“To what do I owe the pleasure of the good doctor’s company?”
Bruce knew, even before he caught Loki’s Cheshire grin, that he shouldn't have been anywhere near Loki’s prison and should not have risen to Loki’s bait. If anyone in the tracking room happened to turn on the video feed and see Bruce there, he’d be in trouble. Tony might try to buy him some time, but no one else would.
Despite time pressing on his shoulders, Bruce did not hurry as he walked closer to the immense glass cage. As he neared, Loki drew closer to the window, smiling all the while. The twinkle in his blue eyes only made Bruce feel worse.
“So?” Loki asked.
Instead of answering immediately, Bruce looked down at his fingertips. They didn’t shake; he’d had years to perfect obscuring his emotions. He did not even have to breathe in before he looked steadily up at the man in front of him.
“You took a friend of mine,” he answered.
“Friend?” Loki repeated. His smile widened and he threw back his dark head to laugh. “Oh, she’ll be disappointed to hear that. The way [Name] told it, you were quite a bit more than friends.”
Bruce had decided to come along to talk with Loki, that was true. But he didn’t plan to fall for anything else. He kept his expression blank. “I want to know what you did to her.”
“How do you know I did anything to her?”
Did Loki think Bruce dim? Obviously. He allowed the barest hint of a frown to appear on his face. “You already told me her name, which I didn’t give you. What did you do? Did you have a little talk with her, like you did with Agent Barton?”
“Oh, our talk was quite a bit more extensive than my talk with Barton,” Loki said. The way the ends of his lips kept popping up gave the impression that he was having to try very hard not to grin his way through the entire conversation.
“What did you talk about?”
Loki began to walk sedately along the edge of his confines, pale fingers pressed against the glass. “Harlem. The incident. India. Mostly you. Don’t worry; I think I convinced her not to be quite so taken with you.”
“What do you mean?”
With a click of his tongue, Loki turned back toward Bruce, still smiling that damned smug smile. “Keep up, Dr. Banner. You're hardly making this fun." When Bruce only stared impassively back, Loki shook his head. "You won’t recognize her. I made sure of that. Not the inside, not the outside. Not from far away, not from right in front of her. [Name] is different now.”
“So you took her and changed her,” Bruce said. It was not a question.
“I think she would disagree with both of those suggestions,” said Loki. “After all, you’re the villain here. You’re the monster. All I did was…make [Name] aware of that.”
Bruce felt a drumming in his palms that almost hurt, but he still wasn’t going to let Loki see that. Let him think that he didn’t care. Somehow, though, Loki knew anyway. His smile grew quieter, but also more dangerous.
“Does that make you want to crush me, Dr. Banner?” he whispered. “More importantly, will it make you want to crush her?”
The heat rising in Bruce’s body did want to crush Loki–into a million, smug, unfixable pieces, starting with his mouth. But SHIELD needed Loki more than they needed Bruce. If the Hulk could even manage to crack the glass in that prison, he’d be taken out before he could wrap his hands around Loki’s pale neck.
“Quite frankly, all the information does is make me want to get out of this freak show more than I did already,” Bruce answered levelly. At least, he thought his voice was level. But the almost imperceptible rasp there apparently reached Loki’s ears because his expression twisted with glee even farther. “Why?”
“Why did you do it?”
“There is an old Midgardian phrase,” said Loki as he settled into a bench across the room. “I believe it goes, ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ You'll either fight [Name], or the rest of your little team to prevent them from fighting her. I benefit either way.”
“Yeah.” Bruce wheezed out a single laugh, then took a step closer. His nose nearly touched the glass. “If I have to break [Name],” he said, in a low, threatening voice, “I’ll break you, too. Just the same. I can promise you that much.”
Loki only laughed again. “We’ll see, Dr. Banner. We’ll see.”
The sound of his amusement followed Bruce all the way back to the lab.