Loki was pacing round his cage once more, bored of sitting down and waiting, when he felt her presence. A smile spread across his face, and he addressed her before he turned.
"There's not many people who can sneak up on me."
"But you figured I'd come." She replied, standing in front of the glass cage that was meant to house Dr Banner's alter ego in case of dire emergency.
"After," Loki said, beginning his slow pacing again, facing her as he spoke. "After whatever tortures Fury can concoct, you would appear as a friend, a balm. And I would cooperate."
"I want to know what you've done to Agent Barton." Natasha Romanoff demanded, in her calm way. No emotion got past her mask, one that she had perfected over years of practice. Loki wouldn't draw any conclusions on her emotions or body language, unless she guided him to it, of course. As she asked her question, her head tilted slightly to the left. Alex had told her once that she did that. Like it was a habit or something.
"I would say I've expanded his mind." Loki answered.
"And once you've won, once you're king of the mountain, what happens to his mind?" Romanoff questioned, stepping forward until she was only a couple of steps from the edge of the walkway. Her arms crossed over her chest and her head raised slightly, trying to make herself look bigger.
"Is this love, Agent Romanoff? It might upset you to know that Agent Barton revealed his pact with Agent Cosmos and of his secret feelings towards her. Very useful information."
"Love is for children. I owe him a debt." Natasha answered Loki's question, ignoring the rest of what he'd said. She didn't need him to tell her Clint was in love with Alex. She knew that a long time ago, though she was wary of the fact that Loki might try to manipulate Alex or Clint with that information.
Loki smirked, and stepped backwards, gesturing to the seat beside where she stood.
"Tell me." He said, sitting on the 'bed' he'd been given.
Natasha stood silent for a moment, before making her decision.
"Before I worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. I, uh, well, I made a name for myself," She said, sitting down in the fold-up chair, resting her hands between her knees. "I have a very specific skill set. I didn't care who I used it for, or on. I got on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s radar in a bad way. Agent Barton and Agent Cosmos were sent to kill me. He convinced her to make a different call."
Loki had sat quietly through her tale, already knowing it well, but when she'd finished he looked up.
"And what will you do if I vow to spare him?" He questioned, curious as to what the woman would do. After all, Barton and Romanoff had no romantic attachment like Barton and Cosmos. They were simply partners, and friends.
"Not let you out."
"No, but I like this. Your world in the balance and you bargain for one man." Loki smiled, that creepy smile of his at her actions. He probably thought them selfish or inhumane that she was asking for Barton back instead of asking for him to leave the Earth be.
"Regimes fall every day. I tend not to weep over that. I'm Russian. Or I was."
"And what are you now?" Loki asked.
Natasha stood up once more.
"It's really not that complicated," She said, stepping forward and resuming her earlier stance; her feet shoulder's width apart and her arms crossed over her chest. "I got red in my ledger, I'd like to wipe it out."
"Can you?" Loki asked, wiping the smile of Romanoff's face. "Can you wipe out that much red? Dreykov's daughter, Sao Paulo, the hospital fire? Barton told me everything. Your ledger is dripping. It's gushing red and you think saving a man no more virtuous than yourself will change anything?"
Natasha's eyes were filling with unshed tears, her throat felt like it was closing up with unreleased sobs and her body was shaking, and Loki smiled in glee at her reaction as he continued.
"This is the basest sentimentality. This is a child at prayer. Pathetic! You lie and kill in the service of liars and killers. You pretend to be separate, to have your own code, something that makes up for the horrors. But they are part of you. And they will never go away," Loki suddenly slammed his fist against the glass, making Natasha jump and step backwards, but she couldn't rip her eyes away from his. "I won't touch Barton, not until I make him kill you and your friend. Slowly, intimately, in every way he knows you fear. And then he'll wake just long enough to see his good work and when he screams, I'll split his skull."
Natasha forced herself to turn and step away from him after that, knowing he'd already seen the horror on her face, the fear, but as she turned a smirk appeared that he couldn't see, but her body still shook with the 'sobs' she was fighting.
"This is my bargain, you mewling quim."
"You're a monster." Natasha said, making her voice shake, knowing that any second now, he'd give her the information that she wanted.
He laughed a little bit.
"Oh, no. You brought the monster." Loki said. Natasha raised her head, and turned around, her face completely clear of the tears and fear he had seen only brief moments before.
"So, Banner. That's your play." Natasha surmised, a smirk threatening to plaster the smugness she felt inside all over her face.
"What?" Loki asked, confused at her reaction. Why was the fear gone?
Natasha strode away, a finger pressed to her ear piece as she began rapidly explaining Loki's plan.
"Loki means to unleash the Hulk. Keep Banner in the lab. I'm on my way. Send Thor as well," She ordered, before she stopped and turned to face Loki again. "Thank you for your cooperation."
Then she turned and left him alone to contemplate how he'd been fooled by a human, as she hurried to the lab.
Alex, Bruce and Tony were surrounding a screen, close to the sceptre, that Tony had linked up to his phone so all of them could see the information that he had managed to hack in to when Fury stormed in. Alex had listened to Natasha and Loki's conversation through her ear piece. Alex and Natasha had their own channel and Natasha had switched it on, wanting her to hear the conversation. She had made no sign of hearing it, just continued looking through the files with Tony and Bruce, though inside she had wanted to cry for the first time in years. Now they had an angry Director to deal with.
"What are you up to, Mr Stark?"
"Kind of been wondering the same thing about you." Tony replied, dodging Fury's question. Alex rolled her eyes.
"You're supposed to be locating the Tesseract. And you're supposed to be keeping him in check." He said, pointing at Alex.
