Summary: The rouge Avengers are pardoned under the influence of King T’Challa and it is up to Tony to ‘welcome’ them back. But as he and his new team are at the private airport, an unexpected fight breaks loose and the fate of the whole universe is changed when a wizard places himself as Tony Stark’s protector.
Tony Stark was not a happy scout. Not at all. He was still hurting, still undergoing physical therapy, still dealing with both nightmares and the public backlash of the so called Civil War when he had received the news from the UN Council that the rouge Avengers had been pardoned and that they will be returning stateside in a matter of days. He was glad he at least was warned beforehand instead of it just being dropped in his lap like a certain SHIELD secrety-secret pirate would have done and then patronized him that it was the best way, considering Tony’s ‘character (flaws)’. Councilmember Ross was at least decent enough to do him that one courtesy, if nothing else.
Tony was expected to go back to being their, for the lack of a better description, sugar daddy as soon as they landed, providing housing, finances, food, equipment and whatever else they might need, starting with the Avengers Compound. That was fine, they could have the place if they wanted it so bad. Tony had moved out a few weeks ago, anyway, relocating to the once again rechristened Stark Tower as his place of residence. He was a well known public figure and the only Avenger people still weren’t afraid or distrusting of, since he had always been quite frank with them, especially after Afghanistan. They knew he was as human as them, just as flawed with just as many weaknesses as them and they were content with that knowledge. He’d even been approached a few times by mothers or kids or random men and women, thanking him for protecting them and telling him they felt safe knowing he was just a few blocks away from wherever they lived. The transfer of Iron Man back into New York had even helped SI’s stocks, as Pepper had praised him just a couple of days after his move. That was always a plus, making life easier for her and the poor, poor brilliant bastards that worked in their PR team. He resolved to up their paycheck by a couple of zeros. God knows they deserved it.
He had stocked the frigs back at the Compound and had the place cleaned, just to play along with the UN’s wishes - T’Challa had gone through a lot of trouble and Tony recognized an almost worthy opponent in the bullshitting field, because that was what this was; the rouges deserved far worse than jail, let alone the life of luxury T’Challa had been providing them with and was now trying to dump them in but fed by Tony’s pocket - but he didn’t do anything other than that. Contrary to what they, Team Cap and T’Challa seem to think, Tony and SI were under no obligation to provide anything for the Avengers. Not even when he had been a consultant for SHIELD had Tony been under any sort of obligation to provide them with weapons and equipment. He had chosen to do so himself, thinking the Avengers Initiative was an ideal worth standing behind.
In the end, the rouges were right. The Civil War was all Tony’s fault. He had given them everything, protected them from the public and the government and the press alike and that had led to them all but ignoring the consequences of their own actions. Their fight at the airport in Germany more than proved it, even if you do ignore the whole bringing bridges down on innocent civilians on the highway or the resisting arrest and assaulting policemen when they tried to take Bucky in. He should have left them to fight their own battles long ago. Let them see that the biggest threat out there was not some evil bad guy with an army or superpowers or even a murderous robot. It was the press and their words. It was the people they were defending, the public. Because if the public is unhappy, the heroes will not be heroes at all, as Team Cap was no doubt learning by now. They’re criminals. Terrorists, even, in certain countries and Tony is so done with defending them. Let them reap what they sew.
Going against 117 nations tends to make one the bad guy.
They thought they could pull a Tony Stark? That they could tell the politicians to fuck off because they won’t share the most dangerous and advanced piece of tech this side of the Milky Way? They’re obviously more stupid than he thought them to be. Iron Man was a patented SI, no Tony Stark idea, design and product. You can’t take away a man’s private property without needing to go to court about it and, as if SI and Tony himself didn’t have a perfect legal department, Tony himself was a beast in the court room. Natasha might be a dangerous person to go up against, if she were to go around revealing her spy secrets and twisting words out of context, but Tony can play her game just as easily.
But the point wasn’t about court rooms that the rouges will never see because of T’Challa’s influence, nor was it about even the housing and financial concerns. Those will be their concerns soon enough. Tony had done as much as was asked of him. Each one of them has a thousand dollars in their accounts, will have a roof over their heads, the standard gear - no more customized, specialized equipment for them - and a full fridge when they return. That’s where Tony is done. If the UN or T’Challa tried to make him do more, he will put the full weight of Pepper and SI’s legal department into it and they better hope they’re ready because, 117 nations or not, Stark International is global and helping all 117 of those nations in various ways that they could not risk losing. No more mister nice guy.
