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Story [MCU] Sometime This Century [Post-CACW]

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by DaenaBenjen42, Jun 4, 2016.

  1. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Title: Sometime This Century
    Author: daenabenjen42
    Fandom: MCU
    Timeline: Post-CACW
    Characters: Tony Stark and Rebecca Barnes Proctor
    Disclaimer: **points at Disney and Marvel**
    A/N: I'm still working on a long one that's an AU-diversion with Rebecca, but until then, I give you this one, because I got plot bunny-ambushed by a 92-year-old who simply wants to see her brother at some point. (Seriously... doing age-math leads to things like this. Who knew?)

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    The elderly woman was sitting at Steve's desk in the administration office of the Avengers Compound, muttering to herself in what Tony was pretty sure sounded like Romanian when he entered the room looking for something. It gave him pause, seeing her sitting there, reading through a file he remembered Steve showing him on Barnes. Her hair was gray, up in a loose bun, and she was wearing a dark blue scrub top that had light blue, purple, and green peace symbols on it. "Um..."

    She glanced up at him with surprisingly clear blue eyes, and he was taken aback by the anger being reflected back at him. "What?"

    "Who are you?" Tony was pretty sure he'd never seen this lady before, so why was she mad at him?

    She glared at him. "Someone whose brother deserved your consideration before you tried to kill him for something horrific that was not his fault, Stark."

    Tony blinked, surprised. "Ma'am?"

    She looked down at the file in her hands, at the pictures on the inside cover. "I waited seventy years, and didn't even know I was waiting for anything. And then Steve was found and I finally heard the story from him about how my brother died. Not the Army's white-washed version of 'he died on a mission,' but the truth of how it happened. I was proud of him, you know? Protecting people was what he did. Who he was. Even in the face of seeing a man who terrified him again, he still got on that train and did his job."

    Tony slowly sank down in the chair opposite the desk and stared at her. "Who are you?"

    "Me? Rebecca Barnes Proctor. Not that my name is actually important to you."

    He blinked again. Now it made sense. "Oh."

    "Imagine that. The infamous Anthony Stark. Speechless."

    Tony rolled his eyes at her animosity. "If you're here to plead Barnes's case with me, I don't want to hear it."

    Rebecca's eyes flashed at the challenge. "I wouldn't stoop that low, Mr. Stark. I simply wanted to tell you about him, because... well. I'd really like to see him at some point, and that means making him safe to be around others. Is it pleading? Not hardly."

    Tony frowned at her. "What?"

    She gazed at him for a long, long moment. "I have a grandchild who goes to M.I.T., who couldn't shut up about that pricey therapy tool you developed and showed off, while also showing off your own pain. Thinking about this whole mess, I can't help but wonder if that thing can be used to get post-hypnotic compliance triggers neutralized, so what happened to your parents at HYDRA's orders can never happen to anyone else again."

    His eyes narrowed and he frowned at her. Of all the things he'd thought she'd say... "Old woman, I can and will kick you out-"

    "No. You won't," she said as she rolled her eyes at him and turned the file so he could see it. "Does this look like someone who was doing things of his own will?"

    Tony leaned closer to look at the file, at the picture of a very obviously on ice Winter Soldier in what had to be a cryo tank, and then at the smaller picture paperclipped to it... of a near-to-smiling Barnes in his uniform. He frowned and pulled the picture free to get a better look, and then read the back of it... 'June 1943. World Exposition of Tomorrow. Flushing Meadows, Queens, NY' He blinked at that in confusion for a moment, then looked at the picture again. "This isn't just any picture. This... this is from the '43 Expo. How'd they get this? And what would your brother have been doing at the Expo in uniform?" The difference between the man in this photo, the other photo in the file, and Barnes himself both at the Bundestag in Berlin and in that Siberian bunker... "Oh."

    Rebecca sighed. "He was at the Expo with Steve on a double date and was shipping out the next day to England, Stark. And I'm simply providing you with another point of view on the matter, because, seriously, he should not have had to put himself on ice again. That's where he is right now, by the way. Cryofreeze. And if I ever found out how they got a candid picture of him like that, heads will roll."

    Tony carefully clipped the photo back to the other one and looked at her again. "You've heard from Steve?"

    "Of course. It was a very long, very intense letter from Yahweh only knows where, that made me want to slap you. I still might."

    "He didn't tell me."

    Rebecca sighed. "About?"

    "My parents. HYDRA."

    "Oh. On second thought..." She reached over and struck him hard on the arm. "Of course he didn't. His world got blown to smithereens in the middle of SHIELD falling down around his ears and nearly getting killed multiple times in the same week. Doesn't make it right, him not telling you anything, but... would you have believed a story about tragic and possible but unsubstantiated truth that started with 'an evil computer in a bunker at an abandoned military training facility in New Jersey told me?' I heard that story actually from Steve and Natasha and I nearly spit out the coffee I was drinking in disbelief."

    Tony paused, rubbed his arm where she'd hit him. "Natasha knew?"

    "What? Did you think Steve found out in a vacuum by himself? They were on the run and fact-finding together. So yes, Stark, Natasha knew. Knows. She actually knows the history of the Winter Soldier a little better than this file would state. He trained her, with her, during her time in the Red Room."

    Tony frowned, filing that piece of information and wondering how this woman got that story out of the one of the most secretive women he knows. "Right. You're not helping his case, really, seeing as she ended up doing awful things for hire-" Rebecca hit him on the arm again. "Hey! Stop hitting me!"

    She looked at him wryly. "You sold and manufactured and designed weapons for money, Stark. Glass houses."

    "Old woman..." He took in just how angry she really was, and blinked. "Right."

    "Also, I'm a nurse. I can do far worse than hit you on the arm. Like, say... restrain you six different ways using your tie and your shoe laces."

    Tony frowned again, noting the present tense and not the past tense he would have otherwise expected. "You're still working? At your age?" What was she... ninety-something? Did they even allow medical people to work into old age like that?

    Rebecca smiled at him, not unkindly. "Three days a week. Still driving, too. And you never ask a lady her age. Do that, and I'll lie and say I've been thirty-four since the seventies. Didn't see much point to retiring when I didn't feel old and didn't want to loaf around the house doing projects. Tried that once, the projects thing with nothing else to do because I took the month off. Didn't like it."

    "So... you came here all the way from Brooklyn on your day off just to ask me a favor?"

    "No. To see if you were worth the effort of inviting to family get-togethers. Favor-asking is extra, and I'm not doing that either."

    "Family get-togethers? I'm not your family!"

    Now Rebecca rolled her eyes at him and set a bundle of tied-together, yellowed envelopes on the desk in front of him. "My brother kept mentioning your father in his letters home. 'Howard Stark's here with the 107th!' Howard this, Howard that, 'Steve somehow got Howard Stark to fly him into Austria and save us,' and on and on. For two years. The parts that weren't redacted by the Army censors were interesting. So... yes. You kind of are. By association."

    "What?"

    "My brother liked science, Stark."

    "He did?"

    "Probably still does. Won't know for sure until no one wants to kill him for simply existing."

    Tony winced. "I deserved that."

    "Yes."

    "You don't have to agree with me, you know."

    Rebecca smiled again. "Consider yourself adopted. You'll fit right in."

    "Mrs. Proctor?"

    "Yes?"

    "I'm in my forties. It's a bit late for adoption."

    "Says who? I can adopt whomever I please into my family, no matter how screwed up they are." She handed him a paper with contact information on it that caused him to look at her funny. "And after all this... stuff I've heard about you, I took the liberty of researching some good psychiatrists who don't mind signing non-disclosure agreements. Those were the top five."

    Tony continued to look at her funny. "You're giving me referrals to see a shrink?"

    "Of course. The stuff I kept hearing, every time Steve or Natasha or Wanda called me, and then this mess with my brother that I haven't even gotten to talk to yet... it's good to have someone to jaw at that can help you put the pieces together, you know?"

    Tony nodded slowly. He didn't like it, but she had a good point. Wait. Wanda? "Just how many Avengers do you know on a first name basis, Mrs. Proctor?"

    She smiled again. "All but Thor and Vision, actually. And Mr. Fury says hello and to stop doing stupid things, including trusting idiot generals with dubious reputations."

    Tony groaned under his breath. If she'd met everybody but Thor and Vision, why exactly was it the first time he was meeting her? For that matter, how was she in any kind of contact with Fury? It made no sense. He glanced down at the still-open KGB file, considered the man in the small photo... "As to your question about the B.A.R.F. system? It's possible. The system was designed to treat without being invasive. I'll look into it."

    "Thank you. Also, you're invited to our Forth of July Picnic and Birthday Celebration."

    "Huh?"

    Rebecca shrugged. "Granted, the birthday part of it will be in absentia this year due to Steve being forced to go on the run for dumb reasons, but it's the principal of the thing." She motioned to the file. "Can I take this?"

    Tony nodded and pulled a flashdrive out of his pocket, handed it to her. "Yes, and this is all the information on Barnes and what happened to him that I could find at the base in Siberia. It makes for very disturbing and upsetting reading. What do you want it for?"

    "Because one of my grandchildren is a paralegal and another is a lawyer, and they both want to see their uncle sometime this century. That means a pardon, which means opening a knowledgeable dialogue with the President, which Steve was going to do, but he got waylaid. A lot."

    "You... want to get him a pardon?"

    "Yes. Also for you and your friend the Air Force Colonel to come to the picnic."

    "And if I'm busy?"

    She chuckled. "No excuses. And bring Miss Potts, too."

    "We are on a break, Mrs. Proctor."

    "What does being on a break have to do with attending a picnic together, hmmm?"

    Tony sighed. "All right. Fine. I'll bring Rhodey and Pepper to your picnic. Should we be bringing anything?"

    "Just yourselves."

    He eyed her scrub top. "So do you wear peace symbols a lot?"

    Rebecca glanced down at her outfit for a moment. "This? This was a gift from one of my grandchildren. Seemed appropriate to wear today." She nudged the bundle of letters toward him. "I want those back eventually."

    "Why do you want me to read them?"

    "Perspective is important, Mr. Stark."

    Which was how Tony, Rhodey, Pepper, and Happy ended up at the Barnes-Proctor Forth of July Family Picnic (and Birthday Party in Absentia, it even said it on the banner), enjoying themselves thoroughly as they met various members of the clan.
     
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  2. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    [face_laugh][face_laugh]

    I loved seeing Rebecca in this one - still kicking butt, no matter the age. Tony's complete inability to get a word in edgewise, or figure out how to respond to her settled quite happily in my mind, and I loved every word of it. Especially:

    "No. To see if you were worth the effort of inviting to family get-togethers. Favor-asking is extra, and I'm not doing that either."

    "Family get-togethers? I'm not your family!"

    Now Rebecca rolled her eyes at him and set a bundle of tied-together, yellowed envelopes on the desk in front of him. "My brother kept mentioning your father in his letters home. 'Howard Stark's here with the 107th!' Howard this, Howard that, 'Steve somehow got Howard Stark to fly him into Austria and save us,' and on and on. For two years. The parts that weren't redacted by the Army censors were interesting. So... yes. You kind of are. By association."

    "What?"

    "My brother liked science, Stark."


    That part got long to quote, but it is so something for Tony to keep in mind. Bucky would have been the last person on Earth to hurt his parents, and this entire situation hurt so many on all sides. :( I like that she was that frank - it really gave something for Tony to think about. [face_thinking]
     
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    I do like Mrs. Proctor. Blunt and candid and welcoming in a backhanded sorta way [face_laugh] =D=
     
  4. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Mira_Jade: The impression of Tony that I get from the MCU is one of people kissing up to him without ever being real... unless they're Pepper, Steve (who is at a disadvantage because he has no idea about the Daddy Issues), Happy, or Rhodes. Or Fury. None of them are old enough to be his grandmother and give him a not-so-gentle verbal thrashing like this one and STILL invite him to a family gathering. Thank you, Mira!!!! [:D]

    Jade_eyes: Well, she's ninety-two and from a generation that lived through the Great Depression. If she can't speak her mind, who can? Thank you!!!! [:D]
     
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  5. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Tags: Mira_Jade , WarmNyota_SweetAyesha



    A/N: Didn't want to stay a viggie. On-going plot bunny attack/ambush of awesome is on-going. Enjoy. :)

    ~*~*~*~

    Four months ago...


    It was well into his second day in the rural locality of Oymyakon when Tony started noticing the smaller, finer details of his surroundings. For instance: the medical clinic didn't just have diagrams of human anatomy, but also animal anatomy. He found it weird, but interesting at the same time. Partaking of his second bowl of Reindeer Meat Soup (it still needed salt, and what he wouldn't do for a burger and fries), he watched again as the doctor took inventory.

    "Soup good?"

    "If I say I'd rather have a burger, would you be offended, Doc?"

    The doctor smiled. "No. Buns imported, though."

    "That's..."

    "Permafrost."

    "Oh."

    "Not insulted. Food here acquired taste."

    He continued to eat his soup.

    "Could be worse."

    "Yeah?"

    "Could have no Reindeer at all."

    "Did you just make a joke?"

    "You know what joke is now. Improvement."

    "Doc!"

    "What? Is true. You show up in armor. You need help getting out. Town tools useful. Is good joke, though not seem like one."

    "Can you go get the rental counter guy? At least his sentences are complete ones."

    The doctor chuckled. "He busy. Said arm you brought in fascinating."

    In the end, he finished his soup and was ordered to take another nap. He was starting to hate it here a little less. Still wanted out of Siberia, though.

    ~*~*~*~​

    The rental counter guy looked up from his study of the prosthetic when Tony re-entered the shop, this time in the parka and borrowed clothes. "He's letting you walk around now. That's good."

    "Here for the arm."

    "You leaving yet?"

    "No. Why?"

    Counter guy smiled. "Then I'm not giving it back, yet. Go catch another nap, Mr. Stark. Besides... did you know this thing was booby trapped?"

    Tony blinked. "No. It was?"

    He nodded, pointed to two piles of devices. "Don't know what those do, but..."

    Tony stared at the two piles for a long, long moment. Was it his imagination, or were those in the first pile remote-detonated explosives? "Somehow, that makes so much sense."

    "It does?"

    "Guy this came off of had been... used. Badly."

    "Oh."

    "Catalogue and label everything, okay?"

    The counter guy nodded and Tony left the rental shack again, in desperate need of fresh air. Later, he would find that the counter guy labeled everything in his native tongue and FRIDAY would have to translate it.


    Now...


    He found her on the third floor of Maimonides Medical Center, sitting at a nursing station while intently typing in front of a computer screen and chewing on her lower lip in thought. Unlike when he'd first seen her, and then again at the party, she was wearing solid light blue scrubs and had a stethoscope hanging from her neck... a purple one. "So this is what you look like when you're where you're supposed to be and not breaking into places? Good to know."

    Rebecca frowned at the sound of his voice and glanced away from the computer screen to look at him, then returned her attention to it as she continued typing. "If you're going for incognito, Anthony, lose the hat and the hood. You're inside and it makes you stand out."

    He chuckled as he pulled the hood down. "My hat, my head."

    "Hmm... and I didn't break into the NAF. I had permission." She finished her typing, made the computer save everything, and then turned to him. "Nursing notes wait for no man or woman. Something you want?"

    "You have a minute?"

    She glanced over to another nurse, who was watching them covertly. "What do you think, Sheryl? Can we spare me for a bit?"

    Sheryl smiled. "Sure. She's right, by the way, Mr. Stark. That is an awful disguise. The idea of a disguise is not be noticed. Everybody notices a man wearing a hoodie."

    "I didn't come here to be insulted," he squinted at her name tag. "Nurse Connors."

    She frowned at him. "If you can't take it, don't dish it out."

    Tony paused, nodded. "Fair enough." He pulled a bundle out of his jacket pocket and handed it to Rebecca. "Thank you, by the way."

    Rebecca smiled as she accepted the bundle of letters. "Did it help?"

    "Some. Still mad at him, though."

    Sheryl frowned again. "At who?"

    Rebecca sighed long-sufferingly. "Oh, he has every right to be upset, Sheryl. Bad stuff happened. I simply provided another perspective on the matter."

    Sheryl's gaze landed on the letters in her hands, noted how yellowed they were. "Are those what I think they are? I've seen you reading 'em before."

    Rebecca nodded. "From 1944."

    "Oh." She waved them off. "Go on. Go have your talk."

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    From the table he'd snagged in the hospital's cafeteria, he watched her cobble a meal together before joining him. He got a good look at what was on the tray, and frowned because... "I'm not all that hungry."

    Rebecca smiled. "Well, I am. And I lived through the Depression. It's rude to eat in front of people and offer them nothing." She took a deep breath. "So... what can I do for you now that I'm not likely to be mean due to not eating right." He stared at her. "What? I get extra cranky when I don't eat. Less logical, too. Doesn't everybody?"

    "Is that why you hit me twice?"

    "No. You were saying stupid things and trying to rationalize your behavior based on the actions of others. Being a nurse, I know a thing or two about psychological processes. Also, I was already mad, and you startled me." She paused, watching him. "Not that you weren't correct about certain things. You were and had every right to be pissed off. It's just... most people don't go for attempted murder and assault in super armor."

    Tony sighed. "Nothing I say will make it sound less grotesque, will it?"

    "No." She picked at her salad, then looked at him again. "Did you enjoy the party?"

    Tony nodded. "Certainly more enjoyable than spending the better part of eighty-five hours cooling off in the Sakha Republic." She stared at him blankly, fork half-way to her mouth. "They left me Zemo's snowmobile and a map with directions to the nearest settlement. Also, I'm pretty sure that town doctor of theirs in Oymyakon might also have been the town veterinarian."

    Fork forgotten, she continued to stare at him. "Oh, you're kidding!"

    He shook his head. "No. Never piss off both Captain America and the King of Wakanda... for you might get stuck in the back of beyond, on the worlds worst road trip." He watched as she set the fork down and dissolved into silent laughter. "What? It's not funny, Rebecca."

    It took her a minute to stop laughing, and then she sobered. "Oh yes it is, Anthony! Not funny ha-ha, no, and really they shouldn't have, but did you cool off enough to realize why they would have done it?"

    "After a while, yes. It was weird to feel wanted by people in the middle of nowhere."

    "And how did you get out of Siberia?"

    "Iceland Air." He smiled wryly. "No one else knows that, not even Pepper. I'd have had to arrest myself."

    "That just sounds like an insufferable amount of paperwork."

    "Steve said that, too," Tony said as he pulled a thick, padded envelope out of his other coat pocket. "This is for you, since you did make me think about it, in fact, right after Pepper did. It's information on the B.A.R.F. system. I looked into the compliance trigger thing for you, came out the other side with a maybe of weather or not it would work. I'd know more, but haven't gotten to examine the guy, more than visually mostly from a distance, the three or four times I saw him. From what I saw when Zemo triggered him in Berlin..." He shuddered. "No one deserves to be lost in their head like that. Not that way." Looking over her shoulder, he frowned at the young man sitting three tables away, wearing green pants and a black top with Micky Mouse Heads on it, reading a book and frequently glancing at them. On the way to the cafeteria, he hadn't seen anyone wear anything like that...

    Rebecca frowned. "What do you mean?"

    Dragging his attention back to her, Tony frowned for a moment, then handed her his eyelink glasses. "Put them on. Friday's going to show you the A/V footage from Berlin." Rebecca continued frowning, but did as he instructed. He watched as she took it all in, in utter silence, then took the glasses off and stared at them. "Sorry. I know it's not an easy thing to watch."

    She shook her head and handed them back to him. "No, I needed to see. Any chance you'd show me some of the footage from Siberia?"

    "No. Not ever showing that to you, as you already want to kick my butt. Pepper saw it and I was suddenly restricted to reading psychology articles... and for some reason, Friday wouldn't let me watch anything but Animal Planet or HGTV."

    Rebecca stared at him again. "She can do that?"

    "Until this, I didn't know she could, either. It's not so bad, though. Animal Planet has that show about Treehouses, and at least it gave me a break from politics." Suddenly remembering something, he fiddled with his watch and showed her a picture.

    Rebecca frowned at it. "Nice cat. Cute."

    Then he showed her another picture, this one of his mother holding the same cat, only it was wearing a bow and somewhat smaller than the other picture. "This is from November 1991. I wasn't home much during that time, so I didn't know Dad had gotten her a cat. College."

    "I don't understand..."

    Tony sighed and made it so both pictures displayed side by side. "This cat, the same one that my mother is holding, showed up mysteriously next to my bed the morning after the accident, in a cat carrier. At the time, I wondered if Jarvis had decided to play secret Santa and then never fessed up to it. Now... I wonder." He stared into the distance for a moment in thought. "And I remember seeing an odd shape in the back of the car in that video. About the right size and shape for a pet carrier."

    Rebecca stared at the two pictures. "So you're saying..."

    "That Barnes might have given me my mothers cat?" She looked at him funny. "You're right. It's ridiculous."

    "Not necessarily. He loved cats. Ours looked like this one."

    "What?"

    She nodded to the pictures being displayed. "We had tabby cats, growing up. Made Steve sneeze like crazy, had a tendency to set off his asthma something fierce, sometimes." Rebecca glanced at him. "What was his reaction to the video?"

    Tony took a deep breath, and showed her a third picture, this one of Barnes before he'd snapped. "About like that. Pepper made me look at this, and that's when I realized he might have been more horrified than it seemed at first blush. As if he'd just found out himself, who it was in that car."

    Rebecca nodded again. "That's what Steve thought, too, in his letter. Amnesia isn't something to completely dismiss out of hand. You can know something, the barest details of it, without knowing all of it."

