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.

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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.”

Losing my Religion – Ch. 7

Ch. 7

Clint sat hunched on the bathmat, shuddering as the room filled with steam. Eventually he managed to crawl into the shower and under the cascade of scalding water. He peeled off his sopping clothes and left them in a heap to one side as he slowly unthawed.

Struggling to his feet he began to slowly wash. He needed to get himself back together enough that Phil wouldn’t take one look at him and commit him to a psych ward. Though it might be too late for that considering how spaced out he was earlier. He had been doing okay, not great, but he had been surviving. Why was one bad argument with Natasha enough to send him into a total tailspin?

“Clint, I’m bringing your clothes in.” Phil said, slowly opening the door and setting a bundle of clothes on the counter. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. I’ll be out in a minute.” Clint managed, his voice rough.

“Stay in as long as you like.”

“Okay.”

Clint stayed under the water until his fingers pruned before forcing himself to get out and dry off. Stumbling, he tried to take stock but nothing really registered under the overwhelming exhaustion that was muting his every reaction. He was sure his brother could show up right now and he wouldn’t even blink.

Phil had left him socks, boxers, a long sleeve tee shirt, sleep pants, and a stretched out sweatshirt with the Army Rangers emblem that must have come from his own bag. He pulled everything else on and brushed his teeth before considering the sweatshirt. It even smelled of Phil he absently noted, as he slid the too large sweatshirt on.

He opened the door to Phil sitting in bed in his own tee shirt and sleep pants. Steve must have left a while ago for Phil to have changed already. Clint shuffled his way to the other side of the bed and curled under the covers with a small sigh. Phil shifted, putting up his book and turning out the lights.

“Clint?”

“Hmm.”

“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable…but, I would like…I mean.”

Clint shifted until he was facing his ex-handler. This was not a side of Phil he had ever seen before. If it wasn’t so dark he would bet the other man was blushing. He kept being shocked by the differences between Coulson, the resident bad ass of Shield, and Phil, the relaxed middle aged man who read fantasy novels in bed and watched crap TV.

“What do you need, Phil?” he asked softly, his voice slurring slightly with sleep.

“Can I hold you?”

“You want to hold me?” He repeated dumbly. He felt the other man start to shift away and reached out to snag a wrist. “Not saying no, Phil. Just asking.”

“Yes, I would like to hold you. If that’s okay.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m hoping it will help us both sleep and I want to.”

“Okay.” Clint said with a nod, shifting back on to his stomach, pulling at Phil’s wrist until he was half draped over his back, one ankle tangled with his.

“Okay?” Phil asked hesitantly settling his weight against Clint’s back.

“It’s good.” Clint sighed softly, letting the weight and darkness pull his muscles loose. He wanted to lay there and bask in having Phil this close but he was just too tired, slipping into sleep between one breathe and the next.

The next morning Clint jerked awake with Phil’s alarm. Right, he had to go into work today for a meeting. He watched blurrily as Phil gathered his clothes and disappeared into the bathroom to get ready. 

Clint pulled himself up to sit at the edge of the bed, dozing in place until Phil exited the bathroom, Clint shuffling to take his place. Bladder and teeth taken care of he changed into a pair of worn jeans before collapsing back into bed.

“Want me to call for some breakfast?” Phil asked softly. 

“Nah, gonna sleep some more.” Clint muttered, already halfway asleep cuddled around a pillow still wearing Phil’s sweatshirt.

“I should be back for lunch. It’s your turn to pick.”

“Okay. See you.”

***

Phil watched for a few minutes as Clint slept. He was moving around like he was recovering from a beating, stiff and bruised. Even without the flashbacks Phil would have been worried about the archer.

Clint had lost weight while he was in the hospital and not gained it back. He was leaner than Phil could remember him being in years. He looked more like the injured half-starved young man that he had recruited all those years ago than the confident, witty man he was used to working with.

With a silent sigh he gathered up his things and went to find a cab. After an hour long meeting that Phil could have honestly skipped, he made his way to the Director’s office, ignoring the few hardy souls who tried to interrupt him. He strode into Fury’s office waving away the secretary that was standing up to stop him. He shut the door behind him as the director eyed him for a second before wrapping up his phone call.

“Major world catastrophe I am not aware of?”

“Nothing that extreme.” Phil said with a small smirk. “I want to see the reports from Barton’s last mission and his medical records.”

“Those are sealed for a reason, Coulson.”

“Because of Loki, not from what he went through on his last mission.”

“Explain your reasoning, Phil.” Nick said with a sigh. “Do I need to be worried about Barton?”

“Not yet.”

“Then why do you need the files?”

“He’s pushing everyone away. He won’t let anyone other than Natasha and myself touch him and has started flinching even then. I need to know what we might be triggering so I can help him through this.”

“And this has nothing to do with the fact that you want in his pants?”

“I’ve always been professional with my assets, Nick.”

“You have but right now he’s not your asset. He’s just a roommate and an injured one at that.” Nick pointed out, gesturing for Phil to take a seat. “I need to know that you won’t use any of the information in here against him while he’s vulnerable.”

“The last thing I want to do is hurt him, Nick.”

“I’m not saying you would, Phil. I’m just saying he’s bleeding right now. This last mission probably touched on a lot of things from his past that are going to leave him unbalanced. You know how rough a childhood the guy had.”

“Clint had a horrible childhood but he grew into an amazing man.”

“A man that still carries the scars from his childhood, Phil. You push him too hard and you could trigger more than you bargained for.”

“I’m aware of that, Nick.”

“I’ll give them to you on one condition.”

“What would that be?”

“Barton has to agree that you can read them.”

“Call him. I’m sure he won’t have an issue.”

Nick picked up his phone with a raised eyebrow but Phil did not recant even if he did hate that Nick was waking Clint up for this.

“Barton, how are you doing?”

“Good to hear, son. I have a question for you. Coulson would like to view your files from the last mission. Are you okay with that?”

“Since he’s no longer your handler he needs at least verbal permission when the files have been sealed from both myself and the asset.”

“Of course. Keep up the good work, Barton.”


“You’re allowed to see the mission reports but not the medical. You have twenty four hours to get this back to me.” Nick said, digging through a file cabinet and handing over two thick files.

“Thank you, sir.”

“Don’t break my asset, Phil.”

“Never, sir. If I do you are more than welcome to fire me for it.”

“Like we could get rid of you.” He said with a snort. “Get out of my office, Agent. We both have things to do.”

“Of course, sir.”

Phil took the folders back to his office and locked the door. He did not want to be interrupted while he was reading. The first folder contained everything Shield had on Clinton F. Barton’s past before he joined Shield. He almost skipped over this file but in the end, settled in to review everything. Fury might be right that something in Clint’s past was triggering this.

Four hours later he sat back feeling nauseous and worn out. Clint had been through hell on the mission and rereading the bare bones facts they had gathered from his past had just left Phil speculating over random comments and faded scars he had seen over the years.

Clint had been beaten and probably raped at a young age. He had suffered from malnutrition well into his teen years. Old fractures and healed breaks filled his x-ray films. He had come into Shield covered in scars and a mask of sarcastic bravado that drove even the friendliest person away.

There was no firm documentation to show how old Clint was. There was no birth certificate to be found and no records of hospitalization. Until he started to go to school Clint did not exist on paper. Even then the records are patchy as his parent’s died when he was possibly as young as four, more likely six. He spent at least two years in various orphanages and foster homes before he ran away to the circus with his brother.

They knew he had probably been trained by Trickshot, also known as Buck Chisholm, and the Swordsman, also known as Jacques DuQuesne while he was with Carson’s Carnival of Traveling Wonders with his brother, Charles Barney Barton. Clint had started training and possible performing while he was still in his early teens, possibly as young as ten.  

The folder on the mission was more detailed. What should have been an easy surveillance mission had been complicated by Hawkeye refusing to let the terrorists murder a child on his watch. Taking out enough guards to let the child escape had compromised his position and led to his capture. He had been held for eight days before Shield was able to get a team to his location.

It had taken years to wear away at the mask Clint wore to see the man underneath. Phil counted himself extremely lucky that he even knew as much about the man as he did. It hurt to realize that Clint’s masks were fully back in place after he got out of the hospital. He had barely started opening up again when Natasha’s actions pushed him into fleeing.

