Because Clint valued his life, he constrained himself to no more than a raised eyebrow when Natasha brought the puppy, grey and shivering, back to Stark Tower.
Tony cared just as much for continuing his own existence - he was just much dumber about it.
“Whoa whoa WHOA!” he exclaimed, jumping up from the breakfast table. “There are no allowances for pets on your lease! I let that Spidey kid hang around, but Jarvis wants my balls as it is -“
Bruce scoffed. “Tony, it’s a puppy. What can it do, chew on your slippers? You destroyed a multi-million dollar lab room on your lunch break.”
“Yes, but that was your lab. The slippers would be mine.”
Steve, who seemed to share Tony’s disregard for personal safety, walked up to Tasha and scratched the dog under the chin. “Aw, come on, Tony! I haven’t had a dog since Skipper died when I was 10.”
“Of course your dog would be named Skipper,” Tony grumbled.
Thor eyed the bundle dubiously. “This “skipper” seems a measly creature. What is its purpose?”
“Its purpose is to shit on my pillow!” Tony shouted.
“Just because some of us aren’t toilet trained doesn’t mean the dog isn’t.”
“Oh yeah, Rogers, real mature, don’t come crying to me when they call you the Star-Sprinkled Man!”
“Look here, Stark, you invited us all to live here, and if we’re going to do that peacefully -“
“Fuck peaceful, that mutt ain’t getting in my stuff -“
”- we need to treat each other with respect and kindness -“
”- and slobbering all over my sunglasses, no-siree, this is dictatorship, not democracy, America-Man, and I’m invoking my cardinal rights -“
”- especially unfair to Agent Romanoff, so why don’t you get down from your high horse -“
”- as Emperonius Perpetuus of Stark Tower to override your la-di-da baby talk -“
Clint watched their bickering in amusement until red flickered in the corner of his eye. Glancing at Banner to make sure he wasn’t a risk (the doctor, like everyone, was used to Mom and Dad bickering, and seemed safely engrossed in his Cheerios), Clint slipped from the kitchen, walking the familiar path to Tasha’s room. He entered without knocking (she would have identified his footfalls from behind the door anyway) to find her on the bed, placing a dish of water - repurposed from one of Clint’s elbow-guards - in front of the dog, which he lapped from greedily. Clint watched from the doorway, crossing his arms and leaning on the wall.
“You’re keeping it no matter what Tony wants, am I right?”
Tasha rolled her eyes. “When does anyone do what Tony wants?”
Clint grinned. “Very true.” He watched her a moment. “Where did you find him?”
“A shoebox on Eighth Avenue. Someone abandoned him.” She looked up at him. Anyone else would have seen only challenge in her eyes. “You scared of a little shit too, Barton?”
“I live with the Hulk, don’t I? His shit’s bigger than I am.”
“Good to know I’m not sleeping with a pussy,” she laughed.
“Too bad Rogers is.”
She laughed again and looked down at the dog, scratching it thoughtfully behind the ear. Clint watched her face relax in thought; remembered the night the condom had broken; how he found her the next morning with Plan B unused in the trash; the way she avoided him for a week two months later before attacking him in bed, eyes red-rimmed, a double-thick condom clenched in her fist.
Clint knew that crease in her brow - she wouldn’t give her baby up for anything.