Natasha could remember that accusing look that Tony had given her in that donut shop all those years ago like it was yesterday. She hadn’t known Tony for long but he had still taken her lies to heart, and while she wasn’t personally there to see Fury give him her report Tony still seemed to carry that weight around with him as well.
Iron Man: Yes. Tony Stark: Not Recommended.
Only in the deepest corners of her mind could Natasha allow herself to regret typing those words. In her mind it wasn’t right for Fury to have her write that report, not only while Tony was dying but also mere months after Afghanistan. Tony had only a mere grip on what had happened to him before the pallanthuim poisoning was surging through his blood. Staring at the man now, Natasha allowed herself to feel a bit proud of the man he had become in a few short years.
If there was one thing that Anthony Edward Stark was, it was that he was adaptable, quick thinking, and resourceful. Although at the moment the man looked just plain exhausted. Completely worn down has he listened to Rhodey and Sam hash it out over the Sokovian Accords. Natasha barely listens to Vision’s input as she takes in Tony’s slouched and silent form.
“Tony.” Natasha says softly, making the man lift his hand from his face to look at her. “You are being uncharacteristically non-hyperverbal.”
Despite the strain and the obviously big decision that they had before them, Natasha tried to keep her voice soft and teasing, and she could see that is was helping by the small smirk that was forming on Tony’s face before Steve pipped up and wiped it from his face.
“It’s because he’s already made up his mind.”
“Boy you know me so well.” Tony replied in exhaustion, if Natasha didn’t have her years of training to control her facial features she would have rolled her eyes at Steve’s abrasiveness.
“Actually, I'm nursing an electromagnetic headache.” Tony corrects, wincing as he sits up from the couch and rubbing his head in discomfort. “That's what's going on, Cap. It's just pain. It's discomfort. Who's putting coffee grounds in the disposal? Am I running a bed and breakfast for a biker gang?”
Natasha could barely contain her glare at the blatant disrespect that some of her teammates had for the compound. The only thing that kept her deadly glare from them was Tony’s rough movement with his phone. Tossing it into the fruit basket and tapping it violently to display a photo of a young man.
“Oh, that's Charles Spencer, by the way.” Tony snarked as if just seeing the photo. “He's a great kid. Computer engineering degree, 3.6 GPA. Had a floor level gig at Intel planned for the fall. But first, he wanted to put a few miles on his soul, before he parked it behind a desk. See the world. Maybe be of service. Charlie didn't want to go to Vegas or Fort Lauderdale, which is what I would do. He didn't go to Paris or Amsterdam, which sounds fun. He decided to spend his summer building sustainable housing for the poor. Guess where, Sokovia.”
As Tony spoke his voice got harsher and harsher with every sentence. The final blow of the young man’s death hit them all and the team’s faces showed it. They were no strangers to death but to have it so bluntly shown to them, that hit home.
Tony sounds absolutely bitter as the next words pass through his lips. “He wanted to make a difference, I suppose. I mean, we won't know because we dropped a building on him while we were kicking ass.” He can only scoff at himself for a moment before tossing back a few pills with some coffee.
Tony took a deep breath before facing the team. “There's no decision-making process here. We need to be put in check! Whatever form that takes, I'm game. If we can't accept limitations, if we're boundary-less, we're no better than the bad guys.”
That stuck a cord with Natasha. The red in her ledger was still dripping, going from the Red Room to the Russians then to SHIELD which turned out to be HYDRA. Here in the Avengers she knew they were doing the right thing because they knew their own agendas. But Rhodey and Tony were right, they couldn’t just ignore the 117 countries that were crying out for blood. For justice. They would never earn the people’s trust that way.
“Tony, someone dies on your watch, you don't give up.” Steve interjected, making Natasha question where his thoughts were going in this argument.
“Who said we're giving up?” Tony asks, equally confused by Steve’s point.
“We are, if we're not taking responsibility for our actions. This document just shifts the blame.” Steve reasoned.
“I'm sorry. Steve.” Rhodey interjected. “That - that is dangerously arrogant. This is the United Nations we're talking about. It's not the World Security Council, it's not SHIELD, it's not HYDRA.”
“No, but it's run by people with agendas, and agendas change.” Steve pointed out, and he had a fair point to that Natasha had to agree with it.
“That's good. That's why I'm here. When I realized what my weapons were capable of in the wrong hands, I shut it down and stop manufacturing.” Tony passionately argued.
“Tony, you chose to do that.” Steve pointed out. “If we sign this, we surrender our right to choose. What if this panel sends us somewhere we don't think we should go? What if there is somewhere we need to go, and they don't let us? We may not be perfect, but the safest hands are still our own.”
“If we don't do this now, it's gonna be done to us later. That's the fact. That won't be pretty.” Tony argued, and Natasha couldn’t agree more with that as well. At least now they had a choice now; sign or retire.
“You're saying they'll come for me.” Wanda pipped up. This time Natasha didn’t stop herself from rolling her eyes.
This is more than just about you. She thought to herself and ignored Vision’s hopeless attempt to reassure the woman he was interested in.
“Maybe Tony's right.” She spoke up making the whole room turn to her in shock. Tony especially. “If we have one hand on the wheel, we can still steer. If we take it off…”
“Aren't you the same woman who told the government to kiss her ass a few years ago?” Sam asked gob smacked.
