Who: Wanda, Tony What: meeting at the vegan cafe When: after the ship repair and comments on the network Rating: Green
Waitressing wasn’t difficult, really. Wanda didn’t particularly like it but she also knew that she didn’t have a lot of choices, if she wanted to find a way to earn money - she was without a college degree, or even much of an education at all. The schools in Sokovia had been poorly run, poor in general, and by the time she and Pietro fell in with the rebel crowd their focus on learning had been on street skills like petty theft and sabotage. She was a quick learner though, so she’d pick up this new skill quickly - she hoped.
It was always busy at the cafe - a popular spot for those who enjoyed vegan food, and all the desserts were made in-house so it was also a bakery that occasionally catered events. At some point she wanted to be in the kitchen actually baking, learning these dairy-free recipes sweetened with agave nectar and coconut oil, but had to work her way up the ladder first. That meant performing the intricate dance of moving like smoke over water, fluidly, to and fro - from the dining area to the kitchen, taking orders, clipping them at the cook’s station, slapping the bell, picking up the completed orders. And so on and so on.
Most of the clientele were too ‘crunchy’ to be pigs, but on occasion she would get her backside groped while walking by - groups of men who would blame it on their friends, or disappear back into their laughing hyena gang, hiding from what they’d done. The first time she almost flattened the whole place in a telekinetic rage, but quickly realized that she wanted to keep this job. So now she resigned herself to it, occasionally returning to her room at the Sanctum with angry tears threatening to fall and sore feet.
Now she was about to take her own lunch break, removing her apron and gratefully plopping down at a table to wait for Tony Stark. Of all people. She was aware she didn’t look great - her hair was a mess, pulled up into loose bun - but it wasn’t like she had to impress him.
This wasn't going to be nervewracking at all. Tony took a break from work on the quantum tunnel, not really mentioning where it was he was going to Hope or Scott. Not only was he now hanging out at work with Hank Pym's daughter, but he was working with the guy responsible for stomping an airport while giant-sized. Not that he held a grudge against anyone on Team Cap anymore? It was more like a metric ton of regret he tried to slather a layer of sarcasm over. And he found he actually liked Scott's sense of humor.
He had trouble admitting that. Whatever. Life was getting weirder and weirder.
Proof of that point? He was meeting Wanda Maximoff where she worked. It wasn't like he hadn't come to terms with the brainjacking back before Ultron and Sokovia became a thing? He had. Enough that she was living at the Avengers headquarters upstate and one of the Avengers.
Everyone made mistakes. His mistakes happened to impact the Maximoff twins for almost all of their lives. A weight of guilt that Tony carried with him all of the time.
He walked into the cafe like he didn't have a care in the world, steps light, pace confident. All the better for people to see himself looking like he could handle anything that came his way, including meeting Wanda again. He knew she was around on the network before, but their paths hadn't ever crossed other than momentarily, in the heat of battle. The last time he saw her, before that, was on The Raft.
He nodded toward her as he approached the table, plastering a smile on his face as he whipped off his sunglasses and slipped into the chair across from her,
"Hi," he said, his dark eyes skimming over her in a visual assessment. It wasn't condemning in any way. In fact, after his assessment was finished, he looked away to hide any worry. Not only for the patrons here if one of them got hangry, but because Wanda looked like it was taking everything not to pull her hair out. Even though he wanted more than anything to tell her she didn't have to do this, he understood too well why she would want to. To keep herself busy and have something that seemed normal. Like everyone else. "Busy day at the office. How long's your lunch break?"
“An hour,” she replied, and normally Wanda might have taken a nap someplace she couldn’t be seen (she didn’t sleep well at night, often catching winks during the day instead) but she was just as fine with getting to sit for more than a moment.
She pushed the menu toward Tony, in case he wanted to order something. It would likely be a salad for her. “The cheeseburger is not bad - they have pizza too,” she said, though the cheese tasted different, of course. Because it was plant-based. Healthier for you, naturally - she could see the appeal, she supposed. Wanda liked animals - they were often better than people.
“So you wanted to...talk?” About what, she wasn’t sure. It was awkward with him, for a variety of reasons - he’d been afraid of her like everyone else, keeping her locked up in Avengers Tower ‘for her own good’ or whatever flimsy excuse it had been. But when she’d seen his fears, she also saw the evil he dealt with constantly - how the survivor’s guilt played into that, his fear of making it out alive when the rest of his team wasn’t so fortunate. It must be why he worked himself so hard. To try, in vain, to keep everyone safe. In that way, she pitied him.
