A/N: Have I mentioned I'm a HUGE Hawkeye fan? Like, huge. I've been working on this story for quite a while so I hope y'all enjoy it. I have finished the story for the most part so updates will be 2-3 times a week. DISCLAIMER: If I owned Marvel, Hawkeye really would live forever, and he would've had more awesome moments in the CW trailers (: So obviously, I don't.
became the greatest sharpshooter known to man.
Then he joined the Avengers.
This is what he does when he's being an Avenger.
[That's all you need to know]
Hawkeye: Civil War
Once upon a time, Sharon Carter came to visit Avengers Tower.
Once upon a time, she talked for hours on end in our briefing room about the most boring intel the CIA could manage to drum up, while Steve gazed goo-goo eyed at her as his nerdy little brain absorbed it all like hers was the most interesting briefing since SHIELD collapsed.
I gazed over at Natasha and yawned pointedly. She ignored me.
Bruce sat across from us, fidgeting uncomfortably at being in Nat's presence after his recent decision to disappear.
She was ignoring him, too, adding more points to my theory that she was making it her business that day to ignore everybody in the room until the briefing was done.
"So you're saying the vibranium mine we crashed while fighting Ultron wasn't just mining the metal for harmless civilian purposes?" Bruce Banner cocked an eyebrow, leaning over the briefing table with Sharon across from him.
I stifled another yawn and sat forward so I didn't fall right out of my chair.
At least I could understand the words Sharon was saying when Bruce repeated them, in English, for my benefit.
Tony sat on the other side, his feet propped comfortably on the table, pushing his chair back to dangerous limits. I met eyes with him and smirked. "Look, Cap here told us that Fury was still alive," Tony waved aimlessly in Sharon's direction, "but who are YOU exactly?" He was looking like he had exactly thirty seconds before he bolted out of here and back to working on his cars in the basement.
"Fury wants to make sure someone keeps an eye on it," Sharon shrugged. "He's in Antarctica, about to freeze out the one eye he's got left and no one bothered to tell me why. I'm not even part of SHIELD anymore. The fricking organization's totally rebuilt but I'm not even supposed to be in it."
I laughed at her. I was beyond feeling guilty for how rude it sounded. "Then why are you coming here? You want us to take our baby Avengers out of the training center and ship them out to be guard dogs?"
"Because Mr. One-Eyed Wonder himself thinks it would be 'most effectively manageable' if we kept this completely, and totally, private," she glared at me. I just grinned, making Steve add his own glare to the mix. "And apparently we have a mole," Sharon added irritably.
"A mole?" Natasha asked incredulously. "SHIELD was literally just rebuilt."
Sharon let out a huge, rage-filled sigh. "Yes, we have a mole," she said pointedly, looking over at Natasha.
The two of them never got along. Two headstrong women—make that VERY headstrong—in the same melting pot and you're gonna get some lumps. Big ones. With barbs on the outside.
"These things exist in top-secret organizations," Sharon continued patronizingly, "even ones that get overturned and rebuilt and overturned again. And the mole may or may not be connected to our overhead, so Fury's independently contracting the Avengers to look after the vibranium factory and King T'Challa, since he owns it and, according to our records, is very good with technology. He's the one we're worried about. If our mole is connected to him, then things could get very—"
Everyone turned to look at—
Embarrassed, I pulled my phone from my pocket—the flip phone, 'cause I'm old fashioned that way—and started to get up.
"Tell Mrs. Barton 'hi' for me," Tony said immediately.
I gaped at him. "What did I tell you?" I hissed, indicating Sharon, the one unknowing person in the room, with a nod.
"That your wife is a very secret person that should not be mentioned at any cost?" Tony guessed with a wince.
I turned to Steve as I got up from his chair and headed out. "Remind me to kill him later."
Steve nodded his affirmation.
Red-faced and guilty, I managed to get out of there before anyone else made any snarky comments, answering my phone once I was in the hall.
Even though my team knows about my family now, it's still a hassle to separate work life and home life. Even harder, actually, now that Tony wants to know every nitty-gritty detail of how each of our children were originally conceived and where my model-T Ford came from and whether or not pigs fly south for the winter.
I'm not complaining too much. I've got a great team, and an even better family. It's still a pain to manage sometimes.
"Hello?" I answered quietly, pressing the top end to my ear. The sound was a little off, and I winced when it came through. I'd been meaning to adjust my hearing aids. Sometimes, being in one room where the voices echo off the walls one way is different than being in another room.
"Hey," I heard Laura on the other end after I'd adjusted them. "How'd the tests come through?"
