Allison Willow stopped in the lobby of Avengers Tower to look around, awed; down here it wasn't all that visually impressive, everyone had seen the photos of the Stark Study Area with the free wifi, and the open lobby with folding chairs and a few foldout tables, which had been used in dozens of press conferences. She pulled out one of the tables and set up her camera. Game on. She streamed live to Twitch since she didn't have enough viewers for YouTube yet, though if all went well that would change.
"Miss, is there something I can do for you?" The mechanical overlay in the voice made her jump, whirling around and seeing no one. "My apologies. I am the Tower's resident artificial intelligence, known as JARVIS. Is there something I can do for you?"
She relaxed with a relieved laugh. "Yeah, yes. Uh, can you let the Avengers know I'm here? I'm Allison Willow, the reporter they've been talking to. I'm doing a project for college taking a stance on metahuman rights issues and the Avengers offered me a year of living here and doing a vlog to support it."
"Of course, miss. I recall the communication. Someone will be down shortly."
"Thanks." She said awkwardly to the ceiling. When silence fell again and she assumed JARVIS' attention had turned elsewhere, she went back to her camera. "So, that was my first experience with JARVIS, that's nice. I'm Allison Willow, and this is the first video in what I hope will be a year-long series depicting the Avengers in their relatively normal lives, here at home, to help people get in touch with who our heroes really are. I just walked into the public receptions lobby, there's a few people studying in the adjacent study area but it's pretty empty out here. JARVIS has sent a message up to the Avengers, so any minute we'll get a greeting party. I'm so excited to be here!"
The elevator doors opened so she cued the camera drone (Stark Tech) to autopilot focusing on the action with her StarkPad and turned to face the newcomer. A blond man with graying temples and purple sunglasses strolled out with hands in the pockets of his jeans. "Heyy! Welcome to Avengers Tower." He held a hand out to shake and she grinned as she shook it, noticing the scar on one of his eyebrows, numerous such scars on his arms and palms. "I'm Hawkeye. You can call me Clint. I handled a lot of our communication. Allison Willow, right?"
"Oh, hi! Yeah, that's me!" She let go of his hand after the surprisingly hard handshake and shook out her hand.
He noticed, of course. "Try a harder handshake yourself. The flex will protect you and a firm handshake indicates confidence." He advised. "So! You livestreaming or just filming?"
"Livestreaming. Is that okay?" She asked, suddenly nervous.
"Totally fine, just wanted to know so I didn't mess with you too much." He grinned. "And to avoid revealing any secret identities that are still, y'know, a secret. So, do you want to go get settled in and just rest tonight? I know it's kinda late in the afternoon, you probably spent a lot of your day traveling, so that's fine. If not though, a bunch of us are off duty and bored so we're screwing around in the common room if you wanna come meet the team."
Allison considered that. "How about I drop my stuff off in my room and then come up to the common room to meet everyone?"
"Sounds good." Clint picked up her bags for her. "You've been carrying these things all day, I've been on my ass. Helps the cardio. Sorry does this streaming service have rules about swearing or?"
She snorted. "It's fine, don't worry about it. It'll censor some words in the chat rooms, but it won't affect the stream. Well, thanks. I was gonna carry them myself, but, if you want to I'm sure not going to say no."
He gave her a keen smirk. "It's hard for you to accept a random favor, isn't it?"
She blinked. "Well ..."
Clint grinned. "Relax, I'll stop doing the creepy spy stuff now." They both laughed again as he led her to the elevator. "So! I was thinking we should go over the rules of you being here, again. I know you know, and we know, but your audience in the videos aren't exactly gonna have read our emails." He continued more professionally. "So let's get them on the same page."
Allison nodded. "Sounds good. Well, one of the rules I had coming here was that I wanted my own room and the ability to come and go as I pleased. I didn't want to be trapped here and I wanted to have privacy."
"Yep. And our only caution with that was that we wanted warned before you left your room with livestreaming on, for the sake of secret IDs." Clint hiked a few things up in his arms on the elevator. "JARVIS! Residential floors please, Allison's room. "In the contract we had you e-sign was the pledge that you would not personally use any information you learned here against us, including any secret identities revealed specifically to you and not to your cameras."
"Agreed. And you all signed the same agreement with my personal information just in case." Allison frowned. "Are we moving? The elevator didn't do the little jump thing that they do when they start."
"Oh we're moving, it's Starktech." Clint shrugged. "If you're at risk we reserved the right to relocate you to another safe house anywhere in the country. Tony wanted to say world but you said you didn't have a Passport so I put my foot down." He snorted. "We also reserved the right to ask you to stop filming at any point during livestreaming in case of injuries or bad mental reactions and so on that have nothing to do with you but we don't want broadcasted."
"Which I totally understand, I wouldn't want an anxiety attack type thing broadcasted either," Allison hurried to add.
"Right." Clint flashed her a grin. "Ohh, ordinary privacy things, no going into anybody's room uninvited, and obviously not bathrooms, uhh ... consider yourself having blanket permission to come in my main door into my suite, it just opens into a living room, anything private gets done in the bedroom or bathroom, so. Unless I specifically say so, you don't even have to knock. Anytime, day or night, doesn't matter if I'm there or not."
Allison was already shaking her head. "Yeah, no, that's not gonna work for me. I'm too shy, this whole blanket permission thing, I'm always gonna feel like I'm intruding."
