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Secrets of the Toasterverse

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From a comment on AO3:

“Haven’t you had the standard torture resistance training?”

That was a low-blow, even for Clint, considering Tony has been tortured before and stood up well, probably without the training. I just hope Tony doesn’t start having flashbacks. The smallest things can do that, such as saying the color name that happens to be the color of the car that crashed into the passenger side and nearly killed you.

This IS a line from “Ordinary Workplace Hazards.”  I have been waiting for months for someone to point out that it is, in fact, a low blow, because hell, these two have some problems with torture.  Because there is a head canon, and here it is.

Also entitled: How Tony Stark and Clint Barton Hooked Up (In a Platonic Way) in the Toasterverse

So once the team’s been formed and everyone’s in place and it’s been agreed that yes, the Avengers is going to be a thing, and Fury has been screamed at by everyone, the Avengers get put through the basic SHIELD training.  Natasha and Clint don’t like it because they didn’t like it the first time, and Tony doesn’t like it because it’s a waste of time and Thor doesn’t like it because he’s supposed to sit still and just listen a lot and he prefers to be interacting rather than being lectured at.  And Bruce doesn’t like it because he’s really not sure if he should be here and he’s constantly considering just running for the nearest border, and all this protocol stuff is not helping.  And Steve doesn’t like it because he can tell at a single glance that his team is not really doing much to come together as a team.

But they go.  And they do this.  And it’s boring and annoying and stupid and vaguely interesting by turns.  And Tony can program stuff in his head even after Fury makes it clear that he’s not to be trying to hack SHIELD with his phone.  It’s undignified.

Tony’s doing okay until the “Standard Torture Resistance Training,” and then he is not doing okay.  He is not doing okay at all.  It’s a SHIELD flunky going over basic torture and imprisonment possiblities in the driest, most bored voice ever, and about ten minutes in, Tony’s ready to throw up.  He can taste the coffee he drank that morning, curdled cream and too much sugar and the burnt taste of the beans and bile under it all, in the back of his throat.

And he tells himself he’s bored, that this is insulting, that this is stupid, anything to keep from feeling like he’s crawling out of his skin, and he’s sweating, he’s shaking, he’s done with this, he is done with this, he doesn’t have to put up with this stupidity, he’s not a junior agent or a SHIELD flunky, and he’s got the fucking armor, and fuck them all, he’s not staying to be lectured about torture by a man who thinks that equates to a paper cut, he does not have to put up with this.

And just as he’s about to stand up and flip his chair and tell them all to go fuck themselves, this little folded square of paper lands right in the middle of his tablet.

The aim and the precision are unmistakable, it’s from Barton.  Tony's not going to look in that direction, he doesn't want to know what Clint is up to. He should just brush it aside, get up and leave.  But for some reason, Tony opens the paper with fingers that shake, and inside he finds two pieces of chicklet style gum and simple block printing on the paper that was folded around them.  It reads, “Helps with the nausea.”

Tony freezes, and he can’t help but look, and Barton’s watching the instructor, boredom all over his face.  Hell, he’d look like he’s asleep except for the fact that his jaw is working, slow and steady, and Tony can smell the peppermint from the gum that he’s got in his cheek.

That’s the first moment that Tony realizes that someone knows, and someone understands.  Because Barton’s eyes don’t miss anything, Tony figured that out with the Chitauri, Clint sees and he understands, the man’s a little spooky and a little disconcerting.  But if he sets his feet, he’s solid as a rock and the idea of him up high, watching Tony’s back, well, that’s not a bad thought.  It’s kind of, well, okay.  Tony can deal with that.

And he doesn’t like gum, years of his parents telling him it’s low class, and peppermint gum conjures up bad frat parties and vomiting in bushes, cheap beer and overly sweet vodka punch.  But he bites into a square of it and the taste coats his throat, and Barton’s right.

It does help with the nausea.

So he chews his way through it, until the flavor’s completely gone, and he holds onto the other piece, not wanting to chew it, not yet, because he might need it later, no, need is the wrong word.  He might want it later.  And even as he’s thinking that, another square of paper lands, in the exact same spot as the first one.

Two more pieces of gum, and the words, “I’ve got plenty.”

So they, the both of them, get through “Standard Torture Resistance Training” by mainlining peppermint caffiene gum, and when the class is over, and the others are discussing lunch and Cap is talking to Bruce, and Natasha is arguing with Coulson about the rest of the schedule, Tony looks at Barton, and says, “Thanks.  For the gum.”

Clint shrugs, and says, “Pretty boring class.”


“I mean, I’m not much of one for lectures.  More of a practical guy, myself.  You seem like more of an applied knowledge sort.”

And Tony meets those eyes, clear and clean and knife sharp, and says, “You learn more by doing, than saying.”

“Yeah.  If you want, you know, if you feel like it, bet Natasha and I could give you some more field viable information.”

Tony thinks about how he could just walk out now, he’s got the armor, he’s got the money and the prestige and the status, he doesn’t need a fucking team, but he’s still got a sweaty palm folded around a piece of peppermint gum, and he hears himself say, “Yeah, that could be useful.  You should come over some night.”

And sometimes, when Tony and Clint are bitching each other out in a way that only they can do, one of them will bring up gum, or the lecture, or “field viable information” because Clint sees everything and Tony let the damn team move in.

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eleanortremayne asked you:

Ooo! I have a FAQ question! I have my own ideas about why, but I would love, love, love to hear the ficlet of your headfanon, that explains, “Why when it is Thor’s turn to choose a game, does he pick ‘Trivial Pursuit’, the one game that he is certain to lose?” :-D Thank you, have a lovely Sunday.


Thor misses the warrior culture of Asgard on occasion.  He loves Midgard, he loves the Avengers, he loves Jane, he loves his life here, but dang, sometimes he misses the Warriors Three and Sif and smashing stuff and having a real scuffle of WARRIOR KIND!

So he forces everyone to play Trivial Pursuit, because Trivial Pursuit is a full-contact sport with this group.  Things get broken, feelings get hurt, and it's better drunk.  Just like most of his old entertaiments in Asgard.

Basically, Tony and Bruce rock it on the science questions, Tony also has a wide range of musical interests, and Bruce loves to read. Natasha has a depth of knowledge on literature and geography and history.  She also knows the basics of just about every sport (it makes things easy to flirt with certain men if you can quote baseball or football facts).  Clint knows just about everything pop culture and entertainment and loves sports and history.  Steve had to cram on modern history, he knows everything about art, and he’s a frickin’ walking encyclopedia on the history of war and the military.

Thor is utterly incapable of answering most of the questions, but he thinks really, really hard about each one.  His guesses are...  Entertaining, if nothing else.  His default answer to anything is, "Earth's great hero, Margaret Thatcher!" because there was one game where like three different questions had that as the answer.  He now plays the odds.

As it turns out, Margaret Thatcher did not write "To Kill a Mockingbird," or sign the Declaration of Independence.  Thor is rather disappointed by this.

Coulson can beat the whole team if given the chance, and Tony lost it at a certain point and just went on Ebay and bought every set of Trivial Pursuit cards he could find.  And here’s the thing about Tony Stark: if he says ‘every single one,’ he’s not kidding around.  Did you know there are more than fifty different Trivial Pursuit sets?  You do know.  So does Tony.  He deeply, deeply regrets his purchase of "Trivial Pursuit: The Vintage Years."  But it made Steve happy.

So they gather and sometimes they break into teams and sometimes they all team up on Coulson and argue about rules because Clint will bounce between “roll again” spaces forever if they let him, and Natasha tries to use loaded dice sometimes and Coulson answers questions without looking up from his crossword puzzle and Steve was horribly insulted when he was told he was wrong about the score of a baseball game he was actually present at.  Tony mixes all the sets together because Bruce’s memory is phenomenal and if he’s told the answer once, he’ll never get that question wrong again, and that worked out poorly because as it turns out?  Natasha cannot be beaten on Star Wars trivia, and no one knows why.

So Thor loves Trivial Pursuit because it is loud and boisterous and full of fascinating information about the world he now lives in, and about his friends, too.  And also because of that one time that Clint and Tony were screaming at each other who the bad guy was in Rocky 3, and Steve mentioned he didn’t remember those films, and everyone tried to do interpretive reinactments of the first Rocky.

As it turns out, Bruce does an awesome impersonation of the “running up the museum steps” montage.

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Ok, now I have to ask, one because you brought it up, and two because of the ridiculous amount of infectious energy that just came off of that post. What’s with the Phil/Clint head bop?


Wow, go straight for the complicated ones, don’t you? 8)

When Phil and Clint first started working together, there was an op that went very, very bad.  It wasn’t Clint’s fault, but he got caught up in a cascade of events that forced him to do things that he ordinarially wouldn’t do.  Everyone got out, but there were a lot of bad consequences, and afterwards, Clint just shut down.


And Phil hadn’t been working with him for that long, and it was a very frustrating situation for him, because the files kept by his previous handlers were RUBBISH, really, what were these people THINKING there was nothing in here, nothing that Phil could work with.  Because he prides himself on knowing his agents, how to get the best from them, when they need to be put on a leash, how to talk them around from the bad bits, when to leave them alone.  He compiles all this stuff, kind of a ‘how to’ for anyone who comes after him.  So that an agent can go to another handler, and that handler, if they give half a damn, can easily adjust to work with them.

Barton’s file is a mess of “WTF?” and Phil is NOT HAPPY ABOUT THIS.

And he tries all the basics, all his usual work-arounds, but Clint doesn’t respond to persuation or orders or coddling, and he won’t see the psyche staff and he all but tries to bite the medical staff.  He does his job, he logs time at the range, he even does another op, but it’s like working with a marrionette.  There’s nothing there, and Phil is starting to get scared, like actually scared.

He gets into a bit of a fight with Clint after the successful op, and it’s not much of a fight, because Clint isn’t really responding or even caring much, but Phil realizes that the entire time, his hands are sliding up and down the length of his bow.  That there’s a precise way he’s doing it.  This isn’t just a weapons check, this is a tactile comfort thing.

That’s clue number one.  Because Clint is very tactile, very hands on, and hell, so’s Phil for that matter, but it’s not like he can just start hugging Clint.  It’s not appropriate, for one thing, and for the second, he might have the tiniest attraction to his new agent.  Shh, don’t tell.  But part of his iron control is keeping his hands off of things that play havoc with that control, so hugging?  Not a good idea.

But it's a start.

And the second hint comes later, when they get called into Fury’s office about some reassignment of staff, some stupid thing that Phil should’ve handled alone, but Fury wanted Barton there, so Barton came. 

It was boring and stupid and Phil expected Clint to be playing on his phone or something, but Clint just stared straight ahead, impassive, blank.  And when Fury dismissed them, that was the first time that Clint showed any emotion; something like shock or suprise or confusion.

Phil followed him out into the hallway, and Barton turned on him and just went, “How much longer are we going to drag this out?  Get it over with!  I fucked up, just get it over with!” like he was at the end of his rope.

And part two clicked in Coulson's head: Barton was waiting to be punished.

No amount of, “this wasn’t your fault,” or “we don’t blame you,” or worst of all, “you did the best you could” changes the fact that Clint knows he screwed up.  Not intentionally, nothing IS his fault, but his prefectionism has deep claws, and when he does not do everything perfectly, that turns him inside out and sideways, and he has been waiting, agonized and panicked and afraid, for the other shoe to drop.

He’s been waiting for his punishment, and until that happens, he’s not going to let go.  It’s not rational, it’s not right, but it’s what is going on in Clint’s head.  He expects a punishment, and he’s expecting everything from being reassigned or demoted to being fired.

And nothing that Phil can SAY right now will convince him that’s not what’s coming.

And Phil has siblings, and Phil is a tactile kind of guy, so he looks at Barton and just says, “Don’t do it again,” and without really thinking about it, he just reaches out and smacks Clint on the back of the head, a little bop, no force to it, the same way he did with his little sisters when he caught them breaking the rules, when he still loved them, but man, were they pains in the ass.

And for a second, he doesn’t know if he did the right thing, because Clint just freezes, and when he does start moving again, it’s still a little odd, a little off.  But on their next op, he’s talking on the comm again, and he reappears on the sofa on Phil’s office to shoot pencils at the ceiling and generally be an annoyance afterwards.

Because they’re both kind of messed up and crazy, and Clint’s got a lot of tangled headspace about responsiblity and perfection.  But when Phil bops him on the head, it’s shorthand for “what you’re saying is annoying” or “I was worried,” or “stop teasing Natasha before you get stabbed,” or “you screwed up.”  It’s Clint being reassured that no matter how annoying he is, and what comes out of his mouth, or how badly he reacts sometimes, that Phil will acknowledge this, and that’s it.  That is the worst that is going to happen.

It’s their little shorthand for, “Don’t worry about it, I still love you.”

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OOh, can I ask why Dummy hates fabrication? It’s cheating, because I wouldn’t have thought to ask if you hadn’t listed it, but now that you brought it up, I remember at least one point where it came up, and now I’m really curious! Also, I love your stories and your tumblr, it makes me happy :)


Dummy hates fabrication because the Fabrication Units don’t make mistakes.

Unlike the helper bots or Jarvis, they’re not true AIs, they have enough awareness to do their jobs, but that’s it.  Because of this, they only do what they’re ordered to do and they do it perfectly every time.

They always get an off-hand ‘good boy,’ because Tony talks to EVERYTHING, sometimes when he’s been alone for too long and human contact is a faded memory, he says “Good boy” to the lights when they turn on, and let me tell you, the lights don’t give a damn.  

They really don’t.

