Continuing Tales

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 36 of 39

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The turquoise blue sky, framed by jagged teeth of destroyed plywood on the opposite wall, blazed and Darcy's eyes watered in the sudden brightness. Against the glare, a lone slender figure was silhouetted against the classic western U.S. landscape. The figure's outline was broken by many long protrusions, like quills on a porcupine. As she watched, the figure wobbled and then sank to his knees.

Sean? He'd been closer before hadn't he? Her thoughts moved slowly, as though slogging though something viscous and tar-like. Sean now crouched near the gaping hole in the wall. Explosion. Right. He'd been in the line of fire, just the same as her. Explosion. That must have been why she couldn't hear anything.

The silence was stunning, a complete absence of sound, not just the din from the chaos in the barn but everything, road noise, the drone of planes flying above, dogs barking, wind in the sagebrush - all sound was gone. Her knees wavered, and she shifted her feet apart, feeling a tug of something at her side. All around her, bits of rebar were scattered in a half circle.

A perfect half circle. Around the back and side of her.

She lifted her head, her brain making horrible sense of what she had seen seconds before. Sean was on his hands and knees by the destroyed wall, watching her with those beautiful cornflower blue eyes. She met his gaze and shuddered as realization and pain, emotional and physical, hit her.

She remembered this silence. She had experienced it once before on the night when Edwards's repair shop had exploded. If she closed her eyes, which was something she inexplicably wanted to do now, she could still remember the oily stink of asphalt, the flash of debris tearing past Sean and her through the warm summer air, and the complete silence. At the time, she figured it had been because the blast had deafened her.

Before she and Sean had fallen to the road, he had said something unintelligible, almost like gibberish. She'd dismissed it as a function of the moment, but now the memory sharpened, focus tightened by the supernatural silence around her and she remembered words spoken in a strange language, and the sizzle of magic as he fell against her back.

Their eyes met across the barn and her heart clenched in shock. He'd saved her life that night, shielding her with magic from the power of the blast and debris. Sean blinked, his left hand slid out from under him and he nearly did a face plant on the barn's hard floor. Outside the protective bubble of magic, Darcy could sense people moving, but their motion seemed languid, as if time had slowed. Or maybe it was just a side effect of the shock at what had just happened.

At her side, the weird pull began to feel more like pressure and she wavered, eyes on Sean. Even without her glasses, she could see why his hand had slipped. He had been impaled, multiple times by the lethal sideways rain of iron rebar. A crimson pool sat on the barn's oily concrete surface. His left shoulder was a bloody mess of splintered white bone and red flesh. There wasn't a spot on him that wasn't a shade of blood red.

Not immune to that much iron, are you? she thought nastily, and then, despite everything that he'd done, she felt ashamed of her thoughts.

The pressure at her side began to morph into a dull pain and she took a breath, the first in how long? Not long, she thought, as her mind put together the pieces. The backlash from the failed portal spell, broken by her, must have been equivalent to the shockwave from the explosion at Edwards's shop. Darcy was no scientist or a wizard, but she knew it must have taken a lot of power to hold back that kind of energy. That night they had been close together and Sean easily protected them both from the blast.

But this time...

Sean's gaze moved down her body, stopping on her lower torso, expression suddenly defeated. He met her stare again, and for second, grief and regret took over his face. His eyes dulled and he fell to the floor.

Pain, hot and agonizing, crystallized on her right side and she followed Sean's gaze. On the T-shirt's gray fabric, a large red stain had bloomed like a rose. At the top of the stain, a slate gray section of rebar protruded from ripped cotton. A stream of blood ran down her leg and was dammed by her sock. In the distance a voice called her name, the tone sort of panicked, which made no sense, because that voice didn't do panic.

"Ow," she said, breathless, eyes watering from the pain. Her legs turned rubbery and she crumpled toward the ground. She must have made a feeble attempt to stop her fall, but her face still hit the ground hard, the impact rattling through her brain.

This time, she thought, Sean had to make a choice. He chose me. He tried to save me...


This was wrong, he thought. There should not be voices, because he was beyond the veil, beyond the point where the five senses worked. He, or the remains of himself, was coming apart like smoke in a stiff wind, becoming smaller and smaller particles that separated and began to disperse in an infinity of different directions, to spread across the Nine Realms and beyond.

But the voices reached him somehow, a man and woman, arguing. Bits of him that had once been a child tried to reach the speakers, knowing he was the source of their conflict and distressed by the fact.

