Continuing Tales

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 28 of 39

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Somewhere else.

Not here.

I'm somewhere else.

Detached, Darcy stood in the Fish Bowl, observing her surroundings with cold, clinical, clarity. It was like the negative energy Jane had described earlier had found an emptiness inside her, a vacuum, and bounced off the theoretical mirror, focusing and making a worm hole where all her emotions escaped, leaving a shell-Darcy.

She'd been here before, in this nowhere-place, years ago, when she had walked with the slow care of the wounded down a dorm hallway, soundless except for a quiet sniffle of her bloodied nose, numb to even the ache of bruises on her face and beyond.

But this was different, wasn't it? There had been no violation...

She thought of the dream and the sedation of her shock almost failed, as the ugly bite of guilt simmered in her belly. Sinking again into comfortable numbness, she watched as Loki and Thor questioned Fury: Loki, with a disinterested tone -- as if he were wondering if Fury's coat was deer or calfskin -- asking if there had been a body and if it had been identified. It was so like Loki not to bother mixing the ugly business of murder with pesky emotions.

Just like what she was doing now.

"Darcy?" Pressure grew around her shoulders as Jane tightened her hug. The gesture carried no comfort, and in fact, made something inside her recoil and struggle, feeling trapped.

In the lonely hours of early morning, the killer had thrust inside her dreams, into her head and learned that Sean O'Malley had been compromised, that her friend was no longer a useful tool and could be disposed of accordingly.

And the day before that, she had known that her nightmare was made of more than random garbage from her subconscious, but she'd kept the dream from Loki to protect herself, for fear that he'd reject her for her insecurities.

I thought you didn't give a shit what other people thought? a voice inside her said. I thought you were brave.

Her gaze rove dispassionately over the raven-haired demigod who was her lover. I care what he thinks, and I got Sean killed.

The three men continued discussing the morbid details of her friend's death and she listened, hearing nothing, being utterly nothing. "Darcy!" said Jane louder, shaking her shoulders gently.

Getting no response from Darcy, Jane said to the rest, "Do we have to discuss this now?" Darcy could feel the slight shift of Jane's weight as she not-so-subtly nodded her head in Darcy's direction. I'm not fragile, she protested silently. I'm stone, unbreakable.

"Be gone," said Loki imperiously to Fury, and for once the Director didn't bother with the usual testosterone-fueled pissing match. The chime sang quietly as he left, leaving the scent of factory-tanned leather and she wondered if from that day on, she'd always associate the smell with death.

"Darcy?" repeated Jane. Darcy turned her head and met Jane's eyes, the muscles in her neck responding as if they weren't entirely hers. "We're going home."

"Why?" said Darcy.

"Because..." Anguish twisted Jane's pretty face and she slid a glance at Thor and Loki.

"I'm fine," Darcy said, and she wriggled free of Jane's arm with an incongruous grace that struck her as almost funny. Under the blankness, a lunatic jag of laughter bubbled and then subsided.

"You are not fine," said Loki, who had somehow moved to stand before her, one hand on her shoulder. On her other, Bic's claws prickled as the lizard clung to her blouse.

"What do you know?" she grumbled, shrugging off his hand and retreating a step. "You don't know me." He cocked his head, assessing her and his cool appraisal unfroze one emotion -- anger.

"This is all your fault," she said to him and white hot fury, thick and steaming, hissed past frigid numbness and flooded her frozen limbs. "Your fault." Still more outside herself than in, she saw her arms lift, palms landing on his chest. Arms braced straight, she shoved him, pushing anger through the heels of her hands.

"Darcy," said Jane.

"You did this," she advanced slightly and shoved again, though, obviously, her pitiful strength didn't move him. With another step, she made a deliberate fist and brought it with slow force against his chest. She followed with the opposite hand, this time hitting harder. "You and your stupid purposes, immortal bullshit that you couldn't keep in Asgard, you had to scheme and manipulate and kill until there was nothing, nothing..." Her hands moved faster and through her tears of impotent rage, all she saw was a hazy vision of pale fists hitting black leather. Dimly, she heard Jane say her name again, no doubt aware that beating on an unstable, arrogant immortal was several shades crazier than swimming with piranhas with a scrape on your knee.