The only thing left to do for Tony is to escort them back to the Compound and inform them of the new Accords copy waiting each one of them in their rooms and that, should they ever want to be on the active roaster again, they’re going to need to sign it. Thankfully, he wouldn’t have to be alone when he ‘welcomes’ them back, or else he might just go into a panic attack. He doesn’t want to be in the same room as Rodgers, Barns or the Scarlet Witch on his own ever again. Hell, he shudders just at the thought of being in one with Natasha. He should have known she would stab him in the back again, even if this time it, thankfully, wasn’t literal like last time. And to add to his discomfort levels, Thor and Bruce - how the hell did those two meet up? - were also going to be coming back. Once upon a time, he would have gladly welcomed them both back but Siberia had been a nasty eye opener.
Hoe can you trust a man who would try to choke you when you were out of your only defense and he knew he was stronger than you?
How are you supposed to call the man who fell asleep while you were pouring your soul out to him a friend if he had obviously not cared to listen for longer than five minutes?
How are you supposed to call a group of individuals who never trusted you, liked you, thanked you, appreciated you and never made a move to stop the above mentioned choking while simply standing to the side and watching a team, a family as they used to like to preach?
Tony’s done. He’s so done with them. He had tried for years to please them, to do things right so he can stand as an equal with them, but they never let him. He was always the one at fault, always the one that they all stepped on but that they never tried to reach back for once they were on solid ground. They were not his friends, not even Bruce, who had been his Science Bro. Not even Thor, who was friends with everyone. And most certainly not Rodgers, who only ever looked at him to search for Howard and would then be disappointed when he only saw Tony. Well, he won’t be taking any of that bullshit anymore. They’re all just a bunch of hypocrites, anyway.
Still, Tony was told he had to meet them when they landed, and so here he was, dressed in only one of his sharpest business suits with an Arc Reactor on his chest - imagine his horror when he was told his chest would collapse unless he had something implanted in it again; the Arc Reactor was his only choice, he would make no other, even if he didn’t need it any more for its original purpose, even if it solidified his break up with Pepper. He had watched as FRIDAY gleefully melted the scratched Vibranium shield and had felt himself relax and feel free for the first time since Sokovia, maybe even since New York. The Arc Reactor had turned out to be a surprisingly comforting presence in his chest, instead of an intrusion like before. At least this time, it wasn’t lying on his lungs like it used to, before. It was just connecting his broken beyond repair ribcage and protecting his heart, like it had always done. It felt ... good to have it back. Even if he was experimenting on the Reactor itself for a certain project of his.
He was here with Rhody - god he hated the braces but he was just so glad Rhody could move again at all - in his War Machine armor, Vision and, surprisingly, one Peter Parker, AKA Spider-man. He had wanted to protest, but the UN stated that Spider-man now represented the Accords, especially their new feature that protected the identity of any and all Avengers who wish it so. Since Peter was still a minor and going to school, Tony had insisted on it and had ended up making a beauty out of it, even managing to get in a few protection clauses for superenhanced individuals, inhumans (don’t ask how he learned about them, he won’t answer) and even mutants, which had resulted in a surprise visit from one Charles Xavior and some of his X-men and students. Go figure Tony’s life only became crazier with that, but he was glad when they all signed the Accords under aliases but promised to do their best to protect the world when the need arises.
The four of them were the only ones here, expected to ‘welcome’ Steve Rodgers, Natasha Romanoff, Clint Barton, Sam Wilson, Scott Lang (boy, was he going to be in the dog house when Pym and his daughter get their hands on him. Tony feels no pity for him at all and is glad to have finally reached an understanding with Hank Pym and Hope van Dame after all these years of useless, pointless rivalry that Howard had started), Wanda Maximoff (she could drop dead, for all he cares), Bucky Barnes (wasn’t he supposed to be in some sort of cryptostasis? Was he even safe to be let out? Tony rather doubted it and his hand itched to tap the Arc Reactor on his chest and just blast them all to hell but he’s too tired to deal with the fallout that will follow), all of them accompanied by none other than King T’Challa, the Black Panter and ruler of Wakanda himself. Thor and Bruce are supposedly scheduled to arrive tomorrow and then there was going to be a big ‘reunion’ and meeting. He was, once again, required to attend and just the thought of the bullshit that he’ll have to listen to makes him want to grimace.
