Tony turned, suddenly exhausted. He's said goodbye, ignored the many poorly veiled threats, and he just wants to go home and drown the memories of his twisted creation at the bottom of bottle of the finest champagne. His wariness only increased as he saw none other than Wanda Maximoff, standing alone in the gardens behind him. It's broad daylight, and Tony doesn't think she'll try anything, but who can tell with a former Hydra agent?
"Miss Maximoff. How can I help you?" Tony asked cordially. The young woman twisted her fingers in between each other, but no red sparks appear. In fact, it simply seemed to be a nervous tic, and the girl did look unaccountably anxious.
"I'm sorry to bother you, but I wanted to talk," she began hesitantly. Tony gestured for her to go on, his frown lines deepening.
"I just wanted to apologise."
Of all the things the young woman could have said, Tony was not expecting that to come out of her mouth. He was expected hatred, vitriol, and condemnation. Not a...seemingly genuine apology.
"I...wronged you," she continued, selecting her words carefully. "I invaded your mind without your consent, I planted the idea of Ultron in your head, for years I would hear only the wicked things you were said to have done, and I am truly sorry for that. I blamed you for things beyond your control, and while I believe it will take me...some time to get over my memories of the bombing, I know intellectually that it was not your completely your fault." (What?)
Tony could only blink, gobsmacked. He could not have been more surprised if the Hulk had started to tap-dance. He was silent so long that Wanda started to withdraw, a light flush of embarrassment on her cheeks.
She paused, still red. "Um, yes?"
"I'm sorry for not responding, I just...I wasn't expecting this at all. I was under the impression that you hated me...?" Tony trailed off, absently wondering had he fallen into an alternate dimension. Wanda nodded, seeming faintly shamed. "I did, for years, yes." (This...this didn't happen...)
"Um, well, if you don't mind me asking...what changed your mind? I assume it wasn't my stellar personality," Tony joked, trying to steer the conversation into familiar waters. If anything, Wanda went a deeper shade of red. "It...in a way, it was?"
Tony didn't respond for several minutes, finally shaking his head in a baffled manner, and asking, "Sorry, can you say that again?"
Wanda expanded on her statement. "Well, Pietro and I...we were expecting a heartless, murderous, monster, someone who only cared about profit. We weren't expecting a hero, just someone wearing the mask of one."
Tony winced. Some of that hit a little too close to home. He nodded anyway. "Go on." (This isn't an apology.)
"And then you came for the sceptre, unarmed and alone. Pietro wanted his revenge then and there, but I wanted to see how your mind worked. Call it a morbid curiosity - I wanted to see what the worst fear of a monster was."
Tony's eyes flicked to the floor, shoulders taunt. Definitely too close to home.
"But your fear...it wasn't loss of material items, or perhaps dying yourself, what I was expecting. No, the great Tony Stark's fear was not being good enough to save his friends and family. Not being good enough to save the world. And I thought...even then, some part of me knew that this was not the fear of a monster. And...I'm sorry for thinking that way for so long. For hurting you."
Wanda took a breath once she'd finished, and suddenly looked both incredibly young, and painfully old. Tony assessed the Scarlet Witch, a constant fear at the back of his mind. Is this all a lie? No, Wanda would never lie to him and the others again, she promised.
Besides, the air doesn't have the shiny red quality it had to it as he watched Steve die in space. She's telling the truth. (She's gotten better at lying...)
"I have an apology to make too."
Tony started to speak, and the words just kept flowing out of him, bottled up in an area of his mind therapists couldn't reach, the government couldn't reach, but this girl who could send him into a gibbering mess on the floor could. (Why...?)
"I'm sorry. You weren't all wrong. I didn't police my weapons, all I cared about was living fast, hopping from party to party, and picking up gorgeous women. I swear to you, I knew nothing about the double-dealing, but I should have known. It shouldn't have taken a magnet in my chest for me to change, but it did, and I am so sorry. For the families my own ignorance tore apart." (Truth)
They stare at each other, breathing hard, eyes wet. Both of them vulnerable, and they know it. Jugulars exposed, waiting for the other to make the killing blow. They've both (both?) made the most reckless decision in their lives; bared their souls, stripped away all the masks to the person that should, by all rights, despise them. They look at each other, see vicious, angry, wounded souls (monsters don't have souls) and come to an unspoken understanding - different as they are, furious and hurting they may be, but it's time to forgive. (But she hasn't, hasn't, hasn't...)
