Suits and Sneakers

May 11, 2018:

Kate puts Billy and Tommy through 'combat training' in the bowels of Stark Tower.

Training Room - Stark Tower

Why does Tony have a holodeck?! Actually maybe we don't wanna know.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Captain America, Doctor Strange, Tony Stark, the Winter Soldier

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Seven in the morning means combat training time and if Tommy Shepherd or Billy Kaplan thought that this meant just sparring one on one with Kate Bishop, they would find themselves mistaken almost immediately the moment they step inside the 'holodeck' training area in Stark Tower programmed to look like an empty coliseum. With Kate herself seated in one of the stands fiddling with her genius-level smartphone and reviewing status updates on various Avengers initiatives, she's barely able to lift a hand in greeting to the two young men when they're immediately attacked by seven decommissioned Iron Man suits programmed to non-lethally kick their asses.

She could have elected to take it easy on them on their first training session, and those who know her best would say that she is; she knows very little about what they actually know right now as far as field ops are concerned and this was as good of a way as any to test it.

"Good luck," she tells them both, by way of encouragement, while silently patting herself on the back for being the best teacher ever.

Billy Kaplan is not much of a fighter. To whit, the bulk of his combat experience has been 'stood up to one of his high school bullies once,' and 'busted Tommy Shepherd out of some sort of super prison.'

So. Diverse but minimal range, there.

Ever since that day encountering HYDRA, though — ever since knocking himself out entirely because he doesn't know his powers nearly as well as he ought to — that lack of experience has been a pressing nag at the back of his mind. He wants to get better. He needs to get better. And that's why he has been very — probably annoyingly — insistent that he and Tommy start training. Regularly and intensively. While Iron Men suits try to murder them.

… Wait. What?

Billy's not really sure WHAT he was expecting when he found out Stark Tower had a training room. Honestly, it was something similar to what he sees now, just because he's that much of an obsessive nerd. What he's NOT expecting is —

"Oh my god!"

ZZZZRRRRAKKK

The concussive blast that sears right over his head almost the very second he steps inside of that holodeck.

Good luck, says Kate Bishop, as Billy makes a dive, just barely avoiding the mighty metal fist that surges overhead.

"Th-thank you?!" he squeaks. A second passes by.

"Aren't we supposed to have warm ups or something fir — is that a Mark Twoughlhgk-"

And this is the sound of Billy Kaplan getting concussed right into a wall, immediately taking to the air, electricity crackling at his fingertips as he discharges a brilliant jolt of lightning for one of those suits.

Kate Bishop is the worst teacher ever.

"I'm just saying, like, we're Avengers now, right?"

Tommy is pretty sure that's the case. They got recruited by an Avenger, they went on an Avengers mission with other Avengers, including Captain America, and Falcon, and apparently there was some lady with spider powers, and Bucky Barnes' butt that everybody kept ogling. They fought like… Evil post-Nazis or whatever. Tommy threw a guy down a stairwell before he exploded, and in the process saved everybody's lives!

So clearly, Avengers. They oughta have those circle-A logos on their uniforms and everything.

"So there's like… Avengers Mansion, why aren't we chilling there? I mean, yeah, it's cool of your parents to let me crash there since my mom is totally lame and thinks I'm dead or whatever, but a mansion! Think of all the Avengers stuff you could tweet about!"

Yes, if Billy's been annoyingly insistent about them 'training', then Tommy has been annoyingly insistent about them living the high life as some of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, although he would miss the brisket at the Kaplan household, and…

"HEY, KATE BISHOP," the speedster calls towards the genius heiress/martial artist/detective/archer, distracted immediately by her presence as he pretty much always is. And then they're getting shot at with repulsor beams. "LOOKIN' GOO—WHOA!!" he of course is a blur as he dodges out of the way of an out of date power armor fueled by vindictive hatred of organics and old Stark sweat. Just in time to see Billy get totally blasted, which sets the white-haired youth off laughing, at least until he gets clobbered in the gut by an Iron Fist. No, not that one.

"Ughhh my breakfast burrito is trying to come back up," he complains, lunging forward to grab the decomissioned machine with his hands, the better to start randomly accelerating its molecules. It's not a people, there's nobody in it - uh, he assumes - so there's no point in holding back, right? Plus explosions are cool. Chicks dig explosions.

