Alright my lovely readers. This is the end of the team's part, and it was much longer than intended (and much fluffier, to be honest). See the end for a longer author's note.
The flight back to Malibu was quiet, with Jarvis occasionally giving him information on the suit. He barely had enough power to make it back, but he managed it. He flew down to the lab, not wanting to run into the other two Avengers that were still at the house. He planned to get the suit off, grab the gifts he was going to give his teammates for Christmas and leave them out, pack a quick bag, and leave. He was calculating how exactly he was going to manage all of that without being seen as his suit disassembled.
However, luck was most certainly not on his side that day. As soon as he made it back to the lab, he slumped slightly when he saw Bruce and Natasha standing in his lab, looking at him firmly. He flinched slightly at their expressions, and regretted giving Bruce the key to the lab. He made a quick decision to leave the gifts where they were. He'd have Dummy set them out later. It was the least he could do.
"Clint called us from a hospital in Jordan," Natasha said, in lieu of a greeting.
Tony shouldered past them and made his way upstairs to his bedroom. He couldn't look at Natasha's cast right then. Three of his teammates had been seriously injured that day, and hers was the only one that wasn't his fault. He also knew that if she decided to attack him, in retribution for getting the others injured, he wouldn't fight her. Clint had been lucky to get away with just the burn, and Steve could have died. Maybe Fury was right about kicking him off the team?
He grabbed his duffel from the closet and started throwing clothes into it, for once not caring if they wrinkled. He had no idea where he was going, but he just needed to leave. Maybe he could stay at his place in Canada for a while. As he was thinking about that, he remember to go into his nightstand as Bruce and Natasha walked into the room without bothering to knock. He sighed, but grabbed a pen and quickly signed a few of the papers. He handed the papers to Natasha and finished packing his bag.
Natasha looked at what she was given and growled. It was the deed to the house. Looked like Clint was right when he said that Fury had ordered the team to vacate the house, and Tony had found a way to solve it: sign the deed over. Just as Tony made for the door, Bruce blocked it.
Tony didn't meet their eyes, but when he spoke, it was just as strong as normal. "Bruce, you want to move right now."
"No. No, I can't say that I do," Bruce said offhandedly. When Tony tried to go around him, he slapped his hand on the door frame to stop him. "Can we talk before you take off?"
Tony looked up him and shook his head. "I'd rather not. If you talked to Clint, then you know what Fury said. So, I'll see you all later." He tried to leave, but Bruce stood his ground. Tony glared at him. "Look, I'm sorry, alright! I know I got Clint and Steve injured, and Fury…"
"Fury is not the leader of the Avengers," Natasha snapped. "Steve is the leader of the team, and you are second in command. SHIELD does not control the Avengers. Fury has no standing to do anything with the team. If Steve wants you off the team, then you are going to have to hear it from him."
Tony froze. That didn't sound like she was agreeing with Fury; but that didn't make sense! Why should she be taking his side on this? She and Clint weren't just Avengers, they were also SHIELD agents, which meant that they should side with Fury.
Bruce growled at the look on his friend's face. "Tony. We're a team. You didn't get the others hurt, alright? They knew the risks when they left here to follow you, and they left to back you up. That's what teams do."
The engineer thought about that, even though he was still twitching to leave. Now that he was thinking and not just moving, he realized that Bruce and Natasha weren't acting upset at him, they seemed almost concerned. That supports the idea that they didn't blame him and still wanted him on the team. He looked at Natasha. "Fury's your boss," he reminded her. "He wants me off the Initiative."
Natasha gave him the look that basically said 'you're an idiot.' How odd. Usually it was him giving that look. He found that he didn't like being on the receiving end all that much.
"Clint and I both resigned from SHIELD as soon as the invasion happened. Come on, have you seen either of us leave on missions since we moved in?" she demanded. He usually paid better attention, which is why she hadn't mentioned this earlier. She thought he had known. "Besides, it's pretty hard to be a spy when nearly everyone knows what you look like." That had been one of the hard parts after the invasion: realizing that she couldn't continue in the line of work she was used to doing.
When she saw that he was still looking at her strangely, she sighed, praying for patience. "Fury is no longer my boss. I don't have to care what he says. And if he is saying that you are off the Avengers, then I'm definitely not going to listen to what he says."
Bruce decided to take pity on Tony, who was looking shell-shocked. "Basically, you're one of us. You aren't leaving because of what Fury said. If you ever wanted to leave so that you could go solo again, that's something else. Until you tell us that you're done, though, you're stuck with us."
Normally, Tony could talk himself and everyone around him in circles until he got what he wanted, but his gears seemed to be jammed. For once, he was struck silent as his mind and heart tried to catch up with each other. "Oh." That was all he could think to say.
Bruce rolled his eyes and grabbed the duffel from Tony's loose grip. He nodded to Natasha as he started taking everything out of it. He was still furious with the director of SHIELD interfering like this, but that would get dealt with later.
Natasha turned to Tony. "Alright. You've had three fights in less than 24 hours. So right now, you're going to have a bite to eat and then get some rest."
"What am I, five?" he snarled, but there wasn't much bite in it. He just couldn't summon the energy. When he saw that neither teammate was fazed by his words, he sighed. "Did Clint say how he and Steve are? Did the doctors say anything about Steve?"
"Clint said that Steve is going to be fine, and they'll be back in the morning. He also said that if you aren't here, he's going to track you down and kick your ass."
Tony chuckled at that, and let the two of them drag him to the kitchen.
When Clint, Steve, and Thor arrived back at the mansion the next day, they smiled at the sight. The other three members of their team were playing a board game and throwing popcorn at each other.
Tony looked up as they came inside and sighed in relief that they were all okay. He had known it already, but it was always better to see it with his own eyes rather than rely on someone or something else to tell him that. "You guys going to join in the next round? Bruce here is kicking my butt at this. I think we should go back to card games."
"No way," Natasha retorted. "You count cards. That's cheating."
Tony protested immediately. "I can't not figure probabilities. Come on, when your brain works as fast as mine does, these things are going to happen."
Clint plopped down next to the genius, his arm wrapped tightly in gauze. "You seem to be in a better mood," he said, fishing. He wanted to know what had happened while he was in Jordan. Maybe he should ask if Jarvis has it recorded.
Tony scowled playfully at him. "I'm human, so sue me."
Steve smiled as he observed his team. Clint had told him what Fury had said to Tony, and had a few very firm words with the director. He reminded the man that this was his team. He wasn't going to let anyone touch it. They were Earth's last line of defense, true. However, they were all human, and therefore would have their moments. That was what made them a team, and people would have to go through him to change that.
Whew! That was about as fluffy as I get, so I hope it came out alright.
Now, I'm marking this story as complete. That's not to say I won't ever update it again. The unfortunate part of writing a series of oneshots is that there's no good end spot. If I get struck with inspiration for oneshots again, which I'm sure will happen, I'll update this again. So don't drop the story from your lists.
I've got a couple other Avenger stories that I'm trying to flesh out a bit more before I post them. I don't like to have more than two active stories at once, and my HP one is going to be going for a while, yet.
I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I did, and I'll see you soon!