Assembled We Are Strong

AN: This is a rambling fic about the forming of friendships and how a group of broken people, who have all been loners in the past, come together for more than just a single battle. It was supposed to be about Clint, but it turned into a teamfic with emphasis on our favourite archer (although he's not in this chapter). Tony and Bruce take up a fair amount of the plot too. There will most likely be whump in later chapters, so you have been warned.

I'm using movie-verse continuity, but I've borrowed the title from the Avengers:EMH cartoon. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it, even for grown-ups.

I own nothing.

The gigantic A that was all that was left of the word "Stark" on Stark Tower was what started the whole thing. Tony Stark owned the tower, it was his and he liked his name to be on things that belonged to him. So when it came to repairs, he'd naturally included replacing the other letters as part of the rebuild. The battle-to-end-all-battles had been particularly hard on his New York headquarters. Replacing the other letters wasn't a priority, and it would probably be a while before it even got done, with all the other more structural repairs to take care of first. However as he came to put his signature on the paperwork for the letters to be replaced, something stopped him. Something made him decide that the A was all he needed, so he deleted the work order, not quite sure why he was doing it. That got him thinking.

Bruce Banner loved the R and D levels of Stark Tower as much as he'd been told he would, and he loved the fact that Tony had given him his own lab. Tony was even putting him up in the Tower; for the moment it was in the guest bedroom of the penthouse, but Tony had promised him his own quarters in the rebuild. Bruce hadn't left the Tower since the Avengers had seen Loki and Thor off and he was fine with that.

Bruce was sat in his lab when JARVIS spoke and he nearly dropped the beaker he was holding. Getting used to Tony's AI was taking a while. "Doctor Banner, Ms Potts wishes to invite you to join her and Mr Stark for dinner tonight. They are planning to eat at 7pm."

"Thank you JARVIS, tell Pepper that I'd love to join them. I'll finish up here and be there on the dot." It wasn't unusual to get such an invitation. Normally Bruce kept his own hours and ate when a natural break came in his work. He didn't want to intrude on Tony's day to day life too much, the billionaire had already helped him enough and probably didn't want to spend all his time socialising with him. He did appreciate the gesture from Pepper to make sure that he was included though.

Bruce wound up the experiment that he'd been conducting and wandered up from the floor with his lab on, via the elevator, and into the penthouse's living room. He found Pepper and Tony sat on one of the luxurious sofas that graced the room, sipping a pre-dinner drink whilst looking at a 3D computer model of the tower that JARVIS had generated.

"Bruce! Come and join us," said Pepper, already getting up to meet him with a glass in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other.

"Yes, you can come and give us your opinion of the rebuild designs that I've just perfected," Tony added in his usual self-satisfied tone.

Pepper rolled her eyes as she poured Bruce a drink and handed him the full glass. "Sorry, Bruce, you're probably tired after a hard day in the lab and don't want to hear about what Tony's working on."

Bruce gave her an understanding smile. "It's okay. I could use the distraction. So what makes this design so much better than the last one?"

Tony's eyes were glued to the image of the new tower. "Come and see for yourself. First of all, you've got your own apartment, right underneath this one, but I didn't stop there. I know Rogers is still living in the past, and Thor needs a place to stay when he's slumming it on Earth, so I thought they'd need somewhere to crash when they're in New York too. Then I decided that I couldn't leave out our two black-clad friends, so I've got apartments for them too. Basically I'm renaming the place. I mean the media have almost done it for me already. They keep referring to it as Avengers Tower so I guess we might as well go with it."

He turned around the model so that Bruce could see it too. The new letters at the top of the tower said "Avengers" where once they had proclaimed "Stark" in equally huge letters.

"Wow," said Bruce, unable to form a coherent thought at that moment just because of the sheer audacity of Tony's new naming scheme.

"Yeah, I know. It's so simple and yet so totally awesome. Perfect for me really."

"Tony," said Pepper in warning tones.

Tony ignored her. "And not only will everyone have their own apartments but I'm going to build training rooms, a shooting range for Red and Bird-brain, an infirmary for getting patched up after saving the world, and new state-of-the-art labs for us."

"Don't we have those already?" asked Bruce tentatively.

"Please," said Tony. "Our labs are so last year and I miss my cars."

"Cars?" said Bruce with bafflement. "In a sky scraper?"

"Sometimes I find it's better to just not ask," said Pepper, sitting down with her own glass of champagne.

Bruce nodded. "So, it's sort of a community living thing? When are the others moving in?"

Stark's face quirked into a strange smile. "Well, I still need to send out the invites, and to be honest I'm not certain that they're going to be that enthusiastic."

Bruce raised his eyebrows, in mock surprise.

Stark continued. "Actually I thought maybe you could help me out there. The two of us would be a great team."

"Why exactly do we want everyone to move in to the same building? I'm not sure we actually get on well enough for that kind of close proximity living."

