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Fic - Aren't Always What They Appear (1/2)



“So have you seen him?”

Turning away from where he’d been watching his son run up to his friends, Clint took in the mom standing and grinning next to him, Sandra, Clint remembered her name was. She was just one in a long line of soccer moms that he had had to get to know and remember who they were. He was pretty sure that her son was Jordan, someone who Pete had been telling Clint all about. Apparently the fact that the other little boy also liked the Hulk meant they were obviously meant to be best friends.

He’d been here for eight months, which was a record for him and Pete. They’d usually have been found by now, by the good guys or the bad guys it didn’t really matter who found them, because in the end he knew that they were after his son and what his son could do.

So the fact that they hadn’t been found yet meant that he had actually started to get to know people, which he wasn’t exactly happy about. He had never been a gossip, not when he was back in the home, or the circus, or those years in between the circus and holding the little boy who would become his son in his arms. It also meant that Pete was able to take part in the little plays and productions the seven year old class was putting on, and that Clint had to come and play nice with the parents after watching his son proudly.

“Who?” Clint asked, unable to stop the small smile that crossed his face when he saw Pete talking animatedly with another little boy. He wasn’t as nervous about Pete being in school and making friends anymore, not since Pete had rolled his eyes at him and informed him that he wasn’t six anymore, and wouldn’t be showing anyone his abilities. Or his ‘superhero’ powers as Pete called them.

Clint still worried, part of him knowing how tempting it would be for a little boy to show his friends his ‘superhero’ powers. Which is why he always kept a bag packed.

Just in case.

“The new teacher,” Sandra continued, leaning closer, dropping her voice to a soft murmur. “Phil Coulson is his name, and there’s just something about him. I can’t even explain it. You just have to see him.”


Eyes flicking around the room, Clint looked for an unfamiliar face, eyes snapping back to the man standing in the corner, talking to another mother. The man was of average height, average build, a good looking man from what Clint could see, but not something he would really think twice about. He had a kind face, something about it that made Clint comfortable, so would no doubt make six and seven year olds comfortable as well.

Flicking his eyes up, he was met by a pair of warm, blue eyes, and felt his breath catch. It was like electricity running through him, as the blue eyes held his, his heart racing, as he looked into the eyes.

Tearing his eyes away, he took in a deep breath, swallowing hard as he tried to calm his racing heart, tried to ignore the tingling sensation across his skin. It had been a long time since something had caught him unaware like that.

“Dad?”

Pete gently grabbed his hand, looking up at him with concerned eyes, a small furrow on his brow with the small frown to match it on his face.

“Hey, buddy, you did great out there.”

Pete grinned up at him, the concern and frown disappearing as he started chattering about the play and his friends.

“Excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt.”

Swallowing hard, Clint kept his eyes on Pete for a few seconds to make sure he was under control, before looking at the man next to him. Up close, Clint could see what Sandra was talking about, there was something about this Phil Coulson that drew you in. From a distance he looked attractive, but up close, with his warm blue eyes on you, lips quirking up a bit, he was gorgeous.

“You must be Peter’s father,” Coulson continued, that smile playing on his face. “Phil Coulson.”

Clint stared at the hand that Coulson held out, before taking it slowly.

“Clint Barker,” Clint replied, shaking the hand, feeling the strength in the fingers that gripped him.

“It’s a pleasure, Mister Barker,” Coulson answered, holding his hand for a moment longer than necessary, his fingers brushing against Clint’s palm when they let go, the feel almost making him shiver. “Peter has done exceptionally well since I’ve started, he’s an extraordinary child.”

“Thank you,” Clint replied, pushing the emotions he was feeling down, letting a small smile cross his face.

Pete was an extraordinary child, one who had been through more than people who were three times his age had. Clint wasn’t sure how much Pete remembered of his life before Clint had swooped in and taken him away from it. Wasn’t sure whether he had any idea of what happened to his parents. He just hoped the kid was too young to remember anything but the vague hint of his parents.


“Dad,” Pete interrupted, the boy clearly embarrassed if the stain of pink spreading across his face was any indication. Clint smiled down at him, unable to keep his face blank when it came to his son, and ran a hand through his hair. When he looked back up, he saw a curious look on Coulson’s face for a brief second, before the warm smile was back.

