Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and All that Jazz

The Great Star Wars

Breakfast at Avengers Tower was a group affair.

Though they all knew that at any time they could just snap their fingers and order whatever food they wanted, and have it delivered to them within ten minutes by Stark's kitchen staff, none of "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" like that kind of hand-and-foot service.

They preferred, instead, to all gather around at exactly 8:30 am in one of Stark's enormous kitchens, and prepare their own food all together. Sometimes they would plan one full course meal and then all make it together, and other times they would produce a variety of different breakfast items in smaller portions that they would, as a rule, share with anyone who wanted some.

Some could cook better than others, and were a little bit more creative in their food choices, Stark, Clint, Pepper, and Steve being among these, but the others were never idle and helped with the more utilitarian chores.

The meal planned for the day was eggs, bacon, and pancakes and crepes topped with strawberries and whipped cream.

Steve was the first one up and in the kitchen, pouring himself a glass of milk before taking out the well used recipe book and flipping through its pages. Not long afterwards, Pepper joined him, and began a pot of tea, the too talking in low morning whispers. Stark came next, his hair still damp from a shower, and then Bruce, fresh from his morning yoga ritual in a sunny room especially designed for just that purpose.

The four of them, after exchanging their morning greetings, started on the bacon and eggs, and began adding the ingredients for the crepe and pancake recipe that Steve had picked out.

The elevator dinged, and Clint and Natasha entered the room, smiling over some witty sarcasm battle that they were earnestly employed in, and still wearing their workout clothes that showed evidence of a hard training regime.

It was no secret that the two of them hardly ever slept, choosing instead to go down to the vast gym and weapons range at insane hours of the morning where one would invariably find the other already there. They would keep each other company as they went through their own routines, before finishing strong with a fighting match, the trick rules and conditions changing every day for variety.

When Stark asked which one of the "Wonder Twins", as he called them, had won today, Clint promptly replied that he did—to which Natasha responded by tripping him and making him land flat on his face. He retaliated by kicking out her feet, and she landed on her butt beside him.

Everyone watched breathlessly, fearing that a full out war between them would begin, but they merely laughed, and helping each other up, walked into the kitchen to join the others.

Thor was the last to enter, his tired face and long disheveled hair food for kindhearted jesting and witty sarcasms.

"Hey, who does your hair, man?" Clint joked, as he sliced strawberries beside Natasha. "Because I want him."

"What did you do? Roll on your Hairy-Fairy?" Stark teased, who had a long standing joke that everyone has a "Hairy-Fairy", a sprite whose job it is to style one's hair while they sleep, his, of course, being an exceptionally good one.

"Probably scared it away with all of his snoring." Steve said in casual tone though his eyes were smiling. "Like an earthquake."

That was another thing: Steve, in his time of living with his fellow Avengers, had developed a sense of humor.

Thor shook his mane of hair and laughed good-naturedly. "Yes, yes. You are all very humorous. Your mothers would be very proud." And he tied back his hair in a ponytail with the black hair-tie Natasha had wordlessly offered him from her store on her wrist.

And the cook off began.

Steve took charge of the crepes, Pepper the pancakes, Stark the bacon, Bruce practiced his hand at the eggs, and Thor took the stems off the strawberries while Natasha and Clint sliced them with the knives off their own person's. All the while a lively conversation was kept up while Marvin Gaye's I Heard it Through the Grapevine played—Stark occasionally pausing with tongs in hand to spin Pepper around the room, Steve gently swaying to the time of the music over the stove, Thor bobbing his head to what he thought was the beat, Bruce keeping time with his foot, and Clint and Natasha sharing loaded glances, carrying out full conversations with their eyes and smiling slightly as they watched Stark and Pepper dance happily, their love for each other obvious to all.

"If you're all finished, I have an idea for a team building exercise." Stark said suddenly, surprising all with his words.

It was after breakfast, and the group were still seated around a large dining table that was strewn with their now empty plates.

