Chapter 21: Chapter 21


Summary: The rouge Avengers are pardoned under the influence of King T’Challa and it is up to Tony to ‘welcome’ them back. But as he and his new team are at the private airport, an unexpected fight breaks loose and the fate of the whole universe is changed when a wizard places himself as Tony Stark’s protector.

Tony will deny it to his last breath how easily magic had come to him. Not that he was yet doing anything overly magical, but he had none of the struggles in the first elementary lessons he got from Wong and Strange, which kind of surprised his new sorcerer friends. Apparently, learning to let go of his need to control the current should have been tougher than it had been for him, but people often forget just how rarely he was ever in control at all. Letting go was easy, despite it having to be the hard part. The hard part for Tony was not taking too much of the interdimensional energy that rushed to him every time he opened himself to the flow. Two weeks of training and meditation was still the only thing he was doing.

Not that he particularly minded. It has been a very long time since he could just ... relax and let himself be, let the world be. Of course, he can’t do that without first badgering his AIs to keep a strict eye on everything and send him unobtrusive, hourly pings that everything was alright, that everyone was fine. It felt like barely more than a tickle at the back of his mind, a brush of reassurance that couldn’t break his concentration because JARVIS and FRIDAY were far too familiar to ever get a reaction out of him other than relaxation and calmness. So sitting with Strange just a few feet in front of him while they meditated and connected with the flow of energy in the Earth’s system - Tony was still too much of a beginner to touch the larger flow of the universe, let alone the multiverse - had become his second favorite pastime, right after hanging out with the kids. Everyone knew not to disturb them at the time of day they let their energies flow, even though Danny or Vision joined them from time to time and it had quickly become a comfort Tony luxuriated in.

So you can imagine his annoyance when he was informed by his AIs - in his head; Stephen had just returned from dealing with some extradimensional threat that left his body drained so he had fallen asleep the second he plopped down on Tony’s couch in his workshop, his astral body going off to Kamar-Taj to research which spell he should teach Tony first - that Romanoff had the gal to call him on his personal number. But, as much as he wanted to decline the call, he knew he couldn’t be so childish. There was always the possibility of the rouges knowing of some threat or another that the New Avengers didn’t - unlikely, but he’s seen stranger things happen - so he couldn’t just brush them off and risk everyone’s safety just because he was feeling a little petty.

So he took the call and was immediately glad and not that he did because how DARE they!? Seeing the oblivious Dr Christine Palmer snacking on some food while doing something on her phone when Natasha answered the phone, positioned just right to showcase Palmer, had his blood boiling and a few sparks flying over his systems. Thankfully, they had long ago been upgraded to withstand Thor’s lightning and J and FRI were quick enough to deal with the electricity he was sending through the systems involuntarily in his anger so there was no damage and no one was hurt. He was also glad Stephen wasn’t asleep in the traditional manner, because he would have woken up and Tony would rather not deal with the lashing out of the Sorcerer Supreme’s magic in his workshop. Yes, he had upgraded most of his equipment to withstand Wanda’s temper tantrums, and she was pretty strong, but he wasn’t sure how Stephen’s powers would affect his equipment. He’d rather not find out, actually.

His rage grew when Natasha thew that offhanded half threat but he knew he’d have to go. It was a rare quiet day at the Tower. Only he and Stephen were here, not counting the Cloak, his AIs and his bots. Peter and his friends had some test to study for. The mutants had all gone to Charles’ school for the weekend so the kids could meet others like them and see that they aren’t alone, Rhodey had finally asked Carol out on a date, the Bartons, the Langs, Jim, Hank and Hope were out to see some movie, the Inhumans had all gone back to their floating city because it’s some sort of holiday for them, Vision was with Wong in the Sanctum, Harley was with his mom and sister, Matt was working a long night at his office in Hell’s Kitchen while the other defenders were doing patrols and Reed had found something he seems to think could be a solution for Ben’s case, which meant Sue had to watch him and Johnny was not allowed to go out on his own without someone making sure he doesn’t make a fool of himself. Shuri had gone back to Wakanda to spend some time with her family and bring back some of her own equipment so they could continue sciencing together, Darcy was out on a date with that nerdy, gangly boyfriend of hers, Selvig had ran for the hills to get some privacy while Jane and Betty took today as their girls’ day out. And with Pepper and Happy currently on business in Malibu, that left Tony pretty much alone at home until Strange came through a portal, exhausted but unwilling to let Tony’s lessons suffer for it, the idiot. So Tony had simply gone back to meditating one more day and they agreed to start simple spells tomorrow while Strange had gone, astral projection style, back to Kamar-Taj.

