1 - Conversation has never worked for me; let's try visual.
The Avengers team gathers together in a large media room in Avengers Tower. It’s an addition to the rooms of the Tower, Tony having come up with the idea after Avengers’ movie night had somehow become one of their natural traditions. He had grown tired of always watching movies in the common room. Oh, they still do that, of course, but he had decided if they were going to continue with their designated movie night tradition, they were going to go full out with it.
There is a theater-sized, HD projection screen along one wall. There are six of the nicest theater-style recliners money could buy, placed in a neat row. In front of this row of recliners are beanbags, pillows, and an overall abundance of space to sprawl out on the floor for those who don’t feel like sitting in the chairs. But really, the chairs are mostly only ever used by Steve, Thor, and occasional guests that crash movie night, but don’t feel as welcome to the informality of floor lounging - the exceptions being Rhodey, who is already accustomed to making himself at home in his best friend’s places, and Darcy, who of course can make herself feel at home anywhere. Along the very back corner of the room there is a small kitchen stocked always with alcohol, soda, assorted candies, and popcorn. There is also a theater-grade popcorn maker.
All in all, it is a nice enough space that designated movie night had eventually been bumped up to two nights a week. schedules permitting, instead of just one. They get such a kick out of sharing movies with one another in this comfortable room. The movies selected on movie night are based on rotation. They watch two movies each time they gather around the screen so that each time two different members of the team can pick a film.
And while they usually try to be respectful to one another’s choices, though harmless teasing, commentary (and, heck, sometimes philosophical critiquing) are always par for the course before, in-between, and after films, tonight there is an incredulous groan from Tony almost immediately.
“What’s first on the list tonight, J?” He asks, shoveling a bite of popcorn into his mouth as he settles down into a beanbag near the one Bruce already occupies. The answer from J.A.R.V.I.S. is the cause for his groan. “Really, Natasha? Runaway Bride?” Tony looks over at the master assassin as she makes herself comfortable, as she usually does, in the pillow nest Clint has made for them.
“And why do you assume I picked it?” Natasha snipes back, quirking an eyebrow at him as she does. “It’s a good movie, don’t get me wrong. But do you really think I’d be that into a movie about a floundering woman who needs validation from a man to figure life out? No thanks.”
Tony considers her response. He hasn’t actually seen the movie all the way through, but a floundering female character who, based on what he has seen, recreates herself depending on the situation, doesn’t seem far off the mark from Natasha in terms of character relate-ability. But one, he’s not that much of a jerk to think he should point it out. Two, she definitely doesn’t really need Clint, or anyone else, for her own validation – even he can see that. Three, she doesn’t seem like the kind who would go looking for parallels of her own life in movies for enjoyment anyhow. In fact, he thinks she’d probably prefer not to see glimpses of herself in her entertainment.
“It was I who picked our first film,” Thor interrupts. Tony jerks his head back to look at the demigod as he sits down in a recliner by Steve.
“Ay. It was introduced to me by Jane and Darcy. It is one of their many favorites, the first we watched together, and I cherish it as such. It is not my favorite, but I like to watch it and think of them both, especially when I am missing Jane as I am this evening.”
“Do you hear that, boys?” Natasha wears a playful grin. “I think that was the sound of Thor shattering any illusions you’ve ever had of being perfect lovers. Except maybe Steve,” she adds teasingly.
“Well, seeing as I crashed a plane and missed my date by 70 years, I concede to Thor,” Steve jokes with more humor in his tone than he would have at one time.
“Wow. That’s… Yep, I can’t top that.” Tony shrugs. “Pepper adores those Jane Austen films, but there’s no way I would have ever watched them on my own just because I was missing her.” It’s sometimes still strange to hear himself talk about their relationship in past tense, although it’s been over a year, but more because she was the most stable, close-to-permanent relationship he’d ever allowed himself to have and less because he wants to go knock down her door and beg her to consider trying again. “Maybe that’s why it didn’t work out,” he jokes as if to prove his point. “But I really don’t have time for overly sentimental stuff.”
“Hey, now, Stark,” Clint speaks up as he comes over to join Natasha in their makeshift nest. “You’re not really going to pretend you don’t have a favorite chick flick are you? Because we all know that every man likes at least one totally sappy movie that makes him debate whether he’d rather pick daisies or punch walls.”
