|Anton Sparke is Captain Jack (cantstartafire) wrote in doorslogs,|
@ 2012-05-11 02:53:00
|Entry tags:||captain america, door: marvel comics, hulk|
Who: Steve Rogers and Bruce Banner
What: Regrouping after the Avengers Conference Call of non-productivity.
Where: Bruce's lab space in a warehouse in New Jersey
When: After the Avengers Conference Call of Non-Productivity.
Rating: r u srs rn?
Bruce wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the little Avengers pow wow they’d had. Steve had left early but he had a good conversation with Tony. Well it was mostly placating him, but it was a conversation just the same. But Bruce wasn’t a natural born leader. In fact he had worked very hard to become the least likely person to lead anything...And now he was the only one with volume upon volume of Avenger history in his mind. They all came from different times and places, no one was on the same page. As much as Directory Fury and SHIELD scared the crap out of him, the knowledge of the lengths they’d go to to keep the Hulk out of everyone’s path...It was all a matter of time before something snapped somewhere. He was sure of it. Loki wasn’t the worst of the problems yet to come, he never was. That wasn’t the way their world worked. Something big was going to happen and they were going to be caught somewhere between bickering children and domestic terrorists.
It was early evening, the sun wasn’t even all the way down yet, and Bruce was looking over some files, nothing Avenger related, his brain couldn’t take much more of trying to figure that out. He was reading over some files that some old colleagues sent to him on occasion, some to get his opinion, others to keep him informed. He wasn’t exactly welcome in many other circles professionally these days. But he still had more than enough work to keep him occupied. As easy as it would be to flee the country (for what seemed like a dozen times already), he knew he needed to stay here.
For the time being “here” was Bruce’s lab in Jersey. He had an apartment in the city, but the lab was where he spent most of his time, it was big enough if something happened, it wasn’t in the city so he wouldn’t start off by destroying New York. And it kept him busy. It wasn’t flashy or expensive. Most of his equipment was second hand (or third or fourth), but it all ran well and it all did what he needed it to do. There were a few things he was doing without, but in those cases he did what he could on paper. It was nothing like what Anton was working with on the other side. Then again, the scientific advancements on this side were better than what Anton had in Las Vegas. And Georgia. And Rio. And Los Angeles. And London. And apparently Antarctica.
Either way Bruce was at home here, more so than he was at the apartment. He had a bed, he had a couch, a little kitchen area. Money that probably should have spent on more lab equipment rather than making something damn near the size of an airplane hangar “home.”
For now Bruce was just getting a little hungry, and was starting to go through take out containers in the refrigerator when he heard the knock on the big sliding steel door at the front of the warehouse. Bruce didn’t spend a lot of time fearing what might be coming for him. He spent most of his time fearing what would happen to those that showed up. So he just hollered out “Come in,” and watched as the sliding door slid way to smoothly as it was opened with ease. “Hey Steve,” he said surprised to see him, but he definitely wasn’t on guard anymore.
Since his conversation with Loki on the journals, Steve had been antsy. He was like a benched soldier that wasn’t allowed to suit up, and he wasn’t the kind of soldier that liked being sidelined. He didn’t think Loki was a huge threat, not on the level of Hydra; the man made too much noise for that, and Steve knew men like Loki always fell in the end. But it was a fight, and it was one he wasn’t fighting. It was Stark’s fight, Thor’s fight, and there wasn’t much room for a man like him in the battle. He wasn’t used to that either. Maybe if he’d seen a tour as a regular infantryman it would be different, but Steve never had. He’d gone from unlikely recruit, to Super Soldier, to Captain, and he was good at what he did. He was having some trouble not being allowed to do it.
Oh, there was the anger too, but Steve had that under wraps. The only person who came close to getting under his skin was Tony, and even that was more an annoying splinter than anything bigger. But, yeah, he was angry; he knew that. He didn’t see how he was expected not to be. Nothing was the way he remembered, he missed people that weren’t ever coming back, and he wasn’t fitting in real well in this modern world. He missed simpler times and simpler living, but the enemy, that was always the same. Some things didn’t change, no matter how much the world around them did. Bullies would always be bullies.
Finding out where Bruce was working, it wasn’t hard. For most people in New York, Steve was no more real than he was to Maren in Las Vegas. He was a man off a poster, from a trading card, from a comic. People talked to him, trusted him, and maybe that hadn’t changed either. Anyway, it meant a SHIELD agent was was perfectly willing to hand over Bruce’s last known lab, in exchange for an autograph.