This meant that Tony was pretty much alone with the Cloak to deal with the rouges and a possibly-tricked-into-being-somewhat-kidnapped-and-held-hostage Dr Palmer at the Avengers Compound and he knew he had to do it fast. Two of those psychos were trained superspies and assassins and one was a sadistic former HYDRA agents and he wasn’t talking about Barnes. Tony wasn’t exactly sure what Palmer was to Strange beyond a colleague and he didn’t know if she had the same kind of protection charm Tony does, but he knew she was important to Strange since she had been in his apartment that time they met. He can guess but he won’t make assumptions. It’s not his place, seeing as how private Strange was about his personal life.

But, whatever she was to Stephen, she was also a civilian in potentially dangerous position and Tony knew he had to do something. Which was why he was surprised when the Cloak of Levitation insisted on coming with him instead of staying with its chosen sorcerer. It was a loyal article of clothing, Tony would give it that, which is why it surprised him that the red Cloak wanted to go with him instead of staying with it’s vulnerable master. But he knew he needed some kind of backup and the Cloak was seriously badass. So he had instructed it to wrap as tightly around his torso as it could before he got into his armor.

He probably gave several birds, one airplane full of people and whoever was doing flight control heart attacks since he kind of didn’t want to waste time and had gone supersonic to get to the Compound as quickly as he could. And never think that physics can stop Tony Stark when he sets his mind on something. His repulsor technology knew no bounds as long as it was further developed by his hand. Which is how he found himself at the Avengers Compound in nine minute and fifteen seconds, a new record for the distance that he had crossed but he was sure he could do better. He’ll have to look into it later, though, as he had things to take care of. He was surprised when he realized there was no bellowing cape behind him, the Cloak having managed to camouflage itself into something that resembled a coat, which was probably for the best, as it had the element of surprise now. Definitely badass.

He relaxed slightly when he saw Christine Palmer, completely fine and unharmed, look up when he entered and smile at him, if a little strained. He raked his eyes over her before nodding to her and beckoning her with his hand. Confused, she leaned away from the counter to do so, which is when his old ‘team’ decided to make their presence known.

“Tony,” Romanoff said with a fake friendly smile. Tony used to believe them to be genuine but he knew better now. There was nothing genuine about this woman, except maybe her original hair color and even that was a big if. “I’m so glad you could join us. It’s been a while. You’ve been so busy lately.”

Tony didn’t react to the jab at the fact that he had the time to set aside to come save a seemingly random person while he didn’t have the time to even say hi to his old ‘team’. The Cloak bristled against him but it was careful not to draw attention to itself. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t go kidnapping innocent civilians for your own gain, Romanova. Some of them know powerful wizards and witches.”

Palmer, bless her, was a smart cookie and immediately caught on to what was going on, a glare forming on her beautiful face. “I’ll take it that means you haven’t called me regarding further developments of the Binarily Augmented Retro-Framing technology.”

“Nope, sorry doc. It seems that the ... ” He hesitated to label them anything for fear of them trying to go to the press with whatever bullshit story they could make out of this and make problems for the New Avengers.

“Criminal group led by Captain America?” Thankfully, the good doctor filled in for him and Tony had to repress a grin. She reminded him of Pepper and he could see how she would be friends with Strange if that was what they were. Definitely a keeper.

He shrugged. “Good enough. Anyway, they seem to have wasted your time by needlessly endangering your safety by leading you to the Avengers Compound just to force my hand into coming here. But, rest assured, if I ever decide to make BARF publicly available, you’ll be the first to review the final info binge. I have a good recommendation for your work.” He winked at her and enjoyed the huff and the smile that spread across her face as she knew, without a doubt, that he had to have heard about her from their resident Sorcerer Supreme. “Now, if you would like or let me, I would be honored to offer you a ride back home or wherever you wish to go, to make up for the inconvenience.”

“Not so fast, Stark!” Wanda snapped and red magic seeped out of her hands, snapping closed and locked every door or window. JARVIS and FRIDAY were instantly on it to unlock everything, but magic was keeping it in place, not hacking. The usual means won’t do much.

-Accessing the Compound’s Arc Reactor, Sir. Electric blast in approximately three minutes.-

-I advise you to step away from the door or any other electrical device, Boss.-

‘Got it. I leave it to you.’ God, he loved his new technopacy. He stepped in front of Palmer when she darted towards him, acting like a shield and a wall between her and the rest of the room. “Thread very carefully.” He warned the rouges, voice low and dangerous. He may look helpless, but he was far from. In fact, he was the one with the upper hand here. The Compound was equipped to hold superpowered individuals and had enough weapons mounted in the walls and ceilings to kill Thor. It was quite possible that Luke Cage and Deadpool were the only beings alive who would stay alive if attacked inside the Compound. But the problem was that JARVIS and FRIDAY can’t access the weapons while preparing an electrical surge to disable the magic holding the locks closed. He had found that energy similar to the energy readings that Strange’s magic let off can, even if momentarily, disable whatever spell was cast. The voltage needed would kill a human, which is why Tony was pretty much eager to learn how to protect his mind from Wanda’s powers on his own until he found some new way. The energy of the Arc Reactor is damn well similar enough so this should work. He’s never tried it before on an active spell but Wanda didn’t use spells. So hopefully, it will be enough. “If you continue like this, I’ll be forced to report you to the Accords and the UN Councils and you’re on thin ice already.”

