Buzzing with energy Tony charged through his morning routine before rushing down to his workshop - he had plans to finalize.
Happily enmeshed in his wires and welding, he winced when he heard the ticky-tack of Pepper’s heels on the stairs. Privately he was convinced the only reason Pepper wore sharply-spiked stilettos was because of the cringingly irritating nails on chalkboard effect.
So Tony ignored her.
Pepper coughed her - why are you ignoring me - cough.
Hopeful, Tony waited a few moments longer but she didn’t go away. He patted one final wire into place and looked up,
“Pepper, light of my life.”
Pepper rolled her eyes at him, “I’m pleased to see you so cheerful. He must have done you good.” She snickered to herself over the obviously intentional double entendre.
Tony did his best to swallow down his scowl. This was his soulmate. He didn’t want Pepper smirking at him like she did Tony’s other dates.
“So what requires such urgent attention you have to drag me away from my being a genius?” he demanded.
“The stock price.”
Tony groaned out loud, “I don’t care about the stock price.”
“It’s going up.”
“Huh,” Tony looked at her sharply. “That’s a good thing, isn’t it? Usually you here complaining that it’s going down. If you’re going to complain whether it goes up or down, I – ”
“Tony,” she snapped, cutting him off, “It’s bad because people are talking takeovers. You’d probably already be in trouble if it wasn’t for the fact your biggest stock holder’s representative has a massive crush on you -”
“No, no, wait. Are you talking about Jessica Drew with the CFB Hedge Fund? She hates me. She looks like she wants to stab herself in the head every time she agrees with me.”
“She always votes with you, even when you’re being an idiot.”
“Well yeah, but it’s not cos she likes me.” Tony actually found that reassuring. People stopped liking him all the time and it was wearing on the nerves waiting for it to finally happen. People who hated him, on the other hand, were easy.
He shrugged his shoulders, “And let them talk takeovers. It means the stock price will go up, which you’ve been assuring me is a good thing for years. Miss Potts, have you been telling me fibs? Nothing’s going to come of it because I retain a controlling interest.”
“Tony, you don’t have a controlling interest.”
“O- Stane split the stock down twice to raise capital but you never increased your holdings. There’s more stock in the market than you control.”
“How did that happen?”
Pepper lifted her hands helplessly. Tony shook his head sharply,
“Don’t answer that.” He already knew how it happened Obie had, no, no damnit the man’s name was Stane, Stane had told him something convincing and Tony had gone along with because Obie knew best. “What happened to Obie - Stane’s holdings.”
“Didn’t have any.”
“That’s ridiculous. He’s been raking in stock bonuses every year.”
“Still didn’t have any. The investigating team has been very through. Phil thought it was unusual too.”
A slight flush rose on Pepper’s cheeks, “Agent Coulson.”
“Oh, Ph-hil,” Tony grinned obnoxiously. He wasn’t quite sure how he felt about it, so he filed possibility of Pepper and Agent Coulson away to analyze later.
“Anyway, Stane had no stock, so we presume he was working with someone else, who does have the stock. Which could be a problem. And we still don’t know who hired Barton to pull you out of Afghanistan.”
“What do you want me to do about it?” Tony demanded, snappy and snarly in defense of his soulmate.
“I want you.” Pepper reached out and plucked the pillars he was still holding from his hands, “to put on a suit and go be visible.”
“Be visible? Usually you’re telling me to keep myself out of the papers.”
“Be visible,” said Pepper firmly, then quickly temporized it with, “Be visible doing something respectable.”
“But P-e-p,” Tony whined, “I don’t know how to be respectable.”
“Well try. Go eat lunch somewhere.”
“Remember, respectable. We’re trying to encourage other people to buy stock. So for heaven’s sake, change into a suit first, and while you’re at it, pick up after last night. It looks like an orgy took place, and we do not need the cleaning staff telling tales.”
“I had a great time, thank you,” said Tony, inwardly hugging himself over the knowledge that he had his soulmate.
Pepper stopped and looked at him, “You do seem to have,” she studied him for a second, and Tony tried to look as smugly pleased as he would normally. Eventually Pepper shook her head, “Anyway, I’m glad you’re feeling better. Now change, because those clothes are about to disintegrate around you.”
Tony tugged what even he had to admit was a decrepit hoodie, but didn’t say anything. It wasn’t his fault Clint had run off with his favorite hoodie and sweats. And the idea of Clint sneaking off in his clothes made Tony want to puff out his chest and beam with pride.
He didn’t want Pepper to see any of that though, because it was too new and precious for other people to dig their fingers into. So he just nodded his head and grumbled,
“Okay, okay, going now.”
