Actions

Work Header

TeenVengers, ASSEMBLE!

Chapter Text

PROLOGUE

“So you’re probably asking yourself, how did a bunch of teenagers become Earth’s mightiest heroes? Well, it all started with me, of course, because I’m awesome!”

“Tony!”

Sigh, “Fine, fine, the rest might also be awesome and all that – not as much as me though-“

“Tony, do not make me call Pepper on you!”

“Oh my gosh, look at Steve’s face!”

“Don’t point Clint, its rude!”

“You’re no boss of m-ack! Sorry! Sorry! Lemme go already!”

“Guuuuuuuyyyyssss! You’re stealing me thunder here!”

“Man of Iron, the only one here with thunder is-“

“Oh shut it Thor, you know it’s only a Midgardian expression.”

“Yeah Thor, get learned.”

“Clint, I swear to-“

“Can you stop it already?! You know the cameras are still rolling, do you? This is supposed to be my moment!”

“Okay, okay team, let’s leave Mr. Fancypants here have his moment.”

“Excuse you, Mr. Fancypants? That’s a terrible nickname Rhodey. I’m disappointed, I’m deeply disappointed.”

“Does the Man of Iron even have pants that are fancy? I have only ever seen him wear those blue pants full of tears.”

“Those are jeans Thor, you know this, you’ve fucking worn them yourself!”

“Language!”

“I’ll have you know that those jeans with tears are top quality, thank you very much!”

“But why do they have tears?”

“For goodness sake Thor, that’s just how they are! You know this!”

“He’s being obnoxious on purpose, leave him alone for a while and it’ll pass.”

“Look how cute his pouty face is!”

“M’n’t cu’t”

“What’s that Thor? Stop mumbling.”

“Leave him alone!”

“FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, CAN WE GET THIS THING STARTED ALREADY?!”

Cough, “Okay, back to you, camera one. So, as I was saying, all this started with me a couple years ago. I was still a little innocent boy back then- Stop giggling! Ahem, so it was a couple years ago, fine, not that many, but still, I’ve grown since then! I have medical evidence of this! Don’t look at me like that Steve, this is serious stuff! So, let’s start at the beginning of this whole new world.

You see, I was 12 when I was overseeing a weapon I had, at the time, secretly designed for Stark Industries. Back then it was a secret that I had been designing weapons for ages for the company, Stane had me believe that if somebody found out terrible things would happen. I would never be able to continue with all my projects. I was pretty stupid back then. But even if this was a well-kept secret, somebody apparently figured it out and told the Ten Rings about it, so they decided they wanted to have the duck that lays the golden eggs- what? Goose? Why the fuck is it a goose? No-stop looking at me like that Steve! And I’m sure it was a duck! Whatever, you get the gist.

So there I was, travelling the desert as a treat from my then friend and guardian, Obadiah Stane, when suddenly the world went up in flames. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I got kidnapped.”

 

Chapter Text

He’d been in that cave for months, yet it had felt like years for him. He’d gone in a spoilt brat and came out as a hardened man of 12. When the military finally picked him up after wondering the desert for over a day he was sure things would never be the same, that he would never be the same. But when he was picked up at the airport by Happy, both Pepper and Rhodey were waiting for him in the limo. No hide or hint about Obie.

When the military had rescued him, he’d been mostly still in a state of shock, after all he’d seen and had happened to him, so when he climbed into the limo to find his two closest friends with him and Happy at the wheel – he broke down.

Pepper, sweet little Pepper, who he had met when her father once brought her to the company for the bring your child to work day roughly 2 years ago. And Rhodey, big reliable Rhodey, who he had met at a military airplane exhibition even longer ago. Sure, there was an age gap, with Pepper being a year younger and Rhodey being three years older, but they had managed to become glued to each other with the years.

He cried until he had no more tears that day, until he fell asleep, still crying as he was held by his two closest friends. The next day he woke up in his bedroom in his Malibu mansion. At first, he freaked out and started to call for Yinsen, until JARVIS began talking until he calmed down. Half the day went by before he decided he was calm enough to leave his bedroom and venture further into his house.

Obie showed up with dinner – some fancy cooked food that even included caviar – and told him how happy he was to have him back. Tony felt eerily distanced by the whole thing. Nothing that Obie said meant much to him. It wasn’t until Obie came to the part where he spoke of hoping Tony would soon jump back in into designing and constructing weapons for Stark Industries that Tony had any reaction to what he was being told.

“No.”

Obie didn’t react too brightly to that. Tony had a brief moment of panic when Obie began pacing up and down and threw off of the dinner table what was left from what he had brought. Luckily Tony had stepped back so nothing collided with him. Obie calmed down a bit after that and, body still tense, he exhaled strongly and forced a smile on his face, took Tony’s shoulders in his hands and then told him it was okay to have doubts at the moment and how it was all just a phase.

When he was gone Tony went to his room and curled up in a ball on the floor in one of the corners. He stayed there for a few hours until he got up and went to his lab slash garage. He turned on the TV, his music, all his computers and robots, all in an attempt to create as much noise as possible.

He began designing the Mark II around 3 am and only paused when it was around midday because he wanted to call Pepper and Rhodey to meet up again. They arrive by dinner time, as his new suit was in construction. Pepper brought cheeseburgers and he instantly declared her his favorite. They ate as they watched the comedy movies that Rhodey had brought. It was the first time since that time in the caves when Yinsen was telling old family anecdotes that he laughed. They left close to midnight, both of them promising to come back the next day. Tony went back to the living room and sat on the couch they had all been sharing. It was still warm from when they sat on it. He lay down and fell asleep almost immediately.

He dreamed about Yinsen and woke up at 4 am and went back to his garage and discovered his new suit finished. He decided to take it on a ride and experienced the most wonderful feeling he had ever felt – flying. He also discovered that he couldn’t go as high as he wished he could, he did this by almost dying so he decided that he needed to fix this issue before he found himself flying high again and accidentally forgot that he had limits. As the final version of his suit was being constructed he received a visit from Pepper claiming there was this guy from some government agency that wanted to speak with him. Instantly Tony was on the verge of a panic attack, seeing as all government agencies had to pass through Obie – his guardian – before they were allowed to get to him and he knew for a fact that Obie didn’t want any of them near him. Tony suspected it had to do with the fact that he’d been the actual one that had been designing the company’s weapons and tech for years now. This was the reason he didn’t go to school after all and instead got homeschooled.

He greeted Agent Coulson – from the longest named agency he had ever heard – and told him as politely as he can that he would rather speak another day if it was possible. It deeply surprised him when the man accepted this and gave not only him, but also Pepper his card. As Tony stared on in astonishment that he was still alive, Pepper was gushing at his side over how nice the man was. Since he was trying to be nice to her he only rolled his eyes and told her he was going to order the biggest pizza LA had to offer and promptly disappeared into his mansion. As they waited for both the pizza and Rhodey to arrive Tony took Pepper’s hands in his and told her that he needed her help with something.

Years later, she still hasn’t forgiven him for that stunt he pulled off.

When they were all back in the kitchen, a giant box of pizza on the counter and Pepper sufficiently clean – after she washed her hands for seven times, each time with a different type of soap – and Rhodey set to arrive in less than five minutes, Tony felt content for the first time in ages.

He never had the opportunity to feel content in the caves, no matter how hard Yinsen tried to help him through all the torture and trauma, he never could make the cave feel like home. He remembered those nights when it was so cold he couldn’t even sleep and he curled up into a ball at Yinsen’s side and he not only let him, but hugged him closer and gave him a bit of his blanket. He would even sometimes sing a song in some strange language until Tony stopped shivering or crying, or both.

His thoughts about Yinsen hardened his resolve, and so when Rhodey and Pepper left for their homes he went back to his garage to work on his suit. When he arrived in his garage he found out that the TV was still on and was now showing a news flash of some place in Afghanistan. His blood went cold when he saw them use weapons from Stark Industries – weapons he designed – being used to hurt innocent people. Children. Yinsen had once told him in whispers how despicable he found it that their kidnappers where hurting him, a child, for their nefarious reasons. When he said those words Tony had been able to infer how deeply Yinsen loathed the idea of children being hurt.

Tony made a decision right then and there. He got into his suit and flew all the way to Afghanistan and destroyed every single piece of weapon he could find that had the name Stark on it. On his way back he had some trouble with the Air Force, but was able to outmaneuver them and get back home in one piece.

Later, when he came home he began hacking SI’s files in search for the person that was selling weapons to the Ten Rings. With time he came to realize that he would have to get to Obie’s computer himself if he wanted to get the information.

The next day he tried to get into the company and was instantly stopped by security. To make matters worse they told him to wait for Mr. Stane before he could leave. He went to the Reactor Building and sulked around for almost an hour before Obadiah came to him. Things got tense soon, again. This time Obadiah had him backed up until he was against the wall, with him leaning over him and telling in no uncertain tones that he wouldn’t be allowed back into the company until he got back to work again. It dawned on him later, as he was taking a cold shower in an attempt to calm down that Obadiah was trying to get all the juice out of him, almost like he was on a time constrict. It scared Tony to be honest.

Pepper came by the next day with the gift of his old Arc Reactor, all cleaned up and written on with a sharpie ‘Proof that Tony Stark has a Heart’. He decided to put it in the center of one of his tables in the garage and had Dummy fetch a glass case for it so he could later move it to his bedroom.

Later, that same day he called in Pepper and asked her if she could help him with something. After he reassured her a couple times that it had nothing to do with his chest cavity she came over to his house where he told her his master plan. She informed him that there was nothing masterful in his plan and that he was crazy. It took long to convince her, but in the end he prevailed.

In his defense, his plan would totally have worked out had Obadiah not come to his house the next day, paralyzed him and stole his Arc Reactor. Hindsight really was 20/20.

Rhodey had to come in and drag him all the way to his lab and put in his old Arc Reactor before he was able to do much. His body was simply too small and frail to stand up to big heart conditions like having shrapnel digging into them 24/7. When he was finally coherent enough he had to trick Rhodey into letting go of him so that he could sneak to where his suit was and put it on. He vowed to make the process faster as he got assembled and constantly felt Rhodey’s disapproving stare on him.

He arrive just in the nick of time before Pepper and Agent Agent were about to get smashed by the most awful thing he had ever had the misfortune to lay his eyes on. Who had designed that thing? Didn’t they have any sense of fashion? Where was the passion for the art in this thing?! Nowhere, that’s what.

It was still a difficult fight, and Pepper had been scared witless by the time he told her that she had to blow up the Reactor, but she still prevailed and was able to save the day while he lay on the roof, waiting for the paramedics to kart him off somewhere nice and dry and warm. He fell unconscious before they arrived.

When he was finally allowed out of the hospital he was in a world of legal problems since his guardian had just died and he was still a minor and had also been involved in the death of his previously mentioned guardian. Fortunately he had a plan for that, one that he had set JARVIS on days earlier, before his case became a top priority. It involved breaking at least a dozen laws and who knew what else, but he had managed to get himself registered under JARVIS’s guardianship. It had been pretty difficult creating a new identity for JARVIS so that he could appear as an American citizen, but at the end JARVIS was officially a person and he was now not only Tony’s guardian, but also the new CEO of Stark Industries. As if that hadn’t been enough, his first announcement was the seize in production of all weapons from SI. It was a wonderful day for Tony.

At first it had seemed like he would have to fight literary everybody on the legitimacy of JARVIS’s existence, but then Agent Agent had appeared at his doorstep one day and asked what he pretended to do next.

Tony had half a dozen smart ass answers ready, but he decided that it was maybe for the best that he was honest for just this once in his life.

“Make this world a better place”, he answered.

Agent Agent looked thoughtful for a moment, thanked him for his time and then left.

It seemed to have been the right answer to give since from that moment on most of his legal problems suddenly found themselves solved. Not all of them, but the most important one of his guardianship was as legitimate now as anybody’s now.

Everything was finally like he wanted it.

And then came the press conference where he had to talk about his late guardian’s recent death and Iron Man’s – as the press had taken to call him – involvement in it.

Agent Agent gave him a card and told him what to say. Tony wondered if anybody had ever told the poor man that this was not the way you dealt with Tony Stark. Whatever, Tony didn’t let himself feel bad over it for a long time – it literary lasted less than five minutes.

He went before the press, and at that moment he still genuinely had good intentions, but as he reread the card Agent Agent had given him he decided that it could go fuck it, threw it over his shoulder and told the world he was Iron Man.

Now, everything really was how wanted it.

 

Chapter Text

It was one of those ideas that came to him while he was taking one of his now daily cold showers that he took to stave off the fevers he was starting to get. One of his most prized things in this world were his tech and his company – and wasn’t it just a delight to call it his? Sure, Stark Industries was on JARVIS’s name, but he was the one that ran it in essence. So how could he make sure that both outlived him? The Stark Expo of course! His old man had last launched it before when he was still a baby so he didn’t remember anything about it.

He made it big, as big as he possibly could. The world would remember this Expo and the last of the Starks if he had anything to say about it.

He worked throughout the night many times to have only the best at the Expo, only changing his palladium cores when his body screamed at him to take it easier. Pepper was constantly fighting with him over all the shit he pulled and Rhodey had a constant face of disappointment on. Tony ignored it all the best he could and asked JARVIS to find another one of his invaluable art collections a new home.

He began writing up code for JARVIS to follow when he inevitably died, at the sad age of 13. Right after his birthday too. He had cried himself to sleep a couple times over it, but then he decided he wanted Pepper and Rhodey to remember him as his old self, not into what he would probably become in his last hours.

So, with this mindset in place he went to visit Pepper at her house and met her new neighbor Natalie. Natalie was a pretty, 14 year old redhead with lots of curls and a really nice personality. Pepper was just so glad to not be the only girl in the group anymore that nobody minded Natalie’s presence much at the beginning, but then with time it was like she had always been there. It was because of this feeling Tony invited Natalie along when he decided to go see the racing in Monaco. Pepper, Natalie and Rhodey had to take off at school a few days, but they were all excited for the races – except maybe Natalie, there were times where Tony just wasn’t sure if Natalie’s emotions were genuine or just expertly faked.

It wasn’t like Tony had planned to take over racing one of the cars beforehand, but when he saw his blood poisoning levels that day he decided that common sense could go fuck itself and took over that racing car. He was doing really good as well, he was well on his way to winning and probably breaking the record as youngest driver ever when Vanko came and tried to kill him. Tony was so thankful for his fast reflexes since he almost got mutilated a good couple times before Happy arrived with the peanut gallery in the back seat and threw him his suit(case). Ha.

The fight was over briefly, mostly because Tony’s suit really was the very best thing ever and the other guy’s thing, while decent, just wasn’t on the same level. For some reason Pepper got really angry when he told her just that after they cleared the area and let her and the rest of the peanut gallery out of the wrecked car.

It all just caused a lot of troubles for him. The government had been making noises about taking away his suit – what for? It wouldn’t fit any of them – and probably would have tried to do something had he not been a minor, but now it had really intensified. He knew that behind most of the noise was that idiot Hammer, who he had seen at Monaco and had wanted to punch in the teeth then, but had refrained himself from doing.

On his way back to LA he tried to at least get Pepper aside on his privet plane to explain to her about his impending death, but she, along with everybody else, was still pissed at him for what he’d pulled at Monaco. Especially for the visit he had done afterwards to Vanko in his cell.

He was so done with everything, back at his home, that he accidently let the time go by for too long and before he knew it, he was past his time to change his palladium core. He literary had to drag himself on the floor of his lab to get a new core. His end was near – but so was his birthday, so he decided to have his last one ever with the biggest bang he could.

He let everybody in that wanted to come, let the DJ go wild, let the barista serve whatever to whomever wanted and he also had a lady jump out of a giant cake. He also got sure to get drunk, just so he could know how it felt before he died. He also almost smoked pot, but Rhodey had made it past the dancing mob by then and physically hauled him up and, the giggling mess that he was, made him sit in his tub as he showered him with ice cold water while Pepper watched on, tears rolling down her face as she asked repeatedly what had gotten into him and what did he think he was doing.

Later, he would realize that Natalie only stared at him impassively the whole time.

Unfortunately, it all didn’t end in the shower, Tony managed to slip out and made Rhodey chase him around the house until they were in the lab, where he had left one of his ‘early prototypes’ conveniently for Rhodey while he put on his own suit. Rhodey hesitated for a moment before he ran to the ‘prototype’ and in no time was he putting Tony down for good that night. He left angry and still in the suit, Pepper and Natalie were nowhere to be seen either.

Tony decided in the early hours of the morning that he wanted to have donuts, so he flew to one of the best places he knew of.

It really did surprise the hell out of him when some Secret Agent of a sort – with the most ironic name ever – came and gave him a pep talk. Not as much as discovering Natalie was not Natalie at all, but also a secret agent of some sort.

They shipped him off back to his mansion after giving him a partial cure and gave him his dad’s old junk to figure out a ‘real cure’. Sure, why not. Why fucking not, those bastards sons of-

The big surprise was that there was actually something to be found in all that junk after all – and that his dad loved him? Tony didn’t really remember his parents at all, he was 4 when they died and all he really could summon up from his memories were their constant fights and that one time his mom told him she loved him. From what Tony later understood, this was the last thing she ever said to him. It made him feel kinda fuzzy on the inside when he thought of that, but also pretty sad.

It took him a lot of work and lots of help from the bots to construct what he needed in order to create a new element. He almost didn’t make it, one of the bots had to come help push at the crowbar near the end, his own arms proving to be insufficient.

At some time Agent Agent had left him to work his genius alone, so when he realized that a bunch of drones from Hammer were going to attack the Expo he had no option but to slap on the new core without testing and fly off to rescue the day. When he arrived he found something completely unexpected yet not unpleasant at all. Rhodey was there, in the suit Tony had let him steal and saving people’s lives. He patched into Rhodey’s suit and they managed to plan out a coordinated attack on the drones while Pepper was in the background saying something about Natalie having saved her life by attacking a drone with her thighs and having called the police on Hammer.

It was all pretty bizzare, but Tony had no doubt that every word Pepper had said was truth. He was also kinda glad that he wouldn’t have to be the one to break it to his friends that Natalie wasn’t exactly Natalie, but Natasha. Seeing as they were winning the fight with the drones, Natalie had Vanko’s coordinates and Pepper was having Hammer fucking arrested he decided that it was as good time as any to let it ‘slip’ that he had been actually dying the last couple months.

They – they didn’t react too well to that. They reacted so bad that Vanko, in his new fancy suit, was able to land a pretty hard blow on him and Rhodey. He was almost thankful for the attack since it distracted both Rhodey and Pepper from the fact that he had almost died. Tony was no idiot and he knew that this was far from being over and once everything was back under control they would chew him out for not telling them. The battle though – Tony had to say that felt pretty damn proud of the team work he and Rhodey had. They worked almost seamlessly until Vanko was down and when they discovered the Expo was going to explode they were both able to take care of each other and meet at the outsides of the Expo to grab Pepper and fly her all the way back to Tony’s home. She didn’t appreciate the trip as much as they had hoped.

At the end they had to mend bridges and Tony was finally feeling like he could move forward in his life. He had so many projects in his head that he would now be able to see into completion that it was overwhelming and he was left for about a week just trying to decide which thing he would do first. After much debate he decided that building a new skyscraper in New York running on renewable energy was the first step. He could barely wait to begin, JARVIS had even began designing the building and it was looking awesome already.

Long life, here he came!

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Asgard was in upheaval, the people knew something bad had happened, even though they weren’t sure what had, the bright lights coming from the Bifrost were enough indicative. Around the people of Asgard ran the guards. They had all been ordered to be prepared in case something went wrong with the rescue mission. Not all of them knew how it had come to be, but apparently the crown prince, Thor, had somehow landed himself in Jotunheim along with his brother and needed to be rescued by Odin himself.

At the Bifrost Heimdall watched with sad, solemn eyes as Odin raged at his eldest. It was true that what Thor had done was serious and foolish, but he was still a child.

Loki watched on in horror as his father banished Thor to Midgard for a month to live as a human. What was his father thinking? Thor as a human could possibly get killed at that backwater planet! His brother was far too young to be thrust into a situation like that and come out unharmed – not that he would be able to do any better, he was even younger and smaller than Thor.

As Thor was thrown into the Bifrost Odin summoned Mjolnir and gave it the command to only let itself be wielded by those who were worthy. He was fairly certain that Thor would not have become worthy by the end of his month as a human on Midgard, he was simply too stubborn. Odin was still having trouble believing his eldest thought it was a good idea to go seek a challenge with a Jotun warrior of all things. And dragging his little brother Loki along on top of all! Loki was still a very small child and could barely defend himself properly against any sort of attack, Odin would have punished Thor much more heavily if his little expedition had caused harm to his little brother.

By the time Mjolnir flew after Thor towards Midgard Loki felt like his entire world had been thrown upside down – even if-. No. He wasn’t going to think about it. He couldn’t. Not right now at least. Swallowing down some of the dread he felt Loki drew himself up straight and went to seek out his mother, who no doubt would be crying about Thor’s fate and would probably appreciate having Loki at her side.

It wasn’t easy pretending to be fine in front of his mother, but he couldn’t afford to look like anything else had happened like-. No. No, no, he wasn’t going to think about that.

Except.

Except he couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened when he had been at Jotunheim with Thor, while his brother had been distracted fighting monsters several times his size and Loki had barely had any idea how to defend himself against a race that was impervious to his daggers.

It troubled him. Day and night. It troubled him all the time. He couldn’t eat without thinking about it, he couldn’t walk without thinking about it, he couldn’t look at Odin or Frigga without thinking about it. He couldn’t even sleep because it was all he was able to think about.

After almost three days he finally managed to summon enough bravery and went down to Odin’s Vault.

The truth was too much for him to bear.

His world crushed down on him and everything, everything, EVERYTHING changed.

And then his father – No! He was no longer his father, he never had been! He was Odin! Odin! – Odin was there and he was trying to placate him, but Loki had always been sharp with his words, he may be a child but he knew how to express himself fully. And express himself he did. He made sure that all his hurt, pain, agony stung Odin as sharply as it possibly could.

And then Odin fell and Loki was left gaping at him.

What had he done?!

He screamed for help as he felt around for any sign that Odin was still alive, that he hadn’t died – that he hadn’t killed him – that this wasn’t his fault – please let this not be his fault – what would Frigga say? And why was she Frigga now? Why had she to be Frigga? He didn’t want Frigga, he wanted his mother!

But Frigga wasn’t his mother, was she?

His heart  - what was left of it – was bleeding and broken without a way to ever restore it as he watched the crown, the same one he had envied Thor so much for because he was so sure he would be the one to receive it, come down and be placed on his head.

Later, that same day, he had gone to his chambers, laid the crown down with utmost care and went to lie on his bed. Then he cried himself hoarse throughout the night.

By the next day, barely any time having passed since he became the new king of Asgard, the Warriors Three and Sif were pestering him about letting Thor come back early and reprise his rightful place as the true king of Asgard.

On the one side, Loki could agree with them. Thor was the eldest and it was his rightful place to be the next king of Asgard.

On the other side, the mere idea of Thor, the same one who had nearly caused war to break out between Jotunheim and Asgard after hundreds of years of peace between the two races because he wanted to challenge one of their warriors to a fight was-. NO. NO. NO. NO.

It was such a bad idea Loki nearly broke his stoic façade he had been keeping up the last couple days to keep Frigga calm so she could look after Odin and not be too worried about himself.

So he told them as such.

They didn’t say it out loud, but they could just as well had – they thought he was usurping the throne.

Well, they could think whatever the hell they wanted, he had never cared for them that much. They were all grownups and only ever seemed to like spending time with Thor, who was too blind and stupid to realize when people were getting tired of him and insulting him with clever words. Not that the Warriors Three knew anything about insulting with clever words, but Loki knew they would make fun of little Thor the princeling behind his back. Nothing too malicious, or he would have reported it to Frigga, but it still sat wrongly with Loki.

And then they did it.

The Warriors Three and that blasted Sif went against everything he had ordered them and common sense to go get Thor back from Midgard. Loki was angered enough that he went down to the Vault where he set the Destroyer on them. He longed to never see them again.

 


 

 

Jane seemed to be the only one being entertained by all the jabbering Dr. S – aka, Dr. Selvig – was doing about bridges and Einstein and some other dude. Darcy was just bored out of her freaking mind, like any other respectable 11 year old should be. Jane didn’t count, and even though she was the same age as Darcy she was – um – special. Yeah. Jane was special. As in, crazy smart. She was not only following what Dr. S was jabbering on about, but contributing to the conversation in meaningful ways.

Darcy was just about to call quits on the pair of nerds and finally succumb to sleep while cuddling Kitty – her large kitten plushie she had brought with her all the way from England – when the sky became all colorful and they were suddenly driving towards some sort of tornado, storm, whatever thingy.

Jane was already gushing about how exciting all this was and Dr. S was talking about how happy Jane’s dad was going to be when he heard about all the progress they’d done on his work while he was gone on his two week trip to heck knows where.

They were in the middle of the storm soon enough, and while Darcy was praying for her dear life in the back seat, they hit something. Jane was immediately screaming about a boy and Dr. S was jumping out of the car, flashlight in hand, frenetically searching for whatever – or whoever – they had hit. Darcy was quick to follow, her beloved tazer in hand in case it was somebody crazy.

She followed the noise to where Jane and Dr. S were inspecting a small form lying on the ground. Jane was shouting at Dr. S to check if he was alive and Dr. S seemed like he was doing just that. Upon closer inspection of the form Darcy could confirm that the small form was indeed a boy, roughly the same age as she and Jane, maybe a little older. Twelve? Maybe?

Then the boy snapped open his eyes and sprang up and began shouting at the sky. It was all pretty unnerving for Darcy and when the boy rounded upon Dr. S and looked like he was ready to attack him – and 12 or not, Darcy just had this sort of feeling that the boy could be capable of inflicting some great damage if left unchecked – so Darcy did the most reasonable thing she could think of. She tazed him. Jane was angry with her the whole trip to the hospital, looking at her with her glare-y eyes. Darcy had to bite her lips to stop herself from laughing at her friend’s expression.

When they find out the next day that their little stranger had somehow managed to break out of the hospital’s security Darcy wasn’t really surprised at all, she was just a little upset that they’ll now have to spend the whole day looking for him all around the town and its outskirts.

They find him after Dr. S somehow managed to drive into him again, right at the hospital’s parking lot.

The boy – Thor, he tells them he’s called – doesn’t even seem fazed from being hit by the same car in less than 24 hours, instead he’s all fine with it. He’s so weird. He only became more and more weird with every passing moment. He talked weirdly, was too well mannered for any 12 year old Darcy had ever met – yet he lacked some crucial manners as he later demonstrated when they ate at the café – he talked of being from some weird place and-. Yeah, Darcy decided to tune him out after he began talking of going to some place out of town where something had fallen out of the sky. Jane was the only one that looked like she was buying all he was saying. Dr. S didn’t look too impressed and had already taken them both aside to tell them in a gentle tone that Thor was cray cray and they shouldn’t pay too much thought to what he was saying.

Dr. S left them alone with Thor for a while as he went to talk to the local authorities about the search that had begun to find Thor’s parents – he didn’t react well when Thor told them that his father had banished him from his home as a punishment – and it was no secret for both Jane and Darcy that when they find Thor’s parents they were probably going to go to jail. Thor though, seems oblivious to the whole thing. Neither Jane nor Darcy felt up to it to shatter his illusions.

When Dr. S came back he took them both aside and told them that he’d talked with the police and they’d allow him to take care of Thor until a social worker could find his or her way to the town. From what Darcy understood this could take up to a week.

So they took Thor to their home, even as he continued to insist on going to the site where the satellite fell. Dr. S eventually got tired of this and agreed to taking him there the next day if all went well. But when they arrive at their home they find government people all over the place and taking away all Dr. S and Jane’s dad’s research. Jane was the one who got the angriest out of all of them, shouting stuff about how her dad worked for the government as well, but nobody minded her and in the end they took away everything. Dr. S and Jane were pretty sullen afterwards as they had dinner and sulked around before showing Thor a place where he could sleep and going off to bed themselves.

The next day they tried to distract Thor for as long as they could by introducing him to all the kinds of board games they had – apparently he had never even so much as heard of all of them – and they were doing fine until after lunch when he demanded they let him out of the house so he could go find a horse and go himself. Dr. S just gave a longsuffering sigh and told Thor that they would take him. Jane was secretly all for it, cause she was becoming stir crazy after being left without an action to take after the government goons took away her dad’s stuff. Darcy was just happy they all got something to do that would make them stop sulking.

The ride there was long, it was all dark by the time they got there and found the government all over the place. Jane was immediately hissing curses at them that she shouldn’t know. Dr. S decided then that it was the proper place to scold Jane for her language and teach her about good values. Nobody noticed when Thor snuck away to infiltrate the government tent base, but Darcy was the first one to notice his absence.

 Dr. S was not impressed by Thor at all. He was still fuming as he went back to their truck and got all the paperwork the police gave him to show that he was Thor’s temporary guardian and then proceeded to stomp his way down to the tent base.

When he came back with a weepy Thor in one of his arms he seemed to have forgiven Thor whatever pains he might have caused him. As they drove home Darcy overheard Dr. S telling Jane in hushed tones that apparently Thor had thought that if he could get to whatever was at the tent base he would be able to lift his banishment and get back to his home. It really broke all of their hearts.

Thor seemed to slowly come to accept that maybe his parents wouldn’t be coming back for him, though he also seemed to believe that they – or more specifically, his father – would be letting him come back to his home in a month. Dr. S didn’t seem too impressed by this idea either.

