Disclaimer: The Avengers characters are not mine, just borrowed for this story.
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A/N: Warnings for emotional content and dark tones of story. If you have any concerns or questions please message me and I can give you more details.
No Rest for the Wicked
Bruce stared at the cupboard blankly, not sure what was going to relieve the slight headache that was threatening to take hold. It had been a relatively calm month, allowing for the team to enjoy taking the time to do simple things or even better, nothing at all. Needing a much desired break from staring at research notes and mathematical formulas, Banner had decided to take advantage of the many quiet places around Stark Tower.
With a gentle breeze on his face and the sun warming his back, Bruce had set up camp on the balcony with his chess board. His solitude hadn't lasted long as Thor wandered out requesting that the doctor give him yet another chance at the Midgardian game of strategy. Against better judgment and personal experience, Bruce agreed to give teaching chess to the god of thunder one more go. A decision he was once again regretting as he finally pulled out a box of tea from the cupboard and began to boil some water.
Carrying his tea to the living room, he flopped down in corner of the large leather couch releasing a long pent up sigh. Teaching Thor to play chess should not be as stressful as it always turned out to be.
"For a man with nothing to do the last few weeks, you look a little frazzled doctor," commented Natasha.
Bruce looked up to find she had placed a bookmark in her book, giving him her full attention while Clint continued to fiddle with the fletching on one of his arrows while simultaneously bouncing a rubber ball around the room with his other hand; a task made even more impressive by the fact that he never actually looked at the ball.
"I was trying to teach Thor how to play chess. For someone who was raised with battle strategies, I can't figure out why he can't pick this up."
Before Natasha could reply with more than a coy smile, Barton piped up. "He's fucking with you."
"Come again?" asked Banner trying to keep up with the new direction of the conversation.
"Jane taught him to play a long time ago. He's awesome at it; gave Natasha a good run for her money a few times," added Clint with sadistic joy.
A confused look washed over Bruce's face as he reexamined all of the times he and Thor had sat around the chessboard. His questioning of the universe was put on hold as the bickering of Pepper and Tony announced the arrival of the elevator to the common floor. Pepper led the charge with Tony trailing behind still engaged in their discussion, undeterred by the fact that company was present.
"Sit!" she ordered, pointing at the couch and waiting expectantly for compliance with her best CEO glower.
Tony complied, hobbling over with an heir of defiance despite his capitulation. He maneuvered himself down, placing his crutches on the ground beside him.
"What happened?" asked Bruce, slightly alarmed at his friend's current state. The pair had taken a pre-honeymoon in preparation for their future nuptials and both were healthy upon leaving. Though they had yet to set a date, Tony and Pepper were more than willing to show the world how enthralled in the honeymoon stage they were.
"We had to cut our trip to Canmore a little short," started Pepper.
"A little accident on the slopes. Small break, should heal in a couple of weeks," interrupted Tony.
"I thought you were good at skiing, Stark," snorted Natasha.
"Accidents happen," the billionaire defended.
Pepper grabbed one of the throw pillows off of the recliner and fluffed it before placing it on the stool she propped Tony's leg up on. "Especially when you have your eyes glued to the scantily clad ass of the snow bunny in front of you instead of what you're doing," she chastised.
"I wasn't checking out her ass I…"he protested, only to trail off at the sight of Pepper's disbelieving, 'I've heard it all before' look. "I might have glanced at it," he mumbled in defeat.
"Right," chuckled Potts. Turning to Bruce her hard stare softened as she asked, "Could I borrow you for a second?"
"Sure," replied Banner, taking one long sip to empty his cup. The two headed back towards the elevator, joined by Natasha who had also excused herself from the living room under the claim of not wanting to hear about the theoretical conquest of snow bunnies. To Stark's credit, he was completely faithful and dedicated to his relationship, but playing the part of the playboy was so ingrained that Pepper's continued presence had done nothing to curb his continuous flirting with anything that moved.
