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The Experts at the Fall

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One.

The government housing wasn't the worst but it certainly wasn't the best. Each of the Avengers had their own rooms with attached bathrooms, sharing a kitchen and a living room. The set-up was more suited for college students than superheroes but they made do with the space they had. 

The tortuously slow internet, however, was intolerable. 

Sam voiced his complaints the United Nations liaison, who was absolutely no help in this matter because technically it was working fine. The next day, he took matters into his own hands and called an internet service provider to schedule an installation. If the United Nations' Accords Committee refused to fix the issue, then Sam would...as soon as he was off of the seemingly indefinite hold.

When the wait time reached an hour, the call abruptly disconnected. Sam tried again and a representative picked up instantly, which soothed some of the irritation. Except she had to transfer him and that led to a thirty minute wait, then another transfer, then a fifteen minute wait, followed by another transfer that ended with a click. 

It continued like this for the rest of the day, a series of false starts and dashed hopes. Sometimes Sam would be connected immediately and other times the wait was infuriating. Once, he got as far as to have a reference number but the next representative couldn't find records of it. He tried contacting other companies but encountered the same problems of prolonged wait time and mysteriously dropped calls. Also, the music was simply atrocious. 

Sam felt exhausted and drained by the end of it, with nothing to show for his efforts. Everyone he had spoken with were exceedingly polite and apologetic, but it didn't lessen the frustration and the suspicion that this was somehow personal. He eventually dismissed it as absurd, there was no way multiple internet service providers allied together for the specific and trivial purpose of making his day awful.

He would just have to try again the next day. 

 

Two.

Natasha sighed as she waited in line for her dry cleaning. It seemed wrong that a capable woman of her caliber was performing such a mundane task. She missed the Avengers Compound's laundry service with an ache disproportional to the chore.

This was the fifth dry cleaner Natasha had tried, the previous four had, in one way or another, caused damages that didn't quite render the garment unwearable but were noticeable enough that she hadn't wanted to wear it. She hoped that fifth time was the charm.

The attendant glanced at the ticket stub with an eye roll. He activated the rotating rack with a lazy flick of a finger. Rows of clothes glided by slowly, the whirring of the gears was grating on Natasha's nerves.

"Sorry, we don't have your stuff." The attendant said with a shrug.

Natasha felt her temper flare. "What?" She let a bit of Black Widow creep into her voice. 

"Can't find it." This was either a very obtuse or extremely naïve young man, because he did not respond to the threat in Natasha's tone. "Next!"

Inhaling sharply, Natasha tried to calm herself. It wouldn't do to get angry, the last dry cleaner filed a restraining order against her, which made the news. She shuffled through the crowded store, hissing as elbows dug into her sides, and stomped toward the door. The casual and callous dismissal knotted in her chest, tightening with each step and pulling as she breathed.

 

Three.

Clint couldn't quite suppress the feeling of trepidation as he took out his credit card to purchase the groceries. With a defeated sigh, he removed his phone from his pocket. It would ring soon.

As soon as he swiped the card, an angry beep sounded from the machine.

Declined .

The cashier looked unamused and the man behind him coughed to disguise his scoff.

Clint counted down in his head. Five, four, three… His phone rang. "This is Clint Barton. Birth date January 7, 1971. I'm at the grocery store, trying to make a purchase of $45.87." He rattled off before the other person could finish the perfunctory greeting.

Since their reinstatement, there had been issues with his debit and credit cards. Apparently being an international fugitive and declared a war criminal meant his assets were frozen and his card activity was heavily monitored. Though it did seem a bit over-zealous to track and verify every single transaction.

It only took a few minutes for Clint to confirm his identity before his card was cleared for purchase, but it felt like hours with the way the clerk tapped his fingers and the people in line behind him shuffling to another checkout stand.

On his way out of the store, Clint considered taking out cash but any withdrawals over $100 would be flagged by the United Nations.

Despite their pardons, they were still considered flight risks.

The engine roared to life with a twist of the key and so did the gas light. He groaned at the thought of having another conversation with the Fraud Detection and Loss Prevention department.

 

Four.

