Natasha and Tony still hadn't spoken to each other since breakfast, and in fact, no one had really seen Natasha, or Clint for that matter, at all.
Pepper kept pressing Tony to go find her and apologize, but with his usual stubbornness, he insisted that because she was the one who tried to put a knife through his throat, she was the one who should apologize, not him.
Not that it stopped him from trying to find the two assassins on the security cameras when no one was looking—with no luck. Tony even went so far as to ask Jarvis where they were, but even that came to no avail.
It wasn't the first time Clint had hacked into the AI's mainframe and changed Jarvis's settings. No matter how obscure the password Tony selected, the master archer always managed to find it out, and it was really starting to bother him.
Jarvis was like his son—it just wasn't natural that the AI should "not be able to comply with his order".
But with nothing else to do, and still refusing to own that he was wrong, Tony sat back to wait and see what would happen next.
"Yippekayaa!" A very southern male voice suddenly shrieked at a level that filled the room and made Tony jump. "I have fouuuuuuuund your frieeennds!" Tony whirled around trying to find the source of the noise, completely bewildered at how they could shout so loud. "The little red-haired missy: she's in her room! And Hawkbooooy, he's up on the roof!"
Where is that coming from, Tony thought, covering his ears. There was absolutely no one in the room, and the vents were empty too, so who was...
"BARTON!" Tony screamed.
He'd done it. He'd finally done it. He killed Jarvis and replaced him with this horrible redneck hillbilly cowboy of an AI.
Gritting his teeth, Tony took off for the elevator, his hand banging up and down on his thigh as he waited for the doors to close and for it to take him up to the roof level. It seemed to take an age, as the elevator slowly climbed higher, but Tony filled the space with muttering curses and death threats at Clint under his breath—a strange contrast to the gentle music that was playing.
At last the elevator doors opened with a ding and Tony hurriedly stalked out of them, his head swiveling in all directions as he looked for the source of his grievance.
"Ah, there you are," a voice called out cheerfully, and Tony turned towards the sound.
High above the elevator entrance on the very top of the building by the satellites, his legs dangling over the edge, was perched Clint Barton, his face holding a contented calm, not even phased by the rough wind that battered his hair, the incredible drop that stretched below his feet, or even the angered billionaire who was glaring at him below.
"I was wondering when you would show up." he said with casual smile.
Tony's face turned red with anger. "Fix him. Fix. Him. Right. Now." he spat.
Clint sighed contentedly as he looked out at the incredible view that stretched out before him and below him. "Sure," he said lightly, turning back to Stark. "Right after you apologize to Natasha." he finished, his face and tone suddenly growing serious.
Tony spluttered. "I will kill you." he muttered darkly, but his threat lost a little bit of its direness as he was obviously afraid to climb up to where Barton was, not so much a fan of this mortal height without his suit on.
Clint just smiled. "Jarvis," he suddenly called out, "remind Mr. Stark where Natasha is so he knows where to find her to apologize."
"The red-haired dooooolllll of a lassie with that fiiiiiinneee—"
"SHUT UP!" Tony yelled, effectively silencing Jarvis.
Clint smiled calmly, obviously enjoying every second, as he looked down on Stark.
Tony's face was purple with rage, and he pointed a finger up at Clint, his mouth opening and closing as he fought for words. Finally he closed his mouth and dropped his hand. "I'll fix him myself….." He muttered darkly under his breath, stomping onto the elevator and pressing the down button repeatedly in a fruitless effort to make the doors close faster.
Clint merely sighed, and shifted his position on the rooftop ledge, looking out at the metropolis skyline with perfect content.
It was a full three hours later before Stark finally fixed Jarvis and brought him back to his proper British self. But even then, the AI seemed to have some loyalty issues, almost hinting at the fact that he favored Clint more that Stark. Something that Tony was horrified at, and spent another hour trying to fix, which he eventually did.
Still Natasha was absent.
The others living in Avengers Tower began to get a little nervous. After all, Natasha was not one you piss off lightly. When she got this angry….Anything was possible.
However, they got extremely nervous when Clint walked into the Rec room shortly after Stark had finished reverting Jarvis. He was holding his bow in one hand and his quiver full of arrows in his other, staring down open-mouthed and speechless at both.
"Stark…." He said, in a voice slightly wavering in disbelief. "What. Have. You. Done?"
