He looked at the brave warriors standing before him and made his decision.
“OH, COME ON!”
Bruce shot a smug look at Tony, before stepping forward to join Thor’s team, while Tony grumbled, slinking over to Steve and Natasha’s team. Both Captain America and Black Widow looked sorely disappointed they had gotten stuck with Tony. Even Banner had gotten picked before he did, and they had all agreed on a no-contact rule for him.
“I do work out you know. And play sports. I don’t just sit in a lab all day. I’d look like Steve Wozniak if I did.”
They both blinked, the reference lost, and he rolled his eyes dramatically, before moving into their huddle. “Do you even know how to play basketball?” Natasha hissed.
“Please, don’t insult me. I know how to play everything.”
“Um, okay…I’ll take Thor, Tasha you take Clint, and Tony…you can take Banner since he…well, he probably doesn’t play a lot of basketball either.” Steve mumbled quietly, looking at the other team who were in their own huddle.
“Thor doesn’t know what a basketball is. I can take him!”
Both Natasha and Steve glared at him before saying in unison, “No you can’t.”
Things weren’t going much better in the other huddle.
“Okay,” Clint tried explaining to Thor again. They had already explained things to him before they started, and showed him a few examples, but it didn’t seem to click. “You bounce the ball. You can’t carry it and run with it at the same time.”
“That seems pointless. Why would you not want to get the ball from one end into the net as quickly as possible?”
“Well, you do,” Bruce quickly interjected, “But dribbling…that’s where you bounce it, makes it challenging.”
Thor smiled sinisterly. “Well, I am always up for a good challenge.”
Bruce gave Clint a worried look before clearing his throat. “So, right…they’ll probably put Steve on you, Thor.”
“He means defending you. So, when we move to the other side of the court, make sure they don’t pass the ball to him, and block his shots.”
Thor nodded at them both. “This I can do.”
Clint and Bruce looked at each other again. “They’ll probably put Tasha on me-”
“…and Tony on me.” Bruce smiled. “He probably thinks I don’t know how to play.”
“Do you?” Clint asked hesitantly.
Bruce raised his eyebrow knowingly. “I guess we’ll find out.”
Both teams were ready, and they moved onto the private court that was on the rooftop of one of the buildings nearby. Tony had commandeered it, having SHIELD evacuate the place, claiming it was a team-building exercise. They had all been sort of surprised he was the one who instigated such a thing, but they hadn’t had a mission in over a week, and they were all starting to get cabin fever.
It looked strange, seeing Tony, Clint and Natasha in exercise clothes, Bruce in probably the one t-shirt he owned that wasn’t a button down, Steve in SHIELD standard-issue workout clothes, and Thor in…well, what Thor always wore.
Tony snatched the ball out of Thor’s hands, who grit his teeth angrily. “My idea, my ball.”
“It’s fine, Thor, just let him have it,” Clint spoke up. Thor moved back, as Tony started grinning and dribbling across the mid-court line. Steve and Natasha flanked him, moving down the court trying to get open, as Bruce moved up to play defense.
Tony had half a mind to just dribble it down the middle. “You know, you should just give up now, Cap’s on my team, and half of you don’t-”
Before he had even finished speaking, Bruce lunged in, hitting the ball away. He took two steps chasing after it before he moved into a fast dribble down the court for an easy layup.
Thor and Clint cheered as Tony just stood there flabbergasted.
Natasha moved over to him, jamming her finger into his chest painfully. “You can’t have the ball anymore.”
Things got worse after that. For both teams.
Clint got the ball at the top of the key, and was waiting for Thor or Banner to get open, pivoting around Natasha’s flailing arms. Thor stood with his hands stretched to the sky, but Steve was so adamant about not letting him get the ball, he was jumping up and down cosistantly. Being almost as tall as Thor, there was no way Clint could conceivably get a pass off to the Asgardian.
Bruce was doing a little better, expertly pivoting around Tony to get open. Tony in response had sort of fallen into just shouting insults at him.
“I bet Hulk could play better than you, but we were worried we’d break the roof.”
“Wow, where’d you learn to play, science camp?”
“Do they even have basketball in Calcutta? Or did you just win all their cricket matches as the Hulk?”
Bruce ignored everything, but right when Clint was about to throw him a bounce pass, the archer felt Natasha’s fist slam into his side, making him gasp in pain and drop the ball.
