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Time to Fix-it

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It must be a joke, right ?

What the heck that guy was doing here ? Wasn't he supposed be somewhere in that jungle called Wakanda ?

Tony thought that she have been through a lot already: Afghanistan, New York, Sokovia... But the last blow of the so-called “Civil War” have been a mind wrecking mess that she almost didn't get through.

But she did, because Rhodey needed an engineer for his braces, because there were others, in the world, who were different and needed to be protected. Because even after all of this, that damn whole mess, she wouldn't -she couldn't- let that scumbag called Ross win.

Which didn't mean she wasn't still mad at his so-called teammates, Rogers in peculiar. Her rage against Barnes had faded, her reason have token over her anger to forced her to understand that Barnes was also a victim. She get it, really. But if the guy could stay away from her, it would be lovely, thank a lot.

Guys from the 40's weren't lovely, apparently.

Otherwise, he wouldn't have been here, looking as kicked lost puppy under the rain, pleading her with his eyes from the other side of the french windows. She debates with herself during few seconds if the armor was necessary before decided against it. If he started a fight, Ross will knew it, send special op and find a way to accuse her for the presence of the Winter Soldier on US soil.

And her Tower will be destroyed (again). The works just ended.

She let out a loud sight before asking FRIDAY to open the window.

He didn't come in immediately. Actually he stayed there for two good minutes looking at her like she was some kind of bomb ready to explode. It was not new for her, to be watched this way: her teachers, Howard, Fury, hell, even Rhodey sometimes have watched her like that, when she was on her science binge, unable to understand that other peoples just don't understand what she was doing. She always have been a wildcard, unpredictable beyond anything.

The only time she tried to act responsible, adult, a guy planned and succeed at tearing the team apart, manipulating her, and her feelings. And the worst was that it was still the same. Rogers and his damned flip phone can go to hell, she knew the difference between “I am sorry I hurt you” and “I am sorry you got hurt”.

And she had enough, also. She was fed up of being the bad guy, the actual villain that plays in the shadows only to be the misery of the Avengers. And if Barnes, from all of people, thought he could judge her, he could just go back to the jungle under the panther's care.

She was done with them.

So she gave her back to him, tired to wait after anyone acceptance and went to coffee maker, wondering how long Rogers and King Mufasa would try to hide the fact that they loose the Winter Soldier. She poured himself a cup, smiling at the though of Rogers freaking out because of his best friend disappearance.

“-I'm sorry.”

She turned back, looking at the super soldier in surprise. He looked even more miserable than before, trying shrunk himself like a little boy scolding by his parents.

“-What for ?” she asked, trying to not feeling too much pity for him. Because she was not ready to saw him as anything but the face that killed her mother but also because it was not what he needed.

He looked at him, startled, forgetting during a second his victim attitude. It was just a glimpse, but the quick, curious reaction was not one of the Winter Soldier nor of a victim.

“-For, hum..., your parents ?” He said, looked ready to protect himself from a blow. Tony sighed, aware that she won't be able to escape that discussion.
“-It wasn't you. You were just the arm. Nothing to be sorry for.” She was acting nonchalant, like that story wasn't a deep cut in her chest that still burned like hell.
Barnes seemed abashed by it, staring at her like she was mad. Well, she kind of was.
“-I know I reacted badly to the news (an euphemism) but -she sighed- I processed it now. You weren't yourself, and OK, I get it, I know how torture can change someone. I shouldn't have tried to kill you -she wasn't sorry about Rogers, though, not even in ten years-. If you talk about the fight, well, once your were under the sokovian psycho so... -she shrugged, not sure about what say to a wiped-mind-assassin-, for the airport well, no offense, but it's between Rogers and me, you were just in the middle, sorry. And for our last encounter... well I was the one who have been manipulated – and not only by Zemo, but she kept it to herself- you were protecting yourself, sorry about the arm, by the way.”

It was Rogers, Rogers who told her nothing about her parents, Rogers who gave her hell about keeping secrets, Rogers put that shield in her reactor, Rogers who let her die there, alone in the cold of an Hydra siberian bunker, Rogers who though that a stupid letter false repenting and a flip phone would be enough, Rogers who let her dealing alone with Ross, 117 very pissed countries, the damages caused and the medias while she was still trying to limited the damage done to her relationship with Pepper and helped her best friend in healing.

Now Barnes looked properly shocked. But now, she didn't give a shit about it, she gave him her back again, looking for that bag of french pastries she was pretty sure she brought yesterday and put somewhere, if Rhodey didn't eat all of them.

“-Aha !” she exclaimed waving the box in success, ignoring the startled move of Barnes.

Seriously, like she could armed him without the armor. Well, she could, but that was a knowledge that none of the Rogue Avengers needed to know. She picked one pain au chocolat, bitted it hungrily. She looked the man curiously wondered why he was still there.

“-Want one ?” she asked.

Chapter Text

To say that Bucky was lost lately was an euphemism. It wasn't new or weird, since he started to remember who he was and escaped Hydra he had the feeling to be lost in the stream of events that happened around him. And after 70 years having his minded wiped, He knew it would take time before he felt at least stable, if not at ease.

But ever since he came to the tower, he could felt a slight difference in his feeling. He was still lost as hell, unable to tell for sure what he have done during 70 years or even if he would remember it at some point. The threat of the trigger was still there along with Ross' one. Sometimes he would wake up not sure of who he is, wondering if the memories Stevie talked about had ever happened to him or to another.

But it was okay.

It was okay because Stark -Tony, Barnes or I swear I'll put a bomb in that arm of yours- didn't expected him to. She didn't looked at him like she expected him to raise up, erase 70 years of torture and turned back to the happy hopeful young man he was in the 40's like Stevie did nor looked at him like a dangerous weapons on the edge of explosion.

There were no pity, there, in Stark Tower, no expectation, just the strange acceptance from the owner of the house.

Which doesn't mean she would treat him like some kind of mindless, broken doll. She was clearly pissed off when she learned that he left Wakanda (which she already knew he was, but never mind) without having get rid off of the trigger problem. Clearly, she expected him to make some logical assumption and his own decision, and so to assumes the consequences.

And it was...refreshing.

It also helps that the house seemed to be another world. The view of the skyline, the library, the open floor, everything just seemed to be so different, like in the science fiction novel he read back in the 40's.

But the most fascinating places was indeed Tony's workshop. He could spend hours down there, playing with the bots or just watching the woman working, abashed by the tech and the holograms, but principally by the energy and pure genius that seemed to spread from Stark and to imprint into the places and in every pieces of tech she built. Tony herself doesn't seem to mind, except when Bucky spent too much time playing with the bots and distract them from their work. She had also put up a new arm for Bucky, a different and better one than the former one, with a slightly black metal that barely shone. It felt better, more alive than before. According to the engineer, it wasn't very different from the previous one, but the soldier loved it. Maybe because he had participated, even a little to the conception, holding tool and gears for the woman, giving some advice on the design. Or maybe it was because it hadn't been made by Hydra, but by someone who saw him as a human being.

Not as token of the past, not as an asset, but as a real human being.

He almost had a panic attack, the first time she asked him what he wanted on his pizza, for the God's sake ! It's at this moment she discovered about the trigger problem, when the simple fact to have to decide for himself what he wanted to eat put him on the edge.

The asset wasn't used to eat. Or not that he remembered.

She had calmed him after that, talked to him, telling him that it was okay, that he didn't have to choose right now, that he could take time to heal, to remember what he liked and even to taste new things. She spent maybe an whole hour rambling about things that he should absolutely try, telling him her own opinion on it, how she loathed pineapple on pizza and didn't understand how Rhodey could like it, or why italian cooking would always be the best, not matter what the French said. Most of it didn't make any sense to Bucky, but it actually smoothed him, even gave him the envy to try all those things.

The next day, she approached him with the idea of the BARF.

It terrified him, needless to say. But Tony told him to think about it, that she had to find a psychiatrist before that won't alert the authority about Iron Man housing the Winter Soldier. Which wasn't exactly an easy task seeing that even Rhodes almost gave them up. He didn't exactly take part of the discussion -yelling contest- that day, almost catatonic after the avalanche of death threats he receive as soon as War Machine saw him in his best friend workshop, but from what he gathered, the man wasn't happy with Tony housing him, but won't say a thing to Ross. The man still watched every movement he made every time he was around -which was often as he was in the tower when not in physical therapy- but Bucky understood.

The only defense he had was that he sincerely didn't knew about the reactor. For him, it was just the part that powered the suit, not Tony's heart. When Steve extracted them from the bunker, telling King T'Challa that she will be fine, he had no reason to not believe his best friend. It's only when Rhodes came to the Tower, yelling at the woman for harboring a dangerous man that almost killed her and let her die in Siberia that the pieces fell in place. He didn't ask, despite his curiosity, about the faint blue glow that he could see through Tony's clothes before. It only after that he realized that, yes, he have already seen that peculiar glow somewhere, in the middle of the chest-plate of the Iron Man armor, the same place where Stevie smashed his shield, making the glow stop, destroying the armor, leaving Tony dying alone, unable to contact anyone, to move, to fight, to survive. If not for Friday worry, Vision wouldn't have been able to find her quickly enough and she would have died.

The thought was terrifying, and frankly, if Steve had been in front of him at this moment, he would have punched him. Hard. With the metal arm.

Because the woman he started to knew wasn't the brash, stupid and arrogant girl that Steve and his team described. Yes, she was kind of arrogant, but to be fair, he would have been to, she was a pure genius, generous and caring. And above everything, she didn't judge people. She didn't try to put them in little case where they should fit no matter what. Herself didn't fit in any case, too smart, too sensible, too human, but didn't seem to mind it.

“-It doesn't make any good to try to be someone you are not. I tried, and believe me Robuckop, it tends to led to a disaster.”

He didn't ask about the shadows he saw in her eyes when she told that to him. Neither about the scars he could see on her, or the way she moved, she stilled sometimes, in a way that didn't fit a civilian.

Officially, Antonia Stark worked like her farther until she was 26, then Afghanistan happened, the Howard-like attitude died in the attack and Tony reappeared only tree months later, shutting down the weapons factory and became Iron Man.

But her body, her movement, her eyes were saying otherwise to Bucky, and it wasn't sure what it was supposed to mean.

 

-------------------

 

“-Honey bear, you're vexing me. You know I'm fully able to take care of myself.”

For only answer, she get the “don't-fuck-with-me-I'm-your-best-friend look”. She hated that look, it often led to a lecture from Rhodey about how reckless she was, then to a lot of yells, cries and tools throw at each other. The good thing was after that, they were good. That kind of huge argument occurs at least once in the year since they met, often after a huge change in one of their life. The one they had after Tony's parents death was one of the worst, the woman unable to admit that she was mourning her parents. Before, she would have said that the second worst was when Rhodey got his first mission out of the country and had Tony just totally freaked out to see her best friend going to war. But now, that place was taken (by far) by the argument they had about Bucky.

She understood Rhodey, she really did. But she also knew that she couldn't back off. Not when Bucky's situation remind her own after Afghanistan so much. Of course, she didn't thought it was the same, but when you look at it, there was some similarity in their situations. They both had been tortured, manipulated and betrayed, and that had changed them forever. But she had “only” been captive for three months. Bucky for seventy years.

But that wasn't all. She also what it was to see in the eyes of people you love the confusion when you act different than before. Pepper, even Rhodey had looked at her that way, like she she wasn't exactly the woman they knew and loved. They adapted, of course, Rhodey better than Pepper, but they did. But in the case of the sergeant, she was sadly not sure that the Captain could do the same. He was just too stuck in the past. She knew it because no matter how much she tried to make the difference, how long they were together, Rogers always looked at her like she was just the ghost of Howard.

It hurt, in a way that couldn't be ease by painkillers. Tony had Rhodey, to talk, to explain how much she hated it, how she felt like she didn't belong in her own life, like some kind of imposture. It was not something she wanted for anyone.

“-I know, but I also know that you won't be as careful as you should be.” Rhodey deadpanned.
-I won't let anyone kill me Rhodey.” She sighed, a little tired of everyone thinking she wanted to kill herself.

She didn't have suicidal thought, she had too many work and was far too angry to think of dying now. Speaking of anger, she was starting to re-evaluate the intelligence of the Rogue Avengers and of their landlord. Bucky was with her for a month now, and she would had thought that the King at least would have alerted someone about the Winter Soldier disappearance. She had overestimate them. Or underestimate their selfishness.

Which doesn't mean she would make it easy for them. And Barnes himself didn't seem eager to go back to or even contact his friend. Actually he seemed far more happy playing ball with Dumm-E or reading or just wondering in her work shop than thinking about Steve.

She could feel their is more than told there but choose to not push the man. God knows what the world looked like for him right now, after all this time either on cryo or brainwashed. Before thinking of any relationship, the sergeant needed to feel at home in this time, and it was not an easy task.

She was still in deep to find a psychiatrist for him. Actually, the only name she had in mind was Wilson. But the guy hated her and was now considered as an international criminal. She could have reach for some of her connection, but it surely would alert Ross about something. Wether the guy will accused her to hide something or to not to be mentally reliable. And she couldn't afford to show any weakness. It have been an hell to get the chance to amend the Accords, the majority of the countries were still very pissed at her for all that happened and the suspicions about her disappearance during the week following Siberia and the break out from the RAFT were still to high.

“-I won't let anything get in my way, Rhodey, not this time. You know what ? As incredible as it may seems, I learned my lesson. Don't let your guard down around anyone.
-That's not what I mean.” She could saw the pain in his eyes, like he physically felt what she was dealing with. There were not enough James Rhodes in the world.
“-I know, but it's a good lesson. Because I can't do it alone. Right now, I need help from people that I can't – I won't- trust. You have to trust me on that one, bro. Of half people that have crossed my path, Barnes is one of those that don't want to hurt me.”

She saw the resignation in his eyes at the moment she stopped talking and she knew her best friend won't fight her on the matter anymore. Good. Because she will need him in the future.

But before, she had a panther to let out of the bag.

Chapter Text

Of all the things T'Challa wanted to avoid, a call from Antonia Stark was definitely on the top of the list.

His security was looking for Barnes since five weeks now and they didn't find any trace of the former assassin yet. Rogers was on the edges, looking in the country for his friend, almost snapping at everyone that came across his path.

It was not the first time that T'Challa doubted of his decision to give a shelter to the Rogue Avengers. Now was just another reason. He straightened himself before he accepted the call. Deep inside, he was trying to not feel like a fanboy. Which he kind of was. He always have admired Tony Stark's work, from her thesis on AI's potential, to the one on political science about the need of powerful people to look for artefact as a way to compensate. He was now the King of a country with advanced technology, not a student in awe in front of the work of a fellow scientist.

Soon enough, the face of the woman was displayed on the giant screen in his office. The woman looked healthier than the last time he saw her, rich brown hair curling around her neck and he wondered if it meant something. It was the first time that Stark wore her hair that long since the Afghanistan. Before, her hair reached her lower back, shiny and rich. But after her captivity, she came back with short, pixie like, dusty hair and she never seemed to grew them back. Her skin was tanned, and it looked natural for the first time in forever. Her eyes were still the same, bright with intelligence and quick at assessing the world around her.

“-Doctor Stark, what own me the pleasure ?” He asked, happy that his voice sounded steady. He saw her raised an eyebrow, a glint in her whisky-coloured eyes. But her voices showed nothing of it.
“-No pleasure here, your Highness, I'm afraid. I'm here to talk about your specials guests, and mine.” He felt himself tensed, his mind already running.
“-Guests, Doctor Stark ? I'm afraid I don't understand what you are talking about.
-Please, can we cut short the political game? For all I know, we are both intelligent people. You know exactly about who I'm talking about: you took Rogers and his merry band into your kingdom. No need to be alarmed, I understood it a while ago. If you really want to waste my time and yours, just hang up already, it would simpler for both of us.” She looked a bit exasperated and was waiting for him to make a move, the professional mask that she was using at the beginning gone.

His mind running, He took a quick decision: Stark was known for her bluntness and her freedom of speech in front of everyone. If she really did known that the Rogue were in Wakanda and wanted them arrested, T'Challa would have already found the black ops at the his borders.

“-As you wish, Doctor.
-Tony. Good. Then let's begin : Barnes is with me right now, and I need a psychiatrist, Wilson or any of your doctor would be fine.
-Excuse me ?” During more than a month, he had feared that the man had turned back into the state of the Winter Soldier and all this time, he was with Stark ?

The woman herself didn't seem put off by his reaction. She didn't apologise either. She just watched him quietly, her face blank.

“-He showed up at the Tower about a month ago. I was quite annoyed to see that he still had the trigger. I have myself a device that can help him, however a presence of a psychiatrist is necessary to assist the process. You must understand that I'm not as free as I wish to find the good person for this.
-Indeed, You were not even free enough to inform me of Barnes situation.” He said dryly, not used to be fooled.

