Chapter Three: Suspicions
Chapter Three: Suspicions
Fury worked fast Bruce had to admit, it had barely been two days since their discussion and the man had already gotten back to them with a location that was a 'highly probable target'. Which was a good thing as neither he nor the billionaire had slept in that time and the strain was starting to take it's toll on both men. It had been hard going for both scientists to keep quiet, especially Tony who was still exceedingly pissed off about the whole situation but somehow they had managed it without raising any suspicions.
Or so they had thought.
"So are you two mad scientists finally going to let us in on whatever it is you've got up your sleeve or should we start planning your funerals now?"
On any other day Clint's smile would have been infectious but after over forty-eight hours without sleep both Bruce and Tony were on their last nerve. The billionaire scowled at the archer and folded his arms across his chest defensively, a guarded look in his eyes.
"None of your business Barton." He snapped.
Hawkeye's smile dropped and a look of worry crossed his features, he was a little shocked at the reaction to his jibe. Stark was usually good for a bit of goading and generally wasn't the defensive or secretive type, he was antagonistic yes, secretive no. If Clint was being really honest he was surprised Tony knew the meaning of the word secret let alone possessed the ability keep one, it wasn't really in his vocabulary. Anyway the billionaire was definitely more the 'Look at me, I have something awesome!' type and Clint got that he really did, that was why this all felt wrong.
"What crawled up your ass and died Shellhead?"
He'd left himself wide open for a innuendo laced retort, a 'Stark special' as he liked to call it and he waited for Tony to take the bait. The billionaire's face hardened and inwardly Clint flinched, this did not bode well. He flicked a glance toward Natasha and Steve both of whom were sitting on the couch, in a faux display of casualness. Natasha had her usual mask of calm indifference affixed firmly in place but the archer could just pick out the shadow of concern in her eyes and Steve's face was set in a grimace, he hated conflict especially when Stark was involved.
"I thought I said it was none of your fucking business Barton."
No innuendo, no awful pun, no stupid archery related nickname, something was definitely up.
"Tony that's enough..."
Clint almost jumped at the sound of Banner's fatigued voice, he'd forgotten that the other scientist was even there. Tony seemed to pause for a second before throwing up his hands in frustration and storming from the room muttering mutinously under his breath. Bruce let out a weary sigh and flashed a small, apologetic smile at the other three Avengers.
"Sorry about that." Bruce muttered apologetically.
The physicist sounded utterly exhausted and looked far more tired than any of them had ever seen him, Clint merely shrugged in response.
"Not your fault Doc, you can't stop Princess Antonia from being an utter dick-wad, as much as you try you can't change the natural order of things."
Bruce laughed but it sounded strained.
"I know what you mean but it was still uncalled for... It's been a stressful few days but Tony should've known better than to take it out on you."
The other three Avengers all looked concerned and Steve moved to ask the next question.
There was a barely perceptible shift in the physicist's body language but they noticed it immediately, Bruce was nervous about something and he had that slightly guilty look on his face like he let slip something he shouldn't have.
"Just a project we're working on. It's kind of... Delicate and you know how Tony is, he's not built for patience."
The lie was smooth, born from years of practice but the rest of the team (with the exception of Steve) were also practiced liars and were able to spot one from twenty paces. Clint and Natasha shared a deep look while Steve continued to frown clearly not happy with the situation. The physicist shifted under the intense scrutiny and quickly bade them goodbye fairly fleeing for the door to escape the questioning stares, they tended to make the 'Other Guy' uncomfortable and that was almost as bad him being angry.
"Well that was unusual... Even for Banner." Barton announced to no one in particular, his keen eyes trained on the door Bruce had just fled through.
From her position on the couch Natasha sat up and rested her hands on her lap, cool green eyes calculating.
"You're right, it isn't like Doctor Banner to blatantly lie to us and Stark certainly seemed out of sorts. I think there is something going on."
The frown on Steve's face deepened he had never really been a fan of secrets and lies. He understood the need for them; he wasn't that naive but it still didn't mean that he enjoyed their presence especially between supposed team-mates. It always led to trouble and the Avengers were able to create enough of that already without hiding things from one another.
"We need to know what is going on, in case it compromises anyone." His voice was solemn and authoritative.
The two spies spared each other a fleeting yet knowing glance before nodding having experienced their own fair share of 'compromised' situations they knew that Steve's concern was valid. Such situations were generally unpleasant, usually led to bloodshed, violence and loss of life and were the cause of more nightmares than either of them would care to admit.
"So... What's the plan Cap?" Clint sounded as cool as ever but there was a trace of unease in his voice.
The super-soldier's brow furrowed as he thought, they needed information that much was obviously clear and in any place inhabited by Tony Stark there was only one real place to go.
"JARVIS? Are you there?"
