Alright, everyone, may I present you with the last and final chapter of Home Sweet Home. I hope you've had as much fun reading it as I have writing it. I'd like to thank everyone that has reviewed, favorited, and alerted this story for their support and feed back, it really means a lot to me.
A lot of you seem disappointed that this is ending, and I'd like to remind you that this is not the end to the series/universe thing I've been writing that includes both this story, as well as Protective Reasoning. The next story is going to be the sequel to Protective Reasoning, but isn't going to be the Clint/Natasha one (Glass) I have up on my profile. Instead, I've decided to stick a story between the two, called Ties that Bind, which is next on my list to write. Glass will be coming directly after that one instead. And I appologize to anyone that's been waiting to read Glass since I put up the option in Protective Reasoning, and I swear it will be coming after Ties that Bind. I'll put a little short summary at the end of this chapter.
And I sincerely apologize if the bits of Russian I use in this chapter are incorrect. I use an online translator, and those are never the most reliable.
At any rate, I hope you enjoy this last chapter of Home Sweet Home.
As always, I own nothing.
Two weeks later, on July 4th, the Avengers minus Clint had all gathered in the common area outside their rooms just as the sun dipped under the horizon. The group of five had been doing press conference after press conference all day, due to the holiday, but seeing as it was also their Captain's birthday, they had all drawn the line at continuing to join the city's festivities into the night. Then there was the fact that none of them were exactly comfortable with fireworks. If asked, Tony had thrown out that their go-to excuse in this instance would be Bruce, and the Hulk's dislike for loud, sudden noises.
The doctor had blushed heavily the first time the billionaire had thrown that out there, but it had only taken once, and the question had never been asked again.
In the two weeks since they'd left the helicarrier, Tony had almost completely healed with the only complaint he threw out was that his ribs occasionally ached. His personality had, in some cases regrettably, returned to normal. To their collective knowledge, he'd never spoken about what he'd been through in Nevada to anyone, not even Pepper, who was currently leaning into the billionaire's side with a smile.
Fury had been… peeved, by Barton's parting shot at the compound, citing all the lost potential information they could have gathered about the terrorist cell as a whole, but Steve had been quick to back the archer's actions. In a split-second decision that had surprised everyone, even himself, he had lied and firmly stated that he had authorized Hawkeye's actions before he'd loosed the arrow, and Fury had glowered but said nothing more on the subject. Other than that, the cell hadn't been active since by SHIELD's knowledge, which Tony had taken to keeping close track of.
At his first opportunity back in his lab, Tony had taken three days and worked on nothing but improvements to JARVIS' systems, making sure that no one short of himself, and possibly Bruce would ever be able to hack the AI's mainframe again. He had thrown out the idea of implanting tracking devices into each of the Avengers, but had yet to receive anything but alarmed stares in response. He wasn't giving up, though.
"I still can't believe Captain America and America share the same birthday." Tony sniggered from where they were all seated around the couches, and facing the TV.
For his birthday, Steve had requested nothing more than a quiet night in with the team; dinner and a movie as it were. They'd even graciously allowed him to pick the movie. Thus, the title screen for 'The Wizard of Oz' was ready and waiting on Stark's enormous TV, and there was a platter piled with cheeseburgers and a literal basket of fries sitting on the coffee table between all of them.
"I mean, did they change it on paper after they gave you the serum?" Tony questioned curiously, and Steve gave a slight sigh as he met the billionaire's gaze, leaning forward to grab a few fries from the basket.
"No, Tony, my birthday has always been the 4th of July." he said patiently, sharing an exasperated and amused glance with Bruce who simply shrugged from around his burger, eyes bright.
"Was that a considering factor?" the billionaire questioned next, and it was Natasha that raised an eyebrow and spoke that time.
"Of course, Stark. I'm sure when considering people for the biggest scientific breakthrough the world had ever seen, they paid specific attention to their birthdays." she said in a dry condescending tone that had Tony crossing his arms defensively.
"Hey. It was a valid question." he protested, giving a scoff at the assassin's huff of annoyance.
"Has anyone heard from the Hawk in recent past?" Thor spoke up, changing the topic of conversation to the reason they were simply waiting as opposed to actually watching the movie they had ready.
