Us and Them

OOC Date: December 20, 2013
IC Date: December 20, 2013
Characters: Loki, Morgan le Fey, Allie, Bruce Banner & Black Widow


Main Street - Crossroads, Blue Moon Speakeasy - Crossroads
Tumbling buildings lean over this place where two streets meet. Down one street the sidewalks are overhung with verandas, and run-down stores are prevalent. The other is marked by worn tenements. From the occasional window clothes hang out to dry. Voices in different tongues echo, but few people walk the tired-looking sidewalks. A single crushed rose tree lays splintered in the bottom-edge of a major impact crater in the middle of the street; the base of which is man-sized and stained with blood. The rubble and torn up road around the crater disturbs the passage of cars, some of which move here…some under their own power, some drawn by horses or other beasts. From the roof of the veranda on the corner hands a swinging wooden sign, squeaking with the wind that seems drawn inward to this place. 'The Broken Heart' it reads in English, with a cut-out of a broken heart that can be seen from both directions. From the sky above the sun's heat beats down, reflecting from the roads and threatening to wear the soul by day, whilst the nights are desperate with chill.

~~~

From the moment you step through the doors of The Blue Moon, you are totally submerged in the ambiance of the Big Easy. Every sight, sound, taste and smell has been specifically selected to make you forget that just outside the doors exists an alien world. Stepping past the Maitre D' you are lead into the restaurant portion of the club. Up on a raised balcony you can look down over the large dance floor and the live band that performs here every night from 6 till midnight. A set of circular stairs lead upstairs to a balcony and a VIP Lounge with smokey windows.

~~~

(Bruce Banner's scene-log — arriving mid-scene, meeting Allie, Loki and Morgan)

There's a loud, low rumble in the back of the creature's throat as it sees the horse and its riders. It curls halfway around itself as it looks around for any other shapes. Then it does that bit where it flicker-teleports again to move up an sniff the courser. Then it flickers and is standing atop a building. Skittering side to side with a decidedly nervous manner. Then it looks around and leaps forward, off the broken ruin it stands on. Then it rears up on two legs with a growl and stumbles forward… shrinking and transforming into an odd young woman who looks… very woozy, "Uuurg… gonna… throw up…" Allie's shoes are wrecked, and she still smells like blood. She bends over near the building's previously pristine-seeming exterior and proceeds to vomit. Charming.

Crossroads is a mess behind closed illusions. It may look as it always had; a little rough here and there, but more or less intact. It's in the places where the illusions are dropped that shows the true destruction, and to one, the amount of energy that is being expended to hold such an illusion in the face of such devastation.

The moment the creature comes to sniff the horse, it rises upon its back legs, ready to strike with its front hooves in defense… as opposed to any order its rider may have given it. Loki's trying to settle the beast, and with a pat on its neck, the horse does come back down to four legs and shake… but it is trying to relax.

It's when the creature runs and transforms into a young woman that brings Loki's attention fully around, and he leans back to mutter, "That's interesting…"

Morgan frowns, removing her hand from Loki and sliding to the ground. She reaches forward, placing her hand on the horse's neck and begins to coo softly at it, eyes flashing with purple lightning as she 'speaks' to the animal.

Only for a moment does she flick her eyes towards Loki before turning her attention back to the girl and arching a brow. "Indeed. It makes me grateful that my entrance into this world was not nearly so exciting."

From his seat on one side of the unmarked, two-person transport, Doctor Bruce Banner holds up a hand for the pilot — Natasha Romanoff — to slow down as they enter the 'town'. The man frowns, reaching up to his ear to toy with an errant lock of hair, and then turns to look at Natasha.

"'Crossroads', huh?" he asks dryly. "It's… nice."

He leans forward in his seat, to peer up and over the low windshield of the hover-speeder. "I'd love to run a tachyon-dispersal scan over the place — looks like bits and pieces have been just… 'put here'… like that — " he points to a destroyed building in between two others that show no apparent signs of damage. "'Selective Destruction' — The 'Other Guy' would probably want to just… even it all up."

