When Thor brought back what amounted to an Asgardian keg from his latest trip home, Tony wasn't ashamed to admit he was excited. He'd had every kind of alcohol known to man over the years: cheap beers with Rhodey during undergrad, fine wines for show at Stark functions, hard liquor of all origins and strengths. And now he was going to get alien drunk.
Except it turned out this stuff was more potent than should be physically possible. (Literally. When he and Jane Foster looked into it later, it defied their combined understanding of physics.) Tony got to have maybe a shotglass's worth before he passed out. Based on his BAC when he woke up, he'd gotten dangerously close to killing his liver for good.
And if Tony couldn't handle it, a lot of interested parties were going to be very disappointed.
Hell, he was very disappointed.
But in his time, Tony had become well-practiced at displacing his disappointment. Since he couldn't mechanically upgrade his liver (yet), and they apparently couldn't make this stuff less alcoholic without making it unworthy of Thor's shieldbrothers, he would have to live vicariously through the handful of people that could drink the stuff.
And not vicariously in a nice way.
"Wait," Sam said, "you want to get everyone who's had the serum drunk on Thor's ale and see what happens?"
Sam stared thoughtfully at Tony. He and Rhodey had been hanging out, doing... soldier bonding stuff, Tony assumed, when Tony had barreled into the room with his awesome, awesome idea. "Like, all of them."
"That's the idea."
"All of them," Sam repeated, like Tony wasn't getting what he was saying.
"Well, let's see," Tony said, counting them off on his fingers, "we've got Capsicle, Capsicle 2: Winter Boogaloo, and the Jolly Green Giant. That's three. Which is great for statistical significance if nothing else. Am I missing somebody?"
Sam shook his head slowly, muttering something under his breath that Tony was pretty sure was both about him and not nice. Then he laughed. "'S your funeral, man. But if you're really doing this, I'm pretty sure it's something I gotta see first-hand."
One person taken care of, Tony turned his attention back to his original target. Rhodey eyeballed him. Tony eyeballed him back. He couldn't tell whether Rhodey was gonna be disapproving or not. Usually he was into anything involving alcohol, but after that one time... yeah. On the other hand, Tony wasn't getting superhumanly drunk, so maybe he'd be into it. "What did Pepper have to say about this, exactly?"
Tony sniffed. "Rhodey. Please." They had an agreement. If he was sure he could contain the mess - and Rhodey or Happy or, more recently, Bruce agreed to supervise - then she didn't need to know about the dumb experiments he did when he was bored.
"You gonna record whatever happens for posterity?"
"Duh." What kind of person did Rhodey think he was? There was no point to this without audiovisual proof to rub in their faces once they were sober.
After eyeballing Tony for another minute, Rhodey nodded. "Alright, I'm in."
"Me too!" Clint announced, crawling out of... the wet bar? Why had he - when had he - how had he even gotten there? (Curse Tony's weakness towards ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agents; not being S.H.I.E.L.D. agents anymore didn't stop them from being sneaky sneaks.) "But there's something you need to know first."
And that's how Tony found out that Natasha wasn't quite as Badass Normal as he'd thought. Well, badass, yes. Normal, not so much.
After that, things went pretty smoothly. Jane Foster found out about the plan from Thor and got excited ("I'm not even remotely a biochemist, but the Super Soldier Serum is fascinating, and comparing their reaction to Thor's might give us an idea of how different Asgardian physiology is from ours! To say nothing of how investigating the alcohol's purity might lead us to better refinement of fuel, for those of us who can't afford an arc reactor to power our skyscrapers - "), so Tony brought her in as a fellow science-minded individual.
Arranging safety precautions in case any of them turned out to be angry, violent drunks took a week or so, and then Jane only needed an hour to convince Thor to guilt-trip the subjects into drinking with him. Thor did so with concerning ease and speed, a date was set, and the night of the rest of them watched from a few floors up, less potent drinks in hand.
As it turned out, when people exposed to the Super Soldier Serum (or something a lot like it) got drunk, they turned into bizarre versions of the Seven Dwarfs: Friendly, Giggly, Broody, and Doc.
Steve was normally a pretty polite, nice guy. Oh, sure, one wrong move and you're on the bad side of a frustrating, morally superior twenty minute lecture, Tony knew that better than most, but he wasn't one to get angry or mean unprovoked. At the same time, he wasn't all that friendly unless you'd done something friendly yourself. A reactionary kind of guy either way; you didn't get a punch or a handshake from him you didn't deserve.
So drunk Steve was a bit of a surprise.
