avengers: natasha rolling hating

The most cracked-out fic idea I ever had

Once upon a time, before I forgot the December posting meme existed, tielan asked me about the most cracked out fic idea I ever had. And I decided, for some reason, that I wanted to come back and answer her question.

It was about Natasha auditioning for a reality cooking show. I'm not even clear why I thought this would be a good idea, except that I'd marathoned a fuck ton of Top Chef and The Taste on my flight home from Kathmandu, and I got a little obsessed with some of the judges. It was also manifestly clear that I would never be on a reality cooking competition, so maybe I thought fanfic was the best way to explore that possibility? There was also a thread of a more serious idea about Natasha needing to move on with her life, and also some writerly ideas that AUs would be more interesting if they weren't AUs but stories in which the characters lived their canonical lives and then decided to start a rock band or open a coffee shop...or audition for a reality cooking show.

Anyway, I got a few thousand words in before I realized that I was full of shit and stopped writing. You can read it, if you really want to do that to yourself.


"Why are we playing Never Have I Ever with Tony Stark?" Natasha asks, surveying the empty glasses arrayed in front of them. They'd finished with the beer long ago. Now they're onto tequila, but only because Stark had said that vodka would give her an unfair advantage.

"Well, Tony is one of the few people we know who doesn't want to kill us or arrest us, so sometimes we do things just because he wants us to," Clint says, sounding patient even though Natasha has asked the question at least five times today.

Stark looks smug. "Never have I ever fucked anyone while splattered with the blood of my slain enemies," he says.

Clint and Natasha clink their glasses, and Stark shakes his head.

"You two," he says, pointing at them with a wavering index finger, "are freaky."

"And this game is ridiculous," Natasha says. Neither she nor Clint can name a sex act that Stark hasn't performed, and Stark can't name a disturbingly violent act that they haven't performed. The end result is that Clint and Stark are wasted at two o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, and even Natasha -- who is Russian and grew up buying vodka from vending machines on subway platforms -- is mildly intoxicated. "Why can't three children of alcoholics drink themselves into oblivion like proper adults?" she asks.

"You're right. It is a stupid game, Nat," Stark says. Natasha glares at him, but he doesn't even flinch. "Don't look at me like that. Okay, look at me like that all you want. I'm going to call you Nat anyway." He pours himself another shot of tequila. "We're doing truth or dare now. You get truth, Romanov."

"That's not how the game works," Natasha protests.

"That's not a drinking game," Clint says.

Stark looks at Clint first. "One, Nat is letting details slip about her past, so I can only assume she's so wasted she's going to get alcohol poisoning." He sets Natasha's empty shot glass aside. "Two, you and I can drink as much as we want." He fills Clint's shot glass to the brim.

Clint turns to Natasha. "Three, Nat, you don't want to take a dare. Remember the fire last time?"

"On second thought, you're not cut off after all," Stark says, reflling Natasha's glass. "I want to hear that story. But first, your question: when was the last time you did something for fun?"

"I've done lots of things for fun," Natasha says. She'd stolen classified military technology from Fort Lee, and she'd shot the Winter Soldier in the eye while falling off an overpass.

"Non-violent, I mean," Stark says, and suddenly the room goes quiet.

"I dare you to audition for a reality cooking show," Clint says into the silence, and Natasha chokes on her drink.

"What the fuck, Clint?" she sputters. "That was supposed to be a secret--"

"Your secret is that you like reality cooking shows?" Stark asks. His grin his indecently gleeful.

"Among others," Natasha says with as much dignity as she can muster. Of course, she had posted all the others on the internet a few months ago, so now the little ones are the only ones that count.

"Which one is your favorite?" Stark asks. "Wait, don't tell me. I'll figure it out. Next Food Network Star? Nope, you don't want your own TV show. Chopped?" He shakes his head. "One day of competition, not enough challenge." He narrows his eyes. "The Taste. ABC. A culinary fight to the death between home cooks and aspiring celebrity chefs, mentored by epicurean legends. That's you." He leans in closer. "Natasha Aliana Romanov, I double dog dare you to audition for The Taste."

"You know jack shit about me," Natasha says, loading her voice with as much venom as she can muster.

Clint sprawls backward onto the floor, grinning crookedly. "He figured out one thing about you. You can't back down from a dare."

***


The application is surprisingly easy, even though she's drunk.

Have you been charged with or convicted of any crime (felony or misdemeanor)?

Surprisingly, no. She writes, "I have been called to testify before Congress but was never indicted. Regrettably, the statute of limitations has not yet passed."

Name up to five people who would accompany and support you if selected for auditions.

She write's Clint's name first, and then Stark elbows her out of the way and finishes the list with his name, Pepper's, Steve Rogers, and Sam Wilson.

"That oughta get their attention," he says, slapping her on the arm.

Natasha glares but doesn't erase any of their names.

The next question says what are three of your signature dishes?

