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Legacy: Vignettes

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He’s always been closed off- it’s in his family, after all, so for a while no one says anything. Because, well, Francis is Francis, and it’s pretty normal.

But Then, Pym comes to him one afternoon, while he is draped on the couch looking at what, in 2016, passed as entertainment, and everything comes crushing down.

“I’ve got it.” Henry whispers, trying to look and sound like a spy. Which, he totally isn’t- it’s not in his genes, after all, it’s more James and Francis’ thing, after all.

“Uh?” Francis asks him, trying to pay attention to both the screen and his friend. Which totally works, because they can say whatever they want about him, but he can multitask. Even at closed eyes.

(That, he didn’t get from his father. His mother, maybe? Whoever she is.)

“I got the results from the DNA tests.” Henry says jumping on the couch at Francis’ side. He’d rather look at something else- whatever they pass as science here, as primitive as it is- but maybe Francis needs to focus on something more… familiar (he is about to drop the proverbial bomb on his friend, after all).

“Did you check them again? Just to make sure?” Francis asks without taking his eyes off the screen.

Postponing is something else he is also rather good at, it turns out- he wonders, did he got it from her as well?

“Duh.” Henry rolls his eyes, hands crossed behind his head. “Sure I did. I took all the tests three times. And I’ll say it again- three times. All of them.”

Francis bites the inside of his cheek, and takes a big breath; he shakes his head, and stops paying attention to the television, despite keeping it turned on.

“So…” Henry lifts an eyebrow, studying Francis. “What do you want me to do? I can keep digging. Or tell you right away who she is…”

He doesn’t know what he should do; on one side, he wants to know who is mother really is; but, at the same, he is scared of what he could discover. What if she was someone evil? What would it make of him? His dad never had the best track record in women, from what he had heard, so it could very well be true…

So, Francis does what he- and his father- do best. He pretends. Acts like people expects him to. Like he was the clown without a care in the world.

“Nah.” He grins (falsely), leaving to get back to his room. “You know? Let’s let the sleeping dogs lie.”

Chapter Text

They are sitting on the couch watching sports- actually, Kate and Clint watch sport, Chris reads a book- a Friday evening, few days after Francis Barton, the Hawkeye from the future, Clint’s son, has gone to visit them to announce that, if Clint is his father, well, then, Chris is his mother.

Clint is sitting in the middle, and for some unknown reason- maybe because he wants to, well, try a sort of experiment- during the evening his arm migrates to the back of the couch, at his left side- where Chris is; fifteen more minutes, and, behind Kate’s curses for the idiocy of some sport champion, he pretends he starts to play with her hair.

She turns to face him- annoyed- and he looks at the ceiling, stopping what he was doing, pretending he doesn’t know what she means (even if she didn’t say a word).

She goes back to her book, he goes back to pretend he is watching TV, and fifteen minutes later he is again playing with her hair.

She turns again and faces him again, but this time he doesn’t stop playing with her hair; instead, he looks at her with a come hitcher look, thinking he could be some kind of tombeur de femmes, and he gets closer and closer, and even if Chris is moving backward, he is still putting her in a corner. As in- their lips are merely inches apart and there’s no room to mistaken what the hell is going through his bloody mind.

Then, Chris remembers she has in her hands the most offensive weapon possible, so she hits Clint on the head with her book. And very big and heavy volume about Quantic Strings.

Kate turns to look at them but doesn’t say a word, just stares at them quizzically: they are weird and a bit crazy, she knows it (if Chris weren’t weird and crazy, she wouldn’t be Clint’s best friend, after all), and nothing they do surprise her any longer.

“Ugh! Barton! You wanted to kiss me! It’s disgusting!” Chris moans. She is probably shocked for life. And she hates Clint. She has been clear with Clint, but of course the idiot couldn’t listen to her, the bloody idiot. “I told you that you shouldn’t have listened to what the children had to tell you!”

“You can’t kiss her. It’s, like, incest.”

“Our son doesn’t think so.” Clint mutters, rubbing his injured nose. Even if what’s more hurt it’s his male pride.

“I do hope you are not talking about our son, old guy. Let me guess, time-travel?”.” Kate grins, chuckling a bit evilly, while Chris sighs. It’s not right that time-travel and alternate dimensions and visions are so part of their lives that it’s practically normal, a common occurrence. “Oh, so you two will go all the way? About time- disgusting, but about time. I mean, it’s not normal that a man and a woman who are so friends have only see each other naked once…”

Clint chuckles. “She knows what she is talking about- she slept with the two single guys she was on the team with. Three, if we count Marvel Boy.” Then he turns to look at Kate, worried. “How do you know of that?”

Kate smirks. “I play poker with the “Exes of Clint Barton” fan club. Chris and I are honorary members. And we do like to play about you.”

He grunts. “Ugh. You, thinking about me and sex in the same sentence. I don’t know if I’m more turned on or disgusted.”

Chapter Text

It’s Jess’ first night out (as a civil) after her baby’s birth, and the girls are gone all out- restaurant, dancing, ice-cream and, if they happen to run in some troubles (the ones that need to be solved by super-heroes) so be it.

Bobbi is missing- out on a mission with Lance against the London Branch of the Hellfire Club - Patsy and Tasha are dancing, Jen is taking selfies with random people, Carol is talking about politic with a nice guy, but Jess is sitting in a corner, sweating despite the cool temperature of the club, a ball of nerves.

“You want to talk about children? Let’s talk about children.” Chris tells her matter-of-fact, dropping on the couch at her side. She’s gone for her clubbing attire from her old days as a society starlette, slave stiletto heels and a microscopic Missoni golden dress that covers too little for comfort. Like she used to do when she pretended to be her brother’s female counterpart (a  lifetime ago), she does her best to act careless, like she owned the world and was in total control- and she makes it looks like it’s effortless. Which being a “billionaire, genius extraordinaire, philanthropist and man-eater” it totally isn’t.

“You want to talk babies?” Jess asks, quizzically, her mind going into the most awful places. She can’t believe she has left her baby with Roger. Her son has probably been already eaten alive by some alien creature.

It’s not that she can’t believe that people wants to talk about children, it’s just that… people doesn’t want to talk about children with her. Probably because the lack of sleep has removed her mouth/brain filter, and all her singles and children-less friends now will never, ever have children to begin with.

Besides, Chris doesn’t talk about children, period. Not after having lost the twins. It’s, like, The Avengers’ taboo- a bit like with Wanda, only Chris remembers she has had her babies.

Chris smirks. “Do you want to laugh?” Chris asks, hands crossed behind her head. “The Baby Avengers…”

“The ones from Mojo-world?”

“Rights. Those are the baby Avengers. No, I’m talking the “Children of the Avengers raised by my excuse of a brother after Ultron took over the world and killed us all” Baby Avengers.” She chuckles. “They are here in the past to meet and greet their parents, or whatever. And guess who knocked at my door the other week? Barton’s kid. Which, it comes out, is my kid too.”  

Jess doesn’t say a word for the longest time. “

God. You and Barton. A baby. Together. I know he feels the need to kill any man who dares to even just think about touching you, but, I would have never guessed that he would have gone that far, or he will go that far, as to get you pregnant himself…” She whispers, conspiranciously. “Did you tell anyone?”

“I didn’t- but Clint told Kate. Sort of. Let’s say it slipped while we were watching TV.”

“And did you two…” Chris’ eyes turn as big as saucers, and blushes like a schoolgirl- although an indignant one. “What? It’s not a crime! I mean, you are single, he is single… and trust me, Clint knows how to get to the happy ending!”

She groans, closing her eyes. “Yeah. Well, maybe he looked too many movies, thought. He has suddenly decided that now it’s the time to get me pregnant, and that he can’t live without me any longer. Do you know what he did the other day?” Jess lifts her eyebrows, waiting for the other woman to explains herself. “I went grocery-shopping, and I came home to my place filled with petals of red roses and candles. And Clint naked on my bed, with flutes of Champagne in hands.”

Jess barely resists laughing. “When you say naked, you mean…”

 “Yep. As the day he was born.” Chris laughs, too. “I must say, I didn’t act very mature. I just threw him my jacket and then left the apartment again screaming that he was supposed to clean everything up before I came back. And that I was going to go to a SPA and put everything on his credit card.”

Jess sighs, feeling the need to pat the younger Chris on the head, like she was a child. “Eh. Listen, I know you don’t talk about it- but I was wondering, if maybe, just maybe… those feelings you once thought you had for Clint…”

Chris bits her lips, sighing. “It’s not like I don’t think I could… love him. I do love Clint. Just, not like that. Not now, at least. And, I’m not mad because he thinks he is falling for me or whatever. I’m mad because he is trying too hard. He is pushing the issues. He does it because he thinks he has to and because he thinks we are running out of time”

“Ooohhh… You don’t want for him to take away all the magic!” Jess giggles.

Chris lifts her eyebrows, sceptical. “You do remember that I like to wear black leather, right?”

“You are still sweet on Clint. You’ve always been sweet on Clint. I mean, how many of us actually keep up with his shit 24/7 like you do? That, my girl, is called love!”

Chris sighs, shudders, he lips graced by a small evil smile. “Oh, well, I don’t think you’ll still think so after learning of what I did to him after he pulled the  American Beauty on me…”

Chris chuckles, and Jess doesn’t know if she is more worried or excited about the next poker game with Clint and the girls…

Chapter Text

Clint’s not so bad at poker, normally, but that’s when he plays with men; when it’s with the girls, it’s a whole other matter- even if they do allow him to win at least a game every now and then every time they are together. But not tonight. Tonight, even when they are practically serving the game on a silver platter, there’s something on his mind that keeps him from being even just an half decent player.

He is sweating despite the cool air,  and every time they he looks at one of them, he sighs, desperate and- Natasha would say- even scared.  And if there’s someone who knows that Clint Barton doesn’t do fear, but is a pretty bad-ass, that’s Natasha Romanoff. She knows him, and knows when there’s something wrong with him.

Bobbi is a bit worried- few days ago they worked together on a mission for SHIELD, and Clint caught a nasty new kind of bio-engineered virus; she had believed he was out of the blue, but from the looks of things, that’s not what it looks like.

Jesse simply looks at him quizzically, not scared but clearly worried; she doesn’t know what this is all about, but she fears this could be the famous payback for the American Beauty that the archer pulled on Chris; Kate, obviously knowing something- or maybe even being on the secret, whatever it may be- chuckles, and takes advantage of the situation robbing Clint for everything that he is worth,  Jen, Patsy and Carol look quizzically, often with an arched eyebrow, at whom they have come to call the “poor man”, and Chris, power damper on (“Best friend or not, I’m not playing poker with her. Its’ bad enough playing with trained spies, her included, but a telepath with a computer for brain? Thanks, but no thanks.” Clint had told her once. She had shuddered like it was nothing, turning on a power damper Clint didn’t even know she always kept on hand. Just in case.) acts like she couldn’t care any less.

Natasha sighs, shaking her head like a disappointed parents who’s feds up with her own children. “What did you do?”

“I haven’t done anything bad.” Clint mumbles, so incoherently and low that it’s a miracle any of them catches it at all; Kate simply snickers- in a very un-lady like manner, like to say, yeah, sure, keep saying that…         

It’s in that moment that Jess knows for sure that whatever is going on with Clint, it’s definitely Chris’ fault- even if she does think that Clint went looking for it.

“Chris…. What did you do to that poor man?” Jess asks, a bit worried, turning to her former Avengers team-mate; whatever it is, it must be bad, to have Clint so worried and scared. She had assumed she had given him a nightmare or two or urticaria. Made appear embarrassing pictures. But not this. Whatever it is she has done to the poor soul.

 “Did you go and annoy her? I honestly thought that you and Tony had learnt to share by now. You should have known better.” Natasha sighs. “What’s on your mind? Parrots? Mice? Birds? Green Arrow making fun of you because you are a lame shot?”

