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A Place At The Table

Chapter Text

The engineer stared at the holographic contracts projected in front of him.

Much like his father before him, he had kept an eye on the royal family of Wakanda, watching from afar what was the most technologically advanced nation in the world. The entire world might had buy into Wakanda’s lies, but Howard Stark wasn’t someone you could fool, specially if you had something he wanted, and Wakanda had paid the price of saying ‘no’ to a man like Howard Stark.

Sure, Howard was almost killed, when King T’Chaka found out what he had done but, in good Stark fashion, Howard fought back. No, he threaten them. Tony can still picture every single detail of that scene; how his father laughed right in the king’s face and reminded him that, if he went back and did, even just as much as suggest that Wakanda could be hiding something, the american government would be forced to intervene and check for itself. Wakanda would be attacked and, even if they won, the world would find out the truth and they would never find peace ever again. So the king stepped back and let Howard get away with enough vibranium to build Roger’s shield.

By the time Howard and Maria died (‘were murdered’, his mind kindly supplied), Tony had long forgot about Howard’s little show with King T’Chaka. After all, it had been over seventeen years and he had bigger things to occupy his mind with, Stark Industries being one of them. So time passed in a mist of drunk adventures and lab marathons and Tony let Wakanda step down in his list of priorities, sure that they wouldn’t come back seeking revenge, now that Howard was gone for good.

 

“Sir, are you ready to call King T’Challa?” J.A.R.V.I.S. asked, pulling him from his walk down the memory lane.

“Wha-, yes… Sure, get him on the line, J.”

He waved the holograms away, as J establish connection with the King. Soon enough, T’Challa’s face popped up in the main screen.

“Looking good, Kitty King”, the engineer greeted him, a small laugh escaping his lips. T’Challa’s expression was pure gold and he had to fight back a fit of laughter.

"Dr.. Stark, it’s good to see you again. Especially to see you have recovered well."

"Your highness, please, Dr. Stark was my father."

"Very well, Anthony." The younger man shot back, a twitch in his upper lip giving him away, despite his calm and serious expression.

"That works too, Simba", Tony smirked and he could swear T’Challa was seconds away from growling at him. “How’s everything going? How’s the throne treating you?”

Tony knows that, if anyone else outside his family, talked like that to T’Challa, all forms of communication would cease in that exact moment and they would be extremely lucky if they survived long enough to tell the tale. So, yeah, he’s damn proud of the fact that T’Challa accepts his unusual way of showing that he cares and he’s even more proud of the fact that T’Challa trusts him enough to tell him a resume version of the mess that has been the last few weeks in Wakanda, since he left the U.S.

They have come a long way since their first official meeting and he’s proud of it. T’Challa is a good man, with a good heart, and it’s hard for a good man to trust someone like Tony.

“I’m thankful for your concern, Anthony, but I don’t think that’s the only reason for your call.” The King mentions honestly. Tony hums, disappearing off frame for a second and coming back with a chair to sit on.

“I was going to call you, to thank you and Princess Shuri and so we could talk about the Accords, but J. caught my attention with a few contracts.”

T’Challa stared back at him, unimpressed, before sighing loudly.

“I must ask, why choosing that neighborhood? I’m sure there were other shitty neighborhoods in need of Wakanda’s help.”

“I don’t appreciate being spied on.” T’Challa accused, but there was no bite, no real anger behind his words and they both knew it.

“Today is just me, tomorrow is the whole world.” Tony shrugged, sipping from a water bottle. “Wakanda’s first foreign aid center, isn’t it?”

The other man nodded, shoulders dropping slightly, “My cousin, Erik Killmonger, was raised there.”

“So you’re building the future on top of the ashes of the past. You’re very poetic, Tom.”

“Tom?” T’Challa inquired, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah. You know, like the cat from Tom and Jerry?” At the unimpressed look T’Challa gave him, Tony felt the need to defend himself. “Look, I’ve been dealing with the JIP inauguration plans, SI new models, UN’s bs and two teenagers for the last weeks. I’m sorry if I’m a little off my game, your Highness.”

T’Challa’s laughter is worth it’, Tony thinks as the young man throws his head back in open and unapologetic laughter. ‘He’s young and doesn’t deserve to be throw in the shit show that is America. He already lost his dad because of us.

“You say you want to thank my sister”, he says, once he regains control of his breathing. It sounds more like a statement than a question, and Tony nods along, silently wondering where he’s going with this. “Well, I’m taking her to California tomorrow, so she can see the neighborhood. I want to make her the head of the science and technology department of the center. Maybe we can meet after that?”

“That could work if you just…” Tony agrees before his brain catches up with the rest of T’Challa’s speech. “Wait, this is the first time your sister is stepping out of Wakanda, the first time you’re taking her to California and you’re taking her to see some old buildings in the middle of a Godforsaken town? Don’t cat the wrong idea, but that will be absolutely catastrophic.”

 

T’Challa blinked at him, clearly unamused.

 

“Did you manage to throw two cat puns in the same sentence, while disapproving of my plans?”, he asked, dumbfounded.

“It’s one of my many talents.”, Tony smirked back at him. “You should spend some time with the kids, they have entire competitions to see who can come up with the most original puns and use them all in the same sentence. It’s hilarious.”

“Hilarious” The wakandian echoed. “You americans have the habit of finding the most strange of things entertaining.”

“You're not wrong, unfortunately. But only those who haven't laughed at bad jokes or at seeing others getting hurt can throw stones, or whatever the saying is.”

When T’Challa looked like he wanted to get up and hit his head against a vibranium wall, Tony rolled his eyes and moved on.

“Anyway, I shouldn't keep you any longer from your duties, Kitty King. Text me when you're done and we'll have dinner at the compound. You, me, your sister, Pep, May, Rhodey and the kids. It will be fun.”

“We don't want to be a bother, Anthony.”

“Nonsense. After the shitty visit, your sister will appreciate having someone her age to talk to. Besides, J would love to meet the royal siblings of Wakanda, wouldn't you, J?”

“Absolutely, sir.” JARVIS assured him, talking directly with the king, for the first time. “I would be very happy if I could demonstrate my appreciation for helping Sir recovering me.”

He observed them for a moment, before agreeing to meet them for dinner the next day.

“One more thing: because Shuri is coming too, I am bringing with me Okoye and Nakia, two of the Dora Milaje. They won't interfere, as long as everything goes as planned.”

“It's fine, Kitty Cat.”

“I must go, Antony, but I will text you with all the details for tomorrow.” The King looked somewhere outside of Tony’s vision field by the corner of his eyes and offered him a small, yet comforting, smile. “Stay well.”

“You too, Captain Whiskers.”

 

The screen turned black for a few seconds before returning to the standard background picture, as Tony got up from his chair, rubbing his back gently to calm down the tense nerves.

“Sir, should I contact Miss Pepper’s favourite chef for tomorrow night?”, J.A.R.V.I.S. asked, showing him an holographic version of their usual menu.

“Yes, good idea, J. Do that and tell him to do something more modern. Also, to get us vegetarian and vegan options, just in case…”

“Why do we need a Chef for tomorrow?”, Pepper asked, walking into the lab with a stack of papers in her hands. She kissed Tony on the cheek before dropping the abominable pile in his desk and turning to examine the list that floated in the middle of the room.

“T’Challa just bought a bunch of building in the middle of nowhere, Emptyville, to create the first Wakandian Foreign Aid Center and he’s bringing his sister… I told you about Princess Shuri, right?” He asked with sipping from a coffee mug. Pepper nodded along, still a bit dumbfounded, and he grinned at her. “Well, they’re passing by tomorrow so I thought to invite them over for dinner. I still have to thank Shuri for J. Can you believe she’s just sixteen?”

“Oh, that’s amazing. Maybe Peter and Harley will want to make her some company while we talk about the accords?”

The engineer stopped in his tracks, eyes suddenly lighting up as if someone had lit a thousand candles inside his head. He giggled maniacally and rubbed his hands together, like a cartoonish, eccentric villain from a bad action movie.

“Tony…”, Pepper sighed, trying to fight back a smile.

“No, that will be perfect. I’m telling you, these kids are the future and we need to get them to work together as soon as possible! Just imagine the amount of crazy invention they’ll come up with!”

“And the amount of lab fires and rides to the ER we’ll have from now on…”, she added, arms crossed over her chest.

Still, she couldn’t deny that Peter and Harley would love to meet someone their age who could keep up with their genius little minds. Besides, she has been working with Tony for over ten years and T’Challa would never leave his sister behind, blowing up labs in the middle of New York without adult supervision. She can deal with this, right?

“It’s part of the creative process, Pep! The kids will love it.” He smiled and, for a split second, Pepper wished she could freeze and frame this moment so he could be stupidly happy, no wars or backstabbing teammates to bring him pain and sorrow. Just his family and his science labs for the rest of his life.

“Well, I’ll call the fire department in advance, just in case. Please sign those documents and be sure to send me your speech for the JIP opening ceremony. We’re two days away and our former president already confirmed his presence.”, Tony opened his mouth to complain but Pepper wasn’t having it. She put a finger over his lips and kissed him in the cheek before walking away. “I don’t care what you think about politicians, Tony. Just play nice and, hopefully, we’ll have a nice, calm ceremony for the first time in too many years.”

“I always play nice, dear.” He shot back, smirking at her.

“Then let’s not break that tradition, Mr. Stark.”

“I was never much for tradition, Mrs. Stark!”, he yelled and turned around, listening to her laughter, slowly dying behind the closed automatic doors. “Alright J, we have work to do.”

Chapter Text

School was boring. Well, physics class and math class were fun, but the year had just started and most classes were still lacking teachers and there was, at least, a fifth of the student body missing due to being away on their last days of vacation.

So yeah, Peter would be bored out of his mind if it wasn’t for the JIP’s opening ceremony the next day and the fact that Pepper had left a small note on the fridge announcing that they would be hosting a small but formal dinner party that night. Said note lacked any form of clue of who was coming over and Peter’s genius little mind came up with infinite possibilities, from a business partner, to the president (but not their president; no one in SI liked him, Pep made sure of it) or even another superhero.

