Chapter 1: The gate is closed
Prague, Czech Republic, 2023 .
A man in a black suit was running.
Running for his life .
He never thought he would be doing so a few hours ago. He still held his gun in one hand, although he knew it was useless without bullets. He tapped on his watch and shouted,
“Code Red! I repeat, it’s Code--”
The man never got to finish his sentence. His pursuer was standing in front of him and without hesitation, he choked him.
“..Pl--Please...let..me..go…” the man begged for his life.
The pursuer let the man go but only to lift him up using his powers--blue and silver light started to choke the man in black suit again, harder this time.
“...It’s not my fault that you were at the wrong place at the wrong time,” the pursuer said.
“W--Who are you?!” the man asked, knowing what was coming.
“...I think you already know the answer to that,” the pursuer said, taking off his mask.
The man’s eyes widened. Yes, of course he knew who this was. He just--just couldn’t believe it.
Before the man could finish, the pursuer snapped his neck, leaving him lifeless.
“It’s okay, Agent Nolan, you would’ve died soon anyway.”
Tom checked the date on his phone:
He sighed. It was Robert’s birthday today. It’s been four (five, if you count in MCU years) since his heroic death. The media has been flooded with birthday wishes for the Iron Man--although Robert left the MCU with Avengers: Endgame four years ago.
Due to their agreement, the public had no idea that Robert Downey Jr. actually didn’t exist in the world anymore. The only people knew the truth was the cast, Susan Downey and his children. It was quite difficult to convince his family that Robert died in the actual MCU--but Tony showing off his actual Iron Man suit and the hologram footage of Robert seemed to do the job.
Every year, on his birthday, the Avengers cast celebrated the special day by travelling to the MCU. They wanted to spend it with Tony, a version of Robert. Tony gladly accepted this tradition and did his best to remember his friend. The cast would play videos of Robert having fun on the Avengers set over the years and Tony and other Avengers laughed at them--remembering the good times.
Over the last four years, Tony figured out that time runs quite differently between his universe and theirs. While it’s been five years since Robert’s death, it’s only been four years for the cast--because they lived in the year 2019. Tony didn’t understand why time runs a bit faster in his dimension, but he soon figured that both dimensions are trying to achieve so-called “Time Balance.” Since they are parallel universes, it was doing its best to align them side by side. Once they hit year 2023, the time was running at a normal pace for both worlds.
The cast gave a proper funeral for Robert--but decided it was best to bring his body back to the MCU, mainly because they couldn’t have a grave dedicated to Robert Downey Jr. in their world. They invited Susan and his children to the MCU, and Tony was more than happy to arrange an official farewell for Robert. For the service, all the Avengers showed up once again and paid their respects to the fallen hero. Robert lied in New York Cemetery with these words on his grave:
“ A loving husband, father, friend, and the Real Hero
Robert Downey Jr.”
April 4, 1965-May 29, 2018
It was ironic and painful that Robert died on the same day as Tony Stark’s birthday--it was as if it was serving as a reminder for Tony that Robert really took his place--place of death.
“...I miss you, Robert,” Tom said, looking at the pictures they’ve taken together. One of them was with him and Tom holding the “Stark Industries Peter Parker” Internship certificate and smiling at the camera. He held the picture up--how ironic is that this picture was used in the actual film as a motivation for Tony? Now here he was, missing his mentor and friend terribly.
In a few hours, he would use the Opener to travel to the MCU--he would reunite with other castmates and more importantly, Tony, there. It’s been a few months since he had seen Tony, because of his hectic schedule of shooting different films, including another Spider-Man movie.
“Happy birthday,” Tom said softly. “I hope you’re having a great time up there.”
It was NOT a great day for William Allen. He was late to work today--his alarm did not manage to break through his sleep--and first news he got slammed with was one of the key agents of SHIELD has been murdered in Prague last night. It’s a regular thing lately; SHIELD agents were disappearing more and more by day. It was no question who was behind all this: HYDRA.
After SHIELD (HYDRA)’s fall in 2014 due to Captain America and Natasha Romanoff, both organizations took a break. However, they both knew they will rise again as the opposites soon enough. SHIELD was getting things together in 2015, and by the end of Thanos’ threat, it was almost back to its own glory back in the day when Peggy Carter was the Director.
But that didn’t mean HYDRA has been on vacation--in fact, the totalitarian organization collected new agents, or assets, as they call them and attempted to take over governmental facilities all over the world. For the past year, HYDRA has been mostly working in Europe--and unfortunately, they were winning.
“...Only if the Avengers were here…”
William muttered under his breath. Most of the Avengers--Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Thor--concluded their life as superheroes after they stopped Thanos once and for all five years ago. Since then, most work has been done by SHIELD agents or heroes like Spider-Man or Doctor Strange. Yes, they were sure powerful...but they did not have the same team dynamic as the original Avengers. People have been asking them to come back, but every single time they refused and distanced themselves from the public. Thor physically did that by leaving Earth with the Guardians of the Galaxy.
“Stop calling for the damn Avengers, they are not going to save your ass every time,” a voice said from the door.
William looked up and chuckled. Nick Fury was standing in the doorway, staring at him with his good eye.
“This is the third time that someone on our side mysteriously died this month,” William said. “Sending another agent after agent is not going to solve the problem. We need the Avengers.”
“If you want to call Parker or Strange or--”
William stopped Fury with holding his hand up, which not many agents in SHIELD dare to do, but William did not give a damn. He wasn’t the type of person who played well with others--that’s why he usually worked alone, mostly in his office, cracking codes or developing new weapons. That’s wasn’t to say that William was weak--if he wanted to, he could kick almost any agents’ ass easily. The presence of Nick Fury did not scare him at all.
“No--I meant people like Tony Stark, Steve Rogers--”
It was Fury’s turn to cut William off.
“How many times do I need to tell you? They are done with Avenging and all that bullshit,” Fury said. “Besides, disappearances of agents are a very secret matter--Avengers fight huge threats. They don’t solve undercover missions, Allen.”
As William formed an argument to Fury’s response in his head, his hologram screen made beeping noises. When William clicked on it, his eyes widened.
“...I think you really want to call the Avengers for this one, sir,” William said. “It’s about the Infinity Stones.”
Chris Evans checked his watch. It was almost 3PM--which meant it was time to make his jump to the other dimension. He tried not to look at Twitter--ever since he posted a picture of him and Robert from a few years ago to wish Robert a ‘Happy Birthday,’ Twitter has been flooding with wishes, memes, and comments. Evans only did that to not raise any suspicion in the public--and it was true that he would’ve definitely wished Robert a warm happy birthday if he was alive.
“Guess today is the day,” Evans said to himself.
“What are you getting for Downey’s birthday?”
Sebastian Stan walked in. Both of them were filming a movie together, which was about two agents going undercover to catch a serial killer. They just wrapped for the day, and Sebastian was feeling exhausted. As he said those words, he saw Evans’ expression changed a bit--it was as if that reminded him something. Sebastian didn’t know why, because Evans would never open up about it, but every time he mentioned something about Robert, Evans would almost cry. At first he thought it was because Tony Stark died on screen in Endgame and Robert reminded him the emotional moments, but as the years passed by, Sebastian knew there was something more to it.
“...Something wrong? You seem very down today, Chris,” Sebastian said, sitting next to Evans.
I lost one of my best friends four years ago, Seb. It’s his birthday today and he’s not even here to celebrate it.
But Evans just smiled at Sebastian and shook his head.
“Oh, nothing. Just tired from shooting all day,” Evans said.
Sebastian seemed to believe this. Evans put his hand in his pocket--there was the Opener. He had to find a good place to go and disappear in, otherwise it was going to be quite difficult to come up with a plausible explanation.
“Me too, buddy--”
And before Sebastian could finish, a blue portal appeared in front of them. Evans was shocked-- did he accidentally press the Opener? --but when he checked his pocket again, the Opener was not activated yet. Evans looked up, while Sebastian just sat there, with his mouth open.
“What in the name--” Sebastian said.
A figure, a very familiar figure appeared from the portal.
It was Tony. Tony Stark. He was even in his Iron Man suit.
“Like now? I was gonna--”
Tony cut Evans off immediately.
“THE BARRIER IS CLOSING! NOW!”
Evans looked at Sebastian, who was still staring at Tony with his mouth open, not able to say a word. He sighed and jumped into the portal, taking Sebastian with him. Since he already saw the portal and Tony, leaving him alone in the room was not an option. As he travelled through the other dimension, Evans really hoped everything was alright--because Tony sounded very desperate, and last time he was this desperate was...Thanos four, five years ago.
Everything was alright for Tony Stark today. Today was Robert’s birthday, which meant the cast was coming over. He couldn’t wait until they came through the Portal, because this was going to be the first time that Morgan can meet them. Although it took a while for Morgan to understand the concept of multiverse, she gratefully accepted the fact that they were Avengers living in another world. He still had an hour left until their arrival, so Tony was playing with Morgan on the grass when a black Audi pulled up. Tony instinctively shielded Morgan with his arm and waited to see who dared to pay him a visit--especially when he retired from being Iron Man five years ago.
It was Nick Fury. The last person Tony wanted to see at his house. Fury wasn’t the type of person to enjoy celebrations or parties or any kind of social gatherings, so him showing up at the moment was probably not a good thing.
It’s probably a bad thing. Tony could feel it. Fury usually went to Peter or Stephen for help these days, and the fact that he actually drove out all the way to here--meant something urgent, very urgent happened.
“I’m not doing it,” Tony said, holding Morgan. “...Especially not today.”
“Mr. Stark, you really should take a look at this,” a man said, getting out of the driver’s seat. Tony was taken aback that Fury brought someone new--someone Tony has never met in his life to his own house. The man was average height--maybe on the shorter side--and had blonde hair and blue eyes. He reminded Tony of Thor a bit.
“I’m sorry, who are you?” Tony asked.
“...William Allen,” the man introduced himself after a couple of seconds with a smile. “I’m a SHIELD Agent with a Clearance level of 9. I’ve been working for the organization for five years.”
“What are you doing at my house with a 007?” Tony asked, not really wanting to know. “You have a British sidekick now?”
“I’m actually half-American--”
Tony cut him off.
“Don’t care. Answer my question,” Tony said.
He really didn’t want to deal with Fury or Allen guy today, in front of Morgan, before the cast arrived.
“...We found something. Something extremely dangerous,” Fury said.
“Oh, good. Please take that to Strange--” Tony said, walking towards his house.
“...It’s about Infinity Stones,” William said.
That stopped Tony. He stood there for about a minute or two, frozen. He then quietly knelt down next to Morgan and gave a kiss on her forehead.
“Hey, why don’t you run up to Mom and ask her if lunch is ready?” Tony said softly.
Morgan ran through the grass and went inside the house. After seeing the door close, that’s when Tony turned around, facing Fury and William.
“That can’t be. We put the stones back five years ago,” Tony said firmly. “We made sure there wouldn’t be a problem in the future.”
“With your Quantum Tunnel Stark, they always have access to the stones,” Fury pointed it out.
“Who’s ‘they?’” Tony asked--the Tunnel was only accessible to the Avengers...he made sure of that…
“HYDRA,” William said. “They’ve been active in Europe for the past year. We already lost another key agent last night in Prague. It looks like they only attacking the ones who have access to classified information or technology. For example, Agent Paul Nolan was working on the elements of the Tesseract--which is the Space Stone.”
Tony shook his head.
He did not want to get into this mess again. He just wanted to live his life peacefully, with Morgan, Pepper, and Peter. It felt like this was his destiny--the reason Robert gave up his life.
“...Why still come to me? Just because I had experience with the stones doesn’t mean I have to keep solving their issues,” Tony said.
“Because,” William opened his mouth. “For the first time in five years, the traces of Infinity Stones--or their energies at least--were found near here , Mr. Stark.”
“...Are you accusing me, Allen?” Tony stood up straight, staring directly into his eyes.
“No, but I’m looking at all possibilities,” William said.
Tony did not like this Allen guy at all. Not only he barges into Tony’s place, ruining his time with his daughter, but also he is calling Tony out for something he never did?
“Whether you like it or not, Mr. Stark--we have similarities,” William said. “Similarities that you are yet to find out.”
Tony was cut off by a whirring noise behind him. He turned around, and saw several portals opening. Hemsworth, Hiddleston, Tom, Scarlett, Mark, and Jeremy stepped out from each of them. Tony smiled at them--it was good to see familiar faces again.
“Where’s Cap?” Tony asked, realizing Evans hasn’t come through yet.
“Eh, probably taking his time,” Hemsworth said.
“..Sir, the stones...they are beeping again,” William said, showing the graphics on his tablet.
Before Fury could take a look at it, Tony took the tablet. His eyes widened.
“Th-that’s impossible,” Tony said.
“What’s impossible? Also, why is Fury here?” Scarlett asked.
Instead of answering Scarlett's question, Tony tapped his arc reactor--his suit covered his body. He then took one of the Openers and opened the portal. He flew through the portal and within seconds, he came back with Evans...and someone new-- Sebastian Stan . The rest of the cast gasped at the new arrival, not knowing what to say and what not to say to him.
“What the fuck was that?!” Sebastian yelled at no one in particular.
“...That,” Tony began, heavily breathing. “..is a sign that’s telling us that we’re fucked up. Someone or something--closed the barrier. The gate is closed.”
“Do-does that mean..?” Mark asked, afraid for the answer.
“You can’t go back,” Tony said. “For real this time.”
“..Someone did this on purpose,” William said. “Someone who knows that you all come through the barrier this day every year.”
18 hours ago
Prague, Czech Republic .
“...Mission accomplished, sir,” a voice said, who was wearing a black leather armor with a mask. “The subject is dead.”
“Perfect and clean as always,” Kuznetsov greeted. “...Are we ready for tomorrow, soldier?”
“Killing Nolan should do the job, sir,” the soldier replied. “No one would suspect a thing--not even Tony Stark himself.”
The soldier took off his mask--he had dark brown hair and eyes. His eyes only reflected pain and sorrow, nothing else. But if you were to take a closer look, the soldier resembled--no, looked exactly like Tony Stark--the Iron Man himself.
“Let’s do it, then,” Kuznetsov said with a vicious smile. “If the Avengers won’t show...we’ll go to them. We’ll close the gate.”
Chapter 2: Robert is alive
Tony explains how someone was able to close the dimensional barrier. Tom comes across something horrifying, leading to an unexpected gathering.
“Wh-what do you mean we can’t go back?” Mark asked. “We just came through the portal minutes ago.”
“Someone closed the barrier between the dimensions,” Tony said. “I don’t know how but with the barrier completely sealed--there’s no way of opening it again.”
The cast--minus Sebastian--looked at each other. For the last four years, no matter how many times they visited the MCU, no one seemed to mind. They weren’t sure if people in SHIELD knew about them, but no one hijacked their travels and the press stayed silent about the whole from-another-dimension the matter. Tony probably threatened press about it or something.
But now... someone who was well-aware of their routine, decided to close the barrier. They didn’t know if that was even possible.
“For god’s sake, can someone please explain to me what the fuck is going on?” Sebastian asked in a loud voice, so that he would get everyone’s attention.
Everyone turned to him--Tony flinched at seeing who it was (just because five years have passed doesn’t mean he got over it), and Evans--he just sighed. He dragged Sebastian into this mess, whether like it or not. Fury and William stared at Sebastian--William with curiosity and a bit of a shock.
“Seb, this is going to be hard to believe...but we are in the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” Evans said.
Sebastian made his signature ‘ I’m so confused ’ face. Then he started to laugh--to the point where Tony frowned.
Was Bucky Barnes from other dimension mad?
“Oh, this is a great prank, Chris,” Seb said, still laughing. “You guys planned this for Downey’s birthday? I don’t know how you brought us straight to Atlanta in seconds, but this is some good prank. Look, you got...Samuel L Jackson and Downey is even dressed in an Iron Man suit. Wow, this is--”
Without saying anything, Tony aimed one of his repulsors at the ground and shot it, leaving burns on the grass. That seemed to stop Sebastian from speaking any further.
“That,” Tony started to speak, looking at dumbfounded Sebastian, “is the newest repulsor I developed a few days ago. I’m pretty sure you can’t fake that with CGI or graphics, whatever you guys call them.”
Tony stepped forward and introduced himself to the newest addition of the cast.
“..I’m Tony Stark,” Tony said, reaching his hand out.
Sebastian took his hand and shook it, still confused and shocked.
“...So this is all real?” Sebastian asked, no one in particular, mostly to himself. “Sebastian Stan. I..I play--Bucky. Bucky Barnes.”
Once Sebastian introduced who he was, he realized that he might’ve made a mistake--Tony didn’t seem that happy or comfortable hearing the name ‘Bucky.’
“Oh, I’m sorry--”
“It’s okay,” Tony said. “The Manchurian Candidate and I are all good now.”
Sebastian raised his eyebrows at that, but nodded. It’s been--like seven years since the Civil War, so it was possible that Tony and Bucky made up. He then turned to Evans and other castmates.
“...Care to explain about...everything?” Sebastian asked, mostly pointing towards Evans.
Evans eyed Fury and William ( which he had no idea who he was )--who were clearly as confused as Sebastian was--and looked at Tony. Tony sighed, knowing what to do.
“Alright, leave us alone,” Tony said.
“Stark--” Fury protested. He wasn’t just going to leave when the damn Infinity Stones just destroyed a dimensional barrier and a set of Avengers just walked in.
“...I will be at the SHIELD headquarters tomorrow morning and explain,” Tony said, cutting Fury off. “We’ve got things to take care of here and...today is a special day.”
Fury glared at Tony and the cast but gestured William to follow. They got into their black Audi and drove away. After they were long gone, Tony sighed again.
“Seb, four years ago, right before Avengers: Endgame Premiere, something extraordinary happened,” Evans began to speak. “We were all in a room, and all of a sudden, we got sucked into this universe--including Robert.”
God, it hurt to say his name out loud again.
“It was right after they killed Thanos in space, and we decided to use our knowledge of the plot to help the Avengers,” Evans continued. “We...we changed a lot of things. Natasha didn’t die for one. And we tried our best to keep Tony alive--which we did at the end. Everything was fine--”
Evans stopped. He has accepted the fact that Robert died four years ago--he was well-aware of this fact--but for some reason, he couldn’t bring himself to say it out loud. That was when Tom stepped forward and finished the story for Evans.
“...until Robert...he decided to use Clean Slate Protocol to kill Thanos and himself in the process,” Tom said. “Robert died...four years ago, in this universe. He never made it back to ours.”
Tom now had tears in his eyes. Sebastian usually made fun of Tom--but he knew Tom wasn’t joking and this was a very serious matter. He looked at Evans, who was already crying.
“You...you are saying that Robert Downey Jr. has been dead for the last four years?” Sebastian asked.
The entire cast nodded.
“B-but I saw him at the Premiere! I saw--”
Sebastian realized what happened as he looked at Tony. It all made sense now.
“Yeah, that’s right. I was there. I filled his spot,” Tony said. “You saw me .”
“...Robert...died?” Sebastian asked, finally coming into terms that Robert Downey Jr., the Iron Man actor and the godfather of the MCU...was gone . Long gone. Sebastian fell straight to the ground--he just sat there, murmuring that RDJ died , over and over. Evans just wrapped his arms around Sebastian, to comfort him and hopefully to reduce the shock he had received in the last half an hour.
“Dad! Mommy says lunch is ready!” Morgan yelled, running towards Tony.
Tony picked her up as usual, and turned to the cast. Sebastian stared at Morgan, assuming that this was Morgan Stark, Tony’s daughter.
“...Why don’t we discuss more inside? Especially you--you look like you’ve seen a ghost...which is kinda true,” Tony said. “We can even show him Robert’s recording.”
The cast nodded and Sebastian followed Evans, still trying to wrap his mind about the fact that one of his co-stars has been dead for the last four years and the people who knew about it kept the truth from him.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
Peter Parker’s day started off good today. He got to his lecture early, had enough time to have lunch with MJ and Ned, and one of his classes got cancelled because his professor got food poisoning. He was 21 and a very successful sophomore at MIT.
Peter could still picture how proud Tony was when Peter had told him that he, Peter Benjamin Parker , got into MIT--as Early Decision . It was the best Christmas gift Tony has gotten, and he practically could not stop telling other people about his kid getting into MIT. Tony probably has told Peter that he was so proud of him and he deserved this so much more than 100 times, but Peter didn’t mind. He knew Tony also went there--so it was an honor for Peter to attend Tony’s alma mater.
A few things have changed since Peter started college--first of all, there was no more Flash Thompson. Of course, being a dick he is, Flash applied to MIT, Harvard, Princeton...almost every Ivy League...but got rejected from every one of them. While Flash wasn’t as smart as Peter, Peter knew he wasn’t a dumbass either. When Peter asked Tony if he had to do anything about it, Tony just shrugged.
But getting rid of Flash didn’t mean Peter was free from people like him. There were always a group of people who glared at Peter, Ned, and MJ and mocked his so-called “Stark Internship.” Peter usually ignored those people, because no matter what he did, they always found a way to fight him back. To be honest, Peter thought students at MIT were smarter--meaning they wouldn’t tease Peter for how he wasn’t good enough for the internship. But he realized how he was wrong once he started. Peter found out it was a DREAM for an MIT student to get an internship at Stark Industries, especially because Tony Stark was an alumnus of the school. Being close to Tony since 2016, Peter forgot for a moment that Tony Stark was a very respectful scientist, engineer, mechanic, and hero. He was a genius even before all the Iron Man stuff.
As Peter, Ned, and MJ began to leave the campus, a voice from the side startled Peter.
“Hey, Parker! Where are you off to now? Your precious Stark Internship?”
It was Jake Hunter. He and a group of boys were sitting on the grass, laughing at the trio. Peter just shook his head and took out his car keys.
“Answer me , Parker!” Jake yelled at Peter’s back.
“Keep ignoring him,” MJ said. “He’s just jealous that you are working with Tony.”
MJ then slipped her hand into Peter’s, which made him grin. Ned rolled his eyes.
“Making me a third wheel again,” Ned said. “It’s okay, I’m used to being forgotten.”
Peter put his other arm around Ned and laughed.
“Oh, Ned, you will always be my guy in the chair,” Peter said.
Peter laughed up until he said bye to his friends (and also girlfriend) and got into his silver Audi e-tron. It was a gift from Tony, of course, right after he got his driver’s license. It was Tony who sat in the passenger’s seat as Peter clumsily drove through New York and Peter could’ve sworn that Tony had multiple heart attacks from his reckless driving. When he passed on his first try, that’s when Tony simply tossed the keys to Peter.
“It’s all yours,” Tony had said.
Although today was not dedicated to Tony, but it was to his counterpart, Robert. The one who saved the universe. The one took Tony’s place so Tony could live on. Peter shook his head and focused on the good parts of his day. He would be able to see the cast members again. Since he came back from the Snap, he sort of became best friends with his other self, Tom Holland. He couldn’t wait to meet him again.
He looked at the time--it was almost one in the afternoon. His flight was at 2:30. Some people think it would be too late to make it to the airport--but they didn’t know Peter. As he said before, he learned from the Tony Stark. The very best .
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
Sebastian seemed to calm down more after lunch. Tony showed him Robert’s recording--his final words to the cast--mostly for Sebastian, but he caught the entire cast crying again. It was definitely a depressing and shocking explanation, but it all made sense now. Sebastian noticed how sad Evans was at the Premiere and how he would not leave Robert’s ( now he knows it was Tony ) side. He couldn’t keep crying when the screen showed Tony Stark’s ultimate sacrifice. He thought it was odd, but figured it was because Iron Man has always been the center of the universe and because this was his last film as Captain America. By the time the after party rolled up, Sebastian had completely forgotten about it.
Now everything was clear. Why the cast was always sad on Robert’s birthday. Why most of them always acknowledged May 29th for Tony Stark's birthday on social media. They were saying they missed Tony...but in reality, they were saying that to Robert hismelf. Why they never had dinners at Downey’s house. Why Downey was always missing whenever Avengers cast had a little reunion.
Now like it or not, Sebastian was part of the gig and this universe. According to Tony, somehow the barrier between two dimensions closed--meaning they were stuck here...again. As Sebastian contemplated about what did he do to end up in this mess, someone came up and sat next to him. It was Evans.
“How are you holding up?” Evans asked.
“...I think I should be the one asking,” Sebastian said, looking at Evans’ red, puffed eyes. Evans gave out a laugh.
“I’m okay, Seb,” Evans said. “He died a hero.”
“...That doesn’t mean you’re okay with him being gone,” Sebastian said.
Evans just hugged Sebastian. On or off screen, he knew he could always count on him.
“Believe it or not, 007 wasn’t lying,” Tony said, as he walked into the room along with the others. “It takes the full force of Infinity Stones to entirely seal the barrier.”
“I thought you guys returned them to their proper time,” Hemsworth said.
“..We did,” Tony said. “It was Steve actually, but he did.”
“Then how can anyone do this?” Scarlett asked. “...And why?”
“...You don’t need the actual Infinity Stones to simply close the barrier,” Tony said. “When I created the Portal, I made sure elements of each stone were engraved into it. That’s why it works without the actual stones in proximity. That’s why the portal opens in the other dimension with the Openers. And remember, with two Snaps within a month back to back...there was already a hole between the dimensions. If you are not planning to open them, closing the barrier is much easier.”
“Which means…?” Evans asked.
“Which means, Capsicle...someone has access to a part of the Infinity Stones,” Tony said. “I think I really have to take this to Strange. I don’t want to admit, but maybe he has a better answer how this happened.”
