“You don’t have to bring me,” Clint says, tone neutral, staring out of the shotgun window.
It’s the first thing either of them has said in an hour and it doesn’t so much break the oppressive silence as it plops into the middle of it, words so weighted as to be almost visible. Phil sighs and forces his fingers to unclench from around the wheel. They cramp slightly as blood rushes back into them. He stares out of the windshield, but the road ahead is empty and straight so he turns his attention to his lover in the passenger seat instead. Clint’s face is blank and clear, as per his training, but the way his jaw is set, as though he’s determinedly not worrying at his lip telegraphs how upset he is and the way his fingers tap an irregular rhythm against his own thigh are all the proof Phil needs of his tension. “It’s not you,” he says.
Clint gives a moody shrug.
Phil sighs again, his own face tightening minutely in anger this time, though you’d have to know him very well to see it. If he has to spend the weekend with his family he could do without this as well. He pulls the car over sharply and swivels in his seat, tipping Clint’s chin up with one hand and looking deep into his lover’s blue eyes. “It’s not you,” he says again. He’s being saying this pretty much since Clint talked him into taking him home for the holiday, but he needs Clint to believe him now they’re actually drawing close.
Clint relaxes fractionally and tilts his face and cheek slightly into the hand cupping his face. “Is it about my cover story? I know your family all have to be super geniuses,” he teases gently, briefly flashing his customary smirk, “and I know I’m not exactly...but I can probably pass as something more intellectual than a mechanic.”
“No,” says Phil, he favours Clint with one of his own rare smiles, “I like the idea of you as a mechanic, all sweaty and scruffy while you fix my car.”
“Yeah? Well the radiator on this rust bucket does need filling up...” Clint’s voice trails off suggestively.
Phil can’t resist leaning in to kiss him. He takes his time, mapping every inch of Clint’s mouth thoroughly, partly because he loves to have the time to kiss Clint like this, slow and deep and gentle instead of the hard, fast adrenaline fuelled desperation that so categorised too many of their encounters, and partly to give himself time to think. It is too easy to give people the wrong idea about his family and it wasn’t like visiting them was exactly traumatic, it is just...just... Home was the only place where he wasn’t Agent Coulson, SHIELD’s finest and second only to Maria Hill and Fury himself, he wasn’t known to be the most competent Agent in the building at any given time, wasn’t known to be cool under fire and able to adapt plans on the fly. At home he was merely Pip, baby of the family and the only one without a high powered executive job. “It’s not you,” he says again when they finally break apart.
Clint looks into his eyes and hesitates for just a second, but ultimately he trusts Phil in the field with his life, trusts him with Natasha’s life, he’s not going to start disbelieving him now. “Alright,” he agrees. Immediately he feels the tension drain out of Phil and feels instantly bad for making him feel that in the first place. He kisses him again, sweet and chaste on the corner of his mouth. “I believe you, you can’t pick your family. It’ll be fine.”
“Yes,” agrees Phil softly, shifting back into his seat and turning back to the road. “It’ll be fine. Just...”
It’s a relief when Clint interrupts him, because he has no idea what he’s planning on saying next, “Don’t worry. I’ll be on my best behaviour.”
An hour later the car pulls up outside an innocuous looking house. Clint can’t repress a grin at the genuine white picket fence. He turns to share his amusement with Phil only to see Phil, there’s no other word for it, readying himself. Clint’s seen that expression a thousand times, before difficult missions, before hostage negotiations, before delivering report of failure to Fury. He feels his own highly developed instincts for danger quicken, his body responding to whatever threat has Phil so distressed instinctively. He touches his boyfriend gently on the arm and raises an eyebrow in unspoken query.
It relaxes Phil to know that if he announces that they’re leaving now Clint will take it with the same equinity he takes any decision for a stand down/strategic retreat. Clint trusts his judgement, trusts him, this is his decision. And it’s stupid, beyond stupid, to be worried about facing his family. It’s not like anything is going to happen beyond a little embarrassment at Clint witnessing the barrage of humiliating childhood nicknames and the fact that for obvious reasons his family doesn’t know what he does for a living. It will be fine. He has nothing to worry about. So he smiles, a real smile, in response to Clint’s query and takes one final steadying breath. “You ready?”
Clint nods, still not totally convinced but trusting Phil enough to follow him into whatever awaits. As always. “Yes boss,” he says, giving a short economical nod.
In unison they both exit the car and straighten, Clint rolling his shoulders to stretch them after hours cramped in the tiny machine. He raises his arms above his head and stretches until the joints pop, his plain white T-shirt rides up a little, exposing a strip of tanned skin which successfully distracts Phil from the opening of the door of the house and the rapid exit of a short stocky woman who immediately throws her arms around him. “Pip!” she exclaims, kissing him on the cheek. “It’s been so long! You didn’t say you were bringing a friend.”
Clint smirks slightly at the gushing questions, and at Phil being treated like the child he so often treats the Avengers like. This was clearly where he got it from. He mouths Pip? over Mrs. Coulson’s shoulder when Phil meets his eyes and feels a spark of triumph at the barely there blush which immediately colours Phil’s ears.
“Mom,” Phil says, “It’s good to see you. This is Clint. He’s my partner.”
Clint beams. He’d been expecting to have to dredge out the phony PR grin he uses for the occasional press conferences Fury makes him go to, or for when his mission requires actual interaction with the marks, though his speciality has never been intelligence gathering but instead his grin has real humour behind it as he offers Phil’s mom his hand. She bypasses it, instead wrapping him in an equally enthusiastic hug. Clint is used to unknown, uninvited persons throwing themselves at him, but usually they’re seeking to disembowel him or some such. He twitches habitually and only his quick reflexes save her from a vicious shove and uppercut combo. “It’s great to meet you, it’s about time Pip brought someone home.”
“Mom!” Phil objects and Clint can’t restrain another smile. He’s seen Phil be brutally tortured for hours without so much as a whisper of protestation. It seems like what he’s heard – that no matter how old you get, being in your childhood home makes you regress to being a teenager – is true and he’s looking forward to getting to spend time with a less guarded version of the enigmatic Phil Coulson.
“It’s lovely to meet you Mrs. Coulson.”
She waves off his greeting. “Call me Julie dear.” She lets go of Clint and turns back towards Phil. “Bring in your bags and show Clint where he’ll be sleeping. You’ll both have to manage in your old room because Lucy and Karen are in the spare, but I don’t suppose that will be a problem,” she gives her son a knowing wink which colours Clint’s ears as well as Phil’s this time, “and then head down to the kitchen. Dinner’s ready, we were all waiting for you.”
