This was a story I did for the Avengers Holiday Exchange over at LiveJournal. My recipient is marienomad, so I really hope she enjoys this. I picked the second prompt she outlined, but I won't say what because that will kind of ruin the story before you even start. I will say that it was adorably sweet to write, and I had lots of fun. Happy holidays, everyone! Or Merry Christmas if that's what you prefer.
This was betaed by the wonderful amethiste over on LiveJournal, since I wanted a gift fic to be proofread before I posted it. All my other stories are un-betaed for future reference.
This is pre-slash for Steve/Tony if you tilt your head and really squint.
The Silent War: Thor loves his Pop-Tarts, Clint likes the microwave, Natasha likes coffee but doesn't want anyone to know, and Bruce and Steve cook. Or that time when everything in the kitchen refused to work, but none of the Avengers want to admit why.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own The Avengers.
The Silent War
Tony Stark usually spent hours at a time down in his workshop. This led to him forgetting basic human needs like eating, sleeping, and occasionally even blinking. (No joke. Pepper timed it one time: he went two minutes without blinking until she caught his attention because her eyes were watering in sympathy.) In any case, Tony would spend hours in the workshop and if he wasn't there, he'd spend it in some other part of the house with a drink and a tablet. On some occasions, Pepper and the others found him muttering to himself in the kitchen, which then led to them dragging him into some sort of activity or forcing him to sleep, as talking to oneself was the first sign of insanity.
Despite his flighty tendencies when it came to anything company related, Tony could be damn serious about anything related to one of his personal projects. Pepper despaired of getting him to take adequate care of himself, resigning herself to checking up on him frequently to make sure he was still alive.
This habit of Tony's didn't change after Afghanistan; if anything, it only got worse. Only Dummy's smoothies saved Tony from what would probably have been a very painful death from malnutrition (okay, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration, but those smoothies did help quite a bit).
The point was that Tony's tendency to isolate himself in his workshop didn't change for years, even after Pepper and he got together. Then came Loki and the Avengers and Tony found himself saddled with a team.
Albeit a team that scattered after the fight (excluding Bruce, who Tony held on to with all the ferocity of a tick). That didn't mean that Tony forgot about them. He was going to give them floors in his tower until he realized that putting a team of possibly volatile superheroes in the middle of New York City might not be the best idea. Then his focus moved to his old mansion, which wasn't smack in the middle of one of the U.S.'s biggest cities.
That didn't really give the appearance of Tony not spending less time in his workshop; that miracle didn't happen until after the Avengers assembled again in response to a terrorist strike on New York and then moved into the newly renovated mansion following Tony's invitation. Tony also ended up moving in, as Pepper had reminded him that if he wanted to be part of the team, he should probably join them. In the end, that left Tony in the same vicinity as a bunch of nosy superheroes.
"Nosy" meaning that they didn't leave him much time to just bang around in the workshop (though that was Clint's terminology; he didn't bang around). Rather than hole himself up, he was dragged into numerous team exercises, including sparring, movie nights, being a geek with Bruce, or even sightseeing with Thor because the god wanted to see more of Midgard and Tony had been given the job since he knew the area, wasn't liable to Hulk out, and wasn't a super spy who needed to keep out of the public eye (which made no sense since those two had been in the public eye since Loki).
But all in all, Tony had never spent so much time out of the workshop or in the company of others in his life. And while Pepper was happy with this since it led to fewer ulcers and less gray hairs, other people weren't so happy.
In other words, this is the war that the Avengers (sans Tony) refuse to speak about.
See, Thor really liked Pop-Tarts. That's not to say he wouldn't eat anything else, but he was inordinately fond of eating the sweet treats for breakfast every day (this was after he'd learned that it was primarily a breakfast food and not something to be eaten at all hours). In any case, when he'd convinced Odin to let him return to Midgard to continue learning, one of the first things he did was procure a box of Pop-Tarts and enjoy it (that was after finding Tony and nearly giving him a heart attack because he'd popped out of nowhere to land on top of Stark Tower).
Regardless, the point was that Thor really liked his Pop-Tarts in the morning. This was in spite of Steve or Bruce occasionally cooking a healthier breakfast to give some variety. While Natasha and Clint (and Tony, when he could be bothered to show up), enjoyed this breakfast, Thor mainly stuck with his Pop-Tarts and sometimes even an unhealthy brand of cereal.
