Clint was pretty sure everyone thought he was dead and no one was coming for him. He’d been pretty out of it at the time, but he remembered one asshole digging around in his back to remove his tracker (He had an infection now, too, because of that and what all else had been done to him. Fuckers.), and his dog tags were missing. Phil already had his ring, like he always did when Hawkeye was on a mission, but yeah, for all intents and purposes: Clint Barton was dead.
If he weren’t in so much fucking pain right now he even might believe it.
He’d lost track of the days a few weeks, or maybe it was months, ago. It was only his own bullheaded stubbornness that was keeping him from completely forgetting who he was. Well, stubbornness and the near silent mantra of, “My name is Clint Barton. Codename: Hawkeye.”, he chanted nearly non-stop now.
His jailers weren’t even trying to get information out of him anymore. He smiled grimly at that thought, well, as much as he could smile with a dislocated jaw. Phil would be so proud of him. The most he’d given up in all the time he’d been there were the locations of a few safe houses that were already blown and no longer in use by SHIELD. It meant squat and his captors knew it. They’d done everything they could think of to break him and they’d failed. Mostly. He’d been close to caving a couple of times, but his mental picture of Phil always managed to pull him back. He wasn’t going to disappoint his partner, even if Phil never knew that he held strong. It was the thought that counted.
Now the assholes had left him to die for real. If all of his fingers weren’t broken he’d happily flip ‘em all a double bird.
Clint’s body was wracked with another round of convulsive shivers as it futilely tried to fight the infection and fever raging through him. He whimpered in pain as the shaking shifted his various broken bones. He didn’t think he had much fight left in him.
He threw up a prayer to a God that had abandoned him long ago on a whim. He didn’t pray for himself. He was already lost and had made his peace with that a long time ago. No, he prayed for Phil; that his partner would be okay without him, that he wouldn’t blame himself for not rescuing Clint after his capture. If what he thought had happened was right, then there was nothing to be done about it anyway. He prayed that Phil had believed him when he told him how much he loved him; that he wanted to keep his piecrust promise of always finding a way back to him, even though it looked like he was going to have to break it.
He prayed for Natasha; that she wouldn’t close herself off from the rest of the Avengers if he wasn’t there. He prayed that she would let herself relax and trust that Steve, Tony, Bruce, and Thor would have her back as much as he always had. He prayed that she would help keep Phil from doing something deeply stupid.
While he was at it, Clint prayed for the rest of his team, too. He prayed for Steve to finally find and accept his place in the world; for him to understand and embrace that even though his original team was gone he wasn’t alone.
He prayed for Bruce; that he would finally trust that he was welcome amongst them always and that the Other Guy wouldn’t hurt them because they were his friends and they’d always watch out for him.
He prayed that Tony would realize he didn’t have to buy their friendship; not that all the gadgets and stuff weren’t sweet as hell, but they weren’t necessary. Tony Stark was an asshole, but he was the loveable kind, and he was theirs.
Clint paused on Thor, not really sure there was anything he needed help in. He had Jane and Darcy and the others to help him navigate the human world, and he picked up things pretty quickly. With a pained sigh, Clint prayed that Thor and Loki would finally make their peace with each other. That could only help everyone.
Maybe a small (large) part of him did throw in a little prayer for himself after all; that he would be missed, for a little while anyway. But he really just wanted the people who’d become his friends and family to live and live well. He also maybe prayed a little that they would avenge him. That…that would be good, too.
Phil’s face loomed up in his mind’s eye and Clint tried to reach for him, but failed. His body was just too broken, too weak.
“Sorry, babe,” he mumbled, his voice no more than a raspy breath of sound. “Di’n’t mean to break my promise. Love you always.”
Blackness edge into the vision of his slightly less swollen eye and Clint welcomed it. A rest sounded good right about now.
Gun fire startled him awake; not because it was an uncommon sound in this hellhole, but because it was so damn close to his cell. He heard bodies falling outside the door and held himself as still as possible. A few minutes later he heard someone fumbling with the lock and then his door swung open. He turned his head away from the light. Even though it was fairly dim, it was more than he’d seen in days.
“Got a live one!” a vaguely familiar voice yelled.
Clint heard the person move in and tensed, trying to prepare himself for whatever happened next. His maybe-savior put a hand on his shoulder and Clint couldn’t control his flinch. The hand eased up as the guy said, “Shh, buddy. It’s alright. We’ll get you some help. I just want to get a look.” Clint let himself be shifted onto his back and cracked his eye open a little when the guy swore. “Holy shit! Barton? Clint?”
Clint nodded and tried to place who was hovering over him, but he drew a blank. The guy sat down with a thump and thumbed his radio. “Sitwell, this is Wagner. I’ve found Hawkeye. I repeat: I have found Hawkeye.”
There was a long pause then Clint snorted when Jasper responded with, “Are you shitting me? Is he alive?”
Wagner grinned down at him as he answered. “No sir, I am not shitting you. The Hawk’s alive, beat all to hell and looks pretty ill, but he’s alive. Request immediate med-evac.”
“Granted. Medics will be there in five. Wagner…is he awake?”
Clint nodded slightly and Wagner said, “Yes sir.”
Jasper took a deep breath then said, “I’m glad you’re not dead, Barton. The Helicarrier just hasn’t been the same without you.”
Clint tried to smile, but couldn’t quite get his mouth to cooperate. He did manage an almost soundless, “Caw caw, motherfucker,” though. Wagner grinned at him and repeated it to Sitwell. Clint passed out again to the sound of his friend’s broken laughter.
The next time Clint swam to consciousness, he found himself in Medical on the Helicarrier. He felt kinda floaty and the pain was there but muffled, so he figured they’d given him the good drugs. He blinked open his eyes and was relieved he could see out of both of them again.
