Title: Self Defense
Rating: T (language)
Fandom: Avengers (movieverse)
Characters: Tony, Clint, Clint/Natasha undertones
Spoilers: Takes place after the movie.
Notes: Can I say that I'm floored by the positive response and feedback and welcome to this fandom! Thank you so much. I can't remember being this excited to write something new in a long time, so I plan to milk it for all it's worth and put those plot bunnies to use. Thanks again. This one is shorter, lighter and still a lot of fun to write. Also, thanks Trip3235 who, when I asked again for a beta, didn't laugh and tell me know like I kind of always suspects she wants to. Enjoy!
Summary: Even Tony knows when it's time to admit defeat.
"All right," Tony said, voice booming across the room. "What's the emergency? Who needs saving now? I've got half an hour free; should be plenty of time. Let's do this."
When nothing but silence greeted him in return, Tony did a quick survey of each of their faces. Clint, Natasha, Bruce and Steve, all there, all standing damn near in the center of the gym, assembled and such... and why exactly?
"So..." Tony said, narrowing his eyes and growing suspicious.
"Well," Clint began, stepping forward when no one else would, "we may need more than thirty minutes and you're definitely going to have to change first but not into the suit."
"Not following you, Barton."
"We're going to fight."
Tony's eyebrows shot up in surprise before he wheeled on Steve, pointing at him for emphasis. "You're behind this."
"You're not always going to have the suit, Tony," Steve said, his tone reasonable. "If you'd just learn some basic techniques -"
"So, you all, what exactly? Got together over coffee and decided to stage an intervention? Except, instead of an intervention it's more like an impromptu fight club, right? Why didn't you just corner me in a dark alley? Jump me outside my front door? That'll teach me."
"It's not like we got together and..." Bruce started to say, but shook off the lie quickly. "Okay, yes, we got together and discussed it. But, come on, Tony. We're just thinking practically. You can see that."
"Speak of practical thinking," Clint said, turning to face Bruce, "you're next."
"Wait, what? Me?"
"Yeah," Clint confirmed.
"That is a very bad idea."
"Come on, Bruce," Tony mocked. "Be a sport. Let Barton throw a punch at you and then rage out and rip his arm off."
"That's not funny," Bruce said, his eyes darting from Tony to Clint. "That's real. That could really happen."
"I told you not to push... one at a time," Steve muttered.
"You're in on this, too?" Bruce asked.
"Of course he is," Tony said, smiling wide. "Captain knows best."
"It's just some basic self-defense," Steve insisted, opting to ignore the snide undertones of Tony's last remark. "No one's going to get hurt. Or hit even."
"I am the last person on this planet that needs any kind of self-defense," Bruce said, still calm, but deadly serious. "I have my own internal self-defense system that works a little too well if we're being perfectly frank."
"That... that thing that happens," Clint stammered, never comfortable addressing it directly with Bruce, but finding he had no choice, "it's a control thing. It's about control?"
"Yes, so -"
"So," Clint interrupted, "a lot of people, when they're getting their asses handed to them, feel a certain lack of control. Which, we all agree, is a bad thing for you. Right?"
"That was condescending as fuck," Tony said with a straight face, but Bruce at least appeared to be mulling over what he'd said.
Clint ignored him, his eyes darting towards Natasha, who gave him a wicked smile in return.
"I won't speak for Bruce..." Tony began after a lengthy, tense, pause.
"...but," Tony continued, "I for one have never had my ass handed to me and I am... hurt? Yes, I'm hurt that you would have so little faith in my fighting prowess."
"Prowess?" Natasha echoed sarcastically.
"No, don't interrupt," Tony protested, throwing his hands up dramatically as if to demand their silence. "I'm wounded. Where would you even get the idea - "
"Pepper," Steve and Clint said in unison.
"Pepper may have..." Bruce began, but faded out at the end.
Natasha just smirked at him as if it should have been obvious.
"Well, she's not... she's..."
"Oh, damn it Stark, shut up," Clint finally snapped. "I'm not asking for a ring or a lifelong commitment. Just a couple of days a week, right here, so if something does go down, you don't end up dead. And, honestly, I get it. I didn't at first, but now I do. I get why Pepper's worried. I can completely see someone wanting you dead."
"That's not very calm, Clint."
Clint turned and began to angrily pace the room.
"You're not setting a very good example for Bruce."
"So help me," Clint muttered, catching Steve's eyes as Natasha and Bruce looked on in amusement, "I'm just going to punch him. I am."
"And, honestly, you're not making me feel very safe either."
"Probably has a taser in his jock," Clint continued to mumble before finally settling down some. "Hidden for emergencies just like this, that he causes."
"You know, this isn't going to work for me," Tony continued, as if nothing was out of the ordinary. "It's not. I can't trust you with my wellbeing."
