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To See If It Would Break Under The Weight

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It hadn't even been that long since Contessa had disappeared (ran away, a less charitable voice in Pepper's mind insisted), and yet, the world had still managed to go to hell.

There was no other way to explain her current predicament. Because the meeting room at Potts Industries might have been nice and roomy, but it was in no way big enough to deal with any of the current members of Congress, let alone three of them.

And no room would ever be big enough to accommodate the current director of SHIELD.

"The chairs aren't as plush," were the first words out of Tony Stark's mouth the first time Pepper met him. "My mother, she liked them plush. And red."

It was an odd first impression to make, though the casual lounging in the chairs he'd dismissed with equal casualty painted a far better picture than the ones the tabloids had painted of Maria Stark's only child.

"Your mother embraced change," Pepper told him, folding her hands in front of her. "I'm sure she'd understand my need to redecorate her former company."

"These are dull and drab. And gray." Tony shook his head and leaned back in the chair, as though testing to see if it would break under the weight. He looked disappointed when it didn't give. "She'd never have approved of gray, Ms. Potts."

"Your mother worked in dreary labs and slogged through the mud with Captain America," Pepper pointed out. "I think she might have had the tiniest of appreciation for a more practical color scheme."

Tony regarded her for a moment, and Pepper would have felt badly about lecturing him about his own mother. Except for the fact that he was still taking up space in Pepper's meeting room.

"Ah, Captain America. I've got her shield, you know."

"Actually, it's my shield now. I won it in the same bid that I won your mother's company." Pepper smiled lightly. "Yes, I believe Stane gave me approximately the same look last week, so you can save your facial muscles the exertion, Tony. And if you weren't broke, I'm sure you'd be repeating his offer to buy me out. As it is, I will expect that shield in my office by tomorrow morning."

"Got a soft spot for Captain America, do you? A childhood hero? Did little Ms. Potts take turns throwing the garbage lid across the yard and otherwise terrorizing neighborhood cats?"

"Captain America rebelled against a system that never wanted her to be a hero in the first place by running away and doing her own thing. That certainly held its own degree of appeal when I was a child," Pepper agreed. "But we all grow up sooner or later, Tony."

"Ah, you grew up, but you still want her shield?"

"Well, I did pay for it."

If Pepper ever saw Contessa again, she was going to be sure to give the woman a good punch, simply for leaving the current director in charge. Really, anyone would have been better - Coulson, Barton, Rosenthal - all were available, for goodness' sakes.

Because Pepper was trying hard to imagine any of them, from Contessa right on down to Barton, bringing her such a terrible piece of legislation and actually wanting her backing on it.

"You haven't said anything, ma'am. Surely you have thoughts about the SHRA," the congressman sitting closest to the window said finally. He was supposed to be a representative from New York, but the accent was all wrong. It reminded Pepper of Lang's husband's accent.

"Oh, I have plenty of thoughts. But my primary thought is why you wouldn't give this legislation to Captain America first. She is the leader of the Avengers, and the public's trust in her can't be overstated."

Maria Hill spoke up then, and managed to capture all of Pepper's hate in one small reply. "We all know that Captain America has a tendency to lead with her emotions, and the situation is frankly too delicate for that."

It wasn't as though anyone really knew what to expect when they met Captain America. That wasn't supposed to happen. She was supposed to be dead. A long dead martyr for freedom that nobody ever had to worry about living up to.

And more importantly, as a dead martyr, Pepper wouldn't have had to worry about how to handle a Captain America that looked like she was going to cry in the middle of an art gallery.

To be fair, if Pepper had woken up after several decades in ice to discover that her long lost love had devoted his entire life to painting her likeness, she would probably break down and cry, too.

"He told me he wanted to be a soldier, but they wouldn't let him in," Peggy said quietly. "He mentioned he liked to draw, but I never had any idea ... he never met Bucky, but he drew her perfectly, just from the way I described her."

"Steve Rogers was one of the more influential artists of the early 20th century," Tony whispered in Pepper's ear piece. "Short as his career was. Poor kid dropped dead from pneumonia before he even hit 30."

"Thanks, Tony, but I don't think she cares about any of that," Pepper answered. And by care, Pepper really meant that saying 'hey, don't worry about the great love you had, because he died young and you wouldn't have had a life together anyway' was a pretty terrible thing to say.

"Yeah, she's probably still caught up in the mourning process. Can't say I blame her; guy wasn't bad looking for a scrawny kid. I would have tapped it."

