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Title: Today's Episode Brought To You By The Letter "A"
Fandom(s):
Avengers/Sesame Street
Rating: PG
Word Count: 3017
Spoilers: none
Summary: SHIELD's PR department decides it would be a good idea for the Avengers to appear on Sesame Street. Someone is probably going to get fired for this decision.


“Are we done with the briefing yet?” Tony asked petulantly. “I’ve got actual important things to do.” The rest of the Avengers, seated around a table in a briefing room at SHIELD headquarters glared at him with varying amounts of annoyance, though he thought he saw hints of agreement from everyone except maybe Steve.

“Almost. There’s just one more thing,” Coulson soothed him. “The Avengers have been scheduled in for an appearance on Sesame Street next Tuesday.”

“You wish us to travel to a road paved with sesame seeds?” Thor asked, confused.

“Darcy introduced him to bagels,” Clint whispered to Steve, who was frowning slightly.

“It’s a children’s television program, featuring puppets, that frequently invites celebrities to guest star, and takes place on a fictional street called Sesame Street,” Bruce explained to Thor, who nodded his understanding.

“Ah, I see,” he said. “So we are to be filmed while interacting with these creatures in order to please the subjects of America?”

“Sure,” Tony said, waving a hand, before turning to Steve. “This is a terrible idea.”

“It definitely would send a positive image of the Avengers to the American public, which we kind of need after all the destruction we caused in New York,” Steve said dutifully.

“Hey, we saved New York!” Tony argued.

“SHIELD’s PR department is quite insistent on this,” Coulson answered.

“Sounds like fun to me,” Clint shrugged. The traitor. “What do you have against Sesame Street anyway?” he asked Tony.

Tony flushed a deep red and turned his face away, mumbling something.

“What was that?” Clint pressed.

Tony blushed even deeper, but repeated louder, “I said, I was scared of Cookie Monster.”

“Seriously?” Clint snorted.

“He’s got crazy eyes,” Tony muttered defensively.

Bruce raised a hand. “What about me?” he asked. “If I hulk out on a children’s show…”

“Don’t worry,” Coulson reassured him. “You won’t. And if you do, we’ll take care of it.”

Bruce still looked unhappy, but didn’t push. Tony turned to Natasha, who had been suspiciously quiet. Tony almost suspected her of using her super-secret ninja spy powers to try to disappear; sure enough, she was far closer to the door than she’d been last time he’d looked at her.

“Please tell me you’re not okay with this,” he implored.

She glared at him for revealing her, as they all turned to look. “I’m not,” she stated flatly. “I’m a spy. I can’t be on television. Especially not children’s television.”

“Natasha…” Steve began, but was interrupted by Coulson.

“Into my office,” he ordered. The face she made as she followed in would have been called a pout if anyone else had been making it, although no one would dare call Natasha out on it.

Fifteen minutes later, she stormed back out, mouth set, eyes furious, and stalked off without saying a word. Coulson followed a minute later. “She’ll do it,” he announced.

Tony threw up his hands. “Great,” he exclaimed. “Just great.” Now there was no getting out of it.

***

Before they began filming, the Avengers were given a tour of the Sesame Street set, complete with introductions to the puppets. Thor, who had watched several episodes of the show in preparation for appearing on it, and had fallen in love with all of the characters, was extremely disappointed to discover that not only was the set indoors rather than on an actual street, but the buildings were merely wooden facades with nothing behind them.

Steve took it upon himself to explain to the angry god that television shows were, in fact not real, and neither were movies, and that he’d actually made some himself many years ago. He regretted it a moment later when Thor, easily distracted, immediately insisted on watching them that evening, and everyone else agreed. Unsurprisingly, it turned out that Coulson owned all of them on DVD.

Privately, though, Steve was unsettled by the alien-looking fancy cameras and bright lights. He couldn’t help thinking cynically that propaganda had barely changed since his own time. Steve had hoped to never again be turned into a dancing monkey, but it seemed that he was destined for disappointment.