Maybe it’s Dr. Strange… Tony has been talking to him, I guess. Oh, maybe it’s Professor X, that would be so cool!”, the boy thought while he eyed the cafeteria’s food suspiciously. “I hope it’s not Dr. Banner. His work is cool but he really messed up with the Ultron mess… I don’t think Pep will let him back into the compound ever again.

“Dude”, Ned’s hand kept hitting his face until he looked up, silently looking around for any signs of trouble. Not finding any trace of Flash or his buddies, Peter turned to Ned, who was still hitting him.

“What?”

“Your phone, dude”, he whispered, looking like he was seconds away of exploding of excitement. Peter picked up the little silver object and accepted the call without even taking a moment to look at it.

“You’ll never guess who’s coming for dinner tonight!”, Harley’s voice rang loud, way too loud, inside Peter’s ears, causing the teen to pull the phone away from his face for a moment.

“No but I’m guessing you’re going to tell me!”, Peter mimicked the older boy’s cheery tone voice. There was some weird interference from Harley’s side of the call for a few seconds, the sound of a door hitting it’s frame and, finally, Harley muffled voice greeting someone before all background noise died out.

“T’Challa, King of freaking Wakanda”

“What?”

“I know!”, Harley whispered, voice cracking a little from the effort to say quiet and not draw attention to himself. “Pep called me yesterday because I have to take a cab to the aerodrome so Happy can pick me up in time for dinner.”

“Dude, that’s impossible! Why would the King of Wakanda come talk to Tony? Didn’t Howard stole vibranium from them?”

“Did you forget that Captain Shithead and his merry band of assholes are hiding there?”, Peter could practically hear Harley rolling his eyes through the phone. “Besides, I think T'Challa wants to end that whole “poor, isolated nation of farmers” thing that they have going on.”

“Why would he do that? Wouldn't that expose them to attacks and, you know, the UN team that is tracking the rogue avengers? Besides, why would he come to Tony for any of that?”

“Do I look like a crystal ball to you? All I know is that the king of T’Challa is coming over for dinner and we need to keep an eye on Tony.”

“Why would we have to… Wait, you don’t think he’s going to try anything, do you? I mean, that’s insane! Why would he?”

“Why would he host Team Jackass in his fancy little palace?”, Harley shot back. Peter side eyed Ned who was trying to eavesdrop on the conversation and got a slight punch in his ribcage for his troubles. “Dude, I gotta go. Just, don’t go out patrolling tonight. Tony might need us. Besides, I want to try and check their tech for myself.”

“That doesn’t sounds responsible”, the youngest boy mumbled under his breath, ignoring Ned who had resorted to tug on his shirt so he could listen to whatever Harley was saying. “See you later and… just… don’t do anything that would piss Pep off, ok?

“You’re no fun, lil bro!”, Harley laughed.

“Also, we still need to finish our speech for the gala!”

“No fun at all!”, the older boy echoed before hanging up.

Peter fought back a groan before getting up from his spot, “C’mon, we have five minutes to get to class.”

“What?”, Ned asked, clumsily grabbing his backpack and getting up to catch up with Peter. “Dude, wait! You have to tell me what that was.”

“It’s… weird, Ned. I’ll tell you about it later but now we have to go to class before Miss Gonzalez notices we’re not there.”

“Dude…”, the other teen whined, trying to catch Peter’s attention. Still, Peter kept on walking towards the classroom, looking forward, as if getting to class on time was the most important thing in the world. “Peter, c’mon. What did Harley said?”

“Later, Ned. Later, I’ll tell you about it…” He could still hear Ned’s grumbles when Miss Gonzales walked into the little classroom and started talking about the importance of a new beginning and of keeping up the good grades during the entire school year.

 

She should really take some days off.

Well, not now because of the whole civil war thing and absolutely not anytime soon because there’s a purple alien coming to Earth to kill them all… But after that whole thing, she’s definitely taking, at least, a whole week off.

Yes, Pepper decides while eyeing the pile of reports on top of her desk, I’ll take some days for myself once this is all over. Probably before the wedding, otherwise I’ll go insane before I can plan it. God knows I can’t let Tony do it unless I want it to end with us being flown into Mars on an Iron Man spacecraft.

“Can I interest you in some tea, Miss Potts?”, Charlotte, the receptionist, asks, gesturing towards the warm teapot of tea in her hands. Pepper accepts her offer, grabbing a new file while she fishes out her phone from her front pocket.

“Mr. Parker and Mr. Keener already sent in their speeches for tomorrow night. They seem to be alright but I can bring them over for inspection.”

“Oh, that’s great, Charlotte.” She hummed happily into the steaming cup of tea. “Please send me a copy of it now so I have an idea of what I’m dealing with before I talk with them.”

“It will be on your email in a second. If there isn’t anything else you need?”, the young girl turned around and smile, collecting the pile of revised and signed reports.

“No, everything's fine, Charlotte.” She tries to speak clearly, but it comes out more like what you’d expect from a two years old baby. She puts the tea cup away and waves her hand in front of her face frantically, trying to wave away the pain from a burnt tongue, before speaking clearly a few moments later. “Make sure you don’t leave too late, tonight. We need everyone well rested for tomorrow!”

“Don’t worry, Miss Potts. We’re all ready to go and I’m sure that all our investors will see the importance of this project.”

“Let’s hope so! I’ll be leaving in a few minutes, I just need to sign this. See you tomorrow at seven.”

“Until tomorrow, Miss Potts.”

She watched the young girl walk away and stared at the closed door for a few seconds, quietly appreciating the calm before the storm, only to be rudely interrupted by FRIDAY.

“Miss Potts, you have an incoming call from Sir,” the I.A. announces and, soon after, Tony’s holography image is projected in front of her. He’s still wearing his suit, from the boarding meeting earlier but the blue tie Pep chose for him was gone, probably discarded on some dirty corner of the lab.

“How’s everything going, my love?”

“Hm… I don’t know, is the compound still standing?”, she joked, signing her last report. On the other side of the line, Tony chuckled under his breath and Pepper heard him stretching slightly.

“O ye, of little faith”, the man gasped, hand grasping at his heart, pretending to choke in Pepper’s disbelief. She rolled her eyes at him, unable to hide the soft smile and he smirked back at her, in victory. “Everything and everyone is still standing. Well, Happy might not be after tonight but that’s something we’ll have to deal with later.”

“Happy?”, she echoed, eyeing the clock on her wrist. He should be on his way to pick up Harley from college so… “Oh, Harley.”

“Exactly.” The engineer chuckled while turning around to grab a half-empty water bottle. “Apparently he already knows that T’Challa is coming over and well… He’s sure King Kitty is here to kill me.”

“That makes no sense. “, she blurred out, blinking slowly, as her brain tried to understand the teen’s train of thought. “Why would he come all the way here to kill you? I mean… Why would he even want to kill you?”

“Exactly! But worry not, my love, I have all under control.” Tony assured her, throwing the empty bottle somewhere off screen. “No potato guns, no laser guns, no trying to drag the king to the lab and no stealing wakandan tech goodies.”

“Should I talk to Peter too? I mean… with Shuri coming over. You know how kids are when they get together.”

“Uhhhh. They still don’t know about that?” He blurted out, scratching the back of his neck with his famous i’m-too-cute-you-can’t-be-mad-at-me look. She arched her eyebrow at him, failing miserably at pretending to be mad. “It’s a surprise! Let them think they’re going to seat through a diplomatic, boring dinner for a little bit more and then watch them lose their minds. It will be fun.”

“Fun.”

“Fun, Pep.” He insisted, grinning wildly. “C’mon, Pep. We’ll have a quiet night, talking with a civilized person who actually read the damn thing and the kids will have fun talking about whatever kids talk about now-a-days.”

“Let’s hope, dear. Well, I’m going home now. Is the chef there already?”

“He did, in fact, arrived about an hour ago. Sir hasn’t been allowed to touch any of the prepared meals and there has been so sign of smoke either.”, J.A.R.V.I.S. chipped in, a subtle hint of sarcasm in his voice.

“That’s enough, J. And remind me to reprogram you after the gala, you’re becoming too sassy for Daddy’s liking.”

“Of course, Sir. Should I add it to the twenty other reprogram sessions you’ve schedules since my return?” This time, Pepper actually laughed. Tony rolled his eyes and said his goodbyes, promising to finish his speech before the King’s arrival.

 

“Mom said that if you waste my first chance to get out of Wakanda and force me to talk with some boring old colonizer, she’s going to put you up for adoption”, the princess threatened, arms crossed over her chest.

“I’m too old to be adopted”, T’Challa argued, looking up from his kimoyo beads. “And Mother said none of that. You are just upset because I refuse to tell you where we’re going for dinner.”

Shuri huffed and turned to Okoye, who was smiling ever so slightly. Said smile did not go unnoticed, to everyone’s bane.

“What is this? Okoye, do you know where we’re going?”

“I know the coordinates, my Princess, but I do not know where we are going.” The General answered her, facing the navigation panel, serious as she could be.

Ubuxoki”, the teen shot back, but with no real anger. The King looked at her, his left eyebrow arching, as he put away his notes. “I’m sorry, Okoye, brother. But it’s not fair! The first time you take me to America and you take me to see some old buildings and now you refuse to tell me where we’re going.”

“A friend invited us over for dinner”, he said after a moment of silence.

“A friend?”, she echoed, clearly not convinced. “I did not know you had friends in America, brother.”

“Ally would be the correct word, but yes. He was very eager to meet you.”

That caught the princess’ attention. She put back her project and walked towards T’Challa, wearing her best “I’m-an-innocent-teen-you-can’t-be-mad-at-me” face. It was almost good enough to convince the king.

“Why does the colonizer wants to meet me?”

