It's that time of year again…the feels are flowing….and I'm BAAAAAAAAACK! So this fic is NOT Infinity War compliant. It is a sequel to my initial Peter and Tony fic, and will as such be dealing with the events in that fic..
…as I am not even remotely dealing with Infinity War.
So I am going to remain in a state of constant denial for the next year.
CHAPTER 1. THE FALLOUT
"For the last time," Tony slouched back in his chair, clasping two fingers around the bridge of his noise in an attempt to ease the cluster headache he could feel mounting behind his eyes. "Err, no."
"And for the last time, Mr. Stark," Ross glowered across the courtroom, his eyes burning. "That is not your decision."
"It's my signature," Tony shrugged, shoving his hands into his pockets in an attempt to appear calm. Even in his pockets they quivered with rage. "So it kind of is."
They had been going round and round in circles with the same argument for just over three days now. Ever since Ross had had the nerve to show up at the Compound with the latest version of the Accords, ready for Tony to sign. The changes made to the accords had been a joke. Ross's presence in the Compound, where he had so nearly cost Tony more than he could afford to pay, was not.
If Steve hadn't held him back Tony would have beaten the man to death. He was sure of it. And not even a little repentant.
He hadn't though. What he had done was hurl the accords into Ross's face and refuse - vehemently, and colourfully - to ever sign so long as Ross was the one running things.
Ross had filed a law suit the next day.
A voice above them both cut Ross off before he could reply – or hurl himself over the desk and strangle the life out of Tony. With the colours he was turning, Tony thought he had about a fifty fifty chance with either.
Tony swivelled his chair to glance up at the judge.
The judge levelled Tony a cool look. "Secretary Ross raises a valid breach of contract – you made a formal agreement to sign-"
"-I made an agreement to sign before he tried to kill us." Tony cut the older man off, pulling up in his chair to stare up at the judge fully. "A tentative agreement at best, that was dependant on certain amendments that Mr. Ross has not yet made."
For the first time since they had called the session in order, almost five hours ago, Tony looked up and met Ross's eyes. The rage that had been quietly stirring in his chest throbbed, and then expanded. Gnawing through his organs, and then out to his very fingertips and toes. God those fingertips ached. Ached to claw those eyes out where the man stood –
"Not for very much longer."
The words were not a shout – in fact they were softer than anything Tony had said so far – but they echoed. They seemed to rebound off of every wall, and catch in the very air. For a moment not even one of the hundred people room moved.
Ross found his voice first.
"You recounted your agreement – an agreement that kept you from being named an enemy of the state alongside the rest of the criminals you now house!" He screamed across the room, launching to his feet despite the warning hands of his legal council, a vein in his forehead throbbing with his every word.
"At your request!" Tony thundered, on his feet as well, his chair – and poor attempts to seem unperturbed – abandoned. "And the request of congress!" He rounded on the judge. "And for the record – again – I did not recount my agreement to sign the Accords. When the amendments that were agreed to by the United Nations – which actually allow my team and I some basic, human rights – are made, and I am satisfied with them, I will sign." He said, his voice rising to barrel right over the scoff that Ross let out. Tony fixed his eyes back on Ross, and again he had the fight the almost nauseating urge to launch across the tables that separated them and beat the life out of the other man with whatever he could find. "What I said was that I will never sign it, no matter how many amendments are made, while his name is still attached."
Ross rounded on the judge – his face now a wash with vibrant colours as he fought to hold onto what little decorum he had left.
"That – that right there – is a blatant breach of contract-"
Tony cut him off before he could really begin – he'd heard enough. He was done. He was so done. "You want to talk about a breach of contract – you sent an army to our doorstep!" Tony roared, and the veil of whispers that had fallen over the crowd in the last few minutes ceased. Even the judge fell silent. Tony barely noticed. His eyes were fixed on Ross – but as he stared the man faded away, and a small body, lying face down on an embankment, took his place. The sight, even two whole months later, threatened to bring Tony to his knees. "You attacked us in an effort to incite a rage that might give you the leverage you needed to pass the Accords how they are – to give you complete control over us, and anyone like us!" The small body disappeared from behind Tony's eyes, and Ross came back into focus. A loathing, deep and guttural, settled in Tony's chest. It was so heavy that for a moment it threatened to suffocate him. "Well congratulations Mr. Ross, you've incited rage." Tony's roar tapered off – swallowed whole by that pit of loathing in his chest that felt like it just might consume him. Completely. His words, now, were barely above a murmur – but the courtroom was silent. Every ear attuned to Tony. "And it is going to burn you."
Ross was trembling now – his own fury clawing to be let out. "Is that a threat!?" He bellowed across the room. He took a step towards Tony, but several of his officers, who had been called to give statements, pulled him back. Ross's eyes never left Tony's. "Is that a threat!?"
