Continuing Tales

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 29 of 39

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Thor awoke to the almost instinctive awareness that Loki was having another nightmare. Moving with muscles conditioned by the habit of his brother's nightly torments, and his brain still groggy with sleep, he did not realize the problem with the scenario until he found Loki's door open, the room empty.

Standing in the pitch black hallway, he stared at Darcy's closed door, listening to the slight squeak of shifting floorboards as someone paced within the room. He pondered the odd sense of alarm that had taken him from Jane's bed. A few days ago, Loki had admitted that in Darcy's presence, he suffered no dark dreams. So why the strange feeling that something was amiss?

Had Thor been dealing with any other personage, he might have shrugged and returned to bed, but this was Loki. He stepped up to the door and almost let himself in when he remembered that while his brother was within, it was nonetheless Darcy's room. "Loki," he said, and knocked.

It came as no small surprise, when after a short pause, his brother's voice said, "Come."

Thor turned the door handle, careful as always not to twist the knob too hard, lest the feeble mortal construction fail under his grasp. Careful had become a habit for the most part, and he wondered, when the day came that he returned to Asgard, if he'd find himself fumbling and too gentle with his home world's furnishings.

Loki stood to the left, near the closet, but out of the faint light from the window, tall and wraithlike in the small room. Thor glanced around the space, his eyes lighting on a pale shape on the nightstand. Darcy's little pet, unmoving, white belly skyward and tail hanging lifelessly off the furniture's edge. A sharp foreboding prickled his nerves. "Dead?" he muttered, his gaze going to the girl who lay in a limp sprawl on her back. "Loki, what have you done?"

Loki, who watched him with familiar contempt, followed Thor's gaze, his expression turning to even more familiar mockery. "Ah, you think that I, vexed by the woman's attack on my person, slew dragon and fair maiden." With a pointed look at the door and toward Jane's room, he said, "Does Jane know the dark places your mind goes?"

At that very moment, said tiny dragon's feet flailed in a running dream, tail lashing like a dying snake. Thor, feeling foolish, frowned at his sibling. "You have hardly exercised care with mortals in the past, brother."

"I am bored," said Loki, "but killing a foolish young woman, who trusts me entirely too much, is hardly a diversion." He canted his head to the left, weary derision on his lean face. "And is there anything that I might do, that will break you of the habit of calling me 'brother?'"

Killing either Darcy or Jane came to mind, but Thor decided for once, to err on the side of silence. He let his gaze drop to the sleeping girl on the bed, in part because he knew that the action might annoy Loki. She had kicked most of the bedclothes off, with only the lower half of her left leg tangled in the sheet. Her nightclothes, Thor realized, consisted of one of Loki's shirts, and a pair of red panties. Though only a few years younger than Jane, she seemed too much a child to be a bedmate, but his eyes nevertheless traveled over her sleeping form, to her admirable breasts and the broad cradle made by her hips and thighs, a place where a man could take happy shelter for hours. In his head, Thor grinned. Perhaps not such a child after all.


Thor looked up in time to see Loki approaching him, chin low, murder in his eyes, violence in his skinny frame. Thor braced and met his brother head on, only to find himself slightly overbalanced with no one before him.

Laughter echoed softly off the walls and ceiling. "That never loses its charm," said Loki, now leaning against a dresser on the right side of the room.

"I see you are rediscovering your ability for projections," observed Thor, wondering if he was speaking to the real Loki.

"As the mortals say, 'How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.'" Loki glanced down at his young companion and then eyed Thor. "Is there a reason the Mighty Thor is creeping into bedchambers to leer at mortals?"

Thor scowled. "I knocked." The one time he actually entered a room politely and still he got no credit. "I had the odd sense that you were haunted by another nightmare."

To Thor's surprise, rather than sneering, Loki straightened, cunning interest glittering in his eyes. "You sensed? Explain yourself."

"It came to me as it always has, a stirring in the back of my mind." Thor studied the man who hung so comfortably in the shadows. Was he real or just a projection? It maddened Thor that after all these long centuries, he still couldn't see through Loki's illusions. "This time, however, I find you awake and untroubled." He remembered the sound of pacing and amended, "Well, perhaps not untroubled."