“To thank you. For J.A.R.V.I.S.”, he finally gave in, speaking as naturally as he could and purposely not looking at her. He watched her experience all emotions between confusion, surprise and excitement, before deciding to stick with a smug expression. “We’ll have company so I expect you to be in your best behavior, sister.”

“My king, when am I not in my best behavior?”, she asked with a flourish, playing with a strand of his hair. T’Challa smiled softly before shaking his head. “I promise I will not make fun of the colonizer’s primitive tech.”

“Thank you, sister.”

“However”, she continued with a maniacal grin, “I can’t promise I won’t ignore the fact that he flies around in a tin can painted red.”

“Shuri…”, he warned her. She ran away laughing, ending up sat down next to Nakia, who looked like she was enjoying the scene a bit too much. T’Challa got up and dusted away the non-existence dirt on his shirt.

“Dr. Stark wants to speak about the accords and I thought you’d like to me Peter and Harley.”

“Who?”, she looked up from the navigation board, squinting her eyes at the man.

“You know them, sister”, he insisted, fighting back the urge to roll his eyes at Shuri’s charade. “they were the ones who wanted to look into J.A.R.V.I.S.’ remains. I believe they are Dr. Stark’s protégés.”

“Oh, more white boys for me to look after. That’s great.”

“You could teach them some things...”, T’Challa suggested nonchalantly, looking through a stack of papers, “You are, in fact, the head of Wakanda’s technological research department.”

“You might be onto something, dear brother”, she agreed, pretending to fall into deep contemplation for a few seconds before jumping up and dance around the room towards her station. “Those white boys will see what real science looks like! Just tell them to hold onto their lilly white butts!”

Shury!”, he growled. She shrugged and pretended to not see the way Nakia’s eyes lit up or how Okoye pretended to cough to cover up a laugh.

Chapter Text

“Jesus Christ, please tell me you’re not doing what I think you’re doing…”

Harley did not, absolutely not, jumped out of fright when he heard Tony’s voice coming out of nowhere. Besides, it wasn’t his fault that the older man seemed to materialise next to him every single time the teen was doing something he wasn’t meant to be doing.

“Uh, I’m not doing what you think I’m doing?”, he tried, eyes still glued on the door’s lock. He heard Tony grumble somewhere behind his back and, suddenly, he was standing next to the engineer, screwdriver still in his hand. “So… Have our guests arrived yet?”

 

“No.” Tony deadpanned, examining the door up close. “I taught how to pick locks and this is how you’re using that skill?”

“First of all, you absolutely did not teach me how to pick locks. I taught myself how to do it when I was five.” Harley shot back, kneeling near the door knob once again. “Second, Pete’ left his spidey suit in his room and pissed off FRY earlier this morning so she refused to open the door for him and, when he tried to use the ventilation system to get the suit back, he got lost and he’s currently stuck somewhere between the garage and the labs. You might want to help him get out, by the way.”

“Oh, you’re telling me that now?”, the man asked, throwing his hands up in the air. Harley shrugged has he felt the lock finally starting to give in.

“It’s not like you asked where he was! Besides, J. is with him, so it’s not like he’s going to die or anything. Chill.”

“Chill? You’re telling me FRY is throwing a hissy fit, Pete is stuck in the vents somewhere, you’re picking locks instead of using your override code to open the door and the king of Wakanda is twenty minutes away from getting here. By the way, those locks are supposed to be impossible to pick so you’ll definitely explain me how you did it, once we get your brother out of the damn vents.”

“Can I just finish doing this before we go get him?” the boy asked, looking over his shoulder for a second.

“Fine, but hurry up. And next time use the damn override code.” Tony sighed, far too loud than necessary, and rubbed his forehead as if felt a migraine coming. “J, find Peter and tell me if he needs help getting out of the vents. Also, add a new order to the “my kids are dumbasses” protocol: they can’t, in any circumstance, get into the vents.”

 

“Already done, Sir. If you wish to find Mr. Parker, please follow the floor lights. He’s now twelve feet away from the garage.” J. announced, as little emergency lights on the floor light up on the opposite direction.

“Harley?”

 

“Yes?”, the boy answered for somewhere inside Peter’s room.

“Put the suit away, you won’t need it tonight. T’Challa is here for a business meeting and as my guest.”

“But…”

“Put it away, kid”, Tony insisted, walking away, “and go get ready before Pep has an heart attack!”

“You suck!”, the boy called out as he watch Tony walk away.

You better be right, old man., Harley thought has he threw Peter’s suit back into the wardrobe, We don’t need more enemies, especially not one like the King of freaking Wakanda.

“J, hire someone to replace the lock tomorrow, please.” He asked as he left the room. “And tell me when they get here, ok? Pep wants everyone to welcome them home or whatever. It’s not like they give a single shit if we exist or not.”

“Absolutely, Mr. Keener.” The A.I. answered right away. “If it helps easing your mind, young Sir, I would like to point out that I have calculated that the likelihood of King T’Challa, or anyone of his family, being a threat to Sir is lower than 10%.”

“But there is the chance he’ll turn against Tony?”, the boy questioned, stepping inside his own bedroom, who as just as chaotic as Peter’s, which dirty clothes, empty food and water containers and school work spread across all superficies.

“Yes. Unfortunately, Sir has accumulated a considerable amount of enemies who wish to harm him and his associates over the years and any of them can plot an attack at any time.”

There was a moment of silence as Harley sighed and picked up his old potato gun from his nightstand. Ever since he met Tony, the little dirty toy had gone everywhere with him. It was both a reminder and an amulet; a promise of better days.

“However, it is my personal belief that King T’Challa is Sir’s ally and that, for tonight, Sir is safe from any attempt at his life” J.A.R.V.I.S. added, sounding like he truly believed in it.

“Fine, but keep an eye on them, ok? Don’t wait for confirmation; if there’s anything suspicious going on, you have to tell me immediately.” The boy insisted, looking up sternely, as if he could compel the A.I. to obey him.

“Protecting Sir’s life is, and always will be, my prime directive, young Sir. “

Harley hummed happily at that and rushed to the shower.

 

“A black cat just ran up my leg and smacked me in the face.”, Peter walked into the room with a smile on his face capable of outshine Times Square on New Year’s Eve. “Does that mean I’ve been blessed by the Halloween Gods?”

“It’s the first week of September”, Rhodey held his watch mid-air, silently judging both Peter and his own life choices.

“Everyone knows Halloween starts on the last day of August.” Harley joined them near the entrance, looking like he was being dragged to a funeral. “Keep up, old man.”

“Very funny, Keener. Has no one ever told you to respect your-”

“Elders?”, the boy finished, sporting a true Stark approved smirk. “Sure they did, old man.”

James grumbled under his breath something about sarcastic teenagers, that went ignored for most part, as Pepper and Tony walked into the room, along with May.

“Listen up,” Pepper called out, fixing Harley’s messy hair with her hands. “King T’Challa is bringing two of the Dora Milaje, General Okoye and Nakia, and his sister, Princess Shuri. She’s about your age and I expect you to make her feel welcomed during the dinner.”

“Holy f-”, the boys whispered softly before being interrupted by Aunt May’s stern expression.

“So, be nice, don’t do anything stupid and, for the love of God, please don’t set the house on fire.” She concluded, fixing Tony’s red tie.

“Our guests have arrived”, J.A.R.V.I.S. informed and Pepper gave them an encouraging smile before doing a awkward little race to the front door.

Oh boy, Harley thought, messing up his hair once again and eyeing the shadows projected on the ground starting to grow as T’Challa and his entourage stepped into the house, this is gonna be awkward as heck. I just know it.

 

This is not so bad., The princess admitted to herself, as she looked at the small compound. Sure, it’s outside of the actual town and there’s nothing to do here but it’s not as prehistoric as I imagined.

 

“When you said we are going to open Wakanda to the rest of the world, this is not what I imagined.”, Okoye confessed as they stepped out of their ship.

“What did you imagined?”, the king humored her, giving her a lopsided smile.

“The Olympics. Maybe even a Starbucks.”
“But not making allies?” He shot back, watching as Miss Potts opened the front door, a few feet away from them. Okoye shot him a knowing look and made a mental note to enquire the king about his real intentions later.

“Welcome to the Stark house, Your Majesty”, J.A.R.V.I.S. cut in has Pepper let them in, bowing her head slightly as they walked by. A man, (Harold Hogan, also known as Happy, T’Challa’s mind provided) helped them in and left a few seconds after with their bags. “I hope your flight went well.”

“Yes, thank you very much. It is J.A.R.V.I.S., isn’t it?”, the Princess asked, looking up, trying to figure out where the cameras could be.

“Indeed, Your Royal Highness. My name stands for Just A Rather Very Intelligent System.” The A.I. seemed almost pleased to be talking with them personally. “I’d like to thank Her Royal Highness, Princess Shuri, and Your Majesty, King T’Challa. for all your help with restoring me to my full capacities.”

“You’re welcome and all that but, you know, that won’t work.” The princess announced, as she stepped into the living room, finally facing the rest of the Stark family. “I’m Shuri, he’s T’Challa and this is Okoye and Nakia. Seriously, use our names. It’s less weird than that whole ‘Your Highness’ bullshit.”

“Shuri!”, T’Challa growled at the young girl, who didn’t look even a little bit bothered. He turned to Pepper and Tony who looked like they were doing all they could to keep a straight face and still failing. “I apologize for my sister’s behavior. It is our pleasure to be able to help.”

“Nonsense, Your Highness”, Pepper smiled at them and ignored the way that Tony’s mouth was twitching. She stepped to the right and pointed at the two other teens. “This is Peter and Harley.”

There was an extremely awkward moment of silence that seemed to prolong itself into time and space, with all the teens staring at each other, not even doing as much as blinking. Behind them, Tony didn’t even attempt to hide the fact that he was laughing at the whole scene.

“Peter, dear?”, May encouraged her nephew, who shook his head as if had just woken up from a strange hypnosis.

“I like your shoelaces”, the boy blurted out to Shuri, face turning into a vibrant shade of red in the same instant. Across the room, the adults choke in confusion.

