Continuing Tales

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 5 of 39

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Evening found the four in the living room, Loki actually present, though immersed in the last pages of The Secret Life of Bees. Darcy sat on opposite end of the couch from the grumpy god, reading Esquire magazine. Sure, it was technically a men's magazine, but as a huge fan of the gender, she figured she was definitely the publication's intended demographic. In addition to great articles and fun insight into the male mind, the magazine was chuck full of photos of gorgeous men.

Thor and Jane had commandeered the loveseat, as usual. Jane's attention was divided between a nature show on PBS and Thor, who was telling another Asgard story, probably in hopes of distracting Jane from the matter of long ago liaisons with other mortal women.

Thor's stories all followed the same narrative structure with him, Sif, The Warriors Three and Loki (and sometimes a small army) facing impossible odds and somehow prevailing in the end. Pretty much like the Battle of Thermopylae, only with the Spartans pulling a come-from-behind win in triple overtime. In this episode, Thor and company had launched an attack on a race of dark elves whose crime was having murdered some duke's mother's cousin's sister...or something. Darcy wasn't paying much attention.

At the point in the story where Loki usually help save the day with magic (and got absolutely no credit), when the unbeatable, super-high-hit-points, boss beastie arrived and started shooting lasers out its butt, Thor, Sif, and The Warriors Three were on their own, with just their shining armor, good looks and plus-50 sword skills.

"Uh, so where was Loki?" asked Darcy. The topic of the question looked up from his book, seemingly wondering the same thing.

"In Asgard." Thor looked at his brother. "Odin worried that the dark elves would use fell magic to launch a counterattack against Asgard. Loki's skills were needed at home." He shrugged. "Tis just as well. Loki has a tendency to argue for leniency against the enemy, and the dark elves needed to be crushed once and for all." He emphasized his point by pounding a fist on the chair's overstuffed arm. Something in the chair made an ominous crack and Jane sighed, probably calculating the cost of replacing more furniture.

Darcy started to point out that Loki and "leniency" weren't happy in the same zip code, much less a sentence, and then remembered that in Thor's stories, Loki often was the one who kept Thor from turning the enemies' homeland into a parking lot. Loki gave no response to Thor's comment, instead looking vaguely confused and then feigning disinterest.

At that point, the story wandered into unnecessary epilogues, with victory feasts and gloating, and Darcy went back to ogling the models in cologne and Breitling watch advertisements.

"And of course, Fandral was found soon after in the arms of an elf maiden." Thor smiled broadly in recollection. "A lovely little thing, pale by the standards of her kind, with eyes the color of a clear sky."

At this Loki stood and stalked across the room, pausing to hand the book back to Darcy and continuing out the front door into the night. Thor continued his story, accustomed to his not-brother's weird mood shifts.

Closing her hand around the book, Darcy could still feel the warmth of Loki's hand. On a stupid impulse, she set the book on the coffee table and rose painfully to her feet.

"You okay, Darcy?" asked Jane.

"Peachy. I just gotta move."

She opened the front door, not expecting to find him in sight, but rather already hiding in the nearby airplane cabin that she'd dubbed Loki's Lair.

Instead he sat on the edge of the porch, feet on the stairs, back to her. Just a few feet away, Inkblot crouched on his stool. At the sound of the opening door, the cat lifted his head, eyes mirror blue in the porch's light, and tensed, ready to flee. Seeing Darcy, he relaxed and went back to crunching daintily on his kitty kibble.

Closing the door behind her, she stopped, considering Loki for a moment. Then, resolute, she limped across the porch and eased herself down, one hand on his shoulder to steady herself. He flinched but didn't move away. Assuming that he wasn't completely revolted by her touch, she sat close and shifted her weight off her right hip, leaning against his side.

Together, they sat staring into the darkness, listening to the chirp of crickets, the distant sound of a dog barking, and the faint murmur of the neighbor's television. Little bats dove for insects in the porch's light, their shadows flittering like dark butterflies on the ground. Heat still radiated off the stairs and porch below her, but a hint of cooler air brushed her face, a suggestion of upcoming fall.

After a time her need to "expound on whatever idea flitted though her head" got the better of her. She nudged him with an elbow. "Thor's stories are really boring when you aren't in them, huh?"

"That isn't why I left."

"Uh, then why?"

"Thor shouldn't make light of rape, particularly not in front of you...or Jane. It's unseemly."