Not for me. His protestation awoke a memory in a much older Loki: the anguished face of a pretty young woman, blue eyes red with tears, colorful lowlights in her brown hair turning a deep, mournful blue.

Not for me.

The arguing continued, and this older Loki sneered, wondering why she bothered, why she still called him "son." She, more than anyone, should have been glad to finally rid herself of the need to bestow kindness on a monster.

Nevertheless, the woman's voice rose, impassioned, angry, determined, and if he had lungs, he would have sighed. If he had a mouth, he would have said, "Enough, let it be. I'm tired."

But she forged on, and one snippet of the conversation reached whatever senses he had left. "He yet has work to do," she argued. Loki agreed.

He really needed to kill an elf.


The return to his fleshy remains was more excruciating than his exit, disparate pieces of himself, many quite happy to be free to wander the universes, shoved rudely back into a bloodied, bruised and painful body. He groaned at the painful return of senses, sound too loud, touch sharp as knives, the cloying taste of blood on his tongue, lungs burning with the stench of magic and fresh-cut lumber, and eyes watering from the burn of the feeble fey light.

He had pulled himself together as quickly as possible, though even now, there was little of himself to speak of, including his magic. Studying the power structure behind the elf's construct, his first plan had been to simply let the elf take Jane, Thor and Darcy to whatever destination he had planned. Loki would then follow soon after, because, even if the elf hadn't stolen his Darcy, Loki was still chained to Odin's moronic son. He had been given a reprieve, but the damned spell still controlled his destiny.

The key to his freedom sat on a nightstand back in the appalling structure that he'd been forced to call home for the past several months. And he quickly spotted, woven into the room-sized battery's magical current, a self-destruct spell that would be triggered by the portal's use. Consequently, however he analyzed the situation, all possible solutions led to the elf's demise. He needed the elf's portal, but he required more time. Time to return "home" and finish the tool that would break the bound between him and Thor; time to return here and adjust the portal to suit his purposes.

Time, he acknowledged grudgingly, to convince a certain impudent mortal woman to accompany him.

He didn't witness Sean's near strangulation of his "pet," but he felt it, the tingling awareness of her panic. And when he entered the next room, what the elf had done was written on Darcy's neck in red bruises. He decided then that while he agreed with the elf's sentiments regarding Odin and Thor, what honor he still owned would not let the attack on his companion stand unanswered.

When he had cast the illusion of circular razors about Thor's neck, he had been sorely tempted to truly copy the elf's work and be done with the oaf. Unfortunately, Darcy would have never forgiven him for killing the fool, any more than she would tolerate harm coming to Jane.

Complications, yes, but Loki thrived on complications.

Cast in a role that carried the embarrassing taint of hero, however, he felt somewhat out of his element, and even a few simple illusions left him drained and feeble. Which is why he didn't anticipate Darcy's misguided and dangerous attempt to thwart the elf's plan.

Now, in the seconds after the explosion, he stared dumbly across the room at Darcy, who stood just a few paces from the destroyed portal, whole and alive. Seeing the rivulet of red running down her leg, at first he had thought her monthly blood had come upon her unexpected and with great fervor. This thought was quickly negated by the spreading continent of crimson on the pale gray fabric of her shirt.

He spoke her name, breathless, unheard.


Turning he found Thor staring at him expectantly, and more than a little worried. If Darcy's wound wasn't etched into his vision, he would have laughed. Instead, he said, irritably, "Leave off, fool, twas an illusion, nothing more." It took him two tries, but the illusion around Thor's neck finally obeyed its creator and dissipated. He turned back to Darcy, as Thor hurried to Jane's side.

Emotions, changeable, evanescent, swirled through him, but two reigned over all others. First, indignant fury that anyone would hurt her, Darcy Lewis, friend to Loki of Asgard and therefore one who should be inviolate to harm from all. And then the familiar resentment that her plight so moved him, that the red tide of her life should leave him with this sick-making sensation in his belly.

Resentment ruled for an instant, rooting him to the concrete, as he balked like a mule at his heart's prodding. The girl's injury will not move me, she is nothing, he insisted to himself, even as one foot shifted ahead of the other, then the next.

"Loki." Thor again.

"What?" he snapped, pausing.

"Is the elf truly dead?" Thor stared across the room at Sean's unmoving form. The reason for his concern being the magical razors that still encircled Jane's neck, wrists and thighs.

