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Teach You to Fly (before you fall)

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Clint fell for Phil first.

He was a new recruit at SHIELD, loudmouthed but with the skills to back it up, so people left him alone (for the most part). Phil Coulson was the man who had recruited him, been the only SHIELD agent that Clint had respected enough to actually allow himself to be taken in.

Falling for Phil had been as easy as breathing. Phil was always the one to back Clint up when he went off book, always the one to let Clint hang in his office whenever Clint was hiding out from someone he had pulled a prank on, always the one to patch Clint up when the archer absolutely refused to go to medical. He was Clint's supervising officer, his best friend, his partner, so when Clint found Phil's Soulmark (a small red car) on his left hipbone, he wasn't too surprised.

After six more months, when he thought that maybe   just maybe   Phil was falling for him, too, Clint made the decision to tell Phil. He got as far as the outside of Phil's apartment building before he saw Phil kissing some woman through his apartment window.

 

Maria came next.

Maria Hill was a bossy know-it-all that all the other recruits hated working with. Clint loved whenever he was paired with her; she didn't take any of his crap, and she was so very talented, both at hand-to-hand and strategy. She had a big brain to go along with her good looks, and a short temper. Clint found her Soulmark (a dark blue swirling pattern that Clint had learned was the Gaelic symbol for strength) on the patch of skin right under his left armpit the morning after he and Maria had drunkenly made out.

The same morning he found it, Maria made it clear that she wasn't interested in him like that and that she wanted to go back to being friends. He agreed, of course, and promised himself to never tell her that he held her Mark.

 

His love for Nick had come as a surprise.

Nick Fury was the imposing Director of SHIELD, intense and serious and filled with   ironically   lots of fury, but slowly Clint began to get to know the man behind the title. Nick could be funny, his humor filled with sarcastic remarks and eye rolls, and Clint began to live for causing Nick to express one of his rare, genuine smiles. Clint soon figured out that, while he got in trouble if he was caught pulling pranks, that he amused Nick to no end with his practical jokes.

He had stood and stared at his right calf for a long time when Nick's Soulmark (an eye patch, which Clint had snickered at when Nick had first told him what his Soulmark was over a beer) had appeared there. He quickly decided to not say a thing when he saw Nick and Maria exchanging glances and small touches when no one was looking (except Clint, because Clint was always looking).

 

Natasha was next, and it was a no brainer that he fell for her.

Reading the file on the Black Widow made Clint already fall in love a bit; not with all the kills the assassin had managed, but with the grace and poise she went about everything. When Nick and Phil called him into the briefing room and told him that he was going to be sent after her   to kill her   Clint was filled with both excitement and dread; excitement because they thought he was skilled enough to take her down. Dead because he didn't want to kill someone with such talent.

So when he was set atop a building, arrow knocked and pointed at the Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff, she had a name, even if Phil and Nick forgot that) down on the street below looking right up at him and doing nothing to save herself, Clint made a decision. He told Phil through his earpiece that he was going to go a little off-book, and then walked down to the street to talk to Agent Romanoff of Red Room. Two days later he walked into SHIELD Headquarters with Natasha behind him, ready to defect.

Less than two months later Natasha was stitching him up after a mission gone bad when a Soulmark (the Black Widow symbol; two red triangles with their points touching) appeared on his right side. She had kissed him, but when they were lying together in Clint's bed, she revealed that her body was completely clear of all marks save her own. Clint had been disappointed, but he settled for the love she could give him, that of a sister.

 

Tony came suddenly into his life.

Clint had met the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist when the man was consulting on a project for SHIELD. They   quite literally   ran into each other on the Hellicarrier. Tony quipped a joke right away about destiny and Clint joked right back. This meeting started a quick friendship, in which Clint was one of the only SHIELD agents that Tony could tolerate.

Tony flirted with Clint constantly, so it wasn't long before Clint found Tony's Soulmark (a blue and black pattern that looked exactly like the arc reactor in the genius's chest) in the middle of his back. Clint came close to telling Tony so many times, but kept himself from doing it for fear of becoming another one of Tony's conquests. Plus, there was the whole "Tony dating his CEO Pepper Potts" thing. There was no point in telling him to only be shot down and lose a friend.

 

Thor was a complete surprise.

