Being an agent of SHIELD, and then later, an Avenger, Clint Barton had seen his fair share of strange things over the years. He had his mind taken over by a god, had fought alongside a genetically enhanced super soldier and a man who turned into a giant monster when enraged, and had fought an army of robots on a flying city. Agent Coulson had been stabbed through the chest and was still alive to tell the tale, and Fury had followed him with a stunt much the same. Like Clint had told Wanda, things weren't always explainable, but he was there to do a job, and no matter how weird things got, he would do it to the best of his ability.
None of that kept Clint from stopping in his tracks when he was faced with Pietro Maximoff, smirking and alive, like he hadn't taken six bullets and collapsed right in front of Clint six months previously.
"You didn't see that coming?" Pietro said with that infuriating smirk in place.
Unfortunately, they were in the middle of a mission and there was no time to punch the kid in the face to let him know just how he felt. Clint was ducking behind a tree, away from enemy fire, and Pietro was jetting away to distract the gunmen before Clint could think through what exactly had just happened.
So it was that Clint, Pietro, Natasha, and Wanda who were responsible for infiltrating the base and stopping all operations. As Clint shot an arrow at the security camera situated on the corner of the warehouse, he wondered why nobody had told him that the Sokovian had survived. Clint had mourned him, had suffered nightmares in which Pietro was shot in front of him over and over again. Blank blue eyes haunted him, and here he had just been teased by a very healthy-looking Pietro.
Had the other Avengers known, just waiting for the right moment to reveal the older Maximoff twin? Wanda's sorrow had been a sight to see. How long had she known that Pietro still lived?
"Think any harder and your eyes will cross."
Clint shot his hardest glare sideways. "I don't appreciate sass from a dead guy," Clint grumbled, taking off from behind the tree, the leafy floor of the forest crunching beneath his booted feet.
They had gotten a red flag from a warehouse situated in the middle of the woods of West Virginia. It was registered as a steel mill, but suspicious vehicles had been seen traveling back and forth up the tiny gravel road that led to the warehouse, and when SHIELD had finally traced the vehicles, it was discovered that they were of Hydra origin.
It turned out they were running clandestine operations from this outpost in the middle of nowhere to rearm the few branches of Hydra that were left standing. Clint was surprised that SHIELD, even running underground as they were, hadn't picked up on the outpost much earlier.
There was a flash as Quicksilver flashed past Clint, nearly knocking the archer off his feet.
"Still slow as I can remember," Pietro shot behind him as he passed, causing Clint to grind his teeth.
Oh, Clint would have words with that punk later, if he thought this behavior in the middle of a mission was acceptable. He would also be sending a very angry letter to whoever thought it was okay to leave a top agent out of the loop of who had died and who had survived, and about when it was okay to reveal that information.
Clint had to admit, though, that working with the twins and Natasha together was smooth going. When he was with the whole team, there were many unknown factors, especially when the Hulk was involved. Pietro and Wanda read each other incredibly well, making them a blessing to work with when it was just the two of them, Clint, and Natasha.
Having the twins with them made everything easier; Pietro took out the security guards without them alerting the others, and Wanda did nearly everything else with ease. It was Wanda who got her magical fingers into the leader of the operation's mind, causing him to scream where he stood and drop down to the ground for Natasha to cuff. SHIELD was there in no time, swarms of black-clad agents closing down the rest of the warehouse efficiently. The mission had been so easy Clint wondered how anyone could stand a chance against the Maximoff twins, especially when they were backed by two professional spies.
Pietro was at Clint's side in an instant, that stupid smile in place.
"That was fun. Perhaps being an Avenger is worth it, after all."
Clint turned away from the smirking Sokovian and continued stomping his way towards the clearing in the woods where the Quinjet would pick them up. He didn't have time for snarky, cocky mutants who came back from the dead.
Pietro had no trouble at all keeping up with Clint's irritated pace.
"You are angry at me."
Clint didn't reward that with a response, and he definitely didn't pay attention to the way Pietro's bangs were flopping on his forehead in the light wind blowing through the tall trees.
"You think I purposefully kept my survival from you."
Clint's hands clenched to fists by his side and he ground his teeth, eyes focused straight ahead.
"Even Wanda wanted to tell you that I was alive. But Fury thought it wise to keep my recovery as quiet as possible."
So, it was Fury who thought he wasn't to be trusted with that information?
"And as someone who was weak in a hospital bed, I didn't have much say in the matter."
Clint's shoulders slumped and he unclenched his hands.
"How did you survive, anyway?" Clint asked, finally turning his head to look at Pietro, whose face was surprisingly serious.
Pietro shrugged. "Apparently emergency healing is another part of my powers that I didn't know I had until I needed it. I was told it comes with my high metabolism."
"You didn't have a pulse." Clint remembered how Pietro had crumbled to the ground in front of him, eyes blank and lifeless.
"A healing trance, is what the doctors of SHIELD told me. My body shut down so that I could use all energy on healing. It was Wanda who felt my mind spark and stopped them from burying me."
"I don't know why they didn't tell you," Pietro admitted. "I don't know what the danger would have been. I wanted them to tell you, wanted to tell you myself, but apparently that was a security threat."