Clint had been called out by Fury for a mission nearly a week ago, almost directly after Natasha had returned from one of her own. The archer had promised to do his best to be back in time to celebrate the Captain's birthday with them, but they all knew that planning anything around an assassin's mission was nearly impossible. Steve just didn't want him rushing anything, and had made Clint promise not to do so.
Even so, everyone but Natasha was beginning to get edgy over how long the Hawk had been gone, despite the Russian assassin's assurances that a week on a mission wasn't that atypical. In fact, she remembered Clint telling her that this mission had a two week window, not that he ever used up an entire window for a mission.
"Not since the secure call he got through two days ago." Natasha said, before shooting a quick glance at Steve. "He'd be here if he could, Cap."
"I know that." Steve gave a quick nod, understanding the archer's absence completely.
"Well, we'll start the movie then, as long as no one objects." Tony said, raising a questioning eyebrow. When no one spoke up, he opened his mouth to tell JARVIS to go ahead and press play when there was a silent, nearly inaudible shifting of metal above them that caused everyone to pause warily.
Not thirty seconds later, they all relaxed with grins as none other than their former topic of conversation dropped from the air vent just to the left of the kitchen, quiver and bow slung over his back and carrying what looked like a white bakery box.
"I'm beginning to think you think my elevators aren't good enough for you." Tony said matter of factly, though his grin was just as happy as the rest of the team's.
"I was on the opposite side of the roof." the archer shrugged, and Bruce raised a questioning eyebrow.
"Can I ask why you were on the roof period?" the doctor asked mildly as Clint moved to set the bakery box down on the kitchen counter before he turned and looked to Bruce with a disbelieving expression.
"Right. Because I'm going to get a cab in New York City on the Fourth of July dressed like this. Tell you what, Bruce, why don't you try, and see how fast the SWAT team shows up." he said dryly, causing everyone to laugh, seeing as the archer was still in his SHIELD uniform, with various seen and unseen weapons on his person.
"Point made." Bruce chuckled and Clint gave a slight nod, before he stripped himself of his bow and quiver and moved over to the couches.
"Happy Birthday, Cap." he said with a grin, which Steve was quick to return as Clint snagged a burger and plopped down onto one of the couches beside Natasha, who scanned her eyes up and down him once critically, before giving a small smile and leaning up against him.
"Thanks." the super soldier said sincerely, still smiling slightly. "How'd the-," he couldn't even finish the question before archer cut him off, burger halfway to his mouth.
"No. Bad Steve." he said shortly, though his eyes were bright with amusement and he jerked his head towards the TV. "Start the movie."
"You heard the man, JARVIS." Tony grinned, leaning back into the couch as Steve gave Clint a slightly exasperated expression, tossing a fry at him in a rare display of childish antics.
Clint just caught it with a smirk and popped it into his mouth, giving the Captain a smug glance.
Out of all of them, Thor and Natasha were the only ones that hadn't seen the movie, the latter coming as a slight surprise to everyone but Clint. Even so, they all enjoyed it, even admittedly Tony, who was polite enough not to complain about the film's quality the entire time.
After it was over, the once formidable piles of food had been decimated, a singular burger and a few stray fries remaining. As a group, they then presented Steve with his presents, which had thrown the Captain off guard at first, since he hadn't actually been expecting anything.
Together, Bruce and Tony had worked on a new suit for the super soldier, with the same design but an all new material that by Tony's words would: 'protect him from anything and everything, including but not limited to bullets and mutant wolf claws'.
Natasha, Thor, and Pepper had thrown in together to get Steve a collection of sketch books, pencils and other art supplies that they had seen him using around the tower before.
Steve had taken everything with almost blushing gratitude, which just made Tony start ribbing him relentlessly, until Clint held up a hand, accompanied with a level look at the billionaire before he spoke.
"Right well, you all know that I have this habit of finding the best places to eat ever," Clint started, but Tony just groaned, rolling his eyes.
"Barton, we do not need another story about some soup you found in Peru." the billionaire complained, but the archer just raised an eyebrow.
"Stark, one more word, and I will make sure that if Steve decides to share, you won't get any." Clint said matter of factly and that had Tony scowling but falling silent, much to the amusement of everyone else. "Anyway, I found this bakery in Brooklyn that I'm pretty sure has been there forever maybe literally, and this is no exaggeration. I've been in there a few times over the years when I'm in the city, got to talking with the owners, who then got me talking to their grandmother who, I shit you not, is 102 years old."
