“What the actual fuck are those?” asked Clint incredulously, staring down at the quivering balls of teal-colored fluff occupying the sofa.
“Uh,” said Darcy, tilting her head as she considered them, “I may have spent too long marathoning Star Trek with Steve and Bruce the other night, but they look an awful lot like tribbles to me.”
“They’re…chirping,” said Natasha, her voice dripping with disdain. “Why are they chirping?”
“Whatever they are,” said Tony, “they’re getting bright blue fur all over my couch.”
The door swung open and they all looked up as Thor came in, carrying two more of the chirping pom-poms, both an alarmingly bright shade of pink; one in each hand. Jane followed behind him, cradling a third, this one purple, in her arms. “Good morning, fellow warriors,” Thor said. “I found these strange beings in my chambers when I awoke. They are soft and gentle creatures, yet I find them somewhat unsettling.”
“Maybe ‘cause they’re hot pink,” said Tony, glancing askance at the ball of bright fluff in Thor’s right hand. “I’m getting a headache just from looking at them. And just how many are there?”
“Oh, God,” said Bruce in horror, “they are tribbles.”
“I think they’re adorable,” cooed Jane, nuzzling the one she was holding, and everyone immediately knew the fluffballs were trouble-with-a-capital-T if they could make Jane Foster, highly educated astrophysicist of international renown, babble like an idiot.
“Okay,” said Clint, and he had that damn-why-did-I-leave-my-bow-in-my-room tone in his voice. “How do we get rid of tribbles?”
“Give them to the Klingons?” suggested Tony. “That’s how they did it in the show.”
“There’s no such thing, is there?” asked Steve. He turned accusing eyes on Bruce and Darcy. “You told me that show was fictional.”
“I always thought so,” said Bruce, as he gingerly reached down and lifted one of the lumps from its cushion. He sat where the tribble had been, and as Darcy settled herself on the arm of the couch next to him, he handed her the tribble and said, “Considering we’re currently surrounded by what appear to be tribbles, I’m starting to wonder.” The tribble started purring, and Darcy, as though hypnotized, began to slowly card her fingers through the bright blue fur.
“Dear God,” said Tony. “I’ve got a tribble infestation and not a Klingon in sight. What are we gonna do?”
“Well,” said Natasha, who was eyeing every single tribble with the distrust she usually reserved for wrapped gifts and Fury in a good mood, “we could always kill them.” She curled her fingers around the gun strapped to her hip.
“No!” cried Jane, clutching the tribble in her arms protectively. “They’re so cute.”
“Yeah, well, so were those aliens we defeated last week.”
“The ones that looked like chibis?” asked Tony. “I had nightmares for days about them. God, the PR backlash was horrific.”
“Cute can still be deadly,” said Clint stubbornly.
“Tribbles don’t kill,” Bruce pointed out, eyeing a tribble who was snuggled against his thigh. “All they do is purr. And procreate.”
“Well, if they don’t cut down on the hanky panky, we’re gonna be buried in them.”
“Though, they do seem pretty harmless,” said Steve.
“Aww, who’s a sweet widdle tribbley-poo,” Jane cooed, cuddling the purring tribble in her hands. “I think I will name you Shapiro.” The team stared at her in shock.
“Tell me again how they’re not harmful?” asked Darcy, dropping the tribble she’d been holding as though it had burned her. The tribble squeaked indignantly and scuttled off to cower under the coffee table, where it began twitching, as though having a seizure. “Also,” Darcy added, pointing to it, “I’m pretty sure that one is having a baby.”
“God, can you imagine the headlines?” asked Tony. “‘The bodies of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were found today, buried under a massive pile of fluffy, carnival-colored cotton balls.’ I don’t know about you guys, but I sure as hell don’t want that as my epitaph.”
“Our options are either killing them all or finding a way to get rid of them,” said Steve, trying and failing to glare sternly down at a red one that was curled up like a kitten against his foot.
“We could always send them to Loki as a present,” joked Clint, tossing aside a green one that had somehow managed to make itself comfortable in his hair.
“That’s genius,” breathed Darcy, sitting up straighter, a manic gleam in her eye.
“No, it’s not,” said Bruce, turning a confused gaze on her. “He’s already certifiably crazy, and you think burying him in balls of candy-colored fluff is going to help?”
“Nope,” she answered, grinning, as she reached over and tugged on a curl that had fallen down over his forehead. “But it’d be funny as hell.”
“Such gentle creatures would surely only face death at the hands of my brother,” said Thor, but his objection sounded half-hearted, and his eyes, full of concern, remained locked on Jane Foster, who continued to jabber lovingly at the newly-christened Shapiro.
“Great,” said Natasha, whose hand was still resting on her weapon. “It’s settled, then. You guys have an hour to get rid of them, and then I start using them for target practice.” She stalked out of the room, kicking aside squeaking tribbles as she went.
“Well,” said Steve, bending over to pick up the tribble flopping across his toes, “let’s gather them up. Banner, go get one of the large storage bins from the hangar. Thor, see if you can get Dr. Foster functioning again and have her fire up the Bifrost. Let’s show Loki we have…no hard feelings.”
“Why, Captain,” said Tony, fluttering his eyelashes flirtatiously. “I never knew you had it in you to be so diabolical.”
“Well,” said Steve, shrugging sheepishly, “if Captain Kirk can send them to his enemies, why shouldn’t we?”