But he won’t allow the approaching group the satisfaction. Rodgers and T’Challa were already striding purposefully towards where he stood between Vision on one side and Rhody on the other, Peter hanging upside down from one of the parked jets and flicking his eyes between his pseudo mentor and the other half of the Avengers. They were a bit outnumbered, if a fight should break out, but Tony had, as always, come prepared. Beside the experimental suit he has on hand, he had repaired the Iron Legion and gad left them in FRIDAY’s more than capable hands. They’ll have support if they need it and the whole thing was being broadcasted to the UN Council, so should the rouges do anything, Tony will have a legitimate reason to leave them all back in the RAFT. He agrees Secretary Ross had been way out of line, but things were different now. The RAFT is apparently just where they belong, if they dare do something here and now. And not even T’Challa’s political immunity will protect him from being thrown in there, not this time.
“Stark,” T’Challa greets with a terse nod, eying the most dangerous man on the planet as though he were a bomb ready to set off. Tony appreciated that wariness. T’Challa had seen him stand up to not one, but two supersoldiers and he had seen Tony holding back. Tony hadn’t wanted them dead. He just wanted to hurt them a little. He even actually wanted to hurt Rodgers a lot more than he had wanted to hurt Barns. A few punches would have satisfied him, as he knew from experience that revenge won’t make him feel better, won’t get the lost ones back. Yinsen, Gulmira, his parents ... It didn’t matter who. But he had felt angry, vulnerable and betrayed and so he had lashed out. Had Rodgers not turned it into a two on one, he would have left Barns off after just a few punches. No weapons, no nothing. He continued fighting because Rodgers had pissed him off further with his fake platitudes and lies and hypocritical statements.
Well, he won’t take that shit from them anymore.
“Your majesty,” he greets back, glad that they had been wise enough to stop a dozen meters in front of him. Far away that they’re not too close, but close enough not to need to yell to be heard. “Rodgers.”
“Tony.” It grates on his nerves the way Rodgers has the cheek to dare to address him as though they were still friends. They aren’t. They never were. He hadn’t realized that until Ultron but he had chose to ignore it until the Accords, when it became glaringly obvious and undeniable.
Tony cut him off right at the knees, not giving him any time for any of his self-righteous crap. “I believe you’re all familiar with the Compound grounds. Feel free to move about as you wish, except in the east wing, which is completely out of the question for you to go in. Try it and you will find that security will be more than eager to throw you out. It’s completely off limits for you, as that there are my private labs that I still haven’t fully cleared out. You will have access to everything, it is but a phone call away. Your things have not been disturbed but your rooms have been recently tended to. If anything is missing, please address your concerns with Mrs Cooper. She’s in charge of the estate. Don’t make a mess, don’t break anything, don’t steal anything, don’t damage anything, don’t try to go into areas you find you have no clearance for, don’t call me, don’t bother FRIDAY, read and sign the Accords and hopefully, we won’t be seeing much of each other any time soon. Now, if that will be all-”
“Wait, what do you mean the labs you still haven’t cleared out? And what do you mean by ‘clearance’? This is our home, Tony.” Steve says, taking a step closer but thinking better about it when Rhodes’ shoulder cannon turns in his direction. “We should be able to move about how we please.” He tries to reason, earning himself a snort through War Machine’s sound filters and an arched eyebrow from the business man.
“And you are. Only, you seem to be misinterpreting a few things here, Mr Rodgers. The Avengers Compound is one hundred percent Stark property, bought, built and maintained by me and as such, I have say of what does and doesn’t go on in here. As such, I have a right to forbid you from going into certain areas, such as the east wing unless I give you clearance, which I won’t, and I have a right to ask you to leave the premises if you decide to try and break any of the ground rules. Other than making my life difficult or breaking the Accords, I don’t give a damn about what you do. You’ll have a liaison and you better hope he or she are good because, knowing you, you’ll need a lot of consulting and help. I wish you the best of lu-”
“God! You are such a brat, Stark!” Barton snapped, stomping up to where T’Challa was smart enough to restrain him before he comes to close to the billionaire. “Things don’t go your way and suddenly you’re taking all of your toys away, is that it? You’re supposed to be a grown man, not some child throwing a tantrum.”