Darcy squinted through her glasses into the night, then took them off and scrubbed at a smudge on the glass with her shirt. "You mean the elf and Fandral?" She'd only met the warrior once. He was smoking hot and emitted charisma like cheap cologne, Prince Charming personified. He struck her as the kind of guy who blew kisses at his own reflection in the mirror. Totally not her type, but then again, she wouldn't necessarily kick him out of her bed.


Replacing her glasses, she said, "Really? It sounded, um, consensual."

"It was hardly a matter of 'diddling the natives,' as you'd say. Her home had been razed, all in ruin; her father, brothers dead. I doubt she cared to reward her family's killers with her body."

"But it didn't look like rape to Thor." As the words left her mouth, she realized her mistake.

"Thor is an oaf." He turned, meeting her eyes. "If all you loved had been destroyed, and you were faced such as myself, one you could never hope to resist, who demanded your attention, would you submit and bear the unbearable or would you fight?"

With his words and demeanor, he sloughed off the thin veneer of humanity, face preternaturally pale, hair pitch black. Reminded that he was much more than a cute guy in a costume, her heart rate spiked with a rush of adrenaline. Unblinking, Darcy stared back. "I'd f-fight."

He regarded her for a long moment, one eyebrow canted just a bit higher than the other. Then he nodded and turned, his profile to her. "Yet, many in that position would chose to submit, hoping to survive another day and avoid further harm."

"Yeah, but," Darcy hugged her arms around herself, feeling a shiver up her spine, "if you don't fight back, you feel even dirtier...after. I'd rather have bruises and broken bones." Her statement made him focus on her again, his expression softer, though unreadable. Something passed between them, odd understanding perhaps, and her heart continued to race, though not entirely driven by fear.

"I could never hurt you, Darcy. " He spoke the words with no inflection, as if he'd just noted that the sky was blue and water, wet. But his comment made her grow very still inside, frozen by confusion, her mind trying to parse a hidden meaning in the statement.

Occam's Razor. The obvious interpretation of "I could never hurt you" was "I could never hurt you because Thor would pound me into blood pudding with Mjölnir." That had to be it, because this was Loki, and what else could he mean?

She broke eye contact and studied the stairs, noting that the summer sun had already begun to chew up the paint. White flakes had started to peel on the corners. "What did Odin do to your brain? Why can't you remember stuff?"

Against her side, he flinched but didn't respond. The silence grew between them, filled by the nearby yipping of a coyote. Our native trickster god speaks up for the silent Asgard version. Her question had clearly triggered the return of sullen Loki.

He moved so fast that Darcy almost fell over at his sudden absence at her side. The faint hint of cinnamon touched her senses, and she realized he had teleported the short distance to the base of the stairs. With an imperious nod of his head, he said, "Come," and started toward the south side of the house.

Still sitting, she asked, "Where?"

Pausing, he looked at her and then started back in her direction. He nodded at the house. "The walls have ears." With another nod, he indicated the airplane cabin that sat on the south side of the house, under an old cottonwood tree.

"Oh." She nodded, understanding. One hand on the stair rail, she hauled herself up and waved him away. "I can do this." It wasn't that she resented his help. In fact, the one drawback to healing would be no more excuses to touch him. Darcy didn't consider herself an athlete, but she rode her bike or jogged several times a week and was used to feeling strong. Invalid didn't suit her. Unfortunately, it was an apt description, as least on stairs where her hip refused to hold her weight and she clung to the rail for support, each step an agony.

Loki dropped his chin toward his chest, and eyed her under dark brows. "You're going to hurt yourself needlessly in the service of stupid hubris."

"Says the guy who went postal on New York because of pride and hurt fee-fees."

The hard shadow of anger moved across his face, and he looked away, dragging his long fingers through black hair, pushing it back from his face. She watched his fists clench and unclench and wondered if she'd finally pushed him too far. His throat moved as he swallowed and he turned his gaze on her, grim expression replaced with a sad smile. "Then perhaps I should serve as an object lesson, no?"

She returned his smile. "Okay. Fine. But no carrying." Because that much contact was quickly becoming a habit she couldn't quit. Unfortunately, he all too adroitly made the matter worse, when at the base of the stairs, he put her arm around his waist, and his around her shoulders. As they walked toward the airplane cabin, she thought rather ruefully that she fit much too comfortably against his side.

