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Technopath – Ch. 6

Ch. 6

Tony woke up with a groan, his head pounding. The lights were already dimmed and he watched the blurred image before him for a long moment before he was able to force his hand to take the offered bottle of water. He took it and rinsed away the thick taste of blood filling his mouth.

“How long was I out?” he asked sipping the cold water to see if his stomach was going to protest.

“About ten hours,” Clint said digging out a protein bar and opening it for him. “I was going to wake you up in another two to get you to eat something.”

“Yeah, post research bender standard procedure.” Tony said taking a bit of the bar and making a face, “Works rather well for hangovers too.”

“Or post mission collapse, been there often enough myself.” Clint said with a shrug, “Drink the rest of that and I’ll order us some real food.”

“Jarvis, order us something hot and simple, nothing heavy.” Tony said stuffing the rest of the bar in his mouth as he hauled himself off the couch with a suppressed whimper and tottered to the bathroom.

Clint watched him make his slow way out of the room but didn’t offer to help which Tony appreciated. He cleaned himself up a bit and used the facilities before shuffling back to the couch. Half the muscles in his body were protesting the abuse he’d put it under while the rest were protesting the lack of sustenance he hadn’t bothered to provide while trying to find the base. 

“Ramen and fried rice for carbs and protein,” Clint offered once he was settled, “Should get here in about twenty minutes. Did you want a shower or anything?”

“Nah, I’m probably going to sleep right here after I eat. Aren’t you supposed to be on base or something?”

“Figured someone had to keep an eye out to make sure you didn’t chock on your own drool or anything.” Clint said with a shrug going back to his pallet and digging out a book. “Natasha’s keeping an eye on the rest of the team.”

“Is this a thing you two do?”

“We’re used to working on small teams;” He said with a shrug, “you keep watch when someone’s injured or not able to protect themselves, keeps the rest of the team alive long enough to become a good team.”

“So this is in-house service via assassin twins? You do know that Jarvis could have kept watch, right?”

“Jarvis is watching the rest of the house, team, and your company.” Clint said with a snort, “He’s doing enough without having to make sure you eat too.”

“So, what’s the rumor around Shield now? Are they waiting to dissect my brain next time I show up for a mission?”

“The current rumor around Shield is that you’ve integrated some mind link through surgical implants and that’s why you can hack machines so easily and without a direct interface or keyboard,” Clint said getting up to retrieve the box of food that a loading dock robot brought to the door, “but that’s been going around the watercooler for years. They also think I have bionic eyes and that Phil once killed three assassins with a tin pin and two rubber bands which is actually close to the truth, it was a stapler and coffee cup.”

“I looked through some of the mission files for you and Agent. You worked with him a long time.” Tony said moving stiffly to his desk and setting the rice to one side.

“Yeah, ten years,” Clint agreed handing Tony a packet of silverware and a tub of soup. “Jarvis mentioned that you had some research you wanted to run past me and maybe Natasha eventually.”

“I was waiting to find solid proof. I might have found that right before the mission got called out.” Tony said starting to spoon up some rice, once he started eating he realized just how starved he was one hand still fiddling with the documents Jarvis pulled up.

“Do I need to call Natasha and get her to come in?”

“No, I think we’re going to need to call the entire team in for the big reveal. We need to decide how the team is going to handle it.”

“That why you were so pissed off with Fury the last few days?”

“He’s a lying liar who lies and he made Pepper cry. If you and the Widow don’t kill him then she might.”

“Alright, I’ll call Natasha and see when they can get here.” He said pulling out his phone and moving to the other side of the room to make the call.

Tony kept eating absently noting that Jarvis added a meeting with the team in four hours to his schedule. He spent the time getting the documents in order and loaded onto a few tablets for the ones who wanted to review things themselves. Clint settled back on his pallet and started cleaning and prepping his weapons keeping one eye on the door.

Over the next few hours the rest of the team slowly trickled in. Natasha was the last the join them, right at the appointed time for the meeting. Thor was back off world so they at least didn’t have to wait on him. Bruce was already fiddling with a tablet while Steve waited on the couch near Clint watching him work on his bow. They’d all settled back to wait when Tony said he wasn’t going to explain until everyone arrived.

“Sorry for the short notice but I found something that I think the team needs to know.” Tony said handing out the tablets.

“These are medical expense reports.” Bruce said slowly paging through the electronic document. 

“Yeah, I had Jarvis tracking everything that Shield had attached to the Avenger’s Initiative and its members. Somehow a lot of what I thought was random things got added. Medical records, expense reports for surgeries that don’t appear in any of our files, I couldn’t figure out what was going on until I realized exactly what was missing. Who’s the one person attached to the project outside of Fury and Thor who isn’t here?”

“Agent Coulson,” Steve said slowly shifting forward in his seat.

“Fury said the medics called it but he never said he was dead.” Tony pointed out, leaning back and watching as the rest of the team processed that.

“When are we breaking him out?” Natasha asked, moving to lean against the couch next to Clint, who was silent, hands flexing around his bow.

“It’s been a year; do we know how he’s doing?” Bruce asked, fiddling with his tablet and glancing around the room, “If he was stabbed through the chest then that’s not something you get over quickly.”

“All of the surgeries were in the first six month, the last few months the bills are just rehab and room billing. I need to do some deeper digging to see if I can find more about the hospital and his mobility. I’ll need your help with the medical records, Bruce.”

“What do you need us to do?” Clint asked, glancing up at Natasha before turning back to face Tony.

“Right now I need you to help us plan the extraction if that’s what we’re going with.”

“You think we should leave him?” Steve snapped standing and moving to pace to one side of the room.

“I’m just listing options. Right now it looks like Shield is treating him as a patient, not a prisoner, they’re lying to us but we don’t know what he knows. For all we know he thinks his team is dead too.” Tony said holding up his hands, “We need more information and I’m going to need everyone’s help to get it because I’m thinking a lot of it’s under an alias.”

“I’ll get you a list of the aliases he used. Clint might know more, he worked with him longer.” Natasha said, Clint nodding agreement.

“You think Shield told him me and Natasha were dead?” Clint asked fiddling with something under his shirt.

“I don’t see Agent leaving his team behind without at least saying goodbye. If Fury said you were dead or lost on a mission he might believe it and let the treatment playout without fighting it.” Tony said softly trying to gauge what was going on in the archer’s head. 

“Steve, we’ll need you to help plan how we’re getting in and out of the building with the assassin twins. Jarvis, pull up the blueprints for him.” Steve flexed his arms and moved with a frown to where the diagrams hovered, grateful at least to be doing something. “I think Bruce can sit this one out and help prep the tower for our arrival, can you figure out what medical equipment we might need?”

“Sure, as long as he’s up and moving it shouldn’t be much. Mostly we’ll need a physical therapist to come in and a cardiologist to check him out once we get his full records.”

“Jarvis call Pepper and ask for the list of SI doctors we have confidentiality documents on. Get it to Bruce.”

“We could always do this the easy way.” Natasha pointed out, touching Clint’s hair for a long moment before over to scan the blueprints.

“Care to share with the class?”

“We go straight in. Fury hid it from us but now that we know we have no reason to hid that fact. He’ll know as soon as Coulson leaves the hospital anyway.”

“Just walk him out the front door?”

“Why not? It’s not like the security there is going to be able to stop us.” Natasha said with a shrug, glancing at Clint who was still crouched, mind whirling.

“We get him out in the morning.” Clint said quietly setting his bow down and starting to peel out of his gear, “We need to make sure he’s able to travel first. We put Jarvis piloting the suit to harass the helicarrier when we go in as a distraction. Tony takes the suitcase suit with us; Steve gets Phil in a wheelchair and moving while Natasha distracts the guards. Bruce will have a car outside waiting, in and out fast before the alarm gets set off.”

“And I can make sure that doesn’t happen.” Tony said with a firm nod.

“Good, I’m going to clean up and order some food in. It’s probably going to be a long night.” He said, his face a mask of concentration. He left a pile of Kevlar and weapons on the couch before stalking out the lab.

“Jarvis, keep an eye on the Hawk.” Tony said quietly so that Natasha would hear the order.

“Yes, sir, I’ve taken the liberty of placing the team’s general order for Chinese. It should arrive in half an hour.”

“Good, thanks, Jay.” Tony said absently as he started working on hacking the full medical records for their missing agent.

***

“Why the hell is it a hospital in New Jersey?” Tony muttered as they made their way inside.

“It’s in range of the Quinjets or even by car from New York and no one would think we would house our wounded in a non-military hospital.” Clint said flatly over the com, he was working his way inside using the back entrance.

“Hello, we’re here to visit Phillip Barnes.” Natasha said at the front desk Steve at her side as the dutiful flower carrying boyfriend, they knew it would probably mean a call to the Director but at this point they didn’t care if he knew or not, by the time he reacted it would be too late. 

Tony sauntered past them to the elevators, working on the systems he passed to try and find the correct alarm system to bypass. He’d already looped the camera feeds as each of his team mates passed and was monitoring all chatter on the security lines. The room they wanted was on an upper floor which would mean more time needed to get out.

“Hey, Hawk, think you could cover the roof if we have issues?”

“Yeah, what are you thinking?”

“If we can’t get him down the elevators then heading up is still an option.”

“Got it, I’ll make sure I’m mobile just in case.”

“Good.” Tony hummed as he made his way down the hall disabling locks and other things as he went. The blueprints had shown that Phil was the only resident on the floor so it wouldn’t hurt anyone else to kill the nonessentials for a short while.

“At the first door,” Tony muttered while working on persuading the door to let him in.

“Right behind you,” Steve said easing out of the stairwell with Natasha a step behind.

***

Clint watched as they got his former handler into a chair with only a bit of prompting and headed out. He watched from the roof as they loaded him into the white beat up van before moving to follow at a distance. He wanted to vault down the side of the building and make his way back to the tower at a run but he forced himself to move at a steady ground eating walk. He’d waited two years, another ten minutes shouldn’t matter.

It was a long walk back to his bike that was stashed several blocks away. He just had to get to the landing pad before the rest of the team, he thought with a smirk gunning the engine and pushing the bike for more speed once he hit the highway. Ten minutes later he’d stashed the bike in the cargo bay and settled into the pilot’s seat, he didn’t trust anyone else to get Phil home right now.

He hung back once he landed the mutated Quinjet that Tony had “Improved” with only a slight bump and started the landing checklist. Natasha ducked into the copilot’s seat and helped speed things up. She ambled next to him as they made their way to the floor none of them had been on before, an executive guest apartment that was rarely used.

“He asked for you.” She said quietly, “They told him you were dead, gave him a copy of your ring.”

He didn’t trust himself to answer, waiting in silence as the elevator took them higher. As the doors opened and she pointed him towards the bedroom he hesitated not sure if he wanted to see how badly Phil had been hurt. Taking a deep breath he forced his legs to move, he was alive, that was all that mattered.

Phil gave him a smile as he settled into a corner where he could watch the rest of the room. He wanted to rush over and check on the man but Bruce was already checking his vitals and helping him get comfortable in bed. Steve worked with Jarvis to order in lunch for everyone and Tony was babbling his normal nonstop reel as he stood to one side fiddling with his phone.

“Just so you know, Fury’s already tried to call each of us at least once.” Tony said with a grin, “Jarvis is blocking all calls from Shield for the next twenty four hours. If they really need us they can send someone in person.”

“He might just deserve it.” Phil said flicking a look to where Clint was standing, “Thank you everyone for the rescue.”

“We couldn’t exactly leave you there, Coulson.” Natasha said, moving to the bed and placing a kiss on one cheek. “Who would keep our Hawk grounded without you there?”