"What reason do I have to be troubled? I'm King of Asgard and now rule Midgard...oh, wait," said Loki with bitter mirth. He started toward Thor, making a shooing motion toward the door. "Let us speak elsewhere. Your voice would wake the dead."

Thor started to respond, but Loki had vanished. Motion caught Thor's eye, drawing his gaze to the bed where Loki paused to unravel tangled bedding and pull it over Darcy. Though it may have been a trick of the shadows, for an brief moment, Loki's face was transformed, molded by an expression that Thor could not ever recall seeing on his sibling's face.

Like any of the nobles, Loki had his fair share of assignations, but beyond a few instances of youthful infatuation, Thor could not remember his brother ever being demonstrably in love. Though more than willing to apply his sly charm to the art of flirting, Loki kept any sincere affections, if he ever held any, to himself.

Thor turned and made for the living room, ruefully acknowledging that he'd had a part in schooling Loki to guard his emotions and wrap everything he did in insincerity. Was that what Loki did now? Did he play at fondness for Jane's assistant? And if so, to what end?

Thor had mulled the question over in his mind before, examining it as he might have studied a sword's edge, lifting it from the whet stone, testing the angle. Time and time again, he had insisted to Jane that Darcy offered Loki no strategic advantage. Darcy had no skill in combat; despite her vocation, she knew nothing of science; and though purportedly schooled in politics, she had a habit of speaking in manner that was anything but diplomatic.

Of course, that was precisely the sort of thing that Loki would expect him to believe. Was there anything Loki did that did not play into some greater, overarching plan? What possible service could a young mortal with no useful skills or associations be to Loki? Was it too much to hope that just this once, Loki's motives were grounded in no more than a desire for companionship?

Behind him, Darcy's door shut with a quiet click, Loki's footfalls following, the noise an artifice, since Thor knew that even now, his brother could move soundlessly. The soft pattern of footfalls drove home a fundamental truth to Thor. No matter how much he defended Loki to Director Fury and others, he knew that his brother could not truly be trusted.

As the lumpish shapes of Midgardian furniture loomed out of the living room darkness, Thor hoped he had not made a mistake in tolerating Loki's association with Darcy, hoped he had not thrown the poor girl to a not-so metaphorical wolf.

With Loki just a pace behind him now, however, Thor could not help but remember happier times, when he knew Loki "had his back" as the mortals said. Just then the living room was flooded with light, as Loki magically flipped the switch. Thor briefly took in the common area, including the kitchen counter, where a wooden block bristled with small knives. Heading for the seats in the living room, he sighed, knowing that these days, Loki saw his back as a convenient place to drive a knife.

Sitting in his customary place on the love seat, he looked expectantly up at Loki who remained standing. With a perfunctory wave of his hand, Loki disabled the listening devices and then asked, "Were you dreaming, before you had this sense that I was troubled?"

"No," said Thor.

"Are you certain?" He spoke slowly as if Thor were a child.

"Yes," responded Thor, annoyed by Loki's tone. As he spoke, however, a thought tickled his brain like a flea in the ear. "No..."

Thor drifted into silent thought and Loki prodded, "Oh, great and noble Prince Thor, I beseech thee, share the inner workings of your mind. It should take but a second of your time."

"Sometimes," said Thor, "I long for the days when you so ably hid your contempt for me." And yet he also found an odd comfort in this unpleasant version of his brother, because quite possibly, for once he was dealing with a sincere Loki.

"I've tried to kill you twice, quite recently," observed Loki, a little too cheerfully. "Comity on my part would be more suspect than scorn."

Thor nodded in grudging agreement and answered Loki's previous question. "There may have been something, a fragment of a dream." He rubbed his chin, thinking. "Screams, Jane's." Turning his head, he fixed his eyes on the home's main entrance, a dull sense of alarm giving him a reflexive urge to summon Mjölnir. "Something that transpired on the front porch, a woman's face, contorted and frozen in death, then Jane's." His hand moved up to rub his eyes. "That is all I recall."

"It bears similarities to Darcy's nightmare."