But to the point, Thor loved his Pop-Tarts and gave the toaster in Tony's kitchen a proper workout come morning. Usually.
Two months after the Avengers moved into the mansion, Thor found the toaster refusing to toast his breakfast. Frowning, he prodded it, checking that it was plugged in (since Tony had told him that if it wasn't working, it probably wasn't plugged in and had then showed him what he was talking about). Since the toaster was plugged in, Thor was at a loss to explain why it wasn't toasting his Pop-Tarts.
"Why will you not toast?" he asked the toaster. "Have I offended you in some way?"
Unfortunately, it did not seem the Allspeak extended to inanimate objects, even if that inanimate object was Tony Stark's.
Sighing, Thor folded his arms, scowling down at the toaster. When it failed to turn on even under the full force of his disapproving glare, he sighed again and turned around, Pop-Tart box in hand, fully intending on getting to Tony and seeing if he had another toaster on hand.
That was when something nailed him in the back of his head. Whirling around, all Thor saw were the Pop-Tarts he'd put in the toaster now lying on the floor, apparently having been shot at his head.
But there was no one around him to show who had done this grave crime.
Clint Barton really loved to use the microwave. It wasn't due to laziness or anything, but he was very fond of irradiating his food because almost everything he ate (aside from what Steve or Bruce cooked) was frozen and made to be put in the microwave. Or it was leftovers, if Steve hadn't gotten to it during a midnight binge.
Still, Clint was very fond of the top-of-the-line microwave in Tony's kitchen. It was shiny, roomy, and cooked things twice as fast as regular microwaves did. This was a problem the first several times he used it, but he got the hang of it after exploding a frozen dinner, a bowl of leftovers, and a hot pocket all over the kitchen (and Steve, since he'd been reading the newspaper and drinking orange juice at the time).
So whenever Bruce and Steve didn't cook, Clint relied on the microwave or takeout to get his meals. They had a lovely relationship.
One that didn't involve any insults or threats at all.
"Oh my God, you stupid thing, why won't you work?"
Okay, so maybe their relationship wasn't so lovely after all.
Clint glared at the microwave, repeatedly jabbing the start button. The device remained stubbornly off.
Narrowing his eyes, Clint leaned back, curling his hands into fists on the countertop. Had Tony messed with the microwave without fixing it?
But, no, there was nothing out of the ordinary with it. And Tony had sworn to keep all his updates simple enough for even Steve to understand, meaning that Clint should be able to figure out what was wrong with it.
The fact that he couldn't meant that there was some serious shiz going on.
"JARVIS," he said finally, still looking at the microwave.
The AI promptly responded, "Yes, Agent?"
"What's up with the microwave?"
There was a short pause. "The microwave is in perfect working order, Agent. Do you require my assistance?"
Clint narrowed his eyes at the microwave. Perfect working order, huh? "Yeah, I'd like that."
A second later the microwave lighted up with a beep and his meal began rotating as it heated.
Satisfied that he would have his meal ready in a few minutes, Clint turned to the table. He had just enough time to pull out a chair when he heard the click of the microwave door opening and what sounded like something being thrown. Instinctively, he ducked, sharp eyes catching a glimpse of something whizzing over his head and impacting with the wall on the far end.
Wary, Clint darted under the table, prepared for full-out war by the Avenger that had somehow managed to sneak up on him. When nothing else happened other than the sizzling of his ruined meal where it lay against the wall, he cautiously poked his head out, seeing that the scene was clear.
Confused, Clint stood up, eyeing the microwave, which was dark and silent. There was no evidence that anything had been vaulted from it. And on that note, who made a microwave that could catapult whatever was in it? (Tony Stark, that's who.)
"JARVIS?" Clint asked, just to make sure that he was still sane.
"Agent?" JARVIS sounded absolutely serene and not at all like a microwave hadn't just tried to kill him.
"What the hell just happened?"
"Did something happen?"
Clint blinked up at where he knew the security camera was hidden, unable to believe JARVIS could be that dense. "Did you not just see that?"
"Is it not working?"
Spluttering, Clint was at a loss for words. Then he realized what had just happened.
Tony was going to pay. The prank war was on.