Clint thankfully was saved from commenting by the food arriving. He helped Steve unpack everything and served Phil a plate making sure it was only the things he liked. He settled back against the wall with a glass of water but ignored the food for now, he could eat later, right now he wanted to memorize the way Phil’s too long hair fell in his eyes and the changes to his body from the weight he’d lost.

He was too used to playing it straight for Shield to break the routine now even with Tony giving him funny looks. They’d hidden their relationship from everyone but a few close friends so that no one could say they were acting unprofessional. If it had been common knowledge Clint would have had to change handlers and teams and he couldn’t have done that and stayed sane with the job they did.

Bruce helped Phil to the bathroom after a while, Phil protesting that he wasn’t that much of a cripple even if he was wheezing a bit when he got back to the bed. Clint tugged out his phone to start looking up how to rehab from a lung injury. He needed more information, he mused sending a text to Natasha that she vet the doctor and physical therapist, knowing her she was already on it.

He had a bit of a limp thanks to the staff nicking several nerves near the spine but overall didn’t look like he’d been essentially dead just one year ago. When the others began to excuse themselves once Phil began looking tired Clint stayed to clean up until Steve excused himself leaving just Strike Team Delta.

“Get in here, Hawk.” Natasha called out over the quiet sound of the TV when he was starting to run out of things to clean. Phil beckoned him to the bed and Clint gratefully let himself be pulled down to curl against the older man.

“Thought I lost you;” Phil said softly pressing a kiss to the top of his head.

“Me too,” Clint said shifting closer, “You’re not allowed to do that again.”

“Not sure I can agree not to die ever again but I’ll do my best.” Phil said with his normal mildly amused tone, it made Clint shiver to hear it after so long.

“A year, Phil;” Clint said his voice breaking.

“I know. I’m sorry it went on that long. Some of the nurses talked about the Avengers but I never heard anything about you.”

“Shield had me grounded for a while, took about six months before I was doing missions again.” Phil tugged him up for a chaste kiss while Clint fought the burning in his eyes. He tucked his face against the too narrow chest and tried to not put too much weight against his injured husband. 

“We have a meeting tomorrow to decide how the team is going to deal with Fury and Shield after this.” Natasha said, “Jarvis will put it on your calendar. I’ll be in the spare bedroom if you need me. It’s good to have you back, Coulson.”

“Thank you, Natasha.” Phil said with a sad smile, glancing down at the shaking archer in his arms, “Thank you for keeping him safe for me.”

“Always, goodnight;”

“So has Tony come out with his abilities to the team yet?” Phil asked once Clint had cried himself out and they’d exchanged several more kisses.

“No, I kind of had to force the issue to get him to talk to me about it. I told Jarvis about the note in his file.”

“Good, he needs all the support he can get. We all will in the coming years, I think.”

“Says the Team Dad.” Clint said with a snort.

“If I’m the Team Dad, who’s the Mother?”

“Steve.”

“Oh, that’s just mean.” Phil said with a soft chuckle.

“You haven’t seen him in full Captain America, ‘I can fix this’ mode yet. It’s kind of scary. He’s probably going to give you the puppy dog eyes at some point for pushing yourself too hard in the gym.”

“I look forward to it.”

Technopath – Ch. 5

Ch. 5

Tony made his way inside at speed dodging the few lab coated scientists who were running through the halls as they tried to escape before the building went up. Natasha and Steve were working on the bomb while Hawkeye and Thor kept watch outside making sure the idiots were rounded up by the waiting Shield agents. Tony was to try and hack the main computer system and stop the launch of dozens of long range rockets carrying bioterrorism agents.

He reached the computer and started typing letting his hands move while his mind reached out to the machine hoping he would be able to get through. The targeting computers were humming to themselves as they clicked through the next step of the launch. Tony started trying to get their attention but they were ignoring him, too busy with their own tasks to notice the voice nudging at them.

“The bombs have been disarmed.” Steve reported, blowing out a relieved breathe. “How are the rockets coming, Ironman?”

“Working on it,” Tony bit out, fingers flying.

His viruses were barely slowing the count down; he’d need to do something soon. He could lock the missile apertures but that would just have them blowing up the base while people were still inside and releasing the biological weapons into the air here. He needed another option and there wasn’t anything popping up.

“Clint,” Tony said flipping over to a private channel as he franticly typed.

“What’s going on, Tony?” Clint asked once he’d clicked over to the private channel.

“I never force a machine to do something, I ask. If I force them to do something it hurts both of us.” Tony said his fingers still flying on the keyboard unleashing viruses and entering commands that the system was ignoring.

“And you’re going to have to force this one, like you forced the door when we were getting Bruce.” Clint said softly understanding where Tony was going.

“Yeah, but this is going to be worse.” Tony said swallowing, “A lot worse.”

“Can Jarvis fly you out once you finish or do you need me to come get you?”

“Jarvis can fly me out but I’m not going to be up to much for a few days.”

“I’ll make sure the team leaves you alone.”

“Alright,” Tony said with a nod he knew the other man couldn’t see, “Thanks.” He clicked back to the open channel, “I’ve got three minutes on the clock, clear out the rest of the base in case this doesn’t work.”

“On it,” Clint said clearly, ignoring the protests of the other team members.

“Is there a problem, Ironman?” Steve asked.

“Yep, this is either going to work or the entire base is going to be flooded with virus laden gas while the missiles blow. Get everyone back.”

“Tony,”

“I’m sorry, sir. Master Stark has turned off his radio.” Jarvis said across the line making Steve curse even as he started helping with the evacuation.

“Get everyone out and back, we have two minutes.” Steve snapped, grabbing up his gear and running along behind Natasha as they pushed the last few scientists into the closest chopper.

They all pulled on a gas mask but there was a chance even that wouldn’t work as they pushed for altitude. Below them Tony was lost in code and the humming machines. He closed the apertures and started pushing the commands he knew the machines would rebel against. No machine wanted to not complete the job it was created for.

He gasped for air as the pressure built. The machines screamed and moaned in his mind as he forced each command through. He could feel blood sliding down his face and tried to distance himself from the pain stabbing through his head and bones. One by one the missiles disarmed and the computer connected to it powered down. He felt the last one click off as the darkness swallowed his vision leaving his body limp inside the armor.

Jarvis double checked that the machines were inactive before he activated the suit and started the short flight out of the base. Almost as soon as he exited the radio started chattering at him. He ignored it for a moment making sure his creator’s vitals were stable before laying in a flight plan for home.

“Stark, damn it, answer me!” Steve snapped over the line as the Ironman armor hovered above the base.

“I am sorry, Captain Rogers. Sir is unable to respond at this time.” Jarvis said, “The base has been disarmed and is ready for Shield to start dismantling the missiles.”

 “Is Tony okay?”

“I’m afraid my programming will not allow me to respond, I have orders to take Sir back to Avengers Tower.”

“Alright, we will see him there.” Steve said frowning as he watched the suit launch itself away from them at high speed.

“Clint, do you know what’s going on?” Natasha asked once he’d clicked back to their private channel.

“It’s not my secret to tell, Nat.”

“Is Stark okay?”

“I don’t know but I intend to find out as soon as we get back.” Clint said, watching as the helicopters and troop movers started to land so that they could finish sorting out the enemy base.

“Let me know if you need me to run interference.”

“Think you can scramble me a faster ride home?” He asked already starting to stow his gear as he zip tied the last enemy scientist on his helicopter; really they should have done that before they lifted off he thought with a sigh, Coulson would have been having a fit at the lack of proper protocol. 

“Give me ten minutes.”

Clint clicked back to the team line and moved to help out where he could for the next ten minutes. He gave Rogers a shrug when he was asked to fly one of the troop jets back to base while the rest of the team finished helping with the cleanup. He’d be back in New York in four hours and if he skipped debrief to check in his team mate surely even Captain America would be okay with that.

He jogged off the quinjet that had dropped him at the tower and tried not to think about the favors he’d had to spend to get the ride. He was fairly sure that Fury himself had allowed the flight considering they’d suddenly had clearance and no one had radioed in to question the flight plan. He glanced up at the camera as he approached noting that the entire tower was on full lock down.

“Can I check on him, Jarvis?” Clint asked as he entered the tower, the metal barrier rising to allow him in as he approached.

“Sir did not leave instructions beyond ensuring the safety of the tower while he was incapable of protecting it. He is currently asleep in the workshop.”

“Does he need anything?” Clint asked pausing in the kitchen.

“Another blanket would not be remiss.” Jarvis said after a short pause.

Clint merely gathered up some bottles of water, apples, protein bars, and a few blankets from the backs of the couches on the common level. He took the lot into the elevator and waited as it descended to the floor with Tony’s workshop. The shielding was down here as well and Clint waited for it to retract completely before he entered his code and pushed the door open.

At first he couldn’t spot Tony but he could see Dummy hovering to one side of the shop, swiveling to watch him approach. Tony lay sprawled on the worn couch his face still smeared with dried blood. Clint set everything down and went to find a clean wash cloth he could dampen in the sink with hot water. He went back to the couch crouching next to Tony and nudging Dummy back.

“It’s okay, Dummy. He’s going to be fine.” Clint said soothingly as he eased the man onto his back. 

He wanted to wake him up and get some food and water in him but it had only been a few hours since the mission, he could let him sleep for a while longer. Clint cleaned off the blood as gently as he could, also cleaning along his neck and hands where the mess had smeared as he took off the armor. He tucked Tony under two blankets since his hands were cold and made a small pallet next to the couch so he could stretch out and keep an eye on the engineer.

“His vitals are okay, right Jarvis?”

“Yes, Agent Barton. He appears to merely be exhausted.”

“Yeah, I’ve slept for almost forty eight hours straight once after a bad mission.” Clint said with a nod setting his bow and quiver to one side where it would be in easy reach, “Can you set a reminder or something for both of us to get up and eat in twelve hours. He probably won’t want to but you need calories after a bad mission.”

“I will wake both of you in twelve hours.” Jarvis said as Clint settled on his stomach on the pallet he’d made.

“I’m not planning to sleep, Jarvis. No offense, but when someone’s out for the count after a mission, on my teams at least one member keeps watch until they’re able to protect themselves again.” He said shifting until he was comfortable in his normal prone sniper position, “It’s why we take shifts when someone’s in medical. We make enemies in the field and the best time to hit someone is when they’re at their most vulnerable.” 

“I understand, I apologize if I’ve offended in any way.”

“It’s fine, Jarvis. Just wanted to make sure you understood. If I couldn’t do it, Natasha would be here, maybe even Steve or Bruce.” Clint said letting his muscles relax as he settled into wait. “Phil normally watched for us when me or Natasha were injured.”

“Would you like to talk while you keep watch, Agent Barton? Often, Sir will converse with myself or the bots while he waits for something.”

“Only if you’re not busy, Jarvis,” Clint said with a shrug, “I know how to keep myself entertained considering how many missions I get stuck on a roof with nothing to do but people watch.”

“May I ask; how do you believe the team will react to the news of Sir’s abilities?”

“Generally, I think they’ll be fine with it. Normally, Natasha would be pissed that he hid something from her but there is a note in his Shield file about possible psychic abilities that were never verified. I think his dad had him tested at some point but I’d have to pull the records again.”

“That was not in the file I access when researching the initiative.” Jarvis said a screen coming on to one side as Jarvis reviewed the files he had access to.

“How were you pulling the files? Shield shorts it’s paperwork kind of weird.”

“Sir asked me to pull everything associated with the Avengers Initiative.”

“Yeah, that’s where you went wrong. Only the base files have everything about the person or case. Each mission file only has directly pertinent information, stuff that might cause issues with an op. Even then we go by a lot of call signs on missions; often they won’t even identify who the person is outside of a call sign in the mission file. You have to go back to their base personal file to find their list of call signs and match it up to missions.”