"Every day, you give me a new reason to fire you."

"But you don't, because you love me. And I'm just saying, the scrawny guys, they give an extra kind of oomph to their squeals that the thicker guys don't -"

Pepper turned off her head piece.

"Your secretary has a loud mouth," Peggy informed her, and Pepper wondered if maybe she could just fly away right now.

"You heard that?"

"Super soldier serum. Does wonderful things for the hearing," Peggy reminded her, and Pepper really was going to run away. But then Peggy squeezed her hand. "Don't be too harsh on your secretary. At least he has good taste."

"We call them Personal Assistants these days," Pepper informed her.

"We've never had a problem with Captain America's emotions until now," Pepper said coolly.

"I wouldn't say that," the second congressman answered, interrupting what was obviously a very important conversation between Pepper and her nemesis.

Pepper turned her glare from Maria to the congressman. He was supposed to be from New Jersey, and the accent was right, unlike the first congressman. But his breath smelled like Tony's usually did, and Pepper didn't have any reason to go as easy on him as she had on Tony.

"His name's Tony and he's my personal assistant," Pepper told her fellow captive as they worked together. "And it is absolutely his fault that I am here in the first place."

The doctor looked up over her glasses and raised in an eyebrow in Pepper's direction. "He forced you here at gunpoint? Perhaps he is in league with the terrorists, then."

The doctor had done her best to remove the shrapnel from Pepper's heart, but there was enough still in her chest that it hurt Pepper to laugh, and she took it entirely as a sign of a quickly developing PTSD that she was laughing while captive at all. "No, no guns were involved on his end. Just a badly scheduled publicity stunt that I should have said no to."

"Mmm. Then are you sure it is your Tony's fault?"

It also hurt to move very much, but Pepper ignored that hurt while she concentrated on her drawing, retracing plans that were never supposed to see the light of day entirely by memory. "Point. I have to take some credit for the blame. After all, I did hire him."

"My Yinsen was once a carefree and generally silly man," the doctor informed her. "But he grew up and into a wonderful man. He's saved me from a life of boredom and loneliness. Perhaps it will be the same with your Tony."

"Maybe. But right now, the only Stark that is going to save us is Maria." Pepper slid the designs towards the doctor. "She never got to put them into use, but I'd say now's as good a time as any to change that. With a little help from a certain intern from my company."

Pepper didn't mention that she'd originally turned her intern's design down as impractical. It was impractical, for what Potts Industries focused on.

"She sounds very promising. I'd love to meet such a brilliant young woman in person."

"I'll be happy to introduce you and Ms. Stacy as soon as we get out of here, Doctor."

"Captain America has sacrificed more for this country than anyone else in this room. Some no-name congressman who's made his living preying on the public's fears does not get to call her character into question," Pepper said coolly.

"The woman got her start as a hero by stealing a classified serum and injecting herself with it," Maria said dismissively. "Her service was never wanted."

"Yes, it was far better that it was left in the government design. How is Faith Bradley and her family these days?" Pepper retorted.

"Never thought I'd see Captain America smoke," Pepper said lightly as she sat down beside Peggy on the roof. It was strange to think that there had ever been a time that the bitter smell had stung Pepper's eyes. So many boad roam meetings and expensive cigar smoke of her friends (and enemies) later, her senses were almost numb to it.

"I don't do it much these days. Like most things in this decade, the taste is all wrong," Peggy said, a small lingering scent of bitterness lingering in her voice.

Funny how that stung Pepper's senses far worse than the smoke from Peggy's cigarette did.

"This is still about feeling guilty about Faith Bradley, isn't it?"

"A little. Mostly, it's about legacies. The legacy I could have left, if I hadn't conspired with Maria to become a test subject. The legacy I could have given my little brother if I'd even been around to see him born - or the legacy I could have given my niece, if I had been around to help raise her properly."

"What's wrong with Sharon? She still trying to become an agent of SHIELD against your wishes?" Pepper asked, because it was better to focus on the present, and what they could actually still fix, than get lost in the past.

"She wants to be my Bucky," Peggy answered, crushing her cigarette under her boot. "Somewhere in heaven, Rebecca Barnes is looking down at me and laughing."

"Pretty sure your sidekick wouldn't be laughing at everyone in this century making you miserable," Pepper said, and she intended it to be nonchalant.

