Written for an AvengersKink prompt: gen teamfic, angsty kid!fic

"They're all children - between 8 and 12, maybe. They live out in the country, and while backgrounds would obviously have to be tweaked, they still have incredibly fucked up backstories. This would take place over a summer break.

Think fishing on the lake and climbing trees and sneaking Bruce in through a window because his dad's violent-drunk tonight, and putting ice on Clint's swollen lip, and Pepper always pressing food into hands, and Natasha fierce and cold and lonely, and the way they bend and give for each other, like kids are so often so eager to do.

Angstyness with dollops of sweet and a happy or hopeful ending?"

It all starts with Phil. He's just turned twelve and it's been two weeks since his little brother's funeral and he runs to the woods, ignoring the sweltering heat of summer.

He just couldn't stand his parents fighting anymore, the despair that seems to cover every wall, every table, every heart and gesture.

The dilapidated cabin is next to a pristine lake, hidden there amongst the trees, tall poplars and oaks.

He finds two eleven-year olds inside, sitting in the floor overrun with leaves and dirt, playing cards. A boy with dark hair and chocolate brown eyes and a girl with fiery orange hair and freckles.

They look at each other for the longest time and then the boy smiles, quick and bold.

"Sit down, beanpole, the bet is at two chocolate bars and a pack of gum."

Tony Stark is a boy with a quicksilver mind. Phil knows who his father is and about the Stark's massive empire and he's just a tad bit nervous as he accepts the offer.

Pepper Potts smiles at him, gentle and kind and Phil smiles back.

Phil brings Steve Rogers next, because even though Steve is a year younger, he's the bravest boy Phil's ever met.

Steve stood up to the bullies that were trying to pick on Phil, even though there were three of them and they were thirteen.

There's a sadness in his eyes too (his dad left his mother a little under a month ago, and she's very, very sick), the same shadowed look that Phil sees in the mirror so he brings the boy to the clearing and the cabin and the lake and the trees.

Pepper is glad to welcome another playmate and though Tony regards the new boy with open distrust, they reach a level of passive acceptance after a couple of hours.

Phil finds Clint one day when he's walking home. The boy is sitting behind a dumpster, shaking, and he glares at Phil, daring him to say something.

Phil does. Because the boy's eyes are dark with misery and hate and Phil has a thing for strays, something in his heart that twists with sympathy and empathy for limping dogs and flea-ridden cats and broken-winged birds.

"Come with me."

The boy looks at his outstretched hand, searching his face.

"There's someone I need to get first."

And that's how the eleven-year old Clint Barton leads Phil to Natasha Romanov, and how the three of them set off for the woods.

Thor and Loki Odinson find the cabin on their own. Thor is loud and open, the same age as Phil but that's where the similarities end.

Loki is ten, shy but witty and Tony instantly enlists him in The Fight Against Steve.

The last one to join their group is Bruce Banner and he is found by Tony. He's the child of one of his father's employees and so very, very quiet. He flinches from touch like Clint, like Loki, and Phil suspects but doesn't want to say anything.

They spend their days together like that, lost in each other's company.

The cynical side of Phil tells him that they're just pretending, that they're fooling themselves and that what they've put together, akin to a collection of broken toys, won't and cannot last. It's still nice to sit at the dock and watch the still waters and believe that, even if just for a few seconds, the world can be quiet and beautiful.

Cartoon Physics, Part 1
By Neil Flynn

Children under, say, ten, shouldn't know
that the universe is ever-expanding,
inexorably pushing into the vacuum, galaxies

swallowed by galaxies, whole

solar systems collapsing, all of it
acted out in silence. At ten we are still learning

the rules of cartoon animation,

that if a man draws a door on a rock
only he can pass through it.
Anyone else who tries

will crash into the rock. Ten-year-olds
should stick with burning houses, car wrecks,
ships going down - earthbound, tangible

disasters, arenas

where they can be heroes. You can run
back into a burning house, sinking ships

have lifeboats, the trucks will come
with their ladders, if you jump

you will be saved. A child

places her hand on the roof of a schoolbus,
& drives across a city of sand. She knows

the exact spot it will skid, at which point
the bridge will give, who will swim to safety
& who will be pulled under by sharks. She will learn

that if a man runs off the edge of a cliff
he will not fall

until he notices his mistake.