Phil straightens his tie. “The spare’s bigger,” he says, “why can’t the girls have my room?”
“Because they’ve been here since Tuesday dear. I’m not making them move around now. If you wanted to pick your room you shouldn’t have waited until the last minute to get here. Besides, your room is perfectly fine, you’ll be down in the family room with us most of the time, won’t you?” It’s a question, but it’s underpinned with the same steel which infuses Phil’s voice when his question is actually a statement of fact. Clint finds himself nodding in agreement out of sheer habit.
Phil takes hold of both duffels and strides towards the house. Clint follows, slightly uncertain about the sudden, obvious shift of mood. At the foot of the stairs, Phil hesitates, turning slightly to face the sounds of music and laughter coming from a room off to the left. “Mom, would you go introduce Clint to everyone while I take these upstairs?”
“Don’t be silly. Clint doesn’t want to be thrown to the wolves on his own. Besides, he needs to see where he’s sleeping.”
Phil tosses Clint a look that’s only a shade shy of pleading and Clint wants to say he’s fine, that he’ll go and meet everyone. He isn’t sure exactly what the problem is but it’s obviously important to Phil, but the fact is that Mrs. Co- Julie’s right, he doesn’t want to meet everyone on his own. He has no experience to draw on for how to behave or act in this situation. He’s never been with anyone long enough to merit a meeting the parents trip, and he doesn’t even have his own family experience to draw on, the circus didn’t exactly give him any knowledge of how to deal with this. He hesitates just a second too long, and Julie’s surprisingly strong hand is in the small of his back, pushing him so forcefully towards the stairs that he stumbles into Phil, “You can’t bring someone over Pip and then expect them to fend for themselves. I thought your father and I had taught you better than that.”
Clint draws his knuckles subtly across the back of Phil’s hand in mute apology as Phil says, “Mom, my room-”
“Don’t worry. It’s exactly as you left it. I haven’t touched any of your things except to do a spot of dusting. And I made the bed up for you with your favourite sheets so it’s all ready for you.”
Phil’s shoulders wince slightly together. Clint finds his fingers clenching around a bow he isn’t currently holding. Outside a nondescript wooden door Phil stops. He opens it a crack, pushes both bags into it and shuts it again. Julie has the expression on her face that Phil gets when he is contemplating tazing Tony for his idiocy. “Don’t be silly dear,” she says, “put your bags away properly.”
“Mom-” Phil says and his voice actually cracks. If it wasn’t for the blush coating his cheekbones Clint would be genuinely scared, it takes really something to make Phil lose his composure like this. As it is, he’s desperate to know what’s on the other side of the door. He’s nosy, so sue him; it’s one of the things which make him good at his job.
Phil closes his eyes. It’s just for a second, almost anyone else would mistake it for a blink, but Clint knows this man better than he knows himself. Phil’s steeling himself for something, but before he has a chance to say anything, Phil pushes the door open and Clint simply can’t resist following him in. For a moment he feels almost blinded by the colours, everything, everywhere, is red, white and blue, but as his eyes adjust he realises that that isn’t quite the case. The room is a literal shrine to Captain America; every surface is covered with posters, official pictures, even merchandise. The sheets on the bed even have images from the old cartoons printed on them.
Somehow, Clint manages to turn the laughter bubbling in his throat into a cough. Phil looks so painfully embarrassed that Clint has to feel a little sorry for him. This would be bad enough if they didn’t both know Steve and even through the giggles that he’s manfully keeping in his chest, Clint can’t help but think it was a little insensitive of Julie to put Phil in this situation. Phil isn’t the most expressive person, but every one of his tells that he was uncomfortable had been on display here and if Clint was able to pick up on them, surely his mom must have been able to, and she must realise why this room might be a little embarrassing for a full grown man to show off to a partner.
Neither of them say anything, Clint glancing around until he’s sufficiently schooled his features, allowing himself a brief fantasy about all the things he’s going to do Phil up here later, under the many (many) watchful eyes of his boyhood hero successfully quells the urge to giggle and when he turns back to Phil the other man is standing as composed and cool as usual. “Nice room,” he teases gently, but bites his lip against anything further that he might have said when the flicker of Phil’s eyebrow promises inventive and painful retribution.
They head downstairs and Clint can’t help but press into Phil slightly as they near the room filled with the sounds of people enjoying themselves, sheltering behind him as he never does even on the most dangerous of missions. He’s undeniably nervous about this. He so desperately wants to make a good impression, wants Phil’s family to like him, wants to be deemed good enough to be worthy of someone as brilliant as Phil.
Phil doesn’t say a word, but the way his eyes cut slightly to Clint and his grip on the archer’s fingers’ tighten tells Clint that he knows instinctively that Clint is anxious, he most likely knows why too. No one knows him like Phil does. Phil usually knows what his problem is before Clint knows it himself. He offers Clint the same half smile that he gives him when they’re parting before a dangerous mission. Julie seems unaware of this and brushes past them, pushing the door open, “Everyone, Phil is here so we can eat and he finally found himself a boyfriend!”
Phil’s jaw ticks slightly, but he doesn’t protest this time and by the time Julie turns back to him he looks as unruffled as he always does. “Hey everyone,” he nods a greeting to the room at large. “Everyone, this is Clint,” he loops an arm around Clint’s waist and draws him close, “Clint, this is everyone. My dad,” he gestures at the older man in the corner and Clint has to stifle a sound. He’s never really been into the whole older man thing, but this man is the spitting image of Phil just aged by a couple of decades and he can’t deny that if that is what he has to look forward to he has nothing to complain about, seemingly unaware of his thoughts, Phil continues, “My brother Mike and his wife Alice, my sister Katherine and my nieces Lucy and Karen.”
Slightly dazed, Clint offers a faint greeting of his own but before he has to think of anything more to say, Julie is waving them all through a connecting door into a large dining room. Clint spends a lot of his time with Tony Stark, Tony not being known for his forbearance, Tony is, in fact, known for indulgences, and he can afford to do so and to treat all his friends to the same, but this might be the most laden table Clint has ever seen. It’s like a feast at Hogwarts (what? There’s a lot of waiting around as a sniper, he has to do something and if he wants to read, or well, play audio tapes through his Starkphone, that’s his business). The table is literally groaning under the weight of several dishes of roast meats, platters of vegetables, piles of potatoes – boiled, roasted and mashed and green bottles of wine. One of the nieces, he can’t remember if it’s Lucy of Karen giggles slightly at the look on his face and he hastily wipes away the awestruck look sinking gratefully into the seat beside the one Phil has already chosen.
