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This Is Family, This Is Home by angelskuuipo
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Author's Notes:
Part 3 of Home and Heart
I did it! I started writing this third and final installment several months ago, but I stalled out when I tried to decide how to end it. I pulled it out the other day and was still stuck, but after having Shanachie_quill take a look at it and talking about it a little bit I broke through the block! Woo hoo! And Iíll stop abusing exclamation points now. This marks the end of this little Ďverse Iíve created, unless an idea comes along that fits in it. Thank you all for the kudos and encouragement on the previous stories as I get more comfortable writing these wonderful characters. Unbetaed, except for having been read over several times by me. If you notice any glaring errors, please point them out gently and Iíll take care of it.
Written: September 5, 2013
Word Count: 6,000
~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Five Months Ago

Steve Rogers was livid and didn’t care who knew it. He wasn’t in uniform, so this wasn’t Captain America. No, this near burning rage was all Steve. As he stalked through the corridors of the Helicarrier, personnel and trained agents alike swiftly got out of his way. Whispers started behind him and a distant part of him acknowledged that yet another betting pool would be going up in a few minutes. He didn’t care.

When Steve reached the conference room he saw Fury waiting for him at the table, Maria Hill standing at his shoulder like the good little minion she was. Phil was sitting at the table with his head in his hands, and that right there told Steve just how bad the situation was, because Agent Phil Coulson never let anyone, junior agents or supposed superiors, see how situations affected him.

In the two years since they’d come together Clint and Natasha both had been sent on missions without the rest of them and, for the most part, it had gone okay. None of them were exactly happy with the situation, but they’d let it ride. In hindsight, that had obviously been a mistake. It was time to rectify that.

Fury took a breath to start what Steve was sure to be a brilliant spin on this clusterfuck of a situation, but he cut him off. Maybe he’d been spending too much time with Tony, but honestly, he was just done. He was tired of losing people close to him and it was going to stop. “Save it, Director. Before you spin whatever story you think will get you the best results let me make one thing perfectly clear. Again, since I remember having a conversation like this at least once before.” Steve leaned his clenched fists on the table and stared Fury right in the eye. “No. More. I will no longer allow you to pull people off my team whenever you feel like it. I will no longer allow any Avenger to go on any mission without at least one of us backing him or her up. Coulson is our liaison, I am the team leader, and all requests for use of my teammates should go through him, then me, and if I’m not available then they should go through Stark, who is second in command. The Avengers are not an official part of SHIELD and we will no longer be at your beck and call for anything less than the world ending. Do I make myself clear?”

Maria Hill glared at him. “Now see here, Captain-“

He cut his icy blue gaze up to her. “Can it, Hill. I’m talking to your boss.” He looked back to Fury. “Director?”

Fury looked at Steve Rogers and said mildly, “Agent Barton is still one of my assets, Captain.”

“No sir, actually he isn’t.” Steve felt a bit of vindictive pleasure at the flinch Fury couldn’t quite suppress when Phil quietly spoke up without lifting his head from his hands. The SHIELD/Avengers Liaison took a breath then slowly raised his head to spear the director with a hard look. “When Agents Barton and Romanoff were officially detailed to the Avengers their employment with us ended so there could be no perceived conflict of interest by outside parties. They were classified as consultants, much like the other Avengers.”

Both Hill and Fury blinked at Phil and Steve firmly bit his lip to stop his mouth from twitching into a smile. This was definitely no laughing matter, but the nonplussed looks on both their faces was almost priceless. It wasn’t every day one got to see the Director and Assistant Director of SHIELD caught flatfooted by their own policy. He rather hoped Tony had JARVIS recording the video feed, because he knew without a doubt that the AI still had a line into the Helicarrier’s systems. It would be worth watching again when he could really appreciate it.

It didn’t take long for Fury to rally, though. “Be that as it may, it was still within my discretion to send Hawkeye on this mission. The Avengers were on stand down anyway.”

“Bullshit,” Steve replied succinctly. Fury looked him, one eyebrow raised. “I think I just made it perfectly clear that all requests for members of my team are to go through Coulson and myself. That means it is at my discretion and I don’t remember any such request. Do you, Agent Coulson?”

“No sir,” Phil said levelly without looking at the director.

