If there was one thing that Peter Parker knew to be true, it was that Clint Barton was nothing if not overprotective.
Example A: Clint mandated that Peter text him immediately before school an immediately after school every day to assure him that he hadn’t died, been kidnapped, or god knows what. Example B: Clint had never let Peter stay at home by himself for more than three days, despite how often he went on business trips that lasted longer than that period of time. Example C: Clint had flipped out when he’d first seen the black eye Flash had given him during their last fight (although for some reason he’d calmed down immensely when Peter had told him that it was just from a stupid schoolyard fight).
In conclusion, there was no fucking way Peter was going to tell Clint that he’d gotten bitten by a genetically modified spider while trespassing in top secret Oscorp labs and now had super-spider powers. Which, of course, was easier said than done.
Peter Parker was having a very, very bad day. Well, actually his day hadn’t been that bad – he’d tripped over Gwen Stacy’s bag in chemistry class and she’d looked at him and apologized to him – but as soon as he’d gotten home, it had taken a turn for the worst. As in, he’d gotten home to find Jasper Sitwell in the living room, which could only mean one thing: Clint had decided halfway through his business trip that his adopted son – who was more than capable of taking care of himself for a week, thank you very much – needed a goddamn babysitter.
It was really fucking annoying.
“Hey, Peter,” Jasper said, looking up from where he’d been sitting on the light purple couch that dominated the living room. “How are you doing?”
“Let me guess. Clint called you up an hour ago afraid that I’d burned down the house or something because I waited until half an hour after school to text him, right?” Peter replied, ignoring Jasper’s question.
“Something like that,” Jasper said, smiling up at the teenager, although there was something tense about his expression that made Peter pause. “He also wanted me to let you know that he’s going to have to extend his trip because they ran into some complications. He’s not sure when he’ll be back yet.”
“Is Clint bad at his job?” Peter asked suddenly, causing Jasper to give him an odd look.
“No. He’s actually really good at it,” the older man replied, clearly confused by Peter’s question. “Why do you ask?”
“It’s just that his meetings get delayed or extended a lot,” Peter said, shrugging as he put down his backpack and plopped himself down in an armchair across from Jasper. “I mean, he’s a project manager. What sort of problems could you run into that would take an entire extra week to solve?”
“Heck if I know,” Jasper answered, although Peter felt that, for some reason, he was trying not to laugh. “Ask your dad.”
Peter bit off the immediate reply of “He’s not my dad.” Don’t get him wrong – it wasn’t out of some sort of bitterness or teenage anger. He really did think of Clint as some sort of father figure. It was just did feel quite right, calling Clint “dad,” though. Peter hadn’t known his parents really well, as they’d both died when he was pretty young, but his aunt and uncle, who had taken him in after the accident, had essentially become his “real” parents.
Then, when Peter was twelve, Aunt May had a heart attack and died. It had been tough for both Peter and his uncle, getting by without her solid presence in the house, but they managed. Or, at least, they’d managed until about a year later. That was when Uncle Ben died. Incidentally, that was also the first time Peter met Clint. Uncle Ben and Peter had gone to the store late in order to get some supplies to patch up the pipes in the basement which had almost entirely flooded the basement at that point. Which was, of course, when he decided to try and stop a man robbing the store and got shot.
Peter had screamed, louder than he’d even thought was possible, as the shooter bolted. Another man had run around the corner, probably having heard either the gunshots or Peter’s scream, and had immediately set to work trying to stop the blood draining out of Uncle Ben’s chest and staining the sidewalk. He’d shoved his phone into Peter’s hands and told him, in a remarkably calm voice, to call 911.
Despite their efforts, Uncle Ben didn’t make it. But throughout the entire time Uncle Ben was in the emergency room, the man who’d stopped to help – Clint, it was Clint – had stayed with Peter, and when he’d found out that Peter had no other family, he’d offered to adopt him.
But no, Clint wasn’t “Dad.” Clint was kind, and brilliant, and amazing, but he wasn’t “Dad.”
“I have some homework to do,” Peter muttered, standing up again abruptly, his shoulders stiff. “If Clint calls, tell him that I’ve already bought all of the lumber to rebuild the house.”
He heard Jasper let out a small snort of laughter, and couldn’t help the way his lips twitched up slightly into a small smile as he started up the stairs to his room.
