"Te amo como se aman ciertas cosa oscuras, secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma. (I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.)" -Sonet XVII, Pablo Neruda
When Darcy returned, she found Loki waiting in the airplane cabin's threshold. The sight of him startled her so much that her fingers clenched the front brake too hard and the bike skidded and bucked in the sand, nearly throwing her. She wobbled, but got her feet under her, then shut her mouth, which gaped open at his garb.
He leaned against the side of the cabin, arms crossed, stony gaze on her; he wore that armor - green, black and gold, leather, heavy cloth and metal, the tall horned helm - the stuff of world domination and madness. Refusing to be cowed, she swung her left leg over the bike and walked to him.
"Move it, Mad Science." To her surprise, he shifted to the side, allowing her room to pass with her bicycle. After stowing the bike, she took off her helmet, and paused a few rows behind him. Her eyes traced the line made by the long surcoat from his shoulders, tapering down to his slim waist and starting the sweep down his long legs. Even dressed in this glorified cosplay costume, topped in the ludicrous, overblown helmet, and slumped against the inside edge of an old airplane cabin, he was a thing of delicious grace. She wanted so much to wrap her arms around his waist and press herself against the elegant strength of his back.
Instead, she joined him at the entry, staring out at the gorgeous New Mexico sunset. The sky's colors, purple and pinks, shifted the colors of his armor, muting the green and softening the black. She could see the patterns of the clouds in the shiny helm.
"Why the armor? Planning to rule the ants again?"
"I wondered if it still fit. Perhaps too much ice cream..."
"You're immune to calories." She appraised him. "As for the armor, two words: 'dry cleaners.'" His time in Odin's prison was chronicled in crusted bloodstains, splattered liberally on every inch of the armor. "Especially if you're going to try the supervillain thing again."
"The bloodstains demonstrate my commitment to the matter of villainy."
"Need to be committed, more like," she muttered. Meeting his eyes, she expected him to be scowling. Instead he smiled, a real version of the expression with white, perfect teeth, echoed in little wrinkles at corners of his eyes. She felt herself go weightless as butterflies flew in her stomach. Her brain lurched over the anachronism of the cute boyish smile, framed by the menacing helm and bloodied armor.
A breeze whistled over the plane's metal edges and she got a sweet scent of fabric softener; Jane's laundry. Knowing Jane, it might included Thor's undies and such. Darcy frowned and eyed Loki's filthy armor. He had better not think that sidekick duty came with laundry service. He had opposable thumbs and magic; he could wash his own supervillain underoos. What did he think?
"Big horns," she observed wryly. "Good thing I've seen you naked. Otherwise, I'd think you were compensating for something."
His smile faded and he turned toward the sky's colorful drama.
"O-kay." She sighed. "So seeing me almost bleed to death reminded you I was a feeble mortal and now you're totally turned off."
Though his head was only slightly turned from her, the damned helm hid his expression. "The first part of your statement is true," he said. She felt something break inside her. "I had developed an odd complacency about your mortality. Sometimes I even forgot what you were."
Her fingers twisted on the chin straps and she looked down at her bicycle helmet, blinking rapidly. She swung it back and forth and let it go, watching it arc through the air and land behind her on a seat.
She felt a movement of air and when she looked up, he was next to her. He took her hands, turning her to him. "My feelings for you have not changed. I love you, Darcy Lewis." She bit her lip, still expecting the worse. "As for what you are...there are solutions. You wouldn't be the first mortal to become something more." He smiled, a brief show of teeth. "Achieving that end will involve some mischief on my part, but it can be done."
Bending to her, he said, "The question is whether this is a path you wish to follow." His gaze grew distant. "For in what you might gain, there will be much loss."
Loss. A year or so ago she would have shrugged off his comment. Inured to the pains of the past by her flippancy, she wouldn't have been able to imagine what he meant. Now, Sean's absence throbbed, an ache that no painkiller could ease. It wasn't just the betrayal, but the gaping hole left where his friendship and presence had been ripped from her life. Her fingers clenched Loki's, the pulse of life strong in his flesh, and she remembered what it was like to see him lifeless. Then there were the smaller wounds left by Andy and Max.
What he offered was the chance to pull herself out of the normal cycle, to stand back and watch as the years took everyone she loved here on Earth. She looked into his vivid green eyes and saw the ravages of what an abnormally long life wrought; millennia of pain, jealousy, and loss on a framework that was all too human.
But in his face, she also saw someone she knew more than seemed possible; her heart sang in recognition, and the idea overwhelmed her. Twisting her hands gently, she freed herself from his grip and took a step back.
