Warnings: gratuitous use of language that would (and frequently does) make my mother frown.
My beta, irite, is the absolute best, seriously.
My semester ends tomorrow (after four hours of exams, ew) so to celebrate, here's the first chapter of the ongoing adventures of Clint and Cat.
I do not own The Avengers.
Clint's cat very successfully weaseled his way into life in the Tower. Despite the new roles he found for himself, though, his ultimate duty remained taking care of Clint. He ended up getting a five-month vacation from that, though, and like any good feline overlord, he took the time to work on some other goals.
First, he became the team mascot.
The first time he had to go on a SHIELD mission, Clint left his cat with Bruce, since he and Natasha were going to be gone for at least a week and probably longer.
When Clint came back, his cat was wearing an unusually high-tech looking collar, Bruce looked sheepish, and Tony was chattering excitedly about radio frequency-controlled cat doors with cat-activated passwords.
"Regular cat flaps," the billionaire stated gravely, "would be a security risk."
Clint hadn't put that much thought into it—he hadn't even considered installing cat doors, honestly. So all he asked was, "Passwords?" It was too damn early for this shit—dealing with Tony should require additional coffee and a Tony-to-English dictionary.
But, Tony was more than happy to talk about his invention. "Oh, yeah. The signal from the collar opens the flap, but what if someone just stole the collar? So I designed special floor tiles that recognize your cat's paw prints. Put them in front of the door, and the door only opens for him. I'm having the flaps and the tiles installed in all designated cat-friendly areas."
"...Cat friendly areas?"
This time, Bruce explained. "Well, there's some places we don't want your cat to go unsupervised, right? The labs, for example. And we don't want him to be able to leave the building, so we're limiting his security clearance to the residential areas. Of course, he can go anywhere you want to bring him, but he can only go certain places on his own..."
Bruce trailed off, and Clint figured that might have something to do with the half-amused half-overwhelmed look he could feel on his face. So he said, "Um, wow. You guys put a lot of thought into this, didn't you?"
"Nah, not really. We're geniuses," Tony replied brightly. "All in a day's work."
"We just thought it would be nice if, um, your cat could move around on his own. Get out and explore, you know?" Bruce added awkwardly. He gave the animal, who was weaving around Clint's legs, a fond look.
And, well, Clint wasn't possessive, and he wasn't an asshole, and he knew how much the others (except maybe Tony, and even he was coming around) liked having the cat around, so he shrugged. "Yeah, that's a good idea. I'm sure he'll like that, won't you, you annoying little shit?"
The cat leisurely stretched its front legs up onto Clint's and picked at his knees with its claws.
"Ow! Fucker. Fine, be that way." Clint looked back up at the scientists lingering in his kitchen. "Thanks for watching him, Banner. I appreciate it."
Bruce shrugged. "It's really not a problem. He's very low-maintenance, aside from demanding food...constantly." He smiled at the cat, which still clung to Clint's leg with one paw.
"Yeah, well, he's a fat ass in a tiny cat's body." Haughty, like he'd understood what Clint had said, the cat pulled back and stalked from the room, tail held high.
And still the scientists lingered, casting what Clint assumed were very meaningful looks at each other.
That was weird. Never one to beat around the bush, Clint asked, "Do you guys...need something?"
Tony was equally disinclined towards subtlety. Or politeness, for that matter. "Well, yeah. How'd the mission go? 'Cause if it was a giant fucking disaster and you're gonna flip your shit again, we'd all like some heads up."
He was, of course, referring to the month Clint had spent after the battle of Manhattan blind drunk and trying very, very hard not to think about the shit that had gone down with Loki. Not his finest moment, no doubt, but also one that he was putting behind him. Albeit slowly. With lots of help from Nat and the rest of the team—something he'd been too afraid to ask for in the beginning, but now could not do without. And, well, maybe the cat had helped, too. He'd been a crucial factor in Clint finally—as Natasha put it—getting his head out of his ass. Between all of them, Clint was definitely on the right track.
"Tony!" Bruce hissed, reprimanding. Tony shrugged, unapologetic.
Clint just laughed, though, marveling that he had already made it to a place in his life where he could laugh about it. "No, it was fine. Really. Ask Nat, if you don't believe me."
Tony shook his head. "Just thought we'd check. Right, Bruce?"
Bruce massaged the bridge of his nose. "I had planned on being a little more polite about it, but yeah. You're okay?"
"Yeah. I am." And it was true.
"Then our work here is done!" Tony declared. "Come on, Bruce. Pepper wants you to look over some calculations, make sure I'm not going to blow anything up. She's so paranoid, I only did that...well, I have insurance so it's not like it's a big deal..." Tony dragged Bruce out the door, and the physicist had time to shoot Clint a long-suffering look before the archer shut the door behind them.