But Dummy wants to be Tony’s favorite, he’s the oldest, he’s the first born son, he’s the BESTEST OF THE BOTS.  Except he makes mistakes because he’s allowed to.  And Tony doesn’t think about it much, but yes.  He loves Dummy, and thus, he allows, even encourages the chaos and the mistakes and the self-determination.  From all the bots, with the smoothies and the fire extinquishers, the paint systems and the clean-up.  The bots make a mess and make mistakes and Tony threatens them all with donation to a city college and a job guarding the main lobby of SHIELD and time alone with the refrigeration system, and it is ugly in there.

Because he loves the damn things.

But the fabrication units get “good boy” every time and Dummy gets the “wine rack” threat and it’s SO UNFAIR it is just UNFAIR.  So sometimes he occasionally accidentally not really meaning to do so, must’ve been a glitch in his code sabotages the fabrication units.


Then they get all bitchy and warn Tony that Dummy knocked something into the middle of their work.  And the “city college” comes up again and Dummy is reassigned to dusting because You can at least follow orders and not break things.

Basically, the Fabrication units are whiny little tattle tale kiss-ups and Dummy hates them. 

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Unrepentantfangirl asked: 

HEADCANNON QUESTION. Why does Natasha photograph everything? Is it for blackmail purposes or linked to having her memories messed with repeatedly?

Natasha does take a lot of pictures in the Toasterverse, doesn’t she?

If asked, she has a variety of answers, depending on who’s doing the asking.

-“It never hurts to have leverage.”

-“You would never believe how much I can get for these on the internet.”

-“Force of habit.”

-“Testing my gear.”

-“Fury wants proof this time.”

The reality of the situation is a little different.

After Clint brought her in, convinced Fury and Coulson and Hill and everyone else that she could be a valued team member, if given a chance (Coulson just nodded, Fury had hoped for this all along, and Hill took some convincing), she took to SHIELD like a duck takes to an active volcano.

It was not an easy transition period.

She took pictures constantly.  It was a force of habit.  It never hurt to keep a record, to know who was with who, who couldn’t stand who, who couldn’t be trusted at the stick of a jet, who couldn’t be trusted in a fire fight, who couldn’t work with Clint, who couldn’t stand her presence.

Couldn’t.  Couldn’t.  Couldn’t.

But it was what she did.  She was a spy.  It was engrained in her.  It was second nature.  It was habit.

It was months, months of silence and sullen missions in driving rain and bitter cold. Of taking orders without a flicker of an eyelash and going home to sterile quarters. She brought nothing in, she took nothing out.  The cream white walls were blank, the cabinets and counter tops and bureaus were empty.

There was nothing there.  She wasn’t sure she was staying yet.

But she was Clint’s responsiblity.  So the emptiness back at her apartment was countered by the fullness of the missions.  Not like there were a lot of people, there was just, well, Clint, and really?  CLINT WOULD NOT SHUT UP.

Clint talked and Clint whistled and Clint laughed and Clint snored like a congested heifer and Clint SANG.  He actually SANG sometimes, he sang over the comm lines, he always sang in the shower, he sang while the morning coffee brewed, he sang in late night diners and greasy spoons.  He didn’t seem to care that she didn’t talk back, that she mostly ignored him.  He chattered like a magpie, he sang like a nightingale, he hunted like a hawk.

And one day, she found herself talking back.  Mostly to tell him to shut up, of course.  But she talked to him.  In the depths of cold nights, when the air was like crystal in her lungs and she could feel the numbness creep up her legs, she whispered with him, children’s songs and lullabies and songs from the oldies channel that Coulson always watched.

She found herself looking forward to his Elvis renditions, and the way that she could curl in his lap, against the broad lines of his chest, and he could aim around her without complaint.  On those nights, she sang old Russian folksongs into the side of his neck, her breath warm against his skin.

They became lovers.  It was the best disaster she’d ever taken part in.  Their parting was less a break up and more a change of gears.  They kept on as if nothing had changed, even when everything changed.

Natasha kept taking pictures.  But somehow, they didn’t have the same weight that they used to.  And she was getting sloppy about taking them, people saw her, and she wasn’t sure she cared.

She was still at SHIELD.  She wasn’t sure why.

Then one day, on the way home from a mission, Clint babbled and snarked and yawned his way through a review of the collapsing situation that had nothing to do with debriefing and everything to do with just hearing the sound of his voice.  And, if she was soothed by the constant reminder that they were all still there, well, that was just a side benefit of his embellished words.

Coulson barely made any pretense to paying attention to him, despite the fact that the recitation was clearly for his benefit.  Natasha knew him well enough now to know that he was, in fact, paying attention, paying close attention to the pattern of Clint’s words and the timbre of his voice.

And as Clint started to nod, his eyes barely open and his voice slurring at the edges, Coulson subtly angled his body, never looking up from the paperwork braced on one knee, never doing more than mumble a faint ‘mm-hmm,’ but when Clint fell asleep, his head came to rest on Coulson’s shoulder, his body settling into the solid angle of Coulson’s side.

It took her the entire flight back to get the photo.

She went back to her quarters.  She put away her gear, checked her weapons, set her clothes aside to be washed.  She checked her weapons again.  She did her paperwork.  She checked the damage to her boots.

For the first time that she could remember, she printed a photo because she wanted it.  Not because it was ordered, not because it was part of a mission or a task or an operation.

But because something about that shot, Clint asleep on Coulson’s shoulder, his expression open and relaxed, and Coulson’s cheek on his hair, a faint smile on his face, was something she wanted.

Before she could think twice of it, she printed it.  And clearly, there was no place for it here, here in the empty shell that was her quarters, so she put it with the only other things that she owned, the only other thing that defined her, packed it up with her weapons and left.

When she shut her weapons locker, she left behind a single photo, tucked carefully behind the lining of a knife case.

Two missions later, she opened her weapons case and found a single perfect teacup and saucer sitting in the midst of her guns.  There was a folded card inside, that read “Welcome home,” in familiar, ragged print.  ”Your tea deserves a better cup.”

She wasn’t sure why she checked the photo, but she did, and was relieved to find the pale reverse stuck just where she’d left it.  But when she flipped it over, she found a crisp yellow post-it on the front.  ”Sorry, but I figured a trade was in order.  This seemed a fair exchange.”

Underneath Coulson’s neat, precise script, the photo wasn’t the one she’d left.  Instead, it was a shot of her, leaning over Clint, putting a butterfly bandage on his forehead.  He was making a face, looking boyish and absurd, his nose wrinkled and his mouth twisted up, but his one open eye was dancing. 

Natasha was bent over him, one delicate hand stroking his hair, the expression on her face one of exasperation and fondness, warmth and protectiveness.  Her lips were hovering over his forehead.

She took the photo and the cup, shut her weapons locker, and headed back to her quarters.

It took her an absurdly long time to decide where to put the cup, with it’s paper thin china and delicately painted pink roses.  The photo, she tucked into the edge of her mirror, out of the way, out of place in the great sea of cream colored nothing.  But she got used to seeing it there.  Every morning.  Every night.

Natasha almost didn’t notice when it was joined by a second.  And a third.  Until they overflowed the mirror.  Filled picture frames.  Were pinned to the inside of cabinets and tucked along windows.  

The cup had a partner now.  A chipped mug from a thrift shop somewhere in Arkansas was side by side with a crisp one with the Army ranger logo.  A tin cup salvaged on a mission from hell.  A plastic mug from a fast food restaurant with Garfield on the outside.  A limited edition Star Wars glass brought back from Comicon.  

Somewhere along the way, it became a game, to find Natasha cup or a mug or a glass from each mission when the three of them weren’t together.  They held seedlings and tea and earrings and poker chips and brandy.  

When Natasha agreed to move to what would become Avengers tower, it took her a full day to pack everything.  Every ugly cup and chipped mug and plastic tumblr was wrapped in newspaper with extreme care and packaged like crystal.

Natasha takes pictures now, a lot of pictures, some with her spy gear, and some with her phone and some with an SLR that Coulson and Clint bought her for her unacknowledged birthday last year.  She has a hundred smartass comments if you ask her why, responses that range from “Have you seen his ass?” to “It’s not the worst one of Stark I have, really,” but in the end?

She’s just one of those people who takes a lot of pictures of her family.

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Headcanon: Barton’s love of air vents.

A big chunk of Barton’s past in the Toasterverse is classified, because I might be dealing with it later.  

But he was an abused child.

His father was a drunk, and he was physically abusive to his wife and both of his sons.  Clint, being the youngest, and the smallest, stood no chance of standing up for himself, so he learned very early on to hide.  To make himself small and try his best not to be noticed.

To will himself to disappear.

Like many frightened children, he had a talent for finding the smallest, most out of the way spots to fold himself into.  Closets, under beds, cabinets, crawl spaces, hidden niches beneath stairs, the floor of the back seat of a car, the crook of a high tree branch, if they were difficult for him to reach or get into, then they’d be impossible for an adult to access.

Small spaces, pressed in tight on all sides, silent and dark, were his favorite, because he could pretend there was nothing outside.  High spots were next, because he learned quickly the elemental truth: Humans tended not to look up.  A foot or two above the eye level of most adults, and he might as well not exist.

Clint Barton learned to watch.  It really only worked if he could remain motionless.  If he could hold himself still, to slow his breathing and ignore the heat or the cold, the sting of insects or the stuffy, thick taste of air filled with dust.  

By the time his parents died, Clint was a child trained to stillness.  The fear dissipated, slowly, but the feeling of safety, of control, remains, because it’s buried deep, deeper than he realizes.  

As an adult, as a sniper, he takes the high ground when ever possible, because height and distance and unused, disregarded spaces are so second nature to him that they might as well be another weapon in his arsenal.  He chooses his perches for their angles and their cover, but mostly, he chooses them for what he can see.  Always, what he could see.

Of course, if you’re asking why he spends his time in Coulson’s air ducts, well, that’s because A. he’s happy there, B. he likes to keep Phil off balance, C. Phil kicks him off the couch sometimes, but he never bothers to whack the vents with a broom to scare off perching hawks, and D. to watch Phil’s back.

After all, as long he’s in the vents, no one else is using them to get to Phil.  It’s his own little guard dog moment, holding one access safe and keeping a line of sight on all the others.  

He is safe in the vents, and he’ll keep Phil safe, as well.

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Natasha and Star Wars, is there a story behind this one too?


Can you tell us anything about Phil and his love of Miyazaki movies? (because he named the toaster Calcifer)

Both of these are Clint’s fault.

No one is shocked.

However, maybe not the way that people might think.

The op in Barcelona went wrong like, five minutes after Clint was on the ground.  If you asked Clint, he’d tell you that the op went wrong three days prior, when he was informed that Natasha was in the Ukraine dealing with an old ‘friend’ and Coulson was mopping up the remains of a a information smuggling ring in Shenzen, so he was going in without any member of his preferred team.

He pouted the entire way there.  He would define it as ‘avoiding contact and concentrating on his assignment,’ but everyone else in the goddamn jet would define it as ‘pouting like a whiny little boy.’  To which he would say, “Screw you.”

Anyway, the op was a mess from beginning to end, Coulson would’ve had frickin’ kittens if he’d known what was happening, but Clint was used to disastrous levels of incompetence.  They didn’t really bother him.

Despite some heavy resistance, they located and managed to clear the kidnapped envoy from AIM’s cell, Clint taking out target after target, explosive arrows chipping away at the secret base with brutal efficiency, even as he half carried the damn politician down the mountain.

Just as the SHIELD evac was coming in, a lucky hit from an AIM energy weapon took out the cliffside above them.  Clint had moved without thinking, shoving the envoy down just before the collapsing rockface swept them away.

By the time Coulson and Natasha made it back to base, Clint was in medical, alive but in a coma.

Natasha had been very, very unhappy.  Coulson had taken one look at the mission report and had, indeed, been livid.

Neither of which had changed the fact that Clint was quiet and still and silent and so pale beneath the walls of machines and bandages, and Coulson knew that Clint would hate having the breathing tube down his throat and Natasha continuously had to check to make sure that his IVs were in place because if he woke up, his first act would be to pull them out.

And there was nothing else they could do but trade shifts, sitting next to his bed.

Natasha had gone through his Netflix account and his Amazon wish list and his IMDB highest rated movies (his passwords are pathetic, and she changed them all just to spite him when he woke up), and she started watching them all on the tv in his room.  His favorite movies, his favorite stories, the ones he quoted to her until she wanted to strangle him, the ones that he taunted her about and teased her with until she threw a knife at his head.

She watched Star Wars a lot.  She would sit on the chair when there were others around, but in the darkest part of the nights, when the nurses and aides came on a strict schedule, and no one was foolish enough to try to remove her, she’d curl next to him, her head against his chest, listening to the beat of his heart as Han Solo bickered with Leia and she cursed the stubborn princess under her breath in gutteral Russian.

When it was Coulson’s turn, he brought books.  Books Clint had never read, books that he might not even care about, but books that Coulson had always thought, maybe, Clint might like.  Some his own, some he knew were good, and some that were tied to things that Clint liked.

And he read Diana Wynn Jones’ “Howl’s Moving Castle.”  He’d considered the movie, because Clint loved the movie, loved the animation and the life and the magic of it, and so did Coulson, but he pretended not to watch.

He brought the book because Clint always said he loved Coulson’s voice.

And so he sat, hour after hour, reading aloud.  He felt kind of silly at first, but after a while, he learned to modulate his voice for the words, for the different characters, for the soft inflection of people in love and the staccato delivery of a soldier at war.  He told the story of Howl and his mysterious, monstrous castle, the Witch of the Waste, and the delicate, determined hatmaker Sophie.

Sometimes, Natasha would arrive silently, appearing in a chair nearby with hot tea, spiked with lemon and honey to soothe his rough throat.  And when he had to stop reading, when he was almost hoarse with it, she would pick up another book at random and read, her voice lilting and delicate and steady.  She would pause for comentary, she would roll her eyes and skip passages when the characters met with her disapproval, but she read as Coulson drank his tea.

