It was kind of a dare, and it was sort of at a party, which were both excuses Tony and Clint used a lot, because "we were drunk" was not an excuse Steve would put up with. Technically "it was at a party" wasn't either, but he and Tony had shouted their way through several arguments over "it was a dare", and the result was that Steve no longer got into fights over dares. Because Tony knew his history, and he knew that if Steve Rogers was telling someone not to take a dare, Steve Rogers was being a giant hypocrite.
"It's honestly not that hard to get your ass on a ballot," Tony said, tipping his beer at the presidential debate going on silently on one of the televisions. The Avengers had developed several patterns around their missions against Hydra, and Tony liked the post-assault protein-load that they usually did right after, but the post-assault party the weekend following a mission, that was his favorite.
"There's a ton of paperwork, isn't there?" Clint asked.
"Not really that much. I mean," Tony corrected, "Not that much if you have, you know, your own legal department."
"Oh, rich-dude-not-much," Clint teased. "So you could run for president pretty easily, huh?"
"Sure, if I wanted the job. Who the fuck wants to be president? Have you seen what it does to people? George Bush aged twenty years in the four years he was in the White House. Barack Obama looks like he needs ten thousand naps. Besides," he added philosophically, "there are too many hookers in my past."
"How many is too many to be president?" Clint asked.
"Five, really? That's the number?"
"At once? Yeah," Tony replied. Clint gave him an awestruck salute. "Thank you, innocent one. See, now, you could be president."
"How do you know I don't have a sordid past?"
"Doesn't matter, I'm sure SHIELD erased it. Why, do you?"
"Nah," Clint said. "I'm an all-American corn-fed boy scout. I've been arrested a couple of times but never in my own name, and usually not in-country."
"See? You were in the Army, right?"
"Yeah," Clint said, sounding suddenly suspicious.
"And then you worked in intelligence, which the conservatives like. You're single, though, that's potentially a problem." Tony peered at him. "You don't have a secret wife and two-point-five kids hidden away on a farm somewhere, do you?"
Clint stared at him. "No..."
"Hm. Would you be willing to be married off in the service of your presidential campaign? Can't be Natasha, she's a Commie."
"Hill would marry me," Clint said.
"HILL!" Tony yelled. Maria looked up from where she was making conversation with some of Steve's old-guy soldier friends, then ambled over.
"Yeah?" she asked, leaning on the couch.
"Clint's gonna run for president, would you marry him?"
She gave Clint an assessing look. "I'm gonna pull an Eleanor Roosevelt."
"Like being a lesbian Eleanor Roosevelt or like being a loud social activist Eleanor Roosevelt?" Tony asked.
"See you in the White House," Hill said, and went back to the bar.
"Who's gonna be my running mate?" Clint asked. "If I'm running as an independent I can't just take whoever lost to me in the primaries."
Tony's eyes drifted over the room and landed on Steve, who had been accosted by groupies and was, for once, smiling and looking unafraid. He might already be drunk; Thor had given him his own stash of Asgardian liquor, and Steve tended to save it for special occasions like "celebrating America" and "talking to women".
"Oooh," Clint said, following his gaze. "That's a lock. Does he need to marry a social activist lesbian too?"
"No, he can stay single, a hot VP would be a nice change," Tony said. "He'll play well to center-liberal soccer moms and, I don't know, militia members."
"What I'm hearing," Clint said, "is that between my SHIELD job and Steve's national symbolism, we could be running as conservative independents."
"Well, that'd work right up until Steve wore his HER BODY, HER CHOICE t-shirt again," Tony said.
"Oh man, that was the best week ever," Clint replied nostalgically.
"I'm serious, we could do this," Tony insisted. "It's about time I stirred some shit, and politics is more, whatever, socially relevant than another sex tape. It'd be fun social satire."
"Hey, I'm not arguing." Clint held up both hands innocently. "If you wanna, I'm on board."
"Too loud in here for voice recognition...Jarvis," Tony said, taking out his Starkphone and holding it to his ear.
"Sir," Jarvis replied.
"Clint's gonna run for president."
"An excellent choice for your inevitable shadow government, sir."
"Sass," Tony said affectionately. "I need you to marry him to Agent Hill, backdate it a couple'a years, and make sure neither of them have any scandals available to the public. Then get his name registered as an independent candidate, with Steve as VP."
"Shall I start a war chest, sir?"
"Sure," Tony said agreeably. "Throw a couple million in. Uh, the campaign donation limit from every account. No illegal donation monkey business."
"The paperwork to add Mr. Barton to the ballot will require several dozen signatures -- "
"Forge those. Notarize them too, will you? Pepper's still a notary public, I think."
"Is Captain Rogers aware that he is now a political candidate?" Jarvis asked.