Peggy leaned over and brushed a stray lock away from Pepper's face. "Not everyone in this century makes me unhappy."

"Faith Bradley was a faithful servant of the government. She did what was asked of her, and nothing more," the first congressman replied, and with practice, Pepper didn't actually roll her eyes.

"Yes, she was a faithful government servant, used as a guinea pig while the U.S. desperately tried to recreate the super soldier serum that Peggy had stolen. And the minute she displayed an independent thought, how well was she repaid for her service? By locking her up for decades."

"Something you feel sympathy for," Maria remarked, with enough casual ease that it should have been a sign to Pepper.

"Who wouldn't feel sympathy for someone getting locked up for doing the right thing?" Pepper demanded. "Other than the U.S. government. And sociopaths."

"You're not mad?" Gwen asked. "Or going to fire me?"

"I just found out that the genius who designed my arc reactor is also a superhero," Pepper pointed out. "What on earth would lead you to believe that to be an offense worth firing you over?"

"Have you read the newspapers lately?" Gwen scowled, causing her nose to pinch up in the process. It wasn't her most attractive look, truth be told. "Most of New York City thinks I'm a sociopathic criminal, at best."

"Most of New York is filled with sociopathic criminals," Pepper answered. "So I wouldn't - and don't - put much stock in their opinions. Besides, having you work with me will simply make our superhero team-ups more efficient."

"Iron Woman and Spider-Woman. I could get used to the sound of that."

"Sympathy," Maria Hill continued, "for her daughter - "

"And son," Pepper interrupted, because if they were counting the ways that the government didn't have a right to say anything about the choices of patriotic heroes, Faith Bradley's son certainly counted in that discussion.

"And son." Maria's mouth curled in a way that made Pepper's stomach do the same, and she knew immediately that she had made a mistake somewhere in this conversation. "Yet, when grieving mothers stand outside Potts Industries and grieve about what heroes have done, you are willing to turn a blind eye."

"No. I am willing to recognize that a lot more mothers would be childless without the Avengers around to keep them safe," Pepper replied, and she would make no apologies for the harshness of her truth, regardless of what had happened at Stamford.

"A green chick with rage issues and a melted popsicle was crazy enough, but now you've added an internationally wanted political dissident and her lesbian fashion designer lover, who only have superpowers because they stole some gas from the dissident's dead husband?" Tony looked up over his tablet and shook his head. "I thought you were supposed to be smart. Crazy woman taking over my mother's business isn't something I approve of at all."

"They have first names, you know. Last names too, even."

"I'm also entirely convinced that the buff chick is a delusion steroid addict. I mean, hot, yeah, but Norse Gods? I mean, have you read those legends? Horse babies, Pepper. Are those really the sorts of people you want to associate with? Because let me tell you, you can bounce back from most types of leaked porn, but there's no bouncing back from bestiality."


"Oh, I'm sorry. Let me rephrase. Betty, Peggy, Maria, Janet and Sif are all fucking nuts, and beneath you as human beings and as heroes." Tony flashed her a false smile. "Don't get me wrong, I'd fuck them. All of them. I might even spend the night - okay, no, that's a lie - but Ms. Potts, you do not need to align yourself with these people in order to get laid. Trust me, you really, really don't have to."

"I'm not joining the Avengers to get laid, Tony. And you forgot a few members."

"I can think of no other good reason to join this team. And I'm focusing on the crazies, not the sane ones, like the hot SHIELD agents or equally hot interns."

"Maria Pym watched her husband get murdered in front of her, and she has spent every day of her life since trying to bring justice to the world," Pepper pointed out. "Everyone else on the team is seeking ... a similar form of redemption."

"Except the hot SHIELD agents and hot intern."

"... Except the hot SHIELD agents and the intern who is still protected under our sexual harassment policy. But the point is, Tony, they want to do so much good - "

"Because they are crazy."

"And I could help them," Pepper continued, ignoring him.

"There are cheaper ways to work out PTSD. Which you don't have, by the way."

"Oh, Tony. How long did I spend in a cave? I think it's safe to say I have some shell shock."

"Oh, god, the awful puns have already started. The lowering of your IQ by the Avengers has already begun."

"Quite the ego, Ms. Potts," the third Congressman said, sitting stiffly in his chair.

Maybe Tony had been right, all those years ago. Maybe they really did need plusher chairs.