He sniffs once, pinches the bridge of his nose with his forefinger and thumb and then puts his hands in his lap. "You're driving," he tells Natasha. "What do we see first?" He frowns curiously, focusing his attention on figures moving in and throughout Crossroads. "No madmen, okay?"

"Not sure nice would be the proper description."

Natasha is dressed in a black uniform, but much like the transport, she is missing any SHIELD markings. As the transport slows down, her curled crimson locks settle about her shoulders.

"No madmen. We want to avoid another incident, and I don't particularly want to be thrown again anytime soon."

Though seeing the gathering… Loki is hard to miss. The two women are noted, of course, but it is the Asgardian that gives her a small worry. The craft is pulled to a side to nestle between a pair of apparent broken down vehicles of ages past.

Fury would never forgive her if they trashed a second transport in the same week.

Allie meanwhile finishes her throwing up just in time to look up at Loki and Morgan. No recognition passes her features. She does look suitably impressed, though, as she wipes her face with her forearm,"Ex-excuse me… I… Where am I? I'm… lost, I think… and I don't feel very good…" The woozy look on her face causes her to take a second look at Loki and Morgan. Recognition or no, they're… impressive figures to say the least, "Oh, wow… crap… Heroes…" She holds her hands up in the air defensively and begins to back up a little bit, "Sorry… I… I don't want any trouble…" Those badly manicured nails of hers? On closer examination, they're more like claws by their appearance. "Craaaap…"

Looking down from the height of the grey horse, both Loki and Morgan having given the steed a soft talking to, the man dressed in green and gold remains where he is. Morgan's dismounted, which should be enough. Pressing his horse closer to where the young woman is, he cants his head. "Trouble would only come if you attacked us. You did not. Instead, you look a poor creature that needs aid." Loki sounds so very… kind.

Though the sound of a hovercraft brings Loki's attention around, and quickly, followed by reining of the horse in the direction he's looking. "What…" he begins. "If you'll excuse me, my Lady…" and he kicks the horse forward where he'd last heard the distinct sound of hovercraft rotors.

Morgan nods her head, smiling at Loki. "Of course, my Lord." Once he's gone, she turns back to Allie and offers a warm smile, holding a hand out to her. "Please.. Calm. We intend you no harm. My name is Morgan. I am a sorceress. If you will permit me, I can help you feel better…"

Banner hops out of the transport, and straightens his jacket. Turning his head to the side, he glances at the craft and then at Romanoff. "I promise, I'll replace the other one — somehow. I'll make it up to him, I swear. What's Fury's opinion on fruit-baskets…"

He trails off.

The approaching horse and rider arrest his full attention.

"'No madmen'?" Banner remarks sardonically to the assassin beside him. "Do 'mad gods' count? Just tell me I'm not going to have to, you know, 'go green' today — " he puts a hand against the dark purple shirt he wears under his grey coat. "This is a new shirt. I like this shirt."

He returns to watching the approaching Loki, warily.

Settling the craft, Natasha flicks it off, fingers keying in a lock code on the dash before tugging the physical key away to stash on her belt. Stolen is about as bad as crashed, after all. Must be safe.

Gracefully, the Assassin disembarks, coming to stand at the good Doctor's side. "Not a fan, I think. Resources are more of a commodity than gold, right now." Yes, she's aware he was joking, but she isn't going to let him live that down any time soon either.

The approaching rider is met with a slight inclination of her head and a thin smile. "I would rather you didn't, but he may remember what you did to him last time." This, said lowly to her companion.

"Always interesting to see you, Loki."

Allie looks uneasy indeed, but… well… Loki and Morgan are very impressive figures. Regal even. So after uncertain dithering, she nods to Loki, "I… thanks… that's… the nicest anyone has been to me, in… like… forever." She wiggles fingers at Loki, though, as he departs. She reaches out to place her fingers in Morgan's hand after the briefest moment, and nods in appreciation to her, "I… thank you… I really appreciate this… Ugh. I must look like absolute crap. I'm Allison." She points in the direction of Natasha and Bruce with her free hands, "Your friends?"

