Archive | May, 2015

Write-it Wednesday #2

27 May

There is a very unique door with a very unique key.

What does it look like? Where does it lead? Where is it located? Who can open it? How? Maybe think about atmosphere, the mood your particular door sets and how you convey it.

Write About It Wednesday! Topic #1

20 May

Welcome to Write-About-It Wednesday! (Better title hopefully to come)

To keep those creative juices flowing during the summer, every Wednesday we’ll post a prompt or topic for everyone to write about. Post what you come up with as comments or as new posts. Be brief, write a paragraph, monologue so long Mr. Incredible comes and kicks your ass, whatever floats your boat.

I though we’d start with a discussion topic that is %100 not inspired %100 from the article I just posted.

Today’s topic is: What is one of the most disappointing stories mistakes/failures/choices you’re come across? I’m thinking about when good stories do dumb things, not stories you never liked to start. (I think we actually learn the most from bad mistakes in good stories, because we’re driven to find and explanation beyond “well, it’s a bad story, what did you expect?” What’s a story choice you just didn’t jive with? Why? Try to get into some story physics*. Try to argue about what happened from one step back — part enraged fangirl, but part story physicist! What when wrong in the architecture of the narrative? Any fixes?

* Need a refresher on story physics? Read the Age of Ultron article I posted earlier, especially the part about the Hulk in Avengers, (about 1/3 of the way down). How do stories operate? This is how.

What Went Wrong With AoU Explained via Story Physics

20 May

Holy crap. If you’re remotely invested in Marvel and the MCU, read this article.

While I don’t believe that Marvel is going to singlehandedly end storytelling as we know it, or that there can never be another good MCU movie (Umm, Winter Soldier y’all), this is a fascinating and super accurate analysis of some of the problems Age of Ultron had on a narrative level (And some of what makes Avengers so great — Make sure you make it to the part about the Hulk). This is Story Physics. This is what story physics does, and why it’s important.

Read it here

(Prayer circle that the Russo Bros can subvert this)

hellhound

7 May

as promised, the tragic tale of derek and his dog

Screenshot-678

hey this is nice, derek has no friends so a dog will suit him well

Screenshot-679

aww

let’s just go inside and–

Screenshot-680

no

Screenshot-681

why

Screenshot-683

i replaced him with a kitten and never looked back

sims 3 pets: not even once

I Fixed It; You’re Welcome (aka What Really Happened on Clint’s Farm)

6 May

Comment please!

I want to make this as strong as possible, because my happiness hinges on a strong farm scene replacement headcanon.

Did I fix enough problems and drop enough the easter eggs? I tried to preserve as much of the original dialogue as possible. I was thinking about a moment between Steve and Natasha about Peggy after the roof scene, but it seemed like I should it end with the most momentum on the Clint/Nat roof chat (rhyme not intended, but greatly appreciated).

Also feel free to point out my typos.

(The usual fanfic disclaimers — I don’t own Marvel, because if I did, this would have happened in the movie)

“We’re only a few hours out,” Clint said from his place in the cockpit.

“A few hours out from where?” Tony asked.

“Safehouse,” he shrugged.

“No offense buddy, but I’m not sure a S.H.I.E.L.D. safehouse is the best place for us right now.”

“Trust me, this one is.”

*

Clint touched the plane down in a large field overgrown with straw-colored grass that rustled in the crisp breeze. He took his pilot’s headset off before opening the Quinjet’s hatch and stepping into the cabin. Tony and Steve started to stand but none of the others stirred.

“Well, it’s not Avengers Tower . . . ” said Clint. He moved directly for Natasha, pulling her arm over his shoulder and leading her down the ramp.

“It’s a farm,” said Tony as the others filed out after. “You brought us to a farm.”

“It’s where I grow my arrows,” said Clint. “Lack of tech makes you itch does it?”

“Nature give me hives.”

Steve rolled his eyes. “We’ll be safer off the grid.”

“And off S.H.I.E.L.D.’s radar — even they shouldn’t be able to find us here. Fury helped me set it up after . . . well, after New York. Selvig ended up in the loony bin, I ended up here.”

“Put you out to pasture, did they?”

“Show some respect Tony,” said Steve.

“I’m sorry, we all went through things. Some of us even flew bombs into wormholes—”

“And you handled that so well,” said Steve.

“I . . . back me up here Bruce,” said Tony.