“Thanks, I stole them from the president.” Shuri replied just as fast, giving him her best smirk. Next to Peter, Harley’s little ‘holy fuck’ didn’t go unnoticed but was quickly forgotten when Shuri grabbed Peter and Harley’s wrists and turned around to face her brother. “We’re going to watch a movie while you talk politics, Brother. Call us when dinner’s ready!”

The princess ran off, dragging both boys with her, as she tells them they “better have a screening room good enough for star wars”, leaving everyone standing in their spot, incredulous at the scene.

“What just happened?” May is the first to speak, drawing all the attention to her.

“I… am not sure. Should I check on the Princess?”, Okoye offers, looking at T’Challa for guidance. However, Tony is quick to intervene and ensures the King that J.A.R.V.I.S. is qualified to keep an eye on them.

“I suppose we can let them have fun, under J.A.R.V.I.S.’ supervision.” The man agrees after a moment of contemplation.

“Great! This is Rhodey, you’ve met already, and this is the lovely May Parker, Peter’s aunt and legal guardian.” Tony claps his hands together and motions them to seat down. “J, ask the chef to serve us some tea.”

“On it, Sir.” The robotic voice replies quietly and Pepper takes over the conversation, lighting up the room with some small talk about the trip and the JIP’s opening gala.

The next hour is quiet. They discuss Wakanda’s future in the world, their ideas for the Foreign Aid Centers and as they begin to touch upon the whole “purple alien coming to kill us” subject, J.A.R.V.I.S. announces that dinner is ready.

They hear the teens’ voices well before they reach the dining room and they seem to be having the most fun a kid can have. Pepper is commenting about it, glad to see that Shuri likes to hang out with Peter and Harley, when they finally see them walk into the room.

“What the hell.”

One would consider impolite to swear in front of children, especially royal children, but the situation called for it. The three teens were jumping around, mock fighting each other, with actual lightsabers. Lightsabers.

“Shuri.” Rhodey could see a pattern here: every time Shuri did something she wasn’t meant to, T’Challa would growl at her, in a mix of annoyance and fondness. “I told you to leave them at home.”

The teen stops for a second to stick her tongue out and it’s almost hit by Harley’s own deep purple lightsaber, before turning back to the fight. Next to her, Peter’s ‘saber is so close to hit Harley in the head that they can smell a bit of burnt hair.

“Ok, that’s enough children!”, Pepper calls out, stepping into action. Harley and Peter are quick to stop and Shuri uses their distraction to turn off her lightsaber and mock stab the boys in the back.
“Where did you got that?”, Tony asks, stepping closer to inspect the ‘saber Peter is holding. He turns it on and, much to his happiness, it actually makes the cool sounds that it’s shown in the movie.

“I made them when I was twelve. It’s pretty cool, uh?” Shuri shrugs and holds out her own lightsaber to Rhodey who, as a responsible adult, takes but doesn’t turn on. Only because Pepper is watching him with her trademark look of disappointment.

“Put that away, Shuri. It's time for dinner.” T’Challa repeats with a tone that leaves no space for disobedience. The girl takes back her inventions before stomping her way to the table and sitting down between Okoye and Peter.

‘Great Bast, please help me’, the king thinks as Tony’s chef and staff walk into the room to serve them dinner. 'This is going to be a long night.’

 

The rest of the night went by peacefully with little to no accidents, despite the tense atmosphere that fell upon the living room when Tony, T’Challa and Rhodes started to discuss the accords. The teenagers ended up falling asleep sooner than Pepper expected, ending up being carried (or dragged, in Harley’s case) to their rooms by either T’Challa or Tony.

Pepper wasn’t the first to get up, which was strange in itself, but the stranger part was that, by the time she got up and ready to start the day, the breakfast was already served in the living room.

“Good morning!” She greeted, kissing Tony in the cheek and petting Harley and Peter’s face. “How did you sleep, Your Majesty?”

“Very well, thank you Miss Potts. Thank you for your hospitality.” The King smiled from across the room, as the sat down in between the two Doras. “Have you seen Shuri yet?”

“She was playing with Mebabyte by the lab, the last time I saw her.” Harley grunted in between bites from his share of pancakes. Pepper threw him a warning look and the boy shrugged as he stole some waffles from Peter’s plate. “Megabyte is our robot dog, by the way. If you’re wondering…”

The King looked like he was going to say something when Shuri ran into the living room, phone in one hand and a strange gun in the other, wicked smile on her face:

“The floor is lava!”

As if the end of the world had been announced, the room fell into a chaotic revolution. Peter ended up glued to the ceiling with the help of his spider-gloves, Harley had jumped on top of the table, his plate of pancakes still in hands, as he proceeded to finish his breakfast and, to complete the oddity of it all, T’Challa and the Doras themselves jumped on top of their chairs, making sure that no part of their bodies was touching the ground.

“What the fuck.”

They all turned to the room’s entrance, where Tony was standing behind a red faced Shuri, who was laughing so hard she could barely hold the phone in her hand. Pepper was about to criticise his choice of wording when Shuri put the phone away and Peter let himself fall from the ceiling, landing on his butt next to the table.

“You’re getting smart, Brother.” The teen commented as she sat down next to Peter and started to serve herself. In time, T’Challa and the Doras sat back down as kept eating as if nothing had happened.

“Did I miss something?” Rhodey asked, slowly making his way towards the table, eyeing the royal siblings suspiciously.

“Shuri finds it amusing to yell ‘the floor is lava’ at the most inopportune of times and force everyone to jump on top of the nearest superficie that isn’t the ground.” The King explained, taking a sip of his tea. “The last time I ignored it, she developed a synthetic lava that, despite not burning, it glues you to the ground.”

“Oh, that’s-”, May mumbled, still dumbfounded.

“Genius.” Tony, Peter and Harley completed in unison.

“Well…”, Pepper stepped in, rolling her eyes at her fiancé. “We have half an hour before we have to leave for the company. Peter, Happy is dropping you at school and he’ll pick you up after lunch. You already have your everything you need, don’t you?”

“I do, Pep.” Peter hummed along as he got up from the table, drinking his last gulp of orange juice. “I’m gonna brush my teeth. If you excuse me…”

Pepper smiled back at him as the teen left and urged Harley to get ready as fast as possible. They had a lot to do before the gala.

 

Peter wasn’t freaking out.

He wasn’t.

Ok, maybe a little.

Or a lot.

‘I’m doomed’ the teen though as he watched the sea of people walking through the tower’s main doors. ‘I’m going to forget my speech and make an idiot of myself in front of everyone and oh God what if I-’

“White boy, I can hear you thinking from across the room.”

Peter turned around to see Shuri, standing by the door of Pepper’s office. She closed the door behind her and smiled at Peter.

“Are you nervous?”

“No.” Peter answered immediately. Far too quickly, for anyone to believe in his words.

“Right… That’s just your happy face, isn’t it? C’mon don’t try to play me like that, Stark.”

“Stark?”, the boy echoed softly.

“You are Stark’s protegé aren’t you?” She asked, examining the boy’s face. He nodded along, still not understanding the girl’s train of thought. “Then you’re a Stark but that’s not the point. You’re nervous. Why?”

“Why? Because I have to talk in front of a thousand people, including Neil deGrasse Tyson, Barack Obama and Elon Musk! What if I forget what to say, what if I stutter, what if I-”

“Trip, fall, smash your head against the floor and everyone watches bleed out to death?”, she suggested, barking back a laugh. “Stark, you stress too much. You’ll be fine, no one is going to make fun of you. If they do, point them my way. Besides, Harley is going to be there with you, isn’t he?”

“You’ll be there?”, he asked, eyes wide open. This time, Shuri actually laughed and nodded back at him. “Ok… Sure, I’ll be fine and even if I miss something, Harley will have my back. Yeah… You’re right!”

“Duh! I’m a genius.” The girl pointed at herself and made a face at Peter. “C’mon. Miss Potts will be waiting for us and I want to prank T’Challa once more before the ceremony starts.”

 

Surprisingly, no one died and Peter didn’t choke during his speech. Harley added a couple of jokes in the middle of his part and managed to make the entire room burst into laughter, including Musk who smirked at the mention of his name.

Tony had just finished his speech and the little tribute they prepared in honour of Stephen Hawking was almost done by the time Tony made his way across the room, towards the snack table. It was a nice change to see that the fancy, tiny snacks they usually served at this kind of ceremonies, had been replaced with small versions of actual snacks like hot dogs and burgers, so all the kids that had won a place in the JIP could feel a little less uncomfortable. He was about to say hi to Shuri who was eyeing the hot dogs with a strange look on her face when she turned around and gasped in surprise.

“Don’t scare me like that, colonizer!” She yelped, hitting his arm with her purse.

“Uh, I’m sorry?” The engineer mumbled, not sure of what had just happened. He noticed Nakia who was watching them from a few feet away going from a casual stance to what he could only describe as Kill Mode. Shuri smiled at her and turned back to Tony.

“Shouldn’t you be entertaining your guests?” She asks, finally choosing to try one of those mini pizzas. She bit half of it before deciding that she liked them and attacked the tray, never taking her eyes of the engineer.

“I’ve heard about what happened with Ross”, he tried. She eyed him with surprise, clearly not imagining that he was going to ask her about it. To be honest, Tony didn’t know why he had said that either. It just… slipped from his mind.

“The broken white boy, yes. What about him?”, the teen shoot back, taking a sip from a glass of carbonated soda. Tony tries to ignore the way that Pepper is walking towards them, as if she’s on a mission to stop them to destroy each other.

He puts a Starkpad in front of her, on a side table made to hold drinks.

“My best friend. Care to take a look?”

She hands him her half empty glass. Pepper, who is just a few steps away from them, about has an aneurysm as she watches as Tony happily takes it from her hand and trades if for the Starkpad and prays to all Gods in the world that no one, not even Peter or Harley, step in that scene.

“Another broken white boy for me to fix?” She jokes, before looking through the opened file displayed on the pad. “Of course.”