"Watch out, Tommy," the genius socialite detective archer returns when an Iron Man suit attempts to blast the speedster in the face.

"Yeah, that's a Mark II," Kate tells Billy, conversing with him as if he wasn't being zotted into the wall by an Iron Man suit, frowning a little bit at a report sent over encrypted lines. "If it wasn't for my eidetic memory, I'd probably lose track. It's like Tony comes up with a new upgrade for these things at least once a week…" She inclines her head as another suit flies overhead, crackling with Billy's lightning - and looking all the more empowered for it as it dives right for Billy's face, fist-first. "Anyway, I decided to have JARVIS have a bit of fun, he's driving these things right now. Between you and me I think he needed to let off some steam. I mean, it can't be easy being Tony's butler."

An Iron Man suit comes wooshing past where she sits, ranting maniacally about the merits of wearing Oxfords over Brogues, bearing for Tommy Shepherd and vanishing from view - at least, from where she sits, at the wake of a speedster-induced explosion.

"I think he's still mad that Tony wore sneakers with a three thousand dollar suit in his last meeting." Affronted, like any proper British-sounding butler-A.I. ought to be.

She glances down at her phone before swiping right, throwing a hologram video feed up with lines of data scrolling through the side, cameras keeping a bead on the two new Avengers' progress: strength, speed (Tommy registers off the charts, of course), reaction times and the like. It is in her nature to be a data-cruncher, and really today is less about training and more about seeing what they can actually do in a pure combat situation so she can formulate a proper plan as to how. Tommy's pretty straightforward, Billy though…

She ponders, rubbing her chin.

"Hey Billy, do you want a date with Steve Rogers?" she wonders.

She lets that hang for a few minutes before continuing.

"I mean, conditioning. Physically you're not where you should be but given his history, I'm pretty sure he's been where you are, figured he'd be the best person to demonstrate and assess."

Really, there's a part of Billy that adamantly agrees with Tommy, even if he wouldn't say it out loud, and even if for different reasons. That they ought to be considered Avengers, that they ought to be at the mansion, that they ought to be recognized as heroes. He loves his parents, but this? This is his future.

Instead, in light of recent events, Billy just exclaims,

"Don't puke in Stark Tower, Tommy!"

because at this very moment, that's mainly his chief concern. Besides not being beat down.

That one, that one's a bit harder to pull off. Electricity jolts and dances along the Mark II's chassis, overloading circuitry with excess power that makes the thing seem to glow with pent up heat. Dark brown eyes widen. Oh. Right. Electricity just supercharges them. "Crap."

Maybe he can just supercharge it until it explodes-?

But such thoughts are swiftly abandoned as that armor comes charging in; fist meets a wash of cerulean blue that ebbs and ripples just in front of Wiccan, floating in mid-air, right hand outstretched, eyes blazing blue. His teeth grit as he focuses upon that shield, very swiftly forced into a defensive. "It's — more — like — once — a — half a year — I think!" protests the super-nerd between blows, each crash of fists rattling through his brain. This is exactly the problem he had before, isn't it? Concentrate. Concentrate.

"Thanks — for giving us — a challenge!"

This, after Kate's quip about suits and sneakers. It's hard to tell if he's being genuine or sarcastic, but…

Really, even Billy is affronted about that.

Eventually, though, he finds a moment — a sliver of a moment — between blows. Panting, lungs burning, cerulean light spins and spools around him in palpable threads as he reaches outward… and speaks.

"Colder colder colder colder colder"

As the air and molecules around and within that armor grow more and more sapped of heat. Until its reality is a bitter, absolute chill, to drain energy and freeze it in place, like it was meant to be frozen all along—

Hey Billy, do you want a date with Steve Rogers?

— until Kate Bishop just upends Billy's entire world.

"Wait, what??"

And Billy just gapes in a way that makes it any wonder what he might be thinking in those precious moments.

The strains of 'Killing Me Softly' fill Billy Kaplan's entire world for a few precious moments.

"… do you know him-"

WHANG

And that is the sound of Billy's shield being pummeled by another armor, sending him careening into a wall with an audible -=CRACK=-.