“Enough, all of you,” said Natasha, straightening to up from Clint’s shoulder and blinking away the fogginess in her eyes. “Fury set this up to get Clint away from S.H.I.E.L.D. Certain parties were . . . uncomfortably interested . . . in studying the scepter’s effects on him.”

“Makes sense, knowing those parties were probably Hydra,” said Steve. “S.H.I.E.L.D. unknowingly handed them Loki’s scepter and its first round of test subjects.”

“Exactly,” said Natasha. “Of course we didn’t know at the time that Hydra was behind it, but we had to get Clint somewhere nobody could find him.”

Clint shrugged. “So, you know, welcome to Camp Hawkeye. We’ve got swimming, boating, arts and crafts, and if you want we can even make s’mores around the campfire.” They tromped across the lawn, Clint still unwilling to let go of Natasha’s arm. When they reached the farmhouse, he threw open the door.

Tony’s nose crinkled as they walked inside. The disheveled farmhouse was full of clutter: empty pizza boxes were stashed by the door, shirts draped lazily over chairs, newspaper clippings hung tacked randomly to the walls and most of the wooden surfaces sported arrow-shaped puncture wounds. Everything was coated in a thin layer of dust.

“You live here?” said Tony, pulling an arrow out of the railing leading up the tall narrow staircase to the second floor.

“ ‘Course not,” said Clint. “I got a place in Bed-Stuy.”

“In Brooklyn?” Steve said in disbelief.

“Yeah why? I own the whole building actually. It’s a long story, but my protege’s looking after it for a while.”

“Protege? You have a protege?” asked Tony. “Like a sidekick?”

“Like a . . . person with a complimentary skill set. What’s so weird about it? You have Rhodey; Steve has Sam.”

“Yes, but I never assumed someone else actually wanted to be Hawkeye.”

“Very funny. Well,” he said, turning to the little group standing in the doorway, “make yourselves at home. House is on an independent power supply so feel free to, you know, microwave stuff. The fridge is full of beer and frozen pizzas. The tank’s got about half an hour’s worth of hot water. Yeah. There’s two bedrooms and a couch, so we’ll have to make that work. Oh, and nobody touch my video games, for you know, Ultron safety reasons.”

The group began to disperse: Bruce turned corners until he found the kitchen and started rummaging through cabinets; Thor paced silently up and down the entry hall, his eyebrows knitted in concern; Tony and Steve split down opposing hallways to look around the house. Natasha put her hand on the railing upstairs and Clint stepped forward to help her up.

“I’ve got it Clint, thanks,” she said in a tone that told him not to follow.

“Guess I’ll chop some wood,” Clint said out loud, just incase anybody felt like volunteering. “Nope? Okay, cool.”

He strolled out the door to where a chopping block and a pile of logs waited on the front lawn. He placed a log on the block and swung the rusty ax. The blade hit dead center and split the log easily in two. It felt good, letting some of his frustration spill out into the strike. His arms burned each time he lifted the ax, but he didn’t stop. If only the Ultron bots split this easily, he thought.

“Clint,” said a voice after a few more logs had met their match. Clint looked up to see Steve walking toward him and holding his hand out for the ax. “Let me. It’s the least I can do.”

“Nah, I got it. Get some rest.”

“With Tony poking around, somehow I doubt that’ll happen.”

He held out his hand again, but Clint hesitated.

“Got another ax?” Steve asked. Clint nodded and jerked his chin toward another handle leaning against the porch. Steve returned with the ax swung over his shoulder. “Mind if I join you?”

“Be my guest,” said Clint, and Steve started splitting logs easily into a pile beside him.

“Thank you,” said Steve a minute later, “for bringing us here.”

“ ‘Course,” said Clint. He swung at a few more logs before he said, “Listen man, whatever you saw . . . I’m sorry.”

“Thanks,” said Steve.

Only the creaking of cut logs broke the silence until Tony came out of the squeaking screen door. “Hey, Little House on the Prairie, Banner’s about to burn all your pizzas.”

Clint just made a scowl until wisps of smoke started curling out of the kitchen window. “Aww, Banner,” he muttered as he hurried inside.

“Clint is a good man,” said Steve.

“Never said he wasn’t,” said Tony.

“You should be nicer to him.”

“Never said I wasn’t.”

Steve took Clint’s ax and handed it to Tony. He stared at it for a moment before saying, “Fine, I’ll race you. Try an’ keep up.”

