Chapter 1: Meticulous
The devil is in the details, and Lester Graves lives for details.
i have no excuse or explanation for this, other than the fact that the idea of D&L as a pair of model citizens/part-time superheroes tickled me. i think even with fairly normal lives, they would still be moderately dysfunctional.
warnings: AU - Fateverse. sci-fi. crack. fluff. het (sort of). some Rule 63 (hence the het). language: pg-13 (for f***).
pairing: Lester/Akiko (Bullseye/Daken).
timeline: doesn't matter.
disclaimer: marvel owns all the characters, i just made more alternate universe versions of them.
notes: 1) this is a 'good guys are bad, bad guys are good' AU. the Avengers roster is full of Thunderbolts. 2) Mr. and Mrs. Graves aren't Avengers themselves. they're just pals with them. 3) Japanese women are scary. all the ones i've met in America (plus my own dear mother) are these teeny little super-assertive feminists who will either cuss you out or punch you in the face if you offend them. 4) Daken is such a fashion slave... being a girl must be awesome for him. finally, a universe where he can have a purse for every outfit and can wear as many pastel colors as he wants. 5) the line originally went "i hate butterflies," but then i decided that she doesn't have any particular feelings about butterflies in general, she just loves squishing them.
visit The Fateverse Glossary for terms, concepts, Nodes, and important people.
Keeper 125 has some inkling that most of his counterparts are quite insane. Someone mentioned it once—maybe the Auditor—but he usually doesn’t bother himself about it. Anyway, if he looks like he’s dwelling on the subject of multiple existence, Aki tends to flip her hair at him and tell him he’s thinking too hard.
His job is excruciatingly tedious, for the most part. Very little of multiverse interest ever happens in their bundle. Maybe once a month he has to bounce from one branch of it to another to fix some little detail.
But the devil, as they say, is in the details.
And Lester Graves lives for details.
He actually enjoys the tedium.
His task as Keeper of the BB bundle is really quite simple: make sure the bundle stays within a certain narrow range of divergence. He devotes his days to things like making sure a businessman in Hong Kong steps off his train at precisely 07:52:04. Crucial little branch points, carefully nipped in the bud through solid-state probability reinforcement.
Karla tells him it’s stupid to go to so much trouble when he could just sit on his ass and wait until the branch gets bigger and easier to prune. But Karla’s always been a little too pushy, and Lester privately believes that the Avengers get a little too much enjoyment out of cleaning up big problems (honestly, they cheered the last time some terrorist cell threatened nuclear war).
And Aki loathes Karla. So there’s that, too. Why blatantly take the advice of the woman your wife despises most, right? It’d be inviting trouble, conflict, inconsistency.
Part of the reason Lester is suited to this job (or so Sprite keeps telling him, and she should know, since she’s his Node) is that he craves consistency. Karla has called it a ‘borderline obsessive-compulsion,’ and once said it was because he was moved around a lot as a kid.
Lester likes stability. He likes neatness. He likes predictability.
He thinks of himself as a gardener. He keeps the space-time topiary looking nice by trimming off the tiny out-of-place shoots before anyone even notices them.
“What are we doing today, love?” Akiko asks him as she sets his coffee exactly three inches to the left of his hand and turns it until the handle is at a tidy forty-five degree angle.
“I traced that stray branch, finally,” he tells her. “You’ll like this: we have to crush a butterfly in Iowa by nine in the evening.”
The corner of her mouth quirks up. “Butterfly effect. Little Miss ‘I Don’t Believe in Coincidence’ must have died laughing. All the chaos theorists on the planet just shuddered as one.”
“C’mon, you know I don’t tell her everything,” he says between sips.
Her derisively raised eyebrows tell him that she assumes he does. “Lester, if Karla were a man, you would spend all your evenings with her in sports bars, getting drunk and commiserating over the worst Major League Baseball teams.”
“That’s not true; you know bars make me antsy. And there’s a lot of things I don’t tell Karla.”
“How stupid you think her latest disposable boytoy is? How much you want to fuck her?”
He spills his coffee and hurriedly mops it up. “Aki, we’ve talked about this. Attraction by itself is a meaningless physical reaction. And you know I hate it when you swear.”
His pretty little Japanese wife walks around the table to stand at his side, leans in, and very pointedly says, “Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.”
He flinches every time she says the word. He can’t help it. He knows it’s old-fashioned and a little sexist (which is why Aki resents it so much), but he feels that beautiful women should only ever say beautiful things. A weird Oedipal twinge, Karla would probably tell him. Mother-worship.
For a fleeting instant, he wonders how he would have turned out if his mother hadn’t been such a good little military wife. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with so many other versions of him in the multiverse. Lost, insecure, frail men who could have their lives turned upside-down by the most unassuming details. No idea how to treat women, or handle their own tempers, or come to terms with themselves.
“I know a lot of things, my love,” Aki says with a smile. “In fact, in all the ways that matter, I know everything. So don’t patronize me, and don’t even think about telling me how I should behave. You are certainly not my father. Now, does it need to be a specific butterfly, or just in the right place at the right time?”
Lester feels a chill dance up his spine.
He’s seen her charge headlong through a hail of gunfire, but his wife will always be scariest when she smiles that sweet little smile and puts him in his place.
“Um,” he says. “Place and time.”
She looks at her watch. “I’ll go slip into some boots suitable for killing filthy insects. Is that what you’re wearing today?”
Like all well-trained husbands, Lester understands that she really means ‘that’s not what you’re wearing today.’ He looks down at himself. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Oh, honey…that tie with that shirt?”
“They match, don’t they?”
“Never double up on stripes or checks, dear, I’m sure I’ve told you that before. I’ll bring you a different tie; you go ahead and program the slide.”
He’d rather finish his coffee, but he won’t say so; it doesn’t look like Aki’s in a good mood today. Instead, he goes to the window (Sprite says she likes the sunlight) and picks up the Node.
~Good morning, Lester.~
“Prep a timeslide to the coordinates we pinpointed last night. No—make it five minutes earlier, just in case.”
~Coordinates locked. Ready to initiate slide on your command.~
Aki swaggers out of the bedroom in some ‘fashionably grunge’ designer boots and grins. “I thought these just screamed ‘butterfly stomping badass.’ Here, swap me the stripes for the solid.”
He obediently takes off the tie he chose earlier, but she must not have liked the knot, either, because she wrangles him into position and quickly ties the new one herself.
“It’s pink,” he says.
“It’s salmon, my pet,” she replies. “And it sets off the cornflower pinstripes delightfully. Shall we?”
He holds out his arm for her to take, and she gives a happy little sigh as she snuggles up to him.
“I love squishing butterflies,” she says brightly. “Does it have to be just one, or can we stomp as many of the nasty little things as we want?”
Occasionally, Keeper 125 gets an inkling that his wife may be nearly as insane as some of her own counterparts.
Chapter 2: 2.5
Akiko is pregnant. She finds this incredibly inconvenient and distasteful.
this...is not the fic i thought i was writing when i started it. i was hoping for something cracky and funny, and it turned surly and sweet. i think i've been on Earth-339 too long.
warnings: AU - Fateverse. sci-fi. flangst. some Rule63/het. language: pg-13 (for f***, s***, and g**damn).
pairing: Lester/Akiko (Bullseye/Daken).
timeline: some indeterminate time after Meticulous.
disclaimer: marvel owns all the characters, i just made more alternate universe versions of them.
notes: 1) this is a 'good guys are bad, bad guys are good' AU. the Avengers roster is full of Thunderbolts. 2) "two-point-five" is a reference to a statistic in the nineties that the typical American household lived in the suburbs, owned a dog, and consisted of 2.5 people. it's a statistical average, they're allowed things like fractional people. these days, the average household size has gone up to 2.6. 3) "gaijin" is a somewhat rude way of saying "foreigner" (the polite way is "gaikokujin"). the "oyabun," or "old man of the gang," is the head of a yakuza family (like a Don in the Italian mafia). and the yakuza are Japanese organized crime. 4) OCD = obsessive compulsive disorder.
visit The Fateverse Glossary for terms, concepts, Nodes, and important people.
Akiko Graves glares at the traitorous little plastic wand.
It’s the third of its kind to be flung angrily into the bathroom trash.
She can smell her husband lurking outside the door; he’s well-trained enough not to even touch the knob without being certain that he’s needed. He knocks.
“Honey?” he calls.
Akiko grits her teeth. Honey. Like some fucking sitcom couple. ‘Honey, I’m home,’ and ‘how was work,’ and ‘the boss wants me to come in on Saturday.’ Fuck.
“Is everything okay?”
No. No, everything is not okay. Her life of adventure came to a screeching-ass halt somewhere along the line without her noticing. She wants to kill someone, possibly herself.
The stupid little stick said she’s pregnant. She already knew that, could smell it on herself, but she’d hoped she was just hallucinating or some shit.
White picket fence and two-point-five. All they need now is a dog.
Her stupid goddamn father will be over-fucking-joyed.
She punches the marble countertop and focuses on the satisfying sensation of bones slipping back into place and skin regrowing.
Well, her stupid goddamn father can take a flying fuck off a goddamn cliff into a tall fucking glass of water. Stupid conceited gaijin oyabun… No way in hell is she going to be the good little yakuza daughter and go crawling back to Japan to have her child pampered with blood money—she likes the superhero gig, likes the prestige and fame and spotlight of it, likes having license to kick ass and be cheered for it, likes the idea that her vague moral compass makes her superior to her criminal father.
She stomps over to the door, jerks it open, scowls up at Lester.
He recoils. He knows better than to say something stupidly obvious like ‘you look upset.’ “The coffee pot clicked. You know I can’t make my own cup, it never comes out right. My coffee’s four and a half minutes late already.”
“I’m pregnant. Go make your own mother-fucking coffee, or I’ll break the mother-fucking carafe on your mother-fucking face.”
He blinks at her, fingers tangling together and wringing. His mouth works soundlessly for several seconds. Then he strides off toward the kitchen, and she can hear the metallic squeaks of every single light bulb in the house being changed.
It makes her feel guilty, knowing that Lester’s disrupted schedule and her outburst were enough to send him into one of his worst obsessive compulsions. She hates feeling guilty, and she’s irrationally proud of the fact that this man who is apparently vital to the upkeep of the timestream can be reduced to utter helplessness without her careful attention.
Not so irrational. She wanted a pet hero, after all.
She goes and stands in the living room, waiting while her husband finishes in the dining room. There’s sweat on his brow as he moves a chair to reach the living room’s ceiling fan, and he stinks of cold panic.
“Don’t worry so much,” she tells him. “I don’t think I’ll keep it. When it’s big enough that I can find it, I’ll just cut the little parasite out myself.”
“Don’t, please,” he begs her, stumbling down from the chair and wringing his hands again. “Please. Please, let’s keep it. Boy or girl, I know it’d be beautiful, and it’d be smart like you, so smart. Please.”
Akiko is startled to realize that her husband is crying. A big tough superhero, a former Avenger. Yes, he has some OCD issues, thanks to having an overbearing military officer for a father and a Better Homes and Gardens trophy wife for a mother, and yes, he prefers to let her manage every aspect of their life that doesn’t directly involve the little talking glass ball… But he was still functional and fearless when she met him, in spite of all that (he just happened to align things at exact angles, change the light bulbs every day or so, and unplug everything in his room before he left it).
This is what you wanted, idiot.
She has to clear her throat before she can speak. “Well, all right,” she says. “If it means all that much to you. I’m sorry I snapped earlier. And I’m sorry I swore so much. I know it upsets you.”
He just stands there, helpless and co-dependent and unself-conscious like a toddler. Just stands there, like he doesn’t know what to do with her apologies, this man who’s saved two different Presidents, and stopped alien invasions, and beaten the crap out of the likes of Hawkeye and Spider-Man. Big tough superhero, needing to be told what to do next, now that his schedule is off by more than five minutes.
She knows it’s her fault, too, for fostering that co-dependence in him. He was fractured when she found him, and she snapped him in half so that he’d fall apart without her.
God, their kids are going to be so fucked up.
She climbs up on the chair and kisses his forehead. “Go ask Sprite what we’re doing today. I’ll get your coffee.”
“If it’s a boy, we should name it after your father.”
She bristles. “No, and if you suggest it again, there will be no baby.”
Eight months later, she gives birth to a girl. They name the child Itsuko Helena, after Aki’s dead mother and Lester’s dead aunt.
