"Sir, Agent Barton is on the roof."
Tony looked up from the monitor he was working on. "He likes to spend time up there, JARVIS, what's the big deal?"
"He's balanced rather precariously on the edge and has been drinking," JARVIS replied. "I worry that he's going to fall."
"Aw, shit," Tony muttered. "Did you let Coulson know?" He pushed back from the table and headed towards the door. Tony liked Barton, the man had a sense of snark to match his own, but he'd admit he'd noticed something off recently.
"I attempted to, Sir, but Agent Coulson has requested that I not bother him for the next hour," JARVIS said.
"All right, I'll take care of it. Thanks, J," Tony said. "Hey, get the suit ready just in case, would you? I don't know if I'll be able to catch him, but I'll be damned if I let him die without at least trying to catch him."
"The suit is on stand-by, Sir," JARVIS said.
"Sounds good." Tony hurried out of the elevator and out onto the balcony. He looked around and finally spotted Barton up on the Iron Man landing pad. "Drunk friend, I can do this," he muttered, taking the stairs two at a time. "Want some company?"
"Not really," Barton replied.
"Well, you're making JARVIS nervous, Barton," Tony said. "Think about that one for a minute. JARVIS has seen all the crap I've pulled over the years and doesn't get nervous easily. Could you at least come back from the edge a little? That'd make him happy."
"Sure, why not?" Barton sighed. He flopped down in the middle of the landing pad and went onto his back. "Not like I've been able to do anything right lately anyway. Just one more thing I screwed up."
Tony sat down next to him and leaned forward. "You're not screwing up, Barton," he said. "Look, I know you've got wicked balance skills, but JARVIS is looking at how close you are to the edge and calculating the probability of your falling off. I'm sure you can catch yourself, you know what you're doing, but it's better not to panic the AI."
"Yeah, whatever," Barton said.
"Would talking help?" Tony asked. "Total friend confidence, never to be revealed to another. I can even tell JARVIS to stop recording for a bit if that would help. Seriously, I'm actually really good at keeping secrets. I know it's hard to tell with how much I talk, but I really can."
"As can I, Agent Barton," JARVIS added.
Barton snorted. "I'm sure you can, JARVIS," he said. "I don't know if I'm drunk enough to talk, Stark."
"I don't know if more alcohol is what you need right now," Tony said. "We could play twenty questions. Ask me anything."
"You're really trying hard at this whole friend thing, aren't you?" Barton asked, rolling his head to look at Tony.
"I'm trying," Tony replied. "I've never had a lot of friends before and it's hard. I've had Rhodey and Pepper, but they're more family than friends. You'd tell me if I did something wrong, right?"
"Yeah, I'd tell you," Barton said. He let his hand fall open, revealing a gold ring on a chain. "Haven't worn this since the honeymoon almost ten years ago. Rings and archery don't go well together, but I rarely have the chain off. Pointless now, I guess. I just can't bring myself to toss it."
"You're married?" Tony asked. "That's not in your file, Clint."
Barton grinned. "Nope, classified at such a high level the wedding license is encrypted," he said. "Only one other person knows, and you know Director Fury isn't going to say anything about it."
"Okay, so who's your spouse? It's not Romanov, is it? Because that would be really super scary."
"Not Nat. She's like my sister," Barton said. "She doesn't even know about it, and people think she knows everything, Tony. What would you say if I told you it's a guy?"
"That's cool," Tony said. "Playboy means a lot of things, you know, Clint. I've had my share of same sex encounters, I just usually prefer women. Do I know the guy? I'm not fishing, I'm just trying to work out what's going through your head right now."
"Yeah, you know him," Barton said. "Right now, unless I was seeing things, he's in bed with another guy."
Tony looked down at Barton's face. "You were in the vents again, weren't you?"
"I love the vents, Tony," Barton said. "They're quiet, which is rare enough around this madhouse we call home. I was going to pop out and surprise him when he got home. When he got home he had another guy with him and they, they."
Tony wasn't good with people crying, but he'd had practice with Pepper, so he carefully pulled Barton up into a hug. "Let it out," he whispered. "Just let it out. No one else is going to know, Clint."
"In our bed, Tony," Barton whispered.
"Oh, Clint," Tony said. "Come on, let's go inside. We can go up to my floor and no one will know you're there. JARVIS won't say a word about it. You're shaking and it's cold out here. Come on, time to warm up."
It took some situating of legs, but Tony was finally able to get Barton to his feet and moving towards the private elevator just off the landing pad. He'd put it there for the times he wanted to avoid the team, but he was glad to have it so there wouldn't be a risk of anyone seeing Barton broken down like he was. "JARVIS, get some takeout for me," he said. "Something comforting and order ice cream and chocolate sauce for dessert. Get Bruce to sign for it and bring it up to me. I don't want anyone else close to my floor until this is over with. Clint, Bruce is okay, right? He's not involved in this?"
