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Fic: Moments of Note
Walkure
adams_ransom
Title: Moments of Note
Author: tawg
Word count: ~6,000
Rating: PG
Pairings/characters: Clint Barton/Phil Coulson (mentions of Pepper/Tony and Jane/Thor).
Notes: Written for the prompt "Clint has horrible handwriting, and only Coulson can really properly read it," at the Clint/Coulson feels meme.
Summary: Clint leaves notes out for the Avengers, but due to his terrible handwriting they usually end up causing more trouble than they prevent. (Or: Six conversations about Clint's handwriting.)


Note one:

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“It’s MKE,” Tony said. “Squiggle, something-something, ‘MKE, whale cunt’.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s not what it says,” Natasha replied.

“What else could it be? Captain, any clues at the scene?”

Steve frowned at the note. “I found it taped to my jacket.”

“Well,” Natasha said, leaning closer and squinting, “we can probably assume that the squiggle up the top reads ‘Steve’.”

“It does not,’ Tony retorted. “Look, there’s clearly a ‘p’ in there.” He paused, tilting his head to one side. “Or maybe it’s a really ambitious ‘b’.”

“I don’t think you have the last part right,” Steve said as Tony turned the sheet of note paper at right angles.

“The only other thing I can suggest for that one is ‘uhale’-something,” Natasha said.

“Does it fit?” Steve asked. “What does ‘uhale’ mean?”

“It’s Nepalese for ‘lady’.”

The three stared at the note and tried to place the new word in context, Tony making a long humming noise as he did. “Nope,” he finally declared, “I still got nothing. Hey, Coulson, you’re the secret agent man-”

“That’s not even close to what I-” Coulson started, though he gave up when Tony grabbed him by the shoulder and hauled him over.

“We’re trying to figure out these hieroglyphics,” Natasha said, handing the note over.

Coulson barely glanced at it. “‘Steve, please get milk while out’,” he read. “Now I really need to-”

“How did you get that?” Tony asked, snatching the note from Natasha. “How did you get any of those words from this? It looks like Hindi or something.”

“That’s not what Hindi looks like,” Natasha said mildly, but Tony had already moved on.

“Who does this? Who writes like this? I have eaten noodles, thrown up, and come out with things that look more like words.”

“That would be Agent Barton,” Coulson said mildly, removing Tony’s hand from his shoulder. “Now I really should-”

“Clint? How does he write like this? Is he blind?”

Any further tirades were cut off by Bruce gently pulling the note away and folding it up into a smaller and smaller square, before finally crushing the paper in his thankfully-still-human-sized fist. “Who,” he said with deliberate, tightly-controlled calm, “drank the last of the milk?”

Right, Tony remembered with that kind of absent clarity that haunted him in his most ‘oh shit’ moments. Tony may have dipped into Bruce’s highly specific milk stash that morning for his coffee. Tony may have forgotten to replenish said milk stash.

Coulson had used the distraction to continue on his journey, leaving the three to cope with Bruce’s mild irritation at being deprived of his morning cereal. Apparently when you spend years of your life running from the government through countries characterised by a distinct lack of sterilisation and consistency in their dairy products, you became very attached to pasteurised and homogenised milk.

“You know,” Steve said, pulling his leather jacket on. “I was just heading out to grab some more.”

“I have science to be doing,” Tony chimed it, peeling away from the group. “Milk-perpetuation science. It’s revolutionary, I swear.”

That left Natasha and Bruce, standing nearly nose-to-nose. “I have some soy milk?” Natasha offered in a cool, unaffected tone that was only slightly out of character with the way she turned and hurried after Tony. She’d heard Bruce’s feelings on soy milk before, and wasn’t willing to risk a repeat performance.



Note two:

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“So, I’m pretty sure this word is ‘Pepper’,” Steve said, walking into Tony’s lab with another note in his hand, “but the rest of this is beyond me.”

