Title: Remix #394
Author: Saydria Wolfe
Series: The BAST Chronicles
Series Order: 1
Genre: Fix-It, Time Travel
Relationship: Tony Stark/Bucky Barnes, Howard Stark/Maria Stark
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Canon-level Violence, Canon-level Science, Discussion – Torture, Discussion – Rape
Word Count: 51,082
Summary: After being murdered in a Siberian Bunker by the Defective Soldiers that he trained, Bucky Barnes has a choice. His choice could end the world, or save it.
“I am embarrassed,” Tony huffs as he plops dramatically down in his seat. “This is embarrassing. Can you believe this? I can’t believe this. I should be on a beach in L.A., lazing my way through my last class until I can defend my third thesis. That was the plan. Go to Cali and never come back. But no. I’m here, in this, and this is embarrassing.”
“Flying international on a private plane is embarrassing?” One of the security guys, Phantom, asks, seemingly amused.
“A plane,” Tony emphasizes. “We should be riding in style in a Quinjet. Plenty of space, park virtually anywhere, and fuck Customs. Seriously, Yasha, I want the first one off the production line.” He snaps his fingers once and points. “I see you rolling your eyes at me.”
“I’ve already talked to Howard,” Yasha assures him. “The first three after they get the kinks worked out will be for family use.”
“The kinks worked out!” Tony sits up, clearly more offended.
“Of the production line.” He holds up his hands in a warding gesture. “Kinks of the production line. We all know your designs are perfect.”
Tony nods and looks reluctantly mollified, “As you should. Because my plans are perfect.”
“Right. You want to go over what we know about Wakanda one more time?”
“I guess we should,” Tony sighs.
Natasha settles in beside Yasha for the review and Logan lounges a row away, chewing on an unlit cigar and pretending not to listen. This new team is weird, not yet cohesive, but Yasha’s leadership is markedly different from Cap’s, so Tony doesn’t think it’ll be a problem when they finally face a problem together.
Natasha, though. She weirds him out.
Honestly, future-Natasha did too. She infiltrated his company at the highest level and then stabbed him in the neck. And while it saved his life, it made it very clear her loyalty was not to him at all. Not to Pepper either. And after that he was just supposed to trust her as a team member without any apology or explanation?
This Natasha though. She’s almost 30 years younger, obviously, because math – but there is something disturbingly earnest and yet not quite open about her.
Like a female Captain Do-Right with a flare for Russian Assassination Technique.
And there’s the fact that she just sort of appeared in his bedroom out of the blue one night, after midnight -which, creepy- and basically swore herself to him for life. She was practically on bended knee! Which, he has to say again, creepy.
He wonders if he’s her Fury now. Would that make Yasha her new Clint? Or is Yasha her new Fury, and Tony just another fucking mark?
“Why don’t you take a nap?” the woman in question asks. “You look a little-” she stops.
“Like shit?” he prompts.
“You look tired,” Yasha corrects and then turns to her. “Darcy was not thrilled with us leaving. It was rough, I think I’ll nap too.”
Which is how Tony finds himself tucked in on one of the couches with his personal space heater draping a cold metal arm around his middle. It would be nice if their first cuddle wasn’t on a plane full of, well, mercenaries basically, but watching Yasha try to be smooth about initiating cuddle time is just too hilarious for him to actually pass it up.
Nat wakes them as promised and while Tony tames his hair, Yasha goes full Winter Soldier mode. It’s a newer get up, the materials are more comfortable and more bullet/stab resistant than the honest to god leather he wore before, but it’s intimidating as all hell.
Which is the point.
The rest of the security team, including Wolverine, are wearing black and gray camo. Black Widow is doing her famous personal assistant impression in a long black coat that almost looks like a dress, gray leggings, and high heeled boots, since they left Phil at home to watch over Darcy and the house.
Tony, of course, sticks out like a sore thumb in his bright blue suit, white shirt, and red tie.
“Why don’t you just paint ‘target’ on my head?” he mutters softly.
“You think we didn’t?” Nat asks in a tone that he’s not sure is joking or not.
See? This shit is why he has trust issues.
Yasha glares at her and she looks apologetic.
“It makes it easier for us to find you,” she explains, probably honestly. “And no one would believe you’re hiding body armor under that suit after seeing all of ours on display. Surprises like that will save your life.”
Yasha is the first one off the plane, carrying a prototype M4A1 with him like it’s his precious.
He’d shown a marked preference for the gun in the past so Tony got one rushed through Stark Industries R&D. It’s sleeker than the ‘real’ thing from the future, better shaped with several of the other gun’s addons as basic features including laser sight, flashlight, and grenade launcher. Thoroughly Stark-ified but not so much Yasha didn’t recognize it for what it is.
His dad, predictably, had been thrilled with the design.
He’s gone for approximately forever and when he returns, he makes a series of hand signs Tony doesn’t know.
The Cherries do, obviously, as they leap into action. Even the two pilots move up to stand near Tony with hands on their guns while Yasha silently takes his arm.
Eight minutes later Yasha is loading him into the back seat of an SUV between himself and Logan with Nat behind the wheel.
He points to one of the pilots, Chariot, and gestures to the passenger seat of their SUV. The guy looks surprised, probably too surprised? Tony’s not sure. He doesn’t know the guy, really, which is weird.
He’s made an effort to make friends with the Cherries because if they’re going to be close to Yasha, they’re going to be close to him. The fact that he doesn’t really know this guy well enough to at least read him a little makes him think Yasha kept them apart for some reason. Tony frowns at the thought.
Three guys and the second pilot stay behind to guard the plane, and their little three truck convoy takes off down the coastal road.
They arranged to meet an unknown emissary of Wakanda in a middle of nowhere coastal town. Though, from where Tony’s sitting it looks more like a small city than a little town. The not-really high rises and obscured sight lines make Yasha very unhappy.
“Too many places for a sniper,” he explains to Tony softly. Both Widow and Wolverine nod their unhappy agreement.
“That’s what your undercover guys are for, right? Flow with the crowd? Find hidden stuff.”
“Phantom’s good,” Nat agrees. “But he’s the only one we brought.”
“We’ll need to hire more,” is Wolverine’s verdict.
“By the dozen,” Yasha agrees.
Their grim determination to protect him is almost amusing because he’s a combatant too, dammit. But without the suit… he’s really not. Even though he still has the nightmares, his combat experience doesn’t count right now. He doesn’t even have any way to pass off the hand to hand training he got in the future because he didn’t have the time to learn it at this point in time.
“What time do you guys start training in the morning?” he asks suddenly.
Yasha raises both eyebrows at him. “Five.”
“Every day?” Tony gasps, and Yasha just nods. “That’s vile. How dare you.”
Chariot shoots him a small smile over his shoulder.
“Are you thinking about doing some calisthenics?” Yasha asks, all sly like.
“Maybe. Maybe some hand-to-hand. I don’t want to be completely useless.”
“Don’t think you could be useless if you tried, but for that kind of thing, I’d rather you do private lessons. With me or May, preferably.”
“You don’t want people to know I can handle myself,” Tony guesses.
“That’s my preference, but if you disagree, I’m willing to discuss it.”
“No, no, you’re the security expert here.” He taps his fingers on his lap in contemplation. “I’d prefer May, because you would be too hot and distracting for me to learn anything from, but she’s the head of dad’s travel team, right? So she’s not always available. What about Phil?”
“I don’t know Phil’s instructor experience. I’ll need to talk to him and get back to you.”
“Fair,” he agrees, and Nat parks them outside a small clay building.
He’s pretty sure it’s supposed to be a cafe, just like he’s pretty sure there should be more cars out front and it’s been purposely emptied. Especially considering the matched pair of Dora Milaje guarding the door.
“Five may enter,” Door Right says in English once Tony is stopped a Yasha-length away from her.
“You first,” Yasha orders Chariot.
Widow and Wolverine follow him and Yasha in, of course.
Waiting for them against the back wall is Queen Ramonda herself, flanked by two more Dora Milaje.
“Greet your Queen,” Yasha orders Chariot in Xhosa.
The man pales but continues forward alone as ordered. He does the cross-armed salute thing and then does something with his face that Tony can’t see.
Queen Ramonda welcomes him and a Dora appears from the back to escort him away.
So that’s why Yasha kept him away from Tony, he realizes. The guy’s a spy.
Still, he should have been kept in the loop. He’s supposedly the intelligence/strategy guy. He can’t plan for things he doesn’t know.
“Tony Stark,” she greets, holding out her hands in loose little fists.
“Queen Ramonda,” he returns and he’s not really sure what to do here. They were more or less expecting one of the purple priest people or a high ranking Dora, not the Queen.
So he does what he would do if she were Pepper. Or if he were greeting his mom in a public place. He takes her right hand and places a quick, dry kiss on her knuckles because she is a queen and he does respect her but she’s not his queen and that line needs to be drawn.
“I understand you are reaching out to us in friendship,” she says in English accented just like T’Challa’s but softer, more feminine. “And yet we know your father already.”
“I honor my father but I am my own man,” he tells her as they move to sit at the table she abandoned. “I walk my own path and make my own friends.”
She nods, looking pleased. “And what is your offering of friendship?”
“Our second offer-”
“Second?” she asks sharply.
“We returned your spy to you. In one piece and with nothing but more combat training.” He raises an eyebrow. “Spying on people is not very friendly.”
One corner of her mouth quirks up in something that could almost be called a smile and she gestures for him to continue.
“As for our second gesture,” he glances at Nat and she places a briefcase on the table in front of him. “Have you heard of Ulysses Klaue? Professional Ruffian and wannabe arms dealer. General ne’er do well. Major hate on for Wakanda because his great granddaddy or something was killed by a Black Panther.”
“I would hope so,” she answers drolly, raising an eyebrow. “Since he tried to kill my husband this past May.”
“Right,” he nods and pulls a folder from his briefcase. “As you know, when we got Bucky-bear over there back, we got a lot of Hydra intel in the mix. That’s how we found out they were manipulating Klaue into attacking Wakanda. Not a big deal on the surface, you guys are so isolationist you have to have some pretty major border protection.
“Except?” she prompts.
“Except someone has leaked him actual maps of Wakanda. I mean, you can find fake ones all over the place on the black market, but most of those don’t even have Wakanda’s shape right muchless detailed topography, guard schedules and high-level passwords.”
“What,” she says with a measured sort of calm, and he passes her the folder. Her face turns to stone as she looks over the top few pages which tells him that, yeah, these are the real deal.
“We’ve traced the source of the maps to a man named Alexander Stevens in Oakland, California.” He pulls another file and hands that to her. “Single father, wife in jail. Not sure where he came from. Pretty sure he went to Cambridge -facial recognition technology, while new, is amazing- but how did that man end up unemployed in Oakland?”
“You said Klaue is being manipulated by Hydra? Why?”
Actual question or attempt at misdirection? Tony’s not sure so he shrugs. “There seems to be a lot of the ‘expose them and we can kill them’ school of thought going around but I’m sure Hydra wants as much Vibranium as they can get. Whether its for science or to make Bucky-bear here a shield because irony.”
“You have uses for Vibranium too,” she accuses.
“Doesn’t everyone?” he counters. “It’s literally a miracle metal. It could save my friend’s lives, of course I want it.
“But I’m just as interested in scientists. You might have heard from your friend that I’m starting a bit of a think tank. Top of the line facilities, best pay and benefits in the field. I’ll even throw in housing. The things we have to study are amazing, absolutely cutting edge, and will do great things for the lives of people across the planet.”
“So you want our metal and our scientists.”
“I want to help my friends in Wakanda protect their people. I help with your long term goals, you help with mine. That’s friendship, isn’t it? And it’s not like I’m going kidnap and keep your scientists. If any are interested, they’re welcome in my company. If not, that’s fine too.”
“Can I have an example of what your company will be studying?”
“Well,” he pauses to think of what would be enough to entice without utterly revealing his plans. “I have access to the world’s only living super soldier and while I would never consider him a subject, he has agreed to allow us blood and tissue samples for study, see what diseases we can cure.”
Queen Ramonda sits back abruptly and huffs. “I think I’m jealous. My doctorate is in Biochemistry. The list of things Dr. Erskine’s formula cured for Captain Rogers-” She trails off and shakes her head.
“Is longer than my arm, yeah. I’d invite you to play but I’m pretty sure your husband would strenuously object.”
“If he didn’t, my children would,” she shakes her head ruefully. “Now, tell me about yourself, young Stark.”
Yasha turns away from the table with a significant look Natasha’s way. She nods like she’s listening to the conversation but he knows that nod in particular is for him, acknowledging his silent order.
Logan moves with him as they move to the door. “Skin on your neck crawling?”
“Yup,” Yasha taps his ear wig. “All teams, report in.”
“Plane team, we are refueled and secure. Pilot’s down for five.”
“Exterior team, all’s quiet. Locals are giving us a wide berth but they don’t look spooked.”
“Phantom?” he prompts after an extended moment of silence. “Got anything?”
