Fandom: MCU/The Avengers
Prompt: Trope Bingo! Come to Jesus
Word Count: 2857
Summary: Steve was not used to being the bait…
Steve yelped slightly as his arm was grabbed and he was steered away from Natasha as she walked down the hallway of SHIELD headquarters. “What?”
“Colonel Rhodes! You can’t take him!” Natasha called as she started to follow them.
“Wanna make a bet, Agent?” the man who had him by the arm caroled. He turned slightly and tapped the insignia on his collar for emphasis. “Me colonel, him captain. I can certainly take a junior officer aside for a talk and no, you are not invited.”
“I’ll be okay, Nat!” Steve said as he was hustled into a meeting room and the door was firmly locked. “I’ll be okay, right?”
“Yeah, you’ll be fine, Rogers,” Rhodes promised. “Jarvis?”
“You’re clear, Colonel Rhodes,” a voice announced out of the ceiling.
“Who?” Steve looked at the ceiling and then down at the man in front of him. “Who is that? I heard them when we were in the battle, but I could never figure out who it was.”
“That’s Jarvis, Tony’s majordomo and AI,” Rhodes explained. “He handles all of the electronic security for Tony and a good amount of his physical security as well.”
Steve drew in a deep breath and then slanted a glance at the door. “What electronic threats? How can electricity be a threat? And what is an AI?”
Rhodes stopped moving and looked at him. “No…How long ago did you wake up?”
“Six weeks,” Steve said.
“Oh, damn,” Rhodes said and ran a hand over his face. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he pulled out a slim case and handed it over. “Jarvis? Save all my settings on that tablet, then wipe it, and set up an aggressive re-education campaign for Captain Rogers. Make sure everything is utterly factual and include both audio and visual sources to supplement.”
“Working,” Jarvis announced. “The power on that tablet is at 85% and should last you three weeks, Captain. I’ll have a charging cord delivered as soon as possible.”
Steve took the tablet and glanced at it. “I’m sure I’ll figure out how to use this.”
“I’ll tutor you, Captain,” Jarvis promised.
“Thank you,” Steve said, grateful. He tucked the tablet into his pants pocket and patted it. He hoped that this Jarvis fellow would indeed walk him through how to use it, otherwise he’d need to ask someone in SHIELD and that idea made him hesitant for some reason. “I’m certain that you didn’t pull me in here to give me that?”
“No, but it’s good that I was able to. Jarvis, make sure he has access to newspapers and their achieves as well as the Library of Congress,” Rhodes directed. “The reason I pulled you in here was what I got from Tony after Thor and Loki went home.”
“He seemed fine when I saw him?” Steve said, voice rising in a question.
“Physically, he’s about as fine as we can expect, given that he was in battle, exposed to the depths of space, and had a nuclear bomb explode way too close to him,” Rhodes said.
“Was he hit by the shockwave of the bomb?” Steve asked. He’d seen too many bodies of people killed in the war by that type of injury and while Stark had been moving okay when they had dinner, he’d been exhausted and could have missed something.
Rhodes shook his head. “No, it’s the radiation that’s the issue.”
“Shit,” Rhodes looked flabbergasted for a second and then pinched the bridge of his nose. “You went under the ice before Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Right. The tablet will turn on when you flip open the front flap and Jarvis will have that queued up. Anyway. Not the reason I’m here.”
“Ooookay?” Steve asked. He placed his hand over the tablet and resisted the urge to pull it out and start reading. The little thing in his pocket held answers. Answers that weren’t coming from his handlers at SHIELD.
“Why did you decline to go with Tony when he offered you the option?” Rhodes asked bluntly. “Why did you stay with SHIELD?”
“He’s not a part of SHIELD and they’ve stated that he’s not trustworthy,” Steve said immediately.
“And yet, they pulled him in to fix their fuck up with the cube, find Loki, and close that damn wormhole,” Rhodes reminded him grimly. “He also made certain that their flying dick replacement stayed in the air.”
“He also did something called ‘hacking’ it,” Steve offered after suppressing his grin at the description of the Helicarrier. He got that reference, just fine. “Resulting in him having information Fury stated he shouldn’t have.”
“How many times did you send someone harmless-looking through headquarters to find out information that you weren’t being told?” Rhodes countered.
“Way too many,” Steve said. He shrugged. “Okay, I can see why getting intelligence would be good, but I was still given a file that says that he’s not reliable or a team player. It also mentioned that he’s arrogant, bad with people, and unwilling to supply our troops with what they need to do their jobs. From what I was given, I deduced that it would be less than optimal to associate with him.”
Rhodes raised an eyebrow at that. “Do you always let someone else form your opinion for you, Captain?”