"Team building exercise?" Clint asked in disbelief, in the silence that followed. For, lets be honest, the words Tony Stark and Team rarely ever go together.

"Yeah," Stark said lightly, "I thought it would be good for us to, you know, connect. After all, we are the Avengers."

"Connect." Clint parroted in a dull voice, looking over at Natasha with a glance that spoke for itself.

"And you just thought of this last night?" Bruce voiced quietly, sharing in the general incredulity.

"Yeah." Stark looked at the faces around him. "What?"

"Nothing...." everybody mumbled at once, before rising to clear the table and the mess that they had made in the kitchen.

"Natasha," Stark began, "I could use some help setting up." He smirked. "Besides last time I checked you were still my assistant."

That smirk rapidly disappeared as a knife quivered in the wall a millimeter away from his ear, dripping strawberry juice like blood.

He blinked. "You know, I think Fury rewrote that contract." Then, not put down the slightest, he turned to Pepper, offering his arm with a winning smile. "Shall we?"

She smiled and took his arm, and together the two of them walked into the elevator.

"What do you think he has in mind?" Steve asked when the doors had closed.

"Probably some obstacle course, knowing Stark." Clint shrugged, washing the dishes before passing them to Natasha to dry.

"Oh, I hope not." Bruce frowned, as he wiped down the table.

"He had a pretty large package delivered last night," Natasha said quietly, making everyone silently wonder how she knew this.

"Did you see what it held?" Thor asked.

"Stark had taken in his room before I could see what it was." She said matter-of-factly, shrugging as she dried off another plate Clint handed to her.

They continued clearing up in silence, each one lost in their own thoughts until Pepper appeared.

She sat in a chair, put her head in her hands, and groaned—a sight that did nothing to relieve the team's fears.

"I'm so sorry," she mumbled. "He watched Star Wars last night."

Those present had barely enough time to exchange worried glances, before Stark himself entered.

"A great movie," he said, having caught Pepper's last words. "The science is a little outdated, but a real classic. You should add that to your list," he cried, snapping his fingers in Steve's direction, who frowned, before taking out a small notepad and scribbling something on the inside.

"Stark, what are up to?" Clint frowned, folding his arms.

The man in question smiled at everyone present and clapped his hands. "Somewhere hidden inside the tower," he said in a dramatic voice, obviously enjoying every second, "is a miniature model of the Tesseract."

A few eyebrows were raised, but no one spoke.

"Your job," Stark continued, "is to find it. You will be split into three teams of two, and each team will be armed."

Clint and Natasha both glanced at each other.

"If either member of a team is hit, you are both out, so the trick is to protect your team member while looking for the Tesseract at the same time. Don't worry, its hidden in plain sight, and I wont be playing as I am the only one who knows where it is. Oh, and Jarvis has explicit orders to not reveal its location, so don't even try to cheat." At these words, Stark cast a meaning glance at Natasha who stared back at him defiantly.

"Any questions?"

"What are our weapons?" Natasha asked immediately.

Stark smiled. "That's the best part." and he dumped the contents of a large box, that he had previously stood in front of, onto the table.

"No." Natasha said quickly, shaking her head. "No way." And all around the room she was backed up by scoffs and incredulous laughter.

Strewn on the table, was a multitude of lightsabers.

"I'm not done," Stark said quickly, his smile broadening at the reaction his audience was giving him. "The winner, as a reward, gets to make one wish/command that I solemnly swear I will fulfill."

That got their attention, particularly Natasha's who immediately began thinking up all sorts of torturous revenge ploys that she could put Stark though.

"Everybody in?" Stark asked, looking around at the faces of his audience. When silence greeted his question, he clapped his hands again. "Great! Then divide into your teams."

"I want Clint." Natasha said quickly, at the exact same time that Clint asked for her.

"Wonder Twins, great!" Stark nodded, turning to Thor, who in turn looked to Banner.

