Captain America moves into Stark Tower first. Odd, given his tendency to try to ridicule the owner of said tower, albeit with adorable vintage terms that Tony has to have JARVIS explain to him later. And they’re never all that mean, either. The guy doesn’t even know how to do that, so Tony vows to help him learn.
Possibly Steve prefers the building architecture and room dimensions to the building owner. Tony’s seen his sad little Brooklyn apartment, with a bathtub approximately the size of Steve’s left foot.
That’s what Steve says, anyway, when he’s politely thanking Tony for the accommodations. He, more rudely, doesn’t say anything about the posters of pin-up girls from Steve’s era that are adorning the walls. He’s taken a strategy of ignoring whatever Tony does that pisses him off and hoping it stops. It won’t, and Tony wonders if the eventual explosion of frustration will stain the walls red, white, and blue.
Later, Tony finds out the story he’s telling various SHIELD employees – who apparently wonder how an insufferable goody-two-shoes can live with someone as awesome as Tony Stark – and it has nothing to do with the high ceilings or water pressure. Captain America is spinning the tale that Iron Man needs a live-in chaperone to ensure that he stays a super hero and not a super villain.
Tony politely inquires of Fury whether or not Captain America’s tenancy is actually a SHIELD assignment. If it is, Tony has some supremely nasty eviction plans in mind. There’s been a lot of mutual agreement concerning sandboxes, and how Tony is banned from playing in SHIELD’s, and SHIELD is surely not allowed in his.
But Fury’s eye twitches, and after he stops being angry about Tony’s arrival, and the Iron Man shaped hole in the facility, it’s pretty clear he’s trying very hard not to laugh at someone.
“That is not a SHIELD assignment,” he says, and coughs. “We actually opposed it. I told him not to move.”
“Captain America disobeyed,” Tony says, shocked.
“It wasn’t an order,” Fury says. “We’re not the fascist controlling organization you think we are.” He ignores Tony’s snort. “It was a personal recommendation and a professional preference. You’re a terrible influence.”
“Well, that’s a matter of opinion.”
“Evict him,” Fury says, the laughter just under the surface. “Please.”
“Make me,” Tony says. “He’s raising the property value. Did you know those National Historic Landmark people want to put it on some list?”
“That doesn’t make you jealous?” Fury says, with deadly intent.
Tony just smirks at Fury. “Not when I know I have so, so much to teach him.”
Thor moves in, next. This is more of a, uh, safety issue than anything else. Thor is a large man… a large God…a gigantic dude with a gigantic hammer in a city with the population density of New York. He doesn’t turn around without clothes-lining six blocks of people, many of whom have guns, or personality disorders, or an epic need to try to fight an actual deity. Thor thinks this is awesome; the US government not so much. Thor is sticking around, both as linesman for the whole Avengers deal, and as a diplomat trying to make amends for his psychopathic brother’s recent attempt at world domination.
So he needs a place to stay.
Steve actually volunteers Tony’s building, which he absolutely is not authorized to do, except in specific circumstances all of which have to do with drunken coeds with shiny hair.
No one can really deny Thor practices excellent hair care, and he turns out to be a great drinking buddy. Tony’s crockery and glassware will never recover.
“You’re forgiven,” Tony tells Steve, or one of the Steves that he can see from the floor. “But I’m billing you for everything the blessed holy lug breaks.”
“Get out of my room,” Steve says, eternally sober and unfun.
“This is my room,” Tony retorts, even though Steve is trying to grab his hands and pull him upright. “All of the rooms are mine.”
Steve switches to his ankles and actually begins dragging him across the floor.
There’s a tremendous crash and Thor crows, somewhere outside of Tony’s blurry vision.
“Pepper will invoice you,” Tony yells. “Sell those war bonds!”
The third person to move in is the first one Tony asked. Bruce had some business – and by business he meant charity, the profitless, compensation-free, no monies kind – to finish up elsewhere.
Tony isn’t entirely sure he’s coming back. Bruce is probably very good at grinning, and promising, and then staying the hell away. For obvious reasons. He knows Bruce – and his green pal – would come back if they needed him, if they had another Loki-situation. But he really doesn’t know if the invite will be accepted outside of apocalyptic circumstances.