“I’m sure a lot of things are beyond you,” Tony replied automatically.

“I think this word might be ‘buusk’, but I’m not convinced that’s actually a word.”

Tony lowered the fuel cell he was tinkering. “I am right now trying to convince molecules to release energy in new and interesting ways. One wrong move and this whole floor goes. Why are you wasting my time with more scribbles from our favourite elf?”

“Because this note was under your Iron Man coffee mug, so I’m assuming it’s for you.”

Tony snatched the note out of Steve’s hands and stared at it. When that failed to communicate anything to him, he tried looking at the back of the note for some kind of translation key. “You have got to be kidding me,” he finally said.

“I think that’s ‘her’,” Steve added helpfully, looking at the note over Tony’s shoulder.

“But what? What ‘her’? Is that ‘lum’?”

“It could be ‘will’.”

“‘Will her bwjk’,” Tony tried, the third word sounding an awful lot like the one time Steve had heard Jarvis’ vocal algorithms crash.

Steve squinted at the note, hoping that the softer focus would let the image of the words jump out at him. “‘Call’!” he exclaimed. “Pepper wants you to call her back.”

“Right! Yes! She’s overseas. She is definitely... in some country that isn’t here.”

Steve looked doubtfully at the scribbles under the small section they had translated. “So that means...”

“... that’s the number of her hotel.” The pair of them stared hopelessly at the string of ink on the page. “Well, that’s not a problem. She has a mobile phone,” Tony said. “Jarvis, patch a call through to Pepper’s mobile for me.”

“Yes, sir,” Jarvis relied, and Tony gave Steve a smug look as Pepper’s phone started ringing. And ringing.

“Wait,” Tony said, realisation dawning. “Jarvis, what is the location of Pepper’s phone?”

“It’s under your workbench, sir.”

“Which is why she called to give you her number,” Steve finished.

Tony glared at the note in his hand. “Barton?”

“He was deployed a few hours ago.”

“Any ETA on his homecoming?”

Steve shrugged. “Before the weekend. Can you just wait and talk to her when she gets back?”

Tony’s sour expression momentarily quirked into a smirk. “You really don’t have any experience with the relationship stuff, do you?”

Steve bristled, and stepped away from Tony. “Well, good luck deciphering the code,” he said stiffly.

“Wait, you can’t go! Not until we have this figured out. You were even able to find some words in here!”

“Well, I’m afraid that this is a relationship communication,” Steve said drily, “which I clearly don’t have the experience to deal with.” After a moment of enduring Tony’s unimpressed look, Steve added, “Why don’t you ask Agent Coulson again?” Tony balled up the note and threw it at him, which Steve took as a polite suggestion for him to leave Tony in peace.

After twenty minutes of failing to get any real work done on the fuel cell, Tony retrieved the note and smoothed it out. When he failed to find any numbers in the apparent phone number, he identified the shapes as letters and tried running them through the various alpha-to-numeric patterns that he knew to divine Pepper’s hotel room phone number. After an hour he sighed. “Jarvis?”

“Yes, sir?”

Tony held the note up in clear view of one of Jarvis’ cameras. “Could you take a photo to this and e-mail it to Agent Supernanny?”

“Done, sir.”

“And let me know when he opens the e-mail.”

“The e-mail has been opened now, sir.”

So the agent was at his desk, probably refreshing his e-mail perpetually and just dying for something to entertain him. Tony picked up a screwdriver and then put it down again. Picked up a piece of wire, put it down. Picked up the wire, then the screwdriver, then proceeded to coil the wire around the screwdriver. “What’s taking him so long?”

“He may be ignoring the e-mail, sir.”

“Ignoring me, huh? Jarvis, re-send that same e-mail to him every twenty seconds until we get a response.”

“Are you sure-?”

“And increase the file size of the attachment each time.”

There was a significant pause that Tony chose to ignore before Jarvis asked, “A linear increase, sir?”