So that was how the cat gained access to all of the Avengers' living quarters, which was the first step in his plan to conquer the Tower.
It took the cat a couple of days to figure out how the cat flaps worked, and another couple of days to determine that they weren't dangerous before he started regularly slipping out of Clint's rooms. It was a couple of days after that when Clint noticed extra food and water dishes appearing in the communal kitchen, and cat toys littering the common rooms, and within two weeks someone was growing cat grass on all of the windowsills (Clint suspected Steve, but no amount of assassin death glares would make the supersoldier 'fess up).
At first, Clint kind of missed having the constant companionship, but he soon discovered that wasn't necessary. For one, the cat seemed to prefer lounging in the sunny common living area—spending most of his time there. Clint just adjusted his routine so he spent more time there, too—which resulted in many video game matches with Tony and Steve, a fair number of games of chess with Bruce, and a whole lot of group movies. As it turned out, this socialization thing wasn't too hard, now that he had motivation to quit holing himself up in his room.
Second, the cat always made his way back to Clint's rooms at night. Without fail, Clint would wake up in the morning and the cat would be there, perched on his bed, demanding breakfast. And on the increasingly-rare occasions when he found himself awakened by nightmares, the cat was there then, too. So really, he didn't see any less of his feline friend, and the others grew more and more fond of the animal, and as the months passed, they all settled into a routine.
Soon, the cat proved its worth as more than a companion animal. As it turned out, the cat was also quite talented at conflict resolution.
It was the beginning of November, and the cat was currently huddled on Clint's lap in the common room, cringing in reaction to the increasingly severe weather pounding the city.
"It's just thunder," Clint told the cat, who had sunk his claws deep into Clint's leg. "Really. Nothing bad's going to happen." The claws hurt, yes, but Clint couldn't find it in himself to mind, really (beyond the occasional grumble, at least). The poor thing was obviously terrified.
"And his descent into insanity continues," Natasha mused, entering the room. "How often do you talk to that cat when no one's around?"
"I'm being comforting," Clint snarked back. "Not something you'd know anything about."
Natasha smirked, then walked over to Clint and gently pried the cat off his lap. She scooped it up and held it to her chest, and even from a few feet away Clint could hear the cat's pleased purrs. "What the fuck, are you the fucking cat whisperer or something?"
"I guess I'm just comforting, Barton."
She was going to say something else, but Steve popped his head into the room. "Hey, guys, Tony says Thor just zapped into his workshop or something, and he wants us all down there."
"Is there a problem?" Natasha asked, immediately alert. She set the cat down, where it went immediately back to panicking, twisting in circles around her legs, trying to flatten itself out.
"No, but he wants to tell us what's happening with Loki. Apparently it's taken them this long to get everything sorted out..."
Clint could feel Natasha's eyes burning into him, and he forced his eyes up meet hers. Doing anything related to Loki ranked pretty high on his I'd-do-anything-to-avoid-this meter, but this was unavoidable. And a large part of him did want desperately to know what had happened to that bastard. "Let's do this." He stood.
Then cast a look down at his cat, who was looking up at him with the most pathetic expression Clint had ever seen. He heaved a sigh, then picked the cat up, settling him into his arms. At Natasha's incredulous look, he said, "What? Fucking cat's scared, I'm not just going to leave him here alone."
Natasha shrugged, and they headed to Tony's lab.
On the way down, Clint could not deny the comfort the small weight in his arms brought him.
When Clint, Steve, and Natasha got to Tony's lab, the billionaire was facing off with Thor and Bruce was making a valiant effort at keeping the two of them from exchanging more than words.
"What's up?" Steve asked, immediately taking charge.
Bruce sighed. "Tony said some...unflattering things about Loki, Thor got offended, Tony got offended that Thor was offended, and here we are."
"I just said he's a—"
"Maybe don't say it again?" Steve suggested, taking in Thor's glower.
Tony grumbled, but fell into sullen silence at Steve's glare. With a final huff, he walked over to his chair and threw himself into it dramatically and gestured around. "Okay, everyone, take a seat. Let's get this party started."
There was limited seating; Bruce settled into 'his' chair, and Natasha snagged the only other one available. With a shrug, Clint sat down on the floor, holding his cat in his lap. Steve and Thor looked at each other before leaning against Tony's desk.
"You're here about your brother, right?" Steve prompted, when everyone was as settled as they were going to get.
"Yes," Thor answered, still glaring daggers at Tony. "After we left this realm..."
He launched into what was a fairly long and detailed description of Loki's return to Asgard, his trial, and his subsequent imprisonment.
"And there he remains," Thor finished, after describing the impenetrable prison that had become his brother's home. "He will not be released for millennia, if he is at all."
