Warnings: general description of weapons of mass destruction, language
Word Count: 2668
Author Notes: Written for the One-Sentence Prompt on Rough Trade
The Prompt: “Tony Stark decided to give talking Steve Rogers out of going to SHIELD just one more try.”
Tony watched as Thor and Loki disappeared in a flash of light and contemplated his next steps. He had already offered Banner a place and was thankful he had accepted. He would wait until Bruce was comfortable before he presented him with the intel Jarvis had gathered from SHIELD that proved they had an agenda. Fury was invested in controlling them through the Avengers Initiative.
He was still reviewing the data Jarvis was compiling, but it was clear that he would have to make some plans of his own if he didn’t want to find himself pulled into the center of this mess. He suspected if he gave in, that he would become their cash cow and their whipping boy. He could see it, but he was formulating how to ride the edge of the goodwill he had gained due to that nuke.
Fury was acting magnanimous about giving them some space, but his overall attitude toward Tony hadn’t changed. Tony, however, had caught the looks some of the agents were giving him before hiding behind their professional face. It was a disconnect between actual respect and a mask of light disdain. But, based on the actual psych profile Jarvis found, not the piece of fiction he had been allowed to read, they had determined that a bit of reverse psychology was the best way to control him.
Well, he would show them control. Tony examined his ‘teammates’ as they broke apart to leave. First, there was Natashalie. She can fall down a deep dark hole as far as he’s concerned. That one was owned by Shield and loyal to herself. No, the Widow he wouldn’t touch. Let her go and good riddance.
His eyes flicked over to Barton. Legolas had potential. A sense of humor but slightly lacking in self-preservation. Tony hadn’t known him before this, but he understands being compromised. Now is not the time to lure the Hawk away from his keepers. He needs time to heal and some serious therapy. Best leave him to Shield’s tender mercies for the moment. Barton should be a bit more willing to accept psychological treatment from Nick’s people. He would have Jarvis monitor to ensure they are trying to help and not just add to the trauma with their own brainwashing. He would make him an offer when the Hawk was ready to fly free.
Well, that just leaves Capsicle. As Banner headed to Romanoff’s car to get his bag and deliver his ‘regrets’ to Shield’s spy twins, Tony put thoughts into motion and walked toward Rogers.
“Mr. Stark.” Steve turned toward him. There was the barest hint of tense muscles as if he were preparing for a fight.
“Nice bike, Harley Softail Slim. Heard a slight vibration in there. If you want to bring it around, I’d be happy to have a look at it.”
“I wouldn’t want to put you out.” Rogers had a slight bit of question in his eyes as if Tony wouldn’t fix his bike out of the goodness of his heart. OK, nix that, maybe he isn’t completely clueless.
“I like to tinker. It’s relaxing. Well, it would be if I relaxed, but I would tinker relaxed or not, so it’s on the table if you want.” Tony put on his ‘trust me’ face and Cap smiled. Hmm, so the jury’s out on that intelligence measurement.
“Just fix…not improve?”
“You wound me. If I wanted to improve it, I would just build you one from scratch. Well, maybe I should do that anyway. Would you want it to fly?” Tony started calculating the minimum distance between repulsors to stabilize lift.
“Did you really come over here to see my motorcycle?” Rogers asked with a little grin.
“Well, that and dinner. Figured we could order in something and I could give you a little tune-up and talk up.” Tony glanced around from behind his sunglasses. Then reached out a hand to shake and leaned in to whisper, “Maybe help you with a little bug problem. You do know they’ve put a tracker on your bike that also lets them listen to conversations when you’re on it?”
He held on tight as Rogers attempted to jerk back out of his grip and put an arm around his shoulder to turn him toward the bike. “Hey, look. I just thought maybe we might be working together again sometime, and it would be a good idea to talk things out between us.”
“I…are you…” Rogers took a deep breath then let it out. “I would be happy to accept that invitation.”
“Alright then. Just follow me.” Tony turned without another look toward Rogers and reached his car at the same time as Banner. “Jarvis how about some Hendrix.”
“Of, course, Sir.” And Voodoo Child came out of the speakers.
Tony traded grins with Banner as he put the vehicle into gear and drove toward home. He kept a careful watch to make sure Rogers was able to follow him through the convoluted reconstruction traffic. The engineers had confirmed that only three floors were uninhabitable in the Tower and those only due to external wall/window damages. The internal damages were cosmetic only, except for that indention in the main living floor. Tony was considering preserving that for posterity. Not every day you can show a “god” impression in your living room floor.
