"I told you I don't wanna join your super-secret boy band." (Tony Stark, Iron Man 2)
Given that Fury had called him to a meeting instead of just breaking into his house, Tony had actually showed up. It seemed like a nice gesture of goodwill.
Given that he was now sitting on one side of a little table, in a shady warehouse guarded by suited goons, with no Fury in sight and a couple of closed files that were obviously supposed to pique his curiosity, that goodwill was disappearing fast.
'SUBJECT: TONY STARK. RECRUITMENT ASSESSMENT'. 'AVENGERS INITIATIVE PRELIMINARY REPORT'. For fuck's sake. What did he have to do, tattoo 'THANKS BUT NO THANKS' on this guy's ass?
The table was set up between four holographic screens, one of which was showing some news footage about a crisis at Culver University. Tony knew some people there; all the more reason to finish this up quick and then find out what was going on.
Plus, goodwill. Positive reinforcement. Reduced number of home invasions. Tony deliberately slid one of the files - the Avengers Initiative one - over to his side of the table like he was clearly meant to do, wondering how long he'd be allowed to flick through it before-- oh, look, Director Predictable was already pushing it out of his hand.
"I don't think I want you looking at that," Fury intoned, as if he hadn't put it on the table in the first place. "I'm not sure it pertains to you anymore."
Right, so this was going to be a reverse psychology ploy, good to know. Tony resisted the urge to roll his eyes and put on a look of confusion to speed things along.
"Now this, on the other hand, is Agent Romanoff's assessment of you. Read it."
It took every ounce of Tony's self-control not to physically recoil as Fury held the other file in front of him. Stop handing things-- He gritted his teeth and told himself he wasn't being handed anything, he was taking, he was taking it from Fury's grasp. Okay, more like snatching it, and he hated how much his tension about that gave away, but screw these guys.
Tony glanced at the inside page, his opinion of Fury's intellect sinking as he did so. He absorbed it fairly quickly: a few boilerplate criticisms, 'not recommended'. Not a team player, no kidding - as if his reports all through boarding school hadn't been explicitly clear that 'Tony excels in individual project work where he has control over the choice of methods and solutions'.
Also known as 'Tony has limited patience with people who can't keep up'. Bad news for Tony: turned out that was most of adult society.
Including SHIELD, it seemed.
Apparently, he was seriously expected to believe that SHIELD had calmly accepted his refusal for two years, but then found out he was dying and immediately decided to assess his fitness for the project he'd already said he didn't want to join and probably wasn't going to live to see.
Not just that, but he was expected to believe that when Fury - sorry, "Romanoff" - assessed him as unsuitable, they called him in anyway, left him sitting alone with a file they didn't want him to read, and then rushed back in to stop him from reading it. To reveal that he'd been assessed in secret and that he was unsuitable for the project he didn't want to join.
When, if this was true, which it clearly wasn't, they could have just not called him and stuck with the pre-existing extremely plausible excuse that Romanoff had been shadowing him to make sure the Iron Man technology was secure in the event of his untimely demise. Plausible on account of her having actually broken into the files detailing his security procedures for the armors.
No, despite his disinterest in the Avengers, despite the fact that he'd been dying, despite the Taser-happy asshole who'd saved Pepper from Stane outright stating that SHIELD needed him...
Tony was supposed to believe this was a real assessment and Fury was now semi-politely turning him down for a job he'd never applied for and didn't want.
Yeah... that was about as convincing as Hammer's presentation to the Senate.
This whipped through Tony's mind in about the time it took to raise an eyebrow. To humor Fury a little, he read some snippets of the file out loud. Compulsive, only when people were trying to hand him things; a little self-destructive, yeah. The narcissism claim was the sort of bullshit people tried when they were trying to make him want to prove he was 'better than that', so he did what he usually did and just agreed with it.
Seriously. Pepper was the only one who got to emotionally manipulate him. Rhodey, but only on his birthday. Who did these clowns think they were?
"Okay, here it is. 'Recruitment assessment for Avenger Initiative. Iron Man: yes.' I gotta think about it," he said with a perfectly straight face.
"Read on," Fury instructed, like he really thought Tony's eyes had somehow stopped halfway through a line and not taken in the rest. When the rest had Tony's actual name in it.