“So Clint,” says Katherine once everyone has filled their plates, “Pip didn’t say he’d met anyone, how long have you two been an item?”
“Just a few months,” Clint hedges vaguely, feeling a slight alarm that Phil doesn’t even seem to have mentioned him in passing in all the years they’ve worked together as handler and specialist, never mind the two years that they’ve been officially a couple according to their SHIELD paperwork, they live together for God’s sake, but he doesn’t want to land Phil in trouble with his family either.
He takes an over large bite of a too hot potato and immediately his eyes start watering, but at least it gives him a moment to think and order his thoughts when Katherine immediately asks, “And what do you do?”
“I’m a mechanic,” he answers after swallowing.
Everyone at the table nods in an interested way, but Clint isn’t blind to the immediate looks that they shoot at Phil, nor the way an almost unnoticeable spurt tension runs immediately through Phil, tightening his muscles slightly. “So what do you specialise in? Cars? Bikes?” Phil’s dad asks.
“Classic cars,” Clint answers with his mouth full, swallowing hastily when Phil nudges his ankle with his own, “Sorry, excuse me. Ummm yeah, classic cars, full rebuilds, for collectors mostly.” There’s a few beats of silence, “What about you?” Clint says after a second, trying to deflect attention away from himself. “What do you do Katherine?”
“I’m a lawyer,” she answers and immediately begins talking about the high profile case she recently defended. Everyone else at the table seems to have heard of it and they all keep pushing her for details about this or that aspect, but Clint’s barely had time to sleep in the last month, (what with Dr Doom’s attack and the Rebuilding Manhattan project all the Avengers have been involved with, and then there was that unfortunate incident with a couple of renegade mutants and Justin Hammer’s attempt to take remote control of the Iron Man suit) never mind see the news so he keeps his head down and methodically works on clearing his plate.
“So where did you two meet?” the brother’s wife, another person who’s name Clint has forgotten, eventually asks when Katherine’s description of her courtroom brilliance winds down.
“One of the guys in my office introduced us,” Phil says, professionally vague, but Clint can tell after all these months living with Tony, who can scent gossip a mile off, that Phil’s family are not going to be satisfied with professionally vague.
“Guy’s a regular of mine,” he adds, “has a classic ’67 Shelby Cobra. He brought Phil to one of our Car Club nights.”
“And it was love at first sight?” Alice presses with a smile too sweet to be wholesome. Clint feels like he’s being probed for weaknesses.
“More like lust at first sight,” blurts out the older of Phil’s two nieces.
“Lucy Coulson!” her grandmother scolds, and the girl’s teeth click sharply together.
Clint doubts her obvious appreciation is aimed at her Uncle but isn’t sure whether he feels flattered of creeped out that he’s managed to attract the attention of a fourteen year old, but he forgets all about it when Mike says, “She’s not wrong though mom, Pippy must have paid a fortune to get someone this young and hot to go out with him.”
Clint really really wants to do his best impersonation of Natasha’s slightly puzzled but still wickedly dangerous smirk and ask if he’s just been called a whore. He knows if he does so he’ll look predatory enough to give the man pause for thought, but he hesitates, not wanting to threaten Phil’s brother, and surely he must have misunderstood. Julie slaps her palm flat on the table, effectively getting everyone’s attention, “Don’t tease your little brother at the table please,” she says sharply when everyone’s head angles in her direction.
There is a long moment of strained silence until the younger of the two girls says, “Will someone pass the salt please,” and the tension lifts slightly.
“So Mike,” Phil says, after swallowing his forkful of chicken, “your last email said you had a promotion?”
Mike beams widely showing all his teeth, a chunk of spinach caught unattractively between the front two, “Yeah that’s right Pippy. Head of Oncology over at Southern General now. What about you? Still a pen pusher in a government office, or have they promoted you to being allowed to hand out the office supplies?”
Clint smirks around the fork in his own mouth. He’s heard junior Agents with more bravado than good sense make similar comments to Phil a hundred times and Phil has efficiently and without a twitch of expression verbally eviscerated each and every one of them. OK, he can’t actually threaten to send his older brother on a six month deployment to Siberia but he’s sure whatever he does say is going to be epic. Instead silence falls again, Clint turns to see Phil absently straightening his tie, gaze fixed on his plate as Julie says, “Mike, I told you not to tease your brother at the table.”
Mike huffs a sigh, “Fine, sorry Pip.” His voice is pretty sincere but his words don’t hide the dainty half giggle his wife is hiding behind his napkin.
Nor do they detract from the fact that Phil’s father takes that moment to lean forward and say, “He has a point though Pip. Your mother and I worry about you. You had so much potential as a youngster, top of every class, valedictorian...You’ve never been that same since you were injuried out of the army.”
By sheer force of will Clint keeps his gaze from his partner. Phil was recruited to SHIELD direct from a military Special Op’s Task Force, if the cover story that his family has been fed dates back to a nonexistent injury to explain his leaving the army, his parents have known virtually nothing about his working life since he was in his mid twenties. “I like my job Dad,” he counters, soft but forceful, though with a tired refrain that suggests this is a very old argument.
“And that’s important son, but there’s more to life than an easy job that keeps the wolves from the door. You could make something of yourself. Like Mike, or Katherine. They’re both high flying professionals, don’t you want that? Don’t you want to be more than just another worthless little office drone?”
Phil is silent, but there are lines of real hurt marring his face. Clint stands abruptly, chair squeaking back over the hardwood floor. The noise successfully distracts everyone from where they are looking avidly at Phil, waiting a response that Clint knows he can’t give. “Where’s the bathroom?” he asks.
“Third door on the left down the hallway,” Katherine answers, flapping a hand at the door.
