Phil Coulson has been through pain before.
He had been through missions that were compromised, had agonized over field agents who went missing, had grieved at the funerals of those who were found.
Not to mention his own little adventure with Loki. He almost died from that excursion, and the ensuing backlash over his ‘death’ and cover up by Director Fury caused as much anguish as did the actual wound itself.
But things had settled down; everyone had settled in at Stark Tower (although, Coulson thinks that Tony had kept that ‘A’ there on purpose and hadn’t replaced the other letters for a reason) and when Thor came back, quieter and less prone to creating noise, it felt as though everyone was home.
Coulson had a dandy room all to himself; well, himself and a certain archer who hogged the pillows and the blankets and insisted that he did NOT snore. There was a private bathroom, an enormous walk in closet for Coulson’s suits with slide out drawers, generous shelving, and an area reserved for shoes and ties. Tony Stark sure knew how to make a guy happy.
Staring at the scene in front of him, however, was not making him a happy man. No, not at all. This was going to be painful, he knew it, and he was going to rue his decision to step into the kitchen instead of turning right back around, going to his bedroom, and locking the door behind him.
Coulson had asked Jarvis where everyone was and the helpful AI had told him that his team had assembled in the kitchen and were up to something. There was a suspicious quaver in Jarvis’ tone which made Coulson think of trouble and regrets to come.
Following Jarvis’ instructions, he went to the kitchen and found everyone. Jarvis had fallen silent at this point: Coulson figured words weren’t necessary and he could just see for his own eyes what was going on.
There was a giant jar of powdered cinnamon. And several tablespoons. And six people looking back at him with the gazes of children who were caught in the act of doing something that they knew would go horribly, horribly wrong.
His gaze shifted from Tony, who had a grin on his face, to Steve who looked as though he’d been caught stealing the Declaration of Independence, to Bruce whose eyes couldn’t quite meet his, to Clint who had a smirk on his face, to Natasha whose eyebrow twitched slightly.
‘And what is this, or should I just turn around and let you discover the foolishness of your actions?’ he asked, mildly enough, although Clint winced.
‘This is something Steve found on the internet and wanted to see if it was true. Bruce didn’t think it would do anything. Clint was up for it. And Thor...’ Tony’s voice trailed off as he realized that Thor wasn’t in sight.
That was solved by the thunderous sound of feet and then Thor appeared, breathless with anticipation. ‘Ah, Son of Coul! Have you joined us, then? For we shall show the world that the greatest of earth’s protectors shall not be felled by such trickery as this herb provides.’
Phil opened his mouth to deny any involvement whatsoever but then he looked more closely at Thor; there was a gleam of mischief in his eyes again and his smile was unrestrained. He looked more like his old self and it made Phil’s heart happy to see the affection in Thor’s blue eyes.
Clint ruined the moment by drawling, ‘Herb? I’ll show you some herbs, Thor.’
Thor turned to Clint. ‘Are these the herbs you told me about before? The ones that smell like the feathers of Gullinkambi?’
‘That big old rooster you were telling me about?’ asked Clint.
Thor chuckled. ‘Big old rooster, indeed. For when he crows, he foretells the beginning of Ragnorok! The old heroes will rise and I will take my place to fight amongst them!’
Clint blinked at him. ‘Man, you’re harshing my mellow,’ he grumbled.
Thor turned back to Phil who had been listening to this with interest. ‘Perhaps we could sit down, Son of Coul, with these herbs Clint speaks so fondly of and I can tell you tales of Ragnorok. It appears you would enjoy knowing what will happen at world’s end.’
Tony stage whispers, ‘Yup, because I’ve always wanted to know what will happen when the world comes to an end and I can’t do a damn thing to stop it...hey! Rogers, stop pinching me!’ he hissed.
Steve said to Tony, ‘You’re losing focus, here. One of these days, we’ll have Thor sit down and tell us all about Asgard and everything.’ He grinned as Thor visibly brightened at the idea.