“What? I don’t think that’s actually a thing, Barton. But thank you for telling on yourself,” Tony decides to tease him, unable to accept his statement as fact.
“No, I’m pretty sure it’s an unspoken rule, Tony,” Bruce surprises him and he turns to look at the doctor like he’s a traitor. “I think it’s like, I don’t know, some kind of evolutionary blip intended to throw off the gender binary for the sake of progress.”
“Wait, hold up. Are you actually using science to try and defend Barton’s ridiculous statement?” Bruce laughs softly at him.
“Honestly, Tony.” Steve joins in on the conversation and Tony just can’t wait to hear how a man from an arguably more sexist time period can possibly chastise him. “I grew up in the 20s and 30s and even I know every man, whether he’ll admit it or not, can be swayed by something classified as overly sentimental. But I’d also like to think one of the better parts of this century is it shouldn’t be something to be so ashamed of anymore.” Tony’s jaw drops. Okay, so Steve can make a point after all.
“Exactly,” Clint speaks up again. “Which is why I’m totally not ashamed of admitting I tear up every damn time NY152 tells Shopgirl not to cry.”
“Wait, as in You’ve Got Mail?” Tony holds up a hand in protest. “The arguably way weaker Hanks-Ryan cash grab remake of the nearly flawless Shop Around The Corner – which before you call that a chick flick, it’s just a harmlessly fluffy classic vehicle for Jimmy Stewart’s brilliance – that’s what you’re going with? Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. That movie is as stuck in 90s pop culture as your choice of weaponry is stuck in the dark ages.”
Clint only shrugs. “Simpler times, man. Back before you and your kind had to take away the innocence of technology and give us tech-on-steroids. This is why we can’t have nice things.”
“Eh, he might not be wrong there,” Bruce verbalizes his agreement. “We have gotten a little out of hand since Y2K. And backtracked on a bit of progress in the process too.”
“Are you just going to keep agreeing with him all night?” Tony points his finger accusatively. “Because I’m pretty sure there’s enough room for you over there in his nest.”
“Oh god,” Bruce groans and flings his face into his hand.
“Hey, pal, he’s not wrong. You can join us anytime. We have plenty of attention to go around, isn’t that right, Tasha?”
She rolls her eyes at Clint, but then hitches a shoulder and smirks as if to say, “Sure.”
“Foul!” Tony declares melodramatically. “You’re actively trying to steal my lab partner.”
“Oh, I wasn’t aware it was an exclusive thing now. In that case, yes, yes, I definitely am.”
“Really, boys,” Natasha interrupts their goofy banter with her own. “Hasn’t anyone told you you’re allowed to have more than one best friend?”
“You’re the one who filed the report, Natalie." He knows she hates it when he calls her that. "I don’t play well with others. And I definitely don’t share my stuff.” Tony flashes his most obnoxious “I’m Tony Stark” smile for emphasis and then looks over to see Bruce shaking his head in complete amusement.
“I have not seen this You Have Got Mail movie,” Thor interrupts them at length and Clint and Tony both try to hold back snickers at his random comment. “It is not one that Jane or Darcy has shown me. But there is one called Kate & Leopold that I find quite beautiful. It reminds me very much of myself and Jane and how our worlds are so far apart, but so destined to intertwine.”
Tony’s snickers, as well as Clint’s he notes, die in his throat. There is silence for a brief moment as they all look around at one another as if under a spell.
“I would say take notes, fellas, but there’s no way in hell any of you could ever be on his level if you tried.” Tony, Clint, Bruce, and Steve all duck their heads down as if struck by the accuracy of Natasha’s comments.
“So, what about you, Steve?” Clint resumes the conversation after an awkward moment and Tony is, for once, a little grateful for his having just as big a mouth as he does. “You’ve watched a lot of movies since waking up, right? Any sappy ones that stand out? Or do you still have a favorite from back in the day?”
“Wait, let me guess,” Tony says first, feeling particularly prickly at the moment. “While You Were Sleeping? Sleepless In Seattle?”
Tony meets with a sarcastic shake of Steve’s head. “Very funny, Stark.”
“You know, for a man who doesn’t have a favorite romantic film, you sure do know some of their titles,” Clint accuses him.
