Bait & Switch
“Fury...” Tony mimicked the exasperated tone of the SHIELD director's voice. “Really. No. Actually, let me rephrase that: Fuck, no! Come on! It makes no sense whatsoever to send me on an undercover assignment and you know it. Unless you want the paparazzi involved. Besides, the government has multiple agencies funded by my tax dollars that employ people specifically trained for this kind of work!”
“In this case, Stark, those people can walk the walk, but they can't talk the talk. Porter will be negotiating an exchange of his research results on recreating the super soldier serum in return for god knows what from Hydra. The guy we send has to be able to spout more than platitudes on the topic.”
“I don't do Biology. That involves mucus.” Tony pretended to study his phone.
“Are you a fucking genius, or what? If we give you the guy's notes and publications, I'm sure you'll be able to bullshit your way more convincingly than any spook we'd send.”
He had a point, but that didn't mean Tony was ready concede said point. Tapping away at the screen aggressively, he offered:
“Send Bruce. He's a doctor and his face isn't in the tabloids.”
“The meeting is on a cruise ship in the middle of the Mediterranean, Stark. You'd be surprised to know how fragile those boats are, even big ass motherfuckers like these. One well placed hole and the thing goes down with all on board. I'm sure you've seen Titanic? Compared to the Hulk those icebergs are remarkably passive and peaceful, you know. Given that we're dealing with Hydra, the chance that Banner will hold it together isn't a risk I am willing to take.”
Tony sighed heavily, because that was always effective. It was giving in. He knew it, Fury knew it, and judging by the tiny smirk he sported the fucker was enjoying the shit out of it.
“Okay, so just for the sake of argument, who is this Porter fellow and what is the deal with Hydra?”
“I was getting to that when you so rudely interrupted me....” Tony made sure he could see the Bite Me in his eyes loud and clear. There was a knock on the office door. Maria Hill opened it and then ushered in the most gorgeous specimen of male perfection Tony had ever seen dressed in fatigues. Built, blond, classically handsome and well over 6 feet. Aryan Prime Beef, baby. Tony did not have a soldier fetish, but, hey, obviously one should keep an open mind when it came to acquiring new ones.
“Captain Rogers here to see you, Sir.”
“Thank you, Hill. Excellent. Right on time. Come in, captain. Now I'll only have to go through the details once. Captain Rogers, this is Tony Stark, your partner in this endeavor. Stark, say hello to Steve Rogers.”
“Did they grow you in a lab?” Tony blurted. The captain's impassive face went even more deliberately bland. “Sir.” Captain Rogers had evidently decided not acknowledging Tony was the wiser way to go and addressed Fury instead. Not necessarily a bad decision, although he supposed it might get tedious eventually. Given enough time he was sure he could remedy that, though.
“Stark, behave. Try not to antagonize your partner before we even start. Rogers, please take a seat.”
Rogers folded all his delectable limbs into one of the notoriously uncomfortable office chairs that Tony was sure Fury had picked on purpose to stop his inferiors from asking too many questions. He left a carefully empty seat between Tony and himself. Guess he wasn't getting ready to jump Tony's bones. Pity, that. Silence descended while Fury studied both men as if going through a mental checklist.
“Partner?” Tony prompted, making sure his misgivings could be heard just fine. “Why do I need a partner?”
“Ok. Here's the thing.” Fury leaned back in his own, infinitely more comfortable chair, steepling his fingers. “This morning we apprehended Corbin and Del Porter, before they were to leave for Marseille, where they were to board the cruise ship Queen of the Nile the day after tomorrow. Corbin Porter's research on recreating the super soldier serum seems to currently be in the phase of animal testing and of course, both the Military and SHIELD are very interested in the results. Which have been slow in coming. Of course, the good guys are not the only ones interested. We started getting suspicious when Porter, who is usually a bit of scientific exhibitionist, suddenly stopped bragging about preliminary results. This could mean the latest results are disappointing, of course, but then it so happened we noticed that Corbin and Del had booked a small luxury cruise. Intelligence is almost sure the cruise was booked for them by Hydra and that meetings have been arranged to take place on board. We need to know what Hydra knows, what they are planning and how Porter's research fits into those plans. We need you to take the place of these two men. We don't think they have had any face to face contact with the Hydra people before, and we have our best people on surveillance, so if they had we would have known. As I explained to Stark before you arrived, Captain Rogers,” Fury turned to face the blond demi-god, “We need people on board who resemble the descriptions of these two men, who have a high enough security clearance and who can convince Hydra they know what they are talking about. It's a stroke of luck, really, that we have the two of you who meet these requirements and that both of you were available on short notice.”
Tony was about to object he was going to miss an important Stark Industries board meeting and that Pepper would be angry, but he figured that would be met with derision. Justifiably so, since he hardly ever bothered to show up for those.
“I was about to be deployed,” inserted Rogers and he sounded put out instead of relieved. Military people were weird.
