His Problem to Fix

January 31, 2018:

Tony Stark receives a visit from Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, who have a very particular grievance.

Stark Tower, NYC



Mentions: Obadiah Stane, Pepper Potts, Phil Coulson

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Stark Tower has seen better days, but its fixing itself. Repairing. Slowly but surely, bit by bit, it is coming back around to being the technological marvel that it once was. Windows replaced. Damage repaired. Drones and workmen zip around all hours of the day and night to once again put the building back into fighting trim.

Like Tony actually knows what that means, its just something you say right? Right.

Somewhat like the building, its creator is battered and bruised. The soul of his creationi mimicing his own damage. The broken leg. The broken ribs. The bruises, contusions, cuts and scrapes from run ins both magical and mundane.

But thankfully the nightmare is over. For the most part at least. JARVIS still sits in a cage, his core processes corrupted, his suits are destroyed. His town brutalised…

…ok so there is still a lot to do.

Stark though seems to be up to the challenge. Pushing himself even as he is pushed. Tonight is no exception, the inventor hard at work at the top of his tower. Fiddling with a weapon of some kind. And a sensor array. Something special to protect himself and his people from those that want to cause him harm.

Stark Tower. Brutalized, bent, but not broken. It still stands proudly in the New York skyline, spearing up into the sky, swarmed by its dutiful staff — human and robotic alike — as they diligently stitch the wounded structure back together. No matter how others might assault it physically, it will always bounce back… as resilient and dogged, in that respect, as the man for whom it is named.

There are others out there, however, whose grudges against the Tower are not physical in nature.

For that reason, there is no chaotic fanfare to announce that Tony is no longer alone at the top floor. No rocking explosions, no blurs of speed, no insidious virii suddenly multiplying like a cancer in the heart of his machine empire. There's no alert, even. No alert, because the young woman approaching from the direction of the elevator banks is one of his staff — a midlevel assistant of some kind. She is escorting an unfamiliar, unremarkable young man. Brown hair, brown eyes. Just some random suit. Maybe another adjuster, come by to talk about super boring things.

Weird time of day for that kind of thing. The sun has long since set, and the New York sky is… well, as dark as it can get, with all the light pollution. Still, some people like to work at all hours. It's New York.

"Mr. Stark," the man greets, as he and his companion draw closer. There's a faint dusting of an accent on his voice. Eastern European. "A moment of your time?"

Stark looks up from his things. From his science and his experiments. From his table and his sanctum and just stares at the boring pair of mid-level employees that walk in. Shown in. To the highest levels of his world.

There is a sigh from him as he reaches out, swiping things off the desk seemingly at random. Fingers fixing circuits, creating something almost out of habit. Its what he does at any time.

"So." He says, stopping in his building to grab a few walnuts out of a little bowl near him. "I have some time. But first," There is a grin. "Mind telling me who you two are? Since A) SIRIN tells me when I have apointments. Pepper usually reminds me. Not sends two boring looking people up here to talk to me. Because I don't talk to boring people. I have people that do that for me. Wow I'm getting off on a tangent here arn't I?"

He pauses, reorients on the pair. One wallnut casually arced into his mouth. "Anyway! What I mean is you're too boring to actually be here legit and after the last week I've had I'm going to guess you're here to kill me. Or blow something up. Well everything is already blown up so can you come back next never and say that you never came?"

The man exchanges a glance with the woman. "Too boring, he said. Everyone else said we were too exciting." He slants a glance back towards Stark. "Here we thought we were doing you a favor, being boring. Especially after the last time we met."

He isn't quite telling Tony who they are, even after that.

"Well, the important part is you have time now. — Can I just say you have some fascinating things up here?" the man asks, rhetorically. He flickers — and vanishes, a wind whipping up palpably off his sudden movement.

He reappears at Tony's workbench, lifting a circuitboard at random to examine it. "Huh."

He disappears again. "Huh," he says, looking at one of Tony's active screens, back in the building.

"Huh," he concludes, flipping through one of the scattered notebooks so fast that the pages blur.

"We're actually not here to kill you or blow anything up," he adds, suddenly right back where he began, beside his sister. He discus tosses the notebook back onto the workbench. Red hexlight is already bleeding off them both, slowly shedding their false identities to reveal the familiar Twins beneath. "At least that's not necessarily the end-game. We just want to talk. To ask questions."

Tony Stark just gives the speedster the flatest of flat looks. "You have no idea what any of this means right?"

As the stranger blurs about, moving here and there with a speed that is transparently not human, the supposed Stark assistant is a picture of perfect stillness and patience. Her expression would give Xanax lessons in pleasant numbness.

