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i do not own any of the characters contained within this story. they all belong solely to Marvel and whoever the hell else owns them. i'm only playing with them to amuse myself. i make no money off the writing of this story unless we're talking comments. even then, i don't make any money.

comments would be nice, though.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Chapter 1 of 1
Expand Author's Story Note

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring... Except for Clint, who couldn't get to sleep if his life fucking depended upon it now. There was much on his mind that prevented a nightly visit from Morpheus and Clint wasn't the type of inconsiderate shit to lay in bed, constantly shifting, and waken the person sleeping next to him. So it was that he found himself prowling the darkened interior of Stark Tower all by his lonesome on Christmas Eve.

Someone had made sure that the decorations were plentiful and festive. Clint had a sneaking suspicion that Pepper was behind that. Wreaths glittering with metallic bows and delicate glass ornaments graced the windows in the common room while authentic pine boughs wrapped with lights edged all of the flat surfaces. A long table held a Victorian village in full holiday cheer. Fake snow covered the ground while a train circled the buildings lazily. There were giant nutcrackers of wood and Santas trimmed in fur and angels with fluffy wings.

A large tree, fresh and fragrant and big as any Clint had ever seen, dominated the room. Even at this late hour, hundreds of lights twinkled merrily from within the depths of its branches. There were bulbs of glass in every color imaginable. Some of them were covered with glitter while others were plain. Some had scenes painted on them. Some weren't bulbs at all, but other shapes of all sorts. There were candy canes, glass icicles, little pieces of stained glass art. Tinsel garland wound its way around the tree, rising to the top where an angel looked down over the tree and the whole room. She was fair of hair and skin, with wings of snowy white feathers and a gown in an icy blue with silver metallic accents. White lights lit her from underneath with two more clasped in her hands.

It was a beautiful tree, covered in beautiful decorations. Clint thought the tree stood with a proud bearing, as if it was happy to be the chosen Christmas tree of the Avengers. Some small voice in the back of his head said that the tree would tell him it was proud, could it actually speak. Which was stupid, because he knew that the tree couldn't speak. It didn't matter that it felt like it was alive, that its branches and boughs had moved and shifted since he'd last looked at it. As if it kept rearranging itself to offer them the fullest view, to give them the best effect. A tree was a tree was a tree.

It still felt like the tree was watching Clint.

Putting the tree out of his thoughts for the time being, Clint maneuvered his way around the dimmed common area so that he could take a seat on the couch that faced the fireplace. There were no flames crackling upon the hearth but a few embers glowed from the ashes collected on the stone floor of the pit. Someone had hung a line of stockings from the mantel in anticipation of Santa's arrival. The light from the tree and decorations was enough to show him that each one was as unique as the people living in the tower.

The stocking on the left end was a deep red velvet trimmed with black satin at the top. Silver thread neatly spelled out Natasha's name across the strip of black. Next to it was Thor's stocking. it was slightly larger than the others, done in blue and silver fur. Red letters formed his name, the T shaped to look like Mjölnir. A green stocking trimmed with purple bore Bruce's name and sat between Thor and Pepper's stockings. Pepper's was a deep royal blue satin with white fur trim. Her name was stitched into the fur in silvery blue thread. Tony's was, of course, red and gold. The material was all satin and his name was done in a blue that matched the glow of the arc reactor's light. Clint's stocking came next, done in two complimentary shades of purple. His name was stitched in black and a tiny arrow crossed the T. Phil's stocking was the last one, with a white body and a black band at the top. His name had been stitched in white and the only vowel in it had been done to look like a tie.

Clint suspected that this was Pepper's handiwork, too, that she'd had each stocking custom made. He'd heard her use the term "family" before. She'd tossed it about like it was nothing. He didn't know a great deal about anyone else's lives, but he knew enough about Natasha's to know that using a world like "family" meant something different to her than it did to other people. It meant something different to him than it did to other people. He'd never really had a family. Not a good one, at least, and not one that had lasted. His mom had tried, but she'd been as beaten down by Clint's dad as Clint and his brother had been. After their folks had died, it had been Clint and Barney against the world. And even Barney had let him down.