“Your country needs you on this cruise ship right now, captain.” Fury managed to say it with a straight face, which only went to show that Tony really didn't merit Fury's best efforts on any given day, because the man never bothered to hide his subtle gloating when he was ordering Tony around. “Your superiors assured us you are the best man for the job and I am convinced we can turn you into a believable Del Porter.” He called up an image on the projected monitor and Tony blinked twice and swallowed hard. Del was maybe a couple of inches shorter than Captain Built and Blond, but their physiques were similar. It was the differences that screamed for attention here though. As opposed to the straight laced man beside him, whose solemn presence generated an aura of control and one that demanded respect, Del was a bleached blond, spray tanned, manscaped and bedazzled fashion victim. And clearly a giant poof.
He glanced at the perfect soldier next to him and stifled a snort at the look of wide eyed shock on the formerly impassive face. “Your country needs you to spend a long and painful day at a spa, Captain Beefcake,” he managed to get out before he could not hold back his laughter anymore. Fury glared and Rogers finally deigned to look at him. He graced Tony with a frown.
“Shut it, Stark.” It sounded like a threat. “Here, let me show you Corbin.” The next picture that was pulled up on the monitor bore an uncanny resemblance to the guy in countless memes that had crossed Tony's own screens when lack of sleep and sustenance seemed to conspire to make him think multitasking and social media were a good thing.
“Really? I am supposed to be The Most Interesting Man in the World?”
“I wouldn't go that far,” Fury offered after a pause, clearly puzzled by what he considered a non-sequitur. Rogers' look was totally blank.
Tony sprawled a little more pointedly in his chair and rolled his eyes. “Seriously, you guys need to expand your cyberspace horizons. Let me know when you're ready to move on from MySpace, we can start a support group for you.”
“Thank you for your input, Stark. So, yes. Both of you are booked at a spa. Captain Rogers, you will get your hair bleached, a full body wax, manicure and pedicure and a spray tan. I've been told the tattoos on your ass can be done so they will hold for at least a week.” Tony tapped out a quick instruction to Jarvis to create a meme featuring the Dos Equis man stating I don't always do what Fury says, but when I do I make sure he regrets it and then to set it as the wallpaper on Nick's phone. “Stark will get the mani/pedi, a perm, we'll dye his hair and beard gray and he will have to get his ear pierced for the diamond stud.”
“Whoa! Whoa!” Tony sat up. “Gray? Really? No gray! No. Gray. Porter decided today to dye his hair brown for this cozy little getaway. He seems like the type.”
“Or, we could just strip the dye out of yours, Stark and have you go back to your natural state of salt and pepper. If Porter's man enough to age gracefully, I'm sure you could man up too.”
“Hello, fuck you very much, I do not have gray hair, Mr I'll Just Shave It Off So No One Can Tell. I happen to have superior genes all the way. Brains, beauty and a full head of not gray hair.”
It was Fury's turn to roll his eyes. “Nice try, Stark. The ladies at the spa have already received their instructions. If you hurt them or try to bribe them I will sic Black Widow on you. Are we clear?” Tony wisely shut up and apparently Captain Rogers was still struck dumb by Del Porter's fabulosity.
“Alright. If that is all, you'd best get on your way. We'll send the files with you so you can read them while your hair dye is setting and we'll meet in the morning before your flight.”
“Hold on,” said Tony, “Those guys don't look like they are related at all. For one thing, Corbin is at least 20 years older than Del. Do they have different mothers?”
“Of course they're not related.” Fury's eye was fucking twinkling. “Didn't I mention it was a Couples' Cruise? Del and Corbin are husbands. Married three months ago after a whirlwind romance. They are newlyweds going on their honeymoon. Now, off you go.” He made a shooing motion with his hand.
Well, shit. That was going to be supremely awkward. In the good scenario.
Tony expected Rogers to just salute and go sacrifice his lovely hair and his miles of creamy skin for Freedom and the American Way, but the man spoke as he stood up.
“Sir, if Del Porter is just there for...” He hesitated.
“Arm candy,” Tony supplied helpfully, with only the tiniest bit of leering.
“Yes... That. If he is only there to be decorative and won't be involved in the meetings, can't you send someone who'd be more proficient at.... That?” He gestured helplessly at the picture of Del Porter with a look of quiet desperation on his face. Tony actually felt a little sorry for the man, even if he was obviously a stick in the mud and unfairly gorgeous to boot. He just looked so very, very uncomfortable and so very, very sincere. And Fury didn't give a shit.
“Captain Rogers, that is not my decision to make. You can take it up with your superiors of course, but I think it would not look good on your record.” Rogers shuttered his face and didn't even salute when he left the room. Tony leaned back in his chair and squinted at Fury.
“Why the fuck did the brass send Captain Tight-Ass to do this job? He's obviously horrified by this scenario and will break cover and run the first time he has to hold my hand. They can't possibly have a shortage of tall muscular dudes, who would be better suited for this. Hell, they probably have a dozen or so gay ones. This has disaster written all over it, Nick.”
“It's a security clearance thing. Apparently he is the only one with a high enough clearance and can be made to look the part.”
“That is weird too. How does someone under 30 and with the lowly rank of captain end up with stratospheric security clearance?”
“It's a good question, but not one the men in uniform would answer for me. I have my suspicions, but let me know what you think once you get to know him more intimately.” The motherfucker waggled his one visible eyebrow. Tony rolled his eyes in answer. He gave a him a sloppy imitation of the salute Rogers had omitted and muttered: “Stay thirsty, my friend.” Then he got the hell out.