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Where Your Heart Lies

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It first started during their fight, the mighty fight between Captain America and Iron Man. Someone sent him information through a secure channel. Not even FRIDAY could find from where it was send or who was the sender. The virtual trace bounced off on more than fifty IP addresses all over the world.

It frustrated Tony to no end. He would like to know who was behind this and why were they sending these to him.

Files filled with redacted documents, all about murders, assassinations.

Tony had an inkling who might have been sending the files but he didn’t know if they were capable of that.

He had no time to find out. Before he knew, it all went to hell and the Accords effectively split the Avengers.

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It continued after what the media dubbed the “Superhero Civil War”, after Steve decided to take the team and leave. More files were sent. Tony recognized the pattern. Not at first, no. But after a few days, it was clear. They were all about the Winter Soldier’s assassinations. Tony was sure of it. What rammed it home however was the day Tony received the file on his parents’ murder. It felt like a punch to the gut. It was as if he was watching the godawful video once again, each frame distinctly and forever etched in his mind.

Having the file in his metaphoric hands felt dirty, obscene, sick. It felt like having the sword of Damocles over his head. It could make him or break him. It could make him stronger or fall of the wagon (again). Historically, it didn’t bode well for him.

Either way, he mused, it was going to hurt.

With a trembling hand, he waved in the air to open the files. The documents spread over his screens. His eyes skimmed over the information, not really understanding what he was reading. It would be too real and tangible if he did.

Mission Report

16 December 1991

Mission Objectives:

Stark, Howard.

Inventor, co-founder of the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR), founder and CEO of Stark Industries.

Howard Stark is a liability. He becomes suspicious of the new SSR’s activities, which is now called SHIELD. Must eliminate him before he discovers HYDRA is behind the creation of SHIELD.

Howard Stark has the last sample of the Supersoldier serum and does not want to give it.

Recommendation:

Defrost the Winter Soldier to carry out this mission. It cannot fail.

Results:

The mission is successful.

The Winter Soldier made sure the assassination looked like a car accident, nothing can lead back to SHIELD, HYDRA or the Winter Soldier.

Collateral damage:

Maria Stark, wife.

Notes:

The Winter Soldier has been frozen again, waiting for his next assignment.

 

Tony closed his eyes and exhaled a shaky sigh. He sat down on a stool, his eyes staring blankly at the wall.

His mother was just a “collateral damage”. He chuckled humorlessly. Right.

He was going to scrap it away when he noticed a document, which didn’t look like the other. It just was a white paper that said:

I’m sorry.

Eyes welling up, Tony threw the files into the bin.

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tell your boytoy to stop it

Sent

… Is that why you’re texting? I told you to use the phone only for emergencies. Is this one?

Received

 

always so judgy Cap. tell him to stop

Sent

 

I’m not Cap anymore. And Bucky isn’t doing anything.

Received

 

nice. you recognized him

Sent

 

What do you want Tony?

Received

 

i can hear your sigh, it’s very uncanny. i want him to stop sending me stuff

Sent

 

He isn’t sending you anything.

Received

 

how do you know? maybe he’s hiding from you

Sent

 

He can’t. He’s back into cryo. And he wouldn’t.

Received

 

well, if that’s make you sleep better at night

Sent

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Finally, it stopped. Tony didn’t know whether it was because Bucky got out of cryogen and stopped it or because he had received every murder the Winter Soldier has ever committed.

When put together, a lot things made sense afterwards. The rise and the fall of empires, economically, culturally and politically.

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Diid u get all of it?

Received

 

wow, no news for months, and now a cryptic text. i see you’ve been well “Nomad”

Sent

 

It s Bucky, not Steve

Received

 

Did u receive the files?

Received

 

I m sorry

Received

 

If it makes you feel better, I remember everything I did.

Received

 

it doesn’t

Sent

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Months later, and painstakingly, Tony, Vision and Rhodey regained a little of the public’s trust on the American soil. The rest of the world was still suspicious of them.

Ross, on the other, still didn’t trust the new Avengers, especially not Tony. For good reasons but the General didn’t need to know that.

The thing was, even months later, Ross was still asking where the rest of the Avengers were.

“What other Avengers? All the Avengers are in this building,” Tony always answered him with a smile.