Her smile lights up the entire room and, for a second, Tony swears the world just stopped.

“Rhodey is black. You’ve met him yesterday.” Tony adds quietly, praying that his voice doesn’t betrays him.

He can’t cry.

He won’t cry.

Stark man don’t cry.

She hands back the pad to him and takes her glass out of his hand.

“We can talk tomorrow about the details but I think that we should start the treatments here. I’ll talk with T’Challa so we can bring all the equipment here but, as soon as Mr. Rhodes is ready, we can start.”

“Thank you.” Tony whispers and Shuri offers him a soft smile before leaving him alone to his thoughts.

“Is everything alright?”, Pepper asks, closing in on him and holding Tony’s hand. He’s a bit pale and his knuckles are turning white due to the strength he’s applying on the Starkpad.

“Yes, love.” The answers, turning around to face her, and offers her a smile. “Now it is.”

Chapter Text

Harley’s mind was a place of endless creations, capable of things unlike the world has ever seen. However, he cannot say he ever imagined himself sharing a car with Happy, Tony, Peter, the King and Princess of Wakanda and their royal entourage on their way to the Stark Tower. The teens were going sightseeing, using their last free day before T’Challa’s big announcement to the world, and the adults were on their way to meet Doctor Strange.

‘I have to step up my game…’ the boy made a mental note to ask Tony what strange friends he was inviting over next weekend.

The overall environment was pretty peaceful, given the circumstances. Peter and Shuri were discussing new updates for his spidey-suit while Tony chatted quietly with T’Challa about their meeting with the UN, that was schedule for the day after.

Suddenly Shuri looked out of the window and looked around in confusion.

“Road work ahead?”, she read out loud, catching everyone’s attention.

“Have you never seen a-”, Tony asked, trying to figure out if the princess was faking confusion or not. T’Challa turn to him, slightly.

“There are no signs like that in Wakanda.” The King turned around once more, so he could face his sister and began to explain “Shuri, it means that there is construction on the ro-”

‘Oh, that’s not good’, Harley thought has he noticed the side glances that Peter and Shuri were throwing at each other.

“Uh, yeah, I sure hope it does!” The other two teens shouted unanimously, bursting into laughter right after, much to everyone’s dismay. They even high-fived each other, the little shits.

“I hate you so much”, Harley whined, lightly smacking Peter in the arm. “You guys suck.”

“I agree.” T’Challa stated, looking like he rather be mauled by a bear than to hear that sentence ever again.

Next to him, Tony was probably seconds away of having a brain aneurysm, “Was that a Vine reference?”

“Yes.” Shuri managed to answer before falling back into uncontrol laughter.

“You have Vine in Wakanda?” The engineer tried once again, eyebrows so close together that, for a brief moment, Harley thought they were going to fall of his face. Which would be a shame, really, because Pepper might kill Tony if they had to reschedule the wedding because the groom was lacking eyebrows.

‘His goatee could probably make up for the lack of other facial hair’, Harley mused.

“Yes, well, not anymore because it’s dead.” The princess continued, wiping away the tears from her eyes.

“I… I take back what I’ve said before, this was not a good plan.”, Tony said with an expression of deep pain. Peter and Shuri exchanged another look before erupting into laughter once again.

Eventually, the teens quieted down, only giggling a bit from time to time.

“Hey, Mr. Black Pant-, I mean, Mr. T’ch-, I mean, Your Highness, King T’Challa?” Peter spoke up, out of the blue.

“Yes, Peter?”

T’Challa tried his best to not come off as aggressive or rude, especially after seeing how happy Shuri looked like while hanging out with Stark teens, but, if the boy’s face was anything to go by, didn’t do a great job at it.

“I was wondering… When…” The boy stopped for a while, biting down on his lip, looking like he was getting ready to jump out of a twenty floored building. “When you see something, like, really dumb happen, are you ever tempted to say ‘Wakanda nonsense is this?’”.

All eyes fell on Peter, even the Doras’ who were usually very restricted on their facial expression. Next to him, Shuri and Harley were probably half way on their way to die from laughing their lungs out.

“No.”

“He lies.” Shuri adds, in between coughs. “He’s always making terrible puns, when he thinks no one can hear him.”

“I absolutely do not, dear Sister.” The King insists, staring at her incredibly disappointed.

“I have video evidence.” The princess shot back, tapping on her kimoyo beads bracelet. “We can always see it, if you’d like, Peter.”

“I told you to the delete that footage.” T’Challa pointed at her, squinting his eyes at the teenager, who happily continued to play with her bracelet.

“And I did”, she shrugged at her brother “after I sent it to the Dora Milaje group chat.”

T’Challa did not, he didn’t, stare at General Okoye who, in turn, absolutely did not smirk at him and looked away as if she had nothing to do with that conversation.

 

“Normal is subjective, but I can’t say I see this everyday”, Rhodey commented, followed by a vague hum of agreement from both Pepper and May.

“It looks worse than it really is.”, the boys answered in unison, heads snapping in their direction.

Pepper laughed silently at them, eyes wrinkling ever so slightly over a wide smile. School had begun a few weeks prior and the J.I.P. has started a couple of days ago, so the boys had been a frenzin, running around from school to the Stark Tower, never arriving home (or their dorms, in Harley’s case) before eight or nine pm. On top of that, they had spend the entire day visiting New York’s most popular sights with Shuri and the Doras. They were clearly running on fumes by now, despite all the naps and energy bars.

‘At least they aren’t alone all day, doing God knows what’, she thought as she watched them rub away the oil from their faces, only managing to smear it even more. ‘At least, I have JARVIS to keep an eye on them now.’

“I’ve worked with Tony long enough to know that when someone says that, what they actually mean is the exact opposite.” She continued, stepping closer to them. They crunched their nose simultaneously and kept on working. “It’s getting late, how about we all clean this up and review tomorrow’s schedule one more time before going to bed?”

“Do we have to?”, Peter pleaded, despite the obvious state of disarray and sleepiness they were both in. It was frankly adorable and Pepper had to fight the urge them to conceive them five more minutes.

“Yes, you do, Peter.”, May insisted, adopting her best ‘my decision is final don’t test me or so help me God’ stance. Peter huffed, clearly annoyed, but started to put away his project. Harley, however, wasn’t feeling that cooperative and ignored them all.

“Harley, it’s time for bed, kid.”, Rhodey tried, leaning in so the boy could see his face clearly, to no avail, because Harley refused to stop for long enough to look up. “Harley, you have to go to bed now. You have two classes to attend before Happy picks you up for the JIP first session. You need to rest.”

“Can’t.”, the teenager mumbled, never looking away from the strange miscellany in front of him.

“C’mon Harley, don’t make me drag you to bed.”, The man insisted, trying to hide the stress and annoyance behind his calm voice. “You can finish that tomorrow, I promise.”

“But Tony needs this for tomorrow.”

“Harley, whatever it is, Tony wouldn’t want you to lose sleep over it.” Rhodey tried to assure him, this time, stepping closer to the working desk. “I’m sure you can finish it on your way to college. I’ll make sure they put your tools in the plane before you get up.”

“But he needs this for tomorrow. He can’t leave without it”, the boy repeated and it was clear that he wasn’t completely conscious anymore.

The Coronel finally approached him, resting his hand on the boy’s shoulder and, for the first, time, he could take a good look at what the boy was doing. He turned around and, with a slight movement of head, silently asked everyone to leave them alone, looking pleased when Pepper rushed everyone out and up the stairs. That was not a conversation that required a live audience.

“Harley, can you tell me what are you building, here?”, he asked, sitting next to him, on a nearby chair, glancing at the small, arc reactor-sized metal construction.

“An armour for Tony”, the boy murmured as he watched the screwdriver leaving his hands.

‘Jesus, he’s completely out.’, Rhodey sighed as the boy’s trembling fingers reached for the metal tool, only to give up abruptly and rub his eyes vigorously.

“And why does Tony needs an armour?”, he insisted. Deep down, he knew where this was going, but he pleaded God for Harley’s response to be something way less complicated and meaningful.

“‘Cause he’s gonna talk with Doctor Banner tomorrow.”

‘Shit.’

“I could be mad at you, for listening behind closed doors, but that’s a conversation for when you’re more awake.” The man decided, eyeing the boy more carefully. “You know that Tony isn’t going alone, right?”

The boy stared at him, eyes blinking lazily, only to nod a few seconds later.

“Pepper is going with him. Doctor Strange, I’ve told you about him, is going too. Banner can’t and won’t do anything to Tony.” Harley looked panicked for a moment but the words to express it failed him and he ended up whimpering, eyes wide-open staring at where Tony usually stands while working in the lab.

‘I’m not going anywhere with this… Not tonight, at least.’

“Harley,” Rhodey calls out, hand heavy of the boy’s shoulder. Harley takes a while to look back at him and keeps glancing at Tony’s invisible spot, from time to time. “I promise you, no one can hurt Tony anymore. I won’t let that happen. Ever again.”

“But you’re hurt and you can’t fight anymore. Shuri hasn’t fixed your legs yet.”

Logically, Rhodey knew that Harley was far too exhausted to be held responsible for whatever his brain was spitting out, but he still felt the faint sting of an accusation.

“You’re not wrong. I’m hurt, I can’t fight”, he agreed, tapping lightly on Harley’s chin to direct his attention back to him. When the boy looked at him, he continued “but I have other ways to help Tony. I know people that can help him fight. I can help him plan his action better, I can convince him to not go in alone. And I promise you, whatever it takes to keep him safe, no matter how dangerous or difficult, I’ll do it.”

“Really?”, the boy echoed, looking a bit less panicked. “You promise you won’t leave him alone with them ever again?”

“You have my word.”, he promised, offering the teen a encouraging smile.

“‘K. I can… I can finish the armour tomorrow, then… If he’s not going alone?”, Harley offered, looking in the man’s eyes, looking for the smallest sign of a lie. Too tired to find anything, the boy gave up and dragged himself to the small elevator, with Rhodey’s help.

