Pt 64. Steve & Tony: Divided or United?
[REDWING RECON SURVEILLANCE FILES: 04152017 2200hrs]
Loc: Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar& Grill, 308 58th St, New York, NY
<Wanda and Nat appear to be having a casual dinner, listening in to the audio tag Sam planted on Steve before he was taken away>
Sam: <from nearby rooftop, over earpiece> Ok, how is it that you ladies always get the cushy surveillance spots in comfy restaurants, and I get stuck up on a rooftop?
Wanda: <sipping her tea> Because Redwing is much more useful than either of our skill sets in this situation. <teases> Besides, I thought you were allergic to shellfish.
Sam: <scowls, turns of his microphone, mimicking Wanda> ‘I thought you were allergic to shellfish.’ <turns mic back on> One of these days, I’m making the surveillance assignments. You two will be hiding behind a dumpster, while I’m having ribs and beer. <Nat and Wanda snicker>
[AVENGERS TOWER SECURITY FILES: 04152017 2200hrs]
Loc: Penthouse Offices AVENGERS TOWER, Broadway & W 58th St, New York, NY
<Tony sits at a conference table, an icepack on his eye. Steve and Nick walk in>
Tony: <pulls the ice pack away, pointing at Steve with it> I remember inviting you, but <points to Nick> you didn’t mention you were bringing a ‘plus one’ on your RSVP.
Steve: <shrugs> He was my ride.
Nick: <I’m here, to make sure there’s no more of THAT. <points at Tony’s eye>
Tony: <winks at Steve with his good eye> What? He doesn’t think we can play nice? <turns to Nick, grinning> Got any advice on the best places to buy eye patches? <Nick silently scowls, arms folded, leaning back against the wall behind him>
Steve: <sits down at the table, looks at Tony’s eye, winces, inhaling> She got you pretty good.
Tony: <puts the pack back over his eye, grimacing> Yeah, well, I should have known better. I always thought her temper came from a lifetime of working with my dad.
Steve: <grins> Ah. No. Age actually mellowed her out. A little. I think. <thinks back to Peg shooting at him> Trust me. It could have been worse.
Tony: <thinks about the things Peg said to him in the park, sighs, nodding, changing the subject> So, where’ve you been hiding?
Steve: <hedging> Out of town.
Tony: Yeah, <looks at Nick> I hear that’s a popular place to be from lately. <turns back to Steve, fishing for info> You, ah, bring any other ‘plus ones’ with you? You know, the type with only one arm?
Steve: <firm> I’m not telling you where Bucky is Tony. He’s safe, and he’s getting help.
Tony: <concerned> What about the people helping him? Are THEY safe?
Steve: Bucky ASKED to be put back on ice. He said he couldn’t trust his own mind, and didn’t want to put anyone at risk. He’s got neurologists and other specialists trying to undo Zola’s work.
Tony: <looking serious> Good. It’s good he’s got people helping him. <Steve looks shocked> I mean it. I, I get it. <deep breath> It wasn’t him.
Steve: <still disbelieving> How hard DID Peg hit you?
Tony: I’m serious. I’ve had a lot of time just sitting around here to think through things. I’ve been trying to work through a bunch of things with a therapy simulator. When Loki took control of Barton, did we blame him for the agents that died on the helicarrier? When Wanda played mind games with Banner, did we point the finger at Bruce? <Steve listens, nodding in agreement>
Steve: I’m glad you understand. <pauses> I’m sorry Tony. I didn’t know it was Bucky, but I should have told you what I knew.
Tony: <sadly> I wish you had. It still would have hurt. But. Not like watching it.
Steve: That’s on me. I thought I was protecting you. I never expected…..
Tony: <nods> I know, I know. How could we expect ANY of <waves hand in the air> that? It was too much to process all at once. Like I said, I’ve had a lot of time around here to think things through.
Steve: So, you’ve been rattling around here by yourself? I thought you were back at the compound?
Tony: I’ve been bouncing back and forth. Mending things with Pepper and checking up on Aunt Peggy here, helping Rhodey with his recovery & dealing with a depressed android at the compound.
Steve: How IS Rhodey?
Tony: <sighs> We took him to Columbia Medical right away. Best specialists I could find. Shattered L4 through S1, with extreme laceration to the spinal cord. Partial paralysis. <Steve inhales> We’ve been working with an exoskeletal actuation frame to help him regain motion in his legs. He’s about 80 percent mobile with it. As long as he’s got his frame or his War Machine armor on, he’s doing ok. He’s not going to be twerking on the dance floor any time soon, but he can make it across a room without looking like a windup toy. I’ve been tinkering on a lighter weight, thinner frame that he can wear under clothes so he’s not so self conscious about it.
Steve: <shakes his head sadly> Sam told about the accident after I broke everyone out of The Raft.