Helena has pretty little Japanese eyes, the fold subtle and partial like Aki’s, but chocolate-brown in color; her dark eyes look strange next to the pale hair she inherited from Lester.
Lester smiles a carefree smile while he holds Helena, clearly absolutely in love with the tiny, precious new life. He forgets about schedules. He forgets about light bulbs and plugs and perfect forty-five degree angles.
When she notices this, Akiko decides she might be all right with two-point-five. Maybe even a dog.
Chapter 3: Domestic
Akiko occasionally hates being a parent, but having children makes her husband happy (and that's enough for her).
okay, THIS is more like the silliness i expected when i sat down to write 2.5. stupid uncooperative muses...
warnings: AU - Fateverse. sci-fi. borderline child neglect (Akiko is a...special kind of mother). some Rule63/het. language: pg-13 (for f*** and g**damn).
pairing: Lester/Akiko (Bullseye/Daken).
timeline: about four years after the end of 2.5.
disclaimer: marvel owns all the characters, i just made more alternate universe versions of them.
notes: 1) this is a 'good guys are bad, bad guys are good' AU. the Avengers roster is full of Thunderbolts. 2) i could start talking about how Daken supposedly survived his mother's death in utero because he already possessed Logan's healing factor. but it's really just simpler to say "i don't think Aki could have survived being a mother if her kids didn't fix up good-as-new." it may be slightly more honest to say "shutup, it's funnier this way."
Akiko gets back from thwarting evildoers and opens her front door to a scene of childish screaming, laughter, and flying Cheerios.
She has no idea how this has become her life.
She got herself a pet superhero, married him, got pregnant, and let him talk her into keeping the wretched little monster. In fact, Lester had been so happy that she let him talk her into having another one a year and a half later. After that, she decided she needed adventure while Lester was busy being disgustingly domestic, so she joined his silly little Avenger friends.
And that is how this has become her life.
Michael scampers up to her and bounces, arms up expectantly. “Mommymommymommy!” he squeals happily.
“No,” Aki says. “Hell no. Mommy isn’t picking you up until you go scrub off your filthy little hands and face and change your shirt. While you’re doing that, Mommy is going to shout at Daddy for letting you have a goddamn food fight.”
Her son scampers for the bathroom.
In the kitchen, Lester and Helena are staring sheepishly at their toes.
“So, I just spent three hours clawing my way through hundreds of Tony Stark’s evil robots while Karla complained about not seeing her favorite drinking buddy anymore. And do I get to come home to a peaceful house and dinner on the table?”
Helena raises her hand.
“It was rhetorical. So. Cheerios. Chocolate syrup. Strawberry jelly. My nice clean kitchen. My freshly bathed children. My oak floors. Why did these things meet at projectile speeds?”
Helena stretches her hand higher.
The four-year-old points. “Daddy started it.”
“Traitor,” Lester hisses under his breath.
Akiko glares at her husband. “Helena, go wash and change. If your brother’s managed to drown himself again, remember to put a towel under him when you pull him out this time. There was water damage last time, and Mommy doesn’t like that.”
Her daughter nods very seriously and runs off.
Lester tries an innocent smile.
“There are acceptable venues for food fights,” Aki says. “My nice clean house is not one of them. You know where the mop and bucket are. Once our evil little spawn are clean and dressed again, I’m taking them to Margie’s for burgers and fries and the biggest goddamn cup of coffee they serve. You can join us when my kitchen is clean again.”
“Yep, he was drownded!” Helena calls from down the hall.
“Drowned, sweetie,” Aki corrects. “There is no such word as ‘drownded.’ Hurry up, because Mommy desperately needs coffee.”
Lester tries a pout.
“Don’t even,” she huffs at him. “Start scrubbing, before the jelly and the chocolate syrup set. Call before you head out; if we’re done eating, we’ll just bring something back for you.”
Michael bounds down the hall again, clean and dressed and slightly damp. “Mommymommymommy!” he cries.
Sighing, she scoops him up onto her hip. “You wouldn’t drown so much if you ran less water when you wash up.”
Helena makes it halfway down the hall before she remembers to run back and switch off the bathroom light.
“Shoes,” says Aki.
Helena practically jumps into her sneakers. She insists on tying them herself, in spite of how lopsided they always end up. The important part is that her shoes stay on and she doesn’t trip over the laces.
The little blonde holds the door open for them, closes it behind them once they’re outside.
“Now, are you going to hold Mommy’s hand this time, or would you rather get run over again? It wasn’t very fun, was it? And your dress was ruined.”
Tiny fingers obediently clasp her own.
Akiko sighs again. “Mommy needs so much coffee, darlings. And maybe a bottle of bourbon. Watch out for the crack, Helena—”
“Or else I’ll trip an’ break my face open again,” Helena recites.
At least the children are easier to train than the husband. They learn the hard way, and they learn quickly because of it. Lester learns like a dog—left all alone at home for misbehavior. It almost makes him more indulgent with the monstrous little brats, but he isn’t conveniently self-repairing like they are, so there’s really nothing for it.
They get to Margie’s Diner and settle at their favorite booth. Their order is on the way, and Aki is just getting ready to take her first wonderful sip of java when something explodes a block away and her Avengers communicator goes off.
“Avengers Assemble!” cheers Helena. “Go, Mommy, go!”
“Fuck Mommy’s life,” Aki growls.
Chapter 4: The Picnic
Now that she's signed on with the Avengers, Akiko has to attend corporate picnics. No, seriously.
because i get sidetracked
warnings: AU - Fateverse. sci-fi. references to Aki's 'special approach to parenting.' some Rule63/het. language: pg-13 (for f*** and g**damn).
pairing: Lester/Akiko (Bullseye/Daken).
timeline: sometime around Domestic; maybe as soon as a couple of days later?
disclaimer: marvel owns all the characters, i just made more alternate universe versions of them.
notes: 1) this is a 'good guys are bad, bad guys are good' AU. the Avengers roster is full of Thunderbolts. 2) the "i wanna goggie" "no" argument has probably been going on all day, if not all week. little boys can be remarkably persistent on certain subjects. 3) i picture Karla here as being like Sharon Stone from Basic Instinct, but more buxom. she's skank and proud, lol. 4) their daughter's name is Itsuko Helena, but Aki for some reason always calls her Helena. don't ask me why, because she won't tell me. 5) Norman as a good guy would be a Gilderoy Lockhart kinda guy, flashy and posing and presumably beloved by all whether he deserves it or not. 6) it'd be more fun to say that she hasn't let anyone feed Norman to the lions, but the Central Park Zoo doesn't actually have lions. i could make this universe have lions at the CPZ (like Madagascar), but snow leopards are pretty mean, too, so i figured they'd work.
Akiko hates a great many things. She hates her father. She hates Songbird’s awful taste in clothes. She hates happy fluffy baby kittens.
She hates Karla Sofen in her tacky, slutty little minidress and her cork wedges and her J-Lo shades with her Beyoncé extensions, wiggling her ass over to them from the picnic tables full of corporate superheroes…
“I wanna goggie.”
“I wanna goggie.”
“I wanna goggie.”
“No.” Aki unwraps a sucker and stuffs it in her son’s mouth.
“Ah wan’ oggie,” he mumbles.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full.”
Karla arrives in a bouncy cloud of Chanel, looking like a white Nicki Minaj trying to wear something she stole out of Paris Hilton’s closet. She could save a lot of time and effort if she just walked around nude with a sign around her neck that said ‘will fuck 4 lulz.’ “There’s our little Avenger-in-training!” she coos, crouching down and pinching Helena’s cheeks.
Aki wants to claw the bitch’s hand off.
“Hello, Auntie Karla,” Helena says politely.
“Aaand the little man,” Karla adds, reaching for Michael.
Michael avoids being pinched by promptly taking the sucker out of his mouth and smearing his face with it. “I wanna goggie,” he announces before sticking the sucker back in his mouth.
Karla smiles up at Aki with her bleached teeth and her streetwalker lipstick. “How sweet! You should get him one, honey. A pet is a great way to teach a little boy some responsibility. Get ‘em trained early, right?”
Aki doesn’t so much smile as show the pointed tips of her eyeteeth. “Children, why don’t you go find Uncle Norman and see if he has any presents for you?”
“Unca Norman!” her children cry, and scamper across the manicured lawn toward the rest of the party.
Karla stands up and brushes imaginary dirt off her skirt. “Your first company picnic,” she says in a sickly-sweet tone. “I hope you didn’t bring pasta salad.”
“Ah, one of the cardinal sins of picnics,” hums Aki. “Right up there with marshmallow Jell-O. No, Karla, I had the taste to bring two varieties of potato salad and two apple pies—one sugar-free for diabetics and a certain hypochondriac.”
“Oh, how thoughtful,” Karla says. “Mac loves apple pie, but blood sugar spikes do make him terribly excitable.”
Lester comes back from carrying their dishes to the table set out with food. “Hi, Karla,” he says.
“Long time, no see, handsome.”
Aki turns to her husband. “Precious, go and fetch your daughter before she cons Norman out of half his assets.”
Lester grins—for some strange reason, he’s always been inordinately proud of Helena’s ability to charm every man she meets. “Itsuko, honey, let’s go meet Bob’s little girl.”
Karla waggles after him. Skank.
Norman carries Michael back to Aki. Damned baby-kissing Congressional poster-boy, Ward Cleaver meets John F. Kennedy. Somehow, he’s completely free of any transferred candy smears, even with a cream cardigan tied around his shoulders oh-so-Presidentially. “Akiko, I’m glad you and your family could make it.”
“Believe me, Norman, if there were any way to blow this off without losing face, I would’ve fed the invitation to my son. Like Mac, he’ll eat anything once, and several less-than-edible things more than once.”
Norman apparently ignores her. “Little Mikey here tells me he wants a dog.” Political smile, twenty-four karat campaign poster gold.
Mikey. Like a goddamn cereal commercial.
“His name is Michael,” Akiko corrects.
“I wanna goggie,” Michael says.
“We’ve discussed this. You are not getting a dog.”
“I wanna goggie, I wanna goggie.”
Norman seems to find this amusing. “Come now, Akiko…the responsibility of caring for a pet is an important step in the development of a growing boy. Teaches him how to be a man.”
Aki hates male authority figures, hates being told how to raise her children, hates archaic ideas of gender roles.
Fucking Norman fucking Osborn. Probably thinks Aki should be at home in a pretty dress and an apron, cooking and cleaning and smiling her day away like a fucking Stepford Wife. If the chauvinistic bastard weren’t technically her boss, she’d shred his balls and wipe that self-assured Captain Kirk smile off his stupid face.
She liked Norman a lot more when he was Lester’s boss instead of hers—when she was ‘Lester’s charming wife, how enchanting,’ instead of ‘Lady Wolverine, you do understand that I have to pay for collateral damage’ (and Aki considers the codename tacky, a knock-off of her stupid yakuza father).
“Mr. Osborn,” she says. “My son still accidentally drowns himself when he washes his face. I will not inflict him on an animal that requires occasional baths. He’ll start with something stupid and low-maintenance, like hamsters. When the hamsters stop being crushed, lost, eaten, or starved, then I’ll consider an animal that can remember cruelty for longer than five minutes.”
“Oh, how noble,” Norman says mildly. “I didn’t realize you were such a proponent of animal rights.”
If a wild bear appeared just now, Aki would be a great proponent of its right to maul Norman. He’s not the only one who can smile on command—Aki puts on her best Julie-Andrews-is-amused-by-your-idiocy smile. “But I love animals, Norman. You’ll notice I haven’t let anyone feed you to the snow leopards at the zoo. Rich foods disagree with felines.”
Norman takes the jab with good humor. Wink, grin, superhero chuckle. “Ha-hah, I see what you did there. Very witty, Akiko. Ah, it looks like Robert’s taking some hot dogs off the grill… Shall we?”
“Hoddog!” Michael cheers.
Aki hates hot dogs. “Fuck Mommy’s life,” she mutters to herself for the tenth time this week.