"Ego, pride, whatever you want to call it. I'm damn proud of the team I've been a part of, and there is nobody I would have rather have followed into battle than Captain America. I know what we've accomplished, and the only question, really, is why don't you? Where have you been all the years we've been out on the front lines?"

"SHIELD has been doing our part in keeping your ridiculous team together," Maria snapped.

A pettier woman than Pepper would have pointed out the emotion behind that snapping, but she dialed that urge back. "Really? I thought I was the one signing the checks."

"Five. Thirty-Six. Twelve." Pepper shivered a bit in the unseasonably chilly October temperatures filling the small Potts home as she recited the answers to the flash cards that her mother held.

"Very good." Her mother leaned forward and ruffled Pepper's hair lightly. "Cold, princess?"

Pepper scowled and ducked her head away from her mother's hand. She'd had to fight hard to get her mom to relent and let her have a real hair do, and Pepper treasured the way her red locks curled shortly around her ears.

It was a grown-up hair do, but her mom couldn't stop acting like she was still wearing pigtails.

"You'll mess up my hair," she protested, and to her dismay, her mother simply laughed.

"Oh, Ginny. In a few years, you'll start to miss the right to have messy hair whenever you please," her mother warned.

"It doesn't please me right now," Pepper protested.

"Of course not. You're a grown-up now." Her mother stretched in the chair and wriggled her toes in the pan she was soaking them in. Pepper didn't like that pan; it had come from the hospital where her grandmother had spent two weeks after her last stroke, and Pepper remembered watching the nurse dip into the pan to give her grandmother a sponge bath.

Watching her mother soak her feet in it made Pepper think of cold white walls, crisp white uniforms and her always chatty grandmother suddenly gone silent.

She really hated that pan. A lot.

"Does it please you to do another round of flash cards? Division this time," her mother said and Pepper scowled.

"No. We've been doing this for a half an hour already. I want to go play."

"They'll be time for play after you do the work. That's how life works, Ginny. And someday, when you do not have to come home and soak your feet after bringing some fool man his coffee all day, you will thank me for making you do the work." Her mother shuffled the second deck of cards and wriggled her toes again.

Pepper gave her best scowl - not that it ever worked - and leaned forward to wrap her hands around her hot cocoa. It warmed her enough that chill passed, and she focused on the cards in front of her.

"Six, one, eight ... "

"A little emotional yourself, aren't you, Potts?" Maria stated coolly, and Pepper dialed back the urge to blast the woman through the window.

That would be demonstrating a little too much emotion. And as Stane would testify to, it was never a good thing when Pepper Potts got too emotional.

At least, Stane would testify to that if he was still alive, Pepper was pretty sure.

Pepper found Tony curled up on the couch of her Penthouse, with a half empty bottle of scotch beside him.

"I'm sorry."

It was the first time Pepper ever heard Tony say those words. "What on earth are you sorry about?"

His words were only a little slurred when he spoke, but it was enough that Pepper had to strain to hear what he was saying. "It's my fault. All of it. The time in Afghanistan. Obi trying to kill you - "

"That isn't true, Tony."

"We both know you only kept him around because you didn't want to fire my father figure. Even thought it was a father figure I was fucking, so I'm sure that creeped out all your Pottsy sensibilities."

Only entirely, but now wasn't the time for that. "Don't ever call me Pottsy again. Scoot over so I have some room to sit down on the couch."

As she moved to sit beside him, a sharp pain shot through her left side, and Pepper tried not to make a fuss about it – it was a perfectly natural reaction to falling through a roof, Pepper was sure. Besides, she had another priority at the moment.

"I have something very important to tell you, and I hope you are sober enough to hear it and remember it," Pepper told him.

"I am entirely sober, Potts."

"Sure you are, Tony." Pepper sighed - which also hurt - and continued, "When I was in Afghanistan, I spent a good deal of time complaining about you."

"Wait, this is supposed to make me convinced this isn't my fault?"

"Let me finish. Complaining about you ... it put me at ease. It gave me something ... a bit of home. To look forward to. To get back to."

"So you could fire me?"

Yes, but besides the point. "I'm trying to say ... I wanted you there. I want you here. This isn't your fault and I'm glad you're here."

There was a pause long enough that Pepper reached for the bottle, and as she was taking a swig, he offered, "Wow, Ms. Potts. That was truly a terrible speech."

She swallowed and gave a soft laugh. "Yeah, it was. Call Rhodes and Hogan in, so they can give equally shitty speeches."