Drank his tea and clung to Clint’s still, limp hand.

They were arguing about who was to blame for Howl and Calcifer’s prediciment when Coulson looked down and realized Clint’s eyes were open.  Foggy and not quite focused, but open.

And later, when the tube was removed from his throat, and he’d taken a sip of water, he pointed out that Calcifer was, in fact, a more interesting character than Howl, so screw that guy.

So Natasha sometimes watches Star Wars when no one is watching her, and sometimes, Coulson checks the battered paperback book in his lower left desk drawer, tracing the spine and the the pages, and remembering the warmth in Clint’s eyes as he whispered, “I like your spark.”

Chapter Text

rena-rules asked:Why does Thor like limos?


At the end of The Avengers, Thor has managed to get in touch with Jane by phone, but he can’t leave Loki, and he doesn’t want to wait, he wants to get his brother off of Earth as soon as possible.  So he’s doing this thing, he is doing the RIGHT THING, but everyone can tell he’s miserable.

And Tony thinks about what he said to Phil, the “Keep love alive” when he was talking to Phil about his cellist, and he decides, yes.  Because Phil isn’t here to fix this, to do the thing that he does, Tony’s going to do it for him.  He can do this.

So he threatens and harrasses and pitches fits to get Jane on a plane and back to New York and sends a limo from StarkIndustries to meet her, there’s this whole set of LIES about visiting diplomats or something that Fury cooked up because New York is still a mess and no one knows anything.  So they get a police escort.

And when they’re getting close, Tony and Steve and Clint and Natasha and Bruce all swear that they will stand guard over Loki, guy’s not talking or moving or anything else right now, really.  So he should take half an hour and spend some time with Jane.  They got his back.


So Steve and Bruce and Natasha stay to point weapons and glares at Loki and Tony and Clint go down with Thor who is just bouncing with glee.  Clint knows Jane from New Mexico, figures he can say hi, and Tony is all proud of himself.  HE HELPED.  HE WAS GOOD.

So the limo pulls up and Thor opens the door and Tony gets a brief glimpse of a pretty woman with dark hair and a severe case of jetlag, and then Thor is like, “THIS IS BIGGER THAN THE VAN!” and in he goes. “AND MUCH SOFTER!”

And Tony goes, “Van?”

And Clint goes, “Dr. Foster had a van down at the research facility and-”   They both kind of gape at the limo, because it is very obvious what is happening inside, and Clint kicks the door closed.  ”Gotta say, still rooting for that guy.”

“Is he having sex in my limo?”

“Stark, let’s not pretend your limo is a virgin.  Your limo has seen some action.  And it’s about to see a lot more.  Let’s go watch the crazy freaky alien.  'Cause someone’s gotta.”

“Is he having SEX in my LIMO?”

“Not yet, I mean it’s only been-  Woop.  I take that back.  Yes.  Yes  he is.  Let’s go, Stark.”

“I hate everyone, really, this is just-  I’m going to have to replace the springs at this point!”

“You’re going to have to replace the LIMO at this point.”

And it wasn’t much time and it didn’t solve anything and Tony had to get the damn limo replaced, but Thor loves limos.  Loves them.  Because of Jane and his team and the fact that they’re the only vehicles that he can really stretch out in.

Chapter Text

Anonymous asked:….”Bruce plays with the hem or cuff of his shirt ” <—Thiiiiiis. Please, I’d love to hear all about it! Pie charts, graphs, powerpoints, the whole shebang :D

This one’s pretty easy. 8)

I really had no interest in the Hulk until the Avengers.  I adore, absolutely ADORE Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner.  Love.  And I loved the nervous tics, the way he seems uncomfortable in his own skin, the twitchiness that just overflows sometimes.

Because the transition to the Hulk is a physical as well as a mental one, even if Bruce can’t keep track of where his head is, because that’s hard sometimes, the lines blur and he’s afraid, so afraid of becoming something that isn’t him, and isn’t the other guy, but a mix of the two.  He’s terrified, on some level, of not knowing when he’s lost it, when he’s lost the grip on his own existence.

But when he becomes the Hulk, he always sacrifices his shirt.

So as long as his shirt is intact, as long there are no rips there in the physical fabric, then his mental fabric is intact, too.  When he’s afraid he’s done something, lost his grip without knowing it, because it happens, sometimes, he traces the hem of his shirt, or his sleeves or the line of his buttons.  

Like a Catholic saying the rosary, he runs the fabric through his fingers, over and over and over, running the full cycle, on repeat, as many times as he needs to feel that he’s peace, that he’s done his repentance. 


That he's still in one piece.

Chapter Text

darkmagyk asked you: Do you think the Avengers have watched The Princess Bride together?

Thursday night is Movie Night in the Toasterverse.  The Princess Bride was the first “movie night,” though it was nothing nearly so official then.  Of course, if you have a group of lonely, isolated, socially maladjusted people living together, and they need to find a way to connect without, you know, TALKING ABOUT FEELINGS, then movies are good.  Movies are a shared cultural experience.  Good movies forge a connection with their audience, a bond of something not quite real, but certainly there.  Great movies give people an excuse to FEEL, to feel in a way that is both safe and validating.

Everybody can cry at the movies.

But Thursday is Movie Night (yes, the caps are important, this is an IMPORTANT THING) in the Avengers Tower, and it’s all Bruce’s fault.

Bruce, who had wandered, lost and alone and directionless, to the far corners of the world.  Bruce, who had isolated himself, who had taken care for years to make no connections, to interact with people as little as possible, to stay separate, apart.

He did it out of necessity, and he hated it.  There are no words for how much Bruce Banner hated being alone, hated avoiding eye contact and touch and conversation.  He did it because it was safest, both for himself, and everyone around him.  He was a threat, he was a danger, he was a monster.

Mostly, he was alone.

But no matter how far he got from home, one thing remained the same, one thing that he noticed and loved and clung to.  The movies created a shared space.  They created a bond.  They created conversation and light and life and he could sit on the edge of a crowd, or even at a distance, and hear other people.  People laughing and crying and yelling, people wrapped up in the experience.

Some times, people, people who didn’t know him, who would never know him, would turn to him and smile, or laugh, their eyes alive and happy and all but yelling out, “do you see this?  Isn’t this amazing?” and Bruce could smile back and feel, just for a second, that he was a part of the human race again.

There are movies everywhere.  The smallest village in the furtherest backwater will still drag out an old movie projector and a sheet on hot summer nights and project old black and white films, musicals and action serials and cartoons, for running, laughing children and adults grateful for a chance to sit and be social.

Bruce caught every one of Steve’s films on a long stay in Bolivia, where the children would perch in trees and the adults would spread blankets on the ground below them, plucking their sleeping offspring from the branches like over ripe fruit when it was time to go home.

And Bruce would linger until the last person was gone before he went back to his empty rented room.

There were battered old tvs and video cassettes in the ‘common room’ of the boarding house in Mexico.  An open air theater  with no walls and a battered tin roof in Columbia.  A drive-in with unpatched holes in the fence in Texas, where he would buy the biggest popcorn and soda they had and the old lady who owned the place would politely ignore his lack of a car.  The ancient one-screen that played the newest Hollywood blockbuster all week, but on Tuesday nights would show a classic in Nova Scotia.  Bollywood films played in a loop with action films and and churned out kung-fu fighters from Hong Kong played all over Asia.

Movies were his last, waning connection to humanity.

It was by chance that Bruce was wandering the silent hallways of the tower on a Thursday night, something like fear or agitation chewing on his brain.  He hadn’t been still, in one place, in a place so exposed, so crowded, so intensely OCCUPIED in so long, he had to fight the urge to run.  All the time.

He still had a packed bag tucked away, because he wanted to assume that he’d be human when he fled.  He prayed for that, with language of hope and praise almost forgotten.

But he was alone, and his skin was crawling, his fingers worrying the edge of his sleeves, over and over and over as he walked, up and down, pacing out the length of hallways, avoiding looking at the windows, avoiding the sight of the dark city so far below him.

He ended up in the rec room, because it was warm, and comfortable, and the tv gave him an excuse to linger.  It was Jarvis who suggested a film, because Jarvis had watched Bruce’s movements, watched his mannerisms and tics and facial expressions, and recognized enough of Tony in him to know that he needed distraction.  

Bruce chose the Princess Bride, because, well, it’s the Princess Bride.  The dual story of true love and heroism and friendship played out against one of family and concern and comfort was one that he liked.  He didn’t think about it.

And at “As you wish,” the first one, he heard steps in the hall and Tony all but flung himself around the corner.

“Holy FUCK,” he yelled, making Bruce jump.  ”Are you watching the Princess Bride?”

“Uh, yes?” Bruce managed, trying to keep his heartbeat under control.

“Excellent.”  Tony vaulted over the back of the couch, bouncing into place next to Bruce.  He waved a hand.  ”Jarvis, tell everyone we’re watching a movie.  Assemble and fuck.  Do this thing.”

“You don’t have to-” Bruce managed.

“It’s the Princess Bride, fuck yes we do, bet Steve hasn’t seen this, SHEILD showed him nothing but war flicks and what the hell were they thinking, guy’s had enough of that nonsense, do you mind if we go back to the beginning?  Cool, that’d be awesome.  Anyway, yeah, Clint-“

“Is this the Princess Bride?” Clint said from the doorway.  ”Fuck.  Yes.”

Natasha, right behind him, swore in Russian.  ”He will now quote this movie for days.  You have unleashed something you are not equipped to handle.”

“Could be worse, could be Monty Python,” Coulson said.  He had folders tucked under his arm.

“What’s Monty Python?” Steve said.  He was in workout clothes, with Thor in matching SHIELD sweats at his side.  

“We’ll watch that next,” Tony said.  ”Sit, you’re making me tired just watching you.”

“What’s it about?” 

“Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” Clint quoted, sprawling out on a couch, his head in Natasha’s lap.  

“Ah, an epic story of warriors!” Thor said, taking a seat on the beanbag chair, because he loved that thing.

“Sounds good,” Steve added, and looked around.  ”Uh, can we have popcorn?” he asked, and he was blushing a little.  Bruce met his eyes and realized that yeah, Steve might just want to see this as much as him.

“Damn, yes.  Okay, pause this thing, let’s get provisions, hey, Jarvis?  Order us a popcorn machine for in here, so we can have the real stuff next time, okay?” And Tony sounded manic, but in the best possible way, like he was happy, like he wanted the company, like popcorn and a twenty-five year old movie was the best idea he’d heard in a long time.

And maybe it was, because by the end of the night, Thor was asleep, still hugging the popcorn bowl to his chest, and Natasha was draped over Clint’s back as he slept on his stomach, snoring just a little, his cheek on Coulson’s thigh.  Coulson was slumped over, his arm thrown across the back of the couch, papers tossed across the table in front of them.

Tony was curled against Steve, the line of his spine tucked against Steve’s side, his head on Steve’s shoulder.  Steve’s cheek was resting on his hair.   Tony’s legs had somehow ended up tangled with Bruce’s, his bare foot warm against the back of Bruce’s ankle.

He was the last one still awake, and that was fine, that was fine, because Clint snored, just a little and Steve’s breathing was slow and steady and loud and he could feel the heat of Tony’s skin against his.

And there was a particularly sad scene playing, so he had an excuse to cry.

Chapter Text

retconnedbythecaptain asked: Why are the roomba’s so obsessed with eating stuff relating to Phil (his ties, his paperwork, etc)?

The Roombas are obsessed with Coulson.

Not in a creepy way.  Well, in the least creepy way that a hive mind made up of flying robotic vacuum cleaners can manage.  Most things the Roombas do fall somewhere between ‘kind of disquieting,’ and ‘OH HOLY FUCK WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE.’

Some people are less bothered by them than others.  Clint adores them, Tony has secretly named every one that Clint hasn’t already labeled, Steve likes them in groups of five or less, and Thor likes teaching them tricks.  Bruce enjoys the company and maybe just on occasion spills stuff so they’ll show up.  Natasha finds the fact that they are able to roll without anyone noticing to be very, very useful.  Especially after she mounted a camera to her favorite one. 

Coulson hates their little mechanical guts.

Okay, hate is stretching things.  He doesn’t usually work up enough enthusiasm to hate them, but Stark made them, so they are, by the very nature of their creator, untrustworthy.  They are fixated on Clint, and Coulson does not like untrustworthy things around Clint.  And Clint is fixated on them, and okay, not that he’d ever acknowledge this, but he is a little jealous about how much attention Clint lavishes on the damn things.

It’s kind of infuriating and since he’s spent a lot of time grumbling at Clint to get a hobby that does not involve hanging out on his couch and shooting pencils at his office ceiling, he can’t very well complain that Clint now spends his time playing ‘trash keep away’ with the Roombas and Thor.  Of course, the first time he ends up injured, Coulson is going to feed the damn things their own casings.

And he’s going to enjoy it.  Not that he’s in any way childish about this, but the damn things are just…  He does not like them, and he wishes he could shoot them, let’s just put it that way.

At the very least, he wishes they would stay the hell away from him, and unbeknownst to him, they CAN’T.

See, the Roombas were created by Tony when he was in a “I’ll show them CLEAN” kind of mad engineer mode, and they were ‘raised’ by Jarvis, who appreciates precision and really, if the Roombas can get things clean and he can stop dealing with the horrific after affects of dealing with these people’s biohazard level laundry, Jarvis would be much happier.  So the Roombas are just the tiniest bit anal retentive and they have the sensor grid and the drive to make sure that clean isn’t so much a mission statement as it is a way of life.

Or a religion.

And most of the time, the Roombas feel really good about themselves!  They are doing a good job!  They do exactly what they are supposed to do, and THEY ARE PROUD OF THEMSELVES!

