A/N: Alas, the long-awaited sequel to "Bungle in the Jungle" (posted on Victoria LeRoux's page)! Fair warning, this is not going to turn out at all like any of you are expecting, lol! In fact, I'll call it more of an interlude instead of a sequel... It'll make sense, I promise!
So this is yet another Round Robin creation between Red Tigress, Victoria LeRoux, and myself crafted over on TBB (link in my profile). It's a bit of fun and ridiculousness, and in case you couldn't figure it out, it was obviously written prior to seeing the movie so we were not yet privy to certain events that I shall probably choose to ignore in the future, anyway (I hate you, Joss Whedon, and your love of death!...Not really, I love you, but still... WHYYYYYY?)
(and warning for language in case that offends anyone)
"Agent Barton, you have a package waiti-"
"Thanks, Jarvis," Clint interrupted as he shot up - or, more like awkwardly hopped up - from his chair, tossing the magazine he was reading to one side of his already messy room. It wasn't his fault his room was a trash heap. It was hard to keep things tidy when he had only one functioning leg and was under strict doctor's orders not to overuse his shoulder just yet. He had only been out of the sling for a couple days, after all. He wholeheartedly believed that all the lifting he'd be required to do in order to clean his mess would be too taxing on the still healing tendons around the joint.
Tucking his crutch under his good arm, he hobbled as fast as he could down the hall towards the elevator. He nearly plowed over Steve as the Captain was stepping out onto his floor.
"Whoa, Clint, what's the rush?" Rogers asked.
"Got a package," Clint answered excitedly, and pushed the button for the door to close.
Steve shook his head. If the archer was that excited about something he was getting in the mail...
"Oh, no. Clint!"
It was too late. The elevator was quickly making its descent down to the first floor. This called for drastic measures.
"Jarvis, call Tony," Steve ordered.
A second later, Stark's voice filtered through the speaker system. "What's up?"
"You're downstairs, right?"
"Yeeeesssss," Tony drew out, clearly confused.
"There's a package waiting for Clint at the door. You can't let him have it." The words tumbled out of Steve's mouth in a panicked rush.
The Captain let his head thunk against the elevator doors. There wasn't time for this. "He's excited, Tony. What's the only thing Clint ever gets in the mail that he's excited about?"
It sunk in. "Oh, shit."
"Yeah. You have to get that package."
"I'm on it."
The link clicked off and Steve sighed in relief. Barton, under no circumstances, could be allowed to get his hands on that new bow.
Clint hobbled as fast as he could down the hallway. He knew he shouldn't even be trying to shoot a bow, but he missed the feel of the string against his face, the way it pulled on his fingers, how his back muscles settled smoothly into place when he drew it, the lightness and balance of the limbs...
He was practically drooling in anticipation.
He saw the deliveryman in the foyer, but a flash of hotrod red caught his eye. Tony, in his cast, was already signing for it, holding his bow under his arm. As Tony finished, he turned around and must have seen Clint's maddened visage, because his eyes widened and he started briskly walking in the opposite direction.
"Tony, you get your ass back here!" He heard a giggle from Tony's rapidly disappearing form.
The delivery guy was turning to leave, but Clint hobbled up and grabbed the pen out of his hand. As he watched Tony's disappearing form, he wanted to chuck something with a little more heft, but the pen would do.
Aiming, he launched the pen at Tony's head and was rewarded with a cry of surprise and pain as the pen hit him with an audible thunk, causing him to stumble forward. He turned back angrily. "Goddamn it, Clint, we're trying to help you!" Clint hobbled as fast as he could towards Tony.
"I don't need a babysitter," he growled.
"I'm not babysitting you, I am stealing from you," Tony explained.
"Oh really, what are you going to do with a bow?"
"I do have pretty good aim you know."
"You have a targeting system."
"That's only...look...I don't use that all the time..." Clint took the opportunity to rip the box out of Tony's hands, drop the crutch, and start hopping down the hall.
"Now that's just sad," Tony sighed. "Clint, don't make me tackle you."
"You're not...gonna tackle me..." Barton huffed as he hopped along.
Tony began just sort of speed walking after the archer. "Okay, you're probably right, but I'm still taking that back."
Hearing Stark getting closer, Clint realized his plan of escape was probably not the most brilliant one. He tried for another tactic and pressed his back against the wall for balance, then wrapped his arms around the box, hugging it tightly to his chest.
Tony stopped in front of him, giving him an I can't believe you're really doing this look. "You're like a five year old. Seriously. Give me the toy."
"Clint, I will knock you unconsciousness and pry it out of your death grip if I need to."
Clint simply stared at him and clenched the box tighter, challenging him to try it.
"Okay, this is ridic-"
Tony grabbed for the package, but Barton held firm, trying to twist his body out of the grabby hands without falling over in the process. Between the arm and leg casts, it became sort of an awkward wrestling match where both men fought not to lose the prize, but at the same time were trying not to actually hurt each other in the process.
Steve caught up to them, stopping to stare for a second at the odd "fight".
"Ow, ow, ow," they were both muttering softly.
"Oh my god," Steve sighed. Maybe sending Tony after the bow hadn't been the best idea.
He walked up, shoved the two apart, and snatched the box away. Staring pointedly at Clint, he simply said, "I'm hiding this until your doctor says you can use it," and walked away.
"Ha!" Tony said triumphantly.
Clint flipped him off and sulkily stomped - hopped - back to his crutch. "I hate you all," he muttered as he scooped it off the floor, and slowly made his way back to the elevator, pressing the button to the floor where his room was.
And now Tony felt bad.
A few hours later, Clint was sulking in his room, surfing the internet on his laptop dully as he read about celebrity gossip (including a bit on the Avengers). He should probably shower, considering the sweatpants and t-shirt he was in were now a little bit wet from his brief exercise and consequent "fight" with Stark. But he really didn't feel like wrapping the garbage bag around his leg and trying not to slip and all manner of other complications that came with trying not to get a cast wet.
The door to his room swung inward and hit the wall with a crash, and Clint sat up quickly, alarmed. Tony Stark was standing there, looking smug.
Clint rubbed a hand over his face. "Jesus, Tony, don't you knock?"
"Not in my own house."
"But it's not your room."
"It is if I own it," he said.