"ughhh…"

Seconds pass by. Wiccan's dazed expression still manages a wonderful flatness.

"… you did that on purpose, didn't you."

Don't puke in Stark Tower, Tommy!

"You say that like nobody's ever puked in here!" the speedster counters. "Stark's probably got a robot liver by now!"

It's fine though, it's fine. His breakfast burrito stays where it's supposed to be, although the component atoms of the armor that punched him don't, accelerated in random directions until the whole thing just explosively pulls itself apart, scattering molecules all over the place. Well, and larger pieces, too. The more offensive applications of his power aren't really… Neat and tidy. And to think, a shadowy government agency wanted to use him to fight people!

"What else would you wear with a suit, though??" wonders Tommy, who definitely doesn't own a three thousand dollar anything. "Dress shoes are all uncomfortable, you ever tried to run in them?" This is, of course, completely absurd. Kate probably runs in heels. "Get all blistery and suff." His speed is, indeed, off the charts - it's right there in the name - and his reaction times are of course commensurate. His raw physical strength is surprising, though, as he demonstrates when he kicks one of the armors at a speed entirely too fast to be seen by unassisted vision, leaving a cratering dent in its midsection.

An older one, of course. Any even remotely modern Stark armor (that didn't get horribly blown up around Christmas) would definitely shrug it off.

But then, Kate starts playing mind games with Billy.

"What is it with you guys and these studly, chiseled muscular dudes??" Tommy wonders, answering his own question as he suddenly arrives on the back of the suit that falcon punched Billy. He's put it in a sleeper hold for some reason, which is ridiculous since it doesn't need to be awake. "They're like a million years old, too! Is this some kinda… Uh, what did they call it, Elektra complex?" The armor probably doesn't like him being there, but you know he's tenacious. Clingy.

"Yo, Billy Witchdoctor Dot Com could you likeaah, hey, whoa there!" he complains, holding onto the suit as it turns into the world's most bizarre bucking bronco ride. "do something! This is really—"

The head of the suit, awkwardly, pops right off in Tommy's grasp, and he fumbles with it as he starts to list backwards, only hanging on to the suit by his legs - legs currently exerting half a ton of crushing force to keep him from falling off.

"Sure, I mean, he's an Avenger. We're not buddies, but we're colleagues."

You did that on purpose, didn't you?

There's a grin. "Gotta be prepared to fight through distractions, Billy," Kate points out. "But I did mean it. Rogers wasn't always the physical paragon that he is today, he'd be more sympathetic than the likes of the Winter Soldier or the Black Widow. Plus I mean, you and Tommy really ought to get to know the others, too, and not just spend your entire Avengers time with me."

One Iron Man suit has just exploded, another iced over - the fast-going machine is unable to turn on time with frozen circuitry, smashing into pieces harmlessly on one side of the training room. Two down, five to go.

"This is a timed event, by the way." The last earning Tommy a glance.

What else would you wear with a suit?

"If you're Tony Stark, pretty much anything you want, but you gotta hand it to JARVIS' meticulous programming."

Another kick from Tommy sends a suit dented in the middle, sending it flying. Four to go.

Dark brows furrow a little bit at Speed's attempt to sleeper-hold another suit, though once metal cracks and breaks, she makes a note of it in her phone.

"Anyway, there's no harm looking. The world is an endless gallery of delights of all kinds," she continues, her voice perfectly deadpanned, especially when Tommy answers his own question. "Think of it as something to shoot for, since said studly, chiseled muscular dudes can take on entire platoons by themselves. If the two of you can get that old in this business while looking like that to boot, I'll consider it a job well done on my part."

Groaning faintly as he drags himself back up onto his feet, Billy wipes a small smear of red from his right nostril as he delivers that flat stare to the chiding words of one Kate Bishop. "Duly noted, thanks a lot," he mutters, half to himself, rubbing the back of his neck. "That was still a low blow."

Still — she was serious. And the prospect of meeting one of his absolute all-time favorite heroes is enough to cause Billy to pause. "I know," he says, firmly, "before he took the serum he wasn't even fit to join the army. But he kept trying, no matter what." He knows that origin story like the back of his hand, and it's not even (entirely) because Steve Rogers is a studly, chiseled muscular dude.