Tony suppressed a yawn and played along, feigning confusion and turning on what Pepper called 'the sad eyes'. Oh, no, SHIELD might not want him? So hurt, so rejected, how could he and his lingering desire for paternal approval cope with this unforeseen turn of bullshit, blah, blah, blah.
Fury announced that they only wanted to use him as a consultant. Tony solemnly shook the guy's hand, and said with possibly the most sincerity he'd ever felt in one single moment before, "You can't afford me."
He walked out.
...Okay, okay, he started walking out. He wanted very badly to walk out. This was, genuinely, one of the worst attempts at reverse psychology he'd ever been forced to sit through. It was embarrassing, he had second-hand embarrassment on Fury's behalf, that was how bad it was.
Given that he was rich enough to be pretty much un-bribable, powerful enough to be pretty much un-threatenable, and handsome enough to be... well, that just made him handsome; the point was, he'd had the misfortune of witnessing a lot of really bad attempts at reverse psychology.
Every bone in his body was screaming at him to just keep walking. Especially after that bullshit with claiming Tony was a prisoner in his own home, and honestly either Fury or Coulson deserved a punch in the face for the fact that waking up in his Malibu house smelling sand now made him feel nauseated--
But. Pepper. Twice now, SHIELD had helped and protected Pepper, and the fact that Tony was pretty sure it had been largely incidental to their own agenda didn't mean he didn't appreciate it. Shady as Fury was - and as much of a recommendation as supposedly being friends with Howard wasn't - anything that benefitted Pepper bought them a lot of leeway, where Tony was concerned.
And this ploy... this really pathetically transparent ploy... it reeked of desperation. What did they know? Why were they so sure they needed him?
What was Fury so afraid of?
This flashed through Tony's mind between one step and the next. He wanted to walk out. But they had helped Pepper. And they were apparently really, really desperate, on a level that almost rivalled Justin Hammer for pathetic.
And... he really wanted to annoy that asshole Stern.
Would it really hurt that much to leave a little door open? Tony made his decision and swiveled on one heel. "Then again, I will waive my customary retainer in exchange for a small favor..."
"Let's do a head count here. Your brother, the demigod; a super soldier, a living legend who kind of lives up to the legend; a man with breath-taking anger management issues; a couple of master assassins - and you, big fella, you've managed to piss off every single one of them." (Tony Stark, The Avengers (2012))
Well, of course Tony didn't include himself in the list. Bad enough Fury kept trying to sucker him into the Avengers Initiative; how embarrassing would it be if alien invaders started believing Tony worked for SHIELD? Ew, no.
He was just helping take care of this one little thing, and then kicking SHIELD to the curb.
Really, he was doing this for Pepper. Leaving aside the obvious detail that Leather McHotpants here claimed to want to rule the Earth, and Pepper lived on Earth - this asshole had also killed the only SHIELD agent that Pepper liked.
So, Tony was pretty committed to kicking some Space Invader ass. But that didn't mean he was going to call himself an Avenger. Just... Avenger-adjacent.
Bruce Banner was pretty adorable though; they should definitely try to convince that guy to stick around afterwards.
"This is Project Insight. Three next generation helicarriers synced to a network of targeting satellites. [...] Continuous suborbital flight courtesy of our new repulsor engines."
"Well, he had a few suggestions once he got an up-close look at our old turbines." (Nick Fury and Steve Rogers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
Tony was already undoing his tie as the elevator slowed. It had been a long day full of meetings here in D.C., planning for contingencies upon contingencies. The whole thing was very much a case of locking the barn door after the horses were gone -- already there had been crime scenes with traces of alien weaponry used -- but what else could they do? Besides take regular bathroom breaks to splash cold water on their faces and try desperately not to relive those few bleak, weightless moments on the other side of the portal.
Okay, maybe that one was just Tony.
The DODC was honestly named, he'd give it that. At this point, all that could be done was damage control.
Tony tugged the tie loose as the elevator doors opened onto the penthouse suite; palmed the lights as he walked in and tossed the tie over the back of a chair. There was a bald man in a leather coat staring out the window, because of course there was.
Tony sighed. He was already tired and irritated and this may have been 'just a hotel room' but while he was there it was his space and god but he hated uninvited people in his space. "Is this a compulsion thing, with you? Are you genuinely unable to hold a conversation without breaking in somewhere first? I'm all for supporting disabilities in employment but I can't help but feel that's the kind of thing that would interfere with a security clearance."
