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A New Strategy

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            Tony sat on the lumpy old couch in his lab sipping a snifter of scotch as he stared at the Avengers going about their day on the security feed that linked directly to the lab.  The witch sat smiling shyly as she leaned over and took something off the Vision’s plate.  Tony sighed in disgust.  Vision had helped defeat Ultron, but the loss of Jarvis sat heavily on Tony’s shoulders, and watching as he flirted with the monster that ultimately led to Jarvis’s sacrifice—well, if he could take it back, he might have done so.

            “Friday, give me sound for the moment,” Tony said, swirling the liquor around in the crystal glass before gulping the rest of it down.

            Laughter filled the lab, breaking the intense silence that had reigned for the last three weeks.

            “No seriously, when do we break into the lab to make sure he’s ok,” Sam asked, once the laughter had stopped.

            “Who cares,” the witch muttered with a shrug as she dropped a piece of bread in the toaster.  Tony laughed when a visible shock struck the brat causing her to yelp.  Friday was already as protective as Jarvis had been, and just a bit more vindictive.

            “We’ll get Stark to look at that,” Clint reassured the woman as she sucked on her fingers.

            “Tony needs time to lick his wounds,” Widow said simply, sipping her juice.

            “Yeah, well, that seems a bit dangerous according to precedent,” Clint muttered, cutting his omelet.

            Rhodes strode into the compound kitchen dressed smartly in his dress uniform, not pausing as he smacked the backside of Clint’s head.

            “You know he can likely hear every derogatory thing you’re saying in HIS compound, Clint?  And in case you’ve forgotten, until a serious case of PTSD that his teammates completely ignored--where’s your vaunted profiling skills now, Widow—and some tinkering from the witch and an alien artifact, Tony’s shit ALWAYS works.  That’s why you guys are sitting here in his property and wearing armor and using weapons that he designs.  How quickly were you begging Tony to upload Friday into the Compound once you moved in again?”

            “Hey, Rhodes.  That was out of line, we know,” Sam said with a smile, hoping to ease the tension.  “We’re really just worried if he’s ok down there, you know.”

            “Speak for yourself,” the witch mumbled.

            Rhodey looked pointedly at Steve.

            Steve rolled his eyes and then said softly.

            “Hay, Wanda.  That’s enough of that ok.  I know you have real reasons not to like Tony, but he’s done a lot to make sure you got a Visa in the United States,”

            “And dodged a life sentence in prison for terrorist activities while acting as a Hydra volunteer and the henchwoman of Ultron.  There’s that too,” Rhodes mumbled with the same attitude the witch had displayed.

            “That’s enough, Rhodes,” Steve said sternly, crossing his arms over his broad chest.

            “My bad,” Rhodes said grabbing a glass of juice and snatching his toast as he turned to leave the kitchen.  “I thought that’s how you guys did things around here,” Rhodey smirked and left the others chatting darkly about the Colonel.

            Tony smiled and shook his head before switching the feed off.  The others may have thought he was down here sulking, but he had a very real concern that was even more pressing now that Ultron had fallen through.  If the Avengers thought they could sit around the kitchen acting like the secure facility that housed a paramilitary fighting force meant to protect the Earth was a college dorm—Tony knew it was time to get busy.  Whoever and whatever had sent Loki, because Tony was sure the God had been a part of a reconnaissance mission to assess what the Earth could do to counter an alien threat, was coming back.  And Steve could tear apart as many logs of firewood as he wanted, but the leader of that alien army wasn’t going to be impressed by a spangly outfit, a shield, and some hand to hand combat.