Summary: They were six damaged and hurting individuals but when they were together they were something amazing. They were more than a team, they were a family. A series of one-shots set in the Savior-verse.
Pairings: Clintasha and background Peppernony
Warnings: Just general spoilers for the movie… but everyone should've seen it already by now so no worries!
Disclaimer: If I owned anything having to with the Avengers I would be a rich, happy woman. Instead I am a broke, happy woman. One out of two isn't that bad.
Author's Note: I honestly don't even know how to describe this one. It is somehow an unholy combination of fluff, angst and crack. In other words, Clint finally gets a chapter where he speaks and shares the full horror of the movies (hence the crack).
The (Not So) Caged Bird Sings or The Time Thor Broke the Hulk and Times Square
Once upon a time, Clint Barton had a mother, a father and an older brother. He wished that he could say that he was happy but he didn't really remember ever feeling anything other than afraid. He remembered wishing he could be away from the yelling, the pain and constant fear. Then one day, he was. Instead of his mother picking him up from school, it was a kind faced social worker explaining that his mother and father were in a "better place" and that he and his brother would be living with other children who didn't have parents. For a fleeting moment, Clint thought it was over. But he soon realized he traded one prison for another. The orphanage was just as oppressive and terrible as home. There was even more pain, yelling and fear. So they changed again. Barney led them to Carson's Carnival where he finally thought they found a home. He was wrong once again. Barney was the person he trusted the most in the world. The only person he trusted in the world and he let him down. He left to the mercy of a man that left him broken, bloody and alone in a ditch to die. Then he left him to rot in a cell, feeling trapped and alone.
Naturally, his brain began to pick up on a pattern. This pattern seemed to indicate that he was doomed to a life of misery and pain. Somewhere along the line, Clint convinced himself that he deserved only that. He believed it up until a week after he turned nineteen, and less than a year into his twenty five year prison sentence when a man with a bland face and impeccable suit walked into his cell and offered him not only his freedom but also a job with no strings attached. It was almost too good to be true. For months, he kept a distance between him and his handler, not sure if he could ever really trust him. He trusted people before and it only ended in pain. But Phil Coulson was patient. He just waited him out and one day Clint gave up. He fell and knew that Phil would be there to catch him. And he was. Every single time. When he was finally able to open up and let Phil in, he found that Nick was also along for the ride. Fury was the embodiment of his name. His wrath was epic but despite his attitude, blatant insubordination and lack of compliance, Clint never once faced a public dress down. Nick demonstrated uncharacteristic patience when it came to the archer. He was quietly grateful.
While Phil and Nick were there to catch him and help to slowly build him up, he still lacked focus. SHIELD gave him something worth not dying for but he didn't have that thing worth living for. Then he met her. Beautiful, deadly and broken Natasha. When he was first given the assignment to take her out, he didn't hesitate. But when he met her eyes from across the room, he knew it was over. He saw the same scars, the same fear, in those eyes. So instead of an arrow, he held out a hand and pulled her into his crazy SHIELD oriented world. Natasha was his motor. She was the thing that kept him moving. She gave him something to focus on. Something to work for. She was also his anchor. When he was unmade and lost in his own mind, it was Natasha that pulled him back and held him close. Like with Phil, when Clint finally felt steady enough to walk on his own, he found that she wasn't alone and now neither was he.
Once upon a time, Clint Barton had a mother, a father and an older brother. It didn't work out too well. He had foster parents that struggled to like him. That clearly didn't work. He had a mentor. That really didn't work out. He had a string of disappointment and misery that left him convinced that he wasn't worth anything more than that. Then he met Phil, Nick and Natasha. They taught him how to trust again. They never asked for anything from him. They took what he was willing to give and gave him everything he wanted but never asked for in return. They were his family. Then Loki happened and he thought it was all over but it wasn't. Instead of casting him to the shadows of his own mind, the very same people he fought against for the majority of their first encounter embraced him.
