Hello everyone and welcome to Ties That Bind.
To everyone that is new to my Avengers fics, they should know that this story is part of my Protective Reasoning universe, and is in fact the sequel to Protective Reasoning. They can be read together or apart if you want, there'll just be some things referenced that you don't really get. I would appreciate you giving both Protective Reasoning and it's prequel Home Sweet Home a read though.
And to those of you who aren't new... Holy Smokes! You people reached over a hundred reviews for Home Sweet Home. That's just... I have no words for how awesome you people are. Thank you!
Anyway, I'd love if you'd be willing to give me some feedback to this story as well, and I do try to reply to every review I get. It's worked out pretty well so far.
Not much action in this chapter, but trust me, that will change with time. Looking at my current plans for this story, it's probably going to be the longest yet, somewhere between 10 and 15 chapters. I have no idea what I'm getting myself into here...
Please read and enjoy.
As always, I own nothing.
Clint gave a slightly aggravated sigh as he caught the paper ball he'd created for himself at the beginning of the flight in his hand for the 352nd time, from where he was sitting perched on the back of one of the seats, looking bored out of his mind for all intents and purposes.
Sure, they all agreed that two weeks in Stark's Malibu house would be a good vacation, and an easy excuse to get out of the freezing New York snow, but he didn't understand why the flight had to be so long and horrendously boring.
It had been a month since the fiasco involving former General Ross and Victor Simmons; two weeks since Clint had personally delivered the other files to Bruce, and finally the archer's ribs had managed to stop aching when he did more than sit up and walk to an elevator. He was positively gleeful, seeing as the team hadn't so much as let him step foot in the training gym, or pick up his bow until Bruce had cleared him, which had happened only hours before. And now, when he finally had the ability to get up and do something, he was stuck in a plane.
If it had been anyone but the other Avengers that had tried to bench him like they had been for the past month, Clint would have been livid, and he would have informed the offending parties of that fact, before laughing in their faces and doing whatever he wanted anyway. But some annoying little voice in the back of his mind told him that his team, and Pepper, were only worried about him in a way that he couldn't remember anyone but Phil and Natasha being for him. So he'd gone along with it, no matter how much he hated it. It helped that Tony had JARVIS sound an annoying, loud and obnoxious alarm whenever he had approached the gym from any direction.
He looked around himself in boredom, and unsurprisingly saw that his teammates were in the same places they had been for the past three hours on the Stark Industries jet. Tony and Bruce were bent over a tablet, arguing quietly with one another as they worked on something that was probably out of his realm of caring enough to dissect the meaning of. Pepper was a seat away from Tony, working on something on her laptop that probably had to do with making sure her two-week leave of absence from New York wouldn't put the entirety of Stark Industries at risk of falling apart. Steve was further down the jet, sketching something in one of his sketch books while Thor watched with something Clint could only describe as awe on his face. The demi-god had told them before that on Asgard, a talent in art was both rare and honored. The archer couldn't say he was surprised, considering what little he knew of the warrior race. Finally, Natasha was sitting in the seat to his right, immersed in a thick book.
Deciding that their flight needed some half-time entertainment, mostly to try to stave off his own boredom, Clint tossed his paper ball once more in his hand, before lobbing it with ease at the back of Tony's head and watching with a grin as it struck and bounced harmlessly to the ground. Thankfully, however, that was enough to get the billionaire started.
Within seconds, Tony had straightened and turned to face him with a slight scowl, eyes narrowed.
"Was that really necessary, Barton?" he demanded, but the archer just grinned unashamedly.
"Yes." he said matter of factly, ducking easily out of the way when Tony retrieved his little paper projectile and hurled it back at him. His grin widened when it then struck Natasha instead, causing the Russian assassin's eyes to flash with annoyance as she looked up over her book.
Tony's eyes widened comically, before he quickly pointed a finger at Clint.
"He did it."
The archer snorted, but watched as Natasha gave a convincing growl, her eyes returning to her book as she spoke.
"He did start it. But you hit me with it. I'm trying to read, Stark, leave me out of yours and Clint's shenanigans." she told him lightly, and Tony gave a silent sigh of relief, before turning his eyes almost accusingly to Clint.
"Just because you're bored, that doesn't mean it's okay to endanger the lives of the rest of us." the billionaire told him unhappily, ignoring Bruce as the doctor rolled his eyes.
