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"So," Tony said as they sat around the table at the Shawarma restaurant, too tired to eat, but too hungry not to eat, "anyone need a place to stay for the night? Jarvis tells me Stark Tower is still structurally sound, and really, this time of year, getting a hotel room in New York is a pain."
Steve looked around the table. He felt he really ought to protest, for form's sake. After all he was the leader, the responsible one. "They'll be expecting us on the Helicarrier."
Tony made a disgruntled face. "Sure, you can go, if your idea of fun is spending the next six hours debriefing with stale donuts and crappy coffee while your ass goes numb." He toyed listlessly with a french fry.
Bruce nodded. "And they'll want to do medical checkups." Bruce exchanged a glance with Tony. "I just want to sleep. I don't even care if there's a bed involved."
"I'm sure there are beds. Somewhere."
"We probably should go for medical checkups," Steve said, but he empathized with their reluctance to be treated like interesting specimens. Still, Tony had nearly died, and a fancy suit of armor doesn't help you heal. At the least someone ought to stay with him to make sure he really was all right.
Clint shook his head. "Tomorrow." He sighed and nudged Natasha with his foot. "Wanna sleep with me in Stark's love shack?"
Natasha ate another french fry. "Sure. Just like Budapest."
Clint coughed. "Not like Budapest."
"I do not wish to see my brother in chains tonight," Thor said quietly. "Neither do I wish to be alone."
They finished eating, and somehow wound up back at Stark Tower without discussing it further. The elevator worked, and was large enough that each of them had a wall to lean against. They emerged on the top floor.
"It's a bit breezy this time of year," Tony said, glancing at the missing windows. "The next floor down might be more comfortable."
Bruce went over to the shattered floor where the Hulk had ping-ponged Loki back and forth. "I bet the neighbors were pounding on the ceiling with broom handles."
"Nah. They're used to my wild parties," Tony said. "Speaking of which, the bar has miraculously survived. Anyone else want a nightcap?"
Steve frowned. "Maybe you shouldn't... before a doctor looks at you, I mean."
Tony huffed and poured himself a glass of something whiskey brown. "I'm fine. But, hey, if you want to mother hen me, you can go down to one of the storage levels and bring up some mattresses." Tony pulled a thin plastic card from under the bar and tossed it to Steve. "Slide this in the slot on the elevator and it'll take you there."
"Right, I'll do that. Thor, you want to come with me?" Steve was trying really hard not to quarrel with Tony. Maybe a little part of it was guilt that he'd misjudged Tony. A little. Tony was definitely an ass, but he had unhesitatingly 'thrown himself on the wire'.
By the time Steve and Thor returned with an elevator full of mattresses, the debris had been swept from the center of the room, and a leather couch was facing the Chrysler building. Bruce and Tony were sitting on the couch, and Clint and Natasha were on the floor, leaning against it. None of them were talking. Steve didn't feel like talking either. He and Thor dragged the mattresses into the cleared space, putting them edge to edge.
Tony watched them for a minute, and then tossed back the last of his drink. "I'll get some blankets."
Steve took off his shoes and sat on the edge of the outermost mattress. It was strange how familiar this felt. In this tower up in the sky he was remembering sleeping in blankets on the ground in Germany, in the aftermath of other battles when there was an unspoken reluctance to spread out even though it wasn't cold enough that huddling together made sense. It was easier to sleep, knowing that you could wake and open your eyes to check that everyone was alive, that this time, you hadn't lost anyone from your team. He didn't even like Tony, but... they'd fought together, and for a while Tony had been part of his unit. That made a man special to Steve, and made his death hurt worse than someone like Coulson. But that had hurt, too. It wasn't his fault the man had set him up as a hero, and he sure hadn't died trying to prove himself to Steve. But he'd been a good man, and he'd died bravely. He wouldn't wake up and see Coulson. He wouldn't dream about those bloody cards. It wasn't his fault. Coulson had been ... maybe not a soldier, but a patriot. He'd seen his duty and done it. He hadn't done it to impress Steve. He'd done it because it was the right thing.
"Are you asleep with your eyes open? I wish I could do that, it'd come in handy at board meetings."
Steve looked up at Tony and accepted the blanket he was holding out to him. "I was just... thinking."
"Yeah." Tony sat down next to Steve and took off his shoes. Around them the other Avengers were spreading blankets and lying down. "Come up with anything interesting?"
"No, not really." Steve lay down and listened to the soft sounds of breathing around him. "Tony?"
