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even the cake was in tiers

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“Remind me what you two ladies are fighting about again?”

Tony thinks that on comms during a surveillance op is not the best time for Clint to get nosey, and apparently Steve agrees when he says, “Stow it, Hawkeye,” which is about as rude as he ever gets. Clint’s been working both of their last nerves, and considering they were already on each other’s, Steve’s being a little snappish.

“Was it not that Tony misunderstood the purpose of the curse receptacle?” Thor offers. He can’t ever leave a question unanswered, it’s like a thing with him.

“Swear jar,” Natasha corrects him.

“Can we have a little focus?” Steve insists.

“I didn’t misunderstand,” Tony snaps.

“We’re not doing this now.”

“I simply made things easier-”

“Iron Man, quit the chatter.” Steve sounds exceptionally peeved and Tony grimaces, hates that high school principal thing Steve has in his voice when he really gets going.

“Can I point out that I didn’t start this.”

“You did though,” Clint says, obviously not done with his poking.

“Yes, okay, I started that but not this, not the on-mission sniping match.”

“You’re going to end it by shutting up. Now isn’t the-”

“Are we really worried about a Loki minion named Lewis?” Tony sighs. They’ve been waiting outside a reported secret hideout, or more accurately their target’s mother’s house for an hour now and there’s no signs of life. Tony is dubious at best about the intel on this one.

He’s also never been a big fan of stakeouts, he’s just not built for waiting around.

“My brother is known for his silver tongue on Asgard. I do not doubt that he would gather impressive allies to his cause.”

“This guy is going to have a retainer and a pocket protector s’all I’m saying,” Tony insists. “We’re going to feel pretty dumb overdoing it on the big guns by a guy that could be taken down by Agent Coulson’s six year old niece.”

“Stark.” Tony’s not sure how the man can inject so much menace into a single syllable. “Are you dragging my family, that you are not authorized to know about, into your argument?”

“Sleep with one eye open, big guy,” Clint cackles, apparently happy to point someone’s ire at him, it seems it didn’t matter whose.

“I looked them up because I was making a... Christmas card list? Totally Pepper’s idea,” Tony says and she had said something about acknowledging other people’s important stuff as well as his own, or at least acknowledging that other people had important stuff. Tony might have interpreted that in his own special way.

“Can we get back to what we’re supposed to be doing?” Steve bites out.

“Indeed. We must return to our original point. How is it you dishonored this swear jar?” Thor says. Tony is starting to suspect that Thor sometimes plays dumb just for his own amusement.

“He tossed one of his credit cards in the jar,” Natasha says.

“Natasha,” Steve says, sounding pained. She’s usually his hold-out, the one that doesn’t involve herself in the bickering.

“It was more efficient,” Tony says. “That way you could just charge me when I swear whenever I damn well please.”

There’s stunned silence for a few beats and then Steve says, “Alright, that’s-”

“Movement,” Coulson snaps, and there is. A thin, scruffy-looking kid emerges from the front door, carrying a large green box.

“Retainer, I knew it,” Tony hisses, feeling vindicated and heading in. He can hear three, maybe four voices at once telling him to pull back dammit, what the hell does he think he’s doing but this guy looks like a stiff breeze could push him over and a little Iron Man hovering and missile waving will set him back on the straight and narrow, quick smart. Over the hollering, Tony says, “You’ll thank me when we’re back at HQ in time for-”

That’s when the kid holds up the green box, says, “May you live in interesting times,” and there is a blinding flash and then nothing.

*

Tony comes to with a lurch.

He’s out of the armor, so someone’s pried him free and he’s wondering how much damage that will mean, especially if it was Bruce, when a heavy arm lands on his torso. Tony loses all his air in a rush and is wheezing with someone saying, “Sorry, sorry, are you okay?”

Tony looks sideways and sees it’s Steve, bats at his questing hands while still trying to convince his lungs to re-inflate when something occurs to him.

He’s in bed.

He’s naked.

Steve’s there.

