Disclaimer: I do not own the Avengers

Clint "Hawkeye" Barton didn't really fit into the pool of fresh-eyed recruits. Not many recruits got to see the inside of Phil Coulson's office. Clint did. Though he wasn't to sure he should be bragging about that at the moment. Phil was giving Clint that look again.

First thing to start off: his skill set had already been passed around from nearly every SHIELD agent. It wasn't everyday that an archer beat out the sharp shooting snipers with the latest military grade rifles. He had been labeled with an "advanced skill set" that only a few recruits every couple of years got the dream to be given. It was something when the Phil Coulson took a special interest. That in itself was the other thing. Phil Coulson did not take a special interest in anyone. Period.

There were little things too. Stuff like Clint was in his own physical department, all the recruits were either freakishly huge or deadly slight and Clint was only 5'9" with a slim waist. Clint didn't really talk to the other recruits unless he had to and Clint had this way of showing up the rest of the recruits. He couldn't help that the only way he could hit the target was by firing the arrow over his shoulder…under his leg…behind his back. Sure maybe he had brought some of that stuff on himself but hey he couldn't help that he was awesome.

And he felt that way most of the time. That was until his back-story began to float around. Someone had leaked his file and it wasn't long before the blood suckers of his fellow recruits got their hands on it.

He had been a carnie whatever. He could live with the clown jokes because he only had a few more months with these people before he was sent out on real missions. With his history though came misconceptions. Once again something he could live with for a little while longer until some of them started to hit a little to close to home. One in particular.

"Barton," Agent Hill called from the front of the room making the young man look up from his doodles. The agent saw his drawings only lifting a brow to indicate her irritation before turning to the screens to set up for another simulation.

"Yes, ma'am," he said.

"Read aloud the mission brief." Clint balked slightly before quickly covering it up.

"The brief, ma'am," he asked. Hill turned around again her brow raised higher in annoyance.

"Is there a problem, Barton?"

Clint opened his mouth and then closed it, looking down at the paper he had been previously drawing on before shifting his weight. He cleared his throat but before he could begin there were snickers echoing the room.

"Dumb carnie, probably can't even write his own name let alone read."

Clint heard it and so had everyone else but he steeled himself, clenching his jaw. Hill gave a hard look at the other recruits before back at Clint. Clint cleared his throat again wetting his lips.

"Mis…Mission log." Of course he would stumble over the first damn word. "SHIELD operatives lost in…enemy…t-"

There was a gasp followed by muffled laughter that really wasn't helping.

"Territory." Someone filled in at the opposite side of the room. Damnit, Clint started to feel the warmth of embarrassment on his neck. He shot them a glare before turning back to the brief.

"No com…comm…"

Recruit Stanley was opening laughing, his face bright red against his flaming orange hair.

"This is too good," Stanley said holding his chest in laughter.

"Recruit Stanley." Hill hissed with a look that shut everyone up. Hill looked at Clint with a quickly concealed look of pity that made Clint even more embarrassed. He could read. He wasn't an idiot. He just couldn't read very well. It hadn't become an issue until now.

Which was why he thought it was completely justified to lunge at Stanley and knock him out destroying the classroom and his brief in the process.

Coulson didn't seem to see it that way. Which leads back to the reason as to why Clint "Hawkeye" Barton was in Phil Coulson's office. He should have seen this coming a mile away. The written portion was mandatory. They were going to drop him and the fact that it was Phil who was giving Clint the news was even harder.

Screwed up another one, Barton.

He had known Phil had taken a long shot on him and he had gone and just caused the man more of a headache than he already had.

For a long time Phil didn't say anything, writing out his signature on some forms, drinking his coffee, pulling out more forms and placing them into folders, drinking his coffee, pulling out a green sheet of paper and writing on it, drinking more of his coffee.

"What are the terms that would consider an Agent of SHIELD compromised?"

Clint balked for a moment not expecting the sudden study session. But Phil merely looked up at him once from under the shadows of his brow that made Clint answer.

"When the agent is forced to go against the codes and procedures SHIELD and the safety of the agents themselves and the agents around them are placed under duress." Just because he acted like he didn't listen to Hill didn't mean he wasn't. Phil didn't say anything continuing to write on the green paper and drink his coffee.

"You are on a mission in hostile territory and communications with base have been lost. What would you do?"

