Welcome to Preparations - a series of short filler stories intended to help tie up loose-ends or cover the occasion side-story from the Minion-verse. This collection will be updated as the stories come along, so there may be long waits before a new chapter is added.
Disclaimer: The Avengers are not mine, but Marvel/Disney's. Any operations medical or military may have been written using research and some artistic license. If there are inaccuracies, no offense is intended.
Stark Tower, one week after moving in...
Clint stood on the large patio outside of Stark's expansive living room, staring out at the city as he waited for Natasha. She had volunteered to drive him to his next check-up, and seemed more excited about his recent breakthrough than he was.
He only had one more appointment left with his therapist before he'd be cleared for light duty. Baby steps, the Chaplain had said. Ease your way back into the normal rotation.
Clint had been surprised by the lack of hateful looks when he had returned to the Helicarrier for the meeting with Fury about his apartment fire six days ago. He had expected them to blame him for the whole Loki Incident, and had been more nervous that day than when he had raised his hand and been sworn in to the US Army so many years ago. In a way, the lack of malice made him even more paranoid.
He suspected that the doctors and therapists in Medical and Psych weren't being completely honest about their feelings, but if they were pitying him, he didn't want to know about it. In fact, Command was classifying him as a casualty. A victim, including listing his forced defection as a kidnapping, if the report he had filched was correct. He wasn't sure what to think about that, but there was one thing he knew for sure.
He didn't want their pity. All Clint wanted now was to be left alone to come to terms with what had happened. It was bad enough that R&D had been bugging him about the new arrows that Nat had left on his counter. The redhead had so much faith that he would overcome this... thing that had happened.
At least his sleep patterns were returning to normal. Ever since he had gone off the grid for a week and renewed his ties to his in-laws, he had only had one or two sleepless nights. He wasn't sure if it was the time spent in a comfortable, safe environment, or if it had just taken time for Loki's conditioning to wear off. Medical wasn't sure either, were insisting on regular brain activity scans and IQ tests.
Clint didn't recall having his IQ tested in the first place, though Sitwell – who had been acting as his temporary handler until Fury finished cleaning up the Chitauri mess - had kindly reminded him that it had been part of his entry process into SHIELD. After Selvig had shown an increase in scientific knowledge, R&D had assumed it had affected him as well, and claimed they wanted to establish a new "baseline," whatever that meant. The look of concern on Jasper's face as the tech rattled off the different tests they had planned hadn't helped much.
At least he could trust Jasper to look out for him. As perpetually annoyed as the man acted on average, he was a good friend and ally – a rare thing in the espionage field. Hopefully, one or two rounds of these "tests" would be all the techs wanted, and he could stop cringing every time he went near the R&D wing.
Arrow, his new dog, shuffled around the patio area, sniffing the concrete and pawing at the dirt in the plant beds. The stubborn German Shepherd, who seemed to have as many issues as he did, had possibly been the lynch-pin in Clint's recovery, distracting him from his problems and self-loathing. He and Arrow had fought a battle of wills from the moment Stark had dropped the dog off, until his apartment had burned down; it was only then they had bonded in a literal trial by fire.
Clint wasn't sure how to express his gratitude to Stark, who had arranged for Arrow's unusual retirement from active duty and "adoption" - the dog had helped save him in more ways than one.
He squatted down next to the German Shepherd, scratching him behind his ears as he peered into the foliage. Arrow whuffed quietly, turning to look at Clint. "Whatcha got there?"
The dog turned back to the small clump of bushes near the edge of the plant bed. Nestled underneath the small fronds of a fern was a small metallic object. Light reflected off part of the blade as he picked it up.
It was a small punch dagger, with a silvery-blue hue to the blade. While the dominant color of the weapon was silver, the hilt was embossed with ornate, possibly gold symbols. On the other hand, the afternoon sunlight reflected towards the blue color spectrum on the visible part of the blade.
Uru, an unbidden memory supplied.
Clint froze as several other blue-tinged memories flooded his mind. First, several similar blades were flung towards the guards in the Tesseract chamber at the PEGASUS facility, thrown with startling accuracy. Next, Loki sat quietly after one of his communications with the being he had called "the Other," cleaning a selection of small but deadly looking small blades. He had taken good care of his weapons, as any true warrior should.
Another memory showed Loki handing him one of the duller blades, ordering him to make use of it. The prince had had no use for a damaged weapon. Once the Tesseract had told him how to work the metal...