A slow smile took place on the woman face and He remembered what he heard one of his Oxford teacher said about the Iron Maiden once.

“They are used to say that Starks are made of iron, it had never been more true than with the daughter”

“-What is your field ?” She suddenly asked.
“-Excuse me ?
-Of research. The only people who called me “doctor” are those who read science publication. So ? Math ? Physic ? Informatics ? Politics ?
-All.” He answered, a little put off by her attitude. From what he gathered from the Rogue Avengers , the woman was supposed to be idiotic and poor at social skills.
She nodded, seemed a bit impressed.
“-That's a lot of reading. Well, then you know what I am able to do. So far, I didn't witnessed any appearance of the asset, but only because I know the buttons I mustn't push. But I'm not stupid enough to try erase the trigger without someone else around. For all I know, I aways have been high on Hydra kill list.
-So you need a doctor. Or Wilson.
-Yes, Barnes is still an international criminal, Wilson seemed to be a good option.
-Not the Captain ?” He tempted.

Her reaction was immediate. She clenched her jaw while her eyes became cold and suddenly he was facing the woman that fought against an alien army without trembling.

“-I'm afraid that Rogers is far too compromise to actually help.
-Compromise ?
-Rogers hope to see Barnes turning back into who he was before, and we both know it's impossible. So does Barnes.”

Indeed. There was no way that Barnes could totally erase a trauma like that, actually, they would be lucky if the man find a little of mental stability.

“-Do you think he is ready ? Too face what He was during 70 years ?” He asked, wanted to be sure that he wasn't stealing another choice from the man.
He saw Tony passed her hand into her gorgeous curls and sighed.

“-I talked to him already and he is adamant about starting the therapy and getting rid of the trigger. He is scared, but won't back off. I tried to told him to take his time, but frankly, on this point, my words didn't have any effect. I'm worried that the guilt gets the best of him. Right now, he seems to genuinely wants to get better. And for that he needs to settle, he will need help from people that are not compromise.
-What about you ? You seems to have handle the situation. Which is a surprise since last time I checked, you hated Barnes.
-I never really did, actually. The circumstances were awful, but in the end, Barnes didn't do anything to gain my hatred. But we can't ignore all the facts, when he will come to a session where my parents would be talked about, He won't felt comfortable with me around. And to be fair, me neither.”

She shrugged in calculated nonchalance, but she was clearly more affected by it than she was willed to admit. An alarm rang in T'Challa head, the pieces of the puzzles falling into places.

“-Barnes have killed your parents.” He said, unable to stop. He met Tony's eyes, solemn and shiny with realisation.
“-Rogers didn't tell you.” A hysterical laugh escaped her lips. “Of course he didn't, why should Captain America explain himself to anyone ? It's always the fault of the others, anyway.” She was clearly angry now, muttering things under her breath that were certainly friendly for Rogers. She took a deep breath and looked at him straightly.
“-Yes, the Winter Soldier was send by Hydra to kill my parents, I discovered it when Zemo showed us a video of the murder in the bunker. Rogers have known, for two years and never bothered to tell me. It made me snap.” She seemed tired now, like she have thought about it over and over again. It was probably the case. “Listen, I made mistakes, I know I'm not a saint. But I'm not stupid enough to think that I can protect everyone alone -almost alone-, Earth need a team, one that doesn't break apart for every problems, who is not feared by humans.
-And you think Barnes can be a part of this team ?
-Yes, well, maybe. We are talking about probabilities here. I know that something big is coming, and we can't ignore the potential of Barnes. I won't force him, but he can be a real plus in this. But before that he need to be cure. So ?”

A silent followed her declaration. T'Challa was thinking about the situation, trying to choose the best course of actions. It was clear that Stark hadn't been totally honest, but enough for T'Challa to take a decision.

“-How many spare rooms do you have ?”

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Wakanda was a beautiful place. The weather was good and the nature around gorgeous. Too bad Sam couldn't enjoyed it fully. He had thought that after the “Civil War”, he wouldn't have to run after Barnes anymore, but once again, he was running along Captain America to find the sergeant-turned-assassin. Steve was going mad, worry for his best friend eating him slowly. However, it didn't change the man stubbornness. More than once, Sam have suggested to call Stark. He didn't know what happened in Siberia, expected that a fight exploded between the two super soldier and the Iron Maiden – and Christ, didn't that said something about the woman's strength that she managed to hurt them- and that Steve and Bucky had to flee with T'Challa. But Sam knew the woman better than she liked to think, and he knew that, despite everything, she wouldn't use Bucky to hurt Steve.

But the man was adamant that Tony shouldn't be call in any case. And it worried Sam. Despite all their fights, Steve never said anything that supposed that Stark wasn't trustworthy to call for help. Sure, she would made those snarky comments that seemed to be the primary defence of the engineer, but she would help nonetheless.

Oddly, Sam was far more sure about it now than he was during the Accords mess. Dressed in her classy, expensive outfit with every manners of a politician, it have been easy to forget that Stark was an Avengers, the very first that Fury had called, the first superhero of this era. Steve may have been the very first one, but even Sam could see that his friend was from another time, far less aware and used to the way of the modern world. It slapped him when he arrived in Wakanda, to see that Steve addressed to T'Challa, the fucking of the country that harboured them, the same way he would talked to another military, like he and T'Challa held the same power.

Suddenly, Stark's comment about Steve rigidity and self-esteem made more sense. When the Iron Maiden was around, Steve was forced to keep up with a woman that far more intelligent than him, a man optimised by a serum. Surely it was humbling, a reminder that Steve wasn't the epitome of human evolution. But, no one was there to remind this to Steve. Sam wasn't a genius, neither was Clint or Scott, Natasha was nowhere to be found and T'Challa and Wanda were both optimised. Rhodes, could have helped, the man a rewarded soldier and a honoured student of the MIT, used to high-technology and politics. Two things Steve wasn't good at.

But Rhodes wasn't a soldier anymore he reminded himself, his heart squeezed painfully. He might would never be able to flight again.

Because of him.

Sam sighed loudly, seating on a bench of the inner garden of the King's palace, exhausted of days of research in the jungle while T'Challa forces were looking outside the country. He didn't notice the shadow hovering above him before it was too late.

Chapter Text

When Sam woke up he knew two things : his head hurt and he was not where he was before. Blinking, he arose from the bed he have been laid, only to face a woman with red hair.

“-Natasha ?!”

He couldn't believe his eyes. Natasha had disappeared during the Civil War and hadn't give any sign since then. But she was there, in front of him, looking as fierce as always.

“-Hello, Sam.” She said in an odd quiet tone. Looking closely, Sam could saw sign of exhaustion around her eyes and how her posture was one of someone who have been defeated.
“-Good God, Nat', what happened to you ?
-She have faced the consequences of her actions. Came a new voice. A one that Sam also knew.
-Fury ?”

He haven't heard of the man since a long time and to be fair, Sam thought that he will never see him again.

“-What are you doing here ? And how ?
-I have my ways, and I'm here to knock some sense into your head, you moron.
-Excuse me ?
-Tell me, did you really think that the best way to deal with the UN was to ignore them and to antagonize the only person that could actually make the things better ?
-What ?
-Stark. Supplied Natasha, looking sheepish.
-Yes, Stark. Doctor in political science from the University of Tokyo. The woman who is known for destroyed the life of every opponent that came across her path. The Iron Maiden who sacrificed herself to save Manhattan. The same woman you managed to ignore and actually piss off. That's Stark.”

Sam winced, presented this way, it sounded so stupid to not have listened to Tony. Truth to be told, he didn't know what was Steve's plans for the future. During the fight, he hadn't thought about it, blinded by Steve and his speech of freedom and rightness. For now, his friend was just focused on finding Barnes- again. And it started to be worrying, like if Barnes justified the fact to let everyone down. For all Clint's sneers, Stark was The Futurist and probably had a plan since the beginning. He just forgot to listen to it. Like of all them always blamed the woman to do. He knew he couldn't talk about it to anyone however. Steve was secretive and focused on his friend, Clint was perpetually angry, Wanda acted like a moody teenager and Scott didn't had all the informations. Lately, things had started boiled between everyone, as if with no one else (Stark) to blame for everything, they started to see the faults of the others and didn't like it.

Personally, Sam didn't have any problems with Tony. Yes, the woman was loud and brash and tended to be arrogant, but in a way she reminded a lot some female soldiers he have met before: those women who had no choices than to be louder and proud in front of their co-workers because they knew if they didn't they will be looked down because they were women in a male world. Sexism was a plague.

In the end, it was the same for the engineer, heiress of an empire when everyone wished an heir, woman with a job that mostly dominate by men, one of the only two women of the original team, called “slut” for her one-night stand where a man would been qualified as a playboy. It was highly possible that Tony to fought more than any of them to received what she deserved.

Because, no matter what angle you took, the woman was a real genius.
He remembered the first time Stark offered him Redwing, or all the upgrades she had for his suit. He remembered when she had asked him about making the safety of the Falcon suit better, the hours of works he could only imagined behind, because she wanted him safe. Not because of ego. As the Falcon's pilot, he had worked with crazy engineers, he knew the difference between real arrogance and care.

Tony Stark cared.

And they spited it on her face, pulled her best friend in a wheelchair and let her dealing with the whole world when all the Avengers should have stand united.

Suddenly, he had trouble breathing and felt very cold.

“-So what ? What can we do now ? Sam asked, tensed. Fury smiled like a shark.
-Now, we find a way to make you pardoned by her.”

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Tony coughed, hard and sharp. She watched in her hand, knowing what she would find. Among her saliva was moving a tiny silver line, almost like a worm.

“-It seems you have rejected all the remained nanobots from your body, Boss. Chirped Friday.
-Yeah, seems so. She said, placing the bots in a petri box.”

She put the box under the camera. The nanorobots where now inactive, but she had to be sure of this, its was programmed to stop working after having repaired all the damaged inside her body before being rejected, but since her stomach have been bruised during her fight against Rogers and Bucky, there was a risk that she had rejected some of the robots before its ended its works. Watching at the computer screen, she almost sighed in relief: no sign of activity. She was totally healed. It took time and risks, but finally her ribcage and lunges were as healed as possible.

The nanobots were one of her most audacious project: a thousand, millions of micro connected AI able to detect and take care of any inner injury. When Rogers broke her reactor and ribcage, some micro-elements have made its way in her body, slowly killing her. Her only option had been the bots or extremis, and she had promised Pepper to never use Killian' serum. Some bots have made its way to her nerves, sometimes forcing her into an inhuman stillness.

She was pretty sure that Barnes noticed it. The man may have freed himself from the Winter Soldier programming, but the abilities still remain. The sharp look he had sent her a few times had put her on the edges, like a reminder that behind the gentle, lost Brooklyn guy there was the assassin of her parents, a cold blood murderer who didn't know pity.

She couldn't wait for T'Challa to arrive with his doctors to start the process. She genuinely liked Barnes, but this thing was exhausting for her nerves. Rhodey had scowled at her, saying that she needed to rest and heal before taking care of anyone else. She knew he was right, but also wrong. Tony never have been good at the whole “facing your feelings” and it always had ended up in a bigger mess. Helping Barnes was her way of healing, her way to find something, something better to believe in than herself. She wasn't blind to her faults: Siberia was as much on her than on Steve. She could be angry at him for the lying, but protecting his friend ? If it have been Rhodey instead of Barnes, she couldn't say what she would have done. A part of her wanted to believe that she would have been better, but let's face it: Rhodey have been her only stable relationship since Edwin Jarvis, he have been her stable ground when everything in her life seems to have gone wrong. She wasn't sure she would survived the loss of Rhodey. That's why she accepted to offer her resources to Rogers in his search of his best friend. She couldn't help but wonder if she would have done the same if she had known the truth.

Maybe. She hoped.

She tried to be better than that, better than the selfish woman she once have been and whom's mistakes will never leave her alone, no matter what. It was OK, she had became Iron Maiden to make things right, not for redemption.

“-Boss, your research just have ended. Chirped Friday.
-Thanks, Baby Girl, pull it on the screen.”

She watched as several files and videos scrolled in front of her, a smile tugging on her lips.

Things started to move.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Rhodey sighed, looking trough the windows of the workshop his best friend doing everything but rest. As always, Tones was supporting the weigh of the world on her shoulders and refused to let got.

It was already like that at the MIT, when Tony decided that a Master was not enough and took a PhD in informatics science in the same time. To prove her worth, to the world, to her father, to herself. For some reasons, peoples tended to become stupid when Tony was involve and only saw what they wanted. Most of the times, her money and her body. He had though that those years have ended at the moment Obadiah have been took off the picture, but clearly he have been wrong.

The Avengers.

He have been so happy for Tony to find a team, people she could trust to help her, but in the end, they were just like others: leeches, ungrateful assholes who would rather bite the hand that feed them than to say thank you.

Actually, He knew he was harsh. Wilson have been a good guy and Barton seemed to have quite a friendly banter with Tony. But both of them were two bigoted. They would follow Roger in hell if he asked. That was the main difference between Tony and Rogers, Tony liked smart people that could keep up with her and discussed, Rogers had followers.

One thing was sure now, Rhodey wouldn't let anyone hurt his best friend anymore.

Chapter Text

La source tombait du rocher,
Goutte à goutte à la mer affreuse,
Et l’Océan, fatal au nocher,
Lui dit:

“Que me veut-tu, pleureuse ?
Je suis la tempête et l'effroi,
Je finis la où le ciel commence.
Est-ce que j'ai besoin de toi, petite,
Moi qui suis l'immense ?”

La source répondit au gouffre amer,
“Je te donne, sans bruit ni gloire,
Ce qui te manques, Ô vaste mer,
Une goutte d'eau que l'on peut boire.”

The spring fell from the rock,
Drop by drop to awful sea.
And the ocean, fatal to the boatman,
Told it:

“What do you want from me, crier ?
I am the tempest and the fright,
I end where the sky begins.
Do I need you, little one,
I who is the vast ?”

The spring answered to the bitter abyss:
“I give you, without a sound and glory
What miss you, O wide sea,
A drop of water that you can be drink.”

Victor Hugo, Les contemplations

She was fed up. Really, what was going in men's head to just show up at her door without a warning ? When King T'Challa told her that he will be at the Tower by Sunday morning, she didn't understood he meant 4:00 AM. Seriously, she hardly slept five hours in three days, was it that difficult to not interrupted it ?!

So there she was, in a tank top and boxer short, standing on the landing zone at the top of the Tower to greet the Royalty of Wakanda.

Stranger things have happened (to her).

But still, she could almost hear her madre admonished her for her Green Day American Idiot Top, her black boxer short with a red stripe, her messy hair and the pillow trace on her cheek. No matter where or when, Maria Stark had never been anything but a symbol of elegance. She had always raised her arms to the sky after seeing the state of her bambina when Tony managed to sneak into her father's workshop where she would persuaded her father to gave her a few hours of his time before going back to his busy schedule.

The memories were bittersweet now, coming back slowly. When she was nothing but a hyperactive toddler, her dad have been a bad father already, except when Tony came to him to learn to create stuff. Now, she realised that Howard didn't knew how to talk to her, how to be a father, but he always have been an excellent teacher. Growing up, it wasn't enough for her, who needed a guide so badly but didn't knew how to reach him. After their death, she hated him. She couldn't help but thought that Howard drank before leaving, killing his wife in the process. Her relation with him have never been simple, they never knew how to talk to each other, but both of them loved Maria and as a young, angry adult, it was the only thing she could conceded to her dad.

Knowing he didn't kill her, that he begged for her life, was a relief and an excruciating pain as the same time.

Still. She would feel better when the trigger for the Winter Soldier would have been removed. It would be a welcomed closure.

But not at 4:00 AM !

The sound of a plane made her raise her head, her hair getting messier. She had to hand that to Wakanda, their tech was beautiful. Her hands itched to open that baby to see how it worked. The design was new too. Anthonia always had favored pure and simple lines for her tech (feminine some would say) but that plane seamed more brute, like the metal have been crafting to the minimum. Natural and strong. Organic.

She was in love.

Soon enough, the plane landed in front of her and its occupants appeared. There was five of them: the King, two woman she supposed were his bodyguards and a woman and a man that should be the doctors. To their credits, they barely raised a eyebrows at her outfit. Good, she didn't felt diplomatic.

“-Doctor Stark, my apologies for this early arrival, T'Challa told her, let me introduce you to my people: those are my bodyguards, Okoye and Neema, and two of our best Doctors: Akizi and Tia. All of them nodded solemnly, though both docs seemed to have an hard time not staring. Her legs could have this effect.
-You can call me Tony. Welcome to the Stark Tower. Bedrooms and and labs are already prepared for you. If you need anything, just ask Friday. She said, waving her hand in a vague salutation.
-Hello Your Highness, Misses and Doctors. Chirped Friday Irish accented voice.
-Thank you, Doc- Tony. Said T'Challa, taking a step forward to shook her hand. We-
-Tones ?”