Clint was an expert at deflecting personal questions and dragging the person asking into a different conversation. Phil had considered trying to get him to teach the rookies how to do it at first before he realized that Clint sometimes didn’t even realize he was doing it. He was so used to pushing those around him away from personal topics that he no longer even realized he was doing it.

Phil sealed both files into several envelopes and gave them to Nick’s secretary to get refiled. He should have been surprised to see Natasha and Bruce waiting at the elevator for him but he had been waiting for the team to ambush him the second he stepped onto base. At least Bruce had the grace to look slightly sheepish about it.

“Agent Coulson.” Bruce said with a small smile.

“Dr. Banner, Agent Romanoff. Fancy meeting you here.”

“How is he?” Natasha asked once the doors of the elevator had sealed them in.

“Exhausted, suffering from flashbacks, and exercising too much.”

“Budapest or Loki?”

“Budapest.” Phil said with a sigh. “He can’t just get over something because you think he should, Natasha. It’s going to take time.”

“Would he not want me to visit?”

“I don’t think so but he’s going back to the tower on Sunday. You might want to wait.”

“Is there anything we can do to help?” Bruce asked.

“Maybe you could call him? Not even Shield has bothered to contact him yet.”

“He wanted space.” Natasha pointed out.

“Everyone likes to feel needed.” Phil said, suppressing a sigh.

“I’ll talk to Steve, Tony, and Thor. They will probably want to do a party or something when he gets back.”

“Stark still bouncing around the planet playing CEO?”

“Yeah. Tony’s convinced Pepper messed with his calendar as payback for forgetting her birthday. He’s already bought her two lines of designer shoes.”

“Did she admit to it?”

“No, utterly denies that she did it but she seems to be enjoying all the attention.”

“You know who did it, don’t you?” Natasha asked, eyes pinning and dissecting his every tick.

“I’ve been sworn to secrecy.” Phil said with his blandest smile.

“Pity, Tony has been trying to undo the bug for days now. He wants to hire whoever did it.” Bruce said laughing softly.

“I’ll be sure to let them know. It’s always to have options.”

“Very true.” Bruce said with crooked grin. “Can we give you a ride?”

“I’ll catch a cab. Have a good evening.”

“You as well. Tell Clint we said hello.”

“Of course.” Phil agreed, a small smile lighting his face as an idea popped into his mind. Flagging down a cab he gave the cabbie the address for the hotel and started the first of several phone calls. He had a lot to set up in a very short amount of time.

***

Clint woke when Phil came back in the hotel room. He fuzzily watched as he gathered up some clothes and disappeared into the bathroom to change. He blinked his eyes back open as Phil sat down next to him.

“Hey, you planning to get up?” Phil asked, rubbing one hand along Clint’s shoulders.

“Eventually.” Clint muttered, trying to not melt back into the mattress under Phil’s firm touch.

“I have a surprise for you if you feel up to it.”

“What kind of surprise?” Clint asked, forcing himself up to sit against the headboard. Phil had changed into jeans and a soft looking black sweater that made Clint want to touch it.

“Well, I thought I would take you out to lunch than we could go to the aquarium if you still wanted to.” 

Clint really did not want to go anywhere but Phil looked so hopeful that he nodded and muttered, “Yeah.” as he peeled himself out from under the blankets. He felt like someone had scooped him out. He was hollow and stuffed full of cotton, clumsy and so achingly tired. 

“Great. Do you want a shower first?”

“Yeah. Let me get cleaned up. Do I need to dress up at all?”

“No, wear whatever you want.”

“Okay.”

Clint gathered up some clothes and headed to the bathroom. Glancing at himself in the mirror, he winced. Okay, his hair looked a mess, he probably did need a shower. He knew without Phil’s prompting he would have went out as is. He just didn’t have the energy to care right now.

He compromised and dressed a bit nicer than he wanted to but pulled his bulky hoodie over the V-neck sweater and khakis. He could not seem to get warm. Maybe he was getting anemic or something. He’d get something with meat for lunch today.

Clint shuffled obediently after Phil, giving him a small tired smile as another cab was magically waiting on them. Phil climbed in next to him and Clint did not bother to protest when he sat pressed against one him in one long line of heat. Phil was just so damn warm. 

He only raised an eyebrow at Phil when they were dropped off at the aquarium. Phil gave him a small smirk and led him to an unmarked side entrance. One quick flash of ID later they were lead deep into the bowls of the aquarium, and ushered through an unmarked steel door.

Inside Clint froze only a few steps from the door. The walls and ceiling of the small room were solid glass. A curving glass shell separated the dark room from a tank full of different colored fish and a massive shark that prowled past as he watched. A table of steaming dishes had been set to one side but Clint ignored it, moving to sit at the low bench next to the tank.

***

“Sir, please let me know if you need anything else. I’ll cover the food until you’re ready.”

“Thank you. I appreciate it.” Phil said, a soft smile on his face as he watched Clint absorbed in the fish.

“I don’t mean to be rude, sir, but can I ask, is it cancer?”

“No, no. Nothing like that.” Phil said, finally turning fully to see the young man. “He was a soldier, special ops.”

“Ah, PTSD?”

“Yes.” Phil bit out, wanting the man gone. 

He moved away to stand behind Clint, dismissing the waiter from his mind. Clint did look worn out but that was no reason to assume he was dying of cancer. He was sleep deprived, not sick.

“Everything alright?”

“Surrounded by idiots.” Phil said huffing a breath through his nose before sitting down next to Clint.

“Do we need to leave?”
“What? No. We have the rest of the day, the room’s booked until closing.”

“I can’t believe you did this.”

“Just called in a few favors.” Phil said, watching the tension bleed out of Clint. “Come eat something. You didn’t have dinner last night or breakfast.”

“Alright.” Clint agreed, letting Phil pull him up.

He picked at his food, most of his attention on the moving fish but Phil did not call him on it. Clint needed to eat more but watching the stress and tension easing from his face and posture was worth a missed meal or two.

“Come on.” Phil said abandoning his own meal pulling Clint over to the bench next to the glass. 

He didn’t let himself think about what he was doing as he pulled Clint back to lean against him, arms loosely wrapped around his middle. Clint went tense in his arms but did not fight the hold. They stayed that way for several long minutes before Clint shifted slightly closer.

“I don’t know what you want from me, Phil.” Clint said, his voice rough.

“Just want more of this.” Phil said with a small squeeze. “More mornings waking up next to you, more dinners after work and nights watching bad TV and the action movies you like.”

“Just this?”

“I want to spend time with you. Take you out to dinner, maybe out hiking on the weekends if we can get time off.”

***

Clint needed to make sure he understood exactly where they were going. He tried to ignore the press of memories and abuse the conversation was pulling up. How many times had he lost a friend because they wanted to date him? How many times had his heart been broken when that friendship was destroyed? When he was abandoned all over again?

He did his best to ignore the sarcastic chorus of Trickshot and Barney in the back of his head. God, he was such a fuck up. Too broken to even deal with normal life.

“You want to date?” Clint asked, feeling like he was being stupid about this but he needed to be sure of exactly what Phil was asking for. 

“If you are willing, yes.” Phil said running one hand along Clint’s side in a soft soothing motion.

“I don’t,” Clint choked, fighting for air. “I don’t think I can do sex right now.”

“We wouldn’t have to, Clint. I’m good with whatever you are willing to offer. I like this, just getting to hold you. I’ve been thinking about this for years.”

“Had a crush on you.” Clint muttered, feeling the back of his neck heat. “You in those damn subtle suits making everyone think you were an accountant before you wiped the floor with them.”

“My suits?” Phil asked, laughing softly. “Your suit should be illegal. I spent so many missions trying to not stare at you.”

Clint shifted deeper into Phil’s hold, letting himself enjoy this for now. He almost never got what he wanted and never got to keep it in the long run. Maybe this time he would just take it day by day, enjoying the moments he could until things finally turned to shit. He could hope at least.