Clint would be speaking to Fury about this, then. On top of it being unwise for Pietro to reveal himself in the middle of a mission, it was also just plain cruel. Clint had seen the kid die right in front of him, had thought for months that Pietro had died to save him. The least they could do was tell him Pietro was healing in a SHIELD facility somewhere.
"Who in SHIELD knew?"
Pietro tilted his head. "Fury, Hill, Captain America, and Tony Stark. My sister knew right away, of course. And Tony Stark knew only because he hacked into SHIELD's files." Pietro grinned at that.
So neither Steve nor Tony had thought to tell him.
"Aren't you some top agent?"
They came to a stop in the clearing, waiting for Wanda and Natasha to make their way towards them. The two had formed a fast friendship as the only two females on the team, and together, Clint realized how afraid of them they all should be.
"I thought I was, yes," Clint responded shortly.
"Why would they think you a security threat, then?"
"I don't know."
"Romanoff wasn't supposed to know either, but she didn't seem surprised to see me."
"Yeah, well, not much surprises Natasha. She's seen much more than I have."
Pietro stood, assessing him, the dappled light of the forest making his hair shine silver.
Clint gazed right back at Pietro. The man looked much like he had six months ago, but for the dark smudges under his eyes and the more serious look on his face. Pietro had aged in the time that he was away. Clint had heard about the twins' past, so he knew how much they had gone through over the years, and it pained him that he had been a part of even more suffering.
Clint shifted on his feet. "You know, I never got to thank you for… uh, for saving me."
The smile on Pietro's face was like a sunrise. "Unlike me, all those bullets would have killed you."
Clint narrowed his eyes. "But you didn't know you would survive."
Pietro shrugged off the now heavy air around them. "I did the first thing I could think of. It was the right thing to do. My life was not as important as the two of yours combined."
That same crawling horror that Clint had felt when he had seen Pietro staggering in front of him with blood spattered on his shirt was a shadow now. "It would have been nice to know that you were alive. I…" Clint rubbed a hand over the back of his neck, wishing Natasha and Wanda would hurry up and get over to them. "I felt terrible, you know. Your first mission working with us and you got killed in fire that wasn't even meant for you. I misjudged your character."
Pietro smiled again, and Clint was starting to wonder if there was something in the air that was making his head go all funny.
"Well, now I'm back, and I've been told I have a room at Avengers headquarters for me. You've not seen the last of me. Plenty of time for you to judge my character."
Clint was going to shoot something undeniably witty back at the Sokovian, but that was when Wanda and Natasha strolled up, speaking in speedy Russian. He frowned when Pietro chuckled, frowning even deeper when he heard his name in their conversation. He was the only one who couldn't speak Russian, and everyone knew that.
Luckily, the loud engine of the Quinjet cut off any further conversation, and they all became occupied with boarding the jet. Natasha ended up winning the rock-paper-scissors against Clint, meaning she would get to fly the jet. She shot Clint a smirk as she sat behind the controls of the jet.
"You're not very good at rock-paper-scissors."
"I don't think anyone can be good at rock-paper-scissors."
Natasha just shrugged and turned back to the displays.
Clint kept catching Pietro's gaze on the trip home, making Clint wish he was flying the jet.
Steve's look was pained when Clint questioned him about Pietro.
"His recovery was rough, and we didn't want anyone who wasn't absolutely necessary to his recovery to know," Steve explained as he poured the last of the pot of coffee into his I Voted coffee mug that Tony always teased him about.
"I'm a professional. You know I wouldn't get in the way," Clint argued, resisting the urge to aggressively sip his own scalding coffee. "And I was the reason the kid nearly died in the first place. Don't you think I deserved to know he was okay? I still have nightmares, and you know how hard it is to freak me out."
Steve grimaced as he reached for the creamer. He turned to face Clint, who was sitting at the bar. "I really am sorry about that, Clint. In hindsight, it wouldn't have hurt for you to know, but we weren't sure he would pull through anyway. There were too many factors."
Clint stared down into the steaming mug of coffee. "I would have liked to be there for him, anyway. He saved my life."
Steve was silent for a while, the only sound in the kitchen the ticking of the clock on the wall. "You know, he asked after you. He wanted us to tell you he was alive."
Clint's hand tightened on his mug, but he remained silent.
"He was fevered and hallucinating, but he wanted you to know."
There were times when Clint hated the organizations he worked for, and it was times like these that he wondered if they actually valued him at all.
"You know," came Tony's voice as he sauntered into the kitchen. "I was all for letting the whole team know that Speedy was alive, but apparently I don't run things around here."
Steve gave Tony a long-suffering look. "You weren't supposed to know."
Tony shrugged. "Yet you didn't seem too surprised when I found out. Rogers, I own everything the Avengers touch. You can't keep me out of the loop, and I thought it was really rude for you to keep Sonic the Hedgehog's bestie out of the loop."
Clint couldn't figure out if he should be offended, or thankful. It seemed there were multiple people who had thought Clint should know Pietro was alive.
"Wait, who all thought Pietro's recovery should be kept secret?"
"Cap and Fury, actually," Tony responded, picking up the empty coffeepot and frowning. "Did you steal the last of the coffee? I brewed all of that for myself, guys."
"Everyone but Rogers and Fury thought the whole team should know?"
Steve looked sheepish. "Hill agreed, too."
Clint was about to stand and go somewhere where he could stew, when there was a flash of blue and Pietro was sitting next to him at the bar. "S'there any coffee left?"
