Tony hides the cat.
He knows it’s stupid, but he can’t help it. Anything he loves that will let him lock them away, he will. Which means the ‘bots stay in the lab. FRIDAY barely talks to the returned team. And the cat lives exclusively in Tony’s rooms.
Which rather defeats the point, of course. Jinx is supposed to be there whenever Tony starts to get anxious, whenever he starts to have a panic attack, whenever he gets too wound up and needs to relax before he gives himself another heart attack. Vision, FRIDAY, and Rhodey had been behind the idea, but Tony can’t say he minds the therapy cat.
But he won’t let her around the team, won’t trust the team with her, and of course those are the places where he needs her most often. He does have panic attacks in his rooms, but it’s far more likely for Wanda Maximoff’s magic or Clint’s snide comments or Steve’s sudden moves to set him off.
He solves it by spending most of his time in his lab or in his room, isolated from everyone but a select few FRIDAY knows to let through.
Tony shakily pets down her back. “You’re a good cat, you know that?” He asks. Rhetorical, of course, because he knows she can’t talk back.
But then again, neither can DUM-E or Butterfingers or U, and Tony’s pretty sure he understands them anyways.
She butts her head against his elbow, and he almost manages to smile.
“Yeah, I know.”
He joined whole-team training for the first time today, and as a consequence saw Steve work with the shield he hadn’t wanted to return but had felt pressured into. The world needed Captain America, needed him at his best. And Tony would keep his mouth shut.
He’d made it through almost all of training, despite Rhodey’s, Peter’s, Vision’s, and even Carol’s offers to make his excuses. But Steve had thrown the shield to Bucky, that well-practiced move part of their repertoire, and they had just been standing too close to Tony, and that had been it. Tony thinks he stuttered something about a broken repulsor–a lie, of course, his repulsors take a lot harder hits to break–and made a break for it.
She sprawls across his lap, belly up, and this time Tony does manage to smile before giving her the requested belly-rubs. Unlike Ana Jarvis’ cat from when Tony was small, Jinx will let him pet her for hours, if he needs to. None of the biting him after precisely three strokes business.
The door opens and Tony flinches, and Jinx, perceptive as ever, bats at his hands.
It’s Peter and Vision, though, and Tony does his best to relax. Jinx gives them a thoroughly unimpressed look before deciding she can settle back into Tony’s lap.
“Colonel Rhodes is on his way,” Peter says, pulling his mask off now that they’re in the privacy of Tony’s rooms. “He’s yelling.”
Vision takes over from there. “He’s restructuring the training procedure,” he corrects. “So this will not happen again.”
“Maybe next time Jinx could be there?” Peter suggests.
Tony shakes his head. “No, I…I don’t trust them with her.”
Tony begins petting again, compelled by his pushy cat.
“Can we sit?”
Tony nods, so the couch is filled around him. “We can go back to training just us,” Peter offers.
“How productive is that?” Tony asks rhetorically.
Vision actually answers. “More productive than this, I imagine. If you cannot work with them, then you cannot work with them. We would all understand. We all have our reservations and our problems.”
“But you all do it.”
“They weren’t my friends,” Peter says. “And they didn’t try to kill me.”
The door opens again and Rhodey rolls in, groaning. “I let Carol take over yelling,” he says. “I had more important places to be.”
“You all know they didn’t do anything wrong,” Tony says.
Rhodey rolls his eyes. “Forgive us for being a little mad,” he says dryly.
Jinx moves so she’s sitting in Tony’s lap, then moves up his arm and perches on his shoulder. She’s not a big cat, but Tony still goes a little crooked under the weight. Her tail hits him in the face and he smiles again.
“Movie night?” Rhodey offers. “Carol will probably be up sooner or later, we could order food while we’re waiting.”
There’s no mention of anyone else. For a moment, Tony feels bad, but then the thought of them being in here makes him tense. Jinx butts her head against his.
“I want pizza,” he says, reaching up to pat his cat with one hand and reach for his phone with the other, listening to his friends list their pizza orders.