“Nah, let’s go all out. Make it exponential.”

There was a longsuffering sigh in Jarvis’ voice when he confirmed the increase, and Tony was able to return to his work with a grin on his face, certain that he would be getting an irate phone call from his favourite SHIELD agent (to annoy) at any moment.

The fuel cell was more than finished and Tony had turned his attention to tinkering with the hot rod when the call came through, hours later, to his mobile from a private number. “Coulson,” Tony said with a wide smirk as he answered the phone.

“Close,” Pepper said, with a coy smile in her voice. “Actually, we just got off the phone – he had a message for you.”

“Interrupting you while you were working just to get you to pass on a message?” Tony placed a hand over his arc reactor in faux disappointment. “How very self-centred of him.”

“The message was, ‘Tony, Pepper wants you to call her back +61 7144 8397’.”

Tony rummaged around on his workbench for the note, frowning at it in puzzlement. “That’s not a seven on the end,” he finally said. “It’s a one.”

“Apparently that’s a seven.”

“But it’s completely different to the first seven!”

“He said that it was a seven.”

“Huh,” Tony finally said. “Seven. Right.”

“You could have just waited for me to get home, you know,” Pepper said, warm mirth in her voice, “instead of annoying Phil at work.”

“Don’t be silly,” Tony replied. “I’m never annoying.”



Note three:

“I’m aware that this may be news to you,” Fury said scathingly as four Avengers skidded to a halt in the doorway to the meeting room, “but I really do not like being kept waiting.”

“It’s not our fault, I swear,” Tony said.

“And with that I am convinced,” Fury said in a flat, dry voice.

“Honestly,” Steve chimed in, and no one could believe that the Captain could be anything but honest. “We didn’t get the message.”

“I left a note!” Clint protested.

“Oh, is that what this is?” Natasha asked, hurling a ball of paper across the room and bouncing it off Clint’s head.

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Clint snatched it out of the air on the rebound, smoothed it out on the table, and passed it over to Coulson who looked up from his tablet just long enough to read out, “‘TEAM, Fury wants debrief at 14 hundred’.” Clint re-scrunched the note, and threw it over his shoulder into the waste paper bin.

Fury fixed his eye on the Avengers. “So you all are two hours late to a debriefing because none of you can read?”

Tony opened his mouth to protest, and shut it with a snap as Steve firmly stepped on Tony’s foot. “That seems to be the case,” Bruce said calmly.

Fury rolled his eye. “Get in here and sit the fuck down,” he sighed.

“How is it you can’t read his handwriting?” Tony hissed at Natasha.

“We’re not twelve,” Natasha hissed back. “We don’t pass notes to one another in the back of class.”

“If you two don’t shut the hell up, I’m sending you both to detention,” Fury snapped. Tony slouched down in his seat, and Natasha grimly crossed her arms over her chest.

On the opposite side of the table Clint gave Coulson a baffled look, and Coulson could only shake his head mildly in response.



Note four:

Thor headed into the lab under strict instructions from Bruce. Tony was out of town enjoying a mix of business and pleasure with Miss Potts, and the remaining scientist in the building had been indulging in the luxury of having no distractions from his work. The other members of the team had started leaving rooms when Bruce entered them, disconcerted by his focus and the way he worked words around his tongue absently when trying to untangle their secrets. Thor found the dedication to knowledge comforting. It reminded him of Jane and the way she would argue with her data until it behaved. It reminded him of Loki. So when Bruce asked for help, Thor was happy to aid him.

There were workmen in the lower levels of the building repairing some crucial element, and the archer, the widow, and Son of Coul were supervising them, though Natasha had called up and instructed Steve to keep an eye out for her partners. Apparently they had disappeared from her sight, though Thor was certain that they were merely performing their surveillance in a more subtle way. Neither man seemed likely to be shirking their duty in favour of more frivolous pleasures.