Bruce has complicated feelings about the Avengers, and also SHIELD. Tony does his best to make it very, very clear that just because Captain America and Thor are hanging out there, they’re all off the clock. Or at least he’s trying his hardest to get Captain America off the clock. Tony doesn’t jump when Fury says so, in fact he’s probably going to duck, on account of being contrary. And he’s not going to do anything to Bruce on account of the other guy, unless the other guy is actively trying to kill him.
Lastly, Tony has Pepper make a generous contribution to some medical organizations operating in Bruce’s current location. That’ll do more than one incredibly stubborn dude and a med-kit.
Some of that gets through. Bruce finds a computer, wherever he is, and sends a very clinical e-mail with the dimensions and tensile strength of the materials needed to contain the other guy for long enough to hopefully evacuate anyone in the vicinity.
Tony doesn’t think that’s necessary. But hey, project. Stark Tower’s still under remodeling, so it’s not a big deal. Thor and Mjolinar make for perpetual renovation needs, anyway.
When it’s done, Tony sends 3D pictures of it all to Bruce’s e-mail address. He includes images of the lab he’s set aside for him, all shiny and new.
Bruce arrives shortly after that. With just a dirty duffle bag, a bad farmer’s tan, and his shoulder squared with what looks like dread and bravery.
“I would have chartered you a jet,” Tony says, as Bruce tentatively follows him towards his designated floor. “How did you get here? Normal people turn into ragemonsters flying coach.”
“Yeah, well,” Bruce says. “I needed the practice.”
“No, you don’t,” Tony says, confidently. “And your home here will be picturesque, tranquil, all that good stuff.”
“I thought you lived here with Captain America,” Bruce says, bluntly. “And Thor.”
“I won’t let Steve bug you,” Tony says. “And the thunder actually becomes soothing, eventually.”
“Ah,” Bruce says, and he still looks nervous, but at least he’s trying not to laugh.
Tony doesn’t even remember inviting Agent Clint Barton to move in.
The guy comes around a lot, on account of the training facility Captain America and Thor have created on not one, but three floors of Stark Tower. Tony didn’t authorize that, either, and one of these days he’s going to invent a substance that Mjolinar can’t break, and then he’s going to have total control over his home again.
The training facility is nice if you’re an embodiment of a steroid overdose like a certain someone or two, but Tony has a useful metal suit and no need for a treadmill. So he doesn’t go down there much, unless he needs to remind those two of particular house rules. That’s mostly Thor. Steve, other than making judgmental faces about Tony’s lifestyle choices, is actually an ideal house guest. He doesn’t recreationally break shit, anyway.
Tony spends a lot of time with Bruce, and maybe kind of takes over Bruce’s lab space a little. Bruce sometimes uses the emergency lockdown function, even though Tony knows damn well the other guy isn’t around.
But Tony’s poking around the insane jungle gym that used to be a useful space – looking for one of his robots he’s pretty sure Thor had a pet-the-bunny-incident with – when he finds his fourth houseguest. Or rather, a cot, a pair of boots, and a quiver.
Naturally, Tony steals the quiver and locks it up in his office. He considers other more creative action, unsure he likes acting like a principal confiscating whatever the fuck it is principals confiscate.
This, however, gets Captain America to show up and grovel to get it back, so it proves to be an excellent plan.
“Hey, JARVIS said you took a quiver from our training room?” Steve says, the picture of wholesome truth-telling.
“I took a quiver from my training room,” Tony corrects. “Why?”
“I was using it,” Steve says, and smiles. Lying badly, but better than he ever did before. He’s been coached.
“Were you also using the teddy bear?” Tony asks.
“What teddy bear?” Steve asks, looking completely confused.
“I assume there was one under the covers of Agent Barton’s bed,” Tony answers, because Steve can’t play this game at all.
“I don’t think he has one of those,” Steve says, quietly.
“But he does live here, now?”
Steve shrugs, then nods. “Yeah.”
“And was anybody going to run that by me?”
“You didn’t even notice he was here,” Steve says.
