one || back home
The secret that nobody knew about was that Steve was in love with Bucky--always had been. Even as a skinny shrimp that barely reached his best friend's chin, he had had weird tingly sensations whenever Bucky was around. Seventy years later and packing a lot more muscle than before, those feelings had never gone away. In fact, they had only grown stronger--in both Steve's heart and nether regions. At first, because of Bucky's Winter Soldier programming, he hadn't dared to make a move--it wouldn't look good on his part, after all--but now that it had been two years and the other man had adjusted to modern life surprisingly fast, the blonde was ready to develop something further than friendship. He just needed to make sure that the darker-haired supersoldier felt the same way.
Although Steve had made sure to put on a wary expression when King T'Challa had told the fugitive Avengers they were being pardoned, inside he was secretly a little joyful. He would forgive Tony--hopefully Iron Man had an eloquent apology prepared--and Bucky would realize how kind Steve was, to just let bygones be bygones like that. Then he could start taking things further, as soon as he knew the former Winter Soldier was completely enraptured.
Steve glanced around inside the quinjet where the rest of his team was currently situated, excluding Natasha--she somehow managed to come and go, but hadn't visited for a few months. Most were looking at the floor, as if they weren't sure whether to be happy or angry. The only one watching him was Bucky, who--despite Steve's cajoling--had decided to keep his silky dark hair at shoulder-length.
The blonde offered his friend a small smile, which only grew wider when it was returned. It'll be all right, Buck, he said silently. I won't let Stark touch you like that ever again.
After another hour, the quinjet touched down smoothly, and the ex-Avengers all shot up as if their seats had suddenly been covered in lava. Steve stood hastily as well, his heart thumping in his chest like an urgent battle drum. After two years hiding in Wakanda, he felt a little out of place back home--even if it was home. And then, as he reached the ramp that led down to real ground, his stomach dropped. Stark.
The billionaire was standing there casually, sunglasses down and a look of indifferent boredom on his face. The odd alien thing-- Vision-- hovered protectively at his side. Steve had wanted to put the Civil War behind them ever since it had happened, but Tony never bothered to call. It hurt Steve a little, it really did, but one thing he could never forgive the man for was blowing off Bucky's arm. Tony knew it wasn't Bucky's fault that his parents were dead, he knew, and yet he ruthlessly attacked anyway. For that, Tony's apology had better be extravagant.
The recently pardoned Avengers made their way down the ramp slowly, as if they couldn't believe what they were seeing. Taking a fresh gulp of American air--the America he, Captain America, had been named for--Steve finally allowed himself to relax and accept the fact that he was back. God, how he had missed this. He had even missed Tony, to an extent. Before Ultron, he and Stark had even started to become friends. Maybe their relationship could be repaired too, and then he could date Bucky freely without having to worry about murderous, petty billionaires.
"Hi Tony," the blonde supersoldier said, trying to keep the expectancy out of his voice. For a man who was supposed to be falling all over himself in regret, Tony Stark did not look sorry at all.
"Rogers," the engineer said in a clipped, cool voice. His expression didn't even waver, and Steve drew back a little in surprise.
Quickly recovering, he said, "It's--it's real swell to see you, Tony. And...for what it's worth, I'm glad you've finally accepted where you went wrong. Although it's been hard to just forgive and forget"--here he let out a little chuckle, to let everyone know he wasn't upset about past events anymore--"I'm grateful you pardoned us. I hope this is a step towards mending the friendship we unfortunately damaged when you signed the Accords and went after Bucky."
There was a stony silence for a second, and then--
"HAHAHAHAHA." A loud snort followed the laughing.
"...Pardon?" Steve said, completely taken off guard. Scanning the lot, he saw that his other teammates were just as bewildered as he was. "Sorry, who was that?"
"Here," the voice said, sighing.
Steve opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again. "Vision?" he said dumbly.
"No, you absolute idiot, down here," the voice said again, and Steve looked down doubtfully only to step back in shock. There was a talking raccoon. A talking raccoon. At his feet. Not to mention said raccoon was rolling its eyes, which shouldn't even be a thing??
"I'm Rocket," the animal said cheerfully, as if neither Steve nor the rest of the ex-Avengers were staring at him in shock. "Sucks to meet you, Blondie. You must be the douchebag Tony's always trying not to talk about. With your merry little band, too, I see. Sucks to meet you as well, douchebag-minions."
The raccoon slunk forward from his place next to Tony's leg. The engineer was watching in mild amusement, as could be drawn from the lifted corners of his mouth.
"And you, you must be James Buchanan Barnes," the creature said with relish. "You're a dick too, although less of a dick than your buddy-o here, Steve. I totally get that you were under mind-control, man, and that's why I'm less angry at you than I am at the rest of your mates. In fact, you must be a pretty cool guy for an ex-superhero to destroy everything to go chasing after you."
"Hey," Steve said, narrowing his eyes as he stepped forward and looked down at the self-assured raccoon. "Don't talk to Bucky like that."
Rocket shrugged. "I do what I want, Rogers."
The blonde opened his mouth to reply when Tony finally stepped forward and interjected, "Hey, hey, stand down, Rocket. No need to pick a fight with them on the first day back."
"This is all your doing, Stark," Clint spat as he moved closer so that he was shoulder-to-shoulder with Steve. "Why don't you--"
"Hawkeye," Steve said sternly, and Clint shut his mouth with a grumble.
"Anyhow, I'm not here to socialize," Tony said, removing his sunglasses to reveal eyes just as warm and brown as Steve remembered them to be. However, they were stonier than before, and it unnerved him--how Tony didn't look at them the same way he used to. "You all are going to have to sign the revised Accords, one way or another, if you want to stay an Avenger. Barton, you're retired--you shouldn't even be here, you shouldn't have been here two years ago either. Once you're escorted to the Compound by Vision, Laura will be waiting for you with divorce papers."