"We'll tell him tomorrow. He loves political satire, he'll think it's funny," Tony said. There was a disapproving silence down the line. "You wanna be Clint's campaign manager?"
"That could be...enjoyable," Jarvis allowed.
"Done. Thank you," Tony said, and hung up.
"Am I running for president with a ninety-year-old war hero as my VP and a sentient computer program as my campaign manager?" Clint asked.
"Given Stark Industries is funding you, I expect to be Chief of Staff when you win," Tony informed him. "Wait, no. Secretary of Defense."
"What are your qualifications?"
"Aside from being a billionaire industrialist? Well, I've seen The Unknown Known and partied with a couple of the younger Kennedys. I had a three-episode cameo on The West Wing. Also I'm a mason and a member of the Illuminati."
"Seriously?" Clint asked. Tony gave him a dry look. "Right! Plausible deniability."
Tony grinned. "This is gonna be fun, Clint. Do you even own a business suit?"
"I'm not gonna wear a suit. If it's good enough for saving the world in, my tac vest is good enough for campaigning in. Plus it's bulletproof," Clint said, crossing his arms.
"You do you, baby. I've blown millions on worse," Tony replied.
-- mericans woke this morning to the news that Clint Barton, an agent of the shadowy SHIELD intelligence agency and an Avenger, is running for president.
Tony walked into the Avengers communal kitchen to the sight of Clint with his bare feet kicked up on the dining table, sipping a coffee and watching the news.
"I'm getting a jump on the day, Presidential style," Clint called, as Tony groped sleepily for coffee. Next to him, Natasha was reading something on her tablet, Bruce leaning over her shoulder. "Natasha's going to be head of security for my campaign."
No comment yet from the Avengers or from Avenger Tony Stark, who right now appears to be Mr. Barton's major campaign contributor. Jarvis Babbage, Mr. Barton's campaign manager, says Mr. Barton will make a statement at ten this morning, Eastern time...
"You are a travesty," Bruce said to Tony.
"That's no way to speak to the future puppetmaster of this country," Tony replied. "You hate politics. Go find something to smash."
"I can't, watching the news coverage of Clint's presidential candidacy is like watching a train wreck."
"We're already rising in the polls," Natasha said. "Though the Dems are calling him Clint "Nader" Barton."
"If they can't handle a split vote they don't deserve to win," Tony said, slurping down half a cup of coffee. "Please tell me Steve isn't up yet, by the way. I want to see his face when he finds out."
"Steve's off," Clint said. Tony frowned. "Secret mission, he got the call just after the party ended. Something about some stealth infiltration overseas."
"Steve Rogers," Tony repeated. "Stealth. Infiltration."
Mr. Trump has commented on Mr. Barton's late-entry candidacy, declaring him a 'poor-trash loser' and 'a guy with a stick and some string'.
"I'm going to enjoy meeting him," Clint remarked, attention momentarily drawn to the television.
"Steve did sneak in and out of Hydra territory during the war," Natasha said. "Almost incessantly and usually without orders, according to the memoir Margaret Carter wrote."
"It's probably more enter-and-sabotage than infiltrate-and-interrogate," Clint said. "Anyway, he said he'd be gone for a week or two. I figure by the time he gets back I'll have humiliated Donald Trump, which will be something, anyway. I bet I could beat him in an armwrestling match."
"But you'd have to touch him," Natasha said. "I bet his palms are always wet."
"Well, this is awesome breakfast conversation, but I have an industry to dominate," Tony said. "Has someone written the speech you're supposedly giving in two hours?"
"Sir," Jarvis said.
"Ooooh," Tony exclaimed, eyes going wide. "Jarvis, are you writing Clint's speeches now?"
"I've taken the liberty of examining famous speeches throughout history and analyzing their word choice, grammatical patterns, and emotional sentiments," Jarvis said. "I have composed a neutral yet inspiring speech which I believe will present Agent Barton in a positive light while remaining vague on political specifics."
"I am just so proud of you," Tony said, patting the nearest wall. "Shoot it my way so I can proof it first, okay?"
"Send it to me as soon as you're done so I can memorize it," Clint said.
"We can get you a teleprompter."
"No need, I'm a fast study. Used to learning on the fly when I was a carnie. Hey, can I juggle while I give the speech?" Clint asked.
"That's up to your campaign manager," Tony replied.
"In 603 BC, the famous warrior Xiong Yiliao defeated his military enemies by juggling nine balls at the head of his army, terrifying the opposing troops and leading his own to victory," Jarvis said.
"You'll have to excuse me," Clint said, standing at the microphone in front of Stark Tower, in his cleanest tac-vest and his Sunday-best armguards. Natasha stood behind him in full Avengers uniform. Tony, off to the side, was wearing a suit and had his StarkPhone up to film everything. A huge mob of journalists was watching him with the breathless glee of people who knew they were about to get the story of the month. "I'm used to talking while performing, from my days as a sideshow artist before I joined the Army. So I'm just gonna..."