“What the fuck?” Tony squeaks and in rearing backwards, tips over the edge of the bed. He’s caught before he hits the floor by the tangle of sheets so he’s left hanging with his head down and feet up, scrabbling for purchase. “Urgh, help,” he manages.

Steve reels him back onto the bed, using the twisted sheet. He’s blinking owlishly, half his hair sticking up and a crease down his face which looks like a pillow mark. “That was spectacularly slapstick of you,” Steve observes, watching Tony fuss around with the sheets to make sure the entirety of his body is covered while not revealing any more of Steve’s.

He’s pretty sure Steve is naked too which... Tony thinks maybe he can smell burning rubber and isn’t that a sign of stroke?

“Um, what’s happening here?” Tony asks, slowly, carefully. More importantly, how drunk was he to have let this happen?

“Good morning, Sirs,” JARVIS interrupts them. “Director Fury is calling, do you wish me to put it on loudspeaker?”

“I don’t want to speak to that guy while I’m naked,” Tony says, pulling a face.

“Uh, sir?”

Tony rolls his eyes, flops back on the bed. “He’s already on the line isn’t he?”

“I don’t want to know you’re naked,” Fury grumbles and Tony turns over, picks the handset up off the side table while Steve slides out of the other side of the bed. Tony nearly pulls something trying not to look at Steve unashamedly wandering across the bedroom and into the bathroom.

“Fury, something you’re going to hate has happened,” Tony says. “At least... I think happened although I have no idea-”

“Did you blow something up?”

“I don’t think so?”

“Should it worry me that you’re never sure that you haven’t when I ask that question?” he says, sounding resigned.

“At any one time-”

“I just need to get you all in to close out what happened last night,” Fury overrides Tony.

“Oh, yes, right. About that,” Tony says, nearly drops the phone when the shower starts and he can hear Steve singing.

“-hate to say it but you really called it on that one,” Fury is saying when Tony manages to bobble the phone back up to his ear.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“You’re not going to make me repeat that,” Fury says, annoyed. “Once is quite enough.”

“No, I really didn’t-”

“Just get everyone here,” Fury orders.

“Me? Do I look like a paging service to you?”

“Go out into your living room and scream for them until they gather like the good little ducklings they are,” Fury says, nonsensically. “Quack, quack, quack.”

“Fury, have you signed up to any SHIELD experimental drug trials lately?”

“Thirty minutes,” Fury says and hangs up.

Steve’s out of the shower in eight, a military scrub and rub routine that makes Tony’s skin wince. He’s only wearing a towel when he wanders back into the bedroom and right before he whips it off, Tony says, “Um, soooooo?”

“Um, so what?” Steve prompts, digging into Tony’s sock drawer and coming out with a grey t-shirt which, wait, what?

“You gave yourself a drawer?” Tony goggles. “That’s a little presumptuous after one night, don’t you think?”

“You’re weird this morning,” Steve says, throws Tony a look over his shoulder. “I mean, more than usual.” Steve pulls the shirt on, drops the towel and Tony’s not fast enough this time, gets a perfect curve of ass cheek burned into his retinas for all eternity. “Debrief?”

“Uh, yeah,” Tony says.

“I’ll get the others while you get dressed,” Steve says and Tony just blinks at him. “Hey, did you hit your head when you fell out of bed?” Steve’s frown becomes concerned. He pulls pants out of the same drawer and tugs them on.

Tony’s brain function comes back online shortly after that so he’s able to say, “No?”

“You don’t sound sure.”

“There was a light.”

“Do me a favor and don’t walk towards it,” Steve says, grins in the way Tony knows means he thinks he’s made a hilarious joke and is just waiting for the other person to laugh. When Tony just stares at him, Steve crosses the room, knees down onto the bed and grasps Tony’s face in his giant palms. “Seriously, did you?” His fingers dig through Tony’s hair, looking for guilty lumps until Tony pries his head out of Steve’s grip.

“I’m fine,” Tony says, finally on familiar ground, Steve fussing when it’s unwarranted. “There needs to be a serious conversation about what happened here, though.” Tony’s usually not one for a morning after conversation, but this is Steve.

