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On the Care and Feeding of a Not-Quite-Proper Dragon

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Clint knows what he is ok? He's not like, in denial about it. He calls himself Hawkeye, compares himself to the raptor bird because it's as close as he can get without sounding crazy, though to be fair, his chances of being locked up in a loony bin for talking about dragons have significantly decreased since joining SHIELD...

Too bad his chances of being locked up in a lab for experimentation have gone up.

Anyway.

Point is, he's not denying it. He knows who he is, who his parents were.

Or rather what, if you wanted to get technical about it.

Mama was a human, pure and simple, though if you asked five-year-old Clint she was an angel come to earth. Papa though, well, Papa was a full dragon, with all the rage and anger and impatience of their breed.

And Clint?

Well, Clint got lucky.

He had all his mother's control, all her sweetness of temper and love of laughter and none of his father's fury. You wouldn't even know he was related to the bastard at all if you didn't know what he could do, the potency of his blood and his history and his nature.

It was the nature part that got him into trouble.

Everything was normal right? Going just fine. Monster of the Month vs the Avengers, Wacko of the Week with a magic stick, shouting about false faces and teaching the world to see. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a regular old Tuesday.

Clint was pretty much sitting this one out at the moment, perched on a ledge ten stories above the ground with his bow in his hand and nothing to do but watch as Steve tried to talk Professor Wall Street Screwed Me down. The guy was ranting and raving like it would save his life but thus far he hadn't actually done anything, just kept going on and on about the lies the world told and how trust was for the weak, and really it was all Clint could do to stop himself from nailing the guy with a tranquilizer arrow just to shut him up.

He'd gotten kinda bored honestly.

Blah, blah, blah, mass corporation... Blah, blah, blah, big brother...

Yawn.

With nothing to shoot at it was understandable that he might have zoned out a little. Steve and Phil were on the ground with a dozen of SHIELD's finest, Tony was circling overhead, and Bruce was tucked safely away in a van trying to figure out if the glow in the scepter the guy was swinging around had any more power in it than your average nightlight, while Clint just stood around getting bored. Natasha was nearby, four flights down on the next building over, waiting in the shadows of an alleyway ready to intervene if Steve took his boy scout schtick too far and got himself into trouble... or if Clint had a minor freak-out melt-down.

Understandable, given the glowing staff and all, but unnecessary. He'd managed to keep his secret from Loki even under the sway of the tesseract, just like he'd kept it from the world all his life. Nat knew, had known for a long time and she was the only one who knew, but he'd never told her that one good shift had shaken the last of the mischief god's magic and left him free.

Clint had looked into the blue with his dragon eyes and felt nothing.

Everything else, the guilt, the pain, all the rest of it was burned away when three months after he was declared dead Clint's handler had appeared at the door of Avengers Tower madder than a wet cat and completely lost, hissing and spitting about a certain one-eyed director and babbling nonsense about Tahiti.

Clint had maybe made that his pet project for the next few weeks.

As a dragon he had more than a bit of magic in him, magic that could help heal if he cared enough, tried hard enough... loved enough.

He'd had a tough time keeping it slow, steady, and eventually he'd had to pull it all back when Phil got suspicious, but only Nat had realized what was going on. She'd never called him on it, never confronted him, but she'd made it clear she knew every time she looked at him with bright, worried eyes, every time she frowned when she caught him trailing after Phil like a puppy, but it was fine, it was good.

He'd known Phil didn't love him, almost as long as he'd know that he loved Phil.

Anyway, point was, the pawn shop magician with his amber-colored scepter didn't bother him.

In hindsight, he probably should have.

"And you," he suddenly snarled, swinging around and hitting Clint with a piercing stare, one far too strong and angry for the distance. "You're the biggest liar of them all aren't you? Deadly danger, teeth and claws hidden behind a smile and a wink. Hawkeye. You're just a cold-blooded murderer beneath it all aren't you?"

The team shouts, all of them, cries of indignation on his behalf, defenses that don't mean anything because the guy's right. Clint even thinks he hears Phil make a sound of disbelief, of anger over the comms. He stuck, his feet frozen in place and he can't breath, his heart suddenly pounding in his ears because there's no way this guy can know, this nobody.

Dragons are one of the world's best kept secrets, even beyond the knowledge of SHIELD.

He can't...

Clint never learns how this man, this nobody knows things he shouldn't.

Before he can blink, before he can flinch, the guy's baring his teeth like a damned gargoyle and the whipping the staff around like a catapult, firing a beam of golden light straight at him. Clint's whole body flashes cold and he turns instinctively, hears his friends all shout his name as he bolts for the other side of the building, but he's not fast enough.

The beam hits him just as his boots leave the ground in a desperate, futile leap for the next building, crashing into him like a battering ram and sending him spinning off in another direction, one that ends up causing his body to collide with unyielding brick and mortar. His head cracks off the rough surface and he falls, all ten stories rapidly disappearing as he tumbles, half-conscious toward the ground, and his last thought before he crash-lands in knock-out moment of pain is that Phil absolutely hates it when he jumps.

AVAVA

Phil fucking hates magic spears.

He's got a pretty damned good reason, so he doesn't feel too badly about it.

It's not like generalizing or stereotyping in this instance has ever been wrong.

Doesn't seem to matter who it is, or why they're angry – a gleaming magical staff is never good.

