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In An Adjoining Universe

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Loki dropped the illusion of being unaffected by his mother’s death. “Now you see me, brother,” he said as Thor walked over to him. “Did she suffer?”

“I did not come here to share our grief-” Thor began.

“I figured as much when you and Odin left a stranger to inform me of her death but I still thought you might be willing to share information with me to woo me to your cause,” Loki interrupted. “What do you want from me Odinson?”

Thor’s mouth tightened, “I know you seek vengeance as much as I do. You help me escape Asgard and I will grant it to you, vengeance. And afterward, this cell.”

Loki chuckled, “You must be truly desperate to come to me for help- Although I suppose I have given you reason to think that I prize revenge over all else. -What makes you think you can trust me?”

“I don't. Mother did,” Thor stated. “You should know that when we fought each other in the past, I did so with a glimmer of hope that my brother was still in there somewhere. That hope no longer exists to protect you. You betray me and I will kill you.”

“So… If I betray you, you’ll kill me?” Loki asked.

Thor nodded.

“And if I’m faithful to you, you’ll throw me back in this cell to rot in solitary confinement until I go completely mad. The only person who could or would circumvent Odin’s orders, gone?”

“Err, I suppose I could visit,” Thor said uncertainly. He glanced around at the ruins of Loki’s cell, “Bring books?”

Loki smiled, “No, I just wished to be clear about my options. When do we start?”

Meanwhile, Sif was busy with the task Thor had given her. She arrived just as Jane’s guards were delivering the Midgardian’s dinner. “I'm not hungry,” Jane said.

Sif knocked out the guards, “Good, let's go.”

Jane looked at the other woman curiously.

“I hope you die, the sooner the better,” Sif said smiling. “Just as long as it’s not because I failed Thor. You’re mortal, at worst I have to wait sixty- seventy years before I have the opportunity to comfort him in his grief over losing you. It’s annoying but not much worse than enduring an unpleasant class or two would be for one of your life-span. But if I’m complicit in your death it might actually drive a wedge between us… So stick close to me and try not to die on my watch.”

Nervously Jane followed Sif through the battle scared halls until they met up with Thor and his brother. “You're…” Jane began.

“I'm Loki. You may have heard of…”

Jane slapped Loki as hard as she could, “That was for New York.”

Loki smiled and looked at Thor, “You two have so much in common: You’re both violent and, apparently, heedless of the fact you plan to put your lives in my hands.”

Before Thor could reply they heard the guards approaching, “There they are! Take them.”

“I'll hold them off,” Sif offered. “Take her. Remember how much I’ve helped you after she’s dead.”

“Thank you,” Thor said. “I think.”

When he and Jane started down the hall Sif laid her sword alongside Loki’s neck. “Betray him and I'll kill you,” she threatened.

“You all do know I wasn’t aiming for a long life when I threw myself off the Bifrost?” Loki asked before moving her sword aside and following Thor and Jan

The three of them hurried on to where Malekith’s ship had crashed into the palace. There Volstagg met them, “I will give you as much time as I can,” he promised.

Volstagg and Thor grasped forearms. “Thank you, my friend.”

Loki rolled his eyes when Volstagg stopped him from passing, “If you even think about betraying him…”

“Has it occurred to even one of you brainless louts that offering to look the other way while I escape after my mother’s killer is dead and Thor’s beloved mortal is safe would be a much more effective way of guaranteeing my loyalty?” Loki asked with exasperation.

After Thor’s inexpert piloting had caused more damage to the city that Malekith’s attack, Thor shoved Loki off the ship. Loki, his hands still bound, landed awkwardly in a skiff piloted by Fandral. “I see your time in the dungeons has made you no less graceful,” the blond laughed.

Loki waited for the inevitable death threat, but Fandral didn’t take advantage of the moment before Thor joined them with Jane. “Of all of Thor and all his friends, you’re the one who realized that threatening to kill me doesn’t actually do… anything... to motivate my loyalty?” Loki asked in shock.

“Actually I just thought it would be better to remind Thor up-front that you will betray him,” Fandral admitted.

“Especially when the ‘reward’ I’ve been promised for my loyalty is less desirable that death," Loki agreed. "And I always thought you were the most brainless of the lot. I do want vengeance against my mother’s murderer but be assured, one way or another, I will NOT be returning to Odin’s cell after I’ve had it.”


It took only a few minutes after their successful escape to Svartalfheim before Thor and Loki fell to quarreling.

“You think you alone were loved of Mother?” Thor demanded. “You had her tricks, but I had her trust!”

“Mother’s tricks?” Loki asked sharply. “I dearly wish she were alive to hear you dismiss the art she worked long and hard to master as mere ‘tricks’. Such a sight would go far to appease my hunger for vengeance against you… But at the moment vengeance against you is not my priority.”

Chapter Text

“Secretary Ross has a Congressional Medal of Honor, which is one more than you have,” Rhodes told Sam.

“Ross looks better on paper than in person, Sour Patch,” Tony interjected absently. “He’s got an Ahab-sized complex about Brucey-Bear and all Enhanced by extension. Still, there’s not much we can do about the President’s lack of taste. Ross is the only Secretary of State that we’ve got and there are a lot more people behind the Accords than ole Thunderbutt.”

“So let's say we agree to this thing. How long is it gonna be before they LoJack us like a bunch of common criminals?” Sam protested dropping his copy of the Accords on the table.

“Like they did to you when you were flying the Falcon wings for the military?” Rhodes asked. “Like they did to me in the six years that I’ve had War Machine? One hundred and seventeen countries want to sign this. One hundred and seventeen, Sam, and you're just like, ‘No, that's cool. We got it’.”

“How long are you going to play both sides?” Sam demanded.

“I didn’t know there were sides,” Rhodes replied. “But if you’re planning on starting a war against the military I swore to serve… Well, consider my side picked.”

“I have an equation,” Vision said.

“Oh, this will clear it up,” Sam replied dismissively.

“In the eight years since Mr. Stark announced himself as Iron Man, the number of known enhanced persons has grown exponentially. And during the same period, the number of potentially world-ending events has risen at a commensurate rate,” Vision stated.

“Are you saying it's our fault?” Steve demanded.

“I'm saying there may be a causality. Our very strength invites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict… breeds catastrophe,” Vision said mollifyingly. “Oversight… Oversight is not an idea that can be dismissed out of hand.”

“The military, the police, the medical and legal professionals, engineers,” Rhodes said. “We’re a damn sight better with them having oversight than we’d be without. Why should this gig be different just because we nominated ourselves superheroes?”

Natasha turned toward Tony, “You’re being uncharacteristically non-hyperverbal,” she remarked.

“It's because he's already made up his mind,” Steve accused.

“Of course I already have an opinion,” Tony retorted. “The UN has a mandatory degree of transparency and I keep an eye on legislature that will directly impact me. I had assumed you do the same, my mistake. But I’m also fully aware that I have a polarizing personality. This is too important for you guys to be picking sides based on whether or not you like me.”

“You give yourself much credit, Stark,” Wanda said. “To think we would be swayed to a side simply because it was yours.”

“Actually I was thinking the opposite,” Tony replied. “Anyway, I’m just hear to listen to what YOU think of the Accords. I abstain from the debate… Although I will say don’t make up your mind just because Ross took it upon himself to play messenger boy. Sure, being in the same room with him makes you long for a decontamination shower but he is one representative of one country. Whether you agree with the Accords or disagree we can’t just blow this off because we don’t want to deal with Thunderbutt.”

“Like you took the 2010 Senate Hearings seriously?” Natasha inquired innocently.

Tony snorted, “Contrary to popular opinion, I was aware of how much political capital Stern had to throw at me. Admittedly, I didn’t predict Vanko and that gave Stern more leverage than I thought he’d have… But then he didn’t predict Hammer getting in bed with a lunatic like Vanko. And that’s why he had to praise me on national television to disassociate himself from Hammer’s mess, so it all worked out.”

“If we do not accept limitations what differentiates us from those we fight?” Vision asked, trying to get the conversation back on track.

“Someone dies on your watch, you don't give up,” Steve argued.

“I do not believe I spoke of giving up,” Vision disagreed.

“But that’s what we’re doing if we're not taking responsibility for our actions,” Steve stated decisively. “This document just shifts the blames.”

“Are you taking responsibility for Lagos?” Vision asked. “I apologize for eavesdropping, however with my hearing it is difficult not to. You spoke of your mistakes in the tragedy there and yet, I have not heard you speak publicly to shift some of the blame from Wanda’s shoulders.”

“That isn’t accountability,” Steve insisted. “The media is just looking for a scapegoat. The less we feed it the sooner it will go away.”

“Once they’ve chewed Wanda up and spat her out,” Tony remarked. “Believe me, I know a little about being the focus of a media storm. The State Department is making noise about revoking her visa and Captain America stepping up and taking responsibility for Lagos would go a long ways toward shutting that sort of talk down.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Steve sighed. “But can’t you see how compromised the Avengers would be if we have to deal with this sort of malarkey all the time? Constantly jumping through hoops for some politicians instead of being out there protecting the world? If we sign this, we surrender our right to choose. What if this panel sends us somewhere we don't think we should go? What if there is somewhere we need to go, and they don't let us? We may not be perfect, but the safest hands are still our own. ”

“I'm sorry. Steve. That - that is dangerously arrogant,” Rhodes stated. “You’re going to throw out the whole notion of oversight because someone, someday MIGHT give you a bad order? If, and that is a big if, you get ordered into a situation where the Avengers don’t belong, you say ‘No’. But I don’t think it’s going to happen, like I mentioned before, I have worked with the US Military as War Machine for six years, without that kind of problem and the United Nations is a lot more cautious about it when they intervene. But the way you’re reacting I’d think we were talking about the World Security Council, S.H.I.E.L.D., hell, I’d think we were asking you to sign on with HYDRA.”

“This United Nations is run by people with agendas and agendas change,” Steve stated stubbornly.

“Of course it’s run by people with agenda, name a single organization that isn’t… This one included,” Rhodes exclaimed. “You think ‘agenda’ is synonymous with some evil plot? It’s not, it’s just a underlying goal, what the other guy’s big picture is. People have agendas, they have priorities, they have long range plans that they’re working towards. If you’re going to work with people you’re going to have to accept that they have their own idea of what they want to achieve. That’s just reality.

“And this is the UN, they might not be perfect but that means there are a lot of competing agendas. If you can get the U.S., China and Russia to agree that something’s a good idea, odds are it’s a pretty universal goal: Case in point, that a bunch of vigilantes running around the globe, answerable to no one, leaving chaos in their wake is NOT what the world wants.”

“Maybe you’re right about it being unlikely that we’d be sent anywhere we shouldn’t be,” Sam allowed. “But the UN is notorious for getting deadlocked because of too many competing agendas. So what happens when they won’t let us go where we need to, ‘cause you know that IS going to happen.”

“Lagos, for example?” Rhodes asked dryly. “What the fuck were you doing there anyway? When I signed on to the Avengers it was to deal with things normal folks couldn’t, not to poach on the JCTC’s turf. You were someplace you didn’t belong, assuming responsibilities outside of your remit and it blew up in your face, killed a bunch of people. And not for the first time either. In response the world’s cracking down, setting limits. No. it’s not even that: They’re reminding you of your limits because you are vigilantes and that is NOT legal.”

“Maybe he's right,” Natasha said. “If we have one hand on the wheel, we can still steer. If we take it off -”

“Aren't you the same woman who told the government to kiss her ass a few years ago?” Sam asked.

“I'm just… I'm reading the terrain,” Natasha said. “We have made… some very public mistakes. We need to win their trust back.”

Steve’s phone buzzed, he glanced at the text and read: 'She's gone. In her sleep.'

“I have to go,” he said dropping the Accords and standing up to leave.

“Captain, sit your ass down,” Rhodes snapped. “We’re going to finish talking this out.”

“It’s Peggy!” Steve protested. “I can’t be bothered with this bureaucratic claptrap when they’re burying the woman I wanted to spend my life with.”

“Look, I can get private jet prepped for you,” Tony said. “If we haven’t finished this discussion by the time they’re ready to take off… Well we can make this a transatlantic discussion. Honestly, I’d like make the funeral myself. Even if I didn’t know about it, Dad and Peggy worked together for decades with S.H.I.E.L.D.” Tony hesitated for a moment. “I should go, Peggy and Daniel were at my parents funeral.”

Chapter Text

Diverting briefly to an Adjoining Universe where the Accords exist, Rogers leads the Avengers and Rhodes had the dubious pleasure of putting a stop to the rampage across Bucharest.

“You’re putting them all on one plane?” Rhodes asked the ranking, uninjured GSG-9 officer.

The man sighed, “We were only prepared for one prisoner. It was our understanding that the Winter Soldier was working alone.”

Rhodes groaned, “First, if Barnes did it, he was brainwashed. Which means he was working for someone. Second the other three aren’t with him, technically. As best I can tell, Rogers and Wilson were here to ensure Barnes’ safety regardless of whether he was guilty or innocent. And King T’Challa apparently hasn’t figured out that he’s not the law of the land outside of Wakanda, he was here to play judge, jury and executioner. Which brings me back to: You’re putting all four of them on the same plane?”

“We will keep them all firmly restrained until we are on the ground in Berlin,” the officer offered helplessly.

Rhodes groaned, “Yeah, you do that. Industrial strength restraints or they’ll probably be back at it before you’re five feet off the runway. Good luck, I’ve got to get back to digging out that underpass, there could be people trapped in there.”

Which was how T’Challa found himself being flow to Berlin via cargo plane, handcuffed to a restraining bolt just behind the cockpit. At the back of the plane, nearest the back hatch Bucky Barnes sat, restrained inside a heavy cage that left him unable to do more than turn his head and talk. Like T’Challa, Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson were handcuffed to restraining bolts, at the middle of the plane, out of reach of either Barnes or T’Challa. A dozen armed guards rode with them, warily watching them all for any attempt at escape.

“You murdered my father, for that I will see you pay,” T’Challa growled at Barnes.

Sam choked and if Tony had been there ‘The Princess Bride’ would certainly have been brought up, regardless of appropriateness.

“I don’t do that-“ Bucky began only for Steve to cut him off, declaring, “Bucky’s innocent!”

“Stevie, shut your goddamn mouth!” Bucky barked, to everyone’s surprise. “I can talk for myself. ‘Sides you saying your pal didn’t do it don’t mean a damn thing to anyone!”

“You don’t deserve being hunted like some animal,” Steve protested, looking hurt.

Bucky grimaced. “I remember this,” he said. “You spouting off whatever you think like it’s the Word of God. It ain’t persuasive, ‘less you mean how it convinces folks to punch you in the yap.”

“So you admit it?” T’Challa demanded.

“Hell no,” Bucky replied. “I’ve been in Bucharest nearly a month now. Only learned ‘bout the bombing when I saw my picture on the front page a couple hours back.”

“You expect me to believe that?” T’Challa scoffed.

“Naw but it’s the truth,” Bucky stated, meeting the young king’s eyes squarely. “And why would I have set that bomb? All I’ve done since slipping HYDRA’s leash is try to stay off the radar. Blowing up UN meetings that haven’t got a thing to do with me don’t exactly do me any favors.”

T’Challa’s accusing gaze shifted to Steve. “Nothing to do with you perhaps,” he said. “But you are the Captain’s storied companion and HE opposed the Sokovia Accords, the ratification of which your bomb disrupted. And yet, for all that he was against the Accords, Captain Rogers did not come to Vienna to tell the world of the reasons they should NOT sign. The Captain ‘blew off’ the world’s concerns and thus was far away when the UN Assembly was attacked.”

“Watch what you’re insinuating!” Sam exclaimed as Steve simply stared in disbelief. “Steve was at his girl’s funeral. Give him a break, there was nothing suspicious about him not showing up in Vienna.”

“The world demands answers for the those who died on your captain’s watch. It demands change. And he took a personal day.” T’Challa shook his head bitterly, “And you wonder that sixty percent of the world found common ground to create laws for you?”

“Sixty percent isn’t that large a majority,” Sam replied.

“True… Shall we discuss the 25% who would not sign because they want absolute guarantees that teams of American Enhanced will not be allowed to invade their countries?” T’Challa asked. “To provide the sort of ‘help’ that the people of Lagos, Sokovia and Johannesburg are still trying to recover from?” He shook his head, “The people of Sokovia may hate you the most but there are others less desperate to see something done about you and thus more willing to hold a hard line.”

“I’d never attack a civilian gathering!” Steve sputtered, regaining his voice. “NEVER, how can you even suggest that?!? Besides, Natasha was there.”

“And you would never endanger one of your own?” T’Challa asked.

“What the hell are you implying now?” Sam snapped.

“I am merely wondering how the world’s self-proclaimed protector weights the good of HIS people against the good of the rest of us,” T’Challa said smugly. He nodded toward their guards, “I am certain these men, as well as the citizens of Bucharest and Lagos would like to hear the answer as well.”

“And what about you, your Majesty?” Steve shot back. “How much of the damage done to Bucharest can be laid on your wrongful quest for revenge?”

“I do not claim to act on behalf of the world,” T’Challa replied. “Only on behalf of Wakanda and they cry for justice. For their brothers and sisters killed by your carelessness in Lagos, for their murdered king.”

“Yeah right,” Sam snorted. “If Wakanda was behind you, where are your bodyguards? This is your personal vendetta.”

“And Bucky didn’t do it!” Steve couldn’t help but throw in.

Bucky rolled his eyes. “Stevie,” he said warningly. “Look, King T’Challa, I didn’t get no order from Stevie. I’ve been hiding from him as much as from HYDRA for these last couple years.”

Steve’s look could have made kicked puppy-dogs feel sorry for him.