Now he was sitting in a posh high rise with people who were calling themselves a family. And they were including him. And that was frightening enough. Worse, Phil was serious about making Clint his family. His proposal at the ice rink had proved that. Glancing down, Clint let his gaze land on the gold band resting on his ring finger. It was a very public proclamation of Phil's intentions and his emotions. Clint was having a hard time with it.

Sighing, he let his eyes drift toward the fireplace before him. There were no flames this time of night, but there were embers still glowing amongst the ash. Someone had put a huge piece of tree trunk in there and called it a yule log. A new tradition for a new family. It had burned cheerfully through the night until there was little left of it beyond ash and embers. His gaze lingered on one of the larger ones and gradually slid out of focus. His fingers toyed absently with the ring resting on his left hand.

Clint wasn't sure he was ready for a family.

Dragging his eyes from the embers, he returned his attention to the colorful stockings hanging from the mantel expectantly. Pepper had made comments about Santa coming over dinner, which had earned her laughs and bright smiles from most everyone. Clint had kept his thoughts to himself, though he suspected that Phil might have known what was going on in his head. Phil saw and knew far too much some days for Clint's peace of mind. Still, this wasn't anything Clint wanted to discuss with anyone because then he'd have to go into the hows and the whys of it all. And really, he just wanted to be left in peace.

He'd seen a lot of freaky shit in his life. He'd seen gods and he'd seen monsters. He'd seen aliens and he'd seen tech that worked on magic. He'd seen so much shit that it was hard to phase him anymore. He believed in all that shit. But Clint didn't believe in Santa Claus.

He hadn't since he'd been a small boy. Christmas was supposed to be a time of wonder and joy for all children. But it hadn't been any such thing in the Barton household. His father had made sure that wonder and joy never stopped at their house. And if they did, they'd never stayed long. He could remember the last few times that he'd gone to see one of those mall Santas. Every year, he'd asked for the same thing. For Santa to make his daddy stop hurting his mommy. For Santa to make their family whole again, to make their daddy love them again. It had never happened. He'd waited up on Christmas Eve in the hopes that Santa would arrive and give him what he'd wanted. Santa had never come. And Clint had stopped believing.

Seeing the stockings hanging off the mantel made him ache for the child that he'd been, for a time when it had been as simple as asking Santa to save his mom. Those days were long gone, and so was the child that he'd been. He'd stopped believing even before his parents had been killed. And it didn't matter how much weird shit he'd seen or how many miracles he'd encountered since then. He'd never seen anything to prove to him that Santa Claus was a real, flesh and blood person. So while the child that lurked deep in his heart wanted to believe, the cynic that was the rest of him only scoffed at the idea.

There was no Santa Claus. He didn't exist. And no one could prove to him other wise.

"But if there was a Santa Claus," Clint muttered to himself, eyes once more caught on the gold band glowing dimly in the limited light. "If there was a Santa Claus, I'd ask him to help me get over the fear of losing Phil and this new, weird family. Because this being part of a family is scary shit."

"Being part of anything is scary when its alien and new," a voice echoed out of the shadows. Clint found himself standing in a ready stance, cursing himself for not having a weapon on hand for whatever idiot it was that had managed to circumvent Stark's security, and Jarvis, to break into the tower. His eyes must have been playing tricks on him because it appeared that there were twice as many presents under the tree now as there were before. And didn't that damn tree look just a little fuller and prouder than it had only moments ago?

"Jarvis? You wanna do your thing and wake up the gang? Let them know we've got an intruder?" Clint asked the ceiling conversationally.

There was no drawling reply.

"Jarvis has got the night off, Clint. And don't worry. I'm not here to do any harm," the voice said. A figure slowly dissolved out of the shadows.The light of the decorations shone off what looked like a good deal of red and... Clint blinked. He had to be seeing things. A large man in a bright red suit stepped into the light. A red bag was slung over his shoulder without care. Clint blinked again. "I'm just here to do my job."

"I... What?"

The man moved closer and the light caught on his snowy white beard. There was something awfully familiar about his face. "You might have stopped believing in me, Clint, but I never stopped believing in you."