Clint made a choking sound and his fingers curled into fists. Only Steve's hand on his shoulder made him stay in line, although he was vibrating with hatred. "First locking us up and getting us exiled from our homes, and now you're making my wife divorce me?" he snarled. "Fuck you, Stark, I didn't think even a self-absorbed bastard like you could get so low."
Tony gave a humorless smile. "Oh, no, I had nothing to do with it. This is Laura's personal decision. I think she might be mad because...I don't know, actually. Maybe because you up and left her and her children without a second thought, all for deal ol' Captain America."
Steve didn't like this new Tony--all razor sharp edges and corners. What had happened to the guy that played video games with Clint in the Avengers Tower? If only Tony hadn't created Ultron, things wouldn't be this way…
The archer was as tense as a knot, but he didn't say anything else. After two years, he had kind of exhausted all his hatred even if it hadn't disappeared.
"As for Wanda, she's going to be enrolled at Charles Xavier's School for the Gifted. It'll help her control those witchy powers of hers," Tony continued as if Clint's anger didn't affect him at all. It bothered Steve more than he'd ever care to admit.
"What?" Wanda said angrily. "You cannot just lock me up like that, Stark!"
"Actually, this wasn't my decision either," the billionaire said lightly. "The government thinks it's a good idea, and so does Xavier. It's a mutant school--I think you'll actually learn a lot and enjoy yourself there. And if you refuse, there are a lot of people who want to actually throw you in a jail cell as you're suggesting my intent is. Believe me, I'd take being a student all over again rather than prison."
Wanda hissed, and red tendrils began to swim and flicker around her fingers. Tony inclined his head sharply, and suddenly men Steve hadn't even noticed standing off to the side broke off from their pack to handcuff the Scarlet Witch before she even knew what was happening. Struggling, Wanda flailed her arms only to realize she couldn't pull up her magic anymore. What was going on?
"Vision here helped me create cuffs that would deter magic users," Tony informed Steve and the rest of his team. Wanda's eyes widened in hurt as she looked at Vision, but the android only watched the ground. As for Steve, he shook his head in disbelief--he couldn't believe Tony would do such a despicable and cruel thing to a child.
As if the engineer could read his mind, Tony scoffed. "And before you say it's wrong to handcuff a child, Wanda's twenty two, Steve. She's a legal adult."
"Agent Barton, you're coming with us too. You can see your wife now," one of the men dressed as bodyguards said. Jerkily, Clint made his way over to Wanda and her guards, as if he still couldn't process everything that was happening. To be honest, neither could Steve.
"Okay, moving on," Tony said briskly. "I don't have much time here. Rocket and I need to get back to Peter, I was busy beating him at chess. Anyhow, Scott, you're going to have to return your little insect suit to Hope van Dyne, she's really pissed you took it. And Cassie is most likely going to be with her mother and stepfather considering since she didn't have a dad for two years, she needed someone more responsible--and available, for that matter--to take her in. Sam, you're going to be dishonorably discharged from the military, of course, but you're welcome to rejoin the Avengers if you sign the Accords as well as some other documents. Barnes, you're welcome to the Avengers as well--we could use a man with your strength and stamina. Steve...you can join too, I suppose, although I don't think many countries will be happy about it. But that's why you're back, after all--we need as many people as we can get, even if the world doesn't necessarily like some of them."
"Stark," Steve cut in quickly before the other man could go on. "Don't you think you're being a little rash about all this? Why would you just throw Wanda away like that, or Scott? They're very essential to our team."
"Our team?" Tony snorted. "We're not an 'our.' Even if you sign the Accords, we will never be an 'our.' That all ended when you left me to die in Siberia, Rogers."
"What?" Sam said aloud in confusion, glancing at Steve. Bucky looked over too. "What did you tell them, Stevie?"
Tony shook his head. "A liar too, I see. Nobody knows what you really did, then. Doesn't matter--I have a chess game to return to. Vision, please escort the pardoned fugitives to the Compound. Lang, you'll be seeing your daughter soon. And, Wilson--Rhodey forgave you a long time ago for his paralysis. It's not exactly your fault." Sam looked a bit brighter at that. "If it makes you feel better, Rhodey's walking now--I built him legs. Barnes, Rogers, you're going to follow Vision as well--and Rogers, I'm sure many people would like to have a chat with you."
With that, the billionaire turned on his heel, the little raccoon slinking after him quickly. Steve could hear the lighthearted tones of conversation being exchanged between the two, and felt a little pang of hurt and indignance. Tony had never talked in front of him so happily like that. And now he was talking to some repulsive animal with a lot more respect.
Facing forward again, he noticed Vision regarding him coldly. "You will all accompany me now to the Compound, where you will face your fates," the android said. The words sounded eerie to Steve, but he ignored it. Looking at Bucky beside him as they all began to walk, he admired the dignified way the dark-haired supersoldier managed to stride despite having been so blatantly verbally abused by Stark. He studied the strong jaw, the long thick lashes, the hair that even if too long Steve could sweep out of his face…
"Somethin' on my face, Stevie?" Bucky said with a wry grin, glancing at the blonde. Noting Steve's sudden look of a deer caught in headlights, he mistook it for worry and said softly, "Don't worry. I believe you're a good guy. People jus' need to hear your side of the story first to understand."
Steve nodded slowly. "Thanks, Buck. I don't know what I would do without you."
His heart pounded in tandem with the sound of his footsteps against the gravel, and for a moment, he forgot everything else--Stark, the Accords, Wanda, everything. With Bucky by his side, it would be all right. He-- Captain America--would be alright.