He's not into you, and besides...supervillain.

The old airplane cabin had the dubious distinction of being the only artifact in Stark's vast collection of crapola that was useful, first as the place where Darcy stored her bike and second, as Loki's Lair of Solitude. The first use necessitated by the fact that the garden shed, her bike's previous home, was full of Tony's more fragile junk, circuit boards and other delicate electronics. Her homeless bike had moved into the back of the airplane cabin about the time his lordship of mischief claimed it as his sulk spot. For the most part, that wasn't a problem because Darcy rode in the mornings, and Loki was the antithesis of morning person. One bonus to his claim on the space was that he had cast a spell that kept out spiders and other insects. Judging by his comment, he'd swept it of the other kind of bugs as well.

In its previous life, helping ferry humans across the sky, the cabin had been the first class section, the seating sparse and with generous leg room. Loki eased her down into an aisle seat two rows from the front and she quipped, "So will this flight have meal service? A movie?"

He stared down at her, face just inches from hers, hands on the arm rests on either side. In a Midwestern American accent, he drawled, "This is economy. You're lucky to get oxygen." Just a silhouette backlit by the watered-down porch light and a new moon, his face was obscured by the dark, but her brain filled in the details, sketching the lines of his jaw, the shape of his cheeks, his high forehead.

"Loki, made a funny." She laughed nervously.

He stepped back, and turned his attention to the floor, indecision in his tall frame. Then with a wave of his hand, and a swirl of glowing green mist, something appeared in his hand. He handed it to her and before she could stop herself, she took it.

Her fingers around what felt like a stem, she turned it and the weak light caught the many petals of a rose, black, no, not black, but deepest crimson. The remnants of his magic soaked into her skin and she smelled cinnamon.

She opened her mouth, a clever retort ready, but his gesture so disarmed her that all she could say was, "Uh." Her next attempt produce an "Erm." Clamping her mouth shut, she lifted the rose to her nose and sniffed, finding that it smelled like a rose, and hoping it wasn't going to make her sprout mouse whiskers or turn her face purple.

"Thanks," she managed.

He flopped down in the seat across the aisle, long legs sprawled. With a click, the seat reclined back and she could see his pale face staring skyward. "I'm just glad the spell produced a rose," he said, "and not a scorpion."

At that Darcy laughed. "Dude. I think that's my line."

With a tilt of his head, he looked at her, innocent expression seemingly saying, "Whatever do you mean?"

"You dyed my hair purple."

"As I recall, the color suited you." He smirked. "Had it gone the way I intended, the color would have been orange."

"Orange? Are you serious?" He nodded. "Wow. I might've had to figure out a way to kill you for that." She smiled, thinking of Thor, the spell's collateral damage. "Can you imagine Thor with orange hair? Bozo the Clown God of Thunder."

Loki laughed, a genuine laugh and Darcy's breath caught in her throat. Dude, you really need to stop being so adorable. "Okay, so the hair wasn't so bad, but that coyote-lizard thing in the shower? Horrible."

"Twas just an illusion," he said with a satisfied smirk. "But you made the most delightful shriek."

"Oh, I-I--" She spluttered and scowled at him. "This is where not-crippled me marches off and gets my Taser. So, uh, just picture that: me leaving, returning with the Taser..." She studied his face. In the near darkness, it was difficult to tell, but he seemed to be leering. "And stop looking at my imaginary butt."

"That's like telling someone to look at the Grand Canyon and not admire the view."

"I'm not sure if that was a compliment or if you just said my ass was huge."

He lifted his hand, pressing his fingers to his forehead. "The books I've read have it right. Midgard's women are insane."

"Yes. Yes we are." She sniffed the rose again and felt a big silly grin taking over her face. What the hell was happening? He wasn't actually flirting with her? Had she been talking to an ordinary guy, she would've taken their banter for flirting. But even though the darkness erased the details of his black leather armor and boots, creating the impression of a pretty man in dark clothing, that voice--warm and velvety--was utterly Loki. Loki, master of all things mischief-y. He's just messing with you, Darcy.

"About your brain...did Odin break it...more?"

His hand moved, the seat reclined almost flat, and his face retreated farther into darkness. Somehow confident he would answer her question, she let him collect his thoughts and studied the rose. Even in the feeble light, it shone with a faint iridescence.