“No, sir,” and Yasha can hear the smile in his voice. Probably chatting up a local. “Not right now.”
“Alright. Stay alert, everyone. Something’s not right.”
He glances over to where Tony is talking with a queen like they’re old friends. He’s not sure Tony’s reading that situation right. But he’s not sure he’s not, either. It’s not like he has a lot of context for this kind of thing.
He’s still missing context for most non-combat things, really.
Tony stands up and turns toward him.
Yasha immediately heads over, “Everything alright?”
“Oh, yeah,” Tony nods, his smile is breezy and pleased. “She needs to deliberate and contact King T’Chaka, so we’re going to call it a night. We have rooms in town, right?”
“We rented a house,” Yasha answers. “More secure, better view.”
“Perfect. Shall we?”
“Do you need to say goodbye?”
Tony points at him and spins around on his heel.
The albino Dora that heretofore hasn’t strayed far from the Queen’s left hand approaches him. “Your red haired assistant has been provided a method of contact,” she advises him. “If more information to support your case is located, use it.”
Yasha raises an eyebrow at her, “Don’t you mean Tony’s assistant?”
And the woman just looks amused.
The Dora outside open the door as their respective charges head for it. Yasha, Nat, and Logan step out first. Tony follows, then he stops in the door and turns to shake the Queen’s hand one more time.
“Sarge!” Phantom’s voice shouts over the comm and Logan leaps, claws out. The Doras shout, looking at Logan as he flies toward Tony and Queen Ramonda, and the Cherries pull weapons, turning to face outward.
A shot rings out and Logan’s body jerks.
Yasha is already turning, tracking the path of the bullet as a second shot rings out.
“Stay!” He shouts at Tony as he takes off after the shooter.
“Go!” Shouts one of the Dora.
Nat and the albino Dora take off after him.
The shooter is quick and not alone. Either two or three spotters, he can’t tell from the ground.
“Jump!” The Dora orders him. He glances back to see her hand curled into something like a claw.
He can’t make the three levels up their quarry is keeping to, but he can probably make that second story balcony coming up so he gathers himself and aims for it. Once his feet are in the air, he hears a shout from the Dora and suddenly he’s weightless, suddenly gravity and wind resistance are things that happen to other people, and he’s flying higher and further than intended. He sails right past the balcony.
Then gravity reasserts itself and he lands hard. Rolling to reduce the impact, he’s back on his feet once again chasing the shooter, now on the third level.
Now he can see who he’s dealing with.
He watches as Ulysses Klaue, huffing and puffing and he strains to keep pace with Josef and Sofia, shoves his rifle into Anton’s hands. Ulysses Klaue. With three of Hydra’s Death Squad.
So much for him just being influenced.
There’s a crunch and Nat lands behind him. Two roofs later the Dora lands in front of their quarry.
“Do something,” Klaue orders, spittle flying.
The Defective Soldiers don’t so much as look at each other, they don’t pause to communicate. Josef attacks the Dora while Anton and Sofia turn on him and Nat.
The Defective aren’t super soldiers, not in this lifetime, but they were trained by one. Trained by him and they were very dedicated students.
They’re fast and they’re brutal and it’s only two minutes before he hears Josef shout, “Come on!”
He risks a glance to find the Dora down, bleeding from her head, as Josef and Klaue jump off the side of the building.
With barely a glance at Natasha, they change dance partners. He breaks Sofia’s back with two full-power punches from his bionic arm at the same time she mounts Anton’s shoulders in a confusing flurry of movement. She rides his broken-necked corpse down to the ground and they rush together to the edge of the roof.
Josef starts a speed boat in one huge pull and they’re gone. The pier has no other boats. Water doesn’t hold a trail.
Klaue grins and waves back at them as they go.
“Блядь,” Nat snarls, but otherwise shows no temper.
“You got something to take their heads?” he asks, looking curiously over at her.
“No,” Nat drawls, turning to study at their opponents. “They enhanced?”
“Can we risk it?” because Hydra are specialists at Fucked Up Science. If they leave these bodies intact, well, it wouldn’t be the first time those wackos brought someone back from the dead.
“Our friend in red dropped a blade.”
“You check her. I’ll finish them,” he orders and Nat just goes. It’s nice, having cooperative minions rather than being the -non-consensually- cooperative minion.
He scoops up the blade and cuts Anton’s head first, letting Sofia watch because of his rather atrophied vindictive steak. Hydra deserves to see their deaths coming for them. As far as he’s concerned, they’ve fucking earned it.
“Cолдат,” she gasps, looking up at him with pleading eyes.
“До свидания,” He returns the last words he heard in his last life to the person that served them with cold-hearted glee and brings the sword down.
Tony stares in the direction Yasha took off, surprised at how numb he’s feeling.
Someone shot at him.
The last time someone shot at him without having his suit… was Afghanistan. This almost feels like that. Like waking up in the cave connected to a car battery, but somehow Yasha has run off to take his place and he’s just watching. Disembodied and floating.
Except, realistically, he can’t see anything. He has no idea what’s going on out there, which makes it worse.
“Boss man,” Morales grips his shoulder. “We need to check you for injuries.”
“We don’t have a medic,” slips out of his mouth without permission from his brain. He’s gotten better about that, has had to because time travel, but it’s true so he doesn’t try to take it back.
No medics didn’t seem like an oversight before. The Avengers never utilised medics in the field, they went home to doctors.
But, this isn’t the Avengers.
“Stinger’s ex-Navy, Boss man.” Morales corrects. “He was a medic. All the best medics are Navy.”
The man’s a retired Marine, though, so he’s biased and Tony tries to embrace his amusement on the matter. “Remind Yasha to hire like a dozen Navy Medics.”
“Two dozen undercover operators,” Morales agrees and this time Tony does smile.
“How’s Logan?” he asks Stinger as the guy starts checking him over.
“Tough old bastard,” Stinger mutters. “He has a high healing factor. Once we get the bullets out, and let him sleep for a day, he’ll be good as new. Probably.”
“You haven’t gotten the bullets out?” he asks, trying to stare past the pen light.
“Too dangerous. The shots didn’t put him down and we can’t take ‘im out without drugs, which I don’t have. Can’t knock ‘im out with what I do have without his cooperation because of his healing factor. And he refuses to cooperate until Sarge is back and we’re secure. We also need Sarge to hold him, because otherwise it would be too dangerous. If he were to lash out, he could kill people on accident.”
And there’s that car battery feeling back.
“I’m going to see if our new friends need any assistance.” Stinger says as he drapes a shock blanket around Tony and moves off to talk to the Queen’s lead bodyguard, who Tony is pretty sure is named Meika.
When he explains who and what he is the woman practically drags him to the Queen.
Guess they didn’t bring a medic either.
“Reading you, Sarge,” Morales says as every Cherry in the room stands a little straighter. “We don’t have the people for that.” Pause. “Right, right. Let me ask.”
Tony watches as Morales approaches Meika. “Sarge says your friend that went with them needs a medic and they need back up. Scene containment, body disposal. Do you have a squad that can assist?”
Meika nods. “Your Stinger can accompany our back up squad, if your men maintain the perimeter.”
“Five minutes to form up here, we can track Gravitas’s position and go straight to her.”
Morales nods and turns away to activate his earpiece.
Twenty minutes later, Yasha and Nat are once again entering the cafe. He’s missing his big gun but carrying a different one. Its large enough Tony can’t actually imagine someone of only baseline human strength firing it. Natasha has a slice through her coat and shirt that Tony can see a bandage through.
They are each carrying a rough cloth sack. Both sacks are suspiciously wet and red on the bottom.
“Are those heads?” he absolutely does not squeak.
The two former Russian assassins exchange looks and shrugs that are somehow both lazy and predatory.
“Klaue had three of Hydra’s Death Squad with him,” Yasha explains.
Tony frowns. Klaue’s not supposed to be important enough to work with the Defective Soldiers. “Did they get away?”
“Josef and Klaue, yes. Sofia and Anton, no.” He and Nat take turns holding up their sacks for emphasis. “Sergei and Dima are unaccounted for.”
“Wasn’t Dima the forward scout of the bunch?”
Yasha nods his head grimly.
“Either they are setting up an ambush,” Meika slips in,”or the forward scout is at their next objective.”
“Wakanda,” Tony grimly agrees.
“Have the Talon pick up our squad in the field,” the Queen orders, “and then come pick us up. It is time to go home.”
Disappointed but somehow not surprised, Tony nods. “If there is anything we can do to help-”
Queen Ramonda cuts him off with an imperious eyebrow. “You are coming too. And your men with you,” she continues before Yasha can object.
“The Talon will not hold this many,” Meika reminds the Queen softly.
“It can carry this many to their plane. Then, Noxolo and Zodwa can fly the majority of Stark’s men in.”
“I stay with Tony,” Yasha asserts and Tony can feel Ramonda very carefully not rolling her eyes.
“On the Talon,” Meika agrees. “Along with your medic and the injured.”
“Sooner we get them to a doctor, the better,” Tony prompts. Queen Ramonda nods and there’s suddenly a lot more activity around them.
In what feels like no time at all, they’re on the roof, loading into the Royal Talon Flyer. Things get really crowded for like a heartbeat and then its not.
Then it’s him, Queen Ramonda, the Dora Milaje, Logan, Nat, Stinger and Phantom. And Yasha, of course.
Stinger has the biggest, most solid pair of brass balls Tony has ever seen, standing in Logan’s face as the man half-leans against the wall. Wolverine’s face is tight with pain and he can’t seem to get his claws more than halfway in and this guy is in his face, weilding a syringe without fear.
“You need those bullets out,” Stinger hisses.
Wolverine snarls, “Not. Now.”
“Logan,” Yasha barks and both men look at him. Casually, he takes the big ass gun he brought home as a prize from Phantom. He hits something Tony can’t see, the clip pops into his hand, a flick of his fingers and presents a bullet to Logan with a raised eyebrow. “Your nose is better than mine, so I know you smell that. What is it?”
With a glare, Logan takes the bullet and runs it under his nose like a new cigar. Brown eyes go wide, “Adamantium.”
Yasha nods. “With a bit of Hydra Special in it. You need that out of you.”
“Wait,” The guard captain, Meika, objects objects. “The human body cannot stop Adamantium bullets.”
“It can if you have an Adamantium-laced skeleton,” Yasha counters as he pointedly -or perhaps casually, Tony honestly can’t quite tell- reaches up to scratch his shoulder seam.
“But Adamantium is toxic!” Queen Ramonda glances at Tony, shocked.
“Do you have studies on the matter?” Tony immediately jumps on the opening. “I’ve been trying to verify that fact but I can’t find any appropriate documentation.”
The queen looks from him to Yasha and finally to Logan, then she nods but remains silent.
“Hey, Tony?” Yasha waves him over. “Can you get over here? Support Logan’s upper half when he lays down?”
Tony frowns, confused, but goes.
“Is there somewhere I can wash off? I need to get this blood off so I can help.”
“We have a sonic sanitation system,” one of the younger Dora answers. “It’s not meant for humans but it should be safe enough as long as you wear ear protection. I’ve used it.”
Yasha follows the woman to the center column of the ship.
She accesses a hidden panel and provides appropriate headgear. Yasha opens the yellow glass and steps inside.
The process is fascinating and strange. Watching the dried blood on his hands sort of turn to dust and fall to the bottom of the chamber is definitely a new thing for Tony. Watching Yasha’s mouth twist in agony? Not something he ever wants to see again.
After about five minutes, he staggers out, panting. “Stevie can never use one of these.”
The Dora looks confused even as she slides under his metal arm to bring him back to Tony.
“Enhanced senses,” he answers her silent question. “That was terrible and I’m more a smell and taste enhanced, like Logan. Stevie’s a sight and sound predator. Like a freaking eagle.”
The very young woman grimaces, “Noted.”
Yasha staggers the last few steps over to him on his own and settles just behind Tony.
Phantom and Nat help lower Logan so that his face ends up pressed into Tony’s belly before pulling his arms around Tony for Yasha to grip firmly. Stinger kneels on the floor on Tony’s left, gloves on and syringe ready, like this somehow isn’t the weirdest thing he’s ever done.
“What’s going on here?” Tony asks softly once the Dora and their queen have retreated enough that he can pretend they have privacy.
“Logan’s mutation is very bestial, practically feral, but not actually predatory,” Yasha explains right in his ear, making him suppress a shiver. “You represent two of animal side’s three basic needs: den, food source, and mate. He’s imprinted on your scent to mean ‘safety’. So he’ll fight for you, even half dead. And, when he’s injured, he’ll seek you out.”
“You better be saying I’m den and food giver,” he gives a half hearted glare over his shoulder.
“I do,” Yasha kisses the side of his head. “He’s imprinted on Xavier too, so don’t feel too weird about it. He doesn’t need anything from you but your existence.”
“But what about when we- I mean, if we- you know, do that?” Tony huffs.
“When we mate,” Yasha says all matter of fact like, “our scent piles will merge. We’ll blend and he’ll fight for us.”
“It won’t upset his equilibrium or whatever?”
