Continuing Tales

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 3 of 39

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"You don't have to come in today, Darcy." Jane stood in the doorway to Darcy's room, watching as she put on a pair of running shoes. Typically, Darcy made an attempt to dress "casual professional" for work, but today it would be hard enough to walk, without adding the complication of anything with a heel.

"I'm just sore." Like somebody dropped a building on me. "And I'll get bored here, alone, all day." With the ghost of Andy. As it was, just the thought of setting foot on the porch, where his body had been, gave her the heebs.

Everyone made for Jane's vehicle, and in the drive beyond, the black SUV waited. Darcy, however, took a few steps across the porch and the image of Andy's body flashed before her eyes. Her knees wobbled and her vision blackened. No way, I'm not passing out. She took another slow step, her vision brightening. Jane and Thor were already in the vehicle, Loki about to get in.

"Thor, could you help Darcy?" said Jane.

"Oh, of course." The big guy started to unbuckle his seatbelt.

Loki stopped, one foot in the SUV, hand on the top of the vehicle's door. His gaze fell heavy on Darcy, then on Thor, then back on Darcy, something that looked suspiciously like indecision in his eyes. With an exaggerated sigh, he stomped toward Darcy, attention on the ground before him, but his posture filled with the kind of maniacal rage that leveled skyscrapers. He swept toward her like an angry, leather-clad hawk, and Darcy froze like a rabbit, for the first time genuinely afraid of him. She let out a tiny squeak as he reached her, but her protest was cut off when he scooped her up effortlessly and carried her to the vehicle, settling her in the backseat. She got a whiff of soap and leather as he leaned over her, fastening the seatbelt. He slammed the door hard, and walked around the vehicle, his posture angry, and got in the other side.

Jane's hand, on the key in the ignition, didn't move, her jaw open in surprise. Thor started to say something to his brother, saw the look on his face and thought better of it, instead fastening his own seatbelt. The SUV's engine grumbled to life as Jane shook off her shock and turned the key.

After a few minutes of silence, Thor turned on the radio and fiddled with the tuning, settling on a country music station because in the middle of nowhere all stations are country.

Darcy shift her weight to her left side, trying to spare her hip. Loki gave her a quick glance and looked away. "Hey," she whispered. She nodded her head at the front seat. "I think you just gave Mom and Dad a heart attack."

"Perhaps that was the point." His tone was acrid, but his jaw twitched with a repressed smile.


Are you okay?

At one o'clock, Sean contacted her through SHIELD's email. Fury had been adamant that Jane and company were not to mention the dead body to anyone; he wanted to keep the matter under wraps to facilitate the investigation. So naturally, by now, most of the facility probably knew. The place was worse than high school.

Yeah. Just a little banged up.

So did he kill Andy?

Darcy didn't bother to ask, "Who?" No. It's totally not his M.O. At least, she hoped it wasn't.


As she left the Fish Bowl, Loki cast her a brief look, opened his mouth as though to speak and then turned away to scribble something on the notepad before him.

Seeing her slight limp, Max Padilla cocked his head to the side. "What happened to you?" His expression darkened and he glared at the Fish Bowl. "Did that asshole-?"

"No," said Darcy, studying his expression. He didn't seem to know about Andy. "I, uh, fell off my bike, hit a patch of sand." On the ride up the lift, the enormity of what Loki had done this morning finally struck her. In the close quarters of the lift, her body decided to remember what it felt like when he swooped her up, the shock of his arms tight around her, the feel of his long stride beneath her. How for the briefest of moments, she pressed her cheek to his chest and felt absurdly safe. When the lift doors opened, she was shaking.

"You all right, Ms. Lewis?" asked Pam Johnson, the guard on duty on Floor One. Darcy simply nodded because she didn't trust her voice not to crack like an adolescent boy's.

Sean met her at the door to the break room, his blue eyes soft with concern. "Are you in pain?" With a hint of hesitancy, he reached and took her hand. She forced a smile and looked him over, pushing aside Loki thoughts with the image of the cutest accountant ever. He wore a black sport jacket over a gray T-shirt, jeans and dark brown boots. His hair was at least two weeks past a needing a cut, giving him a delicious disheveled look.