"Yes. It's merely residual magic." Scowling at Thor, because the oaf made such a pleasing target for ire, he said, "Use Mjölnir."

Thor blinked, a mixture of confusion and dawning irritation on his face. The dolt thinks I jest. "The binding can be undone with small jolts of lightning." It occurred to Loki that he should caution the fool against electrocuting the woman, but frankly, he didn't much care. Without elaborating further, he hurried toward Darcy, speaking her name louder and grimacing at the anxious edge in his voice. She fell before he reached her.

The short trip across the barn devoured his remaining strength and he sank heavily onto the hard ground where she lay. Around her, the air still felt thin, although the elf's protective spell has dissipated. She sprawled mostly on her left side, the vast stain on her lower torso visible. Her little pet pawed anxiously at her hand. Loki glared at the creature, his hand fisted, the temptation to flatten the beast strong. Unaware of its impending doom, the determined reptile scratched more energetically on Darcy's hand. He lifted his hand over Bic, knuckles white. Muscles in his arm tensed and then relaxed with his exasperated sigh. "Away," he muttered, and waved the beast off with his hand.

He eased Darcy carefully onto her back, her head in his lap, finding the cause of her injury. A short length of steel rebar, protruded from the wound. "Darcy," he said, relieved when her eyelids fluttered open.

Lines tightened above her brow and her blue eyes shone with pain. "Fuck, it hurts so much." She shuddered and her eyes closed again. His hands went to the wound at her side, his brain sorting through tattered memories, trying to remember anything about treating lethal wounds in mortals.You don't, a voice observed coolly. They die, end of story, move along.

"Thor," he rasped, "here, now."

He touched her face, pushing aside errand locks of hair, and smearing her own blood on her cheek in the process. Bruises already swelled to reddish hills on her cheek and chin. "Darcy, look at me," he said with all the command of a Prince of Asgard. "Now."

The ploy worked. When she opened her eyes, he saw the usual stubborn insolence. But then she spoke and her words filled him with cold dread. "It's okay. Doesn't hurt anymore."

When her eyes shut this time, he grasped her face with both hands, shaking gently. "Do not close your eyes. Darcy!" She didn't respond and when his gaze moved to her lowlights, a hollow pit of dread ripped open in his stomach. Even when she slept, the strands were a lively riot of purple, green and blue.

Now, however, they were fading, turning a dark, sickly gray before his eyes.

"No," he growled. "You will not do this." Fingers on her throat, he felt her heartbeat, the pulse thready and limpid. "There is still so much we must do. The places I will take you. The things you will see. Do not go where I cannot follow."

Hearing himself, he fisted a handful of fabric at her sleeve to keep from shaking her hard and venting his frustration at this intolerable situation. Intolerable because this insignificant mortal's life should not carry such worth. Intolerable because it did.

Against all logic, he had let her slip through his defenses, allowed her to began to feed a need. What lay between them was more than sexual, of that he was certain. In a few years, the novelty of skin on skin would fade, but what remained promised to be deeper. In this belligerent mortal lived the potential for an anachronism to a singular creature like Loki--friendship. The kind of bond that Thor shared with the Warriors Three and Sif.

And in that bond, with her at his side, he felt a reaffirmation of his sense of self. Neither Odinson nor Laufeyson, but rather simply Loki. And in that new identity, came a rekindling of hope. He had resisted its power, but hope infected his system, the vector, this insufferable mortal. This dying mortal.

"Darcy." Loki whispered her name again. "Open your eyes, you stupid girl." He leveled the insult, words he promised never to say to her, as a desperate weapon, but to no avail, mortality clear in the slowing beat of a heart. And with every heartbeat, she grew weaker, the promise of companionship in a small warm body washing away in a flood of blood, a bright presence to become just more meat.

"Thor," he said again, this time hearing the heavy sound of the prince's footfalls, shadowed by Jane's lighter, but faster tread.

"Darcy?" called Jane. Seconds later, she dropped to her knees, a hand reaching for one of Darcy's. "Loki, is she-?"

"She lives," he said, the woman's obvious distress and fondness for Darcy firing an odd sense of warmth in him toward her. He started to set his hand near the wound, but paused, uncertain what to do. Once, his brain carried basic healing spells, enough to keep another Aesir alive long enough to reach Asgard's more skilled healers. Now, that knowledge was lost to him, and worthless on one such as Darcy, anyway. He set his hand gently on the soaked T-shirt fabric, just as Thor crouched beside Jane.

