Author's Note: I wrote this story for my very dear friend: Frea O'Scanlin. It is her birthday today and I needed something to commemorate this very awesome day. Happy Birthday, Frea! I'm sorry it's not the whole story as I kind of hoped, but you know me. I do promise there will be more forthcoming. I've already got ideas percolating in my head. But I thought this would be a nice taste of what's to come. Thank you to Crumbles for her assistance and giving me encouragement.
"Look, JARVIS, all I'm saying is that sometimes, a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do, you understand?"
"Not really, sir," JARVIS said.
"Just because you're not human, doesn't mean Tony can't annoy you too."
"I prefer non-corporeal intelligent entity," JARVIS said. "And no comment."
Clint snorted and continued to worm his way forward. He had never quite understood why Stark had designed the air ducts to be so large in Stark Tower, but he wasn't going to complain. Not when they were so handy for moving around unseen, though he did hate the fact that he was all too intimately familiar with what a TV dinner felt like.
He continued pleading his case with JARVIS. "All I'm asking for is two minutes, that's all. I promise I'm not going to steal anything or break anything in the lab."
"But, sir, you can't really expect me to allow you to break into the Q Lab without at least alerting Mr. Stark."
Finally, Clint had reached his destination and pulled out the MGFN-42 that he had never returned to Supply after the Sebastopol mission. He placed it next to the sensor that comprised part of the lab's highly complex security system and let it do its thing. "But if you do that, he'll know I was in there and my whole plan will be ruined. Two minutes, JARVIS."
"Agent Barton, I can see what you're doing. Disabling that won't stop me from—" JARVIS abruptly cut off.
Clint stilled, and peered at the MGFN-42 curiously. He didn't think that the device could do that, cut JARVIS off from the system like that. The red light from the vent sensor switched off and there was a faint click sound, like something unlatching. Clint was momentarily confused, the MGFN-42 normally didn't work that fast, especially not on something as complex as a security system designed by Tony Stark, but he wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
He was down and in the lab in less than ten seconds.
He landed in a crouch and knew immediately he wasn't alone.
Straightening up, he said, "How'd you get in here?" Clint didn't need to turn around to know Natasha was behind him.
"I used my access code," Natasha said.
Clint could feel his jaw loosening in surprise and he spun on his heel to face her. He knew he must have looked affronted. "What? You have an access code? I don't have a code!"
Natasha just cocked an eyebrow, as if everything could be explained with just that one gesture.
"That is completely unfair. How come you have a code and I don't?"
Natasha looked up at the vent and then back down at the lab. Clint rolled his eyes and grumbled under his breath; if the faint smirk on Natasha's face was any indication, she could hear every word.
"Well, come on."
"You owe me dinner and I'm hungry, so do what you came here for."
Clint blinked and peered at Natasha skeptically. "You're not going to try and talk me out of it?"
"Would it make any difference if I did?"
Natasha gestured with her hand for him to get moving, so he snapped into motion. He tried not to think too hard about how quickly he had moved at her leave, and focused on completing his mission.
Or he was focused until he saw the gauntlet lying on one of the nearby workbenches. It was a burnished red, fluorescent light reflecting off its gleaming surface. The gauntlet looked like it had come straight from Tony's suit.
His initial plan had been to tamper with Tony's workstation, probably his chair, but messing with something from his suit, well, that would be even better. Not enough to compromise its integrity, of course. He wasn't cruel (most of the time), and besides, he could feel Natasha following him. He knew she wouldn't approve of him causing too much damage, even if the bastard deserved it for messing with Abigail.
He picked up the armband and studied it carefully. He just needed to find a way to access the machinery inside, and he'd be good to go.
"What are you doing?" he heard Natasha say. "I don't think you should be touching any of the equipment in here."
Clint ignored her and lifted a square piece of metal that appeared to be covering some kind of control panel. That would have to do. "Just a second, this is better than what I planned."
"I was talking to Stark earlier and he said there's some stuff in here you really don't want to mess—"
Clint accidentally pressed one of the buttons.
There was a blinding white light.
There was a loud whooshing sound.
Clint felt a feeling of vertigo settle deep in the pit of his stomach.
And then everything stopped.
It took several seconds for Clint to recover from whatever it was that had just happened. "Natasha?" he called out, worried that whatever had just happened to him had happened to her also. Maybe she hadn't been caught up in it. Maybe she was okay.
"I'm okay," he heard.
He groaned and brought a hand up to rub at his face. Damn it. She was going to kill him. Now that they had survived, she was going to kill him. And he couldn't really blame her.
"What did you do?"
Clint could feel another bout of recalibration therapy coming his way. "I don't know. I think I accidentally pressed a button."
A hand landed on his shoulder and turned him around. Natasha's eyes roved over his body, obviously checking him for injuries. "You look fine. How do I look?"
He wasn't exactly sure how to answer that question safely. So he just said, "Uh, great."
Natasha rolled her eyes, but did give him a brief smile. Spinning on her heel, she started to take in their surroundings. It was clear that they were no longer in Stark Tower. In fact, they appeared to be somewhere he didn't recognize at all. He could see that they were in a building at least, but it looked rundown and abandoned. Had they been transported to another part of the city? What the hell had Stark been working on?
Something crackled under his feet when he started to follow Natasha, who was moving toward a doorway in the far wall. He looked down and noticed a newspaper. It was the New York Times, and emblazoned across the dirtied and crumbled up front page was the headline: TAFT-HARTLEY ACT BECOMES LAW.
Clint blinked and looked at the date. June 23, 1947. Clint looked up at where they were, then back down at the paper. It still read June 23, 1947.
That couldn't be right. But the paper, despite its dirtied appearance, looked in too good of condition to be a sixty year old paper. There was no yellowing of the paper, no fading of the ink, nothing to indicate that it had been lying on a warehouse floor for decades.
"Um, Natasha, I think you need to take a look at this."
So what has happened? Stay tuned to find out.