At this point, Steve was slightly wide-eyed, recognition and hesitant disbelief in his eyes. Natasha had raised an eyebrow at him in what he recognized as slight amusement, and Bruce, Thor and Pepper were listening attentively. Even Tony had lost his aggravation and was reluctantly curious.
"One thing leads to another, and she's telling me about this scrawny little kid she remembers." Clint then broke his impassive expression to give Steve a smirk, the Captain now shaking his head in amazement. The archer stood fluidly and grabbed the box he'd come in with from the kitchen counter. "This scrawny little kid happened to have a favorite kind of cake from that bakery. Just to be honest, this is probably the nicest old lady I have ever met. If I wasn't here, they were going to deliver it for me, but luckily enough, I got back in time."
He offered the box to Steve who took it carefully, a wistful grin on his face.
"Clint, this is…" he started as he took the lid off the box to reveal the simple, circular cake inside.
"Hmm, yeah, I know I'm awesome." the archer grinned, though he did give the Captain a slight nod, conveying that he did in fact know how much his gift was appreciated.
"So that's why you had us 'conveniently forget' a cake." Bruce said mildly, and Clint nodded.
"Yep. Gold star to the doc." he said airily, causing Bruce to narrow his eyes slightly before lobbing a pillow not at all discretely at the archer. "Hey!"
They all laughed, and Steve moved to the kitchen to cut and then pass out pieces of the cake, light, teasing banter popping up between them easily.
"So," Tony started after they'd all settled with pieces of cake, looking to Steve curiously. "Say this was still the 40's. What birthday would you be looking at?"
"24." Steve replied easily with a small smile, which just had Clint's eyes widening comically.
"Holy crap, Steve. You're younger than I am." he said, surprised, which had the rest of the team, and Pepper, straightening with interest.
"It's surprising, Legolas, but not that surprising." Tony said doubtfully, but Clint just shrugged, giving his head a slight shake. "I mean come on, what are you? 28? 29?"
"I thought you read my file?" Clint asked curiously, but the billionaire shrugged as Natasha's eyes brightened with laughter.
"I read, or tried to read, the important bits. It was more like trying to listen to a satellite feed during a thunderstorm. How much of your file is redacted exactly?" Tony questioned.
"77% last time I checked." Clint said, one eyebrow arching as he twirled his fork in one hand. "I'm 25, Stark."
A somewhat shocked silence fell over the group, though Thor seemed somewhat confused, and Natasha rolled her eyes.
"Bull shit." Tony said quickly, narrowing his eyes at the archer. "You said you'd been with SHIELD seven years." he said, as if those words automatically tipped the argument in his favor.
"I did." Clint agreed slowly, as if talking to a small child.
"You're telling me you were with SHIELD at eighteen, and a good enough contract assassin at seventeen to get on their radar." Tony deadpanned, though it seemed Bruce and Steve had already come to that conclusion themselves, while Pepper gave a small gasp of surprise.
"I was about a month out from my nineteenth birthday when I was recruited." Clint gave a slight nod, his eyes darkening slightly, though a smirk formed on his face. "And I was good enough at sixteen to be an Army sharpshooter. Come on, Stark this is me we're talking about."
Once again, everyone was silent at this new revelation, and Thor finally spoke up with his question, voice confused as he looked around at them.
"I do not understand. Is the Hawk's age young by Midgardian standards?" the demi-god asked with a frown, and it was Clint himself who responded easily.
"Typically, a person is an adult at eighteen." he explained and Thor tilted his head slightly to the side.
"So it is unusual for someone to become an assassin at your skill at such a young age?" the demi-god asked, and Clint cast one slightly amused glance around at his still-surprised teammates before he responded.
"You know, I was going to sate my curiosity and ask how you got into the Army two years early, and not get caught, but I think I'm going to hold off on that, because I might not want to know." Tony said lightly, and Clint smirked and nodded.
"Good choice." he agreed.
Later that night, once the fireworks had long ended, Clint found himself on the expansive balcony off the top floor of the tower, arms wrapped around the railing with his legs dangling over the side. He was well aware that it was past midnight, and he was legitimately exhausted from his mission, but still he didn't find himself able to sleep.
He stiffened automatically when he felt more than heard someone come up behind him, only to relax when Natasha sat silently beside him, leaning her back against his side and turning her head so her gaze followed his down over the city as he easily intertwined his arm with hers.