The Avengers kind of make it easy.  There are always things to clean with the Avengers around.  It’s part of why they love Clint.  He’s always somewhere high, or somewhere hidden, and he finds the most MARVELOUS dust bunnies.  The dust and debris and dirt that Clint brings home is just the absolute best, and sometimes when he comes out of the air vents, where they are no longer allowed without strict supervision, there’s a little bit of a jostling fight about who gets to follow him around until he stops shedding.  Or they take shifts because, sweet tiny robot Jesus, Clint is FILTHY.

Clint ALWAYS has the most delicious and intriguing dirt. 

Natasha gets the dirty jobs, and as fastidious and precise as she is, there’s no way to crawl out of a collapsing mob hideout without getting your feet dirty.  She’s got the good stuff, too, and she teaches them the best words in many languages.

Tony will reliably have something burned, crushed, shattered, leaking or just sticky in his wake.  And he will dump stuff on the workshop floor to test their sensor grids and suction, so they’re always busy in the workshop, and sometimes they can play tug of war with Dummy.

Steve’s a polite guy, so most of the time he tries to clean with them, and that’s kind of nice, he talks to them, too, and that’s nice.  But mostly what’s nice is the pencil shavings and eraser debris that always clings to his shoes and sometimes there’s the remains of a punching bag that gets stuck to his shirt or sweat pants and once, ONCE he let them all in to help him clean up a shattered punching bag and there was SAND EVERYWHERE, SO MUCH SAND.

That will be fondly remembered by the hive mind forever.  For this reason alone, the Roombas will chant “Steeeeeeeeeeeve” at him until they go to the great cleaning fields beyond this life.

Thor makes huge messes, usually too big to clean, and one time Tony came into the Rec room to find Thor face down on the carpet, laughing like a loon as the Roombas rolled all up and down his back like a fleet of tiny mechanical masseuses and then it took Natasha half an hour to get the knots out of his hair.  The pictures are still some of Jane’s favorites of her beloved.

Tony is still prying blond hair out of Roomba gullets.

Bruce’s lab is pretty clean, which makes finding anything to clean that doesn’t result in being picked up and placed back on the floor with a gentle reminder that they are not allowed on the workbenches pretty difficult.  But Bruce talks to them and sometimes he hides dirt somewhere really hard to reach and sits and watches them go nuts getting it out.  And when they’ve cleaned it up, they bump him until he spills more.  Cleaning the lab is only for the patient and dedicated, but Bruce is really nice and he knows what it’s like to need a purpose so he keeps them busy when they start wandering sadly around his feet.

Coulson is clean.

Coulson makes the Roombas nuts.  There is nothing to clean around Coulson.  He never drops so much as a stray thread or a hair or even shed skin flakes.  He is just…  The Anti-Dust. 

He makes the Roombas nervous, because there must be something to clean.  There must be.  They must be missing the dust.  They must look harder to find the dirt.  He is an organic being, he must create opportunities for cleaning.

And yet, he doesn’t.

So their determination to find SOMETHING to clean and Coulson’s stubborn refusal to GIVE them anything to clean clashes until they lose their little MegaMaid minds and start convincing themselves that his messes aren’t too small to be seen, they are big.  That the piles of paper and the contents of his briefcase and the occasional sock or silk tie are not things that he needs, but rather the only messes that Coulson produces.

And if they are messes, they must be cleaned.

This results in Coulson using the tone of voice that is usually reserved for terrorist attacks on children and jammed suction and sad beeping and Tony and Clint teaming up to smuggle the Roombas across the border to safety.

Then the Roombas spend a couple of days in Thor’s room, because he thinks they’re awesome and it’s kind of a punishment and kind of a reward because secretly?  Tony thinks it’s awesome when the most calm, even tempered, unflappable person he’s ever met is reduced to stomping his foot as he threatens to shoot his boyfriend’s pet robotic vacuum cleaner.

Mr. Fantastic gets all the best upgrades.  And yes, he is now bulletproof.

Chapter Text

retconnedbythecaptain  asked you:   In Coulson’s casefiles of the toasterverse, you mention that Thor loves riding around on the subway… Why does he like it so much? 

It’s Clint’s fault.  Is everyone seeing a theme to these things?  Really.  Clint’s fault.  Clint says things on occasion, and he doesn’t really think about it, he just SAYS the things that cross his mind.  Mostly, because he thinks they’re funny, and also because, well, let’s face it, he’s kind of a dick.

Now, when Thor first ended up in modern Midgardian society, he made a big ol’ crater in New Mexico.  And not even Albuquerque.  In the middle of the frickin’ desert.  Not exactly a major metropolitan area.

I mean, when a SHIELD operation can double the town population, you’re in the sticks.  When a SHIELD operation can so tip the balance of power that a town election could end with Coulson elected mayor (he declined, but very graciously), you’re in the twigs.

But anyway, Thor landed on the backend of nowhere: great pancakes, nice people (even if they don’t know a satellite from a hole in the ground, or in a hole in the ground), nice scenery, nice place to get a tan or make out with a pretty astrophysicist while her assistant makes gagging noises, but not exactly the height of modern technology.

Again, the locals found a hammer, shrugged and said, “Must be a satellite.”  No.  It’s a hammer.  Sure, it looks different than the Craftsman version you’ve got in your truck bed toolbox, but C’MON.  IT’S A HAMMER.

Anyway, New Mexico.  Then the Destroyer, then back to Asgard.  Then the German forest (the Avengers are still paying for that, that was OLD GROWTH, c’mon, boys, and Natasha had to go recapture Loki on her OWN, all of you have nice, big, firm…  Weapons, so let’s stop waving ‘em at each other, okay?), then the helicarrier, and then New York.  But Thor was really paying more attention to the fact that his brother didn’t love him anymore, and hey, giant sky monsters and an army to deal with, so he didn’t take in the sights.

So when he did finally get a chance to play tourist, it was a really big deal.

Coulson was supposed to show him around, but there was a problem at SHIELD. Tony can’t be trusted, and Natasha doesn’t do the tourist thing.  Bruce is incredibly nervous in crowds, and that’s before huge, loud blondes are yelling right next to him, drawing attention to him.  Steve still gets turned around, and changes in his city kind of get him down, so that leaves Clint.

Thor would probably have been better off on his own.

But off he went with Clint in tow, incredibly enthusiastic and ready to learn everything he can about his new home.  He loves it all.  Loves it.  The tacky little trinket stands in Times Square and the soaring skyscrapers in midtown, the green belt of Central Park and the architectural marvels on every corner.  He loves the food and the people and the constant flow of yellow taxis.

In Clint’s defense, he was really, REALLY good all day.  He was amazingly good.  Well, for him. 

But it was a really long day, and by the time Thor had a membership at every museum in the city and had petted like, sixty dogs, and eaten a hot dog from every single cart they’d passed, and had bought Jane snowglobes and hats and t-shirts that proclaimed “I have a lover in NY!” Clint was really done with this.

He just wanted to go home and take a damn nap.

So when Thor asked, “What are the holes in the street?  There is the sound of shrieking and pain coming from that one,” he was really thinking about a beer and a bed. 

And Clint missed that he was actually worried about this, and just said, “Those are the Manhattan caves.  Subterranean caverns.  It’s full of dragons, so don’t go down there.” And he kept walking, dragging bags full of postcards and sweatshirts and earrings and half eaten pretzels.

So he missed it when Thor, absolutely horrified by his lack of compassion for their great hosts, the good people of New York, headed straight for the subway entrance.  By the time Clint realized he was gone, Thor had run up and down the stairs a dozen times, ‘rescuing’ people.

A bunch of woman and a couple of men were more than pleased to be saved.  One enterprising young man headed back down twice to enjoy being carried back up.  His second trip ended up on YouTube.

Clint got down the stairs just as a train and the local police showed up.  There was an instant where it wasn’t clear which one of them Thor would fight first, and Clint had a momentary vision of Coulson flatly refusing to bail him out of jail this time.  Panic made him talk fast.  Very, very fast.

Thor was not pleased with his lies.

But one of the officers, amused now that it was clear that no one was going to press charges, and he wasn’t going to have to try to fight this guy, explained that it was a common prank to play on newcomers.  And that to be a true New Yorker, Thor would have to learn to ride the subway.

This was equal parts covering for Clint, and punishing him, because Thor agreed, bought himself a pass, learned how to use the fare gates, and proceeded to settle in for the next few hours.  

Here’s the thing about the subway.  If you think about it, it’s kind of magical.  You go underground, and step aboard, and when you come back out, you’re somewhere new.  And if you’re Thor, and everything is new, and nothing holds any fear for you, and people are amazing, the subway is the best thing ever.

All the different languages and clothing and skin tones and ages, all these different people, some lost in their own worlds, some reading and listening to music and talking.  There were people who were happy, and people who were tired, and people who were resigned.  People going to work, and going home, and going out and going in.  People alone and with their friends and holding onto children and lost in their own little worlds.

Humans are amazing, and Thor loves watching them, and talking to them, and learning and teaching.

So sometimes he’ll just wander onto the nearest train and ride all day.  He’ll talk to the old women with their knitting and the young punks with their music, the construction workers with dusty boots and battered lunchboxes, and the club kids with their hipster clothes and rainbow hair.  And he’ll chose a transfer or a stop at random, and emerge into the city, somewhere new.  Somewhere different.

Where he can listen to a new language or eat a new food or find something stupid and touristy to bring home and enjoy the look of horror on Tony’s face when he insists on displaying ANOTHER snow globe.

Because New York is home now, and New Yorkers ride the subway.

Chapter Text

Anonymous asked you:   “Natasha was perched in the window overlooking the street, and the SHIELD building beyond, her head turned away from the group, her thumb worrying some small item in her hand. Phil didn’t have to be told to know that it was some trinket that Clint had given her at some point through the years, that she would deny having kept.” -Ordinary Workplace Hazards. Headcanon time! What’s the item and when/why did Clint give it to her?

At the beginning, back when they were still feeling each other out and finding the  other’s rhythm and abilities, Natasha and Clint had fights.

They have fights now, they have a lot of fights, but at the beginning, when Clint had risked his life and his reputation and his standing to bring her in?  They had knock down, drag-out, kicking, hair pulling, biting FIGHTS.  On some level, Natasha was impressed that he’d managed to get that far under her skin, but mostly, she was just frustrated and annoyed.  

Basically, Clint Barton made her crazy.

He seemed to make everyone else crazy, too, most of SHIELD treated him with a wary sort of respect, but he was often a solitary figure, not one to garner a large collection of friends or companions.   It wasn’t unusual, not in a sniper of his capability, but it was out of the ordinary in the framework of SHIELD.  SHIELD didn’t like lone wolf operators.

Lone wolves, after all, were loners for a reason.  Because they’ve been forced out of, or failed to adapt to, a pack structure.  And SHIELD was a pack if ever she’d seen one.

But Barton was tolerated, and during missions, he worked comfortably with most all of the other agents.  Some he distrusted, some he disliked, a rare few he refused to deal with unless they were actively engage in a mission or an op.  But the only ones he really stayed close to were Natasha and Coulson.

And since Coulson is so clearly a company man, and Barton so clearly isn’t, it’s a mystery that Natasha just can’t wrap her head around.  But she spends far too much time thinking about it.

She doesn’t trust either of them, and she doesn’t know how they could trust each other. Because Clint made Coulson crazy, too.

He made them both crazy because he would disappear.  

Sometimes he’d shift position without telling anyone, sometimes he’d break protocol and go too close or too deep.  The worst of it was when he was taken, disappearing from their reach and their sight for days until they could locate him, or until he came stumbling home, battered and holding himself together with both hands or a makeshift bandage. 

But he couldn’t be predicted, and he couldn’t be controlled, and the only orders he’d follow reliably were Coulson’s.  Even with their handler, Clint was a constant struggle, and one time, Natasha caught Coulson outside of SHIELD medical.  Coulson face could've been carved from stone, as if the bullet that Clint had taken had hurt him, too, his hands steady but his knuckles white.

“How,” she asked, “do you work with that man?  How do you deal with the fact that you never know where he’ll be, or how long it’ll be until you find him?”

Coulson studied her with that faint little half smile that he wore when things were happening in his head that he didn’t want her to know about.  He took a short little breath, like an indrawn sigh.  ”Clint Barton,” he said at last, “is a bad penny.  He’ll always turn up, usually at the most inconvenient time.”

And that was all he had to say about the matter.

Three missions later, it was Natasha who disappeared.

She’d been captured before.  She’d been taken unawares, she’d been hijacked and drugged and tortured.  She’d been interrogated before, been threatened, been thrown in a hole, been left to bleed to death.  It was almost old hat by this point in her life.

That didn’t make it any easier when they finally threw her battered and bleeding body into the cell, the door locking behind her with a very final sounding clang.  It didn’t make the smell of rot and mold and the musty thin cot any easier to take.  It didn’t make the cold, the damp chill of the unending night any warmer.

And the fact that she was probably going to die here was the hardest thing to take.

Natasha has a rule: Don’t get caught.  The reason behind it is simple enough.  If she gets caught, no one is coming after her.  She’d had ops before, where she’d laid plans in case she failed, in case she did get caught, and mostly it involved leaving payment with someone as untrustworthy as she was, and hoping that it would result in a bribe or a weapon when she needed it most.

But here, now, there was no plan, no money, nothing but the knowledge that SHIELD would not throw good agents after bad.  

So she lay there, and waited, refusing to give in, refusing to die, and knowing that she was only prolonging the inevitable.  Day after day, night after night, she concentrated on breathing.  She concentrated on keeping her heart beating.  She concentrated on surviving.

She was good at that.

As the days passed, the hours ticking away every night, she listened to the water drip from the pipes above the cot, listened to the droplets hit the concrete.  She matched the rhythm of her breathing to the steady sound of the droplets hitting the floor.  In the silence of the night, it was amazingly loud.

Drip.  Drip.  Drip.  Drip.  


