Halloween was easily the best part of Clint’s year.
Growing up, he’d never gotten to participate in the holiday, but when he was travelling with Carson’s he would always spend Halloween night in the nearest town watching all the kids shriek with delight and run around in their costumes. There was just something about costumes that he’d found so cool, the ability to be someone else for a whole night, and no one would question who you really were and whether or not you had the right to act like something you weren’t. For a kid who’d never been able to escape misfortune, the ability to be someone else seemed amazing.
When he’d grown up and had finally found a home and people to share it with, he’d lost the desire to be someone else, but the love of seeing the costumes had stuck with him. He’d spent his first three years with SHIELD sitting on the fire escape of his apartment building and looking at the costumes from afar. After he and Phil had become a thing and gotten serious, they spent every Halloween they could at Phil’s parents’ house on Staten Island so that Clint could hand out candy, look at the costumes and, for the first time in his life, ask people about them.
They’d moved in to Stark Tower since the whole Avengers thing had started five months ago, but Phil had still made sure to get them Halloween night and the next morning off so that they could make their trip to Staten Island. Clint loved everything about those trips, from the costumes to spending an evening with Phil’s parents, who treated Clint like he was their own son. Really, it was just perfect.
There’d been an accident on the bridge and traffic had backed up, so they’d barely made it to the Coulson’s house before the trick or treaters started coming. Clint was practically bouncing with excitement when he opened the door for the first set of kids. They were all generic store-bought costumes, a witch, a vampire, and a ninja, but they still made Clint grin as they all shouted “TRICK OR TREAT!” and shoved their candy bags forward.
He handed out candy to each of them, wishing them a Happy Halloween as they ran off into the night for more candy. Phil and his parents had moved in to the living room while he was busy, and they were drinking hot cider and chatting amicably.
“Clint, honey, hello!” Linda greeted as he entered, standing up so she could greet him with a warm mom hug. He’d been getting them for almost ten years and he still had to resist the urge to just melt into her like a little kid. “You’re looking so much better than the last time I saw you!” the last time she’d seen him had been three days after the Chitauri invasion, when he’d still thought his husband was dead.
“Hi, mama,” he greeted, pressing a kiss to her cheek. She’d shot down his calling her “Mrs. Coulson” within five minutes of their meeting, but it had taken about five years before Clint had felt comfortable enough to call her his mother. Phil’s father, Alan, he still called by his first name. There were too many bad associations with the title of “Dad” for Clint to be able to call someone as kind as Phil’s father by it. He greeted Alan with a handshake before taking his seat on the loveseat next to Phil and stealing a sip of his cider.
He’d barely gotten settled before the doorbell rang again and he was off the couch and bounding towards the front door, as if anyone else was even going to attempt to open it. Halloween was Clint’s day, and they all knew it.
This time, there was a little girl, maybe five years old, dressed as a bumblebee with her parents dressed as beekeepers. It was the cutest fucking thing Clint had ever seen, and they let him snap a picture to send to Tasha. She could pretend she didn’t care about Halloween all she wanted, but Clint knew she’d have trouble containing an “awww” at the image.
The rest of the night went much the same, Clint switching between chatting with the Coulsons and admiring costumes, taking pictures of the more creative ones (his favorite had been a little girl dressed as a peacock with real feathers springing from her back). He’d made sure to get pictures of any Avengers costumes that had come up, and one particularly adorable one of a kid dressed as Tony in a little suit with a magic-marker goatee.
It was just about ten o’ clock and they were almost out of candy when one of the last stragglers of the night came up to the door, and boy around eight or so with his mom. She had that tired look of someone who’d been working hard all day (and boy did he know that look. He’s shared a bed with that look almost every night for nearly ten years), which would explain why they were out so late. But she wasn’t really what had caught his attention. The little boy was wearing a hand-made costume, and he was very clearly Hawkeye. If the black and purple tac vest hadn’t given it away, the cardboard quiver on his back and the bow slung over his shoulder most certainly would have. All night he’d been seeing Avengers left and right, but this was the first time he’d seen himself.
