Earth's Mightiest Heroes were mightily confused.
Steve, squirming uncomfortably in his chair, was the first to speak up. "So, these fans, they, uh, they write stories about us?"
Coulson and Hill shared a long look. Coulson sighed. "Yes, Captain Rogers. We've known for some time now that the Avengers were attracting more attention than is typical for SHIELD, particularly in social media. Evidently that attention has progressed into a-" he shuffled through the papers in front of him- "a fandom."
"Is this legal?" Bruce asked. "I don't actually want to sue anyone, but can't we get an injunction or something?"
"The lawyers say no," Coulson replied. "None of these people are making a profit, and the vast majority of the posts are prefaced by a disclaimer that none of the events are true. The most we can do is a public statement that you don't like the stories, and that might backfire. Frankly, some of these authors are your most vocal supporters on more... traditional discussion sites."
"I don't see the harm," Tony shrugged. "Anyone with a brain could see that this is all made up. Unless I've somehow managed to forget seducing the Hulk, which is the kind of thing I would probably remember."
"Please stop talking," Bruce mumbled.
"Hey, have I met this Darcy chick?" Clint interrupted. "Because I have no clue who she is, but if her tits are half as amazing as this person says, I want to be introduced."
"The Lady Darcy is a valiant maiden, most worthy of your affections," Thor proclaimed. "I would be pleased to make introductions."
"Yeah, but what about her-"
"Barton." Coulson's voice hadn't changed, but the set of his jaw was enough to make Clint shut his mouth and go back to surfing the fansite. "We don't want any of you to do anything. We just need you to be aware of the situation in case it comes up in a press conference. If it does, deflect. You haven't read the stories, you aren't sleeping with your teammates or any of the fans, and you never go on these sites. Whatever you do, don't say anything to acknowledge the stories."
"Do we have anything important to discuss?" Natasha asked, sounding bored. "If not, I'd like to hit the gym before I brief for my mission tonight."
"That's it for today," Hill replied.
Most everyone filed out the door, but Clint stayed where he was, flicking through the pages pulled up on his StarkPad. "You know, I get everyone thinking I'm with Natasha," he commented. "At least that used to be true. And this Darcy person sounds like my type. But other than Nat, my most popular relationship is with you, sir." Coulson looked up at that, momentarily leaving the files he was putting into his briefcase. "Why do you think that is?"
"Maybe your fans think you need a full-time babysitter," Coulson said dryly.
"You wound me." Clint's grin could best be described as 'shit-eating.'
"Go away, please."
After their next mission, Clint got stuck on the couch for a few days, under strict instructions to rest his sprained knee. He didn't actually ignore doctors' orders as often as his fans seemed to think, but he did get bored after four hours of reality television. He hadn't really meant to go back to the fansites, but after checking his email and skyping with an old Ranger buddy, he found himself back on the 'Hawkeye' tag.
Apparently the news cameras had done a good job covering their latest fight, because there were already lots of new stories up that featured the mutant peacock attack on Boston. Some of them were just ridiculous (which was maybe to be expected, because really- peacocks?) but some were actually quite good, and Clint got lost for a while in a proclaimed first-person account of the event, featuring a BU undergrad getting cornered by some of the animals and eventually rescued by Iron Man.
Clint's injury had been a little more public than he would have liked, since it happened when he botched the landing of a dismount from the top of a three-story building. Predictably, there were several mentions of Nat and/or Darcy playing nursemaid, but most of the authors stuck to reality when they described how he got back to headquarters.
Reality meant Coulson.
When the battle ended and Clint gave in to the pain and collapsed, he had been nearer to the command center vans than any of the Avengers. Sitwell and Coulson had come to find him, Sitwell immediately radioing for backup while Coulson found some rubble to prop up his leg and took his vitals. The street had been too blocked for an ambulance or helicopter to get to them, so Sitwell had gone ahead to find some ice while Coulson helped Clint back to command, arms slung around each other, Coulson taking some of Clint's weight.
It hadn't been the least bit romantic, and was nothing more than Clint had done for countless injured soldiers before, but there were plenty of people taking it as evidence of Clint and Coulson's undying love. (Or rather, Clint and Phil, since they had somehow figured out the given names for a surprising number of SHIELD agents.)
In real life, when they had gotten back to command, the medics had immediately begun fussing over Clint. Coulson had gone back to his post, spending a good chunk of time on the phone with FEMA to coordinate the federal and local police responses. Clint hadn't seen Coulson again until they wound up on the same transport back to New York, but Clint had gone straight to the Tower while Coulson went back to headquarters.
