Maria set a Manila envelope in front of Tony.
“Documents, stating that you’re my son,” she told him.
“You are Maria Stark’s son and I am Maria Stark. That’s all the press needs to know bambino. I’ve already accidentally let slip that you had returned to CI. The press will go ballistic and in case anyone digs too far I have all the documents ready to go,” she said.
Tony picked up the envelope, fingers playing at the seal.
“Start thinking of a cover story bambino,” she said.
“What about when I have to leave?” he started quietly.
“Then I’ll figure something out,” she said.
Tony felt like he was in a daze the whole day. For the first time in his life the press wasn’t going to assume he was drunk or high off his ass. He didn’t have to worry about his mistakes from his own universe. He… he could just be himself.
“I’ve never had to live in a universe where the press didn’t know about my mistakes,” Tony said quietly.
The Avengers- his team?- looked at him.
“I’m a very public man in my universe and I used to party too much. The press never let me forget it. I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to dredge up that past but I don’t want to make myself out to be a saint either. I mean I’m not even a fucking Avenger in my universe,” Tony said, passing a carton of some kind of fast food to Bucky. He didn’t even remember what they ordered, was it Thai? Or Chinese?
“What’s your reputation in your universe?” Kate asked.
“Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist,” Tony said, his titles rolling off his tongue.
“So we drop the playboy,” Sam said with a shrug.
“Just tell them you’ve been traveling the country. Didn’t want to grow up in the spotlight- can you pass me the- thanks,” Bruce said, taking the carton that Katie passed to him.
“That’s never going to hold up,”
“Who cares?” Rhodes asked.
“You don’t owe the press a thing,” Stephen agreed.
“If Strange gets a hang of multi-dimensional travel I can rough the press up a bit,” Barnes offered.
“There’s already one of you in my universe,” Tony said, waving off the offer with a grin.
“Yea? Am I still devilishly charmin’?”
“You never were,” Sam shot back.
Barnes flipped him off.
“I’m pretty sure you killed my parents,”
Katie let out a choked laugh behind her hand.
“Which, by the way, means I have to find you in my universe so thanks for the extra work,”
“I hope you kick my ass,”
Tony snorted as Barnes winked at him. He snagged a carton out of Rhodey’s hand.
“I was eating that!” Rhodes protested, taking the carton back.
“You were hoarding it, my turn now,”
At the other end of the table Katie leaned over to Jan.
“Mom and dad,”
Jan laughed and quickly stuffed food in her mouth when Tony and Rhodes looked at her. Tony dumped the contents of the carton on his plate- Thai?
“What is this?” he asked.
“Seafood Prik Pao,” Bruce said.
“You didn’t even know what it was before snatching it out of my hands?” Rhodes demanded.
“Like I said, you were hoarding it, I wanted it,”
Rhodes rolled his eyes.
“Don’t be such a sour patch, honey pot,”
“This is cute, this is a cute time,” Sam said.
Tony sat back in his chair, breaking away from Rhodes. He found the team looking at him, similar smirks on their faces. Jan threw a perfectly edible spring roll at Sam, a small frown on her face.
“What are we watching for movie night?” Barnes asked.
“Stephen’s turn to pick,” Katie said.
Tony, for the most part, tuned out the conversation. He was still too worried about what to say to the press to concentrate on what movie Strange wanted to watch. He could tell them whatever he wanted to, he could make himself out to be whoever he wanted to be. And that was a terrifying notion.
“Hey,” Rhodes said quietly, hand on Tony’s knee.
“It’s going to be alright,”
Tony nodded, a small smile on his face. Rhodes gave a soft squeeze before continuing to eat his meal. Tony couldn’t shake the feeling of Rhodey’s hand on his knee.
The team headed to the living room to start the movie that Strange picked for them. Rhodes headed to the balcony, Tony followed.
“I’ve always liked looking at the stars,”
“I used to. First time I flew Iron Man I went right for the moon,” Tony said, remembering the utter joy of flying in the suit for the first time.
“Then I sent a nuke through a wormhole and now I dread it. Too many unknowns,” Tony said.
Rhodes bumped his shoulder to Tony’s, their hands brushing together.
“Sometimes I regret taking the shield,” Rhodes confessed.
“But if I didn’t then I wouldn’t be an Avenger. And I’m damn good at my job,”
Tony glanced at him, silhouetted against the midnight sky. For a second he imagined Rhodes in charcoal and silver armor. Colonel James Rhodes War Machine.
That had a nice ring to it.
“Why not pass it to Sam?”
“He already said no. Besides, he’s the Falcon. Without the shield I don’t get to do this,”
Tony rubbed his chin thoughtfully. If he could get Rhodes to agree to an armor… he’d also have to see if Sam was ok with taking up the shield.
Rhodes would look real good in War Machine armor.