As he strode into the lab, Thor idly wondered what they would reveal themselves to have been doing when the team regrouped. The last time they had been absent from a team bonding session, they had been testing the perimeter security of Stark tower. The time before that, they had been caught up at SHIELD headquarters, clearing the piles of paperwork that the Avengers seemed to generate. While Thor appreciated the importance of accountability, he did not like paperwork. He had gone so far as to suggest that Asgard make use of the #77-J24: justification of deviation from commands form, which was forty three pages in length and was known to make hardened soldier weep, as a mode of punishment. There were discussions in his realm at that very moment as to whether the punishment would be too cruel.

Thor shook the thoughts of homeland politics from his mind. He had a simple set of instructions: stand by the red switch at the south-western power point, and turn it on when Bruce gave him the signal. He had given his word that he would not deviate from these instructions unless there was quite literally a life-or-death event that needed his attention.

He saw the note that had been pinned to the bench with a small, black dart. He let his eyes travel over the strange and unusual symbols. He reached the last line of the note, and then politely requested that the spirit Jarvis start the emergency evacuation alarm.

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Thor still struggled to comprehend many things about Midgard, but his first trip to the realm had taught him the importance of retreating from danger until it was fully understood. He would not take risks with his friends’ lives, not matter how irritated or green Bruce became.


(“I told you!” Clint insisted later, after they had finished accounting for each Stark and SHIELD person within the tower. The archer was frustrated, and favouring his right side as he had lost his left boot in the process of evacuation. “I left you a note – ‘do not turn on the red thingy at the power point, there’s a gas leak’.”

“There was a note,” Thor confirmed. “It did a good job of communicating the danger of flipping the red thingy.”

“It’s a switch,” Bruce said, his glasses gripped in one hand and the other pinching the bridge of his nose. “Not a thingy. Just a switch. And you could have just told me to hold off the test until the workmen were done.”

“I was supervising the maintenance in order to ensued the building wasn’t compromised,” Clint replied bluntly.

“Of course,” Natasha replied. “Which is why I couldn’t find you or Coulson anywhere near the maintenance at all?”

Clint’s face was blank. “I see better from a distance.”

“I went out for lunch,” Coulson replied. No one commented on his missing tie. Evacuations often left people looking dishevelled. It was definitely not worth commenting on.)



Note five:

Pepper and Phil had reached an understanding. Pepper didn’t ask him anything about SHIELD or what exactly Tony did as a consultant and/or Avenger (the status depended on how annoyed he’d made Director Fury that week), and Phil didn’t tell her anything. However, sometimes they happened to meet up for coffee, and have vague conversations in which Phil would answer her questions about purely hypothetical events, and Pepper would help Phil to fill out the reports and summaries relating to those entirely theoretical occurrences.

“Do you have to do this every time they knock down a building?” Pepper asked, pausing to put her pen down and flex her fingers.

“Amazingly, this is still less paperwork than when SHIELD reimburses the city for the lost asset.”

“Wow,” Pepper said, looking over the thick folders filled with forms, and duplicates of forms, that were spread out over the glass-topped table in the meeting room of Stark tower. Pepper wasn’t allowed onto any SHIELD sites, and Phil preferred the coffee facilities at Stark Industries. Also, he always brought some kind of cookie or muffin to go with their coffee. Also, Pepper liked hanging out with someone who didn’t spend a good portion of their day running around in a skin-tight body suit or robot armour. It made her feel slightly more like Virginia Potts and slightly less like Iron Man’s girlfriend, confidant, and future-widow.

“And that is still less paperwork than when an agent destroys or loses a standard issue land transport unit during a mission.”

“Right,” Pepper said, picking her pen up again. “And the standard-issue land-”

“The black cars,” Phil supplied. “We went through a lot of them, for a while.”

Pepper smiled. “Tony would just buy a car factory and order them to make him cars exclusively.”

“That avenue has already been explored,” Phil replied.

“And?”

