Rating: Mature (light R?)
Summary: Debt is only beautiful when it has been repaid
Author notes: I can't thank the fabulous madjm enough for sticking with me through this whole thing. I literally had the first idea for this fic on June 17th and it's been driving me insane ever since. I swear, I'm not going to write anything with a plot for the rest of 2012.
Twenty minutes after leaving Central Park, Clint realizes he’s been driving in circles and that they’re right back where they started. He takes the next left at East 72nd and tramps on the accelerator, causing Natasha to open her eyes.
“You want to stop and ask for directions?” she wonders drowsily, although he’s pretty sure it’s a just show. Barring unconsciousness, concussion or extreme blood loss, he’s never seen her anything other than wide awake.
He doesn’t rise to the bait. “Where am I dropping you off?”
She sits up and brushes the hair out of her eyes. “Who says you’re dropping me off anywhere?”
“You’re not coming with me,” he tells her curtly. He hasn’t had a moment to himself since New Mexico. He hasn’t had a moment alone, really alone, since well before that. He needs quiet, and darkness, and whiskey. A lot of whiskey.
“That depends on where you’re going,” says Natasha. “I might happen to be going to the same place.”
Braking at a stoplight behind a long line of yellow cabs, he takes the opportunity to give her his blankest, most ‘you have got to be shitting me’ stare. She is unimpressed. It doesn’t matter than he’s still wearing his sunglasses; she can see right through them.
The light turns green and he looks away, focuses on the bumper ahead of him and the buildings they pass: a ballet school, a doctor’s office, a place promising ‘same day sofa removal’. “Fury tell you to keep an eye on me?” he asks, trying to squelch the rising, irrational anger.
He can hear the irritation in her voice. “Nobody needs to tell me to do my job.”
Clint slows for a garbage truck, nodding deliberately. “So. Now I’m a job.”
She hesitates, sighs. “Clint. That… came out wrong.”
“I don’t think it did,” says Clint.
“Shut up and listen to me,” says Natasha.
“Hey kids,” says Tony Stark.
Clint almost rear-ends the garbage truck. Natasha actually turns around as she’s being thrown forward against her seat belt, as though expecting to find Stark hiding in the backseat, but the voice came through the car’s speakers.
“Yoo-hoo,” Stark says after a moment of stunned silence that rapidly transforms into incredulously-pissed-off silence. “Is this thing on?”
Nat is breathing heavily, either because of the close call with the garbage truck or because she wants to kill someone. “Stark,” she spits out. “Have you been listening to us this whole time?”
“No!” he says, sounding offended. “Bruce and I have been listening to you the whole time. We’re stuck in traffic midtown. Something about a $160 billion dollar clean-up project, I dunno. Next time we’re taking the helicopter.”
“You’re bugging SHIELD cars now?” Clint asks through clenched teeth. He thinks his fingers have made permanent indentations in the steering wheel.
“Not bugging, hacking. I disabled SHIELD’s tracking device too, so, you know, don’t say I never did anything for you.”
Natasha just shakes her head, eyes closed.
“Oh, speaking of…” and there’s a sound in the background that sounds suspiciously like Banner trying not to laugh, “look in the glove compartment.”
Nat opens her eyes, staring fixedly at the little door by her knees. “Stark, if a rubber snake jumps out at me, I will find you and I will hurt you.”
“I find your lack of faith disturbing, Agent Romanoff.” Yes, that’s definitely Banner laughing now.
Natasha glances at Clint and he pulls the car over at the earliest opportunity, just in case, but nothing happens when she opens the glove compartment. In fact, it’s empty except for a small bit of plastic the size and shape of a credit card.
“Key card for the Central Park Suite at the Carlyle on East 76th,” says Stark smugly. “33rd floor. Fully-stocked mini-bar, cable TV and as much room service as you can possibly order. I’ve already settled it with the manager.”
Clint pulls off his sunglasses and pinches the bridge of his nose, stuck between trying to figure out how and when Stark got the key card into their car and what exactly his game is. “That’s… awfully generous of you,” he says, exchanging a skeptical look with Natasha.
“Generous is my middle name, Agent Barton. I… okay, Bruce, it’s not that funny.”
Natasha turns the key card over between her fingers. “What is this, some kind of power struggle between you and Fury?”