Tony initially pretended to be bored, but soon gave in to his delight at seeing the sets and props up close. He and Clint, who wanted to poke everything, had to be continually reigned in by Coulson; unfortunately, that left Thor free to try to communicate with all of the puppets that they passed, whether or not they were currently being controlled by a human being.

Bruce, who was studiously not looking around, and was breathing very carefully, caught Natasha, as she surreptitiously fell to the back of the group and tried to slip away. “I don’t want to be here either,” he murmured to her. “Please don’t make this any worse than it has to be.”

She eyed him warily, noting how strained he was already, and nodded. Ahead of them, Thor paused to offer Super Grover his hammer, wrapping the tiny hands around the hilt. “Somebody did explain to him the concept of a puppet, right?” she whispered to Bruce, amused in spite of herself.

Thor gave a cry of dismay as Grover plummeted to the ground under Mjolnir’s weight, and tried vainly to replace the puppet’s helmet, which had fallen off and rolled underneath an expensive and fragile-looking piece of camera equipment.

“Never mind.”

***

After the tour, they had a brief meeting with the director, who explained that they would be filmed one at a time, and that while they were not on camera to please be quiet and respectful. He had to repeat this lecture several times, as Clint and Tony kept wandering off to play with the props and set pieces.

“All right, let’s start with Captain America,” the director announced, rubbing his hands together. “His part should go well at least,” he muttered to himself.

***

“What do you want me to do?” Steve asked, fidgeting slightly. The Avengers hadn’t been given scripts, since someone high up had realized that they probably wouldn’t stick to them anyway, but it made Steve unaccountably nervous to be forced to improvise.

“Just stand here,” the director said, pointing to a piece of tape on the floor in front of a table covered with art supplies, and next to a yellow bird that was taller than Steve. “You and Big Bird are going to draw something together.”

“Is there anything in particular that you want us to draw?” Steve asked, feeling a little better. He could handle just drawing. Although he wasn’t sure how the puppet was supposed to hold a pen in its wings.

“I don’t know. Something patriotic,” the director waved his hands carelessly.

“Sure,” Steve agreed.

“Action!” called the director, and Steve picked up a pencil and began sketching a bald eagle perching on the Statue of Liberty because hey, you couldn’t get much more patriotic than that. Next to him, Big Bird awkwardly fumbled with a crayon, trying to draw what might have been Steve’s shield. Or it may have been a turkey. He wasn’t really sure.

As they worked, Big Bird chatted with Steve about what a great country America was, and what Steve had done lately to save the world. He was starting to relax when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a gigantic brown vaguely elephantine monster with a huge trunk appear from behind a set piece, and begin waddling over.

Steve panicked. Searching around frantically for a weapon, his eyes lighted on a garbage can lid, which he snatched up, ignoring the angry-looking green puppet underneath, and hurled with pinpoint accuracy at the approaching beast.

The lid struck both front legs, which immediately crumpled to the ground, taking the rest of the body with them. Instead of a beastly groan, though, the monster let out a very human-sounding and surprised yelp, and abruptly started bulging in alarming directions so violently that the head fell off, revealing a human inside.

“The fuck, man?” the puppeteer said, aggressive, but was unable to get enough of his costume off to be able to confront a rapidly-reddening Steve, who was staring at him open-mouthed.

“I’m so sorry!” Steve exclaimed. “I thought...” he trailed off, embarrassed. “Sorry!” he repeated.

“Whatever, man,” the actor grumbled, and attempted to stalk off (a difficult feat in his costume).

Steve turned back to the director, who was also fairly red, and was viciously massaging behind one eye. “Okay,” the man said. “Let’s pick up from where we left off.”

***

“Hey, ‘Tasha!” Clint called out. “Look what I’ve found!” Natasha rolled her eyes, but went over to see. He held up a hideously neon pink muppet in a baby bonnet and onesie for her inspection.

“Her name’s Natasha!” he exclaimed triumphantly. “Does she look kinda high to you?”

***

“And do you know what comes after five?” Count von Count asked Tony encouragingly.

Tony stared at the puppet in disbelief. “Are you fucking serious?” he asked.