Losing my Religion – Ch. 6

Ch. 6

Clint glanced to behind him when the sound of pounding of feet on pavement fell in line with his own strides. Steve slid through the handful of pedestrians with ease, pulling up even with Clint, a small smile on his lips. Clint huffed under his breath as the super soldier easily kept pace.

He had intended to go on a rather long and punishing run so that he could collapse in exhaustion tonight. Clint gave a small grin and upped the pace. Might as well see if super soldiers could sweat.

Several hours later Clint dropped to a limping walk, the scars on his right leg and abs throbbing violently in time to his heartbeat. He was pleased to see that Steve was not unaffected, even he was sweat covered and breathing hard. They might as well walk the last mile to the hotel.

“Was that a deliberate punishment or do you always run like that?” Steve asked stopping to buy two waters for a street vender and tossing one to Clint.

“You’re the one who decided to tag along.” Clint said with a grin, sipping at the cold water.

“Remind me never to train with you.” Steve said with a snort.

“You should try training with Natasha. She thinks you’re not trying hard enough if you’re not bleeding.”

“Listen, I’m not here to drag you back. I just wanted to make sure you were doing okay.” Steve said, stealing glances at Clint as they walked.

“I’m alright, Cap. I was planning on coming back on Sunday anyway.” Clint said with a sigh, tossing his empty bottle into a nearby trashcan, not bothering to check that it landed. The one thing he could say he still had was his aim, he thought darkly.

“That’s good to hear. Natasha’s been on a bit of a rampage at headquarters and Tony’s all but living in his lab.”

“Nothing Tony can fix about this, Steve.” Clint bit out trying to rein in his rising temper. He was not a broken toy to be fixed.

“Doesn’t mean he won’t try.” Steve said with a snort. “You know he doesn’t deal with relationships well. He’s an engineer.”

“Maybe I don’t want to be considered broken.”

“He’s not trying to fix you, just the situation.” Steve said earnestly. “I think he’s building you a new phone. One that’s untraceable and lets you block all unknown callers.”

“Huh.”

“Look, I just wanted to check in. I’ll see you on Sunday. Call me if you want to do another run before then.”

“Sure, see you, Cap.” Clint said watching as he jogged away with a small wave. He knew the man meant well but Clint felt more uncertain and depressed now than he did before he started the run.


***

That night Clint took a long time to fall asleep. Even having the vague warmth of a nearby body and the soft sound of Phil’s breathes in one ear would not let him relax. Exhaustion finally pulled him into troubled dreams after what seemed like hours of trying to decide if the room smelled different with Phil next to him.

Clint lay sprawled on cold concrete, his attackers circling around him. They shouted and spewed abuse as the blows landed. When one grew tired the next would step up.

“Freak, should have drowned you like the runt you were.” His father muttered drunkenly, pouring whiskey over his wounds making Clint scream.

“Yeah, scream. You know they pay more when you cry.” Trickshot said with a leer.

“Only good for your ass and your aim.” Barney agreed with a smirk, aiming his crossbow and shooting Clint in the shoulder.

“I was trying to make something of you, boy.” Swordsman said with a disappointed look. “Look at you now, broken and useless.”

“Not good for anything but a fuck.” Barney agreed. “Dad had that right at least.”

“Don’t say that, Barn’.” Clint whimpered.

“Not even a man anymore, are you? Managed to lose even that.” His father said, tossing the bottle to shatter and spray Clint with shards of glass.

“I’m still a man.” 

“Missing body parts is a pretty good identifier in the spy business. You planning to lose an arm next?”

“All you have is your aim. How long do you think Shield is going to let that pay your way once word gets out? Only doing solo jobs since they think you’re going to turn on them. Heck, maybe you should, get yourself a nice padded cell or a clean death.” Trickshot said with a sneer.

“You haven’t earned the right to a clean death. You’ve lost your honor.” Swordsman murmured, pulling his blade.

“I haven’t.” Clint choked out. “I’m not…”

“Broken.”

“Worthless.”

“Freak.”

“Whore.”

Somewhere in the wash of words he heard a steady chant of “Clint.” that he clung to like a lifeline. He whined as the blows and words rained down but the voice continued. Eventually a barked command of “Hawkeye.” snapped up back to himself.

He was curled tightly into a corner of the room. Phil sat on the bed to one side watching. Clint blinked at him for a moment his mind too muddled to understand what was happening.

“Hawkeye?” Phil prompted, like he was on the coms waiting for a response.

“Sir.” Clint managed to choke out. He was shivering violently, he realized. Everything felt remote and distant.

“What do you need, Clint?”

“Don’t know, sir.”

“Do you know where you are?”

That made Clint blink, did he know where he was? He glanced around the room taking in the uniform carpet and bedding. The bland beige walls screamed middle class or higher hotel.

“Hotel.”

“That’s right, Clint. You’re in a hotel in New York.”

New York, right. He was staying out the tower because he’d had a fight with Natasha. Phil had been staying with him.

“Sorry.”

“What are you sorry for?”

“Woke you up.” Clint muttered as he slowly uncurled himself. He couldn’t make himself move out of the corner.

“Trust me. I’ll be waking you up by the end of the week. You’re not the only one with nightmares, Clint.”

“Yeah.” He agreed, rubbing his arms.

“Are you cold? Do you want a blanket?”

“No, I’m good.” Clint said too fast, suddenly frantic for Phil not to move.

“Okay.” Phil said, watching as the panicked man slowly relaxed from his instinctive flinch. “Tell me what I can do to help, Clint.”

“Nothing, I’ll get over it. You can go back to sleep.” Clint said with a nod, tucking his face against his legs as he fought against the need to run.

“Talk to me, Clint. I need to know what’s going on so I can help.”

“Nothing helps.” Clint said, clutching at his arms hard enough to bruise. 

“Something has to. What do you normally do after a bad night?”

“Shoot. Run.”

“Would a run help?”

“I won’t stop if I start.” He said, another shiver wracking him while his mind chanted at him to move.

“What if someone went with you?”

“You can’t run.”

“No, but Steve can. Can I call him?”

“I… yeah.” Clint nodded, jerkily getting up and scooping up his hoodie from a chair and pulling it on while Phil was on the phone. Pulling on his shoes, Clint paced the small hall from the door and back, fingers clenched around the edge of his cuffs to keep them from shaking.

“Take your phone. Steve will find you. Be careful, Clint.”

Clint merely gave a shaky nod before snatching up his phone and bolting out of the room. It was pitch black outside and dark storm clouds filled the air with the taste of ozone. He forced everything out of the way except for his feet hitting the pavement. That was all that mattered. He ran.

A sudden crack of lightning snapped him out of his focus. He faltered as memories of gunshots and roadside bombs filled his ears. He leaned against a brick building for a moment as the rain hit, gasping. He had no idea how long he’d been running. Shaking the rain out of his eyes he started again, never seeing the lone figure with a backpack that was keeping pace with him half a block back. 

He finally staggered to a stop hours later, shivering and numb. Steve stopped a few feet away, watching as Clint caught his breath.

“Clint. I think it’s time for us to head back. Let me call you a cab.”

“Too wet for a cab.” He managed, forcing away memories that wanted to linger.

“I’ll make sure they take us.” Steve said in his Captain America voice already pulling out his phone.

Clint didn’t bother listening to the conversation. He had to be calling Tony. God, he owed so much to the millionaire already. The man refused to take any money for the rooms he gave them or the other small things like toiletries and food. The amount Clint owed him had to be staggering. Especially if you added in the equipment he was forever designing and giving to the team.

The cab pulled up and Clint patted for his wallet, letting Steve herd him into the car. He’d left his wallet in the hotel. That wasn’t right. He never went anywhere without cash.

“I need to pay.” Clint said with a frown.

“I’ve got this one, Clint.”

“Don’t like owing people.”

“Then you can get the next one.” Steve said easily, clearly dismissing the matter.

Clint frowned but stayed silent. He owed so many people right now. Stark, Steve, Natasha, Phil, the list went on and on. He doubted he could pay any of them back in a manner that they would take.

Natasha would never acknowledge the debt. She claimed that they had saved each other so many times now that the matter was null and void. She was trying to pay off the red in her ledger but said that his name was not listed. Neither of them owed the other anything. 