“Come on. Pick up, pick up, pick up!” Peter muttered, his cell phone clutched so tightly that his knuckles were almost completely white. “Clint – ”
“Yo – Clint Barton, here. Well, I’m not actually here at the moment, probably because I’m off saving the world or something, so leave me a message and I’ll try to get back to you sometime within this century,” Clint’s familiar voice intoned, his tone flippant.
“He’s still not picking up,” Peter said, fidgeting in the passenger seat of the black sedan and looking over at Jasper, whose eyes were fixed firmly on the road.
Or, rather, all of the traffic on the road. Peter heard him mutter something unintelligible (and possibly in another language) under his breath as he attempted to glare holes in the car in bumper of the green Camry in front of them. They hadn’t moved in a solid fifteen minutes, and the inactivity was clearly wearing on Jasper’s patience.
“Get out of the car,” Jasper said suddenly, turning off the engine and unbuckling his own seatbelt.
“What?” Peter replied, staring at him incredulously.
“Just do it,” Jasper snapped, taking Peter aback. He’d never heard Jasper use that tone of voice before. “We need to get out of here. Now.”
“Okay,” Peter said finally, scrambling out of the car. “Okay, where – ”
However, his voice was drowned out by a loud whirring sound coming from above them. He glanced upwards for a moment before doing a double take, eyes widening as a black helicopter with a stylized eagle insignia came to a halt, hovering directly over them. He was also fairly sure that his eyes nearly popped out of his skull when a ladder was dropped down from the helicopter and Jasper Sitwell, accountant, climbed up it with a deftness that suggested he did this every day. Which Peter was beginning to think he probably did.
“What the fuck are you waiting for, Peter?” Jasper yelled over the clamor of the helicopter blades. “Come on!”
Peter scrambled up the ladder after him, glad that his new spider powers helped him from getting all tangled up and making a complete fool of himself. He tried to ignore the people on the ground below him, leaning out their car windows to gawk and snap pictures. Jasper seemed unperturbed by the whole business and was instead waiting impatiently just inside the helicopter, looking down at Peter and urging him to hurry up.
“You brought the kid along?” a woman’s voice asked as soon as Peter finished hauling himself into the helicopter, her tone as cold and sharp as the glare she shot him from the pilot’s seat.
“What else was I supposed to do with him?” Jasper replied, brushing past Peter to stick his head into the cockpit. “Barton would kill me if I abandoned his kid in the middle of a fucking alien invasion.”
“Alien invasion?” Peter blurted out, trying not to gape at them. “What do you mean alien invasion?”
“You brought him along. You get to explain it to him,” Pilot Lady said to Jasper, shooting him an unamused look.
Jasper glanced back at Peter, his mouth set in a deep frown, and sighed.
Peter Parker stared across a large glass table inside of a gigantic flying aircraft carrier. Tony Stark stared back. Yeah, he couldn’t quite believe it either.
“Why is there a befuddled looking teenager sitting in my chair?” the billionaire announced, looking over at an imposing African American man sporting an eye patch. “Is it bring your kid to work day, because I have to say, you picked on hell of a day – ”
“Sitwell, what the fuck is he doing here?” Pirate Guy demanded, ignoring Stark and turning to Jasper who sighed yet again.
“I’ve been assigned to Parker since Barton was compromised,” Jasper replied, his tone controlled and unwavering. “I was on my way to drop him off at a safe house when I was called in. I had two choices – leave him or take him with me. I decided to take him with me.”
“Wait, what do you mean Clint’s been compromised?” Peter asked, his heart squeezing within his chest as worry built in him. “What’s going on here?”
“He’s been abducted by aliens,” Stark replied flippantly, seemingly unperturbed. “And now he has a fulltime job as a flying monkey for the Wicked Witch of the West.”
“Stark, you just told him that his father’s been kidnapped and brainwashed through film references. Have some respect,” a sharp, but thankfully familiar, voice broke in, and Peter almost audibly rejoiced.
“Phil,” Peter said, standing up from the table so quickly that he nearly tripped over his chair and walking over to the SHIELD agent. “Can you please explain to me what’s going on? Because half an hour ago I was sitting in traffic and now I’m on a flying aircraft carrier with Iron Man.”
