Of Fire and Ice

I’m taking it slow
Feeding my flame
Shuffling the cards of your game
And just in time
In the right place
Suddenly I will play my ace

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11. Chapter Eleven

The agents placed Loki in a room much less impressive than the glass prison they’d taken him to before. The walls were made of gray painted brick, rather than impenetrable glass. There was nothing inside the room but a metal table, two chairs, and the two way mirror he knew they were watching him from.

He sat with his back against the wall. His hands were still bound and his spine was straight. The pain in his arm had grown, and despite the blood soaking through his coat, they made no attempts to offer him medical assistance. They had left him alone, perhaps to think on his crimes or force him to fester in his pain, or perhaps just to irritate him. But when Fury himself stepped into the room he hid his smile behind the metal that fused his mouth.

“Remove the muzzle,” Fury instructed another agent. A woman came around the back and released his mouth, slapping the muzzle down onto the table before him, as a reminder that it would be returned if needed.

“Director Fury,” Loki purred. “It is a pleasure to see you again so soon.” Fury didn’t flinch, but the stern look on his face never seemed to change. He paced once through the room before turning back to the man that had nearly destroyed New York City.

“I have some questions,” he said, leaning against the table and getting right to the point. Loki only smiled in response. “And if you cooperate, I’ll sew up that hole in your arm. And maybe I’ll be nice enough to numb the pain first.”

“You offer an irresistible bargain. What would you like to know?”

“I want to know why you ended up in Alaska instead of DC. I want to know why my agents stood out in a filed waiting for a prisoner who never arrived.”

“I’m afraid I don’t have an answer to those questions.”

“You’re like us now, aren’t you? Isn’t that how this works? Isn’t that the deal you made? So the longer I leave that hole open, the more you’re going to suffer. You might even die.”

“I can’t answer that question because I don’t have an answer. I expected to land in your custody, as was arranged. It was just as much a surprise to me to end up someplace else.”

“Then maybe you can tell me why one of my agents, who last checked in with me this afternoon from Alaska, showed up on my doorstep this evening with a war prisoner.”

“Ah, the woman. She is clever with her tricks.” Fury stood straight and nodded to the soldier again. She pulled a folder out from under her arm and handed it over. He opened it and slammed it down on the table beside the muzzle.

“This the woman?” he asked. Loki looked down at the file with the photograph attached.

“The eyes are difficult to miss.”

“What do you know about her?”

“Less than you apparently. She was there when I landed and she took me in. She gave me shelter and clothing until your agents arrived and she betrayed me.”

“What did she want from you?” Loki’s eyes flicked back to the director.

“And tell me again why I should help you?”

“Because I got a country full of people who would love nothing more than to rip you apart. And it would bring me great joy to hand you over to them. The graves are still fresh, and this whole world wants your head on a platter.” Loki smiled. Telling him all he knew of Bridget could ultimately lead to her downfall, but he couldn’t resist the tease.

“She told me her name was Bridget. She said she had some sort of virus. A serum created by Stark. She asked me to help her obtain the cure, and I suppose she intended to use me as a bargaining device. That’s all she told me.”

“A virus created by Stark?”

“Forgive me. A virus funded by Stark before he became—the man of iron.”

“You mean Extremis?”

“Is there another?”

“Bridget is what she’s been calling herself since she popped up on our radar.” He turned the page of the file where there was a photo of two women in lab coats. “This is Bridget and Maya Hansen during the creation of the Extremis serum in 1999.” He turned the next page. “This is the same woman with Tony Stark earlier this year when she worked for Stark Industries in New York before disappearing during your attack. This is Bridget in 1983 working for Stark Industries as their first female engineer until she went nuclear and blew up half the block, destroying a great deal of scientific research and experiments in the process. She was believed to have perished in the blaze until she showed back up in 99.” He turned the page again. “This is the same woman with Howard Stark circa 1945.

“Now—I know she’s a shape shifter, so her involvement with both Starks and their legacy probably stretches a lot farther than these incidents. However, I want to know why she chose the same face for these events. I want to know why she doesn’t age, doesn’t die, and seems to have a flair for pyrotechnics. I want to know why people start dying every time she shows this face.”

“She’s highly skilled in magical arts,” Loki told him as he looked back up to meet the man’s stern expression. “She’s even more skilled than I am, as much as I hate to admit it. She spoke of a teacher but…”

“But what?”

“She’s also a highly skilled liar.”

“Well, she had to have learned magic from someone. The only time I’ve ever seen magic like this—it came from Asgard.”

“I have no memory of her from Asgard, but I was a prince and I paid very little attention to the lives of peasants and magicians.”

Fury looked as though he was thinking of another clever remark, but he was interrupted when the only door in the room opened.

“Sir, we have a situation,” the man informed him.

“I’m a little busy at the moment,” Fury snapped.

“It’s urgent. It’s the woman.” Fury stood up straight and pointed at his agent.

“Put the muzzle back on the dog. I want this place on lockdown. No one gets in or out without my consent. We’re not going to lose this asshole to another asshole.” Then he stormed out of the room with the newcomer following behind him. The woman went to Loki’s back and reached over him for the muzzle. She dragged her fingers over his skin and pressed her lips against his ear. Her breath was hot against him and he smiled.

“I was beginning to think you’d betrayed me,” he spoke.

“Darling, didn’t you know I always wanted to rescue a prince?” she replied. Her warm hands stretched over his shoulders. The same pinching sensation took hold of his body, only this time he had prepared himself for it. The green light overtook his vision, and he felt the room slip away.

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