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The Value of Cats

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Does he ever shut up?

Tony’s expression remained blandly interested, despite his desire to snigger at Lazarus’ dry, exasperated comment. Something must have shown in his eyes though, because they suddenly found themselves on the end of one of Carol’s ‘don’t you dare’ looks and he shuffled a bit further down into his slouch, giving her an innocent look in return.

Not really, he said in reply to the black cat sitting on the table in front of him.

Lazarus’ tail twitched and he audibly yawned. Pity.

Tony ignored the disapproving look from Rogers and his little sycophants and gave Carol a ‘cats, what can you do’ shrug, to which she rolled her eyes, her lips twitching with a sympathetic smile. Since Goose was sitting on her lap, staring at Rogers with a particularly unnerving sort of intent, he imagined she understood that cats will cat and good luck to anyone trying to make them stop. He did reach out and run his hand down Lazarus’ back, causing the cat to arch into his touch and purr.

No one was sure when or how animals became able to bond with humans. Certainly, there were records of it all throughout history, both written and oral, so it was something that had been around for a very long time. It had been rare at first but these days, about a third of the population had some sort of bonded companion animal.

There was a lot of debate about what, precisely, made a human able to bond with an animal but there had never been any sort of consensus from the scientific community. It certainly didn’t seem to have anything to do with character or whether you were a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person and the prevailing theory these days was that it had something to do with the bonded pair needing each other.

Tony didn’t have an opinion either way. All he knew was that he would be eternally grateful that Lazarus had sauntered into the HYDRA bunker in Siberia and poked, prodded and generally annoyed him into rescuing himself. The cat wouldn’t say how he’d gotten to the bunker and Tony had stopped asking. It didn’t really matter.

He did however find the cat’s chosen name amusing, not the least because he’d done his own Lazarus act in the wake of his rescue. The damage done by the two super soldiers had been worse than he’d initially thought. The cold and his shock over the day’s revelations had numbed him to the physical damage until he’d gotten to the hospital. That was when the physical damage had really made itself known.

And the physical damage had been… bad. Very bad. Very, very bad. He’d spent the better part of a week in Helen Cho’s Cradle and had only gotten out of that with all his extremities intact because Pepper had authorised the use of Extremis.

I think Goose is contemplating eating him, Lazarus said idly.

He’d give him indigestion.

True but it’d also solve a lot of problems.

He looked over at Carol’s cat and Goose turned to give him what he could only call a smug look. He was never sure what to make of Goose. He adored the flerken but he could also be deeply unnerving. However, Goose liked him, so he’d always been determined not to worry too much.

Tell Goose he’s not allowed to eat Rogers, no matter how much he deserves it.


If I’m not allowed to punch Rogers, Goose isn’t allowed to eat him, Tony countered.

As he watched, Goose huffed and flicked him a glance before turning back to continue that deeply disturbing way of staring at Rogers. Tony was just disappointed that Rogers was too oblivious to see it. Romanov had and she had been twitching slightly for the last fifteen minutes. Wilson was looking worried and Barton looked like he wanted to climb the walls. It was rather entertaining.

Why does he keep giving you forlorn looks?

Tony didn’t ask who because he already knew. Rogers gave him those looks every time they crossed paths, something which unfortunately happened far too frequently for Tony’s liking. He knew Rogers would have said something as well, probably some half-assed attempt at an apology like the ludicrous letter he’d sent, except that Lazarus kept yowling every time Rogers came near. He didn’t hiss or snarl or lash out with his claws or try to bite but he did yowl. Very loudly. Very, very loudly.

He wants me to forgive him. Right now. So that he can feel better about himself.

There was a long silence from the cat and Lazarus joined Goose in staring at Rogers.

Is he an idiot?

Jury’s out.

Does he know that forgiveness doesn’t work that way?

Tony snorted. Of course not. He’s Captain America, don’t you know? He’s the paragon of truth, justice and all things that are good. If he says he’s right, then everyone must kowtow before him and agree. And I’m being mean and petty by not forgiving him because he’s said he’s sorry. He didn’t mean it, of course, but he said the word ‘sorry’ so that’s all that matters.

There was another long silence. I think Goose should eat him.

You and me both but that would annoy Carol.

