Chapter 1: Natasha.
Natasha gets tired of being so graceful sometimes.
Her steps are deceptively smooth, gliding on the front of her soles, her heels just barely touching down from time to time. The walk of a child who learned long ago how to not make a sounds on wooden floors while wearing her first pair of heels.
It suits her. One step bleeding smoothly into the next, with only the occasional light temor to betray the illusion of effortless floating.
It suits her, but it is nothing like her. She would prefer to skip when she walked, or padded softly, each step a separate and organic motion.
But her steps are deceptively smooth.
Because that is who she is today, and the Black Widow would never dream of skipping across the hard wood floors.
At least not while anyone's watching.
When she's alone, Natasha is an angel, a bird, a terrible troll, her footsteps never the same twice. She stomps, shuffles, limps. Floorboards squeak, and she slips a little on damp floors. But only when she's alone, when she's somewhere she knows no one else will ever see her fall. One of her boltholes in Queens, or wherever Clint is crashing this week. Only places she feels safe.
Natasha wasn't sure when she started feeling safe at the Mansion, until one morning when she realized she'd made enough noise coming into the kitchen that Steve wasn't surprised to see her.
Natasha thought nothing could surprise her anymore. That did.
Chapter 2: Clint.
Barton learned to keep his hands steady a long time ago.
His hands are always steady. No matter of he's handing upside down 70 feet up in the air in the pouring rain, and his perch is creaking, or getting chewed out for something particularly monumentally stupid for the thousandth time by his superior. His hands didn't shake.
They did fidget, though. And tap, and creak, and snap to whatever soft jazz radio station Coulson currently had on in the car. Just because they didn't shake didn't mean they held still for any length of time outside of missions
When he was on a mission, they flexed, and stilled, and held on very very firmly, but just loose enough to not cramp up too badly.
His hands always held steady. Anyone, including Tasha, who said different about during that extract from Budapest, was lying. He didn't have to worry about Nat though. She kept his secrets, and hers, tucked securely away. Along any others that had happened to be just lying around, or locked away behind a seemingly inpenetrable safe or uncrackable firewall. Natasha was just like that sometimes. Some people had hobbies, Tasha collected priceless secrets and favors like they were bottlecaps. And Clint ran.
Not, like, jogging or anything. He left that up to Captain Perfection. No, when Clint was having a bad DayWeekMonthGodTashaImGoingToCrack, he grabbed one of his stashed togo bags, and took off. Sometimes for an hour. Once for two weeks. That one he made sure to send in his leave of absence form to Coulson, albeit four days in, and Tasha a postcard he picked up somewhere in Eastern Europe a few years back. (it's the thought that counts). Mostly, he just left long enough to remind himself he could, and came back before any major alarms were raised. Tasha had a knack for telling the difference between his mental health days off the grid, and his holy-shit-I-just-got-kidnapped-what-the-hell-happened radio silences.
Maybe Clint's habit of flexing his hand when he was antsy, or his preference to have one clear exit at all times, and his mental health days were all tied together, but if they were then that was one story that only he knew. And maybe Natasha, and Coulson, and probably Fury, since he was practically omniscient as well as scary as fuck, but that was beside the point. The point was, Clint's hands never shook, and damned if he wasn't going to keep it that way.
Chapter 3: Tony.
Tony isn't quite as oblivious as some might assume.
Tony's eyes were almost always moving, roving, taking in everything and labeling, filing, and analyzing it for future use, even while his hands waved, and his mouth went on autopilot, all to cover up just how much he really saw.
Tony was a lot of things. He's selfish, impulsive, with a buried savior complex a mile wide. He's also deeply, amazingly, helmet over boot thrusters in love with one Pepper Potts, but that's not the point. One thing Tony Stark has never been, is a fool. Stupid, on occasion, yes. Reckless, rash, prone to shoot first aim second, but he's never been the type to lie to himself about anything.
Tony saw a lot of things. How Barton and Natalie/Natasha interacted when they got so deep into an argument they forgot they had an audience. How Banner flinched when someone got too close, even if they didn't flinch first. How Steve looked at all of them when he thought no one was looking.
Tony saw a lot of things. Some he pulled to the surface, forced people to face. Others, he kept quiet about. Because contrary to popular belief, Tony Stark knew how to keep a secret.
It shouldn't come as a surprise. He had enough of his own.
Chapter 4: Steve.
Captain Rogers isn't always the man he appears to be.
Steve has been characterized as a lot of things by a lot of people his entire life. Lowlife punk, scrawny ass asthmatic, useless. Then later, Soldier, the Star Spangled Man with a Plan, an a patriotic hero.
Now he's an Old Fashioned Man in a Forward Future, a miracle, a Superhero, Captain America, an Avenger.
What everyone fails to see, is Steve. Just Steve. The shy awkward skinny kid who just wanted to be part of something bigger than just himself. The twenty something young man who fell head over heels in love with a Dame who was completely out of his league, and didn't know what to do when his feelings where reciprocated. The man who thought he was going to die, but instead woke up 70 years into the future, to find out everyone else had died instead.
