I've just read about Tony feeling unwanted and man, it breaks my heart! Could you write something about Tony having enough? Like, he feels that Team Cap thinks they don't need him, they don't appreciate him and they never did. So he leaves, he doesn't stop being an Iron Man, but leaves Avengers. Maybe he has his own team with Rhodey and Spidey and whoever else. Maybe he helps Defenders from time to time. Maybe he works alone. (1)
But the point is, even if Avengers think that they don’t need him, they really do. Because he did so much for them all this time. Like, when SHIELD fell, he and his company invested them, repaired their equipment and made new one, took care of PR and media. And they never even knew, or just never cared, until he left. Now they have no one to replace him and to be as efficient as he was. They’re just too close to failing apart.(2)
I can and I most certainly will! All those angst-filled headcanons from yesterday didn’t just make me want to curl up under a ton of blankets to hide from the world, they also, they also reminded me how freaking bitter I still am. So yeah, hope you don’t mind, anon, but I thought your ask would be the perfect way to kick off bitter Sunday!
Because we’re talking about Tony Stark, guys. We’re talking about the man who build a suit of armour in a freaking cave. Who got kidnapped by the bad guys and blew his own way right back out. Yes, he’s hurt. Yes, he’s fucking heartbroken. Yes, most days the weight of his own mistakes and failings almost crushes him. Yes, being confronted with the team
he was never allowed to belong to he lost is rubbing salt into the slashing wounds that still haven’t healed, bleed sluggishly from time to time.
There’s a line he’s drawn into the sand a long time ago, back when he first became Iron Man, and it matters. He does what is expected of him. Shakes the returning Avengers’ hands. Smiles for the cameras. Is quoted stressing that he supports the UN’s decisions, that with the new and revised Accords in place, there’s no room for old grudges and vendettas. And he means it. What he doesn’t say though, is that there’s no room for old friendships and favours either.
Truth is, Earth needs as many heroes as possible. It needs them in once place, with stable communication channels, capable of working and strategising and organising together. The exiled Avengers are a rare resource they can’t afford to waste. There is also the fact that being trust back into the limelight limits them in a way working from the shadows doesn’t, forces a vague but still present sense of accountability on them that Tony may or may not take a great amount of pleasure in.
But here’s another, much more fortunate truth: they don’t need to be a team to save the world. It’s a truth that’s been hanging over them from the beginning, back when Iron Man wasn’t a part of the Avengers because he didn’t have to be for the plot to work. In retrospect, Tony can appreciate Fury’s actions for the well-played moves they were.
So he does what he would have done years ago, if not for sentimentalities and a misplaced sense of loyalty holding him back: he cuts the wire.
With the new accords has come a committee and a new governmental agency in charge of handling the nationally and internationally operating enhanced strike teams. Tony uses this development to his advantage, separates his business from the agency entirely, because really, a billionaire shouldn’t own parts of an organisation designed to keep him in check.
Tony signs the new agreements and as Iron Man he is to be deployed whenever necessary, but he is no longer part of any team. And he makes a point of proving that time and again.
When members of his ex-team are involved in a fight he wasn’t, he refuses any comment on the actions, they are none of his business after all, and really, shouldn’t you ask the people who were actually there? He doesn’t get involved in group press conferences unless there are more than just the ex-Avengers present because presenting a united front as enhanced humans is one thing, presenting a united front with them is another thing altogether.
He doesn’t build weapons, suits and other improvements for anyone but himself and the people he deems worthy of his gifts either–those designs have always been too dangerous to be allowed into the hands of a government agency, and none of his former team mates make the cut onto the trusted list anymore.
He doesn’t interact with them anyways, unless it’s on the comms during a fight or via a representative or his official email account (his private contact information is no longer available to them). All his employees knows better than to give them access to anything non-public without a properly scheduled meeting, and even Pepper doesn’t disagree with him on this one. She’s the one that usually shows up on these meetings anyways, and she doesn’t give them an inch, because there’s a reason Tony hired her in the first place.
And it might have started out as simple avoidance and being petty but you know what? Tony’s doing pretty damn well on his own. He doesn’t need the team, he’s always known that, but proving it to himself ends up feeling surprisingly good. Empowering. Freeing even.
Because even though it feels like that in the very beginning, Tony isn’t actually alone. He’s got Pepper, with whom he’s slowly working out the post-failed-relationship-awkwardness, and Rhodey, who’s recovery is a slow, painful process but still a process, and loyal, steady Happy. He also has Peter, who’s too eager and reminds Tony too much of himself, but who doesn’t leave or get bored by Tony’s enthusiastic rants. He’s got Harely with whom he face-times at least once a week to science and chatter.
He’s got people who care about him and enjoy spending time with him, and the more time passes, the more Tony realises how not-okay his relationships with his former team have really been, how not-okay he’s been. And he still misses them, from time to time, but it’s the fleeting yearning for a missed opportunity, not the heartbreaking free fall into a bottomless darkness it used to be.
The point is, Tony is in a good place. Without the team that never wanted him.
(And on days he still feels a little down, watching that Youtube clip of a tiny, three-year old girl in an Iron Man t-shirt throwing her ice cream at Steve Roger’s face with devastating accuracy, the one that cuts off right as the older brother is shown laughing so hard tears are streaming down his face and assuring his indignant little sister that yes, he’ll get her a new ice cream, he’s very proud of her standing up against bullies, is surprisingly cathartic.)