"Why did you bring a goat?"
It's quiet out in this barn, at least at the moment. The soft shifting of animals in their stalls, the steady low cronch of a cow working her way through her feed. DJ isn't exactly hidden, tucked away in a back stall in jeans, a warm black and white and grey flannel, boots, a young goat eagerly lipping small chunks of carrot and celery off his palm, but he's not not hiding, either. With no desire to court further family reprimand he has been sleeping plenty but has nevertheless looked less and less rested the longer the week wears on. His beard is visibly less neat than it was before, dark bags under his eyes, his normal careful posture just sagging against the wood as he watches the doe in front of him.
Bruce, for all that he seems like a useless, effete city slicker, has quietly picked up simple chores around the farm during this stay. He is making his way through the barn, now, looking as country as anyone member of the family--and more so than some--in a brown chore jacket, old and patched, red and black flannel shirt, heavy lined blue jeans, and boots just a touch too big for him. He hasn't replaced his glasses, but seems to move through life alright with only a moderate amount of squinting. He slows when he spots DJ, fidgeting with the handle of the empty pail he's carrying in one hand. Then finally does approach his host. "Hey there," his voice is soft, though not significantly softer than usual. At a slight delay, awkward, "That one sick?" His head nods once, at the goat.
DJ twitches at the approaching movement, but settles back down as he looks to Bruce. His head shakes, slow. He straightens up a little bit on his stool -- his cheeks color lightly pink as his empty sleeve comes un-sandwiched from between his side and the wall he's been leaning on, swinging loose momentarily. He reaches down into a large pouch at his hip, extracting another handful of veggies to offer them toward Bruce. "Not sick. She makes pretty good company, actually. You want to say hi?"
"Oh--yeah. I'd like that." Bruce sets the pail aside as he crouches down next to DJ, stretching out one soft hand to accept the veggies. "Want some more of this, Kid?" This evidently to the goat as he stretches out a hand to offer the treats, smiling as she devours these, as well. "My aunt kept a few goats, when I lived with her. Chickens, too. It wasn't anything like all this, but she had a vegetable garden, a tiny slip of pasture. I liked taking care of the animals."
The goat is happy enough to turn her attention to nibbling the veggies from Bruce's hand instead. Her ears flick lightly as she munches and she at least seems oddly unbothered when the barn starts to shift and warp around them. It's a lurch a stomach-churning dizzying inversion, the world disappearing and flashing --
-- and reappearing in a somewhat familiar police station. It's a little bit chillier of a police station than it was before -- several of the walls where the empty jail cell had been have now abruptly collapsed, taking some of the fancy equipment with it and leaving the holding area open to crisp Staten Island near-winter beyond.
The goat, unbothered by this chaos, is still just snuffling for more treats.
Steve is just outside the cell, down on one knee in his Captain America uniform, shield held out and up to deflect errant chunks of concrete from the crumbling walls around the rift. "Sound off! Anyone hurt?" When he lowers the shield and straightens up his mouth falls open. "Dawson," he breathes softly, then, "Bruce! Thank God, I thought you were..." He never finishes this sentence, his eyes tracking first to DJ's empty sleeve and then -- even more incredulous -- to the goat. "Wh -- what...?"
B is in a very rainbowy crocheted sweater over a purple slip dress, tall thick stripey socks, stompy boots; she's lept to her feet too somewhere amid this crumbling but her attention has skittered immediately to the partially damaged equipment, the panic in her expression only quieting when she sees that at least her monitoring data is still chugging along. It's only after that that she looks to -- "Why did you bring a goat?"
Both the goat and Bruce blip several feet further back from the partially-collapsed holding cell before DJ drops his hand. Looks around cautiously, his shoulder sagging. "I didn't," he says, a little wearily, "bring a goat. She's just here."
Sam has just been returning, hands full with several fresh coffees -- though now he's frozen in the doorway, eyes skipping between what is abruptly more people in the room than there ought to have been. His eyebrows hike up. He sets the tray down on B's workstation and turns right back for the door. "Y'all take coffee?"
Bruce squints around him for only a moment before he starts hyperventilating. "Oh no, oh no, no no go back I'm okay," he's mumbling--apparently to the goat, stroking one hand down along her back. This seems to have the desired effect, as his breaths start coming easier. He stays kneeling in the cell, though. "Black, please," he answers Sam somewhat automatically. "I mean the coffee--which I do. Take. Black."
"How did this happen," Steve has evidently recovered enough to look past Goat at the larger -- if still perplexing -- picture. "I assume you weren't in the other 121st Precinct, so another transient rift brought you through..." He's looking to B, brows never having unfurrowed. "What are the chances two of those things would hit the same man? That's got to be astronomical!"
"Oh, it's so unlikely!" B sounds delighted about this, scurrying back to her console to start rifling once more through the holo-display. She looks up with huge wide eyes at DJ, gills fluttering just once. "Can you just -- pop through that once, real quick?" Her hand waves toward the empty cell. "May as well tell Mr. Stark that Dr. Banner is back, he's been a smidge tetchy."