"Fine," Clint said, crossing his arms against his chest. "You want to spar with Steve? Can you trust him?"
"Actually, I was thinking..." Tony said, trailing off as his eyes fell on Natasha.
Steve and Bruce exchanged uneasy looks, clearly uncertain what was going to happen next. Tony knew how to push buttons, but this wasn't the same; this was button mashing.
The smile that had been on Natasha's lips had melted away in an instant; her eyes locked on Tony's for a long beat before shifting over to Clint's.
Clint's expression remained as it had been, neutral. Instead of speaking, he just gave a shrug as if he was indifferent to whom Tony went to for training, as long as he went.
"So... do I have your permission?" Tony asked, one final dig because he really couldn't help himself.
"My permission?" Clint repeated as he broke into a smile. "Oh, you don't need my permission. I can think of a few things you might need, but none of them involve my permission. If Tasha wants to take you on, that's her thing."
"How about it, Tasha?" Tony asked.
Natasha threw a dirty look at Clint, who was still smiling obscenely at the turn this meeting had taken.
"Tuesday," she finally said. "Six o'clock."
"Before breakfast," she corrected.
"That's not going to -"
"How's five work for you?" she interrupted.
"Six is fine," Tony returned.
"Got a minute?" Tony asked, knocking on the half open door to the small weapons armory.
"Got a few," Clint answered, not taking his eyes off gun he'd disassembled for cleaning.
"So," Tony said, leaning into the doorframe and taking a longer than necessary pause. "Had my first lesson this morning."
"Didn't go so well."
"I heard that too."
"Yeah, I just don't think Natasha's -"
"I'm sorry," Clint interrupted. "Who? Don't you mean Tasha? That's what you call her, right?"
"Natasha's fine," Tony said quickly. "It's a good name."
"It is," Clint agreed.
"Probably shouldn't change it..."
"Anyway," Tony continued, "I'm not sure our styles mesh exactly. And, well, she is a woman. And, although she's a very capable woman."
"Very," Clint said.
"Yes, she is, but I think mentally I can't get past that and I'm having a hard time really committing to the scenarios. I wouldn't want to hurt her."
"Is that so," Clint returned, having reassembled the gun as Tony was speaking.
"Also," Tony continued, casting one nervous look at the gun Clint had set down on the table between them, "really, this whole thing is like your program. It's your baby, and talking it over with Pepper, she told me that you'd made plans for this and put in a lot of work... "
"I wouldn't say a lot of work."
"Now you're being modest," Tony said with a laugh. "And it's not fair to take that away from you and just give it to..."
Clint said nothing. Just sat and waited, not wanting to make this conversation any easier, not even by one iota.
"You started this and you really should be the one running it."
"What are you suggesting, Tony?"
"Well," he said, his eyes shifting once around the room, "first that we forget the whole disagreement we had earlier and we go back to whatever you originally had in mind."
"No. That was about it."
Clint sat, his face unreadable, considering everything Tony had said.
"Here's my offer," he finally began, breaking the silence and growing more animated than before. "Three times a week, any three days you want but the same three each week. Six o'clock in the morning. Nothing crazy just basic self-defense. If you want, when you want, we can move on to more advanced forms of fighting, but really, that's not as important given your suit."
"I'm not done," Clint insisted. "Banner. You help me convince him. And then you help me figure out how to make that work."
"Without losing an arm."
"I'm strangely attached to my limbs, yes."
"That's not going to be as easy," Tony said with real sincerity. "He's not keen on this idea. At all."
"Well, I'm not keen on the idea of him getting accidentally punched in the face and then destroying half the block."
"Don't sell him short. He's got a better handle on this than he lets on."
"I'm not trying to. I trust him. I just don't believe the Other Guy should be Bruce's only line of defense."
"Good point. I might be able to make that work with him."
"Great," Clint said, smiling a bit, "because you may not know this, but I'm not exactly good with people."
"I'd have never guessed."
"I hear the phrase 'abrasive son-of-a-bitch' a lot."
"I get 'snarky asshole' thrown at me quite a bit myself."
"I can see why."
"He said abrasively," Tony said with a mocking smile. Clint just shrugged, which made Tony smile broader than before. "Let's just... let's take this week off. Start fresh on Monday. Six o'clock. And we'll take it from there."
"Got it," Clint called back at Tony as he turned to go.
Clint waited a moment before pushing his chair across the floor, giving him a clear view of the hallway Tony was currently making his way down slowly and in obvious pain.
"She beat the shit out of you, didn't she?" Clint yelled out, nearly gleeful.
"Yes, she did," Tony answered, still hobbling away.
"Epson salts," Clint offered. "They help."
"Speaking from experience?"
"Epson salts it is," Tony fired back at him. "Thanks, buddy."