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A Friend Like You

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It wasn’t often that Logan got to come to SHIELD headquarters – let’s face it, it wasn’t really ever that he wanted to – but now that he was here, he was taking in the show. The show that was the Avengers having a meeting, that was. One particularly sarcastic response to something Fury said had him hiding a smirk. And Charles thought the X-Men were bad – Scott Summers would run out of the room crying after five minutes of presiding over a meeting with Tony Stark in it.

Logan had been sent to New York to give the non-mutant team of superheroes some information, which he’d done, and now the meeting was wrapping up and he was finding himself just a little bit disappointed that the show was over, because these guys were funny and a lot looser than what he usually had to deal with. Of course, Fury wasn’t counted in that estimation. The internal smile disappeared. Logan had worked with men like Fury before, and those weren’t good memories.

Fury thanked him for coming, everyone started to wander out of the room – some of them even said goodbye to Logan, although none of them stayed behind to chat with him and he hadn’t expected them to – but Fury held Rogers back, waiting until the rest of the man’s team was gone before telling him he was needed in Medical. The supersoldier’s “Yes sir,” came out perfectly bland, but his scent changed to…Logan almost staggered, wanting to gag. He’d smelled that before, in some of those places Fury reminded him too much of, had even smelled it on himself. Resignation and sick fear and…humiliation.

Logan growled under his breath and both the supersoldier and Fury tensed, although Rogers wasn’t afraid of Logan and Fury was. With good fucking reason, Logan thought with an internal feral smile. Be afraid of me, you ruthless one-eyed fuck. Any man who’s been casually ordering Captain fucking America to go be tortured so they can find out how he ticks should goddamn well be afraid of the Wolverine. He cleared his throat, although it didn’t make him sound any less gruff and angry. “Researchers got a schedule to keep, Fury?” he asked. “Because I was hopin’ Cap and I could discuss some things while I was here, if he had the time to spare for me.”

Fury’s expression said a lot of things, and his scent said even more, but he nodded. “Of course, Wolverine. Captain, I’ll let Medical know that they shouldn’t expect you today.”

“All right,” the supersoldier said immediately, and his relief was so palpable that Logan thought even Fury should be able to smell it. Rogers turned to Logan, all business. “Unless you wanted to stay here, we can go…”

“Yeah, let’s do that.” Logan preceded him out of the room – because there was no way they’d both fit through the door at the same time, and he couldn’t drop back to play defense without it looking weird. He waited until they were both a ways down the hall before speaking again. “So, where’s a good place we can go get a beer? I can’t get drunk, so I’m all about the taste.”

The smile that appeared on the supersoldier’s face – and the smell of relief and pleasure – was something to behold. “I can’t either – get drunk, that is,” Rogers told him, and Logan suddenly wondered how that was working out for him, living with a lush like Stark who was probably buzzed more often than he was sober. “There’s a bar I like down in Brooklyn that brews their own, it’s kind of a hole in the wall, but…”

“Hey, I ain’t fancy,” Logan disclaimed immediately, spreading his arms to indicate his general lack of fanciness. “I’ve got my bike, do you?”

He’d only thought the guy was smiling before. “Yeah, it’s downstairs. Come on, let’s go.”

Logan obligingly fell into step with him, ignoring the sound of feet hitting the hall floor after they’d turned the corner; he’d known the archer was up there. He tuned out when he heard the guy dial his cell phone, smirking. It was good to know the Avengers were looking out for each other, even if he was sure the archer had stuck around up there to keep his eagle eyes on Logan, not Fury. That was probably about to change.

He was right. “Tony,” Clint murmured into the phone, “come back and get me, I…we missed somethin’, somethin’ big.”

 

The bar was a hole, and just short of being a dive, but Rogers seemed comfortable there and the bartender had greeted him as Steve when they’d come in so he was obviously a regular. Logan slipped into the booth the supersoldier led him to and ordered a house beer when Rogers did, then slouched down and got comfortable. “So,” Rogers said, “what did you need to talk to me about?”

Logan shrugged. “About you not bein’ a lab rat for the day, mostly,” he said with a lopsided grin. “Been there, done it, it sucks. And it’s not often I get to talk to a guy who remembers the same stuff that I do and don’t look old enough to be my grandpa.” He held out his hand. “James Logan Howlett, Second Canadian Infantry Division. Call me Logan.”

The smile came back, and his hand was taken in a grip that held no trepidation at all – even the other X-Men hesitated sometimes before taking Logan’s hand. “Captain Steven Rogers of the Howling Commandos – call me Steve. I don’t suppose you knew a Captain Adamson, did you? First Canadian Battalion?”

