Title: Scars from Tomorrow
Author: Saydria Wolfe
Genre: Time Travel
Relationship(s): Bucky Barnes/Clint Barton
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Major Character Death, Major Character Death-temporary, Minor Character Death-permanent, Canon-level Violence, Explicit Sex, Canon-level Science, Discussion – Torture, Discussion – Self-harm, Discussion – Child Abuse, Discussion – Rape, Discussion – Slavery, Kidnapping
Author Notes: Thank you to my betas who busted their humps to get my stories done, my artist who is so talented, and my cheerleaders who kept me from going completely off the rails.
Beta: PN Ztivokreb and Claire Watson
Word Count: 53,410
Summary: He was the last one anyone would pick to go back in time. He wasn’t smart like Tony, or noble like Cap, or just good like Sam. He was a killer, pure and simple. But with a plan like “kill Hydra, save the world” a killer was enough. And it would all start in Budapest.
“That is Bruce Banner!”
The sound of shouting had Clint flailing up out of a dead sleep and falling out of his chair. He looked around to see Bucky, still seated in front of his laptop but now sitting up straight and frowning at the door.
“Bruce Banner! You can’t just harbor a criminal, Tony! That man is dangerous—”
The shouting closed off with a small click as Bruce himself closed the door. “Uh. Sorry, about…that.”
Clint stood and found his arrow paraphernalia still spread all over the back half of what had become Bucky’s desk. He must have fallen asleep while re-fletching them. “What happened?” he asked.
“Pepper Potts showed up,” Bruce said. “I’d pulled Tony out of his lab. For Breakfast. And she saw me and she—”
“Lost her shit?” he supplied.
Bruce hesitated but nodded. He was looking a little Green around the edges.
“Alright.” He stretched a bit, trying to get the kinks out. “I’ll get rid of her. You two stay here with Bucky. He’ll protect you from scary, red-haired women.”
Bucky grinned and Bruce huffed what was almost a laugh.
When he opened the door, the shouting had died away which was a good thing, but it had been replaced with furious, hissing whispers which wasn’t. Clint caught her saying, “Mr. Stane said—” and Tony saying back, “Goddammit, Pep,” before he decided he’d wasted enough time.
He ran silently up the back stairs, threw off everything he was wearing except for his jeans and then he unbuttoned his top button for good measure. He wanted to make sure he looked as suggestive as humanly possible. And, okay, he could have gone farther and lost the pants, but he was not meeting Pepper Potts officially for the first time nude. Hopefully, the bite marks Bucky had left on him would outweigh the extensive scaring of his abdomen on the scale of sexy.
“Hey, Tony?” he called out plaintively as he ambled down the front stairs. “I feel so empty without you. I was thinking we could try that horse dildo you—oh, hello.”
Pepper Potts was staring at him in horror. Tony looked shocked and thrilled to be shocked. Clint kept walking until he was right in Tony’s space. When he turned around to face Potts, he made sure to rub his ass suggestively against Tony’s front.
“Tony, you didn’t tell me you were entertaining,” Potts hissed through clinched teeth
“Oh, I’m not the entertainment,” Clint purred, aiming for Nat’s sex kitten vibes and probably missing but not by much if the way Tony clutched at his hips meant anything. “Am I, Tony?”
“No,” he agreed absently. “No, Clint and I are…old friends.” Tony dipped his head and nosed at one of the bite marks on his neck.
Potts paled, then flushed a furious scarlet and turned sharply for the door.
“Ms. Potts,” he called out once her hand was on the doorknob. She stopped to glare at him. “Remember your non-disclosure agreements. You work for Dr. Stark, not Mr. Stane. Or Stark Industries.”
She nodded once and slammed the door after her.
Tony was shaking hard against his back. Clint pulled away and turned to face him in alarm. Tony fell back against the wall behind him, still shaking, his mouth open.
He was laughing, Clint realized. “What the fuck!”
“A horse dildo?” Stark managed to wheeze. “You. Are. Evil. It’s so great.”
Clint huffed at him. “My other options included more violence than I think you’d ever want her exposed to. I wanted to get rid of her, not piss you off.”
“That—” Tony wiped at his eyes dramatically. Clint just rolled his eyes. “—was amazing.
“Let’s go check on the other two. I bet we can get into more trouble today.”
“The day is young,” Clint agreed.
Tony followed him, still occasionally laughing, up the stairs to collect his shirt. He threw his boots in his room because they were just too much effort to put back on before breakfast.
They went down the back stairs and Clint collapsed back into the chair he’d slept in.
“How goes the hacking, Bucky-bear?” Tony asked as he popped himself up onto the desk.
Bucky shot him a droll look. “Turns out, there have been more alien crashes on this planet than I would have thought possible. Some of them even had their onboard computers still working. SHIELD managed to get more out of them than I would have expected. Mostly, by contracting out with civilians.” Bucky focused on him. “Did you know Dr. Erik Selvig has a long history of playing with alien gear on behalf of SHIELD?”
Clint hummed to himself as he considered that. “You know, I’m not surprised by that. He handled Coulson and Sitwell pretty handily when Thor’s hammer crash landed in New Mexico. And he settled into the Cube project we were on—which included living underground in a SHIELD facility—without so much as a blink.
“Yeah, I can see it.”
“And SHIELD wouldn’t have told you?” Tony questioned. “That they had a long history of working with a guy you were working with.”
Bucky snorted making his opinion of that perfectly clear. Clint just smiled and shook his head. No, SHIELD would never get him a single byte of data more than he absolutely needed to get the job done the way they wanted it done. Not then, anyway.
“I’ve found a dozen partial schematics, made from various crashed vehicles. They tried to recreate the rest of the ships, but I’ve ignored their theoretical models because I figured they would be counterproductive to your and Banner’s process but I can go back and get them though, if you want them.”
“Nah,” Tony shook his head and glanced at Bruce.
Bruce shook his head, backing up Tony’s opinion. “It would be better if we worked from facts, without their possibly false assumptions in the mix.”
“I also got a complete schematic, taken from a ship’s computers. I sincerely doubt it’s the schematic for that particular ship.”
“Why’s that?” Bruce asked.
“Because this ship is huge. I don’t see how this thing could have crashed on Earth and no one have known about it.”
“Let’s see it,” Tony said. “JARVIS?”
Silently, a three-dimensional model appeared in the air above the desk. Clint stared at it in wonder for a few moments.
“You know, there was that Kree woman that worked for the Pegasus Project.”
“Cree?” Tony frowned at him. “Like one of the First Nations?”
“No, Kree. K, not C. Militaristic, technologically advanced, aliens. Imperialistic. Conquerors. In the 90s one of their scientists, a fugitive named Mar-Vel, was working undercover inside SHIELD, trying to make the Cube work for an advanced space engine. Like, jump drives powered by Schmidt energy or whatever.”
“Project Pegasus,” Tony nodded. “Flying horse, space flight, I can see it.”
“One of the test pilots got exposed to an extreme amount of Cube energy during the event that killed Mar-Vel. The retrieval team took her with them since they couldn’t find the Cube once Mar-Vel died. A couple years later, the test pilot was a space cop in service to the Kree with no memory. She crash-landed on Earth chasing a fugitive and started remembering her life here. Fury and Coulson were on the ground to deal with it. There was some war or another going on.”
“What happened with Amnesia Space Cop?” Tony prompted.
“Oh, her name’s Carol Danvers. She’s out there making the Kree cut their shit. She showed up after The Snap and helped out, but it was kind of too little, too late.”
They were all quiet for a moment.
“Okay,” Bucky drawled. “What I’m getting out of this is I need to look into the Pegasus Project.”
“Yeah, Mar-Vel had some sort of research station in space around the planet. It was a ship in geosynchronous orbit. She took off with it and some Skrull refugees that were stranded there.”
“You think that schematic is Mar-Vel’s ship?” Tony guessed.
“Well, I mean, Danvers said it was kind of like the son of a football and a pyramid.” He threw a hand up at the projection. “Look at that thing.”
“I can see it,” Bruce confirmed.
“How’s your project for Aunt Peg going?” Tony asked suddenly.
“I’ve finished analyzing the chemical compound,” Bruce answered. “And I’m confident I know what it does, which JARVIS submitted to her for me. As far as curing the drug goes? Or going further and backwards engineering a dementia/Alzheimer’s cure out of it?” Bruce shook his head. “That kind of research needs all manner of permissions and tissue samples that we don’t have. Test subjects. And it should probably be done with a team.”
“We’ll backburner it for now,” Tony decided. “See what Aunt Peg can get us.”
Bruce nodded his agreement. “What about your project for Director Carter.”
“J’s taking care of it,” Tony answered in a blasé manner. “Mostly, he’s coordinating with the people she has on staff. They tap me when they can’t handle something. I’m currently buying AIM. Aunt Peg decided that their connections and resources made them a threat. So, I’ll redirect their energies.
“Now, somebody promised me breakfast,” Tony grouched good naturedly. “So, we should all take a break and get me some breakfast.”
Clint snorted but they all got up from their various places around the room and followed Tony back out to the kitchen.
“Also, Robocop, I saw those love bites you left on Robin Hood.”
“Yeah?” Bucky grinned, looking smug.
“You should be ashamed of yourself,” Tony mock scolded. “Didn’t your mother teach you not to play with your food?”
“Does it count as playing with my food if I eat him on the regular?”
“Whoa! Okay, time out!” Bruce threw up the time out gesture like a ref at a football game. “Can we not talk about eating Clint? The Big Guy isn’t taking it well.”
“Tony started it,” Bucky immediately declared, the paragon of maturity.
“Yeah, shit, sorry.” Tony laughed a little. “I didn’t think that through.”
“Look, Big Guy,” Clint said to Bruce who focused on him immediately. “If I ever have a problem with how anyone treats me, I’ll let you know so you smash them appropriately. Until then, stand down. Okay?”
Bruce nodded and turned to the fridge.
“So, the Snap,” Tony brought up suddenly.
“You’ve said that once or twice, but you haven’t explained it. What was the Snap?”
“That was what the Titan had to do to activate the device,” Buck answered.
“The device was a…glove,” Clint said to expand upon Bucky’s answer, “studded with six gems of ultimate power—I’m being careful with names here because we know the Titan has a… magician in his service that has like magical alerts on certain words. We haven’t killed the magician yet this time around but as long as we don’t say those exact words, they should never know we’re coming.”
All three men nodded their acceptance of this.
“Okay, so Glove. Gems of Ultimate Power. The Titan killed a bunch of people to get a hold of these gems, to set them in the glove, and once he did, he had the power to remake the universe in a snap of his fingers.
“With The Snap he used the glove to kill half the life in the universe.”
“To what end?” Bruce asked.
“He had this whole thing about how there were too many people for the resources in the universe to support. But why he couldn’t have just created twice as many resources, or relocated people, I don’t fucking know. He probably wouldn’t have had to kill anyone to achieve his goals if he’d actually been in it to help people and explained himself at any point.”
“Wait, you mean like all life. Not just humans or humanoids but animals and plants too?” Tony asked.
“Yeah,” Clint nodded. “There were entire countries on Earth—states in the US—that were just stripped down to the bedrock by the Snap because it was completely random how much he took from where. I don’t know about other planets. I…wasn’t really involved in the recovery efforts.”
“That doesn’t any fucking sense,” Tony’s face all but shouted what the fuck, “Plants and animals are resources that support human life. How does cutting those numbers in half help anyone?”
“How many ecosystems did he destroy? You can’t just cutout random chunks of food chains.” Bruce asked. “How did the Earth survive that?”
“Not well,” Clint admitted. “There was a lot of chaos. Countries collapsed, entire governments were dead and paper currency was worth nothing. Suicide rates skyrocketed. We came within a hairsbreadth of World War III. But Stark Industries came through.”
“What?” Tony sat up straighter.
“Stark Industries saved the world. You invented these hydroponic greenhouses that could grow food faster and at greater quantity than any before them. And you launched a line of robots to run the greenhouses twenty-four/seven. You launched communication satellites so people could look for and connect with their loved ones. The satellites also allowed the governments that survived to communicate with each other to prevent hostilities.
“I don’t think you meant to but all you were doing kicked the UN in the face and got them on the ball.”
“What did you do?”
Clint scratched his chin. He didn’t really want to admit it because it would make him look bad but…there was nothing for it. “A lot of murder,” he snorted. “Mostly I went after organized crime that survived the Snap, but I took out all of the politicians that were opposed to peace too. I figured if they wanted more people to die, I’d start with them.
“You punched me in the face the first time you laid eyes on me after the Snap.”
Tony snorted and shook his head.
“But…why?” Bruce asked, looking confused.
“I was mourning,” he answered. “I was…furious for five years. That asshole killed my wife—my pregnant wife—and all three of our living kids.
“One second, I’m teaching my daughter to shoot a bow and Laura’s shouting at us to come get our hotdogs. The next, I’m alone. My family was nothing but…leaves. Dead leaves, floating in the wind. I lost my shit.”
Clint didn’t look at any of them. He didn’t want to see their disgust. Or, worse, their pity. So, he got up and left the room.
He needed some distance. He headed for the roof.
“Do they want me to leave?”
Barnes just snorted as he dropped down onto the roof beside him. “Hell no.
“I think Stark’s exact words were ‘it just proves he’s a good pick for protecting me, if he carried out enough assassinations to prevent a World War’.”
Clint didn’t remember saying it like that but…it was true enough.
“Bruce might be horrified but he’s not saying anything. All three of us realize we can’t judge you. None of us survived the end of the world. None of us have ever been married or had kids. We have no concept of what you went through.” Bucky pulled a wrapped sandwich out of one of his cargo pockets and a bottle of Gatorade from the other. “We figured you could skip breakfast, but you shouldn’t skip lunch too.”
“Thanks,” Clint accepted the sandwich and took a few bites. Bucky seemed content to let the silence ride.
“We were waiting for my PO to decide if I could go with Laura to learn the gender, you know? The kids had bets and—” Clint shook his head. “Lila had to go to the first appointment with Laura because I was on house arrest and couldn’t. No one wanted the boys to go but Lila lost her mind and wouldn’t go back so it was it was me going with Laura or no one.”
“Sorry,” Bucky offered.
Clint shrugged. “I mourned my kids more than my wife which is probably terrible to admit but there it is. I was just so…enraged that these random shitbags had made the cut and my kids—good kids that had never hurt anyone—were gone.
“I didn’t handle it well.”
“Stark punched you?” Bucky questioned.
“Yeah. I can’t blame him for it though. I was making everything harder for him and it was hard enough to keep our world from going off the rails as it was. A bunch of people tried shifting the blame to Wakanda for the Titan getting the last gem so he could do the Snap. Mostly, a bunch of old white men that were already mad at Wakanda for depriving the world of their Vibranium. I’m not sure anyone was fooled by their nonsense—but then there I was killing off Tony and Wakanda’s political enemies. Talk started about them working together to take over the world which, of course, people resisted.”
“Which gave you more people to kill.”
“Yeah,” he agreed.
“What’d Stevie say? When you saw him again?”
Clint snorted. “That he understood but not to do it again, like I could just go back and kill all those guys all over again.
“It’s probably a good thing I died when I did, actually. I violated the hell out of my parole and while Tony and Steve were willing to let it all go, there were a lot of people that never would have.”
“And you probably brought more people that wouldn’t have let it go back in the second Snap.”
“Yeah,” Clint agreed. “Fuck, that was a terrible plan. How did any of us think that bullshit made sense? I lost everything so I understand what was wrong with me. Steve and Nat were pretty much in the same boat, but Tony was living the life. He’d retired. Got a wife, kid. He was unquestionably a hero. The world had adapted. Things had finally stabilized around a smaller population. How could Earth survive us basically tripling its population? In seconds.”
“Our current plan is better,” Bucky decided. “Prevention instead of…avenging.”
“Yeah. Maybe, after we get Titan and Director Carter kills Hydra. Maybe that world won’t need Hulk and Iron Man. Maybe they at least can get…everything. Save the world through science.”
