I see our fate It's all we're left
I see our past
And all the things
That could not last
It's heavy on these eyes
Frozen as I hold this photograph
That's of any worth
And it's so much more
Than a thousand words
Now in this frame
Is the only way we can endure
It's all we're left
-Picture by MuteMath
Clint was bored. The world's villains and psychopaths had decided to take a vacation from evil and Clint had not been on a mission in over three weeks. There was really only so much training a person could do before either getting exhausted or bored of that too. He pushed around the mashed potatoes on his tray, glancing around the mostly empty SHIELD cafeteria, looking for inspiration. A low whirring interrupted his contemplation. The sound started to grow as it neared. Turning a corner, a maintenance worker rode in a portable lift. Clint examined the machinery. The worker stopped on the edge of the room, pushing some buttons to raise the platform. He got to work on replacing some of the lights that had been flickering for the last two weeks. Clint had an idea.
To actually pull off this stunt required a surprising amount of planning, at least as far as pranks went. First, Clint followed the maintenance workers to find where exactly they stored those lifts. Then he tracked their use for a few days to find the optimal time to borrow one. Even further, he observed the maintenance workers using them to figure out how to operate them. He also made a trip to the small grocery store a few miles off base to purchase a couple bags of water balloons. Finally, he spent an evening filling them up and placing them carefully in a ten gallon bucket. He loaded down two buckets with balloons. The next morning he put his plan into action.
He figured out that all of the maintenance workers seemed to take their lunch at eleven, so that was his target window. He travelled casually through the hallways before coming upon the maintenance storage area. He quickly picked the lock, happy that there was no security card scanner for the room. Apparently maintenance equipment wasn't a security concern. He opened the double doors completely so he would be able to get the machinery out of the room.
Towards the front was the metal contraption. In its resting position it looking like a metal basket on wheels, with the name Genie emblazoned on the side of platform. He placed his buckets of water balloons in carefully before hopping in. He quickly turned on the machine and started to steer it out of the room.
He laughed a little at how ridiculous he must look, "speeding" down the hallways in this thing. But, it was fun, he had to admit. He noticed a small group of trainees walking down the hallway in a pack, probably on their way to lunch. While keeping his hands on the control he reached down and grabbed a balloon. They didn't pay him a second glance as they passed him. Once they were behind him he turned around and tossed the balloon, smacking one of the men on the back of the head, dousing him in water. Clint threw one more balloon, at the now frozen trainees. They looked dumbfounded at him, not sure how to respond. He hit one of them in the face, before continuing on. He heard some grumbling as he turned a corner, but nobody came after him.
He continued onwards, lobbing the occasional balloon at an innocent bystander. He made his way to one of the more open entryways in the building. The ceiling was high, giving him room to enact phase two of his plan. He pressed some buttons and the lift rose up. He extended the platform as high as it would go, about fifteen feet. He didn't waste any time, chucking balloons at people entering or leaving the building.
Some of his victims gave him confused stares like he was crazy. Some flipped him off angrily. Others laughed, one even giving him a friendly wave even though he had soaked the guys' suit. Some just shook their heads, moving along with their day.
A flash of red had him freezing mid-throw. Natasha stared up at him, her face inscrutable. Clint considered his options. They had been working together for a year and a half and trusted each other, but he couldn't exactly call her a friend. He had never seen her crack more than a smile in amusement. He didn't actually know how she would respond if she was hit with a water balloon. For some reason he didn't think she would find it amusing, which was a damn shame because she really needed to lighten up and have some fun.
"Don't even think about it Barton," Natasha spoke calmly, as if reading his internal contemplation.
Inspiration struck. "You have two options Romanoff; join me or die," Barton teased, mirroring the words he had used to recruit her.
Natasha's lips twitched before shaping into a grin. "Well, when you put it like that."
Clint lowered his platform, a little shocked she had agreed so easily. "We need to restock on ammo and find a new location before we are stopped," he told her in a deadly serious tone.
"Let's go then." She jumped in with him.
He sped the lift down a hallway and turned a corner, spotting his destination, a men's bathroom. He stopped the machine and jumped out of the lift with one of the buckets. "Come on. We've got to make as many balloons as we can. We probably shouldn't stay here longer than five minutes."
She joined him in the bathroom that he walked into. He pulled a bag of balloons out of his pocket and set them on the counter. They spent the next five minutes filling as many balloons as possible.
"So, why are you doing this? Rebelling against Papa Fury, hoping he will give you attention," Natasha said, sarcastically.
Clint smiled as he tied off a balloon. "I was bored."
"You know there are things like books and tv to help with that."
"It didn't appeal to me. I wanted to do something fun."
"And the only thing you could think of that would be fun was throwing water balloons at fellow SHIELD agents from your vantage in a portable lift?"
