Continuing Tales

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 24 of 39

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Darcy's little Honda wasn't made for transporting demi-gods, or basketball players, or anyone who needed headroom. She turned the key in the ignition and darted a glance back at the two princes who were crammed on the backseat. Darcy and Jane sat in front with the seats far forward to give the men leg room. She grinned at Loki, thinking that if he had insisted on wearing his crazy antelope-horned helmet, they would have had to cut a hole in the car's roof.

Actually, he'd been suspiciously cooperative so far, agreeing to wear black jeans and a black shirt. He stuck the black baseball cap, however, on Darcy's head, noting that thanks to her recent mischief in town, she needed subterfuge more than he did.

She still wore the cap, her hair pulled back in a ponytail. Her glasses were perched on her nose, to be removed when they reached the ranch, but a necessity now, since she was driving.

It was ten-fifty, five minutes after the latest SHIELD patrol had passed the house. They were taking Darcy's car, because SHIELD was less likely to pay attention to its absence. The plan, if anyone asked, was to say that Jane wanted to collect data using her old instruments -- the ones cobbled together with duct tape, chewing gum and parts from old VCRs -- to test for calibration errors in more recent data. Even Darcy thought it was a lame excuse, but Jane dumped some of the old equipment in the trunk to give the lie some truth. (Loki, fascinated with Jane's homemade high-tech, was happily investigating one of the smaller instruments, i.e., taking it apart.)

Darcy pulled onto the road, glancing back at the house, where Inkblot sat on the porch, frowning up at Bic who was perched on the railing. The lizard had tried to follow Darcy, but Darcy ordered her to stay and guard the house. A flickering blue glow from the television pulsed through the front window's closed blinds, giving the illusion that someone was home watching television.

She took the shortcut into town hoping that any SHIELD patrols would be unlikely to take their shiny, possibly never-actually-been-off-road SUVs down the dirt track. The little car's front end dropped into a particularly cavernous rut and there was a loud thud and grunt from the backseat. From the corner of her eye, she saw Thor rubbing his head. Loki, who had somehow managed not to dent the roof with his skull, continued dismantling Jane's device. "In light of Darcy's phenomenal ability to located the deepest ruts in the road, perhaps Thor should be wearing his helm," he deadpanned, a faint smirk on his face.

"We could get him a football helmet," said Jane.

"Yeah, a Vikings' helmet," agreed Darcy.

"I--" Thor started, mildly indignant, and then he tilted his head, obviously considering the option. "Can you purchase such a thing?"

Darcy and Jane looked at each other. "Christmas present?" mouthed Jane and Darcy grinned.

Loki meanwhile, lifted the partially dismembered scientific instrument to the light. Darcy felt and tasted magic as he zapped it. The device began to hum.

Jane shot Darcy a worried look. "He isn't going to make a weapon with that, is he?"

"You flatter yourself," Loki replied, his left hand sending a spiral of green magic at the device. "It's a clever construction, but hardly the building block for anything of real use."

Jane shrugged and said to Darcy. "Well, at least he said it was clever."

As the car moved through the older section of town, Darcy realized that this was the first time Thor and Loki had been there. Thor's short stay had been confined to the newer section to the northwest, and Loki, well, he'd never actually set foot in the town. They made the daily trek to work via a side road, south of town, and until recently, Loki refused to go anywhere else. The car passed Eagle Road and Darcy wondered what Sean was up to. Probably already in bed since he was a real adult with a genuine career that required more than three operating brain cells.

When they reached the newer part of town, Darcy's stomach grew tight, first, at the sight of Max and Andy's apartment complex, and then as they neared the center of town where her favorite mad scientist had aimed a killer robot at his brother. She braked the car at the stoplight and the light from Izzy's Diner's sign lit their faces. A cloud of awkward discomfort settle on everyone in the car.

Not everyone, actually. Loki pointed at the diner. "Is that the establishment you and Sean frequent?" he asked, apparently blissfully unaware of the mood in the vehicle. Jane, Darcy and Thor exchanged a look.

