Chapter 1: Tony/Sam
Sam leaned over Tony and raised an eyebrow. “You okay?”
“Hmmm bad,” Tony answered after some thought, and with a very big frown. “Sam. Sam. Sam.”
“Yeah, honey?” Sam asked, sighing, and tugged Tony upright to sit instead of lying strewn across the couch in a position that would leave him sore and whining in the morning.
“‘M sorry, Sam.”
Sam paused, hands gentling, before he went back to settling him, tugging his clothes straight, unbuttoning the collar of his shirt. “It’s okay.”
“‘S not okay,” Tony mumbled, looking put-out. “You’re here and you’re all kind and gentle and sweet and I’m here just… being a bother.”
“You’re not a bother,” Sam replied firmly, and when he saw Tony gearing up to rebut him, asked, “How much did you drink?”
Tony’s mouth snapped closed, and he looked deeply ashamed. He said nothing.
“Come on, Tony,” Sam cajoled gently. “Trust me. I won’t be mad.”
“You will,” Tony said miserably. He tried to flop over onto the couch again.
“Stop that,” Sam sighed, pulling him back up into sitting position.
Tony sighed too, somehow managing to look even more miserable. “See? You’re mad.”
“I’m not mad,” Sam said, and smiled a little in amusement when Tony huffed in disbelief. “I’m not!” When he began to pout, Sam added, “Careful with that lip, otherwise I’ll have to tell you how cute you are when you pout.”
Tony scowled but failed to stop looking adorable. “I don’t pout.”
“Okay,” Sam agreed, tone not giving away how much he really wanted to coo that he was doing it right now, and it was cute. “C’mon, Tony, I won’t be mad. I promise.” When the smaller man appeared to waver, Sam stuck his hand out “Come on. I pinky promise.”
Tony stared at his outstretched hand for a moment before reluctantly (if fondly) reaching out to wrap their pinkies together. “I drank a lot.”
“How much is a lot?” Sam asked, bouncing his hand a little.
Tony sighed miserably and seemed to sink into himself. “An entire bottle of gin.”
Sam had to fight to not swallow his tongue, and then again to not shout. “An entire bottle? How did you manage that? I’m surprised you’re still conscious.”
“Clint kept making sloe gin fizzes and I kept drinking them,” Tony said sadly.
“Aw,” Sam sighed even as he surreptitiously pulled out his phone to text Clint. “Poor baby. Come to bed and sleep it off, honey.”
Tony sighed like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. “I! Am too drunk! To move!”
“Okay, well, I’ll carry you then,” Sam replied.
I started watering down his drinks after his second glass. Thor drank most of the gin, came Clint’s prompt reply. He’s just tired because we made a bunch of nachos and he ate most of those. He’s overly full lol.
“Sam no don’t move me I’ll hurt your back,” Tony wailed.
Sam ignored him. First of all, Tony wasn’t that heavy, and secondly, if he wasn’t struggling, it was fine. Tony, thankfully, decided not to struggle this time, and snuggled up against his chest greedily.
“Sam will you cuddle in bed with me?” Tony asked plaintively. “I’m laid low and need comfort.”
Sam rolled his eyes, amused, but pressed a kiss to Tony’s forehead to take the sting out of it. “Okay, honey.”
“Yay!” Tony exclaimed, brightening. Then he froze. “Uh.” He looked up at Sam before trying his best to look miserable again. “I mean, ugh, oh, Sam, I feel faint and sickly, take care of me–”
“I was gonna do that anyway, you big baby,” Sam retorted fondly.
Tony beamed up at him. Sam had no choice–he had to kiss that smile.
Chapter 2: Tony/T'Challa/M'Baku
“Small,” T’Challa whispered.
M’Baku smirked. “Don’t let him hear you say that.”
“A baby,” T’Challa continued. “The tiniest.” His heart may have stopped for a moment when Tony squirmed. He let out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding when Tony settled again.
Tony was curled up on M’Baku’s broad chest, legs curled up in fetal position, the knuckles of one hand pressed to his mouth. He really did look incredibly small, and… so incredibly vulnerable, like he needed to be protected. Tony was not the smallest man they’d ever known, but T’Challa had three inches on him, and M’Baku had seven. And when he curled up with them, they just wanted to protect him from the world (even though Tony insisted he did not need any of their protection ever).
M’Baku had once likened Tony to a kitten–small and with too much courage for such a small body–and Tony had just about given himself a fit as he hopped around and shouted and pointed wildly in his face saying ‘I’m not small you’re just too big!!!!’ (This was, of course, the exact moment that M’Baku became smitten with him, and T’Challa had been wildly jealous for about ten minutes until he’d seen Tony… soften, somehow, when Shuri came up to talk shit to him, taking the teasing with more aplomb that T’Challa ever had.)
Hell, it had been Tony who looked at M’Baku and said, “If you still wanna be king, why don’t you just… marry T’Challa?” T’Challa had not been enthused at the time but he’d never forget how speechless and flabbergasted M’Baku had been as Tony flounced away to go talk to another tribal leader and probably leave them confused as to whether he was offensive or not. Tony was good at that.
“Small,” T’Challa murmured again.
Tony’s leg shot out and his foot landed square on his chest, knocking him ass over teakettle off of the bed and onto the floor.
M’Baku didn’t even bother trying not to laugh. “I told you, T’Challa!”
“I am not small!” Tony hissed, trying to crawl off the bed, scrabbling uselessly at M’Baku’s hands. “You take that back! Unhand me this instant! I! Am ready! To fight!”
“Aw,” M’Baku cooed. “You’re so cute.”
“HOW!!!! DARE YOU!!!!” Tony snarled, and turned to try and thump him instead.
M’Baku fended off the smaller man’s hands with ease, kitten-weak from just waking up from sleep and also being without his armor. “Calm down, calm down–”
“I will not be calm!” Tony shrieked. “The gall! The audacity! How could you do this to me!”
T’Challa crawled back onto the bed and began peppering kisses wherever he could reach. “Calm yourself, Tony, we were just–”
“THE UTTER DISRESPECT,” Tony howled.
“Tony, please,” M’Baku laughed. “Calm down.”
“I WILL DO THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THAT!” Tony flailed and managed to hit himself in the eye. “Ow!”
T’Challa and M’Baku struggled not to laugh again, because that would just cause Tony to absolutely explode. “Let me kiss it better,” T’Challa offered carefully.
Tony glared at him a moment longer, clutching his eye, before mulishly settling into M’Baku’s lap again. “I suppose that’s a start.”
T’Challa and M’Baku shared a fond look before T’Challa leaned in and gently pressed a kiss to the corner of Tony’s eye.
“You missed,” Tony said when he leaned back, pointing just above his eye. “Right here.”
M’Baku pulled Tony close before T’Challa could try again. “You had your chance,” he teased. “It’s my turn now.”
“You’ll both just have to take turns until you get it right,” Tony cut in before they could argue.
“Crafty little kitten,” M’Baku purred.
Tony usually at least put up some of a fuss at being called any sort of diminutive term, but this time he just cuddled into M’Baku’s chest smugly. T’Challa and M’Baku took it as a win.
Chapter 3: James Rhodes/James "Bucky" Barnes
Bucky had… no idea where he was.
In his defense, he’d thought that he was incapable of ever getting drunk again, even on the mead that Thor had brought. Steve hadn’t shown any signs of even getting tipsy after three steins, so Bucky had just shrugged and gotten himself a glass, figuring he’d never get to enjoy that particular pleasure again.
Four glasses later and he was pretty sure he could have been coerced back into Hydra, he was so drunk.
Bucky squinted against the sunlight, on one hand hating it with every fiber of his being, and on the other glad that he’d at least apparently not gotten up to anything too nefarious if he was safely in bed. In a room that was not his. …Not wearing anything at all under the covers. He could feel someone’s cold toes pressing against his warm calves.
“Fuck,” Bucky whispered to himself, squeezing his eyes shut against the light.
“I’m not moving my feet,” Jim said. “You deserve this. I will hear no arguments on this.”
Bucky fought back the urge to whine, because he was a dangerous assassin and not a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “Your feet are fine.”
“As fine as my ass?” Jim asked.
Bucky nearly catapulted upright, except his head throbbed in protest at the thought, and his stomach churned. “What?”
“Oh yeah,” Jim said, glee obvious in his tone. “Tony and I were drinking some wine that was way too fancy for anyone else at the party and you heard him say it was a fine wine and butted in–loudly, I might add–to tell him ‘Not as fine as Jim’s ass.’”
Bucky was silent, considering, before whispering, “He’s never gonna let me live that down, is he?”
“I mean, I’m not either,” Jim added. “But you have my sympathy. I know firsthand how Tony will not let things go.”
Bucky whined softly. Oh no. If even Jim had sympathy for him, that must mean it was bad. Jim had been on the receiving end of Tony’s jokes for decades.
“I don’t understand why you’re so upset by that,” Jim continued, poking at his StarkPad. “When your next pickup line was to tell me it was fate to date because guess what? We’re James-Squared.”
“Oh my God,” Bucky whispered. “That doesn’t even make sense.”
Jim snorted. “No, but by God, you put so much sincerity into it that I couldn’t laugh at the time.” He looked down at him. “I’ll laugh at you about it later though, when you don’t look so miserable about the idea of dating me.”
“It’s the hangover,” Bucky said helplessly. “I haven’t had one in seventy years, leave me alone.”
“Hmm,” Jim hummed, looking skeptical, then shrugged. “There’s a glass of water on your bedside table.”
Bucky pawed for it greedily. “Thanks.”
“And also? You proposed to me last night,” Jim added.
Bucky spewed the water he’d just tried gulping.
“And then insisted I call my mama to tell her we were eloping.”
Bucky felt faint.
“And Mama gave you such an earful that you said she could plan the wedding.”
Bucky set the glass back down on the table and sank back under the covers, pulling them over his head. Oh God.
“Nice ring though,” Jim added, looking at the silver band on his hand. “You said it was silver because Iron Man had the market on gold. Tony’s seething with jealousy because you proposed before Steve did.”
…Well, Bucky thought miserably. At least he had that going for him. Steve had been putting off proposing to Tony for months. When Tony tried to make fun of him for the ‘fine ass’ thing, he’d just say he proposed first.
Chapter 4: Clint Barton/Bruce Banner
Clint had gotten into a lot of fights in his life. He wasn’t ashamed of the life he’d lived, not really, not when it meant survival. However, he could honestly he wasn’t proud of a lot of the fights he’d gotten into.
He’d never be ashamed of getting into a fight over Bruce, though.
“I really wish you wouldn’t get into so many fights,” Bruce sighed, using another butterfly bandage to close the gash on his cheek. “Or at least stop getting into fights with people wearing rings.”
“What I’d like to know is how many karats that sucker was and who would wanna marry a fella that ugly,” Clint responded immediately. “Also? Diamonds didn’t suit that asshole anyway. He has the coloring for sapphires.”
“Clint,” Bruce tried to scold, but the effect was wasted a little when his lips curled at the corner in amusement. “Don’t insult people on what the wear. You’re opening yourself up to ridicule.”
Clint let out a bark of laughter. “HA! Joke’s on everyone else–I know I dress like a hobo threw up on me.”
Bruce shook his head fondly. “Even a hobo couldn’t excuse your fashion sense, Clint.”
“Hey!” Clint exclaimed, pretending to be offended, then shrugged when Bruce raised an eyebrow at him before turning to start replacing things in the first-aid kit. “Okay, fair. It’s not my fault I was raised in a circus.”
“Yeah,” Bruce agreed, and then, “What was the fight about this time?”
Clint paused, surprised, then looked down at his hands, twiddling his thumbs awkwardly. “Ah, it–it wasn’t a big deal. You’d be disappointed in me either way, so–”
“It was about me, wasn’t it?” Bruce asked, not looking at him. He focused on making sure the bandages sat flat so he’d be able to close the lid of the first-aid kit, studiously not giving away anything in his expression. “Someone was calling me stupid, or frigid, or saying I should be in a loony bin. Someone was talking shit about me and you had to respond with your fists.”
“Bigots need to learn that their opinions are not welcome in decent society,” Clint began, irritated.
“But what’s the point, Clint?” Bruce cut in sharply. “What’s the point? It’s not like they’re wrong. I had to dropout of college. I can’t bring myself to be physically intimate with you. I can’t find a medication that works for me yet, and I probably won’t for a while–maybe not ever. So what’s the point, Clint?”
Clint was quiet for a long time before he softly, sternly answered, “The point is that I love you, Bruce. And yeah, all those things might be true, but you’re spinning them to make them worse than they are. Everyone is.
“You dropped out of college because you were going through a depressive episode and failed all your classes, and you knew you couldn’t continue like that, so you decided not to throw money at something you weren’t going to pass. We may not have a sexual relationship, but you cuddle with me and share kisses all the time, and as surprising at this might be to hear, that’s enough for me! And Bruce?”
Bruce didn’t turn from where he sat, curled over the first-aid kit, knuckles white where they were curled over the box. “Yeah?”
“You having bipolar disorder isn’t a deal-breaker for me,” Clint told him softly. “And if you can deal with my depressive episodes, honey? I can deal with yours.”
Bruce swallowed thickly before whispering, “Our mental illnesses are a bit different, Clint.”
Clint, to his credit, considered this for a moment before he replied, “Yeah, but the way we love each other is the same, isn’t it?”
Bruce swallowed again, eyes burning with tears as he turned and pressed his face into Clint’s chest. “Clint.”
“That’s the point, I think,” Clint said gently. “That’s all that matters.”
“Okay,” Bruce whispered, clinging to him.
Clint pressed a kiss into his hair gently. “Okay?”
“Yeah,” Bruce whispered again. “Okay.”
Chapter 5: Natasha/Thor
Natasha had made great strides in learning her teammates’ weaknesses. If something bad happened, and she had to subdue them, she was relatively certain that she could. Clint and Sam were the easier of the group. Steve and Bucky would take a little more effort. Hulk would be left to other SHIELD agents because she wasn’t a fucking idiot. Tony would be the hardest, but only because she’d found the most effective way to subdue him was to say mean things to him, and she really didn’t want to have to do that.
Thor was the easiest, but she was pretty sure that was because they were somewhat of an item. (She was reluctant to call Thor her boyfriend, partner, or significant other for many reasons, none of which she actually told him beyond ‘it makes me uncomfortable.’ Thor respected this about her. She did not know the words to describe the fluttery, squirming feeling it gave her in the pit of her stomach.)
“That’s not even fair,” Thor complained.
Natasha stared at him and dipped her head to take a sip of her tea without breaking eye contact. The shirt she had stolen from him slid a little further down her shoulder, showing she was completely lacking a bra under it. She was wearing a pair of booty shorts that she’d stolen from Tony because they made her thighs look amazing. Her mascara and eyeliner were smudged, because Thor had once admitted that seeing her when her makeup wasn’t immaculate made him feel honored that she was allowing her guard down around him. She’d done her hair up in a messy french braid.
Thor was weak for messy french braids.
“Why are you doing this?” Thor demanded. “Did I miss an important function? Was I late to an engagement recently? What have I done to deserve this?”
Thor was also weak to the silent treatment.
Natasha curled up in the corner of the couch, toes curling into the fabric, hands cupped around her mug trying to soak in the warmth. This outfit was good for making Thor suffer. It was not necessarily good for keeping warm.
“Is it a favor?” Thor asked suddenly, and then grinned, victorious, when she went just a little too stiff before relaxing again. “HA! You were trying to make me grovel so it wouldn’t seem like you were asking for something!” Then he frowned. “Natasha, you could just ask me. We’re–” He struggled for a word that showed their significance to each other without it being too familiar, while also not downplaying their relationship. “…Something.”
“…We are certainly something,” Natasha allowed, smiling into her mug, pleased and embarrassed in turns.
“You devious little minx,” Thor said, but he looked amused. “Alright. What do you want. I’ll pretend you were much more duplicitous if anyone asks.”
Natasha shrugged her bare shoulder delicately and pretended that she didn’t see Thor staring at her collarbone. “One of my aliases was invited to a wedding and I’ve been advised to go, as that’s what Alaena Ericson would do.”
“Alright,” Thor said after a moment. “So you’ll be gone for a few days. Enjoy the wedding. I hope the catering is good. Alaena is a lovely name, by the way.”
“Thank you,” Natasha answered, then carefully did not grimace, instead taking another sip of tea. “The trouble is, Alaena Ericson may have… heard the bride’s sister bragging about how awesome her boyfriend is in an attempt to dampen the bride’s enthusiasm about her impending nuptials and snapped ‘you ain’t shit, my boyfriend’s tall, blond, hot, and has a big cock, and you don’t see me bragging about it to the bride.’”
“…Oh,” Thor said. He considered this. “…Thank you.”
“I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true,” Natasha replied, and even managed to sound perfectly reasonable. “Anyway the bride was so delighted that she made sure I was aware that I could bring my boyfriend to the wedding, and well… I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. Also her sister is such. A bitch. I don’t want her to have the satisfaction of my boyfriend not coming with me.”
Thor thought about making her actually voice her request, then decided against it. “I’ll ask Anthony to help me find suitable ‘fuck you’ attire,” he offered.
“Tell him to make it ‘sexy Scandinavian chic,’ too,” Natasha replied, and took a particularly loud sip of tea.
“I don’t know what that means,” Thor said. “But I have no doubt you’ll be getting me into trouble by saying that.”
“Then don’t say it,” Natasha answered airily.
Thor shrugged. “No, I’m going to. But I’m holding you responsible if the bride tries to jilt her fiance in preference of me.”
“The bride’s a lesbian,” Natasha deadpanned. “I don’t think you’re her type.”
“Good,” Thor replied. “Because I only have eyes for you, my precious… something.”
Natasha would deny to her dying day that she blushed a little.
Chapter 6: Eddie/Venom/Tony
Eddie was seething. Tony could tell. He could feel how tense and stiff Eddie was in his arms; usually Eddie was looser when they rode on his motorcycle. Venom had a tendril curled tightly around Tony’s wrist, though, so he took that as reassurance that the Symbiote, at least, wasn’t angry with him. He tucked his face against Eddie’s back and bit his bottom lip, glad that someone was happy to see him, even if it was an alien parasite.
They barely got into Eddie’s apartment before Eddie was turning and shouting at him.
“You said you’d stop doing that!”
Tony clutched the box he was holding to his chest protectively. “It’s just a treat!”
“Well I don’t want them!” Eddie snapped.
Venom’s face oozed up on his shoulder. “We want them, Eddie.”
Tony opened his mouth.
“Just because Venom wants them doesn’t mean you should buy them!” Eddie snapped before Tony could try and use it to his advantage. “And that’s not the point, Tony! The point is that you lied to me! You say you’ll stop, but then you’ll keep doing it!”
“It’s just chocolate,” Tony said weakly. “That’s all.”
Venom began reaching a tentacle out to him, to the box of chocolates, but Eddie slapped it down. “EDDIE,” he cried, scandalized, and used another tentacle to cover the afflicted one.
Tony reminded himself that he was being yelled at to keep from giggling.
“Stop it!” Eddie snarled at Venom’s wounded face(?), then took a deep breath, visibly attempting to center himself. He took another breath for good measure before looking back at Tony. “Tony, the problem isn’t the chocolate,” he said, forcing himself to be calm.
Venom reached out for the chocolate again. Tony helpfully pulled the box from his chest to hand it to him.
“YOU SAID IT’S NOT ABOUT THE CHOCOLATE, EDDIE!!!!!” Venom howled angrily when Eddie smacked his tentacles again.
“It’s not!” Eddie confirmed hastily.
“THEN GIVE US THE CHOCOLATE!!!!!”
“NO YOU LITTLE SHIT,” Eddie snapped. “You’ll start pestering me for more as soon as Tony’s gone again and you’ll be incessant about it, and then you’ll start bitching about when Tony is coming back, even though he has an important job that requires time away!”
“That’s because Tony brings the good chocolate!” Venom snapped back.
Tony glanced back and forth between them, realization dawning on him. “This isn’t about the chocolate.”
Venom squirmed a tentacle at him desperately. “So give it to us!”
“It’s about how much it costs,” Tony said, horror beginning to claw at him when he remembered the last time he’d called, right before he came to visit, and Eddie had complained about being turned down for a job he was definitely qualified for. Again. “Oh. Oh, Eddie. Why didn’t you just tell me that?”
Eddie hunched his shoulders defensively. “Because you–you’re. You’re way out of our league. And sometimes I’m scared to remind you about it, just in case you decide we’re not worth having.”
“Eddie’s a loser, Tony,” Venom added helpfully, making Eddie let out an angry (and somewhat squeaky), “You’re a loser too!”
It wasn’t fair, Tony lamented, that he couldn’t laugh as Venom and Eddie began bickering over who was the bigger loser, complete with smacking at each other. He knew as soon as he so much as giggled, they’d turn on him and tickle him into submission, and Venom liked to cheat by wiggling into his shoes to get at the soles of his feet.
“I’m… sorry,” Tony said haltingly, and both Venom and Eddie stopped bickering to look at him in surprise. “I didn’t think about how you might feel, and I overstepped, and I’m sorry.”
Eddie stared at him for a moment before sighing quietly. “It’s… I’m sorry, too, Tony. I know I’m all prickly about this right now, and that’s not fair of me.”
Tony opened his mouth to tell him it was okay, or that he understood things were hard for him right now, but was cut off by Venom curling up over Eddie’s shoulder and proudly declaring, “I! Am not sorry at all!”
“Okay,” Tony said, and allowed himself to giggle as Eddie and Venom began bickering loudly again.
The argument only ended when Venom finally snagged the chocolate box and started shoving the truffles into his mouth and Eddie just sorta… let him, because Venom was distracted enough that he and Tony could cuddle on the couch without him slithering between them and pestering them until they paid attention to him.
Chapter 7: Clint/Tony
Clint leaned his shoulder against the doorway, arms crossed over his chest. Tony had his back to him, hunched over piles of papers on the coffee table that needed to be graded, and then he had his own homework to deal with. He was sitting on the floor. His free hand had slid into his hair, gripping tightly, and his shoulders were stiff. Clint would bet the twenty-seven cents in his pocket that the hand curled around his pen was cramped and sore.
So he walked over, carefully picked his hand up, and uncurled it from around the pen to press a kiss to his knuckles.
“I need to get these done,” Tony said, but his voice cracked, and he made no motion to pull his hand back.
Clint sat down next to him, carefully pulling Tony to his chest. “You’ve been working nonstop. You can take a break.”
Tony said nothing, but he did turn and bury his face in Clint’s chest with a sob.
“Oh, honey,” Clint sighed, rubbing a hand up and down Tony’s back. “Let it out. Let it out. I know you’ve been struggling.”
“I hate this,” Tony whispered. “Clint, I want to quit. Please tell me it’s okay to quit.”
Clint pressed a kiss to the top of his head before softly asking, “I’ll do that, but first you have to answer a question for me, okay?”
Tony nodded, nuzzling into his chest. “Okay.”
Clint braced himself for the answer. “Is this a change in mind? Or change in heart?”
Tony was silent for a moment before leaning back to look up at him, tears rolling down his cheeks. “What?”
“Tony, ever since I’ve met you, you’ve wanted to do this,” Clint explained. “You’ve talked about how great you are at this and how this is a perfect fit and you were made to do this. Is it that you’re just discouraged, or do you really not want to do this anymore?”
Tony stared at him as if he couldn’t comprehend the words. Maybe he really couldn’t. Clint had always been a supportive force behind him, bolstering him, giving him drive. Tony had probably never imagined that he’d do anything but continue blindly supporting him. After all, that was mostly what Clint was good for.
Clint liked to think he was good at pulling back, too.
“I don’t know,” Tony finally whispered, looking miserable. “I don’t know. Everyone always said this was my calling, and I believed them because it was easier than disappointing them. But Clint, I’m so miserable. It isn’t fun anymore. Everyone keeps expecting me to be the next Howard, and I–I just want to be the first Tony.”
Clint pulled him back into a hug. “Alright. Alright, honey.”
“Engineering was fun but now everyone has all these expectations of me,” Tony whispered, voice cracking again. “And I wanted to provide for you so badly, and there’s so much money in engineering–”
“Hey,” Clint said gently. “I ate pizza out of the trashcan the other day. I don’t need you to provide for me.”
To his horror, when Tony leaned back to make eye contact with him again, his tears were coming more earnestly. “Clint,” he said firmly. “You eating out of the trashcan does not make me feel better.”
“Okay, bad example,” Clint backpedaled hurriedly. “What I meant was, I don’t need you to provide for me. I’m happy with what we have. So if you want to choose a career that isn’t engineering and we have to budget, that’s okay too. You know I’ll support you.”