It’s only then that Clint realises his excuse is a tactical faux par, yes he has successfully distracted everyone but now he has to leave Phil here alone, however, he can’t sit back down and say he’s changed his mind. He doesn’t even look at Phil, he doesn’t want to inadvertently imply with his expression that he thinks Phil’s family is full of assholes because for all he knows he could be horribly misreading the situation. Maybe this is like when Steve and Tony really get into it and say hurtful things about each other’s skills, abilities, parentage, upbringing and morals, but isn’t truly half as bad as it sounds and is instead them just venting steam and/or pulling one another’s pigtails. Hell, for all he knows, families might be supposed to be like this. It’s not like he ever really had one of his own, not for long enough to form a comparison basis. So instead, he does as they expect him to do, turns and leaves, even if it sends every nerve he has into spasming electric tension to turn his back to people his mind has classified as hostile. Comforting himself with the fact that he knows he’s misreading the situation and that he’d never voluntarily leave Phil exposed and in the open surrounded by enemies with no back up for real, he still can’t help the sigh of relief when the door swings closed behind him, shielding him from their eyes.
He goes to the bathroom. Years as a sniper assassin, and having no option but to hold it, have taught him to go whenever the opportunity presents itself, but he doesn’t take long, hurrying back to the large table unnameable unease churning the food in his full stomach. He would have strode straight into the room, espionage and undercover work had never really been his purview, he was usually up high picking off the targets designated by Phil’s voice in his ear piece, but he heard his name and it made him hesitate, instinctively sliding back and sideways into the shadows.
“-obviously not good enough for you.” It was Julie’s voice, and Clint wondered when he’d become so attached to her, between the unexpected greeting hug and the mounds of food, that the words elicited a cold stab of hurt instead of the usual snide smirk when someone underestimated him.
“That’s enough,” Phil’s voice was sharp and tense, as it was when directing Clint over the comms, but it relaxed him if only because this tone, this assurance, was familiar to him, more than Phil’s passive embarrassment was anyway.
“Leave him alone, he’s hardly dishonouring the family name by having an affair with a mechanic,” Mike says. Phil says nothing to his unlikely ally and Clint finds his own shoulders tensing, waiting for the blow to fall. He doesn’t have to wait long, “What you really have to wonder is if Pippy here is good enough for Clint. What could he possibly see in you? He has a cool job, blue collar, but cool and it’s obvious he loves it.”
“And he’s gorgeous,” interjects a young voice, “no offense Uncle Phil,” and Clint decides that he likes her because at least she realises that this conversation is hurtful.
“And gorgeous,” Mike allows, “and you’re...”
Clint has heard enough and he’s seen enough over the past few hours to know that, for whatever reason, however uncharacteristic, Phil won’t fight back. He can barely see through the haze of white anger. He opens the door, not quite hard enough to bounce it off the wall hard enough to rattle the frame, but it’s a close thing, he’s clinging to his control with everything he has. Next time he sees Bruce he’s going to take the man out to a big open space where he can’t do any harm to buildings or people and just tell him to let go because this is...this is hard. Phil spins in his chair to look at him and his eyes widen slightly at whatever he can see on Clint’s face, which doesn’t help, just raises his fury up another notch. He drops back into his seat without a word, and beneath the table grips Phil’s hand so tight he can feel his nails cutting in. Phil doesn’t flinch, simply grips back, not quite as tightly and begins tapping his thumb rapidly against the back of Clint’s hand. It’s Morse code, a litany of I’m fine, it’s alright, calm down, stand down Hawkeye which strangely does relax him because it’s comforting and familiar and so characteristic of Phil being in-charge and dealing-with-the-situation and him being close enough to touch doesn’t hurt.
No one else seems to have noticed anything strange though the rest of dinner is silent. It isn’t until they’ve left the table and moved through to the family room with several bottles of champagne for the adults and soda for the girls that conversation starts up again. Phil stays quiet, and doesn’t let go of Clint’s hand, despite the smirks the archer knows he must be aware his sister is throwing at the pair. Nor does he comment at all when Clint chooses to drink Pepsi. Clint can hold his alcohol as well as the next man, he can out drink most of the Avengers except Thor, (and Steve obviously, but since he never participates in their drinking games he doesn’t count) and it’s not like he’s planning on getting drunk anyway, but he knows that any lowering of inhibitions can only lead to him sharing his more uncomplimentary opinions of Phil’s family at best and sharing SHIELD secrets about why Phil is awesome and throwing punches which Mike might not actually get up from at worst. So, Pepsi. Phil just holds onto him tighter.
Somewhere around his third glass of the over sweet fizzy stuff he realises that Phil isn’t clinging to him solely to keep him in check, though that’s probably what he’s telling himself. His grip has gotten tighter as his dad regales them all with another story about Why-Coulson-Snr.-Is-Awesome, just as it did when Mike told his last epic of The-Brilliant-Thing-I-Did-Last-Wednesday and it’s not these aren’t great stories of personal achievement, but Phil seems to be taking them all personally. And sure enough, Julie turns to him, offering the bottle of bubbly in one hand with a questioning expression and a “And you dear? Anything interesting happen at the office lately?”
There are a dozen answers Phil could give, it’s been a busy month or three but Phil merely shrugs and straightens his tie, then takes the bottle and finally says, “You saw the Doombot attack on the news yesterday? That came pretty close to our building. We saw the Avengers take them out. I saw them bring Doom in.”
It’s not quite true. The Doombots took most of the front off the SHIELD offices in, what Fury assures them was a coincidental strike because ‘no one knows where SHIELD HQ is.’ Phil had already been out in the field with them, side by side with Clint, crouched low on the top of one of Manhattan’s many skyscrapers. He’d been watching the scene through binoculars and relaying Bot movements to the Avengers down below and pointing out specific targets for Clint to take out, but he’d still managed to organise the evacuation of the decimated SHIELD building, both of people and of the most sensitive documents. Unfortunately, the blast had rendered both Fury and Hill out of commission (Hill in the ICU, expected to regain consciousness tomorrow, Fury trapped in a cave in created by the collapsing of the reinforced walls) which had left him as the senior agent. It hadn’t been relevant right then, Fury had already sent for back up, but it meant that when Steve, Tony and Reed Richards had finally brought Doom down and dragged him, cuffed and still monologuing over to the van, it had been Phil who was in charge of his processing and interrogation. Phil had been the one left to talk down the post-battle Avengers, engage in a staring contest with Steve to get him to see the paramedic for the obvious fracture of his elbow, make sure Tony drank something other than whiskey or coffee to replace the fluids lost through the sweat of battle exertion. It had been Phil who’d arranged the rescue of those still trapped in the remains of HQ and arranged for transferral of the survivors. And the bodies. And at some point he must have written up the reports for Fury.