"Given what was done..." he begin, "the recollection of my punishment," the word spoken like curse, "is itself a tattered thing, a threadbare tapestry rent by claws of pain." Darcy squinted in the dark, wishing she could see his face better, but recognizing that he couldn't tell her the truth without the sheltering darkness.

His head moved and she felt his eyes on her. "Thor told you of what transpired in Odin's dungeons?" She nodded, and he continued, "And you saw the aftermath." A statement, but she nodded anyway, and a little shudder moved up her back. She had seen video of the attack on New York, watched the heartbreaking interviews of those who had lost their loved ones. When Thor hauled his bloodied, half-dead brother into the home she shared with Jane, Darcy's first emotion hadn't been pity, but grim satisfaction.

But now? She looked away, out into the cooling desert night. Lately, her mind had started to partition him into separate Lokis: the sanity-and conscience-free version that saw her kind as insects, and the weird, but attractive guy, who sometimes threatened to turn her into a bug. The dichotomy, made her dizzy.

"A more generous, or perhaps creative storyteller might say my interactions with Odin, in his dungeon, were a kind of dialogue, where he postulated the thesis that recent events--on Asgard and here on Midgard--were a vast overreaction on my part."

Bringing her fist to her mouth, she coughed and said, "HeHadaPoint."

"Mmmm." One of his boots scraped on the cabin's weathered carpet as he set a foot flat on its surface. A second later, his heel began to tap lightly. Darcy grinned at the nervous human affectation. "I argued that my reactions, after lifetime of slights and recent revelations regarding my parentage, while cast in a measure of hyperbole, were hardly...unreasonable."

Darcy considered pointing out that "unreasonable" was throwing a hissy fit at Macy's customer service counter when that bitch of a saleslady won't refund your money on a pair of shoes that had only been worn once (or twice, or thrice, who's keeping count?). Inviting several thousand of your best alien buddies and their pet whale dragons to a major metropolitan area was a tad more than unreasonable. But Loki seemed in the midst of something that could be mistaken for honesty, so instead she said, "I don't think you won that argument."

"No, though I refused to concede his point." Lifting his hand to his face, he waved it in front of his left eye. With a frustrated sigh, he dropped his hand. "Odin's last salvo, before Thor's ill-conceived rescue, was the extraction of all my memories of things positive. The good, the happy, all recollection of success, pleasure, any of the points of pride in my life."

Darcy felt her jaw drop toward her chest. "Crap! You mean he took your memories of nice things? How is that not supposed to make you...crazier?"

"He said, 'Stupid, boy. You seize each slight, real or imagined, and take it deep within the angry hearth of your heart, to forge yet another aspect of the armor that shields you from the beauty, the love that surrounds you. If it's the bleak, the miserable, that you crave, then that's what you shall have.'"

"That's horrible."

Light moved on dark leather as he shrugged, but even in the dim light she could tell the gesture was forced. "It's an imperfect process, the amputation of memories. The good and bad, dark and light, are often inextricably bound. To excise the dark, he was forced to leave some light, some good left so as to retain the bad. The result an incomplete history of misery, punctuated by tantalizing fragments of hope."

Darcy blinked, an upwelling of hurt moving in her chest. For someone who did her best to live in the now, walling away any unhappy memories of the past, the thought of being trapped in her head with nothing but the ugly, struck a painful chord. Looking away, she surreptitiously wiped away the beginning of tears. Talk, Darcy. Do what you do best, before you start blubbering like a fool. "And for Loki, 'success' plus ' happiness' equals 'magic.' Right?"

"The truth, expressed in an equation. I think I may be in love," he said dryly. "And therein lies the genius of Odin's spellwork. He left me bereft of not only the happy things in life, but the very element that defines me."

She turned to him, hoping the darkness hid any signs of tears. "But you have done magic." Even though Thor's deal with SHIELD technically prohibited any magic. "My hair, laundry, the thing in the shower, this rose, the snakes in my closet."

"Ah, the snakes, another failure." It turned out Darcy wasn't afraid of snakes, and besides, they glowed prettily. "Inconsequential magic, stupid cantrips and feeble illusions." His tone was light, but his knuckles white as he clenched his fists on the armrest.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be." He moved the seat upright and then pulled down the tray before him, moving it up and down, taking an odd interest in its workings. "It wasn't your doing."

Covering her mouth to hide her smile, Darcy thought, Loki in honesty-mode is a total spazz. "You've learned a lot, working with Jane. That helps, doesn't it?"

