It’s a sound that Clint doesn’t think he will ever tire of: the sound of his son’s laughter. He’s eight, and full of joy and life and sometimes Clint just looks at him and it hurts because he loves him so much. He’d loved people before his birth and he’s loved people after, but there is a place in Clint’s heart where only his son lives, and no one will ever fill that spot. The funny thing is that bright spot is directly located next to a dark spot that Clint doesn’t like to think about or talk about. It’s a spot that’s just as closed off, but for very different reasons. It’s where someone else Clint loved lives now, and even 10 years after his death, the pain is still so raw.
He’s watching him play, surrounded by other children, all offspring of the Avengers, all conceived and born in the months and years following the team’s formation. There is Pepper and Tony’s daughter Maria, Betty and Bruce’s girl Lyra and Thor and Jane’s son Magni. He can see Steve and Sharon across the backyard, the Captain’s arm snug around her waist, his hand resting on her swollen belly. Before long, the extend Avenger’s family will grow again.
Maria is following Happy Hogun around, demanding to be told more stories about her parents’. Lyra is sitting tucked up between her mother and father, looking intently at something on the screen of Bruce’s tablet, a half-eaten shawarma hanging from her hand.
It’s Magni who Clint’s son is playing with now, showing him the new bow that Tony had built for him for his birthday a few weeks earlier. His little face is so very serious, showing him the proper way to string the bow, the care needed to properly load the arrow and most important of all, the proper stance needed to fire at the target across the lawn.
Clint catches Natasha’s eye and smiles at her. They both know that Magni is getting a very stern lecture on form from their serious child. Suddenly a shout echoes across the yard and Magni is looming over his son, who is now sprawled on the lawn. Clint’s sprinting across the yard, but Thor gets there first, pulling Magni away and clearly reprimanding the boy. Clint skids to a stop, Natasha a few steps behind him. Their son is sitting on the ground, holding his bow, which is now in two pieces. He’s sniffling, trying to keep the tears from falling, trying so desperately hard to be brave. Clint’s heart breaks at the sight.
He kneels next to the boy and gently takes the broken toy from his grip. At his elbow Tony appears and doesn’t say anything, just holds out his hand and Clint hands off the bow. He knows that it’ll be fixed within a day, probably with laser-guided scopes added or something else that an eight year-old doesn’t need.
“He wasn’t using it right. It’s an extension of your arm, you said so, Dad. If you do it right, you shouldn’t even feel the bow. He wasn’t doin’ it right.” He looks at his father, his red hair gleaming in the sun and grey eyes searching for conformation.
Clint runs a hand through his own hair, slightly graying itself and thinner than it was just a few years prior. “You are absolutely right, but you have to remember that not everyone is as good with these tools as you are. You have your bow, Maria and Lyra have their inventions and Magni has his strength.” At that, the boy squirms a little. There’s something else going on here.
“Did Magni say anything else before the bow broke?” Clint asks.
His son’s bottom lip quivers and the floodgates open and suddenly he’s wailing, crawling into Clint’s lap and fisting his small hands into his father’s shirt. Between great gasping sobs, Clint can make out a few words.
“He…said….not a real superhero…not going to be strong enough…won’t…be…Avenger!!”
Finally he calms down enough to whisper, “He said I’m only every going to be an Agent of SHIELD, not a real Avenger.”
Natasha draws a quick breath, turns on her heel, and strides over to where Thor and Jane are lecturing a sullen looking Magni. Clint sighs, scrubs a hand over his face and takes a deep breath. He tilts his son’s chin up so they are looking at each other eye-to-eye.
“Phillip Coulson Barton,” he starts, “you were named after an Agent of SHIELD, and he…” Here Clint has to stop, take a moment and swallow past the sudden agony that has bloomed in his chest at the memories. “He was the bravest man that I ever knew. He wasn’t a superhero, he wasn’t a powered human. He was a man. He gave everything, he’s the reason the Avengers exist.”
Phil looks at him, his eyes wide. He’s heard some stories about his namesake, but never this one.
“He formed the Avengers?” he whispers.
“He saved us, all of us. Made us better than we were. He was a hero in the purist sense.”
Phil tilts his head, takes that information in. “And he wasn’t an Avenger? He was an Agent?”
“Yup. I once saw him take someone out with a bag of flour.”
Phil’s eyes widen to near-comical proportions. “Wow!” The awe is his voice is clear. Suddenly he throws his arms around Clint’s neck, hugs his father and darts across to the snack bar with all the stealth of both his parents. He grabs a cupcake off a serving platter and with perfect aim, chucks it at Magni. It impacts him directly between the eyes, sliding off his face and landing in a heap on the grass.
Phil then scales the table and yells, “My name is Phil Barton and I’m gonna be an Agent of SHIELD!”
“That’s my boy,” whispers Clint with a smile.