Rhodey startled them, the man in his wheelchair looking at them suspiciously. Lately, the mother-bear behaviour of her best friend was at the same level as it was when they were at the MIT. Expect that Tony was not 14 anymore. It was both comforting and irritating, but she understood that it was also part of his way to cop with the lost of his legs. Protecting his country, his family, always have been Rhodey's aim. Now he couldn't do it as a soldier or as War Machine but still as a best friend. And God, was determined.

“-Honey Bear ! She exclaimed. What are you doing up ?
-Heard noises. Care to make the presentation ?
-Right, King T'Challa, Misses Okoye and Neema, Doctor Akizi, Doctor Tia, this is my best friend, Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes of the Air Force. Rhodey, those peoples are from Wakanda, they are here to help Barnes to get rid of the Winter Soldier's triggers.
-I see.”

She winced slightly at her best friend icy tone. Yep, she expected it from the moment T'Challa said he was coming. Of course, Rhodey knew where the Rogue Avengers were and also that T'Challa was in Siberia and didn't help Tony. To be fair, she didn't thought the King knew about her state. He didn't strike her as the type of guys who would let someone die alone, in the cold. Since he didn't knew the story about her parents before she told him, it was very likely that Rogers didn't told him about... the fight.

The flickering light of the destroyed reactor in her chest, the shadows of the two soldiers going away, the cold infiltrating the armour, the intense, unbelievable pain.

She shook her head. No, no more nightmares, no more flashbacks. It was over, she was done with that, with him. She wanted to start anew, to do exactly what she wanted to when she became the Iron Maiden: what was right. Helping Barnes was right. The Accords, the bridge she wanted to create between vigilantes and the people were right.

So she straitened herself, in her ridiculous outfit, raised her chin, send her warning glance to her best friend and took a step to shook T'Challa's hand.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bucky shoot a glance at the man in front of him and felt immediately guilty. T'Challa had offered him a shelter and cure, had respected his wishes, and James have thanked him by running away to a potential enemy. Nothing could asserted him, more than a month ago, that Stark wouldn't arrest him and denounce him and the King to Ross. Now, he knew that Tony hated Ross as much as anyone, but when he came at the Tower, he didn't think about any of this.

He just wanted to apologise to, for once, do the things right. Chance have been by his side and there he was, under the protection of Tony Stark herself.

Come to think of it, He may have stayed with Tony because the woman's were so unpredictable and crazy that his own shattered mind seemed sensible. Actually, he might even remember that it was one of the reason that Hydra didn't try to recruit the woman and even feared her a little: she was impossible to guess.

She proved him right when she sighed and started to talk.

“-Will you start talking or I should go to my workshop and come back in a hour to see if you are still in the same position ?”

The light jab startled the King a little and Bucky had to repress a smile. Yeah, he knew the feeling.

“-I am sorry, he finally said collecting his courage, I shouldn't have run away like that, but... I needed it, and I knew Steve wouldn't let me go and... I am sorry, after everything you have done for me, to cause you more troubles. But I am not sorry for coming here, I do think I did the right thing.”

He knew his speech was dangerously close to Steve's, and after more than a month around Tony, who treated him like a sensible human being, he could understand the danger of such belief. But as the very first decision he made since he remembered who he was, it seemed fit. The king kept staring at him while Tony raised an eyebrow, looking every bit of her sarcastic self. She won't help him on this one. It seemed to be her new motto “faces the consequences of your acts on your own”. She might help, if she feels like it, but won't take the blame for someone else. Rhodes seemed very pleased with that new attitude.

It made Bucky wonders what exactly happened before between the Avengers to reach that point.( In fact, he thought that he should rather not know, his feelings are already too complicated to add another layer of anger on it).

Finally, the Black Panther sighed, looking more relaxed.

“-Apologies accepted, but until the situation become more stable, I would like you to refrain from disappearing again, Sergeant Barnes.”

James nodded. Yeah, it was an sensible request. Even Stark would not let him go outside easily, not that he tried, the outside world scared him. Suddenly, Tony clapped her hands, getting everyone's attention.

“-Okay, now we are done with this, let's talk recovery.”

----------------------------------------------------------------

When T'Challa took the decision to go to New York, he expected to find a uncomfortable-looking Barnes in a apartment made of harsh lines surrounded by tech. But once again, Tony Stark succeed to deceive him. Barnes seemed at home, relaxed even, in this place where rock, wood were highlighted by big windows. The tech was there, but didn't feel out of place, rather like a natural part of the room, like they were meant to be there. Now that he thought about it, it was the perfect home for a woman called “The Futurist” and for a soldier of the past with a metal arm.

Past and future were linked in an intimate way.

He didn't ask, while the owner showed them around and led them to their room, but he was craving to see the woman's workshop. Even in Wakanda, Tony Stark was talking with awe. But he also had to respect his host and the balance were far from even between them, even if he came for Barnes.

Because now that he knew about the discovery in the bunker, a thought had bothering him.

“She is fine.”

That was what the Captain told him when he and Barnes got out, but Rhodes' suspicion toward them, Barnes desire to apologises, Rogers' secretiveness and stubborn refusal to call the woman started to make him wonder if the Rogers had been honest. He didn't thought about it before, because letting someone badly or dying behind, a friend, was simply impossible to imagine in Wakanda. But didn't Rogers proved and was proving that when it concernd Barnes, nothing and no one else mattered ?

T'Challa had to refrained to bite his lower lip. He needed to have a chat with the Iron Maiden. Bast told him that it wouldn't be a nice one.

Chapter Text

« -I forgot to ask, but is there a special title for your bodyguards, or should I keep the “miss” ?”

The sudden question from Stark snapped him out of his thought and surprised him. Most of people assumed that the Dora were regular bodyguards and even tended to treated them as maids. He refrained of smile, Tony Stark was surly full of surprised.

“-We call them the Dora Milaje, but separately, they don't have a specific title.

-The “adored ones” ? She asked, raising an eyebrow

-You talk xhosa ? He asked, surprised.

-Apparently, she shrugged, It may seems arrogant, but I learned so many language during my life that I can't tell which one I actually spoke and which one I merely understand. Except for the english and italian obviously.

-Where does that come that come from ? He asked, fascinated almost despite himself.

-Languages are merely codes working along certain rules, not so far from mathematics, when you get the rules, the codes are easy to decrypt, you only need a little vocabulary. Actually, some languages such as hebrew have equivalent between words and numbers, for example, if you add the numbers for the word mother with the one for father, the result is the number associated with the word child.

-Impressive, he said and he could heard Akizi murmured his approbation behind him. She shoots a smile at him before stepping aside, showing a door.

-This is your wing, the doors are programmed to open only for you all, except in case of emergency.”

They entered to find what looked like a big flat: there were a living room with open kitchen, a big screen in front of a sofa and corridor with six different doors which he supposed were the bedrooms and the bathroom.

“-All the bedroom have a personal bathroom, the last door is a communication room: if you put the privacy setting, even Friday can't tell what is going there.”

Perfect to receive someone who would need to deal with sensible affairs.

“-Thank you. He said, meaning it.

-You are welcome. Groceries have been done, but you can order something or eat with us, but I warned you: Vision insists on cooking and I can't guaranty the result.

-Vision ? He is here ? He asked, he didn't remember catching a sight of the android before.

-Yes, but you won't saw him often, except during diner: he spends a lot of time in the library or with workers in the Tower. According to him, he have spent too much times with heroes and such and so doesn't know what “real humanity” looks like, so he goes to meet with the people in the offices to understand what is humanity and so, to better understand it and its needs. His words, not mine.

-I see. T'Challa was amused by Tony's speech and the fond exasperation of her tone. Clearly, she watched the android as a young kid. She shotted him an unamused look.

-Don't laugh, between him and Friday who wants to become Skynet, I feel like the mother of two hyperactive children.

-I can assure you that I would be a kind ruler. Chirped Friday, sounded extremely serious.

-I said no, Fry. Deadpanned the woman.”

T'Challa bite back a laugh. He have heard about Stark's AI and their incredible capacities to reproduce human emotions and to learn. But it was another thing to witness it. He almost wished Shuri was there, but his sister wasn't thrilled by the idea of opening Wakanda in the first place, and confronted her from the beginning to a woman she have been compared since she started as an engineer wasn't a good idea. He knew his sister resented it, even if T'Challa didn't understood: Tony Stark was a great mind, she should be flattered, furthermore, her styles were very different, he really thought they could learn from each other.

“-Well, she said, I will let you settle down. Once again, if you need anything, Friday is at your service.

-Tony. Called the king, stopped her. If it doesn't bother you, I would like to talk about something with you. In private.”

The woman raised an eyebrow in surprise but nodded nonetheless.

“-My workshop is downstairs, no one will bothers us there.”

T'Challa nodded and made sign to his suit to not follow him. Neema and Okoye didn't seem happy about it but complied still. Following his host, he looked curiously around him: the workshop was far neater and open than he expected. In a way, he had thought that Stark worked in a real bunker where not even the sun could enter to steal her works. But once again, who in his right mind would come steal something from the Iron Maiden in her own house ? He startled when he heard a heard in the other side of of the stool.

“-Not now, Dumm-E. Tony said, talking to... a claw on wheel ?”

The robot beeped sadly (?!) then wheeled toward the far corner of the room where were two other bots.

“-Another AI ? He asked. The woman nodded.

-The very first one. He is stupid and full of glitch and creates catastrophes on daily basis, but to be fair I was 15 and drunk when I coded him so... She shrugged, apparently unconcerned, but T'Challa was pretty sure that any complains about it (he?) wouldn't be welcomed. Not that he would, mind you.

-So you wanted to talk to me ? She asked, taking the seat in front of a table that seemed to be made of glass.

-Yes. He wondered a few seconds how to start, Tony Stark wasn't intimidating per say, but she had that aura of the people who knew hey had power and how to use it.

-It's about what happened in Siberia. He announced watching carefully the other's reaction. Nothing.

-When I arrived in the bunker, you, Rogers and Barnes were together and didn't seemed to be fighting. I must admit, once I knew the truth, I didn't pay you any attention, I was focus on Zemo. When the Captain and Barnes exited the bunker, Rogers told me that you were fine. He stopped, this time the woman didn't look happy, the blank expression had turned bitter and her shoulders were tensed.

-You believed him and left with them. She supplied, her tone controlled.

-Yes. At that time, from what I had seen before, I had no reason to believe that Rogers had lied to me. It was stupid from me, I admit, Rogers proved that he didn't mind attacking people, even his teammates when Barnes was concerned.

-He didn't mind it at all, no need to bring Barnes in it. She said, anger laced in her voice.

-Excuse me ?

-You wonder if you were right to trust Rogers in Siberia ? No, you weren't. Actually, when you left, I was dying from the destruction of my reactor, she tapped lightly in the middle of her chest with a finger, I have to admit, Rogers knew where to aim. Not like it was the first time he tried to kill me: during the creation of Vision, he way to protest was to throw his shield at me from nowhere while I wasn't armored. Thank God, the armor is reactive.

-But why ? Why one of your teammate would do that ? He asked, shocked.

-To be fair, this time I was the one who started it. Zemo had prepared everything: he had a tape of the Winter soldier killing my parents. She swallowed and T'Challa internally winced, what an awful way to discover the truth.

-And you attacked him. He said, his tone flat. He wasn't judging, he knew too well the emotion which came when you witnessed the death of a parent.

-No. She said, to his surprised. Not at first. I was devastated, but still calm at that moment then... I asked Rogers if he knew.”

T'Challa swallowed, dreading the answer. He knew exactly where this was going.

“-He tried to deny at first, but his face, his face was saying the truth. He knew, for two years, since the SHIELD's fall. He knew, used my money, my resources to find the murderer of my parents and never told me anything. That's what made me snap.

-I am sorry. He said.” Such a betrayal would have taken down someone less brave. But once again, it wasn't the first time that the woman in front of him raised from the ashes. Such strength deserved the upmost respect.

“-You don't have to, you didn't known. She sighed.

-I should have checked on you myself. Steve Rogers have proved that other people's life doesn't matter to him when he has a mission.”

She closed her mouth, visibly she had nothing to counter that. Or maybe she had enough of defending Steve Rogers. Tony Stark was strong, but still human, and now he could see how exhausted she was.

“-He does, doesn't he ? She managed a bitter smile. Sometime, I wish I could saw him just as an asshole who betrayed me, but the situation is not that simple. I am not a saint or a goddess, I have done many mistakes that leaded to this mess. The problem between Rogers and me, ironically, is the same that I had with my father: no matter how much we care for each other, we seem to be unable to find a way to communicate, to reach the other. I am not blind to who we are: a boy from Brooklyn who took all the risks to serve his country and never came back from war and a girl who had to survive hell to see her flaws. A part of Rogers is still in the ocean, and a part of me is still in a Afghan cave. We are two wounded being who have loose too much, too soon. The difference between Rogers and me is that I have been trained since childhood to face a world that wish nothing more than to see me bleed, Rogers is far more innocent and naive in his own way. There is a part of me that wants to protect him but mostly it makes me angry: innocence have no place in our world, we can't have the luxury to see the world in black and white. He doesn't compromise and for him, if something is partly bad, then you must destroy the whole, not only the bad. He is a man of extreme who is not use of the ways of politics, especially in our time. Rogers have done everything to get enrolled, but now, he thinks that USA shouldn't took part of the World War II. He is a bigot in his own way, and a bigot who tend to go to the extreme is dangerous. Not for the first time, I think I should have stepped in when Rogers entered the Shield, pressured Fury to expose Rogers to the world as he is nowadays for everyone, not by the prism of an agency such as the Shield. Before, I thought that being in a military context would help him to adapt, would give a safety rope, but the treason of the SHIELD and its disregard for the international community have made Rogers wary and unaware of the society. I understand it, in a way, world have not always be kind to me, since a young age and plenty of times I wished I could just step away from it create my things. But that is, above everything, I'm an engineer, and part of my job is to know what the world need, and right, the world need a force that is united and care for it. Rogers cares for his missions.”

She sighed in frustration. T'Challa watched her in silence, processing the informations, trying to figure a way to reunite the Avengers.

It seemed impossible.


 

Tony watched the King leave. She wasn't surprise by his apologies, for all she knew, Wakandans were honorable people. His view on Rogers however... The scission between the Avengers was not only due to Zemo, a real team wouldn't have broke so easily only on one disagreement, the problem came from the birth of the team.

“We are chemical mixture that makes chaos. We are... We are a time-bomb.”

Bruce's words ringed in her mind. The bomb exploded, but Banner wasn't there to see it. A part of her was angry at Bruce for leaving her after Ultron but she mostly understood him. She wasn't the first member who have been betrayed by the Avengers. Bruce was. By Natasha who forced him to fight, by Steve for included Wanda in the team despite Johannesburg, by the others for accused them of Ultron but turned their gazes away from Wanda's responsibility.

“She is just a kid !”

What a joke. Wanda was 26. At her age, Tony had 4 doctorates and was running SI, Bruce was successful scientist, Rhodey was already a pilot, so was Sam, Rogers himself was already in the military, and God knows what Natasha and Clint were doing. She wasn't a fucking kid. Even if she really was a kid in his ind, then what was she doing on the battlefield ? She sighed again. The situation was so complicated: too much variables, too much unknown. She couldn't work like that.

“-Whoah, that sounded like a end-of-the-world sigh. She jolted. Or was it a longing sigh for the king I just saw leaving ?”

So much snark. No wonder why Rhodhey and her were best friend.

“-Ah, but don't worry, honey bear, you know your are the man of my life.”

It was a joke...mostly. Rhodhey have been her stable ground, her anchor since she was 14. 20 years later and it was still true, everyone else have left, but not him. She hoped it would never happen. The simple thought of her life without James Rhodes made her throat tight with panic. Rhodey watched the different emotions showing on his best friend's face with worry.

“-Tones ?

-Don't die, Rhodey.”

He watched her in utter surprise at first than couldn't help a small, sad smile.

“-I won't, Tony.”

It was an impossible vow, both of them knew it. They loved each other, they really did. If they hadn't met so soon, when Tony was so young while Rhodes was already almost an adult, they couldn't have been lovers. But instead, they were brother and sister, in anything but blood. None of them minded, after so much time, so much struggles and wound, it was almost impossible to think of something that could break the bond between them. The older watched his best friend, that genius, that bigger than life woman who seemed to able to resurrect from everything, every time stronger than before, who at that moment was watched him like he was the answer to everything. It reminded him painfully of the beginning of their friendship, when the teenager she was looked at him like he was an impossibility, only because he wanted to stay friend with her not for her money or her fame or her name, but because of her and her brightness and her generous heart.

20 years had passed.

“-Go back to sleep, Tony, you are becoming too emotional when you are tired.