Thor ended up staying with them about a whole week. In this time they would try to teach him about the basic of things, like almost anything electrical. It was almost comic how he didn’t seem to know about anything. Dr. S called it tragic. Thor would also tell them about all his ‘adventures’ on Asgard and all other realms and often also talk about his little brother who he said was just under Jane’s size. Darcy figured this meant he was about 10 years old or so.

Then, one day, as Thor was finally making his first toast ever without making a mess, four strange people came knocking on their glass door.

Darcy was still having problems understanding what was happening when they were suddenly being attacked by some giant robot. The town was in disarray as it evacuated and Dr. S had tried to usher them away, but Jane had set her foot down that she was going to stay since Thor was adamant he was also going to stay.

Thor’s weird friends then began fighting the robot and Darcy experienced a new type of fear as she watched the robot tear through them as if they weren’t the best warriors of Asgard – and she couldn’t really deny it, cause she saw how they attacked that thing, they truly were as awesome as Thor had made them out to be.

And then it was only Darcy, Jane, Dr. S and Thor left over. He shouted at them to take cover and, armed with only a kitchen knife, he charged at the thing. Jane was screaming and Darcy was too stunned to do anything more than gape as the robot swatted Thor away as if he was nothing.

Then it began advancing towards them.

Thor began twitched, began moving and tried to get up, but couldn’t, his body too battered to give more fight. So he began screaming, shouting at the thing to leave them alone, to take him instead. His desperate shouting broke Darcy’s heart right then and there. There were tears running down the boy’s face, mixing with blood as he pleaded for their lives.

Then, as Darcy was sure everything was over, the brightest flash of light she had ever seen came from the sky and there was thunder and lighting and then there was Thor, standing and holding a hammer. Lighting was falling all over the place and with one jump and strike the robot was destroyed.

It was all over so quickly that Darcy had trouble believing what she had seen, but there was Thor, clad in bright armor. Gone was the blood and tears that had been all over his face, gone were his tattered clothes that had broken when he fell under the robot’s hand, gone was Thor, their normal, but slightly weird friend. This was Thor from Asgard, the mythical ruler of thunder and lightning.

The warrior friends of Thor soon regained consciousness and pleaded with him to go back to Asgard where he was dearly needed. Thor looked at them, his eyes sad. Darcy could see in his eyes that he didn’t want to leave them. There was some of that desperation that he had shown previously when pleading for their lives still present in them. But then he glanced back at his warrior friends and Darcy saw his jaw harden.

He pleaded for them to forgive him and told them he’d be back as soon as he could. They followed him to the outskirts of the town where he wanted to take off and the leftover of the government goons that had tried to stop the robot were gathered. Their leader tried to stop Thor but his warrior friends would have none of it and Thor was adamant he had to go back to his home – a bit like E.T. when Darcy thought about it later. And then, in another bright flash of light, Thor and his warrior friends were gone – just like in E. T.

 


 

 

It was all over. Everything Loki had been working for was falling down around him. The Warriors Three and Sif were on their way back to Asgard with Thor. They would see it all burn under their feet, Loki was sure of it. It was the end of the entire kingdom as it was known.

And it was all those idiot’s fault.

As Loki stalked the halls of the palace he became increasingly agitated, he could barely fathom the idea of Thor taking over the throne. His mind became plagued with all that would go wrong if his brother was to become king. It all became just too much for him as he finally decided that he was to be the one to set an end to all of it before it even began.

The Warriors Three and Sif had barely had the opportunity to exit the Bifrost along with Thor before Loki was there and striking them down. Cursed Heimdall immediately jumped to their aid and stopped Loki before he could do any real form of damage. Thor was immediately upon him and asking for an explanation of what was happening.

At first Loki was still too mad with rage so he didn’t hear him, but then as Thor bellowed how he didn’t understand – and weren’t they brothers? – did it all dawn on Loki. He saw his reflexion on the polished floors of the Bifrost and knew that this wasn’t the fault of the Warriors Three, or Sif, or even Thor.

This was all Jotunheim’s fault. So they would be the ones to pay.

With one mighty swat from Grungir he had Heimdall out of his way and he had the controls of the Bifrost at his disposal. He made quick work of his plan and almost immediately he had the whole force of the Bifrost hitting Jotunheim with no way whatsoever to stop it.

He was still laughing brokenly with joy at what he’d done when Thor wrenched him out of the Bifrost and tried to force him to explain what in the name of everything whatsoever holy and precious had caused his madness.

Loki was still half in hysterics as he told Thor that he wasn’t actually his brother.

The expression of total sorrow and heartbreak on Thor’s face almost gave Loki pause, but then that same expression morphed into one of stubborn decisiveness that Loki knew so well. Thor stood up and began raising his hammer, ready to smash whatever was underneath it. Loki closed his eyes tightly, believing Thor was about to strike him down now that he knew they weren’t actually brothers, but then, lo and behold, he was wrong. How often can one be wrong in such a short lifespan?

Thor hadn’t raised his hammer to strike Loki down, he’d raised it to break the bridge to the Bifrost. Loki, madness still having a hold on him, tried to stop Thor, using his human friends as excuses. If anything it only hardened Thor’s resolve.

When the Bifrost fell Loki saw in it not only his plans, but all his life falling down into the abyss. He didn’t put up any protest when he felt himself falling along with the Bifrost, so he was surprised when he looked up and saw Thor holding onto him and Odin of all people holding Thor.

Seeing Odin’s face of disappointment was too much for Loki. He tried to tell his father that he could have done it, but then Odin broke even that illusion.

It was all too much, so he let go.

Chapter Text

Life was pretty cruel to people. Especially if you were a little sick boy. Or so Steve found himself thinking on more than one occasion. He tried though, to not think like that. He always tried to think like Bucky, but Bucky wasn’t 12 and looking 10 or 9 and with more sicknesses than he could count with both hands.

Sometimes Steve resented Bucky after he had managed to sign up for the army, but then he remembered all the circumstances that had led him to it. It wasn’t as if he had been conscripted or anything – he was 13 for gosh’s sake! – but it was the easiest way he had found to earn the money that they needed. They were both basically orphans – Bucky’s parents were too poor to even feed themselves so Bucky had figured they were all better off if he left them and Steve’s mom had died a couple years ago – and they had rent to pay, food to buy and multiple other expenses. The biggest one of them all being Steve’s medicine and constant need for care.

Bucky had first tried to enlist the legal way and gotten himself laughed out of the enlistment office when they saw his age, but then he got his papers fixed so they said ‘15’ instead of their true ‘13’. He’d lied to the officer and told him he was short for his age and got accepted right away. He was in perfect health condition and they needed all the men that they could get.

Steve had already tried the same route and got denied so many times he was about to give up. But Steve was never one to give up, mostly because he feared that if he did he would end up succumbing to all his sicknesses and simply dying. The mere idea of dying at age 12 from all his sicknesses was so terrifying that it kept Steve trying just one more time, it could only eventually work, right?

It was at the Stark Expo, on the last day Bucky would still be around before he was shipped off – he had decided to invite Steve along for the show as a treat – when Steve was trying for the nth time that he met Dr. Erkskine and instead of being laughed out of the enlistment office he was instead accepted.

It wasn’t easy, not at all when he got to the camp. They mostly laughed at him, but he was stubborn enough to simply go on. Dr. Erkskine would sometimes come around and talk to Colonel Phillips – who would scowl the whole time – and to Agent Carter – who would actually break her poker face and look a bit disturbed at what was being discussed. Steve often wondered what it was they were talking about, but was resigned to simply training and hoping for the best.

Then, one day, he was picked by Dr. Erkskine to be the first volunteer in his experimental procedure. Steve was all excited by it, but Agent Carter seemed to question his excitement and asked him several times on the drive over to Dr. Erkskine’s lab if he was sure he actually wanted to be part of this and it was never too late to back and that nobody would think bad of him to simply walk away. She was wrong though, Steve would never forgive himself if he backed out or walked away.

The procedure itself was the most painful thing he had ever experienced in his whole life, but the end result was well worth it. Instead of looking like he was 9 bordering on 10 he now looked like he could pass of like a 14 year old or older, he was even probably taller than Bucky!

All the excitement quickly died though, when Dr. Erkskine died and his assassin killed himself when Steve chased all through New York and caught him.

His blood was taken and when he asked about going to the war they laughed him off. Suddenly he was painfully aware that these people knew his true age and had total control over him and that none of them seemed to be too overly interested in what he wanted.

They eventually settled on turning him into a performing monkey and had him touring all through the country as Captain America. It was all very patriotic and probably better than doing nothing, but it was a long shot from what Steve had wanted. When he arrived in Europe to continue the tour he found himself being laughed at yet again, this time not only for his size – even with the serum he still looked like a kid – but also for the tour itself. Nobody was interested in little Captian America or what he had to say.

It was all pretty bad, but when he heard about Bucky’s unit being missing and most likely dead, it all went from ‘pretty bad’ to decidedly awful. He decided then and there that he had had enough of sitting by idly and if Colonel Phillips wanted to he could court martial him if he so wanted, but he was going to go find Bucky even if it cost him his life.

Surprisingly Peggy came out of nowhere and offered him help. At first he wondered if he should decline, but at the end he decided that he really needed all help that he could get.

The base where they were holding Bucky was one of the most dreadful places he had ever been in, but he had not been asleep during his training and he knew how to use a gun. He bashed down all cell doors and when he found Bucky – and briefly panicking as he wondered if his best friend was still alive – he broke the manacles that were holding him and carried him out of the terrible room he had been in. As he carried him Steve ruefully noted that Bucky was indeed still the taller of the two, he had probably even grown since he had arrived in Europe, but Steve’s estimates were more than a little off in his new, taller body.

It was then that he encountered Schmidt for the first time. Their face-off lasted for only a few minutes and Bucky was pretty insistent they get out as soon as they could. On the return to base Steve was too overjoyed to be reunited with Bucky to notice the odd looks some of Bucky’s unit members were throwing his best friend, but since nobody commented, it was all forgotten about eventually.

What surprised Steve most when they returned to base was that Colonel Philips didn’t demand his head on a spike and that he was actually allowed to stay afterwards and no longer needed to go back on the tour.

That night Steve slept the best he ever had in his life.

Soon, the Howling Commandoes were formed and they were raiding all the HYDRA bases to the ground, often missing Schmidt and Zola by mere minutes. All these missions took up approximately more than a year before they were finally are able to form a plan to catch Zola. Steve was 14 by then and could easily pass of as a 16 or 17 year old, but the roundness in his face often prevented this. Bucky was then also 15 and looking like he could be a couple years older than he was, still being taller than Steve. Both of them were pretty lanky and tall, Dr. Erkstein had predicted Steve would grow into someone more bulky when he finished growing into his proper height, Steve could only hope that he would be taller than Bucky by then.

It was all supposed to be just another mission. Sure, a little more difficult than the previous ones, but nothing out of this world. They were all supposed to come walking out of it.

Bucky wasn’t supposed to die.

Steve couldn’t get over the fact that Bucky had been just inches away from his hand before he fell. He replayed the event over and over in his head and every time, without fault, he would still see it all as his fault. His fault that he hadn’t been able to grab Bucky’s hand that last second, his fault that Bucky had found himself in that situation in the first place. How could he have been so careless? How could he have let Bucky die?!

But no matter how much he cried silently when he was alone in his tent, or how much he despaired on the inside each day, nothing would change in the end. Bucky was dead and Steve was going to destroy HYDRA until there was nothing left of them.

So he did exactly that.

When they raided the main base of HYDRA it was supposed to be the last one of them all, his mission was almost over. Encountering Schmidt one last time was all Steve needed to remind him of all the reasons why he was doing what he was doing. Soon he was fighting Schmidt hand to hand on an airplane, the Tesseract long gone through the floor, in a fight over the control of said plane. When Schmidt was finally taken care of Steve had the opportunity to study the situation and realize that there was no way out of that situation without dying, not if he wanted to save thousands of lives.

Peggy managed to get in contact with him and at the last moment asked him to come back to them, to home. It startled Steve to think that he no longer had a home, not really. He simply told Peggy to tell everybody that they had been great friends and he wouldn’t have asked for better people to spend a war with.

It was with a resigned heart that Steve crashed the plane into the snow, knowing that he was going to reunite with all the people he had lost throughout his short life.

 

 

Chapter Text

“It’s beautiful isn’t it J?”, asked Tony as he observed his brand new tower light up after connecting it to its new energy source.

“It certainly is, Sir”, JARVIS answered.

“Take a picture and send it to Pep and Rhodey, we’re still not done trying to convince them to move here”, said Tony as he began to land on the tower’s landing area.

“Right away Sir.”

Tony sighed as he stepped into his new living room. The tower was perfect, the new environment was perfect, everything was fine, except for the fact that there wasn’t anybody beside himself and JARVIS in the Tower. It wasn’t ideally what he would have wanted, but he had grown so tired of LA and the way Pepper’s dad would barely meet his eyes whenever he went to visit – same with Pepper’s mom, she wasn’t too happy with their friendship either. Ever since he’d become Iron Man – or Iron Lad as some of the news channels liked to call him – it had become increasingly difficult to just have a simple life. The events that happened while he had thought that he was going to die didn’t really help his case at all.

Oh well, he was going to make himself a new, better life here at NY whatever it cost him.

“Hey J, prepare some drinks, I feel like I’m going to have a long night tonight!”, he called to the ceiling.

“Chocolate caramel milkshake as always, Sir?”

“Yessss”, Tony said happily and plopped himself on one of the sofas, “Also, get me the stats of the company.”

“Stock value went up again today. Your newest invention is being a huge success in the market, Sir.”

Tony grinned, “Of course it is, I’m the best.”

“Still feeling the need to praise yourself Stark? You really do have a big ego.”

Tony did not then scream like a girl. He was going to deny it till the grave.

“What the fuck are you doing here, Natalia, Natanata, Nat-whatever?!”

“Natanata?”, Natasha raised an eyebrow at him.

“Whatever your name is today, so yeah, my guess is as good as any. Also, I have a heart condition for fuck’s sake! Couldn’t you have knocked? How did you even get in here?!”

“I’m sorry Sir, she overrode my codes and asked me not to tell you she was coming up.”

Tony looked up at the ceiling in betrayal.

“Before you start accusing your AI of treason or some other type of nonsense, let me tell you I’m here on serious business”, said Natasha.

Sighing dramatically Tony decided to let JARVIS off the hook – for now – and gestured at Natasha to sit down – she didn’t budge, “What is it? I really can’t imagine a reason for you to come here unless”, he stood up and straightened his back, “Unless SHIELD has ordered you to get rid of me?”

Natasha rolled her eyes, “No, though this does have to do with SHIELD.”

“What happened?”, asked Tony curiously, walking around his giant sofa to go stand by Natasha.

She looked hesitant for a moment before she closed her eyes and opened them again, seemingly having sought inner resolve and found it, “This morning in the early hours there was an alien infiltration at SHIELD.”

“Alien as in-“

“From outer space. It’s not the first time we’ve had contact with this race in particular, but that’s beside the point-“

“Wait, you’re telling me aliens exist and that they’re beside the fucking point?!”, exclaimed Tony incredulously.

“Yes, now listen carefully, next comes the tricky part-“

Wha-

“The alien that came through a portal of sorts began brainwashing SHIELD staff”, she paused for a moment, “One of the people he took with him is my friend. I – I owe him my life.”

Tony stared at her for a long moment, “And you want me to help you do what – defeat that alien?”

Natasha got a memory stick out of her jacket pocket and handed it to Tony, “Director Fury has this pet project he’s been keeping under wraps called the Avengers Initiative, he’s only talked to one person that I know of about this.”

Tony eyed the drive as he took it from Natasha’s hand, “And that person just happened to be you?”

She made a noise that sounded very much like a snort, “No, I just overheard them. I’m a spy, remember? The reason why Fury hasn’t told anybody about this is because all the candidates for the Initiative are still minors, so he’s decided to wait a few years until it’s legal to form a team of them.”

Tony had by now plugged in the drive and had JARVIS expand all the information around the glass windows.

“Oh boy.”

“You see that? That’s the alien’s brother that came to earth about a year ago. Wrecked a whole town.”

Tony swallowed hard as he saw the footage, “Okay”, he said and swapped to see the next files and found himself looking at the files of all the Avengers candidates, “Wait, wait, the Hulk is actually a kid?!”

Natasha nodded, “I don’t know the whole story, but from what I’ve heard is that Banner’s father was trying to replicate the super soldier serum and when he died Banner tried to replicate it at his foster father’s lab. It sorta blew up in his face.”

“He was freaking 8 when that happened!”

“He’s a genius, figure you’ll make good friends”, Natasha said with a shrug, “He’s 11 now, you’re almost the same age now.”

“Excuse you, I’m 13, thank you very much”, Tony huffed and saw Natasha from the corner of his eye stifle a chuckle at him.

Ignoring her Tony looked through several more files, “Wait, when did you people unearth Captain freaking America?!”

“A few months ago. He prefers to be called Steve though and”, She paused for the dramatic effect, “I know which gym he frequents here in New York.”

Tony turned to look at her and grinned, “You have all this planned out, don’t you?”

She shrugged, “Up to a point, I’m afraid I can only do so much by myself though.”

He nodded in understanding, looked back at all the files that Natasha had dumped on him and took a deep breath, “Okay, give me a few hours and I’ll be up to date with all of this and we can get started off.”

Natasha grinned.

Tony decided in the end to cut some of his reading short and leave what was left for the flight from NY to India. It was a fairly big load of information and even he was having trouble understanding everything that had gone wrong to create the Hulk.

When they landed in India Natasha suggested a plan to lure the Hulk out to the outskirts of the city, Tony though, had completely different plans.

“You’re going to get us both killed”, she hissed at him as they made their way up the dingy building to where there was rumored to live a genius little doctor. Apparently most people simply thought he was a misshapen little man that had had growth problems since he hid his face from the world most of the time with a tunic.

“Just follow my lead”, Tony whispered back at her and draped his arm around her shoulder – a difficult task, seeing as Natasha was quite a bit taller than him – the other arm curling protectively around his belly.

As they approached the clinic Tony began moaning and making increasingly distressed faces.

“Hullo? Anybody here? I need a doctor! Please!”, he half swooned as he said the last part. Natasha looked like she was bursting something in her effort not to roll her eyes at him.

They were quickly approached by a small figure with his face partially covered with a shawl, “Where does it hurt?”, it sounded like an older person’s raspy voice, tinged with the accent of somebody that knew how to speak multiple languages and had allowed all of them to influence him. If Tony hadn’t known he would have thought it was simply a little man, but now that he knew he could easily distinguish the raspy voice as that of a child trying to cover up for the fact that he hadn’t gone through puberty yet.

“My belly!”, he wailed, “My sister”, he gestured at Natasha, who really was going to kill him by the looks of it, “She poisoned me!”

This time Natasha did actually roll her eyes, “Don’t mind his dramatics, but if you could help his tummy pain it would help a lot.”

“Ah, yes, I think I might have something here. Please sit while I go looking”, he left and Tony took the opportunity to grin at Natasha, letting her go and going after Banner.

Banner looked startled when he saw Tony had followed him to the back of his dingy apartment-office-place-whatever-this-was.

Tony immediately held up his hands in an attempted sign at peacefulness, “Okay, sorry I lied but I need to talk to you in private.”

Banner looked at him questioningly, “I don’t understand, I’m nobody special-“

Tony snorted, “Puh-lease, you and I both know you’re probably one of the smartest kids in this world, I mean, after myself of course, but that doesn’t make you any less awesome”, he held out his hand, “Name’s Tony Stark, you can ditch that awful thing on your face, I know you’re Bruce Banner.”

The boy looked hesitant for a moment before he took off the horrible cloth that covered his face and revealed a young face of slightly-too-thin 11 year old boy.

“Why are you here?”, he asked.

“Okay, this is a long story, can I sit down? Imma gonna sit down here”, he sat down and took out his tablet and expanded it, “Come on, don’t be shy, come sit by my side while I bring you up to date with what has been happening in the world.”

Banner – Nah, he was Bruce now, you can’t call a kid like him Banner – Bruce was looking terribly nervous as he sat down at Tony’s side.

“So, to start off, did you know they finally discovered that aliens do indeed exist?”

Bruce’s eyes widened with awe and Tony instantly knew they were on their way to becoming best friends.

Natasha had to come retrieve them eventually when they had been talking for well over an hour. In this time period Tony had not only managed to convince Bruce to come help them save the world – as Bruce the child genius, not the Hulk – but also began packing his meager possessions into a meager suitcase while Bruce immersed himself in all the stuff that Tony had from the drive Natasha had given him.

On the flight to NY their friendship was solidified as they talked science and geeked out over all the fun times they were going to have in Tony’s lab looking for the Tesseract. Natasha would occasionally just glance at them with an expression of fond exasperation.

When they arrived at NY Natasha proposed that they hit their next target. Bruce was okay with coming along to meet the famous Captain America – who was physically just a year older than Tony, who would have thought? – Natasha, though, insisted they approach the Captain her way this time. Tony had been too engrossed over a discussion about the properties of Gamma rays when Natasha said this so he didn’t offer much protest.

The gym was in the older parts of Brooklyn and looked nothing like what Tony expected from a gym of this day and age. Natasha left the van that had brought them thus far and entered the gym, leaving Tony and Bruce with the strict instructions to not leave the van.

Tony had been about the protest, but then Bruce made a remark about the architectural design of his precious tower and the next thing Tony noticed was that there was a blond lanky teen climbing into their van.

“Um”, the blond stopped as he was halfway in and looked nervously from Tony to Bruce.

“Get in already Steve”, came Natasha’s gripe from behind.

The blond – who probably was Captain America when Tony thought about it – settled in awkwardly and scooted to make place for Natasha to get in as well.

When they were all settled into the van an awkward silence fell.

“Tony”, Natasha began, all of the sudden, “Why don’t you introduce yourself to Steve here”, she turned to face Bruce, “You too Bruce.”

Tony wasn’t one to look a gift horse in the mouth, “I’m Tony Stark, as you probably know already, this here his Brucie Bruce, AKA the Hulk, AKA Bruce Banner, AKA Bruce the child genius Banner, that there is Natasha, AKA Nat-Nat-“

“Okay, that’s enough”, Natasha interrupted his wonderful introduction. Bruce was looking slightly mortified and Captain America was looking confused.

Natasha threw Tony a glare that was obviously meant to silence him and then turned to face Steve, “We are having a situation. The whole planet is having a situation and we could all use your help”, she produced a folder from fuck knew where and handed it to Steve, “It would help us if you could tell us how much you know about the Tesseract.”

Steve looked pretty horrified when he saw the Tesseract’s photo in the file and he only became paler the more he read. Tony could relate a little to what he was probably feeling, sacrificing your life to get rid of the results of one thing and then coming back to life only to discover that the same thing you tried to destroy back then has come back to haunt you.

“It was better off in the middle of the ocean”, Steve said sternly after a few moments of reading, “Why hasn’t SHIELD called me in to help deal with this?”

“You’re a minor, as well as all of us”, drawled Tony, checking his nails as he discreetly tried to see Steve’s face. There was a strange expression on his face, one that Tony wasn’t really able to read. All that he could surmise about it was that it was sad and maybe a little resigned.

“Yet we clearly are the best bet the planet currently has, I mean, look at the team we have right here! Super spy, super genius, billionaire, philanthropist and another super genius with a tendency to wreck stuff – and then you, of course”, Tony grinned at Steve.

Steve stared at him for a moment, then back at the folder in his hands and when he looked up again he nodded, “I’m in.”

Tony whooped and since he was small enough his arms didn’t even hit the ceiling of the van, “Excellent, my tower is just around the corner, the labs are already running a search – though I think it might need to be recalibrated – we also have tabs on SHIELD in case they find something and get themselves in over their heads and need help.”

Steve didn’t look like he approved too much of that last part if his frown was anything to go by. Natasha quickly intervened and before much could be complained about they were at the tower and discussion had renewed between Bruce and Tony.

They hadn’t been long at the tower when JARVIS announced that Loki had been found in Germany. Tony still had a prototype of some type of jet at his disposal so they all piled into it and took off at top speed towards Germany. Bruce had protested that he didn’t want to go along, but had gotten dragged along anyways.

When they neared the area Loki had been sighted at Tony flew out of the jet in order to get there first. What he found there was decidedly more than what he had bargained for. Standing in front of a crowd of kneeling people in the middle of the streets of the city was Loki. He was clad in fancy green weird clothes and a goat-y helmet, but this wasn’t what unsettled Tony. It was the way Loki’s hands and arms were covered in blood up unto his elbows, the way his bloody fingers were twitching and the way he was simply looking like parts of his body were jerking at odd intervals.

Fortunately Captain America arrived soon after so that they could be creeped out together by Loki. They had a brief fight as they subdued Loki and no matter how much Tony concentrated on the image of Loki threatening a crowd of kneeling people, he still felt like a bully for blasting the little boy across the streets.

Steve quickly cuffed him and even sooner than that they had him on their plane with plans to take him back to the tower until all was over and they could transfer him to the authorities. Neither Steve nor Bruce were fans of this idea, Steve because – as Tony was learning – he was a pompous ass, and Bruce because he simply felt deeply uncomfortable while near Loki.

The flight went mostly in peace, Bruce had taken the passenger seat to be up front with Natasha and as far away as was possible from Loki while Steve and Tony watched Loki in the back of the jet. Sure, Natasha got several calls from SHIELD, but she was adamant on getting her friend back, so there were no worries about her giving them over to SHIELD.

Then, of course, the mythical ruler of thunder and lightning had to come and wreak havoc on everything and take Loki away. His first prisoner ever and Tony had managed to lose him within the hour of obtaining him. Tony was sure he was breaking some new kind of record.

He didn’t waste any time in going after Thor and teach him a lesson. The little thief even had the nerve of being taller than Tony, looking like he could almost be Steve’s age, the bastard. Their fight started off greatly, he used sass and got charged up to maximum and beyond and then, just when their fight was about to reach epic proportions Steve had to come and break it up. Stupid Steve and his stupid shield.

Stupid Natasha too – not that he would ever say that part out aloud – who went and answered SHIELD’s calls and stroke a deal with them while Tony was fighting Thor. To be honest he had been pretty incensed when he found this out, which made the already tense ride even tenser. It became bearable though, when he saw the Helicarrier for the first time. It was such a beautiful work of art that Tony calmed down instantly when he saw it for the first time. And then, even better, he could walk around inside of it and annoy Fury in person just as much as he wanted to.

It was obvious that Fury didn’t want to have them there, but didn’t have much of an option after Tony told him that he and Bruce had already started to run the searching program and would have the results of the Tesseract’s whereabouts sooner than any of their own scientists would have it. So they settled them in a fancy new lab, gave Natasha a stern talking to and left Steve mostly to himself, since there was still some amount of respect going about for Captain America.

All in all it seemed to be going pretty boring, until Tony began cracking down on SHIELD, Fury got there and basically told them it was all Thor’s fault and Steve was there and angry and oh fu-

It went to hell pretty quickly. One moment they were still staring at Bruce after his horrible – how could something like that have happened to that sweet little boy? – confession and then they were all flying as an explosion rocked the Helicarrier around. Then they were running to fix the motor and fighting was going all around them and the Hulk was on the loose and fuck knew what was happening and – it was hell.

Cap and he had a brief moment of bonding over one of the broken motors of the Helicarrier. It was really special, he was mostly shouting at Cap to pull that freaking lever already dammit, while Cap was apparently fighting for his life and almost fell to his death. It was all pretty intense.

And then the fight was over, a head count was held and they found out they were short Bruce, Thor and Loki. Also, Agent Agent, whom Pepper adored, was dead. It felt like a punch in the gut for Tony. Cap looked mostly confused until somebody told him it was the guy that made him his new costume and then suddenly Steve looked all sad and had a whole new appreciation for his suit.

The good news was though, that Natasha got her friend back. Apparently all he needed was to be hit in the head to free him from being brainwashed. As Steve went around and tried to assemble what was left of the Mini-Avengers – Tony had called them that once and had Natasha glared at him in a terrifying way – Tony got to see Natasha’s friend for the first time. As odds would have it, he was also a boy, looking about Tony’s age, just a little older. Also taller – that motherfu-.

Tony was the first one out of all of them to fly back to New York – where they figured out the Tesseract was going to be – and then Tony had the dubious honor of finding Loki pacing his living room.

At first he was about to simply sass at the boy until he could no longer handle Tony or something, but then he saw how Loki was still twitching and remembered Thor’s heartbroken expression as he listened to Loki rant madly in his cell about destruction and all such things. Tony looked once again into Loki’s eyes and found a disturbing absence in them. True, he didn’t exactly know how aliens worked, but he was quite sure that there had to at least be something in their eyes, like there was with Thor’s. Thor was brimming with emotions and felt no need to hide them for even so much as a second.

“Hey”, he began gently as he walked slowly into the living room, but at seeing Loki’s twitching intensify he knew he had to try keep it short, “Liking the place? I designed it you know – well, mostly. I hired an architect, but most of it was all my idea.”

Instead of the normal reaction Tony normally got when he was being more of a narcissist than usual, like people getting annoyed, irritated or angry, Loki simply stared at him like he was talking some strange language – and Tony having already been subjected to part of Thor’s speech about Allspeak aboard the Helicarrier knew this was not Loki’s case.

Suddenly Loki looked out of the window agitatedly, “They’re coming”, he said, “It’s almost their time.”

Tony tried another route, “Why are you trying to take over Earth?”, he asked, because subtlety has never been his forte.