Lost in a cathartic rhythm, Darcy's fists kept moving, a small part of her even relishing the dangerous nature of what she did, self-destructive and daring him to respond in kind.

Loki's vow not to hurt her held, and he tolerated the wordless ranting of her fists in silence until, just as her arms had began to ache and knuckles throbbed, he grabbed her wrists and stopped her. "Home," he said, not to her, but to Jane and Thor.

Still fueled by pointless anger, she yanked her arms out of his grasp, welcoming the sharp burn of her flesh wrenching in his powerful hands. But he anticipated her move and let go too quickly and she stumbled back.

With a sorrowful look at Darcy, Jane nodded and began to gather up her belongings. Darcy watched as she collected a rough stack of papers from her desk and shoved them in her leather bag along with the iPad. Thor switched off the coffee maker and then bent to whisper something in Jane's ear, his hand rubbing her back. The gesture wrung a tight longing inside Darcy. She ached for human contact, but what right did she have asking for comfort when Sean's death was carved into her conscience?

"Ready?" said Jane uncertainly. Thor stood at Jane's side, a bit of pale gray on the red flannel of his shoulder, which Darcy realized was Bic. The lizard, startled by her violence, had beat a hasty retreat. For some reason Bic's abandonment ate at her anger, exposing sorrow. She bit her lower lip, forcing down tears.

Knowing that if she didn't move, Loki would put his hands on her, and unable to bear anyone's touch, she collected her things and led the way out of the Fish Bowl.


Her anger fled as soon as she stepped into the elevator, surrounded by the concern of her friends and still isolated by her self-loathing. Fury, anticipating their leaving, had already sent down the glowering guard escort and Darcy took a peculiar comfort in their antagonistic presence.

On the ride up the elevator and as she passed through the scanners on the first floor, cool detachment again sealed in her emotions. She stepped through the doorway, and her eyes swept the landscape, over the hulking shapes of sad cattle in the corrals and the crystal blue sky beyond. To the northwest, thick, globular thunderheads grew like giant cauliflower, and the air felt stuffy and thick with pressure.

She stopped before the SUV's front passenger door, hand on the handle waiting for the click of the lock. No one questioned her change to the seating arrangement. In fact, suffocating silence, the kind of quiet that Darcy normally would have been compelled to break with chatter, filled the vehicle all the way home.

Her new armor worked so well it nearly broke her heart, with Jane and even Loki unwilling to broach the strong, invisible walls. When she entered the house, the familiar smell of the place, that distinctive aromatic mélange of food, people, pets, and every other substance in the building that each home developed over time, picked at her defenses, and tears bloomed in her eyes. She came to a stop a few steps inside, remembering the time she brought Sean by the house.

"Darcy?" said Jane, cautiously.

"Fine," she said mechanically and continued toward the safety of her room, away from the risk of anyone's comfort, she hoped.

Entering the room, she pulled the door closed behind her and then sat on her bed and yanked off her boots, letting each thunk on the carpet, but taking no pleasure in the sound. A moment later, a light knock sounded on the door, and then the latch clicked as it was opened.

Darcy stared at the boots on floor, the haphazard way they lay on the tan carpet, and spared Jane a sideways glance. Inside her, a complicated tangle of emotions vied for power. She felt the pull of friendship and yet, a dull resentment at Jane's presence when all she want - no, all she deserved -- was to be alone.

"I don't know what to say," began Jane, "because, I know, um, what you are feeling. When my parents died..."

Darcy didn't hear the rest, her own thoughts drowning out Jane's voice. No you don't, because you didn't kill your parents.

"...but nothing I say will make it any better."

Darcy continued to study the floor, certain that if she spoke, no good would come of it.

