"Surely /sometimes/ you gotta play up the New York."
<NYC> Dining Hall - S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters
The dining hall is capacious and bright, furnished with round tables and comfortable chairs for S.H.I.E.L.D.'s agents and other employees. Floor to ceiling windows along one wall look out over the architecture and bustle of midtown Manhattan, and opposite that, a long gleaming counter with glass serves up a vast variety of food, with sections set aside for special dietary considerations -- some with their own color-coded plates and utensils. The quality of the food is decent, for the most part, if a bit on the bland side until fairly recently.
It's just a little after noon, and the cafeteria is a bit less crowded than one might expect in the middle of the week, perhaps owing to the glorious weather which has lured a larger than usual share of S.H.I.E.L.D. employees into going outside during lunch break. Perhaps thus abandoned by his team, Steve sits alone at a table, working through his third tray of lunch. He's dressed in a blue-and-white striped button-down shirt and gray slacks, wearing the harness for his shield, though the shield itself is propped up against his chair on the floor beside him. His expression is neutral -- pensive, and a little distant.
There's been a fair amount of bustle in the kitchen, but with the initial lunch rush winding down so is some of the harried pace of the cafeteria workers. The swinging open of the kitchen doors, previously often heralding the refreshing of dishes or condiments, this time only ends with one brightly-coloured cook slipping out with his own plate of lunch.
Jax is fairly eye-catching; lime green skinny jeans and a black tank under a vivid purple three-quarter sleeved fishnet shirt, purple Doc Martens, hair feathered in bright streaks of yellow, green, turquoise, purple, blue. Glittery rainbow-oilslick nails, enormous mirrored sunglasses on his eyes. He's slightly hesitant as he approaches, teeth dragging against his lower lip as he hangs back a short distance from Steve's nearly-empty table. "'m I interr... I mean, do you mind if I... I mean, are you, um..." His brows knit together, a faint unsteady flutter in the light around him, only barely visible in the sunny dining room.
Steve had stopped eating well before Jax spoke, though he does not put down his fork until actually addressed. His pale blue eyes flick up to the other man, linger for a moment, skid aside to the guards following some distance back, then drop down to the plate in front of him. "I don't mind," he replies, sweeping a welcoming hand toward the unoccupied places at his table. 'Thank you for lunch,' comes out in sign -- he has improved markedly in the last few months, 'it's delicious.'
There's a noticeable easing to the tense set of Jax's shoulders, at this, coming in time with the easy smile -- bright, but fleeting -- that lights his face. He settles into a seat opposite Steve, setting his plate down. 'Glad you like it.' His own signing is a little stilted. He picks up his fork, nudging his food around his plate. 'I heard you punched Eric.'
Steve finally does smile, at the last comment, though it is small and comes with a light flush to his cheeks. 'I heard he needed punching.' A small frown, here. 'I'm a little surprised I didn't get in trouble for it.' "With Luci," he clarifies aloud, "for image reasons." Then, silently again, 'But am I sorry? No.'
"He needs more than punching." Jax's nose wrinkles, another small tension tightening his shoulders. 'But,' he allows with an easing, a quick smile again, 'it was a good start.' He is still pushing his food aimlessly around his plate until the end of this, when he allows a soft huff of laughter. "Trouble? Doesn't this just go with your image, though? You're all scrappy and -- and -- /Brooklyn/. Surely /sometimes/ you gotta play up the New York."
Steve's jaw tightens. "I doubt it will make the least difference in his attitude or behavior. He has no respect for his own power -- whether it comes from a gene or the barrel of a gun." He shakes his head, looking down at Jax's food. "I usually play that card with a script and plenty of preparation, in front of cameras. Spontaneous viral publicity is its own beast, I guess." This with a small shrug of his broad shoulders. His eyes lift to study Jax's face. "It worked out alright this time, but I shouldn't go off half-cocked like that. I have the movement to consider, not just..." There's the faintest tug between his brows, and he looks down again, blinking rapidly, suddenly intent on the remainder of his meal. "...what I want."
"Well, he /is/ a cop, you can't expect too much." Jax's words come a little too easily, a little too dismissive, airy tone offset by the tighter clench of his jaw. When Steve studies him he is abruptly very busied with finally eating his food, quite absorbed for the span of a few bites. He washes it down with cranberry juice, dabs at his lips with a napkin. 'What you want,' echoed slow and one-handed. "Yeah. I mean. You -- there's. A lot. To juggle."
"I /didn't/ expect much." Steve takes a couple of bites, brows furrowed. "And still I was disappointed. But that --" His frown deepens. "Well. I suppose need to learn to accept disappointment with a bit more serenity." He tries to smile. Fails. 'Sorry.' He free hand had clenched tight around his fork, which he now puts down deliberately, gently. 'Sorry. I did not meant to talk about that. How...how have you been?'