Tony was loosing steadily when Thor came out, continuing to pace across the grass.

“Hey, Thor, big guy, how about you and Mjolnir lend a hand,” said Tony, gesturing to the still sizable pile of unspilt firewood.

“I cannot remain here,” said Thor. “The visions the witch showed me, they are . . .”

“Dreams,” said Steve. “Nightmares. They never happened . . . even if you wanted them too.”

Tony paused with an eyebrow up to his hairline in curiosity before turning back to Thor. “Possible. What I saw was . . . possible,” said Tony. “Which in itself isn’t possible. Not even . . . Sabrina the Teenage Witch there can see the future. Then you’re into probabilities. What variables is she working with? How did she process them? Assuming any of it was actually real, you have to consider Heisneburg, and Shrödinger’s cat—”

“A . . . cat?” said Thor.

“Never mind,” said Tony. “They’re real enough.”

“Then I must seek to understand my vision fully, and I cannot do it here.”

“Where will you go?” said Steve.

“Fair well, my friends. I shall see you soon.” Distant thunder cracked. Thor hurled the hammer up and was gone.

“Thor didn’t say where he was going for answers,” said Tony.

“Sometimes my teammates don’t tell me things,” said Steve. “I was kinda hoping Thor would be the exception.”

“Yeah. Give him time. We don’t know what the Maximoff kid showed him.”

“I don’t know what she showed you. I just know it made you do something stupid. “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” — pulled us apart like cotton candy.”

“You walked away alright.”

“Is that a problem?”

“I don’t trust a guy without a dark side. Call me old fashioned.”

“Well let’s just say you haven’t seen it yet.”

“You know Ultron’s trying to tear us apart, right?”

“Well I guess you’d know. Whether you’d tell us or not is a bit of a question.”

“Banner and I were doing research.”

“That could affect the team.”

“That could end the team! Isn’t that the mission, isn’t that why we fight? So we can end the fight? So we get to go home?

Tony took a step back as Steve split a log with his bare hands and and discarded the halves onto the pile.

“Every time someone tries to win a war before it starts, innocent people die,” said Steve. “Every time.”

They sneered at each other for a tense moment until the screen door creaked again and Clint tumbled out onto the veranda with smudges of soot on his face.

“Hey Tony,” Clint said, clearing his throat with a cough.

“Whatever you and Banner are cooking, I’m not going to eat it.”

“Relax. We put the fire out, and I’m going into town for pizza.”

“Sorry, won’t that defeat the whole under cover thing?”

Clint pinched the brim of a baseball cap and put it on, wiping a black smudge from his cheek. He shrugged. “You’re a billionaire superhero. I’m just some guy.” He started to walk away. “Listen Tony, my tractor’s broken.”

“You burn it out farming arrows? Exactly how does that work?”

“Well it’s not like my safehouse is exactly private anymore. It’ll sell better with a working tractor in the barn.”

“Come on Tony,” said Steve.

“Yeah, okay, fine. Just no funny pizza toppings Barton or I’ll rewire your Xbox so it only plays Disney Infinity.”

“Oh yeah? Merida versus Syndrome, I’ll kick you ass.” Clint smirked as he walked away.

“You got this?” Tony said to Steve as he walked off toward the barn. “Don’t take from my pile.”

The farmhouse barn was damp and musty; most everything in it was covered in rust. Punctured archery targets hung from the walls along with broken rakes and hoes. A long pile of what looked like telephone poles rested on the ground along one wall. They were wrapped in warn striped canvas. A grimy, faded wooden sign that read “Carson Carnival of Traveling Wonders” sat on top of the poles.

Tony walked up beside the beat up old tractor waiting in the center of the barn and began to examine its engine. “Hello Deere,” he said, pulling a loose component from the engine block. “Tell me everything. What ails you?”

“Do me a favor,” said a deep, familiar voice from behind a pile of Barton’s junk. “Try not to bring it to life,” said Nick Fury striding out into sight.

“Barton you minx. I get it, Maria Hill called you, right? Was she ever not working for you?”

Fury didn’t miss a beat. “Artificial Intelligence. You never even hesitated.”

“Look it’s been a really long day,” said Tony, twirling a wrench in his hand. “Like, Eugene O’Neil Long, so how about we skip to the part where you’re useful.”

“Look me in the eye and tell me you’re going to shut him down.”

“You’re not the director of me.”

“I’m not the director of anybody,” said Fury. “I’m just an old man, who cares very much about you.”

