He held up a finger and looked around. He flicked a button on his watch and static began to play. He listened intently for a moment before realizing that there was no distortion or disruption in the static. Satisfied that there were no bugs around, he dropped his arm. “Okay. We’re good. Listen, Cap. I’m going to be frank with you. For the longest time, I thought you were the reason why my mom died. She went looking for you when her engines iced over, because for whatever reason, she couldn’t let you go. I hated you for it. Which… wasn’t fair to you. You didn’t make my mother’s engines ice over. It took me years to realize that sooner or later, she was going to get injured looking for you and nobody was going to stop her regardless of what happened. I hated you less. …And then it dawned on me not too long after we found you.” He lowered his voice despite the quiet area.
“There’s no way my mother’s engines would have iced over. She engineered planes to be the best for Arctic air— so she could go looking for you. It never would have froze over. I think some one tampered with the plane. And here’s the kicker. SHIELD won’t give me back the plane. Said they lost it. And all the notes. It doesn’t add up. My mother was too careful to die that way. I don’t know what to do about it, but I will find out what happened to my mom."
Tony cleared his throat. “I… also don’t hate you at all, any more. Just so you know. Also… to show you that there aren’t any hard feelings…” He reached into his suit coat and pulled out his mother’s compass locket. “I ah… I didn’t understand why my mom would keep going out to try and find you when everyone else closed the case- and then I opened this.” He hit the button on the top, opening the compass. Inside was a picture of Steph. “I don’t know what you had with my mom… It’s not my business to know. I’ll say this though, if Rhodey went missing, I’d never stop looking for him either. I want you to have this. It was my mom’s favorite compass. She said she only had to open it to know where home was.”
Stephanie winces, Tony knew how to be blunt and honest when he wanted to be. She’d always wondered just why he got so bristly when they’d first met. Before the great insult extravaganza brought to the science lab by that glow stick of destiny as he liked to call it. Now she knows. He felt she was responsible for his Mom’s death, her going away all the time.
That, makes her heart hurt. Hilde’d kept looking. Apparently someone hadn’t wanted her to keep looking. Her arms cross, brows furrowed as Tony tells her that SHIELD lost the plane, and the notes - presumably about the accident. SHIELD never lost anything like that and especially not paperwork.
"Oh." Steph blurts the word in surprise when he shows her Hilde’s compass. Her face flares red when it’s opened and her picture is on the top, a lump forming in her throat. "Thanks Tony. I - I really appreciate you letting me have this. Your mom was a hell of a lady, she was one of a kind. If you need help, figuring out who hurt her, messed with her plane, call me. But, uh, we better get back to the others, before they think we’re at each other’s throat or something." Her face twists into the approximation of a smile. Really she wants to high tail it out of there, get right away from the world.
Someone had intentionally hurt Hildegard and then tried to cover it up. Steph chews on her lip. That didn’t set right with her at all. This wasn’t the war though, she couldn’t just go and beat up the most likely person or persons in retribution.