Chapter 7: Chapter 7
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 hated to admit it, but he was a bit nervous when approaching Vision later that afternoon, after he had finished his meeting with Strange and had returned to the Tower, where Rhody, Vision and Peter had all but bombarded him with questions about ‘the wizard’ that had stolen him from the meeting. He was still a bit shaken up by what they had talked about and had merely told them the man’s name and his intentions to join the Accords. Peter was probably the only one who had taken that at face value while Rhody and Vision exchanged looks with each other, decided to question him later and instead filled him in on the temper tantrum the rouges had thrown about what Strange had done to them.
Apparently, they had stayed tied up until Tony had left the building to go to his next meeting, almost an hour after they had been tied up in the first place. As soon as the restraining magic popped out of existence, Wanda had started throwing around her volatile red magic all over the place, thankfully only hitting Rogers and Thor and not managing to release the Hulk on them all again. Apparently, Bruce had better control over his transformations now and he and the Jolly Big Green Giant were on speaking terms, which was nice, as Bruce didn’t fear the Hulk any more and that was for the best for the both of them. Romanov had immediately set on searching for information on Strange while Barton was bitching at everyone about being so easily taken down. Lang was unsettled while Wilson was trying to berate Fury and Rhody about letting some stranger in just like that when he could be a danger to them all.
Tony snorted, wondering if there was even a way to stop those pesky portals Strange’s using from opening wherever the hell he liked. Probably, but if it rhymed with tragic, he was going to tear his hair out.
Thor was not amused by Maximoff’s magic tantrum but Rhodey said he was interested in speaking with the wizard and that he will be seeking the man out, which Tony knew wouldn’t be very productive. Strange had promised not to speak with anyone until they had a chance to sit down and discuss how they want to go about this and whom they will keep of the old team. Tony hated the idea of working with any of them again, but it was him who was fighting for using them in this big bad fight coming to their doorstep. Strange was strangely - pun intended - against them even being near Tony, which kind of had him stopping short and wondering why this man he had met only twice was so protective of him. He figured it might have something to do with watching over him for who knows how long; people tend to get invested in that sort of thing. But maybe the sorcerer will speak with Thor? He wasn’t exactly involved in the Civil War shtick. Who knows. Tony certainly doesn’t.
Rogers, once he had recovered, had immediately tried to look for Tony and Strange, but since the sorcerer had let them go only after Tony was out of the Compound - he had checked the surveillance tapes - Rogers had tried leaving the place, only to be stopped by Fury at the front door, where they had a shouting match about the house arrest the rouges were under. It was temporary and will last only until the Accords Council and the UN find them liaisons, which will probably be happening in a few days, but it was enough time for Tony to sort out some things without having to worry about any of them coming to bother him. Barns had reacted the best to the whole situation, just sitting it out and sighing in relief when the Winter Soldier hadn’t made an appearance. Tony secretly suspected Strange might have had a hand in that.
On his half of the team, Peter had been excited at the prospect of the returned wizard but worried about Tony being alone with him. At least his spidey senses hadn’t gone off and the kid had just amused himself by watching the rouges struggle. Rhodey had been tempted to go after Tony immediately but knew his friend could take care of himself. The genius knew Rhodey would never be so calm about it if he knew Tony was still healing in some places. Not even a full Vibranium reconstruction of his ribcage was enough to heal him. Tony knew he might have to resort to his last measures if he wants to be able to move or breathe soon enough, but he had always hesitated, not wanting to become enhanced. His old daddy issues regarding Captain America were long gone, and while he still had daddy issues regarding Howard, now it was more reliving every memory with his father and wishing there could have been more.
Vision had been fretting and worrying in a different manner from Rhodey and Peter, but he had stayed so he could shut Wanda up, something he had not been keen on doing. Tony felt sorry for the guy. He had really loved Wanda and probably still does, but he will never be able to trust her again. Their easy camaraderie was over and the more Maximoff pushed him into interacting with her, the more likely was the chance that Viz will just stop caring and get annoyed with her. Tony wanted Vision to be happy but he doubted Maximoff had the capacity to make that happen, not anymore. She, just like Rogers did to him, had severely injured Vision, betrayed his trust and ran off without even checking up on him. Vision was young and naive but he wasn’t stupid and he didn’t want to be around someone like that anymore. It was why he had moved into Stark Tower with Tony when they returned from Europe.
