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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2. Chapter Two

Loki awoke to the sound of a fire crackling not far from him. He could smell the scent of burning evergreens in his nose. The fire burned clean and smelled of warmth and the majestic halls of Asgard. He groaned, and his eyes opened. The room was dark, but the light of the fire danced across the walls. He could feel that his arms were free, and the floor beneath him was hard and uncomfortable on his weakened body.

He thought the woman was unwise to leave him unbound, but he then remembered what she had done to him in the woods. She was more powerful than he was at that moment. He hated being less than what he truly was, and he wanted to make the woman suffer for reminding him of his current predicament. He rolled onto his side and faced where she sat crouched beside the small iron stove. The grate was open so that the light and heat of the fire was blazing in his sleep weakened eyes. Her hair shone like blood in its light. She sat composed as she watched him with those eyes as black as ink.

“Foolish of you to leave me unbound,” he remarked softly.

“We both know you couldn’t get very far,” she replied just as smoothly.

He sat up and rubbed the tender ache from his wrists as he examined her. The burns she had left on his skin were gone now. He wondered if they had ever been there at all. Perhaps it was only an illusion. But since he knew for sure that he bore the blood of a frost giant, he had avoided heat as much as possible. This woman seemed to be made of the very stuff the earth was. It was as if there was a hot burning fire under her skin like the magma beneath the crust.

“Where is Fury?” he asked. She shrugged casually, but her eyes remained glued to him and ever more unfriendly with every word that he spoke.

“In his sky palace? I don’t know. It’s not my job to keep tabs on SHIELD.”

“Stark and the others?”

“It’s not my job to keep tabs on SHIELD or their pets,” she repeated.

“So you operate alone?”

“Something like that.”

“And just how much red is in your ledger?”

“Not as much as yours.” He studied her then. She seemed such a fierce woman, but she appeared to rely on powers her body had been gifted. He was not sure if she could fight without them. And he decided that might be her weakness. But how to rid her of those powers, he did not know for certain.

“You have—many talents,” he said.

“Indeed,” she replied with a nod.

“And yet Fury has found no use for you?”

“I imagine Fury would have many uses for me. If only he could catch me.”

“How did you know I would be there?”

“I know a lot of things.”

“So it would seem.”

Since there was no place for him to sit other than the wood floor, he lifted one knee and wrapped both of his hands around it. Even though she was undoubtedly the stronger of the two at present, he still bore the pride of a prince of Asgard. His hair was messy, his clothes were tattered, his feet were bare and cold, and yet his chin was raised, and he regarded her as nothing more than something to bide his time with.

“If you do not work for SHIELD, how do you know who I am?” he asked her.

“Your face has been all over the news since your attack on New York. You’re not difficult to miss.” He smiled wryly.

“Your government has kept the information about my involvement with the Battle of New York a secret. And you know more than the general population in any case. You knew I was from Asgard. You knew I would be there. You know things that only SHIELD and their pets would know. Or perhaps an associate of my brother.” She rocked back onto her heels and slowly stuck her legs out, sitting more comfortably on the hot black stove.

“I’ve known of Asgard as long as I’ve known of the nine realms. I’ve been—studying your people for a long time. I know your name. I know your brother’s name. I even know your mother’s name.” His jaw tightened as she spoke, and he sneered.

“You asked me if I remembered you. Am I supposed to know who you are?” he asked. Her dark eyes flicked to him again.

“You have a very sharp mind, Loki. But the information you store in it has only existed for the sole benefit of your immediate person. And I have never been of any use to you. So I do not expect you to know or remember me.”

“If I have no use for you then why have you brought me here?” She smiled, and the grin reminded him so much of his own. There was no warmth in her cold black eyes. There was nothing to show any real amusement. It was the smile of a woman hungry for something he could not see.

“Because I have use of you,” she spoke slowly. And she stood to her feet in one fluid movement. Then she walked across the room, creaking the floorboards as she went. She made for the door that was just out of his vision, but he turned his head to the side and spoke a warning on the edge of his breath.

“I will kill you,” he uttered.

“Not if I kill you first,” she replied. Then the door shut, and he was alone in the small and empty room. With nothing but the fire that burned like the fury of his rage.

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