"I hear," Jax says this very solemnly, "that art is great for bein' serene. Artists, all real calm an' peaceable types." His tongue pokes at one of his lip rings, head giving a small shake. 'No, it's okay.' "I mean you can..." 'Talk. Whatever you need... want. I did not mean to...' He only shakes his head after this, dropping off for another few bites. "Well, y'know. Been -- jailed. How... about you?"
Steve subsides into his chair, an almost imperceptible slouch. He says nothing for several seconds. 'I don't think I should do that,' he replies finally, his hands shaking a little. "I...I've been working. Here and elsewhere. Not much change."
Jax, on the other hand, sits if anything even straighter in his chair, the very faintest of tightening to his already upright posture. He reaches for his glass slowly, takes a long swallow of juice. 'Sorry --' Just one slow circle of fist over his heart as he sets his glass back down. "Right, I -- there's always. A lot. To do. To be done."
"You've done nothing wrong, I'm just..." Steve shakes his head and signs 'I miss you' with a strained half-smile. "And yes, there's a lot. Never feel like I'm doing enough. But..." His hand lifts from the table and starts to reach for Jax's, but he stops himself. Sets the hand down again. "I'll keep at it."
Jax's head lowers heavily when Steve's hand lifts, tipping downward far enough that behind the huge sunglasses it is easy to see the slow closing of his eye. His fingers twitch, sliding an inch forward before pressing -- hard -- down against the table. At a significant delay, his lips twitch, pulling up into a small smile. "Oh, that I don't doubt none. You're kinda amazing with --" He swallows, shakes his head, lifts it again. "But you're only one man, Steve. It ain't ever gonna be enough. An' maybe that's... maybe that's..." A flush of colour, deep crimson, rises to his cheeks. The next shake of his head is more abrupt. "'pologies. You don't need no kinda speechifying from me."
"I know I'm just one man. It's not that I'm so full of myself as to think I can win this war alone. But..." Steve trails off and takes a deep breath. Picks up his fork. Puts it down again. "I think I /do/ need it, though. And if not, I certainly /want/ it, at least."
"From me?" Jax's voice is quieter, now, his cheeks still flushed red. He picks his fork back up, returning to pushing food around his plate. "You been at war since way afore I was ever even..." His nose wrinkles up, head briefly dipping.
"But maybe that's the thing, right? There's always gonna be war. There's /always/ gonna be the fight. It ain't never gonna end. An' how effective are we gonna stay if /all/ we do is fight it -- if we don't never take time for -- for what we --" Breath catching, he breaks off, quieting through a hasty bite of food. He pauses to swallow, knuckles pressing hard and brief against his lips. Then circling his heart rapidly. 'Don't even know which of us I'm trying to convince now.'
Steve does not speak at once. He finally does start back in on his food again, slowly and deliberately. Then, at last, softly, "You've told me that before." His smile is a sad, but there's a glimmer of something else in his eyes. "But maybe I need reminding. Maybe you do, too."
"I've told most all my team that before," Jackson admits -- perhaps a touch sheepishly. "Jus' ain't never been too good at following my own advice." After this he is quiet, nibbling slowly at his food. "I should -- should let you get back to -- I ain't even sure why I --" 'Thank you.' "For letting me sit with you." 'I missed...' His hand drops back to the table, cheeks reddening again.
"I wish someone had been around to give me that advice -- back in the day." Steve's lips press into a thin line, his brows gathering tight briefly. But in the flash the pain is gone, and he continues eating more slowly than before. "I have an hour-long lunch break, besides..." He shrugs. "...I'm Captain America. Everything I do is either charming or controversial, and eating more at a sitting than most people do all day certainly falls into the first category." He takes an extra large bite as if to underline this point. A big gulp of water, too. "I'm glad of the company, and I hope you never feel like you need an /excuse/ to talk to me, but if you /do/..." One corner of his mouth quirks up. "...I might just have to punch Eric Sutton more often."
"Ain't so," Jax objects firmly. "Occasionally you manage to do things that's both at once." This time, his grin is quicker and easier. "Like getting into fisticuffs with a cop. Are you sayin' if I /don't/ talk to you enough now that's more punching in the cards for Eric? Because -- I /mean/."
Steve's breath catches just for a moment, his eyes fixed raptly on Jax's smile. Then he gives a quiet chuckle, blushing just a touch, gaze dropping to his nearly empty plate. "If you really need that particular encouragement, I'll see what I can do. But, either way, I hope to broaden my portfolio of charming controversy, going forward."
"M'sure Luci'll be ever so appreciative." The crinkle of Jax's nose this time comes on a soft huff of laughter. He reaches across the table, squeezing briefly at Steve's hand as he gets to his feet. "For real though if I don't get Ryan some lunch /he'll/ plain forget to eat. I'll -- see you, 'k?"
"I'm not sure if you're being facetious, but in fact I don't doubt he will." Steve's hand turns and closes around Jax's, his return squeeze almost painfully tight, though he releases just as quickly. "Say hi to Ryan for me." He looks as though he'd very much like to say more, but settles on offering a bright guileless smile and a 'see you later.'