SUMMARY: All that team building stuff isn't as easy as it looks.
RATING: PG-13 (for swears)
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is a work in progress that will probably end up coming in somewhere between six and eight chapters. I've got the first five chapters written and am close to finishing the rest, so expect regular updates.
“Real vortices are typically characterized by fairly small vortex ‘cores’ in which, by definition, the vorticity is concentrated, while outside the core the flow is essentially irrotational. The core is not usually exactly circular, of course; nor is the vorticity usually uniform within it.”
A slot on the Avengers came with living quarters, apparently.
Over the course of his life, Clint had lived in an orphanage, a circus caravan, a barracks, and a series of shitty apartments. You could take every single space he’d ever had to call his own (including the two-room cabin in Oregon), put them all together, and they still wouldn’t equal the square-footage of his new penthouse in Stark Tower.
For reasons that eluded him, there were two of almost everything: two bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living rooms, a dining room and a breakfast area. The kitchen looked like a set on the Food Network, the bathrooms were straight out of Architectural Digest, and there was a separate room off the master suite just for getting dressed. There was an enormous plasma TV in the less formal of the two living rooms, a kick-ass built-in sound system, and an office with an array of six monitors and a computer that almost certainly cost more than Clint’s last car. The whole thing was fucking ridiculous (even if he was seriously looking forward to firing up his XBox as soon as he got the chance).
Getting a taste of the kind of luxury Tony Stark had been taking for granted his whole life went a long way to explaining why the guy was such a raging asshole, though.
“The firing range is through those doors,” Stark said as he conducted the tour of the common areas. “It was built for firearms, obviously, but I’m having it retrofitted to accommodate medieval weaponry, in deference to our newest recruit.” He threw a smirk in Clint’s direction that made him want to seriously punch Stark in the neck.
Natasha brushed her hand lightly and unobtrusively against Clint’s, a message that meant ignore him, he’s an idiot. Clint managed to keep his mouth shut. Barely.
There were nine floors of penthouses allotted to the Avengers. Stark’s was the largest, taking up two whole levels, and the one with the big terrace (now restored to its former glory) where Loki had tried to destroy the world. Steve Rogers had the floor above him, then Tasha, and then Clint. Thor had the top floor, the one with roof access, since he was the only other Avenger who could fly. Banner apparently didn’t have a penthouse and was nowhere to be seen, despite the fact he was rumored to be hiding out in the tower somewhere.
The level below Stark’s penthouse was all common areas designated for the exclusive use of the Avengers. In addition to the aforementioned firing range there was a commissary, a health spa, a weight room, a sparring ring, and an enormous rec room. It was like some kind of super-rich adolescent fantasy frat house. Like walking into an episode of MTV’s “Cribs” on high-tech steroids.
“Vintage pinball and arcade games,” Stark said, gesturing offhandedly. “Darts, pool table, digital jukebox, five different gaming systems, 900 channels of satellite TV, and, most importantly… the bar. Fully stocked, of course.”
“When’s the first toga party?” Clint muttered and heard Tasha snort beside him.
Thor was distracted by the foosball table. “What is the purpose of these small wooden men?” he asked, spinning one of the rods experimentally. “Are they soldiers? Is this a game of war?”
“It’s table football,” Steve Rogers explained. “I played in London a few times.” He reached for the ball and dropped it onto the board. “You move the rods and the players kick the ball, see? And you try to score on your opponent by getting the ball into his goal.”
He executed an impressive-looking brush pass and push shot that sent the ball sailing into Thor’s goal despite his flailing attempts to block.
Thor’s eyes got very wide and there was a tense moment while everyone wondered how the God of Thunder was going to react to having his ass handed to him at foosball. When he finally threw his head back and laughed, there was a collective, murmured sigh of relief.
“I enjoy this game!” Thor announced. “I relish the opportunity to master its strategy!”
“Wait’ll he gets a load of Call of Duty,” Clint said.
As it turned out, the common areas didn’t get a whole lot of use. Despite his professed love of foosball, the majority of Thor’s time was spent hanging around his scientist girlfriend. Tony was largely consumed by the various secret projects he had brewing in his lab. Natasha had absolutely no use for games, or recreation, or socializing, and therefore kept mostly to her own quarters when she wasn’t at the firing range. Steve used the hell out of the gym, but that was about it.
As for Clint, he quickly realized that the problem with working out alongside super humans was that they were … well … super human. There was really nothing like watching Captain America bench press 1100 pounds like it was a bag of feathers to make you question your own self worth. After the first time, Clint switched his daily workouts to midnight, when there was no one around to judge him for his 250-pound bench. Which actually worked out fine. He’d cut way back on his drinking since he’d left the cabin, which hadn’t done a damn thing to help his insomnia. If he was going to be up anyway, he might as well be tiring himself out.