Steve gave freely of everything he had without a thought. The cons that Clint had known from his circus and merc years would have eaten him alive. At least until they let a hint of the rot behind their smiles show. Then Steve would do everything in his power to destroy them and take back what they had stolen from everyone but himself. He wondered how long it would take Steve to see the putrid color of Clint’s soul.

Tony had been abused and abandoned almost as much as Clint had. He trusted no one but had let the team live in his home and eat at his table. It made no sense. The man pushed everyone away, yet wanted a group of broken heroes to live with him. Clint had no idea what he could do to pay the man back. He didn’t need his money, time, nothing. Hell, he didn’t even need his aim with all of his computerized weapons.

Phil wanted things from him, things that Clint was no longer sure he could give. He was a broken thing and no one wanted that in their life. Tonight had proven that. Phil would let him buy coffees or take him out to lunch maybe but that would never be enough.

Clint crawled out of the cab once they reached the hotel and plodded his way to his room lost in thought. He could feel Steve’s eyes on him but he could not deal with the Captain right now. His mind was still stuck on repeat, negatives pressing on him from all sides.

The door was open for them when they reached it, Clint walked in only to freeze as he took in the rest of the room. Phil was fully dressed in his armor, his suit immaculate as always. The bed was turned down and a change of clothes was laid out for Clint, soft sleep clothes and a dry hoodie.

“Go take a shower, Clint. You need to warm up.” Phil said, standing and pushing a warm fluffy towel into his arms, a second towel tossed to Steve.

Right, he could do that. Clint realized belatedly that he was sopping wet and leaving a trail of puddles behind him on the carpet. He flinched slightly when Phil approached with a second towel. 

“What do you need, Clint?” Phil asked softly watching the shaking archer.

Clint mutely shook his head, forcing himself to move. He walked into the bathroom and shut the door behind him. He even got the shower running before his knees gave out and he crumpled to the ground.

Losing my Religion – Ch. 5

Ch. 5

Six weeks into his therapy Clint’s limp was virtually nonexistent unless he was utterly exhausted.  His days consisted of doing paperwork for Shield, rehab, and putting in a few hours at the range. It still left way too many hour in the day to be filled.

Now that he was off the pain medication he was barely sleeping at night. He had never been one to do extra work during his down time but with hours of free time he found himself plowing through his backlog of files and paperwork during the early morning hours.

Phil had raised an eyebrow the first time he came to drop off the large stack of paperwork to be filed. After three days of Clint coming in early to turn in something He’d insisted on taking Clint for coffee at a local shop around the corner. It quickly became their daily routine.

The fact was, Clint was faking at being okay so well that he was amazed no one had called him on it yet. Clint’s days were the same. Go to bed, wake up every two hours generally screaming until he finally gave up, normally around three am. Get up, showered and dressed. Gather the latest pile of missions to review and paperwork to work on and complete as much as possible.

At six am he forced himself to eat a yogurt or protein bar and went to the range. At nine am he would gather his things and the completed stack of work and head to Shield. At nine thirty he would drop the work with Phil at his desk and go to his rehab session, mostly just the guy watching while Clint exercised now.

After a quick lunch (occasionally with Natasha) he would pick up his latest stack of mission reports to assess and head back to the tower. Clint would work until dinner and then join the team for a meal and sometimes a movie. Rinse and repeat.

It got harder and harder for him to drag himself through the day as time went on. He knew he was depressed. Hell, he’d been tortured before, he knew how the mental fallout went but this was somehow different. He’d had a part of himself carve out and tossed away like trash. He had been forced to watch as his testicles were removed and smeared against one cheek before being tossed away to rot against a wall of his cell.

He was broken in some way, no longer even male. The doctors had offered reconstructive surgery but he’d refused. Having fake pieces of plastic in place of his balls had to be a hazard in the field, like having breast implants. No body modification was allowed on agents that went on covert solo missions, nothing more than basic pierced ears and those were frowned upon for males.

Natasha seemed determined to make his life a living hell. She had decided he was down because he needed to get laid. She started trying to set him up with everyone from fellow Shield agents to random strangers she met when out for drinks. It was making him crazy.

The final string holding him back from decking her broke when they were watching a movie with the team and he got a call on his cell. He moved away to answer it, not recognizing the number. He ignored the way Natasha was watching him since both of them rarely got unknown callers. You never know, it might be a death threat. Sadly that was not his luck.

“Hello.”

“Yes, this is Clint.”

“Yes, Natasha is a friend.”

“I’m sorry but I am not looking to date right now.”

“Yeah.” He muttered between his teeth hanging up.

He gripped his phone hard, fighting with his temper. He forced himself to breath normally as he glanced back at Natasha. Her face was blank but she had to know that she had pissed him off. Of course, Tony had to totally miss the tense atmosphere.

“So…you leaving us for a hot date, Katniss?”

“No, I’m not.” Clint bit out, stalking over to Natasha. “Here, keep it. I’ll get a new one.” He dropped his phone into her lap and went to the kitchen. He leaned against the counter gripping the edge until his hands burned from the strain. He ignored the low murmur of conversation behind him. Somewhere in the background he heard the elevator ping but ignored it as Natasha stepped up behind him, setting his phone on the counter.

“I just want to see you happy.” she said softly.

“Well, stop. I don’t want to date. I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not. You need to get out more.”

“I don’t need to date to do that, Tasha!”

“You need someone. You’re no good alone, Clint.”

“Maybe I’m not but I don’t need this either. Stop fucking trying to set me up with everyone! No one wants to sleep with a guy that’s more scars than skin, Tasha. No one!”

“That’s no reason not to try. You don’t know how they will react!”

“And you thought a hairdresser would react well?” He yelled, shoving the phone away from him to crash into the floor.

“She was nice and calm. You need someone like that.”

“Leave it alone, Natasha. Leave me alone.”

Clint pushed past where Phil was frozen next to the elevator and hit the button for the garage. He ignored the bikes and cars waiting and strode out into the night. He would not put it past Tony to have all his vehicles tagged with unjammable tracers. He might as well find a hotel somewhere for the night at least than he might have a chance of anyone breaking in, avenger or not. He had a safe house or two he could use but Natasha probably knew about them.

He deliberately went one eighty from his normal haunts. He ignored the standard “be ordinary” routine that Phil would have used and instead took a page from Tony’s playbook. The bigger the better. He caught a cab to a high end hotel and got a room that was more of a suite for the night.

He used one of his lesser known aliases, signing the bills as Aaron Hunter. Normally when he played Aaron he was gregarious and openly flirted with everyone around him but he could not make himself put forth the effort tonight. Clint curled on a bed that was damn close to those at the tower and stared at the walls until morning. Who would want him like this?

He called down to the desk for room service and on a whim extended his stay for the next week. He knew he would have to go back eventually but for now he could use some of the off time that Shield was always ragging him about. He used the rest of the morning to get his affairs in order with Shield.

With the entire weekend and another seven days laid out before him with no plans he decided to treat it like a mission. He made a to do list like he had been forced to abandon a safe house and went shopping. He had no intention of going back to the tower unless he was forced.

He decided to ignore the prices and just treat himself for once. He bought new suits and had them tailored. He picked up high end casual clothing and a new leather jacket. He also got a new laptop and ereader, loading all the Shield firewalls and encryption software he could before he started working.

He rarely had a dedicated span of time to work on new skills unless it was in classes with Shield for a mission. It was hard to live in a house full of computer geeks and not want to know more. He had basic training on how to code and use the various programs that Shield provided but he never had time to really work at his coding and try to improve.

He spent his mornings at the hotel gym working out, getting lunch somewhere out in the city before heading back to his room to spend the night reading or coding. He slowly started sleeping better as he treated his time away more like a vacation. He still went through his days feeling hollow and exhausted but he could finally relax a small fraction without the eyes of Shield and the team on him twenty four seven.

He picked up a new phone and sent the number to Shield but so far no one had called or tried to contact him. He should have realized that they were merely waiting when Phil turned up at the restaurant where he was treating himself for completing his latest program.

“I’ve never actually eaten here.” Phil confided once the waiter had taken his order.

“Me either.”

“Are you celebrating something?” Phil asked, eying the chocolate mousse that Clint was savoring across the table.

