Chapter 29: Chapter 29
Summary: The rouge Avengers are pardoned under the influence of King T’Challa and it is up to Tony to ‘welcome’ them back. But as he and his new team are at the private airport, an unexpected fight breaks loose and the fate of the whole universe is changed when a wizard places himself as Tony Stark’s protector.
“Stark’s obviously way out of his depth.” Wanda commented with satisfaction as the rouges watched the news feed that night, seeing Tony flung out of his own office window over and over again as the news reporter droned on and on about the event. Some rouge sorcerer had snuck into the Avengers - no, the Stark, Clint wasn’t as delusional as people seemed to think, thank fuck - Tower and had tried to kill Stark for his own agenda, which he refused to share with his interrogators as of yet. Clint watched as his fellow rouges (except Scott, he had moved out and right into Stark Tower since he had proven himself) - and yes, he is aware enough to realize they needed a wakeup call if they still refused to acknowledge public opinion - nodded in agreement but stayed quiet, huddled up in the ventilation systems still adjusted to fit him if he wished to hide in here. Stark had made the same adjustments in the Tower once, too, but the vents were now returned to normal, all economic, stylish and smooth. Not at all meant for crazy archer assassins to crawl around in.
Clint still couldn’t believe just how much they had missed of what Stark had done to accommodate them, to which lengths he had changed his lifestyle so they would feel comfortable, and how they had all ended up acting as entitled dicks to him when he had needed their support the most.
Clint would have probably still been blind to it had Laura not insisted he come by the Tower after the whole mess with that fight in the Compound was cleared. He had been hesitant to do so, afraid that wizard dude would accost him should he step foot in Stark’s personal space, but Laura had insisted and so Clint had come, with an official visitor’s card and all. She had met him in the foyer and had led him to what used to be his floor in the Tower. Laura and his kids lived there now, everything provided for them, even schooling, along with Scott’s family and rooms for Hope and Dr Pym. He would have been angry that his archery range was dismantled, but he felt shame when Laura informed him it was moved to the official training floor. Moved, almost as though it was just a part of a modifying doll house, not a tower full of people. When he saw it, he swears it was just like that. Tony hadn’t changed a thing, besides maybe making it more challenging.
There was even a bow, updated and definitely Stark-made - he could tell even from a distance just by looking at it - waiting, as though for his return.
Clint Barton couldn’t have felt guiltier, not when he saw Cooper struggling with a smaller bow. Determined to fill in his father’s gap in Tony’s trust circle, Laura had informed him. Determined to repay the man who went so far out of his way that he took in the families of two men who had fought against him without even reading the damn Accords or listening to the changes he was planning to make.
The tour had continued and Clint saw how each of the floors was modified for its new purposes. Bruce’s floor now housed his first sweetheart, Betty Ross, her own lab, Bruce’s lab and his quarters, the Hulk’s panic room and Dr Cho and her own lab. Natasha’s floor was completely dismantled and transformed into the living space for the Defenders, that group of superpowered individuals from Hell’s Kitchen, completely and utterly hack-proofed so their identities could remain a secret. Thor’s floor contained, to his surprise, Dr Selvig and Dr Jane Foster, as well as that Darcy Lewis girl and some dude Clint had never seen, the two scientists’ labs, Thor’s old room, an entertainment and study centers and a kitchen, as if the four (five, if Thor ever returned) were isolated from the rest of the Tower. Laura even told him Tony had built in rooms for Loki, that Valkyrie and Heimdall, should they ever need a safe house.
