“Nice, published again.” Bruce said absently, flipping through his e-mail in the main lab. “Go, science bros.”
“Which paper?” Tony asked, disinterested, tinkering with a soldering iron and tweezers.
“The one on positron decay targeting.”
Tony’s head came up slowly. “The one we put the third author on?”
Bruce froze. “Oh, shit. Yeah, that one.”
“You said it was too esoteric, no one would care.” Tony accused.
“I didn’t think they would! Everyone should get credit!” Bruce protested.
“You’ve been doing physics with the science bros and didn’t tell me?” Darcy asked Jane, flipping through a Popular Mechanics she’d found in a corner.
“No.” Jane said thoughtfully. “At least, not on anything involving positron decay.” She raised her voice. “Hey! Who’s the third author? Have you been doing physics without me?”
Both men stopped bickering and turned to Jane. “It was before you got here, darling. Told you to move in sooner.” Tony said condescendingly.
“Who?” Jane demanded.
“Clint.” Bruce admitted.
“Barton?” Jane asked blankly.
“Oh, right.” Darcy nodded. “Targeting. Makes sense.”
“No, it really doesn’t.” Jane insisted.
“Shit, we’re gonna have to tell him.” Tony sighed.
“It was your idea.” Bruce reminded him. “Not it.”
Clint had cooked dinner, which was his usual gig. That night had been lasagna, which was a team favorite and took all four ovens in the kitchen to produce. He’d been assembling lasagnas most of the afternoon, and even with Phil’s occasional help, it had taken forever and while he didn’t mind cooking, he didn’t reach that zoned out mindset he got while shooting, so it was still a damn chore. He slouched in his chair after dinner, glad someone else was going to clean up and wondering if he could talk Phil into a back rub. Probably, if he bribed Phil with sex. Such a sacrifice.
“We have news!” Tony said brightly, popping a champagne cork.
Clint thought Bruce muttered “overselling it” but it was hard to read lips on Bruce because he mumbled. He waved off the champagne and took another slug of his beer, hoping Tony and Bruce hadn’t opened a wormhole or accidentally invented a new form of explosive. (That had NOT been fun. Phil was SUPER touchy about IEDs.)
“We’ve been published!” Tony said as if that didn’t happen about once a month now. More if you counted the former Bus geeks.
Nat had explained to him that publication was a live-or-die big deal in the sciences, but given the way the papers cranked out of the Tower and were hailed as groundbreaking, he had a hard time really getting it. So he always nodded and said congratulations and shook hands and went back to the range. With the champagne it must have been something big; usually Tony only broke it out when Stark Industries sank another oil company.
“It was a paper on positron decay targeting.” Bruce said mildly, handing around glasses.
That sounded vaguely familiar, Clint thought. Maybe. Who knew, he checked so much weird math on so many weird subjects. Betty had him figuring bacterial generations the other day.
“Can it be weaponized?” Phil asked, getting right to the point.
Tony and Bruce paused and seemed to think. “Maybe.” Bruce allowed.
“Possibly.” Tony agreed. “Ten, twenty years in the future unless I decide I want to reenact Ghostbusters and get on it myself.”
“So what’s the big deal?” Natasha asked apprehensively.
“Oh!” Tony sort of fumbled as Bruce glared at him, and that? That was not good. Clint slowly sat up, bracing for mayhem. “We, uh, we have a new author!” Tony finished.
All the geeklings started muttering between them, mostly trying to figure out who, since it wasn’t them. Skye insisted she wasn’t involved.
Tony turned to Clint, held out a glass of champagne again. “Way to go, buddy. You did damn good work.”
Everyone turned to stare at Clint. Which wasn’t as creepy as it used to be but still not great. “What?”
“Congratulations!” Tony said desperately.
Phil pinched the bridge of his nose. Hoo boy, someone was in trouble. “You put Clint on this paper as an author?”
“Well yeah!” Tony said brightly.
“You did the bulk of the math on it,” Bruce said kindly to Clint, “and came up with some revolutionary methods. Seemed only right. It got published more for the math than because anyone cares about positrons.”
Clint sat back in his chair and blinked at all of them. “What?”
“Okay.” Phil said tiredly. “Science bros to our apartment for an explanation, everyone else, clean up and whatever else you already were going to do.”
People filed out or moved to the kitchen to clean up. All the science support staff paused to pat Clint on the back and tell him congratulations. He felt really confused. “Come on.” Phil said, gently taking his hand. “Let’s go see what this is about.”
As always Nat had his back. They went to question the geniuses.
“It was your idea, YOU tell him.” Tony was saying as they stepped in.
“The only reason I’m not bashing your heads together is because Hulk probably isn’t involved and doesn’t deserve the annoyance.” Phil announced.
Bruce and Tony both looked guilty, which did nothing for Phil’s peace of mind. “Explain. Now.”
All of them dropped into chairs in the living room, science bros on one side, Team Delta on the other.