He wasn’t really sure what to do or say. The kid stared up at him for a long moment before he said, a bit insistently, “Trick or Treat.” Clint jumped, remembering there was a reason that a mini-him was standing on the porch.
“Jeez, I’m sorry,” he said, scooping a handful of candy into the kid’s bag. “I was just distracted by your costume. That’s pretty good.”
“My mom made it,” he said with a proud grin up at his mother, who smiled back at him, happy despite her obvious fatigue.
“She did a great job,” Clint told him. “If I didn’t know better I’d say you were Hawkeye.”
“You think?” The kid asked, his whole face lighting up. “Hawkeye’s my hero, he’s so cool! My friend Johnny says Hulk is way better, but Hawkeye has all those cool arrows! They say he never misses a shot, not ever! I want to learn to shoot like him, but my mom says I can’t because it’s too much money.” Clint was not going to melt into mush on the ground. He wasn’t.
“You want to know something about Hawkeye?” Clint asked, lowering his voice to a hush. He heard Phil come out into the hall, no doubt wondering what was taking him so long, but he didn’t interrupt, only stopped to listen.
The kid nodded his head earnestly, leaning closer to hear. “Well, Hawkeye was pretty poor growing up. Didn’t have much at all, but he got a few good offers in his life, and look at him now. If you want to learn archery, find an opportunity, practice hard, and don’t ever give up. Maybe when he retires you can have his spot.”
“But how am I supposed to learn?” the kid asked, looking at Clint like he had all the secrets to the universe in the palm of his hand. The kid’s mother was staring at him, like she was almost positive she knew who he was but not entirely sure. He shot her a grin and a wink, and her eyes widened just a fraction.
“Well, look, you’ve got this bow. It’s not exactly like a real bow, but if you start practicing form and aim, you’ll be well ahead of the class when you finally get a chance to use a real bow. Now, show me your stance.” He jumped to it, grabbing the bow and drawing it back rather clumsily. It really wasn’t anything like a proper bow, but Clint didn’t see any reason to discourage the kid when he’d just tried to give him some hope.
“Well, that’s not too bad, but let me tell you. Raise this elbow a bit more,” Clint instructed, moving his arm up, “and anchor the bowstring at the corner of your mouth. Yeah, great. Now relax your hand around the bow. And there. That’s a beautiful stance. Do you think you’ll remember it?”
“Yeah,” the kid said with a wide grin. “Thanks, mister!”
“No problem, kid. Be good and have a Happy Halloween, all right?” He watched them walk back down the path before closing the door and leaning against it, with a huge sigh. Phil was watching him patiently, lips curling up at the edges in a small smile.
“Phil!” Clint finally cried out. “He dressed up as me! I’m his hero!”
“I saw,” Phil acknowledged, “it was a very good costume, wasn’t it?”
“It was! It was so good!” and Clint’s heart sank as he remembered. “I didn’t take a picture! I was so focused on trying not to melt into a pile of goo because some little kid thinks I’m awesome that I forgot to get a picture!” Before he could sink too far into despair, Phil offered his phone, which was displaying a picture of the kid in his costume, face the picture of concentration as Clint arranged his arms into a proper shooting stance.
“He wants to be me, Phil,” Clint said softly, feeling more fragile than he had in a long time.
“Then he’s incredibly smart,” Phil answered. “He wants to be clever, skilled, hard-working, funny, and gorgeous.”
Clint fell into Phil’s kiss like he was a drowning man and Phil was air. Out of all of the things he’d anticipated for the night, he really hadn’t expected to gain a new sense of pride and appreciation for himself and what he’d managed to accomplish, but all it had taken was one little kid in a costume to change that. He hoped that kid got his opportunity. Phil had been an unassuming g-man who had given Clint a chance and ended up becoming his entire future, and Clint would never ever regret it.
It was strange to come full circle, having spent his childhood wanting to be someone else and now seeing some child that wanted to be him. But he found that it wasn’t a bad thing at all.