“You shouldn’t need a keeper any more, Punk,” Bucky said unrepentantly. “And I wanted the time to sort out who I was for myself.”

“I don’t believe you,” T’Challa replied.

“Don’t really care,” Bucky replied. His eyes turned toward their guards. “But it gives them something to look into. I was in Bucharest at the time of the bombing. Got my groceries in the market like I did every other day for the last twenty-seven. Stevie and his bunch have been looking for me ever since D.C., moved on from Marrakesh thirty-four days ago ‘cause I wind someone was looking for me, thought it was them.”

And maybe, in this Adjoining Universe, T’Challa would have pull his head out of his ass a little sooner and not gone after Team!Cap with blood in his eyes at Leipzig. But T’Challa’s vendetta wasn’t the biggest problem there, it was just an excuse for Natasha to taser him (after she brought him onto the team in the first place).

Bucky doesn’t have a choice about Berlin.

Maybe Tony takes the leads Bucky handed over and proves Bucky’s innocence in Vienna sooner but after Berlin he’d still need to bring them in for Bucharest and Berlin. Because resisting arrest is still resisting arrest even if your innocent of what you were being arrested for.

If Steve believes (or wants to prove) that the Accords obstruct heros from doing what’s necessary he still can’t let Tony bring in Zemo. And this is the Adjoining Universe, Sam might say something but he’s not actually going to go against Steve. Bucky’s got no one but Sam and Steve to turn to for information on the Accords so if they say they’ll keep them from stopping the Winter Core he’s likely to believe it.

Chapter Text

In an Adjoining Universe Steve and Tony discuss Steve signing the Accords after Bucharest:

Tony Stark walked into the room where Steve Rogers had been asked to remain after being arrested in Bucharest. “Hey, you wanna see something cool? I pulled something from Dad's archives. Felt timely,” he said pulling out a black presentation box holding two pens. “FDR signed the Lend-Lease bill with these in 1941. Provided support to the Allies when they needed it most.”

“Some would say it brought our country closer to war,” Steve replied, unimpressed.

“You’re telling me Captain America is now opposed to the U.S. involvement in WWII? After all the shit you pulled to enlist?” Tony asked.

Steve gave him a stubborn look.

“Or do you just disagree with everything I say on principle?” Tony added.

Steve shrugged, “It’s served me reasonably well in this century when I have to deal with something I haven’t been able to update myself on yet.”

“I don’t know why I even waste my time,” Tony sighed. “Look, I’m busting my butt trying to get you, Sam and Barnes out of the mess you jumped into, against Natasha’s advice I might add.”

“Right, we’re supposed to be friends.” Steve thought for a moment, “How’s Pepper?”

“You have less interest in my life than the average grocery market shopper who scans the tabloid headlines in the checkout line,” Tony said dryly. “We’re on a break.”

“Sorry,” Steve said.

“Pepper’s important to me, so is Iron Man,” Tony replied. “And that’s a problem. You know Pepper was ticked when I shut down SI’s weapon manufacturing division? Unlike Rhodey, Pepper was probably mostly mad that I didn’t give her advanced warning before turning over the apple cart, but also she’s not someone to take the law into her own hands. Whether you like to admit it or not, that’s what we do as the Avengers, we put ourselves above the law, make life and death decision for people who have no voice in what we do, then pat ourselves on the back and go home. The Strawman has a point; just because Thunderbolt Ross said it doesn’t make it less true.”

“I don't mean to make things difficult,” Steve said.

“Right, you’re extremely sincere in your convictions and your intentions are pure as the driven snow,” Tony said. “My good intentions didn’t mean a damn thing when Ultron was stomping around and to the people Lagos your stellar intentions are just more paving stones in the road to hell.”

“I let myself get distracted when Rumlow brought up Bucky but we were doing the right thing,” Steve said stubbornly. “If I decide that something is worthy of the Avengers’ attention we are definitely the right people to deal with the situation and I won’t let any government have a say in what fights I want to get into. That’s why I won’t have anything to do with your Accords.”

“The Accords didn’t make Bucharest illegal,” Tony replied. “Even in your day they had rules about picking fights with peacekeepers and staking your flag in someone else’s country has always been a good way to start a war… You do know that you’ve got the U.S. flag plastered across your chest and other countries tend to feel a little invaded when you show and smash their cities?”

Steve stared at Tony with a blank, uncomprehending expression. “The people know I’m there to help,” he insisted.

“Sure, the ones who aren’t dead or grieving when you leave,” Tony remarked. “Like I said, the Accords don’t make Bucharest illegal but if you were acting under their auspices we COULD make it a legit, Accords sanctioned mission… If you sign. And just to sweeten the deal, Barnes gets transferred to an American psych-center instead of a Wakandan prison… Well, actually, judging from Bucharest, Wakanda’s brand new King isn’t too interested in seeing Barnes in prison, probably behead him the moment he gets his hands on him. You want to protect Barnes, you need to obstruct Wakanda’s request for extradition and you can’t do that with your fists.”

Steve frowned “What do you mean the Accords aren’t about creating laws that stop the Avengers from going where ever we feel we’re needed and blowing stuff up?”

Tony thunked his head against a table. “When in history has it ever been A-Okay for combat units to go prancing around in other people’s country without considering the relationship between the country where they come from and the one where they’re doing their business? The Accords are a compromise to let the Avengers continue operating instead of a bunch of governments simply deciding that YOU are something they need to protect their Sovereign Territory from.”

Steve picked up one of the fountain pens. He started pacing then turned to Tony. “I want Bucky safe but I can’t just back down, not when I’ve made such a fuss about the Accords already. What sort of face saving measures can you promise?”

Tony snorted, “Sure Cap. Once we put out the PR fire, those documents can be amended, like every other set of laws. I'd file a motion to have you and Wanda reinstated…”

“Wanda? What about Wanda?” Steve demanded.

“She's fine,” Tony assured him. “She's confined to the compound, currently. Vision's keeping her company.”

“Oh God, Tony!” Steve exclaimed. “Every time. Every time I think you see things the right way… By which I mean seeing thing MY way.”

“You haven’t publically taken responsibility for the dead people in Lagos,” Tony snapped. “The media’s blaming it on Wanda. She’s persona non grata, right now, could start a fucking riot by stepping out of her front door and Maria Hill’s not the only spy who can pull up Wanda’s history with HYDRA when they look her up. Keeping her at the Compound is the best protection I can offer her under the circumstances.”

“Protection? Is that how you see this? This is protection? It's internment, Tony.”

“It’s not even a fucking house arrest!” Tony shouted back. “If she decides to leave she’s free to. Of course since her visa’s been revoked the US government might have a thing or two to say about her wandering around.  You know, being associated with a terrorist organization is actually a damn good reason for denying someone a visa.  Just because you've forgiven and forgotten the HYDRA volunteer part of Wanda's past that doesn't mean everyone has.  I worked out a deal where Wanda is allowed to stay at the Compound while we leverage the Accords into a solution to her little visa issue. The alternative is ICE puts her in detainment while they start deportation proceedings, so sue me if I thought a 100 acres with a lap pool and a screening room were the better option.”

“She's a kid! And I like her! Anyone who wants Wanda or Bucky to be even slightly discomforted has to go through me,” Steve stated firmly.

Tony watched him walk away, “Yeah, I don’t know why I waste my time,” he muttered to himself. “Clearly the rules shouldn’t apply to your friends and you’ll fight anyone who says different.”

With clearer communication Tony washes his hands of the Avengers after Berlin and doesn't plead with Ross for a chance to bring them in alive. Ross has a working memory and knows how it turned out when normal soldiers went up against the Hulk so HE offers T'Challa a second shot at Barnes instead of having Natasha invite the vengeance driven young king to help them peacefully apprehend the target of his vengeance gig. Since this was an Accords sanctioned mission the Dora accompanied T'Challa. But Steve was expecting someone to attack him at the Airport so Leipzig is still a battle. Scott and Clint get captured, Wanda gets shot in the head. Sam makes it to Siberia along with Steve and Bucky. Zemo is highly disappointed Tony isn't there but had a back up plan where the video of the Winter Soldier murdering Howard and Maria Stark is released online after a delay. It pops up on Tony's screen just as Ross calls about the break in on the Raft. Steve, Bucky and Tony get their battle on the Raft instead of Siberia, Tony's limited in the weapons he can use if he doesn't want to poke a hole in the Raft and drown so he has to fight two Super Soldiers hand to hand and loses. Come IW, Vision is in the Compound when the Black Order shows up, he and Rhodes fight Glaive and Midnight until Steve makes his heroic entrance upon learning that Tony's no longer around to assure the world that they still have heroes even if Captain America is a fugitive. Thanos doesn't have to use the Time Stone to prevent Wanda from destroying the Mind Stone. He just has to fight Vision for it, because Vision is more willing to use the Stone's power since he didn't shoot down Rhodes at Leipzig.

Chapter Text

Part 1: Change

As they walked away from Ross Tony rubbed his chest, he let his shoulders slump with a heavy exhalation. “My left arm is numb, is that normal?”

Natasha frowned. “Actually that’s one of the more commonly known warning signs of a heart attack. Are you alright?” 

“I don’t have time for a heart attack! We’ve only got thirty-six hours!” Tony exclaimed. “So I’m fine.”

“You’re right, we don’t have time,” Natasha agreed. “And we're seriously understaffed if we’re going to take on Steve, Sam, and the Winter Soldier.”

“Oh, yeah,” Tony sighed. “It'd be great if we had a Hulk right about now. Any shot?”

“No,” Natasha said. “You really think he'd be on our side even if he were here? I mean I did shove Bruce off a cliff the last time I saw him, there might be hard feelings.”

“And then there’s Thunderbolt Ross,” Tony sighed. “Even Bruce is the most conscious of all of us when it comes to the collateral damage we can leave in our wakes, there’s too much history there.”

“I have an idea,” Natasha said.

“Me too,” Tony replied. “Where's yours?”

“Downstairs,” Natasha said.

Tony’s eyes widened in alarm. “You don’t mean the recently bereaved King who smashed up Bucharest along with our two miscreants?”

“Why not?” Natasha asked. “He’s certain got the skill and strength to go toe to toe with the Winter Soldier.”

“Well… Does it occur to you that we want to bring Rogers et. al. in alive?” Tony asked gesturing wildly. “I mean that was the whole idea behind begging Ross to let us have the first go… And King T’Challa emphatically wants Barnes dead, which Steve isn’t going to allow except over his dead body… Do you see how T’Challa does NOT contribute to a successfully completion of OUR mission here?”

“So what’s your idea?” Natasha asked irritably.

Tony smiled slightly.

 


 

Eight hours later on the other side of the Atlantic. Tony parked his car in front of an older brownstone apartment building in Queens, “Okay, Wanda left with Clint,” he was saying, talking to his phone, “But are you okay Viz?”

“I am undamaged,” Vision said hesitantly. “Floors four through sublevel-two of the Compound cannot say the same. And Mr. Barton blew up Ms. Hill’s vehicle to draw me out so that he could influence Wanda without my presence.”

“Clint never did seem to like Hill that much,” Tony said absently. “Look I’ll talk to you later.”

Ten minutes later: “Aren’t September Foundation Grants aimed at college students?” May Parker asked in confusion. “Peter’s a high school freshman.”

“I think I’d know what my own Foundation…” Tony trailed off. “High school…. Freshman?” he asked, his voice going up a shocked octave.

Aunt May nodded.

“You’re sure he’s not a college Freshman? I mean, completely sure? Sure he looks young but some people do. I don’t look my age,” Tony babbled.

“I think I know how old my nephew is,” Aunt May replied dryly. “Why exactly are you here Mr. Stark?”

“Um…” Tony looked around the room uncertainty. His eyes lit on a picture of a young, grinning Peter, his arms thrown around his Aunt and Uncle’s necks as the family posed in front of the Statue of Liberty. He sighed then called up a YouTube video of Spider-Man stopping a convenience store robbery on his cell phone and held it out to May. “I’ve been tracking the appearances of other heroes for a couple years now, my search algorithms strongly indicate that your nephew is moonlighting as New York’s newest superhero.”

Aunt May shook her head in denial but she didn’t look away from the video, “That’s only a few blocks from here,” she said to herself. In the video Spider-Man waved to the owner after he’d webbed up the robber. As he went to leave he automatically shooed the owner’s escape prone puppy away from the door before opening it. “Oh my god that’s Peter!” she exclaimed. “He is so grounded! For the rest of his life!”

“Yeah, like that’s going to work,” Tony muttered. He glanced toward the picture of the happy family over the mantle again. “Look, it’s obvious your nephew loves you but this means enough to him that he’s already going behind your back to do it. Do you really think telling him ‘no’ is going to stop him?”

“What else do you expect me to do?” Aunt May demanded. “I can’t just ignore that my nephew is running around playing vigilante can I?”

Tony licked his lips nervously. “Either your nephew is running around behind your back playing vigilante in a onesie and a ski mask… Or he’s my intern, with your knowledge and blessing, fighting the bad guys in the best body armor I can fit him with... Also, if he doesn’t mind, I came by, today specifically, because I could use someone who specializes in stopping people without harming them in Germany, like yesterday. But I really need to ask where he stands on the Sokovia Accords before I do anything else. Um… you two watch the news right? I’m not going to be starting from ground zero explaining what’s going on with the Accords? It might have been page twelve news before Vienna got bombed but you’d have to live under a rock not to have heard of them now. Still I’ve been bitten on the butt expecting people to follow the news before now.”

At that point Peter walked in saying, “May, There’s this crazy car parked outside…”

“We have A LOT to talk about young man,” May said sternly. Peter gulped.  Then he caught sight of Tony and his eyes widened comically.

“Can it wait?” Tony asked plaintively. “I mean clock’s ticking, lives on the line and transatlantic flights aren’t exactly short.”

Peter looked back and forth between May and Tony, his mouth kept working but no sounds came out.

“Are you Spider-Man?” May asked Peter.

He swallowed then nodded.

“Will you quit being Spider-Man if I tell you to?”

Peter hesitated then he looked away.

May’s shoulders slumped. “You can talk to him,” she told Tony. “If he wants to go, he has my permission. Peter, that doesn’t mean I don’t have more to say on this subject. There are days, weeks, possibly MONTHS of very serious conversations in your future.”

 


  

“This is so totally cool,” Peter gushed as he tried out his new suit. Then he couldn't help but adding, “But I still can’t believe you outted me to my aunt.”

“You’re an underaged vigilante not LGBT,” Tony said impatiently. “Would you rather I told her or the police told her after they peeled that ski mask off your dead body because one of the bad guys got a lucky shot.”

Peter shook his head, “I’m fine. It wouldn’t happen, my powers warn me-”

“Please try to be less of a teenager," Tony interrupted.  "You are not invulnerable.  I’m a genius with titanium-gold armor,” he pointed to his black eye and the butterfly bandages on his temple. “It doesn't matter.  There’s always something you don’t anticipate, something that gets the better of you.”

“But telling my aunt?” Peter whined.

“If you’d told her in the first place you wouldn’t be in trouble with her now,” Tony said unsympathetically. Then he sighed as Peter’s puppy-dog eyes got to him. How they worked from behind the mask he didn’t quite know but they clearly did. “It’s going to be fine,” he told Peter. “Your aunt’s more worried about you than mad at you, and she’s worried because she loves you. It’ll be okay.”

It turned out that Peter could blush visibly through his mask too.

“Okay!” Tony said brightly as he spotted his team. “Ready to meet War Machine, Vision and the Black Widow?”

“Oh wow!” Peter exclaimed as the three Avengers walked into the hanger.

A moment later T’Challa joined them.  “Who invited you King-Kitty?” Tony asked.

“Secretary Ross informed me that you could use help in your attempt to apprehend the Winter Soldier and his allies,” T’Challa said stiffly.

“Ross, the gift that keeps giving,” Tony muttered. “Look, I don’t have the time to get in a fight with you right now, so can you at least TRY to bring everyone in alive like a civilized law enforcement person?”

“I will try,” T’Challa replied.  Then he added. “If my father’s killer surrenders peaceably.”

“Great. It’s official, the Universe hates me!” Tony declared.

 


 

Part 2: Consequence

While Scott Lang’s sudden growth to gigantic proportions drew all eyes Steve and Bucky made a break for the Quinjet… Almost all eyes. Throughout the fight it had been clear to everyone that T’Challa was there for one purpose and one purpose only: To see the man he blamed for his father’s death dead. T’Challa didn’t let the giant distract him from his vengeance.

As Steve and Bucky ran across the Hanger T’Challa leapt from the shadows. He kicked Bucky in the back, knocking him to the ground, and pounced on him. Steve turned back. Too far away to stop what was about to happen, he could only watch as T’Challa reached around to rip Barnes’ throat out with vibranium claws.  Then T’Challa spasmed. Steve followed the wires that had sank into the young king’s side back to Natasha. She sent another jolt down the wires and T’Challa collapsed.

“You can brief me in the air,” she told Steve.

“You’re coming with us?” Steve asked.

“Let’s say I’m curious about what you thought was important enough to rip the Avengers apart over,” Natasha replied.

Bucky kicked T’Challa’s unconscious body off him. “Stevie, she’s a Black Widow. You can’t trust her,” he warned.

“Natasha- she’s Natasha,” Steve said.

Bucky threw a dark look at the Black Widow, she shrugged minutely.

“I DO trust her,” Steve finished in a tone that rejected all potential argument.

 


 

In Siberia, Steve prowled through the dimly lit corridors of the abandoned Soviet Bunker with Bucky and Natasha flanking him. Their eery surrounds put them all on edge and they jumped at the squeal of metal on metal.  They spun around in time to see a giant pair of double doors slowly being forced open. Iron Man stepped through gap and all Steve could do was stare.