"Not yet," she replied. "Just stiff. The doc said it would be worse tomorrow and the next day." She gave the room a quick perusal, noting two agents in black suits, both generic clean cut white guys, who sat in the far corner of the room, backs to the wall, facing the door. A cluster of four guards were seated near the door. They all nodded and said hello as she and Sean went by, destination the vending machines. So far, Andy's mysterious death hadn't made her a total pariah.

Sean bought a sandwich, pastrami, and Darcy got a turkey sandwich, figuring she needed more than empty calories if she was going to heal. She also bought candy bars for everyone.

"Does Fury have any suspects?" asked Sean.

"Not yet. I hope he finds whoever did it soon, though." She peeled the bread back from the sandwich, checking for onions. "It's going to be creepy, out there in the boondocks, knowing somebody dropped a dead body on our porch."

"You really don't think he did it?"

"No. He usually goes for something more flamboyant."

"The deaths of women and children?" said Sean dryly.

Darcy shuddered, again remembering Loki's touch, the way his presence surrounded her. "Yeah. Can we talk about something else?" Finding the sandwich onion-free, she took a bite.

"I'm sorry. Sure."

Their lunch ended with him asking her out to dinner that weekend, something that usually left her with high spirits, but today she was too heartsick over Andy, and conflicted over Loki to do more than smile politely and say, "Love to."

That evening, the drive home was uneventful, save for the fact that Loki grudgingly helped her in and out of the SUV. "Look," she said, at home, when he started to help her out. "If you don't want to help me, don't."

He paused, then put his hands on the top edge of the vehicle's door frame and leaned in toward her, his body blocking the afternoon sunlight. "Don't," he said, with a careful enunciation, accentuated with princely arrogance, "presume to know my motives." His posture, though outwardly relaxed, vibrated with a sense of menace.

Darcy gulped and shrank back. But her mouth moved anyway, "Look, Mad Science, the last thing I want is a trip inside the asylum that is your brain. But you're acting like I'm road kill that's been simmering in the hot sun and you're the highway department flunky who has to shovel me up."

The furrow between his eyebrows deepened, and behind him, she heard Thor say, nervously, "Loki..." And then, kiddies, Darcy grew six legs, a hard brown carapace, and an aversion to light. She pushed her glasses up her nose, waiting to be turned into a cockroach and hoping it wouldn't hurt too much.

He closed his eyes briefly and when he opened them, some of the tension had fled his face. "Your friends in the black vehicle already speculate too much regarding your relationship with me, do they not?"

"After fantasy football, it's their number one hobby," she replied with more bitterness than she'd like. "You're acting like an asshat for my sake?"

"For both. I have a reputation to maintain as well." Darting a look back at Thor, he said to her, in a low voice, "I would like to assist you, Darcy Lewis, if you'd allow it."

A snotty reply died on her lips, because she had a strange sense that speaking those words cost him a lot. "Okay."

She got out with his help and he offered her his arm, which she took gratefully, because even the short trip in the vehicle had stiffened her knee and hip. Approaching the porch, her feet slowed as the image of Andy's frozen, contorted body returned.

"It's just a place," came Loki's voice, low and resonant. "Don't give it power over you."

"You're right. The past is...the past." With that she continued on and up the stairs, shoving the ugly memory aside.


About an hour later, midway through Jane's spaghetti dinner, the doorbell rang. Thor opened the door to find Fury, along with Terrance and Miguel, two of the SHIELD's baddest bad asses outside of Natasha Romanoff, on their doorstep. It was fortunate that the two came in different flavors--Terrance: African American, Miguel: Latino--since they were otherwise indistinguishable. Both had been popped from the same G.I. Joe mold: square jaws, buzz cuts and muscles on top of muscles.

"Come outside, all of you," said Fury in a tone that brokered no argument.

Darcy followed Jane and Loki out the door, a slice of garlic bread in hand, and a mixture of apprehension and resentment swirling in her stomach. The sun had sunk below the horizon, and daylight had nearly lost its battle with dark. On the way out, she switched on the porch light.

When the four were standing on the porch, Jane asked Fury, "Have you found anything out about the murder? How was Andy killed?"