"You," he declared, pointing at a place halfway between Thor and Bruce. It wasn't clear who he'd meant to point at. "You are - you are the best. Really, just the greatest. Thoughtful, and strong, the best teammate a guy could ask for - and just really great to be around." Tony frowned. Still not clear. "'N I'm not just saying that, I mean it. About both of you." Ah.
"And, and, Natasha!" Turning around in his seat in a move so unconsciously sexual Tony couldn't believe it was Steve doing it, he leaned over and pressed a hand to Natasha's shoulder. "Natasha, you are so, so amazing. The things you can do - I don't, I don't understand how you do those things. And some of them I don't like so much, but most of them, oh gosh, they're so." He never finished that sentence, having been handed a third pint, but his hand stayed on Natasha for the duration of his chug, sliding down her arm to cup her elbow.
Natasha stared at him, unblinking. Steve just smiled goofily and sank back in his seat.
He seemed to have forgotten his seat had no back, and ended up half-lying on the fifth member of their party. Steve only realized this when he rolled his head further along the shoulder he was lying on and found himself staring at Bucky from two inches away.
He broke into a wide grin. "Bucky!" Flipping over, he buried his head in the crook of Bucky's neck and wrapped his arms around his friend's waist. "Bucky, Bucky, Bucky. You know you're my favorite, don'tcha Bucky?"
"Oh boy," one of them upstairs muttered.
Bucky had stayed quiet up to this point, drinking when Steve drank, not really reacting in any noticeable way. Like that was a big change from how he usually behaved. Okay, maybe he held himself a little looser, maybe the shadows under his eyes seemed a little softer, but who could tell that kind of thing in the moment? In Tony's semi-expert opinion, that was the kind of microscopic detail best reserved for post-experimental analysis.
So maybe Bucky had already been affected before this point, but the first time Tony noticed was after Steve had launched a hug attack on the guy, disarming him with cuddling and drunken praise. Bucky stiffened up, and Tony got nervous - not without reason; he'd set up precautions for exactly the kind of nightmares that could've happened at that very moment - but then. Oh, then.
Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, an assassin feared around the world, giggled.
Sam's jaw dropped. "God is real," he breathed reverently.
Tony knew then and there, there was nothing that could happen to make him regret the decision to get these people wasted.
"You are so sauced, Stevie," Bucky, hand to god, giggled. Tony would swear on any religious text you gave him - or on Pepper or Rhodey or his bots if you wanted the oath to actually mean anything.
"I mean," Bucky said, leaning forward to get away from Steve's nuzzling, which seemed like it might be tickling him. But no, Bucky had pulled free, to Steve's disappointment, and was still giggling. "I mean, this guy, usually the best you can get outta him is a mean, sullen drunk. I dunno what they put in this stuff, Thor," he said, draining his pint, "but if it gets him to go straight from tipsy to clingy, I wanna keg o' my own."
"That can certainly be arranged, Bucky," Thor said, grinning, which was also somehow giggle-worthy. Thor was boring; he was used to this kind of alcohol, and just became more and more... Thorish the more he drank. Not interesting to Tony, scientifically or in any other way. Still, he'd played a big part in making all of this happen, with his sad eyes and sympathy-inspiring stories of brotherhood and camaraderie.
And the alcohol. That was a pretty important part of this plan for Tony to have forgotten about.
And Natasha. He'd almost forgotten about her too!
"дурачье," she said again, darkly. Improbably perched on the feet of his upturned chair, Clint grinned. "И кого вы хотите обмануть? Я знаю, чем вы занимаетесь," Natasha said, staring up at one of JARVIS's cameras. It was one of the ones Tony had thought were pretty well hidden, so that kind of bummed him out. She wrinkled her nose at it, knocked back a third of her pint, then spat, disparagingly.
There was hardly any ale left in her glass, which was so oversized for her tiny, tiny hands that it should've looked ridiculous. Instead, swirling the last bit around and watching the sun set with an unreadable expression on her face, she looked like a guy out of a film noir. Which should've been weird, since, you know, basically the dictionary definition of a femme fatale, but the look suited Natasha.
"Думаешь, то, что я пьяна, может меня смутить? Я русский," she said firmly, like it proved a point.
Clint snorted. Bucky, who had gone quiet when Steve started petting his hair, burst into giggles again. Even Bruce, who had mostly spent the night muttering incomprehensibly into his pint, looked up and smiled.
Tony frowned. He didn't like being on the outside of a joke - though, assuming that Bucky laughing at something meant it was a joke was probably the kind of assuming that made an ass out of everybody involved, going by what he'd laughed at so far this evening. Still, Tony probably should've picked up some Russian in the last few years, if he was going to be teaming up with a bunch of fluent speakers.