“What? Who? Me? No, no, no, this is just a little token of my appreciation. And, you know, a reminder. That I’m a billionaire. With awesome toys.”
There’s a click, and silence, but Clint knows better than to assume he’s really gone. Natasha reaches under the dash, pulls out a few wires, killing the lights on the center console, and sits back with a sigh. Their eyes meet again and he wishes he’d left the shades on. She frowns. “Clint, when’s the last time you slept?”
“Does unconsciousness count?”
The frown deepens. Fine. He’s never claimed to be a comedian.
The real answer is ‘New Mexico’. Loki hadn’t let him or Selvig sleep – at least, at the time it hadn’t seemed important – and then the doctors said he shouldn’t because of the concussion, and since then he’s been too keyed up, too afraid. Afraid of waking up to find he’s still under the bastard’s control, afraid of losing his hold on himself. He shakes his head in resignation and pulls back out into traffic. “Where’d he say this place was?”
“East 76th,” says Stark. “Make a left on 3rd.”
They park the car and walk the rest of the way.
Every major metropolitan area in the world, and a few not so major, can be boiled down to a pretty postcard snapshot and a landmark or two. Giza has the pyramids, Paris its Tower. There’s the Roman Coliseum, the Taj Mahal in Uttar Pradesh and the Statue of Liberty at the mouth of the Hudson.
I have seen them all.
San Francisco has the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, cable cars, and fog, but as always the truth of the city lives in the places where tourists don’t go, or at least where they don’t look.
We buy clothes – jeans and sweatshirts and shoes that will render us nearly invisible among the crush of humanity – although Natasha’s eye lingers appreciatively on a Donna Karan dress in a Bloomingdale’s display. It’s long-sleeved, with a ruched waist and a low scoop back. The cloth is a bold, piercing violet, and I hurry her along. The color makes me nervous.
Natasha buys a laptop in one bad alley and a gun in another. The men she deals with watch us both, their eyes bright with malice, but what Natasha does to the one who puts a hand on her ass makes the rest reconsider at least a couple of their life decisions.
That evening we rent a tiny studio apartment in the Tenderloin above a Vietnamese restaurant, across the street from a bedraggled park. Natasha would have been just as happy to break into one of the many foreclosed units closer to Market Street, but we have the cash and there’s no reason not to use it. Besides, I don’t need the added worry of whether or not a property manager or bank agent is going to drop by unannounced.
I place the laptop on the kitchen counter, hack into a neighbor’s ‘secure’ wireless connection, and set up a proxy while Natasha watches. When I’m done she nods her approval. “You’re not bad,” sounding a little surprised.
“After they wiped me, they had to fill me up with something,” I say. “I like computers. They’re easier than people.”
Her mouth quirks in a half-smile. “What’s it for?” she asks, nodding at the computer. “Are you expecting the Institute to contact us?”
“Only if they get new information,” I lie. “Doctor Fisher seemed certain that Witten will need to come to the city to meet with his contacts. They bought him a new face. They’re expecting to be compensated.”
“With the Institute’s research.”
I nod. “Enough of it to start their own program, at least.”
Natasha walks to the window. She doesn’t stand in full view, of course, but off to the side where she can see a sliver of the park across the street. A figure of indeterminable age or sex pushes a heavily-laden shopping cart into the street with no regard for his or her safety; cars continue to rush by without concern. “It’s a big city,” she remarks. “Are you sure you know where to look?”
“I’m sure.” I have a clear image of Dr. Bruno Witten in my mind, but I push it away. That image is more than five years old. It came from another time, another life, back when I had another name – many names, really – and perfectly-honed skills and absolutely no hope.
Back then it had never occurred to me that I would live to see my twenty-fifth birthday. I was good, but I needed to be perfect every time. My enemies only needed to be perfect once.
Natasha leans against the wall and pinches the bridge of her nose. “I have a headache.”
I close the laptop. “Get some rest,” I tell her. “I know you were awake for the whole flight. I’ll keep an eye out.”
The studio has no furnishings, only a stained and sagging mattress in the middle of the room, but Natasha lays down on it without comment or complaint. She’s seen worse.
We both have.
Only the largest agent, Santiago, gets on the Quinjet with them, and he keeps looking at Steve as though he can’t quite figure out why either one of them is here. Eventually he tires of glaring at Barton and goes up front to sit with the pilot, although every few minutes he’ll twist around in his seat and frown suspiciously at the two of them.