In fanfiction life, Coulson had stayed by Clint’s side, holding his hand while the medics wrapped his knee and letting Clint fall asleep in his lap. In one story, the two were married, and there was a nice scene about them putting their wedding rings back on each other.
Clint still thought the whole thing was silly, but the idea of having someone stay with him while he was receiving first aid was nice.
He forwarded the Clint-And-Phil-Are-Married story to Coulson.
When he woke up the next morning, there was an email from Coulson.
I can arrange for Jasper to hold your hand the next time you’re injured, if you can’t handle being alone. –Coulson
You know the sight of Jasper holding my hand would make you jealous, sir. –Barton
In your dreams, Agent. –Coulson
When Clint got back in the field, the stories picked back up. Most of them were variations on the same theme: he and Coulson had worked together for years and had always had a mutual attraction, when some Thing (Loki, Fury, sex pollen, whatever) happened to get them together, leading to a sweet, loving relationship, that also involved a lot of sex.
Clint’s man enough to admit that the whole thing sounded kind of appealing, if also completely implausible.
Since he was having so much fun reading the stories he decided to start feeding the fans, and made a point of being near Coulson whenever they were in public. It’s never anything blatantly obvious- just a hand on Coulson’s shoulder, being sure to get in the same car, giving Coulson his best attempt at a longing gaze- and he thought he was the only one who noticed, until Coulson sent him an email with a story attached. Earlier that day Clint had ‘accidentally’ stumbled into Coulson, and some enterprising fan turned the end of the stumble into a kiss.
Care to explain yourself, Barton? –Coulson
Just building goodwill, sir. –Barton
Their next mission was kind of ridiculous.
Some wannabe bad guy attacked City Hall while a bunch of kindergarteners were visiting. The guy was the worst villain ever, but the combination of some high-strung politicians and freaked out soccer moms had the Avengers sent out.
They took care of the actual situation in about thirty seconds, and spent the next hour corralling screaming children. Clint was just thinking they might finally get to go home when Sitwell announced that they lost one of the kids.
“What do you mean, we lost a kid?” Coulson snapped.
“We’ve got a freaked out mom here, and three chaperones who all say that the kid was with them right until the shooting started. We've had all the exits covered, so he must be inside. Somewhere.”
“Right,” Coulson sighed. “Any guesses?”
“His mom says he tends to hide from danger. He doesn't like fighting or loud noises. He’d be under the bed, if that were an option.”
Clint turned around at that, heading back towards the building. “ I've got an idea, boss. What’s the kid’s name?”
The staff offices were pretty bland, big, oak-paneled furniture and shitty lighting. They had done a quick sweep during the evacuation to make sure everyone was out, but they hadn't looked too closely.
Clint carefully pushed the door open, slinging his bow over his shoulder next to his quiver. “Hey, James?” he called softly. “Are you in here?”
He didn't get a response, but a moment of holding his breath let him hear a bit of wheezing coming from the corner. Clint began slowly walking in that direction, careful not to clomp in his boots. “James, my name’s Clint. Your mom is waiting outside. She wants to come in to get you, but it’s not safe. I’d like to take you to her.”
The wheezing sped up a little, but still no response. Clint reached the big desk in the corner and slowly knelt down to lock gazes with a terrified-looking little boy.
“Hey, buddy,” Clint said softly. “You’re pretty scared, huh?” The kid managed a quick nod. “Want to see your mom?” The kid nodded again, but didn't move. Clint could just grab the kid and carry him out, but he remembered his own days of hiding under furniture and just couldn't bring himself to scare the kid like that.
Clint settled down on the floor, back against the wall. “You know, I don’t blame you,” he said. “You did the right thing. Any time something like this happens, you should get somewhere safe and wait for someone to come get you.” The top of James’s head peeked out from under the desk. Clint grinned at him. “I bet it was pretty noisy under there, huh? I would have liked to hide under there with you.”
“Really?” James whispered, inching out a little bit more.
“Yeah,” Clint said softly. “Adults get scared sometimes, too. A lot of my friends were here today.”
James made a small sound in the back of his throat, inching all the way out from the desk to lean against Clint. “Are my friends okay?” he asked.
Clint stared down at the kid in shock before wrapping a loose arm around him. “Yeah, everyone is fine. They all went home already.” He ran a tentative hand over James’s hair. “Your mom is here to take you home, too.”
James snuffled and said, “Okay.”
Clint lifted himself up to his feet, reaching down with the intent of helping James, but instead the boy pushed out his lower lip and held his arms up. Clint’s internal debate quickly resolved, and he reached down to scoop the boy up, propping him against his hip. “Ready?”