She leaned down to grab it, but he reached out, gripping her wrist and twisting. She dropped the ball in turn, shouting more in anger than pain, before aiming a fist at his face, which he dodged, sweeping his leg out. She back flipped over his sweep, making him lose his grip on her wrist. As she landed, she used her momentum to push off the ground and barrel into him, knocking them both over. They grappled for a few seconds, before Steve ran over, trying to tear them apart.
As everyone else watched in horror and fascination, Tony scooped up the ball, dribbling it easily to Clint’s team’s basket, and doing an easy layup.
When Steve had pulled Clint and Natasha apart who were still spitting and hissing at each other, he gave the ball to Thor to bring down the court. Thor took two steps, holding it.
“You have to dribble it!”
“Bounce it up and down.”
“Who gave him the fucking ball?”
“Did anyone see my towel?”
The last, of course, uttered by Tony who decided he had sweated enough for ten minutes and had moved over to the bench, looking for his towel.
Thor tried a few experimental dribbles, encouraged by Steve and Bruce as Clint scowled and Natasha glared and Tony went through everyone’s bags.
Thor tried to move forward dribbling, but lost control of the ball quickly, having it bounce over the half-court line and being picked up by Steve. Steve quickly dribbled past him, stopping at the top of the key to make a jump shot, but mid leap was essentially knocked to the ground by Thor, the ball falling away.
“What are you doing?!” Steve yelled, confusion and anger apparent on his face as he got painfully to his feet.
Thor snarled back, “I was still practicing!”
“You can’t hit people,” Bruce said, trying to console the Asgardian.
“Tell that to Tasha,” Tony interjected, back on the court. In answer, Natasha took one step towards him, and he backed up quickly, the fear apparent in his eyes.
“You guys are on the same fuckin’ team,” Clint mumbled rubbing his temple.
Steve got the ball then, and was doing a pretty good job of dodging Thor’s arms, who didn’t look like he was trying to steal the ball, but that he was trying to break all of Steve’s limbs. He was waiting for Natasha to get open, but Clint had gotten his wind back from the fight a little while before, and was doing a pretty good job of covering her.
“Yo! Captain Asshat! I’m open!”
Tony was not anything remotely close to open. Bruce just stood between him and Steve, and Tony didn’t even try to move. Bruce almost looked bored. He dodged another manic arm swing from Thor. “Tasha! Pick!”
“ARE YOU INSANE?!” she shouted back at the same time as Tony shouted “Hey, I know what that is too!”
Steve moved at the same time as Natasha did, running towards the basket as she ran back. She crossed her arms in front of her chest and closed her eyes as she prepared for Thor to barrel into her and Steve to scoot by, un-manned.
It mostly worked, as Thor crashed into her, but his bulk was so big not only did he knock over her, but Clint as well who was trying to move from behind her to pick up Steve. All three of them went down in a heap.
Bruce left Tony to try and pick up Steve, but it was too late. Tony smiled happily, turning in a lazy circle to watch Steve make the shot over Bruce’s head. Bruce moved back over to him, breathing hard. “Winning,” he taunted.
“Would that be before or after you cheated?” Bruce said dryly.
“I don’t cheat. I just make other people do work for me.” Bruce rolled his eyes as the other three on the ground tried to untangle themselves.
“Woman! Why would you do that?” Thor said angrily.
“Shutup, Thor, it’s how you play the game,” Clint groaned, coming to the defense of his fellow agent.
“When I did the same thing to Steve Rogers you said it wasn’t permitted!” Thor complained.
“That’s because you HIT me. She just…stood still and let you run her over.” Steve tried to explain, gesturing vaguely to Natasha who was getting off the ground.
“Next time, do that with Stark! He wanted to in the first place!” She snarled at Steve who looked somewhat affronted.
“I changed my mind about that, by the way. I don’t know what a pick is,” Tony lied.
Clint told Thor to give Banner the ball this time, and in fact let him do most of the dribbling. The no contact rule, on top of Banner being better than anyone had expected, was really starting to wear on Tony. Steve grimaced as Bruce dribbled the ball so well Tony’s hands couldn’t even get near it. But he had to hand it to the other man, he was very persistent.