“You know who I’m talking about,” Ross usually snarled.

“Well, you can ask Vision or Rhodey if they know. Personally, I don’t.”

Tony would showed him the exit with a carefully blank expression.

“Don’t play with me Stark, you’ll lose. If I learn that you’ve known where Captain Rogers and the others were all along, I’ll arrest you before you realize what’s happening to you.”

“I see. You know the way out, General Ross.”

Ross generally left after that. Tony would sit and stared at his screens, which showed what was happening in the world villain-wise.

The new Avengers were still a small team, and they were looking for new team members. Tony planned on recruiting Spider-Man officially when he finished high school.

By the way the public feared them, Tony didn’t expect vigilantes to pop all over New York after the Chitauri attack. But some did, and Tony tried to keep track of them. There was that Daredevil guy, who impressed him with his swift manner to disarm criminals. He also heard of a woman with super strength and a man who was bulletproof.

If the Accords didn’t stop them from saving people, Tony wouldn’t either. In the end, they encouraged him to do better too.

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Thanks for the new arm. U didn’t have to.

Received

 

why are you talking to me, honestly?

Sent

 

Because you made me a new arm, which is smoother and lighter than the one I had before, and u didn’t have to. Thank you.

Received

 

i’m a genius, it would obvs be better than that soviet disaster you had. also, don’t thank me. i didn’t do it for you

Sent

 

Steve told me you were a hard man to compliment.

Received

 

don’t listen to him, he’s a liar

Sent

 

also stop sending me texts

Sent

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With the help of Pepper and the president of the United States, Tony was successful in getting Steve and the other pardoned. It hadn’t been an easy feat, mainly because Ross had been against him every step of the way. In the end, it was done. Steve, Wanda, Clint, Sam and Natasha could come back to the United States, and they wouldn’t be arrested.

Barnes’s case was more complicated. He had been brainwashed and mind controlled for 70 years, killing people HYDRA didn’t like. To be allowed back to the US, he had to agree to psychological evaluation.

He would still be judged for his crimes. SI’s legal team would help Barnes in getting a fair trial and Tony might have given an IOU to a benevolent judge who wouldn’t send Barnes to prison.

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I don’t understand you.

Received

 

there’s nothing to understand

Sent

 

stop using this phone

Sent

 

You act like you don’t care about them. But you do.

Received

 

i’m gonna tell Steve you’re using this phone like that

Sent

 

He knows.

Received

 

and he doesn’t care? that is very out of character. are you sure he’s not a skrull?

Sent

 

Why do you ask so much about Steve? Do you want to talk to him?

Received

 

i laughed because your joke is hilariously not funny. also, don’t

Sent

 

Thanks for doing this. For… helping when I did what I did to you.

Received

 

again, not doing it for you. you were brainwashed, so whatever

Sent

 

It still hurt, and I understand.

Received

 

god, can you stop that?

Sent

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Clint was the first to come home. He missed his wife and kids. Tony and Clint had to meet officially. It was a cordial and polite affair. Clint signed the Accords and shook Tony’s hand with a fake smile that almost looked real. Neither men wanted to stay longer in each other presence than necessary. Guilt and resentment made an interesting mix if not volatile. They both preferred to postpone an awkward and possible hurtful conversation for another time.

Scott and Sam came back just a few days later. They exchanged a few words with Tony, signed and left as soon as they could.

Wanda didn’t want to leave wherever she was now and didn’t want to sign the Accords. Tony let her be. He knew what she could do when he tried to restrain her. However, he felt bad for Vision who was looking forward to the young woman coming back.

Natasha popped up one day, as if nothing happened. They didn’t actually talk. There were many things left unsaid but it seemed she wasn’t angry at him. At least, that was what Tony wanted to believe.

Steve and Barnes took the longest to come home. Steve wanted to be sure Barnes wasn’t going to be arrested as soon as he arrived on American soil. Tony had to promise several funding to various governmental department to allow them come through the airport without a trigger-happy army waiting to shoot Barnes if he moved his pinky finger. Not that he would begrudged them. Barnes was terrifying and efficient when he was in Winter Soldier mode.

When they did come home, Tony made Rhodey welcome them. He couldn’t see them yet.

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I thought the organizer of the party would be here.

Received

 

who’s this?