“Why don’t you run a diagnostics here, I know you have the technology,” Mark said.
Tony shook his head and gave his overused excuse.
“...I promised Pepper and Morgan I’m done with being Iron Man,” Tony said. “If I start this...I won’t stop.”
Pepper has once said to him: Tony, trying to get you to stop has been one of the few failures of my life . When Robert died...Tony figured it was time for him to stop. Finally let down the identity of Iron Man and live as Tony Stark. But he quickly realized how difficult that was. Separating the Iron Man part from him...was almost impossible. But he had already come a long way. He was too far from that identity to take it back.
“And what’s so bad about that?” Evans asked. “Tony, I know you are scared. Scared of picking up the Iron Man armor again. I know--”
“Don’t you dare say what you know, Chris Evans ,” Tony said, raising his voice. Tony did not like when someone’s calling him a coward or implying that he was one. Evans seemed startled, because Tony usually didn’t call him by his full name. He usually stuck with ‘Cap’ or ‘Capsicle’ or ‘Evans.’
“You don’t get to judge me. Hell, you are not even Steve Rogers. Just because you played him, doesn’t earn you the right to pretend you really are when he’s not around,” Tony said.
The entire room was silent. The cast stared at Tony, and Evans seemed like he lost the ability to speak. Tony was going to storm out of the room and go up to his office--when he heard heavy breathing of Tom’s.
“Tom? Are you alright?” Tony sat down in front of him, changing his tone. Peter and Tom never failed Tony to turn into the father mode, no matter what situation he was in.
“It hurts...it hurts...too much sounds...too much screams…” Tom mumbled, whimpering.
Tony knew what Tom was going through. It was...a sensory overload. Sometimes, Peter would have one if he was in crowded places or if things got too chaotic. Tony rushed into one of the other rooms and grabbed what looked like headphones...and put them on Tom’s ears.
“What’s happening?” Sebastian asked.
“It’s..sensory overload,” Tony responded. “Peter...has one of these once in a while. But why...Tom doesn’t have...Spidey Sense…”
When Tom calmed down and his breathing stabilized, he looked up at Tony with teary eyes.
“...Robert? Is that you?” Tom asked, looking at Tony. Tony looked up at the cast, who was shooting concerned looks towards Tom.
“Tom...look at me,” Tony said. “It’s me, Tony. Not Robert. Robert’s..gone, remember?”
But what Tom said next wasn’t something Tony or the cast expected at all.
“I...I saw him,” Tom said. “I had a vision or something...I saw...Robert screaming. I saw Robert screaming over and over. Calling for help. Calling for...me.”
When Tony or the cast didn’t say anything, Tom quickly started to speak again, before they called him out for being crazy.
“I’m..I’m not crazy,” Tom blurted it out. “But trust me, I saw Robert. He was lying down...he was chained onto some bed, and the next thing I saw was...him screaming.”
Tony looked into Tom’s eyes. Of course he wasn’t lying. He also thought it was odd that this happened right after the portal was closed. This couldn’t be a coincidence. Tony sighed and called FRIDAY.
“Yes, Boss?” The A.I. replied, startling Sebastian in the process. He still wasn’t used to the MCU just yet--especially artificial intelligence being real.
“...Activate Protocol 3000 ,” Tony’s voice was firm and determined.
“What did you do?” Evans asked.
That was all Tony said.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
Peter was in his newest Spider-Man suit, swinging across New York. His flight got delayed for half an hour, which meant he was going to be late for Robert’s fifth anniversary. He refused to call it ‘memorial’ because it hurt him every time to think that another version of Tony was long gone. So right after the plane landed at the airport, Peter changed into his suit and trying his best to get to Tony’s lake house as soon as possible.
When he finally did, Peter noticed that there were at least two cars parked in front of the house, as well as a Quinjet. He already knew that the cast was going to be here, but didn’t know some of the Avengers were joining them. Shrugging, Peter changed back to his normal clothes in seconds ( his suit was much like Tony’s Iron Man suits in a way ) and went inside. His eyes widened because he was wrong. It wasn’t just some Avengers. From Captain America to Thor to Hawkeye--the entire original Avengers were there, staring back at the newest arrival.
“Hey, Pete, how were your classes today?” Tony asked, pretending as if the Avengers weren’t there at all.
“Good, Mr. Stark,” Peter replied. “Wh-what’s going on? Are they all here to...remember Robert?”
“Yes and no,” Steve said, standing up.
“We are here as the Avengers,” Natasha said.
“I thought you guys retired,” Peter said.
“We still are,” Thor said. “But some thing came up that we can’t refuse.”
“And that is…?” Peter asked, thinking this can’t be good.
“...Robert’s alive,” Tom said, standing up. “I’ve seen him.”
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
He was in his apartment, typing something on his laptop. His phone rang. He picked it up.
“...Did you do it, soldier?” Kuznetsov asked through the phone.
“Yes, sir,” he replied. “The gate is closed. Also...we got new arrival.”
“...Who is that?” Kuznetsov asked.
“Sebastian Stan,” he said with a smile. “You’ll like this one, sir, he will remind you of a particular someone.”
“Keep watching them,” Kuznetsov said.
“Yes, sir,” he replied.
He hung up and looked out his window. It was a good day to be outside, but he was more of indoors person. Then, a headache, out of nowhere, hit him.
“Ahhhh!” he screamed.
He was on the ground. Then--something, a memory , possibly, sparked in his head.
“Let...me...go... please ,” the man in his memory--no himself-- was whimpering. He had blood all over his body and he couldn’t move because he was chained to the bed. “It hurts...it fucking hurts!”
He was yelling now.
“Then who are you... say it,” a voice said. He didn’t get to see the face.
“I’m...I’m... Robert ,” he said, crying. “Tom..Tom..where’s Tom?! Where’s--”
“... Again ,” the voice said firmly.
Then, he was screaming, screaming harder and harder, on top of his lungs.
The headache stopped.
He got up from the floor and shook his head. Kuznetsov had told him that was his past, when SHIELD caught him and tortured him to death. Kuznetsov had saved him from that hell. That he-- Robert --was safe now, under HYDRA’s care. Robert hasn’t had one of these visions in years. He wondered what caused him to have one at the moment.
You’re Robert Downey Jr. but no one, no one in SHIELD can know, or you will be caught again.
Chapter 3: I will find you, Robert
One by one, Avengers gather once again as a team. That night, they discover a part of the truth.
First of all, I am so sorry for the late update! This was an important (you'll see) and long chapter to write and I didn't have much free time for the past few days.
I'm also sorry if this chapter is a bit boring, but I wanted to show how each Avenger got to Tony's house and what was on their mind. The next chapter will have a lot more action for sure.
Thank you guys for loving the story! You are the best.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was just like another day for Steve. He’s gotten an apartment in Brooklyn with Natasha short after the Final Battle, a few weeks after Steve returned the stones. Bucky and Sam moved into an apartment right next to Steve’s. For the last five years, Steve and Natasha of them never went out for a mission. They kept up with the news, but none of them stepped in; the problems always died down or were solved by new Avengers. Bucky and Sam--Bucky especially with being the new Captain America--were a big part of the new Avengers team. Sure, they still hated each other’s guts, but deep down, everyone knew they were best friends.
Steve and Natasha focused more on domestic life--being... normal . It was difficult to not have any missions to follow and worlds to save, but that meant the universe has finally found its peace. For the last five years, they did their best to live as people...they finally had gotten a life together. They kept that promise with each other.
But that didn’t mean they completely forgot about their Avengers duties. Sure, they promised not to suit up and lead the Avengers, but there were always exceptions--actually… one . And that exception included...Robert Downey Jr.--the other Tony Stark. The Original Six knew if it wasn’t for Robert, they would’ve ended up with two dead Avengers. Robert took that upon himself--so the Original Six would remain six. So before they parted their ways in 2018, they set up one rule: Protocol 3000 .
Protocol 3000 was designed only for the Original Six--and no other Avengers knew about it. Tony set the protocol up shortly after he got back from Endgame Premiere. Then, he called the other five Avengers to his lake house.
“...What is it?” Natasha asked.
She saw no reason why Tony would call them--after all matters were settled.
“Here, take one each,” Tony said, handing out metallic watches.
“What are these for, Tony?” Steve asked.
“These are Stark watches but only for communication,” Tony said. “Look, I know we all agreed to end our ‘Avenging’ business, but I can think of one exception for our retirement.”
“Which is…?” Clint asked--he was really tired of ‘retiring, but not really’ thing. He was done for good. He just got his family back. He was never going to leave them again.
“...For Robert,” Tony said. “I know he’s...dead. But if something, anything --comes up with Robert, or with the cast...would you all come? I’ll only call for emergencies.”
There was a moment of silence among the five Avengers.
“...Of course we would,” Steve said, putting his hand on Tony’s shoulder. The other four nodded.
“Cool, you know, I really thought you guys were turning me down,” Tony said. “..I’m calling it Protocol 3000 .”
During the last five years, Steve and Natasha never got a notification. Sure, Original Six and some new ones met up once in a while to catch up and hang out, but they were never through the Stark watches. Even when the cast came through, Tony contacted the Avengers through text or email. Because the Stark watches meant they were going back as the Avengers --not as friends or family.
So, on a normal morning, Steve was getting his keys and Natasha was waiting in the garage. They were going to go out for lunch. Until--both of their watches beeped. Two of them looked at their wrists and were shocked.
The words ‘ Protocol 3000 ’ were on their screens.
“...We have to go,” Steve said.
“I know--get in,” Natasha said as he started the car.
“We need something faster than a car, Nat,” Steve said.
“Sometimes you forget that Stark gave us a flying car for our three-year anniversary,” Natasha chuckled.
“You know, Bucky and I used to joke about them back in the’40s,” Steve said, getting in the passenger seat. “Howard’s prototype blew up in front of us.”
“Well, it’s been over 80 years, grandpa,” Natasha said. “You better hold on tight.”
Natasha pressed the red button and the car floated in the air. Natasha put on her sunglasses. Steve laughed as they headed straight for the lake house.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
Tønsberg, Norway .
Thor was pouring himself a drink when Loki came into his room. Loki immediately frowned. It was one in the afternoon.
“Thor, it’s only one in the afternoon,” Loki said, sighing. “Why don’t you hold off on your drinking?”
“C’mon, Loki. Live a little,” Thor said, taking a sip of his beer.
Loki rolled his eyes. After the Final Battle, Thor seemed a lot more relaxed and more importantly, happy . Bruce nudged Loki and told him that he can be that happy because Loki was back--that Thor had missed him terribly and always blamed himself for Loki’s death. Although Loki laughed it off, deep down Loki was grateful and happy that Thor truly thought of him as a brother.
For the last five years, Thor and Loki have been ruling the New Asgard quite well--people were happy and finally accepted Loki as their other king as well. Neither of them used their powers to fight evil forces during those years, mostly because they didn’t feel the need to. They knew the world, the universe was in good hands of the new Avengers and SHIELD. Living peacefully reminded the two of them how Asgard once was--without wars, prospering, and happy. They were glad that the sense of security has been restored--Asgard was once again filled with laughter and joy.
Asgard is not a place, it’s a people .
Thor looked at his phone (yes, he finally got a phone after the Final Battle--Tony helped him with it) and saw the date. His smile vanished from his lips.
“What, Thor?” Loki asked.
“Today...is the other Stark’s birthday,” Thor said, putting the beer down. He lost the appetite. “...The cast should be coming over today.”
“...Are you going to join them this year? Stark invites you and others every year,” Loki said.
“Maybe,” Thor said. “I don’t know. I don’t know...if the others would want me there.”
“Of course they want you there, you big oaf! You avoided the day every single time for the last four years! What are you afraid of?”
Thor didn’t say anything. After Robert’s funeral, Thor refused to go to Robert’s birthday celebrations and kept minimal contact with even the Avengers. For a year and a half, he joined the Guardians and travelled through space. It helped Thor to take his mind off of what happened--he didn’t have to think about Robert’s death. He felt guilty about Robert’s sacrifice--mainly because he was never supposed to be in MCU. He was a person from another dimension, who deserved to be happy. He felt guilty because Thanos’ first snap was what caused the hole in the dimension, causing the cast to be sucked into the MCU. If he only went for the head first time...none of it wouldn’t have happened. To Thor, Robert was more a civilian than an Avenger--and he lost his life because Avengers weren’t strong or smart enough to outrun Thanos themselves.
“...If you are blaming yourself again, Thor, you know it wasn’t your fault,” Loki said. “Stark from the other dimension made his choice. He wanted to save Stark. He knew what he was dealing with.”
“But if I--”
Thor was cut off by a beeping noise on his Stark watch. When he read the words, his eyes widened.
“What? What now?” Loki asked.
Thor grabbed his Stormbreaker and changed into his armor in seconds. He then stormed out of his cabin, heading for Quinjet.
“...Thor! Brother !” Loki went after him.
“I have to go to Stark’s,” Thor said, boarding the Quinjet. “It could be dangerous, so I’ll be in touch. Til then, you are in charge, Loki.”
Before Loki could argue, the Quinjet lifted off from the ground and headed to New York.
“Where is he going, all dressed up?” Valkyrie asked, coming out from her cabin.
“...New York,” Loki answered. “He just took off. He looked like he’s seen a ghost.”
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
Bruce was the only original Avenger who still lived in the Avengers Compound after the Final Battle. He needed to live where the labs were close by, especially after he became the ‘Professor Hulk’ as people called him. It was too much to set up a personal lab somewhere outside of the Compound, so Bruce decided to stay--but as a scientist, rather than an Avenger. He didn’t completely retired unlike others because his strength was a valuable asset to the team, but for the most of the time, he stayed indoors.
As he was working on his latest project, he saw a SHIELD agent--running. He stopped in front of Bruce’s lab, to catch his breath. While most agents were stationed in the main headquarters in Washington D.C., some high-level agents and Fury stayed on the other side of the Compound. So it wasn’t rare to catch a few SHIELD agents in the building.
“...Late for work?” Bruce asked.
The agent turned around and nodded. He had blonde hair and blue eyes--looked like Thor, but a bit older.
“...Yes,” the agent said, heavily breathing. “Had a tough night. Didn’t get home til four, I think. I’m Agent William Allen, by the way.”
“Yeah, we all have days like that,” Bruce said. “Hope Fury’s alright with you.”
“I hope that too, Doctor,” William said with a slight smile.
William headed for the elevator and Bruce continued to work on his project. He spotted William again a few hours later when he passed Bruce’s lab. He looked like he was in a hurry, and he was even with Fury. Fury looked concerned as well.
“Can I ask where you two are going?” Bruce asked.
“We’re heading to Stark’s place,” William answered. “Something about Infinity Stones came up.”
Bruce raised his eyebrows at that--he hasn’t heard a thing about them since Steve returned each of them to its rightful place. He was concerned about the problem, but thought it would be alright--it couldn’t be that serious. Instead of asking what happened, Bruce simply said,
“Tony wouldn’t like your visit. Especially today.”
“Well like it or not, this is an emergency,” Fury said.
Two headed for the garage. When both of them were out of Bruce’s sight, the word ‘emergency’ remained in his mind. For some reason, he thought of that time when Tony handed everyone his Stark watches and promised each other that they would return as Avengers if Protocol 3000 popped up. Bruce shook his head. Just because something came up with Infinity Stones, didn’t mean the cast was in danger or something new happened with Robert. Robert Downey Jr. was dead . That was a proven fact.
Bruce tried his best to ignore the little voice in his head-- everything was alright , he thought to himself.
Then, several hours later, his watch beeped with two words: Protocol 3000 .
Bruce sighed and headed for Tony’s lake house--knowing that it had to something with the Infinity Stones.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
Clint and his three children were practicing archery. All of them had a natural talent for it--especially his daughter, Lila. She was pretty good five years ago--but now, even Clint had to admit, she was a professional. If she wanted to, she could be the next Hawkeye. But of course he didn’t want that for his girl. Living as a SHIELD agent and an Avenger--Clint didn’t want his children to take that path. That’s why he retired. Archery was their hobby, not a necessity.
Since the Final Battle, Clint headed back to his farm in Missouri. He probably lived furthest away from the Avengers--minus Thor, who lived in Norway for the most of the time. For the last five years, no one bothered him or his family--yes, he would occasionally go to team reunions, but just like the others, that was as a friend, never as an Avenger. He put those days behind him. He was no longer Hawkeye--he was Clint Barton--a husband and a father.
He knew today was Robert’s birthday, but wasn’t planning on going to New York for that. The cast was only coming over to this dimension mainly for Tony--not the others. Although he did miss them, he didn’t want to head over there today. He knew they were spending the night again--so maybe he’ll take a quick trip north tomorrow. He wasn’t sure. Plus, he would see them again on May 29th, because that was Tony’s birthday and more importantly, fifth anniversary for Robert’s sacrifice.
But then...he heard it.
His Stark watch--which surprisingly he managed to wear it all the time--was beeping. Tony’s words echoed in Clint’s mind.
But if something, anything--comes up with Robert, or with the cast...would you all come? I’ll only call for emergencies.
Maybe it was just a false alarm, Clint thought. That was a possibility. Or maybe battery was dead.
Clint looked down. Of course he was wrong. Two words appeared on his screen:
Why was his life like this? Why couldn’t he...rest?
“Hey, why don’t we go inside for now? I have something to take care of,” Clint told his three kids.
Once they were inside, he went to Laura--to talk.
“Hey, can we talk?” Clint asked, sitting down next to her. She was reading a book on the bed.
“Clint, what’s up?” Laura asked, looking up.
“Something...came up,” Clint said. “...With Robert. You know, the other Tony Stark from another dimension. The one...who died.”
Laura didn’t say anything. She just put her hand on his shoulder and comforted him.
“What about him?”
“Five years ago, before we parted our ways...six of us made a promise,” Clint said. “If anything urgent, dangerous comes up that’s related to Robert or the cast...we would go back. Not as friends...but--”
“...as Avengers,” Laura finished the sentence for him.
Clint looked at Laura. He expected her to be mad at him, or at least disappointed, but he caught none of that from her face. Instead, she was smiling.
“Then you should go,” Laura said. “You made a promise. If it weren’t for him...we would not be here.”
“But...I-I...retired,” Clint said. “I decided to leave my days as the Hawkeye behind when the Final Battle was over.”
“And you did for the last five years, Clint,” Laura said. “I’m sure there were countless missions for the new Avengers and SHIELD that could’ve used you. Or needed you. But this time...it’s different. If you don’t go and stay here, will you be able to rest?”
Clint thought about it for a moment. Could he? He knew the Avengers wouldn’t force him to do whatever that needs to be done to solve the problem. If he chose to live the rest of his life in peace, no one would bother him. But…
He shook his head. Clint knew Tony would never activate the protocol if it wasn’t urgent.
“...Then go, Hawkeye,” Laura said, kissing him on the lips.
Clint smiled. Oh, he was so lucky to have Laura as his wife.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
The five Avengers arrived almost at the same time. (Which was a surprise, since Thor came from Norway and Clint from Missouri--Natasha started to wonder if Tony added any special features to their transportation, but she didn’t ask). Within seconds, the front yard of the lake house was filled with two cars and a Quinjet. As they got out of their vehicles, they nodded at each other. Bruce soon joined them.
“Been a while,” Steve said to Thor, Bruce, and Clint.
“You here for the news?” Clint asked, getting out of the car. Tony also gifted him a flying car as well, not long after everything was settled.
“I wonder what it could be,” Thor said, locking the Quinjet. “It can’t be anything good.”
“Let’s find out, shall we?” Natasha said as they went in.
As expected, Tony was waiting for them with the cast. They all looked worried, and Steve noticed Tom was heavily breathing. He also noticed a new face--not really, but he knew that wasn’t Bucky because the man had short hair and did not have a metal arm.
That must be Bucky’s counterpart then , Steve thought. He wondered why he was here with the rest of the cast--the cast was very strict with keeping secrets about this universe to the people on the other side. Steve's eyes locked with Sebastian's. Unlike Bucky, Sebastian's eyes didn't reflect any pain or regret. Rather, they were filled with shock, surprise, and confusion.
“ Protocol 3000 was calling the Avengers?!” Evans said, shocked to see the new arrivals.
"Wow, I'm really in the Marvel Cinematic Universe," Sebastian muttered.
Of course he knew he was in the MCU by now, but seeing the rest of the Original Six made things more real.
“Thank you guys for actually coming,” Tony said, ignoring Evans’ comment. “We got a problem. Actually, problems. We have two and we aren’t sure which one’s worse.”
The five Avengers looked at each other-- Why did it feel like things were worse than they expected?
“Okay, so first problem: the dimensional barrier is closed. Sealed. They are stuck here...again,” Tony continued when he got no response from the Avengers. “Second, which I’m slightly more concerned about: Tom saw a vision...including Robert screaming. He was being tortured.”
The room was silent for a moment. No one spoke--the cast was looking at the Avengers and Avengers were...thinking. Trying to understand what they just heard.
“I need to sit down first,” Steve said. The rest agreed.
“So you are basically saying...Robert’s alive?” Natasha asked after she sat down next to Steve.
“Yes, I saw him, he...was...screaming and calling for me,” Tom said. Before he went into a more detailed explanation, the front door opened again and...his counterpart stepped in. He looked very, very confused and a bit shocked.
“Hey, Pete, how were your classes today?” Tony asked, pretending as if the Avengers weren’t there at all.
“Good, Mr. Stark,” Peter replied. “Wh-what’s going on? Are they all here to...remember Robert?”
“Yes and no,” Steve said, standing up.
“We are here as the Avengers,” Natasha said.
“I thought you guys retired,” Peter said.
“We still are,” Thor said. “But something came up that we can’t refuse.”
“And that is…?” Peter asked, thinking this can’t be good.
“...Robert’s alive,” Tom said, standing up. “I’ve seen him.”
Peter just stood there. For a minute or two.
That’s all he said.
That couldn’t be true. Robert...Robert was dead.
“Why don’t you take a seat, Pete? It’s quite an explanation,” Tony suggested.
Peter sat down his backpack and sat next to Tony. He was glad to see Tom--but he felt that this wasn’t the best time to bring up new memes. Tom looked pale--like he’s seen a ghost. Tom continued to explain what he saw in his vision, how he saw and heard Robert screaming for help. For him. When he finished, the Avengers stared back at him again.
“...You don’t believe me,” Tom said, looking around. “None of you do.”
“Well, Tom...it’s quite a story,” Steve said. “And it doesn’t make sense that you could see visions all of a sudden--”
“What if it’s not sudden? What if...I’ve been sensing something was off about Robert’s death since we got back to our world? What if a part of Peter’s Spidey Sense has transferred to me when I left this dimension? With me being able to wield Mjolnir, it’s not impossible.”
“...You’re saying you had Spidey Sense for five years now?” Jeremy asked.
“Well, not exactly Spidey Sense. But I had my moments. Something told me that it was not a good idea to make Robert’s death public. My driving got really better since then. I could sense all the cars coming--avoided few possible accidents,” Tom said. “Maybe now that I’m back in this dimension, something sparked my mind and connected to Robert’s.”
“The kid’s right,” Bruce said. “I’ve been studying portals and different dimensions for the last five years--and it’s a possibility to gain new powers if you travel often enough.”
“But it’s weird that the vision happened right after the portal closed,” Tony pointed it out. “It has to be connected.”
“...So if we found someone who closed the portal, we find Robert?” Peter asked.
“That’s what we believe, yes,” Tony said.
“Then let’s do it,” Natasha said. “Even if there’s a small chance, we have to try--for Robert.”
Hiddleston held his hand up.
“But we are forgetting the most important thing--we buried Robert’s dead body five years ago,” Hiddleston said. “If Robert’s still out there somewhere, then whose body did we bury?”
Hiddleston’s speculation led the Avengers and the cast to one place: New York Cemetery.
“...Are you serious? We’re going to do what ?!” Hemsworth asked as they got out of multiple cars.
“We, are going to dig Robert’s grave...on his 58th birthday,” Tony said casually.
“Tony, are you sure about this?” Evans asked.
They were now walking towards Robert’s grave--the sun was down. The clouds covered the moon so it was almost pitch dark.
“No, that’s why we’re here, to make sure things,” Tony said. He was wearing his Iron Man armor--Mark 85 at last. He used his repulsors as flashlights. Others simply used their phones or flashlights.
“Okay, we literally look like we are gravediggers,” Bruce said. “Like thieves. Like criminals.”
“Well, digging a grave is sure illegal,” Steve said. “But I’ve done way worse illegal stuff in the past. This is...like nothing.”
Sebastian chuckled from the back. He wasn't actually Bucky Barnes, but hearing Steve admitting his crimes made him laugh. Although they didn't make it to the big screen, Sebastian was well-aware of how dumb Steve was back in the days. To be honest, he didn't think Steve accquired any more common sense since the '40s. Steve looked back at Sebastian--he reminded Steve so much of Bucky. Not only because he looked like Bucky but also because Bucky would've laughed at Steve as well.
“Yeah? Like what? Enlighten me, Capsicle,” Tony asked, genuinely curious.
The self-righteous Captain America admitting he was a criminal and breaking law like it was nothing? Oh, what would his father think of him now?
“Enlisting in five different cities, disobeying orders, fighting HYDRA while it was SHIELD, not signing the Accords, breaking into the Raft prison, being on the run for two years…”
“Okay, okay, I get it, Cap,” Tony said.
“You do know I’m not Captain America anymore, right?” Steve asked, as he walked with Tony.
