Warnings: Death. It's a murder mystery, some people have to die. Swearing, brief mentions of torture.
Pairings: Tony/Pepper, Clint/Natasha
Third person POV. Each character on the island gets their own chapter, so 9 chapters total. Massively uneven chapter lengths.
Many thanks to my awesome beta reader Tyla Lokisdottir!
Disclaimer: I own nothing :(
The first helicopter landed smoothly on the helipad, and Tony walked over to meet it, flanked by Jarvis and Happy.
"Pepper, good to see you." He pulled his secretary into a hug, ignoring her outstretched hand. He stepped away from her, and held out his hand to the young man standing next to her. "Peter, so glad you could make it."
"It's an honour, Mr Stark," Peter said, enthusiastically shaking his hand. Tony gave the kid a smile, and mildly wondered what it would take to get the kid to stop calling him 'Mr Stark'.
"Miss Rushman, a pleasure as always." She gave him a cool smile. Tony was determined to get her to crack; she had always seemed pretty indifferent towards him. "Shall we?" Without waiting for a response, he led the three inside, Jarvis and Happy taking their suitcases. He heard a gasp from Peter behind him as they walked into the mansion, which made him smile. This mansion might not have the grandeur of older buildings, but it was modern, light and airy, and situated on a perfect island. In his opinion anyway.
"Who else will be here, Mr Stark?" Peter asked.
"Just two others. I invited Rhodey, but he couldn't make it."
"Three," Pepper corrected. Tony stared at her, horrified.
"You didn't invite him. Please, tell me I'm dreaming." He folded his arms over his chest, narrowing his eyes. "You know how I feel about him."
"He's a close friend of your family. I thought that maybe you two could try and start anew." Pepper stared him down. "Come on, Tony, give him a chance."
"Fine," he sighed, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Thank you," she said, offering a smile. Tony couldn't stay mad at her, especially since a small part of him knew she was right. Jarvis reappeared by the small party.
"Sir, shall I show your guests to their rooms?"
"Yeah, that would be great. Thanks, Jarvis." He saw the second helicopter appear over the horizon, from where the nearest land and city lay 10 miles away. He scowled, but told himself that for Pepper, he would try his best to get along.
Dinner that evening was served in the large dining room. Tony was proud of its design, and several of his guests seemed to be in awe of it as well. The food was a big success - lasagne, with pavlova for dessert, however the conversation was somewhere near non-existent. Well, he might as well try to remedy that. Tony rose to his feet, and tapped his glass loudly, somewhat unnecessarily.
"As far as I'm concerned, none of you are talking enough. So, let's go round the table, tell us your name, job and how you know me, and then we'll go from there. I'll start - Tony Stark, CEO of Stark Industries, but also a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist." He sat down, and gestured to Pepper on his left. The ginger stood with a friendly wave.
"I'm Pepper Potts, good to meet you all. I'm Tony's secretary." She sat down abruptly, and the blond, muscly man that Tony was trying very hard not to loathe, stood.
"Steve Rogers, I work in the Armed Forces. I'm a family friend of the Starks." He gave Tony a friendly smile, which was returned through gritted teeth.
"Clint Barton. I renovate houses, and I was working on a place of Stark's recently. I guess we just hit off," he said. He scratched his head, offered a smile verging on shyness, and quickly seated himself.
"My name is Natalie Rushman, I work at Stark Industries alongside Miss Potts and Mr Stark." The red head was intriguing to Tony. It seemed like she wore a constant cold and distant mask, which she kept in place as much as possible. Barton looked about her age, which he reckoned was somewhere around early twenties. They'd make a cute couple, he thought with a smirk. Project for this week: sorted.
"I'm Bruce Banner, I work at Stark Industries in the research department. We worked together on the same project a while back, before Tony rocketed to success." He grinned softly at Tony, who returned the smile. Bruce was a great scientist, and an even better friend.