There was a slow moment where Steve thought that the AI wouldn't respond (he seriously wouldn't put it past Stark to program JARVIS to ignore him) but eventually the smooth British voice filtered through the room.
"As always Captain Rogers. How may I be of assistance?"
For a brief moment Steve felt uneasy, he didn't like the idea of going behind Tony's back and he knew that the billionaire was not going to be impressed when he found out. He had just as many trust issues if not more as the rest of the team but this needed to be done, they needed to know what was going on, for all their sakes.
"I was wondering if you could tell me about Mr. Stark's and Doctor Banner's latest project."
"There are no current records of any joint project between Mr. Stark and Doctor Banner, Captain Rogers."
A blonde brow rose in surprise and Steve turned to the seated assassins who looked just as perplexed at this turn of events.
"What about singularly?" Natasha asked unwilling to give up the line of inquiry.
"There are no current records of any current projects for either Mr. Stark or Doctor Banner, Agent Romanoff." JARVIS replied composed as ever.
The three Avengers looked at one another in concern. On the exceptionally rare chance that neither man had done anything for the last few days, which they all immediately discounted; this was Bruce and Tony, they didn't do stationary and Steve was pretty certain their heads would explode if they tried. This therefore meant that they were indeed hiding something and were going to great lengths to hide it. However they had sorely underestimated the curiosity and tenacity of their team-mates.
Steve sighed and shook his head he still wasn't used to this secretive way of thinking.
"I don't like this you guys."
Neither Clint nor Natasha could argue with his feelings because they exactly mirrored their own. They could feel the shifts in the air, an imperceptible something that suggested something was about to happen and they needed to be prepared.
"Where are they now JARVIS?"
The AI whirred slightly as if it was stalling.
"Both Mr. Stark and Doctor Banner are in the lower garage Captain Rogers."
The garage? Well that was odd; maybe not for Tony but certainly for Bruce, the man never left the tower unless it was for 'official' purposes. He seemed to think it was safer for everone that way.
"I'm going to talk to them, we need to know what kind of stunt they are pulling."
Clint and Natasha gave each other a wary glance both debating whether their leaders plan of action was an appropriate one. With tensions running rampant and Steve and Tony's checkered history it was a disaster waiting to happen and they all knew it.
"Are you sure that's a good idea Cap?" Hawkeye asked, face etched into a grimace.
The super-soldier shrugged half heartedly a frown still firmly affixed to his features.
"Not really but at least it is an idea... We're running low on options here."
Neither assassin could argue with that point and they watched as the fearless Captain America strode toward the lift with a determined air that belied the nervousness he and they all felt.
Down in the garage the two men in question were currently having a staring contest.
"Tony, there was no need for that."
Bruce tried not to sound exasperated and held the billionaire's gaze as Stark's dark eyes narrowed into an almost glare.
"He shouldn't have been sticking his overly large, nosy beak where it wasn't wanted."
The physicist raised an eyebrow, the look on his face clearly screaming 'What are you? Ten?' and Tony felt himself blanch slightly. So maybe and it was a big maybe he'd been acting a bit childishly but how exactly did Bruce expect him to react? This whole cluster-fuck (it's official name now) was breaking out all of his issues like a plague; hell there were even some issues that he hadn't even been aware of rearing their ugly heads. In short he was a mess, a gaping, whinging, pathetic mess, so excuse him if he didn't feel like being his usual chipper self.
The staring contest continued.
"Okay! Fine! I acted like a prick, happy now? I'll apologize to Tweety Pie when we get back." Tony gave in throwing his arms up in exasperation.
Bruce heaved a tired sigh.
"Listen... I know this is difficult Tony but you have to hold it together, you can't go blowing up at the slightest thing."
The billionaire momentarily considered calling the physicist out because hello, kettle meet pot but stopped himself before the words slipped out suddenly remembering who he was talking to. He knew that he had daddy issues but he had absolutely nothing on Bruce Banner if his memory served him right and it always did. Finally relenting Tony dropped his gaze and let out a breathy sigh, looking sheepish.
"Fine... You're right, I know...I'm... I'm... Uh... Well y'know."
Bruce shook his head somehow unable to remain annoyed at the abashed looking genius.
"Don't worry about it, let's just get this show on the road."
Tony couldn't agree with that sentiment more and revved the engine of the Audi.
Steve heard the roar of the Audi's powerful engine as the lift doors opened and sighed as he saw the cloud of smoke erupt from the tailpipe of the rapidly disappearing car.
He was too late.
He knew he should just leave it at that and wait for the two scientists to return but his instincts were screaming at him to follow them; that it was somehow important and relevant. Never one to ignore his instincts Steve made his way to his motorcycle and kicked the engine into life setting off after his fellow team-mates.