Author's Note: Verse/Setting: Post-Avengers (Part 2 of my short story Off a Short Cliff). Prompt: Cupcake, Stout Beer, Virginia Beach, Manatee
Disclaimer: I don't own anything from the Avengers movie, and I'm not making any money from this fic
Warning(s): Mentions of discipline of adult.

Off a Short Cliff - Part Deux
(a.k.a. Tony’s REALLY bad idea)

“Please hand me the Manatee….” One grubby hand reached out imperiously.

“. . . . .”

“Bruce?” Tony finally looked over toward his friend when he failed to feel the requested item placed into his fingers.

Bruce glanced up, remnants of the cupcake he’d eaten moments before still surrounding his mouth. Sticking his own grubby fingers into his mouth in an attempt to lick off left-over icing, he wrinkled his nose at Tony, who’d begun wiping his own icing covered fingers onto his khaki pants. Pepper was not going to be pleased about that.

“BRUCE?” Tony repeated his voice rising as he was rapidly losing patience.

“What?” Bruce frowned.

“Please hand me the Manatee…” Tony repeated huffily.

“There is no manatee…” Bruce said in confusion.

“Yes there is… that one there….” Tony pointed at the crayon in question while rolling his eyes.

“That’s not Manatee…that’s gray.” Bruce rolled his own eyes even as he picked up the crayon and threw it at Tony- who had to duck to keep from being hit in the head by it. That was of course an invitation to wrestle- or at least that’s the way Tony took it as he decided to launch himself at his cohort in crime.

It had been three weeks since Tony and Bruce had found themselves shrunk in size due to a failed experiment. S.H.I.E.L.D. scientists had been working around the clock in an attempt to figure out just what the two scientists/inventors had done to themselves, but so far there had been little luck in finding a solution to the problem.

Steve had been true to his word- and had refused to let either Bruce or Tony investigate alone. In fact, he had gone one step further and refused to let them anywhere near a lab – even with other scientists- unless he or one of the other Avengers were there with the two pint sized holy-terrors. He’d also set a limit on how long they could be in the lab each day. As they had reached that limit earlier in the morning, they’d had a whole afternoon to try and keep themselves occupied.

Hence the coloring…and subsequent wrestling match. It took Clint clearing his throat three times before they finally stopped their tussling long enough to notice him.

Tony immediately jumped to his feet and glared at the archer. “Is that my Stout beer?” he whined.

“It isn’t like you can drink it right now…” Clint frowned, irritated that he’d been stuck with ‘baby sitting duty’ while the others had gone to Virginia Beach to hunt up a lead on one of the more recent bad-guys.

“But it’s MINE!” Tony stomped his foot.

Sighing loudly, Clint rubbed his forehead. “Ok, ok… I’ll buy you more when you are able to drink it again. Don’t get your panties in a twist.”

Tony looked at the archer with a calculating look on his face. “You don’t have to… if you let me have one now…” he glanced at Bruce slyly.

Bruce watched the exchange in interest, face pivoting from one to the other as he waited to see the outcome. He pouted when Clint answered.

“No.” Clint stated firmly and in a tone of voice that let the boys know he would not change his mind in the least. “Your bodies are too small. Steve would have my hide if I let you get alcohol poisoning.”

“Spoilsport,” Tony huffed then shrugged. “Can we have more cupcakes?”

Shrugging his shoulders in an attempt to loosen up tense muscles then rubbing at his head to get rid of the headache throbbing behind his eyes, Clint flopped onto the nearest couch. “Sure…knock yourself out.”

# # #
Two hours later, Clint was blinking gritty eyes and staring up at the Captain with a bleary expression. The look on Steve’s face was stern and disappointed- Clint’s stomach flipped in sudden worry as he gave his commander a questioning look before glancing around the room to locate his two charges.

“Tony and Bruce are currently being put to bed. Thor’s attending them.” Steve remarked blandly. “Can you tell me why they’re both tipsy?”

Clint blanched before jumping up and running into the kitchen. “They didn’t…” he began only to groan as he saw two nearly empty bottles on the kitchen table. “They did….”

Head dropping to his chest in weary resignation, Clint returned to the living area to face Steve. “I told them no…” he weakly defended himself. “I…I told them no…” he muttered again, before giving Steve a worried look. “Will they be ok?” he finally asked.

Steve took pity on the archer and gave him a slight smile as he nodded. “They’ll be fine, although I’m tempted to make them suffer the hangover they will undoubtedly have. It’s actually you I’m more worried about at the moment.”

Clint frowned at the words, not bothering to hide his confusion at the comment. Chuckling, Steve elaborated.

“It isn’t like you to fall asleep on the job. Even if the job is keeping two trouble magnets out of trouble…” the captain watched the hawk carefully, looking for clues as to what may be ailing the smaller man.

Clint rubbed the back of his hair, turning slightly pink in embarrassment. “Nothing was really wrong with me…” he finally admitted reluctantly. “I was feeling out of sorts because I got left behind on kiddie detail while everyone else was off fighting the good fight. I…let my bruised ego talk me into drinking- which I don’t do when I’m working. Not normally. So that caused me to be more relaxed than I usually would be…plus I didn’t think there would be any real danger since we’re in the tower and…they’re just kids…and…I forgot who I was dealing with. Just because they have kid bodies doesn’t mean they have kid minds or ways of thinking…” Clint winced, risked a glance at Steve’s face and winced again.