"No, he's not," Barton said. "Thanks, Tony."
"That's what friends are for. Seriously. Come on, I don't keep alcohol up here, but you can start on water while we're waiting. JARVIS is good with food orders. Sofa or chair?"
"Sure." Tony lowered Barton onto the sofa and went to the closet for the spare blankets he kept there. "All right, Clint, here you go. I'm not prying, but I think talking about this would help you a lot."
Barton wrapped himself up and shifted around until he was almost completely hidden in the blankets. "This doesn't go anywhere, right?" he asked.
"Between you and me until the day the world falls," Tony said. "JARVIS, encrypt this all. No access to anyone."
"Yes, Sir," JARVIS said.
"Okay, so you know how I came to SHIELD," Barton said. "Coulson's been my handler since pretty much the start because no one else would work with me. They wanted a brainless sniper, which can't happen. Snipers are smart, Tony. We have to be to be able to shoot over distance. There's a lot of math involved and, aside from that, we have a microsecond to decide to take the shot or not. Coulson realized I was having issues with orders telling me to take shots I didn't want to take and he asked Director Fury if I could be his asset. Once you're Coulson's asset, no one else touches you."
"I believe it," Tony said. He put a glass of water down near Barton's hand, or where he thought Barton's hand was, and sat down close enough to hug again if the need arose. "So you've been working with Agent for a while then."
"The only other one who took me was Fury himself, and that was rare," Barton said. "Coulson and I got close, Tony, closer than either of us were expecting to. Next Friday is our ten year anniversary. I had plans for it, missions allowing. I was actually going to ask for your help with a couple of things, but now."
"What's been going on, Clint?" Tony asked softly.
Barton's eyes welled up again. "Loki took me as his pawn and Phil was stabbed when Loki was on the Helicarrier," he said. "As soon as Fury cleared me, right after I got back up there, he told me the truth and took me to the room they were treating Phil in. I was the only one who knew the truth for weeks, and I didn't leave his side."
"So that's where you vanished to," Tony said. "Fury told us you were undergoing psych tests and evaluation to be reinstated as a full agent again after you were compromised. I guess he lied to us for the greater good that time."
"His lies are usually for the greater good, it can just be hard to tell," Barton said. "When Phil woke up, he was so weak, but he recognized me. Told me I looked like shit, but I could read the relief in his eyes. I was there, I wasn't dead, and the battle was over. That's when you guys found out he was still alive and came to visit."
"And Romanov spent an hour lecturing you on lying to the team," Tony finished. "Hang on, I think that's our food. Stay quiet, I'll be right back." He pushed up and went over to the elevator. "Hey Bruce, thanks for the help on this one."
"Everything okay, Tony?" Bruce asked.
"No, but I don't think you can help," Tony replied. "Seriously, I'll let you know though, okay?"
Bruce nodded. "Sure, no problem," he said. "Have JARVIS call me if you need me for anything. I was just reading."
"Thank you," Tony said. He took the bags and went to the small bar area to put the ice cream in the freezer there. "What'd you get for us, J?"
"Hamburgers and fries from the cafe you both enjoy," JARVIS replied. "There is a milkshake for you, Sir, and two bottles of classic Coke for Agent Barton."
"Wicked." Tony took all the food back over to the sofa and sat down again. "Unwrap a little there, Clint, and let's get you fed. I did noticed that you started acting a little odd once the team know Agent was alive."
Barton took his bag with an attempt at a smile. "I didn't care that the team knew, but I didn't have any time alone with Phil after that," he said. "No matter how hard I tried, how many hints I dropped, it didn't work. Phil wouldn't say anything, I asked him. I'm not stupid, Tony. I'm also not blind and I could see what was happening. Phil was pulling away from me, I just couldn't work out why. So, instead of hanging around his room, I took to the vents."
"You wanted to see what was happening when you weren't around," Tony said. "You're definitely a spy, Clint. Gathering intel like that is not something I'm good at. I'm more of a rush in and blast everything sort of person."
"That works for some things," Barton said. "For this though, I needed to be somewhere covert. Phil knows I like the vents, but he also knows that Fury has completely forbidden me from going into the network in any SHIELD building, so he wouldn't expect me to be in there."
"Did Fury know you were?"
"Yeah, I told him something was up with Phil and I needed to run surveillance for three days. He cleared me to go in, thinking it was residual from the attack," Barton said. He started to tear up again. "The things I heard, Tony. No one should hear their spouse say those sorts of things. Or not defend when someone else is saying them."
Tony put the pieces together. "Oh, shit," he said. "JARVIS, where Steve right now?"
"Sir, I do not believe that now is the time to talk about that," JARVIS said.
"No, it's okay, JARVIS," Barton sighed. "I know exactly where he is. He's in my bed with my husband."