Just about everyone failed to see that guy. And Steve tried to not remind them. A few seemed too, though. Agent Romanov "Call me Natasha, please" looked at him out of the corner of her eye sometimes, in a way that felt as if she wasn't asessing his threat level for once. And Dr. Banner treated him as if he wasn't anything more than a man, whenever they interacted outside of work. And Stark, no, Tony, treated everyone as if they were below him, with the exception of Dr. Banner and Ms. Potts, so that was alright.
Most of the time, Steve Rogers felt completely and utterly out of his depth. But sometimes, when the sun was setting and the streets sparkled the exact way they used too, or when Barton or Tony clapped him on the shoulder for a job well done, he felt like maybe, he could fit in here too.
A new life.
Chapter 5: Thor.
Thor Odinson does not often get a moment to himself.
Thor Odinson had many duties. As Prince of Asgard, Protector of Midgard, and a warrior of the mighty Avengers, as well as lover to the esteemable and lovely beyond comparison Lady Jane Foster, which was far more of a pleasure than a duty. Enough duties that, to have a 'night off' as the midgardians say, was rare indeed. Not that Thor did not like his duties, far from it, he enjoyed the many challenges of all of them. From the tedious verbal sparring in his fathers courts, to the numerous and varied foes the Avengers vanquished on a weekly basis, Thor was kept very busy.
Then there was Tony son of Howard's "Team Movie Nights" and Director Fury's "Team Debriefing and Coordination Meetings" which he was still uncertain as to their use, but Director Fury surely had an excellent reason if he had directed them all to "Show up, sit the hell down, and shut the fuck up unless someone calls on you, Stark and Barton, I mean you".
Regardless of all of those, Thor still found time, every few weeks, to find a quiet spot, turn his face up toward the sparkling stars that reminded him of his homeworld, and wonder how his brother, Loki Laufyson, Traitor, Murderer, Deciever, Mischief Maker, was doing. If he too, had trouble sleeping at night where ever their Father had sent him as punishment.
If he too, sometimes missed the simpler days from when they were children.
But all children must grow up, and Thor Odinson had a duty. More than one.
Chapter 6: Bruce.
Bruce had that whole inner serenity outer control thing down pat.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Bruce didn't say much. Mostly his quiet came from a deep set feeling of being out of his depth, mixed in with the near constant fear in the back of his mind that today, would be the day that the Other Guy broke out again. Every time he's reminded of that, either by the near imperceptible flinch of someone walking by, or by feeling the edges of his consciousness begin the fray when he's working on a particularly difficult problem, Bruce stops and takes a few deep breaths, visualizes the second half of the periodic table, or mentally runs through the various local remedies he knew for common place illnesses around the world. Bruce Banner never truly relaxed. He just, internalized it, stuffed it down until it all came roaring out again.
And Bruce took a lot of breaks to just breathe. It's a wonder he hasn't hyperventilated at one point or another yet.
Not a lot threw him anymore. Being able to turn into a giant green rage monster, as his best friend so eloquently put it, as well as living with a Demigod and a couple of assassins/ninja, meant he's pretty much prepared for anything to happen at anytime, whether it's having to explain to Thor for the thousandth time why its not considered acceptable to wander around the house in the nude, to turning around in the kitchen for one second and suddenly finding out you're not alone anymore.
Tony still threw him though. The obvious ease he had around him, and, you know, the whole poking the insurance liability just wait to happen with a stick, was confusing. And more than a little endearing.
Mostly Bruce just did his own little thing. But sometimes he wondered.
I would like to point out the utterly awesome and often overlooked fact, that the plural of ninja, is ninja.
Chapter 7: Coulson.
Coulson's not just badass. He's also efficient.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
One of the first things Phil learned when he was recruited by SHIELD was the value of a good poker face. That, and enough coffee can carry you through just about anything, from the post-adrenaline letdown discovery you have a bullet lodge in your shoulder and medical backup means at least a four hour hike in sub-optimal conditions, to pulling a 36 hour shift just to get caught up on the truly henious amounts of paperwork that come from being both Barton and Romanov's handler for longer than six months..
Coffee is important, but a good poker face can get you far. And Phil has a damn good one. It comes in handy. Being able to maintain an amniable none threatening expression whether confronted by explosions, misfiled requistion forms, Tony Stark, or all of these in a single day, takes skill. Dedication. And a shit load of meditation breathing exercises everytime he's alone for more than a minute.
Phil Coulson is legendary in SHIELD for his poker face. It's said he made that face too long as a child and it froze that way, or that he's secretly an android developed by SHIELD's founders as an example of the perfect agent. .
Still. If you'd been stabbed through and through by Loki Laufeyson with a magic glowstick of destiny, left to die, died, and been brought back to life only to find that your boss had defiled your priceless collection of Captain America trading cards, all in the name of giving them something to fight for, you might be excused for not quite maintaining a calm composure either.
Fury owned him big for this one.
And he knew it.
Yay! I finished my first Avengers fic/collection! thank you to each and every one of you who bothered to read it! I already have a sequel in the works, so I hope to be posting that in a few weeks. cheers, Ji.