There’s two thousand plus pages of very fine-printed legalese on the document Tony holds in his hands two weeks to what he’ll come to think of as Before. Out of those two thousand pages, he figures about ten of them are not complete bullshit. He would have chucked them in the trash had it not been for the person who had delivered them. After all, Tony doesn’t come into direct contact with someone so high in the political ladder unless he’s fucked up. Badly.
As soon as he’d been informed that the Secretary of Defense was, conveniently, at SI headquarters to look for him on the one day he’d decided to show up Tony realizes two things. One, he’s going to need to have a talk with Pepper, again, about luring him in under false pretenses. And second, he’s once again managed to piss off the government enough to get an honest threat. Maybe he should have made those upgrades they’d been bitching about for the War Machine armor. Sorry, Iron Patriot. He had about two minutes to debate whether or not to call Steve and ask for him to vouch in his favor. Goody two shoes that he was he probably would do something totally unfair like kiss Tony’s temple, wish him good luck, and then throw him to the sharks. He’s just about to pick up his phone to text him, Steve kisses are infinitely better than nothing, when Pepper barges into the R&D department and drags him out by his ear. Engineers, scientists, and interns avert their eyes and bite their lips to keep from laughing; the more seasoned ones just shake their heads and keep on working.
She doesn’t speak to him the whole way to the higher offices. She’s been giving him the cold shoulder since she found out that he was dating Steve and hadn’t told her about it. So she just shoves him into his office, muses his hair up so that it looks styled and not just messy. She “fixes” his tie for him, a little too harshly because he ends up chocking, and fixes his collar. He gives her an exasperated look, and she tries to glare at him, but the corners of her lips are trembling as she tries to hide her mirth.
She opens her mouth, about to ask if there was anything else as was the custom between them, when Ross barges in on them. Tony gives him a customary eyebrow raise to disguise how angry he is at the disrespect. Pepper doesn’t seem too happy with the Secretary either so Tony figures she’ll be okay with the sarcasm and condescending remarks he plans to shower his guest with. She gives him a look, kisses his cheek, and marches out of the office.
“I see your relationship is still as strong as ever,” Ross comments by way of greeting. He’s already situating himself on a chair even before Tony invites him to do so.
“What can I do for you, General?” Tony ignores the question and makes his way to his own chair as if that’s how he’d intended for things to go. He unbuttons his jacket with a flourish just to see Ross’s mouth tighten in displeasure.
I’m here to talk about your group of misfits,” his tone of voice is pleasant, but Tony’s played ball with people like him in the past; he knows he’s not in his office to congratulate him for the efforts they make every day to save people. This is the same type of pleasantries the senate had given him when they were about to come knocking down his door for the suit.
“Came to congratulate us for saving New York? Or Sokovia? Or, you know what, let’s just say the whole worlds, how about that? We accept fruit baskets and maybe Dodger tickets for the old man. Oh! And Pop-Tarts for when Thor gets back from his little self-discovery trip,” he smirks at the General’s clearly mounting annoyance.
“The United States government doesn’t make it a habit of giving medals to murderers, Mr. Stark,” Ross says through gritted teeth.
Tony’s sure he could mention a few unsavory characters who fell into both of those categories (Andrew Jackson is one of his first suggestions,) but refrains. He takes a moment to think about the number of burgers and pie Steve owes him for holding his tongue, then levels a glare at Ross. Is he seriously in Tony’s office at ten forty five on a Thursday trying to threaten him and his family? Tony’s already short supply of patience for crooked politicians evaporates. Ross had already showed how dangerous he was with Bruce. “I’m sorry, General, but I feel now’s the time to point out that were it not for the team many more lives would have been lost. How do you think your agency would have swept all of that under the rug?”
“Yes, yes, you think yourselves superheroes. You’re missing the point, Stark, the fact remains that every time your little boyband—“
“Careful, General, there’s two very powerful and capable women on my team. Wouldn’t want them to get on their nerves,” like I’m doing with you, he thinks with a smirk as Ross’s anger mounts.
“Every time your so called team goes out it turns into disaster. Every time. You think you’re helping, but if it weren’t for you lot then those disasters would not have happened at all. The world is getting tired of being wrecked because of your so called team, Stark, and so are we. I’m here to ask for your team to disband.”
Tony all out snorts. “You cannot be serious,” he sneers at Ross as he leans over his desk. “You wouldn’t last two weeks without us around.”
“We survived long before your people came around, Stark,” Ross sneered right back. He slammed a thick book on Tony’s desk. “This are the Sokovia Accords, something redacted and agreed upon by over one hundred nations of the world to try to minimize the damage your little group makes. This ensures that you cannot start brawls with villains, aliens, or whatever the hell else that may result in further loss of infrastructure and human life. Your team is under the UN’s jurisdiction now, Stark.”
“You’re making a lot of assumptions right now, General, and I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you,” Tony leans back in his chair and glares at Ross. “You’re thinking we’re going to, what? Roll over and let you put a shackle on us? That we’ll trust you? Correct me if I’m wrong, Mr. Secretary, but wasn’t your government involved in that pesky leak of Hydra information? Didn’t you vouch for Pierce to be head of that agency? Forgive me, General, but I don’t think my team will be very interested in what you have to say about this.” He waves a hand in dismissal.
