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A Tradition Never Broken

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“There. I think that's everything,” Steve said, stuffing one last thing in the already-full picnic basket.

His Arcanine huffed slightly beside him and nosed at the kitchen cupboard he was standing in front of.

“Hm? Oh, right!” Steve opened the cupboard and pulled out a set of plastic wine glasses. “Tony wouldn't be happy if we forgot these, would he?” He laughed softly and managed to find a spot to squeeze them in.

He paused as he closed the top of the basket, momentarily lost in thought. A nudge at his shoulder jolted him back to the present and he turned to see his Arcanine who pushed him gently once more and whined slightly.

Steve smiled softly and patted his partner's head. “Let's go Aslan, we don't want to keep him waiting.”

Picking up the basket, Steve headed towards the front door followed closely by Arcanine, who had gently grasped a neatly folded red checkered blanket between his teeth.

Before leaving, Steve turned and went down the first few stairs that led into the basement laboratory.

“Bruce? Are you coming?”

There was a whirr of mechanical instruments followed by Bruce's slightly stressed reply: “Go ahead, we'll catch up after this analysis is complete.”

“All right,” Steve called back. “Be careful!” he added as he ascended the stairway. From the top of the stairs, he could hear the faint chirping of Togetic as she tried to soothe her trainer.

When Steve finally reached the giant door of the Avengers mansion, he snapped his fingers a couple times.

“Are you coming, Lady?”

From her spot right next to the entrance, the Ninetails unfurled from her nap and stretched quickly before trotting eagerly out the door as soon as Steve opened it.

They could have easily taken the bus to their destination, but none of the three minded the walk; this way they could avoid the larger crowds. In any case, they didn't need to worry much about getting pestered by fans because if anyone recognized the great Captain America and came too close Arcanine would growl softly and that was usually enough to keep them away.

When finally they arrived, Steve deposited the basket.

“Sorry we're late, I had trouble finding a couple of things; Clint moved stuff around in the kitchen again I think.”

Cap took two corners of the blanket hanging from Aslan's jaws and they spread it out for all of them to sit on. Lady nosed the basket impatiently and whined gently.

Steve laughed softly. “It won't be long, girl. Just be patient.”

He opened the basket and pulled out a fancy bottle full of amber liquid as well as the plastic wine glasses.

“Before you even start, I know; they're plastic and it's 'blasphemous to serve this in anything less than glass',” he recited as if he had heard the complaint a million times. “If it's any consolation it's your favourite, imported from Scotland.”

Steve set the items on the blanket and began to pull various things from the picnic basket to have ready by the time everyone else arrived. He set out a stack of paper plates and a handful of plastic cutlery, followed by a salad Natasha had made earlier that day, an abnormally large amount of various kinds of sandwiches Steve and Clint had put together, Bruce's cold asian noodle salad, and some cookies from Thor that the soldier was pretty certain Jane had helped him make.

This excursion was not something they had planned spontaneously. After their first meal at the shawarma restaurant, the Avengers had slowly begun eating meals together until it became at least a weekly occurrence. Somehow, after a suggestion by Steve that Tony had called “adorably old fashioned”, it had evolved into weekly picnics. No matter the weather they would all go out, and if there was snow they would clear off one of the balconies and roast marshmallows or have an indoor picnic on the floor of the living room.

All of them really enjoyed their meals together; it gave them a chance to sit down, relax, joke with each other, and get caught up on the going ons in everyone's lives. When their lives as superheroes were chaotic, these meals gave them a moment of much desired respite.

Steve started suddenly when he felt something land behind him. He turned and smiled when he saw a Crobat standing casually on the grass.

“Hey there, Shade,” he said, scratching the bat pokemon behind the ear who chirred happily in response.

“Sorry we're late.”

Steve peered around the massive bat to see Natasha and Clint approaching, along with Clint's Noctowl, Merlin. Both agents were breathing somewhat heavily and had a fine layer of perspiration coating their skin.

“How was the run?” Steve asked, taking a plastic bag from Merlin's talons so he could land and rest.

“I won,” Natasha panted slightly, “again.”