They were the brothers that Barney never could be. They protected him, teased him and encouraged him. He knew there was no limit on what they would do for him. Like Nick, Phil and Natasha before them, they never asked for anything in return. They didn't want him because he was an expert marksman or even because of his just as excellent memory. They wanted him because they liked Clint. It was a new, and sometimes overwhelming, feeling. He wasn't used to people defending him. He sometimes wondered what it was that they saw when they looked at him. But he knew better than to ask. They were just starting to believe that he was moving on from the whole Loki incident. He didn't need them going back to the constant Hawk watch. It was annoying enough the first time around.
Still he couldn't help but wonder how he got so lucky to find not one but an entire group of people that actually cared enough about him to want to track his vitals and his comings and goings on a daily basis. He knew that he would do the same for any of them (kind of did during those nights when sleep was just not happening). But he accepted a long time ago that he didn't deserve to have that same attention given in return. Except they were proving to him slowly but surely that maybe he did. Maybe he was worth turning the deputy director of SHIELD purple because she insulted him. Maybe he was worth Steve breaking his no shenanigans in public rule. Maybe…. But he would be damned if he was going to let the Science Bros and their latest project ruin his breakfast plans with Phil in the morning. It was rare that he got to spend one on one time with his handler these days. He didn't care what the hell these guys got into tonight but he was going to breakfast in the morning…. He hoped….
"I'm suddenly thinking that this was not the best of ideas," Clint murmured to no one in particular. It wasn't likely that any of them were paying him any real attention. He was sitting cross legged atop an unused snack counter between Tony and Bruce. The former was busily sorting through their concession stand stash. And by stash, Clint meant the whole thing because Tony bought the entire concession stand, hence the encouraged use of the counter as a perch. Bruce was leaning over his shoulder watching him work. Clint wanted to be surprised that Bruce was going along with this plan but Tony said the keywords necessary to get Bruce to go along with any ill conceived idea: for science.
As they were all mostly ignorant of the long term effects of Earth on Thor's Asgardian physiology, pretty much anything they did to the thunder god could be considered for science as far as Bruce was concerned. At least that was the excuse he was using when he got looks from Steve during the ride here. Secretly, Clint knew Bruce just wanted to see what would happen as much as Tony did. There was still a small part of Clint that wanted to know too… but breakfast with Phil. Not to mention the lure of not having to spend the night in jail. He liked his bed (now that he actually slept in it). Jail did not have his soft sheets and awesome mattress. It most definitely did not have his Playful Penguin pillow pet. This was a horrible idea.
"Clint, you're either with us or you're against us," Tony muttered, still sorting through the candy by which was the most potent. The fact that he knew by just looking at the name made Clint really worry (not that he needed much help there).
"Why the second thoughts?" Bruce asked, still idly watching Tony but also keeping an eye on the other members of the team.
Thor was munching happily on the first of many sugary products of the evening: a Crunch bar. Natasha was busy arguing with Steve about the logic behind going to see a movie in the theater and then complaining about the prices. Apparently the fourteen dollar admission price offended Steve's delicate 40s born sensibilities. The fact that they lived with a billionaire just never occurred to Steve. Half an hour until the movie started and he was still moaning about the cost of living in the modern world.
"I just don't think that a movie theater is the best place for this," Clint shrugged, hoping to sound casual. "It's pretty public."
"Try again," Bruce prompted him. His brow furrowed as he glanced down at Tony once more. He scowled at the slightly younger man. "Tony!"
The billionaire turned around with an eye roll before shoving the packet of gummy bears he was about to hand off to Thor into Bruce's hands. Bruce nodded his approval before motioning him back to his previously interrupted sorting. Clint has mentioned how much he utterly adores these people, right? Except when they're using their evil genius against him. Like at that particular moment when Bruce was giving him that look. The look that promised badness if he didn't just cough up what Bruce wanted to know. He only needed to remember their currently pink and purple substitute handler to know that Bruce was well versed in non physical forms of revenge.
"Ok, so maybe I just don't want to get arrested tonight… because Phil promised he would take me to breakfast in the morning when I picked him up from the airport.
Bruce raised an eyebrow while Tony paused to regard the archer, glancing over his shoulder at Natasha in the distance. "Does Spider Chick know you're going on a date with our handler?"
