Easter Eve dinner turns into a huge argument about who is the most capable of keeping a baby alive should one of them ever end up a parent. It's the sort of argument that only happens after mortals are several bottles of wine in, and the Super Soldiers and the deity have celebrated the holiday with some Asgardian Rum. Pepper's idea on how to settle the dispute once and for all is met with tipsy, wager-making enthusiasm.
The raw eggs show up at breakfast the next morning. Seven of them, laid out carefully, with glitter and glue and feathers and markers.
“The rules are simple,” Pepper says, sounding as put together and professional as ever. “JARVIS is texting them all to your phones now. One, you must have your egg within reach at all times. He’ll be watching to see that it’s never more than five feet away. Two, no breaking someone else’s egg. Three, the egg can be wrapped or covered but the wrap or covering must be removable and some portion of the egg must be visible at all times. Four, the last person with an uncracked egg wins.”
“How are you going to know if someone switches out their egg?” Clint asks. “You’ve got some master pickpockets in here.”
“JARVIS is watching,” Pepper says. It sounds ominous. “But in case he’s compromised,” she glances at Tony, “I’ve signed the bottom of each egg. No signature, no win.”
Clint nods, apparently satisfied.
“In case you were too drunk to remember,” Pepper continues. “The winner gets to choose where you celebrate the win and also go by “Winner” on comms for a month, if they so choose.”
Steve and Bruce won’t. Everyone else will.
“Okay, time to start decorating. The game begins.... now.”
Clint’s egg is too close to the edge of the table when he reaches for the purple feathers.
“Awwwww, egg, no.”
1 Down - 6 To Go
Only this time, the sound doesn’t come from the table. It comes from the kitchen. All eyes turn in that direction, where Bucky stands next to a frying pan not looking the least bit sorry. His hair is pulled back in a messy bun, and a few strands have come loose and hang in front of his eyes. If anyone thinks he looks a little silly in his My Heart Belongs to Hawkeye shirt, no one’s going to say.
“Unlike you yahoos, I’m not wastin’ food. Eggs are for eating. You want one, doll?”
Clint glances down forlornly at the egg on the floor. “It does make me kind of hungry for eggs over easy.”
“You got it.”
The group at the table guard their egg-babies a little more attentively until Bucky pulls another dozen out from the fridge. Then they can breathe easy.
2 Eggs Down - 5 To Go
“Shit,” Bruce swears, just as Dum-E lets out a string of panicked, plaintive beeps. “It’s okay, Dum-E, accidents happen.”
More beeps, low and mournful.
“Seriously. It was a dumb game anyway,” Bruce consoles. “Why don’t you clean up the mess and we don’t even need to tell Tony how it happened? I’ll say I bumped my egg myself.”
Slightly more hopeful beeps this time. Bruce reaches out a hand to pet Dum-E’s long, metal arm, and Dum-E beeps again, cheerfully.
Then promptly rolls over the egg, splattering what’s left of it and tracking it across the floor of the lab in a gruesome blur of yolk and white.
3 Eggs Down - 4 To Go
No one mentions that Thor has decorated his egg in green and gold and it’s a miniature Loki. They aren’t sure he knows. So it’s a relief when Steve hears him call it “Yolki” a few hours later. And despite Thor’s tendency to move around the penthouse like a bull in a China shop, he’s careful with his egg.
“Can an egg be worthy?” Tony asks, offhandedly. Or it would be off-handed if he didn’t have a gleam in his eye that makes Steve smirk.
“I know what you’re doing, Tony,” Thor declares. “And while my egg is far more worthy than yours, I will not test it until Yolki and I have won the day.”
It turns out, Thor’s resolve lasts another hour before he and Clint and Bucky have rigged the egg with some bow string and weights to Mjolnir’s handle to test Yolki’s worthiness. For about half a second it looks like the hammer will wobble then--
4 Eggs Down - 3 To Go
If JARVIS knows how Natasha cracks her egg, he won’t tell. And neither will she. The only hint any of them have is the single word Natasha mutters to Bucky in Russian moments after it happens.