    "Says the nurse."

    "What? You've not dealt without a person who's had head trauma while on morphine? They ask the same questions repeatedly, and they tend not to retain any of the information, so it's a cycle of you answering them after they've already asked the questions sixteen times before, because they're back at square one every time. And... often they remember none of that when they're better."

    "Oh. Now you're just making me feel guilty."

    "Over?"

    "Snapping the way I did."

    She sighed. "Emotions never make sense, Stark. And, apparently, my brother might have given you a cat and likely doesn't remember it. Or even why. I'd say you're about even for things that make people feel guilty."

    "Rebecca..."

    "What? Just because the whole thing is tragic, doesn't mean there isn't humor in there somewhere. Cat. Snapping due to bad revelation on top of bad week when you're already anxiolytic... take your pick."

    He blinked. "Anxiolytic?"

    "You mean you weren't?" She gazed at him with raised eyebrows. "Because I think you were. And with what was going on, I don't blame you. Not at all. But the snapping thing..."

    He rolled his eyes and glanced over at the guy who was still reading that book and glancing at them frequently. "You seem to have an admirer with your taste in clothes."

    Rebecca turned and chuckled. "Mason, get your butt over here right now!" She turned back and rolled her eyes at him. "Would you believe the State Department is run by an idiot?"

    "Huh?" Tony wondered as Mason joined them and blinked at the pictures, and Rebecca handed the second sandwich to him. "Who are you, kid?"

    "He's my grand-nephew. Mason, this is Mr. Stark. Sit. Eat." She smiled at the confused expression on Tony's face as Mason pulled a chair over and sat down obligingly. "He's undercover from the CIA at the State Department, acting as part of the detail on me and my family, just in case my brother is stupid enough to actually show up on our doorsteps." She motioned to the scrub top with the Mickey Mouse Heads. "He wears things like this here so no one asks him to do anything medical, except for being the floor runner, since he is here when I am."

    Tony stared at Mason. "You mean..."

    "That General Ross ordered me to watch my Grand Aunt?" Mason asked. "Yes. None of us wanted to tell him he's an idiot, and so our entire detail team has coffee at Aunt Becca's house every Wednesday to discuss strategy. So far... let's just say that he's not reading the real reports because no one, not even his secretary, is on his side. He'd probably be the last person to know if Steve and Uncle James dropped by."

    Tony chuckled. "Right. You wouldn't be the one who bought this woman a scrub top with peace symbols on it, would you?" Mason grinned. "You are! She doesn't come in peace, kid!"

    Rebecca snorted in laughter. "Depends on your definition of peace. Also, you're the one who tried to kill my brother in a fit of somewhat understandable rage."

    "And-"

    "Try to rationalize, and you risk getting a very physical correction. Again."

    Tony stared at her. "Huh?"

    "You did not see my initial reaction to Steve's letter, Anthony."

    He glanced at Mason. "How Bad?"

    "She lost the English in her head for an hour," Mason told him soberly. "Miriam had to call me in from the detail to contain her and prevent her from actually flying to Germany and causing an international incident in her skunk scrubs. And she really was wearing the skunk scrubs. It would have been the cutest scary thing the JCTF has ever seen."

    Tony frowned. "Germany?"

    Rebecca nodded. "That's where the neghiob is, right? Zemo?"

    "Oh. Yes. Still waiting for trial."

    "He set my brother off with dangerous intent. He got people killed. Supposedly, all he wanted was revenge for Sokovia." She studied him for a moment, then looked at her grandnephew. "You have the manual?"

    "In my locker."

    "Go get it, please?" She watched him go, then returned her attention to Tony and looked at him thoughtfully. "Steve didn't mention your getting waylaid in Siberia in that letter of his."

    "Would he have?"

    "He knows better than to hide things from me, Stark. What he did mention was passing out due to having to stop you when Mr. T'Challa offered them a ride out of Siberia. Adrenaline can go only so far. Also, it had been a really bad week, what with the funeral before everything went to hell, and he hadn't been eating right. Did you see him eat in Berlin?"

    Tony paused and thought about it. "No. Not even a meal supplement bar."

    "And as much as I hate those things, what is his normal MO?"

    "To... oh. Crap. You're trying to tell me something here, aren't you?"

    "Yes. Remember how I said when I sat down that I get weird when I don't eat? Well... so does Steve. If he doesn't eat right, he gets a bit weird. You didn't see him eat, he told me he didn't eat enough for a week straight. Lots of physical activity? Injuries from fighting you?"

    "And I tried to talk him into something he already wasn't going to sign and put my foot in my mouth."

    "Exactly."

    He gazed at her for a long, long moment. "So if it wasn't Steve leaving me a note in the snowmobile, then who did?"

    "Certainly not James. Concussion. Also, he's left-handed. And was missing a left hand."

    "You mean... I got a Siberian mini-vacation courtesy of the King of Wakanda because he thought I needed a time out?"

    "Didn't you?"

    "Apparently, because I didn't find that note odd until just this moment. The phrasing was off, just enough that..." Tony paused. "Damn."

    "What?"

    "I just realized that the handwriting didn't match between letters, as much as the phrasing didn't." He sighed, and didn't get to finish his thought about the situation because Mason came tearing back into the cafeteria, a thick binder under his arm. "You call that thing a manual?"

    Rebecca laughed as she took it from Mason and he sat down again. She showed him the cover, which had 'Barnes Family Psych Manual' on it in big letters, followed by 'Read it, or risk Becca getting mad at you for idiotic things.' "This was actually Fran's medical assistant psych handbook that she made up from typing all her class notes. The kids pass it around, because they all know my stance on psychology and defensive mechanisms. Education is key, you know? The next thing on your reading list is this thing. We will be wanting it back, Anthony."

    Tony glanced at Mason. "Why do you have it?"

    "I'm on the detail, and Bill said something dumb during the weekly strategy session."

    That caused Tony to chuckle. "So she really doesn't come in peace, then?"

    "Not really, no. Nor is she sweet like a monkey, either," Mason told him. "Have you seen the Pink and Green Monkeys yet?"

    "No."

    "You'll love 'em."

    Tony glanced at Rebecca with raise eyebrows. "Is everyone in your family crazy?"

    "We have three Medical Transcriptionists, an MD studying psychology, another studying engineering, several mechanics, nurses, some accountants, and lawyers. Would do you think?"

    "Ah." Suddenly, he had an idea. "Mason? Do you know if Ross types his own letters?"

    "Lucinda doesn't do those for him, no."

    Tony grinned and wiped the pictures away in lieu of a keyboard and screen display that was streaming lines of code. He did some midair typing, smiled. "There."

    "What is all of that?" Rebecca wondered.

    "A very specific computer virus. Took this long to get it exactly right, to make it untraceable, even with SHIELD software, and to be as annoying as possible for it to do what I want, how I want."

    "Which is?"

    "To annoy the daylights out of Ross, to raid and copy all the data on the State Department's computers" He smirked again, caught Mason's eye. "And to entertain Lucinda."

    Rebecca frowned. "Who is Lucinda?"

    "The Secretary of State's secretary. You'd like her. She went to college with Pepper."

    Rebecca glanced at Mason to find him grinning. "And you're giving the State Department's computers an entertaining virus... why?"

    "Because Ross wrote the Accords. The first draft, anyway. We need what he's got in order to get them nullified. Also, he's having you followed, even if the detail is on your side."

    "Ah. Virus way, then. Just don't wreck the computers to the point that the State Department Employees don't get paid."

    "Already thought of that... except for the one woman who gave me a guilt trip at MIT. That time out in Siberia was worth something after all. Had a lot of time to think things out."

    "Huh?"

    "Long story."

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    The secretary had just returned to her desk from getting a glass of water when she heard the oddest music coming from General Ross's office. She frowned, knowing he was in there writing up a report. Slowly, she stood up and went to check on him. She found him staring at his computer in confusion. "General?"

    "Every time I go to type, it keeps playing that," he said slowly, eyes wide. Slowly, he reached to the keyboard just as the song ended and pressed a key. When that didn't set it off, he began again, only for it to start again. He frowned down at the keyboard and experimentally pressed one, the 'a'. It happened again. "Huh."

    "Do you want me to call tech support, sir?"

    He pressed another one, the 'c', and it happened again. And then the 't'... "Probably. I'm not going to get through this report on Captain America's actions if I can't use those letters without this awful song blaring at me!"

    "You could just turn the speakers off, sir..."

    "Didn't turn them on, Lucinda! This thing has a mind of it's own!"

    Lucinda had to close the door again, lest he see her lose her composure to a fit of very physical laughter. She wondered if he actually recognized the melodic version of 'Star-Spangled Man with a Plan.'

    ~*~*~*~​

    In Wakanda, Steve Rogers gets a text message on his burner phone: Rogers, tell Barnes when you're finally able to defrost him that his sister is a terrifying know it all. I like her. Even if she gives homework and calls it "providing perspective."

    Sam later finds him still laughing and doesn't get an explanation for a while...

    ~*~*~*~​

    A/N: When a certain two things were written, I had no idea I'd be using either for this. And then I started writing this, and suddenly Tony was talking about Oymyakon and a cat... :oops:


    Translation from Romanian...

    neghiob: "blockhead"


    Tooniforms Heads Above The Rest: http://www.uniformadvantage.com/pag...ey-mouse-scrub-top.asp?1=1&navbar=3&frmcolor=
     
  6. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    “There are friends, I think we can't imagine living without. People who are sisters to us, or brothers. Jimmy was one of those. I never thought I might have to go through life without him. I never thought he might be killed by a drunken driver or anything else. Who thinks about things like that when you're seventeen? If I had known ahead of time what was going to happen to him, I would have gone crazy. I guess I did go a little crazy. My Aunt Lo, who's a hospital psychiatrist, says grief travels a certain route-that if you could plot it out on a map you'd have a line that twists and weaves and eventually ends up near the point of departure. I say "near" because although you may survive the grief, you won't ever be exactly the same. It took me a long time to learn that, and sometimes the whole experience comes back on me and I have to learn it all over again.”
    ― Morgan Hackett (Say Goodnight, Gracie by Julie Reece Deever)


    Two days post the Battle of Liepzig-Halle Airport...


    It was quiet in the hospital room at Columbia Medial Center when he awoke again. After getting settled in, after the long flight from Germany, it was all he could have done to keep his eyes open. How many hours ago was that, Rhodes wondered as he stared at the ceiling tiles, wondering if everything over the past week or so really happened or not. It just seemed so weird. Then a soft and indistinct mumbling voice reached him and he raised his head to find a familiar elderly woman, her now-gray shoulder length hair not up in a loose bun like it usually was, but down and held back by a braided pink and purple hair tie. It matched the... was she really wearing Elvis-themed scrubs? That threw him for a minute as he watched her methodically knit something with very green... army green... yarn, and continue to mumble under her breath. It took him several minutes to realize that she wasn't speaking English, either. Which was bad. Very bad.

    When Steve had introduced him to this woman at the New Avengers Facility eight months ago, Rhodes had learned very quickly that she had an odd tendency to slip into Romanian in conversation, that swear words always got replaced. If she was mumbling to herself in Romanian, then how upset was she? For that matter, this wasn't her work place. That was in Brooklyn. "Rebecca?"

    She ignored him for long moments, still muttering under her breath as she concentrated on the row she was working on. Once finished with the row, she looked up at him and he flinched as he got his answer for just how angry she was. "Cum a uita-te?"

    Rhodes frowned at her. "Can you find the English?"

    "Nu-i asa?"

    "English, Rebecca. I don't speak Romanian."

    "Adică acest lucru nu este?" She blinked at his bemused expression, returned her attention to the knitting, and took several deep breaths while launching into another row. He waited patiently through two complete rows on whatever project it was, wondering why THAT color of yarn, before she stopped again and looked at him. "Okay. Better?"

    "Yes. You all right?"

    "I should be asking you that question, Colonel."

    "I'm not the one losing the English in my head for understandable reasons."

    Rebecca took a deep breath, let it out. "How did he look?"

    "Barnes?" He knew why she was asking, and he'd have done the same. No wonder she was so upset.

    "Yes."

    "Not that bad, actually, considering when I saw him the first time, Steve had just saved his butt from a really upset monarch... and German Special Forces. Not sure what he thought of the armor."

    Rebecca chuckled suddenly. "Oh, Colonel!"

    "What?"

    "You do realize that the War Machine armor resembles a wearable tank, right?"

    Rhodes rolled his eyes at her humor. She wasn't wrong, though. "Doesn't much look like an Abrams to me."

    She chuckled again, then sobered. "And how was Steve, last you saw him?"

    "Well enough to fly a jet."

    "And Sam?"

    "Fine."

    "Wanda?"

    "Also fine. You want details?"

    She shook her head. "I know about Natasha, and Barton, and the other guy who was along for the ride whose name escapes me, if Romanoff told me what it was. And if you give me details, I have to start over. Slipping. Bad."

    "You're not going to ask about Vision or Tony?"

    Her expression darkened in another burst of anger. "No. Vision put you here, and Stark... I'll lose my English again."

    Rhodes nodded, sort of understanding. He knew she didn't like Tony, in fact had refused outright to meet him, no matter how many times the subject had come up. Which was weird, but also her business. That she'd refused to meet Vision, on the other hand... that didn't make sense. "In Vision's defense, he was aiming for Sam's thrusters, to get him off my tail. Sam must have dodged... why are you glaring at me?"

    "Foc prietenos idiotule!" She blinked at him for a moment, shook her head, blinked several more times, and took another deep breath. "Friendly fire. And you're an idiot."

    "You're looking at it wrong."

    "Am I? You traumatized a one year old by telling him to fire on a friend. He hit you instead, also his friend. Esti un idiot."

    "We were trying-"
    "Nu încercați să apere oricare dintre ea," she muttered as she blinked and returned to her yarn, effectively cutting him off. He watched as she furiously knit a row, then blinked at it in confusion and had to undo and then redo the row again.

    "Was it off?"

    "Da."

    "You going to find the English again, or do I have to call a translator?"

    "Mason este în clădire, suna pentru el, dacă vrei. S-ar putea să-l facă fard de obraz."

    "Right." He was saved from trying again when the door opened to reveal Pepper, who entered and shut the door quietly. "Hi."

    Rebecca glanced up at her, nodded to him. "Prințul nostru rănit este treaz."

    Her hand on the chair next to the hospital bed he was laying in, Pepper frowned at Rebecca, then looked at him. "I'm going to guess that she's really mad?"

    "Apparently I'm an idiot. How are you?"

    "Tired," Pepper told him as she sat down and hazarded a glance at the upset woman in the Elvis scrubs sitting in the corner. "Rebecca?"

    "Acest rând este concentrarea mea," Rebecca answered, without breaking her concentration. "Dă-mi un minut."

    "Okay. We'll wait."

    "Did she just say something about focus?"

    "Sounded like it." Pepper turned to him, smiled. "I know better to ask how you are, but..."

    He looked to where his feet were covered by the blanket. "Fine. Fabulous."

    "Nici una din asta. Medicina poate face minuni."

    Rhodes glanced at the hospital-issue nightstand, saw the vase, and pulled the flower out of it. He threw it at Rebecca, and she looked up at him in amusement, mid-row. "I can be sarcastic about this if I want to."

    Rebecca nodded slowly. "Yes, but medicine really has come a long way. You never know, you know?"

    Pepper smiled. "How much time have you been spending around Mason? You're starting to sound like him."

    "A lot. And not enough."

    Rhodes nodded to Pepper. "All right. I get why she's here, but why are you? Isn't this Columbia?"

    "I'm on the Avengers Emergency Call List for medical needs, and Dr. Cho won't be back from Seoul until tomorrow. The nice nurses here gave me the run-down of your injuries in lieu of her being here. That's also why I'm in here and not in the waiting room instead."

    "Ah. What are you knitting?"

    "A prayer shawl for James." She glanced down at her project, then back up at him, and grimaced. "Did you know that there were eleven or so guys in our neighborhood, all named James? To this day, I hear that name and immediately want to know what their nickname is so I'm not forced to think about him. And then their squad..." She frowned. "Falsworth! Morita! Do we count Dernier? Does French count?"

    Rhodes chuckled. "Well, it's a good name. I'm glad to share it with James Barnes of Brooklyn, James Falsworth of the United Kingdom, Jacques Dernier of France, and James Morita of Fresno." She smiled briefly and some of the tension in the room dissipated. "Why a prayer shawl?"

    "Keeps my hands busy. It's this, or I go make a nuisance of myself at the Nurses Station to see if they don't happen to need an extra set of helping hands."

    "You... want to work?"

    "I'm a nurse, Colonel. I practically lived in a hospital my entire working life. Still do, three days a week."

    "So you're here..."

    "To visit. Chastise. Be a friendly face in the face of this mess."

    "You sound like my mother when she's got a chip on her shoulder."

    "I'll take that as a compliment." She suddenly frowned again. "And where is Stark, anyway?"

    "Why? Do you actually want to meet him for a change?"

    She rolled her eyes at him, shook her head. "No. I ask because he is your friend and he's been nowhere to be seen since they flew you in."

    Rhodes frowned in thought. "I haven't seen him since the MRI scan in Germany."

    "Interesting."

    Pepper motioned to the project. "How it coming? Looks a foot or so long."

    "Great. Should be done by the time he turns up again or someone else tries to kill him."

    Pepper glanced at him when he tapped her on the arm, and nodded at him. Oh, good. She understood, too. "Right. Green?"

    "I considered bubblegum pink, but Mason talked me out of it, saying it was too girly for a former ghost assassin. So... Army OD Green it is."

    "You're taking the former assassin thing really well," Pepper told her.

    "No, I'm not. I was convinced Steve was delirious when he told me at first, and now... I can't change it. It's done. I either accept it, or... there's an or. Of bad things. You know what I mean. It's stupid, and I... I'm rambling."

    Pepper sat back and looked at him. "And I haven't heard from Tony since just before that MIT presentation last week."

    "Hmm... so if he's not here, and you've not talked to him, then where is he? If he's fallen off the grid in Nebraska this time, we'll have words when he gets back."

    Rebecca frowned. "Nebraska?"

    "That time when his house in Malibu got blown up," Rhodes explained. "He went missing for a bit."

    "Oh. That. Well, then I hope he likes Nebraska. Plus, if he'd been here, you'd have woken to his lovely face instead."

    "Some day, you are going to meet him and find out you like him," Rhodes told her. "He's not that bad."

    "Be that as it may, that time is not now."

    Pepper frowned and pulled a tablet out of the purse she'd been carrying, and accessed information from FRIDAY to read the activity log on Tony's on-person watch-link. "Huh... last location, helicopter leaving The Raft in the North Sea, and then... Siberia?"

    "That's odd," Rebecca muttered as she concentrated on the prayer shawl again.

    Rhodes shook his head. "No. If he went to The Raft, he had a reason. Steve said something about a doctor in Liepzig."

    Pepper paused and glanced at him. "You don't know?"

    "Huh?"

    "About the framing."

    Rebecca sighed. "No, he doesn't. Not about Zemo or the evidence. That came out yesterday while he was being transferred."

    "Oh..."


    Five weeks after that...


    Out of the exoskeleton that Tony had been making him practice in, Rhodes wheeled himself into the Compound's administration office, looking to find where the man had gone... only to stop in the doorway when he saw Tony sitting at what was usually Steve's desk, with the absolute last person he expected him to be sitting with, holding a yellowed bundle. "Oh boy..."

    "He's fine, Colonel. I didn't hurt him. Much."

    Rhodes winced at her tone. "Well good, then. How are you, Rebecca?"

    Tony turned and looked at him. "You know her?"

    "Of course. Doesn't everybody who isn't you?"

    "Rhodey!"

    Rhodes looked at Rebecca to find her looking down at something on the desk with a deep frown, and wheeled himself closer to see. "Oh. That thing. You okay?"

    "Toată această situație este o prostie."

    "No, then."

    Tony frowned. "Rhodey, I need an explanation now. First I find her in here, then she yells at me for attacking her brother, then she adopts me, and now apparently we're going to Steve's birthday party when he's not there? And how did she even get into the compound?"

    "She's on the clearance list for medical. Rebecca?"

    "Visit. You. The idiot here surprised me while I was waiting and reading this gunoi."

    "Well, he's in one piece, so it couldn't have been too bad..." Rhodes smiled at Tony. "You're lucky she didn't have her cane."

    "It's in the car."

    "Do you have something against me?" Tony winced when Rebecca glared at him. "Other than that."

    She smiled at him sweetly. "Not everyone worships the ground that the Stark name rests on, Anthony. Just because my brother liked your father, doesn't mean I have to like you. In fact, I don't. But I'm willing to at least try. That's worth something, yes?"

    "I guess."


    ~*~*~*~​


    Next Update... Tony, Pepper, and THE TALK (No, the OTHER talk.)



    Translation from Romanian (And there is a lot of it this chapter.)

    cum a uita-te: "how did he look?"
    nu-i asa ?: "Huh?"
    adică acest lucru nu este ?: "You mean this isn't? (English)"
    foc prietenos idiotule !: "Friendly fire, you idiot!"
    esti un idiot: "you're an idiot"
    nu încercați să apere oricare dintre ea: "Don't try to defend any of it."
    Mason este în clădire, suna pentru el, dacă vrei. S-ar putea să-l facă fard de obraz.: "Mason is in the building. Call for him if you want. I might make him blush."
    prințul nostru rănit este treaz: "Our injured prince is awake."
    Acest rând este concentrarea mea: "This row is my focus."
    dă-mi un minut: "Give me a minute."
    Nici una din asta. Medicina poate face minuni.: "None of that. Medicine can do wonders."
    toată această situație este o prostie: "This whole situation is stupid."
    gunoi: dung


    The Elvis Scrubs: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/99/ef/1c/99ef1c3bab1e368ca6d10e51fa12897f.jpg
    (...one of three or four variations. I kid you not.)
     