Tony settled into the couch, mentally going over how he was going to overcome his current difficulty in his daily life. Most things could be carried out by others, Happy would have to do all of the driving and the team would have to start working out contingency plans to fill in Iron Man's hole. Immediately designs started running through the inventor's head for plans to alter the suit to support his current situation. His brilliance was interrupted by a constant repetitive thwack.
Stark cracked one eye open to catch a yellow and purple blur whiz by his head to land in Barton's hand only to be redirected against another wall via ricochet off the bookshelf, coffee table and textbook left on the floor. He let out an audible sigh, hoping to convey his growing irritation at the repetitive noise.
Clint continued to fiddle with his arrow while entering configurations into his laptop, undeterred by his companion.
Tony ground his teeth together. It was just too much effort to get up and move, especially after his flight.
Stark cleared his throat, but Barton failed to glance in his direction.
Tony reached up and snatched the ball before it made its way gracefully back into the archer's hand. Clint looked up, his eyes betraying how long he had been staring at the screen. Stark held up the ball, erasing the traces of bewilderment on Barton's face.
"What are you doing?" Tony nodded towards the computer.
"Designs for some new arrows I want R and D to take a look at. The more specific I make my demands, the more likely I'll get something I can use. It doesn't hurt to have as much of the ground work done as possible; I might actually get the prototype back in a timely manner."
"Don't you usually squirrel away somewhere and do that? Like that apartment of yours you think I don't know about?"
Clint rolled his eyes. "I know you know about the apartment."
"I'll try not to be offended," mocked Tony. He understood the need to get away from the chaos that had become their lives and just exist in a space that was completely one's own and not property of Stark Industries.
"I think the Stockholm syndrome has kicked in," the archer offered conversationally. "Leaving has little appeal these days."
"Now I really don't know if I should be touched or insulted."
"Oh, you've always been touched Stark."
"Well you know what they say about owning birds," posed Tony.
Barton's brow wrinkled slightly. "Put newspaper down?" he snorted.
"If they come back to you then they truly belong to you," Tony corrected with an evil smirk.
"I'm not your property Stark. Last time I checked I didn't have the Stark Industries logo tattooed to my ass," quipped Barton.
"When was the last time you checked?"
Their banter was interrupted by the alarm and JARVIS summoning the team to action. "Duty calls," offered Barton as he jumped up from the couch. He didn't say anything as Stark followed him into the elevator. Having been sidelined more than a few times himself, Clint understood needing to be included, so he wasn't going to be the one to remind Tony he wasn't exactly fit for duty at the moment. He'd let Steve be the one to enforce that reality; one of the benefits of not being the team leader.
"What's our status?" asked Captain America as he approached the group of SHIELD agents that had secured the scene. The rest of the Avengers trailed behind him, even Stark who managed to talk his way into joining the team under the provision of not suiting up.
One of the younger agents snapped to attention, going rigidly stiff in the presence of such an icon as the Captain. The agent in charge greeted them casually, having little interest in such fanfare. "Captain. Officially, we have ourselves a hostage situation," he offered.
"And unofficially?" interrupted Barton, stepping up next to Rogers.
"Some wannabe megalomaniac has delusions of world conquest and thinks he's going to achieve that by blowing the building all to hell with something he's lovingly referring to as the decimator. Catchy isn't it? Seriously I don't know what rock these whack jobs crawl out from," added the agent with a chuckle. "I must be getting close to retirement." Turning to his subordinates he tipped his head towards Hawkeye and added, "If we can turn this punk into a bona fide hero, there's hope we can turn you all into actual agents, now get to work." The conglomerate of newly minted agents scurried away like cockroaches exposed to light.
"Brody," smiled Clint, warm and familiar.
"Awe, I'm touched that you still remember my name. It's nice that you haven't forgotten all the little people now that you're a rock star," teased Rylan, slapping a hand on Clint's shoulder.
"What exactly are we up against Agent Brody," interjected Romanoff, all business.
