Stark Industries had been, once upon a time, a weapons manufacturing company. SI made millions of bombs and guns and missiles and rockets.
And Clint was on the wrong end of them more often then he’d like, even after Tony shut down all Stark Weapons manufacturing in ‘08, and even still after Tony became an Avenger.
The bomb had been hidden in a vent, part of the building’s self-destruct sequence. Clint had been covering the team’s six on the way out, and the bomb had blown just as he’d been running past.
He remembered blood. He remembered Tony’s worried face leaning over his and saying words that he couldn’t understand. Natasha and Bruce were there too, talking and worried. Steve was cursing, actually, much to Clint’s distant surprise.
Years went by following this pattern, and then, only once, there was a variation to the theme.
Tony was holding an Arc Reactor close so Clint could see it. It was a larger than Tony’s and didn’t seem to shine as bright. More words and a diagram for what looked like a sleeker model of the AR were also held in Tony’s hand.
Clint didn’t understand.
Tony reached into Clint’s chest, disconnecting the old AR model. It was a palladium core Mark I, the very first AR that Tony had made. They had needed it to keep Clint alive long enough for Tony to design another arc reactor, made specifically for Clint’s body, and make another vibranium core to power it.
Now, however, Tony had to remove the old reactor from Clint’s chest, replacing it with the new one. All Tony had left was the exchange, and Clint could be revived from his medically induced coma.
All the Avengers watched Tony with bated breath, watching him twist out the old poisonous reactor from the archer, watching the heart monitor scream in time with Clint’s distress, and then watch Tony slide his hand into Clint’s chest and connect the new reactor before using both his hands to slide and twist it into place.
The heart monitor quelled.
The Avengers relaxed.
It was over.
Clint had been horrified when he woke. He had a nuclear reactor in his chest standing between him and death’s door, and the only thing anyone could talk about how lucky he was.
He didn’t feel lucky.
He felt sick.
Tony didn’t talk about the core though, or about luck, or about how he saved Clint’s life when no one else could. He actively avoided the topic; always changing the conversation to anything but the piece of tech in Clint’s chest.
Tony didn’t feel lucky either.
Clint lived with his reactor (had to) while ignoring it best he could. Upon request, Stark had even designed Clint a cover to block the light that the reactor naturally emitted, and Clint used it religiously.
Clint wasn’t thankful or grateful, but he was alive.
Clint was dying. Again.
It was had been a mistake, but a fatal one. Now Clint had a smashed reactor and shrapnel inching closer to his heart with every passing second.
The other Avengers were still fighting, too far away to be of any help. Oh, they’d seen him go down, but there was nothing to be done. They couldn’t reach him.
Except for Tony.
Tony dropped down right next to Clint, immediately checking the arc reactor after tearing off the archer’s shirt. He grimaced as he found the four or so pieces of the reactor still within Clint’s chest, bubbling with the bio-degradable excrement that the reactor naturally produced.
“It’s worse than useless.” Tony told Clint as he pulled the slimy pieces from the archer’s chest, allowing Clint to breathe easier and put an end to the feeling of being actively electrocuted.
Despite it all, Clint was still going into cardiac arrest.
He was still going to die, just less painfully than he would before.
Then Tony was taking the Iron Man’s chest plate off, and then his gauntlets and helmet. When he was completely out of the armor, Tony removed his shirt too.
“What are you doing?” And if Clint’s voice came out as a gurgling whisper, both Avengers paid little heed.
“Eating a taco.” Then Tony had his own arc reactor out, in his hand, and he was reaching into his chest with the other and disconnecting it.
“Stark, what the hell-“ The following series of coughs stopped Clint’s from his tirade, forcing him to curl inwards slightly, but then Tony was pushing his shoulder back, pinning him to the asphalt road.
“Don’t waste your life.” Tony ordered him, pinching Clint’s chin between his thumb and forefinger, forcing the archer to look at him and pay attention. “Don’t waste your life.” He reiterated again.
Then Tony was shoving the reactor into Clint’s chest, connecting it, and Clint’s vision blackened immediately with the sudden burst of pain, only vaguely aware of a heavier weight slumping over him.
Tony stayed conscious, collapsed over Clint’s prone form, until the battle was finally over. Steve was beside them in an instant, and the Hulk was already shrinking down so Bruce could tend to him.
Tony was an ashen pale, wheezing with every forced breath. His eyes were glazed, but his hand had stayed firmly attached to Clint’s wrist.
“Tony?” Natasha was kneeling in front of Steve, checking the billionaire’s pulse. When Natasha grimaced, Steve knew it couldn’t be good.
“Hey.” It was barely more than a whisper, “Jarvis.” Tony coughed, blood splattering from his lips, “Jarvis knows.”
SHIELD’s medical team took over, flocking like a swarm of bees.
They stole Tony and Clint away, and Steve wondered if he would ever see them again.
Clint was awake and walking three days after the battle, even if his reactor had been made specifically for Tony’s body.
He felt guilt and anger. He wanted revenge, but on whom? Who was there?
Tony had told Steve that ‘Jarvis knew’. But knew what?