“Personal accomplishment.” Clint said, eating another spoonful with a smirk.

“Does the class get to know?” Phil asked with a smirk, sipping at his glass of wine.

“The team? No.” Clint said with finality. They fell silent as Phil’s dinner was served. Clint ignored the fact that it was identical to what he had ordered if you discounted the alcohol. Phil had always been a bit of a wine snob.

“I didn’t mean the team. I meant me.” Phil said as he cut into his steak.

“In a non-Shield capacity?”

“Completely off the record.” He said, turning his full attention to Clint.

“I taught myself how to code and built a virus to attack Stark. If we’re lucky, by this time tomorrow he’ll be in Japan.” Phil blinked for a moment as he decided that Clint was telling the truth.

“Is he supposed to be in Japan?”

“Nope, but his appointment book thinks that he is.”

“Very nice. Remind me never to piss you off.”

“I don’t think you ever have, Phil. You’re too badass for that.” He said with a grin, making Phil snort.

“How long does this virus last exactly?”

“The rest of the week if he doesn’t catch on.”

“And he’ll be running back and forth around the globe the entire time?”

“Yep.”

“Nice,” Phil said with a small smirk of his own. “I might have to hire you the next time he tries to duck out of his meetings with Shield.”

“Sadly, I doubt it would work twice.”

“Pity.”

“Yeah.” Clint said with a small laugh. That made him stop short, he could not remember the last time he’d laughed and actually meant it.

“Well, I don’t normally condone sabotage but I’m glad you are feeling better.”

“Was it that obvious?”

“That you were unhappy? No, I don’t think the team noticed but Natasha and I know you better than they do.” Phil said with a sigh, taking a sip of his wine. “Natasha meant well.”

“I know she did.” Clint huffed, pushing the last of his dessert away. “I’m just not sure even before the torture I would have been okay with it.”

“You generally date fairly consistently.”

“She was right, kind of. I don’t do well alone. I never have.”

“That’s not something to be ashamed of. Some people just do better when they’re in a relationship.” Phil pointed out. “So you’re taking dating off the table for good or…?”

“Not for good. I just need to get my head back on straight first.” Clint said with a sigh, fiddling with a spoon. “I don’t want someone to have to deal with all my issues right now.”

“Fair enough.”

“I did have a question for you, actually. I can’t find something in any of the Shield manuals.”

“And since I’m the Shield designated robot, I might know where it could be found?”

“Only the baby agents call you that. Everyone else has realized what a bad ass you are.”

“Ask away.”

“I can’t find a policy on having cosmetic implants and working deep cover missions.”

“Well, generally any non-medically necessitated implant is considered against protocol. I would have to look up the exact policy to see if it lists specifics. What were you wondering about?”

“I mean…like if someone had breast cancer and had to have implants as part of reconstruction. Would they be banned from certain missions?”

“I can only think of one or two similar instances and they were dealt with on a case by case basis.”

“So they would have to inform their handler?”

“I would imagine so…are you considering getting some work done?” Phil asked with a slight smirk making Clint snort. He could just imagine having that conversation with Sitwell, the man’s head might explode.

“Nah, nothing like that. Just wondering is all.” Clint said waving for the waiter and ordering a coffee. “So tell me, how’s the rest of the team handling things?”

“About how you would expect.” Phil said, swirling his wine, “Tony was locked in his lab for a few days before he had to leave on a business trip for Stark Industries.” He said with a low laugh. “Bruce has been in and out of the lab. Steve’s floating between the gym and sitting in the lab with Bruce sketching. Thor is back in Asgard for the foreseeable future.”

“So we’ll see him next week.”

“Probably.” Phil agreed, “Natasha went on a mission two days ago and will be back on Saturday. She asked me to make sure you were informed.”

“Sounds like a normal week for everyone.” Clint said, trying to ignore that he felt slightly put down that his leaving the tower had not affected the team in some way.

“From the outside, yes. However, the team is rather openly missing their archer.” Phil said, watching the man next to him with a carefully blank expression.

“Yeah, right.” Clint said with a frown, taking another small bite of his dessert before pushing it away.

“Natasha has been sleeping on your floor. Steve has started insisting on team dinners every night.”

“They both do that anyway, Phil.” Clint interrupted, fiddling with his butter knife as his agitation grew.

“Movie night has been suspended until you can attend.”

“Seriously?”

“The team has decided to never hold them if someone from the team is on a mission or out of the tower.”

“They didn’t hold it last time Steve was in Washington.” Clint pointed out with a huff.

“It wasn’t his turn to pick a movie. It’s your turn this week.”

“You’re kidding.” Clint said, looking for the few tells Phil tended to display. All he could see was how worn the man across from him looked, along with a slight hint of amusement.

“I had to sit and listen to Steve’s rather earnest explanations for almost an hour.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Possibly, or they could just be expressing how much they miss you.”

“They’re nuts. I just needed some time away.” Clint insisted moodily.

“And the team will be waiting for you when you get back.” Phil said simply, gesturing for the waiter to take his plate. “When are you planning to come back?”

“This weekend. I have the room until Sunday.”

“Must be nice, Shield would never spring for it.”

“You should come up. Have a drink before you head back.” Clint said, paying the bill in cash and leaving a good tip.

“Why not.” Phil said with a small laugh, finishing the dregs of his wine. “I have the rest of the week off to ‘convince the idiot to come back’ per Stark.”

“He’s paying you to talk to me?” Clint asked, raising an eyebrow in disbelief. Shield was known for their tight purse strings. If Phil was on a paid vacation then someone had coughed up some major favors.

“I was busy with several time sensitive missions.” Phil said with a shrug, “Stark was able to convince Fury to loan me out until you were back on the team. Director Fury gave it a week deadline.”

“So Fury let Stark con him into giving you an expenses paid vacation?”

“Yep.”

“Oh, that is perfect. That’s almost better than my virus.” Clint said, with a grin.

“Yes, Stark’s having a bad week.” Phil agreed, pushing back from the table and gesturing for Clint to lead the way.

Back at the hotel Clint poured out two whiskeys and turned on one of the cooking reality shows that they both enjoyed. They lay on separate sides of the large bed and heckled the TV for a few hours before Clint drifted off to sleep listening to Phil berate the latest Iron Chef challenger.

***

Phil turned the TV and lights down once Clint fell asleep. He settled back with a book on his phone yet spent most of the time considering his sleeping agent. Clint still looked exhausted and worn too thin compared to before this last mission. Lines of tension and pain smoothed out in sleep at least, leaving the man looking years younger.

Several hours later Phil snapped awake. Clint twitched and shifted in his sleep, soft slurred words and sounds too mangled to decipher getting lost in the sheets. Phil tried to stay still, dozing. He might as well let Clint sleep as long as he could. He doubted it would be long with how the man was moving.

After barely two hours of uneasy sleep, Clint bolted upright, scrambling out of the bed and falling to his knees before he froze. He knelt there shivering, eyes unseeing. Phil watched for a moment waiting to see he would wake on his own.

“Clint?” Phil called softly, hoping not to startle him.

The pale archer blinked at him blankly for a moment before throwing himself toward the bathroom. Phil winced as the sounds of Clint being violently ill filtered past the door. He raided the small fridge and was glad to see several ginger ales waiting.

“What are your plans for today?” Phil asked once Clint came back out, handing him a ginger ale.

“Didn’t really have any.” Clint said, looking like he was forcing himself to take small sips of the soda. “I normally work out in the morning before getting cleaned up and heading into the city for a few hours. Then I come back and study or code for a while.”

“Sounds like a plan. Let me borrow some sweats. I’ll run out to pick up some clothes after we exercise and we can do lunch together if you like.”

“That might be good.” Clint said slowly, watching from the edge of the bed as Phil searched through the dresser for some exercise clothes and disappeared into the bathroom.

           Tugging at his sweat soaked t-shirt, Clint dug out an outfit of his own and quickly changed. He felt shell shocked or drugged. The last thing he had expected was for Phil to spend the night with him. Well, some of the night. It was still early morning so he had at least gotten a few hours’ sleep before the nightmares hit.