-The fuck I am. She said, her armor of the strong women she was back in place. But she raised, patted his shoulder and followed his advice.”

He turned around to follow her and caught the sight of a photo he thought didn't existed anymore. A toddler Tony with her dad in his workshop.

“I will watch over her.” He vowed to the broken, complicated man on the photo. Because Tony and Rhodey were best friends.

For the best and the worst.

Chapter Text

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there was a falcon, who have been abducted by a spider and a fury. The falcon learned something: it didn't worth anything to fly high if you don't look at where you go.

A moving tale, Sam was sure that in a hundred years, it would be taught to children like Lafontaine's.

How was it his life ?

Sam almost wanted to complain about it. Almost. Because he was pretty sure that he did it, even just about the weather, Fury would skin him alive. He would rather not think about what Natasha will do. Both of them were on the edges, looking for a solution to obtain absolution from Anthonia Maria Stark.

Which led him to the next question: What kind of power Stark exactly held to put those kind of people in such state ?

What a billionaire engineer super hero could do … ? Actually, he was starting to get it, and to panic.

“-Why wasn't she have been made the leader of the Avengers ?”

The question popped out of him without his permission. The two spies stilled and turned toward him exactly the same way. It was more than a little creepy.

“-It was what was planned at the beginning. Fury said, pursued his lips. But we had to face an unexpected event.
-What ?
-She refused.
-To be the leader ?
-To be an Avengers.”

Sam felt his jaw drop. Stark, in the first years of the team, have been more than an essential member. Actually, haven't she been there, at the fall of the SHIELD, the Avengers may have not survive, she have been the one who to pay and create everything. She have done so many things for team she didn't want to be a part of ?

“- But why ?
-Stark is a genius. Deadpanned Fury
-And ? Sam insisted
-Well she told clearly that she won't take part to a project so dangerous when she would be the most known and reachable character and could possibly backlash on SI easily. Basically, she told me to “fuck off, I won't be your scapegoat Fury, I deal already enough with Congress, I don't want to add assholes who think of me as disposable and would stab me in the back at the first opportunity”.

From the corner of the eyes, Sam saw Natasha winced at the “stab me in the back” part. God, that situation seemed inextricable. Before, Sam would have suggested to reach for the most rational part of Stark, A.K.A James Rhodes, her best friend, but with War Machine's injury, he was pretty sure that it would only make things worse. Something told him that neither of the amor's pilots would welcome the attempt.

Sam sighed. The truth was that he wanted to talk to Rhodes, to apologize, to see by himself that the man was alright. As an active member of the military, Rhodes wasn't often at the compound and always spent a good part of his leaves at Stark's. Steve often scowled about it, saying that War Machine should spend all his available time with the team rather than with Tony. But even before, Sam didn't agree with it. As a soldier, he knew how important it was to spend some times during live in a place free from any stress or responsibilities and as a counselor, he knew how important were the bonds free from any power play were for people with duties like Rhodes.

Not that he ever said it.

Come to think of it, there was many things that he kept for himself. It was a rare occurrence that he would voices his opinions that were contradictory to Steve's. And when he did so, it was ignored.

Sam stilled for a few seconds, stricken by his revelations. Why ? Sam never hesitated to go against his superiors when he was in the army, to point out the flaws of other soldiers' reasoning when it was necessary. Why would it change with the Avengers ?

Manipulation ? He shook his head. From Natasha or Wanda maybe, but Steve wasn't subtle enough to manipulate Sam, who, like any soldiers, have received strict formation against psychological manipulations. Then he remembered the shell shocked look on Scott's face, the awe to meet Captain America. And the lack of question. Scott was suppose to be a smart guy, with a daughter at home and difficult situation. And what ? His daughter, his girlfriend, his liberty, he throw it all by the window because Captain America said so ?

It didn't make any sense.

Or rather, it did, in a way that made Sam uneasy. Since Ultron, since Sokovia, since Tony stepped down from the Avengers, no one was there to stand up against Steve. Stark have loose this right, and the other were just too use to “ Captain America is right” set of mind to even think of going against him. And with no one to tell him otherwise, Steve started to think that he was always right. And because he was naturally stubborn, if someone else would tell him that he was wrong, Steve would just retaliate, and Sam and the other would stand by his side, to finally reach the point that no one could go against Steve without almost all the team almost immediately seen it as a treason.

God.

When all this mess started, Sam thought the blame was mostly on Tony. Not entirely, he wasn't like Clint, he knew that Tony never wanted this mess, never wanted them in the Raft and wanted it to settle peacefully. But he thought her as compromised, unfaithful to her team. Not a traitor, but a puppet of Ross. Then during their stay in Wakanda, with Clint never ending rant, the moody teenager behavior of Wanda, Steve's unstable mood and finally, Fury and his scolding, he started to think that the wrong were mostly shared between Steve and Tony. Steve, for not being willing to listen and Tony for not being willing to explain herself.

But now, he could see it. He was at fault as much as everyone, he have encouraged Steve in his righteous behavior and have refused to listen to Tony, and Vision.

And Rhodes.

Sam wanted to puke.

He was a traitor.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“Simple” have never been a great part of Tony Stark's life. From her familial situation to the mathematics operation she would do, nothing was simple for Tony. Actually, simple things tended to make her uneasy. She would always look for the hidden side, the thing that doesn't add up. It almost cost her Rhodey's friendship at the beginning. But she couldn't help it. It was, according to Pepper, another manifestation of her paranoia.

Well, someone tried to kill her for the first time when she was three years old, so yeah, paranoia, sue her.

The fact was that simple things were suspicious, that's all.

That's why, when she managed to have Doctor Strange, Hope Van Dyne, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Danny Rand and Matt Murdock, in the same room, at the same time, at the first try and that no one had tried to kill her when she entered the room she felt very suspicious.

Ugh.

She wished Rhodey was here. He was far more skilled than her at talking to people. The only peoples that Tony was at ease with easily were scientists, really. At least, Strange was used to be a doctor and Van Dyne was, much like Pepper, a non non-sense woman. But also the daughter of a man that hated her due to some problem with her own dad.

Thank You very much, Howard. His motto should have been: Stark are made of iron and are assholes.

“- Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming here on such short notice.”

They were all watching her intently (or rather listening to her in the case of Murdock) and it was a bit unnerving. She restrained herself to put a hand on the reactor. Lately, it had acted strangely, warming her chest each time her heart rate increased. But it was probably her who imagined things, she has ran three scans and the nanobots have found nothing out of ordinary.

“-As you certainly know, 117 countries members of the UN have ratified a document which aimed to create a rules for heroes and vigilantes and at helping countries, heroes and international forces to cooperate in case of events such as the invasion of New York. She watched every of them and was pleased to see that, while a bit suspicious, none of them seemed closed off. As you are also certainly aware that those Accords have been subject of a... disagreement among the Avengers, leading to a scission in the team.
-And so what ? We are here because you want to hire us in your super band ? Jessica Jones, PI. She was known for her temperament. Damn, Tony already liked her.
-No. She said, and there was some quirked eyebrows, except from Murdock. You are here to be warned. Of course, if you are willing to join the Avengers, you are welcomed, after a physical and psychological evaluation. But right now, the truth is that there wasn't much left of the Avengers. Only two of us are in shape to fight and one of us is two years old. But it also means something else: you be will watched. Before, your antics against the Black hand (yes, I know about it) or your fight and apparition in hospital (yes about that too) or the existence and utilization of a suit which have been used by a former agent of a SHIELD and such, existence have been revealed after Washington, would no longer be dismissed as “Avengers business”. From now on, people would see, and realized that there are other people that are out of ordinary.
-Then, what do you propose, Doctor Stark ? Tony wasn't surprised, neither by the question nor the title, Strange was that kind of guy: smart and very aware of power balance. She took a stack of paper from her bag and gave each person a document, being careful to give the good one to Murdock.
-This are the Official Accords plus, at the end, the possible amendments that are discussed at the end. Read it, think about it, about the possible amendments that you may want, about what you don't like in it, and about the reason behing those. If you agree with it, come to me with every single question you may have and then my legal team will make sure your signature will be registered with your complains. If you don't, come to me as well, explain me why you don't want to sign and considers what you will do next: retired, or being out-laws.
-Is that an ultimatum ? Cage was glaring at her, his arm crossed, but she had the feeling it was more a sign of protestation than an intimidation.
-No. It's a demand. I will tell you something, believe or not, I don't care, I know the truth: right now, people are arguing about me and Steve Rogers fighting over the Accords, about who was right and who was wrong, but what people doesn't know is that Steve Rogers, or any members of his team, didn't read the Accords, nor tried to explain themselves. The truth is that the “Civil War” was a war of ego and over a man that had nothing to do with the Accords: Bucky Barnes. That's why, right now, I ask you this: if you want to be against the Accords and out-law, your choice, but at least, know against what you are protesting.
-Why is that so important for you ? Those papers. It was a bit unsettling the way Murdock seemed to look at her direction. There was reasons why Tony was so fond of sunglasses, the first was the protection against flash, the second was the liberty to examine freely the eyes of the other person. Here, she had the sensation it was the contrary.
-It always have been important to me. I didn't go to a press conference and declared “I am Iron Man” to brag. When I built the armor, when I did this conference, when I met with the Congress, when I signed the Accords, I did it for the same purpose: for accountability. I did it because you know what ? You can't protect people if they don't want you to protect them. And you can't actually expect the world to understand your actions if you don't explain it. What we are fighting: aliens, IA, monsters and others, people are not used to it, war and terrorism ? Yes. But the rest ? It's new, and people are scared. And believe it or not, but it's reassuring for them to know who is behind the mask, that inside the armor there is a woman they have seen on newspaper since she is four years old.”

Silence was loud around the table. Well, at least they weren't shouting and throwing things.

Tony counted it as a win.

Chapter Text

Tony blinked.

She just got out of her meeting with Strange, Van Dyne, Murdock, Jones, Rand and Cage (alive and without a scratch, yeah !) when she went back to her penthouse, to find James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes (that was mouthful), a super soldier, Hydra's best assassin for seventy years...pouting.

That was it, Tony could die happy, she have witnessed everything worth it.

In front of him, were the two doctors that came with T'Challa, the king himself seated at the bar with Rhodey, both of them looked beyond amused. The Doras were in each corner of the room, silently watching everything. Tony noticed that the female doctor (Tia ?) was looking at her nails with disinterest while Akizi have started a staring contest with Barnes.

“-Do I want to know ?”

All the head turned toward her, and really, did people need to act this way, it was creepy. Rhodey was badly hiding a laugh and T'Challa's jaw jolted suspiciously. It was Tia who answered her.

“-We just announced to Sergeant Barnes that the first sessions with the BARF would only be a hour once a week and no more as long as we don't evaluate the impact of the device on him. The sergeant want to accelerate the process.”

Ah. Well, she could understand the guy. But really, pouting ?

“-Listen to the doctors, Barnes. She teased. Rhodey snorted.

-Pot calling the kettle black.

-Honeybear, I'm hurt ! She cried, a hand on heart.

-Won't make you see a doctor. The airman retorted.”

The light by play made her feel better. The meeting in itself was a success, However, at the end of the reunion, she had to talk to Hope. She wanted to warn her that with Lang's involvement in the Civil War, Pym Technology will be under investigation by the UN. Tony couldn't do anything about it. As member of the committed of the Accords and as the CO of Stark Industry. The last time, she had to buy four pairs of shoes from Jimmy Chou line and lot of chocolate to convince Pepper to not sue Pym Technology for their little stunt at the Avengers Compound. This time, Pepper was really pissed. And frankly, Tony was a little scared. If she could choose, she would rather not be kill by her former lover-CEO and her stilettos.

Don't underestimate Pepper Potts. Tony have engraved that rule in her mind.

Hope haven't been happy, but stayed civil and surprisingly understanding during their chat. It was a change from the douchebags like Hammer who thought he was better than her or the righteous assholes who thought they were always rights like Steve. But Tony wouldn't let her guard down so easily. Paranoia or not, she have learned her lesson.

“-Shall I understand that you are a bad patient ? Akizi asked. His speech sounded a little formal to Tony, but with his accent, it sounded almost... melodious.

-An awful one. She answered bluntly. No point to hide the truth.

-When she actually accepts to be examined. Deadpanned Rhodey.”

She stuck her tongue at him, while the doctor looked at her suspiciously. And Barnes. And T'Challa. She was ready to do a retreat when Vision came trough the floor. The three Wakandans jumped slightly and Barnes barely suppressed a movement to reach for a weapon he didn't have.

“-Hi, Viz. Tony greeted, grateful for the diversion.

-Tony. Came the calm answer. Vision was like this, even if lately he started showing more and more emotion, he was still very quiet. Much like JARVIS have been. She felt a pang of pain at this thought but quickly recovered.

-I have heard that you have moved from The D&R to the RH department ?

-Yes, Mister Young and Miss Owens are a great help to understand the difference between a discourse to a mass and discourse to single person. He blinked, looking like a curious kitten. I never thought that there was a difference between how people act in group how they did when alone.

-Yeah, she sighed, sometimes, the difference is stunning.

-But, He frowned as he examined her, you never seemed to change your opinion whether you are alone or with people.

-That because Tones is a real pig-head ! Quipped Rhodey, grinning.

-I prefer to say strong-willed.

-Whatever you say, Tones.

-And who is the kettle now? She retorted, because, really, Rhodey was as much stubborn as her, maybe even more. From his graduation from the MIT to his career in the military, James Rhodes accomplished everything thanks to a unshakable will to prove himself and nerves of steel. You would think that in modern days, skin colour wouldn't matter anymore. Or at least, that what Tony thought until she witnessed the racism Rhodey was victim of at school. She never witnessed it before that, Howard and Maria were many things, but none of them were racist. Not that Tony ever understood racism, she failed to see how melanin rate in one's blood defined intelligence or worth. She guessed it was another stupidity that her brain just refused to integrate. Like religion. Oh, Tony had an opinion on religion and particularly on bigot, but SI's PR department almost begged her to keep it for herself. She wasn't against faith, of in believing in something or someone bigger than you, but to excuse and explain everything by 'this is God's will' ? Nope, she wasn't on board for that.

Her utter lack of faith in anything but science is also one of the reason some parts of America didn't always like her. She wondered how it was in Wakanda. Italia was still a very christian country, but except for some traditional old ladies, you won't be frowned upon for not being very religious. She knew that in France, religion was a very personal matter and many peoples weren't afraid of saying that they were without religion, actually. Maria Carbonnel was born near Milan, but her family came from Aoste in a part of Italia were French was as often talked as Italian, as such, Tony childhood's trip in Europe were shared between Milan and Paris. But she was still firmly Italian, and shall remained as long as french keep considering snails as a dish. She had her limits. Even if it was very fun the one time she dragged Rhodey in one of her trip to Paris and asked for it just to see his face. She laughed so much that they almost get kicked out of the fancy restaurant. Totally worthed it.

Her expressions must have show some strange changes because everyone was looking at her like she was crazy (which, again, was probably true).

“-What'cha thinking, Tones ? Asked Rhodey, suspiciously.

-Meal. She grinned at him than turned to Vision. Tell me Vision, have you ever heard about French cooking ? In peculiar a dish with snails ?

-ANTHONIA STARK DON'T YOU DARE !!”

She was pretty sure Rhodey's yells were heard down the street of Manhattan.


 

The call hadn't been easy to make, literary and emotionally. Natasha wasn't ready for this. To confront Fury or Sam was a thing, but Stark ? She doubted that she will ever be ready.

She didn't liked Stark at the beginning, and kept her feelings that way for a long time. But not for the reason peoples tended to think.

After the Civil War, Natasha disappeared like no one else but her knew how to do. She took an alias and travelled in Europe mainly, until, almost against her wishes, her escape leaded her in Russia. This passage in her native country have reminded her how hard Russia was toward the traitor, but also what could have been her life if Clint haven't decided to go against his orders and bring her to the SHIELD rather than kill her. This realisation have bruised her ego more than she was willing to admit. Natasha wasn't doing well by herself. She always have been part of something bigger: the Red Room, the SHIELD, the Avengers. Now that she was really alone, she realised how it was to go back to your feet when you knew that no one would be there to help, to have your back.

And Natasha didn't like Tony exactly for that. Because Stark may not be a spy or an assassin, Natasha may easily kill her in hand to hand combat but Stark, that woman, she always seems to be able to resurrect from the ashes, to built and rebuilt herself, alone. Natasha didn't know how to do that. How Stark did that. The conference room where she was lead to is unremarkable in every ways. The Black Widow knew that Friday is probably monitoring her and ready to intervene, but other than that, there were only white walls, a round table and four chairs. Nothing more. It almost felt like a cell. And very different from Stark's way to behave. It wasn't a good sign. She was standing by the window, watching Manhattan's streets. She missed that place, even when she was in the compound, but she had no reason to stay when the rest of the Avengers wasn't there anymore. The sound of the door made her turn around. For the first time in months, she faced Tony Stark.

