The secretary fixed Rogers with a hardened stare.
‘Tell me, Captain—have you any idea where Doctor Banner is?’
All eyes turned to Romanov.
‘He had a breakthrough in Sokovia about women’s emotional labour and went to learn how to self-soothe.’
The odd looks continued.
‘There’s no process here. We need oversight.’
A pregnant silence passed.
‘Tony,’ said Rhodes. ‘Not to be blunt, but you don’t get to overrule the team.’
The Vision nodded. ‘Situational pressures aside, records suggest a need for consensus.’
‘You got me, tin man. Active listening. What do we do?’
Progress was made quickly after the team committed to an adult discussion.
‘Ultimately,’ Rogers remarked, ‘I don’t agree. But I get why Tony’s concerned.’
‘Thanks Cap. You raise compelling points yourself.’
‘Sure is complicated,’ sighed Rhodes.
‘A proposal,’ said the Vision, having been quiet. ‘If the accords fail to address the full complexity of our context, might we reply with an alternative?’
Wilson looked up. ‘You’re saying negotiate?’
‘Could work,’ said Stark. Rogers nodded.
‘Well,’ replied Romanov. ‘Thank God that didn’t escalate.’
The summit bombing had scattered the team and reignited arguments. In the ruins, Romanov approached T’Challa.
‘The task force will decide who brings in Barnes.’
‘Don’t bother. I’ll kill him myself.’
‘Your highness,’ said the assassin. ‘I don’t mean to dismiss your grief, but Barnes is acting under mind control.’
‘Oh,’ said T’Challa. ‘Thank you for letting me know.’
Rogers had remained stony-faced throughout the funeral.
‘That thing Peg told you about planting yourself like a tree. You think she’d tell me that?’
‘I think she’d tell you not to let your feelings do your job.’
Steve looked away.
‘What I’ll tell you,’ said Sharon, ‘is that it’s okay to be upset.’
‘Vision,’ asked Wanda. ‘Why aren’t you letting me leave?’
‘Mr Stark would like to avoid another incident.’
‘And what do you want?
‘For people to see you the way I do.’
‘Get out of my way.’
‘The Black Panther is a mantle passed between warriors. Now I also wear the mantle of king, I ask you: how long do you think you can keep your friend safe from me?’
‘I know you’re in mourning,’ said Steve. ‘But seriously. Mind control.’
‘Pepper left. It’s nobody’s fault.’
Steve’s eyebrows rose.
‘It’s totally my fault.’
‘What did Hulk say?’
‘He’s disappointed in you both.’
‘Who else knows? Anybody? Your aunt?’
‘Mr Stark,’ asked the New Yorker slowly. ‘Are you trying to give me cash and dress me in spandex?’
‘Tony, you’re after the wrong guy. The creepy psychiatrist is behind all this.’
‘Your buddy killed people. I’m here to bring you in.’
‘Respectfully, Tony, that doesn’t address what I said.’
‘You rescued Wanda from a place she didn’t want to leave.’
‘Tony.’ Stark turned. ‘I’m right here.’
‘You’re not going to stop.’
‘You know I can’t.’
‘I think you need to own your choices, Steve.’
‘You locked me up.’
‘To protect you!’
Wanda responded with a long, hard stare.
The footage turned to static, screens going dead.
‘Tony.’ Stark unfroze, looking up. ‘Tony, please don’t.’
The billionaire swivelled to face Barnes, who backed away.
‘I couldn’t—I didn’t—’
A long, ragged gasp cut Barnes off as Stark’s face turned toward the sky.
Rogers approached, stopping as the other man shook his head. Across the room, Barnes sank against the wall. Slowly Stark too slumped to the ground, head between armoured knees.
No one knew what to say as Rogers left, but he decided Sharon had been right. Sometimes, it was okay to be upset.