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The Curiosity Game

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Boredom is dangerous. Clint has always known this, so he does a pretty good job of keeping himself busy. Or rather, the circus and then SHIELD have always done a good job of keeping him busy. The small amounts of downtime that he gets are devoted to either recovering or preparing for the next mission. Clint doesn't have much in the way of an attention span, and whenever he gets bored, he tends to get into trouble.

He has a feeling he's about to do just that now.

Things have been regretfully slow since the whole mess with Ultron. Not that Clint's complaining, so much, because that was a serious shitshow and he isn't keen on jumping back into that madness again so soon. He took a couple of months off after to spend with his family; in between the updates on Daniel's progress, Laura keeps sending him exasperated emails about the disaster Clint had made in their dining room nook before he got called out on a mission, despite his reassurances that he'll finish the renovations soon. It's a familiar song-and-dance with them, one that's been going on since they first moved into the farmhouse and he took it upon himself to refurbish the whole place.

Clint didn't get to stay there near as long as he would've liked before he got called out again. There were clean-ups to handle, too many missions to run for a SHIELD that was only just getting its feet back beneath it. Not to mention they were down a couple of Avengers, with Bruce going awol and Thor off-world, and Tash and the Cap busy training their new recruits.

There were a long string of missions that dragged him all over the world, but at the moment Clint is doing nothing more than cooling his heels at Avengers Tower, waiting for intel that will determine his next mission. He's been here five weeks now, and he's starting to climb the walls; a guy can only spend so much time at the archery range or the gym before it gets old.

Clint is making his way to the communal kitchens - he's run out of coffee on his floor, and he really needs his morning caffeine fix - when he notices that the television is on in the living room. He hesitates, instinctively settling into a defensive position; last he knew he was the only one at the Tower. Clint nudges the door open just enough to peer inside and almost immediately recognises the dark-haired figure perched on the back of the sofa, profile illuminated both by the television and the tablet in his lap.

Usually Tony does a better job of announcing his imminent arrivals - the guy has an honest-to-god schedule of public appearances posted online - so it's a little weird for him to show up unexpectedly, but not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Clint knows Pepper's in town doing some PR thing, and Tony rarely likes to be left behind if he can avoid it. He handles being bored even worse than Clint does, really.

Satisfied that the Tower isn't under attack, Clint slips back out of the room and into the kitchen. He finds his favourite beans tucked in on the shelf that holds more variety than even the more expensive coffee shops in Manhattan - Tony might not remember to eat for himself, but he does a brilliant job of keeping the kitchen fully stocked at all times - and then settles in to wait for it to brew. He's just polished off some peanut butter toast when it finishes, and he cradles the cup in his hands as he steps out into the hall.

For a moment he deliberates, but the glow of the television is still seeping out around the door to the living room, so he knows Tony hasn't left. It could be a terrible idea, getting involved in whatever Tony's current pet project is, but then again he's also bored out of his mind, and even he can't handle another day spent at the shooting range. Aware that he'll probably regret it, Clint steps into the room and walks over to stand next to the sofa.

"What're you watching?" asks Clint, curiously.

Tony startles so hard he nearly falls off the back of the sofa, making a rather undignified noise in the process. "Christ, Barton, we're getting you a bell," he hisses when he realises who is standing beside him. "You're almost as bad as Ginger Spice."

"Tash'll kill you if she ever hears you call her that," Clint points out and Tony waves a dismissive hand, his attention already back on his work. The film clip on the television looks like something out of an action movie, apart from the headline overlaid across the bottom of the screen: Vigilante apprehends members of Chinese mob. "So, what exactly is all this?"

"New player," says Tony, flicking through a series of pictures on his tablet faster than even Clint's sharp eyes can make sense of them. "Hell's Kitchen's got itself a vigilante superhero."

"Oh yeah, I heard something about that," says Clint. He watches the grainy security camera footage on the television for a moment as a figure in red takes down four guys with a string of jujitsu and parkour moves that would make Bruce Lee quit his job in embarrassment. "The Devil of Hell's Kitchen."

"They're calling him Daredevil now," says Tony and Clint snorts into his coffee mug. "My sentiments exactly."

Clint watches the looped news clip for a moment, thoughtful. "So, what's it to you?"

"Not big on vigilantes," says Tony, scowling.

"Right, because you've never done things outside of the law," Clint says sarcastically. Tony shoots him a raised eyebrow before going back to his tablet. "Honestly, I think it's about damn time. I've done a bit of work in that area. Hell's Kitchen is a sketchy ass place on its best days. It could use somebody out there to clean up the streets a bit."

Tony flicks his fingers across the tablet, and the images jump up to the television screen. There are newspaper clippings and news segments scattered among still shots of the Devil's masked face. Tony leans his elbows onto his knees, frowning at the screen, and mutters something that Clint can't hear.

"Wanna share that with the rest of the class?" says Clint.

"Right," says Tony, and he almost looks apologetic for a second - or at least the Tony equivalent of apologetic - when he turns to face Clint properly before he repeats, "I'm also not a fan of people who hide their identities." Clint remembers the argument Tony had with Cap about superhero registration, requiring people with powers and advancements to be kept track of. As a spy - even if he's not exactly got secrecy on his side now that he's a (reluctant) public figure - Clint's naturally opposed to the idea, but he's not in the mood to argue that this early in the morning.

"Yeah, well, can't begrudge a guy a little anonymity," Clint says with a shrug. "Not everyone likes the limelight as much as you."

Tony rubs the heel of his hand against his sternum, an old tic he hasn't quite gotten rid of even though the arc reactor is no longer there. "Men who hide their identity are hard to hold accountable for their actions," he says lowly, and Clint suddenly wonders if this is coming from some personal experience.

"Besides," says Tony, suddenly enthusiastic and bouncing up to his feet. The abrupt mood swing might've startled Clint if he wasn't used to that sort of behaviour from Tony by now. "If a new guy is playing for our team, I'd like to meet him."

Clint huffs. "In my experience, vigilantes aren't much in the way of team players."

"That's just because he hasn't met me yet," says Tony, shrugging. Clint can't stop the bark of laughter. "What, you think you'd do better?"

"I know his sort; I think I'd have a much better time of convincing this guy than you," Clint argues. "This isn't the kind of thing you can just bullshit your way through on charms and bravado. And that's provided you can even find the guy. You can't just hop a cab down there and expect him to be waiting."

"Course not, I'd never take a cab," says Tony and he shudders dramatically. "You know how filthy those things are?"

"You know what I mean," says Clint. "This guy doesn't want to be found. He's not going to just show himself when as high-profile a guy as Iron Man shows up in his neighbourhood. This is the sort of thing that has to be handled low-key, and we both know you're not capable of flying under the radar."

Tony's eyebrow arches in a challenge. "You wanna make this interesting, then? Hundred bucks says I can find him first. Another hundred says I convince him to come back to the Tower."

"You're on, Stark," Clint agrees without hesitation, taking Tony's proffered hand and squeezing a bit harder than necessary.

Tony smirks and picks up his tablet again. "May the best man win."

It's only as he's in the lifts on the way back to his floor, hands curled around his cup of room-temperature coffee, that Clint realises just what he's gotten himself into. He's about to go out and hunt down an incredibly competent and violent vigilante of questionable morals and alliances and try to convince him to play with the Avengers. It is, without a doubt, one of the stupider things he's done on a very long list of stupid things.

Oh well, he thinks as he logs into the SHIELD network from his laptop, at least I'm not bored anymore.