The clicking of Laura’s heels echoed in the alley as her pace fastened. Heading to the principal’s office door, she stopped once her daughter tiny figure caught her attention. Walking past the door, Laura crouched before her daughter, their gazes being on the same level, and gave her a small smile.
“What happened honey?” she asked as her finger gently brushed a strand of hair from Lila’s face, revealing a purplish bruise around her eye.
Lila shrugged, unsure on whether tell her mother what actually happened or tell her a different story. Caught off guard by Lila’s out of character silence, Laura got up, gently caressed her daughter’s face and entered the office.
“Would you mind closing the door?” asked the principal. Laura crossed her arms, pursing her lips together.
“I’d rather not.” She declared dryly. “You may want to explain what happened to my daughter now?”
The principal – Mr. Lahey, a middle-aged man who didn’t seem to have much experience with children despite his job position – sighed heavily, pulling a yellow folder from a drawer. “As you already know since we called you two weeks ago as well, Lila is having troubles adjusting to elementary school.” He began, gesturing at Laura to sit and look at the folder if she wanted to. “Kids in her class don’t want to befriend her since she’s shown to be very competitive, even over trivial subjects, and reckless. Teachers loose sight of her for a second and find her hours later perching in high places, does she do that at home too?”
Laura looked down at the folder and pushed it back to the man – she didn’t care much about what were their considerations about her daughter since she knew her like the back of her hand and surely didn’t need to hear how a man implied she wasn’t a good parent.
“Yes, she does that at home as well. Lila is a very athletic child, she got that from her father.” She replied with a fake smile.
“Father that doesn’t seem very present from what I’ve gathered…”
“My husband is in the army, sir. He makes sure our country is safe, and I make sure my kids don’t get treated like garbage.” She remarked snarkly. “Which considering my daughter’s black eye makes me wonder if this school manages not to.”
“Your daughter was involved in a fight today in the garden.” Mr. Lahey said unimpressed. “Your older son was involved as well, but since he didn’t actually take part of the fight, we decided to focus on the most troubled one – which is Lila, clearly.” He explained matter of factly.
“What was the reason of this fight?”
“Lila reported us that a bunch of kids in Cooper’s class bully him because he can’t hear–“
“Cooper is not deaf, sir.” Laura interrupted. “He has an anxiety disorder and selective mutism. He’s perfectly capable to hear whatever thing you tell him, he just feels more comfortable signing.” She explained. Mr. Lahey frowned. “And with all due respect, which might become none given the displeasing situation, but we had a discussion about Cooper last year, I’d expect you to be more sensitive towards your students.”
“Mrs. Barton, the point is that Lila, a six-year-old tiny child, managed to give a broken nose to three older students and walk away with only a black eye.” Mr. Lahey yelled. Laura turned to watch Lila from the glass behind her, just in time to watch her head flinch.
“Lila doesn’t like injustice, whether is done to her brother or other people. Her way to deal with things is not always right, but I know my daughter. She probably tried to solve things with words but gave up when she noticed it wouldn’t work.” Laura replied calmly. “If that’s all, I’d like to take my daughter home.”
That night, during Laura’s usual check in call with Clint, she caught glimpses of a conversation between Cooper and Lila, her daughter’s voice being the only audible one. “Of course they won’t suspend me Coop, haven’t you heard dad? They like our money!... I’ll stop punching them when they’ll stop calling you retarded. Let them give me more books to read, whatever, I like books… We’ll figure out something, don’t worry.”
As the conversation dropped and the tv was turned on, Laura closed the call and allowed herself to cry, just for once.
“Hello sir, I’m Phil, Laura’s brother.” Coulson chimed in, lightly patting Lila’s back as he sat. Mr. Lahey looked at him unimpressed.
“Well, since you must be that Phil, even better, because you’re part of the reason why Lila is sitting again in this office.”
Coulson blinked a couple of times, the smile on his face hard pressed and didn’t seem to fade any soon. “I beg your pardon?”
Mr. Lahey took a bunch of papers and pushed them towards Coulson with an annoyed expression on his face. “Lila was supposed to write something that happened during summer, and for some reason, her story doesn’t sit well with us, since she wrote something about… her dad being an Avenger and a god with a magic hammer.”
Coulson’s gaze darted on Lila, who was sitting quietly, her hands tugging at the braid Laura had made her in the morning. “You wrote about the Avengers?”
“Yes.” Lila answered honestly. “And that you met your favourite superhero ever Captain America. I wanna meet him too.”
“Oh well if your espionage skills are this good you might meet him soon, dearest!”
Mr. Lahey raised a brow, feeling like both Lila and Phil were making fun of him at that point. “I’m sorry, are you telling me this girl knew first hand about the Avengers? Wasn’t her dad in the army?”
“I won’t either confirm or deny what Lila wrote in this essay, sir.” Coulson replied politely. “But giving a quick look it appears that her grammar and spelling are on point – wasn’t this the aim of this writing exercise?” he asked curiously. “To check whether the kids still remembered what they had learned previously or not?”