“Yeah, but there’s no way I’m calling the Manchurian Candidate ‘Cap,’” Tony said, laughing. “It just doesn’t roll off the tongue. Besides, you came here because of the protocol. Therefore, you are back as an Avenger.”
Sebastian frowned--that meant Bucky was the new Captain America, not Sam. He wasn't against it, but was surprised to see that certain things went a bit differently than he saw in the film.
“Fair point,” Steve said, smiling.
“There it is--Robert’s grave,” Tom said, holding his phone up.
“ A loving husband, father, friend, and the Real Hero
Robert Downey Jr.”
April 4, 1965-May 29, 2018
Seeing the grave was like the ultimate proof for Sebastian that Robert Downey Jr. has really died. But ironically, that was the reason they were all here. Because there could be a chance where Robert could be alive. Sebastian thought...But even if what Tom saw was true--can they find Robert? With that amount of torture...he can't be the same person as he was four years ago.
The grave was the same as the last time Tom and others visited. Tom felt tears coming again--it was too much. And they were about to destroy his grave for...confirmation.
What if he was wrong? What if...they just found lifeless Robert down there, cold? What if they gain nothing but destroyed grave?
Then, Tom felt a warm hand on his shoulder. It was Tony.
“It’s gonna be okay, Tom. I believe you,” Tony said.
He nodded towards Bruce, and he grabbed the gravestone. Afterwards, Steve and Thor started to dig--the cast offered to help but they kept going because this was the fastest way. Once they reached Robert’s coffin--they stopped for a second.
“...Are we ready?” Steve asked.
“No, but go ahead,” Scarlett said.
Steve opened the coffin and found Robert’s cold body. He was supposed to decompose, but Tony put him in a preservation suit--similar to HYDRA’s cryo system that kept the Winter Soldier alive and well for years. Since Robert was already dead, it wasn’t that difficult to preserve his state. Seeing Robert's dead body startled Sebastian. Seeing his grave was something, but seeing his dead cold body was something else.
“I-I was wrong,” Tom said, crying.
He just destroyed his mentor’s grave based on a stupid vision.
“Wait--wait a minute,” Tony said. “What’s that on Robert’s arm? We made sure we took everything off.”
Steve took a closer look. It was a watch of some sorts, similar to Stark watches. Luckily, the battery was still on. Steve tapped on it--and...the person lying down in the coffin--was no longer Robert. Actually, it was no longer a human .
Green skin color, long, pointy ears...it was a Skrull.
“ Oh my god ,” Evans gasped.
"Holy shit," Sebastian blurted it out. Now that was something he wasn't expecting to see today. Or...ever in his life. "I-Is that...a...um...aliens that appeared in Captain Marvel?"
"Yes, this is a Skrull," Thor confirmed.
The cast looked at each other. Scarlett couldn’t close her mouth, Jeremy just stared at the dead Skrull, Mark closed his eyes at the horrifying truth, Hemsworth started to cry, and Hiddleston repeated the words “Oh lord.”
It was quite a huge shock for the Avengers as well--especially for Tony. Tom was right. Robert is still out there. And he will never stop looking for him until he’s back in their arms.
“Oh my god, Robert…!” Tom started to cry louder.
So Robert was getting tortured somewhere...right now.
Tom wasn’t sure if he liked the truth or not.
“We have to fix this,” Steve said.
“Tony...we have to find him. We have to find Robert,” Natasha said.
Tony nodded firmly.
“We will. I will. I will find you, Robert,” Tony said.
By the way, please don't hate on me for making Bucky the next Captain America. I actually love that Falcon is the next Cap and he is more fitting than Bucky, but I just wanted to see how things would be different if Bucky was Cap. Also, him being Cap will be important later in the story, especially his connections with HYDRA as the Winter Soldier. Since MCU will deal with Sam as the new Cap, so I just wanted to try something different. That's all.
Chapter 4: To save a friend
The Avengers and the cast head to the Avengers Compound for the first time in five years to gather intel from Fury. Following Tom's second vision, they head to what's believed to be the HYDRA base, collecting some recruits along the way.
I'M SO SORRY FOR THE LATE UPDATE!
Had to fill out job applications :(
The next one will be up shortly. I promise!!
Neither the cast or the Avengers slept well that night. In fact, none of them slept at all. By the time they had team briefing next morning, everyone was grabbing a cup of coffee. Even Tony--who was an expert at getting things done with zero sleep for weeks--seemed tired after what they’ve seen the night before.
“...I don’t know what to say,” Tony said.
The room was silent for a moment or two.
“If Robert’s really out there--in this world--how are we going to find him?” Mark asked. “Do we even know where to start?”
“Who might be interested in Robert? Did they know who they kidnapped wasn’t Tony Stark?” Evans asked.
“Yes, because although Tony retired, he occasionally makes public appearances,” Steve answered.
“...This is the most bizzare thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life,” Sebastian said. “And coming from me...that’s quite a lot.”
Steve looked up and locked his eyes with Sebastian’s. He figured that Sebastian somehow got sucked into this ‘alternate universe’ mess, given that he was constantly confused over what’s happening around him. He stepped forward.
“I’m Steve Rogers,” Steve said, reaching his hand out. “But you already knew that, since your friend here...has played me.”
Sebastian took Steve’s hand.
“Sebastian Stan,” Sebastian said. “I play...Bucky. But you already knew that because--”
“Okay, lovebirds let’s focus on Robert, shall we?” Tony said, cutting both of them off. “I’ve been tracking the list of my enemies since...well, forever, who might have taken Robert.”
“And that list is long,” Peter added, earning a glare from Tony. “I had to take out two of them.”
“The Vulture and Mysterio, right?” Tom asked.
“You’re lucky that Mysterio didn’t frame you for murder and reveal your identity to the enitre world,” Tom said.
“Yeah, Mr. Stark saved me from that,” Peter said. “That would’ve been awful.”
Tony coughed. Peter and Tom stopped talking and turned their attention to him.
“Yes, we all know I’ve made many enemies in the past,” Tony said. “But remember, most of them are dead . That only leaves us with a few. I also crossed off any individual villains, because they usually don’t have people in lab coats, torturing people. Given the tortue methods were similar to the Winter Soldier...that gives us one answer: HYDRA.”
Steve, Evans, and Sebastian tensed at the name. They were all well-aware of what HYDRA was capable of...Sebastian, who actually didn’t get tortured by HYDRA, shuddered. He knew how Bucky suffered at HYDRA facilities, so just thinking about the possibility of Robert being captured by them was...horrifying. He turned to Steve and Evans--it was evident that they were thinking the same thing as him.
“...Thought HYDRA went down when I exposed them in 2014,” Steve said, in denial. “Well, at least most of them--I didn’t think they would still have enough resources to operate a lab.”
“Well, it’s HYDRA we are talking about,” Natasha said. “We never know what’s going through their heads.”
“But here’s the better question: Why ? Why would HYDRA take Robert--even risking to leave a dead Skrull and their technology behind?” Scarlett asked.
That’s when Tony’s phone rang. He looked at the number and shrugged. It was none other than Nick Fury . Tony rolled his eyes. He did NOT need Fury’s wrath on him right now. As he was about to ghost him, Evans stopped him.
“Tony, wait. Maybe he has information that’s useful to us,” Evans said. “Just hear him out for a bit.”
Tony rolled his eyes again. But he answered the call, putting Fury on the speaker.
“Stark--where are you ?! You said you would be here first thing in the morning!” Fury’s annoyed voice blasted through the phone. Tony gave Evans a look, saying ‘we-should’ve-ignored-him’ with his eyes.
“Yeah, but something else came up,” Tony said. “I’m very occupied right now.”
“What could be more urgent than Infinity Stones the dimensional barrier and a set of Avengers walking through a portal?” Fury asked, clearly getting more annoyed with Stark by second.
Realizing that my dead friend and savior of the universe was alive and NOT well this entire time? Tony thought.
“Tony, the information he has could be helpful,” Mark said.
“He is right,” Jeremy said. “We’re both concerned about the same thing. Maybe with his help, we can track down who’s actually behind all this.”
Tony shrugged. He never liked Fury--mostly because he countered Tony’s almost every decision and annoyed the hell out of him. Also, he did not involving SHIELD into this mess--more specifically, he really didn’t like the British agent. He bothered Tony. But the image of Robert screaming somewhere distant filled his mind. That didn’t leave Tony with much choice. He picked his phone up and took off the speaker mode.
“...I’m on my way,” Tony said. “But I’m bringing all others with me, so no questions. Half of SHIELD headquarters is my property anyway.”
Tony ended the call. He then turned to the Avengers and the cast.
“We’re going to the Compound,” Tony said. “Or SHIELD headquarters, call it whatever you like.”
“I thought SHIELD HQ was in D.C.,” Clint said.
“Yeah, but Fury and all the high-level agents are staying in the Compound,” Tony said.
“We can’t just barge in there,” Scarlett said. “Not with the Avengers by our side. People will be suspicious.”
Although the Avengers and the cast teamed up to defeat Thanos (and if it weren’t for the cast, the Avengers would be time travelling for the stones right now and Tony and Natasha would end up dead), when the Final Battle ended, they didn’t feel comfortable making the existence of another universe and Avengers doppelgangers public. So they kept the information to themselves, to the Avengers team. Even Fury was kept in the dark--Tony just told him the funeral was for the hero--his friend.
“Don’t worry, we’ll landing right inside the Compound,” Tony said. “We’ll be only exposing ourselves to Fury. No one else.”
“How are we getting there?” Sebastian asked, still confused about what was going.
“I’m glad you asked, uh...whatever your name is. We’ll be taking the Quinjet,” Tony said.
“...Sebastian Stan,” Sebastian responded with an eyeroll.
So within minutes, the Avengers and the cast boarded the Quinjet (the same one Thor used to get here from Norway). The entire cast was fascinated about riding an actual Quinjet--because the Quinjet from the set definitely didn’t fly. The inside of the Quinjet was identical to the one they’ve seen in movies--but cooler, because they were seeing and experiencing it with their own eyes.
“This is...amazing,” Hiddleston said.
“I mean, I saw these in movies...but...this is something else,” Evans agreed.
“Much, much cooler than green screen on windows,” Hemsworth added.
“I gotta admit, this is pretty damn cool,” Sebastian said.
“...Maybe I should introduce some of my technology to their universe when everything settles down,” Tony said, watching the cast geek out over holograms and gears from a distance. “The progress of their technology is making me sad.”
“Tony…” Steve gave him a warning look.
“Well, if we all survive this, Cap,” Tony said. “I mean...who knows?”
Steve didn’t know what to say to that. He never thought he had to worry about Tony’s or everyone else’s safety when they all retired five years ago. But now he knew they were dealing with HYDRA, Steve was sure that it would be a tough fight. He didn’t know why, but there had to be a good reason why HYDRA took Robert as...their experiment. And they weren’t going to let him go easily.
“...We are taking off,” Natasha said.
The Quinjet hoovered in the air and headed straight to the sky, above the clouds. Natasha then pressed a button to cloak the Quinjet from the sight.
“D-did we just...go invisible?” Sebastian asked.
“Yep,” Tony said, popping the ‘p’ at the end.
“That’s so cool!” Tom said, looking out of the window.
Tony couldn’t help but let out a small smile--it’s been a while since he had seen Tom smile like that and especially after last night’s horrific discovery...Tony was happy that his Quinjet could give back some happiness to Tom.
The flight was pretty short--but enjoyable for everyone. When the Quinjet landed in the Compound and uncloaked itself, the Avengers and the cast prepared to get off of the aircraft.
“Haven’t been here for a long time,” Steve said.
“Never thought I would come back here,” Natasha said.
The Avengers and the cast straight headed for the elevator. Unfortunately, they did run into a couple SHIELD agents and they practically stared at them--mostly at Tony, Steve, Natsaha, Thor, and Clint. They were so shocked that the Avengers, the Original Six, were back at the Compound that they didn’t quite notice the cast. To be fair, the cast were all walking in the back, with their heads down. Once they got into the elevator, the cast finally looked up and took a breath.
“Okay, let’s just say the agents’ fangirling over you guys helped us to keep our identities,” Evans said. “They didn’t even look in our direction.”
Several cast members nodded in agreement.
The elevator dinged and the Avengers and the cast got out of the elevator, going straight into Fury’s office. He was waiting for them-- impatiently-- and to Tony’s surprise , William was also there. He immediately frowned at him.
“Fury, why is 007 in your office? I thought I was meeting with you ,” Tony said.
“I’m here because I’m the one who discovered the problem,” William answered before Fury could explain.
Tony glanced at the cast--he didn’t exactly know why, but he didn’t like the idea of introducing a bunch of Avengers doppelgangers to this stranger. Hell, Tony didn’t even want to introduce them to Fury.
“I want him out,” Tony said firmly. “This is private.”
“Stark--” Fury opened his mouth to protest.
“No, I’m not here for negotiations, Fury,” Tony said. “If he’s staying, I’m taking my team out of here.”
Fury stared into Tony’s determinative eyes and sighed. Even Fury knew that he was no use against defensive Stark. Fury gestured William to leave and he silently headed for the door--only to stop as he turned the doorknob.
“You really think you can hide the truth from me, Mr. Stark?” William asked Tony challengingly. “You literally brought two sets of Avengers to the Compound. Kicking me out of the room isn’t going to solve anything.”
“You’ll only suspect. You will never know the entire truth,” Tony said.
William smirked. He left the room and as the door closed behind him, he said,
“Oh, I will.”
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
When the Avengers finished explaining who the cast was (the cast stayed silent to minimize the confusion in the room), Fury’s reaction was somewhat normal.
“So you’re telling me that these people are from a different universe who are actors?” Fury asked Tony.
“Thank you for repeating my explanation,” Tony said with a great amount of sarcasm.
“And you expect me to believe this shit?” Fury turned to Steve.
Before Steve could respond, Evans stepped forward.
“You’ve befriended a woman with comic powers back in the ‘90s, fought a deluded alien, was betrayed by your own organization, faked your death, and was snapped out of existence for a month. You really can’t believe that there’s a parallel universe out there?” Evans confronted him.
Fury blinked. He did that for two reasons: one, this Steve Rogers duplicate really looked like former Captain America himself. Second, more importantly, he knew everything major happened to him for the last three decades.
“Chris, you forgot one tiny detail: he lost his damn eye to a cat ,” Hemsworth added, laughing.
Before Fury could explain himself, Tony beat him to it first.
“W-wait...you lost your eye from a cat scratch?!” Tony was laughing--no, wheezing. “Hems, you HAVE to tell me the full story later. Oh, this would make a great blackmail material.”
That was the best thing he had heard in years.
“You told me-- ‘Last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye.’ So you trusted a cat?” Even Steve, who was serious most of the time, couldn’t hold his laugh.
“All of a sudden, you do not sound or look that intimidating,” Peter said.
Clint joined in laughing, Bruce and Thor coughed, trying to conceal their laughs, and Natasha smirked. Peter--he was laughing the loudest--and Fury stared at the young Avenger with disapprovement. He shook his head and shot a ‘ Next time I see you, you are so dead ’ look to Hemsworth. Hemsworth gulped. He forgot how terrifying Fury could be.
“Now you know you should believe us,” Scarlett said.
“How come I wasn’t notified of your presence five years ago?” Fury asked, despearting wanting to change the subject.
“Well, you just came back from the dead, so we didn’t want to startle you and more importantly, you left right after Robert’s--my counterpart’s--funeral,” Tony answered.
“...And we didn’t want SHIELD to know,” Evans added. “We do not like being watched just because we share physical appearances with the Avengers.”
“I gave you the info,” Tony said. “Now it's your turn, Fury.”
Fury sighed and pulled up a security camera footage from Prague two nights ago. A man in the black suit was being chased by a man in a black armor. The Avengers and the cast tensed up. The man in the armor killed the other with his abnormal powers. The video ended with a thud.
“That was Agent Paul Nolan--a field agent and a part-time scientist who’s been working on the elements of the Tesseract,” Fury said. “As you saw in the video, this mysterious man killed the agent using...his powers. We haven’t identified him yet, but we call him the ‘Psychokinetic Soldier.’ “
“That sounds much like the Winter Soldier,” Sebastain said. “...But with minor modifications.”
“That means...this is HYDRA,” Steve said. “How long since this person got on SHIELD’s radar?”
“...Six months,” Fury said. “HYDRA’s been targeting Europe for the past year and this guy killed six of our agents so far.”
“Let me guess, somehow they are all related to the Infinity Stones,” Tony said.
“...That’s how they closed the barrier,” Tom said. “They must’ve gotten all the ingredients needed to do so.”
“But why? Why lock us in this world again?” Hiddleston asked. “Longer we stay in this world, the more we find out about the truth. About Robert.”
“Is this Robert the dead counterpart of yours, Stark?” Fury asked. “What about him?”
Tony didn’t answer right away.
“...We miss him,” Tony said. “Very, very much.”
A smile formed on William’s lips. He didn’t think he would gather much from a small wiretapping on the doorknob, but he got more intel than he expected. At least, it confirmed William’s suspicions and that was enough. Now he knew they were desperate to find a way home--and the only way to do so was to somehow replicate the Infinity Stones effect that caused the dimensional barrier to close in the first place.
“Stark...you have no idea what’s coming to you ,” William said. “None of you do.”
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
“...We have to find this ‘Psychokinetic Soldier,’ “ Steve said. “Seems like he’s affiliated with HYDRA, so if we find him, we find Robert.”
“But the question is, how?” Tony asked. “We still don’t know--”
“I do,” Tom said, coming out of the bathroom. His face was pale again, barely breathing. “I know where to find the soldier.”
“Tom, did you have a vision again?” Tony asked, genuinely concerned.
“I don’t know why..or how...but I saw something else,” Tom said. “I thought it would be Robert again...but I saw the soldier, working with people in lab coats.”
“Lab coats...HYDRA,” Steve said. “In your last vision, you also saw people in lab coats…”
“So, where is this base?” Evans asked.
“...Prague,” Tom said.
The Avengers and the cast exchanged looks with each other.
Within minutes, the Quinjet was ready for the takeoff and everyone was ready to leave. As Natasha powered up the engine, Tony went to see Pepper and Morgan.
“Pep…” Tony called her, expecting her to be disappointed and mad that he was breaking out of his retirement and leaving her and his daughter for a mission. Instead, she grabbed Tony’s hands, and kissed him.
“It’s okay, Tony,” Pepper said. “I knew this day would come. And if Robert’s still out there...you should bring him home.”
“Dad, where are you going?” Morgan asked, looking up.
Tony smiled down at her. Having Morgan was a gift, and she was also a sign of peace for Tony. But now he has to leave that behind, the peace he finally got after so many years.
“...To save a friend,” Tony said, kneeling down. “Listen to Mommy while I’m gone, okay?”
Tony kissed Morgan on her forehead. He never forgot how he got this peace. Now it was time to return that peace to an old friend.
As the Quinjet lifted off the ground, Steve looked out of the window. Then...he smiled. He was always a Soldier. It’s not something he can let go, even if he wanted to. He walked over to Natasha, who was adjusting the auto-pilot system.
“Nat, we have to make a stop first,” Steve said.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
Bucky was taking a day off with Sam. Well, being a superhero, Captain America, meant that he could be heading out for duty any minute, but he enjoyed the calm. Nothing abnormal, nothing bad happened yet, and the media was busy with weather, so both of them knew nothing was wrong.
“Isn’t it a good day to relax, take a nap?” Bucky asked Sam, watching a movie. “Today’s perfect.”
“Oh, you dumbass, you didn’t…” Sam said.
“What?” Bucky frowned at Sam, thinking about what he just said.
As if it was an answer to Bucky’s inquiry, there was a knock on the door. Sam just shook his head. Bucky, who was still confused, opened the door. He was surprised to see Steve and Natasha on his doorstep. No, to be clear, he was surprised to see Steve and Natasha in their Avengers uniforms. He knew they got rid of them a long time ago.
“Hi, Buck,” Steve said. “Sam.”
Sam glared at the pair, knowing what’s happening. He didn’t know what, but he knew they were here as Avengers. And if people who swore that they will never get out of retirement did exactly the opposite, then you know something bad, really, really bad was happening. Sam didn’t like any of that.
“Wh-why are you two dressed in Avengers uniforms?” Bucky was bold enough to ask.
“Glad you asked,” Natasha said, smiling.
Sam definitely wasn’t--although he did start grabbing his uniform and weapons.
“We’re going to knock down some Nazis,” Steve said with confidence.
Chapter 5: Ready to comply
The Avengers and the cast head to HYDRA base in Prague. During the flight, Sebastian bonds with the Avengers in an unexpected way.
The Avengers break into the base--only to run into someone they didn't want to.
I really enjoyed writing this chapter, so I hope you guys like it as well!
And it only took me a day to update, so yay :)
“...Steve, have you gone mad?” Bucky asked him, frowning and looking very, very confused.
“Five years of retirement cost your sanity,” Sam said.
Steve rolled his eyes. He just explained that the cast got trapped in this universe (again) and Robert wasn’t actually dead. Both Bucky and Sam didn’t take it well.
“No, I’m not mad, Buck,” Steve assured his best friend. “We found a body. A Skrull’s body. It wasn’t Robert’s.”
“And now you’re walking into a HYDRA base with no backup,” Bucky said, sighing. “80 years later, some things never change. You’re still stupid as fuck.”
“That’s why we’re bringing you two along,” Steve said. “You guys are our backup. And you know about HYDRA more than anyone.”
Bucky shrugged. To be honest, he would rather not think about his time at HYDRA. From the beginning to the end, his life at HYDRA consisted of three things: torture, brainwashing, murder. Repeat. If it wasn’t for Steve who had gone to great lengths to restore his memory back, he would be still the Winter Soldier up to this day. Thinking about HYDRA--that gave him a headache.
“Really? You’re raiding a heavily guarded HYDRA base and we are your backup?!” Sam said.
Not that Sam thought he and Bucky were weak or anything--they were the Falcon and the Captain America after all--but he knew adding two more people to the list wasn’t going to improve their chances at whatever they were going to do.
“...Why don’t you call Wanda or something? Maybe Dr. Strange? Any of them would be helpful,” Sebastian suggested from the back.
Both Bucky and Sam recognized that voice immediately. It was... too familiar. When Sebastian stepped forward, Bucky and Sam’s eyes widened. The man standing in front of them...was--another Bucky Barnes. Sure, this one had short hair and both arms, but yes this was Bucky’s twin with no doubt.
“Th-that’s..me,” Bucky said after staring at his counterpart for a long time.
“Yeah, I’m an actor as well, like the rest of the cast,” Sebastian said. “I’m Sebastian Stan.”
Sebastian reached his hand out, and Bucky shook it. Yes, Steve had told him about the cast in detail after the Final Battle and he did meet them at the funeral, but this...this was something else. Now another version of him was standing in front of him. There was a big difference between seeing other people’s duplicates and meeting yours.
Sam was shocked as well, although he did seem better than Bucky himself. Some of the Avengers and the cast (*cough cough Tony, Clint, Tom, Evans, Hemsworth *cough cough*) cracked a laugh or two at the pair’s priceless faces.
“Seb, that’s a good idea,” Evans said. “We should contact them, Tony. We don’t know what we’re dealing with--especially with the new Soldier out there.”
“Cap, we--I mean the Avengers--have raided a HYDRA’s base before,” Tony said. “To retrieve Loki’s scepter. And we were successful.”
“But at what cost?” Evans argued back. “Clint was shot and you weren’t ready for two Enhanced--Pietro and Wanda. This Soldier Fury told us about...is much more dangerous.”
“Okay, fine,” Tony said, seeing Evans had a point. “I’ll call them.”
As Tony picked up his phone, Bucky turned to Sam.
“...Are we sure that’s not Steve? I mean, he sounded just like him,” Bucky said.
“Oh, Chris is the opposite of Steve,” Sebastian said. “He’s always goofing around, laughing. He’s serious now because Robert’s life is on the line.”
“You sound like you know him well,” Bucky said. God, it was weird and freaky to stare at his other self. It was literally like looking at a mirror.
“Well, I haven’t known him since the ‘20s like you have with Steve, but we’ve spent 10 years together as Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes,” Sebastian said. “It’s hard to not become best friends--even brothers--when you do that.”
A small smile formed on Bucky’s lips. He was still confused over the whole ‘there-is-a-group-of-people-who-look-identical-to-us’ thing, but he was glad to know that Steve and his counterparts were best friends and close to each other as much as Steve and he were in real life.
After five minutes on the phone, Tony turned to the Avengers and the cast. The grim expression on his face hinted that he didn’t have good news to deliver.
“Well, I called both of them...and none of them responded,” Tony said. “It’s weird because although Strange doesn’t like me, he always answers his calls. Same with Wanda. This can’t be a coincidence, right? What if something happened to them?”
“Stark, they are strong and intelligent warriors,” Thor said. “If they are having a problem, they can handle it. Why don’t we focus on ours?”
Tony and the others nodded. They were disappointed that neither of the sorcerers of the Avengers was available, but as Tony said it before, they had experience with raiding HYDRA bases. Yes, there were some casualties last time, but they all made it out okay. Besides, they didn’t know who to call--it wasn’t like Guardians were available anyway. Not that they would be that helpful against brainwashing organization.
“...Guess we’re on our own,” Jeremy said.
“We’ll be okay,” Natasha said. “We can do this.”
“We were the Avengers long before Wanda and Strange joined the team,” Steve said. “Six of us fought against the entire alien army.”
“Yeah, so make yourselves at home,” Tony said.
