Long time no see, friends. The month was productive. Kind of.
So, we commence this story with a prelude. It's not exactly a prologue, per se, given that it doesn't really introduce the central conflict in this story. But it is necessary, so prelude it is.
New readers, I'll highly recommend reading the first story, "It's My Problem", before tackling this one. However, if you really don't want to, just remember that Peter is Tony's kid.
Prelude: No Time Like The Present
"Please, Clint, I'm begging you." Peter aimed mournful eyes straight at Clint's face. "Don't tell anyone."
"And by anyone, you mean any of the other Avengers?" Clint clarified, crouching precariously on top of a machine of some sort on the rooftop of Stark Tower. Peter stood nearby, not batting an eyelid at Clint's bizarre location.
"By anyone, I mean ianyone/i," Peter said firmly, not trusting Clint to not tell anyone outside of the Avengers if Peter didn't clarify.
"You're no fun," Clint complained, a playful scowl on his face. He thought for a moment, before grudgingly giving Peter his answer. "Fine then. I'll keep mum."
He put up a finger to cut off Peter's relieved words of gratitude.
"But-" Clint said sharply. "I have two conditions."
"This'll be good," Peter groaned, running his hand through his hair. "Okay. I'll bite. What are your conditions?"
"One, you talk to your dear old man about your little not-secret," Clint started.
"Been there, done that," Peter said dismissively. "Next?"
"Woah, wait a sec." Clint leaned in, swaying a bit on the edge of his perch. "You talked with Stark already? When? What happened?"
"Yesterday," Peter replied easily. "And we both unanimously agreed to pretend it never happened."
"...Never happened?" Clint groaned. "Seriously? No sudden revelation that you love each other in a familial way? You're not gonna start calling Stark 'Dad'? Because seriously, that'd be hilarious to watch."
"Yeah, well, sorry to disappoint you," Peter said sarcastically. "What's your second condition?"
"Lemme tell Natasha," Clint answered. "I can't keep a secret from her."
Peter snorted incredulously. "You're a SHIELD agent. Of course you can keep secrets."
"I stand by my earlier statement," Clint said solemnly. His mouth quirked up into a smile for a brief moment.
Peter sighed. He really had no choice here, and better one Avenger then all of them.
"Fine, whatever," Peter grumbled. "I accept your conditions."
"Perfect!" Clint chirped. He jumped down from his perch and lightly landed on the ground in an impressive feat of agility. "I'm off to tell 'Tasha, then."
"Now?" Peter asked with a twinge of nervousness.
"Of course!" Clint replied, calling over his shoulder. He opened the rooftop's door. "No time like the present."
After blankly watching the door swing shut with a bang, Peter scrambled to get his regular clothing off to reveal the Spider-Man costume underneath.
There was no way in hell that he was going to stay here and wait for Clint to tell the Black Widow about his relation to Tony.
"I see," Natasha said calmly. She crossed her legs and leaned back on her room's rather comfortable chair.
"I see?" Clint repeated, crossing his arms. "That's your response? I see?!"
Natasha shrugged lightly. "Is there a problem with that?"
"Fess up, Coulson told you already, didn't he?" Clint demanded, scowling.
"Perhaps," Natasha said mildly.
"I can't believe that he told you and not me." Clint groaned. "Seriously?"
"I do have higher security clearance than you," Natasha pointed out.
"Never mind, it all makes sense now," Clint said, letting out an exaggerated sigh. "It was all about the security clearance."
"Of course it was," Natasha said, completely serious. "It was classified by SHIELD. Of course, SHIELD has no power if Parker decides to tell others of his own volition, as he apparently did already."
Clint shrugged. "Eh, what can I say? The kid likes me."
"Were you planning to tell the rest of the Avengers about it?" Natasha asked.
"I would, 'cept I told the kid that I wouldn't tell." Clint smirked. "Of course, it's not my fault if they figure it out by themselves."
"You do know it's classified, right, Clint?" Natasha said dryly.
"Of course. And I also know what type of classified it is," Clint said smoothly, grinning. "Given that it wasn't SHIELD that told me about it, as long as no SHIELD agent straight -out tells me to keep quiet, I can do whatever I want with the knowledge."
"Why am I not surprised that you looked into loopholes?" Natasha sighed. "Keep it in the Avengers."
"I was planning on that anyhow." Clint shrugged. "No problem. Now excuse me as I go drop some blatant hints around Banner."
"Clint. Wait," Natasha said sharply.
Clint paused. "What?"
"You really want to break Parker's trust in you?" Natasha pointed out. "You know just as well as I do how hard it is to regain, and you seem close enough with him."