Darcy's hot blood coated his fingers, ruby and thick. He looked up at Thor and said, stupidly, "She bleeds."

"You can help her, right?" said Jane, her attention moving back and forth between the two men.

With a wary look at Loki, Thor extended his arm, laying a hand near his brother's on Darcy's torso. "I may be able to slow the bleeding, but she is mortal. To do more, would be the end of her."

"I don't understand," said Jane.

"Mortal physiology responds badly to all but the simplest healing spells," Loki explained. "Magical healing triggers..." he paused, searching for the Midgardian words, "uncontrolled cell growth, like a cancer. Only Asgard's skilled healers have the means to circumvent mortal weakness..."

Loki met Thor's eyes, seeing the same thought go through the man's head. It was strange, how in this most unlikely moment, he thought of Odin, wondered if it were still possible to use the portal to return to Asgard and beg the All-Father's aid in saving Darcy.

Thor looked down, focusing his concentration on Darcy's injury, and Loki knew he had come to the same conclusion. Even if the portal were functioning and they could take Darcy to Asgard, Odin would be likely to forbid her healing, not only as a means of punishing Loki, but because even now he would insist that no mortal was an acceptable mate for a prince of Asgard.

"Then we need to get her to a hospital. Now!" said Jane. "Her car is outside, right?"

"No," said Loki, an idea forming in his head. "Take her to SHIELD's facility. Their physicians are superior, particularly with wounds such as this one."

"But the local hospital is closer," insisted Jane.

"No," said Loki, meeting Thor's blue eyes, "it isn't."

Understanding, Thor nodded and with another cautious look at his brother, reached both his hands out, and Loki helped ease Darcy into his arms. "I can carry you both," said Thor to Loki as his stood.

"You cannot," said Loki. "Not if you carry her with the degree of care required."

"But Odin's spell still binds us, does it not?"

So the space between the dolt's ears holds more than air. Loki gave Thor a halfhearted smirk. "It does," he admitted. "Take her, now."

Thor's knees bent as he started to kneel. "Then you can put your arms about my neck, and I can carry you on my back."

"No!" Neck muscles shuddering with the effort, he lifted his gaze to meet Thor's eyes. "I don't have the strength."


"Thor," interrupted Jane, "Darcy's dying."

Thor turned his gaze on the mortal in his arms, then to Jane and Loki. Torment filled his eyes.

Loki spoke again, as forceful as possible, hiding his weakness in the timbre of his voice. "You will take her alone, now. I survived your leaving once, I will survive it again."

"It'll be okay, Thor," said Jane. Turning to Loki, she put a hand on his arm, blinking as she realized that she'd touched him. Her throat jerked as she swallowed nervously and said, "We'll follow in Darcy's car."

Still Thor didn't move, emotions storming in his blue eyes. Taking a deep breath, Loki threw his last weapon at Thor. "If you wish me to ever call you brother again, you will do this."


Thor felt a good measure of shame at his indecision. It wasn't that he didn't value Darcy's life, because he did. Although he would never admit it to Jane, most mortals were mere abstractions to him, much as they were to Loki. Of course, Thor's recent dealings with mortals had been more benevolent than his brother's. Nevertheless, Thor held few of Midgard's citizenry in the same regard as even the lowliest Aesir.

Darcy was one of the few, along with Jane, the Avengers and a smattering of others, who had risen in his mind to person of real value, on par with another Asgardian.

Her elevation to friend, however, had not been immediate. Initially, he had dismissed her as a empty-headed girl, given to excessive chatter and too brash. Polite for Jane's sake, he paid Darcy little mind, and assumed that his brother would share his assessment of the girl. Actually, he worried that his brother, given his intolerant state of mind, might take an instant dislike to her and commit some act of cruelty.

Loki may have been broken and half-mad, but he remained clever and he saw through Darcy's chattering artifice quickly. Thor had watched as Loki not only tolerated her crass mannerisms, but began favor her presence, even shadow her footsteps in a manner that, had he been any other personage, would be interpreted as vaguely protective.

In light of his brother's interest, Thor began to genuinely converse with the girl, finding beneath the guise of silly child, a bright and startlingly astute mind. Even though her speech was cluttered with confusing Midgardian references, philosophical aspects of their conversations--like the notion that history was written by the victor--stayed with him.