Clint was in New Mexico, working with Phil to check out a strange hammer that had fallen from the sky and could not be moved. It was their second night in the dry heat when rain started pouring down, and a big blonde man broke into their complex and started ramming through SHIELD agents like they were nothing. Clint was up in the sky, arrow knocked and ready to fire, becoming more and more impressed with the man tearing through the plastic halls each second. He told Coulson as much, beginning to root for the man, when there was a sudden burning in the space right above his bellybutton.

Clint ignored it and did his job, but was even more confused later that night when he was in his quarters and saw a shiny new Soulmark on his stomach, a silver hammer that looked distinctly like the one stuck in the rock just a few feet away. How had that happened? He hadn't even met the man who had gone to the hammer, and somehow he loved him? And why had it burned? That had never happened before when he got Soulmarks. Maybe this man was something different, something that had sped everything up.

Before Clint got a chance to find out, the man   Thor freaking Odinson, a fucking god   was kissing the scientist Jane Foster, and then was gone.

 

Steve was a light in the dark.

Clint was the third agent assigned to watch Steve Rogers, the first two having been sent away after Steve figured them out and got upset. Clint decided to approach it differently, telling Steve right away that he was a SHIELD agent. Steve, of course, immediately told him to leave, told him that he didn't need a babysitter, which Clint just shrugged at and went to punch a punching bag. After a week of no talking between the two, Steve bridged the gap, making his first friend in the twenty-first century.

As they got closer, Steve told Clint about Peggy and Bucky, the two people he loved absolutely and that he had lost. Apparently, Steve and Bucky had been a thing, something they had kept secret from the rest of the world, since that was the way of the times. One night Steve showed Clint Bucky's mark on Steve's shoulder, a star in a beautiful red color. The next week, Clint woke up to Steve's Soulmark (a blue star, perfect compliment to Bucky's) on the soft patch of skin on his inner right elbow. He cried and cried, sad that he had fallen for yet another person who would never love him.

 

Bruce was easy to love.

After the events of the Battle of Manhattan, Clint became a lot closer with all of the members of his affection (except for Phil because Phil was dead). He stamped down on his feelings so that it wouldn't get in the way of his friendships, respecting his friends enough to not force himself on them.

He began spending time with Bruce at first because he was curious about the man who so thoroughly controlled a beast inside himself. He stayed because Bruce was kind and caring and Clint loved the way the man's eyes would light up whenever he talked about his latest science project, or about all the different things that he had discovered. Loving Bruce came easily, so Clint barely blinked when he was training one day and found Bruce's Soulmark (a green radiation symbol) on his right shoulder. He knew Bruce still loved Betty (Bruce had talked about it enough) so he did nothing, content to be able to love so many amazing people.

 

Sam was so understanding.

The circumstances that Sam entered Clint's life were upsetting, especially with the pain that Steve was in to have found out the man he loved was actually alive and had been brainwashed. Sam came to the tower with Steve, helping Steve look for Bucky every free moment the two had. Sam became an unofficial Avenger, and instantly became close with Clint over their shared love of heights and bird-related names. Sam was kind and funny and the perfect person to talk to whenever you had something on your mind.

When Clint discovered Sam's Soulmark (a small pair of red and black wings) in between his shoulders, he wasn't surprised, just sad. He had seen Steve's mark on Sam's back a few weeks earlier when the two had been training together, so he knew that Sam loved Steve, not Clint.

 

Bucky   James knew what he gone through, had gone through it himself.

When Steve and Sam finally found Bucky, they brought him to the tower. Slowly, one by one over the course of a couple weeks, the two introduced the rest of the Avengers to the former-Winter Soldier. When Clint met Bucky, the first thing Bucky said to him was about how Clint had been brainwashed into doing bad things. Clint shrunk back from the words, afraid that this person who was only just meeting him would share in the popular opinion that Clint should be blamed for his actions. However, Bucky simply shook and hand and offered a grin, saying that he completely understood.