Chapter 5: Archimedes (115)
Meanwhile, the bad guys find out that one of the peskiest Avengers is a wife and mother.
entirely the result of Tabby saying "I think a truly villainous Steve would be creepy as fuck. Because he would probably still think he was doing the right thing, and villains who believe they are doing the right thing are, in my opinion, the most dangerous ones." this is mostly slow build-up, but evil!Steve is seriously plotting to rule the world.
even now, i'm not entirely set on the title. it's changed about five times (and i only spent like 20 mins writing the fic, lol.....). let's see, i think it started as "The Captain," which was clearly dreadful, and then twisted itself around into "Waiting for the Second Coming" and "Waiting for the Second Coming Again," which were both a bit long!title, and then the reference to Archimedes made its way in, so it became "Archimedes," but i still felt the 115 theme was a strong undercurrent...
random!fic is random, and indecisive!Lex is indecisive. XD
warnings: AU - Fateverse. sci-fi. evil!Steve. implications of dom/sub and open relationships. some background rule 63/het. language: pg-13 (for f***).
pairing: Steve/Tony, reference to Steve/Pete, background Lester/Aki (Bullseye/Daken).
timeline: couple of months after The Picnic.
disclaimer: marvel owns all the characters, i just made more alternate universe versions of them. the Dark Knight is owned by DC.
notes: 1) the title is a reference to the great scientist Archimedes, who once said "give me a long enough lever and the right fulcrum, and I can move the world" (this has to do with how greatly force can be augmented/redirected by leverage). the "115" part is a reference to the song by Elena Siegman, which would probably be evil!Steve's theme song. 2) this is a 'good guys are bad, bad guys are good' AU. Tony's probably still rich and manages to stay out of trouble by dint of paying a lot of reporters and investigators a lot of money to say he's not Iron Man. 3) Tony is an insolent bastard in most universes, i think. 4) DMV = department of motor vehicles. i don't know what it's like in Europe or Canada, but going to the DMV in America is a pain...you wait in line forever just to find out you've filled out the wrong form or something and have to wait in line all over again. i know people who would be hard-pressed to decide whether it's more painful to go to the dentist or the DMV. 5) i waffled for a while on where in Manhattan they should live; the West Village is probably a little nicer, but the East Village is quieter and is home to a new Japantown area. of course, a townhouse in Manhattan's going to be expensive no matter what; some of the ones in various parts of the Village list for $10-20 million (something like $50-100K per month). 6) Tompkins Square Park is in the East Village, near Stuyvesant. one of the playgrounds does indeed have a sandpit. 7) the eternal question with small children: "WHY ARE YOU STICKY???"
Steve woke in a cold bed, which put him in a sour mood.
The reason for the cold bed was, as always, Tony’s insomnia. After six years, Steve at least knew the best places to look for his absent bed-warmer.
In order of likelihood, it went workshop, kitchen, couch; Steve always checked in reverse order, because the couch was closest to bed and the workshop was farthest.
Jackpot, first try.
Tony was sitting on the couch, watching what looked like battle footage, remote in his left hand, mug of coffee in the right, bowl of jellybeans on his lap.
On the screen, Songbird and Lady Wolverine were tearing through dozens of armor drones.
“She look pissed off to you?” Tony asked without turning. “She looks pissed off to me.”
“She always looks pissed off,” Steve pointed out. “You can review last week’s battles in the morning. Come to bed.”
Steve narrowed his gaze at the back of Tony’s head.
“It’s no good glaring at me like that.”
“Take a pill if you can’t sleep. I’m cold.”
“Go find Pete. He’s probably just stabbing some voodoo dolls that look like Osborn—I bet he’d love to keep you warm.”
Not a bad idea, objectively, but Steve did not appreciate the insolence in Tony’s voice. He expressed this lack of appreciation by gripping Tony’s throat from behind and squeezing. “I told you to come to bed.”
“Ah, there’s the Captain we know and love,” Tony choked out with a grin. “Tellya what, cuddlebuns, I’ll be there as soon as I finish my coffee.”
Steve relinquished his grip.
Tony pointed at the TV again. “See, she’s pissed off about something. More than usual.”
“If that’s Tuesday, Luke had just ripped her arm out of the socket.”
“No, Steve, that’s not a ‘somebody tore my limbs off’ face. That’s a ‘fuck off and die’ face. That’s an ‘I’ve been waiting in line at the DMV’ face. Maybe a ‘that was my car you just trashed’ face.”
Sighing, Steve walked around to sit next to Tony. “Well, I doubt she knows how much data we’ve been collating, so at least it’s not that.”
“Which arm did Luke yank?”
Tony rewound the feed, paused it, zoomed in. “Aha.”
When Lady Wolverine’s dismembered arm landed, a glimmer of jewelry went flying—a diamond ring and a gold band.
“That narrows things down,” Tony said happily. “Manhattan area, dark hair, partially obscured hand tattoo, femur length indicative of Asian ancestry…and now we know she’s married.”
“It raises interesting possibilities,” Steve agreed. A hero with a spouse is a hero with something she might place above her lofty morals.
Tony tossed a few jellybeans into his mouth. “Y’know…nearly half of all married couples have kids. The average age of newlyweds is twenty-eight, and the average age of new parents is twenty-nine, so it’s reasonably likely that a couple that’s been married for at least a year will have children. Dunno about you, but she strikes me as less of a bacon-bringing independent wife and more of a working mom.”
“Very interesting possibilities.”
“Mm. So can I keep collating my damn data, or do I really have to come back to bed?”
Steve stood up and stretched. “I’ll go get Pete. Find her, and find her family, because she’s been a thorn in my side for far too long.”
“It’s too much trouble to kill a regenerator, so we get leverage to keep her in line. A child would be ideal, if she’s got them. I’m good with children.”
“Wow, ransoming innocent kids now. You’re shaping into a real supervillain, Dark Knight style.”
“No one is innocent,” Steve said. “We can’t win this war without Nathan, and he won’t commit until we show him we’ve got our act together. So let’s turn one of the Avengers’ most dangerous members.”
Tony is brilliant and thorough, so it took him less than twenty-four hours to get a name and address. Graves family, nice house in the East Village, four-year-old daughter and just-turned-three son.
That is how it comes to pass that two days after Tony spotted those rings, Steve is relaxing in Tompkins Square Park while the Avengers have a minor emergency on the north end of the island.
Steve instantly recognizes the poise and movements of a familiar enemy.
Lady Wolverine’s husband, Lester Graves, was once the Avenger known as Bullseye. He sits there on the benches with the other parents, mild-mannered and innocuous. His eyes are fixed on something in his hands—a little glass ball.
The little one is playing with a truck in the sandbox.
Steve kneels down. “I like your truck,” he says.
Big brown eyes stare up at him.
“I’m Steve. What’s your name?”
“Michael. My twuck is yellow. I wanna goggie.”
“I have a dog. A big, fluffy yellow one.” A lie, of course, but whatever works.
“C’n I see?”
Steve grins. “Sure. But you have to hold my hand and look both ways when we cross the street.”
Michael nods. “Yeah. Ovverwise y’get runned over like my sisser once. She got runned over, and Mommy was maaaaaaad. She hadda go home an’ take a baff.”
“I see.” The little boy’s hand is sticky, and Steve hides a grimace of disgust. “It’s not far from here, but you’ll have to ride in the back with my friend Carol, because it isn’t safe for little boys to ride in the front seat.”
Carol steps out of the car to meet them. She’s smiling and lovely, and to outside eyes they must look like the perfect family. The only one who will notice something is Bullseye, and they’ll be on the move by then.
Steve smiles coldly as he shifts the car into gear. He taps his communicator on. “Easy as lying,” he says. “Tell Nathan we have our fulcrum—the lever will come to us.”
Patience, research, ruthlessness. Turn their preconceptions and their sad oversights against them. Find the soft spot and don’t think about foolish notions of fair play.
This is how you sway one of the enemy’s most powerful soldiers. This is how you engineer the overthrow of the so-called free world.
All you need is the right fulcrum and a long enough lever.
Chapter 6: The Blossom to the Branch
Akiko finds out her son has been ransomed. The terms: she must stop interfering with the Captain's agenda.
i'm not particularly settled on the title. i still feel it's lacking something. *shrug*
warnings: AU - Fateverse. sci-fi. evil!Tony. some background rule 63/het. organized crime. threats of violence. language: pg-13 (for f***, s***, and g**damn).
pairing: Lester/Aki (Bullseye/Daken), implied Steve/Tony, Steve/Pete, and Steve/Clint.
timeline: later in the same day as 115.
disclaimer: marvel owns all the characters, i just made more alternate universe versions of them.
notes: 1) the title is a reference to a Buddhist proverb: Once fallen, the blossom cannot return to the branch. 2) this is a 'good guys are bad, bad guys are good' AU. Tony's still rich and manages to stay out of trouble by dint of paying a lot of reporters and investigators a lot of money to say he's not Iron Man. 3) "gaijin" is a fairly rude word for "foreigner"; it literally means "outside person," and is used almost exclusively to refer to Westerners. the polite way of calling someone a foreigner is "gaikokujin," "person from an outside country." 4) Go is a Chinese strategy game involving the placement of black and white beads on a large grid to gain control of 'territory.' 5) "oyasumi nasai" is the polite form of "good night." it literally means "please rest," and can be said at any time of day. 6) koi are an Asian breed of carp (goldfish are from the same family), and are a common feature in Japanese tattooing. 7) traditional Japanese tattooing is done by hand, and is a painful and laborious process. and a tattoo generally isn't 'extensive' by traditional standards unless it covers at least the entire front or back of the torso; a sleeve or half of the back wouldn't be considered extensive, especially for yakuza. 8) siddham is a form of sanskrit that was used to convey religious teachings along the Silk Road. 9) Aki totally stole her dad's line, lol.
The Blossom to the Branch
Akiko was just pulling her shirt on after a quick shower when her phone rang.
“Avengers work temporarily finished, mommy work resumes,” she muttered.
On the other end of the line, Lester was incoherent. Hysterical.
God, how Aki hates incoherent hysteria…
“When in all your years of superheroing has panic ever helped anyone?” she asked (loudly, so that he could hear over his histrionics).
Two degrees calmer, Lester wasn’t much more helpful. He just kept going on and on about ‘he’s gone’ and ‘I only looked away for a second.’
So Aki sighed and said, “Michael is a child, Lester. They wander. Now, do me a favor and use your brain—you know, the twinkly crystal ball in your coat pocket?”
And then she got something truly informative. ~“Sprite says she can’t get a solid lock on him.”~
“Well, it can’t have been more than two hours; she can see that far back. Ask her if he was with someone.”
She fixed her collar while she waited for her husband to relay the question and its answer.
Steve Rogers BB115-Epsilon.
Aki punched the mirror.
Now she’s sitting on the couch while Mac watches QVC. Every few seconds, she unlocks her phone and hesitates with her thumb over a forbidden speed-dial number.
“Shouldn’t you be home by now?” Mac asks her when the woman on the screen moves on from hand painted dragon statuettes to glass unicorns.
Sprite won’t touch Rogers—it’d fuck with the consolidation of their timeline. She refuses to locate the bastard. And if Norman had any clue how to get his hands on America’s most wanted supervillain, he’d have gift-wrapped Rogers by now and been sitting pretty in the White House.
“Hellooo?” Mac calls, leaning forward.
Aki hits the speed-dial.
The receptionist has a porn-star voice, smooth and pretty and a little bit breathy. She even speaks English, and she doesn’t lose her cool when Aki says to ‘tell that fucking gaijin crook his daughter is on the phone.’
“Your little friends took my son.”
~“You have a son?”~
She snarls. “Don’t sound so surprised; I know your people are watching like hawks. You probably have half of Norman’s staff in your pocket.”
~“The only friends I have are wizened little Japanese men who play Go and possibly smoke more than they should.”~
“Fucking matter of semantics.”
~“This from the woman who places such importance on the subtle distinction between lawless vigilante and morally ambiguous hero.”~
It takes every ounce of self-control she possesses to keep from crushing her phone in her grip. Her father has always known how to rile her—pointing out their similarities with irrefutable logic, keeping quite calm because he has people he pays to get angry for him. “Then what exactly is your relationship to the Captain and his band of meta-human terrorists?” Aki bites out. “Business associates? Comrades? Former teammates?”
~“The first and the last. Never truly the second.”~
Aki draws a cleansing breath. “He took my son.”
“And I want him back.”
~“Steven is an eminently reasonable man, under the right circumstances. Try talking it out.”~
Her blood runs cold. She grits her teeth so hard her jaw creaks. “You bastard. You’re in on it. Where is Michael? Have you got him?”
~“Consider my advice, Akiko. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s quite late here. Oyasumi nasai.”~
When she hangs up, she punches the coffee table. It snaps rather extravagantly, sending the remotes flying (Mac catches them with a few tentacles).