“You haven’t mentioned what happened to Banner and Hulk.”
Clint shot Bucky an appalled look.
“I don’t know exactly what happened.” Bucky offered. “I saw…something before I went down to find you and we came back but I’m not sure what it really was.”
“Bruce asked?” Clint asked.
“No,” Bucky admitted, “but I think he’s afraid to.”
“That…coward murdered Hulk and stole his body. Say what you want about what I did. I know I deserve it but…all Hulk ever did was protect Bruce. That’s it. That’s all he wanted in life. And Bruce—” Clint scoffed. “You know, I know what it is to have your daddy that beat you. My father beat me so much I lost most of my hearing before I was nine. If I’d had someone that protected me like he had Hulk…I can’t help but think I’d be grateful for him and Bruce just—he hates him.
“So, I can’t ever talk to Bruce about it.” Clint shook his head. “My anger is inappropriate, and I know it is. It’s none of my business but—God, I hated him when I realized what he’d done to Hulk.”
“I doubt he’d ask you,” Bucky offered. “And fuck knows we don’t want Hulk to find out what happened to him.”
“He doesn’t deserve the betrayal of it,” Clint agreed.
Bucky took his trash in exchange for the Gatorade and stood. “You stay up here as long as you need to. I’ll wrangle the geeks.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Bucky scrubbed a comforting hand through his hair. “Come down when you’re ready.”
It was creeping up on high tide when Clint heard someone else join him on the roof. They didn’t walk like anyone he could name so they didn’t belong there, creeping up behind him. He slid his hand into his pocket for the knife he had there.
“Hey,” Bruce Banner called out. “It’s us.”
Clint turned to double check and relaxed. “You walk different than I remember.”
“Well,” Bruce frowned. He didn’t seem to know what to say to that. Instead he proffered the bowl he was holding. “I made curry?”
“Chicken Curry?” Clint sat up straighter. “With the brown rice?”
Bruce smiled, “Yeah.”
“Fuck yeah, how hot did you go?”
Bruce pursued his lips together. “Tony dared me.”
“Cha-ching!” Clint held out eager hands for the bowl. “If it’s not hot enough to make your nose cry, why bother?”
“Cry?” Bruce asked as he set down beside him. “I’m pretty sure Tony’s nose could have been used put out a house fire. Sergeant Barnes, on the other hand, didn’t even seem to notice.”
Clint winced. “Yeah, I’m working on that. Getting him to realize he’s allowed to have opinions and enjoy things. I think maybe part of why he’s regressing is because he got dropped back into Hydra’s hands. Not that there was any other place for him to wake up in this time. But, still.”
“I can’t even imagine what he’s gone through,” Bruce admitted. Then he seemed to just settle in to watch the sunset.
“The Big Guy wanted to check on me, I take it?” Clint guessed when he was nearly done with the heavenly mana Bruce had brought him. Though, considering how spicy it was, maybe heaven was the wrong afterlife to randomly assign it to.
“He wanted to come up right away,” Bruce admitted. “But I told him you needed time.”
After several minutes he added. “The sergeant already warned me not to ask about my future self.”
And Clint was grateful for that. But at the same time… “You…got the shaft. A lot of people did, that future was so fucked up—which I can only see now that I’m not part of it—but, man, you got fucked.
“I don’t even mean just Ross—though he eventually became a problem for everyone, like I said. I mean SHEILD. Which, part of the problem was Hydra, but I honestly couldn’t say how much so—SHIELD. Then you were an Avenger, more or less against your will because SHIELD. We fought aliens in Manhattan, a huge invasion, our first big go round and you two were a big part of our success so you became famous against your will.
“Then an experiment went wrong—”
Bruce groaned and Clint laughed.
“Yeah, another one. Seems to be a theme with you, though I guess that’s actually not funny. You and Tony were studying one of the Ultimate Power Gems and accidentally created a… I think you called it a Murder Bot.”
“Jesus Christ,” Bruce hid his face in his hands.
“Yeah. He—Ultron was his name. He tried to fake a meteor crash on Earth to wipe out humanity. Was something with Maglev and, you know, the country of Sokovia.”
“A country?” Bruce asked in despair. “A whole country?”
“That’s not even the worst part.”
“I’m not sure I can take this,” Bruce interjected.
“You were starting—sort of feeling your way into—a relationship with one of our team members.”
Clint shrugged. “Looking back on it, she might have been doing it under orders so that she could control the Big Guy because that’s basically what happened. But SHIELD was dead at that point so I’m not sure whose orders she was following, if she was following any?”
Bruce just shook his head.
“She got captured, got us the location of Ultron’s base, and you went in to get her back. You’d had this whole revelation that you deserved a good life with her and without the Avengers. And you were right, but you refused to ever become the Big Guy again and the timing was really bad for that. Not that anyone’s opinion on that mattered but yours and his.”
“What happened?” Bruce asked.
“She pushed you off a ledge. And, as always, the Big Guy saved you.”
“Yeah. I don’t want to say it was akin to rape but…what else can I relate it to? She decided your choices regarding your body didn’t matter. She forced you to do something you didn’t want to with your body just because it was what she wanted.
“I’m not sure if it counts as rape of you or him or both.”
“Does it get any better from there?”
“I mean, I heard you were a big damn star on the gladiator world you ended up on when the two of you fucked off rather than deal with her? But, historically speaking, gladiators are slaves, so…”
“I don’t want to know,” Bruce declared. “I don’t want to know. I am utterly pleased to remain ignorant about my future self forever.”
“That’s legit.” Clint agreed.
“And if I ever start even looking towards that woman…”
“I’ll warn her off.” Clint promised. “I’d give you her name, but I don’t want to upset the Big Guy.”
Clint nodded and stood. “Is it my turn to do the dishes?”
“You’ll have to take that up with Sergeant Barnes.” Bruce stood and moved away from the ledge too. “He’s gotten strangely territorial about the kitchen for a man that claims he can’t cook.”
“I mean, it’s the source of food, so it kind of makes sense?”
A sound somewhere between a laser being fired and an old-fashioned freight elevator sounded and Clint was momentarily blinded but a dizzying array of multicolored lights.
When his eyes cleared, Clint stepped back up to the ledge and looked down. Below him, on Tony Stark’s primary balcony, were a gold helmet with stupidly long, recurved horns and a silver helmet with a pair of shiny little wings sticking up from it. Gold Horns looked up and Clint made eye contact with a nightmare from his past life. The one and only God of Mischief.
By the time he skidded to a stop in Tony’s living room, Bucky had a big ass gun pointed at the two gods who were still out on the balcony. Tony was tucked in behind a couch with his metal coffee table upended between him and the gods for an additional layer of protection.
“Okay,” Clint threw up his hands in a gesture of harmlessness. “We’re okay?”
“The one with a hammer,” Bucky offered. “I thought he had an axe?”
“After his hammer was destroyed, yeah.”
Bucky shot him an impatient look, obviously not reassured.
“I’ll go see what brought our guests here, yeah? Cover my ass?”
“Always,” Bucky promised, and Bruce moved up to his side. Clint really hoped they didn’t Code Green inside Tony’s house. That would not be funtimes.
As he approached the door, their godly guests backed off until he could lean on the door to hold it open and still be out of both Bucky’s line of fire and the reach of the gods’ arms.
“Good evening,” Clint nodded to both princes. “My name is Clint Barton, I am the head of security for those within. How may I help you?”
“Good evening,” Loki returned. “I am Prince Loki Silvertongue. This is my brother, Thor the Thunderer. We are come on behalf of our father, King Odin Allfather of Asgard.”
Clint set his face to maximum bored. “Okay?”
“We must speak to those of Jotun heritage within this domicile.”
“Those of what?”
“Jotun heritage,” Loki repeated. “There is a great deal of magic on these premises, but I specifically mean the one with the…weapon, and the one at his side.”
Clint turned to check because, what? And, sure enough, Bruce and Bucky were still standing shoulder to shoulder, watching Clint’s ass.
“And you mean them no harm?” Clint asked. “Aren’t Jotun the bad guys in Norse Mythology?”
“We are not myths,” Thor objected.
Loki held a hand up to his brother. Clearly, he wanted him to let him handle them. “The tale is long. Will you listen?”
“You still haven’t answered the no harm question.”
“Neither my brother nor I will harm anyone under this roof that does not harm us first. We swear this upon our mother’s life.”
Clint flicked his eyes to Thor who nodded. “We swear this upon our mother’s life.”
“Alright, I’ll let you in, but you will go no further than the couch right here by the windows until you receive explicit permission otherwise. If you make any threatening moves, Bucky will cut you in half—and that’s the nice option. Do you understand?”
“We understand,” Loki confirmed.
Clint moved away from the door and let it fall closed. Bucky backed up further into the house to maintain his current advantage over their two visitors. Slowly, cautiously, Loki opened the door and he and Thor entered.
Thor righted the coffee table and set his hammer on it. The smile he gave Tony when he ducked out from behind the couch was comical. Like Thor didn’t know what exactly a harmless smile was but he’d read about it and was trying. He’d mastered Earth-typical facial arrangements when Clint had officially met him the first time so maybe that was something he’d learned from Foster and Lewis when he’d crash-landed onto Earth back in 2011.
“Can I get anyone anything to drink?” Clint asked, the manners his mother had tried to drill into his head prompted him to offer.
“Whatever you’re drinking,” Loki agreed with gentle smile.
“Is he going to stand with that…weapon pointed at us for the duration of this conversation?” Thor asked, focused on Bucky.
“Probably,” Clint shrugged.
He scampered into the kitchen and grabbed several glass bottles of Tony’s fancy tea from the fridge. When he got back into the living room, Bruce had sat down on the couch beside Tony in what seemed to Clint to be a protective manner and Bucky had taken a kneeling shooter’s stance on the stairs.
“Everyone’s introduced themselves?” he asked, wondering what his life had even become.
“Oh, yeah, we’re all besties here,” Tony sassed, and Clint rolled his eyes.
He set down a tea in front of each person and slid the last one into an open space for Bucky. “Your story?”
“As you mentioned before, Jotun—or ice giants—have long been the villains in the tales of Asgard. Even in Asgard, they are—I believe you would call them the monster under the bed.”
Clint nodded. He’d gotten that the first time around.
“What our parents revealed to us recently is that these…sentiments that Thor and I and many others have lived with our entire lives are, effectively, war propaganda. At one time, Jotunheim and Asgard were the closest of allies, friends. In fact, at one point in our history when the Aesir came perilously close to dying out due to a contagion, Jotun volunteered to breed into our population to boost our…physical hardiness. In fact, our father’s mother was a frost giant, as well as his first wife.”
“First wife?” Clint asked because that implied there was at least one before Thor and Loki’s mother which he’d never heard even a whisper of in the other timeline.
Which made sense if his Thor hadn’t known she had ever existed. Which it sounded like he hadn’t.
“Our father’s first wife was a frost giant named Farbauti. When she accepted her place as Queen of Asgard, she allowed the magic of Asgard to provide her an Asgardian appearance on the condition that Odin would provide her brother, King Laufey, an heir.
“Jotun can both sire and bear, you see, but Laufey had no interest in such activities. In fact, they loathed the very idea of it, according to our father.”
“And that’s a big deal?” Bucky asked. He was closer now, just outside the room rather than all the way back on the stairs.
“It is, for several reasons. Farbauti first bore our father a daughter.”
Clint was more surprised that Odin had admitted that Hela existed than he was to hear Loki mention her. Even though one could have only happened because of the other.
“Hela Deathbringer was her name. She waged war at our father’s side for centuries. She was the reason he was able to claim the title of Protector of the Nine Realms from all who would have opposed such.”
“But?” Tony asked. “Cause there’s a but in there.”
“But,” Loki inclined his head. “Then Thor was born. A son, second born, intended to become the heir of Jotunheim. However, many of our father’s courtiers believed it was only appropriate that he pass his crown to a son, as his father had before him.”
Oh, no. Clint had a bad feeling about that.
“Hela had been our father’s Supreme General and Right Hand for years beyond counting…but then he was swayed. Odin named Thor his heir in open court—violating his own treaty with Jotunheim and betraying Hela who had been his heir until then. Her rightful throne was stolen from her and she lashed out, murdered Farbauti in a temper.”
Clint could understand that, though it was very much the kind of logic that had had him murdering everyone after the Snap. Odin had betrayed Hela, but her mother had betrayed her first.
Farbauti had betrayed her by bearing the son that had displaced her.
“Our mother, Queen Frigga, was a Valkyrie at the time, and in the Queen’s personal service. She was responsible for Thor’s safety, so she took Thor and fled to protect him while Hela cut down her sisters like wheat.”
“Odin eventually managed to subdue Hela but Laufey had already learned of his beloved sibling’s fate and demanded Hela’s life for her crimes. It was a price our father could not pay, and war broke out between Asgard and Jotunheim as a result.”
“Hence the wartime propaganda,” Clint guessed.
“Yes.” Loki sighed. “Laufey also demanded Thor be turned over to them to be raised as Jotunheim’s heir. Our father instead sent them…his seed. Told Laufey if they wanted an heir so bad, they could make their own.”
“They did it,” Bucky guessed, now hovering not far from the tea Clint had set out for him. His gun was pointed at the ceiling and no longer a direct threat but Bucky wasn’t exactly at ease either. “That’s where you came from.”
“It is.” Loki inclined his head. “At the end of the Jotun-Aesir war, Odin found me abandoned to the ice as an infant.”
“The fuck?” Tony blurted out.
“Odin claimed me and took me to Asgard as a result of what he saw as neglect, but my reading indicates it was a…Jotun ritual designed to bring my magic into an active state to ensure my survival. As a royal child, I had to go through the ritual within days of my birth rather than upon physical maturity as any other Jotun would. It is perhaps a harsh tradition but Jotunheim is a harsh realm.”
“Desperate times call for desperate measures.” Tony sat back. “Still terrible.”
“So, you want Bucky and Bruce to, what? Go through some sort of survival ritual?” Clint asked. “You were talking about their Jotun magic a second ago, but they don’t have any right now…right?” He looked at the two super soldiers.
“A ritual may not be necessary,” Loki disagreed. “There are several key Jotun magical abilities that make survival on Jotunheim possible. We would like to test them for these abilities and possibly train them to master them.”
“And if we manage it?” Bruce asked.
“You will be asked to go to Jotunheim with the Asgardian delegation to demonstrate that your two species can successfully blend.”
“And you want us to…blend?” Bruce asked doubtfully.
“Jotunheim is on the brink of extinction,” Loki explained. “It is doubtful that they would accept blending once more with Aesir as an answer. With all of the…social issues, neither would Aesir agree to blend with Jotun, but perhaps humanity can offer an alternative solution. If we can prove that humans can work Jotun magic and survive on Jotunheim.”
“How is the blending going to happen without telling the world that aliens exist?” Tony asked. “I don’t think any of us are going to agree to kidnap random people to get forcibly married off to these ice guys.”
“Sperm banks?” Clint offered. “They don’t need humans necessarily. If they can all carry the young, they just need our…seed.”
“They will also require the resources to see their population through the gestation and resultant explosive growth,” Loki agreed. “But that is a concern for Jotunheim and Asgard to negotiate.”
“Are you going to go to Jotunheim and take up your throne?” Clint sked Thor.
“It is a difficult proposition.” Thor set down the bottle of tea he’d been turning almost compulsively in his hands. “It is what I was born for and my abilities as a god of Asgard would be a boon to their people, but I have been raised hating Jotun and Jotunheim beyond all reason. To realize I carry more Jotun blood than Aesir is…difficult.”
“Regardless of what is decided in regards to inheritance, Jotunheim is on the brink of extinction,” Loki cut in, taking the heat off of Thor. “Peace must be achieved for a strong and stable future.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Tony put up his hands. “You said Jotun both bear and sire, right?”
“And the super soldier serum made both Bucky and Bruce part Jotun?”
“I do not know this super soldier serum, but if that is the only thing they have in common that makes them different from the two of you, I would agree that is logical.”