He pulled into his private parking entrance and whipped into a space. “Hey, Bruce, Jarvis will show you to your apartment. I’ll head up with Capsicle in a few.”
“You’re not going to pick a fight, are you?”
“Who me? No, flag-boy is out of underwear at the moment. I’ll call a truce.” Tony grinned, and Bruce sighed.
“You might try to remember his actual name if you want to make nice.” Bruce grabbed his bag and turned toward the elevator, “Jarvis?”
“This way Dr. Banner.”
“Hey! I’m nice!”
“Mr. Rogers is entering the parking structure now, Sir.”
“Jarvis, bring signal interference online increasing in ten percent increments until he reaches us. Pinpoint trackers and listening devices on the bike.”
The sounds of the motorcycle engine filled the garage and Tony braced himself for the confrontation.
Rogers pulled up in front of Tony. He let the bike idle a moment as he looked at Tony and then let it rest on the kickstand. Tony ignored how slowly Cap was moving in favor of the intel provided by Jarvis. Deciding he had waited long enough, he walked around the bike.
“Look, Stark, if this is just a way for you to…” Rogers started just as Tony spoke.
“Jarvis. Full scan put it on the display here.” A holographic interface appeared with a 3D representation of the bike and rider.
“What’s that?” Rogers leaned forward a moment before climbing off the bike. The display separated bike and rider.
“That is Nicky and pals being very naughty boys. Jarvis, can you confirm placement of the devices?”
“Yes, Sir. The three tracking devices on the motorcycle are installed under the seat, behind the speedometer, and under the saddlebags. Additionally, there is a listening device behind the headlight.”
“And the other three?”
“One is in Captain Roger’s coat, a second in his watch, and finally a tracking device has been planted subcutaneously in his buttocks.”
“Wow, so when I accused you of being so far up their asses, I really did get it backward.” Tony quipped, appalled at the lengths Shield had gone toward controlling Cap. “Jarvis, check Dr Banner and me as well. We don’t want any surprises.”
“Rest assured Sir, there are no foreign objects implanted in your buttocks. I will scan Dr. Banner now.”
“You think Shield did this?” Rogers demanded looking between the display and the bike while carefully removing his jacket then wristwatch.
Tony shook his head, “Know any other asshole organization that thinks they own you and are perfectly comfortable manipulating you into performing on queue while putting a tracker in your ass?”
He gritted his teeth. “Can you remove them?”
“Most of them, sure, yeah, no problem. I’ll have to get with Bruce on the rearmost intruder. I don’t see it as a problem, other than the fact that if I remove them, Shield will know. Nothing stopping them from slapping some new ones on.”
Tony turned and started walking toward the elevator. Rogers followed him after a moment’s hesitation. As soon as the elevator doors closed, “Jarvis, deactivate the trackers in the garage. Minimum power, no physical damage. Let Nicky think something in the building caused the issue.”
“Deactivation complete, Sir.”
The doors opened onto a common floor with kitchen, dining, and entertainment. Tony’s primary entertainment and living area were damaged in the fight, but this was three floors lower and had escaped damage. The floors above and below were apartments.
Tony moved toward the bar as Rogers took in the space. “Beer?”
“Yes, please.” Tony grabbed two beers and pulled a tablet out of the drawer. He handed one over while he took a seat on the couch and propped up his feet. He didn’t pay much attention to Rogers awkwardly sitting down across from him as flipped through data on the Starkpad and compiled a list of relevant documents for Rogers.
Handing it over, “You might want to get up to speed on what your friends in Shield are working on.”
Tony spent several minutes calculating designs for a flying motorcycle while letting Rogers awkwardly flip through pages on the tablet. Rogers had started tense and now looked like any movement would cause him to crack. After a while, he stopped touching the screen and just sat there staring through it. Tony decided to wait it out and let him process what he had read.
“Is this it? You just wanted to show me this and turn me against Shield?” Rogers stood up and pointed at Tony and Tony flipped around in shock to sit upright. “I was given information on you when they started forming a team. They were very clear about your grandstanding and general attitude.”
“Look, I’ll probably regret this in the future because you’re the kind of person who would keep throwing things in a person’s face, but I can admit I’ve made mistakes in the past. I made weapons of mass destruction, whored my way across continents, and stomped all over my friends’ sensibilities. But I’ve learned from my mistakes and grown up. I didn’t ride a nuke through a portal in space for the glory. I did that because those assholes were going to kill millions of innocent civilians for a problem we had already solved.”
