The car was warm but Sage knew how cold it would probably be outside and looked down at her clothes, which would be insufficient in these conditions. Natasha handed her a jacket and an open phone, which she put to her ear. "Sage,"
"Father," she put the phone between her shoulder and ear while shrugging the jacket on, nodding a thanks to the Black Widow.
"How are you doing? You're not hurt are you?" he went into a fit of coughing immediately afterwards, causing her to make a frown. She would worry about his condition and the expression, she knew, would fit it.
"I am fine father; not a scratch on me. I have enough medication to last until I get back. How is your condition?"
"I'll admit that it's not the best sweetheart; I may go any time this week to tell you the truth."
"I'm sorry father, if I could do something to help you I most certainly would."
"I know sweetie; just be safe for me okay? And listen to Tony when I'm gone?"
"I will dad; I love you."
"Love you too sweetheart. I'll see you when you get back home." The line clicked off and Sage handed the phone back to Natasha, who was frowning in confusion at her side of the conversation.
"Is there something wrong with your dad?"
"He has stage four lung cancer, untreatable. He will most likely die within the month." Sage explained without attempting to put emotion into her voice; the effort would be noble but there was no way she would be able to capture the amount of depth appropriate for such a loss.
"Oh," Natasha frowned, "I'm sorry to hear that." That was sad, she thought, to have your father die when you're so young.
"I thank you for your sympathy."
"You don't sound too upset," Clint pointed out; it seemed odd to him.
"I am incapable of being upset; as a child I was experimented on, and the experiment's fried the part of my brain capable of processing emotions. Believe me, I want to be upset that my adoptive father is dying, but I cannot be."
Natasha frowned more, "That's sad," Sage shrugged and pulled the coat tighter.
"Thank you for the jacket."
When they got to the safe house Sage took the opportunity to stretch her tightened muscles, turning a few cartwheels while Clint and Natasha shared a look. "What are you doing?"
"I was on a plane for ten hours and then stuffed into a car; my muscles are stiff and uncomfortable. I need to loosen them before they develop knots." The fifteen year old was standing on her head and looking up at them, feeling her arm muscles warm with the movement and spinning back onto her feet easily.
"Why did they kidnap you anyways?" Natasha asked, "Did they tell you?"
"They thought I might be able to be trained to become an assassin, to replace the one they lost when you defected," Sage shrugged, pulling her right knee to her chest, balancing easily on the pad of her foot. "It is of no real matter."
"They wanted to make you an assassin?!" Natasha was dumbfounded; why they would choose a girl like her to make an assassin she had no idea. She could see them trying to train a smaller child, but not one so old as Sage was.
"They believe me to be talented, I suppose. I was abducted outside of my dojo."
"You practice martial arts then?"
"For the past three years, yes." Natasha became more confused and Clint chuckled slightly as she continued stretching.
"Only three years?"
"Yes, only three; but during that time I have won several competitions and earned six black belts under Master Kao." There wasn't the slightest hint of pride in her voice as she stated the facts to them both to explain more fully why they thought she would make a good assassin. They had a right to know.
"Six black belts in three years?" Clint thought that was outrageous but couldn't detect a lie in the words.
"I learn incredibly fast, Mr. Barton. It is another of the effects of the experiments; they were trying to make me into a super soldier, and did experience some measure of success. I am much stronger than I appear and my IQ is currently hanging around one hundred and thirty-something points."
"Oh," the two ex-assassin's were sort of taken aback by the thought that she had been experimented on as a super soldier; but she still didn't seem to be upset by it.
"It is fine; the past cannot be undone, the repercussions can only be managed." Sage smiled lightly and fell backwards onto the beaten, dusty couch behind her, sending up a plume of dirt. Her muscles weren't worked, but they were warm and pleasant feeling. "Ah, but the future could be made plenty sweet by proper managing of such repercussions, something of which you both certainly know eh?" In her downtime Sage had a tendency to turn philosophical, and her thoughts usually found their way out through her idle mouth in confusing bits and pieces, directed towards but not always meant for anyone else that happened to be in the room.
Not knowing how exactly to respond, Natasha nodded and watched the girl begin drifting asleep, expression falling. "She is an odd one, I'll give Tony that."
