It starts with salt in all the sugar bowls and dispensers.
Tony spoons a small mountain into his coffee, downs a large part of it in one go and then almost barfs into the sink while cursing in three different languages and something Bruce helpfully identifies as binary code for Buffy.
Clint slides off his chair, he’s laughing so hard.
Buffy and Natasha come out of the sauna after a hard spar to find their clothes missing.
“Well, that’s not childish at all,” Buffy comments as they make their way toward the elevator in their towels. Which they rock, but, well. It’s annoying. She’s damp and warm and all loosened up and she wants to dress in fuzzy, comfy clothes and veg out in front of the TV until apocalypse season.
“JARV, can you get the elevator for us?”
Natasha frowns at the ceiling. “JARVIS?”
No answer. Natasha is probably trying to figure out who infiltrated the tower and how soon they’re going to attack (she’s high strung like that), but Buffy has a sudden and inevitable hunch.
She scrunches up her nose thoughtfully and aims a raised eyebrow at the ceiling. “JARVIS, did someone bribe you to not let us in the elevator?”
Then, “That is entirely possible.”
Damn Tony Stark for developing an AI advanced enough to hedge, lie and cheat.
She sighs. “We’re gonna have to take the stairs, aren’t we?” Because stealing someone’s clothes is only fun if they’re forced to suffer for a while. Publicly.
“I am afraid so.” The AI sounds regretful, but he’s also not budging.
“Any chance we can make a counteroffer?” she asks hopefully.
“I am afraid Mr. Stark’s welfare was involved. I was promised he would be dragged to a decent meal and a bed. Since it’s been over thirty hours since he last slept, I am inclined to abide by the deal I made.”
Buffy slumps, pouting. Hedge, lie and cheat and care. “That’s mean, buddy. Can’t be mad at you when you’re being all cute momma bear-y.”
“Thank you, Miss Summers.”
They walk. All fifteen floors. In towels.
Thor’s cape gets raised on an improvised flag pole on the helipad. Spiderman steals it and takes it on a tour through Manhattan’s grubby alleys, judging by the looks of it when he returns it three days later.
Buffy didn’t know bona fide gods could throw hissy fits.
Bruce’s teas are all switched around in their boxes. By the time he finds the one actually wanted, he’s lost all interest and drinks Buffy’s cheap strawberry and cream concoction first, even though he hates it. He also can’t stop sneezing after sniffing up to twenty different kinds of tea to figure out what they are and where they belong.
Clint takes a video with his phone. The nose wiggling the man does right before a sneeze is adorable.
Tony’s ties are all knotted together and wrapped around his bedroom furniture like yarn after the cat got through with it.
“Those are Italian silk!”
Buffy, sitting on his bed, untying the tie rope one knot at a time and piling the freed ties onto the screeching billionaire lying in dramatic repose next to her, shrugs. “You hate every single one of them, though.”
“Italian silk!” he wails.
She pats his face absently and then places a yellow tie on it.
“This is getting out of hand,” Steve proclaims over team breakfast the next day, once they’ve all dug into their eggs and found the salt has been exchanged for sugar. The only one happily munching away is Clint, who has no taste buds.
At least, that’s Buffy’s theory, until Natasha frowns, leans over and pokes the man with her fork.
“You did this.”
He jumps. “What! No, I didn’t?!”
“Then why is yours the only edible breakfast?”
He rolls his eyes. “You’re just picky. Besides, I would not be this obvious. Give me some credit, Nat.”
Buffy sighs, forks some of his eggs into her mouth, grimaces and swallows. “Nope,” she grimaces, “definitely not edible. How do you do that?”
Around a mouthful of sugary eggs (Dawn would love them, probably), he explains, “Ah ah ca-ba anz, wi maya ‘n it.”
“Anyone get that?” Bruce asks as he shoves his plate toward the middle of the table, dejected expression on his face.
“He once ate cardboard with mayonnaise on it,” Natasha translates, adding something in Russian Buffy doesn’t understand.
Clint waves his fork at her threateningly and then hauls Bruce’s plate closer, digging in.
The next day, all of Clint’s underwear goes missing.
“You never wear them anyway,” Natasha supplies.
Buffy, nominally there to help search for the missing clothes, stops poking around his closet to ask, “Really? Then why do you own so many?”
“Nat keeps giving me novelty ones as a joke.”
That night, after a random battle against a nutty mutant hell-bent on revenge on mankind, Tony plops down next to Clint in the Avengers infirmary and announces, “You know nobody’s buying that underwear thing, right?”
Clint, wincing as Bruce bandages a cut on his calf, frowns. “You never go commando?”
“That you’re a victim, Birdbrain. We all know you’re the one fucking with us.” Tony wags a finger in his face. “Those ties were Italian silk. Italian. Silk. Do you even know what that is?”
Clint’s frown deepens.
The plot, Buffy muses from her own bed, holding some gauze to the bleeding gash on her forehead, thickens. Beside her, Steve is sorting their suture kits by size and grumbling under his breath about suicidal teammates.
“I need your help.”
It’s three am, Buffy is asleep and Clint drops right out of the ceiling, talking. He really should be expecting the fist to the face and the knife to the neck.