"Hey, I didn't make you throw it back." Clint said defensively, before he brightened slightly. "Didn't you two say you had a surprise for me or something?"
The two scientists had mentioned it the night before, and the archer had been somewhat wary, not knowing if what they considered surprise worthy would be safe to be within a two mile radius of. When Steve had been quick to reassure him, however, the unease had been replaced by curiosity. Not much happened around the tower that he wasn't aware of.
The two shared a quick glance, Bruce shrugging as Tony stood.
"I guess you can have it now." the billionaire said, moving to slip behind the curtain that led to the front of the plane.
"You just can't play with it until we land." Bruce amended quickly, a slight excitement of his own settling into his eyes.
"Yeah, no." Tony agreed as he came back into the main area of the jet. "That would end badly for all parties involved."
Clint's eyes widened slightly as he noticed the sleek, black, cylindrical quiver that the billionaire held by the strap in his hand. It looked similar to his, but with obvious, subtle differences that he quickly picked up on. It was a little longer, a little wider, and made out of a different metal. It was fully stocked with as many arrows as Tony could fit in it, and well more than his old one could hold.
"Trust me, hate it just as much as you do when you run out of arrows." Tony said matter of factly, offering the quiver out to him easily. "Bruce and I were bored. We took the measurements from the old one, and kept the weight discrepancy as low as we could. Holds a little over a hundred arrows, complete with twenty of your more 'special' arrowheads."
Clint stared in shock, slowly slipping off the back of his seat and approaching the object that Tony held out to him.
"It's already hooked up to your bow, which I swear we didn't touch. Romanoff may have warned us that that was a no-no." Tony was smirking now at the expression on the typically stoic archer's face. Bruce too was watching with a small grin from his seat.
"You guys didn't have to do this…" Clint said quietly, his tone almost disbelieving.
"No." Tony agreed lightly, his smirk widening as the archer took the quiver from him carefully. "The thing's not made of glass, Legolas. Far from it; it can take a hell of a beating. Now go on, make sure it sits right. We don't claim to be quiver experts."
Clint snorted and gave a slight shake of his head at the billionaire's words, before returning his focus to what was apparently his new quiver. He weighed the cylindrical object in his hands, noting the slight difference, but agreeing with Tony that it wasn't much, even though it was larger, held a lot more arrows, and double the number of his less traditional arrowheads. As he was doing this, he admired the sleek black metal that made it up, and inspected the mechanisms he could see to load the arrows if he wanted to change out the heads.
Satisfied, he then slung the quiver over his back in one practiced movement, rolling his shoulders as it settled in between his shoulder blades, and the strap crossing his chest in almost the exact same place as his old one had, and it sat just as comfortably. He could feel the added width and length, but it wasn't awkward and he didn't foresee it giving him any problems, especially once he got used to it.
"It's perfect." he said, looking to Tony, and then Bruce. "What's it made out of?"
"Same alloy as my suit." it was Tony that responded easily, taking a small step back with a triumphant grin. "That's how we got away with adding to the size and capacity without changing the weight all that much. Bruce wouldn't let me give it the same paint job, though."
"Thank God." Clint taunted teasingly, but his eyes were still slightly widened with awe as he pulled one of the arrows to inspect it as well, noting that it took a little more force than it usually did. "You made these too?"
"Same exact design and weight as your old ones." Tony nodded, plopping back into his seat. "We also took the liberty of adding in a little something to make sure none of them go flying when you're doing what could technically be called circus stunts over your opponents' heads."
Clint scoffed, but was still grateful for the gesture, deciding that was why he'd needed a bit more pull to free the arrow still in his hand.
"Then Bruce had some fun with some of those special ones." Tony added and Bruce gave a slight roll of his eyes as he stood from his seat and walked over to Clint for himself, messing with something on the quiver for a few moments.
"Fair warning, this is the reason you can't play with it now, but yes, I had some fun." the doctor gave a wry grin as he held out an open palm to the archer, four different arrowheads resting on it. He picked up the most familiar of them and held it out for Clint to take, consisting of a compact bulb over the sharpened point. "Explosive. Not really much different than the ones you had before, other than the fact that Tony fanagled the cocktail to give it a bit more bang for its buck."