“Um, sure,” Steve says, backing away a little warily. “Get dressed and I’ll meet you out front.”

“Yes, yes,” Tony says, waving dismissive hands at Steve until he’s disappeared out the door. Tony flops back onto the bed, stares at the ceiling. “What the hell?”

*

“Did we have a party?” Tony asks, finding the others milling about in the foyer when he emerges from his room. Clint certainly looks hungover, but Bruce and Natasha don’t. They usually meet at SHIELD, especially over the last few months with the tension building in the team and none of them exactly wanting to spend any downtime together.

“Not lately,” Clint says, sounding regretful. “Pepper’s ban affects us all, even though it was your fault.”

“What’s that?” Tony asks, eyeing the big black monstrosity that’s coming up his drive.

“I want you to go to medical when we’re done with the debrief,” Steve says and his hands are back, pressing and probing. Tony grunts and tugs his head away again.

“Personal space violation,” Tony hisses, then kind of grimaces to himself because there might just have been a lot of violating the night before.

“He just needs coffee,” Clint says, looking like he could really do with some himself. “He’s not firing on all cylinders yet.”

Steve looks dubious, but stops pawing at him so Tony doesn’t argue. The giant black van from hell comes to a stop and the side door slides back, revealing a plush, multi-seated interior and Happy sitting behind the wheel at the front. “Shotgun!” Clint cries and then there’s a mad scramble between him and Natasha around the front of the van as she says, “Oh no you don’t!”

Bruce steps up into the back of the van, much more sedately and with his head buried in a book. “No, what is this?” Tony demands, a little more shrill that he possibly meant to be. “Since when are we carpooling?”

“You’re the one who wanted the family van,” Clint says, appearing back around the front of the car, looking sullen and holding a protective arm over his abdomen. He follows Bruce into the back, immediately starts asking him about what he’s reading, what’s it about, would he like it.

“I know it was a joke but I like it,” Steve says, leaning into him, voice warm against Tony’s ear and he resists the urge to flinch away.

“How about I just-?” Tony doesn’t get to finish the thought as Steve hooks an arm around his neck and drags him into the vehicle, Clint snickering and kicking the back of the seat Tony’s dropped into immediately.

Tony’s just starting to wonder if the green light that kid had was a death ray and he’s in soccer mom hell when Steve drops down beside him, puts a warm hand on the back of his neck and rubs, releasing tension Tony didn’t even know he was holding onto.

If this is hell, Tony thinks, it could be worse.

*

Tony doesn’t want Steve accusing him of having a concussion again, so he sits quietly and watches a bizarre meeting unfold where the Avengers discuss things that did not happen.

Tony is starting to suspect that either;

A. He's the victim of a very elaborate prank which involved Steve nudity which, well done guys, did not see that coming or
B. He really does have a concussion.

"He didn't come out of his house... at all?" Tony presses, because that question won't make people suspect that he's cottoned on to A or is suffering from B. People are used to him not paying attention and asking questions that have already been answered.

"He played eighteen hours of World of Warcraft without a break, even for the bathroom. Just... how?" Clint supplies, shuddering.

"I would think you would value such commitment to defeating one's foes," Thor says, frowning and Clint snorts.

"It's a game, big guy. The trolls and orks and whatevers aren't real."

"Don't pretend like you don't know what it is," Natasha says, not looking up from her nails. "I remember having to queue with you alongside a number of sweaty teenagers that didn't seem to realize that copious amounts of deodorant does not equal a shower for some kind of expansion pack."

"When was this?" Tony asks.

"Never. It happened never," Clint grouses, shooting a paper ball at Natasha's head that she flicks away, still not looking up.

"You can't be running off to piss every few minutes when you're waiting on a target," Natasha adds.

"I don't piss in an empty bottle of Mountain Dew if there's another choice, say a bathroom a few metres away," Clint says, now looking hilariously offended. "And are you actually comparing what I do to some kid sitting in his basement playing online games?"