“No. Actually he’ll probably know what we’re going to do before we do, he’ll smell our pheromones change in preparation for mating.”
Tony turns to look over his shoulder and is more than a little horrified only to find Yasha looking completely serious and gets more horrified.
“Here we go. Local should have taken effect,” Stinger says from behind his mask. He slides a pair of forceps in to the left most bullet hole and carefully pulls out the first bullet. The wound wells with blood that’s swirled with a yellow-green fluid. Nat, playing a very convincing surgical nurse, reaches in to blot the fluid away.
“Don’t linger,” Stinger tells her with the air of someone repeating instructions just in case. “We don’t want any of the gauze caught in the wound. If you feel any debris, let me know, but Adamantium isn’t supposed to shatter.”
The discharge from the wound just keeps coming and getting greener as the hole starts to close with goopy sounds that wouldn’t be out of place in a zombie movie.
“What is this?” Nat asks.
“The ‘Hydra Special’ Sarge mentioned mixed with blood. It must be bad stuff for his body to force it out through the wound rather than just closing the hole and making him cough it up later.”
“How do you know that?” Nat asks with a frown.
Tony wants to know too so he just raises his eyebrows when Stinger looks at him sheepishly.
“My little sister has an advanced healing factor almost on par with his. Can grow up to 10 inch fingernails from her hands in seconds, too.”
“Why isn’t she working with us?” Nat demands before he can.
“Wouldn’t be a good fit,” Stinger doesn’t meet their eyes as he helps Nat dab up the goop. “She’s incredibly xenophobic. She’s working for a guy that wants to ‘cure’ mutants so she can ‘stop being a freak’.”
“There’s nothing to cure with mutants, nothings wrong with them,” she frowns. “Yasha and I though-”
“Hey,” Yasha chastises and Nat looks away but doesn’t take it back.
“Ready for round two? Hopefully this one won’t be so…” Stinger frowns looking for the right word.
“Juicy?” Tony offers, earning himself a round of probably-inappropriate laughter.
This time when the bullet comes out the flood isn’t quite so dramatic. Both Stinger and Nat keep blotting, running out of medical gauze and resorting to three towels and an undershirt before both holes close with a goopy little slurps.
“That was disgusting,” is Tony’s opinion
Stinger and Nat just nod.
“He’s probably going to sleep for a few hours -if he’s like my sister, it’ll be at least six hours- and then he’ll need a big meal. We’ll need to keep a bowl or something nearby in case he starts coughing up the remaining Hydra Special, and I wouldn’t put him on the nice sheets, either.”
“We will transfer him to Medical as soon as we land,” Captain Meika promises, stepping up to them. “Will you go with him?”
Stinger glances at Yasha, who nods, and then nods himself. “If you want him to cooperate until he’s settled, you’ll need Boss and Sarge. More drugs, even for pain relief- are a bad idea at this stage. It’ll just confuse his immune system.”
Meika accepts this with a nod of her own, “We will be landing in 20 minutes.”
When they do land and the ramp opens, they are greeted by a veritable forest of red on the ground before them. In the center, in black and purple, is a horrifically young looking King T’Chaka.
If Tony hadn’t been sure he’d traveled back in time already, this would have definitely given it away.
“My light,” T’Chaka greets, sweeping his wife into a tight squeeze.
Dude looks wrecked.
Tony’s kind of afraid of what this means for them. He glances over at Yasha and finds him the dangerous kind of relaxed, his eyes shuttered and emotionless. Telling Tony without words that he’s ready to kill everyone if he has to.
Perversely, it makes Tony relax for real.
“My love, these are the ones that saved my life,” Queen Ramonda says, drawing Tony’s attention.
“The men that endangered your life, you mean.” T’Chaka rumbles ominously.
“We have much to discuss, my king,” She says gently. “Allow me to introduce you. This is Tony Stark. The head of Mr. Stark’s personal security, Sergeant Barnes. The Sergeant’s men, Phantom, Stinger, and Wolverine is the one on the stretcher. He took two bullets for me. And Mr. Stark’s personal assistant, Natasha.
“Get them to Medical,” the queen orders, not-quite leading her husband away. “And get them cleaned up.”
Several Dora Milaje step forward. Not any of the ones they sort-of know, those all go with the King and Queen, but strangers that thump the butts of their spears threateningly on the ground.
There’s only one thing to say, really. “Lead the way.”
“We have one,” CeeCee, the doctor in charge of the Infirmary their party had been secured to starts as she stares speculatively at Yasha. Specifically, at his arm. “A doctor of both medicine and robotics. I believe he would be best to examine this arm.”
“Is he around?” Tony asks, knowing that Yasha won’t.
The doctor nods and walks away, already talking to her Kimoyo Beads.
Moments later she returns with a man in a lab coat. He’s smaller than her but not younger with his right sleeve rolled up to show a small pad that might be a very tiny palm right about where most other people would have an elbow. The palm has three little nubs on it, fingers Tony’s sure.
On his face is the look of a man that has seen God.
“Oh, Bast,” he breathes and walks straight up to Yasha. His left hand reaches out but he stops himself. He glances at Yasha’s face briefly but his gaze is drawn back to the arm, over and over. “May I?” he asks breathlessly
Yasha clears his throat, almost looking embarrassed. “Uh, yeah.”
Light, reverent fingers flit briefly over Yasha’s arm, as if even with permission the man isn’t quite brave enough to touch it. As if he thinks he might defile it.
“This is my life’s dream,” the man confesses in a hush. Probably just to Yasha but Tony’s close enough to hear it too. And he is not backing off, no way, not unless Yasha specifically asks him to.
This doctor kid looks like he’s about to cream his pants.
“A seamless marriage of human biology and mechanical technology. This is Mecca. This is Eureka. I can die now, knowing this exists.”
“Can you help me fix it, first?” Yasha asks plaintively.
The man -who still hasn’t introduced himself- blinks. “What’s wrong with it?”
“It’s Adamantium,” Tony answers and the guy whips around to look at him with wide, horrified eyes. “Pretty sure what’s left of his stump -his words, not mine,” Tony holds up his hands to show he means no harm before the doc can object to the term. “Is rotting in there. He’s been itching at the seam more and more. And I’m pretty sure its hurting him, not that he’d ever admit it. The weight of it itself is a lot for even an enhanced human body.”
“The silent warrior type, aren’t you?” the man says and Tony’s honestly not sure if it’s to Yasha or the arm.
“Lets see what we have,” and he twists one of his Kimoyo beads. A little beam of light shoots out and scans Yasha’s left arm. Then he scans across Yasha’s chest and the other arm for comparison.
The man walks over to a nearby table covered in gray-black sand.
“I’m Tony Stark, by the way,” he says, hoping the custom of returning the favor is a thing, even in Wakanda.
“I’m aware, Dr. Stark. I am called Riion,” Riion says and he holds his scanner bead against a little divot in the table.
“Call me Tony,” Tony frowns as some of the sand shoots up off the table to form a representation of Yasha’s chest from neck to nipples with both arms, in their entirety, attached. “Vibranium sand? Is that Vibranium sand suspended by magnetic force to visually represent your scans?”
Riion smiles at him, pleased. “Brilliant, isn’t it? It doesn’t come in full color, unfortunately. But you learn to read the textures like a black and white movie.”
“I have a design for something similar, using holograms,” Tony confesses. “The problem is the cost. Getting or making a computer with the processing power is prohibitive.”
“But you could render color,” Riion counters.
“It’s a goal,” he agrees. “Is it interactive?”
In answer Riion reaches out and spins the thing with gestures not unlike Tony would use with his holograms. After waiting for the man’s nod, Tony reaches out and expands the seam section of Yasha’s shoulder.
“The scan definitely picked up signs of infection.” Riion says, pointing at the different textures. “Interesting. And more than a little terrifying, considering that he is in fact a super soldier.” Riion opens the arm into an exploded view that leaves Yasha’s stump visible through a cloud of bionic parts. A flick and most of the parts are gone.
The stump stops about an inch above Yasha’s elbow. “Okay, if that was infection, what’s all that?”
“Necrotic tissue,” Riion runs a hand over his face. “It is as if his body has given up on these tissues and is salvaging what it can.”
The two of them stand shoulder to shoulder in horrified wonder.
After several moments, Tony offers, “The pseudo-nerves are-”
“Sloppily done,” Riion finishes. “Piecemeal.”
“Inefficient. If we were to create a sort of pseudo-nerve port and have it surgically implanted in his arm-”
“It could be powered by the arm to prevent pain and phantom sensations when there is no arm attached.” Riion interjects.
“-and he could switch out arms for the occasion. Flesh colored one for when he needs to blend. A weaponized one for missions. I can think of a dozen possible features right off the top of my head.”
“I will have one of black Vibranium,” Riion declares, looking down at his own stump. “And it will have the panther face of my tribe in gold where he has a star.”
“You down to help us with this?” Tony asks.
“You will have to see me dead to stop me,” Riion assures him. “We’ll need CeeCee to verify how far the infection has spread but based on the preliminary scan, we will need to integrate the pseudo-nerve port, or PNP, into the shoulder, replacing this joint and, at the very least, reinforce his collar bones with Vibranium. Likely the shoulder blade as well. You see these marks here? He’s broken his collarbone several times, I suspect, while adjusting to the artificial arm.”
“Arms,” Tony corrects. “This is the second version they gave him.”
“Ah, right. He said as much in the interview.”
Tony blinks over at him, surprised. “You guys saw that over here?”
“It was rebroadcast internationally,” Riion smiles. “And regardless, we get American cable and the BBC. We have many, many options.”
“So what’s the verdict?” Yasha asks as he walks over and casually slings his right arm across Tony’s shoulders.
“Nothing definitive yet,” Riion tells him, not missing a beat. “We’ll need more tests to verify how far your infection has grown. Blood tests for sure but it would be better to remove the arm and look.”
Yasha’s nose twists up cutely in disgust. “Can’t you just take the stump regardless? I’d,” Yasha hesitates. “Rather not have it anymore. I heard you talking about a nerve port, wouldn’t that go best at the shoulder?”
“Possibly, and it would get you more physical power to have the support structures reinforced with Vibranium but I would prefer to speak with body movement experts before making drastic changes to your physique.”
“And you’ll likely need counseling, since you’ve confessed to not wanting your own body parts,” Tony adds dryly.
Tony is, of course, correct. The very next morning, after working out in a gym with some of his men but before he can interrupt whatever IQ-induced natural disaster Tony and his ever-growing team of specialists have going on with the tried and true diversion called ‘breakfast’, Yasha finds himself sitting in a garden with a white haired blind woman wearing purple and black. She’s all braided and beaded, vaguely terrifying in her dignity, and he’s pretty sure someone said she’s some sort of Priestess of Bast?
“I don’t want anything Hydra put in me,” Yasha tells her evenly. He knows it’s… not normal, okay? But he’s also adjusted to a future where it already happened and delaying the inevitable is what’s hurting him right now. “Including an arm they’ve all but destroyed. I don’t think that’s unhealthy. Especially when keeping it could kill me.”
“You feel they’ve infected you,” she observes. “Not just physically.”
He can’t help but shiver, “Of course they have.” And he’d been getting over it, okay? But now he’s back at practically the beginning.
She’s silent. Waiting, or something. He doesn’t know, but then she stands with the easy confidence of a sighted woman half her age. “Walk with me, White Wolf.”
“I’m the Winter Soldier,” he tells her but takes her arm regardless.
“The Winter Soldier is who Hydra tried to make you. The Soldier was a lone hunter who followed orders without question or pause. While the Wolf can indeed do well for himself alone, it’s rather telling that the first thing you did, once given the choice, was to build yourself a pack. With the Starks and your, I believe they are called Cherries?”
“Winter, I can’t argue with. There is the promise of the tundra in your eyes. Deadly cold, biting winds, but also a surprising amount of life should one know where to look. But the tundra is eternal, not there just in Winter. And it is white.” Her smile shines even in her film-covered eyes. “Among other colors.
“The truth is, Wolf, that Bast sent you to us for a reason. What it is, I cannot See. Perhaps to save lives, perhaps to end them. Perhaps to change hearts. Wakanda has long been convinced we are separate from the world around us. Better. And while my pride says that of course we are better, we are not separate. Not truly.”
“The world gets smaller every year.” He tells her and she nods like its something profound.
“Now. My advice, young Wolf. Purging yourself of Hydra’s influence is wise. Particularly physically as I believe you are correct, it could kill you. But it will require doctors and surgeries and many things life has taught you not to trust. Do not rush yourself. Do not allow anyone to rush you. If you need time, ask for it. If you need changes, ask for them.”
They walk silently together through the garden for several moments before she squeezes his wrist and continues. “As for your more personal issues. The emotional ones Hydra has gifted you with. I could give you advice for hours. But I think what you need to remember most is that ‘the strength of the wolf is the pack.’ And your pack is especially ferocious. And large. Your mate has built a home for them and even baseline humans will do much for home.