“We just want to talk, Tony.” And there went Steve. God, Tony was already tired. He had better things to do than deal with their nonsense.

“Then why didn’t you schedule a meeting instead of tricking me into coming here and risking that Dr Stark won’t show up?” Palmer asked incredulously, looking at them as though the rouges had grown second heads.

“We were told to wait for seventeen months.”

“For your bow, dipshit,” Tony can’t help but groan at Clint’s explanation and the archer at least looks a bit sheepish. “I have a slot in my schedule especially reserved for Avengers business, and that, against my will, still includes you lot. Now, if you would please tell your HYDRA agent pet to let us out-”

“Bucky’s not a HYDRA agent or a pet, Tony,” Steve says in a reprimanding, exasperated voice that just makes Tony want to blast him with a repulsor but he didn’t need the shit that will come his way from the UN or the Accords or even the president if he does that so he doesn’t. “Why don’t we just talk like rational adults and sort this misunderstanding out?”

“Because there is no misunderstanding, Rogers. You made your choices and I made mine and we both reaped what we sew. And if you’re talking about the current situation, there is no misunderstanding here, either. This is deception and blackmailing or threatening, whatever floats your boat. A misunderstanding, however, it is not because we understand each other perfectly. Mainly, I don’t want to be here, not with you. This is coercion and you’ll be hearing from my lawyers about it.”

“Stop whining like a child, Stark.” Maximoff snapped, making to step closer to them but Barton seemed to sense that the best thing to do would be to detain her and held her back. “You’ve had your fun and now it’s time you step back and let the real heroes do the work.”

Christine stared at the avengers for a long moment before looked to Tony. “Is this the kind of crap you deal on a daily basis? Because if so, I am can’t imagine living like that. Is your secret superpower putting up with idiots?”

“And I can see how you can put up with Strange. You should meet Pepper. I think you’d get along like a house on fire. Now let’s go.” He extended his elbow for her to take like the gentleman that he really wasn’t and moved to lead her out since J and FRI had pinged him that they were about done. The sooner he gets away from them and gets Palmer somewhere safe - preferably the Tower, where he will then grill Strange for magic protecting runes so that Maximoff can’t even physically force locks into place - the better it is for everyone involved, him especially.

Christine rolled her eyes but accepted his arm without hesitation. “Please, Stephen can be an asshole-”

“That, I agree with.” He interrupted while smothering a smirk.

“And a moron in some aspects, but at least he’s not an utter dick and an idiot. He can spout bullshit, but this is ... I don’t even know. Have you gotten them to do a psych evaluation because I think they’re delusional.”

“That you’re professional opinion?” Tony asked, not even bothering to fight off the grin as a sizzling sound and several small explosions rattled the doors and windows that the Scarlet Witch had been holding, surprising everyone but Tony.

-All clear, Sir.-

-I’ve contacted Boss-lady, Boss. She got the security footage and sent it to the Accords Council and to Councilmember Everett Ross.-

-And Vision is en route, Sir. ETA twenty minutes.-

‘Hopefully, we’ll get out of here without needing backup.’ Tony sent the thought through to his AIs before reaching out and opening the door, holding it for the good doctor. “Bye, guys. See you never.” Palmer was already out the door and Tony thought, maybe, for once, things had gone his way, but then he remembered his life was never going to be that easy. Especially not when Maximoff’s powers, for the second time in as many months, grabbed hold of his body, only this time it was just to restrain him. The red mist like magic traveled from his feet up his body and towards his head and Tony started panicking when he felt it probing at his mind-

To his surprise, he didn’t see nightmares or visions of the end or felt like he was losing control.

To Wanda’s surprise, her magic hit something that felt like an immovable wall that she could neither knock down nor climb over.

And to the surprise of the rouges, the charmed bracelet around Tony’s wrist that he had completely forgotten about suddenly lit up with a golden light that immediately dissipated the red mist holding his body in place, freeing him at once and even sent a powerful counter-blast at Wanda that had the rouges jumping into defensive battle stances and Natasha shooting her gun at a perceived threat faster than she realized what was going on. It was almost like in slow motion as the shot rang out and they all realized what was happening, yells and shouts ringing out seconds later, too late, as hough that will somehow stop or slow down the bullet.

