“I am NOT doing this.” Natasha insisted again, arms folded protectively over her chest.
“But we must.”
The seriousness of Thor’s tone left Natasha winded and she tucked her hands tighter under her armpits.
Thor appeared pained. For a moment he reached out to take her shoulder but the venom in her gaze drew him up short.
“It is a matter of honour.” He pleaded, voice low.
“No.” She snapped back. “Damn you, and damn cultural relativism. I will not do this.”
Thor opened and closed his mouth, looking for words that weren’t there, then cast his gaze about, looking instead for outside help. The rest of the team stood only a couple yards away, all except Steve doing a poor job at hiding their amusement. Tony wasn’t even trying, visibly vibrating with laughter. Thor’s brow scrunched up in thought, and the God of Thunder eyed the the billionaire critically.
Tony was relatively small for a human male. Taller than Doctor Banner to be sure, but without his armor he would be quite manageable.
“Anthony, Son of Stark, I-”
“No!” The speed with which Tony’s expression shifted was extraordinary, and the man backed up his refusal by maneuvering himself behind Steve’s bulk. “There is no way Thor. I’d make a terrible wife. I don’t have the proper equipment.”
“I thought your people were attempting to move beyond these sorts of banal distinctions.”
“No means no Thor!” Tony shouted from behind his human shield. Steve had subtly shifted to better block Tony from Thor’s view and the God of Thunder’s shoulders slumped unhappily.
“This is it then? I am to be so disgraced in the eyes of my people?”
Steve looked torn, casting a glance over his shoulder before sharing sympathy with his sulking team mate. “I’m sure no one here will hold this against you Thor. You didn’t even know this... test of... skill existed before we got here and clearly everyone can see you’re unprepared. Besides, these people just witnessed you put down a horde of Hydra zombies. Surely such a demonstration of power will give you any honor you might need? Right?” The bespangled hero turned to look at Banner who only shrugged wide eyed, not even looking at Thor.
“Why are her legs by his ears?” Clint asked, staring at an Estonian couple several yards away and Bruce pointedly did not look.
“I have no idea.”
“Come on Natasha!” Clint turned excitedly to his fellow assassin. “That looks like fun!”
“It looks ridiculous!” Black Widow hissed.
“You do not know the codes of honor for the Norse, Captain Steve Rogers.” Thor insisted. “As they have issued me an invitation to join in their contest of skill, my refusal would mean my admission of weakness.”
Clint sidled up to Natasha and began speaking excitedly to her under his breath. Her scowl deepened.
“Just borrow somebody else’s wife big guy. There are plenty of fair matrons to go around.” Tony felt safe enough to step half out of Steve’s shadow and Thor met his eyes with a piteous sigh.
“I would not be so casual with a maiden, my friend. To ask the use of a woman I don’t know would besmirch to her virtue in such a manner that I could not justify. And to take the wife of another man would require a fight for her hand and I have no desire to start a battle with the good warriors here.”
“You don’t actually have to marry the woman you pair up with, you know that right?”
Thor looked confused. “No indeed?” He whirled on the Black Widow with a wide grin on his face. “Natasha, daughter of Romanov, this is excellent news!”
“I already knew I didn’t have to marry you, my answer is still no!” She nearly growled when Clint elbowed her in the ribs and she whirled on him with a hand raised to strike.
“Hey, come now. You owe me this.” The archer waggled his eyebrows. She looked furious.
“The favor is owed to you, not to Thor.”
“And I’m asking you to do this. For Thor. As a favor. To me. A bet’s a bet dearest.”
For a moment it looked as if Natasha would knock the man out, then she lowered her arms to her sides with visible effort.
“You will suffer for this, Clint.”
“I know.” The archer looked like he might strain something for all his grinning. “But it’s going to be so worth it.”
Thor had followed their exchange with a uncomprehending look, but as the Black Widow took one little angry step forward he lit up like the sun. “So you will partner with me?”
Black Widow gestured him forward with one finger. Thor bound up until he was close enough that she could grab him by the beard and haul him down so their faces were level.
“If you drop me,” She started, voice like a razor blade and eyes like acid “I will end you. Do you understand?”
Thor didn’t even flinch. “Fear not my friend!” He crowed, bending down before she could stop him, startling her hand loose from his hair. He took a hold of her knees, shoved his head between her legs and then stood as if she weighed nothing at all. The Black Widow was forced to wrap her arms around Thor’s waist to balance, the Thunder God’s hands remaining on the backs of her knees to keep her steady. “I would never drop my wife!”
“I am not your wife, Thor!” Black Widow’s voice sounded slightly strained as she looked over her shoulder up at her team mate, attempting to put fire into her eyes but being out done by the flush rushing to her cheeks.
“Of course not, I have not courted you.” Thor reassured, starting to walk to the starting line where his direct competitors already stood ready for the race, looking equal parts amused and crestfallen. “I thank you though for standing in for her!”
“If any cameras come out I will castrate you!” The red head called to her teammates which remained gaping. Tony had every intention to take his chances.
“That must have been one serious bet.” He muttered at Clint and the archer just laughed, hands on his hips.
“Wife carrying. Who would have thought?” Banner murmured, folding his arms over his chest as a gunshot sounded and the men took off running, women on their backs, Thor immediately leaving the mortals to eat his dust. In a manner of speaking of course, as the first portion of the track was partially submerged.
Tony couldn’t even laugh, so busy he was not missing a single second of the spectacle. “Natasha is going to make our lives hell, you know this right?”
“Worth it.” Clint and Banner said in unison and Tony just shrugged.
“As long as you’re aware.”
As Thor leapt easily over all manner of obstacles on the course it was rampantly clear that he and Natasha would win by a landslide, even the most competitive couples in the crowd rooting for the red caped hero with the woman in the black catsuit clinging to his back. Almost inadvertently Steve found himself joining in with their cheering, hollering his encouragement as his team members crossed made their way around the course, Natasha’s head bobbing dizzyingly with each of her ‘husband’s’ thunderous footfalls.
Clint clapped excitedly then pumped his fist in the air before throwing an arm over Bruce’s shoulder. Not even his impending doom could dampen his mood. “Bruce, my friend, we are going to win so much beer!”
And they did.