Steve pulls the phone out of his bag. It’s small and shiny and he tried to demur when Stark gave it to him because he was pretty sure he would break it or lose it. Now he’s thankful that Tony Stark is such a pushy son of a gun. Well, mostly thankful.
Steve sits on the bench next to Barton, as far to the rear as possible. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” the agent – ex-agent – asks warily.
“No,” sighs Steve, but he makes the call anyway, pushing the ‘speaker’ button and holding the phone out so they both can hear.
He’s expecting Ms. Potts or maybe one of the lawyers to answer, but he’s forgotten that these days you can tell who’s calling without even having to pick up the line. The phone rings twice, three times, and Santiago glares but doesn’t say anything, four times, and then he hears Stark’s exasperated voice. “Really? I’m just about to start putting the screws to these bastards, now you call?”
Since he can’t hear any screaming in the background, only Ms. Potts’s muffled voice saying, “Tony, knock it off, they do speak English,” Steve decides that ‘the screws’ are metaphorical and that Stark is actually working on a solution to his problem that doesn’t involve Iron Man. This is surprising, but welcome. “I need some information.”
“Well, hello to you too,” replies Stark testily. “If you’re asking on behalf of SHIELD, you can tell Fury to go to—“
“I’m not,” says Steve quickly. “Actually, I think Age- Mr. Barton and I are pretty much persona non grata with them right now.”
“Barton?” asks Stark, sounding more cheerful now. “Are we getting the band back together? Because I’ve got to tell you… your timing still kind of sucks.”
“Agent Romanoff is missing,” Steve says quietly. “Director Fury, or someone he reports to, thinks she may have… gone rogue.”
“Well, yeah. Have you read her file?”
A muscle twitches in Barton’s jaw, but he remains silent, so Steve says, “Barton believes otherwise.”
“And what do you believe, Captain?”
Steve hesitates. He looks down at the floor, avoiding Barton’s sharp eyes, and thinks about the woman he fought alongside in New York. She isn’t a soldier, but she reminds him of some of the men who had once been his comrades in arms. That day she had been brave and tough and resourceful. She had followed orders and showed initiative. She had helped to save the world.
Does any of that mean she can’t be a traitor? No. Of course not. Steve has read her file, or at least the parts that haven’t been redacted, and he’s been able to guess a little of the rest. Natasha Romanoff is a beautiful, intelligent woman, but mentally she is at least as screwed up as the rest of them. Who knows what she really thinks about allegiance or loyalty or friendship?
A good commander has to be willing to rely on experts when dealing with matters outside his direct range of experience. He’d read that before, in another time, another life. He’s not sure an expert on Natasha Romanoff exists on this planet, but if it does then Barton is most decidedly it.
“I believe,” he says at last, “that she deserves the benefit of the doubt.”
“Swell,” replies Stark. “So, I suppose you’re looking for one Mr. Timothy Bradach?”
“How did you—“
“Please. I’m an excellent multitasker. Also, Pepper has been listening in. So… we’re supposed to believe that this guy survives a helicopter crash and an enemy ambush and the Black Widow? Come on.”
Barton leans towards the phone. “Fury said Bradach is in a Salvadoran hospital.”
“Barton, welcome to the private sector. As it turns out, Fury was telling the truth. I didn’t think that was possible.”
There’s a small scuffle and the voice changes. “Hi, gentlemen? This is Pepper. We’re about to go into a meeting, just give me a sec… hmm, okay, Mr. Bradach was admitted to Hospital Bautista in San Salvador with a concussion, contusions, and a broken fibula. He’s actually due to be released in about… oh. Three hours.”
Barton shakes his head. “We can’t be there in three hours.” The rest remains unsaid: If Bradach is involved in something crooked, he’ll be gone long before we get near him. Steve is sure that SHIELD has agents in the area, but that’s not really an option anymore. If Barton is right, if Fury does want them to figure this out, they’re essentially on their own.
“Well,” says Stark, speaking over a flurry of annoyed voices speaking in foreign tongues, “if you ask nicely, I could give my friend Bruce a call. He’s already in Miami. That’s… what, Pepper? An hour away by jet?”
“Banner?” Steve blinks away a sudden image of the Hulk in Bermuda shorts, strolling along the beach, sipping a fruity beverage. “Why is he in Miami?”
