Have you ever thought about

what protects our hearts?

Just a cage of rib bones

and other various parts.

~Ingrid Michaelson, Breakable

He jumps.

The building behind him explodes into flames a fraction of a second later and Tony releases a quick prayer before angling his body and adjusting the thrusters to bring him downwards full tilt.

Even without his command, Jarvis immediately sends a host of images and calculations flickering through his vision, silently for once. Tony ignores them all and cuts his eyes through the luminescence to focus on his target, a barely visible spot in the distance. As he plummets from the sky, gravity slicks his hair back, and Tony wills himself to go even faster.

He's fallen from the sky like this a million times before, but this time as he falls, terror floods his mind and deadens his body, and his thoughts scream, extrapolating the number of possible outcomes that the current situation holds. None of them look good.

Instinctively, in some automatic act of self-preservation, his consciousness shuts down to make way for his inventor's mind, the part of his brain that never stops humming, never stops thinking. He lets his terror fade to numbness and focuses on what he can control.

Just a few moments ago there were ideas for synthetic retina tissue and polarized electro-circuits ricocheting in his thoughts, but he pounds them away and mentally pulls up the preliminary sketch for the gear he's wanted to build for Clint since the Chitauri Incident. It had been tossed aside in favor of developing his armor, and then rebuilding New York, and then running experiments with Bruce. But as he plummets towards Earth, Tony develops his sketch and fleshes it out now with new and furious vigor.

A slim silhouette, that would fit snugly against Clint's skin, so there wouldn't be a chance of it snagging or catching on something during combat. Durable leather, with threads of iron running through the entire structure to give it flexibility and strength. Grappling hooks, hidden compartments – the very best, and even more, for the archer.

Because after all, Clint needs it. Tony's got the suit, and Bruce may be a shy science nerd in real life, but he's also got a big green alter-ego that can handle himself just fine in a fight, thank you very much. Thor is a demigod that has a hammer the size of Tony's whole leg, and he knows how to use it too. Steve's got that super-soldier serum that makes him damn impervious and even though she's never admitted it, Tony knows that Natasha's got something unnatural running through her veins as well.

But Clint has none of these. Tony's not saying he's weak, obviously, because the archer would kill him slowly and with a smile if he ever heard him utter those words, but he doesn't have super-serum, or super-strength, or super-anything, really. Out of all of them, Clint is the only one who is terribly, painfully, excruciatingly human. The only things protecting the muscle he calls a heart are a few rib bones and a couple inches of flesh, and for all their will, they would fail if they went against a brick wall, or pavement.

And as he falls from the sky, Tony's eyes begin to burn because for all his supposed intelligence, he has just now finally realized that Clint is human, and that Clint is breakable.

But he's Tony Stark (genius billionaire playboy philanthropist) so he blinks a few times and refocuses his attention on developing Clint's outfit. Bulletproof fabric isn't even a question, nuclear-bomb-proof is an obvious given. The softest of silks to line the inside, so the clothes feel sweet and cool against Clint's skin.

The ground is rushing up to him dizzyingly quickly, but Tony strains even harder to meet it because he is so close, so close, and all the while in his mind he designs for Clint leather boots reinforced with polymerized steel that will protect him and built-in shock absorbers that will keep him safe and –

And Clint's body crumples onto the ground with a sickening crunch and Tony lands by his side, a tenth, a hundredth, a thousandth of a second too late to catch him.

The archer's femur juts out of his thigh. Tony rips off his helmet and retches, watching Clint breathe out blood.

~ To Be Continued ~

A/N: Feedback is adored.