Saying you're "fine" becomes taboo in the Tower. It's a poor excuse of an answer even among civilians and they quickly run out of patience with each other.
It's obvious that Tony isn't "fine" when he wakes up for the third night in a row after a mission brings them up against the Ten Rings.
And Steve isn't "fine" when he comes back from visiting Peggy's grave and Bucky's tomb marker every holiday and birthday and anniversary that he can manage.
Bruce doesn't look "fine" after they discover that a building the Hulk had accidently caused to collapse killed a homeless man who hadn't been evacuated.
There's no way they believe that Clint is "fine" when it's three months after Loki took over his mind and there are still dark circles under his eyes.
Although the storm above them makes it obvious, they know that Thor isn't "fine" when Loki returns and destroys what used to be Jane Foster's home.
And it's clear that Natasha isn't "fine" when they find a girl no older than eight in a training program that's eerily similar to the Red Room.
It takes time. It takes a lot of time. And it starts small.
They pair up in unlikely ways.
Clint shows up in Tony's lab one night when neither can sleep. They work in silence until they can't physically keep their eyes open and then they both crash, heads pillowed in their elbows, and the warm skin of their folded up arms resting lightly against each other.
Natasha finds Thor on the roof looking up at the stars and she lets him teach her in the same way he taught Jane. He smiles, a bitter, sad smile, and then she starts talking quietly, telling him old stories of missions with Clint. Some funny, some not. Thor shares his own, thousands of years of adventures and misadventures. Most with Loki at his side.
Bruce accompanies Steve on his visit to Peggy's resting place and brings two flowers of his own. He listens with a smile when Steve starts talking about his first love. Bruce lays a flower down and Steve lays his own as well. As he twirls the other flowly idly in his hands Bruce asks Steve if he thinks Peggy would mind looking out for some people up there- just in case. Bruce's smile is tight when Steve promises she'd be honored and if he hears the whispered apology that Bruce offers when he lays down the other flower, he doesn't comment.
They heal slowly, usually in twos.
Old hurts slowly scab over and new friends make life a little easier. It's a unanimous and unspoken agreement that they all cut the word "fine" out of their list of acceptable answers in regard to personal welfare.
If they can't admit to hurting, silence is always preferable to a lie. Not that the silence lasts long. Five on one odds isn't stellar, even for an off-duty Avenger. So groups of two become three, which becomes four, which morphs into five.
And then they're a team.
And that's just fine with them.
I'm BACK! And working on the next chapter of Origins but this was short and easy and I wanted to share.