Clint took it, rolling it across his palm and feeling almost like a kid on Christmas morning as he pointed out the other more familiar head that Bruce held.
"Grappling?" he questioned, giving a slight frown and an almost doubtful expression to the small, compact claw. Bruce must have seen his expression because he gave a quiet chuckle.
"Yes, and trust me. If it can take Thor's weight, it can take yours just fine." the doctor said, and at that point the demi-god spoke up, the rest of the team having been watching as the two geniuses explained Clint's gift to him.
"Indeed, Hawk, they had me test the device's strength." he confirmed and Clint gave a slight chuckle to that mental image as Bruce continued, moving on to what was definitely the oddest looking of the four.
"And this was where I got a bit… creative." he admitted, holding up what looked to be a three-sided and almost hinged arrowhead. "With these, you're going to want to hit the trigger on your bow a bit before impact. Shoots out a 4' by 4' titanium alloy sticky netting."
Clint watched, impressed, as the doctor pried open one of the side to reveal the condensed netting inside before he let it snap shut again.
"I've seen bullets like this." the archer mused, eyes bright. "Never this small, though."
"Any bigger and it would have offset the entire arrow, making it basically pointless." Bruce pointed out with a shrug. "That one took me a while, trying to get it to where it fired out correctly."
Clint wordlessly shook his head, unable to think of anything to say at that point and time. Instead, he just nodded curiously down to the final arrowhead. It only had a small point to it, and as such would only cause a shallow wound, and certainly not a deadly one, so he was somewhat confused as to its purpose.
"This one delivers a pressure-triggered electrical charge." Bruce explained next. "Enough of one to knock a man unconscious. Designed for non-fatal purposes, but I'm sure that given time you could find a way to change that." the doctor gave another grin at his words, which Clint returned easily, still reeling slightly from all the possibilities that could stem from this gift.
It was easily ten times better than anything he or the SHIELD techs ever could have come up with, but considering the fact that Tony Stark and Bruce Banner were directly involved, that wasn't much of a surprise. What was slightly a surprise was the fact that there wasn't even a real reason for them to have spent so much time making this for him.
Shaking out of his thoughts quickly, Clint slipped the quiver off his back and held it out in front of him again so he could watch how Bruce loaded the four arrowheads back into place.
"There's ten explosive, five electrical, three netting and two grappling loaded in there now, but we made extras of everything, so you can change it up to whatever you want." Bruce told him, before pointing out something he hadn't noticed before on one side of the quiver. "And a slot for your bow when you're not using it."
"It's amazing." Clint told them both matter of factly, slowly shaking his head as he looked the entire thing over again with what was probably a stupid grin on his face. "Thank you."
"It's not that big of a deal." Tony waved off the gratitude easily as Bruce returned to his seat as well. Clint just shook his head slightly, his eyes darkening.
"Hardly anyone's ever just given me something like this before." he told them quietly, his eyes pointedly on the quiver instead of anyone else. He didn't say that the only two people to give him a gift for the hell of it with no expectation of anything in return since his parents had died were Natasha and Phil. He didn't actually expect the billionaire to understand anyway.
To his credit, however, it didn't take longer than a few minutes of somewhat awkward silence for Stark to understand the meaning behind his words, unhappy realization washing across his face, followed shortly by carefully masked shock and disbelief. Bruce had already let a frown grace his expression, and Clint was uncomfortably aware of the eyes of everyone on the jet on him.
True, they'd been watching with amused interest from the beginning, but the gazes had changed now, and the entire mood on the jet had darkened. Pepper's in particular was almost wholly one of pity, seeing as she had taken it upon herself to mother all of them.
"It is a gift fit for a warrior." the deep timbre of Thor's voice cut through the silent tension after no more than a few minutes, six pairs of eyes turning to him instead. "I am sure it will be put to good use."
Clint couldn't help a wry grin and a nod to him. Who said the demi-god was oblivious to social climate?
"Thanks." the archer tossed to him as well, before he all but hopped back to his seat, sitting in it normally so he could better examine his new toy.
Natasha, who had set aside her book to watch the exchange, leaned over to get a better look as well, giving his arm a light, understanding squeeze. He gave her a familiar lopsided grin in response, before looking back to the quiver in his lap.
He turned back to look at Bruce when the doctor spoke, eyes curious.
"You're welcome." the doctor continued sincerely, Tony nodding along with his words, still looking somewhat stunned.
