Tony had, by some means, managed to staple both Steve and Thor to a chair long enough to get them through the highlights of Trek TOS and TNG (not that it had actually been hard, in Thor’s case, and Steve had apparently been fascinated by the sixties vs the eighties vibes), and selected movies (Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock, First Contact). Bruce wasn’t completely sure that had been wise, either for Steve and Thor and their already myriad problems with the modern world, or for everyone else (if Thor did not stop speaking Klingon at people, there was going to be a murder, and the corpse was probably going to be Tony’s), but it did have one surprising benefit. Namely, the fact that the Kirk vs Picard debate could carry the entire team through up to twenty minutes of pre-battle jitters. Huh.
“Well, Kirk, obviously,” Tony grinned. Not that they could see him, he was currently doing loop-the-loops in the suit around their carrier, but Bruce could tell anyway. “Come on. Dashing, charismatic ladies man, who’ll go down to the wire for you, and always wins the day? That’s gotta be the guy.”
“Why am I not surprised?” Natasha murmured dryly, from the pilot’s seat. “Tony, if you buzz my left engine one more time, I have a grenade with your name on it.”
There was a second’s pause. “I’d like it to be noted for the record that I am manfully resisting the wide range of innuendo I could be saying right now,” Tony said, and Natasha smiled faintly. “So, Nat. Who gets your vote, hmm? Or, no, wait, do spies have time for …”
“Picard,” she interrupted, and Bruce could get attached to the amusement in her voice, the real humour. “I work with Clint, Tony. Of course I’ve seen Trek.”
“Why, Natasha! I’m … not sure if I’m more impressed with Clint or you, right now.” Tony rolled under them at far too fast a speed for Bruce’s liking, slipstreaming them casually. “Though, really? Voting bald on the company line? For shame, Nat. For shame.”
“Don’t let Fury hear you say that,” Clint warned, opening an eye at last. “He’s a Sisko man, with maybe a side order of Enabran Tain.”
“... DS9,” Tony muttered. “Why am I not surprised. He couldn’t at least have gone for Garak? Or, you know, Nerys?”
Clint grinned. “What was that you said about the company line?” he murmured, looking right at the red-headed female assassin beside him. “Tch. Tony.”
“Hey, I know which side my bread’s buttered on,” Tony laughed back. “What about you, Long-eyes? Picard?”
Clint grinned lazily. “You think I don’t get enough Men In Tights jokes without voting for someone played by Patrick Stewart? Kirk, baby. All the way.”
“I knew you were one of us,” Tony beamed, rolling up in front of the windscreen for a second to flash a thumbs up, ignoring Natasha’s responding spate of snarled invective, and the tightening of Bruce’s hands around his seat. Well, okay. Tony couldn’t see that last one. “Rock on, archer.”
“Tony,” Bruce cut in, repressively. “Either fly straight, or move to a new tower when we get back, because if you almost crash us one more time, I’m handing Natasha my lab codes and getting the hell out of the way.”
Natasha flashed him a grateful, approving look over her shoulder, and Bruce grinned queasily at her.
“Hey, Bruce, my man!” Tony waved a hand, but before either Bruce or Natasha could snarl and/or threaten him some more, he rolled back out of sight, and took to pacing their right engine. “So, now that I know you’re awake, where do you stand on our little captaincy issue?” He gunned it slightly, because Tony was pathologically incapable of not showboating at least a little bit. “You look like a Picard man to me. Gonna side with Natasha on that one, too?”
Bruce closed his eyes for a second. Not quite a prayer for patience, but almost. When he opened them, he ducked apologetically at Natasha again. “I’m afraid not. My apologies, Ms Romanov. Captain Kirk, yet again.”
“Huh.” Clint, not Tony, turned to look at him. “Wouldn’t have guessed that one, Doc.”
Bruce smiled lopsidedly at him. “Captain Ahab,” he explained, quietly. Picard was fine, but his temper, when it came, was too sudden, unexpected, and all-consuming. At least with Kirk, you knew what was coming. That was … better.
“Ah,” came a quiet voice, beside him, and Bruce turned to look in surprise at Steve. “And Locutus too?” the Captain asked him, quietly, smiling encouragingly at him. Bruce, blinking, nodded faintly.
“Oh, hey, Cap,” Tony cut in, now sounding oddly subdued. Bruce winced, a little bit. That hadn’t been his intent. “So, you with Bruce on this one?” Deliberately light, trying to lighten them back up a bit. Bruce … tried not to love him, just a little, for that.
“No,” Steve answered, thoughtfully. “No, I think I favour Picard.”
“Despite it, or because of it?” Bruce smiled, gently, and Steve flashed him a brief, honest grin that had his stomach flopping a little bit.
“Because of,” Steve confirmed. “Picard faced the monster inside him. The monster someone forced on him, implanted within him. That is … admirable, I think.” Steve, with his shiny new body, and the memories of all the monsters he could have been. Bruce … almost flinched, almost did, but he wasn’t going to blame Steve, of all people, for that.
Especially not when the Captain reached over across the seat, and gently rested his hand on Bruce’s shoulder.
“I agree,” said Thor, quietly. Bizarrely quiet, really. Much more subdued than they were used to from him, barring the presence of his … Oh. Right.
For a long second, there was silence. Even over the radio, because apparently not even Tony knew what to do with a subdued Thor. None of them did.
Except, apparently, Thor himself. Pulling himself together with a smile, straightening in his seat. “Your Kirk is an admirable warrior,” he said, and it was closer to his usual booming self. “I would admire him, I think. But he is not well suited to greater leadership,.” He smiled, shaking his head, before adding decisively. “I shall cast my lot with the Captain and the Lady Natasha. Picard!”
Natasha smirked, faintly. Bruce thought her eyes were still dark, thought maybe she was thinking of a few monsters of her own, but she smirked, and her voice, when it emerged, was nothing but casual confidence. “In that case,” she murmured, pointedly. “I think Team Picard has it.”
“Oi!” Tony interrupted. “It’s three to three! Where are you getting that from?”
“Because,” she said, humming with amusement. “Team Picard has the god, Captain America, and me. All you have are two nerdy scientists, and Cary Elwes over here.”
“She loves me,” Clint said, dryly. “It may not show sometimes, but she does love me.”
“I love you too, but you ladies don’t quit yapping and get your asses on the ground, it won’t be showing at all,” Fury’s voice crackled viciously over the radio, neatly cutting off Tony’s outraged splutters. And that, apparently, was that, shelving the debate before Team Kirk could even get in a retort.
That was alright, though, Bruce thought, standing up to amble over to the rear hatch and his, ah, transformation point. As Natasha said, Team Kirk had two nerd scientists, and a sniper. They were very good at delayed, and pointed, retorts.
Yes. Bruce was much looking forward, he thought, to the resummation of this debate.