"You're a brave soul," I warned her. "Asking the tough questions. Remind me again, when's the last time YOU had a physical?"
A short pause. I smiled.
"I just had a baby," she pointed out eventually.
"See? All the more reason," I teased.
"I think you're tiptoeing around my question, honey."
I sighed. "I don't know," I groaned over the speaker, not wanting to think about it.
SHIELD wasn't too nitpicky these days. They needed anyone they could get.
Phil, however, was altogether too close of a friend to not be nitpicky when it came to me.
Last month, shortly after coming back from my blissful paternity leave, I took one for the team and wound up captured by an enemy agency. They had an extreme and unhealthy obsession with knocking me unconscious each time they wanted to take me somewhere for interrogation. I've got a hard head, though, so I figured it wouldn't take too long to get back on my feet.
But 'on my feet' apparently wasn't good enough for Coulson.
"Long story short, it sucks," I managed a halfhearted laugh, and gulped before continuing. "I talked to Coulson. He says—" I stopped, suddenly finding it hard to speak.
I didn't know why. I guess it was because I was scared this time, and that's not something I feel often.
"He says I might be out."
I could hear Laura's hesitancy on the other end.
Problem with phones is, you can't really tell what the other person is feeling. You hear their voice, but a pause could mean anything, whether it's that a person just walked by with Mickey Mouse ears on, or you're trying not to cry.
"For how long?" she breathed at last, cautiously, worried.
I couldn't answer, because I didn't know. I just didn't know.
Did the others notice how much I wasn't paying attention today, I wondered, or how it took me a second to remember how to write my own name earlier, or how I didn't even remember we had a meeting with Sharon until Natasha came and found me?
Maybe they did, but realistically, the probably didn't guess why. Right? Or maybe they just didn't care.
I was still trying to decide whether or not my mental testing scores from earlier scared me as much as they did Coulson, or whether I wanted to ignore them and keep wheeling and dealing, whatever that looked like now. I didn't know what to think.
I shivered slightly. "Sorry," I mumbled into the phone. "Just deep in thought, is all."
"Are you okay?" Laura's voice was soft, sympathetic.
I sighed, glancing back toward the briefing room. "Yeah. I'll be careful until I can come home, and sort this out. You know I will be. The team is good—you've met them now," I changed the subject with a grin.
"I'm guessing they don't know?" I could practically hear her raised eyebrow.
"Nooo," I groaned, perhaps a little too loudly. "I'm not gonna tell them, Laura! They'll get all excited about it and then I'll get kicked off the Avengers and have an even bigger mess to deal with."
"Alright," another pause.
She didn't like it that I kept secrets from my team, and I got that. I need some stuff private, though. I've been jilted one too many times, frankly. She was okay with my keeping them and the farm a secret for safety purposes, but I knew she always secretly hoped I'd change my mind. That was why I'd felt okay with surprise-crashing them into the house during the Ultron uprising.
"Just—come back safe."
"Always do," I answered bluntly.
She snorted. "That's not true, as much as I would love to stoke your ego."
"Okay, almost always do," I grinned. "It's me, Laura, what's the worst that could happen, right?"
"Oh, you're hilarious," she groaned. "Just get out there and don't do anything too crazy, alright?"
"I'll try not to," I promised, smiling. "I love you."
"I love you too, Soldier."
When I hung up, I turned around only to be faced with none other than Agent Maria Hill.
I did NOT make a very unmanly squeal and jump six inches in the air, but Maria DID fix me with a stare of unwarranted condescension.
I opened my mouth and closed it for a second, trying to think of what to say. "Hi," I finally settled, not coming up with anything.
"Was that your wife?" Maria asked, her normally emotionless eyes expressing some small concern.
I shifted uncomfortably, and rubbed at one eye while slipping the phone into my pocket. "Yeah," I finally confessed, blowing out a long breath. "Yeah, it was."
"Clint, I saw your test results," she admitted with a frown.
"Did you?" I demanded angrily. "You been spying on me, Agent Hill?"
"It's not 'Agent' anymore, and no, Coulson told me."
"Sounds like you're still an agent to me, if you've still got Level 9 security clearance," I narrowed my eyes at her.
Dirty business, sneaking into someone's personal files like that. Especially when they have recent, sensitive information in them.
"I just wanted to say I'm sorry," Maria surprised me by saying genuinely. "SHIELD is losing one of its most valuable operatives."
"'Preciate it," I stared back, trying to take the information in stride and not let it get to him. "I'm not out yet," I added, in the most confident voice I could muster. "Not yet."