He snapped back to the present when a light growling began from his left. Clint shook his head quickly to try to clear his thoughts, pinching the bridge of his nose. It never failed: remembering the events that had happened while under the Tesseract and Loki's influence left his head aching. Once his thoughts had cleared, he looked to his left to find Arrow staring at him.
The dog whined as he tried to nudge Clint's cheek. He chuckled lightly, swatting playfully at the German Shepherd. "Knock that shit off, you big lug."
Clint finally stood, looking down at the small weapon with a frown. Blood stained the blade, dried into a black crust. The fact that the metal hadn't rusted was remarkable.
Jacques would be turning over in his metaphorical grave at the thought of such a quality dagger lying forgotten in a flowerbed. One of the first things the Swordsman had taught Clint so many years ago was the need for proper blade maintenance - take care of your blades, and they'll take care of you. The guy had been a thief and a backstabber, but he had known his craft, and had taught Clint well.
Rushing back to his room, he located the bundle of new arrows left by Natasha. Searching through the assortment, he finally found the one he was looking for nestled in the middle. He pulled it out, holding it up to the punch dagger for comparison.
Frowning again, he set the arrow down and dug into one of the newly delivered shopping bags for a blade care kit. Pepper's assistant had been efficient, acquiring everything on his list with little more than a raised eyebrow. With a practiced hand, he began the painstaking process of restoring the blade.
As he continued wiping the dagger, Clint wondered if he should be worried that his first instinct had been to clean the blade instead of wondering whose blood it was. Well, it was something else to talk to the Chaplain about, once Natasha arrived to take him to Headquarters for his appointment.
After the metal was cleaned, polished and oiled, he placed it back down on the counter next to the new arrow.
"Pardon my interruption, Agent Barton," a polite British voice asked, startling Clint. He had almost forgotten about Stark's AI. "May I assist you by increasing the lighting over your counter area?"
Clint tamped down the urge to pull his sidearm, which would have been more embarrassing, given that SHIELD had taken his entire arsenal - that they knew about - and refused to return it until he was cleared for duty. He sighed, relaxing his posture. The idea of a butler, even a robotic one, unnerved him; in this case, even more so, as there was no body to go along with the voice.
Laura would have loved Jarvis, while Clint had seen too many Terminator movies to trust his well-being to a pile of microchips. That kind of carelessness led to shit like Skynet.
"Are you all right, sir? I have detected a slight rise in your pulse rate, and there has been no response to my queries."
Clint gaped, doing a rather impressive rendition of a goldfish as he tried to work out a response. "I'm uh...fine. Thanks. Uh, how are you?"
He nearly slapped his own forehead out of frustration. Nice going, Clint - way to sound like a moron in front of the damn computer.
"I am...functioning at optimal capacity," Jarvis replied with a hint of surprise. "Thank you for asking."
Clint tilted his head in surprise. "What, nobody asks you that?"
"As my creator would be notified of any discrepancies in my operational status or functionality, the thought of asking after my well-being would be redundant."
"Yeah, but it's just nice to hear it sometimes," Clint countered with a shrug, casually reaching down to rub Arrow's head. "Doesn't it piss you off if they don't?"
"While I do appreciate the sentiment, Agent Barton, common courtesies are not required for me to operate at normal capacity."
The archer narrowed his eyes. If that wasn't a subtle hint, he didn't know what was. Never underestimate the power of politeness, Mama Gia had liked to say.
"Alright," he continued. "Can you please turn up the lights? Maybe fifty percent?"
"As you wish, sir. " The lights brightened in response. "Shall I set the default setting to the current level?"
Clint picked up the arrow and dagger. "Just the ones over the counter, thanks."
A closer look showed that the metals appeared to be identical. They each had a blue, whorled hue that bordered on grey and purple, at least to his limited color vision. He was used to seeing Thor's hammer, which was more of a deep grey, but Mjolnir was of a rougher finish. The smoother, polished uru was definitely eye-catching.
Another memory tinged in blue flashed through his mind, nearly causing him to nearly drop the items in his hands.
"My brother is one of the largest threats to my plans for this invasion," Loki commented bitterly, having finished listening to Barton's analysis of Fury's team. "I have seen you at work fletching your replacement arrows. I trust you can put this to good use."
The prince handed him a damaged dagger, its blade scratched and chipped. Hawkeye turned it over, examining the metal. Turning back to the workstation, he began to dismantle the dagger, sensing Loki's wishes.