The flight was quite long--since they didn’t have intel on what kind of HYDRA base they were heading, Tony didn’t want to use any special features of the Quinjet. So it did have special features, Natasha thought. They had eight hours to go--and while Tony and Bruce located the HYDRA base, the cast talked to Bucky and Sam. Out of all them, Bucky seemed to connect with Evans and Sebastian the best (are we even surprised?). He caught Sebastian constantly staring at his metal arm--with...curiosity? Horror? Honestly, Bucky couldn’t tell.
Sebastian knew Bucky was getting uncomfortable, or at least concerned with him because he was staring at the metal arm every few minutes. An idea popped into Sebastian’s head. A smirk formed on his lips.
This is going to be fun.
He then walked up to Evans and whispered something in his ear and Evans did his best to not burst out laughing.
“You know, Chris, I could use some lube for it,” Sebastian blurted it out.
Everyone turned to Sebastian for attention, especially Tony.
“Why? You hate using it,” Evans said, containing his laughter. Sure, he was very outgoing--but he was an actor. Now was the time to act.
The rest of the cast instantly attempted their best not to burst into laughter, because they all understood the reference. Sebastian had always talked about ‘the Lube’ on the set. However, on the other hand, the Avengers were extremely confused. Especially Steve. Tony raised an eyebrow at Sebastian and Evans because he knew exactly what they were referring to.
“But it’s necessary ,” Sebastian continued. “You know it better than anyone, Chris. Without the lube, I would lose it. I can’t get in there.”
“...Are you guys….gay?” The question came from Peter.
“I mean, we wouldn’t judge, but can we NOT talk about your sexual feelings towards one another?” Sam said.
“If you guys need a room, please go ahead,” Tony said, rather amused than disgusted. “We have everything in this Quinjet.”
Sebastian and Evans made eye contact with each other and burst out laughing. The other cast members joined in, Hemsworth laughing the loudest. He was using Hiddleston as his support so he wouldn’t fall to the ground. And of course Evans was doing his classic belly laugh--adding his signature left boob grab along the way. Sebastian laughed with Evans.
Now the Avengers were starting to think that after last night’s discovery, the entire cast was gone mad.
They’re crazy. Absolutely insane. They all lost their minds, Bucky thought.
The laughter continued for a few minutes. When it died down, Sebastian finally told the truth--or the missing piece of the tale.
“No, we’re not gay,” Sebastian said to Peter. “And we were talking about my metal arm back in our world, not...sex.”
“I don’t follow,” Tony said, now confused.
“Whenever I put on the metal arm as Bucky, I have to use lube to get in there,” Sebastian explained. “I’ve been using it as a joke for years.”
“Thought it was a good prank,” Evans added, laughing.
“...And you guys all fell for it,” Sebastian teased. “Your reaction was priceless.”
It took a few seconds for the Avengers to realize what happened.
“That was...hilarious,” Tony said, laughing. “Oh, Sebby, I think you and I are gonna get along very well.”
Clint found it amusing and funny as well, but Steve was more confused. He didn’t quite get the joke.
“I-I don’t get it,” Steve said.
“Oh, Capsicle, you never understand it, do you? Nat, is he still a virgin?” Tony asked, laughing.
“...That’s not a question I need answered,” that was all Natasha said.
“Can someone kindly explain the joke to Mr. 100 year old Virgin here?” Tony asked around.
“Sure, oh Stevie you still don’t know a bloody thing about women,” Bucky said. “You’re lucky that Nat still keeps you around.”
After a short explanation, Steve’s face turned bright red. And of course, Tony didn’t forget to capture his reaction as a video. Oh, how he loved embarrassing people. That was his thing.
The rest of the flight was uneventful. Well, except for Tony making more jokes about the lube and teasing Steve for being a virgin for over a century.
“...We’re here,” Bruce said. “The base is several hundred feet below us. It has a similar structure compared to the Sokovia base in 2015.”
The Avengers grabbed their gear and anything else they needed for the mission--which was to find Robert and get him out. Steve stared down at his black Avengers suit. Bucky noticed and chuckled. He was wearing Steve’s Stealth suit.
“...Black suits you,” Bucky said. “Although I do miss you seeing in stripes.”
“That’s your job now, jerk,” Steve said, taking a machine gun out of the inventory. “And my job is to protect you.”
“Oh, please, I’ll always be the one protecting you. Even when I’m fucking Captain America,” Bucky said.
He then took the shield Steve handed down to him five years ago.
“It doesn’t feel right staying back here,” Evans said. “We should be out there, fighting our way in, looking for Robert.”
“Chris, I know you want to go in there with us, but this is HYDRA we’re talking about,” Steve said. “Can’t afford losing any of you.”
“You know we held off Thanos--the stronger one with a terrifying blade--long enough five years ago,” Scarlett said.
“We also were a part of the Final Battle,” Hesmworth said. “Quite a huge part, actually.”
“I’ve been taking archery lessons,” Jeremy added. “My skills aren’t so bad.”
“...This isn’t about how much you can handle,” Natasha said.
“Then why is Hiddleston going?” Sebastian asked.
“He has ice powers, we can use that on the field,” Tony said. “We’re just trying to keep you guys safe. And we don’t know what’s gonna happen out there. We’re going to need a backup plan--extraction...or...breaking into the base yourselves...if--things go way south.”
There was a moment of silence in the Quinjet.
“We won’t let that happen,” Bruce quickly assured the cast.
“Right,” Tony said.
Tony opened the Quinjet’s door. The ramp came down and wind gushed in.
“Let’s jump,” Steve said.
As Steve prepped to jump out of the Quinjet, Bucky grabbed his arm.
“You are NOT jumping out of a plane without one,” Bucky said, handing him a parachute. “Not on my watch.”
Steve chuckled and took the parachute.
“You know me too well, Buck,” Steve said.
“Can you and Jesus stop staring into each other’s eyes? We need to move,” Tony said, tapping his arc reactor. His body was covered with the latest armor--Mark 85--in seconds.
“Good luck, Mr. Stark!” Tom shouted in the air. “...And please bring Robert back!”
“I will, Tom,” Tony shouted back, smiling.
He’ll do anything for the kid.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
A loud alarm went off inside the HYDRA base. The soldiers grabbed their weapons and prepared for the incoming.
“Sir, we have a breach,” one of the soldiers told Kuznetsov as headed for the gate.
“I know,” Kuznetsov said with a smile. “Let them come. I’ve been waiting for this moment for years.”
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
The gate was blasted off right away. Tony put his repulsors down.
“You made a lot of upgrades since the last time we broke into HYDRA’s base,” Steve said. “You just blasted the entire gate on your own.”
“Thank you for the obvious observation, Capsicle,” Tony said, rolling his eyes.
“I’m not--” Steve tried to tell Tony that he was no longer the Captain for the 100th time, but as always he was cut off.
“I know you aren’t the Captain anymore,” Tony said, looking at Bucky. “But, the nickname Capsicle will always be yours. And Barnes’ nickname is Jesus.”
“Why is my nickname Jesus?” Bucky asked, frowning. “For the record, I don’t like the nickname.”
“Bucky was also frozen, you know,” Steve said, moving forward.
“Yeah, but he didn’t look like a popsicle when he came out of the system,” Tony said, tilting his head. “If you don’t like the name, I can perhaps call you America’s ass?”
“...Capsicle will be fine,” Steve said, grunting.
“And until I think of a better nickname, I’m calling you Jesus,” Tony said.
Bucky rolled his eyes.
“...I hate Starks,” Bucky said under his breath.
“Boys, shut up and move,” Natasha said. “Or I’ll do it myself.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the three of them replied.
Taking out the guards wasn’t difficult. Sure, this HYDRA base was much bigger than the old one, but the Avengers fought Thanos and his army. The five years of retirement didn’t make them rusty to the point where they had trouble fighting regular soldiers.
“Okay, FRIDAY tells me this is our last stop,” Tony said. “Wherever they’re keeping Robert, they should have him here.”
“What about the labs?” Bruce asked.
“No signs of Robert,” Tony said. “Already scanned them. There was no DNA match.”
“...Here we go, then,” Clint said, aiming one of his arrows as the doors opened.
As they expected, they had most of the soldiers in the room. They were all aiming their guns at the Avengers. That’s when Hiddleston stepped forward.
“Let me handle this,” Hiddleston said as he formed a gigantic ice barrier between the Avengers and the soldiers. Then, he transferred the barrier to the soldiers--making them frozen in their spots.
“...Impressive,” Kuznetsov said from the above. He was standing inside of a watchtower, looking down at the Avengers. “Unexpected for an outsider like you have such power.”
“Don’t worry, they’re still alive,” Hiddleston said. “I’m not a killer. And I don’t like hurting people.”
“Who the hell are you?” Sam asked.
“Ah, my apologies. I’m Brian Kuznetsov. I’m the head scientist here,” Kuznetsov said.
“...Where’s Robert?” Tony asked. “We know he's here. Where are you keeping him?”
“Robert? I don’t follow, Mr. Stark,” Kuznetsov said with a smile on his face.
“Robert Downey Jr.,” Steve said. “Our friend. We know you have him.”
“Ah, Captain America...It’s good to finally meet you after you’ve killed so many men of ours,” Kuznetsov said.
“I’m not the Captain anymore,” Steve said. “Does anyone watch the news?”
“...He’s right,” Bucky said, stepping forward. “I am, you bastard.”
“The Winter Soldier...do you really think you’re worthy of the Captain’s title after what you’ve done for us for decades?”
No one spoke.
“This is exactly what I wanted,” Kuznetsov said. “I drew you in here.”
“...That doesn’t sound good,” Thor said, tightening his grip on the Stormbreaker.
“Your friend--Robert Downey Jr.--isn’t here,” Kuznetsov said. “Not anymore.”
Before the Avengers could ask Kuznetsov more questions, a figure landed in front of them.
The Psychokinetic Soldier.
He had his armor all around him like in the footage earlier and his face was completely covered up.
“Asset 65, you know what to do,” Kuznetsov said.
“...Ready to comply,” the soldier replied.
His hands glowed with blue and silver.
Chapter 6: Your savior is here!
The Avengers get captured by HYDRA. Sensing something is wrong, the Avengers cast gather their own team. Kuznetsov reveals a part of his plan to the Avengers.
I'm so so sorry for the late update! This was a long chapter, and I had plans almost every day for the past week. I'll try to stay on a better schedule from now on.
“Okay, he looks much more intimidating in person,” Tony said, aiming his five nano blasters at the Psychokinetic Soldier and firing them all at once. These blasters were the same ones that knocked out Cull Obsidian when he charged at Tony in New York. Since then, he even made upgrades to them. In other words, these blasters were very powerful.
So it shocked Tony a bit when the Soldier didn’t even flinch. Instead, he pulled one of his arms forward and projected a light blue shield in front of him. The heat of five nano blasters was dissolved by the shield, leaving the Avengers more alerted at the situation they were in.
“You wouldn’t able to defeat him, Mr. Stark,” Kuznetsov said from the tower. Especially after you find out who he really is.
“I don’t believe that,” Tony said, putting his Iron Shield up to block the Soldier’s blow. Fighting him brought back memories from 2016, when he fought Steve and Bucky in Siberia. Maybe it was the setting he was in or maybe it was because there was another Super Soldier charging at him. Tony managed to block the Soldier’s punch, but he used his other arm to throw Tony to the ground.
The Soldier headed for the rest of the Avengers and each of them got ready. Bucky was the next one up, and he used his Captain America shield to block the Soldier’s blue wave of light towards him. At that moment, Bucky saw the Soldier’s eyes--they were filled with death and destruction. He knew those eyes. They were the ones Bucky himself had years ago, from the moment HYDRA brainwashed him to the moment Steve helped him remember. Through those eyes, Bucky saw his dark past flash in front of his eyes.
“...Is this how you guys all felt like when I was the Winter Soldier?” Bucky asked the people who have fought him before. “If then, I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, but this guy is more deadly, since he has Wanda’s powers or something,” Tony said, getting up from the ground. “But apology accepted.”
Bucky continued to fight the Soldier, using the shield whenever his hands glowed blue and silver. However, he only used his hands and weapons like knives to attack the Soldier. As he reached for Bucky’s shield, Bucky grabbed his arm and twisted it, making the Soldier scream.
“Yeah, I’ve been in your place,” Bucky said. “Guess they haven’t changed the skill patterns, have they?”
“If you’re not going to tell us where Robert is, then we’ll find him ourselves,” Steve said, aiming his gun at the Soldier. “But we’re going to take you down first.”
“It’s us against you two,” Natasha said. “Actually, given that you are just giving orders and standing up there--one.”
“And we have experience with many different kinds of threats,” Sam said. “We fought a fucking alien army and an insane alien with Infinity Stones for god sake.”
Kuznetsov started laughing--and he didn’t stop for a long time.
“Oh, did you forget? I wanted all of you here,” Kuznetsov said. “I knew the Avengers--including the originals--would rush into HYDRA base at some point if the Infinity Stones are involved.”
The Avengers looked at each other. Kuznetsov didn’t seem afraid or alarmed at seeing the Avengers standing in front of him. In fact, they could tell he was enjoying this--he knew something important that they didn’t. Important enough to ensure him that Avengers won’t be able to take him down.
“Infinity Stones? How do you know about them?” Steve asked, still aiming his gun towards Kuznetsov.
“...You were the one who closed the gate, weren’t you?” Tony asked, glaring at Kuznetsov.
“You are quite good at figuring things out, Mr. Stark,” Kuznetsov said. “Yes, it was me.”
“How did he know about the portal? Or the cast?” Bruce asked the Avengers--but no one had a proper answer to his question.
“You--the Avengers--don’t know a lot of things,” Kuznetsov said. “For example, you have no idea what he is capable of.”
Kuznetsov pointed towards the Soldier.
“We know,” Bucky said. “He’s a type of Winter Soldier, like I once was. He also has telekinetic abilities like Wanda.”
“Oh, he’s much more than that,” Kuznetsov said. “Remember, SHIELD gave him the name ‘Psychokinetic Soldier,’ not us. We call him Asset 65.”
Before any of the Avengers could react, the Soldier--or Asset 65 held all the Avengers up in the air at once, binding them with some invisible force. No single Avenger could move or attack. Thor tried his best to break free of the binding, but he was unsuccessful.
“...He can do anything,” Kuznetsov said. “With the hint of Infinity Stones in his hand.”
One by one, the Avengers blacked out.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
“...It’s been three hours,” Hemsworth said, looking at his watch. “Where are they?”
The cast looked out the window hoping to see any signs of the Avengers, but there were none.
“Something must’ve gone wrong,” Evans said. “Even if they didn’t find Robert, they would’ve come back by now.”
“Yeah, the comms are down as well,” Scarlett said, checking the dashboard. “They haven’t made any contact since they went in.
“What do we do then?” Jeremy asked. “Should we go after them?”
“What if...they got captured by HYDRA? Like Robert?” Tom asked, forming a horrifying thought in his head.
What if they captured the Avengers and are torturing them like they did with Bucky and Robert?
Screams of Robert came back and filled Tom’s mind--the desperation of his voice, how he was calling for Tom...the memory flooded his mind, making Tom to relive the horror.
“Tom! Hey, it’s okay,” Evans said. “We’ll find them, alright? We got this.”
Evans then hugged Tom--he would be never what Robert or even Tony was to Tom, but Tom felt pretty close to Evans--possibly because he understood what it was like to be completely vulnerable--what real anxiety felt like.
"Oh my god...Tom," Hemsworth said. "Tom...he's in there."
Yes, the possibility of capture of the Avengers was terrifying to Hemsworth, but one thing that terrified him more is that his brother from another mother was possibly (probably) captured by HYDRA. Knowing what they've done to Robert, Hemsworth shuddered at the thought of Hiddleston screaming in agony, screaming for Hemsworth...
"I have to go," Hemsworth said. "I have to go and get him out of that place."
“Wait, Chris...we can’t just barge in there,” Sebastian said. “If they’re really in danger, we don’t stand a chance. If they have something to hold the entire Avengers, what do we have that they don’t?”
“...Resources,” Mark said. “They’re trapped in there, but we are not.”
“We can get to the other Avengers,” Scarlett said. “Sure, we might not be able to get Wanda and Strange, but there are plenty of Avengers we can pick from.”
“There’s Pietro, Scott, Rhodey, Carol, T’challa, and...Loki,” Evans said, thinking of every possible Avenger that they could reach out for help without exposing their identities. “Does anyone know if any of the Guardians are available?”
The rest of the cast shook their heads. Since the third installment of the Guardians of the Galaxy came out recently, they could assume the Guardians’ location, but since this wasn’t the MCU they knew anymore, they weren’t sure what happened to them since the Final Battle.
“Okay, then let’s get these six first--”
Evans was cut off by Scarlett.
“No, Carol is in space right now and I don’t think T’challa’s right choice for this job,” Scarlett said. “He’s a king. Plus, we don’t even know the exact coordinates to get into Wakanda. And even if you did, none of us know how to fly this damn thing well.”
“So...are you saying we have to do this alone?” Hemsworth asked.
“No, I’m saying we should start where we know,” Scarlett said.
“Loki! Loki’s in Norway,” Tom said. “It’s not that far from here.”
The cast looked at each other. Sure, Loki helped the Avengers out during the Final Battle and they could see that he has become a better person, but he wasn’t the first person they wanted to run for help. Tom caught the cast hesitating.
“Oh, c’mon! Loki’s on our side now. Besides, he’ll help for sure since Thor’s in danger,” Tom said.
“Norway it is,” Jeremy said.
The cast strapped into their seats. Evans used auto-pilot programming to start the Quinjet and set the course for Tønsberg, Norway. Sebastian sat next to him, worried about what was going to happen.
“...How are you so calm, Chris? The Avengers are supposedly captured and now we’re going to god of mischief for help,” Sebastian said.
“It was a possibility, Seb,” Chris said. “And, this is nothing compared to getting sucked into MCU the first time and having to fight Thanos’ army and Thanos all by ourselves.”
“You guys fought them on your own?” Sebastian asked with horror on his face.
“We aren’t called the Avengers for nothing, Seb,” Evans said, chuckling. “Tom even lifted Mjolnir.”
Sebastian changed from being horrified to the pure shock--his jaw was widely open, almost unable to accept the fact that Tom Holland, out of all people was able to lift Thor’s mighty hammer.
“How in the name did he able to do that ?!”
“Simple. I was worthy,” Tom said from behind with a smirk on his face. He finally get to pay Sebastian back for teasing him how he was an annoying kid on the set all the time.
“Deny it all you want but the fact that I’m the one who brought the Avengers back from the past won’t change,” Tom said, grinning.
And now Sebastian was confused again for the rest of the flight.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
Tønsberg, Norway .
“Would you please calm down and sit for a second?!” Valkyrie yelled at Loki, who was pacing back and forth.
“How can I calm down when I know something is wrong?!” Loki yelled back and continued to pace.
“Just because Thor’s been gone for days doesn’t necessarily mean he’s in some kind of danger!”
Then Loki heard the sound of the Quinjet landing. Half-relieved and half-scared, he ran outside to greet and scold Thor. However, he froze when he saw it wasn’t Thor who stepped out of the Quinjet. It was the Avengers cast. Valkyrie stood next to Loki. Loki turned towards her.
“...I told you something happened to Thor,” Loki said.
The cast got out of the Quinjet and walked towards Loki and Valkyrie. Hemsworth was up in the very front, followed by Evans and Scarlett.
“I’m not Thor,” Hemsworth said to Loki and Valkyrie.
“We know,” Loki said. “What happened?”
“We’ll explain everything once we’re inside,” Evans said, noticing that most Asguardians were staring at the new arrivals now.
Loki nodded and led the cast to his cabin. Sebastian, on the other hand, was more fascinated with the new Asgard, mostly because this was his first time seeing an Asgard (it’s a shame that the original Asgard is already destroyed, because it would be amazing to visit another planet) and meeting Loki.
Once they were inside the cabin, Loki immediately asked,
“What happened to my brother?”
“Short version: he’s stuck in a HYDRA base,” Scarlett said.
“...With the rest of the Avengers,” Mark added.
“And the long version?” Loki asked, frowning.
So the cast told him from the very beginning: how the portal closed, how Tom started to have these visions, how they found a Skrull inside Robert’s grave, and how they decided to break into HYDRA’s base.
“...The other Stark is alive?”
The cast nodded.
“How is that possible? We all saw him dying in front of us,” Loki said.
“Says the man who faked his death multiple times,” Hemsworth argued.
Loki rolled his eyes.
“It’s different, you dumbass,” Loki said. “I have the power to create illusions. The other Stark doesn’t. He is just a person from a different dimension.”
“HYDRA’s torturing him. I saw his pain. I saw him...screaming,” Tom said. “And now the entire Avengers are captured. Loki, please. Help us.”
"They also have Tom," Hemsworh said, tearing up. "I need to save him."
Loki stared into Tom’s and Hemsworth's desperate eyes. Even Loki, god of mischief, couldn’t say no to Tom or Hemsworth.
“...When do we leave?” Loki asked.
Within minutes, Loki was boarding the Quinjet with the rest of the cast. Valkyrie wanted to join them, but Loki told her to take care of Asgard until he and Thor come back. While the situation was quite desperate, he didn’t want to leave Asgard without a leader. Valkyrie argued at first, but agreed with Loki at the end. As the Quinjet’s dock closed, Valkyrie watched Loki disappear from her sight.
“Don’t die, Your Majesty,” Valkyrie said with a frown. “Come back with Thor.”
Loki nodded right before the dock completely closed.
“Now we have a bigger problem,” Mark said. “We have to get to San Francisco for Scott and New York for Pietro and Rhodey. We don’t have enough time to pick them up and come back to the HYDRA base.”
“...That wouldn’t be a problem,” Loki said, conjuring a greenish portal in front of the Quinjet. As the Quinjet slipped through, the color of the sky changed from light to dark. Ignoring the shock on the cast’s faces, Loki sat in the cockpit and lowered the Quinjet so they could see the view from above. San Francisco’s trademark, the Golden Gate Bridge could be seen from a distance.
“How did you do that ?!” Jeremy basically yelled at Loki out of shock.
“I learned,” Loki responded casually. “With the events like Thanos, I needed to have some tricks up my sleeve that I could use that was not creating illusions. I didn’t want to die again and I wanted to get to Thor as soon as possible if he needed me across the globe. Although I still hate his guts, he was the only one who specialized in portals.”
“You mean Strange?” Evans asked, remembering how Stephen made Loki fall for 30 minutes in Ragnarok .
Loki simply nodded.
“Let’s head to Scott’s,” Mark said. “We still don’t have much time.”
The Quinjet flew over the Golden Gate Bridge and headed for a house by the Bay. Sebastian looked out the window, and shook his head when he finally realized they really were in San Francisco. They literally teleported from Europe to the United States in seconds. The MCU he was in had lots of surprises than he expected--including Loki actually being a decent person and was willing to help the cast out. He suddenly wondered whether they could ever make it home or not. Tony had said the gate was closed--what if it really was permanent? This MCU was pretty cool and all, but Sebastian really missed his house and his damn nice couch that Anthony Mackie won’t shut up about.
“...Just when I thought the day couldn’t get weirder,” Sebastain said out loud, partly to forget his homesickness.
“The day’s full of surprises, yeah,” Evans said.
“I miss the days when everything was normal,” Sebastian said.
“You mean when you weren’t in some kind of fictional cinematic universe and learning things like a Norse god can create portals now?” Evans said, turning towards Sebastian.
“Yeah,” Sebastian said.
“We’ll get normal back,” Evans said. “...If there was ever such a thing.”
To be honest, Evans has not felt ‘normal’ since Robert died (or he thought so) in this world. He always had carried the feeling of emptiness, this void that could never be replaced. Just like the MCU fandom lost their Tony Stark through Avengers: Endgame and expressed their loss in life, Evans lost his best friend and mentor. Finding out that Robert was apparently alive sparked bits of hope inside Evans and he was hoping saving Robert could fill up that void that he’s been carrying around for the last five years.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
Scott just had dinner with Hope and Cassie. They were going to have a movie night because it was finally Friday, which meant Cassie didn’t have to go to bed early for school the next day. After an hour long debate, three of them all agreed to watch Back to the Future . Scott, who had experienced the ‘real’ time travel, was going to mock the plot holes of the movie because whether he wanted to believe it or not, the film was a bunch of bullshit when it came to rules of time travel.
“Dad, C’mon! I made some popcorn!” Cassie yelled from the living room.
Scott was looking at a picture of Cassie from five years ago--when she was still a lot shorter than him. He smiled at how much Cassie grew the last five years--she was no longer his little Peanut who wore princess dresses and played maze games. Cassie Lang was a beautiful teenager, who was already in high school. If it wasn’t for Robert and Evans, Scott would still be trapped inside the Quantum Realm, or if he was lucky, he would be just out of the Quantum Realm at the moment. He owed it to those two, and of course to Robert one more time for saving the universe so he could watch his little girl grow up. That was the best thing he had in his life.
“Comin’!” Scott yelled back from his room. Scott put the picture on his desk and joined Hope and Cassie on the couch.
When the part where Doc was firing up the DeLorean and getting shot by some terrorists, three of them heard some sounds outside.
“What was that?” Hope asked, alarmed.
“It sounded like the DeLorean to be honest,” Cassie said, heading for the window.
“Well, it’s not the DeLorean,” Hope said, looking out the window. “But it’s the closest to what we have in this world.”
The three of them headed outside and saw the Quinjet on their front yard. Soon, the dock opened and the Avengers walked out.