Clint sighs, burying his head between his hands, in his arms. “Elephants. Disney dancing pink elephants. That’s what I’m seeing. In place of every female past the age of 18.”

Jess chuckles turning to her friend, their bottles of non-alcoholic beer clicking together in cheers . “You are right, you definitely hate him.”

Chapter Text

When Steve goes to visit her in the maternity ward, Natasha is holding her baby boy in her arms, and she is crying.  She is not sobbing- she is just not the type- but tears are streaming down her face nevertheless. Angry tears.

“Ehy.” Steve smiles  a little as he sits at her bedside, and with a single finger skims over the brown hair of the new-born baby boy; he opens his eyes a little, and it breaks Steve’s heart a little, because it’s like looking at a damn picture of his best friend- his late best friend.

Seeing her baby’s eyes seems to make Natasha even more madder- and from the looks of her, Steve guesses that, if the baby weren’t in her arms,  by now she would have already broken something. Minimum.

“He was an idiot. Seriously, what was he thinking? Going at war with the Inhumans…” She simply says, without looking at Steve, not even for a second. She closes her eyes and clenches her teeth, but as soon as she does so, the baby starts sobbing, and she bumps him a little, trying to soothing him, and calm herself down so that he wouldn’t be too upset.

Steve shakes his head. “Bucky may have been many things- but he wasn’t a cold blooded murderer, Nat. He wouldn’t have destroyed those cocoons if there were Inhumans inside. There must be something they are not telling us.”

Natasha takes a big breath, and for the first time since Steve entered in her room, she turns to look at him. “What if they come after us as retaliation?” It’s not what she really means- she is a grown-up super-spy, born into the Red Room, trained since WWII by people like The Wolverine- she can handle herself. What she really means is,  what if they come after him?

Steve would like to tell her that she is wrong, that Medusa and the Royal Family aren’t like that, but he knows all too well that he can’t; they are royals, and they think themselves better than the rest of the world- a world that they think is theirs for the taking and ruling. Especially Medusa- someone they used to consider a friend. Besides, they know all too well that many of her subjects refuse to answer to her, thinking, believing that Maximus’ orders are given for the well-being of Attilan, that his orders are words that the Queen can’t utter for political reasons. Like when Karnack destroyed Stark Tower, not caring about innocent lives. Like when Lash destroyed facility after facility belonging to Tony, not considering that his employees had no qualm with the Inhumans, nor place in the war.

No, he thinks. He wouldn’t be too surprised if they were to ask for Bucky’s baby. It used to be a tradition in the ancient times, after all: claiming and rising the infant children of the enemies, so that no one else would dare to oppose the winner, fearing losing their biggest treasure- their progeny.

Steve sighs, his eyes a little glassy as the baby seems to want to play with his hand a little. “Nat...what if…” he runs an hand through his unruly blond hair, and sighs. “No one knows of this baby- only us and Tony. Not even Hill….”

Natasha knows immediately where this is going- Steve  doesn’t have to end the sentence; they may have never had a relationship in the past, just danced on the edge between friends and something more, but this is how much they know each other. “I can’t ask you this.”

“You are not asking- I’m offering, Nat.” Steve shrugs, with a million-watt smile printed on his face- like what they are talking about could be the most normal thing in the world. “Nat… Bucky and Sharon are gone. If we don’t tell it- no one will ever know. Unless you’ve already signed the birth certificate. Which, knowing you,  I doubt.”

Natasha sighs, her eyes suddenly sad and filled with regrets. “I wasn’t even sure I wanted to keep him- not after what they did to James. But… I can’t leave him, Steve. Not when he looks just like his father.”

Steve knows all too well what she means: the father’s name on the birth certificate is still blank; if he signs it now, no one will ever know that he isn’t the baby’s father- they’ll think that he and Nat have finally given up to temptation, crossed the line between friends and something more, that they’ve looked for comfort in each other after having lost people dear to them- Steve Sharon, and Natasha James.

“Are you sure Steve?” She asks as he holds her hand.

Steve, simply, nods. “Nat, I’m not saying we have to get married, or whatever. I just want to give this baby my surname, and help you out in rising him. That’s’ all.”

Nat rises her eyes from her baby, and stares at Steve. Grinning and happy and satisfied, like he already knows that he has won her over. It’s almost scary, but it’s in moment like those that she thinks that Steve has spent way too much time in Logan’s company, because that grin is all Logan- their late friend, not the one living at the Jean Grey Institute right now. And she doesn’t know why- but she has the distinct feeling that she has just signed up for troubles, and definitely much more than giving her son a father with a clean past and no political enemies.

“So…  how are you calling him?”

 “Rogers. James Ian Rogers…” Nat sighs, not sad, though. “Ian like your late son- and James like two of your best friends. James – my James- has always been there for you- saved you countless of times back in the war. No one will ever think that, in truth, it’s his father’s name he is carrying.”

“You’re not regretting this, Nat.” Steve squeezes her hand, and kisses the brown mass of soft and talc-scented hair of the baby. “Trust me, you’ll never regret this.”

Chapter Text

“Ok, I need to talk with you, and I need you to listen to me without stopping me, all right? Because this is very, very important.”

Bobbi lifts her eyebrows quizzically as soon as she opens the door to her apartment, and Chris storms inside without  as much as hello or any other polite salute, the brunette simply goes into the kitchen, without stopping talking for a second, and, grabbed a yogurt from the fridge like it was her own place, goes to sit at the kitchen table, at Hunter’s side. And that’s when she finally closes her mouth for a second. Just to reopen it then again.

“Hello, Miss Stark. It’s good to see you again. Costed someone their very important job lately?” He asks, annoyed, looking like a brat- or like Clint when she does something that he doesn’t appreciate, like when- could God have mercy of her soul- she dared to get involved and saved his life.

“Oh. Uhm… hi?” She is a bit scared of Hunter. Not that he could hurt her in any way- like it was even possible- but they guy can keep a grudge. And he is pretty vindictive, and petty, too- and he thinks that he lost his job as Joint Chair Committee because of the mess she and the other British heroes did with the whole MysTech affair (especially his former deputy, MI:13 very own Pete Wisdom, aka the guy Chris was with back when the whole MysTech mess happened). Like it had nothing to do with him selling British assets off to SHIELD…

“Chris? You here for a particular reason? Besides trying to steal almost out-to-date yogurt?”  Bobbi grins, and goes to sit in front of her friend- somehow, she doesn’t know why, but she is amused by lance’s bickering with her friend. Which is a bit scary, because she used to enjoy looking at Chris and Clint bickering as well. Which means that Lance is right and she has a type, and that, maybe just maybe, deep, deep, deep down, there’s more than just sex between the two of them.    

“Oh? Oh, right… well, the fact is, Miss I think I’ve got psychic powers… I lied to you, and wanted to say I was sorry.” Bobbi simply lifts her eyebrows, waiting for Chris to explain herself. She has promised to let her talk, after all. And she and Chris have known each other for a very, very long time. They practically talk each and every week. At least once. Which means that many things have been said and it’s hard to pinpoint just like that what exactly Chris lied about. “Do you remember when we saved Clint from Osborn? Well, you see…”

Bobbi doesn’t know Chris as well as her (ex)husband does, but she is pretty sure she remembers she hates her coffee cold, and she likes it bitter, so when, after rescuing Clint from Osborn and Mentallo, she finds the younger Stark all alone in the dark in Bucky’s kitchen, busy nursing a cold cup of coffee filled with sugar, she knows there’s probably something wrong with her.

“Seat taken?” Bobbi asks sitting at Chris’ side. “Christine… are you all right?” She asks her, worried. The telepath has been pretty weird for the whole day, and then, when they had gotten and freed Clint… Chris has scared the hell out of Bobbi. She has tortured Mentallo- and what’s worse, she seemed to have enjoyed it. Or at least, she doesn’t seem to be too worried. Its’ like she doesn’t care, like something snapped in her the moment they learnt that Clint had been taken, and the dark shadow- that huge, dark cloud- had been lifted only the moment she had known that Clint was safe with them.

Bobbi knows that feeling. She felt that too- and she had felt it in the past as well. And it has nothing to do with friendship.

“Christine…” Bobbi starts as she starts to play with an empty cup. “I know that whatever there is between you and Clint…” She pauses, looking for the right word. “What I am  saying is, I’ve been gone for a lot of years- and… I don’t blame neither of you. So, if something happened between you two, I’ll understand it, all right?”

Chris leaves her spot at the table, and, calmly, empties the cup in the sink; then, she leaves the room- only to stop at the door; she leans over it, and turns her head slightly, so that Bobbi could, at least, be in her line of vision. “I don’t love him.”

Yes, you do. You don’t need to be in love to actually love someone, Bobbi thinks, but she keeps is to herself.

“I don’t love him- and nothing happened between us. And it never will.”

Bobbi lifts her eyebrows as she remembers the story, and that chat in particular, so many months before- almost a lifetime. “So, what, you are telling me that something did happen between you and Clint in the past? That’s it?”

Seriously- she is not surprised it if did. Those two idiots are crazy for each other, but they hide the fear of rejection and their abandonment issues behind the façade of platonic friendship.

“What? No! I mean- it did happen. Once. Well, twice. But it was just kissing. That one time. The first time there was a discreet lack of clothes on both parts.” Chris takes a big breath, and then shakes her head, sighing. “I’m pretty sure I’m in love with that idiot of your ex-husband.” She finally admits.

“So?” Bobbi asks, matter-of-fact.

“So… I wanted to tell you. Because… he is your ex. And I told you that I would have never hit on him. And we are good friends. Things have been awkward enough as they were when you broke up, I don’t want to…” Chris pauses as she sees Bobbi shaking her head, like  a frustrated parent or teacher. “What?”  

“The only reason things were weird it’s because you were making them weird. You were both jealous but neither of you wanted to admit it, and when we broke up and you happened to be single again, you got scared. Because you saw an opening and it terrified you.”

Pouting like a child, Chris grunts- a sound echoed by Lance, who, frankly, is having enough of girl talk. “I hate it when you play psychic with me.”

Bobbi simply smiles. “A word of advice? Go get your man.”

Chapter Text

Clint Barton has always loved Chris Stark. Of course, at first it was more of a platonic love, but it hadn’t taken long for him to stop fooling himself: platonic his ass. He was in love with her, wanted to make love to her, marry her, be the father of her babies and etcetera, etcetera.

Knowing it and admitting it, though, are extremely different things: for years Clint keeps fooling himself, fooling her and everyone they know saying that he loves her but he isn’t in love with her, when he is only bloody scared that he’ll ruin this relationship as well- and he feels, he fears that he would be lost without her. Besides, they  are both pretty good at keeping themselves occupied: he has Bobbi, Janet, Moonstone, Wanda, Maya, Jessica and one-night-stands, and Chris has Alec, Wisdom, Peter Parker, Wisdom again, Hellstrom, Wisdom one last time and –yes, he knows it’s hard to believe but she is actually a female version of her brother-  one-night-stands.

Which means that, with the exception of when he and Bobbi broke up after Russia, none of them is ever single at the same time.

But then… just when they are both singles for the second time (and this time it’s actually lasting), Francis Barton- “I’m your son from the future with your best friend” happens, and Barton is pretty sure it’s the push in the right direction he didn’t even know he needed.

He tries to be casual about it- casual touches, lingering every day a little bit more, but either she isn’t getting it, or she doesn’t want to get it. So, he pushes himself a little more forward: his arm around her as they watch television, playing with her hair like they were two teenagers making out in a dark theatre, and then he goes for the killing and he tries to kiss her.  Only to get hit by a very huge and heavy book.