Hurt slipped past his careful facade, and for a moment he looked lost. Darcy felt a twinge of guilt and also a sense of wonder that she could see through him so easily. She remembered when her mother, in a rare instant of frustration with her father, had told her, "All men are just big boys." Still, Loki shouldn't have been that transparent; he had been practicing hiding his emotions for centuries.
The implications of her ability to read him, the bond between them, was too much and she took another step back, like a puppy straining at an unfamiliar leash. No, that wasn't quite right. Because if she pulled too hard, he'd let her go. Maybe he had learned a thing or two from his failed attempt at tyranny, but she knew he would not hold her there, even though parting might break them both.
She could walk away; it was probably the smart thing to do. Life would go on and it probably would be a good, though much shorter, life. But his memory would always be there, like the scar on her side, a reminder of the road not taken.
"Loki, I..." He stood motionless, a tall menacing presence with sad confusion on his thin face, and she reached her hands to him. Without hesitation, he moved forward and took them, his grip almost too strong.
Her lips parted, but the words stopped in her throat.
Spit it out. Speak.
Just say it.
His preternaturally strong fingers tightened on hers, as if he felt her struggle and tried to lend her strength. Why did this have to be so difficult? She'd said the words before, to some silly boy, years ago. It's hard because you really mean it this time.
The knot loosened briefly in her throat and she spoke before it could come back. "I love you, Loki."
Those four words cut her heart like a scalpel, incising a tidy nick from which a brightness welled and flowed toward him. She swayed, unsteady, feeling a link forming between them, liquid, flexible, but strong. The urge to run still lurked under her skin, but she leaned into his hands, knowing that if she broke away now, she'd shatter.
"Love doesn't always make sense, does it?" She didn't wait for an answer; the question was rhetorical. "But this does. Even though you're a huge pain in the ass and I'm, me, this is what should happen. You, me, and whatever the universe throws at us." She pulled a face. "Which, knowing you, will be a lot like monkey shit, but bigger."
"On several orders of magnitude," he agreed.
"I had it all worked out," she said. "You'd move in and I'd hate you." He smirked at that. "And then Thor hauled you through the door, I took one look at you, and couldn't do it. It wasn't because you were gorgeous, because, ugh, you looked like a zombie who'd been put in a blender. It was because..." You were lost and it was my job to find you. Truth she knew better than to speak.
She appraised him dispassionately. Back in the hospital, when he had wandered off with Thor for dinner one evening, she had finally done some snooping in SHIELD's records of the attack on New York. She thought she was prepared for what the images held, but who would be? How do you reconcile the man you love with the monster? Her gaze moved over his face, superimposing the cruel mask from the images over the calm and much friendlier visage before her and confusion wracked her mind.
But when she closed her eyes, she heard his voice as he read to her in the hospital. Novels, newspapers, dirty limericks from Asgard, even celebrity gossip from the Internet. No one had read to her since she was a child, and with that simple gesture he made it impossible for her not to love him, impossible not to believe that he could be something far better.
"Because I've always known you," she told him even though spoken out loud, it sounded a little ridiculous.
He nodded, his eyes moving off her face, bitterness pulling the skin tight on his. "Yet I need you more than you, me," he said.
She shook her head. "Nah, it's not the simple, Loki. If I lost you, if you took off tomorrow, I would go on, but only because I'm mortal." For now, anyway, how weird was that? "I'd only have a few decades and I couldn't waste them being broken."
"Broken," he repeated and closed his eyes and their positions reversed with him leaning into her hands.
"We're going to fight, a lot, you know," she said.
He opened his eyes. "Our disagreements will be the stuff of Thor's tales."
"But our make-up sex will be blazing hot."
Rather than a snappy comeback, he lavished her with a smoldering look up and down her body.
Darcy gulped, hormones starting to wash away her ability to think. "Your enemies are going to use me to get to you."
"Yes, they will try," he responded, demeanor vibrant with a thousand schemes.
She ran her tongue over her front teeth slowly, enjoying the way the action made his eyes glaze over briefly. "And you plan to use that to your advantage."
She absorbed this and then countered with, "We are going to use it to our advantage." Releasing his hands, she poked a finger against his chest, fingernail tapping metal. "We."
"There is no 'we' in Loki, only an 'I.'"
"Cute." She skated her tongue over her teeth again, a little slower this time. "But wrong."
Humor gave way to icy menace and he glowered down at her. "I could lock you away on some isolated outpost in a forgotten corner of a yet-discovered realm -"
"Where I'd still get into trouble," she pointed out helpfully.