Logan laughed. Adamson had been somewhat infamous. “Yeah, I’d met him once or twice. Good soldier, but whenever he wasn’t fighting he was tryin’ to repopulate Germany with half-Irish bastards.”

Steve laughed too. “Yeah, I thought my Sergeant Dugan got around until I met Adamson. Were you there the time he got…interrupted by some Nazis and came out naked with a gun in each hand?”

“No, but I heard about it – I think everyone heard about it, commanders all over Europe were tellin’ their boys not to be Adamson after that.” He chuckled. “But I bet those stormtroopers didn’t know what to think when he came out swingin’.”

And Logan had to wonder if any of the Avengers had ever heard Steve Rogers laugh like that before.

They reminisced for a while, trading stories back and forth of battles they’d been in and people they’d known, and Logan gradually led the conversation closer to the present and then delicately touched on Stryker and how the man had worked. He knew he’d gotten the point across when Steve’s scent started to reflect a stronger feeling of camaraderie overlayed with sick dismay. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “I volunteered to be a lab rat, just like you did, but it didn’t stop there for me and I don’t think it did for you either. And that just ain’t right.” He knocked back the last of his beer. “How often do you get ordered in for ‘testing’ these days?”

Steve rolled his glass between his palms, bitterness rising up in his expression and in his scent. “At least a few times a month, lately as often as once or twice a week because they want results and nothing has been attacking the city.” His jaw clenched. “Not like I’m given a choice, and nobody else seems to see anything wrong with it. Every so often I get taken into an interrogation room and questioned about the day Dr. Erskine gave me the serum, like they think I’m going to suddenly remember something I haven’t told them already. Last time I complained, they told me that if I wasn’t going to cooperate I’d be handed over to Medical permanently.”

Logan snorted. “I think people would notice if you just disappeared.”

“That’s what I said.” Steve set his glass down, shaking his head at the bartender so he wouldn’t be brought another one. “They said they’d always had contingency plans for that, they’d just tell everyone that they’ve never been sure how stable the change the serum caused was, or what being frozen for so long might have done to my brain, and that they’ve been monitoring me closely for any signs of instability so when they saw some they pulled me in for my safety and everyone else’s.” He shuddered. “It’s not like anyone would question them. The rest of my team never even noticed…well, they’ve never noticed any of it, and I never felt like I could tell them.”

“Yeah, I can understand that.” Logan could understand it, all right, and it made him angrier than he was going to let Steve know he was; it wasn’t like he didn’t deal with the same shit from his ‘team’ at the mansion on a regular basis. The difference was, Logan had kept the X-Men at arms-length on purpose, he didn’t want them getting close. Steve Rogers wasn’t like that, and the amount of hurt coming off of him when he’d said no one on his team had noticed anything was just plain wrong. Logan wasn’t good with that, he wasn’t good with that at all. “You think SHIELD would back off some if they could get all the details, in a way that meant they would know they couldn’t get any more?”

Blue eyes narrowed, but there was guarded hope in them. “I don’t know, they might.”

Logan grinned. “Then I just might have an idea. Let’s go.” They got out of the booth and Steve waved to the bartender – who, Logan noticed, smiled when he waved back. Once they were out on the sidewalk he pulled out his phone. He didn’t step away or turn away because around someone with enhanced senses that was just stupid. “Hey Professor,” he started when the phone was picked up on the other end. “Got a question for ya. SHIELD’s been tryin’ to find out more about the supersoldier serum that made Captain America, but he can only remember so much…” He looked at Steve. “They try hypnosis?” At the other man’s nod, he nodded back. “Okay, yeah. I know you can take a memory and make a…yeah, like that. Could you do that for him so they’ll leave him alone about it? Fury’s got runaway researchers with ‘schedules’ to keep.” Logan didn’t need to be in the room with the leader of the X-Men to sense his dismay at that. “Yeah, yeah…no, we’re both motorcycle guys, we can make our own way up there.” He raised an eyebrow at Steve. “You up for a road trip? Professor says he can get the whole thing, would probably only take about five minutes, but you’d have to be there for him to do it ‘cause that way it would be easier on both of you.”

Steve’s eyes widened with sudden concern. “Does it hurt him?”

“Nope, but it’s kind of a strain long-distance.” Logan listened to the phone, shrugged. “He says thanks for bein’ concerned about it, but you don’t need to worry – it’s just easier and faster if you’re there with him. And he’d like to meet you anyway.” When Steve nodded he let Xavier know they’d be coming and disconnected, tucking the phone away again. He grinned. “Hope you don’t mind, I think he may have been a fanboy – he was a kid, during the war.”