           Phil stepped out of the bathroom a moment later and they headed down to the hotel gym. They lifted weights for the first hour before each claiming a treadmill. Phil was still recovering from having his chest bisected so he mostly walked. Even with the advanced healing factors and nanotechnology Shield used he still had diminished lung capacity and scar tissue to deal with.

           Clint watched Phil out of the corner of his eye but kept his pace steady. More than one Shield agent had snarked about the short archer needing an assist when they had to hoof it to a distant location. Clint enjoyed leaving them in the dust, several miles later. He might have a short stride but he could hold an easy, ground eating pace all day if he had to.

           Clint limited himself to what Natasha would have called a light workout before heading back upstairs to get cleaned up. Phil simply changed back into his suit before going back to the tower to pack, catching the key card Clint tossed him without a word. Once he was showered and changed, Clint settled back onto into the sitting room area with a book and waited for Phil to return.

           He was still surprised that he had slept as well as he had. He hadn’t managed more than two hours at a time since before Loki, yet sleeping beside Phil he had slept almost four. He was not sure how he felt about Phil trying to push his way back into his life just as he managed to get everyone at a safe distance.

“Two questions for you.” Phil said as he came in, setting a bag to one side.

“Shoot.” Clint said setting his book onto the bedside table and letting his eyes roam over the other man. Phil had showered and changed into a fresh suit, Clint noted, eyes taking in the slight variations in color the shirt and tie. He wondered in most of Shield realized that Coulson spent most of his salary on tailored suits and ties? He doubted most of them noticed.

“Do you mind sharing a bed or do I need to find a room somewhere else?”

“I don’t mind you staying but you’ll have to deal with me being up half the night.”

“Never stopped us before during ops.”

“Yeah.” Clint agreed with a sigh, “What was your second question?”

“Dive bar with the best pie on this side of town or steak house with every beer I’ve ever heard of?”

“Hard choice.”

“Exactly, however we do have the rest of the week to try both.”

“Planning to stay a few days?” Clint asked with a smirk.

“Only if you want me to. I thought you might want some company.”

“You can stay tonight.” Clint decided, scrubbing a hand through his hair. “We can do a day by day thing.”

“Sounds good. I’ll probably have to field some Shield work anyway.”

“Yeah, you think dying on them would have made them learn to work without you.”

“Probably why I didn’t stay dead long. I knew they couldn’t survive without me.” Phil said with a small sad smile.

***

           Clint picked at the salmon he had ordered while Phil slowly put away his steak. The steakhouse was quiet for the early lunch time but Clint thought he might like the place if he was not so unsettled. Both men seemed disinclined to talk and Clint was happy to let his mind wander as the silence lengthened. He was still unsettled from his nightmares the night before. It was pretty much guaranteed that he would have more tonight and he was not sure he wanted Phil seeing him like that. They had soothed each other through nightmares before but somehow this felt different.

           They rarely interacted outside of work or medical. Sure they were friends and would do lunch on occasion but most of their interactions were based on Shield and missions. Clint would hang out with Phil while they both worked on paperwork or bring him lunch or coffee when he knew he was having to stay late for some cluster fuck.

           Even when on missions with Natasha they rarely hung out together much. Generally they would sleep in shifts to keep watch. Clint spent most of his time outside the safe house scouting or in a sniper’s nest. Contrary to Shield rumors he generally was silent on the coms, only really snarking on the coms in the heat of a battle. If they really had a slow mission with lots of downtime they might play cards or curl in separate corners to read but that was about it.

           Now all of a sudden Phil was trying to spend time outside of Shield with him. Ever since this last cluster fuck of a mission they had been talking more and spending time watching bad television together. Clint has had a crush on the other man for years and managed to keep things professional between them. Of course, as soon as he never wants to consider having sex again Phil seems to be asking for more.

“So, are you abandoning Shield for the week or do you have to go back in at some point?” Clint asked trying to break the silence.

“I have to go in tomorrow for a meeting but that’s the only one I have to attend.” Phil said, taking a sip of his water.

“So you’re just going to hang out with me for the rest of the week? Sure you don’t have better things to do?”

“HR has been bugging me for years to take a vacation. They can’t complain that I’m using my time now. Anyway, I want to see what your next revenge against Stark is going to be.” Phil said with a smirk.

“It’s only Tuesday. You’re going to get bored.” Clint pointed out, taking a bite of his salad to cover the frown he was fighting.

“I have a massive stack of books I have been meaning to read.” Phil said, pushing the last few bites of his meal around the plate. “I don’t have to tag along if you want some time alone or I can get a separate room.”

“I just don’t want to keep you if you have things to do.”

“Clint, my week is free. I don’t have anything beyond a meeting tomorrow morning. Whatever you want to do is fine with me.”

“Even if I plan to go to the aquarium and stare at the fish for hours?”

“Sounds fun. When are we going?”

“Tomorrow after lunch.” Clint said with a small grin. “You’re sure you don’t mind?”

“I’m on vacation, Clint. I’m completely open to suggestions at this point.” Phil said waving down the waiter and asking for the check.

“Fair enough. Let me know if you think of something you want to do, okay?”

“I will. What are your plans for the rest of today?”

“I wanted to go back and code for a bit, maybe go for a run after dinner.”

“Sounds good.” Phil agreed with a smile. “I do want to warn you, I’m pretty sure Tony managed to track you down so I wouldn’t put it past some of the team to show up.”

“Wonderful.”

“I told them to keep their distance until you approached them.”

“But when has any of our team been able to follow the rules.”

“Exactly.”

           Phil insisted on paying for the meal before they caught a cab back to the hotel. Clint just shook his head as a cab magically appeared at the curb as they exited the building. Phil held the door open with a small flourish make Clint laugh.

“I’m starting to think you’re misusing Shield gadgets, Phil.” Clint said with a small laugh as he climbed in.

“So you don’t suspect me of misusing Shield funding?”

“Nah, more like you have a genial group of cab drivers who all feel like they owe you. Planning on buying an invisible hotel next, Lamont?”

“Only if you’ll come to visit, Margot.”

“You’re such a geek.”

“This from a man quoting the Shadow.” Phil said with a smirk, giving the cab driver the address and sitting back with a grin.

Losing my Religion – Ch. 4

Ch. 4

Clint woke with a gasp, his muscles protesting his tightly coiled position. He lay there curled in a tight ball, shivering in reaction. He was at the tower, he was safe. Clint reached down to cup himself with a small shudder, trying to ignore the missing press of his balls against one leg. Trying to ignore the catch of the criss crossed scars against his skin. With a curse he forced himself up and moving, rubbing at his face to remove any trace of tears.

He hadn’t lost a limb. He could still work. That would have to be enough. It wasn’t like it was a life changing injury. He limped his way into the shower and groaned as the hot water started loosening his aching muscles. He got dressed in workout clothes and grabbed his crutches. It was going to be a long day, he had not even started his rehab for the day and he already hurt.

Clint ignored where Natasha and Phil were already in his kitchen drinking coffee. Phil had a stack of folders set to one side while he worked on his tablet. Gathering a yogurt and protein drink Clint settled in to bask in the comfortable silence.

“Are you heading into Shield? Can I get a ride?” he asked once Phil started to gather his things.

“Of course. Meet me at the parking garage in five.”

“Thanks, Phil.” Clint went to his room to get his shoes while Natasha trailed behind him sipping her coffee.

“Do you need help?”

“Nah, I’m good.” Clint grunted as he forced his feet into his beat up Chucks and snagged a messenger bag which he quickly stuffed with his tablet, phone, wallet, and physio papers.

“The team mentioned doing another movie night if you are interested. Tony’s planning to order pizza from that place you like in Brooklyn.”

“That’s the place Steve likes.” Clint pointed out with a grin as he hit the button for the elevator. “What are your plans for the day?”

“I have meetings at Shield after lunch. I thought I would tag along to your PT session and have lunch with you before I have to spend the rest of the day with Woo.”

“Sounds good.” Clint agreed as they made their way to the waiting car, Phil already in the driver’s seat.

“Coming along, Natasha?” Phil asked, watching in the rear view mirror as Clint eased himself into the backseat.

“Someone needs to keep our Hawk out of trouble.”

“Just for that you’re buying lunch.” Clint muttered, pulling out his phone and adding a note to his growing to do list.