"Agent Romanoff would never do that," Coulson says from the end of the table. "Can we please finish this up. I have a TIVO that’s starting to like my cleaning lady more than me."

Tony watches the bickering, the good-natured ribbing and starts to feel a little mushy headed. At first, when they'd been brought together, it had definitely been like this. It was only over the last few months that they'd really started to splinter, fractures between them yawning wide, too many big personalities pressed into a small space. As Tony watches, Clint fires another paper ball at Natasha, she deflects and it hits Bruce. Instead of being annoyed which seems to be Bruce's default setting lately which no one would argue is not good, he laughs and complains about friendly fire.

It was like everyone had gone to relationship counselling and he hadn't gotten the memo.

Tony jerks when he feels something touch his knee under the table. He turns startled eyes on Steve who's still wearing his concerned face number sixteen, I think you need a doctor but you're pretending you don't.

"Just humor me and go to medical after this, alright?" he murmurs, obviously not fooled in the least by Tony's everything's fine here act. He's not ordering, he's asking which is not something he's done in a while, so Tony agrees. Steve smiles, the hand squeezes his knee and is gone.

*

After Tony gets a clean bill of health, possibly because he doesn't mention that currently his reality and other people's aren't meshing, he collars a junior agent to drive him home. He's a little surprised to see Clint and Natasha in his living room when he arrives, fully engrossed in The Dark Crystal.

"Did you guys need something?" Tony asks.

"Nah, we're good," Clint says, holding up and waggling a bowl of popcorn.

"Um, that's not what I-"

"Hey, good you're home. How'd it go?" Steve asks from behind him and Tony whips around.

"No head trauma, like I said," he confirms, snippily. "Are you guys here to check on me?"

"We were here first," Clint says. He's toeing his boots off and putting his socked feet up on the coffee table. Natasha has a blanket Tony's never seen before over her legs and a mug that says Hawkeye's Mug, do not use on pain of pain.

Something very weird is going on here.

"Something very weird is going on here," Tony says slowly as Thor appears. He's wearing plaid sleep pants and a Captain America t-shirt and makes a grab for the popcorn. Natasha flicks out a leg, holds him off with a foot planted on his chest. "What are you people doing in my house?"

"Tony-" Steve starts to say.

"Jarvis, intruder protocol!" Tony calls, suddenly just fed up. It's a prank, he knows that now that concussion has been ruled out and he's just not in the mood for it. He's not sure how the others talked Fury and Coulson into playing along, how they talked Steve into being naked but-

"Sir, there are no intruders detected," JARVIS says. "Shall I still institute lockdown?"

"Here, there's intruders here!" Tony snaps, waving his arms around to indicate all and sundry.

"Did Tony drink coffee with mould growing on it again?" Clint asks. They're all staring at him like he's crazy.

"I get it, ha ha, hilarious," Tony fumes. He stalks over to the stairs leading down to his workshop, Steve ghosting his steps. He turns on him, infuriated. "Can you just... stop following me."

"Tony, what's going on?" Steve asks, and he's being gentle and that makes Tony even more angry. He'd long suspected that Steve had a little bit of a mischievous streak but he wasn't ever anyone that struck Tony as taking a joke too far.

"Pepper, I need Pepper," Tony snaps, retreats down the stairs and orders JARVIS to lock everyone out. He sees Steve appear at the glass doors almost immediately after he's through them but Tony ignores him, snatches his cell phone out of his pocket and gets Pepper on the second ring. "You've got to... can you come here please immediately?"

Pepper's gotten used to telling him not to try and order her around, but there must be something in his voice that overrides any instinctual objection and she just says, "I'll be there in fifteen."

*

"What's Steve angry at you about?" Pepper asks when Tony's ushered her into the super-secret entrance to his workshop. It involves climbing over a few bushes so Tony knows he must have sounded pretty bad for Pepper to agree to go that way in the heels she's wearing.

"Me? Steve's not angry at me," Tony says. "I'm angry at him."