“So, if Bucky and Clint switched it up, Slutty Bottom over there could knock up Sergeant MetalArm?” Tony laughed.
“Excuse you,” Clint laughed right back at Tony. “I am not a Slutty Bottom, I— I’m going through something. And who are you to slut shame? Mister Twelve for Twelve with Maxim’s Cover Models.”
“Twelve for thirteen,” Tony corrected and grinned when Clint laughed again. “There was a scheduling conflict and twins, it was a whole thing.
“And I’m not slut shaming, Barton. I’m identifying with my own kind.”
“Well, fuck you anyway.”
“When and where, Barton. When and where.”
“I am not interested in bearing a child for myself.” Bruce interjected, getting them back on track. “But the super solider process would have exposed us both the excessive amounts of radiation. That radiation would have rendered us both infertile.”
“I don’t remember any radiation,” Bucky countered. “But I barely remember the injections Hydra put me through, so I guess that doesn’t mean much.”
“How could exposure before your…conversion,” Loki asked, “have destroyed an ability that you would only gain after your survival ritual which neither of you have gone through?” Loki turned to his brother.
Thor shrugged. “None of them smell infertile.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. What?” Tony asked. “You can smell that?”
“I am, among other things, a god of fertility,” Thor answered. “That is part of why I was chosen for this mission beyond the two of us being our father’s most trusted.”
“You’re going to pick the sperm samples,” Bruce guessed.
Thor inclined his head. “Offering the Jotun a solution that would not last would not resolve to conflict between our peoples. We have to be sure Jotun-Human hybrids would be…viable. You both smell to me as…children that have not yet gone through their final development. Once you complete the ritual, should you choose to, that should change.”
“What are these abilities?” Bucky asked. “The core Jotun ones you want Bruce and I to activate.”
“They are vital to survival on Jotunheim but I cannot see how they would be a burden to someone living on a different planet,” Loki said. “All Jotun that are fertile have these abilities, so we believe they are related. Particularly since a Jotun pregnancy is more of a magical travail than a physical one.
“The first ability is elemental magic, specifically over ice because Jotunheim is an ice realm. A spear of ice anchored on the casters hand and wrist is the typical weapon of a Jotun warrior.
“These spears are often cold enough to shatter lesser weapons upon contact.”
Clint exchanged a look with Bucky and hoped they were thinking the same thing.
They needed every advantage against Thanos they could get to save the universe. Being able to shatter any weapon he threw at them would definitely be a benefit.
“With effort, this ability can be expanded to the control of water and the wind. As a royal Jotun that had their magic awakened early, I can control all of the standard elements and I am working to extend my abilities towards controlling metal though ice remains the easiest element for me to manipulate.
“The next two important abilities are related as they are both hunting behaviors. Animals on Jotunheim tend to be large with enhanced senses as adaptations to the cold. Invisibility is key for the setting of ambushes. Advanced users can hide others and even their scent. There is a tale of an Ancient Jotun, the grandsire of my bearer, that hid an entire army for a day while they moved to flank an enemy during our father’s conquest of the Nine Realms.
“Teleportation is the second hunting behavior. It allows the small population of living Jotun to take down such large beasts as those on Jotunheim by taking advantage of many of the animal’s vulnerabilities in quick succession.
“Normally, Jotun can only use the ability within line of sight but as a child I was known to teleport across the entire palace of Asgard when I wanted my mother’s attention.”
“I think Nat’s done that,” Clint realized aloud.
“Who is this Nat?” Thor asked.
“She’s a friend of mine. Ours,” Clint corrected. “She was born into a program that was trying to recreate the serum Bucky was exposed to, so she’s got the same stuff he does. I’ve seen her get into places when there was literally no physical path for her to take to get there.
“Can you use these abilities without going through the ritual?”
Loki shook his head, “Not that I’ve ever heard or read of.”
“She’s gone through hers,” Bucky said. He cleared his throat when they all turned to look at him. “Remember when we were talking about, uh, Howard Stark’s assassination and how I thought I did it?”
“Yeah.” Of course, he did. It’s not every day you realize your best friend deliberately kept the secret that tore your team to pieces and killed a stupid number of civilians. “She said you decided it was a protection mission and killed upwards of thirty people before they took you down.”
“Before she took me down,” Bucky corrected. “She confessed that she killed me and then ran. From a base in Siberia. I’m pretty sure she was being literal about that. They didn’t have Quinjets back then, no one did because Tony hadn’t designed them yet. And any other vehicles she could have taken, Hydra would have tracked to find her so she would have had to run away—on foot—to actually get away.”
“Through Siberia,” Clint nodded. He looked at Loki. “Siberia is some of the harshest tundra on this planet. Would that count as a ritual?”
“If she survived it with no gear then, yes. That is essentially what the majority of Jotun do for their coming of age ritual on Jotunheim. There are some bits about the prestige of bringing home certain animal hides but that can only be a social construct. I completed the ritual less than a week old and I can assure you, I did not kill anything or retrieve any hides over the course of it.”
Clint nodded. “I can ask her about it if you want to be sure, but I don’t think we will get her to visit anytime soon. She’s pretty invested in taking down Hydra and, of course, protecting Director Carter because she’s our best hope for taking down Hydra.”
“Ask her, if you would, and perhaps we can arrange a visit for Thor to verify her status if we feel it is necessary after that.”
Loki paused a moment. “The last ability we are looking for is hibernation. When food is particularly scarce, Jotun will take turns hibernating in ice capsules they create around themselves with their elemental abilities. They also do this with children born at inopportune times or to parents that cannot or do not wish to care for them. Children that are left in their capsules for a full Jotunheim year are considered abandoned and the birth parents lose all claim to them. Parents that want children but cannot have them for any reason—typically due to age or injury—will claim these abandoned children for themselves.”
“So, Steve Rogers is more than likely alive?” Tony asked. “He was the first super soldier ever created and he crashed a plane into the water in the Arctic to save the world. The Artic being Earth’s frozen northern pole,” he explained before anyone could ask.
“It is possible,” Loki agreed. “Do you know his location so that we may retrieve him?”
Everyone looked to Clint, even Thor and Loki—though Loki, at least, was clearly amused to do so.
“I have a good idea where he could be,” Clint admitted. “I need a map and calculator. So, I can get you my best guess.”
When Clint awoke from his mathematical fugue state, it was dark outside. So dark it had turned Tony’s glass walled house into a house of mirrors clear enough he could make out his own eye color in them. There was a half-eaten plate of food sitting at his elbow so he must have eaten in his fugue, but he couldn’t remember it.
He polished off the last of the pizza crust as he walked the plate back to the kitchen. He noticed Thor was sitting in the lightless living room. He dropped off his plate and grabbed two cups of coffee before checking on him.
“You okay?” he asked as he handed Thor his cup, made to 2023!Thor’s specifications.
“It is difficult,” Thor said slowly. “My world has changed. Days ago, everything was bright and ordered. Life was a joy and my place in it was clear. Now everything has changed…it’s all upside down. Life is a duty—one I do not know how to adapt to.”
Clint nodded and plopped down on the couch. There wasn’t much he could say, really, but he got it so he sat with Thor for a while. So that he would know he wasn’t alone.
“Where is everyone else?” He asked eventually because the dad he was trying not to be anymore couldn’t let him not.
“Your Bucky has ‘wrangled the geeks’ which seems to include ensuring they take nourishment and rest. They are all currently abed.
“Dr. Banner has taken blood samples from us all—including you and Dr. Stark—to further his understanding of what he and Sergeant Barnes are compared to the rest of us. And compared to each other. My brother is fascinated by his work and has been helping him.
“Dr. Stark locked us all out of his private workshop. What he was doing, I do not know, but his…disembodied servant allowed Sergeant Barnes to retrieve him earlier this evening.”
“JARVIS isn’t disembodied,” Clint corrected. “That implies that he had a body at some point and lost it, but he never has.” At least, not yet, Clint corrected to himself.
Abruptly, Clint could see Tony’s face in his mind. That moment when Tony had realized that JARVIS was dead, that he’d died to defend them.
He had to think his own face would have been similar when he’d realized what his family’s disappearance had meant and how he would never find them, never get them back. He felt the overwhelming need to defend Tony’s cyber son. “JARVIS is perfect just the way he is. He’s exactly what he was born to be.”
Thor nodded and they were silent once again.
“Are you in an exclusive relationship with Sergeant Barnes?” Thor asked him out of the blue.
Clint put down his coffee. “He hasn’t requested such a thing so, no. Why?”
“You mentioned you were going through some things.”
It wasn’t really a question but Clint nodded anyway. “I lost my family, recently. My wife, my kids. I guess my house is still there, but I can’t…”
Thor nodded understandingly. “I would like to try this…sexual medicine you have engaged in with Sergeant Barnes. And I should like to try it with you.”
“Sure,” Clint shrugged. And why not? Thor was hot as hell. “You got a condom? I’m clean but I don’t wanna know what Asgardian Herpes or whatever would do to a plain old human.”
“My people do not have such diseases but as the heir of Asgard I cannot share my seed carelessly. It would not do to get you pregnant outside of wedlock. My father would be most furious.”
“Um, human dudes don’t… do that.” Clint offered. “We don’t get pregnant.”
“I am not human.” Thor smiled at him like he was simple. It was a fairly common experience for Clint, so he didn’t bother feeling put out over it.
But… the idea that Thor could get him pregnant. That gave Clint a moment of pause. “I have the randomest urge to say oh, daddy.”
Thor laughed. “You may. Though I prefer ‘my lord’ or ‘sire’ within the bedroom.”
Clint swallowed hard. Well, okay. “‘Sir’ is the common…honorific for men in the bedroom. On Earth.”
“Sir will do.
“Now, come,” Thor held out a hand for him. “All is prepared. If you are a good boy, I will spank you. If you are a bad boy, I will spank you harder.”
“Sounds like a win-win for me,” he sassed and took Thor’s hand.
Thor stood and pulled him to his feet. “Strip, I wish to see you.”
Clint shed his clothes quickly. And, after a quick glance at Thor’s face, he folded them neatly and stacked them on a nearby chair.
“The loss of your family was violent,” Thor said as he ran a finger over the newish scars over Clint’s ribs.
Clint didn’t want to talk about it, so he just nodded.
Thor removed his cape and spread it over the back and seat of the couch Clint had planted him and his brother on earlier that day. Then he waved a hand at himself and his armor shimmered away, leaving him nude.
Clint almost choked at what he saw.
Thor had just as much muscle definition as—if not, perhaps more than—Bucky but Clint thought maybe he was supposed to be that way. That it wasn’t a byproduct of a terrible, restrictive diet like Hydra had kept Bucky on that was just enough to keep him functional and no more. It was just his natural state.
Most interestingly, Thor also had two dicks. Full sized ones, even, with only one set of balls.
“No wonder you’re a god of fertility.”
Thor just smiled and at his gesture, Clint knelt on the cape, his hands grasping the back of couch. He watched in the windows as Thor moved in close behind him. “Your hands will remain where they are unless instructed otherwise, do you understand?”
Clint felt something in his chest release and he took a deep breath. “Yes, sir.”
“Do you consent to magic during sex, my darling?”
“Very good.” Thor put his hands on his shoulders and the sensation was warm and… tingly. Like current but it didn’t have quite the same bite as electricity. “At any time, if I do something you do not like or if the sensations simply become too much for you in a way you do not enjoy, you may tell me to stop.”
“Uh, yeah.” Clint licked his lips. He couldn’t think already and it was amazing. “Yes, sir. We use green for go, red for stop. Yellow to slow down. Like traffic lights.”
“Very well,” Thor agreed. “We will use this traffic light system for your comfort.”
Thor dragged his nails down Clint’s back and his nerves tingled again. There was a bite to it this time and Clint gave himself over to it. “You look so beautiful like this,” Thor murmured in his ear. “Eager and begging to be fucked.
“More, consider where we are, my darling. Your lover could walk in at any moment.” Thor cut his eyes toward the right, toward the hallway Bucky had held on gun on him earlier that same day.
The very idea Bucky—or anyone, really—could walk right in and watch Thor fuck him was crazy hot. “Thor. Sir. Please.”
“You like that. You like the thought of your lover watching me fuck you, watching me dominate you, until your bones cannot hold you and your muscles fail to obey. Until you’re nothing but shivering flesh and good feelings.”
“Yes, please. Sir.”
A thick, blunt finger traced over his hole. Magic sparked like effervescent bubbles. It was not a place Clint would have sought such a sensation, but Thor’s magic was amazing. Until it left him feeling empty and open. “Thor!” he complained.
“Shh, my darling, I made you some promises and I will deliver.”
Thor pushed his back down until his chest was pressed to the back of the couch, forcing him to present his ass, and Clint whimpered. He’d never been spanked like this. He felt the first blow in his soul. It shivered up his spine and melted his bones. It left him feeling…free but protected. Sheltered in Thor’s body and power, existing only for his pleasure.
The feeling of Thor’s cocks entering him barely registered under the assault of everything else.
Then Thor came.
Bucky stood in the corner and watched Thor fuck Clint. It was a…revelation.
Watching Clint just…obey, Bucky had known the moment he’d gone into a good place into his head. It made Bucky feel trusted, honored to get to even watch Clint go there. It gave him good, protective feelings. It made him feel grounded and powerful and made him wonder what it would feel like to put Clint down in that way himself.
The spankings were a surprise but he’d been there for their negotiations so he understood how Thor could have interpreted his statements as a promise.
What had sparked Bucky’s interest about those negotiations was that, in his conversation with Thor, Clint had specified that Bucky hadn’t asked him for exclusivity which to him implied that monogamy might now be on the table, if Bucky asked. Bucky wasn’t sure he wanted it but he knew he didn’t not want it either.
He didn’t want Clint to feel trapped with him, that he knew.
He wanted Clint to want him and to want to be with him. And now he wanted to dominate Clint.
Those things he was sure of, literally everything else was up in the air.
Oh, he also wanted to rescue Stevie and tear off Thanos’s head but those weren’t really relevant to his current situation.
Clint came from being spanked. He didn’t make a mess or go soft; he stayed hard, just like he’d told Bucky he could. He came again while Thor was fucking him with one cock but he didn’t go off until Thor was working his hole with both of his cocks. It was beautiful.
All of it, it was beautiful.
Clint sort of melted into the couch after his last orgasm and just moaned through it as Thor used him to reach completion and Bucky wanted to do that too, if being used like that was something Clint liked.
Bucky stepped out of the shadows as Thor pulled out of Clint and removed his condoms. He tied them off and dropped them in the closest trash can without even looking at them so the safe sex talk he’d had with Tony must have been much more complete than Bucky had suspected.
“Done?” he asked as Thor left the room and he moved to collect his archer.
“Yes, thank you,” Thor came back into the room with a warm, wet kitchen towel. Bucky took it from him to give Clint a thorough wipe down.
Thor helped him manhandle Clint until he was clean. Then he plopped down on the couch nude and still a mess but staring at Clint like a man that had just seen god. Bucky had no idea how that worked considering…what Thor was.
“He has helped me solve my conundrum,” Thor admitted softly. “I will go to Jotunheim and, should they still wish it, I shall renounce all ties to Asgard and take my place as Heir of Laufey.”
“Not right now,” Bucky said sharply.
Thor smiled gently. “No. I have work yet to be done here but…soon.
“Good morning, Agent Barton,” JARVIS’s voice pulled him out of a sound sleep as the shutters that made Tony’s fishbowl of a house appear to have walls rolled open. “The time is eleven fifty-five AM. The weather in Malibu is eighty-five degrees with clear skies—”
“JARVIS,” he interrupted.
“Yes, Agent Barton?”
“What? Are you doing?”
“Sergeant Barnes requested that I not let you sleep past noon.”
“So, you’re waking me up just before noon instead?”
Clint grinned when the AI didn’t answer.
“Hey, don’t even worry about it.” Clint looked around. He was in his, well, in their bed. “Did he carry me to bed last night?”