"Frozen. Instantly. Our coroner estimates he was killed sometime around two in the morning." Fury's attention was on Jane, but Miguel and Terrance immediately glared at Loki, who ignored them, purposefully looking bored.

Darcy took a bite of bread. "Who would do such a thing?" said Thor voicing the question that was on everyone's mind.

"Well," drawled Fury, "It would be an easy way to kill, if you were a frost giant." This briefly got Loki's attention, but only briefly.

Fury tilted his head back to the car. "I'm gonna ask you nicely to come back with us to the facility," he said to Loki.

"I don't understand," said Thor. "Is my brother a suspect?"

"Of course he is," grumbled Terrance. "You see any other frost giants around here?"

"Why would Loki kill this man?" persisted Thor.

"Because he's an asshole," snarled Miguel. Fury shot the man a hard look and he stared at his combat boots.

"Look, I'm not arguing with you about this," said Fury. "It's been a long day, I've--

"Wait!" Everyone turned and looked at Darcy who took a step forward. "You said around two am, right?" she asked. Fury nodded. "Then it couldn't have been Loki. He was with me."

"Darcy, really?" said Jane, as though Darcy had just confessed to skinning kittens and cooking them over an open fire.

"Ugh. Want some bleach for that dirty mind, Jane?" She stared squarely at Fury. "I said with me, not in me. We were having a chat."

Even Thor seemed to find that incredible. "Chat? My brother does not chat."

"Okay, so I did the chatting, and he growled and made rude comments. Point is, unless he can be in two places at once, he didn't kill that guy."

"Actually," Loki cleared his throat, "I can be two places at once. Several, in a manner of speaking."

"Oh," said Darcy, realizing her error. "Sorry, I tried." A millisecond later, she thought of something else. "Wait! Your other-Lokis, can they eat ice cream?"

"They're projections, so no."

"The not-chatty Loki I saw last night likes cookies and cream ice cream," Darcy proclaimed smugly to Fury and his men. "He also nearly set the kitchen on fire."

"We have ice cream?" muttered Thor, wide-eyed.

"The kitchen? Fire?" said Jane.

"Yeah, well, until we can be sure it wasn't him, he's coming with us," said Fury.

"But, no," said Jane, "That's not fair." She shrank a little under Fury's stern one-eyed glare, her attention going to Thor. Darcy knew what she was thinking. Where Loki went, so too did Thor.

"Jane's right," said Darcy, realizing that she was fighting to keep her nutso, fire-starting roomie, "Innocent until proven guilty, right?"

"Wrong," replied Fury.

Darcy shook her head. "Why would he kill somebody and leave them on the front porch, when he could have used magic to hide the body?"

"Why did he slaughter people in New York?" said Fury. "He's-"

"He was not in his right mind," said Thor, going into auto-Loki-defense mode. Terrance grumbled something at Miguel, and the two scowled at Thor.

Darcy looked out across the property, her gaze moving over the extent of the lot and to the next, where Carlos's ancient Ford truck rumbled up his driveway, a refrigerator in the back, a new addition to the appliance graveyard. She turned and met Fury's hard stare. "Was Andy even on duty last night?"

"No," answered Terrance, before Fury could speak.

"Then he shouldn't have been within 100 feet of Thor or Loki. So long as Thor is home, Loki isn't going anywhere."

"Thor was home, all night," affirmed Jane with a bright blush.

"The conniving bastard figured out a way to get Andy," said Terrance, voice dripping hatred, and Darcy knew she was adding fuel to the stupid-girl-falls-for-the-villain rumor fire. But if Loki was hauled off to SHIELD's Gitmo for supervillains, Jane would lose snuggling time with Thor. And besides, Loki was a monster, but hey, he was Darcy's monster--sort of.

"You don't know that," she said, bracing herself against the fiery stares of Fury and his men. "And has anyone actually thought of asking him if he did it?"

"He'll lie," said Miguel, Terrance nodding.

"Quiet," snapped Fury. With a nod to Darcy, he turned to Loki. "Did you kill Andy?"

Darcy studied the faces of the people around her. Thor watched his brother, blue eyes bright with almost naive expectation. Worry creased Jane's brow. Fury was all poker face.

