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It Only Takes One

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Truth be told: Steve feels a little like a tattle-tale in this precise moment in time.

It’s not a very strong feeling, and it’s certainly not enough of one to make him turn back, but it is something currently in the corner of his mind nagging at him. He figures that it’s not really tattle-telling if there really is a problem, and Steve certainly has a problem.

A five foot nine inches tall problem with a serious grudge problem and who tends to speak entirely in riddles and snark.

Steve has been trying to mend bridges between him and the Iron Man pilot since the Accords reinstated the old members of the Avengers back into the active team roster. The only problem is that Tony is obviously less concerned with the amount of effort that Steve’s been putting into their reconciliation since he can’t seem to be bothered to stop for five seconds and talk it through with Steve like a rational adult.

Yes, Steve will and has admitted that he handled the situation wrong and that if he had another chance, he’d do it differently – but Tony seems to not care in the slightest and its bothering Steve. Not just Steve though, and if it were just about Steve, then maybe he wouldn’t be here today – but Tony’s behavior is affecting the team. He’s absent almost constantly, and when he’s actually present in body – he seems absent in mind. He doesn’t talk to them, he doesn’t come out of the armor and he doesn’t seem to be fitting back in with the rest of the Avengers family.

What’s worse is that his behavior is galvanizing Vision who is starting to act out himself.

That’s why Steve is here. Because this can’t go on. They can’t keep having this rift between them.

“Mr. Rogers?” The pretty receptionist calls out and he stands immediately. “He’s ready for you now.” She says as she opens the door for him and motions for him to go in.

“Thank you ma’am.” He says with a small nod towards her as she closes the door after him and he approaches the man behind the desk.

“Mr. Rogers.” Everett Ross greets with a big smile as he stands up to shake Steve’s hand. Steve returns the gesture with a smile of his own.

“Mr. Ross. Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.”

“Of course, please, take a seat.” He motions and they both sit down. “How can I help you today?”

“Well sir…there’s been a small problem with the team and I was hoping that you might be able to offer some assistance with it.” Steve says, ignoring the little voice in his head whispering tattle-tale in his ear.

“Nothing too serious I hope?”

“That’s just it sir. While right now it would equate to more of an annoyance, I do firmly believe that it has the potential to fester and turn into something much worse, creating a great many problems for us in the near future if it continues.” Everett leans forward, curious as to what Steve means. “Well sir, you see, since our return to the Compound we’ve experienced some…push back I guess you could call it from other members of the team.”

“Which members?”

“There’s small amounts of pushback from people like Spider-Man and Miss Jones, but my main concern is the core of this problem.”

“Core?”

“Tony Stark sir.” Everett nods with a ‘go on’ motion of his hand. “In the time since we have returned, Mr. Stark has been passively hostile and sometimes belligerent outright. I feel that this impedes team dynamics but also reflects badly on the foundation that the Council and the rest of us are trying to create within the Avengers unit itself.”

“I see, and how has Mr. Stark been…belligerent?” Ross asks, pulling out a pad of paper and a pen.

“Well, one example is the mandatory team meetings.” Steve says. “We’ve had eleven since our return. Mr. Stark, and the Vision, have missed all eleven.”

“I see. I suppose that is concerning, but I do also see the reverse of that. Mr. Stark is a very busy man.” Steve nods.

“I know that sir, but eleven missed meetings? That seems to go beyond the possibility of ‘busy’ and into a more…passive aggressive pattern of behavior.” Steve shakes his head with a small sigh. “The other members of the team and I wish to put this…rift behind us, but this wall that we’re running into is not beneficial to the team as a unit.” Everett makes a few more notes before looking up.

“Well, I see your concerns, but I guess my first question is: why come to me? Shouldn’t this be something that you discuss with your team leader?”

“I have tried talking to Colonel Rhodes about this, but every time I have, I have not received a satisfactory resolution.” Steve motions to Ross. “So here I am. Taking it to the next level.”

“Well, I’m not sure if you’re aware – but Mr. Stark has actually put in paperwork and is brokering a deal with the Council to be a…standalone Avenger as it were. The Vision has put in a similar request and those deals are being negotiated right now between the three parties.”