“Speaking of your mate-”
“I don’t have a mate,” he interupts, feeling, uh, raw about the subject.
She gives him the most eloquent look, one that makes him feel stupid down to his bones and continues. “Your mate,” she repeats pointedly. “Would set the world on fire for you. A fantastic partner in mayhem, even if your goals are far more benign.
“Now, I will grant you the courtship is new, but you have both decided in your souls to be a team and that, at its core, is what a mateship truly is.”
He waits for her to continue because is sounds like she should continue but she doesn’t. So he nods and repeats, “The strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”
“The strength of the Wolf is the Pack,” she agrees. Then she frowns and looks over her shoulder. “Princess Shuri, what are you doing over there? You are supposed to still be in bed.”
Sure enough behind a tree at right about 2 o’clock is a tiny little girl peeking out, wearing a necklace of big cat teeth and her hair in twin poofs on either side of her head. Her shoulders slump dramatically as she walks around from behind the tree. “I wanted to meet the Wolf, Ugogo.”
The priestess silently rolls her eyes and holds out her hand. The girl scampers to it, standing so the woman’s hand rests easily on her shoulder.
“Sergeant Barnes, meet Princess Shuri. Princess Shuri, this is Sergeant Barnes.”
“Call me Bucky,” he says easily.
The girl smiles, showing off a missing front tooth. “Call me Shuri. You’re bigger than you look on the television.”
“Well, I was sitting down for the interview.”
“They show it a lot on American channels. They must like you.”
“That’s not always a good thing, kiddo.”
“They show your daughter, too,” she carries on. “Did you bring her with you? I should like to meet her.”
“Shuri,” a tired voice says from behind him, and he turns to see King T’Chaka standing there.
“Good morning, Baba!” and she holds her hands up in the universal sign of a child wanting to be picked up.
While focused on and facing Yasha.
Knowing it’s probably a bad idea but doing it anyway, because kid, he scoops her up and puts her on his hip.
“Shuri, what are you doing?”
“I want to meet Darcy, so I’m asking her father if she can come over,” she says, like it’s completely reasonable to take a transcontinental flight for a sleepover.
The priestess looks so amused that Yasha’s not quite sure how she’s not just laughing already.
The King just looks resigned. “Well?” the man prompts.
“Uh, well, I don’t know if you noticed, but my daughter,” because yeah, he’s in the process of formally adopting her so while biologically she’s his granddaughter, he can call her his daughter now too. “She’s not so good with secrets. I don’t think bringing her here would be a good idea for your long term security.”
The King inclines his head while Shuri pouts out her lower lip.
“And,” he continues because Darcy does need friends, “I doubt you’d want your daughter in our home, surrounded by our security team.”
That earns him an emphatic headshake.
“So maybe we can meet somewhere neutral? Take like a family vacation and once you know us better, then Princess Shuri could come over?”
“Yay!” Shuri throws her hands up and shouts in his ear.
King T’Chaka makes a noise Yasha can’t really identify. “Perhaps,” is the King’s verdict. “Taking vacation outside of Wakanda is difficult, but perhaps.”
“I mean, yeah, a miniaturized arc reactor works for Yasha’s arm, and I’m willing to provide you one, too, but thats way too dangerous for the general public,” Tony argues absently as he runs the voltage numbers for the Pseudo-nerve Port again.
“True,” Riion huffs. “And we’ll want an easier, low maintenance option for the general public. Unless we want to indenture your company -or our patients- for constant repair.”
“Which we don’t,” Tony assures him.
“Kinetic energy,” CeeCee puts in. “I’ve seen these wrist watches in magazines that charge with the movement of one’s body. Why can’t we do that with a limb?”
“Add a small, rechargeable battery to keep it going when they’re not moving,” Tony scratches his chin, considering. “That could work.”
A song starts playing. It’s familiar but Tony can’t place it. A little 8-bit piece, amusingly enough. It’s not until the entire team is staring at him in horror until he realizes that’s coming from him.
He pulls his shiny red Nokia out of his back pocket.
God, how long has it been since he’s answered his own phone? JARVIS spoiled him so much in the future.
Of course, now that he knows the noise is coming from him, he misses the call. But the caller calls back immediately.
“Yellow!” he answers, earning a snicker or two.
“Why is there an invisible British man locked up in your lab?” His dad asks. Because of course it’s his dad.
“Darcy left the math homework I gave her in your lab. Phil was in a meeting with your lawyers, so I went to get it but I couldn’t find it until your invisible captive told me where to find it.”
“Ah.” Tony gets up and leaves the lab quickly, finding a secluded window niche where he can pretend he’s alone. Just him, with Morales and the palace guard assigned to him standing with their backs to him.
“Tony,” his dad trails off warningly.
“Look, there is no captive, invisible or otherwise, in my lab. It’s,” Tony hesitates because he knows his dad, okay? He knows he’s going to know and then he’s going to know. “It’s Just A Rather Very Intelligent System, alright?”
“Just A- and what exactly is JARVIS?”
Best things about having this conversation on the phone? He can’t see Howard’s face. It’s an unexpected but pleasant turn of events.
“He’s an AI. I meant him to be a simple little thing to go with one of my products but he got…” Tony exhales noisily. “He got complicated. And huge. And he’s actually doing a lot of groundwork for us on Hydra. I mean, there’s not a lot on the ‘net but, yeah. He’s running the statistics to find likely Hydra plants and plans. Doing geographical profiling, generally analyzing everything we find.”
“Why doesn’t Darcy know about him?”
“Because I don’t want everyone to know about him? I love the kid with all my heart but with everything that’s happened, she’s decided secrets are an insult to her ancestors. Phil and Yasha know about him. And he’s not a secret from you or the rest of the house, really. Once the sound guys are done wiring up the house, JARVIS is taking over so he can watch over us. You know, manage resources, monitor the perimeter, and stuff. But I don’t think the rest of the world is ready for him yet.”
His dad is silent for a long time and that’s when Tony realizes he probably should have said something before altering the man’s whole house and installing an AI to run it. But, in his defense, he’s been his own boss for a long time and he’s not going to apologize for it.
If asked, he’ll claim its a test of his father’s ‘good dad’ resolve. Or something. Maybe.
“No, probably not,” Howard eventually agrees. “There’s two of the guys doing the installation it sounds like Duke wants to keep. I’m not sure why, though.”
“I’ll give Yasha a heads up. He might already know, though.”
“Speaking of Yasha, Darcy has some very serious, intelligent questions about snow that have lead to the proposal of several experiments related to finding Steve. I want to take her to a tundra. Or at least somewhere with a great deal of snow. Thinking we might make it a ski vacation for the family.”
“You’ll need to rent out the whole resort to keep Yasha from losing his mind about security.” Tony feels the need to remind.
“That’s the ‘speaking of Yasha’ part,” his dad says, bordering on amused. “I’m planning on it. I just need to be sure there’s no hidden Hydra base wherever I pick.”
Tony hums as he thinks about it. They pretty much have to assume Northern Europe is Hydra’s back yard at this point. “Go with that place in Japan mom loves so much. When are you thinking?”
“End of April at the earliest for Japan, why?”
“Seems Princess Shuri has decided Darcy is the closest thing there is to a real American Princess and wants her to come over. I sent her off the ask Yasha but we both know that’s a security concern. A neutral place though,” he shrugs.
His dad laughs. “Well, if we’re going to have the Starks, the extended Barneses, the Sheppards, and the Cherries we might as well add the royal tribe of Wakanda.”
“Exactly. I’ll throw it out there during lunch.”
“Tony,” his dad sounds exasperated. “It’s 5:30 in the afternoon where you are.”
“We should probably ask Yasha if we can take his daughter skiing too, ” his dad reminds.
“I’ll ask him,” Tony promises and sighs dramatically, “before I talk to the King.”
“Alright,” his dad pauses, Tony can hear him silently weighing something. “How is all of that going?”
“Hydra took a shot at me and Queen Ramonda.” His dad hisses and, yeah, he can’t blame him. “Logan took 2 poisoned Adamantium bullets, which is good because a.) They couldn’t pass through him, and b.) They were probably designed to kill the Winter Soldier. The Queen and I would have been history.”
“Anyone other than Logan would have been history,” Howard agrees.
“Yeah. So they’re working on his skeleton as a thank you. Not sure how they are going to get the Adamantium off, though. I don’t think even he could survive them getting it hot enough to melt it. I mean, he might, but I wouldn’t wanna test it.
“They could probably just cover it but they’d have to do it perfectly or they might as well not bother and, while I have faith in them, that’s not something you can realistically promise. And holy shit, he would weigh so much.”
“Magneto could probably help with that,” His dad offers.
And that’s, actually a really good suggestion. “Would he be willing?”
“We can ask. I don’t know the relationships there though,” A pause. “Maybe get Buck to ask.”
Tony hums. “Seems manipulative. But, a man’s life is at stake. Okay. I’ll talk to the king first. He might not want to invite another Outsider into his country. Not that I can blame him.”
“What about the theft thing?”
“They’re keeping us out of it, for the most part. It’s their home so I’m not sure why I expected differently but mostly it’s been tactic and ability questions around designing a new arm for Yasha.
“Oh, and I found the head of my Biochem Lab for Stark Solutions. His name is Riion of the Royal Tribe of Wakanda. His thesis is amazing, bionic prosthesis are his life dream, and Yasha approves. So.”
“Sounds like a good pick.”
“Yeah, I need to get Phil started on paperwork. I think his girlfriend is coming too, CeeCee of the River Tribe, but she’s waiting for him to ask and I don’t think he’s actually aware they’re together.”
His dad laughs. “How long until you’re back?”
“Not sure. The Logan situation has no sound solution so no obvious end date. And the Yasha situation is in process but I get the feeling they aren’t committing until they catch or kill Klaue. It’s not really clear. Lots of subtext and I don’t really wanna push and mess it up.”
“You can always take your designs and use surgical titanium. People use it everyday.”
“That’s Plan B,” Tony agrees. “But Vibranium will age with him better and give him comparable strength to, while being lighter than, what he’s already adapted to.”
They chat for a few more minutes over a number of various things. Stark Industries new cooperative venture with Sheppard Enterprises, the prosecutor’s progress with Obie and all of his high placed -and treasonous- friends, Aunt Peg and Fury’s progress with SHIELD. They’re just poking into the President’s progress with LGBT protections when Yasha shows up.
He’s pale with a peculiar look on his face so Tony ends the conversation quickly. Of course, once he hangs up he can see the dozen or so texts from JARVIS, no doubt chronicling Howard’s trip through the lab, but he pushes that aside for later.
“What’s up, buttercup?”
Yasha glares at the palace guard assigned to him. Tony saw them sparing earlier so he’s pretty sure they are friends now. That’s proven when the guy rolls his eyes, shakes his head, and turns away.
It’s interesting that he flanks his countryman rather than the two of them flanking Morales. A sign of trust? Maybe? Whatever. Doesn’t matter.
Yasha sits down beside him. “It just occurred to me. I mean, I assumed but I never asked. And I should’ve asked. Like immediately. I’m sorry I didn’t ask, I-”
“Yasha. Breathe.” Tony waits until he takes a big gulping breath. “What’s your question?”
“Do you wanna adopt Darcy with me?” Yasha blurts.
And Tony can hardly breathe because yes, yes he does. But he hadn’t thought- well, Yasha has so little that’s really his own. How could he possibly want to share Darcy with Tony? With a man that tried so very hard to kill him not all that long ago.
“I mean, I assumed you would.” Yasha brings a hand up the scratch at the back of his neck and stares intensely at the floor. “You’re my partner right? And. And I’m way more likely to die than you, she’ll need someone if-”
“Yes,” Tony cuts him off.
Yasha looks up, surprise writ large on his face. “What?”
“Yes. I would love to adopt Darcy with you.”
An honest to god Bucky Barnes Grin™ breaks out over Yasha’s face, “Yeah?”
“Yeah. Only,” Tony hesitates but Yasha does that puppy-like head tilt and he can’t stop himself. “I’m pretty sure homosexual adoption is illegal.”
“No,” Yasha shakes his head, “not in New York. I’ve been talking with Doro. And Jessop, you remember him, her husband? The judge? Anyway, the law as written in New York doesn’t say anything against homosexuals adopting. It’s just a combination of people not asking and clerks and stuff refusing those that do ask.”
Tony squints suspiciously. “So what, she wants us to try and sue when it fails? Take it all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to?”
“It’s a thought,” Bucky shrugs. “Or we can finance another gay couple doing it. Either way Jessop has agreed to represent the issue. He can’t be our judge because of, uh, conflict of interest?”
“Well, he is family so that makes sense.” Tony noodles on it a bit. Having Yasha formally adopt her first and then getting himself added later would probably give Darcy the most security. There are so many angles though. The political shit is, unfortunately, something he has to consider. “I’ll talk to dad. And mom. And have J run scenarios. There’s no rush right?”
“Well, my sisters are still her legal guardians and they’re… kinda getting up there, so I’d like to get it settled before they actually die but otherwise,” he shrugs.