A small spike of sadness, but Steve smiled softly. “I get that sometimes, it’s okay. Although it’s still kind of weird that so many of my ‘fans’ look like my grandfather and are actually younger than me.”

Logan snorted and slapped him on the shoulder. “What can I say, we’re just two lucky bastards that way, not showin’ our age and all. You need to grab some stuff before we hit the road?”

“Yeah, we can stop at the tower and grab my bag, and I’ll let everyone know that I’ll be out of town, just in case something happens – and so they won’t come looking for me once they realize I’m gone.”

 

The rest of the team was already back at the tower, congregated in the main living area on the Avengers’ floor, when Steve and Logan came in. None of them looked happy. “Research, huh?” Stark said tightly, and Steve flinched. Stark’s hard brown eyes switched over to Logan. “Appreciate you getting him out of that. We had no idea.”

Logan shrugged. Steve squared his shoulders, apparently oblivious to the fact that doing it made him look even younger than he physically was. “You never asked – it’s not like Fury doesn’t keep me there after almost every briefing. And it’s not like I’ve had a choice, Tony. If Fury says go to Medical, I either walk there or get taken there.” He deflated a little, just a little, resignation settling back in. “I’d rather walk.”

“Yeah, I get that. But they don’t own you…”

“Yes, they do – SHIELD bought the supersoldier project from the Army, I was the Army’s property and now I’m theirs. As long as I cooperate, they’ll let me keep living here and working with you guys, they’ll let me keep the license they gave me so I can ride my bike…it’s not what I would have wanted, but the alternative is being permanently locked up in Medical while they tell everyone I’ve become too unstable to be allowed out anymore.” He sighed. “Logan thinks Professor Xavier can get all of the memories I have of the whole supersoldier experiment out of my head and give them to Fury; if he can really do that, maybe they won’t need to keep interrogating me about it, and maybe they won’t need to do so many tests for a while. It’s up to a few times a week now, and it’s starting to get to me.”

Stark swallowed. Logan could tell he was trying not to be sick, and he could smell the rage the billionaire wasn’t showing; the guy had a lot more self control than everyone seemed to think, interesting. “That’s where you’re going now, to let Professor X do his thing?”

“Stopped off to get my bag and let you guys know where I’d be, so you wouldn’t worry,” Steve confirmed. His grin was a pale reflection of the ones Logan had been on the receiving end of earlier, but it was there. “It’ll be nice to take a road trip, be out in the fresh air for a while.”

“We’ll hold down the fort,” Barton told him. “Natasha will watch us.”

“I am not your babysitter,” was the redhead’s casually huffed response, although Logan could tell she was nearly as tense as one of the archer’s bowstrings and he wondered why. “Although I will not deny that you need one, all of you.” She leveled a finger at Steve. “You included.”

He blushed, and went to get his bag. Logan waited until he knew the supersoldier’s enhanced hearing was out of range. “Well?”

“If I find out SHIELD or the Army told him they owned him, heads are gonna roll,” Stark almost snarled. “Take your time bringing him back, I don’t think Fury can get an operative into the school.”

“He’s tried, he can’t,” Logan confirmed with a nod. “If somethin’ big shows up, just call. The jet can have us back here in no time flat – all of us, if it’s really big. It didn’t matter much to me that SHIELD didn’t want to work with the X-Men before, but I could give less than two shits about what they want now. So if you want some extra hands, you call.”

“We’ll call – and that goes double for you guys,” Tony told him. “I may get Richards on the line and tell him that, too.”

Banner snorted softly. The scientific rivalry between Reed Richards and Tony bordered on cliché sometimes. “I’m making you put that call on speaker – and I’m recording it for posterity.”

Logan had to grin at that, but it didn’t last. “One last thing,” he said, some of the anger he’d felt before leaking out. “Steve said somethin’ earlier, and it’s buggin’ me: He said he didn’t feel like he could tell any of you what was goin’ on.” He raised an eyebrow. “You might want to figure out why exactly that was, because guys like him? They trust people unless they think they’ve got a reason not to.”

He saw Banner frown and Barton and Romanov exchange a look, and he saw Stark take all of that in with a frown of his own. “Yeah, you’re right,” the billionaire said, his jaw tightening even though the rage-scent was grudgingly being diluted with dismay. “We’ll figure it out and fix it – before he gets back.”

Steve was back out a few minutes later, without his bag. “I just got a text from Fury,” he told Logan apologetically. “He said my appointment with Medical has been ‘rescheduled’ for tomorrow morning, and not to be late.” He swallowed. “So if I try to leave town…if they’re watching…”

This time it was Banner, not Logan, who growled, and Logan was surprised to smell a spike of pure animal fear from the red-haired Russian assassin who he’d heard wasn’t afraid of anything. And he was just as surprised that Banner apparently smelled it too, because he stopped looking angry and sort of curled in on himself. “Jesus, you’re still that scared of me? Really? I thought we’d…” he swallowed, “gotten past that.”