  7. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    A/N: This starts at the tail-end of the hospital scene from last update... (Tony and Pepper were rescheduled to next update instead.)

    Mauve and Dangerous

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Still two days post Liepzig...


    "No, he doesn't. Not about Zemo or the evidence. That came out yesterday while he was being transferred."

    "Oh..." Pepper tapped something on the tablet's screen, then handed it to Rhodes. "Friday showed me that right about the time you were getting your MRI."

    Rhodes frowned at the display of a dead man in a bathtub, a mask of Barnes's face, and wig. "Okay..."

    "That man is the real United Nations Psychiatrist," Pepper explained. "And those things were found in the hotel room of the man who showed up to do the evaluation at the Bundestag in Berlin."

    "Oh."

    "And as for where Tony might be... I got an interesting anonymous message this morning that said not to worry, that he's fine and will be back in New York in a couple days. For some reason, the person who sent the message thought he needed a break, whatever that might actually mean." She frowned. "And it was too off to be from Steve, so we'll see."

    "Wait. Are you telling me that Barnes was framed? Twice?"

    "Yes," Rebecca told him. "Also put in danger by the Joint Counter Terrorism Task Force."

    Rhodes glanced at Rebecca, noting how she'd returned to furiously knitting. "Then... oh God."

    Pepper shook her head. "There will be time enough for recriminations, Rhodey."

    "Steve tried to explain it in Liepzig, but... let's just say there was clashing and escalation, but Steve's not the one who escalated first."

    Rebecca frowned. "Oh?"

    "No." Rhodes shifted his gaze to the tablet. "Pepper, can I access the suit's audio and visual logs?" He blinked when a projected window popped up, showing his suit's POV of the intervention in Bucharest. "Rebecca? Look up. And thank you, FRIDAY."

    Rebecca glanced up from her knitting project to find herself looking at... her brother, and Steve holding out his hand to calm him, as seen from in front and to the side. She stared at him. "Goodness. Pepper, I want that. Him, too, but I'll take a picture. Even if he looks mad. Not sure who looks more upset, there. Steve or James."

    "I vote for the upset monarch," Rhodes told her, and the POV moved to show T'Challa, whom Rebecca could see very clearly did not look happy. "FRIDAY, move ahead in A/V log to Liepzig Airport. Play."

    They watched the first minute or so of the confrontation, and then Rebecca winced as the shield got taken away. "Rhodes?"

    "Yeah?"

    "Who or what is that?"

    "Still wondering."

    "And where... oh. Oh Yahweh." She chuckled. "Did you forget about Steve being really good at tactics?"

    "I wasn't in charge. And no. And the shrinking guy was an utter surprise."

    She smiled. "Friday, stop footage. Show me James Barnes." The image jumped to the six of them standing in a line. "Stop. There. Zoom in on Steve and James." The image changed again to show Steve and Bucky, the latter looking somewhat nauseated. "Determination."

    "Huh?" Rhodes wondered.

    "James looks nauseated, a little bit, but Steve? He doesn't want to do what he's about to. But he will. He did." She chuckled. "And that has to be the best candid of both of them I've ever seen! Pepper...?"

    Pepper smiled. "I'll see what I can do about getting you some pictures."

    "Rhodes, do I want to know what happened after this?"

    "Not really. I ended up giving Wanda a headache, Vision destroyed a control tower... FRIDAY, show Giant Man. Still Frame."

    Rebecca laughed. "Distraction?"

    "Very big distraction. And if I ever have to plan a war, I want Steve there."

    The three of them paused, the magnitude of the situation hitting all of them anew, and Rebecca looked at Pepper. "I've got a family lawyer wading through the Accords book right now, and I waded through it myself before Mike did. Want to join forces with the Barnes Family Legal Team?"

    Pepper nodded. "Yes. The sooner we solve this, the better."

    "Great. I'll have them call your legal department."

    Rhodes took a deep breath as pain started to make itself known, let it out, and remembering something, glanced furtively around the room. "Where is your shadow, anyway?"

    Rebecca smiled. "Being your nurse's gopher. And that reminds me. Pepper, is it legal for the State Department to put a covert detail on my family? You know... when it's utterly unlikely for my brother to show up?"

    "How do you know he wouldn't?"

    Rebecca started another row. "Two years on the run, and he ends up in Bucharest instead."

    "Oh."

    "Not that I mind having Mason around, and the staff at the hospital love him, but... one of these days..."

    "You're tired of having a shadow?"

    "I'm tired of this mess that got even more complicated this week."

    "Ah."

    "And... no. I don't care that I'm bellyaching about it." She glanced up at the still, still being displayed of Giant Man, tilted her head in thought. "Play the beginning again." FRIDAY obliged, and they watched the exchange... "Stop, FRIDAY. Wrong tact."

    Rhodes frowned at her. "Huh?"

    "Bullying." She concentrated on the project in her hands again. "No wonder Steve has trouble and gets frustrated with that man."

    Pepper frowned and had the AI play the footage again... "Stop." She turned to Rhodes. "Why didn't you stop him?"

    "What do you mean?"

    "Tony. That tone in his voice, the set of his face, even from the side..."

    "Pepper," Rebecca interrupted before Rhodes could answer. "He was anxiolytic. And might need an aspirin regimen. And should be medically checked out when he gets back from Nebraska."

    Pepper paused. "What?"

    "Natasha called and told me about Berlin and how he was acting. She mentioned that he complained about his left arm being numb, however random it seemed at the time. And you said he had some kind of heart trouble before, right?"

    "Oh. Yes, he did. Does."

    "Anxiety and angina go hand in hand. Stress only exacerbates the symptoms... and can apparently lead to an airport getting badly damaged if an idiot Secretary of State makes the wrong calls and adds pressure to an already problematic situation, squad of JSOC guys be damned." At their silence, she glanced up at them. "What?"

    "How do you add anxiety and angina together and get... this?" Pepper wondered.

    "Anxiety. Left arm numbness. Sense of impending doom. He showed two of those things while talking to Steve in that exchange, and all three of those are symptoms of angina. Heart issues."

    Rhodes stared at her. "That actually explains a lot."

    "Glad I could help." She stared at the row she was currently in the middle of. "I wonder... do this color and pink go together?"

    "Still too girly," Pepper told her.

    "Not if it's just the tassels. That's a manly amount of pink. Respectable. Besides, it's my project and Mason simply doesn't like pink. Not even mauve."

    "Why?"

    "Doctor Who."

    Rhodes frowned again. "What does Doctor Who have to do with the color pink?"

    "You'll have to ask him. I really have no idea."

    "Why would Natasha call you," Pepper wondered.

    "I told her to. Also, she wanted to apologize to me when there was nothing to apologize for. This... none of it is her fault, not even when it seemed like she could have gotten him out way back when but ran instead and saved her own life." Rebecca considered the shawl again. "Pink and light blue. Purple wouldn't work... definitely not yellow. Orange would clash badly. Not white. Maybe a lighter green? Oh! Pink and light green!"

    "Rebecca," Pepper began. "Maybe-"

    "I'm not going to rant about the unfairness of it all, Virginia, no matter how much I want to. If I start, Mason will have to translate, and I might make him blush." She glanced up at Rhodes, looked at him analytically...

    "Right. So why would yellow and that shade of green clash?"

    Still looking at Rhodes in concern, which was making him nervous, she laid the project in her lap and then tossed the extra roll of yarn that had been in a bag at her feet to Pepper. "Compare it to your shirt."

    Rhodes suddenly chuckled at Pepper's expression as she held the yarn up to her yellow blouse. "Thank you, Rebecca!"

    "My pleasure." She continued to look at him. "And you look like you could use a pain pill, Colonel."

    "I'm fine. Had worse."

    "Pepper, got get his nurse. He's not fine when he's that gray."

    Pepper nodded and went to go get a nurse.
     
  8. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Once again, I am loving all of the exposition you are doing to this verse! Rebecca continues to be all sorts of awesome in this. And this:

    "And where... oh. Oh Yahweh." She chuckled. "Did you forget about Steve being really good at tactics?"

    "I wasn't in charge. And no. And the shrinking guy was an utter surprise."

    Really just sums everything up from CA:CW. I absolutely loved it. :p

    =D=
     
  9. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Mira_Jade: I tried to make her as real as possible without going over the top. Thank you, Mira. :)
     
  10. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    A/N: This version of Tony and Pepper's first talk is the non-venting version, #2, as in #1 on my first pass, Pepper was far more critical of him. And also unfairly banned him from the Iron Man suit workshop. I tried to make this as fair as possible without going too far and also paying tribute to Tony's feelings on the matter.


    Two weeks post the Battle of Liepzig-Halle Airport...


    The letter was long, explanatory, and full of details that made her want to either hug or hit the writer of it... or both at the same time. Was it possible to hug and hit someone at the same time? And Tony had really given Steve THAT explanation for why she'd not been in Berlin? Seriously?

    She raised her head and stared hard at the wall across from her desk for long minutes before doing what she should have done long before now and using her position as StarkIdustries CEO/COO to get into the Audio and Visual logs of Tony's Iron Man suit for the date in question mentioned in the letter. If Steve wanted her to see it that much, then she'd look.

    Pepper watched the whole of the fight, and the lead in, and Zemo taunting them, and the assassination video in complete and utter silence before ordering FRIDAY to stop and staring at the wall again for several minutes. She was immediately glad that Rebecca hadn't been here with her, watching all of that.

    It wasn't that she didn't understand why Tony would react like that. She did. It was more than that... "FRIDAY, location of Tony."

    "Just returned from the New Avengers Facility after visiting with Colonel Rhodes," the AI answered.

    Pepper took a deep breath and stood up. This distance between them that had been going on since before Ultron was going to stop. Today.

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    At a knock on the door frame of his bedroom, Tony flinched and looked up from the outdated phone in his hands to find Pepper staring at him. "Oh. Hi."

    "Name a good reason for me not to figure out how to bring you up on charges involving the Geneva Convention and Prisoners of War," Pepper requested calmly.

    Tony paused. "The Geneva Convention?"

    "I watched your suit's A/V log. From Siberia."

    He openly stared at her. "Pepper?"

    "Still waiting for an answer, Tony."

    "Steve lied to me."

    Pepper frowned. "Jury's still out on weather or not it was a lie, and really... what does Steve lying about anything have to do with your behavior? Someone lying to you is not a good answer, or even a reason. It would not hold up in a court of law. It's an emotional answer, yes, but not a good one. Try again."

    "If you saw the footage, then you know why."

    "Tony. Dancing around the subject is beneath you. I need you to say it, or you will be brought up on as many charges as possible, in front of an actual judge, formally, that apply to this entire situation." She continued to stare at him. "And I'm asking you this because I love you. If Barnes's sister had seen what I did... let's just say she would have reacted violently. At you and not him."

    "What sister?"

    Pepper's eyes narrowed at him, and he winced. "We're not discussing that right now. We are talking about you. So... reasons. Yours."

    Tony took a deep breath and he looked away from her. "He killed my mom. Dad..."

    "And?"

    "Isn't that enough?" At Pepper's answering silence, he risked looking at her again, only to find her still staring at him with narrowed eyes. "What?"

    Pepper pulled a StarkPad out of the bag she'd been holding that he had disregarded, and showed him a still image of Barnes, from right before he'd snapped. "Does this look like a person who had wanted any part of it? At all?"

    Tony stared at the still image of Barnes, at once noticing how upset the man appeared, finally seeing the raw emotion for what it was. "I didn't-"

    "See it? No, of course not. You were upset. You were emotional. You... had just watched something no one should ever have to watch. But do you understand why I considered having you brought up on formal charges? This isn't just about your parents. Or you."

    "Pepper..."

    "Yes?"

    He sat there, still staring at the frozen image of the man he wanted to blame, utterly, for what happened on a dark December night in 1991, wanting so much not to be having this conversation at all. In his mind's eye, he saw again the same face, but blank as first his mother took her last breath, and then as the surveillance camera had been destroyed by a single shot. Blinking, he was back in the present and he saw the difference. "He's different here. Not that blankness. It's..."

    "Hmmm?"

    "How can a person be the same person, but not the same person, at the same time? Steve tried explaining, but it still makes no sense."

    "I heard. And I know that it sounds like utter garbage, the HYDRA controlling a person thing. Except..." She trailed off, looking at him expectantly.

    Tony sighed. "Except that it's not garbage." He frowned. "Barnes has a sister? Living?"

    Pepper smiled. "He had three. The one still living scares Steve spitless on a bad day."

    "You've met her?"

    "Of course."

    "But... why haven't I? And why didn't anyone mention her?"

    Pepper looked away from him for a moment in thought, then returned her gaze to him. "You know how Wanda initially really couldn't separate you from the way the public can perceive you?"

    "Yes..."

    "Rebecca has that problem. Also, I think she might have talked with Peggy Carter about your father... and you."

    Tony frowned. "What?"

    "She's ninety-two. That, and it was Rebecca, sitting in Rhodey's hospital room and aggressively knitting a prayer shawl while helping us figure out certain things about your behavior in Liepzig."

    "My..."

    "War Machine. A/V log. FRIDAY. Questions that needed to be asked but you didn't think of it."

    Tony continued to frown. "What questions?"

    "The fake psychiatrist, for one. For another: how did you end up heading to the North Sea to talk to Sam?"

    "...oh."

    "Didn't think of it?"

    "No. And now I feel stupid."

    She studied him. "How was Nebraska?"

    "Nebraska?"

    "Or where ever it was you went after Germany and Siberia."

    It sounded so weird, her mentioning it like that, and he wanted to laugh. "Oh. Fine. Wanted out. Got ordered to sleep for two days straight, and questionable food that needed more salt. And I got my first wake up call." He pulled out a baggie full of little odd devices and handed them to her as she joined him on the bed.

    "What are these?"

    "FRIDAY, show Pepper the containment cell that they had Barnes in, in Berlin." Up from Tony's watch-link, popped an image of Bucky in the restraints, in the containment cell, inside the actual cell. "Those things in your hand are remote detonators. See how the restraints for his left arm are more complex than the ones for his right?"

    Pepper squinted. "Yes..."

    "Electricity. Everett Ross is lucky he didn't blow up his prisoner."

    "So they were shocking him... to what, exactly?"

    "To disable the arm. Containment. Might also explain how he was acting while Zemo was doing the evaluation that turned out not to be one."

    "How so?"

    "He was stoic and uncooperative, which didn't make much sense at the time. Thinking about it now, from the perspective of having been in captivity with HYDRA... now, I'm not so sure he was being stoic. Especially not if they'd had restraints like that..."

    "Steve and those SHIELD van restraints he mentioned."

    Tony blinked at the reminder. "Oh."

    "Connections, Tony. Context. They're important." Pepper took one of the devices out of the bag to study it, then put it back in the bag and handed it back to him again. "FRIDAY, restrict Tony's personal internet access to psychology articles, emphasis on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Electro-Convulsive Therapy, and remind me later to make an appointment for him to see an actual doctor. Tomorrow, if possible."

    Tony blinked at that. "Psychology articles? Doctor's appointment?"

    "Funny thing about talking to a nurse... she goes all medical and says things that make sense. How's your arm?"

    "My arm?" Tony winced again at Pepper's expression of incredulity. "Oh, right. Fine now. Why?"

    "Natasha called in from the wind and spilled on you to a nurse, and I get to worry because I love you."

    Tony glanced at the still image still being displayed on the StarkPad he'd set aside. "What made you watch the A/V log?"

    "Steve sent me a letter," she admitted and pulled an envelope out of the bag that the StarkPad had been in, to show it to him. "He did a lot of explaining about the situation, took responsibility for setting you off when it's really not entirely his fault to start with, but he didn't know that. And... thinks we're good together. Is there a reason you told him that we're on a break, instead of what it actually is? Was it any of his business, Tony?"

    Tony stared at the envelope in her hand, confused at how Steve would do that when the letter he himself had gotten was basically 'kiss my ass, but call me if you need me' without actually saying it. "I was trying to get him to consider the Accords."

    "He mentioned that."

    "You're mad."

    "Only because you said things you should not have and tried to use me as a weapon when I myself would not have signed them. And that's a terrible reason."

    "I... I..." Tony stopped trying to talk and stared at the far wall. "So much lately hasn't made much sense, you know?"

    "Interesting answer."

    "He wondered where you were in Berlin, too."

    Pepper finally let herself touch him as she laid the StarkPad on her other side and quietly asked FRIDAY to stop displaying the image from the watch-link. She pulled him into her arms, and while he resisted minutely, he allowed it. It was going to be a long road to really trusting him with herself again, but even the shortest of journeys began with a small step. "I wish I could have met them. Met Howard and Maria."

    "I wish you could have, too. They would have loved you."

    "Tony..."

    "What? It's true!" Something she'd said made him frown. "Geneva Convention? Pepper!"

    She smiled. "I admit to having done some reading on the subject, which is one reason you are restricted to psychology articles, and the text of the Geneva Convention, for the time being. That, and you were probably at least part of the reason that Mr. Barnes had himself put in cryofreeze to protect everybody else."

    That caused Tony to stop short in his thought process while relishing in her scent for the first time in far too long. "Cryofreeze? Why would Steve let-"

    She shook her head. "Wasn't Steve's choice to make, and he was taking Peggy's long ago advice and allowing him the dignity of actually making a choice, even if he disagreed with it."

    "Oh. Can I read that letter?"

    "Later. Right now, I just want to sit here with you."

    "You... smell good." Tony paused. "That didn't come out right." She reached up and ruffled his hair. "Not the hair, Pep!"

    "Oh, I think it did, and I like your hair in all it's states."

    He wanted to laugh at that, but didn't because something else occurred to him. "You remember the BARF system I showed off at the MIT presentation?"

    "Hard not to remember that thing with the wacky acronym, yes, even if I missed the presentation. Why?"

    Tony took a deep breath. "Still want to meet my parents?"

    The embrace loosened so she could look at him oddly. "Come again?"

    "You are worth getting an electromagnetic headache for, Pep. And I want you to meet them, even if it isn't actually them."

    Pepper blinked, surprised. "Oh. Yes, yes I'd love to meet them."

    Tony nodded and they lapsed into companionable silence for a long while.


    Three weeks, three days post the Battle of Liepzig-Halle Airport...


    The doctor in Oymyakon was surprised to see him. "You back so soon?"

    Tony smiled and handed him a StarkPad. "Had some things to do at a location near here, Doc. And that is to keep in touch, because I don't remember seeing a phone anywhere, and other ways can be traced." The doctor pointed to the wall behind him, and Tony turned to see an old-looking wall-hanging telephone. "Oh."

    "But correct. Phone calls be traced. Eating right? Sleeping well?"

    "Doc!"

    "What? You show up here exhausted. Needed to sleep. Were bruised and battered, showed cardiac symptoms. Am doctor. I worry."

    Tony sighed. "Yes, and I've been to a doctor at home, too. They were as concerned as you."

    "Good. Need people look after you, you not doing it yourself."

    "Doc..."

    "Yes?"

    "You got a recipe for that soup?"

    "Of course. You didn't like it. Why want recipe? Why want contact?"

    "I liked it here. After a fashion. And... it's nice to feel wanted. And what is your name, anyway? I didn't ask before."

    The doctor smiled. "Elley."

    Tony blinked. Somehow, this man did not strike him as an Elley.

    Elley looked down at his armor-covered feet that were showing beneath the long parka. "Need help out of armor again?"

    Tony laughed. "No, Doc."

    "Good."


    Five weeks post the Battle of Liepzig-Halle Airport...


    Pepper was doing things at her desk when Tony entered her office and sat down heavily on the couch across from her desk. She looked up at him, frowned at how unsettled he seemed. "Was something wrong at the Compound?"

    He blinked at her for a moment, shook his head. "Not... exactly."

    "Oh?"

    He sighed. "You said Barnes's sister scares Steve spitless on a bad day. You failed to mention that she has access to the NAF and that Steve would try to keep in contact with her from where ever he is."

    Pepper felt her frown grow deeper. "You... met Rebecca?" She glanced at her desk calendar, noting what day it was of the week, and wondering how Rebecca would have gotten to the Compound on Mason's watch.

    "If you can call meeting someone having everything thrown in my face and getting inadvertently adopted."

    "In her case, I'd call that meeting her. How'd it go?"

    "We're invited to-"

    Pepper held up a hand to, stopping him. "We already were. I was going to introduce you to her with the family around. This idiocy with her refusing to meet you had gone on long enough."

    "Huh?"

    Pepper stood up and then joined him on the couch. "Did she have her cane?"

    "No. What is it with you and Rhodey wondering if she had her cane or not? She didn't seem to need one."

    "Usually, she doesn't. And I ask because she really could have assaulted you with it. Just because she's 92, doesn't mean she couldn't potentially kick your butt. And if Steve told her, then be glad all she did was verbally thrash you and invite you to the party."

    He pulled a yellowed bundle out of his jacket pocket. "And she gave me these. Called it perspective."

    Pepper blinked down at the bundle of letters. "Damn."

    "What?"

    "I have to call Miriam."

    "Huh?"

    "Those are from James, right?"

    "How is he James to you? And yes."

    "He's James to me, because he's James to her. Did she slip into Romanian while talking to you?"

    Tony frowned. "Aside from when I walked in on her... actually, I only heard her do it once. She does that a lot?"