They spent more time together than Bucky ("I don't feel like Bucky yet" "Ok, how about James?" "Yea, James works") James spent with any of the other Avengers, except for Steve and Sam. Clint and James bonded quickly, relating over how they were sometimes treated with kids gloves over their stints as brainwashed assassins, and how sometimes they still felt wrong for continuing to exist when their victims hadn't. They began to heal together, so Clint finding James's Soulmark (that beautiful red star Clint had seen on Steve years before) on his left shoulder was completely expected. He clearly loved Steve, though, so Clint wasn't going to get in the way of a love that had lasted more than seventy years.


The mission was really straightforward; Doom bots were attacking Manhattan, so the Avengers (with newest members Falcon and the Winter Soldier) were dispatched to deal with them.

Clint was up high, taking down as many bots as he could with his EMP arrows that Tony had made him specially. Everything was going pretty well, the Doom bots were slowly but surely being taken down, and there had been no sign of Doctor Doom's presence as of yet. Clint cleared his section of bots and began looking for other ways to help his team with the problem. Suddenly, with no warning what-so-ever, pain erupted through his chest. He looked down and saw a giant blade sticking right through him.

Clint dropped his bow in shock, blood gurgling up through his lips and spilling down his chin. The blade withdrew quick with a lot of pain, and Clint dropped to his knees, and then down onto his side. Doctor Doom was standing above with a blade (the blade, his mind supplied slowly) covered in blood. The blade was then coming towards him again, striking Clint again (pain) and again (pain) and again (pain) and again (so much pain).

"Weak," Doctor Doom said above him, then the villain was gone, stepping out of Clint quickly darkening view.

"Guys," Clint mumbled into his earpiece, "archer down." Vaguely he heard people yelling his name, calling out to him, but his voice wasn't working anymore and everything was going dark. He let the blackness take him.

 

When Clint woke up, he wasn't in any pain, which was weird, because he distinctly remembered being stabbed a bunch of times. Slowly he blinked his eyes open, looking around blearily. He was in a medical room that he recognized as one of the ones in Avengers Tower. There was a heart monitor beeping steadily behind him and sunlight streaming through a window.

Clint smiled when he saw Natasha sitting in a chair by his bedside, staring at him intensely. "Hey, Tasha," he grinned, "I must be on the good drugs, 'cause I don't feel a lick of pain."

Natasha smiled at him, but it was her controlled smile, the one she used when she wasn't letting anything slip. "No, Tony called in Helen Cho; she fixed you up. All the wounds are gone, just leaving faint scars behind. You shouldn't feel any pain for them, except maybe phantom pain, but that's unlikely; you've never been one to experience that, but who knows. Doctor Cho said it could be a side effect."

Clint frowned, feeling the tension in Natasha. "What aren't you telling me, Nat? What's wrong?"

Natasha simply shook her head and stood, walking towards the door. "Get dressed and meet me out in the common room, the Avengers want to speak to you." She turned back to look at him and gave him what was supposed to be a reassuring smile, but just made Clint feel uneasy, and then she was gone.

After she left, Clint took a shower first, washing away the leftover blood that was still around the areas where he had been stabbed. The shower felt good, and he took special time to wash over his various Soulmarks. One of the stabs had come very close to cutting Phil's mark in half, which would've made Clint very sad, since there would be a scar over it. Luckily, the stab (and the new scar) was a few centimeters to the left of the mark, so it missed the mark completely.

When he got out of the shower he found his favorite pair of sweatpants and a long-sleeved purple shirt (always long-sleeved, lest the others catch sight of his Soulmarks). He pulled both on quickly, anxiety hitting him suddenly about what the Avengers wanted to talk to him about. Maybe him getting taken down had finally made them realize that he was useless compared to all of them, and they were going to kick him off the team. As he walked to the elevator and then to the Avengers common room, he felt his chest getting tighter and tighter, the anxiety really hitting him.

Just breathe, he told himself, everything will be alright.

"Hello, boys and girls," Clint said with his trademark grin when he entered the common room, catching sight of every single one of the Avengers. They all looked at him with serious expressions, and Clint looked to Tony for some comedic relief, but even the jokester looked pretty serious. "What's going on?"

"Clint," Sam began. Uh oh, Clint thought, they're making Sam do it because he can let me down gently. "Clint," Sam said again, and Clint realized his attention had wandered in his worry; he turned his attention back to Sam, and the pilot smiled in a way that immediately calmed Clint down. "Clint, we wanted to talk to you about your Soulmarks." Clint froze. "We didn't see them intentionally, but we had to strip you down for Helen to be able to access your wounds. I'm sorry we invaded your privacy, but we had no choice." To his credit, Sam did actually look sorry.

