Peter Parker is a high school student. He’s also really smart and so they’re letting him take a few college classes.
The first one he signs up for is photography.
There’s a photography club in high school, but he’s pretty much the entirety of it. At SHIELD university? There’s a whole bunch of people who like photography as much or even more than he does. It’s awesome and he feels almost like he fits in.
Not quite, because he’s younger than everyone and on the scrawny side, but these people like what he likes and he doesn’t feel like he needs to watch his back in case Flash decides it’ll be fun to throw another baseball in his face. There’s some group work and he honestly gets along with these people, falling in with a group that seems to appreciate sarcasm almost as much as he does.
Peter Parker does not have a crush on Clint Barton. He honestly doesn’t, because Clint’s too old for him and too broad-shouldered and okay, maybe Peter has a bit of a crush on those arms but mostly he just really likes hanging out with him because Clint doesn’t treat him like some kid and he takes amazing pictures and being in his vicinity makes Peter feel like he’s better at photography, like he’s actually doing something worthwhile and it’s great.
There’s a sort of clique. It probably started out as just a few of them from the same department, Peter figures; not that he knows for sure since he only just joined them. Clint Barton studies photography. James Barnes (”Call me Bucky, kid, seriously.”) does film studies, Steve Rogers is his best friend and does art. They’re sort of joined by the hip and Steve’s a little intimidating because he’s so earnest and serious and good, but then sometimes Peter catches the corners of his mouth twitch up when Bucky makes some sort of filthy joke and, well, they’re both pretty cool. Thor’s a theatre student who joins them more often than not. He’s huge but also the most good-natured if exuberant guy in the group. He’s like a giant puppy. He brings his girlfriend sometimes, Jane, and she’s incredibly smart and maybe Peter’s spent a few hours last night curled up next to her, nodding along as she explained the hypothesis of her PhD proposal.
How great is it that he gets to hang out with people who’re working on their PhDs? Pretty fucking great, that’s how much. He loves it.
Thor’s brother (adopted, which explains how they’re basically polar opposites) scares Peter a little, but he doesn’t hang out with them all that often and, well, it’s a small price to pay.
So, basically, they’re all great and he can’t quite think of a reason why these people would let him hang out with them, but they do and he’s not going to question it.
“Hey Clint!” the words are out of Peter’s mouth before he realises that Clint isn’t alone in the grocery store, that there’s someone— same height, a dark, well-cut suit, broad shoulders and a receding hairline— with him and then both Clint and that someone turn around and— they’re holding hands. And Peter recognises that someone.
“You’re dating principal Coulson?”
One of these days, Peter is really going to learn how to not say every first thing that comes to mind. One of these days.
Clint raises an eyebrow. “Principal Coulson?”
Coulson looks a little embarrassed, almost. “I substituted for two months at his high school. I had some time and they needed someone.”
For a principal, Coulson had been okay. Peter had only been called into his office once, after Flash had taken things a little too far, and Coulson had looked at him, his face neutral and yet exuding an air of friendly resignation when Peter mentioned falling off his skateboard. “If that is the story you want to go with,” he’d said and Peter had nodded violently, even though that made him kind of dizzy, and that had been that.
So. Coulson and Clint?
“You know, I can see that,” Clint says, nodding slowly, and he’s still holding Coulson’s hand. Principal Coulson’s. It’s like finding out your parents are having sex except Clint’s more like a good friend, maybe his best friend, so that analogy just took a turn for the worse.
Peter doesn’t follow them. He doesn’t. It’s just that he still has a few pictures left on this film and they probably knows he’s there, anyway, so it’s not like it’s creepy and he gets a shot of Clint putting the groceries down and pulling Coulson (Principal Coulson) into a kiss, fingers curling over his hip and—
Peter snaps a shot, then another one when Coulson presses their foreheads together afterwards, both of them breathing a little faster if the way their chests are moving is any indication, and Peter feels kind of like a stalker now and like that was a moment he shouldn’t have witnessed.
That evening, he climbs up twenty stories on the fire escape to Gwen Stacy’s room and then throws stones at her window so he doesn’t have to knock. Maybe, just maybe, he can have a moment like that, too.
Peter develops the pictures and he takes the two shots of Clint and Coulson (what the hell is his first name, anyways, well, it’s nothing that can’t be looked up and, Phil, really?), the shots of Clint and Phil and slides them into an envelop and hands them to Clint the next time he sees him.
Weeks later, Clint brings Coulson to the café by the arts faculty where they all hang out, and once the round of introductions is through (”Guys, this is Phil.”), Coulson slides into the seat next to Peter, giving him a nod and mouthing “thanks” at him.
Peter doesn’t need to ask what for.