Phil Coulson examined him for a moment, his expression carefully neutral in a way that made a wave of dread wash over Peter.
“Clint hasn’t actually been abducted by aliens, right?” Peter asked, hoping desperately that this was all some sort of elaborate joke. “Aliens aren’t actually a thing, are they?”
“Peter,” Phil started, pausing, as if he was unsure how to phrase whatever he was about to tell the teenager. “How much do you know about Clint’s job?”
“Apparently nothing,” Peter replied, unable to keep the frustration out of his voice. “Because now I’m pretty sure that he’s not a project manager and you and Jasper aren’t accountants.”
Peter saw Phil sigh and open his mouth to reply, however, before he was able to say anything, a huge tremor shook the helicarrier.
“One of our engines is down, Sir!” a severe looking woman announced, running up to Pirate Guy. “We’ve been boarded.”
“Stark – ” Pirate Guy, who was apparently the boss around here, started, only to be cut off by said man.
“Way ahead of you,” Stark said, already halfway out the door. “I’ll have the debris cleared in no time.”
“Widow’s dealing with the Hulk, but needs back up,” Phil announced, listening closely to the comm. in his ear.
“Still no sightings of Barton,” the strict woman who appeared to be second in command here said, giving all of the agents on deck rapid fire orders in between.
“I’m going to go secure Loki,” Phil stated firmly before turning to Peter and giving him the sternest look that he’d ever seen on the man’s face. “Peter, stay here. Do anything anyone in uniform asks you to do and don’t hesitate.”
“Wait! But I can help you – ” Peter started, not eager to reveal his secret spider powers, but ready to.
“We’re not playing cops and robbers, kid,” Phil replied with just a hint of a smile on his face, a knowing smile.
With that, he left.
Okay, so Peter knew that he was supposed to stay put. He knew that it was a good idea to stay put and that it was frankly dangerous to go gallivanting around in what was essentially a war zone, but the moment Stern Woman was nearly taken out by a grenade less than twenty feet from him, he decided that fuck it all – he wasn’t any safer here than in any other part of this ship. Therefore, he might as well do something helpful.
So, while everyone else was distracted, he decided to head in the direction that Phil had rushed off in earlier. Simple enough, right?
Except the fact that this place was a freaking maze. Logically, he was aware that it couldn’t be that big, but it felt gigantic. He ducked off into a small side room which appeared to be some sort of office and unzipped his backpack, quickly grabbing his spider suit and pulling it on, before running back out into the hallway and hoping that no one tried to stop him. Thankfully, most people were either on the main deck or trying to repair the damage in other parts of the ship, and he was able to sprint by relatively unstopped.
Then, in one of the emptiest stretches of hallway that he’d seen so far, he heard Phil’s voice coming from one of the side rooms. Naturally, he went inside.
Which was, of course, when he saw a strange man with a spear preparing to impale Phil. Therefore, he did the most logical thing – he stuck the guy to the wall with his web. Only, a moment later the guy disappeared, leaving only a mass of web clinging to the smooth metal of the helicarrier. Peter only had a moment to register a hot slice of pain as a blade slid against his side from behind him before a large blast of light shot by him, missing him by mere inches, but, going by the sound, hitting his assailant dead on.
Phil rushed over to him, dropping the strange looking gun he had been wielding and catching Peter as he swayed on his feet, trying to ignore the pain radiating from his side – which, of course, would have been easier if Phil didn’t insist on promptly balling up his suit jacket and pressing it firmly to the injury.
“Ow!” Peter exclaimed, peeling off his mask, so that he could properly glare at Phil. “Are you trying to kill me?”
“You are just like Clint,” Phil replied, letting out a small, almost amused, huff. “Also, thanks to that stunt you just pulled, you better know that he’s going to kill both of us.”
“He doesn’t have to know?” Peter suggested sheepishly, smiling lopsidedly at Phil, but at the same time gritting his teeth against the pain.
Phil just looked at the gash in Peter’s side and then give him his best unimpressed look.
“I’m going to be grounded for forever,” Peter grumbled.
“Peter?” a voice – a very, very familiar voice – exclaimed, and Peter turned around from where he’d been examining the plane – apparently called a ‘quinjet’ in front of him. “Peter, what the hell – ”
“Clint! I – ” Peter stuttered, only to be cut off by his guardian.