“It was a foolish, rookie mistake that should never have been made,” he finally admitted, shoulders slumping. “I’ll wait for you in my room…” he finally muttered in a near unintelligible whisper before turning on his heel and quickly disappearing to said area.

Steve blinked at the now empty space in front of him before snorting. He hadn’t planned on actually punishing the archer. As far as Steve was concerned, Clint shouldn’t have had to expect that he needed to stand guard over his two charges like a jailer. The two brats should have listened to him when he told them no. It should have been perfectly safe for the Hawk to take a nap as JARVIS could have easily awoken him if there was an emergency. Even having one beer wasn’t cause for concern as it hadn’t incapacitated him in any way- he’d woken within seconds of Steve standing over him, so it obviously hadn’t affected his senses.

Apparently, Clint felt differently though. Sighing, Steve turned and headed toward where the archer had disappeared. He’d talk with the man and figure out what to do from there.

# # #
Steve knocked on the frame of the door gently, waiting for the archer to turn around and face him. “Clint?”

“Come on in Cap….” Giving a hesitant smile over his shoulder, Clint could barely meet Steve’s eyes. It was obvious the smaller man felt guilty about what Tony and Bruce had done.

Sighing again, Steve walked into the room, closing the door behind him so they would have some privacy before going and sitting on the nearby chair. He couldn’t say he was surprised when Clint immediately walked to stand at his side- by his knee- his hands immediately moving to the waistband of his jeans. Steve quickly reached out and stopped the archer. “No, Clint. I’m not here to spank you…” he said firmly and in a tone he hoped did not sound upset.

For his part, Clint blinked in confusion- leaving his hands in Steve’s one hand, too surprised to think about pulling out of the other man’s grip just yet. “You….aren’t?” he finally asked uncertainly.

“No. I’m not. You didn’t do anything wrong.” Steve answered firmly, giving the imprisoned hands a gentle squeeze before finally releasing them.

Clint just blinked again, still confused. “I didn’t?” His tone was bland, but Steve could hear the undercurrent of hope. He smiled crookedly at his friend.

“No, you didn’t. You were in a safe location with…J.A.R.V.I.S….to alert you if there was any real danger you needed to be aware of. And you told the little brats no. They chose to disobey a direct order. They were the ones who did something wrong. Not you.” Steve calmly answered. He wrinkled his nose as he looked Clint up and down.

“And I’m sorry you felt like you were being demoted or being left out of- the good fight- as you put it. I just thought.… You’ve been on so many missions the last three weeks, with very little down time. I thought you could use a chance to rest. But I didn’t want to just order you to take a break. I knew that would just irritate you and you’d be less likely to relax. I guess I had hoped that having a purpose for staying behind would help you not resent it so much- and then you’d be able to get the rest you needed.” Steve winced. “I neglected to take into account Tony’s mischievous nature or the fact that Bruce seems to go along with whatever he says- especially now.”

The captain sighed again as Clint listened to him quietly, not moving from his side. “I fell asleep,” the archer reminded him.

Steve smiled in amusement. “Like thousands of parents have done in the past. You trusted the boys to listen to you. That isn’t a punishable offense Clint.”

Clint bit his lip, running a hand through his hair. “Ok. I…thank you.” He finally gave a sheepish grin to his captain. “You weren’t wrong. I was wrung out. Still am to be honest…” he hesitantly admitted.
Steve nodded, standing up briskly and taking the smaller man by the arm-his grip firm and unyielding- led him to the bed. “Get some more sleep then. And don’t think I haven’t noticed you rubbing at your head whenever you think I’m not looking. I’ll bring you some aspirin- next time if you have a headache, take something to help. There is no reason to be stoic and suffer.”

“Uh…yes sir…” he didn’t even attempt to fight or argue with the man. While Steve left to get said aspirin, Clint took the moment to quickly change into his bed-clothes and crawl under the sheets. He had to admit he was grateful for the captain coming in and talking with him. He’d be able to sleep a lot easier, knowing that the captain didn’t hold him responsible for the actions of their two pint sized team-mates. When Steve returned and handed him the tiny tablets and a glass of water, he quickly swallowed the medication and drained the liquid in a few large gulps. Handing the glass back to Steve, he lay back. Steve was almost to the door when he quietly asked, “Are Tony and Bruce really alright?”

Steve stopped and turned around, nodding slightly. “They are fine. Although after you deal out their punishment tomorrow, I doubt they will think they are.” Giving the surprised archer a big grin, the captain quickly left.

“I’M dealing out their punishment?” Clint mouthed before shaking his head and deciding he’d think about it in the morning. Within seconds he was asleep.

# # #
Clint had slept soundly. When he finally awoke and looked at his clock, he was a bit surprised to note the time. Not only had he not woken up during the night- which seldom if ever happened- he’d slept well past his usual rising time of 5am. It was now ten till eight- and it didn’t take him long to figure out what had finally woken him.

