The moment Tony Stark woke up, he looked over and saw long blonde hair on the pillow next to his. Great. He finally got Pepper to sleep with him, and he couldn't even remember it. How drunk had he been last night?
"Morning, sweetheart," he said, patting her ass. Wait a minute—that wasn't her ass. Too high up.
Then the body next to his shifted and rolled over to face him.
"Touch me again," the God of Thunder growled, "and you will pay."
"Aaaahhh!" Tony jumped up out of bed. "What are you doing in my bed?" How drunk had he been last night?
"That," Thor said, "is what I would like to know. I need coffee."
"Fine. Coffee I can handle." In fact, he could already smell it brewing. Either JARVIS was really on the ball this morning, or . . .
"Morning," said Bruce Banner, setting down two cups. "I didn't know if you'd be hungry, so I just made toast."
"Tell me something," Tony said.
"What did . . . this is going to sound like a weird question, but—"
"What did you do last night?"
"How did you know?"
"I spent many a drunken evening in my undergraduate days. My rudest awakening was when I woke up duct-taped to the ceiling."
"That doesn't sound so bad."
"In the women's gym."
"During archery practice."
"Did I mention I was completely naked?"
Now even Thor was wincing. "How did you escape this torture?"
"Someone called the janitor, who got a ladder and cut me down. But not before thirty-four girls had had a good look at my junk. Let's just say I was right near an air-conditioning duct and leave it at that."
"Okay, that's more detail than I needed to know," Tony said.
"Anyway, that's when I swore off drinking."
"Where are the others?" Thor asked. He took a sip of his coffee, added a spoonful of sugar, took another sip, and then dumped half the sugar bowl into it. The third sip proved the charm.
"Still sleeping, I think. In one of the guest rooms."
Tony raised his eyebrows. Which hurt. "One of the guest rooms? I hope you at least got pictures."
"Sorry, I was too concerned with getting everyone into a bed to be worried about the entertainment value. Besides, I don't have a phone."
"I'll have to get you one." Tony tried a piece of toast. Normally he didn't like dry toast, but this morning he wasn't sure what his stomach would tolerate. So far, so good. "So what exactly happened last night?"
"Well, it all started when you declared you would, quote, drink Goldilocks under the table or die trying, unquote. I came along because that last part worried me. I insisted we take the limo."
Ignoring Thor's look, Tony said, "Okay, so we went drinking. And?"
Before Bruce could answer, a sleepy voice asked, "Would someone please explain why I woke up with Clint on one side of me, Natasha on the other, and this traffic cone in my arms?"
"Not a good night unless you get a traffic cone," Tony said. "If you're lucky, you might even get a sexy police woman to go with it."
"You wouldn't let go of it," Bruce explained. "I tried to take it away, but you kept saying, 'My cone! Mine!' It was easier just to let you hang onto it."
Steve Rogers sat down at the table and sighed. "I have never had a night like that. Ever."
"Well, you were an ice cube for seventy years. You had a lot to make up for."
"But all in one night?"
"I'm a little fuzzy on the details myself. Doc?"
Bruce nodded and continued his narrative. "You didn't waste any time. The moment the limo dropped us off, you headed straight for the bar."
"Hey, this guy hasn't had a drink in seventy years. Bring us a bottle right away!" Tony had his arm around Steve's shoulders in a way that made the latter a bit uncomfortable, and he wondered if the former had gotten a head start on the night's activities.
"I thought we were supposed to maintain a low profile," Steve muttered. They were all in civilian clothes, but there had been enough pictures of them on the news during the whole New York business that someone might recognize them.
"How bout we split up?" Clint suggested. "They might not figure it out if they only see one or two at a time."
"Sounds like a good idea." So they broke up into three duos: Tony and Steve at the bar, Clint and Natasha on the other side of the room, and Bruce with, of all people, Thor. The awkwardness factor was high, but he'd been through worse.
"Why do you not drink, Banner?" the god had asked, as he signaled for yet another beer.
"Please. You really want to see me out of control? Not a good idea. Besides, someone has to be sober enough to call the limo at the end of the night."
There was a sort of stage on the right side of the room, and as they watched, two men were setting up something. "Oh, no," Bruce moaned. "Not karaoke!"
"Carry-oh-key?" Thor was confused. Perhaps another beer would help.
"Trust me, you don't want to know. Let's get out of here before those idiots get drunk enough to think it's a good idea."
Too late. Apparently "those idiots" were already drunk enough to want to sing in public. Or maybe Tony was drunk and Steve was just going along to keep him company. Whatever the reason, they were the first ones onto the stage, singing a duet of "My Way."
Thor had another beer.
Three choruses later, in which the duo demonstrated their inability to read words off a screen, Bruce decided he had had enough.
"We're getting out of here," he said. "I'll call the limo."