Finally, Darcy let her eyes move to Loki, up to the straight lines of his face, eyes shadowed and expression grim. Please say no, please say no. She wouldn't put it past him to say yes, or refuse to answer, just to be an antagonistic jerk. His lip curled and inside she cringed, expecting the worse.

"No," he snarled. "I no longer squash bugs, it's messy and pointless."

"Son of a--" Terrance reached for his sidearm, but Fury snapped a hand to the guard's arm, grip tight, stopping him.

"That was tactful," she hissed at Loki. "See?" She gestured at Loki then back at Fury, the motion made somewhat silly by the garlic bread in her hand. "He didn't do it."

In the tightness of the moment, Darcy felt Terrance and Miguel's glares closing in on her, and she realized all the capital her defense of Loki had cost her. Was it worth it? She glanced at Jane and Thor, remembering how devastated Jane had been the first time the big guy had left. Feeling herself withering under Terrance and Miguel's angry stares, she took a huge bite of garlic bread and chewed, because eating always made her feel braver.

At long last, Fury nodded. "All right. He can stay here. For now." He sent a stern look at his men, cutting them off mid-grumble. With one last rock-hard glare, aimed largely at Loki, he stomped off the porch and to the waiting SUV, Terrance and Miguel following like sullen teens.

"Because I know my brother won't," began Thor, "I thank you, Darcy." When Darcy met his eyes, she saw a touch of weary sadness there.

"...not your brother," muttered Loki.

"No prob, big guy." She smiled. "There's still some ice cream left."

"Is there?" He brightened and Jane smiled too. A bounce in his step, the big blond headed back into the house, destination the freezer, no doubt. Jane followed. Loki didn't move, his gaze fixed on the departing SUV. Once it had left the property, red taillights moving up Don Tenorio Road, he pointed toward a spot near the stairs. "Is that where you found the body?"

"Uh, yeah." Her stomach wrenched and she ate more bread to still it.

He moved forward, crouched and held out his right hand, fingers spread, palm down over the spot. Darcy took a step and then also crouched, except pain erupted from her knee and hip. Before she could stop, she put her left hand on Loki's shoulder to steady herself. She cringed, expecting a growl, but he took no notice.

Then abruptly, he shifted his weight, and snatched her hand from his shoulder, long fingers around her wrist. She tried to pull away, but was trapped in his fierce grip.

"Relax," he hissed.

"You're hurting me!"

Loosening his grip, but not releasing her, he said, "Open your hand as I did, palm down."


"Just do it."

She looked at his face, trying to figure out what crazy crap was going through his head. In the yellowy light of the porch light, his angular features were stark against the growing darkness, but his expression was mild with no indication that he was planning to turn a pesky mortal into an insect. She did as he asked.

And just as quickly she jerked her hand back.

"What did you feel?" he asked releasing her wrist.

"Pin and needles, like when I sleep on my arm and my hand falls asleep. And then something else, something warm, kind of spicy, like cinnamon?"

At this, his grim expression cracked and a real smile escaped, white teeth flashing in the porch light. "Spicy?"

"Yeah, Mad Science, 'spicy.'" It was odd, feeling a taste. "What is that?"

His smile faded and he studied the wood panels that made up the porch floor. "The first, 'pins and needles,' is the magical signature of the killer. The second, I my magical signature."

"Yours? The killer's?" Her thoughts whirled in a jumble. "I don't do magic. How come I felt it?"

"Because I allowed you to sense it, through me." He shrugged. "Although you seem to have a slight affinity..." His eyes narrowed and he skimmed his hand over the floor again, head tilted like a dog listening to a distant whistle. Timidly, Darcy opened her hand and held it over the porch. She felt a tremor in her hand, then nothing.

"Do it again," she said, in a low whisper. "I want to feel it again."

He complied, the warmth of his hand on her wrist distracting until the sensation of magic hit. "It feels horrible and ... familiar," she observed seconds later.

"Horrible?" A suggestion of hurt tinged his voice.

"The killer's magic, not yours. I've felt that before." She popped the last of the bread in her mouth and then ran her fingers through her hair. "That's crazy, though. I don't know anything about magic." When she met his eyes, the intensity of his stare held her.

"Where have you felt that before?" His eyes burned with a kind of desperation.

