In a bar in New York two men sat at a table far enough from the others to talk without being overheard. One sitting in a wheelchair that he was still trying to get used to, the other posture that of a military man and attention carefully not on the new addition to his drinking buddy.
“Never imagined I’d see the day the Tony Stark lost his cool in front of the press.” The younger man commented, his drink in front of him mostly left forgotten in favor of conversation.
“I’ve known Tony a long time, this wasn’t like him. Especially in this kind of situation.”
Curiosity flared in the younger man’s gaze.
“Why especially this situation?”
The wheelchair bound man shook his head sadly.
“Because now everyone’s angry and focused on the criminals. Everyone’s after their heads and we’ve already seen what happens when they try to avoid arrest. If not planned properly like the fight at the airport we’re looking at not only property damage but life loss. With all the attention on the criminals everyone’s forgotten the victims. I saw what Tony was supposed to say, he would have properly shed light on the fact people had been hurt, that he’d bring awareness to people who need help in the aftermath, that there’s a lot of damage and repairs needed. Bringing awareness would have helped with the efforts to give support to those affected. There’s charities Stark Industries and Tony are a part of, once the people’s focus was in the right place they could get the attention needed to raise funds. I’ve seen the report of the aftermath, I’ve seen how many died, how many were left injured. It’s not pretty and it shouldn’t have happened like this. T’Challa and Rogers fucked up. Barnes surrendered when the task force got him surrounded, it could have been that easy. A quick mission to arrest him and no one would have gotten hurt. Even if there was a small chance he’d run it could have been handled properly. Not a chase through a heavily populated area with no disregard to who else might be affected.”
The younger man finally took a drink from his beer.
“Wakanda hasn’t offered any help after T’Challa’s part in what happened?”
The older man shook his head and let out a bitter laugh.
“There’s been nothing from Wakanda’s end, honestly with King T’Chaka dead I doubt his son gives a shit what happens beyond the borders of his country. I don’t even know if the UN has bothered to reach out to them, there’s just so much that’s been going on to deal with the dumpster fire that is everything that has happened. After the press conference the entire world now has their eyes on the Accords and those involved including the history of the Avengers. People are asking what the hell Shield was thinking, was it them or Hydra that actually put the team together. People now asking what can be done as this world has no way to actually stop Thor or his people from coming and going to the planet. Is Thor going to strangle anyone who pisses him off? The whole world is shitting themselves over everything they’re finding out and there’s more shit being added to the dumpster fire.”
The younger man looked at his beer.
“I heard Ross tried to get a team into Russian for the dead winter soldiers. Heard he’s sitting in a prison with Russia demanding to know what the hell the U.S was thinking with him being so close to the situation with his history.”
The older man had a grim look on his face.
“The only good that came from the situation was that the bodies had been recovered by Russian authorities and they sent proof to the UN that they’d been disposed of so no one could try and use the serum in their veins to recreate it.”
A laugh came from the younger man.
“At least someone has a brain and uses it.”
A heavy sigh and the older man signaled the bartender for another drink.
“Tony has gone through hell but he’s still trying his best. Still working to help those affected by what happened. Hell he’s working on a way for me to walk again. He’s always trying to fix things and I just don’t know how to take some of the weight off his shoulders.”
Another drink was put in front of the older man and he was quick to take a drink.
“I’ve always wondered, what’s a man like him doing working like he does? He’s got enough money to live happy and carefree for the rest of his life. Yet he’s working with charities, flying around in a suit of armor he could have easily handed off to someone else. Why does he bother with any of it?”
“Tony is…complicated. I know he was raised expected to take over Stark Industries one day. He could have just left it to Stane, lived it up with a different person in his bed every day and throwing a party any time he wanted. Could have lived the life of a rich playboy with not a care in the world. I think he stayed CEO because he wanted to support our troops; maybe he wanted to protect me with the best of the best equipment. I won’t deny Tony was an asshole for a long time before he became Iron Man. I won’t make excuses for that but I’ll say he’s a man I doubt anyone can truly understand. I knew him in MIT, he’s a genius with a mind I can’t even begin to understand how it works. He works a lot, rarely sleeps because he’s got who knows how many ideas going through that big brain of his. He forgets to eat a lot of the time to, has to be reminded. Never remembers important dates like his friends’ birthdays and stuff like that. When he came back from captivity he didn’t have the support he should have. I was military and all I saw was him shutting down the best company we got our weapons from, Pepper just saw him destroying his company, Stane was very vocal about how against it he was and ultimately betrayed him more than just ordering a hit on him. We failed him but he forgave us, he gave me and Pepper another chance we didn’t deserve. When he was dying we should have noticed, should have helped him. God the things I said to him when I took the armor. When we found out he’d been dying and that he’d found a way to survive, I really sat down and thought about that night. I couldn’t have stolen the armor from him; he had enough ways to stop that from happening. He let me take it; he wanted me to take up the mantle of Iron Man. He trusted me enough for that and I didn’t even realize it at the time. I think with what happened to him he realized there were consequences to being careless like he had been not keeping a closer eye on what was happening in his company. He saw the people that suffered from that. You know when the Accords were being discussed by the team, he showed us all one of the victims of our fights. A young man who had been trying to do good in the world, building sustainable housing for the poor in Sokovia. He could have done anything but he chose to do some good in the world. Tony knew his name, knew how smart the kid was and what he was aiming to do with his life. Tony’s seen the faces of his victims, they aren’t just faceless casualties they’re people with families and goals in life, entire future that had been in front of them that was stolen from them. If asked I’m pretty sure he’d know the name of the soldiers that died protecting him before he was captured.”