“Cut!” shouted the director. He scuttled over to Tony. “You know you’re not allowed to…swear on a children’s show, right?” he said apologetically.

In a tightly controlled voice, Tony replied, “I’m sitting on a garishly painted block of wood, talking to a puppet with a ridiculous voice when I can see the guy manipulating him RIGHT THERE, and it’s asking me if I know how to count to ten. I have been able to do complex equations in my head since I was like eight years old. I will answer it as I see fit.”

“Look, it’s fine,” said the puppeteer tiredly, poking his head up. “Let’s just get this done.”

He ducked back down. “That’s right!” the Count exclaimed, as though Tony had answered the question correctly, and then he let out an impressively maniacal laugh. A crack of thunder accompanied the laugh, and the studio lights flickered to represent lightning.

Thor appeared from behind a row of fake buildings. “Who did that?” he demanded.

A terrified-looking young woman seated in front of a complicated electrical board raised her hand timidly.

“Show me how!” he ordered. The woman showed him which buttons to press, and he took great delight in pressing every single one on the board in rapid succession. Tony took advantage of the flashing lights and horrible cacophony to make his escape, slipping off to find Bruce and/or the snack cart.

“Your false lightning is no match for that of Thor!” the god declared proudly, and prepared to lift his hammer to call down a true thunderstorm, but was stopped by the director frantically waving his arms and shouting “No, no, stop!”

Frowning, Thor lowered his arm. “Your part is later! It can be about weather if you want,” the director assured him. “Just be patient. Please don’t call down lightning right now.”

“Very well,” said Thor. “I shall await my turn eagerly.” He inclined his head to the shell-shocked soundboard woman, and left.

The director sighed and looked around. “Great, where did Stark go?” he asked.

***

A young runner approached Steve hesitantly. Steve smiled at him wearily, and watched the kid visibly pluck up the courage to come over and talk to him. “It’s a real pleasure to have you all here today. I’m a huge Captain America fan,” he told Steve.

“That’s great,” Steve smiled. “It’s been an… interesting experience so far.”

“Does it make you nostalgic?” the kid asked Steve. “ ’Cause Sesame Street’s been going on for like a hundred years, so you probably saw it when you were growing up too, right?”

Steve looked uncomfortable. “Actually, there wasn’t really television at all when I was young. I mean, I knew tv’s existed, but the first time I actually saw one was at the 1939 World’s Fair when I was seventeen.”

The kid was shocked. “Whoa!” he exclaimed. “What did you do for fun, then?”

“Listened to the radio, mostly. Tried to play stickball. Got beaten up…”

“Oh. Right,” the kid said, visibly crestfallen at his failed attempt to make conversation. “I’d better be getting back to work.”

***

“Archery competition with a couple of puppets?” Clint shrugged. “Sounds fine to me. Where are we doing it?” He looked around the tiny apartment set skeptically.

“Right here!” declared Ernie, bouncing a little with excitement. He took the miniature bow off of his back and clumsily began to nock an arrow.

“I don’t think that’s such a great idea, Ernie,” Bert warned, standing against the far wall – five feet away at most. There was a plastic apple taped to the top of his head.

Ernie shrugged off his friend’s concern, though. “It’ll be fine, Bert, you’ll see,” he assured the other muppet. Bert grumbled a bit but stayed where he was. “Ready?” Ernie asked Clint, who had been getting a feel for the bow and arrows that one of the crew had handed to him. Clint nodded.

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Bert asked plaintively.

Ernie nodded. “Of course I do,” he responded, and loosed an arrow. It fell straight down to the ground by his feet. Bert breathed an exaggerated sigh of relief.

“Oh well,” Ernie said. “Your turn!” he announced, turning to Clint.

Clint grinned in a way that should have had everyone nearby ducking for cover, and shot an arrow almost lazily. It speared the apple neatly, and continued on through the flimsy fake wall behind the muppet. Someone in the distance gave a muffled shout.

“Oops,” Clint said, wincing a little.

***

Steve found Bruce pacing near the door to the studio.

“You okay, Banner?” Steve asked.

“Yeah,” Bruce muttered, tugging absentmindedly at his shirt collar. “It’s just kind of hot in here under the lights.”

