Log: Rhodey & Nebula Who: Rhodey and Nebula What: Practice and dinner When: June, not long after Plum Island Where: Avengers Tower Warnings: Mild language
While Rhodey was a heavy hitter with his armor on, without it he was just a guy. Fast for his age, and in good shape, and in this world minus the injuries that had paralyzed him, but still, not much compared to the super strength, speed, and durability he had in the armor.
Sparring with Nebula was a good reminder, because she was kicking his ass.
He hauled himself up off the mat and said, "Let's give it another go," dropping into position, well aware he was going to end up with another set of bruises on his existing bruises. This was harder on him than fighting kaiju. "We can call it and have delivery after this next one."
Nebula straightened from flipping him, again, and nodded. She had chosen to wear something lighter than her standard, body-covering outfit, which she’d worn while sparring with Romanoff: leggings and a cropped, sleeveless top. They didn’t interfere with her movements and were cooler. Her feet were bare.
Rhodey was a good partner to exercise with, as he had many years of experience, good form and knew that getting up again was an important step while testing your limits. She was also aware that it was important to know when to stay down.
“Another go,” she agreed. “You are very skilled, Rhodey.” And very Human. She wasn’t holding back, exactly, but she was naturally stronger, faster and more agile than the average Human, and that was before the enhancements, which she could do nothing about. For example, she couldn’t just switch off her metal arm, but she was doing her best to use it as if it were her own flesh. Assuming a fighting stance that reflected the one Rhodey was holding, she waited.
"That's flattery, Nebula, but I'll take it. You keep handing me my ass." Rhodey laughed, because it was true, and he didn't mind saying it. He went in low this time: Nebula had about three inches on him and that about countered the theoretical difference in her center of gravity. Not that she was built precisely like an Earth human woman, even before you got to things like the metal arm, but Rhodey intuitively went hand-to-hand with her like she was one of his Army colleagues. It didn't always work out for him. Correction: he was going to end up on the mat here, or tossed across the room again.
She was still considering how a truthful observation could be interpreted as only flattery when he came at her, low. Nebula dropped swiftly to a crouch, head down, right arm extended in a fist to thump lightly on the floor in front of her. Nebula’s intention was to block him, then swing her legs up to wrap around his waist, spin them both and flip him over onto his back again. If the maneuver had a name, the way these things tended to do in professional sports, she didn’t know what it was on Terra. It began as a defense move before sliding into the take-down attack, something she didn’t usually require.
Her opponent was more often incapacitated or dead within the first few exchanges. She would never do something like that to Rhodey, or to any of the Avengers. Besides, that wasn’t the point of this exercise.
To Rhodey it came off kind of as a cross between something Nat would pull on him--that was the low center of gravity, and in her case even deadlier--and ending up on the ground under her instead of away. At least Nebula hadn't kicked him across the room the way Captain Kirk would have. On the other hand, if Nebula had been trying to kill Rhodey, he'd be dead about now and he knew it.
He gave rolling up to force her off an honorable try, but there wasn't enough there there: he had all the strength of his own body, not disabled, because he hadn't been here, but without the strength of the Stark legs. So, no: instead, he slapped the mat in surrender and waited for her to rise up. "See, you kick my ass without even trying."
Nebula didn’t let him up at first for several reasons. One, she was comfortable and giving herself a moment to breathe as well. Parts of her were still capable of sweating, after all. Two, she wanted to be sure Rhodey was ready to be done this time. She might have called it earlier, given their varying strengths and so on, but he was game to continue and she wouldn’t deny him that right. Besides, she was enjoying the workout, too. Three, she was in control right now and that was a feeling she didn’t have often in this place. That and he was a friend, and she considered him appealing, and this was fun as well as energizing.
She slowly leaned in, stopping when her face was a few inches from his, and said in her throating voice, “It is a good ass.” Then Nebula smiled and rolled off him, saying, “You’re buying!”
It was hard to tell with Rhodey's coloring but he might have flushed a little at Nebula's compliment. "I am buying," he agreed as he rolled to his feet, ignoring the soreness and incipient bruises from the spar. "I was thinking about delivery from Grimaldi's. A Don and maybe a Garden Pesto if that's your thing? Or maybe a pepperoni, or a Quattro Formaggi. They have salads so it's not all death by meat and cheese." He reached for his phone to open up the app and make the order.