“They’ve got nothing to do,” Steve said, frowning.
“Did you think there was going to be an alien invasion every week?” Tony asked. “It’s not exactly a high-demand business we’re in here. Which is, I might add, a good thing.”
“Boredom is bad for morale. And they’re not bonding. They’re barely even speaking to each other. How are we going to function effectively as a team when we’re all essentially strangers?”
“So what you’re saying is we need some sort of team-building activity.”
“Movie night,” Tony said, at the exact same time that Steve said: “Training sessions.”
They stared at each other.
“Mine’s more fun,” Tony pointed out.
“Mine’s more useful,” Steve said.
The first official Avengers training session was an unmitigated disaster.
Steve was used to the army, where everyone simply followed orders without question. Thor was more accustomed to giving orders than following them, that is when he wasn’t simply haring off on his own without considering the consequences. Tony had the attention span of a toddler and an aversion to authority that meant he invariably reacted to most orders by doing the exact opposite. Clint and Natasha were at least used to functioning within a command structure, but they quickly lost patience with everyone else’s lack of discipline.
The whole thing came to an inglorious end after Thor got into a shouting match with Steve, threw Mjölnir through a wall, and stormed off in a huff.
The second official Avengers session didn’t go much better.
It ended with Clint pinning Tony to the mat in a chokehold and refusing to let him up—even when Stark’s lips started turning blue—until finally Steve was forced to intervene. While Steve and Clint were grappling and shouting at one another everyone else got bored and wandered off.
“This is a catastrophe,” Steve groaned, burying his head in his hands.
“No argument here,” Tony said.
“What are we going to do? At this rate, we’ll kill each other before we get the chance to defend the world again.”
“We tried your thing,” Tony said. “Now we’re trying mine.”
To: Steve Rogers & 5 more ...
Ju1 26, 2012 1:04 PM
Captain America has never seen The Shawshank Redemption.
It’s our patriotic duty to remedy this appalling oversight.
Movie night tomorrow in the rec room. 7:00. Mandatory.
Natasha scowled when she found Tony Stark standing outside her door later that afternoon.
“Have you ever seen Shawshank?” he asked, walking in as if he’d been invited. Which he hadn’t.
“No,” she said, shutting the door behind him.
“Amazing film. Life-changing.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
“You’re coming to movie night, though, right?” he asked, fiddling with an antique Tibetan ritual dagger that Natasha had picked up on a mission in Thimphu.
“I don’t like movies,” she said, frowning.
“Everyone likes this movie.” He put the dagger back in its stand. “I need you to do me a favor.”
Natasha laughed out loud. “Sure. Let me get right on that.”
“The thing is it’s not really for me.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and gazed at her. “I want you to come to movie night and I want you to convince everyone else to come, too.”
“Why would I do that?”
“You’ll agree this whole team concept isn’t going as smoothly as it could, yes?”
She snorted. “That’s an understatement.”
He nodded. “There’s a chance it may not work out. And if it doesn’t… oh well. I mean, I’ve still got Pepper and my company and my stacks of money to keep me warm at night. Thor’s got Dr. Foster, not to mention a home he can still go back to if he wants. You’ve got… lots of knives, I assume, or guns maybe. Whatever.” He shrugged. “I don’t know your boyfriend very well, but I guess he was doing fine before we came along and he’ll keep on being fine even if this whole experiment blows up like one of Hammer’s prototypes.”
Natasha kept her mouth shut and her expression carefully blank.
“What’s Rogers got, though?” Tony continued. “No friends, no family, no home. No work except this. If the Avengers fails what’s Steve going to be left with?” He raised an eyebrow at her. “Maybe you don’t care.”
“Why did you come to me?” she asked.
“Because underneath that cold, unfeeling persona you cultivate so carefully, I’m pretty sure you actually like Rogers. And because you’re very good at manipulating people into doing what you want.”
Natasha pursed her lips. “You honestly think a movie’s going to fix anything?”
“You haven’t seen this movie,” Tony said. “Trust me.”
She started with Thor. Or rather, with Thor’s girlfriend.
Natasha didn’t know Jane Foster well, but they’d bumped into each other a couple of times in the tower. She seemed friendly, unusually attractive for an astrophysicist, and perpetually distracted in the way that brilliant people often were.
Natasha found her down in her lab on the twenty-third floor. Jane stared at her blankly for a moment and then smiled brightly when it finally came to her. “Natasha, right? You’re one of the Avengers.”