“Dad! That’s the Avengers!” Cassie shouted with excitement. She only heard the stories of them from Scott--she never had the chance to meet them in person--until today. Following his father’s footsteps, Captain America was her favorite--(not to mention the embarrassing PSA videos that her school still used to this day)--so it was very thrilling for her to see him up close.
“Scott!” Evans called him. “Nice to see you.”
Evans offered him his hand to shake, and Scott took it with delight.
“Nice to see you too, Cap,” Scott said. “Wait--no--you’re not Captain America anymore. Sorry. Uh...what should I call you? Steve? No, no, no...sorry. Rogers? No, that sounds just too rude. It’s been a while. How about--”
“Chris would be just fine,” Evans said, chuckling. “And I don’t mind Cap either.”
That’s when Scott finally realized this wasn’t Steve Rogers. Well, he was, in a way, but he wasn’t actual Steve Rogers. The person standing in front of him was Chris Evans, the actor from another dimension...also, the one who saved Scott from the Quantum Realm.
“Oh, you’re...right,” Scott said. “Are you all…? Okay, uh...what brings you here, all the way to San Francisco?”
“We have a situation,” Hemsworth said.
“The Avengers--the Original Six and a few others--were captured by HYDRA,” Scarlett said.
“I thought they retired,” Scott said, frowning. “Wait--did you say HYDRA?”
“Yes, it’s a long story and we’ll explain it on our way there,” Mark said. “Will you come with us?”
“Of course! It would be an honor,” Scott said.
He then faced Hope and Cassie.
“Guys, sorry about the movie night...but I have to go,” Scott said. “Avengers need me.”
Hope kissed Scott on his lips and Cassie hugged him tightly.
“Go do your thing, Ant-man,” Hope said. “I’ll be waiting right here.”
“Just come home safe, Dad,” Cassie said.
Scott nodded and followed the cast to the Quinjet. He was surprised by Loki’s presence in the Quinjet--he never really talked with Loki with before, but he knew enough that he wasn’t that close with the cast or the Avengers themselves.
“Something really bad happened, huh?” Scott asked the cast.
“You should sit down,” Evans said. “We have something to tell you.”
So for the second time of the day, the cast filled Scott with everything that happened so far since yesterday--(God, it felt like years but it’s only been two days)--and Scott was equally confused as the time Robert and Tony explained the multiverse and Time Heist five years ago.
“...That is the most bizzare thing I have ever encountered in my life,” Scott said. “Is this..like dying and coming back to life common around here?”
“No,” the entire cast replied.
“Yes,” Loki shouted from the cockpit. “Heading to New York now.”
Within seconds, another green portal opened and the Quinjet was flying above the Empire State Building. Scott blinked.
“Wh--what just happened?” Scott asked.
“Loki knows how to create portals now, like Strange,” Evans answered for him.
“I’m gonna take back what I just said,” Scott said. “Now this , is the most bizzare thing I’ve ever encountered in my life.”
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
Pietro and Rhodey were at the Avengers Compound, sleeping. Rhodey spent his day watching movies and Pietro attended his regular training sessions of the week. They both heard the hot news that was all over the Compound--that the Original Six, along with some mysterious guests were spotted at the Compound earlier. It wasn’t difficult to guess who those mysterious guests were--both of them knew that today was Robert’s birthday. So it must’ve been the Avengers cast who had come over from their dimension to celebrate their fallen friend’s special day. It did raise the question of why the Original Six were at the Compound with the cast, but they didn’t really think of it as a big deal.
That was until both of them were woken in the middle of the night by the cast. For Pietro, it was Jeremy who pulled him out of bed as quietly as possible (he had to go through the vents to avoid security cameras because no one could find out about the cast’s identity) and for Rhodey, it was Evans. Pietro and Rhodey both basically shrieked when they woke up.
“What in the hell--” Rhodey almost screamed as Evans stood next to him.
“I’m Chris,” Evans said. “Follow me to the Quinjet--this is urgent.”
Before Rhodey could ask more questions, he was already following Evans outside, to the Quinjet. On the other hand, Scarlett, Hemsworth, and Loki were heading to the Weapons Room to grab extra suits and any weapons that could come in handy. The rest of the cast stayed inside the Quinjet, waiting for the others to return.
“What if someone sees us?” Hemsworth asked. Thankfully, he and Scarlet remembered how to get to the room, even if it was five years ago. You don’t usually forget things that happened while your life was on the line.
“That’s where I come in, brother,” Loki said. “Oh, sorry, you’re not Thor. I apologize.”
“That’s alright, Loki,” Hemsworth said with a smile. “You’re a brother to me in a way, as much as Tom is.”
That made Loki smile a little. When the three of them arrived at the Weapons Room, they realized they needed a special access code and a badge to get in. Five years ago, Robert could do that easily with his full access to the Compound and FRIDAY, but that wasn’t the case now.
“What now?” Hemsworth asked.
Without hesitation, Scarlett took the fire extinguisher that was located a few feet from them and smashed it against the glass door. As the glass shattered, a loud alarm went up, through the entire Compound.
“Why did you do that?!” Hemsworth yelled at her. “Now SHIELD agents are going to come for us!”
“Because we don’t have time to think,” Scarlett yelled back. “Get what we need.”
“I like her,” Loki said to Hemsworth, as three of them went inside.
Within a minute, they gathered suits and weapons like nano-tech guns. They could hear the footsteps--probably a bunch of SHIELD agents--running down the stairs.
“It’s coming from the Weapons Room!” one of the agents yelled from a distance.
“We have to leave. Now !” Loki yelled and ran towards the exit. Three of them barely made it out--the SHIELD agents almost got them as the double doors opened. As they safely boarded the Quinjet, Scarlett turned to Loki.
“Why didn’t we used your portal ability?”
“...Because unlike Strange, I’m using my own magic to do it,” Loki said. “Which means, every time I create a portal, I feel drained. And we still have to make a jump to Prague.”
“Are we ready to go? Here’s everything we gathered,” Hemsworth said, dumping suits and weapons on the floor.
“So they told me Robert’s alive somewhere and the Avengers have been captured by HYDRA,” Rhodey said.
“You heard it right,” Scarlett said.
“And it’s up to us to save them,” Hemsworth added.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
When the Avengers woke up, each of them was tied to a bed of some sorts, and a tube was gathering each Avenger’s blood, putting them into a bottle. People in lab coats were collecting information on the Avengers’ DNA as well. Tony groaned first, blinking.
“...What the fuck happened? Is everyone okay? Peter?”
“I’m here, Mr. Stark,” Peter said. Tony turned and could see that he was right next to Peter, which was a relief--he was at least close to him.
“Why do I feel like something terrible’s gonna happen?” Bucky asked, groaning.
“Because you are probably right,” Sam said.
“D-did you just agree with me?” Bucky asked, quite surprised.
Sam rolled his eyes.
“Why is that the only time you two agree with each other is when we’re about to be tortured and die?” Steve sighed.
“What do you think will happen to us?” Natasha asked.
“...Same as Robert, maybe? He did get tortured while people in lab coats were present,” Tony said.
“I really don’t like that idea,” Clint said.
“They are even able to hold me,” Bruce said, trying his best to break free. He was unsuccessful.
"What...happened?" Hiddleston said, waking up. It felt he got hit by a train, to honest.
"We got captured by HYDRA," Thor responded. "The same people who took our friend Robert."
"Can you use your powers to break the bonds?" Tony asked.
Hiddleston shook his head. No matter how much he focused, no ice came out of his hands.
“This brings back memories I never want to remember,” Bucky said. “What’s up with me and torture?”
Then, the door opened and Kuznetsov came in with a smile along with Asset 65. Oh, Tony hated them. Both of them so much.
“Good morning, Mr. Stark,” Kuznetsov said.
“Now that you’ve caught all the Avengers, what are you going to do, torture us like you did with Robert?” Tony spit it out, glaring up at the man.
“Oh, no, not at all, Mr. Stark,” Kuznetsov said.
“So you have him,” Steve said. “And you tortured him. It’s true.”
“Part of it is,” Kuznetsov said. “You’ll figure it out soon enough. You see, Mr. Rogers, I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. When the Avengers were first formed, I had this idea of creating my own Avengers, my own group of people with specialized skills. I named it Project Geminus . At first, everyone wanted to explore my idea--who wouldn’t want their own Avengers that worked for HYDRA? But as the Winter Soldier here failed to follow his orders, the project was forcibly shut down. That is, until HYDRA officially fell and I gained control of European HYDRA.”
“You’re insane,” Natasha said.
“Possibly,” Kuznetsov said. “When I reopened the Project, I wanted to make it work. So I’ve been spying on the Avengers--who you met up with, where you lived...then, I found out there were a group of Avengers, who happened to be from another dimension.”
“You’ve been following us around years,” Tony said, disgusted.
“Luckily, Thanos’ Snap or whatever didn’t affect me,” Kuznetsov said. Oh, how Tony wanted to kill him, right here and now.
“It took five years, but when I finally closed the portal, I knew you--especially you the ‘Original Six’--would come after here,” Kuznetsov said. “There aren’t many people or organizations that are capable of that.”
“You would never win!” Peter shouted. “Whatever you’re planning, it won’t work. We defeated Thanos and his army before. We’ll easily defeat you.”
“Oh, how innocent you are,” Kuznetsov said, touching his face.
“Don’t you dare touch him! Don’t touch my son , you bastard!” Tony yelled at Kuznetsov.
“How touching,” Kuznetsov said. “Father-and-son relationship...Never thought Tony Stark had a heart.”
"But I'm curious...about you," Kuznetsov said, walking up to Hiddleston. "You're not Loki. You're merely a human. However, you possess something extraordinary. A gift, maybe. You must be a Inhuman--"
Kuznetsov’s words were cut off by a blast through the door. There, the Avengers cast stood, all suited and geared up, along with Scott, Rhodey, Pietro, and...Loki.
“What? You didn’t see that coming?” Pietro said to Kuznetsov.
Loki stepped forward and yelled,
“Your savior is here!”
Thor just chuckled.
“Oh, yes you are, brother.”
Chapter 7: Known as
The Avengers are rescued by the cast and other heroes. Tom accidently touches Asset 65--triggering memories or visions on both sides. Through his visions, the Avengers realize someone is a danger to the SHIELD and the Avengers.
But, one thing they don't know is--that 'someone' is totally a different person.
I'm sorry for the late update! This was a very long chapter and it had so many details. From now on, I think every chapter's gonna be this long so I will probably update once or twice a week. I'm doing my best to write as much as I can every day.
And also IMPORTANT UPDATE: my username was rachelldo5, but I changed it to originalsix3000! :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The cast was horrified at what they saw as they burst through the laboratory door. The Avengers were all tied up and their blood and DNA were being transferred into small glass bottles.
“This..this is HYDRA? This is...horrible,” Scott said, unable to contemplate what was happening in front of him.
“...I didn’t want to come back here,” Pietro said, grunting. “This is where all my nightmares come from.”
Pietro ran through the lab, breaking all the bindings that held the Avengers down. Loki temporarily froze Kuznetsov and Asset 65 for the time being. Hemsworth immediately rushed to Hiddleston, checking if he was alright.
“Hey, Tom...you alright? Did they do anything to you?” Hemsworth asked, panicking. The memories of Thanos’ blade piercing Hiddleston’s body and Hiddleston bleeding to death came back to Hemsworth’s mind. He already lost Hiddleston once.He couldn’t lose his brother from another mother again. Not to this world. He already lost Robert to that.
“I’m fine, Chris,” Hiddleston said, getting up. “No need to worry.”
Hiddleston moved his hands around and saw his ice powers were back again-- So whatever HYDRA did to him and the Avengers, they weren’t trying to take their powers away.
Evans and Rhodey walked up to Tony, while Tom checked on Peter.
“Tony, are you alright?” Rhodey asked, comforting him just like he did many years ago when he first found Tony in the middle of the desert. This was the second time Rhodey found him captive by a terrorist organization.
“I’m okay, I’m okay…” Tony said, reaching for Peter. He was hugging Tom--sniffling a bit.
Loki ran over to Thor, who was laughing because his brother was here to save him, the same way he did six years ago at Asgard.
“...Always dramatic, aren’t you?” Thor said, as Loki helped him get up.
“You’re stupid, you know that?” Loki said, but with a faint smile on his face. Thor seemed okay.
Sebastian walked over to Steve,Bucky, and Sam, giving them a hand. They both looked grateful.
“...Must’ve been difficult for you,” Sebastian said to Bucky. “Coming back here, getting captured by HYDRA again.”
“...I wasn’t alone this time around,” Bucky said, eyeing Steve and Sam. “And they can’t hurt me anymore.”
Steve patted Bucky on his back. Even Sam, who usually mocked Bucky, gave him a smile and hugged him.
Scarlett helped Natasha up, while Jeremy offered a hand to Clint, and Mark went up to Bruce. Mark was in the Hulkbuster again.
“You know, I’ll never get the hang of this thing,” Mark said, looking down. “It’s good that you don’t have to anymore.”
“Thank you for coming, Mark,” Bruce said, standing up.
“Does this place scare you?” Scarlett asked Natasha, thinking of the Red Room and her earlier days as an assassin.
“If you are asking if it reminds me of my past, then yes,” Natasha said. “But no, I’m not scared of it. I’ve moved on from that.”
Scarlett smiled at her response. It reminded Scarlett of her particular line as Natasha Romanoff in Avengers: Endgame , the original version.
I used to have nothing. And then I got this. This job. This family. And I was...I was better because of it.
The Avengers really changed Natasha--for the better. Scarlett was glad. Since they managed to keep Natasha alive in this universe, she hoped that she would move on and live a happy life which she deserved from the very beginning.
“Tough day?” Jeremy asked Clint, half-joking.
“...Shut up,” Clint said, grunting.
Kuznetsov and Asset 65 slowly stood up, realizing what was going on. Without hesitation, Asset 65 pinned Evans to the floor, since he was standing closest to him. He started to choke the life out of Evans--Evans’ eyes widened, losing breath every second. As Tony was about to blast Asset 65, he stopped. He stopped choking Evans...he didn’t know why. It was as if his instinct had told him that he shouldn’t kill this man. That he was... different than the others. He, who killed countless other soldiers in cold blood, couldn’t proceed to actually choke the life out of him.
Confused, Asset 65 turned around, only to be faced with none other than Tom Holland. He only knew this boy as the counterpart of Peter Parker...but why did he look so familiar ? Like he knew him before...no, not just knowing who he was...he felt a strong attachment to this boy, who directly stared into his eyes.
Tom stared back and for some reason, he didn’t attack Asset 65 or tried to back away from him. Tony and Evans tried to pull him away, but Tom stayed where he was, and reached his arm to the assassin. He felt like the answer to his recurring visions was this insane, worse-than-the-Winter-Soldier assassin. When he finally touched him, flashes of visions filled Tom’s mind.
Robert was screaming again for Tom--and now the Avengers cast--Chris, Scarlett, Jeremy...he cried.
Then he was calling for his wife Susan and his kids.
Then...an image of Robert overlapped with an image of Asset 65--but he didn’t have his powers yet. It was as if he was watching Robert tortured to death.
At last, William Allen was smiling in the same lab Robert was tortured. He was talking to Kuznetsov and nodding.
The visions went by so fast and Asset 65 felt a headache coming--that’s when he finally shoved Tom to the ground. But Tom didn’t move. No, couldn’t move.
What he saw just now...was so horrifying.
Sharp pain went through Asset 65’s head--something he never felt before. Yes, he has felt pain before, but not like this. This was something entirely new. But yet, at the same time, something old was coming back to him.
Asset 65--or Robert--was hugging Tom. They both looked happy. Tom smiled at Robert, and he smiled back.
Then, the scene changed.
He was with all the other Avengers cast--Evans, Hemsworth, Scarlett, Mark, Jeremy, Hiddleston, Sebastian--and lots of other people he can’t quite recognize. They were all at a party or something...no, not a party, it was..a movie set. But they were all laughing and hugging.
They were happy.
“What the hell are you doing?!” Kuznetsov yelled at Asset 65, which snapped him out of the flashes. “Get rid of him!”
Now his instincts, but different ones than he felt when he was choking Evans, took over him. This was his assassin instincts that Kuznetsov trained him for the last five years. Using his powers, now his hands glowed a bit purple and blue, Asset 65 threw Tom across the lab.
“ Tom !” Tony screamed and finally blasted Asset 65.
Pietro picked Tom up. Tony blasted Asset 65 once more and headed for the exit. He wanted to rip him apart for hurting Tom--his kid. He wanted to kill him for helping Kuznetsov so he can accomplish the insane plan of his. Because Tony knew Kuznetsov wouldn’t last a single minute against him or any other Avengers without his Super Assassin.
“Tony...we don’t have much time,” Steve said. “He’s gonna recover anytime soon.”
Tony turned and glared at Kuznetsov, who just smiled. He knew the Avengers and the cast were escaping from his grasp, but he didn’t seem alarmed at all. In fact, he looked even more confident than before, as if everything was going as planned. As the Avengers and the cast quickly left the lab--Asset 65 locked his deadly, murderous eyes with them. His confused look was gone.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
The Avengers and the cast boarded the Quinjet. They were relieved to be out of the HYDRA base--getting captured by Nazis was not a pleasant experience. Thankfully, the Avengers wasn’t harmed, at least, on the outside. According to Bucky, what he experienced there was nothing compared to what he had to endure for 70 years or so as the Winter Soldier. While HYDRA didn’t torture the Avengers physically, it was still a terrifying expereince. Steve couldn’t imagine how painful those years must’ve been for his best friend.
“I’m...I’m sorry, Buck,” Steve said quietly. “I don’t know...what you had gone through all those years. I’m sorry for not being there for you.”
“It’s okay, Stevie,” Bucky said with a faint smile. “Not your fault. It’s all in the past now.”
But that didn’t ease Steve up at all--it just made him wanted to find Robert faster. Wherever he was, he must be in terrible pain right now...getting tortured over and over again.
“Thank you,” Tony said to the cast and four other heroes. Without them, the Avengers would’ve never gotten out of that place. “For saving us.”
“I owe you guys my life,” Thor said. “Thank you, Loki.”
“Thank you for coming back for us,” Steve said. “It must’ve been difficult.”
“Well, we had some help,” Sebastian said, looking at the four heroes. “Also, I couldn’t leave you. Not when you saved me in a HYDRA base once.”
Sebastian smirked. Steve just smiled, knowing that he was referring to Steve’s first (suicide) mission as Captain America. He also said that in character--which made him sound like Bucky so much. Maybe the actors and their characters are supposed to blend in. Each actor and each character always had similarities.
“You guys should rest,” Mark suggested. “It’s going to be a long flight.”
On their way home, Tom couldn’t stop thinking about a series of visions he had when he touched Asset 65. He knew his visions were linked to Robert in some way. What he didn’t know was that Asset 65 and Robert were directly linked.
“Tom, how are you doing?” Tony asked, sitting down next to him. He softly smiled at Tom, which made him think of Robert more and more. Tom knew Tony wasn’t asking about his physical injuries from getting thrown across the lab. He had a few bruises, but nothing serious.
“To be honest, I don’t know,” Tom said, sighing. “When I...I touched the soldier, I had flashes of visions. Lots of them. At first it was Robert screaming again...but then it changed to Asset 65...like he was watching Robert’s torture on a screen. Like...a movie. Then...William Allen...he was...there. In the same lab where Robert was.”
“007 was...no, is...HYDRA? Why am I not surprised?” Tony rolled his eyes. The SHIELD agent turning out to be a HYDRA agent was an old trick, but it made much more sense now. Tony hated William from the very beginning--the moment he appeared in front of his lake house.
“Tony, what did you just say?” Evans asked.
“Everyone, listen up. 007 is HYDRA,” Tony said. “Tom saw him in his vision when he...touched the soldier guy. He was in the same lab as Robert.”
“...Can HYDRA please stop smuggling their agents into SHIELD?” Steve said, putting his hand on his head.
He was frustrated that from 2014, (no, way before that since that’s year they found out about HYDRA’s involvement in SHIELD) HYDRA infiltrated SHIELD in mind-blowing ways. He thought they’ve cleaned out SHIELD long time ago. Fury had rebuilt SHIELD and everything, especially after everyone came back from the Snap.
“More like can Fury pick better allies and agents?” Evans pointed it out. “Alexander Pierce, Rumlow, Sitwell, even Mysterio...the only good allies Fury had were Carol and Coulson, honestly.”
Natasha glared at him.
“I was a SHIELD agent before I joined the Avengers,” Natasha said. “Are you saying I wasn’t a good agent?”
“N-no, of course you were,” Evans gulped. “...And still are.”
“Oh, Chris, you fucked up,” Sebastian said, laughing.
“Give me a break, I’m not Steve,” Evans said.
“But you were ,” Natasha said. “At some point in your life.”
Natasha looked directly into Evans’ eyes and smirked. She then turned around and started talking with Scarlett. Even though he only saw that look on screen with Scarlett as Nat, he recognized the look instantly. It was I-will-get-back-at-you look. Steve came up to him and patted his back.
“Sorry, pal. You’re dead...at some point,” Steve said sympathetically.
“...How do you deal with her in a relationship?” Evans whispered in Steve’s ear, making sure Natasha wasn’t around.
“I don’t,” Steve replied. “She deals with me.”
“We should confront 007 ASAP,” Natasha said. “Maybe they’ve already figured out that we know about him. We don’t have enough time.”
“But we are still four hours away from New York,” Clint said, checking the dashboard.
“Loki, can you open a portal for us again?” Hemsworth asked.
But Loki shook his head.
“Sorry, my magic hasn’t fully recovered yet,” Loki said. “I used all of it when I opened three portals consecutively.”
“No need,” Tony said. “It’s time to use the Button.”
“The what now?” Scott asked.
“When I gave the Quinjet to Thor, I installed some thrusters so the flight time would decrease,” Tony said. “They’re limited though, you can only use upto a couple of times before you have to recharge.”
Without hesitation, Tony pressed the red button on the dashboard, and the Quinjet immediately accelerated, as if they were riding a rollercoaster.
“...So this is how Thor got to New York fast,” Natasha said, walking up to the group. “I knew something was there.”
"This is almost fast as me if I could run in the sky," Pietro added. "Almost."
A few Avengers and the cast rolled their eyes at Pietro's remark.
"Well, you can't fly or anything so why don't you shut your mouth, kid," Jeremy said.
Clint raised his eyebrow. That comment was quite impressive. Pietro did shut up but not before he glared at Jeremy.
“...What do you think happened to Robert?” Tony asked. Now that they were out of the base and safe, he thought about how they failed to find traces of Robert back in there. Kuznetsov definitely knew where Robert was kept and probably was the person tortured him.
“I don’t know,” Steve said. “Maybe they moved him to another base. That Kuznetsov guy would probably know about it.”
“We need to go back,” Tom said desperately. “When I...I touched the soldier, I saw him. I saw Robert in...his memories. He was watching a video of Robert getting tortured.”
“Does anyone have any idea who that soldier was?” Clint asked. “He had powers--multiples of them.”
“He’s probably HYDRA’s newest asset,” Bucky said. “I was called the Asset during my time there. It’s been 10 years, so it’s not a surprise that they found someone to replace me. This one has the Winter Soldier abilities and supernatural powers--much more dangerous than me.”
“But we need him,” Tom said. “I think he’s the connection to Robert in some way.”
“No, you are not going back there, Tom,” Sebastian said. “It’s too dangerous.”
Jokes aside, he really cared for the kid. As an only child, Tom always felt like a younger brother to him, and while he was still confused on this whole HYDRA situation, he knew for a fact that going back there or to that mad Winter Soldier 2.0 was not an option.
“Even if we wanted to, how are we going to approach him? If we get close, he’ll just try to kill us again anyway,” Evans said.
“We’ll find a way,” Tony said. “We always do. But first, let’s go and beat up our 007. And educate Fury on agent recruitments.”
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
Asset 65 sat in his room, thinking. He didn’t want to, but his mind kept tracing back to that moment earlier in the day, when Peter Parker counterpart Tom Holland slightly touched him. It was only 10 seconds or so, but he definitely felt something --love, warmth…? He wasn’t sure. But it wasn’t cold. It was a feeling that he hasn’t felt in years. It wasn’t a question or a command. It was...something special, a memory, perhaps.
That boy--Tom--called him Robert , or at least called out his name. While no one at HYDRA referred to him by his name anymore, but that didn’t change the fact that he was Robert Downey Jr., right? He didn’t even remember the last time they called him Robert. Probably a few years ago--and he didn’t care. He was fine being Asset 65 all the time. That’s what he was, anyway.
But now...now was different. When Tom called him Robert...he remembered . Not all of it, of course, but he remembered how happy he used to be, and he was definitely not living as a daily assassin and a spy. He remembered that Tom was in the center of his past life, as well as these Avengers ‘cast.’
He had a life with them.
--And SHIELD took that away from him.
But was it SHIELD?
Robert knew Kuznetsov knew pretty much everything about him. He knew about his past, his torture, and his change. That meant he knew about Tom. About the Avengers cast. About...his friends…
Robert stood up and finally took off the mask he was wearing for hours. He then touched his face. Then walked up to a mirror and got a good look of his face, his real face. Most of the time, his face was covered with a variety of masks.
He didn’t want to admit, but the face in the mirror looked exactly like Tony Stark--to the point where he could go out and tell the world that he was Tony Stark and every one of them would believe him. But he couldn't do that. He didn’t want to do that. Either way, that choice was not upto him. Staring at his face made him realize that maybe he really belonged with the Avengers cast.