Steve returned his attention to Fury. “And Stark never mentioned a request either. So this is what is going to happen, Director. You are going to turn over every scrap of intelligence you have on this mission to me and then the Avengers will get our teammate back. Once that is done we will have a long talk about what exactly this alliance entails. I will ask again: Do I make myself clear?”

Once again, Hill interrupted. “You have no right to speak to us this way, Captain Rogers.”

He looked at her and she actually took half a step back at the expression on his face before she caught herself. “I don’t think you understand just how lucky you are that I’m here instead of Stark or, God forbid, Natasha Romanoff, Agent Hill. Trust me when I say this is about as civil as you’ll get for the foreseeable future.” He looked back at Fury. “Well?”

They stared at each other for a long moment and Steve was honestly a little surprised that Fury actually blinked first. In retrospect, Steve supposed this was the outcome the Director wanted in the first place. It just didn’t happen how he wanted it to.

With an almost inaudible sigh, Fury said, “I understand, Captain. I will have the information to Agent Coulson within the hour.”

“All of it, Director,” Steve reminded him.

Fury glared at him. “You’re pushing it, Captain.”

“Hawkeye is missing because you fucked up, Fury,” Steve said ruthlessly. He saw Phil wince from the corner of his eye. He’d apologize later. “I’ll push as much as I need to; to make sure we get him back. This isn’t a time for games and machinations. A man’s life is on the line and, while your organization may think he’s expendable, the rest of his team does not.” With that parting shot, Steve turned on his heel and left.

He made it halfway to the hangar before he realized his hands were shaking. Natasha fell into step with him just after he noticed that and it was all he could do not to jump. She silently herded him into an empty office and pushed him into a chair. Steve fell into it limply and cradled his head in his hands. He took a couple of deep breaths then said softly, “Thanks.”

Natasha ran a hand over his shoulder and replied just as quietly, “You’re welcome. And, thank you for what you said. You handled it pretty well.”

Steve huffed out a humorless laugh. “I almost decked him; I was so mad.”

Natasha lifted his chin to make him look at her. “But you didn’t, which is what matters.”

They stayed that way, just looking at each other, for a couple more minutes before Steve took a fortifying breath and nodded. Natasha let him go and he stood. “Right,” he said, “Let’s get back to the Tower. We’ve got work to do.”

~*~

Tony Stark was pissed. He and JARVIS could not get a lock on Hawkeye’s tracker. It didn’t make any sense. Every time he thought they had his location, five minutes later it was halfway across the world from the previous position.

Someone had managed to fool StarkTech.

Tony would be impressed if it didn’t make him so damn angry. He took a breath then got back to work. Hawkeye was counting on him.

~*~

Thor implored Heimdall to turn his all-seeing eyes on Midgard to find their lost shield-brother. The Gatekeeper did as asked then reluctantly told him that he was unable to find Hawkeye. When Thor asked him how that was possible, Heimdall theorized that whatever Loki had done to the good Hawk two years ago had made him a blind spot to Heimdall’s eyes.

Thor tried questioning his brother after that, but as ever, it proved fruitless.

Thor bowed his head and prayed.

~*~

Natasha quietly combed through her sources, looking for anything that might give them a lead to finding her partner and best friend. Fury may have given them all the intelligence he had for the mission, but that didn’t mean squat when they didn’t know why or how it had all gone to hell in the first place. All they knew for certain was that he wasn’t within a thousand miles of his last recorded position.

The worst thing was they didn’t know who had him. That left them all at a distinct disadvantage. They did know it wasn’t the people Hawkeye had been sent to eliminate, because he’d managed to complete that part of his mission before he was captured, but other than that they had nothing. Natasha wasn’t going to give up, though. She owed Clint, regardless of what he’d told her in the past, and if he died she’d never be able to repay him.

She kept looking.

~*~

Phil Coulson was also going through every possible source of information he could. He resolutely refused to believe Clint was dead. His partner had made him a glib, but essentially sincere, promise that he’d always find a way back to him and Phil was going to hold him to it, by God.

Any other outcome was unacceptable.

~*~

Three Months Ago

“Ha! Suck it you bastards!” Tony yelled as JARVIS finally got a steady lock on Hawkeye’s tracker. “JARVIS let the others know we finally found him.”