"Dr. Banner," Loki begins, his tones… almost sing-songy. "And Agent Romanoff," is added. There is a smile there upon his face, but it in no way reaches his eyes. "I'd heard you'd arrived, Dr. Banner. I was wondering when you'd turn up." After all, he hadn't yet heard about a green monster- though by all rights, he's been dealing with the fallout from Joker and Mjolnir.

Have no fear… Loki doesn't remember being tossed around like a ragdoll in the hands of the green monster. Or does he? He also remembers using the large green creature as a weapon against those in SHIELD… and quite effectively. Or rather, as effectively as one can be.

"I trust, then," and Loki gestures in the direction of the parked hovercraft, "you've met with Director Fury."

The moment Allie touches Morgan's hand, the woman smiles again. "It's quite alright, my dear. Entrance into this world is not always smooth. With your permission… a small bit of magic…" Assuming it's given, Allie will find the illness she's feeling disippate into nothingness. "If you are worried about your appearance, I can rectify that as well."

Those emerald green eyes turn to those Loki has joined. "No. I cannot say that I am familiar with them. My Lord seems accquainted with them, however."

Banner blinks at Loki.

"You're… looking well, Loki," he remarks in a bland, neutral voice. "Green… looks good on you — " He grimaces and casts a sidelong glance at Romanoff. " — that sounded better in my head." Then he lowers his voice a little. "I think he's dead in my reality — Thor was a bit vague on the details." The doctor glances back at the Asgardian and lets a breath out from between his lips. His eyes go out of focus for a moment, as if he were looking at something in front of him. "Still in the green…" he whispers.

"We're just taking in the sights — know any good places?" he asks Loki. To Natasha he adds, "Anything but shawarma. I hate shawarma."

Natasha is keeping a careful eye on Banner. Poor man has been through… a lot, since he dropped in. As far as Fury goes, she pointedly avoids the issue as much as Banner does. Though some amusement does tug at her lips at Bruce's grimace. She takes a half step closer to Bruce, though her attention is turned on Loki; and further Morgan and the girl she talks with. Taking everything in and making mental notes.

"That is honestly not the worst of it around here, Bruce." She murmurs with thinly veiled mirth.

The young girl's eyes lighten a little as the woman's magic heals her after her simple nod of acceptance. Allie straightens up, showing a bit more confidence in her posture, and then smiles even more, "Wow! Real magic! I mean, I heard, but… Wow. It's like I'm in a fairy tale and I'm meeting a real fairy queen!" Okay. Maybe a bit vapid, but well meaning, "Oh snap… please! I hate it when I don't look my best. How's a girl supposed to survive when she's all blah! I mean, even my makeup is basically gone. Not you, though… Like seriously, you're really pretty. Who's your stylist?" Yes. She's really talking about that. Here. Priorities are not something they teach in schools these days apparently.

"Taking in the sights?" Loki drops the illusion that is covering Crossroads, and he shrugs. "There aren't any 'good' places at the moment." A smirk comes to his face again, and there is a moment when he leans forward in his saddle and offers is a stage whisper of his own, "Believe it or not, I didn't do this to this town. Someone else did… and wanted to stop him."

Straightening once again, Loki looks back at the ladies he'd left just behind, checking on them, before the illusion that is beside Nat and Banner returns and makes the area look… normal. As normal as Crossroads can be.

Loki looks up meaningfully now, and ponders aloud, "I'm assuming, then, that you've found a place to stay while here."

A laugh comes from Morgan and with a wave of her hand, Allie's clothes and hair and even her make up is as pristine as it was before whatever happened to her happened. "There you are, my dear girl. Come. Let us go see who the visitors are. And yes, I am fae. Hence, my name. I am Morgan le Fay." She motions towards Loki. "Shall we join them then? It wouldn't do to not introduce ourselves. Quite rude. Once introductions are made, perhaps my Lord and I can take you back to the castle so you may eat and rest and then have your questions answered?"