Tony took the menu, looking it over and taking her advice. He was getting used to faux cheese already. It wasn't so much a save the animals statement - even if it was that too since he was about eco friendly energy these days - but also for health reasons. He wasn't getting any younger. Being Iron Man meant there was a lot of aches he didn't have, ten years ago. If he was a machine, he could make repair parts and fix anything that went wrong. Unfortunately, there was only so much that medical science could do. If he could turn back time, that'd be great. Like that old Cher song. Or Strange, who didn't seem to want to use that as a quick fix.
"Veggie pizza. Nice. I'm into that."
Choice made, he put the menu between them and leaned in with his elbows wedged against the edge. It gave him the look of someone who was on edge but somehow still hanging on, stubbornly trying to confront any anxiety head-on. It wasn't going to be pretty. It would probably contain a lot of word vomit, too. But it would get done.
"Yep! I did," he said, not wasting time by launching right into it. "Here it is. Info dump time. The whole airport thing? Locking you up in the Headquarters with Vis? That shit went too far. I wanted to protect you, and protect everyone else. And I'm sorry. I get why Cap did that. Don't think that I don't. We both thought we were doing the right thing and by the time I went to him, realizing what a monumental fuck up I took part in? Which, hi. Seeing you in a straightjacket thanks to Ross cemented in my brain that I fucked up. I was like this."
He wagged one index finger around next to his head, which might indicate craziness to a lot of people, but he meant it more as the reality check set in.
"Ok, so," he said, all nervous energy, leaning in against the table again, "I messed up. I'm sorry I messed up with you. That shouldn't have happened. I know I killed the dead horse that was the Avengers, but I don't want the weight of whatever hanging around between us. Not when we all have to work together."
With a huge inhale and an equally loud exhale, Tony abruptly leaned back as though one of the weights he had been carrying was lifted. He tilted his head back to look up at the ceiling, looking for all extensive purposes like he was having a conversation with it all of a sudden, "That was...words. Please tell me you remember everything, and didn't get a Total Recall style mind wipe? I'm gonna feel like a bigger asshole than before."
Wanda was quiet for a bit, just letting that all sink in - and could you blame her? It was a lot. She never thought she would hear Tony Stark apologize for anything, but there you had it.
She only spoke to give the waitress on duty (not her, thankfully) her order - a green lemonade and a quinoa salad, plus that lunch pizza for her companion here. Then she sat for a moment, twisting one of her rings around and around on her finger. “He was always kinder to me than I deserved,” she said about Vision - they had their squabble at the end, of course, fighting on opposite sides when the Avengers were splintered in two. But they’d patched things up and it wasn’t really a hardship to be kept away in the Tower with him personally - she’d more bristled at the idea that she needed safekeeping. That she was distrusted and feared just for being what she was.
“I remember everything - well, except for being here. But the doctor took out the...mind leech,” she wrinkled her nose. Anyway. “I forgive you - I know your whole life has been about death, about destruction. Mine has too. I also know you don’t want to fight anymore, Tony. I don’t either.”
But it looked like they would have to.
And her entire life went wrong, because of him. If anyone knew what was in his head, it was going to be Wanda. She crawled through it before and no one needed a repeat trip into Tony Land. He might act as though it was a shiny amusement park everyone should want to hop on, but he was certain there were several safety violations.
"Thanks," he said, scrubbing one hand down over his face and looking like he felt as old as Thor was, but without all the Asgardian vigor that came along with it. "Ideally, none of us would be dealing with this crap or having to fight anymore. But here we are. In a vegan cafe. Eating quinoa and fake cheese."
He took a sip of the water and made a face. Not at the water. It was because he remembered something.
"Speaking of not fighting?" Tony said, looking everyone else but at Wanda. He didn't want to upset her, but if they were going to get over stuff, she deserved to know. "I talked Vision into going to Wakanda. We both felt it would be safer there. I didn't tell T'Challa why other than it was a top tier safety concern. But...I thought you should know."
She and Pietro had spent enough time blaming Tony personally for what happened to their parents - but it wasn’t him personally who was responsible for the bomb that hit their apartment, he hadn’t ordered it. Wanda understood the difference now, and she couldn’t be angry like this anymore. They had all been through so much, hadn’t they? And were set to go through more.
