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This looks good.
 
Really good, actually. Clint’s standing on his front step in boots and a bathrobe, Santa hat cock-eyed and yelling about Kwanzaa. Lucky’s on the fire escape, making mournful noises and covering his good eye with his paw, evidently more aware than Clint is that Lucky’s idiot master brought a bathrobe and a Santa hat to a gun fight.
 
Don’t get me wrong, all of that should look really bad – and it does, a little – but I’m still tuned in to the Avengers comms, so I know what’s coming for any of the Bros stupid enough to stay.
 
Stark’s swearing an awful lot. Cap must have escaped on him again.
 
I’m perched on the rooftop across the street, a nock of my own and a sharp grin as my idiot partner gets out “Merry (expletive gerund) Kwanzaa, (derogatory anatomical reference)” and starts firing through the sudden influx of baseball bats.
 
Dummy, I think, with what should be an eyeroll but ends up far too close to affection.
 
Then I start firing, too.
 
::
 
Clint Barton doesn’t deal well with people caring about him. It makes him a terrible partner and a ridiculous friend, but it also makes him irresistible. There’s something about the awkward way he just cannot deal that makes it impossible not to care about him.
 
God knows I do, probably more than I should. I tell Eli it’s that us Hawkeyes need to stick together, but I know that’s not quite it.
 
Clint’s on a team with Captain America, he’s an A-team Avenger, and he still regularly doubts that he’s a good guy. There’s a reason I call him Dummy, a reason he never argues when I do. Lately, though, it’s been clear to me that our reasons aren’t the same.
 
Normally, I’d be gearing up to give Clint the reaming out he deserves, since nothing short of insults ever really gets through to him. It’s sort of my job to point out when he’s being an idiot, though self-appointed, and it’s not like I’m ever hurting for practice. This time, though, I won’t have to.
 
This time, there’s Cap.
 
Stark’s already come by to set up Clint’s home entertainment system like Clint’s a real boy actually living in that apartment he’s fought for, and Thor’s stopped by just long enough to fry it all offering his hammer for Clint’s glorious battle. Spidey’s swung by to poke around helpfully and Wolverine dropped in long enough to scare Simone’s kids, and Maria Hill’s threatening to bring all of SHIELD down on whoever-the-hell’s got her whole emergency response team so distracted.
 
Even Banner’s been offering to smash.
 
Clint’s response to all of that? Boots and a bathrobe, nocking alone on his stoop, idiotically sure this is his own problem to solve, something none of the rest of his teammates should touch because it’s unworthy, tainted somehow because it’s Clint’s private crusade.
 
In a few minutes, my idiot partner is going to figure out how wrong he’s been. Cap’s going to find us, Cap’s going to flip, and Lucky and I will have box seats to watch New York’s most oblivious Hawkeye finally catch a clue.
 
I’ve been waiting for this showdown for a while. Figures Clint would do it for Christmas.
 
::
 
Despite what he thinks, Clint is not actually bulletproof. One of the Bros gets off a clean shot; Clint’s distracted and I am, too, because that is not a tone I’d expect to hear from Steve Rogers, ever, and then Clint’s bleeding even more than usual.
 
That first tone Cap has? Is nothing on the second.
 
After that, I’ll be honest, it’s mostly a blur. Cap’s shield starts flying and I blow through my quiver. Clint is still fighting, still just won’t stay down, and there’s no doubt in my mind he’d have won this all on his own, because he is crazy p!ssed at Ivan.
 
And of course he is. There are kids in that building. Those are Clint’s people; the hell he’s going to take this well. Beating him up with baseball bats, outnumbering him 50 to 1, that’s just how he is – how we both are, really – but threatening innocents? That’s just never going to be okay.
 
He’ll deny it when I mention this later, I can already hear him do it, but just having Hawkguy around does something to the neighbors. Brings them out of the building even in a firefight, armed up themselves, just as determined as Clint is that Ivan’s going to stay gone this time – (mutinous neighbor grumblings) – and every bit as frightened.
 
In fairness, though, they’re regular folks staring down automatics. Clint’s only scared because they’re exposed.
 
Then Spidey’s swinging in with some really bad puns and Clint’s pulling himself up, bloodied and all, and the neighbors are airing some landlord-tenant grievances that make it clear why Clint lives here, why he wanted them all to stay.
 
Then there’s nothing left but clean-up.
 
::
 
I’ll wish later, often and at length, that I’d had a camera ready for Cap’s face when the less-tiny Simone asked if he really knew Hawkguy, told Cap Clint’s his hero. Can’t say I saw that one coming but if Clint’s still single by the end of the day, he’ll be too oblivious for words.
 
::
 
“Were you even going to say goodbye?” Cap asks, voice breaking through the door, and I let my hand hover over the knob, still too unsettled by all of that blood to leave Clint alone so easily.
 
Clint mumbles something back in a distinctly dummy voice. Sometimes I think he does it on purpose.
 
“Clint, you can’t—“ Cap says and stops, breaks off like it’s too much. “No one ever stays. I just keep losing people. And I can’t anymore. I need…You have to say goodbye, soldier. There’s no AWOL in the Avengers.”
 
Cap’s got that raw honesty going so I start pulling back – Captain America doesn’t need me listening in on something this personal – only Clint, the dummy, laughs.
 
“Did you just--? You did! You quotin’ A League of Their Own at me, Cap?”
 
There’s a long and horrible silence where I realize Clint’s made Captain America awkward, too. “I might be.”
 
“Someone showing you Hollywood again? Without me?”
 
I’m already walking away, leaving the two of them to be awkward and oblivious and self-sacrificing at each other until somebody’s caught a clue, but Clint’s scandalized tone follows me down the hallway, makes me speed up.
 
I really don’t need to hear this.
 
::
 
Lucky and I are eating Clint’s popcorn, paws up on Clint’s couch so we can watch his Thor-addled television attempt a Christmas special, my fingers pulsing through a constant skritch that’s put doggie delight on Lucky’s face.
 
The sounds from Clint’s room have pretty much stopped; Clint and Cap blew through a few hours ago, so I took Lucky on the longest walk in history and when we got back, they were still at it, actively expressing emotions and (expletive), but Lucky and I were cold. Cue the Thor-addled television and the Christmas special.
 
Lucky’s been a big, furry blanket over my feet pretty much since we sat down and every so often for the last twenty minutes, he’s broken into urgent whimpers and worried looks, which I also did not need to hear. Picking him up naked from a booty call gone terribly wrong is one thing; hearing him get it on with the boss is something else entirely.
 
Lucky whimpers again and I turn the volume up.
 
And when I think about still being here when a week ago he’d been packing, think about his neighbors crowding around him like his very own fan club, think about Cap tearing away from Stark Tower to come find him and Lucky and I keeping silent watch, I have to think things are finally settling down.
 
Not sure I like the sounds of things coming down the hallway – waaaaay too much TMI, Hawkeye - but yeah, this definitely looks good.