Mike smirks. “Did you see Captain America? Did you swoon?” It’s Clint who flinches. Phil tightens his grip and Mike looks slightly apologetic, he turns his gaze on Clint, “Hey, it’s just Pippy’s stupid little crush. It’s never exactly going to happen. You don’t have anything to worry about.”
Clint gives a short bark of laughter and wonders if it sounds as broken and choked and forced as it feels in his throat. Phil’s tapping his thumb against his hand again, but he can’t feel a pattern this time. It just feels like nerves. “We’re going to head to bed,” he says, glancing around at his assembled family. “We’ve been up since sunrise driving.”
Clint darts a glance at the ornate clock on the mantle-piece and sees that indeed, it’s past eleven. He wonders that he doesn’t feel more tired. Apart from the couple of hours he dozed in the car, he hasn’t rested since the Doombot attack. He expects there to be more protesting, but Katherine stands as well and says, “Us too.” She makes a vague motion at her daughters. The older one obeys it and stands with only a pout, but the younger is all but asleep leaning against her grandfather and has to be hauled to her feet.
Phil stoops and kisses his mother on the cheek and Clint hangs back a little, wondering if he’s expected to do the same. Phil tugs him from the room before he can wonder too long and the little group head up the staircase in mostly silence, listening to Julie in the room below them directing her husband and older son just to put the glasses in the kitchen, she’ll sort everything in the morning. Katherine shoots an amused expression at Phil as he pauses hand on the door of his room and the hand not clinging to Clint jumps up to straighten his tie, but he says nothing, just drops his gaze and opens the door. The pair push their way inside. When the door clicks firmly shut behind them Clint takes a deep breath, the first in hours and hears Phil do the same. He reaches for the light.
“No,” Phil says shortly, “leave it off.”
Clint raises an eyebrow but doesn’t argue for once. Instead he drops his hand and steps up to Phil, embracing his partner tightly and feeling Phil shake against him for a second before the older man pulls himself together and steps back.
“I’m sorry,” he says, hardly louder than a whisper.
“For what?” Clint asks in the same tone, eyes focussed on Phil’s tie and hands going to Phil’s throat to start unknotting it.
Phil doesn’t remove himself from the attention, doesn’t even seem to notice it, “For,” he waves his hand around vaguely in a way that encompasses everyone, everything, this whole situation, but he finishes the sentence with a soft, “the room.”
Clint snorts undaintily, finishing with the tie and leaving it draped around Phil’s shoulders, hands dropping to start on his buttons. “I have seen your office you know.”
Phil makes his I-am-definitely-not-laughing sound. “This is a little worse.”
“Yeah,” Clint agrees, dropping the shirt he has just freed Phil from unceremoniously to the floor and ignoring the disapproving scowl the action gets, “but I love you enough to sleep on sheets with Steve’s face on them.”
This time Phil huffs a more recognisable laugh that means he’s relaxing a little and lifts his own arms to pull off his undershirt. Clint starts unbuttoning his own clothes, dropping them on top of Phil’s shirt and merely smirking at Phil’s pointed expression at the chair in the corner where he’s neatly folded the clothes he divested himself of. “Are you having a good time?” he asks, more hesitantly than Clint has ever heard him ask anything, and Clint has heard him ask obviously unstable super-villains to release the hostages, revenge driven maniacs what they were planning on doing with him, Natasha why she had endangered herself on the mission.
The answer is of course no. He hates watching Phil become more and more uncertain of himself, hates watching him be disparaged because he can’t tell his family how he saves the world every few days, hates how what should have been excellent blackmail material to torment his lover with has instead become a much darker weapon associated with real pain. “Yeah,” he says, leaning in to kiss Phil, gentle and chaste but sure, not shy, “I’ve never had a proper family meal before. Not for a long time anyway.”
Even Phil doesn’t know every implication in that sentence, but he knows enough not to pry further and instead leans in and takes another kiss from Clint’s lips before saying, “No one means anything by it. They’re just teasing. And my mom is just...protective.”
Clint chooses not to comment on the teasing. He remembers too much of Barney’s teasing and he’s seen the real hurt in every line of Phil’s body while his whole life has been ridiculed and instead goes with the safer option. “You knew I was there.”
“I know now.” Clint glares at him through slitted eyes and Phil relents with a smile. “I wouldn’t have let mom get away with that anyway. The choices they think I made are one thing. I’d be disappointed in me if I really was just a government office drone too, but you are the one good choice I can tell them about. They don’t get to act like you’re not. But I know she didn’t mean it how it sounded and I knew...know you well enough, to know if you’d heard your name you’d be lurking outside the door.”
Clint is almost painfully aware of the beating of his heart; anger for Phil and long forgotten pain and rage for himself quickening its’ tempo. Even if Phil was nothing more than a government office drone, he’d still have his dark razor sharp humour and his whip smart intelligence. His paperwork is a thing of legend at SHIELD, always done on time, in triplicate, on the right form, concise but containing every pertinent detail, usually early. Fury rhapsodises about it and Fury is the kind of man that if confronted with an all powerful creator would take Him to task for making humans, Agents particularly, so fragile; in short, he is not a man who expresses awe or even approval regularly. So if Phil was an office drone, he’d be amazing at it. Clint doesn’t know how to say any of that, so he says instead, “Now we know where you get your protective streak. Do you hear your mother’s voice every time you tell one of us to eat our vegetables?”
“I have more self respect than to run around making sure you all maintain a healthy diet Barton.”
“Barton now is it? Want me to call you sir?” Phil’s muscles shiver as Clint’s breath ghosts over his ear. He tries to tug Clint back into his arms, or possibly towards the bed, but Clint is having none of it, holding his ground even against the strength Phil has in his arm. “I don’t think so sir, not tonight. Tonight I want to do you, want to turn you into a squirming begging mess while all your Captain America posters and figures watch you fall apart for me.”
Phil gives a low whimper in his throat. Clint can feel his cock, jutting against the thin cotton of the boxer briefs that are all he’s wearing and pushing against Clint’s own groin, igniting his own desire still further. Clint bites the soft flesh beneath Phil’s ear and he whines again, hips canting upwards. Clint palms his ass with one hand and tugs his head back with the other, continuing his assault with tongue and teeth over Phil’s throat.
