“Are you really going to tase me?” Tony looked up as Coulson made his way slowly over to the workshop couch.
“Maybe later.” Coulson sank down onto the cushions.
Tony nodded absently and concentrated on the nanofabric he was working on. After several minutes he realized Coulson wasn’t annoying him or leaving and Tony looked up again. Dum-E was trying unsuccessfully to spread a blanket over Coulson’s sleeping form. Tony sat back and watched.
“How is he?”
Tony jumped and clutched at his arc reactor. “Dammit! Noise!” He turned and glared at Clint. “Fuck you and super-ninja-spy both. Make some fucking noise.” He looked over to see how disapproving Coulson would look to find he was still asleep. “Huh.”
Clint settled on the only empty patch of countertop. The shards of the plate Dum-E had tried to clear away were spread across the floor beneath his dangling feet. “Can JARVIS tell how he’s doing?”
Tony glanced at the side screen that currently held Coulson’s and Bruce’s vitals. “No.”
Clint snorted. “Sure. I just wanted to let you know Nat bobbytrapped the ducts on her floor and the one below it. If you need to have maintenance done or anything.”
Tony rubbed his eye. “Fine, fine. She’s changing the air filters for any floor she’s made lethal.”
“Fair enough.” Clint picked up a wrench from between them and twirled it. “Cap is going to be down here any minute to bug you about sleeping.”
Tony glanced at his clock. “Why? It is only ten thirty.”
Clint stuck his chin out towards the screen in front of Tony. “Check the date.”
“Oh.” Tony spun his chair around and threw his feet up beside Clint’s closer thigh. “Usually you like to watch me be yelled at.”
With a shrug, Clint slid off the counter. “You do make the most absurd facial expressions.”
He frowned. “I do not.”
Clint held out his phone. “Sure you don’t.”
Tony snatched it and flicked through the photos. “Wow...no,no, that’s totally uncalled for...huh, not bad...Oh! Can I email this one to myself?”
Clint leaned forward to see and smiled. “Sure.”
“Pepper will love that one.” Tony handed back the phone. “Why are you really here?”
“What was space like?”
Tony blinked. “Seriously?”
Clint shrugged. “Never got to ask anyone who has actually been before.”
“It was...amazing. Huge and there were so many stars I didn’t recognize. The fleet of spaceships were sort of cool in a we-are-all-going-to-die sort of way.” Tony frowned. “Then I died.” He shrugged. “A little bit. Or something. Anyway, I woke up when the Hulk tried to deafen me.”
Clint raised an eyebrow. “Well, I did say he was loud.”
Tony rolled his eyes. “Go away, Barton.”
Clint smiled as he went.
Pepper frowned as her phone beeped. It was supposed to be on silent, but Tony kept forcing it to beep for his incoming messages no matter what settings Pepper changed. She sighed and checked her phone. It was a picture message of Tony making rabbit ears behind Steve’s head while he was turned away and clearly lecturing Tony. She shook her head. Tony never got as childish as when someone was trying to get him to listen to them.
She exited the elevator and Steve stuck his head out of the kitchen.
“Good afternoon, ma’am.”
She smiled and reminded herself not to correct him about her name again. It would only make him feel more awkward. “Steve. What movie are they torturing you with tonight?”
“Oh, it isn’t torture, ma’am. Clint picked Support Your Local Gunfighter. He said we’d had enough aliens for a while.”
She nodded. “That one is a comedy. I think you’ll like it.” She gently pried the tea towel out of his hand and tossed it onto the counter behind him. “Do you know what you want to learn today?”
He nodded as they left the kitchen behind and went into the big main room with all the technology Tony could pack into a living space. “I know exactly what I want to work on.”
She smiled as he pulled out his sketchbook from between two cushions of the smallest couch. “Alright.” She looked down at the picture he’d drawn. “Oh. Wow.”
“I need to figure out how to get this into the computer without JARVIS because I want to surprise Agent Coulson, but I can’t if Tony learns about it.” He gestured to the ceiling. “JARVIS is really swell, but he has said that Tony ordered him to tell Tony any time I ask for help with something technological.”
Pepper tried not to smile too widely. “Steve, if Tony wants to know about it, he will.”
