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Ain't No Rest for the Wicked

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She was going to kill him. Rip out his stupid goatee, hair by hair, and then beat him to death with the grabby hands of the security guard she was distracting. But first, she would tie him up and break every bottle of whiskey he owned in front of him.

Natasha was thinking of the myriad of ways she could torture Tony Stark when Lewis finally called over the comms, “I'm in!” She turned the sigh of relief into a breathy moan as she heard shouts of alarm begin outside the security room, indicating Wanda had introduced her distraction.

“Damn it!” The guard cursed. “Don't go anywhere,” he said as he adjusted himself.

“Wouldn't dream of it,” Natasha practically cooed. As soon as the door slammed shut, she placed the device that reset the electronic lock and code, preventing the guard from coming back to his post. “Barton, sit rep?” She asked as she stripped off the evening gown and jewelry. She thanked her lucky stars that the security room wasn't monitored with cameras, just the door outside.

“All clear. Vents weren't even locked,” he said, sounding disgusted. “Your pack is in place. Meet you on the fifth floor, Tash.”

“Looping feeds now,” Lewis intoned.

Natasha retrieved her bag from the air return above the door and got into her preferred black catsuit, then rolled up her belongings to stuff them back into the pack. “Be right there.” It only took a minute more for her to get into the air return and pull it shut behind her. Natasha shimmied through the vents, dropping down by the service elevator and calmly taking it up to the fifth floor. When the doors opened, Clint was there, smirking a little.

“How many ways did you get up to killing Tony this time?”

“Only the one, but there was a very elaborate pre-murder situation.”

“I'm not even the reason you're here this time! Can we have less talking, more breaking and entering,” Tony hissed in their ears. There was an odd sound of breaking glass in the background.

“We've already done that part,” Clint replied in a cheerful tone. “See you on the other side.” That was Lewis’ clue to cut Tony's comm.

“So satisfying. Every time. Going silent, kids. Be careful out there.” Lewis cut off.

“I swear to God, Barnes better not be in that truck with her again,” Clint said to Natasha as they walked together to the head accountant's office. “It's a communal space!”

Natasha rolled her eyes. “When has that stopped you?”

“This isn't about me.”

Natasha raised an eyebrow, but otherwise didn't respond. They had reached the office, which she found locked. As she bent down to pick it, Clint whispered, “I've never heard you complain, either.”

A voice sounded in their ears. “For the last time, Barton! We can still hear you when Lewis says going silent!” They could almost hear Barnes grinding his teeth together. Clint's shoulders were shaking as he signed I know to Natasha. She shook her head, but a small smile played on her lips.

The last tumbler fell into place and she straightened. “Going in,” she reported.

“System still a go.”

They went into the office and closed and locked the door behind them. Clint, who had eyes like a hawk, immediately spotted the fake casing that hid the safe they were aiming for. He took the lead this time, cracking it in under a minute. “Told you that I wasn't out of practice,” he said smugly to Natasha.

“I'm so impressed,” she deadpanned.

“Guys, you've got company coming.”

“Shit,” Clint cursed, grabbing the file out of the safe before closing and locking it. The security so far had been subpar, but that didn't mean there weren't any competent guards. The desk was glass, and there wasn't any other furniture that provided cover. On light feet, they ran to the wall and flattened themselves so the open door would give them a second of a hidden advantage. The handle jiggled once, and then they heard a loud thump just outside the door. Clint and Natasha held their breath, when a familiar knocking pattern came. It meant all clear.

“Sounds like Barnes wasn't in the truck,” Natasha commented drily.

“Shut it, Romanoff.”

Natasha took a few minutes to change back into her formal wear, shoving the catsuit into the bag that Clint would take with him along with the file. There was heat in his gaze, but Clint would be all business until the job was done, even as her own eyes held the filthy promise of how they would celebrate later. It wouldn't do to get caught now.

“Exiting,” Natasha advised over her comm.

“Still green. Bucky is stashing the guard in a cleaning closet on twelve and then he'll be five by five.”

Clint cocked his head. “Do you even know what that means?”

“Not a clue,” Darcy replied cheerfully. “You're clear to the roof, Clint.”

Clint and Natasha left the office, separating with Clint heading to the service elevator to go up, and Natasha now able to take the main elevator to the first floor. As she exited, she had to stop from laughing. Wanda’s choice of distraction had apparently been to fake a fight with her “date” Sam that had escalated into drink throwing (explaining the breaking glass from earlier) and she had made sure that Tony was caught in the crossfire. Natasha blended into the crowd that had gathered to watch the spectacle. “All clear,” Lewis announced over the comms. “You guys get out of there and then I'll get the system closed back up. See you back at headquarters.”

At that, Sam gathered Wanda into his arms and kissed her thoroughly. “I'm sorry for everything. I'll make it up to you. Let's go to Paris. Tonight.”

“You must be joking!”