"I believe it is," said Thor, clearing his throat. "Their coffee is good, but their mugs, fragile."

Jane and Darcy laughed weakly, and Darcy let out a sigh of relief, grateful for Thor's attempt at humor. The light turned green and she accelerated through the intersection, mind seeking another focus. "Are you sure we should just go up to the door and knock? What if Mrs. King isn't, uh, happy to see us?"

"I could cloud her mind a bit, make her more cooperative," offered Loki, helpfully.

"No!" said Jane, her thoughts no doubt going to Erik. With tight smile, she added, "Please, don't."

"When I asked you to rewire my brain against nightmares, you said it was too risky," observed Darcy. "Why's it now safe to mess with Ruth King's head?"

"It isn't," Loki answered, tone matter of fact.

Darcy let her eyes drift to the rearview mirror and his reflection. Thor's terrible haircut and the ordinary human clothes built the illusion of human, but Loki's cavalier attitude toward rearranging the contents of Ruth's skull was the true expression of the alien landscape in his head. "Jane's right," she said. "No magic lobotomies for anyone." She sighed, realizing that being the God of Mischief's conscience was a full time job with lots of unpaid overtime. The benefits weren't bad, though.

"SHIELD meddled with the memories of many of Puente Antiguo's citizens," said Loki, a little smugly.

"They did?" said Jane. "How do you know?"

"It is documented in their electronic files."

"Whoa! Tell me you didn't use my laptop to hack SHIELD's files," said Darcy.

"Of course, not. I used the computer in the Fish Bowl," Loki replied. "Nearly a year ago, you, Jane and Erik-- three notable parties to the destruction in town--moved back into the region. Despite your association with a costly and extraordinary event, the citizenry accepted your presence, never made mention of the incident."

"We didn't do anything wrong," said Jane. "We tried to help."

"I doubt that all would see it that way. From the perspective of some, you brought trouble to their quiet little village," said Loki. "A few months after your return, a man, the fourth party to the chaos, moved in with you. A man who died and was resurrected on a street in the midst of town; a man who utilized the mysterious artifact that had been a source of fascination to the town's populace. And still, no one has come out to the trailer or shown more than a passing interest in any of us."

"Thor saved the town," said Jane. "He's a hero."

"Again, Jane," said Loki, with heavy condescension, "you cling to your limited perspective. The townspeople did not and still don't know why the Destroyer appeared on their streets. To them what transpired was an incomprehensible conflict that destroyed property and their livelihoods."

Jane turned toward Darcy, her expression saying, "See? This is what I put up with everyday."

"Loki," growled Thor, "be civil."

"How did SHIELD do it?" asked Darcy, before the two siblings reenacted one of their battles in the backseat. "Fog people's minds?"

"The exact mechanism isn't documented, but they perpetrated their mischief whilst interviewing people after the incident. The people were led to believe they were being scanned for radiation."

"I wonder how many memories SHIELD steals from us when we go through the building's scanners?" said Darcy. Her eyes grew wide. "Oh, no, I can't remember my senior prom." She shrugged. "Yeah, I wish. That dress, my date...ugh."


Once out of town, Darcy switched on the headlights' high beams and pushed the car up to Route 8's limit, 55 mph. Outside the town, any signs of civilization quickly vanished. A few homes, mostly trailers could be seen in the distance, but the land was otherwise undeveloped rangeland, most the property of the Bureau of Land Management. The waning moon cast pale silver light over flat terrain that was interrupted by the occasional low hill. In addition to the usual clumps of sage- and saltbush, the plump dark shapes of piñon pines and juniper dotted the landscape.

Arnold and Ruth King's ranch was located eleven miles northwest of Puente Antiguo, with their home being about a half mile off Route 8. "That's it," said Jane, who was acting as navigator, using a map from Google. "County Road 12."

The county apparently didn't take the name too seriously, since the road, like the shortcut to Puente Antiguo, was short on paving and high on small boulders and potholes. Darcy patted the dashboard in apology to her poor little car for the abuse to its suspension.