He cautiously turned his head, expecting to see Phil sitting next to him, but the chair was empty. Clint frowned. That wasn’t right. Phil was always there when he woke up in Medical. He looked around as much as he could and could find no sign his partner had been there at all. Clint’s breathing stuttered and the monitors he was hooked up to started going haywire.
Before he could fly into a full-blown panic the door to his room opened and Fury strode in. “At ease, Agent,” he commanded. “Agent Coulson is fine. He’s not on board at this time.”
Clint frowned up at him. He opened his mouth to ask why not, but Fury stalled him by offering him a spoon of ice chips from the cup on the rolling table next to him. Clint’s eyebrows went up even as he took the offering. His eyes closed unconsciously as the chips soothed his parched throat. Oh yeah, he was on the really good drugs. He was never this unguarded otherwise.
When he opened his eyes, Fury was looking at him with his mouth quirked up on one side. “Better?” he asked.
Clint nodded, unsure if he could speak even if he wanted to.
Fury sighed and sat down next to his bed. “You’ve been out of it for almost a week. Phil doesn’t know you’re alive yet.”
Clint glared at him and Fury held up a hand. “I know. Believe me, I know. I have heard it from everyone from Stark to Hill and everyone in between, but please believe me when I say this was the safer option. I had to know you were going to pull through. You flat-lined twice on the way here and twice more trying to get you stabilized once you were on board. We just got word this morning that your prognosis had been upgraded from cautiously optimistic, to stable.”
Clint cleared his throat and whispered, “I want to see him.”
Fury glanced at the door to his room and nodded to someone Clint couldn’t see. “Natasha is calling him as we speak.”
When Clint just looked at him, Fury sighed. “I’ve kept him off the Helicarrier for his own safety as well as for others.” Clint raised an eyebrow and Fury rubbed a hand over his mouth. “He’s been a little…off since we retrieved what we thought was your body. The team and I agreed it would be better if he was at HQ for a while.”
“How long,” Clint managed shakily.
Fury looked away for a moment then met his eyes squarely. “You were declared dead three months ago; missing for two before that.”
Clint closed his eyes and tried to breathe. Five months. He’d spent five months in that hellhole. Felt like longer.
“I gave up a few of the burned safe houses,” he said softly, eyes still closed. “That’s all they got from me the whole time. They’d given up and left me to die after one more round of ‘how broken can we leave him and still be breathing’. I think that was maybe two days before Wagner found me. I’d lost all sense of time by then; could’ve been longer or shorter. I just don’t know.” He opened his eyes and looked at the director. “How’d you find me anyway?”
“We got word of a terror cell getting ready to make a move and went for a preemptive strike. We honestly didn’t think we’d find any prisoners, or if we did that they wouldn’t be alive,” Fury replied levelly.
Clint nodded. “So, sheer dumb luck then.”
Fury snorted. “Yeah, something like that.” He laid a hand on Clint’s arm above the cast bracing his broken hand.
Clint went still. Touch was going to be an issue for a while, he knew, but Fury had never touched him when he’d been injured before so it was doubly freaking him out. “S-sir?”
Fury took his hand away and said, gruffly, “It’s good to have you back, Agent Barton. You’ve got a long recovery ahead of you, but I’m pretty confident you’ll get through it.”
There was a commotion in the hallway and Fury stood. The door to his room flew open and then Phil was there. Clint’s eyes widened at his partner’s disheveled appearance. He’d never seen him so…not put together, unless they were alone. Phil’s hair was windblown and his face was flushed. He was wearing a pair of faded jeans and a threadbare Go Army t-shirt. Clint frowned. “Is that my shirt?” he asked, his voice still not much more than a whisper.
Phil just stared at him for a long moment then threw back his head and laughed. Clint absently noticed Fury leaving the room and shutting the door behind him, but he stayed focused on Phil.
Phil’s laughter turned to sobs and Clint panicked. “Phil. Phil. Phil!” he cried as loudly as he could, which sadly, wasn’t very loud. But Phil must have heard him, because he put a hand over his mouth and slowly moved to stand by Clint’s bed.
Clint held out his casted hand and, wow, he hadn’t even realized his other arm was immobile. He should have asked Fury for a sitrep of his injuries. Really, really good drugs. Coming down was gonna be a bitch. He shook his head and focused back on Phil, who was cradling his broken hand between both of his.
“I can’t believe you’re here,” Phil said hoarsely.
“Told you I’d always find my way back to you,” Clint said solemnly.
Phil smiled at him and Clint didn’t think he’d ever seen something so heartbreakingly beautiful in his life. “Come ‘ere,” he whispered.
Phil leaned down and brushed his lips against Clint’s. He smelled like dust and ozone and Clint wondered what he’d been up to. “I love you,” Phil murmured against Clint’s lips.
Clint blinked and smiled at him sleepily. Apparently he’d hit the end of his endurance. Damn it. “I love you, too. You’ll be here when I wake up?”
“No place I’d rather be,” Phil said as he brushed Clint’s hair off his forehead.
Clint nodded and blinked a few times trying to stay awake. “Home,” he mumbled.
Just before he fell asleep, he felt Phil kiss his forehead and whisper, “Always home with you.”
Clint really couldn’t ask for anything more.
Warnings/Spoilers: Angst, Clint!Whumping (nothing graphic), Hurt/Comfort
Right, so this is a companion piece to my fic I Feel Closer to You, Out Here In the Great Wide Open. This is Clintís story. Itís dedicated to all the lovely reviewers at AO3 who asked for more. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. This is my first time writing Clint. I hope I did him justice. Thanks be to Shanachie_quill for the beta. And remaining mistakes are on me.
Written: March 20, 2013
Word Count: 2,309
Also at AO3.