Continuing Tales

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 22 of 39

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Morning arrived like a thief, stealing the comfortable ease of slipping into and around a lover and leaving in its place the creeping awareness that things might be about to get complicated.

Darcy was sitting up, watching, with a measure of irritation, Loki sleep. They had spent the better part of the night conducting experiments in ecstasy on each other and in the aftermath her hip ached. Which did absolutely nothing to diminish her need to continue their research, now at 7:30 in the morning.

Her partner in sexy science, black hair in scrumptious disarray, a faint smile still on his face, was in his coma-like sleep, and otherwise useless. The moonlight had been traded out for bright morning sunlight; the chirping cricket for the deep bass thud-boom-thud from a passing car's stereo, and the caw-caw-caw of a crow.

At least Darcy assumed it was crow. Given her current bed mate, she thought it worth checking. She slipped out of bed, put on her glasses and pushed her fingers between the blinds. There were three crows - did three count as a "murder?" - hopping around some small, fuzzy dead thing on the road, looking like short, black-feathered shamans conferring last rites on the dead. Definitely crows. Even she could tell the difference. Crows were to ravens what...well, Loki was to Thor, the scrawnier little brothers. She felt a small sense of relief at this. There were already enough people spying on her and Loki.

With one last long look to make sure the roadkill wasn't anyone she knew--like Inkblot--she headed for the bathroom. Pausing at the torn remains of her favorite sleeping T-shirt, she picked up his black shirt instead. It was totally cliché, she knew, wearing a guy's shirt, but she slipped it on anyway. The fabric, thin as linen, but with the heft and texture of velvet, slid deliciously over her skin. It hung midway down her thighs and the too-long sleeves fell over her knuckles. Biting her lower lip, she cast one last look at him, feeling a giddy girlish wave of pleasure, and left the room.

This morning the view from the bathroom mirror was of an outdoor, seaside shower, the kind often found in summer homes. Beyond the wide showerhead on a tall pipe, white gulls rode a steady coastal breeze over a gray green sea.

When she opened the cabinet door, the changing angle gave her a longer view down an empty beach. Taking out a small round plastic container, she popped it open, pushed out a pill and took it. Now that she actually had a sex life again, she had to be extra careful about not skipping pills. An out-of-work supervillain and barely competent research assistant were no doubt a match made in parenting hell. As in Lord of the Flies, with magic and a snarky attitude.

Her usual craving for a morning ride or run missing, she dampened the parts of her hair that stuck up at crazy angles, ran a comb through it, and then went back to bed.

Not surprisingly, Loki was exactly where she'd left him. Back in bed, she propped herself on one elbow and studied him. The dark half circles under his eyes had faded to faint smudges, but the slight imperfection conferred humanity on the pale, angular perfection of his face. She touched her index and middle fingers to the thin, fragile skin under his eyes and wondered what he looked like under the illusion.

A few months before, in the evening, after Loki had disappeared to his lair outside, Jane had asked Thor about the real Loki. Thor had been telling another Asgard story and the topic had wandered to frost giants.

"But Loki looks like you," observed Jane, "he's not blue."

Darcy, who was sitting on the couch, texting a friend, and mostly ignoring the two lovebirds, looked up in time to see the discomfort on Thor's face. "It is an illusion, crafted by Odin," explained Thor, "but one that Loki has made no attempt to circumvent."

Jane paused, one finger tapping the edge of her iPad lightly. "Can you blame him?" she asked. Thor met her eyes, expression thoughtful.

"Wait?" said Darcy. "Did you say 'blue?' Mad Science is blue, Avatar Na'vi?"

Thor had paused a beat and then said, resolutely, "Yes," in a tone that meant the reference had rocketed past him at light speed but he didn't care to admit to his ignorance.

The concept of a blue Loki didn't bother Darcy at all. In fact, it kind of turned her on, but then again, at the moment, everything about him - the shape of his shoulder, the angle of his forehead, the way his dark eyelashes lay against his skin, the sound of his breathing - made her burn for him.

And now she'd had him and a part of her wondered what she was going to do with him (besides the obvious naked-fun answer). Did her answer even matter when the man in question was a creature of myth and magic? Could he really ever belong to her?

He called her his friend so presumably this was more than a one-night hookup, but she also knew his main goal was to be anywhere but here. The invite to Loki's big event--Get unattached from Thor and get the hell out of Puente Antiguo--probably didn't include the line "Plus-one."

The thought of Loki flitting off, never to be seen again, to do whatever he wanted in some other universe struck her like a knife to the heart. She flopped onto her back, and closed her eyes, which only made the scent of him on the shirt, in her bed, all the more potent. When he went away, that would be all she had left.

It's just sex, just a bit of fun like he'd say. Live in the now, in the now...

The bed shuddered as he did the same, a tremor moving along his long body; he muttered something in his sleep. He turned on his side, hand touching her arm. His fingers clenched on her flesh, and then he reached out, arm snaking around her waist, clutching her to him. A second shudder ran through him and his embrace tightened painfully before relaxing as he passed into dreamless sleep.

In the now, in the now...


When she awoke the second time, it was to Loki watching her. Both were still under the covers, though he was on his elbows, over her. Cool air from the swamp cooler touched her face, but the heat of their bodies pooled under the bedclothes, warmth lying against her thighs and chest.

She smiled sleepily up at him. "Loki. Hey."

He blinked, looking almost startled, and then smiled back, a hint of relief in the expression. "You are wearing my shirt."

"You ruined mine."

"That wasn't a garment. It was a polishing rag with delusions of grandeur." He cupped her breast, pushing the velvety soft fabric over her slightly sore nipple. "I like this."

"My breast? Of course you do, you're a guy, a straight guy."

"Hmm, that too." He bent his head to nuzzle the spot between her breasts. "I like you in my shirt, making it yours," he moved over her like water, lips taking hers briefly, "while I make you mine." His hard need pressed against her thigh, but he seemed to enter through her eyes first.