"Would you like to be my partner?" Thor asked in a deep voice.

"Sure," Banner shrugged.

Steve looked around. "Um, Stark, if you aren't playing, I think you need to check your math."

"Course I don't!" Stark said cheerfully, "You get Pepper!"

She spluttered. "Excuse me?"

Tony gave her a playful little tug on her braid. "Aw, come on Pepper," he whispered. "You cant think of just one little thing you want me to do?"

"Oh, I can think of a whole stack of things," she muttered, before casting a quick glance at Steve. "Oh, alright. I'll play your ridiculous game."

Stark beamed. "Then all that's left is for you to select your weapons!"

Everyone moved rather loathingly towards the lightsabers, sifting through them half-heartedly. Clint took a blue one, Natasha a green one, Pepper a purple double-sided one, Steve a green one, and Thor and Bruce were left with two plastic broadhead swords.

"I apologize for that," Stark said as Thor and Bruce held up their swords questioningly. "The toy store ran out of lightsabers."

Upon Stark's guidance, he sent each team to different levels so that they would be forced to hunt each other down, and then sent them a countdown via Jarvis.

When the countdown reached zero, they all took off, and competitive instinct took over.

Whistling slightly to himself, Stark leaned back in his chair and watched each team's movements over the security cameras, swinging lightly in his hand a red lightsaber that he had kept separated from the bunch just for himself, mentally making bets on who would win.

Natasha and Clint moved as one, entering and clearing rooms with military precision and on noiseless feet, years of practice making them the perfect team.

Steve and Pepper moved down the hallways with a little less ease, Steve obviously taking the lead and protective role, while Pepper watched his back with an unsure air.

Thor and Banner were more careless in their actions, Banner opening and closing doors as he peered into rooms, his lightsaber closed and hanging loosely in his hand, while Thor strolled loudly down the corridor in an offensive, devil-may-care attitude, a large boyish grin playing on his face.

"I cant believe we are doing this...." Stark heard Natasha whisper to Clint, who replied with a noncommittal "hmm".

"Lightsabers! The Придурок..... Всезнайка лень" she muttered in Russian, and Clint cracked up, though hastily stifling his laughter into a smile as Natasha punched him in the ribs telling him to "shut up".

"Just think of all the revenge you can reek if we win, though." Clint mumbled, peering around a corner.

"That's the first thing I thought of." Was her fierce reply, and she looked up directly into the face of a camera.

Stark was beginning to think that maybe the lightsabers weren't such a good idea after all.

Still, the sight was pretty priceless. He would probably keep the camera recordings for blackmail later.

On the camera, Stark could see that Steve and Pepper were nearing the same room that Natasha and Clint were currently clearing, and sat on the edge of his seat in eager anticipation of the turnout.

Inside the room, Clint's sharp ears picked up the on the sound of Pepper whispering to Steve out in the corridor, and motioning to Natasha, the two assassins disappeared up in the air ducts in a matter of seconds.

Only to jump down upon the opposing team out in the corridor, trapping Steve and Pepper in between them.

Steve immediately went on the offensive, fighting hard against Clint, his immediate threat, who parried the blows effortlessly and returned some of his own. When Clint moved to block a high blow, Steve kicked him hard in his exposed stomach sending Clint sprawling back a few paces down the corridor.

Steve, without wasting an instant, turned to defend Pepper from Natasha who was attacking on the other side, and who Pepper had held at bay for this long only because she was thrashing wildly in her direction with her double-sided lightsaber.

Natasha was forced to stay back out of arms reach, but she stood slightly crouched like a tigress about to pounce, waiting for an opening.

When she saw Steve turn away from Clint and make a move towards her, she thought fast and feinted to the right as Pepper's lightsaber whizzed by her head, before diving through the space between Pepper's body and the wall. Pepper instinctively swung her lightsaber after Natasha's head, but as her weapon was double-sided and Natasha was too quick, she only succeeded in whacking Steve in the back of the head, eliminating her own teammate.