“And I’m the man who killed the Avengers. I saw it. I didn’t tell the team. How could I? I saw them all dead Nick. Felt it. Whole world too. Because of me. Wasn’t ready. I didn’t do all I could.”

“Maximoff girl, she’s working you Stark. Playing on your fear.”

“I wasn’t tricked, I was shown. Wasn’t a nightmare, it was my legacy. The end of the path I started us on.”

“You’ve come up with some pretty impressive inventions Tony. War isn’t one of ‘em.”

“I watched my friends die. You’d think that’d be as bad as it gets . . . nope! Wasn’t the worst part.”

“The worst part is that you didn’t.”

“How did you —”

“I’ve got to say Tony, I think you’re a lot of things. Some of ‘em good, plenty bad, and a lot have changed since you first put on that mask. One thing I was never really sure you were able to be—”

“A superhero?” Tony said keenly.

“A soldier.”

“Oh.” Tony paused for a moment, resting the wrench on the hood on the tractor. “And?”

“Welcome to the club.”

*

Upstairs in the guest bedroom, Bruce pushed open the bathroom door to find Natasha waiting for him in her bathrobe. He hoped the steam curling out of the bathroom behind him hid the sweat clamming up his palms.

“I didn’t realize you were waiting,” said Bruce.

“I woulda joined you, but uh, didn’t seem like the right time,” said Natasha.

“I . . . used up all the hot water,” he confessed.

“I should have joined you.”

“Missed our window.”

Natasha looked up sadly. “Did we?”

Bruce began to pace about, looking instinctively toward the window. “The world saw the Hulk, the real Hulk, for the first time. You know I have to leave—”

“And you assume that I have to stay?” Natasha spit out quickly. She let the air rest a moment before continuing. “I had this, um, dream, the kind that seems normal at the time, but when you wake . . .”

“What did you dream?” Bruce asked.

“That I was an Avenger. That I was anything more than the assassin they made me.”

“I think you’re being hard on yourself.”

Natasha put on a flirtatious smile. “Here I was hoping that was your job.”

“What are you doing?” Bruce said, unsure if he should back away.

Natasha closed the gap between their faces until only a few inches remained. “I’m running with it . . . with you. If running’s the plan, as far as you want.”

Bruce stumbled backward. “Are you our of your mind?”

“I want you to understand that um . . .”

“Natasha. Where can I go? Where in the world am I not a threat?”

She tried to push closer again. “You’re not a threat to me.”

“You sure? Even if I didn’t just . . . . There’s no future with me. I can’t ever . . . I can’t have . . . this,” he said, gesturing toward the house, the house with bedrooms with peeling wallpaper and a kitchen for morning pancakes, a house like normal people have. Real people. “ Kids. Do the math, I physically can’t.”

“Neither can I. In the Red Room, where I was trained . . . where I was raised . . . um, they have a graduation ceremony,” Natasha said hesitantly. Tears began to mist over her eyes as she continued, nearly choking on her words. “They sterilize you. It’s efficient. One less thing to worry about. The one thing that might matter more than a mission. Makes everything easier, even killing.” She looked directly at Bruce. “You still think you’re the only monster on the team?”

“So we disappear?” said Bruce.

“Pizza!” Clint called from downstairs. “If you don’t eat it, it’s going to the dog!”

“Right now,” said Natasha, resting her hands on Bruce’s collarbones, “we eat.”

“He’s kidding about the dog right?”

“Sadly not,” said Natasha. “Get some food. I’m going to try my luck with the hot water. Go. I’ll be down in a bit.”

Bruce hesitated, but he nodded and wound down the creaking stairs. The boys were in the kitchen; long strings of molten cheese ran from their mouths as they munched, and grease stains smudged the table. Once fresh box had already been discarded on the counter.

“Director,” said Bruce with a nod toward Fury.

“Doctor.”

Bruce began to ask what Nick was doing there, but was interrupted by a loud chorus of “Heeey!” They came mostly from Clint, who was balancing on the back legs of his chair and dangling a greasy slice of pizza for a golden retriever to snap at. The dog caught the slice in his teeth and pulled it down to the floor, happily chomping on it as he settled by Clint’s feet.

“Good boy,” Clint muttered before planting his chair and turning back to the group. “This is Lucky, my Pizza Dog. Well he’s not mine technically. He lives behind the pizza place and follows me back whenever I’ve got a pie. I’m surprised he remembers me actually, it’s been a while.”