Lifting her hands to his face, she drew her fingertips past his hairline and over his scalp, feeling the shape of his skull beneath. He fit himself tightly inside her and the world began to shrink to just the little space that they occupied.

Her brain still fuzzy with the remains of sleep, the boundary between him and her blurred, and she sank into his careful rhythm. Their lovemaking was uncomplicated, framed around the place where she took him into her and the almost nonsexual touches of their bodies elsewhere.

Their finish was a quiet crescendo and she held him over her, unwilling to relinquish him just yet. After a few minutes Loki began to occupy himself with the spot behind her right ear and down her neck, leaving hot little kisses on her sweat dampened skin. Somewhere in the house a door shut.

That sound was followed by a knock on her door. "Darcy?" said Thor's voice. "Loki?"

Loki made a noise that was half growl and groan. He rose to his elbows just as Thor merrily opened the door and strode into the room. "Have you seen--?"

"At least he knocked," said Loki, dryly. He rolled off Darcy and glowered at his brother. "Get out, Thor."

Thor was staring at Darcy with a bewildered expression of male interest. She followed his line of sight to where most of her right side was out of the covers, Loki's shirt pushed up showing a long expanse of thigh and part of her butt. With another growl, Loki snatched the edge of the sheet and yanked it sideways to cover the view.

"Do they know where--?" Jane poked her head in the doorway. "What's going on?" Her brown eyes went from Thor to Loki and Darcy. "Oh," she said, noting Loki's bare chest and the unmistakable Asgard embroidery on the Darcy's "new" shirt.

Thor drew himself up to his full height and frowned sternly at his brother. "You swore you would not do this, take her maidenhead."

"My...what?" said Darcy.

Loki nodded, trademark innocent expression making an appearance. "And I've held to my oath," he said, almost regally.

Confused, Darcy looked back and forth at the two brothers. Then she got it. "Thor, the unicorns stopped following me home junior year in high school." Because he wasn't going to get the time reference, she explained, "Years ago."

"Oh," said Thor. Unicorns he understood. His gaze went to Jane. Like a big, blond Tower of Pisa, he leaned slightly away from her, no doubt because she was now laying a pile of stink eye on him.

"What difference does that make?" snapped Jane. "If Darcy's not a virgin, that makes it okay for your conniving brother to use her? Because that's what he's doing."

"He, I, we, she...uh," stammered Thor. "He should not...but if...I..."

"You should probably stop talking right now," suggested Darcy to Thor. Her next comment was directed at Jane. "Ever stop to think that I'm using Loki? It's not everyday a girl like me gets to play doctor with a Norse god." Loki raised an eyebrow at that.

Jane pressed her lips together. "Come on, Thor." She took Thor's hand and dragged him out of the room, shutting the door behind them.

"Maidenhead?" said Darcy, eyebrows raised high. "Boy, you've got some 'splainin' to do."

Loki smiled smugly. "Thor, no doubt at Jane's behest, confronted me a few months ago. He asked that I not take advantage of this home's hospitality, in particular, not despoil fair maiden."

Darcy pulled a face. "Were we even getting along at the time?"

"I had not turned you into an insect," he said cheerfully. "Thor, fool that he is, probably told Jane that I must carry some fondness in my heart for you, as you yet had four, not six limbs." His agile face took on the appearance of hurt. "Jane, who doesn't trust me, took that to mean I might-"

"Seduce her research assistant. Big leap, Jane." Or not. "And you told Thor I was un-despoiled and maiden-ly?"

Still terribly self-satisfied, Loki said, "No. Thor told Thor that you were a maiden. I assume he based this on your youth. Thinking it would keep me from taking you to my bed, he had me swear that I would not take your maidenhead."

Darcy considered this for a moment. "How'd you know I wasn't?" She couldn't remember talking about former lovers around him.

"I cannot remember much about my romantic exploits," bitterness edged his voice, "but I don't recall an attraction to quivering, inexperience innocents who would bleed in my bed, and I was certainly drawn to you." He shrugged. "You have always seemed too self-assured, too confident in your womanhood to be a completely untouched. And, at the time, I was not ready to concede to my attraction to you. It was a harmless oath."

A car horn honked in the distance and they both lapsed into silence. "When you spoke of your nightmare, I knew for certain."

Darcy nodded stiffly. "Does it matter? I mean, it sounds like Asgard is pretty old school about some of that stuff."

He looked at her out of the corner of his eye. "This isn't Asgard, and I have had many lovers. I cannot begrudge you a few stupid boys. They are not even worth my jealously."

And if you make it back to Asgard? Climbing out of bed, she smacked the question down and repeated her litany: Live in the now, in the now, in the now.

He was sitting up, the sheet and comforter at his waist, sunlight striking the pale muscled expanse of his back down to his buttocks. Her breath caught at the sight and she remembered a married friend who said that after a while the novelty of naked wore off. Deep down, Darcy suspected her friend was right, but at the moment she found the idea inconceivable. Which made the thought of his leaving hurt all the more. Her skin tingled as he dropped a long sultry look over her, eyes lingering on her legs.

"My boobs are up here," she said, wincing at the squeak in her voice.

"Indeed." His gaze remained on her legs. "They are lovely but not your best feature."


"Your thighs are a magnificent deception."

"My thighs?" She ran and biked to keep them from becoming fat's favorite hangout, but didn't think of them as being terribly attractive.

He licked his lips and her knees turned to jelly. "They are composed of perfect, soft, feminine curves and yet beneath lies muscle, supple and strong. As much as I dislike confinement, your thighs are a trap I go to readily."

Darcy stared at him like a deer in headlights, her plan to march out of the room evaporating in the sexy heat of his words. In the now, indeed. She took two steps and pounced on him.