Clint flushed. "I'm not going on a date with our handler! It's Phil! I mean not that he's probably not really attractive to someone but he's… Phil! I'm not gay for our handler! I'm not gay at all!"
Tony snorted before tossing a pack of Goobers to Thor. "So if it's not a date then what's the big deal?"
"It's just that… Phil only offers to buy breakfast when he thinks that I'm really upset," Clint didn't bother to admit that Phil was almost always correct. It was strongly implied by the fact that he refused to make eye contact with any of them. "And we always go to IHOP when he buys breakfast. So it's kinda special, that's all."
Damn if he didn't feel incredibly awkward confessing that one. Bruce made that face that he always made when Clint said something that reminded them that prior to coming to SHIELD he had a crappy life that left huge, still healing scars on his psyche or whatever. It was a look that was equal parts sympathy, understanding and rage. Clint both loved and hated that look on Bruce's face. He loved that Bruce gave a damn about him but he hated feeling like an emotional burden on anyone. He also wasn't quite comfortable with the idea of people turning their coworkers into Smurfs on acid for him either. Tony was simply staring at him like he was an equation that couldn't be solved. And as far as Tony was concerned, Clint really was a conundrum. But that didn't stop Tony from trying with all the means he had necessary. And since Tony possessed the emotional vocabulary of an infant, it usually ended with him buying Clint something he invariably didn't need or really want. But Clint knew that was Tony's way of trying to make him happy.
"You want IHOP? I could buy you one."
Clint counted to ten internally before regarding Tony again. He knew Tony was trying to help in his own way. But really? A goddamn IHOP? What was he supposed to do with a freaking IHOP? He was still trying to get rid of that damn pony!
"No, Tony, I don't want an IHOP. Look, it's stupid, ok? It's just that…. when Phil first told me about SHIELD he took me to IHOP. I think it was like a bribe or something. Whatever, it worked. But it's been… kind of a thing since then."
He didn't mention that the last time that he and Phil went to IHOP was the day that Fury placed him on the Tesseract assignment. The one that changed everything. That was almost a year ago. Clint was a little anxious to get things back to normal. Or as normal as things could be while living with the brother of the Norse god that screwed things up in the first place. He raised an eyebrow as Thor poured the remainder of the box of Goobers in his mouth before demanding more sugar.
"Thor, buddy, maybe you should slow down," Steve said, watching the god cautiously. Bruce and Tony immediately shooed Steve and his pesky logic and morals away from the already buzzing god. Clint chewed on his lip imagining the very many ways this was not going to end well. He was lost in thought but still didn't jump when he felt an arm wrap around his waist. Natasha rested her chin on his shoulder also watching the scene.
"I feel well, friends. No harm can come from something this delicious!"
"Famous last words," Natasha whispered in his ear. Clint smiled, enjoying the way her hair tickled against his neck. He saw Tony glance in their direction but Natasha didn't move away. If anything, she tightened her grip around his waist. Clint smiled a little wider. She wasn't normally this physically demonstrative. There were subtle touches every now and then. Stolen kisses even more infrequently. This… this level of intimacy was new. It was different. He liked it. Still he wouldn't be him without the insecurity.
"I thought love was for children," he murmured. She shifted her head so that her lips were beside his ear. He felt her smile against his skin.
"Unsurprisingly, given the company we keep, I'm feeling strangely childish these days."
"But only for me, right?"
"Only for you," Natasha promised with a kiss to the cheek. He turned towards her to meet her serious gaze. "You're such a girl."
Clint laughed, resting his head against hers. He watched as Tony and Bruce continued to ply more sugary goods on Thor. He resolved in that moment to just go along with whatever happened tonight. He knew true horror. He knew what nightmares were made of and none of them involved any of the people he was surrounded by at the moment. Nothing too terrible could happen with these people around him. But as a very wise woman once pointed out, those were definitely famous last words.