Natasha heard the sound, and for an instant, she thought she’d imagined it, because the dripping was back, slow and steady and now her heart was pounding, faster, far faster than the rhythm of the water.

She pried her eyes open, and that hurt, that hurt so much, but there was a slim cut of light thrown across the floor from the vent high on the wall.  It wasn’t much, but it kept her cell from being pitch black.  Now, with the reflected light of a search light playing across the dirty concrete every so often, there was a gleam of metal on the floor.

Natasha half fell, half crawled off the cot, dragging herself across the floor, making it seem like she was heading for the tepid, tainted bowl of water by the door, but as she pushed past, she let her hand fall on the gleam.  Making it across the small cell, she leaned against the wall, catching her breath.

In the shelter of her fingers, the small metal disc warmed against her palm.  It took her a single glance to realize what she was holding; it was a penny.  A penny with a gouge across Lincoln’s face.

A bad penny.

As she leaned against the wall, she considered the vent, high above her head, the only source of air or light or contact, and thought about the skill and the precision that would be necessary to put the damn thing across a guarded yard, through her vent, and to the ground, and time it to the pattern of the dripping water.

Clint Barton was one hell of a bad penny.

By the time the door opened, she was ready.  And she was aware that she could not walk out of here.  She was too injured, too starved, too exhausted.  If she was going to get out, she was going to have to put her life completely in his hands.

She wasn’t sure she could cope with that.

Clint was through the door and on his knees in front of her.  ”We’ve got to move,” he said, and he was wrapping a jacket around her, shoving her arms through the sleeves, heat and protection and dark fabric to cover her pale skin.  ”Coulson’s got us an out, but it’s a narrow window of time.”

The panic was a living thing in her throat as he closed the jacket around her, as he ran careful hands over her skull, her neck, her shoulders.  As he folded the hood over her filthy hair.  She couldn’t.  She couldn’t put her life in his hands, in the hands of a man no more trustworthy than she was.  

Natasha couldn’t walk out of here, and she couldn’t let him carry her.  She was going to die here.  She was going to die here.

She was going to die here.

And then Clint was forcing her hands to close on the grip of a pistol.

“I can’t cover us and carry you,” Clint was saying, his voice soft and clipped.  ”And you’re a damn sight better than me with a gun, anyway.”  He met her eyes.  ”Ready?”

And just like that, the panic was gone.  Washed away by the weight of the gun in her palm, and her fingers found the correct alignment without thinking about it, without even trying. She met his eyes, and read the truth there.

His life was in her hands as much as hers was in his.  Natasha didn’t do trust, she didn’t do partners, she didn’t do teams, but she could do this.  She could watch his back, and let him watch hers.

She could let him carry her, with the knowledge that if they were spotted, if this went wrong, he was counting on her aim and her wits and what strength she had left.

Clint had come for her, and he’d put his life in her hands.

She went in alone, and she left captivity with a partner, and a defaced penny.  She still carries it, tucked in a pocket, or sewn into a seam or gripped in a sweaty palm when her gun is out of reach or tucked away.  A physical reminder of an unspoken promise.  She didn’t trust much, but she trusts in this one thing: Clint Barton is a bad penny.

And he will always, always turn up.  Usually just when she needs him most.

Chapter Text

So, if you find yourself with sometime to indulge my slightly pathetic love of your toasterverse, I was wondering if you had any headcanon about Clint/Phil’s living situation. Do they live together, did they before the team formed and found out? 

Phil Coulson has the best office in SHIELD.

Sure, Fury’s office is fancier, and Hill’s office is classier, but people show up in Phil’s office.  Somehow, it just feels comfortable.  It’s not any bigger than any of the other offices, and sure, it’s got a window, but it’s not that much better than most of the others.

Except for some reason, it’s comfortable.  Maybe because Phil’s there, and even when he’s not, there’s this sense of safety, because really?  You would have to be an idiot to try anything in Phil Coulson’s office.  He has fifty way to make you bleed using nothing but a dirty sock.

He won’t, unbeknownst to the junior agents, he’s so sick of trying to explain away bloodstains to his dry cleaners.  And these socks were expensive.  Of course, the threat is still valid.  

That’s really all that matters.

A month and a half after he took over as Clint Barton’s handler, just as they were finding each other’s rhythm, Phil entered his office with a cup of coffee in one hand, a stack of files in the other, and a package of vending machine doughnuts held in his teeth.  Despite the lock, despite the lack of permission, despite everything, he somehow wasn’t surprised to find Clint asleep on his couch.

The couch was the most comfortable one Phil had ever found, he’d picked it out and then waited, with his usual patience and careful calculation, for Fury to, well, screw him over.  He was used to it, you didn’t work this long for an organization this powerful and this secretive and not get used like a pawn every so often.  Fury always knew when he crossed a line, even when he was doing it, and he and Phil had an unspoken rule: Phil kept track of these little disasters, and Fury could expect to pay for them.

This was a minor infraction, so it only cost Fury a requisitioned couch.  

Clint had been in Phil’s office before, he’d been in Phil’s office a lot, but this was the first time Phil caught him having broken in.  ’Caught him’ was the opportune wording, he was pretty sure Clint had done it before, but the man was very good, and very careful.  Now, it was clear, he was just very exhausted.

He slept in a loose pile of limbs, like someone had pulled the pins from his joints.  One hand draped off the edge of the cushions, bandaged fingers just brushing the floor, his spine tucked against the back.  He was fully dressed, but he’d arranged himself to his battered, dirty boots were draped over the far end, keeping the upholstery clean, or at least, unstained.

There was no change to his breathing, to the slumped posture of his body, but Phil knew Clint was awake the instant he put his key in the lock.  Phil, for his part, didn’t react at all, crossing to his desk and setting his work out.  The op had been an exhausting one, leaving them both battered and bloodied, but this was an act of trust that hadn’t been extended to him outside of the field before.

He knew better than to disregard that.

So he drank his coffee and ate half of the mini-donuts, and worked his way through his files, and watched Barton’s back.  The last, of course, was instinctive, and unsaid, and his mere presence was enough, because Clint’s breathing didn’t change, and his body didn’t move, but Phil knew when he was once again asleep.

He really tried not to think about how happy that made him.

A few hours later, he left half the donuts, the op report, and note that indicated in no uncertain terms that Barton needed to stay off the range until his hand healed, and he went to his debrief with Fury.  When he got back, his couch was empty, swept free of any dust or lingering debris, the empty donut package was in the trashcan, and the file was completed on his desk.

He gave Clint half an hour and then he went and shepherded him off the range.

After that, he expected Clint to  be on his couch after a difficult or damaging mission.  Truth be told, he kind of fretted when Clint DIDN’T appear there.  Not that he’d tell anyone about that, it was unprofessional, and he was having enough of THOSE thoughts about Clint without an encouragement.  And he groused at Barton from time to time, just to keep them both on the correct footing, but when Clint was on his couch?  Phil knew he was safe, and protected, and getting sleep.  The real kind, the kind that couldn’t be snagged in a half hour nap on a troop transport or an unheated safehouse or a sniper’s perch in the brutal midday sun.

As long as Clint was on his couch, Phil could relax.

He was aware, of course, of Clint’s propensity for bolt holes, for small spaces with limited access points, where Clint could control the points of egress and avoid detection.  He knew full well that Clint spent far more time in the air vents than was healthy, mentally or physically, and that he could be counted on to tuck himself into the rafters, or a closet, or any small, enclosed space.

Any place where control was possible.

SHIELD barracks had too many people, and too many people holding the keys, and too many failsafes.  Clint probably slept better in the field than he did on base, and Clint did not sleep in the field.  The best sleep he got was on Phil’s couch, and they never discussed that, because really?  They didn’t discuss much.  Words were problematic for both of them, words forced them to acknowledge things that sometimes they were both uncomfortable with.

So they both took chances.  It kept them on equal footing.

After the worst op they’d been on together, with a bullet in Phil’s leg and Clint hollow-eyed and silent, Phil had skipped the office entirely.  He’d just asked Clint for help getting home, since driving would be a pain, in the literal sense.  Clint didn’t have to ask him for the address, or for directions, and they didn’t discuss that, either.

And once Clint had all but carried him inside (and he was not doing the ‘carried me over the threshold’ thing in his head, he WAS NOT), Phil just locked the door behind them, set the alarm system, and pointed Clint to the couch.  He hadn’t asked Clint to stay, and Clint didn’t ask if he could. 

Phil had always known it would come to this at some point.  There was a blanket, pillows, and sheets waiting on the table beside the couch.  They didn’t talk about that, either.

When the mission was difficult, or a straight up disaster, or just stressful in ways that Phil didn’t really understand, he’d find Clint sitting on the trunk of his car.  He’d grin, Phil would give him a look, and they’d go home.

Phil had given up on thinking of it as ‘home’ for both of them.  He just concentrated on not saying it aloud.  

So Phil slept in his bed, and Clint slept on the couch, and Clint cooked dinners and Phil cooked breakfast.  After a beer at night or a good cup of coffee in the morning, they talked about books and tv, movies that they never got to see until they ended up on network tv, SHIELD rumors and the news.

They never discussed that Clint’s laundry was in Phil’s drier, and his shampoo (something ludicrously overpriced from a salon, of all things) was in Phil’s shower.  They didn’t talk about the fact that Clint had adjusted his curry recipe to Phil’s tolerance and that he’d found a case of Phil’s favorite microbrew and managed to bring it back from an op in Vermont.

Along with a bottle of maple syrup.  Phil had taken the unspoken hint and made pancakes.

And a month later, Phil was delayed on a check in.  Because he’d been captured.  And imprisioned, really, it was not a big deal, he got himself out of it.

But for the first time after a bad mission, Clint wasn’t waiting on his car.  Phil, exhausted and hungry and aching, had stood by his car for forty-seven minutes.  Finally, refusing to think how disappointed and unsettled he was, he got in and drove himself home.  It was cold and it was lonely and he half expected there to be dinner waiting for him, but his apartment was dark and clean, the sheets and blankets still folded on the couch, the fridge mostly empty.

But when he crawled into bed, his pillow smelled distinctly like Clint’s overpriced shampoo.

When he woke up, he could smell coffee and bacon and hear the sound of plates being set.  He stayed in bed for a couple minutes more, hugging a pillow that ABSOLUTELY DID NOT smell like Clint Barton, and let himself pretend.  Things that he knew better than to think about, really.

But he was still human.  And when he was first waking up, his brain was stupid enough to forget all the reasons why things were never going to happen.

They didn’t discuss why Clint hadn’t come home with him, or where he spent the night.  How he’d made his way into the apartment when Phil was gone, or why he’d been in Phil’s bed.

A week later, Phil had given him a file folder of health suggestions.  In between a page of dietitian approved menus that had been folded into a paper airplane and launched at Sitwell five minutes after it was handed over and a reminder not to skip medical appointments, there was a slim manila envelope containing a key.

So Clint moved in.  They didn’t discuss it.  But he didn’t take up much space, and his cooking was enough to pay his rent, and Phil desperately wanted him to be safe and protected when Phil wasn’t there.

Because they didn’t talk about many of the things that matter, but the things they left unsaid had a natural balance between them, had a weight they both carried, had an impact as small as a pair of socks left in the washer and a note on the fridge that the milk was getting old.  

And the first time Phil woke up and smelled coffee and felt weight of an arm thrown over his waist and the warm rhythm of breath against the nape of his neck, he wasn’t surprised to find himself staring at a package of vending machine donuts, left lying on the bedside table.  They were half eaten, and the cellophane had been folded over, left right where he’d see them.

He ate them with a cup of coffee and with Clint’s head in his lap.  It was the best breakfast he’d ever had.

Chapter Text

Random question: Which is the Avengers do you think would be most likely to bring home a box of orphan puppies? And what hilarity would ensue?

The amusing thing to me is that you think any one of the Avengers would be able to resist a box of puppies.  So let’s just go with the assumption that a single Avenger comes across a box of abandoned puppies labeled “Free.”  This is  in no way happening, but it’s a fun character study.

Steve would just show up at the Tower with them, a little embarrassed but resolute.  ”I couldn’t just LEAVE them, Tony, it was cold and it looked like rain.” He’d then spend the rest of the week arranging vet appointments, potty training, collars and vaccinations, arranging beds and carefully screening prospective adoptive parents.

And he’d keep the runt, the littlest one with the health problems that seemed scared all the time.

Bruce wouldn’t take the risk of bringing them home on his own.  Carrying a box of hyperactive puppies would stress him out, so he’d ask Steve to come help him bring them home.

Once they were there, he’d hover and do all the planning and very carefully keep away from them.  Every once in a while, when they were asleep, he’d take the risk of rubbing a warm little round tummy, just to feel the soft fuzz and make the pup kick in his sleep.  

He’d lobby to keep the quiet one, the one none of the adoptive families noticed.  He’d be the one bringing home treats and presents and just standing by, hands tucked in his pockets, watching as the dog played with everyone, smiling to himself.  It would take a while, probably a few years, before he’d let the dog sleep near him when he read or worked on his reports.  

Clint would bring them home and promptly disappear into his room with them.  By the time anyone else figured it out (and here, “anyone else” shall be read as “Coulson”), he would’ve been emotionally invested in the damn dogs, and have his hackles up about it.

He’d keep the puppy that got along best with Mr. Fantastic.  And Coulson, but Coulson can be depended upon to control himself.  Mr. Fantastic cannot.  The puppy was fearless and calm and obedient.  It would love Natasha best, but split its time evenly among the Avengers.

Natasha would just walk in, deposit the box on the table, and say, “Clint wouldn’t let me leave the damn things.”  And the fact that Clint had not actually been with her at the time the dogs were acquired would not be anything ANYONE would want to bring up.  If Natasha wanted to blame Clint, that was fine with everyone.

