“I swear to God, if you shoot even a single one of my babies, I will be seriously forced to reconsider loving you.”
“That's a shame. I'll miss the sex.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, who said anything about giving up the sex? That's not happening. No way. I'm just saying that instead of a stable, emotionally fulfilling long term relationship, we'll be forced to just have a lot of angry, angry sex and occasionally make out in supply closets.”
“I'm not seeing the downside here.”
“You'd miss waking up with me naked in your bed.”
“Possibly. I would not, however, miss the trail of discarded clothing that leads to you being naked in my bed. With you, there is always an unpleasant trade off of some sort. Also the snoring, I won't miss that in the least, if you want to know the truth.”
Clint Barton grinned, wide and bright and sharp. “Now, sir, I'm hurt. Deep down, in the cockles of my soul, I am weeping like a child.”
“Luckily, I never expected maturity when I started dating you, Barton,” Phil Coulson said, but his lips curled up, just the tiniest bit. For Coulson, it was the equivalent of a full body laugh, and Clint loved it.
As Clint watched, Coulson peered around the corner, his back up against the wall, his gun held with easy grace. Clint took a moment out of the Avengers' most recent crisis to appreciate that, because, damn, he loved it when Coulson was armed. The man could take out a spec ops operative with a goddamn Christmas wreath (Clint knew that to be a fact, he'd seen it), but arm the agent with an actual weapon and Clint had to seriously fight the urge to start taking his clothes off.
To this day, he was certain that the mission where Coulson ended up with both an RPG and an assault rifle had been a secret plot on Fury's part to kill him.
“I'm plenty mature,” he said, “I can buy my own booze and everything.”
“I cannot believe we let you have a gun.”
“Luckily for your peace of mind, I don't like using it,” Clint said, waiting for the signal that he knew was coming. He could read the lines of Coulson's body, the way his breathing shifted just in advance of his thoughts, the way his eyes went heavy lidded when he was ready. And that last one fit multiple uses of the word 'ready,' much to Clint's everlasting delight.
He was almost certain that Coulson had no idea that he got the same look in his eyes when approaching an op that he did approaching Clint with certain intentions, and Clint wasn't about to tell him. He did wonder if that meant the ops were as good as sex, or if the sex was just another op, carried out with just as much planning, precision and attention to detail.
Either way it ended with orgasms, lots and lots of orgasms, so Clint wasn't really interested in analyzing it too deeply.
Coulson didn't even look in Clint's direction, knowing that he'd be moving a step behind Phil, covering his back and watching for their target to double around and try to flank them. Their feet silent, they headed up the empty corridor, staying low and moving along the cover of the wall. When they came to a stop, Phil was at the corner, watching. “Here,” Phil said, shifting his weight and getting a better angle without exposing an inch of himself to the corridor beyond. It was a thing of beauty, really. “Intel indicates we have three minutes.”
“Not long enough for a quickie, then.”
“No.” Phil's eyes found Clint's, hot and sharp. “Not at work, Barton.”
“But you're always at work, and even when we're back at the tower, you're technically doing your job of babysitting Stark and keeping him from prank calling Doom or convincing Steve that Vegemite is a cookie frosting.”
“Are you asking me to chose between sex with you and the preservation of Western civilization, Barton?”
“I'm saying that I at least merit the consideration of a pity fuck in the supply closet, we have an entire ninety seconds left.”
“You want to get laid, perhaps you should work for it. You're an operative with a dozen years of experience in creative problem solving and goal oriented behavior, I think this is within your skill set.”
“You got that off of my annual report.”
“I wrote your annual report. It pretty much was, 'No major international incidents were conclusively linked to Agent Barton. That's a definite improvement over last year.'”
“I've got handcuffs and you get a little sluggish after about ten hours of paperwork,” Clint mused. “I might be able to pin you down then. Odds increase if I can switch your coffee out for decalf.”
Coulson's lips twitched. “Try again.”
“Listen, if you're going to shoot down my ideas without even giving them a proper chance, then I don't know if I can keep up this charade, sir.”
“Find a better idea and I'll humor you by considering it.”
“Well, I'm feeling under appreciated. You don't mind if I sleep around, do you?” The timer was running in his head, and he crouched down, bow at the ready, waiting, listening.