Loki snapped his head towards Tony so fast it can only have hurt him, “It- its-“, he stopped and looked out of the window again, “Do not question my motives human. I am here to free you. Liberty is nothing but a prison, true freedom is found under ruling.”

Tony stared at him for a full minute, “Something’s wrong with you”, he didn’t mean to say it out loudly, and by the look that Loki threw him afterwards it wasn’t exactly his best plan. He was quickly right on top of Tony and tapping his spear on Tony’s chest and that up close Tony noticed for the first time that there were bags under his eyes and he was paler than what’s considered healthy.

Looking with new understanding at Loki it didn’t even come to his mind to start mocking the child, since suddenly Tony had a whole new level of understanding of what was going through Loki’s mind. The last time Tony had ever seen somebody looking as lost as him, with bags under his eyes and with skin several shades too pale to be healthy was when he had just escaped from those caves in Afghanistan.

He was halfway to start getting flashbacks of his time in the caves when Loki swatted him – his size truly did not give away the strength he had – and he went flying out of the window. Fortunately he had thought of putting on his bracelets before he began talking with Loki, otherwise he would have died in a terrible splat before the true fighting even began.

From there on things only got worse. Suddenly there was a portal open above in the sky and aliens were pouring out and wreaking destruction on the city below. Citizens were running all around the place in search for shelter and there were pieces of debris already falling down from some buildings, mostly glass, but still rather dangerous for anybody below.

The team arrived shortly after and began helping with the containment effort, Cap giving orders over the coms and Barton and Natasha crashing their jet. In short order Thor and Bruce came and joined the party – Tony was kind enough to take it right to where they were. It was a pretty long fight, but fortunately they all had coms so Tony was able to convey to Thor that his brother might need some recalibrating of his own. This seemed to give the blond alien new energy as he went right through big chunks of invading aliens to get to the tower where Loki had been the whole time.

Unfortunately the coms didn’t convey whatever happened between the two of them then, but after a long stretch of fighting without any of them seeing Thor in the battle they heard his slightly crackly voice – Tony swore that voice was going to become a deep baritone once it fully broke and Thor got over puberty – that Loki had been possessed and that he was currently in Tony’s tower in some sort of state of shock.

Barton didn’t sound too enthusiastic about it, but the rest of team sounded a bit more open to the idea. They asked Thor to try find out how to close the portal and after a couple minutes they were rewarded with an answer. Natasha was there before anybody could start to think of who would be the best suited for the job and taking the spear up to where Selvig – or Dr. S, as Thor insisted on calling him – was still cackling madly to himself.

Right as things finally started looking up Fury called Tony and of course it was not only bad news, but terrible news. The portal closing had to be put on pause as he called in and alerted the team of a nuclear bomb headed right at them. There were a couple of very tense moments after Tony informed the team he knew just where to put the bomb.

The unending silence was broken by Cap as he said, “Good luck Tony”, Tony felt pretty damn appreciative of Steve right then and decided the old man in a child’s body wasn’t as bad as he had thought.

As he was heading into the portal he wished he had somebody to call, like a parent or any other kind of family member and he didn’t want to scare Pepper and he knew how upset Rhodey would be if he realized Tony was trying to give him a goodbye call, so in the end he didn’t call anybody.

It was the single most terrifying experience Tony had ever had in his life.

He came back to consciousness with the help of the Hulk roaring at his side and Steve and Clint looming over him.

“Oh thank goodness”, Steve breathed as he closed his eyes in what was obvious relief at seeing Tony alive. The Hulk gave another roar, this one of happiness though. Clint looked pretty relieved too. Thor was asking over the coms if Tony was okay and Natasha was ordering them to check his breathing.

For the first time in – well, let’s just say a very long time – Tony felt appreciated.

He felt like nothing could break his mood as he was helped up by his new friends. Unfortunately there was.

When they got to the tower it was to find Loki curled up in ball and swaying back and forth as he muttered to himself and cried without stop. Thor had draped him up in blanket and had a hand on his back and looked like he didn’t know if he could establish further physical contact. Judging from Loki’s state he would have had to say ‘no’.

Upon seeing Loki trembling and basically speaking nonsense to himself the team had to agree that something was definitely wrong with Loki, even Clint, who looked like he would rather not have to accept reality. It took them over an hour to calm Loki down enough for him to actually accept a glass of water and when he finally began drinking he was like a man that had been in the desert for weeks.

Tony googled for foods that would help people that hadn’t eaten in a long time and then checked with all the remaining open restaurants in the area and whooped when he found out that the Shwarma restaurant that he had seen during the battle was not only still open, but also served some sort of exotic broth that they could give Loki.

Thor immediately busied himself with changing Loki into something more conspicuous and then they were off.

The restaurant was everything Tony had hoped for and more. They were extra considerate with Loki when they saw him – it was impossible not to, he looked like a precious cinnamon ball that had been malnourished and that needed love – and gave him a light broth that did him wonders in no time. The rest of the team ate like pigs all the food that they could shove into their mouths, except for Thor who stopped every now and then to check on Loki or to order another bowl for his little brother.

When it became late Tony invited them all to his tower and they all happily accepted. Thor accepted for Loki, who had fallen asleep at some time during their lunch – dinner? Whatever that had been – and then proceeded to carry Loki all the way back to the tower.

Tony checked the news as everybody settled in to sleep that night and found that the world was praising them as ‘little heroes’ and ‘little saviors’ and all other kinds of names, usually followed by words like ‘little’ or ‘small’. Tony decided he was going to throw a press conference as soon as he could to set the world straight on their name.

They were the fucking Avengers, Earth’s mightiest motherfucking heroes.

Chapter Text

“Lady and Gentlemen we are here united to today in the face of one of our greatest challenges yet”, there was a dramatic pause, “We have faced an army of aliens, an army of savage lawyers-“

There came an accompanying hissing sound down the table.

“-armies of crazy fans, that crazy robot in downtown just yesterday, that dude dressed as a clown in Hong Kong last week, that weird lady in a leotard at-“

“Get on with it already, Tony!”

“Fine, but don’t later come tell me that the team wasn’t hyped enough for what we’re planning to do!”

“Tony, you’ve literally been hyping us up for this for over a week. Daily. Sometimes several times a day!”

“I don’t see the need of this hyping to be done. I am hyped all the time no matter the occasion.”

“I don’t think you get the meaning of the work hype, Thor.”

“On the contrary, I think he gets it perfectly. He really is just hyped up all the time, I mean, have you seen him?”

There was a moment of silence as everybody turned to look.

“Okay, so maybe you might be right.”

“Excuse you, maybe? Might be?”

“I’m just saying it as I see it.”

“Listen here-“

“Come on guuuuyyss, we’re getting all beside the point now! I still don’t even know how big I need that arrow to be!”

“For the last time Tony, that is a terrible idea!”

“That’s what you say now! But when y’all see it tomorrow-“

“You mean you’ve already made it?!”

“Of course I have, who are you taking me for?”

“For fuck’s sake Tony, the one thing I tell you not to do-“

“Tony, please tell me you’re joking.”

“Why doesn’t anybody here appreciate anything I do for the team?”

“Just-just, promise-“, sigh, “promise us all that it won’t hurt any of our plans for tomorrow.”

“Steve!”

“This is better than the entertainment your puny television provides.”

“Nobody asked for your opinion, Thor.”

“Tony, if you ruin any of tomorrow’s plans I will murder you in such a way they will never be able to find your body and if they ever do, they won’t know it was you from what’s left over!”

“Nat, please-okay, shutting up now. Tony, please, sit down and keep quiet. Nobody here actually wants you dead.”

“You’re talking like he understood the basics of self-preservation.”

“Can we all just please go on our own way now and prepare as much as possible for tomorrow?”

“Yes! Please!”

The sound of quickly shuffling chairs filled the room followed by the skittering of feet.

 


 

Clint was tired. It had been a really long two day trip with the most inhospitable conditions one could think of. He actually didn’t even need to go in reality, since he was no longer actually working for SHIELD, but Fury had called in favor – one of the many Clint still owed him – so he hadn’t really had an alternative.

The mission was shit. It was in a remote village in the Congo that had recently been through some really tough times and didn’t really offer even the most basic of commodities for any guest that might pass through. The guy that had to be stalked out and later apprehended by the strike team – that arrived on the hour of the actual action and left as soon as it was all over in their fancy jet – lived in a shit house and seemed to be all the way into crazy town if the way he was talking to the walls and floor of his house was anything to go by. The worst part was that the strike team didn’t want to give him a lift back home on their fancy jet, citing protocol and other bullshit as their excuse.

It all resulted in him coming back to the Avengers tower when it was already dark outsight. Though not as late to warrant the whole main floor to be left in the dark as well. Or at least that was what he thought when he exited the elevator and looked around the living room only to see darkness. And here he had thought he could chat somebody up as he made himself a sandwich before venturing back to his own rooms.

Clint sighed as he set down his luggage, well, guess it was alone night for him then.

“SURPRISE!!!”

Suddenly the lights where back on and the team was there and Clint had his handgun in one hand and a knife in the other.

There was a tense moment before he relaxed and lowered his weapons, “What the hell guys?”, he breathed, his heart still beating abnormally fast in his throat.

“Umm”, Tony looked at Nat, obviously in search for help.

Nat rolled her eyes at him, “It’s your birthday you asshole!”

Clint gaped at her, weapons completely forgotten at his side.

“You seriously forgot?!”, griped Nat, “You literarily would not shut up about this since the day we moved in here! Since the day you got brainwashed you would whine all the time at the fact that it had to happen in the same month of your birthday!”

“I-I never looked at the calendar since we moved in?”

Nat and Tony rolled their eyes almost in simultaneous order. Clint wondered if there was some way of putting their gifts to use, like synchronized swimming, only for eye rolling.

Nat huffed and grabbed a colorful box from behind one of the couches, walked up to Clint and handed it to him, “Happy birthday asshole.”

Feeling pretty self-conscious by then with the gun still in one of his hands, Clint did a quick job of putting it back in its place like he had done with the knife and accepted the wrapped box.

It was medium sized and not too heavy, so Clint was practically dying to rip it open and have a peek.

Tony’s, “Stop staring at it and open it already!”, was all he need and before he knew it he was holding the best gift in the history of gifts.

“The fuck’s that?”, he heard Tony try to ask in a whisper.

“It’s-“, Clint had to stop and clear his throat, “It’s the new Hawkeye plushie, it was supposed to be released next month, Nat how-“, he stopped and looked at her in wonder.

She smiled at him, “I have my ways”, she said slyly.

Clint was too happy to be embarrassed as he hugged his plushie close to his chest.

The ice was broken afterwards and the rest of the team surged forward, all bearing gifts and good wishes. Then came the cake – it was bow and arrow themed with purple frosting – and party hats and streamers and –

And then Tony handed him a quiver full of arrows and told him to shoot them into the air. They turned out to be fireworks that exploded a certain time after being fired. They were awesome. Most of them were purple colored and some even had shapes.

When they were done with that they went back in to find the alien brothers trying to inflate more balloons for the party and failing spectacularly. Clint was suddenly struck with how in a month’s time he had gone from thoroughly hating Loki’s guts to actually becoming good friends with him. Once everything had calmed down he and Loki had sat down and talked about their shared trauma and unexpectedly ended up bonding.

He went and helped Loki and Thor with the difficult task of inflating balloons as the team feasted on what was left of the pizza and cake. Then Tony showed up smiling like the cat that had just ate the canary.

“Come let me show you something arrowhead”, he began dragging Clint away from the balloon crew.

“Hey, watch that, I’m your elder now”, Clint smirked at Tony.

Tony scowled at him, “I’ll be 14 too in time, you know?”

“Yeah, but in the meantime I get to be your elder”, Clint smirked.

“You’re literally just a couple months older than me, asshole”, grumbled Tony, though it did nothing to deter Clint’s grin.

Tony ended up leading Clint to his room, where among his usual trash – that he swore to Nat he would clean up every time she came by – there was this giant arrow of at least five meters long and as thick as a tree trunk lying on his living room floor with a giant purple bow around it.

“Is that an arrow?”, he squeaked, his voice having gone to previously unknown high tones.

“Yup”, said Tony proudly, “I’m pretty sure it breaks the world record, though I have yet to confirm that with my people”, he shuffled his feet nervously, “Do you-uh-do you like it?”

Clint decided to answer Tony with actions rather than words and went over to hug his newest most precious possession.

“Awww, he liked it”, Clint heard Nat say followed by the click of a camera, “Take another one Bruce, I’ll need it for later.”

“I’m too happy to get mad at you right now”, mumbled Clint as he stroked his arrow lovingly.

“Dude, you need help”, said Bruce as he obediently took more pictures of Clint hugging and stroking his giant arrow.

“You Midgardians really are odd people”, Clint heard Thor say, because of course everybody was going to invade his room now.

“Nah, that’s just Clint”, said Tony, still sounding entirely too smug than what ought to be healthy.

Clint didn’t care, it was the best birthday he had had in his entire damn life.

 

Chapter Text

It was one of those rare nights when Tony had gone to bed at a reasonable hour, yet he could not make himself to sleep. Or more accurately, he had already fallen half asleep more than once only to abruptly wake up as soon as he began having flashbacks to what had happened only a couple months ago at the Battle of Manhattan.

After giving sleep a try more times than he was comfortable admitting and eventually failing, Tony decided to go make himself some hot milk and see if that might work. He swore that if that also failed he was just going to give up completely on the notion of sleeping that night.

As he stood in the elevator, slumping on the walls to keep him upright – he was tired dammit! – he distantly began to wonder if it was true what some people said about alcohol helping one to fall asleep. He wasn’t that desperate yet, but if things didn’t make a turn for the better soon he was going to get JARVIS order him some alcohol to be sent to the tower – there wasn’t any at the time since they were all minors and Cap might also have a conniption if he saw one of them trying to get drunk – and damn the consequences, he was going to sleep through at least one night, no matter what.

Fortunately he didn’t need to start planning on how he was going to first, convince JARVIS that buying him alcohol was a good idea, second, how he was going to hide it from his friends – two of which were spies – and third, how he was going to deal with Cap’s face of disappointment when he inevitably found out.

When he arrived at the communal floor he noticed that a couple of his friends were already there. Bruce and Loki both had what looked like glasses of milk in their hands and Nat was leaning on Loki’s shoulder, speaking softly. Whatever she was saying had both of the boys at her side slightly smiling.

Just when he was thinking that maybe he could go to another floor to fetch some milk and leave the three to what was obviously a personal moment, the elevator opened behind him and let in Clint. They both blinking owlishly at each other, both unsure as to what to do next.

“Why are you both staring at each other like that?”, came Nat’s question, right at their side. They both jumped neither having heard nor seen Nat approaching them.

“Um”, Tony tried and failed to add after that.

Loki, who had come to join her rolled his eyes at Tony, “Come on, Bruce is making a pot of hot chocolate big enough to satisfy Steve and Thor combined.”

And that, apparently, was that. This was why Loki was one of Tony’s favorite people. He was such a no nonsense person and always knew when not to make a situation more awkward.

Hot chocolate was served and they all congregated near one of the giant windows of the floor that overlooked the city. Nat and Clint dragged over a couple fluffy rugs that used to be next to the couches which were sometimes sat on when they had movie nights.

Nobody wasted any time to make themselves comfortable on them and dragging a few throw pillows along to make themselves even more comfy. They sat in companionable silence as they watched over the city as they sipped at their hot chocolate.

Tony was already at his second mug of hot chocolate – Bruce made the best hot chocolate Tony had ever tasted – when Cap and Thor made their way in. Cap had a fluffy blanket draped over his shoulders and looked like he had just been woken up from a terrible nightmare if his unruly hair and haunted eyes were anything to go by. Thor had a Hulk themed pillow in his arms that he was hugging and had a teary expression on his face.

The moment Thor saw Loki, who was still sitting at Bruce’s side, he gave a great shout of joy – which started Clint, who had begun to doze off – and bounded over to him, dragging Cap along. Bruce quickly scooted away so he wouldn’t be smushed by Thor’s enthusiasm and let him hug Loki as much as he wished.

“I got worried when I didn’t find you in your chambers!”, said Thor, emotion making his already breaking voice crack even further. Tony winced and hoped that when he his voice began breaking that it wouldn’t sound as awful.

“Brother!”, Loki whined and Tony could practically hear the roll in his eyes.

Bruce prepared more hot chocolate and they all settled comfortably again on their fluffy rug. Clint had gone for a couple blankets and now they were all suitably swaddled in fluffiness as they cradled their hot deliciousness.

Tony was just about to fall asleep just by contentedness when Thor tried to ask Loki something in a low voice, but came out as louder.

“What were you all doing here Loki?”

Loki, who had also looked like he was about to fall asleep looked at annoyed at Thor. Thor didn’t notice.

“We couldn’t sleep”, offered Nat from where she was cuddled against Clint.

Thor nodded, “I couldn’t either, so I went to check on Loki, but he wasn’t at his chambers, so I panicked”, he smiled sheepishly, “I went to wake Steven”, at this he cast a worried look at Cap, who was at Tony’s side, “He agreed to help look for Loki. It was his idea to come here.”

Cap smiled blushingly and waved it off.

Tony stared at Cap, specifically at the dark circles around his eyes, “You look like shit”, he proclaimed.

Cap gave him a look that conveyed exactly how unimpressed he was with Tony, but Tony waved him off and motioned around the circle, “We all pretty much look like shit”, when nobody protested he went on, “I, for one haven’t slept through the night since the day after Battle”, he tried to relax his fidgeting fingers as he gazed into his mug, “It’s all been pretty much shit, ever since then.”

There was a moment of silence until Bruce began talking, “Well-“, but then he aborted his attempt, focusing back at his mug.

“Go on”, prompted Loki gently, who was still sitting at his side.

Bruce bit his lower lip and went on, “What I wanted to say is – ever since”, he paused, “Since the Battle it’s been the first time in almost three years that I’ve had a place that I could comfortably call a home. I – I’ve had friends before, on my run across the world, but- but they never lasted. There was always something that happened. Either it was the military breaking in and tearing everything apart, or the Hulk smashing everything to pieces, or- or I had to leave because I’d been around for too long”, he took a deep breath, “It might sound selfish to you, but these last months have been the best in my life since almost forever.”

Silence descended on the group for a while.

Clint was the first to break it, “I was nine when I ran away from the circus and even smaller when I ran away from home. I was almost immediately taken in by SHIELD after I began going out solo. I got into some deep shit very quick. They looked up my pa- guardians and realized I was better off far away from them. They fixed me some papers or something so I wouldn’t have to worry about them ever again. I remember thinking back then that it was the best day of my life. Then I met Nat and brought her over to SHIELD and then I thought it was the best day ever”, Nat snorted at this, “Yeah, even if I had broken my arm and got banned from ever returning to Budapest, I was still pretty hyped at having a partner my age. Truth is being a child soldier isn’t all that awesome if you’re all alone.”

He went silent for a moment as he collected his thoughts, “Truth is even with Nat around things still got pretty bad from time to time, especially if we got sent to different missions and couldn’t contact each other for months sometimes. So then we got to join the Avengers it was pretty much the first time for both of us, that we got to spend time with people our age without having to worry about them hurting us, or us hurting them”, he paused as he seemed to mull over what he’d said, “So yeah, I’m pretty sure that joining the Avengers counts as the best thing that’s ever happened to us”, and with that he shared a grin with Nat.

“I think we can all agree that being Avengers is the best thing ever”, said Tony, “Just that the nightmares aren’t”, he nodded to himself, “To be fair though, I’ve had my fair share of nightmares long before I joined this gig.”

Some of them looked at him with a mix of sympathy and understanding, which isn’t to say that Tony totally hated it, but he really did totally hate it.

“I still dream of the war”, said Cap so softly that Tony almost missed it, “And then of waking up. It was a quite a shock when I managed to run out of the place and into the streets”, he gave a grim smile, “I sometimes still wonder what Bucky would have thought of this era, he was always the bigger lover for technology than I was”, he looked up at the group, “It was his idea to go to the Stark Expo, he wanted to see what was the newest inventions”, he was silent for a moment, “That’s where I finally got enlisted.”

Silence didn’t take over the group this time, “I dream of when I fell of the Bifrost”, admitted Loki.

Thor looked at him with pained eyes, “I dream of that too. I’m always trying to catch you and failing”

“I dream the same about Bucky”, said Cap and shared a sad smile with Thor.

“I dream of the people I’ve hurt when I’m out of control”, said Bruce as he hugged his knees closer to his body.

“Something similar here”, muttered Clint.

“I dream of the wormhole”, admitted Tony, “I- I really thought I was going to die then, hell, I thought I actually had”, he almost jumped when Cap hugged him closer with his arm.

“I dream of when they called me to tell me Clint had been compromised”, said Nat quietly.

They shared some more stories of what they dreamed about during the following hours and eventually, one by one they began dropping off to sleep.

It was some of the best sleep Tony had ever had in his life.

 

Chapter Text

“Order! Order in the court!”

“This isn’t a court Tony.”

“Please Tony, I’ve been in a court for too long for this.”

“So has he for that matter.”

“This is my table and there’ll be order!”

“Can we please just all settle and let him have his moment of delusion so we can all go back to our lives?”

“Loki! You hurt me, right here, in my heart.”

“I’ll have y’all know I’m missing Dog Cops for this.”

“I was going to the museum of Natural Science with Thor.”

“You’re all so boring.”

“I abandoned my pedicure for this Tony, it better be good.”

“I was doing some tests at the lab.”

“Ugh, fine, fine. Let’s start this then people, do you all have a seat?”

“Tony.”

“Okay, okay. So as you all probably know, recently, moi – that is to say, me – gained emancipation.”

“Yes, we all know, you wouldn’t stop pestering us all about it throughout the whole process.”

“You hung up a framed copy of your emancipation in each floor.”

“I went with you every day to the court as moral support as well as Bruce.”

“We all were at you celebratory party.”

“Along with most of New York.”

“They almost took a couple of us to jail for disturbing the peace.”

“You made international news when you fired Clint’s birthday arrow out of the tower.”

“My poor arrow.”

“We got it back didn’t we? Okay, okay, no need to glare at me. Okay, so the thing we’re all here for is this!”

There was silence as everybody leaned forward to see the small item he was presenting them.

“A driving license? Who in their right mind would give you a diving license of all things?!”

“Hey!”

“We’re doomed.”

“Why do you even want one?”

“Yeah, you’ve got the suit.”

“Please tell me you’re not going to participate in any races.”

“Ooooh! I had forgotten about that! That was just so awesome!”

“He almost got killed!”

“What? When did this happen?

“Ages ago.”

“Last year.”

“Google it gramps, now everybody, let me tell you the true reason of why you’re here!”

“There’s more?!”

“We’re doomed.”

“Shush, it can’t get worse than this.”

“Hurry up, I can still catch the last end of Dog Cops.”

“I want poptarts.”

Sigh, “Yes, yes, just wait for him to finish.”

“Thank you, now. JARVIS!”

The room filled with the sound of a drum roll.

“My newest genius plan! Lady and Gentlemen! Now that we no longer only have one authorized driver!”

“What?”

“Huh?”

“Who else has a driver’s license?”

“Since we no longer have only one, but now two drivers! My newest project!”

The drum roll got to its end and trumpets sounded.

“A road trip!”

“A WHAT?!”

“WHAT?!”

No.”

“Tony, no.”

“Shush, this is genius, besides, I already got a minivan.”

“We’re doomed.”

“Let there be mercy on our souls.”

“Does anybody know how the Hail Mary goes?”

“You’ll need something stronger than that.”

“Come oooonnnnn guuuuuyyyyysss, it’s not that bad.”

“I think I’ve got a spare rosary in my room that I never use.”

“Hey! Guuuuuyyyyyss!”

Sigh, “Who’s the other driver?”

“That’ll be Cap.”

“Whaaaaaaa-“

“How?”

“Um, how? I’m pretty sure I don’t have a license.”

“You drove through battlefields in WWII, you can handle the streets of America. I already called Fury, don’t worry, it’s all been settled.”

“Steve, do something, I’m too young to die.”

“I- I have a license?”

“Yes!”

Bated silence.

“Where are we going?”

“We’re doomed.”

 


 

 

The minivan, thankfully, turned out to be not that ‘mini’. Nor a van.

“This isn’t a van, Tony”, said Steve in his infinite patience.

“Of course it is.”

Clint decided to have mercy on Steve, “Tony”, he began in a tone that he hoped imitated Steve’s, Tony gave him a sideways distrustful look as a reward for his efforts. The ungrateful brat.

“Where do you think the word ‘mini’ fits with this thing?”, Clint continued, ignoring Tony’s look.

“Well, it does seem too small for one of those moms that carpool kids to school. Hopefully it’ll be enough for us.”

“Tony, that thing is big enough to home a mom with a dozen kids”, said Clint as he held his face in his hands.

“No way.”

Steve was looking pained, “Tony”, he tried and stayed silent for a while, “That thing is a home. A mobile home.”

“Otherwise known as camper”, added Clint.

“Nuh-uh, that’s-“

“What’s a RV doing in your garage Tony?”, asked Bruce as he came out of the elevator, “Where’s the minivan? Nat wants to know how much space she has to pack stuff, Thor wants to take food, but I told him we’d probably stop along the way to California each time we wanted to eat.”

Tony pressed his lips tightly together, “JARVIS!”, he called.

“Yes, Sir?”

“What is that thing, and what is its purpose?”, he asked as he pointed at the camper.

“It’s a recreational vehicle, otherwise known as a camper, motor home, mobile home, RV, or trailer. Its purpose is a self-contained traveling home. It has basic facilities for cooking, washing, and sleeping.”

Tony looked like somebody had told him that Christmas had been cancelled.

Bruce subtlety creeped up to Clint’s side and whispered, “He thought that was a minivan, didn’t he?”

Clint nodded and whispered back, “I think we sometimes forget that Tony lived most of his life holed up in a mansion at Malibu with no real contact to the rest of the world.”

Bruce nodded as he looked with sympathy at Tony, where Steve was patting him on the back and telling him they’d make it work.

Clint sighed. In Loki’s words, they were doomed.

 


 

 

The camper, to put it lightly, was gigantic. It had two bedrooms and two folded beds in the living room, so they had space to spare at the end to sleep in. Thor and Loki shared one of the bedrooms while Tony and Bruce shared the other one. Steve and Clint shared one of the foldable beds in the living room while Natasha got the last foldable bed for herself.

This was all decided before they even started with the trip.

Bruce and Thor – with Loki’s help – quickly made a list of all the things they were going to need for the kitchen and the two little bathrooms. Steve began making schedules for the bathrooms while they were on and off the road and also made schedules for who was going to ride when – it was decided that they could probably slip Clint in the drive sometimes at night when they were in the middle of nowhere and they were sure there would be no police to stop them.

Tony immediately started to cart off stuff from his lab to hide in his bedroom that he was going to share with Bruce. He had been discreet about it, which tipped Natasha off that he probably wasn’t supposed to be doing it, so she told Steve about it and he put an end to it, most likely saving all of their lives in the process from an almost certain fire.

Steve also made up a list of suggested things they should all take with them along with a list of things they definitely shouldn’t take with them, most of the latter directed at Tony.

The night before the trip he even made rounds to make sure everybody was packed or at the very least in the process of it. It created a squabble when it was uncovered that Tony had been trying to smuggle a bunch of robot parts along with some chemicals that had the sticker ‘flammable’ on them.

Bruce was given the dubious honorable title of Tony’s babysitter afterwards, his duty being that Tony didn’t kill them all while they slept in the camper. Nobody said anything about that fact that Bruce was 11 and Tony 13, but Bruce did look a little smug at the title for a full five minutes before it dawned on him that it wasn’t that much of an honorable title to have after all.

The next morning at 5am Steve was running up and down the tower waking them all out. From her bed Natasha could hear how he got into a scuffle with Clint in the floor beneath her, probably having had to drag him out of his bed or something. Clint was a terrible morning person.

So Natasha got up after giving herself 15 minutes extra bed time – Clint was a terrible influence – and went to take a shower and wash her hair. She reveled in her hot water, having doubts of when she was going to have access again to such a commodity.

She was blowing her hair dry when she heard Steve knock at her door and urge her on. She glanced at the clock and saw it was 6am already.

“I’ll be ready in a bit”, she called and he left her to it, probably thinking of somebody else whose responsibility he trusted less.

She picked a comfortable pair of black pants and the cream colored blouse with embroidery around the collar she had seen the other day at a store and just knew it had to be hers, along with some light brown boots to wear for the day. Sometimes she wondered how things would be if she had still been a spy working for the Red Room. There would be no room of her own, that was for sure, and she particularly liked this room a lot. It had taken her a long time to decide on the curtains, but at the end she had chosen a pair that combined lovingly with the carpet and her bedspread. The bathroom also looked nothing like it had when she got it.

If she had still been with the Red Room there would be no bathroom of her own. Also, no exquisitely combined curtains and bedspread. No nothing really. Except death. Lots and lots of death.

After packing her hair dryer she set to apply her make-up. At the Red Room they had showed them about this, but only enough to enhance their seductive prowess.

Natasha mostly liked the skin colored make-up for a normal day, so different from the deep colors the Red Room preferred.

As she was applying her lipstick there came another series of knocks at her door.

“Natasha! We are supposed to leave at 7!”

She glanced at her clock and saw it was still 6:44, more than enough time for her to finish her make-up, pack it, walk calmly into the elevator, go to the camper and wait for the others to finish for the next half an hour to a full hour.

“Aha”, was all she was able to say as she finished the last touches on her lipstick.

“She’s 15, let her at it”, she heard Clint say from the other side of the door. Ah, he had finally come like he had promised the previous day, if a little late.