An hour later, they were sitting on the couch, both damp and smelling of shampoo and soap. Darcy still wore his shirt, the sleeves rolled up to her forearm, and a pair of khaki shorts. Loki was back in Asgard-lite and flipping through a book that would have been at home on the set of a horror movie. It had a cracked, black leather cover with faded, creepy runes embossed on the spine and cover. The yellowing pages were covered in dense rows of runes and had a disappointing lack of scary illustrations. He said he was looking for something related to the murders, but was evasive about exactly what.

Darcy turned on her phone and checked her messages. There was one from her brother, asking her advice on a birthday gift for his wife. She replied, reminding him that Anette was the mother of two small children and what she needed was a break, like maybe a long afternoon at a spa.

The phone buzzed in her hand, Sean sending her a text: "Fury returned your pet immortal?"

"Yes," she answered. A glance at Loki showed that the darkness shadowing his eyes was nearly gone. "In almost mint condition."

"Almost? The Hulk mop the floor with him again?"

"No," she replied a little guiltily, remembering her squeaky toy comment. "He got a little scuffed while playing nice."

"Nice? We talking about the same immortal? Skinny, black hair. Likes mischief?"

Skinny, but cut. "That's the one. I think he's getting his memories back."

"Is he? Good for him. Maybe now he'll help you find the murderer."

"Tired of almost getting blown to pieces?"

"Yeah. I work best fully assembled. And I don't like pain."

Loki lifted his gaze from the book, staring across the room, lost in thought. "You'll be glad to know, L's on the case right now," she typed back, eyes on the book. Either that or he was searching for a recipe for the ultimate Asgard cheesecake.

Sean said goodbye and Darcy set the phone down just as the lizard scrambled onto the coffee table. It skirted around the phone and made a bee line for Darcy's empty cereal bowl. Picking up the box of cereal, she shook out a couple of pieces and dropped them on the table, where the lizard immediately vacuumed them up.

"Unlike you, it eats everything," Darcy said to Loki.

Loki leaned forward, eyeing his creation. "It's female."

"How can you tell?"

Moving so fast his hand was blur, he grabbed the creature just in front of its hind legs and lifted it toward his face. Skinny striped body twisting like a snake, it struggled and then opened its mouth, threatening fire. Face otherwise passive, Loki arched an eyebrow and the lizard shut its tiny maw, but still looked pugnacious.

"It's one of your native species. They are all female."

"You mutated a real lizard?"

"Not intentionally," he said somewhat bitterly. His fingers parted abruptly and the lizard fell to the floor where it bounced twice on the carpet. Landing on its back, it flipped over, looking dazed.

"And you wonder why it, she hates you," said Darcy, bending down and offering her hand to the little creature. Loki watched the lizard march up her arm, a faint smirk on his mouth.

"What's that?" asked Jane. Darcy turned, finding her standing behind the couch, focused on the book in Loki's hand. Thor paused a few feet away, eyes also on the book.

"A grimoire," said Darcy, "Or so he says. Either that or a collection of naughty limericks."

Thor moved closer and peered over Loki's shoulder. "No. It is a grimoire. Erotic limericks would have accompanying illustrations." This earned him a two-way questioning smirk from Jane and Darcy, but typically oblivious, he asked, "Is there coffee cake?"

"Yeah," said Darcy. "We picked some up on the way home yesterday. Middle shelf. Fridge."

Jane sat on the loveseat and was soon joined by a chipper Thor and his midday snack. Darcy eyed the Thor-sized slice of cake on the plate--really, half the cake--and wondered if they could trade him in for a pony. A pony would be cheaper to feed.

He offered the cake to Jane and she tore off a small chunk and ate it. Her hair hung loose around her face, the sun from the window picking golden highlights from the brown. Even dressed in a cream-colored T-shirt and faded jean shorts, she possessed an elegant, refined beauty, the kind that would totally be at home in Asgard.

Darcy glanced down at herself and suspected that crass and miles-from-refined wouldn't work out that well in Asgard's hallowed halls. Wow. Insecure, much? Where had that come from? She glanced at Loki. Right. Sex with a demi-god.

Demi-god? What did that mean, anyway? Half god. What was the other half? Were Thor and Loki the cheaper versions of a real deity? Fifty-percent genuine god and the rest inexpensive fillers?

She was saved from any sillier thoughts by Jane, who asked Loki, "So have you remembered anything new? Like why the killer's magic seems to familiar to you?" Her tone was a touch demanding, and Loki responded by aiming a hard blast of irritation at her.

Jane sighed and looked at the cake on Thor's plate. "Neither Darcy nor I want to get locked up underground every time you and Thor leave town."

"Yeah," agreed Darcy. "If Jane isn't forced to go home once a day, the Fish Bowl becomes the only environment she can survive in."

Jane smiled wryly and nodded. "Spending that much time in the lab isn't good for my research. It's so easy to disappear in the work, but I get my best ideas when I'm here, my mind on other things."

"I haven't remembered anything specific," said Loki, "but there are questions in my mind, queries that need an answer." He shifted his stare from Jane to Thor.

Thor paused, a large forkful of cake nearly at his mouth. "Questions?" Loki said nothing, watching Thor intently.

When Loki's silence stretched too long, Darcy prodded, "Here. I'll get you started. 'Where,' 'when,' 'who' or 'how' are handy ways to start."

Rather than speaking, Loki inclined his head slightly, eyes slowly panning the extent of the living room. Thor and Darcy stared at him blankly.

Jane, however, quickly figured out what he meant. "I thought you've been frying all the bugs in the house."

"Fury and I had a conversation," was Loki's annoyingly oblique answer.

Darcy snorted. "I don't think growling counts as a conversation."

"He suggested, in light of the killer's growing boldness, that I not tamper with the listening devices."

"All of them?" said Darcy, thinking of the erotic radio show that she and he may have put on last night. She puffed out a sigh of relief at his sly smile and subtle shake of his head. On her shoulder, the lizard rubbed a clawed paw over its face like a cat. She watched the little reptile and wondered if she should mention its new habit of barbequing bugs.