“J, please put everything away. Harley can finish it tomorrow after school.”, he man asked, before stepping out of the lab.

“Already done, Coronel”, the AI answered immediately, shutting off all the lights in the room. “I would like to assure you, young Sir, that I am decided to serve and protect Mr. Stark with all my power and resources. He is, and always will be, my prime directive.”

“Thanks, J. Thanks ‘ncle Rhodey.”, the boy smiled slightly and let himself be half-dragged to his room.

“Anytime, kid. That’s what family is for.”

Chapter Text

“Yes, Dr. Stark, I am sure I have much to learn.”

T’Challa’s words stuck with him.

‘Words’ The engineer mused, as they quietly made their way to the Stark Tower. ‘They tend to stay with you. Negative. Positive. Sad. Happy. Insults and praises. Truths and lies. Whatever. Words are like high-viscosity cyanoacrylate that gets inside your mind and sticks there. Still… I suppose they aren’t as clear as they are powerful.’

“My ancestors were wrong to turn their backs to the world. To hide, in fear of discovery. To let others suffer just so they could maintain their own safety.“ The King continued, as they stepped into the tower. “Wakanda has paid the price for its mistakes, as did the rest of the world. It’s time for us to right our wrongs, even those created from well-intended decisions.”

“I couldn’t have said it better, Simba.” Tony offered him an encouraging smile and clapped Happy in the back, who looked like he rather be impaled repeatedly than to be head of security for the next twenty four hours. “Look alive, Happy! We’re making history!”

“Sure thing, boss,” the man shot back, waving the file in his hand, “should I request for someone to write that down in our collective grave or is that just for Starks?”

The man barked out a laugh as the lift doors closed in. Okoye muttered something in, what Tony assumed to be, isiXhosa and turned her attention to her bracelet.

‘Maybe it’s her way to look like she isn’t listening to our conversation?’ The engineer mused, trying to figure out whatever the little gadget was projecting but he was too far to actually make out any of the words that floated mid-air. ‘It’s not like anyone would believe it but… It’s a nice sentiment, I suppose. Making people comfortable and all that.”

“Okoye will be in the room with us,” the King stated as they were leaving the lift. As expected, the panic room, as Tony had fondly named it, was empty, with the exception of Pepper who was waiting for them outside, “but I can assure you that nothing to be discussed here will leave this place. It is our best interest to keep our business quiet, to create a good plan before engaging our enemies.”

“Not sure we’ll have much time for that, but sure. Let just hope our friends can keep their mouths shut too, Whiskers.”

“King T’Challa, General Okoye.” Pepper greeted with a shaky smile. Suddenly she looked straight through them and took a step back, causing them to turn around, just in time to see a ball of bright orange light vanishing into thin air, as Doctor Strange was left standing in its place. “Doctor Strange. I was hoping you to use the front door.”

The man didn’t even bother to look like he cared.

“This was the fastest way and I’m afraid I’m no longer one for catching a plane.”

‘Strange’, Tony thought, ‘is one hell of a character. One day, he’s a stuck up doctor with the world on his hands, charming his way to the top; the next day, he has a magic cape, some freaky orange shields and he’s calling himself the Sorcerer Supreme of belief-based bullshit.’

“Strange.”

“Stark.“ Strange moved his head a little, nothing close to an actual bow, but something similar, an almost-sign of recognition.

“This is King T’Challa, Black Panther, Protector of Wakanda and all that good stuff and this is General Okoye. She’s staying with us for the meeting.” The engineer offered, pointing at the glooming figures behind him.

“Doctor Strange”, the king greeted, sticking out his hand, “Wakanda thanks you for your presence in this meeting.”

“Don’t thank me just yet, King T’Challa. I haven’t done anything.” The man paused and smiled at them. “I believe our final guest has arrived. Shall we go inside?”

“What do you mean, FRIDAY hasn’t said any-”

“Sir, Mr. Banner has entered the building and is now being walked here by Mr. Hogan.” FRIDAY announced, effectively cutting Tony, who grumbled slightly in protest.

“Send him in when he gets here, FRY. Lady and gentlemen, if you will…”

Tony led them in, left arm around Pepper’s waist, whispering something at her ears. She shot him a mildly-frustrated look before take a seat at the large table in the middle of the room.

The division itself was odd and Tony, more than anyone else, knew it. It was big, without a doubt, but the thick reinforced walls stole a lot of its original space. On the other hand, the artificial light gave off an inhospitable feel, despite all the visible efforts, such as the full-spectrum lighting or the purely aesthetic designs of the furniture, that it’s creator had made in order to turn it into a welcoming place. The highly advanced medical kit and the wall of weapons behind them probably didn’t improve the general atmosphere much.

“I’m sorry I took so long to get here.”

‘Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I’m not ready for this, not at all. I can’t do this.’

“Please take a seat, Doctor Banner.” Pepper said without getting up from her place, gesturing towards the furthest chair available. From the corner of his eye, Tony could see the doctor’s ragged brown jacket.

‘Oh, how much I love your polite pettiness, Pep.’ The genius billionaire made a mental note to buy her a new pair of shoes. Or an entire closet full of them. Probably the latter was the best option.

“We have much to discuss.”

“Uh, yes. Of course.”

‘Brucie. Unstable, crazy-smart, socially awkward, snarky Bruce. What the fuck happened to us, Brucie, my science-bro. Uh, science-bros. Those were the times, weren’t they? Sure, things were already falling apart by then but it’s always easier to ignore the pain when you have someone next to you.’

“This is King T’Challa of Wakanda, General Okoye, also from Wakanda, and Doctor Strange.” The redhead moved on, opening the first file in front of her. “Can we start? Very well, as you know, Doctor Banner came to me a few weeks ago with a warning about a foreign enemy who’s coming towards Earth to collect the Infinity Stones. Given the circumstances, and because Thor isn’t within our reach, please explain to us everything that happened since the Ultron events until now, Doctor Banner.”

“Uh… Thor… As you know, he left to try and locate the Infinity Stones. It’s… complicated but…”

“I’d like to end this meeting sometime today, Doctor Banner.” Strange said, looking like he was seconds away from letting his head fall straight into the metal table just to feel something besides boredom. Next to him, T’Challa was doing his best to not smirk. “Please, keep it short and simple.”

In Bruce’s defense, he didn’t react. At all. There wasn’t even the slightest hint of green in his eyes or hands and he didn’t look like he was even upset for being so rudely interrupted. He just stopped for a second and kept going, bumping into words and events at light speed before stopping for a few seconds at a time and going back to the story. Deep down, Pepper had to admit he was getting better at controlling the other guy.

‘Until the day he flips and kill us all.’ The tiny voice in the back of her mind reminded her.

There was a time, before all this, before the avengers moved into the tower, before Tony let them take over his home, his life and his heart and burn it all to the ground, when she thought that all those accusations were unfair. Afterall, Bruce Banner was a kind, soft-spoken man who was always willing to help others out and who willingly spent countless hours with Tony in the lab or even just watching tv. He was snarky and understood Tony’s humour. He offered her tea when she was upset about something at SI or after a fight with Tony, he was kind to J.A.R.V.I.S. and he played with Butterfingers and Dum-e, unlike everyone else who just treated the bots as expensive coat hangers.

There was a time when Pepper Potts was willing to fight low and dirty to keep Bruce Banner safe from anyone who wished him harm, simply because the man had been kind towards Tony. But then he left. He left Tony behind to deal with all the fallout from Ultron’s mess. Sure, that had been, and still was, the hardest cleanup in Tony’s history of bad plans but it would have been easier if he was there. It would have been, at least, a bit less unfair.

But Tony was used to taking all of the blame. For terrorists attacks he didn’t plan that were carried out with weapons stolen from him. For a murderous robot that he didn’t create by himself and that only became murderous because of the mind stone. For the decision of third parties, of fully grown people who should have known better than to use their fists in a fight against the United Nations.

Pepper wouldn’t allow it. Not anymore. She had failed him once. She wouldn’t fail him again.

“Doctor Strange. What can you tell us about the infinity stones?” T’Challa asked, catching Pepper’s attention. The man started into the empty space behind them before rising his eyes to meet the King’s.

“Before the universe first began, there were six singularities. These six singularities were then condensed into concentrated ingots, the infinity stones. The Space Stone is in the Tesseract, the Aether or Reality Stone is in this… Thanos’ possession. The Orb or the Power Stone used to be… In the custody of a capable army.

“Used to be?”, Tony cut in.

“I have reasons to believe that it is now in Thanos’ possession. Which means he already has two of the six stones.” Strange explained, clearly not happy with being interrupted. “The Mind Stone is, as we know, still with Vision, in Wakanda.

T’Challa and Okoye glared at the man, but were politely ignored.

“The Time Stone is safe, with the Masters of the Mystic Arts and the Soul Stone’s location is still unknown. What matters the most if that whoever controls all six stones and wields them using the Infinity Gauntlet has the power to reshape reality.”

“What does that means? ‘To reshape reality’?” Banner asked. There was a glimmer in his eyes that Tony recognised immediately. It was the same spark that fuelled him months before to go on for days on the lab without stopping for proper rest or food, the same spark that, once, lead to the creation of the Other Guy.

“It means that however possesses the stones and the gauntlet can, at will, destroy entire universes, create many others, alter the way the reality works.”

“Universes? As in, multiple of them?” Banner insisted. Strange resisted the urge to roll his eyes at him.

“Yes. This universe is only one of an infinite number. Worlds without end, existing in parallel.”

“That’s just a theory. It hasn’t been proved.” The scientist continued, making sure to not raise his voice or show any sign of agitation.

“I believe observation and knowledge must precede action, Doctor Banner. All my life I’ve practiced under that principle, so, when I tell you that there are multiple, endless universes existing, living, side by side and that it is possible to travel from one to another, I am sure of it.”

For a moment, it seemed as if Banner was going to keep arguing, demand evidence, even, but he settled down once again and allowed Strange to move on.