To her surprise, the billionaire seemed...healthy, more than she have been for the last decade. And it was surprising to see the once dying Tony Stark standing tall and natural, like she belonged here.

“Because she does, she owns the place, stupid.” Snarked a voice that sounded a lot like her younger self inside her head.

“-You look like hell, Romanoff. Stark said, in the tone of conversation. It wasn't going to be easy.

-Thanks, Stark. You look fine, though. She retorted, trying to not bristle. She couldn't help it, Stark and her were just no meant to be friends.

-I'm trying. I have a lot to do, can't afford to be sick. She made a sardonic smile and Natasha felt immediately guilty.

-I guess. I'm surprise that Ross he still free.

-Not for long. A little bird told me that Wikileaks will have some news before long.

-I almost feel sorry for him. She said, irony deep in her voice. -So do I. Answered Stark, they shared a small smile, and it was may be the only thing they agreed: People like Ross didn't deserve any sympathy.

-So... What does the little spider want ?”

The engineer seated on a chair at the side of the table, and the movement was far more calm, graceful than her jerky movements from before. As if she have found somme kind of peace out of this mess. Well, she was the only one.

“-I never liked you. Natasha said, blurted really. Tony merely raised a eyebrow.

-I gathered that much. And it was odd, but there wasn't the hurt Natasha expected, have seen before on Stark.

-I hated you, really. The redhead took a long breath and locked her eyes with the other woman. But not for the reason you think. The only answer she got was an expression of polite interest.

-I hated you because you showed all my flaws. Not consciously, but every time you managed to do things on your own, every time you used this power you held in your hand, every time you fell and than came back, stronger than before, every time you were right, I could see how different we were, how myself, who thought that I was able to take advantage of every situation, would lose against you. I hated it, hated to see that yes, there was someone that was able to do everything I do and even more. She panted, ended her rant, but Stark didn't react.

-So what ? You expect me to do what, Natasha ? To apologize ?”

No, she didn't. It was stupid and wouldn't be sincere. Why would it be ? Tony hadn't any reason to apologise for that. Natasha resentment wasn't rational and she knew it.

“-I don't like you either, you know ? Stark question surprised her, but she quickly collected herself.

-Yes ?

-The first time we met, you stabbed me in the neck after having entering my company illegally. I had to pay Pepper may diners before she accepted to not sue you for industrial spying. And then you wrote that assessment, so that Fury could taunt me, implying that you should take my armour from me. And you believed it, every single words you wrote, despite I had obvious PTSD and I was dying, you actually believed that your assessment was write. And then the fall of SHIELD, you just dumped those files, without any warning, and excepted me to clean up after you, despite all the good agents' life that were in danger. It wouldn't have been complicated to call me, but you didn't, in the best case scenario, you thought I was monitoring, in the worst, you thought I was HYDRA. And finally, Civil War, you came chastised me while I was standing just outside the room where my paralyzed best friend was, talking of my ego when, two years earlier, to just told the Congress to fuck off. Two years during which you also knew about my parent's death. But I'm pretty sure you didn't even think once of telling me. You betrayed me, on every level, Romanoff. And here I left out what happened with Bruce.”

Her voice was flat, her face neutral, but Natasha have never felt so threatened before, exception maybe of that one time with the Hulk on the helicarrier. And she didn't know what to answer. I was just doing my job ? Wrong and they both knew it. She watched the Iron Maiden get up and hold her gaze.

“-So, tell me, Natasha, considering everything you have done and my disliked for you and you for me, why should I stay here, talking to you, when I can just blast you and send you stray to the UN for your trial ?”

Natasha felt cold sweats covering her back as she realised she didn't know the answer.

Chapter Text

« To the living, we owe the respect, to the dead, we only owe the truth » Voltaire

 

Among the people that Anthonia Stark didn't want to see lately, Natasha Romanoff easily reached the Top 3. They had nothing to say to each others, they never had. They were simply too different with two set of minds that rarely met. It didn't mean anything: she have met other and they weren't necessary a bad person. But in case of the Black Widow, she wouldn't say that she was a good person either.

 

She knew it since the very beginning, but at least, she always thought that Natasha was someone rational. The late events proved the contrary. Well, at least this time (for the very first time), she was being honest. It didn't excuse her for anything, really, but Tony preferred that rather than the manipulation that the Black Widow always used. The air was at least a little more clean. She sighed.

 

“-What do you want, Romanoff ? She asked, because this little talk wasn't (couldn't be) the reason for the woman's presence.

-What are you going to do ?

-For what ? She looked taken aback, and Tony would have laugh, any other day.

-For the Avengers. For the Rogues. Now, she was speaking like she was talking to child and Tony gritted her teeth.

-Why do you think I should do anything ? She asked.

-Because...

-Because it's my job ? She interrupted her. She scoffed. The fuck it is. I was retired, and because you and all of the others weren't fucking smart enough to listen to the news and catch on in politics, you had the nerve to blame me for the Accords, Ross and probably for every fucking dictator of this world. Well, let me tell you this, Widow: IT IS NOT. You were more than capable to look out for the political aspect, or, I don't know, call Hill. The Accords started with you and Rogers and your stupid stunt with the info dump. Washington started it, but at the time, it was talk about relief force and cooperation. Than Sokovia. Maximoff. Did you think that I step back only because of Ultron ? You should know by now that it's more my style to stay in the front line and take the shit I deserve. But being associated with that girl ? No way in hell. I'm the daughter of Howard Stark and the goddaughter of Peggy Carter, there was no way I wanted to be associated with that Hydra manipulative bitch. Not after her implication in Ultron, Johannesburg and all the minds she raped. I tried, I tried to see her as a victim of Hydra, but frankly, I can't. Not after everything, not after what she have done to Vision, to my son. And you know the worst part ? Is that I know that I can't ask you to understand that, I can't ask to see my point of view because we are simply too different. I can't even bring myself to really hate you. Because you don't understand loyalty, faith and trust the way I do. And honestly, I think it's more sad than hateful.”

 

She stopped suddenly, watching that woman who seemed so sure of herself and pitied her. And there was nothing more to say, they never had anything to say to each other. The air was clean. And it was strange.

 

Tony sighed and the moment was gone.

 

“-I am still working on the amendment for Accords. I give you 24 hours to disappear or give yourself in. After that delay, I will hunt you down. As for the others, it's up to them to choose what they want to do and to the UN to judge them. Personally, I'm done with them.”

 

She turned around and left the room and the red head did nothing to stop her. It was better this way.

 


 

Standing there, it was surreal. She haven't come since that day. She always had an excuse to not come. But today, she needed it. Her conversation with Romanoff have shaken her more than she wanted to admit. She didn't have the strength to go back to the penthouse and to talk about it with Barnes or Rhodey or anyone, really. So she just took one of her cars and left. Before she knew it, she was there.

 

Which was odd, because she only came once, some fifteen years ago. But she should have known that she would always remember.

 

The tombstone was oddly clean, in a dark marble, the golden letter still bright, as if the time stopped after she left, waiting for her to come back.

 

Howard Stark

and

Maria Stark, Born Carbonell

 

15 August 1917-17 December 1991

30 January 1934- 17 December 1991

 

Beloved Parents and Friends

 

Opinion have greater power than strength of hands” Sophocle

 

Uh. She have forgotten that her dad liked Sophocle as well. There was many things she have locked aways during all those years, persuaded that her dad was responsible for their death. Now, all those things came back with force, like punch in the face. Wrong, she was wrong. She blamed him for everything with a stubbornness typical from a teenager.

 

“-Hi dad, mama. I'm sorry I didn't come earlier, that I didn't come at all, really. I, I wanted to apologize. For that. And because I hated you, I hated you so much. I loathed you. Why did you left me so early ? Why didn't you stay with me ? Who is gonna help me, now ? Who will show me the path ahead ? You were the Futurist before me, dad, why didn't you saw what was going to happen ?! I had so much questions, so much things I didn't know ! Who is gonna answer me now ? You were the only one who truly understood me, my brain ! The only who knew how it was, to be a Stark ! And now I'm alone. Rhodey, Pepper, Happy, Vision ! They try, I know they do but they don't know ! And you mom ! You swore, you vowed that no matter what, you would be with me, you would help me as much as you can, that you would accompanied me in every moment, happy or not ! But where are you ?! I'm alone !”

 

She was crying, for the first time in years, she truly cried for herself, for her parents gone too early. She was there, standing in her expansive shoes and suit, her make up a mess and her breath heavy. She wiped her tears and took a deep breath.

 

“-But now I know, I know that you didn't have the choice, that you fought to survive. Dad, I can't say that I actually know you, or understand you, not totally, but better and, and I'm so sorry that I never listened, never understood you before. Mama, I love you, and Dad loved you with all his heart. I'm not perfect, but I stand tall and I want to say thank you, for everything. I wasn't the easiest child, but you were incredible. I'm sorry for all this year spent hating you. I hope you will forgive me.”

 

She joined her hands briefly and turned away. In her car, away from every gazes, she fixed her make up and her hair, straighten her clothes and clean her shoes. When she came back to the Tower, no one could have guessed what just have occurred.

 


 

The world was an odd place, full of odd people. Tony Stark was odd. She didn't seem to meet any expectation. When the news came that the Black Widow was there, Bucky was pretty sure that Tony would just arrest her and that if she wouldn't do it herself, than Rhodes would. But neither of this happened.

 

Frankly, he didn't want to see the engineer going alone to meet with the Black Widow, but there was a tension in the shoulder of the woman, a tightness around her eyes that told him that if the Russian had the bad idea to attack Tony, she would have a mean surprise.

 

But none of this happened. Right now, Tony was sprawled on the couch, nursing a headache. The Wakandans were either with Vision in the labs or at the embassy and Rhodes was doing his physical therapy. It was only the two of them. And Bucky didn't now what to do. He was standing there, a glass of water in one hand and a painkiller pill in the other and was watching the woman, unsure if he should talk or just let the all on the table.

 

“-It's a bit creepy, you know ?” She said, but her voice didn't hold her usual energy. Like she was too tired to even sass him.

 

He opened his mouth but closed it when he realized he didn't know what to say. He helplessly presented the items to her, like a kid showing his last drawing to a parent”. She smiled sightly and took it. They spend a few silence in silence, him watching her and her watching nothing.

 

“-Romanoff wanted me to have the Rogue pardoned.”

 

He stilled. She watched him as he was trying to process what she was saying. She sat and looked at him with worry.

 

“-Don't do it. He rasped

-I won't. She said, calm. But I thought you would want it.

-No, don't. They, I heard what they said about you. They will... He struggle to breath and she putted her hand on his shoulder.

-It's alright, James. I'm going to be fine. She soothed.

-Don't. He said”

 

He putted his arms around her waist and buried his face in her lap. He forced himself to breath and relaxed slowly as she brushed her hand in his hair. Right now, He didn't wanted the Steve and the other near her.

 


 

When T'Challa came back. Barnes was nowhere to be seen, and Stark had a frowned on her face. He far preferred when she wore that teasing smile that alighted her eyes. But the news he brought wouldn't ease her worry.

 

“-Tony, he called she turned toward him and her frown deepened, Sam Wilson disappeared.”

 

She swore and he shared the feeling.


 

Only one look at Natasha's face was enough for Sam to know the result for her mission. Still, she shook her head toward Fury and the man swore.

 

Yeah, Sam thought the same.

 

Chapter Text

The web exploded exactly at 4:45 AM. In less than ten minutes, the whole world was screaming, outraged, out for blood. The alarms blared at 4:45:33 AM, waking up all the inhabitants of the penthouse of the Stark Tower. At 4:50:28 AM, the place was locked, the emergency room occupied.

 

Among all the things T'Challa has foreseen, this wasn't one of them.

 

He was staring at the man balled up in one corner of the emergency room, safely standing behind the glass. Beside him, the Doras were doing the same, utterly silent, while in a corner, Tia and Akizi were trying to find the best way to help their patient who was experienced a mental breakdown.

 

The doors opened behind him. An exhausted Tony Stark entered the room.

 

“-It seems that the video is already a hit. More than ten millions of person have seen it.

-Do we know how it leaked ? Zemo is in custody after all.

-I have to hand it to the guy, he knows how to plan. He hide camera in the bunker which were linked to a cloud programmed to leak the video exactly four months after his capture. Why so much time ? I don't know. He wanted the destruction of the Avengers so my best guess is that he estimated that this delay was enough for things to calm down. He knew I wouldn't make that fight public.

-Why ? T'Challa asked. After all, he himself was surprised that Tony didn't explain it to the media.

-Because it show me in a state of weakness that I never shown before. Even after Afganistan, people supposed that I have been tortured, but they never actually witnessed it. No matter what, the only image the public have of me is of someone that always go back on her feet. The worst they saw was a panic attack I had and my first fight against Vanko. But I always came back after that.

-It is not a shame to have weakness, Tony. He said, because it was unfair to judge the woman on the worst moment of her life.”

 

She gave him small, sad smile and he hated to see that her healthy appearance of the previous days seemed gone.

 

“-I know, but there is a difference between accepted it and showing to people you love and trust and showing it to the world. There is a few people who saw at my worst. Pepper, Happy. And Rhodey, of course, but he such a constant and pillar in my life that he hardly count. She took a deep breath and looked at the window. Stark are made of iron. We are not suppose to be weak.”

 

In a bold gesture, he put his hand on her shoulder. He had no right to do so, not after letting her in the bunker, but he just couldn't stop himself.

 

“-Your highness, you need to go back to your country. She said. There is no way the Rogue would miss the video and I fear what they could do in the heat of the moment. We also need to know about the whereabout of Sam Wilson. He was stupid during the Civil War, but he is the most reasonable of the group, without him, things could escalate pretty quickly. Your people could be in danger. T'Challa sighed and nodded.

-I shouldn't have granted them sanctuary, it is a mistake that cost great deal to Wakanda.

-My father and I hardly agreed on anything, but we both liked a greek philosopher called Sophocles. But we didn't liked the same quote. His favorite was “Opinions have greater power than strength of hand”. A good one, but mine always have been : “Honor is not to make the right choice, but to face consequence.”. So far you have shown a great deal of honor, T'Challa. I'm sure your people will see it too.”

 

He wanted to believe she would be right. Soon she walked away from him and despite the protests of his doctors, entered the room.

 


 

 

She probably shouldn't be doing that. She was herself such a mess that she doubted she would be able to actually help the man in the far corner of the room.

 

Pepper called. She was hysterical. Tony had to call Happy to stay with the redhead just to be sure she would be okay. It was one of the reason she didn't fight it when Pepper broke up with her. All of this, Iron Maiden, the politics, the fights, the injuries, its hurt her. Pepper was a strong and brave woman but not a fighter. She wasn't built for this. Tony neither before. Before the sand and fire and drowning and death and torture. And she didn't want Pepper to become one. She was perfect the way she was and shouldn't change herself for Tony. But it was still painful to see her hurt because of Tony's problems.

 

Rhodey... Rhodey was in rage. To such a point she honestly never saw the airman like that. He knew what occurred in the bunker but... Well, like she just have said to T'Challa, seeing and knowing are two very different things. He was with Vision who himself was wearing an expression she have nerve seen on him before, like he was lost and hurt. It was a painful reminder how young Vision actually was. But even as angry as he was, she trusted Rhodey to help the android.

 

She was exhausted. So fucking exhausted. She have been for the last decade almost. Really, sometimes, she dreamed of leaving, to find a peaceful place to do some tinkering in peace, without business or politics. Or drama. Too bad her education didn't allow her that.

 

Stark are made of iron. They don't flee their responsibilities.

 

“-James. She called. And the man only retreated to his corner even more. James, look at me. She didn't get any answer. Bitting back a sigh, she sat on the floor on the opposite side of the room.

-Barnes. I know it is hard, but you have to help me there. I really don't know what to do. You knew what occurred in the bunker. I know it's hard to see it again, but look, I'm fine and so are you.

-Are you ? She jumped slightly at the sound of the raspy voice, and met only one, bright, clear eye.

-Yes, James, I'm fine. I wasn't, in the bunker, I won't lie, but I am now. Tired, and pissed, yes. But not at you and it is nothing I can't fix. It won't be easy but it will be easier if you help me there. I need you to let the doctors help you.

-I hurt you. He almost whined, and there was so much pain in his voice that Tony wasn't sure what to do with it.

-So did I. But remember what I told the first day ? That fight, all this Civil War, in the end, was mostly between me and Rogers, you just happened to be there. Yes, you were one Rogers' reason to fight. But with or without you, it would have happened. You are not the one who hurt me the most in this bunker, emotionally and physically. If you are actually sorry, than get up and heal. It is the only way you can help me.”