“I love you, Christi. I'd take you to the moon if I could. Please, forgive me.”

Wanda bit her lip, making it appear as though she was thinking it over even while she tried to keep a straight face. “Oh, Trent! Let's get out of here!” They left, with a couple of security guards following behind to make sure they didn't change their minds. The crowd started to break up, and Natasha veered over to Tony to offer him some napkins from the bar. She made a show of vigorously patting him down, touching him more than was clearly necessary. Tony, for his part, smirked at her and cocked his head to the exit, slinging his arm around her when she smiled back and winked. They left, Tony throwing some bills at the valet and pretending to show off for his woman of that night. The valet gave him a look of envy as Natasha got into the car. As Tony sped off, Natasha let her head rest back and enjoyed the satisfaction of another job well done.

They all met back at their headquarters, the penthouse suite of what was colloquially known as the Shield building. Clint, Bucky, and Darcy were already there with feet up, beers open, and television on in the common space. Wanda and Sam were in the kitchenette, gathering up a snack. As Tony and Natasha got off the elevator, a wolf whistle sounded from one of the office spaces. Thor, one of their associates, came out. “Well done, friends! I believe Steven will be quite pleased.”

“Thanks for being home base tonight, big guy.” Darcy blew him a kiss, which made him grin.

“I'm off to bed, but I messaged Bruce to let him know that no one was injured. He sends his congratulations as well. We shall see you in the morning?”

“You got it,” Clint called. Natasha had taken off her heels and stolen his beer before settling on the couch. They all waved as Thor headed out. Tony followed shortly after, complaining that his Tom Ford tuxedo would never be the same. Sam and Wanda left next, Sam to his husband Riley and Wanda to her boyfriend Viz. It was only when Darcy let out a huge yawn that the remaining four started to head out as well, though they nicely cleaned up first.

“Do you know our take, doll?”

Darcy let out another yawn. “Not yet. I think we'll have to see what Steve can do, first.”

They all nodded and left, Bucky and Darcy headed to their place and Clint and Natasha to theirs. As soon as the latter were inside their apartment, they celebrated their success. It was only when she was surrounded by the smell of Clint that she felt settled again. They both hated when she had to play this role, but Natasha was pragmatic enough to know it worked all too well to stop completely. It was different now that it was her choice, she reminded Clint. Steve always made sure she got a little more on the jobs where she played seductress, and Tony had made her some excellent portable taser prototypes in case she needed them.

Still, it was good to be home.

The next day, the team drifted into the penthouse at different times. Tony came bearing coffee, though he threatened Thor’s wife Jane with decaf if she tried to correct his math again. Steve arrived dressed in a suit with the tie loose around his neck. The teasing turned the tips of his ears pink, but he gave it back as good as he got. He congratulated everyone on the successful job and advised that he expected their cut that day.

Jane and Tony went to their shared lab in the loft space, bickering, with Darcy and Thor trailing behind. Bucky, Natasha, and Clint went to the basement training room for Shield residents and did an intense workout. Bruce, Sam, and Wanda did yoga instead. Steve sorted through the file that had been retrieved the night before, then tucked it away and waited for his contact to arrive.

Much to his surprise, it wasn’t just the terrifyingly competent admin in the elevator. Justin Hammer strutted into the main area, looking inordinately pleased with himself. “You know, when Pepper told me she had hired Avengers Security, I was a little upset. We're a security firm, after all. We don't need outside consultants when we have the best of the best. But now I'm pretty happy.”

Steve gestured to the couches for them all to sit. “And why is that, Mr. Hammer?”

Justin laughed and threw his arms wide as he sat. “You guys didn't get in! And now, I can tell people that we have Avengers proof security!”

Pepper cleared her throat delicately. “Mr. Hammer, I don't think-”

“Can you get some coffee for us, sweetheart? Thanks so much.” Pepper grit her teeth, but stood and went to the kitchen area. The Keurig may have been slammed with a little more force than was strictly necessary, but it was ignored.

Steve liked to think he'd gotten a handle on his temper as he'd gotten older. The casual dismissal of a woman that he'd found kind and intelligent in their discussions put his back up in a way that used to mean trouble. Instead, his eyes turned cold and his smile showed a few more teeth. “I wouldn't try to use any false advertisement, Mr. Hammer. At least, not any more.”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

Pepper returned with coffee for the two men. “It means, Mr. Hammer, that the Avengers did successfully compromise the building.”

That wiped the smirk off the man's smug face, Steve noted with satisfaction. “You'll understand if I don't believe you.”

“Certainly. That's why we have this.” Steve flipped on the television, which displayed a portion of the footage that Darcy had kept off of the Hammer servers - Clint and Natasha entering the office, Bucky disabling the guard, and the pair exiting calmly. Hammer’s face turned an interesting shade of red as he cleared his throat and took several deep breaths.

“That, uh, that doesn't necessarily prove anything, you know.”

