A/N: Decided to jump on the bandwagon and write an Avengers movie-verse story. FYI, I did not read the comics so if I screw up cannon, please forgive me.
Disclaimer: I own NOTHING!
"Hey, Squawks, you guys get Stark weapons," he rasped, causing him to start coughing so hard Phil thought he might rattle apart. Romanov pulled him up to ease his breathing and allowed him to rest against her, her arms around him. She pet his hair and cooed to him as he tried to catch his breath.
"Yeah, Hawk, we got them. Maybe we'll even bring you home too." He smiled and patted Barton's uninjured leg, as the medics arrived.
Part 4: I Love a Challenge
Coulson moved away when the paramedics arrived but Black Widow stayed close by, with her fingers in his hair. She whispered to him in Russian, too low for Phil to understand but it seemed to relax Clint. The medics soon declared that he looked awful but his most pressing issues were the gunshot, which was infected, dehydration, and his body temperature, which was moderately hypothermic. His O2 sats were low but they couldn't treat them here, so they slapped a mask over his face and told him to relax.
He was fine, until they tried to insert the main line to give him a shot of muscle relaxants to ease his shivering and the muscle spasms from the way he had been hanging. Barton bucked and fought for all he was worth, trying to prevent them from giving him drugs. The medics were doing their best to hold him down but it was hard to start an IV on a person that was putting up a remarkably good fight for someone so exhausted.
"Nnno, no more drugs, not gonna' tell you anything else," he slurred as he fought and Phil was pretty sure that Barton didn't even realize these were his own people. He could hear the desperation in Clint's voice, his fear that he would be questioned again, and not have the alertness to obfuscate his interrogators.
He was about to call for some men, who were packing up video cameras set around the base to come, to help hold down his struggling agent, just to end his rambling, when Natasha took his face in both her hands, moving directly in front of him. "Relax, Hawkeye, just relax. No one is going to hurt you, I'm here and I won't let anyone else get to you." She leaned down, pressing her forehead against his, their noses nearly touching, "let them help and I'll stay right here beside you." He met her eyes for a moment before closing his and giving a small nod. It was all the encouragement the medics needed before they started an IV and gave him sedatives, painkillers, and muscle relaxants to keep him comfortable for transport to a military hospital.
It took less than 30 seconds after the first shot for Barton to go limp, and the team had him moving within 2 minutes. It took another 45 for Black Widow to stop threatening the medics because they hadn't tried to warm him up yet. Phil finally had to intervene, which was almost more than his tired brain could handle, because she refused to listen no matter how many times they explained that the fact that he was hypothermic was probably the only reason he was still alive. Lower body temps mean constricted blood flow and lymphatic flow, which meant less bleeding and slower spread of infection. Phil gave up and ordered her to stay with Clint and, "keep her trap shut and let the med team do their jobs or he was taping her mouth shut." Apparently he was convincing enough because she backed down.
They opted to get him triaged in Iraq, then transported as soon as possible to Germany for better treatment. It took 18 exhausting hours of transport and surgeries, which Clint slept through, Coulson sucked down coffee through, and Natasha threatened anyone and everyone through. But eventually they were instilled in a private room in Ansbach and Clint was sleeping off the anesthesia from surgery. Coulson finally felt like he could relax. The doctors had patched up his thigh and drained the infection, pinned 2 of his ribs back together, and opted to go more minimal on the hair line fractures under his right eye and the left side of his jaw. What they were most concerned with were his lungs. He had sucked down a lot of water that wasn't particularly clean and was dealing with both bacterial and chemical pneumonitis in both lungs. Even now, he could hear the crackle in the man's breathing and it worried him. He supposed a case of pneumonia was a small price to pay for getting the Stark weapons, preventing a terrorist attack on Pakistan, busting up a human trafficking ring, and getting Barton back alive; so he would count it as a win.
He leaned his head back and let his tired eyes drift shut. He figured Natasha would wake him if anything happened. He actually found it a bit odd that she was sticking around. Though he no longer debated that there was a bond between the two of them, he debated that she was as attached to Barton as Barton was to her. Mainly because if she were hurt, Clint didn't leave her side for anything other than direct orders until she was up and about. Even then, he tended to fuss over her and make her homemade soup or bread and keep her company until she was 100%. She on the other hand would have someone call her to let her know of the outcome but would generally not bother to visit him beyond dropping off a picture of a flower. He never had understood that one.
But right now, she was resting her head against his hip and holding his hand, running her figures over the callused tips of his fingers. It was odd and odd made him worried. Of course he could ponder odd after he got some goddamn sleep. He propped his feet up on the side of the bed and immediately dropped off.
