Today, for your approval, I have two short stories that parallel each other. One is called “Expendable”, the other is called “Dauntless.” It’s kind of a mental monologue on the parts of two different characters in one situation, my first experimental attempt at two points of view that are mirror-image. Please tell me what you think.
There’s one thing that terrifies Steve. Not just one, but the only one that terrifies him.
It slipped out at one of the most inopportune moments in a twisted reverse algorithm, confused and writhing like a mass of leeches.
Sometimes there isn’t a way out.
Because there just isn’t, sometimes. The truth is that sooner or later, they won’t have a choice, someone will make the ultimate sacrifice, and the Avengers will lose a teammate.
They’ll have to bury one of their own.
And that, Steve knows from experience, is one of the most painful things of all…
He can’t lose anyone again. He can’t. He’ll break.
Because he sacrificed his life, but instead of Destiny, the Fates, whatever, just accepting it, they handed it back to him.
And took everything else instead. All that he knew once, the people who he was friends with, even the ones he had never liked and who had hated him—gone.
He lost everything.
Inexplicably, he found a new team, new friends. (He didn’t know how—he didn’t deserve to be given a second chance.)
The one thing he knows, raw, sitting like a stone at the back of his deepest soul, is that he simply can not lose someone again. Anyone. Not the man who hates him, not the people who despise him, not even the utter stranger, and certainly not one of his team. Because it will be too much for him and he will break, and once you’ve been a hero you fall hard, and maybe you don’t get up again. Maybe, you even fall, and stand up a villain instead.
And that’s why he plans ahead. That’s why he snaps at Tony when Tony disobeys his orders again. Because on the day that he doesn’t have a plan, when there isn’t a way out, when there is no way to cut the wire—he can only hope it’s him. Because that will hurt less than failure. Again.
He was supposed to die that day, crashing into the ice. But apparently there was something he was supposed to finish. He only hopes he’s done it. And why shouldn’t he sacrifice himself? Among the gods and geniuses and the men with superhuman abilities and the women who can change destiny, he’s only one man, he’s only human. Expendable.
After all, it’s not like they need him.
In the months since New York, Tony has come to know and dread that look.
Because the captain is thinking. Again. And that never bodes well to someone. Sometimes to multiple someones.
Or is that when Capsicle plans? Tony shrugs. Whatever is going on in Steve’s mind at the moment, it’s dangerous to someone, or something, even if it’s just to something as useless as Clint’s peace of mind, for example.
They nearly lost today. Worse, they nearly lost lives. And that’s why Cap is thinking—thinking, because Steve Rogers does not brood.
When an Avenger goes out, it’s not quick and painless. Nothing is painless for them. They’re kind of gluttons for punishment, which is masochistic but not intentionally, and they can’t seem to stop it.
The thing is, now Cap is not-brooding, but Tony can’t help but think how much worse it would have been if Captain America had not been there. After New York, Tony had become the heart of the team, but if Tony had become the heart, then Steve Rogers was the soul. They have a team now, and no part of that team is expendable. They might be able to go on without one member, but it might tear the rest of them apart as well.
And it would be especially hard to go on without the man who called the shots, who was always able to construct the perfect plan for the situation.
Maybe Tony would be able to step into the gap Steve would leave, but things would never be the same. Maybe the team would stay together, but there would always still be that one empty seat, no matter how many new members they could recruit.
After all, no one is expendable.
And now, for the rant.
Part of this is because there seem to be Howard haters all over the place, but the character really isn’t quite like people love to portray him. (Why do people prefer tragic backstories to genuine character development? Gah. I have one character whose childhood was especially unpleasant–she was trained as an assassin from childhood, was apprenticed to a few uncaring “masters”, and she even ended up killing a few of the wrong people for goodness’ sake! Like one of the heroes we will (hopefully) get to love! And yet she’s not an unbearable angster, but a young woman who is matter-of-fact about it and goes on with it, all the same. I’m more impressed by characters who overcome their past than those who whine about it all the time.) Howard Stark was certainly not the ideal father. He was distant, and alienated his son thereby. However, he did not “hate” Tony, nor was he abusive. From the movies, I gained the impression first of a young man who was cynical due to the fact that everyone wanted something from him, since he was wealthy, but hid it under a sort of bravado and flash. He was dubious that Erskine’s program would work, but his work probably saved Steve Rogers’ life–I doubt that Steve was expected to live until he was thirty–and while he remained, for a while, dubious about Rogers’ ability to lead a team, he ended up becoming friends with the captain, who probably puzzled Howard, since Steve really didn’t want anything from him, unlike almost everyone else Howard had ever known, and was not jaded either. Then, at the tail end of the war in Europe, Steve sacrificed his life to save thousands of innocents. Howard had lost one of the few people he ever really cared about, and that made him wary of ever letting anyone else in. When Tony came along, Howard was scared to spend time with his son, because he was terrified of losing Tony as well and didn’t want to get attached. Added to that, Howard was probably nearly destroyed by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as in the Marvel universe he probably worked on the Manhattan project, and never imagined that his tech would be used in such a way (similar to Tony in the first Iron Man movie.) When I think of Howard Stark, I think of a very human person, flawed, but not evil. Howard loved Tony. Howard didn’t know how to say it. However, most people just ignore that and prefer to portray him as an abusive, neglectful man, rather than the distanced but loving father he really was. Sudden Expedient Character Defamation Syndrome.
Also, when Tony says in Iron Man 2, “Dead so many years and he’s still taking me to school,” it was my impression that he said it fondly, like he loved his father back and was really hurt by the fact that Howard distanced himself, and that’s why he was so bitter.
Thoughtful fans are the best kind.