Fashion fades, style is eternal.
-Yves Saint Laurent
“I’m not awake enough for this,” Clint said, staring blearily into the kitchen. “Why the jingle bells?”
“We’re going caroling later,” Kate said, adjusting Lucky’s antlers just so. His tail thumped against her leg. “I wanted to make sure his costume fit.”
Lucky panted happily.
“Avengers don’t carol,” Clint grumbled, slumping into a chair.
Under the lights Kate had the wild, scraped-up look of somebody who’d been out too late drowning her problems in punching people. There was half-melted snow in her hair and slushy footprints across his floor.
Clint dragged himself up out of his chair to put the coffee on.
“Maybe they just don’t invite you,” Kate said, squinting with intensity at Lucky’s outfit. She reached out and adjusted one jingle bell so it lined up with all the others. “Because you made dumb jokes about Captain Marvel and all.”
“Hey, hey, hey,” Clint said, wagging a finger. “I wasn’t the only one.”
“You don’t have to come,” Kate said.
If he was being totally honest, Clint would have probably rather gone toe-to-toe against Ultron again.
Instead, he said, “Can we at least take the bow off his tail?”
Lucky was also chewing on the wings.
“C’mon, get those things off of him,” Clint said, trying to distract him with a squeaky cheeseburger. “This is bizarre, Kate, and a little too close to a theme for personal comfort.”
Kate, curled up on the couch fiddling with some heart-shaped craft foam arrowheads, didn’t look up. “You’re just jealous because he makes a better Cupid than you do.”
Clint looked at Lucky. Lucky panted happily. There were feathers all over his face.
“You’re not using my bow,” Clint told him.
“I don’t think he likes the hat,” Kate said, holding something in her hands that looked like a giant satin triangle.
“Maybe the holes aren’t big enough for his ears,” the other kid, who Clint belatedly recognized as one of Wanda’s reincarnated brood, replied. “Pass the scissors?”
“Kate,” Clint said, coming up behind them. “And Kate's friend, Strange Teenager in My House With His Hands All Over My Dog.”
“Hey, Mr. Barton,” Wiccan said with a wave. “Thanks for letting me borrow your dog.”
“Sure,” Clint waved him off, heading towards the fridge. He paused, then turned on his heel. “Wait, I’m doing what now?”
Billy kicked Kate’s ankle and said, “I thought you said he was okay with it!”
“He is!” Kate said. Rounding on Clint, she pointed a finger at him and said, “You are!”
“What I am is confused,” said Clint. Kate scuffed one purple-socked heel against the ground.
“I was going to tell you,” she hemmed. “It’s just. Crime happened? And stuff.”
Billy scowled at her.
“I have no idea what is going on in my own damn apartment,” Clint said. “But that’s not new. What do you need my dog for?”
Kate shifted. “We’re only borrowing him for the night,” she said. “Billy has a…” she shot him a questioning look, snapping her fingers twice.
“Purim play,” Billy said, making a face. “With pets. My brother’s directing it.”
“Quicksilver’s Mini Me?” asked Clint, grabbing a beer from the fridge.
“No,” Billy said, fussing with the hat. “One of my other brothers.”
“Right,” Clint said. He’d never really understood what was going on with that kid, what with the reality warping and the cape and the confusing, tangled mess of a family tree that would put the X-Men to shame.
“He’s got a vision,” Billy said, complete with sarcastic jazz hands and an eyeroll.
“Besides, he’s kind of our dog,” Kate said, fastening what looked like a crushed velvet poncho onto Lucky. He whined and bore the indignity stoically; Clint tipped the beer his way in solidarity.
“Right,” he said, taking a long gulp. “Our dog. That lives in my house and eats my food.”
“And went on vacation with me, because I’m the cool dog parent,” Kate finished. She took the hat from Billy and perched it on top of Lucky’s head. “Perfect.”
Clint noticed, for the first time, that Kate was also wearing a lot of crushed velvet. There was a tiara perched neatly on top of her head.
