|STAR LABS is Scary|
|What: Roy gets the girls into STAR Labs to visit Bruce... then they change their minds.|
It'd taken some time, and much wrangling of exactly whose jurisdiction Bruce Banner fell under, but they'd managed to get Dr. Bruce Banner into STAR Labs. That Agent Harper had to wheedle his way, from department to department, in an attempt to find whether Banner was allowed visitors, and if so, what was needed, took a fair amount of time, a lot of 'you owe me a favor' and so on almost had him deciding that the Cuckoos were just not paying him enough.
The constant referrals to Brave and to Labyrinth, however, had Roy thinking the Cuckoos were most definitely getting the worst of it.
It also didn't hurt that their concept of -clothing- was apparently short, skimpy, and ... did he mention skimpy?
But the time came when the last bit of red tape was handled, and Roy is standing outside STAR Labs, wearing his SHIELD uniform and waving his badge, motioning to the security guards, "Yes, I'll vouch for them. They're here to see Dr. Banner. Their names...?" He glances towards the Cuckoos.
The Cuckoos have definitely had all six hands full. On the other hand, Roy and Lian's apartment is spotless, the shopping is done, shelves stocked, dinner on the table on time, Lian's room decked out in full Brave fashion, a separate space in Lian's closet just for princess dresses, and while they have resisted actually buying her a pony they have taken her out riding several times. It's been good to keep busy so they don't think about what it means to actually go into STAR labs. Denial is a powerful drug.
It got them all the way through to this point. After a fast conference between them, Sophie says, "Stepford. Sophie, Esme, and Phoebe." They've never needed a last name before and that was one of the other things they got called. They know why now and think it's a little bit funny.
Phoebe slips a cold little hand into Roy's and she whispers, |"They will let us out again, right?"| into his brain.
That Lian was bordering on spoiled by all the attention hadn't gone unnoticed by Roy, but as gorgeous as the Cuckoos were, there was -something- that felt -wrong- about them... something that disappeared the longer they spent with Lian. And Roy found he hadn't the heart to keep them from being over-attentive, simply because they were acting less ... distant and more -alive- around his daughter.
And so when Phoebe slips her hand into Roy's, Roy's grin is more assuring than anything, as he nods slowly. "I promise. If they won't, I'll make sure you get out," he says, a certain edge in his voice that indicates he -would- make sure they get out. For their own sakes, at least, and not just for Lian.
Now to see if the guards would accept -his- own recognizance as a SHIELD agent, and let the girls in. Roy does his best to grin at the guard with as much confidence as he can muster.... and hopes the Stepfords brought some of their own IDs.
No, ID, no. But Roy's ID seems to be enough. Whether the security staff will get it in the neck later for letting the girls in remains to be seen.
The girls really have been acting more... human. That's the only word for it. And, as much work as they've been putting in, they've seemed to be having actual fun playing house and taking care of Lian. It's obvious that they adore her, they could spend a whole evening filling Roy in on every last adorable Lian-quip and headtilt of the day. They remember all of it. And, they take photos. It didn't take them long to work out the part about getting them printed and framed. Roy's house is all-Lian, all the time.
Now, as they're waved through into a waiting area while things are processed, they're back to acting odd. While they've been snuggly, Lian-style, before, now they're staying strangely close and the colour has gone out of their faces. They're extremely still, like actual machines, but Roy can feel the frightened flutter of their minds spinning around his.
The nervousness of the Cuckoos is plain, not just from their minds, but the way they move stiffly and cautiously. Taking one other Cuckoo's hand in his, and forming a small chain of humanity, Roy leads the way, taking it easy at their pace. There's only a low "It's okay," reassuring tone in his voice, more for the physical sensation that might carry over into their hands. Not unlike reassuring Lian that there were no monsters in the closet. Just a friend they were going to see very soon.
|"We can't do this."| It's been a while since Roy heard that strange gestalt voice. Lian doesn't know the girls are telepaths yet, so at home, they talk out loud. Lots of burbling voices, lots of giggles, and Lian piping up constantly like queen of the castle. |"It -smells- like the World."|
Esme and Phoebe sit on either side of Roy, Sophie paces the little room like a caged animal, looking anxiously at the camera. |"What if they know us? What if they don't let us out?"| Now, the gestalt voice sounds like child's voice. Roy might be better prepared if they'd revealed their origins fully but they didn't want to compromise him when they didn't know if S.H.I.E.L.D. knew about the Weapons Programs or not. Or, worse, if it approved of the Programs.
Trying to be reassuring was -not- simple, not with the rising tone of panic in their 'voice'.
"You can do it," Roy says, squeezing their hands reassuringly, if only so they can feel some -warmth- in their cold hands, something reassuringly. Not unlike sitting with Lian while she cried about monsters in her closet, except that apparently for the girls, these monsters were so very -real-.