The man in question was currently sprawled leisurely out on the couch, the smuggest of grins on his face. "You don't mess with my stuff, I wont mess with yours." Stark said, nodding towards the weapons in Clint's hands.
Still in their place in Clint's quiver, were his precious arrows, each of them now covered in pink glitter with little pink bows tied to their ends, while in his hands lay his famed bow, now spray painted a vibrant hot pink.
Poor Clint stared at the emblems of his life in disbelief at their degradation to this level. He looked up at Stark again, his face an emotionless mask that equaled that of any of Natasha's, and everyone present held their breath, watching with wary curiosity at what would happen next.
However, any expectations they might have had at the outcome, were inexplicably shattered when Clint, without a word or a sign of any emotion to anyone, turned and left the room.
All eyes then turned on Stark, who ran a hand over the stubble on his jaw, a frown appearing on his face as he weighed in his mind what this action could mean for him. For he had had many expectations of what Clint's response to his counter sabotage would be, and the one he got, didn't even make the list.
One thing was for certain: It wouldn't be good.
It was a tense time in Avengers Tower.
Pepper was now officially giving Stark the silent treatment, Bruce was cautiously keeping to himself and everyone noticed that he kept his back to the wall whenever possible, Thor was loudly recounting various escapades he had gone on with his fellow Asgardian warriors in what everyone guessed was an attempt to lighten the mood, and Steve found himself pacing the hallways with his shield once more in its mount on his back, unable to bite back the feeling of vague reminiscence of that eerie calm that always precedes the havoc of a battle.
And they waited.
An anxious, covert check on the security cameras two hours later activated by Stark, revealed Clint's famed bow and quiver once more in their place beside his suit, their color and aspect now reverted back to their usual threatening black; yet still the master archer was nowhere to be seen.
"Jarvis, downgrade audio to headset." Tony said in a low tone so as not to be heard by the others, pulling the said headset on.
"Switching to headset." Jarvis responded, his crisp British accent coming through the earpiece. "How can I assist you, sir?"
A moment of silence passed as Jarvis did his work, during which Tony absentmindedly tapped a beat on the tabletop with his fingertips as he looked out the window.
"Hawkeye is currently in your personal armory, sir."
"WHAT?!" Stark shouted, drawing the startled eyes of every head in the room. Tony, however, ignored them and rapidly moved to Pepper's desk.
"Jarvis, give me a video feed of the security cameras in my armory," he ordered, and a holographic screen obediently popped up before him suspended over the desk.
There on the screen, Clint Barton could be seen calmly setting a large box on the armory floor, happily whistling a tune as he dug through the contents. Coming up with a can of something, he straightened and approached the corner where the camera was mounted, tossing the can up into the air with skillful flips as he walked.
A moment later and his face loomed before the lens, taking up the space of the whole screen as Clint blew a kiss before raising the can, a steady line of spray paint starting in one corner and working it's way across the lens, until the entire screen was covered and all Tony could see was a vibrant purple.
Stark stared at the hologram, his mouth opening and closing as he fought for words, completely oblivious to the startled and curious looks the others assembled in the room were giving him, and when Steve opened his mouth to ask what was wrong, Tony took off out of the room.
He ran as fast as he could towards the elevator, skidding around corners and bouncing off walls till he reached it, frantically pressing the Up button in an attempt to bring the elevator down faster.
The elevator itself, however, seemed to have had other plans, as Stark waited at the doors for 30 agonizing seconds until finally giving up and running for the stairs.
No doubt Barton had stalled the shaft to buy himself more time to wreak more havoc upon his precious, his beautiful, his life's work and glorious suits, doing who knows what to them now!
Panicking, Stark willed his legs to move faster, leaping up the stairs and taking them three at a time. He was currently on the 12th floor now, and his armory was located on the 29th floor. Just 17 more floors to go.
It was around the 20th floor that Stark's legs began to burn, his breath coming sharp and heavy, yet still he pushed himself on, the image of that purple screen burned into his mind and the possibility of what might be transpiring behind it spurring him on.
At last he reached the 29th floor, and raced down the hallway towards his armory door as fast as his leaden legs would carry him. Reaching it, he burst into the room without pausing and looked about him, mouth agape.
Clint Barton was nowhere to be seen, the box having also disappeared with him, and yet evidence of his presence had been clearly left behind.
Perhaps you have never heard that the master archer is also a very skillful artist? Well that skill was clearly and masterfully displayed in the armory that day, using three of Stark's prized suits as a canvas.