“At least the quinoa will fortify us,” she quipped dryly - with her dark chocolate sense of humor. And then... “Oh.”
Her fingers stilled from where they’d been tapping upon her glass of lemonade, and she picked it up to take a sip - mostly to help swallow the lump in her throat. “And you are sure he will be safest there?” she asked, since she was now worried about Vision. From what she understood about the recent goings-on, the mind stone he had in his possession, that was a part of him, would be a possible point of contention.
There had been a wry smirk about the quinoa, but it was gone in the blink of an eye. Instead, Tony's eyes were wide and regretful, like he was looking at her without seeing, and probably dreding up thoughts of that conversation, or wondering if it was the right thing to do. Or talk about it.
"I think so. Wakanda's got a lot more tech than we have. Shields around it. Since New York's a big hot spot for weird right now?" Tony sort of trailed off, knowing that it wasn't an easy thing when Vision and Wanda were apparently close. "Sorry. We just...he doesn't know about why all the weird is happening. He agreed only because it made the most rational sense. Or whatever."
“Of course he did,” Wanda replied quietly - Vision was trusting, almost naive in a sense. Chalk it up to recently being ‘born’ and not having much experience with the world. “The stone he has - it must be kept safe. It destroys the minds and hearts of its victims, the power of even just that one stone...”
She couldn’t imagine if every stone that was like it was obtained by merely one person. Thanos, apparently - whomever that was.
Picking up her fork, she began toiling away at her salad when it arrived. Wanda knew she needed to eat if she wanted to get through the rest of her shift without passing out, but a brick had suddenly formed in her stomach. She ate a few bites regardless. “But really, if there is a way to not hurt him, that stone needs to be destroyed.”
Tony was in the same boat that Wanda was. The thought of Thanos getting ahold of any stones sat like a cannonball of anxiety in his gut, so he only took a couple of bites of his pizza before stopping. The pizza was good. Even the faux cheese.
Those stones really were a pain in the ass that needed to be dealt with. If only Strange would let him throw that green one down the garbage disposal, like he wanted to.
Still, Wanda was right. After taking a sip of water to get that lump out of his throat, Tony nodded in agreement.
"I heard Shuri went back to Wakanda, doesn't remember a thing. So I'll see if she's got any ideas on how to do that while he's there. Then yeah. Destroying even one of them would be great."
He looked pensive for a moment, as though considering something before he actually went and blurted it out. It's coming. In three, two, one....
"Hey, I looked back on some old scans of your powers a couple of years ago. From when you were up at the headquarters, and we were trying to figure out the extent of your powers." He sat back, folding his arms over himself, almost as though expecting a rejection. "Star-Lord's got these energy pearls for their ship that some sort of beings can put their energy, or whatever, into. Would you be willing to see if you can charge them up with your magic? It might not work. Might not charge for long, but...it's worth a shot. What'dya think?"
The extent of her powers. Wanda smirked wryly, because even she didn’t know the extent of her powers - that was what she was trying to figure out with Dr. Strange. But if there was a way for her to dig in and help, as they all faced the unknowns of this universe, then she would do so.
“I will charge them,” she agreed, since she was certain that her powers would be more than sufficient. The sheer amount of power she had at her disposal, it was disconcerting to her - but that’s why she wanted to learn to control it, so it was actually useful and not simply noise. If it was noise then it wasn’t even really power at all. “On one condition.”
A pause for dramatic effect, and rosebud lips quirked to hide the slight smile. “You must finish this,” she motioned toward Tony’s faux-cheese pizza (it actually was good, she thought so too). “Your fiancee will be upset if you came for lunch and did not actually eat. We all need to take better care of ourselves.”
They never did get a top end reading, and Tony knew that when he last snuck a peek. It was unfinished, or modern technology wasn't caught up enough to measure the extent of energy she was able to put out.
This, though? This offered a lot of hope that they were one step closer to cutting Thanos off at the pass, somehow. Somewhere.
His eyebrows eeked up when Wanda mentioned a condition, and then dropped back down. There was a smirk on his face, of the sarcastically amused variety.
"I swear, she's texting everyone that I know or used to know, to make sure I don't drop dead before the wedding." He let out a clipped laugh, feeling better about Wanda. Not to mention, stupidly optimistic about them actually pulling out a win and saving the day. He picked up a piece of the pizza and got ready to dig in. Without any trace of sarcasm, he added, "Thanks, Wanda."