“I still maintain that you cheated,” Clint protested and flopped down on the grass.

The redhead just rolled her eyes and Steve gave her a subtle high-five for her victory.

Natasha nodded to the bag Steve held, “We saw a few things at a market on our way here and picked them up.” She reached into the bag and whistled to Lady. The white fox was curled up in the sun and perked her ears up at Natasha's call.

“I found something for you,” Natasha cooed and pulled out a ripe mango. Lady was immediately at her side, tails twitching expectantly as she gazed hopefully up at Natasha.

Natasha just ruffled her ears. “You have to wait until we all eat.”

Unimpressed, Lady huffed and sulked back to her warm spot of sunlight. The soldier and the assassin chuckled.

“I swear she gets it from Tony,” Natasha sighed as she replaced the fruit so Steve could set the bag down next to the basket full of goods.

“At least she didn't just try and take it from you,” Steve smiled.

She laughed. “Now manners, that she learned from you.”

Steve ducked his head a little in embarrassment and Natasha patted his arm as she went to rummage through the basket for a bottle of water.

Steve turned to Clint, who was using his arm to shield his eyes from the sun.

“Clint, do you know when Thor is going to get here?”

Clint slowly shook his head and suddenly grunted as a water bottle was thrown onto his stomach.

“Thanks, Tash,” he groaned.

“Friends!”

All heads turned to see Thor and Bruce striding towards them, the former waving his arm vigorously and grinning broadly. Aslan barked happily at their approach and ran to tackle the god. Thor was so strong that he stood firm at Aslan's attack and held the fire dog's immense front paws in his hands. He laughed as Aslan licked his face and the Raichu once perched on his shoulder leapt onto the other pokemon's back to stay out of the way.

Bruce was laughing a bit at the antics occurring next to him. “Hello everyone,” he waved slightly. He gently held his Togetic, Felice, in his other arm and she trilled contentedly at the sight of the rest of the group.

Steve whistled. “Aslan, come here boy,” he called, half-stern.

The Arcanine stopped his assault on Thor and trotted over to his trainer, Raichu riding happily on his back. Cap smiled and took a turn scratching both pokemon, paying careful attention to the few sparks being emitted from Zeus' cheeks.

“Well since we're all late, we should probably get started,” Steve called out to everyone. “I was just telling Tony that I brought his favourite scotch and I think he would be insulted if we didn't open it soon.” He smiled, but it was partly forced.

Everyone took a seat on or around the large blanket while Steve took out the six glasses and poured the alcohol. As Steve was handing them out, Lady came to his side and whined softly. He nodded once and she hurried to the picnic basket and poked her head in it.

Left with but two glasses, Cap went to the edge of the blanket where it brushed against the bottom of short, stone stairs and set one glass on the top step. Lady walked over, holding a bouquet of flowers gently between her teeth and placed it next to the glass. She sat at the base of the steps and stared mournfully upward.

Any chatter that had erupted quieted almost immediately and all followed her gaze to a great monument to Tony Stark. At the top he stood, his image forever preserved in a great statue. Though it was not him in the flesh, the artist managed to capture very well almost everything that was Tony, from his tall and accomplished but somewhat laid-back demeanor, to the hands shoved in the pockets of his pants, and his trademark smirk. At his back, facing the opposite direction, was a statue of the Iron Man suit, the bold colours unfortunately not reflected in the greyish black of the stonework. Beneath the double statue lay a set of heavy, locked, double doors that led to Tony's final resting place below.

Steve raised his glass and turned to face the others.

“A toast...”

“To happiness, rest, and victories ahead!” Clint raised his glass enthusiastically. Natasha smiled at the archer. “To victories of all kinds, big and small.”

Thor smiled down at Zeus and pat his head tenderly, “To the bravery and fellowship of our comrades.”

“To our family of misfits,” Bruce added in the soft way he speaks.

“To the days that have made and make us who we are, and to a man who has shown us many things and is a friend that we will never forget.”

The Avengers raised their glasses in unison and took a drink.

“All right, let's break out the food! I'm starving!” Clint shouted and he ducked to avoid a swipe from Natasha.