“Good,” said Pepper.
She left then and it occurred to Tony that he had got away far too lightly. Pepper had in no way asked as many questions as she normally would. Which meant Tony was going to have to come to some conclusions on the Pepper-Coulson issue sooner rather than later.
Actually he wanted to scrub the entire conversation and all the unfortunate implications and keep working on his project, which was now even more important than ever, but experience had taught him ignoring Pepper’s instructions was a bad plan long-term. Pepper was subtle but vicious.
Reluctantly he straightened his work bench, patted his robots goodbye, and returned to his room. After grabbing one his suits at random, he stopped and rewound. Soon might be today.
Going back, he picked out one of his better suits, then changed his mind because that wouldn’t work with a purple tie and he wanted to wear the one Clint had left behind. So he picked another suit, but that really needed a colored shirt and he was planning on wearing white. So he picked another...
Tony found himself turning in an agitated circle and growled out loud, utterly disgusted with himself. He was never this indecisive, not even for stupidly brave, adorably cute soulmates with really pretty eyes. Firmly he put on the suit he was currently holding, along with a random white shirt. He still couldn’t resist the purple tie though. Rescuing it from where it dangled from the top of book case, he tied it smartly in place.
Then he walked himself quickly out the room before he could decide the grey suit would have been the better option after all.
It took Clint more will power to wrench himself away from his soulmate than that time he had to crawl three blocks with a broken leg. He was determined though because he was not going to take advantage of his soulmate. Now that he’d explained to his soulmate how much he did not need Clint messing up his life, he wanted to give the man a chance to reconsider. It seemed wrong to allow the soulmate effect to swamp Tony’s ability to choose.
Also Clint wanted to track down a couple of contacts, and try to calculate exactly how dangerous settling down in New York would be. It would have been too much like tempting fate to ask before, but now it seemed that his soulmate might want him to stick around.
As it turned out he didn’t even have to try and be subtle (which was probably just as well). The underground was buzzing with news of Tony Stark.
It wasn’t good news.
When Pepper had instructed him to go to lunch, Tony knew she had intended he invite one of the available ladies in his rolodex to join him. However Tony didn’t feel so inclined. He was respectably soul-mated, he didn’t need to be making nice with other people.
Instead, he called Natalie. As she was the person Clint was most concerned about, it would make sense to feel her out and see if he could woo her away from SHIELD. Natalie was, unsurprisingly, free for lunch.
Tony called Happy and they went to pick her up in the Bentley.
He’d always believed there was more to Natalie Rushman than a pretty face and willingness to trade on it - she got on too well with Pepper for there not to be - but hadn’t suspected she was a SHIELD agent.
Now he wondered how he could have missed the carefully calculated movements and the controlled way she surveyed the room. He’d seen all the same quirks in the army guys he’d met while they were on duty. He wondered if Natalie partied as hard as they did, remembered she was Russian, and figured it would be better not to enquire too closely. All the Russians he knew could knock back scary amounts of vodka.
Natalie was smiling at him all dark lashes and lush lips - that was familiar too. Instead of being able to enjoy the effect, Tony had to struggle not to shudder from the full-on roaring jealousy at the knowledge this woman had caught the attention of his soulmate.
He managed a weak smile.
“Mr Stark?” Natalie leaned forward to press her hand over his, all fluttering concern. At the same time her eyes were scanning the room. Tony really was an idiot.
“Ignore me,” he said, “I’m out of sorts since Pepper dragged me out of my lab because of these ridiculous takeover rumors.”
“They are actually very concerning,” Natalie snapped back into work mode. “Stark Industries would be a prime target for hostile powers.”
And that was obviously why SHIELD was interested.
Natalie poked the knife she was holding at the table - she had ordered the steak, which would have been another clue something was up, because women never did that - “I just wish I understood...”
She trailed off.
“What?” said Tony, “You’ve got me all curious now. Ask me. I’m great at explaining stuff.”
“No, you wouldn’t k-,” her eyes sharpened and focused. She wasn’t staring at him, but at his chest. “Or maybe you would.”
“That sounds ever so slightly ominous.”
In the car he had tried to sound her out in order to discover if she was amenable to leaving SHIELD. He refused to believe Fury paid his people in black better than Tony paid his people. His pension plan was probably better too, not to mention the chances of actually living long enough to draw it. But all he’d got out of her was the standard corporate speak designed to be bland and reveal nothing.
He’d been impressed, it was wearing to keep that up, and Natalie managed it while smiling sweetly. She should go into politics.