"I feel like I should apologize."

Darcy tilted a bleary-eyed look up at Jane.

"I know I have no control over any other this, I can't possibly be to blame, but I still feel like I dragged you into this. If I hadn't--"

"--been so determined to drive out into the desert that night," Darcy finished for her, "your future boyfriend wouldn't have dropped out of the sky and brought an Asgard-load of crazy into my life." She gestured around the room, unable to stop the flow of horrible words from her mouth. "I wouldn't be stuck here, in the butt-hole of New Mexico; Thor and Loki would be somewhere else, and Sean would be alive."

Jane's posture slumped and hurt bled from her big brown eyes. To the real Darcy, the one who wasn't torn apart by grief and guilt, her friend's pain cut a ragged wound in her heart, but that Darcy wasn't in control. This Darcy suddenly raged like a great beast, blinded and maddened, and looking for relief in the pain of others.

But for a second the kinder Darcy took over, just long enough to look down at her own feet before the crueler Darcy said, "You got me into this mess. Me and Erik, both."

The silence cut between them like a scalpel. Then Jane said, in a small voice, "I'm so sorry."

When Darcy look up again, Jane was gone.


And she cried, though not as much as she would have expected, and not as heartily as she had a few weeks past, when she had sobbed in the absurd relief of Loki's arms. Maybe because she didn't really think she deserved the normalcy of tears.

Face half buried in her pillow, she muffled the sound, afraid the noise might bring back Jane or worse yet, Loki, and simultaneously wishing it would. Because what she needed more than anything in the world was her enigmatic and sometimes insane immortal. But if there was one thing Darcy was good at, it was building solid defenses, and her thick force field of indifference kept her roommates at bay.

After a while, even though the midday sun cooked the trailer home's metal siding and the cooler labored noisily, she fell asleep, exhausted by too many nights spent doing everything but sleeping and the emotional toll of the day.

She awoke disoriented, feeling a vague deja vu as the high-pitched yipping of coyotes opened the silence of the desert night. Seconds later, the animals' calls were underscored by the rumble of distant thunder. Eyes crusty from crying, she squinted through the dark at the clock radio: 10:30 PM

Brass, copper and steel catching the dim moonlight, the stick insect perched on the lampshade, antennae twitching, but there was no Bic on the nightstand, belly-up and snoozing. Her pet's absence stung. Just a stupid lizard, she thought and then shook her head, negating that thought. Take someone for granted -- a friend, a pet -and regret it when they're gone.

Friend. She wheezed, her diaphragm cramping painfully at the memory of Jane's face crumbling as she lashed out with cruel words. Sitting up, Darcy buried her face in her hands, shoulders hitching with dry sobs.

What had possessed her to say those things? Jane's just as caught up in this cluster fuck as me. Like Loki had said, there were a million different possible paths in life, and many of them still could have led to a reality where Darcy, Jane and Erik met Thor and Loki. And the two brothers' family drama would have played itself out in Puente Antiguo and beyond with or without Jane and Darcy's involvement.

Outside, the coyotes' noise escalated to a horrible wailing and Darcy bit her lip, hoping that Inkblot was hidden safely in Loki's lair. Fearing she'd see the skinny canines hunkered around the cat's carcass, she rose, put on her glasses and peered out the window anyway. A slash of lightning carved a narrow, bright chasm in the sky over Puente Antiguo. The flash revealed two coyotes, who slunk across the property and east. Neither carried a black cat in its mouth. Thunder chased the lightning and Darcy watched as the storm approached from the north, the faint smell of wet sagebrush coming in through the swamp cooler's vent.

She sat back on the bed, now very much awake. Her eyes wandered to where Bic usually slept and then up the vase that held the Asgard rose. It took a second before the anomaly registered in her brain. The rose, which had shrunk to a sad, four-petaled version of itself, was now whole and shimmering in the moonlight.

