"You went against orders," Steve told me.
We were having a debriefing, both teams there. Lucy and Lucas were with Lila and Cooper, Laura watching them play.
But this wasn't a normal debriefing: Steve thought that my leadership position was no longer mine to keep, and we had to have a trial to see if I actually still deserved it or not.
I was at the head of the table and Steve was pacing, talking to me without looking at me. I was sitting back in my chair, my arms crossed, one foot resting on top of my knee, staring straight ahead, refusing to look at Cap. The others were at the table minus Wanda, who was resting in the infirmary. Tony, Natasha, and Sam were sitting back in their chairs, hardly paying attention, Rhodey and Bruce were staring at the table, and Pietro, Vision, and Clint were glaring at Steve, Clint with a hand resting on my foot, Vision with a hand on my back, and Pietro at the back of the table, his hands in fists on his lap.
"You went against orders," Steve repeated, pushing his point. "You didn't even complete the mission, and you backed out all because of a bad feeling."
"You weren't in there, Cap!" Pietro exclaimed. His sister's blood was still on his clothing, along with mine. "Lay off of her because she did the right thing!"
"Stay out of this, Maximoff," Steve scolded.
"If not for her, my sister would be dead!" Pietro protested, getting to his feet.
"Pietro," I said without looking back. "Calm down. Please. You're not helping my case this way."
After a moment, Pietro sat back down, muttering, "You shouldn't be punished for saving us, including two kids."
"Oh, yes, there's also the kids," Steve added. "Thank you, Pietro for the reminder." He turned to look directly at me. "They were test subjects for HYDRA. Tony found that out, and I'm sure you could get that already, yet you brought them here. How do we know they aren't spies? We don't even know what powers they have! They're dangerous like that!"
Pietro began to say something but I raised up a hand to stop him before crossing them again. "May I present my case now to show you this is idiotic?" I asked, trying my best to hide my annoyance.
"It won't be up to me, but me and my team," Steve replied. "Of course your's would be on your side right away."
"Then my case is helped even more," I commented as I got to my feet, Steve leaning against the wall, his arms crossed. I turned to the others as they all turned to me, now paying attention. "I was appointed the leader of the second Avengers team, and I see no reason for my leadership to be questioned. I did my best to save the team, keep them from getting hurt last night. Pietro, did you even doubt me in that base?"
"Not once," Pietro answered. "You kept a clear head, when I was unable to. And if not for your actions, Wanda would not be with us right now."
"Pietro, Vision, Sam, Rhodey," I continued. "Did you think we should've continued the mission?"
"We'd all be dead if that was the case!" Pietro cried.
"If we were in the military, you wouldn't have gotten praise from your commanding officer, but you would've gotten the trust of your team," Rhodey said. "Like now." He did a quick glance at Steve but left it at that.
"You certainly kept us alive with the bombs going off," Sam added.
"Not once have I ever doubted your leadership skills," Vision said. "You'd led us through a lot without ever faltering, and the only times you haven't joined us in combat is because you were hurt."
"Rhodey, Sam, the kids, when you took them to the medical jet, how were they?" I said.
"Terrified," Rhodey replied. "They didn't want to leave you, their savior, behind. If they were spies, they wouldn't have acted that way."
"They started crying," Sam put in. "For fear that they'll lose you. To them, you're an angel, their guardian sent to protect them."
"Pietro," I said as I turned to the twin, walking to him. He could tell that this time as I spoke to him, it wasn't Rosalina Barton, the one who was born with her powers, but Rosalina Barton, the test subject. "You have been put through HYDRA's brutal tests. You know first hand the experiences that they do. Can you see any reason why the children, Lucas and Lucy, would be spies for them?"
"No," Pietro replied, watching me as I walked, stopping right behind his chair. "The only reason Wanda and I were on their side to begin with was because of Stark, not because of HYDRA. We do not like what they do. We do not agree with their treatment. And to leave two kids like that, if that was myself and my sister, especially the age they are, we would turn against them. And also, didn't Steve tell you to search for anyone before leaving? You took precious time to search for them after we knew we didn't have a lot of time left. You were selfless."
"I have to tell them," I muttered so that only he heard.
"Ro-," Pietro began but bit down on his tongue. He couldn't say anything without cluing the others in that something was up.
"And let me tell you something, Steve Rogers," I said as I turned back to where he was still leaning against the wall. He straightened up now, watching me through slightly narrowed eyes as I walked up to him. "Let me tell you something. If you think those little kids are HYDRA spies, no. They're not. Because I know first-hand what it's like."
"Yes, we know you and Vision were captured, but those are the Dark Avengers," Steve said in a warning voice as he looked down on me.
I certainly wished I had more height now. "I'm not talking about our tests with the Dark Avengers," I replied. "I'm talking about before SHIELD even found me, after Clint left when I was living on the streets. I always wondered what changed during my sophomore year of high school. What that happened that made me from a straight A honor roll student to having to take night school to be able to get my diploma. And you know what that reason was? There's a part of my memory that was removed, for my protection. But that memory changed everything for me. Before sophomore year, I was normal. Like you before the serum, like Tony, Rhodey, and Sam before the suits, Bruce before the gamma radiation, Wanda and Pietro before HYDRA's tests. A normal human being. My memory removed was how I got these powers, magic, shape shifting, time control."
"What are you trying to say?" Steve asked.
"Rosalina," Vision said, trying to stop me by voice, but not by actions.