    Pepper nodded. "The more upset she gets, the more likely it is that she slips between Romanian and English. Steve explained once that her mother was from a Romanian immigrant family, and Rebecca learned both concurrently."

    Tony frowned again. "So I could have gotten yelled at in Romanian instead?"

    "Aren't you glad you didn't?"

    "If I say no, will you take offense?" He looked down at the letters in his hands. "And why do you have to call this Miriam?"

    "To warn her that Rebecca let you borrow one of the only links she has to James. Those usually never leave her purse."

    Tony stared at her. "She wants him back that much? No matter-"

    "Tony. To her, he was dead. Steve was dead. Not just lost or on a vacation. Gone. Dead. It doesn't matter that now they're not. For seventy years... they were. Even if they weren't. So yes. She really wants him back that much, no matter what shape he's in, no matter what happened while he was missing in action. Family, Tony."

    Tony was still frowning. "Wait. Does that also mean that Barnes speaks fluent Romanian?"

    "He was in Bucharest. What do you think?"

    "Oh." He motioned to the phone on her desk. "Make that call, Pep. And... I had no idea."

    "New horizons?"

    "Or something." He watched as she went to find her address book. "And if I hadn't walked in on her having a moment of swearing in her mother's native tongue, when would I have met her?"

    "At the party under controlled circumstances." Pepper paused and looked at him, address book in hand. "You surprised her while she was... oh. You didn't know to back away and let her be. Why was she at the Compound?"

    "To visit Rhodey... which I only found out when he came looking for me and found us. She didn't tell me."

    Pepper felt like laughing at the ridiculousness of it, but didn't because laughing wouldn't help matters. "Playing to an audience. She's worked in medicine since the forties."

    Tony paused. "An audience? I was the only one there!"

    "And you... aren't one of her favorite people." Pepper picked up the phone after finding the number she wanted, dialed, and waited... "Miriam? Is Rebecca back yet? Well, when she does get in, know that she gave Mason the slip and went to the Compound to visit Rhodey and check on him. Yes. Problem is, while there, she met Tony by accident. And... exactly. No, he's fine. Shaken, but fine. I had to explain some things to him. And she gave him the letters to read... yes. Those letters... You're welcome. See you at the party." She hung the phone up and stared at it for a moment. "That is one house that I don't want to be at tonight. I wouldn't be surprised if Miriam gives her an extra Xanax and makes her sleep for ten yours."

    Tony blinked. "Xanax?"

    "She's got a tendency to go manic and she was pissed off about this whole situation before Bucharest, Tony. It was her decision to stay away from you, not ours."

    Tony tilted his head in thought and took a deep breath. "FRIDAY, play the translation of what Rebecca said in Romanian when Rhodey found us."

    "This whole situation is stupid."

    Pepper blinked in surprise. "Well, she's not wrong..."

    "Does she really have a grandkid that's going to MIT?"

    "Probably. She has like thirty or more grand and great-grandkids. One of them is likely to be going to MIT."

    "Also a fan of cool gadgets."

    "Huh?"

    "She asked about the BARF system. For Barnes."

    "Oh." Pepper studied him. "So we have the whole conversation recorded?"

    "Why? You want to listen to it?"

    "Maybe tomorrow. Right now, I want to finish up here, and then have dinner with you. What do you think about Pizza?"

    "Sounds good."

    Pepper glanced again at the letters still in his hands. "Tony? When you give those back to her?"

    "Yeah?"

    "Do it at Maimonides. I'll give you her schedule."

    "Why?"

    She smiled. "Public place. Work. Professionalism. A place where you are not alone with her and Mason can intervene if need be."

    Tony frowned at that. "I don't understand."

    "You were completely alone with her, right?"

    "I... yes."

    Pepper motioned to the letters. "She didn't have to hold back and she was upset. Has been very upset. And... personal boundaries. If she's at work, she can't do what she did today."

    "She threw the MIT presentation in my face."

    "Things like that, yes."

    "She's not usually like that, is she?"

    "No."

    "Do I get to meet her when she isn't?"

    "You going to try to kill someone else or get someone injured in a friendly fire incident?"

    Tony paused again. Friendly fire? "Not in my plans, no."

    "Then yes. What do you want on your pizza?"

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    Miriam was having coffee at the kitchen table when Rebecca arrived home, withdrawn and using her cane for balance. That wasn't a good sign. "How was Rhodes?"

    Rebecca blinked at her in confusion as she set her keys and purse on the counter by the phone. "How-"

    "Miss Potts called me."

    "Oh. He's fine."

    "Did you leave Stark with any bruises?"

    "Probably not."

    "Good. Hungry?"

    "Miriam..."

    Miriam sighed. "How did you give Mason the slip?"

    "Grocery shopping. Miriam, I'm not some teenager who broke curfew. Stop treating me like one."

    Miriam sighed again, taking in the full extent of how tired she was, how she hadn't moved away from the counter and was leaning heavily on that cane. "No, you really aren't. Come over here and sit."

    "No."

    "Wasn't a request."

    "Miriam..."

    "I'm waiting. Patiently."

    Slowly, with effort, Rebecca joined her at the table and sat down. Then she blinked at her tiredly. "You're mad at me."

    "No. Concerned." Miriam motioned to the sandwich she'd made, and the glass of water, and the purple bottle of 5-HTP in front of Rebecca. "Eat and take your 5-HTP."

    "Not hungry. Don't want it."

    "Humor me."

    She did.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    A/N: For anyone who has never seen, been exposed to, or lived with someone who has manic tendencies... I was trying to show what a spin-out looks like without saying what it was. Rebecca had a spin-out. Tony, unfortunately, was on the receiving end. Being on the receiving end... not of the fun, no matter the circumstances. And 5-HTP is an herbal supplement for mood stabilization.
     
  11. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    A/N: Because Present Steve is in Exile in an African nation (and having a laughing fit last we saw him, and also playing matchmaker from afar... Steve! Get a hobby! Knit! Collect Stamps! Something!), Flashback Steve has stepped in to fill the void.


    ~*~*~*~​


    Two and a half weeks post the Battle of New York...


    He was having trouble not looking down every alley way and expecting to see a ghost pop out of the shadows. Which ghost in particular, he didn't know, but he stopped in his tracks when they got to a familiar, but still different street in Brooklyn. "I can't do this."

    On either side, Pepper and Natasha grabbed his hands in reassuring grips, and Natasha peered up at him. "Why not?"

    "Erskine died not far from here. About five blocks that way is the Navy Yard."

    Natasha blinked. "Here?"

    "Here. The buildings don't much look the same, exactly, but..." Steve turned and looked the other way down the street, behind Clint who appeared bored but interested. "And that way is or was the movie theater, which..." He paused and looked toward the alley they'd just passed. "Oh. Pepper, do we really have to do this today?"

    Pepper sighed. "Yes, Steve. We have to do this today. Bruce has Tony distracted enough so he won't notice I'm gone, so it's possible. So... today. What's so important about that alley?"

    His answer was full of emotion: "Bucky saved my butt. Again."

    Pepper glanced at Natasha, who was frowning, and nodded. "All right. Then I'm glad he saved your butt. It's nice."

    "Pepper!"

    "What? You don't see the humor?"

    "I just... this is hard."

    "So is life, and you lived here."

    Clint's voice joined in: "Yeah, Steve. It's hard, but if you can fight aliens, then you can show us Brooklyn."

    "My knowledge is seventy years out of date."

    "So? Brooklyn is still Brooklyn, no matter the year."

    Steve rolled his eyes at the mild platitude, and on they walked.

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    They were still close to the Navy Yard, but out of DUMBO and passing houses, when Steve saw something that made him stop in his tracks and nearly caused Clint to crash into him. "Winifred?"

    Natasha followed his stunned gaze to find a woman, significantly older, wearing a top that was black with red and green apples and green pants, carrying a sack to the trashcan, in front of a modest home. "Who is Winifred?"

    "Bucky's mom. That woman sort of looks like her, only older."

    Pepper glanced back at Clint to find him appearing as intrigued as she felt. "Well, then. Let's go say hello."

    "No. She's-"

    "She can hear you," the woman called out in an annoyed-sounding tone as she put the sack in the trashcan, then looked at them. Then she blinked, startled. "Oh. Hello."

    "Winifred?" Steve asked again, still stuck on that thought.

    "No. Winifred was my mother." She approached them, keen blue eyes taking in everything about the four of them before settling on Steve and frowning. "Have you called Peggy yet, Steve? She'll... no. Dementia. She'd probably be having an off day and not know you right off. Bad idea."

    Steve blinked. "Huh?"

    "Oh for pete's sake, you punk, come here!" And then she was hugging him and Steve was sent right into shock as he realized who this had to be... there were exactly two people in the world who called him a punk that way, and the other was dead. Bucky's other two sisters didn't... hadn't. "Welcome home!"

    "Rebecca?"

    "Who else would I be?" She pulled back and looked up at him critically. "When Peggy said that you'd come out the other side of the thing taller... wow."

    Steve blinked down at her. "You..."

    "Shocked beyond the telling of it, Steven."

    "Oh."

    "Also mad."

    "You are?"

    "You didn't think we'd want to hear from you?"

    Pepper laughed just then and Rebecca glanced in her direction in question. "Sorry, Mrs..."

    "Rebecca. Barnes Proctor. There's a reason he thinks I look like my mother."

    Pepper blinked. "Oh."

    "And hello, Miss Potts. What brings you four to Brooklyn?" She glanced up at Steve. "You saved a friend of a family friend who told one of the grandkids that they thought they saw Captain America looking very shell shocked after a scuffle in a bank during the battle. Or I'd be more shocked."

    Steve stared at her, openly surprised. "Oh."

    Clint chuckled. "That's the most convoluted way to find something like this out that I've ever heard."

    "There are worse ways." Rebecca frowned, noticing how shocked Steve still was. "And worse things. Steve?"

    "Huh?"

    "How long since the Alps for you?"

    He stared down at her, completely missing how his three companions all blinked at the same time in mute shock. "I think... two months? Two and a half? Happened in early February. I've been out of the ice a month."

    "And you went into the ice in early March. Damn it. Inside. Now." She pushed him toward the house and beckoned the other three to follow.

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    Inside the house, Rebecca pointed him to a couch in the living room. "Sit. Miss Potts, kitchen. One of you other two..." She watched as Clint sat down on the couch beside Steve, who was still blinking in shock, nodded. "Good. Agent..."

    "Natasha."

    "Natasha, with me. Us. Kitchen." And then she swept the two of them into the kitchen with her. There, she turned and leaned against a counter, and looked them both in the eyes. "Obviously, you four didn't come to Brooklyn to visit me. And... did no one ask him? Two months?"

    Pepper shook her head. "We didn't think to ask. Natasha?"

    "Does explain why he got so mad at Tony, right when Loki's staff was messing with us," Natasha mused. At Rebecca's frown, she sighed. "Long story. Basically, Tony mouthed off and touched him on the shoulder, and Steve... reacted. Badly. So you are...?"

    "The sister of Sergeant James Barnes," Rebecca told her. "Also probably the only person alive, aside from that young man on my couch currently in shock, who remembers Sarah."

    "Who?" Pepper wondered.

    "His mother. Nice, strong... Irish. Died in 1936. A nurse."

    Pepper nodded. "Oh."

    "Aunt Becca, why is there a strange couple," Miriam asked as she entered the kitchen, only to stop when she saw the three of them. "Oh. Quartet. Not couple. Who is the stunned-looking gorgeous blonde guy on the couch?"

    "Steve Rogers. Why? Don't you recognize him?"

    Miriam paused, backed up, and peeked into the living room. She stared for a long, long moment before joining them in the kitchen. "He looks cuter in color. I didn't know that was possible. What's with the thousand yard stare?"

    "PTSD and grief reaction. It's two months-ish since the Alps for him. Maybe less. Probably less... he wasn't quite sure."

    Miriam paused again, glanced at Pepper and Natasha, who were both looking at Rebecca in varying states of unease. "Oh. So this..."

    "Is bad, yes. I almost want to give him a Xanax, but I'm not a doctor and I have no idea if it would affect him, since Peggy told me once that he couldn't get drunk after the experiment was a success. If you call being able to survive for seventy years in the ice a success. I'm not sure I do, right now."

    Natasha frowned. "You mean he really can't?"

    Rebecca shook her head. "No. He metabolizes things really fast. Speaking of which..." Here, she grabbed an apple from the counter and handed it to Miriam. "Get him to eat that. Tell him who you are first, though."

    Miriam looked down at the fruit in her hand. "How does giving him an apple help?"

    "Something to focus on."

    "Oh. Good plan."

    Rebecca watched her go, then looked at Pepper. "I can't go in there, or I really will slip and sound like my mother. He doesn't need to hear me speaking Romanian right now. Already traumatized."

    Pepper blinked, startled. "Romanian?"

    "He lived with us, until he and James..." She blinked, shook her head, and took a deep breath. "Until they moved into an apartment of their own, a year before the war, and James... got drafted in '39 into the National Guard. It's complicated. I'm not sure if he actually told Steve he was drafted or not."

    "Oh. And the Romanian?"

    "Around our house? As natural as breathing. And our mother taught it to him during his sick episodes when he was stuck in bed for weeks at a time. Tough he's more likely to switch to Irish Gaelic."

    Natasha frowned. "He was sick that much?"

    "Often enough. Also shorter... and skinny. In fact..." Rebecca went to the bookcase on the far wall and pulled out a photo album, beckoned them to the table. She opened it, paged through the book for a minute or so, then smiled and showed them a small picture of Bucky and Steve together, on a street where clothes lines where strung from apartment window to apartment window. "We had a camera, Emma was a bit of a shutter-bug."

    Natasha stared at the picture of a smiling Steve who was... the same, and yet not. "It changed him that much?"

    Rebecca nodded as she sat down and they joined her. "Yes."

    "I've seen pictures of Sergeant Barnes before," Pepper mused. "But never like that. They both look..."

    "Happy?"

    Pepper nodded. "Yes. And if I'd thought about it, Mrs. Proctor-"

    "Rebecca," she corrected.

    "Rebecca, if I'd thought about it or that he might need someone to talk to, I'd have asked him. It's just... there's been a lot going on and the world got invaded and..."

    Rebecca chuckled. "There is that. And what's done is done. We can help him now, because he's here now." She took a deep breath. "You two look through that album some. I have a brother-by-choice whose butt I want to kick for getting himself frozen." And then she marched into the living room.

    Pepper turned her attention to Natasha to find her staring at the pictures in confusion. "Natasha?"

    "I'm picturing Barnes with long hair," she admitted after a moment, closing her eyes and leaning back. "But that's... impossible."

    "What is?"

    Natasha shook her head, eyes still closed. "Story for another time."

    It would be a year and a half before Pepper heard part of that story from Natasha.

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    Steve stared at the apple in his hands for long moments before looking up at Miriam. "So you're..."

    "Hazel's oldest granddaughter. Miriam," Miriam told him with a smile. "Can I sit?"

    He nodded and Miriam sat down on the side that Clint wasn't occupying. "I..."

    "Don't say you're sorry."

    "Huh?"

    "You have nothing to be sorry for, Steve."

    Steve glanced at Clint to find him watching, and the man nodded in support. "But if I'd just been quicker-"

    "Steve," Clint interrupted. "Don't do that to yourself. If I don't get to do it, then neither do you. Forces you can't control, man."

    "Other blonde guy is correct," Miriam said cheekily.

    Steve took a deep breath and studied the apple. "It's just... hard. I was fine. I-"

    "Shut up," Rebecca said from the door to the kitchen. "You aren't. You weren't. You, according to Peggy, tried getting blind drunk and had to be talked down. So don't try that with us, Steven Grant. We know better. I know better."

    Steve frowned at her. "How did you end up talking to Peggy?"

    "She needed someone to talk to, stopped by in early '46 after the war ended, and we hit it off so well, we kept in touch."

    "Oh. Then..."

    "Oh, eat your apple, would you?"

    "Not hungry, Becca."

    "Don't care."

    Steve studied her top. "Do you want me to eat it because you're a fan of apples or something?"

    Rebecca stared at him for a moment, then looked down. "Oh. No, Steve. I want you to eat it because stress is hard under any circumstances, let alone like this. And don't knock the apples or familial humor."

    "Huh?"

    She smiled. "The grandchildren are in some kind of competition and have access to scrub catalogs, and it started with cartoon characters."

    "Much to my dislike," Miriam complained.

    Steve frowned. "Dislike?"

    "Long story... and have you seen Barney or anything yet? If you have, you'd understand."

    "Barney?"

    Rebecca chuckled. "Miriam, you're just confusing him. Steve, imagine..." She paused, thinking back. "Steam Boat Willie. On repeat. Miriam had children, there's these new things called VCR's, and... when you get caught up, you'll understand. But we're not showing you Barney. I'm not even sure we have any left in this house."

    Clint laughed. "But it would be funny if we did!"

    "And who are you, sir?"

    "Clint."

    "Then hello, Mr. Clint." Rebecca shifted her gaze back to Steve to find him eating the apple. "Hungry?"

    "Oddly yes," Steve admitted. "Becca, I-"

    "Don't. Later. I want to hear about it, but not right now. It can wait, Steve." She watched him finish the apple, and then stare at the apple core before Miriam took it from him and disappeared into the kitchen.

    Clint frowned. "Where are Pepper and Natasha?"

    "Looking through a family album and discovering Steve's skinny and shorter self," Rebecca told him.

    "Oh. There are albums?"

    "There were cameras, Mr. Clint. Cameras aren't a new thing."

    Steve blinked. "That's right. Emma and that Ensign Box. She loved that thing."

    "Yes. She did."

    "Ensign Box?" Clint wondered.

    Rebecca smiled. "Small box of a camera, took good pictures."

    "Oh."

    "Becca?"

    "Yes, Steve?"

    "Emma? Hazel?"

    Rebecca blinked at him, startled, then shook her head and joined him on the couch. "Emma... childbirth with her forth in '54. Hazel... 1989. Leukemia, prea târziu, când l-au prins."

    Steve jumped at her slip, staring at her. "Really? I... should have been here. We both should have been here."

    "Stop that. What's done is done. And you're here now."

    "But..."

    "Steve. Shut up."

    "Okay."


    Five weeks post the Battle of Liepzig-Halle Airport...


    When Daniel arrived home, he found his wife on the couch, looking at what looked like one of the older albums. Frowning, he went over and looked to see... pictures of Steve and Bucky from the mid-thirties. "Miri?"

    "Rebecca met Stark today," Miriam told him, her voice hollow and strained. It made him wince, hearing her like that.

    "Oh God."

    "Pretty much."

    He joined her on the couch. "And the album?"

    She shook her head and turned the page. "This situation... is it wrong to want to fight everybody for the sake of an elderly woman?"

    "No," he said as he put his arm around her. "How is she?"

    "Sleeping. Fed her and then put her, despite the protests, to bed. So far, no nightmares."

    "It was that bad?"

    "She gave the letters to a man she doesn't like, to read for perspective's sake."

    "So... that bad."

    "She was manic enough to end up at the Compound, and then crashed badly. So yes."

    Daniel winced. "Oh."

    They looked at pictures of times gone by for a long while.


    ~*~*~*~*~​


    Translation from Romanian

    leukemia, prea târziu, când l-au prins.: "Leukemia, too late, when they caught it."

    A/N: The camera in question was a 1925 Hougton, Ensign Focal Plane camera. It really did look like a box with a lens and a view-finder.

    Edit: I finally found a picture of them... the Red and Green Apple Scrubs.
     
  12. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    In The End We Are All Fruit

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    It was quiet in the tower, six weeks after the fall of Shield, when Pepper found Natasha on the couch in her office with her head in her hands and having a rare moment of being visibly unsettled. Pepper frowned and moved to sit beside her, but did not touch her. They sat like that, in silence, until Natasha raised her head and looked at her, clearly upset and her eyes red. "Hi."

    "Remember how I said it was impossible?"

    Pepper continued to frown at her. "How what was impossible?"

    "Sergeant Barnes with long hair. Long, unkempt, hair."

    "Oh. Yes, I remember. Why?"

    "Because it isn't. And I don't know where to start, or who to tell. Or even how. And Rebecca knows, because Steve's got a big mouth and told her when he was in the hospital."

    Pepper took that in, nodded. "So they really are the same person?"

    "I called him Yasha. I had no idea, until I saw that photo album, that my Yasha even had a family somewhere, and then... how could they be the same person, Pepper? And I don't know how to tell Rebecca any of it."

    "Maybe you start right there, with who he was to you," Pepper offered. "Give her hope, instead of anything else. Yasha?"

    Natasha shrugged. "Russian. For James. And even as blank as he was, no matter what they did to him, with me, he was kind of like a big brother. A really protective big brother. With guns and knives. That story about Steve getting his butt saved in an alley? I can see it."

    "So... you know what they did?"

    "Some of it. It wasn't very long, my time with him. And I hadn't seen him since Odessa, five years ago." Pepper frowned at her again, and Natasha shook her head. "Don't ask. It was bad."

    "All right. Then I won't."


    Five weeks and one day post the Battle of Liepzig...


    In the morning, Miriam was surprised to find Rebecca on the telephone, speaking in rapid-fire Romanian. She listened for long minutes, eyebrows raised, until the older woman hung up the phone and looked at her. "Are you... you're getting Mason to arrange for someone at the State Department to pass around Get Well, Sympathy, and Birthday Cards, without telling any of them why?"

    "Da."

    "Are you going to tell me why?"