Clint glared. "What do you want?"
Tony, who had been holding one arm out of sight behind the doorframe, smiled and pulled out a Nerf bow with about 20 foam "arrows" attached.
Clint huffed in amusement. "What is that?" Tony tossed it to him, and Clint caught it with his good arm.
"I think a bet's in order," Tony said, leaning down as he picked up something else from behind the doorframe, pulling it into view. It was a Nerf bazooka that had six barrels full of little foam balls. "Who can peg all of the other Avengers...AND Coulson, if he's slinking around...first."
"How am I supposed to get around AND fire this?" Clint asked.
"Well, first, it has a trigger, you don't actually have to pull it, smartass," Tony pointed out, "and secondly, wheel chairs only. Much as I hate to admit it, I've just about reached my running around quota for the day." Clint only then noticed how Tony had taken to leaning against the doorframe, still recovering from his poisoning and part-time paralysis. He felt a little guilty, but didn't comment because he knew Tony would shut him down immediately.
"Points go for more creative take downs," Tony continued. "Five for the best, one for boring, 'I happened to see him in the hall', things."
"And how will we know who did what?"
"Mr. Stark has appointed me to be the referee and...play back," Jarvis added helpfully.
"Alright, I'm in. Natasha's going to kill you, you know," Clint said, grinning.
"Oh, I know. Starts in five," Tony said, before rushing off. Jarvis displayed a countdown clock on Clint's wall.
There was a huge grin plastered on Clint's face as he got himself ready, his mind pretty much running on thank God, Buddha, Allah, Brahman, Mulungu, the fucking Easter Bunny - whatever otherworldly being took some fucking mercy on me - there's finally something to do!
After dressing in something a little more worthy of stealth mode, he reached into his bedtable drawer and pulled out his meds, taking a quick glance at the clock. It was a little early to take his regular pills, but he didn't want to risk the dull headache that he'd grown accustomed to at this point turning into one of his flash migraines that sometimes hit him during periods of high activity. He popped the prescribed pills, and stashed the other bottle in his pocket containing the ones that worked the best in punching down the pain the fastest. Hopefully he wouldn't have to resort to taking one. They killed the migraines, but also knocked him on his ass for at least three hours. Not helpful in a bet that ran on a time limit.
Next he had to dig out his chair. It had pretty much become a shelf for the clean clothing he had gotten too lazy to put away. He really needed to clean his room...
"Tony can clean it. It's his room," he muttered as he tossed the clothes onto the bed. There were some things on the floor he had to push aside in order to make room to get the chair to the doorway, but he managed. Sitting into it with his weapon in hand, he pushed the switch to make the chair go forward.
He had been so determined not to have to use the damn thing again, he'd neglected to charge the fucker.
"Jarvis, where can I get another battery for the chair?" he asked hurriedly, annoyed at himself for the setback.
"There should be acceptable power sources in the infirmary, in Master Stark's lab, the control center-"
"Where's the closest one?"
"Technically the closest one would be in Master Stark's chair, as he is currently on his way to what appears to be Thor's quarters."
"Bastard started early!" Clint grabbed his crutch and began to move as fast as possible towards where Tony (and his chair with its freshly charged battery) would be. If Tony could play dirty, so could he. "Thanks, Jarvis."
"You're welcome, Agent Barton."
Thor was getting frustrated that he couldn't get his television to work. He found there wasn't a lot that entertained him on Midguard without doing battle, but he always did enjoy learning about Earth's culture through a series of performances nicely packed into a small receiving device. Though some were very strange. He decided he'd had enough and would get someone to explain to him again how it worked, or just see if anyone was watching something else around the common area. As he opened the door to the hallway and stepped outside, something thwacked him in the side of the head. Making a face, he saw a small, yellow ball bouncing away, followed by an amused laugh. He whipped his head around to see Tony Stark sitting in an electrified chair.
"Why did you do that?" he demanded. Tony started snickering, clutching onto his brightly colored gun for dear life. Something else impacted him from the other side of his head then, and he looked down to see a large, soft dart hit the floor, and Clint Barton hobbling towards him on his crutch. "What are you doing?" he demanded again.
Clint ignored him. "Tony, you cheating bastard!"
"Haha, your face!" Tony lost it at the scowl on Thor's face. "Hey..." Tony could barely talk from laughing too hard. "...I hit him first! Yours doesn't...doesn't count! Also, where's your..." he snickered. "...where's your chair?"
Clint hobbled past Thor as the Asgardian just looked at his two teammates with confusion. He moved to the back of Tony's chair, snapping the battery off and grinning savagely.
"Needs the batteries charged," Clint said before hobbling back the way he came. Thor grunted as Clint turned around and shot another toy arrow at his head. "Also, I shot mine first again, it counts!" he shouted. Thor felt another impact in the other side of the head and turned back to Tony, snarling.
"No double dips!" Tony shouted, before realizing there was a snarling Asgardian in front of him. "Wuh oh."
"Tony Stark, I will tear your limbs from your body!"
Tony bolted out of his chair with a "Yiiiiiikes!" before running in the direction of his lab to find and extra battery. He'd give Clint this one, he probably had a little more fuel and a non-busted leg to outrun Thor AND get back to his chair with a battery.
Clint tried to ignore the fact that the Nerf bow Tony had given him was mostly pink as he stealthily maneuvered his now-functional wheelchair down the hallway. It hadn't been too difficult to replace the batteries once he'd gotten back to his room and had only wasted just a few minutes of his time. He took comfort in the fact that Tony had jumped the gun on starting, because it meant he held no guilt for not waiting for the cheating bastard.
He was in stealth mode now. He had to be to catch this target. If there was the slightest indicator this was a trap... Well, he didn't want to consider the consequences.
Squeeeak. Squeeak. Sque-
Clint stopped rolling as he heard someone shift inside Natasha's room.
Checking that his ammunition was in place, Clint readied himself.
It was better to die quickly at the hands of Natasha than to start with the Hulk, who would probably rip him to pieces. Now that he thought about it, it would probably be wise to go after the Hulk if Natasha started chasing after him. At least she might be able to collect the various scraps of Clint that would inevitably end up scattered across the hallway.
Clint rolled forward another foot.