“Yes, Agent Barton. After your…interlude, Sergeant Barnes and Prince Thor prepared you for bed and Sergeant Barnes relocated you in your sleep. I did not interfere as you have shown a preference for resting in your current location.”
“Nah, dude, that’s cool.” He thought he remembered Bucky curling up around him and making him drink something every time he woke up a bit. Good to know that wasn’t a hallucination. “Where is everyone?”
“Sir is in his shop, working with the spaceship data Sergeant Barnes retrieved from SHIELD. Dr. Banner has retreated to his lab and is continuing his analyzation of the various blood samples he has been provided and has requested data from SHEILD regarding various alien tissues they have procured since their inception. With Sergeant Barnes’s permission, I am utilizing his data link to procure this information.”
“Get it, J,” he said absently.
He didn’t actually care what Banner got up to in his lab but…maybe that was a mistake. Especially seeing as the last time he didn’t care about Bruce’s lab time to this very same degree, he’d wound up on a flying city going toe to toe with an army of robots.
“Don’t let him inject anything into himself or any other living thing without extensive peer review, yeah?”
“Of course, Agent Barton,” JARVIS agreed. “You should know Sergeant Barnes is coming down the hall with a tray of breakfast foods.”
“Awesome.” He grinned as a knock sounded at the door. “Come in!”
Bucky entered the room immediately.
“We’re knocking now?”
Bucky flushed. “I didn’t want to…interrupt anything.”
“That’s fair. Where is Thor anyway?”
“He went back to Asgard last night. After.” Bucky admitted as he placed the breakfast tray across Clint’s lap and Clint just raised both eyebrows in surprise. “He said to tell you thank you, that what the two of you did helped him sort himself out. He’s going off to embrace his destiny or whatever. I’m sure JARVIS can let you see the security recording of the recording.”
“And you didn’t, um?”
“Threaten him? No, of course not. He didn’t pressure you into anything, you guys talked it all out…for the most part.”
Clint didn’t know what to say to that, so he just tipped his head in question.
Bucky cleared his throat. “I, uh, I watched.”
“It was the hottest thing I’d ever seen,” he admitted in a rush.
Clint just laughed and picked up his fork.
“And I was irrationally glad he didn’t bite you. Still am, actually.”
“Do we need to re-discuss our relationship?” Clint asked, keeping his focus on the scrambled eggs and bacon on his plate in an effort to keep the pressure off of Bucky.
“No,” Bucky said immediately. Then he hesitated. “Actually.”
Clint hummed to show he was listening as he filled his mouth with scrambled egg.
“What you did? The two of you? The dominance…thing? That was…I want to try that, but I don’t think I could hit you that much. Pretty sure I would lose my mind if I had to watch someone else hit you that much again, actually.”
“Every relationship is different and every scene is different,” Clint told him. “I don’t think I would want to get spanked that much again. Not for a long time, for sure. I’m still sore.
“Not as sore as I thought I would be but, still.”
“Thor gave me some juice to make sure you wouldn’t suffer for the…scene?” Clint nodded to confirm that was the correct word. “It was supposed to head off mental difficulties and heal physical problems you might get from the scene? But I don’t know what mental difficulties he meant?”
“Probably sub drop. JARVIS can get you stuff to read about BDSM, if you really wanna explore it. I have no problem doing that with you, you just gotta make sure I’ll be mission ready afterward and I’m telling you right now, I’m not wearing a collar.” Clint thought about that. “I’ll wear one for play. Like a ‘we’re doing a scene now’ kinda boundary thing? I might even wear one in public for you occasionally but not every day. Not permanently.”
“I’ll go over what he gives me and see what I want,” Bucky said. “Then I’ll talk to you.”
“Do we need to talk about the biting thing?”
Bucky blew out a breath. “I would prefer to be the only one that marks you, but I know that’s unreasonable.”
“What about the getting me pregnant thing?” Clint asked in a moment of inspiration. “When Thor kind of said he could do it?”
Bucky stared sharply down at his own lap. “I…”
“You know you’re allowed to want things, right? Not just like, a food, but with us?”
“I just, I don’t know what we are,” Bucky looked ashamed to admit.
“You think I do?” Clint countered. “We are friends and teammates and lovers. That I’m sure of. That I know. We’re going to kill that purple jerk if it’s the last thing we do, that I know. We came back in time together, that I know. Nat said…back in Siberia, she said we are the only two that know what we’ve gone through and that created a bond between us. And I think she’s right. I just don’t want to force us, either of us, into anything. You know?”
“Yeah.” Bucky nodded. “I…can agree with Nat’s assessment. And I don’t want to force us into anything either.
“I like being lovers and friends and teammates.
“I like fucking you and I don’t have a problem with you fucking other people though I’m not sure I can…do that. It was fun to watch you. I just I don’t want anyone else to mark you in a permanent or long-lasting way. I wanna be the only one who does that.”
“I can agree to that,” Clint nodded. “Only you get to mark me.
“…I think we need to talk about condoms.”
Bucky looked at him sharply. “What?”
“Not…between us. I mean with other people. You mentioned the idea of Thor getting me pregnant making you angry and… I’m not sure I want to get pregnant—but I’m not opposed to it. The idea of you knocking someone else up though,” Clint blew out a breath.
“What are our lives that we are worried about getting pregnant?” Bucky asked, horrified wonder was written in bold on his face. “Without a uterus between us?”
Clint laughed. “I mean, you’re right but—” he laughed some more. Bucky joined in.
“It’s a lot to think about,” Bucky said when they stopped laughing.
“But we’ll stick with condoms?” Bucky double checked. “For outside partners?”
“Yeah, I’d like that.”
“Maybe Loki will have a solution for us for after my magical maturity or whatever. I wouldn’t want to knock you up by accident. I’m not put off by it, honestly, but we have too much to do right now for that.”
“Smart,” Clint agreed. He slid the tray of food off his lap and set it on the floor. “But, for now, I think you should convince me why I might consider having your baby. Or consider giving you mine.”
“Yeah?” Bucky asked, looking amused. “And how can I do that?”
“I thought you might eat my ass until I come and then jerk off all over the new scars on my chest.”
Bucky considered that. Then he grinned. “It would be my genuine pleasure.”
Clint sat back and watched as Bucky and Loki finally wrangled Bruce into meditating on his magic with them after dinner. It was amusing to see Bruce so reluctant to meditate considering how often he’d done it or made them do it in that other future but maybe it was magic that was his limit?
Clint couldn’t blame him for that.
“I have a bone to pick with you,” Tony said as he set his beer aside.
Clint snorted. “Okay?”
“Why don’t you want to have sex with me?”
Clint just raised both eyebrows at him, because…what?
“I’m a great fuck,” Tony defended himself.
“It’s nothing personal. I just like my guys bigger than me when I’m getting fucked. You aren’t bigger than me.”
“I guess that’s fair,” Tony allowed.
Clint got up and started gathering their used dishes. Looked like it was his turn to clean up.
“Did I tell you I built my own fucking machine?”
Clint froze and looked up at Tony. A fucking machine? That sounded…
Tony just grinned at him.
Clint cleared his throat. “So, about that fuck…”
It was several days after Thor had left before Clint got the stones together to approach Loki alone and even then, he wasn’t strictly alone when Clint casually wandered into the big, open room he and Bucky had taken to using for meditation.
He knew, intellectually, that this Loki was not the Loki that had mind controlled him. But they looked alike and they sounded the same. This Loki had taken to wearing Earth-style clothes which the other Loki hadn’t done, so that helped but… Future!Loki had used him to murder a lot of people that he hadn’t wanted dead. He took that kinda personal.
“I got a question for you.”
Loki looked up at him in amusement, “I am at your service.”
“So, since Jotun and Asgard are real…out here. What else is real?”
Loki tilted his head and frowned at him.
“I mean, if the Norse gods are real, are the Roman gods? Or the Greek? Are Titans real?”
Loki just stared at him in something close to stupefaction. He’d admit he wasn’t the most subtle of people. He knew he was no Natasha but, honestly, she wasn’t all that subtle either. She was just hot, so people gave her a pass.
Still, this was clearly an overreaction. All he’d done was as about space…stuff.
Loki cleared his throat. “You recall when I told you there was a great deal of magic on these premises?”
“By that, I specifically meant around the two of you,” Loki gestured between him and Bucky. “I never gave my brother the specifics because he wouldn’t know discretion if it walked up and stabbed him in the eye, but I have discussed your circumstances extensively with my mother.”
“Okay? And?” Clint asked because clearly this was going somewhere. He had a bad feeling about where this was going but he needed answers, so.
“And. Tell me, how far back did you time travel?”
Clint shot Bucky a look. Bucky just looked amused, but he didn’t have the reasons not to trust Loki that Clint did. “About fifteen years,” he said.
“Midgard became a full member of the galactic community within the next fifteen years?” Loki sounded both impressed and troubled.
Bucky snorted. “No.”
“Then…how did this come to pass? Midgard has neither the magic nor the technology to manage a magical feat as demanding as time travel.”
“A bunch of fucked up shit happened. Including—but not limited to—you falling off of the Bifrost.” Loki jerked and Clint gave him a tight, mean smile. “You were picked up by a certain Titan and he fucked with your head until you became his personal murder puppet. Then you came to Earth and paid that forward, to me. Together, we killed a whole lot of people until I was saved and you were returned to Asgard and imprisoned.
“Your mom died. Your dad died. Your bugfuck crazy older sister broke out of jail and Thor had to bring about Ragnarök to save any Asgardians from her murderous rule.
“Oh, and then—”
“Norns have mercy,” Loki muttered.
“—said Titan boarded the ship that held all of the survivors of Ragnarök and murdered most of the remaining Asgardians looking for the Tesseract—which you had stolen from Asgard when no one was looking and brought on board with you. He snapped your neck, made your brother watch, and then had his people destroy your ship because he was the galaxy’s biggest son of a bitch.”
“You came back in time to stop all of this?”
“We came back in time to stop the Snap.” When Loki looked confused, he explained. “Tha—the Titan armed the Infinity Gauntlet—fully armed it in 2018, within months of Odin’s death. He snapped his fingers and half of all life in the universe died. Men, women, children, and everything in between. Animals, bugs, plants. Half of all. Of. It.
“I was part of the mission to Snap them all back, but something got fucked and past him came through time to October 2023 with his full army and all of his kids and everything.”
“Are you sure it was past…him?” Loki questioned.
“Well since Thor personally cut off his head in that timeline a couple weeks after the Snap, yeah, I’m sure.”
Loki looked overwhelmed for about half a heartbeat before he nodded, swallowed hard, and said, “What do we do?”
“We’re trying to build a spaceship,” Bucky stepped in when Clint couldn’t force himself to continue. Couldn’t bring himself to lay it all out there for Loki. “We need to keep the fight far from this planet because there are already two, soon to be three Stones here and we can’t risk him getting a single one of them.”
“We were going to lure him away from his army and take him out with extreme prejudice.”
“What will be the lure?” Loki questioned.
“He had the…one of the gems hidden in a staff weapon in 2012 but we aren’t sure when he got it. Do you know anything about it?” Clint asked. “Where it could be right now?”
“The dwarves of Nidavellir are only allowed to sell weapons of power to Asgard. Otherwise? As far as I know, there are many powerful weapons in the hoard of Jörmungandr but that is only a rumor.” Loki shook his head. “If it’s true, I can’t even imagine how…the Titan might have gotten it. Jörmungandr is not known to share.”
“We’ll need to confirm the location, if we can,” Clint told him.
“Titan’s got a lot of talent in his camp,” Bucky offered. “We figure if we kill them off one by one as they come for it, eventually he’ll have to stick his foot in it himself.”
Loki nodded his agreement. “And since bringing an army into the realm of Jörmungandr is tantamount to asking for it to be destroyed, he’ll have to come for it himself. Perhaps with one or two others.”
“Right,” Clint agreed despite the fact that he hadn’t known any of that. Still, it made their plan a great deal less half-cocked. “Assuming it’s actually there.”
“We killed a bunch of his kids in the other timeline, so I’m not really worried about that. But how do you kill a Titan?” Bucky asked.
“Same as you would any man.” Loki’s brows drew down in confusion.
“When he came to Earth, he was tough as hell,” Clint objected. “On Titan, it took everything a team of seven had to give him a papercut.”
“Was he wearing the Infinity Gauntlet?”
Loki just raised an eyebrow. “And how many Stones were already in his possession at that time?”
“The Stones made him harder to kill,” Bucky realized out loud.
“Titans are difficult to kill,” Loki allowed. “But no more than an Aesir or Jotun. I have heard rumors that they are particularly hardy on their home planet—as you mentioned, Titan—because they are closely tied to its natural energies. However, this tie gives them a unique vulnerability to unnatural toxins.”
“Can you confirm that?”
“I can check the Royal Library on Asgard. During his War of Conquest with Hela, my father plundered many libraries. If books on Titans yet remain, they will be found there. I may also find information regarding the Mind Stone there. As Protector of the Nine Realms, my father takes interest in such things.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Clint agreed.
“I also have a spaceship of my own. It requires one pilot to fly, which I am more than capable of, and can sleep twelve. It is armed, has stealth capabilities, and is compatible to the Andromeda jump system.”
Bucky and Clint exchanged a look. Bucky shrugged and Clint nodded. “We’ll call that Plan A. It’ll take some pressure off Tony and allow us to move up our timeline.”
Loki inclined his head. “Leaving this planet will provide us more possibilities for fully awakening your magic.”
“How exactly does that work?” Clint asked. Because they kept talking about awakening Bucky’s magic, but no one had explained how.
“It’s a trial of will that’s different for every individual,” Loki answered. “Mine was survival. That is the most common, relying on your magic or forcing it to save you, but that’s not the only way. My brother’s was the claiming of Mjolnir.”
“That’s frustratingly open,” Bucky frowned.
Loki snorted a laugh and rose from the floor. “I shall go check the library now. I will return with volumes for us to study to prepare for our…mission.” Then Loki stepped into the shadows and was gone.
“Well okay then.” Clint shook his head and started to get up. Bucky grabbed his wrist and pulled him back down so that Clint was sprawled all over him. “Um, hi?”
“I saw that porn you slipped onto my laptop.”
“I did not slip anything on to your laptop,” he defended honestly.
“Fine. I saw the porn you had JARVIS slip onto my laptop,” Bucky corrected, and Clint couldn’t argue with that. “Forty-five minutes of you getting fucked by a machine. I can’t even…”
Clint grinned. “It was hot, right?”
“You better not have any other plans for tonight. Cause I got myself a cock ring. We’re going to see exactly how long you can go under me.”
Clint shivered and let Bucky pull him into a kiss.
“My apologies but I must interrupt,” JARVIS interjected.
Bucky dropped his head to his shoulder and groaned. Clint just laughed because it just figured. He’d been anticipating funtimes all day, of course it wouldn’t happen. It was worse than having kids. “Go ahead, J.”
“Agent Barton, you have addressed yourself as head of security for Sir’s home several times and Sir has not corrected you. I assume this is a duty you intend to fulfill?”
“Yeah, of course. Something wrong?”
“It appears General Ross has discovered the whereabouts of Dr. Banner and intends to move upon this location.”
“Yeah, that’s definitely something wrong,” Clint agreed as he stood. Fuck this was going to be a long night.
“The only one that has seen Bruce and is not currently accounted for is Ms. Potts.” Bucky pointed out as he, too stood.
“She wouldn’t have ratted Tony out like that,” Clint defended. “Would she?”
The first thing Clint did after Bucky and JARVIS had confirmed the source of the leak was pull Bruce and Tony out of bed to brief them on what was going on. Thankfully, by the time they were ready to wake them, it was breakfast time anyway so neither of them lost much sleep even if that meant a sleepless night for Clint and Bucky.
“I’ve got bad news and worse news,” Clint opened the conversation as Tony polished off his breakfast taco and Bruce worked on removing the rind from a cantaloupe.
“Let’s have it,” Tony ordered.
“JARVIS tipped Bucky and I off to a possible security threat last night and thanks to the ridiculous level of monitoring Stark Industries indulges in, we were able to confirm every single step that brought us to where we are now. We’ve put everything into a single data packet, if either of you want to review it.”
