Chapter 1: Five times Hawkeye met Coulson's daughters, and the one time he really wished he had
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The first time, he'd only had Coulson as a handler for a couple of months. He'd been jumped in town while he was on leave, ended up in the river in the wee small hours, and when he’d crawled out, it had been easiest to head for the address he'd seen in his new boss' personnel files. He hadn't wanted to bother the family, so he'd ghosted straight into the main bedroom. He’d been trying to get Coulson's attention without waking the woman sleeping next to him, or dripping too much water (or blood) onto the carpet. Then a little girl had stumbled into the room with an earache and a raging fever and things got exciting.
They'd ended up riding to hospital in the same ambulance.
The second time, there had been a rapprochement in the delicate negotiations that were Agent Coulson's marriage, and Coulson had been Instructed to bring some work colleagues home for dinner. Barton wasn't too sure about this - some things you ought not to know about your boss, but Natasha had said that they should go and be socialised. His boss' boss, Colonel Fury, was also on the invite list, had turned up with a home-made cheesecake, and had asked knowledgeable questions about the quilt that Coulson's wife was working on. There were some things you really didn't need to know about your boss.
They had played Risk after dinner, with a lively discussion about geosocial politics and the most efficient way to invade Poland. Barton had found it exceedingly stressful, in particular, because the youngest daughter was in a climbing phase and obsessively interested in the contents of his pockets. Barton had a lot of pockets, and they tended to have sharp things inside them.
He ended up volunteering himself and Romanov to do the dishes and braced her about it. "Is this normal?" he hissed. "I'm not trained to be around children. What if I damage them or something?" Romanov, his highly trained stealth assassin partner shrugged: "You could try juggling knives."
"Did you hear me about the sharp things?!"
"And then you'd be a bad influence, and you wouldn't be allowed near them anymore."
"Hey, don't mind me." The kitchen door banged open, and Coulson's older daughter barged in. "We're just here for dessert." The younger one toddled in behind and wrapped herself around Hawkeye's leg. He made one despairing look over his shoulder at the Black Widow.
"Knives it is," he mouthed.
The third time was when some clown had put a flyer for Bring Your Daughter To Work Day on the common room noticeboard to wind Nick Fury up. Against expectation, their commander hadn't ripped the brochure into little pieces, and declared that it would be "Good for morale." A memorandum went out: all personnel not actively involved in saving the world had permission to bring their female offspring onto base for one day only. All other personnel had spent the day ducking and hiding.
Hawkeye was slow to the information stream, and hadn't managed to find a conspiracy to thwart in time. Thus it was that he was available to babysit a gaggle of giggling... pinkness when the alarms sounded and all the techies had run off to find out what the heck was going on with a virus in the network all of a sudden. He remembered Coulson's daughters, though. The littlest one had disappeared up an air vent which wasn't supposed to be large enough to crawl through, and got caught in one of the backup traps. The big one had spent her time tapping away at her notebook computer and had refused to help retrieve her sister.
Some grudges Hawkeye held hard.
The fourth time was a bad time. His op had gone wrong in exactly the way you don't want it to, and his handler had ended up on the wrong side of the hospital bed that Barton should have been in. Or not been in. Who could tell?
Anyway, he'd been lurking in Coulson's room. Not keeping the man company, exactly, his handler was too zoned out on painkillers for that, just... keeping an eye on him. Coulson's family had come in for a visit: the little pink one had cried "Daddy!" and dived on to the hospital bed, Mrs Coulson had shot him the Evil Look of Evilness for putting her ex-husband in harm's way, and the bigger one, now a punk with purple hair, had hugged the wall and been 'too cool' to talk to her father.
Hawkeye felt a moment of recognition of a kindred spirit – was he not now also relying on the comforting bulk of a wall against his back? and made himself scarce as his boss roused a little and said “Hey, hey there” to his daughters.
When Barton went back in to check on his boss, there was a new Captain America card on the bedside table and Coulson was drifting back to sleep again, blissed out on drugs. He took his usual post holding up the wall and settled in to watch for the long haul.
"You know, son, that time you came around to dinner, my youngest daughter wanted to cuddle you and take you home for a teddy bear. Then my older daughter said she wanted to take you home and cuddle you. At ease, soldier."
Barton hustled out before he could hear any more drugged out revelations. There were really really things you didn’t want to know about your boss.
The fifth time, Hawkeye was minding his own business on his day off. Minding his own business meant getting up somewhere high, preferably interesting, and New York had more than its fair share of high and interesting, and watching people go by.
One of the people was a skinny goth chick being by assailed muggers. He tilted his head a moment, then slid down his rope to do something about it. He knocked them out neatly and turned to his rescuee.
“You know I could have handled that by myself, right?” Skinny goth chick turned out to be Coulson’s oldest daughter, Amy? Anna? Something like that? She rolled her eyes at him and knelt to examine the thugs.