The man that knocked at Bruce’s door wore khakis and a short-sleeved white collared shirt. Steve’s hair was a mess from the wind on the bike he’d managed to talk someone into lending him, and he realized he was going to need a job while he was here. He wouldn’t use Maren’s money, even if he could; it came dirty, and that was another problem he was dealing with. But that wasn’t what had led him to Bruce’s door. No, he’d liked the other man immediately, even if he didn’t trust “the other guy,” but he figured it was time for unlikely allies, even if he didn’t think things had gone so well on the radio devices.
“Figured we should talk about what happened on the radios,” Steve said, which didn’t explain the drive, but Steve came from a time when face-to-face meant something, and old habits died hard - kind of like him. “And Loki’s newest stunt.”
Bruce nodded as he closed the fridge and walked over to meet Steve, the warehouse was huge, and he didn’t want him to have to holler all the way across the place. Bruce had varying feelings about this situation, Steve had been instantly kind to him, despite everything. That went a long way with Bruce Banner. It was strange how different things were between all of them. Bruce wouldn’t expect to try and get everyone to be the people he knew, that was ludicrous and he knew how hard it was to meet expectations. He rarely even tried anymore. It was only natural to assume that if Steve was coming by to talk about what happened on the radios he was coming by to tell him that maybe he should leave the talking to others, “Yeah, I’m not exactly leadership material,” he said with a genuine smile, that said there were no hard feelings. “You and -” he paused. “Well where I come from other people usually do the talking and just leave the physics and the smashing to me.”
As for Loki, Loki was going to do what Loki did all the time. It was never over for him, this wasn’t the first time he’d pulled a stunt and Bruce was sure it wasn’t the last. “Loki can be complicated, but none of us can fight him on our own. Not Tony, not you, not even the Hulk,” he said clearing his throat, “If this Loki is like the version I know, it is in his best interest to keep all of us as far apart as possible.” Bruce nodded toward his small sitting area and motioned for Cap to take a seat before grabbing himself a bottle of water, “Do you want any water? I haven’t got anything else, I wasn’t expecting company.” He was rarely expecting company, and when he got it they were usually in helicopters with assault rifles.
“I’m fine,” Steve said, taking the offered seat and settling on it as he looked around the huge warehouse. “Not a SHIELD facility?” he asked, though he knew it wasn’t; it didn’t look like one. He was new to Bruce’s problems. Well, he was new to everything, really, and it put him at a definite disadvantage. He just looked over at the other man when he said he wasn’t leadership material. “Yeah, well I am, but I’m not getting to do a lot of leading right now. It’s not going so well,” he admitted, finding it easy to be candid with this man. Once he saw the Hulk for more than a few minutes, he might feel differently. Or if he spent more than a few seconds looking at a file. As it was, he only know that the green monster had helped them when they needed it to, and that it had listened when called, and Steve considered that a pretty good track record for a non-verbal soldier. He didn’t know there were expectations that he was or wasn’t meeting. He was just a soldier, one trying to lead a war that didn’t need him for a leader, and he was feeling a little lost on that count.
“Thor seems to think Loki’s his problem, and I’m not sure we can trust Thor if it comes down to us or Loki,” Steve said plainly, a mirror of the conversation he’d had with Tony. “And it doesn’t seem like Loki wants us all in this fight, you’re right. He’s isolating it to Tony and Thor, and I don’t have the rank to force either of those men to fall into line.” Maybe it would be different if Director Fury was around, but he wasn’t, and there wasn’t much hope wishing that was different.
Bruce sat down on the other end of the couch and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees as he looked around and chuckled, “Definitely not a SHIELD facility. If it were I like to think it would be a bit more high tech,” he said wondering what else it would have besides a cage of some kind. He nodded in complete agreement when Steve said he was a leader, and he felt bad for him almost instantly. He’d been pretty focused on how displaced he felt, he hadn’t stopped to think that the others were all just as lost in this world as he was. “You’re a good leader, Steve. You always have been,” the loss of Steve was a harsh one for everyone. Bruce remembered it clearly, but didn’t dwell on it. That was a different time, a different place, a different earth for all he knew. “Tony is also a strong leader,” he hesitated to say good, “None of this is supposed to be easy, but the more we’re at odds with each other, the stronger Loki is going to get. Thor is always going to think Loki is his problem. He’s always going to feel that stronger than any of us. But Thor has a sense of justice too, Steve. He knows the difference between right and wrong.” He’d seen it with his own eyes, everyone was just so new. They had yet to prove themselves to each other, they hadn’t learned each other’s methods and quirks. They were just...Lost. All of them.
