On the Care and Feeding of Avengers

Clint didn't pretend to not notice the others' speculative eyes when he wandered into the communal kitchen three floors down to put on coffee and was trailed mere minutes later by Natasha. The Avengers all seemed to share the opinion of the former SHIELD betting pool, that the two were lovers. Clint didn't miss it or pretend to, but he ignored it.

"You are aware," Tony pointed out in his typical intrusive fashion, "that there is a perfectly functional kitchen on each of your own floors."

Natasha hummed agreement and peered over Clint's shoulder to ensure he wasn't putting in too much. She called his preferred coffee sludge. He called it strong.

"Where else can I get free clean-up?" Clint pointed out with a shrug and held up the scoop to show Natasha how much he'd put in.

Satisfied, she left him to raid the fridge. He missed her warmth but turned his attention to greeting the others who liked not having to cook their own food or figure out all the needless bells and whistles Tony put in on their appliances.

Steve was notably absent, having declared war on his own kitchen appliances last week with the announcement that so help him, he would not be defeated by an inanimate object. Clint had saluted him and wished him luck but expected they would eventually have Captain America back down here to make omelets for the lot of them.

"Pancakes," Natasha ordered, placing the appropriate ingredients on the counter.

"I actually like your pancakes," Bruce commented dryly.

Clint waved the griddle in his direction. "Don't knock the cooking. I only need about five recipes to get by."

"Pancakes, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, bacon, and takeout," Natasha recited from memory.

Clint thought about that. Breakfast was nice and all, but he knew how to throw together a decent dinner as well. " ."

Nobody else commented though. The last time they had teased him past where he said, "Don't knock the cooking," he had retaliated by making just enough for himself and Natasha, who guarded her pancakes with a bland glare and enough threat in her stance to quell even Tony. Everyone else could fend for themselves as far as he was concerned. Clint may not have had a large repertoire, but that which he did cook, he cooked well.

"So when are you two going to get hitched?" Tony asked blithely as if the change in topic was to a safe one.

Clint and Natasha exchanged two glances and a sigh between them.

"How about when you marry Bruce?" Clint offered.

Natasha laid an admonishing hand on Clint's arm. "Don't encourage him. He'd do it."

"Point." Clint waved the spatula in Bruce's direction. "Banner. Don't marry that guy."

The dry chuckle indicated there hadn't been much danger of it.

"Hey!" Tony looked offended. "I am quite the catch."

"Catch your pancake." It was the first one ready, but Clint flipped it toward Tony and his plate instead of Natasha, deciding that a change of subject was in order.

Tony whirled spectacularly to land his plate under the falling pancake—exactly where said plate had been before the maneuvering. "I knew your aim was perfect."

Natasha shot Clint a pained look.

He just grinned back. "Aww, Nat. Someone's got to entertain the kids."

She rolled her eyes as a very harried-looking Steve came in and braced both arms on the upper counter. Everyone stared at him quietly as he drew in deep ragged breaths. He was covered in… ingredients. For something. Breakfast, Clint presumed. And that was definitely charcoal.

He gave a low whistle and asked, "You ever think Tony might have rigged your gear? You know, likes your cooking enough to try and keep you down here?"

Steve raised his head and looked like he was considering the possibility. "I'm thinking it now."

Clint tossed the next pancake on a fresh plate and handed it over. "How many you want?"

Tony would owe him later for distracting the supersoldier long enough to get the one fed and the other out of the room. Not to mention the number of pancakes he had to make to fill up that bottomless pit.

"Tomorrow, Steve, you're making omelets."