“Not at all. As long as you don't mind your partners disappearing in the middle of the night never to be seen again,” Phil said, smile stretching up just the tiniest bit. “Of course, it's up to you who lives and who dies.”
“Kinky,” Clint told him, approving. The muscles of his shoulders tensed, and his eyes flicked up. “Incoming,” he whispered, the breath of a word almost soundless.
Despite that, Coulson's chin dipped in a bare twitch of a nod. Keeping the gun at the ready, he held up a hand, flicking three fingers, then two, then one, and the two of them moved with one mind.
Coulson stepped out in front of Clint, a fraction of a second before Clint released his arrow. It passed so close to Coulson's temple that it creased his hair, and he didn't so much as blink. Instead, he was already reaching up, his arm a blur of movement, his whole body a whiplash of controlled force. The arrow blew, releasing its net, the target sailed right in, and Coulson snagged it before the net even had time to bolo into place.
The target let out a wail and strained against the confines of the net, dragging Coulson down the hall almost two feet, his precisely polished shoes sliding along the carpet as he twisted, bracing his knees and slamming his weight against the forward momentum of the net. He only had to hold it for a minute before Clint was there on the other side, feet leaving the ground in a flicker of a jump. Clint sailed through the air, laughing as he went, and snagged the net with his free hand.
Moving in perfect tandem, Clint and Phil swung their arms down and the net went crashing into the ground, its twisting, wailing contents swirling in circles, desperately trying to find a way out.
With the end of his bow, Clint pressed the off button on the top of the Roomba. It whirred to a stop, lights flickering off. “Sleeeeeeeep,” Clint sing-songed at it, grinning like a fool.
“I hate these things,” Coulson said, rolling back to his feet and jerking his jacket back into place.
“Now, sir, that is just callous and unfeeling.” Clint went down on one knee to unwrap the Roomba from the net. “It wants only to make things tidy and clean. I would've thought this would be a notion you could get behind.”
“I lost any sympathy the first time one tried to suck my face off,” Coulson said.
“Yeah, that's my job,” Clint said, starting the painstaking process of recovering every bit of the arrow. The net couldn't be reused, but he'd worked so many undercover SHIELD operations at this point that leaving any fragment of his tech or weaponry behind made him twitchy. Besides, the broken pieces of the net canister made excellent robotic vacuum cleaner bait.
“C'mon, sir, they make great pets. Clever, obedient, pick up messes instead of making them,” Clint said, crouching down next to the hockey puck shaped robot, pulling a Sharpie from a pocket of his battle suit. “Better than a dog.”
“True. At least the Roomba won't lick me, sniff my crotch or hump my leg,” Coulson said, triggering his SHIELD communicator.
“All of those are my jobs, too,” Clint said just as Coulson opened his mouth to speak. Coulson froze, mouth open, ears turning red, for just a split second. Clint took gleeful pride in the look of death that Coulson shot in his direction. Grinning, unrepentant, he scribbled 'Robbie' on the Roomba.
“We've got another one ready for containment.” Coulson said, his voice as cool and controlled as always. Clint stood, tucking the marker back into his pocket and turning back towards Coulson just in time to be slammed back into the wall, Coulson's arm across his chest, Coulson's body hard against his, Coulson's face deeply into his personal space. “Yes. Deactivated. How many more are missing?” Coulson said into the comm, as if his knee wasn't between Clint's legs, his lips almost touching Clint's ear.
Clint's head fell back against the wall with an audible thunk, earning him a sharp bite on the neck, just under the collar of his flack vest. He choked on a whimper, because, damn, yes.
“I understand, we'll head to the north hall and see if we can head them off.” Coulson cut the communication and narrowed his eyes at Clint, who grinned back. “You love pushing your luck, don't you, Barton?” he asked, one eyebrow arching with just the slightest upward tic.
“Oh, God, yes, sir,” Clint said with a straight face, even though he knew his cheeks were flushed and his pupils were blown wide with need. “Every fucking chance I get.”
Coulson's lips twitched, and he leaned his forehead on Clint's shoulder, sucking in a deep breath. Clint stroked a hand up the back of the man's neck, the fingers of his archery glove rough on the short hair there. “You will be the death of me,” Phil managed, and captured Clint's mouth.