Natasha Romanov was the kind of person who didn't like to become attached to anything. It showed weakness and could be exploited by enemies.
That said, that didn't mean she couldn't become attached to things. She was fond of Clint. She was even becoming fond of the other Avengers. Clint was perhaps the only one who was aware of this, given his close relationship with her, but it secretly terrified her that anyone else would notice and hurt her by going through one of the others. Not a very logical fear, given that Bruce turned into a huge rage monster that was indestructible, Steve was a very hard to beat super soldier, and Thor was a god.
Yes, she'd left Tony off that list. Outside of that suit of his, he was still very human. Furthermore, she still wasn't sure what his character was like. They'd graduated to first name terms now that they were living together, but relations were still tense between them. It probably didn't help that even JARVIS wasn't entirely on her side, given what had happened when Fury had handed all of Howard's files to Tony.
Clint wasn't on that list either because of what had happened with Loki. She knew exactly how vulnerable her partner was. It was a silent promise to herself to never allow that to happen again. She would always have his back.
But this diatribe had a point. The point was that even if Natasha got attached to things, she didn't like to show this fondness. So while she was very fond of coffee, in public she switched between water, tea, coffee, or soda depending on what was available. In private was another matter, as she was fully able to sneak into the kitchen at odd hours to use the coffee machine.
She liked coffee. Not to the extent that Tony seemed addicted to the stuff, but to the point where a nice cup of black coffee could warm her up when not even the heating would do. She'd occasionally seen Steve do warm milk when he had nightmares, but American milk had a strange tang to it that she had never been able to get used to, so she stuck with coffee.
Tony's coffee machine was far more high tech than anything else she was used to using. She'd had several mishaps with it the first few times, but hadn't wanted to ask Tony how to use it. That led to her spying on him for a few mornings (or afternoons or nights, depending on the man's insane schedule) until she figured out how to use it.
Now she could comfortably make a warm cup of coffee in a few minutes and escape to her room before anyone else could see. One time she'd run into Clint, who was going into the kitchen for a late snack, but she could count on him to keep quiet.
But tonight the coffee machine was refusing to work. It wasn't a matter of Natasha making a mistake, it was a matter of the machine not operating when it should.
Pursing her lips disapprovingly at the machine, she tapped her fingers against the countertop, considering her next move.
Thirty minutes later, Natasha was forced to admit defeat and retreated to her room before anyone could find her cursing at a coffee machine in Russian.
She'd get her coffee in the morning.
Unfortunately, Tony didn't show up that morning to get his usual cup of coffee. Natasha suspected he was down in the lab with Bruce because neither of them had been seen since Doom had attacked; they were presumably having fun dissecting one of the madman's robots. Regardless, no Tony meant no coffee, especially since Steve didn't drink the stuff, and Clint was doing something that involved some sort of prank war. And she couldn't even make it herself; she'd tried, and the thing still refused to cooperate.
When the coffee machine still refused to work by that evening, Natasha had had enough. Heedless of the time, she grabbed one of Tony's credit cards (or the one he'd given her when moving in) and left to purchase a new one that wouldn't suddenly stop working.
Stark technology didn't just break down like that. She knew that Tony had something to do with this. Maybe JARVIS had told the man about her late night trips to the kitchen, leading him to sabotage the machine as a form of revenge for her being undercover as his PA. The only flaw with that theory was that Tony loved his coffee even more than Natasha did. So maybe it was a biological lock that prevented Natasha from using it.
Regardless, she was getting a new coffee machine.
And just to spite Tony, it would be the ugliest one available.
Bruce Banner didn't really have a favorite appliance. He liked to use them all depending on what was needed. In general, though, he tended to use the stove, sink, and oven. He didn't really like the microwave because it felt too much like cheating to just pop in something that had been prepared ahead of time and was filled with lots of unhealthy ingredients, so that was left for Clint.
He had a small mini-kitchen down in his lab, but he didn't like to use it too much because if he did, he would be just as bad as Tony. Or worse, considering that the only thing Tony had in his workshop was a couple of coffee machines – yes, a couple – and a blender that was apparently Dummy's personal property.