In fact, the word that came to Steve’s mind was “squirrely.” Tony was shorter than Banner, and so he was trying to get in low, under the other man’s arms and steal the ball away. It was the most effort he’d seen Tony put in all afternoon. He chalked it up to the man’s pride being hurt at being picked last, and then Steve not passing to him…
But Steve was in it to win it, and so far the only thing he’d seen Tony do was go behind everyone’s back and score, or annoy people into passing the ball somewhere else. Which finally, Bruce did, trying not to laugh at the intense look on Tony’s face.
Thor caught it easily when Steve landed at the wrong time, holding the ball high over his head and smiling down at the other man. Steve kept trying to leap and swat at it for about a solid minute, before Clint finally shouted, “SHOOT THE DAMN THING.”
Thor threw it off the building.
Ten minutes and a new basketball later, Clint and Bruce seemed to be even madder about being on Thor’s team than Steve and Natasha were about having Tony on theirs. Well, until Steve had suggested to Tony that they switch.
Tony took one look at Thor. “Are you serious? He’ll MURDER me.”
Steve sighed. “Bruce is faster than you and knows how to play. Thor may be stronger than you, but he can’t dribble, or pass, or shoot.”
“So you’re saying I suck.”
“Yes,” Natasha spoke up from where she was standing a few feet away.
Tony threw his hands up in the air dramatically, walking over to cover Thor. “Fine. I get it.”
Thor laughed uproariously as the obviously pissed off Tony wandered over. “You seek to make it easier for me.”
“Uh, no, you suck too, Thor,” Clint grumbled.
“Clint Barton, you speak as if you wish to die today,” Thor said dangerously.
“OKAY,” Steve shouted. “Let’s see if we can maintain a game longer than five minutes, shall we?” He moved to cover Bruce, who was smirking at him, dribbling the ball quickly. Steve moved easily on the balls of his feet, keeping up with the other man as he dribbled around the key, waiting for Clint to get open or a shot to present itself. Both Thor and Tony were standing off to one side, shooting very angry looks at their teammates, which were for the most part, ignored.
Bruce tried to bounce pass to Clint, who moved to intercept it, but Natasha was faster, swatting it out of the way. Steve snatched it up quickly, and all four of them sprinted down the court to the other end, as Tony and Thor jogged sullenly behind them all.
Steve went for the layup, but Bruce was actually quite good at covering someone besides Tony, and leapt up with him, blocking the ball. Clint used his height advantage over Natasha to snatch it out of the air, and the four of them ran back down the court, as Tony and Thor again turned irritably to follow.
Clint went for the layup as Natasha grabbed his shirt and pulled him back down. The ball did go in, but not before he and Natasha had fallen back into a hand-to-hand combat and shouting match.
Steve ran over to try and pull them apart again, before he took a fist to the face from Clint. He shrank back, and Thor ran over, eager to enter the fray. Bruce backed up slowly, occasionally yelling something at the group as a whole, and Tony moved over to sit on the bench, smiling as he sucked down a water bottle full of Gatorade.
“Stop, just STOP!” Steve was shouting in his best commanding voice as he pushed all three of them apart. Every one of them was breathing heavily, and bruises were beginning to form on Clint and Natasha’s limbs, and Steve’s face.
“I’d say we call that a tie,” Bruce said hesitantly. “We can always pick this up some other time.”
“No,” Natasha, Clint and Steve said in unison.
“I rather liked your Midgardian game.” Thor spoke up, grinning.
“Maybe next time, we can try something easier, like badminton.” Tony piped up from the bench.
“I’m not playing badminton.” Natasha seethed.
“You’re not playing anything again, because you can’t follow the rules, and just prefer to beat the shit out of everyone!” Clint snapped at her.
She lunged for him, but Steve grabbed her around the waist, picking her up and moving her to the side. She probably could have broken his wrists in a heartbeat for doing that, but she let it slide.
They all moved over to the bench to collect their things, more than ready to leave. Tony smiled widely at them.
“See, it’s a wonder I didn’t put in any effort. I would have been beaten to a pulp.” Even though Tony knew some mixed martial arts, he wasn’t eager to get in between two SHIELD agents that had apparently lost their shit. “So next time, if you play fairly, I’ll be a better sport, and then you’ll want me on your team.”
Tony let out an “oof!” as Banner threw the ball into his chest and he barely caught it in time to stop it from smashing his arc reactor. “Hey now! This is delicate, you know! And it’s worth more than all your houses combined. Well…” He looked around. “Do any of you guys even have houses? Not on a government salary, I’ll bet.”
They all ignored him as they moved toward the door, with the intention of never playing basketball against each other again.