Tony knew his youngest creation already had enough on his plate, but this conversation had to be had. Not just for the possibility of getting JARVIS back, that was only a part of it. And no matter how much it might matter to Tony, it was not the most important part. Tony Stark had never been selfish or self-centered, no matter what people seemed to think. His own needs and comfort were always the last on his mind, especially after Yin- after Afghanistan. And he knew - had known for five or so years now - that something bigger than him was at stake, that something was coming. That something happens to be Thanos and the Infinity Stones and Vision just so happened to have one stuck in his forehead. He deserved, no, needed to know what was coming and that he was in danger. Besides, this procedure might save his life in the long run. If Thanos ever did manage to get his hands on Vision and the Mind Stone, the android won’t die from it being taken from him. He’ll be out of commission for a few days or weeks while he recovers from whatever fight might happen - is going to eventually happen, Tony was dead sure of that - but he won’t be in shambled pieces, not mentally. He’ll live. He’ll just need a new power source and Tony knew one that will fit the energy signature and requirements of the Mind Stone perfectly.
But the procedure was Viz’s choice and Tony won’t try to talk him into it. It was up to Vision to decide what he wanted to do. Besides, Tony didn’t want him to think that Tony didn’t like Vision and that he was just trying to get rid of him once JARVIS code is no longer within him. Viz had picked up too many of his characteristics and one of them included his doubt in his self worth. It was nowhere near as bad as Tony’s, but the complex kind of came from the first week when Tony couldn’t look at him or talk to him without near breaking down due to the fresh scar of losing JARVIS. He had thought he’d managed to get over it quickly enough, but apparently not nearly quick enough if Vision still from time to time still had those thoughts. Tony had a bad feeling this whole Wanda thing had only made it worse.
Still not as bad as Tony’s, though, thank god for that.
“You seem troubled, Tony.” Getting Vision to stop calling him Mr Stark had been almost as impossible as getting Peter to drop it. It had taken him two years to manage it, but it was worth it. Viz was a friend, no, he was family. Formality had no place within a family. (JARVIS’ ‘Sir’ and FRIDAY’s ‘Boss’ may have started out like that, but they were kind of like endearments now, like an inside joke.) “There is something weighting heavily on your mind. Do you wish to speak about it?”
Tony scowled at the floating android, although it was more playful than anything else. “I thought we agreed no mind reading.” Not that Viz could help it. Most of the time that it happened, it was because the thoughts were too loud for Vision to completely ignore them. He tried not to read the thoughts, but he still got an impression of what it might be or how that makes someone feel. When Vision went to apologize, Tony just grinned at him and watched his creation relax. “But yeah, you’re right. And I actually wanted to talk to you. That okay?”
“Does it have something to do with the wizard?” The synthezoid asked curiously as Tony waved him over to his office where he sat when he actually bothered to do some SI business related work or had to take a conference call. Vision sat in one of the provided comfortable chairs in front of the desk while Tony perched on said desk, facing his companion. “What he said earlier today?”
“He insists he’s a sorcerer, but yes, that what I wanted to talk to you about. And something else, which is mostly related and not related at all.” He bit his lip, hesitating under the curious gaze of Vision. He hadn’t lied when he said his bots were his children. He didn’t want Vision to be upset. “I don’t know if you have any of JARVIS’ memory drives-”
Tony sighed. “In 2012, in New York, there was an alien invasion led by Loki.” He began with information Vision was bound to know very well by now. They still speculated what had happened in New York these days, especially because of the Accords. “In order to win the fight, I flew a nuke into space through a portal created by the Tesseract. That’s common knowledge.” Vision nodded along to confirm it as such. “What people don’t know is what I saw on the other side.”
“There’s an alien invasion coming, Viz. It’s only a matter of time before the big boss of the Chitauri comes to Earth himself and there’s only one goal in his mind and that is restoring balance to the universe through annihilation of half of the population everywhere.” Tony rushed out, feeling the responsibility of it all pressing down on his shoulders like the nuke had while he was flying it into space. “And he’s coming to Earth for the missing puzzle pieces he’ll need in order to do it.”