“Why do we have to wait for Clint to show up before eating? He could take FOREEEEEVER!” Tony’s high pitched complaint was clear, even down the hallway and through a closed door. Indistinct murmuring could be heard in response- and whatever had been said must have made an impression on the millionaire inventor because he didn’t say anything else.

Grinning slightly to himself, Clint debated taking a bit longer to get dressed- just to rile the boy a bit, but his stomach growling convinced him otherwise. He quickly traded sleep clothes for jeans and a t-shirt, foregoing shoes and socks, and padded down the hall to stand in the kitchen doorway taking in the ‘domestic’ scene.

Steve was standing next to the stove, holding a spatula up like he was about to use it on someone’s backside, a frown wrinkling his forehead. Thor was attempting to assist Steve by toasting the bread and buttering it- but he seemed to be having difficulty with the controls as every other piece was either just as white as before it was toasted or burnt. Natasha was rubbing her forehead and looked as if she wished she hadn’t gotten out of bed yet- but then that was normal for Nat until she’d had her 2nd cup of coffee for the morning. Tony was almost bouncing in his chair as he glared right back at Steve and rubbed his stomach as if to show how hungry he was- even if he didn’t dare voice the complaint any longer. Bruce was sitting quietly in his chair looking a bit green.

Clint did a double take, and wondered if they were about to see a pint-sized version of their big green friend but then realized the green color was likely due to the smaller man/boy feeling ill. Clint might have felt sorry for him if the sickness was from any other reason than disobedience of Clint’s direct order. Just then Tony noticed Clint.

“He’s here! FINALLY! Can we eat NOW?” the pint-sized pain in the butt asked sarcastically as only Tony could.

“Not just yet,” Steve managed to stay calm- although Natasha did get up and take the spatula out of his hand.

Tony was about to voice another complaint when Bruce elbowed him in the side, effectively shutting him up. “I think they want to talk to us first, Ton…” he mumbled miserably.

Tony frowned, whether it was because he was being made to wait even longer or because of worry for Bruce, Clint wasn’t sure. He’d never noticed the scientist drink that much- and had assumed it was because the man was afraid to lose control just in case the ‘Big Guy’ decided to come out and play. Maybe it was just because Bruce and alcohol didn’t mix well.

Giving Steve a quick look- and noting the silent nod the captain gave him back- he answered Bruce’s unasked question. “Yes, I’d like to talk to you first,” he said sternly enough that Bruce and Tony both looked up at him with startled wide eyes.

Deciding that getting to the point was better than drawing things out, he continued. “I’m going to ask you some questions and I want a yes or no answer. First question- was I the one left in charge while everyone else was in Virginia Beach?”

Tony wrinkled his nose irritably, “Duh- yeah you were left in charge.” Bruce elbowed him again in an attempt to get him to not rile everyone else up.

Frowning at the tone, Clint decided to continue. “As a team, we are all expected to obey the orders of whoever is in charge, correct?”

Bruce, slanting his head and giving Clint a considering and slightly guilty look answered this time, “Yes, sir.”

Nodding Clint asked his final question. “Did I tell you, you weren’t allowed to drink the beer?”

“But it’s…” Tony began only to be cut off by Clint’s voice admonishing- “Yes or No answers only.”

Bruce and Tony looked at each other nervously before reluctantly answering, “Yes….”

“So you disobeyed the direct order of the person who was in charge.” Clint stated calmly and waited for their response.

Even more reluctant to answer this time, both Tony and Bruce slumped in their seats and stared at their hands. Clint cleared his throat, drawing their eyes back to him. Two small and nearly whispered yes’s broke the silence.

Clint sighed and nodded again, relieved that they admitted what they’d done without too much effort. He had been afraid that Tony especially might prove stubborn in admitting error and that he might have to be a bit more harsh with the discipline than what he planned to do. But their quick admittance bought them a bit of leniency.

“For your disobedience you will be spending 30 minutes standing in the corner to think about what you did and why you shouldn’t have done it…” Clint began.

He ignored Bruce’s mumbled “I already know why I shouldn’t a done it…” and Tony’s dismayed whine as he continued. “After that, you will return to this table where you will write the following- ‘I will not disobey a direct order. I will listen to those who are protecting me.’ You will write this line 1,000 times.”

This time both boys whined. “That’ll take all day!” Bruce opined.

“We won’t have time to go to the labs!” Tony added.

Clint smiled faintly. “You won’t be going to the labs for the rest of the week. Next time someone gives you a direct order and you disobey it, you’ll lose the privilege of going to the labs for a month. Are we clear?”

Steve and Thor had to turn around to hide their grins at the boys’ horrified looks at Clint’s words. Natasha didn’t attempt to hide her smile, although since she was drinking her coffee and the boys were staring at Clint aghast, they didn’t notice. Clint raised an eyebrow and repeated himself more firmly, a stern look on his face, “Are we clear?”

Two meek ‘yes sirs’ were his answer. Satisfied that they understood, he looked at Steve. “Now- I think we can eat. It smells great. What are we having?”

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