“Well, it was nice meeting you, Mister Barker,” Coulson said, before he nodded and moved away. Clint couldn’t help but watch him go, ignoring the flutter in his stomach, and instead reminding himself that he didn’t have the luxury of following fluttery feelings where they might lead him.

“Can we go now, Dad?” Pete asked, looking at Coulson’s back for a moment, before looking back up at Clint. “You promised we could have pizza for dinner after the play.”

“Did I?” Clint asked, putting a confused look on his face, as he followed Pete over to where his bag and coat were.

“Yes, you did, remember you said …”

Clint smiled as Pete went on about the conversation they had that morning, Clint unable to stop himself from looking back. Not surprised when blue eyes met his again, before he disappeared around the corner.

**

“Dad. Dad. Dad.”

Clint tried to wipe the smile from his face as his son came barrelling down the stairs from school, running as fast as his little legs would carry him and right into his legs, Pete wrapping his arms around him to keep his balance.

“Da-ad!”

“What’s up, buddy?” Clint asked, reaching out to run a hand through the messy brown hair, grinning when Pete irritably shook his head.

“The class is going to the museum for our class trip,” Pete replied, bouncing on his toes, excitement clear to see on his face, grin so wide that Clint wondered if his cheeks hurt from it. “Can I go?”

“It may help if you remember to give your father the permission slip, Mister Barker.”

Clint felt the voice caress over him, only just managing to supress the shiver that wanted to follow it. Reminding himself that he had once been a top secret agent, back before he picked his son over his job and so called duty, he looked up into the warm chocolate eyes that may have been in his thoughts a few times over the past week.

“Mister Coulson,” he said, holding his hand out, theirs eyes holding as they shook hands, the two of them just staring at each other, until Clint felt Pete move away from him. Looking down, he could see the little crease on Pete’s forehead that suggested the boy was putting something together. Although Clint couldn’t think what it might be.

“Mister Barker,” Coulson replied, mouth twitching up into the barest of smiles, but somehow Clint knew that that was pretty much grinning for the other man. “I’m actually glad I caught you.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, given our trip to the museum, we’ll need parents to chaperone the trip, I was wondering if I could interest you?”

Clint couldn’t help the thought that crossed his mind at Coulson’s words, sure that the teacher hadn’t meant to make the question sound less than innocent. But Clint had to stop himself from thinking along those lines, couldn’t afford to get invested, couldn’t afford to get interested. It hadn’t been a problem previously, the interest he had in other people nowhere near the kind that he had felt when he first met Coulson.

“Yeah, Dad! You have to come!” Pete exclaimed, bouncing up and down on his feet, tugging on Clint’s hand.

Looking down, he could see the excitement in the boy’s eyes, big grin on his face, as he looked up at Clint with hope. He hated to disappoint Pete, always hated back in the beginning when they would have to move, something having caused the red flags to spring up in his mind and make him feel that the people hunting them were getting close. The little boy had never made a fuss, but his face had always showed the crushed feeling he had.

And he’d promised himself he wouldn’t see that look unless he absolutely had to.

“I, uh, what day?” he asked, looking back up at Coulson, chest squeezing when he saw the hopeful look in the teacher’s eyes.

“Two weeks Friday,” Coulson answered, the smooth voice something Clint could listen to for hours. “We need at least three parents in order to be able to go.”

“Can you do it, Dad? Please?”

Clint really had no chance, with the two of them looking at him with hope in their eyes. Or at least he was pretty sure that was what Coulson was looking at him with.

“I guess I need to say yes then.”

Pete let out a whoop, running around them as he jumped around. Clint couldn’t help the grin that crossed his face as he watched his son, turning to share the smile with Coulson, only to see the man already staring at his smile, before he shook his head, looking at Clint with a more guarded look.

“Mister Barker.”

“Mister Coulson,” Clint replied, smile slipping a little as the man turned and walked away.