When...? Distracted by other things, nightmares and sexy supervillains, she hadn't looked closely at it that morning, and later, in her shock, well, a gargoyle in a pink tutu could have been dancing on the nightstand and she wouldn't have noticed.

She touched the tip of her index finger to a petal and felt cinnamon-tinged magic. Recent magic. He'd come into her room, but hadn't stayed. Did he think she hated him? Did he hate her?

He let you whack him like a piñata. Anybody else, he would've gone all, "You dare touch me!" and turned them inside out. Whatever he felt for her, even she could concede, it wasn't hate.

And like Jane, he hadn't deserved to be a target for her pain. I told him I was strong. She cringed at the idea, wondering how he could ever think she was smart, when she so obviously didn't know the definition of the word "strong."

Her legs tingling with the need to move, she got up, shoved her feet in her running shoes, not bothering with the laces and crept out of her room. Loki's room was dark, but Jane's door lined in light, the quiet murmur of her voice and Thor's the only sounds in the house.

Careful not to trip on her shoelaces, Darcy snuck down the hall, doing a bad job of it and managing to find every creaky spot in the floorboards. The front door's hinges groaned annoyingly loud, but Darcy forged on and out to Loki's lair.

To her relief, Inkblot was there, and not in a coyote's belly. The black cat sat on the top of a seatback, four rows from the entrance. He watched Darcy warily, but didn't move when she took a seat toward the front. She closed her eyes and listened to the chirp - and occasional bark - of the crickets. More lightning flashed through her eyelids and thunder's gentle rumble took on a harsher electrical crackle. Moist air, a rarity in the desert, brushed over her skin, pushed by a downdraft from the coming rainstorm. The leaves of the nearby cottonwood tree hissed like voices in the growing wind.

"You should not be out here, alone."

With a yip that sounded a lot like one of Loki's crickets, Darcy startled, sitting bolt upright in the seat. "Dude. You so need to stop sneaking up on me."

Loki stood in the doorway, dressed in black and deepest green, but no leather. With his face turned toward her and darkness, she couldn't quite see his features, but sensed that he was looking at the feline perched a few feet behind her. "And you," he replied, "need to learn to be more aware of your surroundings."

She started to protest that other than Loki, most people wouldn't use magic to be sneaky, but then remembered that the killer could do magic. A dark cloud of self loathing began to grow in her heart and she wondered if she might truly be too stupid to live.

"Back in the house," Loki said, in the tone of a lord to his disobedient servant.

Even though she knew he was right -- she needed to return to the safety of the house -- her rebellious nature made her say, "No."

"That was not a request. You are going back in the house."

"You can't make me," she said, even though it was stupid and petulant.

"Oh, but I can." He didn't move a muscle, but his intent surrounded her, magnified by lightning that lanced across the black sky behind him. "And I will."

"I'll hate you forever."

"I live off hate."

"No, you don't," she replied. "You only think you do, but all that hate is killing you."

"Nonsense, I'm immortal."

"Right. So now denial is also a river in Asgard." She cocked her head, taking in his slim silhouette, backlit by the lightning storm. "You won't get cancer or heart disease, but all that hate is tearing you apart, fucking up your magic."

He straightened, hands at his side in fists. "No! Odin and--" Scalding scorn poured from him, but he fell abruptly silent. He gave her that same look from this morning, wary, as if she were a dangerous puzzle.

"You are correct in one respect. I'm not human and will never be."

"Oh, look, it's Star Wars' newest villain, Darth Obvious."

"The boy," he said, disregarding her snark, "the one who force himself on you, years ago. If I should ever find him, he will pay for what was done."

Darcy had to admit that the idea sent a frisson of vengeful excitement up her spine. "No. I don't want you to do that."

"Precisely." In two strides, he stood over her. "But I will do it nonetheless, just as I will take you back into the house if you will not come willingly. Because I am Loki of Asgard. It is what I am."

"So you'll force me to do something I don't want to do. That doesn't make you much better than the rapist."