"Oh," Pepper says, kind of blinks for a second like she has to wait for her world to shift around to accommodate such an occurrence. "What could he have possibly-"

"I don't know why they even think this is funny or clever-"

"-done to make you angry?"

"To pretend like they all live here now or something."

"Wait, what?"

"They're all upstairs. They've just... moved themselves in or something," Tony says, flinging hands towards the stairs.

"Yes, six months ago," Pepper says. "Is that what this is about? Are you having the move-in tantrum again?"

"The what?" Tony says, goggles at Pepper. "Six months... six months ago I told Fury in no uncertain terms no, I was not playing house with a bunch of people that would wreck the house and my person."

"Yes, and he didn't listen to you and you pouted for two weeks, right up until you and Steve..." Pepper makes a gesture with her hands that Tony wishes he could unsee.

"This all started getting really weird right about the time... oh son of a bitch," Tony snaps, making Pepper jump. "May you live in motherfucking interesting times, you rat bastard!"

"Tony, you're really starting to worry me."

"It was that box, that stupid green box and the stupid weedy kid holding it. It must have whammied you all or something. Maybe the suit protected me so that's why I'm the only one that wasn't-"

"Tony, I'm going to go and let Steve in."

"-affected but how would something like that work and how did it infect Pepper-"

"JARVIS, override nineteen."

"Yes, Miss Potts."

"Hey no! No nineteen-ing, aw dammit," Tony grumbles as Steve bustles in, his hair mussed like he's been tugging on it. Pepper touches a hand to his shoulder and they share a very loaded glance. "Look," Tony says, hopes that his face conveys just how serious he is. "I know this is going to sound completely crazy but-"

"Tony, what's going on?"

"I'm trying to tell you... I mean what's really happening is... crap, you're not going to believe me without proof, are you?" Tony says, snapping his gaze between both Pepper and Steve, seeing how they're watching him like he's some kind of wounded animal they need to handle with gloves.

"Tony, I'll believe you. Whatever it is," Steve says, sounding sickeningly sincere. "I mean, I don't know about you but I took our vows pretty seriously."

"Our vows?" Tony splutters.

"Tony, you can trust us."

"I have to... leave. There needs to be more... away from you now," Tony manages to get out, stumbling sideways towards his cars. Steve grabs for him but Tony dodges, able to evade Steve's grasp only because Pepper is in the way. He wrenches the door open on the nearest car, doesn't even see which one it is before he's gunning the engine and peeling out, trying to pretend that he can't hear Steve's startled cries over the noise.

*

Tony ends up back at the site of their last stakeout, glaring at the quiet house. Just before he leaves, frustrated, something catches his eye.

The name on the mailbox.

"Son of a frost giant," Tony grumbles, getting out of his car and stalking over to the house. He thumps on the front door with a closed fist, waits until it's pulled open and the Lewis kid is blinking at him, wide-eyed and uncertain. "Koil, really? You're getting your plot ideas from Harry Potter now?"

"What the hell are you-?"

"Loki, cut the crap," Tony snaps and the kid looks like he's about to deny it, but then a familiar smirk crosses his face, his image shimmers and Loki's standing in front of Tony, as infuriating as ever.

"I didn't want to make it too hard, I did want you to come back, after all. I always like to witness the fruits of my labor."

"What did you do, exactly?" Tony says. He knows, suitless, he's currently vulnerable and just rolling up to Loki and demanding answers when Loki can just smack him into next week is probably not the best plan, but Tony's never been accused of being a rational human being.

"Is it not delicious, how one little shift in course can devastate so?"

"Can you start making sense now, I'm really tired," Tony says wearily.

"Admittedly, I wished to have unleashed this power on my brother, but you, always so reckless and impatient, forced my hand-"

"I swear to a god that isn’t you or Thor, if you don't reach a point soon I'm going to scream."

"Ah yes, a tortured cry. It will be music to my ears. Tell me, you must, what has this power brought down upon you."