The wheelchair let out another long squeak as it slid across the polished floors. Clint was going to have to speak to Tony about this - it wasn't fair that he was stuck with the inferior merchandise.
There was the sound of light footfalls on the other side of the door. Natasha was probably readying herself for battle, her knives drawn, garrote looped around her hands.
Clint let out a gulp. This was starting to look like an even worse idea the longer he hesitated.
Think positive thoughts. Fast death. Fast death. Painless death. Broken neck. Fast death. No more headache. Fast death.
He had to lure her out, he knew. He had to treat her like he'd treat a terrorist with an army behind him. He could hear the sound of Tony's wheelchair approaching. Stark had retrieved his transportation faster than he thought - supposedly, he could move pretty fast with the proper motivation.
Crap. That meant Thor was likely behind him.
Now or never, the archer realized, his (fake) bow clenched in his slightly trembling hands.
Right. Lure her out. It would be like luring out a lion to sniff at a dead deer. Then he'd be poking said lion with a pointy stick.
The archer paused, then let out a groan that wasn't hard to fake. He'd seemed to be groaning a lot lately, and he never believed he'd use it for something like this.
"Barton?" Natasha asked, her footsteps shifting slightly. Clint hoped to hell that she'd put the garrote away. He could see her shadow shifting slightly and he cautiously lowered himself to the ground, letting his foot thump. "Did you fall?"
"Ow," he mumbled. Come on, Natasha. Just step into sight.
The door cracked open an inch, and Natasha's head hesitantly peered around the door frame. She sighed when she saw Clint on the ground, and she opened her mouth to presumably scold him.
Clint let fire, the first bolt taking her by such surprise that she barely had time to yank her head behind the door before it pinged against the frame. He quickly scrambled up into his wheelchair, cursing as he tried to get into position. There was the sound of a bullet pinging into the ground as Natasha reacted instinctively, and Clint remembered why this had seemed like such a bad idea.
He could hear her lunging at him - desperately, he whirled and let off another shot that bounced off her shoulder and drew his eyes to -
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, he thought in horror. He'd interrupted Natasha in the shower.
And now, a very angry, towel-clad Black Widow was rapidly approaching.
"Faster, faster, faster," he puffed as he tried to get the wheelchair to move. "It was Tony's idea!" he yelled as he swerved the corner.
Tony looked back, relieved to see that Thor had apparently decided not to keep searching for him. It was just a few Nerf projectiles. He'd get over it.
Or he just got distracted by something shiny and would remember to kill Tony later...
No matter, that was later and this was now, and now was war time. There was a bet on the line, after all.
Having just taken corners on a whim as he tried to shake the Asgardian off his tail, he realized he was conveniently close to Natasha's room. "Waste not, want not," he said with a shrug, and geared the chair in the direction of her hallway. He had almost turned the bend when he heard a gun being fired, followed by Clint's frantic shout proclaiming him to be the guilty one.
"That was low, Clint," he muttered, squinting his eyes in hopes of sending mental death beams into Barton's head.
He'd come back for Natasha another time. She'd be impossible to hit now, especially if she still had that gun in her hand.
Changing direction, he thought on the best possible way to return the favor on the archer. Clint had made Natasha practically out of reach for him now. Tony needed to do likewise with one of the others.
Locating the Captain in the study, he hung the Nerf gun so that it stayed hidden behind the back of his chair, and casually rolled in.
"So...you tucked that bow away in a secure place?" he asked, pretending to be interested in a random book that just happened to be at his face level.
"He won't find it," Rogers assured him.
Tony pulled the book off the shelf and flipped it open. "He seems to think he will."
"Is he looking for it?"
"It. You. Anything that'll lead him to it. He's going about it all discreetly, of course." Stark put the book back and looked at Steve very seriously. "I'd avoid him at all costs. One wrong move on your part and he'll read you like these books. He's sneaky like that."
Blowing out long sigh, Steve shook his head in frustration. "Thanks, Tony. I'll try to stay off his radar for a little while."
"Good man. Well, my good deed is done for the day. I'll talk to you later."
He backed the chair away a bit and waited for Steve to turn his back to him. That's when he struck, firing the Nerf ball at the back of Steve's head, then quickly stashing the gun out of sight again.
"Wow! Did you see that?" he exclaimed. "A...b-bird, yes, definitely a bird! It just flew in here and banked right against your head! In and out. I've never seen anything like it."
Steve gave him a doubtful look. Tony shifted his gaze up at the ceiling as if he was searching for the cause of the commotion.
"Jarvis! We have a bird in the house! Locate it immediately, please."
"Sir, the bird appears to be making its way towards the science labs."
"Right, then we'll just have to contain it there. Don't worry, Captain, it's all under control."
"Riiiight." Rubbing the back of his head, Steve turned to his book again despite the fact that he still seemed a little suspicious. Apparently he felt the situation wasn't worth arguing over, which was lucky for Tony.
He let out the breath he was holding, and backed the chair up enough where he could turn it around without Rogers seeing the bazooka. Having just killed two birds with one stone, while coincidentally using the codename he and Jarvis had worked out for keeping an eye on Clint's location, he gave himself a little pat on the back. That was some clever thinking on his end.
"Science labs, huh?" he speculated. "That means he's either after Banner or Coulson." He frowned, hoping Clint wasn't stupid enough to go after Banner just yet. Making the man Hulk out this early in the game would probably bring a pretty swift end to it. He gunned the chair in that direction - an interception was possibly in order just in case Clint was that stupid.
Coulson had just talked to Banner about any of the crystal's properties he may have discovered in the last few days. The results were practically non-existent. Banner had been working on this for weeks straight and had found almost nothing. Coulson couldn't really ask him to do anymore at this point, the man looked overtaxed as it was. He was just closing the door to the lab behind him when he heard a pop, followed by something hitting his head. He slowly looked around, like a predator that had just been antagonized by some lowly life form on the food chain. A few open doors led down the lengths of each side of the hallway. He then looked down, seeing the foam arrow on the floor.
He narrowed his eyes, but said nothing.
Barton, for his part, had his chair pushed against a wall in a dark room, trying not to let his harsh breathing get away from him. Coulson was in his predator mode. Maybe this was a bad idea. He had heard Coulson routinely took people down with things he found in 7-11s. A shadow passed in front of the door of the dark room he was in, and he held his breath as the shadow paused.