"Are we going to another drinking establishment?" asked Thor. He set down his latest empty glass and called for another.
"No. We're leaving. As in, done for the night."
"We need to find the others." The Norse god pushed back from the table and nearly knocked over his chair. This was getting out of hand very quickly, and if Bruce couldn't get his friends to leave quietly (and it was looking very unlikely at the moment), he might need the help of his little green buddy, and that was something nobody wanted.
He spotted Nat and Clint across the room and went to give them the news. "We're leaving."
"We just got here!" the archer protested. "Less' have another drink."
"How many have you had already?" Oh, not him too!
"Then all these empties on the table got here by themselves?"
Natasha giggled at that. Oh, boy. "People keep givin' them to us!"
"Wonderful. Well, come on. We're leaving."
"We're going to drink somewhere else!" Thor proclaimed.
Bruce looked at him. "No, we are not!"
Twenty minutes later, they were in another bar, half a mile away. And it was at this point that things began to get really bizarre.
"I think I remember this place," Tony said. He looked at Thor. "Wasn't there a bachelorette party at the next table, and I told them you were a Chippendale dancer, and you got up on top of the table and-"
"I do not remember," Thor said firmly, his expression suggesting otherwise.
"I think one of the girls took video; let's see if it's popped up on YouTube yet." He opened a screen in the air before him and set it searching for anything relevant.
"What is yoo-toob?" the Norse god asked.
"You don't want to know," Bruce told him. "It was the place with the fountain out front."
"Fountain . . ." Steve moaned, and buried his face in his hands.
"I see it's all coming back now."
There was a beep from the screen. "Found it!"
The screen filled with the image of a certain tall, well-built blond shaking his hair back and gyrating while women threw money at him.
"Can you guys watch your porn somewhere el—oh my God!" Natasha hadn't expected the first sight to grace her bleary vision to be that of a half-naked Thor table dancing. "Is this for real?"
"If the god thing doesn't work out," Tony quipped, "you could always get a job as an exotic dancer, Blondie."
"You made me do this!" the enraged Asgardian bellowed, which made nearly everyone wince.
"Yeah, but once you got the hang of it, you were having a good time there. Plus we made nearly two hundred bucks. Which came in handy when my credit card was declined."
"How did your card get rejected?" Natasha asked him.
"Beats me. All of a sudden, it wasn't working any more. Guess I shouldn't have bought that third round for the entire room."
The party was in full swing. Thor was dancing on a table to Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff," shaking his hair around like a shampoo model while the women squealed. Quite a few were throwing money. Some were throwing underwear, which Tony picked up and put in his pocket for later. Why just let it go to waste?
"Excuse me, sir," a waitress said. It took Tony a minute to realize she was talking to him.
"C'I help you?"
"I'm afraid there's been a problem with your card. It's, um, not going through."
"Try runnin' it again."
"I've run it through three times, sir. It's just not being accepted."
"This is ridic'lous! Do you know who I am?"
"All I know, sir, is that the bank refuses to authorize the charge."
"Here," Bruce said, handing over his never-used charge card. "Try mine."
"I'll be right back."
It was about this time that Bruce realized that their party was a few members shy. "I'll be right back," he said to Tony. "Don't go anywhere. If she needs me to sign for the card, tell her I'll be right back."
"Kay." Tony nodded and went back to picking up money and undergarments. He noticed one young lady holding up her phone, on which a red light was blinking. Was she recording this? Might be worth getting a copy of that, if only for blackmail purposes.
Clint came staggering over. "Where's Tasha?"
"I thought she was with you."
"I went to get us drinks, and when I came back, she was gone."
"You got drinks? Gimme one." He reached out, then noticed that the archer's hands were empty.
"They said my card was no good."
"Yeah, mine too. What's goin' on?"
The waitress came back with Bruce's card, but no slip to sign. "I'm sorry, but this one's no—where did he go?"
"He'll be back," Tony said. He looked down at his hands, which were full of dollar bills. "Will this cover it?" he asked, piling them on her tray.
She helped him count it out, and yes, there was enough.
"That's kind of funny, that all our cards stopped working like that," Natasha said.
Tony gave her a funny look. "And where were you," he asked, "while all this was going on?"
She looked uncomfortable, and Steve said, "We, um, went swimming in the fountain."
"You pulled me in!" she said accusingly.
"Only after you pushed me!"
"Your fault for standing on the edge like that! Besides, you looked like you needed a little cooling off!"
"I wasn't the one undoing buttons left and right!"
"And I missed this for 'Would you like to see my big hammer'?" Tony looked at Steve with newfound admiration. "Shoulda put that on YouTube."
Natasha threw something at him; he ducked. "Nothing happened! Not that it's any of your business anyway!"
"You mean," said Bruce, "when I came out and found you two frolicking in the fountain, that was nothing?"
