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He Blinded Me With Science

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Bruce has an office somewhere in the building. Tony has never seen Bruce's office, because 99% of the time, Bruce is in Tony's lab, and the lab is comfortable and there's a smoothie machine, and when Tony leaves the safety of the lab something always goes wrong.

But this morning, Tony wants to find Bruce, because Bruce left some new design specs on Tony's desk and they are bananas. Tony's pretty sure Bruce isn't trying to build a Birdkilling Bomb, but Bruce's handwriting is so bad, that's the best Tony can make out. He needs to poke at this. He needs to find Bruce.

"Jarvis, where's Bruce's office?" Tony asks, as he pushes away from his desk. "And what time is it?"

"Dr. Banner's office is located on the 7th Floor, and it's 6:55 A.M."

"The 7th floor?" Tony asks with a yawn. "Isn't that the Security Admin Department? What's he doing there?"

Tony feels a little guilty he's never asked this question before. He probably should have.

"Dr. Stane assigned him there."

Well, that explained it. Obie'd always hated Bruce and the SAD floor was known as something of a talent wasteland. Half of all the personnel complaints Tony ever glimpsed seemed to originate on that floor.

"Walk me through how to get from here to there," Tony says. "And write up an office transfer for me. See if we can fit him somewhere up here."

"Yes, sir. Now if you'll enter the elevator..."

Tony listens to the brief directions and commits them to memory as he takes the elevator down half a dozen floors.

Once the elevator doors swish open and he’s surrounded by dark cubicles and the eyes of the few people there at 7 A.M., Tony thinks maybe he should have asked Jarvis to send Bruce up instead.

Tony’s not concerned about the early hour. It’s pretty common knowledge Tony rarely leaves the building. It’s just people might want to talk to him and Pepper’s made him swear on every car in his garage that he will not have any new sexual harassment complaints aimed at him this year. And he very much likes those cars. Also (and he gets defensive here, even if it’s just in his own head) those complaints aren’t usually his fault. Obadiah had been in charge of hiring for a long time, and a lot of those asshole hires were still around, and either corporate spies or lawsuits waiting to happen. Combine that with Tony’s less-than-stellar reputation, and voila! Trouble.

That's a big part of why Tony rarely leaves the safety of his lab or office. Pepper's been weeding Obie’s people out since the board ousted the man in the spring but it’s a slow process.

Tony glances at the cubicles again. It's hard not to see spies everywhere.

Still, Tony is a professional and he plasters on a smile like he owns the place (because hey, he does, yay!) and follows the directions Jarvis gave him. Two rights, a left, and then Bruce.

Who isn’t in his office.

Tony debates the merits of sitting on Bruce's desk and waiting, but the office has interior windows and employees are glancing in, and fuck it, seriously. He steps out the door and lets his eyes sweep over the large, cubicle-filled room. There are less than a dozen people at their desks.

Finally he recognizes someone Tony thinks he can trust-- a guy that Obie had tried to fire for playing paintball in the parking lot with some friends after hours. The man is sitting at his desk, nursing a Stark Industries mug of coffee with his eyes closed.

“Clint Barton, right?” Tony asks as he steps up behind him.

“It wasn’t me,” Clint whines. Then seeming to realize he doesn’t recognize the voice, he slits open his eyes and spills coffee on his shirt in the process. “Awww, coffee, nooooo.”

He dabs at the stain with his tie and then looks up at Tony again, finally recognizing the man behind him and practically jumps out of his chair.

“Dr Stark, shit. Sorry! I-- look-- I really need this job, so even if it was me, I won’t do it again. I didn’t realize staples counted as company property, and we waited until everyone was gone before I made projectiles out of them. Bucky helped me clean them all up and no actual zombies were harmed in the making of that Vine. Plus, Steve made disappointed eyes at me and I offered to reimburse the company but it was like 53 cents worth of staples and I need to wait until I get my check--”

Fifty-three cents and this guy needs to wait for a check to pay up? Tony’s going to need to look over how much these people are making. Obie had been stingy with starting salaries. Tony figures people do better work when they aren’t sitting around worrying about their rent.

“I’m not here to fire you,” Tony says, shaking his head. “I was wondering if you know where Bruce is?”

“Bruce?” Clint asks.

“Dr. Banner,” Tony clarifies, pointing toward the office.

“Ohhhh. Bigfoot. Yeah, look,” Clint says, picking his phone up off his desk and taps it a few times to pull up a picture of the back of Bruce walking into his office.

“This guy giving you trouble, Dr. Stark?” a young (when did mid-twenties become so young?) man drawls as he walks around the corner of the nearest cubicle. "He's got a bad reputation around here."

“Bucky, shut up,” Clint groans. “Unless you brought me coffee from home and then I don’t care, just give me coffee. I’ll love you forever.”

“You already love me forever,” Bucky says, handing over a thermos he pulls from his messenger bag. He turns his eyes to Tony and uses a flirtatious drawl when he speaks. “Whatever Clint did, I’m sure he’s very sorry.”

Tony can’t tell if this kid is hitting on him, or just being a brat, but it’s refreshing. Bruce and Pepper are the only two people in the building who ever treat him like a real person.

Bucky runs a hand through Clint's hair to muss it up, and then leans down to kiss him on top of the head. Right. So being a brat before.

