“So I’m kind of a criminal again.”
“I did notice,” Maggie replies on the other end of the phone, her voice amused-exasperated so Scott figures he’s not so deep in trouble that he won’t be able to crawl his way out. Eventually. “You were on the news.”
“But you saw I was standing next to Captain America though?”
“Cassie certainly did.”
Scott preens. It’s not like anyone can see him, so it’s allowed. Also, Captain America.
“You can’t visit. You know that, right?”
“Yeah, I know.” Although he also knows that he will anyway and Maggie sounds like she knows that too. Maybe not soon, but maybe after he’s seen Hank and maybe if Hank has another suit lying around… “Give her a hug from me?”
“Of course.” She lets out a long, slow breath and Scott probably shouldn’t be as pleased as he is that he gets resignation from her these days rather than anger. “Someone might be listening to this call. You should hang up.”
“Don’t do anything stupid, Scott.”
It’s him that ends the call and he stares at the phone for a minute afterwards, a cheap, old school flip phone that he turns over and over in his hands – and Captain America might be Captain America but his idea of what constitutes inconspicuous really needs some work.
“I know how hard it can be,” Hawkeye says behind him and Scott nearly jumps out his skin. It’s really not fair how these people can move so damn quietly. And it’s somewhat creepy.
Scott pulls the back of the phone cover off, pops out the SIM card and snaps it into pieces.
“I do know how to be a criminal on the run,” he protests.
“Yeah,” says Hawkeye, “I guess you do.”
“So I might not be able to come home for a bit,” Clint tries, after the reassurances, and no he really didn’t need any medical attention, and the ‘how are the kids?’
“Oh shut up,” Laura tells him and he can practically hear her rolling her eyes. “How many beds do we need?”
‘Ma’am, I really don’t think that’s a good idea.”
They never use names over the phone, but they’re especially careful at times like this. The doctor who used to be responsible for his SHIELD psychiatric assessments might have had something to say about that, but SHIELD got taken down from within by Hydra so screw psychology. It doesn’t matter how paranoid you are if it saves lives.
“No one knows where home is except for your friends and a dead man,” Laura points out. “It’s still safe here, honey. We’ll be fine.”
“And what about the guy I don’t exactly class as a friend anymore?” Clint asks, in lieu of pointing out that she can’t make promises like that; she already knows that she can’t and yet she always does anyway. To be fair, so far she’s always managed to keep them.
“Do you think he’ll do anything about that?”
Clint doesn’t answer, because Stark’s a dick but actually no, Clint doesn’t think he’ll do anything that’d bring his kids into this mess.
“So how many beds do we need?” Laura repeats. “Our kids’ favourite Auntie is already here, the guest bed has clean sheets, and we’ve stocked enough food to feed an army of super soldiers if needs be. Do I need to put up any of the camp beds?”
“No.” Clint rubs a hand over the back of his neck and can’t help but smile, and he knows that Laura will be able to hear it in his voice. “That’s enough. I’ll see you soon.”
“Make sure that you do.”
“So we’re going back on the Hydra hunt, yeah? To work out how to get the brainwashed parts out of Barnes?”
Sam is leaning against a wall when Steve emerges into the blindingly bright Wakandan sunshine, his head ducked so that the front of his cap shades his face and hands tucked into his jeans’ pockets like the heat doesn’t bother him. Meanwhile Steve can feel sweat already beading on the back of his neck.
“I’m not even sure where to start,” Steve confesses and then adds, because he has to, “You don’t have to come with me.”
“You’re joking, right?” says Sam, straightening up. “Besides, he kinda grew on me, y’know?”
“Really?” says Steve skeptically, having been witness to Sam keeping a wary eye on Bucky at every available opportunity.
“Sure.” Sam grins. “Like a fungus. Come on, hot shot, it’ll be just like old times.”
“So this is nice.”