Tony's feet moved to take a step forward as well – the cameras flashing all around suddenly meaning very little to him. He was going to kill him. He was going to beat the man to death with his bare hands, right here, right now and be done with–
Something latched onto Tony, and held him in place. Tony tried to pry himself free – needed to reach Ross. He needed to feel him bleed–
"Tony – Tony." A voice cut through Tony's blind rage. The hands that had seized the lapels of his suit shook him roughly. After a moment Rhodey filtered into view. He was leaning over the fence that separated the crowd from the panel, holding Tony in place with steel like fingers. "Easy." He hissed, his face inches from Tony. "You need to take a breath." Tony did – and the screaming in his lungs let up. God it felt good. How long had he been holding his breath? Rhodey pulled Tony towards the fence that separated them, cutting off his line of sight to Ross. "Easy, Tony." He said again – staring at Tony intently, watching him gulp down another few breaths.
Across the courtroom Ross was receiving a similar talking too by not only the soldiers around him – but his council and the judge as well. He was still shouting, his arms waving wildly even as his men tried to calm him.
"-is that a threat?! He can't-"
"Should it be?" Tony bellowed over his indignant cries. The man's eyes shot back to him. Rhodey, now apparently satisfied that Tony was no longer going to launch himself across the courtroom, let go and the both of them turned back to face Ross. "Are we not threatened by you? Or very lives threatened by you?" Tony asked, fighting to keep his tone in check – to keep everything in check. He would not let Ross win. He would not let Ross win-
"As I have already stated, I had no hand in the unfortunate attack on the Compound-" Ross bellowed, pulling his eyes away from Tony and turning to stare up the judge. Just as well. Tony wasn't sure what he would have done if the man had had the nerve to lie right to his face.
"We have evidence that proves your men were behind the breach. Witness statements, specialised gear collected at the Compound – a soldier himself who admitted it for Christ sake!" Tony said, his voice rising again. Rhodey's hand settled on Tony's back, resting over his left shoulder blade – out of sight from the rest of the courtroom. It wasn't restrictive, or gripping, it was just there. A constant weight that kept him in the courtroom, and not by that damn lake –
"My men acted of their own volition!" Ross's voice echoed through the room. "A grievous violation of my trust – and their governments'." He said, shooting a look around the crowd behind him before settling his eyes on Tony. "And that statement was taken was taken under duress."
"Duress?!" Tony scoffed. "What duress? We asked – he told us."
"If I had a man like Steve Rogers towering over me in the middle of a battle-field, demanding answers, I'd tell him whatever he wanted to hear as well." Ross sneered.
The words hit home.
Ross had started speaking again – bellowing something up at the judge – but Tony couldn't hear him. He'd heard enough.
"-It was not a battle-field," Tony cut Ross off. His words were soft, but somehow they carried – even over Ross's thunderous cries. The courtroom fell silent again. Even Ross turned to stare, confusion leaking into his rage blinded eyes. Tony tore his own eyes away from the man. He couldn't keep looking at him. It hurt. It hurt too much. The idea what his actions had nearly cost –
"It was a home."
Not a soul moved in the courtroom at the words – none but Tony.
He pulled away from Rhodey's hand, turning his back to Ross and the judge to look at the crowd instead. It had been a closed court – but even so there were over a hundred eyes staring back at him, and cameras in every corner that broadcasted his every word across the world. He'd felt them over his shoulder for hours now while he argued with Ross and the judge, but he'd never stopped to cast a look at them. Their faces were tight, and pale – their attention solely focused on Tony.
"We've made mistakes," Tony said, looking out over the faces, every single one. "I, and all of the others, are the first to admit that – but made them because, at the time, we thought there was no other way." The crowd watched Tony in rapt silence. Even Rhodey – who was leaning against the railing that separated them, as if not quite sure whether he should vault over and stop Tony himself before he did something he couldn't take back. But he didn't. And Tony didn't stop.