“This is going to be so much fun, Dad!” Pete exclaimed, having stopped his running around, now standing in front of Clint. “The museum has all this cool stuff. Including a part solely for Captain America. Did you know Mister Coulson is a fan of Captain America? He didn’t tell us, but I saw his Captain America mug, and you said that people only buy those if they’re fans.”

And just like that the smile was back, Clint putting a guiding hand on Pete’s back as they moved towards their car, Pete telling him about the exhibits in the museum.

**

Walking through the halls, Clint wondered why anyone would ever want to come visit this place for something other than school or college. It was all art and statues, which probably meant something to someone somewhere, and probably had some grand history, but it didn’t really interest Clint. The Captain America exhibit had been okay, Pete had loved it, but Clint was pretty sure the costume there wasn’t the actual outfit that Captain America wore.

It wasn’t until he walked into the last display room that he decided that maybe he had unfairly judged the museum. The last room was set up with weapon upon weapon locked behind glass. He slowly went from case to case, eyes raking over the guns, remembering the feel of the smoothness of the grip, the smell of the powder, the shock through his arm.

But it wasn’t the guns that had his fingers inching, it was the gleaming bows at the very back, their arrows and quivers next to them. He still remembered the smoothness of the bow he used to have, the way it felt in his hands, the sensation of loosing an arrow and hitting his mark.

He hadn’t allowed himself to pick up a proper bow since he found Pete. Hadn’t wanted to risk the temptation, knowing that it was a way those who wanted his little boy would try and track him.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?”

The voice almost had him jumping, heart racing a little as his head snapped to the man that was becoming a familiar face, that seemed to be someone he was becoming comfortable with. He had never felt relaxed around people he’d only just met before, but there was something about Coulson that just made him calm. It was probably why the man was such a good teacher.

“They seem good,” Clint replied, holding back the wince that wanted to cross his face at the insult to the beautiful instruments in front of him.

“Have you ever used one before?” Coulson asked, Clint watching him out of the corner of his eye, unable to stop looking at the man’s profile, the way he was looking at the bows as if he felt the same way about them as Clint.

He didn’t want to lie to the man next to him, something in him stopping him from telling the lies he’d told people in the past, but he knew he couldn’t exactly tell the truth either. You could never be sure where the enemy was hiding.

“A long time ago,” he answered.

“You look like you enjoyed it.”

Clint felt himself tense a little, before forcing himself to relax. He was so use to seeing enemies in every shadow that even the most innocent of comments could get his back up, but Coulson was clearly very good at reading people, given that some of his charges didn’t always use words to convey their feelings.

“It was a long time ago,” Clint replied, shrugging, making sure to keep his face blank.

“I tried my hand at archery,” Coulson said, mouth twitching up in the smile Clint was starting to always want to see. “Was quite a good shot.”

“Is that so?” Clint asked, grin crossing his face.

“Maybe I’ll show you some time,” Coulson replied, turning to face him, eyes sparkling, making Clint’s stomach twist in ways it never had before.

“Yeah,” Clint replied, eyes flicking down to Coulson’s mouth, before going back to the teacher’s eyes, breath catching as he saw the flash of want that ran through the man’s eyes. He couldn’t help the way he leaned closer, warmth running through him as he was unable to look away.

Coulson shifted closer to him, the warm look in his eyes.

“Would you like to get a drink with me?”

Clint felt his heart freeze for a moment, his mind whirling as the question played over in his mind. He never thought that Coulson would actually ask him out. Part of him wanted to say yes, didn’t want to let Coulson down just like he never wanted to let Pete down.

No, no, no, the other side of his brain supplied. And it was that part of him that had kept him, and Pete once he joined him, alive and healthy.

“Sure.”

He felt shock run through him as he realised just what it was he had said. Although, seeing the actual smile that crossed Coulson’s face almost made the dysfunction between his mouth and brain worth it.

“How about tomorrow night?” Coulson asked, shifting even closer, Clint unable to stop himself from noticing the warmth that was coming off the teacher.

There was just something about Coulson that made him trust the man, that made him drop the shields that he had built from a young age and let the man close. It was dangerous, and yet, Clint couldn’t help but be drawn to him.

“Dad!”