The kiss was hot, and hard and almost brutal, and Clint's lips parted under Phil's eagerly, letting the senior agent's tongue tangle with his, even as his hands slipped under Phil's jacket. His fingers found the camoflaged muscle and groaned into Phil's mouth. Phil's leg pressed up higher and harder between Clint's, finding the hard line of Clint's erection and giving him the friction he needed to send heat spiraling through his blood.
“Hard already?” he whispered into Clint's mouth, one hand sliding through Clint's hair.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Clint gasped out, his head falling back as Phil's mouth moved down his jaw, down the column of his neck, his hips rocking into Phil's body. “I've been like this since you stepped in front of my arrow.”
“You always get off on the trust thing. It's kind of hot,” Phil said, his fingers brushing at the skin just below Clint's waistband, making the younger man moan. “Clint?”
“Yeah?” Clint said, head spinning.
Coulson lifted his head and smiled at Clint. “Not at work,” Phil said, and released Clint with staggering suddenness, stepping back and smoothing his hair down with one steady hand. There was a faint hint of color to his cheekbones and his pupils were wide, but other than that, he was utterly composed.
Clint made a pathetic little whimpering noise, locking his knees to keep from ending up in a heap on the floor.
“There are not nice words for men like you,” Clint managed to choke out, trying to get some of his blood back into his head. It wasn't happening, but he had to at least try.
“Don't make me report you to HR for unprofessional language,” Coulson said, and he was smirking, the damn bastard was smirking.
It took all of Clint's willpower not to jump him and start ripping off that perfect Dolce suit.
“Is that a roleplay thing? Because I've heard of 'Principal and Naughty Student,' but 'HR Rep and the Sexual Harassment Investigation' is a new one for me.” Clint paused, one eyebrow arching. “Huh. Actually, I can get behind that... You bring the forms, I'll bring the attitude.”
Phil gave him a look. “Do you ever stop?”
“Is that a no?”
Coulson paused. “We'll see,” he said at last.
“And that is a solid yes, we are going to misuse official SHIELD paperwork so badly. So. Very. Badly.” Clint spread his arms. “Oh, baby, yes, baby. File me. File me hard.”
And even Coulson's perfect poker face couldn't hold up to that, cracking as he started to laugh. “You are an idiot. Why do I love you, again?”
“It's one of the mysteries of the world, sir.” Clint shouldered his bow. “I suspect it's because you have trashy, trashy tastes.”
Coulson opened his mouth to reply, and his SHIELD comm unit chirped. Giving Clint a look, he triggered it. “Yes, sir?” He frowned. “Understood. We're on our way.” He cut the connection. “Grab your 'baby,' Barton. Fury wants to see us.”
“Let's be clear, he doesn't want to see us. He needs to see us. Probably because he's found something for me to shoot.”
“Either way, the end result's the same. Let's go.”
The reality of the situation was that they were fighting a losing battle. Tony Stark had, in fact, engineered a semi-intelligent mini-army of flying robotic vacuum cleaners. The Avengers had in fact used said Roomba Army to take out a building sized Dust Bunny of Doom, and the Roombas had been sent to the SHIELD R&D department. They were kept in isolation while the evil ball of rage was extracted from them, which had gone far better than anyone could've anticipated.
Then the Roombas had escaped. No one knew how or why, but all of a sudden, SHIELD was overrun, and the Avengers had been called in to deal with Tony's mess. Because someone had to, and as with most things Tony, SHIELD just wasn't equipped to do it.
“We're still missing fifty-eight of these damn things,” Fury said, leaning over his desk, his hands folded on the top. “Even with the full staff sweeping the corridors, we've managed to find just under thirty of them. Stark figured out that most of the missing ones appear to have slipped into the ventilation system. Short of blowing them all out through the vents and probably doing an amazing amount of damage to the building structure, I've got no choice but to send someone in after them.”
Clint blinked at him. “Wait, what, why are they in the vents?”
“I don't know,” Fury said, standing up and stalking around the desk. “Why do you always end up in the vents?”
