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Louder Than Bells

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Clint is trapped in an endless meeting with Colonel Fury when his phone starts vibrating like crazy against his leg. He doesn't dare to check it because he's not going to be the one to test the rumors that Fury can kill you with his brain. As soon as he's safely out of the meeting and in the hallway, he swipes across the screen. He can feel his eyebrows go up when he sees his notifications are all texts from Darcy.







There is a gap of about ten minutes in the timestamps, and then: HE MIGHT HAVE SECRET BRAIN CONTROL DEVICE. HAVE REVEALED SECRETS I PINKY-SWORE NEVER TO TELL.






What the hell? Clint is shaking his head and beginning to laugh when his phone vibrates again.


"What the fuck?" Clint is going to kill Stark.


"Sometimes I wish I could be out there with you guys." Darcy freezes for a second before literally facepalming. She starts to drag her hand down her face, but then remembers the day long makeup lesson Pepper had given her and instead drops her gaze down to stare at the tumbler--crystal, seriously?--in her hand. Betrayed by tequila yet again.

Tony sits up straight from where he's been lounging in his corner of the limo. "Really?"

"That's just the booze talking," Darcy says, shaking her head and trying on her brightest smile. "I mean, come on, me a superhero? Ha!"

"Darcy, are you honestly trying to bullshit me? You wouldn't say that unless you wanted it." He waggles his eyebrows at her. "You know you want it."

"No. Maybe? I don't know." Darcy says. She types SHIT TONY'S RIGHT I KIND OF DO WANT IT BAD and hits send before she realizes that Clint is totally going to misinterpret that and freak the fuck out. Whoops. "I mean, when the Winter Soldier kidnapped me, that was fucking terrifying and I want it to never happen again. Except..."

Tony gestures with his tumbler. "Except?"

"Except for when I hit him with a chair and shot him. That was awesome. I felt like I was really doing something. Like when I tased Thor."

Tony grins. "I really wish I could have been there for that."

"I kicked ass." Darcy nods and takes another sip of tequila.

Tony's phone buzzes and his eyebrows go up when he reads the message. "I don't know what you've been texting Barton, but you might want to rescind it before he puts an arrow through my balls."

She frowns and picks up her own phone. STOP THREATENING TONY. U KNOW UR THE ONLY SUPERHERO 4 ME.

"We're going to have to go with a different color than red, of course."

Darcy looks up from her phone. "Huh?"

"For the suit. I've already got dibs on red, sorry. What do you think of green? Too Hulk-like? Yeah, you're right."

Darcy is pretty sure that she'd be confused even without the tequila. "Tony. Tony. What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Your power suit," Tony says, as if it's totally obvious. "We can't have you out there in souped-up Kevlar like the Widow and Cupid. You don't have the training."

Darcy's eyes get huge. "You mean... you're going to make me an Iron Man suit?"

"Hmmm... yeah." Tony has his tablet on his lap and is rapidly sketching with the tip of his finger. "I'm going to have to do something about your center of gravity."

"Tony. I can't be a superhero." Darcy is pretty sure about this.

"Oh, we'll be better about keeping your identity secret. You don't have to announce yourself at a press conference. That was just me." He squints at her. "Maybe a mask for when you're not in the suit?"



Darcy says very slowly and clearly, "I cannot be a superhero."

"Why not? Because you don't have SHIELD training? Neither do I. Or Banner, or Thor. Cap has Army training, so that's probably pretty close. But there's no rule that you have to have SHIELD training to be an Avenger, even though I'm sure Fury would love that."


"Okay," Tony says, starting to tick points off on his fingers, "You are a) smart, b) brave, c) you react quickly and decisively in crisis situations. You're already in the top percentile of the population based on that alone. And d) while unarmed, drugged, and completely without training, you hit the Winter Soldier in the face with a chair. Case closed." Tony frowns at his drawing. "What do you think of teal?"

Darcy drops her face into her hands. "Oh, god. Coulson is going to have Natasha kill me in my sleep."