"Better he learn to mistrust people from me and with this than with something more important in the future," Clint replied. "Maybe he'll learn to word things more carefully in a negotiation, even with someone he knows well."
Natasha kept quiet for a little while, eyeing Clint. She then nodded.
"That's true. Do what you want."
"That's what I was gonna do already," Clint said flippantly.
The first time, Bruce hadn't thought much of it.
"Hey, Banner!" Clint had called out, walking into his laboratory. "What's up?"
Bruce had sighed and had reluctantly put down the test tube he had been examining. He had crushed the spark of irritation that had flashed up within him when Clint had interrupted him.
"Clint," Bruce had greeted calmly. "Did you want something?"
"Nothing," Clint had said innocently. "Just wondering, y'know. You spend a lot of time with Peter, right?"
"Some time, yes," Bruce had answered. "No less than you or Tony."
"He ever, uh, remind you of anyone?"
Bruce had frowned, his brows furrowing. It was true that Peter did occasionally remind him of Tony, but he was involved in some of the same areas of expertise as Tony. It was to be expected. Or perhaps Clint was referring to Peter's resemblance to Clint, which was also relatively to spot. They both had a similar sense of humour, and enjoyed surprising people from their various perches. Really, Bruce could easily think of some sort of resemblance to any of the Avengers, if he thought hard enough.
"No," Bruce had lied, figuring that Clint was more likely to elaborate if he gave a negative response. "Why?"
Clint had looked disappointed. "Alright then, never mind. See you later, Banner."
Bruce had blinked in confusion at Clint's sudden departure, before shrugging and returning to his work. Bruce had figured that it was preparation for another prank or something.
There had been a couple more low-key incidents during the next few months, but nothing too evidently strange until that incident in February.
Then, he had begun to wonder.
Bruce and Tony had been in Tony's workshop, discussing one of Tony's newest inventions. Clint had then suddenly burst in.
His eyes had lit up at the sight of Bruce, which had been rather strange.
"Hey, Stark," Clint had chirped. "Don't see your kid around today."
It took Bruce a short moment to figure out that Clint probably meant Peter.
Tony had flinched slightly before responding.
"Peter's not here everyday, birdbrain," Tony had retorted, a deep scowl on his face.
"Oh yeah, he's got that internship now, doesn't he?" Clint had said as if he hadn't known already. "Good thing you didn't put in a good word for him or anything- wouldn't want to be accused of nepotism."
Bruce had stared at Clint, raising an eyebrow. "Clint, it would only be nepotism if they were related."
At this point, Tony had been positively glaring daggers at Clint.
"Right, right," Clint had said, in that same cheerful tone. "I meant favoritism. My bad."
"Piss off," Tony had finally snapped.
Bruce had been surprised at the unusual vehemence in Tony's voice.
Clint had put his hands up and had backed away defensively.
"Yeah, yeah, got it." Clint had shrugged. "I'll be going now."
As soon as Clint had left, Bruce had opened his mouth to question Tony about Clint's curious actions. Tony had distracted him before he could get started, pointing out something particularly interesting on the blueprints.
Bruce had still marked the incident down in the back of his mind, however.
He recalled each of those incidents now, in March, as Clint goaded Peter, dragging out a peculiar reaction.
Bruce would figure out what was happening, or he would drag it out of Clint himself.
Peter groaned, slamming his head on the table of the kitchen most commonly used by the Avengers. Last night, he had had the joy of fighting a new supervillain. Luckily, it hadn't been some genius megalomaniac supervillain- just a run-of-the-mill 'steal stuff, destroy everything' supervillain.
(Oh, lovely. He had a classification for run-of-the-mill supervillains now.)
Still, he had received some kind of dangerous injuries on the job, so he had reluctantly headed over to the Tower to get some medical treatment.
It had been late, and the next day had been a Saturday, so Peter had called up Aunt May to tell her that he would be staying at a friend's house for the night. Thankfully, Aunt May still had enough trust in him to accept the excuse. Peter had then crashed down into one of Tony's many extra rooms and slept like a rock.
He still felt horrible, even after all the sleep he had gotten.
"Hey, Peter!" Clint's voice rang out.
Peter lifted his head slightly to glare at Clint, then put his head back into his arms.
"Seen your dad anywhere?" Clint asked, an amused tone to his voice. Peter couldn't believe how childish the sentence was, and he was the one who was a teenager.
Peter got up from the table and shot a piercing glare at Clint. He cast a nervous glance at Captain America and Bruce, who were also in the room. Luckily, it seemed as though they hadn't noticed anything.
"I haven't a clue who you're talking about," Peter snarked, his previous tiredness dissipating. He shoved his hands into his sweatshirt's pockets and scowled. "I'll be going now."