"Loki asked...," began Thor, his mouth full of coffee cake. Chewing rapidly, he swallowed. "He asked why Fury did not question Sean regarding the murder of the third man."

"Sean didn't kill anyone," said Darcy, irritably.

"And you know this, how?" said Loki.

"Because..." Darcy sighed. "he's Sean, accountant. He wields the power of the spreadsheet. He doesn't even believe in magic, not entirely. Anyway, he was in San Diego when the last guy was killed."

"That is true," agreed Loki. "SHIELD confirmed that he took a flight from Albuquerque to Phoenix, then another to San Diego. This was verified by surveillance camera footage at all three airports. He also was seen on security feeds at a bank and a fast food restaurant in San Diego, accompanied by his sister."

"Wow," said Darcy, "SHIELD is big brother."

Loki shrugged. "His alibi is solid. Ours, less so."

"SHIELD still suspects you two?" Jane rolled her eyes, incredulous. "At this point, even I don't think Loki did it."

"I am the only known sorcerer in the area and my recent approach to dealing with mortals was less than benevolent." Loki turned his gaze on Darcy. "As my one," he paused, "friend, Darcy is shadowed by corresponding suspicion."

"Like Darcy said, you have no motive," said Jane, helping herself to another small chunk of coffee cake.

Loki gave her a wicked smile, no teeth, just mischief in his eyes. "What better motive than the incarceration of one of Earth's mightiest heroes? Where I go, Thor goes."

"If you want to get locked up, why not just off somebody in plain sight?" Darcy said, handing another piece of cereal to the lizard on her shoulder.

"I am Loki. I revel in the game."

"From commander of an alien army to serial killer in the armpit of New Mexico. Your game got lame." Darcy shook her head. "Yeah, I'm a little biased, but I don't buy that theory." She rose and pointed at the door. "We've been gone from the house for a week. We should check out the property, make sure no one stole anything from Tony's museum of techno-junk."


A couple of weeks into September and the desert sun still bathed the parched landscape in unwavering heat, but the lazy breeze that played the wind chimes that hung on the front porch now carried the cooler touch of fall. Next door, their neighbor, Carlos was on his roof, fiddling with one of three swamp coolers on his U-shaped trailer home. Seeing the four, he waved absently and went back to energetically whacking something inside the cooler with a hammer.

They paused at the foot of the stairs. Thor looked at Darcy, a question in his eyes, but Loki immediately headed toward the east. It seemed as good a direction as any so Darcy and Jane shrugged and followed him.

Loki strode on ahead of everyone, tall, imposing and also looking strangely comfortable in black leather despite the heat. Each of his steps was filled with a confidence she had never seen before. She stopped, knowing that in that strong stride was the return of the real Loki, whatever that entailed. Unhappily aware that this was another sign of his impending departure, she faced the street.

About a block away, the breeze twisted and writhed and turned itself into a dust devil, churning a coil of tan dust up toward the sky. Darcy paused to watched as it spun across a vacant lot, carrying sand and a white plastic bag a few hundred feet in the air before losing momentum and uncoiling to the earth like a dying cobra.

The sense of being watched poked at her and she turned, finding Loki standing by the storage shed, his attention on her. Thor and Jane reach him a second later and followed his gaze back to her. With a shrug and grin, she hurried to catch up.

Loki flicked a couple of fingers at the padlock on the door and it popped open with a quick click. He entered the little building, his sharp gaze moving over the space before he leveled his focus on Thor, who remained outside with the others. Darcy started to quip that she didn't literally mean that they should check Stark's high-tech yard sale crap, but Loki's grim expression killed the comment in her throat.

He whispered something and made a languid motion with his hands. Magic tickled Darcy's skin and she swallowed, an instinctive reflex to the sudden pressure in her ears. Jane must have felt it too, because she put a hand to her right ear, and a line formed between her brow along with a question on her lips.

Loki spoke. "The one who brought us to Midgard, he who opened a path between realms, what was his name, brother?" Darcy sighed at the cutting bitterness in the last word, but let it go because the question was interesting.

Thor glanced nervously at Jane and then dropped his gaze to his feet. "I cannot tell you."

"Cannot or will not?" Loki's voice was soft but his eyes shone with dark intensity.

Thor met his brother's eyes. "Cannot. I do not know."

"You took the aid of a sorcerer powerful enough to travel the hidden pathways without knowing his identity? That is rash, even for you." His voice brimmed with contempt. "And how did you find this man?"

Thor shrank under Loki's scrutiny, and Darcy felt sorry for him. "He found me," the blond prince said reluctantly.

"He found you," Loki repeated. He glanced at Darcy and shook his head. "Of course." Taking a step forward, he leaned, forearm against the doorframe, shoulders sagging with exasperated disgust. "And this didn't strike you as the slightest bit suspicious?"

"Yes," replied Thor, straightening and regaining some of his princely bearing. "But it did not matter. I had visited your cell, seen what had been done to you." He shot Jane and Darcy long glances as if appealing to them for support. "His identity was of no import, only setting you free mattered."

"This is freedom?" Loki said, heatedly.

"Would you rather lay bleeding in that cell?" retorted Thor, his deep voice rising.

Darcy lifted her hands and gave a couple of claps. "Nice show guys, but wrong audience." She jerked her head toward where Carlos still argued, now with a big red pipe wrench, with his reticent swamp cooler.

Taking his arm from the doorframe, Loki straightened, eyes on Darcy, a muscle in his jaw twitching "What," he said carefully, attention still on her, "was the payment for this sorcerer's service?"

"He took no payment," said Thor with a tight expression on his face that jumped up and down and yelled, "Lie."

"Even Darcy is a better liar," observed Loki, echoing her thoughts. "What did you promise him?"

Thor sighed. "I asked him why he would want to help you. His answer was that he wished to right an injustice."

"The price?" Loki prodded.

Thor squirmed like a boy whose mom had just found his sticky-paged Playboy collection under the mattress. "He said he would collect a good turn at a later date."