“I take it, Hawkeye, is not your only call sign?”

“Nope, and Natasha has way more than I do since she tends to do more sensitive missions.” Clint said with a tired grin.

“Who would have access to these files; surely they are not only hard copy?”

“Only your handler for the mission and their supervisor would have the call sign list or access to an agent’s full file.” Clint said with a shrug, “For me and Natasha that would have been Coulson and Fury most of the time. We do work for other handlers as the situation called for it but not a lot. Phil liked to keep an eye on his specialists.”

“Would you be willing to give us a list of your more well know aliases? Sir has asked that I compile as much data as possible on the members of the Initiative in hopes that we can anticipate any issues that may arise.”

“He does know what we are right? I mean, sniper isn’t the only title I can claim, Jarvis. A lot of those missions are out right hit lists or us going in to take down dirty politicians and cops. We play the parts of the bad guys to get the intel. It’s not a pretty read and that’s not including the ones that went FUBAR ten seconds in.”

“Sir has asked that the information be stored in his most secure drive, the one that also houses my own code. He has no intention of allowing anyone other myself and Sir to read the files.”

“Alright, I don’t mind but I’ll check with Natasha first. We worked on a lot of the same missions for a while.” Clint said with a nod, “We were talking about doing some security sweeps of the tower anyway, testing the alarm systems like we were going to break it, see what can be improved.”

“I would be happy to assist in any testing and would help implement any changes that would improve the tower’s safety.”

“Awesome, it depends on Nat but last time we spent a lot of time in one place we had mortars in the vents and crawl spaces between floors. Paranoia kind of is a job requirement with assassins.”

“Sir did have several items in the files that he wished to discuss with you however the mission interrupted his research. When he wakes I will remind him.”

“I’m not going anywhere until I’m sure he’s okay, Jarvis. We can talk shop as long as he likes once he’s up and moving.”

“I believe the issue is a sensitive one that may compromise your position in Shield. He put off revealing the matter until he was able to show definitive proof.”

“If it waited this long it can sit a while longer.” Clint said with a frown. “Do I need to get Natasha here for the big reveal?”

“I would have to defer that to Sir however I would hazard to say it might be prudent. It is a matter that affects both of you.”

“Alright, I’ll ask Tony after we get him to eat something.” Clint said with a nod, not voicing that the man would probably collapse back into unconsciousness as soon as he finished eating. He settled into wait, scanning the room every five minutes but keeping his eyes on Tony for the rest of the time.

Technopath – Ch. 4

Ch. 4

Tony eyed the base below him with a sigh. Bruce had left for a conference on Particle Physics three days ago and then never checked into his hotel. Shield discretely sent a tail along for the trip but Bruce popped up and handed him a coffee ten minutes into the train ride, an hour later Bruce was off Shield’s radar and the agent was scheduled for remedial training. Clint merely laughed when the news came in and offered to track the rogue physicist down but they’d agreed that Bruce deserved some time off the leash and left it alone; looks like they should have been more diligent. 

One of the projects Tony and Bruce had been working on discretely was setting up a satellite system that could track gamma radiation. They were doing it mostly since it would enable them to track the Hulk at long range if he did decide to take out a town but they could also fine tune it to track other sources like the staff Loki had used. Tony finished the programming after a two day bender and they had Bruce’s location down to a one mile radius. At least it wasn’t Hydra he thought with a sigh, eying the lines of weaponry and missile launchers that covered the roof; the place was loaded for bear and way to alert for three in the morning. 

“Natasha and I could get in but we’d be fighting our way out with a heavily drugged Bruce probably.” Clint offered as they pored over Tony’s scans of the building.

“They’ve planned for a frontal assault. What if we gave it to them?” Tony offered, fiddling with a tablet.

“They’re expecting us to rush in to save him, generally that means it’s the last thing you do unless you want to die, Stark.” Steve pointed out rubbing at his forehead.

“What if we use it against them? Half of us go at the front while the rest go in the back and get Bruce out?”

“We’d be taking heavy fire and bombarding the building, we could be injuring our own team members.” Steve pointed out with a frown.

“Got a better idea? The only other thing I see is to take a week and get the spy twins in undercover to wake up the Hulk.”

“We might not have a week.” Clint pointed out softly, “Chatter on the net is that someone is offering to sell Hulk blood and body parts to the highest bidder. So far no one’s bought anything that Shield can see but they are definitely interested.”

“This place is locked to a fare-the-well; it would take time to break in. Time we might not have.” Natasha pointed out. “How long can the half the team hold out against those weapons?”

“I’d give it an hour at the most if we manage to knock out the rocket launchers and they don’t have any other nasty surprises.” Steve said with a sigh while Thor considered the layout with a frown.

“So the issue is the computer system and door locks?” Tony asked mind already going in five directions trying to figure out how to do this without exposing his abilities.

“Yeah, if we don’t have the right codes or programs to hack the locks we could be spotted or set off the alarms.” Clint said glancing at Tony suspiciously, “Why?”

“What if I can cut that down?”

“New tech you haven’t bothered to share?” Natasha asked raising an eyebrow.

“Kind of,” Tony said with a frown, “the suit’s basically a super computer hooked into an AI. It could hack the doors in seconds.”

“We need you helping with the frontal attack if we do this.” Steve pointed out, “With the artillery they have we’ll need every heavy hitter at the front door. Can you set up a small computer or something for them to use?”

“No, you need the suit at the front door. I’ll have Jarvis pilot while I go with the wonder twins and hack the doors for them. I can pull together a light weight version of the armor that’s mostly computer to let me hack the systems.” 

“We could get in and out faster with another set of hands,” Clint said slowly, “but it might mean we set off the alarms faster if we get caught. More people means more exposure and Tony’s not trained like we are.”

“Why do you need to be there? Can’t we give them the computer to use?”

“We could but they’re not exactly hackers, no offense.” Tony said glancing up from the broken down suit he was outlining on his tablet, he would need weapons and basic protection but had to have his hands mobile to work in case he actually needed to hack something.

“None taken,” Clint said with a snort, “I doubt either of us is anywhere close to his level, Steve. He’d probably be able to do each door in less than ten seconds, it would cut the entry time down to less than ten minutes if we don’t run into any major road blocks; Ten minutes or less in and about that to get back out, less if we go at speed not caring about the alarms.”

“It depends on what condition Bruce is in when we get there.” Natasha pointed out.

“So I carry Green Bean while you two take out anyone who gets in the way.” Tony said with a shrug.

“How long would it take you to modify the armor you need?”

“A few hours, I have most of it already set up.” Tony said pulling up a projection of his working model so they could see what he was thinking.

“Jarvis will be okay piloting?” Clint asked fiddling with a pen.

“Yeah, I don’t generally like having the suits without a human at the controls but in this case I think we can trust it if he limits the firepower to taking out the launchers and leaves the human attackers to you guys.”

“Alright, let us know as soon as you’re done.” Steve said with a nod, “We’ll finish up here and get the rest of the gear ready to go.”

Six hours later they landed outside of the compound and separated. Thor, Steve, and Jarvis would be hitting the front of the building any minute now while Clint, Natasha, and Tony quietly made their way in by an out of the way door in the back of the main building. The spy twins did their ninja thing and took out the two guards watching the door before gesturing Tony forward.

Tony had to admit the mocked up glove that was supposed to be interfacing with the locks looked impressive, when pressed to a door it lit up and cycled through several random indicators and lights like the system was processing a massive amount of information. The actual interface was all in his head, the systems were actually very polite, they didn’t like how the scientists and guards handled them without regard for their condition or safety and were more than willing to loop video feeds and unlock every door along the way.

The only door to argue with him was the final one barring them from Bruce. That one had heard how dangerous the “Beast” was and refused to open. The floors were starting to tremble with the assault on the base as the fighting got nastier.

Bruce is a friend; he’s not dangerous to us. – Tony wheedled trying to block out the nervous shifting of the assassins next to him.

Beast, danger, contain. – The door continued to chant ignoring his attempts to argue.

“I’ve got a guard coming down this hallway in two minutes, Stark.” Natasha said voice sharp.

“Working on it;” Tony gritted out closing his eyes and throwing himself at the system hard. 

He almost never forced a system to do what he wanted. He’d talk it in circles until it finally caved or sweet talk until they did what he needed but it hurt to force a computer to change its programing. He distantly heard Clint cursing under his breath as the machine squealed and whined as he pushed until the locks thunked open. Wiping at the blood trickling from his nose he pulled the door open far enough for them to duck through.

Natasha was already unhooking Bruce from the restraints and IVs when Clint surged down the hall and took out the incoming guards with three quick blows, dragging the unconscious or dead bodies into the room with them. The locks were still moaning as Tony shut the door and nudged it to lock back, engaging its alarms once again. Natasha and Tony supported Bruce between them as they quickly made their way out.

The steady shockwaves of the base being pummeled had lab coated minions scurrying past them in the last few halls but no one tried to stop them as they ducked out the back door and made their way to the waiting jet. Natasha radioed that they were out and Thor and Jarvis took out the rest of the base in a few minutes while they worked to get Bruce comfortable in the small medical bay. 

“What happened to your nose, Tony?” Steve asked as he came in to check on their newly recovered scientist.

“Nothing, a nose bleed;” Tony said shrugging it off, Clint watched his deflection with sharp eyes clearly not believing the response.

“It happened when you were forcing the last lock, right?” Clint said from his perch to one side, eyes darting over each of the team as they moved about.

“Yeah,” Tony said with another shrug, pulling off the light armor and starting to fiddle with one of the panels. Clint made a small hum of acknowledgement and went back to whatever changes he was cataloging about the room.

Tony wasn’t sure the archer would leave it alone. Natasha was glancing between the two so she knew something was up but seemed willing to let Clint decide if she needed to know. She leaned forward to pat Bruce on the arm and hand him his glasses when he blurrily started to sit up. 

“Alright there, Green Bean?” Tony asked, his hands still adjusting settings with a pair of probes as he kept half his mind on the armor, Jarvis, and the constant low thrum of the technology around him.

“Hey, I’m out?” Bruce asked thickly, glancing around at the team and the bandages wrapping his wrists.

“Yep, the team attacked the base and we got you out.” Steve said from near the wall.

“Oh, good;” Bruce slurred with a shaky nod before lowing himself back to the stretcher mattress and passing out as Thor chuckled softly at the inebriated man.

They got Bruce back to the tower three days later when he was declared detoxed from the drugs the kidnappers had been pumping into him. Tony was tempted to throw a party for his safe return but knew the shy man would hate it so instead they had a team dinner with all his favorite take out. The only thing remaining from his capture were some nasty nightmares and a few quickly fading bruises. They flew out to a remote testing area to let the Hulk expend some energy a few days later and Bruce was soon back to him normal self.

Tony was upside down in the engine of one of his cars several days later when Clint finally dropped out of the vents to one side. Jarvis alerted him as soon as the vent opened but he kept his eyes focused on his work waiting to see what the archer would do. It turned out nothing, an hour later when he went to get a bottle of water from the small fridge in the shop the man was still crouched to one side playing catch with Dummy.

“Need something, Barton?” Tony asked in between gulps of water.

“Kind of, I have a question and I’m hoping it won’t insult you.” Clint said shifting slightly so his legs were dangling off the table.

“Trust me, I’ve probably been asked worse over the years.” Tony said with a snort, moving to the sink to start getting cleaned up.

“It really bothers you when one of your machines dies, doesn’t it?” Clint asked his eyes flickering over the shop mapping some checklist of changes or tells that only he knew.

“They’re my creations.” Tony says with what he hoped was a careless shrug, “Pepper calls Dummy and You my kids and they kind of are.”