“What happened to your side?” Clint demanded, eyes widening as he rushed over to Peter to examine the bandages wrapped tightly around his side.
“It’s fine, Clint,” Peter protested, batting away Clint’s hands as he prodded the injury to find out its severity. “Just a scratch.”
“That is not just a scratch,” Clint retorted, glaring at Peter again, although there was more worry in his voice than anger. “Why are you even here? Sitwell was – ”
“Didn’t you hear? It’s bring your kid to work day,” Peter replied, going for deadpan, but unable to completely mask the anger and bite in his tone. “And here I thought I was going to learn all about what it’s like to be a ‘project manager.’”
“Peter – ” Clint started, a pained expression on his face.
“I mean, what the fuck even is this? You’re some sort of spy-assassin?” Peter continued, talking over his adopted father. “All of those ‘business trips’ were top secret missions or something?”
“It was for your own safety,” Clint replied, lips pressed into a tight line. “I have enemies – ”
“And so do I!” Peter exclaimed, motioning to the red and blue spandex suit he was wearing. “I think I’ve proven that I can protect myself by now – ”
“Peter,” Clint snapped, his jaw clenched firmly. “The people that I’m worried about are on a completely different level than car thieves.”
“But – ” Peter started, only to be cut off as Captain America (yes, Captain America) walked over to them, glancing in between Clint and Peter, before addressing Clint.
“We need to leave now. Widow says you can fly,” he said, looking at Clint, clearly still a little wary, but willing to trust him at least to a certain extent.
Clint nodded and stood up from where he’d been crouching next to Peter. Peter also stumbled to his feet, but was met with a sharp glare from Clint.
“You’re not coming with us,” Clint ordered, frowning at Peter.
“But I can help!” the teenager protested, grabbing onto Clint’s wrist, halting him in his tracks. “I saved Phil’s life today! What if I need to save yours?”
“What? What do you mean you saved Phil’s life?” Clint replied, his eyes widening. “Is that how you injured yourself?”
“That alien guy, Loki, he was going to stab Phil. I stopped him,” Peter shrugged, loosening his grip on Clint’s wrist slightly when the older man didn’t pull away. “And yeah, I got a little scratched up, but – ”
“No. No – you definitely can’t come with,” Clint said, his voice sounding strangely choked, strangled, as he pulled Peter into an unexpected hug. “I will not let him have you too.”
“Clint – ” Peter started, unsure what exactly to do with his arms, awkwardly patting the slightly shorter man on the back. Hugs weren’t something they did often. Or, well, ever, really.
“Look, Peter, I can’t – ” Clint said, pulling back from the embrace to look Peter in the eye, his expression serious. “Loki can control people – can control their minds. I was under his control of two days, and if there’s one thing I can tell you about the experience it’s that being controlled like that is worse than torture and it’s worse than dying. I can’t even begin to image what I’d do if he got a hold of you. So just… please, stay here.”
“I – ” Peter replied, willing himself to protest, but unable to find the resolve to. “Fine, but I expect a full explanation when you get back. No more secrets.”
“No more secrets,” Clint agreed, reaching a hand up to squeeze Peter’s shoulder and forcing a small smile before turning and rushing after Captain America.
Peter steeled himself for the wait, and tried to assure himself that Clint would be completely fine. He wasn’t very successful.
It had been nearly a week since aliens had invaded Manhattan. It had also been nearly a week since Peter Parker discovered that his adopted father was not actually a ‘project manager,’ but a secret agent and sniper working for the intelligence agency known as SHIELD. (He still couldn’t for the life of him remember what SHIELD stood for, but then again, he suspected that Clint couldn’t either.) Oh, also Clint was apparently a superhero now. Of course, Peter went to great pains to remind Clint at every possible opportunity that he’d technically been a superhero first.
Well, not that anyone really knew that Clint was Hawkeye. Peter always had a hard time not laughing when he saw the tabloid newspapers speculating about who the mysterious ‘Hawkeye’ was. Apparently he was either a mutant, a robot created by Tony Stark, or a time traveler from the middle ages (hence the bow). Those were the most popular theories, at least.
