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"Well, looking on the bright side, this proves Maximoff's vision was bullshit," Tony muttered to himself as he picked bits of metal and glass out of his chest. He couldn't imagine feeling guilty over Rogers' death, particularly not as a result of Tony 'not doing enough'. Even Fury seemed to understand that Tony's mistakes came from trying too damn hard for other people, not for himself. Jesus, the things he'd done for the team, and for Rogers... oh, crap. Tony had signed the Accords and then broken them for Rogers.
Yep, that was gonna go over great. The sharks, led by Great White Ross, would be after his shiny metallic ass. In retrospect, having Ross's favorite bar demolished wasn't such a wonderful idea. Sure, Ross was always 'all power must be in my hands', but did Tony really need to make it personal?
There was no way for Tony to come out of this with a whole skin. It wouldn't just be Ross, it'd be everyone who's pissed off at the Avengers, even for things Tony had no part in, because guess what? Tony had been the public face, the one who stood up in front of the media, the one who went toe-to-toe with legislators and the U.N. and the world. When they painted angry graffiti in Sokovia, it wasn't Captain America's wholesome face they used, it was Iron Man.
And Tony was the only one with enough money to pay damages. He'd assumed the responsibility of supporting the Avengers and paying for their actions since the fall of SHIELDRA. He was pretty sure lawyering up wasn't going to be enough to get him out from under that responsibility now. Not so long as he owned anything worth taking.
Fury had the right idea. If you're dead, the bastards can't do anything to you. Tony finally reached the emergency connection. It was a last resort because it linked up his subcutaneous implants to use his own body to power it, a bit like a potato battery. It hurt like a son of a bitch. He activated it and gasped against the fire lining his arms and legs. "Fry. I'm done. Institute Protocol Pass the Torch." He clicked off the connection and lay still, panting, and trying to think. He was so, so screwed. But at the same time, it was a relief. Sure, he knew the alien attack was coming, but it wasn't his responsibility any longer. He'd told everyone he could, he'd practically shouted on top of soapboxes, and all it got him was eye rolls and annoyance as if mentioning the disaster he'd seen coming from space was a sympathy ploy. He was just a guy, that's all. He couldn't save the world by himself. Not when the people who were supposed to support him turned on him. He closed his eyes and waited for Vision.
"Are you certain you wish to do this?" Vision asked. He had brought a quinjet in stealth mode, and with his habitual neatness, collected Tony, all the bits of Iron Man, Capt... his father's shield, and the Winter Assassin's metal arm. They were over the ocean, still several hours away from New York, when the weight in the back of the quinjet had become too much for Tony.
"Yep. Never surer," Tony replied. He should be lying down, but sitting at the controls made him feel less helpless.
"Very well." Vision hovered the quinjet only a few feet above the waves, and opened the hatch.
Tony could smell the salt and kelp and general fishiness. It made him a little homesick for Malibu. He pushed that regret aside, and watched as Vision tossed out all the junk metal. The shield floated for a few seconds, until waves filled it, and then it began a swooping side to side drift downward. Iron Man and the arm sank immediately. "They sink cars to make habitat for fish, don't they?"
"Do they?" Vision said as he closed the hatch. "How odd."
Mount Sinai Beth Israel looked different. But then, the last time Tony had been there, he'd been in a conference room, giving advice on their new robotic surgical procedures, and not down in a sub-basement surgical suite and post op care center, hidden and kept off the records. It probably seemed like a paranoid thing to do, funding a hidden medical center, but at the time Tony was mainly thinking of those heroes, like Spiderman, who needed to keep their identities secret. He could have chosen another hospital, but his arc reactor had kept Mount Sinai going after the Chitauri invasion when the power grid went down and their back up generators had been destroyed by random fire.
So, in short, they were both grateful and motivated to help when Tony called and explained the situation. Vision landed the quinjet on the hospital's helipad, and then left to hide it elsewhere while Tony was strapped onto a gurney despite his protests that he could walk. Although maybe they were right, because he became rather foggy before the elevator decanted them.