Tony was quiet again, and Clint just let him be, pulling him back in to hug again and begin to gently rock. Tony always found that soothing when he was trying to figure things out.
Finally, Tony whispered, “I do kinda like helping the kids in the classes I TA for.”
“Yeah?” Clint asked encouragingly.
“Maybe… maybe I could teach,” Tony suggested, then bit his lip, waiting to be told that was stupid, and he should continue with his education to become an engineer.
“I think you’d be a great teacher, honey,” Clint said instead. “And if that’s what you wanna do? I say go for it.”
“…What if no one else believes in me?” Tony asked, voice small. “What if they try to insist on engineering?”
Clint leaned back to look at him. “Tony. The people who really, truly care about you will just want you to be happy. If you tell them engineering makes you miserable and they tell you to suck it up? They don’t actually care about you. I want you to do what you want, Tony. Don’t you think it’s time that you finally took your own wants into account, instead of what everyone thinks you should do?”
Tony looked terrified at the prospect of changing his life plans, but… Clint had also never seen him so thrilled, as he called his guidance counselor to talk about switching majors.
Chapter 8: Phil Coulson/Maria Hill
Officially, romantic relationships in SHIELD were forbidden.
“A cellist, in Portland.”
Officially, romantic relationships in SHIELD could get you fired.
“I’m sorry, boss. The god rabbited.”
Officially, romantic relationships in SHIELD could get you blacklisted from other agencies.
“No. I’m clocked out here.”
Officially, romantic relationships in SHIELD were forbidden.
“Agent Coulson is down.”
Unofficially, no one really paid attention to that rule.
“I love you,” Phil said.
“This is the third time in ten minutes you’ve said that,” Maria said, amused, and sat down on the edge of his hospital bed. “You gonna make it a fourth?”
“I love you,” Phil said, smiling thinly at her.
She shrugged one shoulder, unconcerned. “It’s just some dumb cards.”
“They’re not dumb,” Phil said immediately, like she knew he would. “They’re collectors’ items.”
“Dumb,” Maria repeated. “Eat your jello.”
“I would rather die,” Phil said. She hated that she couldn’t tell whether he was being serious or not. “You got Captain America to sign them.”
“Yeah, he felt really bad about you giving your life to the cause before he could sign yours, so he definitely didn’t want to turn me down in case I died too,” Maria replied, taking a sip of her coffee. She nearly spat it back out because she’d forgotten how bad hospital coffee was. “I just wanted to get you a set of cards that wasn’t bloody.”
“It wasn’t my blood,” Phil said reasonably.
Maria did not tell him that that was somehow worse. “In any case,” she said instead. “Now you owe me. We’re definitely going to go to that new fusion Indian place and you’re definitely letting me order for you.”
“I can barely stomach jello,” Phil tried.
Maria gave him a sardonic look. “This is not a debt that will expire, Phillip.”
Phil gave her such an offended look that she almost snorted her next sip of coffee back out her nose. “Don’t call me that. How dare you. I’m injured.”
“Yeah, uh huh, that’s not what you were saying when you tried to get me to sneak in a steak.”
“Maria, if I am forced to eat another bowl of jello, I may actually break out of here,” Phil told her seriously.
“I got you the green kind,” Maria said helpfully, and shoved his tray at him more insistently.
“Maria,” Phil said. “I have never wanted to murder a person more in my entire life.”
Maria jiggled the plate. “It’s got pears in it.”
“I’ll remember this,” Phil told her ominously, even as he carefully placed the cards on the desk and picked up his spoon to eat.
“Good,” Maria retorted. “Maybe next time you won’t be an idiot and get stabbed by a psychopath dressed like a moss-covered elk.”
Phil spat the jello out, laughing in disbelief. “I didn’t try to get stabbed.”
Maria shrugged, trying to appear unaffected. She was sorry to say that she wasn’t entirely sure it worked. “Well, you worried me, so I’m never letting you live this down.”
Phil laughed some more, but his expression softened a little too. “I love you.”
Maria smiled down at her cup of coffee, a little too embarrassed to look at his face. “I love you, too.”
Chapter 9: Tony/T'Challa
Tony leaned back on the bed of pillows behind him and sighed, tucking his hands behind his head.
“Stop it,” T’Challa ordered immediately.
“I’m not doing anything,” Tony whined, and then languorously extended one leg to stretch it, letting out a soft, happy noise.
“Cut it out,” T’Challa said sharply.
“I’m just stretching!” Tony exclaimed, crossing his arms over his chest.
T’Challa sighed. “Will you just–alright. Fine. I’m sorry.”
Tony wisely said nothing, because the other man was clearly still annoyed. He watched T’Challa continue to dress in a, frankly, delicious robe, then jerked his gaze back to the ceiling quickly when the younger man looked at him. Once he was sure T’Challa wasn’t looking any longer, he glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. Truly, it was unfair how T’Challa looked good in everything. Tony had been given a robe for ceremonies and he looked like a child playing dress-up.
Once he was sure he’d lulled T’Challa into a false sense of security, he stretched again, a full-body one that went from his toes all the way up to his fingers spread above his head. He couldn’t help the happy mewl that escaped him at the burn of the stretch.
“If you cared about me, you wouldn’t do this,” T’Challa informed him sternly.
“What? I’m just stretching,” Tony repeated coyly.
T’Challa appeared very put out. “Yes. You’re just stretching. Being all… attractive and flirty. While I must go and meet the tribal leaders.”
“Aw, poor baby,” Tony drawled. “It can’t be any worse than a board meeting. At least the tribal leaders like you. Imagine being in a room full of people who hate you but know they need you to make them money.”
“I would say I have no idea how someone could hate you, but as you are here and torturing me because I have to go to a meeting with tribal leaders who bicker like children, I have some idea,” T’Challa deadpanned.
Tony wrinkled his nose at him. “Ew, gross, don’t insinuate that my board of directors want to fuck me. They knew Howard.”
“Well I don’t want to fuck you right now either,” T’Challa declared.
Tony raised an eyebrow. “Liar.”
“Yes,” T’Challa immediately admitted. “But you’re pretending to be a tease so I feel like you deserved that.”
“I am being a tease. I do it on purpose. I’m–what do the kids call it now? I’m a thot.”
T’Challa was appalled. Appalled and offended. “Who taught you that word?”
“Peter and Shuri,” Tony answered immediately. “They were talking about my thotty phase because it came up in the tabloids again and I had to ask what it meant.”
T’Challa frowned. “What ‘thotty’ phase?”
“Oh, to be young again,” Tony sighed.
T’Challa rolled his eyes. “If you’re just going to talk about how old you are and how young I am, I’m leaving. I’m already late.”
“Fine, I have to go meet Shuri so she can make fun of my work anyway,” Tony called after him. When T’Challa only waved over his shoulder, Tony smirked, smug, and called after him, “Look up my roaring twenties the next time you’re online. My pants were basically painted on. Crop tops were in. I liked lollipops. A lot.”
T’Challa walked into the doorway, smacking his head as he hurried to spin around, but Tony was already fleeing out the side door to his room, cackling.
“Pathetic,” Okoye murmured.
“Don’t talk to your king like that,” T’Challa tried.
Okoye dipped her head, deferring. But it was only a show, because the side-eye she gave him was lethal, especially when she glanced between him and the doorway he’d just run into. “Hmm.”
“Leave me alone,” T’Challa sighed miserably.
“Like an antelope in headlights,” Okoye murmured, amused, and fell into step beside him as he began walking down the hall toward his meeting. “I thought you’d grow out of it, but you really are a sucker for a pretty face.”
“You don’t even like Tony,” T’Challa complained.
“I believed all the bad things about him and none of the good before we met. I’ve seen him work. I’ve seen him interact with Shuri. I know better now. He may not be he best man, but he is truly the kindest,” Okoye declared. “Also? He just made you walk into a wall after talking about his thotty phase. What’s not to like?”
T’Challa choked. “You knew about that?”
Okoye gave him a supremely unimpressed look. “I had to do my research on him. He wasn’t lying. His pants were painted on.”
“Onto that ass?” T’Challa squeaked.
“T’Challa,” his mother barked sharply, and it was only then that T’Challa realized that they’d arrived to the meeting.
Okoye couldn’t help an amused snort, unnoticed by the tribal leaders as they started at him, scandalized.
Today was going to be a long day, T’Challa lamented.
Chapter 10: Thor/Steve
“Okay, so, that might have been a bad idea,” Steve admitted, staring up at the ceiling. There were exactly thirty-seven blue tiles. There had been exactly thirty-seven blue tiles the last time he counted them. Well, they weren’t going to count themselves. One. Two. Three…
“Might have been,” Thor deadpanned. “Yes, it might have been a bad idea to throw yourself in front of your heavily armored teammate to protect him from an explosion with your shield that is the size of a dinner plate.”
“Hey!” Steve exclaimed, and then grimaced when the stitches in his side pulled. “Ow. But yeah, still–hey! It’s my duty as the leader of this team to protect my teammates! Tony was in danger and I went to help him!”
Thor raised an eyebrow at him. “So I should let Tony into the room so he can give you a piece of mind instead of me doing it, is what you’re saying.”
Steve waved a hand at him frantically. “Now, wait a minute, I didn’t say that!”
“Hmm,” Thor hummed, staring at him knowingly. Although to be fair, he knew that the last thing anyone wanted was to be was on the receiving end of Tony’s wrath. “If you didn’t want to go to the opera with me, you should’ve said that yesterday. You didn’t need to get yourself almost killed.”
Steve glared at him. “I didn’t get myself almost killed just to avoid going to the opera with you!”
“So if the doctor clears you, you’ll go with me?” Thor asked, raising his eyebrows.
Steve clenched his jaw, then gritted out, “Yes, I’ll go with you.”
Thor stared at him for a very long time before saying, “I hate baseball.”
Steve couldn’t help but clutch at an invisible string of pearls, lips parting on a scandalized gasp. “What?!”
“I hate baseball,” Thor repeated, as if he wasn’t driving a knife into Steve’s heart. “It’s long. It doesn’t need nine whole innings. And it’s boring. It’s one of the most boring things I’ve ever had the misfortune to watch, and I’m a Prince of Asgard–I’ve had to sit through many dull things for many years.”
“You said you liked the Dodgers,” Steve said, voice small.
“I like the Dodgers because you like the Dodgers,” Thor said. “But I hate baseball almost more than you hate the opera.”
Steve puffed up for a moment, offended, but then his stitches pulled again, causing a twinge of pain that made him deflate. “I don’t… hate the opera…”
“You fell asleep during The Magic Flute, what Tony says is one of the most famous operas, and which I found incredibly riveting, enough that I was not bored even for a moment,” Thor stated.
Steve flushed. “I didn’t fall asleep!”
“I took a video of you snoring.”
“…I might have fallen asleep,” Steve sighed, conceding.
“What I’m trying to convey is, it’s alright that we have separate interests,” Thor explained. “I don’t like baseball and you don’t like the opera and that’s fine, because we have other interests in common. We can do things apart. You can go to your baseball games and I’ll go to the opera without each other.”
Steve scrubbed a hand over his face, then looked back up at him. “I could give opera another shot. It’s not that bad.”
“I’ve already given your ticket away,” Thor said.
Steve, despite all his bluster, sagged in relief against the hospital bed. “Oh thank God.” He coughed when Thor raised his eyebrows at him. “I mean. Oh darn. Would it be rude to insist on the ticket being returned?”
“You really did jump in front of an explosion to get out of going to the opera, didn’t you?” Thor asked in disbelief.
Steve waited a beat too long before saying, “I mean–no! Of course not!”
“Well,” Thor said thoughtfully. “It was nice dating you while it lasted, Steven.”
“What?!” Steve blurted out, bewildered.
Thor turned toward the door of Steve’s hospital room and called out, “You owe me box seats to Carmen, Tony!”
Somehow Tony appeared immediately, looming in the doorway like an avenging angel, so mad he could have spit acid strong enough to melt the floor. “STEVE.”
“Thor how could you,” Steve whispered, and then, “Make sure Sam inherits my shield after Tony kills me.”
“Of course,” Thor said, reaching out to grab his hand. He wasn’t so much of an asshole that he’d leave Steve to face Tony’s rage alone.
Also Tony always came up with new and better swears every time he went on a rant at Steve and he quite enjoyed learning new words, even if he couldn’t say them in mixed company
Chapter 11: Thor/Tony
Thor grabbed Tony by the back of the shirt and dragged him back toward him. “Wait.”
“Do you know me?” Tony asked immediately, incensed. “Have you ever met me? I have never waited for anything in my life. Just one of my many faults.”
“Don’t pick a fight with me when I’m just trying to keep from losing you,” Thor said, amused. “You’re so small, I’d lose you in this crowd.”
Tony’s head whipped around like he was the main character in a horror movie. “What did you just say?!”
“You’re so small,” Thor repeated, because he wasn’t a coward and also because all Midgardians were fucking small. “I understand that I’m basically a lighthouse and you’ll always be able to find me in a crowd, but I would very much like to be able to find you.”
“Thor, I’m the loudest person in the room,” Tony snapped. “You’ll be able to find me.”
Thor smiled a little. “I like that you think that just because I can hear you means that I’ll be able to find you.”
“I mean you’re basically a golden retriever, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to,” Tony grumbled mulishly. “But I guess if you’re going to be a big baby about it, I’ll stick close.”
“Will you hold my hand?” Thor asked, amused. To his surprise, Tony’s hand found his before he could even take another step, fingers curling between his.
He didn’t know why he was so shocked, though. Tony had always been tactile, almost clingy. Thor had once likened him to a cat marking its territory, but he knew better now; Tony was afraid, and so he held on, trying to clutch onto as much as he could, make as many good memories as possible, because he was so certain that that was all he’d ever get to have–to be alone, with only memories of good times gone by to keep him company.
Thor gripped his hand back firmly.
“Come on! I want to show you the new solar panels I developed!” Tony said, enthused, and started pulling on him.
Thor considered making him work for it, because Tony was cute when he was tugging uselessly on him in frustration, but Tony had been working incredibly hard for this particular expo, and he’d been excitedly talking about nothing but solar power for the last two weeks. Thor didn’t understand most of it, because it was all so very rudimentary compared to their own power sources back on Asgard, but he was very proud of Tony’s achievements, and Tony’s enthusiasm was infectious.
He may have been a little slow intentionally, though, just to see Tony tug and get frustrated.
“Come on, come on,” Tony muttered, pulling on his arm uselessly. “Why are you like this? You’re a giant! Use your presence to strike fear into everyone and get them to move!”
“I try not to intimidate people on purpose, Tony,” Thor said in amusement.
Tony stopped and glared up at him. “Listen, you, I didn’t bust my ass for this expo for you to not be impressed. Hurry up! I want to show you everything I worked on!”
“I’m always impressed with you, Tony,” Thor said, softening a little, and stopped dawdling. It felt too mean, with how excited Tony was to show him his projects.
Tony stopped again to look up at him, eyes narrowed suspiciously. “…Because you think what I do is cute?”
Thor fought not to grimace. It had been a mistake, very early in their relationship (so early that Tony contended they weren’t actually in one at the time). when Tony had been explaining something and Thor had called his efforts ‘cute.’
He hadn’t realized that these specific efforts were actually revolutionary concepts for Midgard. Tony had immediately clammed up, shut down, and offered a terse ‘sorry my ideas are so archaic’ before locking him out of the workshop. Thor liked to think he was a relatively good person, but he still thought back on that time and felt like the lowest of low for forgetting that Midgard was not as technologically advanced as Asgard and making Tony think he was stupid, or slow, or that he was much smarter than Tony.
Tony was clever and sharp in ways that Thor would probably never be, but he’d made Tony think that he thought he was above him, and it made him ache with shame.
“What you do is fantastic,” Thor said.
Tony relaxed a little, the walls that had been building up in his silence slowly falling back down. He offered a small smile and turned to lead the way again.
“It’s your butt that’s cute,” Thor added, and then squawked when Tony tripped over nothing and almost fell down. “Tony!”
“Don’t call my butt cute in public,” Tony hissed, blushing a little as Thor dragged him back upright. “Don’t you remember what happened last time?”
“The Asspocalypse,” Thor remembered, nodding solemnly.
“…I mean I was talking about how mad Pepper was when you told a reporter how magnificent my ass was but yeah, sure, we’ll go with that,” Tony said after a minute.
Thor was talking about the same thing, but Tony hadn’t been there when Pepper had stormed in and beaten Thor with a tabloid while shouting at him for treating Tony like a notch in his belt, and he wasn’t entirely inclined to tell him about it, especially because that had absolutely not been the case, he just–didn’t understand the concept of people spinning his words the wrong way like tabloids always seemed to.
He knew better now, in any case. About a lot of things. Dating Midgardians was hard.
“Also after we look at my stuff we can go out to eat and I want to try that Italian place Steve suggested! Come on, I want to see another Italian grandmother cry with joy because you’ve eaten everything on the menu and loved it!”
…But the trials and difficulties were worth navigating, Thor reminded himself, giving Tony’s hand a squeeze as he followed him through the crowd.
Chapter 12: Scott Lang/Tony Stark
“Sorry about the mess,” Scott said hurriedly, scooping up a few stuffed animals and shoving them in a cloth hamper. “Cassie was over and I promised her if she passed her spelling test we could play around with the–anyway. Sorry.”
Tony couldn’t tear his eyes away from the giant stuffed tiger in the corner. “‘S fine.”
“Thanks, I was sort of expecting you to be late so–” Scott began.
“Uh huh,” Tony said.
“Cassie has mentioned wanting to meet you, also, so maybe, if you want, we could set up a time or something–”
“Sure,” Tony said.
Scott scrambled to shove a dirty shirt under the couch. He really had expected Tony a little later. He’d meant to start a load of laundry, declutter the living room a little, maybe even put together a veggie plate. Tony made him all flustered. He’d never made a veggie plate in his life, but Tony made him want to.
“I’m still on house arrest, so unfortunately we’ll have to order in again–” Scott began, turning, then paused. “…Tony?” Had he been shrunk? Had he left? Tony typically didn’t leave from where he’d left him until he actively offered him a seat.
“I live here now,” Tony declared from the other side of the room, making him jump and spin around.
Scott couldn’t help but stare a little. Tony was absolutely dwarfed by the stuffed tiger. It appeared as if he’d attempted to sprawl on top of it, gave up because it was too tall, and simply slid down to splay himself across the tiger’s legs. He really did, oddly enough, look quite at home.
“Do you really want to live here?” Scott asked, shock giving way to amusement. He knew his apartment wasn’t nearly as opulent as Tony’s was.
And he knew that because he’d broken in once. Of course, then he’d had to listen to Tony scolding him because he’d one, apparently “cheated” with the Pym particles and two, he was on house arrest and shouldn’t have been breaking into anything. It had been worth it though, just to be able to see him gaping at him, mouth opening and shutting wordlessly. Tony had always said he could count on one hand the times he’d ever been speechless, and Scott was proud to be one of them.
“Fuck you,” Tony said, sinking further onto the stuffed animal. “I’m taking the tiger with me then.”
“It’s one of Cassie’s favorites,” Scott said, which wasn’t necessarily true, but Tony didn’t need to know that.
Tony said nothing for several minutes before saying, “Maybe I should meet her. You know, just to get her permission to buy her a new tiger.”
“You know I could just make any stuffed animal bigger, right?” Scott asked, raising an eyebrow. “Not just this one.”
Tony’s head whipped up immediately, looking intrigued.
Scott wondered if saying anything had been a mistake. But Tony was relatively level headed, so it was probably fine.
“WHY IS THERE A GIANT STUFFED BUNNY ON TOP OF STARK TOWER,”Hope roared into the phone.
“I’m on house arrest so it definitely wasn’t me,” Scott said, and then immediately hung up before she could bully him into telling the truth.
Chapter 13: Thor/Steve
Steve knew exactly three recipes when he went into the ice: hearty Irish stew, his mama’s apple tart, and gingerbread cookies. He’d learned some more since coming out of the ice, but these three were his go-to recipes. They reminded him… they reminded him of home. Home had always been like that for him. It wasn’t a time period; whether it was as a child stuck at home with pneumonia and his ma plying him with weak tea, or here, now, in Avengers tower, with appliances and ingredients that his ma would have never dreamed of using, it was the spirit of it.
Home was a what, not a when. A feeling, not a place.
“Smells like Christmas in here,” Natasha said as she came in to grab a water bottle. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you that gingerbread was a Christmas cookie?”
“Contrary to popular opinion,” Steve retorted good-naturedly. “Ginger surprisingly continues to exist outside of the months of November and December.”
“Next you’ll be telling me I can get peppermint in July,” Natasha teased back, reaching out to grab a cookie.
Steve smacked her hand more on instinct than anything else. “Quit taking my cookies!”
Natasha, despite her desire to be aloof at all times to protect herself, could not manage to hide her bewilderment. “I? I haven’t been taking your cookies?”
Steve at least had the decency to look abashed. “Natasha, I’m so sorry. Please take a cookie.”
Natasha stared at him for a moment before cautiously grabbing one and taking the world’s slowest bite, as if afraid it was a trap.
Steve miserably handed her another cookie. “I’m so sorry,” he repeated sincerely. “It’s just–Clint and Bruce came in a few minutes ago, and–”
“They stole your cookies,” Natasha said understandingly. “Oh, Steve, it’s fine. I’m just glad I got in here before Tony did.”
“Tony’s doing his ‘no carb’ thing right now,” Steve sighed. “So I would have preferred him.”
“No carb thing,” Natasha repeated in disbelief. “No car–he eats more pasta than you and Thor do put together. What no carb thing?”
“Some tabloid said he was out of place on the team because he’s older and isn’t built like the rest of us,” Steve said, miserable again. Seeing Tony all self-conscious and embarrassed was awful no matter the circumstances. “I sent Thor to try and cheer him up but he texted me that Tony felt really bad this time so I said I’d bake some cookies if he’d stick it out.”
“And you thought Thor, a literal god built like a brick house, was the right person to bring Tony out of his funk?” Natasha asked, raising an eyebrow.
Steve rolled his eyes. “Surprisingly enough, having lived for hundreds of years, he’s got a lot of insight and advice.”
“Gross,” Natasha said immediately. “And here I thought Tony was robbing the cradle dating me, but no, Thor’s robbing yours.”
Steve grabbed a towel and whipped her with it before she could dodge. “Shut up!”
“Never,” Natasha declared, and as punishment, grabbed another cookie to stuff it in her face.
Thor walked in just as Steve and Natasha were getting into a truly competitive wrestling match over the cookies. He stared for a moment, wondering if he should help, then figured they weren’t actually in danger of killing each other and it was a great team- and friendship-building exercise. (With Natasha there was always a probability of murder, unfortunately, but they could always tell when she was playing for keeps, for the most part.)
“You promised me a cookie!” he declared, and then stepped over them when Steve did a truly spectacular move and pinned Natasha to the ground. “Tony is not necessarily happy, but he’s content. He’ll be eating pasta again by tonight! …Probably,” he added, because with Tony you could never really tell.
People liked to joke that Thor was the ‘garbage disposal’ of the group, and it was true, mostly–as long as Tony hadn’t raided the fridge first.
“Have as many as you want, honey,” Steve said, perhaps enjoying making Natasha mutter curses as he pinned her a little too much.
“I shall,” Thor said. “Your cookies are the best gingerbread in all of Midgard. They taste like home.”
Steve paused to look up at him, something warm and soft fluttering in his chest at the casual way Thor complimented him, showed he cared. He knew that Thor did, of course, but sometimes he needed to hear it in just the right way. Luckily, Thor seemed to know that.
“Idiot,” Natasha sighed affectionately, and then–fucking suplexed him.
“Steven,” Thor said, shaking his head slowly even as he grabbed another cookie, and making no move to stop Natasha as she ran cackling with success from the kitchen. “You know better than to take your attention off of Natasha during a fight.”
Steve wheezed, glaring at him, because yes, he did know that, thank you very much. It was not his fault that Thor was disarming even when the fight was playful. He didn’t know how Natasha had even managed to get in a position to suplex him. He’d had her pinned!
“I’ll kiss it better,” Thor offered.
“Well,” Steve wheezed mulishly. “Since it’s your fault, you better.”
Thor shrugged, unconcerned. It wasn’t his fault, because he wasn’t the one who had underestimated Natasha, but sometimes concessions had to be made. He planned on thanking Steve for the cookies thoroughly, after all. He needed Steve to be in the mood for that.
“What about on top of the Eiffel Tower?” T’Challa asked thoughtfully, twirling his pencil in his fingers.
“Do not propose to me on top of the Eiffel Tower,” Nakia ordered immediately. “Very cliche. Everyone proposes there.”
