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On Withdrawing

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Tony drags a hand down his face, eyes falling on the pens he'd set out on the table. He tilts his head with a squint and then nods. "You know what? You think your hands are the safest, then go right ahead. Keep your phone on, it's going to be blowing up."

Steve's still trying to work out what he means as Tony stalks out of the room, fingers dancing across his phone's keyboard as he messages every last one of the key Accords players that have been hounding his every waking hour for the last couple of months. Retirement hadn't stuck the last time, but hey, if at first you don't succeed, right?

"Stark," Natasha says urgently, it's always urgent when she bothers to talk to him, as he walks past her out of the building.

"Take it up with Cap," Tony tells her without slowing his pace.

"What?" Natasha says.

"He's in charge after all," Tony says as lightheartedly as he can. He was never team leader. Hell, he barely made the cut to be on the team, of course he couldn't be their voice in the Accords. And Cap was right, signing them was never going to undo the damage he's already done, wasn't going to give a grieving mother her son back. All he was doing by trying to deal with it himself was trying to make the kind of amends Ultron was supposed to be, and look how that turned out. And quite aside from all that, fuck it. Just... fuck it. 

Natasha sighs audibly, a surefire tell she's going to kick his ass if he doesn't start co-operating with her. "You're due in a briefing on the Winter Soldier in fifteen minutes and we haven't prepped yet."

"Nope. And we're not gonna. Go prep Steve, if you can get him to take any of it seriously. If not... I don't know. How about you do it your goddamn self?" Tony says, the exit tantalisingly close now. 

"Now is not the time to sulk," Natasha says, then softer. "I know it's been difficult for you. It's been hard on all of us. But we have to stand together on this, and you took point."

"No," Tony says, his conscious mind still compiling the ever growing list of reasons why bowing out was the best option. "No, I didn't 'take point', I was pushed into it. Ross and his cronies thought I was the most malleable so they targeted me with their scheme, you backed me because you didn't want to deal with it yourself, and pretty much every other Avenger is against the Accords in the first place, or is AWOL. I'm point because you thought why not? You thought Tony Stark, egotist, he'll love being important and I can sit in the shadows as always. You thought if anyone had to deal with the fallout, why not the guy you didn't want on the team in the first place? You're the fucking Kingmaker, Nat. You set up the sides and either one will suit you just fine."

"That..." Natasha blinks. "That's not true."

Tony shrugs. "Whatever. I'm out."

And with that he walks through the door into the sweet, sweet sunshine.

 

Steve brushes off every call, every email, every snooty looking assistant and politely but firmly tells Natasha he couldn't care less what Tony Stark is doing or not doing. The Accords are Stark's mess and he can clean them up himself.

It's a shit show.

"I'm not signing the Accords," Steve says firmly.

Natasha makes a noise of frustration that is evidence of her own frazzled nerves and lack of rest. "You either sign or you go to jail, Steve. There is no opt out here, not if you want to keep being an Avenger."

"They can't force us to sign a contract we don't want to sign," Steve argues.

"No, they can't. They can just arrest you for vigilantism, espionage, assaulting police officers, terrorism-"

"We're not terrorists!"

"Tell that to the police you literally just assaulted," Natasha says.

"I didn't assault them! They tried to kill Bucky, we just defended ourselves." Steve glances at his phone as it goes off for the fifth time in three minutes. "I didn't agree to this. They can't make me head of something I didn't even agree with in the first place."

Natasha leans into his space to meet his eyes. "'The safest hands are our own', right? You really want someone else doing this for us? Because that's the alternative right now." 

 

The first thing he does is tell the whole lot of them to go fish if they want to imprison a member of his team. 

They approach him about Wanda within minutes of him telling Natasha he'll give it a shot, and they aren't polite about it. Wanda gets locked up regardless, he has the choice to contain her himself or let armed soldiers do it.

Steve tells them the armed soldiers will have to go through him.

Next is Bucky.

"I can't allow you to do that, Captain Rogers," a General he hasn't met before tells him when he requests Bucky's release. "He's a danger to the public and the chase today proved you can't contain him."

"He's not a criminal! He's a victim!" Steve snaps. He doesn't understand how set against Bucky everyone is. He was brainwashed by HYDRA, it's not his fault, which Steve has explained over and over until he's blue in the face.

Seeing another such explanation coming, the General sighs. "Was he under the influence of mental conditioning earlier today?"

Steve blinks. "No. I told you, he broke it. He's safe now."

"So he was acting of his own volition when he caused an incident resulting in the injury or death of upwards of seven Romanian civilians and twenty-three police officers?" The General asks.

"It was self defence! Those officers tried to shoot on sight," Steve argues.

The General looks unmoved.

 

 

Tony starts getting the calls about three hours after officially handing things over to Captain Rogers. The only one he takes is from Natasha.

"You have to come back on," she tells him without preamble.

Tony sips his cocktail and leans back in the Miami sunshine. It's cliche, he knows, but no one ever accused him of being otherwise. "Oh? Things not working out with the good Captain?"

"It's a disaster, as you knew it would be," she says.

Tony shrugs, neither confirming nor denying.

"He's stubborn, short-sighted and refuses to compromise. I'm not even sure he knows what the word means," Natasha grumbles. The fact that she's grumbling is a surefire tell that she's planning on using his own issues with Cap to persuade him to come back. Convince him that she's on his side, that other people are seeing it too, now. Make him think he'd be appreciated this time around. 

It won't work.

"I thought you liked that he didn't back down, that he stands for what he thinks is right," Tony says mildly. "I thought a bit of backbone was what the Avengers were calling for in their negotiations."

"The Avengers don't know shit about negotiations," Natasha admits. "They're not politicians."

"Neither am I," Tony says.

Natasha makes a noise that says she doesn't quite agree with that assessment. "All they see is is their own side of things. That they wouldn't hurt anyone on purpose, that they don't want to be at the beck and call of people they don't trust. They can't see things from any other perspective. That's why they like Steve as a leader, because he sees things the way they do."

"Failing to see what this has to do with me. In case you hadn't noticed, I handed in my full resignation from the team as well," Tony tells her.

She's quiet for a moment. "I hadn't noticed. I haven't had time."

"Oh."

"You didn't have to do that," she says.

"Yes I did. We both know where it would have ended up if I'd stayed on the team, even partially retired." Tony finishes his cocktail and considers heading inside. The sunshine's starting to give him a headache.

"The world needs Iron Man."

Tony hums in agreement. "And it still has him. But not as an Avenger."

"Tony..."

"I'm done, Nat. As a part of the team all I ever seem to do is make things worse or piss people off," Tony says. "I'm going back to the good old days when I made and cleaned up my own messes."

"Tony, we can't do this without you. Bruce is still missing, Cap's not thinking clearly, and the U.N is threatening a breakdown of negotiations if we don't start talking to them properly. Ross is foaming at the mouth, just waiting for an excuse," Natasha pleads. She's never been above pleading if it could get her what she wants.

"So talk to your beloved leader. I can't help you with this, I'm sorry. Feel free to call for a friendly chat sometime." He hangs up.

The phone rings again before he makes it back into the house. He doesn't check to see who it is. "Friday, screen all calls. Only personal calls and S.I related calls get through, understood?"

"Yes, Boss."

The phone stops ringing.