“Yeah, but you don’t like battling robots or how easily Thor fries everything electronic around him.”

“It means more work every time that happens.” Tony pointed out with a wench he started wiping down, “I’ve retrofitted half the tower with high capacity circuit breakers and put EMP resistant wiring on his floor and the common areas.”

“To protect your machines, your friends;”

“To protect the tower from constantly losing power;” Tony said with a snort, “I do run a business occasionally from this space as well.”

“No one can figure out how you gave everything a personality in the tower but I’m starting to think you didn’t. Sure you coded Jarvis so that he was able to learn and interact better but I think the personality was always there. You just bring it out.”

“What are you saying, Clint?” Tony said softly, watching the archer play with his bot.

“You talk to them.” Clint said softly, fiddling with something from the junk covering the table before holding it out for Dummy to take, “You talk to them somehow and you can hear them. You hear Jarvis before he says something out loud and you notice Dummy heading for the firehose before you see it or get an alert on your workstation.” Tony stood watching him frozen with a ratchet and a rag hanging limp from his hands.

“My main question is why are you hiding? I mean, I get not wanting to broadcast an ability to the rest of the world, but why not tell the team? If nothing else it will get everyone handling your tech with more caution.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Bird Brain.” Tony said flatly forcing himself to move, to finish cleaning up. Dummy moved away from Clint and to his charging station at Tony’s silent command.

“You really don’t think the rest of us haven’t been beat down for our abilities half our lives? Hell, most of my childhood I got beat up for seeing things I shouldn’t and not knowing to keep quiet about it.” Clint said with a snort, “I won’t say anything about it to the others, but you should think about telling them. They’re probably the only ones who would let you use your abilities openly without trying to exploit them somehow. We would even keep it from Shield if we had to, Tony.”

“Nothing to talk about, Bird Brain,” Tony said flatly tossing his rag into the bin so it would be washed, “There’s nothing to share.”

“Whatever, Metal head,” Clint said with a shrug as he headed out of the shop, “I’m here if you ever want to talk.”

“Don’t start, Jay.” Tony said with a sigh once the door closed behind the archer, “Seal the shop.”

“He does have a point, sir. Your team is probably the only group of individuals who would be willing to both accept and protect your abilities.” Jarvis said gently as he lowered the reinforced barriers, sealing all the doors and locking down the vent access.

“Yeah, until Fury figures it out and started trying to dissect my brain to find the implanted interface or something.”

“Do you truly believe that, sir?”

“I don’t know anymore, Jarvis. Sometimes I want to tell them just so they’ll understand to be gentle with the coffee maker and other days I could see Bruce running tests for months trying to figure out what makes me tick.”

“Dr. Banner hasn’t done anything similar with the other Avengers, sir.”

“But he does it to himself, Jay. Half of Bruce’s experiments are ways to control the Hulk or to lower the gamma radiation in his system. He’s not trying to learn how to merge the Hulk with himself or how to handle the changes; he’s trying to remove something he sees as a flaw.”

“I believe Dr. Banner simply wishes to have more control over the Hulk. He sees the way that his alter ego is able to kill and destroy and merely wishes to prevent such damage. I do not believe he would take the same measures with your own abilities.”

“Fury would go even more paperless if he ever found out.” Tony said with a snort, “The only reason he hasn’t tried to kidnap me into a lab already is because I’m too much a public figure.”

“I doubt that would be the case, sir.”

“Maybe I could have told Agent but with him out of the picture Fury only seems to want to take the nuclear options. It’s like he was the only one holding Fury back from the Bazooka approach Fury seems to favor, for a spy he’s not really fond of the quiet approach.”

“Agent Barton seems to be of the same mind as Agent Coulson was. They did work together for many years, sir.”

”Yeah, he was really down when he first moved in and Natasha said he was grieving for Agent so we all left him alone until he came out on his own. He looked rough for a while.”

“What would you like me to do, sir?”

“Pull up everything you can about Hawkeye. Let’s see just how much Shield knows about the archer.”

“Would you like me to do the same for the rest of the team?”

“Yeah, why not; let’s pull everything they have, anything attached to the Avengers Initiative. Track it down, Jay.”

“Yes, sir.”

Technopath – Ch. 3

Ch. 3

Tony gave a happy hum as the suit finished folding around him. The soft soothing murmur of Jarvis’ processes filled the back of his mind as each system booted up. Most of the time Tony preferred to rely on the instrumentation and not the mumbled cadence of voices at the back of his head when he was using the suit but occasionally the tech would register something faster than the warning could be displayed and then his ability saved the lives of those around him or even his own life. Today was turning into one of those days.

They were fighting what amounted to dog sized robotic dragonflies mounted with lasers that were attacking seemingly random buildings in Manhattan. Hulk was sitting this one out until they could prove that the damage he might incur in helping would outweigh what the robotic bugs were doing. The worst part was how damn fast and maneuverable the things were. Clint was taking out what he could as they passed his position while trying to cover for Steve and Natasha who were on the ground helping get people off the streets and out of the buildings being attacked. Thor and Tony were airborne taking out the bugs that were clustered together attacking different parts of the buildings.

“Anybody see where the hell these things are coming from? I swear for every two I take out, five more are showing up.” Clint asked, taking out another three as they buzzed his position.

“I agree with the Hawk, there seems to be no end in sight of these infernal machines.” Thor grumbled.

“Hey, no dissing the machines. They can’t help the crazy dude who gave them their orders.” Tony snapped his head full of the buzzing of the dragonfly that he had snagged midair.

“Iron Man, what exactly are you doing?” Hawkeye asked, watching the suit hover in one place to one side of the action.
“Interfacing,” Tony ground out, most of his attention on the chatter from the bots around him, “Shut up for a minute and let me work. Jarvis, drive for a minute while I get this thing to talk.”

“Of course, sir;”

It was never easy trying to communicate with a strange system for the first time and whoever had programmed these things must have been on LSD at the time because nothing they did or said made sense. The bugs screamed and screeched at each other, a constant cacophony of sound crashing against each other, a low hum of command language beneath pushing them to attack specific structures. A soft “I have a secret.” giggled in the background as Tony tried to separate out an individual voice from the mass chaos within the machine.

Secret, what’s your secret? Such a smart machine surely knows something wonderful.”

“Great secret, biggest secret; Master’s secret.” It chirped back, clearly preening at the praise.

“And you must be his favorite to know such a thing. He must be very proud of you.” More and more of the voices were going silent, listening to him, giggling softly in response to each bit of praise and flattery.

“Best secret;” Several childish voices agreed, laughter ringing in the background. “Master likes to see things go boom; such a big boom for him!” Suddenly everything clicked into place making Tony’s breath catch.

“Jarvis, scan for explosives; on the bugs and on the buildings.” Tony resolutely ignored the mutters from the Agent overseeing the team; he doubted their tech was capable of scanning such a large area.

“Scanning, sir;” Jarvis said, the com falling silent as everyone waited for the results, seconds later he chimed in with the results. “I detect over 500 individual explosive devices that have been left all over the surrounding buildings not including the ones still carries in each machine.”

“Fuck, guys, these things are rigged to blow and they’ve already left bombs on every building they landed on. We need everyone out of there now!” Tony opened his mouth to ask Jarvis to start trying to hack into the detonation frequency when the machines began a countdown, the child like voices gleefully chanting out the countdown from ten.

“Ten seconds! Move your asses!” The gleeful chorus continued to chant as he activated his burners streaking down toward the streets.

Eight.”

Seven.”

“Hawkeye, please tell me you have a way down.” Steve said glancing up as Natasha and he guided the last of the occupants out of the building and towards the nearby subway entrance that they were using as a shelter. 

“Could use a catch here, somebody.” Clint said eying the piles of damaged and dying bugs that littered the street around his building and the rooftop he was fighting from. Nothing was close enough to try and using a grappling arrow and any place he could repel down to was full of partly destroyed bugs that were rigged to explode.

“On my way, bird boy; keep your shorts on.” Tony mutter fighting to slow down enough that he would not break Clint in the pickup.

Three.” He angled in, snatching Clint off the rooftop and angling upwards as sharply as he dared while carrying someone not wearing a suit in hopes of distancing the debris.

Two.”

“One.”

“Boom!” The machines squealed for an instant before the interface faded away as more and more machines self-destructed. Three different buildings went up in plumes of smoke and dust while all the downed dragonfly bots detonated leaving only smoking craters behind.

“Nice save, Iron Man.” Steve said over the coms with a faintly heard sigh. “Everyone else okay?” Everyone chimed in with an affirmative even if several of them were coughing from the dust.

“What do you want to bet that we get sued for the damaged again?” Clint asked, with a slightly wheezing cough.
“You alright there, Barton? I didn’t mess up your ribs right?”

“Nah, I’m good. Any catch that doesn’t result in broken bones is good by me.”

“Might need to work on that in practice some if it’s going to be a common thing;” Tony muttered. 

He was already subvocalizing notes to Jarvis about adding harnesses to everyone’s suits or at least hooks to the Iron Man suit and maybe reinforced sections he could grab on to for the team’s uniforms. He brought Clint in to land as gently as he could with one repulsor out of use since he was holding on to Clint with that hand. He added another note about stabilizers and compensating for the added weight without increasing speed as Clint jumped the last few feet allowing him to touch down normally after a slight bobble.

The debrief afterwards was just painful. Why exactly did they have to try and rehash every bit of action while they were exhausted and injured again? Tony worked on schematics while the rest of the team chanted through their recitations of the battle. He watched Sitwell get more and more agitated as the meeting went on before he finally snapped.

“Care to share with the class, Iron Man? Or is your time to valuable for us mere mortals?”

“You couldn’t afford ten minutes of my time, Sitwell.” He said with a smirk before expanding the blueprints he was working on, blue lines glowing above the table. “We need to add a way for me to carry passengers or to rescue one of the team without reworking my entire propulsion system. I was thinking some kind of harness that could be incorporated into everyone’s uniform, maybe clipping to the back of the suit. What if I’d been attacked while trying to carry, Clint? I would’ve been a sitting duck.”

“Add in a way for one of the team to pick me up without bruising my ribs or strangling me with my uniform and I’ll cook dinner for you for a month.” Clint said his gaze piercing and completely serious. 

“Done,” Tony said with a grin. It was a sweet offer; the man had some serious skills in the kitchen.

Technopath – Ch. 2

Ch. 2

Now that he was living with the rest of the Avengers Tony was constantly surprised at how each person reacted to the technology in his home. Some of it was predictable, some not so much. Steve and surprisingly Bruce were baffled that so many of his appliances and machines had quirks they were forced to learn to work around. There had already been one explosion in Bruce’s lab and two fires in the kitchen thanks to Steve’s attempts to make toast. Natasha simply memorized how Tony and Pepper handled each machine and copied their actions to varying results, from the glares she gave the coffee machine he was waiting for her to start issuing death threats when her next latte was changed to oolong tea without her input. 

Clint was the only one his machine friends seemed to actually like. Clint loved to cook apparently and took to talking to his appliances much as he would Jarvis while he was in the kitchen, explaining each dish and what he was hoping to make as an end result. Clint also spent a lot of his sleepless nights talking to Jarvis, chatting in between shots on the range or sitting looking down at the streets below in his rooms. 

He arranged a perimeter with Jarvis he could walk to make sure everything was secure in the building each night he was in the tower. Clint had lived outside of the law too long to ever really trust an alarm system completely, even an intelligent one. Since it meant that the Tony and the other Avengers were safer while the archer was present, Jarvis happily assisted the archer in tightening up his security protocols so that people trained like Clint and Natasha wouldn’t be able to break in easily.