“The Mind Stone,” the other replied, face and voice blank. Vision was truly a ‘child’ of Tony Stark, for no other would get it this quickly. “We need to destroy it, if that’s the case. We should find a way to do it as low key and as quickly as possib-”
“Whoa, whoa, slow down there, Viz.” The genius inventor cut in, stopping Vision’s planning in his tracks. “That’s not an option. As long as the other Infinity Stones exist, especially the Time Stone, no other Stones can stay destroyed and it will just be a waste of effort on our part. And the Time Stone itself can’t be destroyed so that’s not an option. Where’d you even come up with that crazy idea?”
“I’ve been thinking about it, especially since Lagos.” The red skinned android admitted. “Ms Maximoff’s power derives from the Mind Stone, so if we destroy the Mind Stone, she can’t hurt any more people.” Tony winced at the thought of the Scarlet Witch and what she had been doing with her powers. The security guards from the RAFT were certainly never going to be the same again, especially the ones that had committed suicide shortly after the Witch had been set free. Tony hated how the US government just brushed all of their deaths off as Ross’ lackey that were going against government orders. As if any of the foot-soldiers knew whether the Secretary of Defense had the ‘go ahead’ from the higher ups. The families of the mentally tortured victims had first been cursing Tony when he came to personally apologize to them, to all of them, but they had ended up thanking him when he had insisted the soldiers be put through his BARF program and the men got a bit better. Tony had an extremely soft spot for soldiers, especially after the three soldiers in Afghanistan died trying to protect him. He will never try to distance himself from soldiers again if he is ever involved with them in any type of mission. The rouges’ actions disgusted him so deeply Tony had been retching after he received the casualty reports.
He did his best not to think about all the dead civilians.
“The Mind Stone has already altered her on a cellular level, Vision. Her power is her own. You have nothing to do with her actions.” Vision was definitely his creation. Tony could only face this reality when not directly examining himself, his selfdestructive tendencies. He won’t ever stop them on himself but he won’t let Vision think he was the one at fault for Wanda’s actions.
“But what else can we do if not destroy the Infinity Stones?”
“For one, we can protect them and protect Earth.” Stark replied with a confidence he didn’t feel and a determination that hadn’t left him at all since Gulmira. “That means protecting you and offering you official training in this mystic place called Kamar-Taj or something. Our sorcerer friend is tasked with managing the Time Stone so they are certain they can help you with the Mind Stone, too.” Vision perked up, looking a bit hopeful at finally mastering a bit more of his power. It was why he and Wanda had been drawn to each other in the first place. The need to understand their powers and better learn to control them. “However, that part of the plan has to wait. We need to make contingencies in case the Mind Stone is taken from you. Mainly making sure you can survive without it.”
Tony took out his phone and activated the holoprojector that was built into it. The light show immediately formed the familiar shape of the Arc Reactor and Tony tried not to react to Vision’s gaze switching from the actual reactor in Tony’s chest and the one shown in the hologram. Vision had been there when Tony had had to put it back in but he, like everyone else, was still left in the dark about the Arc Reactor’s other functions these days. No one knew just how much more the Arc Reactor was and Tony was planning on keeping it that way for as long as possible. He was still making some tweaks to it, modifications, improvements, upgrades, but Vision won’t be getting a reactor like his. In fact, Tony is of the mind to implant three different reactors into Vision, so if one failed, there were two backups to keep him alive and going. He was sure Dr Cho will gladly help with this endeavor. She may never look at Vision as her child - it was clear to everyone that he was obviously Tony’s, even if it was never stated out loud - but she was fond of him and she knew he might need her for more extensive repairs. It’s a good thing Helen and Tony were friends and he had her on standby, no matter where she was or what she was doing. The funding he gave her ensured that, too.
“A suitable power source,” Vision agreed, studying the information on the elements that will be used for the Arc Reactor. Vision knew Tony can synthesize an element of even better energy properties than Vibranium, but he didn’t know anything about the reactor itself or how to make said element. The Arc Reactor and Starkenium were not things JARVIS’ memory cores let him access, apparently keeping Tony’s secrets even when he didn’t have any self awareness. Hopefully, that can be changed soon enough. Tony wants JARVIS back, Dum-E, U and Butterfingers were already over the moon at the idea of their younger brother returning and FRIDAY was shyly excited to meet her older brother and predecessor. It was now only up to Vision.