Tony retracted his helmet. “Natashalie, fancy meeting you here!” he said brightly.

Natasha lowered her weapon and shrugged, “Different roads but it seems like you and I reached the same conclusion.”

Tony nodded.  Then he turned towards Steve “The real Theo Broussard’s body was found in his hotel room, along with a mask that bears a striking resemblance to everyone’s favorite popsicle. It's starting to look like your story's not so crazy. Ross has no idea I'm here. I'd like to keep it that way. Otherwise, I gotta arrest myself.”

“Well, that sounds like a lot of paperwork.” Steve allowed hope to creep in as he lowered the shield. “It's good to see you, Tony.”

“You too, Cap.” Tony glanced at Bucky who was still covering him with his machine gun, “Hey, Manchurian Candidate, you're killing me. There's a truce here.”

Steve signaled for signaled for Bucky to lower his weapon and after a reluctant pause he did.  

Cautiously the four of them continued down the corridor until it let out into a massive chamber with five cryo-cells arranged around a large open space.

“I got heat signatures,” Tony said.

“How many?” Steve asked.

“Uh, one.”

The lights came up on the cryo-cells, highlighting the Winter Core still inside, dead.  The glass of each capsule was broken by a single bullet hole, matching the one in each of the ones in their skulls. A tinny voice said. “If it's any comfort, they died in their sleep. Did you really think I wanted more of you?”

“What the hell?” Bucky exclaimed.

“I'm grateful to them, though. They brought you here,” Zemo lit up the control room where he sat.

Steve immediately tried to break through the shielded window with his shield.

“Please, Captain,” Zemo tsked. “The Soviets built this chamber to withstand the launch blast of UR-100 rockets.”

“I'm betting I could beat that,” Tony said.

“Oh, I'm sure you could, Mr. Stark,” Zemo said. “I’ve seen the footage of your very exciting Expo, lasers that cut through Ivan Vanko’s killer robots like butter…. But then you'd never know why you came.”

“I’m not curious anymore,” Natasha declared. “Tony, shoot him?”

Steve pushed Tony’s arm down, “You killed innocent people in Vienna just to bring us here?” he demanded of Zemo.

“I thought about nothing else for over a year,” Zemo replied. “I studied you. I followed you. But now that you're standing here, I just realized… there's a bit of green in the blue of your eyes. How nice to find a flaw.”

“Actually makes them more interesting,” Natasha remarked flippantly.

“You're Sokovian,” Steve realized. “Is that what this is about?”

“Sokovia was a failed state long before you blew it to hell,” Zemo admitted. “No. I'm here because I made a promise.”

“You lost someone?” Steve asked.

Zemo shook his head. “I lost everyone,” he corrected as he started playing the surveillance footage from December 16th 1991. “And so will you. An empire toppled by its enemies can rise again. But one which crumples from within? That's dead… forever.”

“I know that road. What is this?” Tony asked.  His voice was shaky as he opened the faceplate of his armor to see it with his own eyes.  The four of them watched in stunned silence as the Winter Soldier brutally murdered Howard and Maria Stark. When it ended Tony took an unstable step towards Bucky.

Natasha stepped in front of Tony. She pressed both hands against his chest. “You know he wasn’t responsible,” she said. “Seeing it-” she shook her head and looked down. “I should have done something, stopped you from seeing that. But it doesn’t change what you KNOW.”

“What?” Tony asked.  His already grey skin paled even further as he shook his head and took a couple quick gasping breaths. “Knew? You knew?”

And suddenly Natasha realized that Tony hadn’t known. She spun around to confront Steve, “You said you’d tell him!” she accused as she lunged at him. At the last moment she decided breaking her knuckles on a super soldiers’ face wouldn’t satisfy and triggered her Widow’s Bite. Steve dropped as it discharged against his jaw with a loud crackle of electricity.

“Natalia!” Bucky snarled as he pointed his gun at her. Tony shook off his shock and fired his repulsors at Bucky, knocking his aim off. The machine gun discharged into the floor.

Iron Man’s face mask snapped shut, hiding his weaknesses, his bruised face and bruised eyes, his grey skin the labored breathing. Iron Man was implacable as he closed with Bucky, forearm missiles emerging.

Bucky shoved his arm up and the missile discharged into the air. Steve recovered and leapt to Bucky’s defense.  As the three of powerhouses battled in close quarters Natasha circled the perimeter, looking for an opening that wouldn’t result in her being crushed between them. She darted forward. At the last moment Bucky twisted around.  He caught her by the throat with his metal arm and slammed her to the floor.

As Natasha’s vision greyed out she heard Bucky scold, “I taught you that move Natalia.”  When her vision cleared Natasha saw Steve and Bucky passing the shield between them, perfectly in sync, battering Tony from all sides. She pushed herself to her feet and leapt on Bucky’s shoulders, wrapping her legs around his neck, “So you do remember me,” she purred flirtatiously.

“I remember everything,” Bucky admitted. His eyes strayed to Tony as Steve swept Iron Man’s feet out from under him. Any reluctance the two of them might have felt at fighting each other had long since disappeared in the heat of the battle.

“Then stop this,” Natasha hissed.

Steve pinned Tony to the floor.  He raised his shield striking Tony's helmet over and over again.

“Stop STEVE, before you have even more to regret,” Natasha exclaimed.

Bucky nodded and Natasha let him go.

Steve raised his shield over Tony’s vulnerable head. Bucky tackled him, the shield clattered to the ground as he kept driving forward, forcing Steve further from Tony.

Natasha threw herself across the armor in Steve’s place. Her weight wasn’t enough to pin Tony but she hoped he’d hesitate to throw her off.

“Enough punk!” Bucky shout at Steve.

“It’s over, it’s over, we need to stop,” Natasha whispered to Tony reaching up to touch his face. “Please stop.”

For several minutes there was silence.

“What happens now?” Bucky finally asked.

“Security cameras are a bitch,” Tony commented to Natasha. She rolled off him gracefully and offered him a hand up. Tony let her help lever him to his feet then stumbled over to the wall opposite from Steve.  He leaned heavily against it, hunched forward in a spasm of coughing that seemed to last forever. “Caught you taking down King-Kitty, Ross is on the warpath,” he added breathlessly.

Natasha sighed and shrugged. Then she gasped, “Zemo! We forgot him!”

“Fuck,” Bucky swore. He jumped up and ran for the door.

“Can I leave you two alone?” Natasha asked Tony and Steve, kidding but not.

“Ask him if he still wants to kill me,” Tony said after another coughing fit. He hit the release on his armor. Grudgingly, due to the damage, the suit opened up and he stumbled out to slide down the wall.

“I didn’t- I never,” Steve stammered guiltily.

Natasha went after Bucky.

“Right, you weren’t half a second from taking my head off before your buddy stopped you,” Tony said bitterly.  He didn’t look up, his hair was soaked through with sweat.

“Bucky wasn’t responsible for what happened to your parents, Tony,” Steve pled, “I couldn’t let you hurt him."  Hesitantly Steve took a few steps forward. Out of the armor Tony looked frighteningly bad, hunched forward as another coughing fit hit brought something pinkish to his lips.

Tony recovered enough to glare until Steve stopped and fell back a step.  “Because he’s your friend. I heard you before.” Tony wiped at his mouth and forced himself to straighten. “That’s why you couldn’t call me, why Leipzig had to happen. It was never the Accords that stopped you from calling me for help. It was him, keeping me away from him. Wonder what Clint and Sam and that other guy would think if they knew why they’re really sitting in jail right now: Because you needed to protect your friend.” Tony snorted, “Hell, I wonder what Wanda would think if she knew you hid that my parents were murder… Even if it was my parents.”

Steve looked away.

“My father never stopped looking for you,” Tony continued. He used the fury bubbling up inside him to force himself to his feet, his voice hard and sharp as knives. “Never stopped telling me how great you were. How you were a symbol of everything right in this world. I wonder what he would think, knowing you couldn’t be bothered to clear him.”

“What?” Steve asked, confused.

“Right, you never cared about how Howard died,” Tony spat bitterly. He gasped, one hand coming up to clutch at his left arm, then forced himself to keep gowing. “For your information, the official investigation listed the cause of the crash as drunk driving. He’s the one who got blamed for killing himself and Mom but you don’t care about that. You don’t care about bringing his murderer to justice.”

“Bucky wasn’t responsible!” Steve exclaimed.

“Right, but you’ve been protecting the ones who aimed him at my parents too,” Tony snarled. He took a step forward, weaving drunkenly. “Because they never mattered to you! I never mattered to you! Howard believed you were a hero! The best of us! Of humanity!” Tony’s eye landed on the shield, he ignored the spots intruding on his vision. “That shield doesn't belong to you! You don’t deserve it! My father gave that shield to who he thought Captain America was!”

Then the floor was rushing up and Steve was shouting his name and that was the last thing Tony knew for a very long time.

 


  

He woke up slowly. Whiteness, antiseptic smell and a steady beeping warned him he was in the hospital. “Long time since we’ve been roomies,” Rhodey commented from somewhere on his left and Tony smiled. “Long time,” he agreed in a raspy voice. “What happened?”

“You had a heart attack,” Rhodes explained. “King T’Challa brought you in, along with Zemo. Apparently he gave you some weird Wakandan medicine, the doctors say they’re amazed at how well you’re recovering.”

“Oh,” Tony said. He blinked at the corner of the shield poking out of the closet. “Where’d that come from?”

“Hell if I know,” Rhodes said. “T’Challa’s story was that he found it beside you when the leads he was following independently lead him to Siberia. He was pretty damn insistent that it stay with you, especially given how Wakanda feels about stolen Vibranium.”

Several weeks later when they’d been discharged from the hospital and were getting settled back at the Compound Tony found two letters and a necklace with a single heavy bead in his tool box. One touch was enough to identify the bead as a vibranium alloy.

Tony opened the letter in Natasha’s hand first. “I’m sorry I couldn’t stay,” she wrote. “T’Challa swears you’ll be as good as new in no time with the medicine he gave you. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about your parents. I assumed you knew but I should know better than to assume. Even if you had known, I still should have asked if you needed to talk about them, about what we’d learned. If I’d acted like your friend, I would have realized before Zemo could have used it against us. Press your finger to the bead and think of me when you want to talk, if you want to talk. Your friend, hopefully, Natalia”

Several days and a call later Tony pulled Steve’s letter out of the corner of his desk where he’d shoved it. For a long time he stared at it, then he put it back. He wasn’t ready yet to hear what Steve had to say. Someday, but not today.

Chapter Text

In the kitchen at the Avengers Compound Vision intently studied the cookbook in front of him. “A pinch of paprika,” he read then frowned and reached into the paprika jar with two fingers. “A pinch.”

Wanda strolled in, sniffing the air. “Is that paprikash?”

“I thought it might… lift your spirits,” Vision offered.

Wanda smiled at the effort he was making on her behalf. She stirred the pot then took a taste, a small taste. “Spirits lifted,” she assured him.

Vision didn’t miss her unwillingness to eat more than a taste, “In my defense, I haven't actually ever… eaten anything before, so…”

“May I?” Wanda asked taking over the cooking.

“Please,” Vision agreed moving back so that he could observe her. “Wanda?” he added after a moment. She looked up from her cooking. “No one dislikes you, Wanda.”

“Thanks?” Wanda said with uncertainty.

“Oh, you're welcome,” Vision replied. “No, it's a… involuntary response in their amygdala. Your powers and past choices make you dangerous. As much as Mr. Stark’s PR division has attempted to minimize the public’s awareness about your past as a member of HYDRA it still exists. Then, while your intentions in Lagos were honorable, people died there and your power was the most visible cause. The Avengers have done little to inform the public of the other factors involved, Captain Rogers appears to believe that the team’s actions in Lagos speak for themselves. They do not. And so, because your powers are dangerous, your training incomplete, your past highly questionable and safeguards for the public well-being currently non-existent, they can't help but be afraid of you.”

“Are you?” Wanda asked.

“My amygdala is synthetic, I know and like you on a personal level and my powers serve to protect me so…” Vision shrugged, “I have no reason to fear you.”

“I used to think of myself as powerless,” Wanda said. “A victim of all that had happened in my country: Our wars. Tony Stark’s weapons. Pietro and I, we raised my voice in protest of the injustices Sokovia’s people had suffered but no one listened to me.” Wanda allowed her powers to set the air around her fingers swirling with red mists. “Then HYDRA came to us, Dr. List came and offered me this. The power to make my voice heard. Now I am not the little girl who huddled helpless under her bed for two days waiting for rescue. And yet, I am. Her feelings are still mine, her causes are still mine but I am no longer powerless. Everyone else, they see only the power I have gained, they do not see that I use it for the same causes I always held in my heart.”

“Your survival? Your anger at the loss of your family?” Vision asked. “Perhaps you have not given them a reason not to fear your powers.”

Wanda looked down at the food, eager to change the subject. “I don't know what's in this but it is not paprika. I'm gonna go to the store. I'll be back in twenty minutes.”

“Alternatively, we could order a pizza?” Vision offered.

“Vision, are you not letting me leave?” Wanda demanded as she headed toward the door.

Vision stepped into her path. “I am asking you to consider the public’s welfare and your own,” he said.

“I can protect myself,” Wanda declared.

“Yes, I have no fear for your safety from the protesters gathered at our gates,” Vision said. “I do however fear for theirs and I fear the government’s retaliation should you spark a riot. Your visa status has always been shaky due to your past association with terrorist organizations. It would take very little for them to decide to deport you, or simply to extradite you to Wakanda, a notoriously isolationist country, highly unforgiving toward any outsiders whom they consider threats. Mr. Stark feels that the Sokovia Accords could be levied to provide a stronger legal footing for your continuation as an Avenger, as a form of… Call it ‘community service’, a means to free yourself from your past without incurring jail time.”

Wanda wrinkled her nose. “I don’t trust Tony Stark. What do you want?”

“I want you to have the chance to show people that you are no longer defined by the mistakes of your youth,” Vision replied gravely. “Please chose to stay. Do not force this issue. Do not give them more reason to fear you.”

“For you,” Wanda agreed.


Despite Wanda’s agreement to stay, there was a tension in their interactions that hadn’t existed before. As darkness fell, Wanda stood at the window looking out. The Compound grounds were large and exterior walls hidden by trees and rolling hills but Wanda could still feel the anger and fear from the protester outside the gates filling the night air.

The flash of an explosion lit the room for a moment. “What is it?” Wanda gasped.

“Stay here, please,” Vision said.

Moments after he left Wanda sensed another within the compound. Using her powers she grabbed a knife from the counter and hurled it at the intruder. Then she stopped it with only an inch to spare as she recognized Clint Barton’s aura.

“Guess I shoulda knocked,” he said, nudging the knife away from his face with a finger.

“Oh my god!” Wanda exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”

“Disappointing my kids,” Clint admitted as he used a couple of arrows to set a trap for Vision. “I'm supposed to go water-skiing but whatever Cap’s gotten himself, it’s undoubtedly more important. Come on, before Vision gets back, I’m not going to try to convince someone who runs off of logic more than emotion that this is a good choice…

“Too late,” Clint sighed to himself as Vision returned.

“Mr. Barton, I take it we have you to blame for the destruction of the Compound garden shed?” Vision demanded. “Destruction of property is illegal and the explosion caused a panic among several of the protesters resulting in minor injuries. What could possibly justify your actions?”

“You’ve really got to ask that when you’re making Wanda sit here like a criminal instead of marching up to the White House and telling them that the Avengers won’t stand for politicians attempting to bully us when we’re out helping people!” Clint declared.

“People died as a result of our ‘help’,” Vision replied. “I believe the public has a right to question our actions, our results, given the situation.

“There was a bad guy, Wanda and the rest of the team were trying to stop him. Shit happens but it’s not our fault and anyone trying to say differently needs to have a sock put in it.” Clint shook his head, “I retire for, what, like five minutes, and it all goes to shit.”

“I suddenly find myself truly understanding Tony Stark’s rejection of zero accountability systems on an entirely new level,” Vision commented. He took a step forward. “Please consider the consequences of your actions,”

“Okay, they're considered. Okay, we gotta go,” Clint said after a bare second. He grabbed Wanda’s hand and tugged her with him.

Vision took another step toward them, which put him between the arrows Clint had fired earlier. A force field sprang into place, trapping Vision within.

Wanda pulled away from Clint. “Viz told me they’d revoke my visa if I caused more trouble. That they’d hand me over to the angry mobs.”

“I did not,” Vision corrected, raising his voice to be heard over the crackle of the force field. “I said that they would hand you over to Wakanda, a country angry about the deaths of their citizens.”

Clint jogged back over to Wanda with a frown. “You gotta help me, Wanda. Look, you wanna mope, can go to high school. You wanna make amends, you get off your ass.”

“You believe those people out there protesting my presence in this country would forgive me if I continued to blatantly ignore their wishes?” Wanda asked.

Vision stopped struggling against the forcefield and waited to see what Clint would say.

“Well... No,” Clint admitted. “But if you stand with us, the real Avengers not Stark’s government ass-kissing bunch, we’ll stand with you. The government says they’re going to kick you out of the home we gave you? Fuck that! You remember what Natasha told Congress after she, Steve and Sam blew up SHIELDRA? They need us. So we call the shots.”

The Mind Stone flared in Vision’s forehead and the force field holding him sparked and vanished. “Shit!” Clint exclaimed as they exchanged blows. “I knew I should've stretched.”

