Chapter One


If you asked Tony Stark, April Fool's day was the best holiday in the year. Fourth of July was unquestionably Cap's day, and woe betide the person who tried to beat Black Widow to the last pair of high heels on Black Friday, but April Fool's day was the Tony Stark day.

He'd been up since the absolutely ungodly hour of seven thirty in the morning, busily preparing Stark Tower for the big day. He'd already swapped all the DVDs into the wrong cases, turned everything in the kitchen upside-down, tampered with Bruce's computer screen, and was on his way into the bathroom with a roll of plastic wrap when his personal cell rang.

It was Nick Fury. Tony seriously wished he had checked the number before answering.

Since the dramatic crash of SHIELD a few months before, Fury had been laying low, using some of Tony's resources and employees. Slowly he had reconnected with other loyal agents, uncorrupted by HYDRA, and began to rebuild the once-great organization. Finally, he had moved out of Stark Tower's basement and vanished off of Tony's screens.

Frankly, that was just fine with Iron Man. He couldn't stand the guy, so it wasn't a nice surprise to hear his voice over the line.

"Tony, how many times have we had to tell you off for sending your tech where it isn't supposed to go?"

"I dunno, lost track," Tony answered absently, trying to hold the phone with his shoulder while pulling plastic wrap off the roll. He hadn't used plastic wrap since he was a kid, but how hard could it be?

"Well, quit doing it and come get your probe."

The plastic wrap stuck to his fingers and wadded up at the lightest touch. Tony scowled and almost dropped his phone. "Okay, okay. Wait, what probe? I haven't sent off any probes…" but Fury had already hung up.

He fought with the plastic wrap for another five minutes before giving up, chucking the entire thing into the garbage can on the way out the door. Plastic wrap was overrated anyway. Besides, the longer Fury waited, the more angry the man would get. Tony didn't mind how mad Fury got - in fact, it was fun to egg him on - but he really wanted to find out what that probe was. Maybe it was the glove from the Mark XLII suit that had got its tracking device disabled and had flown off during a battle last month.

It didn't occur to him that the whole thing was quite possibly an elaborate April Fools' joke until he had reached the temporary NYC SHIELD headquarters and Fury had ushered him towards a set of doors. By then, it was too late to do anything but think of a good comeback. Tony was so busy thinking up a good one that it took him two or three minutes to realize what exactly was lying on the table in the middle of the lab.

It was a piece of Stark Tech, that was for sure. The large STARK printed in a hexagon on both ends of the long capsule was unmistakable. What was odd was the fact that Tony couldn't remember ever having seen that particular piece of technology before, let alone creating it.

"It's not mine," he suddenly realized, turning away from the thing on the table.

"It's got one of your old logos on it," said Fury, who hadn't moved from the doorway.

Tony shrugged lightly, spinning his phone in his hand. "Yeah? I'm not the only Stark who liked to mess around with stuff. It must be one of Howard's old things - that's one of his experimental logos that I used for a few years before I could come up with something better." Tony had only used that particular logo twice, and both times Howard had been so dismissive that he'd never bothered to show his father any more of his inventions.

"If it was your father's, then it's yours now. Get it out of our hair," Fury said, but Tony shook his head.

"I don't want it. You want it, you can keep it, or throw it away or something. I don't really care."

That was how, five minutes later, Tony Stark found himself installed at a desk in Fury's office, staring at a pile of paperwork at least two inches thick with yellow sticky notes poking out between the pages to mark the places that needed his signature. Apparently you couldn't just say, "take it;" you actually had to go through some kind of legal procedure.

Afterwards, he never was able to say how he'd seen it. It just went to show that he did read small print when he signed things. Sometimes. Occasionally. Maybe Pepper was finally rubbing off onto him.

...whereupon the undersigned abdicates and abjures wholeheartedly and unconditionally the position of next-of-kin to the deceased…

"Wait a minute," Tony jerked out of his seat as if the yellow sticky note had bitten him, his half-scrawled signature spiraling out into a line across the page. "Next-of kin? What deceased? Who?"

"Long story. Sign it, and we'll talk," Nick Fury tried in his most reasonable tone.

Unfortunately, reasonable tones had never worked on Tony Stark.


The receptionist working in the main office of SHIELD's new cover facility was used to abrupt interruptions - working for a spy organization, how could she not? Still, she was startled by the sudden outburst of shouting coming from Fury's office.

"How could you not tell me? Seems to me like this should be the first thing out of your mouth… ... some kind of farce, trick me into signing it over?" The door slammed open and Tony stormed out of Fury's office with an armful of papers, tramping past her desk, looking mere inches from calling a suit and sending the place up in a ball of fire.

"You'll be hearing from my lawyers!" he tossed back over his shoulder, bristling with palpable indignation.

Uncertain, the receptionist reached for the lockdown button beneath her desk. "Sir?" she asked, but Fury shook his head, his one eye following Stark's progress on the security monitors as the billionaire left the building.

"Let him go."


Out in the parking lot, Tony heaved the armful of papers into his convertible. Loose pages tumbled onto the floor and scattered across the passenger seat, and he snatched one up to crumple in his fist and shake back at the silent building. Taking special pleasure in gunning the engine, he rammed his car into gear and screeched loudly into the street.

Even for a daredevil driver such as Tony Stark, New York traffic can be excruciatingly slow, and there was plenty of time to think. Or try to think - at the moment he was still a little shell-shocked.


Pepper would know what to do, she always knew what to do. Or Bruce. Bruce might actually take this a little better - despite his status as the Hulk, he was the most low-key guy Tony knew. Pepper could get a little excitable sometimes, in unusual situations.

This situation certainly qualified as unusual.

Bruce. Bruce would know what to do.


Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. The storyline however, is mine.

This story includes characters from Avengers, Agent Carter, and Captain America: the First Avenger. I started telling it to myself immediately after the first time I saw CA:TFA, and as more and more Marvel movies have come out, the plot has grown and developed.

I finally realized I needed to actually tell my story properly before Civil War comes out. I get the feeling there will be a lot of changes for poor Steve after that, and I wanted to get this up first.

This story goes somewhere after Captain America: Winter Soldier and before Age of Ultron. No AOU spoilers here, though if you've already seen it, you may notice a little (very little) foreshadowing. And no, Bucky's not really addressed here, sorry. You'll have to wait until Civil War to find out what's up with him, along with the rest of us.

Have a good day!