T’Challa scratched that out too. “Okay.”
Nakia did a double take. “Did you actually write out a list?!”
“No,” T’Challa said, and then, “Yes. It was Shuri’s idea.”
Nakia waited for him to say it was a joke, but then he didn’t. She raised her eyebrows at him. “Surely she meant it as a joke.”
“Probably,” T’Challa replied. “But it seemed like a good idea at the time. What about at Niagara Falls?”
“When? I don’t want to be too cold,” Nakia answered, and then jerked a little. “No! I don’t want you to propose to me at Niagara Falls! How many ideas do you have there?”
T’Challa was silent for several minutes before he very slowly said, “I didn’t number them.”
“You liar!” she gasped, because that was his lying face. She wasn’t a spy for nothing. Also, they’d grown up together, and T’Challa couldn’t lie for shit. “You’re lying! How many ideas do you have written down? Tell me!”
T’Challa whipped the paper away before she could snatch it. “Just–a few! I just write them down as I think about them!”
“You’ve given me at least a dozen options and you have more?” Nakia asked, delighted. “Let me see!”
“No! You’ll just make fun of me!” T’Challa exclaimed.
Nakia giggled. “Bold of you to assume that I wasn’t going to make fun of you anyway!”
“No!” T’Challa cried as she finally snatched the list away from him.
Nakia let out a triumphant noise and danced out of reach, grinning, as she hurried to count how many ideas he had. “Mljet Island? The Lake of Love? Under the Northern Lights in Iceland? T’Challa, why do you want to take me to places that are cold?”
“I just–they’re romantic!” T’Challa sputtered. “I just want it to be nice. I want you to be able to tell your friends how perfect our proposal was.”
Nakia rolled her eyes fondly. “T’Challa, whatever proposal you give me, it will be perfect because it’s coming from you.”
T’Challa raised an eyebrow, skeptical. “Really? You mean that?”
“I truly mean that,” she assured him. “Oh, Italy? I suppose the Trevi Fountain wouldn’t be too bad… At least it would finally be a warm place.”
“You promise you won’t be disappointed with my proposal?” T’Challa asked again, just to be sure, and began to sink down onto one knee.
Nakia snorted and shot a disapproving look down at him before looking back at the list. “T’Challa, I just told you–” She did another double take when she realized he was kneeling in front of her. “What are you doing.”
“Nakia,” T’Challa began. “Will you–”
“ARE YOU PROPOSING TO ME NOW?!” she shouted, clutching the list to her chest.
T’Challa stared at her before saying, “So you lied to me. You’re disappointed. See, this is why I made the list–”
“Shut up, oh my God,” Nakia exclaimed, flapping her hand at him, then punched him lightly in the shoulder. “The answer is yes, of course, you giant boob! Put it on me!”
“…Okay,” T’Challa said, bemused but also pleased. He carefully slid the ring onto her finger, a simple band of vibranium with three small rubies set into the metal. “I thought you’d like something simple, that won’t catch if you’re in a fight. Also, you can use it as a brass knuckle.”
“It’s perfect,” Nakia breathed, holding her hand up so she could examine the ring properly. It was beautiful. Perhaps not what she would have picked, but perfect just the same. “It’s wonderful, T’Challa. This is better than anyplace you could have taken me.”
T’Challa smiled back shyly. “I’m glad.”
“Ew,” Shuri whispered. “That is so sappy, I might vomit.”
Okoye very casually and “accidentally” elbowed her. She was just glad T’Challa had finally gotten the balls to propose. She’d been worrying he was going to freeze forever. Hopefully marriage would keep him from freezing ever again. (Alright. She knew that would never happen, but she had hopes.)
I’m considering this a rare pair because NO ONE EVER FUCKING WRITES IT which is a shame because I like it a lot lol.
Chapter 15: Thor/Steve
Steve turned on the light in his living room and nearly threw his boxes of pizza in terror when he found the hulking figure of Thor on his couch. “Thor! Jesus! What are you doing here?!” He paused, then added, “Why didn’t you turn on the lights?!”
“The darkness matched my mood,” Thor said mournfully.
“…Okay,” Steve said. He came into the living room and sat down, dropping one of the pizza boxes into his lap and setting the other in Thor’s. “I thought you were out of town or I would have gotten extra.”
“Alas,” Thor said. “This pizza will not fill the void in my heart.” He morosely took a bite. “But I’ll eat it anyway.”
“Okay,” Steve said, amused.
He got halfway through his own pizza before he sighed. “You were really excited about Jane’s party.”
“I would have been quite out of place there,” Thor said. “I’ve been told it’s very bad form to show up to your ex’s party.”
“This isn’t like an engagement party or anything though,” Steve pointed out around a mouthful of food. He stood up. “You want a beer or something?”
“No mead?” Thor asked sadly.
“Again, I thought you were out of town. I thought I had a few days before I needed to go to the store.” Steve grabbed a six-pack out of the fridge. He walked back to the couch and set it between the two of them. “It’s a party to celebrate being asked to work with NASA, based on work you helped her with. Why don’t you just go?”
Thor emptied one of the bottles in two swallows. He was definitely not doing it to stall (except for that he was). “She’s probably just being polite.”
“Do you want to see her?” Steve asked. “Don’t think about it. Just answer.”
“Yes,” Thor answered.
“Do you want to celebrate her success with her?”
“Yes,” Thor said again.
“Then go,” Steve said. “You were friends before you dated, you can be friends now. And, no offense, but Jane isn’t the type to invite an ex just to be polite.” He gave Thor a long stare that tried to convey the ‘idiot’ that he dearly wanted to say. He wasn’t going to kick him while he was down though. “Besides, Darcy begged you and you said you’d go. Don’t break a promise to Darcy.”
Thor was quiet, mulling it over, before finally, quietly saying, “I would hate to upset Darcy. She’s said she’s not afraid to tase me again.”
“Right?” Steve said. “So go. Have fun. You still have enough time to make it, right?” he added, concerned.
Thor looked at the clock. “Midgardians have a thing called ‘fashionably late,’ do they not?”
“Tony has a thing called fashionably late,” Steve deadpanned. “And remember what we told you about Tony?”
“‘Tony has the charisma to back it up,’ yes, I remember,” Thor said, slightly put out. “I have charisma. I’m a prince of Asgard. I don’t understand why Tony gets to be held to lower standards–”
Steve sighed. “You remember what else we told you about Tony?” When Thor went quiet, Steve gently added, “Tony should never be considered your basis for what is normal here on Earth.”
“Right,” Thor said. “So I should probably go now if I don’t want to be too late.”
“Great! Have fun! Don’t take my pizza and stop lurking in my living room in the dark when you’re avoiding your ex-girlfriend.”
Thor made very intense eye-contact with Steve before snatching one last piece of pizza and running.
“You asshole!” Steve shouted after him. “You know I’m gonna have to order another pizza now!”
“Not sorry!” Thor called back, cramming the pizza into his mouth.
Chapter 16: Thor/Tony
Thor knew immediately, deep in his bones, that the reason the electricity flickered was because of Tony. He was not sorry for body-checking Bucky and Steve out of his way to the stairs and he was definitely not sorry for breaking through the safety glass to get into Tony’s workshop.
He found Tony laid out on the floor, still smoldering slightly.
“Tony!” he barked, and began patting him out quickly. “What did you do?!”
“This was not my fault,” Tony wheezed.
Thor stared at him, then made a show of looking around the workshop, which held exactly zero other people besides them.
Tony grimaced. “Okay. Mistakes may have been made. But I’m fine!”
“You’ve burnt off your eyebrows,” Thor said.
Tony whimpered and lifted a hand to his head. “Oh God. And I have a press conference tomorrow. Pepper’s gonna be so mad.”
“I’m mad,” Thor pointed out.
“Yeah, but I’m more afraid of Pepper than I am of you,” Tony replied, and he sounded so reasonable that Thor began to nod along. Then Tony tried to tip his head to smile reassuringly at him, probably to hopefully ease his anger, and he winced, whimpering, and Thor was mad all over again. “Ow,” he whispered, squeezing his eyes shut.
Thor frowned, reaching up to carefully take his hand. “What’s wrong? Where does it hurt?”
“Head,” Tony whimpered. “I think the shock’s wearing off.”
Thor gently pulled his hand from his head, hoping to see if maybe he’d gotten a bump. He nearly swallowed his tongue when he saw the smear of blood instead. “Tony.”
“Is it bad?” Tony asked, not opening his eyes, and sounding smaller than Thor had ever heard him. “Am I–Am I going to be okay?”
The blood hadn’t been there before he lifted his hand. Thor didn’t know if that was better or worse. He checked Tony’s fingers for blood hopefully, but they didn’t appear to be cut, only smeared with blood there as well. He reluctantly but quickly looked down the smaller man’s body.
There was a piece of metal sunk deep into his side. It was seeping blood around the metal slowly. Tony must have been unconsciously clutching at it while he’d been too stunned to comprehend that he’d been truly injured. Tony hadn’t opened his eyes back up, either; Thor would bet Mjolnir that Tony was nursing a spectacular concussion, too.
“You haven’t said anything,” Tony said in that soft, small voice again. “Is it bad? Thor?”
Thor laid a shaking hand on his side, close to where he was impaled but not touching it. “You’ll–You’ll be fine,” he said, trying to be reassuring. He wasn’t sure if he managed it. “I’m going to pick you up and take you to medical, okay?”
“Okay,” Tony whispered. Somehow his easy agreement was scarier than if he’d argued like he usually would.
“You’ll be fine,” Thor repeated, delicately lifting him up. “You’ll be fine.”
Tony let a long, slow breath hiss out between his teeth. “Hurts.”
“We’ll get you patched up,” Thor promised. “You’ll be fine. Everything will be fine.”
“I’m sorry,” Tony whispered miserably. “I just wanted to make something like that toy you let me play with in Asgard. That was all.”
Thor had never wanted to cry so much in his life. Tony had been enthralled with the glowing toys he’d seen on Asgard, much like Jane had. He should have let him examine them more, like Tony had wanted to, instead of hurrying him along to meet his parents and friends. He should have let Tony tinker. That was what he was best at, after all; he liked taking things apart and seeing how they worked before putting them together again.
Sometimes he forgot that Midgard wasn’t as technologically advanced as Asgard was.
“It’s okay,” Thor said quickly when Tony whimpered another apology. “It’s okay. Everything is going to be fine. You are going to be fine.”
“Okay,” Tony whispered, and then, “Head hurts.”
“I know, darling,” Thor murmured, leaning down just slightly to press a kiss to his forehead. “I know. I’m sorry. I wish I could help more.”
Tony made a sad sound and snuggled closer to his chest, turning his face in closer to block out some of the light, which was still somehow managing to hurt him through his closed eyelids.
“You’ll be okay,” Thor repeated, and wasn’t sure if he was trying to reassure Tony or himself this time.
Because Tony just had to be okay. He had to. Thor didn’t know what he’d do if he wasn’t.
“You left the party,” Rhodey said.
Natasha admired how objective he managed to sound about it. There was no positive or negative tone. Just a bland statement of fact. Most people would sound angry if the maid of honor dipped out on the reception, especially if the other person was the best man. But Rhodey stood loose, unconcerned and unbothered by her having slipped away. Somehow he didn’t even seem mildly curious, despite the fact that he’d come after her.
“My feet hurt,” she said, an easy lie that she’d had prepared the moment she realized she wanted. She wanted, and she could never have.
“Yeah, don’t say that in front of Tony,” Rhodey drawled as he came over to lean against the guardrail beside her. “He designed those shoes himself, remember?”
Natasha frowned, feeling just a smidgen of shame. Tony had come to her excitedly with this new pair of shoes, with hidden blades and garrotes and a lock-picking set in the soles. “So you feel safe and comfortable at the wedding!” he’d said, and she adored him for it.
She hadn’t expected to feel so safe that she would contemplate marriage herself, though. She’d never wanted to get married before. Marriage was dangerous. She even sometimes balked at having to pretend to be married on undercover missions. Spouses could be used against you. And she had so much red in her ledger that someone from deep, deep in her past could find and hurt anyone she even so much as pretended to love.
But the atmosphere had been so bright and happy. Tony had cried at the altar. He’d cried through his vows. He’d cried through the unveiling. He’d cried through the kiss. He’d cried as he turned and said, “Oh my God I’m married. What happens next?” He’d cried as Pepper leaned in to whisper into his ear something that even Clint hadn’t managed to lip-read.
And she wanted that. She wanted someone to feel so overcome with love for her that they couldn’t contain themselves, was unashamed in how overwhelmed with happiness they were that she had chosen to marry them.
Natasha wanted, but she couldn’t stand the idea of endangering anyone close to her.
“Listen,” Rhodey said, and reached out to touch her cheek.
Natasha didn’t flinch even though she was startled. His hand was warm, the calluses on his thumb catching on her skin, but not in an uncomfortable way. She chose to lean into his palm. It felt nice.
“Listen,” he repeated softly. “I can see that you’re having some feelings right now. So am I. But we’re the maid of honor and best man right now. It’s our job to put those feelings aside and make sure that Pepper and Tony have the best wedding reception ever. Tony, at least, will notice we’re not in any of the pictures.”
And he’d be devastated, Rhodey didn’t say. But Natasha didn’t need him to say it anyway. This wedding had been put off for years, whether because of company business or villains that Iron Man needed to help with (or once, memorably, Pepper having a meltdown over buttercream and Tony very wisely deciding their wedding could wait until Pepper wasn’t so stressed) and it had finally happened. Natasha could swallow her melancholy feelings for a few more hours. It’s not like they wouldn’t still be there later.
Natasha took his arm and let him lead her back toward the party. “And what are your feelings about, Colonel?”
“I’m just amazed they actually made it through the wedding with no interruptions,” Rhodey said immediately, making her snort in surprise. “Also? This has been coming for years and I’m so relieved there’s no dancing around each other anymore. Wedding planning was miserable. Tony bought nine separate tuxes in one hour because he was panicking about what Pepper would like. He’s not wearing any of them. I’ve never seen this suit before in my life. Anyway I never have to go through this again. They’re stuck with each other. Maybe I can rest.”
“Rhodey!” Tony called when he spotted them and began waving wildly. “Rhodey, we’re married! I’m gonna adopt ten kids!”
“Oh good,” Rhodey said.
“We’re not adopting ten kids,” Pepper cut in smoothly.
“Nine!” Tony said, delighted. “And you get to babysit! Isn’t that exciting?!”
“We’re not adopting nine kids, either,” Pepper added, but melted when Tony turned and smacked an excited kiss to her mouth. “Maybe eight.”
“What was that you were saying, about maybe you can rest?” Natasha asked, raising an eyebrow a him. She smiled to take some of the sting out of it.
Rhodey looked like he was in physical pain. “Shut up. Oh my God. If they adopt eight kids I’m gonna move to Antarctica.”
“Ha, you know Tony would get into too much trouble without you here,” Natasha said, wrapping her arms around his neck as he led her onto the dance floor. “Pepper would call you back within a week.”
“Probably,” Rhodey sighed. “But would I come? No one can be sure.”
“You’d come,” Natasha answered. “If it was for Tony? You’d drop everything to help him.”
Rhodey looked put out for approximately three seconds before smiling and shaking his head ruefully. “You’re right.”
“I’m always right,” Natasha said. It was an easy lie too. Most people believed this one, though.
“Sure,” Rhodey snorted, apparently one of the few that wasn’t fooled for even a minute.
They danced through three more songs, playfully bickering, until Tony swept over and tore Rhodey away. “We need to dance now!”
“Best men and grooms dancing is not a thing, Tony,” Rhodey said, even as he let Tony drag him away. “Pepper, why are you condoning this?”
“Have fun,” was all Pepper said as Tony dragged him further onto the dance floor. She turned to Natasha and offered her a shy smile. “Do you think maid of honor and bride dances aren’t a thing?”
“You lead, I’ll follow,” Natasha offered, and smiled when Pepper delightedly took her hands.
“I noticed you looked kind of sad earlier, before Jim went to get you,” Pepper said after a moment. “Is everything okay?”
“…Yes,” Natasha said slowly. She was just feeling a little sad and rueful, was all. She’d bounce back quickly enough.
Pepper frowned at her in concern, wanting to press but taking her word for it. “Did you want to talk about it? We can talk later, if you don’t want to talk here, now.”
Natasha turned just slightly and watched as Tony and Rhodey got very into dancing the macarena. For someone who complained so much, Rhodey seemed to be enjoying himself quite a lot. He caught her eye on one of the clap and turns and winked at her, smiling cheekily, before he clapped and turned again.
“It doesn’t matter anymore,” she decided.
Pepper glanced between her and Rhodey for a moment, frowning in confusion, before she suddenly smiled like the cat who got the cream. “Jim’s capable of protecting himself, you know. One time someone kidnapped him to get to Tony and he got so mad about it that he blew the kidnappers out the window with a bomb in the oven.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Natasha sputtered, too shocked for her usual composure in the face of teasing.
“Hmm,” Pepper hummed knowingly, and did not tell Natasha about the velvet box Rhodey had been carrying in his pocket for the last month and a half.
Technically the Pepper/Tony isn't a rare pair but I tagged it anyway because it is a side-pairing just in case.
Chapter 18: Tony/Bucky/Natasha
“I can’t believe you’ve done this,” Tony said.
“Babe,” Bucky began.
“I trusted you,” Tony said.
“Tony,” Natasha tried.
Tony covered his face for a moment before looking back at them, face doing that thing where he looked like he wanted to cry but would never allow himself to. “No. I’m done.”
“Tony,” they choked out.
“We’re done,” Tony repeated, then turned on his heel.
Bucky and Natasha watched him leave, mouths agape.
“…I told you that you should have brought him a donut,” Steve mumbled, then skittered out of the room in terror when Bucky whipped around to glare at him.
“Is it possible this is actually entirely about not bringing him a donut,” Bucky asked in disbelief.
Natasha seriously considered the question. She wasn’t certain if it was impossible and to be honest… It kind of terrified her. “I don’t know.”
“Should I go buy him a donut?” Bucky asked. He did not fidget, but he wanted to.
“…I think it might be too late,” Natasha replied. “Since he’s already broken up with us.”
“He couldn’t have. That wasn’t real,” Bucky said, then turned to look at her, brows furrowed together in confusion. “Was it? Did he actually just break up with us? That was for real?”
Natasha shrugged one shoulder. She wasn’t sure, honestly. Tony could be petty even on the best of days.
But this was over a donut.
Tony came back into the kitchen but made a wide berth around them. “Forgot my coffee,” he muttered when he noticed them staring at him.
“Did you seriously break up with us?” Bucky asked while he had the chance.
“Yes,” Tony said shortly.
“Over a donut?” Natasha asked.
Tony turned to face them sharply but somehow managed not to spill a drop of his coffee, despite his cup being filled to the brim. “No. I broke up with you over a lack of donut.”
“You seriously broke up with us because we didn’t bring you a donut,” Natasha repeated.
“Donuts that Steve bought, by the way, to reward us for getting up at the ass-crack of dawn to go running with him,” Bucky added, hoping the additional clarification would make Tony see how silly he was being.
“Did Steve, or did Steve not, tell you to pick out a donut for me?” Tony asked.
Bucky and Natasha shuffled their feet awkwardly. Steve had, technically, but they had figured that they would finish their donuts before they got back to the tower and it wouldn’t be an issue. Steve had inhaled his three donuts along with his very large vanilla frappe before they even made it halfway home, and Natasha and Bucky hadn’t been too far behind.
“How did you even know we had donuts?” Natasha asked helplessly.
Tony took an obnoxiously loud sip of his coffee. “I always know when someone has had donuts,” he said ominously.
Natasha and Bucky were very strong, intimidating people who had been through many different brands of hell. None of those times could have ever prepared them for how terrifying Tony had been just now.
Tony stared at them with a blank face for a few minutes longer before snorting. “Steve always gets jelly on the collar of his shirt when he gets donuts after a run, you idiots. I don’t have a sixth sense for donuts.”
Bucky hurried to grab a chair and sit down before he fell down in relief. “Oh, good.”
“You had us going there for a minute,” Natasha admitted, because it would be foolish to try and say he hadn’t when they’d obviously been terrified.
“So does this mean you didn’t really break up with us?” Bucky asked, smiling a little.
“No, I still broke up with you,” Tony said immediately.
“WHAT,” Natasha couldn’t help but exclaim, because what the fuck.
Tony took another obnoxious sip of coffee. “But I’ll reconsider if you bring me a donut tomorrow.”
“…But that means we have to go on another run with Steve tomorrow,” Bucky whined. Running with Steve sucked. Natasha could attest to this.
“Oh no,” Tony said in a mock-whiny voice. “And then you’ll have to let him buy you more donuts and coffee like he always does when you go on a run with him. How sad. I’m bleeding for you guys, truly.”
“You could go on a run with Steve if you want donuts so bad,” Natasha mumbled petulantly.
“I am medically not allowed,” Tony answered immediately. “Which usually wouldn’t stop me from doing anything, but it doesn’t really matter, since one of my doctors blabbed to Steve how bad extended runs were for me and now he fusses whenever he sees me jogging on a treadmill.”
Natasha and Bucky both winced. It was true; Tony’s damaged heart and compromised lungs made extensive runs very dangerous for him. They should have known better than to use that against him.
“Bring me a donut, and I’ll reconsider breaking up with you,” Tony said, and then paused before adding, “Probably.”
Bucky and Natasha brought him a half a dozen just to be safe. He said he’d be their boyfriend again, so it must have worked.
Chapter 19: Clint/Sam
Sam was handed a bottle as soon as he entered the door to his apartment.
“What are you all doing here?” Sam asked.
Natasha raised her eyebrows. “We’re here for the party.”
“What party?” Sam asked.
“For your birthday,” she answered slowly, brows furrowing together in what might have been confusion on another person. “It… is your birthday, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Sam said, frowning. “But I didn’t know there was going to be a party. I thought Clint and I were just going to go out to dinner.”
Natasha just stared at him for a moment, looking more like a deer in the headlights than he’d ever seen her, before saying, “Uh, happy birthday,” and turning to go talk to someone else across the room. She did a great rendition of someone not fleeing an awkward conversation, but he knew she was escaping. She hadn’t ribbed him about dating Clint first.
Sam stared after her, then took a small sip from the bottle he’d been given. Craft beer. Perfect balance of hoppy to malty. Clint must have gotten Tony to get the booze. He’d bet his left kidney that there was a case of this in the fridge as part of his birthday present.
Sam sighed, took another sip, then started wending his way through the party to find Clint.
It took some time. Everyone he tried to pass stopped him, wished him a happy birthday, and he wasn’t gonna be an asshole, so he had to give them a little more than a ‘thanks.’ He had to make small-talk. He had to pretend he wasn’t absolutely fucking bewildered to come home and find his apartment packed with people. He had to pretend that he was happy they were here, drinking expensive beer and eating expensive snacks that he’d had no part in choosing.
“How in the world did you get Tony to cater this after the failed New Year’s Eve party,” Sam asked when he finally reached Clint, instead of ‘why the fuck is it wall-to-wall people in my house.’
“He asked what sort of hors d’oeuvres I’d be serving and I told him beef jerky and soda,” Clint said, shrugging. “Maybe deviled eggs if I could be assed.”
“I like your deviled eggs,” Sam said. “They’re the only things you can really make well every time.”
“And I made some for you. They’re in the fridge,” Clint replied. “Anyway Tony was offended by the lack of class so he had your party catered.”
“My party,” Sam repeated. “Yeah. About that.”
Clint turned to look at him, surprised. “That didn’t sound happy. Why aren’t you happy?”
“I didn’t know you were throwing me a party and I was kind of looking forward to a quiet night together,” Sam admitted.
Clint stared at him, mouth hanging open, before finally seeming to gain control of his faculties again and blurting out, “But you wanted a party! You said!”
“I asked if you were having a party,” Sam reminded him calmly. “I didn’t tell you to have a party. I wanted to know so I could figure out our plans.”
“Oh my God,” Clint whispered. “Oh no.”
Sam reached out to place a hand on his shoulder and rub gently. “Hey. It’s okay.”
“You wanted a quiet night and I ruined it.”
“Nothing is ruined,” Sam said, reluctantly amused. “This is fine. I just wish I’d been prepared.”
“I’m sorry,” Clint murmured, looking ashamed. “I–I can kick everyone out?”
“You can’t kick everyone out,” Sam snorted. “Don’t be dumb. Everyone’s having a nice time. I’ll get into the party. Don’t worry about it, okay?”
“I should have known better,” Clint said sadly. “I’m sorry.”