“Doesn’t he have some SHIELD nest?” Tony asks. “I am not running a hostel for SHIELD agents, all appearances to the contrary.”
“He used to have quarters on some base,” Steve tells him. “He moved out after Loki. Because of what happened.”
“Oh,” Tony says, and pretends he doesn’t get it. “Naturally, squatting in my basement was the next course of action.”
“Can I have the quiver back?”
Tony pulls it out, tosses it to Steve. “Here. And tell him he can have level 8. But if I find one arrow in any of my walls or any of my robots, he’s out of here.”
Barton is suddenly around all the time, after that. Tony suspects he was there all along, maybe clinging to the ceiling. Creepy.
But Barton likes to have fun, and a more normal type of fun than the wholesome ‘40s , or Asgardians, or guys who are afraid to lose control. There’s no soul-baring about the Loki mind-control stuff, which Tony appreciates. There are arrows in inappropriate places, but not in Tony, so whatever.
So, it’s the five-man world-saving boy-band all together like a really jacked up and violent Brady Bunch for a while. And then Tony realizes, they’re missing their sixth. She’s a girl, though, and she only really plays the triangle in terms of personality issues – this gets him wondering if she could kill someone with a triangle – which is why her absence from their happy home isn’t quite so glaring.
It’s not like she’s not around. She is. A lot. Doing what they all do. Training, tactics, thoroughly warping Steve’s mind in regards to the role of the Soviet Union during the years he missed, etc. She just leaves every night, and sleeps someplace else.
And Tony realizes just how weird that is.
First, he asks Pepper, on account of them sharing a gender. “I didn’t want to live here, either,” Pepper says, trying for cheery.
“You didn’t want to live here before they moved in,” Tony points out.
“I think I’m being held hostage,” Pepper says, unhelpfully.
Next, Tony asks Clint. He’s not sure, but they might be sleeping together. Which would make Natasha leaving all the time all the weirder. Tony’s never asked, because he’s pretty sure that one of them would take it badly, or as an excuse to hit him. Also, he likes to pretend like he knows what’s going on right under his nose and he’s never going to admit how untrue that is, especially with those two.
“Natasha has SHIELD quarters,” Clint says, and shrugs.
“So did you,” Tony says.
“She goes on missions and stuff.” He shrugs. “It’s easier, I guess.”
“I told her to move in here,” Clint says, finally. “She said it didn’t make sense.”
“But it does,” Tony says.
“You should ask her,” Clint replies, an odd look passing over his face.
“She’s probably going to lie to me,” Tony says. “She likes doing that.”
Clint shrugs and clams up on the topic. Probably sleeping with her, Tony decides. Maybe.
He asks Natasha directly, a week or so later. Coincidentally, right after a mission goes bad and she gets three bullets in her lower leg and another through her shoulder. Tony didn’t plan on that, and he was actually trying to get to her when it happened. Everyone else feels bad, and guilty, and the fact that she can’t even walk but she doesn’t want to stay in Stark Tower with them to recover is not helping with that.
“What’s your hurry?” Tony asks, after having JARVIS disable the elevator. “Hot date? Not dancing, I hope.”
Natasha glares at him. But it’s actually her typical look of condescension, not anything worse. She doesn’t blame him for her injuries and she’s not even high. Bruce offered her pain meds, and she masochistically declined.
“It’s late, time for me to go home,” she says, flatly. “Fix the elevator.”
“I’ll do it tomorrow,” he says. “Spend the night so no one has to carry your hefty ass down the stairs.”
“I’d like to go home,” Natasha persists. “I don’t live here.”
“Well, everyone else here does.”
Natasha leans back in her wheel chair, towards her unwounded side, eyes slanting up as she realizes what discussion this is.
“You should live here, too,” Tony continues. “Shack up with Clint, maybe.”
“Stark,” Natasha begins.
“Or don’t, whatever. I’m not endorsing monogamy, don’t get the wrong idea.”
She doesn’t even say his name again, just staring at him silently.
“Why don’t you live here?” he asks, finally. “Truth.”
Natasha purses her lips, clearly considering lying to him. And she could probably still do it, as well as he knows her.
“The hulk,” she says, quietly. And it sounds truthful.