Throughout Thor's story, Clint had paid rapt attention, hanging onto the demigod's words. Knowing that Loki was locked up on some other planet, likely to remain there until well after Clint had ceased living, was...relieving. And after what Loki had done, Clint couldn't deny he found some satisfaction in it. But not as much as he'd hoped he would. He asked, "So that's it? Loki goes to jail forever and that's just...it?"
It came out sounding far more accusatory than Clint had intended. But he was feeling accusatory—something didn't seem fair about the whole arrangement, but he couldn't put his finger on what, and he couldn't even decide what he'd hoped had happened to Loki. Didn't know if his imagination extended that far.
Thor turned his full attention to Clint for the first time. "Yes. That is all." Angrily, he asked, "Would you have rather heard of his execution?"
"Well, I wouldn't be too broken up about it," Tony piped up. "But that might just be me. Actually, no, it's probably not."
Thor growled at Tony, "Mind how you speak."
"My house, my rules, Point Break. Look, it's just a little hard to take that Loki's just being sent to bed without his dinner—"
Thor interrupted him loudly, "Loki's isolation is absolute, I do not know what more you want." He turned to Clint, "Loki's death would not have brought—what is that you're holding?"
Clint was absorbed with thinking that hearing about Loki's execution wouldn't have been entirely unwelcome to him, either, so it took him a moment to respond. "Um, what? Oh, this?" He stroked his cat's fur, settling it from where it had stood up in alarm at Thor's booming voice. "It's my cat."
"A cat? You keep it as a pet, yes?"
Not entirely sure where Thor had learned that, Clint nodded. "Yeah. I found him in June. He's been living here since then."
Out of the corner of his eye, Clint saw Natasha and Steve relaxing—they'd been prepared to intervene in case things got ugly, he realized, which was entirely possible given the volatile combination of personalities in the room.
Bruce stood, taking advantage of Thor's distraction to further defuse the situation. "The cat's been a big help, with, um," he said, looking at Clint, unsure how much the archer would want to share.
Clint decided to just go for it. "Yeah. After you and your brother left I...didn't handle it well. What had happened. Couldn't figure out how to get past what he'd done, what I'd done for him. Spent about a month trying to drink myself to death. The cat gave me something to focus on other than my own damn problems."
Thor looked apologetic. "I...did not realize that my brother's actions had affected you so."
Clint shrugged. "Well, it's in the past." At least, it was getting there. "But now you know why I..."
"Wouldn't mind seeing Loki drawn and quartered," Tony supplied helpfully.
"Yeah, more or less," Clint agreed. His cat wriggled out of his arms and approached Thor cautiously, sniffing the demigod's boots before looking up and him and giving his largest meow.
Obligingly, because everyone bows to feline manipulation, Thor bent down and picked the cat up. He held the animal out in front of him at arm's length, examining it until the cat gave a twist and clawed his arm. The cat escaped Thor's grip and fell to the ground, skittering away to hide under a table.
"What a strange animal," Thor observed, staring at the shallow scratches on his arm.
"He doesn't like being held like that," Clint pointed out, in his cat's defense. To the cat, he called, "Hey! Cat! C'mere," and patted his leg in invitation.
Slowly, the cat slunk out from under the table and settled back into Clint's lap.
"Cat?" Thor asked. "Why do you address it so? Does it not have a name?"
Everyone looked at Clint expectantly.
"Um. No, I guess he doesn't really have a name," Clint admitted. "I just never...saw the point? I just call him Cat. Or Fucker. Or Fucking Cat, depending on how much of an asshole he's being."
Thor looked a bit perplexed. "Those are not...affectionate terms."
Clint raised an eyebrow. "Cat doesn't mind."
Everyone heard the affirmative meow.
The cat's skills became a crucial part of life at the Tower. Thor decided to stick around for awhile (despite Tony's not-so-subtle efforts to send the demigod back to Asgard) and while everyone mostly got along, Thor and Tony continued to rub each other the wrong way. Thor couldn't figure out that it was only necessary to listen to about 1/3 of what Tony was saying (the rest tended to be comprised entirely of snarky bullshit) and Tony could not, for the life of him, stop insulting Loki.
But even despite the cat's best efforts, Tony was nonetheless thrilled when, about two weeks into Thor's stay, Clint and Natasha got the orders to take the demigod to New Mexico. Thor was going to spend the day answering some questions for a physicist working there, which Thor seemed thrilled about (and Clint knew that had nothing to do with advancing the world's understanding of astrophysics). Clint and Natasha had a much less fun assignment—they had to check out an abandoned lab facility in the desert.
Unfortunately, that mission would end the cat's five month hiatus from taking care of Clint, though neither of them knew it beforehand.
Because the mission sounded ridiculously easy, at first. "When are we going?" Clint asked Natasha, sprawled out on the couch, relaxed.