He excuses her, though; maybe it’s just because he was, after all, sitting between Chris and Kate. Chris was probably just embarrassed because she didn’t want to make a scene, didn’t want to make out like horny teenager in front of a girl- someone who  more or less a teenager herself.

He decides to try to be romantic, but aggressive about the whole ordeal. He wants her, and he is done waiting around for Wisdom to decide that after all he may want to leave his work behind and have a family with her. Like Hell. Chris asked him to choose- her or Britain, now that, with his father gone, he had only his Country to keep him there- and he told her he was born a British Spymaster, and he would have died that way. Now he can go rotting in hell while he builds a future with this amazing woman.   

(And frankly, if he can have a word in all of this, well, he’d really, really like to not stop at just Francis. If there’s something that life has thought to the two of them, it’s that children should have siblings.)

Only things is, he really don’t know how to go about the whole thing: subtle doesn’t work; should he act like his usual smart-ass arrogant self when it comes to women?  Maybe he should. But… big. Yeah. He has to go big. Women just love when men go big on them, right? It’s practically the only thing he had learnt from his relationship with Janet (and the Doombot).

He times it.

Chris goes grocery-shopping every Saturday at ten, and buys as much as she can for the week- hence, it’s a good hour, a hour and an half, and on Friday evening she always has her night out with… with the “Barton messed with our life but we stand strong” club, (Yes. It’s their actual name.), meaning that he has time to plan everything perfectly.

He mentions his idea to Jess- because, contrary to common belief, they are still friends and have never been too serious- and she begs him to reconsider.

“She’s gonna hate it. And she is gonna hate you, too. Besides, she’ll read your mind, and call you a foul pig or something like that.”

“Nah. Women love when men go big.”

“You remember it’s her we are talking about, right?”

Well, he doesn’t; so on Saturday morning scented candles, over 60 red roses and champagne are delivered to her address while she is out; he puts some of the roses in vases, or he leaves them in strategic places; the majority of them, though,  he takes off the petals and transform her apartment in something akin to American Beauty; he lowers the lights, turns on the candles, and keeps the champagne on ice while he goes looking for the flutes and takes a quick shower, not exaggerating with cologne or anything else, and when he hears the noise of her key turning into the lock, he drops in the bathroom his robe and goes to wait for her on her bed (where he had put new sheets, soft and silky and ivory and very, very sinful-looking) completely naked, filled flutes in hand.

“What the…” Chris blushes as soon as she notices his state of complete undress, and hasty turns, giving him her back; Clint, frankly, finds it adorable, and chuckling, he leaves his spot on the bed and reaches her. He stands in front of her- as red as a tomato now- and  offers her a flute, grinning like the cat that got the canary.

“Would you prefer to take all those clothes off, first?” He practically breaths on her lips; their bodies are touching, and, as much as she hates herself, as much as he knows she doesn’t want to… her eyes always go in that particular place.

“Clint… what do you think you are doing?” She suddenly asks; her eyes are closed, and her voice is low and filled with anger. Which is not a good sign. She should be turned on, not mad with him.

“Uh?”

“Clint…” she sighs, taking her black leather jacket off; he chuckled shamelessly, out loud, which, given her look,  seems to irritate her furthermore. “cover yourself. Now. “

“But…”

She keeps her eyes closed as she speaks next- her voice resolute and frustrated and angry. “Now I’ll go to a SPA- where I’ll charge as many treatments as I want on your card. Meanwhile, you’ll think why this has been a bad idea, AND you’ll clean up this place. I don’t want to see any petal or burning candles when I’m back, all right?” She turns on her heels and is already at the door when she stops and turns back to him- to his still naked form- and stands in front of Clint, grinning.

Clint chuckles, leaning over the bedroom doorframe, as Chris seductively runs a single digit over his smooth, muscular chest. “Tsk. I knew you wouldn’t have resisted me, sweetheart…”  He whispers in her ear, biting her lobe, making her gasp. And then… then Chris touches his forehead, and her eyes shine like liquid gold and he feels the tell-tale sensation in the back of his brain which means that she is playing with his mind.   

(She may have lost almost all her powers, almost her whole control over them because of the Mists, but she still has a couple of tricks up on her sleeve.)

And when he looks down at her next…

He doesn’t see her. Nope. Instead, he sees a pink dancing elephant, Disney-like, talking with her voice.

He puts on the jacket while he starts cleaning up, and he swears he can’t get the elephant out of his head.

Chapter Text

“So, the other day I was talking with Steve, and I was thinking, we should get married.”

Chris lifts her eyes from the journal she has been reading, and lifts an eyebrow in Clint’s direction; her best friend/boyfriend/father of her child is wearing one of those “I HEARTH HAWKEYE “ apron, while making a nauseating and greasy breakfast she’d rather die than eat.

Chris sighs, barely resisting shaking her head and grunting. “If you really have to be friends with a Captain America, can’t it be James? At least he isn’t so old-fashioned…”

Few years back, Clint would have ruffled her hair at such a statement; but Chris isn’t his just his friend any longer- she is his lover, and frankly, he likes it way too much to risk getting her mad. And man, she can get mad when she wants. Mad- and vengeful.

So, he simply says, “He is just looking out for you. You know how Steve is. He worries about everyone.”

She rolls her eyes at the statement. “Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m the poor soul everyone pities because I’ve been raised by that jerk of Tony Stark who didn’t give me enough love, nor provided any emotional education, so I grew up too rich, too bored, too smart and too powerful and before someone gave me the talk I almost joined the Hellfire Club so that I could covertly control humanity. Blah, Blah, Blah.”

Clint chuckles. “Yeah. You are everybody’s little sister.” He can’t resist any longer, so he does ruffle her hair, and kisses wetly her forehead, like a dumb idiot in love. Which, by the way, he is.

“Yeah, I know. The only thing more embarrassing than you giving me the talk, was you always behaving like I was your little sister.” She chuckles as well, putting away the journal; sighing, she takes a bite of food- she may not be too much in the mood, but man, Clint Barton can really cook when he puts his mind to it.

She expects him to answer her, remark something about incest- like Kate likes to do- but he stays in silence, and when she lifts her eyes from the plate, fork mid-air, she is staring at her with a mixture of sadness and regret and love so much raw she may very well melt.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. You are joking, right? Please, tell me you are not thinking what I think you are thinking…” She grunts; she gulps down a mouthful of saliva, a bit shocked. Also, she is suddenly feeling very, very guilty. “All these years? You’ve liked me all along?”

Clint shrugs. Like it was complete nonsense, like it really didn’t matter. “Ehy, I was a guy in his late twenties, with the hots for the teenager sister of his best friend.  An eighteen years old who, on top of that,  was about to get married.  Besides, you were the telepath with the psychic link with me; I thought you knew, just… didn’t want to open up Pandora’s box. Besides, I met Bobbi shortly later, so…”

“Oh, God. I came to you when I had relationship issues. I ranted about men with you. I’m awful. I’m an awful human being.” She hides her head between her crossed arms, her forehead hitting the stone-cold kitchen table. “I asked you to give me away when  I was about to marry Pete…”

She sniffs. Christine Antonia Stark actually sniffs as she meets his eyes. “You are such a good man…you are a great man, no one should deny it…”

Clint looks around, then points a digit at himself, like to say, me? A good, great man? Are you crazy?

“Yes, you. You were ready to put my own happiness before your feelings for me. That’s the sweetest thing anyone had ever done for me.” She sniffs again. Her eyes, he can see with his perfect eyesight, are turning glassy. Which means she is that close to tears and sobbing.

“Honey,  I haven’t exactly been a monk, you know that, right? Besides, you didn’t marry….” He is about the say something like “the jerk”, “the asshole”, or some other profanity, but Chris loved that idiot of Wisdom, and when they broke-up just days before the wedding, well, it hurt her, and he doesn’t want for her to think that he is dismissing any relationship she had ever been in just because he believes that they were meant to be, or whatever. “Wisdom. You didn’t marry Wisdom, so that’s ok.”

And that’s when all hell breaks loose, and Chris leaves her seat and practically jumps in his arms , wetting with her hot tears his t-shirt. “No, no, no… don’t cry… if Kate sees you crying, she’ll think I’ve hurt you and she’ll tell everybody and they’ll hurt me… you don’t want to see your brothers attempting murder, right?”

Sniffing, with Clint drawing invisible patterns on hr back, Chris leaves her spot, staying, thought, on his knees, her arms around his neck. “See? Isn’t that better, uh?” He chuckles, his eyes like those of a baby- mischievous and fun and just plain happy; laughing, she hides her head in the crock of his neck, her breath tickling his skin.

“Yeah. Well, I’m still not marrying you.“

“No? You sure about that?” He asks, a little serious;  one arm is encircling her, his hand on the small of her back, the other hand is caressing her abdomen; it’s early- not so much that they haven’t told people yet- but it’s barely visible. Especially given the fact that Kevlar and black leather aren’t part of Chris’ wardrobe any longer.  

She nods. “Yeah. We don’t need a piece of paper to know how you feel about us. And neither should you.”

Smiling, she kisses him.

Chapter Text

“Ice cream?” He asks her- even if it’s not really a question, as he already offers her a small cup as he goes to sit at her side on the porch of his place; they don’t speak for the longest time. And they don’t even eat the sweet- they let it melt, him looking at her, Chris looking the cup in her hands in complete silence, her gaze far away- another place, and mostly, another time, he guesses.

“You don’t ask me if something’s wrong with me’” She asks as she pouts like a baby. Something that, well past thirty (just like him), she isn’t any longer.

“Pretty bird, you’ve been sitting since four in the morning in my porch. Of course there’s something wrong with you.”

She quizzically looks at her friend and confident, as he plays with a n arrow his daughter had left out there the previous evening; she isn’t a child any longer- she is a teenager, and she is now in the business as well, doesn’t matter if daddy doesn’t like it. Besides, it’s not like he can put an end to her super-heroing career, not when’s been a teenage sidekick himself.

“How do you know I’ve been there since four?” She asks as she abandons the porcelain glass- the ice-cream isn’t edible any longer. Which is sad, because he always has the best ice-cream.

He chuckles. “I went to the bathroom -I saw you from the window, pretty bird.”

She pouts, whispering and hissing something in the line of, It’s Blackdragon, and dragons aren’t bird, you idiot.

He bumps her playfully in the shoulder. (which sort of hurts, because it’s not with his good arm, but with the bionic one, the one she made for him and at first look seems a human one) searching for the first time for her eyes; he and Chris may be not have the history she has with other people, but despite everything they managed to become good friends and confidents -maybe because neither one of them had been there to see the other walk through the mud, they hadn’t seen each other at their lowest.

Chris sighs- again and again and again. And it’s almost like she was whining, when she lets herself fall back, and her head hits the wooden floor with a soft thund, he hears a noise coming from inside the house, and he turns back to check who it is, and that’s when he sees Donna at the doorstep, smiling at him and waving, just to get back inside once she understands that it’s just Chris needing a shoulder to cry on.

(She’s been the mother hem before- she knows how these things go. She can handle her boyfriend doing the same. Especially for Chris.)

Roy Harper, friend and super-hero, clears his throat dramatically. “Ok, you know that I’m not a telepath. So…  what’s wrong?”

Chris turns to look at him, she sniffs and sighs and then she is looking again at the ceiling, and she is not answering. And then, she opens her mouth as to speak, but she stops, and she does so again and again and again for what feels like an eternity.

She’d like to tell him she has done something stupid, but she knows it’s not the case; like she knows it’s not a mistake; instead, she simply asks him, “Do you think that it will go away? The pain… the guilt?” She asks him, looking at the ceiling.

Roy doesn’t say something diabetes-inducing, nor he sweet-talk her; he knows Chris, Chris knows him, and it’s not their thing. He isn’t even her anchor, just like her “former” archer was- the late Clint Barton from Earth 4. Roy Harper, former Red Arrow, now back to Arsenal, is simply the guy who listens without judging, because, frankly, he did way too much damage in his life to even just think about criticizing someone else.