"Вы имели кошмар?" (Did you have a nightmare?) she asked quietly after a few moments of silence, but Clint just shook his head slightly, before leaning it down on his arms.
"Нет сегодня вечером я только не могу спать." (No, tonight I just can't sleep.) he told her dryly, looking over the city that still was nowhere close to quiet, despite the hour.
"Каким был ваш миссии?" (How was your mission?) she asked next, and Clint gave a slight shrug.
"Моя цель была умнее, чем директор ожидается его. К счастью, я был еще умнее." (My target was smarter than the Director expected him to be. Luckily, I was still smarter.) the archer told her before he smiled slightly. "Но я рад, что мне удалось получить назад во времени для сегодня вечером." (But I'm glad I was able to get back in time for tonight.)
"Это были мы." (So were we.) Natasha told him with a slight smile, looking like she was going to continue. Before she could, however, the balcony door opened, Tony's voice floating over to them.
"I hope this isn't a private party."
Looking around, Clint raised an eyebrow as he saw Tony, Bruce, Steve and Thor all approaching. Stark was carrying a small cooler under one arm, while Bruce and Steve followed slightly behind, the latter carrying what looked like a board game box, while the former held a box or two of snacks. Thor brought up the rear, his arms laden with pillows and blankets, which he then proceeded to drop beside Clint as the archer turned around to face them, expression shrewd.
"What are you guys doing out here?" he asked, sharing a quick glance with Natasha, only to see the same questions in her eyes.
"Well, turns out none of us could sleep. And it's a nice night, now that all the explosions are over with. Seriously, I think I'm going to invent a silent firework, just to prove I can." Tony said absentmindedly as he too lowered himself down to sit on the balcony, though not as close to the edge as Clint and Natasha were.
Within minutes, they'd all gotten comfortable sitting on blankets and leaning against pillows, drinks and snacks having been passed around.
"The Lady Jane has begun to teach me about your planets' constellations." Thor was the first to speak up, the demi-god laying back and looking up to the sky. "I regret to say that I have not yet learned all the stories."
"You can't really see them that well in a city like this." Bruce pointed out, looking up as well. "But I guess ours would be very different from the stars you can see from Asgard."
"Very." Thor agreed with a slight nod, before they all fell silent.
Seeing as they were in the presence of Tony Stark, however, it was a given that it wasn't going to last that long.
"Right, so, just so everyone knows, this was the Captain's idea." the billionaire said lightly, leaning back and grabbing the box Steve had brought out.
"Monopoly?" Clint asked with a slight grin and a raised eyebrow, and Steve just shrugged with an almost embarrassed smile.
"I actually know how to play this one." he admitted, while they all sat up and moved closer to make a circle.
"I am afraid, my friends, that this is one Migardian pastime that I have yet to be introduced to." Thor informed them, gazing curiously at the box as Tony opened it and unfolded the board and Bruce reached over and grabbed the pieces, offering them to the rest of the group.
"It's not that hard to learn." Bruce told him reassuringly as they all picked up one of the small metal game pieces, and Tony started counting and handing out their starting money.
Clint wasn't quite sure when he started to relax and laugh along with the others, the tension leaving his back and shoulders. Probably sometime between Natasha and Thor getting into a heated argument over who in fact owned the fourth railroad, and Bruce somehow finding a way to make Tony bankrupt.
Seeing Stark's spluttering, horrified face, and Bruce's smug smirk had sent everyone into hysterics.
It was nearing four in the morning by the time they finished the game, Bruce obviously having become the victor, seeing as he had managed to combine his and Tony's sizable fortunes. They packed it back into the box before sitting back in a comfortable silence that even Tony seemed content to let continue.
One by one they drifted off, listening to the quiet, eclectic selection of music JARVIS was playing over the speakers. At the point that Thor fell into sleep, the demi-god's snores almost drowned out the sounds from the speakers.
Clint smiled down at where Natasha had already fallen into her typical light sleep on his arm, tucked into his side. He was happy that she was starting to relax around the team just like he had, acting more like Natasha and less like the Black Widow. Trust was just as much a feat for her as it was for him, maybe even more so.
Even with the sound of Thor snoring, and of someone moving restlessly across from him, Clint felt himself falling into sleep more contentedly than he had in a long time.
Surprisingly enough, it was Tony that woke first the next morning, groaning quietly as he raised his hand to shield his eyes from the far too bright sun.
