The second he stepped inside of the room the Accords meeting was taking place in, Tony could see the final decision written all over their faces. He could read it in the uncomfortable tilt of a couple of faces, in the few satisfied smirks, the number apologetic eyes and the scattered condescending half smiles: they had come to a decision, one that they very well knew he wouldn't like.
He did not comment on it, however. He kept his sunglasses - dark blue - on and his face from showing any clear reaction as he and Rhodey settled down on their unassigned assigned chairs, which were beside Vision.
The synthezoid was the only person in the room to give them a real smile when he noticed them. "Tony, Rhodey. Good morning."
“Hey, Viz. We didn’t make you wait long, did we?” asked Tony, patting his shoulder while subtly eyeing the rest of the... ah, team.
Theoretically, now that the so called Rogues had finally signed the Accords, they were on the same side. However, the division among them was very clear only by watching the positions they had taken inside of the room, almost at opposite sides of the room itself.
Wilson, Maximoff, Romanoff and Rogers were already looking in their direction when Tony glanced at them, their expression varying from uncomfortable (Wilson) to unhappy (Rogers) and gleeful (Maximoff). Itsy bitsy's gaze in particular kept flickering towards Tony every now and again, but mostly she appeared focused on the councilmembers in front of them.
Part of Tony couldn’t help but wonder if she and SHIELD had had something to do with the drafting of this new clause of the Accords. Tony had managed to push it back for months while the Rogues were on their little sabbatical in the Savanna and yet, somehow, within two months of their return the amendment had managed to make it through anyway.
After all, if this particular amendment made it through, both of the would theoretically be able to do away with Tony himself, and finally get the opportunity to do whatever they wished to do with the enhanced: Ross would be able to get rid of the thorn in his side that Tony had been since he had first heard of the Accords, and possibly manage to twist the Accords back into what he had wanted them to be from the beginning; and SHIELD would be able to try and force Tony to provide new gear and weapons for their people, if they managed to appoint one of their own or somehow convince Rogers that ‘it was for the greater good’.
“Are we all ready?” asked the Representative of India, his expression a little bit uncomfortable. One of those who had not been completely in favour of passing this this clause, then.
Even among the Council, not many had been against it, which Tony felt spoke a lot to their characters.
When no one interrupted him, he cleared his throat and started his opening speech - which Tony immediately tuned out of.
He already knew what was going to be said, and he really didn't care for it.
But he wasn’t the only one ignoring the speech, he immediately became aware of.
He could almost feel Rogers glancing at him out of the corner of his eye every second or so, and could almost imagine the hopeful expression on his face the longer the Representative spoke.
God, this new amendment was probably the man's wet dream come true.
What he had wanted possibly since before ULTRON: complete and legal control over one Tony Stark. The ability of walking into Tony’s workshop as he pleased, to check on him and what he was doing. The authority to speak over Rhodey regarding Tony’s health - as medical proxy - and position on the team. The chance to speak over Pepper regarding what Tony should do in terms of PR for the Avengers and the like.
Not the responsibility to, no. But the right to, and Tony knew that Rogers would abuse said rights to hell and back.
He would probably even convince himself that he wasn’t infringing on Tony’s personhood by doing that. Tony could just already see him claiming that he was doing this because he was a ‘good man’. He could just hear him say that, after all, it could have been worse right? Tony might have been forced to deal with someone who was ‘actually unsavoury’; but instead he got his friend.
Tony's fist clenched at his side, out of view, and Rhodey’s hand immediately covered it.
He didn't look at his friend, but Tony forced himself to relax.
The only time he actually reacted to the Representatives' words was when the words 'mating requirement’ were finally spoken. Tony's head slowly lifted up, the sunglasses making his expression hard to read. He still hoped that the coldness on his face was unmistakable.
Ross was the one actually speaking now - Tony had not even noticed the change in speaker - and Tony did not miss the little twitch of amusement on his lips.
He was enjoying this, the fucking asshole.
“This will only affect the US sanctioned Accords signees. The omegas on the team,” he tilted his head towards Tony, the only actual omega present in the fucking room, as if anyone could have possibly been unaware of the fact, “have done a remarkable job. And we trust them. However-”
Tony tuned out again.
He already knew what he would hear: ‘studies have shown-’, ‘need to be balanced...’, ‘pack bonds/dynamics’ and blah blah blah.
Like the Avengers were anything like a pack anymore. Like Tony would ever allow himself to become the Avenger’s pack omega again.
He would rather be left in Siberia to die this time around.
“Applicable omegas will have a year to fulfil the mating requirement,” continued Ross, implacable. “Until they do, they will stay under the tutelage of an unbonded alpha on the team, for their own safety. We believe-”
Rhodey tensed at his side, and Tony pressed a hand on the man’s thigh, not particularly surprised. Ross was a dick, everyone knew this; but, unfortunately, he wasn’t stupid. He said ‘alpha’ only and there would be no doubt in anyone's mind that Rhodey would offer himself. That’s what he had been publicly doing since Tony’s parents had died, after all.