Getting back to the front door was a quick trip, though Clint was pretty shocked at the size of the press corps waiting just behind the police barricade. He ignored all the flashes in favor of carrying James towards Coulson and the hysterical woman next to him.
He tried to hand James over, but the woman flung her arms around James while Clint was still holding him, awkwardly trapping Clint as well. He shot Coulson a ‘help me!’ look, but Coulson was looking a little… misty?
After the woman spent several minutes thanking him profusely and he said goodbye to James, Clint turned to Coulson. “What do you think the fans are going to do with this one, sir?”
Coulson gave him a long look before reaching for Clint’s shoulders. Clint started to ask what was going on, but was interrupted with a long, heated kiss. Clint’s mouth fell open in shock, allowing Coulson’s tongue to stroke along his own. Clint was vaguely aware of his hands gripping Coulson’s waist. He thought he might be whimpering a little.
Just as breathing was becoming a problem, Coulson pulled back a little, before pressing forward to give Clint a final, small kiss.
Clint was too shocked to say anything. He was pretty sure Tony was cat-calling in the background. He was also pretty sure that he didn't care.
Coulson straightened out his jacket from where Clint had been gripping it, and said “I imagine the fans are going to do quite a lot with today, Barton.”
Clint found himself blushing, of all things. “Don’t you think you should call me Clint, sir?”
Coulson smiled. “Don’t you think you should call me Phil?”
Clint blushed harder- damn it, he just knew there was going to be a blushing!Hawkeye tag now- and while he was trying to find his next words Coulson got pulled away to deal with the insurance adjusters.
Yeah. Blushing!Hawkeye was definitely a thing.
So was a new addendum to the SHIELD!Husbands tag: SHIELD!Parents. It was common knowledge that The Kid (James’s name had mercifully stayed out of the press) was not actually related to the Avengers, but it seemed to be an accepted fact that Clint and Coulson- Phil- either had kids of their own, or wanted them, which was why Phil had kissed him in full view of everyone.
Clint found himself more and more drawn into the stories, refreshing their relationship tag several times per day. The public kiss had spawned a series of smut fics, which Clint completely understood as he had relived the memory in the shower several times, but he was most intrigued by the more home-y stories. He had never seriously thought of having kids, certainly never with Phil, but reading about his supposed kids with Phil had him imagining what it would be like.
He wanted to talk to Phil, but he didn’t know how. Sending an email would probably just lead to another round of witty banter, which wasn't going to get them anywhere. Waiting for a mission also seemed like a bad idea. Clint was willing to concede that he owed the fandom something, but he didn't want every step of their relationship to happen in front of the entire world. Finally, Clint went over to headquarters on a Friday night, when he knew Phil would still be in his office, and knocked on the door.
If Phil was surprised to see him, he didn't show it. “Evening, Clint.” Clint. “What can I do for you?”
Clint shifted his weight from feet to feet, feeling for all the world like a little kid who wanted to hide under the desk. “I, ah, was wondering if you had any plans for tonight.”
“I don’t,” Phil said. “Did you have something in mind?”
Clint narrowed his eyes in confusion. This was going way too well. “Dinner? I don’t know, I…” He might as well go for broke, “I mostly want to kiss you again, but I think we’re supposed to go on a date first.”
Phil’s shoulders were shaking with suppressed laughter. “It’s okay if our relationship doesn't progress just like one of those stories, Clint. As far as I’m concerned you can kiss me whenever you want.”
Clint brightened up at that. “Does that mean we can just have sex in your office now?”
“Of course not,” Phil said. “That’s something that happens in the stories that will never, never happen.”
Clint pouted. “I kinda like the stories.”
Phil laughed. “I do, too. But I’m not going to read them anymore.” He gave Clint a wicked grin. “I’m going to spend my time thinking about our real happy after.”
Clint groaned loudly. “I can’t believe you just said that.”
“Then don’t suggest sex in my office anymore,” Phil said. “Or I’ll tell the press that our relationship was inspired by fans. Natasha will never let you live it down.”
“Fine,” Clint huffed. “Okay, how about we go back to your place and order take-out?”
“You mean you’re not actually a secret chef?”
“Sorry to disappoint you, but I can burn water.”
They made it to the elevator before Phil asked, “Why my place? Your rooms at the Tower have to be bigger.”
“The Tower has paparazzi,” Clint pointed out. “Do you want a story about tonight before it’s actually over?”
Phil laughed- a real, full, joyous laugh- and leaned in to give Clint a kiss.