The first suit had been spray painted a vibrant hot pink, with bright pink glitter liberally sprinkled about to accompany it, and upon the chest plate was a large copy of Hello Kitty.
The second suit had been converted to Hawkeye's own colors of black with purple highlights, a purple arrow "piercing" the area where Stark's heart would be were he wearing the suit, with the graphitized caption across the chest plate reading: "Caw, caw, M*****f*****!"
Yet it was the third and final suit that really displayed Clint's artistic abilities, for spanned across the whole of the suit was depicted a realistic looking portrait of Natasha's face.
It was spray painted like all the rest and hastily done, yet it still managed to capture her essence with an emphasis on her flaming auburn hair, her full, red, slightly parted lips, and her piercing green eyes.
It was to this suit that Stark felt his attention drawn and fixated, and for a long while he stared at it—stared at her eyes, that, to him, seemed to have almost an accusatory glint to them.
Tony opened his mouth. Closed it. Frowned. And walked out.
Calmly, with his hands in his pockets, Stark sauntered down the hallway, stepping onto the elevator, which seemed to be working fine now, and riding it down to the dormitory level. Once more he walked the corridor till he reached Natasha's flat, her door marked with a black circular plague with a red hourglass upon it.
Letting out a sigh, Tony knocked twice on the woodwork, lowering his head as he waited for her to answer, and in a moment the door opened and Natasha's face was framed in the crack.
"Stark." She greeted in a toneless voice, her face an expressionless mask.
"Natasha, hi," Tony began, his hands back in his pockets while he looked up at her. "Listen, at breakfast, I shouldn't have said those things about your past and all. It really wasn't funny, and I'm sorry for it. Pepper tells me I have a problem with not thinking before I speak and all." He paused thoughtfully, adding in mutter: among other things, before quickly continuing. "Anyways, recap: Shouldn't have said it. Wasn't funny. And I'm sorry."
Natasha considered him in silence for a moment, a bit of the ice in her eyes melting at his apology, however poorly done.
"Well, I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have lost my temper and thrown that dagger at you. Thank goodness for Clint, right?"
Stark snickered a bit, rubbing the back of his neck and widening his eyes. "Oh yeah. What ever would we do without ol' Birdbrain around…" He muttered, not without a large note of sarcasm in his voice. Clearing his throat, he looked up at Natasha again. "So we good?"
She nodded, the smallest trace of a smile curving her lips. "We're good."
Tony bobbed his head once, clapping his hands together. "Okay. Well then. Bye, Widow."
The door closed, and Tony sauntered away down the hall, whistling an unnamed tune under his breath.
When the corridor was quiet, a slight grating was heard overhead Natasha's door before Clint Barton dropped down to land silently on the carpet like a cat. He looked from her door, to where Stark had disappeared around the corner, before reaching up and giving himself a very literal pat on the back, grinning from ear to ear, before taking off down the opposite end of the hall.
That night, peace had once more been restored to Avengers Tower. Well, that is, as much peace as one can get when you gather together a Norse demigod, a nervous doctor with anger issues, a soldier from the 1940's, two master assassins, and a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist and his girlfriend all under the same roof, which is not very much.
However, there were no clouds over the horizon of the ragtag team of heroes who were gathered together around the dinner table that evening.
Stark was once more back in Pepper's favor, and was currently sprawled back in his seat with one hand loosely draped about her waist as she sat perched in his lap.
Steve was enthralling all as he happily retold the story of one of his adventures he had with the Howling Commandos, while all the while Thor and Bruce were feeding off of each other's jokes and providing hilarious sound effects and gestures to accompany the tale.
Laughing along with the rest of them, Clint and Natasha listened to Steve's narrative, Clint sitting comfortably with one leg sharing Natasha's chair and leaning against her back, while she sipped on his drink and deftly speared strawberries from the remnants of the fruit salad on his plate with her knife.
When the team finally broke up and each separated to go to sleep, murmuring goodnights, Tony accompanied Pepper back to their flat, her head leaning on his shoulder as they walked and his arm supporting hers.
Reaching their room, Pepper entered, though Tony lingered out in the hallway, seemingly straining his ears to hear something.
"You coming?" she asked, from inside.
"In a moment…." he replied distractedly.
A few seconds later a door was heard opening farther down the hallway, followed by a tremendous splash, and Barton's loud cry of "STARK!"
Tony sighed contentedly, smiling to himself as he turned to walk inside his room.
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