"Everyone know the rules?"
"Yes, yes, Barton," Tony said, shaking his head. "We all know the rules to your stupid game. Can we just get on with it?"
"Play nice," Pepper said, looking only slightly apprehensive at the challenge laid out before her.
"Tony, just because you don't stand a chance doesn't make it stupid," Steve said.
"And exactly how many times have you won?" was Tony's retort.
"I'm in the running."
"You've come in second," Tony said. "One time. And that was only because Bruce sneezed and Clint answered his phone."
"Yeah, and we both still beat you," Clint pointed out, "so maybe pay some attention?"
"Can we get on with this?" Natasha asked, hands on hips and growing impatient.
"Are you that eager to kick our asses?" Tony returned.
"All right, all right," Clint said, sick of delays, "everyone have everything they need? We all set?"
"Call it already," Tony called out, and everyone turned to face their stations and put their hands behind their backs. That was a stipulation Tony had put into play early on in the games, hoping to even the odds. It really hadn't helped.
"Start the countdown, JARVIS," Clint called out, a stipulation of his. They'd all agreed that JARVIS should do the countdown, but whenever Tony asked the AI to do so it became obvious that he'd been secretly instructed to cheat in some form or other.
"Three. Two. One. Go."
At go, they all got to work. Well, everyone except Tony.
The task was straightforward. As quick as possible they had to assemble a weapon, load a cartridge and execute a kill shot on the target. They didn't use live ammunition, only paint pellets, and everyone had their own distinct color to alleviate confusion.
To really no one's surprise, Natasha was the undefeated champion, as she had been when it was only Phil and Clint playing this same game back before the Avengers existed.
What had been a surprise was that Bruce sometimes beat both her and Clint in getting his weapon assembled. He just had a knack for visualizing how machinery fit into place and was also just plain quick. The thing that always slowed him down, and allowed Natasha the win, and usually allowed Clint to take second, was that it took him three or four shots to hit the target. Also, unlike the two of them, Bruce was easily distracted, which was something took full advantage of.
One time, Clint had actually beat them both and had been so shocked he'd let out a laugh, which gave Natasha enough time to finish and fire her shot.
Steve was never far behind them, and despite what Tony said, had come in second more than once. Having gotten the hang of it, and being a better shot than Bruce, he frequently came in third now and was steadily closing the gap between himself and Clint.
Tony was frequently so far behind, and simply didn't care enough about the competition, that usually they were all done with the challenge while he was still in the assembly stage of the race. He grew so tired of coming in dead last that Tony had invited Pepper to join them, a move that backfired spectacularly as she now regularly trounced him and was, like Steve, steadily improving.
The winner, always Natasha, got bragging rights for the week. The loser, always Tony, had to clean up the mess.
This round looked to be no different except...
"Why is my target moving, Tony?" Natasha asked sardonically, not even slowing down to give him a glance.
"Is it?" he asked, just getting started himself.
"Are you going to try and cheat every time?" Steve asked shaking his head, but no more distracted than Natasha.
"It's not cheating," Tony said, still piecing together his gun at a leisurely pace.
"Well, I appreciate you didn't mess with mine," Bruce said with a laugh.
"You have a hard enough time hitting the stationary ones," Tony remarked with a laugh of his own, as suddenly his own target and Pepper's zoomed closer to them on the range.
"Awe," Pepper said smiling. "Thanks."
"I notice hers isn't as close as yours," Steve commented, still puzzling over the weapon at hand.
"All's fair in love and war," Tony replied.
"Are you starting a war with me?" Pepper returned.
"Good point," Tony said. "JARVIS, fix that, will you?"
"At once, sir," was the response and her target moved up even with his.
"Son of a..."
"Problems, Barton?" Tony asked with a smirk.
"Really, Tony?" Natasha asked, putting down the gun.
"Of course," Bruce sighed as he put down his gun as well.
"Tony," was all Steve had to say.
"Isn't it every person's responsibility to ensure that all of the pieces are... Where are you going?" Tony stopped to ask, mid-gloat, but by then Clint was already out of the room and into the locked storage area adjacent to the weapon's range. "Hey! No leaving the range. That's cheating, Barton. That's cheating," he called after him, picking up the pace on putting his own gun together.
"You'd know all about cheating, wouldn't you?" Steve remarked, as they all stood there watching Tony and Pepper continue to work at assembling their weapons.
"Here we go," Clint said, coming back into the room. "Pepper," he said, putting the missing firing pin on her station.
"You took mine, too?" she asked, turning to Tony with a stern look on her face.
"That's a strong accusation --" he began to defend himself, stopping only when Clint reached over and grabbed his pin. "Hey! That's not fair. That's... "
Clint didn't say anything. He just smiled and tossed the pin into the far corner of the room before moving on. "For Steve," he continued, throwing him a pin. "And Bruce."