Sam tilted his head, frowning at him in concern, then leaned in to nuzzle his cheek, because that always made Clint smile. “Don’t worry about it,” he insisted gently. “We’ll do something tomorrow instead.”
“Okay,” Clint sighed. “I’m still sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Sam repeated, and then, to keep him from dwelling on it, continued, “Come on. Let’s go enjoy some of the catering Tony brought me for my birthday.”
Clint swiveled around to stare at him as if he’d said something outlandish. “The catering is for Tony. He got you a different gift.”
“Aw,” Sam said. “That’s sweet. A case of this craft beer, right?”
“He made you new wings,” Clint informed him.
Sam wished he’d spewed his beer on literally anyone but the person he ended up spraying.
“Why,” Tony asked, looking wounded.
Sam comforted himself with the knowledge that at least his beer hadn’t shot out his nose like Clint’s did.
Chapter 20: Sam/Tony
Sam nearly tripped over Tony on his way into the kitchen. “Fuck!”
He expected an apology, or a snarky ‘look where you’re going,’ or even a mock-wounded ‘I thought you said you always noticed me?’ But he received nothing. No jokes, no apologies, no waspish remarks. He just stayed there, arms wrapped around his legs, forehead pressed to his knees, rocking back and forth and letting out the softest noises of distress that he’d ever heard.
“Tony?” Sam asked, kneeling beside him. “Honey?”
Tony made no indication that he’d heard him.
Sam considered reaching out to touch him, reassure him that he was there physically, but eventually decided against it. He wouldn’t want to startle Tony, put him on the defense when he was already so vulnerable. “How long has he been like this, JARVIS?” he asked instead, sitting down in front of Tony.
“An hour,” JARVIS replied promptly, concern lacing his voice. “I would have called for help but Sir put me on mute and didn’t have a chance to unmute me before he lost vocal function.”
“An hour,” Sam repeated, aching. An hour Tony had been here, alone, trapped in his own head, in bad memories, with JARVIS unable to help or call for someone else to. “Oh, honey, no.”
Tony continued to rock back and forth, either still unaware that he was there or, worse, ignoring him altogether.
It took another hour for Sam to carefully draw Tony out of his head, let alone be able to touch him without Tony gasping and flinching away. Sam was patient though, even if at times he sort of wished to jump out a window. In some ways, he wished that Tony’s meltdowns were more like the ones he knew best to deal with; he could calm a destructive rage, or restrain a violent patient, but Tony’s meltdowns were quiet, all soft, muffled noises and making himself as small as possible.
It had about broken his heart the first time it happened, watching Tony sink to the floor, cover his mouth, and rock back and forth as he tried to soothe himself.
“You okay?” Sam asked softly after Tony had hesitantly laid his head on his shoulder. He felt Tony nod. “Did something happen?”
“No,” Tony croaked, voice wrecked, like he’d been gargling stone. “It’s not like that.”
“Okay,” Sam said. He gently leaned his head against the smaller man’s, closing his eyes as he listened to Tony’s shaking breaths, felt his trembling shoulders. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Not really,” Tony whispered, turning his head to press his face into his shoulder more.
“Okay,” Sam said again. “Do you want to just sit here for a minute?” It took a few minutes, but he eventually felt Tony hesitantly nod again. “Can I put my arm around you?”
“Mmh,” Tony managed, and then a nod.
Sam carefully lifted his arm to wrap around him, gently pulling Tony in to rest his head on his chest, his ear over his heartbeat. “Alright, honey, come here, come here.”
“‘M sorry,” Tony whispered.
Sam pressed a kiss to his clammy brow. “Nothing to apologize for, sweetheart,” Sam promised. “Just sit here and be quiet with me for a minute, okay?”
Tony said nothing, just nuzzled his chest lightly.
Sam pressed another kiss to his brow before pulling out his phone. He had the Kindle app. He could sit here with Tony as long as he needed.
Chapter 21: Clint/Steve
“Hey,” Steve said as he walked into their apartment.
“Steve,” Clint said, not looking away from the video game he was playing. “Just the man I was looking for!”
Steve rolled his eyes fondly and pressed a kiss to the top of his head on his way by. “You weren’t looking for anyone.”
“Well, I was going to,” Clint reasoned, and kissed in his general direction. “Mwah! Anyway, I just had the best idea!”
“Mm,” Steve acknowledged, pleased to find about an inch of coffee left at the bottom of the pot. He poured the last of it into a mug and took a sip.
“I’m gonna marry Tony!” Clint explained.
Steve spewed the coffee back out.
“Yeah, we have it all worked out!” he continued. “Tony needs to get his parents off his back and I like money so he’ll pay me a monthly allowance for being his husband! I don’t have to do anything with him except look cute which, I mean, come on. It’s me. I’m always cute.”
“What about us?!” Steve choked out.
“Well, you can’t live with us,” Clint reasoned. “The divorce won’t be amicable if the press drag you into it.”
Steve stared at him, bewildered, coffee dripping down his chin. “Can you start at the beginning please?”
“Okay, so, it’s like this,” Clint said. “Tony’s parents are really getting on him to settle down and have a family. Which, you know, I guess I can understand, because him and Pepper were really good together. She made him a better person. But now that they’ve broken up, his parents are terrified that he’s going to ‘regress’ back into ‘playboy’ again. Which, unfair, you know, because he’s a slut, not a playboy–”
“Yes, we’re all aware of how… Tony was,” Steve managed.
Clint tipped his head back over the couch to narrow his eyes at him. “Tony knows he was a slut, Steve.”
“I don’t like that word,” Steve said.
“Yeah, that’s why Tony uses it to describe himself so much.”
Steve scowled. “I knew it!”
“Anyway,” Clint continued, turning back to his game. “Tony’s parents are throwing all these ‘well-bred’ people at him hoping to make a match and at this point Tony just kind of wants to be left alone. ‘Licking his wounds from Pepper’ and everything, you know?”
Steve considered this, frowning. “I mean… it’s been a year since he and Pepper broke up. I’m kind of worried about him too.”
“Don’t be, he’s just feeling sorry for himself now,” Clint assured him. “He was over her and considering dating two months ago. He even asked Pepper for help! Of course you know, she was hesitant to do that because she, at least, as a sense of propriety…”
“I mean… propriety isn’t the word I’d use…” Steve muttered.
Clint continued his explanation, ignoring him. “So we’ve known each other a long time, right? And he was like ‘I wish I could just marry you and get my parents off my back.’ And I laughed and said ‘only if you pay me’ because I’m an asshole like that. And he got that glint in his eye, you know the one?”
“Unfortunately,” Steve deadpanned. That glint in Tony’s eye had gotten him in jail several times. One day he’d learn.
“And he said he’d pay me to be his husband for a year and then we’d have an amicable break up and he’d make sure my alimony was good. Then his parents would feel bad about pushing him into marriage and they’ll leave him alone!”
“Clint, this is a horrible idea,” Steve said. “Also? Putting our relationship on hold for a year? Really not feeling it, babe.”
Clint was silent for several minutes.
“You didn’t think that far ahead, did you?” Steve asked, smiling.
“I don’t want to not have sex with you for a year!” Clint wailed.
“Glad to know it’s just the sex you’d miss.” Steve grabbed a towel to clean up his mess. He smirked at Clint only partially in a joking manner. “Also think of all those galas you’d have to go to, all those politicians you’d have to glad-hand. Oh! And family dinners with Mr. and Mrs. Stark every Sunday! Tony talked about him and Pepper going to those and how much they sucked a lot.”
“Steve Steve Steve oh my God I already agreed to it you have to help me,” Clint exclaimed, terrified. “Tony’s gonna be so disappointed he already chose a venue and everything! Steve help!”
Steve was taken aback for a moment, because Tony was really doing this? Then he sighed. Of course Tony was really doing this. “Clint…”
“I just wanted to help him… His parents set him up on a date with Tiberius, Steve,” Clint said sadly.
Tony’s parents hadn’t known about Tony’s short-lived (and abusive) relationship with Tiberius, Steve remembered sadly. Tony had been so secretive, so scared they’d hate him for not being straight, and Tiberius had taken advantage of it. Of course Tony was terrified of something like that happening again. Of course he’d be willing to get married to someone he actually liked, even if it was only for appearances. And of course Clint would agree to it to protect Tony. They’d been protecting each other in different ways for over a decade.
“Has he bought you a suit yet?” he asked.
Clint frowned at him. “No.”
“Great,” Steve said, pulling out his phone. “Hey, Bucky? You still need a job? How would you like to be a professional husband?”
“Steve you’re the best!” Clint exclaimed happily. “Come here and drop your pants! I’m gonna suck you off for this!”
“Shh!” Steve hissed, and then exclaimed, “No, this isn’t shady!”
“It’s a little shady,” Clint argued, getting up to walk over to him and start unbuttoning his pants.
“Quit it! I’m trying to save your ass,” Steve said, batting his hands away. “No, I’m not letting him suck me off while I’m on the phone to you. Listen, this is important, okay? Tony needs–yeah, Tony. He needs to get married and I figure you’re handsome enough–”
Clint could hear Bucky’s screeching of ‘what do you mean handsome enough?!’ through the phone. He carefully turned down his hearing aids.
“The shit I go through for you,” Steve tried to scold him, but it mostly came off as fond. Clint smiled at him and shrugged. Steve knew he loved him for it.
Chapter 22: Thor/Bruce
Bruce sighed and took off his glasses, using his free hand to rub his tired eyes. “JARVIS, how long have I been working?”
“Seventeen hours and thirty-seven minutes, Dr. Banner,” JARVIS replied promptly. “In twenty-three minutes I am required to engage the Puppy Eyes Protocol and direct Thor down to collect you.”
“Almost eighteen hours,” Bruce mumbled to himself, and now that he said it out loud, he could feel it; his tense, tight shoulders, the strain in his back, the heaviness of his feet. He pushed his microscope away and crossed his arms on the table, leaning his head on them with a groan. “Do you have to use the Puppy Eyes Protocol if I fall asleep right here?”
“I’ll be forced to contact Thor immediately if you fall asleep right there, Dr. Banner,” JARVIS said, the faintest tone of amusement coloring his voice.
Bruce groaned long and loud to convey his displeasure before peeling himself off his stool and shuffling over to the elevator. Now that he was up, though, he was kind of hungry… Maybe there was some supper left over. Once they’d started dating, Thor had begun saving a plate for him.
He couldn’t help a fond, amused smile at the thought. It was always a huge plate, because Thor had no idea how much a normal human ate. It wasn’t his fault, though–Natasha rarely ate in front of people, and Clint, Tony, and Steve were really no basis for healthy eating. Bruce was just thankful that Thor was willing to eat his ‘leftovers,’ otherwise he might feel bad about it.
Bruce stumbled into the common kitchen and couldn’t help a happy noise when he saw Thor pulling a plate of Thai food from the microwave. “Please tell me that’s for me.”
“JARVIS informed me that you were on your way up,” Thor said, turning, and then froze.
Bruce made grabby hands. “Don’t tease me. I’m so hungry I might eat your hand.”
Thor wordlessly set the plate on the table.
Bruce greedily grabbed some silverware and dug in.
“Bruce,” Thor said after a moment, sitting down opposite him. “May I ask, perchance, what you were doing in your lab?”
“Studying samples of the sentient slime we fought the other day,” Bruce mumbled around some pad thai.
“I see,” Thor said. “And… you were using a pencil to write down your findings?”
Bruce slowed his chewing as he lifted his head to look at him. “…No,” he said slowly. “What I didn’t dictate to JARVIS, I used the pen Tony gave me.”
“The novelty Hulk pen with the dark green ink?” Thor asked innocently.
“What are you hiding?” Bruce asked, narrowing his eyes at him.
Thor’s face did something strange, and then he let out the most hysterical little giggle before he lifted a hand to cover his mouth.
Bruce continued to glare at him, confused.
“Hey Bruce are you gonna eat all that OH MY GOD,” Clint shouted, jerking to a stop, then began backing out of the room quickly. “Never mind!”
“What?” Bruce asked sharply.
“Nothing, I just–cannot be in here at this time,” Clint said quickly. “Good luck with your Hulk eyes. Goodbye forever.”
Bruce stared after him, bewildered, before looking back at Thor. “Hulk eyes!?”
“It appears that the craftsmanship of your novelty Hulk pen was… hmm…. shoddy,” Thor explained.
Bruce gaped at him, then whipped out his phone when he remembered rubbing his eyes after finally jotting down the chemical makeup of the slime’s nucleus, using the camera on his phone to see. “No, no, no, no–”
Thor let out another desperate giggle.
“No, no, no FUCK!!!!” Bruce shouted when he saw the dark green ink smeared around his eyes.
“Green is a good color on you,” Thor offered.
“SHUT THE FUCK UP,” Bruce snapped at him, and then when Thor began laughing, shouted, “Why don’t you take a picture?! It’ll last longer!”
“Oh no,” Thor choked out, sliding out of his chair and clutching his stomach, he was laughing so hard. “Bruce, I–I’m sorry–”
“JARVIS, what was in that ink? Can I just wash it off?” Bruce whined.
“Unfortunately it appears to be permanent ink,” JARVIS answered apologetically. “Since the skin around your eyes is delicate and sensitive, might I suggest rubbing your skin with olive oil?”
Bruce sighed, defeated. “Okay. Thanks, JARVIS.”
JARVIS, blessedly, stayed silent. Bruce wasn’t sure he could take anything more.
“I’ll help with the olive oil, Bruce,” Thor offered once he’d stopped laughing.
“Thanks,” Bruce said miserably.
Thor got up and stepped over to him, leaning down to press a kiss to the top of his head. “I still think green is a very good color on you though.”
Bruce tilted his head back to stare up at him, stone-faced.
“I’ll just go get the bathroom ready,” Thor added hastily, and fled under Bruce’s blank stare.
Tony saw both Pepper and Rhodey storming toward him and tried to flee in terror.
“Tony!” they bellowed, then turned to glare at each other sharply.
“Move, oh my God,” Tony begged, but Steve was too confused to react as quickly as he needed to, so they were both trapped by the door when Pepper and Rhodey finally cornered him.
“Tony,” Pepper began. “Tell Jim he’s an asshole!”
Rhodey shouted over her. “Tony, please tell Ms. Potts that she’s being an idiot!”
Steve bravely put himself between them and Tony. Tony would make sure his funeral was nice.
“I’m not being an idiot,” Pepper hissed, just as Rhodey snapped, “I’m not being an asshole!”
“You’re both being pretty shitty, involving Tony in your fight,” Steve deadpanned. He valiantly did not flinch when they turned their glares on him. He would die a fighter.
“Well maybe if Jim wasn’t such an asshole,” Pepper began.
“I’M NOT BEING AN ASSHOLE,” Rhodey snarled.
Tony peeked up over Steve’s shoulder, frightened but also nosy. “What’s going on?”
“Pepper keeps insisting we elope!” Rhodey snapped, because he’d known Tony for over twenty years and knew how he worked–he was unbiased, mostly, unless you got to him first with something he had feelings about.
“I’m only insisting because I don’t want the stress of a wedding,” Pepper snapped back.
“…But you’re great under pressure,” Tony said, confused.
Pepper looked like she might murder him. Steve took a step to the side to hide Tony from her view again.
“Why?” Rhodey asked suddenly. “Why don’t you want to have a wedding?”
“I told you, I just don’t want to deal with all the media bullshit that’ll come with it!” Pepper snapped. “We can elope and then quietly announce our marriage with a tasteful press release and not worry about it!”
Steve yelped as Tony scaled him and braced himself on the wall to catch them both from falling as Tony leaned over him, pointing in Pepper’s face, and shouted, “That’s your omission face! You are lying by omission!”
“…She has a different face for the types of lies she tells?” Rhodey asked, stunned.
Pepper bared her teeth, a wordless threat to bite the finger Tony was pointing in her face off. Tony slid back down behind Steve, terrified.
“What are you omitting?” Rhodey asked.
“It doesn’t matter,” Pepper answered immediately.
“You said that communication is how relationships work!” Tony said over Steve’s shoulder, voice accusing.
Pepper at least had the decency to soften her glare at him. “You’re right. I did say that. After you hid the fact that you were dying from palladium poisoning.”
“You said it extended to other things!” Tony exclaimed, still accusing.
“Okay,” Steve said, turning and hoisting Tony over his shoulder. “We’re done. Bye.”
“COMMUNICATION! IS! KEY!” Tony howled as he was carried away. “That’s what you said! That’s what you saaaaiiiid!!!!”
Pepper and Rhodey watched them go.
“…I don’t want to be alone at my wedding,” Pepper ground out, then turned on her heel to stomp away.
“What?!” Rhodey choked out. He hurried after her before she could get away, because she was alarmingly like Tony that way–she shocked people and then fled while they were stunned. “Hey, no! Come back here! Repeat that!”
“You heard me the first time,” Pepper said. “Just–forget it. Drop it. We’ll have a wedding. I don’t care.”
Rhodey grabbed her hand, and she reluctantly slowed to a stop. “Pepper.”
“Just forget it,” she croaked again.
“I will not forget it,” Rhodey said. “We can’t go back in time, so stop trying to reverse what you said.”
“I’m not–” Pepper began, but then her voice cracked. She looked down at her shoes, teeth biting into her bottom lip, feeling so helpless and loss.
“What do you mean, you don’t want to be alone at your wedding?” Rhodey asked softly.
“Your side of the venue would be full of people who are so happy for you, Jim,” Pepper hiccupped. “Your family has been so kind and accepting of me. But Jim… Jim, no one from my side of the family would come.”
Rhodey paused, considering this, before saying, “What about your weird Uncle Morgan?”
Pepper giggled reluctantly, lifting her hand to wipe her eyes. “Uncle Morgan is against marriage.”
“God, he really is so fucking weird,” Rhodey sighed, exasperated.
Pepper giggled again, then sniffled softly. “I just–I just feel so embarrassed, Jim. Your family has been so sweet to me and mine–” She stopped, then continued, ashamed, “They only contact me to ask for money, anymore.”
“Fuck them,” Rhodey told her with a vehemence that startled her. “Fuck. Them. You’re wonderful and they’re missing out. They don’t deserve you.”
Pepper smiled wetly. “Jim…”
“We can elope,” Rhodey offered. “We can elope, okay? And just have a huge reception to celebrate, where everyone will ask where your family is and Tony will gleefully tell them they’re even more awful than his was and they’ll adopt you into our family just like they adopted him.”
“Jim,” Pepper said tremulously.
Rhodey smiled at her encouragingly. “Yeah?”
“We can invite your parents to the courthouse,” she said softly. “And I’ll have Tony and Happy be my witnesses. I want them included, I just… I wish my family loved me as much as yours love you.”
Rhodey tried not to let his heart break and failed immediately. Tony had said that too, once, a broken young man who was friendlier with a bottle than with people. “Good thing about the Rhodes clan,” he said around the lump in his throat. “We have plenty of love to go around.”
Pepper let out a broken little laugh and then buried her face in his shoulder. Rhodey stroked a hand down her trembling back gently and wished people were nicer to the ones he loved.
The most difficult part of writing anything with Rhodey is deciding whether he's Jim or Rhodey.
Also took some creative liberty with Pepper telling Tony "You're all I have too."
Chapter 24: Thor/Tony
“What are you doing?” Thor asked, amused.
Tony did not turn from flexing in the mirror. “Looking at all my faults.”
“Stop that,” Thor said immediately, walking over to flick the back of his head.
Tony hissed and grabbed the back of his head, clutching where he’d gotten him. “Hey!”
Thor rubbed his back soothingly. “Stop whining. What are you really doing? Are you doing that thing where you flex and then pretend you’re me?”
“…I was pretending to be Steve,” Tony admitted, blushing a little.
“Oh,” Thor said, amused. “And what was Steve saying? How kind and handsome and sweet you are?”
“No, he was telling me how intimidating I was,” Tony said. “And how he could trust me to face off with Doom.”
Thor was silent for several minutes.
“What?” Tony asked haughtily.
“Nothing, it’s just…” Thor began. “Darling… you’re not very intimidating.”
Tony reacted just as Thor had imagined he would–immediately and explosively.
“What! I am the most intimidating!” Tony howled. “I am Iron Man! I was once called the Merchant of Death! My suit has more weapons on it than most tanks!”
Thor cupped his cheeks and leaned down to press a kiss to his forehead. “Yes. But you’re also very small and cute.”
“Everyone’s small compared to you!” Tony shouted, incensed. “And! I’m not cute! I’m handsome! I’m ruggedly attractive! I’m suave! I’m–”
“Cute,” Thor cut in, and then caught Tony’s hands before he could start swinging. “Absolutely tiny and adorable.”
“I can’t believe you’d treat me like this!” Tony wailed. “Me! Your boyfriend! Treated like a common criminal!”
“Tony,” Thor said, amused. “I don’t call common criminals ‘adorable.’”
“You called the last alien invasion adorable!” Tony accused.
“The last alien invasion was tiny purple kittens,” Thor reminded him patiently. “And all they really wanted was fish because their planet had hunted their prey to near extinction and they were at risk of starving. And also, in my defense, they were not common criminals either.”
“So you’re saying I’m just as threatening as hungry, tiny purple kittens,” Tony said miserably.
Thor did not tell him that the kittens had also had an arsenal of weapons on their tiny ship which would have devastated Earth. He was honestly lucky that the Felite had found the Midgardians as adorable as the Midgardians had found them.
“I like that you’re not intimidating,” Thor said easily. “You’re disarming. You make people feel at ease. That’s a much better super power than being intimidating, don’t you think?”
Tony looked unsure, but after some thought, he reluctantly agreed. “I guess.”
“And look at the bright side! You don’t need to intimidate Doom!” Thor added. “He wants to have sex with you so it’s important to him not to intimidate you.”
Tony nodded along, frowning, then paused. “Wait what. Doom doesn’t want to fuck me.”
“The entire reason he lost the last battle was because he slammed face-first into a building because he was busy staring at your ass in the flight suit,” Thor deadpanned.
Tony stared up at him wonderingly before grinning the smuggest grin ever. “Well, he does rule his own country…”
Thor took the bait. “I am the prince of an entire realm!”
Tony laughed, then squeaked when Thor decided to try and tickle him into submission, fleeing.
Chapter 25: Clint/Tony
Tony felt soft kisses being pressed to his spine and hummed quietly, smiling, arching his back to get closer to them. It was so nice. He felt warm, rested, so safe and content.
Safe and content.
“OW fuck!” Clint exclaimed, clutching his eye. It was sure to bruise and swell within the next hour. “What did you do that for!?”
“Clint?” Tony asked, and the way his voice shook made his ire fade.
“Yeah, honey,” he sighed. “It’s me.” He melted a little when Tony immediately came closer, wrapping his arms around him and clinging like a limpet. Clint held him back gently, stroking his fingers through his hair and kissing his temple softly. “It’s me.”
Tony buried his face in his chest and let out a harsh breath in lieu of a sob, then leaned back, reaching out for the lamp on his bedside table to turn it on.
Clint cupped his cheeks, thumb stroking over a cheekbone gently when Tony whimpered. “Hey, hey, it’s okay.”
“Clint, what’s going on? How did you get in here?” Tony whispered. “Aunt Peggy had me brought to this safe house and the only people supposed to be allowed inside are her, Coulson, and Fury. I know something big must have happened but no one will tell me what it was. They won’t let me call my parents or Obie or Rhodey. What’s happened?”
“Oh, honey,” Clint said around the lump in his throat, pulling him back into his arms.
He didn’t know how to explain that as soon as Coulson, Fury, or Carter found out he was there that he’d be in for the reaming out of a lifetime. He didn’t know how to tell him that he’d had to use Tony’s fledgling AI to break into the files to find out where he was. He didn’t know how to tell him that he’d dodged several agents toting lots of guns on the way in. He didn’t know how to tell Tony that his parents were dead, and it looked seriously like Obadiah was the one behind it.
Clint didn’t know how to tell him, so he held him instead, fingers biting into his flesh hard enough to bruise.
“Oh,” Tony whispered, air punched out of him. Clint had always rushed to assure him when he could. And he wasn’t doing that now. He was smart enough to figure out the basics of what that meant.
His parents were dead, and he was being held in the safe house for his own protection as SHIELD worked to neutralize the threat to him. He wondered how long that would be, under the numbness creeping over him.
“Please stay,” Tony begged before he could stop himself. “Please don’t go. Stay with me, Clint, please.”
“Of course,” Clint answered immediately, even though he was technically due to check in with Coulson in an hour. Well, his handler was gonna have to find out about him and Tony sometime. Best to get it over with quickly, he supposed. “Of course I’ll stay. Come here, baby. Come here.”