“Bruce?” Tony says, confused.
Natasha shakes her head. “The hulk,” she repeats. “The Other Guy.”
Tony stares at her, “Bruce,” he repeats.
“I can’t live in the same building as that,” she says.
“Him,” Tony corrects. “You’re afraid of Bruce?”
“No,” she says, with frustration. “Stop playing stupid.”
“Stop being stupid,” he says. “Bruce has lived in this building for nine months, we’ve never seen the other guy. And I’ve actively tried to bring him out as a social experiment.”
“Yeah,” Natasha says. “That’s why I don’t live here.”
“He didn’t come out,” Tony says. “And once, Bruce actually smacked me for it.”
“Okay.” Tony grabs the handles of her wheelchair and begins rolling her.
“Are we leaving?” she asks, sounding doubtful.
Tony shows her the architectural plans that Bruce drew up for everyone’s safety. He shows her the actual e-mail, which she reads silently.
“He designed this,” she says, sounding unconvinced. “There are flaws and he’ll know them.”
“How do those straws feel?” Tony asks. “Graspy?”
“I want to go home,” Natasha repeats. “You aren’t going to change my mind.”
“Well, you can’t go home,” Tony tells her. “If you remember, we sprung you from the SHIELD infirmary under the provision of doctor supervision, so …”
“Since when do you listen to SHIELD?” Natasha demands.
“Since it’s convenient for my own purposes,” Tony says. “And also since this might be the one time you can’t escape.”
“You’re wrong. Also, you’re holding me hostage?”
“Pepper seems to think that happens a lot,” Tony tells her.
He can hear the footsteps of the rest of the group coming up the stairs, though, and he’s sadly assured that none of them will go along with this plan.
“Elevator’s busted,” Steve says, as he enters.
“Imagine that,” Tony says.
“I shall bear you,” Thor says, and he’s already scooping Natasha up like an infant.
“Watch her leg,” Bruce says, because Natasha’s wincing and turning white.
Clint doesn’t say anything, he just looks at Tony and shakes his head.
“I’ll get the chair,” Tony says, finally.
He does, but he reactivates the elevator, and meets them down there, because no way is he trying to take that down the stairs.
“Oh, hey, I fixed it,” he says, when he’s waiting for them at the bottom.
Two days later, Natasha and her bullet-ridden parts move into Stark Tower. Into the floor below Clint, which is interesting.
She doesn’t really have anything to move in, but Tony actually believes that she, like Clint and the rest of SHIELD, doesn’t actually own much that’s not weapons.
“So,” he says, when they get a minute alone. “My pep talk worked?”
“That was a pep talk?” she retorts.
He shrugs. “Kind of.”
Natasha hesitates, like telling the truth is completely unnatural to her. “He offered to move out.”
Tony freezes. “He…Bruce?”
He frowns. “That wasn’t what I had in mind,” he says, seriously. “That’d be a terrible idea.”
“I know,” she says.
“I was just being nice, if I had to choose,” Tony begins.
“You’d choose him over me,” she says.
“Actually I’d choose him over everyone except Pepper,” he says. “And that’s just because of certain body parts and willingness to perform-”
Natasha ignores him, interrupts. “He’s contained. Whether you did it on purpose or not, you’ve contained him. He’s stable.”
“More so than the rest of the lunatics I let live here,” Tony decides on, though he has a couple of options.
“I’m not going to disrupt that,” Natasha says, resolutely. “So, here I am.”
“Being patronizing is going to be disruptive,” Tony says.
“Remember who I am?” Natasha asks.
“I do,” Tony says. “You like to fake human emotions.” He leans over her. “But you aren’t going to have to fake anything once you realize Bruce is the only one that ever does the dishes.”
It doesn’t actually take long. Natasha could be pretending, or lying as Tony likes to call it, but he thinks she relaxes pretty quickly.
It could be the painkillers he has JARVIS put in her food. They’re actually prescribed to her, and he thinks her refusal to take them has something to do with thinking drugs will impair her body and mind when the Other Guy shows.
But then he discovers, on two separate occasions, Thor and then Clint wandering around clearly stoned out of their minds, so perhaps that’s not it.