"I'm dreaming, right? That's what's going on here. I fell asleep on the couch and I'm dreaming. You're not really real." There was a disturbing lack of certainty in Clint's voice.

"You're hardly dreaming, Clint. Shocked, maybe. But not dreaming." The man said as he strode past Clint toward the fireplace and the stockings that waited for him there. Clint had to be dreaming. Because there was no way the man was really... Santa Claus.

"No. I'm dreaming. You don't exist. You're a figment of my imagination." Clint was sure of it. Because the man looked like someone Clint knew. The face was familiar, but he was having a hard time placing it. Maybe it was because the man was fully kitted out as Santa. Crimson red suit trimmed in soft white fur and shiny black boots. Black belt with a shiny buckle. Red and white fur hat tipped at a jaunty angle sitting on his head. Snow white hair and beard. Rosy fucking cheeks. Big belly. And that bulging bag slung over his shoulder. "You're a damned good figment of my imagination. But that's all you are."

"You've always been a stubborn one, Clinton Francis Barton. Time hasn't changed anything." Not Santa said with a touch of the Grinch in his voice. "I would have thought all these years with Phil would have maybe softened that hard streak of yours up. But I can see that I was wrong."

"I'm a natural born skeptic," Clint replied.

"You always have been, my boy."

It was the last of the sentence that tipped him off and, really, Clint could have kicked himself when he realized just why the man looked so familiar. Other than the Santa part, of course. "Nick?" he asked, trying to puzzle it all into place.

"Some people call me Nick," he confirmed with a smile. "Saint Nick. Saint Nicholas. Father Christmas. I have many names."

"You work for S.H.I.E.L.D. Of course you have many names. Most field agents use aliases from time to time."

"My boy, I do not work for S.H.I.E.L.D. Not now. Not ever. I simply do a favor for Director Fury every once in a while," he replied.

"Right. Because Santa Claus has time to do favors for Nick Fury on Christmas Day." This time, Clint out right scoffed at the man. The older man smiled and pursed his lips as he considered his next move. Clint knew that calculating look well enough because he'd seen it in Phil's eyes enough to recognized it. Hell, he'd seen it on just about every agent he'd ever had dealings with.

"Director Fury took care of a problem for me some years back. I help out here and there where and when I can." Clint found it refreshing that he wasn't denying his ties to S.H.I.E.L.D. even if he said he didn't work for Fury. "Like that time you and Agent Coulson were stuck on the side of a mountain in the worst blizzard the area's seen for years. He needed someone who could get in and get you two out with little trouble."

"Snowmobiles work just as well as a sleigh and a team of reindeer," Clint replied pointedly.

"They do. But I can't drive three snowmobiles at once. Not to mention there's much more room in a sleigh than there is on one of those noisy contraptions. And you can't hear the quiet of the snow as it falls from the sky over the engines. A sleigh is almost noiseless."

"And slow."

"The team was tired. They'd just done their yearly run," the man explained patiently. "Had you needed a ride out two days before then, I could have shown you what my reindeer can do."

"I don't believe this," Clint muttered mostly to himself. The man in red watched him silently as he continued to talk to himself. "There is no way you're Santa Claus. I'm having some weird ass dream and I'm just putting Agent Nick's face into it because my subconscious is so fucked up."

"I can assure you, my boy. I am the real deal." The man's voice was quiet and filled with conviction.

Clint pinned him with a hard stare. "Bullshit."

"Its the truth. I know you don't want to believe in my kind of magic, but I am Santa Claus."

"Santa Claus doesn't exist," Clint shot back. He closed his eyes and wished the nightmare to end. When he opened them, though, he found that the man in the red suit was still standing in the same spot. Clint sighed and shook his head.

"I'm not like bloody Tinkerbell the fairy," Nick-who-wasn't-Santa retorted hotly. "You can't make me go away by not believing in me. I exist, whether you want me to or not. You've spent years hating me and denying my existence. Frankly, its a little tiring and I'd rather you just stop now."

"You want me to stop saying you don't exist?" Clint asked, then frowned and shook his head. "Great. Now you've got me talking just as crazy as you are. Santa Claus doesn't exist."