Tony crawled into his lap and buried his face in the blond’s shoulder even though he knew that tears wouldn’t come. He was in too much shock. He didn’t have the energy or the emotion to cry. He just wanted to be held. “Tell me a story,” he whispered desperately. “Any story. Just don’t let me think.”
“Once upon a time,” Clint began, and smiled a little when Tony managed to huff the weakest, saddest laugh. “There was this really cute guy at the bar. Problem was, he was talking to the hitman I was trying to corner and arrest. So I seduced him away from the hitman with my charm and rugged good looks.”
“You tried to hop onto the bar stool next to me and fell off,” Tony corrected shyly.
Clint shrugged. “‘S all part of the Barton charm.”
“You almost broke your coccyx.”
“Whatever, it would’ve healed,” Clint replied, unconcerned. “Anyway, shush, I’m trying to tell you a story. So I seduced him away from the hitman and we went back to his apartment where I wowed him with my sexual prowess.”
“You hit your shin on the coffee table and insisted you were dying,” Tony pointed out.
“Okay, so I have no charm,” Clint admitted. “But I must have done something right. I got you, didn’t I?”
Tony blushed a little and buried his face in Clint’s shoulder. “Yes.”
“Anyway, so I wowed the guy with my sexual prowess,” Clint continued, just to hear Tony giggle a little. “And then I absolutely fucking botched not letting my emotions get the better of me. Can you blame me, though? First person who didn’t laugh when I said I grew up in the circus. I was doomed from the start.”
Tony smiled shyly against his shirt. “I thought it was neat.”
Clint turned his head to press a kiss to his hair. Tony hadn’t been the first person who didn’t laugh; he’d been the first person who hadn’t judged him poorly for it. But he wouldn’t tell him that. As jaded as Tony was, he was also incredibly naive in other ways.
“Please don’t go,” Tony whispered. “Tell me another story.”
“I’ll stay with you as long as you want me here,” Clint promised. “Also? Good job with that elbow to my face. Excellent form.”
Tony let out a sharp puff of air instead of an actual laugh, but it was something, Clint decided, launching into how he’d had to go track the hitman down once he’d made stuffed french toast for the cute guy from the bar and promised to meet for dinner the next night, and how unhappy his handler had been about it. He’d tell Tony all the stories he wanted, until he was in a place where he could actually absorb what had happened to him. Even if some of them were technically confidential.
What were his bosses gonna do? Scold him for loving somebody? Please. He’d grown up in the circus. People being mad at him didn’t even begin to upset him.
Chapter 26: Clark Kent/Tony Stark
Clark had thought that Tony and Bruce would be more alike than they were. He didn’t know why, now that he thought about it. Perhaps because, like everyone else who looked at them on the surface, he’d failed to see the people they really were in the beginning.
Yes, they both were rich, incredibly intelligent, and appeared to be selfish, aloof, and approachable in a smarmy way, but that was where all similarities ended. Where Bruce held people at a distance, Tony allowed others close. Where Bruce was cryptic, Tony would overshare. They were both awkward in their own ways, but where Bruce was emotionally constipated, Tony was overly clingy.
“I think it was because Bruce’s parents actually liked him, so losing them was worse for him, and he pushes people away because of that,” Tony said thoughtfully.
Clark choked on his champagne. “Tony! Don’t say that!”
“Yeah, Tony,” Bruce added, and Clark was relieved for his agreement until he continued, “Your mom liked you just fine.”
Clark stared at him.
Bruce frowned. “What? I mean yeah his mother was busy and somewhat emotionally distant but at least she said she loved and was proud of him a couple times.”
Tony, horrifyingly, looked pleased with this.
Clark just stared at them, feeling a maelstrom of emotions, most of them bad. Jonathan and Martha had adopted him and loved him without hesitation. It killed him to know that Tony, who was so brilliant and clever and kind, had had parents who were not nearly as involved. He felt lucky, again, that his parents had found him and decided that he was theirs, instead of sending him elsewhere.
“Clark?” Tony asked after a moment, frowning, and reached out to touch his shoulder. “Honey? You okay?”
“Sometimes you both say things and I just feel sad,” Clark admitted.
Both Bruce and Tony seemed to consider this before shrugging it off. “I mean. We are kind of sad,” Tony pointed out. “Two orphans who inherited their families’ fortunes and legacies too soon? At least Bruce didn’t have to wait until he was forty to get blown up by a bomb to see how shallow he was.”
“Tony,” Clark choked out.
“It probably helped that I had Alfred,” Bruce offered. “You lost Jarvis early, too.”
“Yeah,” Tony said. “And you also never did cocaine. That was a good move on your part.”
Bruce tilted his head. “Fair.”
“Please stop talking,” Clark begged. “Please. Please oh my God stop.”
Tony stared up at him, bewildered.
Another thing that could be said for Bruce that couldn’t for Tony–he was able to understand that normal people were put off by their childhoods. “Tony, why don’t you and Clark go dance?”
“Why don’t I just let a tractor run over my toes,” Tony complained immediately, turning to look up at Clark. “Didn’t Lois teach you how to dance at all? Awful. The least she could have done was teach you rhythm. You’re a giant. Giants should know how to move without squishing people.”
“Sorry,” Clark said. “Guess you’ll have to dance with someone else.”
“No, I’m gonna dance with you anyway,” Tony declared, and shoved his champagne flute into Bruce’s hand. “Hold this.”
“But what about your toes?” Clark sputtered as Tony grabbed his hand to drag him onto the dance floor.
“They’ll heal,” Tony replied, then wrapped his arms around Clark’s neck. “Besides, we’re gonna dance the Diana way. If you step on my feet somehow during this, you’ll actually impress me.”
Clark rested his hands on Tony’s waist, raising an eyebrow. “The Diana way? How often have you danced with Diana?”
“Maybe if you came to more of Bruce’s parties you’d know,” Tony replied coyly.
Clark managed a smile. “People talk if a reporter makes regular appearances at Bruce Wayne’s parties.”
“No offense, Clark,” Tony deadpanned. “But people talk more about Tony Stark’s love muffin not showing up to parties with him.”
“Please don’t call me your love muffin,” Clark asked.
Tony leered at him. “What should I call you then?”
“Your boyfriend,” Clark deadpanned immediately. “Significant other. Partner. Literally anything else.”
“Fun police,” Tony muttered mulishly. “I’m gonna get dirt on you from Lois and then you can’t be mean to me because she knows all your dirty secrets.”
Clark may have threatened to step on Tony’s toes to get him indignant about something else and get his mind off interrogating Lois. Lois liked Tony. She’d have no problem telling Tony about the first night he’d stayed at her apartment and he’d walked into her bedroom door and knocked it off its hinges.
Chapter 27: Thor/Tony
“You lost him,” Loki accused, nearly vibrating with glee.
“I did not lose him,” Thor answered hotly. “I gave him very simple instructions–put on the clothes left on his bed and come to the dining hall for the celebration of our engagement. He is an adult who knows how to follow directions.”
“But he’s not in the hall,” Loki said coyly.
Thor gritted his teeth. “He is not.”
“And he’s not in his bedroom.”
“And you don’t know where he is,” Loki added smugly.
Thor took a deep breath, then let it back out slowly. “I don’t.”
“So you lost him!”
“LOKI I SWEAR ON OUR ANCESTORS,” Thor bellowed, swiping at him, but Loki dodged out of reach quickly, cackling. “Just help me find him before Mother and Father realize we’re late! This isn’t going to reflect well on Anthony or me and I just–” He took another deep breath and sighed, shoulders falling. “…I want mother and father to like him.”
Loki had been about to make another joke at his expense, but even he had some sympathy for trying to impress their parents. Thor had agonized over the right time to introduce them to Tony for ages, and Tony was great at talking big, but Loki had overheard him fretfully whispering to Thor ‘what if they don’t like me?’ And, for all that Loki liked making their lives hellish, Tony’s voice had been so small and scared, he couldn’t hold it against him.
“I saw him go that way,” Loki sighed, pointing further down the hall.
“You saw him and were just going to let me–” Thor began, incensed, then sighed. Of course Loki would just let him wander around, anxious. “Thanks.”
“I’ll go distract Mother and Father,” Loki added, and then flounced away before Thor could do something embarrassing, like give him a heartfelt ‘thank you’ or a genuine hug.
Thor swore he’d hug him later when he couldn’t escape and turned to go where Loki had pointed.
He found Tony in the forge, of all places.
“Tony,” he said, trying to keep his voice level. “This is the opposite of what I told you to do.”
“I just thought,” Tony began, twisting a hammer in his hands awkwardly. “I mean–I’m not an Asgardian. They’ll probably be really disappointed you didn’t choose one of your own people. So I thought… maybe if I showed them that I could be useful… I mean…”
“They will either like you or they will not,” Thor informed him firmly. “If they like you, then great. If they do not, I will have Loki set all the tablecloths on fire and we will make a daring escape in the ensuing pandemonium.”
Tony giggled reluctantly. “Thor, don’t be ridiculous.”
Thor did not tell him that he’d already planned this out with Loki and had had to promise Loki a couple favors in the case that he did not get to set the tablecloths on fire. “Just come get dressed, darling. I had them make your favorite dessert. Okay?”
Tony fiddled with the hammer a little longer before setting it aside. “Okay.” He looked up at Thor and raised his eyebrows. “They really made me a blackout cake?”
“…Asgardian equivalent,” Thor admitted. “But! Our cocoa is very decadent. So it should be… fine.”
“I’m more worried about the pudding filling,” Tony said.
“Pudding,” Thor repeated, dumbfounded.
Tony frowned up at him. “Yeah, you put pudding between the layers instead of frosting.”
“…Well we’re all going to be in for a treat,” Thor said after a long pause. Tony laughed, luckily, so it would probably all turn out alright. Probably.
Chapter 28: Sam/Tony
Sam saw Tony peeking through the window into the classroom he was sitting in and lifted his book to hide his face. He heard the door open and knew that he’d failed in hiding quickly enough, if he’d even had a chance to begin with.
“Detention?” Tony asked gleefully. “Again?”
“Stark, unless you also have detention, you can’t be here,” Mr. Coulson said, not looking up from the essays he was grading.
Tony batted his eyes at him, somehow managing to look innocent despite the fact that he was actually the devil. “But Mr. Coulson, I was told to give your computer more RAM!”
Mr. Coulson lifted his head to give Tony a long stare. Sam was reluctantly impressed; even Sharon had withered under Mr. Coulson’s gaze, including times she’d been fueled by righteous fury. Tony, however, didn’t look bothered at all.
“I’m going to go get a cup of water. You have two minutes,” Mr. Coulson said, standing from his desk.
Tony didn’t even wait for him to leave the room before bouncing over to Sam and attempting to plop into his lap. “Sammy!”
“Don’t call me that,” Sam ordered, and shoved him off his lap immediately.
“Sam!” Tony gasped, hurt, eyes going big and dewy.
Bucky looked like he was going to have an aneurysm. Maybe Sam should have let Tony stay on his lap. “You’re not fooling anyone here,” he told Tony firmly.
Tony sighed and rolled his eyes, showing he hadn’t actually been hurt, and got to his feet, dusting himself off. “Fine. So what are you in for? Cheating on a test? Getting in a fight?”
“We blew up our lab station,” Sam replied.
“…That’s not interesting at all,” Tony declared. “How do you expect me to keep finding you attractive? Where’s your mystery? Where’s your suavity? Where’s your sense of passion?”
“We were in high school chemistry lab, Tony, not a James Bond film,” Bucky deadpanned.
Sam gathered Tony into his lap again, offended. “Don’t talk to my boyfriend in that tone of voice or I’ll blow us up again.”
Bucky sputtered. “You told Pym that it was my fault!”
Sam turned his nose up at him, curling his arms around Tony’s waist. “I told you that if you were going to be an idiot and dick around that I was going to botch the experiment.”
“Is Natasha in your chem lab?” Tony asked gleefully. “I bet she is! He was trying to be loud to get her attention and ignored your lab work!”
Both Sam and Bucky goggled at him. “How did you know that?” Bucky exclaimed, mortified.
“Because Natasha and I sit together in Home Ec. and she complains about how you haven’t asked her out yet even though she’s given you tons of hints,” Tony declared, smug.
“What?!” Bucky squeaked in disbelief.
“Yeah, Tony,” Sam said, surprised. “I thought you were banned from taking Home Ec.”
“Oh, well, Mama promised to pay for any damages I cause as long as I learn how to reliably bake cookies by myself,” Tony began.
“No what the fuck shut up?!” Bucky barked. “Go back!? Natasha wants me to ask her out?! She always looks so annoyed when I talk to her! Or worse, uninterested.”
Tony gave Bucky a derisive look before looking back at Sam. “Boys are such idiots. I’m so glad you’re an exception, Sam.”
“Aw, babe,” Sam cooed, leaning in to press a kiss to his cheek.
“Gross,” Bucky muttered, scowling at them.
Mr. Coulson came striding back into the room. “Your two minutes are up.”
“Wagh!” Tony yelped as Sam immediately shoved him off his lap again.
“Go about your business, Stark,” Mr. Coulson continued. “And stop teasing Barnes. Everyone remembers the time he wrote Romanova a song.”
Bucky sank in his seat miserably. Everyone did remember that. He wished people would forget.
“Fine,” Tony complained. “But only because it’s you, Mr. Coulson.”
If Sam looked closely enough, he could swear that Mr. Coulson was amused, but sometimes it was hard to tell.
Tony installed the extra RAM in Mr. Coulson’s computer before scampering out with a happy, “See you after detention, schmoopsie poopsie pie!”
Sam sighed when both Mr. Coulson and Bucky turned to raise their eyebrows at him. At least this time Tony hadn’t called him ‘my sweet honey snuffleupagus.’ That had been embarrassing. Tony’d called him that in front of Steve, who had grinned like the cat who got the cream and still made fun of him for it to this day.
Chapter 29: Clint/Sam
“Now listen, just let me do all the talking,” Sam heard Clint say in the distance. He groaned and tipped his gaze skyward, long-suffering.
“Clint’s shenanigans?” Steve asked sympathetically.
Sam’s sigh said everything he needed to know.
“Heeeey!” Clint said as he and Bucky entered the clearing, trying to be as casual as possible.
“That’s a baby,” Sam said immediately.
Clint froze, then cleared his throat. “Yes! It is a baby!”
“That’s a human baby,” Steve said, scowling at them. “Why do you have a human baby? Did you steal it?”
“We didn’t steal it!” Bucky snapped.
Clint drew himself up indignantly. “Yeah! It was given to us!”
“Who trusted you with a human baby?!” Sam exclaimed, because he wouldn’t have.
“Great,” Steve sighed. “Now we have to take it to Ma.”
“No, I’m keeping it,” Clint argued. “If you take it, I won’t kiss you!”
Sam sputtered. “Wh-Wait! No! Don’t take kissing away from me!”
Clint began to look smug, because he knew how much Sam liked kissing.
“Sam,” Steve said sternly. “We’re taking the baby to Ma.”
“But,” Clint began, dismayed.
Sometimes they forgot that Steve was a prince. Then he did things like this, snarling, “Take the baby to the queen right now,” with just the smallest flash of magic, and they were surprised they ever could have forgotten it.
“You brought a human child into our realm?!” Sarah asked sharply as soon as they stepped into the throne room.
Bucky ducked his head immediately, because he’d gotten enough scoldings from Sarah to know that to expedite matters was to show deferment.
Clint had come from a different court, though, so he shouted back, “It was given to us by another fae and we were told to take it with us!”
Sarah stared him down, but he did not waver, instead holding the baby closer and giving her a scowl. Sam would never tell Clint how aroused this made him because he’d doubtlessly go and do something reckless and die to try and impress him again.
Sarah approached him, and Clint held the baby to his chest protectively, baring his teeth at her. “Pry it from my cold dead hands!”
“Don’t be an idiot, Clint,” Sarah scoffed, and plucked a piece of paper from inside the blanket the baby was wrapped in.
The paper was blank as she opened it, but soon it was covered in elegant, looping writing, as if an ink pen was writing right before their eyes.
Your majesty, it is I, your humble servant Edwin. This child’s father was my charge and he and his wife were murdered, so this child is under my protection. He is in danger here in this world, so I entrust him to yours until the time comes where I can retrieve him. His name is Anthony. Treat him well. He is a quiet, obedient child.
“…It’s MINE,” Clint shouted gleefully and ran.
“Clint!” Sam sputtered and ran after him. “Clint, you don’t even know what humans eat! Clint!”
“Are you gonna stop them, or…” Bucky began, then trailed off.
Sarah watched Clint cackle as he fled further into the forest, then turned to go back to her throne, feeling exhausted. “Sam will make sure the baby lives, if nothing else.”
“What were you guys even doing on the human plane, anyway?” Steve asked.
“Clint wanted some human candy,” Bucky replied, shrugging.
“And you thought going with him was a good idea,” Steve said in disbelief.
Bucky shrugged again. “Eh.”
Sarah pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed. She wondered if other courts had as much trouble as she did.
Chapter 30: Thor/Steve
Thor had never really been to a carnival, and it had been years for Steve, so it was almost like a first time for both of them.
“At least some things haven’t changed,” Steve said as he watched people try and fail to sling a ring around a bottleneck.
“Ah,” Thor said after watching for a while as well. “The odds are stacked against the players. We have places like that in Asgard as well.”
“Oh good,” Steve said. “That means you can win me that giant hippo plush.”
Thor snorted his lemonade up his nose. “Agh!”
“Come on, you’re a god, right?” Steve cajoled, smirking. “You can do it. I believe in you. What’s stopping you?”
Thor wiped his face on his arm, scowling at Steve’s now-beaming face. “For starters, that’s impossible,” he said, pointing at the rows of bottles. “My throwing skills are not nearly so exact. I would barely be able to manage to win the small hedgehog. Secondly, didn’t you just scold Clint for bringing home a giant hippo plush?”
“This one’s green, though,” Steve answered with a straight face. He couldn’t keep it up in the face of Thor’s bewilderment, though, so he laughed. “Clint didn’t win his hippo, Thor. He blackmailed the stall owner because they used to work together at the circus.” Steve grinned smugly. “Bet I can get more stuffed animals than you. Shame my boyfriend can’t get me a stuffed toy, though. Didn’t know you’d be scared of a game.”
“Steven,” Thor gasped, offended.
Thor was right. He could barely eke out getting the hedgehog plush. But that was okay; Steve allowed him to carry one of his (many) large hippos.
“What are you even going to do with all of these?” Thor asked, hefting another hippo over his shoulder.
Steve shrugged. “Probably give most of ‘em to little kids on the way out. Maybe keep one or two. Kinda wanna give one to Tony.”
“Ms. Potts has suspended all gift-giving since Natasha gave Tony a matryoshka of all the Avengers when he was first concussed and he cried all over her,” Thor pointed out.
“Yeah, but he’s sick and his head hurts,” Steve pointed out reasonably. “It’s just a hippo. What’s the worst that could happen?”
When Steve said it like that, Thor couldn’t imagine how it could turn out badly. It was true, after all; Tony was confined to bed, unable to tinker or even work on SI paperwork because his judgment could be called into question. He probably needed something nice to make the boredom bearable.
“What did I say about gifts,” Pepper hissed as Tony wailed and wrapped around the hippo protectively.
Thor and Steve both ducked their heads immediately. “Not to give him any,” Steve mumbled, shuffling his feet.
“I!” Pepper began, pointing in his face and making him take a step back in terror. “Will have my revenge! I swear this. It may not happen soon, but it will happen eventually. Hopefully when you least expect it.”
“We can take the hippo back,” Thor offered.
“You can’t just take back a gift!” Pepper snapped. “Look at him! He’s so happy!”
Thor and Steve turned to look, grimacing a little as Tony continued to wail and cling to the large plush toy, hiding his face in the soft fur. Bruce continued to try and gently coax it from him so he could check his pupils, but Tony wasn’t having any of it, kicking at him weakly and maybe even shedding a tear or two, but no one would ever mention it to him. He was concussed. He got a pass for that type of thing.
“Yeah,” Thor said, voice strangled. “So happy.” Then he grabbed Steve and fled, planning on scolding him for ever making him think that they should possibly ignore Pepper’s wishes when it came to Tony’s health. He liked having Steve as a boyfriend. He didn’t want Steve to be murdered.
And he wasn’t certain that Pepper wouldn’t do that.
Chapter 31: Steve/Clint
“Come on, Cap!” Clint said. He may have wiggled a little with impatience, but that was neither here nor there; Steve had once said it was cute, so he wasn’t embarrassed about it anymore. “You gotta play at least once!”
“I played once in the thirties and after I was made to go streaking in winter and then subsequently getting pneumonia, I can safely say I’ve had my fill,” Steve deadpanned.
“You didn’t have to go streaking in winter,” Natasha said.
Steve scowled at her. “I was dared to.”
“You can take two truths instead if you don’t like the dare,” Natasha said, brows furrowing together in confusion.
Steve chose to remain silent.
“You didn’t want to be labeled a chicken, I bet,” Clint said, and then crowed gleefully when Steve flushed. “Come on! You’re not a sickly little bean pole anymore! It’ll be fine!”
“I’m not playing truth or dare, Clint,” Steve ground out.
Clint stared him down, but it didn’t work because Steve was obstinate. “Don’t make me use my secret weapon,” he warned.
Natasha actually covered her mouth in horror, which really should have been Steve’s clue to back down immediately. Still, he crossed his arms and shook his head. “I’m not playing.”
“One last chance,” Clint offered, and then, when Steve set his jaw stubbornly, he turned and said, “Steve doesn’t want to play truth or dare and he’s giving me a look saying I better not push it so I guess we can’t play!”
“Oh,” came Tony’s small voice, the one he used when he was disappointed but also thought he was selfish to be disappointed. “Oh. Okay.”
Clint heard a soft, choked off gasp turned to smile at Steve smugly. “Thanks a lot, Steve. It was Tony’s turn to pick a game tonight.”
“But why that one?!” Steve asked, voice strangled.
“I just thought it would be nice to play with people who actually liked me just once,” Tony said, voice small. “So I’d know why everyone liked it so much.”
Clint winced a little. Oh. That was really sad. Fuck.
On the bright side, Natasha was clutching her chest and looking at Tony with wounded eyes before she turned on Steve, knife in hand.
“We can play!” Steve yelped. “We can play truth or dare!”
“No, I wouldn’t want to force anyone,” Tony tried to assure them.
“You owe me so many blow jobs for this,” Steve hissed to Clint before they both jumped to reassure him that it was fine and they could play the game.
Steve made front-page news by showing up to the next fight with a reinforced, red-white-and-blue chicken suit.
Chapter 32: Clint/Tony
Tony lifted a hand to block the sun from his eyes and watched as Clint fell from a building, screaming. “How worried am I?”
“Slightly,” Pepper replied, checking her tablet. “That’s not how the stunt is supposed to go.”
“Screaming at him worried?” Tony asked.
Pepper tapped at her tablet a little longer, then tipped her head to listen in on her headset. “Mm… No. Severe scolding worried.”
Tony watched Clint smash into the crash mat that had been placed for his use, but only barely. “Swearing allowed?”
“Lots of swearing,” Pepper confirmed.
“Oh good,” Tony said, and then stomped over to the crash mat, which Clint was now crawling off of. “Clint!”
“Honey bun!” Clint exclaimed happily.
“That was, by far, the stupidest thing you’ve ever done!” Tony shouted.
Clint frowned. “So no kisses?”
“NO!” Tony bellowed. “No kisses! You almost died!”
Clint finally staggered to his feet, stumbling over to him and making grabby hands. “But Tony!”
“No buts!” Tony barked, and quickly dodged his hands. “I’m mad at you!”
“Okay, so the stunt went a little bit sideways, but it worked!” Clint insisted, spreading his arms. “I’m fine! The stunt is done! Look, no broken bones or anything!”
Tony stared at him. “Is your finger dislocated?”
“What?” Clint scoffed. “No!” Then he turned around and his shoulders went tight like they usually did when he was in pain. He turned back around, smile back in place. “See? No!”
Tony continued to stare him down, scowling.
“…Maybe it was a little dislocated,” Clint muttered. “But! It was the only injury I had! That’s good, right?”
Tony said nothing.
Clint frowned, hands dropping to his sides. “So… so you don’t even want to kiss it better?”
Tony opened his mouth, then closed it again. He did kind of want to kiss his finger better.
Clint saw this and seized it. “I didn’t mean to scare you, babe. Come here,” he cajoled softly. “Let me love on you a little.”
“…I’m still mad,” Tony tried to insist, but mostly he was just relieved. It had been sort of scary. He’d known, in the back of his mind, that Clint would probably be fine, because of all the calculations he’d run, but… it had been sort of scary. If he thought about it too much. Which he wouldn’t.