After that, the atmosphere livened up again. Food was passed around and everyone was exchanging stories. Aslan had laid down at the edge of the blanket with his food and Steve sat against his bug furry side as he ate and watched the others, occasionally joining in.

Thor thought the sandwiches were “a most delicious creation” and ate nearly half of them while fighting over the rest of them with Merlin. Natasha sat cross-legged with her plate balanced on one knee as she peeled and cut the mango which Lady ate happily. Shade, Felice, and Zeus talked in their own language while the Crobat shared some strawberries that Natasha had bought for him. Bruce was talking about an intelligent kid that he sometimes saw when he did research at the university and Clint argued that a new spandex-clad guy that he had seen hanging around could easily top the kid because “he can climb walls! Like without using any special gear! And he uses this weird rope stuff to swing across the city. It's freaking weird, but kinda cool.”

They kept on like this for a while and eventually Thor pulled out a frisbee he had brought along. Bruce, Ninetails, Togetic, Crobat, and Noctowl decided not to play and opted instead to sit on the steps and cheer the others on. It became an intense game pretty quickly as the toy was thrown around and snapped out of the air. It was the assassin, the god, and the electric mouse versus the archer, the supersoldier, and the fire wolf. Tackles were attempted, stealth was used and defeated, and more than once Zeus and Natasha teamed up to zap their opponent or hit a vulnerable point. By the end of it, they were all worn out and the sky was beginning to turn a pinkish shade of orange, signaling that it was time to head home.

With many hands, it was not long before everything was packed up and the Avengers and their pokemon started to make their way out of the cemetery. Steve noticed that something, or rather someone, was missing and stopped to look back. Lady lay on the steps of the monument, having not moved from where she had sat before the game of frisbee, her tails trailing listlessly down the steps and head resting on her paws with her nose just touching the flowers. Steve sighed sadly at the sight of the pokemon still grieving for her trainer.

When they had first met, he and Tony did not get along, at all. They rubbed each other the wrong way and pushed each other's buttons, trying to make the other more irritated than they already were. After a while, however, their words turned from spiteful comments to friendly banter and eventually the two became very good friends. They would still have their arguments of course, usually over battle tactics, but to Steve Tony had been the closest friend he had ever had along with Bucky, although there were times when Tony made that friendship almost pale in comparison.

Lady was, for lack of a better word, the love of Tony's life; the two had been together since Tony had been very young and Lady was still a Vulpix. He loved her incessantly and wanted to make sure that she would be in good hands when he was gone, considering especially that it was said that Ninetails could live up to 1000 years. Both Steve and Tony had felt that was most likely a bit of an exaggeration, but nonetheless one night when they were up late out talking on one of the balconies overlooking the city, Tony had said that Steve was the one he wanted to look after Lady should anything happen to him. Steve had been the one that Lady felt the most comfortable with and Tony trusted Steve. At that time, Steve didn't want to think about the possibility of Tony dying, none of them did even though it was almost a daily hazard. Nonetheless, Steve had agreed and said with utmost sincerity and promise that somehow only Steve can convey that he would ensure he would look after Lady and care for her as if she was his own pokemon. Tony had just smiled grimly and nodded before clapping Steve roughly on the shoulder; his way of saying 'thank you'. It was about two years later that he died.

Steve walked back over to the Ninetails and sat on the step just below hers and stroked her head soothingly. She whined long and low and nosed the flowers. Steve wrapped his arms around her and pressed the side of his face against her neck.

“I know girl,” he murmured, “I miss him too.”

They sat there for a short while longer, mourning the loss of such a great man. Finally, Lady lifted her head and in turn Steve straightened, one hand remaining on her back. She turned her head and licked him lightly on the nose and he smiled softly before they both stood to leave.

Aslan had waited patiently for them the entire time and when Steve approached he nuzzled his trainer's neck affectionately. Cap rubbed his ears in thanks.

“Let's go home,” he murmured so that only they could hear and placed one hand on Aslan's side and the other on Lady's back.

With that, the soldier and the fire pokemon turned their backs to the statue, leaving behind the flowers and the glass of scotch.