Tony spent a lot of nights up late tinkering while he calmed down his frantic tech the first few weeks. Even enlisting Jarvis to help sooth all the mutinous technology at being handled negligently or simply not as Tony would didn’t help much. Jarvis was much more used to dealing with people than the other bots and appliances and he helped sooth some of the misunderstandings but having your friends destroyed was painful for everyone. 

Most of the tech refused to work for Thor at all after he crushed two remotes and fried his alarm clock during a mild thunderstorm. It took Tony removing most of the more vulnerable pieces from the common area and Thor’s floors before everything started to calm back down. Hearing the death keens of beings you spoke to every day and things you felt the happiness of as you handled them was not a good way to spend the day. 

For someone supposedly with All-speak, Thor was not able to hear machines the way Tony did, he had asked on the slow walk back to the tower after shawarma. Apparently Thor could speak with squirrels, pigeons, and other animals, just not machines, even smart ones like Jarvis or Dummy. It made Tony’s head hurt since All-speak was supposed to translate every known language and wasn’t code, language?

Tony pressed a finger against the metal casing for the arch reactor, letting the deep throbbing thrum drown out the chatter of the other systems around him. It was an old trick for him. His first computerized watch had been his main source of background noise he focused on when in college so that he would not be listening into everyone’s cell phones, projectors, and calculators. 

As he got older his range increased and if he concentrated he could communicate with just about anything that was running with some kind of processor and power source. It meant there was a constant background noise of technology chattering away at each other and at him as he moved around. 

While computers were his first love, cars would always run a close second. While computers were like faithful dogs, always happy to help and complete a task, cars just wanted to move. He got a reputation for driving fast and loose thanks to mainly learning how to drive from the sports cars themselves. He tried to not talk to the planes he traveled on; even Iron Man was vulnerable outside of the suit and no one wanted a distracted pilot. 

He used his playboy drunk image often to cover for the small slips of tongue that sometimes happened when he was holding a conversation with several machines and a live person at the same time. It led to a lot of arguments with Pepper since he tended to question her Stark Pad for her schedule and any issues she had that day when he had the opportunity.

He learned a lot of gossip and blackmail material at parties for the rich and famous. After all, no one looked twice at a known drunk that was talking to a wall. He would interrogate their systems and use what he discovered to keep Stark Industries at the top of their game. He drew the line at stealing ideas but knowing about an upcoming invention before it hit the news was always a bonus.

It drove Shield crazy the way their technology just seemed to bend over backward for him. Doors that should have needed key cards and fingerprint access opened at a touch for him but what Shield missed was the polite conversation with the door hardware and the lock itself asking if they minded letting him in. They assumed that he was using jamming technology or Jarvis to hack their system while it really was simple as having a short conversation with a wall.

Technopath – Ch. 1

Ch. 1

Tony listened with half an ear to Dummy as he babbled like a hyperactive five year old about his day, completely ignoring the fact that Tony had been there for most of it. He adjusted the next sensor on the suit and had Jarvis start running a systems check. Unlike Dummy, Jarvis sounded much the same as he did in real life, a steady murmur of polite processing as he went through his daily tasks. The other systems around the tower each had their own voice and mannerisms that Tony had long ago learned to work with or around as needed.

Pepper had once referred to his bots as his children and in many ways they were. He worked to keep them learning, challenging their programming and code to outperform what was expected of them. He wanted the best for his friends and tried to help them continue to improve. She also called him something of a hoarder but how could you just throw away a piece of technology when it talked to you? You couldn’t. 

He still had every computer he had ever owned. At first he’d tried upgrading his machines with new chips and systems but eventually a major overhaul was needed and it was impossible to guarantee that the machine’s personality would continue unchanged. He let each machine decide for themselves on an upgrade because of this risk. He finally networked as many of his old machines as possible to serve as a closed system storage unit so that they wouldn’t be alone when he didn’t have the time to talk to each and every gadget in the basement storage. He had Jarvis give him weekly updates on the network and tried to take a few days each month to do the basic maintenance tasks that they needed.

Tony had been talking to machines since he was a child. He tried to explain it to his Father once but it only resulted in a beating for telling lies. He kept his ability to himself ever since. It helped massively in his work however since often the systems themselves would tell him when something needed maintenance or repair. His computer would chortle along with him as they hacked into another system following the whispers of “I have a secret.” or following the snarling growls of viruses as he worked to get them out of his friends.

Rodney was the main one who had issues with how Tony treated his technology. He had no patience for a coffee machine that you had to stroke before it would make you the world’s best cup of coffee or the door scanners that mysteriously stopped working when Tony was in need of quiet, barring entry to his lab. Pepper just assumed that he had added personality to all of his gadgets and treated them accordingly, which endeared her to quite a few machines around the house.

Losing my Religion – Ch. 10

Ch. 10

  Phil made his way to medical, forcing himself to only stride quickly and with purpose. It would not do to scare the staff by running. The texts from Natasha had not been reassuring.

Need you in Medical, ASAP. – NR

Reason? – PC

Clint. -NR

He walked into chaos, a nurse quickly directed him to a crowded medical bay. Natasha stood to one side of a bed while several nurses and doctors were treating injured just outside the door. Phil pushed past them, Clint had to be the black clad form on the bed.

“Natasha.”

“He won’t respond to me.”

“What’s the situation?” Phil asked taking in Clint curled up against the railing of the bed, teeth bared and blood smeared across his face from a split lip and bloody nose.

“The doctors started him on an IV drip that was supposed to inoculate him from the hallucinogenic compound Valero was exposed to. He fell asleep and woke up like this.”

“We need to get another blood draw done to see what’s happening.” One of the doctors said from where he was wrapping a nurse’s wrist.

“What’s your best guess?”

“Agent Barton has very low levels in his blood test. It’s possible the IV caused the compounds to be released if he had the compound stored in his body somewhere. If he did any high stress situation would have released more of the compound into his body.”

“So the more stressed he is the more compound is being released?”

“Yes.”

“So we need to calm him down.” Natasha muttered, watching the shivering form of her partner.

“Wonderful.” Phil said, tugging off his tie and removing his jacket. “Can you clear the room? We’ll see if we can get him relaxed enough for the blood draw.”

The staff quickly left the room, leaving Phil and Natasha watching the panicked man on the other side of the small room. Natasha moved to lean against the door while Phil rolled up his sleeves. This was going to take some time.

***

  Clint curled up as tightly as he could. He had never been a lucid dreamer but he was fairly certain there was no way this could be real. Even so he flinched at every whimper or scream. Watching yourself be beaten and abused by your childhood tormentors was bad enough. Having them attack your adult self as well just made it worse.

Slowly he realized that he could hear someone talking to him over the howls of pain and shouts abuse. The words rose and fell but never cut off. Hands touched him and he lashed out, fighting the touch but the hands never hurt.

Clint slowly stopped fighting, waiting to see what this person would do. He lay there, chest heaving as he watched his younger self get beaten by Trickshot with Barney standing nearby watching. The hands tugged him forward slightly before he felt a body slid between him and the wall pulling his back against their chest.

Hands roamed, rubbed comforting circles against his arms and shoulders, but never restraining him. He slowly slumped into the warmth of this other body. It took a while but eventually the mangled drone of words in his ear resolved into the soft rasp of Phil’s voice in one ear.

He was telling stories about different ops they had been on. Clint twitched slightly when Natasha chimed in with corrections. Phil seemed to be pushing the calm he kept wrapped around him into Clint by force of will.

“Phil?”

“There you are. Do you know where you are?” He asked, his hands stilling. Clint immediately flailed with one hand for something to hold on to, something to ground him like the touch had done.

“Here. I’m not leaving.” Phil said, grabbing his reaching hand with one of his own and holding on as tight as Clint was.

“Do you know where you are?”

“No.” Clint said, trying to ignore how small his voice sounded.

“You’re at Shield Medical. You came in this morning after they found Valero for tests.”

“Okay.”

“What’s going on Clint. What are you seeing?”

“Me. Getting hurt.”

“You know that’s not real.”

“No, already happened. Memories.”

Of course in the memories Barney had never stared at him with such menace in his eyes. He wasn’t even watching his younger self get raped. Barney had eyes only for the real Clint.

“The doctors need to come in to fix your IV and draw some blood. Can they do that?”

“You staying?”

“I’m staying right here, Clint. Natasha’s here too. We’re going to watch your back.”

“Okay.”

There was a low murmur of conversation to one side of the room before Phil was narrating every touch moments before it happened. The scene in front of his eyes shifted to a different memory, one that left shivers wracking his frame. He didn’t want to see this.

“Would it help to talk? Tell me what you see?” Phil asked, one hand stroking along Clint’s side as the nurse withdrew.

“Memories.” Clint muttered, shifting farther back against Phil, trying to soak up some of his warmth. Several people stood in the doorway but Clint ignored them, focused on the small form crumpled bleeding on the linoleum.

“What kind of memories?”

“Bad ones. Ones I don’t want to remember.”

“What can I do to help?”

“Don’t let go.”

“I won’t but we need to keep you calm, Clint. How can we do that?”

“Don’t know what’s real.”

“I can tell you what’s real, Clint. Tell me what you are seeing?”

“Barney.” Clint said, breath hitching as he glanced at the corner his brother was occupying.

“Clint, you know your brother is dead.”

“Yeah, I killed him.”

There was the muffled sound of someone rushing out of the room. Clint jerked away from he was watching his brother to look at the rest of the room for an instant before he was pulled back into his memories.

***

The team sat staggered around the room that Clint had been moved to. They watched as he twitched and jerked in Coulson’s hold. He was silent except for the occasional whimper or moan, slurring when he did answer Coulson’s soft questions. He was slowly becoming more responsive but his eyes stayed fixed on something only he could see.

Clint had finally come round enough to let the nurse draw blood for tests and start an IV. He did not seem to realize that anyone besides Coulson was in the room. Clint didn’t react when they tried to question him or when they spoke to each other.

Bruce and Tony were huddled in one corner writing out chemical equations trying to find something to help their archer. Natasha had claimed the chair closest to the bed and was glaring at anyone who came within five feet. Thor and Steve sat in one corner simply waiting, they had already made a trip out for food and coffee that no one had touched.

“What can I do to help?” Phil asked his voice soft and soothing. Tony and Bruce fell silent as the team waited to see Clint’s response.

“Don’t let go.” Clint gasped, his body shaking.

“I won’t but we need to keep you calm, Clint. How can we do that?”

“Don’t know what’s real.”

“I can tell you what’s real, Clint. Tell me what you are seeing?”

“Barney.” Clint said, breath hitching as he glanced at the spot his brother was occupying near one wall.

“Clint, you know your brother is dead.” Phil said, Tony cursed softly under his breath as everyone’s faces went grave.

“Yeah, I killed him.”

“Are you watching that memory?”

“No, he’s watching me.” Clint said thickly, his eyes flicking between two spots on the wall. “I’m over there. Trick Shot’s not happy.”

“Who is over there with Trick Shot?”

“Young me.”

“What is he doing?”

“Having sex.”

“Nope. I’m done. I’ll be at the tower.” Tony said, bursting from his chair and running out of the room.

“No one with honor would violate a child so! Who is this Trick Shot?” Thor snapped, surging to his feet.

“Sit down. You are not helping him stay calm with yelling.” Natasha hissed, gesturing to where Clint had started fighting against Coulson’s hold.

“I will return to the tower with our shield brother. Please let me know if things progress.”

“I’ll call you.” Steve said, glancing at the others.

“Okay, Bruce?”

“I think I’ll go help Tony in the lab. Make sure he stays on focus.”

“Thanks, Bruce. We’ll call if there’s any change.”

“Thanks, Steve.”

  Phil glanced up at Steve but he simply settled back into the couch he and Thor had occupied. He was in it for the long haul. After a moment Natasha came and sat at the other end.