"JARVIS, kill the sun." he muttered, shoving the edge of his pillow over his eyes as well as his hand.
'I'm sorry, sir, but you are currently outside at the moment. I cannot 'kill the sun' as you put it.' JARVIS responded dryly and Tony instantly frowned, his hand moving.
"Hold up, I'm where?" he asked quickly, shooting up into a sitting position and looking around quickly, almost instantly relaxing when he realized what had happened and giving a quiet chuckle as he shook his head.
They were still more or less in the circle they'd fell asleep in the night before, Bruce to his left and sleeping peacefully on his side. Then came the two assassins, Clint closest to him with his arms wrapped almost protectively around Natasha, who was tucked into his side, seeming smaller than ever. The billionaire realized just how much more vulnerable they both looked when sleeping. Thor was next around the circle, sprawled out on his stomach and snoring loud enough that he couldn't see how any of them had slept. Steve completed the circle, the super soldier's huge form actually curled around a pillow.
Tony frowned slightly, knowing now that the Captain was in fact younger than all of them, and seeing it more pronounced now than he had ever before.
He jumped nearly three feet in the air when he heard someone clear their throat behind him, and spinning around in alarm to see Nick Fury leaning in the doorway to the tower, watching them in amusement.
"If I hadn't seen it with my own eye, I'm not sure I would have believed it." the SHIELD director said matter of factly, raising an eyebrow as Tony groaned.
"How the hell did you even get up here?" Tony demanded, falling back and blinking upside down at Fury, even though he already knew the only way it could have happened. Pepper.
"Ms. Potts let me up." Fury confirmed Tony's suspicions. "After, of course, I promised not to wake any of you."
Tony snorted wordlessly, before poking Steve in the side to wake him and grabbing a spare pillow, which he then flung in the general direction of Bruce's face.
A split second before the pillow would have landed squarely on the doctor's face, Clint's hand shot between the two, making Tony gape in shock at the still seemingly asleep archer's reaction time.
"That's not how you wake up Banner." Barton scolded lightly, his words more of a mumble than a fully articulated sentence. He then proceeded to lightly tug the pillow out of Tony's slack grip and drop it over his own face to shield it from the bright sun.
"Oh, uh…. Good morning, sir." Steve faltered, having fully awoken and moved to sit up, only to notice Fury and freeze in surprise, eyes widened.
At those words, Clint half lifted the pillow, one eye blinking out from beneath it. He saw Fury and couldn't help giving a slight groan, lightly shaking Natasha, having already discreetly pulled his arm out from beneath her. He needn't have bothered, seeing as her eyes had snapped open at Steve's words as well.
At the same time, Tony had moved to prodding Bruce awake, causing incoherent grumbles from the doctor before he finally woke, eyeing Tony's amused expression in confusion.
"Will someone please wake up Goldilocks before he blows the house down?" Tony demanded, and Bruce snorted as he rolled into a sitting position, shaking his head as if to clear it.
"I'm pretty sure you combined fairy tales there, Tony." the doctor pointed out mildly, but the billionaire just shrugged as he ran a hand down his face and pushed himself to his feet.
"Who cares?" he shrugged, watching as Steve moved to wake up Thor while Clint and Natasha moved to stand with Tony and Bruce, their eyes on where Fury was waiting at the door.
In ten minutes, they'd all made their way inside and had been supplied with coffee at Tony's insistence before Steve turned to Fury and asked the question on all of their minds.
"What can we do for you, director?" the Captain asked carefully, and Fury turned to him as all the Avengers looked over, interested.
"Well, Agent Barton was in the wind last night before he could be properly debriefed." the director told them, not at all sounding pleased by the archer's actions. "So I thought I'd come down today and get that over with, before he could run off somewhere else."
"Sorry, sir, I had something I had to pick up." Barton told him, though he didn't seem to actually be apologetic.
"I'm sure. Stark, do you have a room Agent Barton and I could use for his debriefing?" Fury turned to Tony, who barely looked up from his cup of coffee.
"JARVIS?" he asked pointedly, and the AI responded quickly.
'Director Fury, there is a free meeting room on the 68th floor of the tower, room 47.' JARVIS said easily, and Fury nodded shortly, moving to the elevator and jerking his head for Clint to follow.
"Who here agrees with me that waking up to him standing over us was freaking creepy?" Tony questioned, receiving nods or snorts of amused agreement from everyone.