She was smiling now, but there was nothing sweet in it, “Tell me, when did you know Barton was back in New York?”
“Clint isn’t in New York,” Tony denied without thought, only wanting to protect.
Natalie grinned like a shark scenting blood, “I see you’re not surprised at him being alive.”
Oh. She was evilly devious. No wonder she got on with Pepper. “He’s a sneaky ninja,” Tony blustered, “of course I’m not surprised he’s alive.”
Natalie didn’t look convinced by his stuttering’s. “I am. Surprised that is. Visiting Afghanistan for him was only slightly less stupid than visiting Iraq.”
“I thought everybody wanted to kill him in Iraq,” Tony asked, giving up on pretending he didn’t know what she was getting at when it was obvious Natalie wasn’t going to believe him whatever he said.
“Pretty much. Afghanistan? I think they mostly wanted to chop bits off him and listen to him scream.”
Tony wobbled in his seat.
“Why Mr Stark, you’ve gone as white as a sheet.”
She was enjoying taunting him, Tony gritted his teeth, “You have anything to say worth hearing, Natasha.”
“Damn,” she shook her head, “Coulson’s head is going explode. Please let me be there when he finds out.”
“Exactly,” she nodded her head. “How the hell did you keep that quiet? You’re both - ” she stopped abruptly, shooting to her feet, knife still in her hand.
“What are you doing?” Tony yelped.
The knife flew through the air just to the right of Tony’s head. Spinning around in his seat, Tony saw a large man in a suit collapse as the knife embedded itself in the shoulder.
The man cursed violently, and something fell from his hand, skittering across the floor until hit a wall. Tony flinched as if he’d actually been shot when he realized it was a gun. The man’s friends jumped to their feet. They were also wearing suits, the cheap sort of suits that did nothing to disguise the bulges of guns holstered under their arms.
Natasha had one hand pressed to her ear, “Come in, SHIELD please respond.”
The door crashed open in a shower of glass and a squad of men in tac gear roared inside.
“Widow,” yelled the lead as he directed his team with quick finger jabs.
“Rumlow,” Natasha nodded but was still tapping at her earpiece.
“We’ve come to take Stark into SHIELD protective custody.”
Tony flinched away from the malice in the man’s smile at words protective custody. Rumlow took two quick steps forward and seized his shoulder. Tony could feel each finger and the thumb of his hand as separate points of painful contact as they dug in around the joint.
Squawking with shock, Tony tried to pull away. He knew being shoved around by Security more worried about bullets than bruises - and this wasn’t it.
Rumlow’s smile widened and his grip tightened. Then, abruptly, the smile shattered and Tony staggered as the grip on his shoulder was released. Rumlow’s hands were both clutching at the arrow sticking out of his tac vest.
Tony ducked his head his head in the pathetic hope he would help him dodge any further arrows and was hunting with his eyes for the nearest door when he heard,
Instinctively spinning towards the sound of his name, he realized everyone else, assassin squad, SHIELD team, and even Natasha had all turned their heads towards the new player.
“Tony!” Clint called again.
Tony stared. His soulmate was standing towards the back of restaurant, smiling at him as he drew an arrow from a quiver at his back to notch in his bow.
After the frozen moment of shocked recognition, time resumed normal speed. Suddenly arrows were sprouting from tac vests and suits alike and Tony was running without thought towards his soulmate. The barrage of arrows stopped as Clint reached out to him.
“Go! Go!” Natasha yelled, “Go, I’ll cover you.”
Clint grabbed Tony’s arm with his free hand, pulling him around so Clint was between him and the room.
“Go,” Clint shoved him gently, pausing only to sheathe his bow across his back. “Quick, go through the kitchens.” And then they were running as the room behind them exploded with gunfire.
“What about - ” Tony gasped as Clint pushed him through a crowded kitchen.
“Natasha?” said Clint between a string of ‘sorry’s’ and ‘watch that plate’s’ “She told us to go. You think I’m sticking around for a lecture on misplaced gallantry? She’s twice as dangerous as I am anyway. If we stuck around she probably put a bullet in me to make a point.”
They’d finally reached the back door, and Tony was being hauled back so Clint could go first.
“You’re fine,” shouted a man in cooking whites holding a really big knife. “I sent one of the porters to watch your bike and the CCTV is clear. Now get out of here and stop disrupting my kitchen.”
“Yes Chef,” shouted Clint as they vanished out the door.
There was a porter watching the bike. His eyes went very big when he saw Tony,
“Mr Stark! Can I get your autograph? Please sir.”