"Maroon is too close to red. The X-Men have all that yellow... Hmmm..."

She grabs her phone and texts blindly to Coulson. I AM SORRY. I WAS TIPSY. PLEASE BLAME TONY.

Less than a second later her phone buzzes with a message from Coulson. Ms. Lewis, please clarify.


Ms. Lewis, I hate to repeat myself, but I require more details.

Tony's phone buzzes but he ignores it after glancing at the display. "Telling tales out of school, Darcy? I'm disappointed."

Darcy looks at her phone but puts it down without answering Coulson. Tony can deal with him, she decides. "I'm just keeping your handler in the loop."

He actually takes off the douchebag glasses and sets his tablet aside. "Darcy, I'm not kidding about this. I think you could be just as much of an asset in the field as you are behind the scenes."

"How much of that tequila have you had?" Darcy demands.

Tony looks at her without speaking for a few minutes. Darcy can only keep up the staring match for so long before she breaks.

"You really think so?" Okay, so maybe her voice squeaks a little by the end. Whatever, she's blaming the tequila.

"I know so."

"Power armor, huh?"

"I have some ideas for new designs." He grins. "Rhodey is going to be so jealous."

She still thinks Tony is insane, but... power armor. Flying. Lasers in her hands. "I've always been partial to dark blue."


Clint dodges another explosion, throwing himself behind the dubious cover of a dumpster. He peers out from behind it and takes aim, hitting a drone in the sweet spot and watching it fall to the ground. One down, about a million of them left to go.

He's not sure where Hulk or the Widow are. Thor and Iron Man are in the air, battling the nasty big brother of the small drones Clint is hitting from ground level. They're outnumbered and outgunned, and Clint is really hoping that Stark has some kind of rabbit to pull out of his hat, because as things stand now the Avengers are totally fucked.

From behind him he can hear the familiar buzz of the Iron Man suit approaching at high speeds, but that doesn't make any sense since he can see Stark zipping around the giant drone. Maybe he called War Machine in?

The suit that buzzes past him isn't War Machine. It's dark blue and from the shape of it, someone female is piloting. Holy shit, did Stark build Pepper a suit? Coulson sounds about ready to stroke out on the comms, so whatever he did, it was without authorization or warning.

"Mockingbird, thank you for joining the party." Stark's voice is unbearably smug in Clint's ear.

Whoever is in the suit doesn't respond except to shoot between Iron Man and Thor and fire some sort of weapon into the heart of the drone that manages to completely shut it down with a loud grinding noise. Mockingbird is obviously on their side for the moment, so Clint decides not to worry about her for now.

Mockingbird's presence turns the tide of the fight. Whatever weapon Tony outfitted her with shuts down the large drones without any collateral damage. Clint takes aim at the last of the smaller drones and takes them out before abandoning the nest he'd made for himself behind the dumpster and heading for the rendezvous point as quickly as he can.

He's pretty sure Stark is about to get his ass chewed by Coulson, Fury, and everyone else in the entire world and there was no way he's going to miss that.

Stark and the mystery woman fly next to the helicopter on the way back to Avengers Tower. It's too loud for conversations that aren't shouted, so Clint keeps his speculation about the woman's identity to himself. Coulson meets them on the rooftop, looking perfectly composed as the wind from the rotors blows grit in his face.

"Colonel Fury would like to see you in Conference Room One." Coulson nods at the mystery woman, asking, "Mr. Stark, I assume that you vouch for your companion?"

"Oh, absolutely," Stark smarms. Clint rolls his eyes.

They've been standing around awkwardly in Conference Room One for a few minutes when the door bangs open and Fury storms in. "Stark, would you care to explain to me what exactly is going on here and who this person is?"

The mystery woman rounds on Stark and hisses, "I thought you told him!" Her voice is modulated by the suit just like Stark's is, but Clint is really starting to think that's Pepper. Holy shit, Pepper is scary enough in a business suit and four-inch stilettos. Power armor is just overkill.

Clint is sure that Stark is smirking when he says, "And ruin the surprise? Mockingbird, I thought you knew me better than that."

