AN: I own nothing.
I'm pretty happy with this, all in all. Not bad, if I do say so myself.
Expect more oneshots like this coming soon. If you have a prompt for one, please send it my way!
Everyone has a default. A backup setting. A series of actions and ways to fall back on when falling forward means being pitched headlong off a cliff.
They all needed new defaults.
Bruce Banner had perhaps tried the hardest out of all of them to rewrite his backup plan. Put himself in a totally new environment. New people, new places, new obstacles. In the end he succeeded in merely destroying his previous version of normality with no backup plan. Ultimately, he burned too many important bridges.
Thor thought he would always have Asgard and his family's love and support. Now, with that hard fast trust shaken to its roots, he realized he needed connections outside of the arms of those like him. He needed bonds forged in more than shared blood.
Clint Barton and Natasha Romanov had always had themselves as a backup, until the day they had realized they had one another. Then Clint was compromised and Natasha opened her eyes to see that they both needed more than each other and their selves. They needed more than the running, the temporary, the fleeting.
Steve Rogers never had much of a backup. He was just tripping over his feet forward, trying to find some traction to get where he knew he should be. He reached that destination and was surprised to find that his backup was a following several million large. They had his back, and he had theirs. And then he sacrificed himself and woke up in a strange time, a strange place, with no one to fall back on and only several hopeful individuals pulling him forward.
Tony Stark always, always, had a backup. It came from storing his life's fortune on chips and discs fragile enough to crush with his bare hands. He always made more than one copy, always kept another file on another computer somewhere only he knew, guarded by intelligence and diligence he built. And then he had even that ripped away from him, and the backups he had in his own brain saved him. Nope, Tony Stark always had a consistent backup.
Maybe that was why the rest of them made him their new default.
On paper it was technically S.H.I.E.L.D. they were leaning on. S.H.I.E.L.D.'s time, money, resources in general.
If something went wrong, he was the person they turned to. A fight gone wrong, a home destroyed for whatever reason, and they would trek to whichever Stark inhabitance that was acting as base at the moment, and stay until they got back on their feet to go fight the next demon.
Tony comments on it to Pepper one day as both the Captain and Bruce show up at the base of Stark Tower, in dirty civilian clothes, scratched and bruised, with backpacks slung over shoulders.
"We should just give it up and run a hotel," he remarks after the two have gone to their respective rooms.
Pepper puts down her phone and looks at him.
"Tony, you're the only one with some kind of stability between the six of you. You can't really resent them for wanting a piece of it." He smirked.
"So everyone wants a piece of me?" Pepper rolled her eyes.
"No, they want something solid. Think about it. You've got what you always have. Stark Industries, the money, the suit-"
"You," he says with only a dash of humor.
"Sure, and you've fought for all that and you fought to keep it, and they know you'll keep fighting for it. And now you have the Avengers, and you've fought for them and with them too, and they know you're not just going to leave them hanging. It may just be a place to stay, but it's consistent and friendly. Nothing is going to try and kill them here." He raises his eyebrows. "Or if it does, they've got help a maximum of a few floors away. It's a good backup."
Tony sits and mulls this over. He has to admit she has a point.
"You're brilliant, you know that, right?" he says.
"Mmhm," she says absent mindedly as she picks up her phone and resumes fixing whatever it is that needs fixing now.
It's a default setting, he realizes. When something goes wrong, you go back to the last set of surroundings that worked, that would work again. He wonders what they would do without it. With a queasy feeling he realizes that the endless wandering and directionless motion is exactly what they must have had before S.H.I.E.L.D. took them all and forced them to become a part of something bigger and change their settings.
It's not a bad life, he decides, being able to help them out. He knows they'll repay him in small things, like a warning on a mission that saves his life or a watchful eye from above to cover his back. If the trade off for the constant rotating house guests is an extra set of hands and eyes and ears and whatever else he may he need, he figures it's worth it. The friendship, the craziness, the fighting, the arguments, the missions, the downtime. All worth the Hulk's weight in reassurance and security.
That's when he realizes he's changed his backups, too.