“What, the guy needs a reason to take a vacation? He’s checking out a company I’m thinking of investing in. They’ve come up with some new kind of gamma-ray shielding and I figured Bruce is kind the go-to guy for that sort of thing. Besides, he needs to work on his tan. Say the word; I can have him back on the plane in half an hour.”
Steve winces as the image of the Hulk on the beach dissolves into the Hulk in a hospital, surrounded by the elderly, sick and injured, not to mention doctors with X-ray machines and wickedly long needles. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“Oh, absolutely,” says Stark, sounding more pleased with himself than usual. “You know how Bruce is. Loves people. Loves to help. I’ll bet he’ll be, ah, tickled pink.”
He hangs up before Steve can formulate a response.
Barton sits back and shakes his head. “I don’t know that we have any other choice,” he says quietly, and then he stands and calls out to the pilot, “Change of plans. We’re not going to El Salvador.”
Santiago turns in his chair. “This isn’t a taxi, Barton.”
Steve stands as well, fixing Santiago with his most intimidating look. It’s the kind of look that got him beat up a lot as a kid – and a teen, and an adult – but it seems to work a lot better now that he’s pushing six feet and looks like… well, like he looks. He could take Santiago with one hand literally tied behind his back, and they both know it. “The Director said you’d take us where we needed to go,” he says firmly.
Santiago’s anger stare falters, fades, and he turns his back on them again. After an uncomfortable moment, the pilot speaks up. “So…. Where to, boss?”
Barton steps forward. He’s holding the little computer drive in his hand again, looking thoughtful. “Belgium,” he tells the pilot. “Brussels.”
Brussels is damp and windy.
Then again, Brussels is usually damp and windy, so Clint tries not to take it personally.
He and Steve walk into the city, shoulders hunched against the cold air and rain just heavy enough to be irritating. They stop at a little red-roofed pavilion for a sandwich and coffee – Clint hasn’t eaten an actual meal since Nairobi, and Steve always seems hungry – and he’s relieved that his SHIELD-issued credit still works. For now, at least.
“Thanks,” he tells Rogers shortly, mainly to get it out of the way.
“For what?” asks the captain between bites, absently eyeing the pavilion’s menu.
Clint resists the urge to hit him. What would be the point? “For coming along,” he elaborates, gritting his teeth. “For telling me in the first place. You didn’t have to do that.”
Rogers looks away from the menu. “Thanks for assuming I’m not here as a SHIELD stooge.”
Clint smiles wanly. “Just because I didn’t say it out loud…”
Despite the rain and the cold the streets are busy. Clint takes them into the Marolles neighborhood, past a flea market in full swing, beneath the shadow of the Palais de Justice. The variety of languages that surrounds them is a little numbing; he hears French and Dutch mostly, but also the local Brusselair dialect, plus Turkish, Italian, German, and a few words of English. (Sometimes he and Natasha would make a game of seeing who could follow the most conversations at once. She always won, but she never totally ran away with it, so he didn’t mind very much.)
As they turn off the main road onto a less-traveled side-street, Clint checks his watch. Two and a half hours have passed since they spoke to Stark. He hopes that Banner is in San Salvador by now. And that he doesn’t accidentally kill anyone.
The apartment building hasn’t changed in the two years since his last visit, when he and Natasha had dropped in after the Antwerp assignment to patch themselves up, sleep, and wait for extraction. It’s modern and more than a little ugly, three stories tall, faced with crumbling brickwork and festooned with windows that don’t seem to quite line up with each other.
He leads Rogers to the side of the building and points straight up. There’s no proper fire escape, just a ladder bolted to the side of the building that ends ten feet above the pavement. “Do you have something against going through the front door?” Rogers asks, kneeling to give Clint a boost.
Clint jumps, grabbing the bottom rung of the ladder with one hand and pulling himself up the rest of the way. “This place has twenty-seven apartments,” he says over his shoulder, climbing up far enough that Rogers has a place to land. He hopes the ladder doesn’t break; it would be extremely embarrassing to snap his neck in a fifteen-foot fall with his bow and arrow still in the bag across his back.
Rogers jumps up after him; the ladder shakes alarmingly but holds. “So?”
“So,” says Clint, continuing to climb. “We want apartment twenty-eight.”