“What are you supposed to be?” he asked. Kate shook herself out and held out her arms regally; the ten million plastic bangles she was wearing clinked together.
“I’m Queen Vashti,” she said proudly.
“It’s a walk-on role,” Billy grumbled.
“There are no small parts,” Kate said regally.
“Right,” Clint said. He locked eyes with Lucky. “Whaddya say, boy? Ready for your close up?”
Lucky paused in the middle of chewing on his hat to woof enthusiastically.
“Eh,” Clint said with a crooked grin. “There you have it. Try and have him back by midnight.”
Kate was also green, albeit in a slightly different way.
“Ughhhhhh,” she groaned, collapsed on his couch. She was still dressed in purple, except for her socks, which were patterned with tiny shamrocks. “Turn off the daylight.”
“St. Patrick’s Day get a little out of hand?” Clint asked, flipping the lights back off. His had been mostly boring; Doombots had attacked White Plains. Doctor Doom, when taunted, had somehow not found the green connection hysterically funny.
“America parties hard,” Kate said, pulling the hood of her sweatshirt down over her face. “Everything was green. I don’t want to talk about it.”
Lucky got up and plodded over to Clint. He had his leash in his mouth. Clint sighed fondly and scratched him around the ears.
His fingernails came away sparkly and green.
“Man,” he said. “You got glitter all over my dog.”
Clint’s first instinct was to beam back, but considering he’d been socked in the face fairly recently that was maybe not the best idea.
“Uh,” he said, hefting his gym bag-slash-stealth quiver a little higher up on his shoulder. “Hey there? Mind if I just squeeze by --?”
“The easter egg hunt is such a wonderful idea!” Simone said before he could finish, throwing her arms around Clint in a tight hug. “The children are so happy!”
Stunned, Clint couldn’t think of much to do except awkwardly pat her on the back.
Over her shoulder, he could see Lucky in her doorway. He had a basket in his mouth and was being aggressively hugged by children. He was wearing bunny ears.
Kate stood behind them, holding a basket of tinsel and neon purple plastic eggs. She raised her free hand to her lips and made a zipping gesture.
“Aw, bunny-dog, no,” Clint said helplessly.
“Because Captain America,” said Kate, shielding her eyes against the afternoon sun.
A little while away, Steve and Lucky posed heroically together on the Avengers Mansion lawn. Kate had spent the cab ride over making sure the star on Lucky’s back was shined to perfection, mostly by buffing it with Clint’s jacket.
He told himself he minded more than he actually did. The dog looked happy. Kate looked happy. Steve looked like he was right out of an Abercrombie catalog.
All in all, it was a good day.
Clint made a face. “Are you kidding me? Nah, no, I’m drawing the line.”
He grabbed the mouse and brought up a different page, then sat back with a grin.
“It’s gotta be this.”
Kate stared, then she frowned.
“Okay,” she admitted, crossing her arms. “That’s actually kind of great.”
“Told you, girly-girl.”
Besides, the nylon got all rustly. It was annoying.
“C’mon, boy,” Clint said, trying to coax him out from behind the couch. “I know, not my first choice either. But hey, we’re in this together right? You’re our moral support.”
Lucky whined and, slinking forward, licked a stripe up Clint’s face.
“Yeah, see, there we go. At least it’s not a turkey costume, right?” Clint said, chuckling. He was adjusting the collar of Lucky’s jacket when Kate wandered into the room, rolling up her sleeves. “Okay, but seriously, Katie. Where did you get a little doggie tracksuit?”
“You don’t know me, bro,” Kate intoned, sliding on her sunglasses. “Bro. Bro. You don’t know my life.”
“Whoa, whoa, Katie-Kate, watch the appliances,” Clint said, rescuing the coffeemaker before the fridge door swung straight into it. “What’s gotten into you?”