“Already done, sir.”

“You’re the best, babe. Don’t let anyone ever tell you different,” Tony crowed with a tired smile.

“Never, sir. I am well aware of my worth. You would be lost without me,” JARVIS replied dryly.

Tony turned as he heard snickering and grinned at the rest of his team as they entered his workshop.

Steve looked at him hopefully. “JARVIS said you found him?”

Tony sobered and nodded as he pulled up the information he had. “Yep. His tracker data has been stationary at these coordinates for the last twelve hours. That’s the best lead we’ve had since he disappeared.”

Bruce asked the question on everyone’s mind. “So, where are we going?”

Tony glanced at Natasha before replying, “Budapest.”

The team started to scatter to gear up, but Tony held Natasha back. “Should we have Agent come with us?” he asked softly.

Natasha thought about it for a moment then shook her head. “No. If this doesn’t pan out…”

Tony nodded glumly. “Yeah.”

~*~

Iron Man reconned the building that they thought Clint was in. Thankfully the warehouse was on the outskirts of the city and appeared to be abandoned.

As the Quinjet flew over the Hungarian capital, Natasha grimaced and muttered under her breath, “Nothing good ever happens here.”

Steve heard her and reached over to take her hand. She raised one eyebrow at him, but he just squeezed her hand and let go. He said lowly, “We’re going to get Clint back and bring him home. It’s going to be fine.”

Natasha gave him a ghost of a smile and silently hoped he was right.

~*~

It wasn’t fine.

What the Avengers found when they finally entered the warehouse was nothing short of a massacre. Bodies littered the ground and most were almost unrecognizable as male or female. It was one of the most horrifying sights any of them had ever seen. And really, in their group, that was saying something.

They silently followed Iron Man to where his sensors were saying they’d find Clint, down a hallway to a locked door on the right. Captain America took a deep breath and the responsibility for opening the door. And immediately wished he hadn’t. Then the others crowded in behind him.

Bruce immediately backed out with a low growl and they could hear his howl of rage and sadness as he transformed into the Hulk.

Thor dropped Mjolnir and started muttering in his own language. By the cadence of the words it sounded like a prayer to Steve.

Tony swore viciously, but caught Natasha when her knees gave out, and cradled her gently as she tried to find her center.

After a few hellishly long minutes of just staring at the body, Steve forced himself to move closer and check. Visual identification was impossible, but he found dog tags around the body’s neck and he swore when he saw Clint’s name. He bowed his head and prayed.

“Are we sure it’s him,” Natasha asked quietly.

“These are his tags,” Steve said flatly.

“This is where JARVIS tracked his signal to,” Tony added. “We’ll try to get DNA confirmation as soon as possible.” If we can, he thought silently.

Thor finally stopped his prayers and stepped forward. He took off his cape and said gravely, “I will see our shield-brother back to the Quinjet.” Then he very carefully wrapped the body in his cape and left the room. The others followed listlessly.

“This is going to kill Phil,” Natasha murmured.

Tony nodded in agreement, too shocked and angry to say anything.

“We won’t let him do anything stupid,” Steve assured her, his voice thick with emotion.

“I don’t know if any of us would be able to stop him,” she said tonelessly.

No one really had anything to say to that.

Hulk hadn’t gone far. The immediate area surrounding the warehouse showed the effects of his rage, but surprisingly, he was waiting patiently for them near the Quinjet. When Thor approached with his precious burden, Hulk stepped forward and ran one massive finger gently over the covered form. “Cupid gone,” he rumbled sadly.

“We will avenge him, my friend,” Thor vowed.

The others agreed and Hulk nodded before he huffed and let Bruce come back. He swayed on his feet but stayed upright. He blinked owlishly at Thor then realized what the god held in his arms. Bruce’s face fell and he silently stumbled up the ramp.

No one said a word the entire flight home.

~*~

The DNA evidence was inclusive, much to their dismay and anger. In the end, Fury declared Clint Barton, aka the Avenger Hawkeye, KIA. It didn’t feel like closure.

It was difficult to adjust to the gaping Hawkeye-shaped hole in the Avengers’ world. Even though he’d been missing for two months, the team had all held onto the hope that they’d get him back and that let them carry on almost normally. Now that hope was gone and they weren’t sure how to move forward.