"What's your reason for joining me?" Clint countered.
Natasha grinned at him. "I'm bored."
Clint returned the grin, and just like that something shifted between them. A camaraderie that hadn't existed before took shape between them. To Clint, it was the first step towards friendship.
"Okay, our times up. Let's go."
They both climbed back into the lift with the half full bucket of balloons. He started the machine back up and started to zip down the hallways. They each took turns hurling their water grenades at random agents. Clint glanced at Natasha, her face lit up in amusement and happiness. He had to admit it was a good look on her.
They made it to another entryway, very similar to the other one Clint had staked out. He lifted the basket up once more and they pelted balloons down to the people entering and exiting the building. Towards the end of their "shooting" spree, Coulson came into the building, freezing when he spotted Natasha and Clint in their perch.
"What are you two doing?" Coulson eyed them and the surrounding mess suspiciously.
Clint met Natasha's gaze, silently questioning her. She shrugged and at the same time they both turned and chucked their balloons, hitting Coulson in the head and chest, dousing the man. To his credit, he didn't flinch, just continued to stare at them levelly.
The sight was too much and Clint busted up laughing, doubling over. It took him a second to hear it over himself, but an unfamiliar sound echoed in the entryway. It was Natasha's own laughter, ringing out. They continued for a minute or two before finally quieting. They both looked at each other and that was all it took before they broke out in a new wave of laughter. Coulson gave them an inquisitive look that Clint couldn't quite read before shaking his head and stalking off, his shoes squeaking on the wet floor.
It wasn't until two days after the incident that he figured out what Coulson had been thinking when he had been studying them. Clint got back to his quarters from training some new recruits, his punishment from Fury for his little joyride, to find a small box on his bed. He opened the plain package to find a picture of Natasha and him within a plain silver frame. It had to have been a screen capture taken from the security footage right after they had hit Coulson. Their eyes were linked, lit up with mirth, and they were laughing. Happiness was written all over their faces. He removed the photo from the box, spotting a folded piece of paper underneath. He pulled it out.
All those years ago, I remember you asked me why I had recruited you, saving you from the life you had been leading. I couldn't articulate it to you at the time, instead I told you I had seen a valuable asset to SHIELD. This picture encapsulates why I brought you in. I saw a kid who just wanted somebody, anybody, to be on his side for once. I know everybody else forgets about it, including yourself, that sometimes you are just the boy who had to grow up too fast because there was nobody else that had your back. I saw that when I tailed you so many years ago. And now, I see why you saved Natasha. You saw the same thing in her that I saw in you. Don't be afraid to indulge that inner-child every now and again. No matter what happens I've got your back and hers as well.
Clint was not one for pictures or sentimental keepsakes, as exhibited by his spartan apartment, but he had to admit the photo made him smile, especially knowing what it represented to Phil. He tucked the letter into the back of the frame, hidden from sight. He set the picture carefully on his bedside table.
A month later he noticed the same picture in Natasha's quarters on her book shelf. He didn't comment on the picture, although he wondered if she received a similar letter from Phil.
"Ms. Everdeen, you have a package," Tony announced as he entered the kitchen.
Clint looked up from his cereal that he was eating at the kitchen island. He noticed Steve and Bruce glance at him curiously from where they were sitting on their stools across from him. Natasha just continued to read the paper besides him.
"What is it?" Clint asked.
"Hell if I know. I'm not a psychic. Some SHIELD agent just dropped it off," Tony replied, setting the box in front of Clint before grabbing a bowl and pouring himself some cereal.
Clint frowned at the medium-sized box. He snatched the envelope on the top and opened it. In it was typed letter on SHIELD letterhead.
As per Agent Phil Coulson's wishes, you are stated as beneficiary of all of his assets. Legal will be by in the next couple of days to go through the paperwork. Until then, here are the contents of his locker and base quarters which I thought you would want.
"What does it say?" Tony pestered.
Clint read the letter one last time to make sure he was reading it correctly. He handed it to Natasha who had pushed her newspaper away, probably sensing something was wrong. He looked up to see the rest of the group staring at him. "It's, umm, Phil's stuff. I guess he left me everything."
Everybody shifted uncomfortably, the mood in the room plummeting. It was no secret that Clint had not been taken Phil's death easily and he hadn't bothered hiding it.
Surprisingly, it was Tony who was first to speak. "Do you want some privacy?"
Clint was shocked by Tony's sympathetic tone. He considered his words. "No, you should all have the chance to get to know him too."
Clint opened the box and glanced in and despite himself he smiled. On top was Phil's prized possession, issue #1 of Captain America in its plastic sleeve. He gingerly took it out glancing at it before showing the rest of them. Bruce and Tony laughed as Steve blushed, giving a sheepish grin. He handed it over to them so they could look. He pulled out a couple cds, mostly classical music, setting them on the counter. Next was a pair of tickets. He examined them.