Cap’s former floor, reinforced so he can practice with his shield and eventually bring in Bucky - how long had Stark known about the Winter Soldier? - was now the living space for half a dozen mutant kids and Wolverine, as well as two other kids whom Laura told him were Inhumans. The floor was reserved especially for mutants and Inhumans to stay should they have several days of business to attend to so they don’t have to travel back and forth or pay for a hotel room. It had no traces that two men out of time would have lived there. In fact, the only thing about the floor that suggested a supersoldier would have lived there was the reinforced walls. There was almost a poetic sort of irony to it. Stark was always looking towards to future. It made sense that he would turn something once meant for the past into something to be utilized for the future. Steve was definitely a thing of the past while mutants have always, always been viewed as the future of mankind. Maybe Inhumans fall into that category as well, he didn’t know.
Stark really knew how to make a statement. Clint was both impressed and sad to realize how much he missed the man.
The few empty floors that used to be, well, empty, beneath the Avengers floors and the R&D floors, were no longer empty. They were meant to house more mutants and Inhumans or royalty of Wakanda and even the Fantastic Four and those wizards Stark was now associating with, despite the last two having their own residences elsewhere. Friends and family of the others were also always welcome to pick an apartment and stay for as long as they wish, which is how Spider-man’s aunt and the doctor Natasha had tricked into coming had ended up living there, as well as a few other friends and colleagues of the Accords approved heroes ended up there, like Scott’s and Spider-man’s friends. There was a common gym floor, something a thousand times better than what was currently in the Compound, meant for every Avenger to be able to practice their skills. They all gravitated towards Stark’s floor when they wanted to eat, watch movies or TV shows and series, play video games or board games or just talk and enjoy some company, which had apparently at first confused Stark, which brought the memory of just how rarely the original Avengers spent time together. They weren’t at the Tower often, but even when they were, they tended to stick more to themselves than gravitate towards each other.
It was the opposite of that now and Stark was flourishing in the good, healthy environment he had unknowingly created for them all.
His wife had refused to show him Stark’s floor, saying he didn’t deserve to invade the peace the engineer had created there. It had stung, but Barton had accepted it. That didn’t stop Laura from showing him pictures. Stark shared his floor with his brain children, as they all jokingly referred to Vision, Stark’s bots and AIs - Clint had nearly gotten a mental whiplash when he heard JARVIS speak over the speakers - and the two boys that looked at Stark with hero-worship obvious even through the picture. Pepper, Happy Hogan, Rhodes and Captain Marvel all had rooms on his floor, too, since Rhodey was practically family to the man and Carol had became family when she and Rhodey started ‘going steady’ as Cap would put it. Before that, she’d been on Cap’s old floor, too. She still has a room there, should she and Rhodey ever want some space. As always, Tony always planned for the future and was always, always ready.
Another interesting addition to Stark’s floor was a room for the wizard that had come to his rescue. Doctor Strange and Tony were apparently the best of pals and even though the magic man didn’t stay over at the Tower often, since he can portal himself out whenever he needs to go home, he had a room for himself should he ever choose to stay.
The Tower had never been so full, so homey and so filled with life as it was now and Clint realized it could have always been like that. Stark had always put in the effort but none of them had even acknowledged it, let alone appreciated or reciprocated it. And watching Laura as she walked through the halls, more relaxed than she could have ever been on their little farm, Clint had felt a pang in his chest as he realized he wanted to be a part of it, too. It hadn’t always been this tense between him and Stark. They used to be buddies, playing pranks on others but never on each other for fear of a prank war erupting in a tower with a man with ‘breathtaking anger management issues’ and a snappy Captain America. Things had changed after Ultron and Clint, for the longest time, couldn’t put his finger on exactly when. Then he had realized he had never really attempted to take the offered hand Stark had been extending for years until Stark was no longer extending it.
Not only that, but he had stood by as Thor strangled the man when he was out of his suit, his only defense, and he had allowed a mind controller to come into the team even while he still called for Loki’s blood because of what the Trickster god had done to him pre New York. No wonder Tony called them all hypocrites.