Chris closes her eyes and takes a big breath; then she compose herself, and sits on the steps of the porch, looking at her own house, where her son is sleeping peacefully, and where she just… where she spent the night, for the first time in years, with a man who wasn’t Clint- her husband, the father of her child.

Her eyes goes to her bedroom, and Roy falls her gaze, he sees where it’s landing and he gets the whole situation. “Ah.” He simply states. There’s nothing else to add. He has no intention of lecturing her, or telling her she shouldn’t be seeing Hal Jordan because the guy is an ass; Chris is a grown-up who can takes care of herself, beside, since the first time he saw the two of them together, Roy had understood that this scenario was inevitable.

“The first time you and Hal slept together you were a widow too. What’s the difference?”

“I know. It’s just that… back then it was an end-of-the-world-one-night-stand. Now…”

 “You are falling in love again. That’s why you feel guilty. Because you are loving someone who’s not the father of your child.” Roy puts an arm around her shoulders- the one she gave him. Which is somehow fitting, he thinks. “I know what I’m talking about- and the mother of my child is a mass-murderer who’s still alive. And yet, I still feel guilty. I can’t even fathom what you may be feeling, with Clint being a super-hero who died protecting you.”

The lights in her bedroom is turned on, and, although reluctantly, Chris stands, still clad in her white and pink pyjama. “Say hi to Donna from me?”

“Sure, pretty bird.” He walks her to her door- not because he thinks she needs him to, but because he still has a couple of things to say. “Listen, if something goes wrong, if you get wind that Hal is even just contemplating breaking your heart… tell him I’ll kick his ass, all right?”

She kisses Roy on the cheek and goes back inside; the light in her kitchen is on, and when Hal offers her coffee, she takes it- and smiles.

Maybe she’s been alone long enough.

Maybe, moving on it’s the right thing to do. She doesn’t know- she just knows that it feels natural. And right. Especially with Hal.   

Chapter Text

“I fear we’ll not get married tomorrow… again.” Clint sighs as he puts a cup of coffee in front of Chris; without lifting her eyes from the screens right before her, she takes it, and, moaning, she sips the hot beverage, in ecstasy- this is the first instant of peace in a few days, after a team of Avengers from an alternate Universe dropped by Avengers Towers asking for help in catching their own personal version of James Jasper, who had gained the powers of the cybernetic being known as The Fury and of Merlin- hence getting the ability to travel through dimensions.          

“No, no, no…. you are getting married tomorrow. I arranged a huge wedding for the two of you. People’s coming from all over the world. There’s gonna be over two hundreds guests… you can’t not get married tomorrow!” Tony leaves his seat on the couch, and practically runs to the couple; both Chris and Clint looks at him like he was crazy (probable) or he had gotten a second head.

“Yeah… so, I hate to drop it to you, but my fiancé and I are, how can I say it? Oh, right: we are busy trying to save the multiverse. So, thanks, but no thanks.”

Tony chuckles shamelessly, and like she was still a kid, he ruffles Chris’ hair; unnerved- and yes, acting a bit childish- she moves his hands away, and clenches her teeth groaning. “C’mon, guys, this is an Avengers world. We can spare a couple of people.”

Clint, deadpan, crosses his arms and looks right at Tony. “So, you are telling us that you’d be willing to spare, in a multiversal crisis, your leading expert on Quantic Strings Theory. Which also happens to be the only member of this team who had actually fought a Crazy Jaspers empowered by a Fury.”

“Mad Jaspers, actually.” Chris corrects him, her eyes focused again on the monitors; Clint glares at her- it was beside the point.  What needed to be said, he has said it. And that was it.

“Oh, please, it’s String Theory. It’s not even really a science. Your kid could probably do it in his sleep. Which, now that I think about it, it’s even possible, if he is anything like Chrissy. I mean, Francis has your looks, Barton… it stands to reason that he has her brain.” He chuckles- the idiot dares to actually chuckle.

“Just, out of curiosity, when she won the noble for her research on String Theory, where were you? Because, you remember that she did win a noble for that science you are calling a fake science, right?”

“I don’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure I was fighting the Mandarin. Or Ultron. Or some other major wonnabe world-destroyer. Either way, if I wasn’t there, I’m sure it was important.”

“…or maybe you were dating a private investigator, which is what you were actually doing back then. .” Chris shakes her head. “That’s ok, I’ve got plenty of therapy to move past that. Even if my therapist eventually tried to turn me and everyone I knew into an Hulk so that he could take over the world.”   

Tony bites his lips, running an hand through his hair, while Clint smirk. “…Me, instead I fought Unus  in the morning and I still found the time to go and see her. That’s how much I loved her- and our thing was completely platonic.”

Like he was suddenly struck by an epiphany, Tony shakes his head, tsk-tsking his long-time friend; he approaches Clint, putting his hands on his shoulders, and Clint would try to take a step back, but Tony’s grip is really, really strong- like someone who sparred with Captain America in his free time strong. Clint gulps down a mouthful of saliva, suddenly a bit terrified by Tony’s maniac-like gaze. “…What was she wearing? When she received the prize.”

Chris chuckles. “Please. I don’t remember what I was wearing, and I walk by past the picture at least four times a day…”

“She had gone for the black and nude look: a little black dress, knee length, soft and wavy, heart-shaped neckline, short sleeves, covered in lace; a light pink jacket, the same colour as her clutch, and black stiletto heels- Christian Louboutin. Small earrings and a chain with a small heart at her neck, and no make-up. Just some gloss and light pink nail polish.”

“Yes, totally platonic. That’s why you remember her whole outfit 11 years later.” Tony shook his head. “Listen, you have to get married tomorrow. You know what they say, third time the charm! I’m sure that it’s going to work out just fine!”

Chris snorts in her coffee- she is still feeling a little uneasy about the fact that Clint had liked her so much that he still remembers the tiniest details about her outfit from a long time ago, but mostly, she wonders how moronic her brother could be at times.

“Do you know that the saying “bad things always come in threes” is of Latin derivation?  They actually used to believe that you were bound to do something at least five times before getting it right.”

Tony stares at Chris- he looks like a bull ready to explode, a man who’s not getting anything that’s not his way. “You will get married tomorrow, and that’s final.”

“At the risk of sounding like a broken record- but there is a multiversal crisis. Even if you were to spare the two of us, over 50% of my guests wouldn’t make it- as they happen to be involved in said multiversal crisis. And that involves three of my bridesmaids, all his groomsmen minus his brother, the guy who’s supposed to perform the ceremony and the guy who’s supposed to walk me down the aisle and the one who has to give me away- which means pretty much 96% of our wedding party.”

“ I’m not going to allow you to run away and elope. You’ll get married tomorrow as planned, even if you’ll do it surrounded by people you have no idea who they are.”

“So, basically, I can’t elope because it would hurt your imagine, that’s what you are saying?”

Tony grins and chuckles, like he is a known-.it-all. “No, you can’t elope because he eloped and his marriage went down the toilet. You eloped and you’ve been unhappy and resentful for over  six years of your life. You are not eloping because I’m not having my third best friend and my sister divorcing.”

“I clearly remember arranging a huge, big fat white wedding with Wisdom and still breaking up two days before the ceremony.”

“That’s the exception that conforms the rule. It really doesn’t matter. You are still getting married and I’m going to tell Steve he’ll have to spare you two.”

Tony leaves, and once is outside, Clint chuckles, sighing. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” he asks her.

“If you are thinking that we should garb Katie and Barney and then run to City hall with our license and elope…” he nods, smiling, chuckling. “Then yes, we are thinking the same thing.”

He kisses her tenderly and quickly on the lips, and, grabbing her hand, he drags her to City Hall.  

Chapter Text

“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.”

“Ashamed?”

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.”

Chapter Text

“If he asks you anything- we know each other because I used to be your body-guard.”

As soon as Chris had knocked at his door, Clint had opened up, and dragged her inside for an arm, without explain himself; Chris could only look at him quizzically, as, in his call, her friend and Avengers, Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, had been pretty vague. Only, she hadn’t cared- she had dropped everything she had been doing in San Francisco and she had gotten on the first flight for New York to help him out in whatever he had gotten himself involved into. Again.

She sighed as she allowed Clint to drag her, dead weight, through his apartment; she pouted a little, a bit annoyed- not with Clint, but with herself. First, she was a sucker for blue eyes- especially his blue eyes- and second, even after almost six years, she still thought she owed Clint something; back when they had first met, on the eve of her unfortunate wedding to her almost ex-husband, Alec, she had been too rich, too bored, too powerful and too full of herself- and on the verge of joining the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club; thankfully, Tessa, Shaw’s second in command, had given her a lesson, and Clint had given her the speech- powers and responsibility and all that jazz- and now, a few years later, here she was. An Honest-to-God super-hero. With a secret identity. Who helped a team of outlaws.  With her genius. And her money. Mostly her money, thought.

“Barton? Do you mind?” Suddenly pissed, Chris jerked her arm free from his grasp, and stood right before him; she felt hot tears burning her eyes, as Clint looked at her with sadness; she wondered- she believed it was pity. Just few weeks before, she had tried to seduce Clint- just to prove to herself that no, she wasn’t in love with Pete Wisdom (and she still firmly believed that she wasn’t)- and Clint had laughed at the whole ordeal. He had laughed. She knew he had believed that he was doing it with her, but she had never felt so stupid and naïve in her whole life.

Clint closed his eyes, and, taking a big breath, cupped her face with his big palms; Chris gasped as she saw the worry in his expression, and she felt like dying in that instant; she was a telepath, and thanks to Xavier’s training she was one of the most talented ones of the whole planet, but she didn’t need to use her powers to know that something was very wrong. And that it was serious- not just her childish crush on the archer.

“Clint?” She asked. Her voice was low and unsure- and more than a question, it sounded like a plea. Like she was begging him to tell her that not everything was lost- everyone. She had lost her birth parents; then, Howard and Maria- and now, in a way, Alec. Tony was the only real family she had left, she didn’t even want to think what losing him could do to her- what it would mean.

“Kang was manipulating him to get rid of the Avengers.”

Was- Clint was speaking in past tense. She didn’t like it. She knew it wasn’t a good sign. That it didn’t mean that Tony wasn’t any longer under the Time Lord’s hold. Clint’s eyes were telling her everything he couldn’t admit out loud- everything she needed to know.

Tony was gone. He was dead.

“Ok. Ok.” Chris crossed her arms, hugging herself; she lowered her head and stared at her feet, even if her eyes were semi-closed; Clint let it go of her, and looked at her with such devotion- so much tenderness and affection that it was breaking her heart. She didn’t need it- she needed her friend to be the hard-assed and a bit cynical trouble-maker womanizer she knew he could be. Especially now, with the guilt knocking at her soul’s doors. Had she been closer, had she used her gifts on him, they wouldn’t have been in this situation. But Chris had always refused to sue her powers on her family and her friends, and after her marriage, she had been too selfish, too mad to allow herself any real closeness to her brother.

And he had gone and fallen under Kang’s control.

She took a big breath, and, finally, biting her lips, she lifted her gaze. “Did he at least….” She didn’t end the sentence. She didn’t need to- Clint knew her well enough- and he got her well enough. Few years priors he had been in a similar situation with his own brother, after all.

“Yeah. He saved us all, at the end.” Clint sighed, and run his fingers through his blonde hair; he was biting his lips, and started to look away, not knowing how to breach the subject. There were things she needed to know. And he didn’t know how to tell her.

“What?”

Clint sighed, and when he spoke next, his voice was a bit low- like he was a bit scared of admitting the truth to Chris. “We didn’t know if we could win, so we… we had to get someone who knew him- someone who could think like him. Be like him.” Clint paused for a fraction of second that lasted an eternity. “We went back in time. To a time before he fell under Kang’s control.”