Clint broke out an extending baton but Vision first decreased his density so that the blow passed through him then increased it until the baton broke on him. When Clint tried to kick Vision’s knee out from under him, Vision spun him around into a headlock. “You can't overpower me,” the Synthoid pointed out calmly.

“I know I can't. But Wanda? Come with me and you’ll have Cap’s blessing to go after Stark.”

“Vision, that's enough,” Wanda decided. “Let him go. I'm leaving.”

Vision sighed, “You are behaving irrationally Wanda. I will not stand by while you act against the common will and your own best interest.”

Wanda’s power began to build between her hands. “My best interest is not for you to decide, Viz.”

Clint slipped out of Vision’s grasp.

“If you do this they will not tolerate your presence within this country,” Vision reminded Wanda.

She shrugged. “As Clint reminded me, I have the power Vision. The power of little men in governments over me… It is only what I allow it to be. Stark’s way would have me bow and scrape before them, begging their leave to live where I wish, to go where I wish, to fight for what I wish… With Steve’s way, they will beg me for my favor. I won’t have to be afraid of their opinion of me.”

“What makes you different from the criminals if you do this?” Vision asked.

“How can I be a criminal when we will dictate the laws?” Wanda replied as she raised her hands and stepped closer to Vision. The Mind Stone pulsed in synchronization with her powers and his density shot upward until he crashed through the floor and several floors beneath under the force of his own weight.

Wanda and Clint left without a backwards glance.

Chapter Text

Change

“That doctor, he said he wanted to see an empire fall,” Steve recollected after Bucky had told them what information the false psychiatrist had drug out from him.

“With these guys he could do it,” Bucky warned. “They speak thirty languages, can hide in plain sight, infiltrate, assassinate, destabilize, They can take a whole country down in one night. You'd never see them coming.”

Sam pulled Steve aside so they could speak privately, “This would have been a lot easier a week ago,” he said.

“If we call Tony…” Steve hesitated.

“My gut reaction is to say he won’t believe us,” Sam said. “I don’t really know him but hearing what you, Natasha and Wanda say about the guy, that’s my impression.”

Steve nodded, “Tony’s difficult. But I hear a ‘but’.”

“Yeah. But,” Sam agree, “if this threat is as big as your buddy makes it out to be we can’t dismiss help out of hand. What happens if we go to Tony and he doesn’t believe us?”

Steve thought for a moment, “He doesn’t offer the resources we need.”

“Which he doesn’t do anyway if we don’t call him,” Sam countered.

“The Accords,” Steve said. “What if he tries to get in our way because of them?”

“We busted up Bucharest then walked out of police detainment while helping a suspected terrorist do the same… After he cut a swath through the JCTC in Berlin,” Sam pointed out. “If the Accords are going to make Stark come after us, he’s already coming. Maybe if we tell him what the threat is he’ll… I don’t know? Be a little less enthusiastic about it and maybe he does believe us. Even if he wants to stay on the right side of the Accords maybe he helps us under the table.”

“If we tell Stark where to find us, we could be walking into a trap,” Steve said.

Sam nodded, “But how do we get to Siberia without Stark’s help? Steal the Quinjet out from under him?”

A small smirk tugged at Steve’s mouth, saying without words that that was exactly what he’d planned to do.

“You honestly think we can pull it off without a fight?” Sam asked.

“No,” Steve admitted. “But I’ve never run from a fight.”

“Then we might as well risk telling Stark and winning his cooperation upfront,” Sam said. “If it’s a trap we fight our way out. If we steal our transportation… We’d be going through the same people anyway.”

“So we give Stark a chance to do the right thing.” Steve nodded to himself, “I like that.”

“And if he doesn’t,” Sam added. “I know a guy.”

 


 

Tony glared at the ID on his cell phone as he answered. “Bucharest wasn’t enough for you? You had to get yourself and Wilson labeled terrorists as well?” he growled.

“Hear me out, Tony,” Steve said.

Tony glanced out the window of the quinjet at the ocean below, “Well, you’re in luck. Right now I’ve got plenty of time, although not much patience.”

“That doctor, the psychiatrist, he's behind all of this,” Steve explained.

“Your old war buddy killed innocent people yesterday,” Tony said. “Ross gave me 36 hours to bring you in but if you turn yourselves in it gives me something to work with: He went crazy-”

“The doctor, he did something,” Steve interrupted. “He reactivated HYDRA’s programming and made Bucky do that stuff.”

“Okay, the doctor made him crazy. I tie your doctor to the too-conveniently timed power outage. With a little luck there’s something physical that’ll show up on MRI’s or CAT scans. We push the POW angle, PTSD, whatever the experts say’ll play. And meanwhile we point out that you didn’t run off, you just brought your crazy escaping, dangerous friend back into custody.”

Steve shook his head, even though Tony couldn’t see him. “There’s no time for that sort of dog and pony show. There are five more super soldiers just like the Winter Soldier. I can't let the doctor find them first, Tony. I can't.”

Tony rubbed his temples, “I take you know where these super soldiers are?”

“Siberia,” Steve said. “62.4 by 127.9.”

“Okay,” Tony said. “I’ll round up what you left me of the team, maybe call Clint out of retirement even. We’ll deal with this. But you and Wilson have to turn yourselves and Barnes in.”

“You can’t do this alone Tony,” Steve argued.

“After you showed your respect for the world’s governments by blowing off the UN- After your screw-ups got people killed in Lagos. And then Bucharest… You’ve actually got the twenty-four news channels wishing there were more hours in the day! To salvage our reputation with the world YOU HAVE TO TURN YOURSELF IN!” Tony exclaimed, talking over Steve.

“They were trying to kill Bucky! Trying to control us!” Steve shouted back. “You don’t just give in to bullies! You need us Tony!”

“No I don’t! The last thing I need is two more rogue super soldiers! One of whom you claim the guy we’re going to fight can mind control,” Tony took a couple deep breaths. “Look, I won’t be alone. I’ve got Rhodey, Natasha, Vision… Maybe I can get King Kitty, he could definitely use some therapeutic violence- Hell, if it’s that desperate I could call Clint out of retirement-”

“But the Accords won’t let Wanda out of her cell?” Steve demanded.

“People died in Lagos Steve!” Tony exclaimed. “People died. Either because Wanda lost control of her powers or because she lacked situational awareness or because she didn’t grasp her limits or- or Physics! Instead of trying to contain the explosion why didn’t she just funnel the energy straight up?”

“Wanda’s not an engineer!” Steve defended.

“And Clint’s not a mathematician but he still calculates angles better than any Ph.D. I’ve ever met,” Tony shot back. “She inexperienced. She over-reaches herself. And apparently she’s never considered why you don’t stick a plug in the end of a rifle barrel then pull the trigger!”

“You just don’t like her,” Steve accused.

“I didn’t like you in 2012 and it wasn’t a problem!” Tony replied. “Actually, right now? I’m having a hard time remembering why I ever changed my mind about not liking you!”

“And you don’t want to work with me,” Steve said as if he’d just proved his point.

“You’re attached at the hip to the Manchurian Candidate! You’re an international fugitive-”

“Because governments have agendas and I’m not going along with their program-”

“Because the Avengers screwed up and people died and now they want some assurances that we’re going to clean up our act!”

You screwed up and built a murder-bot!” Steve accused.

For a moment dead silence filled the line.

“Why don’t you throw in manufacturing weapons too,” Tony said finally his voice flat. “That generally gets thrown in somewhere doesn’t it? Although I noticed you’ve never had a problem using weapons designed by either me or my dad.”

“Are you going to help or not?” Steve demanded.

“Yes!” Tony hissed. “I’m going to deal with your goddamn super soldier kill squad. I’m going to help with your Clockwork Bestie. I’m going to help get you off terrorist watch lists. But you’re going to have to do something for me: You’re going to have to let me help. At the very least lay low until I can do some spin control.”

“Tony, you need me,” Steve asserted.

“No, I don’t,” Tony disconnected the call and realized he actually missed the days when he could slam a handset down in anger. He settled for chucking his cell phone across the cabin.

Back in Berlin Steve shook his head as he looked at Sam. “Tony’s not going to help us. He’s insisting on dealing with everything himself.”

“That’s still something,” Sam said. “I mean he’s going even if he’s going in short-handed. Do you think it’s the Accords hobbling him?”

Steve nodded. “Tony’s letting dictate how the Avengers function, letting them keep Wanda locked up instead of giving her the chance to redeem herself. Either that or Tony has a personal problem with Wanda… Same for Bucky. He kept going on about how Bucky’s a danger.”

Sam rubbed a sore shoulder, a souvenir of his tussle with the Winter Soldier in Berlin. “He’s kind of got a point.”

“Tony can’t let the team be crippled like that,” Steve declared. “He’s going to get someone hurt or killed.”

“Well…” Sam said with a grin. “Once we’re there and Tony’s there with his half of the team… We can remind him to be grateful after we save his ass.”

 


 

Consequences

 

“Thanks Laura,” Tony sighed. “You’re right. The team really needs to work on it’s communication.”

“Boss, I thought you told Captain Rogers not to do anything?” FRIDAY asked when the call ended. “Why would he call in Agent Barton?”

“Because he’s building his own team,” Tony groaned. “That idiot is going and he’s probably going to bring his Imperio’ed friend along with him. Call Vision, maybe we can still get ahead of this.”

A few hours later, Tony landed in New York and made a beeline for Queens.

 


 

“Can I have 5 minutes with him?” Tony asked May Parker as he faked a smile at the youthful high schooler, aka Spider-Man. ‘It’s Harley all over again! Why are the most helpful people around practically babies?’

“Sure,” May said.

Peter led Tony to his bedroom and Tony promptly locked the door before spitting out the snacks May had pressed on him. “As walnut date loaves go, that wasn't bad.” He noticed the collection of dated computers on Peter’s desk and let himself stall a little longer before addressing the young hero. “Whoa, what do we have here? Retro tech, huh? Thrift store? Salvation Army?”

“Uh, the garbage, actually,” Peter admitted nervously.

“You're a dumpster diver,” Tony said.

“Yeah, I was… Anyway, look, um, I definitely did not apply for your grant,” Peter said.

‘Well there goes stalling,’ Tony thought. He said, “Ah-ah! Me first. Quick question of the rhetorical variety.” He pulled out his phone and projected a video of Spider-Man swinging across a street after stopping a mugging. “That's you, right?”

And instantly through Peter into panic mode. “Um, no. What do you. What do you mean?” he stammered.

“Yeah,” Tony said. “Look at you go. Wow! Nice catch. Three thousand pounds, forty miles an hour. That's not easy. You got mad skills.”

“That's all- That's all on Youtube, though, right? I mean, that's where you found that? Because you know that's all fake,” Peter denied. “It's all done on the computer.”

“Right, I don’t know how to spot a manipulated video,” Tony said dryly. “And I’d be wasting my time here if I hadn’t verified it.”

“It’s not me?” Peter tried. 

Tony poked a loose panel in Peter’s ceiling and his Spider-Man costume fell out. “Oh, what have we here?”

Peter shoved the costume behind his back, “Uh… That's a…”

“So. You're the… Spider… ling. Crime-fighting Spider… You're Spider-Boy?” Tony rattled off.

Peter folded his arms petulantly. “S… Spider-Man,” he corrected.

Tony looked him over, “Right, Spider… MAN,” he said sarcastically. “...In a onesie.”

Peter upped the power of his scowl reaching kicked puppy-dog levels. “It’s not a onesie. I don't believe this. I was actually having a real good day today, you know, Mr. Stark. Didn't miss my train, this perfectly good DVD player was just sitting there and… Algebra test. Nailed it!”

“Lucky you,” Tony said. “Look, I need to cut this short. You’re not coming.”

“What?!” Peter exclaimed.

“Against the team, someone to help hold Rogers down while I try to beat it into his head that ‘extremist’ isn’t a good look for him- And that’s what he is if keeps on insisting that he has all the answers and the UN needs to defer to him. -That’s practically a practice exercise. But taking a fetus up against kill squad? Not in this lifetime.”

Peter squawked in outrage.

“Truth hurts kid,” Tony said with a shrug. “And that’s what you are: A kid. So you’re not coming, period.”

“Then why are you barging into my life anyway?” Peter demanded.

“Because that still leaves me knowing about a baby vigilante running around Queens in a onesie.”

“It’s NOT a onesie!”

“When it was all theoretical I could tell myself just leave it alone, none of your business but….” Tony trailed off for a moment to glare at Peter piercingly. “Does anybody else know?”

“Nobody,” Peter said.

“Not even your… unusually attractive aunt?” Tony pushed.

 “No. No, no. No, no. If she knew, she would freak out!” Peter exclaimed. “And when she freaks out, I freak out.”

“Which leaves me as the only responsible adult who knows that there’s a KID running around playing policeman with real crooks who carry real guns. In pajamas and a ski mask!” Tony glared at Peter, “What are you trying to do to me? Responsible adulting is NOT my strong suit!”

“You don’t have to do anything,” Peter said hopefully.

“Yes I do,” Tony disagreed. “You know what I think is really cool? This webbing. That tensile strength is off the charts. Who manufactured that?”

“I did,” Peter couldn’t help but straighten a little at hearing his invention praised by Tony Stark.

“Yeah definitely including some sciencing in that internship you’re going to accepting… Climbing the walls, how you doing that?” Tony continued snatching Peter’s costume back to examine more thoroughly. “Cohesive gloves.”

Peter squirmed. “It's a long story. I was uh…”

Tony held the mask up to his face “Lordy! Can you even see in these?”

Peter grabbed the costume back. “Yes. Yes, I can! I can. I can-I can see in those. Okay? It's just that… when whatever happened, happened… it's like my senses have been dialed to eleven. There's way too much input, so… they just kinda help me focus.”

“So you’re fighting half blindfolded- Plugging your ears too? Gunfire is loud. -Fifteen years old, no training, no body armor-“ Tony sat down on the bed to get eye-contact. “Why you doing this? I gotta know. What's your MO? What gets you outta that twin bed in the morning?”

“Because…” Peter fiddled with his fingers. “Because l've been me my whole life, and l've had these powers for six months.” 

“Mm-Hm,” Tony urged him to continue.

“I read books, I build computers… And-And yeah. I would love to play football. But I couldn't then so I shouldn't now.”

“Sure, because you're different,” Tony said.

“Exactly,” Peter agreed. “But I can't tell anybody that, so I'm not. When you can do the things that I can, but you don't…”

Tony waited.

“And then the bad things happen… they happen because of you,” Peter finished. Then he remembered, “Kill squad?”

“Forget about the super soldiers, totally out of your league,” Tony replied. “You sure you won’t tell Aunt Hottie? Because seriously, I am certain, absolutely certain, that she has a much better idea of how to adult than I do.”

Peter shook his head.

“Okay, okay, I’m probably failing right here but… Happy’s going to get you suited up. I’m not leaving you running around in your pajamas while people shoot at you!” Tony exclaimed. “Then I’m going to deal with this little kill squad problem and the huge migraine known as Steve Rogers. And THEN I’ll figure out how this thing you’re doing is going to work going forwards.”

“Don’t I have a say in this?” Peter demanded.

“Yeah,” Tony replied instantly. “You can choose to tell your aunt. You can choose to stay home at night. But if your choice is to keep putting on a mask and going out looking for trouble then we’re doing it my way.”

 


 

When the night was lit by a sudden explosion Vision just sighed and waited for Clint Barton to make his appearance.

“Was it really necessary to do that? We are all friends here, are we not?” Vision asked.

Clint glanced over at Wanda. His plan had been to separate the pair so he could talk to Wanda by herself, she was young and sometimes needed a father figure to set her straight. Vision was, in Clint’s view, simply an obstacle: He had signed the Accords and, really, he was just too close to being Ultron to be trusted. No part of the plan had ever included talking to Vision about why Wanda should be helping Cap. “Well, you’re holding Wanda here against her will,” Clint said. “I wouldn’t call that friendly.”

“I am not,” Vision replied. “This is Wanda’s home. We discussed why it would be best if she remained within its walls while public opinion was so violently against her and she agreed to remain.”

Wanda shifted, a faint scowl creasing her face.

Clint turned to her fully, “Look, you wanna mope, can go to high school. You wanna make amends, you get off your ass,” he said. “Cap needs our help.”

“Assistance is required,” Vision said. “Captain Rogers learned of a threat involving a group of five HYDRA super soldiers, similar to the Winter Soldier but willing volunteers. He informed Mr. Stark of the threat. Because Captain Rogers has emphatically not signed the Accords and cannot legally enter Russia’s sovereign territory - And because Sgt Barnes has been revealed as vulnerable to being mind control by the plot’s mastermind it was deemed best to NOT involve them. If you had remained home a few minutes longer, Agent Barton, you would have received an invitation to reconsider signing the Accords thus enabling you to legally assist Mr. Stark, Agent Romanoff, Colonel Rhodes and myself in dealing with this threat.”

“Accept a government leash, I don’t think so,” Clint replied.

“I am sorry to hear you feel that way,” Vision said. “Your help would have been appreciated. But it is your choice. Wanda, the reasons for you to remain within the Compound have not changed. I must leave for Siberia but, Agent Barton, may I ask you to remain with Wanda until I can return?”

“Viz, I can take care of myself,” Wanda interjected. “Stop treating me like a child.”

“As I said before, I know you can defend yourself,” Vision replied gravely. “But, should anyone act on the multitude of death threats being directed towards Wanda it would be politically inadvisable to handle the matter yourself. It could easily provide the tipping point where your visa would be revoked.”

Clint thought about it for several moment then he grinned. “Sure Vision, you can count on me,” he said, oozing sincerity. “Don’t let us keep you.”

“Thank you,” Vision replied.