“Babe,” Clint said again, spreading his arms for him.
Tony curled into his chest immediately. He was absolutely not trembling or anything. That would be silly. He hadn’t been scared. “I’m supposed to be scolding you.”
“Yeah?” Clint asked, smiling a little. “Swearing allowed?”
“Lots of swearing,” Tony confirmed, snuggling his face against the blond’s throat.
Clint had only a moment to feel smug at staving off a scolding before he noticed Pepper staring at them. “Uh oh.”
“I knew you’d sucker him,” Pepper told him firmly. “That’s why I called Natasha over as soon as she finishes up setting up her stunts.”
“Fuck,” Clint said frantically, and then screamed when he saw Natasha storming toward them, expression thunderous. “Tasha no! I want to live!”
“You should have thought of that before you were a fucking dumb ass,” Natasha told him ominously.
Clint clutched Tony to him until Natasha had to leave to do her stunts, because she’d never hurt him if it endangered Tony, and he was not afraid to admit that he was a coward.
Tony finally met Thor’s parents. Odin was indifferent, mostly. Well, he was somewhat disapproving, but Thor had prepared Tony for that. Odin had wanted him to find someone here on Asgard to marry, after all. Luckily what his father lacked in welcoming his future spouse, his mother made up for.
“Thor has always had a good head on his shoulders when it comes to love,” Frigga said, giving Tony a squeeze around the shoulders.
Tony looked cautiously smug.
“Although with his gift in fertility, that’s to be expected,” she added.
Thor had never seen a face go from smug to horrified so quickly. Even Loki was impressed.
“Not that he would ever use these gifts without consent,” Frigga added hastily. “Consent is very important.”
“Can we please not talk about our fertility,” Tony asked weakly.
Thor grabbed him and swept him away to meet with the Warriors Three, who did not look entirely enthused about his choice in mate until Volstagg mentioned how small Tony was and Tony nearly launched himself on him, frothing at the mouth. Thor struggled to restrain him, then gave up, trusting his friends not to hurt his beau.
(“It’s like watching three rowdy puppies playing with a tiny kitten they don’t want to hurt,” Loki breathed, clutching his goblet of wine.
Thor squinted at him. “How much have you drunk already?”
“I knew I wasn’t going to get to set the tablecloths on fire so I’m drinking. You can’t take this from me,” Loki declared, and then drained his entire goblet.
Frigga came over, refilled it, and left to go quietly scold their father for being unwelcoming again. Thor wasn’t sure he wanted to understand.)
Thor eventually dragged Tony away from the Warriors Three to meet Sif, who looked Tony up and down with a peculiar smile on her face. Thor had no time to discern what this smile meant before she started talking.
“A bit different from the people you usually date, Thor,” she commented.
Tony looked dismayed for a fraction of second before he had his plastic smile plastered across his face. “And who does he usually date?”
“People who look as dangerous as they are,” Sif replied, smirking.
Thor was considering challenging her to a duel then and there, except Tony seemed to be considering this very seriously.
“Yeah,” Tony said finally. “Okay. But I’m cooler than everyone he’s dated.”
Sif’s mouth opened into a surprised little ‘o’ before she threw her head back and laughed. “Confident,” she finally said. “I like it. Do you have any friends as confident as you?”
Tony’s face lit up and he immediately started gushing about his friend Jim Rhodes ‘who I call Rhodey because I love him and he’s my best friend ever and he doesn’t get mad when I blow things up usually!’
Thor took pity on him. “She meant for her, Tony. A friend for her to date.”
“Oh,” Tony said, wind taken out of his sails slightly. “Rhodey’s not single right now.”
“Alas,” Thor told Sif. “Unfortunately most of his friends are–”
“Pepper’s single!” Tony exclaimed brightly.
“We’re not setting up Sif and Pepper,” Thor said immediately, hastily dragging him away. “You remember how you said she didn’t have time to run the world? Sif would try to give her worlds to run anyway. Come on. Let’s go eat.”
Tony frowned, confused, but allowed himself to be dragged. “Maybe Pepper could temper some of that–”
“No,” Thor said firmly.
“…Happy’s single,” Tony tried.
Thor gave him a look clearly conveying that Sif would eat Happy alive and also stop pimping out his friends. Tony pouted but stopped telling everyone who his single friends were.
The welcoming dinner honestly went better than Thor could have ever hoped, even if Loki did get so drunk he cried all over how happy they were and Sif had to carry him to bed. Thor decided not to make fun of him for it. He knew how disappointed Loki was not to set the tablecloths on fire.
Can be read as a follow-up to chapter 27 but can also be read as a standalone.
Thor had never met anyone who could truly match Loki wit for wit and lie for lie before. Tony was an enigma; a soul so bent on giving pieces of itself away while covering its tender scars with inflated ego and venomous smiles.
“Tony lies like he breathes,” Rhodes had said once. “He doesn’t mean anything by it. It’s just what he’s always done to protect himself. If you care about him, you learn how to pick out the truth in it.”
Thor had thought having a trickster god as his brother, silver-tongued and smart as a whip, would have prepared him. But Tony lied about things even Loki wouldn’t think to lie about, and like Rhodes had said, he did it like he breathed, like he didn’t even need to think about it.
“I don’t like lamb salad,” and, “It doesn’t hurt,” and, “I love sports,” and, “That’s fine.” He’d promise to go places with him, to meet him, and not show up, and Thor was starting to suspect that Tony wasn’t just forgetting, as he always insisted when confronted–he just never intended to go in the first place.
There was no tell. Tony lied with a straight face, sometimes even with genuine earnestness. Even Pepper, whose job it was to parse what he wanted, sometimes struggled to catch every lie. Thor had foolishly believed that his experience with Loki would give him a leg up, but as he came back from being stood up at the MET, he was beginning to wonder if his ego had gotten the best of him again, thinking he knew better.
He found Tony tinkering in the workshop, looking incredibly unbothered by the fact that he was supposed to have been somewhere else an hour ago. “Tony.”
“Hi,” Tony said, not turning from his workbench. “I’ll be done in a minute.”
Thor looked at Tony’s completely dismantled Iron Man boot and knew immediately that that was another lie too. “Stop it,” he said, instead of greeting him like he’d meant to.
Tony’s hands came to a stop, but he still didn’t turn. “…Stop what?” he asked after a moment.
“You know exactly what,” Thor answered shortly. “Stop making empty promises. Stop standing me up. Stop lying to me. I don’t know how long you expected to get away with it, but I won’t stand for it any longer.”
Tony finally turned, face carefully blank except for his raised eyebrows. “Are you breaking up with me?”
Thor opened his mouth, then closed it again.
“Because that’s fine,” Tony said.
Thor was almost blinded by the hurt it caused him. But he’d learned patience from his previous banishment from Asgard, if nothing else. He said nothing. He turned on his heel and left before he could say something he regretted and returned to the elevator.
As he turned to face the doors, he caught a glimpse of Tony placing his head in his hands, shoulders slumped, showing more emotion in that brief flash before the elevator doors closed than he had while Thor had been speaking to him. So him being okay with them breaking up had been a lie too. Thor despaired. How could he ever learn how to tell what was a lie and what wasn’t?
“Tony’s whole life has been one lie after another from the time he was born, Thor. He doesn’t know how not to lie,” Rhodes said with more tenderness than Thor thought he deserved.
Thor considered calling a storm just to get some of his rage out, the idea of Tony being taught to lie from the time he was a babe in arms almost making him shake with anger, but the lightning and thunder would interfere with the phone call, so he at least had to wait until after they hung up. “He doesn’t lie to you. Do I need to know him for twenty years before he starts telling me the truth, too?”
“Thor,” Rhodes choked out, the weight of years’ worth of tears clogging his throat. “His first words to me were a lie. His first words to my mama were a lie. He’s had to learn how not to lie to us over twenty years, and he’s still not always very good at it. He’s so sure everyone will leave him that he constantly tries to make it easier for them to do it with the excuse of his lies.”
Thor felt dismayed and, perhaps, a little despondent. “So what do I do?” he asked helplessly. “What do I have to do to make him see I’ll stay?”
Rhodes was silent for quite some time before he finally answered, “Be patient. Call him out gently and without anger because it confuses him into trying to do better. But most importantly… be prepared for the fact that even if you’ve shown him that you love him with your entire being, he might still never believe you want to stay.”
Thor wondered just how much had happened to Tony to screw him up so much, but he got the feeling it would just make him more upset, so he didn’t ask. Not now. Not yet.
Not until he was prepared to know the answer.
I am not sorry for this at all.
Chapter 35: Clark Kent/Tony Stark
Clark watched Tony mutter curses under his breath as he fiddled with a seam to the door of the cell they’d been locked in for twenty minutes before asking, “Are you sure waiting for rescue is such a bad–”
“If Bruce rescues me, he’ll never let me live it down,” Tony snarled immediately.
Clark nodded. “Okay.”
“I will not be in Bruce’s debt. That’s not going to happen ever,” Tony hissed.
“I’m pretty sure Bruce prefers to be called ‘Batman’ in these types of situations,” Clark began.
Tony whipped around to glare at him, wild-eyed. “WELL BRUCE ISN’T HERE RIGHT NOW, CLARK, AND I DON’T PLAN TO TELL HIM ABOUT THIS.”
“Okay,” Clark said again.
Tony went back to fiddling with the seam, muttering about kryptonite linings and useless human beings and ‘at least you’re still shaped like a triangle I guess.’ Clark was not as upset by this as he maybe should have been. They were in an incredibly stressful situation, and Tony would probably apologize for calling him useless later. Bruce had warned him about this.
Then again, Bruce had also warned him that ‘Tony is the world’s biggest kidnapping magnet, holy shit, I have been kidnapped a third of the amount of times as he has, it’s not “if” it happens, but “when”’ and Clark had just sort of… disregarded it. Who was going to kidnap Iron Man, after all? People who fought Superman and wanted to use his boyfriend as a tool, that’s who. He felt stupid about it now. Bruce had tried to warn him, and he’d missed it.
“This is why secret identities is a thing,” Clark said before he could stop himself.
“DON’T MAKE ME COME OVER THERE,” Tony snarled. “I will find a way to take this kryptonite lining and kill you with it!”
Clark was unconcerned. “Well, the probability of that is zero, but you go ahead and try.”
Tony turned, scowling at him. “You’re being very flippant for someone who’s locked up, powers sapped, and boyfriend in danger, you know.”
“You wouldn’t have this problem if you were dating Clark Kent,” Clark pointed out.
“I don’t want to date Clark Kent,” Tony answered hotly, and not for the first time. “Did it ever occur to you that the reason you want me to date Clark Kent is the same reason I don’t? You’re–you’re Superman! You’re fast and strong and–and bullet proof! If something happens to me, you’ll be there in time to help me! And everyone knows I’m Iron Man anyway! But if you got kidnapped… If–if you–” he choked out, then hurried to turn away from him, hand coming up toward his face.
Clark heard him sniffle and felt awful. “If Clark Kent got kidnapped, there would be no guarantee that you could rescue me before I was forced to reveal my identity as Superman.”
“No super villain is stupid enough to try and kidnap Superman to get to Iron Man,” Tony whispered. “You’re safer this way. I’m used to this, being taken and held captive, so it’s really no big deal for me. It’s been my life since I was born. I’m used to saving myself anyway.”
Clark strode over to him and yanked him into his arms, holding him tightly.
“Clark?” Tony asked, confused but not unwilling.
“Sometimes your life makes me really, really sad,” Clark said, and then set Tony aside so he could punch through the door.
Tony looked dismayed. “I made you so sad that you could overpower the kryptonite lining?”
Clark entertained fibbing for approximately half a second before truthfully answering, “They didn’t line the door but I didn’t realize that until I was closer to it.”
“THEY DIDN’T LINE THE FUCKING DOOR?!” Tony bellowed, incensed. “YOUR VILLAINS ARE IDIOTS, CLARK.”
“Pretty sure the Riddler is one of Batman’s villains,” Clark said, then yelped as Tony darted out the door ahead of him. “Tony!”
Clark darted out after him just in time to see two guards go sprinting away as Tony chased after them with piece of the door he’d just punched out to probably beat them to death. “Tony, Batman doesn’t like killing!”
“He’s not gonna kill them,” Batman said, making Clark jump. “Just make them wish they were more competent. Tony loathes incompetence.”
“How long have you been here?!” Clark exclaimed.
Batman said nothing.
“He said to give Tony twenty more minutes to try the door before I broke it down,” Diana offered.
“Why didn’t you just open it?!” Clark asked.
Batman gave him a very unimpressed glare. “He has a routine. I didn’t want to upset him.”
“Well, it’s a bit late for that, isn’t it?!”
“I don’t know what you’re mad at me for,” Batman snapped. “You’re the one who was trapped in a room with an unlined door for two hours just because you didn’t check it.”
“I’ll just… go save Riddler’s henchmen from Tony,” Diana said as they began to bicker, and walked over to try and convince Tony to stop menacing the guards he’d finally cornered.
Chapter 36: Eddie/Venom/Tony
Tony pretended that he couldn’t feel Venom’s eyes on his back. He knew, deep in his heart of hearts, that Venom had that stupid grin on his face, the one that was smug and gleeful and full of teeth. It was a creepy smile. It unnerved him. And the fact that Venom could face him with that smile regardless of what Eddie was doing filled him with impotent rage.
Finally, though, he couldn’t take it anymore. “Stop smiling at me like that!” he snarled.
Venom remained unmoved, grin still in place.
“Eddie!” Tony cried instead, glaring at him.
“I don’t know what you expect me to do,” Eddie said. “I can’t control his face.”
“Why is he looking at me like that?!” Tony asked angrily.
“Probably because we found that photo shoot of you from the eighties,” Eddie supplied.
Venom’s grin grew impossibly larger.
Tony narrowed his eyes. “Which photo shoot? There were several.”
Eddie blushed a little and scratched his cheek. “Uh. It was. You were… um… There were roller-skates, and… uh…”
“The one where you looked like a twink,” Venom supplied, still grinning. “In a crop top and booty shorts.”
Tony gasped and clutched his chest. “Where did you learn that word?!”
“Eddie knows a lot of words!” Venom answered proudly.
“Why do you keep bringing it up, Venom,” Eddie hissed at him angrily. “Stop telling Tony the words you learn from me!”
“But he is a thot,” Venom complained. “And his butt does look like the peach emoji!”
“VENOM,” Eddie barked.
Tony stared at him. “You think my butt looks like the peach emoji?” He paused, then scowled. “He learned calling me a thot from you?!”
“That was–I didn’t–We! No-!” Eddie sputtered. “I have never called you a thot ever in my life!”
Venom disappeared from Eddie’s left shoulder and reappeared on his right one. “Out loud maybe,” he muttered.
Tony pounced on it immediately. “What else has he called me in his head, Venom!?”
“Pr–” Venom began, then let out a garbled scream when Eddie threw himself on the floor, making him flatten under him before reforming. “EDDIE!”
“Don’t you tell him a thing you fucking parasite,” Eddie hissed.
“HE CALLED YOU A PRINCESS!” Venom shouted before screaming again as Eddie began attempting to wrestle with him. He retreated back into Eddie’s body, slithering back out of his leg. “AND A SLUT!”
“…Well I am both those things,” Tony admitted after a moment.
“Shut up oh my God you are not a slut,” Eddie sighed, aiming a smack at Venom’s head.
Venom withdrew again, just in time for Eddie to smack his own leg, and popped back out of his shoulder with a triumphant “HA!” as Eddie howled in anger and pain.
“So why do you keep grinning at me like a total creep?” Tony asked before they could get into a bigger fight.
“Because!” Venom began happily. “Your butt still looks the same! And!!!! Eddie says we can get you to wear that outfit again probably!”
“Venom out of all the things you can get out of my brain can you please learn how to keep a fucking secret,” Eddie hissed.
Tony smiled a little and leaned down toward Venom, amused and intrigued. “And just how are you guys going to convince me to wear that outfit again?”
“Don’t tell him, Venom,” Eddie said hurriedly.
Venom frowned, prodding at his mouth with a tentacle thoughtfully.
“Come on,” Tony cajoled. “I won’t get mad. Promise.”
Venom peered up at him skeptically, then decided Tony wasn’t lying probably. “Well,” he began happily. “We were going to steal all of your clothes and just leave the outfit!”
“Venom!” Eddie shrieked.
“Sounds reasonable,” Tony said. “But how do you know I wouldn’t just walk around naked out of spite?”
“Oh, that’s okay too, Tony,” Venom replied brightly, grinning. “We like it when you’re naked, too!”
Tony threw his head back, laughing. “Oh my God!”
“Venom I will literally go out and buy you a pound of chocolate if you promise to not tell Tony things for three days,” Eddie begged.
Venom wiggled happily. “A whole pound of chocolate, Eddie!”
“I’ll buy you all of the chocolate if you continue to tell me things,” Tony offered.
Venom gasped. “All the chocolate…”
“Hey!” Eddie exclaimed, offended. “Show some loyalty, you jerk!”
Venom put a tentacle to his mouth again, looking greatly conflicted as he looked back and forth between them. Finally, though, he curled closer to Eddie. “We only want chocolate from Eddie, Tony.”
Tony smiled. “So no more Swiss chocolates, then?”
Venom gasped again, horrified. “Tony!!!!!”
Eddie curled his arm around a glob of Venom protectively, scowling at him. “Don’t tease him like that! He’s sensitive!”
“Did he get being a drama queen from you or did you get it from him?” Tony asked, raising an eyebrow, before sighing and rolling his eyes. “I’ll still give you Swiss chocolate, Venom. It was just a joke.”
“Jokes are funny, Tony,” Venom told him accusingly.
Tony struggled not to laugh in his face. “Okay.”
“You’ll have to make it up to us,” Venom continued. “So you’ll wear the bootie shorts.”
Tony nodded, unable to keep from smiling in amusement. “Sounds reasonable.”
Eddie choked on air, unable to speak.
Venom brightened. “And!!! The crop top!!!!”
“Don’t push it,” Tony warned, but he was still smiling.
Venom remained incredibly smug for the rest of the evening, draping himself over Eddie’s shoulders and continuing to smile that creepy, smug smile.
Chapter 37: Thor/Clint
Thor scowled and put his hands on his hips, feeling very silly for glaring up at the ceiling but unable to do anything else. “Clint.”
“I’ll see you in hell!”
“Clint!” Thor gasped, offended.
“Maybe not, actually,” Clint offered. “Sorry. That was a little heavy-handed.”
“I should say so,” Thor replied, scowling up at the ceiling. “Clint, I’m not asking you to do something humiliating or degrading. I’m merely asking you to go to dinner with me.”
Clint’s face appeared in the vent closest to Thor’s head. “And that would be fine, except you want me to wear a suit!”
“The place I want to take you is not the sort of place you go wearing jeans and a t-shirt, no matter how comfortable they are,” Thor retorted immediately. “We go for cheap dates all the time. You could at least humor me once in a while and look like a presentable human being for a couple hours.”
“Ha!” Clint barked. “Joke’s on you! I haven’t looked presentable since before my nose was broken the first time when I was seventeen!”
Thor stared up at him. “Clinton why do you say these things to me. You know your past makes me sad.”
“Ha!” Clint barked again. “Everyone’s past on this team makes you sad!”
“Everyone on this team is an orphan except for me,” Thor pointed out. “And! My parents actually cared about me!”
Clint considered this before nodding reluctantly. “Yeah, that’s fair. I think Tony makes me the saddest.”
“It’s Natasha for me,” Thor admitted.
“Yeah, they’re both really sad,” Clint agreed.
Thor nodded, then added, “This subject change is not getting you out of putting on a suit and going to dinner with me.”
“Aw!” Clint cried. “Thor! Come on! I hate suits and the food isn’t going to be that good. Last time I was taken somewhere fancy, they tried to get me to eat snails.”
“I was there, that was with Tony, and it was basically like eating clams,” Thor deadpanned. “Come on. Put that suit Tony got you to good use and go out to dinner with me.”
Clint sighed petulantly, resting his chin on his arms. “You’re mean.”
“I’m hungry,” Thor corrected. “And as surprising as this may be to hear, I actually like seeing you all cleaned up once in a while. Don’t get me wrong–you looking like a possum that just crawled out of the trash clearly does something for me–”
“Calling me a possum that just crawled out of the trash is not a compliment,” Clint said.
“Except that you absolutely do find it a compliment,” Thor deadpanned.
Clint scowled. “Well you’re not supposed to know that!”
“In any case. Please put on your suit and meet me in the garage because Tony said we could use his Lamborghini.”
“Why didn’t you say that in the first place?!” Clint barked, slamming a hand down on the vent and making it flap open. He slithered out immediately.
Thor squawked and lunged to catch him when he made no motion to catch himself or land on his feet. “Clint! Why would you do that?!”
Clint wrapped his arms around Thor’s neck and batted his eyelashes at him. “Maybe I just wanted my super handsome boyfriend to catch me and hold me in his arms.”
“Calling me super handsome is not getting you out of putting a suit on,” Thor said.
Clint whined loudly. “God, I don’t wanna!”
Thor told him he could drive the Lamborghini. Clint put on his suit.
Chapter 38: Thor/Steve
It was truly unfair that Thor could continue to look handsome even when covered with splotches of red, purple, and yellow paint. Steve glared at himself in one of the mirrored windows. He couldn’t pull it off as well as his boyfriend could, and he was pretty sure it wasn’t only because he had a giant red splatter that centered on his left cheek and spread out to cover from his forehead down his neck.
Thor did not even have a speck of blue paint on him. Steve seethed.
“So that’s seventeen shots on Thor, and twenty-nine on Steve,” Bruce said.
Natasha opened her mouth.
“Yes, I counted the head shot as two points,” Bruce added, not looking up from his clipboard. “If you head-shot another person in this paintball center, I’m counting it as a negative shot, because it’s against the rules.”
Natasha nodded reluctantly. “Okay.”
“Clint has five shots, Natasha has three, and Tony has–”
“I’M THE RAINBOW, BITCH,” they heard Tony scream from the other side of the room.
“…Forty-six,” Bruce finished.
“Oh wait I don’t have any yellow on me,” Tony said, and turned his gun on himself.
“TONY,” Natasha and Clint bellowed, and ran to try and stop him.
Bruce sighed and trudged after them because it would be just his luck if Tony shot himself in the eye.
“You lost,” Thor told Steve gleefully.
“Tony lost,” Steve pointed out, crossing his arms, and tried very hard not to pout. He wasn’t quite sure he managed it.
The way Thor was grinning at him made it clear that he hadn’t. “We all knew Tony was going to lose, though. Even Tony knew it. That’s why he wasn’t part of the bet. Twenty-nine shots, Steve!”
“Only three of them are yours!” Steve defended immediately.
“No, I got one right in the middle of your back, that’s four,” Thor argued. “And anyhow, that doesn’t matter. You lost, so you owe everyone a favor now.”
Steve had to admit that Tony owing everyone a favor would be silly. They could ask him for a favor any time and then he’d insist that they didn’t owe him one in return. “Alright,” he said sourly. “I know that Natasha and Clint are going to hold onto theirs, Bruce is going to avoid ever bringing it up, and Tony will immediately forget about it, so what do I owe you?”
“Hmm,” Thor said, smirking, and looked Steve up and down. “I wonder.”
Steve raised an eyebrow. “We’re not having sex in the paintball center.”
“I have some sense of decorum, thank you,” Thor declared, giving him an unimpressed look, before tilting his head thoughtfully. “Hmm. I think I know what I want.”
Steve couldn’t help but be happy with the idea that he could get Thor’s favor out of the way so he only had to worry about Clint and Natasha’s. “Shoot.”
“You owe me a kiss,” Thor decided, smirking. “For every single time you were shot, to be paid over the next twenty-nine hours.”
“…Are you seriously going to wake me up every hour for kisses tonight,” Steve asked after a pause.
Thor continued looking smug. “Yes.”
“Seriously?!” Steve sputtered. “You know I wake up early to go for my runs and need sleep!”
“Should have played harder,” Thor informed him. “Suck it up, sweetheart.”
“I’ll remember this,” Steve told him ominously.
Thor nodded solemnly. “Yes, I know this. Midgardians are very petty, after all.”
Steve waited a beat, then snorted. “What, not gonna mention how tiny we are this time, too?”
“Where Tony and Natasha, quite possibly two of the meanest tiny Midgardians I know, could hear me?” Thor asked, appalled. “Absolutely not. Last time Natasha stabbed me in a meaty spot and Tony just followed me around scowling at me. It was not fun and I would not recommend it.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Steve said, amused.
“Yes,” Thor said as he watched Tony snatch Clint’s gun from him and begin shooting him after the other man had tried to get him to stop shooting himself. “That’s probably for the best.”