Clint woke up to the feeling of cold, dry air going down his throat, better than cold water any day. He could feel numerous blankets covering him but doing nothing to chase away the chill that seemed to have taken up residence in his bones. He was also aware of the cottony, floaty feeling of being doped up on pain killers, not one of his favs but considering he could feel his side, mouth, face, and leg aching, he guessed he should be happy. But most important he could feel Natasha's hand on his.
He and Tasha over the years, had come to develop and entire language based on touches. It was actually a necessity for their job, where they often couldn't speak openly or even act as if they knew each other. He knew the difference between a touch that say, "back off" and one that said, "I need help." He could read her fingers and discern when she was trying to get him into bed for sex or a cuddle or when she was trying to get him to make her feel better about something. But this touch was both giving and asking for reassurance. Even in his foggy state, it surprised him that she was here; she normally hated seeing him hurt and would stay away from him until he was better. He must have really scared her but he was glad she stayed because after so many hours concentrating on staying awake, the idea of being knocked out was terrifying.
He supposed the least he could do was give her some encouragement that she didn't have to worry about him anymore. He tightened his hand around hers and rubbed the pad of his thumb across the back of her knuckles.
"Clint," smiled at him. She looked tired but he noticed she was wearing his tactical jacket. She always stole that thing for some reason. No matter how many times he offered to get her one of her own, she still always took his.
"Hey, Tasha," he croaked and immediately started coughing. It sent spikes of pain through his side and jaw, making him dizzy. She was immediately beside him, with a basin for when he inevitably started gagging. She gave him some water and he fell back, panting shallowly, and feeling like there as a vice around his chest. He could also feel the weight of Squawks's eyes on him. You shouldn't technically be able to feel how heavy someone's stare is but you could feel Phil's.
"Sleeping beauty awakes, I see," Coulson asks him. He didn't think he had ever seen his handler look so disheveled. He had bags under his eyes; his clothes were dirty, and not a suit; and he looked like he hadn't shaved in 3 days.
"Sleeping beauty feels like he has been hit by a truck," he joked, trying not to give into the urge to cough again.
"No trucks, just 45 hours of off and on torture," Coulson answered him, rising from his seat to stand beside him.
"What's wrong with me, I feel like I can barely breathe," Tasha squeezed his hand a little and he tried to still the panic and not being able to take a deep breath.
"Pneumonia and a couple of badly busted ribs. The docs say you should be up and around in 6 weeks or so, if you take it easy." Well, that would explain the pain in his side and the crackling in his lungs. He didn't think taking it easy would be that hard of an order to follow because he felt like lifting his head might be beyond him right now.
"I see," he couldn't help it and gave into another coughing fit. After he managed to recover, at least slightly, "you guys should go find a hotel somewhere, you look tired." He didn't really want to be alone, but he knew he had caused them enough stress.
"I think I'll take you up on that, Barton," I'll see you in the morning to arrange for your transport back to the Helicarrier. Have a good night," he turned to leave and Clint grabbed his sleeve.
"Thanks, Squawks, for keeping me alive." He told him sincerely. He knew he wouldn't have made it without Phil's constant voice in his ear telling him to keep going. It would have been too hard, too painful without the reminder of who he would be leaving behind.
"Thank me by spending your recuperation helping me with paperwork," he smiled and walked out, leaving Tasha and him alone. He let go of her hand and patted the bed beside him and she crawled up. She gently rested her head on his shoulder, mindful of his broken ribs, and he buried his nose in her hair, inhaling the rosemary lavender scent he associated with safety. He gave up fighting against the pull of drugs, exhaustion, and under oxygenation and allowed himself to drift off shortly before she did.
Avenger's Tower present day.
Clint ended his story to complete silence as everyone processed what he had said. Tony, especially seemed stunned, while Pepper wiped her eyes and held Tony's hand. Tony couldn't believe how calm Barton was, retelling something like that. He relayed the facts, with a few embellishments from Romanov, like he was talking about going to the movies. Maybe pathological compartmentalization and massive disassociation did have some good points.
Stark watched him, as he stared glassy eyed at the ceiling, still playing with Natasha's hair and still clearly high. For once he couldn't think of anything glib to say because in a way this was so much worse than what had happened to him, yet in other ways not nearly as bad. He wracked his brain for something to say, even if it was not remotely funny, but Barton beat him to the punch, snapping his head up and declaring, "I'm hungry."
"Me too," Romanov agreed and finally moved off his lap so he could stand. She then reached over and turned back on the movie, while he disappeared into the kitchen. Still, the only sound was the movie and the occasional clank of dishes.