Tony: For the record, I didn’t expect them to end up there. Hell, Ross thought I belonged in there too, after the mess at the airport.
Steve: You knew they’d end up someplace like that. <leans forward in his chair, clenching a fist> Do you know what they did to Wanda? <Tony shakes his head, visibly concerned> They put a shock collar on her and drugged her out of her goddamn mind, just to suppress her powers. She was nearly catatonic when I got to her. <Tony pales, shaking slightly> It took her months to recover.
Tony: <breathes deep, voice tight> That’s what they wanted to do to her from the very start. I thought I could protect her, keep her safe. Confining her to the compound wasn’t meant to imprison her. <he looks Steve in the eye> It was meant to shield her. I thought I had things under control. Like Nat said, I thought that one hand on the wheel was better than none. But then I took my eye off the road, just as we hit a minefield. I was trying to keep us all together. We were a team. <pauses, pain in his voice> We were a family.
<Wanda listens, her hand shaking, she can barely hold her chopsticks steady, Nat gives her a look as a faint red glow appears around the chopsticks for a brief instant, then fades before anyone else notices, Wanda takes a deep breath, looks up at Nat, shrugs>
Wanda: It got away from me for a moment, sorry. <Nat simply nods in understanding>
Steve: <understanding, but still hurt> Then you should have stood with us, instead of against us. We were always stronger together than we were apart. I understand. We need some sort of oversight, some kind of checks and balances. But we could have stood our ground, and made them work with us. We could have crafted something to keep us accountable, but not give up our rights and our freedoms. There wasn’t a single enhanced involved in the creation of the Accords. That’s like the Senate drafting a bill on women’s health, written by nothing but men. It doesn’t make SENSE, it doesn’t give them a voice on something that DIRECTLY affects their lives.
Tony: <shifts the ice pack, groans softly> Wonderdolt brought it to me, already written. Told me it was the only reasonable option. <winces> He said that too many innocent people on BOTH sides would get caught in the middle if we tried to fight it. He made it a hard and fast push. “Do it now before it’s out of your hands, because it’s the only way to protect your people.” Went on about how things could be changed or amended after the fact, but that it needed to be done, because otherwise they would be coming for us. <muses> Everything he said came true, <looks back at Steve> because we were divided.
Nick: <interrupts, eyeing both of them> And now?
Tony: <sighs, still looking at Steve> Maybe not so much. <Steve nods>
Nick: <grins> It’s about damn time. <points at them> I’ve kept my eye on the two of you <both smirk> for the better part of a decade. When you work together, <tilts his head, pausing> hell, even I’m impressed. Divided? <frowns> You’re a risk to yourselves and everyone around you. Not to mention the world has become less safe without the Avengers to protect it. Do you realize, between the loss of the Avengers, and that insane clown in the White House, the Doomsday Clock is now at 2&1/2 minutes to midnight?! <Tony& Steve both go wide eyed, Nick nods> Yeah, it’s THAT goddamn bad.
Steve: But the Accords….<Nick holds up a hand to stop him>
Nick: According to my sources, the Accords will become a non-issue in <checks his watch> 24 hours. At that time, King T’Challa will bring the issue to a UN vote, majority rules. Between the countries that signed dealing with backlash from their enhanced citizens, and the countries who weren’t invited to sign raising a ruckus, we have the votes.
Tony: <still concerned> What about the lists? Every enhanced in every nation that signed was indexed. Biometrics, power classifications and levels, everything. Those could be used by any nation- Russia, America, Wakanda, hell, even Madagascar could become a world superpower by raising an army of it’s enhanced!
Nick: I’ve got people on it. As soon as the Accords are lifted, there’ll be a quiet little ‘update’ to all the lists. Change a name here, add a name there, <wide grin> replace all the biometric scans with one from General Ross, you get the idea. I believe Agent Johnson was planning to list the President’s super powers as ‘explosive verbal diarrhea, magnetic attraction to nazis, and fake news fabricator’. <Steve tries not to snicker, Tony has tears of laughter watering his good eye> They’ll be so corrupted with bad data that they’ll be useless.
Steve: So where does that leave us?
Nick: You and your team will be exonerated for your efforts to expose the additional Winter Soldiers. Russia naturally will claim that they were part of an unknown, now defunct Cold War program of the USSR, in an effort to publicly wash their hands of all connections. We’ll know better, they’ll know we know, but the general public will accept it. <Tony scowls> Rogers, I’m gonna apologize now, SHIELD had to do basically the same thing, and distance ourselves from you when you were declared a fugitive. Because of that, we’re going to have to do a bit of PR work, to get you back into the good graces of the public eye.
Steve: <groans, shaking his head> I’m not going to be your dancing monkey, Nick.