The older man looked at his beer intently.
“Tony could have walked away but he had the ability to do something good, to make sure there were no more innocent lives lost. When Shield dragged him into the world of the Avengers there were always going to be casualties and damage. He made sure those people got help, made efforts to clean up the mess after the battles. Sure he could have turned his back on it, played the hero and be done. Could have just given the armor to someone else. Tony’s a better man than most and I don’t think people realize it. I sure as hell know Rogers and the others don’t think about that. Don’t realize people are hurt in their battles, people who didn’t ask to be a part of our fights. New York, DC, Sokovia, all those fights could have been handled differently. There could have been less casualties and damage. The Accords would offer that, proper planning and support. If Tony just tossed in the towel there’d be a lot less good done for those affected and I think that’s why he does what he does.”
There was a long silence after that as they both drank their beers. When that silence was broken the younger man looked at the older.
“Think I can ask you a favor Colonel?”
There was a small bitter smile on the older man’s lips.
“Sure, though not much I can do from this chair.”
When Erik Stevens walked up to the Wakandan border he did so with a corpse, proof of his identity, and bag filled with papers. W’Kabi looked at the corpse of Klaw before turning his attention on Erik.
“I am N’Jadaka, the son of N’Jobu.” He said holding up the chain his father’s ring was held on.
W’Kabi studied him a moment before saying something to the others of his tribe in their language. When he turned back to Erik he spoke in English.
“Why have you come here?”
“Just want an audience with my cousin. After I’ve said my piece I’ll leave.”
After a lot of discussion he was brought before T’Challa and the leaders of the other tribes. Right away they denied he was who he claimed to be but W’Kabi held up the ring that had belonged to Prince N’Jobu. The queen, his aunt, saw it she demanded to see it. T’Challa was looking at him in shock.
“Why reveal yourself now? What is the purpose of you coming here?”
Erik couldn’t help the smile that crossed his face as he looked around at the gathered leaders.
“I lived my life planning for the day I’d come here. To get revenge for my father. I’ve killed all over the world, trained and thought out my every move that would land me on that throne.” He said motioning to said throne.
“Revenge? Why would you try to get revenge against your father’s own people?” Ramonda demanded.
“I found my daddy with panther claws in his chest. You ain’t the son of a king; you’re a son of a murderer.” Erik yelled at T’Challa because he was still angry even if he’d changed his mind on what to do here.
Everyone turned their attention to him.
“I ain’t here to invoke my birthright to challenge for the throne. I had planned to, I had everything planned out but I’ve decided something else.” He reached into the bag and threw the first of the papers at T’Challa’s feet.
“What is this?” He asked sparing only a glance at the papers.
“The victims of Wakandan’s royal family. Those people died because of you and your father. He killed my father and you killed these people and you only spare them a glance?”
“How dare you accuse my son of such crimes.” Ramonda blindly defended her son.
“Look at them!” Erik yelled the demand at T’Challa.
T’Challa finally looked down at them.
“You all sit here in luxury without a care in the world. Outside your own country everyone else doesn’t mean a damn thing to you. You murdered those people and you don’t even spare them a moment’s thought because they aren’t your people. Do even care enough to pay attention to what’s happening in the rest of the world? Do you not hear the people all over the world crying out for your blood? Demanding to know why the hell you just get to go home when there’s children crying for the parents you murdered. When there are parents mourning their children you murdered. The world demanding answers why the prince of a nation that only recently rejoined the rest of the world decided they could kill an American on foreign soil and leave a path of death and destruction without consequences. Your father was one of the biggest supporters of the Accords and the first thing you did was spit on his actions. You decided you could do whatever you wanted.”
T’Challa looked up at him looking as calm as he had when Erik had entered his home.
“I did not kill these people.”
“So you didn’t chase Barnes through a populated area? Didn’t try to kill him multiple times resulting in a car chase that caused multiple innocent people to crash?” He motioned with his head to the papers on the floor. “Look at their faces; they’re the people who are dead because of your actions.”