“Tony’s trying to leave the Avengers?” Steve says, disbelief in his tone.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea, the image of the Avengers is something that we need to protect and Captain America and Iron Man, well they’re a pair and they go hand in hand.” Steve gets a small smile at the image, Ross isn’t wrong. “But…there is some concern about Mr. Stark’s safety that we’re taking into account in all of this.”

“His safety?”

“Mr. Stark was assaulted not only by you, as you have already admitted too – but also by Miss Maximoff, Miss Romanoff and Mr. Barnes.” Ross answers slowly. “He has put forth a motion that an unsafe working environment where he cannot trust his team mates creates an atmosphere of oppression, fear and paranoia. So he wishes to walk away. The Vision has also expressed his desire to not be on a team with the Scarlet Witch after his own experience with her in the Compound all that time ago.”

“Those were special circumstances.” Steve argues. “Tony knows that we wouldn’t harm him now.”

“Maybe he does, or maybe he doesn’t. Either way, the vote goes out at the end of the month. Because of this vote, and the issues with the team that he brings up, he would not be required to go to the meetings.”

“Mr. Ross, I know Tony. I’ve known him for years and he has a tendency to…blow things out of proportion. I know that if he just took some time with the team, we’d be able to put this all behind us. No one was innocent in those moments and I think it’s a real disservice to not allow the Avengers to attempt to reconcile.” Ross seems to be thinking about it.

“I’ll put in a call and see what I can do. Perhaps we can get this handled in a satisfactory manner befitting adults. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.” Steve nods.

“Of course sir. Thank you for understanding and helping.”

+++

Rhodes takes a moment outside the lab door and takes a deep breath. God how he wishes he wasn’t here right now, and certainly not for this.

“FRIDAY, may I get access to the lab please?” He says aloud after pulling himself back together and the doors light goes from red to green. “Thank you.”

‘My pleasure Colonel.’ FRIDAY answers him.

“-you come back here with that right now! No! U! Don’t hand that to DUM-E, don’t you dare hand that to- and you did! I can’t believe you just did that! DUM-E come here! Give it back!” Rhodes turns the corner and watches in amusement as Tony chases the bots around the lab. DUM-E seems to have one of Tony’s Stark Pad’s in his claw and Rhodey leans on the doorframe to watch. “DUM-E I swear I will send you to a tuna packing plant! That’s what you’ll do all day – pack tuna! You know how you hate tuna cans!” Tony almost launches across the desk to get at the bot when Butterfingers grabs the tablet and takes off in the other direction. Tony gets a fake horrified look as he places his hand over his heart, staggering back like Butterfingers has hit him. “Butterfingers? How could you betray me like this?” Butterfingers of course chirps in happiness, holding the tablet up high as he runs around with it. Tony eventually catches him and wrestles to get the tablet back, barely winning when U and DUM-E try to assist their brethren but end up making things awkward and cumbersome for Butterfingers and Tony gets the tablet. “AHA! I am victorious!” Tony seems to notice Rhodey for the first time and gets a smile. “Hey Honey bear! I didn’t see you there.”

“Haven’t been here long. What’s up with them?”

“Oh, they’re declaring bed time. FRIDAY explained the need for me to ‘charge’ and now they think I ‘charge’ on the couch.” He shrugs with a snicker and comes over, giving him a quick hug. “What’s going on? You’ve got your ‘Tony I have bad news’ face.”

“I have a face for that?”

“Yup.” Tony points at him. “And that’s it right there. In living color. What’s up?” Rhodey sighs and shakes his head.

“I just want you to know that I argued against this – vehemently I might add.” Tony’s smile falls a little and he gets a concerned look.

“Okay?”

“So…Rogers went to Ross the other day.” Rhodey says and Tony rolls his eyes. “Yeah, I know, but he went to him whining that you haven’t given them a fair chance to mend bridges.”

“Last time I checked, I didn’t have too.” Rhodey must get a look. “…okay…now I’m concerned. What did Ross do? I mean, I know that he’s been the loudest advocate about the whole ‘True Avengers Team Lineup’ thing, but what’d he do? Refuse the transfer?”

“No, no that’s still being worked out.”

“Okay, then what?”