After quickly packing her make-up she opened the door and let Clint in.

“Where’s Steve?”, she asked when she saw he was no longer stalking her door.

“Went to hurry up Thor again. He woke up at 6 and hadn’t finished his packing last night. Which one do I grab?”, he asked her as he pointed at her bags. There were two black bags along with a lilac suitcase with wheels that Natasha was going to take along.

“Take either of the black ones, don’t care”, she said as she slid out the handle of her lilac suitcase.

Clint grabbed one and Natasha grabbed the other one along with her suitcase and they were out.

Natasha was seated in the RV at exactly 6:57.

She was the only one.

Clint had gone back to grab more luggage from somebody, their chat group was spammed with Thor asking where certain things were.

20 minutes later Bruce came to join her. They began discussing the roads they were going to take and the places they were hoping to cram into their trip.

By 7:48 Clint came to join them, claiming that he was tired of waiting on Thor and Tony to discover more things they wanted to bring along. Apparently Tony had also never finished packing the previous night.

At 8:06 Loki joined them and fell asleep seconds later on the couch that was a foldable bed.

At 8:18 Thor began spamming the chat group with questions of where Loki was.

At 8:34 Steve came dragging both Tony and Thor into the RV.

Finally, finally, they were leaving.

Tony wanted to be the first to drive, but Steve gave him one glare and then Tony was forced to sit by a sleeping Loki on the couch.

Natasha had shotgun because she had been the first to arrive and had been the only one on time.

Ten minutes later they were stuck in the traffic and the traffic officers were giving the RV stink eyes.

Natasha fell asleep at some point, but at 10:11 she was woken up when she noticed that they had stopped to eat breakfast. They were still in New York. More specifically, Tribeca.

The diner wasn’t the best, but it apparently offered bathrooms for customers and Clint had been complaining for at least half an hour that he wanted to go, so Steve pulled over.

“What are we doing in Tribeca?”, asked Natasha, because she just couldn’t understand how they had still not left the island.

Steve gave her the look of a man that had gone to war and lost. Considering that he had actually been to a war, it spoke volumes of his pain.

They left at 11:17, right after Steve threatened to take away Tony and Clint’s driving privileges.

By midday they had finally left the island.

 


 

 

On the second day of the trip they’re they were in Philadelphia and Steve was herding them through all the sightseeing and Bruce managed to convince them to go to some museums in the area. They got spotted a couple times and made the news.

On the third day of the trip they made it to Washington. They arrived early so they had the whole day to go sightseeing. Late that night they were kicked out of the Smithsonian and outvoted Steve on staying another day at the capital.

The rest of the trip was filled with less sightseeing and more bickering and getting lost often. While they were in Missouri they let Clint take the wheel for the night and the next morning they were in Chicago. When asked how or why Clint only gave a mumbled reply of winning a racing bet.

It was decided to never let him drive alone at night again.

They had just barely gone back on track in Iowa when Tony took the wheel and the next thing they knew they were somewhere in Kansas and he swore he knew what he was doing, pointed Steve in a direction and told him to continue that-a-way while he took his obligatory nap and then he could go on.

They scoured the map while he was sleeping, but nobody could find out where exactly they were, or on which road they were.

Tony took the wheel again a few hours later and drove right into the night. He was supposed to change with Clint at some point during the night, but they all awoke the next morning when Loki saw they had stopped at a gas station and that all their alarms had been disabled. It was long after they were all supposed to be awake, so they all bounded out of the RV, most still in pajamas and went to confront Tony.

As they did this Loki and Bruce went to the store and asked where the ever loving fuck were they.

Turned out they had just passed Dallas.

Tony was banned from his driving privileges after he explained that he was trying to get them to Houston – a thing that they had discussed before they left the Tower and agreed was too far out of their way so they would be skipping it this time – and Steve took over driving again.

Since they were already so close to Houston and because Bruce mentioned he also wanted to see the place Steve eventually decided to complete the trip to Houston.

The visit didn’t last that long, especially after Tony trespassed to get a closer look at their space tech and almost got sent to jail.

They ended up accidentally crossing the border on their way to California and before anybody could understand how that had happened they found themselves driving on the border of the Sonoran Desert and almost upended the RV when Clint and Tony began fighting for the wheel while Steve was asleep. After this, Natasha decided that she had had enough and called the border police, asking them to help them find their way back across the American side of the border.

They stayed the night at an Indian Reservation close to the border once they were back to the American side, which Clint loved and the local economy loved even more.

Next they passed through the Colorado Desert where Clint once again went racing against other vehicles on the road, this time at least with some supervision. And then, at long last, they were in California.

It didn’t take long before they were in Los Angeles and after that even less to arrive at Malibu.

Tony twirled around as he stepped into his mansion, showing it off to his friends as they made their way inside.

“This, lady and gentlemen, is my humble abode”, he said happily.

Natasha snorted.

“It’ll do, I suppose”, said Loki as he looked around.

“Hey.”

Chapter Text

They had been a grand total of one week at the Malibu mansion, most of the time not even being there since they went out almost every day to do sightseeing and to leave Tony with his older friends, Pepper and Rhodey. Only Nat knew them well, the rest of the team had seen them in a passing as they either came in or left the mansion

Steve was starting to get restless and sort of wanted to go back home to New York, or at least somewhere else that wasn’t Los Angeles so Tony suggested they take the RV without him and go to San Diego for some time.

Steve had still been enjoying the wonders of Sea World when he heard that there had been a terrorist attack in Los Angeles and that Tony had given the world his home address.

They had just gotten Thor out of the Penguin Observation Park when they heard that Tony’s mansion had been bombed and that he was missing.

Bruce had hulked out there and then, which made them arrive at the mansion destruction site even later than what they would have liked.

At the site they encountered Pepper, Rhodey and some random woman who claimed to have known Howard and had tried to come talk to Tony about something. All three had been present when the bombs hit the mansion and according to Pepper Tony had fallen into the ocean along with most of his house without his suit.

This didn’t sit well on Steve. There wasn’t much to be done, they weren’t experts in search and rescue and the local authorities were still worried that here might be another attack.

They went back to the RV with extreme reluctance after Rhodey and Pepper left for the hospital where Tony’s driver was and the random lady eventually just disappeared. Steve didn’t trust her or her claims to have known Howard, so he contacted SHIELD to tell them about her.

As the team sat in tense silence in the RV Steve sat at the driver’s seat while he waited as calm as he could for SHIELD to send him some answers about what had happened and who the random lady was.

Steve laid his head on the steering wheel, closing his eyes tightly as he whispered, “Be safe Tony.”

 


 

 

Tony had been excited at the idea of coming back to Malibu. He had planned on visiting Pep and Rhodey daily, sometimes join the team in the sightseeing and design things at night.

Of course he had sort of forgotten about his anxiety problems.

He had mostly stopped having nightmares about what had happened at Manhattan after he talked with the team, but he never thought about what might happen once he got separated from them.

At his very first night back at the mansion and he dreamed about Manhattan.

He decided that his best cure would be going down to his garage to begin working on a new design he had in mind.

Three days later he had the most awful nightmare, combining both the Battle of Manhattan and Yinsen’s death. That night he went crazy in his garage and created his first prototype of the Hulk Buster.

The team wasn’t really noticing what was going on with him cause he told them often he was going to spent the night at either Pepper’s or at Rhodey’s. He never even once went to spend the night with them.

It came to the point where he had a panic attack while he was having lunch with Rhodey.

That night, as he sat in his garage designing his newest suit his hand shook and his mind was scattered. The smallest of noises, the most insignificant gesture, a certain smell and he was back there. ‘There’ being either the wormhole or in that cave in Afghanistan or the weird combination of the two that his sleep deprived mind had concocted.

Hours later he came back to himself and realized he had been making a bunch of lines and scribbles on his drawing pad. Most of them without any head or tails, there was one design of some sort of dog robot, but it had fangs and its eyes were-. Nope. Nah-ah.

He deleted everything that he had done that night and went to try get some sleep. He had just taken a shower when JARVIS alerted him of what happened with Happy.

Everything was awful. Happy had been talking to him about some suspicious guy talking to the local branch head, but Tony had just laughed it off and told Happy to take it calmly. Why couldn’t he just have listened?

Tony dozed off at the hospital at Happy’s side, but was rudely awakened by another nightmare.

Deciding that he was going to do something about what had been done to Happy he went outside and told the world where he lived. Let them come try fuck with him.

In the end they did fuck him over, not only that, but they also almost fucked over Pepper, Rhodey and that weird ass lady too. Not that he cared that much about the lady, she looked down right fishy with her story about knowing Howard and how he had given her the key to her research and she was just sure Tony could help her get to the next and-. Ugh. Bla, bla, bla.

Why couldn’t she just do her own fucking research instead of relying on Starks her whole life?

Tony was in fact just about to kindly tell her to go fuck herself and to go get a life when the missiles started arriving.

So his first priority were his friends and he did have his awesome new suit that he got to fly both Pep and Rhodey out. Fortunately he saw the lady escaping on her own so he didn’t have to worry about her, unfortunately on the other hand, this was the last he saw before he fell into the ocean.

His suit did thankfully get to him before he could get squashed by his own mansion, but he still got knocked out pretty badly and only awoke hours later when he crashed landed in a pile of snow of all things.

It wasn’t a pleasant experience to say the least. JARVIS running out of energy on him almost sent him into another panic attack. He clung to the suit pathetically as he forced tears to stop and tried to kick his rational mind into gear by repeating to himself over and over again that JARVIS was in no way gone forever.

JARIVS was one of the few constants in his life. He vaguely remembered his old servant Jarvis that would be with him more than either of his parents ever were. The original Jarvis died a few months before his parents did. Tony remembered sitting at his bedside as the old man was dying and recording his voice secretly, already having made plans of how he was going to bring Jarvis back later.

His plans didn’t work out exactly like he had wished, but he was a genius without precedent and by age six he had the first version of JARVIS running his mansion for him. Surprisingly little had been changed since then, seeing as he had made JARVIS to be a learning program he had mostly modified himself into what he was today.

But the point was that since he had been a six year old he had been in constant company of his non-corporeal companion, except for that brief stint in Afghanistan, but there he had Yinsen who had done everything he could to help Tony both physically and emotionally.

After he managed to gather himself enough he succeeded in dragging his suit along with him with great difficulty. He might be 13, but he wasn’t as fit as he would have liked and there was still the issue of his heart damage to take into consideration.

There were days where he wondered if he would live his full lifespan with the damage his heart had taken.

After stealing a poncho off of a wooden statue he eventually stumbled upon a house where the lock on the garage looked adequately feeble.

He had just managed to connect the suit to some electrical charger and to fall down on the couch, hoping to catch some rest, when he was rudely interrupted by some brat with a potato gun of all things.

They made friends. Eventually.

 


 

 

“Good”, Tony stood awkwardly by the car he had just managed to hotwire and then glanced at Harley, “Bye”, he said and hastily made to climb in.

“Wait!”, Harley insisted, Tony had known this would happen. The brat would now want to follow him and normally Tony didn’t have anything against children trying to save the day, but said children normally weren’t, well, normal.

“Look”, Tony began exasperatedly, “I know you think this is a good idea, but it really isn’t-“

“I just helped you fight those bad guys!”

“Yeah, but what’ll happen when you have to face off an international terrorist? Hmm? The same trick isn’t going to work for him.”

Harley scowled at him, “We’re basically the same age!”

“I’m one year older than you.”

Harley rolled his eyes, “I’m taller than you.”

“Look here you little motherfucker-“

“Okay, okay!”, Harley held up his hands in surrender, “Not mentioning that again, promise. But seriously, you need help”, he put a hand on his chest and empathically added, “And I can help.”

Tony scowled at him, rolled his eyes and sighed, “Fine, get it.”

Harley whooped and took the seat beside Tony.

“First things first”, Tony said and Harley nodded, eyes wide in attention, “We’ll need the suit and a way to charge it, we’re gonna go grab it now and it’s gonna be your job to make sure nothing goes FUBAR, got it?”

Harley nodded, still wide eyed, “What’s FUBAR?”

“Google it, we don’t have time to waste”, said Tony as he hit the gas, causing Harley to yelp as the pulled away with a jerk.

After the monumental task that was to bundle in the suit and all the car batteries plus computers that they could find into the car’s back seat they were both off into the horizon. They covered a great distance until Tony spotted a news van close by that he decided would help him contact his friends and tell him he was still alive. And also maybe figure out where the Mandarin was. Harley was delegated to car duty where he monitored to suit and make sure nobody came to steal their stolen car.

“Karma has its own weird ways of getting even”, said Tony when Harley gave him a look at that last part.

The Avengers almost burst his eardrums when the call connected and he told them it was him. Cap told him in no uncertain terms that he was not to go after the Mandarin and Tony retaliated by telling him the address of the Mandarin and when to meet him there. And since the guy that was so deeply obsessed with him – and wasn’t that just all kinds of creepy – was still holding the antennae patiently he decided that he could as well contact Rhodey and Pep and tell Rhodey to come meet him at the same place he had told the team.

There was afterwards the issue of the suit not charging and him having a panic attack, but fortunately Harley was there and he had already experienced one of those so he knew what to do.

They had to make a detour to the local market where they went crazy, then they rented a hotel room and began assembling all that was needed. Harley proofed to be fairly adept at doing what Tony told him to do and to actually understand some of the stuff when Tony explained them to him.

“So does this mean I’m an Avenger too?”, asked Harley hopefully as he assembled a gas bomb.

“Pffft, keep dreaming”, said Tony, ignoring Harley’s pout.

Tony drove them close to the mansion where he knew the Mandarin was, ordered Harley to drive away the moment Tony was out of view and go to the designated safe place where the suit was to finish charging.

Harley agreed obediently and Tony would have found this weird if it wasn’t for Harley’s gleeful expression when he learned that he was going to get to drive a car.

Entering the mansion was, well, not easy, but definitely easier than what Tony had thought it would be.

The Mandarin was a disappointment. Like, such, such a disappointment that Tony wondered if he would ever be able to recover from it.

Like, daaaaaammnnn.

And then he got captured.

Shame on him, really.

Killian was in the middle of his evil speech of how Tony was going to help him finish the formula his father had helped the crazy lady with – who was now bleeding on the floor after she tried to defend Tony and use herself as bargaining chip and failed terribly – when the Avengers plus Rhodey crashed into the place.

The ensuing battle was the stuff nightmares are made of with all the glowing people that exploded randomly and Killian – with glowing eyes and all – proclaiming to having been the Mandarin all along. Distantly, Tony wondered what had happened with Trevor since he was nowhere to be seen while they all wreaked havoc on the mansion.

Later, he would learn that Harley snuck in after the suit charged, found Trevor, had pity on him and lead him away from danger.

Fortunately the suit had finished charging fairly soon into the fight and since it was so close it only took seconds for Tony to have all of the pieces on him and promptly started to kick ass.

The fight didn’t last all that long, really, not with all of the Avengers plus Rhodey – who was christened as the War Machine in the aftermath of the fight – involved in taking everything down. The Hulk practically decimated the place and what he didn’t get his grubby hands on Thor electrocuted till it was ashes. The little structure that was left over was full of either arrows or marks where Cap’s shield had bounced off and the odd bad guy tied to some pillar by Nat.

On the bright side, they were able to save the crazy lady since War Machine was able to rush her to a hospital when the fight began. On the not so bright side, the media had a field day showcasing the destruction that they were capable of.

Not that any of that bothered any of them. Tony’s friends were all simply too happy to have him back to care much about was being said of them on the media, besides, they had to celebrate having a new member. Rhodey was invited to the Avengers after his performance that day and he graciously accepted.

Pepper was a bit upset that they would both be going away to New York afterwards, but promised to come visiting as much as she could after Tony gave her a private jet of her own, so she wouldn’t have to depend anymore on asking her parents for permission. The looks Mr. and Mrs. Potts gave him after that little stunt could have killed any lesser human.

His robots had to be fished out of the Pacific and Harley had to be dropped off back at his home, but eventually all was set and Tony was able to go back with his friends to New York. This time though, they forwent the whole road trip in the RV and instead had it send back to New York by his people, in case they ever wanted to subject themselves again to the disaster that that had been.

All in all, Tony was in good enough spirits that he arranged a new garage for Harley and even kept contact with him after everything had settled down and no, he still wasn’t an Avenger even if he made pouty faces at everybody when denied.

That brat.

 

Chapter Text

They had barely been all back and settled in the Tower at New York when Thor announced that he wanted to go visit Jane at England.

This was met with some skepticism – especially from Loki – since most still wondered if it would be a good idea after Jane had been only a few months under Dr. Selvig’s care after her father had been found dead on one of his research trips. Nobody was sure if it had been an accident or something else, but the fact of the matter was that Jane had become orphaned and Dr. Selvig had jumped in to take her under his care. This had happened while he had still been under SHIELD’s employment and when he had come under Loki’s control he had thankfully just left her alone along with Darcy.

Thor had established contact with her and Darcy via email and chats as soon as he moved into the Tower. Unfortunately he hadn’t been able to talk to her and Darcy as much as he had wanted since he had Loki to look after as well, yet they had still maintained contact all this time.

“And you say she stopped answering you about a week ago?”, asked Steve and Thor nodded.

“I think there might be something going on. I tried to message Darcy too, but she’s been unresponsive as well”, Thor looked worried, “I need to go check on them.”

Steve nodded in understanding, Thor had been close to those two since he had first come to earth, but after the fiasco that had happened before the road trip when he took back the Tesseract to Asgard-. Yeah, those two had been the ones that had been the most comforting out of all of them, except for maybe Loki, who had at the beginning felt quite guilty at how Odin had treated Thor when he went back.

Nobody was sure what exactly had happened, all that was certain was that when Thor got to Asgard with only the Tesseract and no Loki Odin was upset to put it lightly. Apparently there were calls to put Loki in prison for the destruction he had brought upon earth and Odin was willing to listen to them and jail up his own son, that even if he was older than all of them combined, looked like the equivalent of a 12 year old human. This didn’t sit well with any of them, least of all Thor, who apparently said so to Odin and ended up almost having to face jail time himself. Or something.

Whatever it was it had forced him to flee Asgard in secrecy and arrive on earth all banged up and with a weepy face that broke all of their hearts. Steve still suspects that Tony planned the whole road trip in an attempt to cheer Thor up after whatever that had happened to him. Whether this was true or not, it worked seeing as Thor absolutely loved the trip and couldn’t wait for the next one. He and Clint were the only ones that felt like this, really.

So with all this in mind Steve smiled at Thor and said, “Just keep in contact while you’re there and give our regards to Jane and Darcy.”

Thor beamed at him, “I will most definitely!”

 


 

 

It hadn’t taken Thor much time to locate Jane and Darcy for that matter. It turned out Jane had taken to staying with Darcy since Dr. S had gone on some trip to do science and Jane hadn’t been allowed to come along. This hadn’t been the first time this happened and Jane had set up some contraption at Darcy’s house to detect scienc-y things that only she understood and had forgotten to answer Thor’s messaging.

Darcy hadn’t been able to answer him because her computer had gotten hijacked by Jane in the name of science.

Just as they had all settled in after convincing Thor that they were both still well and safe Jane’s thingamabob went off and Jane commanded they go check it out.

“But we don’t have a way of getting there”, said Darcy, trying to be the voice of reason. The world had come to sad state indeed if she had to become the voice of reason.

“Thor can fly”, said Jane excitedly and Thor looked even more excited at the idea.

“No”, said Darcy immediately and then added, “I’m afraid of heights. I’m sorry”, not. She was so not sorry.

Then Thor’s face fell and it was as if she was killing kittens and puppies all at the same time and-.

“I have a friend that can help though”, she said against her better judgment.

Darcy was sure there was a way you could use Thor’s smiles to power whole cities they were so intense.

Her neighbor – who insisted on being called Ian – was somewhat surprised when they knocked on his door, but also used to it, since Darcy bothered him almost for anything that caught her fancy. He was a poor sap that for some reason liked children and always had problems holding a girlfriend. Darcy had often strolled into his house to find him moping over his latest love interest and patted him on the head a little as she asked him where he kept his whatever she had come to look for at his apartment and then left him to it.

The neighbor also had a car, which was what Darcy had hoped to borrow, but then it came out that Thor didn’t have a driving license even if he was an Avenger and technically older than any human on earth. Shame on him, really.

“Shame on you”, she told him in a deadpan while the neighbor looked on. She would have accused him of being nosy, but they were in the corridor in front of his apartment and they did still want to use his car so she kept it to herself.

Thor had at least the decency of looking down at his feet, “Loki says that if I ever get a driver’s license he’ll take it away and burn it to save humanity from me.”

Even if Darcy secretly agreed with Loki’s decision she still shook her head at Thor in disappointment, “Well, it can’t be helped then, the neighbor will have to take us.”

“Ian”, he reminded them amiably.

“Whatever”, she said marshaled them all to where she knew the neighbor kept his car.

They arrived at some place where weird trippy science stuff was happening that made Jane all excited and the neighbor all intrigued. He had insisted on coming with them in case something happened with them and because they needed adult supervision or some such nonsense. Well, he ended up paying for it when he himself threw his keys into the weird dimension portal and they never came back. Darcy patted him on the head a little as he moped after that.

And then Jane had to go and stumble into one of those dimension portals leaving Darcy with Thor and the neighbor to panic. Thor was close to calling in the Avengers when the police that the neighbor had called still couldn’t find her and then she was suddenly there.

Of course the police tried to take her in for questioning and were asking questions about who her guardian was who was everybody’s guardian and how did the neighbor fit into everything and then Jane freaked out and then Darcy freaked out and everything was wrong and-.

At the end Thor was the only one that seemed like he had idea of what was happening to Jane – or maybe not, but Darcy was dearly hoping that he did – so he decided the best idea was to take Jane to Asgard. Neither girl was impressed with this since they could still remember how bad his last visit to Asgard had gone and didn’t want to have a repeat of it, but he kept arguing that it was the best for Jane and that eventually made Darcy cave. She could only hope that she wouldn’t be sorry about it later.

And then they were gone and Darcy and the neighbor had to take the tube back home since they still hadn’t gotten the keys back. Darcy spent most of the train ride patting the neighbor on the head even if she felt like she was the one that needed consolation.

 


 

 

Jane was in one of the palace rooms, essentially locked up and with not much hope of getting out. Hours before there had been attack while she had been under the protection of Thor’s mother and-.

Jane blamed herself for what had happened afterwards. It was because of her that Thor’s mother was dead and they were going to bury her that night. Thor had come to her a little after the attack, face ugly with tears and so much heartbreak that Jane hadn’t known what to do, and told her to sit tight and just wait on him since he had a plan.

She hadn’t seen hide or hair of him since then and there was no way of her to leave her room and outside to search for him or any kind of answers. It was all weighing heavily on her nerves and she wished she had never gone out to look at the science at that abandoned warehouse.

Then the hour of the funeral had come and Thor was at her door with Loki of all people.

“I begged father to let him come for mother’s funeral”, said Thor quietly and if there had ever been a sign of how bad he was doing it was the volume of his voice, “But he’s also going to help us get you out of here.”

Loki sniffed and nodded in affirmation, his eyes were bloodshot and it looked like he had been crying before Thor came to fetch her.

The funeral in and of itself was unlike anything Jane had ever seen in her whole life. It was beautiful, yet so sad it broke her heart. Thor looked crushed, yet Loki looked especially crushed. They both held hands during the entire procession and when it was over made her company till she was back in her room.

“Father is only going to allow Loki to stay the night, so we have to act before its morning when he’ll have the guards everywhere to escort him back to the Bifrost.

Jane nodded, “Are we leaving now then?”

“Not immediately, we’ll wait for a few hours and when it’s the quietest hour of the night we’ll make our way out of here”, answered Loki, who still didn’t look any better.

Jane hugged him, “Thank you”, she said and let him cling back to her for a few moments. When they broke the hug Thor looked at her gratefully before he left with Loki and let her have a few hours of sleep. Not likely, she thought, but still tried.

The night trudged on slowly and Jane must have slept an hour at most throughout the time she waited in total before Thor and Loki were again at her door. Thor had come with his adult friends, the Warriors Three and Lady Sif, much to Loki’s disgust from what she could gather given his expression.

They made it all the way to the palace entrance with all of Thor’s adult friends, they left two of them there to hold any guards that may come after them and continued on with Lady Sif and Frandal. After getting transport Thor bid Frandal and Lady Sif goodbye while Loki ignored them steadfastly and Jane wondered why there was so much animosity between some members of their party.

The road to the realm of the Elves turned out to be much easier than what Jane had expected and it gave her a false sense of security that she found later terribly crushed after their encounter with Malekith.

Loki had gotten stabbed, but was still able to stand on his feet with the help of Thor who was all bruised up and Malekith had gotten the Aether.

“Well, that went splendidly”, mused Loki as they contemplated the fact that they were trapped and Thor helped him climb out a hill so they could get shelter in a nearby cave from a sandstorm. Thor merely rolled his eyes at his brother’s antics.

They had barely entered the cave when Jane noticed that there were items strewn around and that she had signal on her phone. She called Darcy quickly, who was relieved to hear her and began telling her about busting out Dr. S from the asylum with her neighbor’s help.

“What was he doing there?”, she asked as she used her phone as guide to get them through the portal while internally wondering why a social worker hadn’t come to her house to take her away if her guardian was in the asylum. Then she remembered that she had been the whole time at Darcy’s and for all that she knew they had come looking for her, but never found her.

“He was running around naked at the Stone Henge, so they booked him, apparently he made the news and everything.”

“Huh”, she hummed, ignoring the way Thor and Loki exchanged looks, mouthing the word ‘naked’ at each other.

“But don’t worry, we told them the neighbor-“

“Ian!”, came the amiable interruption from the background.

“-was his son, so they gave us his meds and some weird tech. Also, we were attacked by a flock of vertical birds.”

Jane stumbled on a few rocks and quickly caught herself, “Vertical birds?”

“Yeah, Dr. S says it’s because of the thingummy that’s happening soon.”

“Converging”, supplied Jane, they were close, she noticed as she picked up the neighbor’s car keys.

“That thing! Hey, when you’re on your way back can you pick up some chips?”

“Uh-huh”, muttered Jane and then they were all through the portal and on earth.

“Great, make them cheese flavored.”

“Sure, look, I gotta go now”, she said and hung up before Darcy could add more.

“She wants chips? Now?”, asked Loki incredulously.

“Darcy is a complicated creature”, said Jane by way of explanation.

They found the neighbor’s car covered in graffiti, but still working, so Jane took it upon herself to drive them home since nobody trusted Thor’s driving skills and Loki was injured.

Jane stopped on their way to her home to buy chips for Darcy, some bandages for Loki and some diet coke for herself.

Miraculously they made it to her apartment that she shared with Dr. S without getting pulled over by the police and with Thor managing a decent job with Loki’s bandages.

“We’re here”, announced Jane as they strolled – Loki with the help of Thor – into her house to find Dr. S in his underwear, the neighbor throwing him disapproving glances and Darcy watching the TV.

“Hey, Jane!”, said Darcy when she saw them and quickly hurried over to hug her, “Did you bring me my chips?”

Thor handed them over.

“You’re all awesome”, said Darcy happily as she opened her bag, “What’s with him?”, she asked as she motioned over to where Thor was gently guiding Loki to the couch and arranging the pillows to make it comfortable for him. Dr. S was throwing cautious glances Loki’s way, not looking overly happy at having him in his house even if he had previously told Jane that he was over the fact that Loki had brainwashed him.

“He got stabbed”, said Thor solemnly. Dr. S looked even more uneasy at that.

“Okay, so what are we going to do?”, said Jane by way of distracting everybody before it could get awkward. Not that it wasn’t already, what with Dr. S being in his underwear and all, but at least Jane and Darcy were used to the man’s eccentricities.

This sparked a discussion about what was the Convergence and why it was good and why it was bad and why Malekith was going to use it to his favor and why that was bad. At the end they figured out where Malekith was bound to come to earth and when, so they took Dr. S’ tech and decided to go stop the bad stuff from happening.

Before they left it was decided that Loki was going to come along, but he was only going to stay in the car and that the rest of the Avengers were going to be called in.

The ensuing battle was the stuff of legends. Or at least that was how Darcy described it as she live streamed the whole thing. Jane will never know if it was a wise thing for Darcy to meet Tony Stark, but halfway through the battle they ran into each other and had to take a break to discuss the fact that she wasn’t using a Stark Phone to do her live streaming with.

Jane spend the majority of the battle being dragged around by Dr. S to safety while she discussed what was happening with Loki who had ditched the car and came to watch the proceedings.

All in all, it was a pretty memorable occasion. Not as memorable as going to Asgard and having a look at their science, but pretty close.

 

Chapter Text

Steve had been trying to get into what passed as modern military practices for some time, so when Fury called and offered him another short mission he was more than willing to participate. After the mission was over Fury offered him to stay at Washington to wait for another short mission to pop up. Steve accepted because back at the Tower Tony was getting insufferable with his latest idea – it consisted of playing Monopoly nonstop to proof his superiority in the economical world and Steve had come close enough to losing the few friends he had over the game once so he had decided to beg out of it.

He took to running around early in the mornings since he had grown used to living in a house full of noise and the silence his apartment had depressed him a little.

It was during his morning runs that he met Sam, a 14 year old, the only other minor awake at that hour to go running of all things. They quickly made friends and Steve learned about Sam’s parents’ job for the military, back when they were still alive and that Sam was currently living with an aunt who he claimed made the best cheesecake in the universe.

Steve had just been invited to taste said cheesecake when he got a message of another mission.