The movie was actually going fine, shockingly. To say that it was a kid's film (why is it that as soon as he moved in with Tony, all these archery movies started coming out), it was pretty decent. He was even starting to get used to Natasha's weight against him. His head rested on the soft curls as he ignored the knowing sniggering from Tony and Bruce down the line. If he ignored the two idiots, Steve's complaining about some teen couple making out in front of him and Thor's rapidly bouncing legs, it was a pretty awesome night out. But that last thing was becoming a very big concern because Clint was reasonably sure that he shouldn't be able to feel that all the way at the end of their row. There were four people between Clint and Thor. He shouldn't be able to know that the god was shaking his leg for the past half an hour with an increasingly psychotic fervor.
"This film bores me!"
Clint groaned, sinking lower in his seat. He heard Tony let out a strangled giggle. He could almost feel the heat from the glare that Steve was most likely throwing at Tony. Natasha shifted against his shoulder as she sat up to get a better look at the god over Bruce's head. For a brief moment, nothing happened. Clint almost thought that it would end there and everything would go back to as normal as it got when all six of them were allowed outside the tower. And then some dumbass in the back shushed him. That, as they say, was that.
"Who dares to try and silence the mighty Thor?"
"Dude, shut up!" some clueless cannon fodder in the row behind them yelled. Steve's reflexes were as on point as ever as he managed to pull the clueless cannon fodder out of the way before Thor could bring Mjolnir down
Thankfully the rest of the theater was not as stupid as the other two and started to clear out in the usual flailing, screaming panicked chaos that never really helped anyone. Clint shrugged it off as he leaped from his seat to balance on the back of the chair in front of him. Someone must've realized there was a showdown going down as the light suddenly flickered on, illuminating the odd scene. Thor looked between the five Avengers with blank eyes. Clint could see that he was breathing heavily. His hands were twitching around the handle of his hammer. Oh, this was so not good.
"Thor, good buddy," Tony tried, holding his hands up in surrender. "You okay?"
Thor swung his hammer in Tony's direction. Clint watched Natasha reach for one of the many weapons he knew were hidden on her body. His own hand strayed towards where he kept his collapsible bow and a few mini arrows (yes, Fury commissioned them for him so that he would feel comfortable all the time. No, that didn't make him spoiled, Phil.)
"What manner of devilry is this?" Thor asked, his eyes squinting in confused horror at the movie still playing on the screen behind them. Clint noticed the glazed over looking the god's eyes and knew that there was no way this was going to end as anything other than violently. "Where have you taken me?"
"We're at the movies, remember?" Bruce said, in that calming tone of his. Thor was not having any of that at the moment.
"I don't think the big guy is all together here at the moment," Clint pointed out, twirling a finger in the air next to his head. "Now might be a really good time to get angry."
"I know I said I'm always angry but seriously? We're watching a freaking animated movie! This is the least threatening situation ever."
Clint stared at him incredulously. "There is a crazed alien god swinging his giant hammer at us. Shut up, Tony! This is pretty damn threatening. Now get angry!"
"Thor ate the last of the waffles this morning," Tony announced, seemingly out of the blue. Clint started to ask what that had to do with anything but then Bruce's eyes narrowed, lighting up with a familiar green glow. Seriously?
"Waffles," he muttered. His voice deepened and a growl started in his chest. That was all good but all of them turned away from the still very huge threat to watch Bruce's transformation. Thor took advantage of their distraction to swing Mjolnir in an arch that took out the entire row of seats. Clint jumped off his perch landing gracefully beside Natasha on the other side of the small theater.
"Still thinking that inciting a sugar high in a god is a good idea?" she asked, an eyebrow arching upwards.
Clint shrugged, before leaning forward to press a kiss against her lips. He pulled back slightly when Steve ran past them trying to escape from the battle between Thor and the Hulk. "A little less to be honest."
Natasha snorted. "All of you are idiots."
He grinned in response. "Yeah, but you love us anyway."
She gave him a look that was just a few degrees below an eye roll. He smiled wider. "For some stupid reason, I actually do."
Clint felt that deserved a response, he really did. But the words died on his lips as something large and green went flying their direction. He shoved Natasha out the way and grunted as the Hulk slammed into him with all the force of a Mack truck. He just managed to regain enough balance to roll away before the entire bulk of his green friend fell on him. He landed in a graceless heap beside the unmoving personification of rage.