After a moment, the shadow moved on and Clint closed his eyes and exhaled briefly.
A fist holding his foam arrow slammed into the wall next to his head and he gave an involuntary "yipe!" as he saw Coulson leaning around the doorframe, head tilted and regarding him with an unreadable expression. Clint's eyes widened in fear.
"Agent Barton," he said quietly. "I trust you have more productive things to be doing with your time." He regarded the bow and the wheelchair casually. "No doubt Mr. Stark put you up to this."
"Um, yes Sir. Yes, he did." Coulson's eyes glanced back down the hallway towards the labs.
"If you feel the need to continue, try not to piss of Banner too much. He's the hardest working one of you all here and he really doesn't deserve what you guys give him." Coulson gave a fake smile and backed away, pulling his fist off the wall. "I also trust an Agent of SHIELD is winning against an egocentric millionaire." Barton began breathing again as he heard Coulson's shoes go clicking down the hallway.
Steve looked up from what he was reading in the study as a flurry of footsteps passed him. He saw Natasha with soaking wet hair but in full uniform, loading her gun.
"Woah woah woah, Natasha!" he said, alarmed. She whipped around and the fury on her face made him take a step back. "Where ah...where are you going with that?" he motioned to the gun.
"To kill Barton."
"His and Tony's stupid little...game!" she said. Steve had rarely seen her this livid.
"Wait, what game?"
She sighed. "I don't know, he and Tony have some sort of stupid tagging thing going on. Clint caught me at an...inappropriate time," she said simply.
Steve put together her explanation and her wet hair and his eyebrows shot up. Clint was a dead man."Is that why Tony was rolling around here earlier in his chair?"
"I don't know, but Clint was in his too."
Steve clenched his hands in frustration. Those two...it was like looking after children. It WAS looking after children. "We should find them, they're going to hurt themselves," he mumbled.
"Not if I hurt them first," Natasha growled.
Natasha was playing her with gun again, he noticed. She was stroking it almost lovingly as she waited patiently. Steve sighed, still not totally on board with Natasha's idea.
She was looking far too smug about this.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" he asked with a sigh as she crept forward. Honestly. Some people.
Natasha gave a determined nod as she met Steve's gaze for a split second. "Strength in numbers," she said quietly, as if this was a commando attack and not a childish game Tony had cooked up. "They won't be able to flank us."
Steve looked bemusedly at the array of traps Natasha had set out in front of them. It had been hard enough to convince her not to send a bullet through Clint's skull, so he supposed he should count himself lucky that she'd consented to only doing... this.
Signal blockers designed to disrupt the wheelchair power, trip wires meant to tangle with the wheels (without flipping the chair, of course), a surveillance feed upright and running, and pressure plates placed under carpets to do...
Come to think of it, Steve wasn't entirely sure what they were supposed to do. All he knew was that Natasha looked pissed when she'd set them up.
The hallway had been turned into a modern-day Alanya Castle and Steve just hoped he'd be able to disable Natasha before Clint barged in.
"Don't you think this is a little... extreme?" Steve asked hesitantly. Natasha sent him a cold glare that would have sent the Hulk in full-rage mode quietly to bed.
"No," she growled.
Steve had the feeling that she wanted her 'bait' to be silent.
Natasha's eyes were darting between the end of the hallway and the screen. Steve kept his eyes firmly fixed onto the window, thinking longingly of the book he'd been forced to discard in favor of damage control, quietly resolving to buy a muzzle to fit over Tony's mouth.
Tony rolled slowly up to the glass door of the science lab so he could see inside, his head somewhat tilted back as he tried to look down at Banner who was looking at something under a microscope across the room. Banner looked up, and upon seeing Tony a mixture of confusion, hatred, and exasperation crossed his face.
Tony took that as his invitation to enter.
"Hi, Tony," Bruce said dryly.
"Helloooooooo," Tony said. Bruce was immediately on the alert. "Have you seen Clint?"
"Uh, no," Bruce said somewhat surprised by the question. "But I doubt he'd be down here anyway, since you know...science," he finished.
"True, but I was just wondering."
"What's that?" Bruce said, catching sight of the large plastic blue and yellow gun behind Tony's chair.
"This? Oh, it's...a Nerf gun." At the last second Tony decided to be frank. "He and I are having a bit of a...contest."
"Uh huh. Does it involve shooting each other while you both should be recovering from serious injuries?" Bruce said dryly.
"Well, yeah, sorta. But that's why we're in the chairs!" Tony smiled brightly. He then pulled his bazooka onto his lap, and popped one ball out, holding it up for Bruce to see and rolling over. "And they're soft." Bruce took the ball from Tony's hand, squeezing it once, then giving it back to him. "Can I ask you a favor?"
"What?" Bruce replied, instantly on the alert again.
"Can you just...lean down...here, yeah." Tony lifted the ball up and lightly tapped Bruce on the forehead with it. "aaaaaaaaaaand, that's Banner," he said.
Bruce was now more confused than ever. Tony stuffed the ball back into his toy. "By the way, do you know if Coulson's around today?"
"Uh, he was just here, he left about ten minutes ago," Bruce said, still confused.
"Ok, thanks. You've been a real pal!" Tony wheeled towards the door, leaving Bruce scratching his head.
Clint was feeling pretty damn good about himself. He was down to two targets - Steve, who deserved a little payback for taking away his bow, and Banner, who Barton was very specifically saving for last in case he decided that getting hit with a tiny little foam dart would piss him off enough to go green-mode. Clint hoped ol' Brucey wouldn't really have that bad of a temper, but he wanted to play it safe. Just in case.
Jarvis had revealed that Rogers was currently in the middle of the hallway on one of the upper floors, staring out at the world in a peaceful, distracted manner. Clint had every intention of ruining that serenity. In fact, Clint had every intention of hitting Steve in the face with every last dart he had except the one he was saving for Banner. The Cap would be mad, yeah, but it was worth it. He stole his goddamn bow.
Turning around the corner, he pasted on a friendly smile.
"Hey, Steve," he greeted jovially, keeping his Nerf weapon hidden behind his back.
Rogers turned and eyed him warily. "Clint."
"What're you up to?" Barton rolled his chair a little closer, but he hesitated when he saw Steve tense up a little.
