Chapter 43: Ah, the problem with problem children.


~ On board a SHIELD jet, on the way to Sokovia

"How long until we are there?" Wanda asked.

"20 minutes." the Widow answered. "Anxious?"

"Angry." his sister said.

Pietro grabbed her hand to silently ask her to quiet down. They shouldn't talk to the Widow. It was pure luck that she didn't learn about what they did in Jo—Johannesburg last time, and that only because she had been far more interested to learn about their loyalties instead. Talking to a Widow was suicide. Everyone who had ever been in HYDRA knew that.

"What about you, kid?" the Widow asked him. "How are you feeling?"

"Fine." Pietro said, trying to keep his answers as short as possible. He didn't even try to refuse being addressed as a kid. The last time he did that, she had latched onto that opening all smiling and understanding, and taken everything all back to his parents, leaving him all flayed and open, such that, by the end, he wished she had stabbed him. It would have hurt less.

"'Fine'? We'll be seeing Ultron soon. You sure you feel just 'fine'?" she asked.

He nodded. She smiled.

"Come on, Red! Give the kids a break." Stark shouted as he came in.

The Widow stopped staring him down, and turned to face her teammate, an eyebrow raised in question. "Ultron sought them out, barely a few hours ago, and we have no idea why. Aren't you curious to hear what they spoke about?"

"We didn't speak with him." Wanda interrupted, probably still enraged at the way that encounter ended. He hadn't shared with her how different it had been for him. "We fought. He knocked us out."

The Widow looked at his sister first, then at him. "Is that so?" she asked.

Pietro nodded. "Yes."

"I'm sure it is." She said, then turned to Stark again. She didn't believe them— No. She didn't believe him. Obviously, that conversation wasn't over. Just on pause. "Ultron's speech starting soon?"

"Right now, actually." Stark said, handing over new earbuds to her. "Cap is at the memorial, with the others, watching it live. He wants us to stay in contact, just in case."

"What about us?" Pietro asked, before Wanda could. He wanted to listen in. He had to.

Stark produced two new pairs. "For the record, I don't agree with this," he said as he handed them over. "But Cap gave it a green light, so who am I to disagree? It's not like I'm the one who designs everything and pays for everything else. Oh wait, I am."

Pietro ignored his chatter and put on the earbuds. There were more important things right now than fighting with Stark.

"Cap!" Stark spoke as they walked to the viewing room. "How's Junior doing?"

Pietro heard the Captain sigh. "The Sokovian president is still speaking, Tony." Then added. "You still haven't told us anything about your conversation with Ultron. No more secrets; when we are back—."

"You'll scold me very fiercely, got it."

"Stark…"

"Don't tell me. SHIELD will be put me on time-out?" Stark fake-gasped.

Rogers took a deep breath, then quietly said. "I hate you."

"Dammit! I thought I got it!" Stark groaned.

"Don't tell me." the Widow said, realization dawning on her features. "Who's in? Clint? You started this, didn't you?"

"What? What are you guys talking about?" Rogers asked.

Hawkeye coughed. "There's a… a small bet going on."

"A bet?"

"They are betting on whether Stark can make you curse, Steve," Romanov explained.

"And I can't believe how difficult it is." Stark added. "Haven't managed it even once! If this continues, I'll owe Legolas a new pointy-stick launcher."

"Thanks in advance, man!" Hawkeye said.

"I can't believe this." Rogers groaned.

Hearing their banter, Pietro felt weird, not bad-weird, but just… weird. He hadn't imagined the Avengers being like this. He exchanged a gaze with his sister, who also looked surprised and unsure how to react.

They entered the room, the red android waiting next to the holographic screens.

"Steve, he's starting." Banner said, finally bringing them back on point.

Pietro sat down beside Wanda, feeling both curious and worried. He didn't know what Ultron's plan was. He didn't even know when he was supposed to act, just that he had to stick with Stark and would realize when it was the right time by himself.

For now, he stared as the channel changed and saw a tall, blonde man on the podium.

"Thank you, Mr. President. Allow me to say," Ultron started in English.

"JARVIS, did you start the feed already?" Stark asked, looking confused.

"No, Sir." the android said. "I believe Ultron has just commandeered the streaming channels, as he did during his first announcement."

"Is it like this everywhere, FRIDAY?" he continued.

The feminine voice in the walls answered. "Yes, Boss. Uninterrupted, mandatory, worldwide live-streaming."

"Your boy there," the Widow suddenly said. "Really likes his audience, doesn't he?"

"Hmm?" Stark hummed absent-mindedly, still in thought. "Oh yes, obviously."

Pietro watched as the Widow tensed for a moment at his words before relaxing fully on the sofa. He looked at Stark, worried —though not for Stark, never for Stark— about what this meant. Pietro had assumed Stark was keeping his wish to protect Ultron secret, but didn't he just reveal to the worst of spies what he thought of their relationship by accepting her choice of phrasing? Was it not meant to be a secret? It meant something to the Widow, after all.

"My name is James Ultron.—" the speech continued, so Pietro pushed other thoughts aside and turned to the screen. The others probably did the same, for it was silent on the jet for quite some time.

Hearing Ultron speak, he really hoped that the robot was right. That he could do the things he promised and—.

"Today, is the day when humanity achieved World Peace," Ultron said, and curses exploded in Pietro's ears.

"No way," Hawkeye said.

"Is he telling the truth?" Rogers asked. "Stark, is what he is saying true."

"I am checking right now. Give me a moment." Stark said. "FRI, could you—?"

Pietro didn't listen to the rest of his words.

World Peace.