As soon as the Synthiod had left to rendezvous with Tony, Clint turned to Wanda. “So, let’s blow this pop stand. Vision was even considerate enough to leave us the spare quinjet.”

 


 

 

“Mr. Stark-”

“Tony, call me Tony.”

Vision nodded, “Tony, it appears that we are not alone on this flight. There is another heat source in the storage compartment below the Quinjet.”

Tony groaned. “Could you go collect our stowaway?” he asked. “If it’s the kid, or Wanda I’d hate to leave them there when we’re doing a polar route… If it’s Clint? Let him suffer.”

Natasha nodded in approval.

“What kid?” Rhodey asked.

Curiously Tony asked Vision. “Can you phase someone else through walls or is that just a personal thing?”

“I am only able to change my own density,” Vision replied.

“Damn, windy ride for whoever it is,” Tony sighed. “Not that they don’t deserve it.”

Vision nodded and sank through the floor of the jet. “It is a young man wearing armor of your making,” he reported a moment later.

“I’m popping the hatch and opening the rear door for you,” Tony groaned. “Bring him up.”

Tony, Rhodes and Natasha braced themselves for the loss of cabin pressure. A few minutes later Vision flew in with Spider-Man clinging to his back.

“I forgot to tell you ‘Thank you’ for the suit?” Peter tried ingeniously.

“You mean you’re feeling guilty you stopped thanking me long enough to breath?” Tony replied. “You are killing me kid.”

“It’s amazing and you made it for me!” Peter gushed.

“And that explains why you’re on a jet, MY JET, flying over the North Pole how?” Tony asked. Rhodey and Natasha were suspiciously blank faced but Tony knew they were either planning a lecture or mocking, possibly both.

“You were looking for help,” Peter said. “That’s why you came to my house.”

Tony’s shoulders slumped.

“I’m not a kid, Mr. Stark! I can handle it,” Peter insisted. “You said it yourself: Three thousand pounds, forty miles an hour. And that wasn’t even a particularly good day for me.”

 


 

 

Clint winced as Barnes followed Steve and Sam on to the Quinjet in a quiet parking lot in Germany. “Cap,” he said. 

“You know I wouldn't have called If I had any other choice,” Steve apologized.

“Hey man,” Clint brushed it off. “Turns out I don’t like spending time with my kids anyway. Besides, helping Wanda to become a proper hero, beholden to no one, helps settle the debt I owe her brother for saving my life.”

“Thanks for having my back,” Steve told them both.

“No one will ever accept me as one of the good guys if I don’t save the world at least once a year right?” Wanda laughed awkwardly. “But I feel a little bad lying to Vision.”

“It’s these Accords, forcing us outside of the law,” Steve shook his head. “Tony needs to be shown how bad they are.” He looked around and spotted the third person on the quinjet. “And Mr. Lang, thank you for coming, without even knowing me.”

“Captain America,” Scott Lang pushed his way forward and pumped Steve’s hand, an awed expression on his face. “It's an honour. I'm shaking your hand too long. Wow! This is awesome! Captain America,” Scott babbled. “Jeez. Ah, look, I wanna say, I know you know a lot of super people, so… Thinks for thanking of me.” Then he grinned at Sam, “Hey, man!”

“What's up, Tic Tac?” Sam asked.

“Uh, good to see you,” Scott said nervously. “Look, what happened last time when I got the better of you in a fight and broke into your home to steal one of Stark’s doo-dads?”

“It’s the reason why I thought of you actually: You’ve got powers. You use them for good. You don’t really seem to care about going outside of the law,” Sam replied. “But if we ever have a rematch don’t expect it to go in your favor.”

“They tell you what we're up against?” Steve asked.

“Something about some… psycho-assassins?” Scott said hesitantly.
“Yeah, about that,” Clint broke in. He turned to Barnes, “Vision said something about this doctor guy being able to mind control you? Now I’m the last person who would blame you for something like that but… Are you certain you should be along for the ride?”

“No,” Bucky stated.

“Bucky, we won’t let anything happen to you,” Steve insisted. He turned to Wanda, “Actually that’s where you come in. Can you keep the Doctor from triggering the Winter Soldier?”

“I’ve never tried to stop someone else from getting into a mind,” Wanda admitted. She smiled brightly at Steve, “But I’ll try my best.”

“That’s all we can ask,” Steve replied.

“Uh- No, it’s not,” Clint objected. “I vote for leaving the Manchurian Candidate on the plane.”

Sam gave Steve an apologetic look, “Seconded.”

Steve stared at the in disbelief but before he could say anything, Bucky put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. “They’re making sense, Punk. I’m staying on the plane.”

 


 

Tony piloted the quinjet over a vast snowy field then brought it to a landing next to a caterpillar truck, the only sign of life for miles around. “The engine’s still warm,” Tony said as he scanned the vehicle.

“If we’re lucky, the Winter Core will still be in the process of defrosting,” Natasha remarked.

“Bagheera said he’d be joining us,” Tony remarked. “But I don’t think we can afford to wait.”

Vision nodded gravely. “Our support team from the JCTC is forty minutes out,” he reported. “And a unit from the Russian military should arrive in the next fifteen minutes.”

“Well, let’s get this over with before politics get involved,” Rhodes suggested.

“Okay folks, let’s go meet some Super-Soldiers.” Tony said, then turned to Spider-Man, “Except you. You, stay on the plane.”

“Mr. Stark!” Peter whined.

“Nope.” Tony pointed to the pilot’s seat. “Sit, stay.” He turned his back on the distinctly pouting teenager and herded the rest of the team out, with a glare that dared any of them to comment on his attempt at parenting. Natasha smirked. Rhodes looked like he was biting the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. Vision looked mystified.

“Don’t we have work to do?” Tony demanded. As they left he glanced back at Peter one last time, “Stay!”

The door to the bunker was wide open. “Yeah, that doesn’t look like a trap at all,” Rhodes commented. He nodded towards a huge pair of double doors.

“Whatever you say, Honeybear,” Tony replied snapping his helmet in place. The two of them pried the massive doors open.

“The main silo is this way,” Natasha said taking the lead. The others blinked at her, she shrugged, “Standardized layouts. I grew up in an old Soviet base, so this is like going back to the Red Room version of boarding school.”

A few minutes later they entered a vast chamber. Five cryogenic capsules lined the walls. “Good on us, Sleeping Beauties are still snoozing away,” Tony remarked. “I don’t want to say this is too easy but…”

“I’m totally blaming you when this all goes wrong,” Rhodes remarked.

“No one’s even touched the capsules,” Natasha said with a frown. “That should have been his first priority.”

“Perhaps our path was shorter,” Vision said. “He could not have arrived more than minutes before us.”

“Let’s lock this one up,” Tony suggested. “Before Dr. McFake gets his act together. I’m securing these bad boys for transport. Vision, Nat, why don’t you see if you can figure out where our Do-Badder made a wrong turn and take him into custody. Rhodey,” Tony grinned. “Get my new intern. The two of you can take care of the heavy lifting. And call the back-up, tell them I’m doing the gift-wrapping and I don’t want any quarreling over who gets which package.”

 


 

 

Steve frowned as he peered through a pair of binoculars at the bustle around the old Soviet Bunker. Three helicopters plus the Avengers’ quinjet sat behind a row of snowtracks. UN Blue Helmets mixed tentatively with a group in Russian uniforms. A slim figure in vivid red and blue carried a casket easily three times his size balanced over his head, War Machine followed behind with a second cryopod. They set them down beside a third then turned and headed back into the Bunker. A little ways away Natasha stood, one hand on her hip, glaring at a snowcat sitting slightly apart from the others, as if it had personally offended her.

“Looks like we came a long way just to miss the party,” Clint remarked.

Steve shook his head, “We can’t let Ross or the Russians have the Winter Core, it’s just too dangerous.”

“So we go down there and take them?” Sam asked. “What are we going to do with them afterwards? Who do you trust to contain them?”

Steve frowned at that scene below, a stubborn determined cast settling over his features. “We can’t let them have the serum in their veins, it’s just to dangerous.”

“What else can we do?” Clint asked. “Shoot ‘em in the head then burn the bodies?” Steve, Sam and Scott stared at him, appalled. “What? I don’t see many other options,” Clint said.

“We cannot allow Stark to have them,” Wanda said. Clint and Steve both thought, ‘Kids, what can you do?’ And ignored her outburst.

“We’re not murderers and leaving them with Ross or any government isn’t acceptable,” Steve said sternly.

Clint shook his head, “Yeah- no, it doesn’t work like that. You got lucky once when you told Stark the only solution he had wasn’t good enough and Fury turned around and pulled a helicarrier out of his ass to give you another choice but it doesn’t work like that. Our choices are: Do nothing, let the UN or Russians take the Winter Core into custody or we intervene. If we intervene we have to deal with the fact that we’re fugitives, we don’t have a prison or even a permanent hideout with a stable energy source to keep them in cryo indefinitely. If we intervene we either kill them and burn the bodies to make sure no one has access to the serum… Or we wake them up and set them loose. -And let me tell you, I’ll plug ‘em myself if you try to go with option three.”

Steve gave Clint a stern look. “That’s not good enough.”

Scott raised his hand timidly. “Maybe, I mean I don’t know if this is really going to work or if Hank would be willing but maybe we could give them to him. He’s got a stable base of operations and maybe he could rig up a way to shrink them in their capsules without hurting them. It’d be easy to hide them if they were an inch tall or so. But I did sort of take off to help you guys without Hank’s buy in and he leans towards ‘crabby’, especially if other people have ideas… Oh, and we’d still have to get the capsules away from those guys, transport them to San Fran without killing them or accidentally turning them loose…”

Meanwhile, down below War Machine and Spider-Man returned carrying out the last two cyro-pods.

“I heard enough,” Bucky broke in gruffly over the comms.

Several shots rang out in quick succession. Below the UN and Russian soldiers scrambled for defensive positions. War Machine and Spider-Man hurried to set their burdens down. War Machine gesturing sternly toward one of the armored snowcats. Spider-Man shook his head, gesturing between his cryo-pod and Bucky’s location.

“Bucky?” Steve called, standing up.

Hawkeye’s gaze focused on the fractured glass covering the cryo-pods, the bullet holes that had appeared in the heads of the Winter Core. “Well, that’s one way to end an argument,” he said. Then he noticed that Spider-Man had managed to twist the cryo-pod he’d been carrying so that the bullet had only scored a glancing hit on the metal and the kid had even thought to set the pod so that Bucky didn’t have a clear shot on the glass front. “Mostly.”

The Black Panther’s armor stood out starkly against the snow plain as T’Challa broke cover and raced for the sniper’s position.

“Did anyone tell T’Challa that Barnes didn’t kill his father?” Natasha asked over the coms.

“Hm? Yes, why?” Tony asked distractedly still, in the depths of the bunker.

“Because the Winter Soldier is busily taking out our prisoners. T’Challa was here, lying in wait and now he’s going after Barnes,” Natasha explained shortly.

“Well, he might not have believed me… Wait! What? Why is Barnes killing our prisoners? Has anyone got eyes on Rogers? He can’t be far.”

“Not yet,” Rhodes said. “And Tony, tell your kid to get his ass to cover. He’s not listening to me.”

“I’m sorry Mr. Colonel,” Spider-Man broke in anxiously. “But can anyone else here tell that guy’s going to shoot before he does? My guy’s still alive and I’d like to keep him that way.”

“Kid, get to safety,” Tony ordered. “Rhodey can you cover our not-dead prisoner? Vision where are you?”

“I am still searching for the Doctor, he is most elusive,” Vision said.

“Well get up stairs, we’ve got a fight on our hands,” Tony sighed. “Where Barnes is you know Rogers isn’t far behind.”

Outside Steve was rallying his team, “Bucky’s one of us, we have to support him,” he shouted as he ran to intercept T’Challa.

“Well, since you’re pretty much the only one who had a problem with killing them…” Clint remarked, he notched an explosive arrow and sent it between the three cryo-pods that were clustered together to finish the job Bucky had started.

“I had a problem with it! I had a big problem with it!” Scott exclaimed but he still went small and climbed up on Sam’s glove. “Drop me somewhere useful,” he suggested.

“Soon as I figure out where that is,” Sam promised, taking to the air. “Wanda, you’d better stick close to Barnes. If the Doctor shows up we may have a problem on our hands.”

Vision rose out of the snow, startling several of the soldiers. He frowned at the explosion. “I believe Hawkeye and Wanda may have also come, despite promising me that they would stay safe.”

“Yeah, not surprised,” Tony sighed as he clumped out of the bunker and took to the air. “Hey Wilson! International criminal is a title that appeals to you?” he asked as he peppered the Falcon with repulsors shots, trying to drive him towards the ground.

Sam banked and swerved between the blast. He tried ordering Red Wing to get Ant-Man in position for some sabotage but the Drone refused pointedly, so Sam resorted to using a missile without the detonator.

“Hey Nat,” Clint said with a friendly, please don’t hit me grin.

Natasha replied with a you’re not nearly as cute as you think you are frown. “What the hell are you doing here Barton! You were retired!”

“Yeah but-” Clint sighed, blocking Natasha’s kick with his bow. “I got bored, Cap called and here we are.”

“You know you’re an idiot right?” Natasha ducked under his punch.

Clint didn’t dispute it, it might have had something to do with Natasha landing a punch to his gut.

Wanda diverted from her task of sticking with Bucky to use her powers to throw Natasha into one of the snowcats. “You were pulling your punches,” she scolded Clint then scattered the UN and Russian soldiers with a wave of telekinetic power.

T’Challa’s claws scored long scratches across Steve’s shield, defacing the star. “Move, Captain. I won't ask nicely a second time.”

War Machine moved the cryo-pod containing the last surviving member of the Winter Core back into the Bunker’s shelter while Barnes and Barton were distracted from sniping. “Spider-boy!” Rhodes shouted. “Get in here and stay here. Keep your prisoner safe.”

Spider-Man nodded and made a quick sprint across the field, collecting two of the soldiers left unconscious by Wanda’s attack as he went. “There are a bunch of guys down,” he told Rhodes as he lowered his rescues to the floor inside the bunker’s shelter.

Rhodes grimaced, “Yeah, close combat abilities isn’t exactly what a modern military focuses on.” He blasted out of the bunker. “Get your guys in the bunker,” Rhodes told the UN commander. “Your guys are taking too much damage while being held back by trying not to shoot us.”

The commander nodded and relaid orders to the rest of his troops and the Russian unit. They grabbed their injured and hurried toward the bunker while Rhodes intercepted a thrown snow-cat that grew from match-box sized to full sized as it flew through the air. “Fucking maniac!” Rhodes shouted. “They’re trying to clear their injured!”

Scott put his hands behind his back and squirmed guiltily like kid trying to hide his baseball bat in the face of an angry adult shaking the ball that had broken their window at him. “I didn’t think-”

“Damn right you didn’t think,” Rhodes cut Scott off harshly. “Get the fuck out of here, before your stupid kills someone!”

“Wanda, you lied to me,” Vision accused as he confronted the Witch.

“You forced me to,” Wanda replied. “I won’t be controlled Viz, not by you or anyone.”

Inside the bunker Spider-Man watched from a perch in a shadowy corner near the ceiling of the bunker as the soldiers created a perimeter around the last cyro-pod and checked their injured. He wanted to think that these guys were on his side but at the same time he’d already had a few too many run ins with police who weren’t fans. And then there was the Bugle and J.J. Jameson’s one-sided feud, Peter wondered what he’d ever done to the guy but always came up blank. Jameson had had it in for him since Spidey’s first public sighting.

Spider-Man was still staying out of sight, trying to convince himself that he should go down and offer to work with the UN and Russian soldiers when the hair on the back of his arms stood on end. He looked around, searching for the source of his unease and caught the faintest glimmer of light reflecting off a metal arm. Bucky had taken advantage of all the chaos outside to slip past the fighting and continue his self-assigned mission to eliminate the Winter Core before they could do more harm to the world.

Spider-Man crawled across the roof to get behind the Winter Soldier then snagged him with a line of webbing and yanked him deeper into the bunker, away from the baseline troops.

Bucky grabbed the webline and before Spider-Man realized what he intended he yanked on it, pulling the young hero off the roof and pinning him to the ground. “Kid, get out of my way before I have to hurt you,” he growled.

“Why kill them?” Spider-Man demanded. “We’re ARRESTING them or well, I guess putting them somewhere safe since they’d sort of have to be conscious to actually be arrested and no one wants that.”

Bucky shook his head. “They’re too dangerous to let ‘em live, to let anyone have control over them or what’s in their blood.”

“People are saying the same about you,” Spider-Man argued.

“And I’m not saying they’re wrong,” Bucky replied.

“Who gave you the right to be judge, jury and executioner?!”

“HYDRA,” Bucky said. “When they sent me after the serum that made ‘em what they are. This is one nightmare caused by the Winter Soldier that I’m laying to rest right here.”

“They’re still people!” Spider-Man exclaimed heaving Bucky off him. “And you’re killing them!”

Bucky drew a knife as Spider-Man squared off against him. The kid turned at the feeling of a threat behind him, then recognized Natasha and relaxed only to have her hit him with the Widow’s Bite a moment later, dropping him in his tracks.

Bucky eyed her warily.

Natasha put her hand over a spot low on her abdomen where an old scar from a thru and thru bullet wound lay. “I know you’ll go through anyone who gets in the way of your mission,” she said stepping to the side. “And the Winter Core isn’t worth our protection, worth us fighting over them. Just- Don’t make me regret this,” she said as Bucky walked past her. “Don’t hurt anyone else.”

Bucky nodded shortly. A few moments later there were gunfire and shouts from the outer room. Then the crackle of flames. Bucky returned a few moments later, “It’s done,” he said. “I’m going to check the base for any data on the serum. No loose ends.”