"We were not frolicking! More like flailing! It was slippery."
"Sure it was," said Tony, and ducked again.
"It was completely innocent! At least, it started that way . . ."
"I need some air," Natasha said. "Come outside with me."
She grabbed Steve by the collar and practically dragged him out the door. There was a large ornamental fountain just outside, and she sat on the edge of it and patted the stone surface next to her, inviting him to join her. He just stood and stared up at the sky.
"What are you looking at?"
"The moon," he said, in a dreamy voice. "Is it true we went to the Moon?"
"Yeah, over forty years ago."
"And we haven't been back since?"
"The money ran out. I guess."
"I thought we'd have colonies on the Moon by now. And flying cars."
"Yeah, the future sucks, dunnit?"
"I almost wish they'd left me in the ice. It was peaceful in the ice. Nobody bothered me. I didn't have to think about anything. Didn't have to do anything. Nobody esspected anything of me," he said, beginning to slur his words a bit. "No pro'lems. Nothing."
"Oh, baby, c'mere." She reached up and pulled him down beside her. "It's okay. Let Mama kiss it and make it better." And that was when she had started undoing buttons, first her own, down to her cleavage, and then his top button, removing his tie and casting it aside. She bent her head and nuzzled at his neck, her hands on his back.
It took him a moment to realize what was happening, and then he pulled away. "No! We can't—can't do this!"
"Why not? No one watching."
"It just doesn't—look, I like you and all, but—"
"You're blushing," she teased him.
"Maybe we should go home. You have money for a cab?"
"Maybe," she said, patting the space in between her breasts. "Come and get it, tiger."
"On second thought, maybe I'll walk."
"Don't go." She reached for him as he got up and started pacing back and forth. "What are you doing?"
"Just walking, to clear my head."
"You're not going anywhere."
"I don't wanna leave you alone here."
"Awwww. You're so sweet."
He stepped up on the edge of the fountain, which was just wide enough for him to walk on. Natasha had to turn her head to keep up with him.
"Come down here."
"This is nice. Nice and cool." And slippery. He almost lost his footing once, but was able to right himself and keep walking. The mist from the fountain settled on his skin and cooled him off. It was a wonderful feeling on such a warm night.
"You look like you're having fun," Natasha remarked as he passed her again.
"This is fun. Come and join me?"
"There room for both of us?"
"Sure. Come on up." He reached down to help her up, ever the gentleman.
And it was at this point that their accounts diverged. Steve maintained that she had pushed him in deliberately, while Natasha insisted that she had lost her balance and fallen into him, knocking him into the water. Whichever way it happened, he fell into the fountain, and was drenched from head to foot.
"What the hell?" he sputtered, coming up for air. "Why'd you push me?"
"You were having fun. Thought you might want to go all the way and take a swim."
"Why don't you join me?" he asked, and pulled her in on top of him.
Just then, Bruce came outside looking for them, heard familiar voices coming from the fountain, and found them splashing around, slipping and falling on top of each other in their efforts to get out.
"What are you doing?" he demanded.
"Juss' playing," Tasha said. "Cooling off."
"Come out of there! We're leaving."
"Whyyyyy?" It wasn't like her to whine, but then, he'd never seen her drunk before.
"Don't make me get the other guy," Bruce warned them. He had hoped to go the entire evening without an incident, but if that was what it took to get these idiots to behave, he'd have to do it and pray that the damage was kept to a minimum.
And then Clint came out of the bar, saw Steve and Natasha playing in the fountain, and jumped in to join them. It took divine intervention—in the form of a shirtless God of Thunder—to get them out, reasonably dried off, and into the waiting limo.
"Don't wanna go home yet," Natasha complained. "Killjoy."
"Get," Bruce growled, in a voice that he hoped suggested that he was on the verge of Hulking out, "in the car."
At that, the dripping trio quieted down and climbed into the back of the limo, where towels and plastic sheeting had been laid across the seats. Tony was already there, head lolling against the seat back. His eyes were closed, and they thought he was passed out already, but then he blinked and stared at them. "Why're you all wet?" he asked.
"Fell in the fountain," Natasha explained.
"You pushed me!"
"Quiet!" Thor roared.
They rode all the way home in silence, except for the one moment when they passed through a construction site and Steve suddenly opened the door.
"What are you doing?" Bruce demanded.
"Wanna traffic cone. To 'member this night."
"You can't just take that! It's city property!"
But those Super-Soldier reflexes had already grabbed it and pulled it inside before he could finish the sentence. He shut the door and held the cone on his lap.
"I guess they can send us the bill, then."
When they got home, Bruce, with help from a clearly exhausted but still coherent Thor, stripped the three swimmers of their wet clothes, and put them in one of the king-sized beds in the first guest room he came to. It was easier to dump them all in one room than it would be to have to lug them to separate rooms.
