Pairings/Characters: Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Natasha Romanoff, Clint Barton, Thor Odinson, Bruce Banner, Phil Coulson, Pepper Potts, JARVIS
Continuity: The Avengers (2012)
Genres: Angst, Challenge, Drama
Summary: What if you threw a party and nobody came?
Date Of Completion: September 1, 2013
Date Of Posting: October 4, 2013
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Marvel and Paramount do, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2714
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: Written for this prompt at avengerkink.
And I’ll cry
If I want to,
Cry if I want to,
Cry if I want to.
You’d cry, too,
If it happened to you."
"It’s My Party
(I’ll Cry If I Want To)"
John Gluck, Wally Gold, Herb Weiner
Aaron Schroeder Music
“So, I thought we could commemorate our first year as a team with a little get-together,” Steve said with a smile as he poured coffee for everyone in the Tower kitchen during a break.
“Yeah, sure, sounds like fun,” Tony said as he checked the messages on his Starkphone.
“All right by me,” said Natasha as she drank her coffee.
“Me, too,” Clint chimed in as he ate a chocolate chip cookie, the latest batch of Steve’s baking kick.
Thor clapped Steve on the back. “A celebration honoring comradeship is to be commended.”
Bruce was completely wrapped up in his notes on his current experiment. He used his tablet as he tried to work out a knotty equation. Steve smiled fondly at him.
Phil closed his briefing folder. “Colonel Fury would approve.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear that,” Steve said wryly and Phil chuckled.
“Well, I’ve got places to be, ladies and gents,” said Tony as he stood.
Pepper was talking on her cellphone and ended her call. “Count me in, Steve.” She frowned as she checked her schedule for the afternoon.
“Great.” Steve was pleased at the positive reaction to his suggestion.
Steve put up the multicolored streamers, a color for everyone’s costumes. He had deliberately kept the decorations low-key. The Avengers were a well-oiled team in the field, but except for Movie Night and the occasional meal together, they didn’t socialize as much as he would like. Teams in the field depended upon bonding off the field as well.
It’s certainly different from the Howling Commandos, though we were in the middle of a war. Still, the battles we fight as the Avengers qualify as wartime.
He went over to the oven and checked the roast beef. It looked like it was cooking nicely. They could have some hot sandwiches paired with cold potato salad. He’d stocked the refrigerator with beer and soda and had ordered a chocolate cake with fancy white frosting.
He had used his mother’s recipes for the roast beef and potato salad. He had wanted to do something personal for the people he considered his friends.
He glanced at his watch. He had mentioned 7:00 for the get-together and it was now 6:50. Someone should show up soon, though it probably wouldn’t be Tony. He smiled fondly. The man had no sense of time.
Twenty minutes later he turned the oven off. The roast would stay warm for several more minutes. He went to the small closet and checked to see if his painting was still there. Wrapped in brown paper, it was protected and ready for the unveiling.
Though maybe I should take it out and use it as the ultimate decoration.
He debated for a minute, then took it out and unwrapped it, propping it on a chair in the corner. It would be fun to see everyone’s reaction as they entered the kitchen.
Steve took the roast out of the oven and pan, draining the juices and carefully wrapping it to go into the refrigerator. One of the things he liked in modern technology was the microwave. It would be easy to warm up the meat. He closed the door and resumed his seat, the wall clock ticking loudly.
Ten minutes went by and he went back to the refrigerator and pulled out a frosty bottle of beer. He settled back into his chair and asked JARVIS, “Radio, please.”
Music from Steve’s favorite radio station gently wafted through the kitchen. He was learning about all the music he’d missed through the decades but was feeling nostalgic tonight. The recipes brought back memories of his mother. As always, he had mixed feelings: happy for the good memories but sad for her loss.
He wiped away a tear. He missed her terribly, and he also missed Bucky, the Howling Commandos, Peggy, Howard, Dr. Erskine…unfortunately there was a long list of people he would never see again.
That was one of the reasons an event like tonight was so important to him. He had made new friends, people he trusted his life with, and wanted to show his appreciation.
He allowed the Big Band music to wash over him, closing his eyes and remembering good times with a touch of melancholy.
“Shall I contact the Avengers, sir?”
Steve looked at the old-fashioned clock whimsically shaped like a cat that read 8:40 P.M. He sighed and got up, stretching his legs. He opened the refrigerator and took out a bottle of Coke this time. He was terribly thirsty tonight.
He leaned against the counter and sipped the Coke. He was sure he’d said seven o’clock. He hadn’t expected everyone to be on time, but 8:40 was pretty late. And he hadn’t expected everyone to come, either, but he’d hoped at least a few Avengers would have shown up.
Not even Phil? He smiled wryly. Maybe the hero worship has waned after seeing me up-close-and-personal.