Tony was panting too hard to say anything, which was probably just as well because it wouldn’t have been polite. Clint, handing Tony a spare pair of sunglasses, said,
“Uh maybe later, kid, I owe your boss a favor anyway.”
Tony climbed on the bike and then Clint swung on behind.
“I am not a kid,” sulked the porter.
“Whatever you say, kid.” Clint leaned around Tony to grab the handlebars, revving the engine. The engine’s growl and the squeal of rubber obliterated the kid’s annoyed shout back as they took off.
“Why are you driving from behind?” Tony shouted to be heard over the wind whipping past them as Clint skidded them around a corner. The awkward driving style had them both off-balance.
“You’re too vulnerable to getting shot in the back.”
“And you’re not?”
“I’m wearing body armor.” Clint curled himself around Tony as the bullets started to rattle.
Tony snorted, he wasn’t fooled, Clint was always going to be on the back of the bike, body armor or no.
“I meant why aren’t I driving? I might not be much good in a firefight but I can make a motorbike goddam fly, and I’ve got the tickets to prove it.”
He was prepared for an argument, but Clint just said, “Cool,” and Tony had to shake off his surprise and grab the handle bars before they slammed off the road as Clint dropped them to draw his bow.
With his passenger twisting around to fire his bow, the balance was still slightly off but Tony leant forward and drove as explosions roared behind them.
Finally Clint tapped him on the shoulder, “Okay, we can stop now.”
Tony slowed to a more decorous pace, took another two corners and then let the bike idle to a stop in a side street.
“We good?” he asked.
“For now, we need to go to ground and figure out who’s trying to grab you so I can go shoot them very dead.”
Tony nodded his head. He preferred non-violent methods but he had no objections to violence when required. “Okay good.”
“Great,” Clint beamed and wrapped his arm around Tony’s shoulders.
“What are you so happy about?” grumped Tony.
“Well, one, you clearly need me to stick around and keep you out of trouble - ”
Tony huffed, he wanted Clint to stick around but he didn’t agree that he needed help. He’d have figured something out on his own. But on the other hand, it had been nice having his soulmate backing him up.
“- And two, you riding the hell out of a bike is really, really hot.”
“Oh. Oh okay.” Tony could feel himself blushing. He hadn’t blushed since he was fifteen. It was so embarrassing it made him blush harder.
Clint smacked an extravagant kiss to his red cheek, “C’mon, let’s go back to my hotel.”
Taking a taxi was too big a risk, according to Clint. Tony reluctantly agreed his soulmate probably had more knowledge of this type of situation than he did and agreed to walk. Clint stole a baseball cap and presented it to him so proudly Tony didn’t have the heart to whinge about the indignity of being expected to wear a baseball cap even if it was for a disguise.
When they finally arrived at the hotel, all Tony could do was stare. He’d been expecting some sort of fleapit no-tell motel. This was the Plaza in all its splendor.
“You’re staying here?” he demanded blankly
“What? I’m not going to take my guy somewhere scuzzy. Besides it’s good camouflage. Everyone else is going to be thinking along the same lines as you. I’m booked into another two much crummier places to keep them confused.”
“I’m your guy?” asked Tony, focusing on the important bit of that.
“Sure.” Clint kissed him again, then thrust a folded newspaper in front of his face. “Look down and pretend you’re concentrating on reading that. SHIELD love to scan camera-feeds.”
“So,” said Tony as they ambled casually into the lift. “This fancy room of yours got a bed?”
“Yeah, it’s huge. You could fit five people in it.”
“How about two very energetic people?”
“I dunno.” Clint grinned at him waggling his eyebrows. “Have to test it out.”
“I am all over the experimental method.”
“We should get right on that.”
They were kissing as they fell through the door, Clint’s tongue hot and slick against his. Tony was just working his hands under Clint’s shirt when there was a loud cough.
Tony whined as Clint broke away from the kiss and said,
“Fuck’s sake Natasha, couldn’t you have pretended not to find us for an hour or two?”
“I have just been shot at by my own side because of you.”
“And I promise, I’ll be really, really appreciative - in an hour or two.”
“How appreciative?” snapped Tony as he took in with displeasure the sight of Natasha lounging in an armchair, feet up on the coffee table.
Natasha blinked at him and then shook her head, “Not that appreciative Stark, get your mind out of the gutter, if that’s even possible.”
Tony glared, “How’d you get here so fast anyway? We only just got here and Clint knew where he was going.”
“After somebody helpfully drew all the enemy from my location - ”
“Our pleasure,” interjected Clint.
“I worked down a list of hotels and found you at the third one I tried. I knew Clint wasn’t going to take his guy anywhere scuzzy.”