    Rebecca sighed. "We can't fix the mess already made, but we can help people know they're not alone. And later, I'm calling Shelbyville and asking the same thing of Kate."

    "Are you going to tell them what it's for?"

    "Yes and no. And we are rallying the Family Get Well Machine. Also birthday cards."

    Miriam frowned. "Are you still manic?"

    "Was I that bad? No, Miriam. I'm not. The birthday cards are for Steve and James, and whomever else is stuck in exile with them without family. Sam has relatives who have upcoming birthdays that he can't call from where ever, and Wanda... needs us. And James hasn't had a birthday card or anything in... what? Seventy years? If we had birthday cards, that is. The Get Well cards are for both Rhodes and James. The Sympathy cards are for Stark... and also maybe Pepper for putting up with him."

    Miriam snorted in laughter. "Oh! Well, in that case, by all means, let us use the Family Get Well Machine."

    "I've been thinking of setting up a card signing table at the party, for the stragglers we miss."

    Miriam had to admit it was a worthy plan. "And here I thought we were simply having a picnic."

    "You don't like the plan?"

    "On, no. I love the plan."

    "Then... what?"

    "How do you explain get well cards for Uncle James due to brainwashing and cryofreeze?"

    "We aren't. I'm simply going to explain that there's a family friend in a medically-induced coma that I can't actually identify due to possible HIPAA violations, whose name might or might not be James." Rebecca shrugged. "It's not entirely inaccurate."

    "So... we're making apples out of oranges?"

    "In the end, we're all fruit, yes?"

    "So not ever letting you watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding again!"

    Rebecca smiled. "At least I didn't tell anyone lately to put some Windex on it. Can you imagine?"

    Miriam groaned and left the kitchen to get her address book. This project wasn't going to happen by itself!

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    In the three weeks since her unfortunate meeting with Tony Stark, Rebecca had organized and hounded many people into signing cards for three reasons, and FedEx envelopes had arrived from out of the area relatives with notes that all basically said: "It's weird, but we love and trust you."

    Now, she was separating the cards into different piles: Birthday (person), Get Well/Sympathy (Rhodes), Get Well (James), and Sympathy (Stark).

    Daniel walked into the living room and saw her sorting. "Do you want an organization box or two?"

    "Paper bags. Not plastic. They stand on their own."

    "Be right back."

    Rebecca smiled, and then came across one for Pepper and had to stare at it. She looked at the name of the sender for a long moment. "Lucinda?" Then she saw the location sent from, and the attached note: After some consideration, and conversation with Mason, I am in agreement that Virginia could do with one of these. Good luck on your project, Mrs. Proctor. Both of them. I want to see the finished prayer shawl, OD Green and all.

    She stared at the note, wondering who this person at the State Department was, that Mason would be confiding in her so.

    Daniel came back with paper bags. "Okay... Rebecca?"

    "Have to remember to ask Mason who Lucinda is," she told him and handed him the note.

    Daniel read it, then chuckled. "Whomever she is, I love her sense of humor."

    "And it's nice to see that the State Department, while run by an idiot, is not filled with them."

    "Yes. Yes it is."

    ~*~*~*~*~​

    Lucinda was just getting to her desk for the morning when she found a manilla envelope sitting on her chair with her name on it. She picked it up cautiously, sniffed it, then opened it. Inside was a note from Mason and a picture of him wearing an OD Green prayer shawl that had pink and lighter green tassels, with a grin on his face.

    The note read: Aunt Becca agrees, and Pepper will get the card. I still think pink was the wrong color for this, but it doesn't look too bad, all things considered.

    Secretary Ross would later see the picture of Mason, framed, sitting on her desk, and wonder about it. A lot.


    ~*~*~*~*~​


    A/N: For those outside the United States, HIPAA is the acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that was passed by Congress in 1996 for the purpose of patient information protection. It basically means that those who work in healthcare have to hold their tongue, which is why Rebecca invoked it for those not actually in the know about the situation surrounding Bucky's circumstances.
     
  13. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    I am continuing to enjoy this story! :) I loved the slew of cards, but my favourite part of this update was Natasha reacting to her memory of Bucky/Yasha. This:

    Natasha shrugged. "Russian. For James. And even as blank as he was, no matter what they did to him, with me, he was kind of like a big brother. A really protective big brother. With guns and knives. That story about Steve getting his butt saved in an alley? I can see it."

    Was pretty much spot on perfect. But then, I am a sucker for Red Room anecdotes with these two. [face_love]
     
  14. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Mira_Jade: I needed some way to acknowlege what the MCU hints at, you know? (They FIGHT like eachother. That can't be a cooincidence.) Thank you, Mira. :)


    Five weeks post the Battle of Liepzig-Halle Airport...


    The pizza, combination with extra olives, had arrived later on when Tony remembered something and pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket and looked at it speculatively. "Pepper?"

    "Hmmm?"

    "It's weird, but she also gave me this."

    Pepper took the scrap of paper and studied what was written on it. "Oh. She must like you."

    "Huh?"

    "This list is for James."

    "How do you know?"

    "Because she asked me for a list of psychiatrists to check out, just after Shield fell. You know how I like to be proactive?"

    "Sure."

    "Well... if it gave her some kind of hope, checking out shrinks on her own and talking to them one by one... at least she was doing something."

    Tony studied her for a long minute as he munched on his pizza. "How many were on that list you gave her?"

    "Two hundred."

    Tony paused, took another bite. Swallowed. "Seriously?"

    "In the New York metro area? Yes, of course I'm serious." She glanced at him. "Tell you what. I'll call and make an appointment for you with one of these, and you'll go. No arguments."

    "Why?"

    "Because if she was giving this to you, while verbally thrashing you, then she thinks you need it. Which you do, Tony."

    Tony sighed. "I don't like-"

    "Not your decision. I let you make choices involving your own mental health, and we ended up here in this avoidable mess."

    "Pepper..."

    "Yes?"

    "I... am not going to win this argument, am I?"

    "At least you realize that you're not."

    "I don't like it."

    "I don't expect you to."

    "But I'll go, if it makes you happy."

    She stared at him. "This isn't about making me happy, Tony. It's about making you happy. Or at least able to find some happiness. Whichever."

    He found that he could live with that explanation.


    Eight weeks post the Battle of Liepzig-Halle Airport...


    Tony had hoped that Rhodey would want to try the exoskeleton supports somewhere other than the compound, but wasn't surprised when the man had opted not to use them on grounds of the park in Brooklyn having uneven ground. Looking out over the crowd of people, it startled him how many there were. "So she really did mean a gathering."

    Beside him, Pepper chuckled. "Oh Tony. So much to learn."

    "It's not my fault I was left out of the loop only to get yelled at."

    "No, if she'd have yelled at you, it would not have been in English."

    He rolled his eyes and they moved to join the gathering, Happy trailing after them with Rhodey and the wheel chair that still made him wince to see.

    "Pepper!" He jumped, startled as Rebecca came from almost out of nowhere, gave Pepper a hug in greeting, then turned to look at him, and the smile froze and seemed to fall right off her face. "And you. Hello, Mr. Stark."

    Tony frowned at her, taking in the blue tunic with the flags at crazy angles... "Hello."

    "It's good that you're here. Card table is over there," she pointed to a table that had a couple people at it, bent over and writing. "It's required. And... hang on. Miriam! Where's-"

    Miriam, a middle-aged woman with brown hair that was peppered with grey, joined them with a smile and handed him a paper sack. "Here."

    In spite of the fact that he didn't like people handing him things, he took it from her, looked inside to see lots of envelopes... "What are these?"

    Miriam watched as Rebecca darted around him, greeted Rhodey and Happy enthusiastically, and launched into medical questions with Rhodey about how he was getting on. "It's her way of apologizing to you, Mr. Stark. We can't fix what's been done, but... let's just say there were a lot of phone calls. Oh! And Miss Potts?" She an envelope to Pepper. "Someone named Lucinda sent one along for you."

    Pepper blinked and accepted the envelope in confusion. "Lucinda?"

    "Someone Mason knows at the State Department?"

    "Oh! That Lucinda! I haven't heard from her in ages..."

    Tony was still staring into the bag. "Seriously, what are these?"

    "We activated the Family Get Well Machine for you, Mr. Stark."

    Tony paused. "I'm not sick."

    "Not physically, no. But emotionally?" Miriam nodded to Rebecca, who was still talking to Rhodey and Happy. "Aunt Becca... let's just say that we all understand what you're going through, even if the circumstances are different. And... it's not that she doesn't like you, necessarily, just that... there's issues."

    Tony paused again. "Pepper mentioned something about Peggy Carter."

    Miriam sighed. "Oh. That."

    "Huh?"

    "Peggy was a friend, even after she started showing signs of Alzheimer's. You have to understand that some of Aunt Becca's behavior when she looks at you... issues. And she didn't get to go to the funeral because it was in London on such short notice, and you... well. You look a bit like your father, who served with Steve and Uncle James during the war, and she's an emotional mess. She fakes being fine, but... well, you were on the receiving end. You saw. This mess with Uncle James just made it worse."

    Tony frowned, not having expected that kind of an explanation. "Oh. So this..."

    "Is a sentimental but well-meant peace offering."

    Tony nodded. "I think I understand. So... how are you in all of this?"

    Miriam smiled, and that's when he noticed that it didn't reach her eyes. "I'd be lying if I said I was fine. So I will not lie to you."

    "Oh."

    "Are you three just going to stand there jawing about the state of our problems?" Rebecca asked from behind them. "Go, Mr. Stark. Meet the family, visit the card table. Mingle."

    Miriam chuckled at Tony's expression. "She's right, you know. We are at a party, even if the guest of honor is in exile."

    Tony winced. "Thanks. I'd managed to put Steve out of my mind, mostly."

    "Oh, he'll see this, eventually. James is taping it." She motioned to a young man standing a ways away with a video camera. "Come over here and say hello to Mr. Stark, James."

    James stopped recording and joined them. "Hi!"

    Tony frowned at him. "James?"

    "Proctor," the young man supplied.

    "So you... are her grandson?"

    "Great-grandson, actually," James told him. "It's good to actually meet you, Mr. Stark."

    Pepper laughed and took the bag from Tony, put the card she'd been given into it, and grabbed his hand. "Come on. Get back to your taping, James."

    "Ma'am, yes Ma'am!"

    Tony watched as the young man practically bounced away. "How old is he, anyway?"

    "Twenty-six," Rebecca told him. "Also in the middle of a medical residency on Long Island."

    "So he's not normally that bouncy?"

    "No."

    After that, Pepper pulled into the crowd and they mingled. Eventually, he visited the card table and found out exactly why the woman had been adamant about them visiting it. It was one thing to get a bag of cards, another to see the "machine" in action and realize that he wasn't the only beneficiary. He chuckled at the story of a family friend who might or might not be named James in a medically-induced coma. Family friend. Right.

    Tony flipped through the not-yet-used card pile for Barnes (who else?), and came across one with a tabby cat laying on it's back, with the wording "Feline Fine" on the front of it. The card gave him pause, and he stared hard at the cat for a long moment before raising his head to look around. He hadn't thought of Alecto in a very long time, or the weirdness of his arrival...

    "Tony?" Pepper asked from behind him.

    He turned and handed her the card. "Look. Tell me I'm crazy."

    Pepper frowned at him, then looked at the card, then looked at him. "For liking the one with the kitty? No, I don't think you're crazy. Eccentric sometimes, but not crazy."

    "Pepper..."

    "Oh." She studied the card again. "Does look a bit like... oh. Oh!"

    "Now tell me I'm crazy. Please. Because the more I suspect what I think I'm suspecting, the more nuts it seems."

    Pepper shook her head. "I don't think you are. Crazy, that is. And didn't you find pictures of your mother with a similar kitten?" She pushed the card back into his hands, pointed to the table behind him. "You should sign that one for James. It's perfect."

    "I think it's crazy. And yes. I did." He paused, looked down at the card again, opened it to read the well-meaning inscription... "What if right now, I don't want to wish him well?"

    "Pretend you do. And this isn't about you, Tony. It's about him. And trauma. And he might have given you your cat. Maybe. That's worth something, isn't it?"

    She had a point, even if he hated that fact. Eventually, he signed it.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    "You know... considering the amount of really dumb places we've ended up in on our way home," a female voice said from behind him. "This one isn't so bad."

    Mason blinked and turned to find twelve people in black or gray jump suits that had different colored piping along the sleeves, all with military bearing. "Um... where did all of you come from?"

    "You probably wouldn't believe us if we told you, Mister..." the same speaker as before said, a woman whose black jumpsuit was outlined in red.

    "Nettleton. Why wouldn't I believe it?"

    She smiled. "That's a long story, Mister Nettleton. Where are we?"

    "You don't know?"

    "I wouldn't have asked if I did know."

    "Brooklyn."

    She frowned at him, then peered out from the shade of the tree they were standing under at the party. "Does that sign really say what I think it does? Whuki?"

    "It really does," Whuki answered. "Probably a coincidence, but likely not. Not with our luck."

    "Oh. Mr. Nettleton? Before or after the Battle of Liepzig?"

    Mason frowned at her. "Huh?"

    "Just answer the question, please."

    "After. Why?"

    She smiled. "Would you believe there's a medical consult I've always wanted to try having? Dawn, Elsie, Savage, and... Sue? We're going!"

    The one with orange piping sighed. "Fine. You get to explain things to them when we get there, Lightning Rod."

    Mason stared as the five of them vanished into flashes of light. "Uh..."

    "Don't worry about it, kid," one of the men said, this one with blue piping. "Chris? Should we worry?"

    The one with gray piping chuckled. "Cure for Quannot's Syndrome."

    "So... maybe?"

    "Either it'll be really dumb, or there will be explosions, or it will be fantastically brilliant. Or all three... and wouldn't that be interesting, if it was? With our luck, especially considering that on our way home, we've ended up kidnapped again by the same evil sorceress, Whuki had to fight a drugged teenager with superpowers, and we ended up at birthday party planned by the universe's most unlikely person? Hope for fantastically brilliant."

    The man in blue laughed. "Good point. And I will."

    Mason frowned. "Start making sense, please?"

    "At this point? I'm just glad the Ewoks aren't out to get us... again."

    "Ewoks?"

    "Trust me when I say that there are worse things than the Chuck E. Cheese puppets singing to you." He held out a hand. "I'm Peter, by the way. Gray man is Chris, other gray-ish man is Whuki, beside him is his wife Rala, and..."

    Mason spent the rest of the party befuddled and amused.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    In Wakanda, Steve walks into the CryoLab to check on things, and finds an in-progress medical consult going on between the Wakandan doctors and five women in black jumpsuits that look suspiciously military. The one with red piping on her sleeves sees him, smiles, and shoos him right back out the door, saying they need the room for an hour and he can mope later.

    Steve is left in the corridor, staring at the door. "Mope? When did I mope?"

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    That night, Tony sat on the couch with Pepper in the common room and began looking at the cards with her. The one that had come from Lucinda had been a humorous one, signed by everyone at the State Department (including, somehow, General Ross), giving her sympathy and support for putting up with him.

    "I feel so loved," Tony muttered, then reached into the bag, pulled out the other sealed envelopes, and laid them on the coffee table. "How'd she get Ross to sign that, anyway?"

    Pepper chuckled. "Probably the same way I get you to sign things sometimes... put it under your nose and demand. And don't take it personally, Tony. They mean well."

    "I know. I'm a handful."

    "But you are my handful."

    The first card he opened turned out to be from Rebecca, and he was left staring in mute shock at what she'd written in near-perfect cursive...

    Though it was twenty years ago, and time and distance may make it seem like everything should be fine, that you should be fine, the wounds of loss can get reopened at a moment's notice, and emotion can flood in. Emotion that can overtake and erase all reason. It does not matter how long ago it was, Anthony. It happened. The trick is to find a way to cope, to deal with the pain, so it doesn't cripple you. That... that is a hard thing to learn.
    I tell you what James would, were he able to do so: we are so, so sorry for your loss. I know that he is sorry for having any part in it. This does not change the fact that it did happen, that your life was forever altered. Because it did happen, and your life was altered, and nothing is the same. Will never be the same as it would have been had it not happened to begin with.
    With Deepest Sympathy and Empathy,
    Rebecca

    He read the poem accompanying the card, a prayer, by Linda Elrod, and shook his head. "Pepper?" Even to his own ears, his voice sounded off. Strained.

    "Hmmm?"

    "I think I like her."

    Pepper gently took the card from him and placed another in his hand. Then she read it with wide eyes. "Wow."

    "How does-"

    "Tony. She was the only one to ask Steve how long it had been since the Alps. We didn't think of it."

    "Huh?"

    Pepper sighed. "Perspective here. How long had it been?"

    Tony paused, thinking back to what he knew... "Maybe a month? Two?"

    "At most."

    "Oh."

    "Plus, she herself knows a thing or two about grieving."

    He nodded slowly, still reeling. When put like that, what Rebecca had said about perspective being important made much more sense.

    They spent the next hour or so opening the rest of the cards one by one, and at the end, Tony didn't feel quite so alone in his grief. And maybe that was the point...


    ~*~*~*~*~*~​


    A/N: That tabby cat card... it's real! The inside of it: "Hope that's you soon!" Also real is that poem/prayer by Linda Elrod that didn't end up in narrative, called "Hold Us Up, Lord."
     
  15. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Oh! I loved the big family that was there to sweep Tony in. What a beautiful way of sharing grief and healing together. Just:

    "We activated the Family Get Well Machine for you, Mr. Stark."

    Tony paused. "I'm not sick."

    "Not physically, no. But emotionally?"

    I adored this chapter. Beautifully done. [face_love] =D=
     
  16. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Mira_Jade: Thank you!!!! [:D]


    A/N: I wasn't going to do it... until I ended up doing it, so: the Wave Rangers got their scene. For them, this is post chapter/update/post 38 of The Table Was Crowded. Onward.


    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​


    Steve was still staring at the door a minute later when that same woman joined him in the corridor with a sigh and shut the door behind her. "Sorry."

    He frowned at her. "For what?"

    "Accusing you of moping around when you actually would have had every right to be moping, sir." She formally held out a hand expectantly. "My name is Ranko Johnson, Captain, and I apologize for not treating you with the respect that you're due. I threw you out because I've got two teammates doing something very delicate and it can go screwy if not handled properly. One of them is fresh off of a vacation leave for stress, and it was best to take precautions."

    "Oh." He hesitantly shook her hand, then let go and she leaned against the wall with her arms crossed across her chest. "So... who are you, exactly?" And what was with the red streaks in her blonde hair? They looked almost natural.

    She smiled. "United Earth Space Navy... so not from around here, that it's not even funny. Can I call you Steve, Captain?"

    He nodded, not sure what to make of her answer. United Earth... what? "Yes. What are they doing in there?"

    "Diagnosing your friend. Given what he's been through, letting Elsie read him was pushing it. Is pushing it, and I might put her on monitor duty after."

    Steve glanced toward the door. "Diagnosing him for what?"

    Ranko sighed. "To help the medical team figure out how best to help him. The first step for that? Layers of coding and how many. Once you know that... I won't say it's easy, but it's easier than doing it blind."

    "Oh. Really?"

    "Really. And..." She looked at him thoughtfully, then pulled a digital camera from her pocket and handed it to him. "Happy birthday, Steve."

    He frowned down at the camera, frowned at her again. "How do you know that it's my birthday?"

    She smiled again. "We were at a party by accident in Brooklyn an hour ago. Before I found out where we were, I took some pictures for the heck of it. Mom would have my head if I came back with stories again, but no pictures to show for it, so..."

    Steve glanced at his watch, noted the time difference while also wondering how she could have been in Brooklyn an hour ago... "Oh, right. Five hour time difference."

    "Just look at the pictures, would you?"

    "Impatient?"

    "Not really."

    He chuckled and fiddled with the camera until he figured out who to turn the memory on, on the back viewing panel, and... "What's Tony doing there?"

    "I'm really not the person to ask, Steve. Also, of the two birthday parties I've ended up at by accident lately, I think I liked yours more."

    "How so?"

    "Yours isn't taking place at an alternate reality equivalent of Chuck E. Cheese."

    He frowned and looked up from the pictures at her. "Huh?"

    Ranko rolled her eyes at him. "Sometimes, I manage to forget how behind a person gets when they miss seventy years. Did no one drag you to one of those yet? Shame on them. Seriously." She held out a hand. "Give me your catch-up note book right now, there's some things you need to add." He continued to frown, but did so, and she spent a few minutes writing in it while he browsed through pictures before coming across one that made him blink.

    "Is this... Chewbacca?"

    Ranko looked up, smiled. "Sure is. You'd like him."

    "But-"

    "Oh the places you go if you give people emergency distress beacons..." She wrote one more thing, then handed the small note book back to him, and plucked the camera from his hands. Ranko searched through pictures, then showed him one... of a dancing, puppet Ewok. "And this is why I liked the park more."

    "Right." Steve looked through his catch-up notebook to discover that she'd filled seven or eight pages with things, including a bunch of television series, and a book by a Douglas Adams... "This is a lot. And I've seen The Princess Bride."

    "Then you know to watch out for the six-fingered man. No matter what said person might look like."

    "Um... yes?"

    "Good. And never start a land war in Asia, either."

    He paused. "Are you really giving me wisdom based on that movie?"

    "Sure." She smirked. "You and your Avengers teammates destroyed an airport fighting each other, just so you could get to Siberia to stop a maniac. If my throwing shade at you with pop culture references makes you think before you act next time, then I'll have done my job. With all due respect, Captain."