Watching Phil slowly fall apart with a quiet, desperate dignity made it almost impossible.

The next three months proved far more difficult than the previous two. The Avengers, including Natasha who had known Phil Coulson for almost a decade, became privy to a side of their friend and co-worker they never knew existed.

And it scared the hell out of all of them.

A month after finding Clint’s body, the Avengers came to the conclusion that it would be best if Coulson stayed off the Helicarrier for the foreseeable future. It was a distinct possibility that Phil would either toss someone off the side while it was in the air or he might jump himself. Fury concurred for the safety of his agents and his friend.

The fact that Phil didn’t argue let them know that he was at least aware of the edge he was slowly but surely approaching. He started disappearing randomly during the day, but since he came back to the Tower looking a little more balanced, maybe a little more at peace, none of them asked what he was doing.

Well, Hill made a few comments about his unprofessionalism, but only once within ear shot of any of the Avengers and never within Phil’s. Natasha made sure of that.

Natasha also developed an irrational hatred of Clint’s old Go Army t-shirt. Phil had taken to wearing it on his worst days and it was a glaring physical reminder that her friend was slowly losing it. She had no idea how to help him and that just made her angrier.

Life seemed to slow to a crawl as they tried to adjust. They missed Clint; it was as simple as that. But missing him had drawn them all closer together, so they counted themselves lucky for that. It seemed they had plenty of time to bond, too, since it had been unusually quiet recently.

The last lead they had on who might have been responsible for Clint’s death hadn’t panned out, so they didn’t even have a valid target for all their anger and grief. Instead they took it out on the idiots stupid enough to challenge them. Potential supervillains actually took note of the new ruthlessness the Avengers displayed and were being slightly more careful in their attacks.

That just pissed them off all the more.

Fury called a meeting about a potential mission. SHIELD had solid intel of an imminent terrorist attack on an upcoming UN Peace Summit and wanted the Avengers to lead a pre-emptive attack on the cell.

Before the team could say yea or nay, Doctor Doom decided to take advantage of the Fantastic Four’s absence and tried to destroy the Baxter Building and the surrounding neighborhood. Fury waved them off to save New York City again and sent his best SHIELD team, lead by Agent Sitwell, after the terrorists instead.

His team brought Hawkeye home.

~*~

Now

The Avengers were in Medical on the Helicarrier after sending Doom running back to Latveria with his tail between his legs. Tony was muttering about having to clean up Richards’ mess again and the others just nodded tiredly in agreement. It was getting a little old. The way they were feeling anymore there was a good chance Doom wouldn’t survive their next encounter. The unspoken agreement for non-lethal resolution when possible was fading fast. They were getting fed up dealing with serial repeat offenders.

The doctors had just cleared them all when a loud commotion turned their attention to the doors. Medics came rushing through with a figure on a gurney, shouting vitals and stats and tossing ideas back and forth about what should be done first.

Tony was closest to the doors, so he got a look at who they were working on first. His eyes went comically wide before his legs gave out and he sat down heavily on the exam table behind him.

“No fucking way,” he breathed.

Steve looked at him in concern then looked back at the frantic doctors who were blocking his view. “Who is it, Tony?”

Tony swallowed. “It’s Clint.”

Natasha, Bruce, Thor, and Steve practically teleported to Tony’s bed and tried to get a look at the patient. All of them had the presence of mind to not get in the doctors’ way, but it was a near thing.

Thor, being taller than all of them, was able to catch a glimpse and the smile that broke across his face was almost incandescent. “The Man of Iron speaks true. Our shield-brother has returned to us.”

Natasha collapsed on the table next to Tony and the five of them all kind of just fell into a relieved group hug. They jumped and stood, ready for battle, when one of the monitors fell into a long single beep and the nurse yelled, “We’re losing him!”

Bruce’s skin washed green, but he held onto his control by the skin of this teeth. The last thing anyone needed was him hulking out and distracting them from saving Clint.

Natasha started muttering in Russian, while Thor chanted something incomprehensible under his breath. The odd cadence created by the two of them was almost hypnotic.

Steve closed his eyes and murmured the prayers of his youth, his fingers moving like he held a rosary in his hands.

