Ms. Potts' office is understated and elegant – it has windows, which is an improvement on most campaign offices that Phil's known in his life. There are comfortable chairs, a large desk, and three screens streaming up-to-the minute election data mounted on the far wall. There's a ticker; live feeds of CNN, Al Jazeera, the BBC, and Fox News; two charts showing hour-by-hour aggregates of print media articles, coded red, green, and blue as appropriate. In the bottom right corner of the middle screen there's also a small, animated robot that keeps throwing up its arms and giving the world the finger. Phil imagines that was a piece of coding Tony did himself.
"No one votes until Tuesday, Tony!" Steve says. Phil registers his agitation as about level three: seriously pissed off with a side of uncertainty, because it's 2016 and maybe voting, like many other things, is different now.
"Coulson," Ms. Potts says calmly, offering him a smile that suggests she's approximately two minutes and forty seconds from throwing Tony out of one of the windows. "We have a small issue I'm hoping you can help us resolve."
Tony, who's sprawled in one of Ms. Potts' comfortable chairs, sighs heavily and lolls his head.
Ms. Potts' eyebrow twitches. "Mr. Stark has suggested that his official title after the election be First Iron Man of the United States."
Steve perches on the sill beneath the north-facing window, folds his arms and scowls. "No one's voted yet," he says mulishly, and Phil takes his point. It's Sunday afternoon, and they're just under thirty-nine hours away from the first polling place opening. The campaign's 67-point lead in the polls does, however, seem cautiously loss-proof.
"FIMOUS," Phil says as if to himself. Ms. Potts tilts her head just a fraction in acknowledgment.
"Look, here's the situation," Tony says, animating himself enough to lean forward, rest his elbows on his knees, and spread his hands in a gesture of peace. "Protocol is out the window – there hasn't been a gay boyfriend in the White House in . . . What I mean to say is – the President of the United States has never before been in a committed relationship with another man, about which he is quite open, contented, possibly a little smug, because c'mon, it's me, am I right?" He grins, pleased with himself. "So we need new names – and yes, I know, I know, people have suggested that we just flip things around, go with a moniker that matches up with 'First Lady', but I'm here to remind everyone in the room of what they already know. I am not gentleman. Calling me First Gentleman wouldn't just be a first for the country, it'd be a first for me."
Phil eyes him blandly. He can't quarrel with that.
"So!" Tony claps his hands together. "Let's just blow it up, start over, call things what they are. First Iron Man of the United States. It's accurate, it's awesome, and it's – did I mention awesome?"
Steve rolls his eyes and looks out of the window. Ms. Potts breathes evenly. Phil taught her the nuances of that particular skill.
"Well," Phil offers. "If I may?"
"Please," Ms. Potts says dryly.
"I'm sure Mr. Stark will agree that if his official designation will be First Iron Man of the United States, it would only be proper for him to appear in the suit at all official and ceremonial occasions."
Tony narrows his eyes.
"Such as, perhaps, the inaugural balls," Phil finishes.
"Oh, come on," Tony whines. "That is unfair! You know I've been having suits made."
"Suits?" Steve repeats, suddenly tense, alert.
"Fabric suits! Three-piece suits! Tuxedo! Tails! Suits with buttons that are made of . . . who the fuck knows actually, just not metal or alloys or pala – look I'm not going to make a list of what they're not, okay? But they are not pseudo-weaponry, they are merely perfectly tailored to show off my shoulders. Also my ass," Tony adds a little waspishly.
"The aesthetic qualities of which aside," says Phil, "The American people would be expecting Iron Man. I think we can agree that your title would suggest as much."
Tony glares at him.
"I'm also pretty sure FIMOUS is a sex act. Or will be, thirty seconds after someone on the internet gets that idea in their head, and then when you attend an event, people will imagine . . . "
Tony opens his mouth to say something – probably about having named several sex acts himself; Phil's seen his file – when Steve breaks in.
"It'd be hard to dance with you if you're in the suit," he says, and Tony crumples, flops back in the chair and pouts.
"That is unfair," he says, looking up and over his shoulder at Steve. "Playing the dance card is so unfair."
Steve shrugs, and it looks nonchalant, but Phil's an expert. That is the shrug of an extremely intelligent, artfully innocent superhero. "You know how long I've been waiting for that dance . . . "
"UGH." Tony scrubs his face with his hands.
Steve coughs to cover a laugh.
Ms. Potts stifles a smile. "Perhaps we could choose something else? First Partner of the United States?"
"I think we all know that the United States has slept around a whole lot," Tony mutters. "Let's not suggest I'm her first."
Steve stands up and moves around to sit on the coffee table, knee nudging Tony's knee. "Could you – "
Tony peers at him. His pout deepens. By Phil's estimate he has exactly two more degrees of pout left in this expression before switching to a bland indifference that fools exactly no one.
Steve smiles, genuine and fond, and nudges Tony's knee again. "Just think of it . . . " He ducks his head and rubs the back of his neck, ears pinking. "There are days, single days, where everything changes. Maybe the inauguration's one, you know? Maybe this day . . . shall gentle his condition."
Tony's expression dissolves into something fond and vulnerable, and he blinks hard several times, sits up and twists his lips before he leans forward and kisses Steve softly on the mouth. "You are a manipulative bastard," he whispers. "Shakespeare? Really?" But he's sold, Phil can tell, undone by the whole idea of them becoming something new together. First Gentleman it is.
Phil clears his throat. "Perhaps, if I could make a suggestion."
Steve and Tony turn their heads toward him; Ms. Potts is answering her email, a reflexive response to having the candidate make out with her former boss at inopportune moments, Phil imagines.
"Perhaps Mr. Stark could retain the title FIMOUS within the West and East Wings of the White House. Staff only – used when appropriate, and not in front of the press."
"Out," Tony says, pointing toward the door. "Out, I mean, it, no more of this – " he splutters " – kindness and thoughtfulness and, god, I'm allergic to all of you, I really am, hives, hives everywhere."
Phil doesn't smirk. That would be unprofessional. "Sir," he says, nodding; he tilts his head in deference to Ms. Potts. "Ma'am." And he heads back out into the bull pen that holds the senior campaign staff, calmly walks toward the elevators. There's hubbub and chaos around him, as befits a campaign in its final hours – phones ringing, expletives hurled desk to desk, the low hum of cable news networks on monitors and TV screens, the ping of email. And then a coffee cup crashes to the floor somewhere near the holographic communications board. "More!" Thor yells joyfully – the seven guys in Albuquerque who've been holding out as Walker supporters must have finally have switched to Rogers for President.
Phil straightens his cuffs as he gets onto the elevator. He needs to get to D.C. There are inaugural ceremonies he has to plan, and it looks like everyone in the country's going to be there.