“Talk to me, Clint. Tell me what’s going on.”

“I’m earning my place.”

“Where?”

“At the circus. Too small to do the hard work so Barney worked for both of us until Trick took me on as a student.”

“And Trick hurt you?”

“Barney gave me to him. Said I was a good fuck.”

“He was wrong to hurt you, Clint.”

“Everyone does.” Clint said, slumping farther down. “Used to it.”

“That does not make it right. They should have never touched you.” Clint gave a small shrug and went limp against Phil.

“I’m tired.”

“I know, Clint, but you need to stay awake a while longer.”

“Yes, sir.”

“What’s going on Clint?”

“When I was in the Army. A-stan.” He’s pale and shaking, his breath shuddering in his chest.

“Clint?”

He lay there silent. Phil continued to try and get him to come back but he was lost in his nightmares once again.

“It’s a good news, bad news situation.” the doctor said with a sigh as he came in.

“What’s the good news than?”

“The compound has a short half-life. It breaks down in just a few hours.”

“And the bad?”

“Agent Barton’s last blood draw showed near lethal levels. The chemical appears to have been stored in his body somehow and is being released when he is under stress. We need to do more blood draws to see if the levels are coming down now that he’s calmed down.”

“So it’s going to linger in his system?”

“It been in his system in low levels since the Shield mission. He must have went through some kind of stressor to ramp the levels back up. It could take up to a few months for his system to completely detox. We will of course be working on methods to speed the removal of the hallucinogen but there is no guarantee right now on speeding up the process.”

“We understand.” Phil said, “When should he be…more aware?”

“The levels should start dropping in the next hour. By morning if he stays relaxed he should be back to only having a trace amount in his system.”

“Until he gets agitated again?” Steve pressed.

“Yes, until we find a way to force the remaining chemicals out of his system.”

“I’ll go let the rest of the team know. Maybe Bruce and Tony can help with the removal process.”

“Thank you, Steve.” Natasha murmured, eyes on Clint.

They were silent as the nurse bustled in and changed out Clint’s IV bags before leaving with the doctor. The door closed with a soft click behind them. Clint continued to twitch lightly in Phil’s grasp, reacting to something only he could see.

“This was not your fault, Natasha.”

“I never said it was.” She was curled stiffly into the chair, legs pulled to her chest.

“I know how your brain works, Natasha. Hell, Clint’s the same way. If there is any possible chance that he could be to blame he will punish himself for his imagined fault. I would rather not see you making the same mistakes.”

“Our argument triggered his condition.” She pointed out, back ridged.

“Would you have rather it been triggered in yesterday’s battle? When he could have jumped off a building or shot a team mate?”

“Of course not!”

“Then it is no use blaming yourself.” Phil said with a huff. “Clint’s going to need both of us to get through this, Natasha.” She stood and started to pace to one side of the room, her eyes bouncing from him to Clint as she marched.

“I know that, Phil. I just… I don’t like feeling helpless. I can’t help him when his own mind is attacking him.”

“You can help him afterwards. It’s the same as coming back from being captured, Natasha. He’s going to need his sister.”

“I doubt drinking vodka and watching bad movies is going to help much.”

“Couldn’t hurt.” Phil said with a snort. “All we’ve done the last few days is watch bad TV and read or code in Clint’s case.”

“Code? Was Clint the one who messed with Stark’s system?”

“Yes.” Phil said with a small smug grin. “Stark still has no idea who did it.”

“Clint has always been good with machines. He does better at the technical elements of an op then I do.”

“You just don’t have the patience for it.” Phil said with a soft laugh.

“Does he know that Stark wanted to hire whoever did it?”

“Yes, I told him.” Phil said with a grin before he sobered. “I’m not sure what he said to Clint after the last Avenger’s mission but Clint was upset when he got back.”

“I noticed.” Natasha said moving to sit back in her chair. “Stark was asking questions about the mini bombs that Clint designed.”

“Did Clint say that he made them?”

“No, I thought he was just winding Stark up. Letting him rant and try to figure it out while silently laughing at him.”

“Clint’s not one to make fun of someone behind their back.”

“No, I should have realized that but Bruce and Steve were even rolling their eyes behind Stark’s back that afternoon.”

“We are going to have a team meeting once this is all over and review what everyone contributes to the team. We don’t need people assuming things about each other.”

“Would Clint want them to know about the coding?”

“I don’t know.”

“Then we ask.”

“Yes. I think everyone is going to have to do a lot of talking once things get level again.” Phil said with a sigh. Clint groaned softly, twisting in his arms.

“Hey, Clint. Are you coming back to me?”

“Phil?”

“Yes. Do you know where you are at?”

“Medical.”

“Yes. Do you remember why?”

“Mission. Was drugged.”

“Exactly.” Phil said with a huff of relief. “How are you feeling?”

“Like I’m on speed. Tasha?” He asked glancing at the chair she was sitting in next to the bed.

“Yes, Natasha is here with me.”

“I’m here, Yastreb.”

“Real?”

“Yes, she’s real. There’s no one in the room except for you, myself, and Natasha.”

“Okay.” Clint murmured, glancing around before slowly relaxing.

“Do you see anyone else?”

“Barney. He won’t leave.”

“You know he’s not real, Clint.”

“Yeah. Just wish he would shut up.”

“What’s he saying?”

“That I’m a coward. I am.”

“No, Hawk. You are one of the strongest men I know. You are anything but a coward.” Natasha said.

“I am. Couldn’t tell the team. Couldn’t tell Phil or even you.”

“You don’t have to tell the team or even us everything, Clint. You’re allowed your secrets.”

“Was going to tell when you came over. Should have done it sooner.” Clint whimpered, pushing away when Phil tried to comfort him. Tear ran down the archer’s face as he fought against the comfort they were trying to give him. He did not deserve it.

“Don’t.” He gasped pushing at the arms wrapped around his chest.

“Tell me what’s going on, Clint. I’m not letting go until you calm down and I know you won’t hurt yourself.”

“Don’t deserve it.”

“Deserve what, Clint?”

“You. Won’t want me.”

“Clint, nothing you could tell me would make me not want you. I’ve wanted to date you for years. I’m not letting you go now that we finally got together. Not for any reason, Clint.”

Clint whined low in his throat, tears streaking down his face. He clumsily wiped at his eyes until Natasha got up and grabbed a wet cloth. She wiped his face and neck before handing the cloth and letting him blow his nose. She took the cloth back with a grimace and toss it into the bathroom.

“I know you don’t want to tell us but I think you might need to if it’s bothering you, Clint. Is there some way we can figure it out so you can rest?”

“Medical. My chart from the mission.”

“Okay, Natasha will go get your chart from Fury. I want you to try and sleep until she gets back okay?” Phil slid out from under Clint, letting him lay back and covering him up. He curled around one of the pillows like he was a child hugging a teddy bear. “Need another blanket?”

“No.” Clint muttered, sniffling as he buried his face in the covers.

“Okay. I’m going to work on some emails while we wait on Natasha.”

Phil pulled out his Stark Pad and started sending messages. He sent one to the team updating them on the situation and advising them to come back in the morning. Hopefully Clint would be mostly over the drugs by then.

The next few messages were sent to Fury requesting the full medical, mission, and recovery files from the last mission stating that Clint had given his verbal permission and was currently sleeping. He sent in vacation requests for Natasha, Clint, and himself for the next month so they would have time to get everything back in order. Clint was probably going to be medically benched for a few months anyway but it never hurt to cover all bases. Natasha returned with a box full of records just as he was finishing up.

“Nick still alive?”

“He just pointed me to the box. It looked like he’s had it ready for a while.”

“Figures. What are we looking at?” he said as she started pulling out files and laying them out across the tiny table the room had.

“Clint’s medical file since Loki.” she said, her expression hard.

“I sent Fury a request to send me the full report on the mission and Clint’s recovery as well.”

“Let’s get started then.” She said sorting the files to before the last mission and after the last mission. “Do you want post Loki or post mission?”

“Loki. He’s had several flashbacks probably thanks to the hallucinogen but I’d rather know what might trigger him.”

“Sounds good. We can swap once we both finish.”

They had been at it for over an hour when Natasha started cursing in Russian.

“Something I should know?”

“You’ll know when you see it.” She snapped, her thick accent signaling how upset she truly was.

She read faster than Phil and started reviewing the files that he had already set to the side. Hours later she had finished everything and moved to sit next to Clint again. He had woken several times but after being reassured that they were really there he settled down and fell back asleep after a sort span of watching them work.

“Yastreb,” Natasha murmured as she curled up against his side.

“Tasha.” Clint murmured sleepily, glancing around the room. His eyes stalled in one corner with a small flinch.

“He’s not there, Yastreb.”

“I know, but he’s still in my head.” he muttered wrapping around his pillow tighter.

“What can I do to help?” she pressed gently stroking one hand in soothing circles along his shoulders and upper back.

“Don’t know.” he said with a small shudder, eyes never leaving what only he could see.

“Did it help to talk about what you see?”

“Little.”

“Want to try that? You know Phil and I will not let it go any farther than the three of us.” She glanced up as Phil carefully shut the file he had been reading and started stuffing them back into the box with more violence than the action really needed.

“I’ll be back.” Phil said, rushing out of the room.

“He’s reading my file?”

“Yes.”

“Doesn’t want me.”

“I doubt that was why he left, Clint. He’ll be back soon, Yastreb.” Clint merely curled back into his ball of misery.

An hour later Phil came back into the room pushing a wheelchair before him; He quickly gathered up the random things everyone had brought or left in the room, shoving everything into a bag. He took in the pale form of his lover before leaning down and pressing a kiss to his forehead.

“We’re getting out of here. Tony has agreed to let us use an empty floor at the tower.” He said easing the IV out of Clint’s arm and expertly bandaging the site while Clint blinked at him in confusion.

“The doctors agreed to this?” Natasha asked, handing Clint his hoodie to pull back on and stuffing his feet into his boots once he sat up.

“They agree that as long as we keep him calm there is no reason to keep him if he is going to be under observation. Tony has agreed to allow us to use Jarvis to monitor his vitals but not record anything that happens while we are there. The floor will be on lockdown unless we turn it off. No one from the team will visit unless we allow it.”

“Why?” Clint asked as Natasha guided him into the chair.

“Because we need to talk and I would rather Shield not have it as part of our records.”

“Okay.” Clint agreed looking slightly dazed.

“I have a car waiting.” he said handing the bag to Natasha and unlocking the wheelchair. “The doctors want you relaxed as possible so no walking I’m afraid.”

“No range?”

“Yes, you are off the range until your blood level registers as only having trace amounts of the hallucinogen.”

“Right.”

“You okay?” Phil pressed as he wheeled Clint towards a side elevator that went to the parking deck.

“Tired.”

“You can sleep all you want at the tower but we are going to wake you up for dinner. You need to eat and take your meds.”

“What meds?”

“An antianxiety medication so that you won’t suffer additional stress until the drug is completely out of your system.”

“How long?”

“A month, maybe more. I requested a month of vacation time for the three of us however so you won’t be alone.”

The ride to the tower was silent. Clint dozed in the back while Phil worked on his tablet and Natasha drove. Thankfully it was a short drive and easy since it was already late and traffic was non-existent.

“Welcome back, Agents Barton, Romanov, and Coulson. Sir has had floor 56 set up to your specifications. I also took the liberty of stocking the kitchen. Please let me know if there is anything else you require.”

“We will. Tell Tony thank you for me. I understand how hard it will be to let us be close but locked away.”

“Sir had to have a similar situation set up when he returned from Afghanistan himself. He was not going to deny someone else the comforts he himself needed.”

“Hate A-stan.” Clint muttered from the wheelchair.