"But Jane..." Alarm built like storm clouds in Thor's mind. "This villain thinks Darcy is beyond his reach, so he now turns his attention to Jane."

Loki shrugged, his gesture accentuating what he said next. "Jane's safety is no concern of mine and thus she is a poor weapon to use against me."

"She is Darcy's friend." He pummeled Loki with a stern gaze. "It would pain Darcy greatly if Jane came to harm."

Loki eyes flicked over him, and Thor was pleased to see a hint of realization there although Loki covered it quickly with derision. "Asgard's golden prince can't protect one mortal woman who is rarely far from his side?" Thor bit back a response, recognizing the futility and anyway, Loki's mind had obviously gone back to the problem at hand, as he had begun to pace from one side of the room to the other, long legs covering the distance in a few strides.

Ceasing his pacing, Loki returned his attention to Thor. "Yet," he mused, "it is curious that my adversary has suddenly deemed you a conduit to this household. Why now?" The last two words were spoken softly, a question to himself.

"Because he can no longer reach Darcy," stated Thor, certain this was obvious.

"He hasn't tried to reach Darcy. Not tonight. I would have felt it."

"He saw no reason. Knew you'd be prepared."

Loki took another step and then sat on the couch. Elbows on his knees, he leaned forward and smirked at Thor. "So he torments your dreams? This is the behavior of my ally, not a foe."

Thor gave him a grudging grin -- because what else could he do? -- and watched Loki's face grow still as he sank into his thoughts, keen mind working busily. Thor's eyes moved up the contours of Loki's face, his thoughts going where he least wanted them to venture.

Pale skin, sharp, refined features, raven black hair. Someone, Sif probably, had once remarked how physically unlike Loki was to Thor and Odin. Thor had dismissed the comment, saying that Loki took after Frigga. What seemed the obvious answer then, now, as Thor's gaze followed the shape of Loki's brow, the angle of his brows, the line of his mouth, seemed like willful blindness. His brother's features, though outwardly Aesir, carried no hint of either of his parents.

Unaware that he did so, Thor squinted as if he could penetrate the spell that hid Loki's heritage. How much of the false mask reflected the true form beneath? Was the visage beneath just as knife-edged and elegant, or did magic conceal thicker, brutish lines? Imagination had never been his strong suit, but Thor tried to picture a version of Loki with ice blue skin and red eyes. Though he didn't succeed, a shudder coiled up his spine, his stomach clutching in--

"Revulsion?" said Loki, his green eyes meeting Thor's. His voice was low, soft tones resonant with malice. "Imagine what I feel, brother, looking into the mirror, knowing the obscenity that lurks under this pretense."

Fists clenched, Thor could only return Loki's stare. He knew the correct words were out there, somewhere, but pretty speeches were Loki's purview, and besides, he could not bring himself to say the comforting things required. How could he truly tell Loki it did not matter that he was a frost giant, when the very idea made him sick to his stomach?

Instead, he blurted, "Has Darcy seen your true face?"

"She seeks me out, welcomes me into her bed," was Loki's answer which Thor took to mean "No."

Thor nodded. "But she knows what you are." Rubbing the back of his head, he said sadly, "She first learned the truth from me. I spoke of the matter to Jane, and Darcy was present. We discussed your true form--"

"Darcy knew long before your tongue blundered over my privacy," snapped Loki. "When she isn't pursuing deeply discounted footwear on the Internet, she entertains herself by creeping about in SHIELD's secure files."

"" Thor had been led to believe the girl's abilities with Midgard technologies was limited.

"An application, disguised as a primitive game of space battle, designed by Stark." To Thor's next question, Loki explained with a grin, "A gift from Stark's woman, I believe. Never underestimate the duplicity and resourcefulness of women."

Thor's eyes narrowed. "This is how you've pried so ably into SHIELD's business." He doubted Stark would happy knowing Loki and Darcy were using his technology. Then again, the man had almost as great a penchant for mischief as Loki, so perhaps it would amuse him.

Loki gave Thor a smarmy smile. "Life on Midgard has served your mental acuity well."

"Behold the power of the Pop-Tart," responded Thor.