Clint had been forced to open his eyes and see that Stark was right. He had needed time to think things over, but he had asked for a copy of the Accords of Laura before he left the Tower. His wife, his beautiful, underappreciated, brilliant, lovely, amazing wife, had only finally smiled at him as she gave him a prepared copy and, with a squeeze to his bicep, had turned around and walked away. Clint had contacted their liaison, who had been excited to get him a lawyer and Clint had sat through several sessions with the professional looking woman as she explained to him everything, about both the original Accords and the revised Accords Stark had made all by himself, just to endure people like Ross can never misuse them again. Clint still hadn’t signed but had assured the lawyer he will think about it carefully and the woman had nodded in thanks and understanding.
He was still debating over retirement or active duty but he knew his decision regarding the contract itself was already made. He just wasn’t sure whether he should mention it around a certain Sokovian ex HYDRA agent. Stark was right - wasn’t he always? Sure damn seemed like it, especially these days - about Wanda. She was no victim, despite the death of her brother. Had Ultron not planned to wipe out all the life on planet Earth, she would have never stepped up to fight with them. Pietro was the one with the truly noble heart, as had been proven when he had ran in front of the bullets meant for those civilians. But he had went where Wanda went because they only had each other. His pain was used, taken advantage of. Wanda had only wanted revenge. Wanda had had hundreds of victims while she still only practiced her powers. Clint didn’t want to tell them that he was signing the Accords only for Wanda to control his mind and change his opinion. He was this close to going back to his family and he’ll be damned if he lets the little witch stand in his way.
‘I should probably beg on my knees in front of Stark so he would arrange for that wizard friend of his to check my mind. I don’t know what’s my own thoughts anymore.’ He watched wearily as Wanda made some more snide comments about Tony and bit his tongue from reminding her just who it was that had secured her a visa - as temporary as it had been - and had made sure she didn’t end up in some hole in the dirt or as a lab experiment. Or the fact that no one had ever set their filthy hands on Pietro’s body. Tony had done too much for that brat for her to still be advocating hate towards him.
“He should just step aside and let the real heroes do their jobs instead of messing it all up.” Maximoff sneered at the TV, where there was a replay of Tony’s conference with the press regarding the man who had tried to kill him. “He’s nothing without his armor. Anyone can pick up a weapon and shoot. He’s useless.”
That struck a cord that Clint had never thought even existed. “Is that so?” He asked in a drawl he knew had Nat instantly alert but Clint was tired of worrying about what these idiots thought. Cap may advertise Avengers as a family, but they were nothing but broken and damaged people gathered in one place pretending to be a family. Stark had made a family. The Tower was a home. Clint’s real family was at that Tower and he longed for nothing more than to hold his wife, hug his kids and make up for everything he had messed up. Even if he wasn’t needed on the New Avengers, he can still help train the new generation of heroes. He can still correct his son’s technique so he can be a part of that new generation. Kids adored and looked up to Stark. Even his own kids. He wanted to have at least the smallest bit of that respect directed at him.
“Of course. It’s just point and shoot. Anyone can do that. It’s not like what Cap or Bucky do. Or what I can do. Anyone can pilot the suit. Rhodes proved that.” Clint found it interesting how Natasha and Sam didn’t realize at all that she had called them practically as useless as ‘Stark’ - that man was anything but useless, armor or no armor.
“Well, I guess that applies to me as well, huh.” Clint sneered at her and jumped out of the vents. “After all, I’m just an archer. Without my bow, I can’t do anything. Unlike Stark. Only an idiot would say Stark is nothing without his suit.”
“What?” She hissed dangerously while the other rouges watched them with incredulous expressions on their faces. Clint pitied them as much as he was disgusted with them or weary of them. He wondered if this was what Stark felt every time he had to talk to them and he swore to buy that man every cheeseburger, donut and shawarma sandwich he can afford to try and start making up to him for how big of an asshole he had been to him.