He was still trying to apologize when Sam waved him off.

“Nah, no problem dude. You can always come next time, I can almost guarantee you she’ll make the cake at any hour if I tell her it’s for Captain America”, said Sam with a grin.

Steve blushed at that which made Sam snicker at him.

“He blushes!”, his snickers where now chuckles.

“Stop it you!”, said Steve and playfully shoved him away.

Sam was still laughing at him when a sleek black car pulled up at their side and lowered its window, revealing the driver to be-

“Nat?”, said Steve in surprise as he gaped at her.

“That’ll be me”, she smirked at him.

“You have a license?”, he asked, gobsmacked.

“Yeah”, she shrugged, like it was nothing.

“Why didn’t you say something when we went on the road trip?”, Steve asked, wondering if he should feel bad for never asking her if she wanted to drive on the trip.

“You guys went on a road trip? Dude, I thought you were cool”, said Sam as he shook his head in disappointment.

Nat grinned at Sam and then turned to Steve, “I didn’t want to drive on the trip, so I never told anybody. Clint knows though, but I told him to keep quiet about it.”

Steve wasn’t sure if he should laugh or be angry at her. That trip had been horrible with only three of all of them being able to drive and only him and Tony being the ones with licenses. At the end he simply sighed and allowed his shoulders to drop, “Next time you’re helping with the driving”, he muttered.

“Next time? Dude, don’t make my mental image of you sink any further”, Steve turned to glare at Sam who was now grinning so widely his face was threatening to split in half.

“Ha ha”, said Steve and straightened himself to grab his jogging bag, “You’re real funny Wilson.”

“You’re welcome any time to come have that cheesecake at my house”, said Sam, still grinning at him.

“We’re definitely going to take you up on that offer”, grinned Nat and when she was sure Steve was inside the car she speeded off.

Inside the car Steve asked, “So you stopped tormenting the people at the Tower with the monopoly, huh?”

Nat snorted, “Tony hopes I would stop tormenting him”, and Steve laughed.

The mission itself was pretty easy, at least for Steve, even though he got angry at one point at Nat for going off on a side mission, at the end it all worked itself out.

Then he got a tour of SHIELD from Fury.

He didn’t like it, but he was willing to trust Fury that it wasn’t going to turn out like he was thinking it was going to. He had to, the alternative was too drastic.

Steve was still mulling over what Fury had shown him and the trust he was willing to give the man when his neighbor told him he had left his music on. Steve never put on music, it was a practice that had born from the fact that he lived with Tony Stark, who kept putting on music wherever he went. It was simply never necessary to put on music at the Tower, on the contrary, Steve quite often found himself turning off the music Tony had put on.

Nat had instilled in Steve the practice of carrying a gun with him when he was on unknown turf. Around the Tower it was normally never necessary and Steve rarely went to other places when he wasn’t on some mission, besides, Steve had never really liked guns, always preferring his shield. Nat still insisted though, so Steve complied whenever he could, just like he had almost a century ago when Bucky insisted on something. Steve had sometimes wondered, as a little boy while he watched Bucky with his sisters, how it would feel to have a sister of his own. Now he was fairly certain he knew how.

The apartment was dark when he got in, which wasn’t to say that there wasn’t anybody, so Steve creeped forward, gun drawn and with extreme caution.

Turned out it was only Fury, though he was bleeding out on Steve’s sofa and looking like had gone through the blender and talking about a wife Steve was certain he didn’t have. They were being watched and Steve thought he was strung as tightly as he could be, but then Fury got shot even further and Steve was sure that the man had just been killed. His neighbor stormed in just as Steve saw the attacker leave on the roof from the adjacent building. Steve left her with Fury and went after the attacker.

That motherfucker.

Tony was a terrible influence on him.

He chased after the shadowy person through a few buildings and then the guy caught Steve’s shield when he threw it and threw it right back. Steve was so shocked that he would only think later about how the guy seemed to be his same height. It wasn’t common for Steve to find opponents around his height, most were taller, though there sometimes was the odd short guy that came closer to Steve’s height, but not that often. At the end Steve chalked it up as the guy being from the small percentage of short mercenaries that he sometimes encountered, after all, it wasn’t as if they were nonexistent.

When he watched Fury die Nat was at his side and looking as vulnerable as he’d ever seen her. He hugged her and covertly slipped her the drive Fury had given him before he died. He gave a look and tried to make it as meaningful as he could without Brock – who was at the door waiting for him to come to SHIELD – noticing that something was up between them.

Steve had never met Pierce before and after that day he was glad. Pierce came up as a very nice, understanding guy that you could trust with just about anything. Yet. Yet the tone he used with Steve reminded him an awful lot of the way some of the generals used to talk to him in the war. Like they were only putting up with him because of the serum and if they would have it their way he would be nowhere close to the decision making process. Like he was nothing more than a child that needed to be told what to do and obey blindly in return.

Bucky had hated them in particular, especially for the way they always seemed to dismiss what Steve had to contribute to their meetings.

In short, Steve was quite used with dealing with such people. He was also used to the way they always tended to react badly when they realized that Steve wasn’t going to be their puppet.

He had been expecting some sort of problems to arise from what had happened, but the moment he saw the posture of the people that had boarded with Brock the elevator he knew the consequences to his actions were going to be much more immediate.

He immediately began thinking of his next couple steps. He needed to get to Nat, but he had no idea if she would still be at the hospital, especially if it was targeted – he hoped it wasn’t, but he couldn’t act on hopes alone. There was also the issue of the rest of the Avengers. If he was going to bring them in on what was happening, would they be safe? Had Nat already contacted them after Fury died? She hadn’t mentioned anything to him, but then again she had been distraught like he had never seen her before, not even when Clint had gotten compromised.

By the time the third team entered the elevator Steve knew it was going to have a tough fight and sure enough Brock and his men didn’t disappoint. All of them were taller than Steve and some were easily twice his size, what with Steve being mostly skinny muscle.

And he had gotten so much better than he had been during the war. Tony had made sure that he could always have food on hand so he would never go hungry again like he had so often during the war. As a child he hadn’t often had a big appetite, but after the serum he had become a bottomless pit, but with the rationing he had never had enough and the Howlies had sometimes had to steal food to keep him from getting malnourished. It had been terrible. Now, though, he always had whatever he wanted whenever he wanted and it showed in the extra muscle he was developing. He had even grown a little, much to Tony’s chagrin.

But even with all that Steve still came up small besides the men in Brock’s team, even Brock himself was considerably bigger than Steve.

The fight in the elevator was pretty horrid, mainly because of the shocking batons that they used on him during the fight. Nobody seemed to have told them that Steve had come out of fights the winner with bullet wounds hurting much worse than their shocks.

At the end, after he had knocked out everybody and exhausted all his other paths to get out of the elevator Steve had to jump through the windows. He used the technique Bucky had affectionately called the ‘turtle squat’ and landed behind his shield. It was still tremendously painful and he broke a few bones – a rib or two, some bones in his hands – and sprained multiple muscles, mostly in his arm and leg, but it was still better than getting captured.

The rest of his escape proceeded quite well, even if he jostled all his recently acquired wounds in the process.

Nat did end up still being at the hospital. Steve was so relieved when he saw her he swept her up in a fierce hug until she tapped him to signal he was squishing her and let her go.

Things were tense and Nat knew who they guy was that had killed Fury and she cautioned him greatly on the subject on going after him. This coming from Nat only made Steve angrier at the guy. The story of how he had shot her to get at somebody else had made his blood boil. All Steve knew was that the Winter Soldier was going down, one way or another, it was only a matter of time.

Since they both knew they were just about to go undercover Nat quickly used a disposable phone and told the team to be on standby and that something was wrong with SHIELD. Nat didn’t give Clint – who had picked up the phone – any time to ask any questions and quickly told him to be careful with whatever the team decided to do.

They were on their way as soon as Nat disposed of the phone properly – she threw it into the hospital incinerator – and went to a public internet café in hopes of being able to blend into the crowd. As they were doing their best at blending in Steve noticed for the first time that Nat was the same height as him. She wore no heels and was exactly his height, she didn’t need to look up or down to look him in the eyes. It struck Steve then that she was actually a year older than him, just like Bucky had been.

Steve didn’t have long to contemplate this new discovery before Nat had the location that had to go to and SHIELD was swarming in on them from all sides. It took some maneuvering, but Steve had been able to pass off as somebody older since he took the serum with some success and Nat was an expert at what she did so they were able to escape with no mayor problems.

They stole a car and Steve was stuck with driving the whole way, Nat leisurely relaxed into her seat, like it wasn’t the end of the organization that had freed her from whoever it was that trained little girls to be assassins.

It turned out to be the old camp. It was so full of nostalgia and it was probably the only place pre-serum that Steve could sit and think about without his mind bring up Bucky and what had happened to him.

And then all the nostalgia was wiped out and HYDRA was still alive, what was worse, HYDRA was SHIELD.

It was terrible, it was the worst thing that could have happened. All Steve’s efforts, Bucky’s life and so many others’ lives as well, all lost because of nothing. It was all that Steve could do to not curl up in a ball and cry in anger. But he couldn’t. Because he was Captain America and Captain America didn’t do that. Captain America saved the world and Steve was going to be damned if that wasn’t exactly what was going to happen.

How was he ever going to be able to tell Tony that his parents had been murdered?

He was spared of having to answer that by a missile that hit the base and destroyed the last bit that was left over of Zola – internally, Steve was deeply satisfied that the last vestiges of that man had finally been destroyed.

Nat was knocked unconscious and Steve had to carry her away, but that was the least of his problems. There was the very real issue of where he was supposed to go next. Even if Nat would have woken up at that very moment there wouldn’t have been a whole lot she could do to better their situation. What they needed was the team, but the team could be in deep danger if they tried to step in and Steve was already regretting ever calling Clint by then.

It occurred to him after several miles of walking with Nat in his arms that he knew only one other person that he could trust in the whole of DC.

It probably wasn’t the best of his ideas, but when he arrived the next morning early at Sam’s house – after making sure that his aunt wasn’t at home – Sam welcomed them in with open arms and the offer of orange juice and sandwiches later.

Steve was sure he had found his new favorite person ever.

Nat checked his wounds, making sure that none of his broken bones had mended badly and after making sure that this wasn’t the case she promptly herded him into a shower while she and Sam prepared something to eat. When Steve was done he waited along with Sam until Nat was finished with her own shower before they started in on their sandwiches.

Sam took in their story with grim understanding, proving that he wasn’t as unused as Steve had thought to dire situations. They decided to go after Sitwell and Steve had already started to think of all the ways he could thank Sam and convince him to stay put, but then Sam threw a folder at them and-.

Yeah, Sam’s father had been some real genius, even if Steve didn’t agree with the part where he let his only son use his invention along with a friend of his.

So with that set the three of them left Sam’s house with a note to his aunt telling her he had gone out and that everything was fine. Steve could only hope that the woman never found out all that they did that day, Steve was sure she would kill him for his involvement in it all.

They scared Sitwell shitless. Sam had a blast using his wings and Steve suspected that if it hadn’t been for that terrible accident where both Sam’s father and best friend died he would never have let go of them for such a long time.

After they got their hands on another car – once again relegating the driving duty to Steve and wasn’t he just down right sick of it by then – they forced Sitwell in it and were doing a fair job of their next plan if Steve had to be judge when Sitwell was grabbed out of their and thrown into an incoming truck.

It was the first time Steve was seeing the Winter Soldier fully aware of what he was capable of. It was also the first time he was seeing him in any kind of decent lighting. His hopes of looking him in the eyes and having a standoff were dashed as he saw the muzzle and goggles that the guy sported. The arm also looked scarier in daylight, but Steve was confident he would be more than able to handle it on his own if things came to it.

The car got decimated, they all went flying, Steve was still trying to make sure they were all alright when he was forced to jump in front of Nat and push her away to take a shot meant for her from a mini missile. He went flying off the bridge and into a bus where he lost several minutes of events. Steve had no idea where either Nat or Sam where when he started to take care of the mercenaries shooting at him. Sam was the first to make his presence known on top of the bridge, but Nat was still missing from Steve’s mental headcount. Then he realized with a horrified start that so was the Winter Soldier.

Sam send him after Nat as soon as the shooters were all taken care of and Steve didn’t hesitate even for one second before he was running off in pursuit, scared out of his mind of what might happen. Steve had never met anybody that could best Nat and it had come as terrible surprise when Nat told him about her history with the Winter Soldier, so he told himself that it was perfectly reasonable that he was scared out of his mind of what he might do to her if he didn’t arrive in time to help her. Help her, not save her, because if there was someone that never needed saving no matter what circumstances then that person would be Nat.

He arrived on the scene and got to see from afar when Nat got shot.

Steve hadn’t known such fury since his time in the war – or the time when Loki told the team about Odin and then that time when Thor had come back after delivering the Tesseract and Odin might be whatever the hell people said he was, but if Steve ever got to see him he was going to punch that guy so hard nothing of that would matter anymore.

There was no force stopping Steve as he attacked the Winter Soldier with all he had. The fight was extremely matched. Steve would use a fair amount of his strength to throw the guy around and he would just recover to do the exact same thing at him. Steve found himself at the wrong end of the robotic arm of the Soldier way more times than he was comfortable with.

And then the mask came off.

The whole world stopped, a second could have lasted a million years and Steve wouldn’t have noticed it. In front of him was the impossible, his dreams come true as well as the fears he hadn’t ever realized he had, his world crashing to pieces. But most importantly, in front of him was his best friends, his brother in all but blood, the person he would have given his life for in a heartbeat.

And he had no idea who Steve was.

Steve wanted to run over to him, hug him, shout and rage at him, cry as he held him, hit him for what he had done to Nat, but he stood still, shocked in horror at what he was seeing.

And then the moment was over and Bucky was aiming at him and just for that split second Steve was willing to let him shoot him, but then Sam swooped in and then Nat was shooting at Bucky. When the smoke cleared Bucky was nowhere to been seen, the spell had been broken and the time was supposed to continue ticking on. Except it didn’t, not for Steve. He was still trapped in at moment when he had pulled off that muzzle.

They got surrounded by SHIELD almost immediately afterwards. Steve didn’t have it in him anymore to fight. At that moment he didn’t want to fight anymore.

Nat and Sam were arrested along with him and it wasn’t until after they’d ridden in their high security truck that for a while that Steve started to feel guilty for having dragged them into this. Especially Sam. And Nat was bleeding out in the truck and Steve didn’t know what to do. The repercussions of his actions in his moment of shock were hurting his friends and he was never going to forgive himself if something serious happened to them because of him.

He was still in the middle of his pity party when Maria stunned the other guy with them in the truck and revealed herself.

Their escape led them to some secret base not even Nat seemed to have ever heard of before where none other than Nick Fury was waiting for them. Oh, and the Avengers, assembled and ready to kick ass.

Steve momentarily felt his knees go weak underneath him with relief when he saw all his friends congregated around him and ready to help save the world.

“Wait, wait, wait”, said Tony, holding up both his hands in a gesture of confusion, “You’re saying Bucky, your old World War II buddy, was the Winter Soldier all along?!”

Steve nodded morosely, “He didn’t even recognize me. I called him Bucky and he asked who the hell that was”, he took breath to calm himself. Every time he thought about it he still felt as awful as he had at that moment.

Thor was looking grim, Loki looked pale, both swiftly having made the connection between Loki and Bucky. Bruce looked uneasy, along with the rest of the Avengers.

“What do you plan on doing?”, asked Clint, looking between uneasiness and grim understanding.

Steve shrugged and had to take another deep breath to stop his voice from breaking when he spoke, “I have no idea, but I gotta do something. He’s my friend.”

“Look”, began Rhodey, “I’m not saying that he’s not your friend, but you yourself just said that he doesn’t recognize you. He tried to shoot you just before- um, what’s his name?”

“Sam”, supplied Nat, who had just recently come out of her bullet wound treatment.

“Sam. He had to stop him from shooting you when you were in shock.”

“What are you trying to say?”, asked Thor, frowning at Rhodey.

“That he might never recognize Steve. What gives us the reassurance that Steve is going to be able to, say trigger or whatever Bucky’s memory? What if he’s gone for good?”

The mere thought of that possibility broke Steve’s heart in a thousand pieces.

“We can’t commit on anything Steve might be doing to actually work, not with the stakes we currently have”, Rhodey turned to Steve, “I’m sorry buddy, but the world has to come first in this.”

Steve knew he should be agreeing with him, but he couldn’t bring himself to do that. He couldn’t do anything but his very best to help Bucky, even if the whole world was to pay for his actions.

“So what, we just leave him?”, it was Loki that spoke. He was still pale, but now he was looking angry as well.

“Of course not”, Tony intervened, before Rhodey could say something that might set Loki off even worse, “We’ll do what we can, but we’re gonna first make sure that millions of people don’t die, right Cap?”

They all turned to look at him.

Steve took another deep breath and hoped he wasn’t being too obvious about his emotional state with the amount of deep breaths he was taking, “I-I have a plan, but you might not like it.”

Some nodded, “Shoot”, said Tony, looking at him with eyes full of trust, bolstering Steve with newfound confidence.

“I’m going to go after Bucky during the fight”, he held up his hand when he saw a few ready to raise their voices, “Hear me out. Please”, he added desperately, “I can’t ask of you to help me with this, not when the world is in danger, but he is my friend and I promised him I would always be by his side. So I’m going to go after him and try to coach him into remembering me, I’m aware that this might not work, but I also know I need to at least try this or I’ll never forgive myself.”

“I’m still going to do my part in the mission, I’ll just be focusing on Bucky more than I would have otherwise. All I’m asking of you is to not intervene, to let me try”, Steve finished and glanced around at their expressions, “I told you you weren’t going to like it.”

There was silence for a while and then Sam spoke for the first time, “I’m in. You’ll have my backup in all the ways it might help you with your friend.”

Tony sighed in exasperation, “Don’t encourage him”, he turned to look at Steve and gave a huff, “Fine, I’ll help too. Your friend better be less insufferable than you.”

Steve cracked a small smile at that. Clint, Thor and Loki jumped in immediately afterwards, quickly followed by the rest of the team. Steve was still going to have his part in the mission, but he was going to be left to go after Bucky alone, no interventions no matter what.

Sam blended seamlessly into the team dynamics when they prepared for the fight, being far more confident of himself than Steve remembered Rhodey being when they went after Malekith a few months ago.

Steve was relieved when they let him call the shots, even more so when he brought up the fact that they were going to have to bring SHIELD to the ground if they were going to have to bring HYDRA to the ground too. The support of his team was vital when Fury rejected the idea at first.

They left early enough the next morning that Steve could slip in easily at the Smithsonian before the guard finished his rounds. Steve felt a little bad for the guard in charge of his exhibit, but he reasoned that he needed the old suit way more than they did.

They infiltrated SHIELD’s headquarters almost easily and exposed the HYDRA agents right afterwards. As expected, fights broke out all over almost immediately and the Helicarriers were started up right away as well.

Sam, Rhodey, Tony and Thor took to air at once, the rest staying on ground fighting, or in Bruce’s case, waiting with Maria in the control rooms until a code green was needed.

The fight on the ground was a mess, particularly since nobody was sure who the enemies were. Tony had been designated along with Sam and Rhodey to change the chips in the Helicarriers, but after intervening in a fight between SHIELD and HYDRA agents one of his repulsors was damaged so that he couldn’t fly and Steve had to take over his chip.

Sam used the comms to tell them when his chip change was successful, Rhodey’s had yet to be done since he had to take a detour of grabbing Steve and taking him up to one of the Helicarriers before he was able to move on to his own.

It was taking its time, even if Thor was blasting their enemies he was being much slower than usual since he didn’t want to hit any friendlies by accident. On the ground Clint and Loki were fighting back to back and were too busy to come anywhere near the aerial pad. Nat was holding Pierce hostage in his office and Tony was herding people out, shooting at everybody that appeared to be HYDRA.

At some moment Rhodey called in to say he had already done his chip change. Steve was still trying to find his way around the Helicarrier and then Sam was screaming into the comms because apparently he had gotten one of his wings torn off by Bucky when he got too close to one of the Helicarriers.

Steve bit his lip in anxiety and simply pushed onwards, hoping to run into Bucky soon enough to stop him from hurting anybody else. He had been a few meters away from the place where all the chips were and had been about to announce that he too had changed a chip, but then he saw Bucky waiting for him. How he knew Steve was going to be there and how he got there were all beyond Steve, but it was all Steve could do to not rush to his old friend and remind him that Bucky didn’t remember him. He quickly let the team know he had run into Bucky and that he was going to change the chip as soon as he could make his way past Bucky.

Thor was saying something about coming over to help, but was cut short when a nearby explosion that sent him flying and he was forced to defend himself instead of going anywhere near Steve.

The fight with Bucky was brutal. The chip also went flying multiple times. At one of those times, when Steve was thrown around he heard that Nat’s comm had suddenly gone dead, but was comforted in the fact that she was still with Fury when that happened.

The sounds of fighting were coming from all comms, the situation was nearing critical and Steve was dashing to the chip board, but then he got shot. Then again. And again.

He couldn’t stand anymore. That last bullet had gone right through him unlike all the other ones. But he had to. Millions of people depended on it.

Some distant part of his mind cried out that it was unfair that the whole world depended on a 15 year old war veteran that had been shot four times and stabbed once. He squashed down that voice almost as soon as it had spoken and then stood up, changing the chip and saving the world.

Steve fell down straightaway after his duty was done and told Maria to bring the place down. Bruce, who was still at her side, quickly jumped to tell him he was insane, but Steve lied and told him he’d be out anyways before things got too dire. Besides, he still had to go after Bucky, so everything was going to be fine.

Maria might or not have seen through his lies, but at least she didn’t tell Bruce about it and set to do what Steve had told her to.

He got up eventually, when the Heliarrier was exploding to pieces, that’s when he spotted Bucky trapped underneath the debris.

Welp, he still had a friend to save, he thought and without further ado he went to help him out.

They went back to their fight almost immediately after he helped free him. Bucky was as vicious as he had been all the while before, but Steve was done fighting back, figuring if there was a way to get Bucky to remember him it wasn’t going to be through fighting him back.

It did help though. At that moment when he could no longer feel his face it was beaten so badly he saw it. He saw his friend’s face show some signs of recognition for the first time since he had found out he was alive and if that was all Steve ever got to see he would still die happy. Considering he was sure he was going to die within short order he was willing to die with a smile on his face.

Then he was falling though, it felt dreamy yet it wasn’t like this dream usually went. Usually it was Bucky falling away from him, not him falling away from Bucky.

And then there was blackness.

 


 

 

Tony had gotten to what passed as a research center for SHIELD when he took a break from herding people out and took what he could use to fix his repulsors and then went back to herding people.

Around the time the Helicarriers were nuking each other out Tony took shelter and repaired his repulsors the best he could with what little he had been able to gather. Bruce had ranted on his comm about Cap still being on one of the Helicarriers and Tony figured one of them was going to end up having to fish him out of the Potomac and he would like being said someone. He had a rant of his own he had ready for Cap to hear after all.

Thor and Rhodey also joined in the search for Cap, both of them also griping about Cap and his recklessness, Thor intercalating it with curiosity over what had happened in the end with Bucky and Rhodey with his story over how he had bonded with Sam as they had beat up Brock.

Tony was about to comment on how they should invite Sam to join the Avengers when he saw a blue figure lying on the shore not far away. Figuring Cap had swam all the way there and was taking a breather Tony wasn’t too worried, but the closer he got the more worried he got that Cap wasn’t moving.

He landed a few feet away and brought away his faceplate to gaze in horror at Steve’s beaten face. Steve wasn’t taking a breather. Steve was either unconscious or dead.

“GUYS!”, he shouted into his comm, “Steve’s in terrible shape! Send help!”

Tony made JARVIS check for a pulse and almost fainted with relieve when he found one. Tony took off the suit and quickly made to put pressure on a bleeding wound on Steve’s stomach area. Steve coughed up some water when he put pressure there and Tony was horrified to think that Steve, although his heart might be beating, might not be breathing.

JARVIS assured him that Steve was indeed breathing, even if it was shallow and needed medical attention as soon as it could be administered.

Thor landed at his said and cried out in dismay when he saw Steve.

“STEVE!”, he shouted and went to Steve’s shoulder to shake him, “Steve wake up!”

“Stop that, he’s bleeding!”, shouted Tony, getting increasingly worried over the fact that his hands were doing barely anything to staunch the bleeding from Steve’s stomach.

“Guys, Nat got electrocuted and her wound opened, we need another ambulance here at what’s left of SHIELD”, said Clint over the comms and Tony cursed silently.

“Code green was just averted”, came Loki’s relieved announcement over the comms. Tony was suddenly very aware of what his announcement must have made Bruce feel like when he found Steve.

“I’m fine now guys”, it was Bruce this time on the comms, “I’m coming over with Loki and Sam as well.”

“Don’t bother, I can see an ambulance arriving, we’ll be gone by the time you make it here. How’s Nat Clint?”

“Good enough to answer for herself”, came Nat’s tired voice over the comms.

Rhodey landed at their side, opening his faceplate in time for Tony to see him wince when he took in Steve’s condition.

The ambulance arrived seconds later and the paramedics promptly bundled Steve into a stretcher and wheeled him off. Tony and Thor went along in the back of the ambulance and kept everybody updated as the paramadics checked out Steve and discovered more and more injuries.

How he was still even alive was the question asked on all sides and the only answer everybody could think of was the serum. Serum which proved to be a problem since because of it Steve wasn’t compatible with any kind of blood anymore so the doctors were faced with the very real possibility that Steve might still bleed to death.

Tony vowed to make Steve have some stashes of blood at the Tower in case they ever had an emergency like this again. He was going to have Thor and Loki do it as well. Hell, he had a mind of having everybody doing it.

None of his new and extended and ever growing family – if Sam’s presence at the hospital was anything to go by – was going to die if Tony had any say in the matter.

Steve pulled through though, surprising all the doctors and none of his friends.

Tony took to staying at Steve’s room all the time he could and had to fight several doctors when they tried to have him removed. He tried at the beginning by waving his emancipation certificate in their faces, but when they told him that even if he was Steve’s biological mother they would still need him to step out for examinations Tony relented a little. It was a mental image he hadn’t known he didn’t want and he was sure it was going to haunt him, Clint – who had been present when the doctor said that – would make sure Tony and nobody else would ever forget it.

As a result of his near constant stalking of Steve’s bedside Tony was there when Steve awoke for the first time. Tony would be kinda embarrassed that he burst into tears when he saw Steve awake for the first time in over a week, but he was too happy to see Steve’s eyes open and semi-coherent to care. He also knew Steve knew how to keep a secret.

The rest of the Avengers invaded Steve’s room as soon as the doctors cleared him from having any kind of previously unknown damage and assured them Steve would be as good as new with time.

After a mini party had been put to stop by a stern nurse Thor asked Steve what had happened with Bucky and Steve admitted that all the damage had been done to him by Bucky.

Tony had been in the middle of calling JARVIS to suit up by the time Steve got to convince him and the rest of their friends of doing otherwise. Nobody was happy with what had happened, but Steve claimed to have come through to him in the end. Tony wasn’t convinced and he knew he wasn’t the only one skeptical over Bucky’s supposed semi-remembrance.

Fuck that guy as far as Tony was concerned.

 

 

Chapter Text

It all started with a simple comment, like all other disasters started at the Tower – the victims of the Monopoly draft will attest to it till the day they die.

This time, however, it wasn’t Tony or Clint – the usual culprits – it was Natasha. This might explain why things went down the way they did.

“When are you getting a haircut?”, Nat asked Tony one day.

Tony looked up from where he was fixing a new feature on Nat’s suit, bangs covering mostly his eyes and gave her a blank look, “What do you mean?”

Nat gave him an unimpressed look, “Your hair is all over your face, how can you even see?”

“No, it’s not, and for your information I can see perfectly, I have a doctor that can testify to it.”

“When was even the last time you washed it?”, asked Nat, completely ignoring him.

“Just the other day, look, what’s your problem with me?”

Nat gave him an unreadable look, “It looks awful.”

Tony bristled, “Excuse you! My hair looks perfect”, he proceeded to comb through his hair with his fingers and got stuck on the hair at the nape of his neck.

Nat gave him a pointed look.

“So I might not have combed it this morning, so what?”, Tony huffed as he struggled to untangle his fingers from his hair.

“Tony, cut that hair”, said Nat in a no-nonsense tone.

“Never!”, Tony shouted while he was fully aware that his still stuck fingers were taking away some of power of his statement.

Nat narrowed her eyes at him and Tony deflated a little.

“Look, you let Steve go without haircuts! Everybody cuts their hair whenever they want!”, Tony whined as he finished untangling the last of his fingers from his hair.

“This has only gotten out of hand because of all the HYDRA business!”, said Nat irately, “And Steve just got cleared for heavy duty last week by his doctors!”

“Yeah, but-“

“Stop using Steve as an excuse, Tony.”

“What’s happening?”, asked Bruce as he came into the room, looking warily at both of them.

“Oh, Bruce”, Nat started and Bruce started to eye the door in a not-so-covertly way, “We were discussing the hair state of everybody. When was the last time you had a haircut?”

Bruce patted the mob of curls on his head that he called hair, “Ummm, too long I guess? I think I could really do with one”, he smiled sheepishly, “I guess with all this HYDRA hunting I completely forgot about it.”

Tony gave Bruce a look of utter betrayal while Nat looked on in smugness.

“Did I miss something?”, asked Bruce, probably only now sensing he had said something he shouldn’t have. The traitor.