The Asgardian wanted a 'surprise' ready for the possibility of his so-called brother's arrival. What better way to surprise him than an arrow through his eye socket? It would be fitting for the son of Odin; if the wound didn't kill him outright, perhaps he could wear a patch over his eye like the old man he sought to emulate.
Whispers filled his ears as the Tesseract provided the information he needed. He didn't have a dying star to re-melt the metal nor did he have an equivalent heat source readily available. More data filled his mind, showing him how to use his current equipment to improvise.
As for the rest, well...it looks like the Twins are about to go on a "shopping trip."
There was a loud woof from a dog nearby. Clint paused, looking around in concern. He hadn't brought a dog into the base…
Clint was nearly bowled over as a large form leaned into his legs. The heavy weight caught him off guard, pulling him out of the memory and back to the present and almost off of his feet. He shook his head; while a hundred and twenty pounds of German Shepherd was nothing to sneeze at, he was usually able to avoid falls much easier.
He must have been more out of it than he thought.
"Agent Barton? If you do not respond, I am afraid you may be injured by your dog – he appears to be growing agitated."
The blue tint faded from his vision as he felt a nip on his hand, drawing his attention. He looked down; Arrow stood next to him, Clint's hand held gently in his mouth, ready to bite harder in order to get his attention. The dog whined, looking up at him with concern.
"Do you require assistance?" Jarvis was asking.
"I'm fine, Jarvis." Big Brother is watching me, get it together! Clint shook his head again.
"I am detecting signs of distress and you have been unresponsive for the last five minutes and twelve seconds. Shall I alert your emergency contact or your primary medical care provider?"
"Don't," Clint ordered, setting the dagger and arrow back down on the counter with slightly shaking hands. "I'm fine."
"As you wish, Agent Barton," Jarvis replied, his voice filled with disapproval.
Steadying his hands, Clint groaned, falling into a slouch. The arrow had been intended for Thor...to kill him. He was incredibly lucky that he hadn't seen the larger Asgardian until after Natasha had freed him from Loki's control; somehow, Clint didn't think an attempt on Thor's life would have ended well for either of them.
He picked up the arrow again, glancing from it to the dagger. A smile formed as he began working out how to add them to his arsenal. After all, the arrow was meant to be used against an Asgardian.
Who said it had to be Thor?
Clint waited several days before deciding to take action.
Like any mission, he needed to understand the enemy; it typically didn't work out so well when a good chunk of the intel was missing. One had to understand the enemy, from the way they fought, to the way they ate and drank, where they lived...
If he was going to prepare for another attack by Loki, then he would need to understand how the Asgardian's magic worked. He wracked his brain, trying to recall everything he could from the initial battle when Loki had arrived until he had been...taken.
The initial barrage of gunfire had been easily countered by an invisible shield of some sort, so the first books on the list had been about protective magic. Clint didn't know where exactly Loki's personal shield fell, but he had to start somewhere.
A little known fact among his peers was his fondness for the classics: Hemingway, Dickens, Tolstoy and many others filled the bookshelves in the Mill Basin house. Clint reminded himself that he would have to pick out some of his favorites to bring back to his new apartment in Stark Tower, but...that would mean returning home.
He wasn't sure he was quite ready for that yet.
One of the unexpected benefits to his line to work was the fact that he had been able to cultivate an extensive set of contacts, particularly in the fine art of acquisition. While most of them were black market fences, arms dealers, and information brokers, there were one or two art specialists in the network, as well as an expert rare book collector.
It was the last "expert" that he contacted using an alias that SHIELD didn't know of, explaining what he was looking for. The old woman had snickered at his request, but promised to locate what she could and forward them within a week, along with the bill, of course. Thankfully, he had been able to set up various drop locations around the city to keep things under the radar – Fury would have a field day if he knew what Clint was planning.
A visit to one of the larger bookstores had revealed a larger selection for the archer to browse, as well as a large selection of some of Clint's favorites: the "For Dummies" series. He had relied on the series in the past when he had gone to school for his degree, and thankfully, they had one or two "For Dummies" books that could help give him a head start. The hard part would be to determine which books were the real deal, and which were new-age trends that could be safely browsed and donated to a local library or resold.
Soon, the small bookshelves in his new home were full of reference books, tomes, and a few others that his book dealer had included as a gift. Unfortunately, there wasn't much book shelving installed, which meant more furniture shopping was in his future. Stark apparently thought he wasn't much of a reader, but to be fair, the man hardly knew him.
Once the first of many packages arrived, Clint began the first stage of preparation: research. Lots, and lots of research.