"Good morning, Speedy. Sorry, Clint and Steve hogged all of it."
Pietro arched a brow at the nickname, but didn't comment. No one ever really complained about Stark's nicknames for all of them, knowing there wasn't much they could do about it. The man had nicknamed Loki and gotten away with it.
"Maximoff, I know you're new around here, but we have the 'no powers inside' rule for a reason," Steve admonished. He took a large swallow of the scalding coffee as Tony glared at him. Clint took a moment to reflect on the fact that they were all wearing lounging clothes, as it was a Sunday morning. Tony was wearing Hulk pajama bottoms (Clint was pretty sure Stark owned a pair for each Avenger). The whole scene was somewhat surreal.
Pietro shrugged, snagging a banana from the basket of fruit. "That is your rule, Rogers?"
"Stark and Barton don't have powers, and neither do Romanoff, Rhodes, and Wilson. Your powers are a part of your body that you can't turn off. Banner barely has control over his powers, and I can't see you telling Thor to refrain from picking up his hammer in the house. It seems that your rule is aimed at me and my sister."
Steve stared, his jaw clenched, and Clint really had to hand it to the newbie for back-talking Captain America. Pietro just took a bite of his banana and chewed nonchalantly, blond hair mussed from sleeping on it.
"We cannot turn off our abilities, as much as you would like us to. They are a part of us, just like your strength and size are a part of you."
Steve shook his head. "As long as you're not causing destruction or harming a team member, I guess I have no right to complain."
Pietro's chewing became self-satisfied, and Clint's admiration for the Sokovian grew.
Clint let arrow after arrow fly, spinning in place as he nailed each moving target dead-center. He had developed a rhythm and was hitting target after target rapidly, feeling the ache in his muscles that came with a pleasantly difficult workout. He could feel the sweat dripping down his forehead, and it helped to clear his mind of the stresses of the past weeks. Stark had shown him the practice range in the Avengers headquarters with a huge smile, knowing how much Clint appreciated a nice place where he could keep his aim perfect and himself in shape. The bonus was that he almost always had the archery range to himself.
Clint blinked when the arrow he had just fired disappeared.
The displacement in the air was enough to let him know exactly what had happened. He paused, waiting for Pietro to come to a halt in front of him, smirk twisting his mouth and twirling Clint's lost arrow between thin fingers.
"You didn't see that coming?"
Clint rolled his eyes. "Buddy, you really need a new catchphrase. That one's getting old real fast."
Pietro shrugged. "What's your catchphrase, then?"
"People living in the adult world don't have those."
Pietro skipped closer, still twirling the arrow between his fingers. "You were the one who threw my words back at me. And when you've been shot in the chest, you don't really have time to think about how witty you're being."
Clint winced, and Pietro's reaction was immediate.
"Hey, sorry," he said, hand holding the arrow dropping to his side. "That was cruel of me to say."
"You were the one that nearly died. If you want to make jokes about it, go ahead." Clint turned his attention to the bow in his hand, testing its tension even though he knew it was perfect.
Pietro shook his head. "I like to make jokes that people find funny. You are not laughing."
Clint looked back up at the Enhanced, wondering what it was he found so interesting about him. Clint dealt with superheroes every day, and most of the time, found them irritating and cocky, Stark being the prime example. Clint did like Tony Stark, he just found that the man was easier to deal with in short increments. Steve also got on his nerves with the righteousness that spilled off of him in waves, and Banner still made Clint nervous at times, even if Clint trusted the scientist like he did every member of the team.
It wasn't as though Pietro wasn't irritating and cocky, was in fact extremely so, but there was something purer about him, something raw underneath that thin layer of snark that Clint was drawn to. The man had a temper like nothing else, and had a tendency to act before he thought, but inside of him was a heart of gold.
"You wanna make a little wager?" Clint asked, a corner of his mouth turning up in a smile.
The worry on Pietro's face cleared. "Depends on the bet."
"If I can land one bull's-eye, you have to prank Captain America. If you manage to deflect all my shots, I have to prank Captain America."
The grin on Pietro's face was wicked. "How many arrows are we talking about?"
Clint considered. "Let's say twenty." He pulled the quiver off his back and counted, pulling the few extras out and setting them aside. "How's that work?"
"You're on, old man."
Clint smiled, deciding not to comment on how they were only eight years apart, and notched his first arrow. "Ready?"
Pietro raked a hand back through his hair, pushing the white-blond strands off his forehead. "I'm always ready."
Clint pivoted in place, firing his first arrow, the rush of silvery blue blocking it from hitting home. He didn't stop, though. He continued to spin, keeping his pattern of shots completely random. Arrow after arrow was caught up in the blue rush as Pietro zinged across the room, but Clint was determined. On his very last arrow, he aimed at the highest target for less than a second before firing upward and knowing the arrow would hit home this time, surprised when he suddenly found himself flat on his back and staring up at the ceiling.
Pietro grinned down at him.
"Did you just tackle me?" Clint groaned, trying to get back the breath he had lost on impact with the ground. "I'm pretty sure that's cheating."
"You never said there should be no contact." The Sokovian was also out of breath, something Clint found interesting about Pietro's powers. Going at top speed took it out of him.
Clint shoved at Pietro's shoulders. "Get off me. How do you even lug around all that weight?"