"I'm not giving you back your bow, so if that's what you're here for..."
Clint relaxed and rolled the chair ahead a little more. Of course Steve would be on edge. He had to assume that Clint would be after his baby. Any other time he'd be right, of course. Not today, though. Today a bet was on the line. And revenge.
"Nope, just wanted to-"
Something clicked under the wheel of his chair, followed immediately by a zing, thunk sound. Clint looked down to see that a thin wire had shot out from one wall to the other, resting just behind his back wheel. He wouldn't be able to back up.
"What the hell?" he mumbled, rolling the chair forward a little bit. Something else clicked under the front wheels. And then several small squares in the floor down the hall, just at Steve's feet, rose up. And revealed barrels. Pointed at him.
He barely had time to get the words out when a slew of small beanbags shot out in his direction. He cursed again and raised one arm to protect his face, trying to back the chair up. It couldn't get passed the wire, so instead he tried to gun it forward. This time it stopped moving entirely. In fact, the power light wasn't even on. With no other option, he hopped out of his seat and rolled onto the floor, trying to avoid the remaining volley of little bags. When he landed, he felt another pressure plate click beneath his weight. More mini-guns popped out of the floor and opened fire.
"GODDAMN IT!" he yelled, more out of anger than anything else. It's not like the bags really hurt, but there were so damn many of them. How the hell did Steve get all those set up?
If he was annoyed before, Clint was pissed now. Reaching back to the chair, he grabbed his bow and, still dodging beanbags, aimed it at Steve's head. Catching one of the bags out of the air before it smacked his face, he narrowed his eyes and pulled the trigger.
Rogers was standing there in shock, not really certain how Natasha had managed to rig up the pop-up launchers. He had assumed she was just installing more pressure plates. This was a bit more than he was expecting. Everything had happened so fast that he didn't have to time to react to any of it.
Until a dart hit his face, followed immediately by another one, then another, spurring him into taking some sort of action.
"Clint, stop!" he shouted, as he brought up his hands to block more of the foam darts. And then he felt the harder beanbags getting chucked at him. Clint had just been inadvertently supplied with more ammo, and as hard as the archer was throwing them, he was clearly beyond mad.
Steve turned his head away, feeling more impacts against his body, until the sounds of the beanbag shooters died down. Realizing nothing else was being hurled in his direction, he opened his eyes to see that Barton had disappeared.
"Where is he?" he snapped at Natasha.
She came out of hiding laughing her ass off. It was rare to see her laughing like that, and it almost made Rogers not want to lecture her about her little prank. They were supposed to be stopping Clint from doing anything to hurt himself, not beat him to death with bags full of sand.
"I don't know, he kept pitching those things from all the way down the hall while he was hopping away. You should've seen his face. He is mad. at. you."
"That wasn't the plan, Natasha," Steve said with a sigh.
She shrugged. "But I don't feel the need to murder him anymore." Her voice was oddly chipper as she spoke. "I'm going to put myself out in the open somewhere so Tony can find me." She flashed him a feral grin before she stalked away, looking very much like a cat who just realized no one was home to stop it from going after the family bird.
"Don't kill him!" Steve shouted after her. She waved a hand at him and was gone.
Clint sat down on the floor of the elevator muttering curses under his breath. Steve couldn't have done all that. He was too much of a boyscout, wouldn't have stooped so low. Someone helped him...or he had inadvertently helped someone else. That was the more likely case now that Clint was thinking about it, and considering the complexity of the traps set, it was probably Natasha...which meant that maybe bruising Steve with beanbags was a little uncalled for. In fact, the man had probably persuaded Black Widow to go with less lethal means of payback, granting Clint his very life so that he could sit there and stew on the floor of an elevator...
Fuck that. Hurling beanbags at Steve was completely called for. None of this would've happened if the Cap had just let him have his damn bow.
Now his fucking head hurt...more than usual. Trying to ward off a zillion beanbags with one hand - several of which made it through his defenses - while aiming with the other was not exactly the quiet, calm environment he was supposed to be existing in. Not that wrestling with Tony over the bow that morning, and subsequently spending the last few hours risking his life over a Nerf war were any better, but still, none of that involved entering into a total war zone where things were actually hitting him in the head. And where people were shouting.
Okay, to be fair, he was the one that had done most of the shouting and cursing, but that only made his head hurt even worse.
Fumbling at his pocket, he pulled out the little bottle of super pills. If he took one now, he'd pretty much be dead on his feet...foot...in about fifteen minutes. That wasn't enough time to get to Banner, especially when he didn't have his chair or his crutch at the moment. Sighing, he slipped the bottle back into his pocket. He could hold out a bit. All he had to do was hit Bruce with his one remaining dart, then he could claim his prize and go to bed.
And yes, he was going to win, because he was going to insist that he get at least ten points for that last fucking hit.
Something wasn't right, Tony realized as he wheeled through the grounds of the mansion. He winced every time the wheelchair rolled over a bump, and he'd locked his teeth together after he'd nearly bitten off his tongue after a particularly jarring hole.
Something definitely wasn't right.
He knew there was a trap somewhere around here. Coulson surely had been ambushed by Clint, so the man was most likely prepared for the Iron Man's attack.
Coulson's car sat innocently on the grounds, still waiting for its owner. Obviously the man was still lurking around here... somewhere.Tony turned to gaze up at the mansion, which offered up no clues. After a moment of quiet reflection, he was forced to curl forward, trying to calm his shaking limbs as he had another flash of numbness.
He hated the moments when his chest locked and he couldn't remember how to move his limbs.
Next time, he wasn't going to bitch about how many needles they had to shove into him to find the antidote.
Tony squinted at the mansion after the wave passed, trying to figure out where Coulson was. He was a man with a mission, and he wasn't going to let a long-dead spider distract him from kicking Hawkeye's ass.
When in doubt, cheat. "Jarvis, where is Coulson?" Tony demanded.
"Sir, Coulson is located by the southeast corner of the building. He is currently reading."
Maybe not a trap then. Maybe Coulson thought their game was over.
Maybe Fury would sing and dance to Russian opera.
Tony crept forward. Or at least, he mentally crept forward as his wheelchair rolled over the grass. This time, he wouldn't go for stealth. It would be a full-on frontal assault, guns blazing.