Clint smirked- even if there was sadness and regret in her expression. “That’s what you meant before? He is here?”

Clint nodded, and then, gently, he guided her in his living-room for the elbow; leaning against  the doorstep, she could see a mass of rebellious black hair on the couch- and a boy playing video-games like he had never truly lived before. Like he was finally free. She remembered that Tony- from a glance, she guessed he had to be around twenty years old, if not less.

“I told the others that you deserved to know what happened- Rhodey should try to reach you in the next few days, and he’ll tell you the official story, that he died during an accident involving the Avengers. But you deserve to know the real truth.”

“Yo, Barton, sore loser! You coming or what?” The teenage version of her brother left the couch, and laughed at the Avengers; then, as soon as she registered a pretty girl at Barton’s side, the Avengers was dismissed. “Well, well, well, the guy has good taste, after all. You, not so much- wonna leave the old man and run away with me, sweetheart? I’m Tony Stark- of Stark fame.” He asked, his traveling from her breasts to her legs- and Clint couldn’t help but smirk, because he had always told Chris she had legs to die for, and she had never believed him.

She grimaced, her crossed arms, putting in more evidence her breasts in the strapless leather little black dress. “Yeah, that’s him. Without a shadow of doubt.” She barely resisted the urge to hit him. He was a pig. Even more than she used to remember. “Ever heard of respect for your elders, brother dearest?”

Tony stared at her; he was turning a little green, and he was feeling he bile rising in his stomach; he was that close to vomiting his own soul as well as his last meal. And maybe some meals gotten in the previous decade as well.

His sister- he had put the moves on his little sister. His Chrissy, that was only nine years old last time he had seen her, at breakfast, when she was wearing an Holly Hobbie pyjama and with her reddish hair in two piggy-tails, her eyes filled with devotion and admiration for her older brother. And now here she was- sexy as hell, dressed with black leather and with short black hair and heavy make-up and an attitude.

“Cri-Cri?” He looked at her eyes, and immediately recognised that dark black gleam, that unique shade that she had in common with her birth mother. There was no mistaking- she was his little sister, only, in this world- in this time- she was an adult. She was… old.   

“Please, please, please, tell me you’ve got more taste than sleeping with Barton…” he begged. She could have been older than him, but he still cared a lot for her. He still felt like he had to defend her honour. Sort of.

“Uh. Looks like you were right when you said that he used to be an idiot.” Clint chuckled.

“I resent that, Barton. Not only I grew-up to be a super-hero- but I’m a billionaire genius and a tech mogul who’s extremely successful with the ladies.”

Clint chuckled again. “… too bad your little sister grew-up to be a billionaire genius, a tech mogul and a super-hero with honest-to-God superpowers and legs to die for. And, she has great taste in men. Just sayin’.”

Chris looked at Tony with extreme sadness; this young man was cheerful and enthusiast that his sister had turned out to be a super; he didn’t know the truth, that Chris had lied to her own family for years. Practically since the beginning. He didn’t know… and he couldn’t.

She lifted her right hand and touched with her manicured index fingernail his forehead, and her eyes turned glowing and red and like on fire; Teen Tony almost closed his eyes, and, as he was half-asleep, he went to sleep on the couch, without thinking about them. Like they had never been there to begin with.

Clint turned at looked at Chris, disappointed; that was her chance to be honest, finally, tell her brother who she truly was and yet, she had blown it- once and for all. “I had to make him forget, Clint. We can’t risk the time-line furthermore. We’ve already stepped onto too many butterflies. Beside, my position is too delicate to allow the public to know that Excalibur’s Lady Blackdragon is, in reality, Christine Antonia Stark-Addison.” She paused, and her eyes went to the ground, her voice suddenly low. “Besides… there are things that even you don’t know, Clint. I’m not so sure you’d like the real me.”

Clint chuckled, and, with sad eyes, took her in his arms, engulfed her in a bear-hug; Chris’ tiny frame pressed firmly against his hard body, she allowed her head to rest against his breastbone, as she allowed his heartbeat to lull her, to calm her down, like an hypnotic device.

“Still,“ She said, leaving the quickest and sweetest butterfly-kiss on the hot skin of his neck,  “thanks for having told me the truth. I’ll be forever in your debt, Clint.”

Clint buried his nose in her hair, smiling; the colour and the texture weren’t what he was used to, but the exotic orchid scent was still all her. His Chris. “Anytime, sweetheart, anytime sweetheart…”   

Chapter Text

After having reached the peak of passion, Clint collapsed at Chris’ side, sweats running down his body in tiny rivulets, his muscles sore and still aching ; at his side, Chris was gasping for air, her eyes as huge as saucers, fixed on the ceiling of her dark bedroom.

“Wow.” She simply said, shaking her head in disbelief; she was dead serious, and at loss for words. Something rare. And yet, Clint wasn’t worried, not even a tiny bit. Because, deep down, he knew what she was feeling- and he felt exactly the same as she did.

“Yeah, I know…” He turned on his side, towards her, leaning on his left elbow. “I can’t believe that we haven’t done this before. We should have started sleeping together a long time ago.” He chuckled, and looked at Chris with teary eyes, filled with love and devotion and desires for the future- a future that a son coming from the another time- and maybe even another world- had showed them.

Chris chuckled, her dark hair a cloud in stark contrast with the pristine white pillows of her bed; naked and imperfect, with her make-up came undone, she was the most amazing thing Clint had ever seen; of course he had known this for a long time- but until now, he had never found the strength, the courage to admit it- to do anything about it. To say the words out loud. And yet, it was true. Chris had always gone and dolled herself up for the men she had been with, she had taken to wear a mask with them just like she did when she was out in the world fighting the good fight. And yet, he honestly believed that she was at her best with a tank top, old jeans and running shoes- and maybe one of his jeans shirt as sweatshirt.

“And whose fault is that? I think I remember pretty clearly that it was you to turn me down, Mr. Barton…” She skimmed over his taunt chest with a finger, tempting him, her eyes filled with mirth and fun- no malice, nor regret.

Clint chuckled, stopping the evil finger that was going in places it didn’t have reason to wander yet. “…And yet, I was the one only in boxers. I still remember that bra, though.” He smiled of a little sad smile, hoping that she wouldn’t notice it; he didn’t want for her to know that there wasn’t a thing he had forgotten, when it came to her. It was too soon to tell her something like that, and he knew that their love- their relationship, at least- was something small and frail, to treat carefully. Too many times he had been that close to losing her- now that he finally had her, he wasn’t going to make any mistakes. Not if he could help it, at least.

They looked at each other in silence for the longest time; then, Clint started playing with a lock of reddish air, and broke the spell- not because he wanted to, but because there was something they needed to talk about. Things that needed to be said out loud now or never.

“Chris? Are we all right?” He asked her, his eyes filled with worry and doubt- he knew what he felt, but, despite how her inner mind worked, her heart was still a mystery to him, even if he had known her for the longest time. But maybe it was because, at times, he believed Chris Stark and The Lady Blackdragon to be two completely different individuals, that had little to nothing in common with each other.

Chris chuckled, and, in answer, she went to ride him, her hair falling like a curtain over their faces as she leaned down and kissed Clint, moaning around his tongue as it captured her mouth.

“What do you think?” She asked, chuckling, as they separated, and she was passing an hand through her long hair; Clint grabbed her for the waist, and looked at her in the eyes, never breaking contact, his orbs still filled with all those emotions he had missed to communicate until that very moment.

“I think that’s not an answer, sweetheart.” He said serious; Chris huffed, and dramatically rolled her eyes.

“Fine. Yes, Clint- I think we are all right. If you are, at least- because I’ve got no regrets, I’m not going to second-guess and I’m more than fine.”

Clint lifted an eyebrow, smirking proud. “So, it was good, uh?” She didn’t answered immediately, and his expression shifted to that of a puppy first- sad and in need of reassurance- to one of worries, like he was scared he had somehow ruined her experience, that she’d been disappointed- and he couldn’t live with that, because it’s her, and because they’ve waited for damn too long to get here and everything should just be perfect and good, and their life is anything but, and could they pretty please at least get the sex part good?

She laughed- of that laugh that he had always loved so much, that smile that reached her eyes and just changed her whole features into ones of stunning beauty, and she smashed him a few times on the chest, playfully. “Yeah, well, did you have any doubt? You have, like, tons of experience…” She opened her mouth as to say more, but the she bit her tongue and she didn’t- instead, she simply blushed.

“What?” he asked quizzically; she answered nothing, but it was too quick, and it was in that moment that he knew she was lying. “C’mon     Chris….”

She sighed as she understood he would have never let it go of the subject; he kept staring at her, and she sighed and admitted her truth, huffing a bit annoyed. “I know that we always joked about me and my evil exes and that Starks are natural born womanizer and femmes fatale, but at the end of the day…” She sighed, and started counting on one hand. “The number of relationships I had had can be counted on one hand- one and an half tops.”

Clint looked at her quizzically, not really knowing how he was supposed to react: laugh? Trying to reassure her? “Ok, first, sex is always good for men, whatever they told you. Second, if anyone ever told you that you weren’t’ able to make  a man feel good, he was an idiot. Because there is a reason I’m going to  spend the rest of my life worshipping at your altar and begging for forgiveness for I didn’t jumped in your arms the moment you stopped those robbers the day we met.”

She smiled, tenderly, sweet- and for a second, Clint could see her in the future, kneeling at the side of Francis’ bed, reading him stories and kissing him goodnight, with that same expression on her face. “You know, for the first time…It felt good- and… clean, I guess?.”

“You mean it was too vanilla for your tastes? I thought I had reached the right mix but, that’s cool. There’s always room for improvement, right? I can… I don’t know, read the Kamasutra, maybe. I can even have a chat with Starfox, if that’s what you need…!”

“That’s not what I mean.” She admitted, blushing. “I mean that… it felt… right. Like.. a connection of the souls, you know?” she paused, pouting, her lips so kissable that he was getting crazy- he just had to kiss her again, forget the world and their dangerous and crazy lives in her arms and the sweet caress of her soft lips. “If you ever tell anyone that I’ve said something so corny, I’ll torture you. And I’ll deny it for the rest of our lives. Got it?”

Clint nodded, his eyes filled with devotion, like he wasn’t the same womanizer she had met over a decade ago, but a gentleman from the ancient times- and there was something else added to the mix- he was as happy and carefree like he hadn’t been in a long time.“ I know what you mean, Chris. That’s how you made me feel too… like we weren’t having sex… but making love. Because, honey… I love you. I truly do. He said, and, leaning over her, he captured her lips in another searing kiss. “And now, sweetheart, if you don’t mind… allow me to show you again just how much I feel for you.”

She smiled against his scarred and taunt skin, her touch sending shiver all over his body- and yet, Clint had never felt so hot.

Just do your worst….”

Chapter Text

“Do you know who I am, Mr. Barton?”

Charles Bernard Barton stared from his hospital bed at the young woman who was  standing at the doorstep with an hand on her right side; a young brunette with perfect hair, dressed with elegant clothes- matching shirt and pants, a red vest, heels to die for; at first, he didn’t recognized her- he wondered if maybe she was SHIELD, or if his ex pals at the FBI had sent her there; but she was too elegant  for being a fed; then, she stepped closer to him in the room, and he noticed first thing first the necklace – the X-Men symbol- and he recognized her; maybe Christine Antonia Stark wasn’t as famous as her brother (a destiny they shared, apparently) but, still, CNN had done a pretty number on her when she had outed herself as a mutant while fighting off The Ghost in Manhattan while shopping.

Besides, he liked to keep himself informed on the super-powered community. And she also seemed to be around his brother a lot, so, really, it was impossible for him to not know her.

