“Mr. Stark,” the reporter said, with a wide, sharp toothed smile. “Captain.”
“Ms. Oleson,” Tony said, relaxed and comfortable. “What brings you out here today?”
As if sensing blood in the water, most of the crowd turned in their direction. “May I ask you some questions, Mr. Stark?”
“Feel free, but I didn’t set this up, and I’m just here to pick up a lost friend, so I can’t speak to actual efforts of these dedicated people, you’d be better off asking-”
“Does StarkIndustries recognize gay couples?” she asked, interrupting him.
“Only the ones that StarkIndustries knows personally,” Tony shot back. “But StarkIndustries is open to meeting other gay couples so that they, too, can be recognized.”
Her lips only got tighter. “From a benefits perspective.”
“All Stark subsidiaries has provided full benefits for domestic partners, no matter the gender of the participants, since the early nineties,” Tony said, arching an eyebrow. “So I’m not really sure I understand the intent of your question. Do I provide benefits across the board to all of my employees? Uh, yes. Because doing otherwise is a really lousy way to keep qualified people.”
“You don’t make a differentiation between a marriage and a temporary living arrangement?” the reporter asked.
“That’s not my job. I don’t really think it’s the government’s job, either, but according to my CEO, I continue to not be in charge of everything, which is, let me tell you, a daily disappointment. I don’t get to chose who can be married or not, and that’s a damn shame, because, let me tell you, some people I know would not be making that cut. Me, for one. All I can do is provide equal benefits to all of my employees, which seems fair, rational, and a good way to keep myself from being sued.” He rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet as the crowd laughed. “I hate being sued, lawyers give me hives, and that includes my lawyers.”
“Don’t you think that marriage to be expanded to non-conventional couples lessens the institution of marriage?”
Tony’s head tipped to the side. “Really, are we doing this here? Really? Fine. No. I don’t care. Let me be flat honest with you, I don’t care. I don’t understand why you care. You know what I think when my AI tells me I have six wedding invitations in the day’s mail? Let me tell you, it’s not, ‘I wonder what gender and sexual orientation the participants are,’ it’s ‘son of a bitch, I hope these registries are not as nauseating as the last batch, I refuse to buy any more fucking chafing dishes, I do not need that nonsense on my credit card bill, it is ruining my dastardly name.’”
The gathering crowd was laughing out loud now, and Tony barely seemed to notice.
“If my employees decide that the person that they are sharing their life with is important enough to list them with the HR department as their life insurance beneficiary, as their medical proxy, as covered by their company dental plan, then I trust that my employees are smart enough to make that goddamned decision. Do you know why? Because my employees have access to things that can blow you up. They have access to jet engines and arc reactor tech and giant turbines and explosives and things that can rain fire down upon you. I trust them with chemicals and explosives and all of my piles of money, but you think I should draw the line at who they want to MARRY?”
Tony leaned forward. “With all due respect, are you brain damaged? Or do you just have incredibly fucked up priorities?”
The reporter thrust the MP3 recorder in Tony’s face. “Do you want to repeat that?”
Tony grinned. He hooked his index finger under the MP3, raising it up in front of him like a microphone. His eyes at a sultry half-mast, he purred, “This is Tony Stark, with the following question to those who oppose the right for gay couples to marry: Are you brain damaged, or do you just have incredibly fucked up priorities?” He paused, gave the reporter a look from beneath the sweep of long dark lashes. “That was good,” he said, considering. “But I don’t know, I think I can do better, what do you think, Steve, another take?”
“No,” Steve said, and he was trying not to laugh, and that was more than could be said of the crowd. “I think you nailed it.”
Phil Coulson is Not the Avengers’ Public Relations Manager, by scifigirl47