Mac eyes her warily, fanged mouth making awkward little hesitant frowns. “Sssso,” he hisses, fidgeting with his popcorn bowl. “The Captain took Mikey?”
“Michael,” Aki growls in correction. “His name is Michael.”
“Right. Um. Should we asssk Norman to—”
“Norman couldn’t find Rogers with a map, a GPS, and a series of glowing neon signs.” Slowly, she stands up. “I’ve got it under control. Tell Norman I’ll be taking some time off work. If you say anything else about the situation, I’ll come back and force-feed you your legs.”
Mac just sits there and cuddles his popcorn. “Right,” he says again.
Akiko carefully puts her Avengers communicator on the splintered remains of the coffee table and heads for the door.
She seethes on the cab ride to Stark Industries. She shoves the fare at the cabbie, who cowers.
As she walks through the front door of the big, glass-walled building, the receptionist glances at her with a vague smile, looks down at something on the desk, and looks back up with a broader smile. “Welcome, Mrs. Graves. Mr. Stark’s been expecting you. Fifty-third floor.”
Express elevator. Her ears pop.
A redhead meets her at the elevator and gestures. “This way, Mrs. Graves.”
This high up in the building, there is no rat-warren of cubicles. The floor is made up of a broad central corridor with conference rooms and executive offices on either side. Ahead, a nameplate beside an antique mahogany door bears the inscription ‘TONY STARK, CEO.’
Ginger (or whatever the hell her name is) knocks on the door. “Mrs. Graves is here, sir,” she calls out.
“Excellent. Let her in, Potts.”
‘Potts’ smiles and holds the door for Akiko.
It turns out that Tony Stark is just like every other asinine self-aggrandized white executive—he sits behind a huge desk and has impressive matched collections of books he’s probably never read lining the walls. The place smells of wood and leather, and there’s an expensive liquor cabinet in one corner (she makes note of it in case she needs to smash something).
“Mrs. Graves,” he says brightly. “So good of you to visit. It really is a pleasure to finally meet you off the battlefield.”
“Cram it up your ass,” she replies. “Give me my son and I won’t snap you in half. Yet.”
“Right to business. That was always one of your father’s best traits—”
“Mention my father again and I’ll be forced to fling that lovely oak liquor cabinet and its crystal decanter right out the goddamn window.”
He grins somewhat indulgently. Again, typical rich white bastard. “That would be a terrible shame, since the decanter is a Tiffany original. Michael-not-Mikey-or-Mommy-gets-mad is safe, provided you work for us instead of the Avengers.”
“Fuck that,” Aki sneers. “My ovaries are particularly healthy. I can always make another.”
“I wonder if your husband also considers your children so easily replaced.”
Jabbing at the real soft spot. Canny prick.
Aside from the insult of having something of hers stolen, the problem here is that Lester is very attached to their children, and Aki is very attached to Lester not sobbing like a teenage girl.
“It’s funny, really,” Stark goes on, sitting back in his chair and steepling his fingers. “In almost six years as one of the most prominent Avengers, we never even came close to cracking your husband’s secret identity. You’ve been an Avenger for—what, half that?”
“Lester doesn’t have any tattoos.”
“True. And if you were a little more careful with your own welfare, your costume would certainly have covered your tattoo. Out of curiosity, what is it? A dragon? Koi? Must be pretty extensive, to show up on your hand and again at the shoulder.”
It’s a half-finished traditional Japanese tattoo, the work of about ten years when she was living with her father. A black dragon curls from her heart over her shoulder and down her left arm, and an incomplete framework of clouds fills the left side of her back down to a sakura tree on her hip. If she’d ever gotten it finished, there would’ve been a siddham scripture in the clouds. Under most circumstances, the only visible part of the tattoo is the tip of the dragon’s tail, on the back of her hand.
“A dragon,” she says shortly. “And it’s not extensive by Japanese standards.”
“Cut the bullshit. Spell it out, Stark—what exactly are your terms?”
“Three terms. First, you stop working for the Avengers.”
“Good. Second, you don’t interfere with our operations. Third, you complete certain assignments we might have for you—nothing too contrary to your heroic-outlaw-protector-of-the-innocent idiom, I assure you.”
“And in return?”
“Your son is kept safe, well-fed, and appropriately tutored. You receive proof of life in the form of a half-hour secure streaming video conversation once a week. If you like, you can even bring your husband along.”
Slowly, she leans forward and plants her palms on his desk, stares him down with the insolent predator-stare she learned from her father. “All right. But if you ever harm my son, ask me to do something you know I will refuse, or otherwise give me cause to suspect you’ve broken our deal in any way, I’ll cut off both your hands and leave you for your precious Captain to find. After that, I’ll break Spider-Man’s legs. Then I’ll cut the tendons in Hawkeye’s wrists. When Rogers comes to find me, I’ll be waiting with a fucking picnic lunch, and by the time I’m done with him, he’ll wish he’d never heard of me. I am the goddamn best there is at what I do, and what I do isn’t very fucking nice.”
Stark isn’t so smug now. He still wears a trace of a smile, but it’s a grim and nervous thing. “How very true,” he says. Then he passes her some kind of communicator, a sleek little thing that would probably make Norman writhe with inferiority. “Keep this on you at all times. Steve’s an impatient man, so I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what will happen if you fail to answer.”
“I already told you what’ll happen,” she replies, pocketing the device. “And if any of your teammates come near my home or my daughter, they’ll be returned to you in a dozen medium-sized FedEx boxes.”
Chapter 7: Pressure
Steve doesn't like the idea of Aki thinking she's in control. Steve hates the idea that Nathan actually is in control.
ah, evil!Steve teaming up with evil!Nate. there's no way evil!Steve will be able to put up with Nate's bossiness for long.
short!fic is short, and i have no idea where it's going after this, LAWL.
warnings: AU - Fateverse. sci-fi. evil!Steve and evil!Nate. some background rule 63/het. graphic threats of violence. language: pg-13 (for one use of f***).
pairing: Lester/Aki (Bullseye/Daken), implied Steve/Tony.
timeline: day after The Blossom to the Branch.
disclaimer: marvel owns all the characters, i just made more alternate universe versions of them.
notes: 1) as a former teammate of Logan, Steve probably met Akiko more than once when she was staying with her father. 2) as i've said more than once before, few people can do Not Impressed as well as Wolverine; Akiko is one of those. 3) Nate is surprisingly good at coming up with elaborate plots to get people to do what he wants; it's just that his plots have a tendency to backfire slightly, especially when he underestimates people *coughlikedeadpoolcough*.
Steve frowned when Tony told him how things had gone with Logan’s daughter.
She had thrown her weight around, and Tony had let her.
Steve slapped Tony silly for that.
“You know better than to let a wild animal smell fear,” he said.
As punishment for the slip, Steve ordered Tony locked out of the workshop for a week. Then he had Pepper arrange a new meeting with Mrs. Graves.
Now they’re sitting on the patio of a café, table between them and people all around. Aside from some curl to her hair (he’s not sure if it’s from an iron or from curlers, but the mental image of her in curlers is somehow reassuringly old-fashioned), she looks exactly the same as she did the last time he met her off the battlefield, some ten years back, and he’s slightly baffled that he never recognized Akiko as Lady Wolverine.
“It’s been a while, Akiko,” he says pleasantly.
“Fuck you,” she answers in the same tone.
He sips his iced tea, leans back in his chair, folds his hands together. “I’m sorry I was elsewhere when you visited Stark Industries. I thought I’d given Tony very clear instructions, but you seem to have been left with a wildly incorrect idea of how this arrangement is going to work.”
Akiko tilts her head and traces a lacquer nail along the side of her glass (açai pomegranate, like every other hip young health-faddist). “I think you know where you can shove your apology.”
Steve is struck suddenly with the familial resemblance. Akiko wields her father’s brand of unassailable universal disdain very well for someone with only sixty years of practice. “You should watch your tone,” he says evenly. “You somehow have the mistaken impression that you have some form of power in our arrangement.”
“I have all the p—” she starts to say, but he interrupts her swiftly.
“You have no power in our arrangement.”
Her pretty half-breed eyes widen with fury. If they weren’t in public, she would certainly have attacked by now.
“Only I and three others know exactly where your son is being held,” he goes on. “If you lose your temper and kill me, you drastically reduce your chances of finding him. Furthermore, I know that your children inherited your gift, so while I can only die once, Michael can be tortured to death every day for decades. He can be trained. He can be conditioned. He can be taught to hate you. He can be honed, admittedly over the course of several years, to fight you and perhaps kill you.” Steve takes a sip of tea while he lets this begin to sink in. “If you break our agreement, if you try to attack me or mine, if you try to track your son, if anything happens to me…the consequences will stretch for his entire lifetime.”
By now, Akiko’s face is blank and very pale. She looks like a doll. “I’m going to kill you,” she says, and her tone is almost gentle. “Not today. Not tomorrow. But someday. It will be excruciating and drawn-out, and while you are in the midst of it, I will destroy everything you love right before your eyes. You’ll beg for me to just end it, and do you know what I’ll do?”
He raises his eyebrows.
She leans forward. “I’ll pull your teeth out one by one and let you bleed while I butcher Stark’s lifeless body like a side of beef.”
“Oh, how imaginative.” He favors her with a slight grin. “You’ll be disappointed to hear that your father used to hand out that kind of threat like a cheap party favor.”
Her blank mask cracks into a minor sneer—so it’s true that she hates her father to that extent. “I take it back. I’ll leave you your teeth so you can chew when I feed Stark to you.” She smiles serenely and gets up from her seat. “I’m so glad we had this talk, Steven. My father was right when he called you ‘eminently reasonable.’”
Steve goes back to SI, takes over his favorite chair in Tony’s office, and waits.
Nathan appears in a flash of blue light.
“I have…things…to do…elsewhere,” Tony wisely decides.
When he’s gone, Nathan takes the chair behind his desk. “It’s true that the simplest and most efficient way to move something cumbersome and heavy is to apply a lever to a fulcrum,” murmurs Nathan. “But there’s a certain amount of danger involved if the fulcrum is not properly stabilized, or if the lever is brittle. Who knows where the object you’re trying to shift will end up, in that case? You made three mistakes.”
Steve bristles, because he feels it was all rather inspired. “Oh?”
“Taking the son was your first mistake. If you had studied the family longer, you would have taken the daughter. Itsuko is the darling, the apple of her father’s eye, the thing that changed their lives. It would have broken Bullseye, and he is the true weakness, just as Itsu was Logan’s breaking point.”
He knows that; it was in Tony’s preliminary report. Honestly, Steve had ignored Tony’s suggestion to take the daughter because he wanted the option to raise the child into a weapon. Perhaps it’s a sexist inclination, but Steve finds girls to be less reliable, less consistent. “I don’t think Logan would have supported it,” he says as an excuse. “Not with the very real threat of torture.”
“Correcting her misconceptions of the situation was your second mistake,” Nathan goes on, apparently ignoring Steve’s input. “As long as she believed she had power, she was complacent and therefore controllable. Now no matter what you choose to do, the part that will stick in her mind is that a white male authority figure told her she was powerless. Eventually, she’ll kill you, and if she must, she’ll kill Michael—and she won’t blame him for it, and she won’t blame herself for it, she’ll blame you, and she’ll take that out on everyone and everything you’ve ever valued.”
“And my third mistake?”
“Your third mistake was telling her how many people know her son’s location. As long as she didn’t know, she would’ve assumed you were the only one, except for possibly Logan, and you would’ve been safe. As things stand, you’re only safe until she finds out who else knows where the boy is.”
Steve forces himself to relax his fists. Nathan is necessary. The entire exercise was to convince Nathan of their capabilities so that he would join their efforts. “How should I handle this? Enlighten me.”
After a moment, Nathan slowly blinks, and the heaviness of his presence abruptly fills the room. No longer slightly pompous and arrogant…but truly powerful and dangerous. “Let her calm down again. Let her feel strong again. Let her blow off some steam. At the same time, don’t let her stew, and don’t give her time to brood or plot. Pretend to slacken the leash, but keep her under very close watch, and the moment she shows signs of straying, then apply pressure. Begin to have Carol case the house. A presence both threatening and docile…another female, pacing the edge of her territory but not invading…someone she knows she can’t harm through conventional means. You won’t have to threaten, because she’ll assume Carol is there to take Bullseye or Itsuko, and she’ll know that she can only protect either her husband or their daughter. Her options will be to let the most precious thing in her life be taken by her enemies or to watch his heart break into a thousand brittle pieces. Faced with that choice, she’ll do almost anything you ask.”