"No -- I don't -- uh. Do caffeine, I -- what?" DJ is looking extremely perplexed at B's enthusiasm. "Your Stark got back here? Your Stark is back there? What happened to --" He shakes his head, rubbing a palm against his somewhat unruly beard. There's a blur, a flash, and he's gone --
-- from that side of the rift, reappearing (and stuttering to an abrupt halt) on the other.
Steve opens his mouth to explain, but DJ is already gone. "Dawson wait --" His eyes widen again and he sprints through the rift after the other man, nevermind that -- however fast he may be -- he has absolutely no hope of catching him. "Stand down, everyone!"
The other side of the rift is having a similar bit of chaos, their bit of once-a-police-station also very recently in shambles. Several Sentinels are lurking around the periphery of the room; three of the tall humanoid ones shift just slightly in unison to focus on DJ when he arrives. Tucked nearby one piece of large and complicated-looking machinery, Tony has been in the process examining the damage but looks up, eyes narrowing when DJ and then Steve arrive. "What -- how --"
Over by his console, Tony (redux) has a slightly more restrained excitement than B had: "Wait. Go back. Rewind."
The sudden narrowed-eyed jaw-clenched look on DJ's face suggests he would have no intention of standing down, but -- but. A distinct lack of powers has him less on the ball than usual; he stays rooted in his spot, gaze tracking from Tony -- to Tony -- and back. "You." His hand drops to his side -- though his fist curls only around a handful of the goat's chopped veggies, the other small pouch hung on the opposite side of his belt below his empty sleeve. His head hangs with a small sigh. "You're working with him?" A brief -- crestfallen -- look up to Steve. "You're working with him?"
Steve has his shield only half-raised as he places himself between DJ and -- as many of the Sentinels as he can manage. He glances back at the question, his expression doing something quick and complicated. Grimly, "Didn't have much choice. The rift's expanding, destabilizing -- like to rip both our worlds to pieces if we don't button it up." His gaze shoots to the Tony at the console, his jaw setting hard. "He heads the rift project on this side."
"He's working with me," the Tony at the console corrects. He waves his life model decoy over, gesturing toward the screen in front of him and then looking up at DJ. "Step back. Two steps back. Maybe three. Thing keeps moving."
DJ does not take any steps back. He's still staring at Tony -- both Tonys, now, the color all drained from his face. It takes him several moments to look, instead, to Steve: "Sorry. Did you say -- rip the worlds to pieces?" It's only this that gets him to move -- cautious. Carefully edging back -- back --
-- and through into the relative peace of the station on the other side. He lets out a sharp breath that melts into a slightly hysterical laugh when the goat edges up to him, nosing at his hand for the fistful of vegetables he still clutches tight.
A small blue head pops through the portal -- somewhat oddly just floating in midair across the not-actually-barrier between worlds. "Captain Rogers, can you come back here? Like -- slow." B is once again disappearing hastening back to her console, her eyes dinnerplate wide. "Dr. Banner, you have to come look at this."
Bruce had been petting the goat and slowly easing himself down from his near-panick attack, but now he rises. "We are all going to need so much therapy when this is over," he mutters, still looking a little overwhelmed. He joins B at the console, leaning closer to squint at the readout. "Fascinating!" Suddenly all his timidity is gone, his entire posture changing as he looks over the data, bespeaking tense excitement. "Please tell me you have the data from the first time he came here? When me and the others got pulled through?"
Despite the apparent détente, Steve doesn't fully lower his shield until DJ has vanished through the rift again. He has just turned to address Tony -- both Tonys? -- when B sticks her head through. One of his eyebrow arches, but he doesn't argue. Just walks back toward the rift very slowly and, once on the other side, makes a beeline for the coffee. "What's that all about?" he asks -- B, or Bruce, or maybe both.
"I do!" B is flicking up another display, flipping through it excitedly. "Flicker -- Dawson -- um, other-Dawson can you go back -- real quick! Just one second. It's important I swear." She's already tapping a claw towards the rows of figures. "Look -- that was you all on the eighteenth -- and this is when he went back through two days later -- and this is here just now. See him? And Captain Rogers? People have been crossing back and forth a dozen times a day and none of it is like that."
The coffee has, at least, been joined by an extra now, for Bruce, and a hot chocolate besides. Sam is sitting on a stool somewhere behind the console, hands curled around his own coffee, sipping at it slow as he glances back to Steve. "She hasn't been this excited since the first time it expanded."
At this rate it seems like the bewildered look DJ has been wearing since his arrival is just going to become permanently ingrained onto his face. "What -- why are --" He does blip back through the rift. Walk back across it a brief moment later. "What are you even looking at? Why is this important?"
Somewhere in time with DJ crossing through the gate there's an additional rumbling. The bits of pavement visible through the broken wall of the building crack further.
"You're getting that, too?" One of the Tonys is strolling back through the rift now, too, just in DJ's wake. "No idea." He lifts a hand towards DJ's truncated shoulder, doesn't seem much fussed about whether this shoulder-clap finds its target or not in the jumpy teleporter. "But you're gonna help us find out."