"We'll try to keep you on. You know that, right?"
"You're not gonna tell the team?" I asked tensely.
"The team doesn't know yet?" she turned in the direction of the closed briefing room.
I shook my head.
"I know it's—none of my business to ask what your wife thinks…" she began awkwardly.
"No, no," I grabbed my phone, looking at it for a second before putting it right back in my pocket. I don't know why I pulled it out in the first place. "Laura's cool with—with weird things—happening. She'll help me out, too. She knows this stuff. It's kind of what she went to college for."
"At least that must help."
"Yeah, yeah, it does."
"Well, anyway," Maria held out a hand. "Good luck, Clint."
"Thanks," I shook it.
Not one to waste any time, Hill turned immediately and began walking in the direction of her office, leaving me to breathe a sigh of relief. At least the team didn't know. Not yet.
… … … …
There had probably been one too many late-night expos at Stark Tower, aka Avengers Tower, now that there was an 'us'.
Bands played, lights floated overhead seemingly by magic; courtesy of some last-minute decoration technology Tony had pulled out of the lab for Pepper to use. They were actually like giant floating orbs, casting warm yet futuristic-looking light over the whole lawn.
The press was everywhere, behaving decently and actually seeming to enjoy the party for once. There were also an overwhelming number of distinguished guests, common citizens, and old friends.
I turned just enough to see Tony Stark come striding through the crowds of partygoers, a grin on his face that was one part show-guy and two parts mischief.
I threw up one hand, the one that wasn't holding a shot glass. "Where you been all this time?" I complained with a grin. "This is your party. Thought you'd be in the center of it."
Tony clapped a hand on my back as we started walking together across the grassy lawn. "Yeah, well, paparazzi don't come up with their own stories. I was busy."
Steve emerged from the crowd as well and joined us. "I was under the impression that it was their job to come up with whatever they wanted," he smiled.
For being an old miser, the Cap seemed to be enjoying the night at Stark Tower as well as anybody else.
Tony wrinkled up his face for a second, and the three of us stopped in tandem. "Is that—is that forties music?" he glared pointedly at Steve, noticing for the first time. "We have a problem when Pepper starts liking you more than me."
I laughed. The swanky tunes of the good old days were, sure enough, playing in the background as partygoers mingled and tapped their fingers and toes absentmindedly to the music.
Steve shrugged innocently. "Well, I can't help it if I have that 'timeless charisma'."
"Oh, give me a break," I snorted, poking him in the side. "Didn't you come with a girlfriend or something?"
Tony looked up interestedly, eager to hear the latest gossip. "Steve?" he asked, pointedly, a grin growing on his face.
Steve looked away, trying to suppress a grin. "Sam is actually busy trying to schmooze her right now," he admitted at last.
Tony let out a shout of triumph. "YOU?" I poked at him. "Captain America brought a date? Do you realize how long that's been since that happened?"
"Yeah, nearly eighty years, I know, I know," Steve attempted to shrug it off, but anybody could tell he was mightily pleased with himself. He hiked a thumb in the direction of the seating area. "I'd better get back to her. Don't screw up on us later," he pointed at Tony jokingly.
"Do you not realize how many tech expos I've put on over the years? Pepper's got this in the bag."
"Yeah, well, I saw your dad's expo at the World Fair. His flying car collapsed halfway into the show. And if my face is on this new doohickey you schemed up with Banner…"
"You and your endless vanity," Tony sighed dramatically.
"Go find Sharon, Cap. Tony's done this plenty of times," I defended him with a grin.
"I better not get up on that stage and be expected to sing and dance!" Steve shook his finger in Tony's direction.
"I will make you do that just for saying it," Tony replied. "Or maybe, sock Hitler in the jaw."
It was back to just the two of us again.
"Can you believe that? Too-nice-for-his-own-good with Agent Cynic-ide?" Tony peered into my drink, gave me a contemptuous look, and swiped a 'better' one off of a tray that went by, along with one for himself.
"Yeah, and Banner's with Natasha, isn't he?" I squinted toward the seats up front. Even through the crowd, I could see the two of them holding hands and laughing about something ridiculous.
"They've been in each other's laps ever since the briefing ended," Tony rolled his eyes. "Had some kind of sappy fallout, and they made up. All within the last seventy-two hours. Hard to believe she's legit, if you know what I mean, but Hulk's happy with it for now, so I'm happy. So long as the lab stays somewhat intact when she's around. What's the story with you two, anyway?"
"What, me and Natasha?" I scoffed.