His shoulders slumped, flat resignation dimming his eyes. "I know." She gave him her a sultry smile and ran her eyes over his clothing, working out what strap went where and what buckle connected to what.
Her gesture had the intended effect, because he pulled his gaze away, looking over her head, clearly trying to keep his composure. A second later, smugness returned to face and he grinned down at her. "We, indeed." He snatched at her hand and pulled her to him. "Which means you must also apprise me of your schemes, particularly those that might get you killed."
She lean into him, her breasts against his body. "I was flying by the seat of my pants. No time to send out memos."
"There is always time."
"Nuh-uh. Not for a mortal, which I still am."
His smile faded somewhat and he took her face in his hands, green eyes meeting blue. Darcy could feel her body reacting to his proximity, the smell of leather and metal, his considerable height. "Then we should make much of the time we have," he said, huskily, an odd touch of vulnerability and sadness in his green eyes. He kissed her and she pressed herself against him, hard armor digging into her breasts, the helm's cheek guards cool against her face.
Somewhere in the back of her mind came the realization that she was snogging Loki - Loki, destroyer of cities and all around big bad - in the remains of an airplane, in full sight of everyone. An image of the God of Mischief, tall and menacing in full armor, kissing a much shorter, mortal woman in bicycle shorts and a Lady Lobos sweatshirt, popped in her mind and she giggled into his mouth.
"What?" he asked.
Wriggling free of his grasp, she reached to his shoulders, closed her fingers around layers of metal and leather, ignoring the bloodstains and began to drag him back into the confines of the cabin.
"We really need to get you out of that armor."
(Music is my muse. My playlist follows the notes, below.)
Thank you to everyone who read this far. My apologies for the multitude of typos, homonym errors, weird punctuation, misuse of tense, and other crimes against English. Makes me incredibly grateful for editors on my published stuff. This thing is essentially a very public work-in-progress that will never benefit from a contextual edit. It's overwritten and a hot mess, but, hey, it was fun.
The initial inspiration for A Morbid Taste for Ice was the implausibly white-bread depiction of a small New Mexico town that the movie Thor gave audiences. Apparently Kenneth Branaugh believes all small towns in America look like the set of the Andy Griffith Show. A few places, Socorro and Las Vegas (the NM version), have a several blocks of quaint Victorian buildings, but rural and small town New Mexico isn't a setting composed of vintage streetlamps, cute pet stores, or for that matter, sidewalks.
Next, my mild annoyance with Thor's not-New Mexico New Mexico met up with the ridiculous, but somehow perfect pairing of Loki with Darcy Lewis, Jane's assistant and source of comic relief. One morning, at work, when I should have been running payroll, I cranked out the first few paragraphs of the story. This drabble would have gone nowhere, except that Sean showed up early and in that weird way that characters do, he arrived with a backstory that was loaded with interesting thematic elements.
And finally, my muse was also addressing the weakness of the trope "immortal being falls in love with the very young mortal because she's sweet, or pretty, or his soul mate." (Mostly a reaction to one particular, popular story. I mean, what kind of immortal wants to go to high school, taking high school geometry and gym for the rest of his infinite life? Lame.)
Loki, as I've written him, is not reformed or redeemed. He's still jonesing for the throne of Asgard, still longs for revenge, still thinks he's been wronged. While he has formed an attachment to one particular mortal, he sees the rest of the species as unfortunate speed bumps on his road to world domination. Conquering Midgard might not be in his immediate future, but only because he's got other plans and because it would piss off his girlfriend.
Loki, as Darcy would say, is Loki.
And with that in mind, I knew that Darcy needed to be more than the innocent young thing who steals the powerful supernatural's heart just by being sweet. But it was essential that Darcy retain her on-screen counterpart's impulsive, sarcastic and sort of dingy personality, because that's what makes her fun. My version of Darcy, however, uses that ditzy persona as form of emotional armor. Though she's far from stupid, she's found that there is a kind of power in being underestimated. She has become a canny observer of human behavior, and takes advantage of the fact that people don't take her seriously. They don't see her as a threat and are more likely to drop their guard around her.
Of course, Loki sees right through her facade. What he sees isn't a little girl in need of rescuing, but instead a shrewd young woman who in time might rule the boardroom, or maybe even Asgard, at his side. He also knows that Darcy's worldview isn't black and white, but made up of shades of gray. She will not tolerate outright cruelty, murder, or the extermination of an entire race of people (Jotuns, for example), but being a political animal herself, she understands the necessity of situational ethics, and hence, will tolerate Loki's Machiavellian tendencies.