He smiled that small, barely there smile that Pepper knew was agent-speak for ‘greatly amused’. “I’m unable to discuss SHIELD assets with you,” he replied. “But several recent company bailouts may have been related to agency transport requirements.” He reached for another folder, pulled the top form out, and passed the rest to Pepper. “For several months we were sending agents into the field with rental cars. Then we were black marked by the car insurance companies. Thank you again for your assistance,” he added.

“No, it’s fine. Given Tony’s fluctuating status with SHIELD, I figure it’s only so long before I’ll have to fill some of these out on his behalf.” And while Pepper enjoyed the autonomy that came with essentially running the business side of the Stark Industries and the power of being one of the most influential women in the world (according to the October issue of Time magazine), there was an element of relief that came from spending time with Phil, from sitting down with someone who made decisions and broke the complicated world of superheroics down into digestible pieces, made it relatable with stories of blown budgets leading to cutbacks on the electricity bill in the form of the power going out every Sunday for a month, and agents moving around the facility with candles in jam jars because Fury had vetoed the money being redirected from the staff amenities fund.

“I apologise for that,” Phil replied. “There have been some paperwork issues involved in finalising Mister Stark’s SHIELD handler.”

“What kind of issues?” Pepper asked, taking the completed form from Phil and laying it down neatly on the table, flexing her fingers one last time before copying the information carefully onto the duplicate.

“According to the paperwork, the person assigned to be his handler has been on workplace leave for the past five months, and as such has been unable to process the documents required to sufficiently place Mister Stark in the organisation one way or another. Of course, this same agent has also been unable to perform the duties of communicating to Mister Stark the weight and responsibility of signing with SHIELD as an operative in the long-term.”

Pepper raised her eyebrows. “I’m guessing there is some detail or other that the paperwork is neglecting to mention why you can’t just pull this person back from holidays?”

Phil glanced over at Pepper with a warm look, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “This person has not actually, as of yet, been recruited to SHIELD.”

Pepper laughed. She couldn’t help it. “So all of the forms and debriefs and reprimands and complaints?”

“Currently packed into boxes in a broom cupboard,” Phil replied. “Though most of it has already been filled it, it just needs the authorising signature of the handler.”

Pepper shook her head in amusement, and finished filling in the first duplicate. “So does that mean that you have your eye on someone?”

“We do,” Phil confirmed.

“Well good luck with that,” Pepper replied. “I doubt there’s a person in the world who can keep Tony under control.”

Phil smiled that composed, slightly artificial government agent smile once again. “I’ve only found one,” he admitted, getting up from the table. “More coffee, Miss Potts?”

Pepper paused, replaying that exchange over in her mind. “Sure,” she replied slowly. “Can you make me another latte?”

With Phil out of the room, she set about reorganising the folders on the table. Organisation helped her to think, and Phil was magnanimous when it came to systems that conflicted with his own – it was Pepper’s turf, so shifting the folders into numerical order by the form requiring completion was her prerogative. (Phil had told her once, teasingly, that if she ever got SHIELD clearance he would show her a priority-based system that actually worked. Pepper remained skeptical, but every now and then she did ponder the notion.) As Pepper moved folders and spread them out neatly, a loose sheet of paper caught her attention. She stared at the handwritten note blankly.

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Tony’s notes, at his most absent, had tended to trail off into tangential discussions of the latest thing that annoyed him and have new projects sketched out on the back. Since becoming Iron Man he had given up on writing things down or e-mailing her, and simply called her. Agent Romanov, in her brief role as an amazingly competent personal assistant, had possessed impeccable handwriting. Pepper had never managed to find an assistant that matched her, and it occurred to her that she should consider negotiating another agent away from SHIELD sometime.

“Ah, that would be from Agent Barton,” Phil said, making Pepper jump slightly. Despite the polished wood floorboards and the neat click of his shoes on the surface, Phil regularly snuck up on her. He exchanged a latte for the note. Phil had the cute habit of always making a picture in the foam when he made a latte, this time it was a neat spiral like the pendant that hung around Pepper’s neck. The attention to detail that SHIELD agents possessed was both endearing and disquieting sometimes. Most times.