“I'm just… I'm reading the terrain.” She tried to explain. “We have made… some very public mistakes. We need to win their trust back.”
“Focus up. I'm sorry, did I just mishear you or did you agree with me?” Tony asked in disbelief, angling his body to lean towards her on the opposite end of the couch.
“Oh, I want to take it back now.” Natasha bemoaned with a teasing smile tugging at her lips.
Tony matched her teasing smile with his own. “No, no, no. You can't retract it. Thank you. Unprecedented. Okay, case closed - I win.”
Natasha couldn’t help the pleased smirk on her face at the fact that Tony saw her decision as the deciding vote on this. But she couldn’t examine those thoughts for long before Steve was getting up from his chair with only a simple ‘I need to go” before walking out. Leaving everyone just as confused.
Sam was quick to follow the Captain just as Tony’s phone started to ring with the title of Blonde Agent blinking from it. Tony didn’t hesitate to answer it.
“What’s up Buttercup, miss me already?” Tony snarked before the blood drained from his face. “Was she comfortable?” He nodded to himself for a moment. “She wouldn’t have wanted me to. I’ll see you when it’s over.”
And with that he hung up the phone and rubbed his face with his hand in what seemed to be self-hatred.
“Tones? What is it?” Rhodey asked as the genius started to make his way towards his part of the compound.
“No need to fret Honey-buns, just a personal call.” Tony dismissed walking a bit faster towards his lab within the compound. Rhodey hesitated to follow him but Natasha didn’t. Despite the tense history between the two of them they had become close during their missions together, even during Ultron Natasha knew she could trust Tony with her life. And right now she knew that he shouldn’t be alone.
“Is there something I can do for you Natasha?” Tony asked, realizing as he sat down in his workshop that someone had followed him down.
Natasha dragged one of the desk chairs closer to Tony. “You look upset. Has something happened?”
Tony huffed up a dry chuckle. “Should have known better than to let super spies into my house.”
Natasha ignored the slight jab as she placed a gentle hand on Tony’s shoulder. “Tony.”
“Drop it Natasha… please just drop it.” This time Tony’s voice was shaky and he took a deep breath in order to calm himself.
Natasha held herself back from her prying and simply squeezed his shoulder and started to gently rub his back. In silence they sat in the workshop until Tony had gotten a hold of his emotions and turned to face some of the projects that needed his attention.
“Steve’s not gonna sign it, is he?” Tony suddenly says after hours of working on one of Falcon’s wings and Natasha had finished reading the Accords while he worked..
Natasha raised her eyes to look at him. “No, I don’t think he will.”
Tony nodded in thought. “But he’s not gonna just retire either.”
Natasha could only shake her head in a negative turning her eyes back to words before her.
“What do your spy skills tell you about those Accords?” Tony asked finally turning in his chair to face her.
“Don’t tell me a business man such as yourself hasn’t actually read it.” Natasha teased, closing the Accords and placing them on the work bench.
“Of course I’ve read them.” Tony scoffed. “I just want to know what you think of them.”
Natasha pondered this for a moment. “They aren’t perfect.” Tony nodded in agreement. “But they aren’t any worse than when I worked for SHIELD. And at least this time we know that HYDRA isn’t pulling any strings with this.” Natasha paused for a moment. “Ross, though. Ross will be a problem I feel.”
Again Tony nodded in agreement, but before he could give his two cents Natasha added one more thought to the pile.
“I also don’t like how late they are bringing this to us. In three days it will be ratified, that doesn’t give us a lot of time discuss it. We’ve been put in a pretty tight spot.”
Tony paused for a moment. “Do you think they’re hiding something from us?”
“Everyone has something to hide.” Natasha replied with a smirk. “But ultimately I think they are scared. And when people are scared they act rashly.”
Tony’s facial expression turns thoughtful at her statement. “You know my Aunt Peggy had this saying, ‘compromise where you can. But where you can't, don't. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move… it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye and say, ‘No, you move.’”
Natasha’s lip curled in amusement at Tony’s phrasing. “She sounds like a wise woman.”
“Yeah, yeah she was.” A sorrowful smile graced Tony’s face. “Sometimes I wonder if she would be proud of what I’ve done. With being Iron Man with the Avengers and now with the Accords.”
“Did she ever give you reason to doubt that she wouldn’t?”
He pondered this for a moment. “She was never a fan of the government but she knew that it was necessary to work with them and not against. Above all I believe she knew the importance of keeping people safe no matter what price you had to pay to make it happen.” He took a deep breath. “At the same time she knew that sometimes people made the wrong decisions for the right reasons. I believe that the Accords are an example of that.”
“Then why are you signing it?”
Tony sighed heavily turning his whisky brown eyes to her emerald green ones. “The Accords can be fixed, with enough lawyers and persuasion, but the people’s trust can’t. At least not easily, if we show them now that we are willing to own up to our mistakes, in their eyes, then we can show them that we are trustworthy.”
“Trust can’t be won just by signing a piece of paper Tony.”
“No, but it’ll open up doors for us to start earning it.” He countered, his eyes never leaving hers.
Natasha couldn’t help but nod at that statement. Could this be the wrong decision? Yes. Was it the wrong decision in the eyes of the people? No. And for that reason they would sign, not for the government but for the people and their sense of security.
“Not everyone on the team is going to be on our side about this.” She pointed out.
Tony snorted. “Well when have Cap and I really ever agreed on anything.”