A good hour later, Clint slipped from the air vent and into the rafters above the training gym, knowing by JARVIS' information that the rest of the team was currently in there. Looking down, he saw Thor's increasingly frustrated form trying to land any sort of blow on Natasha's flitting form. While Steve flat out refused to spar with Natasha, unable to shake his 'old fashioned' morals, Thor didn't have that problem. He had only once managed to land a hit on her, but they all knew and could tell that the demi-god never fought with all his strength with anyone, even Steve.
The Captain was currently coaching Tony on a punching bag, and Bruce was standing near a wall, looking like he didn't really want to be there.
Carefully, Clint moved to a position where he was above the doctor before he lowered himself down, keeping a careful eye on the rest of them to make sure he wasn't noticed. He wasn't worried. He was very good at being invisible.
"Just wanted to give you fair warning so you don't Hulk out on me when I start Tony's training unexpectedly." he murmured, flashing a smirk when the doctor looked to him in shock.
"Ah, good plan." Bruce returned just as quietly, though his expression had changed to one of slight amusement as well. Clint had made sure that everyone knew about his and Tony's deal, mostly to make sure the billionaire didn't back out of it once he was better.
He knew from what Natasha had told him about her mission as Stark's assistant that he had taken some self-defense training before, and he was curious to see just how far that went. The thought of Tony being unable to protect himself didn't appeal to him at all, and he was going to make damn sure that the man stood a fair chance against a thug without his suit as well as with it.
Bruce appropriately warned, he leapt back up into the rafters and moved instead to a position right above the unsuspecting billionaire and waited for a good time to strike. He smirked when Tony took a small step back from the punching bag before throwing an errant comment to Steve.
In the next moment, Clint had tucked in on himself and dropped, landing in a graceful crouch and kicking Tony's knees lightly out from under him and catching one arm to pin behind him, pulling the older man against him before he could fall.
He felt Tony freeze in shock and fear, and all other action in the gym stopped suddenly to watch.
"What's your first instinct?" Clint asked simply in Tony's ear, feeling the billionaire relax only a fractional amount when his voice was recognized.
"Truthfully? To piss my pants. What the hell, Barton?" he demanded but Clint wasn't amused at this point, his eyes narrowing.
"In the time it took you to say that, I could have killed you six-," he was pleasantly surprised when Tony's free elbow flew back into his stomach, causing him to huff slightly, and he loosened his grip on Tony's arm, more as a conscious response than because the blow had forced him to.
Tony pulled away instantly and spun to face him, eyes narrowed. The flurry of punches that followed were expected and Clint ducked and weaved out of the way of them easily. It was clear that Tony was very offensive in his attacks, though there did at least seem to be a rhyme to his reason that Clint was able to pick up on fairly quickly. The archer purposefully left areas open to attack a few times to see if the man would pick up on them, nodding to himself when blows quickly and precisely flew to those areas. It wasn't that Stark was incompetent. He just needed refinement to his technique. The first time a kick was aimed to his head, Clint reached out and caught the offending limb instead of simply dodging it, speaking to Tony as he did.
"Alright, Stark, not nearly as horrible as I was expecting." he straightened, releasing Tony's ankle as he did now that he'd made it clear the blows were done for the moment. He didn't let the billionaire bask in the compliment for long however, continuing almost as soon as the smug grin appeared. "But at the rate that was going, you would have worn yourself out before I'd even started my own attack. You may be bigger than me, but you're not always going to be the bigger guy. Your strikes have to be quick, precise, and aimed at an area where they are going to do the most damage so you're not expending useless energy."
The grin had fallen off of Tony's face, and he wasn't sure he liked being on this side of the archer's predatorial focus. Even so, he was taking in his words seriously, knowing that Clint would never do anything to hurt him. Scare the crap out of him, yes. Hurt him, no.
"But just as importantly as throwing the punches, is that you need to be able to put up a strong enough defense that you're able to last to the point where you can take your opponent down. So I'm going to throw a few punches. Block them." Clint said, and Tony blinked in surprise.
"Wait, that's all the instruction I-… Shit."
The billionaire ducked instantly around the fist swung at his temple, bringing up his arms to protect his chest next to block the next flurry of punches aimed at his chest. And he completely didn't see the closed fist heading for his side until it hit him.
He gave a slight gasp but scowled at Clint's raised and questioning eyebrow.