The look on Tony's face was suddenly much more serious. "Because, Bruce, this is what the SHIELD files say about our fellow Avengers." Tony gestured at the lower part of the screen and then threw the information into the room for Bruce to read as holograms. Bruce frowned at the invasion of privacy, but wasn't surprised that Tony didn't care. "I'd suggest that you just read Barton's entry as a good enough reason to do something, but our star spangled friend is almost looking as bad, and Romanoff is doing a good job of hiding her issues but she's not as good as she thinks. I'd be willing to bet the Malibu house that Thor isn't having much fun on his own in Asgard either, after his own brother tried to kill him."

Bruce had the information in front of him so he read as he spoke.

"Setting aside your complete disregard for our team mates' privacy for the moment, which admittedly I'm now compounding, it's not surprising that we're having a few issues. We spent an afternoon being shot at by an invading alien army. That doesn't mean that us moving in together is a great plan either," said Bruce.

"No, but it has to be better than watching the people that saved New York, and lived to tell the tale, give up on life one by one, because I can tell you that's what is happening here. Hell, I'll hire a fleet of damn shrinks if it's going to mean Barton never has another sleepless night." Tony had put down his glass on the table, indicating part of Barton's SHIELD psychiatric evaluation, and was looking seriously at Bruce now. "You all stood beside me and had my back that day. The least I can do is offer everyone a place to stay when they're in New York."

Pepper interjected, "Tony thinks that you are the only people who can really understand what it was like, so getting everyone together is the best way to deal with, well, the aftermath of saving the world."

Bruce gave a shrug. "It's an interesting approach, and I suppose you have a point. I know we've both got our own stuff going on, so we might benefit from it too."

"Hey, I'm fine," said Tony. "I'm used to saving the world. It's the rest of you misfits that I'm worried about."

The glance that Pepper sent Tony told Bruce that this was probably an out and out lie, but he wasn't going to call the billionaire on it. He'd nearly died diverting a nuclear weapon into a portal of unknown destination, so it seemed extremely unlikely that would have had no impact on him at all. However, setting that aside, maybe Tony did, in his own strange way, have something.

"So are you in?" asked Tony.

"Sure, why not. It would be nice to have some more company," said Bruce, and realised almost immediately that he'd allowed one of his own personal issues air. He'd been lonely in India, and coming to Stark Tower had allowed him to believe that perhaps he didn't have to be any longer.

Tony smiled, and Bruce hoped that he wasn't going to regret this.

Steve Rogers was Tony's first target. From what Tony had read, Steve had had some difficulty adapting to the modern world after his defrosting from the ice. Tony liked to make fun of his lack of ability to understand computers and other bits of technology but really he did get some of the culture shock that the super soldier was experiencing, although in reverse. There was nothing like being locked in a cave to make you appreciate the modern world. He had been so damn glad to get back to civilisation after his time in captivity, but of course the Captain could never go home.

Apparently even though Captain America had found a cause with the Avengers, Steve Rogers was still struggling with being a man out of time. He was living in an apartment in New York as close as he could get to his old neighbourhood, and he had as little technology as he could get away with. The guy didn't even own a television and the only time he ever left his apartment was to buy supplies. This man was a hero and he was living like a hermit.

Tony was pretty much certain that if he could convince Steve to come to the Tower then the rest would be easy, a theory which of course was then proven wrong on multiple occasions. But at the moment Tony knocked on Steve's apartment door, he still believed that this would be the toughest task of them all because he was pretty sure the Captain didn't like him. Whilst it wasn't that unusual for people to dislike him, he tended to rub people up the wrong way, he hoped that saving the world together might help his cause. However Iron Man did things very differently to Captain America, and he couldn't see them ever being best buddies.

Steve took a while to open the door. When he did, the look of shock on his face was so comic book that Tony wished that he'd had a camera to take a picture with. Steve was dressed in a plain white t-shirt and fawn pants, with bare feet. Behind Steve, Tony could see a pristine apartment, devoid of any sort of personal items, but furnished with what he would consider to be "retro" furniture. Of course to Steve this was probably just what he'd been used to before being frozen in the ice for seventy years.

"Stark," said Steve, when he'd schooled his expression into a more natural one. "What are you doing here? Fury didn't call…"

"Fury didn't send me, and don't worry, Chicken Little, the sky isn't falling. At least I don't think it is and probably not today. The Avengers are not required. I just thought I'd stop by, see how you're doing in your new place," said Stark, looking up and down the dingy hall as he said this, with clear dissatisfaction. "SHIELD did a great job on the accommodation I see."

Steve stuck his head out the door and checked both ways, before he pulled Tony into his apartment and shut the door behind him. "This is supposed to be a top secret location. No one is supposed to know that Captain America lives here and you coming in here shouting about SHIELD and the Avengers isn't really going to help that. How did you find me anyway?"