“I understand,” Natasha said as she headed out of the bunker.

Once she emerge back into the light Natasha looked around at the battlefield. Wanda was on the ground clutching her head, Vision crouched over her. Sam’s wings were bent and useless, Clint’s bow broken. Rhodes was grounded, still in his armor and keeping a rack of missiles aimed at Clint and Sam, but War Machine barely seemed capable of walking much less flying. Scott was nowhere to be seen. Steve, T’Challa and Tony were locked in a three way battle with Tony trying to keep T’Challa pinned down and Steve away from T’Challa while the two of them tried to get past him… and at each other. “It’s over!” Natasha shouted. “They’re all dead, there’s nothing left to fight over.”

“Where’s P- Spider-Man?” Tony demanded as Steve asked, “What happened to Bucky?”

“Spider-Man’s safe, unconscious but it was in his own best interest,” Natasha told Tony. Then she turned to Steve, “Bucky’s cleaning up loose ends.”

“It is not over for me,” T’Challa declared. “I will have justice for my father’s murder.”

“And I told you, more than once or twice, that we’ve got evidence Vienna was a frame!” Tony snapped.

“Then why did he run?” T’Challa growled.

“What was he supposed to do? With everyone trying to kill him?” Steve demanded.

“Why couldn’t you have turned him in like I asked instead of dragging Clint, Wanda and that other guy into this mess?” Tony accused. “You just had to do everything your way.”

“Governments have agendas Tony!” Steve exclaimed

“The UN is not a government!” Tony shouted back. “If you’re that ignorant, then how can you NOT need oversight!”

“Is the false Doctor still within the bunker?” Vision asked. “With Sgt. Barnes?”

“Shit!” It was hard to say who said it as the sentiment was nearly universal.

“I’m going after him,” Steve declared. “If the doctor’s gotten to him again, I can break him out of it.”

“And help him out the back way with us none the wiser,” Rhodes said. “Before all this I wouldn’t have thought you’d be the type to run from your problems Captain. Now I don’t know what else I can think.”

“It’s not right,” Steve said. “Bucky shouldn’t have to suffer more because of what HYDRA did to him.”

“No, it’s not fair,” Rhodes agreed. “But Sgt. Barnes isn’t the only victim in all this. And until you get that through your skull you’re going keep adding to to that sum, like you did in Bucharest.”

Steve shook his head, “It shouldn’t have to be Bucky who sacrifices, he’s suffered too much already.”

“Why don’t we all go find the missing Sergeant, before the Doctor does,” Tony suggested. Then he looked around. “Or at least everyone who’s combat ready. Berlin says us squishy baselines don’t do so well against brainwashed super assassins.”

Sam grimaced and nodded.

Vision glanced up from Wanda reluctantly.

Clint gave his bow a mournful glance then tossed it aside and walked over to Natasha, “No hard feelings?” he asked quietly.

“I don’t take back that you were an idiot to come,” Natasha replied.

“Okay, I’ll give you that,” Clint agreed.

Rhodes strained a bit to reach the emergency releases on his damaged armor. He took a handgun from a hidden compartment inside the armor and tucked it in the back of his waistband before going to join the others.

Steve shook his head, “I should go alone. This sort of a- a hunting party, you’re just going to spook him.”

“I think we shall all go,” T’Challa declared.

“Not you Murder-Kitty,” Tony objected. “I’ve already got enough scratches in the paint trying to hold you off.”

“I will see my father’s killer brought to justice,” T’Challa insisted.

“You shut up,” Tony snapped when Steve opened his mouth. “And you,” he told T’Challa, “You’re not coming. You’re not thinking straight, we all get why and we all sympathize but you and Barnes are sodium and water, you need to stay away from this situation. Asking you to deal rationally with a guy you saw murder your father just isn’t right.”

Natasha glanced over at Steve and frowned.

“What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” Steve mouthed back.

T’Challa started to argue again. Tony sighed and shot restraining bolt at his feet. He walked away as T’Challa began shouting in protest. “Vision? Keep an eye on him along with Witchy, I’m getting sick of being followed. Nat, Wilson, you want to explain going up against the Winter Soldier for the rest of the class?” He nodded to Rhodey and Clint. “But why don’t we talk and walk,” he glared at Natasha. “Someone knocked out my baby intern and left him stashed in a corner somewhere.”

“It was for his own good,” Natasha insisted, her tone slightly strained as she glanced at Steve again. “So the two are going to do this together?”

“I can handle it,” Steve insisted.

“Yeah, like you handled it in Berlin,” Tony disagreed. “But no problem, my suit’s a little more fitting for the occasion this time.”

 


 

 

After Steve and Tony disappeared into the bunker to root out Zemo and the Winter Soldier the UN and Russian units created a perimeter and secured the vehicles to make sure they couldn’t escape, even if they got past the two Avengers.

Wanda leaned against Clint as the effects of the sonic disruptor War Machine had used to incapacitate her slowly wore off. Vision frowned at both of them but still had an air of hovering over Wanda about him.

Rhodey and Sam worried over Spider-Man, who only seemed a little worse for wear. While the teen kept up a steady stream of outraged glares directed towards Natasha. “It was for your own good kid,” she insisted as she stopped pacing for a moment. “He wasn’t going to stop.”

“Neither does anyone else I fight,” Peter pointed out. “It’s not a reason to give up.”

“I know,” Natasha admitted. She shook her head, “But some fights aren’t worth it. Theoretically, yeah, it was our job to keep the Winter Core safe; they were our prisoners and while they were in cryo like that they were helpless. But they weren’t worth the risk of you getting hurt. Tony never would have forgiven himself, you know that right?”

Peter deflated, shoulders hunched in and head bowed. “I should be helping, I’m not that hurt.”

“No!” Clint snapped glancing up from Wanda. “My oldest kid’s only a couple years younger than you. What was Stark thinking bringing you?”

“I made my own choice,” Peter snapped back. “Why aren’t you with your kids?”

Clint pulled back as the barb hit home. He watched Natasha go back to pacing. “What bug crawled up your butt?” he asked.

Natasha shook her head.

“Come on,” Sam added. “If there’s something we should be worrying about…”

“It’s…” Natasha stopped. “It’s probably nothing. Like Steve said: He doesn’t know.”

Rhodes made the connection. He stalked over and grabbed Natasha by the arm, giving her a shake. “What doesn’t Tony know?” he demanded.

Natasha twisted in Rhodey’s hold, sweeping his legs out from under him. But the irritation faded into guilt almost immediately as she glanced back at the entrance to the bunker worriedly. “Barnes might not have killed T’Challa’s father, but the Winter Soldier killed Tony’s.”

“What!?!” Rhodey roared. “And you and Rogers have been keeping that from Tony! What the fuck is wrong with you people!”

“We’ve gotta go!” Peter exclaimed. “This is bad! This is bad!”

Wanda pulled herself upright. Vision reached out and steadied her as she took a few steps towards the bunker.

“Kid?” Sam asked Peter.

“I nearly killed him, the guy who shot my Uncle. With my bare hands. And no one lied to me about it! The only betrayal was me ignoring what Uncle Ben said and letting it happen. Didn’t any of you HEAR why the cat-guy couldn’t go after Sgt. Barnes?”

“It’s fine, Tony doesn’t know,” Natasha tried to sooth Peter.

“In what world does that make it okay?!” Peter shouted back.

“Um- Not to spoil the moment but… Where is the guy in the catsuit?” Clint asked.

Before anyone could do more than look around in bewilderment an explosion from inside the bunker shook the ground.

“Let’s go,” Rhodes ordered. He, Peter and Wanda were the first inside the Bunker. They followed the sounds fighting to the back of the bunker where it over looked a massive cliff. Rhodes wondered how he’d gotten himself into a situation where the best case scenario was the Winter Soldier having been triggered again. He turned the corner and realized immediately that wasn’t what had happened when he saw Rogers and Barnes teamed up against Tony, passing the shield smoothly between them as they used it to batter him repeatedly. Rhodes put out his hands to stop Peter and Wanda from getting into the middle of the vicious battler.

Peter growled as the two Super Soldiers pressed the advantage of numbers for all it was worth, against a man who had just learned that his parents had been murdered.

Rogers went down. Barnes forced Tony against the wall while he tried to rip the arc reactor out of his chest. Rhodes’ expression hardened. He knew that, after Obadiah, Tony had taken measures to ensure anyone who tried that again would pay for it. “There’s going to be an opening,” he told Peter and Wanda. “I’ll handle Tony.” He nodded toward the two Super Soldiers. “You two keep them away from him.”

“But!” Peter protested. “You don’t have your armor.”

“Don’t need it,” Rhodes said as it happened. One moment Barnes’s metal fingers where biting into Tony’s chest plate, the next the unibeam went off and the man was staggering back clutching a stump of his artificial arm. Rhodes ran to take advantage of the break in the fighting.

Bucky fell to his knees. Steve stared at his friend’s severed arm in shock for a few moments then shifted his grip on his shield and stroded forward determinedly. A wave of red slammed him back against the wall. “You hid his parents’ murder?” Wanda demanded.

Steve looked shocked. “I had to protect Bucky,” he tried to explain. “Look at what he did to Bucky.”

“You hide such a thing and present yourself as a righteous man?” Wanda’s accent thickened with outrage.

Meanwhile Rhodey reached up to grab Iron Man’s shoulders. “Tones, I know they’re bastards but you gotta stop.”

“He killed my mom,” Tony’s voice broke.

Rhodey wrapped one hand around the back of the armor’s neck and pulled until their foreheads rested against each other. He remembered Tony sitting in his room twenty-five years ago, staring blankly at nothing, barely more than a kid. “Come out of there,” he said. “You being taller feels all wrong.”

Tony looked around and saw Steve hanging several inches off the floor in the grip of Wanda’s power and Spider-Man glaring sternly at Barnes. The Iron Man armor cracked open and Tony practically fell into Rhodes’ arms. “He killed my mom.”

Rhodes hugged Tony tightly.

As the brawl between Iron Man, Captain America and the Winter Soldier wound down T’Challa dragged Zemo out of the depths of the bunker and turned him over to the UN with a warning that the man had already attempted to take his own life.

Bucky, Steve and the rest of the Avengers Steve had assembled were arrested for the various crimes they’d committed in Bucharest, Berlin and in coming into Siberia uninvited. While they were being transported to a JCTC cell, Steve escaped taking Bucky with him and raising questions in the public mind about how much autonomy Sgt. Barnes possessed after all he’d suffered. Wanda, Clint and Sam all stayed, clearly of their own accord.

Natasha vanished a few months later as it became clear Tony wasn’t particularly interested in shielding her from her past now that he knew that she, like Steve had also known about his parents for years.

Clint was allowed to return to his retirement without much fuss.

Sam spent nearly a year in custody while the trial for his part in Bucharest dragged on. After Berlin he was considered too much a flight risk to to be offered bail despite his later decision not to escape with Steve. But the trial went mostly in his favor and the judge allowed the time incarcerated during the trial to count towards his sentence, leaving only a few months before he was paroled back to the Avengers.

Wanda’s choice to stay and face the consequences of her mistakes in Lagos and the choices she’d made in the aftermath healed the rift that had opened between her and Vision. The next six months, while she was confined to the Compound until her legal status could be straightened out under the Accords, saw the tentative romance between them come into blossom.

It took Scott a few weeks to make his way back from Siberia without admitting to having been there in the first place, he missed two check-in with his parole officer and ended up on house arrest for two years.

Tony left Siberia with the illusion of the Avengers as a family, his family completely shattered. He came home to find Pepper and Happy waiting on the landing pad. “I thought we were on a break?” he asked Pepper as she hugged him. She shook her head, “Not now, not given…” She glanced over at Rhodey, remembering his call. “If I ever made you think I didn’t want to know when you were hurting, I am so sorry Tony.”

Between working on the Accords, Tony took the time to rebuild his relationships with Pepper, Happy and Rhodey all of which had suffered from neglect during his tenure as an Avenger. Wanda’s mandated presence at the Compound and the history between them continued to discourage Tony from being there too often but something had shifted between them since Siberia. Tony doubted they’d ever be friends but Vision and Sam’s relationships with Wanda stopped being an obstacle to Tony developing a friendship with them and his friendship with Clint finally healed.

Peter’s disconcerting, in Tony’s opinion, efforts to be supportive about what had come out in Siberia made him wary of the boy. But a few months, and a winged super villain, later Tony stopped evading Peter. After that it didn’t take long for Tony to realize that, as much as the kid believed he’d dealt with his uncle’s death, Peter was still suffering under a heavy load of grief and misplaced guilt. He managed to loop May Parker in and got Peter into counseling. Then he found himself letting Pepper talk him into counseling himself… To be a good example.

Tony also started seeking out connections with other Enhanced, making the time and effort to publicize how the Accords functioned, to keep misinformation about them from driving people away and to ensure that people like Ross met resistance when they tried to twist the Accords to their own agendas. When the next threat came Tony was determined to be ready. A year and a half after Siberia Tony looked at the flip-phone Steve had sent then snorted and tossed it in the trash. His new team was waiting.

Chapter Text

Steve jogged out of the shadows headed toward a helicopter waiting on a private runway. Moments before he could reach his goal an an electro disabler took it out of play.

“Wow, it's so weird how you run into people at the airport. Don't you think that's weird?” Tony declared sarcastically as he and Rhodes landed in front of Steve.

“Definitely weird,” Rhodes deadpanned.

“Hear me out, Tony,” Steve insisted keeping an ear open for Sam and Bucky.

“Why should I?” Tony asked. “It’s not like you’ve been listening to me. You walked out on us when the Avengers were trying to form a unified position about the Accords to relay back to the UN.”

“I’d just gotten word that Peggy died,” Steve exclaimed. “What else could I do?”

Tony nodded, “Yeah, yeah, I can understand, you were upset… You know what Peggy Carter and the Howling Commandos did after you put the Valkyrie down in the North Atlantic? They finished securing that HYDRA base. And the next day they took advantage of the confusion caused in HYDRA’s ranks by the loss of their Commander… I guess Peggy just didn’t love you the way you loved her. Because she kept going after you were declared dead.”

Steve frowned, “You don’t understand anything Tony, the war was important.”

“And the Accords weren’t?”

“Just a bunch of nonsense, paper-pushers trying to control us,” Steve said. “I told you before: The safest hands are our own.”

“I suppose that’s why you didn’t come to Vienna with Natasha after the funeral,” Tony replied. “Because you don’t consider legislation agreed to by one hundred and seventeen nations to be important.”

“I won’t put the Avengers in the hands of politicians with agendas,” Steve replied proudly.

“Or even show up to listen to why those politicians think it’s necessary to establish oversight for an enhanced strike force that goes anywhere in the world where they feel they’re needed without so much as a by-your-leave,” Tony said lightly. “You didn’t show up after dumping the Helicarriers in the Potomac or after Lagos either. What did Natasha say? ‘Your actions speak for themselves’ or something like that? The Accords are a thing, they’re happening, sixty percent of the world agrees to this particular set of regulations. Ignoring that won’t make it go away.”

“Sixty percent isn’t much of a majority,” Steve said.

“Yeah well, twenty percent are holding out over a particular subsection that they insist on being amended before they sign… Not the all same subsection mind you. There are forty countries saying that they will sign as soon as their personal pet peeve is addressed.

“Now twenty-five countries have formed a faction opposing the Accords. They claim that they’re much too lenient. Their rallying cry is basically that foreign Enhanced should be outright prohibited from crossing international boards to wage war against… um… whomever the Enhanced in question objects to. I’m honestly a little surprised that Russia and China aren’t in that group, given that the Avengers are, by and far, the most publicly visible Enhanced team currently operating- Hell, you’d almost think we were the only game in town. -And the main faces of the Avengers are an icon of American Capitalism,” Tony gestured to himself. “And a guy who wears the US flag across his chest. It wouldn’t have surprised me if they wanted to ban us from entering their countries altogether instead of just asking us get permission first.

“So that leaves thirteen countries that sort of agree with you that the Accords are too prohibitive- Well actually, that’s not your stance. You stance is that the status quo is just fine and the Accords are completely unnecessary, or am I wrong about that?” Tony asked. “I mean that’s the impression I’ve gotten from your actions speaking for themselves.”

“Is this about Berlin?” Steve demanded. “I was willing to talk but after I heard about what they were doing to Wanda there didn’t seem to be any point.”

“What they were doing to Wanda?” Tony snapped. “Allowing her to stay in her home, a hundred acre compound with more amenities than some small towns while her visa was under review? You do remember that Wanda is a former member of a notorious terrorist organization known as HYDRA? Do you remember how HYDRA infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D.? Operation Paperclip, where former Nazi Scientists like Armin Zola were recruited into the U.S., ring any bells? And so here the Avengers are recruiting a former HYDRA Enhanced… Do you see how this raises questions? Especially after she makes a mistake in the field that results in the deaths of over twenty civilians and nothing happens?”

“I vouched for Wanda,” Steve said stubbornly. “She’s a good kid who was misled by HYDRA.”

“Which wasn’t difficult, I mean they promised to help her and her brother see me dead,” Tony remarked. “Strangely, I don’t have a lot of warm fuzzies for Wanda. I was willing to sort out her visa for her but I expected her to do her part and stay put while people were burning her in effigy. One altercation involving her and a civilian mob and every politician I had convinced that deportation was a bad idea would have washed their hands of her.”

“Tony you should have told me that earlier!” Steve protested.

