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Tender Instincts & Panicked Measures

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It wasn't like Tony had set out to mother the Avengers.

No, it wasn't like that at all, but it had surely ended in that fashion. Someway, somehow, his life had turned from depressive workaholic, alcoholic, everything-that-was-especially-harmful-holic to packing paper brown bag lunches and personally sending out clothes to the cleaners.

Personally - he hadn't even sent his own laundry out pre-Avengers.

But, it wasn't like Tony had set out to mother the Avengers. They had simply gotten out of hand, all of them very well established in the Stark-turned-Avengers tower (and if the new title wasn't the physical embodiment of his entire life at the moment, he wasn't really sure if anything else would suffice; it was reminiscent of a slightly more dangerous version of Kate Plus Eight). Living with each other, saving each others lives, practically sticking to one another (physically sticking together once, it was a long, sweaty night in Istanbul beneath a caved building). Tony wouldn't ignore the feelings he'd started to develop, all of them maternal and family-centric, but he wouldn't focus on them either, because holy shit.

It was hard to deny the fact that all of the variables had managed to add up, like the gods (or Fury, there wasn't really a difference sometimes) had purposely thrown them all into a blender (Tony imagined a godly pinky dipping lazily into the top of the concoction, disappearing behind a massive beard as whatever force that had decided to toss them together deemed the mixture edible enough). The team was bonded in a way that was more redolent of a big, dysfunctional family than what they were on paper - coworkers.

Clint had only laughed at the C word, the group of them sitting patiently as rescue crews made their way through the transcontinental Istanbul. Clint had divided the humid air with heavy arms, hands curved around Tony's shoulders as he smacked his lips (sloppy, always sloppy with Clint - the fact that Tony could differentiate the lips of his coworkers should've been worrisome; at that time, the only thing he could worry about was the way the building they were trapped under had reminded him of Afghanistan) to the brunette's cheek.

"Must be a family business then, 'cause I don't know any coworkers" Clint shifted, guiding Tony's unmasked head onto his shoulder with gentle, calloused fingers; despite the heat surrounding them, Clint had strived to take advantage of Tony's weary state. "who hold each other like this."

Tony didn't have the heart (or energy, for that matter, they'd needed a lot of aerial support before the building had fallen atop them.) to shove him off, letting his exhaustion drown out the not-so-little voice in his head that had been screaming at him.

Tony could only tell himself that even if the rubble around him shifted into his least favorite cave when he'd drifted off, Clint could keep him grounded; there definitely hadn't been an overzealous archer in Afghanistan whose main mission was to cling - it would've been a bit more pleasant that way.

There hadn't ever been anyone who had wanted to cling to Tony for the sake of clinging - in the moment that Tony had realized that, his entire life had already evolved.

Tony Stark: Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist, Team Mom?



Fury, the fucking bastard, had started all of it.

Tony had been slaving over prototypes in the lab when Jarvis had notified him of the guests awaiting him in the lobby. Guests of which Tony had not expected. Tony didn't get guests. Guests didn't get Tony. Therefore, Tony did not expect nor want guests.

He was a sleep deprived, blubbering idiot by the time he had managed to compute what exactly Jarvis had said.

He hadn't been the one to invite them. Fury and his sneaky sneaky spy shit had caused it. Fury had told the team that Tony had spaces ready and furnished (which he admittedly did, but it was not for the team, at least, it hadn't been. R&D had been the ones needing extra room - Tony wasn't stupid or gullible, building floors for strangers in the hopes that they'd move in?

He wasn't in a fucking Disney movie, this was reality).

A week later, Tony had found a team full of superheroes, bags slung over their shoulders, smiling brightly and conversing (they'd connected over at SHIELD after the Battle of Manhattan, since none of them had had a place to go). Tony had felt a sudden feeling of misplacement in his own home as he descended onto the ground floor of the tower, watching the group through the CCTV that Jarvis had projected in front of him. They looked so comfortable and at ease. Bruce had even smiled a few times, muttering words that Tony couldn't hear to the group. Laughter erupted on the hologram just as the elevator doors opened.

All at once, Tony was thrown into the same projection he'd been viewing. The laughter had quieted down as the elevator dinged his arrival, but he could still see the friendliness between them. It rivaled the nervous posture he was no doubt failing to conceal; he hadn't prepped himself for this. Instead of his regular pressed suit and and dress shoes, he was dressed in baggy (and ripped, Tony noticed with a grim expression) black jeans. He'd haphazardly thrown on the grey Henley that had been crumpled into one of the lab couches rather than bare his chest to the world (which might've been a better option, considering the stench of must rolling off of the fabric in waves). His dark dress socks were the only pieces of clothing remotely appropriate; if only he'd remembered shoes.

Tony ran a hand down his face, avoiding their eyes.

"Mr. Stark?" Steve murmured, shifting the duffle bag on his shoulder; they'd become friendly enough after their little spat on the helicarrier, the shwarma break had worked wonders; nonetheless, he was still 'Mr. Stark'.

It was far too formal, but he had bigger things to deal with at the moment.