“Your pizza dog?” asked Tony.

“Yeah. I tried to take him back to Brooklyn with me, but technically the mechanic in town owns him. Doesn’t take great care of him though or he wouldn’t be scavenging in dumpsters. I tried to buy him but the guy wouldn’t sell.”

After they’d eaten, a heavy silence settled over the group. After a few attempts to lift it, they wandered off in different directions. Clint walked out to find Tony on the veranda looking out at the overgrown lawn.

“Nice place,” said Tony when he saw him. “Very . . . rustic.”

“Alright Tony stop giving me crap.”

“Aww come on Barton, I’m just—”

“Listen, a god came down from space and I took a hit, a bad one. We won the day, but it kinda didn’t matter. I got stuck here to keep me safe, or to keep everyone else safe, I’m still not entirely sure which. Yeah, it sucked, but I did it, because that’s what it took for me to keep fighting. Fancy suit of armor, all your tech, you think that makes you a hero?”

“Well, I mean, I have saved the world a couple times now, no big deal,” said Tony.

“You’re wrong,” said Clint. “The Iron Man armor is a tool. It’s the best you had to work with, and that’s it. What made you a hero was coming out of that cave alive and seeing how wrong things are and having the guts to try and fix them anyway. That bow? It’s the best I’ve got to work with. I had a cave moment too, Tony: Stay or go? Fight or cower? Let your fear paralyze you, or hit that much harder? I chose to fight, same as you. So go ahead, tell me you don’t need me. Tell me and my circus act to get lost.”

“I wish you weren’t on the team.”

“That would make it better, huh?”

“No, it wouldn’t” said Tony, “and that’s the problem. I wish we didn’t need you. Everything would make so much sense if we didn’t.  It— I am Iron Man. I am . . .  is there a way to say this modestly? . . . I have the most advanced peace-keeping tech in the world. Peace should be a snap. If it can be done, I should be able to do it. Math, science, it should . . . I should be able to keep the bad guys under control, and I can’t. My tech can’t, my team of . . . gods and monsters . . . can’t. Not with out a guy with stone age weapon—”

“Paleolithic,” Clint nodded. “I looked it up.”

“It wouldn’t scare me if we didn’t need you Barton — that would make some sense, actually. It . . . freaks me how much we do.”

The crickets in the tall grass suddenly seemed much louder.

“Well,” said Tony, “you know, good talk. Run along. Nothing to see here.”

After another awkward pause, Tony turned to walk away. “Hey Clint?” he said, turning back.

“Yeah?”

“What made you a hero?”

“Well, carnies made me a marksmen, my brother made me a decent person, and S.H.I.E.L.D. made me a good agent.”

“And?” said Tony.

“Natasha. Natasha made me a hero.”

*

Tony went inside to find Steve throwing darts. He let one go with a flick of his wrist, and the dart imbedded itself so deep the brass tip was buried in the board.

“Watch the wall big guy,” Tony said, extracting the dart with some effort and giving it a throw himself.

“I can’t stand sitting here doing nothing,” said Steve.

“Can’t move til we have a plan.”

“Which we don’t.”

“Which we will,” said Tony, throwing another dart. “Might as well rest while we can.”

“Hey,” said Bruce, poking his head around the corner, “has anyone seen Natasha?”

They shook their heads no, and when Bruce’s footsteps plodded away, Tony turned to Steve. “When’d that happen?”

“When’d what happen?”

“I’ll explain when you’re older.”

“Ha ha, very funny,” said Steve.

“Banner and Romanoff. I did not see that coming.”

“Yeah and how long did you not see Pepper coming?”

“Hey, that was completely different. Don’t turn this on me.”

“I think it’s nice,” said Steve. “Natasha deserves somebody. Banner too.”

“You’re close enough with her, right?”

“Enough, why?”

“She seemed . . . really shaken. Worse. Any idea what she saw?”

“Based on what little I know about Natasha’s past? No idea. And I honestly never want to find out.” Steve threw another dart and buried the tip in the dartboard. “All I know is, her nightmares are definitely worse than ours.”

*

As the thunks of Steve and Tony’s game of darts echoed from the kitchen, Bruce wound his way to the entrance hall. “Hey,” he said, poking his head out the door and finding Clint leaning his arms on the veranda railing and looking out at the tree line in the distance. “Clint,” he repeated, with no reaction. “Hey. Barton,” said Bruce, stepping closer and waving a hand. The motion caught the corner of Clint’s eye and he straightened up suddenly. He quickly tapped the place behind his ear before saying, “Sorry man. What’s up?”