He took another swig of Coke. He had found a little hole-in-the-wall place that sold the beverage in bottles instead of cans. It was more expensive but for the sake of this party, it had been worth it.
The bottles also made him think of good times with Bucky. He blinked away tears and walked around the kitchen. A sound caught his attention and he looked hopefully at the kitchen doorway, but no one appeared. Disappointment showed clearly on his face, but it was too soon to give up on his teammates and friends. They were probably just delayed.
“Sir, may I contact anyone?”
Steve put away the cake, stacked plates, utensils and glasses to return to the cabinets and drawers. He took down the streamers and carefully folded and laid the decorations on the table. He would store them in the closet. Waste not, want not. He picked up the painting and re-wrapped it and put it back in the closet with the streamers. Finally he put all the bottles in the deposit return bin and left the kitchen as the clock read 11:50 P.M. with the swish of the mechanical cat’s tail.
THE NEXT MORNING
Tony walked into the kitchen, rubbing bleary eyes. It had been a wild night, attending the charity ball and then getting waylaid by some beauties he’d met at the ball. He yawned and stumbled toward the coffeepot.
“’Mornin’,” Clint mumbled as he entered, dressed in a wrinkled T-shirt and pajama bottoms. Tony wore jeans and a faded Led Zeppelin T-shirt.
Tony grinned as Clint poured a cup and practically inhaled the steaming beverage. The archer shared his burning need for coffee.
“Rough night?” Tony asked sympathetically.
“Mmph.” Clint sat down at the table, clutching the coffee mug. “I went over to H.Q. and ended up avoiding Hill all night.” He took another gulp. “I swear that woman is half-Native American. She can track a man anywhere!”
Natasha and Pepper came in together, each woman dressed casually in jeans and sweatshirts. “You boys look like nine miles of bad road,” Pepper said dryly.
“Why are you so peppy in the morning?” asked Tony.
“It’s nine o’clock. Why shouldn’t I be so peppy?” Pepper poured her and Natasha two cups of coffee. “Who’s cooking this morning?”
“Ugh, does anyone have to?” Clint moaned.
Tony blinked as he saw Thor fly by the window. “Hey, where was our Thunder God last night?”
“With his main squeeze in New Mexico,” said Clint.
“So, what about breakfast?” Natasha asked.
“Good morning, comrades!” said Thor cheerfully as he entered the kitchen, trailed by Phil and Bruce.
“That should be your line,” Tony said to Natasha. The redhead rolled her eyes.
“Let’s see if anything in the refrigerator can give us some nourishment,” Pepper said. She opened the door. “Hey, there’s a fresh roast in here.”
“Steve’s appetite matches yours, Big Fella,” Tony said to Thor. “He could wolf that down in one sitting.”
“There’s potato salad in here, enough to feed an army. And enough bottles of beer even for you, Tony.”
“Ha, ha. Steve must’ve done some shopping.”
Pepper rummaged around the compartments. “We’ve got enough eggs here to make a mess of scrambled. Everyone okay with that?” At the positive assent she started pulling out the eggs. “No bacon or sausages, but plenty of fruit.”
“Sounds great,” Bruce said.
Breakfast was cooked and served in short order as everyone chatted about their previous evenings.
“Those charity functions are essential to raise money, but they can be such a bore,” said Pepper as she scooped up a forkful of eggs.
“No kidding,” Tony agreed.
“Oh, la-de-dah, I feel so sorry for you,” teased Clint.
“Really,” Phil agreed as he speared an orange slice with his fork. “Try tackling a mountain of paperwork ‘til the midnight hour.”
“Or wrestle with a recalcitrant experiment,” Bruce sighed.
“Ah, well, here we all are, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” Natasha smirked.
“Speaking of such, is Steve sleeping late today?” Pepper asked.
“Nah, he’s probably out on a run,” Tony said as he drank his coffee.
“Seems funny, though. Steve likes to be here for breakfast, though I suppose he already ate,” Bruce said with a small frown.
“He’s a guy who’s up with the sun. He’ll be back and probably eat the whole roast for a second breakfast,” Tony quipped.
Everyone laughed and enjoyed their meal.
After breakfast everyone chipped in to clean up. Tony opened the storage closet to get a fresh dishtowel. “Hey, what’s this?”
“What?” Clint asked.
“This.” Tony pulled out the wrapped painting. “Feels like a painting. You been buying art again, Pep?”
“If I did,” Pepper said as she paused in scrubbing the skillet, “I wouldn’t stash it in the kitchen closet.”
Tony propped the painting on a chair and removed the brown paper wrapping. “Hey, look at this!”
Everyone crowded around and Thor said, “Magnificent!”
