Loki smiled, a terrible thing to see, a slashing smile that cut. So this was the Black Widow. Her appearance was earlier than expected. Fury lacked the stomach for torture, it seemed. These humans were so weak.

"There's not many people who can sneak up on me."

He said slowly, turning to face her.

"But you figured I'd come." she replied coolly. Loki smiled.

"After. After whatever tortures Fury can concoct, you would appear as a friend, as a balm. And I would cooperate."

He is truthful in this. Lies are ever more effective when interspersed with truth, wrapping around it as vines on a tree trunk.

"I want to know what you've done to Agent Barton."

Oh, let the Black Widow stay to her own web, Loki thought, even as he widened his eyes innocently and replied.

"I'd say I've expanded his mind."

She frowns at his assessment.

"And once you've won, once you're king of the mountain, what happens to his mind?"

"Is this love, Agent Romanoff?" Loki asks, smirking. How easily she walks into his silk spun words.

"Love is for children. I owe him a debt."

"Tell me." Loki asks, sitting down and fixing a look of interest on his face. He already knows everything, thanks to Barton. But let her speak. Interesting things are sure to slip.

And already she betrays herself.

"Before I worked for SHIELD, I uh...well, I made a name for myself. I have a very specific skill set. I didn't care who I used it for, or on. I got on SHIELD's radar in a bad way. Agent Barton was sent to kill me, he made a different call."

Loki knows. Barton's told him many things. While Barton built his arrows, while he worked without sleep, Loki asked for any and all information on those who oppose him. But back to the moment at hand. Of course she was here for Barton. Loki had spoken at length with the agent, seeking information on all those who worked closely with SHIELD.

Under the power of the scepter, Barton could be nothing but honest. Stark was an arrogant, selfish fellow. Brilliant with science, of course, but science was limited in this realm. Stark's behavior could be predicted without fail. The same for the earnest, virtuous Captain. Barton had not met him, of course, but decades of mythology were confirmed by what Loki had seen in Stuttgart. Banner was pitiful, a weak man who hid from his only chance at strength and power.

Fury and Hill were easily dissected, their movements and actions those of the typical government agents with their own ideas. What a lie freedom was, that they sought to create their own paths and authority. Coulson was bland, if competent. But the Widow…

"And what will you do if I vow to spare him?" Loki asked.

"Not let you out-"

"Ah, no. But I like this. Your world in the balance, and you bargain for one man?"

He had not expected her to let him out, but it never hurt to ask. And her eyes had started to gain a look he was always searching for- that wary caution that meant she was close to letting something slip.

"Regimes fall everyday. I tend not to weep over that, I'm Russian. Or I was."

"And what are you now?"

"It's really not that complicated. I've got red in my ledger, I'd like to wipe it out."

"Can you? Can you wipe out that much red? Drakoff's daughter? Sao Paulo? The hospital fire? Barton told me everything." Loki says, tasting the fear in her eyes.

"Your ledger is dripping, it's gushing red, and you think saving a man no more virtuous than yourself will change anything? This is the basest sentimentality. This is a child at prayer. Pathetic!" He snarls.

"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 a part of you, and they will never go away."

He slams his fist against the glass, relishing the way she jumps with fright.

"I won't touch Barton! Not until I make him kill you. 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! This is my bargain, you mewling quim!"

She turns away from him, trembling.

"You're a monster." she whispers. She sounds as if she is weeping. Loki smiles.

"Oh, no. You brought the monster."

"So, Banner? That's your play?" she asks, turning. There is not a single tear drop on her cheeks.

"What?" he asks, surprised, as she puts up a hand to activate her ear piece.

"Loki means to unleash the Hulk. Keep Banner in the lab, I'm on my way. Set the door locked."

She drops her hand from the ear piece and nods at Loki.

"Thank you, for your cooperation."

And then she walks away.

Loki sits down again. She may have- impressively, in fact- managed to gather one small part of his plans. But it is nothing vital, and besides, he now has a better measure of her than even Barton could give him. But the Hulk will soon be unleashed, regardless of what she does.

A/N: I like reviews. Criticisms, critiques, comments, I'll take them all :) Suggestions are welcome too.