Sent

 

You know. Your computer just hacked into my phone.

Received

 

my computer is most advanced learning A.I. in the world, it’s not just a computer

Sent

 

why are you texting me again?

Sent

 

Wanted to thank you for the room. Great view.

Received

 

yeah, ok, whatevs. stop thanking for things that are out of my power

Sent

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At one point, Tony had to see them. Rhodey and Pepper conspired against him and made him go to the compound. He had to check Barnes’s arm anyway. It wouldn’t be a waste of time.

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I’m sorry for what Steve said.

Received

 

why are you apologizing? you weren’t even there

Sent

 

He told me what happened. I’m apologizing because you were friends and I’m the reason why you don’t talk anymore.

Received

 

ok, first of all: you needed help, second: Steve was your friend before being mine so no biggie

Sent

 

It is. Why don’t you come around tomorrow? It’d be easier to talk about that.

Received

 

i’m working. i have an actual job, you know. i’m not messing around

Sent

 

What if I told you my arm was hurting?

Received

 

you’re a liar because my tech doesn’t fail. often

Sent

 

So you’ll come?

Received

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The second time Tony came by the compound, it went marginally better. Steve was still looking at him with his perpetual frown but he was nice enough to him. He was, because Tony made Barnes’s new arm and was taking care of the maintenance and possible repairs. The good news was: Barnes didn’t have any homicidal urges towards him.

They came to an agreement: they needed to be cordial with each other. Ultimately, Tony spent more time with Barnes than Steve. They understood where the other man was coming from. And the engineer found someone with more low self-esteem and guilt than him.

Later, Tony realized that talking with Bucky helped him come to terms with his parents’ death. He realized it wasn’t their death that bothered him, but how they died.

A car accident was horrible and violent when you witness it, it was still an accident at the end of the day. It could’ve been avoided; they could’ve survived crashing into the tree.

An assassination was definitive, planned; they weren’t meant to live.

Tony had to accept it. He had to forgive Bucky because it wasn’t his fault. Blaming HYDRA was easy but not fulfilling. It’s easy to hate an entity. When the entity has a face, it’s real and unbearable.

Talking to Bucky helped him quiet that simmering hatred. Thinking about them, about their death, hurt less.

In this story, they were both victims.

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I didn’t mean it.

Received

 

Can you text me back?

Received

 

Alright, I was surprised. I’m sorry.

Received

 

How would you react if you found me kissing Rhodes in a closet?

Received

 

rhodey wouldn’t dare. he’d be a betrayer. also, not your problem

Sent

 

You’re right, it’s not. But Bucky *is* my best friend, memories or not. And I still care about you.

Received

 

did you just used * to emphasize? Bucky is getting better

Sent

 

I know that. I don’t want you going too fast.

Received

 

alright, dad, sorry (it’s ironic in case you didn’t know although… you could be my father)

Sent

 

Sorry to burst your bubble, so does Bucky. Listen, can I come see you?

Received

 

Please?

Received

 

bring tacos

Sent

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“Hey.” Bucky whispered softly into Tony’s ears.

“Hey, you.”

Tony turned toward Bucky and buried his head in the crook of his neck.

“Too early,” the engineer mumbled, tightening his grip on Bucky’s shirt.

“I know but I have to run.”

“You don’t have too. Steve is mean.”

Bucky chuckled at Tony’s pout.

“He’s not. Come on.”

Tony sighed and turned to lie on his back. He eyed Bucky as he got up.

“If you want to get sweaty, I have something other than running in mind. Which is also more fun for you and me.”

Tony leered, ogling the soldier from head to toes.

“Do you want Steve to sulk?” Bucky asked with a knowing smile.

Tony groaned, and said no.

Bucky went to the bathroom and came back dressed. He went to Tony and kissed him.

“Later.”

“I hate you.” Tony said in Bucky’s pillow.

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get breakfast

Sent

 

i’m hungry

Sent

 

where are you?

Sent

 

i’m dying from hunger

Sent

 

heeeeeeeeeeelp

Sent

 

Breakfast coming right up.

Received

 

I looooove youuuu

Sent

 

You can show me that later ;)

Received

 

naughty little grandpa

Sent

 

i’m ready for a wild ride, honey

Sent

 

don’t take too long

Sent