Rogers scoffed, “Millions? Really, ok, I agree they should have waited as it was clear we were maneuvering to shut down the portal when it was fired. But I’ve been assured that was merely a miscommunication. And, they decided on a bomb as a last resort. Law enforcement was already trying to evacuate civilians from the combat area so casualties would have been unfortunate but restricted to an acceptable level.”
“Acceptable level?” Tony did a double-take, “What the actual fuck, Cap?” Tony stood up and pushed himself into Roger’s personal space. “How many innocent people do you consider acceptable? A hundred? A thousand? A hundred thousand? Maybe you think a cool million is OK?”
Rogers pushed, and Tony stumbled back several steps before he could control himself. “Nothing is acceptable but blowing things out of proportion to make your point isn’t acceptable either.”
“Out of proportion?” Tony flexed his shoulder contemplating the future bruising while his mind whirled. How can someone insist on protecting civilians in one breath while approving of the murder of an entire island of civilians in the next? Answer, they don’t. Analysis of Rogers says he feels the need to protect the little guy while fighting for what’s right. But does he actually understand right or is he just following where his handlers point him?
Tony raised his hands, palm out in surrender to keep Rogers from moving toward him. “I think we have a little gap in information here. Jarvis, pull up footage of nuclear detonations.”
The screen at the front of the room lit with archived footage of nuclear detonations from WWII and beyond. Tony watched as Roger’s face froze and his eyes tracked the scenes over and over. On an image of the explosion and mushroom cloud, “Jarvis freeze frame.”
“To nuke someone is slang for a nuclear explosion. The initial explosion is massive. A one megaton nuclear bomb can take out 100 square miles. Jarvis, rotate and overlay the explosion over New York City.” The image moved and centered over the location of Stark Tower. “The entire island of Manhattan is somewhere under 35 square miles. Those cops evacuating the combat zone didn’t have a hope in hell of getting anyone out of the blast zone. But that’s irrelevant.”
Rogers turned shocked eyes on Tony at that statement, and he jumped in before Rogers could interrupt. “You see the true devastation of a nuclear device is the radiation. Within a minute of the blast, radiation would fall in a much larger zone. The hot zone will be uninhabitable. Civilians not immediately killed during the blast will receive a terminal dose of radiation that will cause their organs to break down. Even those who survive that wave will likely develop cancer and tumors long after the initial damage is over. So yeah, since there are over a million people in Manhattan alone on a work day, I would say millions is a good rough estimate.”
Tony left the image and walked to the kitchen to grab a cold pack for his shoulder. Damn, he shouldn’t confront without the armor.
“This can’t be right.”
Tony noticed the elevator opening and Bruce quietly entering the room. “Believe it or don’t. The fact you don’t understand what they were trying to do just shows me you’re not ready to be out there now. You need time to learn. You have seventy years to catch up and just learning who the major players are now isn’t catching up.” He held the pack against his shoulder and leaned forward onto the bar, keeping it between them.
“Look, I realize things are still confusing for you. You are making decisions based on what you remember and what they are telling you. You don’t trust my intel, fine. I get it. But don’t automatically assume their intel is trustworthy just because they tell you to trust them. Go out, see the country. Hit up a few libraries if you trust books over the internet. Heck, learn about the internet and computers. Figure out who you are and who you should believe in now. Then pick your place. Don’t let them pick it for you.”
Rogers shook his head before squaring his shoulders and his jaw. “I know who I am, and my place is fighting for what’s right. I’ll admit after you saved the city, I realized you have some redeeming qualities. But this irrational distrust of authority is what makes you a poor team player. You have potential, but if you want to be accepted as part of the team, then you have to be able to accept that in a crisis, those in command can’t always stop and explain.”
Tony just stared, unable to formulate a reply. Rogers turned away and started walking toward the elevator. “I’m going to go back to Fury and give him a chance to explain himself. I’m not willing to walk away from Shield without giving them a chance.”
Tony jumped slightly as a hand pulled back on the icepack. He glanced at Bruce’s contemplative look before watching Rogers stomp away. Bruce sighed, “Jarvis warned me you were arguing. What put a bug up his butt?”
Rogers suddenly jerked and started cursing before reaching around to grab his right butt cheek just as the elevator doors closed around him.
Tony grinned, “Thanks, Jarvis.”
“At your service, Sir.”