Tony could feel the armor spreading over his torso and head, the most vulnerable places - thankfully, JARVIS and FRIDAY had reacted and there was a good chance that it will be just a flesh wound - but then something pulled off of his body and from under the forming armor, confusing the nanobots and stopping their progress at the strange sensory signal they were picking up. Just a second before the bullet could make any kind of contact, the until then hidden Cloak of Levitation unfurled and stopped the bullet that would have grazed the Arc Reactor the way it was going, before placing itself in front of Iron Man and Dr Palmer. JARVIS kick-started the armor again, covering now the whole of Tony’s body, while FRIDAY took control of the defense systems and brought out every gun mounted in the walls, aiming them all at the rouge Avengers.

“What the-?” Tony heard someone say from the other side of the protective Cloak before it was cut off by the now rather familiar sound of sparks splitting open space, a golden portal opening right between Tony and Christine and the idiots who had started this whole mess.

The Cloak finally moved out of the way so it could settle on the proud shoulders of one rather pissed off Stephen Strange, hands already positioned in two fists with mandalas glowing as golden shields, ready for battle. Good thing, too, because they were in a room of trigger happy idiots and a rain of bullets pelted at him as soon as he stepped through the portal. Christine screamed behind them and Tony formed a shield, too, and stepped in front of her, his suit taking the straying bullets with ease, not even chipping his paint. FRIDAY was firing the stun guns from the walls and Tony could hear two thumps, meaning two of the rouges had been hit, but then he was distracted by the familiar flare of red magic that registered on his energy reading sensors and he turned around to fully cover Palmer while ordering JARVIS to activate the proton cannons when he saw through the Compound’s cameras Steve making a lung for Strange. He didn’t know whether magic can hold back Vibranium - and yes, he had done a scan on Rodger’s new shield, thank you very much, and he had chewed T’Challa out for giving him such a powerful weapon, advanced or not, while he was still on probation and hadn’t yet even read the Accords - but he wasn’t going to risk Strange’s life on probability.

The blast didn’t do anything to the shield, which wasn’t even really what Tony was aiming for, but it did push Rogers back enough that he would have to run over half of the room in order to get to the sorcerer, who was containing the energy Maximoff had tried to blast them off with. Another thud told him that another person had been dealt with by the stun guns - FRIDAY sent him that it was Natasha, joining Wilson and Clint on the floor - which left only Barnes, Rogers and Maximoff.

Which was not good, as it left them vulnerable to the Winter Soldier waking up, or however that worked. Tony quickly pushed Palmer out and closed the door, JARVIS already putting on the reinforced shields for panic mode which should keep any attacks contained, before turning around.

“JARVIS, flash grenade. FRIDAY, ETA on Vision?”

“He’ll be here in ten minutes, Boss.”

“Flash grenades formed and ready, Sir.” Tony took it out of the compartment at his thigh and ducked out from behind Strange, throwing it at the feet of the three enhanced individuals on the other side of the room. “Can you hold them or should I activate the sleeping gas?”

“I can bind them with Eldritch Magic, but I’ll need to bind Maximoff’s powers and for that, I need a distraction.” Tony came back to stand by the sorcerer and put a hand on his head, letting JARVIS make a pair of protective, tinted glasses to shield Strange’s eyes from the blast with the nanites.

“Consider them distracted.” And if Tony blasted Rogers with a repulsor when the flash grenade flared, well, no one can call him out on it.

“Handy.” Strange took their confusion to create some strange metallic, red glowing bindings that wrapped around the two supersoldiers and Maximoff, effectively holding them tightly enough that they couldn’t move. Maximoff’s raging was soon also put to a stop as two purplish bands formed around her wrists and all traces of red mist, her magic, vanished from her hands.

“Handy,” Tony shot back with a grin and sighed in relief that it was over. He had JARVIS and FRIDAY both scanning the three knocked out rouges as he approached and knelt before them, forming cuffs that not even Widow can get out of while getting a ping that Vision had just arrived. “Viz, buddy, can you knock them out?”

“Certainly,” the android answered even as he surveyed the damage the fight had caused. Looks like the Avengers Compound will need another renovating binge. Pepper’s gonna be pissed.

“Tony, wait-”

“I’ve had enough of your crap for one day, Rogers.” Thankfully, Vision took the hint and knocked him out first, before cautiously approaching Barnes. He came to a stunned Wanda last and made sure he wasn’t touching her as he used the Mind Stone to put her to sleep.

The room was quiet for a while, the three of them just taking in the damage that had been wrought and imagining the sort of shit they will be in while dealing with this. Stephen and Tony were already making their own plans on what to do with the rouges (Stephen mostly concentrating on Maximoff) when Palmer knocked on the door uncertainly and poked her head inside.

“Is it safe yet?”

And then there was that.

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