“I have something of a .. request of you, Vision. It’s going to be a part of the process, partially, but also the not part I mentioned before.” He squared his shoulders and prowled on when the android turned his attention back to his creator. “Doctor Strange, the sorcerer, has agreed to, under controlled conditions in a reality parallel to this one, use the Time Stone to help develop your ... processor, for the lack of a better term, by a little over two decades. We believe that once your processor reaches that age, should the Mind Stone be removed from your forehead, you will only be put out of commission for a little healing and recovery as opposed to what would occur now if such an event took place.” Tony shuddered at just the thought of it. “Your mind is made of several complex layers that would fall apart without two poles, so to say, keeping them together, almost like a magnetic field.” He explains without going too much into detail. This was just a preview, a summary, a briefing. If Vision agrees, Tony will gladly go into the atoms of the process with him. But he needed to know whether he should start making preparations or not.
“And those are the Mind Stone and,” Vision pauses, as if judging Tony for any reaction he might have, almost afraid to bring up the name into the conversation. Tony hates himself all over again for never noticing how much he had screwed up. He briefly wonders if this is how Howard felt whenever he didn’t act like a good father and isn’t that thought just terrifying. “And JARVIS.” It’s a guess, an educated one, but a guess and it almost sounds like a question.
Tony sighs and nods. “JARVIS is the beginning and the Mind Stone is the end, if we can look at it like that. It feels more like a loop, so I can’t really tell. Only thing I know is that those two entities within your own self are what is keeping you together. I did research when you first came out of the Cradle and I know there is a way to separate JARVIS from your code, but I also knew that to do it safely without damaging either of you or making the Mind Stone lash out or keeping you together after the procedure unless you reached the same age as JARVIS was when he ... Yeah.” The genius sighs and rubs a hand over his face. “I didn’t think of it as an option until Strange said he can safely forward your processor in time and I was still hesitant, but we found a way and we’ve covered all grounds. The decision is up to you, though. I don’t want you doing this because you think you owe me or because you have to. We can go through with the procedure without taking JARVIS out or taking out the Mind Stone at the end or not taking it out or we can not do it at all. It’s up to you, Viz. Whatever you decide, I will respect that. I just,” he sighed again and stands up, coming to stand by Vision, placing a hand on his shoulder. Vision is watching him with blue-gray eyes that are so trusting despite everything and Tony wants to shy away from that gaze. He doesn’t deserve it. “I don’t want you thinking I’m replacing you with JARVIS. You’re Vision. You’ve made that very clear to me the day you were born. And I’m sure the two of you would get along like a house on fire, which is a very stupid saying but what the hell. You’ll always be welcome here, Viz. You’re family.” Is it weird that he can so easily say those words to a mechanic being when he had had to pull them out like teeth when he had to say them to Rhodey and Pepper and Happy? At least Harley was easy enough to talk to about that shit, even though Tony doesn’t really know why. His life is so strange. “You can come and go as you like and you will always belong here, okay?”
There’s a stretch of silence that follows and makes Stark a little anxious, so he stands back up and makes to move away. “You just think about what you want to do and I’ll just ... leave you to it-”
“Tony?” He pauses, especially when a hand tentatively grabs his wrist. Gentle. Like Vision is afraid he will hurt him if he so much as touches him. Then again, Vision was still suffering from how he had accidentally injured Rhodes, something Tony will definitely have to sit down and talk to him about because they were both blaming themselves for it and Rhodey was getting sick of it, go figure. “I ... Thank you. For everything.”
“Nothing to it, Viz. You’re family and that’s what family does. I think,” he muttered the last part to himself, not noticing how Vision had stood up and was now standing proud and tall in front of Tony in the same way he had seen Tony himself stand before the press, as Iron Man.
“I would very much love that,” the android says, momentarily throwing the engineer off until his brain connected the dots and he looked uncomfortable.
“You don’t have to.”
“But I want to.” The red one said. “JARVIS has acted as my training wheels for long enough. I think he can teach me everything else I might need to know from outside of my being.” He smiles at his creator and Tony can’t help but feel a double sort of affection coming from his youngest creation. Like there were two sources of it from a single body. From two minds. “Let’s get JARVIS back, Tony.”
Tony felt his world tilt and suddenly, he could breathe again.