"No." He shoved the tray down so hard it squeaked. Setting his elbows on the tray, he clenched one hand over the other, knuckles again white. "With mathematics and magic, there are often multiple solutions to the same problem, correct?"


Loki turned, looking at her, green eyes black in the poor light. "Some solutions are much more elegant, and in the case of magic, more efficient, requiring significantly less resources." He fell silent and Darcy realized he was waiting for her to figure something out.

She ran her tongue over her teeth, uncomfortable, feeling he was giving her way too much credit. Math. Magic. Darcy. Riiight. Then it came to her. "There are better ways to do magic. That use less, uh, You're running like a HUMVEE, when you used to be a speedy, efficient sportster."

"A distressingly apt analogy. I'm using magic as I did as a child, clumsy and tiring." His foot was tapping again, and Darcy decided that was Loki's tell, the clue that he was telling the truth. "The discovery of more efficient pathways to magic is a time-consuming process."

"Does Thor know?"

"Unfortunately, yes. He's thick as a plank, but he's known me far too long not to notice my...lapses."

In the rare position of having nothing to say, Darcy went back to her contemplation of the rose--if it really was a rose--and wondering what creepy thing it might morph into. A tight knot that wasn't her embarrassing crush on Loki, grew in her stomach. Well, that was still there too, but with a little reflection, she knew that his admission just now, had some significance. By herself, she, Darcy Lewis, totally ordinary mortal whose only superpower was snark, posed no threat to him, even in his weakened state. Knowledge is power. By telling her about his diminished magical abilities, he'd given her a form of power over him.

Or, maybe she was reading too much into the matter. Like everyone else, he probably didn't take her seriously enough to see her as a threat.

When she look his way, she found him watching her. "Um, I've got a long day tomorrow as Database Queen of the Fish Bowl," she said. He nodded and moved to help her and they went back in the house.


Thor and Jane had already disappeared, the former probably to face a grilling from the latter. Darcy felt a little twinge of relief at this, since Loki still had an arm around her when they walked into the house. He released her and she said, "Thanks again for the rose."

He nodded, said, "Goodnight," and turned for his room. To keep herself from watching him (and checking out his ass) she made for the kitchen. There, she started opening cabinets, searching.

There were no vases in the cabinets, so she used one of Thor's drinking glasses, from a set that Jane had bought him. They were tall and made of thick glass. The words Arrogant Bastard Ale were printed in red on the glass along with the image of a gargoyle hefting a beer stein.

Just as she was setting the rose in water, Thor wandered into the kitchen, his jeans and plaid shirt swapped for sweats and a fitted T-shirt. He started for the fridge but then came to an almost cartoon-like screeching halt, his attention on what she held in her hand.

She gave him an apologetic grin. "Sorry. We don't have a vase."

But Thor's attention wasn't on the glass, but the flower. "Where did you get that rose?"

"Loki gave it to me."

"Loki?" He spoke the name as though he'd never heard it before.

"Loh-kee," she pronounced slowly. "Your brother? Black hair, green eyes, about 6'3"? The brains to your brawn? Last seen leading an alien army against you and the Avengers?"

"Aye. That Loki, I've met." He smiled, blue eyes on the rose. "The one that gives Frigga's roses to mortals? We aren't acquainted."

"Whose roses?"

"Frigga. My mother." He moved to stand before her and closed his thumb and forefinger on the stem. "This is from the palace garden, Frigga's creation." Turning the rose, he pointed at three exterior petals that stuck out an angle, breaking the flower's otherwise flawless shape. "These petals are the variety's unique trait. She says they are to remind us that even the gods aren't perfect."

"Wow. An Asgard rose." Darcy gave the beer glass a sad smile. "It really does deserve a nice vase."

Thor smiled and brushed his big fingers over the petals. "Tis rather remarkable. I wonder if he could conjure one for me for Jane."

Darcy laughed. "Well, we're assuming it's really a rose. It may be a trick. By morning it will have turned into a giant moth, eaten all my clothes and pooped on the carpet."

Back in her room, she set the rose on the nightstand closest to the window. As she fell asleep, the last image in her mind was of it in the faint moonlight, tiny specks of light glittering like pixie dust on the petals.

A Morbid Taste for Ice

A Marvel Movieverse Story
by sitehound

Part 5 of 39

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