Clint smirked, the heaviness over the jet cabin evaporating quickly. He gave them a short nod in return before once again turning to the quiver, itching to grab his bow and try it out, especially now that he could.
When the plane landed roughly another three hours later, Tony was the first one off and down the ramp, grinning widely.
"Happy, good to see you!" he called brightly to the man waiting beside the black SUV and Tony's favorite Audi convertible.
"You too, boss." the larger man grinned, shaking Tony's hand before nodding to the rest of the Avengers as they loaded off the jet. "You've got some interesting company."
"When am I not interesting?" Tony asked pointedly, and Happy gave a shrug of agreement. The billionaire then tossed a glance over his shoulder, a wide smirk forming on his face. "Pepper and Bruce are riding with me."
At those words, the doctor shared a quick glance with Pepper who gave an exasperated sigh and patted his arm reassuringly.
"Prepare yourself." she told him with a smile as they watched Tony catch the keys Happy tossed him before he all but leaped into the Audi's driver seat.
"Oh, this is going to be fun. I can tell." Bruce deadpanned, before grinning slightly at the responding chuckles that came from Steve, Thor and Clint.
"Come on." Tony said imploringly, watching impatiently as Bruce and Pepper approached the car, the blonde woman setting her bags into the trunk and inviting Bruce to do the same.
The doctor then climbed carefully into the backseat, before Pepper slid into the passenger seat, Tony grinning widely the entire time. As soon as they were both settled, the billionaire slammed onto the gas with an excited whoop, the car shooting smoothly towards the road beyond the air strip. Bruce tightly gripped the side of the car and gave a slow, exasperated shake of his head. They were practically flying down mostly deserted, winding roads at speeds that certainly weren't legal anywhere inside the boundaries of the U.S.
On the other hand, Pepper looked almost used to it, staring out at the scenery as it flashed by around them.
After a few minutes of maniacal driving, Tony looked back to Bruce and gave him a cocky smirk, eyes bright and happy.
The doctor couldn't help but laugh at that sight. "Eyes on the road, you lunatic." he shouted, though he doubted Tony would hear him anyway, due to the sheer force of the wind.
Something from his comment must have gotten across, though, because Tony rolled his eyes at him and stuck out his tongue before turning back around.
When they finally slowed- or more screeched to a halt- in a driveway, Bruce couldn't help but stare at the mansion they'd stopped in front of. Like everything else of Tony Stark's, it seemed to be the very definition of modern, the huge white and glass house going right up to the cliff edge.
"What d'ya think?" Tony asked, grin still plastered on his face as he twisted around to look at Bruce after parking the car only feet from the door, Pepper stepping out with a small, knowing smile on her face.
"I think it's huge." Bruce said matter of factly, giving the other man his own smirk. "And very breakable."
"Well, you wouldn't be the first one to break it." Tony quipped easily, jumping out of his seat and moving around to the truck, grabbing Pepper's bags for her, seeing as he hadn't bothered with his own. He was going to his own house. He had stuff there too, so why bother with a suitcase? "Me and Rhodey have that accomplishment, and you and the Big Guy can't have it."
Bruce huffed out a laugh at that, shaking his head once again as he climbed out and grabbed his bag from the trunk before closing it. His friend's nonchalant attitude toward the Other Guy still occasionally managed to throw him for a loop, and this was one such time. It was just so different from how everyone else tiptoed around him. Of course, that statement was excluding the rest of his team as well, but even they didn't run around poking him with pointy things and then staring at him intently for twenty seconds looking for any sort of reaction.
Clint seemed to be starting to get to that point of careless indifference, though, just without the pointy objects.
"Thank you, Tony." Pepper said with almost teasing surprise, which shook Bruce out of his thoughts in time to see Tony shrug.
"I can occasionally be chivalrous." he said modestly, waiting until Bruce stepped away from the car before he spoke again. "JARVIS, go ahead and drive the Audi into the garage, and let's try to keep it off the walls this time, okay?"
As Bruce watched, an expression that was mildly impressed on his face, the car started itself and began slowly moving towards a tunnel entrance.
"It's a work in progress." Tony sighed as way of explanation, but before Bruce could comment, the SUV containing the rest of the team pulled up and stopped just behind them, Steve, Natasha, Clint, Thor and Happy piling out and staring up at the mansion with varying expressions.