They squeeze in through a window as thin as the arrow-slit in a medieval tower. The room itself is narrow as well, but it’s fairly clean and Clint decides Natasha must have been here since Antwerp, although not recently.
Rogers prowls around. It doesn’t take long before he’s prowled right back to the window; the apartment is only about 200 square feet, with a bed in one corner and the ‘kitchen’ in another. A door leads to a bathroom smaller than the ones on the Helicarrier, and it’s the only door to be seen. Rogers looks around, puzzled and a bit impressed. Clint just smiles.
The laptop is in a case under a loose floorboard – sometimes the old tricks are the best – and once it’s done booting up he holds his breath and plugs in the USB drive. If he’s right, if it’s Natasha’s, it’ll only work on one of her machines anyway. If he’s wrong… well, he’s not going to think about being wrong.
Rogers watches over his shoulder as the computer whirrs loudly, and then the screen goes black. “Is it supposed to…?”
A window opens, a file menu, and Clint lets out his breath. Scanning the list, he sees fourteen files, all images, but there’s no reason one couldn’t be what he’s looking for.
He starts clicking. His fingers feel fat and clumsy on the touchpad.
The first picture is grainy, possibly a screen capture from an online video. In the foreground is one of the Chitauri soldiers, armed and disgusting, frozen in motion, but it’s the background that catches his attention: Natasha, gun in hand, face turned in profile, eyes focused on something outside of the camera’s range. The image is pixilated, however, so it’s not immediately obvious who she is.
The next picture is clearer, although the video was taken from further away. It’s from a news report – there’s a ticker on the bottom and a local station logo in the corner – and she’s standing, surrounded by rubble and flame, looking skyward. He can see himself just behind her, or at least his arm, and a flash of red fabric that’s probably Thor’s cape.
Next: the same frame, enhanced. The SHIELD logo on her shoulder, black on black, is just visible.
Next: Natasha, back pressed up against the flank of a yellow cab; it’s earlier in the fight because her face isn’t yet bloodied. He’s present again, a shoulder and his quiver and one side of his face there at the edge of the frame.
The rest of the pictures are all variations on the same theme: Nat, there on the street in the middle of the chaos, holding a gun, holding a Chitauri weapon, alone, with him, with Rogers. Then there’s a break – when she was catching a ride back to the Tower, when she was closing the portal – and then there she is again, there they all are, walking towards a Quinjet with Loki in tow. Clint is especially visible in this one, bow in hand, an arrow trained on the back of the bastard’s head.
He had wanted very much to let it fly.
“Someone was… doing surveillance on Agent Romanoff,” says Rogers slowly.
“Yeah,” agrees Clint, surreptitiously wiping his sweaty palms against his pants. “Agent Romanoff was.”
“This is her work.” He taps the USB drive and shakes his head. “She was worried. Worried that someone else might have seen the same footage and recognized her.”
“So? We didn’t do anything wrong,” says Rogers defensively, and Clint thinks of the congressional hearings he pretended he didn’t watch. He thinks of men who have never seen a day of battle, who have never been in a fight that wasn’t won by polls and commercials, who supported SHIELD back when it was just another black program they didn’t have to admit to supporting.
Men who later sat behind a desk and blamed SHIELD for the destruction in New York. Frothed over property damage. Went into hysterics over the local economy. Railed against secrecy in all its forms. All the while ignoring the simple truth: doing nothing would have been worse. Much, much worse.
“Natasha’s MO,” he says slowly, clicking through the images again, searching for some slight detail he might have missed, “is… different. It’s never been general knowledge that she works for SHIELD. Most intelligence agencies, they know she’s out there, but they think she just works contracts. Otherwise she’d never be able to get some of the places she needs to go.
“People,” he continues, his eye lingering on a shot of Natasha putting a spear through an alien’s chest, “especially men… they look at her, and most of the time they just see this young woman, five-foot-four, beautiful. Desirable. Someone they can control. Someone they can own. And they don’t find out they’re wrong until it’s too late.” He’s watched her work, watched her smile disarmingly and use words like conversate and irregardless and adjust her dress so no man in a five-mile radius can miss her cleavage. Her body is a weapon in more ways than one. “Even if they do know who she is… the Black Widow… they’ve heard her reputation but they don’t really believe it, not after they see her, because she’s just this pretty woman, young, unarmed. They think it doesn’t matter what they say or do because she’s in their power. She’s on her own. If they knew what kind of resources she has access to, what kind of backup, it would be a different story.”