Clint cleared his throat and looked away, taking a step back as he wondered what it was about the other man that made him act so differently from normal. His blank mask had been something that he had learnt in the orphanage and that he had always been able to maintain. His feelings had been something that he had been able to control, learnt from an early age to help protect himself.

There was just something about Coulson that was different.

“Wow! Look at the guns!”

Clint watched as Pete slowed down from the run he had entered the room at, his eyes wide as he took in the weaponery, before stopping in front of the bow case.

“Look at the bows!” he continued, touching the case almost reverently.

“Was there something you wanted, squirt?” Clint asked, trying to hold back his smile when Pete finally looked up at him.

“Oh, yes,” Pete replied, putting a serious look on his face. “When we go to the fair tomorrow, can I ride on the rollercoaster? Jordan said he did it three times last year, and I haven’t even done it once!"Clint froze, as he remembered that tomorrow was the fair, and that he had promised Pete that he would take him that year if he behaved.

“If you’re tall enough you can ride with me,” Clint said, almost laughing when Pete pumped his fist, before running off.

“I’m sorry, I promised Pete weeks ago I’d take him to the fair,” Clint continued, looking at the man next to him apologetically. A feeling of emptiness swept through him at the thought of missing out on the drink, before being replaced by the warmth of seeing his son’s happiness as he ran around the room.

“I completely understand, Clint,” Coulson replied, Clint feeling  the tenseness in his chest ease. “We can rain check.”

“You should come, Mister Coulson!”

Turning, Clint was surprised to see Pete standing next to him, big smile on his face as he looked up at his teacher. Sometimes Clint forgot about his son’s hearing, the boy able to hear things from miles away.

“I’d hate to intrude, Mister Barker.”

“It’ll be fun!” Pete continued, hopeful look on his face, Clint knowing he had never been able to say no to that face and wondering if it worked on more people than just him.

“I’d hate to intrude on your father son time.”

“Dad and I have father son time all the time,” Pete replied, rolling his eyes, Clint unable to stop the small snort that left him at his son’s antics. “Please come!”

“I don’t think he’ll stop until you agree,” Clint added, grinning at the other man.

“Well, in that case,” Coulson answered, looking at the both of them. “I guess I need to say yes then.”

Pete gave out a whoop, before running around the room again, the two adults watching him, until Coulson reminded him that he was on excursion and there was no running in the museum. The small rebuke couldn’t put a dent in Pete’s excitement though, the little boy grinning up at them, before walking quickly out of the room.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Phil said quietly, an almost apologetic look on his face.

“It’ll be fun,” Clint replied, trying to give the man a reassuring smile, but sure he was failing.

“Should I meet you there then?”

“Why don’t we meet at the front gate at around three?” Clint suggested.

**

The next day, Clint may have purposefully made sure that he wore his neat blue shirt, knowing it brought out the colour of his eyes, with a nice pair of jeans. Pete had looked at him curiously, before shrugging, excitedly talking all day about all the games and food he planned to eat once they got to the fair.

He had tried to get out of eating lunch, but Clint had sent him a look, and the boy made sure he had eaten at least half of it.

While the morning had seemed to drag, after lunch time seemed to fly by, and before he knew it, he was loading Pete into his car and driving towards the school grounds. Getting out of the car, Pete ran in front of him, taking in the bright colours and grinning back at Clint every now and again. When they got to the gate, Clint looked at his watch, seeing it was three o’clock. He looked around for a familiar looking brunette, heart sinking a little when he couldn’t see the man who had been occupying his thoughts more than usual.

“Mister Coulson!”

At Pete’s shout, Clint’s head snapped to the side, watching as Coulson, walked towards them, Clint staring at the smile that seemed to be only for him and Pete, annoyed as the fluttery feeling started in his stomach again.

“Mister Barker, Clint,” Coulson said, Clint already loving the sound of his name coming from the man’s mouth.

“Can we go to the bumper cars first, Dad?” Pete asked, not noticing the way the two adults were still staring at each other. Clint wondered how it was someone like Coulson was still single, part of him wondering what it was Coulson saw in him.

“Sure,” Clint replied, finally able to tear his eyes away from the man across from him and look down at where Pete was staring up at him.

“Woo!” Pete exclaimed, before leading them off to the bumper cars.