Scott sits down next to Hope with his legs dangling over the cliff edge of a paving stone, strands of grass swaying high over their heads like strange, slim trees, and tries not to be jealous that Hope’s suit is way cooler than his. Apparently that’s what happens when your original suit gets stolen by the authorities. Also if Hank wants his daughter to have the best Scott can’t really argue with that.
“This time Captain American broke me out of jail,” Scott offers up.
“Get back to me when you can break yourself out of jail,” says Hope, her voice sharp enough to cut as always. “Or – just a thought – when you manage not to end up in jail at all.”
No one knows about Hank’s secrets. No one knows about Hope and no one has presented her with the Sokovia Accords and a pen. Scott has no intention of bringing trouble down on them, but he makes no promises. He’s far too good at breaking them. Better not to promise at all.
“If you do anything to get me arrested I will break you,” Hope tells him.
“So this is Cooper, Lila, and Nathaniel is the tiny one,” Clint says, naming the kid in his arms and the two hugging as much of him as they can reach. “Laura – my wife – and Nat of course you know. Everyone, this is Wanda. She’s going to be staying with us for a while.”
The kids are too interested in their dad to pay much attention to the newcomer in their midst, but Natasha smiles at her, small and familiar, and so does Laura, warm and welcoming.
“I’m not sure it’s safe for me to be around children,” Wanda says quietly, fingers tugging the long sleeves of her hoodie down over her hands. She doesn’t know who picked up the non-prison clothing for all of them, but whoever it was picked generic and large.
Clint’s voice telling her to get off her ass and Vision’s saying that he’s not afraid of her keeps her spine straight, but she can’t remember the last time she was around children who were so small and her powers are dangerous. She’s killed people, she’s one of the reasons that the Sokovia Accords exist, she’s spent the last month in a straightjacket; she doesn’t need anyone to say out loud how dangerous she is, but apparently these people do.
“Oh sweetie,” says Laura, her face still kind, “everyone in this house has thought that at one time or another. Thinks that at times even now.” She reaches out and takes Wanda’s hand. “Come on, let me show you the guest room.”
Wanda lets herself be led upstairs, and as she goes she hears Natasha ask, “So, did I hit you too hard?” and Clint laughing.
So Tony never meant to spend any real time in the New Avengers facility, that’s the reason the workshop here is pretty small and basic. There is a workshop, because he never does anything half-assed, and actually there’s also a full R&D Department in the support staff building that would have everything that he needs, but Tony likes to hole up and lick his wounds in private, thanks.
He thinks that he should leave, that he should have left days ago and gone to find Pepper and returned to Stark Industries and the hundred and one things he’s supposed to be doing, but then he’d be abandoning Rhodey and Vision. If there’s anyone who’s always been there for him it’s Rhodey and JARVIS, and he just can’t bring himself to walk out.
Which leaves him here, with just enough space and equipment to take his broken suit apart. That’ll do, for now. If he’s honest with himself he just wants something he can do with hands, something he can hit and tear into pieces. Which is all too similar to Steve Rogers and his stupid punch bags, but fuck it.
Something catches his attention in the corner of his eye and Tony swings around to see Vision standing at the top of the stairs that lead down into the workshop. Tony wonders who taught him that. The last time he’d been here Vision had just phased through anything in his way, including walls. Doors had been optional. Also, Vision in normal clothes will never not be weird and the dressing gown is especially so.
“I have come to the conclusion,” Vision announces, sounding sincerely depressed about it, “that Zemo has in fact succeeded.”
Tony thinks about this, about all the times he’s hit rock bottom and managed to fall even further. About the Sokovia Accords still being debated on the news alongside film footage from the airport.
He thinks that there’s a flip phone upstairs in a safe even while there’s also an abandoned shield. He thinks about a kid in Queens who just wants to help people and Natasha’s voice saying, “Everyone’s safe, Stark,” before she crushed into non-existence the bug that he’d managed to leave at Clint’s farm that one time he’d been invited. About Banner, who keeps running, and Thor, who keeps coming back.
About the fact that even someone destroying the arc reactor can’t kill him these days.
“Maybe,” he says, turning back to the suit. “For now.”