Note - This story was inspired by issue #1 of the new Hawkeye comic that was just released a few weeks ago.
A Dog With No Name
Natasha gave her partner an incredulous look as she stood above him. He was at one of his favorite spots in Central Park – sitting on the steps leading down to the fountain with the angels on it – Bethesda Fountain, if she recalled correctly. Following the mess a little while ago with the Chitauri, it was the spot where the newly formed team had parted ways after Thor left with Loki. She was surprised Clint still kept coming there, but he was stubborn and it was a habit he'd had for years and he wasn't about to break it on the off chance that it dredged up some bad memories. He'd told her that if that was the case, he might as well take an early retirement and move to Florida.
Usually Clint had a book with him and a hot dog piled with everything under the sun while he listened to his iPod and got lost in his thoughts. This time, along with the book and the heart attack on a roll, there was a ragged looking mutt she had never seen before. He was missing an eye and patches of fur were shaved on one of his legs and his midsection, revealing marks from freshly removed stitches. All in all, the dog looked to be in the condition her partner usually was in – bedraggled, beaten … your basic mess.
"You got a dog?"
Clint sighed and rubbed the back of his head. "More like the dog got me. He didn't give me much of a choice."
"I've known you for five years and you can't even keep a houseplant alive."
"Hey, that's not fair," he said as he pulled the earbuds out and stretched his legs out in front of him, crossing his ankles and looking for all the world like he could settle back into a nap.
"It was a cactus," Natasha pointed out.
Oh yeah, right, the archer thought as he took a bite of the hot dog. "Whatever," he mumbled through the mess of chili and cheese and god knows what else the street vendor had on hand when he ordered it.
Natasha lowered herself next to him on the step; a couple of people had to dodge past her to keep from tripping. It was early afternoon and the park was crowded with tourists and the fountain was a popular destination. She never could understand why Clint sought out one of the places guaranteed to be teaming with people. At first, she thought it was the sound of the water, gentle, soothing, but the fact he blasted hard rock into his ears proved that theory wrong. She glanced up at the open sky and it hit her – that was it, the openness. The untouched expanse of blue, dotted by clouds. Her partner had found one of the few spots in the city where you didn't have to be dozens of stories up on a roof to feel like you were free. He had a knack for surprising her sometimes.
Speaking of surprises … "Does the dog have a name?" she asked.
"Um … about that …"
"What? It's not a hard question – either he does or he doesn't." As if he knew she was talking about him, the dog moved over to her, resting his head on her knee, looking up at her hopefully with his one eye. She wasn't one for sentimental attachments to animals, so she kept her arms crossed, ignoring the obvious plea for her to pet him.
"He came with the name, so don't judge," he said as he tossed the last bit of his hot dog to the mutt and then threw the crunched up wrapper perfectly into a trashcan located several feet away.
"Just spit the damn name out, Clint, I have a life I'd like to get back to."
"Arrow," he mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck and wincing.
She snorted a laugh.
"I'm trying to change it, but he won't answer to anything else."
"Well, what did you try?"
Clint shrugged. "I dunno. Dog stuff."
"Dog stuff? What like Rover and Spot?"
"Maybe," he answered and he swore even the dog rolled his eye at him that time.
"Maybe he's a big Green Arrow fan? I know I am," she said, a mischievous glint in her eye.
At the name Green Arrow, the dog's ears perked up.
"See," Natasha said. "You got a dog with good taste."
"Not funny, Tasha."
"I don't know, seems pretty funny to me." She gave in and started petting the dog behind his ears. The beast gave a goofy grin, his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth as he leaned happily into his new friend. "Isn't that right, Green Arrow?"
The dog gave a quick bark and then the proceeded to give Natasha the sloppiest kiss ever. She pulled her head back, trying to escape the assault. Clearly thinking this was some sort of game, Arrow put his paws on her shoulders, making it impossible for her to escape the onslaught of slobber. Clint, of course, laughed – a hearty belly laugh that grated on her nerves and she closed her eyes, imagining one of the hundreds of ways she knew to torture a man.
"You could help, you know," she said as she ducked.
"I dunno, looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship to me."
"I don't like dogs."
"Coulda fooled me. Dogs clearly like you." Still grinning like mad, Clint got up and gently pulled Arrow off her. "Come on, boy. Leave her alone."
He returned to his seat and the dog followed obediently, gazing longingly over at Natasha, whining softly. Clint roughed up the fur behind the dog's ears. "She's gotta warm up to you, pal. Give her some time. Trust me, she's worth waiting for," he said in a not so very hushed whisper.
Natasha rolled her eyes even as her cheeks flushed hot. Tucking her hair behind her ear and tugging her leather jacket back into place, she was trying not to think about all the drool on her face.
If he was keeping the dog, she was going to have to start carrying hand sanitizer. And wet wipes. And maybe a shield.
As if he could hear her thoughts, the dog, who was definitely named Arrow no matter what her partner thought, lifted his head and looked at her, a goofy grin on his face, his tongue hanging out of his mouth.
Definitely a shield.