He keeps teasing, doing nothing to bring Phil close to real release, nothing to bring Phil close to the bed or the wall, or anywhere where Phil might even think he has a reasonable chance of being brought to release. Choosing instead to keep them in the centre of the room, touching, tasting, exploring but no more, until Phil’s needy whimpers turn into frustrated groans and the Agent pushes Clint back, hard enough to take him off balance, before saying, “Jesus Barton, if you’re not going to do anything with it, I’ve got plans for that,” he nods at Clint’s own prominent erection.
It’s the cue Clint’s really been waiting for, the closest Phil will ever come to begging, he smirks, slow and wide, “Yes sir,” he says and pushes back, using his own weight to bear Phil across the room and onto the bed and proceeds to make his boyfriend forget about everything except the next touch of his tongue for a while.
When they’re both done and are resting sated against one another, finally tired as the last of the tension and adrenaline from yesterday’s battle and today’s stresses ebb away, Phil giggles sharply. “I can’t believe we just did that on my Captain America bed sheets.”
Clint smiles sleepily and settles himself more firmly against Phil, tightening the other’s arm around him so he’s held tighter than he would permit anyone else, “Yeah, I never thought of you as being that kinky Phil,” he teases, “at least I know you love me best now.”
Phil hesitates just long enough that Clint feels the first stirrings of real unease and begins to shift away, then he laughs again, breath warm at the back of Clint’s neck, “You’ve got nothing to worry about,” he assures him. “Steve is a nice guy and all but he’s not...Captain America was my adolescent fantasy, Steve would never live up to it no matter how good he is. You’re...real.”
“That’s...wait, is that romantic?”
Phil ignores him. “Besides, I’m pretty sure Tony would kill me.”
That makes Clint laugh too. “Yeah probably. Though, it might make him get his head out of his ass long enough to realise that he doesn’t want to fight with Steve every free moment they have.”
“You want me to take one for the team for the greater good of getting Captain America and Tony Stark together?”
“Can I watch?”
Phil gives a theatrical sigh, “I suppose so.”
Clint laughs again, “I think Cap might have a heart attack if you suggested it.”
“I think you’d be surprised. He worked out that he didn’t want to fight with Tony months ago.”
“Huh. So Tony is just-?”
“Oblivious? Stupid? Scared of commitment?”
“Are we gossiping about our friends’ love lives?”
“It would seem so.”
This time it is Clint who groans theatrically, “Wow, I think we’re actually in an episode of a Queer Eye for a Straight Guy.”
“No, they dress better than you do.” Clint smacks the arm wrapped around his middle, but he is grinning. It’s good to have his Phil back, sharp, snarky, his. He can feel himself relaxing, sinking backwards into the warmth of the body behind him. Phil nuzzles into the short hair at the back of his head, snuffling slightly as he begins to fall asleep himself. Clint snakes a hand up under the pillow, what he feels startles him awake. “It’s on the side table,” Phil murmurs sleepily, long acquainted with Clint’s inability to fall asleep in a strange bed without a projectile weapon close at hand. “This is only a single and I’m not using your Beretta as a pillow all night.”
He sounds grumpy and tired. Clint isn’t surprised. He did the majority of the driving as well as yesterday’s operation. He runs a hand along Phil’s forearm and hand, caressing the knuckles. “Okay,” he says softly, “go back to sleep.”
Phil grunts and complies and it isn’t long before his soft breathing lulls Clint into sleep himself.
Sometime later, he wakes feeling Phil climb over him. Phil’s being careful, trying to move while disturbing the blankets as little as possible, but he can’t possibly be unaware that he’s going to wake Clint up regardless. It’s only because Phil’s very essence is so deeply rooted into his being as a non threat that he didn’t wake up punching, possibly shooting. Still, since Phil is being so careful, there’s no reason to disillusion him, so Clint doesn’t open his eyes, merely hunches into the warm spot Phil’s body has left behind and takes the opportunity to spread himself out across the whole bed, like a particularly obnoxious cat. He even purrs slightly when Phil runs a feather soft caress over the side of his face.
He hears the door of the room open and shut. He’s aware it’s daytime, probably about seven. Not exactly military time to get up, but probably too early for Phil’s family to be active during a holiday. Now Clint’s awake though, his bladder is beginning to make its presence known, insisting that he get up out of the warmth. Clint gives an unhappy groan. He tries curling on his side and ignoring it, but the pressure is too insistent. He makes another unhappy sound, cutting it off sharply as he abruptly does become aware of voices in the hallway. He stands, grabbing a pair of sweats – Phil’s – out of the top of the nearest bag and hauling them on. They’re a little long, the hems curling over his feet, but they don’t hinder him as he glides across the room and stealthily inches the door open.
It’s like a scene out of a teen movie, except that the actors are too old. Mike is standing in the doorway to the bathroom, blocking Phil’s way in with a sneer which isn’t malicious exactly, but is far too amused. He’s definitely enjoying tormenting his little brother. “Come on Pippa. Tell me you have a girl’s name and you can go in.”
“Mike...” Phil says in a soft, strained voice, an ugly blush staining his cheeks.
“Well Pippa? How badly do you need a piss?”
Clint knows Phil is strong enough and well trained enough to kill Mike silently, in a few seconds, or dismember him, or knock him unconscious, or make it very very clear that he’s not just Mike’s geeky little brother but a grown man and not about to tolerate this bullshit. He also knows he won’t. Phil takes not breaking cover unless you have no option very seriously, and he isn’t going to see a bit of teasing from an older brother as no option, not when he’s obviously been dealing with this kind of crap for years. It still makes Clint’s blood boil but he stays frozen, not knowing whether staying or going or challenging Mike will make things better or worse.
“Mike,” Phil says again and his eyes cut to Clint’s still figure before looking at his brother with naked pleading.
Mike’s eyes follow Phil’s and he hesitates when he sees Clint standing, watching. Clint knows the murderous fury he feels isn’t present in his eyes; he’s too much a consummate professional for those feelings to accidentally break through unless he allows it, but nonetheless Mike backs off, clearly drawing the line at humiliating his brother in front of his boyfriend. “Fine squirt,” he says, stepping out of the doorway and ruffling Phil’s hair as he passes.
Phil’s blush darkens a little at the gesture and he doesn’t look at Clint as he steps forward and slams the door behind him.
They don’t speak until they’re both dressed. Phil tying and retying his tie in front of the mirror, a little frown creasing his brow. “Look Phil, tell me if I’m out of line here,” Clint begins, not knowing exactly how he’s going to finish this sentence but needing to say something before he explodes.