“How can you even tell?” Pepper asked, breaking off a small piece of her white chocolate muffin.

“He signed it,” Phil replied, allowing Pepper to glance at the note again.

Pepper plucked the note from Phil’s loose grip and looked at the signature at the bottom. “I thought that was a love heart, and maybe ‘Babs’.” She cast her gaze over the rest of the note, managing to pick out the occasional word. “His handwriting really is as bad as everyone says.”

Phil shrugged, turning his attention to a new folder. “I honestly don’t notice,” he replied.

“Why doesn’t he just text or call?” Pepper asked, wrapping her free hand around her latte and enjoying the smell. Maybe she should just hire a barista and then train them to take notes in meetings, rather than hiring an assistant and trying to train them to make decent coffee.

“Agent Barton does not carry his phone about his person at all times,” Phil replied, starting on another form. “He seems to think that being unreachable will prevent SHIELD from calling him in when he’s off duty.”

“How’s that plan going for him?”

“Not well,” Phil answered. “But I have to admire his persistence.”

Pepper smiled, and reached over to nudge Phil with her elbow. “Speaking of admiration,” she said, letting her voice take on a teasing edge, “I haven’t heard any Coulson-related gossip about you since the cellist left the scene.

“I can only presume that means there is none of me circulating,” Phil replied in his bland and easy professional voice.

Pepper snorted. “I find that hard to believe, between your generosity with baked goods and the fine figure you cut in your field uniform.” Phil remained silent, though the smile at the corners of his eyes let Pepper know that he was amused . “Does SHIELD have some strict fraternisation rules or something?” she asked. “I would have expected you to get pounced on by a pack of junior agents.”

“Thank you for equating me to a wounded gazelle on the African plains,” Phil replied drily.

“If it helps, you’d be a wounded gazelle that all of the lionesses wanted to take to the prom.”

Phil actually snorted a laugh at that, a response that made Pepper proud. “SHIELD is lacking in proms,” he said. “Or discos, or dances, or barn-raising events.”

“Because of fraternisation rules?” Pepper asked, trying to steer them back to the topic.

“Because at the last SHIELD social event, the DJ got tased for playing one too many inane pop songs and since then no one will volunteer they services to manage the music. And to be honest, when SHIELD staff members partner up there is already likely to be too much SHIELD in the relationship. No one wants to spend their date nights with their work colleagues.”

“So dating within SHIELD is allowed? It’s never considered a conflict of interest?”

“You mean like being in a relationship with your employer who also keeps dropping hints that you should resume your position of CEO of his company?” Phil asked, glancing over at her. Pepper responded with a dirty look that wasn’t at all serious, and Phil smiled at her. “Life is full of conflicts of interest, and always will be,” he said, turning back to the form under his hands. “SHIELD doesn’t have the staffing that would be required to monitor all interpersonal liaisons and assess them for potential divergences from SHIELD goals.”

“Oh. Well, that’s good.”

“However, there have been instances in which an agent or operative will be reassigned due to a potential security threat that could stem from an unprofessional relationship.”

“I guess that makes sense.”

“Sometimes they’re reassigned to Siberia.”

“... I see.”

“But for the most part, if a relationship doesn’t cause problems then it’s not a problem in and of itself.”

Pepper nodded, turning that information over in her mind. SHIELD really was just like any other organisation, underneath the catsuits and the guns made from alien, fire-breathing robot technology. She was glad. She and Phil shared a lot of similarities in their positions – that odd mix of babysitter and damage control. Pepper liked knowing that working for SHIELD wasn’t as isolated as she had initially thought. Tony doubted that the cellist girlfriend had ever existed, but Pepper recognised the kind of happiness she had observed in Phil during those brief conversations.

