Steve would wait at the man’s lab and literally follow him everywhere when someone came to get the man. They would watch as he was passed off from person to person, all day performing his duties. Not once did they ever realize beforehand how much Stark did on a daily basis. They noticed, as well, that the New Team kept Stark from fixing up their equipment or working on anything for them in general. Which was ridiculous. Weren’t they fighting for the same cause?
Each day was different. Stark was taken to different places in the compound each day without any notable pattern. Normally, Colonel Danvers would pick Stark up a few hours after he came in. From there it was up for grabs on just who was next. They end of the day was a man named Lucas Cage taking the genius back to the lab where he was picked up less than an hour later by the thorn-in-their-side Sorcerer.
After a couple days of this, they were approached by Carol telling them to back off. She put it nicer than that, but it was obvious the blonde Colonel was not happy with them. It pretty much came down to this. If they continued on their course of action, the Rogues would be dropped off at SHIELD HQ faster than they could blink. Carol was not going to allow them to continue to harass her Co-Leader.
That made the group back off. Which Sam was thankful for. He could only talk sense into people when they weren’t focused on something. The fact they were that focused on Tony, however, did help him realize to just what these people were capable of when they wanted something. Normally, Tony gave in with no real fight but this was what Sam was seeing when Tony didn’t. He was pretty sure he now knew why Tony gave in so easily. Scott seemingly agreed with him but other than that didn’t do much. The other man didn’t have much pull in the group as it was, so trying to talk sense into them was beyond the engineer.
Still, they were told not to stalk Tony around anymore, something Sam full-heartedly agreed on. The issue was now his group didn’t want to listen to him. Falcon knew it would be a few weeks for them to stop sulking about the situation. Scott was the only one not emotionally involved, so he helped out the Airman where he could. Sam was patient and was working out the plans he had in mind. After all, they were told to keep away from Tony. They were never told to stay away from Stephen. If they could talk to Stephen, who seemed like a reasonable man, they could explain their side of things and have him help pursue Tony into letting them use his lawyers.
Sam, though, was beginning to wonder if this was the correct way to go about things. Seeing Steve almost on a quest to get to Stark made him wonder. Was there another way this could have been solved? Or was there a way this all could have been prevented, to begin with? Granted, he still sided with Steve on the Accords, but he was seeing that this new team wasn’t as hindered as they were all lad to believe they would be. They actually had more leeway than the team previously had.
It was weird…nothing like they had thought. As much as Sam wanted to help out his team…he was wondering whether what they were doing was really worth it. It wasn’t going to change the Accords or get rid of them. Sam and Scott had come to realize that this wasn’t going to happen because Tony didn’t have any hand in the original draft; he aided in the amendments but that was it. This was not something Stark could make go away. Over 100 countries and climbing passed this document. What were they really fighting against? While he and Scott did the research they were also making plans.
Like Sam had suspected, it was going to take a while for his team to come to their senses. A few weeks to be exact. It would have been less but missions, training, and having SHIELD come in every other day doing checks on them since Steve’s first debacle of stalking the Co-Leader of the Avengers stretched out the time they needed. It would seem that those actions were considered threatening and now they needed to be checked on more now because of it. Wonderful job, Steve…
When Sam was finally able to get them to see what was going on, they calmed down with SHIELD being around. The Airman got it into their heads that the way they were trying to get to Tony was wrong. How would that look to an outsider? Stalking the man around until he gave in? The group relented. Yeah, it didn’t look good on them from an outside point of view and that is what they were really dealing with. How the UN and everyone else saw them. Now, the UN knew they were trying to get to Stark. Which didn’t do well for their appearance.
Falcon, with Scott, then told them that any other methods they tried were not going to work. Sam had tried writing an email to Stark only to find that it never got there. Even writing him a letter by hand didn’t work. Nor did trying to leave a message on his phone, as it never rang through and only went to a dead phone line. He admitted to the team that this was not going to be easy, but they shouldn’t sink too low to get the message to the man. After all, with time, guards come down and maybe all they had to do was wait it out.
So, talking them into observing for a little while was surprisingly easy after they had the information in front of them. They could come up with a new plan that was not as aggressive-looking as well as waiting for the other team to stop being as defensive. Give the man some breathing room. Taking to only having one person in the general in the same area as Tony and not all the time either. Taking breaks to give it the appearance they weren’t watching him. They did their best to randomize it as best as possible. After about a week of surveillance did they notice something. Dr. Stephen Strange seemed to relatively close to Stark. As in when he could, he would always be around Stark.
Dr. Stephen Strange was someone they had never met before the ‘Civil War’ and was only briefed on when they had returned to the states. Tall, serious looking brunette with silver at the temples dressed in blue robes and red cloak that had more to it than it seemingly let on. He could have been an ally if he wasn’t so distant and looked at them as if they were not worth his time. In the end, they wrote him off as someone they tried to avoid as he had already chosen his side with the fact he was the main one transporting Stark in and out of the Compound.