“You called it internment and walked out on me!” Tony exclaimed. “And would it have stopped you from ‘rescuing’ her the moment you decided you needed her for- for whatever it is your doing here? I mean, did you have Clint try to EXPLAIN anything to Vision? No! He blew up one of my garden sheds to draw Vision off so he could influence someone you all call a kid without her best friend around to offer a differing opinion! He prepared an attack on Vision before Vision even set one foot in the room. And then they left Vision in a fucking hole because he tried to fight back, after Clint had already attacked him. But yeah, now I’m supposed to listen to you while you buy time for your minions to locate the quinjet? I mean, maybe you didn’t notice but that chopper’s range is going to be for shit if you try to pack the whole team you assembled on board. But I think you did notice that and that’s why you’re out here all alone drawing Rhodey and I’s attention without Wilson, Clint, Wanda or the Manchurian Candidate.”

“You want to know what we’re trying to accomplish,” Steve said. “Tony I’m trying to tell you: That doctor, the psychiatrist, he's behind all of this. HYDRA had are five more super soldiers held in Cryo just like the Winter Soldier, the doctor’s going to use them to topple an empire.”

“Okay,” Tony said. “Tell me where, my team will deal with it as soon as you turn yourself in. Ross gave me thirty-six hours to bring you in. That was twenty-four hours ago… You know, if you’d called me instead of Clint, we’d already have the Freezerburn Super Soldier brigade out of Dr. McFake’s reach.”

“You wouldn’t have listened, the Accords would have tied your hands,” Steve insisted.

“A) I’m well practiced in asking forgiveness rather than permission, just ask Pepper. And, B) you could have given the Accords a chance to work the way that they were meant to instead of preemptively deciding that they don’t work and circumventing them IN CASE they keep you from doing what is, in your opinion, necessary…. You will take note that the Accords did not prevent Rhodes from bringing your old war buddy in alive.”

“I couldn’t take that chance,” Steve said. “Not with Bucky’s safety on the line and not now. Those five super soldiers have to be stopped.”

“What chance?” Tony demanded. “You could have told me or Rhodey or Natasha or Vision or all of us and if we hadn’t listened then you still could have pulled this bullshit. And here I am, listening. Tell me where to go, turn yourself in and I swear I’ll deal with your Super Soldier problem.”

“I can’t do that Tony,” Steve argued. “You need me, you can’t take on the Winter Core alone.”

“Why not?” Tony asked.

“If the Doctor succeeds in breaking us up, you’ll lose.”

“Yeah, ‘together’ I remember. But let’s think about this for a moment,” Tony said. “I’m not alone. I’ve got Rhodey here, Nat and Vision on my side, plus we brought King Kitty.”

T'Challa leapt over a truck to join them, he glared at Tony, “I do not appreciate your ridiculous nicknames,” he said then he acknowledged Steve with a curt, “Captain.”

“Your highness,” Steve replied warily before turning back to Tony. “Don’t let your ego blind you Tony.”

“How about data? You say this guy’s got five super soldiers, Rhodey and I once took out about forty, just the two of us.”

“These are different,” Steve insisted.

“I agree completely,” Tony said. “Your buddy’s metal arm says these super soldiers don’t regenerate missing limbs. Do they breath fire or kamikaze with a big enough boom to rival a car packed with C-4?”

“You had dozens of extra suits and an AI that could control them like the Iron Legion,” Steve pointed out. “After Ultron we told you that you couldn’t rebuild the Iron Legion and that FRIDAY had to have limits on her that prevented her from being as independent as J.A.R.V.I.S. was.”

“Right, because J.A.R.V.I.S. not going evil in the twenty years since I brought him online doesn’t prove anything,” Tony said bitterly. “You know for someone who has been kicking up such fuss about oversight you’re sure happy enough to oversee everything I do.”

“Like Wanda said: You can’t tell the difference between saving the world and destroying it Tony,” Steve replied seriously. “You need me to tell you which ideas are bad and I’m telling you the Accords are bad news.”

Tony snorted. “Wanda couldn’t tell the difference between HYDRA and S.H.I.E.L.D. while they were performing human experimentation on her, according to you, and she has mind reading powers,” he said. “Actually none of you could tell the difference between HYDRA and S.H.I.E.L.D. Not you in the year you worked side-by-side with Brock Rumlow, not Natasha, Clint, Fury, Hill or Coulson in all the years they worked alongside HYDRA agents. But I’m the only one who needs to have their judgement checked?”

“Tony, I’m a good man, the serum proves it and you’re… well, you,” Steve said.

“Fine,” Tony snapped. “Not to get totally side-tracked. You turn yourself, Barnes and Wilson in and I’ll take my team… Wherever it is that you’re headed. I’ll even bring Clint along since he isn’t person non grata with the UN yet. I may have left out a few details about Wanda taking her leave from the Compound in the official report.”

Steve shook his head. “This is too important to risk on a team fighting at half strength.”

“Get real Rogers! I took down two Extremis super-soldiers without the armor and only a small town sheriff who had no clue about what I was bringing down on him and an eight-year-old kid for back up. Rhodes, Vision, Natasha, Clint, T’Challa and I can deal with five Winter Soldier knock-offs!” Tony exclaimed. “And if you really think that we can’t, how the hell did you think that YOU were going to take them on with just you, Clint, Wanda, Sam and the Manchurian Candidate… By the way, what’s stopping the Doctor from having six soldiers? It didn’t take him long to turn Barnes in Berlin now did it?”

“You’re pandering to politicians when there’s a threat to the world,” Steve insisted. “This is exactly what’s wrong with the Accords.”

“FINE!!” Tony exploded. “I am trying everything I can to compromise with you here! We’ll ALL go- wherever -and your team can help deal with this Winter Core thing-”

“I will not agree to this,” T’Challa declared. “I am here to see my father’s murderer brought to justice.”

“You're after the wrong guy,” Steve told him.

“Priorities Felix the Cat,” Tony groaned. “We’ll be right beside them every step of the way. After this threat is dealt with they can turn themselves in…” He turned back to Steve, “Or we bring you in, one way or another. Let’s get a move on it, we’re on the clock, twelve hours until Ross starts sending snipers.”

“If Barnes escapes Wakanda will hold YOU responsible Stark,” T’Challa threatened.

“What’s new?” Tony asked. “This good for you Rogers?”

After a moment Steve nodded.

“Then I take it you’ve already heard where the Quinjet is parked?” Tony asked dryly. ”Have Cupid and Witchy meet us there.” Then he spoke into his comm, “Underoos? Tell Happy to take you home. Explaining this to the UN would really make a mess of your school schedule.”

“Mr. Stark?” a young, very disappointed voice asked.

“Once I’ve cleared up any questions about the legality of this little field trip we’re going on I’ll find you something to show your stuff,” Tony promised, he tried to keep his frustration out of his voice thinking of his relationship with his father and the desire to learn from the past.

With both teams crowded onboard the quinjet was packed. “Can’t you and Rhodes fly yourselves?” Clint complained.

“Fine,” Tony sighed, “Whatever.”

“Great,” Rhodes agreed with a toothy smile. “If you deviate from the flight plan, I’ll be in an excellent position to bring this bird down.”

“And I will kill my father’s murderer at the first hint of duplicity from your team, Captain,” T’Challa added.

“We could share a seat, Viz,” Wanda offered with a flirty smile.

Vision frowned a little, “I thought you were angry with me. Given what occurred at the Compound.”

Natasha shook her head and smiled indulgently, “Don’t tell a woman ‘no’, Vision. You’ll learn.”

“Or maybe he’ll run away like Banner did,” Rhodes remarked.

“Low blow man.” Sam shook his head in disappointment.

Bucky didn’t say anything but Steve made sure that he was between Bucky and T’Challa. A long and uncomfortable plane ride later they disembarked, regrouped with Iron Man and War Machine then trooped into the old Soviet bunker. There they found the Winter Core already dead and Zemo made his presence known. In the process he confirmed that it was him, not Bucky who set off the bomb in Vienna. “I wasn’t expecting such a crowd,” Zemo admitted, looking a little concerned, as he pushed play.

The group watched as the Winter Soldier brutally murdered Howard and Maria Stark.

After it was over Tony lunged towards Bucky only for Rhodes to get between them and pull him into a tight hug, armors and all. “Tony, Tony… It, fuck I hate to say this, but it doesn’t change anything. We came here to bring him in to face charges with regards to Vienna, Bucharest and all assassinations that the Winter Soldier has been connected to. That hasn’t, can’t change. It’s up to the courts to decide if he’s legally responsible for the Winter Soldier’s actions, it’s not up to you, or Rogers, any of us here. We’re too close to it, too compromised.” He glanced at Steve over Tony’s shoulder. “THIS is why the Accords HAVE to exist: Because we cannot make these sorts of calls when it hits so close to home.”

Steve shook his head. “Zemo confessed to Vienna, you’ve got him and you’ve got it on tape. Bucharest is those soldier’s fault for going after Bucky for something he didn’t do. And I will not stand for anyone blaming Bucky for what HYDRA made him do as the Winter Soldier.”

“He killed my mom!” Tony exclaimed.

“That was a quarter of a century ago,” Sam interject. “You should be over that by now.”

“Yeah, ‘cause finding out it was murder and not Howard’s bad driving literally two minutes ago changes nothing.” Rhodes frowned at Sam, “What kind of counselor are you? And even though we didn’t know them personally, let’s not forget about the people who died at Barnes’ hands in Berlin yesterday.”

“That’s Zemo and more Winter Soldier stuff, it’s not Bucky’s fault and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise,” Steve declared. He included T’Challa in his challenging glare.

“It seems he did not kill MY Father,” the young king said as he paused for a moment in using his claws to cut Zemo out of the control room. “Sgt. Barnes, I’m deeply sorry for my earlier actions. If there’s anything I could do to make it up to you, don’t hesitate to ask.”

Steve smiled benevolently at him, “You’re good man T’Challa, I’m glad you understand. Tony, you should take him as an example.”

“Because the fact that I just watched him kill MY parents with his bare hands is exactly the same as learning that it was a guy in a mask that only looked like him who killed T’Challa’s father,” Tony snarled, still leaning against Rhodes for moral support.

“I’ve decided that it’s Howard Stark’s fault my parents died,” Wanda announced. “If not for him Stark Industries would not have been in the weapons business in the first place. Stark congratulations, I no longer wish you dead. King T’Challa has the person who killed his father to extract vengeance from. HYDRA inadvertently took my vengeance for me and I’ll have to be satisfied with that. Happy endings all around… I suppose I am sorry about your mother Stark but sometimes collateral damage is unavoidable in the pursuit of justice, Steve taught me that.” To herself she added, “I shouldn’t mention how I justified Johannesburg to myself in the same way. People get bent out of shape over that for some strange reason. It’s not like anyone important died there.”

“Of course, Wanda,” Steve agreed. “You’ve made mistakes but you’re a good girl and you’re sorry. That’s all that matters.”

“Natasha?” Rhodes asked.

Natasha looked at the already dead Winter Core and sighed. “No threat, no excuse for us being here,” she said. “Bringing in Zemo will help but at the end of the day he is just a regular man and a lone operative, the Russian government will not accept that their border patrols were inadequate to stop him. They will want us to face consequences for trespassing in their territory. I’d rather not be punished so I’ll be leaving with Steve. I don’t do consequences, I just change sides.”

Clint shrugged, “No one knows I’m here, isn’t that what you said Stark? I’m just going to head home and pretend I never left. You wouldn’t mention it to Ross would you, not when Laura and the kids will be the ones to suffer.” Still tiny, wedged in a groove in Captain America’s shield, Scott Lang decided that he’d be doing the same… Only without the part where he trusted Stark to keep his family out of it.”

Wanda was whispering something in Vision’s ear, her hand resting flirtatiously on his chest while he smiled and looked embarrassed.

“You could come with us Tony, Colonel Rhodes,” Steve offered. “As long as you accept that Bucky’s completely innocent in what happened to your parents and that it’s wrong for anyone to ever question his innocence, then you can still be a part of the team.”

“And SI?” Tony asked bitterly. “I’m supposed to just leave Pepper holding the bag when we’re all hiding out?”

Clint shrugged, “Hey if that’s what you feel you have to do. I mean it sucks to be you but none of the rest of us really care. It’s not like you and Rhodes stand a chance, not when we’re all against you and inside a close space like this that limits the effectiveness of your ranged weapons.”

“Tony, since you’re going back... You should straighten out the Accords for us,” Natasha added. “Here’s some things that need amending: The Avengers can go anywhere they deem necessary. People or governments may, humbly, bring any concerns they feel we’re overlooking to our attention but if we’re not interested that’s it.

“If collateral damage occurs during any of our missions Steve has the final say in whether or not it was unavoidable. If Steve decides that it could have been avoided, then he determines who made the mistake and what correction, if any, is required of that individual.”

Natasha looked around at the group. “Does that about cover it?” she asked.

“Stark’s required to sue any media people for libel if they say anything contradicting Steve’s evaluations of collateral damage,” Wanda added promptly.

Natasha nodded in agreement, “That’s good, Wanda. You’ll take care of it, right Tony?

“We can be patient, with T’Challa funding us during our fugitive period,” She smiled at T’Challa. “You owe us right? After Bucharest, after going after an innocent man.

“We can wait until something big to comes along to... Remind the world that they need us and because they need us they can’t really expect us to bow to their laws.”

“Right, sure,” Tony said dully. “Tell the UN that they can count on the Avengers to save the day, just as long as they declare Steve dictator of the world for life. Got it. Come on, Rhodey, no reason to stick around. Like Barton said we can’t win a fight in here anyway.” He turned and started walking slowly out of the base.

Rhodes’ jaw dropped. He stared at Tony and then at the Avengers.

Tony had disappeared out of sight before Rhodes collected himself enough to run after him. “Tony you can’t be serious about letting them get away with that. What about one hundred and seventeen nations?”

Tony just kept walking. Once they were out of the base he took to the air. Rhodes followed him. “Tony!?” he shouted.

Tony hovered over the bunker. He started the Unibeam charging, “Not letting them get away with it,” he said. “Join me?”

“You sure about this Tony?” Rhodes asked.

“You just heard their villain monologue, their evil plan to put themselves above all other powers on Earth, answerable to no one.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Rhodes decided. “I feel a little bad for Barnes though,” he said as he targeted the bunker with everything he had. “Seems like the guy hasn’t caught a break since 1940.... And Vision, I mean that’s a classic case of ‘A Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress' or a scarlet jacket I guess.”

Tony fired the Unibeam, targeting the silo where they’d left the team. He followed up with all of Iron Man’s missiles. “They kept bad company. Besides, Vision can phase. I just hope he recognized them for what they are… Or we might have a fight on our hands in a couple minutes.”

“At least the odds are better.” Rhodes fired as well.

Chapter Text

“They attacked the GSG-9 unit sent to apprehend Barnes, they caused over a dozen civilian car crashes and brought down that freeway tunnel and you think you’re going to just make this ‘go away’?” Everett Ross exclaimed.

Tony Stark, backed by a dozen lawyers from Stark Industries Legal Department, gave him a shark’s grin and Everett felt a sinking sensation in his gut…

Thirteen hours later.

“We’d hate to derail the Accords over something as minor as a communication failure during a change of procedure,” Stark declared. “While GSG-9 was initially tasked with bringing Barnes in they didn’t believe that they were capable of bringing him in alive if he resisted. For this reason the responsibility was transferred to the Avengers, under the provisions of the Sokovia Accords.”

“Rogers and Wilson boycotted the UN Assembly ratifying the Accords, now you’re telling me that they’re operating under the Accords?” Everett argued, knowing he didn’t even sound like he expected to be heard anymore. “The Accords which didn’t actually get ratified because Barnes blew up the Assembly?”

“Assistant Director, please,” one of Stark’s lawyers said with a severe frown. “Because Sgt. James Barnes is suspected of blowing up the Assembly. A man in your position must never forget ‘Innocent until proven guilty’.”

Ross smiled tightly, “Of course.”

“The only reason the Accords weren’t formally ratified was because of a terrorist attack,” Stark said. “Under the circumstances the emergency session called by the constituents not incapacitated by the bombing decided that we would proceed as if the Accords were ratified until such time as formalities could be observed. And while neither Rogers nor Wilson were in a position to be able to sign the Accords personally, they were operating under the command of Colonel Rhodes, who had signed.”

“Now you’re telling me Captain America doesn’t lead the Avengers?” Everett didn’t bother to keep from rolling his eyes.

“Do you want to argue who is the ranking officer between Honorary Captain Steve Rogers and the U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes?” Stark asked dryly.

“Rhodes apprehended them!”

“Because of the confusion among the GSG-9 officers, Colonel Rhodes felt it was the safest way to de-escalate the a situation which had gotten completely out of control,” Stark said. “The GSG-9 unit had been relieved of their mission-“

“The mission was already under way!” Everett protested.

“By their own admission they were unqualified for the task,” Stark continued over Everett. “Due to their inadequacy, they failed to give Barnes a chance to surrender himself. The GSG-9 unit failed to identify King T’Challa and opened fire on him-”

“T’Challa had no business being there!”

“-And I’m sure Wakanda’s just delighted by that little detail. And they’ve been one of the strongest proponents of the Accords- After the GSG-9 unit attacked Barnes and King T’Challa, when they failed to maintain their perimeter, they continued pursuit into an area uncleared of civilians- Isn’t that the same thing Captain Roger’s team was criticized for in Lagos?” Stark paused for a moment as if inviting Everett to comment.

Everett glared at him.

“Assistant Director Ross, if you have no new objections,” the Accords Committee Chair pro tempore, as T’Chaka had been the Chair, asked tiredly.

“You’re not seriously considering-” Everett began.

New objections,” the Committee Chair reiterated.

Everett subsided.