When he came up to the main kitchen to cook, he tended to cook for the entire team. It was a great way to bond and it did help soothe over any bad feelings left between him and Natasha. He'd apologized for the incident in the Helicarrier, but he had simply gotten a raised eyebrow and a curt nod in response for the trouble. Apparently Natasha didn't want to admit that she'd been terrified out of her wits by the Hulk. That was fine; he didn't like to advertise his weaknesses either.
But it was about two months into his stay at Tony's mansion and with the rest of the team, and he'd never felt more comfortable. It was slightly terrifying in itself, because he'd been on the run for several years with his only constant being the fact that he could count on the military searching for him. Now he was living with a team and a man who had apparently blackmailed General Ross into leaving him alone (Bruce wasn't stupid; he knew there was a reason why the military had dropped their search for him). It was comforting, reassuring, admirable, and terrifying all at the same time.
But it was nice, too. He had a home now. And a truly amazing kitchen where he could cook all sorts of dishes he'd tried and sampled from his years on the run. Some of the more exotic dishes got weird looks from the others, but were usually enthusiastically devoured once sampled (Thor tended to eat everything, even if Natasha and Clint didn't dare touch the food). Tony and food would always have a weird relationship, but Bruce did his best to make sure the man didn't starve to death or overdose on caffeine in his workshop.
At least Steve was on his side regarding that.
Humming lightly under his breath, Bruce rooted around in the fridge for some eggs, tomatoes, cheese, and onions. Condiments acquired, he turned to the stove and put a pan on it, switching the heat on as he did.
It took him a couple of seconds to realize that the stove wasn't turning on.
After a few more seconds spent twiddling the knob, Bruce realized the stove was either broken or tampered with. Considering that this was Tony's tech, that meant it was more likely it had been tampered with. If he had to guess, it was probably Clint, considering that he was doing some sort of prank war.
Bruce had already run into the cliché pail of water over the door trick. He'd gotten soaked once before taking care to watch where he went. Then Thor had shown up one evening with blue hair, apparently from using Tony's shampoo, even though he wasn't even supposed to be in that bathroom. Yesterday had seen little booby traps laid all over the place that either led to darts being fired, the lights turning off, the doors slamming shut, or a glittery powder being unleashed that no one could wash off (Thor had been the unlucky one to suffer that and had to endure Tony cackling about "Edward").
Given all the aforementioned pranks, Bruce didn't really want to poke further at the stove. For all he knew, it would be rigged to explode and then where would he be? (Green and very pissed off.)
Carefully reaching over the stove to turn it off, Bruce heard an ominous hissing sound. It was all the warning he had to jump back and clear of the sudden inferno that engulfed the top of the stove and the unfortunate pan that was still sitting on it.
Leaning back against the table, Bruce took several deep meditative breaths. His heart was pounding and that wasn't good news at all. He'd yet to have any lapses while in the mansion despite all the opportunities to do so, and he didn't want to break that streak because of a stupid prank.
There was another hissing sound, and Bruce skidded across the tabletop to flee the kitchen, feeling another explosion of heat as the stove again burst into flames.
Screw his passive policy. Clint had overstepped by rigging the stove to explode.
Like Bruce, Steve Rogers wasn't attached to any particular appliance. This was probably more due to the fact that everything was too high tech than because of any other reason. He was perfectly capable of using the kitchen appliances, but it had taken a few days of Tony's ribbing before he cracked and asked him to help with getting him up to date regarding technology.
Although Clint had shot him pitying looks, Steve hadn't regretted the decision. Tony could be brash, rude, and impatient, but he had been extraordinarily patient with teaching Steve how to use his phone, the computer, the TV, and any other electronic appliance he didn't completely understand. Sure, most of the technological mumbo jumbo Tony tended to spout when he explained how to use the things went over Steve's head, but he got enough that he could use everything he needed with relative confidence.
To be honest, Steve was fond of the kitchen. It was very different from what he had when growing up. Even the food was different, and he'd taken to cooking as a way of better understanding the twenty-first century. Bruce helped with that, as the man knew of dozens of dishes from all over the world.
Then there was Tony. Everything seemed to come back to him at one point or another. That might have partly been because they lived in his house and were surrounded by his technology, but it was also because Tony fascinated him.