“I don’t care what anybody says, I’m not getting one!”, Tony yelled and then ran away and went to hide in his bedroom.

Things only escalated from there on.

Nat apparently had the idea that people had stopped looking after themselves with the whole HYDRA hunting and that it needed to be fixed as soon as possible. The one that was getting it the easiest was Steve, because the memory of him lying on a hospital bed fighting for his life was still very fresh in everybody’s mind and because he had been taken care of by the whole team while they, admittedly, might not have been doing the same for themselves.

Soon Tony was hunkering down in his lab, at least ten of his new drones on watch permanently.

“Tony”, Steve said, his voice laden with exasperation, “Please don’t take this against Nat, she’s just trying to help. So’s Clint.”

Tony gave him the stink eye, “She’s not having my hair!”

At his side both Loki and Thor nodded in agreement. They had come seeking shelter when Nat had told them they needed to do something about their hair too. Thor had almost burst into tears when she said this. Loki took them down to the lab, where Tony, the charitable person that he is, took them in.

Steve looked at them like he was in pain, “Tony, it’s not only hair she’s insisting about. She’s taking Bruce, Clint, Sam, Rhodey and me to get new clothes tomorrow. Most of us are still growing and Sam just moved in, we need new clothes. There’s talk of Bruce getting new glasses even. Please Tony, come with us”, he sighed, “We’ll get ice-cream afterwards.”

Thor perked up at this.

“We’re not abandoning post!”, said Tony and glared at Steve for accepting Nat’s proposal of a haircut.

Steve gave him an unimpressed look, “If you’re going to get angry at me for wanting a haircut I’ll warn you that I’ll have no sympathy for you.”

Tony sniffed, “Begone then! We don’t want your bribery! You can tell Nat that we stand tall! Our morale is impeccable!”

“B-but I want ice cream”, mumbled Thor.

Tony whipped around to glare at Thor, “Traitor!”, he hissed, “You will abandon our cause for a bit of ice cream?!”

Steve jumped in on the commentary when he saw Thor waver, “We’ll be allowed as much ice cream as we want! Nat promised it as a treat for how well all the missions have gone so far!”

Thor bit his lip as he looked from Steve to Tony, obviously having an internal battle. Loki looked on in boredom, head resting on his hand that was propped on the table Tony was working on.

“Your hair, Thor!”, exclaimed Tony, arms flung out wide in the most dramatic way possible.

“I’ll convince Nat to let you have that poptart plushie you wanted so much the other day”, said Steve and Tony knew that he had lost by the way Thor’s eyes lit up.

“Really?”, he whispered in the way 4 year olds did when you told them Santa Claus was just about to come leave him a present. Last time he had wanted that plushie nobody had let him buy it.

Steve nodded, “Of course!”

Thor hopped off his chair in happiness, “Come Loki! Maybe we’ll convince her not to cut it all off, just a little bit so she’ll be appeased.”

Loki rolled his eyes and went after Thor as he was literally skipping after Steve when they left the lab.

Just before he left Steve turned to give Tony a look full of smugness.

Tony gave him the finger.

As he was left alone after the last of his allies had betrayed him Tony went to his suit and hugged it, “You’re my only friend”, he mumbled.

Later, Bruce came in and told him about the trip they were going to make the next day. How Tony’s favorite designer was just at the other side of one of the malls they would be visiting. How the guy that was cutting their hair was somebody that Nat trusted from Brooklyn and that everything would be alright.

“Brooklyn? Why Brooklyn of all places?”, asked Tony, slightly bewildered.

Bruce shrugged, “She just said she knows the guy won’t mess up or blab to the press.”

Tony gave him a skeptical glance and went back to working on some modifications to his suit.

Bruce eventually left and some hours later Rhodey was at his side, giving the most unimpressed look Tony had ever seen on his face.

“Tony, nobody is going to shear your hair off, even if it might do you some good if I have to say so myself, so would you calm the hell down and just come along tomorrow?”, said Rhodey in a voice that conveyed exactly how done he was with everything, “Please, we have another mission to go to three days from now and from the intel we might gather there who knows when we’ll have a free gap again. We already look like hobos as it is, imagine how you’ll look in, say, another month of this hunting?”

Rhodey made a good point, Tony would not negate that, yet Tony had never been a reasonable person and nobody was going to make him admit anything out loud.

“Dummy, ATTACK!”, he pointed at Rhodey and Dummy came wheeling around the corner, fire extinguisher at the ready and aiming it at Rhodey.

Rhodey cursed and hastily made his escape, leaving Tony behind to cackle madly.

It was close to midnight when Steve made his way again into his lab and was met with the fiercest glare that Tony could muster. Steve, to his credit, barely even winced, but was still tragically undeterred from talking to Tony.

“Tony, please”, he said and gave Tony the puppy eyes and holy crap, Captain America had puppy eyes!

“You don’t have to say anything now, but just know that we’ll be leaving at 7:30 and Nat is only willing to wait 15 minutes. She also promises not to say anything if you decide to come”, and then he gave Tony another dose of his puppy eyes and left.

Tony was too stunned to do anything but stare at the place Steve had stood at for some time.

The next morning at 7:40 Tony was climbing into the van as the rest of the avengers cheered him on. If Tony was to be honest he would have to admit that the cheering did help ease some of the tension in his shoulders.

They first drove to Brooklyn where they stopped at a small shop that said ‘Julio’s’ and that Tony would probably have never thought to go into, but they all made their way out of the van – that was more like a mini bus if Tony was to be honest – and into the saloon without any mayor fuss.

Clint went first since he knew the hairdresser – who was aptly named Julio – and he knew what Clint wanted. Clint only had a small mob of blond hair that had barely reached the nape of his neck, so there was little to be fixed and soon it was Bruce’s turn. He got a decent cut, if Tony was to be judge, the conditioner used to wash his hair by the assistant certainly helped.

Steve, whose hair was neck length and going into his eyes wanted a military standard cut, but Nat intervened and he ended up with a normal cut that didn’t look half bad on him. Julio was adamant Steve was well on his way to becoming a model, which made Steve blush and everybody else laugh.

Thor was next and before Julio could begin Nat whispered something in his ear. Thor got barely any hair cut and before they knew it he was also having his hair washed by the assistant. It went almost the same with Loki, except that Loki was much calmer than Thor was. Sam barely needed any hair to be cut and soon he was also getting his hair washed. Rhodey got a buzzcut and didn’t need what few hair he had left to be washed so it was Tony’s turn much sooner than he had expected.

After they wrestled him into a chair and Nat whispered something into Julio’s ear, he set to work. Tony closed his eyes and hoped for the best. It was only after he got his hair washed that he opened them and looked in the mirror.

Where his previously shoulder length hair had been-it was still there? Except much more fluffy. It looked nice when it was combed and without knots. His bangs no longer covered his eyes, instead now they were on level with his eyebrows and – damn, he looked good. His fluffy hair just touching his shoulders was still no contestant to Thor’s, which went a little past his shoulder and Loki’s which were at some place between Thor’s hair length and Tony’s, but damn did he look good.

They left Julio skipping and happy and taking selfies all the time and barely made it into the minibus on time for their trip to the mall. When they arrived at the mall Nat let them all go free.

“I’m not your babysitter, you can all buy your damn clothes”, she said and happily went her own way.

They went to two malls after that one and ended at Tony’s tailor, who measured all of them and promised classy new suits for all of them. It wasn’t really argued that they would never use them, since there was often some sort of gala going on in New York that they were expected at. Not that they always delivered on said expectations.

Nat’s newfound concern also ended up extending to food as they found themselves eating lunch at some health restaurant that had more vegetables in their menu than Tony had ever thought possible.

The shopping day ended with ice-cream by the buckets and Tony’s self-reassurance that one more cone wasn’t going to make him puke.

As they were sitting later on the day around the living room with stomach aches Tony reflected on the hectic past month and a half they’d had since Steve got himself shot half to death and HYDRA was uncovered.

Steve had been in the hospital for a grand total of two weeks and a half before the doctors ran out of excuses to keep him longer. He’d still looked pale and his wounds were still red scars on his skin and he’d lost quite a bit of weight – weight that had taken him long to gain – but he was already jogging around a week after they were back at the Tower and even now he still had faint scars, Tony knew that within a month there might not be any sign left over of that time his friend had almost lost his life.

In a way, Steve almost terrified Tony.

That night, Nat posted a list of healthy takeaways with firm instructions to use them more often or if not, then at least to call the kitchens of the Tower and ask Chef Emilio for something healthy since nobody was going to develop nutritional issues while she was on the team.

Steve, the traitor, backed her up immediately, Bruce said he liked cooked stuff better anyways and Rhodey nodded in approval. Loki agreed with whatever Nat said and Thor agreed with whatever Loki agreed with. Clint didn’t look too happy, but he knew better than to argue with Nat.

Traitors, the lot of them.

 

 

Chapter Text

It had been a few months since Sam had joined the Avengers and he still wasn’t used to all the crazy.

Fortunately the crazy would take a break soon. They were just about to storm the last HYDRA base and then they would take a break for as long as they wanted. There was even talk of getting out Betsy – the RV – and going on another road trip. Even though Sam had his reservations about the road trip idea Tony had managed to sell it to him when he gave Sam a tour of the RV along with promises of stopping anywhere he wished.

Sam had to dodge left as the first HYDRA goons appeared and began shooting at them. He was so ready for that break.

Steve was quick to order them on the comms to spread out into smaller formations.

Not that they hadn’t done this a million times, but Sam was still grateful for all those hours Steve had drilled them at the gym to practice their movements. Steve was with Thor, Tony with Rhodey, Nat with Clint, Bruce was alone, Hulking out, and Loki was with Sam.

Sam didn’t really have anything against Loki, but he had grown tired of him real fast during all their hours together in practices. Loki had a penchant for starting to prank the people around him if he got bored. Unfortunately, Sam had happened to be the person nearest to Loki for quite some time.

He still hadn’t got rid of all the glitter after Loki’s first prank and he was sure his hair still glowed a little in the dark, result of Loki’s latest prank.

Thor wasn’t much help in Sam’s suffering, he simply insisted that this was all a very good sign of how Loki was healing from all his traumas and whatnot. Sam just wished he had other ways in which to heal, ways that preferably didn’t have anything to do with him.

The initial stage of the battle went well. There were a lot of quips being thrown around and Sam knew that meant that everybody was pretty confident of how the battle was progressing.

Steve said ‘language’, Strucker’s base was all ways of fortified and Loki and Tony sniggered the whole time at Steve’s slip up. Those would have been the battle highlights for Sam if things hadn’t started to go south almost immediately after Tony got into the HYDRA base.

It started when Clint went down and Nat began yelling into the comms for somebody to come get them out of the fire. Steve was yelling about some meta-human on the loose with super speed. Sam never saw him, seeing as he was taking down a tank while Loki distracted it with illusions when Steve made the announcement.

Sam was just gearing up for another round of fighting when Loki was called to end code green since it was all over. Loki had come up with some sort of, well, Sam wasn’t sure what it was, but it made the Hulk calm down enough for Bruce to come back.

Tony soon announced that he had his hands on the Scepter Loki had used when he invaded earth and that they could go home. Sam was happy enough with the news he didn’t even stop to consider how weird it had been for Tony to be silent for so long before he made his announcement.

They all met back at the jet, Clint making pouty faces, Bruce covered in a blanket and listening to his music, Steve trying to contact somebody who knew something about the two meta-humans spotted at the battle and Thor was trying to involve Loki in a game of thump wars.

Sam just settled into his seat and relaxed as he thought about all the wonderful free time he was going to have now that everything was over.

 

 

Steve checked his watch for what he was sure was the nth time that afternoon. They were going to throw a party that night in celebration of all that they had accomplished against HYDRA.

The only problem Steve had with this was that he doubted he was going to get everybody ready for the time the party actually started. Except maybe Nat, but that was because she was only responsible enough one out of all of them to be actually on time.

Steve bounded into the lab to check on Bruce and Tony who had been trying to crack the secrets of the Scepter before Thor braved it back to Asgard to give it to Odin. The only consolation Steve could find in that idea was that when Thor went to give back the Aether to Odin he at least didn’t come back full of bruises and on the verge of tears like the last time he went there to drop something off. Not that the other time he had gone when Jane had been in danger he’d come back looking any better. He had scared the ever loving shit out of literally everybody, most of all Loki, when he had come into their living room bloodied, teary, generally distraught and urging Loki to come with him to Asgard.

Loki had tried to deny Thor’s pleas, but then Thor broke down and said it was something about their mother and Loki had quickly accepted. Steve still wonders if Loki went to Asgard with his current earth clothes – which consisted of a pair of converse, jeans and t-shirt – or if he created an illusion for Odin to see him like he had always looked when he used to be the prince.

Steve sighed when he noticed that despite his presence in the lab Tony and Bruce were so invested in what they were doing that they didn’t even notice him standing at their door and watching them. Steve was kinda sorry that Loki gave their whole project a wide berth, if he was still at Bruce’s side – like he was almost always – he would at least implement obligatory breaks.

Nat had informed him that Rhodey was the only reason why they hadn’t starved themselves to death yet. It was a little worrisome, but Steve consoled himself on the fact that the Scepter would be leaving soon, which didn’t really console him at all, it just transferred his worries from Tony and Bruce to Thor and perhaps Loki.

Next he checked in on Clint who was talking secretly on his phone again while he thought he was hiding in the air vents. Steve didn’t have the heart in him to tell Clint that everybody knew his secret lair were the air vents, so he just shouted up at his general direction to tell him he better get ready for the party or he would sic Nat on him.

At the landing deck of their Quinjet there had been set up a small inflatable pool after the battle in Sokovia. Steve still wasn’t sure if this was something good or bad.

Sam, Loki and Thor were all lounging in the pool, which wasn’t even big enough for all three of them so half of Thor’s legs were dangling outside of it. Steve had to suppress a laugh at the sight of them. For all that Sam swore that he couldn’t stand Loki he had gotten surprisingly attached to their resident trickster. And just like anybody that found themselves attached to Thor soon found themselves attached to Loki, the same was true the other way round as was being presented by the evidence in front of Steve.

Sam was discussing some baseball team with Thor when Steve walked up to them and had to interrupt them to tell them the party was in two hours. Loki at least nodded at him so Steve had some hopes that they wouldn’t all just turn up at the party soaking wet and in their swim trunks.

Rhodey was out to pick up Pepper from the airport so Steve didn’t have to worry about him too. He tried the labs again afterwards and managed to get Bruce’s attention for long enough to tell him about the party.

The catering service was all set up already and Steve got treated to the bewildered looks of all of them when they saw Loki marshal Thor and Sam to the elevator, all three of them soaking wet and in flip-flops.

He made sure to take a picture of it.

The party ended up being pretty enjoyable. Everybody was there and ready on time, Nat, Bruce and Loki made the weirdest dancing trio he had ever seen, but were undeniably cute, Tony didn’t make anything explode like in their last party, Thor only broke two glasses and Clint didn’t spend too much time in the air vents.

All in all it was peaceful enough that Steve got to talk with the veterans for as long as he wanted. He also got to witness an epic pool game between Nat, Pepper, Maria Hill and Helen Cho. Tony spent the whole game cheering on Pepper while Clint did the same for Nat.

As the party dwindled down and everybody went home Thor brought out Mjolnir and a debate started – for the millionth time – over what made it possible for only Thor being able to lift it.

Ideas were thrown around by the smarter people present while Loki made same scathing remarks about Thor’s obsession with his hammer. Not that Steve wanted to be dragged into all the drama, but if it was true that Thor had a bed with a pillow, blanket and all other stuff just for his hammer then Steve would have to agree with Loki.

Then they all got to try out if they could lift Mjolnir and, well, Steve wasn’t sure about what happened when he got his try, but he thought that the less he thought about it the better.

And then, just when everything was at its most peaceful, even Loki and Clint were halfway asleep on the couch, then, everything went to hell.

Steve really should have worried more about what Tony and Bruce were mucking about in their lab.

But then they found out what Ultron did to JARVIS. Steve had rarely seen Tony look as distraught as he did at that moment and Steve didn’t have the heart do berate Tony for something he was sure Tony was already lamenting at that point.

They sat and talked about what specifically made up Ultron’s coding till late that night, Loki disappearing pretty early into the conversation. It was only a matter of time before they would have to corner Loki and ask him to tell all he knew about the Scepter and Steve wasn’t particularly looking forward to that.

They started early the next morning to research what Ultron was after, having to rely mostly on paper files – they were going to be finding stray paper all over the Tower for ages, Steve just knew it – and eventually they were able to identify the place where he was most likely to be next at.

Some sort of a plan was quickly thought up and Steve was sure Tony was going to ignore everything he said during the flight over to the African Coast, but at least it was better than nothing.

They barged into the freighter and as soon as Steve saw the Maximoff twins he knew all the plans he had made were for nothing and everybody was just going to do whatever they wanted from there on. It was a problem when so many on the team were highly independent, but on the other hand, it almost always worked out so Steve supposed that it wasn’t that bad after all.

Seeing the twins side by side and before they could start running around made Steve’s blood boil at the thought of HYDRA using another pair of children for their experimentation. They couldn’t be older than Bruce or Loki, who were 12 and looked like 12, but actually weren’t, respectively.

Yet they both looked defiant and ready for battle, just like they had on the short glimpses Steve had caught of them at Sokovia.

Ultron started the fight when he attacked Tony and immediately everybody was moving. Steve was mostly concentrating on the twins, first on the girl and then later he tried to put down the boy, but somehow knew he wasn’t going to listen to him.

He got distracted when he saw Thor falter and was still doubting he was fine when the boy twin got the drop on him and then his sister was there and-

It was the end of the war. People were celebrating, dancing and drinking and eating like they never could before on the battle lines. He probably wouldn’t have to go hungry ever again when he went back home, he could even get a good job now that he wasn’t so tiny and sickly anymore. He would also never have to worry about going to the doctor ever again or lying in bed for days on end.

Steve turned around and there was Bucky, his arm slung around Peggy who always a bit taller than them, and smiling.

“Steve!”, said Bucky and he was smiling like Steve remembered him smiling, his eyes so alive and full of joy, so different from the last time he had seen him.

“Isn’t this wonderful?”, Peggy asked and Steve could only stare at her. The last time he had seen her was when he had been at Washington, before everything with SHIELD and HYDRA had happened and it had broken his heart. She had aged, but that wasn’t really the problem, it was that she had aged and he hadn’t, he was still a kid trying to live an adult’s life, just like he had always been. And she couldn’t remember he had come back, he had to tell her several times that he had come back and that everything was going to be fine.

“Steve”, and now Bucky had his free hand on Steve’s shoulder, his face solemn, but his eyes still alive, “We can go home now”, he said.

But. But this wasn’t his home, was it? That wasn’t Bucky either, no matter how much it broke his heart.

He wished he could go with them.

Back at Brooklyn, they would get to settle back into their old lives. Steve could join the art school and Bucky would be able to go to university like he had always dreamed.

But it wasn’t real. Bucky’s eyes had lost their light decades ago, while Steve was still in the ice and useless to do anything about it.

It broke his heart, but nothing was real.

 

 

Tony was huddled up in a corner on the opposite side of the Quinjet that Bruce was in.

Bruce was looking terrible. Steve, Thor, Loki and Nat were dazed and barely even talked. Rhodey and Sam had been on air support with Tony and so they had escaped from the Maximoff girl’s attack on the rest of the team.

Clint had to drag most of them to the jet while Tony did all the damage control he could, but still somehow didn’t manage to do enough.

It was all his fault – those were the words that kept repeating themselves in Tony’s head.

How could he have let this happen?

They couldn’t even go back to their Tower, Clint had to offer up some safe house he had stashed away somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

Tony was still in the middle of his own miserable pity party when they entered Clint’s house and what looked like a Golden Retriever bounded up to Clint and began to bark happily.

“What”, was all Tony’s brain could come up with.

“Everyone, meet Lucky”, said Clint with so much pride one would think he was presenting to them his firstborn, “Lucky, this is everyone.”

There was a general consensus of shocked silence. Except from Nat, she was at Clint’s side in five second flat saying hello to Lucky.

“First, that blonde with long hair over there is Thor”, Clint pointed at Thor, “Thor c’mon, he doesn’t bite.”

Thor was at Clint’s side instantly, whatever trauma he had picked up already disappearing.

“Lucky, shake”, Clint said and Lucky held out his paw for Thor who almost died with elation right then and there as he shook Lucky’s paw.

“Ok, Loki’s next, cum’ere”, Loki approached Lucky reluctantly, but when he shook the offered paw he smiled brightly.

Lucky therapy was given to everybody – including Tony – and soon they were all giving him belly rubs and stroking his head and telling him he was a good boy.

“Why didn’t you ever tell us about him?”, asked Thor, his lap full of Lucky and with Loki and Steve at his sides stroking Lucky.

“I kinda just got him some months ago, when I went after the tracksuit mafia, remember?”, there were affirmative nods from everybody. Clint’s struggles with the tracksuit mafia were legendary.

“So he saved my life and I decided to help him back, but I didn’t know what to do with him. So I brought him here. This is my most precious place in the world, only Nat has ever known of this place.”

“It still doesn’t make sense to me”, said Tony.

“Shut up and be happy you’re here”, said Nat and leaned over Steve to pet Lucky and call him cutesy names.

Tony rolled his eyes, “Fine.”

They had some more pet time and then Thor sadly announced that he had a vision that needed to be sorted out.

“A vision? What on earth do you mean? And sort out how?”, Loki instantly demanded.

“Everything will be fine”, said Thor happily and before Loki could stop him he was already out the door and flying away.

“That bastard”, muttered Loki not-so-silently.

“Yeah, so that was that”, said Clint, also staring into the horizon as Thor flew away, “Anyways”, he clapped his hands together and grinned at them, “Who wants dinner?”

Hands were raised.

“Okay, so first, we need wood for the house at night, you”, he pointed at Steve and Tony, “Get to it. The rest of us are on kitchen duty, chop chop, everybody get to it”, and with that he skipped off to his kitchen.

“He’s far too obnoxious at his own house”, muttered Tony crossly and made his way to where he could see wood lying about.

Tony and Steve spend the rest of the day turning chopping wood into a competition. Steve got angry a few times when Tony insisted they change the rules and at the end just gave up and let Tony win 190 to 50. It took Tony hours to tweak the rules in such a way to make that possible.

His final score and victory over Steve was written on a piece of paper and placed on the refrigerator door, much to his own enthusiasm. Steve just rolled his eyes, but that didn’t deter Tony in the slightest.

That night they turned Clint’s living room into a giant sleepover bed and ate popcorn while they argued who would look better in a spandex suit.

“No”, insisted Rhodey after he had been voted the most likely one to look better in spandex a second time in a row.

Tony was laughing so hard it was beginning to hurt to breath.

“Tony, you are not making me a spandex suit”, said Rhodey indignantly, reading Tony’s mind and killing all his fun.

“Killjoy!”, Tony said and proceeded to turn himself into a blanket burrito.

The next morning three people were necessary to untangle him from his blanket burrito. As they were all leaving to stop Ultron from getting a new body Jane called Loki to inform him that Thor was in some pool of a sort having weird visions and what should they do in the case it looked like he was drowning.

Loki rolled his eyes so hard Tony was afraid he was going to sprain something.

So while Tony was going to hit the Nexus with Bruce, the rest of the team was going to stop Ultron and Loki was going to go check on his brother before he did something stupid.

When they got back at the Tower Tony was one of the first to hear of the mission going considerably south, with only Clint being able to escape with the cradle, having left the rest of the team behind. Something about a train derailing that was going to keep them up. Nat was with Ultron, but even though Tony knew that Nat didn’t ever need rescuing he was still worried about that development.

When they got the cradle Tony looked at the mostly formed body inside of it and had to stare for a little while.

It was the shape of a small child, around Tony’s age, yet a little smaller. Tony estimated Ultron might have had a 13 year old body in mind. A body of a teenager, Tony thought, so he could grow with time. It was a symbol of how he planned to become bigger and greater with time.

It gave Tony an idea.

 

 

Wanda knew she and her brother had made mistakes in their lives. The time they had spent as homeless orphans in the streets of Sokovia had been harsh and they hadn’t always known what to do, but they had prevailed, together, like they always had.

Von Strucker had been a blessing and a curse at the same time. They had needed him if they were ever to get revenge of Tony Stark, but Wanda had soon realized that he was a cruel man that would do anything for power. It scared her often that she and her brother were the ones with the power he so greatly wanted sometimes. They were nothing more than tools to him.

So when the end had come for Von Strucker she and Pietro had run. It had left them with a sour taste in the mouth to set their revenge on pause, but they had to protect each other at all costs even if they hadn’t had so much as a roof over their heads after they ran away.

When Ultron approached them it had been an answer to all their problems. Ultron had all the answers to their questions and so many promises of a better world that they had been blinded by his ideas and decided to ignore all else.

It had scared Wanda when Ultron had cut that man’s arm off, but she had reasoned that he was an evil man that deserved it anyways and just moved onwards.

It had then scared her again what he did to those doctors at South Korea, but she had reasoned that it was the better option if they were to get to their objectives. The end goal was always more important.

And then she discovered what the end goal really was.

She felt horrified by herself and her brother could only look on sadly as she described who Ultron really was.

They’d helped bring the world to its end and Wanda didn’t know if she could ever be able to forgive herself.

Then there had been that train and Wanda knew they could do something about it. So they did.

Captain America was there, along with the Falcon, who was saving people left and right and the War Machine, who was clearing the area in front of the train best he could with Pietro’s help.

She explained what she had seen in Ultron’s mind to Captain America and instead of scorn and rebuking she received understanding and a warm smile.

He told her that it wasn’t necessary, but that she could help if she wanted, that nobody would think less of her for just walking away, that she had already done the right thing by walking away from Ultron.

Wanda had never believed in heroes, but on that moment, she knew she was seeing one right in front of her.

“I want to help”, she said.

“Me too!”, said Pietro, suddenly at her side and completely out of breath. Wanda was sometimes worried her brother’s speed would one day hurt him more than it did him any good.

“Here, have this”, the War Machine said, the same guy that was best friends with Tony Stark, the same guy with a name as violent as War Machine, as he handed her brother a bag of warm pastries.

Pietro immediately had a few smushed into his mouth.

Captain America eyed the bag and then turned to the War Machine, “Where did you get that?”

“Some lady insisted I have it after I saved her life and I don’t know how to say ‘no thank you’ in Korean so I just ended up accepting, besides, he looks like he could do with some pick me up”, said the War Machine as he opened his face plate and revealed a guy smiling warmly at Pietro.

“Th’nks”, said Pietro around the pastry still in his mouth, making Wanda grimace, “Don’t you want any?”, he asked after he thankfully swallowed.

“Nah, I’m good. Besides, you deserve that after what you did out there today”, came the kind answer and Wanda wanted to say that they didn’t deserve anything, not after all that they’d done.

Captain America – Steve, please – told her after everything had calmed down about Tony Stark having the cradle and she insisted that he was going to bring it to life.

At first he didn’t want to believe her, but then he shared a look the Falcon and went to talk with the War Machine for some time and apparently came to the conclusion that Tony Stark was better off without having the cradle, in Steve’s words, ‘in his grubby little hands’.

They made it to the Avengers Tower before the cradle could be fully charged and Wanda was so relieved that she forgot for a moment that the rest of the Avengers still saw her and her brother as the enemies.

Steve was there in a second shouting at Stark that there was a misunderstanding even as Hawkeye began shooting at her brother and the War Machine joined Steve at shouting at Stark.

Banner was still trying to make the cradle work and when Wanda tried to stop him he began threatening her with the Hulk. The Falcon was there quickly and tried to appease Banner, but nothing was working.

Then Thor came running into the room and began channeling electricity at the cradle. Loki was there seconds later shouting at Thor about how much of an idiot was he. Wanda had to agree, but she was so petrified in terror at what might happen next that she couldn’t do much except stare and gape.

Then the cradle exploded outwards and a terrible red childlike thing sprang forth.

Everybody stared in silence as the thing looked back at them and then it was attacking Thor and Loki was at his side almost immediately, but Thor ran after it and stopped all of them from going near it after it had flown over to the windows.

Then the thing came down and apologized.

Thor explained about his vision while Loki and everybody else kept a wary eye on the thing. It explained why it was going to fight for humanity and against Ultron, but nobody was very convinced with it. Then it lifted Thor’s hammer and even Wanda and her brother knew that was not something you just did.

That seemed to have satisfied everybody and soon Steve was telling everybody their part in his plan and ordering people to suit up.

Hawkeye – its Clint – had received some sort of message from the Black Widow, who had been captured by Ultron which made everybody relieved and made Wanda wonder how the woman was still alive.

More than once people went and patted Stark on his back and only later Wanda would learn that they were all basically mourning the fact that Stark had lost his AI, in a way, by integrating his code – or something – with the Vision.

It was Thor’s idea to call him that, even though his brother had apparently told him it was tacky. Wanda was just happy she didn’t have to keep referring him as it, since she didn’t like calling somebody as kind and gentle as Vision an ‘it’.

Wanda had never been in a full out battle, not really, but the amount of confidence the whole group had about their chances made Wanda equally as confident.

The War Machine, or Rhodey as Stark insisted they call him, was quick to make friends with Pietro as well as Clint. Steve gave her a walkthrough of the plan before they landed and told her that if she ever needed help to just call in on the comms.

Stark even went over to joke with her brother, Clint and Rhodey before they arrived and seemed to enjoy it very much to talk with people that had been trying to kill him just the previous day.

Pietro was placed on the Stark support team, along with Rhodey and Loki. Wanda, Clint and Sam were placed on the Steve support team while Bruce and Thor were the rescue team.