“Just because I’m able to store a plethora of pop culture references in my photographic memory does not mean I’ve seen them all.” Tony nearly laughs to himself because, whether or not he sounds overly defensive, it’s actually the truth. He hasn’t seen half of the movies mentioned so far all the way through if even partially. “But hasn’t everybody seen Sleepless In Seattle? That’s pretty much a non-issue.”
“Well, I’m always going to be more partial to Love Affair,” Steve interjects.
“As you should be,” Tony replies pointedly.
“And actually, that movie would maybe be the one I’d pick, but there’s one I’ve seen since waking up called The Time Traveler’s Wife. I watched it after I read the book. I-I really like that one.”
“That makes sense,” Bruce responds. In fact, he’s the only one who responds. Nobody else seems to have seen it, or even read the book, save Clint, but he admits to having fallen asleep before the end.
Tony studies Bruce for a moment, wondering what it is about Steve’s choice that makes sense to the observant scientist. He then wonders in general if their tastes in overly sentimental films aren’t actually intimate glimpses into their psyches or at least preferences. Suddenly, he makes a mental note to watch every single film listed and figure it out as best as he can. And, suddenly, he feels a little left out.
“Your turn, Hawk-lover.” Tony deflects his thoughts by placing the ball in Bruce’s court next.
“Hawk-lover?” Bruce raises his eyebrows at him.
“Heads up, you’re so getting that on a shirt for your birthday,” Clint says quickly and Tony rolls his head towards him in sharp annoyance.
“Thanks,” Bruce snorts. “Uh, well, I kind of lost track of movies after, well, you know.” He then looks like he’s thinking long and hard about it. “I think it’s maybe a toss-up. There’s something naïve and magical about 13 Going On 30. That idea that Jenna and Matt should be soul mates, but it can only work if they don’t get trapped by the awful, cynical part of life that happens as you grow up, you know? But then I really like the humor and more mature themes of The Wedding Planner. Dealing with relationships that grow apart, meeting new people that make you reevaluate everything, fidelity, new starts, and all. It’s fun, but at the same time totally plausible. It happens to ordinary people every single day.”
There’s more silence and Tony looks at his friend, totally stunned. The man has just managed to take two – well, he hasn’t seen them, but he’s guessing – very simplistic and emotionally manipulative popcorn flicks geared toward, undeniably, a very specific type of female demographic and pick them apart as if they’re as irreplaceable as films like Gone With The Wind or Citizen Kane. Now he not only feels left out, he feels incredibly shallow. He is, of course. He knows that perfectly. But he doesn’t usually feel this bad about it.
“My apologies, Bruce,” Natasha says, breaking the silence. “Maybe you’re on Thor’s level after all.”
Tony scrunches his face as it occurs to him, there’s really no need for a ‘maybe’ in that statement. He scrunches it even more when he looks at the scientist beside him and realizes Bruce doesn’t believe her.
“Shall I roll the film now, Sir?” J.A.R.V.I.S. asks after another long moment of silence.
“Yeah,” Tony answers. He then clicks his tongue a little. “And while you’re at it, scratch my original movie and queue up all of the films we mentioned here. Minus Love Affair and Shop Around The Corner.”
“Jane Austen films were also mentioned, Sir,” J.A.R.V.I.S. points out.
“We can pass on those too. Oh, but hold on… What’s your favorite, Romanoff?”
“One Fine Day, but why-"
“Add that one in too, J,” Tony says quickly. Once J.A.R.V.I.S. confirms the request, Tony notices everyone looking at him oddly. “You guys don’t have to stick around if you don’t want. But I’ve just decided, first, I’m going to watch your favorites and then I’m going to binge on as many of these sappy films as I can find even if it kills me faster than palladium poisoning. Let’s see if there’s one, or hell, more than one that makes me feel something.”
“I like the sound of that kind of experiment,” Steve says encouragingly. Of course he does. He basically sounds like a father reinforcing positive behavior. If only he’d rubbed off on Howard – no, no time for those kinds of thoughts.
“Chick flick binge watch, huh?” Clint shrugs his head side to side. “Sounds like fun.”
“Leave it to Tony Stark to suggest to a room full of mostly men to binge watch chick flicks with him,” Natasha adds as if she can’t resist.