"So that's why I'm here? Not because my partner is someone else's little bitch, but because I was required to babysit? Not how I work, Fury, you know that. My babysitting days were behind me when you were old enough to own a gun." She grinned at him, as he shot her a dirty look.
"And we are looking for the Tesseract. The model's locked and we're sweeping for the signature now. When we get a hit," Bruce explained, gesturing towards a screen on the other side of the room. "We'll have the location within half a mile."
"Yeah, then you get your Cube back. No muss, no fuss. What is Phase 2?" Tony questioned Fury, but Fury didn't really need to even open his mouth to answer as Steve arrived and dropped a heavy weapon onto one of the metal desks in the room.
"Phase 2 is S.H.I.E.L.D. uses the Cube to make weapons. Sorry, the computer was moving a little slow for me." Steve said, before turning to Fury.
"Rogers, we gather everything related to the Tesseract," Fury said, moving towards him and the gun. "This does not mean that we're making..."
"Uh, I'm sorry, Nick," Tony cut him off, turning the screen around to show blueprints on how to use the Tesseract in the weapon. Alex gritted her teeth, as she tried to remain calm. "What were you lying?"
"I was wrong, Director. The world hasn't changed a bit." Steve said.
Fury looked at Alex, who was drumming the fingers of one hand against her lips nervously, like she was trying to contain herself, and instantly his back went up. He didn't have a problem keeping secrets from Stark or Rogers, but keeping a secret from Alex that obviously had her worked up was clearly a wrong decision on his part. She had been here longer than even he had. She had passed up the opportunity to become Director herself so that he could have the job that his mentor, Peggy Carter, had. Alex had trained him as an agent, but Director Carter had molded him into a leader. He owed Alex a lot, because she had been the one to put him and the former Director together.
He obviously owed her some more now.
Thor entered the lab, escorted by Natasha, who, sensing the tension, wanted to remove Banner as quickly as possible, following the protocol that had been put in place in case a situation like this ever occurred.
"Did you know about this?" Bruce asked her, his tone accusing.
"You want to think about removing yourself from this environment, Doctor?" She asked, though it wasn't really a request. It was a polite way of making an order whilst giving the illusion that the person had a choice.
"I was in Calcutta. I was pretty well removed." Bruce scoffed.
Natasha stepped towards him.
"Loki is manipulating you."
"And you've been doing what, exactly?"
"You didn't come here because I bat my eyelashes at you." Natasha scoffed.
"Yes, and I'm not leaving because suddenly you get a little twitchy," Bruce snapped, moving to grab the screen with the blueprints on it and pointed to it sharply. "I'd like to know why S.H.I.E.L.D. is using the Tesseract to build weapons of mass destruction."
"Because of him." Fury said, pointing at a confused Thor. In all the times Alex had seen Thor, she couldn't count one time he hadn't looked confused.
"Last year, Earth had a visitor from another planet who had a grudge match that leveled a small town. We learned that not only are we not alone but we are hopelessly, hilariously, outgunned." Fury explained, turning round and ended up facing Rogers.
"My people want nothing but peace with your planet." Thor insisted.
"But you're not the only people out there, are you? And you're not the only threat." Fury said.
"You mean, like me? I'm not from around these parts. Does that mean you were building that weapon to use against me as well?" Alex questioned, suspicion and anger in her eyes. "For my entire life, I've protected this planet, and now you're saying that I'm a threat and you created a weapon to wipe me out on the off chance I turn on you?"
"Not you in particular, Agent Cosmos. The world's filling up with people who can't be matched, that can't be controlled." Fury said, turning to look at her, doing his best to ignore the hurt that was in her eyes.
"Like you controlled the Cube?" Steve asked.
"Your work with the Tesseract is what drew Loki to it, and his allies. It is a signal to all the realms that the Earth is ready for a higher form of war." Thor said, before Fury could answer Steve's question.
"A higher form?" Steve asked, though was once again ignored.
"You forced our hand. We had to come up with something." Fury defended himself and S.H.I.E.L.D. Alex was silently fuming as she stood next to Bruce, who was equally unhappy, but only unhappy, not yet angry.
"A nuclear deterrent. Because that always calms everything right down." Tony snarked, using his brand of sarcasm to make a point. And a valid point.
"Remind me again how you made your fortune, Stark." Fury demanded.
That's when it hit Alex. Loki's game plan was to unleash the Hulk, but what would that accomplish besides bringing down an airship with him inside it. No, there was something more to his plan. Alex turned her head and studied the scepter as the other's continued their bickering. The blue orb of it was glowing. A frown formed on her face so she walked round the table to examine it. As the arguing got more intense, the scepter glowed brighter.
Alex was about to say something, but was cut off by Bruce grabbing the scepter.
"Bruce, put down the scepter." Alex said, softly.
A beeping cut through the tension in the room, and let the scientists know that the Tesseract had been found. Bruce put the scepter onto the table, and Alex moved around the table again, to put it back on the stand it had rested on, before she looked at it again.
She had a gut feeling something was about to happen.
"Sorry kids, guess you won't get to see my party trick after all." Bruce said, as he crossed the room, with Natasha at his heels, to see where the Tesseract had been located.
Tony and Steve got into another argument as to who should go and get it, while the unease in Alex grew.
"Fury? I've got a bad-" An explosion blasted Alex onto her back. She wheezed, and shakily stood up, noting that Bruce and Natasha were missing, as well as Fury and Thor. She shook her head and realized what had happened.
Clint had tracked the scepter's signature which had emitted a stronger signal when everyone was arguing.
Clint was here.