"Wow!" Jane stared at Thor, wide-eyed. "Physics, not mythology is my expertise, but even I know that's a bad bargain."

"You think Thor's interdimensional travel agent is the same person who killed Max and Andy?" asked Darcy.

"No," Thor interrupted Loki's response. "To what purpose? The sorcerer came to me, out of concern for you, Loki. Why go to such lengths to free you from Asgard's dungeons, only to see you thrown in another here on Midgard?"

"A game?" said Loki. "A change of playing field. Perhaps he preferred the 'freedom' of Midgard to unfold his scheme."

"You mean the murderer is another Asgardian?" said Jane. She and Darcy exchanged an "Oh shit" look.

"If Thor's helpful friend and the killer are the same, then, yes, possibly. The freezing spell is simple enough. The rare mortal with magical ability could manage such a minor working. But the ability to navigate between realms requires centuries of study and practice."

"So, immortal," said Darcy. The light tug of the black fabric on her shoulder signaled the lizard's trek down her arm. She crouched and let it down onto the ground. Her gaze followed a line up Loki's legs, body and finally settled on his face, over his clenched jaw and up to the barely controlled rage in his eyes.

"This is your doing," he said to Thor. "You could not leave well enough alone."

Thor didn't retreat this time. "Well enough? Brother, I did this for you. Whatever you may think of this place, it is one step closer to your freedom. Do not think that I am blind to your plans. I know you seek the means to break Odin's spell." He paused, swallowed and continued, "And when you break the bond between us, you will run as you always do and you will be free of me." Darcy could hear the hurt in Thor's voice and it vibrated in perfect harmony with the ache in her heart.

"You did not do this for me. You did it for Thor," snapped Loki. "Everything you do is for your own acclaim." He took a step toward Thor. "And now your latest indulgence has killed at least three mortals and threatens Darcy...and your precious Jane."

Thor looked at Darcy and then Jane, a touch of guilt on his face. Jane gave him a smile and squeezed his hand. He returned her smile sadly and then faced his brother. "You are correct, Loki. If not for my stupid blundering, we might never have found ourselves in the company of Jane and Darcy."

That statement was oddly subtle for Thor, but effective. Loki winced and for a millisecond his full attention was on Darcy, face painfully young and vulnerable. Then that Loki was gone and Darcy wondered if she had imagined it. The impending arrival of some absolutely horrible and cruel comment was announced in the concentrated anger pulsing from his body.

"AAAaargh!" At the scream, Darcy looked around, only to face everyone else's querulous looks and the recognition that she was the source. Carlos continued repairing his swamp cooler with extreme violence, apparently because Loki's spell somehow masked sound.

Darcy shrugged. Sex had been a great way to release tension, but now watching the man she l-luh-liked at lot tormenting his too-devoted-to-be-true brother stretched her nerves tighter than piano wire.

She stood up and said to Loki, pointing at Thor. "No, he's not at smart as you - Who is? - and he goes where ever his emotions lead, but he's not stupid. Lose the condescending 'tude and ask him the same question again. I bet he might remember something useful." Hot sunlight pouring down on his tall, black leather clad frame, Loki seemed about to boil over, but he simply glared at her, keeping his thoughts to himself, which was good, since the stuff in his head would probably get him kicked out of her bed forever.

To Jane, Darcy said, "These two have more melodrama than a Lifetime TV movie." Reaching out, she took Jane's hand and started toward the road. "Let's walk, you and me."

Jane resisted at first, big brown eyes mostly on Thor, with a few nervous glances at Loki. "But..."

"They'll be all right." Darcy gave Jane a hard tug and the worried physicist followed slowly. "Ask him. Again," Darcy repeated to Loki.

Not that she expected him to, but Loki didn't take her advice. "Once again," he said, sending a scathing glance at Thor, "I am left to repairing the damage you've done." He turned on his heel and retreated into the shed.

Jane gave her a concerned look and Darcy responded, "They're better off without an audience."


As pets went, the lizard was some kind of wonderful. Darcy's brother had four pet geckos when he was a kid, but all they ever did was lay around under a sun lamp in a tiny aquarium, until a year later, they all died of boredom. (Darcy always imagined they'd had a suicide pact.) This lizard was like a teeny, boob-obsessed, smarter-than-average, scaly dog. It seemed to be subsisting easily on table scraps and whatever it could scrounge. As she and Jane walked along the side of the road, it scampered nearby, darting in and out of clumps of sagebrush and tumbleweeds and then scaling the short wall of tires along the front of Carlos's property.

Just past Carlos's house, Jane asked, "Did you and Loki really have sex?" and immediately turned a vivid shade of crimson.

"Yeah and it was awesome." Darcy grinned at Jane's discomfort.

"Like, real sex?" She shoved her hands awkwardly in the front pockets of her jean shorts.

"There's a fake kind?"

Jane's face was now a shade of red that may have been borderline unhealthy. "I mean, the kind that gets you pregnant."

"I'm on the pill." She cocked her head at Jane. "You preggers?"

"No!" They were passing the Richards's place and Darcy was glad to see that Rocket and Meteor were in the house since she didn't have any treats. "Remember that conversation where Thor let it slip that he'd had sex with other mortal women?" asked Jane.

"I'm surprised he didn't end up sleeping on the couch," said Darcy with a laugh. "Did he tell you that you were the only one?"

"Not exactly," she said. "We had sex, real sex, for the first time after his confession."

"No way," protested Darcy. "You two have been going at it like-"

"No, we haven't." Her face, which had started to go back to a normal shade, reddened again. "We did...things, but not that. At first, I thought it was kind of charming, him being a gentleman. Then, it got old." Darcy nodded in understanding. Night after night with a model of male perfection in your room was the definition of sexual tension overload.

"When I'd try for, you know, more, he'd say he didn't want to hurt me. I asked if this was about me being mortal and he," Jane frowned, "he said yes, but looking back, it was obvious he was lying."

