“Why does Tony get to skip out on training?” Clint whined. “All he’s doing is playing on his tablet.”
Tony looked up with an eye roll. “I’m observing your fight patterns for a new sim while also categorizing strengths and weaknesses of your current uniforms,” he drawled. “I wouldn’t call that playing.”
“Besides,” Steve cut in, sensing the beginnings of an argument. “He doesn’t need it. He fights in the suit.”
Tony blinked incredulously. “I’m sorry, what?” he said.
“It’s just…” Steve looked a little embarrassed, but wasn’t backing down. “The suit doesn’t require that much work, right? It’s not like you actually have to train to use it.”
“Oh,” Tony’s voice was sickly sweet. “So that’s what you meant.”
“He isn’t wrong, is he?” Clint asked snidely.
“Care to find out?” Tony stood, gently setting down his tablet. His eyes were dangerous, smile predatory. “You can try it out, if you think it’s that easy. Steve, care to take it for a spin?”
Steve, never one to turn down a challenge, nodded. “Sure,” he said confidently. “How hard can it be?”
Bruce, who had been doing yoga in the corner, laughed darkly but said nothing.
Tony summoned the suit with a showman’s flourish, directing it to encase Steve instead of himself.
“Hope you’re not claustrophobic, Cap,” Tony narrated. “It’ll be tight. I have adjustments built in so it will expand to fit you, but it’s still pretty small.”
Steve almost flinched at the unfamiliar feeling of metal surrounding him. It was dark in the suit, the eye holes limiting hsi vision. “How do you see?” he asked.
“Suit’s off,” Tony replied dryly. “You don’t have a power source built in like me.” He tapped his arc reactor twice. “The normal size of it would need to go about four inches into your chest, so you’re going to be running on backup power today. Make sure you compensate for that.” He made a hand motion and the HUD lit up.
“Welcome, Captain Rogers,” JARVIS said coolly from inside the suit. “Would you care for my assistance today?”
Steve was too caught up in trying to read the HUD to respond immediately. “No, thanks,” he said distractedly, trying to take in all the numbers. Measurements for all the things in the room were displayed in a translucent blue. There was a string of warnings, scrolling by too fast for him to read. People and their vitals were displayed in orange, showing Tony’s amused smirk quite clearly. In red, power levels and available ammunition were written.
The sheer amount of numbers were making Steve’s head spin, but he figured it was too early to admit defeat. “What now?” he asked, trying not to focus on the rapidly cycling data as he turned his head.
“I should make you figure it out yourself. Not that much work , my ass,” Tony muttered. Then louder, “Try thrust capacity at one percent.”
“Isn’t that a little low?” Steve said skeptically. “Shouldn’t it be higher?”
“Your funeral,” Tony muttered again. “Just engage it. J, Safety Net protocol, please.”
“I don’t need a safety net,” Steve said waspishly. “Erm, how do I turn it on?”
Tony groaned. “J, activate at whatever power the Captain asks for.”
“Ten percent, please,” Steve conceded to accepting JARVIS’s help.
“Ten percent power, initiating,” JARVIS replied, and suddenly, Steve was thrown across the room. He crashed into a rack of barbells, the metal clanking loudly. The suit dampened most of the pain, but Steve figured he’d still bruise a little.
“Oops,” Tony said gleefully. “You forgot to aim. Hands need to stay pointed at the ground, spread your arms if you have to to stay balanced, but keep your palms down.”
“How do I fire the repulsors, then?” Steve panted, standing up. The suit was heavy , even to his serum-enhanced body.
“ You can’t,” said Tony. “Stick to flying for now. And J, don’t think I didn’t notice your disobedience, there. City college, I swear.”
“Apologies, Sir,” JARVIS said smoothly. “There must have been a glitch.”
The numbers and constantly-shifting equations were really giving Steve a headache. “Is there any way to, I don’t know, turn off the HUD? There are a lot of numbers, surely you don’t actually need to see all these?”
Tony looked incredulous. “Cap, you’re getting a watered down version,” he said. “And I do need all that data, especially on the field. I can do the calculations all in my head, but it saves time to not have to. J, toss up mine for a sec?”
Steve winced at the volume of information being thrown at him. Everything was scrolling by faster than he could read it, numbers were projected in layers on every surface, a schematic of the suit itself was in the bottom corner detailing damage. After a minute, it went back to the toned-down version. Steve breathed a quiet sigh of relief.
“What next?” he asked.
“Fly for real,” Tony deadpanned. “One percent power, keep it steady. If you can get in the air, JARVIS can take over so you can try out the weapons.”
Steve nodded, determined. He kept his palms facing down as JARVIS activated the power, but it didn’t help. The suit went sailing into a wall. Only JARVIS’s autopilot mode kept him from crashing painfully. The suit hovered, seemingly effortlessly, while Steve struggled to get his bearings.
“Try a repulsor!” Tony called. “Lock your arm or the kickback will mess you up. Don’t aim at me.”
Steve complied, hesitantly bringing up his right hand in the pose that he was so familiar with from Tony’s fighting. JARVIS, thankfully, projected instructions for firing on the HUD. He took careful aim at one of the targets, noting the angles of refraction that were calculated on his screen. They meant nothing to him, though. He couldn’t imagine they were that important.
Steve fired the repulsor, but the power of it threw his hand out of position. The beam went wide, singing the area where Tony and Clint were standing and bounced off of the metal to hit the wall, going right through it.
“Why,” Tony gritted out. “Did you try it on a high power?”
Steve had no control of the suit as it descended gracefully. His teeth rattled as it landed, probably harder than it needed to. “Sorry,” he said sheepishly as it opened. He stumbled out, the feeling of being on solid ground disconcerting.
“How easy was it, Cap?” Tony grinned like a shark. “You can fly it into our next battle. You got more training than I did when I first flew it.”
“H-how?” Steve was still reeling. The suit behind him closed back up. “That’s impossible!”
There was an edge to Tony’s voice when he responded, “Terrorists don’t give you a lot of time to practice your escape plan.”
Steve rubbed the back of his neck, ashamed in the face of Tony’s glare. “It was harder than I thought it would be,” he admitted.
“I know,” Tony’s grin turned into a smirk. “Remember when you asked me what I was without the suit?” He stepped backwards into the open and waiting armor. It closed on him with a barely audible snick , eyes lighting up in their familiar arc reactor blue. He rose gracefully, flying a tight loop around Steve that was really just to show off his control. Tony hovered in front of the hole in the wall from Steve’s ill-advised repulsor blast before flipping his faceplate up. “Without the suit, I’m still Tony Stark. But you should ask yourself, what is the suit without me ?”