"I'm Peter Parker. I have an internship at Stark Industries, and I've been working for Mr Stark for a few weeks."
"Does anyone have any questions for each other?" Tony asked. "By the way, Jarvis, my butler, and Happy, head of security." He gestured to the two men in turn. "They'll be around all week."
"I've got a question," Clint said, raising his hand like he was at school. "Why do you have an outdoor swimming pool when this whole island is literally surrounded by water?" Several people cracked up; even Natalie smiled briefly before trying to cover it up.
"Simple," he responded with a smile. "It's a lot cheaper to heat up the pool than to heat up the ocean. Besides, I don't think various environmental agencies would appreciate me heating it up."
"Mr Stark?" Peter asked. "This island doesn't exactly have reception, how do you carry out technological experiments without a connection?"
"I will deal with that in the next few days." He'd really meant to get it done before the guests had arrived, but he'd been distracted by various other experiments. On the bright side, if anyone wanted an alarm clock that made toast, he was very much prepared. "I'm working on a way to speed up service, but I had to disable the network to get that working. Don't worry, landline still works."
"I have a question," Rogers said.
"Well, would you look at the time," Tony said loudly. "Long day tomorrow and all, probably time for bed." He received several strange looks, but Barton stood and walked out into the hallway, followed by Bruce and Peter. Tony followed them out quickly.
"Peter, can you come here?" I'd like a word." He led him into his study, while the other two men headed upstairs. "It's about work."
"Am I losing the internship?" Peter asked, visibly drooping.
"What? Where did you get that idea from?" Tony asked, giving Peter a hard stare. "No, it's actually pretty much the exact opposite. I want to give you a permanent job. Doing the same thing you were before, I've had to let someone go, but I know you'll be better than they were. I intend to push this through as fast as I can." He gave Peter a reassuring smile.
"You fired someone? Because of me? No, please, I'm sorry Mr Stark, but I don't want the job, I'm happy where I am." Before he could say anything, Peter ran out of the room. Tony held his head in his hands.
He made his way out into the entrance hall, and looked up at the balcony. Okay, so it was only mostly modern. There were two curving sets of stairs at the end of the hall, one on the left, and one on the right. A balcony overlooked the entrance hall, meaning the hall had the highest roof in the house. Tony was pretty proud of it. The bannisters on the stairs were awesome to slide down as well.
At the top of the stairs, all of his guests, except for Peter and Clint, were gathered.
"Tony!" Bruce called. "Come and join us." The billionaire made his way up the left staircase. "We were wondering if it would be possible to slide down this staircase, without touching the stairs, and then run up the other bannister and along the top for a complete circuit," his friend explained.
"If we're really doing this, we should put some mattresses and cushions out," Rogers suggested.
"I dislike this concept a lot, but yes," Pepper said, rubbing her eyes.
"So, a competition to see who can get the furthest?" Tony asked eagerly. "Let's place our bets on who'll win. Where's Peter and Clint?"
"Peter looked really upset, he went straight to his room," Pepper told him. "I'm a bit worried about him, to be honest."
"Clint's in his room as well," Natalie said. "I'm not sure what's he doing, but I think you would have better luck getting him to join in than Peter."
The guest bedrooms on the first floor formed a U shape, although they were split into three rectangles. The one to the left had a gym - Tony was quite proud of the amount that he spent there. The rooms in the one to the right were all spare, and the middle rectangle, which faced the stairs, was where Clint, Natalie, Bruce and Peter were sleeping, in that order.
Natalie went over, and knocked on Clint's door hard. "Clint?"
"Come on, Barton," Tony called impatiently. After a minute of silence, he pushed past Natalie and flung the door open. Clint had his back to him, and was changing. Tony noted his wet hair, and realised he must have been showering. That wasn't what shocked him though. It was the scars covering his back that made Tony sharply inhale. Clint spun around, his eyes widening.