"They told me I was a monster," Wanda said softly. "I didn't want to be, so I blamed it on you. "
Tony held out his hand. Wanda took it. (
That isn't right)
"They chose to believe you over me," Tony sighed, pain written in his face. Wanda pulled back, shame flooding her expression. "I know, I'm sorry- I tried explaining it to Steve, but he wouldn't listen, just kept on repeating it wasn't my fault. I think only Miss Romanov believed me."
Tony scrutinised her closely. "You tried to explain?"
"I swear on my brother," Wanda said, voice shaking. He knew what she meant: I swear on Pietro's grave.
"Then I forgive you."
"I forgive you too, Mr Stark." (Liar, such a sweet-faced liar)
Tony smiled, although it looked forced. "If we're going to do all this touchy-feely stuff, then call me Tony."
"Tony," Wanda said, testing it out. She nodded gratefully. "Thank you for your time. And call me Wanda."
"Okay, Wanda, I have to go. But, thank you, (Shut up, shut up) for doing this. I know firsthand how hard this kind of thing can be. "
Wanda shrugged. "It felt right. I think Pietro would have wanted me to say this, too. It felt...I know this seems crazy, but it was like I could feel him guiding me?"
Tony looked at her with a sorrowful understanding, Yinsen's bloodied face pleading with him not to waste his life flashing through his mind. "No, that doesn't seen crazy at all. Or if it is, then I'm crazy too."
Wanda giggled slightly, shy and uncertain. "Aren't you?" (Stop playing with me)
Tony winked, relieved the conversation was moving into more familiar waters. "Jury's out on that one. See you around, kid. And...take care of yourself. The Avengers can be pretty hard on a person."
(Get out of my head)
"Goodbye, Tony," the young woman said, as Tony turned to go. His head really ached from where...from some injury or another, that was it. Wanda seemed a sweet girl, once you got to know her.
(GET OUT OF MY HEAD GET OUT OF MY HEAD)
The billionaire walked away, across the the grass, deep in thought, when he saw a new figure approaching.
She looked at him, face a delicate mask that accentuated the red sparks (that isn't right) dancing around her hair. "You have to wake up."
Tony frowned. "Wait, wha-"
(GET OUT, WITCH)
Tony woke up on the floor, head aching like the mother of all hangovers and his arc reactor half-dangling out of his chest, kept in only by a few cables and wires. The blurry figure of Natasha knelt over him, red hair swaying over her face. She looked worried, which warmed Tony more than it probably should have, because Natasha never showed any emotion if she could help it.
"Wh-what happened?" Tony coughed, tasting the tang of blood, metallic and unpleasant, with the faint hints of coconut. Natasha ignored him, yelling over her shoulder. "Rogers! Stop being useless, and get a medic!"
"Rogers?" Tony twisted, the instinctual feeling of fear, nausea, and cold, so cold coming to the forefront of his mind, especially with his arc reactor so vulnerable. Natasha seemed to notice he was awake, and held him still, murmuring words of encouragement in Russian.
"Oh god, oh god, she tried to kill him," a new voice repeated, sounding terrified. Tony squinted. "Ant-guy?"
"He's awake!" Another familiar voice said, actually sounding relieved about it, a far from his had been in the Raft. Tony flinched. "Tasha, are they -"
Clint must have noticed his involuntary flinch, because he shut up abruptly. Natasha shushed him. "Stay still, she really did a number on your chest."
There was a squeaking of wheels. Rhodey's wheelchair.
Tony remained tense, until Rhodey rolled over."I won't let them hurt you, Tones."
Tony practically heard everyone's flinch this time.
"She knocked you out with her powers, and then tried to pull out your arc reactor," said Rhodey, a delicate layer of controlled anger beneath his calm tone. Later, Tony knew there would be war, but he was keeping his cool for Tony's sake. "She was a Hydra sleeper agent. I don't think she ever changed sides."
"Typical Hydra misdirection. I should have seen it," Natasha admitted. Tony recognised the apology for what it was.
"Oh," Tony said. The vision of what could have been seen through his head. "So - it wasn't real then?"
"I think you know the answer to that, Tones," Rhodey said gently.
"Yeah. Yeah, I do."
But Tony was fine with that.