"Odd for a reason Natasha," Clint agreed, walking into his bedroom so that he could sleep before their flight in a few hours.
Sage repeated her routine of cartwheels and stretches as they unloaded the jet in Manhattan; it had been an early flight and she had a chance to sleep many of the early hours, but the other long hours had been a bit too cramped for her, even with free reign of the jet.
Tony, Piper and Bruce met them at the airport, greeting Clint and Natasha while Sage had a moment to stretch. After the minute she walked over, looking for her father. "Is Kyle In the restroom?" Tony frowned, shaking his head sadly while Bruce and the others averted their eyes in sympathy; Clint and Natasha had been informed already. "He passed away before we landed, didn't he?"
"In his sleep; we found him dead this morning but you were already on the plane." Sage nodded, watching the floor and contemplating sadness and mourning for her father. She could do at least that. "Would you," Piper was slightly awkward; they had agreed earlier that she should probably break the news, but she didn't know how she could possibly comfort an emotionless girl, or if she needed comfort. "Like to see his remains?"
Slowly, the adolescent nodded. "Yes, I would like to pay my respects."
After the funeral Sage left everyone to go out walking; she had a lot to think about, to mourn over as best she could. Kyle Stewart had been the best father any girl could ask for, and she couldn't help but think that she had been more of a burden to him than a daughter.
Loki found himself in a park, with a better view of Stark Towers than he was comfortable with. He was slightly weary from his narrow escape from Asgard and couldn't be too picky. He was wearing a deep green shirt with his black hair slicked back and had a snake shaped belt buckle with green eyes to hold up his jeans, black in color.
He looked almost like any regular Joe, but the way he held himself would have given him away to anyone with half a brain. A young girl, whose long brunette hair was free and hiding her own downcast green eyes, accidentally bumped into him. "Watch where you step mortal!" he spat as she quickly backed away, looking up at him.
Sage quickly and inadvertently did a mental calculation, easily coming to the conclusion that this man, whom she had never seen before, was of a different world; didn't belong here, walking in the park. "Who are you?"
Loki was taken aback by her question; for some reason she wasn't afraid, wasn't threatened by his presence, wasn't cowed into some sort of submission by his power. He growled, making his suit of Asgardian armor, in all its glory, appear to only her. "I am Loki; God of Mischief and Lies! You, mortal, will pay for insulting me so!" he wanted her to be afraid, or at least to be awed at his presence.
Sage studied him blankly, not even pretending to show any emotion at the show. "My name's Sage Stewart." She returned.
Growling once more, Loki put one of his hands to her forehead, muttering a spell to take over this insolent child's mind. Unthinkingly, Sage put her hand over his, light green eyes widening as strange words came tumbling out of her own mouth.
There was an invisible burst of green light as both Loki and Sage stopped talking and released the other, stepping back and gasping for breath. Looking down at her hands, Sage only saw the alabaster skin of Loki, and when she looked up she discovered that instead of seeing the tall god, she saw her miniscule form. "This is most intriguing," she muttered, hearing his voice instead of her own.
"By Odin's beard what has happened to me?!" Loki gasped in Sage's voice, the moment of surprise and shock fading as he settled into her unfeeling body, as she similarly began feeling emotions bubbling to the surface as she was settling into his.
Sage pushed the foreign sensations down, knowing they did not belong to her and not wanting to deal with them. They would only cause distraction; and she could not think distracted. "It seems that the spell you worked caused our consciousness's to switch, effectively swapping our bodies." She voiced, hearing his voice instead of her own.
Loki wasn't calm, he was numb, but the effect seemed the same to him as he spoke again. "So we're in one another's body?" he was trying to make sense of it all; he should have taken control of her mind, not moved into her body.
"Yes; that is exactly what I am saying." It took little concentration for her to push aside the emotions of Loki's body; it must be used to doing this, she thought.
"Can you switch us back?" Loki almost needed to freak out, and it was maddening to find himself unable to.
Sage shook the head of Loki's body, finding his gangly limbs were completely under her control but doubtlessly less coordinated than her own as his thin hand came up and rubbed his chin. "No, I do not know how; and it will take me a little to become used to your magic anyways," she easily felt that the magic hadn't followed the god's consciousness out of his body and into hers.