"You are correct," he stated bluntly. "My actions are grounded in the fallacy that I do what is best for you, but in the end, the outcome is no different. I have taken your choice."

"And I'll fight you every step of the way, because I'm Darcy Lewis of Midgard." She found the button on the armrest, and leaned the chair back into the recline position.

"Sean isn't dead because you're immortal," she said, changing the subject. "He's gone because some asshole is caught up in an eons-old grudge against you. And-and, that's your fault, but it totally isn't your fault." She started to say the next words, although she wasn't sure she meant them. "I'm sor–-"

"Do not apologize," Loki said. He crouched at her side, balanced, catlike, on the balls of his feet. His head slightly bowed, his posture felt vaguely subservient. Darcy clenched her hand in a tight fist, fighting the urge to touch him and remembered a few weeks past, when he had sat her on her bed and untied her shoelaces; remembered the dizzying shock of Loki being anything but cruel; knew they were taking baby steps toward this thing called Loki and Darcy.

"I'm sorry," she insisted, because he still wasn't the boss of her.

He lifted his face, a funny kind of surprise in his eyes, like he couldn't believe she'd spoken. "Do not apologize. Not to me, least of all to me." More lightning revealed fleeting emotion that aged his youthful features, gone fast, but not so quickly that she didn't recognize it. Self-loathing; the same emotion that currently tore at her.

"Too late," she said, with false cheer. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry." He cast her a weary frown. "Why'd you let me hit you?"

A bit of his fey charm shining in the dark, he smirked and said, "Because you are 'adorable.'"

"No, that's why your magic works better when I'm around."

He shook his head and stood. "The house, Darcy."

Resigned, she put the seat in its upright position, but didn't move. "I said some horrible stuff to Jane. I wonder if she'll ever forgive me."

"Ever, it would seem, is now," said Loki. She blinked up at him through a blinding mix of lightning and dark, and he explained himself. "Jane heard you leave the house and came to my door, demanding that I fetch you back."

"You're Jane's errand boy?"

"No," he said snappishly, "I was about to come collect you when she rapped on my door."

Darcy sighed. "Even Jane heard me sneak out?"

"An elephant would manage stealth better," he said. "Another lesson I will have to teach you."

Grief still ruled her heart, but Darcy liked the sound of that. A tiny smile twitched the corner of her mouth just as Loki held his hand to her.

"Tyranny is a flavor I enjoy, but don't make me impose it on you, Darcy. Don't make me destroy what there is between us."

She'd made her point and it was time to stop acting like a child. Taking his hand, she stood, took a step and tripped over a shoelace, face-planting on his chest. Pale blue light, Loki had conjured a globe of light, fell on the floor, revealing her untied laces.

Loki eyed the laces and then her. "You are a tiny disaster." Something in his voice made her breath hitch, and the globe's light broke in the prism of moisture in her eyes.

He took her other hand and pulled both behind him, snugging her against him. His arms went around her shoulders, and she protested weakly, "I don't need this...strong."

"Of course not," he said, mockingly. "But I do."

His words, though totally sardonic, flattened the remains of the emotional wall inside her, even though she didn't think she deserved comfort, not even from a guy who thought the Earth had a bad case of mortals and he was the cure. His waist was solid and warm beneath the grasp of her arms, and her fingers clenched the twin bands of muscle that ran down his back. Surrendering to what she had craved so badly, she leaned into his tall frame, face pressed so hard against his torso that her glasses dug into the side of her face.

She clenched her eyelids shut, determined not to cry, but tears oozed determinedly out and down her cheeks. "Sick of crying," she muttered and outside nature responded with a brilliant fork of lightning and an instantaneous crack of thunder. She flinched at the sound and hung on tighter to Loki, hoping that having a thunder god in residence would prevent lightning from actually striking the house or Loki's lair.