Basically, even though the very idea of trusting or being trusted by anyone has become an anathema to Loki, and love and friendship an impossibility, he looks at Darcy and sees a long-term partner in crime. For a long-lived creature like Loki, this is more important than romance, because he knows, from experience, that even the steamiest relationship will cool, and without friendship and respect, there will be nothing left to sustain it.
Loki, however, can't outright admit that he is lonely, that he needs Darcy, so he has to find a reason for keeping her at his side. So he comes up with the theory that Darcy is part of one of his forgotten plots, and possibly a vestibule for his lost memories and power. This theory is probably true, but it doesn't change the reality that with Darcy, he has made a genuine, human connection. (Their compatibility is probably why he folded her into his mysterious plans in the first place.)
This story ends with what romance novel land calls a "happily for now." Eventually, Darcy and Loki get a big fat Asgard wedding, but only after decades, maybe centuries. In the meantime, Loki, still twisted by vengeance and self-loathing, will continue to struggle against the idea of being in a relationship. Darcy, meanwhile, will grow more confident and independent and "bride" won't be high on her list of goals. Their relationship will be tumultuous, but they'll never entirely give up on each other because both know, deep down, they are better together.
I see the two of them having many adventures, a couple of kids (who have both their parents best and worst qualities), and after many centuries, they'll cause the Ragnarok and go out together in a blaze of glory. Because nothing lasts forever. Or does it?
As I was typing one of Sean's first lines - " You're getting used to living with a mass murderer?" - I realized he was actually referring to Thor. That notion met up with the fact that history is written by the victor and that the losers (in this case, Sean's people) might have a very different take on things. Also, there were conversations I've had with my husband about how much collateral damage is inflicted on the people and surroundings by movie "heroes," and how that destruction is never acknowledged.
As a writer, I love it that when the bodies started piling up, the first and obvious suspect was Loki. And even when he's crossed off the suspect list and instead becomes the object of the murderer's vengeful obsession, no one questions this line of logic. It never occurs to anyone that the noble Thor, rather than wicked Loki, is the target of the villain's vengeful obsession.
Even clever, clever Loki, who has more than enough reason to see Thor as anything but heroic, can't see past this paradigm. He is Loki, Silvertongue, Liesmith, the trickster who never gets any respect, the reviled, failed king of Asgard. So he goes along with everyone else's assumption that he is the focus of the murder's need for revenge.
Sean and Loki really are two sides of the same coin. Two smart, talented and, at one time, empathetic beings who have allowed themselves to be destroyed by the darker events in their lives.
Anyway, if you are inclined to give this author some, erm, financial props, you can buy one of my books (and leave a review at Amazon). A link to my Goodreads profile (P. Kirby) is listed on my FF profile. Or you can do the Google thing for "P. Kirby."
Playlist for A Morbid Taste for Ice
"Hymn for the Missing," Red
"Heron Blue," Sun Kil Moon
"Louder Than Words," Les Friction
"World on Fire," Les Friction
"In the Air Tonight," Phil Collins
"I Am Stretched on Your Grave," Abney Park
"Wrong Side of Heaven," Five Finger Death Punch
"Far from Home," Five Finger Death Punch
"Remember Everything," Five Finger Death Punch
"Monster You Made," Pop Evil
"Tired," Stone Sour
"Hurricane," 30 Seconds to Mars
"I Don't Know What Love Is," Leslie Nuchow
"Remember the Tin Man," Tracy Chapman
"Prayer in Open D," Emmy Lou Harris
"Stray Italian Greyhound," Vienna Teng
"Judas," Lady Gaga
"I'm Not That Girl," Wicked the Musical
"1,000 Ships," Rachel Platten
"Devil's Backbone," The Civil Wars
"Fight Like a Girl," Emilie Autumn
"Girl in the War," Josh Ritter
"Skyscraper," Demi Lovato
"I Don't Want to Be a Bride," Vanessa Carlton
''Brave," Sara Bareilles
"Listen to Your Heart," Roxette
"The Only Fault," Rachael Yamagata
"Love the Way You Lie," Skylar Grey
"Before the Sun," Shannon Curtis
"Break In," Halestorm
"The Last Night of the World," Miss Saigon, The Musical
"They Weren't There," Missy Higgins
"Dust to Dust," The Civil Wars
"My Beloved Monster," Eels
"A Thousand Years," Christina Perri
"It is You (I Have Loved)," Dana Glover
"Safe & Sound," Taylor Swift
"What Have You Done," Within Temptation
"Too Late," Fisher
"Save Your Life," Les Friction
"War," Poets of the Fall
"And We Run," Within Temptation