"… Yeah, um. If you could make that happen, I'd really appreciate it, Kate."

It's because he's something to aspire to.

Also, the other thing.

What else would you wear with a suit?

"Seriously? I can't even talk to you right now, Tommy."

Next time they're at a fancy event, you better be sure Billy's taking a personal hand in making sure Tommy doesn't show up dressed in like, sandals, or something.

But he really can't talk to Tommy right now, because things aren't quite over yet. As Tommy treats one of those remaining robots like a bucking bronco, Billy steadies himself, eyeing the field. He can't take these on in a physical confrontation — or at least, he doesn't believe he can, so it might as well be the same thing — but maybe he could…

Brows scrunch together. Could he really do that? No — he KNOWS he can.

"Tommy! Be prepared to move! And don't ask questions you already know the answers to!"

Because seriously.

And so, Billy Kaplan lifts off the ground. His eyes bleed entirely blue, like two, star-studded tiny galaxies as energy flows around his fingertips. His lips part.

"Assuming control assuming control assuming control"

And he looks to wrest control of the Iron Man suit Tommy rides from JARVIS by doing little more than wishing it so, making its eyes bleed the same cosmic blues as his own as he attempts to send it -veering- off towards the others, fists-first with intent to plow through them.

With Tommy in tow.

Like it was his very own chariot of mass-destruction.

First of all: Who would ever, ever take Thomas Shepherd to a fancy event?

"I'm in good shape!!" the white-haired speedster complains, while dangling upside-down from an angry Iron Man suit, holding its detached head in his hands. "I'm like… Zero percent body fat, and I've got a svelte runner's build!" That he's only average height and not particularly broad isn't something he thinks any exercise is going to help, especially since he already got put through (literally) torturous fitness regimens while also being experimented on to refine and enhance his abilities beyond the level they should be at his age, forcing him to develop faster, to be stronger, to do more.

And now he's offended because there's all these veritable greek gods who basically got that way because somebody invented super steroids eighty years ago.

"Besides why wouldn't I wanna spend time you with, Kate Bishop, you're more fun than those aaaaaaaa—"

His attempts to flirt with the heiress are thusly cut off by the way the now-Billy controlled Iron Man suit that he's dangling off of goes flying at the other ones. To the others, this all seems to be happening very quickly. To Tommy, it happens with incredible slowness, each moment ticking through molasses. The voices of Kate and Billy become distant, slow, drawn out things, like a record being played at one one millionth speed.

It's not hard, when you're Tommy Shepherd, to think quickly… As long as you bother to think at all.

To the others, there's a blur of green - Tommy moving from under the suit to on it - and then he appears at normal speed as he vaults back off of the thing, gravity remaining a constant no matter how fast he might move otherwise. Vaulting off, because as he leapt he threw the suit's ripped-off head. Throwing it, because he'd dangerously accelerated its molecules, turning it into a kind of impromptu grenade.

"KOBEEEEEEEE," he calls out as he lobs the soon to be exploding head at the other suits along with the one Billy's sending careening at them.

He's not even using that right.

"Sure, Billy, don't think any of it. It's my job."

To Tommy's complaints, however, her smile is half exasperated and half amused. "Not always gonna be the one holding your hands out there," she reminds them both.

And just like that, it's all over.

The Billy-controlled suit and Tommy's maneuver both smash into the remaining suits, followed by the explosions that are bound to happen when high tech machinery carrying their own loadouts of combustibles clash in a heated exchange of friction and physics. Smoke billows outward from the center of it, washing over the stands and ruffling Kate's hair, who only frowns and lifts a hand to pat it down to return it to its sleek, midnight waterfall down her back. She clicks off her phone's stopwatch mode and enters the data into her screen.

"There, hopefully I'll have everything I need," she says, pocketing the thing and standing up, stretching her arms over her head. "Not bad, guys. Good instincts, just gotta get used to the heat, environmental awareness and all of that. I'll probably need you to go through a bunch of physical conditioning routines, Billy, and then we'll have to see what we can hammer out from the two of you when your powers are neutralized. There's lots of metahumans in the Avengers, but we've got ones that rely solely on pure skill, too. Let's see if we can get you guys rounded out on both fronts."