"Unless you're a bobble head, Stark, you can move more than your head." he said dryly, before spinning around and aiming a kick at Tony's lower back.
Tony twisted out of the way and so that he was facing Clint again, eyes narrowed. He threw a quick punch to the archer's shoulder more along the lines to just prove he could, only to realize his mistake when Barton reflexively grabbed his arm at the wrist and elbow and flipped him onto his back on the mat they were standing on.
"I think I said 'block'." Clint told him mildly, still keeping his hold on Tony's arm as he crouched at the billionaire's side. "The 'dodge' was implied. I don't remember mentioning anything about 'attack'."
"Didn't seem fair that you got to have all the fun." Tony muttered rebelliously, giving the archer a slight glare, that didn't seem to faze him in the slightest.
"These," Clint gave Tony's arm a light shake before nudging his leg for emphasis. "Are always going to be used against you. The smaller you make yourself out to be, the tighter you keep your limbs pulled in, the less of a target your enemies have to do what I just did."
"Throw me on the ground like a sack of potatoes?" Tony questioned lightly and Clint smirked.
"Exactly." the archer responded in kind before releasing his hold on Tony's arm and offering a hand to help him up instead.
They started again only a few moments later, Tony concentrating more now, and beginning to fall into a rhythm of blocking, twisting and ducking. True, Clint still managed to land his fair share of blows, and he was completely sure his forearms and sides were going to be bruised later, but it was different. He could tell he was learning how to judge the speed, strength and placement of a blow to know how it would best be avoided. He could see Clint was putting more into what he was doing now than he had in the beginning, and he hadn't ended up on the floor again yet.
He was tiring though, sweat running down his temples and into his eyes. He smirked to himself when he saw an opening Clint had left when aiming a kick at his temple. Deciding to act on it, Tony swiped a leg against the back of the archer's left leg, the only one currently on the ground, and sent him sprawling.
A triumphant smirk instantly formed on his face and he caught one of Clint's arms before it could get beneath him to break his fall, pinning it behind him. He heard the archer's surprised huff as he slammed into the ground, and wasn't expecting the younger man to tangle their legs quickly, before jerking himself up and around, freeing his arm with one careful, practiced twist and spinning around. Tony wasn't sure how exactly he landed on his back with Clint's knee resting lightly on his chest, but he was well aware that he had gone from winning to losing in a matter of moments.
"Son of a bitch." he groaned, but Clint just laughed.
"I knew you had a brain in there somewhere, Stark, that was good." the archer told him truthfully, and Tony just raised an eyebrow and looked up at him like he was nuts.
"Barton, I know I didn't give you a concussion." he pointed out, but Clint just shook his head, lightly stepping off the billionaire.
"Your typical thug isn't going to be able to manage a move like that, much less without putting their shoulder out. I just didn't want to give your ego another boost."
"You're an asshole." Tony told him matter of factly as he accepted the archer's hand up, grimacing slightly as he did.
"It's been said." Clint shrugged, before looking him up and down. "That's enough for today. Pepper will come after me if I throw your ribs out of whack."
"'M not complaining." Tony muttered, before cutting Clint an amused glance. "You're cooking tonight."
"It's not Wednesday, Stark." Clint pointed out, but Tony waved him off.
"Who cares. You just threw me around the gym for a good hour and a half. You're making dinner."
"In what world would me training you constitute me having to cook for you?" he demanded, completely nonplussed.
"Spaghetti sounds good." Natasha offered from where she was positioned near the range, having been doing some shooting while Tony and Clint trained.
Clint looked around when murmurs of hopeful agreement filled the gym, seeing that everyone, even Bruce, had looked to him with what could almost be called pleading expressions.
"I hate you all." the archer informed them lightly, even though they all knew that that was his agreement.
"No, no, no." Tony told him with a smirk. "If you hated us, we'd be dead."
Clint decided that he didn't actually mind Stark using his own words against him in this case, as he laughed along with everyone else.
And there we are. ^^ I hope you enjoyed it. Be on the look out for the first chapter of Ties That Bind to be up in a few days. And, as promised, here's the summary.
Ties That Bind
After the events of Protective Reasoning, the team decides they've earned a well deserved vacation and head out to Malibu for a couple weeks. As they should have expected, however, with the Avengers there can't just be a simple, relaxing vacation. No, no, no. That'd be much too easy.