I took a step back and looked over at Pietro before turning back to the captain and saying, "I was a HYDRA test subject." Everyone got to their feet except Vision and Pietro, who were both looking down. "Ever wonder why Clint doesn't have these powers but I do, despite being from the same mother and father? That's why. HYDRA experimented on me for two years. Different serums being mixed and introduced to my body." I turned to look at the others. "Wanda removed my memory, made me think I was born with these powers. She wanted me to forget. She had sympathy for me. The training I would've done, it would've been torture. So if you think that those two young kids who are playing with my niece and nephew are spies, then think about me. We didn't choose this. It was forced upon us. Vision, Pietro, Sam, Rhodey, you said you trusted me. Now is it still the same?"
"You're still you," Sam said. "It doesn't change your heart."
"I thought I noticed a deeper change than Vision's after we rescued you," Rhodey said. "You've become even more protective than before. I trust you still."
"I stand by the word I promised you if you survived the serums," Pietro said as he walked to me. He stooped at my side and placed a hand on my shoulder. "You are my sister, and I will protect you as you protect us as leader. And even if you weren't the leader, you'd still protect us. I speak on both mine and Wanda's word that we completely trust you."
"Why would I not trust you?" Vision asked as he got to his feet, Pietro taking a step back as he stepped forward. "You are my wife, my partner, my lover, my leader, my teammate, and most importantly, my friend. We've been through thick and thin together. We have been forced to fight each other, and even though we did fight, it was a gentleness because we did not want to hurt each other. You've always had my trust with you, you still have it, and you always will."
I nodded and turned to Steve. "I rest my case," I said.
"Your team outside," Steve said without looking at me. "We'll call you in when we're ready."
I was about to lead my team out into the hallway when Wanda suddenly came into the room, limping slightly and her head wrapped up, but other than that, she was fine.
"Wanda," Pietro whispered as he and I went to her.
"Why is Rose on trial?" Wanda asked Steve, letting us put her arms around our shoulders.
"She went against orders, didn't complete the mission, and brought two HYDRA kids to the base," Steve said.
"HYDRA kids?" Wanda repeated. "You must be insane! They are not with HYDRA! I saw their eyes while the medics worked on me! They are not HYDRA! They are Avengers!"
"Wanda, leave it," I whispered. "I already rest my case. It'll be fine."
Wanda looked ready to burst into tears as we walked outside, clearly upset and frustrated.
"It's alright, Wanda," Pietro said as we sat her down. He rubbed her back, pulling her against him.
"Are you nervous?" Vision asked me as I walked to a window, looking out.
I shook my head. "I know where the team in there stands. Clint's going to fight for me," I said. "He's not going to let me down. And plus, there's my own amazing team." I looked at everyone as they turned to me. "Whatever happens, I want to say I'm glad I was able to lead you."
"Honestly, we'd make you leader again," Sam said. "Ignore what Steve say. I know you don't see eye-to-eye sometimes with Rhodey and I, but it doesn't change our views of your leadership."
"You'd go against your commanding officer?" I questioned, looking at Sam.
"For justice? Heck yeah," Sam replied. "You saved us. Even if we went through with the plan, Wanda was taken to the jet and Vision replaced her, chances are, you were going to find those kids, chances are, you were going to call me and Rhodey in, and chances are, the bombs would've blown the building up with all of us in it."
I looked over at where Pietro was comforting a now-silently-sobbing Wanda and walked over to them. "Wanda," I whispered, getting to a knee so that I was looking up at her. "Hey, don't cry." I used my sleeve to wipe the tears away. "Everything will be alright. I promise."
"I'm sorry," Wanda whispered, wiping tears away. "I shouldn't let my emotions get me like this. But you did nothing wrong. If not for you, I'd be dead. I wouldn't be here right now to vouch for you. No one would be here." She suddenly hugged me, sobbing on my shoulder.
I sat on the chair Pietro got out of, offering it to me, stroking Wanda's hair and whispered comforting things in her ear. When she finally recovered enough to stop crying and pull away, I kissed her forehead. "Thank you," I said.
"What did I do?" Wanda said, confused.
"For being an overprotective big sister," I replied with a smile.
Wanda did a small smile. "Somebody has to protect that young, frail, delicate girl that we saved all those years ago," she answered.
"Now shouldn't you be in the infirmary?" I asked, gently touching her slightly-bloodied headwrap.
"I need to know the decision first," Wanda said. "Before I can go back. You need to be cleared. You need to be our leader."
"I will be," I said. "No matter what."
We all turned as the door opened and we were called inside.
My five teammates stood in a line behind me, me a few steps forward.
Pietro and Vision were both holding Wanda up, Sam and Rhodey both standing at military rest. I also stood at military rest, watching the impassive faces of the first Avengers team as Steve got to his feet.
I was slightly worried when I saw that even Clint had no expression.
"Rosalina Barton," Steve said. He paused, making sure the words hung in the air to scare us, but it didn't. "We will review the votes for you. Yay you stay, nay you go. As you know, you need the unanimous decision to stay leader. Natasha Romanoff."
"Yay," Natasha said.
"Clinton Barton," Steve said.
"Yay," Clint said.
"Bruce Banner," Steve said.
"Yay," Bruce said.
"Tony Stark," Steve said.
"Yay," Tony said. "Steve Rogers."
Steve paused. "Yay," he said.
Behind me, my team let out a cheer, and I smiled.