“Okay. That shouldn’t be a problem. How do you feel about a family ski trip?”
Yasha closes his eyes for a minute. It’s his thinking pose, Tony’s gotten used to it. Hell, he finds it more than a little endearing, really, how Yasha just blocks out everything to really consider what he’s being asked.
“Uh, Japan probably. My mom loves it and I think it’d be more restful for you than,” Tony shrugs.
“Than Hydra’s traditional playground?”
“That’s the one,” Tony points at him then touches his finger to his nose.
Yasha laughs and throws an arm over Tony’s shoulder. “It’s dinner time. Let’s go see if King and Tribe are interested in a trip to Japan.”
When he tries to find Yasha one morning, he can’t. It takes him three different palace guards judiciously using their Kimoyo Beads before they find him on the side of a mountain.
Stinger is with him, looking both amused and resigned.
The air smells like pot, that distinctive skunk-like smell, but also like candy. Or at least something sweet and fruity.
Yasha himself is sprawled, loose and looking fucked out on a rough wooden bench. He brings what looks like a joint to his lips, takes a draw, and makes a sound that makes Tony’s cock twitch in interest before he exhales and somehow goes even more boneless.
The palace guard that’s been Yasha’s shadow for the last three days is sitting curled up on the far side of the bench giggling.
“What’s going on?” he asks Stinger.
The older man gives him a look that clearly says he doesn’t want to answer and sighs, but answers, “Sarge was,” he huffs again.
“Upset,” Tony supplies. “Stressed out. He doesn’t seem to like seeing the guts of his arm.” Which is surprising. The guy has no problem with human blood and guts but electronic blood and guts make him squirrely.
Though, then again, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising.
Acknowledging what the arm is is probably an acknowledgement of his own weakness. Or Hydra could have used maintenance on his arm as yet another way to torture him. Realistically, it was both. Probably, both.
“And his response was to get high?” Not that Tony has any room to judge, he’s just surprised by Captain Do-Right’s right hand man making such a choice.
“He couldn’t wind down,” Stinger tells him. “His energy level was destructive.”
Tony nods, probably because they kept pulling him into the lab for more readings. He never said anything but Tony can’t help but feel guilty.
“It was becoming a detriment. When N’Jin of the River Tribe told him they grow a plant similar to pot that can affect enhanced, it seemed like a solution. I scanned it. Ran some tests. It’s safer than pot, actually, for him. It’s way too potent in its current form for a baseline human.”
Tony hums and moves toward the pair on the bench.
Even high as a kite, Yasha clocks him first. A smile grows on his face, wide and just so bright, so easy that Tony isn’t sure if he’s embarrassed for Yasha or furious that N’Jin gets to see it too.
“Tony!” he greets, unreservedly pleased.
“Whatcha got there, Buckaroo?”
Yasha holds it up for him and Tony takes it. He takes a hit and the result is practically instantaneous, leaving him feeling light headed. It’s more than being high, more like the best orgasm of his life. It’s flight and success and freedom.
Tony discretely checks, shifting to make sure he has not in fact gone off in his pants and asks. “What’s going on here?”
“Science,” is Yasha’s cheeky answer.
“Can’t lace Logan’s cigars with it if I don’t know how it works.”
Tony blinks, because, “What?”
“Come on, wouldn’t it be nice? He needs to relax. Like so much. It would be nice.”
“As a prank?”
Bucky frowns, confused, “No, you don’t drug people as a prank, Tony. As a, uh, a gift? A surprise but not in a mean way.”
“How long until this wears off?” he asks N’Jin.
The man shrugs, “He’s a super soldier.” Which, fair. “An hour, maybe?”
Yasha reaches for the joint but flops back easily when Tony jerks it out of reach, “What’s wrong, Tones?”
“We’re ready to take that arm off but you can’t consent when your high.”
Yasha sobers immediately, “Already?”
“Yup. The PNP’s ready and they’ve made the rods to reinforce your collar bones. Morales and I ran home for half a bag of Erskine’s formula to help you heal up after.”
“Why so soo- Klaue’s been spotted.” Yasha realizes.
“Sergei, actually. No sign of Dima though so we think it’s just a distraction.” Tony rocks back on his heels. “The king’s going to want you in the field. And none of us want you there with a possibility booby trapped arm.”
“But you cleaned out all the booby traps.”
“I cleaned out a few,” he corrects gently. “But Hydra’s had you in that thing for more than 30 years. There’s no guarantee they didn’t hide something from us. At minimum, something to prevent tampering.”
“Bomb squad in the surgical theatre?”
“That’s the plan.”
“What’s the damage?”
Tony looks sharply up at the body laying on his left. Yasha looks exactly like he did when they laid him out, cleaned up after his surgery. None of the wave outputs or monitor beeps have blipped at all. Not really a surprise since they don’t expect him to wake up for another six hours.
But a slow smile spreads across Yasha’s face. Slowly, he opens his pretty blue eyes…and still, the monitors don’t notice.
“Arm’s gone,” he answers the question. “They reinforced your collarbones, several ribs, shoulder blade, and your spine. You finished the drip of Erskine’s formula half an hour ago.”
“I can feel it,” Yasha says groggily. “Like sunshine in my veins.”
“Is that supposed to be a good thing?” Tony can’t help but snicker. Yasha is fantastically prone to flights of, well, romance, for the most fearsome assassin on the planet.
“It’s nice,” he rumbles, flexing his right hand.
Now, that the monitors notice.
Yasha looks down at his left side, noticing the black cap they put over the PNP. “No new arm?”
“They want you to heal up a bit, adjust, before you have to bear the weight. We tested the connections as much as we could electronically, we don’t expect any nerve or interface problems.”
“At least a week for a normal person.”
“So, like, tomorrow for me?”
Tony shrugs. “Maybe tonight, but I doubt it. There’s the psychology of initiating positive changes at the start of your day, they thoroughly believe in it.”
Yasha laughs. “Alright. You gonna stick around?”
“Yeah, gonna take the spare bed when I’m tired. CeeCee already approved.”
“Good.” He takes a deep breathe and settles his shoulders back like he’s about to nod right back off.
“Not so quick, Yash, they need to know you’re awake. Check for infection kinda things. And I’m pretty sure at least Stinger and Morales would fight me if I didn’t let them know you woke up. Phantom, too, I think.”
Yasha frowns. “Why?”
“Why Stinger, Morales, and Phantom?”
“Well, they’re not just your minions, they’re your friends.”
“Ugh, but friends are so much work.”
“Yeah, but do you really wanna do all this with without them?” Tony quirks an eyebrow.
“No, that would suck. Go ahead and get them but get your butt back here before they start poking me.”
“Sir, yes, sir,” Tony snaps off a sassy little salute.
Yasha laughs him out the door.
“Presenting Prince N’Jobu and son,” a guard calls within the chamber below.
Tony stands before a window in an elevated room, with Yasha on one side and Nat on the other. Its a hidden guard niche above the Wakandan Throne Room that only the Palace Guard are supposedly aware of. They -he and his formerly Russian Assassination Friends- are supposed to watch for signs of Hydra interference in the King’s little brother but how exactly is that supposed to work? Not all brainwashing is Winter Soldier or Black Widow levels of obvious.
Things would be so much easier if it was.
“Brother,” the man below them nods. “May I present my son, N’Jadaka.”
The boy, maybe a year or two older than Shuri, crosses his arms in the standard Wakandan salute and bows his head. “Your Majesty.”
“Uncle,” King T’Chaka corrects as he stands and walks across the room. “Call me Uncle, nephew.
“Any day the tribe grows is a good day,” he tells his advisors. Then he turns back to the kid. “My son, T’Challa, has agreed to show you the palace and where you will be staying. Perhaps you would like to clean up before lunch? You have many new family members to meet.”
The boy grins. “Thank you, Your Majesty. I mean, Uncle.”
“Off you go.”
T’Challa moves to them from his spot behind his father’s throne and gives his own salute, “Baba.”
“You may go.”
Both boys salute again and leave.
“Give us the room, please,” T’Chaka requests and waits for him counselors to leave. The Dora, notably, move closer.
No one signals for them to leave observation, so this must be about the thing.
“I have one question, brother,” T’Chaka sighs as he moves back to the throne and sits down heavily. “Why?”
“Why what, my brother?” The innocent tone doesn’t ring true for Tony but he could just be that jaded.
“Why did you betray your people? Why did you betray Wakanda?”
“I have never betrayed my people.”
T’Chaka glares at him. Yeah, Tony didn’t like that phrasing either. “You have sold Wakanda’s secrets to Outsiders. Why?”
“Do you know how they view us out there?” N’Jobu sweeps his arm in a broad gesture. “They think we are weak. Conquered. Impoverished. Uneducated. Jail sentences just waiting to happen.
“Our people deserve to know they are powerful. That they are equal. Or greater. It is our duty-”
“Wakandans know we are greater,” T’Chaka interrupts.
“To hell with Wakanda. We are more than Wakanda!”
“As a War Dog, your oath is to Wakanda. Your first concern, Wakanda’s interests. It was your duty to return if you were compromised.”
“How could I return after what I have seen?” N’Jobu counters. “My eyes have been opened, how could I abandon our people once I have seen reality? Once I have seen the truth?”
“You already have,” T’Chaka looks legitimately heart broken as he takes in his brother’s face. “You have abandoned our people, willfully. I had hope you were being blackmailed. That it was not your choice to sell us out to Hydra.”
“Hydra?” N’Jobu gasps, taking a half step back.
“Hydra. The enemy of my people and yours. The ones you sold Wakandan secrets to.”
“You have no proof I have done this thing. No witnesses.”
T’Chaka looks to one side and nods. One of the Dora Milaje opens a door and a man in a purple and gold jersey and low riding black jeans walks in.
“James?” N’Jobu frowns.
James gives the Wakandan salue and then flips his lower lip to show something Tony can’t quite see. “Wakanda Forever!”
“Introduce yourself, cousin,” T’Chaka instructs.
“I am Zuri, Son of Badu, of the Royal Panther Tribe of Wakanda.”
“Uncle Badu,” N’Jobu realizes and staggers backwards. He sits down hard on one of the advisor’s chairs and shakes his head in shock. “You put a spy on me?”
“You missed three check-ins. I had a duty to make sure you were not dead. When Zuri found you with a woman and child, I should have had you extracted immediately but I had faith in you, my brother.”
King T’Chaka looks up at them.
Tony doesn’t hit the signal, he hasn’t seen anything to make him think N’Jobu’s mind had been played with by anything other than, well, reality.
He glances at Yasha. Yasha sighs and shakes his head.
He glances at Nat. She doesn’t sigh or look surprised, she just shakes her head.
Tony sets down the button and steps back.
“Your life in Los Angeles is over. My people are dismantling it now.
“Take him to Medical,” King T’Chaka orders. “Once he is cleared, he is confined to quarters unless he is being interrogated. I want eyes on him 24 hours a day. No communication, no contact with his son, meals brought to his room.
“I hope for your sake, brother, that Hydra fails at their mission. If a single soul suffers for what you’ve done, not even I will be able to save you.”
Two Dora Milaje move to silently flank Prince N’Jobu, pointedly thumping their spears on the floor. The man shoots one last look at his brother the King before he shakes his head and rises, allowing them to escort him from the room.
At the guard’s signal, Tony leaves the room. The king deserves time alone to come to grips with.. that.
By now CeeCee should be finished evaluating Logan and Lensherr, so he heads right for the Infirmary.
“What do we got?” He asks as he enters the Infirmary’s main chamber.
“Nothing thrilling,” CeeCee sighs. “We have options. Obviously melting the metal on his bones is completely out of the question. Sanding it off is possible with Vibranium-based drill bits but the vibration he experiences during the procedure would be extreme, as would the blood loss. Or-”
“Or?” He prompts when she doesn’t continue.
“Or I rip it off.” Magneto answers. “I’m certain I can do it.”
“The pain would be extreme.” CeeCee counters. “He may be the next best thing to immortal but if anything that’s more reason not to drive him insane via pain.”
“I can take it,” Logan insists. It doesn’t sound like the first time he’s said it, either.
CeeCee sighs dramatically. “Having half of your skeleton ripped out would be a 30 on a 10-point pain scale. I cannot authorize such a thing.”
“And what’s going to stop us from going outside and doing it without you?” Magneto asks curiously.
Tony gets the feeling that no matter how mellow he grows thanks to all the various shifts in reality, this guy is always going to be a cavalier pain in the ass.
Thankfully, CeeCee turns on the man. Her eyes flashing furiously enough, with enough of a threat, that even the Great and Mighty Magneto takes a step back. He even holds his hands up to show he’s harmless, the great big liar.
“What pain management options do you have?” Tony redirects. “Can we inject him with something and do a test section? On like a leg -because I’m pretty sure he would cut you if you messed with his claws- or something?”
CeeCee, Lehnsherr, and Logan all exchange looks. Logan nods, Lehnsherr shrugs, and CeeCee sighs. “Or something.”