Bruce doesn’t mention that he offered to leave.
Pepper persuades Tony to stay out of it. He doesn’t want to; it’s his house and if they’re going to be in it, the miscreants have some obligations about not pissing him off, and Bruce leaving would piss him off. And Natasha’s idiocy is already pissing him off. They wouldn’t piss him off if he could turn into angry green smashing thing.
“I’m going to put mints on all their pillows,” Tony says, “except instead of mints, little incendiary devices that look like mints.”
Pepper rubs his arm. She convinces him that all of his resentful inclinations would actually make the situation worse, even though he’s not resentful, everyone else is just ridiculous, and precisely why he typically doesn’t like people who aren’t Pepper or Rhodey or animatronic, and letting a litter of poorly behaved super heroes and all their crazy live in his building was a terrible idea.
“They’ll work it out,” Pepper promises him, even though she won’t promise that it’ll be worked out in a way that’s acceptable to him. But then she distracts him with her lips and her hands and her phenomenal ass, and so he doesn’t get a chance to go do anything.
That might have been Pepper’s plan.
Natasha stays. And Bruce stays.
And while they aren’t slow dancing in the hallways, Bruce stays his typical Caucasian color and Natasha doesn’t draw down on him.
Clint may or may not be sleeping with her, but he’s doing a lot of the carrying around while Natasha’s not allowed to put weight on her leg.
Her moving in doesn’t change the fact that Steve thinks music – all music that’s not older than Bing Crosby – is terrible and too loud, and is incessantly whiny about it. It doesn’t change the fact that Thor has an otherworldly metabolism and is trying to eat Tony out of house and home. Neither Bruce nor Natasha recreationally shoot at innocent robots with arrows.
So, actually they’re among his better behaved houseguests.
Tony is looking for Bruce one evening, having had a new thought about energy management in the thing that exploded three days ago and burned off all of their arm hair.
“Dr. Banner is in his lab,” JARVIS tells him, and Tony jogs off to find him.
He’s shocked to see a redhead visible from the doorway. A redhead that’s not Pepper.
“Hey,” he says, slowing his pace to a waltz.
Bruce and Natasha are playing chess on a lab tabletop. She’s in her wheelchair, and not visibly armed. A glance at the board tells Tony Bruce is winning.
“Hey Tony,” Bruce says, glancing up. “What’s up?”
“You’re playing chess,” Tony says. “That’s cool. That was like, invented in Russia, right?”
Natasha makes a face at him.
“Natasha follows the rules,” Bruce says.
“The rules are stupid,” Tony says. Natasha looks at him curiously. “Checkers is better.”
“He set the board on fire,” Bruce provides. “Because he was losing.”
“And then I won,” Tony agrees.
“Then the game was over,” Bruce says, “and there was fire suppressing foam everywhere.”
“Yeah.” Tony grins. “Good times.” He looks at their pieces. “So, you gonna turn green if she beats you?”
“Probably not,” Bruce says. “But I’m winning, so.”
“Maybe she’s letting you,” Tony suggests.
“Did you have a purpose, Stark?” Natasha asks.
“Yeah, it was about the combustion issue a few days ago.” Tony waves his hand. “I’ll come back.” He searches for an excuse. “I have to feed Thor, anyway.”
“Thor is naked,” Natasha warns. “Laundry day, I think.”
“Why don’t you ever do that?” Tony asks her.
“I asked him to cover up and he put on his cape,” Bruce says. “But it’s in the back, so.”
“Ah,” Tony says.
“So guard your ego,” Natasha says, flatly.
Tony stares at her. That’s like a joke, and she said it.
“Are you high?” he asks.
“We had some Vicodin earlier,” Bruce says, though clearly he means Natasha. “For the bullet holes.”
“It’s why he’s winning,” Natasha says, casting an annoyed glance at the chess pieces.
“I’ll let it go this time,” Tony says, moving towards the door. “But in the future, don’t insult your landlord’s manhood.”
Bruce chuckles quietly to himself, while Natasha reaches out and flicks one of her pawns into a death trap. “No promises,” she says, and smiles at him.
~Please feed the author~