Tony looked from one to the other, “That’s almost exactly what Clint said, almost word for word.”
“Well sure. Clint’s hopelessly romantic. I don’t know how all the profiles miss that little fact. The idiot still uses a bow and arrow for heaven’s sake.”
“There’s nothing wrong with a bow and arrow,” Clint sulked.
“Of course not,” said Tony, “and yours are incredibly sophisticated. I’ve never seen arrows used to blow cars up before. Maybe later I could take a look at them?” he asked as casually as he could given he’d been desperate for a look-see since the first car had gone boom.
“Really,” Clint smiled so widely he was glowing. It made Tony feel a bit dizzy. “I’d love to show off my arrows. I designed them all myself,” he admitted, his cheeks were flushed and his eyes shaded by their long lashes. Tony squeezed his arm, completely enamored by the shy pride.
“You designed them all yourself?” That was seriously impressive. Tony couldn’t wait to get him into a lab. Maybe Clint would want to help him with his project, that was a new but happy thought. “That’s amazing.”
“Maybe you could suggest some improvements?”
Natasha said something in Russian, loudly. It didn’t sound very polite.
“Who rattled your cage?” asked Clint.
“Could you please concentrate on the matter at hand for at least a couple of minutes, Birdbrain. I don’t need to watch you two flirting.”
“We’re not flirting,” said Tony, confused. Clint nodded in agreement.
Natasha stared at the ceiling and said more presumably impolite things in Russian.
“So what is going on?” asked Clint.
“That is what I would like to know Agent Romanov,” said a new voice.
Clint pushed Tony behind him and backed them away from the door. Tony stared as Agent Coulson strolled in.
“So I’m still an Agent then, Coulson,” said Natasha.
“At present. I would like to know why you took down half a Strike team.”
“My orders were to protect Tony Stark. I judged him to be safer with Barton than with a Strike Team that wanted to take him into protective custody. I have experienced SHIELD protective custody.”
“Hmm, yes,” said Coulson.
Clint edged towards Natasha. Tony didn’t object. He wasn’t going to let her be threatened because she’d helped them out.
“Agent Rumlow has been cautioned for his over-enthusiastic approach. Incidentally, thank you for not killing him Barton.”
“Total accident I assure you,” said Clint - although Tony supposed it couldn’t be.
Coulson looked either amused or dyspeptic, it was hard to tell, and continued,
“However, I would like to know why you felt Barton to be an appropriate individual to take charge of Stark’s security..”
Natasha shrugged her shoulders elegantly. “Barton’s a sap, sir.”
“Hey!” Clint protested.
“You are, little bird. You’re a sap. You’ve never done a honey trap job in your life.”
“I have so.”
“Clint you sweet-talked a nurse into treating you without notifying the cops, and you sent him roses as a thank you. That does not count as a honey trap.”
“Umph.” Clint folded his arms sulkily.
“So if you’re in a relationship with Stark, it’s not because you’re setting him up.”
“Relationship?” snapped Coulson.
“Yes,” Natasha did a casual little yawn and stretch. “Why else would Clint have retrieved him from Afghanistan?”
“What!” Coulson’s head didn’t actually explode but he blinked three times in quick succession, his gaze switching from Clint to Tony and back again.
“Damn,” said Natasha, “I think you two have broken Coulson’s programming.
Coulson blinked back into himself, “Romanov,” he sighed.
“Hey, I could have taken pictures.”
“You could also be assigned to the Antarctic monitoring station.”
“I didn’t say I’d taken pictures.”
“So explain why you didn’t mention Stark was in a relationship with Barton.”
“I didn’t know, not until today when I figured out who Stark’s pickup at the party was and then Stark confirmed it.”
“I didn’t mean to,” Tony hastily whispered to Clint.
“Oh hush, it’s Natasha, she’s the best interrogator there is.”
“Thank you, Birdie.”
Coulson looked suspicious. “Barton retrieved Stark because they’re in a relationship?”
Clint gave Tony’s arm a quick squeeze of warning as he said, “Yes. And?”
Tony nodded his head against Clint’s arm, keeping quiet about being soulmates for the moment wasn’t a bad idea. They didn’t need all the fuss about Clint being an obvious con artist right now. They could that song and dance later, when Tony’s project (possibly Tony and Clint’s project) and the new tower were complete. Nobody’d give them any trouble then - not for long anyway.
“There was no mysterious employer who hired you?” asked Coulson, addressing Clint for the first time.
“God no, are you crazy? There isn’t enough money in the world to get me to go back to Afghanistan, which is a shame because it’s a great place.”