“I see,” says Steve. It’s the sort of sharp, backhanded tactic that Logan would have used. Lurking and intimidating and implying. The very idea is both intriguing and repugnant to Steve.
Then Nathan’s mismatched eyes harden like steel and glinting gold. “Any more gross foul-ups and you’re on your own. I will not hand the world to an incompetent. Bodyslide by one.”
A flash of light, and he’s gone again. Steve breathes out and scowls at the place where Nathan sat. Right now, he detests Nathan, but they need him, need the ability to shred things into their components with an absent thought. They need the way Nathan could, if he felt like it, transmute Akiko’s body into its constituent molecules. Nathan is one of the most powerful beings on the planet, the only force potentially able to stop the Sentry. They must stop Robert Reynolds if they want to change the way the world is.
Chapter 8: Eggplant
Traumatizing Lester Graves has the unforeseen effect of galvanizing him to action.
sorry i fell off the face of the earth for a while. i got distracted with other things (like frolicking in giant rain puddles of self-indulgent tripe-fic).
warnings: AU - Fateverse. sci-fi. mention of evil!Steve and evil!Carol. some background rule 63/het. vague threats of violence. language: pg-13 (for f***, s***, and g**damn).
pairing: Lester/Aki (Bullseye/Daken), Nate/Wade.
timeline: some time after Pressure (maybe a couple of months?).
disclaimer: marvel owns all recognizable characters, i just made more alternate universe versions of them.
notes: 1) the return of the light bulb-changing compulsion. 2) the suffixes -wise and -ways are closely related, and while 'clockways' is not in general use, it is a word and means the same thing as 'clockwise.' 3) at their core, Marxism and its derivatives rely heavily on the ability of every member of a group to agree on and act in accordance with the common good; that kind of system breaks down the moment a perceived advantage appears, because jealousy and greed are natural human urges and someone is eventually going to give in to one of them. the reason that many people fear Communism so strongly is that they fundamentally distrust the goodwill of other human beings (and well they should, because a large enough sampling will always contain at least one asshole who is willing to screw everyone else over). 4) serotonin is a neurotransmitter related to digestion, bone-growth, and the emotion of contentment. serotonin-deficiency has been shown to be strongly related to depression, and various drugs that support the production and retention of serotonin have been shown to help patients suffering from depressive disorders such as OCD. 5) this universe's Wade was a hero at one point, until something happened and he went to work for Logan. he's since left the yakuza.
p.s. i forgot to mention that the title is actually a semi-obscure reference to a part of Cable & Deadpool--Wade was dimension hopping and landed in a super-Jesus-utopia world, and super-Jesus!Nate smiled at him in a way that said 'you are an eggplant. be happy that i allow you to grow big and purple and meaty in my world.'
Akiko narrows her gaze out the window.
“Fresh bulb,” Lester says from his perch atop a chair in the middle of the living room.
“Fresh bulb,” echoes Helena, trading the old light bulb for a new one.
This is a daily routine now, and it’s not so bad. Akiko’s starting to get used to the squeaking noises of the bulbs being changed, and Helena seems to think it’s all rather fun. Lester has stopped crying every time he looks at the photo of their children on the bedside table. Helena has stopped asking where her brother is.
Lester hops down from his chair. “She out there again today?”
“Oh, yes,” Akiko drawls, smiling thinly at the busty blond bitch on the sidewalk outside. “It seems that Avengers don’t have the monopoly on being fucking obnoxiously persistent.”
Danvers has been staking out the house for almost a week now, ever since Aki deliberately let a batch of Rogers’ lackeys die on a mission. The really irritating thing for Aki is the fact that Danvers looks far too much like Karla—or like Karla would if she didn’t dress and act like a cheap whore bent on sleeping her way through every married couple in the tri-state area.
Helena scampers to the kitchen with the basket of light bulbs (they don’t have to be new, they just have to have rested for forty-eight hours). Lester comes up beside Aki and adjusts the curtains by several millimeters.
“Frankly, I’m getting pretty goddamn tired of her,” he mutters.
Aki blinks. It’s been years since her husband used language like that. She’s missed it. “Ignore her,” she suggests. “She’s a bullshit intimidation tactic. Probably my worthless crook father’s idea, since Rogers doesn’t have the balls to come up with something like that on his own. I know what he’s up to now—spies in part of the government, terrorist acts to get rid of the rest of the government. He wants the country, and he’s got the super-white, cavity-free smile to pull it off, unless Norman catches on and sics Bob on him.”
“Fuck that,” mutters Lester. “I don’t care what the Network says, that self-important fascist fucker is not running the land of the free.”
“Agreed,” says Aki. She tilts her head a little. “Buuut…he’s not a fascist, darling, he’s a Leninist. That’s the point. He thinks the government’s a corrupt fascist cesspool of thinly-veiled modern-day feudalism, and wants the general populace to cast off the ostensibly outmoded rule by moneyed nobility.”
“You know the golden rule as well as I do, darling.”
Lester snorts. “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”
“Right. Organized societies of humans will probably always be run by those with money, at least indirectly.”
“Ah. So that’s why you think Marxism and its derivatives are naïve.”
Little footsteps patter up between them, and a little blond head peers up over the windowsill, trying to find what they’re looking at. “I put away the light bulbs,” Helena says. “I made sure they were all facing the right way, and I turned the basket clockways three times.”
“Clockwise, Itsuko,” says Lester.
“Are you sure, Daddy? It’s the way the clock goes. I thought wise was something else.”
Aki looks down at their daughter. “Technically, the two words are the same. Did you wipe off the closet doorknob when you were done?”
“Excellent. Go practice your letters.”
More scampering, then the rustling of large paper sheets and the muted scrape of crayons.
“So what are we gonna do about Rogers?” Lester asks. “You don’t seriously mean to keep going along with his schemes until he and his flashy friends run the country…do you?”
Outside the window, Ms. Marvel is drinking coffee from a paper cup.
“I haven’t found Michael yet,” Aki admits. “I’d like to hold out for a little more time before we give up.”
“We are not giving up on our son,” Lester says sternly.
Akiko whirls on her husband, jabbing a finger at his chest in accusation. “You already have. You change every light bulb in the house on a daily basis, you polish the doorknobs after every use, you align everything in forty-five degree increments, you unplug everything before we leave, and you do all of that to cope with your guilt and panic over the fact that you were fidgeting with Sprite and one of the world’s most infamous meta-human terrorists abducted our son in broad daylight at a crowded playground.”
For a long moment, Lester just stands there, muscles twitching in the right side of his face. “I’m a goddamn Avenger—we don’t give up. All that stuff? I do that so I don’t give up. It just…I don’t know why I have to do it, but when I do, I don’t feel so…it’s…” He stops, scowling as Danvers notices them watching and waves cheerily. “I get scared. Okay? For no reason at all, I just get scared, and if I do those things, it goes away. Karla said it’s because repetition stimulates some gland, or something like that, so my brain comes up with these…rituals for me to do over and over. I don’t really get it, because I told her to mind her own fucking business about my…problem…because I don’t wanna be on meds.”
Intellectually, Aki knows all that. She knows her husband avoids mind-altering chemicals like a frigging Mormon (or the resentful kid of a junkie). She knows that OCD is usually a matter of trauma causing a hiccup in the brain’s instructions to various glands, particularly those involved in the production and retention of serotonin. She knows that the compulsions calm him down, and she knows why.
But it’s inconvenient and annoying, and she’s old enough that there’s still some stigma clinging to the dusty corners of her mind, an old-fashioned idea that the compulsions are a sign of fundamental dysfunction, that her husband is somehow less of a person because of them.
“Anyway, she’s not taking Itsuko,” he goes on. “I’ll kill her if she tries. If she even crosses the damn street.”
“Oh?” Aki says, amused by this long-forgotten determination. When he’s brave and angry like this, he reminds her of the early days of their relationship, of the days when he beat supervillains to a pulp. How incongruous (yet perfectly sensible) that he can only be fierce like this when he’s spending an hour every day ritualistically changing out the light bulbs. “How were you thinking of accomplishing that, then?”
Lester flashes a brief smile, knife-like in its cold sharpness. “She used to have a drinking problem. Can’t have a drinking problem unless something in your digestive tract is able to get poisons into your blood. God’s got a funny sense of humor—drop a bomb on the bitch and she’ll shrug it right off, but dump a bottle of tequila into her and she’s floored like anybody else. There’s any number of interesting things that I can shoot right down her throat that’ll have her dead as a doornail.” He snorts again. “One of these days, the bastards’ll remember that ‘retired’ doesn’t mean ‘helpless.’”
In his pocket, his phone starts to ring, and Aki rolls her eyes at the thought that Norman still won’t accept her sudden resignation after more than a month. “Borderline harassment,” she mutters to herself.
But it isn’t Norman’s voice projecting tinnily through the phone’s speaker.
~“Tell me again how much you owe me, rookie.”~
Deadpool. Aki’s eyes widen, and she turns away from the window to hide her expression from Danvers while she listens. She didn’t know her husband was still on speaking terms with the deranged ex-hero.
“So much I won’t be able to dig my way out with a backhoe,” Lester recites with a grin.
~“Right. Now tell me how awesome I am.”~
“So awesome they should erect a golden statue of you and polish it with bacon twice a day.”
~“Now say ‘wubba wubba wubba is a monster song.’”~
“Don’t push it, Wilson. What’ve you got for me?”
~“Everything that matters. That doesn’t mean I’ll give it to you all at once. Y’see, I got this image in my head of me pinned to a wall with knives through some uncomfortable places…”~
“You’re never gonna let me forget that. You brought it on yourself, and at least I didn’t let Mac eat your arm like he wanted to.”
~“Hm. Well, I still ain’t gonna tell ya where the kid is yet. Chalk it up to my mercurial nature and my tendency to hold grudges. The root of your troubles is that the Captain somehow managed to get my precious walking tin can to help out.”~
“Knew those plots were too smart and nasty for Rogers to have come up with ‘em. Shit. How the hell did he get Cable on his side?”
~“I said ‘somehow,’ jackass. As in ‘I don’t know how.’ Me ‘n Priscilla are in one of those off-again phases. It may or may not be because I bashed in a priest’s skull with a Tickle Me Elmo, but it may also be an unfair dip in my reputation due to vicious rumor. If you hear I’ve been helping fascist regimes oppress their citizens, it’s nothing but lies, slander, and calumny. Anyway, Rogers wouldn’t put up with Princess High ‘n Mighty just for devious plottins—bet you anything he wants Nate as an Anti-Sentry.”~
Akiko frowns into the middle distance. Cable might be able to stop Bob from stopping Rogers. Or Bob might vaporize Cable in a fiery solar explosion.
“That would not be a pretty fight,” Lester says unnecessarily.
~“And I don’t wanna see it,”~ agrees Deadpool. ~“So I’ll tell you how to head it off. The catch is that you do it my way.”~
“Why?” Aki interjects.
There’s a pause. ~“Akiko, sweetie, long time no kill. Your daddy sends his regards.”~
~“I woulda thought the ‘why’ would be obvious—I don’t like being off-again. I wanna be on-again. So we’re gonna frame Rogers nice ‘n pretty, I get to be rescued like a damsel, and Nate goes back to thinking Rogers is shit on his nice clean boots. What do you care, anyway? I’m the only person on the planet who can change Nate’s mind when he’s decided somethin’, and yet you’re lookin’ this gift horse in the mouth.”~
“Because you can’t trust someone who won’t admit what’s in it for him,” she snaps. “Especially a yakuza lapdog.”
~“Remember who the fuck you’re talking to,”~ Deadpool growls in a low rush that makes the fine hairs rise on the back of Aki’s neck. ~“I was the one who got you away from your father when you couldn’t take it anymore. I can recite the sutra you were gonna get inked on your back. When have I ever given you reason not to trust me?”~
Because Aki doesn’t like admitting that she’s wrong (or, in this case, cowed), she just scowls and stalks off to check on Helena’s progress. She listens to the outline of the plan while Helena explains that she’s used aubergine for her A and brick red for her B and so on.
Plant a few rumors. Plant some evidence. Plant a rather roughed-up Deadpool at Stark’s pompous headquarters.