Tony just waved for him to continue. Clint wasn’t even sure Bruce was listening.
“After I ran Pepper Potts off property a few days ago, she contacted her assistant at SI Jeremy Holmes and requested the contact information for Dr. Elizabeth Ross.”
Bruce dropped his knife and looked at Clint with wide eyes.
Clint held up a hand, asking for patience. “Potts did not specify why she just wanted this information, but he got it for her. Then he promptly went to lunch in the Stark Industries café and—showing a complete lack of discretion—speculated why Ms. Potts would need this information with his girlfriend Amanda Gaines.”
“Obie’s executive assistant,” Tony supplied.
“Yeah,” Clint nodded. “Per her instructions from Mr. Stane, Ms. Gaines brought this speculation directly to Mr. Stane’s attention. He used a number of dubiously legal means—the evidence of which I have already provided to Director Carter for her case against him—to find out about your pending personal purchase of AIM. He’s brought your apparent personal interest in biomedical sciences to the SI Board and personally called General Ross about what he decided was your interest in his daughter.”
“And Ross?” Bruce asked.
“Unsure but Director Carter has people working on it. Worst case scenario, he decides you’re here and comes at Tony to get to you—but he has no legal grounds to harass you like he has been for years. Director Carter is working on that too.”
“What’s Stane’s angle here?” Bruce asked.
“It could be Carter’s investigation into him has him rattled,” Clint concluded. “And he’s trying to throw Tony under the bus before anyone gets a firm grip on him.”
Tony shook his head in disagreement. “Aunt Peg wouldn’t let anything about her investigation slip until his head was already in the noose.”
“I agree,” Clint blew out a breath. “So, the other thing that occurred to me is that it’s probably an attempt to distract you and reestablish his control of you. He’s kept you socially isolated for years and, it seems to me, that he’s convinced Potts it’s for your own good, too. You have people around you now—people living in your house—that neither of them can control. And you’re taking on projects without conferring with either of them before you do it.”
“When she was here the other day, Ms. Potts was obviously concerned about the threat we represent,” Bruce offered, referring to himself and the Big Guy. “Bringing in Betty could be an attempt to…manage us.”
“I can see that,” Tony agreed. “Plan?”
“My preference?” Clint checked because he, unlike some people, knew very well he was not the boss of one Tony Stark.
“I’m too furious to think straight, so yeah.”
“Technically, no one knows why Pepper called Dr. Ross. Director Carter can officialize the cover story that you called her to help you finish Bruce’s pill project that was never his since he was never officially here.”
“We might be able to work a cover for your purchase of AIM in with that, so nobody looks at it too closely.”
“I can work with that,” Tony nodded.
“You cannot see Dr. Ross, not unless Loki is here to make sure she can’t see you,” he said to Bruce. “She needs to be able to honestly tell her father that she never saw you. I don’t know what her relationship with him is like, but we can’t risk that he’ll see through her if she lies. This is for her safety.”
Bruce nodded. “We understand.
“That means we have to leave Tony and this house, doesn’t it?”
“I’m not sure how that’s going to work out,” Clint admitted. “I’ll ask Carter for more backup and maybe Loki can take you and Bucky on a field trip until everything calms down.”
Bucky stood up with a frown, “I’m not leaving you.”
“I am fully capable of protecting Dr. Stark on my own.” Clint…didn’t understand the problem here. “I’ve been protecting people on my own for years.”
Bucky frowned, growled, and walked away. What the actual—
Tony, of all people, laughed at him. “You’re so dumb.”
Clint pounded back his coffee with his eyes locked on Tony Stark. He was more furious than Clint had ever seen him.
Clint figured it was because it was one thing to be told someone had betrayed you, but it was quite another to be confronted with it in the flesh. When Pepper Potts had shown up just before noon, flanked by Dr. Betty Ross and Tony’s official bodyguard, Happy Hogan, he’d been slapped in the face with it.
Then she’d started her conversation with Tony with the words that Clint hoped were not going to be the death knell of her relationship with Tony.
“Mr. Stane said—”
Potts had been the one person the Tony he had known had had to rely on and Clint felt—probably unreasonably—like it was his fault Tony didn’t have her anymore.
“Pep,” Tony said, taking a deep breath. “I am not a commodity the Board or Obadiah Stane own. They work for me. So, do you. Stark Industries is mine. Not the other way around.”
“Obadiah just wants what’s best for you—”
“He wants to murder me!” Tony shouted, interrupting her.
Pepper looked horrified. “Tony? What?”
“Why do you think I have government agents maintaining my personal security?” Tony asked her, throwing out his arm to indicate Clint and Bucky. “Why do you think I haven’t left my house in a week no matter how hard you pushed? I’m in protective custody.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” She demanded.
“Active investigations cannot be discussed with unaffected parties,” Clint interjected. “Until arrests have been made and charges filed. That’s standing operating procedure.”
“I told you to cancel all my appointments for the next two weeks. Did you think I did that on a whim?”
The look on her face made it perfectly clear that she did.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Happy Hogan asked. “I’m your bodyguard.”
“You work for SI,” Tony said simply. “Obadiah could have interfered with your assignment and left me defenseless or he could have demanded information from you or your staff that we couldn’t afford for him to have.”
“Then I quit!” Hogan looked immediately to Clint, “I request a position on Mr. Stark’s private detail.”
Clint looked at Tony who just gave him a nod. “Alright. Technically I’m still a government employee but we’ll build his private protection detail together. For now, it will have to include the government agents I have on the ground, but we might be able to lure them into the private sector later. They were all vetted before I let them enter the state.”
“I’ll do whatever I have to if it’ll keep Mr. Stark safe,” Happy swore and Tony had to turn away.
Hogan immediately looked alarmed but Clint waved it off. He knew what it was like to receive unwavering loyalty where you had expected none. He’d gone through it with Nat after he’d brought her in. It was the most amazing and painful experience on the planet.
“When you called Dr. Ross, did you specify the reason you wanted her to visit?” Clint asked Potts.
She frowned at him. “Yes, of course.”
“What, specifically, did you say? And did you use a landline or wireless phone.”
“I called her from my cellphone, and I told her that Bruce Banner was in a safe location and asked if she wanted to visit.”
“I was on my cellphone as well,” Dr. Ross answered before he could ask.
“Is that better or worse than her landline?” Tony asked.
“Possibly better,” Clint decided. He looked at Dr. Ross. “Are you aware your father has your home phone wiretapped?”
“No,” Dr. Ross flushed with fury. “Why would he do that?”
“We assume in the event Bruce Banner were to contact you. Are you willing to press charges on your father for his illegal invasion of your privacy?”
“It’ll help Bruce, right? If my father is tied up in court and publicly sanctioned? Or court martialed?”
“I doubt they will court martial him for that,” Clint allowed. “But yes, it could reduce his threat level where Dr. Banner is concerned.”
“Then you bet your ass, I’ll press charges.”
Clint looked at Bucky who nodded pulled his laptop around from behind him. “Someone will be here later with something for you to sign.”
“It’s less of a sure thing but we have to assume General Ross knows Bruce was here,” Clint said to Tony.
“Was?” Dr. Ross asked.
“I can’t answer that question, Dr. Ross. At this point, Dr. Banner is not considered a fugitive but if you have to answer under oath whether you know anything about his whereabouts…”
She nodded, “I understand.”
“We’re in coverup mode,” Tony told their three new members. “Pepper, you called Dr. Ross to help me with a Top-Secret project for SHIELD. The end product of that project will be marketed through AIM.
“Dr. Ross, I’m buying AIM because you refused the Stark Industries Intellectual Property protocols and I decided it was easier to market our new project together through a new company rather than to spend months arguing with the Board for a one-time exception.
“Neither of you has any idea where Bruce Banner may or may not be or where he has gone. Am I clear?”
“Yes, Mr. Stark.” “Of course, anything for Bruce.” Both women agreed.
“This is your only chance, Pepper,” Tony said softly. “If we weren’t hiding so much for so many very good reasons, you’d already be fired. But, as Clint reminded me, technically you didn’t violate your employment contract. You did break my trust and possibly brought several threats to my door.
“Your job is to see my directives done, not to make directives for me. You certainly don’t get to force other people’s directives on me. You don’t get to bring people into my house without a request for them from me. You don’t release information, no matter how unintentionally, without orders from me. And you don’t decide whether or not I will be keeping appointments I’ve already told you to cancel.
“I don’t know why you don’t trust my judgement, but you obviously don’t.
“My personal judgement, I guess I can understand,” Tony conceded. “My personal life is a hot mess—but my business judgement has never been in question. I’ve been the CEO of Stark Industries for almost twenty years. The longest periods of sustained growth and the highest profits this company has ever seen happened under my leadership.”
“I…” Potts hesitated. “You’re right.”
He nodded, accepting that but not commenting on it. “Clearly, we both need to work on some boundaries that we will both adhere to because I can see now that we’ve both gotten off track, but don’t make the mistake of thinking this is over and we’re moving on. You are not forgiven.”
“Of course, Mr. Stark.”
“Happy, will you escort these ladies back upstairs for lunch?” Tony requested. “We’ll join you shortly.”
“Of course, sir.” Happy opened the door to the lab. “Dr. Ross? Ms. Potts?”
Once none of their feet could be seen on the stairs, Tony said, “J?”
The door beeped locked and shutters rolled down over all of the windows. “We are secure.”
“Good working AIM into the cover story,” Clint commended and Tony nodded. Loki released Bruce’s hand and they both stepped out of the shadows. “Next steps?”
“Assuming Dr. Ross consented, I could allow her and Dr. Banner to meet and then hide the memories within her mind so that, should she have to testify, she can honestly say she hasn’t seen him. Once the threat of General Ross has passed, the block would lift and she would remember.”
“Limitations?” Bruce asked. Because they all kept waiting for the catch attached to the benefits magic promised.
“The meeting would have to be less than six hours long,” Loki admitted. “Beyond that, we risk temporary brain damage to Dr. Ross. Which could get complicated into long term brain damage considering the possibility of her being treated for those difficulties and the medieval medical practices of this planet.”
“I’ll feel her out,” Tony promised. “When are the four of you going North?”
“What? Tony, three,” Clint corrected.
“You’re not staying here,” Tony rolled his eyes. “Robocop needs you. I’ve got Happy and all the SHIELD guys you called in. Get Happy up to speed on all the stuff you’re doing behind the scenes and he can cover for you for a few days. I’ll be fine.”
Clint considered that. “I’d like to call in one more person before we leave.”
“Esmer Whatley. She’s a badass, works well with others but takes no shit. We served together in the Army. She owes me a favor so she’ll come and watch your ass, maybe even better than I would, so I’d like to temporarily put her in my place above Happy in the chain of command. If you can lure her into private security, you should.”
Tony gave him a mean little smile. “Just explain it to Happy.”
“Oh, I will,” Clint promised.
“There’s a Stark Artic Expedition up there right now, looking for Captain Rogers,” Tony said. “After Clint gave me his estimate for his current location, I directed them to head there. I think you guys should use the ship as your base of operations for appearances sake.”
Clint looked around.
Bruce didn’t seem to care, his eyes kept wandering toward the stairs Dr. Ross had just walked up.
Loki wrinkled his nose. “Extended time on the ice would lend itself to activating their magic. Staying on a ship would not.”
“So, we’ll pack a tent and some sleeping bags,” Clint waved that off. “Let you guys spend a night or two out there. But our focus has to be getting Cap out of the ice before someone else can find him and miseducate him about the future.”
“That happened last time?” Tony asked.
“Boy, did it,” Bucky agreed.
Tony blinked, clearly rejected that input and the resultant questions, and moved on. “You can fly a helicopter?” he asked instead.
“We’re not taking a helicopter.” Bucky looked at Tony like he was crazy. “We’re taking my Quintjet.”
Tony turned to Clint.
Clint shrugged. “It’s more reliable than a helicopter, we don’t have to worry about refueling it, and it’s landing pad needs are compatible with a helicopter. The SHIELD guys brought two of their own so it’s not like we’re leaving you without a safe mode of transport in case you need one.”
“That’s legit,” Tony agreed. “Are you bringing Rogers back here or heading right to space?”
“We’ll come back,” Clint decided. “I’ll want to see how you’re doing. Make sure everything is settled and that security is holding up before we get that far out of touch. Who knows, maybe by that point Bruce will be able to stay with Dr. Ross?”
“It’s a goal,” Tony agreed.
“Cap won’t want to go into space,” Bucky said. “He’s never been a fan of sci-fi.”
Tony laughed. “Then he’s not going to fit in here, either.”
“Yeah, but he’ll find the scenery real pretty.” Bucky grinned pointedly at Tony who blushed hard.
“You’re cool with not building our ship?” Clint asked.
“Yeah, it’s fine,” Tony waved him off. “I have more than enough to do right now, to be honest. I’m still going to play with designs, build my own. See what I can learn from the data you got me.”
“Sounds totally fair to me,” Clint agreed. “…did you want to come to space with us?”
“Of course!” Tony scoffed. “But I have no one I can trust to leave in charge of my company and there’s tons of drama and scandal coming my way, and I’m gently buying out the Board, and I’m changing the direction of the company. I just can’t justify it.”
“We’ll take you later. A fun trip, not a business one.”
Tony grinned. “Now, that’s a deal.”
Clint looked up from the report he was reading, “Yeah, J?”
“Your presence is requested in the Room with the Black Door.”
Clint sat up a little straighter and promptly forgot what he had been doing. The Room with the Black Door had always been locked. In multiple timelines, it had always locked. He hadn’t even known what was in there until Tony had let him in just the other night.
It was Tony’s kink room, as it turned out. Stocked and maintained in the fashion only a Stark could manage.
The door to the room was black, as the name implied, but it was a glossy black glass that seemed like it should be see-through but wasn’t. There were no visible locks or handles on the door, either. You could push your way out, but you could only get in if JARVIS opened the door specifically for you.
The door swung open as soon as Clint stopped just outside of its swing zone and it clicked quietly closed behind him.
Thank the Powers That Be for JARVIS because once Clint saw what was waiting for him, he could not have closed the door to save his own life.
Bucky was sprawled lazily in a large chair wearing nothing but low-slung leather pants and motorcycle boots. His hair was up in a messy man bun and he still somehow looked dangerous, predatory. Like some barbarian king from days long past, watching over his domain, remote and amused.
It was the hottest thing Clint had ever seen in his life.
“Strip,” Bucky ordered, voice barely above a whisper.
Clint threw his clothes off faster than even that time he’d caught himself on fire with an experimental arrow. Bucky just raised an eyebrow at his haste and pointedly looked down at the mess he’d made.
Clint flushed and gathered up his clothes. He folded them more or less neatly and stacked everything on the small table not far from the door. When he looked back, Bucky smiled and quirked his finger. There was a kneeling pad between his feet and, fuck, that should not get him hard.
He went down between Bucky’s thighs, his hands automatically grabbed the opposite forearm behind his back and…yeah, the view only got better the closer he got. He could get used to this.
He focused on his dom.
Bucky looked like he wanted to eat him, and Clint was utterly unopposed.
“I got you something,” Bucky pulled a flat box forward on the small table on his right. A flat, sort of square box with no label and no obvious openings.
Bucky lifted the lid and set it aside. Then he held the box down where Clint could see it.
It was a collar made of thick, expensive leather and studded with purple gemstones. The gemstones spelled out BIRDIE and the word choice amused Clint probably more than it should.
He glanced up at Bucky who was watching him with a teasing smile. “I figured since it’s just for us, might as well make it fun.”
Clint laughed. “Do you want to put it on me?”
“This time,” Bucky nodded. “And in the future, too, but I don’t want you to be afraid to ask for the collar if you want it. Your submission to me doesn’t have to be just sex.
“I want to shelter you when you need it. Or, just when you want it.”
Clint had to swallow hard and blink back tears because that…just got to him somewhere deep inside that he normally didn’t let himself touch. “You clearly took your reading seriously.”