Tony smiled into Clint’s back. His soulmate had liked him enough, before he even knew he was his soulmate, to risk his life for him.
“So who is trying to buyout Stark Industries?” demanded Coulson.
Clint growled with grumpy frustration, “I don’t know. I keep on buying more stock, but the rumors just keep getting worse.”
“Wait,” said Natasha. “You’re buying Stark Industries stock?”
“Sure. You know I always buy SI stock. It’s great, buy it low after a Stark scandal and watch it bounce back. Hey,” he turned back to look at Tony. “Can we still have Stark scandals even if you’re with me? Because they’re great for profits.”
“I think you’re going to be the next Stark scandal.”
“Are you seriously suggesting Barton has enough SI stock to spark takeover rumors?” asked Coulson.
“Absolutely,” said Natasha. “He already has representation at the Stockholder’s meeting.”
Tony stared. That couldn’t possibly be true, because he’d remember if he’d seen Clint before, and yet, “Oh my God, you’re behind the CFB Hedge Fund.”
“Yeah, did I not mention that?”
“No. No you did not. How does that even work?”
Natasha sighed, “Clint’s been saving for his soulmate since he was marked.”
“Natasha!” Clint flushed up fiery red.
Seeing his soulmate squirm with discomfort, Tony scowled at Natasha,
“I have a soulmate fund too.”
Sort of anyway, mostly he bought things his soulmate might like. There was a warehouse of stuff that Pepper cleaned out every other year, a safe of jewelry, the boat, two airplanes, a helicopter, half-a-dozen houses, actually maybe nearer a dozen by now, and a couple of islands. He felt a bit foolish now because it was quite obvious Clint had no real interest in any of that.
Clint rubbed his nose sheepishly. “Obviously you do.”
Oh, and Tony had got it. Clint thought that Tony had too much money to appreciate everything he’d carefully saved for him. His soulmate was an idiot.
“You’re an idiot.”
“I know,” said Clint, resigned.
“And now you’re being even more of an idiot. Anybody would be lucky to have you as a soulmate.” Then he reached out and grabbed tight hold of Clint’s arm, because nobody else was going to be that lucky.
Natasha and Coulson both looked vaguely sympathetic for second; the way people always did when dealing with partners who were trying to be committed despite not being soulmates.
Both expressions vanished almost immediately. Natasha’s concern was rapidly replaced by speculation but she stayed silent under Clint’s glare. Coulson just looked uncomfortable at all the messy emotions, he straightened his shoulders,
“I’m still stuck on Barton working for a Hedge Fund. My broker recommended CFB to me as one of the star funds. Are you telling me all that’s based on betting Stark will come good?”
“Tony is a genius,” boasted Clint.
Tony beamed at the recognition.
“I think I need to call my broker,” said Coulson, he turned on Natasha, “How do you know all this?”
Natasha looked put upon, “Barton invests my emergency fund for me,” she admitted.
“Yes but - ” said Coulson, as Tony said,
“Don’t you keep your emergency caches in secret Swiss deposit boxes?”
“You know the thing about Swiss deposit boxes,” said Clint, “they’re impossible to get access to in emergencies on account of having to fly to Switzerland. And let’s not even talk about diamonds. Do you know how hard it is to sell a diamond in the middle of nowhere, hell even in the middle of New York you’re more likely to get arrested?”
“Yep, stock. And you get dividends too, which - ”
“Do not start,” said Natasha, “I do not need the finance lecture again.”
“Bad?” asked Tony.
“You wouldn’t believe how much I signed over just to shut him up.”
“Hey,” said Clint, “this is your financial future we’re talking about here.” He turned to Tony and explained, “I started saving money for a few of us and then I found out how easy it is to move money across borders if you call it a Hedge Fund. A year later and suddenly all sorts of people were signing up and it kinda exploded,” he waved his hands helplessly, face scrunched up in puzzlement.
Tony jabbed him with his elbow. “So you’re the one trying to take over my company.”
Clint shook his head violently,
“I haven’t nearly enough money for that. Although - maybe a leveraged buyout,” there was a disturbingly thoughtful cast to face, then he shook his head again, “Anyway I always buy your stock when it crashes, and, well, I had some liquid funds set aside for a particular emergency,” he stroked his thumb over Tony’s hip where the soulmate mark rested, “but as I didn’t need it anymore, and with the rumors getting worse, it made sense to throw it all into SI stock.”
Abruptly Tony giggled.
“Pepper is going to kill you. She is, if I know her at all, currently organizing half a dozen crisis meetings to head off a takeover that isn’t even coming. She is going to massacre you.”
Coulson whipped out his phone and was - calling Pepper.
