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Secrets of the Toasterverse

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From a comment on AO3:

“Haven’t you had the standard torture resistance training?”

That was a low-blow, even for Clint, considering Tony has been tortured before and stood up well, probably without the training. I just hope Tony doesn’t start having flashbacks. The smallest things can do that, such as saying the color name that happens to be the color of the car that crashed into the passenger side and nearly killed you.

This IS a line from “Ordinary Workplace Hazards.”  I have been waiting for months for someone to point out that it is, in fact, a low blow, because hell, these two have some problems with torture.  Because there is a head canon, and here it is.

Also entitled: How Tony Stark and Clint Barton Hooked Up (In a Platonic Way) in the Toasterverse

So once the team’s been formed and everyone’s in place and it’s been agreed that yes, the Avengers is going to be a thing, and Fury has been screamed at by everyone, the Avengers get put through the basic SHIELD training.  Natasha and Clint don’t like it because they didn’t like it the first time, and Tony doesn’t like it because it’s a waste of time and Thor doesn’t like it because he’s supposed to sit still and just listen a lot and he prefers to be interacting rather than being lectured at.  And Bruce doesn’t like it because he’s really not sure if he should be here and he’s constantly considering just running for the nearest border, and all this protocol stuff is not helping.  And Steve doesn’t like it because he can tell at a single glance that his team is not really doing much to come together as a team.

But they go.  And they do this.  And it’s boring and annoying and stupid and vaguely interesting by turns.  And Tony can program stuff in his head even after Fury makes it clear that he’s not to be trying to hack SHIELD with his phone.  It’s undignified.

Tony’s doing okay until the “Standard Torture Resistance Training,” and then he is not doing okay.  He is not doing okay at all.  It’s a SHIELD flunky going over basic torture and imprisonment possiblities in the driest, most bored voice ever, and about ten minutes in, Tony’s ready to throw up.  He can taste the coffee he drank that morning, curdled cream and too much sugar and the burnt taste of the beans and bile under it all, in the back of his throat.

And he tells himself he’s bored, that this is insulting, that this is stupid, anything to keep from feeling like he’s crawling out of his skin, and he’s sweating, he’s shaking, he’s done with this, he is done with this, he doesn’t have to put up with this stupidity, he’s not a junior agent or a SHIELD flunky, and he’s got the fucking armor, and fuck them all, he’s not staying to be lectured about torture by a man who thinks that equates to a paper cut, he does not have to put up with this.

And just as he’s about to stand up and flip his chair and tell them all to go fuck themselves, this little folded square of paper lands right in the middle of his tablet.

The aim and the precision are unmistakable, it’s from Barton.  Tony's not going to look in that direction, he doesn't want to know what Clint is up to. He should just brush it aside, get up and leave.  But for some reason, Tony opens the paper with fingers that shake, and inside he finds two pieces of chicklet style gum and simple block printing on the paper that was folded around them.  It reads, “Helps with the nausea.”

Tony freezes, and he can’t help but look, and Barton’s watching the instructor, boredom all over his face.  Hell, he’d look like he’s asleep except for the fact that his jaw is working, slow and steady, and Tony can smell the peppermint from the gum that he’s got in his cheek.

That’s the first moment that Tony realizes that someone knows, and someone understands.  Because Barton’s eyes don’t miss anything, Tony figured that out with the Chitauri, Clint sees and he understands, the man’s a little spooky and a little disconcerting.  But if he sets his feet, he’s solid as a rock and the idea of him up high, watching Tony’s back, well, that’s not a bad thought.  It’s kind of, well, okay.  Tony can deal with that.

And he doesn’t like gum, years of his parents telling him it’s low class, and peppermint gum conjures up bad frat parties and vomiting in bushes, cheap beer and overly sweet vodka punch.  But he bites into a square of it and the taste coats his throat, and Barton’s right.

It does help with the nausea.

So he chews his way through it, until the flavor’s completely gone, and he holds onto the other piece, not wanting to chew it, not yet, because he might need it later, no, need is the wrong word.  He might want it later.  And even as he’s thinking that, another square of paper lands, in the exact same spot as the first one.

Two more pieces of gum, and the words, “I’ve got plenty.”

So they, the both of them, get through “Standard Torture Resistance Training” by mainlining peppermint caffiene gum, and when the class is over, and the others are discussing lunch and Cap is talking to Bruce, and Natasha is arguing with Coulson about the rest of the schedule, Tony looks at Barton, and says, “Thanks.  For the gum.”

Clint shrugs, and says, “Pretty boring class.”

“Yeah.”

“I mean, I’m not much of one for lectures.  More of a practical guy, myself.  You seem like more of an applied knowledge sort.”

And Tony meets those eyes, clear and clean and knife sharp, and says, “You learn more by doing, than saying.”

“Yeah.  If you want, you know, if you feel like it, bet Natasha and I could give you some more field viable information.”

Tony thinks about how he could just walk out now, he’s got the armor, he’s got the money and the prestige and the status, he doesn’t need a fucking team, but he’s still got a sweaty palm folded around a piece of peppermint gum, and he hears himself say, “Yeah, that could be useful.  You should come over some night.”

And sometimes, when Tony and Clint are bitching each other out in a way that only they can do, one of them will bring up gum, or the lecture, or “field viable information” because Clint sees everything and Tony let the damn team move in.