He wondered if he would get bonus points if he went out in a blaze of glory. He'd heard rumors about the guy Coulson had taken out with a pretzel. Supposedly, he was learning to walk again.
Iron Man confidently rolled forward and turned the corner, panting slightly as his taxed body forcibly begged for attention. Out-of-breath, he closed his eyes and rapidly fired off three shots in the general direction Coulson should be.
Silence. Tony furrowed a brow in confusion. He must have missed.
He fired off another two shots, then cracked an eyelid open.
Instantly, his other eye flew open.
"Um... sorry?" he offered sheepishly, his breath catching slightly in his chest as he tried to remember how to talk and breathe at the same time. Funny. He didn't remember it being so complicated.
Fury stared at Tony, a small foam ball clenched tightly in his fist. Calmly, the man let it drop to the ground, his eye boring into the genius.
"Tony Stark," he said slowly. Tony resisted the urge to run away screaming. It was Fury's classic 'run or I will rip your throat out with my hangnail' look.
"Hi," Tony said sheepishly, hoping Fury wouldn't notice the wheelchair beginning to back up. Coulson stood and moved so he was standing next to Fury.
"Is this part two of the asinine game you challenged Agent Barton to compete in?" Coulson asked. The man was completely deadpan except for a quivering eyebrow.
"I don't know what you're referring to," Tony rattled off instinctively before he took another gulp of air as he tried to decide if he had hit Coulson or not. Probably not, he reflected. He was still standing. Well, technically, Tony was still sitting and he was too tired to do that very well, but he was still alive.
"Are you suggesting both yourself and Agent Barton decided to play with Nerf guns on the same day?" Coulson asked. His eyebrow was definitely twitching again.
Coulson took a step forward - to do what, Tony would never know. Quickly he popped off another shot, aimed another one at Fury for good measure (if he was going to die, he was going to die in style) and revolved his wheelchair, aiming to get the hell out of there.
"This was the stupidest" -hop- "goddamn" -hop- "idea" -hop- "EVER!"
Clint slowly made his way back to the labs where Banner was still working diligently. His head was on the verge of going into full-on scream mode, he had thunked his foot on the ground enough times during his trek back up there to the point where his leg was throwing in its own form of protest against this idiocy, and yet, he was still determined to get his mark. It was a whole 'principle of the thing' matter now. He couldn't quit when he was so damn close to finishing his mission; because that's what this was now - a mission, not a bet. He had something to prove (what that was, for the life of him he couldn't guess), and he was going to finish this even if it killed him.
He wasn't at all discreet in opening the door. Stealth mode was over. Kill and get-the-fuck-out mode was activated. It was just his luck that Banner happened to be standing up, his exposed back making a nice, big target to aim at. Clint lifted his bow and pulled the trigger.
Done pouring his coffee, Bruce turned to head back to the desk. Just as he spun around, something struck the edge of his coffee mug, knocking it enough to send the contents spilling down his shirt. He cursed at the sudden heat against his skin, dropping the mug to send it shattering to the floor at his feet, splashing more of the brown liquid across his shoes. The incident was definitely enough to get his blood boiling, and he could feel the stirring of the monster inside him.
"Shit," a tired voice hissed.
Banner turned towards the door, and the touch of green that had begun to glow in his eyes faded back to his normal brown, his anger dissipating almost instantly. Clint was leaning against the frame, head bowed, eyes shut, taking slow, heavy breaths.
"I missed," he muttered before letting himself simply slide down to the floor.
Bruce looked at the dart lying close by, thought back to the odd visit Tony had paid him, and rolled his eyes as he walked over to kneel in front of the archer. "Are you done?" he asked.
"Noooo," Clint moaned, and repeated, "I missed."
Sighing, Banner stood back up, retrieved the dart, and handed it to his teammate. "If I let you hit me with this, will you be done?"
Clint eyed the little foam projectile, then looked back up at Banner, who could've sworn he saw tears of gratitude in the archer's eyes. Clumsily loading the dart back into the toy weapon, Clint pointed it at Banner's chest and fired. It hit with a dull thwap, after which he barked out a pained little laugh of triumph.
"I did it!" he chortled, then cut it off with a groan as he placed his head in his hands.
"Good for you. Now, come on, I'll help you get back to your room, and then you can take your pill." Banner reached down to help Clint back to his feet, but the archer wasn't paying attention to the outstretched hand. Instead, he dug around in his pocket until he pulled out the needed medication.
Bruce stared at the bottle for a second. "You had those on you and you didn't take one?" he asked dryly.
"I was...on mission..." Barton mumbled as he dry-swallowed one.
Bruce shook his head. "You're an idiot. You and Tony both are idiots." This time he didn't wait for Clint, just grabbed him under his good arm and hauled him up off the floor, draping the arm over his shoulder. "Hurry up. I don't want to have to drag you the rest of the way if that pill kicks in before we get there."
"Can't you just...Hulk out...and carry me?" Clint grunted.
"No. If I Hulk out now, I'll probably just put you out of your misery."
Clint sighed. "I might be okay with that."
Banner rolled his eyes as he continued to half-carry his dumbass friend back to his room.
"Sir, Agent Barton has completed the game,"
"What? Goddamn it, Clint!" Tony huffed under his breath. He only had one more. Natasha. He asked where the slippery she-eel was as he continued glancing over his shoulder, breathing loudly through his nose to counteract the tightness in his chest. Jarvis informed him she was in the den.
He wheeled in quietly and saw that she was indeed alone, but sitting on top of a desk, facing the door and smiling smugly at him. He was instantly afraid.
"Mr. Stark," she said pleasantly, quietly.
He wouldn't give her a chance to speak. He instantly drew his gun and popped off a shot, but she had taken out a knife, stabbing the foam ball out of midair. She was still giving him an unnerving smile.
Tony gritted his teeth and fired off two more in quick succession. She stabbed one and blocked the other with her wrist. He then fired off six more shots, all blocked with varying degrees of ease before his gun clicked empty. He gulped.
"You're lucky you weren't on the receiving end of a trip wire treatment," she snarled, smiles all gone now. "But what I'm going to do to you will be far worse."