‘Indeed, I can tell you glorious tales of feats from days long gone and the signs and portents of what is to come. My lady mother has told me many stories about our people. I will be honoured to pass those stories along to you. But yes, we are supposed to be doing a daring deed that Steve found on the internet,’ reminded Thor.
Steve smiled innocently at Phil. ‘I saw this video on the internet where people were taking a tablespoon of cinnamon and were eating it.’
Phil’s eyebrows raised. ‘Eating it,’ he repeated, slowly.
‘Yeah! They ate it. Tony showed me the video and said that they couldn’t swallow it without having problems. I didn’t believe it but he showed me. Why would people make pictures of themselves coughing up cinnamon? I don’t understand the necessity,’ said Steve, puzzled.
Phil shook his head as Thor bounded over to the table, squeezed in between Bruce and Clint, and picked up a tablespoon.
‘Bruce says that if someone was careful enough, it could be done. He doesn’t think cinnamon should have that much of an effect on anyone,’ added Clint. He was carefully tapping out cinnamon onto a tablespoon.
He handed the bottle over to Natasha who poured the cinnamon onto her tablespoon and then flipped the canister over to Tony who wobbled it slightly before catching hold of it more firmly. He tapped some cinnamon onto his tablespoon as well.
Phil watched all of this in silence. When the canister finally reached Thor, he switched out his tablespoon for a small stirring spoon.
‘Uh...Thor...do you think this is wise?’ asked Steve, his brow wrinkled in concern.
‘Thor’s a big boy,’ said Tony, wrapping an arm around Steve’s shoulder. ‘He knows his limits.’
‘Aye, Steve. That little spoon is hardly a challenge for one such as myself. I have fought worse enemies and have lived to tell the tale. This would make a shield maiden blush, this niggardly amount of herb.’ Thor frowned as he poured the cinnamon freely into the spoon. ‘I will not have it be said that I took up a challenge half heartedly.’
Phil shook his head and then said, ‘Jarvis, I do hope you’re keeping an eye on things.’
The AI’s voice was melt in your mouth butter soft as he replied, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.’
Tony grinned. ‘Yes, Jarvis, be sure to capture this for posterity!’
‘It will be uploaded for the joy of millions, I am sure, sir,’ replied Jarvis, his voice as dry as the Sahara.
‘All right, then! Avengers, let’s do this!’ crowed Tony, followed by Clint’s heartfelt, ‘Hell, yeah!’
In the moments that followed, Phil saw the chain of events unfold something like this:
Everyone put the cinnamon into their mouths and swallowed, Thor winking at Phil as he did so.
For a moment, nothing happened and they smirked at each other, Clint readying a high five for Thor’s waiting hand.
Then, the cinnamon hit the back of their throats. Phil winced as Clint exhaled noisily, blowing cinnamon out of his mouth and then coughing uproariously. He slumped over the breakfast bar, his arms wrapped around his waist.
Tony’s eyes bugged out and his face turned a deep red before his body betrayed him and he was forced to take a breath. He coughed cinnamon into Steve’s protesting face and then kept on coughing, turning to get a glass of water.
Natasha’s look of mild interest turned into naked dismay as she blew powder out her mouth and nose. She whimpered piteously and rubbed at her nose, coughing small puffs of cinnamon.
Steve had his mouth open to yell at Tony but he closed it abruptly, ‘eeped’, and blew out an impressive trail of cinnamon through his nose. He opened his mouth to yell, sucked in a breath, and then coughed out even more cinnamon. His face looked like he’d dunked it into a bag of brownish-red coloured flour.
Thor roared in betrayal as the extra large helping of cinnamon invaded his throat and nostril passages before he began coughing. Clint did a hurried two step back as Thor scrabbled at the sink built into the breakfast bar, and vomited a large amount of cinnamon into it.