The man was a culmination of quirks that didn't seem to mesh. He was simultaneously selfish and selfless, arrogant and quiet, egoistic and wracked with low self-esteem. Steve had long since accepted that the insults he'd hurled at Tony on the Helicarrier were so far off that it wasn't even funny, but all attempts at apologizing were rebuffed because – as Bruce put it – Tony didn't do emotional confessions regardless of whether he was sober or blackout drunk. Yet funnily enough, Tony had silently apologized for his own remarks with actions like making a better uniform and giving Steve a room that was simultaneously old-fashioned and modern.
So if words didn't work, Steve silently apologized by taking care of Tony. He wasn't a genius, but he did small things by taking him food, making sure he slept, and dragging Tony to team activities so he wouldn't be excluded. Steve thought it safe to say that they were friends, even if Tony still called him names on a daily basis. Pepper had assured him that it was his way of showing affection. Steve thought he should be flattered, considering Bruce was the only one aside from Steve that Tony had nicknames for.
And since the affection between them ran both ways, Steve kept up his side of the deal by cooking when he could. If Tony had his way, he'd be living on coffee and those atrocious smoothies Dummy made. That wasn't counting the takeout he got when he did remember that he needed to eat solid foods and not liquids that probably didn't even meet his nutritional requirements.
Besides, Steve liked cooking. It was relaxing and made the kitchen smell nice. Or it was relaxing when he was on his own and not having several other Avengers looking over his shoulder to see what was on the menu.
It had been innocuous enough at first. He'd entered the kitchen and made a beeline to the fridge, only to stop short when he noticed a mess of nuts and bolts on the countertop that looked like it had been a really ugly appliance. Tony's coffee machine sat innocently behind it.
Brow furrowed, Steve considered the mess for a moment before deciding that he should leave it alone in case it was something Tony was doing. Or Clint, who was waging a prank war that an unlucky Thor had gotten the brunt of.
He moved to the fridge, took out everything he needed to make lasagna, and turned around to find Natasha frowning at the mess on the counter. He didn't startle; he was used to her silent entrances/exits by now.
"Natasha," he said evenly.
His only response was a noncommittal hum as she poked at the mess.
"Do you know what that was?" he ventured to ask, getting the salt, herbs, and pasta.
Natasha's eyes flickered to him. "It was a coffee machine."
Steve looked at the coffee machine sitting in front of Natasha. "Another one?"
"The other one wasn't working."
As Steve considered the ramifications of something of Tony's not working, they were joined by Bruce and Thor. He blinked at the sight.
"Do you know where Clint is?" Bruce asked politely.
"We wish to have words with him," Thor added.
Steve could tell why; it was difficult to stop staring at them when someone had apparently taken a Sharpie to their faces and doodled all over.
Bruce had the stereotypical villain mustache that always gave Steve the urge to flick. He also had what resembled a round monocle around his right eye. Then there was a large "Kick Me" scrawled across his forehead.
Thor had a huge walrus mustache drawn on his face and what looked like a black eye. There was a question mark doodled on his forehead and a large black dot on the tip of his nose.
Natasha eyed the two of them. "I haven't seen him."
"Can you find him?" Bruce asked pleasantly.
Steve moved to turn the stove on to boil the water, but was stopped by Bruce placing a hand on his wrist.
"I wouldn't do that," Bruce said. "It exploded in my face when I tried."
Slowly retracting his hand, Steve turned to eye Natasha, arching an eyebrow as he did.
She took a moment to take in the sight of a super soldier, a god, and a man with breathtaking anger issues before curtly nodding and disappearing, presumably to find Clint.
There was a short exhalation from Bruce before he turned and stopped, attention apparently caught by the smashed coffee machine. "Do I want to know?"
"No." Steve paused, thinking about how to phrase this. "Er…how did that happen?" He gestured in the direction of his face.
"I woke up and looked in the mirror," Bruce said.
"Anthony kindly told me of my plight, sounding rather upset," Thor said. "He then departed to his lab of doom."
Okay… Steve couldn't really see Tony being upset about Thor's face. Chances were that he had been choking while trying not to laugh. And the "lab of doom" was all Clint's handiwork.
"It won't come off," Bruce said, rubbing a finger over his mustache and looking rather like a very bedraggled villain as he did. "I spent ten minutes scrubbing at it."