“It was decided that Rogers had a point, and that because his actions were done under duress and since they’ve all been cleared of any and all charges-” Tony snorts. “That they decided that you didn’t have a case on the grounds of assault and Rogers request for a staying period of the transfer was accepted.”

“Staying period, what’s that entail?”

“…Ross and the others want you and Vision to show your willingness to work together with the team and they want you to move into the Compound for the duration of the time until the transfer request is approved. At that time, they’ll allow the transfer to go through, but it’s so fucking clear that they think you’re just being silly and that you’ll retract it once you sing Kumbaya with them.” Tony’s quiet for a few moments. “Tony?”

“FRIDAY, please write up a letter of resignation for Iron Man off of the Accords.”

“Tony.” Rhodey says, reaching out and placing a hand on Tony’s arm. Tony shakes his head.

“No. No they don’t get to do that. I will not be played with like SHIELD did.”

“I know. I know man, but if you retire – it’s permanent. You’ll never wear the armor again.”

“No, I’ll never go into battle in the armor again. I use the armor for many purposes.”

“Yeah, but that means you won’t be able to go help Peter if the kid gets himself in trouble. Or assist the Defenders if something happens. You’ll be saying that you’re off the playing board and that’ll be it.” Tony gets a look on his face like he’s in pain.

“I can’t Rhodey… I can’t put myself in that position again.”

“Just because you have to have the Compound as your ‘Base of Operations’ for a month or two doesn’t mean that you have to interact with them on a daily basis. The lab is outside the purview of the Accords which means that you and Vision can pretty much live down there and never interact with them. There are events that you can go to that they won’t have access to, there are things to handle it.” Tony looks away, a frustrated and panicked look in his eye.

“You know how they’ll act. How they’ve already been acting.”

“That you’re the devil and they have every right to parade around their superiority?” Tony gets a slightly sarcastic smile at Rhodey’s words, but it doesn’t reach his eyes because the truth of the statement isn’t actually funny. “It’s up to you.”

“And Vision.” Tony runs a hand through his hair. “God, have you told Vision yet?”

“No, not yet. I came here first.” Tony gives a small nod.

“I’ll go talk it over with Vision…let’s…let’s see what he wants to do and then we’ll see about making plans for the next couple of months.”

+++

“So how did it go?” Natasha asks the minute that Steve walks into the common area and he glances over in her direction. She’s cleaning her knives on the table while Bucky sits not too far away going through his guns.

“It went great.” He says with a smile. “The Council agreed with me.”

“Agreed with you how?” Clint asks, looking over the back of the couch at him.

“They think that Tony hasn’t acted in good faith and as such they’re requiring him to move back into the Compound with us.” Steve looks around at the faces in front of him and is a little surprised when Sam and Bucky both look like they’re not happy with the news. “What’s wrong?”

“Dude…I mean…it’s not like Stark’s just up and deciding that he doesn’t want to share the same sandbox with us anymore. He does have some legitimate reasons for wanting to stay away.” Sam says, sounding so unhappy with this current turn of events.

“We’ve been cleared of all that.” Steve reminds him and Sam shakes his head.

“Being cleared in the courts doesn’t mean we’re cleared in the mind and memory of the victim. Forcing Stark to come here…is…I mean, ‘wrong’ doesn’t feel like it covers it.”

“Stark is not a victim.” Wanda growls. “He’s many things, all of them bad, and he is certainly not a victim. We didn’t do anything to him that he didn’t force us to do in the first place.” Sam gives her a look that will completely start an unnecessary argument if Sam lets fly whatever words he’s thinking and so Steve quickly intervenes.

“It’s in the past- whatever it is and however it makes him feel - It’s in the past and it needs to stay back there.” Steve says assuredly. “We all need to move on from what happened. We can’t let Zemo win.” Steve shrugs. “The Council saw it the same way. Vision and Tony will be here by the end of tomorrow.”

“Good.” Clint says, turning back around and flipping through the channels again. “I needed some new arrows anyways.”

“Just because he has to stay here doesn’t mean he’s going to make you equipment Clint.” Sam says and Clint snorts.

“Sure. We’ll see about that.” Clint chooses a game show and puts the remote down. “But Stark better start coming up with one hell of a groveling apology if he expects anything to be fixed.”