45 minutes later he returned, balancing 2 plates, 2 sets of silverware, and 2 drinks, which he served to himself and Natasha. She greedily dug into the chicken Kiev, decrying its deliciousness and actually kissing his temple. Tony finally thought of something to say, and it involved his grotesque lack of manners, when Hawkeye again got the jump on him. How did that buffoon keep doing that?
"If you guys just sit there, yours are going to get cold," he told them flatly and went back to his own supper.
Tony jumped up and ran to the kitchen, to find 5 plates of food, expectedly prepared and plated, lined up on the center island. Holy shit! Barton had actually cooked for them and it looked awesome. He quickly grabbed two plates and took them back into the TV room as Bruce and Steve walked in to retrieve their own share. They all settled back down to enjoy the food, which tasted as good as it looked and if Tony wasn't mistaken he thought Barton might have actually blushed under the praise. He was quickly beginning to realize that Hawkeye hated being singled out for any reason, good or bad.
Afterwards, Bruce got to pick the next movie, which of course being a total geek he selected Aliens. It started just as Natasha returned from the kitchen with fresh ice packs for her shoulder and Clint's knee along with a throw pillow to put against his side so that his arm wouldn't rest on his wound. As they settled down to full stomachs and Barton now lying in Romanov's lap, Tony comment, "hey Romanov, please do filthy, demeaning things to that man tonight to thank him for that dinner."
"We aren't lovers," they both answered in unison, as he snuggled a further into her lap and she started to stroke his spiky hair.
"Then you have got to be the world's biggest cock tease, woman," he shot back, too much liquor making his tongue too loose.
"I'm gay, Stark," Barton shot back, no hint of joking.
"What, seriously?" Tony was beyond surprised at that.
"Come on, you didn't know. I like to cook, I'm a gymnast, and I wear purple for the love of god," Barton continued. He looked to Romanov but her face had a serene smile on it that gave him nothing.
"That can't be," Steve stuttered, blushing and looking extremely uncomfortable. "You're in the Army."
"They didn't ask, I didn't tell. Look this wasn't how I planned to come out to you guys but Tony forced it so can we please just drop it."
"Sure, Barton, whatever," Tony turned back to the movie, wondering if the spy was finally being honest or expertly lying.
After the first 30 minutes, Clint was asleep in Natasha's lap drooling on her as she made swirl patterns in his hair. When the movie was finished the two excused themselves back to his room, no longer even pretending they didn't share a bed. Tony and Pepper weren't far behind.
The feel of the ropes around his wrists sent spikes of terror through him as he fought against the men dragging him for questioning. No matter how hard he fought, they were stronger. He could feel the cold, stale air of the prison on the back of his neck as they pushed him, blind folded through the corridors, tripping and stumbling on uneven ground. He felt his knees impact with the frigid ground as they loudly yelled at him in a language he couldn't hope to understand. Then they grabbed his hair, and forced his face into the tub of water in front of him, holding him under till his lungs burned. He struggled and screamed but that only made icy water work its way down his throat, to clog his lungs and drown him.
Tony shot awake, biting back a scream and a choking cough, to find himself safely in New York. Pepper stirred to his side, but he shushed her, hoping he could hide the trembling of his voice. It had been a long time since he had had a dream that intense about his captivity. He knew sleep would be elusive tonight without liquor so he grabbed a pull over and went to his lab.
He tinkered with some project for all of 15 minutes before he turned to his computer and "procured" SHIELD's documents on Barton's stint in the Afghani prison. He was sickened to find full audio files of the conversations between Coulson and Barton, but also video's of the torture sessions filmed by his captors. With a sick fascination, he began to watch them, having Jarvis loop the sound so it matched.
He was both impressed and vaguely disturbed by the complete sense of calm that Barton met the entire thing. Not once did he see or hear a sense of panic or fear in the man's voice. He tried, but couldn't watch the sections with the water boarding. Frankly, it just hit too close to home. The beating was brutal, yet so clinical that he almost had to look away. He continued to watch, occasionally skipping long sections, where Barton was clearly going in and out of lucidity and all the while Coulson talking to him, keeping him sane. He felt like a voyeur, stealing a secret from someone, to hear the two friends tease each other. He seemed very different from the Barton that Tony knew, who outside of actual battles, tended to only respond in single syllables or snarky retorts.