"Continue on with last given orders and then return to rendezvous site." Clint shifted on his feet. This wasn't funny and he just wished Coulson would get on with it but the man continued writing and drinking his damn coffee. There was no way that Phil hadn't heard about the incident with Stanley. "What is this about, sir?"

"What if your rendezvous is compromised?"


"Answer the question, Clint," Phil said finally looking up at him fully. The man stared at Clint with that open expression he had when he had offered Clint the position. It was an expression that was more intimidating than his 'I'm Phil Coulson Badass Extraordinaire" with the way he could just lay the facts and the situation out with the simple way his eyes looked and his mouth was set. It was what Clint had latched onto when he finally decided he could trust him. And he did. Which if Phil Coulson taking an interest in someone was something to be acknowledged, Clint Barton trusting anyone was something as well.

Clint didn't say anything, his hand flexing at his side longing for the smooth feel of his bow that calmed his frazzled nerves. He knew Phil could see it but he didn't care. He had messed up big time and his fate was no longer in his hands. He had lost control and it was sending him into a panic. Phil blinked.

"Answer it."

"I would wait for further instruction from base, staying within a 30 mile radius of original rendezvous, and keep a low profile."

"For how long?"

"As long as it takes."

"And what if you hear no word?"

"Then I am to assume I am relieved of my duties as a SHIELD agent." Clint swallowed hard his body beginning to feel numb. He flexed his jaw and looked away from Phil who had gone back to writing. "I'm on my own."

Phil stopped writing at that but didn't look up, a sad smile just barely twitching onto his lips before his neutral expression was placed firmly on his face and he returned to his scribbles.

"That's all," He says which is enough of a dismissal Clint needed to make his haste from Coulson's office. Passing the recruit lounge and to his bunk, ignore the taunts and jeering from some of the recruits, Clint barely made it back out to the range with his bow before his rage got the best of him. He fired arrows in rapid concession. It's only after about an hour or so that he felt the sting of freshly bruised skin on his fingers and forearm. He had forgotten his arm guard and gloves but he didn't care. He needed to feel the bow in his hands, the string on his finger, to be grounded again. It had been one thing when Stanley had shoved Clint's nose into his faults. Stanley was an ass. But Phil was a different story. Clint tried to shove the feelings of betrayal down, ignore that it was even there, and shame himself in allowing someone such trust that Clint gave to no one else. All of this was a mistake. He had been a mistake.

Clint fired off three quivers full of arrows before he left the range.

Well, if SHIELD had been the one to make the mistake, he was going to stay until they acknowledged it and kicked him out.

Clint leaned against the beam hidden in the shadows staring down at the recruit lounge, sulking. His little spot had been the perfect place to keep to himself, allow his thoughts to be consumed by the shadows. It was also great for eavesdropping on his fellow recruits. Though most of the chatter was pointless water cooler gossip there were always the few tidbits of information he would store away to later turn into his advantage. Today though he was barely listening, choosing to stay in his spot for as long as possible since it was going to be the last time he'd be here. The lounge was filled with excitement as the recruits waited to be called upon to take their test individually. If they passed they were given handlers right away and sent to new quarters. If they didn't…well the rumors were that Fury stored the bodies to use as cover up materials when operatives needed to fake their own deaths.

"You see Barton today?" His name caught his attention as the recruits gathered in their small circle on the couches. Stanley snorted, his black eye still shining brightly on his face.

"No. Probably ran back to the circus to be with the rest of his illiterate freaks."

"It's sad," a girl who Clint possibly remembered went by the name Elena said. She gave Stanley a steely glare, her lips pinched, and clearly not amused by him at all.

"Sad for the rest of us that we had to put up with him for so long." Stanley chuckled.

"I wonder whose going to take his spot," Another recruit who he didn't even remember said. Clint had to roll his eyes at the way Stanley straightened his posture trying to look intimidating to the rest. He was kidding himself if he thought Phil would mentor him. Clint didn't want to hear anymore so he tuned the conversation out.

The door to the lounge opened and a hush fell along the recruits but by then Clint had already returned to his perch that he didn't see him at all.

"If you be kind enough to join me down here," Phil said below Clint's hiding spot. Clint sighed leaning one last time into his perch before he swung down soundlessly. Elena and the others looked away from him, an awkward silence filling the group, but Clint just ignored them. The room stared at Clint and Phil with a morbid fascination that reminded Clint of kids watching an ant burnt alive under a magnifying glass. He held his bag (his SHIELD issued bow compressed and hidden inside that if he was lucky he could walk away with) and met with Phil's gaze. Clenching his jaw he nodded but Phil handed him a folder instead, a smile on his face.