Aki figures that the worst-case scenario has Cable flouncing away in a fit of pique that his lover would stoop to such tactics. With some modicum of luck, he’ll buy the setup, walk away pissed at Rogers, and wash his hands of the whole mess. Hell, he might be pissed enough to take Rogers apart—though that would be a shame, since Aki really, really wants to carry out the threats she made.
“Mommy, what’s an obber-jean again?”
“Aubergine,” she corrects. “Eggplant.”
Chapter 9: Break
The story of how Wade Wilson, freelance good guy with a gun, became a yakuza lapdog.
side-story! for any Deadpool fans who cheered when he showed up in Eggplant and Sattva and wanted to know how he went from being a good guy to being a bad guy.
warnings: AU - Fateverse. sci-fi. vigilante!Wolvie. brief torture. brief violence. language: pg-13 (for f***, s***, and g**damn).
timeline: sometime in the '70s, i think (no, i don't really know, lol).
disclaimer: marvel owns all recognizable characters, i just made more alternate universe versions of them.
notes: 1) a deer-chaser (shishi-odoshi) is a clever little machine that uses water flow to make a hollow 'thunk' noise at regular intervals to scare animals away from the garden (kind of like a scarecrow). 2) yakuza are Japanese gangsters, and the oyabun is the boss of a particular yakuza family. 3) when Wade says Tony, he means Taskmaster.
It’s funny, the things that can break a man.
For Wade, it’s the soothing splash-thunk of a bamboo deer-chaser.
Not that the deer-chaser was alone in this venture…it actually had a lot of help. But in the end, it was the deer-chaser that fired the killshot on Wade’s sanity.
If the deer-chaser is the end, the start is probably the handcuffs.
No, the start is probably self-identity. Because if you asked Wade what he does for a living, he’d say ‘freelance good guy with a gun.’ When your merc stable’s most frequent client is one of the secondary Avengers teams, ‘good guy’ is a term you get used to applying to yourself, and Wade has always liked being able to call himself one of the good guys.
Things really begin to fall off when you realize you’re the only member of your team who includes the ‘good’ part in the job description (in fact, most of them should stick with ‘kills 4 $$$’).
No, sorry, this is all out-of-order.
Okay. Starting at the beginning. Not the very beginning, because, hey, that’s a long way back and only partly relevant. Starting at the immediate beginning of the sequence of events that most directly leads to Wade’s very first psychotic break.
The mission involved chasing a known meta-terrorist to Japan and chipping away at his dirty little yakuza ventures. Not meta as in terrorists-who-terrorize-terrorists, because that would just be weird—meta as in meta-human. Unfortunately, the intel-gathering part of the mission involved letting Wade get captured and tortured, and damn, little old Japanese men can apparently get pretty imaginative on the torture front. He’d really been hoping that the worst-case scenario involved something out of a porno—maybe some aphrodisiacs and some tentacles—because he probably could’ve handled that.
Instead, they cuffed his wrists and ankles (hands behind his back, which was probably a good call on their part, though if they’d really wanted thoroughness, they should’ve cuffed each hand to the opposite ankle), stuffed his nose full of enough coke to really fuck him up for about five minutes (and show them that more imagination was required), and started beating up on their slave girls.
For some people, that might be seriously feeble torture. The yakuza guys were counting on the fact that Wade was a ‘good guy.’
So the oyabun grabbed a bone-skinny girl out of the group and tossed her down in front of Wade.
“This one’s done,” the old man said to his henchmen. “You can do whatever you want.”
And they did. And aphrodisiacs and tentacles had nothing to do with any of it. There was a cheese grater, though, and a screwdriver. Some heavy-duty gardening tools. A skinning knife.
By the time they were done, they had her pinned open like a frog in a high school biology lab, stomach punctured and leaking acid all over her insides while she screamed. And then they set her on fire.
The whole time, the windchime on the porch was tinkling intermittently, and the deer-chaser kept up its relentless splash-thunk.
They left Wade to stew a bit after that, surrounded by the high-as-a-kite used goods who were destined to come next, so he activated the unobtrusive little comm/tracker he’d brought along for the ‘report your findings’ stage of the intel-gathering.
“Murdock, it’s me,” Wade said, and the calm in his voice surprised him. “We have to change the plan. They’ve got girls here. Kids. Every damn one between fourteen and twenty, strung out and scared shitless. You cannot send T-Ray in here. Send Dom or Inez. Shit, send Tony if you have to, but not T-Ray.”
Good guy or not, T-Ray always had this thing where he’d pretty much flatten anything in the nearby vicinity once he got going. Ol’ Bandaid Nose was a walking case of collateral damage, which they often needed Murdock’s skills to legalese their way out of. And after everything else they’d been through, Wade figured the girls would fucking freak out at the sight of a seven-foot-whatever hulk of a guy with a sword and an off-color grin.
Turns out he didn’t need to worry about the girls freaking out. They were too high to freak out, even when the body parts went flying.
So Wade sat there, cuffed and fucking useless, while innocent girls dropped all around him in a splash of crimson, like something out of a goddamn Tarantino film.
T-Ray laughed and looked around for more, but there was nobody left—bad guys, slave girls, servants, nobody.
And that goddamn deer-chaser chimed in with its splash-thunk, and Wade felt something snap.
Wade Wilson, you’ve just had your first psychotic break—what are you gonna do next?
Beat the shit outta this motherfucker right here, and then maybe go to Tokyo Disney.
He lunges, but the cuffs have put his damn feet to sleep, so he falls. He pulls at the damn things, both sets, metal digging into his skin and stopping when it hits bone, and he doesn’t have the leverage to just snap them, because they’re the chainless kind, and T-Ray is still fucking laughing. Wade finally tears free by losing most of a thumb, and he scrabbles at the floorboards to get closer so he can fucking tear T-Ray limb from limb.
Then six gleaming blades scissor T-Ray’s laughing head off his neck.
That doesn’t really stop Wade. He punches his former co-worker’s body just to feel flesh under his fists, and he keeps going until bones splinter and skin breaks and most of T-Ray’s torso looks like hamburger.
“Wilson,” someone says, and Wade can barely hear because some idiot somewhere is screaming. “Wilson. Stop. It’s over.”
Wade’s throat aches. He swallows, and the screaming stops. “Logan?” he says.
With a metallic shearing sound, the tension on his ankles is released, and he looks down to see that Logan has cut the hinge holding the cuffs together.
“But we came to stop you,” Wade says, because his brain really isn’t up for this. The ‘good guy’ slaughtered a dozen innocent girls, and the ‘bad guy’ rescued him.
“From shutting down these pieces of shit who kidnapped and killed my wife?” Logan asks, raising an eyebrow.
“We didn’t know about the girls.”
“You didn’t. Murdock did. Don’t you get it? You morons do the Avengers’ dirty work. Anything too impolitic. Anything too messy and bad for PR. He always meant to send this fucking Frankenstein bastard; they only sent you in to get the coordinates.”
The deer-chaser sounds again, and Wade grabs some henchman’s gun and runs outside to blast the thing to bits. He doesn’t feel better.
He’s left slippery red footprints across the lawn and the little paved footpaths, and there’s something wrong with him, because it looks pretty.
“I really thought we were the good guys,” Wade says.
“Good’s a largely irrelevant matter of perspective. Law and order don’t necessarily coexist peacefully with good.”
For lack of anything better to do (and because regrowing lost bones sucks), Wade digs among the bodies for his lost thumb and holds it in place while it reattaches itself. “So then what does that make you?”
“The guy who’ll gladly break the law to kill a guy who cut down a dozen helpless girls. What’s it make you?”
Wade looks numbly at the carnage, and from afar the bodies look like a cityscape. “Need a sidekick?”
Chapter 10: Sattva
Aki meets with the psychotic force of nature who was once her bodyguard.
this chapter was a little odd to write because i still haven't decided what their relative ages are (whether Aki shares Daken's date of birth or is perhaps a decade or so younger, whether Wade is older than canon!Wade...). i do, however, have a fairly clear image in my mind of how Wade came to work for the yakuza (and how he left).
warnings: AU - Fateverse. sci-fi. mention of evil!Steve and evil!Nate. some background rule 63/het. brief violence and description of light torture. non-Christian religion/philosophy. language: pg-13 (for s***).
pairing: Lester/Aki (Bullseye/Daken), Nate/Wade.
timeline: shortly after Eggplant.
disclaimer: marvel owns all recognizable characters, i just made more alternate universe versions of them.
notes: 1) 'sattva' is a term from Hinduism, and is one of the three primary qualities of all matter. briefly, 'sattva' is 'clarity,' 'rajas' is 'passion,' and 'tamas' is 'dark inertia.' inactivity isn't inherently bad -- tamas is refraining from action when action is required (whether from indecision or laziness). to embody the quality of sattva, a person must be true to his nature and his dharma (his cosmic duty), acting on his sense of reason rather than on physical wants. 2) the 'oyabun' is the head of a yakuza family (it literally means 'old man of the group'). 3) the Tripitaka is a collection of some of the most important and influential Buddhist sutras (lessons). Wade's actually mildly abusing the quote he uses -- it's not an 'everything is permitted' kind of clause, it actually talks about the fact that the only true obstacle between us and enlightenment is ourselves, and when we truly understand that (body and soul), there are no obstacles to any endeavor. 4) Sapporo is, in this case, a Japanese brand of beer. 5) generally speaking, karma is the overall spiritual toll our actions have (on the circumstances of our future rebirth and on the world around us). things done from ignorance, passion, or ill-will generally have bad results -- this is unwholesome karma. things done from reason, intelligence, and goodwill generally have good results -- this is wholesome karma. things that have no intentions attached, including properly executed dharma and so-called 'unattached action,' have neutral karmic consequences. when Aki accuses karma of being a fickle force, she's not saying this out of the typical misunderstanding of what karma is; instead, she's talking about the fact that the results of our karma can be felt at seemingly random times. 6) dharma is spiritual duty, and includes one's role or caste. for instance, in classical Hindu literature, Arjuna was a warrior, so his dharma included going into battle to defend his lands and people. by acting according to our dharma, we use up our karma faster (because we don't add to it), and get closer to being free from the cycle of rebirth.
If the human race comprises predator and prey, then there are three kinds of prey.
The sattvic prey that sees predators and knows its place. The rajasic prey that sees predators and rails defiantly at their dominion. The tamasic prey that lives in unquestioning, uncaring blindness.
Likewise, there are three kinds of human predator.
The sattvic predator that simply is. The rajasic predator that wallows in its supremacy. The tamasic predator that foolishly resists its own nature.
It’s one of the earlier lessons Akiko’s father tried to instill in her—be the calm and lucid predator, so that you can recognize the dangers the world poses to mind, body, and soul. She was in a rebellious stage at the time, and stubbornly refused to see the sense in it. All she knew or cared was that a man was forcing her to read religious drivel.
Then she saw Wilson out in public. Until then, he’d always been a muttering shadow in the corner, ready to step in if someone threatened her father (purely a matter of saving face, because the oyabun shouldn’t dirty his hands with lesser folk).
This moment is very like that first time.
Wilson stands there with the ready stillness of a leopard coiling to pounce, and the crowd parts around him like water. Some of them hurry past with fearful glances or averted eyes. Some of them glower at him. Some of them just walk on, as if he didn’t even exist. Three kinds of prey with a predator in their midst. In his stillness, he is the very image of sattva—acting calmly and simply according to his nature, the sacred duty passed to him by some esoteric creator. She knows that he can be an incarnation of passion, killing because he hates, killing because he covets…but most of the time, he kills only because it is what he was made to do.
After she first saw him out among the sheep, Aki started obsessively researching Hinduism, and then she swerved into Buddhism. The sutras of the Tripitaka lent her a sense of calm for a long time, even though meditation’s never done her much good.
“No origination,” Wilson says. “No stopping. No path.”
She’s always hated how easily he guesses her thoughts. Her back prickles along the blank space left for a long quote from the Heart Sutra. She dips her head in acknowledgment. “Without hindrance, no fears exist.”
The grin on his scarred face is terrible to behold, made of equal parts sneering cynic and murderous psychopath. “Exactly. No fears.”
“Before…you told Lester you know where our son is. How did you find out?”
Easy shrug. “I found a guy who knew. And then I cut into the meat of his thigh with a steak knife—shallow and slow, so he really felt it. And then I told him that I was gonna carve my name into him until I felt like he was telling me the truth. And then I cut on him a bit. And then I asked about your kid. And then I kept cutting for a little while longer, just to make sure.”