Jarvis had led Clint to a locked box underneath a floorboard of a nuclear safe house built by Howard Stark sometime during the Cold War. Tony had used the place as a store house for important documents that couldn’t be lost.
Jarvis directed Clint through the boxes and rows and files, until finding the one that Tony had obviously meant for Clint to find.
Anthony Edward Stark’s Last Will and Testament
It had been updated five days before The Mission.
Clint didn’t want to, couldn’t possibly read it; so he packed up the file and took it back to HQ. Steve could read it instead.
Tony wasn’t dead, mind. Just a coma, Bruce had assured them. Brain death was more likely, though… apparently. That was the more popular consensus.
His brain had shut down, no activity, no synapses firing….
Severe brain damage was a real possibility if Stark ever did wake up. And then, there had been too much damage to Tony’s heart anyway. If the billionaire ever wanted to leave the hospital, he would need a transplant.
Steve read Tony’s will quietly at first, tearing up occasionally and nodding to himself at others. Bruce sat behind him, reading over his shoulder.
“Some of this is addressed to you.” Steve told the archer, his voice guarded, “Do you want to see?” And he held the aforementioned page aloft for Clint to take if he so wished.
Natasha and Bruce turned to look at Clint and found him nodding slightly, curled up in the chair he’d confiscated in the lounge.
“Yeah, sure.” And he took the page gingerly, turning it right side up before he began to read.
Additionally, there’s the case of my Iron Man suit. No doubt if I told you all to burn it, you wouldn’t. SHIELD would weaponize it or something, and that can’t be allowed to happen. It’s not a weapon. It’s a tool. One I could only trust to a handful people, and out of those - only one who could use it.
Clint, I want you to have the Iron Man suit. With the reactor in your chest, you’d be able to use it just as I would; and Jarvis can do most of the repairs himself anyway.
I wouldn’t want any other taking up the mantel, as ‘twere.
And whether you destroy it or wear it, it’s yours, Clint. They’re yours.
You’ll be so awesome; I only wish I could see it.
The house in Malibu, obviously, is yours too, since the suits are housed in there and all.
Do not dare break a thing that house, Katniss, or so help me, I’ll haunt you ‘til the day you die.
Finally, Bruce, I’m making you head of the R&D department. You’re the only guy smart enough to take on that huge-ass job and do it competently. Anyone else and my company would totally follow in Hammer’s footsteps, and trust me, that’s not something you want-
The words ended there, and Clint stopped reading, handing the page back to Steve.
Clint nodded, “I’ve got-“ What did he have to do? “-stuff to do.” And he fled.
No one stopped him, but Natasha followed him out and rode with him back to Stark Tower. She made him coffee and they watched the Matrix together on the couch.
Clint avoided the Malibu house for three months, waiting for Tony to wake up and take it all back.
Bruce was already doing the R&D stuff, co-CEO with Pepper, as it turns out; but that was a company and needed 24/7 vigilance.
The others hadn’t so much as touched anything Tony had bequeathed them.
Clint had actually planned to avoid that house forever, but he’d been just driving, no destination in mind, and found himself in California, in the drive way of that damned beach house.
Clint wanted to pull out, drive away and never return, but he turned the engine off instead. He climbed the steps, and Jarvis opened the front door for him, allowing him access.
“Welcome home, Sir.” And Clint supposed, that that was him now; and Clint wanted to scream in anger because Tony was still alive, couldn’t they see? But maybe that was just the shell of the man, and Tony had actually already gone to heaven or hell or to Hel, for all Clint knew – which was nothing.
Clint found himself to the guest bedroom and slept for 32 hours straight, sleeping for the first time in five days.
Clint hadn’t been sure what to think, putting the suit on.
He expected tight and claustrophobia. Instead it seemed spacious and Clint could see so much more. Complete 360 degree sight. It was amazing, and Clint hated himself for enjoying it.
The first flight inside was fantastic too, but then –
Clint? What the hell are you doing in my suit?
Clint almost died.
“Tony?!” Clint exclaimed once he had the repulsors online again, “You’re awake?”
There was a short pause.
Not in the strictest sense. And Tony laughing at him was the best thing Clint had heard since this whole mess had started.
I’m an imprint of my biological self’s mind. Kind like Jarvis, but not artificially created. Awesome, right? I’m been immortalized.
Clint frowned, “So, wait. You’re still in a coma?”
If I was in a coma last you saw, then chances are, yeah, I’m still in a coma. Weren’t you paying attention at all-
“Jarvis, turn him off.” And the voice instantly went mute.
Sir? I must-
“Mute.” Clint reiterated, and Jarvis went silent.
When Clint landed, he didn’t go back to that house for another three months, and didn’t touch the Iron Man suit for another two.
On the ninth month since the accident, Clint suited up.
He was tired of mourning, of being sad. Tony was brain dead; had been for months. Even Bruce had lost faith.
Steve hadn’t. He was the one keeping Tony alive, listed at his next of kin, but that was one person out of the entire globe. Those weren’t good odds, and Clint wanted to move on.
And by becoming Iron Man, Clint would be doing just that.