Watching the two men for another week, less than a week actually, it was clear. They determined that they had to be at least good friends. Nearly as close as Rhodes was to Stark but more open-minded. Meaning he used magic around Stark and where they always saw an edge of nervousness whenever it was used but he was not completely terrified of it. Not like when he was around Wanda, there was always distrust in his gaze. In Wanda’s defense, there was the whole issue with the Stark bomb on her house and Stark thought it was best to stay away from her because of the disdain she felt for him. Okay, there was a few more points for the billionaire with that action.
Coming to the conclusion than Stark trusted this man. Maybe if they could get Strange on their side they could relay what they wanted through him to Tony. That was the best plan they had. It wasn’t outright stalking the billionaire, even with their observations it could be seen as such. Luckily, they kept them scarce enough not much attention was brought to it even if they were being watched by the members of the other team.
Now, they had a new plan. Getting to Tony was not going to happen. So, they will try talking to the one who dropped the genius off, Dr. Stephen Strange. On paper, it sounded like a simple plan. Here was hoping it would continue to be that simple.
“Dr. Strange?” Steve asked.
They caught up with the man outside the labs. Tony was not in yet. They could only imagine that the Doctor had not been called to get the billionaire. So they had a little time. Maybe with a bit of luck, they only needed to do this once. Otherwise, it would be another long waiting game. One that would involve praise and other such things they would resort to later to try to win the man over. With how everything had been going for them though, it was probably a multi-talk job.
“Yes?” The Doctor replied simply as he looked over the lab area. He could easily get inside if he wanted to but they were taking advantage of the fact he was outside the lab to notice the empty lab wasn’t all that empty. There was a small golden glow. Small enough it was hidden by the older man’s form in front of the window. His cloak was on high alert keeping eye on the new arrivals. The cloaks minuscule movement alerting his partner to the arrivals before they even made themselves known.
“We were wondering if we could talk to you?”
“To talk or try to intimidate?” The sophisticated one returned with another question.
“What?” Steve questioned a little taken back. The rest of them were too, save for Natasha who seemed a tad upset. The only reason Sam could see that was because of how he had been trying to read her. After a few years, people get comfortable and some shields drop. Nat’s were very few but knowing she was not happy with the situation was a common one and Sam had been able to pick up on it relatively easily.
“If we were simply going to talk you wouldn’t have needed to approach me with your entire team. To do that is an intimidation tactic. One that will not work I’m sorry to say,” the Doctor explained but he was anything but sorry about it. He seemed more smug about it than anything.
“Says the one outnumbered,” Barton retorted. He should have thought that statement through with the look that was leveled his way by not only Strange, which was over his shoulder but Steve and Nat as well.
“Says the one who has a barrier up to where any negative action toward my person will backfire and it will all be caught on camera,” Strange shot back finally turning around to look at them, “So do re-evaluate your situation before you comment on my own.”
That shut a good few arguments down before they got started. They were getting too comfortable in their familiar environment. They forgot that FRIDAY was watching their every move. Now, it was by request from SHIELD and she was more than happy to comply. How they forgot that little tidbit was beyond them.
“Look we aren’t here for a fight,” Sam stated taking control of the situation as Steve was not going to be any help here. He had to step in before his Captain shoved his other foot in his mouth.
“So, you say. What are you here for then?”
“We wanted to relay a message to Tony but because of previous methods used by the team, we are no longer allowed to see him. We were wondering if you could pass it along to him.”
“I am under strict guidelines that I should allow contact with Dr. Stark willingly there will be drastic consequences.” The Sorcerer said simply as if he were quoting it straight from a book.
“You can’t bend these rules?” Natasha asked with a raised eyebrow. She was obviously trying to win back the conversation to favor their side.
“Not if I want to continue working with my team,” replied back with little hesitation.
“Harsh…” Scott muttered.
Scott was right. Getting completely removed from the team was drastic. None of them thought it was something that big that kept people in their way. No, they thought Tony was throwing money at them. Seems like that had a whole other list of reasons that they weren’t sure they were completely aware of.
“Indeed but for good reasons,” the sole man before them continued, “With becoming Avengers there is a guideline of trust. This includes secret agendas and past conflicts. Which means Dr. Stark had to let us in on everything that happened to him that would have lead to conflict in the ranks. Upon reviewing the files it came to our attention the old structure of the previous Avengers team was a very toxic situation. One that is not going to be replicated here.”
Everyone but Scott and Sam seemed to pale a little bit.
“Everything?” Steve asked a little worried.
