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In Waking a Tiger, Use a Long Stick

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"Worst. Mission. Ever." Tony's overly dramatic voice echoed through the hallway as the Avengers come home.

"Shut up, Stark, you're not the one covered in… goo." Natasha responded disdainfully. Indeed, only the Hulk and Iron Man had been spared the sticky situation of the others, most of whom were already on their way to their floors to shower. Clint seemed to have gotten the worst of it, absolutely drenched in purple slime from head to toe.

He smiled at Natasha, "At least it's my colour?" he laughed, and she deigned to curl a lip slightly. They headed off together amidst Tony's teasing; while they did plan to spend the night together, nothing would ever happen between them again. One night long ago had proven that much, they were much better off as best friends, as close to siblings as possible without being blood related.

A few hours later, most of the team was gathered - forcibly in some cases - in the kitchen, waiting for Bruce to finish dinner.

Tony tapped a drumbeat on the table, "Where's our Birdie? And his Spider?" he demanded.

"Don't know, Tony. They know we were planning to eat together tonight." Steve had reminded them specifically, in fact. "Let's go make sure they're up, maybe they took a nap."

Bruce stayed in the kitchen putting the final touches on his curry, surrounded by the others as Tony and Steve trooped up to the second-highest floor. Technically it was Clint's alone, but Natasha could often be found there.

"Jarvis, open the door." Tony ordered.

"Sir, I'm not sur-"

Tony cut his creation off, "We've been knocking for 5 minutes. Override code Hawkguy 8473." He barged his way in and headed to the bedroom, regardless of Steve's protests, only to stop short and jump back, landing on his ass and turning to scrabble away.

Steve's only warning was a curt snarl before the door to the dark bedroom slammed shut. His enhanced hearing picked up a low curse and movement from inside the room.

"Fuck-fuck-fuck what the hell?" Tony's words prompted a "Tony, language!" admonishment from Steve, who politely raised his hand to knock.

"Sorry to disturb you, Clint, Natasha. Bruce is almost done with dinner and it's important that we all eat together once in awhile. Builds team unity!" He said through the closed door.

Tony grabbed Steve's arm frantically, trying to pull him away from the door. "Tony, what's wrong?" Steve asked. Tony stuttered for a moment before spitting out words.

"TIGER! Fucking TIGER in there. JARVIS, what the hell is going on?"

"There is indeed a Panthera tigris tigris in Mr. Barton's room." JARVIS seemed calm. Too calm to what was a possibly threatening situation inside the Tower itself.

The door creaked open and Natasha came out, closing it behind her without allowing the two men to have a glimpse inside. "Clint will be out… shortly." She said, glaring at Tony. "Exactly why did you barge in on us? We let you have an override code because you promised us it would only be used in emergencies."

Tony stammered and opened his mouth to respond, and she cut him off, "Dinner is not an emergency." She raised a brow at Steve who had the grace to look sheepish.

"TIGER!" Tony shouted, and a knife came to his throat out of nowhere. "You didn't see anything, Tony," Natasha said, "we'll talk later. For now, at least pretend you're normal."

Dinner was apparently fantastic, but Tony didn't seem to taste a bite as he mechanically shoveled it into his mouth. Natasha had chivvied them both back to the kitchen alongside her, and Clint had shown up about 5 minutes later, just as the team was sitting down to eat at the enormous family-style dining room table.