Nebula grabbed her towel and patted at her face, neck and one arm. She’d have a shower shortly. He suggested delivery, which was perfect, and pizza, which was an amazing food. There were so many options. She wasn’t familiar with Grimaldi’s, though. New York seemed to be brimming with pizza establishments and Quill was more familiar with some of them, as he ordered on a regular basis. Take-out was his ‘thing’, apparently.
She knew the meaning of ‘pesto’ and she certainly knew what a garden was, so she asked, “Is that second one without meat? And I would assume the first one does have meat?” It made sense. By suggesting the garden pizza, it would be an alternative to whatever the first one included. Rhodey was very courteous that way. It worried her a little, as such a trait, though laudable, might get him killed one day.
“Salad. Lettuce. Crunchy. Yes, we should have that, too.” She turned to face him, draping the towel around her neck. “And something with coagulation of milk proteins. Something sharp, flavour. I enjoy that.”
"Yeah, the Don has Italian sausage, meatballs, and pepperoni. Lots of protein. Garden Pesto has artichokes and red onions with pesto, so no meat. The cheese on that is ricotta, though. We might want to get the Quattro Formaggi if you're really into coagulated dairy with a bit of sharpness." Rhodey flashed a grin at her. "Pizza generally gives you mozzarella, which is mild, and ricotta, which is almost sweet. We can get a spinach salad or something to make sure we get a balanced diet, as much as you can when you're eating pizza."
The pizzas were definitely opposites, which sounded good. Adding the third one would make their meal perfect. “Yes, to both, and the quad-dro fro-maggie. I accept your recommendation for the salad. There is a Human famous for eating spinach, one of your ‘super-heroes’, I suspect. He would consume the green leaves and transform into a very strong, very formidable individual.” She frowned slightly, reviewing what she had read. “Unlike Banner, his skin didn’t turn green. You might think the pigment would be affected, given the amount of spinach that was ingested, but it was not.”
At least she wasn’t trying to make sense of Olive Oyl’s improbable form or Swee’Pea’s apparent inability to grow beyond a crawling baby.
Rhodey, who had caught the reference even without an explanation, said merely "I yam what I yam," as he made the order--three pizzas, two salads, and a caprese for a bonus. They had soda and beer here in the tower. "Quatro Formaggi mean 'four cheeses' in Italian so that should get you a good cheesy flavor. I think we're set. What do you want to drink? The tower is stocked so we can grab something in the kitchen. I don't think Bruce or Cap or anybody will mind our stinky selves if we share a slice."
“Yes, he seemed fond of saying that.” Nebula picked up her bottle of water and removed the cap, saying, “Italian. ‘Badda-boom, badda-bing’, as they say.” Though she didn’t actually know what that meant, if it meant anything at all. Some commercial jingles didn’t die.
Taking a swig of water and turning to leave the exercise room, she added, “Are Banner and the Captain joining us?” Nebula certainly didn’t mind sharing the pizza, but she didn’t know they would be having company and she had yet to meet the two Avengers in person. “If the beer is good, I will have one. I doubt it will beat the options at The Ginger Man.” She remembered their visit to that establishment fondly. The selection of brewed beverages was long and varied.
"I don't know who's around. We're more likely to run into people in the kitchen than we are here, though." Rhodey grinned at the memory of their visit to the tap room as well when Nebula brought it up. "I don't think Tony has equipped the kitchen that well but there should be something decent." In fact, given Tony's current state of health, it occurred to him that Tony wasn't stocking the kitchen at all, but it wasn't like Friday didn't know what a good beer was and keep the place stocked. Internet-based delivery services meant Friday could handle a lot of the needs of the Tower without human interference. As he finished towelling off, he added, "And if not, we'll make sure to put it on the shopping list."
“True. You mentioned exposing our ‘stinky selves’ to ‘Bruce or Cap or anybody’, so I wondered.” Sometimes she had difficulty following what people were trying to say and the Human references and turns of phrase were occasionally elusive. At the mention of Tony, Nebula thought of his most recent encounter with Death. Given that Stark was also involved with his company, his armour’s redevelopment and the Avengers, along with assisting in the raising of his child, did he actually pay attention to what beer lurked in the Tower’s group kitchen? She hoped not.
As he punched the elevator button, Rhodey answered, "Unfortunately the food's going to get here before we can get showered; I think most of us understand that sometimes the food comes first after a good workout. And that was a good workout for me, and I hope it was for you. I know I'm only human but I still have a little life left in me yet." He flashed a grin at her.