“You’re right, Stark,” Ross says. Tony narrows his eyes at the man. He knows things are never this simple. “They won’t listen to me, which is why I’ve come to you before I present this information. You see, this is still in its early stages, but part of the Accords contains a contingency plan. There’s something we’re calling the Raft. It’s a… facility, to hold any super human threats. As of right now, your team is placed under the asset category, which is why we’re offering you to be part of the signing. As a… sign of good faith about your intentions. If, however, you were to fail to do so, well…”
“You’ll lock us up,” Tony snarls. “How do you think that’ll work, Ross? The minute you take a step against my team—“
“There’s always contingency plans, Stark,” Ross smiles. It’s ugly; the type of grin you’d see on a predator right before they eat their prey. “You know all about those; you implemented them yourself. I am warning you know, if your team does not fall behind the UN’s decision they will be held personally accountable for any further damage that your little playground brawls cause. The Avengers will be shut down, and then where will you be?”
Tony’s mind flashes back to a half-drunk morning two weeks after he’s been rescued from the desert. Rhodey’s arm around his waist as he tries to get him back into bed after he’d drunk himself into a stupor in the workshop. He’d come back from his latest test run of the suit; he’d taken it higher than ever before. He remembers the feeling from back then; like he was king of the world. He’d made Rhodey promise to shut him down if he ever got too high on that power. Being up there, Tony had mumbled as Rhodey tucked him into bed, ‘s like there’s nothin’ else. Like… like… it makes you feel like you’re invincible. I can’t fuck up ‘gain, Rhodes, don’ le’ me do’t ‘gain. He’d drafted a plan to shut down the armor if he ever went rogue. He’d given the suit to Rhodey less than a year later. Looking at Ross now, he knows he has those plans. He has those plans and so much more. Tony’s left speechless with fear, and Ross smirks in triumph.
He taps the document on Tony’s desk with a pointed glare. “It’s your choice now, Mr. Stark. Either you help up keep this threat controlled, or your team will find itself a new home.” With that, he marches out of the office leaving a shell shocked Tony behind.
He doesn’t break anything in his office, but it’s a near thing. He sends the Newton’s Cradle he’d nicked form Pepper flying across the room. He grabs the document and almost tears it in half, but he can’t. he knows he can’t because if he’s going to fight Ross he needs to know it forwards and backwards. Has to decipher and unmake ever loophole. He has to protect his team.
A week later, and Tony still has no idea how to fix the shithole Ross has thrown him into. He’s read the document about a hundred times. He’s reworded a good portion of it, which is something at least, but it is not enough. Cap will never agree to signing it, of that, he is one hundred percent sure. And neither will most of the team. It’s too broad; it gives whichever agency will be in charge of them too much control over their decision. It holds too much potential to make the Avengers into the parade monkey Steve had been, but in a much broader scale.
It’s tearing him apart to keep it a secret from the others. That’s the only thing he’s sure of, though, the fact that needs to keep his plans a secret. First, he doesn’t know if he will be able to rewords it enough to have it not be so constricting. So inhumane. When he starts to waver on that decision, especially when Steve looks at him with those concerned blue eyes, he reminds himself that he’s doing it for him. For them. His family. If he doesn’t finish redacting the Accords on time he needs them to sign it while he figures something out. He’s selfish enough to condemn them to having a government chokehold if it keeps them away from whatever punishment Ross has concocted. Second, he has no idea how he’ll convince them to even sign it. Steve, at least, will see right through it on his first read. He’ll figure out that nothing good can come out if, and that scares Tony. He doesn’t know how his lover will react when Tony pitches himself against him. The thought alone almost gives him an anxiety attack. Lastly, Tony figures that he won’t be able to figure his shit out alone. He needs help, but has no idea who to ask for. Sure, Pepper would understand the legalese of it, but she’d insist that he ask for help. Tell someone, or at the very least, tell Steve, and he can’t do that. Tony might love him, but he knows Cap is the worst liar when it comes to things that are this important. Wanda hates him, Clint is god knows where with his family, Rhodey wouldn’t even hesitate to say yes, he doesn’t know Sam well enough to ask for help, and Vision is still too innocent to understand the likes of Ross. That leaves him with only one option.
So that’s where he is, a week before shit hits the fan, leaning his forehead against his floor to ceiling windows as he looks over New York. Steve’s sleeping in the bed behind him, hugging a pillow Tony had shoved into his arms when he’d complained in his sleep at the lack of genius by his side. Tony can’t look at him without feeling like he’s betraying him in some way, but… he convinces himself that it’ll be worth it. Keeping this a secret, working in the shadows, pretending… if it keeps Steve and the rest of them out of Ross’s hands then he’s okay. He’ll figure it out.
He thinks he won’t get a response. It’s almost four in the morning, and just when he’s about to hang up the person on the other side picks up. His voice sounds weak and afraid even in his own ears, but he soldiers on. For the team. For Steve.
“Tasha? I—I need your help.”