“Hydra’s Death Squad,” Tony watches Yasha look around the room, making eye contact with the king, all three Dora present, the chief of the Palace Guard, and both representatives of the Border Tribe. Tony helps by silently laying out the five headshots they’ve been able to find. “Five of the most advanced combat assets on the planet. Well above your average Hydra operative but not quite up to Black Widow or Winter Soldier levels. And that’s mostly just because they aren’t enhanced.”
Tony’s pretty sure he’s the only one that hears the yet at the end of that sentence.
“They’re loyal, fanatics for Hydra. Their basic skills are for the most part all the same. Hand to hand combat, like I said. Advanced weaponry is their bread and butter. Breaking and entering’s cake. They can pilot a ridiculous number of vehicle types -land, air, and sea. The exact vehicles vary based on personal preference, for the most part, but between them I can’t think of anything that’s not covered. They speak anywhere from 5 to 35 languages, English, Russian, and German are universal among them.
“But. They each have advanced specialties.
“Anton,” Yasha taps the picture of the black man. He’s handsome but not too handsome. He’s clean looking, his eyes are average, his hair short and well kept. Put him in a crowd and Tony could see him being fairly forgettable. “He was an American, no idea what happened to make him hate himself enough to join Hydra but he did. He was what Hydra called a ‘social infiltrator.’ An undercover specialist, he spoke 35 languages. Gravitas, Nat, and I killed him almost two weeks ago now.
“Sofia.” She’s pretty. Small, with blonde hair up in a high ponytail. Her smile has a cruel edge to it. “The other one we killed. She was a legacy. Her mother was Leviathan, her father was Hydra. They facilitated the, uh, merger I guess you could say, between the two. She’s a hacker. Black Hat,” he glances at Tony to check the term. Tony nods and he continues, “Of the worst kind. Vicious, cruel, and sometimes she’s a honeypot. That’s how they recruited Josef.”
Yasha taps the next picture. In it is a big, totally using steroids kind of guy. His mouth is small and held in a tight line. In the photo, he looks kind of constipated really. “Josef is nominally the leader. He’s smarter than he looks and he’s patient. He’s the team sniper.”
“But they allowed Klaue to take the shot at Queen Ramonda,” Gravitas objects.
“Yeah,” Yasha nods. “With bullets clearly designed with me in mind. Tells me they’re still playing him. Why, I don’t know. To feed his hatred and make him reckless? If that’s the case, and he dies on the mission, they don’t have to share with him. But, that’s a guess. Any analysis I could provide would likely be tainted by my extreme prejudice against Hydra.”
Yasha shrugs and moves on.
“Dima.” This guy is slender, by far more slender than Josef or even Anton. His hair is white blond and longer than the Winter Soldier’s, pulled back into a tail at the base of his head. Even in the photo his eyes look dead, emotionless. Like a snake. “He’s the ‘physical infiltrator.’ Best tracker I’ve ever seen. A talented advanced scout and a break in specialist.
“He and Sergei-” Sergei is shorter than Dima and stacked. Like, a brick shithouse, stacked. His short, floppy hair is more of a golden blond than Dima’s. In the photo he’s wearing glasses that there’s no way he actually needs, based on how low they hang on his nose. “-were team serial killers when Hydra recruited them. Dima was the shot caller between the two of them and Sergei was his submissive. His minion.
“Sergei would do anything for Dima. Torture, murder, rape, suicide. If Dima asks him, there is nothing off the table.
“On top of that, Sergei’s specialty is explosives. Like bordering on a mutation, level of specialty. If he can combine it, he can probably get it to explode,” Yasha huffs. “He tends to wear a suicide bomber vest on missions. No dead man switch though, so kill him before Dima goes down and we shouldn’t have to worry about it.”
“Anton and Sofia are dead,” one of the Border Tribesmen, W’Naka, states, tapping their pictures. “Why do you bring them up?”
“So you know what they’re missing. Where their weaknesses are. They’re used to working as a team, relying on each other, not all of that team is there any more. They’re off balance.”
“That is not necessarily an advantage,” the man counters.
“Without Anton there’s no way they can send in a spy,” Tony tells him because W’Naka has a point but so does Yasha. “So they aren’t likely to hear any rumors or gather any more specific intel that way. Nothing current or real time.
“Without Sofia, you don’t have to worry about advanced cyber attacks. They’ll still probably be able to get places we’d rather they didn’t because they’re damn good, but the more technical and advanced options, like those on the more private areas of the palace complex, will be beyond them.”
“I’m worried about these mountains,” Yasha picks up the thread again, gesturing at the map below the pictures. “All three remaining members of the Death Squad are from Russia. Frozen mountains might slow them down with Klaue in the mix, but it won’t stop them.”
“But the Jabari will,” King T’Chaka chuckles darkly. “I will send a warning to Chieftain M’Bana. They will not enter Wakanda that way.”
Yasha nods, taking the king at his word.
“In interrogation, the Source admitted their stated goal to be Vibranium theft.” Guard Captain Meika contributes. “Vibranium is mined from Mount Bashenga but that is too well guarded and they would never make it that far into Wakanda undetected.
“There are three ore processing locations along the river but those are still very central and highly unlikely targets.”
“Their best bet would be to strike one of the border settlements right after we receive a shipment.” W’Naka agrees, nodding. “Get in, set off a diversion, and make off with our monthly allotment.”
“We can’t assume they’ll go for the best bet,” T’Chaka sighs. “How do we capture them?”
Yasha shakes his head, “You don’t.”
When the king rears back to look at him in reprimand, Yasha sighs. “They were trained by me. Or, by the Winter Soldier, rather. They are violent, clever, stronger than you’d think, and damn determined. If you want to protect your people, you’ll kill all of them as soon as you can.”
“Including Klaue,” Tony adds, because he knows that guy escaped them before.
It’s basic logic.
Wakanda had to have him in custody in order to brand his neck. But he had to have escaped to be free for the entire time he was doing the arms dealer thing and the Ultron bullshit. Escaped with the Vibranium to enable the Ultron bullshit, which is worse.
“This village,” W’Naka gestures at the map, which has no names, something that is both amusing and annoying. And a sign of continued distrust, though Tony refuses to take it personally. “Is the next one on the delivery schedule. In two days, they will receive approximately half a billion American Dollars worth of Vibranium.
“We have seen no sign of the Death Squad’s presence.”
“Which basically guarantees that’s where they are,” Tony mutters, rubbing a hand over his face.
King T’Chaka nods. “We will set up an ambush to take the interlopers but I want security on all border villages increased. Double the guard. Dragonfliers, patrol the borders. And you, my friend,” the King smirks at Yasha, clapping his still armless left shoulder, “are expected in young Riion’s lab. It’s time you are properly armed.”
They make it down to Riion’s lab quickly, Tony leading the way since it’s easily his favorite place in all of Wakanda. The closest thing to a true bionics lab there is on the entire planet.
The closest thing to his old lab in the Tower, too.
Riion grins when he sees them, the sling on his shoulder clinks as he turns.
“Uh?” Tony asks smartly, pointing at the man’s sling.
There’s no arm in the scientist’s right sleeve. Like, at all. Not even the little one he had before.
“I have had my stump removed and the PNP installed. However, my shoulder does not have the musculature to support a fully developed arm such as the one we have built.”
“He must build muscle before we can attach an arm to the socket,” CeeCee agrees. “Else he will damage himself permanently.”
“Is your arm done?” Yasha asks, a empathetic type of excitement shining on his face. “Can we see it?”
Riion grins like a little boy and leads them over to a table that’s draped with some fabric that’s shiny and smooth, like silk but not because Wakanda doesn’t trade for silk.
There are two lumps under it, Riion twitches the cover back off the first one.
It is, as expected, an arm. Black Vibranium with gold edging between the pseudo-muscular plates. And, as Riion wanted, in the place of Yasha’s red star is a simplistic sketch of a panther head. It’s done in more gold, roaring out at those daring to look upon it.
“And for you,” Riion tugs the sheet completely off the table to reveal a second arm.
This one is neither Riion’s black nor Hydra’s gleaming silver but a dark gray, sort of like hematite. Instead of the star there is the face of a wolf, done in white and snarling.
“Do you like it?” Riion asks, suddenly nervous.
“It’s amazing,” Yasha breathes. He pokes Tony into picking it up. Not that it takes more than the look for him to all but leap for it, really.
It has the same pseudo-muscular patterns on it as Yasha’s third arm from the future but its lighter.
“Vibranium?” Tony asks hopefully.
“Of course,” Riion agrees. “And it contains one of the arc reactors you made for the project. I claimed the other one for my arm, I’m afraid.”
“No, no, that’s perfectly fine. I should have said, that’s exactly what I was planning. Can I see the final spec?”
“Of course,” Riion nods. “The device is half yours anyway. More than that, if we include the arc reactor.”
“How do we put it on?” Yasha interrupts the impending nerdgasm smoothly.
Clearly he’s becoming experienced with them, Tony thinks indulgently as CeeCee lays out a schematic on the now empty side of the table.
“You’ll need to hit these panels to open the locking mechanism,” Riion points to the spots on the schematic. “Once that’s open, you line it up and slide it along the brackets on the PNP. Hit these other panels to lock it in place, the power up sequence will begin. Once the light comes on in the wolf, full motion and capabilities are available.”
“Capabilities?” Yasha asks.
“Standard capabilities of a human arm, of course. Enhanced strength, potential up to double that of your previous arm. Which is why we had to reinforce your skeleton. Enhanced feedback, you should be able to get textures and temperature input from this arm but with practice, you’ll learn to mentally turn that off for your more rough and tumble activities.”
“We added magnets,” Tony adds with a grin. “Electromagnets you can control mentally to keep from being disarmed and so you won’t be a menace to electronics. Not without meaning to, any way.”
“Lock features,” Riion takes up the thread again. “History indicates falling is a reasonable fear so we made sure you can grip and lock in to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.”
“No falling off the train,” Yasha smirks weakly.
Riion nods, “No falling off the train.”
That night in his room -the first one since coming to Wakanda where he’s actually in his room at an hour appropriate for sleep- there’s a knock at the door.
“Hey, Yasha,” he greets as he opens it. The man looks gorgeous and somehow looks even more dangerous in loose sweatpants and an almost transparently thin t-shirt.
“Uh, can I?” and Yasha stalls, his shoulders sagging.
“Come in? Definitely.” Tony grabs his arm and hauls him in, closing the door on the night shift guard’s face. “What’s up, buttercup?” he asks as he leads Yasha further into his sitting room and flops down on a couch.
“Can I sleep with you?” Yasha blurts in a rush before he huffs dramatically and falls back onto his own couch.
Sleep with- Tony’s cock twitches in interest. Getting fucked. More, getting fucked by a super soldier, he bites his lip. He loves-
Tony reins his twenty-one year old, hormone-ridden self back in. Realistically, he and Yasha aren’t that far in their relationship yet. Not that either of them are terribly old fashioned, but they have issues to work through. Issues within themselves and with the outside world. Like Hydra. And Darcy. So what could-
“You mean cuddle together? Like we did on the plane?”
Yasha’s shoulders slump but this time it’s relaxation, not defeat. And relief, probably, that Tony gets it. “Yeah, like that.”
“You ready now?” Tony asks as he pops up to head to the bedroom. “I need to brush my teeth and change.”
“That’s fine,” Yasha follows him and sits on the bed.
Tony digs in his bag for pajamas. “Talked to Darcy recently?”
“Read her a bedtime story before I came,” Yasha nods. “She’s pretty irritated that we don’t know when we’re coming back.”
“Well, tomorrow’s the big day,” Tony sighs. “Hopefully anyway,” and goes into the ensuite bathroom.
“Hopefully,” Bucky agrees. “But even still, there’s no way Logan will be ready in two days and we’re not leaving him behind. That would be too fucked up.”
“It’s not like Wakanda is dangerous for him,” Tony counters. “He saved the life of the Queen.”
“We’re not leaving him behind,” Yasha repeats firmly.
“We’re not leaving him behind,” Tony agrees. “How’s all that doing?”
“The Adamantium removal? They did the test leg and it worked. The solution they put him in for the Vibranium grafting was really effective at pain management so Logan wants to get all the rest done in one go.
“As his ‘Chieftain’ I gave the go ahead -he knows very well what he can take and what’s too much- but CeeCee is trying to appeal to T’Chaka to stop it.”
“I don’t see what good that will do her,” Tony sighs, leaving the bathroom. “Drawing out his Adamantium poisoning has to be worse than short term pain, doesn’t it?”
“I don’t want to say she’s more focused on getting her way than long term issues,” Yasha shrugs. “But she might be caught up in the argument of it. It happens to everyone occasionally.”
“A reason not to make her head of my biochem lab.”
Yasha scoffs. “Like you haven’t already decided to give it to Riion.”
“What about your friend from before? Banner? He’s a biochemist, isn’t he?”