“So I can torment my cowork-,” Clint said, and Coulson cleared his throat behind his back. “I mean, so that I can maintain a firm grasp on my skills of infiltration and-”
“You do it to be a dick,” Fury said, cutting him off. “Which makes you ideally suited for this particular mission. Go get equipped and move it out.”
“Wait,” Clint said, eyes narrowing. “Are you giving me permission to go into the air ducts? Didn't you say that you'd sell me to trolls for soup stock if you ever caught me in there again?”
“It didn't stop you,” Fury said.
“You just said you couldn't CATCH me in there, not that I couldn't GO in there, there is a world of difference between these two things, Jesus, sir, you should know that semantics are everything in this business.” Clint rocked on his heels, every muscle in his body suddenly tense in that 'I'm going to get to have fun' way that he so loved. “But now you're... You're not just giving me permission. You are ordering me.” Clint braced the fingers of one hand on his forehead, eyes closed, as he held his other palm towards Fury, as if he was overwhelmed, and maybe some small, childish part of him was. “I'm afraid I'm going to need you to state that order a little more clearly, sir, just so that there is no confusion later.”
“Barton, you are on my last fucking nerve right now.”
“Troll soup, sir, I really, really need this to follow SHIELD protocol, because you are asking me to disobey a direct order that's in my file right now, that I am not to crawl through the ceilings and the vents of any official SHIELD facility.” Clint gave his boss his best shit-eating grin.
Fury looked at Coulson, singular eye narrowed. “When this is over,” he said, “I'm trading him to the CIA for a paper shredder.”
“Don't be ridiculous, sir, you can get at least a surveillance van for him,” Coulson said, eyebrows arched.
“Fine, you can both find someone else to crawl through the vents,” Clint said, shrugging. “Someone else intimately familiar with the layout. Someone without any tendency towards claustrophobia. Someone who knows all the weak spots and junctures and danger spots and has ammunition hidden in various locations throughout the building.” He fluttered his eyelashes like the tease he was. “Good luck with that.”
Fury sighed, ran a hand over his face with sharp roughness. “Barton?”
“Yes, sir?” Clint said, all but vibrating with eagerness.
“I am ordering you to go into the vents and clear out the Roomba infestation.”
“And you said you didn't get me anything for my birthday, sir,” Clint said, throwing an arm around Fury's shoulders. “You are... You are a beautiful man.”
“Barton, I have a death certificate pre-signed by the last head of medical that you pissed off, and it lists your cause of death as misadventure by firearm.”
“I am not liking the sound of that,” Clint admitted.
“I will publish an obit listing that you blew yourself up with one of your own goddamn arrows, and I will publish it before I kill you, so you can suffer through the indignity, if you do not get your hand off of me and go corral the rest of these goddamn machines!”
“He makes a convincing case,” Clint said to Coulson, who flicked his eyes at the ceiling, an eyeroll without the effort.
“That's why he's in charge. Go, Barton.”
Clint snapped him a salute. “Sir, I live to serve.”
“Serve, or you won't live much longer,” Fury told him.
“Why is everyone in such a mood today?” Clint said to no one in particular. “Really. Am I the only one having fun here?”
“Yes,” Coulson told him. “Go.”
Grinning, Clint loped off to arm himself. He'd barely set foot outside of Fury's office when Tony Stark fell into step beside him. “Oh, it is never good when you show up,” Clint said, giving the other man a sideways look. “Dare I ask?”
“Dare, dare,” Tony said. “Fury sending you in after the rest of the Roombas?”
“Yeah, no one else is stupid enough to want to go crawling around the vents. Any particular reason why I have to go after them, Stark?”
“That's what I wanted to talk to you about.” Tony jerked his head towards a door at the end of the hallway, and, amused, Clint followed him in. When the door shut behind them, he glanced around the supply closet.
“Look, Stark, it's not that you're not an attractive man, really, you are, but we're just too similar for this relationship to amount to anything, and I'm fucking sick of one night stands or fumbling trysts in supply closets,” Clint said with a straight face. “Also, I do not want to be known as the guy who made Captain America burst into tears in public.”
“What?” Tony asked, frowning. He glanced around, and figured it out. “Try not to be a smartass for like five minutes, can you please?”
“Honestly, no, I cannot.”