Tony was sitting on the couch, just barely conscious. "Wha' time's it?" he mumbled.
"We're done for the night. Thanks for the help, big guy. Go hit the hay."
Thor looked confused. "Hay?"
"Just find a bed and sleep it off."
"Right." He disappeared, and Bruce went around tidying up a few things before he himself turned in.
"Leave it," Tony said. "I'll do it t'morrow."
"Need a hand getting to your room?"
"Nah, 'm good." He stood up and almost took a header into the coffee table. Bruce rushed over and grabbed him, holding him up.
"Okay, buddy, just tell me where to go."
When they got to Tony's bedroom, they were in for a surprise: the bed was already occupied.
"Oh, no, no, no," the billionaire moaned. "This is my bed, Blondie! Find y'r own!"
The thunder god slept on, dead to the world.
"I mean it! Out!"
"Looks like you'll have to find another room," Bruce said.
"I'm not givin' up my bed!"
"Then you'll have to share."
Tony looked down at the tiny space between the Asgardian and the edge of the bed. "You better not steal the covers, Goldilocks," he muttered, and climbed in. Within seconds he too was fast asleep.
"And that's it," Bruce concluded his story. "I slept on the couch. Woke up about an hour ago and started making coffee, and breakfast, if anyone wants it."
"Ugh, don't even mention food." Clint shuffled in and sat down on the floor, stretching out his legs and arching his back. "What did we do last night?"
"Went swimming in a fountain, apparently," said Natasha. "Then we had a ménage a trois."
"We did not!" Steve insisted. "I would have remembered that!"
"Keep it down, Cap," Tony grumbled. "My head . . ."
"This is all your fault, you know."
"I didn't twist anyone's arm. You all looked like you were having a good time! Didn't you have a good time?"
Before anyone could answer, a two-tone chime sounded. "Mr. Stark," said the simulated voice of JARVIS, the tower's AI. "Colonel Fury is in the lobby. Should I send him up?"
The hung-over Avengers looked around at each other guiltily. "Must've seen the YouTube video," Tony remarked. "Yeah, sure, send him up. I doubt you could stop him."
Not only had he seen the video, he had it playing on his smartphone when he arrived. "Quite a night you people had," he began.
"I can explain," Tony began, but Fury cut him off with a wave of his hand.
"Some of you don't realize that we live in a world with cameras everywhere. This was taken by a bank security camera," he said, pressing a button on his device. The scene switched to a fuzzy video of Steve and Natasha by the fountain.
"See? Told you! You pushed me!" The First Avenger pointed to the tiny screen.
"It was an accident," she said, sighing and shaking her head. "Get over it, already."
"However this came about," Fury continued, "you need to remember that we live in a world without anonymity. Everything you do, everything you say, has the potential to be recorded and repeated. I don't have time to run around doing damage control on your drunken rampages."
"We didn't do that much damage," Tony insisted. "Bruce didn't even drink!"
"That may have been the smartest decision any of you have ever made."
"And I thought he was just being a wet blanket."
"Hey, who brought your drunken ass home in one piece?" the scientist retorted.
Fury glared at them both. "I don't want to hear about any of you doing anything like this ever again. Especially not on the taxpayers' dime."
It took a minute or two for the penny to drop. "You're the one," Tony said slowly, "who cut off our cards."
"They were designed for essential living expenses, not five hundred dollars' worth of drinks for an entire bar!"
"Knew I should have put it on my personal card. You can't cut that off."
"Now, there will not be another incident like this again, will there? I expect you to act like adults, not college kids on spring break."
"On the positive side, the lab boys will be interested to know that it is possible to get Captain America drunk. It just takes a hell of a lot of scotch."
"That's one experiment," Steve groaned, "I'd rather you didn't repeat."
"None of you will be repeating it," Fury cautioned them. "Is that clear?"
"Gee, Dad, are you gonna take away my phone privileges, too?"
"This isn't a joke, Stark! PR for you people is hard enough without things like this! Your cards should be reactivated now. Please use them responsibly."
And with that, he turned and left them.
"Well." Tony perched on the counter and addressed the room. "Same time, next week?"
"Are you nuts?" Steve demanded. "After what just happened?"
"Come on, admit it: you had fun."
"I'm not drinking again."
"Fine, you don't have to. Save me some money. Brucey? You in?"
He sighed. "Might as well. Someone needs to look after you."
"Count me in," said Natasha. "I'm up for another swim. Maybe we'll go to a hotel with a pool, and go skinny-dipping."
"What is this ski-nee-dip-peng?" Thor asked.
"You people are insane." With that, Steve left the room in search of a bed that hadn't been drooled on.
"Well, that settles it." Tony got up and poured himself another cup of coffee. "We're not inviting him to the slumber party."