"Get the fuck out of my room, Stark!" He grabbed a t-shirt to cover his chest, and ran over to slam the door. Tony turned around sheepishly.
"He was changing," he explained, wondering why Clint was so desperate to not show his scars. The door tugged open, and Clint slid out, eyes fixed firmly on the carpet.
"Sorry I yelled," he mumbled, pushing his hands deep into the pockets of his shorts. Tony shrugged.
"Whatever. We've got a competition going, want to join us?" he offered, hoping it might placate him. Clint seemed grateful to move away from what just happened, and nodded.
Having explained things to Clint, the group dispersed to collect mattresses for cushioning. As much as Tony hated to admit it, Rogers did have a point in terms of safety. They spread out the materials around the base of the bannisters, and put some cushions on the stairs.
"Try not to fall backwards off this," Tony said, patting the bannisters. "It's sturdy, so it won't collapse under any of you, but it will hurt a lot if you fall. Go for the stairs if you have to. Ladies and gentlemen, your bets."
"Who's going to be taking part in it?" Rogers asked. "I'll go for it."
"Me too," Tony said instantly, eyeing up Rogers. Pepper sighed quietly behind him.
"Why not?" Clint shrugged. "Worst case scenario I break my neck." He grinned innocently as everyone gave him a hard stare.
"I'll sit this one out," Natalie said. "I don't think your egos could take being beaten by me." Clint looked crushed, while Tony scoffed slightly.
"Come on, Natalie, maybe I want to get my ass kicked," Clint wheedled. She smirked at him, and Tony privately cheered - project 'Get Clint and Natalie Together' was looking up.
"I'm with Natalie, I'll watch this one from the sidelines," Pepper said.
"Me too," Bruce added.
"So, competitors are me, Rogers and Clint. Place your bets."
"I'm going with 20 dollars on Steve," Pepper said thoughtfully. "He works in the army, and they do some assault courses there."
"Can multiple people bet on the same person?" Bruce asked.
"As long as you don't mind splitting the winnings."
"I'll go for Steve as well then, 10 dollars."
"Are the competitors betting as well?" Rogers asked.
"Why not?" Tony grinned. "I'm putting my money on myself."
"But then one of us might potentially throw the competition to get the money," Clint pointed out. "Can we say no betting for the competitors?"
"Spoil sport. I guess we'll go one person for each of us then."
"I'll bet on you then, Tony, 10 dollars still," Bruce decided.
"Natalie, I guess you get Clint then. How much?"
"That's confident," he said with a whistle. Not that it was much for him, but significantly more than had been bet on the other two.
"I know I'll get it back," she said coolly.
"No pressure," Clint muttered. Tony cracked up, and patted his shoulder condescendingly.
"Who's first?" Rogers asked.
"You go first," Tony said.
Rogers looked apprehensively at the bannister, and climbed on. He slid quickly down, but came off about halfway down, landing neatly on his feet.
"It's harder than it looks," he called back dejectedly. "Sorry Pepper."
Tony leapt onto the bannister, eager to do better than Rogers. He got past the point where his competitor had, but came off at the bottom badly, and crashed hard into a mattress. Picking himself up, he jogged over to the other staircase, and climbed up. He wobbled, lost his balance, and jumped onto the mattress at the base of the stairs rather than fall.
"Good luck Clint. You're going to need it," he yelled.
Clint nonchalantly stuffed his hands into his pockets, and slid down the bannister like he'd been doing it all his life. He walked to the front door, and hurtled to the other staircase. He leapt onto the bannister, and sprinted up it. He got about half way up before he lost momentum, and began using his arms to help pull himself up. Clint made it look easy, the way he moved so fluidly. Tony gaped as he reached the top, and gracefully walked along the bar on the balcony, before crouching, still on the bar.
"Looks like your money's safe," he said casually to Natalie. She nodded, hiding her amazement well. Tony, on the other hand, gaped. He knew his mouth was hanging open, but didn't bother to hide it.