The next flight was just as fantastic as the first, and when the Tony AI (created a full two months before the accident) came online, Clint had it teach him how to use the suit.
Using the suit, to say the least, was strange. But after five months, Clint had gotten use to it. He developed a system. SHIELD missions, he was Hawkeye, ready with his bow and array of arrows. Avenger missions, and he was Iron man, repulsor blasts ready to be fired.
The Avengers had been shocked when Clint put on the suit for one of their missions, but it was space capable and they were fighting off aliens. He’d just sent them a look, daring them to disagree.
And Thor had slammed his mighty hand into Clint’s back, grinning, “Friend Tony would be glad to see you following in his legacy!” He boomed, “For Midgaurd and all those who’ve fallen!” And then the god had charged, swing his hammer the whole way.
Clint shut his visor, and smirked.
“Right, we doing this thing?”
You bet your ass, Legolas.
Steve had nodded and Bruce went to the terminal, ready to relay them the essential information for maximum damage when using explosive charges.
Clint got his designated ship flared up and ready, Thor got his, and then Steve’s voice sounded over the intercom.
“Have you finished, Iron Man?”
It took Clint a moment to realize that was him now.
No one ever expected Tony to wake up; especially when it had been well over a year and a half since the accident. Clint had been Iron Man for four months already, when a call sounded over the intercom.
Bruce had been sitting with Tony when he’d woken up.
They all expected severe brain damage, but when they’d gotten to the Hellicarrier, they found tony laughing with Bruce, making jokes.
“Hey, guys!” He waved, inviting them in, “Never would’ve guessed what happened.” Tony gestured to Thor who was standing in the corner. The demi-god had mostly left the Avengers since Tony’s death, except for stopping by when aliens decided to attack the earth or something equally dramatic.
Loki stood beside his brother, and Clint was immediately, on guard, putting himself between the trickster and the other Avengers.
Bruce grabbed Clint by the wrist and shook his head, “It’s okay.” He grinned and then motioned towards the other wall.
Clint never could have been so surprised.
Phil Coulson was behind them, alive and well, arms crossed at his chest.
Clint was glad the helmet hid the sight of his jaw dropping.
“Loki,” Thor was explaining, “has decided to save of dear Friends in an effort to redeem himself! My brother has returned to me, as have our good Friend Tony and the Son of Coul! Verily is today a blessed one!”
Tony snorted, but welcomed Steve suddenly wrapping himself around Tony’s middle, hugging him back with a fond smile.
Bruce then dragged Natasha and Clint over, and then Thor was there with Coulson on the other side, and then they were just… together. It was nice, and if more than a few were crying, well, no one saw anything.
It was another two months before Tony could actually walk anywhere without getting sweaty and shaky from exhaustion. While Coulson hadn’t needed to build up his body strength, Loki having had to completely recreate his body, he hadn’t done the same for Tony, who’s body had just been fixed.
No heart transplant was needed, but he was thinner than a twig and weaker than a new born kitten. However, after serious exercise, a slew of physical therapists, and four months Tony was somewhat at the strength he had been before.
Clint had found him in the tower, making coffee in the kitchen as he caught up with the last two years of missed events.
“Did you know we had a woman president? I never would’ve guessed Palin had any chance.” Tony motioned towards the tablet on the counter before him, and Clint obligingly looked over his shoulder.
“She’s actually really popular.”
Tony sniffed and drank a large portion of his coffee, “Maybe I should run for president.”
Clint just snorted, “Right. Cause that’s what you love to do with your free time: deal with fat-cat democrats.”
“Aren’t you a democrat?”
Clint just grinned, “Independent, Stark. Read it and Weep.”
Clint offered to give Tony his suit back three days later, only to find it missing. He went down to the labs and found Tony already working on repairs, shouting abuse at Jarvis for letting his baby get to such a state.
“How are you even alive, Barton?” Tony had exclaimed when he spotted Clint, “This should’ve failed months ago!”
“I won’t have to worry about that much longer anyway.” Clint shrugged carefully. Tony just blinked at him, uncomprehending.
“You’re Iron Man, Tony; always have been. I’ve just been keeping your seat warm for you/”
Tony frowned, “Well, great, but-“ He rapped his knuckles against his chest, “No reactor, no suit. I can’t power it anymore.”
Clint just rolled his eyes, “Like that would really stop you.”
Tony smirked at him, “And maybe I’ve got something better than this in the works.”
Tony puffed his chest up a little, “You’re best your scrawny ass, Agent Barton. You’re looking at the new Director of SHIELD.”
Clint blinked, wondering what dimension it was Reed had sent him to this time.
Turns out, Tony wasn’t joking. Fury was retiring, and Tony, since he’d been legally declared dead, got to take up the role as he didn’t qualify for much else.
Clint was skeptical at first, the idea of Tony running the show, being his boss, of all things. But, much to his surprise, Tony was actually a pretty good Director. He was smart, and took suggestions from the old team (and Coulson) seriously.
He couldn’t be Iron Man anymore. Tony had grown beyond needing the suit, somehow, in his death.
And Clint? Well…
He just loved to fly.