Pietro chuckled and climbed off of Clint, offering him a hand up. "I could ask the same of you. Hitting you was like running into the side of a barn."
Clint ignored him, looking up to the last target. What he saw caused a smile to stretch on his face. "Looks like you'll be the one stealing Steve's underwear, Speedy."
In the middle of the target, Clint's last arrow stuck proudly.
Pietro cursed in Russian, and Clint couldn't help laughing. "You tacked me for nothing."
Pietro shrugged. "It was worth a shot. Obviously, it didn't work." Pietro shook his head. "No matter. Pranking the Captain will be easy, and I wouldn't be surprised if he blames it on you or Stark."
"You've got to keep me updated on that one."
Pietro's smile under disheveled blond hair warmed something in Clint's stomach.
"Of course I will."
The building was coming down, and it was coming down right around Clint, who had somehow managed to get his leg caught under a metal support beam. He could feel a splintered piece of it jabbing into the flesh of his calf, and trying to tug his leg out only sent searing pain shooting up his thigh. He could feel warm blood pooling in in the leg of his pants and around where his leg was stuck.
"Clint, you have to get out of there! The building's about to fall." Natasha's voice came through his com, laced with worry that Clint hated to hear in her voice.
"Can't. My leg's stuck under a metal beam. I tried pulling it out, but it's embedded in my calf." His voice sounded rough to his own ears.
"Where the hell is Stark?" Natasha demanded.
"He's fighting Doom, and his com is dead. Rhodey's with him," came Steve's voice. "Barton, are you sure you can't get your leg out? You don't have much time; that building is coming down in moments."
"Don't you think I would have gotten out by now if I could?" Clint snapped, his breathing harsh. "You guys don't worry about me, okay? Keep fighting. The civilians are the priority. Keep the Doombots from hurting anyone."
"Clint, we're not leaving you in there!" Natasha barked.
"You will! You have to!" The shaking of the building around him got worse, and the cloud of dust that rose from the floor had him hacking a cough with watering eyes. He closed his eyes against the burn. "It's been a pleasure to work with you guys."
There were muffled shouts coming through the com, but the dust and the screeching of the building around him was making it hard for him to focus on anything but the throbbing pain in his leg.
Clint didn't put much thought into how he thought he would die, but being crushed under a falling building had never crossed his mind. He hoped he died quickly, instead of slow suffocation.
There was a flash of blue that Clint thought was a hallucination, but then Pietro was crouching in front of him.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Clint rasped, fear clawing at his heart at the thought of both of them being crushed under the building. Pietro had nearly died for him once; it didn't need to happen again.
"Saving your sorry ass, of course." With that, he reached around and began attempting to pry the bar off of Clint, grunting against the strain. "I would have sent my sister, but she's trying to keep the Doombots from destroying downtown."
Clint couldn't help the scream of pain as the metal was pried out of his calf when Pietro bent the bar away just enough for Clint to slide his leg out.
"Sorry about that, Clint," Pietro told him softly, wincing as he released his hold on the bar.
Clint shook his head sharply. "No problem."
"Let's get out of this dump." Pietro crouched in front of Clint again. "I'm going to have to carry you if we're going to escape in time." There was rubble falling around them and the groaning of the building was getting even more worrisome. The clouds of dust were nearly impossible to see through.
Clint nodded shortly, teeth clenched tight against the pain in his leg.
Pietro hooked one arm under Clint's knees, and the other around Clint's back, hefting him with relative ease, bridal style. Clint was sure he would never hear the end of this when all was said and done.
Even though Clint knew it was coming, he still wasn't prepared for the world to blur around him as Pietro sped around the debris in their path to get the both of them to safety. The building was finally completely collapsing around them, and as soon as they reached the cool brush of fresh air, the deafening sound of a building folding in on itself drowned out everything else.
Their escape from death ended with a tumble as Pietro dove to avoid the path of the crumbling building.
They came to a stop against the side of a building, and Clint would have protested the way Pietro used his body to shield Clint from the rain of rubble, but his vision had started to narrow to a point, and he was feeling light and weak.
He didn't even notice when everything finally settled to a halt, and he jumped when Pietro touched his leg.
"Easy. I am only checking your injury."
Clint blinked up at him. "You keep saving my life."
Pietro shrugged as he ripped Clint's pants away from the stab wound on his calf.
Pietro touched the com in is ear. "Yes, he's alive. We're both alive, but if you don't allow me to see to his injury, he might not be alive for much longer."
Clint touched his own ear and realized his com had fallen out at some point during their escape. It hadn't been fastened on for super speed like Pietro's had.
Pietro used the length of fabric he had cut from Clint's pants to tie around the wound to bind it. Clint watched the look of concentration on his face with a detached sort of interest.
Clint liked the way his name sounded in Pietro's rich Sokovian accent. Clint squinted up at Pietro's face and grinned when he saw debris in the man's white-blond hair. He would have reached up and brushed it off, but he couldn't feel his arms. How much blood had he lost? The fierce throbbing in his leg had turned into a dull ache, which worried Clint in some far corner of his mind.
"Clint, stay with me. Help will be here soon, you just have to stay awake until then, okay?"
Had Pietro's eyes always been that blue? His sister's eyes turned red when she used her powers. Did Pietro's turn blue? They seemed naturally that color, but Clint wasn't sure, and for some reason that bothered him.
