I Caught a Snipe

Clint poked his head through the doorway, glancing in all directions before easing himself through the doorway. The shared living space for the Avengers was empty. Thor had gone off with Steve to meet some woman named Jane and Tony was supposedly at a business meeting. Clint had a hard time believing the last one honestly, he'd never seen Tony actually sit down and work or anything close to it but at the moment he was grateful that everyone was at least gone. Glancing at the box in his arms, Clint licked his lips and glanced around nervously. Still no one. Suspicion tickled at the assassin when not even the dogs came to greet him.

"JARVIS, where is everybody?" Clint asked, striding across the hall and into the living room.

"Mr. Stark is away attending a business meeting, Thor and Mr. Rogers are also attending a meeting of a more personal nature. Agent Romanoff is in her reading room," JARVIS reported dutifully.

"What about the animals?" Clint prompted, shifting the box in his arms and looking around for the normally boisterous dogs or even Glados to be perched somewhere weird. No barking, no claws on the hardwood, no glowing blue eyes.

"I believe Mr. Rogers and Thor chose to have the canines accompany them to their meeting and Glados is currently located in Mr. Stark's personal lab."

"Fantastic," Clint chirped, striding more confidently through the house now that he knew it was empty. He headed right for Natasha's reading room, a small library space Tony had allowed her to designate as hers. It was a room right next to her bedroom with a full view of the New York skyline and fully stocked shelves. Without knocking, Clint shouldered his way past the door. "You won't believe what I just found!"

Natasha peeked over a copy of Gone With the Wind as Clint barged in and raised an eyebrow. "What's in the box Barton?"

"Guess," Clint challenged, plopping down in one of the chairs across from the one Natasha was curled up in, keeping the box balanced on his knees.

Natasha set the book aside and looked the box over carefully. FRAGILE was stamped on one side and it was from a supermarket in Nebraska. That right there set off alarm bells since Clint was still in his field gear, obviously just back from an assignment. In Lincoln Nebraska of all places. Natasha frowned, leaning back a bit to meet Clint's gaze. He looked like a kid with a particularly sweet surprise.

"You don't normally bring home souvenirs," Natasha commented sourly, crossing her legs, putting her elbow on her thigh and resting her chin in a cupped hand. "This had better be good."

"Go on, guess," Clint urged, beaming from ear to ear until Natasha thought his face would break.

Natasha raised an eyebrow.

Tony had gotten used to strange pets running around the tower. Between Buck, Fenrir, Glados and Octavian, he didn't think it could get any more unusual until the day he walked into one of the many living rooms used by the Avengers. Pepper was trailing behind him telling him all about the fun she and Coulson had been having in picking out a cat for their apartment when he spied Clint sitting on one of the couches regarding a cardboard box on the floor. A red stamp on the side declared the contents to be 'fragile' and black writing on it said the box had come from some grocery store in Nebraska.

Curiosity piqued, Tony vaulted over the couch, ignoring the tablet Pepper had been trying to make him look at. His gaze zoomed in on the contents of the box sitting between Clint's feet. It was…

"Oh you've got to be kidding," Tony groaned, closing his eyes and hoping the box and its contents would disappear.

"What?" Clint squawked, "I just found it!"

"But you found it and you'll want to keep it," Tony replied, still not opening his eyes as he heard Pepper come around the couch to peer into the box too.

"You didn't shoot it did you?" Pepper asked, ignoring her boss's melodrama.

"Of course I didn't!" Clint insisted, squawking again in Tony's opinion. Either SHEILD had done too well on his codename or Clint was coming to embody the damn thing.

"Then how did it get like that?" Pepper asked.

"It looks like some idiot shot it but I certainly didn't, I wouldn't have been that sloppy or that stupid," Clint said, shifting beside Tony.

Finally Tony forced his eyelids open and peeked down at the box. It was still there, nestled amid soft packing materials. A hawk. A red-tailed hawk to be exact. One of its wings was broken and the thing looked thoroughly doped up but it was a hawk, in a box in his living room. Scrubbing his hands over his face, Tony sighed and stood up, snatching the forgotten tablet from Pepper's hand and scrolling through it.

"No we're not taking this offer, it's a bad investment. Tell them to stop asking," Tony barked, passing the tablet back. Casting one last look at the hawk, he left the couch and headed for the lift, Pepper hopping up to follow. "You can keep it but that thing can NOT fly around in the house all day!" Tony called back.

Clint waited until the elevator doors slid shut before whooping in delight just as Natasha rounded the corner.

"I told you, he can't say no," she gloated, plopping down beside Clint and leaning against his side. "Too much of being ignored by daddy when he was a kid, always had pets, can't turn them down now."

"Good thing too otherwise I think he'd have some heartbroken Avengers," Clint chuckled, reaching down to stroke the sleeping bird's feathers.

Natasha rolled her eyes.

Clint just beamed down at the bird, stroking its back with the backs of his fingers. "Welcome to the family Sniper."