“I’m not here to fire Clint,” Tony explains for the second time. He's careful not to sound impatient since he wants to encourage this whole not-afraid-of-Tony-Stark vibe he’s getting. “I was asking about Dr. Banner--”

“He’s looking for Bigfoot,” Clint interrupts to explain.

“Oh, well you spotted him this morning right?” Bucky asks, pulling out his phone and thumbing to the exact same picture Clint had shown him a minute ago. He flashes it toward Tony. “He was here.”

Tony can feel his eyes crossing in confusion. "Am I going to regret asking why you're taking creeper shots of Dr. Banner?"

“It’s nothing against the guy,” Clint explains. “He’s hardly ever down here so seeing him is like spotting something legendary. There’s this game some of us play. It’s stupid. But like-- you get 10 points for a Bigfoot sighting, 10 points for tagging management with a post it note, 10 points for paging a punny fake name over the office intercom without getting caught, 10 points for deliberately leaving your fly down all day, 10 points for relocating Steve’s lunch. 20 points for making Steve swear. Here... there’s a list.”

Clint puts down his coffee and starts blindly patting around behind his computer before pulling out a sheet of copy paper. There’s a neatly typed list there that’s nearly unreadable because of all the furiously scribbled out words and notes and addendums. Tony is absolutely sure this is not at all the kind of thing Clint should be showing him. HR would be in tears.

“Gimme,” Tony says. Though when Clint extends it, Tony draws back slightly. “Mind putting it on the desk? I don’t like being handed things.”

Clint doesn’t act like that’s a strange request at all and puts the paper next to Tony who picks it up greedily and scans it over more closely.

“Great. Now you’re gonna get us both fired,” Bucky groans. "Then whose gonna buy name brand coffee?

Tony ignores him and looks at the list more closely. He can’t help but smile, because the whole list is horrifically unprofessional and hilariously awesome.

Tony taps his finger on the two feats worth the most points, each involving hand-written edits.

100 - Get Steve Laid (No prostitutes. No sex tapes.) (This is disgusting. Worth ZERO points.)
100 - Unknown Awesome (Photographic proof required.) (No sex tapes.) (SERIOUSLY NO SEX TAPES CLINT.)

“What’s unknown awesome?” Tony asks.

“Like when you do or see something really unexpected,” Clint says. “You’ve got to literally be saying to yourself ‘How did I get here? How is this my life right now?”

“Would a selfie with me count?” Tony asks.

“Hell yes,” Clint agrees.

“Do you have to split the points?” Tony asks the both of them.

“Clint could use the win,” Bucky says, waving him off. “Take it punk.”

“Then here. Let’s get you 110 points,” Tony says, reaching for a post-it note. He writes KICK ME and then hands it to Clint. “Tag me.”

Clint takes the post-it and raises it, waiting for Tony to give him a slight nod before pressing it to Tony’s chest.

“You are way cooler than you should be,” Clint says.

“Thanks?” Tony asks, as he shifts closer.

Clint throws up a peace sign and Tony laughs and does the same. The picture Clint shows him a second later surprises Tony, because it’s been a long time since he’s seen his own face captured with that kind of smile. Definitely not for a few years.

“Text that to me?” Tony asks.

“Yeah, sure. I’ll just choose you out of my contacts because I definitely have your private information programmed into my phone. Right next to all the other billionaires I know,” Clint says.

Tony rolls his eyes and holds out his hand. Clint lays the phone down, which is ridiculously considerate. Tony picks it up and types in his number. He hands the phone back to Clint, who proceeds to group text the photo of them to a half dozen numbers. Bucky’s phone vibrates and Tony’s text alert pings.

“I take it this game is between more people than just the two of you?” Tony asks.

“Yeah,” Clint agrees. “It’s me, Sam, Nat, Bucky and Kate. Steve doesn’t play, but we send him photographic evidence since he’s the photoshop expert. If he calls bullshit it doesn’t count.”

Any reply Tony has is interrupted by a flurry of loud barks from Clint’s phone alerting him texts have come in. Clint’s face lights up.

“Steve called it valid! 110 points!” Clint shouts in triumph, before realizing there are other people around and lowering his voice. “Seriously, dude, I owe you. We should get a drink with us after work someday. Do you do ever do that? Slum it with the commoners?”

“The commoners?” Tony asks. “This isn’t feudal France, Barton. Yeah, I could go out for a drink.”

Pepper’s going to murder him, but he’s a grown up. He can do what he wants. And not tell her.

“Awesome. I’ll text you,” Clint says. “And hey--look. Bigfoot’s back.”

Clint nods toward the elevator where Bruce is exiting. The scientist looks adorably exhausted, with wild hair and a wrinkled lab coat.

“You should call him Bruce,” Tony says. “And go talk to him next time you see him. He’s a good guy. He could use some friends.”

Clint looks slightly ashamed, and Bucky nods solemnly.

“We’ll do that,” Clint says.

“And we’ll take him off the list,” Bucky adds. He reaches for a pen so he can draw a line through Bruce’s point value. “Now that we know his name it seems like kind of a dick move.”

“Thanks,” Tony says.

He walks away from Clint’s desk to join Bruce. Tony’s smile lasts the morning.