    "How do you-"

    "I'm from another dimension. Things are different there, and we got invaded twenty some-odd years ago by giant shape-shifting spiders instead of an evil purple man bent on universal destruction." She shook her head at him. "And that's all I can say on the matter, because the last time we intervened in someone else's problems, my teammate fought a drugged teen into submission, got full-body aches and a concussion for his trouble, and a fairy empress got mad at us. Fix your own interpersonal problems, because the badness on the way is worse. Much worse."

    Steve blinked at her in surprise. "An evil purple man?"

    "Probably. In your reality, he might be orange instead. Does it matter? Not really."

    The door opened, forestalling him from asking any other questions, and another woman, this one with gold piping on her sleeves, stepped out and eyed the two of them suspiciously. "You didn't tell him about the purple man, did you?"

    "Not directly, no. And it depends on which one you mean, Savage. There are two."

    "Uh-huh... got the answer for the thing. Twelve. Which is better than Chester's diagnosis, plus by now, Captain Rogers's boy in there has mostly come back to himself, even if he is still triggerable." Savage glanced at Steve. "On the good side of this, it'll take less time, and he probably won't end up with a flower fixation."

    Steve frowned again. "A what?"

    "Long story, but basically, we had a programmable assassin at home, who tried to kill our grandfather. He failed, and got deprogrammed... badly. But at least they learned things in case they ever have to do it again. Which is good for your friend in there, because we have a treatment plan for you... or rather, for the medical team, since you doing it makes no sense." Savage paused, looked at him appraisingly. "So, really, Captain, sir... Happy birthday."

    Steve stared at them both, startled. "You're serious? Bucky's going to get deprogrammed?"

    "And hate every minute of said process, yes," Savage told him. "Some of it, he'll have to sleep through, and some... he'll be triggered into passing out, because there's twelve layers of coding. Chester had fifty, and no actual life before he was brainwashed. It's a wonder that he only argues with plants on a bad day."

    "No need to scare him with worst case scenarios, Savage," Ranko told her.

    "You're the one who told him about evil, purple megalomaniacs. Glass houses."

    "Touché." Ranko glanced at Steve again, smiled. "So who was that nice Mr. Nettleton at the party? On the young side, wearing an outfit that just screams 'I'm undercover, don't notice me!'?"

    "Bucky's grandnephew, Mason," Steve answered. "And he is undercover, just not with his own family."

    "Ah. Do you trust him?"

    "Sure. Why?"

    "Have you and your in-exile team members written your reports yet for Berlin, Liepzig, The Raft, and Siberia?"

    "Weeks ago. Seriously, why?"

    Ranko's smile got bigger. "Because we are going back to Brooklyn shortly, to meet up with the rest of our team and leave, and they've probably had him so distracted he's kept them company all afternoon. Go get 'em."

    He did.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    When Rebecca finally did set her eyes on Mason again, they were packing up the left-over food and the picnic blankets, and Daniel and Michael were getting the sign down. She watched him for a moment as he approached with a dazed expression on his face and a thick folder under one arm. "Are you all right?"

    "Fine. I think. And I have to convince Lucinda to send an anonymous diplomatic package to the President. Which... fine. This day was going to be odd no matter what."

    "An anonymous what?"

    He handed her the folder. "Don't ask how I got it. I'm not sure I can explain that. I don't quite understand, myself."

    She stared down at the Avengers seal on the front of the folder. "Right."

    "And for some reason, I got the advice to drag both Steve and Uncle James to Chuck E. Cheese when this situation finally does get solved..."


    Ten weeks post the Battle of Liepzig-Halle Airport...


    Tony was in the workshop when Pepper came looking for him, chatting via a Skype call with a pair of men she'd not met before while he fiddled with... "Tony, is that an arm?"

    Tony turned and frowned at her. "Yes."

    She came closer and looked at it closer, frowning. "That... is this...?"

    "It's Barnes's prosthetic, yes."

    "Why are you-"

    He nodded to the two men watching them with matching smirks. "I had questions, wanted a medical opinion, Elley's the best guy I know for medical things that I just can't ask anyone else, and the other likes mechanical things. Wave to Pepper, Elley."

    Elley waved. "Hello."

    Pepper smiled. "Elley?"

    "They're from Nebraska."

    "They don't look like they're from Nebraska, Tony."

    The other guy chuckled. "Nebraska? They have Reindeer Meat Soup there, too?"

    Pepper laughed. "Corn. And you are?"

    "Michil."

    "Hello Mr. Michil and Mr. Elley. So what are you discussing?"

    Tony motioned to the arm. "How this thing works when attached to a person. Elley thinks there's a fair amount of pain involved. Michil thinks there's underlying structural reinforcement."

    "There would have to be," Michil put in. "Based on how you saw it being used."

    Pepper frowned. "So..."

    "So we're figuring it out," Tony told her with a pained smile. "I'm even considering introducing both of them to Rebecca."

    Elley laughed. "More people? Stark!"

    "What? You love medicine, she loves medicine... you'd probably talk for hours and forget everybody else. Besides, it would be good practice for your English."

    Elley looked at Pepper from the computer screen. "Considering teaching him Yakut. Make him practice."

    Pepper blinked, surprised. "Yakut? So... not Nebraska."

    "No. Maybe visit someday? Is nice?"

    Pepper decided she liked the two nice men from not-Nebraska.


    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    A/N: There's a Chuck E. Cheese in Brooklyn, according the Google. (It's not the oddest thing I've ever looked up for a story, but it is one of the funnier.)
     
  17. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Eight weeks, three days post the Battle of Liepzig/Halle Airport...


    It had taken the Wakandan medical team three days to bring him out of cryosleep, Steve reflected as he watched his friend sleep. Two to fully defrost him slowly, and one to let him sleep it off. He was supposed to wake up any time, but hadn't yet because one of the medical team had already started the process of deprogramming by knocking him out when they'd first defrosted him with one of the one-use knock out words to quell any outbursts. Then, of course, T'Challa had had to explain what a Sputnik had been in history. A day later, it still didn't make much sense for why the Russians would use the name of a satellite like that.

    In front of him on the bed, Bucky started to stir, and Steve was brought back to the present. "Hey, Buck."

    Bucky opened his eyes to stare at the cryolab's ceiling for a moment before tracking to him with a frown. "Hey. What's going on?"

    "We have a solution. It's... they said you'd hate every minute of it, but it's a solution nonetheless."

    "Oh. Can't be any worse than how it happened."

    Steve smiled wanly. "No. Before that, though, let's get you something to eat." He waved down one of the medics. "He free to leave the lab for a bit?"

    The doctor smiled. "Just as soon as vitals are over. With your permission, Sergeant."

    Bucky sat up, wobbled at his messed up center of balance from the missing arm, nodded. "Granted."

    "And I apologize for knocking you out with a trigger word," the doctor told him as he pulled out a blood pressure cuff and attached it securely to Bucky's remaining right arm. "It was safest to do, to prevent you panicking."

    "What was it?"

    "Sputnik." The doctor watched him carefully, then put the ends of his stethoscope in his ears. "Nothing?" Bucky shook his head. "Good." The doctor proceeded to take his blood pressure, pulse, and respiration count which made Bucky feel like they were meditating for a minute. "All right. I want you back here tomorrow morning, no sooner."

    "Tomorrow?" Bucky wondered, as the doctor took the cuff off his arm.

    "Yes, Mr. Barnes. Tomorrow. For the start of your un-triggering procedures."

    "Oh." Bucky looked at Steve. "What exactly happened that now it's a certain thing that this can happen?"

    Steve smiled. "We had extra-dimensional visitors show up from my in-absentia birthday party in Brooklyn."

    "Huh?"

    "Don't ask questions like that if you don't want an actual answer, Buck. It's like asking if Jane Wyman ended up the first lady or not. She didn't, by the way."

    Bucky paused, thinking back... hadn't Jane Wyman been an actress? How would an actress end up the first lady? "That made no sense."

    Steve laughed. "Ronald Reagan ended up president. Make sense now?"

    "The actor?"

    "Yes. The actor. Unless you know of some other Ronald Reagan that would have been married to Jane Wyman..."

    Oh. Now it made sense. Maybe. "Steve?"

    "Yeah?"

    "You're still a punk. Big or small."

    Steve helped him off the bed, steadied him on his feet. "Come on. Let's go get you something to eat."

    "I want fruit."

    Steve smiled. "Oh, we've got fruit..."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    Breakfast, though really it was closer to dinnertime, turned out to consist of omelets that Steve was still making, and fruit salad, Bucky discovered when Steve ushered him to a kitchen area and sat him down at a table, and went about cooking. "Uh... Steve?"

    "The doctor gave me a list for the things you could eat, right off, out of cryofreeze. Eggs and fruit were on it, so... omelets!"

    "Oh."

    "And you mentioned fruit before, on the way to Liepzig. So I get just how much you must want some."

    Bucky nodded and happily started in on the fruit. "Think they could get plums?"

    "I could ask his highness, sure. Why?"

    "Good for memory."

    Steve paused, glanced back at him. "Oh yeah?"

    "Yes."

    Just then, Sam, Wanda, Clint, and a woman with three kids that he'd not met before rounded the corner from the hallway, and Sam rolled his eyes. "Steve, you were supposed to text me."

    Steve laughed. "He's not actually been up very long, Sam. How was the great outdoors?"

    "Good." Sam noted Bucky's curious frown and followed his gaze to the woman and the kids. "Oh. Barnes, this is Laura, Nathaniel, the baby, Cooper, and Lila. Wave to him, kids. He's awake!"

    "And confused," Bucky said as Wanda came over and sat down next to him. "When... where..."

    Laura handed Nathaniel to Clint, and joined them at the table. "Six weeks ago, in order to evade Ross after Stark said things he shouldn't have at the Raft and blew our cover. Steve, does he know about...?"

    "Brooklyn? No. No time to tell him. And unless he says something first, don't. Not about her. She was adamant about that, and his amnesia."

    "Ah."

    "Stark blew your cover?" Bucky wondered. "There was a cover to break?"

    Clint sighed. "It was a precaution, getting them here instead of leaving them at home, after Tony let it slip that I have a family. And I'd rather I could have sent them to Brooklyn, but-"

    "We like Wakanda, Dad!" Cooper told him.

    "Yes, Dad! We do!"

    Clint looked down at his son and daughter, shrugged. "But it's a good learning experience."

    "Wait," Bucky ventured. "Why Brooklyn?"

    Steve finished on the first Omelet, and put it aside on a warming plate, started on another. "Your family is in Brooklyn, Buck. Plus, it's close to the tower. But due to the not-exactly-covert detail being run on your family... for you, in case you show up... sending Laura and the kids to Brooklyn was impossible."

    Bucky looked around at the assembled people. "Where's Ant-Guy?"

    "San Francisco," Sam answered. "He was the easiest to get out of here, and the easiest to keep out of sight, due to him not actually being an Avenger or internationally wanted under his own name. Lang was carrying false ID in Germany."

    "And what do you mean by not-exactly-covert? Either it's covert or it isn't."

    Steve finished the second Omelet and started on the third. "Cooper, Lila? Any requests for your Omelets?"

    "Cheese!" Lila said as she took a seat at the table. "And ham!"

    "Okay. Cooper?"

    "Broccoli?"

    "Broccoli it is, then." Steve paused, staring down at the stove for a long moment, then shook himself. "As for the detail... it's covert, but not to members of your family, because they know about it. It's being run by your grandnephew on orders from Secretary Ross. Has been for a year and a half. Ross doesn't know it's your grandnephew, though, and members of your family all think he's an idiot for trying to catch you, when you actually went nowhere near Brooklyn in two years."

    "I did, actually."

    Steve glanced back at him, frowning. "You did?"

    "Ended up at the Brooklyn Bridge, two months after DC. Didn't stay very long."

    Sam chuckled. "She's going to be so mad, Steve."

    "Maybe. Miriam certainly will be."

    "Miriam?" Bucky wondered.

    "Um-hmm... you were in Romania, so: remember more than your mother yet?"

    "What does Romania have to do..." Bucky blinked as a memory of a woman in a house dress and an apron came to him, giving one of his little sisters a talking-to in Romanian. In the memory, the woman called her... "Becca."

    Silence fell as they all stared at him and Steve smiled down at the Omelet he was making. "Good. Remember anything else?"

    "I... memory fragment. Did Ma always yell at us in Romanian?"

    "She did. And Miriam is your grandniece. And Wanda? Only if he asks, because too many choices were taken from him."

    Wanda opened her mouth to protest, glanced at Bucky, then nodded. "How did you know I was going to ask?"

    "You're you. Physics first, then maybe the complexities of the mind."

    Wanda sighed. "Because I didn't realize the power of a bomb. And I'm starting to hate physics."

    "Gotta crawl before you can walk, right?" Steve started another omelet, glanced back at Bucky again, who appeared very confused. "There's been a lot of discussion since May. It's July seventh, now. Wanda needs to learn physics to better control her abilities, and his highness is helping her."

    "Oh."

    "And we'll see about putting you on a Skype call with Becca, sooner or later. Probably later, because of the State Department shenanigans going on and we don't need even more attention brought down on your family then there already is."

    Bucky paused. "Becca's alive?"

    "She is." Steve finished the last of the seven omelets and brought the warming plate over to the table, blinking when he realized it hadn't been set for seven. "Clint? Two more plates?"

    Clint laughed and handed Nathaniel to him. "Were you not expecting us to be back so soon? The waterfall isn't that far, you know."

    "No, I just miscounted when I left to sit vigil." Steve turned and handed Nathaniel off to Laura with a grin. "Does Nathaniel eat solids yet?"

    "Some," Laura told him, smiling as she held her son. "What do you think, Nate? Want some eggs that Uncle Steve made?" Nathaniel burbled back at her with happiness. "That's what I thought you'd say!"

    Clint got two more plates, and they all sat down to eat together, enjoying each other's company.
     
  18. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    A/N: I was going to post something entirely different, two chapters in a row. No, really. What will (probably) be next post was supposed to be part of previous update, but it surprised me and didn't want to stop at four pages...


    Still eight weeks, three days post the Battle of Liepzig/Halle Airport...


    Sam and Clint were waiting at the kitchen table when Steve ventured into the kitchen again after finally getting Bucky to settle down enough to sleep for the night. It hadn't been easy and it probably showed on his face. "Clint, shouldn't you be-"

    "Laura said you needed company, to decompress," Clint told him humorlessly. "Who am I to argue with my wife? Plus... you were very chipper for you. And ate only one omelet, when I know you're actually supposed to eat more than that."

    Steve frowned at him. "I expected Bucky to notice, but you...?"

    "Make another," Sam told him with a roll of his eyes. "With everything, packed with calories. Day like today?"

    Steve nodded. "I was just going to do that, actually. You two want something?"

    "No," Clint demurred. "Sam?"

    "Go on, Steve."

    They waited while Steve made another omelet with all the fixings for himself, packed with calories and protein like Sam had instructed, then joined them at the table. "So..."

    "He seemed really confused," Sam said slowly, as Steve began to work his way through the omelet. "And didn't pick up on certain things."

    Steve paused, swallowed, then frowned at him. "You mean about Scott? Sam, he's fresh out of two months in cryosleep, and you picked the dumbest explanation for Scott not being here instead of the real one." He took another bite of his omelet, savored the taste for a moment. "And it was somewhat mean."

    "We'll tell him if he thinks to ask again, then."

    Clint frowned. "Wait. That was cryofreeze withdrawal? He seemed fine, other than the not picking up on things."

    "Yes," Steve told him. "It was. And other than his memory being somewhat spotty... and the lack of reaction to certain things like the State Department detail, he's himself." Steve tilted his head to listen, then took another bite of the omelet.

    "Oh. I thought he'd be more like you, right out of the ice."

    Steve shook his head. "Hope not. We don't need an internationally wanted man with one arm busting out of buildings and running wildly down the street, because he thinks everybody he sees is HYDRA."

    "You weren't that bad."

    "I threw two agents through a wall and ended up in Times Square."

    "Fair enough." Clint watched as Steve glanced down the hall again. "What are you listening for?"

    "Nightmares."

    "Right." Clint stood up and marched away from the table, intent in his posture. He came back a few minutes later with the parent end of a baby monitor and set it on the table as he sat back down. "There. Other end is in his room. Now stop abusing your enhanced hearing and eat."

    "You're not my father, Clint."

    "In this situation, it feels like it. Barnes seems to be a deep sleeper just now."

    Sam sighed. "That can turn on a dime."

    "I know that. But if and until then..."

    Steve glanced at the baby monitor, shook his head, and continued to eat. "Good idea."

    "It's too bad we don't have Rebecca's photo albums here," Sam mused. "Bad enough we have to walk on egg shells in relation to his memory, but at least if we had those, it'd be easier."

    "Touch and go, Sam," Steve said as he finished the omelet and sat back. "And this could be worse. And..." He frowned. "Photo albums? I didn't think of that!"

    Clint chuckled. "You've been working with the medical team for six weeks, brainstorming with them on how best to undo what was done. So has Sam. That much focus? I'm not surprised that you didn't think of it, Steve."

    "Clint-"

    "Steve, just... relax tonight, all right? Give yourself that freedom."

    Steve nodded slowly, taking the rebuke for what it was. "Thanks."

    Momentarily, Laura joined them. "Well?"

    "Making Steve eat more, listening for nightmares... pep talk. The usual," Clint told her with a smile. "Everyone down?"

    "Wanda is reading to them. Well... to Cooper. Lila and Nathaniel are already asleep." She reached over, swatted Sam on the arm, which caused him to jump in surprise. "False ID? Really?"

    Sam shrugged. "At least we know how out of it Barnes was?"

    Laura rolled her eyes at him as she sat down next to her husband. "I could have told you that, just watching him eat with one arm."

    "And I threw Jane Wyman at him just after he woke up, Sam," Steve told him humorously. "Figured out really quick that what I thought while standing in that cold storage room in the base in Siberia was correct... it would have been really easy to just drag him straight from cryo to the conditioning chair, because it was right there. He was pliable, confused, and unsteady on his feet, even hours after been taken out. Also discovered that he's starting to remember pop culture from the forties. A little, anyway."

    Clint frowned in thought. "Jane Wyman?"

    "Actress. Had been married to Ronald Reagan when we left for the war." Steve looked at each of them and wondered why they were all looking at him funny. "What?"

    "Have you seen Back To The Future yet, Steve" Laura wondered.

    "No. Why?"

    "Then I'll be right back." So saying, she also took the baby monitor with her.

    Steve watched her go, then looked at Sam. "I don't understand."

    Clint chuckled again. "If she has anything to say about it, you will. And Sam? When do you think Barnes will realize you pulled one over on him?"

    Sam thought about it. "About Tic-Tac? No idea. Depends on how much he knows about... oh, wait. I'm looking at this wrong. The more he learns about the current legal system, the more likely he might ask?"

    "Something like that. Plus, it's more that Hank Pym wanted his lab monkey back and has the resources to hide him... and did Ross even ID him?" Clint frowned. "I don't remember them fingerprinting us at any stage of the process, but I was more concerned about Wanda than I was about myself."

    "They didn't. Photo recognition ID, though. Not unheard of."

    "Good point."

    Laura returned with a DVD case and T'Challa trailing after her with the baby monitor in hand, amusement written clearly on his face. "Movie night!"

    Steve frowned at the monitor in T'Challa's hand. "Why'd she give it to you?"

    "Because you need to sleep eventually, Captain. And this is a good movie," T'Challa said with a smile. "Though I would be more likely to suggest Monty Python's Flying Circus." At Steve's frown growing deeper, he shrugged. "Went to Oxford, got exposed to British television. Next movie night, we'll show you and Barnes that."

    "Monty what?"

    Sam laughed. "Steve? One thing at a time."

    "But... seriously? British television? How's that different from American television?"

    Laura smiled and led him to the common room not far from the kitchen and directed him to a couch. "You let us worry about that, okay? For now... one wacky time travel adventure, coming up!"

    "I lived a time travel adventure, Laura. I didn't like it!"

    "Not like this, you didn't. And this one is fun."

    He found out that she was right.
     
  19. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Eleven weeks post the Battle of Liepzig-Halle Airport...


    The folder full of reports sat between them as Pepper looked at it in confusion in Miriam's kitchen, stunned. "Where did it come from?"

    Miriam shook her head. "Mason wouldn't explain, saying he didn't quite understand himself. Pretty sure none of them were at the party, though. We made two copies, and then let Mason take one of them to give to Lucinda to send anonymously to the President. Though what that's going to do, I have no idea."

    Pepper nodded slowly as she traced the Avengers logo on the cover with her finger. "Did you read them?"

    "Sure did. Stark's lucky he wasn't there when I read the psych report on Uncle James from an actual psychiatrist, too. And James's report on the week from heck that started with fruit shopping."

    "Miriam! Not you, too!"

    Miriam rolled her eyes and took a deep breath. "I don't wish him ill, and I understand why he lost his temper, and... there's an and. He's getting therapy to deal with things, right?"

    "Reluctantly." Pepper paused when Miriam handed her a copy of the reports in a plain folder. "Why...?"

    "Because the jerk you love needs to read those, too. And I mean that respectfully, Miss Potts. I'm not editing myself right now because I managed to get Aunt Becca to go shopping with Daniel, and... emotional release is good."

    Pepper winced at the understandable emotional honesty. "You're not wrong... Tony can be a jerk, even if he doesn't mean to be." She looked at the other woman who had invited her over for coffee, only to spring the reports surprise on her. "And how are you?"

    Miriam smiled. "Me? In dire need of some non-idiocy and for Steve not to be in exile, and for the situation to get solved sooner rather than later. Other than that? Fantastic."