"You did a good job, in New York," Fury said without turning around. Of course, he didn't need to with Tony's reflection visible in the window; Tony was more than familiar with all the little tricks and power plays from having spent basically his entire adult life as a CEO. It felt mind-bogglingly childish.
"I know," he answered impatiently, pulling his suit jacket off and slinging it over the back of the same chair. "Message delivered, you can leave now."
"It won't end there, of course," Fury told the window.
Tony clenched his teeth, trying not to see that vast, monstrous armada. "Tell me something I don't know. Literally, tell me something I don't already know, because this is wasting both our time and I don't know about you but mine is worth a truly obscene amount of money per quarter-hour."
"Three new helicarriers, to start with," Fury said, finally turning around. "There are other plans in the pipeline but that's where we'd like you to contribute for now. I wanna know how long you can keep 'em in the air. I'm sure you've got a few ideas around engine improvement, given--"
"Okay, I see what's happened here," Tony interrupted. "The contact details you're looking for are sales at starkindustries dot com. There's a whole department whose job it is to dot those 'i's-- I mean the letter 'i'; that's not a cheap shot at the patch. "
"I think you've mistaken my meaning," Fury said drily. "SHIELD isn't looking to do a deal with Stark Industries, they're looking to deal with Tony Stark. New York was good, but there are still people with doubts. This'll go a long way towards demonstrating your commitment to the team."
What team, Tony almost said, and then he clicked and stared at Fury in disbelief. "Wait, you're still trying to play the reverse psychology, distant-father-figure-withholding-his-approval mind games? Fury, I told you, I don't have any commitment to the team. You needed my help, I helped. Now, I have multiple responsibilities on my time, up to and including this new position with the DODC which is quite frankly even more exhausting than dealing with you. I literally do not have enough hours in the day to deal with your Spy Vs. Spy bullshit. If you want some contract work done, approach the sales department. If you're really lucky, someone might even reply to you. Though, I wouldn't hold my breath."
Fury eyed him narrowly, then his shoulders shifted and he said, "You don't want to undermine Potts as CEO, I get it. Alright, we'll play it your way." He rolled his eye like that was some huge sacrifice. "I'll have my people call your people."
"Unbelievable," Tony breathed out. He headed straight for the mini-bar and grabbed the first halfway drinkable beer he could see. As soon as the elevator doors had closed behind Fury, he tugged his phone out of his pocket and started an electronics sweep, pacing the room systematically, eyes on the readout as he sipped the beer.
When he was satisfied, he phoned Pepper. "You will not believe what that cut-rate Captain Jack said to me."
She listened to him rant and then offered in amusement, "You want me to milk him for everything he has?"
"And then some," Tony said with satisfaction. 'Commitment'. Ha. He'd show Fury exactly which team had his commitment - by spending SHIELD's money on bonuses for all S.I.'s New York-based personnel.
"I saw young Americans killed by the very weapons I created to defend them and protect them. And I saw that I had become part of a system that is comfortable with zero accountability." (Tony Stark, Iron Man)
After the SHIELD data dump, most of Stark Industries went into overdrive; the departments that weren't wrapped up in immediate damage control were drafted into helping sift through the enormous amount of data, looking for anything that pertained to Stark Industries.
The idea that HYDRA had infested SHIELD was not as surprising as it should have been. HYDRA's whole shtick, after all, was based on the idea that humanity couldn't be trusted with its own freedom. That seemed to encapsulate SHIELD's attitude in a nutshell. The only reason Tony could see not to suspect Fury himself was that HYDRA had gone to the trouble of having him killed.
After the fourth 'urgent' email about some scandal of Howard's, Tony rubbed his temples and got all of the data search team leaders on a conference call. "Okay, new system: if it's about Stark Industries, send it to Legal or PR or wherever it needs to go, cc Miss Potts on the daily summary. If it's personal Stark business that doesn't involve the company, I officially do not want to know."
(Okay, so in retrospect that decision could have been... a little more nuanced. But hindsight made an ass out of u and me, or something like that.)
He wound up getting called to D.C. - in his DODC capacity - to consult with the Secretary of Homeland Security about all the dubious bits of technology that had passed through SHIELD's hands and were therefore presumably now in HYDRA's hands. Tony felt kind of bad for the Secretary, who'd inherited SHIELD in all its dysfunctional glory from the previous Secretary of Homeland Security just a few months prior. Hell, it seemed like SHIELD had already been well and truly poisoned under the not-so-thorough supervision of Defense long before Homeland Security was even created.