One lone raindrop smacked noisily on the roof of the airplane cabin. There was pause, then a second landed, and then, as if the first two were wet scouts for the storm, hundreds more followed, pounding an almost deafening rhythm on the structure's outer walls. Out of the reach of the raindrops, but still close to the entrance, Darcy felt the cold spray of mist pushed by the wind.

Loki pulled her a little farther into the cabin's confines. "It isn't your fault."

She didn't have to ask what he meant. "Of course it is."

"No," he pushed her back, and then took her face in his hands, making her meet his eyes. "You forget yourself, girl." His thumbs scrubbed lightly under her eyes and vanity tweaked her as she remembered that her mascara was doing the goth-girl-gone-emo trick. "You withheld the return of the nightmare -- a mistake, indeed -- but do not think for one moment that you are my equal in the game."

"The killer used me--"

"Of course he did." He lowered his face slightly toward hers "Do you not find it odd that Sean's interest in you coincided with the arrival of Thor and I?"

"He, I..." The truth in his words was cruel, as hurtful as the stuff she lobbed at Jane earlier, but his hands on her face still gentle.

"I assumed our adversary reached directly into your dreamspace, when, in actuality, he used your friendship with Sean as a bridge past my defenses." His fingertips curled, exerting a faint sharp pressure along the bottom of her jaw line, and unconsciously, she rose on her toes. "Make no mistake," a slight cruelty hardened the line of his mouth, "Once I recognized my error, I was in control of the game."

"You mean you..." She squirmed a little in his grasp. "You let Sean die?"

He didn't bat an eye at the accusation. Instead he spoke a few opaque words. "The rose, Darcy Lewis of Midgard. Not mine, but the false one."

He was doing it again. Expecting her to work it out on her own. In her chest, she felt a tightness, the fluttery panic that she was too stupid, too much what she projected to the world, to figure it out. She would fail this test and he'd leave her, not by dying, but simply walking away.

Settling back on her heels, she concentrated on breathing, in and out, recalling the two times she had seen and touched the copy of Frigga's rose. Fury's smug expression as he set the flower on the table was the first image that came to her mind. Then the foreign taste-touch of magic on her skin, so different from Loki's. Next came her own little Schadenfreude when she told Fury that the rose was too perfect to be an Asgard rose. Too perfect, because it was a fake.


The connection between the rose and Sean eluded her and tension grew along her shoulders. Loosening her hold on Loki, she set her hands on his hips, feeling the blunt end of hipbones beneath. What did he want her to see? What was the point of this? Frantic, her mind went back to the possibility that Loki had known the murderer would kill Sean once he realized his tool was compromised.

A counterfeit rose. Sean dead.

She stared up at Loki, his features blurred by the condensation that started to fog her glasses, and she remembered a haughty sneer on that face when she compared his magic to the killer's. "A cut flower is a dying thing. Dead flesh is easily manipulated as it no longer has to carry on with the business of living. It can easily take on any form, any modification that would break the living form."

"Dead flesh," she said aloud. Triumph at putting together the puzzle joined with a faint hope. "The body SHIELD found. It was a fake. Okay, not fake," she grimaced, "probably uh, the missing guy, Peter Edwards, his corpse. Sean's alive...somewhere."

If she was expecting congratulations or praise, it wasn't happening. Loki nodded. "He is still lost to you."

"But we can--"

"No, we cannot. There is no friend to save, Darcy, because there was never any amity between you, just a lie."

She shook her head. "He is controlled--"

"He is a willing partner." Darcy shook her head, but Loki spoke over her protest, his resonant voice matching the ferocious beat of rain on metal. "A scant two weeks after I confronted Thor on Puente Antiguo's streets, Sean's predecessor, Miles Collins, Assistant Comptroller, resigned his position, citing sudden health concerns. There were eight qualified candidates for the position, including one Sean O'Malley, although several had years more experience than O'Malley. History tells us that O'Malley was given the position."

"Coincidence," said Darcy.