Tony glanced up for a moment, noting the captain's simple clothing, his earnest face, the polite 'Mr. Stark' and everything in between; so this was how Tony was going to die? He'd had a running bet on Cirrhosis before this. "Is it a bad time? Fury told us to come here-"

Thor lifted his bag, undoubtedly ready to get settled somewhere; gods know the guy needed someplace to call home on the unfamiliar planet (SHIELD wasn't a fit home for anybody, and the only people exempt were Fury, Agent and Maria - fucking suits).

Tony threw up his hands, muttering out quietly, "Of course he did."

Natasha and Clint shared a look. Meanwhile, Bruce shook his head knowingly.

"Tony?" Banner stepped forwards, ratty suit case dangling from a strong, worn hand; he looked anxious, so much more than he had before, and Tony felt horrible about it. "Are you okay with this? I should've known that Fury would pull something-"

Bruce looked angry at the notion of Fury invading Tony's personal space, and the petite brunette felt something bloom in his chest.

It's what drove home the notion of the Avengers sharing a home.

"No." Tony waved his hands, somewhat frantic. He didn't want them to leave, or feel like they were obligated to; he didn't know them, but together, they knew each other - it took a special kind of crazy to defend the world like they had in Manhattan, and he didn't want to break that bond (even if he was antisocial and didn't need friends; it just didn't help that the nightmares had gotten worse and- no, no portal thoughts). His hands were twisting, oil smearing throughout his palms. These were the only people who had the slightest chance of understanding him.

It was almost as if Tony had decided that he'd actually wanted to change his friend count within the last few moments (jumping from Pepper and Rhodey to an entire live-in team of friends might've been an overwhelming overkill in hindsight - but hindsight was meant for losers who couldn't handle the conditions previous decisions had accumulated; Tony would never regret himself, no matter the fuckup), which was revolutionary for him.

Tony felt panic and adrenaline nipping at his toes, working its way up into his core; he certainly wasn't feeling as sleep deprived anymore. But being unstable or vacant or even inconsiderate (genius wasn't always a good thing, his brain zipped through issues, but that didn't mean he couldn't overlook something) would lead him nowhere - which, hindsight, again, was really where he had been before the Avengers had been shoved artfully in his direction.

It was simply too much, too soon; an irrepressible force had him wired, and Tony could feel his pulse elevating with every silent second that ticked by.

Bad, bad, bad. Relax. "No, forget it. It's...good. We're good. Mi casa su casa, si?"

Tony finally looked up, meeting each and every face. Steve, Thor, Natasha, Clint, Bruce.

People that he would unknowingly associate with family soon enough.

He nodded, sending them his most reassuring smile (which wasn't worth much at this point, he could barely keep himself together) before gesticulating towards the elevator.

Tony stopped, mid thought, a frown on his face. Clint ran straight into his back, jostling him a bit; the archer righted him with two meaty palms on his shoulder and a well placed brush of the hand that nearly knocked Tony over.

"Look, you're going to have to crash in my living room for tonight, I can't get ahold of my contractors to work out plans this late in the day-"

"'S cool Stark, lets just go. I can't wait to see the view from the fucking penthouse."

Clint was bounding around Tony and forwards before he had even finished his sentence; the petite brunette made a mental note for the guys affinity towards heights. Thor, too, was bouncing on the balls of his feet since Clint had mentioned the penthouse - he'd want one of the higher floors too.

Tony's eyes bounced to the three others, who were as calm as ever, even if the worry lines in Bruce's face had only remotely smoothed over. The genius gestured the remaining team towards the lift, corralling his charges into the too small (the lift was huge by average standards - it just didn't work for them, Tony made a note) space before Jarvis silently sent them to the top floor.

As the lift whirled upwards, Tony couldn't help the visual in his head; the Avengers on the highest building in New York, watching over the same city that had been in ruins-

He was feeling sentimental; feeling something other than fear, stress, exhaustion or negativity since he'd been in the tower by himself (SHIELD had stolen Bruce back after two days, and he had gone willingly, something about Betty and blah, blah - Tony had congratulated him on chasing the girl despite his own hurt, now he was wondering if he should get Bruce a floor designed for two; or three, what about the Hulk?).

He was going to have to change his entire home, which had literally been his safe haven for as long as he could remember; his life was on the mend, but necessary change was in order - for Tony, change was more than difficult.

Self preservation wasn't one of his strong suits.

Tony gripped onto the wall of the lift unsteadily, feeling a bit nauseous as they climbed the innards of the building. There was so much to work out. Too many people near him. They were practically flush against the lift or each other, especially with the bulk of the two tallest blondes. He'd gone from recluse to family man in less than ten minutes; that had to be a record, yeah?

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. Pentfuck. Five people. Five super humans. In his tower, with him. Cohabitation. Tony wasn't really good at 'co' anything.

Even so, there was no taking the offer back now, he had just become the proud owner of five superheroes; they hadn't even come with care kits or manuals or blueprints. Tony couldn't breathe.

The lift doors opened, announcing their arrival and the end of Tony with one quick, enthusiastic ding.