The man sighed and set his bag down, then crossed his arms over his chest and stared Clint down. There was a disappointed look in his eyes that made Clint feel like a dick and only one other person had ever been able to stare him down like that. He didn't much care for the sensation of letting the man down. He didn't like that he felt bad and put a touch of extra glare into his expression. Not-Santa sighed. "And why do you think that?"

"Because I asked Santa for one thing for years. And he never got it for me. It was all I ever asked for. And it never came on Christmas morning. Hell, I was lucky if anything came on Christmas morning."

"And just how was I supposed to fix your mother and father?" Not-Santa spread his mittened hands and shrugged. Clint felt his heart stutter to a stop in his chest. Just for a moment. No one knew about that. He'd never told anyone other than those mall Santas. So how did Nick know? "Clint, I might be a being of pure magic and love, but sometimes all the magic in the world can't solve a problem as big as the one your father had. I'm sorry if you feel like I ignored you and let you down. There was nothing I could do."

"Santa Claus is not real," Clint repeated stubbornly.

"What would have happened to you if I'd been able to fix your father?" the man asked quietly. Clint stared at him defiantly, intentionally not thinking about what that would have meant for him. Not-Santa saw his tactic for what it was and shook his head. "If I had been able to fix your family's problems, you would never have ended up an orphan. And then you wouldn't have gone to the orphanage. Or the circus. And you wouldn't have become the man you are today. Because all of those events, Clint. They made you what you are. They made you Hawkeye. If I had granted the request all those years ago of the small boy who only wanted his family healthy and whole, you would not be here in this room today. We wouldn't be having this conversation. You wouldn't have Phil and your friends."

There was a small pause as he allowed Clint to think on all that. Then he pushed on and added one final sentence. "You wouldn't have a new family."

That brought Clint's anger up short. Was it true? Did he already have a whole family? He thought back through everything that had happened since they'd come together, how they'd just kind of ended up gravitating toward each other when the reasons to fight were gone. How had he missed that? How had he not seen that they were truly a family? They'd been a family when they'd been on vacation and holed up in that cabin in Aspen. He'd even told himself as much then, though he'd been uncertain about it. And they were definitely a family now. "I'm an idiot."

"I won't argue that," Nick replied, amusement coloring his tone. Clint glared at him. The old man sobered and motioned to their surroundings. "Look at what you have now. Would you have this if I'd given you what you wanted all those years ago? Would you have someone like Phil at your side? Or would you be just another face in the crowd?"

"I don't think I'd mind being a face in the crowd," Clint mused briefly. Then he shook his head and let his eyes slide toward the black and white stocking. "But I don't know if I'd have met Phil if things had gone differently."

"Sometimes, the things you want the most are the things you don't need," Nick, who Clint was starting to think really was Santa, told him quietly. "And there are some miracles I simply cannot work. I'm sorry you felt like I was ignoring your Christmas wishes, Clint. I would have given them to you if it had been at all possible. But if I had, you probably wouldn't have this."

"This," Clint repeated softly. He let his gaze focus on the ring Phil had slid onto his finger just a week or two ago. The gold was soft and glowed when the light hit it. He brought his other hand up so that he could twirl the band around his finger as he thought. He had to admit, he really liked the family he had now. And he'd chosen them for himself, even if he hadn't realized he was doing it at the time. Scary as it all was, 'this' wasn't really so bad.

The clock chimed, marking the hour. "That's my cue. Time for me to depart. Other houses to get to. Other gifts to deliver," Agent Nick a.k.a. Santa Claus told him. Clint looked up to see him standing by the stockings, watching him with a smile on his face. "Merry Christmas, Clinton Francis Barton."

"Merry Christmas," Clint replied. The clock struck again and Agent Nick of the bright red suit simply wasn't there anymore. The stockings, which had hung straight and empty when he'd come out here, were now bulky with goodies. Clint allowed himself a brief smile. "Merry Christmas, Santa."

With the last chime of the clock, Clint realized that the room some how felt emptier. As if Agent Nick, the real Santa Claus, had had a much larger presence than simply the one garbed in a bright red suit and white fur. Maybe it had been the legend of Santa Claus. Maybe it had been the magic of the season. Maybe it had been nothing more than understanding and love. Whatever it had been, it was gone with the man. Clint was left alone with his thoughts.