"Welcome to SHIELD Agent Barton." There was a collective gasp and hushed whispering as the recruits were sent into a practical frenzy.

"He hasn't taken his test yet!" Stanley cried in outrage standing from his spot. "He can't even read."

"And you can't shoot a target that's in front of you." Phil turned to the recruit with that creepy stare of his that sent Stanley back like he had been slapped. "Agent Barton has taken his test and passed. You on the other hand have done neither. Now sit down."

Phil Coulson was the only one Clint knew who could frown with a polite smile still on his face and he did so at Stanley looking at the recruit quizzically. "I'm sorry what was your name again?"

Phil didn't give the recruit time to answer before he turned back to Clint who had yet to move.

"Follow me." And just like that Phil left, the recruits by the door parting for him like the red sea. Clint took a moment to see if what had just happened really did happen before he rushed after Phil.

"Coulson," Clint said under his breath rushing next to the agent. He was always one to take the opportunity when it presented itself but Clint wasn't going to let this bight him in the ass later on in his career. This was just one paper glitch that could get him locked up after a botched mission. "Coulson, I never took the test."

"Yes, you did. I was there."

Clint blinked confused before the realization dawned on him. The green paper. Writing, coffee, more writing.

"You took the test for me?" Truth be told that didn't make Clint feel a whole lot better.

"No, you did. I just wrote down your answers." Clint followed Phil into his office as the other agent went around his desk. "Sit down."

"So, I passed," Clint asked still standing. Phil gave Clint another of his small half smiles before nodding his head. He gestured to the seat opposite him and Clint practically fell into with relief. His hands were shaking and his smile made his cheeks hurt. A rush of adrenaline kicked in and suddenly he didn't want to be sitting down anymore. He wanted to be out in the field with his bow on missions. He wanted to hear his codename be used for real instead of just a simulation. But instead Phil handed him a thin book before leaning back and folding his hands together.

"What is this?" Clint looked at the child like pictures on the front of the book with the smiling dog and horribly drawn cat.

"That's a book."

"I see that." Clint looked up to see if Phil was joking but the agent just stared at him before lifting up brightly colored flashcards with a word on each. "What are those?"

"Flashcards." Was all Phil said as he held the cards.

"Why are you holding up a card that says cat on it?" But instead of answering the question Phil placed the card down on his desk, the next one saying bird.

"Is this something to do with a mission or what?" Clint held the book up scratching the back of his head. This was nothing he was expecting field work to be like and he didn't want Phil to think he had made a mistake but seriously what the hell?

"No, you won't be doing field work for another six months. You're only a probationary agent," Phil said like it was nothing but Clint lost the smile on his face entirely.

"Then what the hell am I doing?" He looked back down at the book and Phil sighed.

"You're going to be mentored by me until you are sent out into the field. Then I will officially be your handler. But I'm not going to send you out into the field if you can't read the difference between Brooksville Avenue and Broadway Street." He leaned forward on his desk with a smile that still did not make Clint feel any better. He pointed to the book in Clint's hands. "That is your first assignment. Every day you will report to my office where you will read one book and go through a new set of cards."

"You want me to read for my training," Clint asked looking up at Phil with raised brow.

"Along with your other training, yes." Phil nodded before raising the cards back up. "So."

So, Clint did just that. Every morning he would wake up and report to Phil's office where a new book and new set of cards were waiting. The picture books progressed into chapter books. He had the sneaking suspicious the one book about two nerdy kids going to a magic tree house after disappearing in the middle of the morning was a dig at his "nests" he had claimed throughout in the high places throughout the base. But he would sit through it. Some days were easier than others when Clint would only ask a few times with for help on bigger words. Other days Phil held his bow hostage when Clint would get so frustrated with words that he would just stubbornly stare at Phil instead of reading off the damn cards. Phil pretended not to notice the stack of cards that went missing when Clint would go over them late at night in his hidden place in the air vent.

Recruit Stanley did not pass his examination.

A/N: Oh wow you guys certainly know how to put the pressure on someone! Thanks to all who reviewed Big Green Guardian Angel it definitely makes my day when I wake up to 31 emails. I made up those questions on the test by the way because I know I'm awesome and all but I'm not a secret agent...or am I? Review!