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Talking it Out

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Clint stared up at the ceiling of his new bedroom, unable to sleep.

He had stored away the smaller bag he always kept packed, but everything else had gone away.

If he reached out, he could feel Coulson’s ‘sleep’ emotions, a soft shift that was soothing, easily held back by barriers that seemed almost natural amongst it all, not suppressing the emotions, but allowing them to be, just not at a level that had Clint wanting to curl over and cling to his head.

If he reached out, he would feel the single-minded devotion Aegis had for Darcy, his alpha, his person, and his reason for living.

It was a little terrifying, actually, feeling that, almost swamping Clint.

Or it would, if he reached out.

But, as he wasn’t, he wouldn’t feel an answering response of a Sensitive, younger, but like him. Someone who would, like him, see and feel and hear and smell the world around them in an opening of a thousand senses and emotions, prisms set up all around to reflect the emotions around in a brighter and brighter upheaval before finally managing to wrestle some semblance of control into one’s own life.

But, he wasn’t reaching out, curious and searching and finding someone like him, so he couldn’t notice all that.

Clint wonders if he was always this bad at lying to himself or if it just because this is nothing like he was expecting.

Agent Coulson had always fascinated him, as most other agents that he ran across that were ‘protective’ towards something, were usually protective of the country they lived in, or of the organization that they worked for.

Agent Coulson was not.

What Clint could gleam from it, the only reason Coulson wanted to be in the organization he was because it was the best chance he had to protect…someone.

Darcy.

His daughter.

He had a wife, Clint remembered that distantly, and remembered that she had died.

Or at least, that was what Coulson had told him.

But, had he told Clint the truth?

Or had Clint been told yet another lie?

With a sigh, he flipped off his covers, yanked a sweatshirt over the t-shirt he slept in that matched his sweat pants and headed for the bedroom door. He slipped out of his room silently and walked with barely a whisper of movement, across the hall and down the stairs.

He paused when he got to the living room before his eyes fell on the mantel. He hesitated and then walked over, curiosity getting the better of him.

Pictures of Darcy littered it.

Darcy with Aegis was towards the front, some with Peggy to the side, and a few with Coulson toward the back.

In all of them, Coulson was smiling, something so foreign, and so…nice about it that Clint was attracted to it.

Others were dotted here and there; pictures taken poorly (most likely by Darcy) were along the front as well, though never covering any pictures of Darcy and Aegis, or Darcy and Peggy.

Coulson’s pictures were tucked behind, as if a forgotten uncle or a wayward cousin or, by some stretch of the imagination, a vastly older brother.

And behind it all, was a family photo, free of dust, but obviously hidden at the same time. Clint carefully reached over and lifted it up, his curiosity curling around him like an over-eager boa constrictor.

The woman, Darcy’s mother, was beautiful. She was smiling and happy, and had one arm wrapped tightly around Coulson’s waist, though Clint had to take a few minutes to realize it was Coulson, considering he was wearing a Captain America t-shirt and in jeans, who was smiling at the camera. One of his arms was around her shoulders and both of them were holding Darcy up for the camera.

She was wearing a t-shirt to match Coulson’s.

And, on a more focused glanced on Mrs. Coulson, he realized that she was wearing the same t-shirt.

It was tooth-rottingly sweet, until Clint remembered that she was dead.

There were no other pictures beyond this time.

Shit, how old was this kid when her mom died?

“I was four,” Darcy stated and Clint jumped, nearly dropping the picture, frame and all before he turned around, staring at a nightgown clad, bare foot, Darcy.

Aegis was following her, staring at Clint.

He apparently trusted Clint with Darcy, but didn’t like being away from her more than he had to be.

What was wrong with that dog?

He focused back on Darcy and wondered how she snuck up on him, before remembering how he handled his Sensitive ability.

He focused all his attention toward one object.

It practically left him deaf, dumb, and blind.

He really needed to work on that.

“How did you know I was thinking that?” he asked.