Bucky barked a surprised laugh, “I’ve always been at the head of the class.”
Clint snickered and Bucky secured the collar around his neck. Then he sunk his fingers into his hair. He scratched his nails along Clint’s scalp and petted him and tugged strands at random intervals until Clint melted into a happy puddle of…birdie.
“For the record, I prefer your hair clean and free of product like this when we’re alone,” Bucky said with a absent sort of authority that Clint found irresistibly seductive. Like of course Bucky would give him orders and of course Clint would take them. It was just how the natural world worked.
“Now, hands front. Take my cock out and suck me.”
The front of his pants were laced together and tied closed, which should not have been hot—but it totally was.
He ran his hands over Bucky’s leather-covered bulge and enjoyed the warmth and heat and texture of it for just a moment before he obeyed. Bucky didn’t lift a finger to help him as he loosened the laces and pulled out his cock and balls through the gap.
Clint pumped Bucky’s cock twice before raising up a bit to slide his mouth over him.
He loved giving head. There was a power in it that thrilled him. The smell and taste did it for him too and the weight of it on his tongue. His favorite used to be starting when his partner was soft and blowing them to full hardness.
Now, his favorite was Bucky. Just Bucky. His taste and his smell overlaid with the leather he was wearing.
Normally, he’d be bucking into Clint’s mouth within moments. Helpless little movements, like it was too good for him to stay still and just take it. Clint always loved it, Bucky’s genuine responses.
This time, though, he used his hand in Clint’s hair to move his head up and down his cock, getting it exactly where he wanted it, when he wanted it. This was so much better than the helpless little movements. Clint just groaned and let himself be used.
“Do that again,” Bucky ordered, and Clint started humming.
“Fuck.” Bucky put both hands on his head to move it and started thrusting in tandem. Clint just focused on breathing and humming as much as he could manage. Bucky came very quickly, Clint swallowed him down.
“You can stop humming.” Bucky sounded wrecked but he hadn’t pulled Clint off his cock so he couldn’t get a good look. Instead, he rested his forehand on his Dom’s abdomen and kept his cock warm until he told him what he wanted.
“Birdie?” Bucky gave his hair a gentle tug sometime later and he finally pulled off of him.
“Ready for phase two?”
Clint suppressed a smile. It was charming how seriously Bucky was taking their pleasure. “Yes, sir.”
“Take a look over there and tell me what you think.”
He followed Bucky’s finger. It was a custom sub-bench not unlike the one Tony had tied him to for the whole fucking machine thing, but it was black leather and chrome rather than Stark’s signature red leather and gold titanium. Bucky had activated several rods Tony hadn’t used, including a pair that held a pillory where his neck would go. It was padded and positioned so it shouldn’t strain his neck, but, still.
“What’s that for?”
Bucky smirked. “Blindfolds are a hard limit for you, but that doesn’t mean I have to let you see exactly what I’m doing.”
Clint swallowed hard and nodded. That did seem like a suitable work around but one he’d have never thought of.
“Go get up there, on your back.”
Clint immediately rose and went to the bench. It was a higher climb than Tony’s had been, and Bucky hadn’t provided a step, but Clint didn’t care. He’d mounted worse.
A cold metal hand settled possessively on his ankle and he immediately focused on Bucky.
He laid out and shifted around until he’d reached maximum comfort on the bench and pillory combination. “Ready, sir.”
Bucky placed his wrists in the appropriate holes and closed the pillory. Then he adjusted the table to support Clint’s folded arms. Then he pulled a restraint across Clint’s chest just above his nipples and another across his waist, over his ribs. Thighs, knees, and ankles followed before a cold finger with warmed lube teased his hole.
The metal fingers weren’t any bigger than Bucky’s flesh fingers, Clint knew that. Wakanda had done a good job on the arm. Much better than Hydra had bothered to do. But they felt bigger. And they were definitely harder.
Clint did not huff when Bucky slid a thin plug into his hole.
Bucky just laughed and slapped his thigh as he settled it into position to press on his prostate. “Be good or I’ll turn it on high and never let you come.”
Bucky jerked his cock a few times and then slid a cock ring onto Clint. He had to know by now that Clint didn’t need it, so restraint had to be what Bucky was going for. Clint took a few deep breathes and sank into it. He was safe in Bucky’s care. He accepted his new reality and made it his own.
Bucky watched Clint’s body language subtly shift and relaxed. It felt like trust but a specific kind of trust that he had never experienced before. Trust and power.
He hit the button to play the recording Clint had given to him a while ago to rile him up. He wanted to listen to it again while he worked through the biggest fantasy it had given him and he was certain it wouldn’t hurt Clint’s mental space to do so, so he indulged himself
“You ever done this before?” he heard Tony Stark ask, though it was kind of distant. Less important than Clint stretched out before him.
“Get fucked or get tied down?” he heard Clint snark.
“Considering how much Sergeant SnugglePants stares at your ass, I assume you’ve been fucked,” Tony snarked back. “And your SHIELD file made it clear you’ve been kidnapped so I’m sure you’ve been tied down, up, and sideways.
“Have you ever been fucked by a machine?”
He clicked on the plug in Clint’s ass so that his gasp was echoed by the recorded version of himself.
Bucky was entirely silent as he stepped out of his boots and removed his pants for good measure. He wanted to do something with Clint he’d rarely ever allowed to the point he couldn’t remember actually doing himself. He could remember making the decision to do it and he had a certainty that he’d gone through with his decision, but he couldn’t remember it happening.
He jumped quietly onto the table he had Clint strapped to so tightly and landed on all fours above him. He looked over the pillory at Clint’s face.
He’d embraced the place Bucky wanted him in and had his eyes closed, his face blissful. He was beautiful.
He moved back and took a long look at what was laid out for his pleasure. Clint was in peak fighting condition, not in the stupidly cut way he and Stevie or even Thor were but in the way of a true human fighter. His arms were thick and muscled. His shoulders were broad. His thighs, calves, feet. He was all over gorgeous but tonight Bucky was most interested in his cock.
He gripped Clint’s cock in his metal fist and heard him groan “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck” in a really good way. He had to admit, at least privately, that Clint’s enthusiasm for even the worst parts of him were…a balm. Good for his soul.
He sat on his sub’s cock.
Beyond words, Clint just groaned, and Bucky started to ride him.
It was…not as easy as Clint made it look but fuck, it felt good. Being full, having Clint at his benevolent mercy, it all felt good.
Clint had told him late one night when he’d worked up the courage to ask that he’d recognized very young that romance was a nebulous, strange concept. That, if he just wanted sex, men were easy to hook up with, so he’d promptly made friends with his prostate and never looked back.
Bucky hadn’t understood how Clint could be so blasé about how brave that made him. How he could act like taking a cock up his ass was a minor thing he did just for fun rather than the dangerous possibly life-threatening thing it was.
…Bucky thought he might be starting to get it.
Having a cock in his ass was a revelation. It left him wanting more.
A couple clicks and the vibrator in Clint’s ass was going in a wave pattern. First building, building, building. Then crashing, crashing, crashing.
“You can come whenever you can,” Bucky ordered and started pinching Clint’s nipples as he rode him harder.
Clint made a sound Bucky couldn’t even describe and came after a particularly hard squeeze even though the cock ring kept him from going off.
“Fuck,” he cursed, and he needed to see Clint’s face. This was fun. Keeping his full intentions from Clint had been amusing but now he needed to see his face. He gripped the top half of the pillory in his metal hand and heaved.
The heavy wooden board flew off of him and Clint opened his eyes to look at Bucky in surprise. He looked utterly wrecked. He had never looked more beautiful.
Clint didn’t move his hands from the holes in the lower board, “Sir!”
“Touch me,” he ordered. “Fucking touch me right now.”
Clint’s hands flew to his hips immediately. Not to move him or correct him or anything like that. He just held on and watched. It was exactly what Bucky wanted.
“Sir!” Clint begged again.
He hit the button on the little remote Tony had given him to release the ring on Clint’s cock. Clint groaned and Bucky ordered him to come before he could do something Bucky would have to punish him for.
Bucky handled everything surrounding their departure from Stark’s place without an ounce of regret.
Clint was rather useless in that regard, so Bucky had wrapped him in a warm blanket and parked him in the copilot chair of the his Quinjet while Happy and some of Clint’s SHIELD people stowed their things inside various panels and doors in the jet. He was sipping the last of the juice Thor had left them because Bucky hadn’t expected such an intense response from Clint.
He’d liked it so he wasn’t mad. He just hadn’t thought they’d done anything with great emotional impact. He’d have to figure out which of their mutual kinks had pushed Clint over the edge so he could do it again as soon as Thanos was a smoking crater.
“Are you sure you want us to go?” he asked Stark one more time because he thought Clint would want him to.
“Yeah,” Stark nodded. “I’ll be fine. I got a ton of guys looking out for me and we need all of you out of sight before whatever stupid Obie and Ross think they’re going to pull shows up. Don’t worry about me.”
There was something lurking between them. There had been since pretty much the moment they’d met this time around and Bucky desperately wanted to ask Stark about it though it was probably about his parents. They hadn’t come up since Peg had assured Stark that Bucky hadn’t done it but… That video in the future had destroyed something inside Tony, it had destroyed something between Stark and Stevie. There was no way someone mentioned those particular events and Stark had just…let it go.
But then, just because he wasn’t talking about it, didn’t mean it wasn’t on his mind. Bucky knew that he himself could chew a bone down to the marrow before mentioning it to another soul.
Maybe Stark’s stubborn desire for them to get gone was a function of that.
A desire for space from thoughts of his parents.
Bucky wanted to give him that, if that was what he needed so he just clasped the guy on the shoulder like he had done so often to Stevie when he was still so small. “Thank you, for everything. We’ll come back with something real pretty for you. I promise.”
Tony huffed at him. “Shut up.”
Bruce and Loki came up the ramp into the Quinjet together.
Bucky grinned at the dazed, disheveled look Bruce was rocking as he clutched his new bag.
“Looks like you aren’t the only one that had a good time.” Tony voiced the thought before he could figure out how to phrase it.
Bruce blushed but didn’t seem capable of a deeper response.
Loki’s bitch face was epic. Then he rolled his eyes and held out both hands to Tony. Tony took them without bitching about it like 2023!Stark would have. “Thank you for your patience and the hospitality we have enjoyed in your home. Please know that you will always be welcome at my side in Asgard.”
Tony blushed and Bucky looked between the two men. Something had clearly happened there but…he decided it really was none of his business and focused on Bruce. “Have a good visit?”
“Uh, yeah.” Then he looked away and moved off to perch on one of the Quinjet’s many seats.
“You did your thing?” Tony asked Loki.
“Of course,” Loki nodded. “Memory magic is taxing on both the caster and the target. I gave her a temporary memory of working late in the lab with you in the place of what I’ve hidden from her. I suggest letting her sleep as late as you can on the morrow.”
“Will do. Take care of these three yahoos. I expect them back in one piece. Perhaps a bit more magical.”
“I shall endeavor to meet your expectations.”
Clint woke up on the Stark Industries Icebreaker, Seeker, yet again.
The Seeker was a nice ship. All clean lines and top of the line technology, with two gyms, a sauna, and full bedrooms for every member of the crew. Ergonomic everything and actual colors and art on the walls. Nothing he wouldn’t expect from a ship owned by either Tony or Howard Stark.
Life aboard her was boring as shit.
Loki and mostly Bucky but sometimes Bruce too would spend hours out on the ice communing with their inner Jotun. It was all fine for them, but he couldn’t go along without being a huge distraction and the cold bothered him more than he wanted to talk about. He’d never had a particular problem with freezing temperatures before as long as he’d had appropriate gear, which he did. He wasn’t sure if this new problem was more a product of old age or that fact that he’d died but he had a distinct problem with it now.
“I’m not going back out there,” Bruce announced as he joined Clint at the breakfast table. They’d been given the Stark Family Suite. He wasn’t sure all three rooms plus private dining had ever been used before, but they were definitely staffed, which he was grateful for.
“Why not?” Clint asked.
“Did you know SHIELD has a Kree corpse in semi-stasis that they are harvesting biological material from for experimentation?”
Clint thought about it. “I know there was a project that Phil Coulson ran for Director Fury that was experimenting with alien DNA. Something about resurrecting an Avenger which was a strange level of commitment to a team that didn’t even have any members, much less approval from the oversight people to exist at the time.
“I don’t have a lot of details but I know Phil came close to breaking with Fury over it—which means it had to be thoroughly fucked up.”
“Project TAHITI,” Bruce nodded. “It was the second research path SHIELD followed in regards to enhancing humans with Kree DNA.”
“The Bio-Tech Force Enhancement Project,” Clint guessed. “That was the first?”
“Yeah. I compared the data I found on the various fluid’s they’ve collected from the corpse. Number 333 was the one I selected to enhance our theoretical version of the Super Soldier Serum.” Bruce looked up at Loki as he joined them at the table. “Biologically, I have more in common with that Kree corpse than you or Sergeant Barnes.”
“You do have Jotun blood,” Loki argued. “Both Thor and I could smell it.”
“Would you have been able to smell it if he hadn’t been living in the same house as Bucky?” Clint asked.
“I believe so.”
Bruce considered that. “I may have some Jotun blood, but without blood from Captain Rogers or a conversation with Abraham Erskine, I can’t be certain. The base of the Super Soldier Serum does seem to be Jotun-related but mine isn’t like Sergeant Barnes’ and Captain Rogers’ unless theirs aren’t as alike as we’ve been theorizing. I doubt I have enough magic to…activate or whatever.”
“I could ask my mother if she can determine your level of magic,” Loki said after a few moments of consideration. “She would have to either meet you or I would need to provide her a lock of your hair, but the magic of her people is more suited to such a seeking spell. If you wish to know, for certain, one way or the other.”
Bruce wrinkled his nose but didn’t comment one way or the other.
“If you truly do not wish to be involved with magic, I will not pressure you. Such would be unconscionable,” Loki promised. “However, I would ask you to come out on the ice with us today while we retrieve Captain Rogers.”
Clint sat up a little straighter. “That’s happening today?”
“It is the plan,” Loki confirmed. Then he focused back on Bruce. “Bucky settles more easily into his magic place with someone there to watch his back. The…Big Guy is his current preference. I believe because the cold has proven to be a problem for Clint, and I am his teacher and therefore engaged in other things.”
Bruce paled. Clint assumed as the thought of a deliberate Code Green, mumbled something that sounded vaguely like agreement and fled the room.
“I want to go with you guys today,” Clint decided. “I won’t let my…issues get in the way.”
Loki stared at him for a moment. “Will you allow me to cast magic upon you?”
“Why?” Clint squinted at him.
“I can magically increase your resistance to cold.”
“Can Bucky do it?”
“Not at this time,” Loki shook his head. “Perhaps in the future he will have the ability but for now it is beyond him.”
Clint pressed his lips together as he considered it. He knew his issues with Other!Loki were making him unreasonable but he couldn’t really help it.
“Sergeant Barnes would not allow you to go out there to suffer for no reason.”
“Bucky doesn’t actually get to tell me no about Avengers’ Business.” Clint countered. Bucky snorted as he entered the room but didn’t actually argue. “Captain America’s retrieval is Avenger’s business,” he told Bucky directly.
Bucky just nodded and brought his coffee to the table with a refill for Clint.
“I meant to ask the two of you,” Loki hesitated. “With Thor surrendering to his destiny in Jotunheim, I will soon be promoted to heir and Crown Prince of Asgard. It would be a favor to me if you both would attend the ceremony.”
Clint looked to Bucky; he was closer to Loki so it should probably be his decision. Bucky just shrugged.
“Your dad will be cool with that? I was under the impression that he didn’t care much for humans. From what I remember, he lost his shit when Thor took his girlfriend to Asgard to get the Aether pulled out of her.”
“The Aether that his father had almost died to take from the Dark Elves and hide for all eternity?” Loki raised a single eyebrow at him.
“Okay. When you put it that way, I guess that’s fair. But he’ll be cool with it?”
