“Was taken. Your dad was taken.”
I blink in complete and utter shock.
“Taken? My dad? What…I-what?”
Steve sighs and walks out of the room, motioning for me to follow.
I do follow, but not before Clint falls in step with me and grabs my hand. Normally I would be a blushing and stuttering mess at only the prospect of Clint holding my hand, but now my normally swift brain is sluggish and fuzzy.
We eventually reach a bedroom – Clint’s, judging by the nameplate - and push our way inside.
Clint pulls me over to the bed and sits next to me, putting his arm around me as the rest of the team files in and takes positions around the rest of the room.
Clint starts the inevitable explanation, his beautiful eyes staring into mine as he speaks in tones that convey complete and total sincerity.
“Taylor, after you left, your dad and Bruce remained working on the pattern project. About half an hour after you were gone, a few supposed ‘agents’ came in, demanding to see their – Bruce and Tony’s – IDs. Bruce stabbed with a needle and shoved aside as the ‘agents’ grabbed your dad and started to cuff him. When he started resisting, like anybody with half a brain would, he was stabbed in the forearm and tazed. Bruce was then knocked out and when he came to, Tony was gone and there were agents everywhere.”
I let out a sound somewhere between a sigh and a whimper as I bury my face in Clint’s shoulder as I try and glue together my shattered composure.
“Shhh, shhh, take your time.”
I take a deep breath in and back out again as I lift my head.
“What does Fury know?”
“We haven’t spoken to him yet.”
“Okay then.” I can feel my face twisting into slightly insane smirk. “Who wants to go rip Fury a new one? Where was his security?”
All hands raise. Even Captain Do-no-evil.
“Right then. Clint, where’s my bow case?”
I take my case from his arms, unlock it, strap on all of my gear, and then turn back to the team.
“Captain, after you.”
“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN, YOU DON’T KNOW?!”
“Did I stutter, Ms. Stark?”
“You said you had security. Now Tony Stark - billionaire genius liked the world around, not to mention Iron Man and my dad – is missing because you obviously didn’t have security, and you don’t know what happened to him?”
“I do not like this attitude Ms. Stark-“
“Do I look like I care at the moment? Listen, Director, I cannot deal with this. Not now, not here. I need to get home. If you do not fly me, I will fly myself, danger or not.”
“A jet is waiting outside.”
I nod slowly.
“I’d say good afternoon, Director, but it hasn’t been. Goodbye.”
I turn on my heel and stomp out to the flight deck.
“I’m flying home solo.”
“Taylor, do you really think-“
“Please. Please, Steve. I need some time to myself, I’ll be fine, I swear. ”
Steve nods and walks away, but not before enveloping me in a quick yet incredibly reassuring hug.
The flight home is fast, silent, and essentially Jarvis piloting the suit. My vision is too blurred by tears to be anything but a detriment to my safety.
Once I’m safely on solid metal, I run into the house – still empty, I beat the jet home - and do what any good grieving sparrow would do: build a nest, curl up, and cry myself to sleep.
I crack open my eyes, rub away the dried tear-gunk, and peer through the net I had shot in the corner to see Clint – caring as ever – standing below me with a plate of brownies.
Once he sees me awake, his face splits into a heart-melting – well, my heart, anyways – grin.
“Hey Clint. What are those?”
“Brownies, genius. Nat said something about crying girls liking chocolate, I don’t deal with emotional girls without being an awkward mess, so…”
“Yes. Yes we do. Never doubt the Widow. Come on up.”
He hands me the brownies and I send a rope down for him to climb.
Once he’s settled beside me, I set the brownies between us as we look over the view I had given myself of the kitchen and living room.
“Thanks. Knew you’d like it.”
He glances down at the net we sit on and prods at it a few times.
“What are we sitting on?”
“Kevlar infused nylon netting.”
“Wow! Where’d you get it?”
I laugh for the first time today as I hold up my left wrist, the attached to our nest. “Made it.”
Clint has a look of stunned amazement as he gives a low whistle. “You really are a genius.”
“No duh, Sherlock.”
“I’m known for my eyes and aim, not my brain.”
“Aw come on, you have to have a little bit of gray matter in here!” I say as I brush my fingers over his temple and pray to Thor he can’t see my suddenly rosy cheeks.
Clint just chuckles and shakes his head before looking at me oddly and very analytically.
“What? Do I have something on my face?”
“No, I was just wondering how you were holding up.”
“How should I be holding up?”
“Remember what I said about eyes and aim? I’m not a shrink either.”
I nod wearily as I run a hand through my hair.
“I hurt. It hurts. I’m trying so hard to keep my smile glued on, keep a positive outlook, but…”
“Nobody will blame you if your smile slips. From what you told me about dedication, you’re trying to find him incredibly hard to both find him and look like this hasn’t affected you at all. We are here you know, and if you need a break – if you need to break – we’re here to both piece you back together and keep looking with everything we’ve got.”
I give him a small smile for his efforts. “Thank you. But none of us can hide from the fact that this will be a nightmare. We don’t know where he his or who took him. We all have truckloads or emotional scar tissue already, this just adds another fifty pounds to our backs. Stark Industries will take a hit, stock prices will plummet. Not to mention our PR reps, oh my god the press conferences….”
“We can all help with that too. Not the business part, not many of us know much about that, but when you’re out there, fending off press sharks, we’ll be in here, looking for Tony and sending you funny texts.”
“Just don’t make fools of yourselves on national T.V., if you could avoid that.”
“Welll…” Clint looks like he’s pondering a really big decision, “We can try, but you know me, I make no promises.”
“I will be telling Steve and Jarvis the same thing. Something tells me they will keep an eye on you monkeys.”
“Monkeys? Do you know any monkeys that can do archery? If you do, I wanna meet them!”
I laugh – almost choking on my bite of brownie – as I reply.
“They’ve got to be somewhere in the Hunger Games, don’t they, Katniss?”
“Hey, no fair!”
And then Hawkeye – feared government assassin – stuck his tongue out at me.
I thought it was adorable.
I laughed and looked down upon the rest of the team milling about below our perch.
“You know, Clint, for someone who doesn’t do emotional girls well, you sure patched me up. Multiple times.”
He put his hand on my shoulder and replies, his town mirroring my own.
“You’re different. You’re my sparrow; protégé, friend, and bird buddy. Not to mention Tony’s one of the best friends I’ve had in a while, and I care what happens to him.”
I smile as I lean back and curl up in my nest.
Clint puts his arm around me, and I fall asleep there:
In my nest, next to my favorite hawk, missing my dad like nothing else.