"Ouch," he moaned as breathing shifted his no doubt broken everything. Still he gritted his teeth and forced himself into an upright position. Natasha and Steve were making a concentrated effort at fighting back against Thor. He turned his attention to the non moving Hulk beside him. "Huh."
Thor just took out the Hulk. Clint could tell that he was still breathing but also unconscious. That bore repeating because holy shit, the Hulk was unconscious. Someone beat the Hulk! Clint was reasonably sure that was something should not happen. Ever. But it did. And somehow Natasha and Steve thought they stood a chance. He looked back to the fight still in progress in time to see Thor fling both his opponents across the room with the disdain he usually reserved for vegetables (Thor believed that since he was a god, he didn't need to eat stupid vegetables). Right now, apparently Natasha and Steve ranked up there with carrots and beets.
He wondered what Thor's next move would be now that he took down the majority of the Avengers. He wasn't left in suspense for very long. Thor chose that moment to bring the hammer down once again on one of the walls. Clint rolled his eyes as a piece of debris from the recently demolished wall hurtled through empty space towards his head. Of course, because it just couldn't be a day without some sort of head trauma for Clint.
As everything went pleasantly dark, three thoughts occurred to him. One, a crazed Thor that just took out the Avengers without breaking a sweat was now running loose in the streets of NYC. Two, Tony was missing in action. Given that this entire debacle was his idea, Clint was equally nervous about a crazed genius running loose through the streets of NYC (without him!). The final thought was the most depressing of the bunch: he was definitely not getting IHOP in the morning. Stupid friends. Stupid concussions and broken bones.
The thing Clint hates the most about being knocked out is the being out part. He always has screwed up dreams when he's concussed. He dreams of hurting his friends, being abandoned and death. The worst part about it all was that they weren't dreams. He's locked in his own head with nothing but his life before SHIELD to keep him company. His life before Phil Coulson walked into his jail cell telling him that he was a free man. His life before the pancakes that Phil made the waitress put whipped cream and a candle on to celebrate his birthday and freedom. The life he tries to forget and is mostly successful except when he's sleeping or knocked unconscious. The latter happened a disturbingly large amount of the time.
There is one good part about being knocked out. As he struggles to surface from the cloying, clinging darkness that tries to drag him down into the sea of memories, there is always a lingering scent in the air that keeps him holding on. It's the odd combination of Old Spice aftershave, coffee and gunpowder. It's a familiar smell. It makes him feel safe… it's Phil. There is almost another scent with it. Its cinnamon, strawberries and chocolate. Its love and safety and home all in one redheaded badass ninja woman.
He floated in the haze, enjoying the return to consciousness because they were with him. The scent alone was enough to remind him that the past was the past and couldn't hurt him anymore. When it was just Phil and Clint in the beginning, Phil would wait patiently doing paperwork or reading a book while Clint woke up. But then Natasha joined them. They were so attuned to one another that she always knew when he was just lingering in that half conscious state. Like right now.
"Wake up, you faker. Get your lecture like the rest of us."
Clint cracked an eye open to see Natasha sitting cross legged on the bed beside him. Phil was seated in the chair next to the bed. He glanced back at his partner. Her hair was loose as always. The curls framing her non-bruised face. To say that they just had an epic standoff with a god just the day before (god, he hoped only a day passed), Natasha looked remarkably unmarked. He frowned.
"I want super soldier serum," he frowned in Phil's direction. The older man raised an eyebrow before ruffling Clint's hair.
"I seem to remember that ending not so well for a mutual green friend of ours," Phil pointed out.
Clint huffed. "Logic sucks."
"It's a good thing, you're cute," Natasha smiled indulgently. He started to reach for her hand before glancing at Phil. She rolled her eyes, giving him a look that questioned his intelligence. Because really? He could kiss her in front of Steve but he worried about holding her hand in front of Phil. She clasped his hand, tangling their fingers together.
"About time," Phil mumbled. He cleared his throat ignoring the pointed looks from his assets. "So, Barton, good news or bad news?"
"Bad news." He was a pessimist at heart. And he was interested in just how truly screwed they were.
"Well, you are all banned from every AMC movie theater in the world. That's rare. You've been internationally blacklisted. Stark is paying to fix the majority of 42nd street which suffered the most damage in Thor's rampage. Especially the wax museum."