"Now, Barton. Grab your shit."
Clint hated these sudden missions, but he stood from his spot on the couch and waved to the others. "Back in a couple days, I guess." He gestured towards his cat, who was perched on the back of the couch behind Tony's head. "Keep an eye on this fucker, 'kay?" he said, directed primarily at Bruce and Steve—Tony could barely take care of himself, much less another sentient being.
"We will," Steve reassured him, and Clint took a moment to be thankful for the modicum of stability that he had in his life now, for the people who gave him a solid piece of ground to stand on. He paused on the way out to scratch the cat's ears, relishing the way the animal arched up into his hand, before he slipped up to his apartment to pack.
"Would you like me to accompany you?" Thor offered during the flight. "If there is work to be done, I would gladly assist you."
But Natasha declined. "The building's abandoned. Fury cut the funding to the contractor and shut it down last month. We're just making sure they packed everything up right, didn't leave any toxic chemicals lying around, didn't rig the place to blow..."
"Does that happen often?" Thor asked, concerned.
Clint snorted. "No, but more often than you'd think. People sometimes get bitter when they're shut down, they do all kinds of crazy shit."
Thor shook his head. "Tread carefully, in that case."
"We always do," Natasha assured him.
The assassins left the demigod in the care of Jane Foster and company (who were thrilled to see him) before heading out to a building in what Clint decided was the exact fucking middle of nowhere. Worse than the compound they'd built around Thor's hammer, and he had thought that was the absolute boonies.
"Sure we're in the right place, Nat?"
She gave him a look. "Yeah, Barton. Now move your ass, I want to get this over with."
They made their way into the building, hypervigilant, scanning each room in turn. They made it all the way back to the offices without incident—nothing so much as a paper clip was out of place—and in the absence of any apparent trouble, they were both looking forward to heading back towards civilization.
Perhaps this made them careless.
The very last office was empty, except for a moldy office chair and a single filing cabinet labeled 'research' in the corner. Natasha tried to open the top drawer of the cabinet, but it was locked. She gave a frustrated huff. "Typical. It's always the last damn thing, isn't it?"
Clint nodded emphatically. "Yeah. It is. And if it's research, we can't just leave it...if you want to report to Fury, I'll get the damn thing open." He pulled out his lock picking tools. "Shouldn't be too hard."
Natasha shrugged. "Sure. But why am I always the one talking to Fury?"
That was easy. "Because I don't want to."
She made a very rude gesture at him before slipping out into the hall.
Clint sighed and set to picking the lock. It only took him a few moments, because filing cabinet security isn't really the best, and he wrenched the top drawer open, completely unthinking, just wanting to get this over with and go home.
He had exactly half a second to think, You're a fucking moron, Barton, before his whole world flashed white, then black.
"Boobytrapped filing cabinet, though? That's some James Bond shit or something right there."
Clint groaned, freshly dragged back into the land of the living. He was still entirely too close to unconsciousness to deal with Tony right now, though, a fact that Bruce apparently registered.
"Keep it down, Tony. His headache's probably already bad enough without input from the peanut gallery. Clint, are you awake?"
A sharp throbbing registered at the back of his head. Oh. There it was. "Ow," he muttered, followed by, "Fucking ow." He'd woken up in enough hospitals that he didn't even bother with the 'where am I' schtick. Instead, he scoured his memories, looking for whatever had landed him here. There was nothing, but Tony had said something about a booby trapped filing cabinet...
"That's a 'yes, I'm awake,'" Natasha translated. "And also, 'I'm glad you carted my ass back across the country, Natasha.' Or maybe a 'thank you, Natasha, I owe you one more.'"
Bruce chuckled, then said to Clint, "Open your eyes, if you can. I want to check your pupillary response. The doctors at the hospital in New Mexico said it was normal, but we should keep an eye on you. Head trauma can be tricky..."
This didn't seem like a particularly good idea—open eyes were a step further away from 'unconscious' and the pain in his head was making him want to work his way back towards it, but he obliged.
And was met with near-complete darkness. "What's wrong with the lights?" Clint rasped, throat dry.
"What do you mean?" came Bruce's voice, closer now than it had been.
"Why's it so fucking dark in here?"
The idle background chatter in the room went silent. Clint, recently whacked in the head, took a second longer than everyone else to get it. Explosion. Right. He'd been injured. And now he was starting to understand how. "It's not dark in here, is it?"
"No, it's not," Bruce answered, grave.
Clint sighed, blinking rapidly. Then, he felt something land lightly on the bed next to him, and he ran a hand absently over the small animal he could not actually see.
Thanks for reading!
This is probably going to end up being shamelessly fluffy and cheesy, fair warning.
Reviews are my main reason for living, so please lend meaning to my life.