A warm hand cupped his jaw. Pietro was speaking, but Clint felt like the air around him was thick and muffling. Was he speaking Russian? He knew Clint didn't speak Russian, right? The last thing Clint saw was Pietro's worried face staring down at him.
Two weeks after the building incident, Clint realized he should probably talk to Wanda about his problem. He found her curled on the couch in the communal living room, reading a horror novel.
"Hey, Wanda, can I ask you something?"
She looked up and smiled. "Sure."
There was a knowing smirk on her face as Clint sat down on the other side of the couch, a smirk that Clint really didn't want to think about. Despite their rocky start, it seemed that everyone got along well with the younger Maximoff twin. She was charming, and her strong personality and powerful skills were quite an asset in a fight. It was nice to be on her good side.
"It's about your brother."
"What about him? Last I heard he was on probation for shrinking Steve's suit." The smile on her face told Clint she had found it just as funny as the rest of them had.
Clint couldn't help smiling. Pietro had followed through on their bet, and he had done it well. He had managed to keep from being found out up until Steve demanded that Tony slow down the video footage to catch Pietro in the act of stealing the spangled uniform, and that was nearly three weeks after the original incident.
"Yeah, he's on probation, but he's only off the away teams for a month. Honestly, I think it's a stupid rule. One prank and the public suffers for it. But that's Steve for you; there are some things you just can't screw around with, and apparently his suit is one of those things."
Wanda shrugged. "My brother has a useful power, but we can survive without him. We did so for six months. If he is upset about it, he should learn not to prank Steve Rogers."
"Well, I might have been a part of that," Clint responded, scratching the back of his neck.
"Oh I know," Wanda said easily, stretching her bare feet to rest on the glass coffee table. Tony always fussed at them for getting the expensive glass all smudged, but none of them ever listened, and Clint himself saw Tony with his feet up on it.
Clint arched a brow. "You know?"
"My brother and I are close, obviously. He talks about you often."
This time both of Clint's eyebrows rose. "He talks about me?" Clint narrowed his eyes. "If he talks about me so much, why's he advoiding me?" Pietro had spent the two weeks after rescuing Clint from the falling building actively avoiding him. He had stopped in while Clint was recovering to make sure Clint was okay, and then he had left, and Clint hadn't truly seen him since then. If Pietro was in a room when Clint entered, he made a quick excuse and left before Clint could even say 'hello.'
"That is a problem you need to solve with him."
"I can't solve it with him if I can't find him," Clint said with a frown. "I was going to ask you if you could tell me what's wrong. If there's something I did that's made him mad, I'd like to apologize for it, or at least try to make things better."
Wanda stared at him, assessing. "You care about my brother."
Clint shrugged. "He's a friend, and I hate to think I'm doing something that's upsetting him without even realizing it."
Wanda was silent for a few moments. "Believe it or not, there are things my brother and I don't share. I really do think you should talk to him. He is usually straightforward about his feelings." She tilted her head. "He's in his room now, if you are willing."
Wanda, along with all her other amazing abilities, could tell where anyone was in the building at any time, just by sensing their minds.
"Does your brother ever complain that he got the short end of the deal with the superpowers?"
Wanda grinned. "His powers match his personality, just like my powers match mine. I do not think he envies me, not really. We knew what we were getting into when we signed up for experimentation, and the fact that we came out on top is enough for us."
Clint still thought that super speed had nothing on Wanda's skills, but he wasn't one to judge, especially when Clint lacked any powers at all.
"Hey, thanks. I'll go talk to him."
Wanda nodded, looking back down at her book. "It is about time you two figured things out."
Clint decided not to wonder exactly what she meant about that as he made his way to Pietro's rooms. The place wasn't exactly Avengers Tower level of awesome, but it was close. Each Avenger had a set of rooms to themselves that included a small living room, kitchenette, bathroom, and bedroom. Most of the Avengers preferred to use the kitchen and the televisions in the common area of the Avengers living quarters, but there were times the privacy was nice.
Clint knocked at the door that had "Quicksilver" spelled out on it in silver lettering. Clint wondered whose idea it was to use their code names instead of their real ones on the doors, and thought perhaps it was Tony who had done it. Clint was just glad Tony hadn't put his creative nicknames for them on the doors. Just because he used a bow and arrow didn't mean Clint liked to be called Legolas.
After a few moments, right before Clint considered turning right back around, the door cracked open and Pietro peered out at him.
"Hey," Clint said, eyeing Pietro's mussed hair and crumped t-shirt. "Were you sleeping?"
Pietro ran a hand through his hair, which barely had any effect on the mess of it. "No."
Pietro didn't seem too thrilled to see Clint at his door, if the bland expression was anything to go by.
"Do you have time to talk? We haven't spoken in a while, and I get the sense that we need to."
"Do you?" Pietro's brows rose.
"You saved my life and then decided to ignore me for two weeks. I think there's something going on here, and I'd like to find out what it is."
"I am not allowed privacy? Perhaps I have decided I do not like you and am keeping my distance so I don't end up punching you and getting into even more trouble from Captain America."
"You don't like me because I almost got flattened by a building? Seems a little petty to me."
Pietro shifted on his feet, a frown now affixed on his features. "For being a part of the Avengers, you're frighteningly easy to kill. Every other Avenger has something to keep them alive. What do you have? Arrows?"