"I don't know. I really don't, Loki." She swallowed, thinking that she'd never actually said his name before.

The use of his name appeared to startle him too. He turned and stared darkly toward the road. "I've felt it before as well, but I can't remember..."

"You think you've met this person."

He drew his lips back from his teeth, like a predator scenting the air, eyes narrowed. "I think it's more a matter of a type of magic, not a particular individual."

"Frost giant magic?" she said airily.

"I don't know!" he snapped with a ferocity that rocked her back on her heels. Unbalanced, she fell onto her butt, jarring her sore hip. Leaning back on her hands, she tried to look like she meant to do that.

"But you're all about magic. How can you not know?"

"Because I can't remember--anything!" His answer came out loud, anguished and he sprang to his feet. Darcy stared up at him, unnerved; his lanky, leather-clad form menacing in the blue black darkness. A few seconds later, the sound of heavy footsteps followed and the trailer door opened.

"Darcy. Loki. Is something amiss?" asked Thor.

"Nope." She smiled breezily up from her spot on the floor. "We're just having another chat, Darcy-Loki-style."

Thor looked at his not-brother, who still stood staring out into the darkness. "Ah, very well." The door clicked shut and the murmur of Jane's voice was followed by Thor's answer, "Darcy says they are chatting. Is there more bread?"

Darcy sighed and wondered how she was going to get up. Maybe if she scooted over to the stairs and leveraged herself up on the stair rails? A few feet from the stairs, a small black shape slunk out from a cluster of sagebrush and stopped where the porch's light met the dark.

"Hi, Inkblot." The black cat had come with the property, a stray, scrawny and half wild. On seeing his condition, Jane immediately started setting out food and water. He still wouldn't let anyone come close enough to touch him, but no longer ran at the sight of Jane, Darcy, or oddly, Loki. He remained terrified of Thor. Inkblot was still feral, but at least he wasn't starving.

"Come on, Mad Science, let's go in. Ink wants his dinner." Jane always set Inkblot's bowl on a tall stool on the porch, out of reach of skunks. Loki nodded, turned and glanced down at her.

"Comfortable?" He sneered.

She sneered back. "Yes."

"Then you don't need my help."

"Definitely not."

He held out his hand. "You should leave the lies to me."

She eyed the hand warily, then took it, and groaned in pain as he pulled her to her feet. His help gifted her with too much momentum, and she had put out her hand, stopping herself from crashing into his chest. His sudden proximity set her heart racing as beneath her palm, she felt the vague beat of his heart and she was hyperaware of her hand still in his. She stared at her other hand, fair against black leather, her eyes moving up to where his collar made a "v," framing the pale hollow of his throat. Her eyes got as far as his mouth before she wrenched her gaze away. Oh, hell no, I'm not getting stupid over Loki. It took tremendous effort, because a part of her kept insisting, "Touch the pretty man," but she managed move her hand away from his chest.

He look down at her, expressionless. "Cinnamon? Really?"

"Like on apple pie," she said, trying to sound nonchalant, except her voice was pitched a little too high. Before she did or said anything she'd regret, she disengaged her hand from his and hobbled into the house.


Thor and Jane were nearing cute overload, chairs close together as they ate ice cream from the carton. Loki ignored them, plunking down in his chair to finish his dinner and read a novel, "borrowed" from Darcy's room.

Jane shook her head at Darcy who was limping to the sink. "Thor and I will take care of the dishes. Go to bed, Darcy." There was no point in attempting to get Loki's help; he'd snarl something about servants' work and never look up from the book.

If megalomaniacal urges were his heroin, then books were Loki's methadone. He devoured everything from dense scientific journals to romantic suspense (his current read, J.D. Robb's Naked in Death), showing none of the persnickety fussiness that he displayed about every thing else Midgardian. (He was a particular pain about food, picking at his meals with more meticulousness than an FDA inspector.)

Realizing she was staring at Loki, and that Jane and Thor were watching her, Darcy said "Thanks guys," and headed down the hallway.

Back in her room, she took off her glasses and set them on her dresser, her eyes going to the spot where her iPod should have been. Not again. Loki was like a magpie, picking up any shiny thing that interested him and carrying it back to his room. On her way to the bathroom, she paused before the closed door of his room, then moved on. It was a perfect time to retrieve her stolen iPod and whatever else he'd filched from her room lately, but she was too bone tired to be bothered.