"Uh, speaking of that," Clint chewed on his lip. "Where is Thor?"
"Oh, Bruce and Steve found him last night on top of the Empire State building passed out next to a statue of Natalie Portman that he stole from said wax museum. Even though he's apparently recovered from his sugar induced psychotic episode, he was quite belligerent when the captain tried to take it away."
Natasha laughed. "Meaning, the Pillow Pets have a new friend to join them in Thor's Room of Random."
Clint nodded. "Oh, that's not so bad. I mean no one died."
"No, no one died," Phil conceded, but the glare he was currently leveling at Clint showed that there was still badness to come. "But you are all confined to the tower for the next month. Collectively, you're a PR disaster guaranteed to happen. Unless there is a mission or you are accompanied by either me, Director Fury or Agents Hill or Sitwell, none of you are allowed to leave."
Clint's brow furrowed. "Wait, all of us? Usually it's just me, Tony and Thor. Sometimes Bruce gets grounded. But what did Natasha and the Golden Child do?"
"After he regained consciousness, Steve decided to take advantage of the chaos that Thor caused by allowing people to see movies for free. He justified it by explaining that the movie prices were too high."
"He's part of the reason we're banned from the movies," Natasha added.
"See the other part," Phil gestured at Clint's grinning partner. "As they were dealing with Stark, a camera fell out of her bag. She was filming the entire movie prior to Thor going insane."
Clint smirked, squeezing her fingers. "That's my girl." Phil shook his head but they both knew him well enough to recognize the curve of his lips as a smile. "So you said there was good news too?"
"You mean besides that for at least a month, I don't have to worry about visits to the local precinct to retrieve one of my so called intelligence specialists or dread the amount of social infractions or crimes against nature and humanity you all rack up by breathing?"
Clint started to protest but it went forgotten as Phil placed a takeout carton on his lap. It was still warm. He used his free hand to lift the lid and was immediately rewarded with the scent of strawberry cheesecake pancakes. He glanced up at his handler with a question in his eyes.
"I promised you breakfast when you picked me up from the airport."
"You were there," Natasha shrugged with one shoulder. She dipped a finger in the whip cream topping. "You weren't so severely injured that you were in danger of dying. I figured as long as you were there to pick up Phil, it counted. I know how much you both value your IHOP."
Phil flushed, hiding it behind a well timed sip of his coffee. "The good news is that somehow in the midst of all that happening last night, Tony found time to buy an IHOP. Apparently they deliver to Avengers only. Turns out they're just as nervous about having any of you in there as most people in the city are."
"Also, to say that you're a puny human," Natasha teased, tracing a hand over his arm. "Who went up against a crazed god of thunder and got Hulk Smashed, you're only slightly broken. Seriously, this is the least amount of broken bones you've ever had on a hospital visit. I'm both impressed and confused."
Clint shrugged off her confusion and praise. "Nothing new there, Tasha. I'm always little broken."
"A little less everyday," Phil said, fully smiling at him. He handed Clint a fork and took another sip from his drink as he watched the archer happily dig into his food.
After a few minutes, Clint shook his head. "He seriously broke into the wax museum and stole Natalie Portman's statue?"
"Apparently, she reminds him of his dear Jane," Natasha reported, dryly. She picked at his hash browns. "Don't worry though. Tony already hacked the security footage. It's just too bad that Thor has no shame. We would've had blackmail material for years after watching him engage in 'glorious battle' with the wax Avengers. He lost."
Clint started to laugh when he finally caught onto the oft mentioned but not seen man. "Wait, how is Tony ok?"
"Oh, once Thor went crazy, he left. Steve thought he was going to get his suit. Maybe he was but he got distracted by the projector room on the way out. Apparently he thought they weren't working at their potential maximum. So he started tinkering with them. They blew up."
Clint dropped his fork. "He exploded things without me?"
"Shut up and eat your pancakes."
*I don't even know with this one. Hope someone enjoyed. I've got a few more ideas on the line. So expect another one soon. Right after I hit up IHOP. Mmmm, hash browns. Alright! Ciao.