The assassin wheezes.
The slayer wakes enough to realize she’s about to chop her friend’s head off.
“Damn it, Clint.”
“Sorry. You gonna let go anytime soon?”
She considers for a moment, then puts down the knife and slumps back onto her bed. “What?”
“I need your help to find out who’s pranking everyone.” He actually strikes a pose to go with his announcement. It’s possible this superhero business has gone to his head. Next he’ll want a cape of his own.
She kicks out in his general direction, missing him by a full two feet. “And that couldn’t wait until morning?”
“No!” he snaps. “Because everyone thinks I’m doing it and Natasha is going to start retaliating any minute now and have you met her?” His eyes are wide in the dark. “She’s scary, Buff. Scary! And vengeful.”
“Nat knows that you’re not the one doing this,” Buffy sighs, rolling sideways and groping for her comforter. Tony bought it and it feels like sleeping surrounded by clouds.
“That’s just what she wants you to believe!” Drama llama.
“Clint! It’s the middle of the night. I was out patrolling until an hour ago. Let me sleep.”
He pouts. She can’t see it with her eyes closed, but she can feel it. For a grown, battle-hardened man, Clint pouts far too well. “In the morning?”
She flaps a hand in his direction, grunting. “Whatever.”
He takes that as an invitation, gives a happy yip, and flops down next to her, apparently settling in to stay.
“You’re not sleeping here.”
“Yes, I am.”
Fine. Whatever. She lived with a house full of teenage girl for a year. She can share a room with Hawkeye for a night.
Then his hand starts inching toward the edge of her duvet.
“Dare and die,” she mutters.
Clint’s hand drops.
“Okay. So how are you going to prove your innocence, oh plan-having one?”
It’s eight am and Buffy has given up sleeping next to a passive-aggressively awake Clint. Instead, she made him fetch her coffee while she took a shower and now they’re brainstorming.
Or, you know, what passes for it at ass o’clock in the morning.
“I hate you,” she tags on, just because she can.
“No, you don’t. And we need to set a trap.”
Buffy has the sudden, gory mental image of a caffeine-deprived Tony, or a distracted Bruce stepping into a bear trap on their way to the kitchen, and twitches violently.
“What kind of trap?” she demands, squinting at her fellow Avenger with mistrust.
His expression goes from serious to a shit-eating grin. The kind he usually reserves for after he pulls off yet another physics-defying shot that makes Tony scream at the heavens in despair.
Then he says a single word.
Ten minutes later, the slayer of gods and monsters woefully stares into her empty mug and wishes for more coffee.
“Let me see if I got this right. You want to figure out where the prankster will strike next and set up a bucket trap filled with glitter? Why the hell glitter?”
There was an incident with Dawn, a jumbo pack of glitter glue and a lot of booze. Buffy is traumatized.
Clint rolls his eyes hard enough to make him wince. “Because,” he informs her, pedantically, “glitter is forever. Anything else washes off, but have you ever tried getting glitter off of skin or out of hair? We’ll know them by their sparkling roots, Buff!”
Abruptly, Buffy stretches her arm toward him, empty mug almost breaking his nose. “Coffee,” she demands. “You’re insane. Get me more coffee so I can deal with it.”
He brings her the whole pot.
According to Clint’s observations and an obscure bit of potentially made-up math done in crayon on the back of a pizza box, the next victim is going to be Steve. Buffy snorts, shakes her head and holds onto the rope while Clint nails parts of a way too complicated pulley system to the wall above Steve’s door.
“Have you considered – “
“That someone else – “
“Might walk into that?”
He gives her a hard look. “It’s vengeance, Buff. It’s revenge. It’s retribution!”
“It’s a thesaurus,” she mutters and tugs on the rope, almost toppling the archer from his perch. He curses, rights himself and goes right back to his Rube Goldberg impression.
“I’m causing mayhem while stopping mayhem. You gotta admire the poetry in that. Come on, you know it’ll be hilarious.”
“I’m starting to think I’ve been tricked into this under false pretenses.”
Clint applies the last nail, gives a satisfied nod, pulls and tugs on a few things and then motions for Buffy to hand up the bucket filled with glitter. It’s purple with a little gold mixed in, because of course it is.
“Where did you even get that much glitter from?”
“Craft stores are mysterious places.”
The trap goes up without a hitch.
They’re lying in wait with an army of Chinese cartons, a bunch of suspiciously pointy chopsticks (old habits are hard to break, especially slaying habits) and a camera. Steve’s door is just a three second sprint down the hallway from their perch in what Thor has dubbed the Mingling Hall, because of course he has.
Avengers exist outside of logic and reason; that has long since been accepted as fact. Clint can have a bucket of purple glitter ‘just in case’ and Thor can randomly name shit in Asgardian fashion and no-one so much as twitches anymore.
The Mingling Hall is really more of a small open space between their various rooms and offshoot hallways. Tony put couches in it. They hang. It’s cool, and also an excellent vantage point for catching pranksters in the act and catching up on Bones. Buffy likes to hate on Booth because he looks like Angel, but actually has a degree of emotional maturity that lets him stick it out with the woman he loves.