Clint crossed his arms. "What about Natasha? She's just an agent like me."
"I don't think Romanoff is as easy to kill."
"You think I'm the easiest of the Avengers to kill?" Clint asked incredulously.
"Perhaps not the easiest to kill, but you're taking a much bigger risk than some of us are. Your only weapons are a bow and arrow and a tiny handgun. Doesn't that seem weak against the threats that we face?"
Clint's hands clenched to fists. "Is that why you've been avoiding me? You're worried about my mortality?"
Pietro broke their eye contact, staring at the doorframe with his eyebrows drawn low. "Partially."
"I thought you were upset with me for something that I can actually control. You know, something reasonable."
"It would be best if you left, Barton. I am… busy."
With the door open, Clint could hear the sound of the television playing, and the room behind Pietro looked dark. "Busy, huh? Well, if you want to keep avoiding me like a child, fine. Whatever trivial problem you have with me, go ahead and let it eat you up."
Suddenly, Pietro's hand was fisting in the front of Clint's t-shirt and he was yanking him so that their noses were inches apart.
"You really want to know what my problem is?"
Pietro's eyes were grey in the sunlight filtering through the large window in the hallway, and they were filled with fire.
"That's the whole reason I came here, yeah."
The last thing Clint was expecting was for Pietro to pull him forward and kiss him.
It was a hard clash of mouth against mouth, and it was over before Clint could react, the door to Pietro's rooms closing with a slam that left Clint standing in the hallway, more confused than when he had first knocked on the door. He stood there for a few moments, staring at the silver letters and wondering what the hell had just happened.
Clint eventually wandered back to the main living room and collapsed into one of the couches, scrubbing a hand down his face.
"That was fast."
Clint nearly startled, which was very atypical of him. He had forgotten about Wanda still sitting on the couch across from him.
"Uh, well, it didn't really go how I planned it to."
"If you had been paying attention all along, it wouldn't have surprised you."
Clint stared at her. "What do you mean?"
Wanda rolled her eyes. "You men are impossible."
"Hey, I don't have a window into people's heads."
"You don't need a window into Pietro's head to tell that he has a soft spot for you. Nearly all the other Avengers can see it."
Clint opened and closed his mouth a few times before he was able to formulate a response. He thought about the smile on Pietro's face when Clint saw him for the first time since seeing him lying broken on the floor of the lifeboat, how Steve had told him that Pietro had asked after Clint while he was recovering. He thought about their back and forth banter, the way Pietro always shot him a smirk when he joked with the other Avengers, the friendly hand on his arm after a good training session together.
He thought about Pietro's face when he had pulled Clint from that building, leaning over him and telling him to stay awake, to stay with him.
"Finally!" Wanda threw up her hands. "At least Pietro faced his feelings for you. He may have been stubborn about actually telling you, but he's not emotionally stunted like some of you around here seem to be."
"Well, he didn't really tell me, after all that. He kissed me and slammed the door in my face."
Wanda laughed. "Well, he is known to be dramatic."
Clint shook his head and wondered exactly what he was going to do about this new development.
It took approximately twenty-four hours for Stark to find out about their kiss, and after Tony knew, every other Avenger knew. Each room itself had cameras, but Tony only used the footage in case of emergencies. The hallways, on the other hand, were free game.
"So would you guys be called Quickeye? How about Hawksilver?"
"Shut up, Stark," Clint groaned, trying with everything he had to ignore the irritating billionaire, which didn't seem to be working. They were all clustered around the living room, and Natasha had gotten ahold of the remote, which was why they were all watching Legally Blonde. Not that anyone had complained. Movie nights with the gang were always an adventure, and it was entertaining to see what everyone's favorites were.
Pietro was absent.
"It's a miraculous love story, though. He dies saving your life and you pine for him for months, dream about his pretty eyes, and then he comes back from the dead! And then you nearly get yourself killed again, he saves you, and you kiss in the hallway of Avengers headquarters. You guys are destined for each other."
"Shut up, Tony."
"Where is he, anyway? Shouldn't you two be cuddling up together?"
Clint buried his face in his hands, wondering how he had ended up getting the spot next to Stark on the couch. It seemed cruel.
"You should be at his door, serenading him. You play guitar, don't you?"
Clint sought out Natasha with pleading eyes. "Can you make him stop? He's scared of you."
Natasha shook her head. "I might be enjoying this more than the movie, honestly."
There was a spattering of nods from the rest of the room. Even Thor seemed to be entertained by Clint's embarrassment.
"I'm going with Hawksilver, I think. It's better than Clietro. Ew."
"Leave him alone. You are irritating." Clint glanced up to see Pietro skirting around the couch and sprawling in the open spot by his sister.
"Aw, come on," Tony complained. "You can't just kiss someone in the hallway and expect it to go unnoticed."
"You noticed it, you made your jokes, now quiet down so we can all watch this movie."
Tony crossed his arms and sat back against the cushions of the couch, glancing between Clint and Pietro, neither of whom were looking at him. He kept quiet, though, which was a blessing, and Clint had to resist shooting Pietro a grateful look. He didn't know where he stood with Pietro, and he couldn't help but feel awkward trying not to look at him. This situation right here was part of why he was having doubts; if anything happened between them, they would still have to work together and hope that their troubles didn't translate over to their missions. Clint was a professional in every sense of the word, but that didn't means things wouldn't get tense.