Steve sat down with a sigh. “I know.”
She hated it when he made her feel like she’s kicked a puppy. It was even worse than when Tony made her feel that way. She settled next to him and took the sketchbook from him. “Here. Let’s get this into a program so you can...What were you wanting to do to it?”
He tilted his head. “I need to touch up a few spots and color it. I want to get it printed out and framed when it is done. Can we do that?”
“Sure.” She ran her thumb down the pile of pages he’d flipped over to get to the one they were on. “What else have you drawn?”
He took the sketchbook back and flipped pages. “This one was hard to shade, but I’m happy with how it came out for the most part.”
She clapped her hands. “Oh! I love it. Would you mind it terribly if I took a photo of that one?”
Steve looked down at it. “I don’t have Agent Coulson’s shoe at the right angle.”
“I don’t care.” She made her best puppy dog eyes at him. “Please, Steve?”
He ducked his head and rubbed his thumb across the edge of the page. “Alright. Sure.”
She carefully lined up the frame of the phone’s camera and snapped a couple of pictures. “Great! Show me what else you have, please.”
Bruce always tried to sit on the outside edge of the group when watching movies, but somehow he almost always ended up on the middle. This time was no different with Tony on one side of him, Steve on the other, and Clint in front of them on the floor. On the other side of Steve was Coulson, the poor man was still sleeping more than he was awake. His head was going to slide down onto Cap’s shoulder any minute. Thor smiled at them from the armchair he’d claimed as his own.
Bruce turned his head just enough to see Natasha curled up on the corner platform that Clint usually used. Bruce looked down at Clint with his bowl of popcorn. “You are going to fanboy over this movie, aren’t you?”
Clint tilted his head back and smiled at Bruce with a mouthful of popcorn.
Tony’s phone chimed, he checked it, and laughed. “Oh, God. Bruce, you have to see this...” He held out his phone and Bruce frowned.
“Where did that come from?”
Tony beamed and punched a couple of buttons on his phone. “Pepper messaged it to me. It is tooth-achingly cute.” He waggled the phone at them and jumped when Natasha leaned in over his shoulder.
Bruce turned his head to see Natasha smile at the image before flipping her body back up onto the corner nest. He poked Tony in the ribs. “It isn’t cute.”
Clint flicked Tony’s phone out of his hand and checked the image. “Definitely cute.” He held the phone back up for Tony to snatch before there could be blood shed.
Thor raised his eyebrows. “What is the picture of which we speak?”
Bruce glanced at Tony, who seemed absorbed in his phone. “He can’t just show you?”
Tony made a face and tucked his phone away. “Nah. Thor’s fried a couple of phones and one older computer core.” Tony flicked his fingers outward. “Lightning demi-god.”
“It was just the other guy, Thor.”
Tony smacked him in the arm. “Oh, please.” Tony leaned out so he could see Steve’s face. “It is a hand drawn picture of the Hulk watching baby hummingbirds as Coulson sleeps beside him.”
Coulson’s head came up. “What?” He looked around, seemingly decided there was no danger, and then he closed his eyes again.
Thor nodded seriously. “A captured picture.”
Bruce shook his head. “No, Thor, Steve drew it.”
Steve shrugged. “I just thought it was an interesting angle down on them.”
Clint reached up and poked Tony in the knee with his handful of popcorn. “Movie.”
“That was a lame attempt at distracting me, Barton.” Tony waved at the screen. “You heard the man, JARVIS. Movie.”
Phil was rather enjoying all the bits of conversations he was getting to hear because everyone thought he was asleep constantly, instead of sleeping in small stretches like he actually was. He let himself almost smile as Bruce tried to ask Tony about the arrangement of the floors in the Tower.
“Natasha said I needed to ask you about why her floor is the bottommost of the living quarters if I wanted to know.”
Tony clanked something and muttered to himself before what sounded like a chair turning. “Does it matter?”
“Yes. I’m between you and Thor. Above everyone except you.” Bruce sat down on the arm of the couch and Dum-E chirped at him from where the robot was laboriously spreading a blanket over Phil’s chest. “It is dangerous.”