“Hey no fair,” Tony whined. How was he going to be able to wind Pepper up if Coulson was just going to let the cat out the bag? He could hear Pepper making lots of aggravated sounds over the phone though, so that was some compensation.
Finally Coulson wound up with, “I will see you later,” he paused and then added, “Malaya.”
Clint and Natasha both sniggered, Coulson very slowly turned a brilliant red.
“What?” Tony whined, “What’d he say?”
Clint squeezed his arm and, when Natasha started to talk to Coulson about pulling SHIELD surveillance from Stark Industries, quickly whispered,
“Coulson’s a World War II buff, right? So think acronyms.”
“Oh, oh. Do I want to know?”
Clint shook his head. Tony raised one eyebrow. Clint grinned at him,
“My Ardent Lips Await Your Arrival.”
Tony scrunched up his face at the idea of saying that unironically, “Okay yeah, that’s pretty bad.”
“Stop whispering you two,” snapped Coulson, he was still a dull shade of red which suggested he had a good idea of what they were whispering about.
“Pay attention,” said Natasha. “There’s probably going to be a test.”
Tony sighed but paying attention for a moment seemed the fastest way to get his visitors to leave since they had quite outstayed their welcome. He put on his best listening face.
“Here is how we will proceed,” said Coulson.
“How you suggest we proceed,” Clint corrected.
Coulson stared at him, “You are clearly going to be more trouble in from the cold than you were out there causing chaos.”
“Thank you,” Clint preened.
“That was not a compliment, Barton.” Coulson turned away from him and started to pace the room, “Now as there is apparently only Barton and not in fact a great conspiracy against Stark’s life and company - although I make no promises for his sanity,”
“Hey,” Tony protested, almost simultaneously with Clint. They stopped and grinned at each other.
Natasha wolf-whistled. Coulson groaned but continued determinedly,
“Since we can stop jumping at shadows and concentrate on heading off the usual threats such as the opportunistic kidnapping attempt today, I see no issue with Stark returning to his apartment immediately.”
“Oh but we have plans,” Tony argued, eyeing the hotel room bed, which was indeed big enough for five, or possibly two if they were very energetic.
“Let me rephrase that,” said Coulson. “Stark will be returning to his apartment immediately where he will stay under the protection of his full security detail.”
Clint clasped his hand, “Come on. Once we’re back at your place, we’ll be able to properly lock the door.”
That would definitely be an advantage. He knew his soulmate was a genius. “I like the way you think. Let’s go.”
Unfortunately by the time they got back to his place, Pepper had also got back to his place. And she had plans. Since Tony’s nice normal restaurant lunch had been slightly ruined by the invasion of thugs and SHIELD, she was planning a press conference.
“You can announce one of your inventions we keep back for these sorts of emergencies,” she grinned the manic grin of a woman mainlining coffee, “At the same time we can close down questions about the takeover on the basis of investment in said invention. It will be perfect.”
“You have unannounced inventions? Can I see them?” begged Clint with big puppy eyes.
“Yes,” said Pepper, “excellent idea. You show him round your workshop, Tony, keep yourselves occupied for half an hour while I get everything set up.”
“We can keep ourselves occupied elsewhere,” leered Tony, angling towards his bedroom.
“Oh no, I said half an hour Tony, and I meant it.”
Tony sulked, partially at being denied access to his bedroom, but mostly at the idea he could show off his workshop in only half hour. It would take more than half an hour to show off just his new micro spot welder.
But Clint nudged his arm, “C’mon, let’s at least get away from the crowd.”
“Okay fine.” And Tony dragged him down to his workshop. He opened the door, flicked the light, and then stood back to watch his soulmate scoped the place out, eyes alighting on all the best points.
“So,” Clint propped one hip against the lab bench and folded his arms, “impress me.”
Tony stared at him, his body lighting up at the challenge in those changeable eyes. He went straight for his special project - because if that didn’t blow his socks off, nothing would.
“It’s brilliant,” he enthused, then paused as the unexpected and unwanted desire for honesty made him add, “I mean, it’s not really past the testing stage yet, make that definitely not past the testing stage actually. The last one was a bit of a mess. But it is going to be brilliant.”
“Of course it will be,” Clint agreed with such total confidence it made a Tony a bit dizzy. He was used to having to believe in himself with enough force to carry everyone else with him.