“I could ask them to turn them down,” Steve offered.

“No, it’s fine,” said Bruce with a small smile. “I have it under control. Although, I’d appreciate it if there weren’t so many people yelling at Thor and Clint. And Tony.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” promised Steve.

***

Grover stood on a small stage in front of a curtain. “And now, we have not one, but two guest stars together!” he said into a microphone. “Here to demonstrate the art of karate: Black Widow and the one and only Miss Piggy! Yay!”

He bowed and exited quickly as the curtain was drawn back, to reveal Natasha and Miss Piggy facing one another at opposite ends of the stage. Both were wearing identical karate uniforms.

“I’ve been looking forward to challenging you for ages,” Miss Piggy confided shrilly to Natasha.

“That’s…nice,” Natasha said, fidgeting in the too-large uniform.

Miss Piggy bowed to Natasha and waited for her opponent to do the same. Natasha just stood there looking annoyed.

“Fine, then,” Miss Piggy declared, and launched herself at Natasha feet-first with a vicious “Hi-yah!”

Natasha sidestepped neatly and knocked Miss Piggy out of the air with a fist. The puppet fell dramatically, then got to her feet breathing heavily. “I’ll get you for that,” she said, and leapt in the air, attempting to punch Natasha in the face.

Fed up, Natasha slammed Miss Piggy down again, and then grabbed the puppeteer’s collar and lifted him up so that he was face-to-face with her.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Please don’t hurt me!” the man begged. Natasha took a long look at him, then sneered and dropped him to the ground.

“I’m done,” she said, and stalked off the set.

***

“Barton, there are sandwiches and snacks right over there. You don’t need to be eating Cookie Monster’s cookies. Seriously, you don’t even know how long those have been sitting out there.”

Clint shrugged off Coulson’s complaint, and held one out. “They’re good. Try one.”

***

“Today’s lesson is about weather!” Elmo announced brightly. “This is my special guest, Thor, the Norse god of thunder and lightning.” Thor grinned and waved to the camera eagerly.

“Thunderstorms are usually caused by the meeting of warm and cold air. I know thunder and lightning can be scary, but Thor is here to show all of us that they can be exciting as well.”

“I shall prove to you that my powers are greater than those of your Count,” Thor promised. He raised his hammer and concentrated briefly. Lightning immediately crackled down from the sky, blasting through the roof, to ground itself in Mjolnir.

Thor stood there triumphantly oblivious to the chaos surrounding him, as the film crew panicked and ran, trying to evade the large chunks of falling ceiling. Somewhere nearby, there was a deep roar as Bruce finally lost the last vestiges of his calm, and let the Other Guy loose.

***

Bruce awoke on a remarkably comfortable couch. The rest of the team, plus Coulson, were gathered around talking quietly, but they broke off when he groaned a bit and sat up.

“What happened?” Bruce asked, rubbing his head absently.

“I guess everything got a little overwhelming for you when Thor broke the ceiling, and you kind of hulked out,” answered Steve. “They turned off the cameras and evacuated the studio, so don’t worry about that. He didn’t even smash the studio that much. Actually, he spent most of the time talking to Oscar the Grouch. They really seemed to hit it off. Oh, and Kermit was here visiting with Miss Piggy, and he sang ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green,’ which Hulk seemed to appreciate.”

“Oh,” said Bruce. “That’s good, I guess.” He looked down. “Hey, Tony!” he said. “Your stretchy pants worked!”

“Of course they did,” Tony said smugly.

“We’re done, right?” Natasha asked Coulson.

Coulson sighed heavily. “Yeah, you’re done,” he answered. “You can all go home. A SHIELD team will be here shortly to clean up the mess.”

Natasha nodded and disappeared immediately. The rest left more slowly. “Sorry,” Steve apologized to Coulson on the way out.

“It’s all right,” Coulson said, rubbing his forehead wearily. “The Fantastic Four are scheduled to be on next week. I’m sure they’re going to be much worse.”

***

Director Fury,

I told you it was a bad idea.

-Phil Coulson


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