Ugh. Lazarus sighed. I suppose he can remain uneaten then.

Carol is a scary, scary woman.

That’s why Goose likes her so much.

That’s why everyone likes her so much.

The Rogues don’t.

Lazarus sounded amused and Tony had to work to hide his smirk. The Rogues really didn’t like Carol. Not one bit. Mostly because she didn’t take any of their shit and she didn’t think the sun shone out of their collective asses. She’d treated them exactly the same as she treated everyone else at first, then once they started their childish antics, she started treating them like children. Nothing extreme or over the top, just… a simple, calm reaction to their tantrums and unreasonable demands that no one on the Accords Council had been able (or willing – the Rogues didn’t have that many supporters there) to argue against.

Just goes to show their bad taste, Tony said primly. Mind you, they’ve got no one to blame but themselves.

Lazarus chuckled. Play stupid games, get stupid prizes.

Something like that.

“Why can’t Tony do it?” Rogers demanded and Tony tuned fully back into the meeting. He hadn’t been completely tuned out and had been aware of the gist of what was happening, but he’d been far more invested in his conversation with Lazarus than Rogers’ babbling.

“Because Tony is not contracted to the Accords Council with regards to uniforms and equipment,” Carol said with far more patience than Tony had. “If he wishes to give someone a uniform or other equipment as a gift, that is his prerogative and does not form a precedent for anyone else. If you wish to individually contract with him for gear, you may make an appointment and discuss terms.”

She very pointedly did not say that an appointment would be unlikely and their ability to pay for Tony’s time and effort even less likely.

“He always did before,” Rogers said with an unpleasant whine in his voice. Tony wondered whether Rogers had always whined like that, but he didn’t care enough to go back over the recordings and find out.

“That was before. This is now,” Carol said implacably. “Get used to it.”

Tony didn’t notice the red glow around Wanda’s hands. He only realised what she was up to when Lazarus suddenly sat up, hissing and yowling as he was wreathed in red. That was what Lazarus did. All bonded animals had at least one trick up their proverbial sleeve and it was always individual to their human bondmate. With Extremis, Tony didn’t need any sort of physical protection and he suspected that Extremis also might protect him against Wanda’s nasty, malicious, little games but bonding with Lazarus made sure he never needed to test that. Because Lazarus’ little trick was the complete and utter protection of Tony’s mind.

Something he’d only told a handful of people and the Rogues had not been among them.

Now I’m going to eat her, Lazarus hissed into the sudden silence in the room. That was meant to make you amenable to pandering to whatever Rogers wanted.

“Huh,” Tony said then he turned to Carol and said very blandly, “That was meant to make me want to obey Rogers and do whatever he wanted.”

The room erupted into bedlam, but Tony ignored that. Instead, he fixed his gaze onto Wanda’s and as he reached out to pat Lazarus, he smirked at her.

“No more getting into my head, missy,” he said, loudly enough for her to hear.

It was like a red rag to a bull, as Tony had known it would be, and there, under the eyes of all the of the Avengers, new and old, she attacked him.

The mental side of the attack was stopped immediately by Lazarus and the rest of it was captured by the golden magic of Stephen Strange, who took a moment to give Tony a look that told him that Stephen knew exactly what he’d just done and was amused by it.

Many of the newer Avengers leapt to their feet, demanding Wanda be contained for her unprovoked attacks on Tony and wanting to know if she’d been getting into their heads as well, and the meeting devolved into chaos. Tony watched it all with a sense of satisfaction. It wasn’t what he’d intended for this meeting, but he’d always been good at adapting and taking an opportunity when it presented itself. And getting rid of the HYDRA witch could only be a good thing for the Avengers as a whole as far as he was concerned.

Wanda was quickly bundled out of the room by Stephen and Wong, who ignored her screams and screeches with aplomb. Carol then regained control of the meeting and dismissed all of them until things with Wanda could be sorted out. She left with Rogers at her heels and Tony didn’t envy her having to deal with him. He waited as the others all filed out, gently running his hand down Lazarus’ back. Only once the room was empty did he stand and offer his arm so that his bondmate could climb up onto his shoulder.

As they left, Lazarus had the final word. Goose says that was far more entertaining than eating Rogers.