But Rhodey was as loyal to Tony as Tony was to him, and in Ross' mind, allowing Rhodey to have 'tutelage' of Tony Stark, would not be of benefit to anyone who sought to control him.
There were three alphas in total on the team (four if you counted Thor who did not smell like Alpha but appeared to be one, and was currently not on Earth): Rhodey, who had been publicly bonded for years now; Romanoff, who was an Alpha only in scent because of the Red Room, and was unbonded; and Rogers, also unbonded.
“Dr Stark?” called Ross, and Tony looked towards him once more. That annoying smirk was still on his stupid moustache'd face. “As the only omega currently on the team, the terms of the mating requirement apply to you.”
Tony tilted his head to the side. “They do?”
“They do,” said Ross, voice almost saccharine sweet. “Neither Alpha Romanoff nor Alpha Rogers are bonded or mated, therefore you should choose-”
“Choose?” asked Tony again, pulling down his sunglasses to give him his most confused expression. “Why would I need to choose between them?”
Ross, to his credit, did not roll his eyes. “Because Alpha Rhodes is already bonded, and you are an unbonded omega-” he started saying, words dying in his mouth when an orange circle appeared in the room.
A tall and familiar man wearing an equally familiar cape stepped through the portal a moment later, focusing on Tony and speaking before anyone could attack or scream. “Oh, there you are. Am I late?”
“Dr Strange!” called out Ross, irritation flooding his voice when he realised who had appeared.
“Secretary Ross,” absently greeted the sorcerer, walking towards the side of the room Tony, Rhodey and Vision were occupying without sparing him a glance. “Vision, Rhodey.” His grin broadened as he pressed a kiss on the side of Tony’s head. “Hey, douchebag.”
Tony smiled back. “Hey, asshole.”
Ross’ eye was twitching a little when Tony turned his attention back on him. “Dr Strange, you do not have the clearance to be in this meeting.”
Stephen blinked at him. “Of course I do. On the e-mail you sent Tony it clearly asked that omegas bring their bonded/mated.” He made a gesture to indicate himself. “Well, here I am.”
The Secretary looked genuinely startled for a second or so before sneering. “And I am supposed to believe the two of you are bonded?” He gestured towards both of them. “Your necks are unmarked.”
Tony tutted, voice disapproving. “Just because it’s traditional to have bond marks on one's neck doesn’t mean that’s what everyone does. After all, neither I nor Merlin are the traditional types.”
Before the Secretary could embarrass himself further, another Representative (Turkey) spoke up, her eyes slightly confused. “You have the documentation for this, I am sure?” Tony nodded, patting the file he had placed on his desk. The Representative nodded, before turning a little more curious. “If I may ask, why was it not written anywhere that you were bonded, Dr Stark?”
Tony shrugged. “He was a star neurosurgeon, and very much a civilian. I was a rich weapons manufacturer, and then Iron Man. We got used to ticking the ‘prefer not to disclose’ option, and sort of never looked back.”
Ross glared at him, teeth gritted together, and finally Tony allowed a little smirk on his face.
It was his own fault for assuming that Tony was fighting back for his own sake. Had it been for his own sake, he'd have simply left the Avengers and the US, and it was embarrassing that the man had not thought of that option.
"Here," said Stephen, making a magic move with his hands, and the packet Tony had brought along materialised in the Secretary’s hands making him flinch further.
Ross glared at them both, and Tony's smile only grew.
Tony was not at all surprised to see the Rogues approaching their group at the end of the meeting, but he elected to ignore them, head turned down towards his phone while Stephen chatted to Vision and Rhodey, now seated on top of Tony's desk and half facing him.
“Were you actually late or were you vying for a dramatic entrance?” asked Rhodey, looking a little amused.
Stephen put a hand on his chest, adapting an offended expression. “Dramatic entrance? Me? I take great offense to that,” he stated, mouth twitching when the other snorted. “I was very busy. I had to calculate exactly when to come in, down to the second, and practice my opening line. It was all very hard and time consuming.”
“Could have been better,” muttered Tony, earning a kick from the Alpha. “Hey!”
“Don’t be rude,” said Stephen, shaking a gloved finger at him. “It is unbecoming.”
“Unbecoming,” scoffed Tony. “You are so pretentious.”
“And that’s why you love me,” finished the other, pecking him on the forehead.
Tony did not reply to that because well... there was nothing to say was there. He wasn’t wrong.
“Love, uh?” came Romanoff's voice, and Tony barely held back an eyeroll. She was standing no more than two feet away from Stephen, Rogers frowning at her side while Wilson and Maximoff were observing with curiosity. “So you two are really bonded?”
Stephen turned around and looked at her from the top of her dyed hair to her feet. He did not appear particularly impressed by anything he saw and Tony covered a smile with his hand. “What gave us away? Was it us, saying it out loud less than ten minutes ago while you were in the room?”
Rogers straightened up his frown becoming tinged with disapproval. “There is no need to be impolite-” he started, but Stephen did not let him finish.