With a roll, Natasha slipped underneath Steve's legs, tapping him lightly with her lightsaber just to be on the safe side before breaking into a run beside Clint down the hallway, disappearing from view around the corner.

Stark couldn't stop laughing as he watched Steve, bent over with laughter himself, and Pepper apologizing furiously, her face crimson but the smallest hint of a smile playing across her face as she realized the humor of the situation.

"Two down, two to go!" Clint cried with a grin, as him and Natasha once more disappeared up into the air ducts, evidently settling on a more offensive approach, planning to eliminate Thor and Bruce so that they could have all the time in the world to find the small Tesseract Stark had hidden somewhere inside the tower.

With Clint and Natasha out of camera view, and Steve and Pepper doing nothing but sitting on the floor laughing, Stark turned his attention upon Thor and Bruce.

They were, he noticed, actually about six doors down from the room where he had placed the Tesseract on a window ledge. Bruce was following Thor's hulking form placidly, who was stomping down the halls, literally shouting out at the top of his lungs for the others to "come and fight him".

In a brief space of silence, Thor having to stop for breath, Bruce's attention was attracted by a slight thud somewhere in the ceiling above him.

"Um," he said laying a hand on Thor's massive forearm and pointing up at the ceiling, "I think they heard you."

The words had hardly escaped his mouth when a panel on the ceiling a few paces down the hallway slid open, and Clint and Natasha dropped to the floor like cats.

When Thor saw them, his face erupted into an eager, boyish grin, and with a earth-shaking battle cry, he charged towards them.

Both the famous Black Widow's and Hawkeye's eyes widened a little in fear, its true, as yours would too if you saw the massive form of the God of Thunder, barreling towards you at full speed while screaming bloody murder, a literal blood-lust in shining in his eyes.

In a flash he was upon them, swinging his plastic sword erratically and with incredible force, taking on both of them at the same time and holding his own just by sheer strength.

When Bruce saw the battle raging in the corridor, he quickly scurried into the nearest room.

Out of sight, out of mind. Or so he hoped.

Natasha, however, had seen his escape, and knowing that to take down Bruce would be the easiest way to eliminate Thor, she communicated this to Clint with merely one word: "Bruce!" she cried, as both her and Clint combined their strength to block a staggering blow from Thor, still stumbling back a few steps all the same.

He nodded, immediately comprehending her train of thought.

With a little help from Clint, Natasha managed to slip past the raging Thor, and quickly disappeared into the room following Bruce.

Clint took one look at the God of Thunder before him, his eyes sweeping over everything from his towering height, bulging muscles, and eager, glistening eyes, before muttering a curse and taking off down the hallway, Thor in hot pursuit.

Not that Clint was a coward, he was just smart enough to realize that there was no way he could ever win in a test of strength against this Demigod. Better to keep him distracted till Natasha could finish off Bruce and eliminate any competition for the Tesseract.

If he had his bow, on the other hand, that would be a different matter.

Meanwhile, Natasha crept cautiously into the darkened room.

Bruce stood in the middle of the room, his back to her, staring at the windowsill where a small miniature Tesseract sat on its edge, glowing like the real thing. He was staring at it as if mesmerized, lost in a flashback where broken memories of "the other guy" assaulted him. It looked so real, like it was coming back to haunt him, and he had to keep telling himself that it was fake; just a toy. This trance was broken however when he heard the creak of a floorboard behind him.

Whirling around he turned to face Natasha, who was watching him carefully.

Immediately he held up his hands. "I don't want to fight." he said taking a step back.

"I know," she said quietly, her face unreadable. "You take it. You take the Tesseract." and she nodded her head towards the glowing object on the window sill.

Bruce glanced from the cube to her face, his eyes questioning.

"Go on." she encouraged, "You deserve it."

Slowly his turned his back on her and walked towards the cube, stretching out his hand for it but hesitating.

Its not real, he told himself, before snatching it up all in a rush.