***

“You’re pushing yourself too hard.” Natasha said watching as Clint eased himself into the passenger seat for the drive home.

“No pain, no gain, and all that.”

“The therapist changed your schedule.”

“Caught that did you?”

“What are your plans for tomorrow if you don’t have PT?”

“The range.”

“For how long?”

“A few hours. I need to get my arms back in shape too, Tasha. You know the drill.”

“You’re still pushing it too fast. You’re going to injure yourself if you keep going like today.”

           Clint snorted but didn’t disagree. The physical therapist had been pissed when he insisted on doubling his exercise reps for the session. He was fairly certain that the guy had been expecting him to collapse or need a wheelchair at the end of it. He might have felt like a limp noodle at the end but he walked out of the gym and out of Shield with only the limp he had come in with. After climbing skyscrapers with broken bones, PT was easy to push through.

           Once they arrived at the tower, Clint did his best to ignore the glares that Natasha was sending his way as he headed to the shower. Frankly he was surprised she did not join him in the shower so that she could see just how healed he was herself. The lack of the clothes that he had left however was glaring. The terry cloth robe was missing as well.

“Tasha, bring back my clothes.” He snapped, fighting with his temper.

“Come out and get them.”

“I’m really not in the mood to play with you, Tasha.”

“Then stop playing.”

           Clint stomped out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his hips. He ignored where Natasha was seated on the bed and proceeded to lock himself into the closet/panic room that each floor had. He limped out once he was dressed and pulled on a hoodie before gathering his bag and crutches.

“Where are you going?”

“Out.”

“You aren’t supposed to be walking this much.”

“I’ll get a cab.”

“Clint.”

“What, Nat? I can’t let you memorize every inch of me right now. I’m sorry but I can’t.”

“I just want to know that my partner is okay.”

“Yeah, well I’m not.” Clint snapped, rubbing a hand across his face. “Not right now. Just give it some time, Nat. Give me some time.”

“Alright, Clint.”

“Jarvis, can you call me a cab?”

“Of course, Agent Barton.”

“Thanks.”

“Where are you going?”

“Just a bookstore with a coffee shop or something. I just need to get out a bit.” He said tiredly, giving her a faint smile to show that she was forgiven.

           He really wasn’t that surprised when Phil sat down at the table with a large coffee and a scone several hours later. Clint simply set his book to the side and took a sip of his tea while Phil split the scone and slid half across the table on a napkin.

“Thank you.”

“You know running from Natasha is never the healthiest thing a man can do.”

“She sic you on me?”

“She’s spent the last four hours in the gym on level two taking on every rookie who’s looking to say he’s taken down the Black Widow.”

“How many are in the hospital?”

“Two, however one called her a bitch and the other laughed.”

“Serves them right.”

“The team wants to know what time to start movie night.”

“We normally do them after dinner. I figured I would head back around seven.”

“Were you planning to have dinner?”

“Does half a scone count?”

“No.” Phil said brushing the crumbs off his sleeve and gesturing for Clint to finish up.

           Clint gathered up his bag and stuffed his new books into his messenger bag before hobbling after his handler. By the time he reached the street Phil already had a cab waiting since he was BAMF like that. He hauled himself into the cab with a grunt leaving his crutches for Phil to slid in as he shut the door. Phil must have already given the address since the cab set off without a word.

           He settled back, turning away from the window slightly so that he could keep Phil in his peripheral vision. They had always worked well together, Clint mused. Phil was willing to sit in silence as easily as he was able to let his dry sarcastic wit out when Clint was snarking over the coms.

“Hope you’re up for steak.”

“Always.” Clint said giving Phil a tired grin.

           The meal was nice with them comparing the fall out of old missions, favorite meals and restaurants, and lamenting the lack of time to research good local bands. It was a great end to a long day but Clint was exhausted and soon all the coffee in the world could not stop his yawns. Phil waved over the waitress and paid the bill, snagging Clint’s messenger bag before he could get his crutches to cooperate.

“I’m not a total cripple.”

“You’ve carried me out of enemy territory twice, Clint. Let me carry your damn bag.”

“Fine.” Clint huffed as he limped his way up to Phil’s magically appearing cab. “How the hell do you do that anyway?”

“Do what?”

“Finding a cab with in three seconds of hitting the street? No one gets a cab that fast in New York.”

“Practice.”

           Clint merely grunted and sat back trying to ignore the pain that was starting to pulse along his groin and abdomen. Phil was silent as he followed him to the tower elevator. Natasha was waiting for them when they got off on Clint’s floor.

“You pushed it too far, Clint.” she chided, helping him take off his boots while Phil sat his bags to one side.

“Can you get my pills?” He asked, voice cracking as he gingerly peeled out of his hoodie and Henley. He blinked dazedly when she dropped several pills into one of his hands and produced a water bottle from thin air. “I’m not drunk enough for the magic tricks, Nat.”

“I hope Phil knew better than to get you drunk right now.”

“Baked potatoes, Nat. It was awesome.” Clint said, handing back the water bottle and laying back with a groan.

“Pants.”

“In a minute.”

“You’re going to be out in a minute. Now.”

“Bossy.” he slurred at he even as he let her help him out of the loose slacks he was wearing.

He was already drifting as she smoothed a hand through his hair. He missed Phil and Natasha eyeing the thick red scars that extended from under his boxers, cross hatching his stomach and waist line and running thin puffy pink lines down to his knees. The worst visible was a thick divot that scrawled an angry raised line along his right leg.

“We should have been there.” Natasha said, gently pulling the blankets up to cover her partner.

“Nothing we can do about it now, Natasha.” Phil said, his mask slotting back into place. “We give him what we can and watch his back.”

“Always.”

Phil gave a firm nod of agreement before turning and heading down to his own floor to get cleaned up. Someone needed to inform the rest of the avengers that the archer would be missing movie night, after all.

Losing my Religion – Ch. 3

Ch. 3

           The next time Clint managed to pull himself back from the haze of exhaustion and medications Natasha was reading a book in one corner while Coulson worked on paperwork in the chair next to the bed. He watched them for a few moments before Natasha glanced up and noticed his gaze.

“Welcome back, Hawk.”

“Tasha.” Clint rasped, humming gratefully as Phil brought a cup forward to let him sip cool water from the straw.

“Sorry we missed you earlier, Barton. I understand the Director gave you the pass code?”

“Yeah.” Clint said with a small cough. “Orange slime monsters were fun?”

“Wonderful, Tony and Bruce are sequestered analyzing everything and Steve is helping scrape the dried gel off the quinjet. Apparently it turns to the consistency of concrete when dry.”

“Stark’s new insulation.”

“Probably.” Phil agreed with a sigh. “Do you need anything?”

“Nah.”

“Hungry?”

“No, thirsty a bit.”

“Think you’re stuck with water for a while. The doctor said you might need another surgery in a day or two.” Phil said as he let Clint drain the small cup. Clint hummed sleepily in reply, the pain medications already pulling him back under.

“Go to sleep, Hawk. We’ll keep watch.”

“Thanks, Nat.”

***

Over the next three weeks Clint had two more surgeries before he was declared fit to be discharged to the tower. Everyone was surprised by how docile the archer was being. It had taken Tony nearly resorting to kidnapping before he agreed to leave the medical ward. Clint hobbled off the elevator on his crutches and limped his way to the couch on the common floor. Just making his way from the car to the elevator had left him pale and sweating with pain.

Most of the team hovered in the background unsure of how to help. Clint had never been one to ask for help and thankfully none of the team was pushing him to accept it yet. Coulson nudged Steve and Bruce toward the kitchen for snacks while he took Clint’s bag up to his room.

Natasha watched him as he slowly lowered himself onto the couch. He had refused to have any of them in the room when his bandages were being changed, something he’d never done before. Clint had never been body shy before and it was making Natasha unsure of how to treat him. He normally craved touch after a trauma but he was shying away from her, keeping everyone at arm’s length.

She followed him into the room and handed him the two pain pills that Phil had given her when he got out of the car. He took them and dry swallowed them without complaint as she took a seat to one side. She ignored the twitch of one arm that instinctively went to protect his injured stomach.

