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How Do You Know

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Tony was in the lab when he got the call.

He should have been expecting it, really. As gracious as Fury had seemed to be, letting the Avengers split up and drop off the map after the New York Thing, it was only a matter of time before the spy in him demanded to regroup and reassess. Tony reached up to tap the ignore button on the holograph, but before he was able to, Fury bypassed him.

"Don't you even think about ignoring me."

"Me? Ignore you? Darling, you know you're my favorite," Tony sarcastically replied, resigning himself to the fact that this call was going to happen whether he liked it or not.

"I don't get paid enough for your shit, Stark."

"Can I help you? Kind of busy here, genius at work and all that," Tony replied airily, already back to tweaking figures on a different monitor, attempting to find a viable way to increase his flight velocity without losing strength in his repulser's. If Fury was calling him, he might be needing the answer sooner than expected.

"Where the hell are you?"

"My lab?"

"You are ten minutes late for a mandatory debriefing and you're still in your lab? Get your ass to SHIELD!"

"No one told me there was a meeting," Tony frowned, thinking a moment.

"Tony, I reminded you twice today alone," Pepper sighed as she descended the stairs into his lab, two mugs of coffee in her hands and a look of fond exasperation on her face.

"Only twice? Pep, you have such high expectations of me," Tony only smirked in response.

"You have ten minutes before I'm sending Romanov and Barton to retrieve you, and believe me, I'm not partial to the condition they bring you back in."

"I'll get there when I get there," Tony huffed and waved him off, dismissing the holograph and ending the call.

"Is making two of the world's deadliest assassins wait really in your best interest, Tony?" Pepper mused, handing him one of the mugs of coffee.

"Coffee!" Tony perked up, "I knew there was a reason I kept you around."

"You sure it's just the coffee?" Pepper flashed him a seductive little smile.

"Mhmm. The sex is just to hide my true motives," he tipped the mug in her direction with a grin, and she slapped him on the shoulder playfully. She let him take another long, delighted gulp of it before she started harassing him to get out the door before the Black Widow and Hawkeye came to make quick work of him.


Turns out, it was more than just a where-are-we-now assessment.

"Glad you could grace us with your presence, Stark," Fury raised a judgmental eyebrow that Tony promptly ignored, plopping down in the open seat between to Steve and Bruce. "As you can see, Thor has returned to Earth. Unfortunately, he's not here to play tourist."

"I'm afraid I do not understand, what does it mean to play 'tourist'? If this is a midgardian game, I would be more than happy to pla-"

"It's an expression," Bruce supplied, cutting the god off before he could get too confused, "It means you have a reason for being here."

"Tourists are the ones with gaudy Hawaiian shirts and taking pictures of stuff," Clint added, and Natasha rolled her eyes.

"How would he know what a Hawaiian shirt looks like if he doesn't even know what a tourist is? He doesn't even know what Hawaii is."

"I was just saying tha-"

"Now that we're all on the same page here," Fury swiftly retook control of the conversation, his impatience with diversions apparent, "What I'm trying to tell you is that Thor is here because Loki has escaped."

There was a moment of silence, each one of them instantly thrown back to the New York Thing, memories of both the battle itself and the tumultuous events leading up to it flashing through their minds. Though they had all parted on good terms, comrades in arms and forever connected by the single craziest events to rock pretty much anyone's life ever, it hadn't been easy getting there. There was a reason they had needed time apart; they had each desperately needed to process what had happened on their own. There was no question about that, but after a few weeks of distance, they had all found themselves feeling just a little...off. Out of balance. Though Loki was a force to be reckoned with and none of them wanted him to wreck havoc again per se...on some level, they all needed the team back together again, needed each other's craziness to balance out their own.

Not to mention the fact that civilian life wasn't exactly an option anymore.

"-with that danger in mind, SHIELD is outfitting you with these, which will track your movements and-"

Wait a minute; Tony sat up straight, finally pulling his thoughts away from the New York Thing. He knew Fury had been droning on as usual, but at the word track he tuned back into Fury's words.

"-we'll be able make it flash when there's trouble so you'll know when you're needed," Fury laid out six simple black bracelets on the table, rubbery bands with a single metallic 'A' on the front of each.

"Fuck no."