“We don’t much more to go on. There are… others, out there. They call themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy and one of them is a human. If we can contact them, we might be able to find something else about the stones’ locations but, for now, there’s nothing else.”

“We have one advantage”, Tony stated, fixing his posture in order to look at everyone around the table. “He's coming to us... so that's what we use.”

“How do you pretend to do that, Doctor Stark?” T’Challa asked.

“SHIELD might have gone down… But there are still completely functional agents out there. We can use them. And… We need to get them back.”

“Them?” Pepper echoed.

“The… Rogue Avengers. I’ll talk with the UN, I’ll make a deal, something but we need them back.” When Pepper looked like she was going to complain, Tony turned to her. “We don’t have enough firepower to refuse anyone’s help. Ultron, the Accords… None of that will ever matter if we’re all dead.”

“So we’re just letting war criminals who tried to kill you multiple times come back? Give them weapons and let them loose?”

“That’s not what I said. There will be guidelines, conditions. Constant vigilance, trackers, limited access to weapons.”

“Tony, you know that’s bull- Is everyone else ok with this?” Pepper asked, looking around. From the other side of the table, Banner looked like he wanted to flee the scene.

“There is no right or wrong in this debate.” Strange cut it, looking annoyingly sure of his words. “It is simply a matter of perspective, and it is not my place to influence the evolution of the superhuman role.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it.” The woman spat out.

“I cannot, will not, decide your future, this universe’s future, for you. I can help you live to see another day but I cannot tell you what do when that day arrives.” Strange moved on. “I’ve never thought of saying this but Stark is right. We have a limited time window to prepare ourselves before Thanos arrives and we cannot afford to go to war empty-handed.”

“Let us not waste time.” The King stepped in. “Wakanda will reveal its truth to the world tomorrow, so I am not sure that our support will help much, but I believe that the best action course is to reunite as many allies as possible.”

“Do you really think that any of the former SHIELD agents will report for duty?” Banner asked, forcing Tony to look at him.

“Since that I was the one who was bankrolling SHIELD for the last year of its existence, I’m quite sure that, at least, some of them will. The others… I'll find someone who can convince them.”

Chapter Text

“Who the hell is that? And why is he bleeding?” Harley asked, throwing his backpack on top of the main work desk. As he crossed room, the boy watched Tony dragging the unconscious body on the ground to the small couch.

“Harley, meet Nick Fury.” The man introduced as if he wasn’t carrying the unconscious body of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s ex-director through the lab’s dirty floor. “He’s bleeding because he’s an idiot.”

“I didn’t know that idiocy cause people to spontaneously start bleeding from the nose.” The boy eyed the older man on the couch before turning around to grab a bottle from the mini fridge. “Is this the moment I turn around, go to another lab and pretend I never saw any of this or do you want me to call Pep and tell her we have a surprise guest?”

“Let’s keep this a secret for now. J. can keep an eye on me, right J.?”

“Absolutely, Sir”, the mechanic voice assured. “Shall I activate protocol doomsday once Mr. Keener leaves the premises?”

“Yeah, you do that buddy. Harley, grab all your stuff and get moving, before our guest wakes up.”

The teen muttered something from underneath his breath, but did as told, and, by the time Fury started to regain consciousness, he was long gone.

“Welcome to the land of the living, Director. Can I offer you anything?”

“A napkin would be nice.”

Fury was humouring him and Tony knew it.

But after almost two weeks of looking for the man, he was more than willing to endure all of Fury’s social games, as long as he got what he needed.

So he played nice. He handed him a clean rag, some ibuprofen and a glass of water, before sitting down right across him. He even gave the spy enough time to clean himself up.

“So, what brings you to my lab, Nicky? I’m willing to bet you didn’t came by for a social visit.”

Fury’s good eye twitched. He looked around before locking eye contact with Dum-e.

“Your robot hit me in the face with an empty fire extinguisher.”

“Yeah, he tends to do that when people sneak in, uninvited.”

This time, Fury actually sighed. Tony would consider it amusing if they weren’t running against the clock.

“You’ve been looking for me.”

“So you decided to spare me the trouble and meet me in the middle of the day, on a Wednesday, in my lab? How kind of you, Nicky.”

“I thought it was the least I could do, after being away for so long.” The man offered, finally looking Tony in the eyes.

“Well, I guess that’s something else we could discuss. Later, perhaps. Unless, you just came by to tell me to stop looking for you because if that’s the case…”

“If I didn’t want you to find me, I wouldn’t have come, Anthony.”

‘That’s fair’, the engineer mused as he turned around in his chair.

“Then why are you here, Director?”

“I’m not the director of anybody, not anymore. I’m just an old man who cares very much about you.” Fury echoed.

A few months back, the man had popped up, back from the dead, and told Tony the exact same words. Tony couldn’t help but to think that he wasted his final chance at making things right.

“You’ve told me that before.”

“But you didn’t believe me, did you?” The spy shot back, letting himself sit back, against the worn out leather. “I’ve known you for quite awhile, Anthony, and I don’t need to be a spy to know what you’re thinking right now.”

“You told me…”, Tony recalled, reclining in his own spot, “that Maximoff was working me. Playing with my fear.”

“I was right.”

It was true. Fury, despite all his secrecy and double, triple morals; despite Tony’s unwillingness in admitting it, was rarely wrong. After all, he was The Spy and he knew them all better than anyone else in the world. Hell, he knew Tony for longer than Tony knew himself.

“You were. I let her play me. I failed.”

“You weren’t the only one. Rogers, Barton, even that weird robot of yours, they are all blinded by her sad little origin story.”

“Her parents…”

“Were killed during an attack carried out with weapons stolen from Stark Industries, yes. She’s using that to justify all her psychotic tendencies, Stark. You know that.”

“I tried to explain it. Time after time. I tried to get them to understand but...” The man insisted, leaning forward, over the small coffee table that stood in between them.

“It’s hard to kill an idea.” Nick concluded, eyeing the man in front of him. “As a spy, as director of S.H.I.E.L.D., I was never in a position where I could afford to doubt my decisions, to make mistakes.”

“Is this the part where you tell me all you did was for my own well-being?” Tony interrupted, looking like he was dangerously close to running out of patience.

“You might not believe me but… Yes.”

“Nick, please, I don’t have to-”

“No, you don’t have to listen to me, but I’d rather if you did.”

Tony, despite all his fighting words and snarky comments; despite not even trusting The Spy, still respected the man. So he did what he does best: he grumbled under his breath and let him continue his grand speech of redemption.

“Did I ever told you how I got into S.H.I.E.L.D.?”

“No.” Tony offered reluctantly.

“I was young, not even twenty-five, working for the C.I.A. Young, smart but reckless, not overly fond of rules… You know the type.” There was a small smile, as he rubbed the back of his head. “A senior officer mentioned me to a man named Gabriel Jones, who used to serve in the 92nd Infantry and, later on, was part of the Howling Commandos.

“He sent my file to, at the time, Director Carter. She agreed to meet me and saw through my bullshit right away.” Both Nick and Tony shukled at that. “She asked me who I was fighting for and I knew what the correct answer would be.”

“Aunt Peggy was never one for correct answers”, Tony spoke softly, as if he was picturing the scene in his mind.

“No, she wasn’t. So I told her the truth: that I was fighting for people like me. For everyone who couldn’t protect themselves under the threat of a larger power.”

“Sounds nice, Nicky.”

“She thought so too. She told me she understood my position, coming in, expecting to get the door slammed in my face at the slightest of errors.”

“So she offered you a place at S.H.I.E.L.D.?”

“She offered me a chance to open a door.” He corrected. “After that... She took me in, became my mentor. The rest you already know. But the most important moment in my career, once I was already part of S.H.I.E.L.D., was the day Director Carter took me to the Stark Mansion.”

“My fourth birthday”, Tony added, smiling a bit.

“Yes. Howard wasn’t happy with my presence but Mrs. Carter was very adamant.”

“Howard never liked to let intruders in the house,” the engineer agreed. “Unless you had something to offer him, of course.”

“He knew what I was there to offer and he didn’t like it.”

“What do you mean?” Tony demanded, leaning in once again.

“Director Carter… There were always those who didn’t saw her as a fit choice to sit on the high chair, they were pressuring her to stand back, to give up the badge.”

“She chose you, yes. But Howard never cared much for who controlled S.H.I.E.L.D. has long they kept cleaning up after his messes.”

“Howard wanted someone who kept you away from S.H.I.E.L.D.” Fury finally gave in. He faced Tony, his good eye carefully examining every little twitch.

“What?”

“Your father, no matter what you might think, always tried to protect you. He knew it was too late to protect you from Stark Industries’ own enemies but he knew he still had time to keep S.H.I.E.L.D.’s enemies from touching you.”

“So, he did what? Paid you to stay away? Threatened to stop building S.H.I.E.L.D.’s little toys?” Tony shot back.

“The told me the truth: Starks change the world, either you like it or not. You can’t turn your back on them even for a second but you also can’t force their hand without having it explode on you.”

“So you just stepped back because of what I might had done? If… If I had never become Iron Man, you’d just pretend to not know me? Stay in the shadows for the rest of my life?”

“Yes.” He conceded, not even bothering to look like he would regret it. “I made a promise to Howard, Anthony. I would let you live your life, make your decisions, and I’d only step in if and when absolutely necessary.”

“Like with the palladium poisoning.”

Fury didn’t answer, but Tony didn’t need an answer. He wasn’t stupid, he knew that Fury’s timing had been too perfect to be true. Stark luck might be good but it had never been that grand.

“So this is it?”, he offered, getting up from the small chair “It's all been leading to this.”

“We all make mistakes. Although, we are only responsible for the ones we make.”

“A nice sentiment, Nicky, but not exactly true, is it?”

“It all depends on where you’re standing.”

“Well, I’m standing on a pile of dead bodies of innocent people, civilians, bystanders, children.”

“But do you stand alone?”

The engineer grunted at that, sitting back down.