The current Secretary was probably wondering how long he'd be keeping his job, but there was no hint of that through his brusque, professional focus on the alien tech. The real problem, tech-wise, was that DODC only had jurisdiction internally; it looked more and more likely that HYDRA had smuggled some seriously bad mojo out of the country.
Tony spent a while stringing vociferous curses together inside his head while maintaining a composed, appropriately serious facade. He did not have time for this.
"NATO," he said with a sigh. "We could push for Article 5 to be invoked - we'd just have to hope people are more interested in stopping HYDRA than in casting blame. It'll take some smooth talking but we might be able to persuade the other member nations that these artifacts are dangerous enough that they should use us to help track them down."
The Secretary had been nodding along; now he paused and said, "By 'us', do you mean..."
"The U.S.," Tony clarified, lifting his eyebrows in surprise. "Damage Control's domestic; if the whole thing's under the banner of NATO it would be Defense, not Homeland Security."
"I wondered if you meant the Avengers," the Secretary admitted, "given your - their - involvement in the Battle."
Tony couldn't help the derisive snort that burst out of him. "That would be difficult, given that the Avengers Initiative was a project sponsored by the very same defunct agency that dropped us in this mess. I suppose, if the NATO angle works - and that's a very strong 'if' - the North Atlantic Council might look at bringing some of them in. I hear Thor's back on the planet, there's certainly a strong case for involving him both in terms of his enhanced durability and his greater knowledge of alien technologies."
"And Iron Man?" the Secretary prompted. There was something in his eyes, a shrewd expression that suggested this wasn't entirely hypothetical.
Tony paused. Dammit, this was the crap that happened when he started letting people know he was competent. They started expecting things. "Can I be frank, Mr Secretary?"
Tony let himself slump forward with every bit of the exhaustion he was carrying, leaning heavily on the desk between them. "It's a physical impossibility, Jack. I'm at my limit. I'm past my limit, actually - if you spoke with my CEO she'd tell you exactly how stretched I am right now. Between S.I., Damage Control, and-- certain other vital projects..."
The Secretary nodded grimly at the reference to the Ultron Protocol; after the President had seen first-hand how an AI could successfully pilot multiple Iron Man armors, there'd been a couple of closed room meetings with Tony and a few very key members of the National Security Council.
"Long story short," Tony concluded, "something's got to give. It would have to come out of one of my existing roles and I don't see NATO hiring me under a Stark Industries banner, somehow." There was still a lot of bad feeling among allied military forces around Tony shutting down the weapons manufacture branch of S.I.
Obviously he'd done too good a job of hunting down everything Obie had sold under the table, if he was now considered the go-to guy for weapons retrieval. Talk about the Devil getting you coming and going.
"I see your point," the Secretary said, non-committally. "Well, I'll pass on your suggestion. One way or another, we've got to get those objects out of HYDRA's hands."
The media caught him on his way out, shouting his name. Tony slid his sunglasses on and started pushing through them, all the questions blurring together - mostly - into generic white noise with bits and pieces of phrases standing out here and there.
"No comment, no comment," he answered to a couple; and, "Stark Industries has already issued a media release." To another, "Department of Damage Control is a distinct department unconnected to SHIELD. I can't answer that for you."
Someone asked what this meant for the Avengers. Tony said blandly, "I don't know; you'll have to ask them."
"Wasn't Iron Man part of the Avengers? Don't you report to SHIELD?"
Tony paused, and pulled his sunglasses down just enough to stare incredulously at the reporter who'd asked that. "I'm sorry, this is rude, I don't know your name--"
"Mike, okay, good to meet you, Mike. Now, the answer to your question is 'no'. Iron Man does not report to SHIELD, Iron Man did not ever report to SHIELD, and quite frankly I would rather destroy the Iron Man technology entirely than allow it to be controlled by an organization so lacking in transparency and accountability."
He was going to get an earful over that sound-bite, but right now Tony was more interested in drawing a clear line in the sand between Iron Man and SHIELD-aka-HYDRA
"When I turned Stark Industries around in 2008 I made a commitment to those values, to accountability, to upholding a higher standard - and nothing that has happened since has changed my feelings on that matter. If anything, I would argue that recent events have vindicated my position. What might happen to the 'Avengers', I can't say, but I can promise you that I am as committed as ever to ensuring the systems we rely on are accountable to the people they serve."