A barbed wire fence ran the length of the road and the King's property was marked with a mailbox on a post, the number three painted on the box. A couple of round, red bicycle reflectors were nailed on the post, probably to keep people from running over it in the dark.

A gate greeted them just a few feet off the road. Jane got out to open then close it once they were through the gateway. Darcy smiled, remembering simpler times, back when names like Thor and Loki were something from silly old myths. She, Jane and Erik had spent plenty of nights driving around the desert, sometimes on private property (with permission) looking for the best place to collect Jane's data. The region's ranchers were generally nice enough so long as you remembered to keep their gates shut.

The Kings' main ranch house, a sprawling mass in the darkness, was accompanied by three outbuildings; two large, one a shed. The main house, a flat-roofed adobe, was dark and the only illumination was a security light positioned on one of the larger outbuildings, a barn probably. There were no cars in front of the house. A large, late model truck with peeling white paint was parked by the barn.

As soon as the four got out of the car, four dogs boiled out of the darkness, barking at the intruders. In the moonlight, Darcy made out two Australian shepherds with mottled gray, brown and white fur, a red heeler, and funny looking mutt that was the answer to the question, "What happens when you cross a Dachshund with a black Labrador?"

Darcy, prepared for this eventuality, tugged a zip-lock bag from her backpack, peeled it open and offered it to her fellow sleuths. "Let's make friends." Jane reached in first, taking three dog biscuits. Hearing the sound of a bag opening, the DachsoLab and both shepherds hurried over and Jane handed treats to the three. The red heeler hung back, still barking, pointy ears pricked, conscience warring with its belly. Thor took a biscuit and tossed it to the dog. It sniffed the treat and then ate with more finesse than its buddies, who were inhaling biscuits as fast as Darcy and Jane could hand them out.

Sitting down, the red dog cocked its head at Thor and barked. He laughed and threw it another biscuit. A few seconds later, loyalty lost to liver-flavored yummies and the animal trotted over to its new best friend, the thunder god. "Treacherous beast," said Thor as he crouched and buried his fingers in the dog's roan red fur and gave it a good scratch.

"Dogs in Asgard can't be bribed with treats?" asked Darcy.

Thor drew himself up, tall and proud. "Asgard's hounds are renowned for their bravery, speed and ferocity." Behind him, Loki snorted. A smile twinkled in Thor's eyes. "Also, their loyalty can be bought for the price of a small slice of venison."

He turned to Loki. "Do you recall Odin's favorite fleethound, the one you called Sausage Slave?" Loki shook his head.

Thor grinned at Jane and Darcy. "Odin loved the beast, claimed it was the fastest in all the realms. Unbeatable." The blond prince's good humor faded a little and his eyes turned distant with memories. "The animal is dead now, gone several centuries, but I remember its last race.

"Odin bragged that not only was the hound fleet, but that once set on a lure or hare, it would pursue prey with unwavering tenacity." He grinned at Loki. "Odin's esteem for the beast's speed was not misplaced, but as you and I had observed during its training, it was easily distracted."

"Odin didn't know this, why?" asked Darcy.

"Odin has never had much interest in the actual training of the hounds," said Loki. "That much I do remember."

Thor nodded. "He left the matter to the kennel master. Loki and I warned him that the hound was inconsistent at best, but he brushed off our concerns. He arranged a race to be held at the fall harvest celebration and challenged the other realms to bring their fastest hounds."

"Cue the ominous music," said Darcy.

"Indeed," said Thor. "On the day of the race, the spectators along the course were so many that they made an almost impenetrable wall. It was a cheerful crowd; the mead vendors enjoyed brisk sales. Many of the assembled, of course, were dignitaries from other realms including the ambassador from Vanaheim. What was his name?" Thor paused, digging through mountains of memory. "His face was broader than tall, bug eyed." He smiled at Loki. "You called him Lord Toady behind his back."