She squints at the two of them. "At least neither of you appear too hurt." There's an inquiring look. "Don't be shy, pain's good, but I'd rather people are intact."

Moments like this, Billy Kaplan feels like he could do anything. Like he could take control of the rest of those Iron Men if he wanted. The entire Stark Tower. Make JARVIS sound French. Rewrite the past so that Tony Stark wore dress shoes instead of sneakers.

And it's points like this that he feels both exhilarated and terrified, like standing on a precipice unable to decide between leaping or not. He's smiling, a little, as he drives that suit into the rest of its brethren to take them out combined with Tommy's superpowered MacGuyver Grenade. But his fingers are trembling, too. He can feel it; the way he could just reach out, a little bit more, and utter anything, anything he wanted, and —

"Guh!" the first sound of victory from Wiccan comes in the form of a strangled gasp as he is shocked out of that deep reverie of concentration; flight lost to him once more in his surprise, he falls to the ground, hitting it with a soft -thud- and rolling until he ends up in an unsteady crouch. Panting, sweat dripping off the tip of his nose, Billy sucks in an unsteady breath, once more brown eyes lifting shakily to see where Tommy has landed as Kate's words ring distantly numb in his ears. Just looking at him, it's clear he's not quite used to this much physical — or mental — exertion just yet.

"… thanks," he utters, voice hoarse and tone half-aware for that brief moment before he pulls himself together once more. The smile on his lips is a gentler, calmer, more polite one than the elation decorating his features before as he drags himself back up, pushing one hand through the dark mess of his hair. His eyes fall on the smoking wrecks of the suits, feeling the heat battering at his skin.

"… I feel like I committed a crime, destroying those." Kate mentions physical conditioning. Brows furrow. His thoughts wander.

Not always gonna be the one holding your hands out there. The words nag at him.

"… I'd like to get started on that as soon as possible."

Because he doesn't want anyone holding his hand.

Tommy even sticks the landing.

Well, mostly.

He lands in a skid, rapidly hopping from foot to foot while his eerily similar looking but definitely completely unrelated fellow young Avenger just kinda flops out of his magically-assisted flight. It's clear that whatever Tommy's deficiencies are in the field, wrecking stuff isn't one of them. Now, his distaste for following orders, his general lack of subtlety or decorum, or putting much in the way of forethought into pretty much anything he's doing… Those are a big deal.

"Neutralised?" the white-haired young man repeats, putting his hands on his hips. "What, so we're like…" Don't say like you, Tommy, do not say that to her. "…everybody else? Besides how you gonna do that to boy wizard over here? Oh man do you know another wizard who can shut down his magic?! Like, what's that guy, Doctor Weirdo?"

Still, it's pretty clear that Kate has A Plan, which is always reassuring because it means that Tommy doesn't have to try to come up with one himself. Although there's even odds as to whether he'll end up actually following any plan someone else comes up with. But while Billy chafes at the idea of continued Junior Avengering and having their hands held proverbially by the more experienced Kate, Tommy is currently more okay with it, because it is Kate.

"You should definitely do some cardio, though, Billy. You look exhausted, dude, and we barely even did anything. Know what though, I'm hungry, are you guys hungry? Waffles?" Yeah he already ate breakfast, but, look, he's a speedster. It's a whole thing.

"Neutralized, yeah," Kate says, though if she catches the hiccup there, she either doesn't notice or she did but she has elected to ignore it. There have been plenty of others who have paid the price for underestimating her due to her gender, age and lack of superhuman talents; if more continued doing the same, this job would be easier.

Billy's request to get into his physical conditioning regimen as soon as possible has her nodding. "Sure, I'll arrange it. And don't worry, we have our ways on that front." The last to Tommy, when he wonders about Billy's magic.

She hops down from the stands to join the other two, though mention of breakfast has her checking her phone for the time. "Sure, we can do waffles," she says easily. "I think the bots in the cafeteria will make us whatever we want, anyway, I think there's a division in Stark Industries that's making a move into fully automated kitchens. Have you seen the pitch materials? It's kind of awesome, but kind of scary also…"

She leads the two on the way out to do just that.

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