"And so we can all get delightfully not sober?"

"So we can all join you there, yes."

"So our whole team is too emotional now?" Pepper demanded. "Oh, I wish I was surprised at you taking the easy way out, Hill. Are you going to toss in some PMS jokes while you're at it?"

"Your team is a dangerous group of loose cannons who should have been brought in years ago," Maria said simply, and to her credit, the emotion was gone. "Contessa's weepy, socialist European background kept her from having the balls to do what needed to be done. I'm not going to have that issue."

"So you've what, just been waiting patiently for the chance to shut us down? I can almost admire the patience and persistence that must have taken."

It was a warm day, with all the windows open and the box fan blowing the already hot air around their living room when the letter came. Pepper had been waiting on it since November, and she tapped the envelope against her hand nervously as she came into the living room.

Her mother's feet were in that pan soaking, just as Pepper remembered them always being.

"Well, I can see you got the letter you've been waiting on. What's it say, Ginny?"

"I don't know. I'm kind of afraid to open it," Pepper admitted.

Her mother rolled her eyes and wiggled her toes in that terrible pan. "The world will not wait for you to be ready, Virginia. Regardless of which college we end up being able to afford, you keep that in mind. Quit dilly-dallying and open the letter."

Pepper took a deep breath, and opened the letter.

The squeal could possibly have been heard in Massachusetts.

"Miss Virginia Potts:

We are happy to award you the 1996 Maria Stark Scholarship for Excellence in Mathematics. As you are aware, the scholarship provides tuition, room, board and a stipend for one lucky woman, enabling her to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ...

"I'm sure you do," Maria answered. "After all, ambition is always something you strive towards. Excellence in all things, and respect only for those who share that ambition."

"I do wear Maria Stark's favorite color into battle every day," Pepper retorted. "Do you actually have a point, Hill?"

"Her point is that you tend to not care about those you leave in your dust as much as you should," the second congressman spoke up.

"Something your ex-husband would certainly know about, wouldn't he, Miss Potts?" Maria asked simply.

"That's low, Hill. Even for you."

"We're here and Rhodey's not. That's either a great sign or a bad sign. I'm not sure which," Tony announced as headed towards her liquor cabinet.

"Rhodey is being a good friend to Happy right now. He needs one," Pepper answered quietly.

Tony glanced up from his survey of the cabinet only briefly, while Peggy answered, "Then you've finally done it?"

"Yes. I filed yesterday. Happy moved out today." It didn't come out as strong as she'd intended. She'd work on that. In the future.

"And you called the two best people you know," Tony said cheerfully, bringing over four different bottles, three glasses and the tiny umbrellas that Pepper had been saving from her honeymoon. "Poor Rhodey, stuck to consoling Happy in some third rate dive across town while we get the expensive stuff."

Peggy gave Tony a dirty look - which wasn't an infrequent occurrence, really - before she sat down at the kitchen table next to Pepper. "I can't imagine why you weren't called in to do the consoling instead," Peggy said pointedly to Tony.

"Couldn't have sent either of you," Pepper answered as she took the drink Tony poured. "Happy is convinced I'm sleeping with both of you."

"... Well, Happy officially has a better imagination than I do, and considering the things I think up during the day, that's quite a feat. Although ... are we fictiously fucking simultaneously or separately? Because that makes a difference," Tony said, handing a glass to Peggy. She glared at it suspiciously for a minute, as though HYDRA had poured it, before she accepted it.

"Either way," Peggy said sharply as her hand reached out and took Pepper's, "I hope that facet of his imagination did not lead to the divorce."

"No... we've been flying in opposite directions for a while." Which was the truth. She cleared her throat, because the silence from Tony was unnerving and the sympathy look she was getting from Peggy was too much. "So I need girlish ego boosts and petty assurances that I am doing the right thing, from both of you."

"You made your choice long before your wedding, and Happy knew that. I'm not entirely certain that people like us are meant to have families," Peggy began.

"Oh, please. If you are going to quote Star Trek movies, at least quote good ones. Not the one where they find evil space Jesus," Tony interrupted.

Peggy glared him back into submission, before continuing. "Sometimes relationships don't work out, and neither of you are to blame."

"And who needs Happy anyway?" Tony continued. "With the way your legs look in that skirt, this kitchen table is struggling to become sentient just so it can proposition you. I can feel it."