"Oh, I missed you too, Natty." Agent Brody quickly turned and marched over to the open back door of a mobile command van and reached in to pull out a tablet.
Tony, who had managed to talk his way into coming to serve in a tech/moral support capacity, was glad he hadn't missed this. The pinched expression on the assassin's face or the way she dug her nails painfully into her folded arms at being called 'Natty' was hard to overlook. Stark winced in sympathy as he awkwardly maneuvered himself to almost press against Romanoff's side. He whispered loud enough for Banner, Thor and Rogers to hear, but not Barton who had wandered towards the van. "I called you Nat last week and you threatened to disembowel me with a spoon. Now I get you and Bird Boy have this weird, messy, unrequited love, soap opera thing going on, and Barton gets certain privileges with nicknames, but this guy? I mean I have to admire the set of balls he must have, but how come he gets a dismemberment free pass?"
Without batting an eye, she grit out, "He's only alive because Barton wishes it."
"Guys, we have more important things to focus on right now," injected Rogers, leading the charge to catch up to Barton and Brody.
Tony waited until everyone had moved passed him before tapping his comm. connection to his AI. "JARVIS, let's pull up everything SHIELD has to offer on our scene agent in charge, shall we. There's a story there and I can't come up with the appropriate taunting if I don't have all the facts."
"Very well sir," sighed JARVIS with a hint of something that sounded like a frustrated parent caving to a stubborn child.
"We've got the building surround and the ground floor secure but the bomb is up on the sixtieth floor. They have enough fire power that we could use the extra hands to secure the device and round up perpetrators," explained Brody, pointing to the diagram of the building.
"Thor, you take the roof and work your way down. They have a helicopter up there, let's make sure they don't have it to escape. Dr Banner, I want you with a SHIELD team covering the south side of the building in case they try and make a run for it. Barton, I want you on the sixtieth floor of the neighboring building, get a line of sight in case we need to take a target out in a hurry. Widow, you and I will start at the bottom and work our way up to their strong hold. Brody, you're teams will support us," dictated Captain America. "And Stark, stay in the van and out of the way."
The team accepted their order and hurried to get to their positions, except Tony, who started to protest, but quickly switched to grumbling to himself as he hobbled towards the van.
"You guys have fun. Tony, listen to the sitter, and Brody, make sure he's in bed by nine and try not to kill him," called the archer.
"Why don't you go annoy some bad guys," snarked Stark, turning around to glare at Clint. "Oh hey," he added reaching into his pocket, "here's your kiddie toy back." He tossed the rubber ball at Barton who caught it with a smile before tucking it away in one of his many pockets.
Begrudgingly, the billionaire climbed into the back of the van. Tony Stark did not do sidelines, but he wasn't going to take time away from saving the day to argue about it. No, he'd tactfully wait until everyone was distracted then weasel his way into the fight. Short of that, he might be able to commandeer control of the ops van and control everything and everyone that way and if all else failed, he could work Agent Brody over for information on Hawkeye and Black Widow: the early years.
Tony sat in the back of the van, idly twirling a pen he pilfered from the agent sitting next to him, only half watching the video feeds and half creepily staring at the agent who was trying to convey their irritation at his presence without actually saying anything. Watching the team, they looked like a well oiled machine that Stark would lovingly tend to in his workshop. It was a far cry from the chaos and excitement of being there in person. Tony didn't like it at all.
Clint hit the emergency stairwell taking the stairs quickly and efficiently. He was just about to move past the forty-eighth floor when he caught sight of an armed man moving about the hall. The small window in the stairwell door only offered a limited glimpse to the immediate area, forcing Clint to gently crack the door open for a better view.
"You two go up to fifty and make sure they're ready to go," ordered one of the men dressed in black tactical gear. The group of men was dressed similar to the ones in the neighboring building. "The rest of us will head to the basement."