"Coincidence is an inevitability in all narratives, but when so overused, it becomes suspect," observed Loki, continuing, "At the time, SHIELD's primary administrative functions were housed in a nondescript building, in an even more nondescript commercial sector of Oakland, California. There had been talk of moving the offices to one of SHIELD's more secure, underground facilities, but the idea was abandoned when that location imploded -- unexpectedly." He smirked; Darcy glowered at him.

Obviously enjoying her ire, he went on: "'Better,' said the powers-that-be, 'to leave the running of SHIELD in the ugly, unassuming building.'"

A lightning strike lit up the interior of Loki's lair and Darcy jumped, hands tightening on his hips. Loki shifted his hands to her shoulders and said, off-topic, "You've heard the term, 'Faraday cage?'"

Confused, she shook her head and then nodded. "Yeah, I've read a science book. Your lair is like a Faraday cage, right?" Meaning the cabin's metal walls protected them from lightning.

He nodded and returned to the subject of Sean. "Then, just around the time that plans were being made to give Dr. Jane Foster her own lab in SHIELD's newest facility in the New Mexico desert, once again, the idea of moving the administrative offices developed momentum. Assistant Comptroller Sean O'Malley presented compelling evidence for how the relocation would save SHIELD tremendous operating expenses. Internal documents reveal that O'Malley's superiors initially disagreed strenuously with the plan, but then, abruptly, they became its biggest supporter."

"Sean doesn't like big cities," said Darcy. "The California coast is one big stripe of city-burb. He probably wanted the hell out."

"And in his quest for a pastoral lifestyle," Loki said, "he positioned himself in the ideal locale for the return of Thor and the unwilling Loki."

"Yeah, totally gives new meaning to the phrase, 'There goes the neighborhood.'" She pushed her glasses up onto her head, since fogged-up, they weren't doing much good. "Just because you always have schemes, doesn't mean everybody else does."

"You're being churlish because you know I'm right," he replied. "Sean O'Malley has been an active player in this game for far longer than a few months. Much too long for a simple pawn." He tapped a finger between her eyebrows. "Scowling at me doesn't alter the facts. It simply hastens the point where your vanity demands Botox."

"Needles in my forehead? Pass." Then again, she was dating an immortal. Who knew what she'd do to get him to stick around? "So the killer has been hanging around for years, setting up scenarios, and-and people," like Sean, "just in case you dropped by Midgard?"

"Decades, perhaps. Centuries."

The harsh reality that Sean had used and betrayed her sawed at her insides, so she fell back on feeble humor. "Wow. Do you know how to make friends and influence people or what?"

"I'm not without talents."

"Why did the killer fake-murder Sean?"

"O'Malley's role at SHIELD had play itself out, and death offers a measure of freedom. The dead are the least likely suspects in any crime."

"You mean the murderer will send Sean out to do...bad stuff?" She could hear the disbelief in her voice, because, even now, they were talking about Sean, her friend.

"Possibly." He cupped her chin, looking deep into her eyes. "It was not your dream that alerted Sean and his master to our plans. I did not disable all the listening devices last night."

"You wanted him to know your plans," she said.

"Whether partner or pawn, the boy's master would not want us to meet. If I'd been mistaken -- unlikely -- O'Malley would have been at work as usual; he would have listened to the spelled song and followed you down to the laboratory as meekly as--."

"--Thor follows Jane?" finished Darcy, helpfully. He smiled, fingers toying with the lowlights in her hair.

She watched the lightning scatter shadows over his face and considered what he had said. "Your plan was to force the murderer to give up his mole in SHIELD. How do you know this plan won't backfire?" She smiled grimly and swiped a hand over his cheek. "Chunks of your last two big plans are still on your face."

His eyes narrowed and he stared up at the lair's ceiling, as if searching for something.

"What?" said Darcy.

"I'm trying to remember why I tolerate your insolence."

"Sexiest thighs in the nine realms. Also, I tased Thor. Zap!"

"Ah, that would be it."