/STAR Labs isn't allied with government or business interests/, he says softly. /They're basically research labs, and are independent... the security here is more for the protection of the people here./ There was no time for questions, not while they were in this state, and Roy has to fall back on what he could remember of the psychotherapeutic counselling he'd undergone. Be reassuring, be positive, and avoidance of risk.
|"We don't want to go back."| Sophie crawls into Roy's lap and curls up while Esme and Phoebe put their heads on his shoulders. Several STAR employees start looking for applications to S.H.I.E.L.D. at this point. |"It was so hard to get out."| For better or for worse, the girls are--temporarily--ready to default to Lian's "daddy knows everything except about princesses" rule.
|"We didn't think we'd be afraid."| |"It just smells the same."| |"Like metal and science,"| they explain. |"And the white coats."| |"The badges and the doors beeping."| |"We forgot for a little while."|
Girls they might be at heart, but they were -women- in frame. And there's only so much a guy can take of this. So wrapping his arms around Sophie is more for his own self-protection, because it means keeping her from moving too much at the same time as loaning her reassurance. Because generally, -his- mind wasn't made for holding two trains of thoughts at once, and so the safer path is taken, as he focuses more on the plight of the Cuckoos.
Taking a deep breath as Roy tries to keep his mind organized, and clinging to that these girls were -afraid-. /This is Banner's world, though. This is where he -has- to be, to ... well, keep the Hulk under control. Can you live with it?/
Roy manages to hit the right note, reminding the girls of Bruce. |"Yes. Bruce."| That settles them down quickly, so does being snuggled. |"It's so hard to think straight in here."| |"We can manage as long as we know we can get out."|
Sophie kisses Roy on the cheek--they learned that trick from Lian. "You're right." "Thank you." "We should think about other things."
|"Like you kissing Tony Stark?"| one of them offers, eliciting a spate of edgy, slightly-hysterical giggles from all three girls in the gestalt and the physical world alike.
"That was horrible," Sophie mutters into the front of Roy's shirt. "I hate you both."
"Okay, let's not think about kissing Tony Stark," mutters Roy out loud. /That's just -wrong-, and no, you don't need to show me./ There's a pat on Sophie's back reassuringly, mostly because the notion of the Cuckoos doing kissing didn't seem right. Or maybe he didn't need to think about it.
With the Cuckoos calming down, Roy goes on to add, /Look, if it makes you feel better, I can go with you till you feel safe, but I think the more people you meet here, you'll find they're pretty good people. They're doing research and development./ Not that he had any idea what the Cuckoos were scared about, but those questions could wait till they were out of here. And they -would- be out of here. /So, princesses... when we get out of here, what would you like to do?/ Keep them thinking about -things- they would like to have, something for their very own.
|"Shopping."| |"Vegas."| |"Shoes."| Oh, the girls know what they'd like to do. |"We're going to play money in Vegas,"| the girls tell Roy. |"We like playing money."| |"We're good at money."| By that they mean... all of it. Poker, blackjack... and a slew of probably-illegal things that Roy should just not really pay any attention to, thanks. Like stacks of bonds, diamonds, gold watches...
"But, first," Sophie says, "We promised Lian we'd make strawberry shortcake tonight. And watch movies." She's feeling better, all the girls are feeling much better. "What do you want for dinner, Roy? Anything you like."
/Right... I meant more, was there something I could do for you?/ Just please, don't ask him to go shopping. Or shoes. Those were practically -nightmares- where Lian was concerned... wait. /... okay, you can take Lian./
Any further specifications that Roy might have added to 'you can take Lian' is frozen in its tracks as Sophie suggests 'anything' he likes, and Roy has to swallow hard to bite back a response that would be far more suited to bars and pick-up joints. So it's probably a minute as he frantically mentally races through the racier replies and settles for "Steak, potatoes, and corn."
The tour through the bad part of town in Roy's brain does not go unnoticed. Fortunately, all it elicits is more giggles and |"You're so silly."| |"Boys."| |"-Really.-"|
Focusing on Roy being Roy, the idea of entertaining Lian, and making dinner is all very grounding. "We're better now," Sophie says cheerfully, hopping up from Roy's lap. She goes back to pacing the room, which may or may not help Roy's brain from taking a trip back through that part of town. "We can do this."
There's a slight sigh of relief as Sophie hops off. Yes, it -was- nice, the little worms percolating around Roy's brain at least settle back into general 'admiring the view', which -is- allowed and is perfectly guilt-free. /Well, yeah, -boys-... this is why I'm never allowing Lian to date till she's eighteen. By then she'll have a better idea what men are like.../ Oh yes, so he was a hypocrite, so -what-.
Watching Sophie wearing a path through the ground causes Roy to sigh. "You've watched the Lion King with Lian, right? Just remember..."
And Roy whistles a familiar tune, something that -might- at least keep them distracted for a bit longer, at least till Bruce's ready for visitors.