Natasha quietly says, "Ah." Clint is pretty sure he's the only one close enough to hear her.

"You know who that is?" he mutters.

Natasha just smiles enigmatically. "You'll see."

"It's Pepper, isn't it? That's totally Pepper." Natasha is doing her Mona Lisa smile, so Clint sighs and tunes back into Fury's tirade.

Mockingbird retracts the faceplate of her suit and Clint is surprised to see that it totally is not Pepper. She's blonde and obviously much shorter than Pepper, now that Clint is paying attention. "I'm sorry, sir. Tony gave me the impression you were aware of this."

Fury props his hands on his hips and scowls down at the woman. "Who the hell are you?"

"Barbara Morse, sir. Bobbi."

Clint didn't know Fury's face could make that expression. "Well, Bobbi, it seems that Mr. Stark here has gone completely out of his mind and I will need you to remove that suit and come with me."

"Put away your thoughts of mind-wiping re-education, mon capitan." Stark's armor does the crazy thing where it removes itself and folds down to fit into a briefcase. He's much less intimidating standing in the sweatsuit he was wearing under the suit. "Believe it or not, this is all entirely above board."

"Above board?" Fury takes a step forward as if he's going to throttle Stark with his bare hands. "There is nothing above board about this entire situation!"

"Bobbi, do your thing." Tony points at Mockingbird, sliding behind her so everyone has a good view.

She takes a deep breath and the armor peels back to fold itself into a briefcase, leaving her in a work-out outfit. She stands awkwardly for a moment before reaching up to touch something behind her ear. The image of Bobbi Morse fades and Darcy is left standing in her place.

Clint literally staggers with surprise, his sense of balance deserting him."But what--you--you said you were going to your yoga class!"

Darcy winces and waves at him sheepishly. "Surprise?"

"I--you--what--" Clint can't even speak, he's so flabbergasted. For months, she's been saying that she's taking some crazy intense yoga classes and disappearing for hours after work. And now it turns out that she's been, what, spending time with Stark while he made her an Iron Man suit?

Clint is going to kill Stark.

Fury appears to share Clint's opinion. "Stark, do you mean to tell me that you have spent months training our civilian secretary to fly a goddamned power suit? I'm not even going to bring up the multiple times that you lied to my face about equipment requisitions."

Stark holds up a finger. "I don't want to break in while you've got such an impressive rant going, but I do need to clarify that Mockingbird's suit is entirely funded by Stark Industries. All of the SHIELD requisitions were for the Iron Man Mark VIII armor. Entirely above board."

Fury glares at Stark wordlessly for a moment, but before he can let loose what Clint is pretty sure will be a monumental shit fit, Stark is talking again. "All of our training happened outside of SHIELD time and off SHIELD property. And while Ms. Lewis is the second best secretary--sorry, administrative professional--in the world, I felt her considerable talents could be more fully utilized."

"I signed a waiver?" Darcy says tentatively. She flinches back from the look Fury gives her. "Well, I did."

"Look, today proved that two flyers on a six person team just isn't enough. We needed additional air support, so I created it. If you choose not to accept that help, it's on you." Stark holds out his hands like this whole situation isn't entirely his fault. Clint is going to kill him so hard.

"All of that notwithstanding," Coulson steps forward, obviously trying to contain the inevitable disaster, "why were you wearing an image inducer?"

"Oh!" Darcy reaches for her ear and turns it back on, the figure of Bobbi Morse shimmering into place. "That was actually Tony's idea. He created an entire history for Bobbi so if there's ever a leak of Mockingbird's identity, I--and my family--will have another level of protection."

And that is actually a really great idea, Clint thinks. Doesn't make up for the fact that everything else about it is raising his blood pressure, of course.

Fury, to Clint's surprise, actually seems to be buying Stark's bullshit. "Very well. I will allow Ms. Lewis to function as a member of the Avengers on a probationary basis. I will consider you, Stark, personally responsible for her training and safety. You fuck up with this and you're both out." With that, he sweeps out the door, his black leather coat billowing behind him.