Tony just stared at the cluster of frantically working doctors and nurses, a litany of, “No, no, no. Come on you stubborn bastard, don’t you give up now,” falling from his lips.

The monitor picked up a steady beeping again and the five of them sagged in relief.

Fury chose that moment to enter, unnoticed by everyone. He paused when he saw the Avengers staring avidly as the medical team worked to save their lost teammate and cursed his luck that they were there. It was… inconvenient.

He stood to the side and tried to be as unobtrusive as possible as he studied the team he and Coulson had put together. In the two years since the Chitauri invasion the Avengers had surpassed Fury’s wildest dreams of how good they could be together. But in becoming the flawless team they were now, they had also succumbed to the worst potential downfall of such unity: They cared too much for each other. He would admit, if only to himself that, aside from the little tantrums the Captain had thrown about SHIELD availing itself of assets without his permission, the Avengers really didn’t let their closeness cloud their judgment or affect their work in the field.

Barton flat-lined again and Fury held his breath right along with the others. That was at least the third time his heart had stopped. He closed his eye and tried to formulate a plan to contain the damage if Barton wound up dying after all. He’d already put a blackout on the information that Hawkeye had been found and, to his current knowledge, Coulson didn’t know yet. He wanted to keep it that way until he knew for certain if Barton was going to pull through or not.

Fury grimaced to himself. That plan was not going to go over well with the Avengers. He unconsciously rubbed his jaw as he remembered the team’s reactions when they found out he’d lied to them about Coulson being dead after the Chitauri invasion. Tony Stark packed a hell of punch when he was properly motivated. So did Dr. Banner for that matter.

He was jolted from his thoughts when Maria strode through the doors and demanded, “Is it true? Is Barton alive?”

Five heads swiveled as one and pinned them both with hard stares. Fury ignored them for the moment and replied quietly, “He’s alive, for the moment.”

Maria frowned at him. “What does that mean, ‘for the moment’?”

Before Fury could answer, one of the doctors looked up and scowled at them all. “If you want Agent Barton to make it through I suggest you all get out and let us work. We’ll brief you as soon as we’ve gotten him stabilized.”

Natasha looked like she wanted to stay regardless, but at Thor’s hand on her shoulder she silently followed the rest of her team out of the medical bay.

Tony was practically bouncing in the corridor. “We’ve got to call Agent and get him up here!”

“No,” Fury said flatly, his tone of voice one that usually brooked no argument. The Avengers all stopped and turned on him. Even Maria was looking at him like he’d lost his mind. But he held firm under their glares.

“I beg your pardon, Director?” Steve queried softly.

Fury’s eye twitched and he held up a hand. “Just hear me out. As glad as I am that Agent Barton is alive, his chances of survival at this time are alarmingly low. I really don’t think it would be a good idea to get Agent Coulson’s hopes up only to have them dashed if Barton doesn’t make it.”

Stark got right up in his face and snarled, “You really didn’t learn anything the last time you pulled that shit, did you? How many beat downs is it going to take before you stop playing God with our lives, huh?”

Maria’s face twisted up like she’d smelled something bad, but said, “As much as I hate to say it, sir, I agree with Mr. Stark.” With a glance at Steve, she continued, “Our relationship with the Avengers is tenuous at best right now. Perpetuating a lie of this magnitude might break it completely. Phil deserves to know that Barton is alive.”

Steve, Tony, Bruce, and Thor all nodded emphatically. Natasha, however, was staring back at the medical bay doors. After a long moment, she said quietly, “I think the Director might be right.”

Her teammates all blinked at her.

Steve recovered first. “What? Tasha, you can’t possibly think we should lie to Phil.”

She met his eyes steadily. “Phil is hanging on by a thread right now, and you know it. He’s barely accepted that Clint isn’t coming back. If we tell him Clint’s alive and then he dies for real…” She shook her head. “I may as well put the gun to his head and pull the trigger. We will lose him for sure if it happens.”

Fury and Maria moved a little ways away while the team tried to work things out. In his heart, Fury knew this wasn’t really his decision, but he also knew he was right. The fact that Natasha agreed with him was a little surprising, but he trusted her to bring the others around.