And Jane, for all her frequent exasperation with her assistant, was quick to defend her from slights. When Thor called Darcy "silly," Jane had disagreed. "No, she's not. It's just an act. You shouldn't underestimate her."

"If you wish me to ever call you brother again, you will do this," said Loki, and Thor's mind seized, frozen by the choice between his brother and the young mortal who lay limp and light as a feather in his arms.

As he studied Loki's familiar face, an unpleasant thought came to mind. Perhaps this was some new treachery. Perhaps Loki's words to the elf regarding Odin's spell had been the truth. I leave him again, and he flees Midgard, with Jane as his hostagePerhaps this has been his plan all along.

The shadow of this dark possibility was lightened by a memory. His mind replayed the time he'd barged into Loki's room, set to share a thought of great import (or not so important, as now, he could not remember what it had been), and found Darcy in Loki's company. Most notably, Darcy at Loki's side and his brother at ease with her intrusion.

He had studied them, the two merry conspirators, grinning over the carton of ice cream, absorbed in a conversation of magic and little bits of mortal technology, and felt a peculiar emotion. Jealousy. Not directed at Loki, but at Darcy.

In that instant, he knew that the person sitting next to Loki wasn't just a mortal doxy. If Loki's words at that time were to be trusted, a fair stretch of credulity to be sure, they'd done no more than share a few kisses. Yet his secretive, solitary brother was allowing her into his private space with no motivation beyond the chance to share company.

She was his friend.

In Asgard, even Loki had associations outside of family: lovers, even friends, although all were likely motivated by the benefits of a relationship with a prince. All relationships for a prince, even for Thor, were wrapped in complicating layers of decorum and politics. Simple friendship, absent the trappings of courtly machinations, was an unknown quantity to both brothers. In truth, the ease of friendship may have been the best thing about life in exile on Midgard.

Thor, nonetheless, had true and trusted boon companions. And Loki had only Thor.

This wasn't the first time Thor had blundered into Loki's room to find him lost in some bit of arcana, his little brother's constant companion. But this time, his sibling wasn't alone, and Thor felt the strange sting of exclusion, as he, the intruder, stood in the threshold, Darcy and Loki grinning at him. Seeing him, Loki's smile faded, but Thor could see the shift in his posture as he leaned slightly toward Darcy, as if finding refuge in her presence.

Shameful jealousy rose like a hungry ghost in his belly. Seeing her wedged too comfortable at Loki's side, Thor knew that she was the key to getting his brother back, and yet, in the course he might lose some of Loki to her.

Only seconds had passed with Thor lost in his thoughts, but each valuable to the mortally wounded woman he carried. Do I hesitate out of jealousy? wondered Thor. Jane's gaze, fortified by her love for her friend, and disinterest in Loki's fate, prodded him hard.

Darcy shivered, a flutter against his chest. Loki's eyes caught his with a brilliance that did little to hide the weakness writ on his winter white face, mottled with bruises and blood, hollow eyes and skin drawn tight over cheekbones. Thor looked down at Darcy, and gently tightened his grip on her. Jane was right. Darcy did deserve better than his treacherous brother. But she stood no chance for better or worse unless she lived through this day.

He shifted his grip on her so that most of her weight--insubstantial to him--was carried by his right arm, wounded side away from him to minimize the possibility of starting the bleeding again. A few strides, stepping over the damned elf's corpse, took him to the opening ripped by the explosion in the building's side. Mjölnir began to spin in his left hand, ruffling Darcy's hair and his. His right was his dominant arm, but he could use the left, if necessary.

Loki remained seated on the concrete, back to Thor, but head turned enough to watch Thor's departure from the corner of his eye. Jane nodded briefly at Thor and then turned to Loki. Still feeling a nip of guilt at leaving her with Loki, Thor leaped lightly skyward and made for SHIELD's facility.


Approaching the facility, Thor noted that the herds of milling cattle were greatly improved by this approach, at least as much as the stench of piss and shit confined itself to horizontal dispersal and didn't reach the heights that Thor and Darcy traversed.

When he landed on the concrete walkway before the ugly ranch home's front door, the guards were already arrayed in defensive formation, guns pointing at him. "Are you blind?" Thor growled loudly, "it is I, Thor of Asgard." But the guards, unnerved by his airborne arrival, kept their weapons trained on him.

He took a step forward and one guard, a young male with brutally short blond hair, snapped, "Stop right there!"