She says nothing as he speaks, perhaps no need to, or maybe no desire, assuming one spot with her hands neatly twined together.

The brother helps himself to all of Stark's half-assembled little things, looking and touching and making a mess as he goes, as the sister finds herself unable to crack a brief smile, amused and affectionate.

That is until Tony speaks, and her eyes turn on him — and her expression chills over.

He asks who they are, and her eyes change colours, burning an unnatural red — when suddenly both assistant and stranger change appearances and shift their faces, a glamour falling away in a probability field of nascent scarlet light. He is tall and lean and pale, even down to white hair, and she is small and dark and delicate, and with both, at this moment, matching red eyes.

"My brother does not lie," speaks the Witch, with a subdued smile that does not reach her eyes. Her voice haunts with that same ghost of an accent, long and far away. "We come neither to kill or destroy. Why do so, when that already appears to be your job, Tony Stark? We have questions. Many questions. First of which is how you even live with yourself?"

"Most days? Whiskey." Tony's reply is glib and short as he sits back in his chair. Still fiddling with his little gadget as his eyes slide from one to the other. The speedster and the…whatever she is.

"You know its funny, I was just talking earlier about all the ways all my little tricks I'm working on can't stop a conventional speedster. I mean what can you run? Mach 10? That's at least reasonable. No 'oh no I ran so fast I broke time' stuff that makes my eyes cross."

Is he putting together a bomb? Activating an alarm. Its hard to say, but he's not shooting at them and he's not trying to set off an obvious alarm. Or screaming for help.

No. Instead he's almost curious.

Why /are/ they here. After they blew up his party. Nearly killed one of his oldest friends.

That causes a spike of anger, a slight tightening around the eyes quickly brushed off in the next heartbeat. Gone but not forgotten. "Technicly magic did all this." A beatpause. "Do you actually use magic?" This towards Wanda. "I mean you gesture, but you aren't chanting pidgin english backwards or something."

You have no idea what any of this means, right?

"You'd be surprised," Pietro Maximoff says dryly. "I read a lot. Plenty of time for it."

He falls silent seamlessly as his sister finally speaks. The two have an almost tidal interaction, one ebbing readily when the other comes in to speak. He prowls about as his sister speaks and drops their glamour, and by the time she is finished he has already long since come back to her side. Their matching red eyes glimmer with restless hex-light.

Pietro's roll, rather pointedly, at the glib response about whiskey.

If Stark is putting together a bomb, Pietro seems largely unconcerned. His eyes do follow Stark closely, his powers allowed to run freely so he can pick out every detail of what the other man is doing — every detail of Stark's expressions. He sees that tiny flicker of anger. His mouth pulls upward at one corner, and he passes the information to his sister. Speaking of —

"My sister asked a question," Pietro reminds.

He blurs a little at the edges. There is a folder on Tony's workbench in front of him, that was not there before. It contains photographs. Newspaper clippings. Contracts. Receipts. The location is Genosha. The subject of all the data before Tony: the name STARK repeated in association with all those weapons, those missiles, those bombs.

"Your creations were tools of oppression for Genoshan elites. How do you have the gall to speak of charity while your weapons and your bombs kept mutate slaves in line?"

With a man like Tony Stark, there are usually several (hundred) detours to the main point. Such as his many questions.

One of them pauses Wanda, not quite used to being asked things. Her red eyes study Stark, pensive, before she decides to humour him. "Many humans believe it's magic," she answers, if that is even an answer. "They call me a witch."

But a gust of wind — stirring the ends of her long, dark hair — signals her twin brother back to her side, giving his own chide to Tony of her question. Wanda turns one hand to lay gratefully on Pietro's arm.

Within a blink, something deposits itself on Stark's bench. The file runs thick with assembled information — intelligence straight from Genosha.

Opening the folder, Tony will be greeted first with a single image: a candid, street photograph of a dead mutant child, a casualty to war. Nearby shrapnel bears the twisted remnant of the familiar STARK name.

Fury reflects against Wanda's burning red eyes. "The only question remains as to what they'll call you. Iron Man? No. 'Murderer' is more apt."

Tony was angry. Curious. Slightly annoyed that security hadn't caught intruders. AGAIN. His fingers move with a sureness that defies logic as he fits pieces together without even looking or seemingly to think about it. A innate understanding of engineering is shown that seems almost supernnatural himself.

It could be a bomb. It could be a tableweight. Its hard to tell.

There is a switch on it. There is an emitter on it. He almost alarm or weapon…

…none of it matters as Pietro flings the papers and folder onto the bench in front of him. There is a quirked eyebrow. "…alright, I'll bite…" He mutters as he flips open the folder.

…and that first picture on top is more effective than a bomb in disabling Tony Stark.