“Are you hungry at all?” Phil asked as he wheeled the chair out of the elevator and into their new floor for the next week.

“No, thirsty.”

“Okay, I will get you something, Hawk.” Natasha said, moving toward the kitchen.

***

“Do you want to shower before bed?”

“Yeah, should probably.” Clint said, limp in the chair as Phil wheeled him right into the bathroom.

“Use the bench and let me know when you’re ready to come back out.”

“Okay.” Clint murmured, watching as Phil shut the door behind him as he left.

Clint forced himself out of the chair. Stripping out of his sweat strained clothes and into the shower that Jarvis had helpfully started. He knew Phil was just doing his job. He was his handler and had to get him back in the field. He wouldn’t want him back in his bed anytime soon now that he knew the truth about how broken Clint really was.

He mechanically washed himself from his spot on the bench and then held onto a convenient railing while he dried off. Someone had left him a pair of boxers, tee-shirt, thick socks, and sleep pants so he dressed before lowering himself back into the wheelchair.

“Would you like me to inform Agent Coulson that you are ready, Agent Barton?” Jarvis asked, making Clint jump.

“Yeah. Thanks, Jarvis.” Clint managed, taking a deep breath as Phil came in.

“Alright?”

“Fine.” He said, fighting against the need to lean against the other man as he helped him up and into the massive bed. He needed some distance if he had a chance in hell of letting Phil go.

Natasha handed him a large bottle of water before he could lie down. Phil shook out a tablet from a prescription bottle and handed it over as well. Clint took the medication without complaint, washing it down with half the water before handing it back.

“Do you want us both in here with you, Clint? I’d like at least one person with you for today at least.”

“Doesn’t matter.” Clint huffed, curling around a pillow and watching where Barney was leaning in one corner watching him with dark eyes. Natasha took the arm chair to one side while Phil stretched out on the bed behind him.

“Tell me what you are seeing, Clint. You said talking helped.” Phil said, shifting closer so that his body was pressed in one long line of heat against Clint’s back.

“It’s just Barney.”

“No purple dinosaurs?” Natasha asked softly with a smirk.

“No, no purple…it’s a thing?”

“Horrible children’s show. I will let you watch it once your better.”

“Okay, but it’s just him watching me, talking to me.”

“He’s just standing there? He’s not doing anything but talking?”

“No…he’s…he’s rubbing himself. Telling how good a whore I am. Not good for anything else.”

“You know that’s not true, Clint. You’re amazing.” Clint’s breath hitched as he fought the shudders that wanted to wrack his frame.

“Don’t want to watch.”

“Then don’t, Clint. Look at me.”

“Doesn’t matter, I still see him no matter where I look.”

Clint shivered as he watched his brother jack himself off with a leer. Phil’s voice was in his ear telling him how wonderful he was but he knew that was a lie. People said you were amazing until they got tired of you. Then you were just something to be broken and thrown away.

“Stop saying that.”

“What, Clint?”

“That I’m good. I’m not. I’m broken.”

“No you aren’t broken, Clint. If you’re broken for having a bad childhood then so is most of Shield. Most of the Avengers had bad childhoods, Clint. That does not make them broken or useless.”

“They’re not mutilated.”

“It’s just scars, Clint. I don’t care if you are missing your testicles or both your legs. I’m not going to give you up or treat you badly because of it.”

“I can’t…I can’t.” Clint gasped for air, twisting to push Phil weakly away. Phil simply pulled him back in and tucked him against his chest.

“Whatever you think you can’t do I am sure we can prove you wrong. If it’s the sex you’re worried about we had sex yesterday and it was one of the hottest nights I’ve ever had.”

“Can’t…can’t…” Clint whined, wrapping arms around Phil as he fought against the tears that wanted to come. “Fuck.”

“We can do that too if that’s what it takes to convince you I want you though Natasha is going to have to leave if it comes to that.” Natasha muttered a reverent prayer of thanks in Russian from her chair. “Or you can fuck me. I will do whatever it takes to convince you that I want you. I want you any way I can get you. If that means we don’t have sex, so be it. If it means we never touch again, I will try because I want to keep you. I want to wake up with you next to me for the rest of my life, Clint, and I will do whatever it takes to do that.”

“Really? It’s not the drugs?” Clint asked, voice thick with tears and desperate.

“Really.” Phil said, pulling back and kissing him gently. “You tell me what you need and I will make it happen but I am not leaving you, ever.”

“Okay.” Clint sniffed, “Okay.”

“What do you want to do now, Clint?”

“Can we, can we just sleep like this?” Phil slumped against him for a moment, pulling him tight against his chest.

“Yes, we can do that. Natasha can wake us up for dinner.”

“Okay.” Clint whispered, pressing a trembling kiss to Phil’s neck before shifting back so that Phil could lay back comfortably.

***

Clint slept through the rest of the night only groggily waking up long enough to drink a cup of soup for dinner and fall back asleep against Phil’s side. The next morning he woke up only to panic for a moment when the bed and room was empty besides himself. He was just pulling himself upright when Phil came back into the room.

“I need a finger stick from you to test your blood levels and then we can talk options for the rest of the day.”

“Barney’s gone.” Clint muttered, too distracted by trying to find his missing hallucination.

“That’s a good thing, Clint.”

“Makes me think he’s hiding.”

“Don’t think about it so hard.” The device beeped softly after he hit several keys. “Jarvis, how is he looking?”

“He is back down to the trace amounts of drug.”

“Good. We’ll be testing you ever few hours just to make sure.” Phil said with a small smile, setting the device next to the bed. “Can I kiss you?”

“You still want to? Even knowing I’m nuts?”

“You were drugged, Clint. That does not mean you’re nuts. I will tell you that every morning for the rest of our lives if that’s what it takes to make it stick.” He climbed into bed next to Clint and pressed a soft kiss to his lips. “I’m not leaving, Clint. Not unless you tell me to.”

“I don’t want you to leave but I don’t want you to settle for some broken hick-town carney archer either.”

“I am not settling. I am getting the most amazing man I have ever had the luck to know. A man who overcame his bad childhood and lack of education to get two college degrees while working for Shield. Who has saved more lives at the risk of his own than I could ever count? A man who has saved my life countless times and who shows me some amazing new facet every time I talk to him.”

“I want to hold a meeting with the team and discuss each member’s abilities and assets so everyone is aware of just what that person brings to the table. And you bring a lot, Clint. You designed your bow and the quiver arrowhead system. You have several hundred patents logged with Shield for weapons you designed, including the flash bombs you used on the last Avengers mission. I want you to be recognized for your gifts.”

“I’m not special.”

“Yes, you are. You are amazing and I am honored to work with you and to be allowed to be in your life.”

“I’m.” Clint tried to argue but Phil silenced him with a kiss.

“Not arguing this with you. Are you hungry?”

“Not really.”

“Would you drink a protein drink for me?”

“Yeah. That would be okay.”

“Wonderful. Then we can discuss options.” Phil said briskly, tugging a bottle from the floor next to the bed.

“Boy scout.” Clint muttered with a huff but he obediently cracked open the drink and started sipping.

“We have two options. Option one, we can go out into the living room and watch bad reality TV with Natasha.”

“Okay.” Clint nodded, since Phil paused waiting like he wanted him to respond.

“Option two is we both get naked and I spend the rest of the day proving to you exactly how much I love you.” Clint choked on his drink, coughing as Phil got up and grabbed a washcloth to clean up the spilled protein shake.

“You want to…”

“Do whatever you want to do. If you want to watch TV we can do that.”

“It’s not only for the sex, right?” Clint asked, unsure and hating how vulnerable he felt.

“No, Clint. I don’t just want you for the sex. I loved spending the last week with you. I want to spend a lot more time with you outside of work of you want to share it with me.”

“And you don’t mind that I’m missing…”

“No, I don’t mind. Let me show you just how much I don’t mind.” He said, pressing Clint back into the bed.

He pressed soft kissed to Clint’s face and neck before slotting their legs together. Clint gasped softly as he felt Phil’s half hard erection pressing into his hip. Phil took it as invitation to deepen the kiss, licking his way into Clint’s mouth like he wanted to map every contour and memorize his taste. Clint was half hard and gasping for air when they broke apart.

“Want to see you. Can I see you?” Phil panted pulling off his own shirt and toeing off his socks.

He stripped down to his boxers while Clint slowly pulled off his shirt. Phil crawled forward and proceed to worship Clint’s chest and abs, nipping, sucking, and licking his way back up to devour his mouth before heading back to torment his nipples.

Clint writhered and whined at the assault. He was painfully hard and gripping the sheets tightly as he fought against the dual pain and pleasure that was burning through his body. His back arched as curses spilled from his lips. Phil began mouthing at the scars littering his stomach.

“Want to suck you off. Can I do that for you, Clint?”

“Just, fuck…just slowly, please?”

“I can do that. You tell me if I go too fast for you. I’ll stop.”

“Okay, shit. Okay.”

Phil continued to kiss and tease even as he slowly slid Clint’s sleep pants off. He pulled away for a moment to toss the pants somewhere to one side. Clint fought the need to cover himself as Phil took in the scar covered skin.

“Beautiful.” He murmured, pressing soft kisses to the long scar along one leg.

“It’s not.” Clint managed, shivering as Phil moved to kiss the angry lines along one hip.

“You survived and came back to me. That’s enough to make every mark wonderful.”

He kissed his way across Clint’s hips and pressed a reverent kiss to the side of his cock where the scar tissue twisted its pale lines along its length. Phil mouthed and licked at the ridge of tissue before pulling the head into his mouth.

Clint whined and moaned as he got painfully hard, hips stuttering as his body fought to seek more of that silken warmth and the jerk away from the source of pain. It finally tipped all the way to pain as Phil started sucking hungrily at his length, palms cupping his ass.

“Gah, shit. Stop.” Clint choked out, pushing away from Phil. He curled up against the headboard gasping for air.

“That hurt, didn’t it?”

“Yeah, sorry.”

“Don’t apologize.” Phil murmured, moving up to sit next to Clint. “Was any of it good?”

“It was good, just painful. Didn’t really start to hurt until you started to suck hard.”

“Okay, that’s off the table than.”

“What, you still want to try?”

“You came before.” Phil pointed out, rubbing on hand along Clint’s side. “What was different?”

“You distracted me with all the kissing and touching.”

“What if you were on top again and we kissed while I rubbed you off?”

“If you still want to.”

“With you, always.” Phil said, pulling Clint up for a chaste kiss, “Let me get one thing.” He slid out of bed and went to the bathroom, returning a minute later with a bottle of lube.

“Not that I don’t like the idea of you fucking me, I don’t think I’m into that tonight.”

“Good, that wasn’t what I was thinking.” He said, clicking open the bottle and pouring some on one palm before he laid back down on his back. “You drive this time.”

“And next time you’ll fuck me?” Clint asked with a small grin as he straddled the other man.

“Until you scream.” Phil deadpanned, slicking up both their cocks and wrapping a loose fist around Clint’s length. “Come on, Hawk, move for me.”

“What, no pet names?” Clint groaned softly as he thrust through the light hold, Phil had around him.

“Well, if you insist, Snookums.”

“Oh, hell no.” Clint laughed. Phil pulled him down into a kiss that quickly deepened as they rocked against each other.

“So you’re okay with Hawk?” Phil asked, sucking and nipping at Clint’s neck.

“As long as you don’t mind me calling you Phil or PC.”

“I can live with that.”

“Good.”

They were silent after that, exchanging lingering kisses until they both fell to pieces. It was not perfect and they would both be working on exercising their demons for years to come but now they would have the other to lean on. Clint thought that it might just be enough.