“You’re looking at the family portrait. And you’re all angry-sad…wishy-washy, weirdy, with a good dose of curiosity and ‘what the hell is happening in my life?’ thrown in,” the girl answered and yawned, barely remembering to cover her mouth as she did.

Aegis let out a grumble and obviously wanted to go back to bed, but Darcy was staring up at Clint, who was staring back at her, unable to process that this child was like him.

“You know, Daddy is really good at teaching people to shield. He could probably teach you, if you wanted,” she stated and Clint eyed her.

She just wanted to help.

Darcy blinked a bit and then sat down on the couch. Aegis flopped onto the ground at her feet and Darcy reached over, patting the spot next to her. “Let’s play twenty questions,” she stated.

“What?” Clint asked, surprise and confusion winning out over his warring emotions.

“Play twenty questions. You ask one about me and I ask one about you. If you don’t want to answer, you say pass and I get to ask a different one,” she explained and pat the spot next to her again.

Clint, who had not interacted with children since before joining the ‘circus’, stared at her. He was still holding onto the frame when he sat down next to her.

Darcy beamed. “Good. You go first,” she stated and Clint blinked.

“What is your favorite color?” he asked.

“Black. It is a long story,” Darcy responded.

She seemed to ponder her question for a bit and nodded. “What is your favorite color?” she questioned.

“Black too. What is your least favorite color?”

“Yellow,” Darcy responded and leaned back against the sofa cushions, pondering.

“What is your least favorite color?” she questioned.

“Purple. It is a long story. How did you get Aegis?” he asked.

“I adopted him last year. Aegis and I really clicked and he’s pretty smart. I was told that he wouldn’t play fetch by a couple of people who said something about Akitas being guardians, not people pleasers, but he likes it,” she answered and gave a shrug.

She began to tap her finger on her lips, nose scrunching up slightly in thought before she beamed. “Did you ever have any pets?” she asked.

“I had a pet rock named Suma,” Clint answered.

He refused to go into why he only ever had a pet rock named Suma. Darcy, however, seemed to want to ask more, which meant he should probably indulge her and get with a question.

He would deny, to the grave, that he was enjoying it.

“Favorite food?”


Darcy had passed on explaining why yellow was her least favorite color, and any questions about her mother, the sharp stab of grief that lanced through Clint’s head on the few questions he tried making him realize that, while Darcy could talk about her mother’s death easily, she still had a hard time talking about her mother.

Clint had a distant feeling that Coulson was the same way.

Clint, however, had passed on any questions pertaining to the whys of his life, or his family.

She had focused mostly on Suma though.

At some point during the game, she had curled up next to him, head pillowed against her arms, feet shoved under him for warmth, curled up on the seat she had taken for herself.

And, at some point, Clint had started rubbing her back.

“What is your favorite activity to do with your dad?” he asked, honestly curious.

He was a bit surprised when he got no answer.

Glancing over, he stared in surprise when he realized that Darcy was asleep. And, for that matter, so was Aegis.

“Of course,” he muttered and distantly wondered what time it was.

“A quarter till two,” Coulson’s voice stated and Clint nearly jumped right off the couch.

As it was, his surprise and fear spiked through the roof and Darcy mumbled something before she calmed back down with Clint’s emotions.

Clint glared a bit at Coulson, who was also dressed in pajamas. “What is with you people and sneaking up on me?” he asked as Coulson left the room Clint had spied earlier.

He wondered if that was Coulson’s room.

“It’s fun,” Coulson answered in deadpan and sighed as he stared down at Darcy, Aegis slowly waking up with a yawn, stretching a bit as he stood.

Coulson sighed and ran a hand over Darcy’s hair before he carefully scooped the girl up.

To Clint’s surprise, he was rather…saddened by the fact Coulson had come to collect her. “Put the picture back and I’ll show you where Darcy’s room is so that, when she decides to pass out on the couch, I won’t have to worry about her not returning to her properly insulated room,” Coulson stated and Clint stared at him before back at his hand that still held in his other hand.