"It was quite a bit different than your experience, I would imagine," Romanov startled him as she strolled into his lab, eating a brownie. He noticed it was now 4:30 am. He immediately went to stop the video in deference to her feelings but she cut him off. "I've seen them, you don't have to turn it off." She pulled out a chair, flipping it backwards to straddle the back. He could see the crease between her leg and her groin, with just a hint of bright pink underwear visible. "Both Clint and I have been trained to be able to stand watching the other one tortured. That way we can't be used against the other," she said simply.
"I see," he answered, not sure what to say. Even he realized he had probably crossed a line.
"But like a said, his captivity was different from yours, shorter but I believe you were more gently kept than him. But then again, he was a trained agent that knew how to handle himself and knew we were coming. You had no choice but to find your own way out. However; there was never a point where you were expendable, while he was from the minute he walked in. It's tough to compare though, so much of how well or badly someone takes torture is dependent on the person." She paused to let him think about that. "For example I think you wouldn't have survived the amount of physical abuse he went through. And afterwards, it was 3 and half months before he was cleared for active duty. He lost 18 pounds in 3 weeks from the pneumonia. He spent weeks barely being able to eat or sleep because he coughed so much he would literally start vomiting. He said it felt like suffocating." Tony looked away. "But on the flip side, I don't think he would have been able to sit for 3 months, locked up, he would have cracked."
"Why are you telling me this? You don't give out information for nothing," he questioned her.
She crossed her arms over the back of the chair and rested her chin on them, her relaxed pose making her seem more dangerous. "The same reason I tricked him into telling you that story."
"I thought you were a genius?" She teased.
"I am but deciphering your motivations is like trying to reason with a cat. If it works, it's purely a coincidence."
She smiled, slightly more like a slight quirk of her lip that didn't touch her eyes. When she smiled at Barton was the only time her eyes sparkled for real. "To make you realize that you two share a bond," she started then sighed. "Our lives, lives away from the Avengers, are hard and brutal and dangerous. We never know from one job to the next if we'll come home and we both accept that. It's who we are but things have changed," she paused as if to gather her thoughts. "Coulson is gone and I need to make sure that Clint has someone else, in case I am killed. Before I didn't worry, I knew Squawks would get him through it and not let him pull so far into himself that he disappeared. But now there is no one and he's not bonding with you guys like he should. He's afraid of getting close because he might lose one of you."
"We were all hit hard by Phil's death," Tony started but she cut him.
"Not like he was. Coulson was like a big brother to him. He was the first person Clint ever trusted other than his own brother, who proved that trust was misplaced. Coulson always looked out for him for both of us. Losing Colson was devastating to him, especially knowing that his arrow started the whole thing. So please do not suppose that your interactions with Phil amount to the same thing Barton feels at losing his handler."
"What both of you feel?" Tony shot back, annoyed that his feelings were being diminished just because he hadn't know Phil as well. He was the least used to losing people in battle, other than maybe Banner.
"What both of us feel but that's the point. I lost the safety net of someone to take care of him if I die. I can't stand the idea of him completely alone with no one to trust. Neither of us wants to live that way again and we promised each other that it wouldn't be that way for a second time."
"You love him don't you?" Tony asked, thinking maybe Pepper was right. She had been the first one to suspect there was more than just a partnership between the two.
"Love is for children and fools. What Clint and I have goes beyond mere romantic notions." She defended.
"So if I sniffed your crotch I wouldn't smell him on you?" Tony taunted, feeling angry and scared for no reason and very drunk.
"If you sniffed my crotch and would break your nose so badly you would never smell again."
"Because you aren't lovers; because he's gay?"
She sighed again and ran her fingers through her hair. "No Tony, he isn't gay and if you are asking if there is a sexual aspect to our relationship, the answer is yes but it is not the most important part of our relationship. He is the only man I have ever taken into my bed for comfort, companionship, or just plain fun and I am the only woman he has allowed to stay in his bed past the physical act. We are the only people left that the other one trusts implicitly."
"Why did he lie? That is no way to build team unity."
"Because we are both private people and it's no one's business but our own. In case you haven't noticed, he is slightly introverted and Clint, not Hawkeye or Agent Barton, but Clint is actually very shy. New people make him nervous and being nervous makes him defensive."
"So he isn't a standoffish ass, he's actually a shy, wounded, little puppy that needs to be loved?" Tony taunted, wondering what she was getting at.
"Not even close. He is a standoffish ass by nature and nurture and nothing is likely to ever change that. Just like there is little chance of you every not being a conceited bastard." She countered; looking a bit annoyed, then smoothed her expression over. "But none of that is the point, Tony. The point is I need to make sure he has a support net if something happens to me. I need to know he will be taken care of and I want you to be that person for him."
Tony snorted, "why me, I think Cap would be a better choice. He's much nicer and they both have that whole military bromance thing."