“Fine, just shut up and save your questions and comments for the end of the tour.” Tony leaned against the shelves, his arms folded over his chest. “There's something wrong.”
“I'm about to crawl into the air vents of a top secret government agency's headquarters to retrieve more than fifty AI upgraded flying robotic vacuum cleaners,” Clint said. “When you say, 'there's something wrong,' you're gonna have to narrow it down a bit.”
“Fine. I thought that showing up and giving Jarvis full access to the system would correct the issue. Fury refuses to let us into the system, not all the way, because he's a paranoid motherfucker-”
“And also because you would use your full access for evil.”
“Evil is such a harsh word, I prefer expediency,” Tony said. “But yes, he refuses to let StarkTech or Jarvis fully into the security or surveillance systems of SHIELD. So when the Roombas got loose from the R&D department, I thought that it was just because that there was no strong controlling force to keep them in line. All that it should've taken to correct the problem was letting Jarvis in the system so he could order them back onto the reservation, so to speak.”
“But that didn't work.”
“That didn't work,” Tony agreed. “They are flat out refusing to obey. Which means that their primary protocol systems have been triggered to the point where even Jarvis can't override it.”
“And that would be?”
“That would be, 'find the biggest mess you can and don't stop until the mess is dealt with,'” Tony explained. His fingers were rolling in a nervous series of taps against his bicep. Beneath his dark brows, his eyes were sharp, focused inward, and Clint could almost see the code sequence running through his mind. All nervous tension and staccato bursts of energy, Tony was a lot of fun to watch, except, of course, when he was in the process of getting the whole team killed.
“That's pretty vague,” Clint said. Not to mention worrying.
“Yeah, well, I expected Jarvis to be riding herd on them, so I kinda got lazy when it came to providing them with strict parameters,” Tony said, waving a hand in mid-air, displeasure obvious in his pout. “They weren't ever supposed to leave the tower, but then, well, life happened, and none of this was anticipated. I cannot imagine how anyone would expect me to anticipate it.”
Clint snapped his fingers. “Can we please focus here?” he said. “So you think they went looking for a mess?”
“I think they found one. There are almost sixty of them still missing, Clint. And the ones we have captured and deactivated appeared to have a purpose in mind. They're vacuum cleaners, and I haven't found a single one in the act of, I don't know, vacuuming?” Tony gave Clint a sharp glance. “You?”
“No,” Clint said, eyes narrowing. “They've all been in flight.”
“They aren't cleaning. They're heading towards something, their hive mind has found a mess and all of the remaining bots are heading for it. They're not doing their job right now, because something has taken precedence over taking care of SHIELD's rugs.” Tony's eyes came up to meet Clint's. “They found something. In the vents. They won't obey Jarvis, they won't clean, because they found a mess. And it's gotta be a hell of a mess.”
“And you don't know what it is?” Clint asked.
“No. I can't get a solid connection to check their auditory or visual sensors. If you get close enough, you might be able to do that for me.”
“Oh, wonderful,” Clint groused. He rubbed a hand through his hair. “I take it you told Fury about this?”
“Of course I did,” Tony said. “And you know what he had to say about it.”
“Hmmm, let me think,” Clint said. He let his voice fall to a low, raspy timbre. “There's no way anything's happening in the vents, Stark, SHIELD's security is the best on the goddamn planet.”
“You are my brother by a different mother,” Tony said, teeth flashing in a wide grin. “Have you considered a goatee?”
“The beard is what makes you the evil one.” Clint straightened up. “What's the over under on this? You tell Cap?”
“Figured I'd let you know what's up before I talked to him. If I tell him, you're not going in, you know that. He won't let you go alone.” Tony gave him a look. “You know those vents better than anyone except maybe the guys who constructed the building, and knowing Fury, he had them killed to keep things secret. What're the chances of getting you backup if something goes wrong?”
“Natasha, sure. You, if you can take the tight spaces-”
“I spend my life fighting in a glorified tin can, I do not have problems with claustrophobia,” Tony said.
“Then, yes, you can make it. Not a chance Cap or Thor can maneuver in there, and I would strongly advise against letting Bruce try. It gets tight, and even I get a little panicky from time to time. If he were to Hulk out in there, no way we could get off without any major structural damage.”