Maybe, just maybe they could do this.

 

 

It had all been going excellent until Ultron revealed his master plan to Tony and the city began rising into the air.

Steve was shouting into the comms and Thor was saying something about Nat and the Hulk making their way over, so at least Nat had been liberated, it was the only consolation they had.

There was an army of robots all over the place and there were still civilians around. Tony, Rhodey and Sam were quick to try to get as many people off the floating city, but soon they were too high up and that option had to be ruled out.

Plans were flying around as to what to do next while civilians were being rescued left, right and center. Thor got into a fight with Ultron, Wanda was apparently killing it along with Clint and Pietro was everywhere.

Tony was just trying to figure out how to get out of their problem without having to blow up the flying city.

There was a short lull in the battle from what Tony could gather from the comms going from shouting to normal conversation.

Pietro and Clint were bickering with Loki adding his two cents every once in a while as Steve and Wanda talked about civilians taking refuge at the hospital.

Then, miracle of all miracles, SHIELD was there. Not the old corrupted one, but the true SHIELD, as it had always supposed to be.

The flying members of the team were immediately on civilian evacuation along with Pietro. Soon they had to switch from evacuating the people to protecting them again as they were relentlessly attacked.

Steve called in a distraction move near the drill and everybody that could be spared relocated in an effort to distract Ultron and all his drones from the evacuation.

They moved flawlessly as a team. Vision, Wanda and Pietro blending in like they had always been there. Not even once did anybody bump into somebody else, not one shot went stray, not one fist missed its target. They were at their peak. Tony had to wonder if they would ever be able to get better than they were. It seemed impossible to him.

Ultron and Vision were suddenly outside what was left of the church and Thor and Tony were quick to follow, the Hulk right behind them.

It was then that Ultron decided to run.

Tony wanted to crow in victory, but he knew that if even one of the drones got away it would all just happen again with time.

The air unit was quickly formed, just like it had been done before countless of times, but this time Vision joined them. The four of them were practically unbeatable. Tony was sure the battle was already won, what with Steve making sure the last of the civilians were on their way to the Helicarrier and Loki being called in to end code green, so he went underneath the flying city and located where he had to drill.

Then there was desperate shouting over the comms followed by heart clenching screams followed by an abrupt silence.

“What happened?!”, he shouted, he needed to know what had happened, especially if he and Thor were going to destroy the flying city before time was up.

“Pietro is dead”, said Clint over the comms, his voice laden with thick emotion.

Tony suck in a deep breath as he felt like he had been hit multiple times in the stomach, his breath completely stolen for a moment.

“A-are you sure?”, he had to ask, Ultron had already cost them too much. Tony didn’t know if he could handle losing somebody else after what happened with JARVIS.

“Yeah”, Clint’s voice broke over the comms.

Near silence resumed on the comms, only ever interrupted by Steve making announcements of how many civilians were left over. When there were finally nobody left over on the floating city Tony forced his voice not to waver as he told Thor that he was ready.

The floating city exploded without issue and Tony had to hurry to get away from all the flying debris.

It took Tony a while to brave it back to the ground where SHIELD was lowering the civilians to the part of the city that hadn’t risen into the sky and when he did he quickly got out of his suit and ran over to where the team were congregated.

Steve, face tear stricken, was trying to coordinate a rescue effort to the nearby lake since somebody had seen Thor fall into it. Sam and Rhodey were already at the scene, searching the water surface. Steve didn’t know where Clint was since he wasn’t answering his comm and Nat had only reported some time ago that she was safe and then turned her comm off. There were also no sights of Loki, Vision or Wanda.

Thor was fished out of the lake soon after and brought over to where Steve and Tony were sitting tightly by each other’s side, trying everything in their might not to break down and cry. Tony knew Steve had a soft spot for the twins from the moment he first saw them and he could only imagine what he was feeling now that one was dead and the other missing.

When Sam and Rhodey landed with a soaked Thor they didn’t look too happy at having nothing else to do. Rhodey especially, he just got out of his suit and began pacing around, rubbing his face every once in a while, probably whipping away tears, Tony supposed. Sam just sat at Thor’s side, who was inconsolable at what happened with Pietro and was worried sick about Loki.

“Guys”, came Loki’s distraught voice over the comms and everybody immediately jumped to attention, “I can’t find Bruce anywhere. He was still the Hulk when I last saw him and now nobody knows where he is”, Loki sounded close to tears.

Thor quickly asked where he was and ran over to his side when told where. Tony had FRIDAY on the job of looking for sightings of the Hulk immediately. Sam and Rhodey were in the air in seconds flat while Steve began talking to the rescuers that he could find to ask them if they had seen somebody with Bruce’s description.

Vision appeared a while later with Wanda and that at least made Steve and Tony calm down a little and seconds later Nat called in to tell them she had found Clint and they were both fine.

Tony took a deep breath and was just thankful that nobody else was missing. He went back to searching for Bruce quickly though.

He wasn’t going to lose anybody else that day, not f he had any say about it.

Chapter Text

Tony looked up from where he was finishing up the last of the designs for the New Avengers Facility to check the hour and winced.

Today was the day they were going to hold Pietro’s funeral.

It turned out that Clint had saved Pietro’s body and looked over it while Wanda gathered the courage she needed to go see him.

Clint, like everybody else, took to losing Pietro pretty badly. The Maximoff twins had quickly been accepted into the team for their mission at Sokovia, they were Avengers in all the ways except the official.

The news that a 12 year old boy had died defending the earth hadn’t sat well with the media and Tony had dozens of lawyers working overtime trying to keep the government from jumping them like vultures. Steve had a planned speech he was going to give in about a week after the funeral, so Tony had told all his lawyers that they should cite mourning as the excuse of why the Avengers weren’t coming forwards with their statements.

Not that many people expected any statements from them, the internet was going wild with photos that were taken at Sokovia. The one that all news agencies loved most was one were Clint was sitting by Pietro’s body on the ground of one of the transporters, his face covered in dust, making his tear tracks much more visible, blood seeping from a head wound into his face and his knuckles bloody. Clint was looking at Pietro with sadness in his eyes when the photo was taken.

For many that picture spoke for itself and the world needed to stop depending on children to protect it.

Tony would have laughed if he felt like it. They might be children, true, but the things that threatened the world didn’t care if they were children. There were no adults with their powers, resources or willpower so they could take over. There was nobody the earth could call if the Avengers failed.

And yeah, maybe it was unfair that they had to give their childhood to protecting the world, but it wasn’t like any of them had a real childhood before they signed up for the Avengers that they were missing out on now. Besides, Tony was perfectly content with giving up his childhood if that meant that the planet he lived on got to continue existing and he was certain that the rest of the team thought the same.

Shit was going to happen, never mind if there were any Avengers or not, so there might as well be.

Tony trudged up to his wardrobe and got out his best black suit and set to preparing himself.

The funeral itself was well done, they had gotten a bright silver casket for Pietro, to mimic his hair color and lots of flowers were then stacked on top of his tomb when they finished burying him. The burial site was a private piece of land that Tony had sent to clear and pretty up besides where the new Facility was going to be.

Wanda clung to Rhodey and Nat the whole funeral, Clint tried to creep to the side to be alone, but Steve had gone to stand at his side to keep him company, Thor clung to Loki who looked rather removed from it all, but that could be explained by the continued disappearance of Bruce.

Tony felt another strong pang in his chest.

Bruce had simply disappeared from the face of the planet, nobody had seen hide or hair from either the Hulk or Bruce Banner.

Bruce Banner had never been really linked to the Avengers, not really, mostly since the origin of the Hulk was trying to be kept a secret, but also because Bruce had once opened up enough for them to understand that the last thing he needed was to get back to his family, foster or otherwise.

Several papers had to be done in secret and at the end Bruce had been listed as the new ward of the secret CEO of Stark Industries and after Tony got his emancipation things got put into motion to get Bruce his own emancipation as soon as he hit 13.

Bruce was still 12, only a couple months away from 13 and now he was disappeared.

JARVIS also didn’t exist anymore so Tony was taking the full weight of the company until FRIDAY had assimilated enough information to pass off as the new secretive CEO. Tony supposed that he would have to get another dozen or so lawyers to get the necessary papers in order so that FIRDAY looked like a real person that had not suddenly sprung up from nowhere.

As if all this wasn’t enough Sam’s aunt was trying to get him away from them and even though Sam actually liked his aunt he had spent most of his life either working to perfect his wings or riding them. He had even lost his best friend in the process, so there was no chance in hell he was going to leave them.

It had filled Tony’s heart with warmness when he heard Sam say those words, so he called his lawyers and they sent in papers that Tony had gotten prepared just in case if Sam wanted to get emancipation himself.

The process had already been started and it would be announced publicly when Steve gave his speech in a few days.

Tony sat down with a loud thump in his lab and tried not to think about how much he missed having both Bruce and JARVIS around.

Vision was mostly lurking around. He had been present at the funeral, standing in the back along with Sam, looking quite out of place in his weird suit and cape.

There were some worries of how he was going to incorporate into the life of being mostly human, but at least he had Thor, who seemed to already adore him.

Tony sighed and pushed those thoughts to the side, he had enough problems as it were to worry about Vision as well. The company needed his attention almost constantly, FRIDAY was helping, but she was still assimilating. And then there was the New Avengers Facility.

Tony had proposed it the day after the incident at Sokovia and Steve had given him the go-ahead. Nobody wanted to be around the Tower after losing Bruce, JARVIS and Pietro.

A guilt-ridden Tony had sat through the night of the battle finding a new place for the Avengers, settling for some old Stark Industries grounds with warehouses and set to design new additions to the place.

It was going to have more rooms than the Avengers Tower, that was for sure. As it was, Wanda had to room in Nat’s living room since there weren’t any free rooms left, the last one having been taken by Sam.

Loki came into the labs the night of the funeral and loitered around until he saw what Tony was doing and began helping him design a new gym area.

It eased a little the unending ache Tony had in his chest and made him hopeful about the future when he saw Loki talk for the first time in days and smile a little when Tony cracked a joke.

Maybe, just maybe, they could overcome all this.

Chapter Text

Wanda had been living with Natasha for about two and a half weeks now. The fold-out couch in the living room was now permanently turned into her bed, but Natasha had told her not to get to cozy there since they would all be soon moving to the New Avengers Facility.

Today they were actually going to check it out since the building was finally finished, but not furnished and Tony insisted he needed their input.

Wanda wondered if this was going to be like when Natasha had cornered Vision the previous week and asked him what he thought about clothes shopping. Vision had, to his credit, remained calm and told her that he had no real need for clothing. Natasha had then proceeded to gently, but firmly correct Vision’s way of thought by dragging him off to the malls with Wanda’s help.

Wanda suspected it had more to do with an attempt to cheer her up than helping Vision, but it ended up succeeding in both. Wanda had a blast when dressing up Vision and Natasha seemed to simply enjoy watching them.

Vision ended up with a whole new wardrobe and even Wanda got several new clothes and new friendships were forged.

Natasha quickly guided her to a car which she said Happy was going to drive to take her them to the Facility.

The Facility was mostly gray, seeing as they were still not finished with the paint job on the outside. Several construction workers were still milling around, finishing the last bits and pieces that were left over. Tony had finished the changes to the original building in record time, often extending the work hours through the night in order to finish the place as soon as possible.

The living area of the Facility was huge and looking even more so since there was no furniture. The actual rooms were spacious and would look very nice once they were furnished.

“Say, what do you think about the floors”, Natasha addressed Steve, “I don’t like the tiles.”

Steve looked at the tiles and shrugged, “They look good enough for me.”

Natasha rolled her eyes and turned to Clint, “Would you help him?”, and began walking into the rooms to get a closer look at them.

“We’re getting a carpet”, declared Clint as he looked around the corridor that led to all the rooms, “We’re also getting a wallpaper for these walls, perhaps some paneling on the top and bottom.”

Natasha, who had by this point come out of the room she was inspecting, grabbed a nearby worker by the arm, “You, take note of everything he says and make it happen. Steve, try to learn something. Wanda”, at this, Wanda straightened, “We’re going to look at catalogues, come.”

They ended up recruiting Vision to look through interior decorating catalogues. Samples for carpets were soon flooding their mail, along with color catalogues for paints and wallpapers.

Vision looked so out of his territory as Natasha asked him which type of carpet felt better to him that Wanda simply laughed while she took a picture.

At the end they ended up at Tony’s lab with all of their catalogues.

Natasha dumped her armfuls of catalogues on his table, making him and Loki jump a little in surprise.

“These are the carpet samples”, she said and took the load that Wanda was struggling to carry in her arms and dumped them too on Tony’s table, “These are the paint color samples”, then she grabbed the stack Vision was carrying and dropped them too on Tony’s table, “And these are the wallpaper samples, I’ve circled the ones I believe to be best, but since this is your money we’ll be spending it’s going to be your call.”

Tony looked like a deer caught in headlights, “Uh.”

“We need this finished by tomorrow.”

Tony was sweating now, “Um, whatever you want is okay. I-uh, trust you, yes, that”, he smiled brightly.

Natasha scoffed at him and ordered them to grab the catalogues they’d brought before they left again.

The next day the orders were mailed in and Clint began organizing moving trucks to come fetch the things that weren’t essential.

They packed for two full days and Wanda barely noticed any difference. By the third day she did, but this was mostly because they had finally sent off the living room’s stuff and Wanda had to share a bed with Natasha that night.

The next day Steve began running up and down the Tower, peaking his head into everybody’s rooms and asking them how they were going.

The team chat group – which Wanda had been added to soon after she had moved in – came to life for the first time since Wanda had arrived. It was like nothing she had ever seen before.

Thor kept spamming the chat group with questions about where things were, Loki deigned to answer him every now and then, Steve kept giving everybody pleas to finish packing already, Tony occasionally tuned in to bitch about something and Clint kept sending photos of different shades of purple and asking people what they thought about it.

Wanda was seeing the Avengers in a new light for the first time.

She had previously thought that Natasha’s excursion to the mall had been a one off event that stemmed from her trying to cheer Wanda up, but now she was realizing that the Avengers often acted pretty childishly.

People kept running around with bags full of things and Wanda never saw the place getting any emptier. There seemed to be no boundaries, since Clint had crashed at Natasha’s place twice now, both times sleeping in the air vents, often murmuring into his phone to somebody.

Sam moved an inflatable pool to the main floor living room and filled it with water and had a water balloon battle with Loki afterwards.

Thor tried to cook once and the result was so disastrous that the fire department was called and the whole main floor smelled like charred food for days on end.

And then, finally, they were packing their clothes and talking about sleeping that night at the new Facility. Then it was revealed in the chat group that Tony hadn’t had time to pack almost any of his things due to all the drama that their legal situation was still giving them.

Their situation had certainly gotten better than what it had been after Sokovia. Steve had given a speech on national television where he talked about responsibility and how being children didn’t affect that, it had Wanda in tears by the end and Natasha had looked awfully proud of Steve then.

Still, their problems weren’t over, not with all that had gone down at Sokovia. The internet was still going viral with their photos after the battle. The one were Clint sat crying was still the favorite, but there was also the one where Tony and Steve were sitting side by side in the wreckage of what was left of the city, faces red and full of tears. There was also the photo of Natasha helping Clint walk away from the transporter after he had sat on it for hours on end, unable to make himself leave, both covered in dust and full of bloody scratches. There was the photo of Thor leading Loki into the Quinjet, Thor looking like he had cried his eyes out and Loki looking shell-shocked.

It still sat wrong with several people that they were the Avengers, but as Steve had said in his speech, they would prevail, together.

With all that drama in mind Wanda went up to Tony’s room, where robots with only one arm each were trying to fold clothes and began helping them pack. Soon, Loki was there and eventually Tony himself came to help.

They worked long and hard and Tony had to stop several times to call some executive.

Wanda had to wonder where he had gotten the education to lead a company, but didn’t comment on it.

That night they did indeed get to sleep in the new Facility. Eventually. They first had to get used to the, uh, décor.

“What the flying fuck?!”, Tony exclaimed when they walked into the living room.

“What? Nat told me to help, so I helped”, said Clint as he grinned happily.

The living area was purple. Like, very purple.

The carpet was a dark purple and the walls were a light purple wallpaper with dark wood paneling.

“By the All-Father! I have never seen a place with so much purple in my life!”, said Thor as he gaped at the place.

“Yes, it’s awesome isn’t it? Now, rules! Nobody walks with their shoes on the carpet unless they want arrows through their feet, capish?”

“The fuck it’s awesome! Who even put you in charge?!”

Natasha maintained a look of complete nonchalance as she looked around the room with interest.

“Look, I sent like, millions of samples on the chat group to ask you which you liked most! Only Loki and Vision answered, so here’s your result, asshole!”

“Okay, okay”, Steve stepped in between Tony and Clint, “Next time there’ll be better communication, the purple is very nice Clint, where do I put my shoes?”

They all took off their shoes near the door and placed them along the wall. Tony grumbled the whole way, but Rhodey quickly guided him away to the kitchen where they made hot chocolate for everybody.

At least the kitchens were stocked. The place was still so empty that Wanda felt a little uneasy in the place, even if the carpet was the softest thing she had ever felt.

The purple carpet thankfully only went on till the doors of the rooms, where in each room another color took over. Wanda’s had a deep red that she simply loved.

Blankets were unpacked and it was decided that they would have a giant sleepover in the living room. Tony had to be wrestled when he declared he wanted to become a blanket burrito because this was apparently a terrible idea.

They stayed up late eating marshmallows that Clint had brought along with hot chocolate and people taking turns to tell ghost stories. Predictably, that night some people had nightmares, this was mostly caused when after everybody had dozed off Clint and Loki pranked everybody by making them believe that the place was haunted.

The next day they all went back to packing at the Tower like nothing had happened, which made Wanda think that Loki probably pranked people often.

By that evening packing was done, the last item being packed was the inflatable pool, which went with them to the Facility.

That night they had another giant sleepover in the living room since their beds still hadn’t arrived and Wanda and Vision didn’t have beds at all – Vision had been rooming in Tony’s area back at the Tower, much like Wanda had been rooming at Natasha’s.

It was decided that new furniture had to be brought for the living room and that everybody got to pick something for it since people weren’t going to have their own living rooms like at the Tower.

Wanda knew that wasn’t going to end well, but even she didn’t expect the mishmash of things that ended up in the living room. The thing that really made her confused was the giant arrow though.

Turned out that it was Clint’s and that he couldn’t fit it in his new room, so it was to go to the living room against one of the walls.

They had a 19th century armchair, a pink and yellow polka dotted pouf, a green pouf, a blue couch, a pouf with the shape of a baseball, a wicker couch and an art deco arm hair. This was without counting the coffee table with the form of the ying yang symbol and the stereo with mermaids painted on it.

“Well, I guess we can all agree that this was a terrible idea”, said Steve on their very first meeting in the living room, “How many more stuff am I to expect arriving?”

“Some”, admitted Tony with a wince.

“Not many”, said Sam sheepishly.

“Nothing this tasteless”, drawled Loki as he sat in the 19th century armchair.

“The dartboard isn’t here yet, so”, Clint shrugged.

“There should be another couch and a dining set coming in soon”, said Natasha.

“I also ordered a pouf”, added Wanda, she had gotten a white one with red flowers.

“I might have ordered a blender in the shape of a duck for the kitchen”, added Thor.

They all stared at him.

“Please tell me that’s all”, pleaded Steve.

“I ordered a crate full of yellow themed kitchen utensils”, said Rhodey and then squirmed when everybody stared at him, “They were cute!”

As luck would have it, most of the kitchen utensils turned out to be duck themed, so they fit right in with the blender.

The dining set turned out to be pretty normal and tasteful, along with the couch Natasha got, which were the only normal things in the entire living area.

Wanda was just happy her room looked normal and not purple.

Chapter Text

Scott Lang had a pretty lame childhood and his current situation wasn’t stuff to write home to either. If he had a home, that is.

When he was small, like, super small, his dad jumped ship and left him with his mom. At first it went okay, not great, but okay. Then Scott’s mom, Cassandra, began to get ill.

At first nobody knew what was wrong, but soon enough it got out that his mom had some disease which Scott couldn’t even pronounce, but the point was that she was dying.

There wasn’t much of a treatment, the disease was fatal according to doctors, but what little could be done to help his mom was expensive.

Her job insurance didn’t cover enough of what was needed and soon Scott and his mom found themselves living in a rundown apartment with barely enough to live with.

It had made Scott angry. Angry like he had never been before.

So he decided to do something about it.

When Scott had been 7 his granny had died and left behind some money for his mom. His mom, wonderful as she was, decided to buy him the laptop he had always wanted. Scott had taken to the computer like a fish to water, immediately looking up all the stuff that computers did and could do and whatnot. He was pretty smart for his age, even his teachers had to agree with that and they never agreed with anything Scott had to say.

By age 9, when his mom’s disease had gotten its worst yet, Scott was a genius at computing, so he decided to actually do something about his current situation.

He started hacking. He started small and then gradually got bigger. In a few months he had redistributed millions of dollars to people he knew needed it more than the companies he was hacking. So some of it ended up in his mom’s account, so what? She had given over the control of their account ages ago to Scott, she would never notice where the money they suddenly had was coming from.

Scott didn’t enjoy lying to his mom, but he knew she would freak if she found out the truth, so he told her he was doing projects on his computer for other people – creating websites and stuff – which also helped explain why he was spending so much time on his computer.

But all good things must come to end, that, Scott had learned very early on.

After a couple months of hacking he got traced and - yeah.

The cops came to his house and there was little a 9 year old could do.

The damage he had done was of so many millions there was no way he could pay reparations. Scott was only thankful that when he found out the cops were coming for him he was smart enough to run to the bathroom, quickly dismantle his computer and destroy every little piece of it. They would never found out who he had sent all that money to.

It broke his mother’s heart when they dragged him to jail.

But somehow, she still loved him. In fact, she loved him so much that she made her way to his trial to testify, as sick as she was. They had to wheel her in on a wheelchair and she was looking worse than ever, but she testified in his defense.

Yet not even that could help him against the team of lawyers of the companies he’d robbed, who were obviously pissed that he had gotten away with so much.

He got sentenced to five years in juvie, and that was with the judge being lenient he was told.

During his time at jail he dedicated himself to study, he even skipped a couple grades and began amassing college credits. He read the newspapers and would sometimes dream of becoming the next Tony Stark, emancipated at 13 and technically the owner of a multi-million dollar company with unhackable software. He’d tried a couple times, but their security was top-notch and when you start getting messages warning you to back off, you do just that.

Backing off hadn’t sat well with Scott, but he had his mother to think about and why would one want to spend so much time hacking Stark Industries when Hammer Tech took only minutes to hack?

While Scott was still in prison he heard that Hammer Tech had been evil all along and felt very justified that he had stolen so much from them. A little bad too, but that was because he had the company at his finger tips and he could have looked into them and exposed them ages ago

Another thing that happened while Scott was in prison was that his mother died.

Scott got assigned a social worker. He was pretty cool, for a social worker. His name was Victor Greenwood and he actually got Scott on parole.

Scott had been supposed to be in prison till he was 15, but at 14 he was walking out of the gates of the prison, a free man.

Victor got him a family willing to take in an ex-convict. Which was, like, the most difficult thing to get. Nobody wanted to take in somebody that had been in prison.

They even seemed like a nice family at the beginning. Mother, father, two kids, both boys, one was Scott’s age and the other one was three years older.

On his first week at their house they took him to see his mother’s grave, let him put flowers on it and then took him to school. Scott had been excited, he only needed a year more in school and he would graduate.

His second week at his new home and first week at school were different than the first. The eldest son of the family that had taken him in, James, didn’t like the idea at all that somebody younger than him was in his same year.

It wasn’t really a problem at first, Scott had hoped that it would get better with time, but it didn’t.

By the end of Scott’s third week at the foster family he got into a brawl with James. It really shouldn’t have surprised him that James’ family believed him when he told them it was Scott who started it, but unfortunately it did.

He had been trying so hard to be a good person to these people that had taken him in, but to no avail.

Life, as Scott had also learned early on, wasn’t fair.

James kept harassing him all the time, making life for him impossible at all times and sometimes going as far as hitting him.

Scott kept trying to tell Mr. Franklin – his foster parent – what James was doing, but with time he got tired of Scott and just locked him up in his room. Scott missed several classes because of this, so he began fighting Mr. Franklin.

Mr. Franklin might have been a fully grown adult, but Scott had learned how to brawl with the best of them in prison so he almost always won.

Then, things got even worse. One day, during another brawl with James, he flipped out a knife and tried to use it on Scott. Knives weren’t allowed in prison. This, however, didn’t mean that there were no knives in prison.

Scott got the knife away from him, ran away and tossed it in the garbage before he went back home.

At the home Mr. Franklin was waiting for him, James at his side. Mr. Franklin searched Scott, but never found any knife, so he settled with punching him in the face.

That night, Scott packed his shit and ran.

He had met Luis back at the prison when he had served some time for robbery. Luis had offered to help him if he ever needed it, but Scott had been taken in by the system long before he met Luis, so he thought there was nothing he could do.

Now though, Scott couldn’t care less about the system. He worried a little what Victor was going to think when he found out what had happened with Scott though.

Scott had no trouble finding Luis’ house and knocking on the door.

Luis welcomed him with open arms and told him he could have the spare room.

Best. Friend. Ever.

Luis was a 17 year old that had also run away from his foster family and rented an apartment in the seedy parts of San Francisco that couldn’t care less if you were 17 or 7 as long as you gave them money.

Luis was also a thief. He had fallen in his parents’ footsteps early on in his life and still made shady dealings with what family he had currently out of prison. Both his parents were currently in prison, so his social worker had determined that his family were bad influence on him and didn’t take him to live with one of his many aunts or uncles, but with a bunch of strangers.

Scott had heard that Luis had run away from them as soon as he placed foot at their home, but he wasn’t exactly sure why.

At any rate, living in Luis’ seedy apartment was some of the best times he had ever had. Certainly the best since he had gotten out of prison.

Scott tried to get odd jobs from around the area, since it already pained him enough that he had to run away from his foster family. The last thing ever his mother told him, the one and only time she had been capable of visiting him at prison, was for him to be good.

Scott didn’t feel like he was being particularly good now, but he at least didn’t have to get into a fight daily if he wanted to go to school the next day.

At least he wasn’t stealing, so that ought to count as something, right?

But like Scott knew, good things never lasted and before he knew it they were out of money. Luis couldn’t always get what he was trying to steal and Scott had pretty bad luck getting or maintaining his odd jobs, so this was bound to happen sooner rather than later.

Luis brought in some friends and made weird faces at him when he smiled and Scott only sighed and gave in, because there wasn’t anything to eat in the house and money didn’t grow on trees.

Dave, or maybe Kurt, whichever, had a van that they could use. Their target was the house of some old dude and his daughter that were filthy rich if Luis’ cousin’s friend’s neighbor – whatever – was to be believed and the owners would be out for the night.

The house itself was quite fancy, but not overly so. The security system was a joke to Scott, like almost all security systems were. The vault though. Damn.

He had to run around the house to find the right materials to get through that one.

It was a real chore, and then what? The vault was freaking empty, expect for some weird suit that Scott took anyways cause it looked cool.

Since the robbery didn’t bring up any money Luis went out again with Dave and Kurt after they dropped Scott off to find something else to rob.

Scott was still quite bummed by the fiasco that the robbery had been so he went to sleep on an empty stomach.

The next day he awoke with Luis bragging about the jackpot he had hit the previous night and how they were going to celebrate.

Scott declined going along since he knew that it meant that they were probably going to get stoned and he at least wanted to maintain a semblance of the promise he had made his mom.

Decidedly depressed Scott began looking at his new suit and weird helmet in hopes of getting cheered up.

The suit barely fit him, only his latest growth spurt allowed him to not look completely ridiculous when he put it on. The helmet fortunately sat well enough on his head that he could see through the visors.

As he looked at all the buttons and stuff attached to the suit he decided to begin experimenting with them. He began with the button on one of his gloves.

It-yeah. It was quite an experience. The most terrifying in his life, that was for sure, but an experience nonetheless. One he never, ever, wanted to experience again.

He ran as fast as he humanly could over to the house of the old dude he had robbed, dropped the suit and helmet back where he found them and ran out of the house too.

Right into a pack of cops.

They carted him off to the local police station where his social worker was called.

While his social worker was on his way, the old guy whose house he had robbed came to talk to him. It was a little puzzling as to how, exactly, he had set up everything, but Scott knew he was talking the truth. And just like that, the guy was gone, after giving Scott a lecture about second chances.

Victor got there after the old guy left, looking grateful Scott was alive, not quite minding that he was once again in prison.

Scott felt guilty about letting the man worry so much so he told him what had happened with the Franklin family.

Victor was appalled when Scott told him and asked him why he didn’t call him.

“They never let me near the phone. At the beginning they said it was because I would call my prison buddies and they were a bad influence on me, but later I realized they were worried I’d call you.”

Victor shook his head in sadness, “I’m blacklisting them, they’re never taking in any other child, those bastards.”

Scott chuckled at that a little, then bit his lip, “What’s gonna happen with me now?”

Victor looked at him sadly, “It depends, if there are charges you might go to prison again or perhaps get community service. At any rate, I would have to find you a new family. I’ll try my best this time, I promise Scott.”

Scott bit his lower lip again in order to not tell Victor he had said the same the previous time. Not that Scott blamed him, he too had thought they were great until he realized that they weren’t.

“Time’s up”, said a gruff officer as he came for Victor.