"What we did cost the lives of thousands, and we know that – we live with that as best we can – but we did it to save billions." Tony's voice carried across the crowd. "I'm not saying we made the right choices. We were six people when New York happened – well, five people and one god – we made the only choices we could see, but that is the point of this!" Tony threw a hand behind him. To the table set up before the judge where the latest version of the Accords sat – unsigned. "That when aliens fall out of the sky the decision making isn't left to six people – six people who are generally a little busy trying not to be shot or impaled to make a plan beyond living through the next minute, and trying to make sure others do the same. This-" Tony slid over the table he'd been trapped behind for hours and marched towards the Accords, yanking them off of the small table and holding them out for the crowd to see. "This binds us together – our best guns, our best fighters and our best minds, all working together to keep us safe. Because we're not safe." He roared. Pale faces stared back at him. "We're not safe." He murmured, sparing the Accords one last glance before throwing them back down on the desk. The entire courtroom jumped at the loud thud. "We don't know what's up there," He said, waving a hand at the roof – and the vast expanse of the universe above it. "But, sooner or later, it is coming." He went on. The pale faces staring at him grew paler. "You need us – and we need you. We can't do this alone. Not any of us." Tony heaved in a heavy breath. "What we don't need is him," He threw a hand out towards Ross. The man made as sound – as if he were about to speak – but Tony ploughed on over him. "A man who would strip us of our basic rights, and leash us to his personal agenda." Tony hissed. "And not just us – because it's not just us. It's some of you. It's some of your children." Tony let the words hit home for a moment – because they sure as shit hit home for him. "Anyone who's special or different." He murmured, and before he could even try to stop it, that small, broken body lying face down in the river flashed across his mind again. The next breath he took threatened to choke him. And the sight of that small body refused to leave him. "It the kid at the end of the block – just a kid, whose maybe been given something that everyone else doesn't have, but instead of using his abilities to get on the football team or impress girls, he's out there trying to help." The words were spilling out of Tony before he even knew what he was saying. "He doesn't owe you anything. He doesn't ask for anything. He's just trying to help – because it's the right thing to do." Too many memories flooded through him – all at once. Every meeting. Every trusting smile, and nod. Every damn time Tony had told the kid to stay out of it. To be safe – to listen one goddamn time– "Because when the people who can do something don't, when the bad things happen, they happen because of them." Tony paused for a moment. No one spoke. Tony heaved out a sigh, nodding as he raised a hand to jab a finger at Ross. "Ross will take us, if you let him, he'll take that kid – that kid whose just trying to do the right thing." Even saying the words nearly gutted him. "He'll take you, and your kids. He'll leash them, if he thinks that they can help him, or he'll put them down if he doesn't. This-" Tony waved a hand down at the Accords on the table in front of him, "-how it is now – this isn't unity. It's dictatorship – and he's running the show." Tony said, nodding back over at Ross. "No." Tony shook his head. "No." He murmured, taking one last look out over the silent crowd. "He's out – or we are."
A deafening silence met the end of his words. It fell over the courtroom like a mist, cloaking every single person in the room.
Again, Ross found his voice first.
"You can't say that-" He said, his tone curt, but level. His eyes had never left Tony's face as he spoke – and he didn't look away now. His eyes bore into Tony's, as if he could hollow Tony from the inside out without ever touching him. Tony refused to give to much mind to the irony that the man almost had – without even knowing it.
"Just did." Tony threw over his shoulder as he slid back over his desk, and sank into his plush chair with a flourish. "You're out – or we are." Tony threw his hands up in an animated shrug. "Oh, look at that, I said it again."
"-I think we'll adjourn for today – we can pick this up tomorrow." The judge's voice boomed across the courtroom, cutting Ross off before he could spark another row. The just shot a stern look down at both parties. "Now both of you get out." He growled, slamming his gavel with more force than was really necessary. "Before I kick both of you out of my court room."
The room erupted with noise. The crowd were on their feet. Yelling up at the judge, and each other – journalists screaming questions and civilians demanding answers.
Tony pulled away from the desk at once, spinning to face Rhodey and get the fuck out, but before he could even begin to shove his way through the mob that was forming at the fence, Ross was beside him.
He caught Tony's arm roughly and pulled him close.
Ross's words were soft, too soft to be overheard, but they slid sickeningly along Tony's spine. "I can see that this all a game of smiles an empty words for you Stark, but-"
"It's not a game." Tony hissed, yanking his arm free and turning the rest of the way towards Ross. A few members of the crowd seemed to have noticed them – and watched with rapt attention – but the majority were still yelling at someone. Tony moved a little closer, pausing inches from Ross. "You nearly took something you would not have been able to give back." Tony murmured. "This is not a game. It's not a discussion or a debate." Tony's voice dipped, and that gnawing need to reach out and tear at the man across from his returned. "I warned you, when you first came to me about the Accords, that if you crossed me I would ruin you." Tony tapped a soft hand on Ross's crisp suit jacket. "This is the end of you, Mr. Ross."
"You can't do this-"
"You did this, Ross." Tony cut him of venomously. "You brought all this down on yourself when you came to my house." Tony paused, taking a moment to glance around at the crowd and pull himself back together. He didn't look back over at Ross when he started speaking again – instead he kept his eyes fixed on the crowd, waving to a few familiar faces and throwing up his signature peace sign when cameras flashed in their direction. His words, however, were cold and empty. "You should be grateful – had that night ended a different way, you any I would not be here." He said, taking great care to keep his words out of prying ears, but loud enough for Ross to catch every one. "We would be somewhere else. Alone." His eyes darted to Ross for just a moment. "And you would not have been leaving."