This time it's a middle-aged man, aggressively ordinary, not all that different from Phil himself standing in the middle of a small New York neighborhood, waving a stick that glows an enticing golden color, complaining about taxes and the state of Wall Street and things that he's probably never even experienced first hand.

He's paying attention, hasn't zoned out even though this man is as dry as a desert, so he should be expecting it when things change.

He's not.

One minute things are trotting along just fine – Rogers is letting the guy vent his frustrations while Tony and the handful of SHIELD agents on the ground keep a close eye on him – then all of a sudden without provocation things begin to escalate. The man's voice takes on a higher, more fevered pitch and his movements become short and sharp, and then he's swinging round and staring across the street in the direction of the building where Hawkeye and the Widow are perched, waiting.

Phil feels a chill creep up his spine.

The magician snarls, spits nasty accusations, and around him Phil hears his agents protest, hears the Avengers shout but his isn't listening. He knows the real truth about Clint, doesn't let the angry ramblings of a maniac touch him, but the cold suddenly floods his belly with a feeling of sheer dread and he's thrown backward in time, the scar across his chest flaring with phantom pain as the man raises his staff, that god-damn magic spear and twirls it above his head, flinging it out toward Clint's position and firing a beam of golden light like a gun.

He doesn't hear himself shout.

Doesn't hear Tony's repulsors whine, or Steve's shield ring out, doesn't hear him give the takedown command.

Everything's gone quiet, like the deafened aftermath of a bomb going off.

His eyes are locked on the roof across the way as he watches Clint's silhouette turn, watches him run, watches him jump.

He hates it when he jumps.

Dread turns to horror as Clint's boot leaves the brick just in time for the beam of light to hit him like a truck, turns him in midair and sends him toppling down past the edge of the roof. There's a clang and a crash that he shouldn't be able to hear from his position but he's a lot closer than he was, running hard even as he checks to make sure that the magician's been taken down, is secure with Agent Tomlin's knee in his back, Steve looming over him. SHIELD's got it under control, there's virtually no collateral damage, and everything is over, and very abruptly the only thing that matters at all is Clint.

Phil's heart is pounding furiously in his chest as he runs for the alley, praying to god he won't find Clint splattered across the pavement. He's seen the man take a lot of falls, seen him get lucky countless times, get up and walk away without a scratch or hobble off with no more than a broken ankle, but it never scares him any less.

Maybe scares him even more now.

See, dying does things to a man, makes him admit a few things to himself he spent a lot of time avoiding, and after being resurrected he's finally acknowledged that he's head-over-heels for Clint Barton. He told himself that as soon as things stopped being weird, tense and awkward and unsure between them after he'd come back that he would tell the man.

They haven't gotten there yet.

Now he's suddenly faced with the possibility of a future where they never do.
Natasha's already in the alley when he gets there, and Tony and Thor are hot on his heels. He can hear Bruce over the comms barking at medical to prep a gurney just in case, and knows Steve will be beside him in moments, but Clint is nowhere in sight and he can feel an icy panic coursing through his veins as he fights a flashback, fights the memory of what happened the last time Clint clashed with an effervescent magic stick.

"Coulson!" Natasha snaps, and Phil blinks, jogs to her side where she's kneeling next to an overflowing dumpster and promptly has to swallow down the gorge that rises in his throat.

There's a splash of blood staining the concrete at her feet.

"Jarvis, scan the area!" Stark snaps from behind him, voice tinny and sharp from inside the suit.

Phil doesn't hear the AI's response but knows the computer is collecting every scrap of data that it can from the confines of the Iron Man armor. Natasha's hand is tight on his wrist, grinding bone together, and the sharp bite of pain is grounding, helps him focus.

"Spread out," he barks, "Search the alley. Someone get me every god-damn surveillance tape we can find, have forensics bag and tag this blood, and get that fucking staff down to Stark's R and D now!"

SHIELD Agents scattered – they knew that tone of voice and the consequences of disobedience, of delay. In less than twenty minutes the alley had been scoured, camera feeds pulled from every angle, as much evidence gathered as possible, and absolutely no sign had been found of Agent Barton, of Clint outside of that small, dark stain on the pavement.

"Let's get back to the Tower," Natasha says quietly, her voice small and steady and controlled. Phil wants to snap, wants to snarl but for that, but for how tightly contained she is, how practical. "If Clint is injured, if something is wrong and he can still walk, that's where he'll go."

Phil clenches his teeth, knows that she's gone the same place he has, to that place where the fear is all-consuming and images of blank, ice-blue eyes stare out of a friend's face and you wonder if you'll ever get them back again.

She's right, he knows she's right, but he still needs to be dragged away.

Natasha grips his wrist tight, forces him to turn away and walk to the end of the alley. Steve squeezes his shoulder silently. Thor pounds him on the back and vows to find their friend Hawk in his booming, thunderous voice. Stark for once is silent, but he walks at Phil's side, one step behind like some kind of honor guard.

He wonders what he looks like, that they're acting like this, wonders if he's given himself away. He's not supposed to show favoritism, not to his agents or the Avengers, but right now, in this moment, he couldn't care less.

He's gone up against a god to get his specialist back, woke up from the dead prepared to raze the world and Asgard to the ground to get him back.

He's prepared to do it again.