Now that Steve looked, he could see that Bruce's forehead looked rather pink. Tactfully, he decided not to mention Bruce's pink skin in favor of cleaning up everything he'd taken out. If he couldn't use the stove, then he'd have to order takeout. Maybe they could go for pizza? That was the one thing Tony tended to eat even if he was working because it required the use of only one hand.
"What do you think about pizza?" he asked the others, shelving the herbs.
"It's fine," Bruce said, frowning down at his glasses.
"I greatly enjoy the greasiness and cheesiness of that Midgardian dish," Thor said.
"So pizza it is." Steve opened the drawer where they kept their takeout menus. He could just ask JARVIS for it, but he still felt uncomfortable asking the AI such inane questions when he could figure it out for himself. Tony had then tried to prove a point by asking JARVIS the stupidest questions ever (like asking him whether it was raining now or going to rain in the next five seconds when he just had to look out the window) to show that he didn't mind doing it, but Steve held on to the notion that JARVIS didn't have to do everything.
Natasha popped into the kitchen, dragging Clint behind her via his jacket. Upon seeing that he was surrounded on all sides and in the kitchen, he stopped struggling and sat down, visibly sulking. Steve swore he'd never seen a grown man sulk like that before. Even Tony couldn't compete with that face.
"I didn't do it," Clint proclaimed, arms folded across his chest.
"So you didn't shoot me in the butt with a dart?" Bruce asked.
Clint paused for a beat. "No."
It was such a blatant lie that everyone stared at him.
"What about the stove yesterday?" Bruce asked, leaning over the table toward Clint. "You didn't rig it to explode in my face?"
This time the pause was noticeably longer as Clint frowned, looking up at Bruce. "No."
"And this?" Bruce pointed at his face, Thor looming over his shoulder to display his own.
Clint squinted at the two of them. "Why didn't I think of that?"
"And the coffee machine?" Natasha asked.
"Look," Clint said, straightening in his chair, "I haven't touched anything in the kitchen. I didn't draw over your faces. Maybe you should ask Tony?"
"Tony?" Steve asked.
"He started it! Who makes a microwave that catapults food?"
This time everyone looked at each other in confusion. "What?"
"The toaster was not working," Thor said slowly. "Anthony gave me the use of another, but this one still denies me the ability to toast."
Natasha considered something for a moment before saying, "I was having some trouble with the coffee machine, so I got a new one." She shot the mess of bolts on the countertop a deadly look.
"Like I said," Clint announced, "Tony started it! I'm just returning the favor."
"I still sparkle," Thor said.
"Casualty of war," Clint said dismissively.
"Tony wouldn't draw on our faces," Bruce said.
"What are you saying? He totally—"
"He'd color our clothes, dye our hair, and reprogram our phones so the ringtones are porn music."
Clint opened his mouth and shut it. Then he opened it again. "Point."
"We should go talk to him," Natasha said, her tone of voice implying that it wasn't a suggestion.
Considering Steve hadn't seen Tony all day, he didn't argue. He did take the lead, though, walking besides Natasha as they headed down into the workshop.
Bruce entered his pass code before Steve could, opening the door to a loud blast of noise that Tony liked to call music.
The man was nowhere to be seen for several seconds until Steve looked down to see his legs poking out from under a car. Natasha walked over, pulling him out by hooking an ankle around Tony's foot.
"JARVIS, can you turn down the music please?" Bruce asked.
"No, don't—" Tony broke off with a sigh as the music turned down enough so that they could hear each other without screaming. "What do you want?"
"You've gotta stop messing around," Clint said before anyone else could talk.
"Sure." Tony peered up at them, eyes flicking between Bruce and Thor. "Oh, damn. Dummy! Get over here!"
Natasha stepped back as Tony stood up, kicking the sled he'd been on under the car and out of the way. He walked up to Bruce, pushing his face close to the other man's as if to inspect the artwork. He pulled back a second later, calling for Dummy again.
The bot showed up a few moments later, arm bobbing up and down in what Steve thought was sheepishness. It was difficult to tell considering the only thing Dummy had was an arm and a claw to show his thoughts.
"Where's the marker?" Tony asked him, leading the others to shoot each other confused looks behind his back. "I know I confiscated everything after the last time, so how'd you get a new one?"
Dummy gave a high-pitched whirring sound, dropping his claw to the ground.
"Don't give me that! Just get the marker and apologize!"
"Tony?" Bruce asked.