"Only behind his back?" said Darcy to Loki, whose expression indicated he didn't remember the man.

"I couldn't say it to his face," Loki said with overplayed innocence. "That would be cruel." Even in the weak moonlight, Darcy could see Jane roll her eyes.

Thor continued his story. "Loki, feigning drunken clumsiness, stumbled among the dignitaries, a plate of sausages in hand. As fate would have it, he tripped and spilled his meal on the Vanaheim ambassador's clothing scant minutes before the race was to begin." He swept his hand down his torso, indicating the path of the fallen food. "When the hounds were slipped from their traces, all lunged forward after the lure. A running fleethound is beauty in motion and these were no one.

"Odin's beloved hound, who immediately leapt off the track, found the sausage-stinking ambassador and closed its mouth on his crotch like a babe to the teat."

Thor laughed along with Darcy and Jane. Even Loki cracked a smile. The ranch dogs, caught up in the humor, barked cheerfully. "Lord Toady hopped back to Vanaheim and soon after, another ambassador was appointed."

"Odd that I don't remember that," Loki said, "Or at least Odin's retribution."

"What could Odin do?" said Thor. "Punish you for drunkenness? Most of the court were so into their cups that day that they pissed mead and ale for weeks after. And the mischief involved no telltale magic; he had no proof that it was anything more than an accident on your part."

Darcy elbowed Loki. "See. Magic is overrated."

He faux-glowered at her. "Bite your tongue, woman." To Thor, he said, "Whatever happened to the animal? Did Odin have it skinned?"

"No," said Thor, "though he considered the option as recompense for the gold lost in wagers. Frigga took pity on the beast and claimed it as her own."

"Ah, that hound," said Loki. He looked at Darcy. "It was the size of one of Midgard's...Great Danes, it but longed to be a lap dog. For years, Frigga often had enormous paw prints on her gowns." Darcy grinned, thinking Frigga sounded a little like Jane, always taking in strays.

For a couple of heartbeats Thor and Loki looked at each other, cheer in Thor's eyes, unguarded confusion in Loki's. A few feet away, the DachsoLab and a shepherd began a playful, growly wrestling match and Loki turned his gaze to the house. "No one's home. The dogs' barking should have alerted anyone to our presence."

They knocked on the door anyway and got no answer. "It looks like Ruth and the girls did stay in Los Alamos," said Jane. "We should still hurry, though, in case SHIELD notices we're all gone." She gave Loki a glancing look and Darcy knew what she was thinking. SHIELD wouldn't like the idea of a certain war criminal wandering around in the night without a security escort, even if he was in the company of his hero brother.

"We can survey the property faster if we split up," said Loki. He nodded at Darcy's backpack. "You have the device?"

"Of course." She hauled the magic detector from her pack along with a flashlight which she handed to Jane. "Guess I should have brought two lights."

Loki answered that comment with a lazy flick of his fingers and a bright orb appeared a few feet before him. "Thor and I will begin with that structure," he pointed at a large, open-sided hay barn, "and proceed to the area to the north and the paddocks. You and Jane will examine the shed and the other building." He fixed a commanding stare on Darcy. "When you are done, come find us. Should you find anything - anything at all - of interest, call us." He shot Thor a meaningful look and the blond prince pulled a phone, Jane's cell, from his shirt pocket.

Darcy made a face and gave Loki an impertinent salute. She started to go, but Loki grabbed her arm, hauling her to him. His face in hers, he said, "You will call; you won't touch anything--"

"Yeah, yeah, don't pass Go; don't collect $200. I get it." She wiggled free of his grasp. At his blank look, she said, "Monopoly. Google it."

Loki scowled, turned on his heels and strode away. "Take care," said Thor before hurrying to catch up with his brother.

Darcy switched the detector on and she and Jane marched across the moonlit ranch, full of purpose, confident. Darcy imagined they were some famous female detective team. Unfortunately, she couldn't immediately come up with any female sleuthing duos, which made her sad.