Hands back on his hips, she let her attention fall to the patterns of dark and lighter green cloth on his chest, noting that even without leather and metal, everything he wore had a very Loki flair. "Sean made me feel smart, too," she said. "He made me feel like I was special, one of the few people at SHIELD that he really wanted to hang with."

Lifting her chin, she asked, "Are you going to betray me, Loki?"

He met her gaze levelly. "Everyone knows I'm not to be trusted."

"I'm not everyone," she replied coolly. "Or am I? You said you'd protect me, you said--"

At once his hands were back on her jaw line, lifting her face to within inches of his. Outside the rain slowed, but the lightning grew more frenetic, flinging unearthly light across the perfect inhumanity of his face. "Do you truly wish me to enumerate the things that I might do for you. Do you?"

She swayed, unsteady even with her hands on his hips, trying to understand his words. They were heavy with threat and promise; they terrified her and filled her with hope. They blasted her with the accumulated frustration and anger of centuries and were tainted with despair. They left her wanting to pull away and run.

Instead, she stood firm and said, "I want to know that I can trust the most untrustworthy person in my life." She was pleased to see his improbably beautiful face waver, taken aback by her demand, perhaps even a little confused.

Then he said, his expression now incredulous, "You want me to be trustworthy?"

"Uh, yeah. Trustworthy. You don't have to marry it. Just, like, buy it, but leave the tags on. Wear it for a few years, decades. If it doesn't work out, return for a full refund."

The spicy touch of magic bled into her skin. "You would ask this of me?" Loki's voice was quiet, but possessed a timbre that vibrated in her bones. A desolate anger took over his face. Darcy gulped but nodded resolutely.

More power, so much that it made her eyes burn, rushed from him. "I can scarce trust myself. My memories, knowledge and...magic are but ash." He broke eye contact. "As is my interest in any matter. I am naught but an empty shell." When his gaze slid back to her, it was filled with cunning. "Except when you are about. I ask again, why is that?"

Even though she assumed the question was rhetorical--because how the hell would she know?--she lifted her shoulders in an exaggerated shrug.

Her face still in his hands, he leaned back, appraising her. "Without you," he said, "this personage who haunts my steps would get none of my attention. It is only because of you, that I find him worthy of notice. With you, I feel the return of purpose." His shoulders slumped and he bent, his forehead against hers. "You already have too much of me. Do you understand?"

"Yes," she answered. His words were an evasion of her original question, but also a huge admission. A fair trade, she decided. "Wh--?"

"No more questions." He turned toward the cabin's opening, where the lightning still periodically splashed on metal, but the thunder had subsided to a dull rumble and the rain eased to a faint mist. "In the house. To bed." She gave him a weary look, because as much as he usually turned her on, her libido had left the building.

He rolled his eyes. "There's no sport in bedding a grieving, overwrought woman who can't even tied her own shoelaces."

"I'm not overwrought," she grumbled as he scooped her up and took her back to the house. In her room, she allowed herself one last secret insecurity.

"You want the shirt off my back?" They stood before her bed, Darcy with her hands fisted in the garment in question, Loki's eyes wide with feigned confusion.

"Yes. I want it. For always." The shirt, with its complex pattern of differing shades of green, stitched in a way that gave the light fabric the appearance of being thicker, was so quintessentially Loki that she knew she must have it, a memento of the days, weeks, or months that she'd been the God of Mischief's lover.

She pulled the shirt over her head to wear as pajamas, knowing it would be the last time she wore it, and from here on, it would hang safely in her closet. From now on, she couldn't give in to her anxieties that Loki would leave. Sean was probably still alive, but she still felt, deep down, that her fears could have cost him his life.

In bed, Loki pulled her against him and she hunched her shoulders slightly, so that the shirt's fabric bunched and the smell of him surrounded her. On the nightstand, something moved--Bic finally returning to her snoozing spot -- and Darcy smiled. He was wrong, of course. She didn't have too much of him, but for now, she had enough.

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 28 of 39

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