Banner looks at Romanoff, eyebrows raised in nonchalanace. "I suppose," he remarks loud enough for Loki to hear. "The illusion is easier than actually fixing it up…" Then he turns back to the God of Mischief. "I have a home, if that's what you're asking: nice, cozy, plenty of scope for the imagination — no wait, that's 'Anne of Green Gables' — " he half-chuckles at himself. To Loki, he adds: "You'll understand if I don't give you the address just yet."

The doctor looks past the Trickster at Morgan and Allie, then cocks an eyebrow. "This is all very… nice. Your friends? Are you going to introduce us?" The man's eyes look askance at Romanoff, then. "When in Rome…"

"Or you could redecorate his." Natasha grins, just a little, at the thought of the Hulk being unleashed upon Loki's fair castle.

Though as the illusion is dropped and brought up again, her green eyes darken a hue. She's all too aware of the madman with the hammer. A knowing look is given to Bruce as in 'See?'. As more people, possibly, come to join their little gathering, Natasha remains a constant presence close to the Doctor. For reasons that may not be obvious, she fears him being over crowded.

"We may want to continue on, soon…" She wouldn't be a very good handler if she allowed him to green-out on their first outing.

Oh, neat. She looks over herself, clothes once more restored, looking her best… Yeah, she could get used to that. "Oh SNAP. I know a real faerie queen!" She is unabashedly enthusiastic about this. Looks like she's easily impressed at least. Still, when 'rude' is mentioned, she makes a face and nods,"Oh, right… Yeah… when you're queen bee, you gotta handle your social obligations, right?" She squares herself, all five feet or so of her, and then nods,"Oh my god. Everyone here is so much cooler than where I come from. so much better." She waves towards the Doctor and Romanoff as she approaches with Morgan.

There are actually times when Loki is nice. When it suits him, of course, and when it furthers an end. He's good like that. Always keep them guessing… and most of the time, he's successful at it.

"I understand. But, I do hope I get to see you when I'm Director Fury's helicarrier again." Of course, there's no telling if Dr. Banner will actually recognize the form Loki takes. Or, he may at that…

With Morgan's approach, Loki actually does dismount, finally, and holds a hand out for the fae. There's warning in his eyes to the pair before him, even as he brings his most courteous tones to the fore. "Lady Morgan… this is Agent Natasha Romanoff of SHIELD, and Dr. Bruce Banner… Agent Romanoff, Dr. Banner, Lady Morgan le Fay. And…" he didn't quite catch Allie's name…

Lightly, Morgan lays her hand in Loki's, giving him a bow of her head. "My Lord," is murmured softly. And then those smokey green eyes are turned on Natasha and Bruce and she gives a polite, gentle smiles. "Greetings. A pleasure to meet you both." Again there's a nod of her head though not quite as deep as it was for Loki. "This lovely young lady is Lady Allie. A new arrival to this world."

After the girl's introduction, her eyes go back to Loki. "She needs food and rest, my Lord. Perhaps it would be wise to return home for now." With the nod of agreement given from Loki, she turns her attention back on Natasha and Bruce. "If you will excuse us, please. I am certain you understand…"

And then she's looking at Allie. "Are you ready, dear one?"

Banner glances from Loki to Morgan le Fey, to Allie — he smiles — then returns his attention to le Fey, deliberately not looking directly at Loki when he speaks: "A madman crashed your home-town, then ran amok with random acts of violence. Now you're in charge of making it look like nothing ever happened…" he nods sagely, keeping his facial features completely neutral.

Well, almost.

"I can understand that," he concludes magnanimously. To Allie, he offers a second smile and says, "Welcome to…" he glances at Natasha. "What's it called again?"

"Crossroads."

Natasha nods her head to the two women, a polite smile given to the younger girl: "Nice to meet you." Morgan is given a tip of her head as well, but careful.

"We should be moving on, as well." A sidelong glance to Banner, her fingers touching his elbow briefly.