He pushed his sunglasses back up, tired of this whole circus. "Thank you, that's all I have to say."
"Actually, he's the boss. I just pay for everything and design everything and make everyone look cooler." (Tony Stark, The Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Tony had no idea what the President said to their European allies, but somehow, miraculously, the NATO arrangement went through. A joint operation was established to identify and eliminate HYDRA strongholds and secure any dangerous technologies.
Even more unbelievably, the NAC really did want the involvement of the former so-called Avengers, due to their familiarity with Chitauri armaments. There was some delicate negotiation around that, in that Banner didn't want to be anywhere near the U.S. military, and the U.S. military didn't actually want to employ any former SHIELD personnel (let alone any that had been at Ground Zero of the D.C. clusterfuck), and then somehow authorization was granted for a small paramilitary group to come under the auspices of the DODC and "Are you shitting me?" Tony said in disbelief.
"I am not, Mr Stark," the Secretary said, in a frosty tone that informed Tony exactly how much he had overstepped.
Meh. It was an amount Tony could live with. Overstepping was basically his primary fitness routine. "With respect, Mr Secretary," he said, in a slightly calmer tone, "I have no problem with it coming out of my budget, but may I humbly and emphatically request not to be put in command of that--" trainwreck waiting to happen "--particular group of individuals?"
That got the Secretary's attention, and he scrutinized Tony a little more closely. "I'm curious as to your reasoning."
"Power dynamics," Tony said immediately. "Despite my past... activities as Iron Man, I am nevertheless not trained military or law enforcement. While Doctor Banner responds well to me I think that the others would hesitate to follow my lead in the sort of environment--"
"Come on, Tony," the Secretary scoffed. "We both know how brilliant you are. You've got plenty of tactical--"
"It's not fair to ask that of them," Tony insisted steadily. One successful battle a couple of years ago wasn't enough to form a cohesive team. It formed social bonds, sure; the sort of thing that let you grab a beer with someone if you bumped into them on the street, maybe reminisce over that crazy thing you both lived through. It didn't build lasting familiarity with each other's fighting styles. It didn't build the sort of confidence Rhodey had talked about having in his team-mates and commanders after training with them any length of time.
That wasn't the most compelling argument, though, so Tony turned to the angle that would matter most to the big guns. "But that's not my primary concern. Formation of the team occurred during a crisis and in large part boiled down to who was in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately that means there are major imbalances in power which have not been sufficiently addressed - Doctor Banner's well-founded aversion to the army as one example, Thor's cultural tendencies towards aggression as another. You are aware that one of his first acts on Earth was to attempt to kill both Steve Rogers and myself?"
The Secretary winced. "I... was aware there was a conflict but I hadn't heard it phrased quite so... strongly."
"It was played down in the reports," Tony confirmed. "Nothing against Thor, he genuinely means well, but the fact remains that his background is different than ours. There is a significant possibility that he kills someone who shouldn't be killed. I don't want that coming back on me or the DODC; we don't want that coming back on this government, this President, or on America."
He took a breath. "I'm willing to be part of the group if necessary but it should be made clear that the Avengers are the responsibility of the NATO Operation Commander, not anyone in the DODC chain of command. If a squad leader is required there's no reason it can't be Rogers, he held the same role during the Battle of New York and it serves to make a clear distinction between my role in the Department and my role as a temporary Avenger under his leadership."
"Huh," said the Secretary. He drummed the fingers of his left hand against his desk. "Interesting points. I'll take it to the Security Council and get back to you."
"I appreciate it," Tony said wryly.
Apparently, the National Security Council saw the value of plausible deniability, because the arrangements came through: the Avengers, under Steven "Captain America" Rogers, were funded by the DODC but formally responsible directly to field command of the NATO operational force.
Tony congratulated himself on dodging that bullet all the way to Sokovia.
"Well, it's time for me to tap out. Maybe I should take a page out of Barton's book and build Pepper a farm, hope nobody blows it up." (Tony Stark, The Avengers: Age of Ultron)
When Fury showed up at the Barton farm, Tony realized he wasn't dead.
When the helicarrier showed up in Sokovia, Tony realized SHIELD wasn't dead.
