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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12. Chapter Twelve

There was a small cottage hidden at the base of a hill. It was old and appeared abandoned. It had a roof buried beneath dead pine needles and debris and sagging under the weight of multiple winters. The windows were shuttered and plants grew up the sides of the frame.

“Lovely,” Loki remarked as Bridget led him up to the front door.

They hadn’t spoken since appearing in the woods just at the edge of the property. He was still winded from the trip and trying to make sense of Bridget’s plan. She had left herself wide open, had used a name she knew SHIELD would be looking for, and had turned him over without a blink. Yet he couldn’t understand why she had needed him at all.

“I only took you to the lodge to make a good first impression,” she told him as she pushed the door open and the dank musty scent of age and dust reached them.

The inside of the cottage appeared in an even worse state than the outside. Water had significantly damaged the small kitchen so that only the old wood burning stove was usable. The sky could be seen through holes in the ceiling and plants grew in through the floorboards.

“Beautiful,” Loki said as Bridget put her bag down inside of the stove.

“We’re only staying one night,” she explained as she pulled her jacket off.

“Where are we off to next? A cupboard? Or perhaps a bridge with a pleasant view?” She laughed and reached for the wood that had been piled beside the stove.

“We need to lay low for a while. Now that SHIELD knows I have you we have to keep moving.” She set the wood inside the stove and reached for kindling. He crossed the creaky unstable floor to where a single bed lay unused and unwelcoming.

“And the bed? Am I to sleep on the floor?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You’d freeze to death.” He clasped his hands behind his back and paced the small room.

“So Fury seemed far more interested in you than he did me,” he said. She was busy lighting the fire and didn’t appear to be paying him any attention.

“Well—you’re human now,” she finally said. “Not much of a threat. And he had you within his reach, in his cage. He was certain you couldn’t do any more damage.” She reached into her pack and pulled out a smaller blade. He sat down on the bed as she heated it in the fire. He knew what her intention was but he wanted to keep her talking.

“You’re a cunning liar,” he said.

“I never lie. I only avoid the truth. And occasionally alter it for safety reasons.”

“You make no move to correct mistakes or assumptions made about you. For instance, I called you a mutant. I called you human.”

“I do that too.” She pulled the blade from the fire and it burned red hot. She held it in her hand without doing much damage to her own skin. Then she stood and turned to him. “Remove your coat.”

He did as she instructed and watched as she collected bandages from her pack. He said nothing else as she approached him. She pressed her hand against his chest and forced him to lie back on the uncomfortable mattress. She climbed onto him and tore into the shirt to free the wound to her blade. Her black eyes met his.

“This is going to hurt,” she told him. “A lot.”

“I believe I can handle it,” he assured her.

So she dug the blade into his skin and he shouted in spite of himself. She slammed her palm against his opposite shoulder, forcing him still against the bed as the blade sliced through the wound on his arm. Her face was straight in concentration, her eyes narrowed, and a moment later she held up the small metal remains of the bullet that had lodged there. He felt her enchantment release him, not having realized she had enchanted him at all.

“You handled that well,” she said, dropping the bullet and blade onto the mattress and cleaning his wound.

“I thought so,” he replied through clenched teeth.

“They do have sarcasm in Asgard, right?” He sent her a glare and she smiled back. “Relax. I’ve been doing this a long time.”

“How long?”

“Very long.”

“How long?”

“Since this technology was invented. Is that what you wanted me to say?”

“How old are you?”

“Not as old as you.”

“Can you give me a serious answer for once?” She sighed heavily and slathered a sticky salve on the wound with the pad of her thumb.

“I was born a long time ago. Though birthdays are usually irrelevant in magical studies. I don’t know how old exactly. I just know that I’ve been here for a very long time.”

“Then what are you? I’ve never known any Asgardians to burn quite like you. Fury said you knew both Starks. You had a hand in the creation of the Extremis virus. You’ve been burning long before it was created.”

“You were young when we met. We both were. I expect even Thor has forgotten me. It was only the once. So much time has passed.”

“You told me you were infected,” he reminded her.

“Well—I suppose I do lie sometimes,” she replied.

“Then what are you?”

“I never needed the cure for Extremis. I AM Extremis. I was only taking back what belonged to me.” His green eyes darted to hers as she wound a strip of fabric around his arm.

“You still evade answers.”

“I am not of Asgard. I never was. Or at least I am not all Asgard. But I turned my back on that side of my lineage when Asgard turned its back on me. Midgard is my home now. I went to SHIELD to take back what was mine. The Extremis virus was made with my blood. Blood that burns. It was never intended to be the cause of so many deaths. Aldrich Killian abused it. He perverted it. And with those actions he did the same to me. I needed to get into SHIELD headquarters for the virus itself. Not the cure.”

“Where is it then?”

“It’s gone.”

“And the rest?”

“I’ll find it in time.”

“Why do you love them so much? You’re a goddess.”

“I am a goddess. I was very young when I was sent here. And they loved me, Loki. They worshiped me. I love them because they gave me a home when my own bloodline betrayed me.”

“Your name is not Bridget,” he said softly as she finished. “I can tell by the way it sits on your tongue.” She stood from the bed and gathered her equipment.

“My name is none of your concern. It is mine and mine to tell.”

“So what did you want from me?”

“A way into SHIELD so I could destroy their supply of Extremis.” He watched her burn the bloodied clothes in the stove. “I have a great number of tricks. But they’re not perfect. I can’t transport myself to a place I’ve never been. I can end up inside a wall or miles above the ocean. I need to see it in my mind. I needed eyes. I linked a copy of myself to you so that I could get a visual of the inside of the building. Once my copy got a look around I was able to transport myself into the building, destroy the virus, and get you back.”

“So you had everything planned ahead?”

“Yes. I gave the man at the general store the name SHIELD knows me by to send them on our tail. I knew they would come with the helicopters, though I did not expect them to already be there. I knew they would attack. I used that incident to gain your trust.”

He examined the new bandages as she discarded the bloodied ones and re-sterilized her blade.

“And so I’ve done my part,” he said. “You have no more use for me.”

“No, but I keep my promises. You helped me get what I wanted and now I’ll help you.”

“What exactly is your plan then?”

“Heimdall can’t see me. He’s never been able to. My mother is powerful. Incredibly powerful. And the two of us can get you back to Asgard without assistance. However, you can’t go back unprotected. So—first things first. We get your magic back.”

She looked up at him then and the manic blackness of her eyes from earlier was lost. This was a woman determined. A woman born of loyalty and honor. A woman of Asgard, and he decided to trust her because he knew for sure now that the moment her protections un-blurred Heimdall's vision, he would be taken by Asgard.

“And exactly how do you intend to accomplish that?” he asked her.

“Odin can’t take what doesn’t belong to him.”

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