“I am certain anyone who enters the kitchen while we’re eating will be able to relate to the need to refuel before anything else.” Nebula turned her head to regard him solemnly with her dark eyes. “It was a good workout, Rhodey. You are exceptionally fit for a Human of your age and... mileage. There is a lot of life left in you. Don’t ever think otherwise.” The elevator arrived with a ping. The doors slid open and she stepped inside.
Rhodey took a moment to ponder Nebula's comment as he stepped into the elevator. If Nebula were human, he'd have thought she was flirting with him. He was used to taking second place to Tony in the girl department; most women didn't notice him when a millionaire genius playboy philanthropist in superhero armor was around. One woman had, and that hadn't turned out so well for either of them. "I hope I'm not done yet," was what he came up with. "I like hanging around with the Avengers. And the Guardians, and all that. Even SHIELD isn't so bad.
"I was really impressed," he added by way of sort of changing the subject, "with the way you went after that kaiju."
Nebula might have been flirting with him when she had him pinned down and made a comment about his ass. With those last observations, she was stating things as she saw them and that included countering, gently for her, the words ‘a little life left in me yet’. Rhodey’s mortality, doubtless, weighed on him as it seemed to with most Humans she encountered, and given the people he liked to share his time with, some might consider him a candidate for an early, if heroic, death. He was her friend and she didn’t want either of them to dwell on the possibility of that coming to pass any time soon.
He changed the topic and she let him.
It wasn't a habit for her to say the words ‘thank you’ when someone gave her a compliment, so instead she replied, “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” and shared a rare smile. Nebula had a sense of humour, but sometimes it was too dry for people to catch. She wanted to make sure Rhodey caught this one.
The wry smile told Nebula he'd understood the joke.
"After Carol busted up the first one, I knew nothing I had short of flying into it at high speed and maybe busting it to pieces was going to stop it. It took a lot of guts to come after it that way." Rhodey nodded at Nebula: respect. "I hope Tony and Bruce and Hope can figure out what the scientists at Plum Island did to that thing. It's cruel to twist creatures into kaiju but there are a lot of people who could benefit from regrowth of injuries." Just because he wasn't living that life didn't mean he wasn't still thinking about it a lot.
“Car-ell is very strong,” Nebula said. The elevator stopped on the floor with the kitchen and she stepped into the hall, long legs taking it at a languid pace rather than striding. She was strong, too, but had decided a charge from her batons rather than her less powerful punch would be more effective. As for leaping onto the back of the creature? “I miss being active. Sparring is an excellent way to stay in shape, hone your skills and share techniques, but is not the same as being in battle.” It was a rush, a thrill and very satisfying to finally be involved with something in this universe that was making a difference.
She acknowledged his nod of respect with a nod of her own, saying, “The science behind such regeneration would be useful if the effectiveness can be confirmed as permanent and safe. Twisting something living into an abomination because you can is wrong.” She should know, after all.
Rhodey wondered if Carol, like Nebula and Gamora, not to mention Wanda, had been deliberately modified to give her the powers she'd demonstrated in the battle. "I don't know if she's in this universe, or knows about the timeline split if she is, but Dr Helen Cho is the best bet we've got for repurposing that knowledge for healing.
"I'm glad we got to fight together and you didn't end up in the hospital after it threw you. What was done to you was a crime, but Nebula, you're an amazing woman, and I'm proud to be your comrade." He reached for her hand to give it a squeeze.
Nebula didn’t pull her hand away and after a slight hesitation she - very gently - squeezed his hand back. “I was fine. Car-ell certainly ensured the creature stayed down. I hope we were able to retrieve the head. It will be interesting to see how the brain was modified.” Or whatever the Plum Island people had done. She wasn’t a scientist, exactly, but she did have some knowledge of genetic modification, a sharp intellect and a natural sense of curiosity.
They arrived at the kitchen, still holding hands. Nebula stopped when they reached the island and focused her gaze on the bowl of green apples of which she was so fond. “You are a true warrior,” she said softly in her husky voice. “It is an honour to fight by your side and I appreciate that you checked on my status.” She’d been covered in kaiju blood and brain matter when Rhodey had found her, but exhilarated by the success of the battle
She turned her head then to face him, released his hand and unerringly reached for an apple without having to look. “Now, if we can just make you unbreakable…”