“Some people might say that’s beginning backward.”
Derisive laugh. “You know as well ‘s I do—they’re wrong. Saves time if you break ‘em down first and then start asking questions. If asking nicely at the beginning gets you all the answers, you’ve got the wrong person.”
“Or the wrong questions,” Aki corrects.
Head down, hood casting eerie shadows. “Never had that problem, myself.”
“Person or question?”
“Both. Neither. Collateral damage, yes. Wrong interrogation subject, no. It was your daddy who showed me that you avoid collateral damage but you don’t let it get to you, because hey, shit happens. It seem right to you that my boyfriend gets so bent outta shape over collateral damage? I mean, he’s worse ‘n me, as far as the cackling supervillain shtick goes. Total double-standard. I digress.”
“Torture always goes better if the guy you’re interrogating knows you’re actually willing to hurt him.”
Slow circle, eyes on the buildings above. “This is nice,” he says.
Aki isn’t sure what he means—being in public, not working, seeing her again, having a civilized conversation…
“Time to disappear. We’ve got to kidnap me, after all.”
“Yes,” she agrees. “And how shall we go about that?”
Half-shrug, a motion she associates with a stroke of a sword. “Two things people don’t pay any attention to—trash and the people who get rid of it. Richer they are, truer it is, so since Stark stinks of money as bad as Bill Gates does, I figure he must be completely trash-blind, and that’s our in. Where d’you think they’d keep a captive? Cap’s room? He always struck me as one of those pushy, possessive doms. God, that’s brilliant. Nate’ll shit bricks.”
“I honestly don’t know what you see in him,” Aki sniffs. “He’s awfully sanctimonious for a murdering tyrant dictator.”
The crowd passes by them for a while.
Wilson’s lips curve in a tiny, secretive smile. That smile makes her think of schoolgirls passing notes. And then the smile twists and turns bitter. “If you can’t remember ever being kissed by someone you didn’t pay to do it, then being kissed without permission by somebody you’re starting to kind of like is…pretty amazing. So. There it is. He bought me with a conversation, a six-pack of Sapporo, and a kiss. What’d you buy your broken toy with?”
Akiko backs down, because it isn’t worth a fight. Shouldn’t make personal remarks when you’re supposed to be working with someone. Shouldn’t make personal remarks when you want information from someone immune to torture.
And she remembers him guarding her. Remembers him letting her sneak off to bars and clubs (he justified it by escorting her). Remembers him debating the sutras with her. Remembers confessing that she’d tried, she really had, but she hated her father so much she couldn’t bear to be in the same country.
Wilson is a yakuza lapdog, but they’ve built a small measure of mutual loyalty between them.
“Don’t make that face,” he tells her. “I know he doesn’t deserve my stupid hero worship. And maybe I don’t deserve someone who can kiss me without gagging. The world ain’t perfect. We don’t get what we deserve—we get what we take. The key is knowing what you’re taking.”
She nods. “Let’s go.”
He turns to lead the way, and the crowd moves to compensate. Like a frozen pea dropped into a jar of honey. Like a bullet through water.
It’s surreal, and Aki tucks into his wake and rides it out like a water-skier. Push with the legs, hang on tight.
He jaywalks diagonally through a big intersection, heedless of screeching tires and honking horns. There are collisions, but they all miss him.
If she didn’t know better, she’d think he’d plotted some sort of complex trajectory. It’s a lot more likely that the universe just doesn’t want him to get hit by a car today. One thing she’s learned in her long life: luck and karma are fickle bitches. Maybe they’re saving up to drop a piano on him.
“I can feel you thinking at me,” Wilson calls over his shoulder. “Not in a telepathic kinda way. Just in a ‘the back of my neck is tingling’ kinda way.”
“I’m just marveling that you’d be dead a thousand times over if it weren’t for some cosmic force wanting to prolong your suffering.”
Spin, coat swirling, arms wide. Manic grin. Even walking backward, the world passes gently around him. “Thousand’s a low estimate. Million, at least.”
And he walks. True to his dharma, violent when there is violence in his heart, killing because he is a killer. Ignoring the trappings of society except as an amusing fancy. The world passes gently around Wade Wilson because he is the most natural thing in the universe.
Aki makes a face and resolves (not for the first time) to be a little bit more like him. Just a little bit.
He shoves a businessman on a cell phone out into traffic.
A very, very little bit.
Chapter 11: Princess Twinkle
Aki calls up a babysitter on short notice.
lol. so, uh. i was about to post the next serious part of Gardener, and this little thing wrote itself.
warnings: AU - Fateverse. sci-fi. mention of evil!Carol, evil!Steve, and evil!Nate. some background rule 63/het. little kids and questionable babysitters. language: pg-13 (for g**damn).
pairing: Lester/Aki (Bullseye/Daken).
timeline: maybe an hour or so after Sattva.
notes: 1) sandwich cutters are amazing. 2) of course Aki's pals with Doom. 3) even tomboys go through a phase where everything has to be sparkly and princess-y. i think there's something in the X chromosome that makes it imperative with a double dose.
Lester looks up from making an incredibly symmetrical sandwich when he hears key hit lock at the front door.
“Funny how easy it is to meet with people in secret when your enemies think they’ve got your neck on the block,” Aki says.
“Maybe Rogers and his little terrorist pals forgot your neck grows back.”
Itsuko stops playing with her own sandwich (the halves of which are shaped like dinosaurs) to look up and say, “Nuh-uh! Mommy’s neck only goes back together if somebody holds it put.”
“Holds it still,” corrects Akiko.
“Whatever,” their daughter replies unconcernedly.
“How’d it go?” Lester asks.
His wife pauses to look outside the window—at Danvers, no doubt. “He’s in. And tied. It should all be very incriminating.”
Lester considers his sandwich and the best place to take a bite (for symmetry’s sake). The sandwich is delicious, but the bite was a little off-center, so he takes another to compensate. “So. We’re just supposed to sit here on our asses while Norman and the guys fight Rogers and his goons? Hope Wilson’s plan works, and Cable and Bob don’t blow up the world?”
“Sprite still stonewalling?”
He doesn’t know. He sets his sandwich down, washes his hands, goes to Sprite’s window to pick her up. “Hey.”
~Good afternoon, Lester,~ the Node says.
“You got any input on the situation? Deadpool at Stark’s place, Avengers prepping a surprise attack?”
~If we leave within the hour, we can arrive before full hostilities break out.~
Surprised, Lester taps the little glass sphere.
~Please don’t do that, Lester.~
“I was just—you’re not malfunctioning, are you? You changed your mind about the ‘hands off’ thing?”
~There are still many things I can’t tell you. But at this time I’m required by law to inform you that your presence as Bundle Keeper is mandated.~
~Clarification: by Network priority order, you and I must be present at Stark Industries’ New York headquarters in exactly seventy-two minutes. If we get there earlier, we can help the Avengers.~
Akiko snorts and calls someone. “Victor,” she purrs. “Remember that teensy-weensy little favor? Mm-hm, I’m calling it in. Oh, nothing too terrible…I just need a babysitter for a few hours while I go shred Steve Rogers’ smug goddamn face from his perfect little Aryan head.”
“What’s Aryan?” Itsuko whispers loudly to Lester.
“Depends who you ask,” he whispers back, washing his hands again so he can finish his sandwich.
“What if I asked a dinosaur?”
“A crunchy delicious person with blond hair.”
Aki frowns. “She’s not still there, is she? Of course she and I don’t get along, Victor, my daughter is allergic to her son. Mothers take that sort of thing personally… I didn’t say it was personal on my part, dear. Dander is dander. No, no, of course not—Helena loves the doombots. Don’t you, sweetie?”
“Doombots!” Itsuko cheers. “Uncle Victor, Uncle Victor, can I build a doombot yet?”
Akiko rolls her eyes. “Uncle Victor says we’ll see, sweetie.”
“Yay! Daddy, Daddy, I’m gonna make a doombot, and it’s gonna be the prettiest doombot ever. It’ll be magic and purple with pink sparklies and a happyface and butterfly wings…I’ll call it Princess Twinkle, and we’ll have slumber parties and go on picnics…”
Lester washes his hands once again and carefully ignores the idea of his four-year-old daughter constructing semi-autonomous robots.
“Mm-hm,” says Aki, still on the phone. “Right. Twenty minutes would be perfect, Victor.”
And it will. In about fifteen minutes, the Avengers will be attacking Stark’s place with pretty overwhelming odds, and Danvers will rush off to help. They’ll have plenty of time to unplug everything before they go.
It’s been a long time since Lester was out in the field. He hopes he hasn’t gotten rusty.
“Tell me again about this elaborate revenge fantasy of yours, honey,” he says as he heads upstairs to fetch his old uniform out of the closet.
Chapter 12: Uncertainty
The plan was good...and then things didn't go according to plan. Even batshit crazy, Wade's got this under control (sorta...).
srs bsns. a detour into Wade's POV.
warnings: AU - Fateverse. sci-fi. ensemble evil!Avengers plus evil!Nate. some background rule 63/het. slash. brief torture. brief violence. language: pg-13 (for f***, s***, and g**damn).
pairing: Nate/Wade (Cable/Deadpool), background Lester/Aki (Bullseye/Daken).
timeline: very soon after Princess Twinkle.
notes: 1) kinbaku is the art of Japanese rope bondage. it's a pretty highly evolved fetish by this point. 2) in this case shibari is a particular kinbaku configuration where the hands and feet are tied together behind the back. there are several variations. 3) a deer-chaser (shishi-odoshi) is a clever little machine that uses water flow to make a hollow 'thunk' noise at regular intervals to scare animals away from the garden (kind of like a scarecrow). 4) Schrödinger is the guy who talked about quantum uncertainty with examples like a cat in a box (or a room) with a flask of poison gas. basically, the way the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics works, the cat is eventually both alive AND dead...until we observe it. 5) BAM, re-tuned! thank you for cooperating with your Network-mandated delivery of your Node, Lester.
It was a good plan. It was just about brilliant.
It should’ve worked.
Sneaking into Stark’s compensator of a building was easy. Sneaking into the Captain’s room was easy. Akiko trussed him up (annoyingly well, actually) and snuck out again, and that was easy.
Then Barton walked in and looked at him with an expression that clearly said, ‘I remember that time you stabbed me/shot me/broke my insert-bone-of-choice-here—that was my favorite insert-bone-of-choice-here.’
Now the plan is starting to look less brilliant.
“Man, I knew Steve had some fucked up fetishes, but this takes the taco,” Barton says.
Wade grins. “Blondie, hey, good to seeya again. I’d wave, but I’m a little tied up. Remember the good ol’ days, when you were a terrorist dick and I mostly worked for the government?”
“And you shot me a total of eight times, stabbed me five, and broke twelve different bones over the course of three years?”
“You do remember!” Wade cheers.
“I remember well enough that I’m thinking about paying you back in kind at least twice-over. Revenge is sweet, and I can take chunks outta you all damn day.”
Not that torture’s new, exactly, but it doesn’t really get more fun with repetition, and being used to extreme pain doesn’t really make it more comfortable to have your nails ripped out or your intestines used for a jump-rope (surprisingly less painful than the nail-ripping, which is up there with being skinned alive).
“Can we talk about this?” Wade asks without much hope.
Barton ignores him.
Even this is fine. Adds authenticity. Nate will stomp off in a huff after squishing Barton like a bug. Total win.
Turns out that Barton isn’t as imaginative as he could be, so the torture thing ends up mostly being torture-by-boredom. Broken bones, pfft. Stab wounds, whatever. Guy doesn’t even stab him in some of the really nasty spots (like the stomach). No electrodes, no severed appendages, no waterboarding or object insertion. Pretty disappointing, actually. He even says so.
Now Logan, there’s a guy who really knows torture. He once punished Wade for disobedience by dumping him into a pit of rotten milk and blaring Sheena Easton songs at him. Despite his strong will and his best attempts at mental distraction, Wade was reduced to tearful begging forty minutes in. They didn’t fish him out for another ten hours, and he had the pop music equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome by then. Years later, he still occasionally starts singing Morning Train for no reason. That’s trauma.
So, compared to that smell and the slime in awkward places and Sheena goddamn Easton for half a day, being cut on by Barton is nothing.
He’s starting to doze off when the building shakes.
“What the hell?” says Barton.
“Explosion,” Wade says helpfully. “Couple pounds of plastics, or maybe an Avenger.”
An alarm starts going off, followed by more explosions and some screams.