“That man packs more destructive power per pound than a nuke. The suit he had made himself. Take it off and he’s still Iron Man. He’ll just make another. Tony Stark is the dangerous, powerful side of that coin. Anyone who thinks otherwise deserves to meet the Ten Rings in whatever hell Stark sent them to.” With that, Barton turned away, swiftly walking out of the room. “Since I am as useless as Stark because anyone can pick up a bow and learn to shoot, I guess I’ll just let you special people to it. Don’t want my uselessness to rub off on you.”
“That’s not what she meant, Clint.” Natasha, seeming to sense where this will end, tried to do damage control. Clint wanted to sneer at her, too. They’ve been working for far too long for him not to recognize her fake placating tone and if she thinks she can work him around, then he’s greatly insulted because she obviously believes he’s stupid. And yes, he is greatly idiotic regarding how much he had misjudged Tony and Wanda, but he’s not really that stupid to fall for the Black Widow’s tricks.
Who does she think he is? He had brought her in.
“Oh, I think I know exactly what she meant, Widow. No need to clarify for my sake.”
“Clint? Is something the matter?” God, had Cap always been this oblivious? Or this commanding of everyone’s agreement with his version of the story? How had none of them ever noticed that a man from the past who has no idea of how to deal with this brave new world was trying to dictate their opinions? Had Stark noticed and gotten sick of it? Probably. He is a genius and damn hell more perceptive than Natasha ever gave him credit for in her evaluation of his character. Or any of them, for that matter. Had they all just read what she had written and decided that’s all they needed to know? Coulson respected the guy. That says a lot about what kind of person he is.
Clint felt like such a dick, especially since he knew if he asked Tony for forgiveness, the man would give it to him in a heart beat. They didn’t deserve his mercy. He should have used all of his considerable power to smite them. Clint had no doubt that Stark had known where they were from the start. Had they seriously thought they could win against the man who had tore his company down from the foundations and built it up into an empire the likes of which no other company has ever seen all on his own? The man who had been tortured and strapped to a car battery when kidnapped by terrorists but had managed to escape in a fashion no other person would have thought possible? The man who had willingly flown a nuke into space for the sake of the world? Who had been under a falling city just to make sure the city-sized meteor didn’t wipe out the life on Earth, risking his life and surviving the odds?
‘How delusional are we, to think Stark couldn’t have just disintegrated us off the face of the Earth if he had wanted to? That armor was a conquering force on its own!’ Just showed how much of a better man Stark was than they had ever given him the credit for. Clint took a great sigh and turned around so he was walking with his back facing away from the rouge Avengers, knowing he can’t trust them anymore. ‘Thank god for Stark making all of our rooms little safe havens that not even the Hulk can break through.’ He thought as he faced Rogers. “Nothing, Cap. Just tired. This isn’t helping,” he indicated in the vague direction of the TV and the complaining that they were doing against man who had offered his home to them and they had betrayed them for his kindness.
Steve nodded as though in understanding but Natasha didn’t look convinced. Whatever, he was sick of all of this shit. He just wanted to go back to his family, so he left the room as fast as he can, all but running to his room. Who knew when Wanda might decide a little mind-rape was in order. He closed and locked the door behind him, initiating the panic mode of the room so that no one can come in, not even Maximoff’s powers - once again, bless Stark and his brilliant mind for thinking of that.
He picked up his copy of the Accords and the pen that had been waiting beside the papers while also taking out his phone and dialing the best number he knew that would be ideal for this momentous occasion.
He picked up on the second ring, the background noises of his workshop reaching across the line and Clint suddenly relaxed, as though his return journey was finally reaching the end. Like home was finally in sight.
“Tony,” he paused, letting the man recognize the voice if he hadn’t already known who was calling, affording himself the needed moment to finish his signature. The sounds of Stark’s work stopped except for what must have been Dum-E’s inquisitive beeping towards his creator.
“Legolas.” Stark greeted back and Clint let out a relieved laugh. He looked down at the papers and almost let out a sob, too, because it definitely felt worth it, losing the old Avengers for the future Stark was building one step at a time.
“I think we should talk.”