Tony waved him off, sighing as he ran a greasy hand through his hair. The gesture made it stand on end, giving him the look of a mad scientist. "Sorry. He did the same thing to Rhodey and Pepper."
"That." Tony waved in the direction of Bruce's and Thor's faces.
"I thought he wasn't supposed to get out of here," Clint pointed out.
"JARVIS." Tony's voice was sharp.
"I apologize, sir." JARVIS didn't sound remotely apologetic.
"I'm going to reprogram you into a coffee machine."
"I look forward to it, sir."
Huffing lightly, Tony rolled his eyes, only to focus as Dummy rolled up to him, dropping a marker in his hand before rolling back, picking at the ground with his claw.
"Hey, that's mine!" Steve flushed lightly as everyone turned to stare at him. "I thought I lost it."'
Tony held it up, inspecting it. "How'd it get down here?"
"I – ah…" Steve resisted the urge to fidget. "I draw down here sometimes."
"So Dummy's a kleptomaniac. Awesome." Tony sighed, tossing the marker to Steve. "Apologize," he sternly told the bot.
Dummy whirred softly, turning to face Bruce and Thor, both of whom were looking less pissed and more soft around the edges as the AI apologized to them with gentle tugs on their clothing.
"So if it wasn't you who scribbled on their faces, who messed with the kitchen?" Clint asked.
Tony blinked. "What's wrong with the kitchen?"
"Someone smashed the coffee machine," Steve said, "and apparently the stove explodes if someone tries to use it."
"There's no 'apparently' about it," Bruce said. "It explodes. I don't know what happened to the pan on it."
Tony being Tony, he went for the coffee machine, sounding horrified. "Someone smashed the coffee machine?"
"It was a new one I got," Natasha said. "The other one wasn't working."
"And the new one was smashed?" Tony's face had morphed to being horrified to mildly amused.
"Yes," Steve confirmed.
"Don't forget the microwave," Clint added. "It threw my food at me."
"The toaster has also refused to toast," Thor said.
There was a pause as Tony seemed to absorb that information. Then he sighed and clapped his hands, shutting off the music entirely. Another clap and the blue screens that had been hovering on the edges of the workshop all flickered off.
"You'll stay down here," Tony told Dummy. "I don't care what JARVIS lets you do, you're staying down here. I'm going to be having words with him." He turned to the others. "I'm not leaving any of you down here."
Then he left, grabbing a rag as he did to wipe his hands on. Steve followed him first, hearing the others fall into step. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Thor pat Dummy once before leaving after Clint.
As expected, Tony made a beeline for the kitchen, swinging the rag over his shoulder. From what Steve could see, it hadn't done much to get his hands clean.
When they entered the kitchen, the first thing Steve noticed was that most of the debilitated coffee machine was now lying on the floor. It also looked rather scorched.
"Up and at 'em," Tony was saying to thin air. "No, I don't care that they're here with me. You guys have some explaining to do."
The microwave beeped, lighting up.
"You." Tony pointed to the intact coffee machine sitting on the countertop. "I don't care what your excuse was. There's no reason to ruin a perfectly good coffee machine."
"Er…Tony?" Bruce sounded cautious.
Ignoring him, Tony snapped his fingers several times in front of the coffee machine, heedless of the still beeping microwave. "Move it! Beans!"
Much to everyone's shock, the coffee machine gave a plaintive whir and chirp, clinking as it shifted slightly.
"Do you mind explaining this?" Tony pointed down to his feet where the remnants of the coffee machine Natasha had bought was lying. "I didn't know you had a blowtorch."
The coffee machine made more whirring and clicking noises, bouncing up and down slightly on the countertop. Then it pointed toward the stove with its power cord, which it had unplugged from the wall.
"Oh my God." Clint sounded stunned and horrified. "We're being overrun by robots."
The microwave gave a loud screech in response to that. The stove released a small smoke cloud that sounded like an indignant poot, presumably in response to the coffee machine.
"One thing," Tony said, leaning down to pick up the largest plastic bit from the smashed coffee machine at his feet. "They're not robots. They're AIs. So if Pitch over there takes offense to you calling her a robot, then I won't stop her."
"What's the stove called?" Bruce asked, sounding rather morbidly fascinated.
