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Changed Locks

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Steve stepped off the Wakandan jet with a sigh of relief and eyed the Compound with a small smile. It had been two years since what the media had termed the ‘Avengers’ Civil War’ and this was the first time they’d been back on US soil since then. But the threat of Thanos had caused the US government to issue them with full pardons and now they were back. Steve was just disappointed that Tony hadn’t called to ask for their help. Given the level of threat that this Thanos posed, it seemed almost selfish of him.

“It’s good to be home,” Sam said, coming up to stand beside him and clap him on the shoulder.

Before Steve could respond, the door to the nearest Compound building opened and a young man came hurrying out. The man was in a neat, tailored suit and was carrying a tablet. As he got nearer, they saw that he was probably in his late twenties or early thirties and he had blond hair and blue eyes. He came to a halt in front of them and gave a small jerk of a bow.

“Guten Morgen,” he said before giving a small shake of his head and correcting himself in English. “Good morning. My name is Dieter Weber. I am one of the UN’s Avenger Liaisons. May I ask your purpose in coming here? There was nothing on the schedule.”

Steve frowned. “The US government pardoned us. We’re back.”

Weber looked confused for a moment, frowning as he tapped on his tablet. Then his expression cleared. “Ah, yes, I see. You’ve come to the wrong place.”

“What?” Steve said. It was immediately echoed by similar sentiments from the others, who had now come up beside and behind him.

“This is the Avengers Compound,” Weber said with a small nod. “According to the paperwork we received last week, you are to be housed by the Department of Homeland Security at a base in Wisconsin. I have sent the coordinates to your pilot.”

Steve’s frown deepened at the man’s almost dismissive tone and he could hear discontented mutterings coming from the others. “We’re Avengers and this is our home.”

Weber frowned again then he suddenly seemed to realise what was going on. “Ah, my apologies.”

Steve relaxed, sure that the problem had been solved and they could finally get back to their rooms and settle in.

“We thought that King T’Challa had been keeping you up to date on the changes that have occurred,” Weber continued and Steve’s feeling of relaxation disappeared.

“What do you mean?” he asked. He did have some vague memories of T’Challa talking about the Avengers and the Compound but he hadn’t really paid attention. He’d known it was only a matter of time before they’d be pardoned and come back. Then things would go back to normal and he’d be back in charge so it didn’t matter what changes had been made. He would just change them back.

“The Compound is owned by the United Nations,” Weber said slowly, as though he was talking to someone a bit stupid. Steve would have felt offended but the man continued and he was distracted by what he was saying. “It was sold to the United Nations by Stark Industries a little over a year ago when we decided to establish a permanent base for Avengers in the United States.”

“So?” Clint said, sounding impatient.

“So, you are not Avengers,” Weber said calmly.

There was an explosion of protests and complaints. Weber looked unmoved and, as they continued, utterly unimpressed. Steve finally waved the other silent.

“We are Avengers,” he stated staunchly.

“The Avengers Initiative’s name, brand and organisational structure...” Weber paused then continued dryly, “or lack thereof… was taken over by the United Nations six weeks after the… Civil War. The Avengers Initiative now exists as a non-governmental organisation or NGO under the auspices of the United Nations and the only Avengers are those with individual contracts with the Avengers Initiative.”

“So what the fuck are we then?” Clint demanded. “Chopped liver?”

Weber smiled faintly. “I am uncertain as to what title the Department of Homeland Security will give you but as you have only been pardoned by government of the United States and not any other country, I’m sure it will be relevant for the United States, at least.”

That silenced them all and Steve frowned again. “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that only the United States has pardoned you,” Weber said patiently. “Thus, your pardons are only relevant and valid on US soil. None of the declarations of being personae non gratae by other countries nor any of the pending charges in the ICC have been revoked.” He shrugged. “However, under the circumstances, as long as you remain in the United States and do not cause trouble for the rest of the world, I suspect that no requests for extradition will be made at this time.”

As Weber had been talking a blonde woman had been striding towards them and she joined Weber just in time to hear the last part of what he’d said.

“Hello, I’m Colonel Carol Danvers, Head of the US branch of the Avengers Initiative. I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place, Mr Rogers.”

Her expression was calm and bland and even faintly unimpressed and it was the last straw for Steve.

“Where’s Tony?” he demanded.

Carol cocked her head quizzically. “Why do you want to know?”

“I want to sort this out.”

Carol now frowned. “Mr Stark can’t help you with that, Mr Rogers. He does not own the Compound nor does he run the Avengers Initiative. While he might be able to make a personal appeal under some circumstances, the rules regarding entry to the Compound are absolute. Only those employed by the Avengers Initiative are permitted to reside here. This is for the safety and security of those living and working here.” She gestured towards the jet. “Now I’m going to have to ask you all to board your jet. I understand your pilot now has the correct coordinates. Your liaison from Homeland Security is waiting, somewhat impatiently, for you at your destination.”

Steve wanted to protest but there was something about Carol that was both implacable and slightly dangerous. It made him think that if he pushed this, not only would he lose badly, he would come to regret it in many different ways later on. It was utterly galling but he turned on his heel and gestured to the others.

“Come on,” he muttered. “We’ll play along with their farce and contact Tony later and make him sort this out.”

The others scowled but obediently climbed onto the jet. The door closed behind them and the pilot took off with what Steve considered was undue haste. He watched the Compound recede from view and clutched at the phone in his pocket. Tony would sort this out or there’d be hell to pay. He’d make sure of that.