“I still think it looks like a love heart,” Pepper finally said, passing the note back to Phil.

“You should mention that to Barton,” Phil replied in that easy, measured pace of his. “I’d love to see his expression.”

Pepper laughed. “Perhaps not.” Pepper was quietly confident that she knew exactly what Clint’s expression would be – a poker face that would probably be bland enough to rival Agent Coulson’s own. Phil only showed people what he wanted them to see, but that didn’t mean that the other details were necessarily hidden.


(As he left Stark Tower in the early evening, Phil pulled his mobile phone out of his pocket and hit number three on the speed dial. “Agent Barton,” he said with his usual cool and calm demeanour when Clint picked up. “I got your note, but I’m afraid there may be some confusion as to the nature of your request. Would you be able to repeat the message to me?”

“Sure,” Clint said. There was the sound of a door closing, and then Clint’s voice was in Phil’s ear, a low rumbling purr that was the polar opposite of Agent Coulson’s professional tone. “I believe it went along the lines of, ‘C-Bear, seeing all of that paperwork on your desk just makes me want to fuck you into it. Free at seven? Love, Barton’.”

“Thank you, Barton,” Phil said as he slid behind the wheel of the standard issue land transport unit. “I’ll be taking your request under advisement.”

“So I’ll see you at seven?”

“At seven,” Phil confirmed. “Though you should be warned, most of the paperwork is gone.”

“Really?” Clint asked, and Phil could hear the sounds of a lazy stretch carry through the receiver. “Well if there’s no paperwork to scatter around dramatically then we may as well call the whole thing off.”

“The love heart was a nice touch,” Phil countered, allowing himself a small smile in the privacy of the car.

“Love heart? That was a picture of my ass,” Clint replied, and Phil’s small laugh was a bright, sweet sound. “I know, I’m a pretty awesome drawer.”

“I’ll have to add that detail to your file,” Phil said before hanging up.)



Note six:
The first time the Avengers had to go through an enemy infiltration drill at Stark Tower, they did pretty well. They got the dummy agents knocked out quickly and Jarvis never even got taken entirely offline, which Tony knew was a SHIELD priority for the test. His internal sensors were a little screwy, but so long as no one needed the AI to find anything inside the tower, or talk to Jarvis, or use their phones inside the building, there was no problem.

Bruce hadn’t even needed to call on the big guy. He’d done just fine with a small taser and his skills in running from triggering danger. Leading anyone who chased him to Thor and the Black Widow was a new skill and not one that was entirely perfected, but Bruce liked to think that he was a fast learner. The important thing was that he’d made it through the experience without throwing a car through a building, or throwing a building at anything else. This was good.

Steve, of course, pointed out during their victory dinner of ‘everything in the kitchen, plus pizza’ that it was in no way an accurate test, since if they were ever to be infiltrated by an enemy group it would be unlikely that Tony would find out a day in advance by hacking into the SHIELD database in one of his many moments of boredom. Tony countered that the Avengers should use all intelligence at their disposal to protect themselves and the rest of the world, and hacking into various servers was just another way of gathering intel.

And then Thor asked where Clint was, and their celebratory dinner was put on hold while they tried to track down the absentee.

“If one of us were to be captured during this training exercise,” Bruce asked Natasha slowly, “what would be done with us?”

“They would be incapacitated and removed from the conflict,” Natasha replied, still sitting at the table, picking food off the abandoned plates around her. “Probably shoved into a closet or similar small space. Makes it harder to get out of any bonds if you can’t move your arms.”

Steve sighed. “How many rooms does this tower have again?”

“Hey Jarvis,” Tony called, “how are you going with getting those sensors back online?” There was no response. “Not good, apparently,” Tony answered his own question. “Alright then, everyone split up. We’ll work from the top of the building down. Come on, Ginger, you too.”