The other woman working in the lab looked up, narrowing her eyes at Natasha. “Didn’t you used to have red hair?”
“I dyed it,” Natasha said. “Got tired of being recognized.”
“I liked it better red,” the woman said.
“Darcy, you’re being rude,” Jane told her.
“What? She’s still super-hot as a blonde, I just thought it was a really cool red.” She shrugged.
“Thor said you put him in a chokehold the other day,” Jane said. “He seemed really happy about.”
Natasha suppressed a smile at the memory. “He wasn’t very happy at the time.”
“No, he loves it when people beat him. I mean, it makes him mad at first, but then he has, like, eternal respect for you. It’s some Asgardian warrior thing.” She rolled her eyes, as if her alien demi-god boyfriend was the silliest thing ever.
“I was hoping maybe you could do me a favor,” Natasha said.
“Sure,” Jane said, without even knowing what she was going to ask.
Natasha tried to imagine what it would be like to be so open and trusting that you’d happily agree to do favors for near-strangers without even asking questions. It was mind-boggling.
“Captain Rogers is planning this movie night thing tomorrow,” she explained.
“Oh my god, it’s true!” Darcy erupted. “Captain freaking America! He’s really here, isn’t he? In this building! That is so totally cool!”
“Keep your voice down,” Jane hissed. “It’s supposed to be a secret.”
“You knew!” Darcy said, pointing an accusing finger at Jane. “I asked you and you said you didn’t know but you did. You knew all along!”
Jane sighed. “I didn’t tell you because I knew you’d react like this.”
“So, it’s supposed to be this sort of team-building thing,” Natasha cut in before Darcy could resume her Captain America spasm. “And I wasn’t sure if Thor was planning to come?”
“He hasn’t said anything about it to me.”
“I was hoping you could maybe… encourage him. I think it would mean a lot to Steve.”
“Oh, he’s fucking going,” Darcy said. “We’re not letting down Captain America, even if we have to taze Thor and carry him there ourselves.”
Jane smiled at Natasha. “I think you can safely assume Thor will be there.”
Tony had said he’d handle Steve himself, so Natasha turned her attention to Clint.
She didn’t like Stark’s security cameras tracking her movements, so she scaled the distance between her balcony and Clint’s, picked the lock, and let herself into his penthouse. It was far from the first time she’d dropped in like this, so he didn’t even bother looking up from his video game when she wandered in.
“I think I’m in the mood for Thai tonight,” he said, grimacing as he worked the game controller. “Unless you’ve really got your heart set on Italian.”
“Anything’s fine,” she said, sitting down next to him on the expensive leather couch.
She watched him blow up armored aliens for a while. She’d never understood the appeal of video games, or how Clint could spend so much of his free time doing something that so closely resembled their real work. He’d told her once that it was good for the fast-twitch reflexes. There was more to it than that, though, or he wouldn’t sink so many hours into it when he was unhappy. She suspected it had something to do with losing himself in another world. Another life. One that existed without consequences.
He’d been playing a lot of video games since she’d brought him back from Oregon.
“Did you see Stark’s text?” she asked eventually.
Clint snorted. “Fucking movie night. Can you believe that guy?”
“I’ve never seen The Shawshank Redemption, have you?”
“Is it good?”
“Yeah, it’s good. We should watch it sometime.”
“We could go to Stark’s movie night,” she suggested.
Clint paused the game and stared at her. “What the fuck is going on, Tasha?”
She gazed at him levelly. “What do you think is going to happen if this team can’t figure out how to work together? If things keep going as badly as they have been? Stark’s not going to keep bankrolling all of this indefinitely if there’s zero potential for success.”
“And movie night is going to fix everything? Make us all one big happy family?”
She shrugged. “I hear it’s a good movie.”
Clint snorted. “Nothing’s that good.”
“This is all I’ve got going for me right now,” she said seriously. “I’m pretty sure it’s all you’ve got, too. I just… really, really don’t want to get a dog.”
“Have you considered a turtle?”
He shook his head and turned back to his game. “Fine. We’ll go to fucking movie night. But we’re ordering Thai tonight instead of Italian. You owe me that.”
Stark hadn’t said anything about Banner. He wasn’t part of the Avengers, and he hadn’t been at any of the training sessions, so there was no reason to think he needed to be at movie night.
But he had been included in the group text Stark had sent out. Which meant Natasha (and everyone else) now had Bruce’s cell phone number. There was no way that had been an accident on Tony’s part.
She stared at her phone for a while, debating. Then she typed out a message.
Are you coming to movie night tonight? It would be nice to see you.
She hit send.