“I don’t want to talk about it!” Kate said, storming into the other room. Clint was alarmed when she sniffled. “I just want to be alone, okay?”
“Right,” Clint said. “You want to be alone. In my apartment.”
Kate whirled on him. Her eyes were red; complete and total panic settled in the pit of Clint’s stomach.
“You’re such a jerk!” she said, somewhat more tearfully than he was comfortable with. She tore out of the room again, and two seconds later he heard a door slam. He was pretty sure it was the bedroom door.
Lucky slunk out from under the table and followed after her. It seemed like a better plan than standing awkwardly in his own kitchen, so Clint went too. He rapped his knuckles against the closed bedroom door.
“Katie-Kate? You okay in there?”
“Fine,” Kate called back, sullen and stuffy.
“Can I, y’know,” Clint said, “do anything?”
“Don’t think so,” Kate said, sounding miserable. Kind of, Clint thought, like somebody who’d had their heart broken. What had he always done, when it’d been his heart in shreds?
Stupid stuff, mostly. Nothing he could recommend.
Lucky whined, nosing at the door. Clint settled a hand on top of his ears, idly scratching.
“Me too, buddy,” he said, when Lucky gave him the big sad eyes.
Something sticking out of a nearby closet caught his eye. He stared at it for a long moment.
“Oh hey,” he said, getting to his feet and motioning for Lucky to come with him. “Idea.”
Twenty minutes later, Clint knocked on the door again.
“Kate?” he called. There was silence. “That’s cool, you don’t have to talk to me. You don’t even have to let me in, but Lucky’s got something he really wants to show you. C’mon, Hawkeye, you gonna let the team mascot down?”
Another beat of silence, then the door cracked open.
“I thought you were the mascot,” Kate grumbled, but then she saw Lucky and her eyes got very wide.
“Like the outfit?” Clint asked, standing back with a flourish. Lucky panted happily, staring up with adoration at Kate. The sleeves of his jacket fell over his paws. He’d only chewed off his tie a little bit.
“Clint Barton,” Kate said, sounding stunned. “Did you put a dog in a tux just to cheer me up?”
Before Clint could answer she’d sat down on the floor and thrown her arms around Lucky, burying her face in his neck.
“You dummy,” she said, voice a little muffled by all the dog fur. “You’re the weirdest, most ridiculous, best superhero mentor anyone could hope for.”
Clint ran a hand through his hair and said, “Well, hey. Couldn’t really ask for more.”
(He’d invited Kate along, but she’d said she had plans with the Young Avengers, and then promptly stolen Clint’s dog.)
The celebration in Times Square was blaring on Tony’s giant television and Clint was busy being dipped by She-Hulk when Steve called out, “Alright, everyone, one minute to go!”
“C’mon, Handsome, let’s go watch,” Jen said, pulling him over to the rest of the crowd. Her sparkly green party dress caught the light as she collapsed onto the arm of a sofa, knocking Spider-Man over a good six inches. “So, gonna do anything different next year?”
Clint thought about it.
“Nah,” he said. “No complaints.” At Jen’s raised eyebrow, he added, “Maybe get in fewer fights with the mob.”
“Ten!” Natasha called out happily, appearing out of nowhere and throwing her arms around his shoulders.
“Nine!” Bruce called back from across the room.
Laughing, Clint joined in the countdown, and at “zero -- HAPPY NEW YEAR!” Jen leaned over and smacked a kiss against his cheek.
Clint was happy just to watch the confetti float down into the streets of Times Square, feeling, for once, that everything was going to be alright. It was a good feeling.
Then Spider-Man said, “Hey, aren’t those the Young Avengers?”
“And,” Natasha added, squinting at the screen. “Clint, isn’t that your dog?”
Clint looked at the screen. That was definitely the Young Avengers, and with them was Lucky. He was wearing glittery 2015 shades and covered in enough shiny little triangles that he looked exactly like the New Year’s Eve ball.
“Aw, no,” Clint said and then cracked up laughing.