Oh, a grand introduction. Allie actually blushes for a change, then does her best to be super-polite. She actually manages, in her cheerleading uniform, a passable curtsey. Allie's sort of graceful that way. When she's not sick and throwing up. Courtesies thus observed, and still blushing somewhat, she backs up, to just slightly behind Morgan. She knows who the star of this show is, and for once it's not her. Also for once, she's cool with that. She nods to Morgan,"Yes ma'am." Pause. She tries to emulate Morgan when she looks at Loki,"Thank you m'lord." Then she titters slightly. Bruce does get a longer than average look though,"Wow… you look kind of like this dude who turns into another green dude who, like, totally smashed New York or something. It was cray-cray."

Banner grimaces.

Putting his hands on his hips, he glances down and to the left, letting out a muted, rueful half-chuckle at the same time. He looks at Natasha with a 'help please?' crinkle of his brow, and then returns his attention to Allie.

"It was that or alien enslavement…" he replies awkwardly. His eyes lose focus again and for an instant, the man looks worried — although he tries to conceal it. "We really should… yeah," he replies to Romanoff. He lowers his voice. "Somewhere no one's heard of New York, smashing, or… 'green'."

He clears his throat and forces a thin smile for Allie. "Uhm… pleasure meeting you, Lady Allie."

"Bruce.."

Natasha's voice is soft, pointedly so. She knows those little warning signs. "I'm sure we will meet again." Though polite as it may sound, there is a promise to her voice.

Regardless, her hand takes Bruce's elbow, and she leads him away, down the Old Main Street. Tugging him along if she has to.

Looking from Loki to Allie then to Bruce and Natasha, Morgan nods her head once more. Purple smoke suddenly swirls around the mortal, the horse, the god and the sorceress and once it's surrounded them completely, it lasts a few seconds and then fades and the four beings are gone from view.

The doctor shakes his head in wonderment as the the Trickster, Sorceress and Lady vanish, and offers Natasha a wry smile. "So that was 'Morgan le Fey' — the Morgan le Fey, huh? As in 'Merlin, King Arthur and the etc etc?" He shakes his head again, arches his back and gazes skyward.

"She's, uh… hot. So who do we meet next?"

Leading him down old main street and into a building, Natasha gives a light gesture. "This is the Blue Moon. Generally, if I'm not…" She tilts her head upward slightly, "I am here."

Her safe haven.

Moving to the end of the bar, she gives a brief wave to the bar tender, who pours her a glass of orange juice. Seems she's a regular. "Want anything to drink?" She asks the Doctor.

"I believe Remy is a bit busy tonight, else I'd introduce you."

"Beer," Banner replies instantly.

He takes a seat at the bar, as far from most other patrons he can manage, and rests his elbows on the counter. The man bows his head and rakes his fingers through his hair. "OK, I admit it…" he says — half-muffled with his chin tucked in. "This place is gonna take it out of me… so, Loki's a… what? Philanthropist?"

He quickly glances up at Natasha. "It's… okay, I promise. BP's… high, but not too high. Damnit — whoever pulled me here is gonna get more than he — she, it — bargained for; I can feel it. …What about you? Can't imagine you enjoyed 'making nice' with the guy who, you know, brainwashed Agent Barton."

"Thats what I'm here for." To help him stay calm.

She gives a gesture to the bar tender for a beer, and it doesn't take long for it to be delivered, set in front of the Doctor.

"I wouldn't call him that. He has to be up to something, but he and Thor are getting along. Thor didn't recognize me when I first arrived."

At the mention of what Loki did to Barton, Natasha's hand curls a little tighter around her glass of orange juice.

"No."

A short, simple reply. But so full of difficulty.

"I'm sorry."

Banner gives her a look of empathy. "I shouldn't have brought it up. Honestly, I don't know what's harder: being around all these 'familiar' people — who aren't quite the people I know, who did the things I remember — or being around total strangers… It's okay. I'm okay — hmph. I guess I should say that with more conviction…"

He snorts and shifts his gaze to read the vital signs displayed by his contact lenses. "Coped with that better than I thought I would." He takes the beer in a hand, and downs a few mouthfuls in one go. "What else can you tell me about… all this — A'reen'ah, etc?" he asks, in an effort to change the topic slightly, away from more painful subjects.