“And there is no need to ask stupid questions, either. And yet, here you all are.” He shook his head, clearly unimpressed, and turned his attention back on a smirking Rhodey. “By the way, you owe me 25. May and Happy made it official because he figured it out.”
Rhodey groaned, even as he pulled out his wallet. “Really? How did Happy even manage to get himself caught?!”
“Don’t know, don’t care, didn't ask. But to be fair, half of the pack knew already, so really he could have just heard someone talk about it- thank you,” he finished, taking the notes and beaming at the still scowling Colonel. “Pleasure making bets with you. May still wants to make it pack official. So, Vision: pack dinner?”
Rogers looked at him in confusion, taking a step forward. “Pack dinner?”
Stephen blinked at him, seeming startled to find him at his side. “You’re still here? And you are still repeating everything I say?”
Tony sensed Vision's eyes trained on the side of his head, and turned his attention to the android. Who was staring at him with a particularly hopeful expression on his face, and Tony let out a long suffering sigh.
He was kind of weak to Vision's puppy eyes.
“Fine. Tell me what you want to make and give May a date before she decides that she should host the pack dinner or make any kind of edible - and I use that word very loosely.” He shuddered at the thought of the first and last pack dinner May had hosted.
Sometimes he still thought he could feel the fish inside of his stomach.
“You have another pack,” stated Romanoff, and her hurt was surprisingly well fabricated.
“I mean, I'm pretty sure you were the other pack,” pointed out Rhodey, putting a hand under his chin. “I mean, I have known Tony since he was 14. Pepper and Happy have known him for more than 20 years each. Vision has JARVIS’ code in him, which means he has memories of Tony dating back to when he was 17. Christine has known him for more than ten years already. And Stephen and him have known each other since Tony was 25. And they’ve been bonded since before any of you fell into his life. So yes, we were not the other pack.”
“That’s... uh, we’re happy for you, Stark,” said Wilson, when Natasha’s face shuttered and Rogers stared at him, looking wounded. Wicked Wendy was scowling.
Tony gave Wilson an almost honest smile. “Thank you, Wilson.”
“If you had a pack and a...” the not-Captain swallowed before continuing, “a bonded mate, then why didn’t you tell us?”
Tony did not look the slightest moved or impressed. “I told you guys you were my secondary pack from day one. I know SHIELD has taught you about work packs, and I think I made it very clear from the get go that that was how I viewed the Avengers. And I did not tell you about Stephen because, well: it was none of your business, and it did not affect you in the slightest.”
“I was your alpha,” tried Rogers, earning a triple glare from Stephen, Tony and Rhodey. Even Natasha shot him a look.
“You were never my alpha, Rogers. From the day of the Invasion you knew that Rhodey was my alpha, and the only alpha I’d ever defer to, if for any reason I had to.” He patted Stephen’s thigh. “No offense, babe.”
Stephen just rolled his eyes. “None taken. I would have to check you for signs of palladium poisoning or body snatching if you started 'deferring' to me,” he said, in a tone of voice that made Tony roll his eyes.
“You get palladium poisoning one time and they never let you forget it,” he grumbled, but there was a little smile on his face when the Cloak flew away from Stephen’s shoulders and wrapped itself around Tony, startling the Ex-vengers. “Thank you for the support, Levi.”
“You would think my cloak would support me,” complained Stephen as he finally stood up, offering his arm to Tony. “Come on. Wong wanted me to bring you by because the oven is acting ‘weird’, and not warming his dinner properly.” He turned to James and Vision. “You guys want a lift?”
“Yes, please. I shall go to the mansion and start curating a menu for pack dinner,” said Vision, ignoring the way Maximoff's face fell at his statement.
Rhodey looked up at him, shifting more comfortably with his braces before standing up too. “I’ll come with you, and check with everyone to find a date that’s free for all of us? Should be Saturday, but you never know.”
“Thank you Rhodey, I’d appreciate that.”
“There you go,” said Stephen, opening a new orange portal and adding another spell so that only the four of them could see what was inside it. Vision and Rhodey smiled and waved before disappearing through it with just a, “See you later!”
When Stephen started materialising a new portal for himself and Tony, Romanoff spoke up again. “If you already had a mate, and therefore would not be targeted or affected by the new mating requirement why were you fighting so hard against it?”
Tony had been walking towards the portal, but he stopped at her words, turning around to face her.
For once, her expression was truly confused and Tony didn’t know if he hated her more for that or not.
He settled for ignoring it.
“Because I’m the only omega on the team now, but I will not be the only omega forever. They designed this as a way to reign me in, and SHIELD was probably salivating at the opportunity to take advantage of it,” she flinched the slightest bit at that dig, “but I’m not the only powerful omega who might come on the team. Barnes is an omega. Banner is an omega - of sorts, considering the serum. Just because the mating requirement won’t hurt me, doesn’t mean it won’t hurt someone else.” He fixed his sunglasses and shook his head. “But I don’t expect things like empathy to register to you, Black Widow.”
She looked away from him, and Tony accepted Stephen’s arm once more before they walked through the portal.