 

He watched her for a long time she almost thought that he wouldn't believe her. But he nodded slowly and Tony offered her hand. He took it but Tony barely had to drag him. She was strong, but Barnes was anything but a light-weight. They get out of the room and Tia and Akizi were around Barnes in an heartbeat. She let them do their works and retreated in the corner of the room as her phone ringed.

 

“-Yes, Hill ? She asked.

-People have deposed flowers in front of the towers. Manifestations against Rogers are being organized. The woman's voice was cold, professional, but after almost two years of working together, Tony could hear the undercurrent anger. Tony knew better than to think it was toward her: Maria have watched over during her coma and helped Pepper dealing with the Board and the media. Against Rogers and Zemo for this mess ? More likely. She checked the time. Five.

-See with Happy to organize people to take the flowers inside and keep the exits clear. I will hold a press conference around eleven. I have to check with the UN before. Warn our legal, Ross will not stay quiet about this and I needed him down yesterday. We can't do anything for the manifestations.

-Done. The social media are on our side. There are few who claim that Rogers had good reasons but it is a minority. The stock are stable.

-Hmm. Tony expected nothing else. Stark Industry was far more stable than it was use to be. Even with Tony at the hospital, people knew that Pepper and her employees were there to keep it afloat. She have made sure of it. She snapped out of her thoughts and gritted her teeth. It needed to be done. I need to talk to Fury. Silence at the other end of the line but Tony knew that Hill didn't hang up. She was smarter than that.

-Are you sure ? Her tone was careful, Tony wondered if it was because of the possible repercussions or because of her feeling.

-Positive. Her tone was firm, devoid of emotions. She was the Iron Maiden and Tony Stark. She have delt with sharks since her birth. She could fix this.

-I will come to you with a place and a date. Was the answer.

-Thank you Maria.”

 

They bid their goodbyes and hung up. She caught the eye of T'Challa and reached him halfway. His handsome face was full of tension and Tony couldn't help but think it was a waste. “Focus Stark, your fantasies can wait” She admonished herself. Damn Rhodey. It was him who talked about the king's charms first. Well not really, but still, Rhodey's fault. She shook her head and looked at T'Challa who watched her with worry. Great, now she acted like a lunatic.

 

“-How are the things at home ? She have seen him on his phone a few minutes earlier.

-My sister is not happy with our guests. Granted, she never have been, but her displeasure reach a whole new level. Their wing is locked and the Doras are on alerts, but from what I understood, they wouldn't mind to have a reason to... have an encounter with them.”

 

Tony raised an eyebrow. She knew how annoying the Rogue could be, but surely, they couldn't be stupid enough to antagonize the special force of the king who granted them shelter ? She then remembered Wanda sneering at her face than asking her for an impossible amount of expensive clothes, or Steve ranted against her for her selfishness while she was working an update on the Falcon suit.

 

Never mind.

 


 

 

“-WHAT THE HELL IS THAT ROGERS ?”

 

Wanda winced at the sheer volume of Clint's voices. They were eating breakfast when IT came out. And since then it was the chaos. Scott was in the corner, keeping silent and watching Clint yelling at Steve. The table was upside down from his first burst of anger, items scattered around the room, the jelly spread on the carpet. It looked like an expensive carpet. She heard Steve trying to explain himself, to give excuse, but Clint started to rant again, covering Rogers's voice. On any other day, Wanda would have defend Steve. Not today.

 

She have hated Stark. Still did. She knew it didn't make sense. She have talked with Sam about it, about Stark's responsibilities in her parent's death. About the fact that she had as much responsibilities than a gun's fabricant. It was just easy, when she was a child, to focus on the name on the missile rather than to look for the one who launched it. HYDRA encouraged her in this hatred and the end, she didn't knew how to stop herself from hating Stark. The woman helped her, despite everything but Wanda never ever thanked her. It was so simple to just hate and take.

 

But right now, even her couldn't not be on Stark's side. Wanda knew grief. She knew how devastating it was to lose a parent. There was no excuses for what Steve has done.

 

But she deserves it.

 

Wanda shook her head as the whisper formed into her head. No, no one deserved to be betrayed that way.

 

She is a murderer. She deserves all this pain.

 

Does she ? She tried to help.

 

No she didn't. She turned the all world against us. She turned Vision against us.

 

Wanda felt a pang of pain when she heard the android's name. She missed him so much. Why didn't he choose her side ?

 

Because of her. Because of Stark.

 

Without anyone noticing, not even herself. Flare of red mist started to form around her hands.

 


 

T'Challa left the Tower at 8 A.M.

 

At 8:57, Hill called. The meeting was booked.

 

At 9:23, Everett Ross called. The UN wanted to interrogate her.

 

At 9:39 Thaddeus Ross called. He ranted during ten minutes. Tony pretended to have an urgent called and hung up.

 

At 10:16, Spiderman came to the Tower, terrified. Tony had to comfort him than left him in the capable hand of Rhodey.

 

At 10:45, Matt Murdock presented himself at the Tower.

 

At 10:58, several amendments proposition were made. If agreed. The defenders would sign and join the Avengers.

 

At 11:30, Tony was on a podium, flanked by Rhodey and Pepper in front of a room full of selected reporters.

 

At 11:36, Christine Everheart asked Tony Stark about her opinion on those who asked Rogers to be killed. Tony answered that it wasn't her place to decide.

 

At 11:45, Tony left the room. Only to come to face with people she never thought she would ever see again.

 

Chapter Text

Harley Keener was tall now. He actually was taller than Tony (which didn't mean much, everyone was taller than Tony). And suddenly, she felt very, very old. Not that she would tell anyone, especially Rhodey, the bastard would never let her live it down. Still, she recognized him at the first glance anyway. Teenage-hood have done him some good and she was ready to bet her annual income that most of the girls of his age thrown themselves at his feet. She obviously has kept an eye on the boy, but from afar and never made any contact. The kid and his family didn't need to be in the spotlight because of her.

But it wasn't the boy from her past which had her froze on the spot. But the woman by his side.

May Parker have been less than impressed when she discovered Peter's secret and Tony's actions. She couldn't blame the woman, Tony was pretty sure that if it had been her own kid, she would have been far more... violent. But after two hours of yelling, May Parker settled down and was willing to hear them out. She has been mad at Peter but forgave him. Because she understood. But Tony...

Well, Tony had no shame admitting that the woman scared the shit out of her. And frankly, she thought about running away, hero status is damned.

But she didn't. For Peter.

Because in this living room in Queens, in front of this woman who loved her child but didn't fully understand him, another image took place in front of Tony's eyes. While she was telling May how brilliant and good and honest Peter was, how all those qualities didn't allow him to stop being Spiderman, while she was promising May that she would do everything in her power to help the young man and she saw this woman, this mother in everything but name, looking so lost and powerless, Tony saw Maria, she saw her so clearly, even more than with the help of the BARF. Her mother loved Tony and was proud of her, she kept telling her during her all life, but she didn't understand her daughter, that girl who had father's eyes which shined with her husband intelligence.

Maria loved Tony as much as May loved Peter. But just like Maria, May didn't know how to help a child who seemed already out of reach.

After that talk, Tony left and May made it clear that for now, she didn't want the engineer anywhere near her nephew and didn't want to see her ever again. And Tony fully expected her to do exactly that. When she saw Peter come this morning, she thought that the kid disobeyed her aunt. But May was there, watching Tony with such kindness that the Iron Maiden felt even more guilty.

For a moment, Tony stood there, trying to know what to do. But it didn't last, the two seconds she froze were enough for Harley to thrown himself into her arms, and she felt her throat close, as she felt the miss of something that has never been and would never be, a feeling impossible to remove, a wound wide open, raw that would never turn into a scar. She put her arms around the boy, listening to him talking miles per seconds, his head on her shoulder, his words, a mix of reproach (You never called) and comfort (You will be fine, you are the Mechanic, you don't need him.). She caught May's eyes, which shined with knowledge and suddenly, her arms were around her also. And Tony...

Well, if the Iron Maiden's eyes shined with unshed tears, neither May nor Harley nor Peter and Rhodey and Bucky and Vision who just have entered the room were kind enough not say anything about it. Soon, she received more hugs in a few minutes than in years (Pepper and Rhodey, always from Pepper and Rhodey).

It was nice.



As expected, Harley and Peter get along like house on fire immediately. Frankly, it was like Tones had a sixth sense for finding socially awkward science genius kids. It almost made him feel nostalgic of a time when the woman was herself a socially awkward science genius kid who didn't know that she wasn't supposed to give her credit card's code to the cashier of the fast food and always had such a hard time to bond with other peoples.

He watched as the two boys were asking a thousand of questions to Vision. Rhodey would have put an end to it if the android didn't look himself extremely curious and seemed to enjoy himself. It wasn't even the strangest sight in the room.

On the couch, May Parker was fussing over the unkempt hair of one Danny Rand, the Iron Fist blushing over the attention. Beside them, Luke Cage and Doctor Stephen Strange were deep in a conversation while watching Matt Murdock and James Barnes trying to be stealthier than the other under the eyes of the two Wakandan doctors. For now, there was no winner.

But what caught Rhodes' eyes was the three women at the bar, drinking non-alcoholic beer while talking about something mysterious.

Hope Van Dyne, Jessica Jones, and Tony Stark.

When the Defenders showed up at the Tower with Van Dyne and Strange, They all thought it was to talk about the amendments Matt gave in the morning. But quickly, the conversation wandered off topic and Tony closed herself.

“-If you are here just because of what happened this morning, you can leave right now. I don't need or want your pity.
-Please, Jones snorted, I will keep my pity the abandoned puppies and kitties. You are not one of those, are you?
-I do have claws. Tony grinned.”

And just like that, the two women got along. Hope was quieter, she also gave the feeling of being a woman you better not mess with. The tree of them, talking together, the sheer amount of charisma they all had was quite a sight.

And him, in his wheelchair, was there, watching them, close but far away. He felt weak in a way he never felt. Not when faced racism at the MIT or in the army, not even when he realized that Tony has been taken in Afghanistan. The closest he has experienced was when, maybe a week after meeting her, he saw how bright Tony was and how impossible for him, no matter how much work he will achieve, it would be to reach her level. It would have been possible if Tony has been a lazy genius, but she spent most of her time working, tinkering, trying to find a way to do better.

He thought he has been dealing pretty well with his new situation. He always knew the risk of being a soldier and War Machine, always accepted it and prayed for being able to escape such a fate. The universe had others plans for him. But it was alright, at first. He knew that Tony would never stop until she found a way to make him walk again. A part of him wanted to stop her, because, fuck, he wasn't the only one who got hurt in this mess, she almost died. But he also knew that she would take it as a rejection and will let the guilty get the better of her. It wasn't her fault, or Vision's or Sam's, but Tony always had troubles with the notion of chance, or fate, or luck. And let's not talk about divine's plans.

He glanced at his phone. Divine's plan or not. Rhodey liked to think that things didn't happen without a reason.



It was early morning in Wakanda, and probably barely midnight in New York. T'Challa called Tony nonetheless. It was impolite of him, but he knew that the woman never went to bed early and would worry if he didn't. Not that he had good news to give her. Maybe it was because of the peculiar light of the workshop or because Tony seemed in better shape than when he left but for a single moment when the video connected, the Iron Maiden looked... regal. Her sharp cheekbones, the way she holds herself, the glow of her skin and her generous lips created a spectacle of lights and shadows that fascinated him and stole his breath. The cheeky grin she offered him did nothing to appease his thundering heart. T'Challa grew up among the beauty of the women of Wakanda. His own mother was a symbol of beauty and elegance and his little sister had for too many suitors for his own peace of mind. Okoye was also well known for her striking face. Tony Stark was different, not exactly a classic beauty. She certainly didn't have the big eyes and heart-shaped face of Maximoff or the even the slim body of her CEO Pepper Potts, but the woman was still entrancing in her own way.

“-Your Kittyness. She said, humor in her eyes turning the brown of her eyes from the colors of whiskey to honey.
-Tony. You seem in a better mood than when I left. He said when he realized too late how he sounded.
-No correlation between the two, I swear. But I guess I do feel better. Barnes finds a … playmate? Frankly, I am not sure what they are doing, but they seem to have fun. I made a new buddy myself, well she is a woman, but still, a buddy. Amendments are ready and I am dealing with the good Ross. Well, he is CIA so maybe not good, but the worst at least. T'Challa felt his eyebrows go join his hairline.
-A busy day. He said.
-Yeah, well, the Defenders, Strange and Van Dyne showed up themselves with pretty amendments totally reasonable which just need to be signed. Daredevil, one of the Defenders, just started some kind of cat and mouse game with James. The Docs approve something about reappropriation of his abilities through harmless fun. I am not even sure how this thing started. And Jessica is loud, brash and hate mental manipulation, we were meant to get along. And Spider-baby met Harley and they didn't set the house on fire... yet.
-Harley?
-A kid, well not much a kid anymore, I met during the Mandarin incident. A nice, nerdy and smart. I kept my distance but he just showed up after the press conference. What about you? Is your palace still standing?
-It is. But it was close. Mr. Barton didn't take well the revelations of what happened of Siberia. He has shown difficulties to deal with his anger since coming here and today, this anger just blew up. Maximoff reacted far more calmly than I expected from her. The one who worries me the most is the Captain. He is... empty. He moves, he eats, he talks and goes looking for Barnes, but he acts like a robot. Like something is broken in him.
-Broken? She made a strange face, something between doubt and concern. T'Challa shook his head.
-It is more like the calm before the storm. I fear that when the time comes, He will no see reason and act recklessly.
-Rogers always goes back to his feet. He never stands down. He is even more stubborn than me. What about Sam?
-We found a trace of abduction, but I am not concerned about him.
-What? The engineer looked him with wide eyes. Beautiful eyes.
-The Black Widow is not as stealthy as she thinks she is. She used the distraction created by the teams coming and leaving for the search of Sergeant Barnes to entered Wakanda and to leave with Mr. Wilson.
-Of course, she didn't feel like telling me when she came.
-Excuse me? Tony sighed. The weariness came back on her face.
-Natasha came to meet me at the Tower. I think she hopes... I don't know actually what she wants, she hoped that I would work on the pardons for the Rogues but I told her to fuck off and to leave. I should have arrested her, but with Barnes in the Tower, I didn't want to take any risks. Her logic was sound, but T'Challa a little betrayed.
-Why didn't you tell me? She sighed.
-Because I... Well, I want to tell you that is because I don't owe you anything, but the truth is it is because I don't trust you. It is not you, or what you have done. You apologized for Siberia and I know you mean it. But I have been more betrayed in the last year than in the in my whole life and that means a lot of times. Don't take it personally, but right now, the only person I trust is myself and Rhodey. And Vision but he is... young. I want to believe that everything you said and did so far is genuine and I think it is but... She trailed off, her mouth became a fine line.
-You were hurt and still are. T'Challa said. She gave a small, sad smile.
-Stark are made of iron. But in the long term, after too many blows, even iron breaks.
-At this point, frankly, I think are more made of vibranium, Tony.”

The smile she gave him was still small, but less sad and more amused. The king counted it as a win.

Chapter Text

Ross was a pain in the ass. Not CIA Ross but secretary Ross. Thought, she had the feeling that the agent was keeping his cards close to his chest and could at any moment become an annoying little shit. But so far, so good. The other, older Ross on the other hand... Hill found even more proofs than she already had of how despicable the man was, but the problem now was to find a way to present those evidence and get rid of Ross without taking a bullet in her head. According to Rhodey, she couldn't just drop all the info on Wikileaks and say "Whoops". It may have worked when she hacked the nuclear code (though she didn't put it on Wikileaks but e-mailed it to the president.), but she was thirteen and her father still provided weapons to the army, two circumstances she didn't have anymore. How Rhodey even knew about that anyway? They weren't friends at that time.

 

So she had to be subtle.

 

But subtle wasn't her strong point, and she was very aware of it. That's why she had yet to blast the face of the motherfucker in front of her. That and also, she wanted his trick to look like exactly the same than five years ago. Didn't that guy age? Did it mean he was immortal? How annoying. If there was someone Tony didn't want to be immortal, Nick Fury was top three, just between Thaddeus Ross and Justin Hammer.

 

Scratch that. He came after Hammer. Barely.

 

The problem with Fury, at least for her, was that the man didn't see people, but pawns. He was ready to sacrifice anyone in the name of the greater good. Forgetting in the process that this greater good was supposed to help people. Not shady agency. They weren't friends and would never be. Much like Romanoff, but the man was more level-headed than the woman. This was the only reason why this meeting was happening. Hill was leaned against the wall at her left, right in the middle between her and Fury, not taking a side and clearly ready to intervene. Tony didn't know if she liked it, but chose to not comment.

 

"-I heard you have a new roommate, Stark. Well, old motherfucker didn't waste time. He was already trying to make her mad.

-So do you. How is Wilson? They could be two to play that game. She heard Hill sight.