"Its ok."

The moment shown, and buried, just as easily. Natasha is nothing if not a master of her emotions. She always shows exactly what she wants people to see.

"As you can see, there are all kinds of people from our past, future… present. Different points for each of them, and not all of our histories are shared. The good and the bad."

"But, we are here for some kind of war. Beyond that, we are still gathering information. Making allies…"

"Allies. Yeah."

Banner pauses to finish his beer. "I couldn't trust the Fury of my reality — and I don't have an 'arrangement' here, like I did with Director Hill. She only went along with it because I gave leverage on SHIELD to a lawyer-friend of mine…"

He shakes his head.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't be venting like this — hah! I suppose it's better than the alternative. Seems we don't have a clue what we're even fighting for — is it a game? Just a… great, big, cosmic game? You know, part of me — me, Bruce Banner — wants to just 'Hulk it out', smash some things, break some mountains, kick over some anthills… just to see who shows up and what they'll do."

He snorts again, and stares into his empty glass.

"Are we the 'good guys', or the 'bad guys'?"

"Do you trust me?" Natasha questions simply, her green eyes settled on the man.

Her orange juice has hardly been touched, though.

"Its alright. Its not the worst you've done to me." Though that statement alone could have so many implications.

Though at his more weighted question, her gaze shifts back to the orange juice with a thinning of her lips. "I honestly don't know."

"Oh-kaaay," Banner exclaims with a rueful snort. "Guilt-trip, I get it. Thank you. Huh…" he lets out an explosive sigh. "I'm really, really, really, really sorry. Honest. Cross my heart and hope to — hmph."

He goes silent.

"Yes, I trust you," he murmurs into the space above the counter. "In spite of… some things, yes — I trust you. So here's my plan — I have a plan, yes. A vintage, 'Doctor Bruce Banner' plan, just for you. And me. Wanna hear it?"

He picks up his empty glass to signal the bartender for another beer.

At the signal, the bar tender is quick enough on bringing Banner another one. Natasha flashes the man a brief smile before turning her attention back to Banner.

"You know I had to press that just a little." She grins, the brief playfulness at least showing she doesn't -really- hold it against him.

"In spite of?" She asks curiously, but she turns slightly on her stool-seat to face him a little better. "And what plan is that, Bruce?"

As if to demonstrate — and blithely ignoring the 'In spite of…?' question — Banner reaches for both glasses, without asking, and sets them side by side on the counter in front of him. Then, with his finger, he traces an invisible circle around them.

"Us…" he explains laconically. Then he points to the space on the counter outside the invisible circle:

"Them…"

He looks askance at Natasha and forms a tiny smirk. "With me so far?" he asks with an undercurrent of almost mischief humor. Then he reaches for his beer and drinks a quarter of it.

Yes, she noticed the ignoring of her question, but she will press that later. As he demonstrates the plan, her lips curve at the corner with some amusement.

"Okay.. I understand so far…?"

Though there is curiousity in her eyes. Where exactly is he going with this?

Banner smiles.

"Fury wants to get home — that, we can trust. Thor wants his hammer back — that we can also trust. Loki… hmm. Loki wants…" He sighs and throws up his hands (after putting down his beer). "Actually, I don't know what Loki wants. He probably likes it here. The point is: I don't like being used. No one does. But everyone wants something, and that 'something' is probably home. These… 'game-masters' — Alpha, and Omega — can do what they like; but I'm picking a third side. Our side. So long as no one comes at us, they don't get to be 'them'. 'Us' can come with; 'Them'… can stay here."

He sits back on his stool and drains his second beer. Then he looks at Romanoff.

"Good plan?"

A bit of a deeper amusement arises as he launches into the explaination. "Actually, I had talked with Hawkeye about something similar. An 'Independent' side. We choose neither, we are ourselves."

