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it's not a home (yet)

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"Let's move back to New York," is what Tony says the next morning.

"Move back to New York," Rhodey repeats, lowering his cereal bowl to the island.

"Yep," Tony says, popping the p.

Rhodey eyes him incredulously. "After spearheading the four-month-long operation that was putting Stark Tower on the market, and negotiating SI's years-long transition out of the building, and then moving twenty floors' worth of shit upstate. Remember how some of that shit was considered dangerous cargo and needed to be moved via armored plane, which promptly crash-landed on the beaches of Coney Island. Remember how the plane and all its contents then had to be moved by armored vehicles escorted by a dozen remote-controlled suits. After all that. Move back to New York."

Tony pretends to think about it.

By accident, he finds himself actually thinking about it, swaying on the pendulum of indecision that has permeated operation Bail Out of New York (BONY for short).

He remembers sitting in a deli hearing, I pick up because that's who I am.

He remembers sitting in a deli thinking, I'm glad I came here.

Tony nods, reassured. "Yes."

Rhodey squints. "Does this have to do with the meeting you skipped yesterday? Pepper said she called you a dozen times and the calls all went to voicemail. The buyers are - quote - unimpressed with your lack of commitment to the sale."

Tony'd skipped the meeting to talk to the kid. Or it might be that he'd talked to the kid to skip the meeting. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that he's finally reached a decision that makes the ever-turning anxiety in his gut go blessedly quiet.

"Just needed a second opinion," Tony says, waving his toast about in the air.

Rhodey shakes his head wryly. "Alright, I'll bite. What made you change your mind?"

"What, no are you crazy or think of the cost or think of the time or think of the effort?"

"Seems you thought of it already."

"I have," Tony declares. "It just— makes sense to go back to New York."

"Nah. It just doesn't make sense to stay here," Rhodey corrects gently.

"Yes," Tony says. "Exactly."

The silence that falls as Rhodey watches Tony is... difficult. Rhodey has a way of peeling back Tony's skin that never fails to make Tony want to fling himself out of the nearest window; their twenty years of friendship is about the only thing that keeps Tony's ass glued to the stool.

"Why New York?" Rhodey asks finally. "I thought for sure you'd be in California before the year was out. Maybe headed back to Malibu."

"Eh," Tony says. "Wasn't feeling it."

Wasn't feeling it, Rhodey mouths.

Tony rolls his eyes. One meeting with a teenager. Jesus.

"Would you have gone with me to Malibu?" Tony asks.

"Uh, probably not. Sorry, but it's too far from home, man. I got weekly physio with Helen for another six months. Also I promised momma I'd spend Christmas with them in Phily this year, and well... California was never much my vibe."

"Maybe it's not my vibe either."

"You moved to California almost as soon as you were legally allowed to," Rhodey says flatly.

Tony shrugs. "A lot's happened since then. I figured, when I didn't immediately pour a few million into rebuilding the Malibu house, that I was never really going to. It was home for a while but not anymore."

Rhodey eyes him. "And you think New York could be?"

"I think... I'll keep the tower. And renovate." Tony pauses. "Again."

"Shocking," Rhodey deadpans.

"Shut up," Tony says, grinning. "Yeah, I just... I got caught up in the Avengers before I could settle down in New York, last time. And then, well..." The words I still missed the beachfront life are on the tip of his tongue, but then he remembers the kid sitting in that booth with bags under his eyes saying, No, not really.

What Tony ends up saying is, "I wasn't in a good place for a while. Don't think my sudden hatred of NY was really fair to the city or its people."

Rhodey watches him with an odd look on his face.

Tony eats his toast and pretends not to be as invested as he is.

"So... you're moving back to New York."

"Come with me," Tony says casually. "New York could be home."

Rhodey shakes his head, but he's smiling fondly. "Yeah, yeah. Alright. New York it is."