It lances though him like white hot poker. Eyes pick out every little detail of that picture. The child lying cold and still. The weapon casing so close by with his own familiar logo on it. He imeadeatly knows what explosive did it. How it did it. The pain index. The devastation radius. The kill radius. How difficult it would have been to help people wounded with /his/ shrapnel designs.

His mind calls the information up by rote as he stares, the little device of his falling to the tabletop with a soft thunk.

"SIRIN. Verify." Those two words sound more serious than any of the banter that had accompanied the last two weeks of hell.

He's looking now, for dates. For times. When did this happen. /How/ did this happen. Shock. Pain. Anger. Every little microexpression that flashes to his face, unfeigned and unfiltered. All an open book for one of the Maximoffs.

Verification flashes up. Even SIRIN's voice is muted as Stark simply stares at the results of his genius.

"When was this taken?"

They call me a witch, Wanda says pensively. Her twin bristles at her side, hackles raising, clearly disliking the term — and the way in which it has been applied over the years. Even if Wanda eventually wound up claiming it and making it her own.

He only quiets to the touch of Wanda's hand on his arm. She can soothe him out of just about anything.

Whatever Tony is working on doesn't concern Pietro. The reason it doesn't concern him is one part the elder Maximoff's confidence in his powers, and one part his confidence in the contents of the folder that he throws contemptuously to Stark's workbench. All Stark needs to do is open it and take a look… and from the expressions he saw crossing Stark's face — what everyone knows about the man himself — Pietro is confident he won't be able to resist the curiosity.

As they say, curiosity killed the cat. Fortunately, the Twins do not seem that kind of hostile — not now.

Pietro impassively records every expression that flickers across Tony Stark's face. Whatever he sees, he filters to his sister in a quiet feed across their mental link, a wordless report of the effect they have had. He has to say he is surprised. Not just at the pain, the guilt… but more importantly, more infuriatingly, at the shock.

When was this taken?

"This goes back years, Stark," Pietro says, his voice wound tight. "The top images are from the wars surrounding the recent power struggles. Keep going, and the timestamps'll just get older. Not all the ordnance is fresh, some were long-ago purchases held in reserve. But some is."

Finally, he has to ask. "You didn't know?"

Her twin tenses palpably at her side — it only takes one old, familiar word to do it. A word that has haunted both Maximoffs all their broken lives.

Wanda lets her hand drift down Pietro's arm to take his hand in hers. The touch brings her close to him, drawn to his side, twin mutants with their matching, flaring red eyes.

The sister of the twins maintains her fatal silence, eyes on Tony Stark's face, studying him as he studies evidence of his corporation's work: the far reach of his intelligence and the blood such things surely, always spill.

Is the world better for having Tony Stark? The man whose mind has upgraded weapons beyond the curve of advancement?

Pietro's question earns a glance of Wanda's eyes. That is interesting.

"Has your business outstepped you, Stark?" asks the Witch. "We discussed the value of taking your life tonight. My brother believed it would make no difference. The machine would continue on in the absence of its master. Ignorant or not, that is all on you. All of that innocent mutant blood. All on you. Every life you've taken. Every life you've broken. Your guns. Your bombs. Your machines. You are a butcher."

"I spent the first year after I made my Mark 2 hunting down every cache of black market STARK tech I could find. I knew I missed some…" He's talking, muttering as he sifts though the orders. The requistion forms. The money changed hands for /his/ designs. /His/ genius. /His/ weapons of death. This happened again, just like it always has. Just like it keeps happening.

Every time he thinks he gets ahead of it…

…something like this happens.

"Of course I didn't know." He adds after a moment. "I had half my board members try to kill me when I came back. Decided to stop making weapons for a bidder. I knew they hid things before I could get to them, I knew I missed things…"

He looked. He looks long and hard. Using every trick in the book. …didn't he?

Thats what he told himself.

Could he have looked harder. Spent less time on toys, more time searching out who had his illegal tech. Did he really do all he could?

Or did he just get bored.

Guilt clouds his face as he stares down at picture after picture. Obviously he had missed some. How much more had been missed? How much more was still out there.

While he sat in his tower patting himself on the back.

A dozen responces to Wanda's accusation goes though his head. Shouting. Tantrums. Denial. They all go though his head, but what comes out of his mouth is simple. To the point. Honest to these two angry strangers, ones who had been vicims of his own designs. Honest in a way he hasn't even been to his closest friends.

"I know."

How can he explain to them that without him it would be even worse. Those that want his designs would just take them. The destruction would only increase. That he does what he does to protect what he can now. Now that he realises what he did before. How can he even explain it to them, and what good might it do.

"I know I am."