Bruce growled something that made Natasha’s eyebrows rise, and Tony was gesturing wildly, but Steve and Thor looked resigned. Finally, Tony threw his hands up and turned to Fury. “For the record, I think this plan is shit,” he announced.

Steve put a hand on Tony’s shoulder, and he continued, “But we will go along with it for a few days to see how Clint fares.”

Fury nodded. “Thank you. We will do our best to see that he pulls through.”

Bruce smiled mildly. “I’ll be overseeing his care just to make sure.”

“One of us will be with our shield-brother at all times to guard his rest,” Thor said solemnly.

The five of them stood there and silently dared Fury to tell them no. He didn’t even try. Slowly but surely he was learning to pick and choose his battles with the Avengers. It was extremely frustrating just how often he lost when he did go up against them.

~*~

True to their word, one of the Avengers was with Clint at all times. Over the next week they managed to keep Phil from realizing anything was amiss. Natasha thought, and the others agreed, that if Phil had been on his game they never would have succeeded. As they waited for Clint’s condition to improve they just decided to be grateful. Keeping the fact that Clint was alive from him really didn’t sit well with any of them. As Bruce had pointed out rather forcefully, Phil deserved the chance to say a proper goodbye if the worst happened. Natasha had comprised and said that if he was still alive in a week they’d bring Phil in, regardless of Clint’s condition.

~*~

Taking heart that Clint might hear him on a subconscious level, Steve told him what he’d been up to in the five months he’d been missing. He told him about the Boys & Girls Club that he volunteered at and the friends he’d tentatively begun to make outside the tower.

He told Clint about how Darcy had been expanding his musical and movie knowledge and how big a fan of Imagine Dragons, Johnny Cash, Secondhand Lions, and A Good Year he was now. He’d even braved a couple of Broadway shows with Pepper and really wanted to see Wicked again.

Steve laid a gentle hand on one of the few unbruised areas on Clint’s closest arm and whispered how much he’d missed him and that he really needed to get better so they could go to a hockey game or something. Anything. He just wanted to hang out with his friend again.

~*~

Tony talked to Clint about improvements he was making on their tracking devices. He was determined that they wouldn’t fail again. He didn’t want them to be necessary, but he’d been in the game long enough to know that something like this could, and probably would, happen again.

Leaning forward in his chair, with his hands clasped loosely between his knees, Tony stared at the floor and told Clint that he needed to get better soon or else his other half wouldn’t be around much longer. Tony was well aware he was the last person anyone expected to acknowledge interpersonal relationships, but he’d seen how Clint and Agent completed each other and he really didn’t want to see the desolation in Phil’s eyes anymore.

Shaking himself out of his reverie, Tony sat back and launched into thoughts of new body armor he was thinking of designing for Clint and Natasha, his hands flying as he described the new material he was working on developing with Bruce.

~*~

Bruce didn’t say much, but that was nothing new. He and Clint were the only ones really comfortable with silence, although he did take a few minutes to catch Clint up on what he’d missed on Dog Cops. He mostly used the time he spent with Clint meditating and sending out as many healing vibes as he could to his friend.

The Other Guy surfaced once, long enough to stare out from Bruce’s eyes to assure himself that his Cupid was really there and alive. A concerned growl rumbled up from Bruce’s chest, but he retreated without a fuss. There was no danger; just worry. It shook Bruce up, but he relaxed a little more as he accepted that the Hulk really did care about his team.

~*~

Thor regaled his unconscious shield-brother with tales from his exploits throughout the Nine Realms, all while trying to devise a way to aid in Clint’s healing. His friend was still in too fragile a state to be moved, but he was of the mind that a trip to the healing rooms in Asgard would be necessary. He just needed to convince his teammates and the doctors.

He finished his latest tale and fell silent for a time. Eventually he reached out and placed a gentle hand on Clint’s head. Bowing his own head, Thor said, “I apologize once again, my friend, for what my brother did to you. If Loki had not used his magic on you, Heimdall believes he would have been able to find you much sooner and we would have rescued you immediately. I will do what I can to make this right, good Hawk, but first you must wake. Please do so soon. We miss you.”