Steve simply pulled out the file and handed it to him. “I think you'll find that this does. Documentation of the losses Hammer really experienced due to failed weapons testing.” Hammer made a strangled noise in his throat. “We have no intention of releasing this information, Mr. Hammer. This is simply to show you the holes in your security that can be exploited to gain access to sensitive information.” The elevator dinged, but both men ignored it.

“Ha. Ha. Uh huh. Ha. Now, see, this wasn't supposed to be the test. The test was access to my office. Just kind of feels like you cheated to make your firm look better.”

“Mr. Hammer!”

“Can it,” he snapped at his assistant. “When I knew you were hired, the executive offices were staffed 24/7 with security and enabled with biometric locks. It feels like you took the easy way out. How'd you even get in?” Something caught his eye, and he darted his eyes to the elevator. Hammer's lip curled, and Steve looked to see what caused the reaction. Bucky, Clint, and Natasha were quietly standing in the foyer after coming back from the gym. “I bet I have an idea,” Hammer continued, raking his eyes over Natasha. “Play it up, sweet cheeks.”

Bucky stuck out both arms to stop the other two from moving forward. He thanked his lucky stars that Clint was on the left side, as his metal prosthetic provided him the additional leverage to hold the other man back. “I promise ya, Avengers Security doesn't cheat ,” replied Bucky. “Sounds to me like Hammer knew their security wasn't up ta snuff and beefed up a coupla places to try and look good. That sounds like cheating.”

“Good luck getting paid with this sham operation. We're leaving!”

“We are not, Mr. Hammer. I hired these people to show you just how lax Hammer Industries is when it comes to their own security. There is the potential for far more damaging items to be obtained by far worse parties. And they didn't lie to you. I did. I had hoped that you would see that there are people all over the building who have become lazy about company information. So, yes, you will pay these people, and I strongly encourage you to hire them and take their suggestions,” Pepper's voice had slowly risen, though she never reached a full shout. As Hammer stared at her, mouth slightly hanging open, Steve heard steps above. He mentally crossed his fingers that Tony wasn't about to give away one of their secrets by exposing himself to a man that was a direct competitor for Stark Industries. “In addition, Mr. Hammer, I'll be tendering my resignation as soon as that invoice is paid.”

“Don't worry about it, sweetheart. You're fired,” Justin shot back. “And I won't be doing a damn thing these people tell me to do-”

“I think I'm in love,” Tony's voice drifted down and Steve pinched the bridge of his nose. He could be heard coming to join the rest. Pepper Potts arched a brow at him when he appeared.

“Tony! What are you doing here?” Hammer smoothed his hands down his front and attempted to look a little more put together.

“Oh, you know,” Tony waved his hand. “Just taking a tour. Stark Industries works very closely with the Avengers to make sure we're top of the line in everything. Lots of synergy or whatever it's called.” In a clear dismissal, Tony walked over to Pepper and offered his hand. “Hi, Tony Stark, and you are?”

“Pepper Potts, Mr. Stark.”

“Wonderful to meet you. I heard that you've recently become unemployed?”

Pepper’s eyes twinkled with what could have been suppressed mirth. “Yes, that is correct.”

“I'd love to offer you a position at Stark Industries. As my personal assistant.” Pepper made a noncommittal noise. “From what I heard in our interview just now, you're more than qualified and have exactly what this position requires. And I can guarantee that Stark would be more than competitive when it comes to your salary requirements.”

This time, Pepper did let a smile show. “Well, Mr. Stark, it sounds like we should discuss just how generous your offer will be.”

“By all means.” Tony offered his arm, which Pepper took, and they walked to the elevator. “Always appreciate you helping me out, buddy,” Tony said to Justin as they walked by him. “Friendly advice? You're going to want to hear them out.” Hammer, clenching his jaw, nodded once.

“Always good to see you, Tony.”

Bucky separated from Clint and Natasha to allow Tony and Pepper by. Clint and Natasha stared at Hammer, both of their stances indicating ease, but he felt the threat all the same. It was in the flinty blue of the man's eyes and the bared teeth of the woman. Both looked unsettlingly familiar now that he was actually paying attention to faces. They could tell when the pieces clicked into place, because his face drained of color. Steve moved over and clapped a hand to the other man's shoulder, gripping at the end and starting to steer him to his office. “So, let's finish going through our assessment.”

“Do you know who those two are?” Hammer hissed.

“Oh yes, well aware. We recruit from private and government sectors to ensure we have diverse views for all of our clients’ needs.” The rest was cut off as Steve closed the door.


“Can it be pizza?”

Natasha sighed. “Yes, but only because I'm rewarding you for not leaping in to fight my battles for me.”

“I was just going to hold him down for you,” Clint promised.

Natasha stood on tiptoe and gave him a kiss. “Thanks, Hawkeye.”

“You're welcome, Widow.”