He reached into his bulging pockets and took out five little fabric balls, rotating them around in his hands.
"It's my first time public speaking gig in a while, I need something to do with my hands," he said, and started to juggle.
"Two weeks into a late start as an independent candidate for President, Clint Barton sat down with Good Morning America to discuss his domestic policy..."
"Clinton Francis Barton, the surprise dark horse candidate on everyone's mind, joined Republican and Democratic candidates for his first debate tonight..."
I just think Barton has a real chance, he clearly has no fucks to give.
Of course he has no fucks to give, he doesn't have to please big business because he's got big business funding him already.
But would you rather have Tony Stark buying a presidency or Donald Trump buying a presidency?
Oh my god, Tumblr echo chamber in full force today. I think we're all forgetting about the Democrats here, it's not Barton vs. Trump.
A Democratic candidate's the only one who can beat Barton anyway....
"It's been three weeks since Clint Barton declared his candidacy for President and named Captain America, Steve Rogers, as his running mate. But where is Steve Rogers? Every other vice presidential candidate is out furiously stumping for their running mate, but Rogers has been completely silent..."
"So now we're hearing that Captain Rogers is on a long-term mission in defense of the country and might not be back until after the election. Surprise, you're the veep! I mean, is this going to happen after Barton wins? Like, are the Secret Service gonna mobilize because someone's breaking into the White House at 3am and oops, it's just the VP back from a secret mission, he didn't want to wake anyone up..."
"Prospective first lady Maria Hill says she supports her husband's stance on education and is willing to push even further, though she too stopped short of suggesting defense funding be cut in order to improve schools, instead focusing on higher taxes for the ultra-wealthy -- including ardent 'Bartoneer' Tony Stark..."
But does he even understand politics? This is a man who dropped out of high school, who got his GED when he was twenty-two and has no college degree.
I'm going to have to point out here that he got his GED while serving in active combat. He has a long history with the military, with the intelligence community, and let's not forget some other presidents who didn't have college degrees, like Abraham Lincoln.
Are you comparing Clint Barton to Abraham Lincoln? I'm just picturing him in a beard and a stovepipe hat.
I think we're getting off-topic here...
"It's official. For the first time today Clinton Francis Barton, the homegrown superhero with big Stark money backing his play, is leading in the polls against both Democrats and Republicans. This is no longer a Ralph Nader situation, where the worst the two major parties had to fear was a split vote. They can no longer continue to campaign against each other and ignore the young upstart from Iowa...."
"You know, this is supposed to be fun," Tony said, as Clint paced back and forth in the wings of the debate stage, muttering to himself. "You can drop out at any time."
"Who says I'm not having fun?" Clint asked.
"You look like you wish you could shoot someone."
"I always look like that," Clint said dismissively. "I have resting sniperface."
"So what's up with the pacing?"
"I'm getting in the mood! I'm going over my talking points," Clint said. Tony stopped him and hooked his hands under the shoulder straps of his tac-vest, adjusting them slightly. "Thanks."
"Remember: Education, Poverty -- "
" -- Domestic Terrorism, Digital Infrastructure, I know," Clint said.
"And we're staying away from?"
"International Policy," Clint said.
"Nobody wins a debate about war," Clint repeated dutifully.
"I wish Steve would get back already. I could use some backup."
"You do remember this started as a prank on Steve, right?" Tony asked. "I'm sure he'd be proud that you're engaging in the democratic process, but I don't think he's going to love being made VP without his knowledge."
"We maybe shoulda asked."
"We maybe shoulda," Tony agreed.
"I spoke to SHIELD last night, they say he's pinned down but fine," Hill said, pecking Clint on the cheek, more for the interns with their phones out than for Clint's benefit. "He just needs another few days before he can leave the safehouse. Mission accomplished, whatever it was."
"You know what it was," Tony accused.
"What I know about a lot of things would start several interesting wars," Hill said. She patted Clint's shoulder. "Remember that when you help me pick out my gown for the inauguration."
"You're not wearing a three-piece suit?" Clint asked.
Hill looked pleased. "Well, I am now."
"Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to meet your candidates!" came a voice over the speakers, and Clint squared his shoulders.
"I'm gonna armwrestle Trump this time," he said to Hill.
"You're not gonna armwrestle Trump this time," she replied. "He's a crazy motherfucker but he'd never let you do it."
"I'm gonna do it."
"I'm not gonna stop him," Tony said to Hill. "I want to see it."
"When you're president, we're going to have a long talk about you doing what I tell you," Hill told Clint, but she stepped aside so he could make his grand entrance.