He was still having a little difficulty adjusting to the fact that his guardian was an Avenger. For example, he’d just come home from school to find Tony Stark sitting on a barstool in the kitchen while Clint stood at the stove cooking something.
“I’m home,” Peter said as he stood in the doorway, looking between Clint and the other man questioningly.
“Ah, perfect!” Stark announced, turning to Peter and grinning in a way that put him on guard. “What do you think about living in Stark Tower?”
Peter blinked at him, taken off guard.
“Uh,” Peter replied eloquently, floundering for words. “It would be cool?”
“Just because you’re as tall as me now doesn’t mean that you get a vote, Peter,” Clint broke in, still not looking away from the vegetables he was stir-frying.
“What? I’m taller than you,” Peter retorted, still confused about what exactly they were talking about.
“In your dreams,” Clint shot back, just as he did every time they had this conversation, and a small smile spread across Peter’s face.
“You just don’t want to admit that you’re shrinking, old man,” Peter laughed, walking over to look over Clint’s shoulder to inspect the contents of the pan he was stirring.
“Smart ass,” Clint said, knocking his shoulder against Peter’s. “Just for that, you get to set the table.”
“Two places or, uh, three?” Peter asked, glancing back at Stark again who had a strange expression on his face as he watched the two of them.
“Two,” Clint answered, without hesitation.
The smile on Peter’s face minimized slightly and he gave Clint an inquiring look, but his guardian just shook his head.
“I suppose that that’s my subtle cue to leave,” Stark announced, sliding off of the barstool and walking to the door, only stopping briefly in the doorway. “Don’t think that I’m going to give up this easily, though, Legolas.”
With that, Tony Stark departed, leaving Peter with even more questions than he’d started with. He looked over at Clint inquiringly, but Clint very pointedly ignored him. Well, it seemed like he’d have to do this the hard way.
“That sounded mildly ominous,” Peter said casually as he removed two plates from the cupboard. “Was he going for debt collector or pushy suitor?”
“Su – what?” Clint sputtered, incredulous, although Peter saw the tips of his ears turn slightly pink. Huh.
“You know, you didn’t have to kick him out on my account,” Peter continued, trying not to let out a laugh as Clint glared at him. “I’m not going to scare away your new boyfriend.”
“That’s not why he was here,” Clint retorted with a put upon sigh, “and he’s not my boyfriend.”
“Then why was he here?” Peter pried, setting down the plates on the kitchen table and going to grab silverware and napkins.
“He wants all of the Avengers to live in his little clubhouse,” Clint replied, wrinkling his nose in distaste. “Which is not going to happen.”
“Why not?” Peter asked, frowning. “You can’t honestly tell me that you don’t want to live in such an awesome place. Is he charging?”
“No,” Clint said, a little reluctant. “That doesn’t matter, though.”
“You can’t honestly be that attached to this place, can you?” Peter questioned, waving a hand around to indicate the tiny apartment. “I mean, how many times has the sink broken in this past month?”
“That’s not the point,” Clint grumbled, shooting Peter an annoyed look as he turned off the stove and began transferring the stir-fry from the pan to a ceramic bowl.
“Then what is the point?” Peter asked, filling two glasses with water.
“If I move into the tower, then sooner or later people are going to notice me and connect me to Hawkeye,” Clint answered, setting the stir-fry on the table before going to get the rice. “I’d like to keep work out of my private life.”
“You’ve had your coworkers babysit me since you adopted me,” Peter pointed out, raising one eyebrow at his guardian. “Plus, people are going to find out who you are eventually.”
“Yeah, but they don’t have to find out who you are,” Clint said, looking at Peter with a serious expression. “If we move into the tower, they’re going to notice you, too. I don’t want to make you a target.”
“Oh,” Peter replied, mulling over the thought in his mind.
Their conversation lulled, Peter still thinking through the situation as he chewed on his rice and broccoli. He looked over at Clint, examining him carefully, and his frown deepened as he noticed the bags under his adopted father’s eyes and the worry creases in his forehead.
“Why did you adopt me?” Peter asked suddenly, putting down his chopsticks.
“What?” Clint replied, surprised. “Why are you asking me now?”
“I don’t know,” Peter shrugged, looking back down at his food. “It just seems kind of inconvenient, you know – adopting a kid, a teenager, when you’re some superspy.”