"Thanks," Bruce said, fumbling the pin at first, but managing not to drop it, as Steve was already back at work.
"And?" Natasha asked, hand out as Clint returned to his own station and got to work. "Do you have anything for me?"
Tony, still looking for his missing firing pin in the corner, started to laugh.
"Shut up, Tony," the two agents said in unison, but Clint didn't hand her anything. Instead he placed her missing pin on the corner of his station and set about replacing his own.
"You're going to pay for that," Natasha said, joining him at the station and beginning the final steps of her own assembly right there at his side. Clint only smiled and Tony laughed again, louder this time.
"Shut up," they both repeated at him.
"He's not the only one," Pepper said, just as Tony returned to his station, having finally retrieved his lost part.
"Don't hurt me," Tony returned. "Or, if you do, just don't leave any marks. I'm pretty and have an image to maintain."
A loud pop rang through the air and Natasha took a few steps back, looking smug as she surveyed the red paint she'd shot onto Clint's target.
"My work's done," she said with a smile.
"Really?" Clint asked, firing off three quick shots and completely covering all traces of Natasha's with his own. "Because that looks purple to me. Not red."
"That doesn't count and you know it," Natasha argued. "That's like shooting a dead man. He was already down."
"No, yours doesn't count. You have to shoot your own target."
"Whatever," she said, rolling her eyes before they both walked to the back of the room. "I won. Again. Don't be sore."
Clint didn't say any more, just smiled at her and conceded the win, as usual.
Bruce fired his first shot and missed completely, allowing Steve the opportunity to come in third with a blue colored bull's-eye from his own station.
"That was fun," Steve said, stepping back and waiting for Bruce to finish. Two shots later, each progressively closer than the last, and finally the green paint hit the right spot.
"Yeah," Bruce agreed, admiring the hit for a minute before joining Steve in the back of the room. "But do I really have to be green?"
"Only color left," Tony said, nearly finished and struggling to beat Pepper.
"You're a billionaire and you only have six colors of paint pellets?" Bruce asked with a laugh.
"Thor took white. Rhodey picked orange. And Happy wanted teal."
"He did not," Pepper laughed. "You made him take teal and he doesn't even want to play."
"Doesn't matter, green was all that was left," Tony said, distracted long enough for Pepper to finish, fire two shots, and leave enough pink in the center for the game to be called.
"All right," Clint said, clapping his hands together. "Tony loses. Again."
"Oh, come on," Tony sighed, as everyone else began to file out of the room. "This isn't fair."
"This isn't fair?" Steve asked, stopping long enough to give him a stern look. "You cheated and we're not being fair?"
"I'm not a super solider or a secret agent. You have unfair advantages."
"And you rely too much on your tech to make shots for you," Steve countered as he left the room.
"And since when am I a super soldier or a secret agent?" Bruce asked.
"You're just abnormal," Tony countered.
"And me?" Pepper asked.
"You're special," he said, almost sounding sincere and earning a smile for his efforts. "And I'm obviously not so... unfair advantages."
"Stop whining," Clint said. "You lost."
"You'd know about whining," Natasha said, smirking at Clint.
"I do not sound like that," he shot back at her, but without sounding at all offended.
"So no one is going to help me?" Tony asked, ignoring them both. "No one at all? It was at least close this time. That should count for something."
"Do I still have to be green?" Bruce asked, stopping in the doorway.
"Have fun, Tony," Bruce said with a smile before he left.
Tony shook his head before finally turning his attention to Clint and Natasha. "You realize, it's not even fair that the two of you compete. You both know that."
"Yeah, well, life's not fair," Natasha said, shrugging her shoulders and hooking her arm through Clint's and pulling him through the door before he could respond for himself, leaving Tony and Pepper alone on the range.
"Pepper," Tony said. "You're not going to leave me too, are you?"
"You took my pin."
"Yes," she said with a laugh. "You did. Why should I stay and help?"
"Because you love me."
"And you know that I'm going to half-ass this."
"So, if you stayed and helped me... You don't even have to help, just oversee..."
"Have fun, Tony," Pepper said, waving goodbye as she moved towards the door. "I'll save you a plate and a spot on the couch. Maybe."
"Pepper," he pleaded. "Come on, Pepper. Please. Not even a little help?"
"Bye," she said, still smiling.
"I moved your target for you," he called after her.
"Thank you for that," she yelled just as the door shut.
Tony sighed, looked around the range, and shrugged.
"JARVIS, get a cleaning crew down here, will you?"
"I'm sorry, Ms. Potts preemptively overrode that request and suggested that you could find a mop and bucket in the supply closet located near the main elevator. Agent Barton also had a suggestion, but it doesn't bear repeating, sir."
"So I really have to clean this up on my own?"
"It does appear so."
"Remind me later to limit who can give you orders, JARVIS."
"Also, next time, remind me not to leave the pins in the armory."
"Of course, sir."