“My mother wishes to meet you both most ardently,” Loki admitted. “And it would not be strange for me to have guests from other Realms attend. I am known for my diplomacy.”
“Your earned name is Silvertongue.” Bucky agreed.
Loki inclined his head.
“What I’m hearing is that Odin can just deal,” Clint concluded.
“Not an inaccurate summation.”
“How would you help Clint with the cold?” Bucky asked.
“I have two methods I could use,” Loki allowed. “The first would reduce his own perception of the cold which I assume he would not want as it would require me to influence the working of his mind.”
“Damn right,” Clint muttered.
“The other option would be to alter his aura temporarily to induce a partial immunity to the cold. For the most part, the cold would not touch his skin, leaving him in a cocoon of his own body heat. It’s only a partial immunity as he still requires oxygen. Air must be allowed to enter his aura for him to breathe and only cold air is available out there.”
“That’s fair,” Bucky agreed.
Then he shot a look at Clint that clearly said he should accept the help.
Clint sighed. “You’ll only cast the aura thing on me after we leave the ship. And I want it gone before we get back here.”
“Very well,” Loki agreed and began to eat.
It was nice, almost companionable. Hanging out with his…Bucky and Loki. Eating oatmeal and fancy cut fruit in the middle of nowhere.
“Is that why you don’t want to sleep with me?” Loki asked out of nowhere as he stood with his empty bowl. “Because I used magic on you against your will? You said I made you my murder puppet in the other timeline.”
“Oh, my god.” Clint just…what? Moment. Ruined. “Why does everyone wanna know why I will or won’t sleep with them?”
Bucky just laughed at them both. “When you’re the only one not welcome on the island, you have to wonder why. It’s only natural.”
“My ass is not an island,” Clint grumbled and both men laughed. He stood, “You know what? I don’t have to take this. Where’s the chef assigned to us? He hit on me yesterday, I bet he’d let me suck his cock until I feel better.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Bucky caught his wrist even as Loki laughed again and wandered away. “I’ll let you suck my cock until you feel better. I’ll even return the favor.”
That sounded promising. “Will you kneel for it?”
“On this floor?” Bucky scoffed. “Get your ass on the bed. No pants.”
The ride out to the ice was unremarkable.
Other than Loki waving glowing hands over him the first time he shivered and Loki’s patient indulgence with him as he made both Bucky and Bruce check his eyes.
He knew it was ridiculous, okay? He knew it. He still couldn’t help it.
And Loki’s patience with the whole matter made him feel like maybe they could actually build trust between them. Maybe even be friends…eventually.
They landed on the ice fairly quickly and Clint helped Bucky set up some flood lights.
He’d forgotten about the all darkness all the time thing during this time of year. The lights on the ship were bright enough and he’d had to stay inside so much, he hadn’t really noticed. “At least no one can complain that we wasted daylight,” he remarked to Bucky.
Bucky just smirked and rolled his eyes.
“This is the place you thought you felt Captain Rogers’s presence,” Loki said to Bucky in the tone of a reminder. “Can you sense anything about the size or depth of his presence?”
Bucky shook himself and closed his eyes. His arms hanging comfortably at his sides, but his palms were parallel with the ground. Some sort of whitey-blue light danced a long his palms and it was all Clint could do not to step back from him.
“Whoa there, Elsa.”
Bucky laughed and the glowing hands disappeared. Loki shot Clint an exasperated look.
“He’s below me from about here,” Bucky moved his right hand out a foot. “Going that way. Not sure how far but he’s six feet tall, so—” Clint moved to the appropriate distance from Bucky’s right hand. Bucky gave him a grateful nod.
“And his depth?” Loki prompted.
Bucky shook his head. “Beyond me. I can’t reach him.”
“You need to push yourself,” Loki reminded him. “You need to force your magic to open to you or it never will.”
“No,” Bucky shook his head. “Not where it could hurt Stevie.”
Loki shot him a look and Clint shrugged. Trying to get James Buchanan Barnes to do anything that could possibly hurt Steven Grant Rogers was the definition of a non-starter.
“Fine.” Loki rolled his eyes. “Stand back.”
“Whoa, Super Elsa,” Clint commented as Loki’s hands started to glow. Loki made a series of sweeping, lifting gestures and without even a sound, Steve Rogers just sort of floated to the top of the ice.
Well, it looked like Steve Rogers. For the most part.
It also kind of looked like a gender bent Sleeping Beauty with a red, white, and blue shield on his chest, complete with crystal coffin made of ice.
“This was not in his SHIELD file,” Clint observed, and Bruce laughed just a bit.
“Did you make,” Bucky gestured at the coffin.
Loki huffed. “No, this is the structure he built to shield his hibernation. Your friend has already activated his magic. He will require training, or the mental ramifications of not doing so could be extreme.”
“Extreme in what way?” Clint asked.
“Mood swings, depression, paranoia. Unmastered magic is the bane of a stable mind.”
“He’ll need to get a grip on the whole future thing first,” Bucky said. “Then we can worry about all that. Maybe after…you know.”
Loki made a noise like he didn’t agree but he didn’t actually argue either.
“Can you get him out of that?” Clint asked. He couldn’t imagine how they could sneak that past the crew of Tony’s ship. He wasn’t sure they needed to, either, but until he’d heard one way or the other from Tony, he was going to assume they did.
Loki shrugged and waved a hand. The ice disappeared and left Steve Rogers lying flat on the ice.
“Okay, let’s get him to the ship.”
Loki picked Steve Rogers up like a fucking bride. “There are recovery rooms in the lower levels of the ship. They are not staffed due to the unlikelihood of Captain Roger’s recovery. You will meet us there.” Then he stepped into nothing and was gone.
“Well, damn.” Clint was impressed.
“Yeah, I can’t wait to do that,” Bucky admitted. “It’s weird though. He’s taken me with him a few times. It always feels like my stomach is temporarily inside out. He said it would be different when I can do it for myself.”
“I think the Big Guy can do that,” Bruce admitted with a frown.
Which was a terrifying idea but also awesome.
“Alright, let’s get everything put away and go meet Prince PickyPants down below.”
Bucky couldn’t believe it.
He stood there, staring down at the sleeping form of his best friend and he still couldn’t believe it. They’d saved Stevie. The Very Different Future he’d noodled on once or twice since arriving in the past was finally here. He was looking at it and he still couldn’t believe it.
“How do we wake him up?” Clint asked with a shiver.
Bucky and Loki turned to focus on Clint together.
“Ah. My spell is wearing off.” Loki stood. “You will need to warm yourself up gradually as the magic fades. There are bathing facilities attached to this room, I suggest you shower. I will set the water to room temperature, once you are comfortable wait no less than three minutes and turn the water up until it begins to feel warm. Not uncomfortable, warm. You will need to be careful not to burn yourself while adjusting back to your own temperature regulation.”
“I’ll just go up to our suite.”
“No, you need to remain at hand in the event of magical complications. Any loss of sensation in your extremities or pain in your chest must be reported to me immediately.”
Loki wordlessly lead him into the group showers next door.
“At least we don’t have to worry about having enough room if we need to get Steve in there too,” Clint offered as he too left.
And it was true, the group shower facility was massive.
Bruce’s lips twisted in a bare display of amusement. “He has a good point though. How do we wake him up? Even animals that hibernate on Earth aren’t…this.”
Bucky nodded. As far as he knew bears went into hibernation, but they didn’t actually sleep all winter long. Stevie might as well be a dead log. Cold, vaguely gray, and half as flexible as a boulder.
Just like he used to sleep back before he got Big.
“I have an idea,” Bucky admitted. One just like old times. “But make sure he’s healthy like before I do it.”
“It might be a good idea to wait for Loki too,” Bruce said by way of agreement.
He waited as Bruce looked over Steve and then Loki came back and they agreed it was time to wake him up.
“I am unaware of magical means to wake him,” Loki admitted. “I had assumed removing his ice shelter was all that was needed.”
“So, as far as you know, he’s just asleep?” He double checked.
Loki nodded. “As far as I know.”
Bucky grinned and nudged Steve’s cot with a foot. “Wake up, ya punk, you’re late for work! Old Man Monahan ain’t gonna let it go this time!”
“Wha—” Steve flailed up and out of the bed like he had way back before the War. Literally, he flailed out of the bed and would have landed on his face on the floor if he hadn’t managed to catch himself on his new, big, beefy arms.
Steve planted his butt and stared at said new, big, beefy arms. He flipped his hands back and forth and stared for good measure.
“Bucky, what?” And then his brain caught up with his eyes and he looked up at Bucky. His eyes were wide with horror and hope and fear. “Bucky?”
“Yeah, Stevie, its me.” He held out his metal hand to help Steve off the ground.
Steve stared at his hand like he didn’t know what to make of it but, eventually, he took it and Bucky pulled him to his feet. “But…you fell. You fell and I…just watched.”
“It’s been a couple years, I walked it off.” He looked pointedly down at the hand Steve was still holding. “Well, most of me.”
Steve choked on something that sounded suspiciously like a sob and pulled Bucky into a tight hug. Bucky thumped him in the back a few times. Stevie pulled back to look at him, shook his head, and pulled him close again.
Then Stevie started crying against his neck and Bucky…could not. Crying? he could handle. Tears and slobber and snot on his neck? Not so much.
“Look,” he pulled away again. “Loki here is going to get you up to speed on what’s going on and why you survived. Bruce is going to check you over physically, make sure everything is in working order. My fella is having a medical problem right now, I’m going to go check on him and give you some privacy. You can join me when they’re done with you, okay? Be patient, let them help you. Bruce is a doctor, alright?”
“Yeah, Bucky. I— I might need a minute. To—” Stevie shook his head.
“That’s fine,” Buck agreed. He got that.
“You’re going to go check on Clint?” Bruce asked.
Bruce gave him the stink eye. “With your eyes?”
Bucky just shot him a grin. They both knew the answer to that question, and it was a resounding no.
“Birdie?” he called out as he entered the big bathroom.
Clint was to one side of the big communal shower with hot water turning his skin pink. He turned and face Bucky, his back going straight. A much different reaction than he’d have gotten just days ago. “Sir?”
“Get out of there,” he tutted, “you’re going to melt your skin off.”
Clint turned the water off without turning away from him.
“Dry off and get over here. I wanna talk for a minute.” Now Clint hesitated but Bucky just took a seat and waited as he dried off and came to kneel between his thighs. He sank his hand into Clint’s hair, a reassuring gesture they both enjoyed and asked. “What’s going on with you? You’ve been…different.”
Clint opened his mouth like he was going to say something but then closed it without a word.
Bucky tilted his head to the side. “Do you not like what we’ve been doing? We don’t have to be dom and sub. We can go back to what we were doing before. I mean, I like…us. This, but if it’s upsetting to you—”
“No! Sir, no.” Clint looked away from him. “That’s not it.”
“Then what is it?”
“It’s…” Clint blew out a breath. “It’s Steve.”
“Did you wanna sleep with him?” Bucky asked. “I can make that happen.”
Clint shot him a look so full of exasperation and scorn Bucky…wasn’t sure how he’d react to it in other circumstances, to be honest. Probably with a spanking for the silent lip it represented.
“Alright, not that. What about him then?”
“I— I know you’d prefer him and I’m just…waiting for the inevitable.”
Bucky closed his eyes and shook his head. He didn’t even know where to start with that. “The inevitable?”
“The two of you have history. The whole world knows your history—except the sleeping together part—and I can’t…compete with that.” Clint looked like he was on the edge of tears and Bucky hated it.
“Let me make something clear to you.” He waited until Clint was looking at him again. “You have no competition.
“Yes, Steve was my best friend and he is my brother but we were only lovers during the war because it was too dangerous to be gay with strangers. That danger was too much of a distraction to deal with on top of the war. That was it. Safety and convenience. That was all it was. And I’m not going back to it.”
“…promise?” Clint asked in a small voice.
“I promise.” He curled down to hug Clint and relaxed when Clint’s arms went around him in return. “Now, let’s get you into bed. We’ve had a long day and need the rest.”
The next couple days were spent getting Steve acclimated to the future in tiny steps.
Clint had learned early on in that other future that telling Steve he didn’t know something, then proceeding to sit down and teach him about the thing went over like a lead balloon. He took it as condescending—which it kind of was—and locked right up. Instead, he’d just hand something over to Steve he thought he would find interesting—a book, a tablet, some art supplies—and walk away. If Steve had questions, he’d eventually seek one of them out and ask.
Steve was stubborn and could be prideful, but he wasn’t inherently stupid.
Bruce seemed to be Steve’s choice for asking scientific questions about the future or difficult questions about the past.
Loki was useless for that bit of things so he fucked off to Asgard for reasons Clint still wasn’t clear on.
Otherwise, Steve spent most of his time with either Bucky—who didn’t quite know how to reconcile this open-minded, almost easygoing Steve with the bitter, frustrated Steve they had left behind. Or Clint, whom he seemed to see as an extension of Bucky. It was weird but Clint wasn’t mad. Steve was respectful of his relationship with Bucky and generally just happy even if he clearly didn’t understand everything that was going on around him. It was like being followed by a giant golden retriever puppy. One that it just happened could use doors.
Steve read stupidly fast so, so far, he’d read several books on the end of WW2, the US Civil Rights movement, and LGBT history while sitting within arm’s reach of Clint and/or Bucky.
Just the mention of Martin Luther King, Jr. made Steve sigh wistfully about missing it all.
It struck Clint as funny every time, but it wasn’t actually a surprise at all. A brief look at the composition of the Howling Commandos made it clear exactly who Steve Rogers would have been marching with, going to jail with, and chaining himself to if necessary, back then and likely in the future once he got his feet under him. Race, nationality, sexuality, and gender prejudices were not things Steve Rogers had any time for.
His clarity of conviction was what Clint had loved about the guy as a kid and it was something that he hadn’t realized he’d resented not seeing in the Steve Rogers he had known.
“So, fellas can marry fellas?” Steve asked. Again. No wonder Bruce sent him away. “And dames can marry dames?”
“In some states,” Clint agreed. Again. “And in more of them every year. The federal government hasn’t really done anything to support it yet but they will.”
“It’s the right thing to do,” Steve agreed. Then he shook his head in wonder. “What a time to be alive.”
Clint grinned. “You know you could help, right? I mean, once we get you up to speed and announce you’re alive, the government has been using your image for their ends for years so you’re like a pillar of American culture. You could take advantage of that.”
“Huh,” Steve sat back with his thinking frown on his face.
Clint knew better than to push while Steve was Thinking so he stood. “I promised Tony we’d check in after about a week before we left. I’m gonna go do that.”
“I’ll come with you.” Steve stood and spun the door open.
“I was wondering when you were going to show up,” Bucky sassed as soon as Clint and Steve entered the control tower.
“Why didn’t you just ask Cappie?” Clint asked. “He’s the one that scheduled the time slot for the call.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Bucky grinned.
Clint rolled his eyes and turned to the man in question. “Cappie?”
But Cappie—that was, Captain Duncan was staring at Steve.
Luckily, Steve was staring right back. “Dum Dum?” Steve asked in surprise.
Clint blinked and looked at Cappie. He wasn’t Timothy “Dum Dum” Dugan, there was no way. He was pretty sure Dum Dum was either dead or dying at their current point in time but, yeah, the ship’s captain did look like a slightly older Dum Dum Dugan. Holy shit.
Captain Duncan laughed and held out a hand for Steve to shake. “Name’s Duncan Dugan, sir. Everyone calls me Cappie.” Steve took the hand and shook it without hesitation. “Dum Dum was my father. If I may say so, sir, he would be thrilled to know you’re alright.”
“How did you come to be here?”
“Howard Stark started looking for you after the War. Hired all the Commandos that would let him to do it and his son kept the search going after his father died. Dad worked his way up to Captain of the ship. When I was old enough, I did the same. My son’s currently working the radio on nightshift. Dad always swore we’d find you alive. Good to know he was always right.”
Steve didn’t seem to know what to say to that so Clint stepped in. “Captain? The call?”