“Yeah, I know who you are- and frankly, I don’t care. That’s the door, sweetheart.” She chuckled as she got closer and closer to his bed, smirking; part of her was amused- not by the situation, of course, but because Bernard was really a lot like Clint. It seemed that they had done nothing but fight- and yet, they were almost the same. Sibling rivalry- she guessed it was as old as the world itself, and that few things couldn’t be helped. No matter what.

“That’s your blood, collected at the Crime Scene where you attempted on your brother’s life.” She simply said, sitting at the side of the bed and playing with a vial in her hands, filled with dark red liquid. “At a first examination, it seems you are a perfect match to your brother’s tissues. Do you know how rare it is, Mr. Barton? Even between siblings?”  She paused, and looked at Barney, concentrated and serious. “I’ll tell you. Between siblings, it’s one on four. Pretty good, but, still- rare.”

Sitting on his bed, Barney looked at the woman; he wasn’t feeling anything, really- the only thing he wanted was to have her out of the room, and preferably his life as well. “Why should I care?”

Chris stood and went to his side; she was petite, so petite she couldn’t scare him, even with the heels. “Clint suffered brain damage recently, and he is getting blind. There’s an experimental therapy  with staminal cells we can try- but we need them from a compatible subject. You.”

Barney chuckled darkly. “Sorry lady, but why exactly should I care whether my brother gets blind or not?”

As he studied her- just like he had learnt at the FBI, when he was a profiler, barney saw her features change; she was Christine Stark, full of herself and arrogant- just like her brother- but right now she was a different woman, she was someone who suddenly looked older than her actual age and sad- like she had been defeated by life, or was about to.

“I know you don’t- but I do care about your brother.” Probably more than I should, she mentally added between herself.

Barney kept chuckling, never breaking eye-contact with her. Just like he had been trained to do. “Ok, and I should care about  what you want because…?”

Sighing, the vial of blood on the nightstand, Chris carefully removed her necklace, and showed him to Barney; like it was an hypnotist’s pendulum, she made it oscillate right before his eyes, so that he could see it clearly. “The X on my pendant? It’s not for show, Mr. Barton. I’m an X-Men.”

Barney simply stared at the necklace, gulping down a mouthful of saliva, he didn’t know where she was going- but he didn’t like it. Not at all. “So? X-Men don’t kill. With the exception of the Canadian one, Wolverine. And, even if you are as tall as him- you are no Wolverine, sweetheart.”

Chris chuckled, a bit darkly. Her eyes were suddenly filled with sadness, and what Barney assumed was regret, mixed with something else- shame, maybe? Guilt?  

“If your file is not mistaken, at the time the team of renegade mutants known as X-Force was operating under what the United Nations assumed was a terrorist leadership you were with the FBI, am I correct?” Barney didn’t answered- but he didn’t deny her claim. “So, I must assume that you were aware of their… methodology. What I wonder, though, is if you were aware that I was part of that team and that the shadow organization had been recently rebuilt under new leadership- Scott Summer’s. Which I assure you is not exactly the best man on the planet. He and his son had always had a very… heavy lifting approach on things. Kill or be killed, let’s say. And Summers recently recruited me for this pet project of his…”

Chris paused, her eyes on the ground, she took a big breath, and then stared again at Barney’s eyes. “I don’t like what I have to do, Mr. Barton. But I know that sometimes it can’t be helped.  And your brother- Clint- he is the most important person in my life. And call me selfish- but I need him to live.”

Barney simply sighed. “Yeah, all right, you are deadly- by why should I help you, uh? I’ve tried to kill my brother times after times. And finally I’m getting my revenge on him. He’ll lose everything he has always been.”

“Mr. Barton, you haven’t been listening carefully. What I’m telling you is that I am dangerous- and that I’ve been around a lot. I’ve learnt the most important lesson of them all- that there’s no need to kill a man to break him. That it is actually pointless.  But every man has a weak point- and that’s what I’m good at, finding them. So  maybe you’ll not help me, and you’ll not save your brother’s sight-despite everything he has always done for you- but I can guarantee you that I’ll look around. That I’ll eventually find something- anything- and I’ll take it away from you. In the most painful way possible. Without killing anyone.”

Barney looked at her- really looked at her- and, in the blink of an eye, he took a decision; it wasn’t that he was scared of her, nor that he had anything he held dear- those times had been long gone, after all, distant memories of his time with the FBI and the military- but it was the fact that she was willing to lose herself. To lose Clint’s friendship- and the respect of the people she held dear, who trusted her. All to save his brother’s sight.

Whoever this woman was to Clint, his brother didn’t deserve her in the slightest- not if he wasn’t ready to give her as much in return. Not if he wasn’t already paying her back in kind. Which he doubted. He wasn’t even sure if this woman herself knew what she and Clint were to each other, after all. But she loved him, somehow- of a deep, total and all-engulfing love, the kind of feeling that people could easily die for.

He chuckled, shaking his head, knowing all too well that now his baby brother was going to owe him, that he would never forget this, and that, one day, victory would have been all the sweeter- they would have fought again, and Barney would have win, and the last thing Clint was going to see would have been Barney’s face as he grinned as he took away his life. “Ok, Lady… where do I sign?”

Chapter Text

“Doctor Xavier?” Charles turned on his heels as soon as he heard the deep voice calling his name; paper-cup of warm tea still in hand, Charles quizzically looked at the two men slowly approaching him; one was, probably, as old as Xavier himself, while the other looked older, and the eyepatch he spotted gave him a scary expression, while his whole demeanour called for respect.

And yet, Charles didn’t see any of it; he chuckled, his grin getting bigger and bigger with each and every step the couple took, for there was something very interesting about the duo- he could see them, and yet their minds were hidden from him, had he been an older and much more experienced men, he would have been scared- and yet, still young, he saw everything as a challenge, and the men as a curiosity to study and research.

“Do we know each other, Mister…” he asked as the men were right before him, offering his hand to shake to the eye-patched one; the man- a military, Charles guessed- grunted something under his teeth, but didn’t show any interest in answering to Charles’ kindness.

“How I know of you or who I am doesn’t matter, Doctor Xavier-   what matters is that I know things. It’s my job. And I know that you, Doctor Xavier, are the only one who can enter the London perimeter. And that if you will not do it in the next six hours, everyone will be dead. Starting with the child.”

Charles looked at him- and his companion- quizzically; he tried his best to look like a deer caught by a car’s lights, tried his best to pretend he didn’t know  anything, didn’t know what they meant- but there was only so much ignorance he could feign.

Besides, the cigar-smoking, eye-patched man wasn’t buying any of it from his look.  “Doctor Xavier, I know who you truly are- and I guess that you have no interest in sharing the tiny detail of your psychic powers with your fellow researchers.”

Charles threw the still half-full cup on the ground, the amber-colored liquid staining the immaculate white walls of the faculty; drops of the liquid fell on the man’s body too- and yet, he still looked at Charles’ eyes, without faltering, not even a little.

“Who are you, and how do you know…? Charles grunted at clenched teeth, his fists so tightly closed that his nails were leaving indentations in his own flesh.    

The man chuckled, showing some sign of change for the first time since he had opened his mouth up to talk with Xavier.

“I told you- it doesn’t matter who I am, nor how I know of you. What matters is that you know that something’s wrong in London, and you may very well be the only person who could deal with it.” The man paused, and Charles looked at him with rage, and yet, feeling defeated; the stranger was right- he had felt something… odd,  like a psychic spear pinching his own brain. But he hadn’t known where he had come from, nor who could be responsible; now, though, he was finally starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

There weren’t so many mutants in the world yet- and in London, he had met a young man, a fellow telepath, with his daughters. Could it be that Michael Johnson was responsible for what was happening? Or was it maybe his eldest daughter, Ellison? She was of the right age, after all- she could have very well developed powers such as her father’s-  even if Charles himself wasn’t sure if mutation could be passed down from a generation  to the next one…

“Few hours ago we lost contact with our assets with MI 13 and Black Air in London; we’ve sent a team of agents to investigate, but minutes after entering the city’s perimeter, we lost contact with them too- as a matter of fact, there’s been no communication of any kind out of London in the last few hours. Using our unique… devices, we’ve been able to pinpoint the cause and point of origin of this anomaly.”

Charles sighed. “Ellison Johnson. It happened what her father feared- she inherited his gift.”

“I fear it may be worse than that.” The other man sighed; black hair, he looked suddenly older than his actual age.

The military man grunted something, and rolled his eyes. “Doctor Xavier, meet Doctor Strange.”

Strange bowed his head, his hands crossed at his back. “I knew Mister John’s wife very well. Tanya was a good friend. And a trusted ally.”

Charles looked from one man to the other, sweating and yet icy; his blood was running cold in his veins and, as he gulped own a mouthful of saliva, he understood Strange’s worlds- and what they truly meant. “What happened to them?” he asked in a single breath, the color drained from his face.

“We used…. Drones to surveils the house. Mister and Missis Johnson’s bodies were downstairs, and we haven’t found trace of their eldest daughter yet, and….”

Strange cleared his throat. “We believe that a common enemy I shared with Tanya is to be held responsible.”

The military man grunted again, clearly annoyed and disappointed that he had been interrupted by Strange. “Almost the whole city of London is in a kind of trance- like in a coma- and the only human being awoke in the delimited perimeter  is the Johnson’s child- their youngest.” He underlined.

Leaning against the closest wall, Charles took a big breath, and massaging his curly brown hair, he started to talk- more to himself than to others. “It may make sense. Michael wasn’t the first mutant of his family, and if he did pass down the mutation to his daughter it stands to reason that she may have developed it sooner than her father did. And if she had witnessed her parents’ murders…  the trauma may have triggered her powers.”  Charles stood still, and, realizing what the stranger meant, he faced him, filled with rage. “But you already knew all of it, don’t you?”

The man only chuckled- and for the first time in his life, Charles desired to actually kill someone; how could he be so calm when they were thinking of killing a five years old?  How could he make fun of it?

“The chopper’s not going to wait for you, Doctor- if the child lives or dies, now it’s up to you.”

Saying so, he turned on his heels, and he left- followed by Strange; once outside the faculty, Strange was the first one to reach the chopper, while the other stood behind, and turned, chuckling yet again, to face a black haired man who was looking at him with crossed arms- exasperated, and yet worried.

“Nick, “ He said. “You promised me that she would have been safe. You promised.”

But Nick shook his head. “I said no such a thing, Howard- if she lives or dies, it’s up to Xavier.”

Howard Stark took a big breath. “Nick, she is like a daughter to Maria and me… I promised her father that I would have taken care of her if something was to happen to any of them.”

Nick shook his head. “Like I said- it’s not up to me. But, if the girl lives, you can keep her- after all, you know that we don’t care how we get rid of babies, right?”

Howard clenched his teeth. He had stopped liking Fury a long time ago, fearing that being the man at the wall would have driven his mad- well, maybe he hadn’t turned mad yet, but he was definitely heartless.

“Are you even here, Fury? Or is this another one of your precious LMD?”

Fury shuddered. “Why don’t you ask him?” he chuckled, as, at his back, Charles was running in their direction.

“Where’s Strange?” Charles asked, and looked quizzically at Howard, wondering who this other man could be, and why he was looking at the eye-patched man with such hatred- not that he blamed him, he had knew him for ten minutes and already he felt the desire to brainwash him into thinking he was a classic ballerina.

Fury looked at the chopper- but he couldn’t see anyone inside any longer, if not the pilot. “I guess he’ll be on his own.” He said, under his breath, as he walked to the chopped, followed by Xavier, who turned to look at the older man- one who looked a lot like billionaire Howard Stark- standing still.

“He is not coming?” Charles asked. But the man- who was addressed by the pilot as inly “sir” didn’t answer. Xavier took a big breath, and  got ready for a long, silent, trip.