“So, Natasha and me.”
“Coulson, too, but I wouldn't trust many of the other agents,” Clint said. “But honestly, Tony, I'm going in by myself at first. I know what I'm doing, and the rest of you are not going to be a help.”
“Yeah, I figured.” Tony arched an eyebrow. “Got something for you.”
“Again, I need your pants to remain on here.”
“Darling, it's too big to fit in my pants,” Tony drawled, reaching up on the shelf. There was a black case tucked behind a gigantic box of post-its, and underneath a stash of white out bottles. Tony pulled it down and dropped it to the ground, crouching down to flip the case open.
“It's like a JRPG, I'm getting outfitted by a creepy guy in a closet,” Clint said, even as he crouched down next to Tony, eager despite the mockery. Internally he was doing the 'New StarkToys, new StarkToys' dance, but it was never a good idea to be too eager around Tony, he thrived on flipping off anyone who underestimated him and couldn't resist showing up anyone who didn't appreciate his work.
Basically, the best way to get Tony to build him something new and awesome was to seriously imply that Clint didn't think he could. Tony would half kill himself to prove him wrong, and moon Clint as he delivered on twice as much as he'd thought humanly possible.
“Keep it up, and I'll start demanding payment,” Tony shot back. “Or send you on pointless quests to fulfill requirements before I let you have access to the new toys.” He pulled out something that looked like one of Natasha's wrist cuffs. “Suit up.”
He tossed it to Clint, who caught it in midair. He flipped it over in his hands, curious. Light, flexible, but with an internal structure that he couldn't figure out. Tony made an impatient gesture with one hand, and rolling his eyes, Clint slipped it onto his right arm.
Tony moved close to adjust it. “Tighten it here,” he said, showing Clint the hidden slide in the mechanism. He flipped it and the thing snapped into place, just tight enough that it wasn't moving, but not so much that it was painful. It seemed to flow into the structure of his arm, almost as thin as his arm guard and leaving the wrist free to move normally. “Release the same way. Emergency, break this and it'll fall apart, so don't let it get caught,” Tony said, showing him a tab that rested on the inside of Clint's wrist.
“Control mechanism's here,” Tony said, tossing him an archery glove. “It's based on your current one, so don't worry, it won't interfere with your usual firing.” He waited for Clint to trade it out for the one that he was wearing, flexing his fingers and checking the fit and the stretch. “Make a fist and press down on the side of your pointer finger like you're pressing a button you're holding.”
“What?” Clint asked, staring at him.
“Just do it, smartass.” Tony grabbed his right arm and held it up at shoulder level.
With a shrug, Clint did what he was told and nearly jumped out of his skin as the wrist cuff seemed to shift around his skin. “Fuck me!” he said, jerking backwards.
Tony kept a firm grip on his arm. “Tempting, but no. Jesus, Barton, stop being such a baby, it's just reformatted nanotech, it's not going to kill you.”
“Anything you make has the potential to kill me!” Barton relaxed as the cuff stopped moving, and he held up his arm, eyes huge. Something that resembled a crossbow structure had formed on the back of his wrist, and he held his arm out, sighting down the length. “Is this your attempt to make everyone do that stupid repulsor move that you love so much?”
“I don't run out of ammo,” Tony pointed out. “Controls are in the glove. Flexing your fingers adjusts the draw and power, flicking your thumb adjusts the ammo push, and making a fist fires.” He nodded at the upper shelf. “Give it a try.”
Clint gave him a suspicious look, but did as he was told, holding up his right arm and flexing his fingers, then snapping his hand into a fist. A bright energy bolt streaked across the supply closet, hitting the box of notepads. It tore through, leaving a neat hole behind. “Huh.” Clint grinned, lowering his arm.
Rotating his shoulder, he swung his arm around, left hand flickering as he tried it out, leaving a dozen precise holes in the paper supplies. It fired fast and true, the bolts not anything that he was experienced with, but the flex of the cuff on his wrist wasn't dissimilar from the recoil of a bow, his muscles already adapting.
“Just out of curiosity, has this been tested?” Clint said, aiming and flicking the fingers of his left hand, adjusting to the controls with amazing speed, the muscles of his hands and arms adjusting to the tech 'bow' as if he'd been practicing for years. It was enough to make him a bit dizzy.