Incredibly, Pietro does not interrupt when Tony Stark speaks. Perhaps it's because he is recording every word that is said, inspecting every passing expression and emotional response that comes with it. There is little in Tony's features or tone to suggest he is lying, and everything to suggest that he is telling the truth.

It makes Quicksilver's own expression curl in anger, in disbelief, and in censure.

My brother believed it would make no difference. Pietro had in fact opined that way. Said that Tony Stark, the man, mattered so little in the corporate scheme that going so far as to kill him would do nothing to stop the engine of destruction that was Stark Industries. And is this not proof? One man can't corral and undo the work of so many underminers.

Of course he didn't know, Tony says. "Now," Pietro says, his voice a sharp declarative, "it's your business to know. Every time you miss something, it's a few hundred lives. If not thousands."

He looks long and hard at Stark, scarlet-shaded eyes narrowed. "We grew up in Eastern Europe," he says suddenly. "We've been dodging death of your design most of our lives. Each thing you missed was another way in which we, and so many others, might have died. Miss fewer things. You have housecleaning to do, Stark."

His hand, twined with hers, tightens. A wordless signal they should go. "The only thing worse than a butcher is an ignorant butcher," he says. "Now you know what you are, fix it… or don't. One of those choices will have us returning someday."

There are many reactions Wanda Maximoff expected out of a man like Tony Stark. A man painted a hundred mercurial ways in the public world.

His frank honesty, in the end, tilts her head. While no mercy comes to her red eyes, no desire to either understand or acquit Stark of the crimes they've convicted him, the Witch still looks momentarily pensive. She appraises all his gravity like a living lie detector, determined to weight its truth — determined only to see action from this discovery.

If they decide not to take his life, here and now, there had best be a reason why.

Pietro speaks, and Wanda remains silent, the brother speaking for both. Twins of one will, one mind.

"Memorize their faces, Stark," is all Wanda entreats, in the end. She speaks of the photographs he flips through, one after another after another. "I hope they haunt you for all your life. What life you should be permitted to possess. If you have anything of a soul, butcher, then use your last breath to ensure those mistakes are your last. Do as my brother says and FIX this. And don't think even that absolves you. You will be paying for this for the rest of your days."

Her one hand tightens on her brother's. The other sparks with red light, circuiting thread-thin filaments that pull off her fingertips. Her hand curls and her fingers twitch, and one of those threads ties a knot.

In a burn of hex-light, and between blinks of the eye, the Maximoffs are gone.

Later, Stark's equipment will measure the nature of that power: no magic, but more like a break in a quantum probability field. Reality sundered and stitched back together.

He doesn't even more to stop them, doesn't say thing to the accusations thrown this way. They are terrorists of course. He is an Avenger. Technicly he should try to stop them. Its within his right. To call down fire against the invaders against his home. He should at least try…

…but he doesn't. He can't. /He/ did this. /He/ turned them into what they are now. /He/ is responsible. The weight that rests on his shoulders for that moment renders him inncapeable of even a shrug. No flippant comment. No nothing. Only a flicker of a gaze as they flash out of existance in a blinding moment of scarlet energy.

That causes a prick of annoyance.

Damn wizards.

Still that weight, the weight of the past month holds him down. His creations again used to destroy. To maim and kill. Then the revelation that what he thought was stopped is still killing people. Has still been killing people for how long now.

Too long.

His designs. His fault. Blood on his hands.

Which means he has to fix it.

It starts slow, as he sits there in silence. Staring at the lists of the dead and the bills of sale that killed him. Starts with a slow downturn along the corners of his lips. A compression of that usual smirk he has hiding. A thin line as lips press together and eyes harden. Like a thunderhead rolling across a plain his eyes flash as he stands. Fire and energy thread though his veins till he can't sit still. He paces, still uncharasticly silent. No music. No words. Just frentic motion.

"SIRIN." The sharp command holds some of the banter he usually does, the tone light in a way that doesn't match his eyes. "Retask satalite grids three through twelve to scan for my unique technology. Filter out all legitimate owners and SHIELD bases." His might is whirling now, screaming though computations as he stares now at a map of the globe, bright dots showing up and then fading out again.

"Clear my schedule."

"Sir," Finally SIRIN steps in. Her voice slightly hesitant. "…Miss Potts asked you to take it easy."

There is a snort from Stark. "This is me taking it easy. They got away from me once. They won't do it again." How did they get away? Thats the question. His AIs can analyze data faster than anyone in the world. So how did they get away…

…he knows how.

"SIRIN get Obi on the line. Set up a meeting. And yes I know what time it is." He snaps out as he stares one last time at the pictures.

His problem to fix.

But someone is hiding this from him…so…

"And then, get me Coulson."

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