“Yes, everything,” Stephen could have left it there but he continued, “Including the fact that you, Mr. Rogers, knew of his parents’ murder since the fall of the previous SHIELD and never told him; leaving him in Siberia in a broken suit was just the icing on the cake. That Miss Romanoff wrote that personal file on Dr. Stark while he was dying and failing to mention that it was his state of being was the cause of his erratic behavior. Also the evidence that Miss Maximoff had messed with his head when he went to retrieve the scepter which aided in the result of Ultron. I could continue, but you can understand where I am going with this.”
“Oh my god…” said Scott practically breathless. Looks like their team could work a little bit harder on transparency.
“My thoughts exactly. Now, do you see why you are not allowed anywhere near him?” Stephen continued.
“I can only guess,” Scott said before giving ‘his team’ a look and was about ready to walk off. The only thing that stopped him was the eruption of gold on the other side of the window. This made everyone turn to the window. There was a smile on Strange’s face as he looked at the portal that formed.
“Ah, looks like he got it. I knew Wong would pull through.”
“What?” Romanoff asked as she stalked up to the window to get a better look. There was one thing Natasha didn’t like and that was not knowing what was going on. So not knowing what was going with Stark must have been driving her crazy. They had not let anyone in on what Tony had been doing the past weeks. Now she had an opportunity to see what had been happening and she was going to take it.
In the middle of the room was a perfect portal. Golden and beautiful as it illuminated the room around it. Then stepping through the portal came. Not Wong like some of them expected but Tony Stark with a huge grin on his face. Why was he so happy he came to work? It wasn’t till the billionaire turned back to the portal and proceeded to close it did they understand. Tony Stark had made that portal.
“Seems his training is going well. I knew Wong would figure out how to train him,” Strange said with pride lacing his voice.
“You’re teaching Stark magic!” Wanda nearly shrieked. That was one thing she had over him was magic. One thing she prided herself on having…now, Stark was a candidate and was being taught magic. It was now something Stark could use and maybe even against her as she had used it on him in the past. She knew there would be a sit down to discuss her full involvement with the Ultron incident eventually. It was touched on by the sorcerer, so obviously the people here knew more about them then they had let on.
“Yes and no,” The Sorcerer replied and began explaining before anyone could interrupt, “Yes he is being taught magic but is only the smallest amount. He is too…rooted in world science which is good for him, for him to be a full-time sorcerer. At least for now. Learning to use portals was mainly to help him with his PTSD concerning New York and the portal incident there. It is also so the protection charms on him work more fluidly, interweaving with his own form on a deeper level. Another reason is so he can get to work without having to rely on myself or Wong. Not that we won’t check in on him but this is so he has freedom again.”
He then excused himself and made his way to the door to be let into the lab. A couple moments later they could see the windows tint black to block out everyone else as the two Doctors began working. The former Avengers were left there gaping. Scott and Sam had taken a few steps back and looked to one another before they quietly walked away, leaving the rest of the group there.
The group as a whole could understand what the man meant. Having them around made Stark live a very constricted lifestyle. He had to constantly have someone with him or around him. None of the New Avengers trusted them with Tony because they knew how he was left in Siberia. They knew how the old team treated him. Tony had told them everything and must have had video to boot because he was just that paranoid. Now, because of the slightest lessons in magic the billionaire had regained some freedom. He could come and go as he pleased instead of having to depend on a couple of people to take him where he needed to be.
This changed everything, no longer was Stark something obtainable. He could come and go and they would be none the wiser unless they saw him…and they knew they only had the Sorcerer to blame. Beforehand they had a shot but now they didn’t. He must have convinced Tony to do this somehow. Dr. Stephen Strange had successfully placed himself on their ‘least liked’ list and made it to the top. They weren’t going to take this lying down. The Rogues would figure out how to change the dynamic in their favor again. Tony Stark owed them for this mess regardless of what had happened to him in the past. Stark was going to need them. Need them for this war. He would cave eventually…they just had to figure out how so they could put some pressure on the ‘when’ part of that equation.
The only two that had this made an impact on was Sam and Scott. Both men had had their eyes opened more than before. The rest of the team seemed to have no regard that even if Stark was an asshole, he was still human. He had a choice on who he wanted around him or who he didn’t. He didn’t want anything to do with them and now the two had more reasons why other than what they were told. There were people who loved him just the way he was and respected his decisions. Why the group previously known as the Avengers thought he needed to change for them was beyond their comprehension. From then on Falcon and Ant-man took a step back. The others wouldn’t. Why? They were not sure but figuring it out was going to be daunting. They were going to look into this though...if what Stephen Strange said was true, they wanted proof. It was time to go talk to Colonel Danvers.
“Oh my God,” Tony cackled falling over into Stephen’s lap, “Did you see their faces!?”
They were back at the Sanctum and well, Tony’s little stunt in the lab was noteworthy enough that Friday had taken pictures and video. She then sent them to everyone of note. This included a few people at SHIELD and the New Avengers but also Pepper, Happy and the Spiderling too. The faces the Ex-Vengers when they saw Tony controlling that portal was something that needed to be archived.