"I guess I shouldn't be surprised that before you built a tower to the sky with your name on it, that this was your house." Steve said dryly as he walked up to stand with Tony, Bruce and Pepper.
"Come on, Cap. Obviously when Stark says 'house', you're automatically supposed to think 'mansion the size of a SHIELD base'." Clint told him matter of factly, one eyebrow raised as he looked over the outside of the house he could see.
"I didn't know I was going to be surrounded by a group of aspiring comedians." Tony said dryly, one eyebrow arching as he looked over to Steve and Clint, who were both grinning unashamedly. The billionaire then proceeded to lead them inside, using a passcode instead of a key to get in, JARVIS' voice sounding as soon as they stepped over the threshold.
'Welcome home, Mr. Stark. Should I create passcodes for the rest of the team?' the AI's voice was no different here than it was in New York, seeming to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
"Yeah, JARVIS, get on that." Tony instructed as he dropped Pepper's bags by the door, and motioned for everyone else to do the same before he responded to the confused expressions he was receiving. "All the doors here are passcoded. Used to be a lot of people around I didn't want snooping for parties and such. Don't worry, I won't intentionally lock you out of anywhere important like the bathrooms or anything…"
Pepper lightly smacked his arm in response, her expression disapproving.
"Play nicely." she scolded, with a knowing glare at Tony before she moved to leave the group. "I'm going to go see what we have in the kitchen."
"I'll help you." Natasha offered, quickly moving to follow her and tossing her own glare at Tony when he opened his mouth to protest. "I know my way around, Stark."
The billionaire huffed, looking vaguely insulted, while Clint just chuckled, his eyes sparking with amusement.
Tony then proceeded to show them around the entire mansion, starting with the main living area, before he moved on to the kitchen, dining room, TV and entertainment room, long balcony overlooking the sea and cliffs, huge infinity pool, and finally the training gym. It was smaller than the one they had in the tower, but when he had first starting entertaining the idea of taking this vacation, he had made sure there was a fully stocked storage closet of heavy-duty punching bags, and had seen to it that another firing range identical to the one in the tower had been put in, as well as a set of metal rafter beams. He was really getting tired of the looks Pepper was getting sent when she assured the contractors that yes she wanted rafters put in. Was that honestly such a strange request these days?
At any rate, they practically had to drag Barton out, with the promise from Steve that he could return as soon as he got settled in, seeing as JARVIS had finished creating the passcodes for everyone. Tony already knew that after his month of doing nothing, Barton's 'settling in' would consist of dropping his bag in a room.
Grinning with the thought, the billionaire led them to a hallway lined with rooms they could pick from. That taken care of, he wandered off to his own room, looking to change into some more casual clothes so he wouldn't have to worry about Pepper harping on him for getting grease or something on something that wasn't a t-shirt again.
Bruce barely had time to get into his new room and set down his bag before Tony was back, practically bouncing with excitement. Without explanation or preamble, he then proceeded to practically drag the doctor out of the room and to a set of down-ward leading stairs.
"Alright, Tony, I'm coming." he said, rolling his eyes at the other man's antics and pulling his arm out of his grip. "It's not like you need to drag me."
"But that takes all the fun out of it." Tony pouted, practically leaping off the stairs and punching in his passcode at the glass doors to his garage/lab area, Bruce leaning around him to get a better look.
"This is mainly where I do the work on the suit and the cars." Tony explained, walking in with Bruce on his heels, the doctor looking around with slightly widened eyes as he took in everything around him. "The particle accelerator used to be in here too, until I decided I should probably give it better supports than amassed piles of books and junk, so I gave it its own little room."
"Tony, only you would build a particle accelerator in your garage supported on books and junk." Bruce said in a dry, matter of fact tone that wasn't at all surprised.
"Hey, I was desperate, alright? I was dying. Give a guy a break." Tony said defensively, though there was a wide smile on his face. "Want to see it?"
Bruce laughed to mask his amazement, but allowed his excitement to show as he followed Tony across to a small door. After all, it wasn't like everyone had access to their own personal particle accelerator.
And there we have the first chapter. I hope you enjoyed it, and please feel free to shoot me a review if you have any questions, concerns, general feedback, world domination plots ect. I accept them all. Next chapter should be up in a few days.