“Don’t worry, I’ll try to talk sense into the General Attorney”, he said and left Scott.

Scott didn’t have much confidence in any attorneys, general or otherwise.

Then the ants came in.

It was a no brainer for Scott. He didn’t want to go back into the system, however much he liked Victor didn’t mean he was suddenly going to trust the system and neither did he want to go to jail again. Easy decision, really, even if he didn’t like that much the becoming small business.

The flight on the ant was a novel idea, he had to give that much to the old guy, shame he didn’t think about what could happen if somebody was to faint while riding said ant.

He just hoped he would wake up and discover it had all been a bad dream.

Then he woke up in a nice room full of ants and discovered it had all not been a dream.

There was also a girl in his room that he didn’t know, but he was a little more preoccupied with the ants, so he decided to set that aside for the moment.

The girl didn’t like him. The girl turned out to be Hope, the 13 year old daughter of the dude that made the suit that he made Scott rob because of reasons. His reasons were a little difficult to follow, but what Scott could gather was that the guy was too old to go shrinking himself and doing whatever it is he wanted Scott to do and didn’t want his daughter to go shrinking and do whatever it is he wanted Scott to do.

Hope hated both of them, at least that much Scott could make out without any trouble.

Hank – the old guy – told Scott that he had selected him because of his incredible intellect and skillset. This was not something that got acknowledged often in Scott’s life, so he allowed himself to feel a little proud at that, even if Hope gave him the stink eye because of it.

It was funny when the guy even asked Scott if he was aboard his crazy plot, because Scott didn’t have much of an option. He didn’t have a foster family and didn’t want one either and he couldn’t continue living off of Luis, even if Luis had no problem with that.

Hank gave him a whole lecture on what the Pym particle was, a brief one on why he hated the Starks and another long lecture on how he controlled the ants.

Scott absorbed all he could, but he was afraid he would have to get some pieces of the lecture again since he was having an information overload.

During another one of his lectures Scott suggested that they call in the Avengers, since clearly if what Hank was saying was true they were all well in over their heads, but Hank reacted with another rant against the Starks, so Scott decided against ever mentioning them again.

Life at the Pyms was – simple, in a way, yet so much more than that. The place was teeming with ants all the time, Hank gave him lessons alone when he had time, most of it about the science behind everything, he got joined lessons from Hank and Hope about the suit and its control and about ants, he also got solo lessons with Hope, who had a black belt in karate and was working her way up to a black belt in Jiu Jutsu. Hank called her a terror affectionately and Scott could only agree with him. Hope was a Terror, but that was mostly because she hated Scott’s guts more than anything.

It pained Scott a little that he was once again hated for being the smarter one. Hope wasn’t by any means stupid, but she was nowhere near him. Scott had yet to meet somebody that was like him to be honest.

The ants frightened him at the beginning, but if you’re gonna spend all your time surrounded by them, sooner or later it’s gonna wear off.

Besides, how could he ever be afraid of Anthony?

Sometimes Scott would feel like Anthony was his only friend.

Hope went out almost every day to whine at Darren Cross, making him believe she was at his side and just waiting for an opportunity to betray her father. Scott wasn’t sure how Hank approved of this, but not of Hope herself taking out Darren in the suit.

The animosity Hope had towards Scott only got worse and not better with time, mostly because Scott could not seem to master controlling the ants.

“I know that you hate me”, Scott began one day as Hope was sitting outside fuming, “But I’m really trying here and I didn’t ask your dad to pick me to do this.”

Hope scoffed and kicked at the pebbles at the entrance of the house.

Scott sighed, “At least you got your dad. Mine left so long ago that I don’t even remember him. My mom never really talked about him, so who knows what he did. Thing is, I can say with absolute certainty that he didn’t care about me. Look, your dad might be a bit of a jerk sometimes, but look at how far he is willing to go to protect you.”

Hope was at least looking at him now, best yet, she wasn’t looking at him with complete disdain, “What happened with your mom?”, she asked.

“She died when I was eleven, about a year after I got in prison, so I didn’t get to be at her side when she died. She only came to visit me once you know, because she was too sick to come any more than that. She made me promise to be good. I know I’ve not been doing the best job at it, but I guess that all this ought to count at least a little, right?”

Hope nodded, “Sorry I called the cops on you when you brought back the suit”, she said softly.

Scott nodded, “It’s only fair, I did get into your house to rob it.”

Hope smiled at him.

Scott stood up, “I guess I’ll go back to work with Hank in the lab, at least I’m good with that.”

Hope grabbed his hand and made him sit down, “You have to think clearly”, she said, “Your orders have to precise, think about your mom and the promise you made her, how deeply you want to keep that promise.”

And then, on that day, Scott was able to control the ants for the very first time.

Hope and Scott ran into the house, elated to announce to Hank that Scott could finally control the ants, but they found him in the living room looking sad and almost teary.

He told them about Hope’s mom, how she had died a hero and why he could never forgive himself if something similar happened to Hope.

It made Scott’s heart swell when he saw Hope and Hank reconcile, it also made him ache for his mother fiercely.

Training and lessons went considerably better from there on. Hope finally tolerated him and no longer tried to kill him in his lessons with her, the ants finally were listening to him and Hank was more patient than ever when he explained each little detail of the suit and the Pym Particle.

Then the problem came up that they needed something that was in one of the Stark Industries storage facilities. Scott agreed, because it was only a storage facility and who knew what other things might be lying around, besides Hank seemed to know the place, so everything should be fine.

Everything turned out to be not fine. Nothing was fine. The place was swarming with Avengers. It was the freaking New Avengers Facility. It had been on the news and everything when they moved in after all the tragedies that they had suffered in Sokovia.

They were outside, a bunch of them running around in swimsuits – Scott could see a little inflatable pool to the side of the building – playing tag of all things. Scott observed as Loki was banned of the game for cheating and Thor came to his defense.

Scott took this distraction as an opportunity and slipped inside the building. Inside though, he was met with some dude Scott thought might be the Falcon, but wasn’t sure.

The guy was a real pain in the ass, but Scott had been practicing with the Terror herself for weeks now so this was nothing for him. Nothing compared to the Terror.

He shook the Falcon off, grabbed the thing he needed and exited as quickly as he could. The game of tag had resumed, this time with at least ten Lokis running around. The Scarlet Witch was shouting something about it being against the rules, but apparently Loki got away with much when his brother was present.

It really made Scott reevaluate his opinion about the Avengers. They were often depicted as this group of children that had sacrificed their very childhood to become soldiers, but to Scott it didn’t look like they were sacrificing that much.

Hank got angry at him for risking so much by entering the Facility and Scott felt fuzzy for a brief moment before he got back to reality, where Hank only cared about Scott’s role in his plot, not about Scott himself. Hank did calm down a bit when he presented him with the device that had created so much drama, but still grumbled about Scott taking risks. Scott chalked it up to the old guy not wanting to admit defeat or change the topic of his rant.

It scared the ever loving hell out of all of them when Darren suddenly appeared in the house to rant at Hank about how he could have been so much more and bla, bla, bla.

Hope stood by the side and pretended to agree with everything Darren said and Scott had to admire her skill. He had sometimes wondered how Hope would do against somebody like the Black Widow, who was supposed to be a super spy with a past as shady as they come, but after he had seen her that day playing tag in a bright green swimsuit he was no longer so sure.

The mission was upon them all of the sudden and Hank, being invited to the big event, wouldn’t be able to be their get-in and get-out guy, so somebody else had to be brought in.

Luis was very happy to see Scott again and was super excited that he got a new job. Dave and Kurt were also in on the job and while Hank didn’t really like them all that much he had to admit that they would do the job. Hope just looked on in amusement.

The mission itself began smoothly, Scott got into the drains with his ants, Luis was inside, Dave and Kurt were in the van and Hank was entering the building with Hope.

Scott would later hear that his social worker spoke with Hank before he could get into the building, he had apparently found out that Hank had spoken with Scott before he had disappeared and wanted to ask him if he knew what had happened with Scott. The building security had quickly gotten rid of him, but still, Scott had felt a little bad about it afterwards.

Scott planted the bombs on all the places they had agreed to and was just about to steal the Yellow Jacket when he got trapped.

Darren had apparently known all along about Hank’s plan. Hope pretended to be happy about the newest developments even when Scott knew she absolutely despised HYDRA.

This was, until he began threatening Hank with a gun, at which point Hope disabled a guy and stole his gun. Scott used the commotion and the fact that everybody was more worried about the guns than him and got himself out of his trap.

Hank got shot and for a moment Scott felt exactly like he had when he realized he had no home left after his mom died. Hope was shouting and Hank gave a groan in response so Scott went to check on him. He was still trying to make sure the wound wasn’t lethal when Darren slipped up behind him and began threatening to shoot him.

Hope came to the rescue and sicced a bunch of ants on him.

Scott had to run after him and leave Hope with Hank behind, ordering Luis to take care of them as he fought all the goons Darren sent his way.

The fight went on in the helicopter Darren was using in his escape.

And then Darren became something more, he became the Yellow Jacket, they stood on the same ground now and Scott could only hope that all his training paid off and helped him through this.

The Yellow Jacket soon became enraged that Scott was winning their fight despite all odds that were stacked against Scott.

Scott got arrested just when he thought he had defeated the Yellow Jacket. He tried to convince the police that he was the good guy, but they were extremely reluctant and Scott was still trying to argue with them until the moment he heard over their radio that something yellow and strange was attacking some house. Scott immediately knew it was the Yellow Jacket and made a quick job of getting his helmet on and shrinking.

The house wasn’t far and with the help of some ants Scott was able to get to the house address. There was clearly some mayhem going in the house so Scott hurried to get into the living room.

Scott instantly recognized the face of the man Yellow Jacket was holding hostage, it was the only face that ever visited him at the prison. Every visiting day, without a fault. He never disappointed.

It was Victor’s house. The only person Scott still had left over to be attached over.

It enraged him to such a degree that he charged at the Yellow Jacket blindly. Their fight lasted some time, especially after they shrunk.

Victor screamed when they got bigger again and Yellow jacket began shooting lasers all over the place.

Scott went over to his side and opened his helmet for a brief moment. Victor gaped at Scott as he told him to run away as fast as he could when he saw a gap.

Scott closed his helmet again and tackled Yellow Jacket to the floor, doing everything in his might so that Victor could run away and find shelter.

But what Scott had forgotten was that the Yellow Jacket was a fully grown man, much stronger than him. Scott got thrown at the other end of the room and suddenly Victor was cornered. The Yellow jacket was threatening him and aiming his lasers at him.

Scott didn’t want to lose the last important person in his life. He launched himself without any care for himself and went subatomic.

It was weird. Also floaty, but mostly just weird. Scott didn’t like it that much, even with all the colors he was seeing, that were admittedly quite pretty.

He felt oddly at peace.

Victor would be safe now, there was going to be no Yellow Jacket army. The world was going to be save.

Then he thought about Hank and Hope.

For the first time since he had lost his mother and gone to prison he had felt like he had a family. Hank often felt like the dad he had never had and Hope like the sister he never knew he wanted.

He-he wanted that. He wanted a family like theirs. He wanted to go back to them. He still needed to check on Hank, see if he was okay.

He wanted to go back.

Scott took one of the disks Hank had given him and used it on his regulator in hopes of reversing his continued shrinking into the Quantum Realm.

Miraculously, it worked. Just this once the world wasn’t completely unfair to Scott.

Victor grabbed Scott in a fierce hug as soon as he was normal sized again, crying into his shoulder and telling Scott how glad he was Scott was okay.

Scott let him to it for some time before he had to detach himself from Victor. He promised him that he was going to be fine, but that he needed to leave quickly.

Victor wasn’t happy, but at the end he let Scott leave.

 


 

 

Hank wasn’t as bad off as everybody had feared from the bullet wound. He was soon back at his home looking as if he had never left and almost got killed.

Hope was at his side, also looking like she had never left.

Hank was very interested in all that Scott had to tell him about the Quantum Realm, but soon Scott had said everything he could think of saying about the place.

“So I guess I’ll just gather my things”, said Scott after a moment of silence had gone by in which Scott supposed they contemplated what had happened with Hope’s mom.

“What? Why?”, Hope asked immediately.

“Uh, my job is finished? Hank only wanted me around for the mission and now it’s all over”, explained Scott.

“Ah”, Hank hummed, “About that, would you sit down Scott? Hope, you know what I need you to fetch.”

Hope grinned in delight and skipped off to get whatever it was that Hank was talking about.

Scott sat down warily.

“Scott, in the time since you got here Hope and I have been talking a lot, especially about your status as a basically homeless orphan. This does not sit well with me or with Hope.”

Hope came skipping into the room, a folder in her hands that she handed over to Hank.

“I talked with my lawyer”, Hank explained as he took the papers with his only good arm, “And they were able to get these. They only need your signature so the process can get started.”

Scott gaped at Hank.

“I would understand if you didn’t want to live here, I know Victor will be able to find you a good home-“

“No!”, Scott blurted and took the folder Hank was now handing him, “I-I want this. I want to stay with you.”

Hank exchanged a smile with Hope.

“Go on! Sign them!”, Hope prompted as she handed him a pen.

Scott grinned and opened the folder. They were of Hank requesting to be his guardian. Scott had wished to have a family like them, yet he had never imagined having them as his family. Scott signed the papers with a wide grin threatening to split his face.

When he was finished he handed them over to Hank.

“Welcome to the Pym family”, said Hank, giving him a warm smile. Hope bounded over to him and gave him a bear hug.

Welp, now he was going to have the Terror as sister, yet, somehow, he was surprisingly okay with that.

Chapter Text

“Order! Order in the court!”, Tony said as he stood imperiously on the chair at the head of the dinner table.

Wanda wanted to yell at him to get down and let people have their lunch in piece, that people had more important things to do, but contained herself since she knew she was stressed and would regret later what she said if she spoke now.

Wanda had always been under the false belief that the Avengers didn’t get any education, that they were all above it. Turned out she was wrong. So, so wrong.

All the Avengers still received some form of education, it was just all homeschooled. Tony was in the process of getting his third PhD, Loki was working on his first PhD, and Bruce had been in the process of his second Master’s Degree. It was all madness to Wanda.

Thor had just finished his High School degree before the Ultron madness went down, so he was the one with most free time out of all of them currently. Loki was trying to convince him to further his studies, since he was obviously smart enough for it, but Thor was refusing so far. Wanda knew he would cave sooner rather than later, because Thor adored his brother and always listened to him eventually because he knew Loki always wanted only the best for Thor and because Loki adored Thor just as much, even if he didn’t show it the same ways as Thor did.

Clint was also trying to finish his High School degree, but since he didn’t fall into the super genius category he was struggling a little and had vowed that after he was done with High School he would be done with it all. Nobody had argued with him over that – much – Loki and Tony were still pestering him about it, so Wanda wasn’t as sure if that would be the end of it.

Natasha had gone to super-secret spy school and claimed that she didn’t need any extra education. Nobody dared argue with her.

Rhodey had already finished his High School degree and was looking into a degree in aerodynamics, but as far as Wanda knew he had yet to start working on his degree.

Steve hadn’t had the opportunity to finish school, or get much education of any sort back in his days, so he was mostly playing catch-up and going to Art School whenever he was free – which wasn’t often.

Vision had just finished his High School degree, finishing it in record time and still not knowing what he wanted to do next, but feeling extremely proud of the certificate with his name on it.

Sam was also one of the few that weren’t super geniuses, which meant he was in the same boat as Clint and therefore had a schedule that he would follow to meet the day’s goal. The difference between Sam and Clint was that Sam was interested in going to college, so he put a lot more effort into getting extra credits than Clint.

Wanda was in the same boat as the aforementioned two. She hated having to spend hours of her day trudging through homework and boring books, but she was doing well enough, at least according to her online supervisor she was. Wanda still wasn’t sure if she wanted to go to college, but she supposed that she was a little young to know that yet, so she didn’t worry too much.

“I said ORDER!”, Tony shouted, having resorted to banging his shoe on the table.

“Fine! Everybody shut up and let him talk already!”, Steve huffed in annoyance.

There were several groans along the table, but everybody shifted their attention from what they were doing and looked at Tony with barely concealed exasperation.

Wanda understood how they felt, Loki had an upcoming exam that he had to prepare for, Clint had a test as well, Natasha was going to put the soldiers at the Facility through their paces after lunch, Rhodey had an appointment with the Facility’s security head about the attempted break-in they’d had the other day and they were all worried that Tony’s speech might delay them.

“Thank you, thank you, first order of the day-“

“How many orders of the day are there gonna be?”, asked Clint impatiently.

“As many as I want, now shut up! Now, first order of the day is the news that we finally know what was stolen the other day!”

“What was it?”, asked Sam, suddenly interested.

“Some old thing left over from my dad’s days, nothing of value. Second order of the day-“

“Wait, that was it?”, asked Loki, incredulous.

“Well, yeah”, Tony shrugged, “Second order of the day, let us all congratulate Vision for finally deciding to join us people with a High School degree under 18 years old.”

Wanda clapped loudest of them all, Vision looked like he would be blushing if he had any skin complexion that would allow it.

“Third order of the day!”, at this Tony clapped his hands and began rubbing them together, “Let us all celebrate the fact that we have three members in the Avengers with driver’s licenses!”

Half of the people’s faces at the table when stony.

“Oh shit”, Clint breathed out.

“Fuck”, said Loki as he rested his head in the nook of his arm on the table.

“YES!!!”, shouted Thor with glee.

“What?”, said Sam, looking just as confused as Wanda felt.

“Oh, please have mercy on us”, said Steve his face covered in his hands, it almost looked like he was praying.

“Dude, what has all this to do with my new driver’s license?”, asked Rhodey, sharing Sam and Wanda’s confusion.

Tony just grinned at them all.

“I hate you”, said Clint to Rhodey and then turned to glare at Tony, “But I hate him most.”

“I knew I had a bad feeling today when I woke up”, murmured Natasha at Wanda’s side.

“Yes my friends! You’ve all got it right! Betsy has waited long enough for us!”

Thor jumped from his chair, shouting in elation and began to run around the table in euphoria.

Loki attempted to hide his head underneath the tablecloth.

“You mean-?”, Sam breathed, his eyes already sparkling.

“Yes Sam!”

Sam also jumped from the table and began running around with Thor.

“The road trip 2.0 is official! We’ll be leaving in three days!”

“Road trip?”, asked Wanda.

“Wait, what does this have to do with my license?”, asked Rhodey and then realization dawned on him, “No Tony! I am not driving that thing through the country!”

“But we’re not going to ride it through the States!”, said Tony in elation, “FRIDAY! The map please!”

There was a hologram of a map on the wall immediately.

“We”, began Tony dramatically, “Are going to Canada!”

Several faces actually looked intrigued at that.

What followed was an hour long lecture of all the places they were going to visit. Everybody was late to their appointments, but they were all too excited about this new adventure.

Wanda had thought that Steve being a nag when they moved into the Facility was a one-time only thing, but it turned out that it wasn’t.

Steve began having meetings at every meal about modifications to the route they were going to take, stuff that was allowed and not allowed to bring along, a list of provisions they were taking with them, rooming agreements and a bathroom schedule.

Wanda and Natasha were going to share one of the bedrooms, Loki, Thor and Vision the other one, Tony and Rhodey one of the foldable beds and Sam and Steve the other one. Clint was given the rack in the living room of the RV that was meant for luggage as his bed. Wanda had thought he would be upset, but he turned out quite happy, that was, until he heard that Lucky would have to stay.

“Over my dead body!”, he had shouted and clung to Lucky like he was his lifeline. Thor almost cried, which made Loki angry and at the end Steve caved in. Lucky was to sleep with Natasha and Wanda, since their bedroom had the least people of all.

Lucky had been a pleasant surprise. Clint had brought him to the Facility a week after they had moved in and introduced him to Wanda, who was the only one that didn’t know him besides Vision. Wanda had been ecstatic, Lucky was the sweetest animal she had ever met. Vision, like anybody that met Lucky, had also fallen in love with him.

The day before they left Steve ran up and down the corridor of the living quarters to remind everybody of all the stuff that they needed to pack, Sam sometimes joined him even.

Wanda had all her things packed in her bright red suitcase before she went to sleep that night.

At exactly 6am the next morning Steve was running up and down the corridor, shouting at them to get up. Wanda got up immediately and began dressing in the clothes she had put out the previous night. At 6:20 Wanda was brushing her teeth in her bathroom when she heard that Steve had somehow gotten his hands on a trumpet and began trying to play it.

“SHUT THE HELL UP!! I’M AWAKE ALREADY!”, Wanda heard Tony shout a few rooms up the corridor.

“I’M PULLING MY EAR AIDS OUT!”, shouted Clint, two room down the corridor from Wanda’s room.

It had come as a huge surprise to Wanda when she found out that Clint was basically deaf without his aids. She had seen the strange contraptions in his ears, but had thought at the beginning that they were comms, only later learning that they were in fact hearing aids.

At 6:30 Wanda was out of her room and ready to leave.

Nobody else was. Steve was running all over the place. Tony had overslept and hadn’t packed a thing the previous night, Rhodey refused to help and was still in the shower, Sam had slept though not only Steve’s shouts but also his awful trumpet interpretation and was only now being awakened, Vision was still debating what to pack, the notion of having human clothes overwhelming him in infinite options, Clint was busy packing Lucky’s stuff, Thor had broken his suitcase and Loki was trying to fix it while he was still in pajamas.

Wanda checked the hour and wondered how they were going to make it all aboard the RV by 8:00.

Vision went to help Tony by 6:38 so Wanda decided to help Clint with Lucky. Clint thanked her and ran off to get dressed since he was still in his Robin Hood themed pajamas.

By 7:02 Steve began urging the people that were already finished to take their stuff to the RV. When Wanda arrived she noticed that Natasha was already there with her stuff, calmly texting on her phone.

Vision came in next to drop off his stuff, but left again to help Tony. Rhodey arrived shortly after to drop off his things and also left, presumably to help somebody.

Wanda felt bad for simply sitting around so she went back as well. She found Loki and Thor still struggling with Thor’s luggage and offered her help.

By 7:33 they were finished with Thor’s luggage, yet neither Thor or Loki were dressed yet, so Wanda offered to take their stuff down for them. Levitating their luggage was easy enough for her and on her way down to the parking lot, where the RV was, some of the early comers that worked at the Facility offered their help. She accepted their help and went back up to the living quarters to find something else to take down. Steve ran by her, arms full of luggage and Sam right behind him, also with some luggage.

Wanda had just gotten some hope for the trip when she saw the chat group.

Thor had no idea where several things were and apparently Loki was taking a bath and not paying him any attention. Tony was panicking over not finding a robot arm, Steve wasn’t happy that Tony wanted to take a robot arm along, Vision was informing them that the arm was in the labs, Clint wasn’t finding Lucky’s favorite ball, Natasha was instructing Rhodey on where he could get a spare gun and Sam was complaining about people lagging.

Wanda went down and joined Natasha in the RV after that.

At 8:19 the last of the luggage was packed into the RV. This was not to say that everybody was in the RV yet. Not at all. She and Natasha were still sitting on the foldable couch, Rhodey had taken the shotgun seat at front and fallen asleep, Sam had given up on everything and was taking a nap on the couch and Vision was sitting on the steps of the RV, waiting for everybody to come already.

At 8:27 Tony wondered into the RV and took the driver’s seat, strapping himself in. Wanda could see a fight in her near future over who got to drive the RV first.

At 8:40 Loki walked in and went to take a nap at Sam’s side.

At 9:06 Steve dragged Thor in and happily announced that they were all set.

“Where’s Clint?”, asked Natasha.

They all had to get out of the RV to go searching for him, even Tony, since Clint wasn’t answering his phone and Natasha was worried. Nothing worried Natasha, so this was to be taken seriously.

Clint was found at 9:17 running after Lucky in the yard of the Facility. The dog apparently didn’t want to leave, so he ran and since Clint didn’t want to leave without Lucky, he ran after.

They all ended up running after Lucky, who apparently thought it was all a very big game, so he just went on with the running, toppling both Tony and Sam when they tried to catch him.

Eventually they caught him and carried him to the RV. Once he was inside he calmed down considerably, went to look for his bed in Natasha and Wanda’s room and took a nap.

Steve took the wheel and Tony got shotgun as a consolation price.

They left the Facility at 9:55.

“I just wanted to say that last time we were already in Tribeca by this hour”, said Natasha and Wanda saw Steve wince.

There were a lot of complaints of hunger as soon as they hit the road and even Wanda had to admit that she was hungry since she had also not had breakfast, but Steve refused to stop.

Steve stopped at 10:35 at a diner near the Facility that they all knew and told them to get take out.

At 11:18 they were all back in the RV, happily eating their orders.

They made it to Buffalo by that night and passed the border at some point after Wanda had fallen asleep. Despite there being rooming agreements everybody mostly made a big cuddle pile on the foldable beds in the living room and didn’t care much about any agreements.

They visited the Niagara Falls the next day and nearly caused an international incident when Thor and Sam went to fly over it. Steve looked resigned the whole time, probably realizing that this was going to set the theme for their whole visit in Canada.

Wanda spent as much time as she could in the gift shops, fully aware that they might not be allowed back into Canada after their trip was done.

They went from Toronto to Montreal and then to Newfoundland, apparently thinking nothing of hundreds of miles. Or security. Wanda still didn’t know what to think of the fact that Clint took over the wheel at nights sometimes.

They visited Churchill Falls and were planning on going to Ontario next, but that night Clint was at the wheel and, yeah, Wanda now knew what she thought of him being at the wheel at night. She didn’t like it.

He drove them all the way up to Fort Mackenzie, in a wild attempt to get to the Northern Sea.

Nobody seemed even surprised when he did this, mostly just resigned.

Rhodey didn’t though, and was pretty angry at Clint.

Steve just sighed and let him drive them all the way to Kuujjuaq. Wanda didn’t even know how to pronounce it. What she did know was that it was the largest northern village in Nunavik, that it was an Inuit community, there was an old settlement that they visited and took a bunch of photos of, it was chilly outside, and that there was only one restaurant, which is where they went.

It was a nice experience at the end, even if they all had to hunker down in front of a fire that night in one of the inns since the RV was too cold at night.

They went back south after that, riding by James Bay for over a day before they made their turn and went to the southern parts of Ontario.

Then one night it was Tony’s turn at the wheel and they woke up the next day in Manitoba. Steve scolded Tony because they were supposed to be another day in Ontario before moving on to Manitoba.

Tony just shrugged and drove on.

They ended up being too far up north to visit Winnipeg so they moved on to Saskatchewan. There were lots of natural parks and they visited a couple, taking again photos of everything.

Tony uploaded several group photos to his twitter and broke the internet.

They went to several lakes in Alberta. Thor fell into Lake Moraine and local authorities had to fish him out, much to Vision’s distress, who tried to get him out more than once, but Thor’s flailing in the water prevented him each time.

They went to the Wood Buffalo National Park, got lost to the point where Wanda thought they would never see civilization again, but got out after walking around for almost two days. Clint took a bunch of photos of the experience. The photos of when Steve wrestled a bear that happened upon their camp broke the internet, especially the one where Steve befriended the bear and walked off with it into the sunset.

They didn’t get to see much of British Columbia since they only drove through it to get to Yukon. They visited a canyon, several parks and museums and some hot springs. Tony lagged behind in their trip at the Miles Canyon and got lost. Some in the team thought he had fallen into the river, which prompted Steve to jump into it. They needed to call the authorities to fish him out since the river proved to be too wild for even a Super Soldier. Loki ended up finding Tony taking a nap in the sun some ways down the trial that they had used to navigate themselves in the Canyon. Turned out when Tony realized he had lost the group he simply found a safe place on the trial and took a nap, waiting for the team to come back for him.

And then, finally, they crossed over to Alaska, the last leg of their trip.

They did some more wildlife exploring, saw the Pacific Ocean and took a plane back home.

Tony got people that would take the RV back to New York since nobody wanted to do the entire trip again and because they had been away for long enough on their vacation. During the first days they had been on the trip there had been a lot of monitoring of the situation in San Francisco where the Pym Industries incident had happened, but since nothing seemed to be coming from it they soon lost interest, but it was now time for them to return to being the Avengers.

The trip on the plane was filled with card games and photo comparing. Clint had taken the best photos of them all during the second half of the trip, capturing every mishap that they went through and giving each photo a funny caption.

Tony slept the whole way back home, Rhodey joking that he had been the one  to enjoy the trip most of all of them since he was so knackered. Wanda thought about how Tony had been working nonstop on his company and new AI and how going immediately after all that stress on a vacation with the team might have been just a little too much on Tony. The team was a very unique sort to go on a vacation with. They were always on the move, falling into lakes and getting lost and fighting wondering bears – Steve was still being called the bear-whisperer – so maybe that hadn’t been what Tony had needed as a vacation.

But then they were back at the Facility and Tony was awake and talking a mile a minute about all the stuff they had done and hanging up new pictures of the trip everywhere, just like he had done with all those copies of his emancipation certificate.

Wanda got a copy of the group photo they took in Kuujjuaq, got it framed and put it at the side of her pictures of her and her brother.

She felt like she might just fill the terrible hole he had left in her heart someday. These people were her precious people now and she knew Pietro would have loved to come along on their latest trip.

“I miss you”, she said to a picture of her brother that had been taken just before they left to fight Ultron. He was in that blue-silver shirt he had liked so much and smiling widely at the camera. Wanda knew Rhodey had taken the picture. It surprised her how quickly they had become friends, but she knew her brother had always been quick to make friends.

She took a step back and admired her wall. It was full of photos of her family, both new and old, just the way she liked it.