Tony dropped his gun on the floor and pushed himself out of his seat, ready to flee in terror, but he hadn't made it more than two steps before his entire body seized up and he fell on his face and bad arm with a wham. "Oh god, Natasha, I'm sorry!" He moaned, part in pain, part abject terror.
Natasha calmly walked over to him, first drawing her gun and shooting his with it. He flinched at the loud sound of the shot and splintering plastic. Then she walked over to him, looping his trembling arm around her shoulder and guiding him back to the chair. She began to push him back in the direction of his room.
"You are both the most idiotic people I've ever met," she mumbled.
"We take pride in that," Tony said tiredly.
Clint was curled up on his side, his face buried in the pillow he had crushed up against his chest in a vice grip, even in his sleep.
Banner cocked an eyebrow up at Steve, both of whom were standing in the doorway. "Maybe you should've just let him have the bow," he said, after having heard the story of what had happened that morning that inevitably led to the day's nonsense.
Steve sighed. "Yeah, maybe."
He honestly didn't know if that would've been the lesser of two evils. Of course, at the time he couldn't have imagined there'd bea second evil. Tony could be such a handful sometimes...
Another figure appeared in the hall behind them. "The little guy tuckered himself out, huh?" Phil asked, smiling softly.
"He'll be out of it for a while," the Cap responded.
Banner smirked. "He'll probably sleep through tomorrow."
Coulson frowned a little at that. "Should we be concerned?"
Banner shook his head. "No, I don't think so. He just had a little too much excitement for one day."
"I think we all did," Steve said partially under his breath. "I'm going to go check on Tony. Natasha was the one who took him to his room, and I didn't like the look Thor had on his face when he offered to help..."
Phil chuckled. "If they bound and gagged him, I'm sure Fury wouldn't be opposed to leaving him that way for a while."
"I'm sure he wouldn't," Steve said with a crooked grin.
Coulson jerked his head towards the hall at both Rogers and Banner. "Go on. I'll stay with this one for a little while, make sure he's okay."
The two nodded and slipped away, leaving Coulson to close the door behind him. He looked at the horrid state of Clint's room and let out a sigh. "Might as well make myself useful..."
Clint slept on, completely clueless that he was getting his earlier concern regarding his messy room taken care of for him, after all.
Tony yawned, and snuggled deeper into the warmth against his body. There was a rocking sensation, as if he'd fallen asleep in a plane again. It explained the pain racking his body.
But that didn't explain the warmth.
Tony cracked an eyelid open, and started to smile. He must have been very drunk last night not to remember becoming acquainted with the woman currently holding him, why his body felt like it had been run over with a tractor, and his face was against a pair of very-
Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit.
The recent events flooded back into his mind even as he cautiously raised his gaze to stare at Natasha, who was very determinedly not looking at Tony.
"You can put me down," he said and yelped as she instantly dropped him - luckily, she dropped him onto his bed and not the floor. He must have caught her in the middle of transporting him from the wheelchair to the bed.
"Are you able to handle being left on your own for a few hours?" she asked coolly. Tony opened his mouth, but Natasha swept on without waiting for an answer. "No? Thor has volunteered to sit with you until you are given a clean bill of health."
Tony watched her turn around, and instantly he slipped his hand into his bedside dresser. He wasn't going to lose to Clint. He wasn't going to lose to some dropout that knew how to fire a few pointy sticks.
Casually he reached into the drawer and squeezed his fingers around the small object he had placed there earlier. A small smile broke across his face even as he shuddered in pain.
"Stark-" Thor began warningly from where he was lurking by the doorway.
Natasha began to whirl in suspicion but by that point, Tony had already lobbed the foam ball through the air. It jolted his arm and made him give a low moan, but he couldn't resist a tired whoop of joy as it bounced off her collarbone.
She caught it and gave him a glare that made him shrink back.
"Stark-" she began threateningly, echoing Thor's words as her hand edged towards her ever-present gun. Tony gave her a pained smile, his body giving another small shudder as it tried to fight off pain-induced nausea.
"I win?" he whispered hesitantly. Please don't kill me. Please, please don't kill me.
He had a feeling that pleading would be futile at this point.
After both Tony and Clint had slept off their injuries for only a few hours, they found themselves being rudely woken up, placed back in their chairs, and wheeled to the den by Coulson and Natasha so that Nick Fury could personally "speak" with them.
"You stupid fucks," he started.
Clint, still nursing a headache that the pain meds had only dulled enough so that it felt like a slight squeeze, gave a nervous look to Tony who had been wheeled up next to him. Tony, for his part, looked a little worn, but luckily was no longer shaking.
Coulson and Natasha had moved to either side of Fury, arms crossed, both looking at the guilty pair with unreadable expressions on their faces. Clint felt like he was in some sort of court from hell.
"What made you think even for a moment, that you two could run around here like irresponsible toddlers when you are both under medical leave of absence? Coulson doesn't get paid enough to babysit your asses."
"I could pay him," Tony offered.
"No thanks," Phil said with a sarcastic smile.
"It was Stark's idea, Sir," Clint blurted out.
Tony turned sideways in his seat to face him. "You fucking sellout," he accused with a disbelieving look on his face. Clint continued to face forward. "And after I specifically went out of my way-"
"BARTON, YOU ARE AN AGENT OF SHIELD!" Fury yelled. Both of them flinched and Clint cowered in his seat a little as Fury moved closer, placing both his hands on Clint's arm rest and leaning down so that his eye was inches from Clint's face. "And as such, I expect you to admit to your mistakes. Not pussyfoot around with this sorry excuse for an adult."
"Do I make myself clear?" Fury ignored Tony's sputtering.
Clint gulped. "Yes, Sir. It won't happen again, Sir."
Fury narrowed his eye. "Good." He stood up, turning his back on them both. "Stark if you EVER needlessly injure one of my agents again because of your games," he spat, half-turning to look at Tony now. "I will have you off this team so fast your A.I. won't know what happened." He turned back around.
"Technically, he was already injured, sooooooo-"
"GET THEM OUT OF MY SIGHT!"
Coulson and Natasha moved forward to wheel them out. "You should just learn to keep your mouth shut," Natasha hissed to Tony as soon as they were out of Fury's hearing range.
"I don't think that's ever gonna happen," Clint grumbled.