“Open file: Infinity War_beta_03.”

The room’s mechanical lights were slightly dimmed, forcing Fury to close his good eye for a few seconds, in order to adjust to the newly-found darkness. When he finally regained his vision, an holographic display of pictures and files flickered into life above the little coffee table.

Tony watch him go through it, in complete silence, turning to his own Starkpad as the older man read.

“This is…” Fury tried, quietly inquiring him, waving the blue designs away .

“Our future.” Tony answered, pulling the six stones towards him. “Whatever… Whoever is coming towards us, wants this. It already has two, as far as we know, but we have no idea where one of them is. Which means he can already have it, by the time he engages the Earth.

“You don’t have enough power to fight this.”, Fury warned.

“I don’t. Even with Strange, Banner… Hell, even if we could get the Rogue Avengers on our side, we still wouldn’t have enough power.”

“So you came to me.”

“S.H.I.E.L.D., for all intents, is partially mine.” He rubbed his face, pulling up the files of the agency’s most important agents. “But I don’t want, I don’t have to do things like that. If you could help me, we might stand a chance. After all, that’s why Aunt Peggy created S.H.I.E.L.D., wasn’t it? To protect us from all threats.”

Nick knew that he had no way to deny his help.

He obeyed Howard’ orders, respected his wishes. He had stood and watched from afar for long enough.

He stood back and watched a heartbroken teenager being lead to a path of destruction, pain and carnage.

He stood back and watched as that same heartbroken teenager grew into a damaged man, who strived for true affection but too hurt to trust anyone.

He stood back and watched as this young man was used, manipulated, tortured for more weapons, more money, more power by a person who posed as his family, his godfather.

He stood back and watched as he looked Death in the eyes and came back in a mist of gold and red, stronger than ever.

He stood back and watched as this young man's eyes were opened and he struggled to mend his ways, to fix his legacy, to protect everyone around him, even those who could protect themselves or didn’t deserve to be protected.

He could no longer stand back and watch.

“Give me 24 hours and get your team ready for a briefing. Your agents will begin to arrive by then.”

Chapter Text

There was a time when all Coulson ever wanted was to fight for his country and keep people safe. Every single time, with absolutely no doubt, he’d answer every teacher, family member and old neighbour’s questions about the future with the most simple answer he could give:

“I want to be like Captain America!”

For some, this was a mere fantasy, a child’s dream and, while it is good for children to dream, adults can’t have those kind of silly hopes. So, as Phillip because Coulson, and, later on, FBI Agent Coulson, the man made sure to keep his dreams internalized; always minding of who could hear him as he spoke of his hero.

When Coulson became S.H.I.E.L.D, it seemed to him that, being like Captain America, didn’t felt so impossible anymore.

After all, former Director Peggy Carter had been friends (and, if you believed the myths, maybe something more) with Captain America himself. She had met him, train him back when he was just Steve Rogers, a skinny, asthmatic punk from Brooklyn who didn’t know when to back down.

Being around her, hearing her talk about the war days, of Steve, of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s first few years, it gave him a new sense of hope, of purpose. He would never be as strong, a heroic as Captain America but he could always try. And try he did.

He trained his agents to be the best. He took care of them, counselled them in specially trying times and, when they came back with a deadly, but very much alive, russian spy instead of dead russian spy’s body, he found a way to excuse their behaviour.

Years, decades, working for S.H.I.E.L.D. can change a man and Coulson could never, would never deny that he wasn’t the same person that he had once been, on his first day. One would say he had become more serious, more rigid; that he kept the cards closer to his chest than ever before. He knew this was true. Still, he had also changed for better: he had formed a little family for himself (strange, small and, even on good days, deadly, but still), he learnt to trust more, even if that trust didn’t come easy, and he learnt that, despite everything he was ever told, he was okay to believe in superheroes.

Then suddenly Stark got kidnapped and, despite Fury’s obvious connection with the younger man, Coulson wasn’t allowed to search for him. That, of every single decision he had watched Fury make, was the strangest.

But he didn’t object. He stayed back, did his work, trained his agents, delivered his reports on time and waited for Fury’s next move. There weren’t many possible outcomes and, after two weeks, Coulson was certain he had narrowed them down all to two situation: either Fury would give up and bring back Tony or the Director would spend the rest of his life mourning the death of the genius.

When Stark came back with a battery plugged into his chest and shut down the weapons manufactory, Coulson had to admit he was not expecting this outcome. He was, however, pleased to know that, even for just one night, Fury could go to bed not worrying about Stark’s whereabouts.

This was until, a week later, Fury stormed into his office and growled something about rich dumbasses flying around in golden tin cans. Coulson should have really see this coming.

 

“Thank you for not breaking in”, Coulson greeted, as he adds some garlic to the fresh pasta. He doesn’t need to turn around to see who is standing behind him. Besides, he looks cooler this way. “Are you served?”

“If you don’t mind. I haven’t eaten all day. “

Fury’s voice is light and calm. He hears the older man walk to the kitchen’s table and sit down, before turning off the tv.

“I appreciate your visit, Director”, Coulson adds as he sets the full plates in front of them, “but I’m sure there is something else you want to talk about.”

Fury sighs, as if he was expecting to have some time more before having to address whatever situation was plaguing him, but conceded.

“I’m here because the world needs you.”

“Isn’t that why levels 9 and 10 are still in action, Nick?”

Coulson was pushing his luck, poking and prodding to see how far Fury would go, and they both knew it. Still, the older man ignored his sass and moved on, speaking softly between bites.

“There’s an alien named Thanos coming towards Earth. Stark already has a small team assembled but doesn’t have enough firepower.”

That caught Phil by surprise. Not the alien part, obviously, but the Stark part. Tony was never a team player, or, at least, not one that Coulson knew, and, despite everything, Stark had always had enough firepower to deal with his enemies.

Coulson couldn’t imagine the billionaire approaching Fury to beg for help. Not in a million years. Which meant that, either Fury had something to win by proposing S.H.I.E.L.D.S.’ help or this alien threat was bigger than anything they could have ever imagined.

“I can’t go this time.”, Phil started, ignoring the way Fury’s good eye was scanning his face. “My team needs me and I don’t think that the best way to inspire trust in a team is to go back and reveal that I was never actually dead.”

This time, Fury actually cursed at Phil’s reasoning.

“We’ll have to do without you and your team but everyone else higher than level 5 is to report back.” The (former) Director insisted. “While S.H.I.E.L.D. still stands, we will not stop doing our job.”

“I believe our base in Kent is still operational”, the agent recalled, pulling his phone from his back pocket.

Fury seemed quite pleased with his answer. The man picked up the silverware and started to eat, not bothering to face Coulson has he typed away in his phone.

“Good. Tell them they’re expected to be there in less than ten hours, starting now.”

Less than ten hours.

That wasn’t enough to wrap up delicate operations.

Hell, it wasn’t enough to extract every single agent from the field, without putting them at risk.

Fuck.

“What if they’re in the middle of operations, Sir?”

“Thanos is our top priority. Levels four and five can take over any diplomatic interventions, otherwise all operations are to be suspended immediately.”

“Sir, I don’t think that..:”

“Phil, back in the day, I had eyes everywhere, ears everywhere else. We could keep working underground and let the Avengers deal with the bigger, flashier threats.”

There was a brief moment of silence, as if he was contemplating the past, the power that S.H.I.E.L.D. once had. Shaking his head, the man looked into Phil’s eyes and sighed.

He looked… well, he looked exhausted. More than ever before. Phil had never seen Fury like that, not even when Loki invaded Earth, or when HYDRA took over S.H.I.E.L.D., or Ultron tried to destroy Earth, or the Avengers were ripped apart by stubbornness and petty fights.

“But right now, here we all are with nothing but our wit, and our will to save the world. We don’t have enough agents, weapons, information or plans to keep this from going south. We are facing something much bigger than Thor and his insane brother and we don’t even have the Avengers anymore.”

Another thing that Coulson had learnt during his time as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent was that, sometimes, you just need to accept your place in life and do as you’re told, especially if you’re being ordered by Nick Fury.

“I’ll have them ready by sunrise.”

Fury didn’t say anything. He just turned his attention to the pasta in front of him and left soon after, leaving Coulson behind to make all the phone calls he deemed necessary. He still had another person to visit before his time ran out.

Chapter Text

Hi guys.

 

So, this isn't a chapter. Sadly, I won't be able to give this work a proper ending because 

 

A) as I said before, my dog is sick. Nina, a 12 years old toy poodle, has been with us since birth but lately she hasn't been doing so well. The doctors say she'll make it but she keeps gaining infections and losing weight and we have to keep an eye on her as much as possible. 

B) exam season is starting and this exams are crucial for me to enter college. My entire future is a stake right now and I cantc fail.

 

C) i started working on a bookstore recently and I've been doing some extra hours so I can save up for college

 

This being said, I love this series. It helped me grow as a writer and all your love and support really helped me see my work as something worthy of praise. I'm looking forward to write more stuff and work on my writing skills.

 

So, until a next time and thank you so so much for everything. I'm sorry I couldn't finish this on time before infinity war (or even finish it at all). 

 

Love always, 

Daniela 

 

 

Chapter Text

Hi guys, gals and non-binary pals! Who's it going?

 

I have two great news:

 

One, Nina, my toy poodle, is much better and, even though she's still taking several antibiotics, she's back on track. Which, let me tell you, is the best news I was ever given. Sadly, her treatments were super expensive which means that I had to cancel my trip to London this August because well... *Mom voice* Money doesn't grow on trees!

 

Which takes me to my second good announcement: I'm back to writing!

 

Right now im keeping it light, only taking 20 minutes each day for this because exams are almost upon me but, if everything goes well, I'll fully turn my writer™ switch on sometime around July and start posting stuff in August (will the surprise extra free time and all).

 

So, stay on the lookout and, once again, thank you so much for reading my works and for supporting me so much. You are truly the best and I couldn't do it without you.

 

Love, 

Daniela