He didn't go find Romanoff right away. Well, obviously; there was still a floating city to destroy. After that, he dropped onto the helicarrier to take stock of who had survived and to let Maria Hill know how very fired she was (seriously, the 'no moonlighting' clause was right there in the employment contract; both for S.I. and the DODC/NATO secondment).
It was the 'taking stock' part that led him to Natasha; someone had suggested she might have been the last to see Bruce. She was leaning on one arm with her eyes closed, murmuring into a comm set. "I know you didn't want to. But you did great, you saved people. You saved so many people. Please just... please turn off the stealth. Let us reach you. Please let me reach you."
Tony's stomach lurched as he realized... everything that implied.
Well. Bruce was alive, at least. That had been what he'd wanted to find out, after all. Just... aw, dammit.
"Is he even listening?" he asked tonelessly, leaning against the wall.
"I don't think so," Romanoff said, opening her eyes. She didn't look over at him. "Pretty sure he switched it off a while back."
Romanoff quirked a smile, but kept staring at something far away. "We're Avengers. Impossible odds are kind of our thing, aren't they?"
For a moment, Tony could almost see it, her and Bruce. They had that same blinkered tendency to dig their own holes. And every time, they genuinely didn't see, both of them, any other options. It was just kind of sad and depressing to watch.
"Well, your Senate testimony makes a lot more sense now," he said flippantly. "Sorry, did I say testimony? I meant catastrophe."
Romanoff shrugged one shoulder. "It did what it was meant to."
"Put all the focus on you, stopped anyone questioning too closely how that data got dumped, who had enough clearance. Wouldn't want anybody to second-guess Interview with a Director's latest un-death, after all."
She gave that small quirk of a smile again and for some reason Tony found himself utterly infuriated by it. Maybe because it had worked, because he'd been just as sucked in as everyone else. He'd believed Fury was dead, he'd believed Romanoff had dumped it on her own initiative, he'd believed Hill-- hired Hill-- Dammit, he probably had to have Hill investigated for espionage now, why was he always cleaning up after these people--
"You're lucky they didn't call your bluff," he said bluntly.
At that, Romanoff finally looked at him, expression calm and curious despite the wet sheen over her eyes. "Someone had to-- I assumed someone would have to take the fall."
Tony's eyebrows raised incredulously. She would have taken the hit and let Fury and Hill just walk away, free and clear. "You really will do anything to get a mission done, won't you?"
For a moment, there was a bitterness in her smile that made her look like a real person. "Black Widow. It kind of comes with the territory."
Spitefully, Tony nodded towards the comm set. "And how's that working out for you, getting the mission done?"
Romanoff's face went blank, and Tony's petty satisfaction at being able to hurt her melted into an uncomfortable, shamed kind of feeling. He'd meant to ask her if, like Hill, she'd been reporting to Fury all along, but right now he couldn't bring himself to actually care.
"Piece of advice," he said softly. "Doesn't make a difference to me, I am officially refusing to get sucked in to any more of this Avengers crap. But next time someone tells you to choose between getting the mission done, and being human? Try the other thing. It might surprise you."
Romanoff looked down, then away from him - back at the comm set. She didn't start broadcasting again, but she sat there long enough to make it clear she didn't have an answer.
Digging the same hole, again and again, unable to see any other option.
Tony sighed, and pushed off from the wall. He'd said his piece, and that was all anyone could do. In the end, it was down to Romanoff. He left the room, pretending he didn't hear her murmur, "I don't know if I can."
At least, that's what he hoped she murmured. The last word also sounded a lot like 'am', and that was a more miserable existence than he'd wish on anyone.
It was out of his control, anyway. Tony had his own plate to deal with. He had multiple plates. Not the least of which would be explaining to the Secretary of Homeland Security how an evil scepter had possessed his robots and tried to destroy the world.
First, though, there was someone much more intimidating to explain this to. Tony found himself a small cubby hole for a bit of privacy to call Pepper. There was a childish part of him that hoped that if he put it off, it might go away, but he knew better.
Besides, it was Pepper. Some things, Tony was just committed to seeing through.
"The Avengers are yours, maybe more so than mine..." (Steve Rogers, Captain America: Civil War)
Tony stared at the letter in disbelief. He almost had to laugh at the ludicrous absurdity of it all. What was it going to take to get through to everyone that he did not want to be...
Oh, fuck it, then. He was taking the Avengers name and he was doing it properly.