-Not so good. Hard to realize you fucked up so bad you are not welcome in more than half of the countries of the whole world. Tony had a hard time not rolling her eyes. Seriously Sam?

-Took him long enough. She said, her tone neutral.

-Come on Stark, he is not so bad."

 

No, he wasn't. That's what made all of this even more infuriating. According to Hope, Scott was not stupid, just a little... gullible. Wanda would always choose the side she wasn't on and Clint... Frankly, she had no idea what was going on with Clint. She always saw him as a smart guy. But she also always thought that he would never say anything like he told her in the RAFT. The only thought of his remarks about Rhodey made her want to throttle him.

 

She has become a tad more protective lately.

 

"-Please, can we stop the dick measuring contest now and jump to more serious matters? Oooh, Hill's voice was exasperated, she almost sounded like Pepper on the "make Tony sign a shit-ton of papers" day. God, she hated those days.

-Agreed. Fury almost snapped. So, Stark, what is your plans? To sulk and lick your wounds in a corner of your fancy tower or to be the grown up and reach for your team? From the corner of her eye, Tony saw Maria tensed. Why was she asking for this guy's help already?

-No, I will do just like you and pretend I a dead so I don't have to deal with the mess I created. There, another sigh from Hill. What, he started it.

-Very funny.

-You know what wasn't funny? To go through a thousand of files and to rescue hundreds of honest SHIELD's agents that got almost killed when you let Romanoff and Rogers do their little stunts. It was a low blow, but it worked.

-So what? You want me on my knees begging for your forgiveness?

-Non, I just want you to, for once in your damn, miserable life, admit that you made a mistake.

-Did I ?"

 

That was it. This meeting was a mistake, she was wasting her time. The nice play was over.

 

"- One? No. A thousand. And probably more I don't know about. So did I. But I least, I have the guts to stay and face them. You? You crawl further down the hole you hide in, coming out only to play the All-knowing Spy. She snorted. As if. Or maybe you choose to ignore HYDRA playing you like a damn puppet? What did you say about Romanoff again? Is she the best at her job? Right. She worked for HYDRA for ten years, with teams which barely hide their loyalties and was still shocked. No that I can blame her. It only proves that your organization's morals weren't that different from those of a Nazi organization.

-Are You done?

-No. I have enough of you and your damn manipulations. I will make myself clear: I want Thaddeus Ross down. Right now. I have the proofs, the intel but neither the time nor the freedom to destroy him. This is where you come into the picture.

-And why should I?

-Because King T'Challa is not happy the Black Widow entering his country illegally because I am not happy with you, the United States are not happy with you and your former employees, for whom you did nothing when they needed you the most, are not happy with you. And you really don't want to know what happens when we all join our forces. I am done with your little game, Nick. So here you have a choice: you help me now and I will remember it or you don't and I will remember it."

 

There was a long, tensed silence before Fury leaned back in his chair and sighed. She won.

 

“-Give me two days. And after that, forget my existence.”

 

Fair enough.

 


 

It didn't matter how much you try, you can't control everything. Tony knew that very well. She, and her father before her, tried. To have total control over the events of their life. Jarvis, their butler, had a far more philosophical view, that she learned later, came from a French philosopher called Sartre: Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. What matters is not what happens in your life, what matters is how you handle it. She has never seen the wisdom of those words more than now.

They got a call from T'Challa exactly fourteen hours after her meeting with Fury. Out of nowhere, the Rogues attacked the guards and tried to escape the palace. Upon further investigation, it appeared that Maximoff lost control over her power and … “enraged” her team. There were some wounded. But they all have been successfully contained. The council, however, demanded T'Challa to get those people out of Wakanda, soon. The young king looked exhausted, angry and ashamed. He didn't ask. But Tony knew. After she made sure everyone was safe, she gets into the armor and took off, ashes in her mouth.


 

He looked at the wall of his cell, lost. He didn't understand. How could things have gone so wrong? He thought they were safe here, in peace. But Bucky disappeared, he hasn't seen Sam in days and then...

 

There was a program on television, some kind of special edition about the Avengers in a reaction of the leakage of the video of Siberia. Steve didn't want to watch it, but the others insisted. After a rather neutral recap of the event, Steve accepted. Lately, all he heard on the TV was that he was a monster, but for the first part, the program didn't seem to take part, only saying what happened. Then after came a sort of presentation of the people who took part in the fight. It wasn't nice, his ego took some blows like when they reminded that he wasn't an actual captain, but excepted for Rhodes, who had a spotless military record and T'Challa who was unknown before the Civil war, they all, Tony included, have been scathing by the presentations. Clint yelled at the TV and Scott laughed it off, unconcerned. But then came Wanda's turn. And t wasn't good.

 

Steve never thought about how bad Wanda's history looked from the outside. Everything was explained: from her parents' death to her volunteering for HYDRA then her involvement with Ultron... Everything. And more the reporter went on, more red magic came out of Wanda's hands while she was muttering to herself. Concerned, Steve approached her to comfort her but stopped as soon as he could hear her.

 

Wanda wasn't muttering to herself, she was talking to herself. She was genuinely having a conversation with herself, a voice even changed from her usual one to another, deeper voice. And Steve felt authentically terrified. He tried to call her, not daring to touch her, but she kept watching the TV, oblivious to his presence. He tried to turn it off, but it turned on on his own. The reporter kept going on and on and suddenly, the suspicions about Wanda's involvement in the creation were evoked and the hell broke loose.

 

He didn't exactly know what happened after, he only had a vague recollection of being in a rage, of red clouding his vision and of having only one aim: to kill Tony Stark and that everything else didn't matter except Tony's death. Next thing he knew, he was laying on a bed in a cell of the palace feeling... empty. He was aware of the presence of several guards and of the visits of two different doctors, but he didn't react to it. At one moment he had an aim he was ready to kill and to die for and the next he had nothing. No aim, no rage, nothing. He heard footsteps that sounded familiar. Maybe. Then they stopped. There was someone in front of the cell. He didn't care.

 

“-They told me you are awake. Came a new, but also painfully familiar, voice. Suddenly he felt alive again and raised from his bed.

-Tony. He breathed. And he couldn't believe she was there.

-Hello, Steve. I heard you had a little problem. Do you remember what happened? She asked, with the same voice she used with Bruce after a code green.

-We were watching the TV and Wanda, she was strange, she seemed angry and then... He swallowed. He knew he didn't make any sense. But Tony nodded nonetheless.

-According to the security footage, she lost control of her power and suddenly, you, Barton and Lang were in a rage and decided to leave. You hurt several guards that tried to stop you before they managed to put you down.

-I... He swallowed again and looked down in shame. Is everyone alright?

-One of the Dora has a broken arm, but here, it is like having a paper cut, the others have only bruises. Barton and Lang are fine, they are still sleeping in their own cell. T'Challa and the others didn't know how sane you would be once awoken, that's why you are here. She designed the cell with a movement of her hand, a habit of her that always annoyed him before but now he discovered that he has missed it.

-I am sorry. And Wanda? He didn't know what answer he expected. Every possibility sounded wrong.

-We don't know. They found her in the living room, glowing red, floating. But she... she isn't there. She doesn't react at all. They managed to move her to a containment room but she is like a statue. Only her power is moving around her. They wanted to run a scan but it is impossible. I gave the number of a magic expert to examine her but so far... She showed her hand in a helpless move and looked a bit lost in a few seconds.

-She wanted to kill you. He blurted suddenly. I, we, we wanted to. Kill you, I mean. I didn't! But...

-You did, but didn't at the same time? She supplied.

-Yes! I am sorry. And he was.

-Not your fault. It is how her power works: you could be just a little annoyed with someone for something unimportant and she will make this feeling grow. It is your feeling, but she blows it out of proportion. And lately, we have been plenty annoyed with each other. She tried to joke, but she barely managed a small, sad smile. How are you?

-Fine, I guess. Physically, everything is OK, it's just... I am empty.

-Empty? She frowned.

-Yeah, like... nothing is important. Me, the team, Bucky... He stopped dead when he realized what he has said, cold sweats running down his back. She snorted.

-Seems like it's coming back. She sighed. He is fine.

-What?

-Barnes, He is fine. Well, as much as he can be. He is healing. He has doctors with him to help him.

-He is with you. He realized. She nodded.

-He showed up out of the blue at the Tower. He wanted to apologize. And he just... staid. He has two psychologists with him to help go through his memories and the use of the BARF to deactivate the triggers.

-Why? He asked. And she pinned him with her eyes.

-What ? You thought that I would just kill him ? That really what you think of me ? That I am the kind of woman who beat down people who are already down ?

-You tried before. And he knew it was the wrong thing to say when she all but glared at him.

-Right. Because you would have reacted far better you have been in my shoes, witnessing your parents' murder with the murderer right next to you after thinking for almost twenty years that your father crashed the car because he was drunk, learning that your teammate, your friend, that gave you such a hell about keeping secret, knew for more than two years the truth and never told you.

-It wasn't Bucky ! He shouted. And he was so tired that she didn't listen.

-It was him, Steve. It wasn't his fault, wasn't his choice, yes. But it was him. And it is not your call to say otherwise. Because you know what ? It is not your business. This concerns me, Barnes and every other victims of HYDRA. It was my parents that was taken from me, and Barnes's liberty that was taken from him. You ? You have nothing to do with that. And your opinion doesn't matter.

-He is my best friend !

-And it was my parents. And it was his life. And I know that. You know that. It is our life, our history, and it is up to us, and us alone to decide how to deal with it. You can't erase it just because you want to. It is not your call. Barnes and I choose to deal with it. He is getting better and I am helped him, because we both want to see the trigger words gone. You ? You can just offer your support or your opinion, but certainly not make choices for us. And I think you know, deep down, that if you have come to me and tell me the truth since the beginning that I would have helped. You knew that. But you didn't. Because you are so far gone in your denial of what happened that to tell me the truth was to admit it and to break your illusions. You didn't care about me, or Barnes even. It was only about you.

-That's not true. He shouted. How could she say that ? How could she be so calm about it ?

-It is. And you know how I know that ? I know that because you refused to sign, when I presented pardon for what happened and a total medical care for Barnes, you turned it down. If you have been honest with yourself about what happened to him, if you really wanted to protect him as much as you say, you would have signed, without question. You would have sacrificed yourself for him.

-Because you had Wanda locked up !

-She was in the Compound, Steve. In her home. With her friend. Because people wanted her head. Hardly the same thing than jail.

-But the Accords would have put her in jail !

-No it wouldn't ! For God's sake Steve ! That's really what you think of me ? That I would give up a teammate without fighting ? Of course she had to stay at the Compound ! She was responsible for several civilian's deaths !

-It wasn't her fault !

-And who decided that ? Who decide when it matters and when it doesn't ?

-We did !”

 

She watched him for a few seconds. Her eyes were dark and she shook her head.

 

"-No Steve." She shook her head, and suddenly her voice had that soft tune that had always made him want to close his eyes and just listen. It has been an utter surprise the first time he heard it from Tony, so different from her usual brisk rambling. "This is it, this is where I draw the line. We are not God, Steve, we have no right to say who deserves to be saved and who doesn't, no right to tell people that they have no right to ask us accountabilities. This place, this planet, this is our home to protect, yes but also theirs, our. One day you asked me what I was without the armor, the answer is simple: I'm a human, just a human. And I can't help but think that if I hadn't the suit, it wouldn't stop me from fighting to get answers. Because those people, those casualties, they are other human beings, like me, like you, they have friends, families, lovers, hopes, and dreams. I spent almost fifteen years with a soldier as a best friend, and I know that if I had loose Rhodey if he hadn't made it from a mission, nothing would have stopped me from getting answers. I told Pepper one day that if I died as Iron Maiden, I would have died for something. It's the same things here Steve. People have the right to know that their loved ones are not dead because we don't care or because they were human in the middle of the fight between inhuman. They need to know that we tried, that we fought so hard to tried to save everyone because we are like them. They need to think, even a little, that we didn't fight just for ourselves, that the one who died didn't die being ignored, that we care, for every life that has been taken. The Accords... The Accords were far from perfect, but it was a way to reach us, as what we are, and not what we appear to be. I... I have made so many mistakes in my life, some you don't even know, but I actually learned from them, and one of my biggest lessons was that the results matter more than the intentions. And now, the result is that people feared us, that the Avengers, a name that was supposed to mean hope is now synonym of battle and death. I have my responsibilities in this but you too. Steve, you need to stop saying that you fight for the little guy, that you just a boy from Brooklyn, you are a leader, a general now Steve, you need to understand the world better than that. You need to wrap your mind around the fact that you can't redo the past. You are not the only one who almost lost everything.

-You left the first.

-What? She asked, surprised.

-You left the first! He almost yelled, suddenly despaired and angry. You were the one who left us behind, who retired from the team, who left me to handle everything. The team, the media, the government. You never came, you never called. If not for Rhodes, I could have thought you were dead! We were supposed to be a team but you left, you abandoned us.

-Why would I ? Steve raised his head at the quaver in her voice and blinked in surprise. Tony was crying. Tony Stark never cries, it was a rule, almost a law.

-Why would I come back when you didn't do anything but pushed me to leave? Why would I when you welcomed someone that almost made me lose my mind? When everything I get in the common room would be glaring? When I know that any mistakes would result to be hurt? Thor strangled me, Wanda manipulated me! I lost JARVIS, I lost my faith in my creation, I lost Bruce! Have you ever wondered what Bruce would think of you welcoming in the team the same person that made him a murderer? Realized his worst fear? Have you ever thought about the fact that maybe what turned wrong with Ultron wasn't entirely my fault? Have you ever paid attention to everything I have done for the Avengers without anyone thanked me? Have you ever saw me has anything but a wallet or someone to blame? If yes, then tell me why someone like Natasha would throw water at my face when she pretended to be able to judge my mental state? Why can a counselor like Sam not see when someone has PTSD? Why you never even tried to saw me as someone else but my dad? A man you always screamed to respect but never even though to say to his daughter, your teammate how he actually died? How couldn't a leader see that one of his men wasn't alright? Of course, I left, Steve! Everyone made me understand that I wasn't welcomed!

She shook her head and took a deep breath while Rogers stared at her dumbstruck. When she talks again, her voice was lower.

-A part of me wants to forget about you altogether. Sometimes, I wish I could just send you into the world, wash my hand off your case, that I can just throw you in jail and lose the keys. But I can't- No, that's not that I can't it's that I don't want to. I know you, Steve, I know who you really are, the Brooklyn kid that went to war and never really came back. You are a good person, Steve and I know it. But lately, I think you have forgotten that, that you have forgotten yourself. You are Captain America, Steve, but Captain America is not you. You have forgotten yourself behind the symbol, the ideals are pure, extreme and dangerous. I didn't come with the idea of Ultron because of lack of trust or megalomania, but with an idea too. I think it happens to all of us, this moment when our alter-ego seems to be more important than us. But it's us, only us who choose to fight that way, us who choose to be super-heroes. Because we ARE human too, because the people outside are like us because Earth is our home. We are not supposed to fight for what is good for the US but for is good for humanity, and to know what it is, we have to remind ourselves our own humanity."

 

Tears were running down his face, and somehow, the woman in front of him changed. No, that wasn't it. His vision of her changed. Suddenly, he saw everything he refused to see the first time they met: the common traits between them. On the paper, They were the most different people you could meet: the poor, always sick, a boy from Brooklyn who lived in the 40's and the rich heiress, the genius who was called the Futurist.

 

Two orphans, two people who had to fight their way into the world, two human beings who have been confronted with something much bigger than them.

 

Two heroes who were trying to do the right things.

 

"I'm tired to be the real villain."

 

Steve felt his heart squeeze. No, that wasn't the truth, he had never thought that Tony was the bad guy.

 

But he had acted like if it was the case, didn't he?

 

When did he become the bully?

 

 

Chapter Text

When Anthonia Stark was six years old, her hero was Captain America.

 

How could it have been someone else? She grew up in a house where his name was pronounced with awe, with a father who was always saying how brave and strong Steve Rogers was.

 

Growing up, irony or fate made Tony prefer Captain America's sidekick, Bucky Barnes. She thought to go to war as a simple man was a greater proof of courage than going pumped up with a super soldier serum. But she never doubted that Captain America was a hero.

 

Now that she was older, she knew better. Steve Rogers was just a man, brave to some, reckless to others. A hero. A danger. And the same question popped up in her mind.

 

What would have happened, if Steve Rogers was born German?

 

He stands up against bullies, her father kept saying. But at that time, for German people, Hitler's propaganda made the Jewish people appeared as bullies.

 

He wanted to fight for his country. So did every German soldier at that time.

 

You'd have to be crazy to let a German scientist make experiments on you to protect your country. But Wanda and Pietro Maximoff didn't want to protect their country, they wanted to kill the woman who created the bomb that killed their parents (not the one who shot, not the one who sold, but the one who created because her name was on the missile). And Erskine was not Hydra, he was a resistant. A man who fled his country to keep fighting the Nazis, not a Nazi himself.