“That doesn’t mean he killed them.” Shuri protested.
“Ask the survivors and their families if they see a difference. Those people are dead because of your king.”
There was a long moment of silence before W’Kabi knelt beside the papers and looked. The names of the dead, their age, a bio on them so they could see who these people were, the names of family left to mourn them, and a picture so they could actually see the victims. Among the papers was Erik’s own father, a death at the hands of his own flesh and blood.
“You’re Wakanda’s king, you and your actions reflect your country and your people. Why don’t you look at the world outside your borders, see what the people think of yours.” When T’Challa turned his attention to him again Erik revealed the last piece of information he intended to leave them with.
“Your father stood for the Accords, stood behind the reason for them. Maybe you didn’t care about the reason he stood behind them so let me remind you.”
He dumped the massive bag of papers. The Wakandans watched them scatter all over the floor.
“These are the people dead because of the actions of the Avengers. People who didn’t have to die. You think no died because no one alerted the authorities to the fact there was an impending invasion? You think no one died when several members of the Avengers decided to drop three hellicarriers over the Potomac? What about when Rogers and Romanoff released the files on both Hydra and Shield revealing every single agent undercover and giving all their information to every single group or person that would love to get their hands on them? What about the people in Sokovia? Homes crushed by debris from the city that was destroyed in the air. What about Lagos? Or do you only care about your own people who died? This is the reason for what your father fought for. I’ve got to wonder what the world’s going to do now that they’ve seen the damage enhanced can do especially when those enhanced decide the law doesn’t apply to them. You’re enhanced right T’Challa? It’s as clear as day, the man who could keep up with two super soldiers without any issue. What do you think yours and their actions will cause? The fallout and the fear of what enhanced like you and Rogers and his merry crew can and will do without sparing a moment to think about your victims.”
When all eyes were on him he held out his hand.
“I’ll be taking my father’s ring and leaving. Just standing here with you all is making me sick to my stomach.”
Ramonda handed over the ring a look of shock and horror on her face.
“Remember this aunty, I was going to come here and kill your son for the throne. Use the weapons and resources Wakanda has to help those that look like us all over the world who don’t have the means to fight back. I would have brought war to the world with Wakanda’s people and weapons. I want you to remember that Tony Stark has done more for Wakanda and its people than your own son has.”
He took his father’s ring and left. He could have gone through his plan; his entire life was to prepare him to one day take Wakanda’s throne. He’d asked Colonel Rhodes for the files of those injured or dead in the aftermath of every battle the Avengers were part of. To see the faces of those left to mourn those they lost. He looked at the faces of the dead, seen those who remained that Tony Stark made efforts to help. Tony had looked at those faces, seen those people, and he hadn’t cared for a moment what color their skin, what country they came from. He’d helped them all. Erik could have done what he planned, leaving bodies and destruction all over the world. Or he could make an effort to help and prevent as much bloodshed not just of his own people but all of them. Wakanda had sat back for years not caring about anyone outside their own. He damn well wasn’t going to do the same, not when he realized there was another way.
T’Challa was sitting in his study, the information a cousin he never knew he had sitting before him. He was tired and he didn’t think his heart could handle reading a single more about those who had suffered. He hadn’t offered any aid to those who suffered because of his actions. How could he without revealing Wakanda wasn’t a poor third world country? Yes Wakanda had made moves to rejoin the world but it did not mean they’d reveal all their secrets. T’Chaka had told others that all the vibranium their country possessed had been stolen. To reveal he could repay for damages he’d done would be to reveal Wakanda’s king had lied. He’d say that would destroy what little trust their country had with the outside world but that wasn’t true. As Erik had said the world was screaming their rage over T’Challa’s actions. Tony Stark had lost his cool and finally snapped under the pressure. T’Challa after properly looking into the genius could admit he was surprised he hadn’t done so sooner.
Since Erik’s visit he’d gotten a lot more information that was painting a very different picture for many people he’d once thought very differently of. He didn’t know what to do, not at all. He’d once told Romanoff that two people in a room could get more done than a hundred. He hadn’t been fond of politics and it seemed his dislike of them had made him naive of their necessity. He had only acted as a warrior since his father’s death, not a prince nor king.
“What do you intend to do?” His mother asked as she entered his study.
“I don’t know, I don’t know what I can do. How to make this better.”
His mother approached him causing him to look up at her.
“You need to do better than I don’t know. You are Wakanda’s king now, N’Jadaka wasn’t wrong when he stated you represent our people. The world thinks the worst of us and if you don’t act it will only get worse.”
“Mother I don’t know what to do. I’m not Tony Stark, I can’t turn their anger around to have their opinion of us turn to favor. I have no experience dealing with the outside world and its people, I have never believed the in the politics involved in so much of this world.”
“Then you should probably ask someone who has experience. Whether or not they help you will depend on you."