Clint shrugged. "I respect that too. Just know that my door's always open. Unless I ask you otherwise, in which case, my wife's probably here, and we don't always make it to the bedroom before things start happening that other people probably shouldn't see ..." He winked teasingly and laughed at her uncomfortable look. "Relax, kid, we do like our privacy doing that, so you'll definitely get a warning."
Allison laughed with relief. "Yeah, sorry, not used to your sense of humor yet I guess, wasn't sure where the joking stopped. Thank you."
"Thank you. You're doing an amazing thing here." Clint told her encouragingly. "Also just so you're aware I may have asked JARVIS not to open the doors until we finished here just so we wouldn't get distracted so it actually wouldn't take this long to reach your room. Anyway! Okay, I think final permission thing other than the legalese we were required to run with you and the college, uh, there's a specific question I wanna talk to you about. I'm sure you're gonna ask it, that's okay, a lot of people wanna know the answer for a lot of us, I'm not gonna ask you not to bring it up, but ... I am gonna ask you to talk to me first."
"Okay." Allison said, intrigued, and added, aside, "This isn't a requirement we've gone over before. What question was this?"
"How did you get your powers. How did you become an Avenger, or a 'hero' or whatever. How did you get into this world." Clint rattled off. "Any variation of that. Like I said, I don't blame anyone for being curious, but those stories generally connect to- lemme drop some lingo on you- our TE."
Allison turned to fully face him. "Okay, I'll bite. What's a TE?"
"Stands for Traumatic Event. It's a pivotal, well, traumatic event that started us on whatever road brought us here. Totally valid question, but it can be really hard to talk about. So, I want you to come to me first, tell me who you want to ask, and I'll tell you how to approach it best with them. You can even ask me, take me with you to see them, and then send me away to make sure I'm not just dropping in to tell them to make something up before you get there." He grinned but sobered quickly. "It's just a really hard topic and while it won't be a big deal for everyone, it will be for others, and I need you to be respectful of that. It falls under the whole respecting our physical and mental limitations thing."
"Right, absolutely." Allison nodded. "This is your home, we have to keep it being a safe space for everyone." She raised her eyebrows. "But what about asking you that question?"
"Honestly? Shoot. My TE was like, my entire childhood, but I have five kids now and two of them are older than you, plus I'm pushing fifty, I'm pretty over it." Clint grinned over at her, a little sadder this time. "I mean, there's certain ways you're never quite over it, but you know, I'm not gonna break down or anything."
"Okay." Allison glanced over as the doors opened and Clint led the way out into a broad, slightly sloping hallway with widely spaced doors on each side, offset from each other. "So? How did you get into this? You're one of the ones with no powers, right?"
"Yep. This one's yours." Clint put everything down. "Left it pretty Spartan for you to decorate. But yeah." He ran a hand through his hair as Allison entered and dropped her luggage off, putting a few things away in the bedroom. He leaned in the doorway to explain. "So, my dad was a drunk. He was fine at work, but he'd get drunk before he'd come home and he was a violent drunk. Mama protected me and my brother a lot. I didn't ... I don't think I ever really knew how bad things were. I had two living shields, y'know?
"Then one day we heard Dad coming home, yelling something, I don't remember what." He shook his head. "Mama told my brother, he's older than me, to take me and go outside, don't let him see us. So we did. While we were out back, running for a hiding place ... we heard shouting. And then gunshots." He took a deep breath and sighed. "We ran away and didn't go back. Mama didn't keep a gun. Didn't know how to use one."
"Oh, no." Allison gasped reflexively, staring at him.
Clint shrugged. "I was six. I don't remember it very well, not enough to really miss anyone. My brother and I joined up with a traveling circus, which was good for a while. We never went back to school. I never went to formal school at all." He grinned crookedly. "Uhh, then my brother, Barney's his name, he wanted to join the Army. He waited till I was 17 and we could go together, but by that time, I uh, I didn't want to go. I'd taken up archery and swordsmanship, neither of which he was as good at as me, mind you." He snickered. "And I was happy. He wasn't. We had a fight, he said if I changed my mind, he'd be at the bus stop headed for the Army base in the morning." His smile became a bit more hollow. "I missed the bus. We didn't talk for ten years."
"Ten years?" She echoed, mainly to show she was listening. She didn't really have anything to contribute but she had to respond somehow, it was polite.
"Yeep. Next time we saw each other we were on opposite sides of a battlefield." Clint smiled crookedly. "He tried so hard to keep me on the up and up for a long time, it was really ironic that when we finally both got the purple suits, he was the criminal and I was the guy trying to take down his thieves' cell. Who happened to be the guys who got me started as Hawkeye. See, they used to run our circus. They turned thief while I was with 'em. At first it was just little things from rich people, just enough to make ends meet. But it got bigger and bigger, and one day I realized that we were making our living off thieving, and the acts were just a cover. It didn't sit well with me. So I turned us all in. The then-director of SHIELD, Agent Margaret Carter, decided to give me a chance working for them, because I'd done that. I took it and never looked back. My brother joined up eventually too. SHIELD brought me in contact with the Avengers, there's like three stories of how we met before I actually joined the team, which I did mainly because Hulk wouldn't until I said yes. I'll tell those too if you want, orrr we can go meet the others now." He grinned a bit.
Allison glanced at her StarkPad, checking the viewer commentary. There weren't as many viewers as she'd hoped yet, but the comments were raging. "I don't know, what do you guys think?"