The truth is bland: ration bars dipped in peanut butter, various salads. She fills in Morroccan braised bull testicles, borscht, and ghost chilli curry on the three neat lines.

"You know how to braise bull testicles?" Stark asks.

"Don't be stupid, Stark," she snaps, shooting him a withering look. She knows a lot about food, but she's an expert in telling people what they want to hear -- including, apparently, the producers of reality shows.

Clint looks over her shoulder and grins. "You want Bourdain's team," he says.

"You know no such thing," Natasha says primly, and clicks on send.

Within a week, she's forgotten about the application.

***


Three weeks later, Natasha steps into her apartment and instantly knows someone is inside. Gun drawn, she searches the kitchen first, then the living room. When she reaches the bedroom door, she crouches low, kicks it open, and levels her gun at the shadowy male form at her desk. He raises his hands slowly, and Natasha can practically hear him smirking in the dark.

"Stark." She lowers the gun, even though she's tempted to keep it pointed at his head. "What the fuck are you doing here? How do you even know where I live?"

Stark shrugs. "Your boyfriend told me where he lives, and since you two are kind of scarily connected, I took a guess I could find you here." He glances meaningfully at Natasha's gun and says, "I'd feel a lot better continuing this conversation if you put that away."

Natasha rolls her eyes as she tucks her gun into the holster. If it would get Stark out of here faster...

"You have audition for The Taste and you thought you could hide it from me. But you couldn't. Because I put my name down on your application, and they called me to see if you really did know the great Tony Stark. Stroke of genius, that one. You've been had. I came to gloat."

Natasha leans her head back against the wall. It makes a dull thud, and she wishes suddenly that she'd hit it a little harder. That's what Tony Stark does to her -- make her wish she were beating her head against a wall.

"It doesn't matter, Stark," she says. "I'm not going to the audition."

"Yeah, you are," Stark says. "We had a bet."

"We did not have a bet. A dare is different than a bet."

"Well, we have a bet now. I'll bet you..." Stark pauses, his eyes searching the tiny apartment as he tries to calculate her price. "...one dinner at El Bullí that you go to this audition."

"That place is closed, Stark. I'm not an idiot." She had, in fact, howled in frustration when she had read about its closing. She'd gotten a reservation there once, but then there had been an 084 in New Mexico, and then it was gone.

"Yeah, well, I'm a genuius billionaire playboy philanthropist. And superhero. I can make things happen." Stark stands up abruptly. "Audition's in two weeks. My assistant will text you the location. See you there."

***


Natasha glares at Clint while he brushes his teeth. She keeps glaring as he strips down to his boxers, and doesn't stop when he peels off his socks and climbs into their bed.

He looks back at her without the slightest hint of chagrin. "You know, it's bad for you to go so long without blinking. Dries out the eyes."

Natasha keeps staring. "You know something I can't figure out? How Stark would know how badly I wanted that dinner at el Bullí. As a matter of fact, you were the only person who even knew I had that reservation."

Clint rolls over and props himself on his elbow so he can look Natasha in the eye. "You know what I can't figure out? Nobody can ever make you do anything you don't want to do. Dares, bets, whatever -- if you don't want to do something, you don't. Period."

Natasha snorts. "Are you saying I want to audition for this?"

Clint shrugs his shoulders. "I'm saying Red Room took you when you were nine, and they never asked you what you wanted to do. And then you went to work for SHIELD, and you never took a day off unless medical made you. I'm saying it's okay if you want to do something stupid for fun."

Natasha leans back against the pillows and rubs a hand over her face. Apparently this the world she lives in. Nick Fury is dead and comes back to life. SHIELD is HYDRA, and HYDRA is alive but SHIELD is dead. And she, apparently, auditions for reality TV shows. "I guess I'd better learn how to braise beef testicles."

At that, Clint sits up. "You know I'm not going to eat those, right?"

Natasha shakes her head. "They're for Stark. Every last experimental one of them."

Clint sinks back against the pillow, relieved. Then he sits up again. "You're not really going to make the ghost pepper curry, right? Because I think it would actually kill us."
I feel we need more of this fic.

Also, I can't help but think of Tony taking the Avengers to El Bulli, mostly because Thor being bewildered and appalled at liquified solids and spherical liquids. *G*
I feel we need more of this fic.

Um, really?! Maybe I'll add a little more to it. It always seems like my most cracked out ideas are most popular for this fandom...

I think a lot of things would be wrong with an Avengers dinner at El Bulli. Bruce would be appalled by the price, Clint (in my head canon, anyway) lives on ramen and pizza, and Tony would have to behave for an extended time period...

Belated return, but this is HILARIOUS. And ridiculously sublime. And HILARIOUS. :)
Haha, I really have no idea what I would do with it if I tried to finish it. A Big Bang length story about a reality show seems a bit excessive, and I think that's what would be required to finish it off...

I did some research about borscht in various parts of the former Soviet Union though, so who knows what will happen?
I actually love this this too. would love to see more of this :)