“It’s not about that Clint.” Steve says and Clint shakes his head.

“Yes it is. He locked Wanda up, he put that fucking collar on her. He took me away from my family. He betrayed you, and me and Natasha – hell, name one person that Stark hasn’t fucked over. No, he better understand that we’re not just going to roll out the red carpet for him.” Steve sighs a little and glances at Bucky, giving him a helpless sort of shrug.

He’s a little confused with the almost cold look that Bucky is giving the back of Clint’s head as he continues to oil his guns.

Steve waits until Bucky’s all packed up and back in his room before he knocks on the door and gives him a small wave when he opens it.

“Hey, is everything okay?” He asks, slipping past Bucky and coming into the room. “I mean…if you’re worried about Tony coming back tomorrow – don’t be. We’re not going to let him do anything to you.” Steve promises and Bucky gives him a look like Steve’s being kind of daft. “So…you know…don’t worry.”

“I’m not ‘worried’ about Stark hurtin me.” Bucky says after a few moments of silence. He crosses his arms with a displeased look. “We talked about this.” He says and Steve nods. “And I thought we agreed that you were gonna leave him alone.” Steve shakes his head.

“I know, and I did; but Buck – how long was I supposed to just ignore this?”

“However long it took.”

“It’s been long enough, and I just…I wanted the team back together, things will be better once the team is back.” Bucky snorts and Steve gives him a look. “What?”

“Team Stevie? Team?” Steve doesn’t understand the emphasis and he nods. “Steve, if the ‘team’ acted even 1/100th of the way that they’ve been actin since Wakanda towards Stark – then wake up, because there was never a team here. Or at least not one that Stark was on.” Steve rears back a little, shaking his head.

“What? Buck, you don’t understand.” Bucky’s face is unimpressed.

“What’s there to understand?”

“You can’t get mad at the team because they’re angry at what he did.”

“Oh? And what was that?” Bucky asks, sliding his duffel under the bed and putting the mandatory gun under the pillow. “Send them to jail? Last time I checked blowin shit up and being fugitives from the law tends to land you there on your own. No extra help needed.” Bucky snaps and Steve shakes his head.

“The Accords would have never happened had it not been for Tony, Buck. That’s why they’re mad. None of this had to happen.”

“Stevie, wake up. Even I know that the Accords were writing on the wall long before Stark got involved. Just say what you want to say. He didn’t side with you, he didn’t agree with you and ya’ll blame him for you being on the losing side. That doesn’t sound like a ‘team’ to me.”

“That’s not how it went down.” Bucky gives him a look like Steve’s kidding himself. “It’s not.”

“Stevie. I’ve listened to those people out there – those ‘team mates’ of his do nothin but spit on anything even barely resembling something Stark related. That’s not new. Hatred like that, behavior like that? That’s rooted deep and I’m not surprised that Stark wants nothin to do with it anymore.”

“Bucky, if you knew the things that Tony’s done.” Steve starts and Bucky sighs.

“And what about the things I’ve done? What about the things the Widow has done? Or the archer? What about the witch?” There’s a darkness in how he mentions Wanda, always has been, ever since he found out that she was able to get into his mind at any time she pleased. Steve didn’t know how to set the Soldier at ease when it came to the young girl. “Why is it I only ever get told ‘if you knew what Stark has done’ like that justifies something.” Bucky shakes his head. “I’m warning you Stevie. We’ve caused that man enough pain and I’m not gonna stand by and watch him get hurt again.” Bucky gets a slightly faraway look that’s got pain behind it. “I figure that’s the least I can do…to try and make up for some of the things I’ve done.”

“It wasn’t you!” Steve snaps, feeling like a broken record. “It was Hydra, don’t let Tony make you feel like you’re responsible for something you didn’t do. Did you pick the targets? Did you want to do it? No, you’re not responsible. Leave it to the people who actually did it, that’s where the blame should rest.” Bucky just gives him a sad smile.

“So you keep tellin me.” Bucky shakes his head after a minute. “Fair warning Stevie. Anyone messes with Stark – they’re gonna have to go through me.” There’s a look in his eyes. “And it won’t be pretty.”

+++

The car pulls to a stop in front of the Avengers Compound and Tony sighs as he throws it in park.