He allowed his thoughts to take backstage, finally able to focus on the movie and not the mess of his personal life.
That lasted about thirty minutes.
"You could cut the tension in here with a knife."
"Stark, I swear to god, this is none of your business," Clint groaned.
"I'm just trying to help my friends, and I can't help finding all of this fascinating. It's like an office romance or something, except with superheroes and violence."
"Find something else to entertain you," Pietro snapped, glaring at Tony. "You're being an asshole."
Tony leaned closer to Clint. "You better be careful. You're boyfriend has a sharp temper."
Clint stood. "You know what, Tony? You need to learn when to stop. I don't need to hear this."
He stalked out of the room, heading to the stairs that led to the roof, needing fresh air in his lungs, and space.
As soon as he was up on the roof, he made his way to the edge of the building, staring up at the stars that were incredibly clear out here in the rural area of Upstate New York where the headquarters were located. Clint breathed in the crisp air and tried to calm the irritation that was bubbling in his veins. Tony was just being his usual self, and he wasn't trying to be hostile. It just didn't help that Clint himself was confused and unsure of what he wanted to do. He didn't like Tony teasing them for something that wasn't there yet.
But the more Clint thought about it, the fewer reasons he could come up with that being with Pietro was a bad idea. They were both unattached, living in Avengers mansion and pledging their lives to saving the world. If there was a little comfort to be found in that, Clint wondered why it would be so bad to take it. If things got too rough, Clint wasn't above sneaking both of them away to his empty safe house where they had hid out during the Ultron incident. They could all hide out there.
It had been a long time since Clint had been attached to anyone, or since he had even felt the pull towards anyone like he was feeling for Pietro now. This was something bright and new, and why shouldn't they be happy? They should at least be able to try to find happiness.
There was the sound of the door to the roof opening and closing, and it wasn't hard for Clint to figure out who it was.
"Hey, I'm sorry about Stark. He just doesn't know when to chill out sometimes."
Pietro moved up to stand beside him, also looking up at the bright stars. "It is no matter. He apologized to me when you left, and I was foolish to kiss you in the hall."
Clint finally looked at him, and his breath nearly caught at the moonlight illuminating his blond hair silver.
"But you didn't say it was foolish to kiss me, period."
Pietro made eye contact with him, his expression calm. "No, I do not think it was foolish to kiss you. I thought it important you know, either way."
"I'm glad. It would have taken a lot longer for me to get there myself. For me to realize…"
Pietro's smile was bright in the darkness. "That's what Wanda told me; that you would take forever to come around and that I should give you a hint. I don't know why I ever doubt her."
"You know, if we decide to do this," Clint began, running a hand through his hair, "it won't be easy, not by a long shot. We have to worry about the rest of the team, not to mention nearly dying frighteningly often."
Pietro stepped closer, so that their shoulders were brushing. "During my time with Hydra, while they were running tests, our lives were a living Hell. The pain was nearly unbearable, and each day could have been our last. Having my sister there made all the difference. I would not be here today if it weren't for her, and she feels the same. We kept each other sane, and I think that the more strong connections you form with those you fight side-by-side with, the better off you are." Pietro looked back up to the stars. "She kept me sane. Is it so wrong to find that solace among your teammates?"
Clint took a deep breath and shook his head. "I don't think so, no."
"I will not presume to know you more than I should, Clint, but I hope I am not imagining the connection we share between us."
"You're not imagining it. God, when I thought you had died for me…" His voice caught and he swallowed heavily. "And then, you came back, and I hated knowing that they had kept that knowledge from me."
Pietro's hand on his shoulder gently pulled him so they were facing each other, and Clint forced himself to meet bright blue eyes.
"I still regret that, you know. That Rogers and Fury kept my existence from you. They should not have that right."
Pietro had leaned close enough that their noses were nearly brushing, and Clint did not believe eyes that blue could exist. His hand was warm on Clint's shoulder, and all doubts that Clint held were slowly burning away under the heat of Pietro's gaze.
"If you kiss me and run away again, I won't be very happy," Clint murmured, his gaze flicking to Pietro's pretty mouth.
"I won't be running." He paused, a smile forming on his lips. "Are there cameras up here?"
"There're cameras everywhere." Clint wrapped a hand around the back of Pietro's neck and pulled him the final few inches.
This kiss was much better than the first, soft and slow like Clint hadn't expected. Pietro's lips were soft and his stubble was scraping against Clint's chin, a new but strangely satisfying sensation that Clint soaked in. Pietro's hand traveled to the hair on the back of Clint's head, tightening in the short strands as the kiss deepened. Their noses bumped as Clint changed the angle, and Pietro's smile tasted even better against his own before the new angle had them both clutching at each other tighter.
When they finally pulled back, they were both short of breath. "You didn't see-"
Clint cut him off with another kiss, this one much shorter and leaving them both laughing.
"You were going to say that stupid phrase again."
Pietro shrugged, his thumb brushing a pattern on the back of Clint's neck. "Guilty."
"Just because it was the first thing you said to me doesn't mean you should repeat it until I strangle you."
Pietro rested his forehead against Clint's in a surprisingly intimate action. "You would not strangle me."
"Yeah, arrows are more my style."
The door to the roof opened, and both Clint and Pietro looked over, not bothering to separate.