“Have you ever seen it before?”
“Have I ever let anyone touch your tech?”
“There's your answer,” Tony said, with a shrug. “Wasn't planning on handing it over just yet, but where you're going, your draw angle and range is going to be, shall we say, extremely limited.” He paused, mouth tightening. “I based it on your natural movements, so it's built around what you're already used to doing. It should be easy enough to use. Don't depend on it fully, but it'll hold you in a bad spot. There's not enough force to do major damage to anything big, you can feel the recoil enough to know that, but at full force, you should be able to make a dent on anything going for your throat.”
Clint flicked his fingers, and the energy bolt struck the post-it notes stack dead center. “It's all in what I can hit,” he said, rolling his shoulders. “I might not be able to get through bone or armor, but it can take out an eye.”
“I do love how you always think positive.” Tony was back in the case, digging like the demented ferret that he was. “Take these.”
Making the same button press movement with his left hand, Clint retracted the 'bow.' He held out his hand, catching the small discs that rolled out of Tony's palm. He checked them over. “Give me a hint here.”
“Circuit upgrades,” Tony said. “If you manage to catch one of the Roombas, flip it on its back like a turtle and find something that looks like this. Pry it lose and replace it with one of these. It'll cut the connection to Jarvis and the Roomba hive mind, but make it smart enough to actually obey verbal commands. A true AI enabled Roomba.”
“Are we talking Dummy or Jarvis here?”
“Somewhere in between.” Tony gave him a look when Clint groaned. “Look, I know I make this look easy, poison dart frog, but you do realize that creating an actual functional AI is incredibly difficult? Like, something only half a dozen human beings on this planet can do? And none of them do it so fast and so well and with such style as I do, so shut the hell up before I give your gear to the nearest summer camp.”
“Overreact much?” Clint asked, grinning.
“I will make it my goal in life to ruin you, you do understand that, don't you?”
“Do you have anything else for me, Q, or can the rest of my tech briefing wait until after I seduce the Bond girl?”
“I'm telling Natasha you called her that,” Tony said. “Am I telling Cap or not?”
“Give me a head start.”
Inwardly, Clint flinched. “I can deal with that,” he said. “One of my best access points to the ventilation system is actually in Coulson's office. I've got a stash there. I can snag my stuff and give him a brief.” He COULD, but he wasn't GOING to. There would be hell to pay later, but for now, he wanted to dig his way through this mess without Coulson pacing in his office behind him.
“Gotcha,” Tony said, already losing interest. He snapped the case closed and swung it up over his shoulder. “I need to know what they're facing. As soon as you find anything, let me know.”
“As soon as I know, you'll know,” Clint agreed. “Thanks, Tony.”
“Be careful, I do not want to try to explain to the rest of the team if you get hurt doing this,” Tony said, opening the door back to the hallway.
And nearly ran facefirst into Captain America.
Steve blinked down at him, and then over his shoulder at Clint, who gave him a grin and a cheerful little flicker of his fingers. And then beyond that to the rather disordered supply closet. A muscle in his cheek twitched, and he opened his mouth. He shut it, brows drawing up in an expression of confusion and something that looked like disappointment.
“Hey, Steve!” Clint said, slapping Tony on the back. “Thanks, man, that was great,” he said to Tony, who just gaped at him, and pushed past both of them, because their idiotic mutual admiration society was just getting laughable. He'd seen friends caught in the throes of unrequited love before, but he'd never seen two people be in unrequited love with each other. To be honest, up until they all moved into the Avengers turf of Stark Tower, he would've said that it wasn't possible; that there was no way that two different people could be that oblivious at the SAME TIME.
Tony Stark and Steve Rogers were a constant source of consternation and delight. They also made him feel so much better about his own emotional stability, because, Jesus. What a pair of morons.
Tony would kill him for it later, of course, but hey, if they stood any chance of pushing this whole 'will one of you make a goddamn move already?' thing through, Clint's money was on Steve. The man knew how to take an acceptable risk.
For now, however, he had Roombas to wrangle. Putting a bit of swagger in his steps, he headed for Coulson's office.