                                                         


The eye-patched man Charles couldn’t read had left him outside of London, and had given him a car and instructions as how to reach from his location the Johnson’s place; Charles had immediately built all his walls up, ready to face any incoming psychic attack. Even it, as soon as he drove into the perimeter, he understood it wasn’t an attack per se; it was more like… a cry, filled with anger, desperation and, on top of that, fear.

SHIELD- because Charles had guessed it was all about the spy organization- was ready to use machines and robots to kill a child- a five years old that wasn’t doing any of this on purpose; he couldn’t allow it- because she had no fault, and because he couldn’t allow anything to happen to such a bright mind- didn’t matter how scared he actually was of how powerful she was, and at a such tender age.

The city looked a lot like what he imagined it to be during the War- Christine’s psychic cry had hit the citizen suddenly, didn’t matter what they were doing or where they were in that instant; few of them were frozen in the moment, others were unconscious. A lot of them had crashed their cars, and Charles shook his head, hoping that the child would never know of the people who had lost their lives on that day because of her powers.

As soon as she arrived right before the Johnsons’ residence, he massaged the bridge of his nose and took a big breath; his head was buzzing, and he was getting an headache- worse, he felt like he was having an hangover having an hangover; he slowly made his way into the mansion, dark despite the hour of the day, and what he saw in the entrance made him sick to his stomach.

SHIELD had prepared him- and Strange had said that, no matter what he would have found, it wouldn’t have been pretty- but, still, Xavier’s wasn’t anywhere close to ready for the bloodbath he was facing; bloods everywhere, parts of body ripped, there wasn’t a lot that remained of what Michael and Tanya were, if not their glassy, grey eyes looking at him, like sinister ghosts judging him from beyond their grave.

And then… he hard it.

A quiet sobbing. A child’s gentle cry coming from upstairs.

His head beating in time with his heart, Charles run upstairs, following the trail of blood; he walked down the corridor, and then entered a  dark room and turned on the light; white and light pink wallpaper covered the walls, adorned with pictures of the family with their youngest child. The room was tidy and comfortable, filled with love- the bloodstains marring the carpets and the floor the only off-key element.

Charles made his way to the semi-closed wardrobe, and tentatively opened it; there, in a corner, covered and hidden by clothes and covers, stood Christine, hugging a teddy-bear that looked bigger than she did. She was covered in blood and tears., and the irony smell was nauseating. He could understand why the kid had gotten so… extreme, reacting the way she did.

That baby’s killing them. Either you stop her or one of my machines will, Xavier. Fury whispered in his ear through the almost invisible communication device, remembering the mutant of what was at stake there.  

“Ehy.” Charles whispered, trying to gently grab the crying baby, but she took a step back, flattening herself against the wood. “Chris, do you remember me? I’m Charles. I was a friend of your dad. I’ve been here a few times. I’ve come to help you out.”

The child looked at him for what felt an eternity, and Charles swore that he could hear in the distance the sound of a loaded rifle; he was at loss, for he feared that, if he were to try to be forceful, he could have made things worse.

So, he just offered her his hand- without sayin a word- and after the longest time she jumped in his arms, and hid herself in his chest. Charles hugged her, soothing the child, not carrying about the stains- blood and tears- on his once pristine and immaculate shirt.

Then, once she was a little calmed down, he touched her temples with his indexes, and stared in her dark eyes, Christine stopped crying, and after taking a breath, she lost her senses, falling like a ragdoll in his rams; one by one, every mind in the city started to came back to him, like thousands of lights being turned on yet again, and the pain he had felt until that moment disappeared.

“Good job, Doc.” A voice at his back said, and Xavier, child still in his arms, turned to see the spymaster, rifle in hand.

“What kind of monster are you?” Xavier asked- wondering if the spy was more inhuman because of his coldness or because he couldn’t read him, hadn’t been affected by the girl’s psychic powers at all.

“what do you plan on doing with her?” Charles asked, disgusted, but knowing that he had to make such a question.  

“We aren’t the Russians- we don’t train children to be our weapons. She already has a family waiting for her. A normal family.”

Charles looked at the girl in his arms, unable to take his eyes away from her. “She can never know what happened here today. No one can. You’ll clean the crime scene, and you’ll tell everyone that it was a car crash.”

“I have people who already…”

But Charles cut him short. “I’ll deal with them. No one can know- because otherwise she’ll find out, and something worse than this could happen.” Charles paused, and shook his head, he stared at the spy with plea in his eyes. “I blocked her powers, but sooner or later she’ll get them back, and next time I’ll not be able to do it again.”

The spy just nodded. “Ok. Ok. Fine.” He sighed.

As the spy turned on his heels and left the house, Charles followed him, the sleeping baby still in his arms; he looked down at her peaceful face, knowing all too well that her innocence was now gone. But she wasn’t completely lost yet. There was still hope for her.

And he would have been at her side, from that moment on, he would have kept contact with her. Made sure that her powers came back only when they were supposed to- and how they were supposed to. He would have trained her. Made sure that she was ready for whatever would come her way.

No matter how she was going to be called in the future.      

Chapter Text

“I don’t understand why I had to come to this thing. I hate this sort of things.” Tony was desperately trying to loosen his bow-tie around his neck as he walked down the corridors of the Asgardian Royal palace; Arno, at his side, was grinning, while Chris was nothing if not infuriated with her siblings- frankly, in her honest opinion, both Tony and Arno were behaving like children.

“Stop bickering, you two!” She hissed at low voice as she turned to face them; her face had reddened slightly for the sudden burst of rage she was feeling; she knew she was an adult- but in theory, they all were, but her brothers were almost a decade older than her. And yet… they still behaved like grown-up children. It was like getting back in time- only, when she had been a teen-ager, she only had had Tony to look after, and no previous knowledge of Arno’s existence or that Tony too had been adopted, just like her.

Or that, just like her, he was actually British.

She lifted her right hand and, facing her brothers, started to count on her fingers, the annoyance as clear in her voice as possible. “Fist, you love this sort of things, you megalomaniac. Second, we are all here because this is a celebration for Angela’s return home- and the three of us have all been in the Guardians with her, at some point. Third, stop acting like a child. My son’s a teenager and you don’t hear him complaining!”

Francis lifted one of his perfect light brown eyebrow; even if he wasn’t even seventeen, he had learnt all of his father’s mannerisms and expressions; Chris would find it almost scary at times- even if Clint used to say that the puppy-dog eyes were all the boy’s mother’s, she was quite sure that the baby blue he had inherited from the Barton Clan helped too.

“Something to say, son?”  She asked him with the same expression he was spotting, her arms crossed; Francis merely shrugged, like to say, I just don’t care about getting involved in whatever you and my uncles are getting involved into.

“Oh, I think he may have a lot to say- the story this young man could tell! Don’t you think, my love?” The Starks stopped bickering, and turned to welcome the Royal Princesses of Asgard; Sera- the one who had talked- was chuckling, her masculine demeanor at odds with the gentle waves of her long, dark hair, or the shiny perfection of her black dress that did nothing but increase her natural features and her Angelic beauty.

“Yes, I think you may be right. But I guess we are all in the same boat, as they say on Earth. The lots of us have histories to tell- some of which are meant to be left unsaid, I fear.” Angela was as beautiful as never before; she was showing a lot less skin than usual, clad in a soft red dress, and yet she was fascinating and looked, for once, the part of the princess. Chris would have chuckled when she noticed, peeping from the long skirt, a pair of shoes; they were a Louboutin, metallic red and gold, all points and thorns. Chris could still remember when Angela had gotten them; she had come to Earth, and they had gone shopping- even if the princess had claimed to actually hate it- and yet she had fallen in love with those shoes, claiming they were all her.

“Oh, Angela, my beloved, worried of what my ears could hear!                 Like I could be some delicate flower… trust me, Princess, I’ve been in Hela’s embrace. Nothing could scare or even traumatize me!”  Sera turned to look at the humans, smiling. “My beloved Princess of Asgard. She is a real angel at heart, isn’t she?”

Tony chuckled, and cleared his voice; he approached the dark-aired angel, and gallantly kissed her hand, bowing. “I’m delightful to finally meet you, Lady Sera. The Guardians told me a lot of you. Allow me to introduce my siblings. Arno and Christine…”

Sera hummed something under her breath, looking funny at Stark; she shook her head, making Angela laugh- a rare and delightful sound for all of them. “Yes, I’m aware of who you all are. My beloved served in more than one version of the Guardians, and she is well acquitted with all of you. Which is why I know that you should introduce yourself  as Lady Christine’s brother- she is far more important and talented than you ever could be.” Sera turned to look at Chris, sighing, shaking her head like she was a disappointed parent.

“My dear, I hope you understand that you are far better than him- and that in truth, he is not even worth polishing your wings.”

“Been a while since I’ve got the full handle to the Digitabulum powers and got wings.” Chris told Sera, grinning, an hand on the fallen Angel’s shoulder. Sera laughed, a loud “Ah!” that reverberated through the halls of the palace, and patted Chris on the bare skin of her back; the golden fabric left little to the imagination there, and Sera hit, hard, just where the tattoo of Angelic wings stood, making the mutant grimace. Even after years, she still grimaced at the memory of the pain felt when the needles had marked her skin- a pain she had welcomed, feeling the need to create some sort of connection, of memory, of her time at the Citadel of Light.

Francis had been, gladly, left out of the discussion; he knew Lady Sera well enough to be aware that she would have soon started lecturing his mum on how wrong she had been in preferring men to women; it wasn’t like he got mad- he knew Sera only joked and actually liked his dad- he had heard stories of them getting deliriously drunk together along with the Odinson- but it was, well, annoying after a while.

Besides, he hadn’t gone there to listen to her trash-talking men, nor to be his mum’s escort- she was still more than able to handle herself, thank you very much.

“Lady Sera….” He asked her, clearing his voice; Sera wasn’t even listening to him, though; she was far too occupied with being herself, asking his mum if her husband knew what that shiny number did too her (and his mum was far too occupied being a Stark- answering things as such that her husband had seen her in far more little and shinier numbers than that). Angela, though, seemed to take mercy on him, and signed Francis to come close, as soon as he did, she moved slightly to her left, and revealed, hiding behind her, her niece, Torunn- princess of Asgard and the reason Francis had allowed his mum to drag him to a ball.

The blonde heir to the throne of Asgard blushed as soon as she met the archer’s eyes; she hugged herself and focused all her attention on her feet, hoping that her long-tome friend would just stop staring at her open-mouthed. She could hardly stand it. It was just… odd. Francis was one of her best friends, when they had traveled to the past he had been nice and sweet with her, and… she just didn’t know how to behave around him. Around any boy, actually. But “her” boys? They were supposed to have history, and yet their trip in the past had erased all of that, in a way. They all remembered a story that had never took place, they felt differently, and yet they were the same.

She wanted to groan. Was that what being a teenager was supposed to be like? Because if it was, she definitely preferred immortality, thank you very much.

Oh, look. He didn’t inherited daddy’s charm. Or my own, for what matter s. Tony thought chuckling, as he gossiped with Angela about Peter Quill’s latest antics. He and Pryde were back together, and this time they kept saying they were going to get married. Frankly, he doubted it- those two were worse than Clint and Chris -his sister and her husband had given up after their third attempt at a ceremony, deciding to elope without telling anyone.

“Are you done staring, Barton?” Torunn roared; it was a strange contrast; she seemed like a delicate flower with the long, soft, bloom-colored dress and the small heels, and the hair in that perfect way that made her actually look like the princess she was.

“Actually, sweetheart, I don’t think so…” Tony chuckled- thinking that maybe, just maybe, his nephew did have the moves, but then he saw, with the corner of his eyes, Torunn glaring at him, and he took his words back when Francis gulped down a mouthful of saliva and took a step back, clearly scared by the blonde fury. Tony mumbled something between himself, wondering if, maybe, Francis wasn’t just like his father- it was clear he lacked the charm the Stark boys owned in spades, but to make up to it, he was just like his father used to with Chris. When those two idiots pretended to not like each other.