The principal let out a puff of air, taking back all the papers sprawled on the desk and putting them back in Lila’s folder. “Lila is a pathological liar, and her mother should take her to therapy sessions.”
“I’ll let her know.” Coulson remarked with a grin. “Hop off the chair dear, we’re going on a frozen yogurt hunt.” He declared finally, taking Lila’s hand as she got off the chair.
Both waving at Mr. Lahey, the man wondered what was the deal with that weird family.
The moment Fury set foot in the principal’s office, Lila knew things could have only gone south. Eyes wide in confusion since she had heard just a week before he was dead, Lila sank lower in the chair, side eyeing him every now and then.
“Good morning sir, I’m Lila Nicole’s grandfather.” Fury said stretching his arm towards the man, a pinch of pride could be heard in his voice as he said her name. Lila, from her chair, sank even lower.
“So you’re Lila’s grandfather?” Mr. Lahey asked as he took Lila’s ever-growing yellow folder from the drawer and a post it. Scribbling something on the post it, he eventually attached it somewhere inside the folder.
“I adopted her dad when he was very young, so I’d say yes, I am.”
“The dad from the army I guess…”
“How many dads is the kid supposed to have, sir?” Fury asked defiantly, and Mr. Lahey cleared his throat awkwardly, downing his look to the stuff on the desk.
“I don’t want to take too much time from you, so I’ll be short.” He began, eyes narrowed as he looked at Lila. “Your granddaughter keeps scaring her classmates. They can’t hear her when she walks, she always wants to pick fights, even with her teachers.”
“PE teacher gave me a D at that dumb archery routine.” Lila yelled out getting up from the chair. “I’m the only one in that class that even knows how to hold a bow, and she gave me a D.”
“Maybe you’re not as talented as you think you are.” The principal let out in a whisper.
“Excuse you?” Fury bursted out, his hand waving in the air in an offended manner. “Lila Nicole is the best archer I’ve ever seen after Hawkeye himself – and you’re right! This conversation is making me waste time.”
As they walked out the office, Fury shut the door, and Lila let out a heavy sigh.
“He’s gonna be disappointed. About the D.”
Fury snorted, putting his hand on Lila’s shoulder as they walked the crowded alley. “Sweetheart, the only disappointed person will be that motherfucker once your mom and dad wake up and realise this school is making your potential go to waste.”
Lila shrugged at his statement. “Whatever I guess. Aren’t you supposed to be dead, though? Aunt Nat was crying.”
“Aunt Nat is a good actress. If you play your cards well, you’ll be just like her – God help us all.” He declared, whispering the last part. “However, you must know that these days, death is quite overrated.”
“Auntie Nat?” Lila let out in a whisper as a blonde figure approached the principal’s office door. Natasha quickly waved at her as she took a seat, then turned to Mrs. Donovan, who had acquired her new title a couple of months before and still couldn’t believe at how big Lila’s folder was compared to the other students’.
“You must be Lila’s mother?” she asked hesitantly. Natasha shook her head no and gave her a sympathetic smile.
“Sadly not. Laura couldn’t come, so… here I am. I’m the aunt.” She explained cheekily. “What happened?”
Mrs. Donovan’s brows raised exaggeratedly as she opened Lila’s folder for the first time ever. Noticing a couple post it in different colours depicting names, physical appearance and relation to Lila, she scribbled on a new post it and put it under the already existing ones.
“Lila was involved in a fight with a group of older students. Reasons behind said fight are still quite uncertain but many kids who were there said she wasn’t the one who started it.” The woman explained quietly. “The fact is that I’ve got five students with either broken noses, arms or God knows what else, and one tiny girl with barely two scratches. One of them said she jumped on his shoulders and almost chocked him.”
“Yeah, did he also tell you that when I was pulled away from him, he told me to give him my number and try it out elsewhere?” Lila remarked in an angry tone. Natasha turned her attention on her niece.
“They were harassing my friends. Was I supposed to stand and watch?” Lila asked, sarcasm dripping through her words. “Verbal and physical assault should not happen at school, an environment in which students should feel protected.”
“You brought my niece here because she hit some guys but didn’t bother to give a detention to those kids for being assholes?” Natasha asked in a calm voice. “Sounds like a double standard to me.”
“Well, I can’t do much about it, as I already said the kids are quite scared and hurt, one of them even apologised–“
“I didn’t hear any apology though.” Lila interrupted. “And neither my friends.”
Natasha’s lips pursed tight as she looked at the principal. “Oh well. Seems like you can either loose Lila and Cooper’s enrolment money for next year, and also might loose before a court if Lila’s dad finds out what happened to his daughter, or suspend the kids and give a good example to your students.” She said finally, getting up from the chair and fixing her jeans while doing so. “Let us know when you decide… this school seems to know our phone number pretty well after all.”