    "Ah."

    "What are you two doing in here, all by yourselves?" Rebecca asked as she entered the kitchen with a grandma cart full of groceries, Daniel behind her with a helpless expression directed at his wife. "Coffee without me?" She glanced at them, saw the folders... "Oh. Right. I was going to suggest that."

    "Glad to know we're on the same page, Aunt Becca. Get anything good?"

    Rebecca paused while Daniel took the pull cart from her and began unloading it onto the counter. "You want me to start complaining about how everything is expensive? Because it is!"

    "She did that while looking at candy bars," Daniel supplied humorously. "And Miriam? You owe me a well-cooked steak."

    "Yes, dear."

    "With broccoli."

    "Right..."

    "And potatoes."

    Pepper chuckled. "That does sound good."

    "See? Even Pepper wants that for dinner."

    Miriam rolled her eyes at them again, glanced at Pepper. "I even almost wish to cook for a super soldier right now, you know? And that... it's a lot."

    Daniel paused in his unloading of the pull cart. "Are we going to be cooking for super soldiers? Because, if so, we didn't buy enough. Not, especially, for two. Please tell me I don't have to brave traffic again..."

    Miriam laughed. "No, Dan! We were venting! Or I was, anyway." She stole a glance at Rebecca, who was staring at them. "Though it'd be nice to have to, right?"

    "Yes," Daniel said immediately. "It would. Rebecca? Help me?" He handed her the eggs. "Fridge."

    Rebecca stared down at the container of eggs in her hands. "Dan, I..."

    "Do it. The eggs want you to." Daniel watched her go to the fridge, then glared mildly at his wife, who winced in acknowledgement. Then he pulled out two pineapples. "And how's this for a find? Two for five!"

    "Which one of you wanted pineapple?" Pepper wondered.

    "Me. Rebecca thought it was extravagant, but it's good to have something fun once in a while." He turned to find her staring at the door of the fridge, lost in thought. "I want my helper back, Mr. Fridge." She jumped and turned back to him, hands on hips. "What? I do!"

    "I'm fine," Rebecca told him. "You don't have to-"

    "Becca?" Daniel handed her the mayonnaise and the jug of milk. "Back to the fridge with you. Come back this time, okay?" She went, and he looked at Miriam, mouthed 'bad day.'

    Miriam pursed her lips, stood up, and led Rebecca to the table just as she'd finished opening and closing the fridge again, made her sit. "Enough."

    Rebecca blinked up at her. "What?"

    "Stop faking for us. We know you're not fine. You're not in public, you can be as down as you please." Miriam sat back down in her chair and glared at her aunt. "It's just Miss Potts, Dan, and me. So... stop it. Or so help me, Rebecca, I will find a way to punch your brother for being an idiot long-distance for freezing himself to protect everybody but himself."

    "I..." Rebecca frowned at her. "Punch him long-distance?"

    "Where there's a will, there's a way, no matter how ridiculous." She glared at her until Rebecca started giggling, and then outright laughing at the situation, and then the laughing turned into laughing and crying, and the three of them converged on her as a unit and waited it out together. Eventually she calmed, only sniffling occasionally, and Miriam hugged her. "Better?"

    "No, but it felt good." Rebecca stared at her hands. "I hate this, you know. The not knowing." Pepper tapped her shoulder lightly. "What?"

    "You're not alone," Pepper told her. "Not in this. Remember that. And when Tony finally is ready to talk to you again, ask him about Nebraska."

    Rebecca looked at her funny. "Nebraska?"

    "Granted, he wasn't actually in Nebraska, but getting him to admit he was even in Siberia and met people was like pulling teeth... and he still didn't say they were from Siberia. Nice guys."

    "Are we seriously going to be joking about him having been in Nebraska when he wasn't until the end of time?" Rebecca glanced at Daniel, who had gone back to unpacking the pull cart, and Miriam. "Rhodes thought he might have ended up in Nebraska when he was missing after the Battle of Liepzig. Apparently, there's a story there."

    Miriam smiled. "Oh. So... the not-Nebraskans were nice?"

    Pepper nodded. "Nice enough. I walked in on him consulting on James's arm with them over Skype. Said he wanted a medical and engineering opinion."

    Daniel paused as he put the crackers in a cabinet. "From Siberia?"

    "That was one of the questions I didn't get to ask. Whatever he's thinking or planning..." She shrugged. "I don't know." Pepper looked directly at Rebecca to find her expression was unreadable. "What's wrong?"

    "I'd managed to forget the arm. Almost." She sighed. "Miriam wants to punch him long-distance, and I want to strangle Arnim Zola, even though the man died in the 1970's. We're a matched set."

    "I didn't say I'd actually do it, Aunt Becca."

    "No, but... darn it all." Rebecca sighed. "And now I'm going to have to pretend I don't know he has it unless he mentions it."

    Pepper sighed. "He has the shield, too."

    "Or that. Pepper!"

    "What? If I can't tell you, who can I tell? Miriam isn't the only person who needed to vent a little bit today." She peered suspiciously into the corners of the room. "The State Department didn't actually bug your house, did they?"

    Miriam smiled. "They tried, but Mason found all the bugs and did interesting things with all of them. I'm sure Secretary Ross will enjoy hearing the contents of the Fox News 24 hour broadcast, among other things."

    "He did what?"

    "You mean Mason wasn't supposed to bug the studios of Fox News for the State Department? At the very least, the Secretary will learn things!" For the second time in twenty minutes, someone broke out in laughter. This time, it was Pepper. Miriam smiled unrepentantly. "And being that it's an election cycle..."

    Pepper giggled some more, then sobered. "Miriam!"

    "Felt good to laugh, right?"

    "Yes. Oh, lord yes. He really bugged Fox News?"

    Miriam nodded. "If there's one thing I've learned in all of this, it's that you don't want to make Mason mad. He gets really creative and it leads to things like the bugging of check stand number five at the local grocery store, Fox News, a really random street corner in Harlem, and... what was the last one, Dan?"

    "A sushi restaurant two blocks from the Tower in Manhattan. They know it's there, too."

    Pepper paused. "A sushi restaurant?"

    "For international flavor."

    "That... kind of makes sense."

    Daniel motioned to Miriam. "Like she said: creative."

    Pepper smiled. "So why would Mason get that creative? Other than being mad?"

    Rebecca held up a hand guiltily. "I told him family stories of antics from the twenties and thirties. Steve and James? They were rascals. And besides, if you can't be a bad influence on your grandnephew, who can you be a bad influence on? The way I heard the story from Sam when he called to tell me to meet them to see them off at JFK, Ross used the example of a heart attack giving him perspective on international politics, and compared Thor and Bruce Banner to nuclear weapons when they aren't. So am I for Mason repeatedly pranking the man? Yes!"

    Pepper stared at her. "Rebecca..."

    "And I haven't forgotten how Harlem got broken, either. It's possible to get perspective from a near-death experience, to strive to be a better person and all that, I've seen it happen. But Ross? As crooked as they come." She looked away for a moment, took a deep breath. "I haven't had a chance to actually talk to Dr. Banner about the circumstances of his accident, but..."

    "It's be easier if he wasn't also in exile," Pepper mused.

    "It would, yes."

    "What else did Sam tell you?"

    "Enough to have Mike look into the circumstances of every Avengers intervention we've had," Rebecca told her honestly. "One, you can't lay all of the blame for New York on the first responders. It'd be like blaming the firefighters for not saving the World Trade Center buildings when they were going to fall anyway. And two, Project Insight was sanctioned by the government, and HYDRA corrupted it." She paused. "Oh. Angle."

    Miriam leaned forward. "What angle?"

    "HYDRA. The world governments and the press swaying public opinion and leaving HYDRA out of everything when it's at the core of... both New York and the Fall of Shield." Rebecca glanced at Pepper to find her frowning again. "The Tesseract?"

    "Oh." Pepper's cell phone when off, startling them, and she looked at it with a deeper frown. Holding up a hand to forestall them from talking, she answered it. "Stark Industries, CEO Virginia Potts speaking... Oh. Hello, Mr. Secretary. To what do I owe the pleasure today? ...oh? Really. Well, I'm sorry, but I am nowhere near him right now to even consider letting you speak to him. And didn't I tell you at least once to talk to Legal first, no matter what the subject is? That's right. You do that. Good day, Mr. Secretary." She ended the call and simply looked at her cell phone for a moment. "You'd think that after the forth time getting me, and who knows how many times getting legal at this point, that he'd stop trying."

    "Ross has your cell phone number?" Daniel wondered.

    "No. After the sixth time Tony put him on infinite hold, I started having FRIDAY screen his calls and direct calls like that one to me, because I will at least talk to him, if not actually be helpful."

    Rebecca smiled. "So..."

    "So we've got Mason pranking the Secretary of State, your grandson's law firm and SI's legal department looking into the Accords and James's situation, Lucinda doing whatever she's doing with Mason at the State Department, and this..." Pepper motioned to the folder. She reached down and pulled her StarkPad from the purse at her feet, turned it on. "While we're at it, I have medical question for you, Rebecca."

    "Oh?"

    "Yes." She waited for the tablet to boot, then found the picture she wanted of Bucky in the restraints from Berlin that Tony had shown her weeks ago. "Tony said that this thing used electrical pulses to subdue that arm. Would the pulses have had an effect like the conditioning equipment, even though it was focused on his arm?"

    Rebecca took the tablet and studied the image of her brother with wide eyes, then nodded slowly and passed it to Daniel. "I don't have the knowledge of neurology to be able say yes, but... maybe? Why?"

    "I have a theory regarding Zemo and I wanted to run it by you before I brought it up to Tony... and Zemo got access when he shouldn't have."

    "What is this from?" Daniel wondered.

    "The interrogation in Berlin. Such as it wasn't actually an interrogation."

    Miriam snatched the tablet from Daniel and looked. "Oh my. And I don't mean the restraints, either."

    {{"They put a man who had been mistreated badly in that,"}} Rebecca muttered. {{"At the very least, they knew he had been. It was impossible not to know."}}

    Pepper paused, tilted her head thoughtfully to stare at her. "I'm not sure what you said, but-"

    "Simplified English version: he likely clammed up due to PTSD, and the Task Force is made up of morons," Miriam supplied. "And this... Mike doesn't need another way to spin anything, but... he could sock it to the Task Force for something."

    Pepper nodded. "That's why I needed the medical opinion."

    {{"The chair they used had restraints somewhat like that. Sort of."}}

    Miriam looked at the picture again. "It did?"

    {{"For his arms."}}

    "Oh. Same angle, then. Go get the file, so Pepper can see what you're talking about." Miriam watched her go, then turned back to Pepper. "I'm not going to make her get back to English just yet. She has every right to be upset."

    "I'm starting to catch some of it. Something about a chair and arms?"

    "Yes. James's arms."

    "Oh."

    Rebecca returned with a thick binder and set it on the table in front of Pepper, opened it to a particular page that showed pictures of a chair in what looked like a bank vault, with monitors and an IV stand. "That thing. See the arm clamps?"

    Pepper leaned closer, took in the details... "Oh. No wonder you lost your English like that. Miriam, can I have the tablet back, to take a picture of this?"

    "No need. This is your copy," Rebecca told her. "Of what we've got, been able to find, plus the data from the Siberian facility that Stark gave me when I asked if I could take Steve's Kiev File from the NAF. He didn't know that I already had the information in it. He neglected to ask."

    Pepper frowned. "No, you distracted him enough that it wouldn't have occurred to him to ask." Rebecca tilted her head in question. "FRIDAY. Watch-link on his wrist. I got to hear the whole thing."

    Rebecca winced knowingly. "Oh. What I'm trying to say here is that this is your copy, Pepper. For Stark to see." She nodded to the folder again. "Along with that."

    "Why?"

    "Perspective and transparency. He needs both. Plus, the part of this where he ended up with the shield that is usually attached to Steve's arm or on his back... because he used Howard Stark's memory as a weapon in a moment of emotion." Now Pepper looked at her funny. "What? I can extrapolate from 'he yelled bad things at me' to 'was emotional and still wanted to fight.'"

    "Ah."

    "And if it weren't for the fact that our family is probably on a no fly list or something what with all this State Department silliness, I'd be booking myself a flight for Africa right now."

    Pepper took that in, then blinked. "They're in Africa?"

    "Of course they are." Rebecca glanced at Miriam. "We need your help, too, by the way. Go get the package, Miriam."

    Miriam smiled, handed the tablet back to Pepper, and went to go get it. She came back with a large box and set it on the counter. "We need that sent to Wakanda and can't do it ourselves. Sending international mail is somewhat more than noticeable, and if customs searches it... let's just say it would be bad."

    Pepper stared at the box. "What's in that?"

    "The efforts of the family get well machine... plus a couple things, and two photo albums. Also cards for his highness, though that was a late edition to this party," Rebecca explained. "So what do you think? Will you?"

    Now Pepper smiled. "Of course."

    "Thank you."

    Pepper glanced down at the open binder... "One of these days, you're going to tell me just how you managed to get pictures of that thing."

    Rebecca smirked. "Would you believe I played bad cop while Steve played good cop and insinuated that Peggy would have interrogated Brock Rumlow to within an inch of his life? It's a pity he was on morphine. I'd have liked to have met him whole and sober. And, you know... not working for HYDRA."

    Pepper turned and looked at Daniel with wide eyes, and he simply laughed. She would, and did, believe it.


    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Translations to Romanian (AKA: What Pepper Heard... because my normal method is to use the {{ }} symbols for this and not Google Translate.)


    They put a man who had been mistreated badly in that.: Au pus un om care a fost maltratat rău în asta.
    At the very least, they knew he had been. It was impossible not to know: Cel puțin ei știau că fusese . Era imposibil să nu știe .
    The chair they used had restraints like that. Sort of.: scaunul au folosit aveau restrictii ceva de genul asta . un fel de
    For his arms.: Pentru brațele sale.
     
  20. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Phew, that was quite the update! I liked Pepper and the girls (and Daniel) sitting down and figuring things out. Rebecca not being able to use English for the emotional weight of those few lines was a real punch in the gut, but it hit it all home all the more so.

    And:

    "Me? In dire need of some non-idiocy and for Steve not to be in exile, and for the situation to get solved sooner rather than later. Other than that? Fantastic."

    Can really sum up how we all feel about the MCU right now. [face_laugh] I loved that. =D=
     
  21. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Mira_Jade: The *phew* part of it? So, so right. It was the update that didn't wanna happen! And it does sum up the state of the MCU, right there. Thank you, Mira. :)



    A/N: We'll be getting back to the present next update... so, so had to do this first.


    June 14, 1943


    Reaching the door of his and Steve's shared apartment after having seen the girls home following only an hour of dancing, he stared at it for long moments. It felt strange, standing here after the afternoon and evening he'd had, full of arguing and barely-flying (but still flying!) car, and stopping a fist fight before it had gotten even worse. Was he really shipping out for England tomorrow, or had imagined getting his orders at Sunday Formation?

    Shaking himself out of his reverie, he moved to unlock the door and found it already was, and opened it cautiously. Then he frowned at the sight of Rebecca in her white uniform, wearing a veil held on her head by her nursing cap, and gloves, checking Steve's eyes with a candle, with a serious expression on her face that belied the goofiness of the veil she was wearing. Hadn't see been wearing plain clothes this morning, when he'd stopped by the family apartment to tell his parents about his orders? "Um..."

    "Come in and shut the door, James. I'm just making sure this idiot doesn't have a concussion on top of his headache and the split lip."

    "With a candle?" Steve wondered, then winced as she glared at him.

    "You have a flashlight? We'll do that instead."

    Bucky blinked, surprised, and did as he was told, completely forgetting to lock the door behind himself. "We do. And what... oh. Right. The header to the trash cans." Oddly, it made sense that his fresh-out-of-nursing-school sister would check Steve for a concussion the minute she saw him.

    Rebecca sighed. "I'm done now, so it's a little late."

    Steve pushed her hand with the candle in it away and moved away from her on the couch. "I'm fine, and the doctor at the expo would have noticed if I had a concussion, which I don't."

    Rebecca frowned at him briefly before looking at her brother. "Well?"

    "Recruiting station," Bucky told her.

    "Oh." She blew out the candle, set it on the floor out of the way, and then looked hard at Steve, and he winced again. "You know what your mother would say to you trying to enlist repeatedly, yes?"

    "Don't get arrested?"

    Bucky laughed at his humor. "She might've. And... Becca? Why are you wearing-"

    "That's for me to know, and don't change the subject." She studied her brother for a moment before motioning to the sheet strung up to the doorway of the kitchen. "Emma's in there, decorating. Hazel went with William to get an officiant."

    "For what..." He studied her for a moment, suddenly realizing that, but for the fact that she was wearing her nursing uniform, everything else was out of place. But why the nursing outfit when she already had a wedding dress? That made no sense.

    "Wait and see."

    Bucky glanced at Steve. "She tell you anything?"

    Steve shook his head. "No, she just jumped right into asking me if I ate dinner, took my extract, and then she jumped right into checking for a concussion. How was dancing?"

    "Fine. How were the good people of the expo recruiting station?"

    Steve rolled his eyes. "Same as the people of Paramus."

    Rebecca stared at him. "Jersey? Really?"

    "That's what I said," Bucky told her with a chuckle, all the while noticing that Steve was giving off the air of being untruthful... which made about as much sense as Rebecca wearing a veil with her nursing cap. "And why is Emma decorating the kitchen?"

    Rebecca smiled. "You'll find out when William gets here." Her smile got bigger when they heard laughter from the kitchen. "And Emma obviously finds all of this hilarious."

    "Well, it is!" Emma called from the kitchen. "Just be glad you got their blessing!"

    "I am!" Rebecca called back before returning her attention to Steve. "So, really... did you take your extract?"

    "Yes, as awful tasting as it is."

    "Good."

    From behind the curtain, came Emma who seemed very pleased with herself. "One kitchen that currently doesn't look like one, decorated just for you, Becca."

    "Did you disguise the bathtub?"

    "Well, do you mind standing in it? I thought it made a good center-piece." She glanced at Steve to find him with his head in his hands, eyes screwed shut. "So..."

    "Don't," Bucky cautioned. "Becca already gave him an exam that he didn't want."

    "Wasn't going to."

    The three of them blinked when Steve started muttering under his breath in Gaelic, too fast for them to follow. It went on for a minute before he looked up at them. "What?"

    Bucky shook his head. "Nothing. How bad is your headache?"

    "On a scale of what? Day to day? Not bad. I've had worse."

    Bucky paused at that non-answer. "Steve-"

    "What?" He glared at each of them, then winced again. "Sorry. It was worth it get the guy out of that theater."

    Emma frowned at him. "Was this a guy who was mouthing off to a newsreel?"

    Steve paused. "You heard about that?"

    She nodded. "A friend of mine was there. If you hadn't gotten him out of there, she would have been next in line to kick his butt, because her husband is in the Navy, somewhere in the Pacific."

    "Oh. So..."

    "So you did good," Emma told him with a smile, completely ignoring Rebecca's mild glare. "Even if now you've got a headache for which you can't take aspirin. Tonight is about finding the good things. This is one of those, right sister?"

    "Yes," Rebecca said, and finally she allowed herself to relax. "All about the good things. And Steve? You never answered for weather you ate or not."

    "He did," Bucky assured her as Steve groaned in protest. "Including popcorn, now stop it."

    "I just..."

    "We know," Emma said patiently. "This... thing that we're not talking about tonight? It's hard." She caught Steve's eye when he was about to say something and shook her head minutely. He blinked, then nodded and shut his mouth.

    The door opened just then, admitting Hazel, Rebecca's fiancé in his dress blues, and... Bucky frowned. Why would they bring a Navy Chaplain? "All right. If the veil hadn't already made me suspicious, I would be now. What is going on here, and why a Chaplain? And hello, Lieutenant. Sir."

    Rebecca smiled wryly. "You're getting shipped out tomorrow, instead of two months from now like we thought originally, and we didn't want you to miss the wedding. So..."

    "So we brought the wedding to you," William finished for her. "Unofficial though it may be."

    "And what did Mother say to this?" Bucky wondered.

    "Oh, they both gave their blessing and made me promise not to do anything other than this, when it's not actually my wedding night," Rebecca told him lightly. "Granted, she was a bit more expressive about it than Dad was."

    The Chaplain laughed, startling them. "One would hope not, young lady. Shall we get on with this?"

    Rebecca smiled again. "We shall... pastor? Father? Rabbi? Monsignor?"

    "Minister," he said and held out a hand as she stood up. "Thomas Stephens. Will a small Lutheran service be all right?"

    "It would be fine," Rebecca said as she shook his hand, then led everybody to the kitchen, taking down the sheet on the way. Bucky discovered that they'd decorated with ribbon and what appeared to be cheesecloth covering the counters. And... Emma really had made the bathtub the focal point of the room, and had added lamps for light. "Oh, you were serious about the bathtub."

    "Of course I was," Emma said as she hefted the camera.

    Rebecca smiled, glanced at William. "What do you think? Bathtub wedding in Steve and James's kitchen?"

    "It's no stranger than the rest of this day," William said with a chuckle and helped her in, and then stepped in himself.

    Bucky eyed Steve as he stood beside him. "I was going to change."

    Steve chuckled. "Aren't you glad you didn't get the chance to?"

    "Who gives this woman to this man?" Minister Stephens asked.

    Hazel smiled. "On behalf of mother and father, who are babysitting for me tonight, the four of us do. Unofficially."

