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Man's Best Friend (But Not a Little Boy's)

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Clint had thought that having a dog would protect him from his father. After all, a dog loved their master right? And at least the dog wouldn't judge him and find him stupid because he had to reach for numbers. (It confused him when the 1 was so far away but the 2 was close and the 5 was off in fuck knows where, he just couldn't keep track of them all.)

The dog wouldn't beat him because he failed a math test and showed everyone how stupid he was.

But, his father would never allow it (they didn't have the money, he didn't deserve one, he was too stupid to take care of it and then who would feed it?) and it wasn't like there was a way for him to get one without his parents. So he did the next best thing and found a stuffed animal-in the trash but no surprise there, was it, since that was where he would end up one day- but Oscar wasn't something he could walk, he could only press his face into his side when the bruises hurt or the drunken shouting scared him too much.

So he saved up what little allowance he had and bought a balloon shaped like a dog. He tied a string leash to its neck and went for walks with it, talking to it, sorry her, as they went. As long as she was lasted, she was his best friend and she lasted a while; longer than most balloons did. She went hunting with him with the sling shot he made when he was 6 (he was so much older at 7, but he liked the sling shot, it had good balance). It was easy to hide the balloon from his father, since he never looked in his closet. And Clint could get her re-inflated because the woman at the grocery store liked him. She knew how hard he had worked (asking people for their bottles for the 5 cents they brought) to get the money for her. Whenever she was low on helium, he walked over and Ms. Kara filled her right back up.

One day, though, his dad came home early and found him sitting in his room, talking to Oscar and Penny, telling them about how the numbers had run away from him again that day but he had caught them. (Little boys don't play with stuffed animals or balloons what are you some kind of faggot?)

After that, Clint didn't want a dog anymore. Whenever he thought about it, he just had to look at the burn scar on the inside of his elbow and he remembered he was too stupid, too inept to have one.

That is, until the day Natasha found out and told Phil, about how he wanted a dog and about why he never had one (not that he would admit the full details- he just looked at his arm and said he couldn't take care of one and Nat knew, the sneaky fucker). A few days later he came home to a sweet, incredibly fluffy mutt from the pound.

And Phil showed him that he could care for one. And she would love him no matter what.