The “Just the thought of Team Cap walking all over Tony makes me want to trash my room, I just want unashamed, biased, pro-Tony quality content, is that too much to ask??” inspired ficlet I’ve been holding back for a while:
Bitterness ahead, guys. Not Team Cap friendly. Nor is it particularly deep or rational. I just wanted to get a couple of thoughts out of my head. Basically Tony is done being the team’s sugar daddy, only it comes to light in a very roundabout way.
“When are my arrows gonna be fixed anyways?” Clint grumbles, rubs a hand over his sore shoulder. The one that wouldn’t have gotten injured, had his shot hit the target it was supposed to. Which it should have, his aim had been fine. The problem were the arrows. Someone must have screwed up somewhere in the production because they weren’t perfectly balanced.
They’re sitting in the conference room at the (mostly) restored compound. Tony is tapping away on his StarkPad, not even bothering to look up. He must have felt the questioning glances and noticed the silence, but he still doesn’t react.
Steve resists the urge to roll his eyes. He doesn’t want to encourage the tension between them, things are bad enough as it is. If only Tony would put in some effort as well, instead of going out of his way to antagonise them, maybe they could make some actual progress.
“Yo, Stark!” Clint snaps, voice reaching that biting sharpness he reserves specially for the billionaire. “I’m talking to you!”
Tony shows no outward reaction, which is strange to see. Back when they first came back, he used to move at all times, sharp and erratic, never staying still. Steve shakes his head at their unnecessary power play.
Tony answers before he has the chance to reprimand them though. “How would I know?” he asks, a brief frown flittering across his face as he scribbles something down onto the tablet.
The outraged look on Clint’s face tells everyone present that this meeting won’t get back on track any time soon. It’s understandable, really. Clint has been forced to fight three battles with faulty equipment and frankly, the lack of concern Tony is showing for his team mates’ safety is nothing short of callous. Steve knows things haven’t been good between them but this is the first time he wonders if things could really be so bad, that Tony would hold necessary equipment back on purpose.
It’s a terrible thought, but try as he might, Steve isn’t able to shake it off.
At least the rising tension finally causes Tony to look up and meet Clint’s glare. He’s wearing sunglasses even though they’re inside, like he always does. Steve doesn’t like it. Makes it harder to read Tony, to tell what he’s really thinking. Absently, he admits that this is probably why Tony wears them so religiously.
“What do you mean ‘how would you know’?!” Clint snarls, enraged. “My arrows have been acting up for weeks and you still don’t know how to fix it?!”
Tony stares at Clint, the expression on his face unreadable. Then, after a long, long moment of heavy silence, the answer.
“I’m not fixing your equipment.”
For a moment, it’s deadly quiet, as Steve struggles to process the meaning of what Tony has just said.
“Tony,” Steve hastily inserts himself as soon as he finds his voice again, before Clint can throw himself across the room and deck him, “I know there are still some issues we all have to work through, but that’s not an excuse to-”
“Hold it right there, Rogers,” Tony interrupts. It’s never Cap, always Rogers these days. The pain the distinction causes still catches Steve by surprise more often than not. “I’m not sure where you get this from but I’m not your mechanic. I don’t work for you. So if Barton here has an issue with his weapons, he needs to take it up with the people in charge. Considering how often you remind me that it’s not me, you’d think you’d have figured that part out already.”
“But it’s not working!”
Tony sighs. The deep, heavy sort of sigh you usually expect from an exhausted parent after their insistent child asks, “Are we there yet?” for the 34th time. “Then take it up with the quartermaster. Or Agent Hudson. Or one of the techies. Seriously, Barton, you signed the Revision. Who’s responsible for what is right in there, section 12 to 17. Besides-” he pauses.
“What are you waiting for? Go on!” Clint demands between gritted teeth, hands curled into tight fists. Thankfully, he’s not throwing anything. Yet. “Don’t get shy with me now!”
Tony straightens in his seat. Steve inwardly sighs. That man has never been able to let a challenge go unanswered.
“Besides,” Tony continues, voice still surprisingly even, “chances are they’re working just fine.”
“You think I can’t tell when my bow isn’t fucking working the way it should?” Clint bristles.
The words actually cause Tony to lower his sunglasses for a moment, just to make sure there is no doubt about how stupid he believes Clint to be. “I’m saying you’re operating with a standard bow, Barton. The fabric and the construction limit the performance quality. Something I’m sure an experienced archer like yourself has picked up on.”
And yes, things are definitely getting ugly. That level of glacial cold in Tony’s voice is rarely achieved, even now.
“The why the fuck did you build a subpar bow?”