"Then what are we to do?"
Sage smiled a little. "You will play the part of sweet little Sage Stewart until I am able to figure out the spell to reverse this," she took the rougher, thicker built hand of her body and began dragging Loki through the park. "And if anyone catches me, I'll play the part of big bad Loki, God of Mischief and Lies."
"Do you think this wise?" Loki shook his head, glad that all of his memories had followed him and that none of hers seemed to be present; but he forced a sigh through her mouth as he realized that what she suggested was the only thing they could do. He had no friends that would help; and none of Sage's would ever believe what she told them through his lying mouth.
"It is the only thing to do Loki; bring out my wallet now, it's in the front right pocket of my pants." She ordered him as they got to the store; she always carried a good amount of money on her when she went out, in the case something struck her to make a purchase. In this case, she used the cash to buy a prepaid cell phone before leaving the store.
"What is the purpose of that device?"
"It's a cell phone; there's one just like it in the other pocket," she handed the wallet back, minus the rest of her cash, which she stuffed into Loki's front pocket, as he got out her cell phone. After programming the pre-paid number into the phone, she turned her face as to have his attention. "This is what we're going to use to contact each other; if you need to get a hold of me press this green button here and the number three on the keypad, then put it up to your ear, like this," she showed him by moving her hand up to her ear, and he nodded once. "Call me if you have any questions or want to meet up; but make sure that you're alone and out of Stark Towers first."
"Stark Towers?" This took Loki by surprise briefly again; it was hard to hold onto the feeling of being surprised in this body, which he felt was strong and fit, limber and flexible. He felt like he could run for hours on end and never tire; or turn fifty summersaults without getting dizzy.
"Yes; that is where I live. If you made a call to me in there Jarvis would pick up on it and probably figure that something's going on and tell Tony, who I want you to stay away from. Dad just died, so you could probably get off acting a little out of my character but it's best not to chance anything; so when you can make sure you're either in my room or out and about."
Loki nodded, her brain allowing his consciousness to soak up all of her words at an alarming rate; he was sure he'd never be able to forget anything she ever said and could recite their entire conversation word for word. "Anything else I'd need to know?" if he would have been nervous having to interact with Tony Stark, he couldn't tell.
"Yes; my background for a first. When I was two I was orphaned, and then experimented on to be made into a super soldier. The chemical they used made me stronger and smarter to a point slightly above average, but it fried my emotions. When I was three Kyle Stewart, my dad, rescued and adopted me. When I turned thirteen the substance I had been injected with initially cause my intelligence and physical prowess to begin increasing exponentially; which was a little too much for my body to handle."
The watch began beeping loudly, so Sage had to show Loki how to turn it off. "That means that it's time to take my medicine. I take it once a day, but always keep it with me, in here," deftly she used Loki's hand to pull out the purple binder where the medication was kept and open it. "I keep one bottle of pills, never more than half empty, and three needles with three vials. First, I take two of the pills," she let Loki undo the cap and swallow the pills before continuing, "Then I take the needle, fill it with exactly 50cc's of liquid, tap the syringe twice, before administering it in the carotid artery, like this," Loki's hand gingerly guided Sage's to administer the medication properly. "If you don't take that, my body may die and you will probably die with it; understand?"
Loki nodded; this girl had a complicated life, he thought, but he understood. "I'll take good care of your body if you take good care of mine."
"Agreed," they shook hands, "It's getting late, so you should head over to Stark Tower's before they begin to worry."
"I'm not sure I can do this, Sage,"
Sage shook Loki's head, rolling his brighter green eyes like she would her own. "You are Sage; I am Loki, remember? And you are the God of Counterfeit; it should be child's play for you to impersonate a girl for a few days. Remember, call only if you need to and we'll arrange to meet up; let's agree not to discuss this business over the phone."
Even though the phrasing was complicated, Loki found that he was able to comprehend what she meant and nodded before beginning to walk to Stark Towers. The next few days were certainly going to be interesting.
Sage sighed, watching her body walk away and allowing Loki's body to slide down against a nearby wall. This would be difficult for both of them, she knew; and she also knew that if she were caught by any of the Avenger's trying to explain wouldn't help at all, so she needed to stay in hiding until everything was completely sorted.