Bruce’s face twitched with dismay as the powder settled into his throat and then he roared as the cinnamon reacted with him the same way it did with the others. He struggled for a moment and then, without warning, the Other Guy pushed his way through, Bruce’s skin turning green, his body becoming huge, and his fists creating cracks in the breakfast bar as he slammed his displeasure onto the marble surface. He chased the container of cinnamon with his hands, grabbed it, and crushed it, cinnamon trickling out between his fingers.
‘No, don’t!’ cried Coulson but the Hulk brought his fingers up to his face to sniff them and he sneezed, coughing out more cinnamon powder. He roared his disapproval and stomped around, the other Avengers save Thor getting out of his way the best they could.
Thor merely shoved the Hulk sideways as he dry heaved into the sink.
Tony slammed down the glass of water before Phil could say anything and then dry coughed until he was heaving as well. ‘Water...doesn’t help...what the hell?’ he muttered between heaves.
At this point, everyone except Thor was gagging, their faces the very picture of misery.
The Hulk had accepted his fate at this point and was making faces as he gagged alongside Steve.
Thor had managed to clear his throat a little and bellowed, ‘Nay, villain, how could such a dainty powder fell a mighty warrior such as I?’
Everyone just winced and, as none could talk at this point, said nothing. Coulson bit the inside of his cheek and looked up at the ceiling; Jarvis prudently kept silent as well.
After some time, the gagging stopped and everyone except for the Hulk staggered into the living room and collapsed onto the couch, The Hulk trailing behind, wiping his nose on the back of his hand, sniffing noisily.
Phil followed them, rubbing Clint’s back gently. Clint whimpered and leaned into Phil’s touch.
There was silence and then, Steve said, weakly, ‘I don’t like cinnamon, anymore.’
Natasha gave one final cough, looked at Steve sideways, and said, ‘I’m not doing anything like that, again. I’ve learned my lesson.’
The Hulk had shrunk back down into a morose Bruce. He sighed and grabbed the blanket off the back of the couch and wrapped himself in it, effectively covering all the private bits, then shuffled over to the chair beside the couch, and sat in it with a groan. ‘I was wrong. I can admit, this was a poor idea.’
Clint had his eyes closed as he’d lolled against Coulson but they snapped open as he looked incredulously at Bruce. ‘Poor idea? Good thing you don’t do science like you did this, otherwise, we’d all be turned into frogs or something.’
Tony snorted, winced, and then said, ‘Frogs. There’s an idea. It’d be a lot less painful than this and wow...I haven’t felt like that since I’d accidentally drank that coffee that Dummy ‘doctored’ for me.’
They all winced in sympathy and there was silence once more.
Thor sat up, his eyes bright. ‘My friends! This was indeed an epic battle that will be talked of for ages. Not even the Warriors Three have dared to try something as fool hardy as this. There must be something that is even more cunning, more devious, that we can pit ourselves against.’
Phil groaned. He covered his face with his hands. What, oh what did he do to deserve this?
Clint snickered. ‘Well, I’d heard about this hot sauce contest once...’
Thor’s response was lost in everyone else yelling, ‘Shut up, Barton!’ and pillows being pelted at him.
Phil just sighed as a wayward cushion bounced off the side of his head. Whatever he’d done in a past life, he was sure he was making up for it now. In spades.
He just wondered what he did to deserve this.
To: Director Nick Fury
From: Agent Phil Coulson
The video that was uploaded to YouTube was done without my knowledge or consent. The damage done to the living room from an outraged Barton has been paid for by Tony Stark. The damage done to Tony Stark by a vengeful Natasha has been dealt with; Tony will heal.
I have attempted to dissuade them from any future challenges of this nature. At the very least, I impressed upon them the foolishness of posting such information online as it influences those who look up to them. After consoling Steve Rogers, I do believe this won’t happen again.
FYI: Agents Barton and Romanov will be carrying small canisters of cinnamon on their person going forward as well as a tablespoon. This was not my idea.