A slight smirk still on his face, Loki turned, eyes on the door, and Thor took in his profile, recalling a distant time when those hard edges were softened by boyish innocence. In his heart, regret rose and thickened his blood. Time here in this desolate outpost of Midgard, particularly his conversations with Jane, had opened his eyes to the part he may have played in the hardening of Loki's heart.

Even as a child, Loki exhibited a taste for good-natured trickery, but there had been no malice in his games, and he had often been kind to a fault, with an aversion for the crueler diversions of the other boys. Ever inquisitive, he had peppered Thor and anyone in the vicinity with the multitude of questions in his mind. Where the other boys found amusement bashing something into ever smaller bits, Loki was more interested in knowing how it was put together, the why, how and when of all things. Had he been born a mortal, he likely would have pursued a vocation like Jane's.

Thor had adored his clever, empathetic little brother, even secretly envied his facility with magic, but Asgard expected its princes to be more than bookish sorcerers, and Thor, determined to protect Loki from everything, including the scorn of the court, had strove to make Loki into a version of himself. And in doing so ruined him.

Jane, of course, would say that he was wrong, that Loki's actions were his alone, but Thor, as his eyes raked over the angry angles that hate and bitterness had wrought on Loki's face, felt otherwise.

"It should not be you," he said. Loki, lost in some distant reverie, responded after a few seconds with a vague irritation and a question in his eyes.

Thor took a moment to compose his words. "Over the course of many campaigns, most in the name of Asgard, I've slain many, leaving far more aggrieved personages who might wish revenge than you ever have."

Loki shrugged. "I was party to those campaigns."

"Often you were the one who argued for a different approach." Much to the annoyance of Thor and all else, who saw Loki's less violent and often magic-dependent solutions as obsequious and dishonorable. "I should be the one who is haunted by the vengeful ghost of a distant victory."

His countenance smooth in the way that signaled a scathing response, Loki studied one of his slim hands, and Thor remembered that recently those fine-boned fingers had been a bloody wreck. His face still tilted downward, Loki slid him a dark look from under his eyebrows. "Victory. In victory, all that Asgard's golden prince has done is made right, his hands cleansed of blood."

The hate that emanated from his sibling was so potent that Thor flinched slightly, but he nodded and said, "And so it is written in history," echoing a statement Darcy had once made about how history was written by the victor.

Loki returned to his study of his hands. "From what little I recall, even my successes have been writ as transgressions, not victories."

"Nonsense," said Thor, "In my victories, you shared the glory of--"

"A shadow shares no glory," he snarled.

Thor clenched his jaw shut, realizing the conversation was growing too heated and without the moderating influence of the women, likely to escalate. A tiny burr of envy pricked him as he considered Darcy's ability to trade verbal barbs with Loki without the interaction turning into a battle. His thoughts moved on to Jane, and his body began to long for bed. Time spent sleeping in whatever crude accommodations were available over the course of many wars had taught him to appreciate beyond measure the comfort of a soft bed and beautiful woman.

He rose to his feet, meeting Loki's cold stare. "Jane still fears you will destroy her friend."

A sly smile on his face, Loki spoke, his tone irreverent, "I destroy everything, don't I?" He made a languid gesture with one hand. "By all means, continue. Sleep eludes me and your lectures are a strong sedative."

It took all Thor's strength not to remind this malevolent shade of his brother that hurting the girl, physically or emotionally, could be the thing that would permanently drive Loki from his heart. He believed that Loki held an authentic fondness for Darcy, but he did not underestimate the power of Loki's hatred for him. Nor had he forgotten the wounds on Loki's body, evidence of a fearsome capacity for self-destruction. Thor knew that Loki's twisted desire to be free from the bonds of brotherhood might drive him to harm the girl, even if he destroyed himself in the process.

He considered his words carefully, and then spoke. "Darcy has a good heart and an inquisitive spirit." As you once did. "Do not take that from her." Nothing further to say, he turned for bed.

He had nearly reached the hallway when Loki's voice gave him pause. "I know."

Turning, Thor saw that Loki still sat on the couch, back to him. "That is her...appeal," said Loki. Though the gesture was pointless, Thor gave a faint nod and continued on to bed.

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 29 of 39

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