Seconds later sad turned to disgust. "Ugh," she said, stopping and turning the flashlight on her foot. "Is that horse shit or cow shit?"

"I don't--" began Jane, who, without the light's illumination, tripped and almost fell.

Darcy sighed. Forget detectives. They were more like Lucy and Ethel. With the shepherds and DachsoLab in tow -- the red healer had followed Thor -- they skirted the exterior of the house. Loki had recalibrated the detector, making it more sensitive and adding two detection tones: one for ordinary magic, and a higher pitched beep for residue left by someone moving between space. Picking up nothing around the house, they made for the shed.

The little building turned out to be a combination pump house and storage shed. The mechanisms for providing the property's water supply, auxiliary pump and pressure bladder, took up half the space, the rest devoted to household detritus. Boxes labeled "Christmas," a child's plastic tricycle, even old textbooks, probably Ruth's. Everything including an old kitchen sink, but no magical residue.

Attempting a new approach, Jane and Darcy spent some time walking around the shed in ever larger circles, but again detected nothing. The dogs plopped down in the dirt to watch the humans' ridiculous antics. Darcy stopped and looked across the property, noticing that Thor and Loki had gone out beyond the cow paddocks. "Loki's just humoring us, keeping us occupied and out of his way," she said.

"I know." Jane headed for the barn. "Wouldn't it be great if we actually found something?"

The barn had two large swinging doors, big enough for a truck, on the front end, and a regular-sized door on the side. A hitching rail, constructed from two upright railroad ties and a stretch of metal pipe, was out front. The hitchees, three horses, all some shade of brown, were in a small corral adjacent to the barn. One nickered at their approach. "Do horses need bribes, too?" said Jane. "Maybe we should have brought apples."

The Kings obviously weren't expecting thieves this far out in the boondocks, since the door on the barn, like the shed, wasn't locked. Darcy panned the flashlight over the wall and found a light switch. The interior had a dusty green smell and a second later, when two fluorescent lights hummed to life, they saw why. This barn also held hay, probably for the horses. A tractor and all kinds of equipment were also stored in the space.

Darcy and Jane wandered over to a walled-off room that contained saddles, bridles and other horse-related stuff. Darcy ran the detector over everything, but got no positive response. A mouse skittered just out of the flashlight's beam. "All we're going to find is the Hantavirus," said Jane sadly, as they started to explore the rest of the barn.

Darcy sneezed and led the way around the inside perimeter of the barn. Sweeping the tractor got no response from the detector, but the wooden handle on a shovel generated a little chirp. "Probably just a glitch," she said, running the detector over the surface again. The second chirp was more energetic and had a higher pitch.

"Try the wall behind it," said Jane. Darcy did and that beep was loud and definitely high pitched. "Where's your phone? We should call the guys."

"Mmmm, wait," said Darcy, distractedly. "This thing's sort of buggy." Setting the detector's tip on the wall, she walked toward the hay, the plastic lightly scraping the barn's bare plywood. The beep got stronger, fading a little whenever the detector passed over the vertical wooden 2x4s that made up the barn's framing.

Stopped by the hay that was stacked to the ceiling, some ten feet up, she pointed the detector at a gap where the hay was only one bale high and the surrounding bales made a kind of hay canyon. The noise was a definitive "yes" on magic, the kind that peeled apart space and made a door to someplace else. "Awesome," she said.

"Darcy," said Jane, a hint of warning in her voice, "the phone?"

"Backpack," she whispered and set her foot on a hay bale. Although it looked soft, the hay was packed tight and only wavered a little when she stepped up and onto the rectangular bale.

"Darcy!" Jane's voice was definitely exasperated.

"It's cool." She grinned. "Better than cool." A prickly energy, like the air during a thunderstorm, fizzed against her skin, tickling her scalp. She tightened her finger on the detector's trigger and gasped. The device's beep had taken on a tone that sounded alarmed, but she was too distracted by the sight before her to notice. Under her feet, the bale wobbled as Jane joined her.

"Do you see it, Jane?"