Wanda frowned as she looked at the cappuccino she ordered. There was no whipped cream and the name on the cup read Wanka. She scowled as she returned to the counter, pushing through the line of waiting customers, and demanded her drink to be remade in a cup with Wanda on it.

The barista complied, with an eye roll, and offered no apology.

The people behind her buzzed with annoyance.

When the drink was ready, Wanda checked that it had her name, spelled correctly, before sending a flash of red to the cash register in retaliation. The machine began beeping erratically as she walked out of the door, a pleased grin on her face. It quickly melted away when she took a sip and found the beverage scalding hot. The Caution: Contents Hot warning was underlined but it seemed more vicious than helpful. 

Wanda received an unpleasant phone call that night, the coffee shop had filed a complaint and she had been barred from their premises. The Accords Committee's reprimand meant as little as the threat of arrest and fine, empty posturing of petty bureaucrats. The shop didn't deserve her business anyway. 

So, the next day, she tried another coffee shop. The day after, she went to another. Each experience was as unpleasant as the first. Drinks were always made incorrectly – missing or unwanted ingredients, hot instead of cold and vice versa, wrong sizes and flavors – and the baristas never got her name right.  

Wendy. Manda. Wonka. Wayne. Wilma. Panda.

The last one wasn't even a name but an animal.

Though the one that made her flinch was the Witch written in sharp and spiteful strokes.

 

Five.

Since returning to New York, Steve started taking the subway.

It was nice to be near the people he fought the Accords to protect, and, well, Stark car service was off-limits now. He didn't mind. Walking to and from the station gave him a chance to get some fresh air and the hustle and bustle filled him with a sense of purpose.

An older lady stepped into the compartment and Steve stood automatically to offer her his seat. She took it with a nod, mouth pinched as though she had smelled something unpleasant. Steve did his best to brush it off, the elderly often had aches and pain could sour anyone's mood. He was just happy to help wherever he could.

It seemed like there was always someone who needed his seat.

Senior citizens, with their wrinkled faces and silvered hair, always made Steve move.

Women, with one hand supporting their lower backs and the other over their stomachs in the universal pose of pregnancy, took Steve's seat with withering looks. He never dared ask or offer congratulations, but he did glance at some of the relatively-flat midsections in silent confusion.

Parents, with young children who suddenly lost the ability to stand or developed resistance to being carried, usually looked somewhat apologetic when they asked Steve if he'd mind trading spots. Though it was a question with only one correct answer.

It wasn't a big deal, but Steve felt the strangest sense that he was in a hostile environment.

 

One.

They won. Thanos fell after a grueling battle spanning across realms and space. They won.

Though Steve wished they could have done it as one team, his team, instead of multiple ones.

Steve's team, the Avengers, had stemmed the waves of attack, fighting on the ground and evacuating the innocents from the battle field. Except civilians had fled from them, and War Machine had to step in with the Iron Legion, rebuilt and repurposed for search and rescue.

Tony's team, the New Avengers, which was a ridiculous and petty name, had worked to bottleneck the attack and strengthen defenses a mixture of technology and magic. Loki, whose presence Steve still hadn't received an explanation for, had been a part of that.

Thor and the Asgardian army had taken the repaired Bi-Frost to board Thanos' ship while the Guardians had dismantled the others with assistance from the Wasp and Ant Man. Scott had begged, was still begging, for Hope and Hank's forgiveness as soon as they landed.

It was nothing like how Steve, or the Avengers, had envisioned it.

They were supposed to be the heroes, charging into the heart of battle and slaying the Mad Titan. Instead, they had been relegated to glorified grunt work.

Clint and Natasha looked furious, though it was unclear if the anger was directed inward or outward.

Sam had a deeply carved furrow between his brows.

Wanda muttered quietly to herself, still shaken up from when a family had screamed in terror at the sight of her and tried to run back into their collapsed home.

Steve felt small.

The press conference was in full swing by the time the Avengers made their way there. Instead of going in, they hovered on the periphery. An invisible barrier kept them in place.

They hadn't been needed. They didn't belong. They weren't heroes.

Not anymore.