Tony sighs again. “You’re missing the point. Seriously, I can not believe we’re even having this conversation. I did not build that bow, Barton.”
And that’s–that’s a surprise.
Tony’s gaze trails over them all, taking in their confused, shocked expressions. “Really?” he asks, exasperation dripping from every syllable. “Did any of you even read the Revision? The Avengers’ are an official unit. Their weapons and uniforms can’t be provided by a private party, especially not one who is part of the team. Have you ever heard the term conflict of interest?”
“What about Stark Industries?” Natasha asks. From the furrow in her brows though, Steve suspects she already knows the answer–and doesn’t like it one bit.
“I’m not sure if you noticed,” and now there’s no mistaking the mocking in Tony’s tone, “but SI doesn’t sell weapons anymore. It was kind of a big thing, couple of years back.”
“But- But yours are better!” Clint splutters. It sounds plaintive and weak, even in Steve’s ears, but at the same time he knows what Clint’s struggling to say. It’s not about getting your toys taken away. It’s about their safety and efficiency in the field. On bad days, it’s about the survival of their entire planet.
“I can’t believe you would risk the teams’ lives and safety like this because of a petty argument,” Steve says, unable to keep quiet any longer, nor bothering to hide the honest disappointment.
Tony, unimpressed as always, simply snorts. “You’re an official unit, but before that you’ve been working for SHIELD for years. Did you ever have the very best equipment mankind was capable of providing at the time? No,” he answers his own question in a breeze, “you didn’t. Why? Because you’re agents, soldiers. And sure, the government wants to protect us, wants to keep us alive and make sure our missions succeed. But they have limited funding, which means everyone has to deal with the best cost-efficient option available. If you’ve got the right connections to get something more, then lucky you, but that makes you an exception, not a rule.”
“You don’t need to explain real life to me!” Clint snaps aggravated.
“Then why do you feel entitled to something better?” That question, sharp and cutting, makes the archer still, his mouth open but with no retort forthcoming. Tony is blinking at him now, head tilted sideways in child-like curiosity.
“Of course, if I, as a private citizen, decided to build something that doesn’t violate any laws and give it to a friend as a gift, that would be something else, wouldn’t it?” Tony continues after a moment, voice softer now, but no less cutting. His eyes are fixated on Clint, sunglasses pushed back, eyes dark and unmoved. “The average update would take me what, a week or two? That’s a lot of time to invest into a single project, especially when the ultimate use is so limited. How many people can possibly profit from improved protective vest versus how many people improve from an exploding arrow is a really fascinating comparison to make.”
“So you see, Barton, even if I could improve your bow, there’s no logical reason why I should waste my time like this.”
“Tony!” Steve interrupts, scandalised. “Clint’s life depend on his aim! Our lives depend on it! How can you justify not providing him with the most basic necessities.”
Tony doesn’t even try and look abashed, instead he throws his head back and laughs. “This is how you want to play it, Rogers? Because I’m rich and a genius, I owe it to you to devote my time, attention and money to bettering your lives? What about the seven billion other people on this world? Don’t they deserve the same consideration, hm? What makes you so special that I should put your needs before anything else?”
Steve opens his mouth, but Tony doesn’t give him a chance to speak.
“I tell you what this is: this is you realising I’m no longer spoiling you rotten because you are in fact not my kids and I can cut you off whenever the fuck I want. And you don’t like it. Because guess what, I may be privileged, but so are you! You’re heroes, most of the time, as far as the world is concerned. You’ve been living off my money and resources on top of that. You’ve always gotten special treatment and you like that. You’re as far detached from the ‘ordinary man on the street’ as I am, you just don’t have the self-awareness to fucking notice!”
Tony sends them a sardonic smile that does in no way take the sting out of his words. “Don’t worry,” he says, “you’ll still be special. It’s just no longer my name footing that bill. Because we’re not friends. And as a business man, I’m not at all sorry to tell you that you simply aren’t worth investing into.”
And with that he stands, all blinding press smile, sweeps around dramatically, and strides purposefully out of the room. The automatic door closes noiselessly behind him, but he might have as well slammed it shut for all the difference it would’ve made.
It’s likely not a coincidence, that on their next mission Spiderman, Vision and Miss Marvel all showcase new, incredibly features and weapons that can’t have been created by anyone else. And it’s impossible to know for sure, what with the mask on, but Steve is one hundred per cent certain that Spiderman is smirking at them.
He is not wrong.
Let me know what you think? And please excuse any mistakes, I’ll re-read this tomorrow. Also this is the last post for today. I’m tiredtiredtired now and think I’ve spread enough bitterness for the day. And spammed your dashes with enough endless posts probably…oops.