Tony didn't exactly hate hospitals. They terrified him, sure, but that was something entirely else. He really regretted being unable to use Dr. Cho's Cradle, but U-Gin Genetics was part of Stark Industries and he couldn't chance it. He'd got himself into this mess, he shouldn't complain that he didn't have access to high tech healing miracles.
There was an operation, but anesthesia is a wonderful thing, too many people take it for granted.
Then there were tedious weeks of recovery and painful physical therapy. The doctors were particularly concerned about his partial lungs losing even more function due to bed rest, so there were so many deep breathing exercises he felt like a balloon. He did have access to the internet via an untraceable StarkPhone linked through Friday, a parting gift from Vision, so at least he could keep an eye on things.
The Pass the Torch Protocol sent in Tony's resignation from everything to do with S.I. and signed over S.I. itself, and all the Iron Man suits and tech, to Pepper and Happy. He was fairly confident Pepper and the legal team would keep his stuff safe. And if not, there was always the Clean Slate Protocol. He wasn't worried about Iron Man being misused.
Rhodey was the only one who could use War Machine... if he recovered. If. Rhodey was still in the hospital in Germany being assessed when Tony went to the Raft to try to salvage Rogers and Barnes. He should have stayed at Rhodey's side, put his personal feelings above what he felt was his duty. Hell, he'd been injured himself, and should have taken a bed right next to Rhodey.
Rhodey was stable now, but his prognosis for ever walking again wasn't good. If Tony... yeah, if Tony had said 'Rhodey's my friend!' and just let Rogers and Barnes go to hell on their own, he wouldn't have broken the Accords, and he could be there for Rhodey. That really hurt, that he'd taken Rhodey's advice about being a team player and having people to watch his back, only to discover they were watching it in order to find the best place to stick a knife. And it was Rhodey's back, too.
But he couldn't do anything about Rhodey. He couldn't really do anything at all except watch what was happening outside his hospital bed. Tony lost track of the number of nations and individuals seeking redress. The political situation was extremely volatile. Many Americans were on Rogers' side because, well, he was Captain America! He wouldn't do anything wrong! Quite a lot of the rest of the world disagreed, particularly those parts that had experienced losses while Rogers was being extremely not wrong in conjunction with his friend Barnes.
Tony wasn't at all sure of the legality of it, but he understood the reasoning behind it, when the U.S. in a whirlwind series of trials convicted Tony in absentia of everything he'd ever done, everything the Avengers had ever done, and everything the Avengers might be thinking of doing. Well, all right, that's not what they said the lawsuits addressed, it was civil court, not criminal. It didn't matter. It boiled down to all his personal assets around the world, everything from buildings, aircraft, cars, bank accounts, right down to his jewelry and watches, and hell, his vintage rock band t-shirts. Everything. All of it seized to pay claims. The U.S. had to show the world some amends, and throwing Tony under the bus was expedient.
As an added cherry on top of the shit-sundae, he was sentenced not to be employed in any hi-tech work, on the justification that the Avengers wouldn't have been able to do much damage without the equipment he provided. He really doubted that was legal.
They even tried to claim Vision wasn't really a person and therefore he was an asset to be claimed. Vision had StarkSkyped Tony a video through Friday on hearing that ridiculous argument. Vision had said, "Very well, if the problem is that I don't look human, I shall correct it." And then he shimmered, and shifted his form. Tony remembered how he'd formed a cape out of nothing, so he shouldn't have been quite so surprised that Vision could give himself a naked human body. His height and build and features remained the same, but he had pinkish pale skin, light blond hair and gentle blue eyes. He looked like an English professor, only the Mind Stone had slipped somehow down to become a belly button piercing. He looked down at himself, and nodded. "Will this do, do you think, Mr. Stark?"
Tony laughed. "I think you might like to put on some clothes, Viz."
"Yes, I had anticipated that." Vision picked up a bundle of clothing and began dressing. "I would like to see the world, I believe." And then he walked out of view. Friday anticipated Tony's request and switched to other surveillance cameras, so Tony could watch as Vision calmly walked out of the Avengers' Compound and kept going.
"I hope the world treats you kindly, Vee," Tony said before he shut down the StarkSkype.