“Remind me again why we are going through this farce please?” Vision asks as he looks out of the passenger window up at the building.

“Because the Avengers hate us and think that they’re owed something or another and apparently Ross is a Captain America fan.” Tony replies with a sigh. “It’s temporary, only until the transfer paperwork goes through and I’ve been assured that at the next meeting it’s getting pushed through. It’s already been approved, we just need to wait for the final go ahead.”

“And if they decide to ‘change their minds because the Avengers should be a solid unit’?” Vision asks and Tony shrugs.

“Then I know I’m putting in my – very loud mind you – resignation.”

“I think I’d be satisfied doing that now.” Vision says with a look at the building and Tony reaches over and puts a hand on his arm.

“Hey, if you want to resign – go for it. I’ll back you up.” Vision turns and gives him a small smile.

“Thank you, but no. I will not leave you to the wolves so to speak.”

“I’ve handled worse crowds than this. You should have me tell you about MIT someday.”

“No, but thank you. I will remain by your side as you remained by mine.” Vision shakes his head. “That does not mean that I do not wish that we did not have to be here.”

“Me too buddy, me too.” Tony says as he slides on a pair of sunglasses, before handing a second set to Vision. Vision accepts them with a small amount of surprise and puts them on, Tony almost wants to laugh at the sudden attitude that Vision gets. “Come on, let’s get this over with.”

They get out of the car and walk in through the front doors and already the first thought that Tony has to fight back is the thought of just turning around with a ‘nope’ as he sees Rogers standing there with a shy, unsure smile on his face.

The second thought in Tony’s mind is to punch him, but he decides against that because it’ll leave his fist broken and he’d rather not deal with that right now. Luckily, a third, much more rational though wins out.

“Vision…Tony. It’s good to see you back.” Steve says, as if they’re here because they’ve chosen to be and not because Rogers has forced their hand for now. Tony wonders if Steve really believes in his mind that anything about this situation is okay – but then again, Steve only sees what Steve wants to see so Tony wouldn’t put it past him. Steve holds out his hand in greeting as they approach, and Vision must be on the same wavelength as Tony because neither of them even pause as they walk past the blonde.

“You know, I was thinking. There’s extra square footage in the lab. We could call in an interior decorator and set you up a studio down there.” Tony offers and Vision gets a small smile.

“That sounds quite acceptable. How long should it take to get FRIDAY back up and running in the Compound?”

“Eh, the servers are still there so I’m guessing about two to four hours for the system download.”

“That’s not a bad time limit.”

“No, not at all.” Tony agrees as they make their way to the elevators. They stop in front of it and Tony punches in his code. Regardless of the entire lab being scrubbed and deconstructed, he still doesn’t like the thought of anyone going down just in case he ever decided to return.

He had always thought that the return would be a personal choice – leave it to Rogers and the others to fuck that up.

‘Viz?” Wanda’s voice comes behind them, echoing the same hopeful sentiment that Rogers’s face held earlier and the muscles in both of the men’s bodies tighten.

“I was wondering, if we might share the PA system down there.” Vision says, ignoring Wanda and Tony scrunches his nose up as he makes a displeased face.

“Half classic rock and half musicals?” He asks, keeping Vision’s subject going and the other man nods. Tony sighs overdramatically. “Fine, but I draw the line at ‘Cats’. You’ve listened to that one far too much. Hell, how about I just get you a cat and call it a day?”

“Vision.” Wanda’s voice is closer, and much louder.

“So, look who’s finally decided to grace us with his presence.” Clint’s sneer is new to the area and Tony almost lets out a grateful sigh with the elevator doors open. Both him and Vision step in, Tony immediately pushing the close button and watching as the group that’s formed around them frowns at the two of them. “Stark!” Clint snaps as he moves forward to stop them, but he knows that these doors won’t stop just because a hand’s in the way so he pulls back at the last second to avoid losing a finger.

Tony lets out a sigh as they begin the descent down.

“You know it’s just going to get worse from here on out right?” He asks Vision and the other man nods.

“I am aware…but it seems like we’re going to have to learn to take small graces where we can find them and take everything else one day at a time.”

“Just for two months.” Tony says and Vision nods.