Robert heard the doorknob turning. He turned and Kuznetsov came in. He quickly put on his Asset 65 face--a soldier should not show any emotions. That’s what he learned.
“You did a good job out there today, soldier,” Kuznetsov said.
“But they escaped, sir,” Robert said quietly.
“We got what we need from them,” Kuznetsov said. “For now. It actually worked out perfectly, because I finally got to see the other set of Avengers.”
Robert didn’t say anything for a moment. He knew what he wanted to say, but he wasn’t sure he should. Being a soldier, being the Asset of HYDRA meant that you were supposed to obey the given commands, and don’t ask questions for the most part. And never, ever show emotions. Emotions were a weakness to the soldier. But he couldn’t help it. The urge was so strong--and those memories still lingered in his mind.
“Sir, I...I--knew them,” Robert said at last. “I’m not sure...but I think I knew them before...the incident.”
Robert always called his torture ‘incident’ because he didn’t want to say the word torture out loud. That’s what everyone else called it anyways.
“...Your memories came back?” Kuznetsov asked, a bit alarmed.
“No, sir. Just when Tom Holland kid touched me--I saw flashes. Of me. I was.. with them,” Robert said.
Kuznetsov thought for a moment.
That Tom Holland could be dangerous. He could be a liability to his Project. He waited years for this. He couldn’t let a foreigner ruin his plan. But at the same time, he couldn’t just brainwash Robert all over again. Alexander Pierce tried that with the Winter Soldier, and...that didn’t end well, did it? No, he needed something stronger.
He knew what to do.
“Don’t worry, son,” Kuznetsov said, putting his hand on Robert’s shoulder. “You’ll get them back.”
Then Kuznetsov left the room, leaving Robert confused and surprised. That was the first time Kuznetsov called him ‘son,’ or anything other than ‘Asset 65’ or ‘soldier.’ Robert didn’t know if he should be happy or scared, because change was mostly considered bad in HYDRA.
Leaving Robert’s room, Kuznetsov had a smile on his face. He found a way to perfect Project Geminus. And he had all the ingredients he needed.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
The Quinjet landed in front of the Avengers Compound.
“So...are we all gonna go in or what?” Hemsworth asked.
“No, you guys stay,” Tony said. “Us six, Barnes and Wilson will go in--we don’t need more attention than we already have right now.”
“We’re going in, too,” Pietro said. “Rhodey and I live there. But you guys can go upto Fury on your own. I don’t want to deal with him.”
“Are you going to be okay Tony?” Rhodey asked.
Tony nodded. He’s been through a lot--including alien invasions, betrayal by his close friend, and time travel. Sure, he just got out of HYDRA’s captivity, but this was nothing compared to what he had to survive through for the past decade or so.
“Yeah, I’ll be alright,” Tony said.
“You know, I hate SHIELD,” Sam said. “And I thought they learned.”
“Well, apparently they haven’t,” Bucky said. “They need to question their agents’ loyalty more often.”
“I’m surprised Fury trusted someone who’s been a SHIELD agent for only five years to be honest,” Natasha said. “For a man who has trust issues, he really has terrible allies.”
As the Quinjet’s dock opened, the Avengers walked into the Compound, ignoring admired and shocked looks of SHIELD agents and workers. The cast and the rest of the Avengers watched their team storming into the Compound, half-worried and half-proud.
“Do you think they’ll be okay?” Tom asked, no one in particular.
“They’ve got enough people to deal with whatever happens inside,” Evans said. “They will be fine.”
“That’s what we thought last time and look what happened,” Scarlett said.
“This is different,” Mark said. “They are just going into Avengers Compound, not an enemy base.”
“You know, I missed you guys,” Peter said with a smile. “I like having you guys around.”
“Well, you’ll see us more often now since we’re trapped here,” Jeremy said.
Loki watched the cast and Peter talking. Even for him, it was quite strange to accept that there was another universe out there with all these people playing the characters. And now each group was aware of each other’s existence. Since the Final Battle, everyone blended in so well--even with grief of losing Robert, the cast managed to make friends with the Avengers in a short amount of time. Socializing was...so natural to them. Maybe it was because they were all actors, who were used to publicity and communication.
He came to help because his brother was in danger--not because he was overly attached to the rest of the Avengers. He wasn’t close to them...yet.
“Hi, Loki,” a voice called him--it was Tom Hiddleston. “How have you been?”
“Nothing,” Loki said. “I know how to make portals now.”
“That’s great,” Hiddleston said softly. “Thank you for coming for us. Without you, they would never made in time.”
That scared Loki for a moment. The thought of losing Thor again--there was nothing scarier than that. For once, he’s glad that he threatened (begged) Stephen Strange to the point where he finally agreed to teach him his talent.
“It was the right thing to do,” Loki said. “How are your powers coming along?”
Hiddleston looked down at his hands.
“Pretty good,” Hiddleston said. “Now I’m realizing that you saved my life twice already. I don’t know how to pay you back.”
“I did what I had to do,” Loki said. “We all deserve a second chance. And you deserve those powers.”
For the first time, Loki smiled at Hiddleston--Hiddleston smiled back.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
The Avengers stormed into Fury’s office, ignoring a SHIELD agent trying to stop them from entering the room.
“He’s busy right now--” the agent reasoned.
“Believe me, Fury would want to know about this,” Steve said, barging in.
“What the fuck are you all doing here? Do you know Loki broke into the Compound last night--”
Fury’s words were cut off by Tony.
“Yeah, we know. They were trying to save us,” Tony said, frustrated. “Look, we had a long night here, and we really don’t have time to deal with your crap.”
“Saving you from who?”
“...HYDRA,” Steve said. He then looked around and lowered his voice. “We went to a HYDRA base in Prague last night to save our friend and they captured us. We saw the Psychokinetic Soldier.”
Fury’s eyes widened at the name ‘Psychokinetic Soldier.’
“You saw him? How--”
“That’s not the main concern here,” Tony said, cutting him off again. Fury glared at him. “007 is HYDRA. The agent that came to my house. He works for HYDRA.”
“...You’re wrong,” Fury said, shaking his head. “He isn’t.”
“Nick, I know you want to believe that--” Natasha began to speak.
Now was Fury’s turn to cut the Avengers off. He put his hand up to silence Natasha.
“Five years ago, he worked for HYDRA,” Fury said. “As an undercover agent. No one volunteered to go into a HYDRA base especially after the whole Thanos situation, but he did. He was one of the new agents. He’s the one who let the SHIELD know HYDRA got a new asset. A new Winter Soldier.”
The Avengers were silent--they didn’t know what to do with the information. Still, Tony couldn’t shake off the feeling that something was off with William--he didn’t like the way he talked and how he challenged Tony multiple times.
“...So what the kid saw was...his time during HYDRA undercover agent?” Bucky asked the Avengers. Some nodded in realization--others were still processing what they just heard.
“That doesn’t change the fact that there’s something wrong with him,” Tony said. “Where is he? I want to talk to him.”
“Allen’s not here, Stark,” Fury said. “He’s taking his day off.”
Tony narrowed his eyes. It couldn’t be a coincidence that the day he was gone was the day right after their HYDRA situation. He still believed that William had to do something with HYDRA and perhaps he was still working for them.
“Looks like we’re done here, then,” Tony said, sighing. He turned around to leave and the other Avengers followed. No one seemed satisfied with the answer they got. As they were about to leave the room, Fury stopped them.
“What are you upto, Stark?” Fury asked. “ You said you were done with the whole Avenging business five years ago. There were multiple times you got the call, but you all declined. And now you all are back together, breaking into HYDRA bases, and questioning SHIELD agents.”
“...I’m just keeping a promise,” that was all Tony said.
The Avengers left Fury’s office, leaving very confused and frustrated Fury behind.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
The Avengers and the cast were back at the lake house. Both teams needed to rest and they didn’t know what to do next anyway. Scott went back home but urged the Avengers that if they needed his help, he was always willing. He also added that he wouldn’t want to miss a chance fighting with the original Avengers again, saying it was a great honor.
However, Bucky, Sam, and Loki all stayed at the lake house with the rest of the Avengers and the cast because they all knew the problem wasn’t solved. Bucky especially wanted to stay because this was HYDRA related and he couldn’t stop thinking that there was someone--Robert--out there, getting tortured and possibly brainwashed by HYDRA.
“...I still think 007 is hiding something,” Tony said to the Avengers and the cast, sitting on the couch. It’s been days since they got back from the Avengers Compound, and nothing new happened since then.
“Also, that Kuznetsov guy took our bloods. DNA samples,” Steve pointed it out. “Shouldn’t we worried about that?”
“Catching Allen might do it,” Bruce said. “If he’s really linked to HYDRA or something, he will lead us directly to them.”
“Why don’t we go to his apartment then?” Scarlett suggested. “Fury has eye on us. We can’t confront him in Avengers Compound.”
The Avengers and the cast thought it was a valid idea--it was also a good chance to possibly explore his apartment, see if he had any secret weapons or evidence related to HYDRA.
“Do we know where he lives?” Steve asked.
“No, but I know a thing or two about hacking,” Natasha said.
Tony raised his eyebrow at her response. Sure, he knew she was an excellent spy--she could really beat up half of the Avengers if she wanted to--but he didn’t think she would be skilled at getting intel and breaking into internet. That was mostly his and Bruce’s expertise.
“What? I was a SHIELD agent,” Natasha defended herself. “Getting intel by hacking into online services is a given.”
“Legolas, do you know how to do this?” Tony asked.
Clint shook his head.
“I only know how to shoot arrows and fight,” Clint said.
“Well, I did take time to learn it from the very best,” Natasha said with a small smile.
She then walked over to Tony’s hologram screen and started to type in things--codes, maybe. A few websites popped up and Natasha kept typing. The Avengers and the cast watched her work, majority of them in awe. Scarlett smiled at her counterpart’s skills--she always thought Natsaha was a badass and a leader, and this situation just made the fact even more clear.
After five minutes or so, Natasha turned around with a triumphant smile on her face. Everyone knew what that meant.
“...Got him,” Natasha said. “The address is 404 Manhattan Blvd, New York, New York 10011.”
“That was fast,” Tony said, impressed.
Within 10 minutes, the Avengers and the cast were ready. But not everyone decided to go for two reasons: one, they were already on alert by SHIELD. If everyone went, people would definitely notice. Second, some of them wanted to stay at the lake house and research about the portal and how to find and stop Asset 65. At the end, Tony, Steve, Natasha, Tom, and Hiddleston decided to go. They were going to drive there, since it was only half an hour away.
Before they left, Tony went up to Pepper’s room, who was reading a magazine. She didn’t exactly like the idea of the Avengers getting back together and so many people staying over (well half of them were staying at hotels nearby since the lake house wasn’t big enough but still they were here almost 24/7), but she knew it had to be done.
“...Hey, Pep,” Tony said quietly, sitting down next to her. Pepper closed the magazine and eyed Tony.
“Where are you going now?” Pepper asked, sighing. She knew when Tony was up to something important.
“We’re...going to 007--that SHIELD agent’s apartment to investigate,” Tony said. “We think he might lead us to...HYDRA and hopefully Robert.”
Pepper didn’t say anything for a moment. Tony knew that wasn’t a good thing. Silence between conversation was never a good thing. Especially with Pepper.
“Tony. You just got hurt a few days ago,” Pepper said. “And now you’re going back there? What if--what if something really bad happens? What if...you really die this time around?”
Now it’s Tony’s turn to be silent. He doesn’t know what to say--because he understands Pepper so well. Of course she would be scared of losing him. Even Tony himself is scared too because he wasn’t supposed to live. He was supposed to die five years ago, and Robert took that fate. For him.
“I know. It’s scary. But...I wouldn’t be here without Robert,” Tony said. “Robert promised himself to save me. Bet his life on it. Now it’s my turn, Pep. It’s my turn to return that promise. I promised myself I would save him or the cast if it were necessary.”
Pepper kissed him on the lips. She knows she can’t stop him. Not when his mind is so determined on one thing. And it makes sense. He’s just trying to save the one who died for him.
“Please come back to me,” Pepper said. “I need you. Morgan needs you.”
“I promise,” Tony said. Then, he left the room.
As five of them got into Tony’s Audi, Tony swore that he will find out what was behind William Allen today. HYDRA or not, that man had a secret that no one could know.
No more hiding, 007. I’m coming for you.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
William opened his apartment door, holding a cup of coffee and a sandwich in his other hand. It’s been a few tough days, and he would have to go back to work tomorrow. Otherwise Fury might get suspicious. Or the Avengers. He knew Tony especially did not like him or trust him in any way. And he was right. The Avengers shouldn’t trust him at all.
He set his coffee and sandwich down at the kitchen counter. He then went into his room and looked at himself. He gave himself a little smirk.
It’s a pity that Tony Stark didn’t like him. Because they were almost identical.
He had told Tony that they do share some similarities, in ways he wouldn’t imagine. And he wasn’t talking about his arrogance, although that might be up on the list. No, he was talking about his looks. His identity.
William looked at his wrist. It was a silver hologram watch--one very similar to Starkwatch, but different. He looked into the mirror one more time, then tapped it. Soon, his blonde hair and blue eyes disappeared, and dark brown hair and brown eyes took their place. He looked a bit older too--around 50 or so. He looked into the mirror again.
The man standing in front of the mirror was no longer William Allen. No, because William Allen didn’t exist, not really, in the first place. This was the Asset 65, Psychokinetic Soldier to the world.
Or, to the Avengers and the cast, he was known as Robert Downey Jr.
I know this chapter lacked cast interaction and next chapter will focus more on the cast! This chapter was mainly about the Avengers getting suspicious of William Allen, and the reveal of who he really was.
Chapter 8: The man behind the mask
Sebastian and Bucky bond over speaking Romanian to each other. Tony, Steve, Natasha, Tom, and Hiddleston head over to William's for any clues that he might be working for HYDRA.
Later that day, Tom has another vision--a significant one--that leads him to shocking and devastating discovery.
Hi! I'm so so so sorry for the very, very late update! This past week's been super chaotic, with my birthday & all my friends leaving for college. The next one will be up shortly, I promise! Also, shoutout to @sassbrat1984 for giving me the idea of Bucky and Seb speaking Romanian to each other!
*I'm sorry if Romanian transalation is wrong, I got it from google translate.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sebastian sat on the couch, with a bottle of beer in his hand. It’s only been a couple of days since he got sucked into this mess, but so many things already have happened. He has been to a real HYDRA base for god’s sake. While most of Captain America: The Winter Soldier set was based on real places, seeing an actual HYDRA base threw Sebastian off. And he actually saw this Winter Soldier 2.0 who seemed to have unrealistic powers.
And he knew it was far from being over. To be honest, he still hasn’t processed the fact that Robert Downey Jr. was dead and alive--he didn’t really have the time to sit down and think. Until now.
Now that he thought about it, it was dumb for him to think that nothing was wrong with Robert. Sure, he usually enjoyed privacy with his family and all, but he always met up with the Avengers cast once in a while. And Sebastian knew Robert wasn’t the type of person to lose touch all of a sudden. Four years ago at Avengers: Endgame Premiere, that was the last time Sebastian ever saw Robert. Actually no, since that was in fact Tony Stark himself.
Sebastian looked over at the rest of the cast. Every one of them knew--even Spoiler-Man Tom Holland. Soon, a hint of betrayal swept over him. He knew why the cast hid it from him. He wasn’t that dumb. But--that doesn’t mean he didn’t feel left out, ever since he landed in this fictional, not so fictional anymore universe days ago. Each cast member was already familiar with this world, while the fact that Robert could be alive was a shock to them. Sebastian wasn’t. He was still here adjusting--trying to make sense of the truth.
“...You’re awfully quiet,” a voice said.
Sebastian turned and saw Bucky--his counterpart--joining him on the couch. He smiled a little. It still freaked him out to see his face in front of him but he still appreciated his presence.
“I have a lot on my mind,” Sebastian said. “And I haven’t had much time to understand...this world. Until a few days ago, all of this was only existed in comic books and films. And now, everything is real. My dead friend--who I never thought was dead is apparently alive now. We almost died in a HYDRA base. I feel like--”
“...Nothing makes sense? ” Bucky finished the sentence for Sebastian. Sebastian nodded. “I know that face. It’s the face I made when I went to the Smithsonian to figure who the hell I was.”
“Guess we are similar after all,” Sebastian said, turning towards Bucky. “You can call me Seb. That’s what Chris calls me anyway.”
Bucky laughed. Sebastian was surprised--he didn’t laugh as much during his time he played Bucky. Bucky mostly had pain and sadness written over his face. Or confusion. Usually, happiness wasn’t one of them. Bucky usually didn’t get much lines or scenes in the MCU movies Sebastian had played in (much thanks to the Russo brothers), but Sebastian knew most of Bucky’s happiness was gone when he fell off that train.
“Alright, then--you call me Buck,” Bucky said. “I don’t need to tell you who calls me that, do I?”
“No you don’t,” now it was Sebastian’s turn to laugh. After a moment, he decided to try something with his counterpart.
“ ma bucur ca esti fericit ,” Sebastian said softly. “ Meriți asta, Buck. Mai mult decât oricine altcineva din lume .”
Bucky’s eyes widened--mostly because his counterpart spoke Romanian so flawlessly. And it didn’t sound like some lines from his films as Bucky Barnes in his world. Sebastian’s Romanian was so natural, as if he spoke Romanian at an early age. Then, he finally realized what Sebastian said to him and he smiled a bit.
“I was born in Romania,” Sebastian said. “That’s how I know. It’s the first language I ever learned.”
“ Îmi place să te cunosc, prietene , ” Bucky said, reaching his hand for a shake. “ Si multumesc .”
Sebastian took Bucky’s hand and smiled back.
“What are you guys doing?” Evans asked from behind. Both Sebastian and Bucky turned around, seeing none other than Evans standing behind the couch.
“Bonding,” Sebastian said. “I didn’t have time to talk to my twin here.”
Evans broke into a wide grin. Evans was excited for Sebastian because he was finally fitting in more and he knew there was no better person than Bucky himself when it came down to adjusting to a whole new world.
“That’s great! So, tell me. What are you guys talking about?” Evans asked excitedly.
Bucky was about to answer Steve-but-not-so-Steve Evans, but Sebastian beat him to it. He smirked at Evans and directly looked him in the eye. Then he just said,
“...No, I don’t think I will.”
Evans’ grin faded and he scoffed.
“Oh, that’s how it is, Seb? You know I had nothing to do with that scene!” Evans complained--Sebastian was making fun of his last line as Steve Rogers in Avengers: Endgame for the last four years. Evans knew he was not satisfied with Steve’s ending--so weren’t the fans.
Bucky, on the other hand, raised his eyebrow at the pair. What Sebastian said had to be something that only two of them knew, and Bucky had no idea what it was. At first he thought it could be from Steve’s and his memories, but from what he remembered, Steve nor he ever said those words to each other. And now he was confused.
“Now you know how it feels,” Sebastian said. Then he turned to Bucky, who was still trying his best to understand the interaction. “I’ll tell you later.”
Then he got up from the couch and went into the kitchen to trade his empty bottle of beer for a new one. Evans was rolling his eyes at Seb and Bucky just asked him,
“What did you do?”
Bucky didn’t get his answer.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
Robert looked at himself in the mirror. At this point, he wasn’t sure who he was--no one called him Robert anymore, and his other identity William Allen only existed so the SHIELD could eventually fall and HYDRA can take over. And Asset 65 wasn’t really an identity.
As Asset 65, he didn’t have any free will--he had to follow every order that was given to him, regardless of how brutal or cruel it was. He kept it to himself, but there was a reason Robert liked being William Allen, although he himself knew William was a jerk.
As William Allen, at least he got to make his own choices, even though he still had to follow secret HYDRA agenda all the time. Kuznetsov didn’t monitor him when he was William...and that freedom was what Robert cherished.
That kid--Tom Holland--had called him Robert. Well, maybe not to him, but at least to his face. That was the first time he heard his own name in years. Robert didn’t quite understand why Kuznetsov or the other agents at HYDRA never called him Robert, if that really was his name. When he was disguised as William Allen, of course they couldn’t call him that, but when he’s alone or in HYDRA facility, they could call him Robert. But the only name he got was either ‘soldier’ or ‘Asset 65.’ Nothing else.
Robert knew SHIELD tortured him. Tortured him to be away from...his family. His friends. That’s why he worked with HYDRA, to take down SHIELD so he could go back to his home. He didn’t actually hate the Avengers or anything, but he also knew they worked with SHIELD countless times in the past and now they were definitely on SHIELD’s side--he found that out as William Allen. The Avengers were working with Fury, or at least was willing to share their intel.
So it was easy to hate the Avengers. But...it wasn’t easy for Robert to hate the Avengers cast. First of all, he already started to like Tom Holland kid for some reason. And he couldn’t manage to kill Chris Evans--his instincts went against it. He didn’t get to interact with the rest of the cast, but he was pretty sure he felt the same way. Especially after he saw a part of his memory--a happy one where he and the rest of the cast were together. No one confirmed it yet, but he was 90 percent sure that the cast was his family and friends--the ones Kuznetsov had told him he will get them back. For the last five years, whenever Robert asked what was his cause for being the Asset, the answer was always the same for Kuznetsov.
“Friends and family, soldier,” Kuznetsov said. “You will meet them. Time will come.”
So he met them. But they still didn’t know who he was. To the Avengers and the cast, he was either William Allen or Asset 65.
The doorbell rang. Robert looked up--he wasn’t sure who would come to his apartment today. He completed all of his missions days ago. But he still tapped his watch--changing back to William. He checked himself in the mirror again, and headed for the door. He had a knife up his sleeve, just in case someone dangerous was outside.
When he finally opened the door, William was--relieved and disappointed at the same time. He was relieved because it wasn’t another HYDRA agent, but he was disappointed because the Avengers were standing in front of his apartment, shooting glares at him. He had enough of them for days, and given that he has to go back to work tomorrow, their unexpected arrival exhausted William.
“What do you want?” William asked, clearly annoyed.
But Tony aimed his repulsor at William and growled.
“I’m going to ask you this once. Who are you, really ?”
William couldn’t help but be startled by the question--because he was literally just trying to figure out who he really was himself. Of course he knew the answer Tony wanted--more like demanded, but he knew he couldn’t give it to him. In fact, William didn’t want to give it to Tony. Although he may look exactly like him on the inside, he hated Tony Stark. Maybe it was good that Tony hated him too as well.
“...I don’t understand, Mr. Stark,” William said casually.
“Oh, I think you do--”
Tony was about to blast William to the floor, only to be stopped by Steve. Steve tightened his grip on Tony’s repulsor arm, and Tony really felt what Super Soldier strength was like. He couldn’t move his arm at all, no matter how hard he tried. Tony didn’t have a choice but to turn off his repulsor. Steve only let go of his arm then.
“God, Capsicle, you have a firm grip,” Tony complained.
“You can’t kill him, Tony,” Steve reasoned. “He can be our guide.”
William scoffed. He wasn’t sure where they were going with this, but one thing was sure: he will never be their guide. He was already an agent of an organization he hated and ruined his life, and that was more than enough.
“Do you work for HYDRA?” Natasha asked. “And don’t try lying. I know when someone isn’t telling the truth.”
“No,” William denied it quickly.
Honestly, he wasn’t expecting that today. He wasn’t sure how the Avengers got that information, or what made them to speculate enough to barge into his apartment all of the sudden. As a HYDRA and a SHIELD agent, William (and Robert) was trained to lie and hide, but none of them included five Avengers coming into your apartment and accusing you of something you actually are.
“But you were seen in a HYDRA base--” Tony started to argue. William knew this was his chance, so he took it.
“I was, as an undercover agent,” William emphasized the word ‘undercover.’ “No one volunteered to go into HYDRA, and I did. I was inside their base for a few months. End of the story.”
“Yeah, you volunteered because you were already one of them!” Tony shouted.
William sighed. Tony wasn’t wrong. He had already finished his training in HYDRA by then, and was looking for an opportunity to raise his ranks--or clearance levels, as they are called. Infiltrating HYDRA facility, his...place, was the easiest option for William and it worked out perfectly. After providing ‘crucial’ information to SHIELD, William Allen was no longer a rookie agent. Everyone was proud of him--even Nick Fury himself--and gave him the clearance level of 5 instantly. He gained the high rank and trust at the same time.
But William looked straight into Tony’s eyes. He then took his knife from the sleeve and put it by Tony’s throat. Before the rest of Avengers could do anything, William started to talk--in an angry voice.
“My family was killed by HYDRA,” William hissed. “I grew up alone, didn’t have a good, happy childhood. As I grew older, I met these people--a group of friends who actually understood me and liked me for who I was. We soon became best friends--a family. We made these plans to travel the world. Live together in a big apartment in New York. But right after college, HYDRA approached us. We were all scientists, and we were quite brilliant, believe it or not. I refused the offer because I had a bad feeling about it. I tried to convince others not to join--but they refused. We had a big fight that night. After that...I never saw them again.”
When he finished talking, William slowly backed away from Tony, putting away his knife.
“...How do you know it was them?” Steve asked.
“Because as I was cleaning out their stuff, I found a video,” William said more calmly. “ It seemed like they were recording their progress on some kind of project, and one of the last videos was them getting dragged by HYDRA agents. They were screaming. Crying.”
William looked down for a minute and glared at Tony.
“So don’t you dare say I’m one of them,” William said. “I only went in there to confirm my friends’ death and to gather any intel on HYDRA so I could destroy them.”