“Right now, I’d say he’s more of a semi-permanent student than any sort of laboratory scientist. He already has more PhDs than I ever got. But I’m pretty sure I can lure him and Betty into my lab. I mean, the government managed it in our timeline but that was a disaster that ended with the Hulk which ruined Bruce’s life. Employment with me will be much better pay, benefits, work hours, the whole enchilada.”
“You want to prevent the Hulk?” Yasha tips his head, like a curious little puppy.
“I kinda owe it to him,” Tony quirks his lips, hoping the pain isn’t too evident in his eyes. “He’s my friend and if I can save him from that, I should.”
Yasha nods and kicks his bare feet up on the bed, “Who’ll take his place on the team?”
“Uh, you? Or Logan? Or, maybe, Gravitas. We have to assume the team’s going to be different this time around. We’re different, the origin of the team is different. SHIELD isn’t behind us, not really, not in the same way.”
“Okay, what other changes do you want to make?”
Tony takes a seat on his side of the bed and sighs. “I haven’t really thought long term yet. My focus has, admittedly, been on keeping you safe. Cock blocking Hydra, making sure the Army can’t claim you or press charges against you, making you popular enough no one would press charges against you and take you away. Fixing the arm problem before it can kill you. That kinda stuff.”
“I feel very safe,” Yasha promises, tugging him down into a cuddle. “I think it’s time to get started on our long term plan.”
“I-” Tony huffs but snuggles in readily. “I need more information. World-ending threats don’t come out of nowhere. Maybe someone dropped a hint and I just didn’t recognize it? Let me think about it.”
Yasha’s so warm and solid, but not entirely unyielding. Like the world’s best blanket, one that cuddles you. As a bonus, the cold metal arm across his middle means he doesn’t even have to stick a foot out uncomfortably to properly regulate his temperature or anything.
Yasha mutters something but Tony doesn’t hear it as he closes his eyes.
When he opens them, he’s alone in bed. Well, in cot, really. This is definitely not the bed he fell asleep in; too small, distinctly lacking a certain super octo-soldier.
He turns his head to see Kaylee, the mechanic from Firefly, sitting calmly and watching him from a metal chair not far away. He’s pretty sure Firefly won’t even be a thing for another 10 years, so what-
“You’re Yasha’s little mechanic goddess,” Tony identifies as he sits up on the bed.
She grins at him, “I am.” Her voice is deep and thick with a faint bit of echo to it that his mind instinctively shies away from. “I’m very proud of you, Tony. You’ve done very well.”
“And, who are you, exactly?”
“You can call me Bast.”
“So you’re a-” Tony hesitates but he’s an atheist and this kind of nonsense is never on his agenda. “-a goddess?”
Bast shrugs. “That’s as good a word for it as any. I am Gaia.”
“Earth. You’re the Earth.” He frowns, considering. “The Earth is sentient?”
She glares and raises a single eyebrow. Which okay, dumb question but he really did have to ask.
Fuck. He needs to reevaluate his priorities. He’s always known the Earth was alive but not like this. This makes the way they treated her in the future nothing less than bloody fucking torture.
Torture with a fatal ending for everyone.
“I had a friend that thought the Earth was intelligent and caused the number of gay/lesbian people to increase as a form of population control. I always thought that was bullshit and we just became more open about our existence.” Tony tips his head, making it a question, not a statement.
“Same sex couples don’t breed naturally and I was trying to avoid a third World War.” She tips her head right back at him. “Though you guys were headed that way all on your own.”
“You can cause wars?” he frowns. “Did you cause the first two world wars?”
“I didn’t stop them,” she shrugs.
Sensing there’s nothing else useful to be had here, Tony changes the subject. “You know I expected a Wakandan goddess to look, I don’t know-”
“Wakandan?” She laughs. “I can look like anyone that’s ever walked the planet.” And she sort of morphs into his father. His father, just sitting the stool in front of him in the belly of a battered old spaceship. Still in Kaylee’s jumper, though, which is hilarious. Then the Nick Fury he knew all ragged and trench coated and eye-patched. Then Queen Ramonda, regal as ever with that really tall hat. Then she’s back to Kaylee.
“No kitty ears?” he pokes at her a bit, he can’t really help it. “No tail? I mean, panther goddess right?”
Her eyes flash gold in a wordless threat but little brown kitty ears appear in here hair with a pop.
Tony can’t help but laugh.
Bast smirks. “I picked this form to make you comfortable. My form didn’t matter for your Yasha. Let’s be honest, no form I could take would have made him comfortable with a stranger, but he had to pick when to go in order for me to send you.
“For you, though, I’m cute and familiar. And you actually prefer female authority figures, so it’s not like you’d have a problem working with me.”
“And you didn’t ask me, because?”
“He had to choose to fix his failure, not that it was really his failure but still. He had to pick, them’s the rules. And I didn’t think you would object to his mission objective, saving your mom.”
“No, no objection to that. It was just a surprise, is all. The whole non-consensual time travel thing.”
“You were dead,” she reminds him. “But you’ve always been adaptable, Tony. I have faith in you, you should too.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not done yet.”
“No,” she agrees. “But I believe you asked for information.”
“And you’re going to give it to me? Just like that?” Because, yeah, right.
“Perhaps. Perhaps not. Consider this a brainstorming session.”
“Okay, I can brainstorm. I like brainstorming.” Tony smirks at her, his mind churning. “Okay. So. What’s the big threat looming on the horizon? Can you give me that? I can’t really solve a problem I don’t know the parameters of.”
“There are always those that seek to unite the Infinity Stones. They were seperated for a reason.”
“Riddles. Non sequiturs. My favorite,” Tony runs a hand over his face and stands to pace. “What are the Infinity Stones?” Silence is his answer. “Can you give me an example of an Infinity Stone?”
“Contained the Mind Stone, Thor said that, that’s why we went to Sokovia to retrieve it. The Tesseract contained the Space Stone. How many Stones are there?”
“Alright, we’re getting somewhere. Are there any Infinity Stones other than the Space Stone currently on Earth?”
Silence. Tony decides to take that as a big fat yes.
“So we need to destroy one? Or seperate them? But then we’d need pretty fierce security, I’m assuming.” He paces some more, running his hands through his hair as he thinks. Tries to think. His mind is getting nowhere.
“What allies do you have that are undefeatable?” she prompts.
Tony freezes. “Uh, none. That’s pretty much why you sent us back in time, isn’t it?”
“Perhaps allies is too strong a term.” She tries again, “Enemy of your enemy.”
“Not helpful since I don’t know who this final enemy is.” Contrary to his complaint, though, his mind starts working.
Thor and Asgard seem to be at the center of this mess, considering that he and Loki revealed the Space Stone. Thor’s adopted brother Loki carried the Mind Stone to Earth in the first place. Thor’s girlfriend, Tony’s pretty sure, was bearer of one Stone or another for a bit, before he took her on an adventure to Asgard and it got pulled out of her.
So an enemy of Asgard that would also be the enemy of this mysterious other.
A memory comes loud in his head. One he’s not really sure actually happened but it’s Thor talking to him and Steve about-
“Oh, that’s clever.” He shakes a finger at her, “That’s sneaky.”
“I’m a cat,” she shrugs, a little brown tail coming around her body and settling in her hands for a pet. “There’s another issue I need you to take care of.”
He just gestures with one hand, inviting her to lay it out there.
“In reality 616B-”
“Wait, wait, wait. How do you number realities? I’m assuming time isn’t a factor.”
“The ideal reality is zero,” She explains patiently. “Every step a reality takes away from the ideal, increases the number.”
“And if two realities take the same number but different steps?”
“That’s where the letters come in.”
Of course, the letters. He would complain but his favorite math involves letters, so, “And I’m from?”
“When you died? 616C. Now? You’re currently in 394. That number has actually gone down since you returned, by the way. Congratulations.”
“Huh.” Okay, that’s, “Twenty something years, we made 222 mistakes?”
“Not you, not even just this planet, but yes. Roughly. Time travel is an interesting occurrence because time doesn’t actually travel in a straight line as humans perceive it. Time is a pond, the time traveller is a stone. Throw a stone in a pond and you get ripples.”
“And with two time travellers,” he prompts.
She inclines her head. “More ripples, ripples in all directions. Past, present, throughout the universe. The further the throw, the larger the ripples. Two stones, more ripples. More ripples than you will ever see. Luckily the two of you are united so that minimizes the mess but, your methods are vastly different. Like I said, it’s interesting.
“Are you ready to continue?”
“Have at,” he says as he plops back down on his cot.
“In reality 616C, the Defective Soldiers as you call them died in their chambers and you all survived Siberia but the team was sundered. Many things happened that aren’t terribly relevant, but when Prince T’Challa was to be crowned as King, he faced challenge from a man named Erik Killmonger and was killed. King Erik took the might of Wakanda and turned it on the world to liberate his people and fulfill his father’s dream.”
“Erik is N’Jadaka’s Outsider name,” Tony tells her, horrified. “You’re talking about N’Jadaka.”
“Not the one you know. One who was abandoned in the outside world after his father was killed by his own brother.”
“What happened to the world?”
“It came very near to ending. Until Princess Shuri -a baseline, unenhanced human- took on King Erik who had all the might of the Black Panther in his veins, and won. When the Other came, she raised a team to face him down, but it was too late. Earth had lost too much.”
“Her team still exists? I can add them to mine?”
“Many do not exist yet. Spider-man, for example. Wolverine and Storm do. The Phoenix is not yet developed into her whole self but ideally she never will. Nor will the Rogue Marvel.”
Tony… really doesn’t know what to make of that. Not sure he wants to either. “What’s the solution? What do you need from me?”
“Like all children, N’Jakada needs to be loved. He needs a home. A foundation of his own on which he can stand tall and proud. A life where he can find his own path, rather than clinging to the burning husk his father’s dream.”
“I mean, we can do that but I don’t think Wakanda will take it very well.”
“It must be his choice,” she says. “Wakanda will honor his choice, I swear it. But you must make sure he knows that he can make it.”
“Three minutes to position,” the voice over the radio reports to the room at large.
Captain Meika of the Dora Milaje, acting as Mission Control, keys in to respond, “Acknowledged.”
Tony focuses on getting the spybots -his drones, Wakanda’s stealth tech- in position. The problem with running an operation in a village made of huts, is that there’s no good place to install cameras or observation. Especially in a village on a plane set below a forest of trees they have to assume are full of enemies.
Three spybots hover above the village to offer bird’s eye views from the six different angles of their fore and aft cameras. A full dozen have eyes on the treeline where the attack is most likely to come from, hoping the avoid or at least head off any and all surprises. Another three patrol the rest of the perimeter, watching their backs. A final drone is keeping pace with the truck Yasha is in the back of.
The truck that, coincidentally, also contains the bait shipment of Vibranium.
Riion is at Tony’s side, slowly and methodically working a drone through the big ass trees Yasha identified as the best sniper territory.
Riion jerks and starts hitting buttons, “Ma’am, my drone has stopped responding. Transmission lost.”
“Malfunction or destruction?” Meika asks.
“Attempting to verify. No response, assume destroyed.”
Tony transfers control of the closest treeline drone to Riion and personally adjusts the rest to cover the gap.
“Let’s see if we can find anything on the last bit of footage,” Tony orders, taking control of the dead feed to scroll back.
Meika clicks in to the radio. “Be advised, we have possible contact. Sector three.”
“We are on station, proceeding with caution.”
“Yeah, that’s a bullet,” Tony announces even as he triangulates the bullets path. “Looks like he took Yasha’s prefered nest.”
“Riion, verify,” Meika orders.
It’s still somehow a surprise when Tony comes drone camera to face with Sergei.
“Contact!” He announces as the asshole opens fire.
He watches as the Border Tribesmen form a line, and then an arch, to try and contain the man. Their traditional cloaks flash over into honest to god energy shields. Ones that automatically interlock when they touch, which Tony can’t even. The tribesmen begin to close in.
Two men break cover eight drones away and sprint for the delivery truck. Klaue and Dima.
“Two breaking for the truck,” Natasha announces before Tony can do more than open his mouth. Then she’s on screen, leaping from the shadows of a hut, knife already in hand.
Dima spots her before she can tackle him and leaps out of the way. She takes down Klaue instead and the struggle is on.
Dima, notably, doesn’t stop to help his supposed comrade.
Instead Dima throws himself at the truck, wrenching the door open. He kicks the truck into gear because of course the driver left it on. This is Wakanda, why wouldn’t he leave the fucking thing on?
Dima hits the gas and the truck surges forward.
Nat sees him coming and manages to get mostly out of the way.
Despite the drones having no sound, Tony is certain he can hear her scream in his soul as Dima runs over at least one ankle. More than that he can’t really tell but she hits the ground very hard.
Klaue’s head goes under the first wheel but Tony can’t even feel bad for the guy.
Then Yasha is there, hanging off an accelerating truck like a suicidal spider monkey. He shoves his left hand through the door and rips it off its hinges -the showoff- in his haste to stop Dima and the truck.
Tony sees two sparks bounce off Yasha’s metal arm and he realizes. The sniper. They forgot the goddamn sniper.