“We practiced that move what – once? And you’re already out there Black Widow-ing your way out of things?” Natasha asked jokingly once she and Lila were in the car.
Lila cleared her throat, her gaze fixed down on her shoes. From what she knew by watching and news and eavesdropping her parents' conversations, after that fight in Berlin Natasha had to hide for a while. In the beginning she would call the farmhouse every now and then, but it suddenly stopped as time passed by and Clint was sentenced on house arrest.
“Do mom and dad know you’re back or it was just a matter of circumstances that you were there?” Lila asked curiously. Natasha smirked lightly.
“Sweetheart, how much you still have to learn.”
“Let me guess, you’re Lila’s distant cousin from mother’s side.” Mrs. Donovan let out dryly as Clint sat on the chair, her eyes glued on the folder. As her gaze darted on him, the woman raised an eyebrow, lifted her glasses and looked straight in Lila’s eyes. “Is this a joke?”
Lila stayed silent, and Clint frowned at her in confusion. “I’m her dad, actually.” He declared sternly. “I am already informed about Lila’s history of being the star of this office, so let’s get straight to the point. What happened?”
Mrs. Donovan seemed clearly caught off guard by having Hawkeye in her office, especially since he was sitting on the chair and looked like he had had far better days. Tired grey-blue eyes fixed on her, Clint’s hand tiredly gestured to continue.
“Lila is having a hard time adjusting to the fact that some of her friends are not studying in this school anymore, or that some of her old teachers are not among us anymore. Her copying mechanisms seems rather harmful than helpful, especially towards her classmates. She has clear anger issues and I think she should see a therapist.”
Clint listened to the woman carefully, and when she finished, he pursed his lips so tight they became white. “Lila is going through the death of her aunt and uncle, of course she’s not adjusting well to your bullshit school, she’s grieving.” He let out calmly as one hand reached his neck to scratch it. “You’ve been bitching on my daughter’s behaviour for years, just stop for a second and ask yourself if it’s just her the issue or the way you don’t handle things as well.”
Before the woman could even speak again, Clint got up, gesturing at Lila to do the same. Once they were in the car, Lila felt comfortable enough to let out a small sigh. “I’m sorry.”
Clint sighed, his arms were rested on the steering wheel as his head dropped on them. “No Lils, if anything it’s kinda my fault.” He let out in a muffled voice. “You should go to art school as you asked us five years ago.”
“But art school is in Brooklyn.” Lila remarked in a confused tone. “Thought you wanted me to stay out of your area.”
“Yeah well, a lot of things have changed in the meantime Lils. Cooper’s going to leave soon and it’s not like I can keep you home forever, that wouldn’t be right on you.”
“Woah,” Lila let out sarcastically “you learned that on your parenting book or something?”
“You know, she used to keep all your drawings hung in her bedroom at the compound. She’d say they were fan mails but I knew they were yours because in the left corner there was always a tiny purple arrow.” He recalled with teary eyes. “You should do whatever you want, you know. Go to art school, or I don’t know, change completely a do something else, that’s not my decision to make.”
“New York’s far from home.” Lila whispered. “It would be a big change. Change is scary.”
“Sometimes change is good, kid.” Clint offered coolly. “You could see your new friends often, and that one kid who’s coming home every other day to ‘know if you decided’ might find some peace of mind in the end.”
Lila raised a brow hearing the way her dad put that last statement, and for a moment she wondered whether her dad knew Harley was trying to set up a new team or not.
“What? Your mom’s always thrilled to have him at dinner, last time she basically transformed in Mulan’s grandmother!”
“Are you saying I’m Mulan now?” Lila asked in a confused tone.
“Only if you go to the war so that your old man doesn’t have to.” Clint remarked with a grin that faded almost instantly. “Thank God you’ll never have to, though.”
“He wants to set up a new group.” Lila let out quickly. Clint flinched lightly. “He wants me in, but I always tell him I don’t want to have anything to do with a bow ever again.”
“You were using it in the barn the other day, though.”
“It’s not because of him, dad.” She replied in an annoyed tone. “If I stopped, aunt Nat would kick my ass from her grave. Wherever it is.”
“You should try too.” She offered. “I know you traded it for the sword… but sometimes going back to our old path is a good thing. Plus, she wouldn’t want you to hang it either, you know.”
Clint threw a hand on his face let out a deep sigh, or maybe it was a laugh, Lila was not quite sure. “You’re such a…” he began, but never finished it, his gaze was lost in thoughts that Lila couldn’t decipher.
“Dad?” she called out and Clint blinked a couple of times and turned to face her. “I’m such a what?”
“Nothing.” He whispered. “Let’s go home.”
As the engine started, they both fell silent – Lila’s mind pondering on whether move to art school would have actually been a good idea or not, and Clint’s deciding if picking up his bow again wouldn’t mean choosing that life once more as well.