"Where's Vision, FRI?" Tony asks an hour later, nursing his third cup of coffee of the day. He's starting to get jittery, which means he should have stopped at two, but he needs something in his hands - or something to do with his hands - or just... something to distract him from the conversation he's about to have.

His chest burns a little. Tony grips the coffee a little tighter.

Whatever.

This is still better than being drunk before 10 AM on a Tuesday, no matter what his therapist says.

"He's on the third floor of the eastern wing, boss," FRIDAY says cheerfully. "Leftmost balcony."

Tony's footsteps slow as he constructs a mental map of the compound.

"Isn't that...?" Tony asks, frowning.

After a moment, FRIDAY prompts, "Isn't that what, boss?"

His throat feels tight all of a sudden. He steps into the elevator and says, "Take me to Vision, baby girl."

FRIDAY hums and kicks the elevator into movement.

Tony lets five, ten, fifteen seconds pass. At twenty, the elevator doors open.

Tony doesn't step out right away. He leans against the back wall cradling his coffee, stares idly at the destruction before him, and says, "You know you can ask for clarification, right, FRI? When there's something you don't understand? Or ask again when I don't answer a question right away?"

FRIDAY doesn't respond immediately. Tony can almost see her churning through a few million data points, trying to piece together the correct response. He hums into the silence, taking a sip.

"I believe..." FRIDAY says after a moment, "that I understand enough."

"And what is it that you understand?"

"That you're hurting," FRIDAY says simply. Tony inhales sharply. "And that it's better to let you speak on your own time. You've accumulated a number of traumas and triggers in the past years of your life and I don't have enough experience to navigate them yet, boss."

Tony winces, remembering the clusterfuck FRIDAY had been born into. He'd suffered panic attacks more than once during conversations with FRIDAY in the early days.

That was almost two years ago, now.

"So when there's something I don't understand, I wait until you're ready to explain," FRIDAY concludes. "You always do, even if it takes a while sometimes."

Tony blinks and lets that sink in. He keeps his breaths even. He drinks his coffee. He feels so, so proud. In fact—

"I'm real proud of you, you know that?" he says.

FRIDAY hums again. "Sure do, boss."

Tony stares out at the destruction Wanda had wrought in their common room. He says, "This place reminds me that I'm mourning for something that was maybe never real. What kind of family does this, you know? What kind of family just... throws all of this away? Without even giving negotiations a chance?"

"Ah," someone says just out of Tony's line of sight. "Sorry to interrupt."

Tony doesn't startle. A decade in the superhero business has taught him a lot, like how to keep track of everything and everyone in a twenty-foot radius and also how to notice things like soft footsteps and giant, humanoid shadows approaching from the left.

"Hey, Vis," he sighs. "Sorry to be so maudlin so early in the goddamn morning."

Vision looks weirdly human today, in dark slacks and a button-down shirt. A little formal for home base, really, though Tony's not one to judge - the t-shirt he's wearing has a dubious green-colored stain at the hem and now that he thinks about it, he might have picked it up off the dirty laundry pile - but to each his own. Tony flashes him a brief, appreciative smile and finally steps out of the elevator.

"You were looking for me," Vision deduces with an odd little head tilt, pale blue eyes sharp against his red-purple skin. "We can go somewhere else, if you'd like."

"About that," Tony says and then hesitates. Considering Vision's spent the morning - and probably quite a few other mornings, Tony thinks with a pang - camped out here, maybe this conversation is futile and only likely to piss one or both of them off.

"About that...?" Vision prompts.

Fuck it. If it goes terribly, what was one more teammate gone anyway?

"I was thinking maybe we'd benefit from a... permanent change of scenery," Tony says. He steps a little closer to the hastily-erected guard rail and looks over it, into the six levels below. "Or... that I'd benefit, anyway. I... need this. To get away from here."