Clint waited until the men heading for the basement passed the stairwell door before emerging behind them. It was ten to one and the archer might have felt sorry for them had the team not needed him elsewhere. Silently with his bow, he dispatched the men before most of them could turn around; it was almost like child's play, and entirely too easy.
Pulling one of his shafts free from its target, Barton clicked his radio on. "Um, guys, I think you missed a bunch Brody, there's a whole contingent in this building. A couple were going up, I'm going to follow. Send a team in to check out the basement, that was their rally point."
"Sending in a team for support," replied Brody. "Keep us informed."
Clint took a quick glance around trying to fill in some of the blanks that were suggesting they were woefully unprepared for this engagement. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he pushed down his resignation and took to the stairs once more. He stealthily hit the fiftieth floor, slinking around corners and clearing rooms until he caught sight of the familiar black uniforms.
Barton tapped his comm. "I've got three hostiles. Looks like they're standing around some sort of device," he reported. Wayward lackeys were never a good thing. It tended to lead to counterproductive surprises for those on the side of right.
"Can you tell what it is?" asked Agent Brody from the command van.
"The main component looks like an SI model 38-16A-7." Clint's voice was cool while the tension in his body was anything but. His bow at the ready, all he had to do was uncurl his fingers, a simple action for something that was going to produce deadly results. Fortunately for them, they had set up some kind of energy field protecting them from the rest of the world. "Looks like we have a second bomb to contend with."
In the control van, Stark sat up straight, suddenly more interested in a battle he'd been sidelined from. "One of mine?" he sputtered, without really needing an answer as to the origin of the bomb or its capabilities.
Clint rolled his eyes at Tony's outburst on the comms. "Yeah, can't tell what they've added to it though."
"Give me eyes on it," ordered the billionaire, cutting off Brody before he could utter a symbol. He had to bite down on his intrigue; half-wits attempting to mess with perfection was always good for a laugh, but the situation wasn't a recovery op after the fact, this was right now and the potential to harm innocent people, never mind a friend, was very high.
"Can't get close enough to get a decent look. They've got an energy field protecting the room." The gentle buzz was unmistakable and at the moment the only thing keeping the three men from getting better acquainted with Hawkeye's arrow. "Hold on," snapped the archer.
A fourth man appeared in the hallway, pausing in front of the field with a squirming child tightly in his grasp. Clint knew what protocol would dictate; wait for a better opportunity to secure the main objective. He also knew they were about to put a kid in a room with what was likely an enhanced bomb and his ticket was now or never.
Putting his arrow back in his quiver and securing his bow, he sprung into action the second they dropped the field to let their companion in. Bolting forward with enough speed, he dropped to the ground, sliding across the floor, clearing the field mere seconds before they brought it back up. Before Clint came to a stop, he pulled his gun out of his side holster and put one between the eyes of the first hostile in his path.
Barton was able to take out another one before the remaining two managed to piece together what was happening and bring their own weapons to bear. With a roll, the archer put himself behind the structure the bomb was sitting on. He sat there, gun held close and tight, listening for any clues on his targets' specific locations when a hail storm of bullets descended upon him. "Damn idiots are shooting at the bomb," he bit out on the comm.
"Hang on, I'll redirect someone to your position," advised Brody, before turning around to see why Stark was making a bunch of noise. Covering the mic he asked the flailing inventor, "What the hell are you doing?"
"What's it look like?" snapped Tony, reaching , fingers out stretched as far as possible to try and grab one of his crutches that someone had thoughtlessly moved just out of reach. "Hawkeye needs help."
"And what are you going to do about it? You can barely walk, let alone fight."
Waving off the observation, as accurate as it might be, Stark pulled out his phone. "JARVIS, I need a suit," commanded the inventor.
"Sir?" replied the AI hesitantly.
"I'll make adjustments on the fly, hell, I'll go without a boot on that foot if I have to, just send me something!" The words were more desperate than he wanted them to be. Looking down at his cast with utter distain, a million ideas flashed through his head; none of them would be able to help him assist Hawkeye at the moment.