Steve Rogers hesitated in front of the door to Tony’s private quarters, mentally berating himself for being an idiot.
Just knock, Rogers.
His body followed the command automatically, rapping sharply on the door twice before he dropped his arm. Military discipline kept him standing there as voices murmured inside, muffled even to his enhanced hearing. After an endless moment, the door opened.
Tony had matured, Steve realized with a jolt. Not just aged, though he still retained the fit body of a man who had – and still could – fight and train alongside the rest of the Avengers. He had matured, the restless energy that had always filled him finally settled, contained. He was finally comfortable in his own skin, and his place in the world – still genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, but also father. husband. family man.
“Steve.” he said neutrally.
“Tony.” Steve met his gaze levelly. “Can we talk?”
Cool brown eyes studied him for a long moment, before the door opened wider, just enough for the older man to slip out. “Not here.” he stated, stepping out of his quarters and closing the door firmly behind him. Shutting Steve out; keeping away from his sanctuary, even at the Avengers facility. They were team mates, barely, not friends, merely working towards a common goal.
Steve accepted the rebuke without comment, silently following the other man up the elevator to the roof.
“I’m sorry.” The words burst out of him. “That’s not the only thing I wanted to talk to you about, but it is the main one.”
“I was wrong, Tony. SHIELD, Hydra, Bucky, the Accords – I handled everything wrong. I got on you about not telling us about Ultron, and then turned around and did the exact same thing – not trusting anyone to have my back and be willing to help instead of just shutting me down.”
“Cap-” Tony tried again.
“So many things could’ve been prevented! Us, SHIELD, Hydra, Bucky, Thanos – if I had just made a few different decisions!” Steve shook his head, running his hand restlessly through his hair. “I want to tell them, Tony. I want to warn our past selves of what’s to come.”
“Steve! Dammit Rogers – ” Tony snapped. “Wait. What? You want to tell who what?”
“Our past selves. From 2012.” Steve replied. “When we go back in time to get the stones. We need to warn them.”
Tony stared at him. “You’re crazy.”
“No, think about it!” The soldier began pacing as Tony watched warily. “As soon as we take those stones, the timelines split, right? Our path is inevitable – it already happened, but theirs is not. They have a chance to correct so many wrongs, and deal with Thanos and the stones before the first snap even happens. Maybe even before that. They have time to prepare for finding the scepter and Strucker, and Ultron, and the Maximoff twins.”
Tony was silent, but Steve could see that the wheels were turning. He pushed harder.
“If you could tell 2012!Tony anything, what would you say? Not personally,” he added hastily. “But in relation to us. The Avengers.” He met the other man’s gaze. “I know what I would tell myself.”
“Bucky Barnes is alive, and you are willing to destroy everything to save him from himself.” Tony said bitterly.
“No. The first thing I would tell him would be to trust your family.” Steve retorted. “You five – Natasha, you, Clint, Thor, Bruce – you’re all I have left to cling to.” He sighed, gazing up at the night sky, trying to make his companion understand. “Do you know why they require all military members to list next of kin when you enlist? Besides the obvious.”
“To remind the soldiers of what they’re fighting for. Not just the abstract notion of their country, but the tangible, real flesh and blood of home. Home isn’t always a place, Tony. For a soldier, it’s the people – family by blood and by choice – that give us a reason to keep fighting, and to survive to come home to again.”
“What’s your point?” Tony demanded impatiently.
“In 2012, my two reason to live were in a nursing home – Peggy Carter – and suffering as a fifty year PoW, brainwashed and tortured by the enemy I had already given my life once to stop.” Steve said bluntly. “I was a 23 year old vet dealing with the shell shock of being alive and home, but I was still in battle mode. Sentry mode. I was essentially in enemy – or at least unknown – territory, and I was drowning.” He nodded as Tony frowned, realization kicking in. “SHIELD gave me the basics – a place to live, money, a starter package to learning about this brave new world – but I didn’t trust anyone. Not Fury, or any of the team. Is it any wonder that I hid behind the Cap persona when we first met?”
“Didn’t consciously occur to me – any of us, really.” Tony mused. “I just assumed it was your default personality. Suit was tight enough back then to keep that stick up your ass nice and confined.” He smirked. “And toned.”