"Film footage of last night's Presidential debate is going viral worldwide, but not because of the political talking points. The highlight of the night was when Independent candidate Clinton Barton challenged both opponents to an armwrestling match. Video clips of Barton defeating Donald Trump are filling up YouTube, but even those are outpaced by Barton losing to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton..."
"Good morning, and what a beautiful day for an election. We'll be here all day, covering the closest presidential race this country has seen since Bush and Gore in 2000. We here at NBC would like to remind you that your vote has never mattered more, so make sure you get out to the polls today..."
"CLINTON FRANCIS BARTON."
Steve's voice, a bass roar, reverberated throughout the Avengers' common space. Clint, reading a biography of Alexander Hamilton, fell off the sofa in surprise. Tony, who was going over Clint's constituency data with Thor (it turned out Thor was fantastic at data analytics) looked up just in time to see Steve arrive in the doorway. He was glowing with rage.
"Ooooh," Tony said. "Someone call Natasha."
"What have you done?" Steve asked.
"Steve's going to be president," Tony said to Clint.
"Tony, I can't believe you're helping -- "
"Because he's gonna kill you," Tony finished.
"I got back stateside five minutes ago and the minute my phone has reception again I have ten thousand voicemails and just one giant text message from Jarvis telling me I'm the vice-president," Steve said, holding up his phone. "The vice president of what? THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES."
"Oh, yeah, it was a hell of a day," Clint said. "Welcome home, by the way. Not like you to miss a chance to vote, I'm ashamed of you."
"I was in a safe-house in Nepal," Steve said grimly.
"Well, anyway, it all came out fine in the end, and here we are," Clint said. "We get two days off now that the election is done and then I have to start, I don't know, building a transitional committee to help move me into the White House. I guess I buy them pizza and beer?"
"Clint, you can barely make pancakes that aren't from a mix. You cannot be president," Steve said.
"Excuse you, I was elected fair and square. Besides, I have a five point plan for improving education in this country and also Tony says he'll be my shadow emperor because he's in the Illuminati," Clint said.
Steve seemed confounded by this answer. He just stared at them, bewilderment filling his face.
"Well, I hope you're not raising taxes on the middle class to pay for the schools," he said finally.
"What do I look like, a moderate?" Clint asked. "By the way, I'm being sworn in on your Bible."
"I don't own a Bible," Steve said, now thoroughly lost.
"The little pocket one you carried in the war? It's at the Smithsonian now. Bruce suggested it. They said yes so I'm being sworn in on the Captain America Bible."
Steve's face went awash in horror. "The one where all the Commandos wrote dirty limericks on the flyleaf?"
"There once was a girl from Poughkeepsie," Tony sang out.
"James Barnes had an awesome sense of humor," Clint said.
"I'm going to go sleep, and when I wake up this will all have been a dream," Steve said.
"I'll have Jarvis write you a nice speech for the inauguration," Tony told him, and turned back to Thor, who was highlighting regional wealth data for upstate New York.
Art by Alstonwiggles on Tumblr; you can find the original (larger) image here.
Steve wore his HER BODY, HER CHOICE t-shirt to the inauguration.
"It's gonna be a long four years," Hill said to Tony, as Clint stepped up to the Captain America Bible and rested his hand on it. He'd gotten a new formal tac-vest for the occasion.
I, Clinton Francis Barton, do solemnly swear
"I, Clinton Francis Barton, do solemnly swear -- "
"All part of my master plan, and it's eight years," Tony replied.
"What's the master plan, anyway?"
that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States
" -- that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States -- "
"Green energy in three years, socialized medicine in five, and the last three years we'll just relax and see what we can do about peace in our time," Tony said. "Today, appetizers and dancing. Tomorrow I start blackmailing senators."
and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States
" -- and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States -- "
"Does Steve know you're blackmailing senators?" Hill asked.
"Are you kidding? He wrote the hit list."
So help me God.
" -- PLEASE help me God."
A laugh rippled through the audience at Clint's plea. Tony and Hill watched as Steve handed Clint his bow and a single arrow; Clint raised the bow, drew it, and fired. Bright orange fireworks, vivid against the overcast day, burst over the Reflecting Pool.
"You know, the nice thing is, the bar's actually pretty low," Clint said, as he walked arm-in-arm with Hill down the steps to the presidential car, waiting to take him to the reception. "I mean, as long as I don't rob the Democrats or chase interns in the Oval Office, I'll probably be okay."
"Rumsfeld," Steve said to Tony, offering him his elbow to follow. "Can I have the first dance?"
"Cheney," Tony replied, taking it. "I'll think about it. Nice shirt."
"Well, begin as you mean to go on."
"Pro-choice t-shirts and gay flirting?"
Steve shrugged. "What are they gonna do, impeach me?"
"Good point. Come on, I want to get to the party before they run out of champagne."