Those words kept echoing in his mind, and he just listened, disbelieving.

World Peace. It wasn't real. Everyone said so. It was just some unrealistic dream and—.

Peace. Everywhere.

Which meant no more wars. No more missiles falling on top of homes. No more going to sleep in the midst of air bombings, wondering whether you would ever be able to wake up again.

He did it. Ultron did it. He didn't lie. He promised. And he didn't lie.

Pietro was roused from his thoughts as Wanda stood up. "Is it true?" she shouted, just like he wished to shout. "Is Ultron telling the truth?" she asked, sounding hysterical. He felt hysterical. Shocked, terrified, hopeful. Hysterical.

Stark looked at them concerned. They had probably discussed this, but Pietro and Wanda had been stuck inside their heads, disbelieving.

The Widow softened her tone and answered, warm and comforting. Likely fake.

"He's telling the truth, Wanda."

"Oh." Wanda said when hearing this, and the fight suddenly left her, plopping down on the divan like the strings keeping her straight had been cut.

Oh, Pietro wanted to say, too, but his throat felt too tight and his tongue too thick, and he couldn't remember how to use his voice.

In silence, they continued to watch Ultron speak.

"World hunger. Thirst. Epidemics. Corruption. Discrimination. Injustice." Ultron listed, and Pietro wondered. Could he do that? Could he fix that? Could they change things? Just like with war, could they make things better?

"I dared to dream. Do you?" Ultron asked.

I do, Pietro wanted to answer. I do. I do. I do. I .IdoIdoIdoIdoIdo.

I do.

Pietro didn't understand what happened until the screaming started. On the screen, the crowd rushed away from the podium, as the man who made World Peace happen fell down. As he fell, Pietro felt vomit at the back of his throat, even though he knew it had to be an act. An act he hadn't known about.

Ultron's body was displayed at an angle, and Pietro's new mantra of "It's not real. It's not real." was the only thing keeping him from regurgitating his lunch.

The camera that was still streaming had to have been pushed down and broken because, after a loud noise, the screen turned black.

"Steve, what's happening?" The Widow asked.

"Sniper," Rogers answered. "I see him. I'm in pursuit."

"JARVIS and I are suiting up. We'll be there in a moment." Stark said.

"And us?" Wanda asked.

"You kids stay here. Where it's safe." Stark said.

"But we can help." his sister insisted.

"That was an assassination, not a—," the man continued, but Pietro interrupted him.

"We can evacuate the people who were at the Memorial Monument. Help them get away faster."

"Ok," Stark agreed, sounding defeated. "But no fighting."

"That's not something you can—," Wanda refuted, but Pietro grabbed herand ran them away from the room, even as Stark's AI, began the jet's descent.

"Pietro…" Wanda said, questioning.

"No time," he said, the sound of Captain America fighting the assassin in his ears.

"Buck?" Rogers suddenly said. "Bucky, stop!"

"Cap, what are you doing?" Hawkeye shouted.

"What's going on?" Stark asked.

"Rogers just took off," he said.

"Wasn't he fighting with the assassin?"

"He was! But it seems he knows him or something." he then addressed the Captain. "Rogers, where are you, man?"

But instead of an answer, they heard a popping sound and then silence.

"Rogers!" Hawkeye shouted. "Can you hear me? What happened?"

"Cap just took off the earbuds," Stark said.

"What?"

Pietro was curious about their discussion since Captain America seemed to be going AWOL, but... he shook his head. He should just stick to the plan.


A/N: Hello, dear readers! Thank you so much for your comments and your support this far! This A/N is super long, but for a reason. Several of you have expressed concerns regarding Steve's character, especially since I promised no bashing. I have decided to address those concerns here. However, I am a very lazy person, so I just copy-pasted my answer to a specific reader in regard to that:

"When the first Captain America movie came out, I really like Steve. I found the whole movie to be rather unrealistic, what with the MC being an uneducated, low SES, white man in the 30s and 40s of US. But who knew? Maybe Steve was one of those few progressives! And it was a fantasy superhero genre, so adding that much reality to it was a bit much on my part. Still, I liked him.

Then, Avengers came. And then Civil War came. And I f*** hated him. It was like Steve became OOC, or that the writers forgot what kind of man this hero was supposed to be!

And then came the Infinity Wars and Endgame and the writers were like: "Wait, remember that swell guy that turned into a stubborn idiot? Forget that second part! We are going back to swell."

Well, I didn't forget. I think Steve is one of the most badly treated characters in regard to character growth and personal story arc. He just becomes whatever the writers need him to be (it happened to Thor once too!) to add drama, as if he has no actual baseline personality.

My plan is to change that! But within the confines of the movies, at first, so he grows a bit slower. In addition, it may seem like bashing, but I want to highlight how weird his thought process is! Luckily, I have HYDRA to thank for the weird change in Steve from First Avenger to Civil war, with SHIELD psych department being compromised and everything; and in addition, war, best friend dead, and then himself dying in an iceberg, plus then waking up to see everyone he knows gone, and having to deal with the craziness that is modern age? That is rather traumatic. I plan on making Steve the poster child for mental health awareness in the future!

This Steve has a lot of work and heartbreak and reflection in front of him, until he is not just a 'swell guy' but a great man!"

So that's what my plans regarding him are. It is a bit spoiler-y, true but I plan on making a note on the synopsis regarding this in future or something, but I am not sure. Is it too spoiler-y? Would you have preferred I hadn't addressed this? Am I even bashing, because I honestly think this is how someone like Steve who experienced all those things would feel at first hand, before having a chance to really process. In addition, it is important for Steve's growth. Please let me know what you think.