Bruce studied him for a minute before saying, “Uh, I was just looking for Natasha. Have you seen her?”

“Sorry.” Clint shook his head but Bruce didn’t leave. “What’s up?”

“She told you, right? She tells you everything?”

“Haven’t even scratched the surface, but they tell me that’s more than most.”

“Am I making a mistake? With her?”

“Did you give her a reason to kill you?”

“Uh. . . ?”

“Then you’re probably fine,” said Clint. “But seriously? Natasha Romanoff is unlike anyone you and I will ever meet. You’re a lucky man, Banner. Just . . . don’t hurt her, alright?”

“I . . . I would never . . .”

“That isn’t what I meant,” said Clint. “Nick’s trying to collect the team in the kitchen. Grab Steve and Tony, would you?”

Clint waited as Bruce shuffled back inside. When the rusty screen door thudded shut, Clint looked over both his shoulders before climbing up on the railing of the veranda and pulling himself onto its roof. He balanced up the gently sloping shingles to the very top of the house, where Natasha sat in the dark.

“Well that was awkward,” she said.

“You’re in my spot.”

“Didn’t realize you had a monopoly on brooding of the roof,” Natasha said, scooting over to make room from Clint to sit her on the ridge.

“Well it’s kind of my signature,” said Clint. “Take away my bird motif and what have I got left?”

Natasha nudged his shoulder and he nudged her back as he sat down beside her on the roof.

“Defending my honor, are you Barton?”

“Not unless I want to get my ass kicked.”

They looked out over the lake, and the little cluster of lights that was the nearby town.

“How are you holding up?” said Clint.

Natasha stared down at the roof, dragging her fingers across the rough, faded shingles. “As well as can be expected I guess,” said Natasha.

Clint reached down and gave Natasha’s hand a tight squeeze. “If you wanna talk . . .”

She nodded, still staring at the roof, but then she turned back to Clint. “I’m glad it was you. Who found me. I don’t think anyone else would have understood.”

“I should have gotten to the girl sooner. I could have at least stopped her from making it to Banner, if not to you.”

“That’s not on you,” said Natasha. “I wasn’t there to talk him down.”

“That’s not on you.”

“Yes it is. Banner is my mission.”

“He seems pretty smitten with you,” said Clint. “I’d say you’re doing alright.”

“Yeah but he’s scared too. We talked earlier.”

“Oh yeah?”

“He threatened to run. I think he meant it. I’m not sure how much longer I can keep him here.” Natasha looked up at the sky and let out a long sigh. “Damn it, I told Nick I wasn’t ready to be a handler. Especially not Hulk’s.”

“What choice did he have?” said Clint. “You saw footage from Harlem, and from the university. The only person in the world who’s been able to control the Hulk is Dr. Ross. Because Banner loves her.”

“Yeah, and now he loves me. You heard it: the Lullaby worked better than ever.”

“Don’t look so excited,” said Clint.

“It’s . . . different. Doing something like this to a friend,” said Natasha. “Playing him. This can only end with Bruce hurt. He’ll never trust me again.”

“Hopefully we’ll have saved the world first,” said Clint. “I’m sorry. I wish we had a better way.”

“So do I, but we can’t get through this without the Hulk.”

“You said he wanted to run?”

“Yes. He’s never really been comfortable here, but it’s worse than ever.”

“What did you do?” asked Clint.

“I said I’d go with him. I can’t let him out of my sight. We’re going to need a Code Green before this is over.” Natasha looked up at the darkening skyline. “Fortunately, I think that scared him off the idea, at least for a while. He freaked out thinking about how he wouldn’t be able to give me nice life. Kids.”

“That escalated quickly,” said Clint.

“I forget, sometimes, how new he is to all this — military life, missions, costs. It’s easy, Hulk’s a natural, after all. But Bruce . . .”

“Not so much.”

“He hasn’t realized yet that you can save the world, or you can be a part of it. People like us? I really don’t believe we can’t have both.”

“So what’d you tell him?” said Clint.

“The truth.”

“The same way you told Loki the truth?”

“The easiest lies . . .” Natasha shrugged. “Yes. I . . . I told him what the Red Room did to me, how I can’t have children. I thought he’d sympathize.”