“Sorry,” he stated and stood up, replacing the picture.

“For what?” Coulson asked.

Clint hesitated, before he carefully settled the picture back and removed his hand.

On another glance, he could see a picture of a tall man with hair that was already graying holding Darcy, of a man with a pretty face as well.

Well, maybe Clint’s age.

Sort-of.

Clint was sure he was a little older.

Staring at the pictures, Clint wondered what it was he was sorry for and he shrugged a bit.

“Very well. Come on Barton,” Coulson answered.

“Clint,” Clint responded and he looked over at the man who was carrying his ten year old like she was the most precious thing on earth.

To him, she probably was.

Clint wasn’t sure what to feel about her.

He mostly…well, he liked kids. It was guaranteed that, if a kid was involved, he was going to do something rash and stupid.

“What?” Coulson questioned.

“Off the clock. Call me Clint…please,” Clint stated, nearly shuddering when the word passed his lips.

He hated saying that word.

It rarely did what it was supposed to do.

“If that’s what you wish Clint,” Coulson answered and Clint blinked in surprise, even as Coulson began to head back up the stairs.

“Coming?” he called.

Clint quickly followed, easily overtaking Aegis, who walked diligently at Coulson’s right heel.

“So, who were the other two guys on the mantel?” he asked.

“Ask Darcy in the morning. Just after breakfast. She gets excited when talking about her uncles and she won’t eat if she’s talking. The last time she tried, she choked on her food,” Coulson responded and Clint nearly started at the sense of aching longing that came with what ifs that swirled around the agent briefly before settling back where it belonged.

Wherever that was.

Coulson nodded to a door and Clint opened it for him, surprised by the forest wonderland that was her room. A forest stretched around, deer peering out, a wolf crouched under the window, though not wary, just…there, at ease, getting ready to run maybe. Amongst the roots, a fox was poking his head out of a den and, when Clint walked over to one of the walls, he found that hidden amongst the mist in the background, was a unicorn carefully swirled together and into the very mist so, when not investigated, could not be seen.

“Who did this?” Clint asked.

Coulson looked up from where he had tucked Darcy into bed and Aegis was already settled at Darcy’s feet.

“I did,” Coulson answered, unnecessarily brushing Darcy’s hair back before he stood normally, muttering something about getting old.

“It’s very good. Especially the unicorn in the mist,” Clint answered and Coulson’s surprise spiked through his barriers.

He did not physically show it. “It took Darcy a few hours to find it. I hid a bunch of animals all around. However, now is not the time for that. Now is time for sleep. And God do I need it right now,” Coulson responded and headed out.

Clint quickly followed and Coulson pulled the door mostly closed.

It was only then that Clint realized that his room was directly across from Darcy’s.

Clint stared at his room, then back at Darcy’s and then back at Coulson.

“You don’t know me,” Clint stated.

“You’re a stubborn mule,” Coulson retorted.

“No, that’s not what I mean. You don’t know me, but you put me right next to your daughter. This…the girl that…shit, would you not do anything for her?” Clint retorted.

“Sell my soul. I draw the line there. But everything else is pretty much fair game,” Coulson responded easily and headed back for the stairs.

“Tea?” he asked and Clint gaped as he followed Coulson, unable to connect his thought to his mouth, a rare problem for him.

Because Clint could not ask why.

Why was this man, who would do just about anything and everything for his daughter, place Clint, practically a rogue agent, near her?

“Okay,” Clint whispered and followed him down.

He felt a brush of concern behind him and he turned to find Darcy peeking out the door.

He hesitated and then, carefully, projected ideas of warmth and sleep back at her.

She yawned, not covering her mouth this time and pulled away, her emotions slipping into the sleep pattern soon after.

And with that, Clint went down to join his handler for tea.

He wondered, briefly, if it had anything to do with that British lady he had met.