"See what? No."

Darcy turned, putting the detector in Jane's hand, and making her finger squeeze the trigger. "There, and there, and everywhere," she said pointing into the dark gap of the hay, which even now, without her hand on the magic detector, was still alive with light.

"No," said Jane, even though the detector's trigger was pressed, the shrill noise filling the barn, the dogs starting to whine. "What is it?"

"Lights, like the sparks from a campfire. Only they don't fizzle out and they're orange, and blue, green and colors I can't even describe. Un-colors, like blue-orange or green-red, colors turned inside out and spun around. It's totally...trippy." She glance at Jane. "You really don't see it?"

"No," said Jane, a little wistfully. "I'm jealous."

"Of what?"

"You can see the things that Loki talks about."

Darcy reached and took Jane's hand. "Now...?"

Jane squinted into the black. "I-maybe." She blinked. "It's like spots before my eyes, but a little brighter. I don't see any colors, though."

Determined to let Jane see what she could, Darcy took back the detector. Keeping her hand in Jane's, she dragged her forward onto the next bale of hay. "Darcy, we really need to call Thor--"

"Yeah, in a second." The sparks grew brighter and the roots of her hair tingled, like her hair wanted to stand on end. She felt the pull of something farther ahead, a point about three feet off the ground where the sparks coalesced and spun, the colors churning and mixing. In a couple more steps she reached it. If the detector had awoken her ability to see the magic, then maybe if she stuck it in the color vortex, where everything seemed to originate, it would jump start something in Jane's vision. She bent and thrust the detector into the roiling lights.

Behind them, the dogs abruptly stopped their whining and all sound ceased. In front of her, the sparks kept swirling for several heartbeats and then slowed. "Darcy, what did you do?" said Jane, breaking the silence.

"I-oops." The sparks had stopped moving and Darcy's vision shuddered like a shaken camera. Something, Jane, tugged and then yanked hard on her hand, dragging her off the hay bales. Staggering backward, her foot hit a soft spot in the hay and the stomach-dropping sensation of falling hit her.

Her fall was stopped by Jane and the two tripped and stumbled off the bale and fell in a graceless pile on the floor. The dogs began to bark hysterically. Back in the darkness of the hay canyon, the sparks started to zig and zag in random directions, pressure built in Darcy's ears, and then something popped, like a muffled gunshot. Magical sparks flew outward in all directions, like rats fleeing a sinking ship, accompanied by a spray of hay. Darcy and Jane cringed, the hay scratching and poking their skin.

And then it was over just as quickly as it had began. The two women sat on the concrete floor, eyeing the place where three hay bales had sort of imploded and exploded. Some of the sparks were still floating around, but the magical structure, it had been a structure, was destroyed.

"Oh, man, Loki's going to kill me. I mean, he said he'd never hurt me, but he'll find some not-painful way to do it. I'm dead, I'm so dead-Darcy walking." She removed her glasses and wiped the greenish-tan hay dust off the lenses.

"I told you to call them," said Jane, climbing to her feet and trying to brush hay from her clothing, which was difficult, since some of the stems were impaled in the cloth.

On cue, the heavy tread of footsteps sounded from outside the barn. Darcy scrambled up, shoving her glasses back on and trying desperately to removed the hay evidence from her hair and clothing.

Thor stood in the doorway, golden and blazing with formidable strength, Mjölnir in his hand. Loki was at his side, sharp gaze taking in the room, his magic surrounding him like a terrible presence all its own, the magical orb light brightening the room. On the battlefield, the sight of the duo probably would have left their foes with soggy, yellowed underpants. After several months of sharing the same roof with the two, Darcy's first reaction, however, wasn't dumbstruck awe, but instead the urge to pull out her cell phone and take a photo.

Her hand was reaching for her backpack, when Loki leveled his gaze on her, penetrating stare measuring her for an extra set of limbs and pair of antennae.