Clint and Pete went in one of the cars, while Coulson went in another, Clint unable to stop the laugh that left him as he heard Pete’s giggles, the boy loving it when they bumped into the other cars. After the bumper cars, they did the Ferris Wheel, then the tea cups and finally the haunted mansion.

It was in the haunted mansion that Coulson reached a hand out along the back, his hand almost resting on the side of Clint’s neck, his warmth sending tingles down Clint’s body. He couldn’t help the small smile that crossed his face.

After the haunted mansion Pete decided that he wanted to have some fairy floss, and so they all walked around while Pete made his way through the ridiculous amount of fairy floss that was on his stick. It was while they were walking around that Clint noticed the bow and arrow game, his fingers itching to pick up one again, to see if he was as good as he used to be.

“My dad is the best at this game,” Pete exclaimed suddenly as he noticed the game to. He smiled up at Clint, grabbing Clint’s hand and dragging him over to it. Clint could feel his cheeks burn a little as Phil gave him an appraising look.

He’d only done it once a few years ago, to win Pete a toy spider that he had wanted really badly, Clint knowing he could easily hit the bullseye. Pete still kept the toy on his bed.

“Is that right?” Coulson asked, mouth twitching. “Well that’s a challenge I can’t ignore.”

Grinning, Clint raised an eyebrow at the teacher, the two of them stepping up to the game and paying.

“Don’t think I’m going to go easy on you,” Clint joked, picking up the small bow.

“I would expect nothing but your best,” Phil replied, the soft look that crossed his face making Clint blush and look away. Clint didn’t usually do anything that could link him back to his old life, stayed away from gun and archery ranges, anything that could be used to trace him, and through him Pete.

But he didn’t think that the good or bad guys would be monitoring school fairs, and so, looking over at Coulson, he let his first arrow go, knowing even before he heard Pete’s whoop that he had hit his target.

Nodding, Coulson picked up his bow, taking his time to line up the shot, Clint impressed when he hit the bulls eye.

“I’m impressed,” Clint said, not missing the slight blush that crossed the teacher’s cheeks.

“As am I,” Phil replied, that soft smile that made Clint’s heart flop on his face.

“But I hope that’s not all you’ve got.”

Picking up the arrows, one after the other, Clint loosed the two arrows, the both of them hitting the bullseye at the same place, their tips right next to each other, still vibrating. Pete was jumping up and down, Clint looking at him for a second, before his eyes went back to Coulson.

The look on Phil’s face had his heart racing, the desire and lust clear to see on the usually unreadable man’s face.

“Very impressive,” Phil murmured, taking a step towards Clint. Clint couldn’t help the way his eyes flicked down to Phil’s lips, wondering if they were as soft as they looked, as he took a small step closer to the man.

“It’s your turn, Mister Coulson!”

Pete’s voice had the both of them startling a little, Clint dragging his eyes away from the man’s face to look at Pete, who was grinning up at them.

“So it is, Peter,” Phil answered, picking up the bow. His next two shots weren’t bad, another one hitting the bullseye, while one went just a little too far to one side, hitting the ring around the bulls eye.

“Pick your prize!”

Clint and Coulson both let Pete decide which prize he wanted, Clint unable to stop the grin at the massive toy lion Pete had picked and the small, plastic, bow and arrow set. Pete and told them that he had decided to become Robin Hood when he grew up, so he was going to start practising now. Clint had had to hold back the laugh that wanted to leave him when Coulson advised Pete that he may want to look into getting more green clothing.

Pete had taken the advise seriously, turning to Clint and asking him when they could go clothes shopping next. Given that Clint usually had to bribe Pete to go shopping for clothes, Clint couldn’t help but be grateful to Coulson.

**

Clint and Phil, as Coulson had insisted Clint call him, still hadn’t managed to get that drink three weeks later, something always cropping up to stop them. It didn’t mean that Clint didn’t pick Pete up from the classroom now, so that Pete could spend some more time with his friends, and he could spend some time talking to Phil.

During their talks he’d learnt that the teacher loved trashy TV shows, Super Nanny and Wife Swap two of his favourites. Clint hadn’t been able to stop the laugh that had left him when he’d heard, the small smile and sparkle in Phil’s eyes sending warmth through Clint.