Returning to her room, she found Jane sitting on her bed. Even with the faint dark half circles under her eyes, and the overall weariness that emanated from her posture, Jane was still gorgeous, something Darcy noted with the usual touch of envy. Seeing Darcy, Jane said, "I wanted to apologize."

Darcy sat and stared sadly at her shoes, which looked so far away. "For what?"


Darcy looked up and grinned. "Everything? High gas prices? World hunger? The unintelligible microphone at the fast food drive thru? Spiders?"

Jane smiled and squeezed Darcy's hand. "I mean, this..." She waved her hand around the room. "This place, SHIELD, your poor knee, Thor and Loki." With her other hand, she rubbed her brows. "Especially Loki."

"I can handle Loki."

"You're the only one." She turned and looked out at the hall. "I know I should have said no when Fury wanted to move Thor and Loki in here. It wasn't fair to you. Or Erik." She sighed. "Poor Erik."

"He's okay. He says he likes New York. No scorpions and sometimes it rains."

"I'm supposed to be the principle investigator on this project but instead I let Fury push me around."

Darcy shrugged. "I think the chocolate cyclops always gets what he wants."

"Maybe," Jane's shoulders slumped, "but I also agreed out of selfishness."

"You mean because you wanted your ripped god back? Cut yourself some slack, Jane. A lot of women would probably sell off family members for some naughty time with Thor."

"No." Jane paused as Loki wandered past, and slipped into his room. "And yes. I missed him so much. But it wasn't just that." She edged closer to Darcy and said in a low voice, "I know this is horrible, but the chance to pick Loki's brain about magic..."

Darcy nodded. When Fury had asked Jane to take on the housing and feeding of the brothers (where "asked" equaled "ordered nicely"), he sweetened the deal with the promise that Loki would cooperate and share his knowledge of magic with Jane.

"He's smart, scary smart--"

"Or just scary," noted Darcy.

"That too, but there's so much he knows, and well, I know he's using me too--"

"He's using you? How?"

Jane shot a nervous glance at the hallway. "I think Odin did something to him, to his memories, he's almost...desperate for knowledge."

Darcy bit her lower lip, remembering his outburst on the porch. "That would explain why he joneses for books. Think he's planning to make himself emperor of all of us again?"

"Thor says he isn't, but he's been wrong before."


"Do you really think he didn't kill Andy?" Jane's expression begged her to say yes.

She obliged. "Yeah." I hope so, because otherwise I'm the huge tool who just defended Andy's murderer. "It'll be okay. I promise."

Jane squeezed her hand again. "I'm sorry I dragged you into this mess. You've been a good friend."

She squeezed Jane's hand back. "It's not all that bad. I like my job and where else is a poli-sci major going to make this kind of money? I'm grossly overpaid and loving it." She gestured around her room. "Look. No college kid decor, no milk crate shelves or particle board furniture." Right after they'd moved into the trailer, Darcy had treated herself to an oak sleigh bed with a matching dresser and two nightstands. Above the bed hung three small original paintings of sunflowers that she'd picked up at a crafts fair in Santa Fe. Metal wall art, a yard sale find, composed of twisting vines and flowers, hung on the wall opposite the dresser. Her laptop computer sat on a small modular desk and bookshelf combo made of teak. A couple months before, with Thor's help (largely to move the furniture), she'd painted the bland white walls a pale, creamy yellow and applied a simple blue stencil pattern, more vines and flowers, along top of the walls. The room felt more like home than any place she'd lived in years.

"I've got a car, good credit...Crap!" Darcy gave Jane a horrified look. "I think I might be a grownup."

From the living room came the distant sound of angry birds cheering. "Three stars!" roared Thor.

"I think you may be the only one," said Jane with a weak smile.

"Wait'll he finds Plants vs. Zombies. There'll be no living with him."

"What can I do to help?" Jane pointed at Darcy's right leg.

"You could take my dinner night, tomorrow."


"And," Darcy looked mournfully at her feet, "untie my shoelaces?"

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 3 of 39

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