"Do you actually live here?" Even discounting the debris, this place seemed oddly impersonal, all cold, hard lines, and what decorative accents there were seemed to have been chosen by a decorator with a preference for textures and colors that fit in without revealing anything human, or even alive.
"When I'm in New York, which will probably be for some time, yeah." Tony laid down next to Steve, not particularly close, but not particularly far away. Steve felt it was some mathematically calculated space to prove something, but he wasn't sure what.
"You could use some art."
"I have lots of art. Had. I had a clear out last year. I suppose I could ask Pepper to start collecting again."
"You don't choose your own art?"
Tony managed a lying down shrug. "It's all... squishy, meaningless to me. You know, it's all pretty stuff, like rainbows and kittens, or abstracts where you're meant to feel stupid for not understanding it, or hey, nudes, I could go with female nudes... no, actually, Pepper wouldn't be amused by that." Tony made a sort of humming noise. "Especially if we redo the top levels of the Tower for... well... some of the time... the Avengers could use a place to hang out where Fury won't be looking over our shoulders."
"Oh. A clubhouse?" Steve grinned.
"Well. Sorta. Yeah. Oh, hey, I've got a poster of Iron Man... somewhere. Maybe get photos of each of us, kicking ass and taking names. Blow them up large. Frame them all over the place." Tony waved a hand idly.
"Photos? Wouldn't painted portraits be... classier?" Steve yawned.
"Well, yeah, but I don't think anyone's going to want to pose."
"I could do them." Steve stared sleepily at the blue light of Tony's reactor, reflected on the ceiling, faintly. "From memory. I'll send them to you."
"Huh. All right."
Clint said, "Is the girl talk over? Have you guys picked out the drapes? Can we go to sleep now?"
"Shut up, Clint," Tony said.
Natasha sighed. "Gentlemen, I need my beauty rest."
"You really, really don't," Tony said. "OW."
"Tony. You remember the paintings Steve said he'd make for the Avengers?" Even over the telephone, Pepper sounded dubious. "They've arrived, but they're not what I expected."
"Yeah, Pep?" Tony was back in Malibu packing up some tech he wanted to work on in the new workshop in New York while Pepper had stayed in New York to oversee the final touches on furnishing the rebuilt Tower, manage Stark Industries, arrange charitable functions and in general make Tony's world a much less complicated and more bearable existence. "Hey, I know, he's not a modern art type of guy, but it's a peace offering, so I couldn't turn it down. Just hang them in the Clubhouse."
"All right. They're cheerful, anyway. And wholesome."
"Of course they are. Captain America is a cheerful, wholesome person."
On his return to New York, Tony stopped off at the workshop level first to watch the automated systems unload and store his tech. Then he went up to the Clubhouse to see what Captain Cleancut America had sent. He was pretty sure they'd be recognizable portraits at least. He wouldn't have to read the nameplates to discover which collection of cubes and circles represented each person. Dad had thought a lot of Captain America, Tony could put up with a little retro decoration. He took two steps out of the elevator, and came to a dead stop. The paintings were HUGE, like, like...billboards. And...
"Oh, my God. Pepper!"
Pepper hurried into the room, and then paused. "Tony?"
"Pepper, tell me I'm not seeing what I'm seeing."
Pepper sighed. "They are cheerful. And wholesome."
Tony came further into the room, and collapsed on the couch. "Rainbows! And kittens! I'm going to KILL Captain America."
"Well, it's not all rainbows and kittens." Pepper said, studying the portraits. The Hulk had a dual portrait, with him standing behind Bruce. Both of them looked serious, except for the kittens and bunnies frolicking around the Hulk's feet. Iron Man was jetting nobly through the sky, emitting a glittering rainbow from his arc reactor. Thor was posing in full battle gear with an amazingly adorable pony standing behind him. Hawkeye was tensed to fire an arrow, apparently paying no attention to the line of fuzzy yellow ducklings trailing him. Black Widow was in the process of kicking an unseen enemy while a gamboling lamb attempted to duplicate her move to her right. And Captain America was practically drowning in puppies- Golden Retrievers, from the looks of them.
"I think... I will go back to the workshop, and invent anti-rainbow goggles." Tony got up, shook his head and went back down in the elevator.
Pepper smiled and went over to the nearest painting. She admired it for a moment, and then peeled up one of the puppies, moving it a few inches over before resticking the clear plastic overlay back onto the painting beneath. "I think I could get to like you, Steve."