Phil doesn’t pretend not to know what he’s talking about. He sighs and unknots the tie again, straightening both ends and beginning the complicated Windsor knot. “They don’t mean anything by it. It’s not,” he darts a sharp glance at Clint in the mirror and says, “it’s not like Barney.”
Clint feels cold and hot and furious and relieved. He hates being reminded, but Phil’s aware enough to know if this situation was the same, that he says it’s not brings nothing but calm to Clint but he still says, foolishly but with a hint of a bite, “Steve wouldn’t like it. He doesn’t like bullies.”
“Why do you think I liked Captain America so much growing up?” Phil mutters, not turning away from the mirror and straightening his tie and collar. “They’re...Mike and Katherine are twins, so it was always them versus me, never Mike and me planting bugs in our sister’s room like boys are supposed to or Mike as the awkward middle one. And they’re both very successful professionals and, as far as they know, I’m still doing the same job as the ones I was doing at college. They still treat me as that child because I never established myself as an adult.”
“But you did.”
“But they don’t know that,” Phil finally turns to face him. He has his customary bland face on but there is something nameless and hurting lurking in his eyes.
Clint wants to punch something or cry. Instead he surges forward and kisses Phil roughly, possessively, biting down hard enough on his bottom lip to draw blood. Phil gasps and pulls back, but his eyes are blown with something other than pain. Certain he has his attention, Clint hisses, “They shouldn’t treat you like that. You’ve saved their lives, saved the world thousands of times. You’re brilliant and better than anyone in this house.”
Phil’s gives a small shrug, a very tiny motion that manages to dislodge Clint’s clinging hands and says, “I wouldn’t say thousands of times.” His expression softens at the near feral look of fury on Clint’s face, “It’s fine Clint. I don’t need you to bolster my self esteem. It’s fine. I’m fine. This is who my family expect me to be, Pip, baby of the family, and it’s my job to stick to that role.”
Clint growls what he thinks of that and says, “It’s not all acting though.” Phil opens his mouth and he snaps, “Don’t lie to me Coulson, I see your eyes.”
“I- That’s why I didn’t want to bring you home. It really wasn’t about you,” Phil answers helplessly, miserably.
And that that burns like fire, to know that it isn’t his family’s less-than-gentle teasing and judgement which hurts and shames Phil so, but Clint’s witnessing it. It feels like a gut wound to know that he’s the one causing Phil pain. “I’m sorry.”
Phil shrugs again and brings a hand up to straighten his tie, “You didn’t know. We should go down. Mom will have cooked enough breakfast to feed an army.”
For the first time in a long time, the promise of free food doesn’t make Clint feel hungry. It isn’t like he has a choice though. They can’t hide up here. He guilted and blackmailed Phil into this situation, wanting to experience a real family, wanting to know that Phil thought he was good enough to bring home, so now he has to see it through. He nods slowly and finds that he’s out of glib sarcasm and witty repartee as he says earnestly, “I won’t blow your cover.”
Phil looks at him in bewilderment. “I know you won’t.”
Clint clings to that faith, clings to the knowledge that it has never even occurred to Phil that he, notorious for being SHIELD’s loose cannon, would ruin the image Phil has spent years building by explaining exactly why they should back off and leave him alone, to prevent himself from doing just that. He’s disobedient and ignores protocol and is not above insubordination, but he’s never let Phil down when it matters and not breaking that unthinking depthless trust, that matters. It takes real will power to hold his place when Mike offers to get Phil a job with Southern General’s janitorial staff, joking that they probably pay more than Phil earns annually or when Katherine flirts outrageously with him in a transparent attempt to make Phil uncomfortable, much to the hilarity of her daughters.
He’s trying to remember everything Bruce has ever mentioned about meditation and anger management when there’s an abrupt knock at the door. Julie’s eyes skitter over the people at the table. “Everyone’s here,” she says almost to herself. There’s a second knock, sharper this time, more desperate and Clint and Phil swap looks, too well trained and too familiar with evil in unexpected places to discount an unexpected knock at the door.
“I’ll get it mom,” says Phil, standing smoothly.
Clint takes a second to wonder how his family can have managed to ignore all the leashed power in the grace and economy with which he moves, but he’s already at Phil’s shoulder, focussed on what’s on the other side of the door at the end of the hall.
“Don’t be silly dear. Sit down and finish your eggs,” Julie says, jolted out of her reverie and heads down the corridor herself.
Neither Clint nor Phil sits. Clint knows that his racing pulse and sudden adrenaline is stupid, it’s probably just Fedex, or girl scouts or the people next door wanting to know if they can borrow a screwdriver or whyever people knock on each other’s doors in suburbia. But he waits, shoulder not quite pressed against Phil’s, to be certain. Julie opens the door and gasps, hand flying to her mouth. She sways slightly where she stands.
As one, Clint and Phil spring forward. Clint grabs the knife sitting on the table as he passes and flips it in his hand, holding it by the blade, ready to throw. They don’t make it to the end of the corridor. The door swings open to its fullest extent, hard; the handle embeds in the wall. Phil makes an inarticulate sound of rage and reaches out one long arm to swing his mother back out of the danger zone. Clint can feel the rest of the family pressing in behind them, but he can’t spare a thought for them. Phil presses himself up against the right wall that now has a door stuck in it, his mom held tightly at his side and as soon as his path is clear Clint launches his only missile at the target stepping over the threshold.
The target raises a red and gold arm and the knife bounces harmlessly off the gold titanium alloy with a dull clang. The face plate slides back and Tony stares at him with a very unimpressed scowl. “Jesus Barton. Have you never had a guest before in your life? That’s not how you treat people who knock at your door.”
“Not the time Tony,” says another deep familiar voice, and Tony stumbles forwards a couple of places a muscle-bound red, white and blue figure behind him pushes forward. Steve Rogers doesn’t really get embarrassed when he’s Captain America, he’s too busy being the leader, but Clint can tell even through the cowl that he feels awkward now as his blue eyes rove over what is apparently an unexpected audience before latching onto Phil and his still surprised mother. “Sorry ma’am,” he says in his smooth voice, “but we need to borrow your son.”
Mike steps forward, too close to Clint’s personal space, to his unprotected back, but just this once he allows it because he wants Mike to have a really good view as all of his preconceived notions about Phil are thrown back in his face. “What?” he says inelegantly, but the Avengers ignore him.
