensation of him shuddering above her, spilling inside her, pushed her over the edge. She spoke his name and tangled her fingers in his hair, as pure sensation flooded her body. Her back arched, but her arms released him, as her muscles grew weak with languid pleasure.

After, they lay motionless, his weight growing, both drained by the catharsis of what had happened between them. When he pushed himself to his elbows, her skin tingled with the absence of his touch, but she just smiled at him in drowsy happiness. "Unsubtle is"

He let out a small laugh. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"

"If you did, it was a good hurt." He was still inside her and very perky. She emphasized her point by clenching her muscles around him. His response was to scoop her up and rearrange them so that she was now on top of him.

She gave him a chaste peck on the cheek and sat up, examining the man who was now her lover. His hair was in lovely disarray, black and scruffy against the white pillow. His angular face wore a very male expression of smug satisfaction. She touched his cheeks, running her fingertips across the slight hollow beneath them and then to his chin, trying to decide which part of his bone structure she liked best.

The parts below the neck were just as marvelous. She explored him with her hands, over the hard rounded muscle on his upper arms, the broad expanse of pectorals down to abdominals, then back up along his waist and stopping at the faint ridges of his ribcage.

He wasn't grotesquely thin. He carried more meat and muscle than the marathon runner she had once dated, but he could stand to put on a few more pounds. She wondered if there was a way to get him to stop torturing Thor by starving himself. Still moody and temperamental (she suspected he always would be), he seemed to be having a mostly steady relationship with sanity, so she knew he didn't really believe Midgard food could harm him in any way.

He watched her, a lazy sensual smile on his face. "You are so beautiful," she said.

Big mistake. His eyes narrowed and hard derision tightened his jaw. He looked away. "That's a far cry from a compliment."

"Why? You're a beautiful man."

"Beautiful is womanly. Would you call Thor beautiful?"

"Yeah, I would." She shrugged, but figured out where he was going with this. "All the men in Asgard look like Thor?"

"The ones of note," he said bitterly, still not looking at her.

Setting her hands on his bare shoulders, she leaned toward him and said, "A few millenniums on Asgard have done a serious mind-fuck on you." His attention wandered back to her. She sat up, picked up his hand and drew it over her right breast, down her side and left it to rest on the swell of her hip. "This is womanly." Next she gestured down at him. "That isn't."

"You cannot understand-"

"I understand plenty." She plunked her hands back on his shoulders. Her hair spilled down toward his face. "Who designed the fabulous shining buildings of Asgard that Thor blabs about? The gardens?" He opened his mouth, but she answered for him. "Artists, architects, craftspeople. Folks with smarts, right?"

"And magic," he said.

"If it wasn't for people with brains, Thor, Odin and the rest would be living in mud huts and shitting in the dirt." A smile twitched on his mouth and she watched him push it away. "You've got brains and you're beautiful. Here, on this humble branch of your world tree thingy, good looking men come in more flavors than muscle-bound and blond."

"The Aesir value the warrior-"

"We do that too, but it usually isn't the warrior who designs the bombs and guns."

"Tony Stark?"

"Tony's a nerd with boss weapony. There's only one Tony." She bent farther, her face inches from his. "And only one you." She kissed his forehead. Something moved inside her, literally. She was still around him like a tight sheath. Wiggling her hips, she did the forehead to forehead thing and he grinned and pushed his hips upward.

Yeah. He was still good to go.

This time he let her dictate the pace, unhurried, as his fingers feathered exquisite touches over her skin which seemed to have instantly grown millions more nerves. Darcy bit her lower lip, concentrating on his face as she did a little bit of science on him, trying to find the point, that perfect angle that made his eyes widen and lose focus, expression full of boyish surprise. She had found several perfect moves when his patience gave out. He pulled her down and took one of her nipples into his hot, wet mouth, his hips pounding against hers hard, but without the underlying ferocity of before.

When they finished, he flipped her onto her back and slipped out of her, his leaving making her gasp. He hadn't hurt her, but it had been a while since she'd been with anyone and she was already a little sore.

Flopping on the bed, on his side, he pulled her into his arms. His sigh moved along her back.

"Sighing? Was it that bad? Icky mortal sex?"

He growled. "It was a sigh of contentment, silly girl." Lips touched her shoulder, followed by teeth as he nipped her lightly. "Mortal, yes, 'icky,' no."

"Just crass and..." she couldn't remember the rest exactly, "with a big mouth."

"Your best attributes," he casually fondled a breast, "among others." Another long sigh followed and she could feel his breathing beginning to slow. On the nightstand, the lizard was upside down and unconscious again, which was good because she didn't like the idea of the pervy reptile turning her and Loki into its personal peep show. She eyed the rose, which was getting a little threadbare and wondered if he could get her another. That question would have to wait, because apparently even immortal men liked a snooze apres sex. The hand on her breast twitched and then relaxed and she could hear his breathing fall into the familiar at-sleep rhythm.

Darcy closed her eyes, safe in his arms, buzzy with post-coital bliss.

Yeah. Contentment.

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 21 of 39

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