Coulson gives Darcy a smile and with a quiet, "Ms. Lewis," follows Fury out, leaving an extremely awkward silence behind.

Bruce is sitting on the floor meditating. Thor appears to be buffing a smudge off the surface of Mjolnir. Natasha is flipping a knife in one hand, looking amused but slightly bored. Tony is making faces at the door that Fury just left through. Steve is shuffling awkwardly, clutching his shield like a security blanket. And Clint... Darcy kind of doesn't even want to look at Clint. Because maybe she should have told him, but he would have freaked out and tried to tell her she couldn't do it, and then she would have told him where to shove it, and it would all have devolved from there.

So, really, she lied to him about becoming a superhero to save their relationship. It totally makes sense.

"My friends!" Thor booms suddenly. "This calls for a celebration!" (Apparently, everything in Asgardian society calls for a celebration involving giant piles of food and booze. Darcy still isn't sure why everyone in Asgard doesn't look like Volstagg.) "We must have mead and wild boar to welcome Lady Darcy into the Avengers!"

"Um, I'm not sure that Jarvis can get in a wild boar on short notice, big guy," Darcy says. Thor looks disappointed.

"Nonsense, Ms. Lewis, you're underestimating the mad skills of Jarvis. Hey, Jarvis," Tony says.

"Yes, Mr. Stark?" Jarvis's voice comes out of nowhere. It's mildly creepy.

"We need about half a dozen barrels of mead and two--no, make that three--barbecued wild boars."

"Of course, Mr. Stark."

Tony claps his hands and grins. "Okay, well that's settled."

"No! Nothing is settled." Clint finally collapses his bow and slides it back into place. "This is all fucking crazy! Am I the only one who sees this?"

"Apparently you are, Agent Barton." Darcy narrows her eyes. Someone is sleeping on the couch tonight. "Why don't you tell me why it's so crazy?"

"You're not trained for this, Darcy. You're going to get hurt." Clint looks past her to everyone else, trying to find someone to agree with him, but Darcy sees Natasha and Bruce not-so-subtly herding everyone else towards the door.

"Bruce isn't trained for this and neither is Tony." Darcy gestures at the rats fleeing the ship.

"Bruce turns into a nine-foot rage beast. Tony--" Clint stops and scowls at her.

"Tony what? Has armor to protect him, much like mine? Is that what you were going to say?" Score one for pure logic.

Clint stares at her helplessly for a second and while she is not unaffected by his obvious desperation, this is too important for her to give up. Something in her face must get her point across because his shoulders slump and he presses the heels of his hands into his eyes. "If you die, I'm going to kill you."

"Now you know how I feel every day." She's not trying to make excuses for her decision or make him feel...whatever. She's just saying.

His shoulders slump even more before he straightens up and drops his hands from his eyes. "I need all the mead in the world."

Darcy slides into his personal bubble and wraps her arms around his chest because, frankly, he looks like he needs a hug more than booze. Clint sighs and nuzzles the crown of her head. They stand there silently for a few moments, just hugging.

"So... Mockingbird?" Clint asks eventually.

Darcy shrugs. "Coming up with a superhero name is hard, okay? I figured, I mock people a lot, and my suit can fly, so. Mockingbird. Hey, it makes about as much sense as Hawkeye."

Clint sort of sighs and laughs at the same time. "Mockingbird and Hawkeye. I guess I can get used to that."

"Good." Darcy goes up on tip-toe and kisses him, brief but sweet. "C'mon, let's go watch Thor challenge Bruce to an eating contest again."

"He's never going to learn, is he?"

"Nope," Darcy says, leading him out into the hallway and towards their rooms. She turns around to walk backwards in front of him. "If you're good, I'll blow you in the shower."

Clint scoops her up and tosses her over his shoulder. He smacks her on the ass before setting off at a brisk pace. "Well, if you're offering..."

Darcy laughs and takes the opportunity to grope his ass through the thick fabric of his uniform.

Life is awesome.