“No. The first thing I would tell him would be to trust your family.” Steve retorted. “You five – Natasha, you, Clint, Thor, Bruce – you’re all I have left to cling to.” He sighed, gazing up at the night sky, trying to make his companion understand. “Do you know why they require all military members to list next of kin when you enlist? Besides the obvious.”
“To remind the soldiers of what they’re fighting for. Not just the abstract notion of their country, but the tangible, real flesh and blood of home. Home isn’t always a place, Tony. For a soldier, its the people – family by blood and by choice – that give us a reason to keep fighting, and to survive to come home to again.”
“What’s your point?” Tony demanded impatiently.
“In 2012, my two reason to live were in a nursing home – Peggy Carter – and suffering as a fifty year PoW, brainwashed and tortured by the enemy I had already given my life once to stop.” Steve said bluntly. “I was a 23 year old vet dealing with the shell shock of being alive and home, but I was still in battle mode. Sentry mode. I was essentially in enemy – or at least unknown – territory, and I was drowning.” He nodded as Tony frowned, realization kicking in. “SHIELD gave me the basics – a place to live, money, a starter package to learning about this brave new world – but I didn’t trust anyone. Not Fury, or any of the team. Is it any wonder that I hid behind the Cap persona when we first met?”
“Didn’t consciously occur to me – any of us, really.” Tony mused. “I just assumed it was your default personality. Suit was tight enough back then to keep that stick up your ass nice and confined.” He smirked. “And toned.”
Steve rolled his eyes. “Thanks. Anyway, once we dealt with Loki, everyone went their separate ways. Nat and I eventually went to D.C., but everyone else was off doing their own thing. It took two years, SHIELD collapsing, and your rival nearly killing Pepper to bring the Avengers back together again. Now, on the one hand, I met Sam. On the other hand, Bucky eluded us for another two years, you dealt with PTSD from New York, and -”
“- Strucker had the scepter, which created the twins and eventually Ultron.”
Steve nodded silently.
“You want to warn them about Ultron? He does end up being Vision.”
“My problem was never with Vision.” Steve said quietly. “It was that you didn’t trust us enough to read us in on what you had planned.”
“You mean you wouldn’t have tried to talk me and Bruce out of it? C’mon, Mister Freedom isn’t Free – you can’t really expect me to believe that.” Tony scoffed.
Steve shrugged. “Guess we’ll never know. But Tony, that lack of trust was the first crack in the team dynamic – in our dynamic. Then came Sokovia, and the Accords, and King T’Challa and Bucky and Zolan, and we shattered. Divided we fell. We were easy pickings for Thanos.”
They fell silent, lost in their own brooding thoughts. Tony abruptly stood.
“So – if – we did this, when are you thinking, and what exactly are we telling, and to who?”