“Ahhh, no.” Tony’s voice moved as he walked towards them. “Natasha is the lowest floor because she needs to be the first to kick an invader’s ass. Steve is next because he’ll be right behind her. Barton after that because he’ll have a conniption fit if he’s too far away from Natasha.” Tony stopped moving. “And the guy beside you is next because he needs to be in the middle of everything.”
Phil had to force himself not to smile at Tony’s avoidance of using his name.
“And Thor’s on the floor with a wide balcony. Your floor is above that.” Tony moved away again. “Big deal.”
“Tony, we’re just as likely, if not more so, to get attacked from above.”
“I know that.” Tony sounded snappish.
Bruce moved from the arm of the couch. “I wasn’t saying you didn’t.”
“Clint asked me what space was like.”
There was a hum sort of noise from Bruce.
“I expected you to ask that one.”
“And I expected you to ask far more questions about the other guy.”
Phil wanted to crack an eye so he could see Stark’s face.
“Huh.” Tony’s voice was soft around the edges. “I wasn’t terrified. That sort of surprised me.”
“Mostly just done with it all and wanting a peaceful nap?”
“Yeah.” Tony tapped something on his workbench. “There was something wrong with the way the portal closed, you know.”
Phil had been sliding towards real sleep right until then.
“What do you mean?” Bruce moved closer to Tony.
“I did the math.” Tony paused for a moment, probably to bring up equations. “It should have closed before I fell back through. It slowed up for a fraction of a second. Just enough. And not only that, but the gamma levels spiked then too.”
“No, no. I’m not trying to imply...It wasn’t you.” Tony made something light up and then it died back down some. “Look at this and tell me what you see.”
Phil cracked one eye open. Lot of blue light, yep. He closed his eye and waited.
“Uh huh.” Tony started typing. “I think we’re damn lucky Loki picked him to stab. There’s nothing more orderly and dutiful than a former Marine.”
Phil couldn’t stop himself. “Once a Marine, always a Marine, Stark. Not former anything.”
There was a crash. “Ow.”
He opened his eyes to find Tony had gashed his hand open and Bruce was being quietly amused as Stark complained about spies and no warning noises.
Director Fury pursed his lips as he read the latest report. “You are sure you want to stay there?”
Agent Coulson’s best hint-of-a-smile appeared on his face. “Having the time of my life, Boss.”
“Uh huh.” Fury checked the computer in front of him and frowned as another trading card was bought from underneath him. It was going to take him far more than eight years at this rate. “Try not to let it all go to Stark’s head.”
“I’ll do my best, sir.” And Coulson ended the call.
Fury leaned back in his chair. “You always do.”
Steve gingerly sat down next to Coulson. “Tony says you’ve been faking being asleep.”
Coulson opened his eyes. “Only part time.”
“I know.” Steve clasped his hands together. “I can, ah, hear really well.”
With a snort, Coulson sat up. “I’ve heard that.” He cocked his head. “What can I do for you, Cap?”
Steve smiled and jumped up. “Actually, I have something for you.” He picked up the frame and turned it for Coulson to see.
“Oh.” Coulson leaned forward and looked the picture over. “That is incredible.”
Steve moved it towards Coulson. “I want you to have it.”
“You included me.” Coulson’s hand came up to grip the frame’s edge. “Thank you.”
“Of course, I did.” Steve touched Coulson’s shoulder. “You are one of us, Agent Coulson.”
“Awww, look at that.”
Coulson didn’t even blink. “Natasha is returning my taser today, Stark.”
Steve smiled and looked over his simple drawing turned into a poster by modern technology. The Avengers were ranged through the large picture, with Coulson to one side in his normal suit, a gun in one hand. Under the large picture were smaller single pictures, one for each of them. The Hulk’s was double wide with him and Bruce back to back. Everyone was depicted in their gear with broders done for each of them so that their name, names in the Hulk/Bruce one, flowed from the bottom border to the top where it said Avengers. Steve had done his own so that half of him had the old uniform and half the new uniform. Everyone was battle scarred in the little pictures and prefect in the large one.
“Oh, that is totally going up on the big living room.”
Steve smiled as the rest of his newest team gathered around to see Phil’s present.