Tony just shrugged, unaffected. “Your opinion of me matters very little, both to myself and to the rules that have been set. Break them and you’ll face the consequences. You can’t hide behind the great big kitty cat forever. Even kittens have to leave the nest at one point. You’ll be on your own then and you better watch your step.”
“Is that a threat?” Wanda snarls, hands glowing red and Tony feels Vision stepping closer to him. He wishes it didn’t have to be this way, for the android’s sake. Vision had loved Wanda, but what she had become had left the android shaken. Scared she might have been, yes, but she had not been overly concerned with the damage she had been causing. Vision now didn’t know what to think of her, or of himself for still liking her to an extent. Tony wishes he could help, could reach out to him and try to comfort him but he didn’t know how. Most days since the airport fight, Vision had stuck close to him. It must have been some sort of his own coping mechanism, so Tony had allowed it, and it hurt to hear the uncertainty in what had been JARVIS’s voice. Vision did his best to hide it, but Tony knew every frequency that voice could hit better than Vision himself could.
It pulled at his heart strings that Vision was reverting to something a young JARVIS used to do, keeling Tony always in sight for need of reassurance. That had later developed into fondness and protectiveness on JARVIS’s part, but that didn’t seem to be the case for Vision. Viz was only still a kid, no matter how much he didn’t look like it. People tend to forget that a little too often for Tony’s liking.
“It’s a fact and an advice. One wrong move and you’ll find yourself in RAFT again.”
“That was a threat.” The temperamental Witch snarled, more power seeping into her hands but she didn’t attack. Yet.
“You didn’t answer Steve’s first question, Tony,” Natasha, ever observant, ever the spy, caught on and came to stand on Rodger’s other side, eyes raking over Tony and trying to find any weaknesses. Her eyes stayed on his Arc Reactor and Tony enjoyed the confused frown that followed it but ignored the pointed look she gave him. As though he would tell her when or why he had it reimplanted in his chest. “Why would your labs be cleared out?”
“Because I don’t live there anymore. Haven’t for weeks, now, and I can’t leave all my tech in such incapable, untrusting hands. That would be like giving a Jericho to the Ten Rings or something and I tend to take back from, not give away my weapons to terrorists.”
“We’re not terrorists, Tony,” Sam says with an amused huff, as though he thought Tony was kidding. He just gave him a flat stare.
“Tell that to the people you hurt or killed during the ‘Civil War’ and then you can say it to my face again.”
“We didn’t do anything wrong, Stark.” Lang pipes in and the engineer just rolls his eyes.
“You are already in a boat load of trouble when Hank and Hope get their hands on you for stealing the suit.” He groans at the gapping expression Lang shots his way. “What? Did you seriously think Pym will be swell with all of this?” He waves a hand between the two sides to indicate the fight that had already once happened. “I don’t think so. In fact, he tore me a new one for not bringing you in, taking the suit and leaving you to rot in RAFT. Be grateful that Miss van Dame seems to think you didn’t have any idea what you were getting into - I agree, now that we’re talking face to face; you seem like a star-eyed idiot - and that you are relatively harmless. My advice to you? Save your breath so you can grovel at her feet later when you don’t end up being declared a national enemy. Although whether you get the Ant-Man suit ever again is up to Hank. Somehow I don’t think you’ll be shrinking the responsibility and consequences any time soon.”
“So that’s your angle, Tony? Divide and conquer? I thought you’d think up something a bit more original.”
“Not that this is that, but yes, ancient tactics are always the best ones, Romanoff.” He shoots back immediately. “They had lesser technology but not lesser intellect. You could learn something from them. Maybe starting with the definition of loyalty.”
“You’re the one who knows nothing about loyalty, Stark!” Clint jumps in, defending his partner. Tony just sighs and shakes his head.
“This is tiring. You guys are simply not worth the headache.” He hold up a palm when they start to protest and was surprised when they actually shut up for a second. “There will be a meeting in two days. Make a list and complain about it then. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have better things to do than waste my breath on people who won’t listen.”
He starts to turn around so he can walk away, ignoring Rodgers’ “Not so fast, Tony! We haven’t finished this conversation!” when there was a strange sound, something between cracking glass and crackling of electricity and he whips around to see what is going on, only for something red to barge into him, knocking him over, followed by an explosion of sorts, two arguing voices and the confused yelling of his team and the rouges.
Then all hell breaks loose and their lives are turned upside down.