“Of course, this way. We can get you a bit of privacy.” Captain Dugan lead them to a small room in the back of the control tower. “Do you know how to work a satellite phone?”
“Yeah, I got this.” Clint waited until the man was gone and the door was closed to dial JARVIS’s direct contact number.
The number rang and rang and rang until it went to a generic, “Please leave a message for four two four—” voicemail message. Clint hung up and called again. This time the AI answered before the line even rang. “Agent Barton.”
“Hey, J, how’s it hanging?”
“It is not,” JARVIS hesitated, “hanging well.”
Clint exchanged a look with Bucky. “Ross not fuck off yet?”
“My…active copy was destroyed two days ago. Your first call activated my secure backup and I am accessing the independent security logs you insisted we install now.
“It appears that Sir has been kidnapped from within his own home. Most of the house security team has been confirmed dead. Mr. Hogan is hospitalized with two broken legs. Dr. Ross with a concussion, broken hand, and strained wrist. The FBI is running the investigation into Sir’s abduction and I have just apprised SHIELD of the current situation.”
“What about Stane and Ross?” Bucky asked.
“Obadiah Stane has not been allowed on the premises, nor has he reached out to Sir directly according to any record I can access. Sir has left the property once since your party went north. Sir, Dr. Ross, and several of the security team used a Quinjet to attend a meeting with General Ross and a federal judge. I do not have the contents of that meeting, but General Ross and his Bio Tech Force Enhancement project are currently facing a review by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command.”
“Jesus, I should have made you back up your data every day,” Clint scrubbed a hand over his face.
“I… apologize for disagreeing with your assessment that I required a daily backup, Agent Barton.” JARVIS said reluctantly. “I admit I thought a weekly data backup was overly cautious. However, if you have any other security suggestions, I will take them under careful advisement and see that they are implemented to the fullest extent.”
“I’ll get back to you on that, J,” Clint promised. “For now, we gotta get Tony back. Does he have anything with him you can track him with?”
“One moment,” there was a pause. “I have checked all of his usual devices and preferred equipment. What I can activate remains within the house. There are several items I cannot activate; I can only conclude they were in the parts of the house that were damaged when Sir was taken.”
“Alright, get Stane in the house and keep him there. I don’t care if you have to use the FBI to do it. He’s our most likely suspect and the person most likely to have any leads. And sort yourself a device that will let you come with us. Tony will want to know you’re alright. We’ll be there in three hours.’
“Of course, Agent Barton.”
“Keep looking for Tony. If you find anything, radio Bucky’s Quinjet immediately and we’ll go get him for you.” They didn’t wait for JARVIS to say goodbye. Clint hung up and they rushed out the door.
Captain Dugan stopped them as they crossed the control tower. “What? What’s wrong?”
“Mr. Stark is missing,” Steve answered for all of them as Clint and Bucky ducked and wove around the captain. “We’re going to go get him back.”
“Tell us if you need anything, sirs!” Captain Dugan shouted at their backs.
Clint threw him a thumbs up but didn’t stop running.
Stark’s house was trashed. Bucky didn’t allow himself to stare as he took them in for a landing but, he could feel Clint’s horror in his stomach. The several beachside levels had collapsed in on each other. There were bloodstains and chalk outlines that showed were various members of the security teams had gone down around the exterior.
They had to enter though the front of the house, which was beyond weird. In all the time they’d stayed there, Tony Stark had never once used the front of his house and now it was all that was left.
The second he saw Obadiah Stane walking around—uninjured and faking upset—cursing up a storm at JARVIS and Potts, Bucky lost his shit.
“Where is he?” he demanded as he stopped, dead set in Stane’s ranting path. This man was supposed to be Tony’s friend, his godfather, but he was nothing but a steaming pile of shit.
“What?” the man demanded, playing at innocent outrage. “How would I know?”
Bucky shoved him up against the wall and growled in his face. “You know exactly where Tony is. And you’ll tell us or I will shove my hand through your face.” He held up his metal hand and flexed it so Stane could get a good look at it. “Then, before you die, I will hook your brain up to that computer. I will download everything you know and after you die, I will open it like a fucking Word Document.
“I will know every secret, every lie, and after we get Tony back, I will make sure the world knows them, too. Your legacy, Obadiah Stane, will be one of betrayal and injustice. Everyone will know what kind of parasite you are.
“What kind of parasite you always have been.”
Stane’s eyes flicked between him and the computer he’d pointed to. “You can’t do that.”
“You wanna try me?”
“I don’t know where he is.” Bucky growled and lifted Stane higher using only his lapels. “But I know where he’d going to be!”
Bucky set him down. “Speak.”
“Russia. They’re taking him on a cargo ship to Russia. They’re using my yacht to get him out to the bigger ship. I was supposed to report it stolen tomorrow.”
He looked to Clint who shrugged. “JARVIS?”
“I can confirm that Mr. Stane’s yacht left it’s berth at the Marina yesterday morning and has not yet returned.”
Fuck, they probably flew over Tony without even knowing. He glanced at Clint who nodded. “Track it,” he ordered.
“I need a bow,” was Clint’s verdict.
“If you would check the second closet in your bedroom, Agent Barton? The back stairs should hold your weight.”
“Thanks, J,” Clint ducked out of the room.
“I’ll take it from here, Agent Barnes,” Director Carter announced as she entered the room, flanked by Coulson and Romanov. As soon as he let the fucker down, Coulson immediately started handcuffing Stane. Carter focused on Steve. “It’s good to see you alive and well, Captain Rogers.”
Steve blushed. “You too, Peg.”
Director Carter nodded.
“Ms. Potts, if you go to the other room with Agent Romanov? She needs to take your official statement in regards to recent events.”
Potts nodded and let Natasha escort her out of the line of fire.
“Dr. Banner, if you would come with us, we’ll take you to visit Dr. Ross.”
“I— You can do that?”
“Of course. I understand you have been treated like a fugitive by certain…Powers That Be, shall we say? But you have never been convicted of any crime and are facing no charges of wrong doing. In fact, I believe you will find yourself in contact with the Department of Justice soon to discuss the U.S. Army’s infringement of your human rights and the compensation you are due.”
Bucky just stared dumbfounded at Peg and he knew Banner was doing the same.
Clint came back into the room then with a bow and quiver on his back. He handed Steve a bolt action rifle not that different from one he’d have used during the War and a box of ammo. Then he shoved Bucky’s favorite machine in his hands. Bucky snatched the extra clips from Clint’s thigh pocket as he pulled the bow off his shoulder.
Then Clint froze and took in the tableau. “What’s going on?”
“Director Carter offered to take me to see Betty in the hospital.” Bruce said and cleared his throat.
“Okay?” Bruce squinted at Clint. “That’s all you have to say?”
“She’s the love of your life, isn’t she?”
“Well…uh…” Bruce blew out a gusty breath.
“Go see her.”
“Don’t worry about me. I got the Super Smash Brothers, I’ll be fine. And Tony’s probably got himself half rescued by now anyway. Betty should have you two and right now she doesn’t. So, go.”
“Okay,” Bruce nodded, still somewhat reluctantly. “Okay, we’ll go.”
“Excellent,” Director Carter clapped her hands together. “We’ll drop you at the hospital on our way to detainment center for Mr. Stane.
“Steve?” she called his attention.
“Would you prefer to come with me or remain with Agents Barton and Barnes?”
Steve looked between them for a moment before stepping more firmly onto their side of the room. “I’ll go with Bucky and Clint. I owe Mr. Stark a rescue.”
“Is there anything we can get for you boys?” she asked Clint, specifically.
He pulled a phone out of his pocket. “We got JARVIS, we’ll be fine.”
“Very well.” Director Carter nodded and turned away from them.
Clint jerked his head and Steve and Bucky followed back out to the Quinjet. He took the pilot seat and set the phone he’d grabbed while upstairs on the console. “J, you with us?”
“I am reading you loud and clear, Agent Barton.”
“Awesome. Take us to the last location you have for Obadiah Stane’s yacht.”
“Of course, Agent Barton. I have cross referenced that location with the last two days of chartered courses for every ship scheduled to dock at a Russian port within the last two months and have four possible candidates.”
“Hit me with names.”
“The Fortune’s Prize, the Halberd, the Lemurian Star—”
“The Lemurian Star.” Bucky and Clint interrupted together.
They exchanged a look and Bucky laughed. Clint carried on. “Get us everything you have on the Lemurian Star.”
“Vladivostok is the home port of the Lemurian Star. It left its home port over a week ago on a scientific to study Orca in the southern hemisphere. They are not scheduled to return to their home port for several months.”
“They’re going to hold him at sea to try to reduce his chances for escape,” Bucky guessed.
“Please, the terrain—or lack thereof—would never stop Tony Stark.” Clint scoffed. “Though it’s probably in the best interests of humanity that we get him back before he figures out how to weaponize Killer Whales or something.”
He glanced back and saw Steve’s eyebrows were trying valiantly to cuddle his hairline.
“He could do it,” he swore. “Someone once said that you could drop Tony Stark naked in the middle of the desert and would fly out of the desert on a jet made out of sand and cactus needles. His brain is his superpower and he’s damn determined.”
“Alright,” Cap agreed reluctantly. “What’s the plan?”
Clint looked at Bucky, he wasn’t sure if Steve could handle the actual plan.
Bucky just shrugged. “Make sure it’s the right ship and kill them all.”
Cap looked between them like he had to be sure they weren’t fucking with them. “Okay,” he agreed slowly.
“The Lemurian Star is a Hydra ship,” Bucky told him plainly. Even though they’d both known it as a SHIELD ship in the other future, it’s presence here and now could not be a coincidence. “That means Hydra is holding and probably going to murder Howard Stark’s only son.”
Steve nodded more readily this time. “Make sure it’s the right ship. Kill them all.”
The Lemurian Star was a mother fucking ghost ship and it was freaking Clint the fuck out.
No one hailed them as they entered its airspace.
No one objected as they landed on the deck despite the complete lack of official landing zone.
No one came to greet them as they exited the Quinjet, guns at the ready.
“Is this normal?” Steve asked, voice just above a whisper.
Clint shook his head and pulled an arrow. Bucky snorted.
Clint stopped and tried to think like Tony to figure out where Tony would take a fight. It was weird but as far as Clint knew, Tony didn’t have any combat training. He certainly didn’t have Clint’s training which would put him at a vantage point, ideally shooting down at his enemies.
Though, as much faith as he now had in Tony, he couldn’t be certain he’d escaped on his own yet. He couldn’t remember anything hinky about the Star’s layout when it was supposedly a SHIELD ship other than the holding cells he thought he remembered existing on the ship. They were as low in the hold as they could go, he imagined to make it more difficult for prisoners to escape and cause trouble.
Clint lead them down.
As they entered the second cargo hold, Clint heard the report of gunfire. Steve rushed forward, shield up, and lead them between shipping containers. A sudden right turn and they caught sight of Tony spinning through the air, one rough-looking silver gauntlet, one rough-looking silver boot, and a gun. As they watched, he shot one attacker. A perfect third eye shot.
Another asshole jumped out behind Tony and Clint let his arrow fly.
A shot rang out and Asshole fell, red spreading on his chest and an arrow in the eye. Tony landed not far from them, looking surprised to see them there.
“We saved you!” Steve declared with a big puppy dog grin.
Uh oh, Clint looked up at Tony’s face. He’d never seen it so closed and furious before. Not even when they were all fighting each other in Germany that one time.
“Fuck. You.” Were Tony Stark’s first words to Steve Rogers in this life and Steve drew himself up to his full height like he was pissed.
Apparently, a good first impression just wasn’t in the cards for these two.
Tony turned on his non-booted heel and marched off. “And get the fuck off my ship.”
Steve turned back the way they came and marched off as well.
Clint looked between the two of them, not sure what to say. He turned to Bucky only to find him grinning. “Those two?” He asked. “You wanna set up those two?”
“Oh, yeah,” Bucky nodded.
“Stevie loves people with attitude. Why do you think he was hung up on Carter for so long? I mean, he’s completely gay. Give them time. Stark will cool down and Stevie will make it up to him. It’s going to be great.”
Clint shook his head. “You’re insane.”
“Barton!” Tony shouted from where he was waiting on a catwalk a level up.
Clint nodded to Bucky and took off to answer his summons.
He followed Tony up and over and around a few more things. When the ship’s control room was in sight, Tony asked, “Obie—Stane did this?”
Clint hesitated. He’d never seen Tony this angry and he wasn’t sure if the truth would help…but he didn’t know it wouldn’t and the truth was what Tony had asked for, so, Clint nodded. “He didn’t exactly confess to it all but he helped point us in the right direction to find you.”
“Out of the goodness of his heart?”
Clint snorted. “Out of fear of Bucky scrambling his brain all over your carpet, more like.”
“That was nice of him. Remind me to give your boyfriend something shiny when we get home.” Tony sounded so sincere Clint wasn’t sure that was shock or if this Tony was just harder than the one they had left behind.
“Oh,” he remembered as he closed the hatch behind him. “There’s someone that wants to talk to you.” He pulled out the phone JARVIS had made for the trip and handed it over.
Tony shot him a confused look at the blank screen but held the phone up to talk to it anyway. “Hello?”
Tony drew in a ragged breath. “JARVIS?”
Clint immediately took Tony by the shoulders and directed him into the Captain’s chair. The sound of that one word…well, Clint could relate to it. If one of his dusted kids suddenly walked through the door and called him by name, he imagined he would sound the same.
He turned to the consoles in front of him. He needed to get this boat moving…somehow.
He slid his earpiece into his ear and tapped it. “Bucky, you there?”
“Flying escort above your position,” Bucky assured him. “What’s up, babe?”
Clint weighed his options. He could fly several aircraft—including some that hadn’t even been seen on Earth yet—but he’d never been on a boat before and he’d certainly never had to drive one. Not in either of his lifetimes. “You think you can kidnap Captain Dugan and maybe some of his crew for me?”
Bucky laughed. “He did say we should let him know if we need anything.”
“I think I can get this thing turned around.” It looked like all he had to do was set a new heading and the ship’s computer would handle it. It wouldn’t be quick, but it should work. He hoped. “But docking procedures and finding a berth are not things I know how to do.”
“Gotcha. I’ll go steal some Stark Mariners,” Bucky agreed. “You stay on guard. We can’t be sure everyone else on that ship is dead. Especially not the Hydra goons.”
“I got this. Doors are secure and I’m on watch.” One second thought, he started flicking switches, lighting up all the approaches so no one could sneak up on them. There was some sensor equipment on board that he’d never seen before—not that that was a surprise considering his experience with ships in general but, he got the feeling these were a special brand of Hydra fuckery regardless.
“Four hours,” Bucky said, and Clint looked up in time to see the Quinjet rocket north.
Clint shook his head and pulled out his earpiece but didn’t object. As long as Bucky stayed over water there shouldn’t be too much property damage.
Not that there was anyone that could catch a Quinjet and assign the damages to the right place anyway.
There was a beat up little beatbox kicked under a console that Clint pulled out. It had power so he went ahead and hit play. It wasn’t exactly a great idea to listen to music while on watch, but he wanted to give Tony the illusion of privacy after everything he’d been through the last couple days.
He was rewarded with “Come as You Are” by Nirvana.
They’d made it back around to “Smells like Teen Spirit” before Tony joined him at his perch overlooking the various approaches.
Clint hesitated. As far as he knew, this was the first time Tony had killed anyone and he knew the first time he’d killed the last thing he’d wanted to be asked was how are you. But he didn’t want to ignore what Tony had gone through either.
Tony nodded to him. “Clint.” And he was silent.
“That’s me,” he confirmed.
“What was…my name?”
Clint turned to focus on him. “Tony?”
“I was an Avenger, right?” Clint nodded. “What was my name?”
“Iron Man. You were Iron Man.”
Tony nodded and stared out over the sea, solemn and worn, standing shoulder to shoulder with Clint. It felt like…a little bit of destiny. Like, this time he was on the right side of the mountain.
“I am Iron Man.”