Natasha gave Tony a dark look, but rose from her seat at the table. She took a bread plate piled high with potato salad and sliced meats on her search, though the only comment that earned was Thor reflecting that the Lady Widow was no doubt prepared for a long quest and finding a weakened warrior at the end of it. Bruce suspected that she knew Barton well enough that she would curl up in a corner and wait for him to sort whatever kind of problem he may be in out by himself. The trio of SHIELD agents had a lot more confidence in each other’s abilities than the rest of the team did. If Agent Coulson were present, he would no doubt instinctively know where Clint had been stashed away.

Bruce looked around for his shoes, quietly gave up, and then padded up to one of the R&D floors. There was some broken glass on the floor of the lab, and a spilled glass of juice that Bruce had to tiptoe around. The tablets for tapping data into were scattered across the floor, dangerously close to the glass and the juice. Bruce decided that the time taken to collect them up and store them safely away could be justified. For all they knew Clint was asleep in the ceiling again. Bruce wasn’t especially concerned – Clint was like a cat, he turned up when he was hungry.

And then Bruce found a slip of paper on the floor. It was possibly the only piece of paper in the lab, since Tony was so dedicated to his dream of paperless workplaces.

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Bruce frowned at the note, looking around for a possible source. Had a dummy agent been downed and left in the tower? He tapped at the ceiling panels with a ruler but got no response. He checked the surrounding rooms only to find them empty. Finally his gaze fell on the storage cupboard under the work bench. It could certainly hold a fully grown man, but it had been stuffed full of clean glassware earlier in the month after Tony and Bruce had realised that neither of them actually used a great deal of reagents in their respective research. Bruce cast a glance around the lab again. Right. Broken glass. He eased his way over to the cupboard, leaned down and rapped his knuckles against it. There was a dull thumping from inside. Bruce opened the cupboard and, sure enough, with his arms bound behind his back and his mouth gagged, was Clint.

They stared at one another for a long moment, before Clint gave Bruce a very pointed raised eyebrow. “I’m just trying to figure out how you wrote the note,” Bruce replied, giving Clint a contemplative look.

Clint bent his head down until his chin was pressed to his chest, grasped a pen that was clipped to the front of his body suit with his bottom lip and, with some wrangling, slotted it between the bottom of the gag and his lower teeth. He looked up at Bruce and, in the silence of the lab, clicked the nib of the pen out with a motion of his tongue.

“Okay,” Bruce conceded. “That’s a little impressive.”He pulled the other doors open, allowing Clint to roll out of the cupboard, and cut the zip ties Clint’s hands had been fastened with once the archer was on his feet. “Where did you get the paper from though?”

Clint pulled the gag from his mouth. “I keep a note pad in my belt,” he explained, slapping a larger pocket that sat at the back of his hip. As he headed towards the door, Bruce could indeed see a notepad tucked into the utility pocket.

“Of course,” Bruce muttered to himself, leaving the cut ties on the bench. “That makes perfect sense. Don’t even ask how he got the pad out, Bruce. You don’t need to know.”

“Is that pizza?” Clint asked, already partway down the stairs to the recreational area.

Bruce followed him without comment. He paused in the kitchen to stick Clint’s note to the fridge with a magnet. It was not even worth commenting on, he told himself. He was just the biology-physics guy, and occasionally the giant-green-angry guy. And he strongly suspected that there was no way he could make a comment about Clint being good with his mouth without getting tasered by Agent Coulson the next time Bruce opened his wardrobe.

He’d leave that particular adventure for someone else.

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I actually read all but the phone number in the note about Pepper and was super proud of myself, and then all the rest were pure gibberish. This handwriting is actually a work of art. As is this story, which is absolutely and completely hilarious, and I love it XD

This is my 'scribbling something down in the middle of the night after I've just woken up and haven't bothered to turn on the light' handwriting. I used to have to spend a LOT of time the next morning trying to decipher it (now I just type notes into my phone). And I'm glad that you found it funny :D

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