Pepper gave a short laugh. "It had better not. Supervillain plots need to wait until at least Thursday."

"Director Hill is only trying to remind you of the personal kind of ... baggage that can be thrown into the light of day, if you choose to fight against us," the third congressman chimed in.

Oh, didn't he sound earnest.

"And not just about you, Ms. Potts, but about your teammates as well," Maria pointed out. "Is that what you want? All of your dirty laundry, laid out for the world to see?"

Pepper contemplated the probable political leanings of everyone in this room, and she wondered what their faces would look like if she told them exactly what kind of dirty laundry she actually had.

Between Rhodes, the Avengers, Tony and several of Hill's own agents, Pepper had plenty of laundry they would probably consider "dirty."

"So either we sell our secrets to the government, or the government will sell our secrets to the public? That's how the SHRA works?" Pepper narrowed her eyes. "Pure blackmail? What a law. I can't imagine why anyone would have anything against it."

"It's not blackmail to point out the natural ramifications of resistance to this Act, once it passes," the first congressman answered.

"That's your answer, then, Potts? You're going on record as being against the Act?" Maria asked.

Pepper wanted to tell her yes. Then she wanted to blast Maria and each of the cowardly congressman right through the window.

But that wouldn't do any good at all, so instead she folded her hands patiently in front of her. "No. It's a 'I have another 24 hours before this bill will become law and I am going to spend every one of those 24 hours trying to decide what the right thing to do is.'"

Maria leaned forward and lowered her voice. "The minute that law goes into effect, the full fury of SHIELD will come down on each and every Avenger who doesn't comply, Potts. Don't wait too long."

"Oh, I won't, Director. You have my word on that."

"Who would ever have thought that Captain America knew how to play anything more exciting than Go Fish?" Bobbi mused as she looked at her cards.

"I spent much time with your American soldiers," Peggy answered. "Between them and Rebecca, I'm pretty sure there are few games I won't be able to play."

"Your human card games are strange," Sif proclaimed, "but I enjoy that they come with a variety of food and drink, even if the drink is not as strong as it should be."

Pepper observed her teammates, the chatty ones and the quiet ones, as they surveyed their hands during the weekly poker game and grinned.

"You seem rather pleased with yourself," Betty noted. "That good of a hand?"

"Not particularly. I am just remembering that someone once told me this team was a bad idea. I was thinking about how wrong they were."

"Hmm. When you get home, you should remind Tony of how wrong he as," Peggy answered.

"Oh, I intend to."

Several minutes after Hill and the congressmen had left, Pepper sat alone in her meeting room, thinking about the conversation she'd just had.

Her solitude was interrupted, as usual, by Tony.

"I have a getaway car and a list of all the countries that don't share extradition treaties memorized," Tony announced. "In case you want to do the sensible thing and get the hell out of this country."

Pepper looked at him curiously, and tried to feign humor she didn't really feel. "You have a list of non-extradition countries memorized?"

"I'm Iron Woman's PA. Nobody's going to think it's strange for me to be looking up that information on a weekly basis." Tony shrugged. "But you're not going to do the smart thing, are you?"

"Do you remember when I came back from Afghanistan?" Pepper answered. "And it took us a while to come up with a name. I thought about Rescue for a while, before Iron Woman really took off. I think about that a lot, how different people might have responded to me if I showed up as Rescue to save them instead."

"Okay... remember that time I said you didn't have PTSD? Because I'd like to take that back. Obviously you do, or I do, or something, because this conversation isn't making any sense," Tony informed her. "And since you are about to do something colossally stupid, we are a little stretched for time."

'My point is, I started doing this to rescue people. The Act they want me to agree to would require me to hunt down my own teammates. That's not rescuing anyone. That's not what I signed on for."

"But fighting the government is?"

"It won't be the biggest thing I've fought to keep innocent people safe," Pepper answered.

"At the risk of sounding like a dick and getting fired by a soon-to-be-criminal, the Avengers are far from innocent."

"No ... the Avengers aren't innocent by a long stretch, but the law won't just cover them. It will cover every child born with a superpower and every one smart enough to make their own. Your mother had the right to choose to work for the government. This law would have taken that right away from her. Is that what I'm supposed to fight for, for her grandchildren?"

"When this is all over," Tony said with a melodramatic sigh, "presuming we don't end up at Gitmo for the rest of our lives, you are going to owe me one hell of a raise."

"If we make it through, the raise is all yours," Pepper promised.