Tony and Bruce glared at each other for a while. Then Bruce, with a sigh, gave up, and began to explain. “After the battle, when you found out that Phil was dead. We didn’t know your whole history, but we saw how you reacted, Clint. We could see it… it was bad.”
Clint stared at his feet and Phil reached over to take his hand. Nat, on his other side, was already clutching his wrist.
“We called you over here a couple times, and came up with dumbass reasons to go drop in on you in Brooklyn, but you looked worse every time we saw you, and we were worried.” Bruce said very gently. “We tried to come up with some reason to get you out of your apartment, spend time with us, DO something. We didn’t know what else to do.”
Tony picked up the sad story. “I – we – thought you’d had all kinds of targeting math in the military, so we thought maybe you could come check our math.”
Clint raised his head, looking at both of them as if they were insane. “Positron TARGETING. Did you guys even care about that project?”
“Ah.” Tony looked at Bruce, at the ceiling, at the floor. “Well, it’s useful data to have, but, no. We kind of came up with the project to get you over here.”
Phil shook his head. This is what you got when the two most socially inept scientists on the team tried to be helpful, without adult supervision. Apparently new ways to apply known math. And some new information on positrons no one cared about.
“Turned out you didn’t know the math needed,” Tony admitted, “but hell, Clint, the way you shoot, you HAD to know that stuff. Whether you knew you knew it, or not.”
“So you proceeded to teach me math.” Clint said blankly.
“Well, we got you out of your apartment, and spent time with you and saw movies after, and made sure you ate and had some laughs. And, um, taught you math.” Bruce agreed awkwardly.
“The whole thing was bullshit?” Clint asked.
“NO.” Both men said immediately.
“We were both really concerned about you.” Bruce said softly.
“And that’s real math you learned, and real brilliance you’re showing with it. It’s been at least a year since we asked you for help for any other reason but because you’re good at it. You got yourself together, but there you were in the next borough, when we were beating our heads on math, so we’d call you. And you'd swing through and solve it, not even realizing how amazing your work was.”
Clint gave Tony a piercing stare. “Really?”
“Honest.” Tony said. “JARVIS?”
There was a fake sigh from the ceiling and Phil pinched the bridge of his nose again. “I apologize for my part in the ruse, Hawkeye.” JARVIS said calmly. “At first because I thought their reasoning was sound and you could use some time with friends. Then because you were so brilliant at it, we could all use your help.”
“You really can do approximations.” Clint said with a faint grin.
“I can.” JARVIS confirmed. “However, your brain makes intuitive leaps that mine cannot. And so the requests for help were legitimate, particularly as time went on and you got exceptionally good at it.”
Clint shook his head. “Y’all never thought to just crash my apartment with some beer and a pizza?”
“Ah...” Bruce said carefully.
Tony looked back at Bruce, then at Clint. “Not really?” He hesitated. "So, no hard feelings when totally random scientists from all over the world ask you for help with their math, right?"
"What?" Clint said again.
"I'll set up a separate e-mail account for math requests!" Tony said brightly, as he and Bruce exited the apartment at speed.
"WHAT?" Clint repeated.
Laying in bed later, Phil cuddled against him, Clint stared out the window and boggled. Math whiz. Who’d have ever thought he’d wind up with THAT reputation. Once he got over the shock, he was probably going to think this was hilarious.
“You okay?” Phil asked softly.
He had Phil with him again; after that it was all details. “Yeah, kind of soaking it in.”
“I always knew you were brilliant. Now so does everyone else.” Phil said with a grin.
Clint shook his head. “It’s going to take a while to-”
Someone began beating on the door out in the main room of their apartment.
“Doctor Foster would like to see Hawkeye if it is convenient.” JARVIS said apologetically.
The door pounding continued.
“I suspect JARVIS might be paraphrasing Jane a little bit.” Phil commented.
Clint pulled on his jeans and a fresh tee shirt. “Go ahead and go to sleep, who knows how long this will be.”
Clint let Jane keep hammering on the door while he bent and kissed Phil. “I love you too.” He got the bedroom door shut for Phil’s privacy, and then said “Okay, JARVIS, let her in.”
Wild-eyed, hair on end, Jane burst in. “You.”
“Me.” Clint agreed cautiously. He and Jane hadn’t ever gotten along too great, going back to their first meeting.
“I’ve been looking for a math person, someone good at more than two dimensions, who thought outside the box. And here you are.”
“Here I am.” Clint agreed.
“I’m an idiot.” Jane said.
“Once in a while. Like the rest of us.”
“I need your help figuring out the swirls the bifrost leaves when it touches the ground. I think it’s a four- or five- dimensional graph smashed into two dimensions.”
Clint thought about it, thought about Jane’s shitty social skills, and how fiercely she protected her own work. He’d never seen her ask for help before, ever. For anything. This was probably as close as he was going to get to an apology, and a big deal for her. “Sounds interesting.” he agreed, and followed her to her lab.