Swept away by the encouragement, he was off, explaining how it would work, what’d done so far, how he was going to do better. How it was brilliant. One of the best things he would ever do. And look if he did this then -
Tony came up for air abruptly, realizing he’d been babbling away without any thought for his audience too caught up in the delight of being to explain his invention. God he was so stupid. He’d promised himself he wouldn’t do that with his soulmate. He peeked out the corner of his eye at Clint, expecting scowls and angry words - but at least his soulmate was still with him, there had been no yelling, hasty footsteps and slammed doors.
Except Clint didn’t look angry or even annoyed (and everybody found Tony annoying, even himself). Instead Clint was staring at him starry-eyed and breathless.
“You are so hot.”
“Uh,” Tony stumbled as they went completely off-script.
“Watching you do your thing. So hot. Can I… I have to… Please.” He made grabby hands.
Tony stepped back nervously gesturing for him to go ahead. “Uh sure, whatever you want.”
“Thank you,” breathed Clint and he was gliding forward, dropping to his knees, and Tony was still confused until Clint was undoing his pants and easing out his cock. Then there were a few seconds of amazed disbelief before Clint ducked his head forward and took him in his mouth, his hot, wet mouth, and oh god.
Tony staggered and Clint grabbed his hips to steady him, shoving him up against the lab bench and sucking him down. Tony had no idea what he was babbling but he could hear his voice high-pitched and squeaky in his ears.
His hands flailed helplessly until Clint pulled back enough to say, “I like hands in my hair, but I don’t like yanking. So if you can’t manage that please stick to my shoulders.”
Tony was too caught up staring at the soft lips, red and slick with spit, to really parse the words they were speaking. Clint reached up and snagged one of his wavering hands and drew it down to rest lightly against his head. Tony ran a trembling hand over his hair, and smiled when Clint’s eyes fluttered shut with pleasure.
Surer now, Tony reached out with both hands and threaded his fingers through the short strands, scraping his nails lightly against Clint’s scalp. That earned him a pleased hum and Clint bent his head to stroke the point of his tongue along Tony’s cock in a delicate tease.
With desperate effort Tony managed to uncurl his clawing fingers and press then flat against the back of Clint’s head. That seemed to be far enough from the prohibited yanking, Clint purred and pushed back against his hands like an affectionate cat.
“Schedule,” sighed Clint.
“What?” asked Tony, his brain too scattered to keep up. Clint was already swallowing his cock down, sucking in earnest and leaving Tony gasping as a quick and dirty orgasm slammed over him.
“Gah,” said Tony.
“Sorry,” Clint scrambled to his feet and pressed a quick kiss to Tony’s cheek. “But we’re on a schedule, and your assistant doesn’t look like somebody I want to piss off.” His fingers quickly started to return Tony’s pants to respectability.
Tony wanted to say how much he admired his soulmate’s perspicacity, but all that he managed was, “Mmph.” He let his head drop forward so he could nuzzle against Clint’s shoulder.
The door to the lab squeaked open and Pepper’s heels tick-tacked inside. He managed to lift his head to glare at her.
“Oh my God,” said Pepper, “do you have to look quite so much like the cat that got in the cream.”
Tony still wasn’t firing on all cylinders, he was aware there was probably a really good speech full of self-justification and the need for Pepper to go bother someone else, but all he managed was an insouciant shrug.
“Oops,” said Clint, not sounding at all sorry that he was sending Tony out to do battle with the press when his mind was all blown. Tony was totally going to get him back for that – once his mind had stopped being blown.
“Later,” he threatened.
“I’ll be here,” Clint promised, hopping up to sit on the lab bench. Tony blinked a couple of times. He had never let somebody stay in his lab when he wasn’t there before.
Pepper clicked her heels impatiently. Clint stayed perched solidly on the lab bench, as if he could stay right there forever.
Clint leaned forward and grabbed his arm, pulling him until he could kiss him soft and sweet.
“For luck,” he explained.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” Tony promised.
“I’ll be here.”
Much later, when they were sweaty and sticky and need of a shower but too pleasantly tired to be bothered no matter how much they’d regret it in the morning, Tony lifted his head,
“So, uh, you think my project has potential?”
“It’s going to be amazing. You might have to change the name though.”
“What? Why?” Tony jerked up. He liked that name damnit.
“Iron Man does sound pretty cool, but if there’s two of them, there’s going to be two of them right?”
“Of course.” Tony trailed one finger along Clint’s arm. Even if his soulmate had no taste when it came to names, he was getting a suit.
“So two of them would be the Iron Men, which just sounds like a really bad porn movie.”
“Huh. You may have a point,” Tony let himself flop back on Clint’s broad chest. “So what do you suggest?”
And that was how, to Phil Coulson’s everlasting chagrin, the World ended up being saved from Hydra by Rock’em and Sock’em.