His out, or we are.
Tony's words echoed out of the phone Peter was clutching beneath his desk. Ned was watching over his shoulder - neither of them paying any mind to their Spanish teacher who was still speaking in rapid Spanish to Flash at the front of the class.
"Best mic drop ever," Ned whispered, eyes wide as he watched Tony march out of the courtroom, a flurry of reporters trailing after. Peter had to agree. With his head held high, and his signature smirk firmly in place, Tony was in his element. Even with hundreds of people swarming about him, screaming and shouting as he pushed his way through, he looked untouchable.
Something deep in Peter sunk at the sight of the man.
"Yeah." He murmured, locking the phone and shoving it back in his pocket with swift fingers as their Spanish teacher started to move between the students.
"That was so awesome." Ned grinned, leaning back over to Peter as soon as the teacher had passed them. "Like shit, he told him."
Peter nodded, his eyes fixed on his worksheet – but not really seeing the different verb formations he was supposed to be working on. "Yeah."
"What's going on with all of that?" Ned asked, clearly trying to keep his voice down – and failing. His excitement flooded through every word. Peter didn't ask him to keep his voice down. His motivation to do anything else than stare blankly at his sheet was quickly dwindling. "I mean are the other Avengers back at the Compound? Are they on the run again?" Ned grasped onto Peter's arm, suddenly alarmed. "Are you going on the run?!"
"What?" That brought Peter out of his daze. "No, Ned." He gave a small shrug. "And I don't know."
Ned stared at him blankly. "What do you mean?"
"I don't know." Peter said again, leaning further onto the table. Trying to make his brain focus on his sheet – and failing. "I haven't spoken to any of them since it happened."
"But what about Mr. Stark?" Ned asked, sparing a look down at his own sheet when their Spanish teacher passed by again, and threw him a sour look. "Surely he knows what's going on."
Peter's stomached twisted.
"Probably." He muttered. Ned looked up at him – his hearing not quick enough to catch Peter's words. "I haven't spoken to him either." Peter said, a little louder.
"What?" Ned asked, his face scrunching up in confusion. "Why?"
Peter tried to shrug again, but the movement caught in his tense shoulders and shot a bolt of pain through his back. "I called but – he just–" Peter cut off, shaking his head in a way that he hoped looked casual. If the growing line between Ned's brows was any indication, he was failing at that too. "He hasn't called back."
"Maybe you should call again?" Ned suggested, "I mean his a busy guy, he might have just forgotten-"
"-I have called again." Peter snapped – and immediately regretted it. Ned's eyebrows shot up. Peter heaved out a heavy breath, his eyes falling down to the pen he was fiddling with in his lap. "I've called him a dozen times. And Happy a dozen more." He said. "I called Stark Industries and his personal assistants – all three – and nothing." He threw the pen down onto the table forcefully. It ricocheted off the desk and spun across the room, colliding loudly with the wall by the door and splintering. Spraying blue ink across the bland, white paint. Everyone looked up, and the whole room fell silent.
"Who threw that!?"
Peter and Ned ducked their heads.
Their Spanish teacher marched across the room to the students sitting closest to the now blue wall. Peter waited for her to start yelling before he spoke again.
"He's avoiding me."
Ned's face fell – all excitement fading away. "Why?"
"I don't know." Peter said, but his heart wasn't in the words. "I don't know."
He had a sinking feeling that he knew exactly why Tony wasn't returning his calls.
Ned stared at him for a moment longer before he leaned over and bumped his shoulder, shooting him a wide grin. "You patrolling tonight?"
Peter's eyes drifted back to his worksheet. "Maybe."
"Yeah," Peter said, moving back to start on his sheet, only to realize that he was now without a pen. And he hadn't brought another. He shoved the sheet away, frustration taking hold again, and ran his fingers through his hair, then over his face. God. He was tired. "I've got a heap homework for history and that physics quiz on Friday so – you know."
Ned nodded slowly. "Well I'm totally around tonight so I am down – if you go out just call me and I'll log on." He said, his excitement mounting again. Peter couldn't bring himself to dampen it, despite how miserable he felt. "I found this epic as vintage police radio and I've just finished tuning it, so we're good to go."
Peter nodded and tried his best to summon a smile. Again, he failed.
So…our boys are not okay. And I'll be honest…they're not getting any better any time soon.
WHUMP IS COMING!
But so are the good feels, because god our boys need it.
IT'S 10 MINUTE HUG TIME!...
I will hopefully have the next chapter up in a couple of days – I have a plan (sort of) and lots of uni work to procrastinate doing…all things conducive to writing.