"So what was the real story. Performance anxiety?" she quipped.

Jane laughed quietly. "I think it has something to do with him being a prince and expectations for the women in his life. He doesn't want me to be perceived as just a fling. I guess it's kind of flattering since his concerns mean he sees us as going somewhere..."

Jane lapsed into silence and Darcy's response took a minute or two because the conversation was revving up her own anxieties. "Going where?" she asked. "To the place where you argue over guest lists and whether the hors d'oeuvres should be cocktail weenies or salmon on toast?" Then they both laughed at the idea of cocktail weenies at an Asgard party.

They walked in silence past Mrs. Tapia's house, the soundtrack provided by the multiple wind chimes on the old woman's porch. Several new silk flowers, red poppies, waved cheerfully in the breeze where they were wrapped around the chain link fence.

Jane broke the conversational lull. "Please tell me you haven't gotten caught up in Thor's silly fantasy."

"He's a flying man in a red cape. Thor is a fantasy," replied Darcy. Jane groaned and Darcy made an apologetic face. "Sorry. I don't know what you're talking about."

Jane fiddled with her hair, a sign of exasperation. "The fantasy that he can get back the Loki he remembers from long ago, the kinder, gentler Loki. Thor's convinced that by getting him away from Asgard, away from all the things that drove him nuts, he'll get that Loki back."

"That Loki is gone and so is the Thor that used to hang out with him." Darcy's voice had a snappish edge and she realized she sounded like Loki. Well, if she did, it was with good reason. Jane eyed her worriedly, obviously put off by Darcy's tone.

"Do you remember when you were fifteen, Jane?"

"Fifteen? Why?" Jane looked at Darcy who simply cocked her head at her. "I guess. Yeah. I was a sophomore in high school."

"And is Jane, now-Jane, the same person as fifteen-year-old Jane?"

"Yes-no. No." Jane smiled. "I'm a very different person." With a nod, she added, "Centuries of living would change a person even more."

"Thor needs to work on connecting with now-Loki, not a ghost."

Ahead of them, the lizard stopped and then rose high on its legs, alert. The cause, another lizard, slightly larger, crept out of the shade of a sagebrush. Jane stopped, eyes on the two reptiles. "And who is now-Loki?" she asked.

Darcy also watching the reptilian drama, took a moment to consider her answer. "I think Thor's right about one thing. All the mess here in town and in New York, was the result of Loki having a major break with reality."

Jane looked dubious, but Darcy forged on. "Bear with me. I have a theory. Okay, more like a hypothesis, yes, I have paid attention to some of your science-y stuff." This earn her a grin from Jane. "I think Loki's been struggling with some kind of mental illness for decades, or centuries. Being Loki, he was pretty good at covering it up. And it wouldn't have done him much good to ask for help because Asgard, the land of happy, shiny, perfect people, is probably worse than America for dealing with mental health problems."

On the ground, the two lizards circled each other in the sand in herky-jerky reptile movements. "So you're saying he was already kind of unstable--"

"--and then he learned his dad was the blue, freezy version of Darth Vader," Darcy made a swooshing motion with her hand, "he took a dive off the sanity board into the deep end of crazy."

Darcy's pet lunged at the other lizard and they rolled briefly in an irate gray knot and then separated. She couldn't tell if they were having angry sex or fighting.

"You know," said Jane, "even if you're right, this doesn't make me feel any better about you two. This just means my friend is falling in love with a crazy person."

"Love? Who said anything about love?" She held up a hand. "And only I get to call him crazy, because when I say it, it's with," she almost said the l-word, "warm fuzzies."

The two lizards were entangled again, rolling back and forth in the sand. Darcy faced Jane and said, "Evil's forever. Crazy you can cure."

Jane's throat moved as she swallowed, preparing to say something. Darcy got a reprieve from whatever it was when a red van cruised up the road and passed them. This time she recognized it instantly from the burned out barn down the road. An African American man with salt and pepper gray hair was driving, a younger Hispanic man in the passenger side. Whoever was paying for the job must have been forking over some major scratch to get the crew out on a Sunday.

"I'm sorry, Darcy," began Jane, pulling her hair over her shoulder, fingers entangling nervously with hunks of brown. "I know it's none of my business--"

"Friends get up in each others' business," broke in Darcy with a crooked smile and shrug.

Jane sighed. "But even if he can get better, Loki scares me. He's not nice, not like Sean. He's arrogant, manipulative and immortal."

"'Immortal?'" Darcy threw back her head and laughed. "Your boyfriend? The one with the Angry Birds addiction? He's been twenty-five since the time when the Egyptians were drawing up the plans for the pyramids."

Jane gave Darcy a frowny smile. "Yes, but my immortal doesn't have old enemies showing up and leaving dead bodies on the doorstep."

Jane had a point, but Darcy didn't want to admit it. She glanced down at the lizards, who were back to circling, pausing to bob threateningly at each other. The larger lizard rushed the smaller who skittered back. Flames erupted from its mouth, licking the sand and a patch of yellowed grass. In seconds, one small flame bred several more that began to devour the bone dry grass.

Jane and Darcy both moved forward and began stomping out the tiny blaze. The wild lizard fled at their approach.

"That thing's going to set the desert on fire," grumbled Jane.

Leaving Jane to play firefighter, Darcy bent and held out her hand. "Come on, before you make like Loki and destroy the neighborhood." Fiery protector back on her shoulder, Darcy stood.

Jane nudged the burned grass with her running shoe, getting a black smudge on white leather. Looking up, her gaze settled on the lizard. "It really is a cigarette lighter on legs."

"She, not it," corrected Darcy as a name came to mind. "Bic, like the lighter. Her name is Bic."


The nightmare that awoke her that night wasn't hers, literally.

Darcy had spent most of the evening in Loki's room as he fiddled with the magic detector. He was altering the device for some secret mischief, but he'd made it known that he was interested in visiting the place where the latest corpse-sicle had been found. The four had a tentative plan to sneak out to Arnold King's place late tomorrow night.