Clint began to backtrack, stumbling back and away from the conversation that he had been avoiding for such a long time. He turned to run and ran straight into Thor, who had somehow managed to get behind him without Clint even noticing. "Shield brother," Thor said deeply and so very seriously, "please sit, we only wish to talk." Clint looked around for somewhere to run, but every direction held an Avenger; there was nowhere to go.

Numbly, Clint made his way over to the collection of couches where the Avengers were gathered. James slid over to make room for the archer and patted the spot next to him. Clint sat, leg beginning to bounce with nerves. He jumped when James's hand (his non-metal one) landed on his knee and squeezed in a comforting manner. Clint smiled at the brunette man   he was going to miss him when they kicked him out   and then turned his attention back to Sam, who had opened his mouth to speak again.

"Clint, do you think that we called you here to kick you off the Avengers because you hold all of our marks?" Clint could only nod, and he didn't miss the way James's hand tightened in anger. Clint shrank back. "Clint, we're not mad at you, and let me put your mind at ease; we are definitely not kicking you off the Avengers. We all love having you on the team. In fact," Sam paused until Clint met his eyes, "we all love you."

It hurt, for Sam to say that so cavalierly. Clint knew that they loved him like a brother, he didn't need Sam throwing it in his face that he would not be loved back in the way that he loved them. "I get it," Clint said. Sam's eyebrows raised. "I do, I really do. You guys see me like a brother, and that's ok, really. I've loved you all for years, I didn't do anything before, and I won't do anything now. You don't have to worry about me bothering you or anything."

"Oh, Clint," Steve said sadly, "that's not what Sam meant. He means that we're all in love with you."

Clint stared at Steve blankly. Then he laughed, tears filling his eyes that he tried desperately to keep from spilling over. "You know, Cap, that's quite a mean joke to play, especially for you." The tears spilled over and Clint wiped at them angrily. "I never did anything about it, why would you tease me like this?"

"Goddammit, Clint!" Tony yelled. "You know what, Wilson? We tried it your way, now we're trying it mine." Tony stood up and pulled off his tee-shirt. He jabbed a finger at his left pectoral, right above his heart, where a mark stood out against Tony's tan skin. It was a hawk in flight, carrying a purple arrow in it's beak. It wasn't just any mark. It was Clint's Soulmark.

Clint stood up, moving over to Tony in a daze, his eyes never leaving his mark on the other man's skin. When he was close enough, the archer reached out and ran his hand over it, moving it around, just to be sure it was real. He looked up and met Tony's eyes, mouth opening and closing, unsure what to say. Tony simply grinned and pulled Clint into a hug, which Clint readily returned.

When Tony pulled away, Clint reluctantly let go as well, and the turned around to face the rest of the Avengers. "So you all...you all hold my mark?" Clint asked, still very unsure and not quite believing it.

One by one they all showed him. James had it on his right wrist, Bruce had it on his left ankle, Steve had it in the middle of his back, Sam had it on his left collarbone, Thor had it on his right shoulder, and Tony over his heart. Natasha didn't have it, but Clint had known that years and years ago, and had already come to love her as a sister instead of romantically.

"How..." Clint didn't know what to say. "Where do we go from here?"

Each of the Avengers soon explained how they felt. James, Steve, and Sam all held each others marks and were in a relationship together, and wanted to involve Clint in it, if he was willing. Thor held Jane's mark, but wanted to be with Clint as well. Tony was with Pepper, held her mark, but wanted the chance at a relationship with Clint. Bruce had lost Betty long ago, and just wanted Clint, if Clint was ok with that.

Clint didn't know what to do. "And you're all ok with me wanting to be with all of you separately? And you're all ok with me still loving Nick and Maria and Phil? How...how could I be so lucky?"

"It's called polyamory," Sam explained, "it's when you participate in more than one serious relationship." Clint nodded his understanding. "So what'll it be, Clint? Are you in?"

Clint grinned, sliding his left hand into Bucky's and his right one into Tony's and pulling the rest of them in for a hug. "I'm in."