Tony just stares at Loki for a second before he says, "I'm pretty sure I'm married to Steve Rogers."

"Delightful! Such a foul... wait, what?" Loki says, his gleeful expression being replaced with confusion. "That doesn't sound terrible."

Tony thinks about that for a second. He's been nursing a resentful little crush on Steve for a long time, a helpless interest that he can’t abide but is powerless against. What he likes most is that Steve is secretly not as goddamned nice as everyone believes, angry when he first stopped making like the world’s largest novelty ice cube and sliding into crotchety with time.

Tony... kinda loves that.

The last day, the underlying level of annoyance was missing though, with all of them. They’d gelled as a team, ribbing and little inside jokes aside. Tony remembers that at first it had been like that, one mission sliding into another and all of them working together. Over time though, when there was space, downtime, it had become harder. Personalities had started fraying against each other, arguments sat unresolved from one mission to the next, meaning that everyone started out on edge.

“It’s really not,” Tony’s surprised to admit. The only thing that seems to be different from his own reality and this one is...

“Holy crap, if I’d just gotten over myself and let everyone move in... that’s what fixes everything?” Tony’s astounded, but it makes a weird kind of sense. All going their separate ways meant that small fissures, little resentments had time to build instead of being taken care of. They didn’t have time to relax, to good naturedly snark at each other and let out their frustrations.

Plus, getting laid on the regular seemed to chill Steve the fuck out, who knew?

“I didn’t do this to make your lives better,” Loki snarls, looking incensed. Tony winces, waiting for Loki to smack him into next week in a tantrum but... it doesn’t happen.

“Not that I’m complaining, but why aren’t I Tony-jam right about now?” he asks.

“As much as that would please me, I wasn’t expecting you to come alone so I’m not actually here,” Loki says, passes his hand through a planter beside him much like Patrick Swayze in Ghost.

“Hey, how’d you open the door then?”

“I command dimensions, bring devastation and am a god and you wish to know how I opened a door?” Loki splutters.

“Geez, just a question. Chill out,” Tony says, turns and makes his way back to his car.

“You can’t just walk away from me!” Loki practically screeches, incensed.

“Stop me, big guy.”

“It’s only a glimpse,” Loki snarls and Tony freezes, turns back slowly.

“What?”

“This is not your world, you don’t get to keep it.” Loki’s back to grinning, seeing a way to salvage some evil out of the situation. “I suppose it is unconventional, that madness should come from giving you a small measure of happiness and then taking it away again, but it will have to do.”

“I don’t believe you,” Tony snarls but between one blink and the next, Loki’s gone.

*
“We can have sex!”

“I’d rather you didn’t do it in front of us,” Clint calls from the living room when Tony bails Steve up as soon as he’s through the front door.

“For the record, I don’t have a problem with it,” Natasha says and then there’s the sound of them wrestling and laughing.

“Get a room!” Clint yells when Tony decides to ignore him and lay a big, smacking kiss on Steve’s lips. Steve just grins into his mouth, surprised but not unpleased. Tony was expecting Steve to say something about decorum but he doesn’t, just angles Tony’s head for better access, makes the kiss deeper and Tony really enjoys this dirtier version of Steve.

“Oh I like you,” Tony chuckles, then to Clint he calls, “Technically every room in this house is mine, including the one with your stuff in it. Do you really want us to get a room?”

“Noooo!” There’s the sound of Clint untangling himself, probably from a chokehold and then he’s rushing by and the sound of his bedroom door slamming.

Steve’s still smiling at Tony, possibly a little dopily and a measure relieved. He tangles a fist in the hair at Tony’s temple, tips his face up, says, “There you are, I’ve been looking for you.”

That’s the moment everything tips sideways.

*
“-ony, are you okay?”

“Urk,” Tony manages. He’s staring up at the sky, he’s back at Loki’s faux-house and Steve’s looking at him with a scowl he recognizes.

“You better be okay so I can yell at you about what a dumbass-”

“I’m... what happened?” Tony asks, a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He flicks his visor back, squints in the daylight and at Steve’s haloed face.