 

What would have happened, if Steve Rogers was born German?

 

He was blond with blue eyes, a man that fit the Nazi ideal. But he was also sickly, far from the eugenist' vision of the Third Reich.

 

She knew her thoughts were unfair. No one knew what they would have done in this situation. Peoples liked to think the best of themselves, but the truth was that you never knew what you would do in a situation until you face it.

 

But the question was more profound than that. The real question was: Who was Steve Rogers?

 

A soldier who doesn't take orders. An artist who doesn't create but reproduce the same scenes from the past.

 

Tony knew who she was. She was Iron Maiden. Take the armor away and she was The Mechanic. Take away her hands and she was a genius. Take her mind away and she is dead. It was that simple.

 

Who are you, Steve Rogers?

 

She wanted so, so badly to ask him. But as she was watching him crying, shaking from their talk, she couldn't find the strength to do so. It seemed cruel to do it now.

 

"Have you ever love me ?"

 

She watched him, stunned by this uttered question. But she could answer.

 

"Yes. I did love you, once.”

 

“Not anymore?”

 

“I…” She took a deep breath trying to ignore the heat from the reactor that was getting stronger since the beginning of this meeting. “I don't know. I honestly don't know, Steve. Yes? Am I able to love someone that will never see me as I am? No. Am I really able to brush off everything that happened since New York? I think that the only good answer I can give you is that I don't hate you. We will never be friends again, I can tell you that much. Teammates? Maybe, one day. But I don't hate you."

 

She knew hate. She has hated people in her life so much that she burned them to the ground. The Ten Rings, Obadiah, Killian. She destroyed them. She always destroyed what she hated. But she didn't hate Steve Rogers. She distrusted him, she had a grudge against him, yes. But she didn't hate him.

 

"You and I, we will never be back to what we were before. Because it's impossible and because I don't want to. Some lines have been crossed and we can't go back. But…” She rummaged in her pockets before taking out a Starkphone. “Everything's not lost for you.” She handed him the phone, but at the last second, she grabbed his wrist. “Don't fuck it up, Rogers. I know who I am and what I can do. Get your shit together before anything else. Because if you hurt him, I will burn you."

 

He nodded and she let go. The heat of the reactor cooled down, slowly.

 

They were over.




She was standing against a wall and everything in her posture indicated a deep exhaustion. T'challa couldn't help but rush to her side.

 

"Tony? Are you alright?” He asked, refraining from touching her. Some people didn't like being touched when they were in emotional distress. She didn't look at him, but her voice was steady.

 

“Do you think there are different types of love?” She asked instead of replying. He took his time to answer.

 

“Yes, of course. Love for your family, by blood or by soul, is different from the love you have for your significant other. I believe the bond you create with some people, while not romantic, can hold as much importance, maybe even more, than a romantic one.” T'challa saw her smile and tilted his head in askance. She shook her head, her hair falling on her face.

 

“Don't mind me, it's just your words reminds me those people Rhodey dated and were absolutely jealous of me. There was nothing sexual or romantic between us, but still. One of his girlfriends even asked him to choose between me and her two months into their  relationship. Rhodey and I had already been friends for ten years by then.”

 

“And she really hoped to win?” T'challa asked, bewildered.

 

“Apparently. Too bad for her, at the second she uttered her ultimatum, Rhodey left and came into my house, ranting about crazy women.” She let out a low chuckle, her expression fond.

 

“I could have guessed.” He smiled, but soon, his expression turned serious again. But he supposed it was not about her  relationship with Colonel Rhodes. Those two seemed too comfortable with each other, confident in their bond, there was no way it was the reason Tony asked those questions.

 

“Rogers and I never had a simple relationship” He nodded, he had witnessed it. “We could have been an item once, if things have been different. But here is the thing: there were too much to change. You can't change the whole world, your past, and your present to be with someone. It is a whole. Roger and I, we are connected. We both know it. There is something that makes us revolve around each other and at the same time, we are so different that when we collide, we hurt each other. And we end up with resentment. Hate almost.” She chuckled humorlessly. “We were in a toxic relationship without being in one. How pathetic is that?”

 

“It is not.” He said, slowly. “You may not believe in God, but I believe that things don't happen without a reason. You and Rogers did great good together. You may not see it now, but I do think that your meeting happened for a reason, a good one.” She nodded.

 

“Love never was the problem, I guess. Or rather, Steve loved me, but he loves his past even more."

 

And Tony Stark was the Futurist. It was almost tragic, but no matter how much they loved each other, those two peoples would never have been able to reach the other. From what he gathered, this connection never reached the physical point. But still.

 

She deserved better.

 

People may not see it, may not see the struggles of this woman who tried, tried so hard, to do better, to be better. Steve Rogers watched her, but he didn't see. In a way, he could understand, because Rogers tried to be better to too, but the other way.

 

Those people started at the same point: they wanted to protect the world, but along the path, their ways separated. They stopped to try to do things together and simply started to be too different to be together without hurting each other.

 

I have my faults too.

 

T'challa knew Tony knew it. That Steve Rogers and she could not be together, ever. In any way.

 

She had come to say goodbye.

 

"Barton and Lang?” She asked. Trying to look unaffected.

 

“Barton just woke up, Lang is still unconscious.”

 

She nodded. “It is better this way. I don't know Lang. I will let Hope talk to him.”

 

“Do you want to see Barton?”

 

“Please."



On their way to the cell, she seemed to brace herself. He had heard one of Barton's rant. Once, he could imagine what Tony was expecting. But in front of the cell, they got none of it. Barton was … unresponsive. He was laying on his cot, staring at the ceiling.

 

"Barton?” She called.

 

He didn't respond. Actually, there was no sign that he was awake except for his wide-open eyes. He frowned and turned toward the Dora, Aneeka, who was guarding the doors.

 

“Has he done anything  since he woke up?” He asked her.

 

“No, your highness. The medical team asserted that he is fine, but he hasn't reacted to anything since he woke up.”

 

“Strange,” Tony murmured.

 

“Agreed.”

 

“No, I didn't mean... Well, yeah, I meant it, but I wanted to say, Doctor Strange. Maybe we should call him.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Clint was brainwashed by Loki. Maybe, maybe he is more sensitive than the other to mental attack."

 

T'challa nodded. Maybe. Or maybe the man was simply in shock.

 

"What about Wanda?” Tony asked and he tensed.

 

“It is better than you see it yourself,” He said.

 

He turned around and lead the way in the underground cells. He walked towards the end of the corridor. In front of the last cell, four Doras were standing guard. He heard a faint gasp behind him. In the cell, in the middle of a red mist, was a floating Wanda Maximoff. Her eyes were red. Not rimmed, but absolutely red. No pupils, no apple eyes, just a bloody red. Her hair was moving around her as if there was an  invisible wind. He felt Tony come to stand beside him and he had to resist the urge to push her behind him.

 

"Since when?”

 

“Since the accident. We had a hard time moving her here. We tried to reach her but nothing could work. No scans could get through. We are at lost about what to do. Her powers act as a shield around her."

 

Tony nodded and took a step. He refrained himself from taking her hands and pulling her away from this danger. But he knew better. Slowly, she reached the door of the cell and watched her ex-teammate.

 

"Wanda? Wanda, can you hear me ?"

 

Before anyone could react, the red mist reached the engineer and trapped her. It entered her mouth, her eyes and lifted her from the ground. Her mouth agape like a silent scream. During a dreadful minute, nothing happened.

 

Then there was the red.

 

It was like a silent explosion. T'challa raised his arms in front of him and could feel his suit unfold around him. The red mist was gone as fast as it came. He took a second to check around him and that's when he saw her.

 

Tony was there, laying on her side against the wall. The wall was dented like something has been smashing against it.

 

Or someone.

 

He scrambled toward her. She was bleeding from her nose, her eyes, ears, and mouth but she was breathing. He found her pulse, but didn't managed to wake her.

 

"Call the medical!” He shouted, and heard the sound of someone running.

 

“Your Highness. One of Doras called."

 

He turned toward the voice and saw her bend over the limp form of the Scarlet Witch, two fingers on her neck. He looked her in the eye. She shook her head.

 

Dead.

 

The members of the medical arrived in the corridor and he had to retreat from Tony's body. He watched them move her to the med bay. He wanted to follow, but knew better. A doctor caught him and forced him to sit and go through an examination. Once he was released, he checked on Tony. They were still working on her. He went to his office. He had calls to make.

Chapter Text

Unknown to anyone, in the silence of Tony's workshop, something happened. Something so small, so subtle, that not even Friday detected it. If someone witnessed it, they could have made the connection with what just happened in Wakanda: Tony being attacked by Wanda's red mist, the shiny blue of the ARK reactor flashing for a microsecond, as if to fight the belligerent energy. But no one knew.

That's why, when the nanobots previously used by Tony to heal herself started to move and reached one of the gauntlets for a new armor Tony left there in her rush to Wakanda. No one could stop them from entering it.


 

Red and cold. Tony was surrounded by that. By red and cold. Strange. Most of the time, red was associated with warmth. But right now the only warmth she could feel was the heat of ARK reactor, the shining blue struggling against the red.

Where was she?

She remembered going down to Wanda's cell, the girl engulfed by the red mist, then next she knew, she was there. Panic rose in her stomach as she tried to look around her. She barely could move, as if she was in the water. She painfully took three steps when she heard a sob.

Whipping around, she saw the crouched figure of Wanda. Her face was hidden in her hands and her shoulders were shaking. The red mist was dancing around her, but darker shades, almost black were twirling aggressively, like ready to attack.

"- Wanda? She called. Wanda, what is going on?
-It is too strong. I can't control it. The other woman sobbed."

Almost immediately, another voice came:

"You must die."

This voice was similar to Wanda's but much more, threatening, in a way Tony never heard before. Evil.

"-I should be alive. Wanda cried. Tony tried to reach her, but it was like walking in water and as soon as she came near the Sokovian, the dark swirls tried to attack her.
-Why do you say that, Wanda? Tony asked softly.
-I shouldn't have survived Pietro! I can't go on without him! I can't !"

Tony felt honestly sorry for the girl. She couldn't imagine what it must feel like to lose a twin.

"-Wanda, he wouldn't want you to say that...
-You don't understand! It is my fault! I was the one who wanted to be part of the experiment! I was the one who chooses to side with Ultron! It's my fault he is dead! And the rest! He told me! He told me after we got our power to not try to have others but I didn't listen! Everything is my fault !"

Tony felt colder than ever. She always thought that Wanda's telekinesis and telepathy were part of the same power. She did wonder why Pietro only got physical capacities while Wanda seemed to have two distinct capacities but their relation wasn't good enough for her to ask. But if Wanda went through two experimentations... The sceptre was able to increase the emotion of a god, a soldier, a spy, herself and a man who was more than used to deal with strong emotions just by being in the same room, she could only fear the impact it could have on someone who got power from it, not once, but twice. But she didn't have the time to more think about it as the dark swirls tried to attack her again. The only thing that seemed to stop them was the reactor. Again. Like that time with Loki, the energy of the reactor stopped another energy to attack her.

"IT IS YOUR FAULT !"

She didn't have any illusion that the voice (was it the scepter? But Vision had the stone. It didn't make sense) was talking about her. And was out to kill her.

"-Wanda, it is the power of the sceptre, not you. Come on. Breath deeply. You can control it.
-No, no, no ! I can't ! I can't !. Wanda was hysterical now.
-Wanda, I know it is scary, and painful. But this powers are yours. All of this is you. It is only your anger and sadness that were blew out of proportion. You can control it.
-It's too strong. No one can control it !
-You can ! Tony changed tactics and went with authority. Frankly, she didn't what else to do. Smoothing her didn't worked and the dark swirls were getting closer. Wanda, if you don't, it will kill us both !"

"DIE"

Ok, maybe authority wasn't a good idea.

This time, the dark did hit want and sent her flying a few meters away. Her head seemed ready to burst. She heard Wanda screamed.

"-Tony !"

But it kept attacking. Soon, she had cut on her arms and face, and worse, flashback. She saw Siberia and the tape, Pepper falling into the flames, Rhodey, laying on the ground, Happy at the hospital, Yinsen, dead, Afghanistan, the wormhole. The pain physical and psychological was almost too much.

"-TONY !"

It stopped. She got up and saw Wanda. She was standing, looking lost and terrified and Tony have never been so fucking glad to see her.

"- See? You can control it. A small, sad smile formed on the young woman face. And Tony saw it."

It didn't stop, it focused on one target. Wanda was crying for her help. Little by little, Wanda's form was darkening. As if her own blood was becoming black.

"-Not for long. Her voice was a strange mix between her's and the one they heard before. She saw her tears. She saw her eyes. She knew those eyes.
-Wanda, what are you doing ?
-I'm sorry. For everything.
-Wanda-
-I was never supposed to survive Pietro.
-Stop it -
-Tell Vision I'm sorry too.
-STOP !"

She tried to reach Wanda. She knew where she saw those eyes before.

Yinsen had the same when he choose to die.

But before she could reach the girl, there was a burst of red, the feeling of falling and a white light.


 


"-You know Brother, this tendency to bring me broken white people to fix is becoming annoying."

T'Challa glared at his sister. Since the incident, the medical and every scientist of the palace were busy trying to find what happened. There was nothing they could do about Maximoff, it seemed that her brain just stopped functioning and her other vital organs just followed. But for Tony...

There was something that appeared to keep Stark from waking up. The scan detected two foreign energies inside her body, one was obviously the reactor ARK and the other Maximoff's power, but the medical couldn't tell which was which. Since the reactor was clearly necessary for Tony's survival, T'Challa asked the only person he knew would be able to tell.

If only Shuri could stop glaring at the unconscious woman as she insulted her, it would be nice.

"-Did you call her team ? She asked.
-Yes, Vision is on his way. He is the one who know the most about the power from which the Scarlet Witch got her power from.
-I never saw those type of energies before. She was frowning at her screens, worrying her lips.
-The ARK reactor is unique and Tony seem to have keep it away from prying eyes. And the stone is alien. T'Challa answered.
-Why did she hide it ? She could have help a lot of people. Shuri accused. T'Challa sighed.
-For the same reasons we keep the vibranium for ourselves, Shuri. The reactor Tony has in her chest could be used for weapons. It is something that we deal with great care. He chided. Her shoulders slumped and he knew she knew he was right. She only acted like that because she didn't like Stark. Or rather, she resented being always compared to her. Add to this the history between Howard Stark and Wakanda and you had the recipe for a disaster.
-I think I can separate-"

She was interrupted by a scream. From Tony. she suddenly started to have a convulsion. Cut formed on her arms out of nowhere. They called for help. During two dreadful minute, an invisible force seemed to attack the poor woman before she suddenly stilled. Shuri and T'Challa exchanged a glance an suddenly, the red mist escaped from Tony's body, before disappearing.

Tony's body slumped.


 


It took two hours before she woke up. She has been changed and patched up. She looked at the red and black top and pants. She realized it was a suit made of some kind of cotton, definitely something she didn't bring with her. She looked at her bandaged arms. Uh. Visibly the vision had some repercussions in the real worlds too. And Wanda...

She froze as realization dawned on her. Wanda was dead. She felt cold. God. She wasn't the biggest fans of the Scarlet Witch but she never wished her dead. She was young.

"-Miss Stark ?"

She startled and looked up to see Vision watching her with worry. His usually calm expression was sad. He knew.

"-Vision, she started, I'm so sorry. She said. The poor android didn't deserve that. But he shook his head.
-It is not your fault. You couldn't do anything to prevent it.
-Still. I am sorry. He looked away like lost in thoughts.
-I think I knew this was bound to happen. Wanda... Wanda was erratic and refused to listen to anyone trying to convince her to control her powers.
-She couldn't even if she wanted to. Tony sighed. It turned out she has been subjected to two experimentations with the scepter.
-That... explains a lot. He said.
-Ah! You are awake! Came a new voice"

The newcomer was a young black woman, her hair was braided and put in two buns on each side of her head. She wasn't wearing the Dora Milaje's red uniform, but Tony had the feeling she knew her.

"-I am Shuri. T'Challa's sister.
-Nice to meet you, Your Highness. That explained a lot: she never saw her before, she looked like her brother.
-Shuri is fine. You did something very stupid down there."

Vision tensed by her side. But Tony smiled. She knew that tone. She used the same when talking to her father.

"-What can I say? Curiosity got the cat. I am sure you see what I mean.
-Are you talking about you or my brother? She shot back."

Tony laughed. That girl has spirit. She liked her.

"-What about you? Are you a cat too?
-Be careful. You kind of look like a bird with your hair like this."

Tony laughed again and Shuri cracked a smile while Vision was watching them. She was going to have so much.

Standing by the door, T'Challa thought that this was the recipe for a disaster. Bast guards him.