Right after dinner, he had slunk back to his room as usual. Knowing he wanted to be alone, she'd stuck her head in the partially opened doorway, but didn't enter the room. "Whatcha working on?"

Sitting on his bed, he lifted the device in answer and then went back to tinkering.

Detecting a dismissal, she said, "K," and started to retreat.

"Have you read that one yet?" He lifted his gaze to a paperback novel on Thor's bed. "It was amusing, but felt as though, as they say here on Midgard, Koontz was 'phoning it in.'"

Darcy, who wasn't wearing her glasses, moved closer so she could see the title: Odd Hours by Dean Koontz. "No. I just finished Brother Odd." She raked her eyes over him, studying his posture. Deciding that his question was as close to an invitation as Loki could give, she made herself comfortable on the bed and started to read.

They didn't speak more than a few words in the next four hours, but she was intensely aware of his presence. From time to time, she paused from reading to watch him. Playing with science and magic summoned the ghost Loki that Thor remembered. When focused on some delicate operation, he shifted his jaw to the right, head cocked to the left. His shoulders drooped with frustration, but eyes sparkled with bright determination when something failed. (Failure usually accompanied by smoke, which set off the home's smoke detectors. "Loki!" Thor would roar from the living room. Loki would exchange a grin with Darcy, and wave his hand, shutting off the alarms' shriek.)

Overall, his demeanor vibrated with a very un-Loki-like hope.

Sitting in the same room, several feet apart, each engaged in their own activity, felt like something boring old married people might do, but she felt a heady sense of joy in the easy way they fit into one another's space.

By ten-thirty, the words on the page were turning to gibberish and not just because Koontz was spending too much time on long stretches of dialogue. Last night's naked time with the God of Mischief had been literally divine, but all sex and no sleep threatened to make Darcy psychotic. When she left for her room and bed, he was still happily obsessed with his work.

At three a.m., the nightmare announced itself with a crushing panic. She opened her eyes, deep asleep one instant, startling awake the next. Despite her racing pulse, the usual elements of her dream, the helplessness, the choking grasp of the rope, were absent. Sitting up, she took inventory of the room. Desk, dresser, nightstand, bed. The stick insect on the lampshade glittered prettily in the moonlight. Bic, in her usual place, slept belly up. Room, sweet room. The only thing missing was a certain immortal.

Not that she was going to demand his attention if he was craving alone time, but the tightness in her chest grew as she looked across the murky gray shadows to her bedroom door. The pressure shifted to a sense of being pulled and she got up.

Watery yellow light edged his door. She knocked, waited and got no answer. Though her first impulse was to go back to her own bed, the need to see him niggled at the back of her brain. After another knock she eased open the door.

A small lamp on the dresser was the only source of light. He was asleep on his bed, still dressed. His back was to the door, legs bent and pulled toward his chest.

She had shifted her weight back onto her heels, about to turn and leave when his shoulders twitched and then shuddered. Something in the movement filled her with a sense of dread, chilly goose bumps rising on her skin. Another shudder, this time longer, started in his shoulders and moved over his body in a wave. He moaned.

"Mad Science? You okay?"

The shudder became a wrenching motion, his muscles seizing. Still on his side, he straightened to his full length and then curled in on himself like a child hiding from the monster under the bed.

"Loki." She took another step into the room.

With an agonized moan, he flipped over, facing her. His face, the curve and placement of his long limbs, were exactly like her nightmare. Only his eyes differed, opened just a crack, eyelids fluttering, whites only, no pupils showing. Red smeared the corner of his mouth to his jaw line.

His eyes shut and he went eerily still. When his eyes opened again they had that ghastly look, glassy-eyed, as if his vision had pierced an unseen veil, the lifeless gaze that scared her more than anything he could conjure when angry. A spear of icy fear shot up her back and she started to shiver. "Loki?"

"They are blind to his faults," he murmured. His eyes rolled back, leaving only spectral white. The seizures claimed him again, whipping his long limbs around like a cruel puppeteer. His flailing acquired a weird order and he flung himself awkwardly to the floor. In a disorganized scramble he moved backward, his back hitting the wall with a hard thud. His eyes were open, but filled with chaotic stew of anger and madness.

A door opened with the metallic protest of door hinges and squeak of a handle wrenched too hard, and Thor was at her side. "Wait." His deep voice was accompanied by a big hand on her upper arm. She glanced irritably at Thor, almost pointing out that she wasn't stupid. No way was she going near Loki when he wore that tear-down-the-world expression.

Then Thor was down on the floor, hands on his brother's shoulders. Loki recoiled at the touch, eyes still not quite seeing what lay before him; his head smacked against the wall, and he struck out with his fists. Darcy flinched at ugly sound of flesh hitting flesh, but Thor paid the blows no mind. "Loki?" said Thor. "It is I, Thor, your brother."

Loki blinked, hands still clenched in fists. Dull confusion was replaced by a flare of recognition in his eyes. He looked at Thor, apparently really seeing him and then he glanced around the room. "" His shoulders sagged and his head bowed, eyes on the floor. He didn't acknowledge Darcy.

She stood alone in the room, her own hands in fists. In the past, she had heard the sound of a scuffle coming from Loki's room at night. This, she now knew was what was going on; loyal Thor running to his brother's side, comforting a sibling who wanted no comfort. Her teeth chattered as the worst of her fears started to slip away, and she felt useless, an outsider, stupid mortal with no place in this drama. Except here she was, compelled by some strange force to bear witness to Loki's torments.

Thor studied his brother for a moment longer and then rose and walked past Darcy. She thought he had continued on, but then a strong hand at her back pushed her briefly towards Loki. When she turned, Thor was already leaving the room.

She settled next to Loki on the floor, back to the wall, head on his shoulder. "Bad dream?"