"Oh, I was talking about Stark," Clint clarified unnecessarily, grinning. His eyes flicked towards Bruce, who had seemingly decided to listen in on the conversation. At least Captain America was still more interested in the coffee machine than their conversation.
Peter's scowl deepened. So, that was his game. A poor attempt to reveal the fact that Tony was biologically his father.
"Sometimes, I hate you, you know that?" Peter said rhetorically. He flipped around and headed towards the open door, grabbing his backpack on the way.
"Peter," Bruce said, in that quiet, nondescript voice of his. Peter stopped, internally groaning. "What's going on between you, Clint, and probably Tony?"
Peter sighed and reluctantly turned back around.
"Nothing!" he said cheerfully, pasting an awfully genuine smile on his face. "Clint's just being annoying, as usual."
"Oh, you're one to talk, Mr. Cheesy One-Liner," Clint shot back.
Bruce's eyes bore into Peter's. Peter's smile turned rather nervous. Bruce turned his head to the side slightly, almost as if he were studying Peter.
"You know, Peter, your facial structure is quite similar to Tony's," Bruce noted.
Peter paled to a pasty white within moments, unable to stop his natural biological impulses.
Bruce's eyes widened at Peter's harsh reaction at his words. He glanced at Clint, who quickly hid a wide smile, and then back at Peter.
"You're not really- that was just-" Bruce stammered. The captain, who had been seemingly not paying attention to the conversation up to this point, had leaned in somewhat to listen.
"Thanks a lot, Clint," Peter snapped, a vicious edge to his tone. "Great friend you are."
"You shouldn't keep secrets." Clint shrugged, unrepentant. His eyes were unreadable. "Or at least, you should learn how to keep them better."
Captain America frowned, his eyes darting from person to person. "I'm sorry if this isn't any of my business, but what exactly happened?"
"Will I or will you?" Clint asked Peter, raising an eyebrow.
Peter let out a resigned sigh. He knew that it would come out eventually, especially when Clint knew, but he hadn't expected Clint to so obviously hint at it. Then again, at least he hadn't outright told them.
"I will," Peter replied, steeling his nerves. He placed a wide smile on his face and raised his hands to the side. "Tony may have kind of slept with my mother nine months before I was born. I was the result. Surprise!"
He cocked his head to the side with a confidence he didn't feel, and crushed his urge to run away. He had done enough of that before.
Bruce was the first to move after Peter's proclamation. He headed for the door, citing that he needed to think about this.
Captain America had blinked several times, his mouth falling ever so slightly open. He then shut his mouth into a grim line and let out a breath from his nose.
"I… I need to go talk to Tony," the captain said, evidently shaken. He didn't look at Peter as he left the room.
(Maybe it was his forties morals. Maybe he didn't want to associate with a child 'born out of wedlock.')
Peter shot a cold look at Clint, who returned it unrepentantly.
"I'm going," Peter said simply, hoisting his backpack up onto his left shoulder. He walked out the kitchen, saying nothing more.
The next few weeks weren't as difficult as Peter had feared they would be.
Peter still couldn't bring himself to forgive Clint completely, but he ended up falling back into the kind-of friend relationship that they had before. Peter suspected that it was because he subconsciously blamed himself and not Clint for the secret's reveal, given that Peter had told Clint in the first place. Peter hated the way that he blamed himself for everything.
(Then again, it was often his fault anyways.)
Thor, surprisingly enough, had accepted it easier than the Black Widow had. He had boomingly declared his surprise at the revelation that Peter was the 'son of the mighty Man of Iron' then let it go.
Bruce had decided to respect Tony and Peter's decision on the subject. Given that they insisted that their relation wasn't anything important, Bruce agreed and didn't pester either of them about it.
According to Clint, Captain America had had words with Tony. Peter really didn't have a clue what the dear old captain had to say on the matter, and he really didn't want to know. Thankfully, after whatever Tony had said, Captain America had decided not to lecture Peter about anything.
Still, even if he had somewhat forgiven Clint, he knew that he wouldn't let go of his secrets so easily next time.
(Even if the guilt had been gnawing away at his insides.)
Truth be told, it was a bit of a relief that there was at least one group of people that he had no secrets with. Not that he'd ever tell Clint that.
Anyhow, the school year was nearly over, and summer was quickly approaching. He planned to spend his summer working, superheroing, hanging out with Gwen…
… and searching for information on Richard Parker.
Feel free to point out any typos or anything. I'd be grateful.
I'm sure you haven't gotten an exact feel of where the story's going with just the prelude, but I hope you like it so far.