“I thought we had too.” Steve was giving her a different sort of look, though; it was measuring, assessing, and when he was done his jaw set and he addressed Tony instead of her. “Okay, it looks like this needs to happen for more than just my benefit. If Logan’s still game, can you cover our escape?”

“Logan’s even more game now,” Logan told him, letting a feral little smile slip out. “If you can cover our tracks out of the city, Stark, I can take it from there. We’ll be takin’ the scenic route, at least part of the way,” he informed Steve. “Go get your stuff, and this time pack a coat.”

Steve grinned at him and disappeared back down the hall again, and this time he was back in minutes with his duffel bag and his leather jacket. “Tony, when can we leave?”

“Now,” Tony told him. “After the last…incident,” he spared a frown for Romanov, “I got a little paranoid about people sealing me up in my tower to die, so I made some super-secret emergency exits.” He stood up, nodding at Barton. “Robin, you stay up here with Batgirl and fix that shit, whatever it is; Brucie, you come with us, you need to know where this one is too – it’s big enough for your greener half to use if that ever becomes necessary, although I really hope it won’t because I don’t want to rebuild my fucking tower again.”

In spite of himself, Logan was impressed; if the look on Barton’s face was anything to go by, Stark had called that one just right. They went down into the parking garage and got the bikes, and then Stark led them down through two workshops and into what looked like a third but turned out to be a nice tunnel. There were a variety of small vehicles there, and he took one that looked like a golf cart for himself and Banner to ride in while Logan and Steve walked their bikes beside it. Finally, they reached what looked like an airlock door, and Stark got out and checked it. “Okay, nobody’s out there,” he said after a moment. “This connects to one of the old, supposedly sealed subway tunnels, and if you go all the way to the end you’ll be on the outskirts of Queens. It lets out into an abandoned building that probably isn’t very abandoned, but nobody in there is going to give two shits about you unless you try to steal their drugs.”

“Speaking of drugs.” Banner spoke up suddenly; he hadn’t said a word for the entire trip up until now. “If you can, Logan, get the X-Men’s doctor to see if he can find something, anything, that will work on Steve. I’ve tried everything, I even invented a few new things…”

“Which I made him patent,” Tony interjected.

“But nothing I’ve come up with has worked,” Banner finished, not quite rolling his eyes. “I worry about that, we’ve just been really lucky so far that he’s never been seriously injured.”

Steve gave him a look. “I have been, but it was in Europe and we were in the woods.”

Banner smacked him on the arm. “That’s for the incomplete medical history you gave me, then. We will be fixing that when you get back.”

Steve rolled his eyes. “Yes, Mother.” But he patted the smaller man on the shoulder and then, apparently on a whim, pulled him into a one-armed hug. “Stay out of trouble while I’m gone, okay? I won’t ask you to keep Tony out of trouble, because that’s probably not humanly possible.”

“I am so scanning all your artwork and putting it on the Internet under your actual name,” Stark told him. This time he was the one who smacked Steve on the arm, but his hand stayed there for a second, squeezing. “We’ll fix this, Steve. I’ll call and let you know when it’s fixed, and that’s how you’ll know when to come back, okay? It won’t be long, I promise.”

Steve returned the gesture. “Of course it won’t, if you’re working on it,” he said, and although Stark’s expression didn’t change, Logan could smell just how much that entirely sincere endorsement affected him. “Just be careful, okay?”

“I’ll be as careful as I always am…”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.” But Steve smiled at him, and then Stark opened the airlock door and he and Logan walked their bikes out into the darkness of the tunnel.

Bruce waited until Tony had sealed things back up and then got back into the little golf cart for the return trip. “I’m so proud, you just had a moment.”

“I did not.”

“You did so. I won’t tell anyone, though.” He folded his arms across his chest. “So, what’s our next move?”

Tony’s jaw set. “Assuming whatever the hell was going on with half of the Spy Twins is being fixed and we don’t need to be part of it? I’m going to make some phone calls. This shit ends now, or SHIELD is going to find out exactly how much they didn’t want to be on my bad side.” He glanced sideways. “You know, if what I’m about to try doesn’t work…”

Bruce shrugged. “Not like I wasn’t a fugitive before, Tony.”

Tony nodded once, sharply. “Okay. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but if it does…so be it.” Then he grinned. “I have this great place in Aruba. You guys will love it there.”