It’s then settled that they’ll all go for as long as they can (which, honestly, they know immediately will be pretty long since they’re all horrible insomniacs) and then continue with more films later once they reach their limit.
Thus, their binge begins with Runaway Bride.
It starts out reasonably enough. It's a pretty good movie. He can admit that much. It's not torturous or anything. But then somewhere along the way, he begins to lose himself to the romance of it. It pulls him in and he can't escape. He doesn't want to escape. He just wants to find out if Ike can be the guy to tame Maggie's runaway heart.
“Don’t do it, Maggie. Don’t do it,” Tony mutters low enough not to ruin the movie, but loudly enough that the others can hear his newfound attachment to the characters. “Phew!” Tony then let’s out a breath of relief when it seems like it was just a fake out and Maggie's not planning to run from her marriage to Ike after all.
And, honestly, how could she? He’s never gotten this far, but wow. He’s seen Pretty Woman, of course, but he’s either forgotten or never noticed the electric chemistry between Gere and Roberts. And maybe he’s more of a sap now that he’s actually tasted what a committed relationship can be like, but clearly Maggie and Ike are perfect for each other. How could she possibly run again?
But then she does!
“WHAT THE HELL!?” Tony shouts, his popcorn flying from his hand and said hand accidentally flying sideways and making contact with Bruce. His eyes widen and he turns and looks at Bruce in concern. Not that he’s afraid for himself, but he didn’t exactly mean to hit him and he doesn't want to ruin Bruce’s evening by triggering an appearance from the Other Guy.
“I’m fine,” Bruce reassures him and then Tony looks back at the movie. “But you’re not obviously,” Bruce adds with a lilt.
“Of course, I’m not. What is wrong with her? Oh my god, he’s running after her. RUN, IKE, RUN!”
Tony is momentarily distracted when he sees Clint lean down and whisper something very clearly of defamation about him, if Natasha’s quick glance in his direction and their shared snicker is any indication. He would demand to know what they’ve just said, but –oh my god she’s on a FedEx truck now and Ike is chasing after her like a fool! And that heartbreakingly apologetic look in Maggie’s eyes is killing him. Ok, maybe there is an unspoken rule after all.
“Emotionally manipulative,” Tony says, half snarling and half smiling like an idiot, at the end of the film. The lights come up slightly to give them a brief intermission before they move on to You’ve Got Mail. “That’s what these stupid movies are. They dangle the relationships like a carrot in front of you and then try to convince you that it can’t work out just so you can rejoice when it does.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty much the formula,” Bruce says drily beside him.
“And you know you loved every minute of it, Stark,” Clint accuses. “But I guess you would,” he mumbles just so Natasha can hear.
“Okay, what is that?” Tony gestures towards the two assassins, suddenly reminded of their moment earlier during the film. “Why do I get the feeling you’re whispering about me behind my back?”
“Because we are,” Natasha answers.
“You did it during the movie too.” Tony lets them know he noticed. “So we can do this the easy way or the hard way.”
“You should know me by now, Tony. I prefer easy,” Clint says with a shrug. “I just told her I never realized how much Runaway Bride reminds me of living with you and Banner.”
There’s dead silence for a moment.
“That’s not funny,” Steve speaks first.
“It’s a little funny, Steve,” Bruce offers timidly.
Tony shoots up to his feet. “Are you actually comparing Dr. Banner to a woman who runs because she lacks an identity? Because that’s incredibly insensitive.” Tony’s tone is both defensive and offensive as he stares at his teammates.
However, he notices the look that suddenly passes between Clint, Natasha, and Steve and he feels a little uncertain. There’s something about it that reminds him of the feeling he gets when he’s solved an equation wrong and doesn’t realize it until later. And he hates that feeling.
“It’s okay, Tony,” Bruce speaks a little louder this time and Tony looks down at him. “It’s true I don’t have my head on very straight. And I run all the time as it is so yeah, I could see myself being like Maggie if I were in her shoes. It’s just a joke.”
Tony holds Bruce’s self-deprecating gaze for a moment and the feeling of not solving the equation correctly returns. He looks back over at the others and, damn, they’re looking at each other again like they’re discussing the missing variable.
“It’s really not okay or just a joke,” Tony says, too angry to keep trying to figure this out. “But why don’t we just move on to the next film.”