Spider-Man goes swinging past outside the window, chased by Venom. Stark and his armor get blasted by Moonstone.
“Shit,” Barton growls, and runs off to join the fight.
Now Wade’s stuck here alone while all the fun is outside. He can’t even see what’s going on. It takes a great deal of shuffling along on his knees (because Aki is thorough with the tying-people-up thing—he’d make a racist sexual comment about that, but he’s about ninety percent sure she’s not actually into kinbaku, and if this were a proper shibari, he’d probably feel much prettier), but he finally makes it to the window.
By the time he gets there, it’s a popcorn-worthy scene. Stark’s army of robots getting smacked around by Doc Oc and the Crimson Dynamo (apparently the Avengers decided to call in all their buddies for this), the Hulk swatting ineffectually at Noh-Varr, Stark and Osborn beating the crap outta each other…
It’s looking okay for the nominal ‘good guys.’ Aki and the rookie have even come to help (which seems to really piss off Cap).
And then Bob Reynolds shows up.
“No,” Wade says. “Shit. No. No. Fuck.”
He starts to strain at the ropes, because he needs to be wherever Nate is, getting him the hell away.
Aki’s knots are too good. He’s pretty sure he’s hyperventilating.
It’s weird, the shit that pops into a guy’s head during a fit of real, hardcore, honest-to-God post-traumatic stress.
Just now, Wade hears glass windchimes and a bamboo deer-chaser. The world smells like smoke and burning meat, making him think of camping. There are broken dolls all around, and someone’s grinning, and the cuffs are biting through his ankles and he can’t reach T-Ray’s throat and he only knows he’s screaming because his throat’s raw and suddenly the girl-murdering douchebag is minus one head and Wade’s pissed because he wanted to do it himself.
And the whole time, glass windchimes and a bamboo deer-chaser.
The rope is slack and blood-slick, and the skin is regrowing around Wade’s ankles and left hand. There are three dead guards at his feet.
“Uh…sorry,” he says awkwardly, because he finds accidentally murdering someone to be just a little bit rude.
He takes a gun from one of the bodies and starts running. Five scattered shots and he dives through the window. Express elevator, going down. With all the Starkbots flying around out there, the odds of being able to catch a ride are pretty good.
The wind is loud as it rushes past his ears, stinging his face and hands and feet—too loud to properly make out shouts or repulsor blasts or small explosions. He is a microcosm. Tangled shirt and bloody rope and ready gun and the world rushing up to meet him. He lives for this shit.
And goddamn Sheena Easton is singing in his head. He wishes it could be something halfway cool or comically appropriate, like Freefallin’…but no, his baby takes the morning train. Shit. At least it wasn’t Mariah Carey.
He sees the Starkbot coming at the last second, bends his knees as he hits it, hooks it by the collar with his free hand. The metal is warm under the stinging soles of his feet.
“Goin’ my way?” he says, but his wit is lost in the noise of wind and flight thrusters. Before it can try to shake him off, he wedges the gun down in the collar and puts a bullet in the exposed control cables there.
Light flashes all around, robots and pieces of robots fly past.
And then, a little way below, while the Sentry’s busy mowing down Starkbots, cars start flying at him.
And it’s just fucking stupid, that Nate’s fucking playing when he should be taking this seriously. Getting the guy’s attention? Really? When a surprise attack could’ve wiped him off the face of creation?
“Why do I love you, you fucking idiot?” Wade growls.
The bot Wade’s riding hits the ground hard, and people notice. Wade lands a half-second later and much more gracefully, and people notice that, too.
Good ol’ Bob (who’s actually an okay guy, if a little repressed) is about to plant a super-strong punch right in Nate’s super-smug face when the world shivers and a voice that they don’t actually hear says WAIT in the backs of their minds.
And everyone does.
The Starkbots get flung aside like toy soldiers in the sudden stillness, and a few people are trying to move (lost cause against a guy can levitate entire islands in his sleep), and Nate just floats over and looks down at Wade.
Bastard never gets enough of looking down at Wade.
“Hi, honey,” Wade says. “Fancy meeting you here.”
Nate’s eyes move—from Wade’s face to the gun to the blood-stained clothes to Hawkeye.
Wade watches Bob. Unlike the others, Bob isn’t still. Bob is moving slowly.
“This is all so fun and kooky and full of reunions with guys I used to be friends with ‘n all, but how about we just call it a day and go home?” Wade tries. “Y’know, just leave these idiots to their dumb feud. We could get Thai—you like Thai food, and there’s a great spot a few blocks away that serves up a mean—”
“You need to learn to control your pets, Steven,” Nate says. “Perhaps I’ll teach him a little lesson…which of Clint’s legs would you least like to see detached?”
“Cable!” Bob yells.
“In a moment, Sentry,” Nate says with that condescending calm that never fails to piss Wade off.
But that was really just Bob’s sense of honor making him try to get Nate to face him, because he’s free now, and flying over like a speeding bullet, and Wade moves before he even realizes what he’s doing.
The gun can’t hurt Bob, but Wade points it anyway. “Don’t,” he says.
Bob pauses, waiting for the argument.
Wade swallows and tries to make it a good one. “Bob, man, you’re a nice guy, and we were almost-but-not-quite friends once, and I looked up to you and all that sappy fanboy shit…but I swear to Christ, I’ll depopulate an entire city for every hair you harm on his stupid smug head. We’ll just see how many I make it through before you manage to kill me for good—if it’s even possible. Nate, let’s go.”
And it’s Schrödinger’s goddamn battlefield, it really is. They could all be dead or alive the second Bob or Nate makes a decision.
Nate looks sharply at the rookie.
“Fuck!” says Graves, the sound muffled by his inability to move.
Nate pulls something from Graves’ coat pocket, easy as wiggling a finger. It glitters in the sunlight, and Wade has the urge to say it’s full of stars.
When it happens, it happens in a single instant, like opening the box to see if the cat’s alive.
Everyone stumbles as the telekinetic hold is released, the glittery thing hits Bob with a high, discordant ringing, and Bob comes apart like a sugar cube in water.
Everyone stops again, from shock this time.
“There,” says Nate. “It’s entirely possible he could reconstitute himself, but for the moment he won’t be saving anyone. Consider all our ties cut, Steven. If I see you again, I may kill you. As for your disobedient underling…well, you never did pick a leg.”
Barton’s legs come off with two wet popping noises, just like a pair of turkey drumsticks. He screams like a girl. Wade would make a smartass comment, but his brain is still in holyshitwhatthefuck mode, and he thinks he’d probably scream, too, if he tried to talk right now.
Invisible hands pluck the gun out of Wade’s right hand and lift him into the air.
“I believe you mentioned Thai?”
Chapter 13: Appletini -or- The Currency of Casual Threats
While Akiko and Lester are helping the Avengers fight the Captain and his men, their daughter is in the care of Victor von Doom, who may or may not have agreed to let his suspiciously helpful girlfriend take over as babysitter.
so, while Aki and Lester were off helping the Avengers, they left Itsuko with Doom. and then guess who showed up to help babysit? trolololoki…
i can just picture it… Itsuko would be skipping around singing songs or something while Victor sits there and goes “i don’t have enough Doombots for this s***,” and then Loki shows up and goes “hi, honey, i forgot my purse—OH LOOK, an opportunity to troll!”
warnings: AU - Fateverse. sci-fi. non-evil!Doom, differently-evil!Loki. some background rule 63/het. questionable babysitting practices. language: pg.
pairing: Doom/Loki, background Lester/Aki (Bullseye/Daken).
timeline: very soon after Uncertainty.
notes: 1) you shouldn't let non-regenerating kids climb stepladders, btw. 2) of course Loki knows where Michael is. 3) reasons not to let Loki babysit your child--this fic touches on most of them.
Appletini or The Currency of Casual Threats
Loki is feeling particularly pleased with herself today. It’s not every day, after all, that one persuades the beloved child of a hated rival that one is, in fact, said child’s favorite person.
“You’re so fun, Auntie Loki, I don’t know why Mommy says you’re appally,” the child says brightly from high atop a stepladder, where she’s just attached a faceplate to her very own doombot.
“Appalling,” Loki absently corrects. “I can’t imagine why your mommy would say that, either. After all, we’re such good friends. Ah—are you sure about that color, dear?”
The girl pauses with her little fist full of pink glitter.
“Green would be so much nicer, don’t you think?”
“You’re right! Green would be much prettier with purple.” She looks at the glitter and holds it out. “Please?”
“Well, since you ask so sweetly…” A snap of Loki’s fingers turns the pink glitter green.
Smugly, Loki leans back and sips her appletini.
Another of Victor’s little toys clanks into the room and holds out a phone on a silver tray. “For Miss Itsuko,” it says.
The girl flings the glitter onto still-tacky purple paint and dusts at some stubborn flakes clinging to her palms. “Who is it?” she asks.
“Daddy!” She hops down a few steps and takes the phone. “Hello, Daddy! I made a doombot, and Auntie Loki helped! She used a spell and made it so I wasn’t sneezy. I changed my mind about the name, so now instead of being Princess Twinkle, it’s Princess Badass, and instead of being with pink glitter, it’s got green glitter, but there’s still the butterfly wings, and I was thinking of maybe adding a rainbow somewhere, and I haven’t got around to the smiley face yet, but—”
Mercifully, the child’s prattle pauses. Loki presumes she’s listening obediently.
“Do I haveta go, Daddy?” whines the girl. “Funerals are boring and Uncle Bob was kind of creepy.”
A funeral for Robert Reynolds. How interesting.
“Can’t I stay here with Uncle Victor and Auntie Loki? Auntie Loki’s the best! She did a spell that made the glitter green, and before that she did a spell that made one of the doombots talk in Spanish, and a spell that made my shoes walk around, and—”
Loki grimaces and spares a moment to be grateful that none of her children are predisposed to this kind of meaningless chatter. “You should tell your mommy what fun we’re having,” she suggests.
“Can I talk to Mommy now?” the yammering little demon-spawn asks. “Hi, Mommy! We’re having so much fun today, Auntie Loki’s here, and she’s so awesome, she made me not be sneezy, and she’s been helping me build my doombot, I decided to name it Princess Badass instead of Princess Twinkle, and—” She breaks off with a pout, then holds the phone toward Loki.
Loki looks at the thing with disdain.
“Mommy said to let you talk,” the brat explains.
Oh, did she? Loki smiles her smuggest smile and takes the phone. “Akiko, darling, how good to hear from you. Victor and I’ve been wondering why you only call when you need something. I told him you’re just busy failing to overthrow the terrorists on your doorstep, but he’s—”
~“Shut up, you self-important slut.”~
“Oh, come now, you didn’t even like Bob,” she coos. “I think you’ve been under too much stress lately. You should take the rest of the day to spend some time with that barely-functioning ape you call a husband. I’ll take care of sweet little…” She pauses only for a moment to remember the little monster’s name. “Itsuko. We’re getting along so very well.”
~“Tell Victor we have Stark in custody and we need him to come in and catalog all the tech we confiscated. Try not to get distracted jacking off your ego some more. Goodbye.”~
“Don’t you want to know how your other child is doing?”
Loki considers the lengthy silence on the line to be yet another point in her favor.
~“Tell me what you know, now, and maybe I won’t badmouth your dead idiot brother the next time I see you.”~
Wrath forms a cold knot in the pit of her belly, but she smiles her way through it. “Oh, my, what a tempting offer. Still, as I know that respecting your betters is such a strain for you, I won’t force you to exert yourself. Michael is alive and well, which you know from this week’s call. It’s only to be expected, with the weather so unseasonably mild over there. And if you ever speak ill of Thor again, I promise that you and I will spend a long time getting to know one another very, very well. In fact, you could say I’ll know you inside-out before we’re through. And then you can go home to your defective superhero and lovely little Itsuko and her stories of how Auntie Loki is the best. Won’t that be nice?”
There’s another silence.
~“I misspoke. I should’ve called your brother an evil-minded, walnut-brained slab of meat who got what he deserved. Thank you so much for babysitting my daughter; I’ll be sure to pay you back when you and Victor have your first.”~
Touché. This round belongs to Akiko, but the game is long.
Loki hangs up and kicks the ladder out from under Itsuko. “Oops,” she says as she relishes the sound of crunching bone.
“It’s okay,” the girl says happily. “I didn’t stain my shirt this time.”
“Well done, dear,” Loki praises, and goes back to her appletini.