“Did he?”

“Oh yes. ‘See,’ I told him, ‘You’re not the only monster on the team.’”

“You’re not a monster Natasha.”

“Yes, I am, but . . . that’s not why. I killed a girl when I was seven. Madame B gave the nod and I just . . .” said Natasha.

“That’s not your fault, Tasha.”

“They made me a monster.”

“No,” said Clint. “They tried but they couldn’t. You’re here, aren’t you? ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ and all that.”

Clint tried to put a hand on Natasha’s shoulder but she jerked away.

“I’m a monster because I’m grateful. I’m grateful for what they did to me. Everything. Every time I take out one of Hydra’s thugs or one of Ultron’s monsters, I see the helpless little girl I practiced that move on and I . . . I think maybe it was worth it. Maybe her life was worth my victory. And that terrifies me.”

“Natasha . . .” said Clint, wrapping his arm around her back and pulling her close because he didn’t know what to say.

“And I’m sure as hell glad I can’t pass this curse on to anyone else,” said Natasha lowering her head onto Clint’s shoulder. “When they wheeled me out of the operating room, I remember thinking . . . ‘Thank god. Not matter what I do next at least . . . at least I’ve saved one life.’ So go on, Clint. Tell me I’m not a monster.”

“I wish I had an answer, Tasha. I spent my childhood in a circus tent shooting arrows in a pointy-eye lavender costume.”

Natasha couldn’t help but smile a bit at the image.

“I really can’t imagine what you’ve been through,” he continued, “and frankly I’m afraid to try. I could sit here and ask you if a reformed warmonger who’s trying to play god with the world is more of a monster than a living weapon who’s greatest dream is to be a soccer dad, but I’m not sure it’d help. I can’t change the way you see yourself, I can only tell you that I will always see you as a fighter, and a hero, and a good person. I have since the day we met.”

“What would I do without you Barton?” she asked more to the skyline than to him. “You should let the boys see you like this sometime.”

“What and let them know I’m a total marshmallow?” said Clint. “You heard what Tony said, right?”

“Pieces.”

“Nat, can I ask you? If I hadn’t been brain-jacked, and ended up on the Helicarrier when I did . . . If I couldn’t fly that Quinjet . . . would I be an Avenger?”

“Where’s this coming from?”

“Humor me, alright?”

“If you hadn’t been taken by Loki? . . . No, we wouldn’t have pulled you in for New York.”

“That’s what I—”

He tried to turn away but Natasha grabbed his jaw and turned his face back toward her.

“You would have been with us the whole time. You are an incredible agent and an incredible soldier, Clint. You’re also the bravest, best person that I know.”

“I think you forgot to count Rogers on you list,” said Clint.

Natasha looked him in the eye. “No,” she smiled, “I didn’t.”

Clint put his arm back around Natasha’s shoulder and pulled her close again, bending down to kiss her hair.

“So what now?” she asked.

“Nick’s rounding us all up in the kitchen. Now we make a plan.”

*      *       *

Clint fumbled with his keys in front of a beat up door labeled apartment H. It felt strange being back after all that had happened in Sokovia. He unlocked the door and tossed the keys to a 1970 Dodge Challenger on the kitchen counter beside a heaping stack of mail. Beside the envelopes there was a short note written in bubbly letters and bright purple pen. It read: “Dog sitting is extra — the better Hawkeye.”

“Huh?” said Clint, lifting his head from the pile to look around. As his did the click of nails on wood echoed through the apartment, and Lucky the Pizza Dog came trotting into view.

“Hey buddy,” Clint said surprised, and knelt down to scratch Lucky’s head. “What are you doing here?” As he did, he spotted a folded slip of paper tucked in Lucky’s collar. They were animal adoption papers. Clint studied them for a second before turning them over to see “From Tony” scrawled on the back. Clint shook his head and smiled.

*      *      *

“Moment of truth,” said Tony nervously, standing in front of an elevator door in the New Avengers Facility. He reached for the button but drew his hand back. “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

Steve rolled his eyes. “Just do it Tony.”

Tony hit the “up” button. They watched the display above the door. “1,” “2,” . . . each number glowed sequence until it reached the top number, “6.”

Tony and Steve held their breath as the doors slid open.

Mjolnir sat in the center of the elevator, just where Vision had placed it.

“Elevator’s not worth,” said Steve.

Tony shook his head. “Doesn’t count.”