~*~

Natasha wasn’t comfortable sitting vigil next to Clint. That was Coulson’s place and she felt like an intruder being here in his stead. It wasn’t that she never sat with Clint before when he was hurt, but that was always to spell Phil so he could take a shower or turn in his reports or actually sleep in a bed instead of in the chair. The fact that he didn’t know his partner was here and alive, and that she was responsible for Phil not knowing just made it worse.

That decision was going to come back and bite her in the ass, she was sure, but at the time it really did seem like the right call.

When she couldn’t take it anymore, she stepped out of his room to get a cup of coffee. It would figure that he would take that moment to wake up, and she swore a blue streak in every language she knew that Fury got in there before she could.

So she did the next best thing.

She called Tony and then she called Phil.

~*~

The team was gathered around Clint, who was on a gurney and flanked by Phil and Thor, on the landing pad at Stark Tower to say one last round of goodbyes before Thor took them to Asgard. It had taken a lot of arguing and a visit from the Lady Frigga before the human doctors agreed to give Asgardian healing a try. Clint was still a little out of it from the drugs the docs insisted he still be on, but he grinned at his friends, his family.

“If this works, I’ll be better than new when I get back,” he said hoarsely. His voice was still wrecked, but hopefully, not for long.

“Hard to improve upon perfection,” Phil said cheekily.

Tony choked on air and glared at him. “Oh my God. Okay, I get that you’re over the moon having him back, but that was bad, Agent. Really, really bad. Like, Justin Hammer trying to be smooth bad.”

Phil smiled back placidly. “Don’t mock. I still have my taser, Mr. Stark.”

Clint tilted his head back on his pillow to see his partner. “He’s got a point, Phil. That was pretty cheesy.”

Phil leaned down and pressed a kiss to Clint’s forehead. “You love it,” he murmured.

Clint grinned goofily. “Yeah, I really do.”

Tony rolled his eyes. “Good God. I’m going to get a toothache from all the sap flying around out here.” He flapped his hands at the trio. “Go. Get thee gone so I won’t be more contaminated than I already am.”

Steve frowned at Tony’s dramatics, but it melted into a resigned smile when Tony winked at him. He turned to Clint and said, “We’ll see you when you get back. Good luck.”

Clint went to give him a half-assed salute, but checked the movement before he hit himself in the head with his cast. He grinned instead and said, “Thanks, Cap.”

Bruce smiled and waved. Clint lifted his hand and nodded back.

Natasha took a hesitant step forward. She’d been right about the call she’d made biting her in the ass. Neither Phil nor Clint had spoken to her since they found out. They weren’t talking to Fury either, but that didn’t make her feel any better.

Clint stared at her for a long moment before he sighed and said, “Come ‘ere.”

She perched cautiously at his hip and waited.

Clint frowned at his feet before he met her eyes and said, “I’m not happy that you kept the truth from Phil, but I can kinda understand why you did it. But, I want you to promise that it won’t happen again. We don’t lie to each other. We’re family. Soglasny*?

Natasha gave the request a moment’s thought before saying, “Soglasen, Yastreb*.

He searched her eyes for truth and she let him see that she meant it. They were, the whole team was, family. After two years, countless battles, and the worst five months of her life since she joined SHIELD she finally believed it.

She looked up at Phil and he answered her unasked question. “What he said.”

The corner of her mouth ticked up and he mirrored the gesture. They weren’t back to good, but they’d get there, and she could be patient.

Natasha leaned forward and kissed Clint on the cheek. Then she stood and did the same to Phil. “See you soon,” she told them before she stepped back.

Phil gave Thor a nod and he called for Heimdall to open the Bifrost. The three of them disappeared in a swirl of wind and light and the remaining Avengers stood quietly for a few moments before Tony broke the silence.

“Shawarma anyone?”

Natasha rolled her eyes while Bruce huffed out a laugh. Steve cocked his head to the side then nodded. “I could eat.”

Tony rubbed his hands together. “Sweet. JARVIS call Pepper, Jane, and Darcy. We’ll make it a family affair.

Natasha sighed and shook her head fondly as she followed the guys to the elevator. After all the years of death and fear she had a family again.

Who’d have thought it would be anything like this though?

-30-

Russian translations according to Google Translate:

*Soglasny= Agreed.
*Soglasen, Yastreb= Agreed, Hawk.

Skin Design by Amy



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