    Minister Stephens then proceeded to lead them through an abridged ceremony, complete with a reading from the Song of Solomon on love and faith, then gave a very short sermon on marriage, and then led them through a version of the marriage vows, and ended with, "...and now I unofficially pronounce you husband and wife. It's up to you, if you kiss her or not, Seaman Proctor."

    William bent and kissed her on the cheek, and Rebecca returned it, also on his cheek. "I can't wait to do this for real," he whispered to her.

    Rebecca smiled up at him. "Me too. Can we get out of the bathtub now?"

    "Almost," Emma said, taking some pictures. "Okay."

    For a day that had started with getting orders to ship out the next day, Bucky reflected as he watched them climb back out of the bathtub, it hadn't turned out that bad...

    ~*~*~*~*~*~​

    Three weeks later, and Steve was standing in the rear of the Navy Yard chapel, in an Army uniform, wondering if he even should be here, listening as Rebecca and William said their official wedding vows. Had it really been three weeks since that night in their apartment? It felt like a lifetime, and he still wasn't used to how his body had changed due to Project Rebirth.

    "Steve?"

    At the familiar, questioning whisper of a voice, he blinked and turned to find Emma beside him. "Oh. Hi?"

    She stared up at him. "Goodness. What happened to you?"

    "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

    "And here I thought I was imagining a blonde hunk that resembled you, last week near the Navy Yard, barefoot and running..." She stepped back, took his picture, nodded to the bride and groom. "You going to tell her?"

    "I can't stay very long. And it's kind of a secret. This."

    Emma studied him, then nodded. "All right. I don't like it, but fine. Did-"

    "Emma. If I couldn't tell anyone, how could I tell Buck that I actually did end up enlisted when he did his best to talk me out of it?"

    "Good point." She looked him up and down, smiled. "You look good in uniform. And healthy."

    "Choosing to accept the good and not think about the bad?"

    "Always."

    Together, they watched the conclusion of the ceremony. This time, William actually did kiss his bride on the lips. Rebecca was left in such a daze that he had to lead her down the aisle and she completely missed Steve when she walked right by him.
     
  22. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    A/N: Ordinarily, you'd all be losing me to the Olympic Fortnight, but... nope! And, also... we've been missing Tony's therapy sessions, right? Right. Onward.



    Various days post The Battle of Liepzig/Halle Airport...



    "So can you tell me about your relationship with your parents?"

    "No."

    "Why not?"

    "Because that's none of your business and I don't talk about-"

    "You are here to work things out, Mr. Stark. Getting defensive only wastes my time and yours. Would you like to talk about horses instead?"

    "Yes."

    "Maybe later, then. Now... tell me about your parents."

    Tony was really starting to wonder if maybe he shouldn't have stayed in Siberia instead. At least there, Elley only made fun of him when he did or said something dumb. "I wasn't being defensive, I just don't want to talk about them."

    "And why is that?"

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Doctor Knutz held up a hand, and Tony stopped talking. "Back up a little. The first conversation you had with this man involved asking him if he'd been doing pilates?"

    Tony looked away. "I was trying to break the tension."

    "There was tension?"

    "Have you met Captain America, Doc? The guy exudes tension. Right then, I was uncomfortable, and I babble."

    "To a man who was fresh out of suspended animation, who was fresh from the second world war, who-"

    Tony winced. "All right. I get it. It was a bad opening line."

    Doctor Knutz frowned at his wording. "Do you make a habit of thinking of everything you say as if you're on a stage performing?"

    "Not usually."

    The doctor looked down at his notepad. "You were uncomfortable in his presence from the start. Why?"

    "I don't want to discuss that, doc."

    "Ah, so this is about your mother or your father, again..."

    "Doc..."

    The doctor smiled for a moment, leaned forward. "You know, a friend of mine had this magnificent stallion that just couldn't get on with all the other horses, and had to be kept in a separate paddock. Only it turned out that the Stallion had been mistreated early on in life and was in reality touch-starved. You know how they found that out?"

    Tony shook his head. "No. How did they?"

    "Carrots."

    "Huh?"

    "Their daughter befriended the stallion with carrots. Pretty soon, the stallion was following her around everywhere when he wasn't locked in his stall. Darnest thing they ever saw, this large stallion following their ten year old around."

    "And that has what to do with me?"

    Doctor Knutz smiled. "That's for you to think about, Mr. Stark. Plus, it's a good story."

    "Could we maybe talk about the horses more often instead?"

    "No."

    "Why not?"

    Doctor Knutz smiled again. "If everything was as simple as telling you horse stories, why would you be coming to therapy? I could just hand you the wonderful historical novel on Seabiscuit and send you on your way."

    "There's a book?"

    "Yes, and I'd like you to read it before your next appointment."

    ~*~*~*~*~

    The doctor watched him as he sat down. "So how was the book?"

    "Not bad..."

    "Oh?"

    Tony nodded. "Was the point of it to provide a kind of perspective on the school of hard knocks?"

    "Partly. And also because your friend the Captain came of age during the Depression."

    Tony paused, wondering why he'd needed this psychiatrist to point that out. "Oh."

    "Perspective is important, Mr. Stark."

    "Everybody keeps saying that."

    "Good. Remember that. So... how is your relationship with Miss Potts?"

    Tony sighed. This was going to be a long, long session...

    ~*~*~*~*~

    "So to put this in perspective, you asked point-blank if someone knew something, they admitted they did, but not anything else, and you..."

    Tony winced. "When you put it like that, I don't know. I've been running it over and over in my mind, wondering what I'd have done if he had said no. Would I have done what I did the same way?"

    Doctor Knutz sighed. "We'll never know the answer that, Mr. Stark. What ifs and could have beens are not my forte."

    "But you have all the answers, right?"

    "No. My job is to guide you on your journey to mental and emotional wellness. That doesn't mean I have all the answers. I have ideas. It's not the same thing."

    "Can we pretend it is? Because I don't want to find the answers by myself."

    "You're not. You are here with me, and we are finding them together. And even the stallion needed a guide out of the darkness of loneliness."

    Tony looked at him funny. "I'm not lonely."

    "Oh?"

    "I'm not, Doc."

    "But you were."

    "You're frustrating, you know that?"

    "You think this is bad? Try me when I'm at home with my kids."

    "You have kids?"

    "Three, and one of them has a piano recital tomorrow. Which doesn't get you out of explaining your emotional response to that video, by the way."

    "Doc?"

    "Hmmm?"

    "I... really don't want to talk about it."

    "It's why you're here with me, yes?"

    "I guess?"

    "Then eventually you will..."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    It had taken five sessions for Tony to figure out the horse-story metaphors, and two to discover that just breaking down and actually talking about the problem at hand felt better than avoiding it completely. He still didn't like it, but maybe liking the conversations had with this horse-loving therapist wasn't the point of all this. Maybe...
     
  23. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Oh, I loved the update before this one, with the official wedding and the not-so-official. That was perfect, every word of it - really a beautiful glimpse into their family and life together before everything blew up on them. Literally. :(

    And Tony with the doctor was a great window into his mind, as well. Really, really well done, as always. =D=
     
  24. DaenaBenjen42

    DaenaBenjen42 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 15, 2005
    Mira_Jade: Thank you, Mira. :) (And now, because we've got a box to get to Wakanda somehow, back to the present...)



    “Understanding is a three edged sword: your side, their side, and the truth.”
    ― J. Michael Straczynski


    Eleven weeks post the Battle of Liepzig/Halle Airport...


    Dinner that night was a quiet affair filled with light conversation and the ambiance of candles. After her talk with Rebecca, Miriam, and Daniel, she'd developed a craving for steak and potatoes, with broccoli, and so that's what they were working their way through. Pepper didn't miss the frequent glances he kept sneaking at the box she'd left on the counter as a conversation starter. Frankly, she was surprised that the meal was nearly over and he hadn't asked yet.

    Finally, his curiosity got the better of him. "You didn't have that box this morning, Pep."

    She smiled as she chewed on a piece of broccoli, then swallowed. "You're right. I didn't."

    "Going to tell me what it is?"

    She studied him for a moment, sitting across from her at the table. "That depends entirely on you. If you're ready for the truth of certain things. If not... it's for charity and I am not going to tell you anything."

    Tony frowned at her, the expression in his eyes suddenly suspicious. "The truth of things? Now you sound like Dr. Knutz."

    "Oh?" Pepper was severely tempted to chuckle, to explain about how she'd had an extended private meeting with the good doctor, vetting him personally just like Rebecca had, but didn't dare wreck the progress he'd been making. So she just looked back at him with raised eyebrows.

    "Yes. And what does that even mean, if I'm ready to hear the truth of certain things? What qualifies me as ready?"

    "It means that you need to give me a straight answer, or I show and tell you nothing. So..." Here, she set her cutlery down and regarded him calmly. "Are you ready to talk about those currently in exile? If you are, great. If not, you will drop the subject with me and talk about them with Dr. Knutz at your next appointment."

    "Huh?"

    "I'm serious."

    Tony paused, considered his answer. "It's really up to me?"

    "It really is."

    "Why?"

    "Because that," she motioned to the box. "Is for them."

    "And why do you have it?"

    "That's a longer explanation involving the State Department and Rebecca being afraid to ship anything internationally, and risk the wrong parties opening it, or being directed straight to them. So... answer. Yours."

    Tony took a deep breath, let it out. "I... think I am?"

    "Close enough."

    Tony watched her as she got up, moved to open the box, pulled three things out it including a smaller box, a photo album, and a tissue-wrapped item. "Um... Pepper?"

    She handed him the smaller box first, and he was startled to find it was an approximation, with lettering done in stencils, of a Prisoner of War Red Cross care package. "We'll start with this. James never got one of those... and Rebecca figured it was better late than never."

    Tony first stared at the box, then opened to find, among other things, razors for shaving, shaving cream, three chocolate bars, two cans of mixed fruit, a bar of soap, a can of Liver Paste, cellophane-wrapped biscuits labeled "k-ration, or as close as we could get," a can of SPAM, a can of vegetable soup labeled as "as close as we could get to c-rations," a package of raisins, dried fruit, and... "Isn't the three tubes of Oreo cookies over-doing it?"

    Pepper allowed herself to chuckle, finally. "Maybe. According to Miriam, the one actually historically produced by the Red Cross included a package of ten cookies."

    "And the Hershey bars are labeled 'better than the D-Rations you complained about so much,'" Tony observed, then he frowned again. "I did read that in one of his letters, come to think of it, and now I'm wondering what was so bad about D-Rations. What do you mean, he didn't get one?" Tony paused, picked up a bottle of aspirin that was also in the package, and wondered why there was a note attached, warning Steve not to take any. Did Steve have an allergy of some kind to aspirin? That made no sense.

    Pepper sighed. So close, and yet... "He was a prisoner of war. Twice? Remember? A unit getting captured at Azzano by HYDRA, Steve rescuing 400 fellow soldiers? Why do I remember this and you don't?"

    Tony paused. "No, I knew that, but thank you for the reminder. And... twice?" Suddenly, the why of Dr. Knutz making him read Unbroken was made clear. He'd been right, about starting with the technology, rather than the person. In Berlin and at the bunker in Siberia, had he and Steve even been on the same page, concerning Barnes? "I... oh. So this..."

    "She's making lemonade from lemons," Pepper murmured as she accepted the box back from him and handed the photo album to him next, which caused him to look at her funny. "I saw these just after the Battle of New York, when we made Steve show us around Brooklyn and stumbled upon Rebecca by accident. We were there because he needed to see his hometown, even if he was reluctant to go, and it turned out to be the best thing we could have done. And you know what the weird thing was?"

    "I have this odd feeling you're going to tell me."

    She opened the album to a page and motioned to the pictures of two very recognizable young men in period clothing, Steve far smaller than he was used to seeing him, and Barnes... Tony blinked at the differences. "Natasha knew, as soon as she saw these. Only... she didn't believe it, that she was right. It took nearly getting killed in DC by the Winter Soldier, and listening to Steve explain about Zola and the 107th being taken prisoner in '43, to realize that it was true."

    Tony frowned, processing through that information as he stared down at the picture. "Still..."

    "She didn't tell Steve what she knew, when she suspected, Tony. That's what I'm trying to tell you. As far as I know, she still hasn't come clean and told him that she knew before." Pepper watched as he turned the page of the photo album and began to look. "Does that make it right, that it turned out she didn't have to tell him? No. Just like Steve should have told you, bare minimum, that he suspected something was amiss, but didn't or couldn't."

    "He said he was protecting himself and sparing me," Tony grumbled. Then he blinked as he came across a picture of a younger, small, and very skinny Steve standing next to a woman old enough to likely be his mother. The resemblance alone was uncanny. "Is this...?"

    Pepper smiled, nodded. "Sarah Rogers. I think Rebecca said that Emma got lucky and happened to have the camera at just the right time. She worked a lot of overtime as a nurse."

    "Emma?"

    "Turn forward a page." Tony did so, and Pepper pointed to three young women, and Bucky, and Steve. "Emma and Hazel... you've met Rebecca."

    Tony's attention was taken by an older couple on the opposing page, standing on steps outside of a building. He pulled it loose from it's corner moorings and took a look at the back: "George and Winifred Barnes, October 1936. Funeral of Sarah Rogers, Epiphany Roman Catholic Church, Brooklyn." He stared at the writing for a moment, at once reminded of Steve's badly worded letter and doing the math in his head, and turned back to the previous page to look at Sarah Rogers again... "On his own since he was 18?"

    "Tony?"

    "Give me a minute, Pep. I..." He turned the page back, returned the picture to it's place, and looked at the other ones in that grouping. His frown deepened when he realized two things: one, that Steve wasn't in the pictures with the Barnes Family on the steps of the church, and two, James Barnes himself didn't look at all happy about the photo op and wasn't even making an effort for the camera. "I saw him."

    "Hmmm?"

    Tony blinked at her for a moment, then nodded down at the pictures and tapped the one with Barnes outright frowning while standing with two of his sisters. "That guy. I saw him in Berlin, barely putting up with Zemo while tied down in that cage. That... isn't the same guy who fired a gun into my hand at point-blank range after he'd broken out of the cell during the power outtage."

    Pepper frowned at him. "You can tell that from a picture?"

    "I saw this one in Siberia, protecting Steve from behind when I finally caught up to them." Tony took a deep breath, let it out. "How can they be the same person, and yet not the same?" And Dr. Knutz was probably going to smirk at him for this epiphany, when he told him about it, if he told him about it. Trying to understand the situation backwards... "This is hard."

    "What is?"

    "Seeing the forest for the trees."

    "That's not specific enough, Tony."

    He glanced at her, sighed. "I want to tear everything in that box apart. I want to be mad, but... you keep showing me things and explaining, and forcing me to see past myself. That this isn't all about me, or what happened to my parents, and Doctor Knutz keeps making startling observations about the situation the more it comes up in discussion. And..."

    "That's what I was waiting for," Pepper said carefully. "You're human, you are allowed to be angry and upset. I'd be more surprised if you weren't, really. You're allowed. But this, sending this box is about..." She motioned to the album. "Them, and the others in exile with them."

    Tony glanced down at the picture of Mr. and Mrs. Barnes again, considered them thoughtfully. "Do you know when they passed?"

    Pepper shook her head. "I've never asked Rebecca that question. It's something you will have to ask her yourself."

    He continued to gaze down at the two adults in wonder before shaking his head. "How much did they take from him? HYDRA, I mean. This... I mean, does he even remember?" He had a good idea of what the man did remember, in relation to what he'd been used to do, but this was another consideration entirely.

    "I don't know. But don't you think he deserves the chance to?"

    Tony turned a few pages further on, and frowned at a picture of what appeared to be one of the sisters standing in a decorated bath tub in a kitchen with a Navy Seaman, wearing a nursing outfit and a veil, in front of a... Chaplain? On that same page were two other pictures, one of the group including Barnes in an Army uniform, but minus a sister, and the other of the group, but minus the Chaplain. He pulled one of the group pictures free of it's corner holders and looked at the back, to find: "June 14, 1943, Unofficial-Wedding of Rebecca Barnes and William Proctor, Apartment of James Barnes and Steven Rogers, Brooklyn. James shipped out for England the following day." Tony blinked, startled. This was the last time she'd seen him? "Yes." His voice was raw to his own ears.

    "That is why she wants this box sent, Tony. And that is why we are going to do exactly that." She accepted the album back after he'd replaced the picture on the page, and then handed him the tissue-wrapped bundle. "And then there's this. Unwrap it carefully and don't tear the paper. She put a lot of effort into the contents."

    It was very odd, those instructions, but he did as she asked... to discover an Army-Green shawl with pink and lighter-green tassels. "Okay. Now I'm really confused."

    "It's for James."

    "Why OD green?"

    "Mason talked her out of pink. Mostly."

    "She's weird."

    "Well... she was in a weird place while sitting in Rhodey's hospital room."

    "Oh." He carefully re-wrapped the shawl, set it aside, gestured for the album again, and opened it to look at the pictures of the family on the steps again. "One thing that bothers me here... if it was Steve's mother's funeral, why isn't he in these? And there's a sister missing."

    Pepper frowned and looked at the page herself. "I can explain Emma. She took the pictures. Steve... I don't know. Maybe he didn't stick around for pictures?"

    They spent the next hour leafing through the photo album before Tony made up his mind and got up from the table. Pepper watched him stride out of the dining room and waited a few minutes for him to come back. When he did, it was with a Stark Pad in a box and a thumb drive, which he handed to her. "You should take it to them personally. It's that important."

    Pepper studied the box and the thumb drive for a moment before looking at him in confusion. "Personally?"

    "Yes."

    "And these?"

    Tony tapped the StarkPad box. "Communication, better than that awful burner phone Steve sent, and less traceable, because it's on the secure SI satellite network. As for the drive... you walked in on us discussing the arm. Dr. Knutz threw me a curveball or three when Elley tricked me into a therapy session, and I ended up figuring some things out. That contains the specs of the part of the arm I've got. T'Challa can probably figure it out from there."

    Pepper blinked, surprised. "So you know they're in Wakanda?"

    "I'm not an idiot, Pepper. Of course I know." He watched as she moved to put the album, the wrapped bundle, the care package, and his offerings in the box, and then blinked when she pulled out two folders from behind the box that had been out of sight. "What are those?"

    Pepper sat down again and placed both the thick binder and the less-thick folder in front of him. "These are Steve's and the other's mission reports. Don't ask how I got it, because the answer made no sense to start with. The other is everything Rebecca has on the Winter Soldier program, integrated with what you brought back from Siberia and gave to her." Pepper paused, staring him in the eyes. "Don't lie to me again, Tony, about having been in Nebraska when you weren't."

    "I..."

    "Tony? Truth."

    "Okay."

    "And the truth is... Rebecca didn't need to ask for the Kiev File. She already had the information in it."

    "Then why...?"

    Pepper sighed. "You're you, and she was emotional, and so were you. And you were being rude."

    "No, I wasn't. And she hit me."

    "Did you use her name, after you found out whom you were talking to?"

    "Huh?"

    "No. You called her 'Old Woman.' You were being rude with a member of the generation that lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War, on top of her emotional trauma. Your own mother would have corrected you for that. If I'd done it, so would mine have."

    Tony stared back at her, wondering again why he needed anyone to point things like this out. She was right... his mother would have given him a talking to about rudeness to the elderly, no matter the circumstances. "Oh." He gestured to the thick binder. "And that?"

    "Understanding. Perspective."

    "I've seen it."

    "No, you haven't. Not in context."

    "What context does there need to be? It was all bad!"

    She smiled. "You'll find out when you read it. And, just so you're aware, everything in those is going to the President, including an combined analysis that was very enlightening on the Accords. I'm telling you this because transparency is good, and Secretary Ross is in more trouble than he knows. Putting Stark Industries under surveillance, among other things..." She shrugged. "And the Barnes family lawyers... let's just say that they got a hold of the contents of that binder and wrote a five star defense involving the Geneva Convention. Legal wrote a counter, they batted back and forth for a month or so, and came out the other side with an iron clad defense, made more solid by what the Task Force did and didn't do while James was in custody in Berlin."

    Tony looked at her for a moment in wonder. "Pep?"

    "Yes?"

    "We really helped with the legal defense?"

    Pepper sighed. "Only so much as our legal department and Michael Proctor's law office had a war of argumentation that was like a trial without actually having a trial. On paper."

    "Oh. I'm... not sure what to think of that right now."

    She motioned to the binder again. "Think about it while you read that. And how am I getting to Africa? Did you think of that yet? We rather don't want the State Department knowing where I've gone, or that I've even left, so that rules out public transport."

    "Maria Hill has email. Ask her for a ride."

    "I love the way you think, Tony Stark."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~​

    On the former (and eventually, hopefully, presently again) SHIELD helicarrier, Maria Hill receives an odd request via encrypted email from Pepper: Maria, I need girl time and a stealth flight to an African nation. Help?

    Maria smiles. She can definitely help with that.

    Two days after that, after midnight, a quinjet in stealth mode arrives for Pepper, Natasha at the helm.
     
  25. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Oh, I love the ladies teaming up to get stuff done. [face_love] Because Pepper is just Pepper, and I loved her gentleness and understanding and grace in this chapter.

    He continued to gaze down at the two adults in wonder before shaking his head. "How much did they take from him? HYDRA, I mean. This... I mean, does he even remember?" He had a good idea of what the man did remember, in relation to what he'd been used to do, but this was another consideration entirely.

    "I don't know. But don't you think he deserves the chance to?"

    Isn't that what it really boils down to? Tony had a lot to process and consider in this chapter, and I think that I am liking the conclusions he is starting to reach! [face_love]