"I hacked SHIELD," said Tony, nonchalantly. He began to wander around Steve's room picking up the few items that lay around and inspecting them whilst eyeing up the 40s colour scheme and furniture. The couch was a particularly horrible sort of sludge green colour, and a pile of aging newspapers sat on the coffee table.

"Did you get this stuff out of a museum? This is no way to live, Rogers, no way at all. Now if you were to come down to Stark Tower…" He stopped himself and smiled, with a glance back to Steve. "Sorry Avengers Tower, I'm renaming it. Anyway, if you were to visit once in a while instead of hiding out here like some sort of social leper, then I'd happily offer you the pick of the new rooms that I'm constructing."

"What are you talking about, Tony?" Steve padded over to the couch with an exasperated sigh, and sat down as he watched Tony continue to wander about his living room.

"I thought that serum was supposed to turn you into a super soldier. That's what Dad used to tell me anyway, when he was going on and on about what a great guy you were. I guess it didn't include making you any smarter. I'm offering you some place to live that isn't stuck in the past."

"Howard said that about me? He really said that I was a great guy?" Steve asked seemingly missing the main point of Tony's small speech entirely.

"Yes, on numerous occasions." Tony's wandering came to a halt along with his good mood. Sometimes he wished that he had a better handle on what actually came out of his mouth. He really hadn't wanted his father to come up in this discussion, but somehow when Captain America was around, he always did. Tony moved over to the couch and rather awkwardly sat down beside Steve.

"But you're not him," said Steve, a little sadly. "It's no secret that you don't like me much, Stark. Why would you want to offer me a room in one of your buildings?"

Tony gave a slight shrug in his Armani suit. "I have this theory that we're all screwed up in some way and that the best way to sort that out is for us to be in the same place."

Steve looked a little puzzled. "Barracks living isn't really my favourite type of arrangement, and I'm not sure how us being together is going to solve any of my problems."

"Well first of all, I may have said room when I actually meant floor, and secondly, this place here is one of your major problems. I know SHIELD think that this is going to acclimatise you slowly to the real world that's out there, but I don't see how that's going to work when you aren't actually experiencing any of it. I mean what happens when we're fighting the bad guys and something from this century needs doing, but you don't know how? Am I going to have to talk you through it like back on the helicarrier? We might not have time for that, we barely did with the engine down."

Steve frowned. "I've got a lot to catch up on," he indicated the newspapers on the table with a flick of his fingers. "And I don't feel ready to face your technological paradise yet. To me this is all Science Fiction. On top of that, I've lost the woman that I loved and all my friends. Pretty much everyone that I have ever known is dead, Stark. Including your father, who I respected greatly." He took a deep breath. "Tell me how moving into the Tower is going to help with any of that."

Tony fixed Steve with a knowing look. "Honestly, I don't know, but maybe you'll make some new friends. I know I'm not my father. God damn it, wasn't I reminded of that a lot when I was growing up, but I am a Stark and that has to count for something, right?"

Steve didn't answer, he just looked at his hands, so Tony took that as leave to continue.

"Banner's in and I bet he doesn't have many friends left either. What with becoming a giant green monster with an apparently severely limited vocabulary and poor social skills. That's bound to put a crimp on your Facebook friend count. I bet there was an en mass defriending of Doctor Banner the first day the Other Guy came out to play, so I'm pretty sure you're not going to be the only one with a thin address book. Plus, me, of course. It's written in my file, you know, officially, that I have no friends and don't play well with others."

Steve had let Tony work his way through this diatribe, some of which he probably didn't even understand. He paused a moment and then spoke, just as Tony thought he'd have to fill the conversational void again.

"I need to think about it. I can't tell you today and I'm not sure when I'll be ready, if I ever am."

It wasn't the answer that Tony had been hoping for, but he supposed it would do for now. He nodded in a pretence of understanding, because really he'd never get why Rogers would want to live in this place, but he would give the man the room he needed for now.

"Okay, just give me a call when you change your mind," he said and pulled out one of his special business cards that had his personal cell phone number on them. He dropped it on the table and headed for the door, letting himself back into the drab hallway. He was actually very unsure how the encounter had gone, it seemed that Captain America was harder to read than he'd first thought.

Two days later he still hadn't had a call from Steve, and in fact never did get one, because JARVIS informed him that Captain Rogers was asking for him at the reception desk of the newly re-christened Avengers Tower. Steve moved his stuff in the same day, even though Tony explained that his apartment wouldn't be ready for another month. The super soldier just said he'd be fine in one of the many spare rooms that Tony had to offer instead.

Then Tony sat him down with Pepper and the plans for his new apartment, and the two of them went through what Steve would like, because Tony was determined that the heroes who saved Earth should have their dream pad in his Tower. It didn't surprise him that Steve wanted very little, he had seen the small kit bag that he'd arrived with and the apartment it came from. So he decided that he would create the accommodation that Steve had asked for and then he added a few extra touches that he was pretty sure Steve would love.