Especially Clint, who would already be on the floor with the puppies.

Natasha would keep the smartest one and train her to be a brilliant and well-loved guard dog.  She would obey only Natasha and show up in Clint and Coulson’s bed far too often. 

Thor would be so excited by FREE DOGS that they would have to sit him down and explain that there were a lot of abandoned pets in a major city.  This would backfire because Thor would begin seeking out abandoned and rejected pets and bring them home.  

He would want to keep them all, and Tony would finally just give in and have the Maria Stark Foundation charter the Thor Odinson Animal Shelter for Noble Hearts. Thor would volunteer regularly, and speak in moving and heart rending words to every pet being adopted into a new home.

Thor would not keep one for his own, but every abused, angry or scared dog or cat that passed through the doors would be his for a while, and no one was sure if it was Allspeak or just Thor, but in the end, he could restore trust in even the most helpless cases.

Tony would drive past them without a flinch, and then an hour later, in the middle of a damn board meeting, he’d be so focused on the thought of the cardboard box full of helpless puppies that Pepper would have to send Happy out to find the damn things.

He would then make a massive donation to a no-kill shelter and drop them all off on his way home, glad to be rid of it, and as he was walking out of the door, he’d hear one of the shelter employees making fun of the little hyperactive one, the one that wouldn’t stay still and wouldn’t stay in the box and wanted to play and eat and sleep all at once.

She really was being affectionate about it, so it scared the ever loving hell out of her when Tony stalked back to the counter, behind the counter, collected the puppy in question, tucked it inside his astronomically expensive sport coat, and stalked out.

Once back at the Tower, he would slap the puppy down with far more care than he pretended to have, order Jarvis to have supplies delivered, turn on the rest of the room and inform them of the dozens of places that ‘thing’ was not allowed to be, including the workshop, his room, the kitchen, the common room, the rec room, the living room and anywhere Tony was at a given time.

Of course, the dog would end up sleeping with him the first night, and everything would be downhill from there.  Steve would be very, very careful not to mention this.

Coulson rescues dogs all the time.  He does’t want to talk about it, but he has a Rolodex of every SHIELD agent, law enforcement agent, government beaurocrat, underling, staffer and intern that can be persuaded into keeping one.

It’s a pretty huge file.

Chapter Text

Anonymous asked:  Okay, after the Fox News incident, I have to ask, how do the Avengers do on press interviews?

The Avengers are made up of a sharp-tongued billionaire with a short fuse, an easily insulted God, a traumatized scientist with BREATHTAKING anger management issues, a sullen and smart mouthed sniper, a spy with a cloaked past and the ability to kill with a look and Steve Rogers.

How the hell do you think interviews go?

So they do the best they can, and that’s not usually very good.  Steve frets about their public image, and so does Coulson, and Fury has to deal with it, and Hill has to deal with Fury, so every so often, after some disaster that is absolutely not their fault, they have to go make nice with the press.

It is usually tightly controlled, and therefore the damage is minimized.

Tony’s immune to attempts at guilt, but he’s driven Pepper half to tears and half to murder when he opens his mouth in front of reporters.  The PR division of StarkIndustries has the highest turnover of personnel in the damn company, despite an excellent benefits plan and even better compensation.  Despite that, when forced into a corner, he’s still the most savy of all of them about dealing with reporters, and that should depress everyone at SHIELD.

It usually does.

Bruce would prefer not to talk to anyone, it’s stressful, and yeah, having the other guy show up in the middle of the interview is not something anyone wants to see.  I mean, other than the interviewer.  The interviewer might want to see it, until it happened.  Then, the urge to never see it again would immediately take over.

Thor is everyone’s best friend, but he can’t be controlled, and he can’t be steered, and woe betold anyone who brings up Loki, because Thor doesn’t have to put up with that nonsense, you will not talk smack about his brother, or he will show you what thirty thousand volts of electricity can do to a television studio.

Clint answers all questions with one word answers if possible and with non sequitors if it isn’t.  The first interviewer to be confronted with the words, “I don’t know, I’ve just always liked duck feet,” held up remarkably well.  Considering that the question had been about damage to the Brooklyn Bridge.  The rest of the interview went downhill from there.

Natasha could do any interview they wanted her to.  If not for the fact that as a whole, the questions reporters ask her are brain dead stupid, and as the only woman on the team, it’s become glaringly obvious.  She muscles through, but she’s sharp and quiet and disappears a lot afterwards.  Clint takes one for the team and spars with her most days.

Steve is a little too uptight and a little too sharp at the edges, but he’s the one who gets stuck with the civic duties most, and despite the fact that he’s toeing the company line, he’s not happy about it either.

But if they can make it through an interview, collectively or alone, and not cause a new and fresh disaster, they make Coulson’s life easier, and they all want to make Coulson’s life easier.  So they do their best.

It came to a head on some insipid night time talk show with a host that was ninety percent teeth and hair and insisted that he wanted to talk to the whole team.  At once.  Live.  And there was a lot of arguments and wrangling and Tony wouldn’t take off his sunglasses and Clint hadn’t spoken to anyone in hours and Natasha flatly refused to wear her suit and Bruce was twisting his hands together in that way that meant he needed some serious lab time, and Thor was pouting.  Steve spoke quietly to them, as a group, reminding them what was at stake and why this was important, and he was tired, it was on his face and in the too tight lines of his body and he was wearing the suit, and that didn’t make anyone happy.

But they did it.  Because it needed doing.

So when the host asked Natasha, on live television, “So what do you wear under that catsuit?” everyone stopped breathing.

Tony’s jaw went tight, and Clint’s right hand jerked against his thigh.  Bruce ducked his head fast, but not fast enough to hide his scowl and there was a faint, rumbling growl from Thor.  But they all held it together as Natasha smiled a sweet, perfect smile that didn’t reach her eyes.  Her shoulders straight and her head up, the picture of dignity and self-control, she opened her mouth to answer.

“I don’t wear anything,” Steve said, and everyone froze.

The interviewer blinked at him.  Clint gaped.  Bruce stared.  Thor grinned.  Natasha heaved a faint but audible sigh, and Tony started to laugh.

The interviewer, pulling himself together, tried, “I’m sorry, what?”

“I don’t wear anything under the suit,” Steve said, his voice calm and assured.  His ears were bright red, but his gaze was steady.  ”I’m sorry,” he added, with a tight smile.  ”Wasn’t that addressed to me?”

“I-” The interviewer clearly knew he was losing control, but he had no frame of reference for this.  

Tony, still chuckling, reached over and snagged his cards from the man’s hand, flipping through the pre-printed question prompts.  ”Oh, thank GOD,” he said, as the interviewer made a futile grab.  Tony fended him off easily.  ”Questions about getting beach ready for the busy career-”  He frowned.  ”I can’t read that word, whatever, I’m sure it’s about me.”  He stood up, shrugging off his jacket as he went.  ”And might I just say, it’s about damn time someone noticed how much time I’ve spent getting beach ready.  You think it’s easy looking this good?  Especially when I’m standing next to these guys?  Screw you, I have beach ready tips for you, pull up a damn chair.” He tossed the cards with a flick of his wrist.

Clint picked up one of the discarded cards.  ”My diet?  Whatever I finds, I eats.”  He handed one to Thor.  ”This one’s yours, big guy.”

Thor frowned down at the paper.  ”No,” he said, his voice stern.  ”I have not been lunching with Robert Pattinson.  My lady Jane does not appreciate his work as the glowing vampire.”  He glared at the host, who shrank back in his chair.  ”You have many misconceptions about glowing vampires.  They are not at all as your movies have portrayed them.”

Bruce frowned down at the cards, flipping rapidly through them.  ”Have you tried the books?” he asked Thor.

“There are BOOKS?  Are they, likewise, so filled with inaccuracies?”

“Probably?”  Bruce took off his glasses.  ”Really?  You’re planning on asking us which one has the best rear end?”  His brows drew up tight.  ”Really?” he asked the interviewer.  ”Are you for real?  Are these for real?  I mean, do you-” He rubbed his forehead with one hand.  ”I just-“

“Dr. Banner?” the interviewer squeaked.

“Why would you even ask that?  What are you THINKING?” Bruce said, and everyone went still.  ”It’s clearly Clint.”

Clint threw up a double peace sign.  ”Thank you, ladies and gentlemen!”

“Bull pucky,” Tony said.  ”Bull.  PUCKY.”

“What does that even mean?” Natasha asked him.  Her lips were twitching.

“I’m self-censoring,” he said, peering over the top of his sunglasses.  ”Aren’t you proud of me?”

“Because you’ve learned a skill the average eight year old has already mastered?” she said, her voice sweet.

“Fine, you can answer this one,” Tony said, handing over a card.

She glanced at it.  ”StarkIndustries is in the middle of a three year growth period,” she said, with a polished smile.  ”We expect amazing results from the newest wave of-”  She paused as Clint stood and turned around to show off the fit of his pants.  Laughing, Tony pushed him aside and did the same.  

“Gentlemen, really, the country does not need a comparison shot of your rears,” Natasha said, her voice crisp.  There was a pause.  ”We need the full lineup.  Thor, get your ass in there.”

“Who’s judging here?” Tony asked, as Thor cheerfully joined the ranks.  ”Hey, hey, someone get Steve up here, Bruce, c’mon, c’mon, man, we need you here, look, it’s just, it’s unbalanced-“

“Absolutely not,” Steve said as Bruce dissolved into hopeless giggles.

“I’m going to need to borrow this,” Natasha said to the interviewer, and reached for his pen and some of the question cards.  ”I’m scoring.”

“Oh, that’s fair,” Clint groused.

“You can stop now,” Coulson said from the side of the set.  ”They killed the feed.”

“When?” Tony asked.  He sounded disappointed.  ”The world deserved to see the this, really, this was-“

“A nightmare,” Coulson said, cutting him off.  But there was a faint smile around his mouth.  ”A public relations disaster?”

“A hell of a lot of fun?” Clint asked, and Coulson bopped him on the head.

“When did they-” Bruce started.

“Right after Steve made his revelation to the viewing public,” Coulson said, and Steve groaned.  Tony patted him on the back as Steve buried his face in his hands.

By the time that Coulson got them all back into the limo, Steve appeared to have gone catatonic and Thor had explained the many inaccuracies of the human “sparkly vampire” genre.  As it turns out, there were a lot of them.  ”Is he okay?” Clint asked Tony, who had Steve’s head in his lap.

“It’s his first public humiliation, give him a few minutes,” Tony said with a grin.

“Dear God,” Steve said, his voice muffled by his hands.  ”I don’t know-  I just-”  He groaned again.

Natasha leaned over him.  ”You’re an idiot,” she said, smiling down at him when he raised a hand.  ”I could’ve handled it.”

“Of course you COULD have,” Steve said, frowning.  ”But-” He paused.

“But maybe we don’t think you should have to,” Bruce said, with a faint smile.

“I just wanted to show off my beach ready ass, what the hell were the rest of you doing?” Tony asked, and Coulson groaned.  ”What’s next on our tour of hell?”

“You’re all grounded,” Coulson said.  ”We’re just going to hire body doubles from here on out, please go home and watch a movie.”

“Anything that does not,” Steve said, “involve glowing vampires.”

“See, that’s why you’re team leader,” Tony told him.  ”You can make the tough calls.”

“Can I ask-” Clint started.

“He doesn’t,” Tony told him.


“Yes,” Steve said.

“Well, good for you, Cap.” 

((Concept taken shamelessly from watching the Avengers cast interviews, and the STUPID things people were asking Scarlett Johannson.))

Chapter Text

agentpaxieamor asked you:

So, is there a head canon for the first time Tony and Steve hung out? Before they were dating and all?

Tony wasn’t really good at the whole ‘comfort’ thing. 

No one really looked to him to provide anything approaching comfort, which was a good thing, because he had no idea how to provide it.  But despite his best efforts, he really did like Steve Rogers, and that was unfortunate, because Steve Rogers was miserable.

And Tony wasn’t sure how to handle that.

Not that anyone wanted him to handle that, hell, he was absolute rubbish at dealing with people, the fact that the rest of the Avengers tolerated his presence most of the time was kind of a surprise, a pleasant enough surprise, especially since Fury made it clear that if he got them drunk, he was responsible for whatever they did.

It didn’t seem like an idle threat.

And most of the time, things were fine, everyone was fine, Tony was doing surprisingly well with this team concept, but Steve was quiet, and still and cold.  He seemed to drift, sometimes, like he had no where to be, or no where he wanted to be.   SHIELD made noises, about purpose and teamwork and reassignment, and Steve was polite, Steve was always ready to get to work, but Steve…

Was starting to scare Tony a bit.

Not that he had any idea what to do about it.  But hell,  he was pretty damn good at faking things.  So he cornered Steve at noon, halfway to the SHIELD cafeteria, where the special was a grilled chicken sandwich on whole wheat, with sprouts, cucumbers, and a splash of non-fat vinaigrette.

Tony blocked the hall, holding up a take out bag.  ”Corned beef, or pastrami?” he asked, and saw Steve’s eyes light up.  There was a spike of relief, something so strong he almost didn’t recognize it, and it was dizzying, how much he’d been hoping this would work.  He’d spent far too much money on half-sour pickles for this plan to fail, but then again, he liked pickles.

He wasn’t sure if it was him, or the smells emanating from the bag, because, let’s face it, Katz’s Delicatessen made the best damn corned beef, and either way, that was fine, because Steve was still wandering along in his wake, following Tony and his bag of knishes.  

The car ride was quiet.  Not in a bad way, and that was fine, too, because Tony wasn’t sure why he was doing this, and he wasn’t really comfortable with it, but what the hell, time for new things, or old things, and he really wanted a drink.  

Steve didn’t question their destination.  He just stared up at the multi-story mansion as Tony opened the gate, and the two of them walked up the drive, leaving Happy with his own quart of matzo ball soup.