“That Lewis kid had some kind of green, glowy box. You were hit with the light and then he just disappeared. Are you really okay?”

“All present and accounted for,” Tony says after he instructs JARVIS to run a quick systems check. Steve gives him a brusque nod.

“You’re going back in the van-”

“I said I was fi-”

“-and getting cleared by medical,” Steve overrides his protests, sounding impatient but because Tony’s listening for it, he hears the worry under Steve’s annoyed tone.

“You like me,” Tony says, a little surprised. “Even here you still like me.”

“You’re impossible,” Steve dismisses. Thor lands next to them and Steve takes the opportunity to stalk away, allows Thor to be the one to help Tony up on his feet.

“You’re brother’s a real dick, you know that?” Tony grumbles.

Thor looks like he’s going to argue for a moment, but then sighs. “That is, unfortunately, an accurate assessment.”

*
Tony rides in the SHIELD van back to headquarters, gets clucked over by the medical staff, gets signed out and has Happy drive him home.

To an empty house.

“Jarvis, this just won’t do,” Tony says.

*
Steve looks pretty surprised to see him when he opens the door to his apartment.

“So I have something for you,” Tony says, pushing the object in his hands at Steve before he even has a chance to say hello.

“It’s an empty box,” Steve says, opening the flaps and even turning it upside down in case he missed some secret compartment because he really is too adorable.

“It’s for you.”

“I think you’re really lowering the bar if this is supposed to be my new uniform,” Steve says with a wry lift of his eyebrow.

“It’s not... it’s for your stuff.”

“I don’t... usually you over-explain things. I think this is the first time you’ve ever under-explained.”

“I want you to move in, with me and Jarvis.”

“I... what?” Steve says, blinking, but also not just laughing in Tony’s face and shutting his door so Tony will take that as a positive.

“You, the wondertwins, Thor and Bruce. Coulson can even sleep over sometimes. It’ll be funsies.”

“Is that a word?”

“You’re not focusing on the important part of the sentence.”

“I know you think I only own a punching bag and a scowl but I’ve actually got more stuff than would fit in one box,” Steve says, still not saying no, but now talking around it so much that Tony is getting nervous.

“It’s symbolic, geez,” Tony says, smacking a hand over his eyes. “I’ll get you a whole truck for your cardigans and rocking chairs and other codger stuff.”

“I’m sorry, why would I be wanting to move in with you, again?”

“For-”

“Funsies,” Steve sighs. "Yes, I got that." He's got his gentle face on, the one he wears when he has to give bad news. "Look, Tony, I'm not sure-"

"We're falling apart," Tony says in a rush. "The team, I mean. Just, unravelling at the edges. Not even Natasha and Clint are getting along and I thought those two would basically see out the end of the world together."

"I agree with you there, but-"

"We need to unwind, we need to not be able to just run away from each other. We need to watch bad television and eat pizza and have Thor pretend he doesn't know how to use the microwave even though I know he does dammit."

"That sounds good, in theory," Steve allows. "We're pretty volatile though. Do you really think living in each other's pockets is going to be the answer?"

"It's not like I'm asking us all to share a single room loft in Soho. It's the mansion. Everyone can pretty much get their own grid reference. Just... if we want to congregate, if we want to maybe hash out problems while raiding the Oreo stash in the kitchen, we could do that too."

Steve's resolve is collapsing under the sheer weight of Tony's enthusiasm. He's starting to smile, a real genuine one that Tony realizes he hasn't seen on this Steve's face for far too long. "You've really thought about this," he says, sounding a little amazed.

"I just... I know it'll work," he says. "C'mon Steve, pack up that derring-do because my big, empty house could use it."

Steve chuckles, palming the box, then he frowns. Tony thinks maybe he's thought of one final argument until he says, "Hey, so you know how those Nanny shows Agent Coulson likes advocate having naughty corners?"

"Clint, right?" Tony guesses and Steve nods, now actually chuckling. "I think we can implement a time-out protocol just for him."