“Just for two months.”

+++

“They just ignored us Buck!” Steve snaps after they’ve returned from a mission, pacing around the workout room with an obvious tremor of rage going through his body. “I mean, I was right there. I was trying to get us off on a good foot after they ignored us the last time - and they just spat in my face!” Bucky braces the punching bag when Steve returns to it and lands a few wild punches. “And do you know what’s worse? He’s even got Vision behaving the same way he is. You should have seen how Vision ignored Wanda! And Vision basically implying that only Tony has his back? I mean – what was that?” Steve returns to slam his fist into it some more and the seam breaks.

“Did you really expect somethin else punk?” Bucky asks, glancing down at the sand pouring from the bag like blood from an open wound.

“Yes? No? I don’t know!” Steve says with frustration winding through his words and Bucky reaches up, unlatching the broken bag and dropping it into the growing punching bag cemetery, before grabbing a fresh one and latching it up. “I mean, I thought that if I could just get him here that he’d realize how absolutely childish-” Steve hits the bag. “Ridiculous-” another hit. “And petty he’s being right now!” Bucky opts not to answer him, and he’s found recently that most of the time people don’t actually want a response, they just want to rant. “I mean, I get it. His feelings are hurt, but I’ve already apologized for it! Dragging it out like this? Weakening the team like this?” Steve shakes his head and starts pacing again with a growl. “And now, they’re all holed up down there again. FRIDAY won’t let us in.” The mention of the female computer program does make Bucky uncomfortable, realizing that every room is under her potential surveillance now.

“I told you not to push it.” Bucky reminds him. “You should have let him come back on his own.”

“He’d have never come back.” Steve snaps and Bucky shrugs.

“And he should have had the chance to make that choice.” Steve shakes his head with a sigh.

“I’m going to have to report that he’s still undermining team dynamics.” Steve says, like he’s so put out. “God I wish he wouldn’t make me do that.”

“Then don’t.”

“What?” Steve glances at him.

“Stark’s not makin you do anything. You got in this mess getting Ross involved when ya shouldn’t have. Getting him involved again isn’t gonna fix anything.”

“I can’t allow this to go on.” Steve says with a shake of his head.

“Yes you can. You’re not the leader anymore Stevie. It’s not your place to be worrin about ‘team dynamics’ or whatever other bullshit label you want to put this under.”

“Tony’s here because he’s been commanded to work with us. If he’s not following the rules then I have to inform the Council.”

“Stark’s here because they said he had to move back in. They didn’t say he had to interact with us.” Bucky’s seen the letter drafted up by the Accords Council. It leaves dozens of loopholes for Stark to work with and the man is already using one.

“It’s clear that he’s supposed to interact with us.”

“It doesn’t say it – he doesn’t have to do it.” Bucky informs him and Clint chooses to walk in at that time.

“So, when are we storming the castle?” He asks and both Steve and Bucky glance at him

“…We’re not.” Bucky says calmly and Steve glances at him while Clint rolls his eyes.

“Of course we are. I mean, it sucks that we don’t have Thor right now. He could just bash down the doors and pull Stark out screaming and kicking like the toddler he’s being right now, but whatever. Old fashioned way I guess.” Steve goes to say something when Bucky cuts him off.

“I said. We’re not.” He repeats and the tone in his voice makes Clint look at him confused.

“Why not?” He asks.

“He doesn’t want to come out. He doesn’t come out. End of discussion.” Bucky replies as Natasha and Wanda enter the room.

“He has not come out and he is keeping Vision down there with him.” The Sokovian girl says and Bucky shakes his head.

“Vision seemed pretty content to go down there on his own. If he doesn’t want to come up, he don’t have to either.”

“Stark’s probably keeping him down there.” She accuses and Natasha puts a hand on her arm. “No, it doesn’t make sense. Vision would want to talk to me. This is something that Stark’s done.”

“Not to mention, he could be doing anything down there.” Clint adds. “Making another Ultron for all we know. It’s not safe to let him be down there unsupervised.”

“The lab is off limits to us.” Bucky reminds them. “It’s his lab for his company. We don’t have any rights to storm it, and even if we did – we ain’t gonna.”