Tony looks back at Vision, who's watching him silently. When he's paying attention to something, Vision's stillness is kind of eerie. His chest and shoulders don't rise; his arms and legs lock into place; not a muscle twitches in his hands or face or anywhere else. The man doesn't so much as blink.

"I thought maybe it would help you and Rhodey, too," Tony finishes.

Vision glances at the gaping hole in the ground and then back at Tony.

"Will distance make this strange feeling go away?" Vision asks.

Tony grips his coffee tight. "I don't know. I don't know what it is you feel when you look at all this." He gestures outward, encompassing the whole damn room, all way up to where the support beams had cracked and were currently being held up by temporary struts. "It's probably... not the same thing I do. I know you and Wanda were close, so... if anything, it's probably harder on you."

"Grief, you said."

"What?" Tony frowns.

"Earlier," Vision says. "You said, this place reminds me that I'm mourning for something that was maybe never real." Tony blinks, a little startled by what's probably an exact quote. "I hadn't thought of it before because humans speak of grief so often in conjunction with death and... no one has died here."

"Grief is about loss, and death is— just one kind of loss, I suppose."

"Ah... but I have not lost Wanda. I could be with her now," he says very quietly, unaware of the way Tony's stomach has clenched unpleasantly.

"So why aren't you?" Tony asks as evenly as he can.

Vision eyes him sideways. "Because what happened here was... poorly done of everyone involved, myself included, but... some wrongs were worse than others. Some wrongs where... inexcusable. Putting me me at the bottom of this hole was maybe understandable—" Tony makes an indignant, protesting noise and Vision's lips quirk, "—but leaving me there without so much as stopping to check if I was still— alive... was inexcusable.

And I don't know what happened in Siberia, but leaving you there, injured in a malfunctioning suit with no way home... that was inexcusable as well. Many of us were simply doing what we thought was right, but I don't believe anyone could think either of these things were right. Not if we were really family."

Tony takes all of that in with the weight it deserves. He considers that of all the inexcusable crimes committed during the breaking of their team, bringing a fourteen-year-old into the fight probably features somewhere near the top of the list. Attacking history's longest prisoner of war— well, that's probably a big one, too.

If Tony could rewind time, he'd do it differently. So would more than one of his former teammates, he bets. But maybe that's not the conversation Vision needs right now.

Ultimately, all he says is, "Disillusionment is a form of loss, too."

"To lose something I thought I had but perhaps never did," Vision says. His voice sounds oddly rough.

Didn't expect this conversation to get so heavy, Tony thinks a little wildly.

Of course you did, some other voice replies tiredly. That's why you brought the fucking coffee.

The second voice is probably the ten-years-in-the-business voice.

"Well? How 'bout a move to New York City?" Tony asks.

Vision considers for two, five, ten, fifteen seconds, then says, "That might be good, yes."

Tony lets out a long, slow breath, briefly hiding his face by taking a sip from his empty cup. When he looks back at Vision, the android is gazing at him with an odd, gentle look.

Tony decides he's had enough feelings for the day.

"So! Meet in the west wing, first floor kitchen in... thirty? Rhodey's on board too, so now all we need is a game plan."

Vision's lips quirk all the way up this time. "Quite."


That evening, pleasantly full of Chinese takeout and exhausted by a day spent carefully undoing all the work he'd spent the last several months on, Tony murmurs, "Anything from Peter, FRI?"

"Not yet, boss," the AI replied. "I've taken the liberty of consulting KAREN, who believes that Peter is unlikely to reach out so soon, considering his past experiences with that particular venture."

Ah, right. Tony's chest tightens a little. He hadn't meant for it to go so wrong with Pete, he just hadn't been sure—

"KAREN would also like me to remind you that she's available if you need assistance determining an adult's primary directives regarding the care and safekeeping of teenagers."

Care and safekeeping, Tony mouths to himself, poleaxed.

"You might be especially interested in her analysis of your own father's failures as a parental figure," FRIDAY adds.

"Jesus," Tony says.