Rogers takes a few steps back and sits on the edge of the bed, looking troubled. “And if the wrong people did see this…”
“They’d have a much better idea of where to find her,” Clint finishes, swallowing past the fear that tightens his throat. “This State Department assignment… if someone leaked her code name, if it even got out that they were bringing in a female SHIELD agent for infiltration…”
“Who would go to that kind of trouble?”
Clint shrugs, closing the file menu. If there’s a message in these pictures he’s too angry and tired to see it. “You make a lot of enemies in this line of work. It could be someone SHIELD sent her after, someone who never realized until now that she was the reason they were taken down. It could be a family member, a colleague. It could be someone up the chain of command who thinks she’s a liability, or someone who wanted to hire her and didn’t like getting no for an answer.” He mentally ticks off a score of names that would be meaningless to Rogers: Mathew Coll, Nita and Fernando Grieb, Sires, Stroupe, Bova, Avery, Cruise… “Hell, it could be someone from before we met, someone I’ve never even heard of.”
He stands, goes to the window and watches the rain. He checks his watch, thinks that Banner or Stark or someone should have called by now. Bradach will be in the wind soon.
“She didn’t tell you, did she?” asks Rogers carefully. “That she was afraid.”
Clint snorts. He thinks about sitting in a grubby Parisian café across from Nat, telling her about Fury’s issues and not realizing that she was in more danger than he was. He had thought that because her signature weapon wasn’t as obvious as his bow, that because her hands and feet were often the only weapons she needed, she was home free. “She died her hair, but that was nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe she’s been spending less time in public… I’m not sure. If she’d told me…” – and he tries to imagine Natasha walking up to him, saying ‘Clint, I’m worried,’ coming to him for help, help for herself, and it makes his throat tighten again – “…I don’t know. Maybe I’m kidding myself. Maybe it wouldn’t have made one damn bit of difference. But the thing is… I don’t know what to do next.”
The doctor doesn’t speak much English, and what Spanish Timothy Bradach knows comes from the Taco Bell menu, but he’s picked up on one word: afortunado. Lucky. He’s a lucky man, to be alive, to have one broken bone and a bump on his head and a little infection when two other men are worm food.
Timothy doesn’t feel lucky. He waits to be released, eager to get out but without any idea of what to do next. He once had a wife back in Chicago, but she left him three years ago. He has two kids, but now they’re with his wife. Now what he has is a crippling alimony payment and mountains of debt to go with his broken leg and his concussion.
I should have asked for more money.
A nurse comes in, the pretty young one named Ofelia who speaks the best English. “Mr. Bradach, I’m sorry for the wait,” she tells him, smiling brightly. “We just need you to fill out some paperwork and then you’ll be on your way.”
“Insurance?” asks Timothy nervously. “The agent who was here Tuesday should have taken care of all that…”
Ofelia smiles again. “Not insurance, Mr. Bradach. That’s been resolved. This is just some personal information, for hospital records. You understand.”
Timothy doesn’t understand, but he sighs and lets Ofelia put him in a chair and wheel him down the hall to a little room with a desk and a pen and a stack of forms. He doesn’t want to be in the hospital records. He’s starting to regret that he even used his own name when he was brought in, although if he hadn’t it would have led to some uncomfortable questions when that SHIELD agent came to debrief him.
He frowns over the forms; they’re all in Spanish, of course, and he has no idea what he’s supposed to write under familiar directo. He hears the door open again and turns around in the chair, saying, “Ofelia, what is…”
It’s not Ofelia.
It’s a man. He’s small of stature, with dark hair fading to gray in places, eyes hidden behind the glare of light on his wire-framed glasses. He steps inside with small, furtive movements, closes the door, and looks down at Timothy with an expression that very clearly states I don’t want to be here right now.
The feeling is mutual.
“Mr. Bradach,” says the man, leaning against the closed door and removing his glasses. He folds them carefully, slips them into his shirt pocket. “I need to ask you a couple questions.”
“Are you a doctor?” Timothy asks, gripping his pen tightly.
“A doctor?” the man echoes. “Yes. Not in the way you mean, though.” He smiles. It’s a sad, derisive, slightly twisted smile. “My name is Bruce Banner. Maybe you’ve seen some of my work.”