Clint's the first to speak, but every one of them (except Steve, who was looking a little lost, perhaps on the concept that a bracelet could find him; he wasn't exactly caught up on the whole 'technology' thing) was nodding in sound agreement.

"I don't know if you've noticed, but the other guy's not too keen on being tracked," Bruce snorted, then added thoughtfully, "Also, the first time he comes out that tiny little bracelet is going to pop right off."

"That's a liability in my line of work," Natasha stated, sounding logical and impassive, but the insulted undercurrent was electric if you knew what to listen for.

"Yeah!" Clint agreed, "Our best asset is that we can disappear, but you clip one of those things on us and our cover could be blown at any second by anyone with a little computer knowledge. Besides, I don't want Stark knowing where I am!"

"Fuck you, Barton."

"Tony, there's a lady," Steve gave a him an 'are you crazy?' look, and Tony returned it.

"She swears more than I do!"

"Fuck you, Stark."

"See!"

Steve paused, clearly uncomfortable with that, but Tony just continued, his train of thought already switching tracks.

"And that aside, birdbrain though Barton is, he's actually right on this one. Anyone gets ahold of those tracker signals and we're sitting ducks. Besides, I live in a giant tower with my name on it, it's not like I'm not a hard man to find anyway."

"Why thank you, Stark, I was so hoping you would offer."

"...what."

"I'm sorry, didn't you just say 'I'm a rich asshole who has more rooms than god himself, I'd love to lend them out to my crazy as fuck teammates before something else tries to kill us all and Fury can't find them sneaky sons of bitches'? Cause that's what I heard."

"...you need a hearing aid," Clint snorted, "Tony doesn't do the 'sharing' thing."

"First off, fuck you twice, Barton. Second, I'd have to agree. Cause I'm pretty sure what I said was more along the lines of 'haha, I have a tower with my name on it and you don't, bitches'."

"Look, I'm gonna lay this out for you plain and simple as I can," Fury put his hands on the table and leaned forward, glaring at Tony first, "We have an arrogant, unpredictable alcoholic who tends to destroy things or make things that destroy things when he's bored, which feels like pretty much fucking always."

"Hey now, I don't always destro-"

"I am not finished," Fury shot him a 'back up motherfucker' look that even Tony couldn't ignore before continuing, "We have a scientist who likes to go all big bad green and angry and could destroy half of the city we just managed to save if he so much as wakes up on the wrong side of the bed."

"It's not that out of contr-"

Only Fury could pull off a glare like that with one eye. Bruce fell silent.

"We've got a god flying back and forth as he pleases, taking our prisoners and promptly losing them as if that alone isn't enough to make every still-deeply-traumatized citizen in New York curl up in a ball and cry. We have the symbol of our fucking country riding around aimlessly on a shitty second-hand motorcycle, and if that isn't a disaster waiting to happen I don't know what is."

Thor and Steve were either smart or scared enough (or perhaps polite enough, in Steve's case) that they didn't attempt to interrupt Fury's tirade, though Thor looked somewhat insulted while Steve looked rather unnecessarily ashamed of himself.

"And then, and then, we've got our own god damn agents causing shit up in here, up in my headquarters, with Romanov all but hazing our junior agents-which is illegal, don't you snicker at me Stark-and Barton climbing through the ventilation system scaring the fuck out of everyone because we do employ some normal people here and they are not equipped to handle your shit. I am barely equipped to handle your shit. But I am not your god damn babysitter, so you supposed adults are gonna have to pack your crazy up and take it to Stark Tower."

"What if I don't want five lunatics running around my tower?" Tony demanded.

"Then you shouldn't have joined the boy band, Stark," Fury snapped the file in front of him closed with an air of finality, and Tony scowled.

"...I'm not sure I understand that reference."

"Capsicle, if you pointed out every time you didn't get a reference, no one would ever finish their sentences," Tony snapped, not bothering to filter himself, and only feeling the tiniest bit of guilt at Steve's kicked-puppy frown, "Which is now my problem, cause apparently I'm housing you. You, a 90 year old man, an assassin ready and oh-so-willing to kill me, a birdbrained loudmouth, a Nordic god, and of course a fucking Hulk. My place is gonna be a real party, ain't it?" Tony quipped sarcastically.

"You really should watch your language," Steve reminded him again, and Tony just groaned.

"He should also adjust his definition of party," Natasha observed.