CeeCee, on site as a doctor just in case, takes one ricochet in the shoulder where she’s kneeling next to Nat in the grass. She staggers but doesn’t go down. Instead she throws some sort of containment field over the smaller woman and starts to drag her one handed off the battlefield and under cover.
Silently Tony holds his left hand out to Riion. The man takes it immediately, curls around it and starts rocking in his distress.
Maybe now the man will realize what the two of them mean to each other, he thinks irreverently. But he also really, really hopes she’s okay.
The second bullet ricochets of Yasha’s arm into Dima.
That’s what Tony assumes at least since he just sort of keels over with no contact from Yasha whatsoever.
Yasha pulls him out of the truck and out of the way, climbs inside and brakes the truck. He, of course, pulls the keys out of the damn thing when he has it once again in park. Because he’s from Brooklyn and has actual sense.
Tony looks over to check on Sergei. The man’s mouth is moving, his stupidly big gun still spitting death.
The border tribe is maybe two steps closer to him. Not much progress there.
Then, suddenly, Sergei is throwing down his weapon and charging bare fisted at the gathered men.
One, Tony’s pretty sure it’s W’Naka, Sparta Kicks the man to the chest, sending him sprawling down on his back. W’Naka then throws himself down on top of the man. He has just enough time to arrange his cloak into a dome of blue light before the asshole explodes.
Meika makes a wounded noise and Tony winces in sympathy. There’s no way W’Naka survived that. The cloak didn’t survive that.
“In pursuit,” Yasha’s voice comes cold and clipped over the comm.
Tony looks up to see a half dozen of the border tribe throw themselves into the forest after him. He focuses on using the drones to help.
It would be easier if he had JARVIS to coordinate everything instantaneously.
There isn’t the technology for it yet but once there is, JARVIS is going into space, Tony decides. Backup servers, on a satellite. An Arc Reactor powered, repulsor driven satellite with a defense grid that’ll make at least a thousand Marines come in their pants. With the ability to communicate all over the globe because there are a lot of things the AI just can’t do with a few cell phone lines from Howard’s -his granddad, basically- basement.
“You’re approaching the suspected nest location,” Tony advizes. “Proceed with extreme caution.”
Of course, one of the border tribe women doesn’t listen and hopefully loses nothing more than a leg to what’s probably a land mine. Two of her tribesmen stay with her and start preparing her to get her back to the doctor with as little blood loss as possible.
Apparently the Tribal Cloaks of Amazing work as self adhesive bandages, too. Who knew.
The trail is muddied by the explosion and the blood and the screaming. And going colder the longer they linger, so Tony focuses on taking his main drone in a gradually widening spiral around the tree, trying to pick up the scent.
It takes him almost 20 minutes, “Found it.”
Yasha continues on with three at his back. Fuck, if Yasha loses his legs-
Tony does his best not to bite his nails.
It’s not hard since he only has one hand to guide the drones anyway but if he had his suit-
He doesn’t though, so he does his best.
There are a few gunshots. At random intervals and seemingly not aimed. Just something to make the pursuers duck and buy the pursued time.
It, unsurprisingly, works.
Just about midday they make it to a brook running through the forest and one of the tribesmen grabs Yasha before he can step into it. “That’s it,” the man says. “This is the border and we cannot cross.”
“He got away,” another growls.
Tony is waiting outside the main door to the Infirmary for their heroic adventurers’ return.
Riion is on his left, starting to look a little gray and worn around the edges. He hasn’t stopped shaking.
Morales is on Tony’s right, doing the next best thing to shifting from foot to foot anxiously. The broody and cool thing he usually pulls off is a distant memory and Tony has to think that’s because Nat got hurt.
Which is strange.
Last he heard Morales was ace. For him to be in a relationship with someone like the Black Widow seems like a recipe for pain for at least one of them.
Tony does not approve of that shit.
Not that he has the right to an opinion either way. Or any room to comment or throw stones, he reminds himself. He’s the one falling in love with his parents’ not-actually murderer.
A group of people flow around to hall corner and make speed toward them.
First is a floating stretcher with CeeCee strapped to it.
Riion cries out and flings himself forward to follow.
Next comes a stretcher with the exploding woman, missing both legs. Yikes, gotta be the work of a mine.
Hopefully, not a Stark Mine, Tony can’t help but wince.
Third comes Natasha, covered in a blue film of light just like the other two. She’s out of it completely, obviously the light is light years beyond regular sedatives. Tony’s betting it’s some sort of stasis.
Yasha himself is pushing her stretcher forward. He looks fine. Dirty, a little pissy, but fine.
“What’s the plan?” He asks the surgeon the worked on Yasha, Detaan, as the man moves toward them.
“I have viewed the scans made on scene. I have several more I will run here but the current plan- We have a, I suppose you could call it biodegradable glue that we will use to put her back together from toes to kneecap. The bones treated with the glue heal stronger than the bone’s previous state.”
“Sounds perfect. What’s the catch?”
“Approximately 0.02% of our population is allergic. I will have to test for for the allergy.”
“Which you can do before you open her up,” Tony guesses.
“Then that’s not a problem. What is the problem?”
The doctor hesitates. “Between the surgeries on your mate and on the Wolverine, tribe blood supplies are dangerously low.”
“And you already have two tribesmen to work on.”
The man nods, confirming Tony’s guess.
“That’s okay, we got a tribe too.”
“I’ll donate,” Yasha immediately volunteers, leading by example as always.
“I cannot allow that,” The doctor shakes his head. “Your blood is enhanced and I cannot alter her without her permission. And I cannot chance ending the stasis to ask her permission. Her injury cannot afford it.”
“The Black Widow’s enhanced too,” Yasha informs him. “Her serum is based off mine. She can take transfusions from me.”
“She can take transfusions from all of us,” Morales adds, the other Cherries nodding behind him. “We’ll all donate. Least we can do.”
“Stinger,” the man steps forward when Tony calls him. “Can you take blood?”
“Just gimme the tools,” He says, nodding.
“Alright, here’s the plan.” It’s gratifying when they all lean in a little the listen. “Detaan, you keep her in stasis as long as you can. Have one of your nurses start taking donations from the guys we have here.
“Stinger, you, Phantom, and Apollo will run home. Get donations from everyone you can -volunteers only- and get back here as quick as you safely can.
“I’ll call ahead so they know you’re coming. How long’s the flight?”
“Three hours in the Talon.” Captain Meika interrupts, “I’ll fly them myself.” She’s staring pointedly over Tony’s shoulder.
He turns to see King T’Chaka standing behind him. “Will blood be made available to my tribesmen?”
“Of course,” Tony agrees. The he reconsiders and inclines his head. “Any baseline human blood we collect will be made available to your tribe. Enhanced blood, especially Yasha’s and Wolverine’s. I’m about 90% sure he -or at least rumors of his healing factor- are the inspiration for Super Soldier Serum in the first place. We don’t want to risk enhancing someone on accident. That would be no good for anyone.
“Accepted,” T’Chaka nods. “You may take them to New York and back, Meika. Take Gravitas and Buhle with you.”
She crosses her arms over her chest and bows her head.
“Stinger, see if you can talk dad out of the other half of Yasha’s bag of serum. They’re right; since she’s already enhanced it, can’t hurt her.”
“Of course,” he nods.
“Go,” Tony orders his contingent and they begin to break up.
“If you’ll come with me?” Detaan says politely enough and everyone but Tony follows him into the Infirmary.
Tony- he needs a minute.
Just a minute to breathe. It feels like he hasn’t gotten a full breath since Nat left to get on station last night, and now she’s back and injured. He walks around a corner and leans against the wall once he’s out of sight. He’s alone for the first time since they boarded the plane from New York. It’s nice.
It is also terrifying.
“What happened, Uncle James?” A young voice asks from somewhere out of sight. “Why are all those people hurt? I know you know.”
“My father was a War Dog, too, you know,” Zuri’s distinct tones answer. There’s a moment of silence, possibly a shake or nod of a head. “He was. Badu, son of King Azizi. He went to learn of the world, to prepare Wakanda for what might be coming. That was his first duty.
“He lived in a state called Georgia-”
“I know where that is!” the kid says. “It’s in the South, right above Florida!”
“That’s right,” Zuri says kindly. “He went to school, he worked, he got to know the people and the country. Then he was drafted into the United States Army to fight in World War Two. He could have disappeared. He could have come home to Wakanda and faced no consequences but he chose to remain. He chose to fight in a war he felt was justified.
“He joined the Army, fought on the German front. He was captured by Hydra, eventually he was freed, and became a Howling Commando.”
“Like Sergeant Barnes!” the boy, probably N’Jadaka also called Erik Stevens, says excitedly. “And Captain America!”
“Yes, it was Captain America that rescued him.
“But. By staying in a war that wasn’t his, he prepared Wakanda for when the War found us. When Captain America came to Africa, the Black Panther -your grandfather, Azizi- met him. They fought many battles, side by side. They saved many lives.”
“Uncle Badu saved Wakanda?”
“That’s right. But doing so damaged him.”
Tony starts to slide down the hallway in their direction as quietly as he can.
“Because he was a War Dog?” N’Jadaka, Tony can now verify, asks.
“Because there are many things in the Outside World that growing up in Wakanda doesn’t prepare you for.”
The kid tips his head, obviously confused.
“Those people were injured because your father sold information about Wakanda to bad men.”
“Dad said his job was to sell people information.” The kid only sounds more confused. “But by selling information he hurt Wakanda? You said War Dogs protect Wakanda!”
“They do,” Zuri confirms. “That’s why I think something happened that damaged your father, just like mine too was damaged. Mine retreated and joined the Jabari when he brought my sister and I home. Yours-”
“Got people hurt! Is he going to jail? Is he already in jail? Is that why they won’t let me see him?”
“That is why you haven’t been able to see him, yes. I don’t know if he’s going to jail-”
“Are they going to kill him?”
Zuri is quiet for longer than Tony is comfortable with and then his answer is a useless, “I don’t know.”
The kid looks devastated.
And who can blame him? That’s both parents in jail. His father’s more than likely going to die because a man, a chieftain, died tonight as the result of his actions.
“You’ll be fine, you know,” Zuri tries. “We’ll all be here for you. Me, your uncle and cousins, our tribe. All of Wakanda.”
“I don’t want Wakanda,” Kid says, the closest Tony’s ever heard to scathing from a not-quite eight year old. “I don’t want anything to do with it!”
And, again Tony can’t really blame the kid. He’s been in Wakanda, what, a week? Max? Tony wouldn’t buy the ‘we’re probably going to kill your dad but don’t worry, you’re safe with us!‘ bit either. Like, at all. Family or no family.
“Then come to New York,” Tony offers before he can think better of it. He peeks around the corner to find the kid surprised and Zuri first shocked then furious. “You’re always welcome at my house, kid.”
N’Jadaka studies him with eyes much too smart for his age. It just proves to Tony that the kid will fit in perfect with the rest of the Too Smart For Their Own Good Household.
“And you’ll,” the kid hesitates, “be my dad.”
“If that’s what you want.”
“And Sergeant Barnes? He’ll be my dad too?”
Ah, yes, Bucky the Baby Magnet.
“We’re kind of a package deal,” Tony shrugs, trying to play it cool. He succeeds, thank you very much.
“Shouldn’t you ask him first?” N’Jadaka looks dubious.
“He surprises me with a kid, I get to surprise him with a kid,” Tony smirks. “That’s called equality.”
The kid actually laughs. “I don’t think that’s how that works.”
“What he doesn’t know,” Tony lets the sentence trail as the kid laughs again. “If I’m going to be your dad, will you take some advice?”
N’Jadaka tips his head to the side, silently urging him to continue.
“You’re really mad right now. And probably hurt and confused, too. God knows I would be in your shoes. You’re feelings are absolutely valid, and I don’t want you to ever think otherwise, but do yourself a favor and make no choices right now.” The kid looks offended and Tony holds up a hand. “You’re always welcome with me, that’s a promise, but making decisions while you’re angry is a mistake.
“The last time I made that mistake, I tried to murder the love of my life,” N’Jadaka’s eyes go wide. Tony gives his best ‘what can you do’ frown and nods. “Thankfully, he’s the next best thing to indestructible so we were able to work it all out.
“He’s forgiven me for what I did but I can’t. I won’t. I refuse to, and I don’t want you making the same mistake.”
N’Jadaka nods and softly promises, “I will think about it.”
“Okay. And while you’re thinking also think about what you want your post-adoption name to be and what color you want your room painted.” N’Jadaka grins and something loosens in Tony’s chest. He takes a moment to think that maybe Bast is onto something here. “We’ll talk to the Queen in the morning. I bet she’ll have ideas on how this should go.
“For now let’s go crash Uncle Logan’s movie. When I walked by he was watching Ghost. Again.”
“Can we make fun of it?” the kid asks, perking up.
Tony nods. “That’s the plan. Mission: Running Commentary is a go!”
“Yes!” Kid leaps from his seat and fist pumps. “Race you!”
Tony laughs and takes off after him.