With a pointed glance down at Darcy, Thor responded, "This is Darcy Lewis, one of your own. She needs a healer, immediately!"

"How do we know this isn't one of Loki's tricks?" returned the guard and several others nodded.

Thor narrowed his eyes and swung Mjölnir once, letting the wooden haft snap into his hand. If the fools would not listen, he would force his way into the building. In his arms, Darcy shivered, her tremors now almost nonstop. "It will be well, little sister," he said softly to her, pressing her as close to the heat of his chest as he dared. Drawing a breath, he began to gather the electric power of lightning. Despite his professed fondness for mortals, he had no qualms about plowing through a few to get into the building. He was certain Jane would understand.

"What are you morons doing!" said a female voice and Thor paused. A woman had emerged from the building. Dressed in blue jeans and a plain red shirt, "civvies" as the mortals said, she was taller than many of the men, pale blond hair tied in a queue. Ice blue eyes on Thor, she pushed past her colleagues and asked the obvious question. "What happened to her?" Though the guards' weapons were now also pointed on her, the woman marched up to Thor.

"Injured, by the one who killed your guards," said Thor, to make it clear that Loki wasn't the guilty party.

Without hesitation, the woman spun on a heel and gestured for him to follow.

"What the hell are you doing, Pam?" snarled the male guard.

"Grow a pair, Williams," she snapped, "and get out of our way." She stopped before another guard, a heavily muscled, olive-skinned man. "Give me your radio." Yanking the thing from his belt before he could agree, she continued on, speaking into the device. "This is Pam Johnson. We need a med team and gurney at the ranch level, now! Thor's here with Ms. Lewis and she's hurt bad. No, this isn't a joke. You going to be one to tell Director Fury one of his assets died because you were spanking your meat instead of doing your job? A medic, now!"

Thor smiled, the woman reminding him of a somewhat coarser, but equally ferocious Sif. Thrown by Pam's commanding presence, the other guards parted at his approach, weapons still on him, but with less enthusiasm.

"We're heading for the elevator," Pam informed the person on the radio. She opened and held the door while Thor entered the building.

The security scanners shrieked, the sound throbbing in Thor's ears as they passed through the entryway. "She's got piece of rebar in her side," Pam said to the guard at that post, who nervously waved a wand scanner over Thor and Darcy, the device chirping enthusiastically both at the rebar and Mjölnir, which Thor usually didn't bring into the building.

Following Pam to the elevator door, Thor then waited for the medic team to arrive. The guard with the wand scanner hovered nervously around them, as his fellow guards also milled about, glaring at Thor and Pam.

Darcy's shivering vibrated up and down his arms. Pam reached out and found Darcy's hand. "Hang in there, kid." Turning to the elevator door, she muttered, "Come on, come on, come on."

The med team arrived in flurry of persons in white garb and several more guards. With brisk efficiency, they took Darcy from him, and placed her on the cot on wheels, the "gurney," Thor presumed, and moved her into the elevator, already beginning to work. But even as the doors winked shut like vertical eyelids, he heard their cool voices rising in alarm, a clear indication that something was going wrong. Thor stared at the closed doors, wondering if he should have followed, learned her fate for Loki's sake, for Jane's. For his own.

From behind him, he heard a female voice, not Pam's, grumble, "I knew that bastard would get her killed. Shame. She's a nice girl."

Angry, Thor rounded on the speaker, recognizing the woman who had served as guard on their floor as of late. "This is my doing." His deep voice boomed throughout the room. "MINE! Not Loki's!" The enormity of the situation, that he, not Loki, had been the locus of the elf's ire struck him, muddying his thoughts like too much mead. In his hand, Mjölnir sizzled.

Around him, the black clad guards stared in wide-eyed confusion, a few lifting their weapons again. Feeling a hand on his arm, he turned, meeting Pam's blue eyes. "She will live," he said, the statement living somewhere between question and statement.

"I hope so," replied Pam.

"I must go," he said, the strength gone from his voice. "Loki and I have been apart too long." He strode from the building, vaguely aware that the guards scattered like hens before him, something in his mien forestalling any stupid heroics.


Thor spotted the blue car a few miles from the facility, on a lonely stretch of road. He landed well ahead on the roadway, giving Jane ample time to slow and halt the vehicle. Tires squeak-hissed on black pavement as she stopped the vehicle a bit too roughly. She threw open the door, leaped out and ran to him.