He wasn't sure how much time passed or how long he just sat there and contemplated what he'd learned. The only thing he was sure of was that he was filled with a warmth he hadn't felt in a very long time. Not just the warmth of the season, though that was part of it. Most of it, however, was the warmth of love. Of being loved. Of belonging. That feeling had been missing from his life for far too long.

"Clint?" Phil's question was spoken through a sleepy yawn. He turned to find the man padding toward him on bare feet. He came out of the shadows much the way Santa had earlier. Only Phil wasn't wearing a crimson colored suit trimmed in white fur. He was, instead, clad in a pair of dark blue pajama pants and a plain white t-shirt. He wasn't quite rubbing his eyes, but it looked like a close thing. Phil blinked against the light and came to a stop near the couch where Clint still sat. "What are you doing up?"

"Couldn't sleep," Clint shrugged and stood up. He took Phil in his arms and pulled the man in for a slow, heated kiss that promised so much more. Phil pressed his body to Clint's, his hands digging into Clint's sleep-tousled hair so that he could hold him close. Clint let his hands rest on the curves of Phil's ass and simply enjoyed the feel of their bodies molded to one another. Their tongues slid together as the kiss went deeper and deeper. The warmth of family and loved ones that Clint had been feeling only moments ago grew hot and became the heat of passion and desire.

Phil broke away first and put the smallest amount of distance between them. "Something troubling you?" he asked, though his voice wasn't as sharp as it might have been had they not just kissed. Clint smiled and shook his head.

"Not anymore. I worked it all out."

"If this is about us getting married, you know you can talk to me about anything."

Clint smiled and leaned in to steal another kiss off Phil's lips. When he pulled back, the smile was still there. "I know I can. And I'm sure I'll end up taking you up on that later. When I start getting nervous. But for now, everything is perfect and we can go to bed."

Phil lifted a brow at him. "You have something in mind?"

Clint's smile slid into a cocky, knowing grin. "Yeah. You get to help me wrap your Christmas present."

"Well, that presents images that I just don't need running around in my head." Tony's voice was a sleepy drawl that drew their attention to the tree. He and Pepper were both standing there, staring at them with two very different expressions on their faces. Tony looked like he wanted to heave all over his toes while Pepper was smiling at them with genuine pleasure. And maybe a little bit of perverse pleasure. Clint suspected she was going to use the kiss they'd caught him sharing with Phil to torture Tony. He'd have to try and give her more material to use on the man.

"You're just jealous because you aren't invited. And because I'm never going to ask you to help wrap gifts," Clint replied. Phil bit off a laugh and turned it into a cough. Tony shot a menacing look toward Phil that did nothing to frighten the man. Pepper reached out to smack Tony's arm, then came further into the room. Stark trailed behind her, his eyes carefully avoiding Clint and Phil as he walked by.

Pepper stopped before the fireplace, a small bag in one hand, and stared at the way the stockings bulged with surprises. She cast a look at Tony for a second, then turned to Clint and Phil. "You already stuffed the stockings?" There was surprise in her voice. And rightly so. He'd made no bones about his feelings with the group more than once. No doubt she hadn't expected him to act as Santa for any of them.

"Nope. It wasn't me," Clint shook his head.

"Phil?" Pepper asked, turning her attention to the man at Clint's side.

Phil smiled and shook his head. "I'm sorry. I only came out here to find Clint. He wasn't in bed when I woke up. The stockings were already stuffed when I got here."

Both Pepper and Tony turned to look at Clint. "So you did stuff the stockings?" Pepper asked.

Clint smiled at them. "Sorry. It really wasn't me. It must have been Santa Claus."

Everyone blinked at him. "You don't believe in Santa Claus. You told us as much," Pepper replied. "Are you saying that there is a Santa?"

Clint's smile grew. He took hold of Phil's hand and tugged him toward the shadows and their rooms, stopping only long enough to look at her over his shoulder. "Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus."

Chapter 1 of 1
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