AN – I just want to say thanks to the lovely readers who reviewed the first chapter, and hope that people enjoy reading this chapter as much as I enjoyed writing it. Feel free to ask questions and I will answer them as best I can without ruining the plot. Sadly I don't own any of the below material it all belongs to the JK Rowling and Marvel :(
Outside by the cars Natasha had noticed something off about Clint. He kept zoning out during the briefing and had made no sarcastic or rude comments about working with other agencies. It was unnerving to say the least. While in thought she was unaware of Clint looking at her and asking her a question. She snapped out of her train of thought saying, "What?"
"You looked deep in thought is all." Clint shrugged his shoulders
"Nothing, just thinking that you've been quiet today." She was unsure as to whether he would actually answer. They usually had a code of silence on these types of things, but they were about to go on a mission and she needed his head on straight.
"I'm good." Was all he said.
"And you're sure that there's nothing else that's going to be an issue, right?" She looked at him as they continued walking.
He glanced at her saying, "No Nat. I'm good, honest." He smiled broadly the laughed, the sudden change in demeanor immediately sent up red flags to Natasha. So she played along and they relapsed into a comfortable silence as they walked together.
"Because if you need to tell me something or just talk then I would listen, you know that, right?" she said glancing at him again, they looked at one another as if assessing the other or the situation. Clint looked strangely at her, Natasha hesitated as if unsure as to whether to push it further or to let it drop. Clint dropped the eye contact and let his head hang slightly, drawing himself back up Natasha was disappointed at the emotional mask he now had in place.
"Do you want to go individually to collect our stuff or split up and meet at my place?" He pulled to a stop next to his car, awaiting her answer. The sudden change in topic surprised her and made her pause for a minute as she caught up to the new direction of the conversation.
"I'll go to my place and drive round to yours when I'm done." She said turning back to her car and giving him a small and uncertain smile before she started the engine and drove off leaving.
Clint stood there unsure of whether or not she was pissed at him. It wasn't that he didn't want to tell her, he just couldn't. It hurt too much. The fact that he hadn't heard from Harry since he had left for training angered Clint, he had raised Harry from a boy as best he could. He was like a son to Clint, and he couldn't even be bothered to call, e-mail, text to let him know he was okay, though he knew he wasn't dead because he hadn't gotten a call as next of kin, a small comfort he supposed.
He was pulled from his thought process when he pulled into the road leading to his house. It was quieter than he remembered now that two out of four, well five if he counted Harry, had left the nest. He opened the door and climbed out of the car. Closing the door he went to the trunk to pick up his work kit to add to his duffle bag, and began to head indoors. He was met at the door by Lauren, who stood there in a pair of track bottoms and a vest top, clutching a mug of what he presumed to be coffee. She smiled and walked over to the car and laid a gentle kiss on his lips, Clint smiled into the kiss, letting out a soft murmur of approval, before she pulled away and took his hand leading him up to the house.
"I take it by the bag and your spectacularly grouchy face that you have to go on a mission now?" she looked at him, a small forced smile on her face. She brought his head round to look at her, she saw not anger but hurt and that surprised her. Cocking her head slightly she asked, "What is it? Is it the mission or something else?"
He looked her in the eye before sighing and deflating slightly, he knew he had to tell her what it was. That she was feeling the same thing, but admitting to her just how much he felt, the anger, the betrayal, the hurt. He would never admit it but the silence that Harry had put on the rest of the family had done damage that most likely would never be fixed. "It's Harry. We'd be celebrating his 26 birthday if he were here. We don't even have a way of wishing him happy birthday anymore. And I'm conflicted. I don't know whether to be angry or worried."
Lauren continued to walk with Clint to their bedroom. As he began to collect the things he needed and through them into the duffle, he started to think. "I picked up his present last week, as usual. I was thinking when I got it, a present for every year and birthday, he'd hate that he has a pile of presents waiting for him." He laughed slightly as he was engulfed in a memory, the memory of his and Harry's first Christmas together when he was age 7.
"Hey buddy, come on! Up we get!" Clint bombarded the sleeping boy with tickling and an overly loud voice. The young boy grumbled slightly, it caught Clint unaware, that at the age of 7 the only reason he got up is to do breakfast, well if Clint was going to have anything to do with it, he'd make Harry a Christmas crazy young man in no time.
30 minutes later and Harry was eagerly ripping open the wrapping to each of presents off, after getting permission from Clint to be a destructive as he wanted. He looked, played and assessed each of the individual presents as he un-wrapped them. He thanked Clint over and over for each present he received.
"Thank you Dad, it amazing! I love it! Thank you!" He leapt up and tackled the older man, knocking him over, they both laughed as they went down.
It had been a fantastic day and forever one that stayed in his memories. Sadly though after 11 years of exchanging a single present before he left, because that was all Clint could get Harry to agree to regularly without making the young boy feel uncomfortable, he couldn't break the tradition. Not even after Harry left.
Suddenly he was pulled from his thoughts by someone coming up behind him and wrapping her arms around his body. Lauren laid her head against his, gently tracing invisible patterns on his chest with her thumb. Clint lead back slightly enjoying the calming effect that she was having on his already frayed nerves. He was about to turn around and lay a gentle kiss on her lips when the doorbell rang and a happy 16 year old answered and let the person in.
Nat called up to Clint, "Barton, come on! We need to get going!" He sighed and shook his head and turned to pick up his duffle bag, he held out his hand to walk out with Lauren. They met by the door as Natasha picked the duffle up and went to put it in the car, leaving the family with some privacy to say goodbye. Adam stepped forward first giving his father a firm hug and a whisper of good luck and waited while Nathanial also bid his goodbyes and Clint placed a kiss on each of their forehead as he had always done when they were children. He gave them one more hug before they turned around and headed up the stairs, giving their parents some final alone time.
They turned to look at one another, pausing a moment before Clint drew Lauren into tight embrace they whispered words of reassurance to her. They kissed before he smiled at her saying the parting line of "I will be safe. I will not take stupid risks. I will come home." He leaded forward giving her one last kiss before finishing by saying "I love you."
She smiled at him, placing a hand on his chest "And I love you too. Now go and be safe, okay?" she was standing on the door step as Clint drove off in the 4x4, with Natasha in the front seat. She smiled at him and waved at him one last time before the car disappeared from view. She sighed and turned back into the house; sitting herself down on the sofa she contemplated how long he would be gone this time.