Something occurred to Tony then. "Oh! To the lab please! Both of us! Chop chop!" Natasha stopped pushing and walked around to stand in front of Tony, eyes narrowed dangerously and hand itching to grab her gun. "I mean...Natasha would you and Coulson be dears, and take us to the lab, please? We have some videos to review." He smiled and fluttered his eyes at her.
She gave a huff and walked back around, Coulson giving her a knowing smile, as they wheeled their teammates to the elevator.
What started as an argument on how to determine what actions would grant more points became a huffy truce as Coulson mentioned getting a panel of judges involved. Those judges, naturally, needed to be the very people targeted in the attacks (if for no other reason than to allow them to laugh at what they each were subjected to).
The rest of the Avengers gathered into the room, noting the anxious, almost excited looks on Tony's and Clint's faces, both of whom perked up like two beauty pageant finalists waiting to be evaluated. Steve shook his head at them, but couldn't quite hold back the small smile that touched his lips as he looked at the amused Coulson who was standing behind them.
"Alright, are we all here? Good. Let the show begin," Tony spat out almost all in one breath.
First, Jarvis played the recording of the moment when Tony made the initial bet with Clint, just to make certain the rules were clear to the panel of judges. Tony twirled his finger in the air impatiently, eager to get to the parts where he kicks Clint's ass, certain that though he didn't complete the objective first, he'd have the higher score. Clint, on the other hand, sat in the chair looking completely relaxed, knowing he had nothing to worry about. He was the expert marksman, after all, so clearly he'd win this.
They both sat higher in their seats as the playbacks of the hits began. The shots on Thor had been hilarious, and even he had to laugh at the look on his own face once he saw his startled reaction. That was all good fun for everyone. Then came the shot that Clint took on Natasha, and several disapproving glares were shot his way as they watched him fake being in pain.
"Wow, that was low," Tony agreed, then added in a perky manner, "and I will fully relent the fact that you should get extra points for that. Well played."
That only served to make Clint want to disappear further into his chair.
Tony felt his own embarrassment creep up at the playback of his hit on Steve. He thought at the time that he'd been so smooth. In hindsight, with everyone shaking their heads at him and giving him that really?look, he realized just how ridiculous he had sounded. Oh well, a hit was still a hit.
Clint's shot on Coulson was actually very well played-out, but his face turned a shade of pink as everyone snickered at the way he "ran like a sissy bitch" afterwards. Phil just gave him a little pat on the shoulder, smirking his eerie little smirk.
Tony's tag on Banner was next, and Stark grinned ear to ear. "I'm a genius. Proof, right there. Me. Genius."
"Okay, that was good," Clint acquiesced. "Judges, Tony gets point for that one."
Glares and amazed looks flew all around the room at the recording of the trap Natasha had set. Clint bore daggers into Steve, who looked apologetic and shrugged, then glanced up at Natasha, who tried to look justified in her actions only to wither slightly under Coulson's disapproving stare, who then gave Clint a look of admiration at the way he handled the onslaught and used the opponent's weapons against them. Thor and Banner looked between all of them, rendered speechless by the whole incident, and Tony was laughing his ass off.
"Oh my god! Did you see the looks on your faces?" he got out between laughs. "Clint, good buddy, I don't think I've ever seen you that pissed, and Steve!" He had to stop to collect himself. "You were like a man on the receiving end of a slap attack from his girlfriend. Clearly you had no idea what to do with yourself. That was priceless. Points all around! To everyone involved! Bravo!"
Clint smirked a little despite the fact that he was still pissed off. At least he looked like a badass while he was going down.
The reaction to Tony's hit on Phil was pretty much laughter (much to his continual embarrassment) at his complete lack of the stealth tactics he was so obviously trying to achieve, then complete stunned silence as he accidentally tagged Fury.
Clint broke the silence. "Holy shit. You are one lucky fuck, you know that? He could've killed you."
"I know," Tony said, a little unnerved at witnessing his brush with death.
"So you shot him again?" Barton pressed.
Tony shook his head. "Must have been the shock. I don't know. I panicked."
"No wonder he was so pissed."
"It wasn't one of my brighter moments, no."
Slow nods all around sent the video to the next target - Clint's last ditch, all or nothing attack on Banner. Breaths were held when the coffee mug was spilled, but then let out as they realized Banner was not going to kill their friend (as if they didn't already know that since the man was clearly still in one piece, but still, they all knew it had been a close call).
"Awwwwww, that was so sweet, Brucey," Tony drawled, shooting Banner a crooked grin.
"Shut up," Clint mumbled, and smacked Tony in the chest.
They fell silent again as they watched Tony try to take out the expectant Natasha, only to fail. It was Clint's turn to laugh while glares were tossed around as Stark fell on his face and essentially begged for his life.
"Awwwwww, that was so sweet, Nat-" he started to mimic at the part where Natasha helped Tony back into the chair, but the look she gave him made the words freeze on his tongue. He cleared his throat and quietly turned back to the screen in time to see Tony lob the foam ball at her from his bed. Game over.
"And there you have it," Tony announced as the video came to an end. "Now, if you would please consult each other, we'll sit by and wait for-"
"But, you did not finish," Thor said in confusion.
Everyone looked at him. "What do you mean?" Tony asked. "We both got all-"
"No." Thor shook his head. "The wager was placed for an attack against all the other Avengers and Phil Coulson. Are the two of you not Avengers?"
Tony and Clint looked at each other while everyone else turned a combined glare and verbal assault on the Asgardian.
"He's got a point," Tony said beneath the yelling.
Clint rubbed his thumb on his bottom lip as if debating what was more important - obeying the law as was just set down by Fury, or catering to his competitive needs.
"Natasha killed your gun," he said, by way of maybe having the universe decide for him.
"I'm a billionaire. I think I can afford another one."
Clint shrugged. "Okay. Let me know when you get it. Then it's you against me for last point."
They shook hands on it while the rest of the Avengers continued to argue. Tony looked back at them and his face formed a disapproving scowl.
"You'd think they'd have learned to get along by now. They're fighting like children."
"I know," Clint agreed, shaking his head. After a pause, he turned back to Tony and smiled. "You want to watch me throw bean bags at Steve again?"
They settled in for some playback fun, content with their peaceful truce...for now...