"She is in capable hands," Thor answered, collecting Jane into his arms, grateful to feel her small body, alive and unharmed against his. He kept his concerns, the image of the healer's worried faces, to himself.

Loosening his hold on Jane, he directed her back to the vehicle, just a few paces away. "Loki?"

"He's...I don't know." Jane face picked up a slight sharpness, an expression that frequented her face whenever the topic of Loki arose, the result of her usually kind nature warring with her loathing for his brother.

Squeezing her shoulder gently in comfort, he made for the vehicle. He grasped the door handle and tugged it too hard, little bits of metal bending in his grip. Like stardust, glittering bits of glass cascaded from the vehicle's interior onto the dark road, and Thor shrugged. Given the damage his brother's torments had already wrought on the machine, the twisted handle hardly mattered.

Loki was slumped in the seat in an indolent, loose-limbed manner that tugged at Thor with its familiarity. With his eyes closed, head leaned against the headrest, he appeared to have been caught in the midst of an inopportune nap. Pausing for a moment to observe Loki in this unguarded state (or so he assumed--with Loki, it may well have been an act), Thor searched his face as if it might contain insight into why things had gone so terribly wrong between them. But unconscious Loki was no more forthcoming than the conscious version.

Leaning in, one knee on the edge of the seat, Thor took Loki's face in his hands. "Awake. You have not earned such an easy exit, brother." Between his palms, Loki's pale skin bore the cold stillness of death, the very same as it had in the barn. Perhaps, Thor thought grimly, this was his planhis true escape.

Giving his face a light slap, Thor growled, "Enough, Loki. Awake." He struck a bit harder, the action not eliciting even the slightest twitch. "Is this one of your illusions? Tis a fine one. But Darcy awaits." Thor drew back his hands, the left tacky with fresh blood that sheeted the right side of Loki's face. In the bright light of day, the blood was more purple than red and the splatters on Loki's clothes and surroundings closer to blue. Oddly, it was the amount, not the color that troubled Thor. Too much, even for an immortal.

With one obvious exception the majority of his injuries were head wounds. "Loki, your hand." The fingers on Loki's left hand were twisted at odd angles, white knuckle bones poking opportunistically through torn, bloodied skin.

"I think he was trying to stay conscious," said Jane. She sat down in the driver's seat, and pointed at the dashboard, just above the radio, where a fist-sized hole in shattered plastic revealed the wires and workings of the vehicle.

Out of habit, Thor rubbed his chin, before realizing that he smeared his brother's blood into his beard. He sighed, studying this too-still version of Loki. Blood in various stages of drying, had spiked sections of his black hair, accentuating the ragged ends, the legacy of Thor's ill-advised attempt at cutting hair. Not for the first time, Thor wondered why normally vain Loki hadn't corrected the matter. Especially since Darcy had taken an instant delight in teasing him about his ill-kept hair.

Seeing Jane gingerly lift Loki's broken hand, he dropped his gaze to watch her pick at something between the webbing of his middle and forefinger. A fragment of blue plastic.

Jane, blinked, her eyes tracking from Loki's hand to Thor's face, clearly surprised by her own actions. "I-I'm sorry. I still hate him." Her throat rose and fell as she swallowed. "But," she picked another shard from his flesh, "when he looked at Darcy, there was something...not Loki, I felt sorry for him. I almost liked him. I think I saw the person you remember."

Thor nodded, but didn't voice his thoughts. The person revealed on Loki's face by Darcy's injury was no one he had ever known. Thor had yet to decide if this was a good or a bad thing.

He put his hands on Loki's shoulders and shook. "Come back, brother. No more games." Loki's body responded with an unnatural bonelessness. "You said you'd survive my leaving. Was that another lie?" If silence had a sound, Loki's eerie stillness was a symphony, underscored by the vastness of the desert landscape, gray green sagebrush under an azure sky. Jane broke the quiet with a small sigh, her head bowed as she gently set Loki's hand down on his thigh.

Thor tightened his grip, feeling his brother's slight frame beneath heavy fabric and leather. He was still too thin. The memory of their night out in Santa Fe came to him, of Loki sharing a meal with Darcy, eating more than his fair share of the meat and vegetables on the plate.

"Loki, the healers assured me that Darcy will survive," he lied, trying one last ploy. "You know how much she detests being beneath ground for any length of time. When she awakens, she will be frightened, alone. You must be there for her."

The only answer was the hissing whistle of the dry desert breeze through the sagebrush.

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 36 of 39

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