"Hey," Sam suggested, "someone tell Thor to get Dr. Banner to do something, he's been quiet all night."
"Quiet's kind of his thing," Tony said. "Don't know if you've noticed, but when he's not quiet, he's kinda..." Tony made several hand gestures that suggested large, strong, angry, green, etc.
Sam remained insistent. "You said this floor they're on is Hulk-proof, right?" When Tony nodded, he continued, "Then there's no real risk to it, right?" When Tony nodded again, with slightly less certainty, Sam sat back in his seat like that settled things. "Then, if no one else is gonna say it, I am: go big or go home."
Oh, it was on.
Rhodey laughed. "Oh, my friend, you do not want to go there with Tony Stark."
"I think you'll find that I do," Sam said, grinning.
Before Tony could interject, Jane said, "Not to be a wet blanket, but I thought this was supposed to be an observational study? I.e., hands-off?"
"Lady Jane does have a point," Clint said, having now shifted to sitting on one of his chair's feet, only the opposite corner of the back touching the floor. Circus freak, Tony thought with more fondness than he'd admit.
"The validity of Dr. Foster's point aside, Sam is right: this is boring." Sam whooped, and Rhodey sighed, rubbing a hand across his forehead. "I'm making the executive decision: starting now, we go hands-on."
"This data is going to be so invalid," Jane muttered, but when Tony gave her a hopeful look she pulled out her phone and handed it over. When Tony was six digits into calling a god, something interesting happened.
Bruce groaned, and set aside his pint. "God, you know what I hate?" He'd interrupted Natasha and Thor, who apparently spoke Russian too, sort of? Alltongue, seriously, what was with Asgard and the Clarke's third law level of advancement. It just wasn't fair. "Well, I hate a lot of things, including you, Thor, for convincing me to drink something I can actually get drunk on. And Tony too, for putting this idea in your head. But really, what I really hate is people who ignore scientific fact. People who don't get science."
Steve, who'd been playing with Bucky's arm at this point, looked suddenly heartbroken.
"Not you, Steve." Steve breathed out a huge sigh of relief. Bruce continued, "I mean people who've theoretically been educated in the sciences, people with - with degrees, from actual schools they actually attended. People that should know better, but still preach such bullshit." He smacked a fist against the table, and people went stock-still.
"Uh-oh," Sam muttered.
"The kind of nonsense big corporations spout to shove the blame off their products, anti-vaccination rhetoric, global warming deniers - god, evolution deniers! The word "theory" means near-absolute certainty in the scientific community! And yet, constantly - constantly," Bruce repeated, getting red in the face, "you get people with legitimate educations and a terrifying amount of power saying that these things are "just theories". Just theories," he repeated, disgusted.
"But you know what's worse than that?" he asked, standing up.
"Please don't tell us?" someone - Sam, probably - begged.
"Worse than people who misunderstand science is people who misuse science. Not just bad data, or misleading conclusions - no, there are people doing outright evil, just because it's good for their bottom line. Not like AIM or HYDRA, either. It's more insidious, things we're conditioned to accept because - look, have you ever heard of fracking?" The room, as one, shook their heads, and Bruce scrambled to pull out his phone. "Here, look, I'll show you - there are places where people can light their tap water on fire because the gas company wants more fuel to burn."
"Wow," Jane breathed as Bruce ranted over the narration of a YouTube video. "He is the angriest scientist in the world."
"Well, generally, yes." Watching Bruce gesticulate violently, Tony conceded, "But I take your point; usually he gets too green to shout with this kind of coherency." He leaned forward in his seat. "Ooh, I think he's gonna tell them about the Arctic oil drilling next." Bruce went on like this for another half hour, by which point the rest of them had collectively decided to call it a night.
It had been, Tony decided later, a rousing success. Not that he would be able to make any real conclusions about the ale or the serum or anything - though Jane would probably be interested in the biochemical analysis he'd told JARVIS to run - but all four of them had gotten drunk. And he had video footage of it.
Except, funny thing about that. The next day, when he went to get a clip of Bucky giggling to turn into his ringtone, the recordings of the whole night for that floor had been wiped. JARVIS didn't seem to know who had done it - or at least, wouldn't give him a name. And nobody admitted to anything, though Natasha and Clint did sport similarly secretive smiles when he went around to ask.
(Again: curse Tony's weakness towards these ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. sneaky sneaks.)
Well, whoever'd done it, whyever they'd done it, it turned out that Tony could still pull a clip of Bucky's giggle from the recording of the room he'd been in, so everything worked out in the end.