"It's her fault," said Darcy, pointing at Jane. Jane shot her a "What the Hell?" look and Darcy leaned toward her and did a stage aside. "He can't turn you into an insect because...Thor."

Loki marched over, an angry, black-haired, alabaster demon whose frustration preceded him, pulsing against her skin. He loomed over her and she smiled crookedly up at him. "Are you injured?" he asked, appraising her with eyes that still glittered with menace. He plucked some hay from her ponytail.


"The problem with friendship is that it engenders familiarity," he observed, his thumb tracing a stinging spot on her cheek where she'd been scratched by flying hay. "Even if you were a good liar, I'd still know you were responsible for," he looked at the mess, "this, because it shrieks 'Darcy was here.'"

"Sorry?" she said, hopefully.

"Is there any scenario where I might leave you alone and you won't get into trouble?"

She lifted her right hand, fingers curved as if holding a large sphere. "Invisible Magic 8-Ball says, 'No.'"

"What happened?" asked Thor, who was trying, ineffectually, to rid Jane of the hay in her hair.

Surveying the room, Loki answered for the women. "They found the framework for the exit portal and somehow," he narrowed his eyes at his mortal lover, "Darcy managed to tear it apart."

Hoping the second time would be the charm, Darcy smiled, adding a bit of sexy to the expression and said, "Sorry."

"Sorry?" His voice rose, a deep furrow between his eyebrows. "You are lucky to still be alive, you..." He clenched his jaw shut, pulling his angry gaze up to the ceiling, muscles in his neck taught with anger. "If the structure had been newer, still filled with what Jane calls potential energy, the backlash would have held enough power to rip you into tiny pieces."

Feeling eyes on her, she turned to see Jane watching her as Thor continued de-haying her clothes. "I could have gotten Jane killed," she said softly. The image of Sean with blood running down the side of his face after the explosion at Edwards's shop flashed before her and she sagged, heavy with guilt, feeling stupid.

"But you didn't," said Jane, coming to her defense. "And I think I saw magic. A little. Right before it all came apart."

"I used your trick," Darcy said to Loki, "I touched her and she saw a little. I was just trying to let her see more." She shut up because her voice was horribly whiny and he was still glaring at her, probably imagining all kinds of painless ways to shut her up permanently.

"Tell me what you saw," he said, reaching a hand behind her head and undoing the band on her hair. With brisk efficiency, his clever fingers shook out her hair and started to comb away the hay. Because she was still wearing the baseball cap, she only had hay in her ponytail.

When she was done describing the structure, he handed the hairband back to her and lapsed into silence, attention on the epicenter of the small disaster. In a few long strides, he was standing by the spot, anger easing from his tall body as he studied the remains of the portal. He wiggled his index finger in a beckoning motion and the light orb came to his hand. Obviously, not aware of what he was doing, he turned the light in his right hand and then batted it towards his left, then back to the right like a slow tennis ball. Darcy watch him repeat the action, which was oddly playful and for some reason made her ache for him.

"What can you tell, Loki? Is it the same as the entry point in the desert?" asked Thor.

Loki nodded and faced them. "This one was more substantial, meant to carry the traveler a longer distance."

"Wait," said Jane. "You said, 'entry point.' There was another portal."

"Yes, Thor and I found the containing structure of such an portal. The portal itself long gone." He gestured back at the dark gap in the hay. "What remains is like," he paused, searching for an analogy, "like the spent casing of a bullet." He moved toward a wall and put his hand on the exposed wooden framing. "This portal, designed for a greater distance, needed a physical structure to support it."

"So the killer came here from someplace close, but then left for somewhere far away," said Darcy.

"Exactly." Loki eyes were on her, fortunately no longer looking as grim. "And the killer is likely an elf."

Any response to his pronouncement got cut off by the dogs, who jumped up, and hurried to the door, tails wagging.

A dark-haired woman stepped through the doorway. "Who the hell are you and what are you doing on my property?"

Darcy's mouth hung open, any intelligible response stolen by the sight of a shotgun leveled at her and her friends.

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 24 of 39

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