He’d also learnt that Phil was very organised and that any and all paperwork he did was done in the most efficient manner that Clint had ever seen. Clint had confessed to Phil that he hated paper work, and that he usually left it to the last moment, which led to Phil giving Clint a kit that would help him. Clint had looked at it warily, before deciding he could at least try to be organised. Needless to say everyone he knew was shocked when he had everything done before time.

But it was in the third week that they finally got to go for a drink, Pete staying over at Jordan’s, whose mother Sandra Clint had gotten to know fairly well over the past few weeks. He was enjoying his drink with Phil but he couldn’t help but check his phone and watch more often than what was probably polite.

When Phil grabbed his wrist gently, Clint only just stopped the instant reaction that his body wanted to do, to rid himself of the threat, and forced himself to relax his tense muscles.

“He’s going to be fine,” Phil said, squeezing his wrist gently.

“It’s the first time he’s staying away from home,” Clint replied, unable to say that it was the first night that he had spent away from Pete since he’d saved him. He couldn’t help the nerves that were running through him, the part of him that wanted to go pick him back up and keep him hidden away from the world too close to the surface.

But he had to let Pete stay over at friend’s houses from time to time. Otherwise there was no reason for why he was hiding Pete. He had wanted the little boy to have a normal childhood, had wanted him not to be a weapon or an experiment, had wanted him to go to school and have friends and worry about things that kid’s worry about.

So if he refused to let the little boy do what his peers were, than his whole purpose would already be a failure before the bad guys, or supposed good guys, found them.

“It’s hard,” Phil answered, thumb rubbing against Clint’s wrist before he took the hand away, Clint wishing that the man had continued holding it. “And completely understandable.”

“I’m being a terrible date, aren’t I?” Clint asked. He hadn’t been on many dates, but he knew enough that most people liked you to at least be in the room with them, not looking at your phone and watch every few seconds.

“I’ve had worse,” Phil replied, his mouth twitching up in his little grin that Clint was starting to love. “And like I said it’s completely understandable. Do you mind if I ask what happened to Pete’s mother?”

Clint felt himself stiffen, like he always did when people started asking questions about Pete, but Phil’s question was understandable and Clint had to start realising not every person he spoke to was a secret agent who wanted to kidnap his son.

“She died,” Clint answered, trying to tell the truth as much as he could. “When he was very young.”

“You must miss her,” Coulson replied. “And Pete.”

“Part of me hopes that he doesn’t remember much about that period of his life,” Clint answered, trying to avoid answering about how he felt, given he hadn’t really known Pete’s mom. “But sometimes I think he does.”

“And what about you?”

“I, uh, we were estranged when it happened,” Clint lied, trying to ignore the part of him that felt guilty about lying to the man sitting next to him. “I mostly feel bad because of what Pete has missed out on.”

“You’re a great dad,” Phil said, looking over at Clint with that warm look in his eyes.

“Thanks,” Clint mumbled, taking a sip of his drink. He hoped that he was a good dad to Pete, hoped that he was giving the boy everything he needed and deserved, but there was always a part of him that was worried he wasn’t. He grew up in an orphanage with no real parental figures. How could someone like him be a good father?

“I mean it, Clint,” Phil said, reaching over and squeezing his wrist again. “Pete seems like a happy, outgoing, brilliant young boy. You should be proud.”

“I am.”

After that, they moved on to less deep topics, talking about Clint’s job and Phil’s hobbies. Clint had been shocked when Phil told him that he had been an army ranger before being a teacher, Clint unable to see the solider in the man sitting in front of him. Phil was too nice, too relaxed, to fit into the picture of a solider that Clint had in his mind.

Phil had just smiled at him with his usual smile when he had said that, telling Clint that there were things that Phil could do that would blow Clint’s mind.

Clint couldn’t help but think of the things that would blow his mind that Phil, he was sure, was more than capable of doing. And he was pretty sure that Phil could see where his line of thought had gone, the other man’s gaze turning more heated, as he asked if Clint wanted to continue their conversation back at his house.

I Part 2 >>



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