“It’s not about force, you don’t need to pull rank,” he said smiling fondly. “You just need to appeal to their sensibilities, because I assure you, they have them. When Thor comes back I’ll try and talk to him. I talked to Tony after you left the other night, he wasn’t...Enthused, and was probably just trying to shut me up, but he’ll come around. Because while he’s generally satisfied just to hurt himself, he doesn’t want harm to come to anyone on his watch either.” It was the most Bruce had spoken to anyone since this whole mess started. He chuckled a bit at the thought and shook his head, “I don’t want to sound like I have all the answers, I don’t. I rarely do. I almost never do, but...I’ve been around a while. I’ve seen you, all of you, do things you couldn’t imagine. Together.”
Steve was trained to look for entry points, for strategic moves. He was trained to put flags on a map, and to plan infiltrations. He listened to Bruce as a soldier would listen to someone who came back from the enemy camp with critical intel. He leaned forward, hands clasped between his knees, and he considered the information packet a moment before standing. He didn’t pace, but he did move as he thought, as he talked. “Do we think Thor matters to him? Do we think we can use him to lure Loki somewhere? Does it go both ways, that obsession?” Tactics.
Bruce shrugged his shoulders a bit, “In some ways it does, I don’t know how much he “matters” but the obsession is there,” he answered feeling instantly bad for trying to analyze the situation. Bruce had been analyzed plenty of times, it certainly didn’t make him any kind of expert on analyzing someone else. “They have a strange relationship, Steve,” he said honestly. “I like to think that he must feel something for him, but truthfully I don’t know. On one hand maybe he just didn’t get enough hugs and wants all the attention now, on the other maybe he’s just out of his damn mind. Maybe it’s both. We need to talk to Thor, we need to find out where he’s at. Both in his head and I guess in his own time, I haven’t talked to him as of yet. Have you?” he asked curiously.
“No,” Steve admitted, sitting back in the chair with a heavy, weight-worried sigh. “He doesn’t stick around long enough to talk to the guy. He didn’t join in during our call on the radios. Even Tony’s worried about his loyalties. I don’t know how we manage to trust someone who isn’t here to trust.” He sounded tired, and he sounded hopeless, and that was very much a new thing, that desire to be the kind of person who gave up. But that wasn’t him, no matter how much he wanted it to be. He would bury his head in the sand, but only if there wasn’t a problem staring him right in the face. Loki was staring them all right in the face, and he had a feeling that would only get worse, not better. “Tony might be a strong leader, but he doesn’t know how to win a fight,” he said, standing and walking across the lab. “We need to plan this out, and then we attack.” Which meant they all needed to talk, and that was turning out to be a problem.
Bruce watched as Steve moved around the lab. As much information as he had, he didn’t have much by way of solutions. He leaned forward with his hands clasped, stretching his back a little before he put his hands on his knees and sighed as he stood up. He didn’t go far, he stood with his hands in his pockets listening to Steve talk about battle plans. “Maybe I can try and talk to Thor, find out what I can from him. Or you can try Thor and I can keep trying to work on Tony, I talked to Loki, he’s...” he paused and furrowed his brow a bit. “Almost exactly how I remember him, perhaps a bit less volatile than I’m used to but,” a shake of his head as his hand moved out of his pocket and rubbed the back of his neck absently. “Maybe that just comes with time.”
He looked over at Steve a bit cautiously, he didn’t want to sound like he knew any better than anyone else. Because he certainly didn’t. And he’d follow Cap, and he knew the other guy would follow Cap. Tony, Thor, not so much. Maybe he’d only half follow Cap, but that was better than he could hope for in any other situation. “I don’t think you’re wrong, Cap. But I don’t know that we can just flat out attack Loki for a few reasons. The first being we can’t go half cocked, the second being we can’t take him on our own, the third is a question of what his end game is, what comes after world domination? And lastly...I’m just throwing this out there because I’m pretty in tune with having someone else I have to share my brain with. But who the hell is he on the other side of the door? What if he’s got a life over there and we just take it away over here? I don’t understand the rules here,” he said and looked down at the ground.
Steve listened to Bruce’s suggestions about talking to people with that half-attention that he always managed when he was taking information and working on a strategy. He believed in plans, and he didn’t like going in without one. He wasn’t scared of daring plans, of plans other people thought would fail, but he was scared of battles without a goal, without guidelines, which is what they had now. “Talking is fine, but we’re spinning our wheels now. We’re being reactive. Loki does something, and we deal with it. We can’t win a war on defense. We need an offensive strategy.”