"Nat, I think these are from when you and Phil went to the ballet."
Natasha took the tickets from her and looked at them. She gave a sad smile. "I can't believe he kept these. That was the first time I had actually got to enjoy the ballet without being on a mission or something."
"I remember that. You would not stop humming one of the songs for a week. I was so annoyed."
"Just because you are an uncultured heathen," Natasha jabbed.
The teasing felt familiar and Clint let it wash over him, feeling like himself for the first time since Loki.
Clint reached back into the box and pulled out a baseball cap with the Boston Red Sox logo stitched on the front.
"Phil was a Red Sox fan?" Bruce asked, seeing the hat.
"Yeah, he's from Boston and he loved baseball. The three of us went to a game a few times when we had some downtime," Clint explained.
"You like baseball Natasha?" Steve couldn't keep the incredulity out his voice.
"I like the food and seeing Clint and Phil act like ten year old boys. I couldn't care less about the team or the game."
Clint shook his head and went back to the box. He pulled out a couple of notebooks that Phil had used to record information from missions. Then there were a couple more pieces of Captain America memorabilia. Clint froze when he pulled out a picture that was unframed. Natasha noticed his tense posture and leaned over to see more closely what he was looking at. When she caught sight of the picture as well, she reached out and placed a comforting hand on the small of his back, rubbing small circles.
"What's that?" Tony asked.
Clint sighed, handing over the photo. He watched as Tony's face lit up in smile, sharing the picture with Bruce and Steve who shared similar amused expressions.
"That's a nice photo of you two. What's it from?" Steve spoke up.
Clint recalled that day years ago, the day that he and Natasha went from being partners to friends. "I had been bored and I decided to go on a water balloon spree in one of those portable lifts."
Bruce snorted. "On a SHIELD base?"
"Yeah. I had roped Natasha into joining me and that is taken right after we had both hit Phil with a water balloon."
Bruce, Tony, and Steve laughed at the image, while Clint and Natasha gave each other a small smile at the memory.
Tony was the last to quiet down. "So, how did he get the picture? Did he just happen to have a camera out?"
Clint's mood darkened slightly. He glanced at Natasha who nodded slightly at him. He remembered the whispered conversation they had in bed the other night. Natasha had contemplated that maybe they could start to trust the rest of the group. Clint had been unsure, but he put faith in Natasha's trust of the men in this room.
"No, he had gone back to the security footage to get this picture. He gave each of us a copy, although I had no idea he had one too. He put a note in with the picture, telling me this photo reminded him why he chose to recruit me to SHIELD."
"Why is that?" Tony's voice was curious, but subdued.
"He said that he had seen a kid that just needed somebody to be on his side. This picture reminded him of the kid that never had a childhood. It was the same reason I couldn't kill Natasha," he whispered, giving Natasha a significant look. "Phil had been happy to see us having fun for once and it was a reminder to both of us, that we always had Phil on our side now."
They were all quiet for a moment, each mourning in their own way the brave man that had fallen to Loki.
Tony clapped his hands, his tone brightening. "Well, I like the photo and I say it goes on the fridge." Tony grabbed the photo and placed it on appliance with a magnet; the picture joining a newspaper clipping about the Avengers and the receipt from the Shawarma restaurant.
"And now that I know our spy friends enjoy a good water fight, I saw we grab my arsenal of super soakers and find out who is the truly best fighter amongst us."
The mood lightened considerably in the room.
"What is a super soaker?" Steve questioned.
"Why am I not surprised that you already have enough water guns for all of us?" Bruce mused.
"You're all going down," Natasha exclaimed.
Clint regarded each of his teammates and felt a sense of peace settle in him. For the longest time it had just been Phil and Natasha as a team. There had been nobody else in his life. When Phil had died he had lost his closest friend and was down to only one person he could trust. But, now he had a room full of people who had his back and he couldn't help but think that had been Phil's intention all along by pushing him to be a part of the Avenger's Initiative. Phil had wanted Clint and Natasha to have something they never had, a family. Even in death, Phil was looking after them.
A/N: I know this struck a slightly odd tone with the two halves, but I couldn't help myself. This is probably a little rough around the edge, but I like the idea and it was a nice distraction from thesis readings today. This little plot bunny came from me studying in my college's SUB the other day and seeing a maintenance worker on one of those lift things. If you want to see one, google image search "Genie lift". I had told my friend how I wanted to take a joyride in one and for some reason I got the idea of Clint shooting from one of them. Then the silliness happened. The story kind of just ran away from me in the second half. I would love feedback on this one, both positive and constructive criticism. Thanks for reading.