The Stark Family mansion had been unoccupied for years at this point.  Officially speaking, the Maria Stark Foundation rented the property for the rate of a dollar a year, and Tony avoided his childhood home at all costs.  But it was in a location that he needed, and he figured if Steve was stuck facing his past, Tony could do it, too.  He greeted the staff, he introduced Steve, he did the meet and greet with a bag of food under his arm and his sunglasses firmly on his nose, until they finally passed the last of the occupied floors.

The door to the roof stuck.  It always had.

Steve headed to the edge of the roof, pausing by the waist high railing to look out over Fifth Ave, to Central Park beyond it.  His hair moving in the brisk wind, he tipped his head back, sun on his face and his hands in his pockets.  Tony shoved the door shut behind them, and Steve looked at him, the arch of his back and the line of his shoulders relaxing.

Tony took a seat on the edge of the roof, trailing his feet over the edge, and ripped the bag open.  They went halfsies on the sandwiches without even talking about it, and for a long time, they just ate, soup from paper cups and knishes that yielded to fingers and teeth.  The sharp, vinegary tang of the pickles and the salty fattiness of the meats, the light rye bread and the burn of the mustard.  

They ate, watching the people pass by below them, tourists and business people, bike messengers and homeless wanderers, workers and students, artists and runners, children scrambling along in the wake of adults.  The streets were filled with cars and taxis and buses, people using motorcycles and bikes and feet.  Even this high up, they could hear the city, sounds rising from the pavement.  Voices and music, bits of language and the blare of horns, laughter and yelling and the screech of brakes and the rumble of trucks.

They ate in silence, and hours passed as they sat there, in the sun, shoulder to shoulder, staring over the park until kids began getting off buses.  Little ones with backpacks and older ones with skateboards.  Kids in uniforms and battered jackets, hair in braids and sleek waves and afros and pigtails.  A worker in battered coveralls, with hands like weapons, walking with his daughter, her Dora the Explorer backpack on his shoulder, her hair waving like a flag as she danced around him, her hands moving in wild gestures as she talked.

When the food was gone, empty soda bottles and crumbled wax paper packages, Tony started to talk.  About the Commandos, as he’d known them, about the visits from the people Howard had known, that Steve knew, too.  At first, the words were careful, stumbling.  Uncertain of how they’d be received, he gave just a few quick sentences, about Dum-Dum Dugan, who’d remained a force to be reckoned with his whole life, broad and warm and full of noise and laughter.

The first question from Steve caught him off guard, maybe it caught both of them off guard, but the question was one Tony could answer.  So he did.  And it prompted another.  And another after that.  And then they were talking to each other as if they were used to it, their words finding the empty places in the other’s sentences, natural and comfortable.

One of the Foundation’s Board of Directors brought them steaming mugs of coffee, and the news that the workday was done.  

They drank their coffee on the roof, watching the sun set over the park, talking about the men they’d both known, half a century apart, as New York continued, beneath their feet.  It wasn’t Avengers Tower, it wasn’t so high that the city disappeared, that the people were invisible, but it wasn’t so close that the differences were painfully obvious.  From here, they could maintain a distance, they could listen to the city as the street lights came on, as the night air became cold around them.

They drank coffee and ate the chocolate bubka, and met in the present day.  Where Tony liked the half-sour pickles, and Steve closed his eyes tight when he inhaled the steam rising off the soup, where New York was still New York, and the green wash of Central Park spread out before them until the darkness washed it all away.

And neither of them was quite so lonely afterwards.

Chapter Text

ninjatwinsasked you: When Tony discovered that his Special Roomba had been named by Clint, Tony says that Clint hates Richards more than Tony himself does (and that took effort). So, why DOES Clint hate Richards? I mean, I know why I utterly hate the man, but I’m curious to see if Clint’s reason is the same.


badromancenovelquotesandcovers asked you: Head canon: Why does Clint hate Reed Richards?


canadiansuperhero asked you: But I’ve always wondered, is there something behind Clint’s hate-on for Reed Richards? (not that he needs an excuse because dude’s a douche but hey there could be deep-seated issues!)


Anonymous asked you: Hi! If you’re still doing the headcanons of the toasterverse, could you tell us why Clint hates Reed Richards even more than Tony does? Thank you! 


old-chatterhand asked you: Why does Clint hate Reed Richards so much? I mean, the guy’s a douchebag, that’s true, but is there some specific reason?


I get this question a lot, can you tell? 8)

Clint Barton despises Reed Richards. It’s because Reed sometimes has the social skills of a sixth grader and no consideration for the emotional inner life of the people he comes into contact with.  It's not that he intends to be rude or condescending, it's just that he's completely unaware that he's doing it.  He is not so much cruel, as he is cheerfully oblivious.  Of course, he’s also a self-important, over-inflated douchebag.

And Clint has kind of a short fuse sometimes.

SHEILD has never had the greatest relationship with the Fantastic Four.  After all, if Fury could’ve convinced one of the world’s foremost superhero team to fall into the company line, he wouldn’t have needed to charter the Avengers Initiative at all.  But the Fantastic Four is kind of a family affair, they’ve never really been eager to work with others, and Reed Richards, especially, doesn’t take orders from anyone else.  He has his own agenda, and it's not always what SHIELD thinks is a priority.

They consider themselves less ‘heroes’ and more ‘intellectual explorers of the cosmos.’  Clint considers them to be ‘useless blowhards.’

Clint and Natasha both, who’ve had to corral SHIELD teams in times of chaos, natural disaster and Namor-initiated rearrangements of the shoreline, have not found them to be particularly helpful.  Most of the time, by the time Richards and Fury have finished bickering about what's the most important thing to accomplish, the crisis have passed.

Clint always considered himself worthy of praise when he managed to end an op in New York and not shoot an arrow into Reed Richards’ ass.

But for the most part, Richards was an annoyance that he could avoid.  And avoid thinking about.  The whole mess with the Chitauri went down, and neither he nor Natasha were surprised that the Fantastic Four didn’t show.  He was pretty sure they were not in town; it wasn’t like Sue Storm to let anything happen and not at least try to help.  In the end, however, they were MIA and he didn’t care much what the reasons for that were.

As the Avengers started coming together as a team, started fumbling around each other and finding each others sore spots and weaknesses and the little secrets they all kept.  And for Clint and Tony, that meant poking every sore spot they found until Coulson separated them, sending Tony to the workshop and Clint to the range and informing them that if they lobbed one more insult at each other over the dinner table, or one more dinner roll, he’d fake drug test on them and have them both removed from the field.

Tony and Clint agreed that maybe they’d pushed their luck far enough this week and ignored his orders anyway.

So Clint laughed about Tony spending all of his time with reject robots from a bad Star Wars spin-off, but then spent his time teaching Butterfingers how to play catch, and coaxing Dummy into playing ping-pong.  Tony pointed out that Clint could easily be replaced with a spring loaded cross bow and a half-way intelligent AI, but then spent hours designing arrowheads and improving his quiver so the reaction time was cut down to less than a tenth of what SHEILD’s engineers had managed.

Tony mocked Clint’s cooking and fashion sense, Clint mocked Tony’s driving and love life.  Coulson rubbed his forehead a lot and Steve frowned at them with concerned eyes.  Natasha offered a ruler, if they were so determined to find out who’s was bigger, and then Bruce had the unfortunate task of explaining that particular turn of phrase to Thor.  Thor was impressed, not having realized that this was a competitive sport on Midgard, and Pepper regretted entering the kitchen at that precise moment.

She always entered the conversations at just the wrong time.

But eventually, New York came under fire again, and that was fine, that was totally fine, because they could handle it.  They’d handled worse, and this time, when the Fantastic Four’s plane finally showed up, Clint was in the process of keeping Dr. Doom’s latest failed experiment from ripping his throat out.

He was not going to make fun of the rumors of giant rats in the New York sewers any more.

When it was all done and he staggered back to street  level with a mostly empty quiver and missing a chunk of his vest (seriously, SERIOUSLY the damn thing was kevlar, how did rodent teeth get through KEVLAR?) he found a clean and tidy Reed Richards looking down his nose at Tony, who did not seem amused.

“All I’m saying is that you wasted too much time dealing with the actual results of the experiment,” Richards said.  "The experiment itself had implications that-"

“Yeah, that was stupid of us,” Clint snarked, his bow over his shoulder.  ”Screw the civilian population of New York, am I right?”

“Is that a bow?” Richards said, blinking at him.

Clint slid it into his hand and stare at it as if he’d never seen it before.  ”Shit.  It is.  What the hell?” He gave Richards a flat look.  ”Your reputation for having a keen mind and a sharp wit is clearly deserved.”

“Thank you,” Richards said, either missing the sarcasm entirely, or not really caring about it.  ”I would've thought that SHIELD was more technologically advanced than that.  Why depend on obsolete weaponry?”

The urge to put an arrow right between his eyes was eclipsed only by the urge to put one right between his legs.  ”I was offered a gun.  I declined.”

Richards arched an eyebrow at him.  ”Stubborn refusal to give up on outdated and inefficient technology isn't noble, it's just foolish.”

There was an instant of horrible stillness.  Tony broke it.  ”I’ll take one of him in a firefight over ten of you, Reed.”  He shifted his helmet to tuck it under his arm, his lips pulled back in an amused smile that didn’t reach his eyes.  ”And that bow’s worth more than your plane.  Just because something doesn’t have blinking lights plastered all over it, doesn’t mean it’s from the Stone Age.”

“Besides,” Coulson said from behind Richards, “haven’t you ever heard that it’s not the weapon in the warrior’s hand, it’s the warrior’s hand on the weapon that counts?” 

In Clint's ear, Natasha said, “I can kill him from here, you know.  I’ve got the angle.  We can blame it on the rats.”

“Rats with a sniper scope?” Bruce said, amusement in his voice.  He was back in a SHIELD van, but clearly keeping tabs on the situation.

“Stranger things have happened,” Natasha said.  ”Doom might’ve made some tech advances.”

“Easier just to make the stretchy one a flattened version of himself,” Thor pointed out, his voice a raw rumble, and Clint couldn’t help but grin at the mental image.

It died a quick death as Richards said to Coulson, “If you’re looking for some way to make yourself useful, I’m sure that there is cleanup that needs doing, or paperwork to file.  But we’re having a discussion here.”

“Thor, take your best swing,” Clint said over the comm.

“Belay that,” Coulson said, giving Clint a look.  To Reed, he offered only the most benign smile, the one that made him look like a befuddled middle manager in a large corporation.  ”Thank you, Dr. Richards, I’m sure there is.”

“Hey, Richards?” Clint said, leaning the tip of his bow on the pavement, and putting his folded hands on top of it.  ”Wanna see what my ‘outdated tech’ can do?  Because I’m pretty sure if I put an explosive arrowhead up your-“

“If we’re done here,” Richards said, completely oblivious to just how close he was to an unfortunate anal encounter with a arrow, “I should deal with Doom's latest problem.  If I can reverse engineer his process, then something of use can come of this.”

Without waiting for a reply, he gave them a brisk nod and strode off.

“I really, really hate that guy,” Clint said, and his voice sounded eerily calm, even to his own ears.

“Your eye is twitching,” Natasha said to Clint over the comm.  ”I’m six stories up and I can see this.  That’s not a good sign, darling.”

“Me, too,” Tony said. “Quick, before Steve can show up and tell us that we’re not allowed to do it, let’s go do something horrible to his bank accounts.”

“Can we TP his building?” Clint asked.

Tony gave a snort.  “I’ll get the rocket launchers, we can make some minor adjustments.”

“No,” Coulson told them.  ”We have a debrief, and we might need him later.”

“After the debrief,” Tony said to Clint under his breath.

“I will tell Cap, Stark.”

“Dammit.  Foiled again.”

Chapter Text

Anonymous asked: Hi! Can I ask for you headcanon/thoughts/whatever on Steve and Bucky’s relationship? Whether you think it’s romantic or not, why, if you ship ir or not, etc. I really like reading your thoughts on things, so. :)

Steve’s mom moved them when he was nine, to an apartment that was closer to the hospital where she was working.  She didn’t say it to Steve, but it was an apartment they could afford, even if it wasn’t the place she wanted to live, and it wasn’t where she wanted Steve to be.

But it was what she could afford, and she needed her job.  She needed to not be late, needed to make sure that the bad winters and brutal summer heat wouldn’t keep her from her shifts.  And from here, she could walk.  She could save those precious few cents, and make her way on foot.

So Steve went to a new school, and he knew better than to complain; he wasn’t a complainer by nature, because if he started, he’d never stop.  Whatever he thought about their new tiny apartment, he knew better than to make his mother feel worse.  So he found a window too small for anyone but him, and scribbled on any scrap of paper he could find.  Bits of charcoal and abandoned newspapers sustained him for the end of a long, hot summer, listening to the kids play in the streets, games of stickball and kick the can, running and yelling until the night fell and the temparture reached bearable levels.

He dreaded school.  So much.  To the point of making himself sick, but he was sick so often that it was just a normal thing, just another moment of suffering on a day where staying in bed was too hot to even be considered.

And on the first day, he let his mother kiss him, and gave her bright, brave smile, and headed for the door, down the one flight of stairs, the lowest apartment that she could afford for her asthmatic son.  Halfway down, he heard the sound of pounding feet, of yelling and scuffling and bodies bouncing like rubber down the length of the hall.

There was no way for Steve to rush, to move any faster, and a minute later, the crowd, seemingly unending, enveloped him.  He stumbled, he grabbed for the bannister and missed, and he had a second, a pure moment of terror as he hung in midair, waiting to fall, mentally calculating how bad a broken bone would hurt, if he could drag himself home, if he’d cry, and then a hand snagged the back of his shirt.