On the small sofa, the two were cuddling next to each other whilst having some ice cream. Granted, they were doing more talking than eating. This meant the frosty treat was melting just a little bit. It was okay though. It still tasted good. The smile on Tony’s face was far better though. A sweeter reward than the promised ice cream that night.
“They were not expecting you to learn magic, darling,” the former Doctor stated as he allowed one of his hands to gently tangle into Tony’s soft tresses, “You now have the edge on them. They can no longer read what you are able to do. You are now mysterious and unknown.”
“What did you tell them, Steph?” giving his boyfriend a look that told him he really wasn’t in too much trouble. Tony gently nuzzled his head into the Sorcerer’s hand. Tony was as careful with Stephen's hands as he was with his words around him. The former Doctor meant the world to him…he was Tony’s rock. The one who helped build him back up again. There was no way he would carelessly hurt his Sorcerer. Just like he knew Stephen was doing his damnedest to make sure he was just as careful with him.
“Only you were being taught enough magic that you were comfortable with and gaining your freedom back from them,” the Sorcerer Supreme stated nonchalantly. Finishing off his frozen treat. Before he could set the bowl down on the coffee table Cloak took off with it. Ushering it to the sink where it could be taken care of. Shaking his head fondly he turned back to his genius who also shared his exasperatedly fond facial expression concerning their mutual friend.
“May as well told them I was turning into a Sorcerer,” Tony said with a smirk, “Granted, I don’t want to impose on Wong as much as I already have. The man is terrifying but genius at his job.”
“I’m sure he’d be flattered to hear that,” Stephen said offhandedly while continuing to run his hand through the soft, well-taken-care-of hair.
“He probably would think I am sucking up to him and not believe me,” countered the genius while closing his eyes, basking in the attention he was getting.
Silence overtook the room. The Cloak of Levitation, hovering nearby, knew its humans were going to retire soon. Even the two men knew they were going to head to bed in the next few minutes. Right now they wanted to enjoy the silence, Stephen’s free hand grasping at Tony’s. He was playing with the sling ring on the billionaire’s hand. The genius only wore it right now because he was still getting used to it; the weight was odd for him. It matched Stephen’s own and he was certain Wong did that on purpose.
The rings normally differed just slightly from user to user but he could find no difference from Tony’s to his own. Subtle, Wong…subtle. Even though only Masters of the Mystic Arts were supposed to use the rings, Tony’s situation was considered an exception as long as he was mentally trained. Leave it to Wong to get the billionaire to accept as well. Wong told Tony it would help with his PTSD if he would train as well as give him more freedom with the old Avengers and maybe even explain itself to where it would work with his science-minded brain.
What the Librarian didn’t tell Tony was that he had the potential to become a true Sorcerer. The genius was still at some odds with magic but for now, it was not something for Tony to learn completely yet. He was just beginning to understand it. He would in time…but now the training aided his mind, and that was the main thing. How Wong managed to train him while Tony also attended his other duties was something that not even Stephen couldn’t figure out. The other man said nothing other than ‘Tony’s mind was wonderful when motivated in the correct direction’.
It was after a moment Tony opened his eyes to look at his boyfriend. Warm chocolate irises gazing at the soft grayish of Stephen’s. There was life in his eyes as well as hope. The hope for a new day, the hope for something more…a promise of for the future.
“One day, right?” Tony asked hopefully.
“Yes, one day, my dear,” promised Stephen.
Smiling at each other, the billionaire took off the ring and set it down on the coffee table for now. He would take it to the bedroom when they made it that far. Right now, they just wanted a little more time with one another before they had to leave the warmth of the other. Maneuvering ever so slightly so that Tony was laying atop of his Sorcerer. Staying right where they wanted to be. In the arms of the one, they began to call home.
They never made it to the bedroom that night, falling asleep on the couch. The Cloak seemed fondly exasperated at them, drifting to the bedroom to gather a blanket and bring it out to the men who were curled so tightly around each other. Breaking them apart just to make it to the bedroom seemed irrelevant now. Not saying that sleeping on the sofa was good for them...they were at least sleeping. The Cloak couldn’t have asked for any better humans to have. They were both so strong in different ways and complemented each other well.
There was a promise there.
A promise for a brighter future together. It knew why they were waiting. If one of them died in the up and coming battle…the other would be burdened with having to deal with the aftermath of death. A funeral was going to be hard enough. The thought of having to go through all the other’s belongings would be unbearable for these two…these two who lost so much. So they were waiting. Once Thanos was taken care of, then they would aid in the cleanup and finish making plans they had been working on.
Still, if they both survived--no, when they both survived--there would be something wonderful to look forward to.
Laying the blanket on top Its humans, the Cloak also joined the cuddle pile, keeping the men warm and safe.