“Ehy dad, can I ask you something?” Clint didn’t bother stopping to put in order the documents on his desk when his son entered in the room; Francis knew, from the vague “uh-uh” sound that his father was listening- sort of. Only, the former Avengers, couldn’t stop tidying his desk, otherwise he would have never finished; the place was a mess, filled with bills, invoices, sales receipts and counts and lists and annotation- there was a note about calling Luke, but from the (lack of) colour of it, he guessed it was at least a few months old. If not more.
Francis, without waiting for an official invitation, took possession of the chair in front of the desk, and crossed his ankles on top of the wooden table, his hands behind his head, the perfect picture of his father when he was younger; Clint Barton, still busy trying to tidy up the Dojo, wasn’t giving his son his complete attention, though, so Francis sighed dramatically, out loud- something he had learnt from his mother.
Clint rolled his eyes, and, knowing that Francis would have kept sighing at loud until his father didn’t give up and looked just at him; so, he did just so, and stared at his son, groaning a little, crossing his arms- maybe he wasn’t Chris, but he could still do a minimum of multitasking. Two things at once wasn’t an impossible task for him. Seriously.
“So?” he asked, lifting quizzically an eyebrow as Francis just looked at him and scratched the back of his head, without saying a word. “Ok, drop it. What do you need?”
“How do you know I need something?”
Clint simply lifted an eyebrow- he wasn’t going to explain how he knew his teenage son like the back of his hand. Or that he used to scratch the back of his head himself when he wanted to ask something to someone. He would have liked to say that the puppy-dog-eyes were all Chris, but his wife wasn’t the type the beat around the corner: she didn’t even asked when she wanted something, she just went for it- that was how things went when you were around someone so matter-of-fact and direct like her. That look? His aunts Jess (Drew) and Janet thought him that look.
Francis rolled his eyes dramatically and exaggeratedly, and, when he saw his father mimicking his exact position, he decided to just get it over with- no need to beat around the bush, not when he had asked his dad if he had time for him to begin with.
“When did you know you were in love with mum?” Francis asked; had he been drinking water, Clint would have probably spilled it, because, if he had to be honest, he hadn’t noticed that his son was growing up; it seemed yesterday he and Chris were bringing him home from the hospital, and now he was already interested in girls? Where had all that time go? And mostly… would he be turning into a womanizer like his uncle Tony, who preferred the company of girls to technology and fighting the good fight?
“Is it about May?” He asked; he probably liked Peter enough- and it was something, considering that he was a sort of ex of his wife- but he really, really hoped it wasn’t the case- May was wonderful, hell, he was training her himself, but having dinner together would have been awkward. Even MJ still stared at Chris…
“Dad?” Francis called him back, eyebrow lifted, as he saw that his dad wasn’t answering
“Sure. Yeah. When I fell for your mother. Ok.” Clint sighed, and went to seat like a proper gentleman- even if he still had his elbows on the table. There were things that even Chris didn’t know- she suspected, yes, but when she had tried to breach the subject, he had always joked about the whole deal, and she had never breached his mind- a long time before, she had made sure that his mind was impenetrable, and after the terrigen mists, her own powers hadn’t been the same ever again. It wasn’t like he kept any secret from her- but a little bit of mystery kept the relationship alive, after all.
“Ok, you mother doesn’t know it for sure but…” he closed his eyes and took a big breath. “Well, I’m ashamed to say it was love at first sight.”
Clint sighed. “Yeah, well, your mum was 18, and I was almost ten years older than her. How do you think your uncle would have reacted if he had gotten word that his third best friend had the hots for his teenage sister?”
Now that he thought about it, Tony would have probably been relieved: back then, they trusted each other, and if Clint had put the moves on the younger Stark, she wouldn’t have gone and gotten married to Alec just few weeks later- marrying a man she would end up staying with until his death, despite the secrets and the cheating and the fights.
Francis rolled his eyes, huffing. “I know that story. It’s how you first met, you gave her talk, and she went and become a super-hero because of you.”
“The legs, son. You are forgetting her legs- your mum always had legs to die for. I still remember those black shorts she was wearing that day…”
Francis rolled his eyes again. “That’s not what I’m asking. I want to know when you understood you were in love with her. That she was the one- and that it was her or no one else.”
Clint smiled of a little sad smile; Chris might have had a crush on him when they had first met, but for him, it had been love at first sight. And he had always knew it. But he had fought for years against it- allowing her to find happiness in whoever she wanted, didn’t matter if it wasn’t him; besides, none of them had ever been single at the same time- with the exclusion of when Francis had been conceived- and it had only happened because an alternate version of their son had come back in time and told them they were his parents.
Crap. How did he explain it to Francis without risking breaking the time-line? Was he going to generate a paradox? He looked at Francis and added two to two; the Francis he had met had been slightly younger than his son now; and besides, Pym had been returned as a nice(r) version of Ultron- hence the despotic future the Teen Avengers had been avoided. Maybe he could tell Francis something.
“Actually, I think I’ve always known. Before your mother, my relationship record was awful- a lot of stories, and only a few longer than a few months. But then I met someone- and I got a push in the right direction. Which was also what your mum needed at the time. And here we are.”
“You mean, like another girlfriend? What happened? She got jealous and decided that you had to be hers?”
“Uhm… no. nothing like that. We met… you. In a way.”
“Ugh. I so didn’t need to know you were friends with benefits and you knocked her up…”
“No! It wasn’t like that!” Clint sighed, and scratched his head. “Ok, listen… it’s about alternate dimensions and time-travel, all right? The kind of things that give people the headache of all headaches. In short, we met an alternate teenage version of you, and I decided that it was what I wanted. Her, and a child- our child. It couldn’t be any other way. I couldn’t delude myself any longer- the thought of your mum, marrying someone else, having someone else’s child, it just… it killed me.”
Francis smirked, looking at the ceiling. “You know dad, it’s kind of sweet. Didn’t know you had it in you.”