“No, sir, I do not,” Steve admitted. He shrugged once. “When I met Stark initially, nothing seemed to be out of line with the file I was given. But now…”
“The file you were given doesn’t mesh with the man who fought long and hard for New York and took a bomb through the wormhole to take out the enemy. Basically, he did the equivalent of diving on top of a grenade and your mental picture of him isn’t making sense,” Rhodes surmised.
“Yes, sir,” Steve agreed.
“And if I was to tell you that the file you were given was shaded to show Tony at his worst? That it’s total bullshit and you fell for it, hook, line, and sinker?” Rhodes asked.
“I’d…,” Steve stopped and tried to figure out what his issue with Stark really was. It wasn’t that he made weapons, and it certainly wasn’t that he was fighting those who would misuse his inventions to harm others. He had a problem with someone who wasn’t willing to stand up for what was right and the file he’d been given seemed to be saying that Stark wasn’t willing to do that. “I’d have to think things over, sir.”
“The team player part and the part where I was told that he’s no longer supporting the troops,” Steve admitted. He flushed slightly as Rhodes glared at him before the man pinched the bridge of his nose. “I take it neither is correct?”
“No,” Rhodes said shortly. “Tony was kidnapped and held for ransom less than a year ago. While we were able to get him therapy to help deal with it, he was still a civilian when he was captured and had little to no idea how to handle the whole process. When he came back from that whole clusterfuck, he was determined that Stark International was no longer going to be making weapons. And that was the only thing he cut out of the program SI has for the military.”
“Interesting,” Steve said as he tried to remember exactly what he’d been told about Stark and his stance on supplying the US military machine. “I was told that he’d cut off every avenue of support to our troops and left them hanging, high and dry.”
“Uhm, no,” Rhodes said with a grimace. “God, Tony didn’t leave our troops without support. He’s upped the number of R&D resources aimed at armor for both troops and for their vehicles and has authorized an increase in the sale of the sensors he had that detect explosives. He’s also put in increased access to communication, medical advancements and anything else he can think of that might help, but aren’t munitions.”
“Can I ask why?” Steve asked. He had tried to find out why Stark had stopped selling weapons but had been stymied at every turn.
“Originally he was supposed to be killed by the Ten Rings. However, they figured out who he was, and determined that he was worth more alive. They kept him alive so he could build them bombs. Better bombs than what they currently had access to on the black market,” Rhodes said. He looked disturbed and Steve didn’t blame him at all for that. “They tried torture, but that has limited utility when you want your prisoner to do stuff for you. Frankly, they were damn dumb and gave Tony access to electronics and he made them pay for their stupidity in a number of different ways. Then he escaped.
“When he got back to the US, he made the decision that SI wasn’t going to be selling armaments to anyone since a good chunk of what was being sold to the US was being diverted to the black market and sold to assholes,” Rhodes concluded. “He still sells stuff to protect our troops, just not stuff that they can kill with. Well. I suppose you could bludgeon someone to death with body armor, but it would take a while.”
Steve snorted softly in amusement. “So, he’s still helping, just not with bullets, guns, or bombs.”
“Right. And that’s got certain parties all up in arms because SI was the best at the bomb game. If you fired one of their bombs, it went where you aimed it for and exploded there. Not somewhere along the way or went dud,” Rhodes said proudly. “SI always made the best stuff on the market and that can be traced back to Howard. He was always a perfectionist and he made certain that Tony followed in those footsteps, even if he avoided others.”
“So, Howard was the one who officially got SI into making weapons?” Steve asked. From what he remembered, the packet of information he’d been given said that Tony Stark had been the one who had aligned SI with the US military, not Howard. “When was this?”
“The Korean War,” Rhodes said promptly. When Steve flashed him a blank look, he sighed. “It was a war that broke out after World War II and it lasted 3 years of active fighting, and has lingered on until this day because the two parties to it haven’t signed a treaty yet.”
“That’s disgusting,” Steve muttered. “To have a war linger this long.”
“Yeah, but there’s not much we can do about it. The two sides need to sit down and talk and they won’t. They’re too far apart in their world views,” Rhodes explained with a shrug.
“How long ago was this?” Steve asked.
“The Korean War broke out in 1950, so five years after the end of WWII,” Rhodes said. He waved a hand as he spoke. “Howard maneuvered his company into place to supply arms, body armor, and bombs to the US military. He made a lot of money from that war. And then when that war was over, he made money off of the Cold War, and then Vietnam. When Tony was born, he was slated to inherit a company that was deeply invested in every aspect of war.”
“It sounded like, from what I read, that he did his part,” Steve offered hesitantly.