"Fireball," Tony answered, putting the plastic bit of the coffee machine down in front of the other coffee machine, only to have it kicked across the kitchen by a very pissed coffee machine. "Beans!"
"Is the toaster also thusly named?" Thor inquired, looking at said toaster that was innocuously sitting by Fireball the stove.
"No, that's Toasty," Tony said.
"Beans, Pitch, Fireball, and Toasty," Natasha rattled off, looking rather like she wanted to be anywhere but in the kitchen. "Is there anyone else we're missing? The fridge?"
"Pepper stopped me before I got there. Something about it being dangerous storing food in a sentient being."
"Thank God," Natasha muttered under her breath.
"Wait." Steve thought his head might burst from all the revelations being made right now. "Are you saying that every appliance in here—"
"Not every, Cap."
"—most of the appliances in here are alive?!"
Pitch peeped, Beans bounced, Fireball cranked on the heat, and Toasty suddenly popped out two very black things that at one point could have been Pop-Tarts which landed on the table several feet away. The toaster then gave a loud clatter that might have been a cough and recommenced its act of being a still life.
"Problem?" Tony raised an eyebrow, dropping his dirty rag on the body of the non-alive coffee machine on the floor. "I didn't know you had an AI phobia."
"It's not that we're scared of them," Clint said, eyeing the microwave. "It's that they're alive and you didn't tell us. We were using them this whole time thinking they were just regular appliances!"
Pitch gave an affronted beep at that.
"Why did Fireball try to kill me?" Bruce asked.
"To answer that, I'll have to explain that these guys are very playful," Tony said, patting Beans on the top. "Fireball didn't try to kill you, though it might have seemed like that. They were just trying to have fun."
"So when Pitch threw food at me?" Clint asked.
"Wanted to play catch."
"When the good Toasty refused to toast?"
"Probably wanted a break. He's a bit lazy."
Toasty gave several indignant dings.
"I don't see how Fireball trying to burn my face off is playful," Bruce said slowly.
"I named her Fireball," Tony pointed out. "She likes doing that."
"Beans didn't make coffee," Natasha said, a muscle jumping in her jaw.
"He was working just fine with me." Tony flicked Beans once against the side before withdrawing his hand. "Maybe you didn't do it right. Let me know if you have trouble, because he doesn't like having other coffee machines on his turf. Or ask JARVIS; he can probably help you out better than I can."
He brought a hand up to his forehead, dragging it across the skin and leaving a large oily streak behind. For some reason, Steve couldn't stop staring at it. It was probably better than staring at the others staring at the kitchen appliances that were more alive than initially thought.
"I'm gonna go take a shower," Tony said, making a face as he looked down at his hands. Turning on his heel, he clapped Steve once on the shoulder, leaving behind a handprint on his formerly pristinely white shirt. "Behave, kids!" he called over his shoulder, disappearing.
There was silence for a moment as they all awkwardly stood there, not sure what to do now that they knew about the kitchen being inhabited by AIs that controlled their access to food.
JARVIS broke the silence. "It is necessary to inform you that they wish you would monopolize less of Mr. Stark's time. They have not seen much of him since you moved in. Furthermore, I must inform you that while Mr. Stark is trusting enough to let you all in his home, we are a great deal more cautious. If you hurt him…"
There was a loud smacking noise as Beans thumped his power cord against the countertop like he was about to punch something. Fireball hissed menacingly, giving off another small smoke cloud. Pitch emitted a low ominous beep. Toasty let out a loud popping noise that sounded like a gun.
Steve shot a look at the others, who all looked rather alarmed by now. "We got it."
He didn't think he should order any pizza now considering what they'd just learned.
But as it turned out, it didn't matter since JARVIS had been proactive and ordered it so that it arrived just as Tony finished showering.
If they hadn't all just received what was now known as the "shovel talk" from Tony's AIs, Steve would have been thankful. As it was, he just made sure Tony ate and went to bed, since he could see the bags forming under the man's eyes.
Maybe that would get him in their good books…
Fluffy enough for you guys? :) Let me know what you thought!
Here was the prompt: Tony's robots feel that the Avengers are keeping him away from them and so they wage a harmless war against them. They annoy them in hopes of forcing them away. Something like the coffee maker refusing to make coffee for an Avenger.
Stats: Word Count: 6,833; Pages: 17