“Okay, first of all, Natasha’s the superspy, not me,” Clint answered, pointing at Peter with his chopsticks. “Second of all, you already know why I adopted you. Finding out I work for SHIELD shouldn’t change anything.”
“So you really risked your job as a superspy,” Clint gave him an annoyed look, but didn’t protest verbally, “to adopt me because you thought I was a ‘good kid’ and remembered how bad the foster care system was back when you were in it?” Peter questioned, unable to keep the hint of disbelief out of his voice.
“Pretty much, yeah,” Clint replied, his tone flippant, as if adopting a young teenage boy was nothing. “And so far I was completely right about you. Although I have to say, I would sleep better at night if you didn’t insist on throwing yourself off of skyscrapers on a daily basis.”
“I learned from the best,” Peter said, a small grin on his face.
Clint let out a small huff of laughter. Peter considered it a victory.
“You know, it helps if you knock,” Peter said, trying to sound as bored and nonchalant as possible.
“Jesus,” Tony Stark yelped, startling and spinning around to look at Peter, who put on his best innocent expression. “I need to put a bell on you. You and your father. And is Natasha your mother, because – ”
“Clint is not my father and Natasha is not my mother,” Peter replied, brushing past the billionaire and pulling out his key to open the door to the apartment.
“Really? What is he, then? Because I’ve got to say – ” Tony began, following him into the front hallway.
“What is he?” Peter repeated, giving Tony an odd look. “I don’t know. Clint? My ‘guardian’? Also, are you supposed to be here?”
“Probably not,” Tony replied, although he seemed completely unconcerned with that fact. “Hey, by the way, how did you work out those web-shooter-things of yours?”
“Sorry?” Peter asked, blinking, confused by the sudden change in topic.
“You know, the things that you wear around your wrists that shoot out the web stuff,” Tony clarified, looking at Peter expectantly.
“How did you know about that?” Peter blurted out, staring at Tony. “The papers say that – ”
“Yeah, well, the papers also say that Black Widow and Captain America are having a threesome with another ex-soviet spy,” Tony replied, raising one eyebrow at the teenager. “Don’t believe everything you read, kid.”
“How about I show you how they work?” Peter said, eagerness bubbling up inside him, the fact that Tony Stark wanted to talk science with him dawning on him.
Which was, of course, how Clint found them when he came home three hours later.
“Peter, what the fuck is Stark doing in my living room?” Clint asked, his tone of voice deceptively innocuous.
Peter looked up from where he and Tony were sprawled out on the carpeted floor, pencil sketched plans of all sorts of gadgets scattered around them. To his left, one of his web-shooters was still only half put together from when he’d taken it apart to show Tony the mechanisms. Two half filled cups of coffee which had long gone cold were perched precariously on the edge of the coffee table along with three broken pencils.
“Uh, hey, Clint,” Peter greeted, smiling nervously and giving a small wave.
“You know what, I don’t want to know,” Clint sighed, eyes still roaming over the hastily scribbled sketches strewn across the floor. “I’m ordering pizza. What do you want on yours?”
“The usual,” Peter said as Clint pulled out his cell phone.
“I’ll have Hawaiian,” Tony added, earning him a glare from the archer.
“I didn’t ask you,” Clint grumbled, dialing the familiar number of the nearest pizza place.
He added a Hawaiian pizza to the order anyway.
“So, you and Tony,” Peter said casually over dinner the next night.
“Are not even friends,” Clint answered, as if on instinct.
“Uh huh,” Peter replied, doing his best to sound unconvinced. Which really wasn’t that hard.
Clint flicked a pea at him, and Peter laughed.
Somehow Tony Stark had become an almost permanent fixture in the Barton-Parker house over the past month. Of course, that didn’t mean Peter was prepared to come downstairs on Saturday morning to find Tony Stark wearing a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt that he was pretty sure belonged to Clint and swearing at their coffee maker.
“Hey, Tony, I – ” Clint said sleepily as he walked into the kitchen.
He froze when he saw Peter standing just inside the room and blinked, as if he thought that in his just-woken-up state he’d imaged the teenager there.
“So, does this mean we’re finally moving into Stark Tower?” Peter asked, looking between Clint and Tony.
“No,” Clint answered, just as Tony said, “Yes.”
Two weeks later, Peter had a new address.