Chapter 39: Eddie/Venom/Tony
Eddie leaned in the doorway and raised an eyebrow. “Oh, you’ve started stealing my socks now? My hoodies and sweatpants weren’t enough? What’s next? Are you going to steal my underwear?”
“Bold of you to assume I wear underwear,” Tony replied immediately, hunkering further into the corner of the couch.
Eddie slipped off the doorway and nearly fell flat on his face.
Venom slapped onto the wall to keep him upright even as he leered at Tony. “Does that mean-?”
“I’m wearing underwear under the sweatpants I stole,” Tony said, not looking up from his tablet.
Eddie wanted to make fun of Venom for looking disappointed except he was kind of disappointed too. “Oh.”
“Also!” Tony added, sticking one foot in the air. “You got these nice wool socks so you’re not getting them back.”
“You can steal any pair of socks except my nice wool ones,” Eddie answered. He thought he sounded pretty reasonable about it, too.
Tony blew a raspberry at him. “You have all the clothes you want all the time! Be nice to me and let me have your socks!”
“What,” Eddie said, uncomprehending.
“You can have Venom be your socks,” Tony explained, exasperated.
“Eddie has small feet, that is doable,” Venom agreed.
“What the–first of all, I do not have small feet,” Eddie began, offended. “They’re perfectly normal-sized feet–some would even say large–”
“Small,” Venom disagreed.
“Your feet aren’t an indication of your dick, if that’s what you’re offended about,” Tony offered.
Eddie scowled at him. “It wasn’t.”
Tony spread his hands, placating, and turned back to his tablet.
“Second of all, I bought those wool socks as a present to myself when I was feeling sad so you can’t have them,” Eddie continued.
“But I’m warmer than socks, Eddie!” Venom complained, and wrapped around his feet to prove it. “Look, Eddie! I’m warm socks! And we never want to be sad!”
“Yeah, Venom never wants to be sad, Eddie,” Tony said, smirking. “And he’s warmer than socks. So I’ll just take care of these wool ones for you–”
Eddie stared at Tony for several seconds before saying, “You’re just jealous.”
Tony frowned, confused. “What?”
Eddie felt Venom niggle curiously at the edge of his mind. He only had one chance to do this. Did he really want to take it?
“How could I be jealous if I already have your socks on my feet,” Tony added smugly, smirking again.
…He did. He did want to take it.
“You’re jealous that I have Venom to keep me warm and you only have some too-big clothes,” Eddie declared.
Venom made a noise of surprise and gasped, “Tony’s jealous of Eddie!”
“What?” Tony began, bewildered. “No I’m not.”
“That’s exactly what someone who’s jealous but scared of being rejected would say,” Eddie informed him, knowing full well that Tony was not actually jealous and also relatively certain that Tony would have bought him more socks. “You wish you had Venom to keep you warm.”
“We’ll keep you warm, Tony,” Venom assured as Tony sputtered in confusion.
Wool socks were nice when they were pre-warmed by your boyfriend’s feet, Eddie decided, curling his toes in the fabric. He knew that once Tony escaped the burrito Venom had him in, he would have his loud and angry revenge, but as he looked at Tony, curled safely in Venom’s goo and pretending he wasn’t loving every minute of it, he could not bring himself to feel concerned about it at all.
Chapter 40: Thor/Tony
Drawing should have been a fun class. Steve had taken it as an elective because he was artistic as hell and the only other option for the block had been P.E. or Home Ec., and since Tony and Natasha had been from Home Ec. (the teacher still crossed herself when she saw them), it had just made sense for all of them to take an art with him. (Especially since both Thor and Bucky were maxed out on P.E. classes this term.)
It was too bad the teacher was such a dick, as if he was working with professional artists instead of seventeen-year-old students. Tony had looked close to tears when he got his second assignment back and only managed a D-, and Bruce hadn’t gotten a passing grade on any of his drawings yet. Steve was the only one in the entire class who had managed straight A’s and he was livid about it, because he admitted that he didn’t work nearly as hard as they did. ‘He should be grading your effort, not your skill,’ Steve had hissed, wild-eyed.
Thor watched Tony attempt to sketch the bust they’d been assigned and frowned at how listless he looked. Even in previous classes he hadn’t cared for, he’d put all of his effort into. Hell, the Home Ec. teacher had even listed ‘excellent enthusiasm’ on his report card next to ‘please do not take another cooking class.’ Tony, for as much as he boasted that he hated school, tried very hard to succeed in all his classes.
And this asshole drawing teacher had made him feel bad.
Thor wouldn’t lie and say Tony was artistic; he’d probably never take it up as a hobby, as something for fun, and it showed. But Tony could draw anatomy well; he’d chattered about prosthetics and could draw the human body perfectly on his blueprints. And yet here is boyfriend was, getting told that his drawings were garbage and he should expect a barely passing grade, at best.
“How much money would you give me to flip this table, right here, right now, in the middle of class?” Thor asked softly while the teacher berated a girl on the other side of the classroom.
“Thor,” Tony whispered, trying to sound scolding but mostly failing as he lifted a hand to his mouth to smother a giggle. “Don’t be dumb. Go back to your sketch.”
Thor was pleased that he’d made Tony smile, but it wasn’t enough. He still looked so despondent as he drew. He considered picking up his boyfriend and just leaving with him.
But then a small hand was pushing a pile of one dollars bills to him. Thor lifted his head to meet Natasha’s steady gaze before she returned her attention to her sketch pad. Thor opened his mouth to tell her that he was just kidding, because it would upset Tony, but then Steve was shoving a wad of money at him, and then Bucky and Sam. Clint and Bruce whispered to each other before pulling out two dollars and adding it to the pile.
“For bail,” they told him, earnest.
Thor nodded back solemnly. “I understand.”
“Understand what,” Tony said, and then stared when Steve, Natasha, and Bruce scrambled out from the other side of the table, dragging the people they shared the aisle with behind them. “Understand what? What’s going–”
Thor stood and flipped the table with a roar. Paper and pencils went flying, along with Sam’s open water bottle, slamming into the table the others had forcefully vacated and knocking chairs over. The table slid off the other table and fell to the ground with a loud crash, leaving a few papers still in the air that fluttered to the floor a few seconds later.
There was blessed silence for about fifteen seconds before the teacher opened his mouth, but Thor pounced on that too, bellowing, “YOU ARE THE WORST TEACHER IN THIS ENTIRE SCHOOL AND THE PRINCIPALS AND PTA ARE GOING TO KNOW ALL ABOUT IT, YOU GIANT ASSHOLE!”
“Thor,” Tony squeaked as the teacher stormed over and grabbed his arm to drag him to the principal’s office.
“I’ll see you after school, Tony,” Thor told him pleasantly, and walked slowly because the teacher was half his size and could move him just about as easily as a snail could push peanut butter. “Don’t forget to eat lunch!”
“Thor,” Tony squeaked again, horrified, before Thor allowed himself to be dragged out of the room.
“Worth it,” Thor decided firmly when Tony found him in the principal’s office and began pressing kisses to his cheek.
“Don’t ever do that again,” Tony ordered, kissing his chin and forehead too.
“Yes, sweetheart,” Thor lied, and reminded himself to thank Loki for the fibbing lessons later. Probably after his parents were finished yelling at him.
He didn’t care about getting yelled at though, especially when their new drawing teacher gave Tony kind and constructive criticism on their next assignment, along with a solid B+ for effort.
Chapter 41: T'Challa/Tony
T’Challa hovered in the doorway, frowning. “Tony?”
Tony didn’t look up from his computer, continuing to type away. “Yeah?”
“You alright?” T’Challa asked, stepping into the room.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Tony answered, pointedly casual. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
T’Challa sighed softly, brows furrowing together. “Because Shuri called your coding skills archaic.”
Tony’s fingers paused before he carefully continued typing, obviously trying to pretend he hadn’t been bothered by what he’d said. “It’s fine. I mean… my coding skills probably are archaic compared to what she’s used to. It’s no big deal.”
“Are you sure you’re not at least a little upset that Shuri snubbed your skills?” T’Challa asked, narrowing his eyes at the other man skeptically.
“Of course I’m not,” Tony said. “She didn’t need my help so she told me so.”
T’Challa scowled. “Will you look at me?”
Tony sighed and turned to look up at him. “What?”
“She didn’t need to tell you that she didn’t need your help so rudely,” T’Challa informed him, trying not to sound as angry as he felt.
“Well, it’s the thought that counts anyway,” Tony said reasonably. “And if she didn’t need my help, I didn’t need her to give me a pity-excuse. I like straightforwardness, after all–”
“‘I don’t need your archaic coding in my modern robot’ isn’t straightforward, Tony, it’s rude,” T’Challa cut in. “‘I have plans already’ or ‘no thank you’ would have sufficed without hurting your feelings.”
Tony frowned up at him. “My feelings aren’t hurt.”
T’Challa scowled at him.
“…They’re a little hurt,” Tony admitted after a few minutes under the disapproving expression.
“As well they should be,” T’Challa informed him, then sighed and reached out to take his hands when Tony ducked his head in shame, thumbs trailing gently over his knuckles. “Listen. I know part of the reason you didn’t want to admit it was because you don’t want to stop on anyone’s toes, but the fact of the matter is that you shouldn’t have to swallow down your hurt just because you think you overstepped. There are polite ways to tell someone to back off.”
Tony continued to stare down at his lap. “I guess.”
T’Challa wondered if his mother would accuse him of tattling if he told her what Shuri had said. It was a toss-up some days, after all. Still, surely she would be upset that Shuri was rude to a guest, regardless of that guest’s relation to them?
Before T’Challa could ponder it further, there was a knock on the door, and they both turned.
T’Challa scowled when he saw it was Shuri peeking in at them. “Go away.”
“T’Challa,” Tony hissed, scowling at him. “Don’t be rude!”
“She’s just my sister, I’ll be rude if I want,” T’Challa declared, then narrowed his eyes at her again. “What do you want?”
Shuri didn’t immediately rebut that she was his brilliant sister, so something was definitely up. “I… came to apologize,” she said haltingly.
“Oh,” Tony said, reaching out to grab his laptop. “I’ll go then, just a sec–”
“To you,” Shuri added, making an I-can’t-believe-you face for a fraction of a second before forcing herself to go back to contrite with a frown.
T’Challa decided to give her a pass on the expression because often Tony made him think ‘I can’t believe you’ before the dismay set in, but just this once.
“Oh,” Tony said, surprised, and then, “Oh, you have nothing to apologize for! I overstepped.”
“You really didn’t,” Shuri said slowly. “You are the world’s leading expert on A.I.s. Trying to help me with my first A.I.”
“But you didn’t ask for my help, so I was the rude one here,” Tony said, and he sounded so reasonable that Shuri almost fell for it.
T’Challa made a face at her and she jerked when she realized what was happening. “Listen,” she said sternly. “I was unnecessarily rude when you just wanted to help and I’m sorry. Don’t–” she added sharply when he immediately opened his mouth. “–take the blame for my rudeness onto yourself.”
Tony looked confused and somewhat upset at the order but nodded anyway. “Alright.”
Shuri paused, staring him down as if to make sure he understood, before she nodded. “Good. Well, I’ll be in my lab then. Sorry again,” she said, then turned and left.
Well, he supposed he wouldn’t go tattling to his mother, T’Challa decided. He might fantasize about it a little, though.
“I just wanted to tell her that she hadn’t closed one of her if-then-else expression and it would make the entire code crash,” Tony mumbled down at his hands, frowning. “She can use whatever code she wants but you need to close your expressions if you want it to work.”
“Tony,” T’Challa said. “I’m not lying when I say this is one of the best days of my life.”
“What?” Tony asked, bewildered, but then T’Challa was pulling him in for kisses, and he soon forgot what he had been so confused about in favor of pulling T’Challa on top of him.
Natasha had lost her shoes. She considered where she might have left them. Under the table she’d been sat at? To the side of the dance floor? Has she left them in the bathroom? It was a mystery to her and she honestly couldn’t bring herself to be too worried about it.
“Perhaps you should eat something,” Thor said kindly.
“I will not,” Natasha told him imperiously. She didn’t want to eat. She wanted to dance. If only the floor would stop twisting this way and that when she tried to walk.
Thor smiled at her. It was an impossibly handsome smile. “Alright,” he said, something warm and sweet in his voice.
Natasha wanted to wipe that smile right off his face. It was unfortunately much too high up for her to do anything. “I need you to stop being so tall,” she informed him imperiously.
“I’ll get right on that,” Thor replied. “Do you want to sit down?”
“I want you to stop being so tall,” she repeated.
“Okay,” Thor said.
Natasha continued to frown at him for several seconds before saying, “I want to sit down.”
Thor pulled out a chair for her obediently.
“This is the best wedding I’ve ever been to,” Natasha declared after a moment. “And I’m only a little drunk.”
“Alright,” Thor said.
“No, really,” Natasha insisted as he sat down next to her. “Just a little. I only had a couple flutes of champagne. I’m fine.”
“Alright,” Thor agreed again. He had that smile back on his face.
Natasha stared at his smile for a moment. She still wanted to wipe it off his face. He was still very tall, but now he was very tall and sitting down. “I’m going to stand up,” she declared, and then, “No, you stay sitting.”
“Okay,” Thor said, smiling that same smile.
Natasha was definitely going to wipe that smile off his face. She got to her feet and wondered if this was what a newborn giraffe felt like before placing her hands on Thor’s shoulders. To hold him in place, of course, not because the floor was rocking back and forth. She stared at him a little longer. He had an impossibly handsome face. Not fair. Well, very fair, since it was her face. Well, his face, but it belonged to her, mostly.
“Is there something on my face?” Thor asked.
Well, it was pretty irresistible. Natasha thought about it. “Yes,” she finally decided, and then leaned down to kiss him, because it was going to be her face on his face. She halfway-missed, kissing more of the corner of his mouth than actual lip. That was fine though, because when she leaned back, he didn’t have that smile on his face anymore. She smiled smugly.
“I think it’s time to go. Are you ready to go?” Thor asked kindly.
“I can’t leave without my shoes,” Natasha told him seriously. “He’ll be sad if I leave them behind.”
Thor frowned. “Who will be sad?”
“Tony,” Natasha sighed. “Tony will be sad. He’s always sad when I have to leave the presents he gave me. So we must find my shoes.”
“I have your shoes,” Thor said, holding them up.
Natasha stared. “Those are my shoes.”
“Yes,” Thor said. That smile was back on his face.
Natasha would allow him to keep it this time because he’d found her shoes.
“I must say goodbye to the bride. …Zuh,” Natasha corrected belatedly. She turned to begin toward the brides’ table. The floor rocked wildly as if to buck her off of it.
“Could we maybe send them a note?” Thor offered.
Natasha stared up at him, bewildered, then realized that he had picked her up. Well, that was fine. The floor didn’t seem to want to buck him off it, and also he was warm. She wrapped her arms around his neck and hummed.
“A note?” Thor offered again.
“No,” Natasha declared, and then directed him toward the table by daintily pointing one foot at it. “We must say goodbye. We weren’t raised by wolves.”
“Okay,” Thor said with good humor. “May I carry you?”
“You couldn’t put me down even if you tried,” Natasha informed him.
“Okay,” Thor said, and carried her over to the sweetheart table the brides were sitting at, cramming food into their mouths before they were dragged away by more guests. “Ladies, thank you for the lovely evening. My significant other would like to say goodbye.”
“Thank you,” Natasha added. “For the champagne. And the dancing. Honey, my shoes–”
“I still have your shoes,” Thor said kindly.
Natasha patted his face before jerking backward, making him grab her again with a yelp. She stared at the brides and wondered why they were upside-down for a moment before declaring, “I am blessing your union. You’re a very lovely couple. I hope you get everything you ever want out of life.”
“Aw, thanks, Alaena,” Carmen, the bride she knew, said.
Natasha wondered who Alaena was, remembered belatedly it was her alias, and nodded. “Your sister! Can go fuck a tuna!” she added, because God, the bride’s sister had actually tried to wear white to the wedding. “Bitch.”
“Thank you,” Carmen said again, covering her mouth to try and smother a giggle. “I’ll see you when we get back from our honeymoon.”
“Have fun,” Natasha ordered, and then looked at Tess, the bride she didn’t know. “You’re very pretty. I like your piercings.”
Tess didn’t bother trying to hide her giggles. “Thank you, Alaena.”
“I’m drunk!” Natasha declared. “Enjoy your night! I’m going home and taking all the pins out of my hair!”
“Have a good honeymoon,” Thor offered. “It was nice meeting you. You had such a beautiful wedding.”
“Thank you!” both the brides chirped, smiling up at him brightly. “Drive safely!”
“Don’t tell me what to do,” Natasha ordered immediately.
“Okay,” Thor said as the brides began giggling again.
Can be read as a follow-up to chapter 5 but can also be read as a standalone.
Chapter 43: Tony/Pepper/Rhodey
Rhodey walked into their bedroom and frowned when he saw Tony face-down on the bed. “What’s his problem now?”
“Oh, you know,” Pepper replied airily from where she was busy hanging her suit to send it for dry cleaning. “Normal people problems. Or, well, his lack of being a normal person problems.”
“Hmm.” Rhodey frowned and walked over to the bed to lightly kick one of Tony’s feet from where it was hanging over the edge. “Hey. You. What’s wrong now?”
Tony said nothing, but he did groan very loudly and with feeling.
“He failed a survey,” Pepper finally sighed, rolling her eyes even as she managed to look sympathetic to Tony’s plight.
Rhodey turned his stare on her, reluctantly impressed and also bewildered. Tony made him feel like that a lot. “How did he fail a survey?” He turned back to Tony. “How did you fail a survey?”
Tony groaned again.
“He’s trying to smother himself to death,” Pepper explained helpfully.
Rhodey sighed and reached out to roll him onto his back. “Oh my God, you drama queen.”
“Rhodey noooooooooooo,” Tony moaned, trying to flop back down on his face. “Let me die.”
“No,” Rhodey said without pity. “Now tell me how you failed a survey.”
Tony sighed as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders, the most put-upon sound that Rhodey had ever had the misfortune of hearing. “You know how sometimes I visit the daycare to help kids with their homework when I have spare time?”
“When you’re avoiding paperwork,” Pepper corrected in a mumble.
“Yes, I know that,” Rhodey said, responding to both of them.
Tony heaved another great sigh. “One of the kids is going through a statistics module in his math class, and he had to make his own survey, and he decided to survey people’s favorite stores relating to their age.” He paused dramatically. “He’d never even heard of the stores I said, Rhodey!”
“Okay,” Rhodey said. “So you’re an outlier. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure.”
“But I messed up his project!” Tony wailed.
Pepper and Rhodey sighed. Oh. That explained it. Tony didn’t feel bad for being an outlier; he felt bad because he thought he’d ruined the kid’s project.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Pepper said after some thought.
“Yeah, Tones,” Rhodey agreed. “No one expects you to be normal, anyway.”
Tony sniffled and looked up at him through watery eyes. “Doesn’t that make you guys sad, though? That I’ll never be normal?”
“Tony,” Pepper sighed. “We love you because you’re not normal. You’re special to us. We love that your favorite store is an auto parts store, and that you like green smoothies, and that you think Jimmy Choos are cheap. Just because you’re weird doesn’t mean we don’t love you.”
Tony nodded sadly, then turned to frown at her in confusion. “Jimmy Choos arecheap.”
“Only to you,” Rhodey answered immediately.
“But Manolo and Miu Miu,” Tony began.
“We’re not talking about this again,” Rhodey declared. “Because then you’re gonna talk about how Rolex is cheap and we’re gonna get into an argument and you’re already sad.”
“I’m not sad,” Tony insisted.
Both Pepper and Rhodey gave him long looks.
“I’m a little sad still,” he admitted. “Sometimes I just wish…”
“I don’t,” Rhodey cut in. “You’re my little garage gremlin and I wouldn’t change that for the world.”
Tony smiled a little before scowling at him. “Did you just call me little?”
Pepper crawled on top of him before he could get up. “Our tiny star.”
“Don’t call me that,” Tony whined immediately, cheeks going pink.
“Our cute little tiny star and garage gremlin,” Pepper repeated. “Jim, come look. Tony’s blushing.”
“I am not!” Tony wailed, covering his cheeks. “Stop!”
Rhodey crawled up beside them. “We will never stop,” he informed Tony imperiously. “You get that side and I’ll get this one.”
Tony wailed again as they both began kissing his cheeks, trying to shove them away. “Stop! No! I am manly and strong and tough! I am not blushing and I’m not small!”
“I’ll say you aren’t,” Pepper said, smirking.
“STOP!” Tony shouted, blushing more. “Cut it out! This is unfair! There’s gotta be something in the Geneva Convention about this!”
“Sorry, Tony, but there’s no law against teasing your boyfriend,” Rhodey deadpanned.
Tony squirmed. “Let me go you brutes! I’m going to go complain to someone who’s sympathetic to my plight!”
“All your friends are bigger than you,” Rhodey pointed out.
“I’m breaking up with both of you!” Tony exclaimed. “I would rather die alone!”
“Liar,” Pepper argued, and kissed his cheek again.
They eventually kissed him into submission, but it took some trying.
Chapter 44: Thor/Steve
“Steve talks in his sleep,” Thor blurted out in a panic.
The cacophony in the room came to an abrupt and complete stop.
Steve gave him the most betrayed look and Thor knew immediately that he’d made a mistake.
“What?” Natasha asked. Her voice gave nothing away, but Thor knew deep in his heart that she was giddy with delight. “What did you say?”
“I said. Steve. Talks. With a bleep?” Thor tried.
“…Is this about how we’ve been teasing him about the ‘language’ thing?” Tony asked, standing up straight from trying to grab Natasha.
Thor lamented that Tony was so gullible when it came to his friends. It really made him worry about him sometimes.
“Steve talks in his sleep!” Clint cheered, happily forgetting that Natasha had been trying to strangle him literally seconds earlier. “What’s he say? What’s the dirt?! God I hope it’s dirty.”
Natasha finally allowed Steve and Tony to pull her to her feet, staring up at Thor with a piercing gaze that she usually saved for enemies she was interrogating. “What does he say?”
Tony looked back and forth between them before locking back onto Thor, nearly vibrating. “You said Steve talked in his sleep! What’s he say? Is it like when he’s drunk?”
Steve dragged his hands down his face tiredly. “Nothing is ever like when I’m drunk, Tony.”
“Aw,” Tony said, turning to frown up at him in disappointment. “I liked it when you were crying about bananas.”
“I wasn’t crying about–okay,” Steve sighed. “Thanks, I guess.”
“What does he say?” Natasha asked Thor, laser-focused.
Thor scratched his chin, looking everywhere but at her. “I don’t recall–”
“You can’t tell me that Steve talks in his sleep to get me to stop strangling Clint and not deliver,” Natasha informed him imperiously.
“You can’t dangle Steve talking in his sleep in front of me as my only reason to live and not deliver!” Clint added, offended.
Steve stared at Tony, but apparently the prospect of him not crying about bananas made it uninteresting, because he flounced off to go sit on top of Bruce in the arm chair. Sometimes Steve wished that the others could be like Bruce; he minded his own business and didn’t care for gossip.
“I don’t have any recordings of Steve talking in his sleep,” Thor lied.
“I do,” Bruce said.
Steve wondered when he would stop being betrayed by his teammates.
“Why do you have a recording?” Clint asked, only to yelp and fall to the floor again when Natasha shoved him aside to charge over to Bruce. “Ack! Natasha!”
“What do I have to do to get you to play the recording for me,” Natasha asked.
“What do I have to do to get you not to?” Steve called over her.
Bruce finally lifted his head from his book and looked back and forth between them. “What is it worth to you?”
“Brucie,” Tony gasped, eyes big and hurt. “You’re supposed to be the good one out of all of us!”
Bruce turned to give Tony an unimpressed frown before returning his attention to the others. “I have a price.”
“I will keep you off public relations duty for the next five years,” Steve said immediately, aware that that wasn’t his decision but hoping Bruce would fall for it anyway.
“I will owe you three favors,” Natasha countered.
Bruce made very aggressive eye contact with Steve before pointing at Natasha. “I will remember you owe me,” he told her solemnly. She only looked slightly terrified. “JARVIS, play my Sleeping Steve playlist.”
“You made it a playlist?” Steve asked, disbelieving, before his voice filtered through the speakers.
“Maybe in another world,” recording-Steve said wistfully.
“Fuck,” real-Steve said.
“Maybe what in another world?” recording-Bruce asked.
“Maybe we could have made that date,” recording-Steve replied.
“Turn it off,” Tony ordered immediately, looking concerned and a little embarrassed.