Stark smirked. “Now we’ve already agreed that Sgt. Barnes should be tried in the U.S. as both he and several of the victims of the Vienna bombing were U.S. citizens, thus reducing the bias he might face in another country- Such as Wakanda, where their losses might incline them toward scapegoating. I mean, for God’s sake! Their King put on a cat suit and trashed Bucharest while trying to claw Barnes’ throat out! -Barnes should receive a psychological evaluation as soon as possible. Captain Rogers claimed Barnes broke free of HYDRA’s conditioning during the incident in 2014 but we’re talking about a guy who was a POW for seventy years. Who knows what damage that’s done.”

“So what if he’s crazy? Barnes is still a danger to everyone around him!” Everett protested.

Stark nodded. “No one’s saying let him run around loose,” he said. “But we need to determine if he needs punishment or treatment.”

“I suppose I should be thankful for small mercies,” Everett groused. “I mean the way you’ve been going, I halfway expected you to demand that he be placed on the Avengers along with that HYDRA Witch-girl you’re sheltering.”

Sharon Carter came in, “Sir, the convoy from Bucharest has arrived.”

“Wonderful,” Everett huffed.

The two of them exited into the JCTC’s underground garage just in time to see Barnes being hauled off in a full body restraint while Rogers, T’Challa and Wilson stepped out of an SUV.

“What's gonna happen to him?” Rogers demanded, staring after Barnes.

“Same thing that ought to happen to you,” Ross complained. “Psychological evaluation and extradition. They’re sending him back to the States where, given the way my day has been going, he’ll be declared unfit to stand trial.”

Sharon tried to perform introductions, “This is Everett Ross, Deputy Task Force Commander.”

“What about our lawyer?” Steve demanded.

“Lawyer?” Everett chuckled bitterly. “That's funny. Stark’s had a dozen lawyers riding my ass since you started running wild across Bucharest. You’re asking for a lawyer? It’s a little late for that! You’ve already got a sweet deal sitting on the table: Sign a document you’ll probably break in… Oh, I’ll bet a week max… And Bucharest goes away. Six peacekeepers in the hospital, one with so much damage to his rib cage- Your shield, YOUR SHIELD Captain! Left a two inch deep dent in a cinder block wall AFTER it bounced off his chest. There’s so much damage to his sternum it’s going to have to be replaced, he’ll never be the same. Six peacekeepers in the hospital, twenty injured civilians, a destroyed freeway tunnel… And it all goes away, for a fucking signature!”

“What are you talking about?” Steve asked bewildered. 


 

Several minutes later Tony escorted Steve into a glass-walled conference room. “Tony, you had no right to make a deal like that on my behalf,” Steve complained. “You’re forcing me into a corner. Your lawyers should have talked to me about what I was ready to agree to. I don’t like these Accords, Tony, you know that! My agreement with something like that shouldn’t a be a bargaining chip!”

“You’re upset because I, your friend and teammate… Specifically the member of the Avengers who has handled our PR, our funding and keeping us out of court since five days after the Helicarriers fell out of the sky and S.H.I.E.L.D. lost the job… Overstepped bounds by solving your legal issues without waiting for your say so?” Tony asked.

“This goes beyond PR, Tony,” Steve said sternly.

“I’m clearly the member of the team who is most capable of handling political and legal fall out,” Tony continued. “I do have entire departments at SI dedicated this sort of stuff and they’ve had nearly a decade of experience in justifying super-powered vigilantism now. But even though saving your ass is the right thing to do and I have right muscle to do the job, I should have talked to you first about whether or not you WANTED my help?”

“Yes,” Steve said.

“So how is that DIFFERENT from the Nigerian Government wanting YOU to ASK THEIR PERMISSION BEFORE YOU START DOING THEIR POLICE’S JOB FOR THEM!?!” Tony shouted.

Steve signs the Accords. Ross loses his bet… Steve and Sam violate the Accords less than an hour later, when Zemo triggers Barnes. Steve tells himself it’s different, the five super-soldiers are HYDRA and it’s been his job to deal with HYDRA since the 40’s. He tells himself that if they can get to Siberia quickly enough it won’t impact anyone except HYDRA anyway. Afterwards, reflecting on Rhodes’ injuries at Leipzig, Clint and Scott being forced to make a deal with the Government just to go back to their families and the shattered remains of his friendship with Tony, Steve admits he was wrong.

Chapter Text

Sorry, Not Sorry

Tony,

We all need family. The Avengers are yours, maybe more so than mine… By that I mean the buildings, the equipment and the legal rights to the name are more yours than mine, the people are clearly mine. Of the original team Clint and eventually Natasha sided with me, Thor and Bruce are in the wind and you’re on your own. Of the second generation members Sam’s my friend, Wanda hates your guts and Vision likes Wanda more than he likes you but I guess Rhodes is yours. Not because he’s an Avenger but because he’s been your friend since you were a teenager. I’m not sure if the people who joined us for our disagreement over the Accords really count as Avengers or not but Bucky’s my best friend since forever, Scott doesn’t even know you but he despises you on principle and T’Challa was never really on your side he was just using you to pursue his wrongful vengeance (He now knows he was wrong to go after Bucky. You should learn from his example). The Spider-Kid is still with you but should you really be dragging a kid that young into this life? So, depending on who you count as an Avenger, five to eight of them sided with me and one or possibly two of them sided with you, it’s ridiculous to think that the people who made up the Avengers are more yours than mine.

I'm glad you're living at the compound you built for the rest of us when you left the team. I like the thought of you being surrounded by memories of everything you lost. If you were rattling around a mansion by yourself you’d be surrounded by memories of how you lost Pepper and maybe try to patch things up with her instead of dwelling on how the Avengers abandoned you.

I've been on my own since I was eighteen, since my mom died. I never really fit in anywhere, even in the army, regardless of what you might have heard about my close relationships with Bucky, Peggy and the Howling Commandos. But Tony, this isn’t an attempt to empathize with you losing your parents when you were twenty-one (or older than seventeen but NOT YET twenty-one depending on where you get your data). It’s not an attempt to empathize with how you would have had difficulty fitting in for most your life because you were both younger and smarter than your peers and because many of the people around you were more interested in your money than you. This is just me telling you how hard I had it and how you should pity me.

I just spent the last few days proving over and over again how little faith I have in you Tony, but my faith's in people, I guess. Individuals… Ones that don’t disagree with me. And I'm happy to say that, for the most part, they haven't let me down. Look at how many of our friends chose me over you! Which is why I can't let them down either. So I’m going to break them out of the Raft, don’t get in the way and maybe, don’t change the locks on the Compound incase we ever want to come back and use your resources again - That the quinjet we stole runs off of your Arc Reactor technology is great! If not for that we’d have to depend on T’Challa someone for refueling.

I know I hurt you Tony. I never really thought about how not telling you about your parents would impact you. I only thought about how it might impact me until Bucky got caught in the crossfire of you finding out in a traumatic way with him standing less than four feet away from you. Looking back I can see that you finding out under just about any other circumstances would have been better. I’m sorry it didn’t occur to me that Zola might not be the only bad guy to try to use Howard Stark’s murder at the hands of the Winter Soldier against us. Hopefully one day you can get over being upset about your mother being murdered and understand how important Bucky is to me.

I wish you agreed with me on the Accords, I really do. I know you're doing what you believe in, even if you’re wrong, it’s really too bad that you’re not more like Natasha. Once she realized that I wasn’t going to change my mind about the Accords she fell in line and let me have my way instead of making me go over her the way you, Rhodes and Vision did. Not that I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do what you believe to be right, just- I don’t know, think about Ultron and check with me to find out if you’re actually right before you do anything okay? Once you realize you’re wrong or that you can’t make it without us, without me. I’ll be there, waiting for you to come crawling back.

Sincerely,
Steve

 P.S. Although, if it’s an emergency when you call, I’ll probably be on the other side of the globe. Still we are called the Avengers aren’t we? If you get in over your head and call me for help, I promise I’ll avenge you Tony.

 


 

 

I was Wrong, Don’t let this be the End

Tony,

I’m sorry I hurt you. I was so caught up in what Bucky being alive, being the Winter Soldier meant to me that I pushed aside any thought of what your parents death would mean to you. I withheld things from you while berating you for not being open with me. I’m sorry for the hypocrisy of my actions and I’m sorry I didn’t show you consideration. After what happened in Siberia I know that much of what happened there is on me, for allowing you to be blindsided and for not keeping my temper when I should have been the least emotionally compromised person between the three of us. I understand that my actions have given you reason to doubt our friendship. I know there is very little I can do to repair the damage I’ve done but I hope you’ll give me a chance to be a better friend in the future.

Our differences on the subject of the Accords are a professional disagreement. While I hold that Bucharest, Bucky’s treatment by the JCTC, Ross locking our friends in the Raft and your decision to come to Siberia in defiance of the Accords all show how deeply flawed those laws are, looking back at my own actions I can see that you were also right to say we need checks. After Lagos I knew that Bucky’s involvement, even just the mention of his name, could compromise my judgement. I thought it was enough to recognize that, that by knowing it was a danger I could guard against it. My actions after Vienna prove that I was wrong, it was not enough for me to hold myself in check. As much as I don’t agree with the Accords, I do understand, now, what you meant when you said that we would be no better than the bad guys if we couldn’t accept limits. I firmly believe if we had the time and space to sit down and hash out the Accords fully we could have found common ground.

In the end we both want the same thing, we both want the world to be a better and safer place for our actions. Despite the personal rift between us, that hasn’t change. Because of what we do it is possible that one of us may find themselves in a situation where, for the good of the world, it will become necessary to work together again. For that reason I’m sending you the means for us to remain in connection. If you have to, think of it as a Hotline Agreement. If you’re willing, consider it a means for us to determine if our friendship could be repaired.

Once again, I’m sorry,

Steve

Chapter Text

Hela stalked majestically out of the Bifrost portal.

“Who are you? What have you done with Thor?” Volstagg demanded.

Hela gave an aggrieved sigh. “For the moment I’ve been demoted to janitor,” she said. “You and the rest of the the Warriors Three are old news -And we’re just not going to talk about Sif- So! Thor’s getting a new support cast: A walking pile of rocks, some other weird aliens, the Hulk and a Valkyrie. There’s no room for you losers anymore.”

“What!?!” Volstagg managed to exclaim before Hela impaled three times over with magically appearing spears.

She turned to Fandral, “You too blondie.” He went down without so much as a word. “Now where’s the last one?” Hela wondered. Her eyes landed on a guy with a shaved head and tattoos. He was wielding a mop.

“I'm just a janitor,” he protested.

“I’m feeling a connection with you,” Hela declared. “Besides, I need someone to monologue at when I’m actually explaining things to the audience. They have to be told how the basic rules of Asgard have changed since the last movie.”

“What? The who?” Skurge asked.

“How would you like a job?” Hela asked.

“What’s it consist of?” Skurge asked. “My last job didn’t turn out so well.”

“I’m going to give you a big ax. You follow me around, listen to everything I say, attentively, and occasionally make aggressive but utterly pointless gestures towards those who’d challenge me. And I don’t kill you unless you annoy me.”

“And if I don’t take the job?” Skurge asked.

“I kill you,” Hela said.

“Well, consider me hired!” Skurge exclaimed giving Hela what he hoped was an endearing look. “What do we do first?”

“Go assemble Asgard’s army for me,” Hela ordered. “Make sure you get that last Warrior Three, the quiet one, I don’t want any loose ends… Except Sif, we’re not even talking about her. It’s just too weird to have someone who’s big accomplishment is to be a female warrior in Asgardian society alongside Valkyrie, who was one of an entire unit of female Asgardian warriors and me, Odin’s second in command and,” Hela gestured to her figure, “Obviously a female warrior.”

“Right, get Hogun and all of Asgard’s armies, shove Sif in a closet if I see her,” Skurge checked then ran off to make it so.

A relatively short time later Hela stood before Agard’s entire army on the steps outside the palace.

“Odin is GOOD!” Hela declared. “I mean usually it takes a couple generations to completely rewrite history but here we are: He died of old age barely five minutes ago, I’m his first born who fought at his side in a massive war of conquest in which the two of us, oh yeah, and our armies, not that they really matter, overwhelmed Nine Realms-”

One of the soldiers raised his hand, “Didn’t Odin’s father Bor conquer the Dark Elves and Svartalfheim?”

Hela killed him where he stood. “Wait until I call on you before speaking,” she said. “Back to my point, Odin JUST died of advanced age, I’m his first born and fought alongside him in Asgard's Wars of Conquest. The last of the great wars ended with the conquest of Jotunheim, right around the time that your youngest prince was born- I just killed him and his older brother by the way. You can thank me for that later. Either of them would have been a pathetic ruler. - In short, the war I fought as Odin’s second in command should be within living memory for anyone who’s reached middle age. But apparently I’m completely unknown to all of you. I’m annoyed and yet still impressed by Odin’s ability to rewrite history. Also, I’m here to set the record straight: I am Hela, Odin's firstborn, the commander of the Legions of Asgard, the rightful heir to the throne, and the Goddess of Death-”

“I thought we were a race of highly advanced aliens whom the primitive Midgardians mistook for gods,” another soldier volunteered.

Hela killed him. “Have manners been completely forgotten during my exile?!” she demanded. “I am a GODDESS and don’t you forget it! Asgard was once the seat of absolute power in the Cosmos. Our supremacy was unchallenged. Yet Odin stopped at Nine Realms. Our destiny is to rule over all others. And I am here to restore that power. Kneel before me and rise into the ranks of my great conquest.”

“I don’t like talking so I’m going to make this short,” Hogun declared. “Whoever you are, whatever you've done, surrender now! Or we will show you no mercy.”

“Whoever I am? Did you listen to a word I said?” Hela exclaimed.

“Odin’s firstborn, Goddess of Death, blah, blah, blah. I’ve watched ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’; superhuman strength, speed, agility, reflexes, durability and longevity are all part of the standard package when it comes to Asgardian physiology. Even someone not of Asgard’s army like Lorelei can tear through unEnhanced Midgardian combat experts like they’re tissue paper. Enhanced Midgardians like Captain America can battle Prince Thor as an equal, he considers unEnhanced soldiers to be a threat to the Winter Soldier who could hold his own against Captain America. Even if one assumes that Thor is stronger than Captain America they are, as they say, in the same weight class. Even if one assumes that the Winter Soldier is a lesser super soldier than Captain America, he is not unassailable by Midgard’s unEnhanced armies. Asgard’s armies are much stronger than any unEnhanced human soldier. If they can present a threat to one who can give a fight to Captain America, and Captain America can give a fight to Prince Thor, then by all logic, the entire army of Asgard ought to be able to give a fight to you, Odin’s firstborn.”

“Logic doesn’t apply,” Hela announced. “This movie is only one hundred and thirty minutes long, we don’t have time for you to put up a fight against me, because we need to be moving on to the lunacy that is Sakaar and Jeff Goldblum, it’s much more entertaining than you. SO FALL BEFORE MY MIGHT!”

Hogun and all of Asgard’s armies fell before Hela in a matter of minutes, then she went and raised a new army from Asgard’s dead. It’s hard to say why, when slaughtering Asgard’s current army was nothing more than a warm-up exercise for her. But she had missed her pet and all her fallen soldiers were right there so why not?

And the Goddess of Logic whimpered quietly in the corner where she’d been banished to.

Chapter Text

“A quick FYI,” Bruce interjected with a covert glance at Loki. “I was just talking to him just a couple minutes ago and he was totally ready to kill any of us.”

“He did try to kill me,” Valkyrie added.

“Yes, me too. On many, many occasions,” Thor contributed. “There was one time when we were children, he... he transformed himself into a snake, and he knows that I love snakes. So, I went to pick up the snake to admire it, and he transformed back into himself and he was like, "Yeah, it's me!" And he stabbed me. We were eight at the time.”

Valkyrie grimaced. “If we're boosting a ship we're gonna need to draw some guards away from the palace,” she said.

Bruce held up a hand. “Just, um, wait a second here. I need a little clarification: Loki fell out with the rest of your family in 2011 right?” he asked Thor.

“By Midgard’s calendar,” Thor agreed.

“But he stabbed you... With a knife? When you were eight?” Bruce continued.

“Yep. Stabbed me with a knife,” Thor said cheerfully. “Mother didn’t let us have swords until we were teenagers.”

“But you didn’t fall out with him until you were, um, a thousand and change?”

“Banner, What are you getting at?” Thor asked puzzled.

“So when your brother was invading my planet and you went to talk with him and he stabbed you?" Bruce reminded Thor. "That wasn’t something new, a weird anti-social habit he picked up after he went crazy and became a villain? That was what? A normal greeting between the two of you?”

“Well he didn’t do it every time obviously,” Thor said. “There would be no chance of catching me off-guard if he did it all the time. Besides Mother didn’t like to see us fighting and Father would set us both to mucking the royal stables if Loki’s little games distracted from our lessons… There was a period where I’d let Loki get a good stick in if there was a test I hadn’t studied for looming,” Thor reminisced fondly. “It didn’t take Father long to catch on to that little scheme of mine. He didn't approve of malingering.”

Bruce turned to the Valkyrie, pointing to Thor. “You don’t think that’s normal? Right? Please say you see the problem with what’s coming out of his mouth.”

“Well… The bit with turning into a snake, that’s weird. Sneak attacks were frowned upon among the Valkyrie, dishonorable. But saying ‘hi’ to a rival with a knife to the gut?” She shrugged, “If you can’t handle that, how could you expect to handle a real battlefield?”

“Just so we’re clear…” Bruce said. “I think I might be better off staying on Sakaar. At least here they don’t pretend sanity has any part in their culture.”