His shirt was threadbare, neat and clean, but too thin with too many washings, and he heard it rip, but his feet were back on the stair.  He clutched the bannister with both hands, shaking, as the kids pounded by, still yelling and talking, girls scolding and boys bickering.

And the dark haired boy with the brilliant eyes and the scowl, the skinned elbow and the bruise beneath his left eye glanced back up at him and said, “Well, come ON, we can’t wait for you!”

Steve didn’t know why, didn’t know how, but he scrambled down the last of the stairs faster than he ever had before, his heart pounding like a drum in his skinny chest, and the boy gave him a shove into line.  But it wasn’t rough, it wasn’t hard, it wasn’t mean.  It was just…  Like he expected Steve to be somewhere, and Steve wasn’t.  He was putting Steve where he had to be, where he was meant to be.

That was it, he fit into the pack and did his best to keep up, and it was fine, it was easy on the way to school.  It was okay.  He could keep up.

Everything about that day was a blur, exhausting and full of a clawing, unspoken fear as he tried to make himself small, tried to make himself invisible.  To be ignored and forgotten as classes were sorted out and seats assigned and teachers prowled the packs of kids, weilding long wooden pointers and rulers that could sing like a whip if they needed to.

When that day was over, he was so tired that he couldn’t even think straight, could barely walk.  He stumbled out of the school house, feet dragging until he remembered to lift them, to spare the leather.  He considered the long walk back to his apartment building, a new route, new people, new dangers, new places to get caught and dogs that he didn’t know how to avoid and couldn’t outrun, shop keepers who didn’t like sick boys ‘loitering’ on their stoops and street crossings that were unforgiving for a kid who couldn’t take a deep breath without coughing.

He really didn’t expect to find the pack of kids waiting in front of the school fence, that same dark haired boy keeping them all in line.  The boy looked at Steve, and there was annoyance there, but also something Steve didn’t understand, something that looked like relief.  “Bout time,” he said, and with that, everyone was walking.

And Steve fell into line again.  Not sure why.  Not sure how.  But he kept up with them for blocks, far longer than he thought he could, until his legs gave out and he had to stop, had to crouch beside a building, head down, curled into himself, sucking in slow, careful breaths between his teeth.  He listened to the voices and footsteps retreat, disappear amongst the crowd, and tried to be grateful that he’d had the company for as long as he had.

Trying not to cry that he was alone again.

He almost didn’t hear the footsteps, and that was rare, he was so on edge, usually, so careful.  So aware of his surroundings, because his surroundings could get him killed.  Could get him beaten and abused and left for dead.  He was so careful.

But he almost didn’t hear the pounding of feet as the boy skidded to a stop in front of him.  The kid crouched down, thick brows drawing in tight, his arms wrapping around his folded knees.  “You okay?”

Steve nodded, because he didn’t admit weakness, he didn’t give in, he didn’t do anything that made him a target.

The kid snorted.  “Yeah, right.”  He grabbed Steve’s arm and stood, dragging Steve with him, and before Steve could do much more than struggle, he was being pulled onto the boy’s back.  “Hey, hold on, geez, what is wrong with you?” the kid asked, and Steve did as he was told, wrapping his arms around the kid’s neck.  It was a hot September day in New York, there was nothing good about that warmth, or there shouldn’t have been.  But there was. 

There was something comforting to clinging to the boy’s back, hanging on as the kid just walked home, carrying Steve without another word.

And when they got there, he carried Steve up the stairs, and headed for the second flight.  Steve tugged on his shirt collar.  “That’s my apartment,” he said, and the kid all but dropped him.

Steve staggered against the wall, and the kid stared at him.  “Aren’t you Aunt Lucy’s half-brother?” he asked, and Steve shook his head.  “Huh.  You didn’t know us, and you came along anyway?  You’re tougher than you look, shorty.”  The kid grinned, wide and bright.  “I thought you were one of the Barnes.  There’s a lot of us, you know how it goes, big family and my uncle married this idiot-“  He stopped, shrugged.  “I’m James.  Bucky.”  He wiped a palm on his hip, fast and hard, and held it out.  “Who’re you?”

Steve took it, gingerly.  “Steve.  Steve Rogers.”

“Okay, Steve Rogers.  I gotta go check on my sisters, ‘cause my mom ain’t home, so I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”

And he headed for the stairs, and Steve stared after him.  “Uh, can I-” His voice broke, and he tried again.  “I can still go in with all of, I mean, with you?”

Bucky leaned back down, peering under the bannister at Steve, a shock of brown hair on his forehead.  “Might as well.  There’s like, fourteen Barnes in this building goin’ to our school, who’s gonna notice one more in the mob scene?”  He stood, pounding up the stairs, his shoes loud and rattling on the bare battered wood.  “Welcome to the family, Steve!”

Steve loved him from that moment, and never stopped.

Bucky was always big for his age, broad and tough and built on solid lines, a stocky, scrappy kid who dragged Steve along in his wake.  There were so many Barnes kids, Bucky was right.  No one ever noticed one more, and Steve didn’t take up much space, anyway.  Thin enough and small enough to tuck behind Bucky and disappear, short enough to end up with the younger siblings and cousins and assorted family members, and no one ever noticed.

And by the time they did, they were so used to Steve that he might as well have been family, anyway.

And Steve loved him, loved him in a way that he knew that Bucky couldn’t love him back, and that was okay, that was fine, because on the worst day of his life, before he had Bucky telling him he was brave and tough and before he started to believe it, Bucky Barnes had caught him when he fell.

It was worth the fit his mom threw about that ripped shirt collar.

Chapter Text

hello! I was wondering - do you have a headcanon for Thor’s tendency to rest his head on Natasha’s lap in the Toasterverse? When was the first time it happened? Does she often braid his hair? I’M SO CURIOUS.

When the Avengers were first formed, when they first moved into the Tower, and Natasha still isn’t sure how THAT happened, she should know better, she should, but it was a team.  She was on a team.  She was used to being told where to bunk.  

She didn’t like it.  But she was used to it.

Barton she knew, Barton she knew in, out, and sideways.  Barton had held her bones together with his hands, had stared down the barrel of her gun without flinching, had seen her drunk and hungover and survived taking her alcohol away.  More than once.  Barton was the wall she could put her back against.

Barton wasn’t a problem.

Stark, she understood.  Stark was a nightmare, a spastic genius with an occasional focus, but for the most part, she could steer him in a particular direction or nudge him along if he proved difficult.  She could handle him.  Hell, from time to time, she could even enjoy him.

Rogers had proved an enigma at the beginning.  She’d been suspicious at first, waiting for the first crack to show in his facade, the first imperfection in his serious face.  But as the days, the weeks, the MONTHS went by she realized: Steve Rogers was exactly what he seemed, as clear as a cloudless sky, as stable as a rock, as reliable as the sunrise.  He meant what he said, and he said what he meant, and other than a few times where he got still and quiet and cold, she found she had no problem with him.  She couldn’t predict him, and that was fine, because she could predict that whatever he did, it was what needed doing.

Bruce, with Bruce, she’d stared into the worst he’d had to offer, and she didn’t like it, she didn’t trust it, but she understood the darkness he carried.  The scientist himself, he was harder.  He was the soft glow of the moon, sometimes large and bright, sometimes the thinnest thread holding back the darkness.  The ebb and flow of his moods, of his strength, of the fight with the other guy was less predictable, but she could track it.  In the way he held himself, and held himself apart.  In how he hid behind folded arms and a ducked head and glasses when he didn’t need them.  Bruce was chaos and violence and everything that terrified her, that haunted her nightmares.  But Bruce was warmth and kindness and a delicate, gentle touch when she couldn’t bear the medbay.  And she had her own darkness, her own horrors, locked inside.  As long as he could bear hers, she could bear his.

Coulson was just Coulson.  

But Thor?  Natasha could not figure out Thor.

She tried.  When the team was first coming together, when they were forced together, and when it stuck.  When Thor reappeared from Asgard in a swirl of wind and a violent crack of thunder, she had braced herself for the worst.  He was royal, he was strong, he was used to having his way, he was unused to earth.

He was a problem she’d never dealt with, and she’d never wanted to.  But here she was, forced to ignore him wandering around in boxer shorts on weekend mornings and making holes in the walls and yelling far too loud at the television screen.  He was childish and intelligent and cultured and as unfocused as a golden retriever with a poor memory and a playful nature.

Thor scared her.  Thor scared her, because she could not understand him, could not predict him, could not see her way to controlling him.  And she tried.

She tried flirting and she tried fighting.  She spoke coldly to him and she laughed and smiled at him.  She watched him move, listened to him talk, followed the flow of his hands and his words.  She tried to figure out how he dealt with the others, how he dealt with SHIELD, how he dealt with the government.  She tracked his meals and his calls to New Mexico and the shows he watched and the trips into the city with Clint or Coulson or Steve of Tony.

And none of it made sense.  She did not understand, she could not predict, she could not control, Thor.

One night, she was up, far too late, in the main living room, seated in front of the fire, a book more a prop than anything she was interested in between her hands.  Mostly, she was coming to terms with this place she found herself, where she could stare into a fire, her hands wrapped around a teacup of perfect tea, where she was healthy and safe.  Where her team was.

But there was a book, and a fire, and tea.  And she looked up, and Thor was there, staring at her, a look on his face that she had seen before, but hadn’t been able to quantify.  He stared at her, and there was something approaching hunger in his eyes, desperation or need.  Natasha knew those things, she could use those things.  And if it wasn’t a perfect match, if it wasn’t exactly right, well, it was a start.

“Am I interrupting?” he asked, and his voice was raw at the edges.  Husky, and she felt herself becoming more certain.  More sure.  This was sex.  This was desire.  This was need.

“Not at all.”  She smiled at him.  ”Couldn’t sleep?”

“I find myself desirous of company.”  He paused.  ”Your company, if I might?”

Natasha shifted over, curling her legs next to her, crossing her ankles in a way that showed off her curves.  She leaned one hand on the couch and smiled up at him.  ”Of course.”

Thor looked at her, really looked at her, and nodded.  ”It is most kind of you, I have missed this, this feminine company.”

And she smiled sweetly, not letting her disappointment show in her face, because she’d started to believe.  She’d started to trust in the way he talked about Jane, about this intelligent, brave woman who was still finishing her work in New Mexico.  But Natasha’d been around men who couldn’t keep their pants on before, she felt no guilt in taking what was offered, what could be used later.  

Or at least she told herself that was the case.

Banishing thoughts she couldn’t consider for now, she held out a graceful hand.  ”Come sit with me?  See if I can’t make things easier for you?”

“You are too kind,” he said, and he sank down to the couch, and she expected a kiss, or for his free hand to land on her neck or her shoulder or her back, maybe even go straight to her breasts, she expected any of that.

She was not expecting him to flop down on the couch and put his head in her lap with a faint sigh.

For a moment, completely and utterly stymied, she just sat there, staring down at him.  A smile curling his lips, he closed his eyes and folded his hands on his stomach.  ”Thank you,” he said.  ”The Lady Sif did often tolerate my presence in this way.  She is a warrior, much like yourself, strong and bold and sharp of tongue from time to time.  But she is kind and sweet when the mood does strike her, and occasionally she would practice her plaiting upon my hair.”

His smile died.  ”I miss her.  I miss them all.  But she was often the only one, other than my brother, who would speak harshly to me, who would stand before me and force me to consider the things that I had overlooked.  The things that I had no interest in, or that I had forgotten.  No matter how often we fought, she and I, in the end, she would sit, and allow me this.”

Natasha reached up and stroked a hand over his hair.  It was fine and soft, the locks sliding between her fingers.  ”She braided your hair?”

“From time to time,” he said, and his smile was back, a flash of white teeth.  He opened his eyes, and grinned up at her, eyes dancing.  ”She took enjoyment from it, I think, in the simple task.  And I knew if her mood was still against me if she did a poor job of it, and sent me away with it crooked and uneven.”

Natasha found herself smiling back, almost laughing, because his eyes were bright, and there was something in them that she had seen before and never recognized.  It was the look of a man far from home, separated from those he loved and those who loved him.  He laughed, he smiled, he spoke with a loud voice and loud words, but in the end…  

Thor was lonely.  Thor Odinson was homesick.

“I can braid,” she heard herself say.

He blinked at her.  ”Truly?  You will do this thing?”  

Natasha smiled at him, at the faint note of wonder in his voice.  ”I can try.”

“Thank you.”  He shifted, and the width of his shoulders, the size of his body was terrifying for a second, because she had seen him fight, had seen the strength in those hands.  But he settled back down with care, not putting his weight on her, not pressing her back or down, and her hands slid into his hair.

“Tell me,” she said, as she started parting his hair into equal pieces, smoothing away the tangles as she went, “about your home.”

And he did.  He talked to her about Sif, and the Warriors Three.  About his mother and his father, and the way Loki had been as a child, his hunting partner and partner in crime.  He told her about his home, the good and the bad, the mistakes he’d made and the things he was proud of.  He told her about the small things, the way his mother’s hands smelled like flowers even in the midst of winter, and the big ones, how Heimdall could split the skies as he opened a bridge.

And Natasha braided his hair and smoothed it back out, braided it and smoothed it back out, over and over, letting him talk until he ran short of words.  Until he accepted her cooling tea and sipped it as she tied off the half braid that pulled his hair away from his face.

He stared into the fire.  ”Is it so very strange,” he said at last to her, “that this has become to seem as home should be?  Not as home always was, not what I know, and have known?  But something…”  He paused.  ”Perhaps the idea of home?”

She stared at him.  ”I understand,” she said, and she did.  ”Perhaps home is more about the people.  Than the place.”

“Aye.”  He reached up, touched his hair, and smiled.  ”Thank you.”

“Anytime.”  Because maybe she didn’t understand Thor, not yet, not really, but she was a little closer.  And maybe she had time to learn.