“He did,” Rhodes agreed. “And he was very good at it. But his heart wasn’t in it and he’s put more effort into protecting our troops than making things that would kill for them since he took it over.”
“That seems like an honorable choice,” Steve said. He tried to reconcile what the colonel was telling him, versus what the file he’d been given had said. As much he was certain Rhodes was in Stark’s corner, he was giving him information that he could confirm. Well that he hoped he could confirm. Steve tapped the machine in his pocket. “I’ll be reading about this on the tablet, right?”
“Yes,” Rhodes confirmed. He smiled grimly. “SI has been in the news at least once a quarter, every quarter since 1955, so there will be several corroborating sources. Howard made a lot of advances in the arts of war and Tony inherited a company that was a warmongers wet dream. Since that has never been his dream, he slowly but certainly started moving SI out of the side of war that leads to death.”
“Since he’s no longer supplying arms, is he still doing those other things you mentioned?” Steve asked. His mental ‘to do’ list was getting long and he was itching to start reading.
Rhodes waved at the uniform Steve was wearing. “Did SHIELD give you that armor?”
“Yeah, they did,” Steve confirmed. He looked down at the red, white, and blue armor and tapped it with a finger. “This came from SI, didn’t it?”
“Yup. I recognize the material,” Rhodes said. He shrugged once. “Tony made that for the DOD a couple of years ago. When I last looked into what it was being used for, it was slated for the Special Forces groups for each of the branches. I’m not surprised that SHIELD acquired it.”
Steve started to say something and stopped. Tilting his head slightly, he turned to look at the door. “We have a visitor out there.”
“I was expecting them,” Rhodes said with a grim smile. “You might want to look like I’ve spent the last ten minutes chewing you out for not being nice to Tony.”
“Wha?” Steve asked before his brain caught up with what he had just been told. “I’m the bait?”
“Yup,” Rhodes confirmed. He rocked back and forth on his feet for a second and then stilled. “Sorry. I needed to talk to certain parties and they’ve been avoiding me.”
“No, I think I get it. Not an issue,” Steve promised. He tapped the tablet in his pocket. “I’m in your debt.”
“Stop being an asshole to Tony and we’re good. Also, remember, you’re still a part of the US Army, and haven’t been seconded to SHIELD,” Rhodes directed. “Jarvis, drop the countermeasures and let SHIELD get an eye on the room again.”
“As you will, Colonel,” Jarvis said from the ceiling speaker as the door opened.
“Think you can follow those orders, Captain?” Rhodes asked voice hard. His eyes were dancing with good humor before his expression settled into a stern expression as the door opened.
“Sir, yes, sir!” Steve said. The thing that shocked him the most was he meant what he was agreeing to. Stark didn’t deserve to be treated like a pariah and he needed to remember that everyone around him had their own ax to grind. Even Rhodes. Although his ax seemed to be the most innocuous so far.
“What the hell is happening here?” Fury asked as he forced his way into the room.
“I was having a word with an officer of the United States Military. I didn’t know that doing so would mean that you would be brought down, Director,” Rhodes snapped. The underlying good mood that the man had been projecting was gone and in its place was a bone-deep level of anger that startled Steve. When Rhodes turned to look at him, he stood at attention automatically and without any acting needed. “Dismissed, Captain. Have a good day.”
“Thank you, sir,” Steve said and turned on his heel, exiting the room. As he closed it, he could hear Rhodes lighting into Fury over everything Stark had been through while working with SHIELD. Yeah, it was best if he wasn’t anywhere near that when the two men parted ways. He grabbed Natasha on his way out and pulled her with him. “That’s not for us.”
“I need to be in there,” Natasha protested. She tugged at his grip and Steve kept his hand wrapped firmly around her wrist. “Rogers!”
“Nat, Rhodes has a bone to pick with Fury, I suggest we let him,” Steve said. He glanced down at her and raised an eyebrow at her as she tried to twist her wrist out of his grip. “Would you please stop trying to get away? I don’t want to hurt you.”
Natasha flashed him an practiced glare and tried to dig her heels in. “Then let me go! Rhodes shouldn’t be talking to Fury!”
“It’s not your place to make that decision, Agent Romanov,” Hill called as she walked down the hallway towards them. “If Colonel Rhodes wants to talk to Director Fury, he can. Let it be.”
Steve smirked slightly as he let Natasha go and she huffed off. He had a feeling that Fury was going to be getting a hell of a come to Jesus talk with the good colonel. And while his talk had been short on histrionics and screaming, it had still made an impact.
Tapping his fingers against his thigh pocket, Steve promised himself that he’d read everything that Rhodes and Jarvis had given him. He had decades of history to catch up on. The sooner he started, the better.