“Francis Charles Edward Barton! You will not treat me like one of those bimbos you surround yourself with just because I’m wearing a dress! Have I been clear?!” The girl hissed in his face.

“Ehy! I resent that! I don’t like bimbos! I’ve got more class than that!” He grunted, fisting his hands in the pockets of his suit; after that, he and Torunn stood in an uncomfortable silence for what felt like an eternity, staring at each other, him with hands in his pockets, her at crossed arms- something that did nothing if not show off curves that Francis wasn’t fully aware his friend had. “So?” He demanded, lifting his perfect eyebrow. “Your excuses?”

“I’m sorry?!” Torunn almost screamed at the top of her lugs, not believing her ears. “I’m the one who offended you? Just because I pointed out you were staring at me like a chauvinistic pig?”

“I am not a chauvinist pig!” He wasn’t even sure how it was actually written. Nor what it meant. Well, not 100% sure, at least. “I came here for you and that’s the thanks I got?”

“No one asked you to come here!”

“Fine!” “Fine!” they both screamed at the same time; they grunted, and yet, they took off in the same direction, right before their families, not even looking if they were followed or not; they arrived in the ball room, where royalties from all over the Galaxy was mingling, having the time of their lives and dancing the night away.

In short, they were doing exactly what teenagers dreaded and couldn’t stand.

“You want to dance or what?”  Francis demanded, offering her his hand; they were at each other side, not really looking at each other but right before them, uncomfortable; mostly, because they knew that, without each other, they would have gotten bored, would have been tapestry.

Torunn studied his hand for a second or two, then, biting her lips, she accepted it, looking quizzically at the slightly older boy. “Do you really know how to dance a waltz, Barton?”

He rolled his eyes. “Geez, of course I do. I may be called Barton- but the charm, it’s all Stark.” He grinned, chuckling shamelessly, turning on the charm.

It was Torunn’s turn to lift an eyebrow. “You remember what we said about you being a chauvinistic pig?”

Francis chuckled. “Actually, I’m not even sure why we argued at all, sweetheart. And don’t get me wrong- I always give people pet-names. I got it from mum. So, if I call you sweetheart, it’s not because I’m hitting on you.”

“Because otherwise you would tell me directly, right?” she grinned as he spun her around, her arms around his neck; Francis merely chuckled, as he kept dancing away- and it took a while, but then Torunn noticed that he wasn’t merely dancing- she was pretty sure they were going somewhere.  “Francis, where are we… Oh!”       

She smiled as they arrived in a darkened corner, where a semi-hidden stair- one that looked a lot like one from Cinderella- lead to the top of the tower; Francis smiled and laughed, and, grabbing Torunn’ hand, he run on the stairs, breathless, until they didn’t reach the top, and ended up on a balcony that stood above all of Asgard; from there, they could see the houses and the rest of the palace, the roads and even the Bridge.

“How come we always end up here when you come to visit me in Asgard?” Torun asked, curious and bright and smiling as she went to sit on the balustrade, kicking her feet like she was a little baby; she was grateful to Francis, for having dragged her there; yes, it was starting to became a little too much routine for them, but at least she wasn’t nor embarrassed, unused as she was to dresses, nor bored out of her mind, whishing that he parents had dragged her along for their latest adventure (which happened to be nothing more than an excuse to miss the ball).

Francis was smiling of a little smile- a bit sad, if she had to be honest, that made her heart both ache and beat ten thousand times faster. He was looking in the distance, his crossed arms leaning on the marble, his elbow touching her silk-covered leg and making her burn with something hot inside her she couldn’t name- and wasn’t sure she wanted to, too scared of losing him as her friend otherwise.

“Asgard remembers me of the Citadel of Light.” He breathed out.

“Where you were born?” She asked, looking not at the landscape, but him; she blushed, realizing for maybe the first time that Francis was growing-up, and he was becoming a man- and a fine one at that. “I may have magic running inside of me- and yet, differently from my aunts, I’ve never been there.”

Francis sighed, nodding; he didn’t know how to describe the Citadel himself; he remembered light and clouds and gold and marbles everywhere, and the gardens and the waterfalls and the fountains; he remembered running in the corridors of the Palace, and learning archery from his dad in the small wood outside the Castle; he had only one word for it- and it was fairy-tale.

“I miss it, sometimes. Even if I’ve never said so to dad. It’s not like he didn’t like it there- but they went there because they thought it was the only safe place for us, and I know that they argued about it. They think I don’t know- but trust me, my parents are exactly like any other couple out there. They fight, they make-up, they hold grudges. Just like everybody else.” Francis chuckled, turning to look at Torunn, his eyes gleaming a bit maliciously. “But I’ve always known that dad’s too scared and too much of a goof to even contemplate the idea of letting it go of mum. She was the only one crazy enough to actually marry Clint Barton, after all.”

Torunn showed him away, laughing- and soon he was joining in too. “You are an idiot.” She said. She had been laughing so much she had tears in her eyes.

“Ugh.” He groaned. “My mum’s gonna kill me when she’ll she that you’ve been crying. She’ll believe that I said something insensitive. Just like Uncle Tony.” He sighed, and moved right before her; smiling, Francis wiped her tears away with his thumbs, caressing her soft skin, and rubbing his thumb on her full, bloody red lips; the breath died in her throat as she saw him leaning over her, and she closed her eyes a little, mirroring his actions- she was pretty sure Francis knew way better than her how it was supposed to be done. Their lips were merely a whisper apart when they heard a loud thund at their back, and the door being slammed and everything followed by a full, hot bally laugh, one Torunn knew very, very well.

“Ah! Princess! Here you are! We were all wondering where you were hiding your royal beauty!” Volstagg laughed, a glass filled with the finest Asgardian beer in hand, and his belly clearly full with the warmest food available at the banquet.

Francis sighed, his hands in his pockets, cursing the demi-God, or whatever Volstagg happened to be; at the contrary, Torunn seemed quite amused- and grabbed him for the elbow, laughing, and dragged him back in the stairwell.

“Let’s go, Francis- I feel like dancing again, my kind sir!”

Francis smiled, shrugging, and then he freed his elbow from her grasp, and took Torunn’s hand in his own, and together they started to run. “Ok, but only if I can have some cookies afterwards!”      

Chapter Text

 

 

"

Ok, full disclosure: this whole teleporting thing? It still creeps me out.” As soon as they appeared on the doorstep of the magnificent Asgardian castle in a beam of light, Clint feel nauseous and slightly blinded, and he almost lost his balance, in his arms, his three years old son, Francis, merely laughed, thinking that his dad was joking.  Which he wasn’t- it could have been years, and yet, still, every time an Angelus Warrior teleported them somewhere, it still crept him out.

Chris, his beloved wife, instead? She was simply smiling- grinning, actually. Which he really couldn’t stand. He promised himself that he would have pouted and acted out later- just because she got powers and had been across the whole multiverse it didn’t mean that she got to get used to this whole thing sooner than he did. He was older, after all.

(Even if, technically, they kind of have been going at it for the same amount of time, given or taken.)

“And, just for the record: why do I have to wear my costume and you are in plain clothes? Don’t get me wrong, you look awfully well in white, but you should have worn your costume. Or you could have allowed me to be dressed in plain clothes.”

Chris lifted a perfect light brown eyebrow,  and smirked at the man she could now call her husband. “Black Kevlar makes people panic, hon. You at least have some accents of color. Besides,” she gently touched her son’s nose, Francis squealing in delight in his father’s embrace. “You do look well in this.”

Clint chuckled. “Nice. I wear my costume as foreplay. Good to know, Black, good to know….”

Firmly holding a small squared white leather box in her hands, Chris playfully elbowed him in the side. “Stop it or I’ll send you to sleep on Barney and Simone’s couch.”

Escorted by a guard, the Female Angelus Warrior at their side, they reached a door; the guard knocked, and an handmaid whispered something into the man’s ear; the woman nodded, and showed them inside, lowering her head in side of deference to the hosts coming from the Citadel of Light.

“Clint, my good friend! You do are alive then!” As soon as they had entered the room, Clint had been almost knocked down by his friend’s pat on the back; strangely enough, it was yet another thing Francis seemed to find amusing.

“We’ve seen each other last week, Th…” Clint stopped himself, and cleared his voice; so many years, and yet he still called his friend by his old alias. “Odinson.” He corrected himself, blushing a little.

“Yes, I guess it is. And yet, I feel like my beloved has been here for far longer than that.” Odinson said, turning to face the bed by the huge window; here, was sitting his bride, Lady Sif, her eyes fixed on the crib at her side.

Clint chuckled. “Yeah. Trust me, I know exactly how you feel.” He did- and yet, it was even different for him. Yes, the Odinson had known that Torunn’s birth was an eventuality- but back then, Thor had been easy-going… he would have been delighted to have a daughter, but had it not happened, it would have been the same. Clint had felt disbelief, had decided the kid had to be wrong- and yet, when Francis had returned, and told him who his mother was… well, suddenly, Clint Barton couldn’t wait any longer to meet his son.

“I think, my friend, that you’ve desired your heir far more than I ever did.”

Clint didn’t say anything, he just looked at his wife, holding hands with their son, approaching Lady Sif.

“Lady Sif,” She said, kneeling before the Queen of Asgard. “We compliment you on your daughter’s birth.”

Sif shook her head, her long, black hair dancing in the air. “There is no need to kneel right before me. We may not know each other very well- but all the Avengers are my friends, and I believed you understood I value your friendship in particular, lady Christine- and the alliance with the Mistress of the Citadel of Light.”

Chris took a seat on an armchair at Sif’s side, and Francis went immediately to look at the crib, while his mother offered the white-leather box to the Queen. “My sister, Lady Ellison, sends her regards. She wishes you well, and begs for your forgiveness, but her presence was needed in her domain.” Chris opened the box, revealing three delicate and yet intricate medallions.  “They are forged from the finest blacksmiths of the Reign of Light, made by the same metal Excalibur itself is.”

Smiling as she saw the young boy trying to get the sleeping infant’s attention, the handmaid took the princess in her arm, and gave her to her mother; without being asked first, Francis soon jumped on the bed, free-spirited just like his father, and looked astonished, in awe, at the baby girl, whose blond curls were covering her whole head.

“Baby’s very pretty!” he said, going closer and closer to the semi-sleeping infant; she opened her cerulean sleepy eyes, and made some sounds- and from the look on her face, she definitely seemed very happy- an happiness that increased when Francis started to play right before her with a silver rattle.

“Yeah, that’s from us, instead. Not from Avalon or some other magical town, but it’s still antique. I thought she could have lied it.” Clint said, scratching the back of his head- still uncomfortable in admitting he was, indeed, a baby person.   

“Oh, that’s rather sweet that your betrothed choose a gift for my daughter! And such a fitting one!”

“Ah! Are you getting sentimental in your old age, Barton?” The Odinson asked out loud, patting yet again Clint on the back.

“First, I’m not old, second I’m not her betrothed any longer.”

. “Oh, you don’t say? And yet we didn’t receive any invitation for your nuptial…” Sif looked at Chris quizzically, smirking like she knew some big secret. “I assume you went through what the humans call “eloping”, then?”

Chris was going to give her some smart-ass answer, or maybe she would have showed just her brand new wedding ring, but she didn’t have time to, as Francis gained all of their attention; he was carefully and delicately playing with the blonde locks of the child’s hair, when he gently kissed her forehead, soundly and wetly- with a smile as big as the Empire State Building.

“Mummy, can I marry the baby when I grow up?”

Sif smiled, and messed with his hair. “You know Francis, both my husband and  would be delighted to have such an handsome young man as our son-in-law.”