Nick: No tours, no PSAs, I promise. Just a few public appearances now and then at the right places, with the right people. Maybe an interview or two. <Steve sighs in acceptance>
Tony: <chimes in> I’m sure I can get Pepper to help with the PR. Just promise you won’t put him on FauxNews.
Nick: <rolls his eye, continues> Officially, the Avengers will be publicly considered a part of SHIELD, under it’s jurisdiction once more. In reality, I’m hoping I can trust you two to run things together like before. Coulson and I have enough on our plates without babysitting. We’ll work with you, providing support, intel and backup. I’ve got a few missions I’ve been waiting to throw your way. If your interested. <Steve and Tony look at each other, then back at Nick, both nodding> Good.
<the room goes silent, Steve looking at Nick and Tony expectantly, Tony avoids meeting Steve’s eyes, fiddling with the ice pack, Nick looks back at Steve, waiting for the inevitable>
Steve: <irritated by the silence from the two> Which one of you is going explain? <neither answers> What is she doing here, and why the HELL wasn’t I told?
Nick: She left an old emergency plan hidden in our files. Directorate Retrieval Protocol. If HYDRA ever re-surfaced, and we couldn’t handle it on our own, we were to send for her.
Steve: <confused> How?
Nick: Time travel. We’ve got some allies that can do that now and then under the right circumstances. There’s a drawback to it though.
Tony: <interrupts, meeting Steve’s eyes finally, speaking softly> She has to go back. After. <Steve inhales, understanding> I didn’t want you to have to lose her, again. <Steve bites his lip, staring at the table, processing>
Nick: We were trying to be kind. More importantly, we were trying to protect the timeline. If she doesn’t go back, it will create a paradox. If she makes any major changes, it could be disastrous as well.
Steve: I can think of a few changes that wouldn’t be so bad.
Nick: Those changes will create ripples that affect a lot of other things. Ok, here’s one for you. so she goes back and shoots Zola before he can rebuild HYDRA inside SHIELD. Daniel Pierce never worms his way to the top. Never appoints ME as Director of SHIELD. I never start the search for the Valkyrie. YOU stay a frozen Capsicle. <Steve ponders, Tony snickers slightly, Nick turns and points at him> Oh, I’ve got one for you too. What if she deports Anton Vanko before he can help your father design the original Arc Reactor? There’s no Iron Man, because YOU die alone and forgotten in a cave. <Tony’s eyebrow arches at the realization> We have to leave the bad with the good. ANY major changes could be catastrophic.
Steve: <still trying to find a way out> What if I went back with her? I could lay low, keep her on the right path so nothing changes here.
Nick: <gently> Except the family she’d have with someone else. The children and grandchildren who go on to do good work of their own. I’m sorry Rogers, that just not an option.
Steve: <staring back down at the table, not wanting to think about the life she lived without him> So you kept her in the dark, despite knowing she’s too good a spy not to dig up the truth. I hope you have a Plan B.
Nick: <checks his phone, sends a message> As a matter of fact, Coulson is downstairs taking care of that right now. Plan A was to keep her in the dark. Plan B is to show her everything. <Tony and Steve both look at him quizzically> She’s watching the Documentaries with him right now. Where you were at the beginning, how you learned to work together, what tore you apart, and how we ended up here. <both looking a bit embarrassed and ashamed>
Tony: Everything? <Nick nods, Tony can’t quite bring himself to finish his sentences> Even? <Nick nods again> And the time that I? <Nick continues to nod, Tony sinks into his chair just a little>
Steve: How is that going to keep her from making changes? I mean, the more she knows….. <trails off>
Nick: The more she knows, the more she’ll see WHY she can’t make any changes to the timeline. Like I said, Coulson is there. He’ll answer any extra questions she might have and help fill in any blanks. He’ll help her understand.
Tony: And if it looks like he can’t? She’s a stubborn as they come. If she gets a notion in her head, she’s not about to let go without a damn good reason.
Nick: <sighs> Then she takes a nice, relaxing vacation in Tahiti with M.O.M. before her trip back to 1948. <Tony and Steve both look at each other, confused>
Nick: <ignores their confusion> I’m hoping it won’t come to that. <rises, walks over next to Steve, claps a hand on his shoulder> So, the question remains, can you kids play nice? All of you?
Steve: <looks up at Nick> I think we’re on our way to working things out.
Tony: <nods> We’re getting there.
Nick: <looks over at Tony> What about the others?
Tony: <tilts his head, looks accusingly at Nick> Since you obviously know where they are, and how to contact them, tell them <pauses> tell them they’re welcome to come home, if they want to.
Nick: <leans over, speaking into the bug on Steve’s shoulder> You heard the man. Time to come home. And Romanoff, a favor? Bring Temaki Honnin. I haven’t eaten all day.
Wanda: <looks at Nat> How did he? <Nat doesn’t answer, shakes her head, grinning, flags down their waiter>