“...What were their names?” Natasha asked. Although the story sounded plausible, Natasha was familiar with these tactics--if William was telling the truth, then her question wouldn’t be a problem. Saying their names out loud may be difficult after what they’ve gone through, but it wouldn’t take more than 10 seconds for him to say those names.
If they really were his family.
“Natasha--” Steve tried to stop her from asking more pressing questions.
“No, I need to know,” Natasha replied firmly. She then looked William directly into his eyes. You could read a lot about a person through their eyes. Not many people were aware of it, but the truth always lay behind a person’s eyes--they were like a mirror and Natasha had the ability to read people.
“...Peter Lockham, Laura Sage, and Tyler Nolan,” William answered quietly.
He was looking into Natasha’s eyes, as if telling her that he knew exactly what her intention was. As he answered her, Natasha realized something: she couldn’t read him. It wasn’t because he was a good secret keeper or was excellent at hiding himself. No, this was something different for Natasha. This person in front of her was unreadable--as if there was nothing, no humanity inside him.
“I’m sorry,” Tom said quietly. “For everything that happened. For everything HYDRA did to you.”
When Tom opened his mouth, William instantly knew that this wasn’t Peter. This was Tom. The same boy who touched Robert a few days ago, giving him some happy memories back. William didn’t know how he knew. He just did. As if they had a connection.
He looked at Tom. Just like him, he had a lot of pain in his eyes--and he knew some of it was for Robert. Suddenly, he felt guilty about lying--lying about his background. He didn’t want to lie to Tom. The Avengers and the cast will find out the truth someday--and he didn’t want to see disappointment on Tom’s face.
But it was too late. If William didn’t continue with his story, Natasha would figure it out. He needed more time. He couldn't have her take him down now--no, he still needed to stay within SHIELD. He had some work to do. Another mission. For that mission to succeed, William knew he needed the intel from SHIELD.
“...It’s okay,” William said. “I will get my revenge.”
“Sometimes revenge isn’t the answer,” said a voice behind Steve.
It was--the other Tom. Tom Hiddleston. Loki’s counterpart. But unlike Loki, this man was very calm, William thought. His eyes narrowed. He knew this was the person who Asset 65 fought back in the HYDRA base. The man with ice powers. Kuznetsov was interested in Hiddleston. But just like William switched back to Robert from time to time, it almost seemed like Hiddleston adapted another persona--a more aggressive one, when he used his powers. Maybe his inner Loki was coming out. William wasn’t sure.
“I know how it feels to lose,” Hiddleston said. “But revenge won’t solve your problem. A great friend of mine taught me that.”
William knew his background story was nothing more than a crafted lie, but hearing Hiddleston rejecting his method without a second thought triggered him. This was no longer just an act to him to keep his identity; this was an argument--an argument William wanted to win.
“...What do you know about revenge?!” William yelled at Hiddleston. “You didn’t have your friends ripped off of you! You didn’t see them dying on a fucking video , for god’s sake! You couldn’t--”
William stopped shouting when Tom touched him again. Even before he realized, Tom was gently touching his arm, and somehow that seemed to calm him a little. He stopped yelling at Hiddleston, and his breathing slowed down.
“It’s okay,” Tom said. “Calm down. You’re okay.”
The rage disappeared--and William blinked at Tom. Because he didn’t know why Tom’s presence and touch kept calming him down or just provided him a sense of security and peace. That’s why Robert didn’t push him away immediately when Tom touched him back in the HYDRA base. He let him have his old memories--the painful ones--and in return, Tom gave him something special--the happy memories, when he was a totally different person. When he was...completely free.
“Tom, get away from him!” Tony yelled, pulling Tom back, as if he were his own kid. William frowned at that. He wasn’t going to hurt Tom. He would never--
Then he remembered. He did hurt Tom. Not as William Allen, but as Asset 65. It wasn’t intentional, but he clearly remembered throwing Tom across the lab the other day. He didn’t want to admit, but Tony had every right to be overprotective of Tom, especially if he was suspecting William was working for HYDRA.
“Anyways, please leave me alone,” William said. “I’m not one of them.”
What a lie.
William tried his best not to laugh on the outside, because they were so right. Somehow, they figured it out--that he was a spy from HYDRA. It hurt him to pretend that he worked for SHIELD and despised HYDRA, but he had to do it. Otherwise, his, no Kuznetsov’s other plans would be ruined. And he didn’t want to disappoint him.
Tony, Natasha, and Steve stared at him for a moment. William could tell Tony still had his doubts. Natasha was thinking--probably to see if his story added up. Steve just frowned at William. Tom and Hiddleston were simply standing--not knowing what to say or do. Eventually, Tony turned around and others followed.
“...This doesn’t mean I trust you, 007,” Tony said.
“I know, Mr. Stark,” William said.
And you shouldn’t. You really shouldn’t.
As Tony started the car, Natasha asked Steve.
“Do you think we were wrong?”
“Maybe,” Steve said, looking out his window. William was staring back and closed the front door. “But there’s something about him. I’ve had this feeling before. It’s…familiar.”
“Like how?” Tony asked.
Steve looked around and stared at William’s apartment again.
“...Like the time I found out the Winter Soldier was Bucky,” Steve finally responded.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
The news was disappointing and a relief for the rest of the Avengers and the cast. It was disappointing because they didn’t get a new lead on HYDRA or Asset 65, and it was a relief because they didn’t have to worry about HYDRA infiltrating SHIELD anymore. Tony and Natasha were more on the disappointment side, whereas Steve and others saw it more as a relief.
“So what now?” Bruce asked. “We were wrong about that guy. We don’t know where the Asset 65 is.”
“And even if we did, we don’t know how to fight him,” Mark pointed it out. “He has powers. Powers that we have never seen.”
“...His powers are most likely from the Infinity Stones,” Tony said.
Everyone turned to him. No one expected anyone to have an answer. But Tony blinked at them and made am-I-the-only-one-who-figured -that-out face. For Tony, he thought it was obvious.
“Tony, we are not as smart as you,” Clint reminded him. “We don’t exactly figure things out right away by looking at them for five seconds.”
Tony rolled his eyes at Clint.
“Look, Kuznetsov admitted that it was HYDRA who closed the gate,” Tony said. “And we already know that was done by the power of the Infinity Stones. Fury told us HYDRA has been taking out SHIELD agents--Asset 65 is probably doing that. He is probably the best agent in HYDRA. Not all agents have special powers on top of hand-to-hand combat. When they recruited him, they would’ve given a part of the stones to him.”
“How can we be sure?” Evans asked.
“Because when he threw me across the lab, his hands were glowing purple,” Tom said. “That’s the Power Stone.”
“But why? Why give him all that power? Wouldn’t be easier to make weapons out of the stones, if they have access to them, or at least a part of them?” Scarlett asked.
“...Because having a controlled asset who follows orders without question is far more powerful than a bunch of guns,” Bucky answered. “Weapons like guns, they always tend to break or malfunction. But if you craft a soldier, an asset --that’s when you have the weapon in your hands.”
No one said a word. Everyone just blinked at Bucky. They’ve been so used to having him as an ally, a friend and their Captain America for the past five years that they almost forgot that he was HYDRA’s main asset not many years ago. Both Steve and Evans gave him a sympathetic look, while Sebastian nodded.
“I’ve been there,” Bucky said more quietly. “Not to brag or anything, but when I was the Winter Soldier, I was unstoppable. I never, ever, failed to complete my mission. Until...this guy here.”
Bucky let out a small smile--and Steve smiled back. However, on the other hand, it meant HYDRA really had a perfect soldier for them. And now that this Asset 65 had extra powers--especially Infinity Stones types of powers per se--that made him a lot more dangerous.
“Okay, so now we have an idea of what his powers are,” Hemsworth said. “How do we track him down?”
“I might not be able to open the gate, but I have all the information about the stones stored,” Tony said. “Maybe I can use that to trace signs of any Infinity Stones.”
“Let’s do it, then,” Bruce said.
As Tony and Bruce began to work, Thor stepped out of the lake house and Loki followed him. Thor didn’t stop walking until he got to the edge of the lake.
“Something’s bothering you,” Loki said, standing next to him.
“Past few days have been...eventful,” Thor said. “I’m not sure how to feel about dead people coming back to life, especially if that’s not you, Loki. I’ve been captured by HYDRA and who knows what they did to me in there.”
“At least they didn’t mess with your head,” Loki said. “I would know if they did.”
“Really?” Thor asked, turning to his brother.
“I’ve been through things,” Loki said. “I know when something’s wrong.”
“...Do you think Stark’s theory is true? About the soldier having the power of Infinity Stones?” Thor asked.
“Well, it’s not impossible if they managed to close the portal,” Loki said. “And it’s hard to doubt someone who figured out time travel.”
Thor chuckled. He never heard Loki compliment someone recently, especially Tony Stark.
“Did you just compliment Stark?” Thor asked.
“I’m just saying he has a valid point,” Loki said. “And if what he says it’s true, we can’t do this alone. That soldier will grow more powerful, and will be able to defeat the Avengers alone. He’s designed that way.”
“We won’t be alone, brother,” Thor said, patting Loki on the back. “We’ll figure this out.”
Loki smiled at Thor but that smile disappeared as soon as Loki looked down. He knew wherever the fight was heading, it was not going to end well. He couldn’t figure out how, but wielding the power of Infinity Stones meant you had to sacrifice something. And if that soldier somehow unleashes the full power--the barrier will be shattered, letting chaos ensue.
In the lake house, the cast was chatting amongst each other, trying to lighten up the mood. Tom felt there was a headache coming in his way. He has been getting them quite a lot lately, especially after he set foot in MCU again. He let out a small groan and sat down on the couch. Hemsworth noticed this and sat down next to Tom, with a concerned look.
“Tom, are you alright?” Hemsworth asked, gently patting Tom’s back.
“Ah, just a minor headache,” Tom said, heavily breathing. “I’m sure it will be fine--”
Then, the headache came. But it was different than the ones Tom had before. This one was much more powerful, and it felt like it was piercing through Tom’s brain. Tom screamed--turning everyone’s attention to him at instant.
“Tom! What’s wrong? Talk to me!” Hemsworth was shaking him. Tom was sweating, and his eyes were half closed. Everyone ran over to Tom, and Tony got to him first. He didn’t know what was happening--this was a bit different than the sensory overload Tom had before.
“Tom, hey...stay with me,” Tony said. “Stay with me, kid.”
Tony touched Tom’s forehead. It was sweaty but there were no signs of heat. He didn’t have a fever.
“My head...it hurts,” Tom was on the verge of crying now. “It hurts...like hell.”
Then Tom let out another scream again.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
When he opened his eyes again, he was no longer in the lake house. The Avengers and the cast were gone too--it was just him, in a room of some kind. He stood up and called out some names.
“...Mr. Stark? Chris? Can you hear me?!”
No answer. But when he turned around, he was faced with a figure--someone who Tom missed so much. It was none other than Robert Downey Jr. He was lying on a bed, sweating just like Tom was minutes ago. At instant, Tom knew this was Robert. This was no Tony Stark. He just knew. This was Robert that Tom lost five years ago.
“...Robert? Robert! It’s me, Tom! Wake up! I’m here…” Tom was sobbing, shaking Robert.
He didn’t wake up. Instead, the door opened and two guards came in. They had HYDRA marks on their uniforms.
“NO! DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH HIM! GET AWAY FROM HIM!” Tom shouted on top of his lungs, trying to keep the guards away from Robert.
But they literally passed through him, as if Tom was a ghost. He then looked down. His body wasn’t clear or transparent. But as the HYDRA guards woke Robert up and dragged him away, Tom realized this wasn’t real. Or at least, this already happened, or this was some kind of another vision. Now instead of just seeing it through his eyes, he was inside the vision.
Tom quickly followed the guards and Robert, scared of what he might see. Robert looked very weak and tired, so it couldn’t be good. The guards took him to the lab, the same lab Tom saw in his other visions.
The guards put Robert in a chair. The electronic cuffs tied his hands and feet to the chair. In front of him, there was a man in a white coat, facing Robert with a smile. Tom recognized him instantly. He was Brian Kuznetsov. It wasn’t a shock, to be honest, it just assured everyone’s theory.
So Kuznetsov was keeping Robert locked in a room somewhere.
“Tell me, what do you remember about yourself?” Kuznetsov asked Robert.
“...Name's ...Robert Downey Jr.,” Robert said, panting. “And I’m here because you bastards ...captured me.”
“...Good,” Kuznetsov said. “This should be enough.”
His assistants nodded. Tom had no idea what they were going to do him--something painful and horrible. One of them turned the machine on and it basically sliced Robert, from his face to his legs--there was blood everywhere. Tom knew this was a vision. He knew there was nothing he could do to stop them. But he still ran over to Robert and covered him up, trying to shield him.
“Robert ...Robert!! Please be okay, please….”
He was crying next to Robert, who was losing his consciousness. Then--Tom fell to the ground. When he looked up, Robert was still sitting in the chair, but he looked much better. He had no blood stains on his body, and he looked fresh, cleaned up. Most importantly, he wasn’t tied to the chair anymore. Kuznetsov was still standing in front of him.
“Soldier,” Kuznetsov said. “Do you know who you are?”
Robert shook his head. That’s when Tom knew what happened.
They fucking erased his memory. Like they did with Bucky.
But that wasn’t all. What he heard next--was purely shocking.
“You’re Robert Downey Jr. but no one, no one in SHIELD can know, or you will be caught again,” Kuznetsov said gently. “Your memory is unclear right now, but SHIELD captured you a few months ago. Then they tortured you--to death. It was very difficult to get you out of there.”
Tom gaped. So this Kuznetsov guy was telling Robert that SHIELD was the one who captured him and tortured him. In reality, it was HYDRA and Kunzetsov himself who did all those things. Tom was shocked at the level of manipulation HYDRA did to Robert. This was worse than Bucky’s brainwashing.
Robert simply nodded. He didn’t show any emotions--there were no signs of fear, hatred, or sadness. It broke Tom’s heart to see that. Robert was no longer smiling. Or screaming. Or crying. He sat in that chair, like a lifeless body.
But that wasn’t it.
Robert and Kuznetsov in front of him disappeared and Tom was falling again, into the void. When he found the ground again, there were two figures in the room: Kuznetsov and...Asset 65. He was wearing a mask as usual. But then….he began to take off his mask.
The mask fell to the ground. Asset 65 turned around in Tom’s direction--and Tom’s eyes widened. His jaw dropped. The man behind the mask--Asset 65--was ... Robert Downey Jr. himself . The assassin, HYDRA’s main asset, the soldier who killed multiple of SHIELD agents and attacked the Avengers...was none other than Robert.
Tom shook his head. He was trembling. He couldn’t believe it. Asset 65 was Robert Downey Jr. It didn’t make sense. No, in fact, it made perfect sense because Robert’s been captured by HYDRA for a while. They had time to brainwash him and train him and...give him those powers. Everything was falling into its place.
Before Tom could process the things he saw more, he was falling into the void once again. He knew this was the end of it.
He closed his eyes.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
When he opened them again, he was back in the lake house, surrounded by the Avengers and the cast.
“Tom! Tom! Look at me!” Tony was shouting at him.
Tom started to sob, seeing a familiar face...too familiar one.
This was Tony , Tom thought to himself. Not Robert. Not Asset 65.
“Hey...it’s okay,” Tony said gently. “You’re okay.”
Tony then hugged Tom. He knew he needed one right now. He wasn’t sure what happened to Tom--but he could definitely see something terrible happened. So Tony just hugged him.
Tom didn’t know what or how to tell them. He wasn’t sure where to begin.
How was he supposed to tell them that their beloved friend was now a top assassin? That he was the one who captured all the Avengers a few days ago, so that Kuznetsov could experiment on them? How could he tell...that they were stuck here, in this universe, because of Robert?
Tom just sobbed in Tony’s arms.
1) I'm glad you're happy. You deserve it, Buck. More than anyone else in the world.
2) Nice to meet you, my friend.
3) And thank you
Chapter 9: Not this time
Tom tells the Avengers and the cast the truth behind Asset 65. While extremely shocked and horrified, the team comes up with a plan to stop Robert and possibly bring him home so they can fix him. Meanwhile, William has a dream that seems to be one of his memories as Robert Downey Jr. and he vows to destroy everyone who took that happy life away from him. The Avengers succeed in luring Robert into a familiar place, but things don't go as they planned. In fact, something goes very, very wrong.
One of the longest chapters is finally done! I know there has been a lot of angst in this story so far, but in a couple of chapters, there will be some happy and reunion(?) moments!! It's taken me so long to finish the chapter because I recently joined twitter and that took a lot of time and also I had family visiting me from the other side of the world.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Tom couldn’t stop shaking--he just couldn’t believe what he just witnessed. The Asset 65--who solely worked for HYDRA and was a suspect for the murders of a number of SHIELD agents was none other than Robert. His mentor and his friend. He wondered if this was how Steve felt like when he found out the Winter Soldier was his dear old friend, Bucky, who died 70 years ago in front of his eyes.
Robert died in front of Tom, too. And just like Steve, Tom couldn’t save Robert. He just sat there, watched as life faded away from Robert’s eyes.
He couldn’t save him.
And look what he has become.
“...It’s okay,” Tony gently said, hugging Tom. “You’re okay.”
When he pulled back, and Tom slowly looked up. His eyes were filled with tears--and pure terror. Tony knew Tom had one of his visions again, but this one was different. None of the previous visions made him shake and sob--more importantly, he wasn’t this scared after his visions--even one that had told him Willaim Allen was in fact, a part of HYDRA.
“...Tom, what happened?” Steve asked.
Tom didn’t answer. He just stared at Steve--and started to cry again out loud. He probably looked like a child right now to the cast and the Avengers but he didn’t care. Everyone else would’ve cried if any of them saw what he just did.
Evans, Hemsworth, Hiddleston, Mark, and even Sebastian walked up to Tom and hugged him. They didn’t ask questions--even though they did want to know what he just went through--but kept that to themselves for now. Tom knew this and he was grateful.
Peter was scared at what Tom saw. He literally looked like he’s seen a ghost--no, worse. Much worse. Peter’s Spidey Sense (or Peter Tingle, as May, Happy, and Tony called it) was telling him that what Tom saw in his vision was something terrible--possibly worse than witnessing a murder. No, Tom just went through some kind of revelation and Peter was certain of it. It was the same type of chills he felt when he found out Liz’s father was the Vulture or the true intentions of Mysterio. Only this time it was much stronger.
Tom was affected by Robert’s death the most--even more so than some of the Original Avengers. To them, losing Robert was losing like a close friend or a family member. However, to Tom--it was like losing a parent--Robert has been his father figure since they started working together back in 2015.
After the long-lasting hug, Tom calmed down a bit--his breathing was normal again and although he still had tear marks all over his face, he wasn’t sobbing.
“I know whatever you saw was...horrifying,” Evans said. “But could you tell us what happened?”
Tom nodded. What he witnessed was indeed horrifying--but everyone in the room had the right to know. Especially the cast. They suffered as much as he did after Robert’s death--Evans had more frequent anxiety attacks and he also avoided public appearances at all costs. He even took a break from acting for a while. To the media and the rest of the world, he said it was because he needed some time for himself after playing Captain America for the last eight years. Scarlett fell into a stage of depression--she barely smiled when her solo movie, Black Widow , came out in 2020. While finally getting a solo movie for Natasha meant a lot to her, she couldn’t help but keep thinking of Robert’s absence. Oh, how he would’ve been thrilled to witness the recognition she got when the movie came out. Hemsworth became a lot more closer with Hiddleston, even more so than before. He started to freak out or panic over trivial matters. Jeremy picked up his habit of constant nightmares and Mark started to see a therapist because he was having suicidal thoughts.
The truth would probably hurt the cast more than help them--but Tom knew it was the right thing to do.
“I-I saw Robert,” Tom started to speak. “He was locked in a room...sleeping. Then, two HYDRA agents came in and dragged him away. At first, I thought I was really there--like I was transported to where Robert was. It felt...so real.”
“He really is locked up in a HYDRA base?” Bucky asked.
Even though he doesn’t remember much of his early days in his imprisonment in HYDRA, he knew they weren’t kind enough to provide him a room or time to sleep. It was an experiment after experiment--it almost felt like they would never stop. And when they did, he was no longer Bucky Barnes. He was the Winter Soldier.
“...Not quite,” Tom said. “He was.”
“What do you mean he was? Is he in a different place now?” Steve asked.
Tom shook his head.
“They took him to the lab, the same lab I’ve seen in my previous visions,” Tom said. “They tied him to a chair. Kuznetsov--yes it was him--walked up to him and asked him whether he knew who he was. Robert said his name and cursed HYDRA. Kuznetsov then tortured Robert. He was screaming. I was there, crying, trying to stop them, but nothing worked. It was like I wasn’t there at all.”
Tom was silent for a moment. The images of blood and unconscious Robert were coming back to him.
“...They don’t stop until they get what they want,” Bucky said. “They don’t care whether you’re covered in blood. They don’t care whether you’re on the verge of death or not. They will keep going, whatever that is, until they get the results they want.”
“Bucky--” Steve opened his mouth to say something, but Bucky stopped him.
“You can stop apologizing, Steve,” Bucky said. “I’m just sharing my experiences with HYDRA. It might help. They don’t scare me anymore. That’s all in the past.”
“...And they did get what they wanted,” Tom admitted. “Within seconds, scenes changed, and Robert was still strapped into the chair. And when Kuznetsov asked him whether he knew who he was or not...he said no. Robert couldn’t remember his name or his past. He just sat there, like a lifeless person. It was as if he was brain dead. He didn’t look... human .”
“So they basically erased his memories?” Tony asked.
“...Worse,” Tom said. He then directly looked at Bucky. “They made him believe that SHIELD captured and tortured him to death. They still kept the name Robert Downey Jr. though.”
“So be believes he’s one of them? HYDRA? That’s...I don’t even know what to say,” Evans said, sighing.
This was way worse than he imagined. At worst, he thought Robert was locked in a HYDRA base somewhere, possibly being tortured. Even that was horrifying, but this...this was another level. Robert now believed he was one of HYDRA now, blaming SHIELD for his endless torture and pain, wheras it was the exact opposite.
“...I haven’t said the worst part,” Tom said quietly. This was it. The part that shocked Tom to the core. The part that was so unexpected and horrifying that caused Tom to shake and sob so much.
“What more could be worse?” Hemsworth asked, more to himself rather than to Tom.
“Oh, you stupid human, you jinxed it,” Loki said, rolling his eyes. Thor’s counterpart was as thick as Thor, possibly more.
“Scenes changed again,” Tom said. “I was in a different room this time, and there were two figures: Kuznetsov...and Robert. They were talking, I think. Robert was wearing a mask. The very same mask Asset 65 wore.”
The Avengers and the cast’s eyes all widened. Then they finally realized what Tom was saying. And he was right. This was way worse than Robert being one of HYDRA. He was the Asset--the Soldier--the primary agent of the organization.
“Y-you don’t mean ...?” Tony couldn’t even finish his question.
“Yes, Asset 65 is Robert,” Tom said. “The man who tried to kill you guys is none other than Robert Downey Jr.”
The room fell silent for several moments. No one spoke. Tony put his hand through his hair, Evans shed a tear, Scarlett began to sob, and Hemsworth started to shout “No! No…” as he hugged Hiddleston. Hiddleston started to cry along with Hemsworth. The truth was always too cruel. Mark tried to deny what he just heard and Jeremy laughed.
“This...this can’t be real, right?” Jeremy said. “It’s...It’s not--”
He then screamed as if all the nightmares he had for the last four years were coming back to him at once.
Sebastian blinked. He didn’t understand what just came out of Tom’s mouth for a few seconds. Then the news hit him. Asset 65 is Robert. He almost laughed at the cruel parallel with Bucky being the Winter Soldier. But all he said was:
He repeated the word under his breath multiple times. HYDRA really fucked him up. Sebastian thought. They fucked Robert so much. He wondered how long it took Robert to bend to their wishes without question. Sure, Robert was no Iron Man with real suit of armor, but he still had a strong mind. More importantly, Robert had a kind heart. He would never hurt anyone on purpose--he loved to give hugs and kisses to the cast all the time. Sebastian couldn’t imagine Robert being cold-blooded killer who choked the life out of other people. But in that case, he couldn’t imagine Bucky, a loyal soldier from the ‘40s becoming the Winter Soldier and almost killing Steve without hesitation either.
The Avengers were shocked and horrified at the fact as much as the cast was. Steve shook his head, Bucky just looked at Sam sadly. But unlike the others, he didn’t seem quite as shocked as the rest; probably because he was the victim of HYDRA manipulation itself not too long ago.
When Bucky first found out that the other Stark wasn’t dead and apparently was held captive by HYDRA, deep down, he probably knew the truth. His Winter Soldier instincts, as a person who went through the entire process, were telling him that Asset 65 wasn’t a complete stranger. And Robert was the only person who fit every criteria.
Bucky hoped he was wrong. He hoped that Asset 65 was some ruthless assassin--but of course he wasn’t. Of course it had to be Robert, their friend and hero. Some say life is a cycle, filled with repetitions of similar events over and over. They weren’t wrong.
But unfortunately, Bucky was right. Too right.
Peter gulped. So the Soldier he and the rest of the Avengers fought was Robert himself, who was completely brainwashed by HYDRA. He shuddered at the cruelty of HYDRA--even after they turned Bucky into the Winter Soldier, they didn’t stop. Worse, they created a stronger one--one with special abilities. Suddenly, Peter wondered how he would feel if something similar happened to Tony. His...mentor and father figure, although he never said it out loud. He would crumble and break just like Tom did.