Steve rolled his eyes. “Thanks. Anyway, once we dealt with Loki, everyone went their separate ways. Nat and I eventually went to D.C., but everyone else was off doing their own thing. It took two years, SHIELD collapsing, and your rival nearly killing Pepper to bring the Avengers back together again. Now, on the one hand, I met Sam. On the other hand, Bucky eluded us for another two years, you dealt with PTSD from New York, and -”
“- Strucker had the scepter, which created the twins and eventually Ultron.”
Steve nodded silently.
“You want to warn them about Ultron? He does end up being Vision.”
“My problem was never with Vision.” Steve said quietly. “It was that you didn’t trust us enough to read us in on what you had planned.”
“You mean you wouldn’t have tried to talk me and Bruce out of it? C’mon, Mister Freedom isn’t Free – you can’t really expect me to believe that.” Tony scoffed.
Steve shrugged. “Guess we’ll never know. But Tony, that lack of trust was the first crack in the team dynamic – in our dynamic. Then came Sokovia, and the Accords, and King T’Challa and Bucky and Zolan, and we shattered. Divided we fell. We were easy pickings for Thanos.”
They fell silent, lost in their own brooding thoughts. Tony abruptly stood.
“So – if – we did this, when are you thinking, and what exactly are we telling, and to who?”
“We need to get the stones first. Then we can send Scott home with them, while we stay behind. That way the timelines are already split, with the stones being gone.”
“So again – who, where, when, and what?”
“Natasha.” Steve said slowly. “We need – I need – to talk to Natasha. You need to talk to JARVIS.”
“What happened to telling our counterparts?”
“You really think we’re going to believe any of this?” Steve said wryly. “Cap’s been thawed out for six months. You’re your charmingly snarky and sarcastic quippy self. Plus, we spent the day fighting aliens, demi gods, and armored whales with spikes.”
Tony winced. “Fair point.”
“Natasha is a spy – and she’s the most pragmatic person that I’ve ever met.” Steve said dryly. “She’ll compartmentalize and use the information instead of just react to it, like Fury is – was – always on me to do.” He paused. “You, on the other hand, need to tell JARVIS as much as you can. He needs to start searching for Bucky and Zolan, and track their locations. Zolan had a book that he was reading from when he was alone with Bucky at the compound, remember? Buck didn’t start reacting until he said that random series of words in Russian.”
Tony frowned, not remembering, but trusting in the super soldier’s eidetic memory.
“I remember the coordinates, enough to give JARVIS a starting point,” he said. “Maybe there was something there that we missed.”
“That entire facility needs to be blown to kingdom come.” Steve countered.
“Including the proof of who killed my parents?” Tony challenged.
Steve blew out a breath, shaking his head. “No. I leave that decision up to you as to whether or not you tell JARVIS to reveal it. It was probably in the Hydra files Nat released online. Wouldn’t be hard to manufacture.”
Tony stared at him. “You would risk pissing off my younger self again for this?”
“Were you more furious at Bucky for being the weapon, or me for not telling you of my suspicions in the first place?”
“You.” He answered without hesitation.
Steve nodded. “Cap doesn’t suspect the truth until after Nat and I go to Camp Leigh and talk to the computer brain Zola. Did knowing change the intensity of your emotions towards me or Bucky? Would we still have had to escape to Wakanda, or would you have protected him if you didn’t know the truth?”
“Dammit Cap,” Tony groaned. “I’m too old for this shit. And junior me isn’t old enough. Fine – Siberia gets blown to hell. I’ll set JARVIS to finding it, and have him deploy some of the Iron Legion to the location. Obadiah Stone sent my weapons everywhere – shouldn’t be hard to make up a story.” He studied the younger man, noting the stubble and dark circles. “Go get some sleep, Cap. I’ll work on compiling a file that has all of the major events of the past few years for JARVIS. I’ll link them to be opened only by certain events or days, so he can’t access everything right away – like after he becomes Vision.”
Steve nodded, suddenly exhausted. “I’ll leave you to it then. Should we delay the launch? I can try to buy you a few hours, tell the team that we miscalculated and have to adjust our time frame to closer when the action occurs, so midafternoon instead of early morning.”
“Not bad on the spot reasoning, old man.” Tony said lightly. “But no. It’s been a few years, but I can still pull an all-nighter. Morgan went through a horrible bout of colic as a baby…”