"If you guys want pizza, you better get in here before Thor eats it all." Steve had a smile on his face. "Sorry to intrude, but I figured I should let you know there's food."
"It's all good, Steve," Clint said, pulling back from Pietro reluctantly. "Thanks."
Steve nodded and retreated back into the building.
"You want pizza?" Clint asked, glancing at Pietro who was already looking at him.
"I could eat."
Pietro stole one more kiss before they made their way inside towards the kitchen where they could hear laughter and the clinking of glasses. At the last second before they entered the room, Clint saw how tousled Pietro's hair was and realized he probably looked the same.
Pietro stopped, arching a brow.
Clint reached a hand up and attempted to flatten Pietro's hair. "We want to avoid wolf whistles and catcalls."
Pietro smirked and helped comb down Clint's hair. "Your hair is always a mess anyways."
"Hey." Clint frowned back at him and then shook his head. "Come on, we're not getting any better than this."
When they stepped into the kitchen, they stepped directly into a debate.
"The wings are more versatile than War Machine, hands down," Sam argued. "Steve can totally vouch for me on that one. Right Steve?"
Steve took a very large sip of the soda in his hand to avoid responding.
"Sorry Sam, but I built my suits very specifically," Tony cut in. "They turn on a dime and don't rely on air currents. There's barely any drag."
Sam frowned into the slice of pizza. "You're not accounting for skill."
"Skill can't make inferior machinery superior," Rhodey shot back.
Clint rolled his eyes and grabbed a pizza box, stealing a slice of pepperoni and handing the box to Pietro. Wanda smiled at the two of them, and Tony eyed them, but no one commented on Pietro and Clint coming back together. Perhaps they noticed the relaxed tilt to Clint's shoulders and the way Clint and Pietro stood close enough that their arms were brushing.
Clint knew the peace wouldn't last, of course. They lived with a group of very strong personalities with strong opinions, and if no one else teased them, Tony sure as hell would.
"From what I've seen of Wilson's wings, I do think he has a fair chance of outmaneuvering Rhodes," Pietro added, shrugging. "The only way to solve this would be some sort of agility course."
"Absolutely not," Tony retorted. "It took me forever to figure out those wings, and if you guys destroy them on some stupid bet, I'll be furious."
"Well then, I guess the mystery will never be solved," Sam said with a shrug, taking a huge bite of his slice of pizza.
"You're just going to have to compare penises, as per usual," Natasha quipped, and half the men in the room choked on what they were eating. Pietro's laugh was bright, his shoulder pressing warmly against Clint's.
Pietro shoved at Clint's shoulders, pushing him backward until they were completely inside Clint's living room.
"The debriefing," Clint said weakly, but the look on Pietro's face quieted his complaints.
"You are an idiot," Pietro snarled, pushing him all the way until the back of Clint's knees hit the edge of the bed, and he sat heavily. Pietro was crouching in front of him immediately, checking Clint for any injuries the medics had missed. Clint was relatively uninjured, but he sat still and allowed Pietro his piece of mind.
"I was doing my job," Clint responded. "Those civilians had been left alone, and there was hoard of Doombots headed straight for them."
"Stark was seconds behind you! You couldn't breech their outer shells without the explosive arrows, which you were out of. How were you thinking of stopping them?"
"I was slowing them down, okay? I couldn't just stand there and watch. I was the closest, and I was prepared to do anything in my power to save those people."
"And you nearly got killed in the process. If I hadn't been there…"
"A price I was willing to pay. We all signed up for this job, and that means risking our lives for people in need, no matter the cost to ourselves."
Pietro made a low sound in the back of his throat and ducked his head, his hands gripping Clint's arms tightly. "I just wish you would be more careful. You are the most vulnerable Avenger."
"I can't afford to be careful, you know that. Clint brought a hand up to cup Pietro's jaw, tipping his head up so Clint could look him in the eye. "It's not always easy, but at the end of the day, it's the right thing to do."
"I know," Pietro said softly, and then he pushed up on his feet and kissed him with enough momentum that they both toppled backward on the bed with Pietro's weight pushing Clint down onto the mattress.
"Seeing those Doombots coming down on you like hellfire, I thought for sure I wouldn't be able to get to you in time." The words were spoken into the small space between their mouths, a hot puff of air that Clint could feel more than hear.
"You did, though, and that's what counts." Clint wrapped his arms around Pietro's back and held onto him tightly, like Pietro would get away if he didn't.
"I was nearly too late." Pietro's hand gripped tightly in Clint's hair, tilting his head to kiss him better. Pietro's body temperature was higher due to his heightened metabolism, making him a searing line of heat against Clint's front.
"Everyone is going to know that we skipped out on the debriefing together," Clint protested halfheartedly as Pietro wrangled with Clint's uniform, his fingers finding the zip in the back and tugging.
"I don't care."
"Just a warning. Didn't say I particularly cared either."
"Good," Pietro said with a smile, finally succeeding in getting Clint's suit off, tossing it to the side and stripping off his own running shirt.
"You could give Captain America a run for his money," Clint stated eyeing the newly bared skin and pulling Pietro back down to continue kissing him.
"Do not talk about Captain America in bed with me. It puts me off."
Clint laughed and buried a hand in silvery hair and tugged. "Whatever you say, Speedy."
Pietro's answering laugh was music to his ears.