The Ring: The ‘Ol Rope a Dope
November 21, 2016
His nerves had subsided to be replaced with the usual combination of frustration and resignation that tended to accompany any meeting regarding policy and politics. But Steve still had hope – something that had been absent for a long time and was rekindled by Darcy Lewis and then Tony Stark. Tony, who sat next to him – slouched in his chair like he owned it – and primarily fiddled with his phone while others talked. Agreement that the Accords needed to be dissolved had quickly been reached, and along with it immediate assurances that Steve and the others would no longer be considered fugitives in the represented countries. Secretary of State Lopez had passed over a preliminary Executive Order and Official Pardon from President Ellis. Steve had skimmed it, leaving the scrutiny for later when the lawyers could advise him. He was surprised to note that Bucky’s name was included.
After the initial goals were established, the meeting devolved into minutia that Steve knew was important but was having trouble focusing on. Aside from his lack of training in government and international relations – and he found himself hoping for more than one reason that Darcy – Ms. Lewis – would explain it all to him later – he was also keyed up with relief that he and Tony had reconciled. That, combined with the assurance, in writing, from the President that his friends would be able to return home made it difficult to care very much about where formal discussion could be held and exact wording of public relations.
Raised voices on the other side of the door broke him out of a pleasant daydream where he and Buck sat down with Nat and Tony to watch a baseball game. His enhanced hearing could make out a few words, and he gathered that someone felt they needed to be included in the meeting and that Trudeau’s staff was trying to prevent it. Steve tapped Tony on the elbow and scooted back his chair, ready to stand and take action if necessary.
When the door did open, it interrupted the official from France mid-monologue. A heavyset older man huffed into the room – followed by an unfortunately familiar face.
“Excuse me, Prime Minister. I apologize but he wouldn’t-”
“That’s all right, Sean. Thank you.” Steve could feel his muscles tightening in anticipation and his eyes narrowed. Trudeau continued in the same pleasant, although still firm, tone, “Unfortunately, General Ross, this is a closed meeting.”
“Not closed to me. You have fugitives wanted by the government of the United States for treason – and I will not allow them to flaunt that authority!”
Steve had to give the Prime Minister credit, he beat even Tony Stark to the punch. “A representative from your government is already present, General.” He gestured to indicate the current Secretary of State. “When I last spoke with President Ellis, I was assured that Secretary Lopez would represent his administration here. Your presence is unnecessary.”
Ross, the smug bastard, just took a seat at the table, at the opposite end from Trudeau. “You are welcome to try and have me removed.”
There was a long pause, long enough that Steve could feel himself gearing up to end the discussion. He had spent the last nine months fighting against his friends, his teammates, his fellow soldiers, his own goddamn country – all because this insufferable, egotistical moron wanted control he didn’t deserve and power he didn’t earn. Steve opened his mouth, but apparently the Prime Minister was faster than him too.
“General-” Steve began with a clenched jaw.
“I believe a short break is in order. Let’s all take ten minutes, collect ourselves, and then we can get back to discussions. Shall we?” Trudeau was young, for a politician, but he had an admirable poker face. Aside from a tick in his jaw there was nothing to indicate he was the least ruffled by a foreign military leader ignoring him in his own government building. Aides filed into the room and a young man gently cleared his throat behind Steve, waiting to show him to – well, Steve didn’t know. Restrooms or a coffee bar. A punching bag with Ross’s face taped to it would be more relaxing, Steve thought. He threw a glance at Tony, brows raised, and it was obvious the billionaire was just as furious. He nodded back and Steve followed him out of the room, intending to sort out a plan of action with him. They couldn’t allow the talks to be derailed – or co-opted – by Ross.
The door to the conference room closed softly, leaving Ross sitting at the table, his aide getting him a coffee. Steve could feel a scowl turning down his mouth. The asshole wouldn’t leave the room – he knew that it would be an international issue to kick him out. Steve was wondering, however, how bad it would be if he was to grab the man by his collar and toss him out a window. Captain America was already considered a traitor, and they were only on the third floor. The man would probably only get broken bones. Steve clenched his fist and turned back. I’ll talk first, he placated the voice of reason in the back of his head. If things escalate, then they-
“If you would please follow me, Captain? Mr. Stark?”
Steve shared a look with Tony, surprised by the staffer that was waiting patiently for them. The young woman carried only an oversize phone and a pleasantly bland expression.
“Look, kid-” Tony began, but was interrupted by Natasha sliding smoothly into the conversation from god-knows where.
“Thank you,” she said with a smile that had the girl blushing. “We’d be delighted.” She linked her arm through Steve’s and he crooked his elbow automatically, then frowned at Nat. He hated it when she used his manners against him.
“Nat-” he began, but Tony was talking too.
“I’m just gonna get the suit. Eight, maybe eleven seconds and then I’ll have the room cleared. That smug, self-centered, dick-nosed asshole should meet the business end of a repulsor then-”
Natasha didn’t let him even work up to full diatribe. “Don’t be an idiot, Stark. It’s all under control.”
Steve’s anger began to cool as he glanced down at the top of her red hair. As much as he wanted to put his boot up Ross’ ass, he wasn’t sure Natasha’s methods of resolving tension would be appropriate. It was one thing to deck a General – Steve had punched a Colonel once, the consequences weren’t that bad – it was an entirely other thing to poison, strangle, or otherwise disappear one.
“Don’t you manage me, Natalie,” Stark said snidely. “I don’t like being managed. Kept the man on hold for three fucking hours and he doesn’t get the message. Friday could have his browser history in under a minute, two tops. Why didn’t I think of that? Release his information and then let the talking heads do their work. Shouldn’t have to deal with this asshole when I’ve already hit my limit for personal growth.” His mutters to himself suddenly gained volume, “Personal growth! I check off three of the five things on my required therapy list for the day and I could check four if Captain Glory and Ms. Pants on Fire would just let me adequately express my frustrations! Hands off, Romanoff!” He snapped out the last sentence and Steve had to wonder how much of that Tony had actually intended to say aloud.
Natasha had neatly steered them both down a short hallway and through a series of small rooms. Ahead of them Trudeau was waiting next to an open door.
“I apologize for the change of venue, gentlemen, but I think this room will be far more conducive to our discussions. Courtney,” he smiled at the young woman that had scampered ahead of them, “Please let security know I’m ready to have this wing locked down. And would you see if you can get fresh coffee and tea sent up before lunch? Thank you.”
Steve blinked and stared into the smaller, less well appointed conference room. All of the delegates were present, being settled in by aides with their portfolios of information and glasses of water. When Ms. Lewis had informed his team where the negotiations would be held, Sam had made more than one joke about how nice Canadians were. Steve had found them nice enough, sure, but he hadn’t realized devious came with it. Trudeau couldn’t have Ross removed from the meeting, so he had the meeting removed from Ross.
“A non-violent and reasonable course of action,” Natasha murmured as she gave them each a none-too-gentle push toward the door. “Isn’t it amazing how smoothly things can go when cooler heads prevail?”
“Humph.” Tony stuck his hands in his pockets, frowning petulantly. “You’re worse than Lewis. You never let me do anything fun.”
Another young staffer was closing the doors as Steve found his seat, and he got one last glimpse of Natasha typing away on her phone before Trudeau resumed the meeting.
“If everyone is ready, perhaps we could move on to the next item on the agenda. Mr. Stark, would you care to outline your ideas for accountability?”