According to what Clint tells them later that night, the word translates to “Poltergeist who lives in the house and causes mischief and also grips your ankles with long spindly fingers in the middle of the night when you sleep barefoot.”
The men all laugh it off, but the next morning Natasha, Bucky and Clint are the only ones not wearing socks at breakfast.
5 Eggs Down - 2 To Go
“Ignore that!” Tony shouts.
Of course no one listens, and they all come running. An egg is half dripping from the ceiling and half hovering a few inches above the floor in a small nest made of what looks like spare Iron Man parts. It’s held in the air by a repulsor that’s firing from underneath.
Tony’s holding a remote control and looking unimpressed. Bruce walks over to him, takes the remote control, and pats him on the back.
The nest powers down.
“Maybe you should get some sleep,” Bruce consoles.
“Guess that makes Cap the winner,” Clint says.
“No. First we’ve got to see Steve’s egg. Make sure he didn’t cheat,” Natasha says.
Steve carefully takes the egg out of the pocket of his jacket, where it has been nestled in a handkerchief all day. He holds it upside down and they can all see Pepper’s signature. It’s legit.
“Now can we eat the damn egg?” Bucky demands.
“Sure, Buck. Here.”
Steve’s about to toss it when Tony steps in front of him.
“No,” Tony says. “Your egg. You have to be the one to crack it. It’s only right.”
Steve rolls his eyes, and walks into the kitchen. He very deliberately breaks his egg into a bowl, to put an end to the game, when Tony shouts “Winner!”
“What?” Steve asks, turning around.
Bruce is trying not to laugh, while the other Avengers stare at the egg Tony’s holding out in his hand. It’s whole and it has Pepper’s signature on the bottom.
“How?” Steve asks.
“You think I’d put Iron-Eggsy in a nest prototype?” Tony asks. “I’ve given myself enough concussions from suit testing to know better. I'd have to be egg-stremely irresponsible to risk it.”
The whole team groans.
“So you cheated,” Clint says.
“No, he didn’t,” Steve says emphatically. “He never said that was his egg. We assumed. I'm calling it for my boyfriend.”
Tony lifts his egg in victory.
6 Eggs Down - Tony wins
It’s late. Tony hadn’t come to bed so Steve goes looking at him. He’s in his workshop, still fiddling with the Iron-Nest. Iron-Eggsy is off to the side, still in one piece.
“Not tired?” Steve asks.
“You know me,” Tony says. “Just want to get this right, and then I can sleep.”
Steve nods and walks over to sit on the rolling chair nearest Tony’s workbench.
“I’m impressed,” Steve says, inspecting Tony’s work. “The balance on that’s got to be a real bitch.”
Tony nods. He’s concentrating hard enough that Steve expects it’ll be a quiet hour or two, which is why it’s all the more surprising when Tony sits the nest down and turns to look at Steve.
“If I had a kid do you think I’d fuck it up royally?”
“No,” Steve says, without having to give it a moment’s thought. “I think you’d be a great dad. Have you been thinking about it?”
“What? No,” Tony says. “Not... I mean, not like yes. Not thinking about it seriously. Just... thinking. Of things. Neutrally.”
Steve rolls himself closer to Tony and leans in to kiss his shoulder.
“You are not your father, if that's what you're worried about,” Steve says. “Just look how you take care of the team. If and when this is a conversation you want to have... I can’t say I haven’t given it some thought, too.”
Tony raises an eyebrow. “So in this scenario, is it... you. Or is it you and me?”
“You and me,” Steve confirms. “Always. I think as long as we--”
Dummy chirps apologetically from the other end of the table.
“--never let Dummy babysit, we’ll do just fine.”
Tony laughs in agreement. “You read my mind egg-actly.”