“You know,” Alice? said, as she gently turned their heads and checked they were breathing , “my Mom always says that violence is an expensive way to fix failed diplomacy.” For a civilian, she had a fairly good grasp of how to put someone in the recovery position.
“That so?” Hawkeye said.
“Yep.” She started going through their pockets and stripping out their wallets. “And Dad says that if you want people to leave you alone, you have to make sure they respect you.” She stood. “My Dad OK? He hasn’t been by in a while.”
Hawkeye nodded briefly. “There was business out in New Mexico.”
“Figures.” She opened up the phone booth down the street. “Yeah, like, hi? I was like coming down the street, and there was like two guys attacking someone, and they got knocked down and the person ran away? You’re sending a police car? Oh yeah, that’s great.” She popped some gum into the handset and hung up.
“You say hi for me. I gotta get to a test.”
Then there was the time he wished he had met Coulson's daughters. This time.
Hawkeye's standing in the flyer holding the Pink Ribbon of Doom, the one he'd seen wrapped around the hair of Coulson's youngest just an hour ago, which is distinctly not wrapped around her hair now. And there’s a storage locker that's still warm from her body heat with no child in sight; and he’s got an urgent need to rescue his unconscious boss from ne'er-do-wells. His skin goes clammy cold and a part of him wishes, wishes, that he was still in the thrall of an evil trickster god and didn't have to be responsible for his actions. Maybe, and he felt sick at the thought, he'd be better off running away back to the circus. He'd lost Coulson's daughter.
I originally started this as a parallel story to the Coulson story that my sister is writing on The Other Archive, but I think that our continuity is going to diverge by a lot by the time we're done. That said, go check it out, it's awesome (http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8121131/1/Sleep_of_the_Just). The only important plot point is that, following the events of the Avengers (2012) movie, Agent Coulson is in a coma and has just been kidnapped by parties unknown.
Chapter 2: The Family Man
There was one major drawback to having Coulson as a handler, who in all other respects was an exemplary supervising agent, but it was a biggie.
There was one major drawback to having Coulson as a handler, who in all other respects was an exemplary supervising agent, but it was a biggie. The man who randomly sent him to the far edges of the earth to murder people also had the nasty habit of, equally randomly, letting Barton know that he was considered to be family. It meant that certain duties couldn't be left to S.H.I.E.L.D. liaison officers, and at times like this, with three pairs of female eyes fixed like gimlets upon him, it made things... awkward.
“And what’s happened to Phil now?” Mrs Coulson asked resignedly. “He’s woken up? He’s dead? On the far side of the moon?” She grimaced. “He’s drinking tequila with Iron Man’s secretary? Or dancing the tango?”
Barton shifted uneasily on his seat. This interview was way too up close and personal for him. Which was officially not even his job, Natasha handled all that talking to people stuff, except she’d bailed by claiming that she had some investigating to do. Hawkeye was pretty sure that it was because she was even more scared of Coulson’s ex-wife than he was.
“We don’t know yet. As yet unknown persons kidnapped him from our base hospital, and we’re still locating him.” The gimlet stares intensified. “But he was stable at the time, and off life support. We’re sure that whoever took him will want him alive and be careful.” He stuttered a bit. “One of our agents is with him. Our best people are on it.”
“So you’re saying that you ‘misplaced’ my ex-husband?” She sighed. “That sounds about normal for you clowns. And what now?”
“We… don’t know what the kidnappers’ intentions were. So we want to take you into protective custody until we have your husband back.”
“Ex-husband,” Mrs Coulson snapped.
“And you’re making me miss a date,” his older daughter said.
Full props to the baby Coulsons – they knew how to be packed and out the door in three minutes flat. They’d also been locked up in quod before ‘for their own protection’ and knew the way to the witness apartments. This didn’t stop them making blistering comments about the décor, the inconvenience, and what they remembered about the food from last time. The little girl’s eyes had gotten rounder and rounder as they walked and, at the last, she had hugged his leg before going into quarters.
Hawkeye was glad to be rid of them, at least until he had to go back hours later to present Colonel Fury's compliments and request a few minutes of Mrs Coulson's time. The two girls had already managed to slather their apartment into a colourful mass of cuddly toys, Lego and boyband posters. The big one was tapping away at her laptop again, and the little one was watching cartoons. Their mother touched them both on the shoulder and got up to leave.
"I still love him, you know. I just can't keep... caring about what happens to him. Remember that, when you finally fall for someone, Agent Barton."
Hawkeye nodded brusquely and escorted her out the door. Just then, his radio crackled, and the Black Widow's smoky voice came through: "We’ve got a lead on Coulson," and he had to hand the wife off to a junior agent and get to the hanger.
The two girls watched them go in silence. Then the little one pulled out the passkey she'd palmed off Hawkeye: "No one steals our Dad," Lisbet said.
Amelia turned her laptop around to show the S.H.I.E.L.D data stream she'd hacked into. "Damn straight. Hit's in Nevada. Let's get out of here."