“Well maybe you’re not.” Clint says with a snort and Bucky lets go of the bag that he’s been keeping his hands on and steps towards the archer.

“Maybe I wasn’t clear.” He says, and his voice is cold and threatening. “No one is gonna touch those doors. If Stark and Vision want to come out, they’ll come out. If they don’t, they don’t. Anyone who has a problem with that – can talk to me.”

“Since when did you declare yourself Stark’s personal bodyguard?” Clint says, stepping up towards Bucky and almost getting into his face.

“When I realized he needed one from all of you.” Comes Bucky’s response and the words and the threat don’t sit right with Steve, but he comes forward and gets in-between the two of them.

“That’s enough.” He says. “Bucky’s right. We can’t force them out of the lab. Too many chances for Tony to get us wrapped up in red tape.” Bucky gives Steve a look like Steve’s missed the point somehow. “He has to come out, we’ll talk to him then.”

+++

There’s a knock on Bucky’s window later that night and Bucky sits up in bed, gun in his hand before he’s even realized it. He moves over to the window and pulls open the curtains – to see Iron Man floating outside his window. The armor does a small little wave.

“May I come in?” He asks and it takes Bucky a second before he nods and opens the window, standing aside as the armor crawls in. “Sorry about the window treatment – but as you can imagine I’m avoiding the hallways.” Bucky nods, before holding up his gun and placing it down on the table in a gesture of goodwill. “Yeah…just because you don’t have a loaded firearm doesn’t mean you’re not a threat to me Robocop, so forgive me if I keep this on.”

“If that’s what makes you comfortable.” Bucky replies easily. “I’m good.” There’s a moment of silence between the two men. “What brings you by? Not really seein you as the house call type.”

“I guess…I wanted to say thank you.”

“For what?” Bucky asks with a confused look.

“If those morons really think that I don’t know when they make threats against me or my company then they’re stupider than I gave them credit for and recently I don’t give them much credit.” The other man says as he crosses his arms. “And threatening to ‘storm the castle’ is a threat against not just me but Stark Industries as well.” Bucky cringes a little.

“You heard that?”

“FRIDAY is back in the Compound. It was written in the agreement that she would be monitoring everything like she was before.” Tony shifts his weight. “But I didn’t come here to talk about that…I wanted to say…” There’s a pause like the other is trying to figure out what he’s actually come here to say. “I heard what you said…saw what you did…Thanks.”

“If it’s worth anything…I’m sorry I even had to.” Tony shakes his head at Bucky’s statement.

“Trust me, this isn’t anything new. They’ll probably wear you out before weeks end, but…thanks. You didn’t have to stick up for us, and I’ll be honest, you were the last one I expected it from.” Bucky looks down at his arm, at the arm that the Wakandan’s outfitted him with. Bucky’s not stupid, he knows who really built it. T’Challa had said that he had ‘outsourced’ and Steve had never questioned.

Bucky hadn’t needed to so he didn’t either.

“…I’m sorry.” The way the armor goes stiff tells Bucky that Tony knows what he’s talking about, and it’s not the asshole way that the ‘Avengers’ have been responding to Tony and Vision.

“…I know.” Is what he says after a minute. “…and I’m sorry too, for blowing your arm off.”

“You built me a new one.” There’s a movement that looks like surprise.

“You knew?”

“Seriously?” Bucky asks

“Then…why would you ever take it.”

“…You’re the best at what you do…and I guess…I guess I trusted you not to screw me over with tech.” The armor tilts its head a little.

“…you surprise me Barnes.” Tony says after a minute. “I don’t know what to do with that…but you surprise me.” Bucky gives him a small smile.

“I’ll try to keep that up.” He jokes and he’s relieved when the armor’s modulator lets out an amused snort. Tony shakes his head and moves back towards the window.

“I just wanted to say ‘thanks’…in person.” He says and Bucky nods. The armor pauses at the window. “See you around Barnes.”

“Likewise.” He says as the armor waves at him and crawls back out of the window and flies off into the night.

He doesn’t know why, but he feels like maybe this is the beginning of something new. Maybe even something good. There’s been such a lack of good these days, who knows, maybe he’s overdue for a little good.

He grabs the gun and turns off the lights.

Tomorrow’s another day. He’ll see what happens then.