Losing my Religion – Ch. 9

Ch. 9

Phil cursed softly as he untangled himself from where he was spooned, chest to back, against Clint. Snatching up the phone he answered with a growled “Coulson.”. Clint watched him for a moment before shifting to get up, he might as well get dressed since he doubted sleep was going to be an option once Phil left.

Shield never called an agent or asset while they were on leave unless it was a true emergency. Clint had just pulled on a pair of jeans and black sweater when his own phone went off. He glanced at Phil but he was firmly back into his Coulson mask, steadily getting dressed in his suit while giving terse one word answers to whomever was on the line.

“This is Barton.”

“Barton, its Sitwell. You need to come in to New York branch’s medical for some tests.”

“What kind of tests?”

“Agent Valero was just pulled out of the jungle.” Clint cursed softly, Valero had been on his last mission, and everyone had thought she died at the compound.

“How is she?”

“Dehydrated and suffering from hallucinations. The best we can tell is that she was exposed to some mind altering chemical. The higher ups just want to make sure you weren’t exposed to the same chemical.”

“I’m fine, Sitwell.”

“You know it and I know it but we still need to rule out the possibility of it being in your system.”

“Great. You guys are going to owe me some vacation days when we finally wrap up the paperwork on all this.”

“You and me both.” Sitwell said with a snort of laughter. “Listen just get in here. It’s a ten minute blood test and you’ll be back out with a band aid. If you’re good I’ll make sure it’s not Barbie themed.”

“Very funny. I’ll head in once I get dressed.”

“See you.”

“Yeah.” Clint huffed as he hung up. Phil had finished his own call and was tying his shoes fully dressed.

“Going in?”

“Yes. You heard about Valero?”

“Yeah, they want to test me for the same compound. Safety first and all that.”

‘Do you want to ride in with me?”

“Shield sending a car?”

“A cab.”

“Sure.”

“Before we both get sucked back into the job,” Phil said, stepping forward and pulling Clint into a kiss. “I enjoyed this week. I hope we get to do it again soon.”

“I might hold you to that.” Clint said with a small grin.

“Dinner tonight if the office doesn’t blow up?”

“Sure. I have to go back to the tower tomorrow anyway.” Clint cursed softly. “I need to call Natasha and let her know not to come over this morning.”

“She’s welcome join us for dinner tonight if you want.”

“You don’t mind?”

“I know you too are close and need to patch things up. I don’t want what we have to get in the way of that.”

“Thanks, Phil.” Clint muttered, pressing a quick kiss to his lips before he moved away to make the call.

Damn, Valero. How had she gotten away? How injured was she really? Clint tried to ignore the increasing tension filling him as they rode to Shield. The constant murmur of Barney criticizing him came back as well, pulling him farther down into a dark mood.

Clint gave a slight smile to Phil as they separated just inside the building. Phil was firmly in his Coulson persona and did not break character beyond a slight softening around his eyes as he nodded to Clint before moving off down the hall. Clint let himself settle into his own Hawkeye headset as the headed toward the elevator and the medical floor.

***

Clint sat waiting on his results in an exam room. He let his legs swing, boots knocking against each other. The nurse had drawn his blood and done a basic vitals check before leaving him alone.

The doctor had waved off the chance that he had the chemical in his system since he frankly seemed “perfectly sane”.  Valero was apparently violent and hallucinating various memories that either locked her into catatonia or had her screaming and clawing at herself. Always nice to have your own sanity reaffirmed, Clint thought with a snort.

“Well, you have a very faint trace of the compound in your blood results. Lucky for you, the treatment also acts as an inoculation preventing you from being effected again.”

“Side effects?” Clint asked as the doctor waved for the nurse to start an IV.

“Very mild flu symptoms. You’ll be tired and have some mild aches and pains, possible a headache. While we run in the bag I would suggest you try and sleep.”

“So it’s a one-time treatment?”

“We’ll give you one dose and then redo your blood work but with the levels you are showing I would say you’ll be out of here within two hours.”

“Great.” Clint said with a tiny smile.

“Plans for tonight?” The nurse asked with a grin as she taped off the IV and started it dripping.

“Yep, hot date.”

“Better rest up then.” She laughed. “Give us a yell if you need anything.”

“Will do.”

Clint settled back with a sigh. Once this was over he could take Phil out to dinner or maybe even cook for him. Phil would probably like that, he had loved the quick pasta dishes Clint made when they were stuck on long term ops where they had time to cook.

He fell into twisted nightmares and memories. Clint whined and shivered as he was abused and injured over and over again. Everyone who had ever hurt him in some way came back to flay him until he was nothing but bleeding flesh.

Losing my Religion – Ch. 8

Ch. 8


The next few days were some of the best that Clint could ever remember. Yes, he still had nightmares and moments where he lost himself in painful memories but Phil somehow made everything better. He had resigned himself years ago to never being allowed to have Phil in the way he really wanted and yet now he was allowed to touch, to hold and cuddle. It was amazing.

He was allowed to kiss, which was even better. They had stuck to gentle presses of lips and a few light make out sessions so far. Clint knew Phil was trying to see what his limits were but everything had been good leaving him feeling better than he could remember in a long time.

They went walking through the park after lunch together or spent the afternoons curled around each other in bed while Phil read and Clint studied or programmed. It all felt so strangely normal. Of course it had to go to hell on Friday morning.

“Please tell me you brought the flash bangs?” Natasha asked, gesturing him into the huddle.

“Always, Nat.” Clint said with a small grin pulling a wrapped package out of his gear and tossing it to her.

“What flash bangs? Who made these?” Tony asked, plucking one of the small devices off the table.

“Who do you think made all those trick arrows before you took over, Stark?” Natasha asked with a smirk.

“What do the colors mean exactly?” Steve asked, pulling two of each color out and tucking them into a pocket.

“White is smoke, green is flash bombs, red is small explosives. Yellow is the big bang, be careful with those.”

“How big a bang are we talking about?” Steve asked, eying the small stacks of devices that Natasha was portioning out.

“Won’t take down a building but it could take out a room or two.”

“Huh.” Tony mutters, eying the electronic timers.

“Enough fiddling people. Let’s get into position.” Sitwell said, coming over with four overflowing quivers for Clint.

“Christ, planning on taking over the Kremlin or something?”

“Always be prepared.” Clint muttered shouldering his gear and taking off at a jog for the chopper that would take him to his perch.

“When did you become a boy scout, circus boy?” Tony snarked, laughing when Clint flipped him off with one hand, not bothering to look back.

Almost two hundred arrows later, Clint finally let himself relax. Who the hell decided that they needed to create radioactive sparrows anyway? At least the last hour they had been too big to fly, even if they did more damage on the ground. After almost six hours of shooting and sun, Clint was trying to not pass out from heat stroke. Maybe he should ask Sitwell to get his uniform made of something more breathable than leather.

“You turned off your coms.” Natasha said, tossing him a bottle of water once he made his way to the conference room they were debriefing in. Bruce was passed out in a corner but the rest of the team was still out.

“Yep.” Clint replied, rinsing out his mouth with the first mouthful of water before chugging the rest.

“Threw up?”

“Wearing black on a roof in a heat wave is never a good idea.” Clint pointed out, trying to ignore the ranting conversation between Barney and Trick in the back of his head. He’d had a running commentary for most of the fight pointing out every tiny error, bad shooting form, and moment of weakness. Add in a pounding headache and he was ready for this day to be over.

“Phil mentioned that you’re coming back on Sunday?”

“Yeah, I was going to track you down once you got back from your mission. When’d you get in?”

“This morning. We wrapped things up early.”

“That’s always good. Easy in and out?”

“Not even a single explosion.”

“Sitwell must have been thrilled.” Clint murmured as Thor and Steve came in and took a seat.

“Ecstatic.”

“Stark, get in here so we can debrief and go home!” Sitwell yelled down the hall before moving to toss out packets to the rest of the team.

“I’m wounded, Sitwell, I really am.” Tony said, dropping into a chair. “So Hawkeye, who’s your supplier for the flash bangs? You order those in bulk or something?”

“Can we get started?” Sitwell asked, glaring at the inventor. “Some of us want to go home at a reasonable hour today, Stark.”

“Aw, the little missus complaining, Sitwell?”

“Stark. Shut up.” Natasha snapped, glaring at the man until he huffed and sat back.

Clint tried to listen to the rest of the mission debrief and chime in when he could but all he could hear was Tony’s comments on his gear. A looping track of “Stupid, freak, retard.” left him tense and twitching to move. 

Clint had built his own weapons and gear for years, working with Shield R&D to mass produce his designs. Now Stark thought he was buying his bombs. He probably thought he was too stupid to understand the weaponry he used every day. 

Hell, Tony hadn’t even realized that Clint had been the one to hack his appointments, thinking Pepper had paid someone to do it. Clint had laughed when Phil told him but now it just pissed him off. Maybe he should be trying to run more Shield missions, get some distance between him and the team. 

“Are you coming back to the tower?” Natasha asked as the meeting was breaking up.

“Nah, I want to go back and help clean up. Think I can get a lift back, Sitwell?” Clint called out, catching the Agent before he could leave.

“Collecting arrows? Sure, you can head back out with me.”

“Seriously? Leave them. I’ll fabricate you more.” Tony said with a snort.

“Most of them weren’t explosive. They can be reused.” Steve pointed out.

Clint ignored the discussion that started up and strode off with Sitwell. He felt Natasha’s gaze on his back but he kept walking. He just could not win. No matter what he did, someone ended up disappointed in him.

It was full dark before he was dropped off at his hotel wearing a generic pair of Shield sweats. He went straight to the elevator but saw the two people at the desk glancing back and forth between him and the TV. Great, he’d been made. Time to move.

He took a quick shower and started packing, ignoring the burn of overused muscles. He would have to take a muscle relaxer tonight if he wanted to be able to move in the morning. Funny that he had arrived with the clothes on his back and was leaving with two large suitcases and a bag full of suits. Phil came in as he was zipping up the last bag.

“Heading out?”

“The front desk staff made me. I need to change locations.”

“Do you want to find a different hotel or go to the tower?”

“I don’t know.” Clint said with a sigh, scrubbing a hand over his face. “The tower makes more sense.”

“I still have a small apartment in town if you don’t want to do either.”

“You kept your apartment?”

“I thought I could use it as a safe house if needed.” Phil said with a shrug. “I still have some furniture and things there so we should be okay to stay a few days. We’ll just have to pick up some food if we want to cook anything.”

“Don’t tell me you’re going to make me cook like Natasha.” Clint said with a teasing grin.

“She does say your cooking is very good.”

“I might could be convinced to make you breakfast.”

“That would be up to you. I will freely admit to being a horrible cook. I don’t have the patience for it.”

“As long as you’re better then Natasha, she can burn water.”

“I’ve seen her make toast so I know that’s a lie.”

“Toast is not cooking.” Clint said with a grin, tugging on his jacket.

“Does oatmeal count?” Phil asked as he gathered up his scattered books from around the room.

“Only if it’s on the stove.”

“Then I am officially not a cook. You’ll just have to teach me.”

“We can try that.” Clint said with a snort. “I’ve never been the best teacher.”

“You do wonderful with the rookies on missions.”

“They were following me around like puppies, Phil. I just gave them something to do.”

“Which was exactly what you needed to do and you did it without talking down to them or making them feel stupid like many of our agents. There’s a reason Natasha doesn’t go on those missions, Clint.”

“Yeah, right.” Clint muttered, shaking his head. “I didn’t want to go through your things so you still need to pack. I’ll meet you downstairs.”

“We’ll continue this conversation once we’re moved. Have you decided where you want to go?”

“Your apartment if you don’t mind.”

“No that sounds good. I’ll be down in a minute.”

“Okay.”

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