“So, Hawkass. What do you want for dinner?” Tony asked pulling up a list of movies on the TV.

“Doesn’t matter as long as it’s not hospital food.” Clint muttered.

“You’re not craving anything?” Bruce pressed gently as he handed out drinks. “Tea, soda, or water?”

“Water’s fine.” Clint said accepting a bottle. “I really don’t care. Pick what you want.”

           They wound up ordering Chinese food. Phil joined them for a plate of Mushu Pork before he headed up to his own floor. Clint frowned slightly when he left but made no comment. He nibbled at a container of fried rice before struggling to his feet and heading to his own bed to a chorus of goodnights from the rest of the team. Natasha followed behind him, restraining herself from commenting on how little he ate.

“When did Phil move to the tower?” Clint asked once they were in the elevator.

“He stayed over while we were looking for you and moved in officially once you were in the hospital.”

           Clint grunted in reply, levering himself out of the elevator and to his room. He disappeared into the bathroom with a change of clothes while Natasha settled on his bed to wait.

“No shower?”

“I’ll do it in the morning.” he muttered, tugging down the blankets and sitting down with a poorly hidden wince. “You staying?” he asked taking in the pajamas she had changed into.

“Do you want me to?”

“Long as you keep your hands to yourself.” He said with a weak leer.

“Whatever you need.” Clint gave a small huff at that and got into bed, laying on his back.

“You never sleep on your back.” She pointed out softly, they had argued about it enough on various ops.

“Hurts too much on my stomach. The drugs will knock me out anyway.”

“Always the light weight.” she murmured, curling up on her side of the bed. “Clint?”

“Um-hum.”

“Why are your medical records sealed?”

“They sealed them after Loki, Nat. Can we save the strip search till after I sleep?”

“You never cared before.”

“I’m just tired, Nat. We can compare scars later.”

“Alright but you know Coulson won’t drop it.”

“Coulson probably has access to my records, Nat.”

“No, he doesn’t.”

“Whatever. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Hawk.”

***

           The next morning most of the team is in Clint’s kitchen making him a welcome back breakfast. Well, Steve and Bruce were cooking. Thor and Tony mostly watched from the side lines and gave what they thought was helpful advice. Clint limped his way into the room, glancing at the crowd before taking a seat at the bar with a small wince.

“Natasha out?” Clint asked.

“She’s helping Coulson with something at Shield. They said they would be back for dinner.” Thor said, his eyes intent on the cooking.

“Okay, thanks.”

“No problem, Legolas. What do you want for breakfast? Bruce and Steve are making bacon and eggs. Bruce thought waffles might be too heavy for your stomach.”

“Yeah, I don’t do well with a lot of food and pain meds. I’ll take toast and some eggs.”

“Just in time for the first plate.” Bruce said sliding a small plate in front of Clint. “Sure you don’t want more?”

“Not unless you guys want to deal with me throwing up for the rest of the day.” He said with a sigh starting to nibble at his dry toast.

“Orange juice or coffee?” Steve asked as he handed a heaping platter to Thor and another small plate to Tony.

“Water, if you don’t mind.”

“No problem.” Steve said filling a glass and handing across before he started running water for the dishes.

“You’re not going to eat, Steve?”

“No, sorry. I ate earlier after my run.” That made Clint blink and check the time, nine in the morning.

“Guess I did sleep in a bit.”

“Well don’t get used to the room service, Katniss. Tomorrow you’re on your own.”

“I’m sure I’ll survive, Stark.” Clint snarked back, finishing off his eggs and easing off the stool to hand his dishes to Steve. “Thanks for the meal.”

“Do you have plans for the day, Eye of the Hawk?” Thor asked.

“Beyond watching movies and trying not to fall asleep?”

“Sounds like a plan. Jarvis, pull us up a list of movies that the Hawk would like.” Tony said with a grin.

           Clint watched as Thor and Tony sprawled across the couch in his den as the large TV screen filled one wall. He shuffled his way back to his room for a shower. Snagging his crutches once he was clean and mostly dressed he hobbled his way into the den.

“Bruce can you help me with this stupid tape?”

“Sure.” Bruce agreed moving to help the archer bandage several of the still raw looking wounds.

           Clint did his best to ignore the weighted gazes of his team. He was sitting at the bar, bare chested, his wounds on full display. Only the waist of his slacks stopping them from seeing every inch of his injuries.

“I have to ask, Katniss. Is the limp from the leg injury or the abdominal issues?”

“Tony!”

“What? You want to know too!”

“Its fine, Steve. You guys might as well get used to seeing it. The docs want me leaving the wounds open to air as much as possible.”

“So…”

“Yes, Tony. The limp is from the deep cut I had on my right leg.” Clint said trying to not let his exasperation color his voice. “The docs think I’ll get full mobility back in a few weeks. I have to go to rehab tomorrow so they can assess it again.”

           Clint tugged on a loose tee shirt and settled into the unoccupied lounger. They spent the rest of the day watching movies while Clint dozed or fiddled with his tablet. He hoped the team could come to terms with him being out for a while.

The physicians were adamant that he not strain the healing abdominal tissues unless he wanted to deal with his intestines suddenly being on the outside. He was thankful when Coulson and Natasha arrived and shooed away the team so the three of them could have a quiet dinner before Clint retired for the night. He needed some quiet time after a day full of Tony and Thor.

Losing my Religion – Ch. 2

Ch. 2

Clint surfaced and slid back into a drugged sleep several times before he was able to keep his eyes open for more than a few seconds. He finally woke and stayed that way as a nurse was changing one of the IV bags. She bustled out and moments later a barrage of doctors descended. They at least put in his hearing aids which helped.

He waited through the poking and prodding, silent. He ignored the questions they asked as they checked his bandages and explained his injuries. Phil was supposed to be here. They had a system thanks to a kidnapping that had kept him drugged while trying to fake him being in Shield medical.

Phil or Natasha were supposed to be here. They were supposed to give him their codes before he escaped medical on principle. A few escapes had led to the rumor around Shield that Clint hated Medical but the problem was that he could not relax until he was sure it was real. The last thing he was expecting was for Director Fury to sweep into his room with a scowl.

“I don’t have time for your PTSD moments, Agent.” He snapped, coming to a stop a few feet away from the bed. “What do you need, Agent Barton? I don’t have all day.”

“Authorization code, sir.” Clint said, voice rough. If someone was faking at being the Director they were doing a hell of a job.

“And Agent Coulson would have this code?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I need you to give me some time, Agent. The Avengers are currently protecting Chicago from orange slime monsters. Agent Coulson is with them dealing with the ground crews.”

Clint gave a short nod and sank back into his pillows. He wasn’t sure he could escape anyway. The doctors had put in an epidural and he was numb from the waist down. Fury eyed him with a frown before sweeping back out.

Clint fought to stay awake as a nurse came back in and turned on the TV, showing the news broadcast of the team fighting slime monsters. She offered to give him a bolus of pain medication before she changed his dressings but he refused. He needed to stay awake until he received the code. He watched as she cleaned and bandaged his body from just below his ribs to his knees. The wounds were a criss crossing mass of swollen red flesh and stitches.

“You were lucky not to need skin grafts.” She murmured as she pulled his blankets back up and cleaned up the soiled bandages.

Lucky; right. He had lost about six inches of intestine and had most of his groin and thighs mutilated. He’d almost bleed to death before he was found, another thirty minutes or so and the team would have been body bagging him. He was going to have months of rehabilitation just to get back to sparring practice, much less missions. He was going to be on desk duty for at least a year until the doctors were certain he would not be spilling his intestines across the mats.

Fury came back in as the cleanup of the fight was being announced. Clint watched as the doctor stopped him for a moment. Probably making sure that the Director knew that he was refusing additional pain meds.

“Agent Barton.”

“Sir.” Clint said, his voice thick with exhaustion.

“Bravo Uniform Delta Delta Hotel Alpha.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Take your damn pain meds, Agent.” Fury said gesturing for the nurse to proceed.

“Yes, sir.” Clint agreed, his voice already slurring as he stopped fighting the darkness edging his vision. He watched as the nurse adjusted the pain pump before letting the wash of drug pull him under.

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