“...What are we going to do?” Natasha asked quietly.
She erased the option ‘take out the Asset’ in her mind. Just like the Winter Soldier meant the world to Steve back in 2014, she understood how Robert meant to the cast and the Avengers. Although she didn’t get close to him on a personal level, she wanted to save him too. She was alive because of him. So she wasn’t about to give up on him just became HYDRA decided to turn him into Winter Soldier 2.0.
“...We have to bring him home,” Evans said. “I don’t care if he doesn’t remember us. I’ll make him remember.”
Steve felt determination in Evans’ eyes. For a second, Evans looked like Steve going after Bucky in 2014. He didn’t care either. He knew the Winter Soldier could kill him. And he almost did. But in the end, Steve made him remember who he really was. And if he could do with Bucky, he believed that Evans and the rest of the cast could do it with Robert, too. Especially Tom.
“How? How, Chris? He’s basically the Winter Soldier with the power of Infinity Stones,” Scarlett pointed it out. “He won’t come quietly.”
“We almost lost our lives fighting him last time,” Mark added. “If we’re gonna save him, we need a solid plan.”
“If we are fighting against the Infinity Stones, then we gotta use the Infinity Stones,” Tony said.
Several Avengers and the cast raised their eyebrows at Tony’s remark. Then one by one, their faces turned from curiosity to disapproval. Steve was the first one to oppose whatever Tony’s plan was.
“No, Tony. We are NOT creating ANOTHER Infinity Gauntlet by travelling through time,” Steve stated. “Do you know how many alternate timelines we already created last time?”
“Last time I time travelled, I got abducted by an alien and almost got killed, so I would love to find a different option,” Hemsworth said--his body shuddered at the thought of seeing Thanos in front of him in space. Yeah, there was no way he was doing it again .
“I don’t even think the Ancient One is going to listen to me this time around,” Bruce said. “She only gave up the Time Stone because I mentioned Dr. Strange.”
As more Avengers joined in the argument, Tony was getting impatient. Because crafting another Infinity Gauntlet was not what he had in mind. His idea was pretty crazy and impossible, too, but it didn’t involve stealing or asking for the Infinity Stones. They already had what they needed right here, in Tony Stark’s basement lab.
“Chill, guys. I’m not asking you to do any of that,” Tony said, putting his hand up to stop the Avengers from forming more arguments. “What I’m about to do is risky, but I never said a thing about time travel.”
“You did say you would fight the Infinity Stones with the Infinity Stones, Mr. Stark,” Peter pointed it out.
“Robert’s powers ( God it felt so weird to refer the Asset 65 as Robert ) come from the Infinity Stones,” Tony continued to explain, ignoring what Peter said. “We might not have the Stones and we shouldn’t given that what they’ve caused us, but we do have the elements of them. The Portal might be closed, but that doesn’t mean the Stones’ traces are completely gone. If I’m right, they are still inside the Portal I built.”
“What are you saying, exactly?” Hemsworth asked.
“...I’m saying we can create a weapon,” Tony said. “A weapon strong enough to fight Robert, or at least to distract him enough for us to catch him. Because whether you want to believe it or not, our friend will attack us without hesitation. In order to bring him home, we have to win the fight first.”
“Is it even going to work?” Bruce asked, looking at Tony.
Although he was no expert at the Infinity Stones and weapons manufacturing, but creating a formidable weapon without the actual Stones sounded...quite difficult. To be honest, it was close to the impossible.
“It’s our best shot, Bruce,” Tony said. “No, it might not work. But it’s better than going in there empty-handed.”
The cast looked at each other. They weren't fond of generating a powerful weapon regarding the Infinity Stones again, but they also knew fighting Robert, who barely remembered who he really was and they were, nothing but Avengers weapons was a challenge.
“You know, I don’t like this idea,” Scarlett said.
“Yeah, this sounds...I don’t know, insane?” Jeremy added.
“But how are we going to stop Robert without the power of the Infinity Stones?” Evans said. “Look, I don’t approve of this idea either. I also don’t want to hurt Robert. I don’t want to fight him. He’s our friend.”
Steve realized Evans began to sound more like himself back in the day.
I’m not going to fight you, Bukcy. You’re my friend.
But Bucky had to be stopped. He was dangerous back then. If Steve didn’t fight him, Project INSIGHT would’ve gone through and millions of lives would’ve been lost that day. And just like Bucky, Robert had to be stopped. He’s already done more than enough.
“But we have to,” Evans finished at last. “At least until we can catch him.”
“...Let’s do it,” Tom said. “If creating that weapon means we have a chance of bringing Robrt home, or at least stop him for a few seconds so that we can load him onto the Quinjet, it’s all worth it.”
The cast turned to Tom. This was the first time Tom has shown this much of determination towards something since Robert’s death. They could see a hint of hope in his eyes, hope that Robert will be back with the Avengers and the cast soon. Tom then turned to Tony and said,
“Please, Tony ,” Tom said desperately--on the verge of tears again. “Please save him.”
And that was enough to convince the Avengers and the cast to let Tony work on this Infinity Stones inspired weapon.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
William wasn’t sure where he was. He knew he was in someone’s house--but he had never seen this place in his life. He also wasn’t sure how he even got here--all he remembered was drifting off to sleep after dinner. He decided to go to bed early after the Avengers knocked on his apartment. Dealing with them was exhausting, especially when he had to come up with convincing lies the entire time.
So he figured that he was having a dream of some sorts. But it felt...too real for it to be a dream. If it was as if he was actually in the house, sitting on the couch. His eyes turned to the clock on the wall--it was 3 in the afternoon. He seemed like he was waiting for someone.
Soon, the doorbell rang and William--or whoever he was in this dream--got up with excitement. When he opened the door, Robert found a very familiar face standing in front of him: Tom Holland. William was shocked to see Tom in his dream, but his face in the dream cracked a smile at Tom.
“Come in, you’re late,” William said jokingly. “As always.”
Tom smiled back at him. He was wearing a cap and a t-shirt with jeans.
“Sorry, Robert,” Tom said. “Traffic was tough.”
William’s eyes widened--in his mind at least--because he just realized he was Robert Downey Jr. in his dream. Sure, William Allen and Robert Downey Jr. were technically the same person, but this Robert was someone else. This Robert was no assassin or an agent. This Robert Downey Jr. was a cheerful, happy person, who spent his day with Tom--his friend, son(?)--instead of completing missions or killing SHIELD agents.
Maybe this is my past, then. William--no, Robert-- thought. Back When I was with my family and friends, before SHIELD took everything from me.
Tom sat down on the couch, naturally gravitating towards the bowl of popcorn and packs of candy Robert prepared. Robert took the seat next to Tom, stealing some popcorn from the bowl.
“Alright, let’s put on the movie,” Robert said, grabbing the remote.
“This is the first time we are watching Homecoming together, right?” Tom asked cheerfully. “Other than the Premiere, I mean.”
“Yeah,” Robert responded with a smile. He didn’t know he could smile so naturally like that.
Soon, the movie began and two of them paid attention to the screen. It started it with Adrian Toomes starting basically his crime career right after the Battle of the New York and then showed Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s daily life both as a high school student and a superhero.
So, a movie about Tony Stark and Peter Parker. Robert thought.
Although he met the Avengers cast both as the Asset 65 and William Allen, seeing his past self acting as Tony Stark was something else. If he didn’t know anything better, he would’ve said Robert Downey Jr. and Tony Stark were basically the same person.
Robert and Tom didn’t talk much during the movie, other than making a few comments on some scenes.
“Now that I think about it, I didn’t think being 98 percent successful meant a whole new disaster,” Tom said, as the ferry scene played on screen.
“Well, it ain’t 100 percent,” Robert said.
“Nobody is perfect and I think Peter deserves a lot more credit than he got for that 98 percent,” Tom argued, pouting.
“You just don’t want me to yell at you again,” Robert said.
Tom crossed his arms. Although he did think the scene where Tony takes away Peter’s suit was powerful, it did scare him a bit to see Robert yell at him like that on-screen. Especially because Robert was so sweet and both of them were really close off-screen.
By the time they got to the last scene where Tony shows Peter his new Iron Spider suit and announces that he can be an Avenger now, Robert and Tom finished all of their popcorn and candy.
“Thank you, Mr. Stark. But I’m good.”
As Peter refused Tony’s offer, Tom turned to Robert with a grin.
“You know I would’ve accepted all that if it was me,” Tom said. “Without hesitation.”
“I know,” Robert said, patting Tom on his back, just like Tony would.
“I have a question. Was I an Avenger when I joined Marvel in 2016?” Tom asked.
Robert seemed to think about it for a bit, then shook his head.
“...I guess not. Civil War isn’t a really Avengers movie, so...C’mon, you just joined the MCU! Don’t look at me like that,” Robert reasoned, as Tom frowned at him.
“But everybody says it’s an Avengers movie! Ask the fans, they’re calling it Avengers 2.5 ,” Tom argued.
“You’ll always be my Avenger, Tom,” Robert said, smiling. “No matter what the movie says.”
Tom smiled back, blushing a bit.
With that, the movie ended. Tom grabbed the remote and fast-forwarded to the post credit scene--which was not that important or critical to the plot, since it was just Captain America PSA videos. Regardless, both Robert and Tom enjoyed the scene so much, mostly because it was so pointless and funny at the same time. Robert laughed harder because he knew how much Chris Evans hated that suit from the first Avengers movie.
“God, how much did they pay Chris to do this?” Tom asked, laughing.
“Probably a ton,” Robert said. “Wait, I actually want to know. Let me text him.”
He then got his phone out and sent a text, casually asking ‘Just wondering, how much did you get for that scene in Spider-Man Homecoming? It’s for science.’
After the movie, Robert and Tom had dinner--which was pasta with salad and a piece of bread. They talked about wrapping up Endgame shooting and bits of Far From Home.
“It’s gonna be the first movie without me, huh?” Robert asked, putting pasta into his mouth.
“Yeah. It was actually a little bit tough, you know. Not having you there for the second one,” Tom said.
“I’m sure the film turned out great, Tom,” Robert said. “After all, it’s a Spider-Man movie, not Iron Man. Can’t wait to see it.”
“Thanks, Robert. Sometimes I think you’re...forever gone, you know, because of Endgame ,” Tom said. “But you are still here.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Robert said. “I’ll always have your back when you need me.”
That’s when Robert felt he was getting pulled away from his past, his memory. But he didn’t want to leave. If he could, he wanted to stay here, with Tom, in this time. He wanted to forget the torture, his time at SHIELD and even at HYDRA. All he wanted was peace. Here, he could have that. But once Robert went back to his life and reality, he knew he would lose that sense of peace and more importantly, happiness.
But he didn’t have any choice. And when he opened his eyes again, he was back to being William Allen. He was back in his apartment, in his bed, panting. His body was covered in sweat, even though what he had wasn’t a nightmare. It was a dream. A dream that was too sweet to be true.
William slowly got up from his bed and headed to the bathroom. He turned the lights on and he looked at himself in the mirror. He saw William Allen, a blonde haired man who acted to be a British. But that wasn’t him, not really. He could see it now. William tapped the silver watch and his blonde hair gradually faded away, replaced with his natural brown hair. His blue eyes switched to brown too.
William, no Robert looked into the mirror again. He finally felt like himself. Yes, this was him. He was Robert Downey Jr. He clenched his fist. He thought about how happy he was a few years ago--who made movies about this world--this universe. He didn’t know how he got to this universe, but one thing was for sure: SHIELD, that organization filled with secrets and lies, took his happiness, his normal life away from him.
Robert was never going to forgive them for that. He was never going to forgive them for taking him away from Tom. He had told him he was going to always be there for him. He broke that promise. Because of SHIELD.
I’m going to destroy them. And if I have to destroy the Avengers for me to get to them, I’ll do that too.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
“Okay, so we extracted all the six stones’ elements from the machine,” Tony said to the Avengers and the cast. “Now I have to put them together into a weapon, possibly a gun, so we can shoot from a distance.”
“How long will that take, Tony?” Evans asked.
“...Another a few days, a week maybe,” Tony said. “It took four days for me to just extract the parts of the stones from the machine. Give me a break, Cap.”
“Time isn’t the issue here,” Bruce said. “Although we want to bring Robert home as soon as possible, we have to do it right. Otherwise, we might lose him forever.”
“As I said before, if I turn the stones into a weapon and we use it, there’s no going back,” Tony said grimly. “The Portal will be completely gone, and without the elements, there’s no way we can fire it back up, even if we find a way to open the gate.”
The cast looked at each other. If they did this, there was no going back. Ever. But they already knew what they were going to do. They couldn’t Robert in hands of HYDRA and as an assassin. Robert wouldn’t want that, either. He’s been that way for the last five years because he didn’t know who he really was. They couldn’t leave Robert behind. If they were stuck in this universe, might as well be with him too, their hero and their friend.
“Do it,” Hemsworth said. “We have to bring him back...Whatever it takes.”
The rest of the cast nodded. They knew what they were getting into. They weren’t going to leave Robert in that horrible place. Not when there’s a way to save him.
“Okay, give me a couple of days, maybe a week tops,” Tony said, glancing at Tom, who was standing by the door. “I’ll have the weapon ready.”
Tony headed down to his lab, with Bruce and Peter following him. When three of them disappeared from sight, Scarlett started to sob. They were creating an actual lethal weapon so they can hurt Robert. This was insane. She hated it. She hated everything that has been going on since she and the rest of the cast arrived in the universe about a month ago. Evans wrapped her in his arms and hugged her tightly. Everything seemed wrong and hurt.
“Shh...It’s gonna be okay,” Evans said quietly, calming her down. “We’ll get to him. I promise.”
Tom was watching them from a distance, and he silently left the lake house and went out for a walk. Since he told the team about his vision a few days ago, he’s been keeping his distance from them, including Tony. Tony Stark and Robert Downey Jr. were two different people but Tom couldn’t help but think of Robert’s cold face whenever he saw Tony. They did have the same physical appearance.
Tony knew this and didn’t force Tom into conversations that he didn’t want to have. He just checked on Tom through the cast and occasionally through FRIDAY, to make sure he wasn’t having any more nightmares, visions, or panic attacks.
Tom stared at the lake in front of him--the same lake they had Robert’s funeral. They really thought Robert was dead--lifeless in a coffin. Whereas he was painfully alive in some different country, screaming for help. Screaming for him.
His mind traced back to the time he went to Robert’s house to watch Spider-Man Homecoming . He was late because of traffic. Robert didn’t mind and they watched the movie together, stuffing themselves with tons of popcorn and candy. They had pasta dinner after, talking about Endgame and Far From Home .
I’m not going anywhere. I’ll always have your back when you need me.
But he did go somewhere--and not by his will. He was abducted by HYDRA and lost who he was. Robert has been a mentor, a friend, and mostly a father when his own wasn’t around. He always cared and looked out for Tom. He wouldn’t be where he is today without Robert and his guidance.
“...Blaming yourself won’t help,” a voice said.
Tom turned around and found Steve standing behind him, hands in pockets. He knew it was Steve and not Evans because he was clean-shaven had blonde hair unlike Evans who still had brown hair with a beard. Seeing Tom noticed, Steve walked up to him.
“Trust me. I’ve been there,” Steve said, grabbing Tom’s shoulder. “It just hurts more.”
Tom didn’t deny it because it was true. Recounting his time with Robert and blaming himself for not being there didn’t provide him with a solution or sense of recurrence he hoped for. It just brought more pain and tears. Tom didn’t say anything, though. He didn’t feel like talking yet.
“You don’t think he’s going to recognize you...but he will,” Steve continued, seeing that Tom had zero intention of talking. “You’re the closest to Robert. He’ll remember you. No matter how much HYDRA brainwashed him, he’ll know who you are eventually.”
Tom turned to Steve.
“...How can you be so sure?” He asked.
“Because no amount of manipulation and trickery can outrun a strong bond between two people,” Steve said, smiling. “I never thought I would have Bucky back. I thought maybe, whatever HYDRA did to him, it was permanent and I was afraid that he will never come back. I was afraid that he’ll always be the Winter Soldier, that he’ll never be Bucky Barnes again.”
But Bucky remembered. Sure, there were consequences until he was in full control of his body and mind again, but eventually, he shed the identity of Winter Soldier and returned to his past self, smiling and laughing more. What he did in the last few decades won’t change and that pain will never be gone--but he did find himself again.
“Robert’s going to be alright,” Steve said. “I know you are having doubts, but this plan will work and Robert will return home with us. We defeated Thanos together. I’m sure we can bring our friend home from some Nazis.”
Tom laughed a bit at that and appreciated Steve’s efforts to cheer him up the best he can.
“I never told you this, but I’m glad you didn’t live your life out in the ‘40s with Peggy Carter,” Tom said. “It’s nice to have you here.”
“Why would I? My home is here, now--and everyone I love is here. In the present. Peggy and I had the closure we both needed and that was enough. We both moved on from our past,” Steve said.
Tom then thought how much loss could affect people. In the original timeline, Steve had lost both Natasha and Tony--two of his dearest friends. While he didn’t have a smooth relationship with Tony, but Tom knew they cared for each other the most deep down, and it must’ve hurt him to lose one of his best friends in front of his eyes like that. And as for Natasha...she meant so much for Steve. But she never saw him in a minute. Losing two of his closest friends hurt him so much that he had to go back to a time where they weren’t even born. Both Tony and Natasha had told Steve to get a life and Steve tried his best to fill their wish, to the point where he left his true home behind.
“...Anyways, thank you for talking to me,” Tom said. “I feel better.”
“Anytime, son,” Steve said.
⎊ ⎊ ⎊
“Soldier, we have a lead on Mind Stone,” Kuznetsov said to Robert eagerly, as Robert rearranged his armor.
“...Where, sir?” Robert answered, looking down at his hands.
So far, he has collected the elements of Space, Power, Time, and Reality. He had two more stones (elements) to collect to gain the power of the six Infinity Stones. For the last month or so, HYDRA couldn’t locate any traces of Mind or Soul Stone, probably because those were either possessed by the Avengers before or because the Soul Stone was lying somewhere in Vormir, waiting for the next sacrifice to be done.
“Sokovia,” Kuzetsov said. “It’s not far from here, and given that Ultron and Scarlet Witch were there years ago, it makes a lot of sense, actually. I’m quite mad that we didn’t find it sooner.”
“I’ll head there immediately, sir,” Robert said, putting on his mask and grabbing his basic gear.
“This is it, Soldier. If we get the Mind Stone, we’re only one away from completing the set! Then, we will be invincible. We can destroy SHIELD!” Kuznetsov said cheerfully and with pure excitement.
“...That’s all I wanted for the past five years,” Robert said. “I’m going to make them pay for what they’ve done to me.”
Kuznetsov nodded. He handed an intercom and a contact lense that had microscopic camera installed. He always wore these when he was out for missions as Asset 65, especially when those missions included the stones elements. Robert opened a portal with his Space element and headed to Sokovia--the country that had history with the Avengers since 2015.
Sokovia was only familiar to Robert because it was where the Avengers fought against Ultron and because of the Sokovia Battle, the Accords were created. It was the place of destruction and division, the symbol of chaos. Even for Robert, who was a top assassin and soldier, did not like this place. But this was where the Mind Stone element was, and he had no choice but to come here.
He knew the Maximoff twins were created and trained here--the HYDRA Research Base. Although Ultron used it for his purposes and the base was abandoned not long after Battle of Sokovia, but the base itself remained, some in ruins.
As he stepped inside and headed to where the main lab was, he felt...something was different. The lights were still on despite the fact that the site was left abandoned for almost a decade. But when he got to the main lab, there was..no one. Nothing. No Mind Stone. Or any traces that it had been there.
“Sir? Something’s off--” Robert said.
“...We’ve been waiting for you,” a voice said from behind Robert.
Robert turned around and found none other than Tony Stark and the Avengers and even the entire cast standing in front of him.
“You don’t need to hide anymore,” Evans said. “...We know who you are ... Robert .”
Robert’s eyes widened--first, he didn’t expect this to be one of the Avengers’ traps, and second, he thought they would never figure it out. But somehow here they were, all armed, and staring at him with mostly worry but also caution as well. Just like the time some Avengers showed up at William’s doorstep, calling him out for working for HYDRA. They weren’t wrong then and they aren’t wrong now.
“Do not engage, Soldier,” Kuznetsov’s voice said from the comms. “Do not reveal yourself--”
But Robert yanked the mask off his face. He had to run away from the truth about William Allen, but he didn’t have to for this one. Soon, the face that was identical to Tony Stark stared back at the Avengers and the cast.
“...How did you know?” Robert asked. He knew he was disobeying his order. But he had to know. No, he wanted to know.
“We can’t tell you--” Steve avoided the answer, but Tom beat him to it.
“...I found out,” Tom said, stepping forward. He was wearing the Iron Spider suit. “I saw what happened in my head.”
“ Tom Holland. Again. He’s the problem. Take him out, ” Kuznetsov said.
“I’m not the Robert you know,” Robert said, clenching his fists, but not attacking yet. He didn’t want to attack Tom again. “I never will be. I may share the name, but you will never get your friend back.”
To be honest, it hurt Robert to say these things to Tom, mostly because he saw how close they were before anything happened. But it was also the truth. For the last five years, he has become essentially a murderer. No matter what the purpose was, he did kill people. And he knew some of them were innocent. He couldn’t go back to who he was. It was too late.
“Yes, you are !” Tom yelled. “You know me.”
He said it more desperately.
Please, Robert. I know you’re in there.
“You know all of us,” Evans stepped forward along with Scarlett, Mark, Hemsworth, Jeremy, Sebastian, and Hiddleston. “We’re your...friends. Family.”
At that moment, Robert felt something inside him--something that he couldn’t control. Something that he didn’t feel before. But all he knew was that he was losing control over his body, his mind...everything. Then, a series of headaches came through.
“No, I don’t!” Robert yelled back--his hands were glowing in purple and blue.
Robert knew he knew them at some point in his life. He fired a blast above the Avengers and the cast as a sign of warning. He had to get out of here. Fast. None of them were supposed to know his identity yet. And he was experiencing something he hadn’t before. Maybe the Avengers did something to him. Like SHIELD did many years ago.
“Robert, you’ve known me for almost a decade now! Your name is Robert Downey Jr. a legendary actor, Iron Man, and my friend!” Tom continued to yell, taking another step towards Robert. He wasn’t afraid of him.
“Get away from me!”
I’m dangerous. I can’t control myself now--when I’m unstable. So, please leave me alone. Go, before I explode!
But Tom didn’t listen to him; he only came closer. He even grabbed Robert’s hand and made eye contact with him.
“We’re not gonna fight you,” Tom said. “You’re our friend.”
Robert grabbed Tom and threw him across the lab--like he did last time. He didn’t want to--but his body just moved. He was no longer Robert--he was turning into Asset 65, the Soldier again. No emotions. No thoughts. Just commands and fights. He was losing his mind. His painful eyes turned into murderous glares.
“ Kill them. Kill the Avengers only. Leave the cast, ” Kuznetsov said.
“...Ready to comply,” Asset 65 said. “You are...my mission.”
He charged towards the Avengers, his hands glowing purple, blue, green, red.
“...They may not fight you, but we will,” Bucky said, putting up his shield and hitting him with it. “This is going to hurt.”
Steve then aimed the giant silver gun at Asset 65, as Loki used his magic to slow him down as much as possible.
“Captain, fire now !” Loki yelled--his spells were breaking--Asset 65 was using Power element to burst out from his restraints. As he charged at the Avengers again, Steve fired the gun--instead of a bullet, a mixed energy hit Asset 65--blasting him across the other end of the lab. He didn’t move.
“...It worked!” Tony yelled almost too excitedly. “We got him. We got Robert!”
Tom got up from where he fell and before anyone could stop him, he started to run over to where Asset 65 was.
“Robert? It’s me, Tom! Can you hear me?!”
Asset 65 then opened his eyes. He slowly stood up--and saw what happened. What the Avengers managed to do.
“ Come to the base, Soldier! Now! ” Kuznetsov yelled through comms.
He nodded and using the Space element again, he created a portal.
“It didn’t work!” Hemsworth roared.
“He’s--escaping!” Bruce yelled. “We’re gonna lose him again.”
“Robert! Please!” Evans was begging now, on the verge of tears.
Tom saw what was happening. He was going to lose Robert again. He already lost him once to HYDRA--in front of his eyes. He couldn’t let that happen again. Not on his watch. He wasn’t going to regret losing Robert twice right in front of his eyes.
“I’m not losing you, Robert,” Tom said. “Not this time.”
He knew what to do.
Without hesitation, he ran. And as the portal closed, he jumped in--leaving shocked Avengers and the cast behind.
“TOM, NO!” Tony yelled.
“TOM! TOM! DON’T--” Evans’ words were cut off. Tom was already on the other side of the portal with Robert.
“...Why are you here?!” Robert yelled beside Tom as if he found his sanity again. “You shouldn’t be--”
“Well, look who we have here?” a voice said in front of Tom and Robert.
Tom slowly looked up. It was Brian Kuznetsov. The head of HYDRA base. The one who was responsible for Robert’s torture.
Tom then realized where he was. Where Robert set the portal to.
They were in a HYDRA base.
The next chapter will focus on why the Avengers and the cast picked the old HYDRA base and more detailed Avengers' reaction to finding out that Asset 65 is Robert. I know I mainly focused on the cast this chapter, so the next chapter will be more from the Avengers' perspective. And of course, what happens in the HYDRA base with Robert and Tom together.