Funny how some minds think alike isn't it?

"I'm not out to go after anyone. If someone comes after me, let it be their own funeral." She raises her orange juice to drain from, setting it down after it is about half empty.

Banner grins.

Really grins.

"Ahh," he sighs with a short laugh. "So that's what elation feels like — wow. I'd forgotten." He sets down his glass and smirks at Natasha. "I haven't felt this good in… a while. Sounds like 'the beginning of a beautiful friendship', eh? Beer's not bad, either."

He suddenly goes quiet — still smirking.

"You know… for a moment there, I thought Loki was inviting us to his place. Talk about awkward." Then he goes back to chuckling.

"Something like that. Remind you of old times?" Natasha chuckles. "Remy has a decent supply here, but I honestly wonder how long it will last since he can't restock properly."

"I almost wished he had. I wouldn't have faulted you for… redecorating."

Though, leaving her orange juice on the counter, she turns fully on the seat to face him, tilting her head to let her crimson hair spill in a playful curtain over her shoulder as she smiles at him. "In spite of…?" She prompts.

He should know she is fully capable of gaining an answer when she really wants one.

Banner sighs.

Alright, his mannerisms display.

"In spite of…" and he lifts his gaze to meet Romanoff's. "…the fact that you're SHIELD, too. I mean, so am I — technically — now. It's sometimes been hard to… 'see past the Black Widow', to see Natasha."

He purses his lips and looks straight upward. "Kind of like 'seeing past the Hulk', I suppose. Look, you should know: I get it you're not exactly 'my' Nat — I get it. But I made a similar… 'proposal' — ugh, bad choice of word — a long time ago, and you — that is, she — chose SHIELD again. Even after they turned on her."

He looks down again, and sideways at her. "That's what I meant, okay? I know you've got my back… even if you did jump on it when I arrived." That last comment has him half-smirking again, even as his eyes study Natasha's face to gauge her response.

"He likes you, you know," Banner adds quickly, as an afterthought.

While he explains, Natasha remains silent, listening. Though at the end, there is almost a rueful smile, but the weight of it doesn't reach her green eyes.

"Bruce… you've known me long enough to know how hard it is for me to be… me… with anyone."

But those that win her trust, have her loyalty, but sometimes even that has to be thrown to the wayside for her 'job'.

Turning back to the bar, she nudges the unfinished orange juice away, losing her taste for it at the moment. She murmurs something under her breath in Russian, her voice almost tired.

"In this place, friends are a rare commodity, so are people I can trust. I know you wouldn't wrong me. I also know of a few that would throw me under the first chance they got." She chuckles lightly.

She shakes her head. "I don't even know what I'm trying to say. I suppose I chose SHIELD.. because it gave me a purpose. A decent purpose."

At the quick add, she smirks a little, though her expression is carefully schooled to hide anything else. "I can't imagine why."

Banner chuckles.

"A 'decent' purpose as opposed to being on the run for who knows how long, with an enormous green rage-monster for a companion — and the entire armed forces of the United States of America (and probably Russia, too) on your heels…"

He trails off.

Then shrugs.

"It does make sense to me, I suppose. And, I thought I should say something on behalf of the Big Guy — you know, since he has to keep a low profile most of the time." Banner inhales deeply and releases the breath in a long sigh. "C'mon," he says. "You probably have to 'check in', and I promised Fury some data-readouts by the end of the day. Home? You can drive."

"Its better than you falling for someone like me."

Natasha states simply, sliding off of the stool without letting him see her expression. Though she only offers a nod, moving to lead him back out and onto the streets.

"That's what I was going to say…" Banner murmurs to himself, boggling at his friend's admission — as well as their mutual situation. He puts money — not stopping to see if his currency remotely matches whatever they use in this bar — on the counter, and follows Natasha out the door.

"Don't forget we haven't had dinner yet," he calls after her as he catches up. "My place is stocked for a nuclear winter… pun intended. I'll cook — you haven't had a particle-beam fried chicken parmagiana until you've had mine…"

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