Phil is already stepping forward the layers of shyness and insecurity and embarrassment falling off him like an ill tailored suit until he’s standing tall and certain in the hallway. “What seems to be the problem Captain?”
“Doom has managed to orchestrate a prison break in record time,” Steve says, darting his eyes at the hall full of civilians and keeping the details to himself.
Tony is not so forbearing, he’s never seen the point of a secret identity anyway, “Which wouldn’t normally be a problem,” he continues, “or at least, not one we’d interrupt you for, but he blew up the whole place. The cities swarming with newly freed super villians. Hill’s still out of commission, obviously, and Fury’s stuck dealing with the WSC who want to nuke the whole place, again, and there isn’t a handy portal for us to shove a nuke this time. We need someone who can co-ordinate the different groups.”
“Who’s on the ground?” Phil asks, already tapping through the screens on his Starkphone.
“Reed and Thor are holding the fort, the rest of The Fantastic Four and Nata- the Black Widow are there too, the X-men are on route. Sitwell’s heading the SHIELD operation in the field, Darcy’s his intel back at HQ, or what’s left of it. She’s based out of your office since you’ve got the best records outside the archive which is still...y’know...buried.”
Something beeped and Tony slid the helmet faceplate back down, cocking his head as if to listen for a second before interrupting Steve to say, “JARVIS is tapped into the news feeds. Good news is, we have a portal if the WSC does launch a nuke, Mysterio has been kind enough to open one for us. The bad news is...dragons are coming out of it.”
“Do you have a SITREP Stark?” Phil asks, coolly.
“Nothing destroying buildings yet, well, except the prison itself. No hostages but crowds of civilians pinned down. Dragons. Mysterio seems to be controlling them. The Fantastic Four haven’t had to fall back but there’s only, well, four of them. They aren’t making a dent. Thor’s being given the run around by Hydra. Or people in Hydra uniforms, so whoever you had in the prison I guess.”
Phil flicks two fingers at Clint who snaps off a salute more snappy than his usual offerings but he really wants Mike to know that Phil’s in charge and turns pushing through the crowd behind him and heading upstairs. He doesn’t pack anything. Usually in this situation their possessions are lost, the safe house compromised, it’s nice to know that this time they’ll be able to come back for them. He wriggles into his SHIELD issue uniform and grabs Phil’s keys off the side. He picks up Phil’s jacket as he leaves the room.
Back downstairs, Phil’s on his phone, demanding, and getting by the sounds, a dozen of General Ross’ Hulkbuster containment units for temporary prisoner storage. He catches the jacket Clint tosses at him without looking.
“Ready sir,” Clint says when Phil snaps the phone shut. “My bow’s in the car.”
Phil nods and gestures him outside he stops at the doorway in between Tony and Steve just long enough to say “Thanks for having me,” and then he’s out. There must be something in his tone though because Steve looks at him quizzically and he shakes his head, patting the Captain’s arm with hands that hold just the least bit of residual anger.
Steve’s eyes dart around the hallway, taking in the way Phil is standing flushed with pride even as he presses the buttons to dial Darcy and begins co-ordinating instructions through her, directing her through SHIELD’s myriad of bureaucratic channels and the way his family is white and still with shock and surprise and no little disbelief. He sees the way Phil’s eyes dart to his brother, not for approval but to see that he is witnessing his success. When Phil lowers the phone, not hanging up this time, Steve says, “Your orders sir?”
Tony looks between them sharply, but says nothing, even he doesn’t contradict Steve in a battle situation and this is one, even if they are away from the action. Phil blinks his thanks, but otherwise makes no acknowledgement, “Agent Lewis will make sure our containment units are located at strategic points and will supply Director Fury with enough information to keep the WSC from issuing a nuclear strike for an hour or two. That gives us some time to locate and subdue our escaped prisoners and somehow contain the dragons. And can we get a disclosure team and some people from Stark legal here to brief my family on the Official Secrets Act?”
Steve nudges Tony. “Uh...sure. I’ll send Pep and a legal team.”
Clint ducks back into the house, clutching his bow in an admittedly relieved fist. He feels more complete when he’s holding it, more centred. He’s waving his own Starkphone. “Director Fury on the line sir,” he says, proffering the phone to Phil.
“I have to take a call Agent Lewis,” Phil says, into the phone he’s already holding and takes Clint’s. He speaks into it for a few seconds before turning to Tony. “The dragons are sensitive to sound. Do you have anything that can generate notes at a rotating frequency of 130.813 Hz, 97.999 Hz, 73.416 Hz, 55 Hz, 41.204 Hz and 30.868 Hz? Something loud?”
Clint can’t see his face for the faceplate but he can hear the evil grin, judging by the nervous look Steve’s shooting at him, he can too as Toy answers, “You want me to generate a bass guitar scale loud enough to blanket Manhattan? I think I can work something out.”
Phil outs the phone back to his mouth. “Stark can do it. We’re on our way.” He hangs up and tosses the phone back to Clint before saying, “We’re on our way Agent Lewis,” into the second receiver and running his eyes over the three Avengers in the hallway. “Are you ready?”
Clint steps backwards, almost into Steve, who says nothing merely makes way for him. Clint gestures at the now unblocked door. “Lead the way sir,” he says easily.
Ironman’s head doesn’t move, but Clint can feel Tony’s eyes darting between the three of them, but once again he says nothing, simply allows Phil to pass him and head out of the door. “Come on,” he says, having apparently used up his quota of tact and silence in the past few minutes, “Bruce is driving.”
Phil turns in the doorway and surveys his still amazed family. His professionally bland mask cracks and he smiles. “I’ll explain anything the legal team doesn’t when we get back,” he promises, kissing Clint once, lightly on the lips and giving him the familiar half smile before stepping into the cold sunlight.
The others follow, Cap first, Tony close behind him, the angle of Ironman’s helmet meaning that Tony is blatantly checking out Cap’s ass in his tight suit and Clint at the rear, checking out Phil himself as he moves with his usual certain confident strides, still talking into the phone and making hand gestures at the Quinjet which get Bruce to start the engine in readiness. “Mom,” says one of the nieces, “Uncle Phil is dating an Avenger.”
“Stupid,” says her sister, “Uncle Phil is an Avenger.”
Clint smirks as he heads for the Quinjet at his own fast pace, adrenaline and exhilaration thrumming through his veins. Yeah, Phil is an Avenger. He’s a hero and a brilliant man. And it’s about time his family knew it.