She felt a warm gust of air as he pressed a kiss on the top of her head. "Leave, Darcy."


"Just go."

"Nope." She worked her arms around him and hugged him tighter than she ever would an ordinary person, so hard her muscles ached with the effort. "Not going anywhere."

"Thor was right. You were a maiden. I have ruined you."

Darcy snort-laughed. "I've been with other men."

He twisted in her arms, pushing her back so he could look her in the eyes. "Boys. They were nothing. You were untouched, innocent–-"

"One of those boys was a rapist," she said, voice flat.

"A beast, but nothing in comparison to me." He started to touch her and stopped, hand inches from her face. "I will destroy you."

"No, you won't," she said. "I'm stronger than you." Releasing him, she took his hand and kissed the palm. She contemplated the crisp, perfect symmetry of his face, seeing two Lokis: the unknowable, powerful immortal and the weary wreck of a man who once had everything and had rejected it.

"I'm stronger than you." When she spoke the words again, they came out as a kind of revelation. She eyed the blood on his mouth, finding the cause, a cut where he must have bitten his lower lip. Kissing him, she tasted the expect iron, but also a hot salty flavor.

He settled into the kiss with a resigned sigh, long fingers buried in her hair. Darcy took command of the situation, showing him with her mouth just how much she belonged at his side, letting her fingers tell him that she had strength enough for the two of them.

They made love on the floor, their movements filled with the furtive and awkward energy of two teens sneaking in the naughty while the parents were at home. She still wore his shirt and he had on most of his renaissance fair wear, the squeak of bedsprings traded for the creak of leather on metal and more leather.

Once her warm, after-sex, brain fog lifted, she decided to figure out his Asgard clothing, once and for all. Still on the floor, she sat, straddling him, trying to determine which fastener did what. Honestly, it was like a Rubik's cube in leather, metal and cloth. "This strap?" she asked.

"Yes," he said agreeably, but obviously paying no attention. His eyes were half closed, hands massaging the top of her thighs.

"Sit up," she commanded after undoing several promising buckles.

"Magic word," he said lazily.

"Please," she said with a half-hearted scowl and he sat up wearily. His face was inches from hers but she was temporarily distracted by her minor victory over his clothing. She pulled a large section of heavy leather up over his head and dropped it to the carpet.

"Loveliest body servant I have ever had." He flopped back down on his back.

"I bet you say that to all the girls," she said, getting back to the rest of leathery riddle that was his clothing. Some of it seemed superfluous, more flare than function, high fashion week in the Asgard armory.

Looking up she saw the expression on his face: confusion. "I might," he admitted.

It was so the wrong answer, but the look on his face was so adorably befuddled, that she let it slide. His hand was on her thigh but edging upward and she glanced at the open door. "We probably should close the door, because...Thor."

He smirked. "It would be educational for Thor."

"I doubt it," she said. "Thor's been around the block so many times, he's probably dizzy."

"I suspect Thor's status allows him to treat sexual conquests with the same lazy approach he takes with most other matters. His lovers are so enamored with the idea of being in Thor Odinson's bed, they make few demands." His eyes opened wide with overplayed wistfulness. "I, however, was not granted such leniency and had to hone my skills at pleasing a lover."

She started to note that Jane, having finally convinced the big lug to put out, wasn't complaining. Knowing that observation was probably futile, she instead followed a seam along his ribs, found a gap and pulled loose another strap. Seeing a pattern now, she repeated her action on his other side and at his wrists, loosening sleeves. She tugged at his collar, pulling him upright again. The remainder of the leather now off, all that remained was a shirt that matched the one she wore. "Twins," she observed, feeling like one of those nerd couples who wore matching clothes.

She rubbed her thumb over the remaining smear of blood on his chin. "Does something trigger your nightmares or do they happen randomly? You've never had any in my room."

He took a hand from her thigh, curling his slender fingers into a slow fist, eyes on his hand. "I do no suffer nightmares in your presence." Resentment lengthened his face.

Though she was largely impervious to his mood swings, this shift hurt. Darcy Lewis wasn't stupid; she knew the resentment was directed at her and she realized why he was still in his room at three a.m. Because Loki had no intention of letting himself depend on anyone for anything, least of all Darcy and whatever relief she somehow provided against the psychic backwash that escaped his subconscious when he slept.

Because he meant to leave her.

Grief bubbled up in her chest and the embarrassing desire to do something needy and pathetic like ask if they had a future almost got the better of her. Desperate to keep it together, she wrapped her hands around his fist as if it were a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day.

Live in the now, no past, no future. Before, she'd never included the future in her mantra, but it had never before contained the possibility of losing someone like Loki. Curving her own fingers, she picked and pulled at his fingertips, trying to pry open his fist. Just a bit of fun, just sex. His hand relaxed abruptly and she almost lost her grip. Both hands clutching his, she stood and pulled. "Let's go to bed," she said casually, as though it didn't really matter if he followed her or not.

Unnatural strength pulled back. He didn't budge and the rejection in his immobility threatened to break her disinterested front. Forcing every ounce of strength into her hands, she let his hand slip from hers. Straightening her back like dancer, she lifted her foot and stepped over him, eyes set on the safe harbor of her room.

The abrupt grip on her hand threw her off balance and she waved her other arm, trying to say upright, before his firm tug was followed by the sickening sensation of falling backward. Landing in his lap, she met his still resentful stare. With little effort, he secured her in his arms and stood.

Although it was the textbook definition of needy, she grabbed a fistful of his shirt and did not let go, not even when he tucked them both into her bed, nor when he made love to her with a tenderness that contradicted his earlier resentment.

In the now, she thought, knuckles pressed against his unyielding strength, clutching that rumpled bit of black fabric like a lifeline. She wasn't sure if she held onto him or some part of herself.

It didn't really matter, because once again she felt herself emboldened by purpose, sliding into a role she knew well. Whether he left tomorrow, or in a week, or a year, she would be strong enough for both of them.

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 22 of 39

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