"Well, I figured after this point, if you're not going to blame me for Ultron, your secret's safe with me." Tony shrugged.
I smirked at him. "You and all your juicy details. Who're you going to feed them to, FRIDAY?"
He was trying to act indifferent, and failing. "Oh, well, you know. Don't friends kind of know each other's backstories, or at least something to that effect? We all know Steve's, but that's kind of cheating. Even if I did breeze through fourth-grade history in two weeks, which I did."
I downed the small glass I was holding, causing Tony to lean in in anticipation. "It sure is a great story," was all I said, grinning at him.
He gave me the most pitifully disappointed look I'd ever seen. "That's it? You're not gonna tell me anything?!"
"Have you met the woman you're asking me about? I value my life," I shrugged, laughing at him.
Truth is, I found Natasha when she was just a kid. Fifteen years old, trying to seduce a U.S. Senator in some hotel basement. She broke my knee, got me eight months of physical therapy.
Come to think of it, physical therapy was where I met Laura. She was just a student then, volunteering. She ended up becoming a special education teacher (and my wife) and the rest was history.
I think Natasha showed up again somewhere in there, too, but I wasn't about to tell Tony that.
"I give up," Tony shrugged. "I'm going to find Pepper. You're welcome to do—whatever it is you do, now that Natasha's taken and your wife's not here and you don't have a date," he stuck his lip out sadly.
"Ha! You make that sound like such a bad thing. I'm a free man over here, Tony."
"Honestly? I envy you. Don't disappear before curtain; I need you on stage."
"I'm serious!" he pointed at me, walking backwards back through the crowd. "I need someone to be the face of Excelsior, and there's no one I'd rather have up there than my team. Don't let me down."
I smiled. "You know I'd never actually disappear."
"I'm going to hold you to that."
"Excelsior? That's a stupid name," I called after him, but all he reacted with was a knowing, but excited, look.
He disappeared into the throng, leaving me twirling an empty glass, gazing out at the masses of New York dignitaries who had gathered to see the latest collection of Stark and Banner collaborative creations.
The night seemed to be going pretty well, which didn't surprise me, since we'd finally managed to talk the sciencies out of making the Vision part of the performance. He was going up on stage, of course, with the rest of us, but a guy like that—with a mind to rival either of the scientists and a strong personality to match—didn't belong under the title 'invention'. He was just a guy, even if he was a weird human-hybrid-robot-alien-clone. Even the thought of degrading him like that was weird.
Natasha was now bickering in a friendly way with Sam and Sharon. Bruce was still hovering close by, smartly dressed for the exposition and dumbfounding at least thirteen fellow science enthusiasts gathered in a circle around him while not moving one hand from where it encircled Natasha's waist.
She was allowing it.
In public—hmm, in VERY public.
My eyebrows went up—Laura had evidently been correct about the whole—relationship—thing.
Well, that wasn't awkward at all.
Good for him, I guess.
Sam was making a pleasant fool of himself as usual. I smirked when I saw him attempting to hit up on Sharon, only to be interrupted by Steve, who bent down and kissed her right in front of him.
Sam reacted like someone had torched his eyeballs. Even I was surprised. I guess Steve moves fast for an old guy.
Even Scarlet Witch and Vision were hovering on the outskirts of the property, having some kind of meaningful, probably telepathic, conversation about how many hamsters they would sacrifice for one another's love or something.
Everyone was present, in fact, except for Thor, and that was because he was on Asgard with his girlfriend attempting to solve some weird problem they were having up there relating to more aliens coming to attack either them, the Earth, or both.
I had to suppress a smile as I wandered toward the bar to grab another drink.
It seemed the whole team was settling down, just as it came.
We'd gotten to know each other better than I ever dreamed possible, especially with my own family being such a huge secret. I trusted each and every one of them.
Except—of course, with that-which-I-still-hadn't-figured-out-how-to-tell-them.
I've been forced to turn my back on nearly every mentor I've had, fighting them with the same skills they originally taught me. First Duquesne by stealing from the circus, then my brother by trying to win him over with loyalty (and failing). Then Trick faced off with me in a battle of carnie shootouts, and the Swordsman came back a second time to challenge me to a duel, which I lost. I've been stabbed in the back by worse friends, honestly.
I don't trust people easily.
But the Avengers are different, I thought, partly reluctant and partly relieved. I figured I would tell them, even if it turned out I didn't have to. It was worth the embarrassment to know that somebody was out there to watch my back when things weren't going well.
Laura once asked me if I was sure this team was really a team. If they really cared about me.
Tonight, I finally knew the answer.