Clint supports her habit because he’s a good bro.
“What are you doing?” Steve asks from behind them.
“Working out suppressed teenage woes,” Clint supplies while Buffy answers, “Stalking the prankster.”
The good Captain rounds the couch and squishes in between them, snagging a carton of Low Mein on the way. For an old guy, he got used to cheap, pseudo-exotic food delivered at all hours really fast. The only ancient person Buffy knows who did modern as well as Steve is Spike, and even his ability to adapt ran out in the seventies.
He stares at the screen for five minutes, until someone throws a decomposing body into an acid bath, then pointedly averts his gaze and demands, “Explain the stalking thing.”
Clint, pointing with his pointy chop sticks, announces, “We’ve set a trap for the prankster to prove my innocence and punish them.”
Always the team player, Steve asks, “Punish how?”
“Glitter is forever,” is the archer’s only answer.
Buffy knowingly grins into her chicken.
That’s when the screaming starts.
Purple, it turns out, clashes horrible with Natasha’s red hair.
And her resting murder face, which, at the moment, is focused right at Clint, who has stopped breathing.
The Black Widow is standing right below the bucket, glitter still sinking to the floor around her, a book in hand. It looks pristine, except for a few precise dog ears, which probably means it belongs to Steve and she was bringing it back.
“I told you this would happen,” Buffy sing-songs.
“Or maybe,” Clint is brave enough to say after inching behind her for cover, “Nat’s actually the prankster and we caught her red-handed.”
“I think you mean purple,” Steve offers, sotto-voce from behind them.
Clint shoots him a look.
Natasha very calmly puts the book down on a nearby table and then starts wiping at her shoulders and chest.
Clint was right. Glitter is forever.
After a minute of brushing, she gives up and points a finger at him, eyes flinty. “You have thirty seconds,” she announces. A little shower of glitter shakes loose from her face and rains down into her cleavage.
Clint squeaks and runs.
“Think he’s gonna make it?” Buffy asks, conversationally.
Steve shrugs. “He knows all the best places to hide.”
“So does Nat,” she counters, a speculative look on her face.
“We are not betting on this, Buffy,” Steve scolds, edging into his room and studying the mess on the carpet with a resigned expression.
“Vacuum,” she tells him before he can go all old-fashioned on her and try to find a broom. “Or maybe just a new carpet?”
The glitter is already sinking into it.
With a great sigh, Steve heads for the hall closet and pulls out a seldom used vacuum, plugging it in while Buffy slowly (slowly) closes the door to try and contain the mess. Then she hops onto the table next to Nat’s book and directs Steve toward where she can still spot glitter after his first few sweeps.
Which is everywhere, but hey. She’s totally helping.
After about fifteen minutes of that, she leans down to unplug the vacuum and ask into the sudden silence, “JARVIS?”
“Yes, Miss Summers?”
“Could you maybe find someone who knows how to deal with this mess and make them come here?”
There’s a smile in the AI’s voice as he announces, “Mr. Stark’s usual cleaning service is already enroute. They should arrive within the next twenty minutes.”
“You’re the best.”
Steve looks like he wants to protest someone else cleaning up this mess, but then decides it’s not worth having that fight. (Again.)
In the distance, Clint screeches.
“Nope,” Buffy quips, “we’re gonna need a new archer.”
He sidles up next to her, avoiding the glitter pool. After a moment or two, he casually demands, “Why did you tell me about the trap? I mean, it could be me, right? But you didn’t even consider letting me run into the trap.”
She snorts indelicately and pats his arm. “Steve, honey, I know it’s you. I’ve known since the sauna.”
The completely flabbergasted look on his face is hilarious.
“I…. you, what? I mean, I’m not?” He doesn’t sound very sure.
She pats him again. “Yeah, you are. I let it go because we’ve been having a shit run of it lately and you made everyone laugh.” She cocks her head to one side, considering. “Also, watching Clint’s mounting paranoia was fun. Even if it cost me sleep.”
And Nat quietly and murderously shedding purple and gold glitter wherever she goes for the next few days is going to be hilarious.
“Clint knew, too, I think.”
Steve is still gaping. It’s starting to become unattractive, so she closes his mouth for him.
“Clint? No idea, but he’s Hawkeye. He sees stuff others miss. Me? Aside from the fact that all your pranks were completely harmless and everyone else would have crossed a lot more lines? The towels.”
“The towels. The ones in the sauna usually barely cover my butt. The day you hid our clothes, you switched out the towels for bigger ones so we wouldn’t have to run around with our lady bits hanging out. None of the others would have been that nice.”
When Captain America blushes, he blushes scarlet. “Sorry. About that.”
Buffy laughs. “Don’t bother. Now, the important part.”
“Yes?” he hedges, squinting as if he’s terrified.
“Equality,” she informs him, completely deadpan. “You haven’t been pranking Thor and Bruce nearly as hard as everyone else. I have a few suggestions to fix that.”
They get called out to do battle less than two days later.
Natasha has to tackle their villain du jour to the ground. He spends the next hour complaining that she ruined his outfit by getting glitter all over it.
Over comms, Clint whimpers.