"Barton, where the hell did you learn to do that?" Tony asked. Clint jumped down, and patted Tony's shoulder, mimicking exactly the way Tony had patted Clint's. He watched Pepper and Bruce hand over the money to Natalie. Tony's irritation rose and a thought struck him. "Is it anything to do with your scars?" The younger man froze.
"Thanks for that, Clint," Natalie interjected. Tony was sure she was trying to diffuse the situation, but Clint looked like he was on the back foot, and he pressed the advantage of his shock.
"I mean, they looked pretty bad-"
"If you say one more word," Clint hissed, spinning around with flashing eyes, "I will put a bullet through your skull." He darted back into his room. Tony was convinced he'd seen a tear forming.
"Natalie, you should have a go at him," he said thoughtfully. "I think he's got a thing for you, so maybe-"
"Tony, I think you should learn to recognise a person's boundaries," Pepper said coldly. "Granted, Clint was out of order, but on the other hand, I thought after his first outburst, it was pretty obvious he didn't want to talk about it."
"Miss Potts, I think there's a few documents we need to look over before tomorrow," Natalie said softly. "Why don't we go and check those now?" As the two women walked downstairs, Tony had a sinking feeling that he'd pushed them too far.
"I'll see you in the morning, Tony," Bruce said. "Clint cooled down pretty quickly last time, I would imagine that he'll be fine in the morning." He smiled, and Tony felt stupidly grateful for his friend. He nodded, for once without a snarky comeback, and watched Bruce walk into his room.
"Tony, can we talk?" Rogers asked.
"I have nothing to say to you," he snapped back, before remembering he was supposed to be trying to be nice. "Look, what is it?"
"I wanted to apologise. I know we've had some bad blood between us in the past, but I would really appreciate it if we could start afresh." Rogers looked at him, and Tony sighed.
"Do you want something from me, Rogers?"
"I do actually, but it can wait. I wanted to make up with you anyway."
"What is it?" Tony didn't think Rogers was the type to use someone for their money, but there was a first time for everything.
"You know my friend Bucky?" Rogers began hesitantly. Tony whipped his head up to glare at him.
"The one who attacked my parents?" he hissed.
"I've told you before, that wasn't his fault," Rogers said patiently. Tony rolled his eyes, and crossed his arms. "Anyway, he's seeing a therapist now, but the thing is, it's pretty expensive."
"And you want my money."
"I wouldn't say that. I don't need your help, but if you were willing to give some, it would definitely be appreciated."
"Fuck off." He flounced down the stairs, unable to believe what he'd just heard.
"If you gave Bucky a chance, you'd see that he's a good man!" Rogers called after him. Tony flipped him off, and went into his study, where he found Pepper and Natalie working. Huh. He'd thought that was just an excuse to get away.
"Hey," he said casually, slipping his arms around Pepper. Natalie rolled her eyes, but otherwise ignored him. Pepper shrugged his arms off, and turned to face him.
"Have you apologised to Clint?" she accused.
"No. I'll let him cool off, and talk in the morning when he's less likely to bite my head off."
"As long as you do actually talk to him," Pepper sighed. He pulled her into a hug, which this time she relaxed into.
"You working late tonight?"
"I'll try and finish up as soon as possible, but the state of some of this, we could be looking at an all-nighter." She sighed, and Tony gently rubbed her back.
"I won't wait up then."
"No, don't. You get little enough sleep as it is." She smiled, and he kissed her softly.
"You need some sleep as well," he told her, pulling away. "Natalie, don't let her stay up all night."
"That might not be possible, Mr Stark," she warned. "Most of these have a short deadline." Tony winced, knowing that that was his fault.
"Sleep well, Tony. We'll spend some more time together tomorrow, I promise." She kissed him once more, and shooed him off to bed.
Okay, so maybe he'd had a bit of a rocky start in places. But things were looking up; he was sure he could fix some of the mess he'd made.