"Bruce and Thor win!!!" came Stark's voice over the loud speaker, and when Bruce turned around to face Natasha, the Tesseract in hand, she had vanished like a wraith from the room.

Two levels down in the training gym among the obstacle course, Clint was perched high up on the beams in the ceiling while Thor ran about trying to find a way to reach him.

Clint let out a breath when Stark's voice was heard announcing the end of the game.

"You hear that, buddy?" he called down to Thor, who was still looking up at him like a cat looks up at a bird out of reach. "Game over. You win. Why don't you put down the sword now?"

A disappointed frown came across Thor's face, but he slowly lowered the sword, and Clint, in response, began carefully picking his way back down among the rafters, still eyeing Thor uneasily.

He felt a little more comfortable when Natasha sauntered into the room, taking in the scene with an amused smile and raised eyebrow at Clint, who replied with a quick "don't you dare say a word," and shot her a silencing glare.

Her smug smile deepened, but she remained silent.

When he reached the opposite end, Clint took a flying leap into the air, sailing across the room, Natasha calling out a mocking hawk cry in the short space of his flight, before he latched onto a rope that ran from the ceiling down to the floor, and slid down it with practiced ease till his boots met the mats.

As Clint walked past Thor, the man made a move as if to pounce on him and Clint instinctively jumped back instantly on the defensive, but then Thor erupted into a bellow of laughter and clapped the wary assassin on the back.

"You, my friend," he roared good-naturedly, "are as quick as an antelope and as agile as a cat!"

Clint attempted a smile. "Um, thank you? You're very......" he looked the form that towered over him up and down. "Big." he finished, widening his eyes for effect.

Thor's laughter was deafening as he walked out of the gym, on his way to find Bruce and congratulate him.

Clint turned to Natasha. "What happened?" he cried, referring to Bruce beating her to the cube, and possibly even beating her, as far as he knew.

The Black Widow shrugged, walking out of the gym with her partner. "He needed the closure."

Once more collected in the recreational level, the team chatted and laughed over recent events, the battered toy swords and lightsabers in a pile on the table.

Contrary to the initial popular opinion, the game orchestrated by Stark had been a success—in some strange unaccountable way—and now the team felt closer, and yes, more connected as each person relayed the part that they had played in the game, often with many embellishments, but to the general enjoyment of everyone present.

Suddenly Stark cleared his throat loudly, effectively silencing the room.

"As promised," he began, spreading his hands in a magnanimous way, "both Thor and Bruce, as a reward for conquering all by finding and retrieving the cube, get to make one wish, or command, that I hereby promise in front of you all to fulfill. Bruce?" and he turned to the seated doctor.

"I have everything that I need," was his quiet reply. "I give my wish to Natasha." and he turned to the surprised assassin with a thankful glance.

Stark frowned, a little worried. "Um, Thor?" he said, turning to the Thunder God with a slightly hopeful glance.

Thor laughed. "I also am satisfied," he spoke with a mellow smile. "I give my reward to my worthy opponent, Clint Barton."

Now Stark was really worried, and the dark smiles on the faces of the two assassins did nothing to relay his fears.

"Um, I'm pretty sure that's not allowed." he stammered, at the deadly wink Natasha gave him.

Everyone in the room though, seemed to back up both Thor and Bruce's decisions.

"You made no rule against it." was Steve's casual reply, as he settled back into the deep cushions of the couch.

Panicked, Stark looked around him at the resigned faces, his mouth frantically trying to find excuses, but Natasha stood and walked over to him grabbing his collar and dragging him towards the pool.

"Let's go for a swim," she said, smiling sweetly. "Care to join us, Clint?"

Hawkeye grinned cheekily, and leaping over the couch, fell into step beside Natasha.

"A wonderful idea," he said with equal calm, looping his arm through Stark's.

Poor Stark took one look at the faces of the two assassins, before turning to the crowd that was gleefully watching by the couches.


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