“I agree,” said Pepper. The painting showed the seven of them in action on the battlefield (Phil had been included) and there was an inset of Pepper in the upper right-hand corner. “It’s a beautiful piece. Lots of color and dynamic movement.” She tilted her head as she gripped the dishtowel. “Umm, did anyone come to Steve’s little thing last night? I forgot all about it.”
“Me, too,” said Clint guiltily.
Murmurs of “Me, too,” went around the room.
Tony said, “JARVIS, security tapes for the kitchen last night, starting at 18:00.”
A panel slid back in the wall and the footage began to play on the monitor. They could see Steve preparing the roast beef and putting it in the oven and then making the potato salad. He peeled the potatoes while whistling a jaunty tune.
“You seem in quite good spirits, sir.”
“Thanks, JARVIS. I am. I’m using my mom’s recipes for this little shindig. She’d be really proud.”
Several Avengers looked down at their feet while Tony swallowed and Pepper blinked.
JARVIS showed Steve decorating the kitchen after the food preparation was finished. He also showed Steve patiently waiting, the timestamp in the corner showing the elapse of time along with the old-fashioned kitty clock on the wall.
Tony would order JARVIS to speed up and slow down as they watched Steve mostly sitting and waiting, then checking the food, bringing out the painting, getting up to get a beer, putting the food away, getting a Coke, all with a hopeful-yet-wistful look on his face. When he heard a noise and looked so hopefully toward the doorway and lapsed into disappointment, Tony’s eyes stung and Pepper wiped away a tear. Finally Steve put everything away, took down the streamers, and stored the painting and streamers in the closet. His voice was weary when he answered JARVIS’ request to contact the Avengers.
“Why didn’t he have JARVIS call us?” Clint murmured.
JARVIS answered, “If you recall, the Captain is an extremely giving individual. He dedicates a lot of time and effort into ensuring the safety and happiness of the team and expects very little in return. Perhaps he has realized just how little thought and care he receives for his efforts. No doubt he will bear this new revelation with his usual grace but according to my understanding of human relationships this is hardly how one would treat a team member, let alone a friend.”
There was silence in the kitchen except for the ticking of the clock. After several seconds, Natasha uttered softly, “Damn.”
THIRTY MINUTES AGO
Steve had gone out for his morning run and returned to the Tower, going directly to his quarters. He showered and dressed in a blue T-shirt and jeans, pulling on scuffed sneakers. He ran a comb through his wet hair, packed his duffel bag with his costume and slipped his shield into a light carryall. He shrugged into a navy-blue jacket and picked up his equipment and left his suite.
As he headed toward the elevator he could hear laughter drift down the hall from the kitchen. He hesitated for a minute, then went into the elevator and exited the Tower on his motorcycle, headed for S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters and a good work-out.
Steve cut the engine of his motorcycle and picked up his bags. Leaving the garage via elevator, he disembarked on the communal floor and headed for his suite. It had been a full day at Headquarters as he had worked out on the punching bag and then trained with with other agents in hand-to-hand combat. After a brisk shower, he had eaten in the commissary and spent some time on the computer to catch up on his history. He was tired and looked forward to a bath and then maybe a little TV before he went to bed.
“Oh, Steve!” Pepper ran down the hall, her high heels clicking. “Would you come to the kitchen? I need an opinion on a new recipe I’m trying out.”
Steve followed Pepper down the hall, wishing that he could say no to her, but it would probably be only a tasting and then he get to his quarters. He admired her ability to walk in stiletto heels. He didn’t know how women did it.
He entered the kitchen right behind her and stopped short. “Wha…?”
“Happy Anniversary, Steve!” Pepper said as everyone clapped. The streamers were up, the table was set with the fancy cake in the middle, and his gift to his friends was on a chair.
“I, uh, don’t know what to say.”
“No need to say anything, Steve. We couldn’t attend your party last night, so we set it up tonight.” Tony clapped a hand on his shoulder and handed his friend a bottle of beer.
Steve smiled. That would teach him to mope around.
The party was successful with JARVIS piping in a mix of ‘40s and current music. Hot roast beef sandwiches and cold potato salad was enjoyed by all and the beer flowed freely. As Steve laughed with Thor over a joke made by the good-natured Asgardian, Tony and Bruce stood in a corner and ate their food and drank their beers.
“You know, it wouldn’t be so bad to hang out a little more as a group,” Bruce said.
“No, it wouldn’t.” Tony looked over at Steve. “JARVIS had it right. He takes care of us and doesn’t ask for anything in return. The one time he did, we couldn’t be bothered.”
Bruce drank his beer. “He’ll get plenty of return from now on.”
Bruce’s words were prophetic. The Avengers started hanging out together more often, discovering that they really enjoyed each other’s company in settings besides the battlefield.
Steve never did find out that they had seen his lonely vigil and JARVIS decided not to tell him. Why embarrass the good Captain, and besides, everything had turned out all right. His circuits hummed in contentment.