Tony loves his people, he loves his pack, but most of all he loves his children - and it is for that exact reason that he sets his shoulders back, smacks on a smile and takes Steve (lying, cheating, scumbag, be-) back.
Call him stupid, naïve, tell him to get some self-esteem, to find some self-respect, to stop being so pathetic – he’s heard it all before (when he took Bruce back after he abandoned him time and time again, when Ty didn’t stop beating him after the last time, when Janice did, in fact, turn out to just be after his money, when, when, when). Tony’s loved a lot of people, but that love sure wasn’t returned, was instead made ugly – turned into spite, into anger, into lies that created an ocean of resentment between two people, where formerly there was nothing other than love.
A near five decades on this earth and he still had to prove his worth to a world that’s been fighting against him the moment he was born with an extra something. But at the end of the day, this was for his children, it would always come down to him protecting them and the rest of the world, no matter how ungrateful the latter became. Tony wanted his kids to grow up and old, to live in a world where Peter didn’t have to be scared of being too smart, out of fear of insulting an Alpha, where Harley wasn’t automatically considered Tony’s heir simply because of his secondary gender (now that his older siblings had all gone out and started their own businesses and taken over different aspects of their parents companies - Dick took to running a company like a fish in water, StarkMed's numbers and production hadn't looked that good since pre-Afghanistan and Tim was doing wonders in the advancement of clean energy).
He had to think about them (because who else would?), about the complexity of pack dynamics (and ignore the fact that the majority of the pack abandoned them – equal partnership, yeah right), and most of all, he had to consider who would take care of the boys when Tony eventually succumbed to bond loss if he didn't bond with another Alpha soon, and that was never a good way to go out (even in this modern world, it was hard to ward off the ugliness of the sickness without causing irreparable damage, and with the way his heart was set up…).
It was also rather funny that no matter how progressive the USA had become, the government would not let his 47-year-old self raise his kids on his own, because suddenly, he was too unfit to do the job (and yet he had raised four whole boys on his own when Bruce disappeared and nothing was said then, he wasn’t forced to get psych evaluations from court-appointed therapists, or sent court orders to prove he could handle the stress of four toddlers all born two years apart from each other, he didn’t have inspectors and social workers from the Omegan Regulatory Board or the Department of Family and Pack Affairs hounding his property and watching his every move. No, back then it was apparently okay for his Alpha to abandon him and their children, because even then, it was still somehow Tony's was fault. For years he was called all types of whore, bitch, slut in the media, was asked why he didn’t just “hold a napkin between his legs” and maybe he wouldn’t have been in the situation, was told if he had just been less difficult, less him, maybe Bruce would have stayed.
Not to mention the fifteen years of Steve tapping in and out of being a father was tolerated and the courts had nothing to say about him taking care of and raising his boys then either (despite it being highly publicised – they had just called him a “working” father while Tony was torn to shreds anytime he was even seen without one of the kids).
Steve Rogers could break international law and release government secrets without so much as a slap on the wrist, but when Tony chooses to simply say ‘no’ for once, his character and he’s parenting suddenly gets brought into question.
Tony hadn’t missed the various stories about him running the news cycle since the end of what has now became known as the Civil War: PBS had brought back his highly publicised divorces from both Bruce and Ty (despite having signed to have the court documents in both cases withheld from the public – but hey, no one cares that Tiberius literally beat the shit out of him and forcefully mutilated him when he was just fifteen years old, because of course Tony had the damn audacity to run from his Alpha - gasp!). People had run spreads on his 'promiscuous' past and how in all his relationships, his partners just couldn’t seem to stay (shocker!), while several news agencies under Viastone (wow, how credible and what a surprise and not at all the leak for the divorce or custody documents) had been having a field day bringing the warmonger articles back, and in the same breathe forgetting that the US government profited just as much off of Tony’s war mongering as Stark Industries (an inherited business) did. That blood money? They all had a stake in it, but the Omegan tramp would of course be the one to shoulder all the blame, and Obie would be getting the shining reputation – poor Alpha, forced to follow a silly little Omega who couldn’t even figure out his weapons were getting sold under the table. (There still wasn’t enough soap in the world to wash off the blood of the thousands of civilians who suffered in the crossfire – mothers and fathers, children with dreams, men trying to protect their homes and families, Yinsen.)
The world, though backing him throughout the “Civil War” also had the memory of a goldfish and sure as hell would not let their beloved Avengers become a cultural matriarchy (because what kind of message would that send to the people? That it was okay for the omegan partner to lead the pack? That omegas were allowed to take their children, leave and continue living without society shaming them back into the Old Way? Oh no, that could absolutely not happen).
So Tony does the only thing he can do, he contacts T'Challa. He doesn't give Rogers the pleasure of doing things "together" anymore, doesn't pick up that ancient phone Steve had sent with the world's most self-righteous letter or think about what he's doing, what he's giving up or how bitter giving in tastes in his mouth
Barnes was a story for another day, one that he couldn't deal with until a few more therapy sessions, but that he would deal with eventually. Logic could not always override emotion, and it was just a shame Barnes was stuck at the centre of Tony's emotional conundrum but if they were to meet now, Tony's not sure the rawness of his hurt would allow him to be cordial just yet.
So he settles in, and gets ready to be the puppet master. This was the endgame and he was the dragon, the magician doing the real magic while everyone focuses on the assistant. . He was always good at playing the long game after all, and if his payoff meant having to bring back those bastards and play happy family, so be it. Tony had played many roles before, donned many masks but all of that will pale into comparison to what happens next, to what he becomes next. Jarvis had always said that for something to be meaningful, it had to outlive you, and that’s what Tony will ensure. The world wanted the Avengers? Fine, they would get them – but on Tony’s terms.