“Why does his end game matter?” Steve asked. He wasn’t a scientist or a philosopher. For him, it was enough that there was a plan for world domination. That was enough of a reason to stop the man in the strange hat. “I’ve seen a man take over the world, Dr. Banner. I don’t need any more reason that that,” he said, frank and unapologetic. “You can stick him under a microscope once I catch him, but not knowing his end game isn’t any reason to leave him out there.” Now, the problem of Loki’s Las Vegas counterpart, that was a serious one. He sighed, and he walked back to his chair and sat. He rubbed a hand over his face, and he looked at the other man for a long moment, as if he was trying to decide how much to say. “My Las Vegas counterpart isn’t lawful, and I wonder what to do about that all the time. I think there can be redemption there, which is why I haven’t called the police yet, but that doesn’t mean I won’t have to one day.”
“Because there is always something bigger and badder in the end game, Steve. Always something worse. A bigger fish...” he said speaking from more experience than he cared to think about. “His end game matters because if we stop him it doesn’t mean we stop his plan. I don’t want to stick him under a microscope, I want to know what’s going to happen next.” He said honestly. There was always more than just Loki, always more than just one problem. He wasn’t being pessimistic, he was being realistic.
“There’s always room for redemption,” he said before he even had time to think about it. He was projecting, but he had to believe it. If not, he may as well take Loki’s advice and run and hide. Again. He cleared his throat, “Mine isn’t so bad,” he said about Anton. “A bit different, but not so bad.”
In Steve’s world, in the life he’d led, killing the bad guy took care of it. It had been the case with Hydra and, he’d since read, Hitler had fallen the same way. In his mind, Loki was that kind of villain. Without his plans of world domination, his followers (if he had any) would splinter and fall. Killing the leader, in Steve’s opinion, meant ending the war. He wasn’t the kind of man who wanted to kill anyone, but he’d do it if he had to, and he wouldn’t think twice - under normal circumstances. But these weren’t normal circumstances, and for all he knew Loki had some harmless kid as his Las Vegas counterpart. “I still don’t think his end game matters,” he finally said of Loki, “but we need to do some recon, find out who he is in Las Vegas.” It was a statement, a decision, not a question or a suggestion, and it was more Cap than Steve could remember being since he’d come out of deep freeze.
“Well, while we have this problem to deal with, I won’t turn her in, unless she hurts someone innocent.” The only thing that had stayed Steve’s hand was the fact that the men Maren was involved with were far above her, and far more dangerous.
Bruce nodded, there was no real point in arguing. Maybe they were both right, maybe they were both wrong, maybe this was all just some insane alternate reality where everyone was new. He just knew that confrontation wasn’t his strong suit, and if there was ever something NOT To get confrontational over it was something as small as whether or not Loki was the ultimate bad guy problem or not. It didn’t make Bruce any less curious, and he was sure the idea didn’t make Cap any more curious. Bruce would just expect the worst (like he did so many previous times) and hopefully be pleasantly surprised. “Loki’s never been one to gain followers, he’s into...Coercion,” he said off the top of his head. Loki wasn’t usually his fight, they really needed to talk to Thor. They all really needed to get talking, he was hoping with enough nudging he could get Cap to be the voice of reason, no one would listen to Bruce, of that he was sure. And the other alternative was continuing to let Tony go off and fight half cocked and on his own. That was never going to work.
“How do you suggest we find out who he is on the other side? I don’t know many people who are being too forthcoming about it,” he tried to imagine what it actually felt like to be Anton dealing with Bruce and the Hulk. In his mind he almost hoped that whoever Loki was on the other side had no idea who he was back over here. It was bad enough wondering if Anton was scared of what the Hulk did, he couldn’t imagine being stuck with Loki’s latest take over the world plot.
Steve didn’t answer right away. He rubbed a hand over his face, in a gesture of exhaustion that was as old as he was, as he felt. “We follow him. I’m guessing that’s Natasha’s area of expertise,” Steve suggested, and he realized he was starting to formulate war plans, which wasn’t the intention, but there it was. “Unless you think we can do it,” he added, but he sounded unsure. Even if he talked to Maren, he couldn’t see her agreeing to get involved. “Alright, big man. We do it your way. We talk. I’ll call it this time, and if Thor doesn’t show, I’m counting him as a deserter,” Steve said, because he’d put up with the man dismissing them once, but not a second time. “If you want to get on his good side in advance, go ahead. But if we fight this, we fight it as a team, not with each of us off playing our own game.” He smiled, and he leaned across the table and extended a hand for Bruce to shake. “You in?”
Bruce chuckled a bit and shook his head, “I think we’ll let Natasha handle it,” he couldn’t imagine the situation himself either. He was sure Anton would be willing to help, but the guy didn’t need to be running around like he did enough on his own already. It was a bit amusing that Steve was calling him “big man,” if only because currently Steve was the bigger man. But he didn’t bother hiding the fact that he was pleased that they’d try and talk again. He leaned forward and clasped Steve’s hand shook it. “Definitely in.”