Steve sighed, touched by Tony’s propriety even though it was unnecessary. “No,” he said. “Keep going.”
Tony looked even more concerned until recording-Bruce asked, “What date?”
And recording-Steve answered, “February thirtieth.”
“Steve… There is no February thirtieth.”
“The secret date. Illuminati secret. I’ll find it. It’s the most romantic day you know. Dates had on February thirtieth are basically assuring marriage.”
“This is the best day ever of my entire life,” Natasha breathed.
Thor sidled over to Steve awkwardly as he put his face in his hands. “Sorry. I panicked.”
“It’s okay,” Steve said, voice muffled. “I was honestly kind of afraid that Natasha would actually strangle Clint.”
Thor nodded. He’d also been afraid of that. It was why he’d blurted out Steve’s secret. “Why does Bruce have recordings of you sleeping?” he asked after a moment.
“He wanted to measure my REM cycles,” Steve replied.
Thor nodded, then frowned. “What’s a REM cycle?”
“It’s a Midgardian thing, I think,” Steve said after some thought, because Thor slept as often as he did but Thor had also said it was a choice and he didn’t need to sleep nearly that much.
“Ah,” Thor said.
“You owe me so much sex for this,” Steve said sadly.
Thor nodded. “Yes,” he agreed. “Just say the word.”
“I will,” Steve sighed. Well, at least the others were having fun. And he hadn’t said anything too embarrassing–
“Sure I’d let her use a strap-on on me,” recording-Steve said.
Steve turned to give Thor a long look and was pleased when Thor said, “Forgive me, JARVIS and Tony,” and then short-circuited all the speakers in the room and fled before Tony could yell at him.
“And since I’ve got plans tonight I will have to pass on–” Tony began, walking through the living room, then stopped, staring.
“…Tony?” Pepper asked, concerned.
“I have to go,” Tony said breathlessly.
“Okay,” Pepper replied and hung up without question, because she was an absolute peach.
Tony stared around his living room, aghast. “What is–what–what–”
“I can explain,” Thor said.
Tony motioned at every flat surface–scratch that, every surface possible. “Why the hell is there glitter everywhere?!”
“That’s a reasonable explanation for this,” Thor assured him.
Tony stared at an actual pile of glitter in the clear decorative vase that had once been filled with his favorite orchids before looking back at Thor, bewildered and upset but trying to swallow it down. “And what explanation is that?”
Thor fidgeted for a moment before admitting, “On second thought, perhaps the explanation isn’t so reasonable.”
“I will take literally any explanation,” Tony told him with just a hint of impatience.
A pair of tiny blonds came running from the kitchen, trampling through the glitter-laden living room, then ran back into the kitchen, screaming, when they saw Tony’s thunderous face.
“Was that Clint and Steve?!” Tony asked, voice dangerously soft.
“Loki did it,” Thor answered instantly.
“Well you better find him and make him undo it,” Tony said threateningly.
“Yes, well, I was going to go search for him, but I couldn’t leave the rest of the team unattended,” Thor tried to explain.
“The rest of the team?” Tony repeated in angry disbelief. “The rest of–do you mean to tell me that all of our teammates are children right now?!”
“…Natasha insists she is not a child,” Thor offered.
“FIND LOKI AND GET HIM TO UNDO THIS NOW,” Tony bellowed.
“Yep,” Thor answered, hurrying toward the elevator.
“AND YOU’RE GETTING HIM TO CLEAN UP ALL THIS GLITTER,” Tony added angrily. “OR I’M GONNA MAKE HIM EAT IT.”
“Yes, dear,” Thor said hurriedly before the doors closed.
Tony only had about a minute to glare at the elevator doors and stew in how angry he was before he felt a little hand slipping into his. He closed his eyes and swallowed down his anger, taking a deep breath and letting it back out slowly. He opened his eyes again and looked down.
Natasha, tiny and doe-eyed, stared up at him silently for a long time before she said, “I need to go to the bathroom.”
Tony took another deep breath before saying, “Okay.”
“I need help getting on the toilet please.”
“Okay,” Tony said again, and began leading her to the bathroom. “Do you want to tell me why my living room looks like a glitter bomb exploded in it?”
“We wanted to make Valentine cards for you and Clint and Bucky got into a glitter fight,” Natasha answered.
Well, that was kinda sweet, Tony thought, heart melting a little. “That was a nice idea,” he told her.
“Thor said we needed to help him make you the biggest, glitteriest card because he loves you the most,” she added. “And if you liked the card enough he would buy us ice-cream.”
“Oh,” Tony said, heart melting more. “Well. I could probably buy you guys ice-cream as thanks for helping him make the card. It is Valentine’s Day, after all.”
Natasha nodded solemnly, as if she hadn’t expected anything less.
Tony sighed a little, unable to help feeling a little disappointed. It was their first Valentine’s Day together. He’d had plans.
As sweet as the his child-sized teammates had been, as much as Thor had tried to make the best of it… Tony was still going to make Loki eat all of the glitter for messing up his romantic evening.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Chapter 46: Clint/Tony
“Honey, you tried,” Clint offered softly.
Tony threw the Tupperware he’d filled into the refrigerator and slammed the door.
“Sweetheart, this isn’t your fault,” Clint tried again.
“Yes it is,” Tony snapped.
“Okay,” Clint agreed reluctantly, reaching out to touch his shoulder. “But it’s not entirely your fault. It takes two people to argue.”
Tony jerked away from his touch as if it had burned him, visibly swallowing down tears. “I keep trying to apologize and he keeps throwing it in my face.”
“Maybe he just needs more time,” Clint offered again, trying not to feel hurt by his flinching. “Maybe he’s still too hurt. Let’s leave him alone for a while, and he can reach out to us. Okay?”
“He’s not going to,” Tony answered, scrubbing at his eyes and sniffing softly. “I ruined everything. I can’t even go to my own cousin’s wedding!”
“Sharon never said you couldn’t come,” Clint pointed out immediately. “She didn’t even ask you to step down as her man of honor. Tony, come on.”
Tony sniffed again, turning to look at him with red-rimmed eyes. “How can I show my face at their wedding when Steve can’t even look at it with scowling? It’ll ruin their pictures. When they look back on what should be the happiest day of their lives, they’re going to see me trying to smile and Steve glaring at me. How could I do that to them? She hasn’t asked me to step down because she’s too embarrassed, so I’ll save her the trouble and do it myself.”
“Hey,” Clint began, just a touch frustrated.
“I know,” Tony snarled. “I’m being selfish again. Like I always am.”
Clint scowled at him. “I didn’t say that.”
“You didn’t have to. You just made the same face everyone else does before they say it,” Tony snapped back at him, then pinched the bridge of his nose. “I just–you know what, no. It’s over. It’s done. Just leave it be.”
“Don’t step down from man of honor,” Clint ordered sharply as he started to storm out.
Tony hesitated before continuing out the door without saying anything. He’d hesitated long enough to show he was going to do as he was told, though, so that was something.
Clint glared after him, still more frustrated than angry.
He didn’t know what the argument was about, but Steve hadn’t forgiven Tony and Tony was still upset despite his apologies, and neither could seem to meet the other halfway. It was starting to wear his patience thin. They’d been fighting for three months and the wedding was in another six. Tony had already planned Sharon’s bachelorette party and paid for catering as part of his wedding gift. The idea of him stepping down after that, from the role he’d been so proud that Sharon had given him, it made Clint’s stomach hurt, so he couldn’t imagine how shitty Tony felt, thinking he’d let her down after everything.
Clint was so frustrated that he called Natasha. “You remember that favor you owe me?”
“Unfortunately,” Natasha replied.
“I’m calling it in.”
Natasha was silent for several minutes before she said, “This is your last favor. Think carefully.”
Tony would be upset if he learned that Clint had used his last favor to help him, even insist that he’d wasted it, but he had no choice. His boyfriend and their friend were being idiots and he would not allow that to affect Tony’s relationship with one of the few people who had loved him unconditionally through their entire lives, despite the fact that there was actually no blood relation between them.
“I’ve thought,” he informed her sharply. “And I’d appreciate it if you let Tony believe you still owed me one.”
Natasha had always been a sucker for Tony. Of course she knew what was going on. Of course she knew what he wanted her to do. “Done,” Natasha said, and hung up on him immediately after.
Clint did not want to know what she did to fix this. It was better, in the long run, especially considering how silently vicious she could be. Clint only wanted Tony to be able to stand by his cousin at her wedding to one of their oldest and dearest friends. And if Natasha had to fight dirty to do that? He was surprisingly okay with that.
“I don’t know what you did,” Tony whispered after the wedding, after seeing Steve and Sharon off in one of his limos, rice in his hair, Sharon’s lipstick mark still vivid on his cheek. “But thank you.”
Clint leaned in to press a kiss to his clean cheek. “It was no trouble at all,” he said, and it wasn’t really a lie.
Not a big enough one to feel guilty about, anyway. He’d miss that favor Natasha owed him, but the outcome? Watching Steve come to Tony with his tail between his legs and apologize, and then cry a little when Tony immediately accepted it, no questions asked? Seeing them fall back into their easy friendship as if the fight had never happened, without Sharon having to get involved? That had been worth it.
Chapter 47: Pepper/Natasha
Natasha was not easily dumbfounded. She had seen too much, been involved in so much, had experienced too much. She was never truly surprised by anything that happened to her–just disappointed. And if something did manage to surprise her? It was usually something big.
“Okay,” she said, putting her hands on her hips. “Where are all my sweaters?”
“Why are you asking me?” Tony asked, offended.
Natasha raised an eyebrow at him, unimpressed. “Because you’re our resident clothes-stealing goblin?”
“Hey, I resent that!” Tony exclaimed. “I’m a gremlin, not a goblin! And anyway ever since you pointed out that I’d be warmer in the rest of the teams’ hoodies, I haven’t stolen any of your tops!”
“You stole one of my lacy bralettes two days ago,” Natasha began.
“I LOOK BETTER IN YELLOW,” Tony shrieked and fled.
Natasha wondered why this was what surprised her. Out of all the things she’d seen in her life, and believing she could never be surprised again… Tony stealing her bralette because he thought it looked better on him did it.
She’d be more upset if it wasn’t true.
“Why do you think I keep a lock on my lingerie drawer?” Pepper said when Natasha went to complain to her about it. She did not look up from packing her suitcase. She was not looking forward to her business trip but if nothing else, she would be packed for it. “When we started dating he kept stealing my silk camisoles.
“Not that I’m complaining, of course,” she added when Natasha raised an eyebrow at her. “He could pull it off well. And buying each other lingerie was fun. But then we broke up and once we started being friends again he went back to stealing my lingerie. So I had to lock it up.”
“I’d be more upset except I feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I come across him walking around in clothes he borrowed from me,” Natasha admitted.
Pepper smirked. “Yeah, he grows on you. Like a fungus.”
“I’m gonna tell him you called him a fungus,” Natasha said, thinking maybe she could finagle a little making-out and light petting out of it. Pepper usually had laser focus while she packed, after all. Natasha had had her hands smacked away more times than she could count because Pepper didn’t like to be bothered while she packed for business trips.
“I won’t return your sweaters if you do,” Pepper replied.
Natasha nearly choked on her own spit, make-outs and petting forgotten. “That was you?!”
Pepper smiled smugly. “Part of Tony’s fungus grows on you. What can I say? Your sweaters look better on me.”
“First of all no they don’t,” Natasha said. “Second of all you own fucking cashmere why are you stealing my shitty sweaters.”
Pepper turned to give her the smuggest smile she’d ever had the misfortune of seeing. “I look good in everything.”
“You do,” Natasha admitted, because Pepper could probably go out for an evening on the town in a flour sack and still look amazing. “But you’re also like half a foot taller than me without heels so they fit you weirdly.”
“Yeah,” Pepper replied, shrugging. “But they smell like you, so.”
Natasha stared at her. “…They smell like me.”
“Yeah,” Pepper repeated, unashamed. “I’m taking them to China with me. It’ll feel like I’m getting hugs from you while I’m gone. I always take at least what are you doing,” she sputtered when Natasha reached out to grab her face. “Natasha, what are you–”
“You can’t possibly think you could say something that sweet and get away with it,” Natasha scolded before pulling her down for a kiss. She was pleased to find that when she finally pulled away, Pepper leaned in further, trying to chase her lips.
Pepper had to focus on drawing back, because mostly she just wanted to fall into Natasha and never leave, but she really did have to pack. She looked down at Natasha and couldn’t help the corner of her mouth twitching up into a half-smile. “My lipstick looks better on you.”
“Well I’m glad something finally does,” Natasha said, and then laughed when Pepper gave her a chiding pinch on the side.
She didn’t tell Pepper that she also wrapped herself in Pepper’s sweaters whenever she had a business trip, though. Wouldn’t want her to be too smug, after all.
Chapter 48: Thor/Bruce
Thor had been searching for Bruce for three hours and hadn’t been able to find him. Even with JARVIS’s help, he always seemed to just miss him.
“JARVIS,” Thor said solemnly. “Are you purposely leading me astray?”
JARVIS was silent for several minutes before he replied, “No?”
“Who has ordered you to do this thing to me,” Thor asked, making sure he sounded properly betrayed and morose.
JARVIS was quiet again. “…Well, it was definitely not Sir,” he finally said.
“Tell me where they are,” Thor ordered shortly. “Now. Please.”
He should have known they’d be hiding out in Bruce’s lab. He saw Tony see him and flail off of a seat in terror and stormed in before either of them could flee. “What are you doing?!”
“Nothing!” Bruce and Tony yelped.
“Don’t lie to me!” Thor thundered. “You’ve been avoiding me for three hours and we’re supposed to meet Jane and Darcy for karaoke at five!”
Tony tried to scurry off, but Bruce grabbed the back of his shirt to hold him in place. “Sorry, something came up, I can’t go,” he babbled, holding Tony up as a human shield. “You’ll have to go without me and make my apologies but I’ve suddenly gone under the weather and–”
“We’ve had this planned for months! You can’t just get sick now! And you’re clearly fine if you’re dragging Tony around!” Thor said, circling the table for him, then came to an abrupt and shocked stop.
“This wasn’t my fault!” Tony cried desperately.
Thor stared down at Bruce’s giant green feet and agreed, in the back of his mind, that this could not possibly be Tony’s fault. Tony, for all of his lack of safety procedures in the lab, would never experiment on another person unless there was absolutely no other way, and he’d have a doctor on hand in case anything went wrong. Plus he liked the Hulk, so he wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize his friendly relationship with him.
So it had to have been Bruce alone who experimented himself into this mess.
“Please don’t be mad,” Bruce said, voice small. “I didn’t mean for this to happen and Tony was helping me figure out what to do.”
“I’m not mad that this happened,” Thor assured him. “I promise I’m not.” He paused to give Tony a long look.
“I’m leaving!” Tony yelped, and scurried off like he’d tried to before Bruce had stopped him.
Thor watched him to make sure he left before turning back to Bruce with a frown. “I’m not mad this happened,” he repeated when he saw him fidgeting anxiously. “At least not right now. We’ll talk about it later. The only thing I’m mad about right now is that you hid this from me. But now isn’t the time to rant and rave–we just need to fix this. I’ll call Jane and let her know we can’t make it.”
“Or, um, you could ask Jane to maybe come over and help?” Bruce asked wincing a little. “Tony tried to help but this isn’t really his area of expertise.”
Thor couldn’t help the smallest of smiles even as he sighed. “Darcy is going to force her way in too, you know. You’ll never hear the end of it.”
Bruce looked down at both enormous green feet before looking back up at him, also smiling a little. “I’ll probably deserve it,” he said, shrugging self-deprecatingly.
Thor laughed a little and leaned down to kiss him softly to take some of the sting out of it before he grabbed his phone to call Jane and let her know about the change of plans.
Jane, at least, promised not to laugh.
Chapter 49: Phil Coulson/Tony Stark
“Can we leave?” Tony whispered. “I want to leave.”
“You’re the one who invited me here,” Phil replied.
“I thought you would make it bearable,” Tony whined. “But it’s still boring.”
Phil wanted to roll his eyes. He didn’t. “We’re supporting Steve.”
Tony whipped around to glare at him. “Some pretentious snob was just talking about his nudes like they were supposed to be about something else instead of naked people!”
Phil didn’t snort his champagne up his nose, but only barely. “You don’t know there’s not a deeper meaning to the paintings. Maybe they’re not just nudes. Maybe they’re supposed to evoke feelings on the state of–”
“I swear, if you say another word, I’ll leave,” Tony cut in icily.
Phil considered this. On one hand, he wanted to tell Tony to go ahead and leave. Art wasn’t exactly Tony’s forte and enjoying it was something he struggled with. He wasn’t having a good time and having snobs telling him what he should be seeing when he couldn’t comprehend it was obviously going to rub him the wrong way. On the other hand, he wasn’t sure of the etiquette of making the person with the tickets leave while you wanted to stay, and Tony did want to support Steve on his big night. Steve was proud of his work, but showing it off was a struggle, and somehow having Tony nearby ready to help him glad-hand if he needed it had made him relax, finally.
“If you can make it another hour, we’ll go get burgers,” he compromised.
Tony whimpered. “With onion rings?”
Phil nodded. “Sure. And the next time someone starts talking about a painting with you, pretend they’re Pepper and she’s going over shareholders meeting minutes with you.”
Tony’s face fell, but then he sighed and nodded miserably. “Alright.”
“And buy me that,” Phil added, pointing toward a painting that had been very experimental, a study of the Brooklyn skyline in vivid colors. He could put it in his office. It was looking a little drab ever since his potted spider plant had died.
Tony turned to look at the painting and wrinkled his nose. “Alright,” he said, looking supremely uncertain about it, but also totally willing to give him what he wanted. Phil appreciated that, even if it made him ache to remember all the times people had taken advantage of that fact, including him, at the beginning. “I want to go tell Steve what they said about Natasha’s boobs.”
“Okay,” Phil said, amused.
“Oh, thank God, normal people,” Steve said when they approached him, and actually yanked both of them in for a hug. “You will not believe what I just heard about that nude portrait I did of Natasha. So glad I didn’t include her face.”
“Aw,” Tony complained immediately, but quieted when Phil raised an eyebrow at him.
Steve finally let them go. “And the things they’ve said about your nude portrait, Tony, oh my God–”
Phil inhaled his champagne this time, coughing out a startled, wheezing, “What!?”
“…The nude portrait of Tony?” Steve repeated, and then leaned back a little. “That’s the focal point of my show, Phil. I did nude portraits of all my friends to focus on the vulnerability in those kinds of relationships–”
Phil was impressed that Tony’s eyes had already glazed over. Then again, he had told him to treat it like shareholders minutes. “But you obscured his face right?” he asked Steve, only feeling slightly bad for interrupting him.
Steve blinking at him in surprise. “No, I only obscured Natasha, Bucky, and Sharon’s because they asked. Everyone else was okay wi–”
“Buy me your nude portrait right now,” Phil said, grabbing Tony’s bicep and dragging him over to the nude portraits.
“Buying his portrait will not get it taken down until the end of the show,” Steve called after him. “I’m sure you know that but I’m reminding you!”
Phil stole it instead. Steve and Tony were reluctantly impressed that no one noticed until an hour later.
(He put it up in their bedroom and Tony giggled every time he looked at it. Phil showed he cared in the weirdest of ways, but he kind of liked that about him.)
Rhodey was holding a pair of heels that were full of murder and a plate with a little slice of cake on it. He wondered what his life had become when his mother had handed them to him and said, “Your bride is in the fountain.” He wasn’t sorry about what it had become, of course, just… very confused as to how it had gone this way, that he was trying to cajole his new wife out of a fountain with cake.
“But I live here now,” Natasha told him matter-of-factly. She held her hands out to him. “Give me the cake.”
“I am not letting you eat cake in the fountain,” Rhodey said, trying not to sound too amused. Luckily he was still mostly sober, so it was believable. “This is a dry activity.”
“You!” Natasha began, wobbling only slightly as she drew herself up straight and pointed at him. “Are! The fun police! I can handle eating cake in a fountain!”
“Yeah, well, if you weren’t so drunk, maybe I would let you. But you are, so I’m not,” Rhodey said, unconcerned.
Natasha scowled. “I’m telling your mother on you.”
“Mama said you can’t have cake in the fountain,” Rhodey said.
“Oh. I’m coming out of the fountain,” Natasha allowed, apparently too unwilling to upset her new mother-in-law. “I lost Steve.”
Rhodey frowned in concern. “You were with Steve?” He peered into the fountain to see if he’d drowned. He’d hate for his wedding to be the one that killed Captain America. “Steve got in the fountain with you?”
“He was drinking Thor’s mead and felt too hot but Pepper told him that under no circumstances was he allowed to strip so he got in the fountain,” Natasha informed him proudly.
Rhodey did not see Steve in the fountain, thank God. He held a hand out to help her out of the fountain without falling flat on her face. “And why did Pepper tell him that that he couldn’t strip? My family would have loved to see a grown-ass white boy making a fool of himself. Especially since he’s ripped.”
“She said that Tony–why is the floor doing this to me,” Natasha complained as she wobbled out of the fountain. “How rude. Doesn’t it know I got married today?”
Rhodey used the wrist of the hand holding her cake to steady her and hoped he didn’t get any frosting on her dress even though it was probably already ruined. “Pepper said what about Tony?”
“I was just telling you!” Natasha exclaimed, frustrated.
“Sorry,” Rhodey said.
Natasha tried to frown at him severely but mostly just pouted adorably. “Pepper said that Tony had just entered solidarity levels of drunk. If Steve started taking off his clothes, so would Tony.”
“My family’s seen Tony naked, so it would have been fine,” Rhodey pointed out, leading her over to an empty chair. His family with young kids had left at this point, leaving only the adults able and willing to party, so there were plenty of of them.
Natasha tipped her head back to look at him and tilted sideways out of her chair. “Why have they seen Tony naked?”
Rhodey tipped her back upright. “Because Tony, like Steve, does dumb things when he’s drunk.”
“I don’t do dumb things when I’m drunk,” Natasha told him without even a hint of irony.
Rhodey decided not to tell her that getting in the fountain was dumb. “Eat your cake.”
Natasha obediently grabbed the fork and took a bite. She ate about half the slice of cake before declaring, “I! Perhaps! Drank too much champagne.”
“Yeah, I don’t think I got to finish my own glass once tonight,” Rhodey said, amused. “Why were you drinking for the two of us?”
“Because I’m afraid of the Electric Slide, Jim,” Natasha told him.
Rhodey paused, waiting to see if she was going to say she was just kidding, but when he realized she was serious he began to laugh.
“Jim!” Natasha whined. “Don’t laugh at me! You know I struggle with the Electric Slide! I don’t want your family to hate me because I can’t do that dance!”
“First of all, no one is going to judge you for being unable to do the Electric Slide well,” Rhodey informed her. “Secondly, no one will care because Tony loves the Electric Slide and will draw any and all unwanted attention. Not because he’s bad, but because he gets so into it. No white boy loves the Electric Slide as much as Tony does. It’s tradition at this point in the Rhodes family that Tony will dance the Electric Slide at your wedding and it’s considered good luck.”
Natasha pondered on this for a very long time before saying, “I want Tony to dance the Electric Slide at our wedding.”
“It’s mostly just a matter of time,” Rhodey admitted. “It’s not ‘if’ but ‘when.’”
“Oh good,” Natasha said. “I want that good luck. We’ll need it.”
Rhodey glanced over to where Tony was sprawled across a table, nearly dozing, and worried that he might not make it to the Electric Slide.
He shouldn’t have worried though; as soon as that first cord struck he was out of his chair and weaving toward the dance floor, drunkenly passing out kisses on cheeks like candy.
“He will be the best brother-in-law,” Natasha declared as Rhodey helped her over to the dance floor as well, because she insisted the floor wanted to see her fail on this night especially and he didn’t want to see her try to stab it. “We must babysit his and Pepper’s eight children.”
“I would have done that anyway but thanks for the agreement,” Rhodey said, and made sure to always be behind her so he could catch her in case she somehow managed to wipe out spectacularly as she danced.
He didn’t remember a lot of their wedding reception after that, but that was okay; he remembered the most important part, when Natasha turned to face him, declared he was the best dancer ever, and gave him a kiss right there in the middle of all of his family, who cooed over how sweet they were.
(Well, he also remembered when security brought Steve back, shaking their heads, because Steve had somehow managed to wander out of their reception and into the wedding reception next door, where he’d finally decided to disrobe because Pepper wasn’t there to scold him. He was going to hold that over Steve for years to come. It was truly the best wedding gift he received that night, Natasha’s hand notwithstanding.)
This is a follow-up to chapter 17!