"Steve is too nice, Clint respects him but he'll never trust him. That level of genuine kindness sets off all sorts of alarm bells for him. Besides, I know he has had this talk about me with Steve. It makes sense, he is the most like Clint with the Army back ground, fair skin, eyes, and hair, and the nice guy syndrome; even if Clint's is buried a lot deeper." 'Much deeper,' Tony thought but held his tongue.
"I had originally thought Banner would be the best choice. He's quiet and calm like Clint but deep down, Banner is almost as much of an introvert as Barton plus, he just isn't really in a position to help someone through something like a death. I briefly thought about Pepper but decided against it."
"What's wrong with Pepper?" He asked, vaguely insulted on his girlfriend's behalf.
"He would eat her alive plus, she is so not his type. Too skinny, no ass, and weak willed. She would hold no draw for him."
"Is that his opinion or your jealousy?"
"Both. I will admit the thought of him with another woman is not my favorite but regardless he wouldn't go for Pepper," she answered then continued. "That leaves you and in a way, you're a good choice. You are sarcastic and snippy just like Phil was. In the end, you are my only choice," she finished, staring him in the eyes, making him nervous.
"And no one at SHIELD can do it?"
"I think you forget how high ranked we both are. With Coulson gone, we both report directly to Fury. Not to mention, Clint is on the Military side of the house and they still maintain rank and discipline like the rest of the Service so he only has a group of about 6 people of similar rank that he could be friends with and most of them are afraid of him. Also, I would be worried that if I am killed on a SHIELD assignment, he might blame them and close himself off even more."
"So why are you so worried about this now, Natasha, are you going on some super dangerous mission?" he was almost afraid of her answer.
"I'm always worried about it. Clint means everything to me and I would do anything for him, including asking you to befriend him."
"I've saved your life how many times but I don't have the level of devotion? What gives, do I have to cook for you and call you pet names?" He sneered at her, more uncomfortable than he had been in a long time. He never fancied himself the type of person that would support someone else. He was the one others supported.
"It's not just about having saved my life, Stark," she snapped then visibly relaxed herself. "If that was all it was, then we would have been even years ago but it's much more than that. He showed me the difference between surviving and living. He gave me something to fight for instead of against. He gave me memories I could use to give me strength and he gave me a home to come back to," she stared him straight in the eyes. "And he was only able to do that because Phil Coulson showed him." Tony dropped his eyes first, knowing that he would always lose against her, unless he had his suit. "I'm not asking you to be his best friend, but I am asking you to make an effort to get past his walls. It's not going to be easy but I am asking you do to this favor for me." She looked at him again, catching his eyes and he thought he read sincerity but could have been wrong.
"I'll think about," she nodded her head and rose to leave but he stopped her, never one to back down from yanking on the tiger's tail. "You know there is a word in the English language for that feeling you have when someone's happiness is more important than your own. When you will lie for them, cheat for them, steal, and kill for them; though to be fair you do that for anyone. But someone that you would give your life for."
"Do you now?" she looked away from him.
"Yes, it's called 'love'."
"Don't be such a child, Tony." She told him and walked away, no doubt to return to Barton.
As Tony watched her leave, no sense in not enjoying the view, he thought back to how Coulson had described Natasha's significance to Clint. He was her valium, but she was his tether. She stopped him from flying away where no one could reach him. At first he thought that Phil meant literally flying away, as in leaving SHIELD but now he realized that it was metaphoric. She prevented Barton from pulling so far into himself that no one or nothing could touch him. Without her, Clint, the real Clint would be unreachable and the thought of that made Tony a little sad. So he would take up her challenge and befriend a man that might the single most standoffish person in recorded history.
It took Tony 3 days to manage to track down his quarry and he had to fly all the way to the Helicarrier. Apparently Barton's injuries had been deemed recovered enough to be put back on light duty, which meant that morning he was back at the range and back in the gym. Tony no longer actively avoided exercise but he just couldn't wrap his head around that level of training. He guessed that was why Barton was the best at what he did. It also made him twitch to think about Bruce's comment about what a person like Clint could do in an Iron Man suit. But that was beside the point.
Once Tony ascertained that Barton was not on the ranges and not in the gym, there was really only one other logical place to look for him before he had to resort to looking for the man's numerous perches, nests, and hidey holes; and that was to look in the armory. Luck was on Tony's side as he found his prey working on restringing a SCARY ass looking compound bow. He didn't want to even ponder what the draw weight was if the thing had 4 cams and the string looked like a cat's cradle. He stood in the doorway for a moment watching the man recalibrate the pulleys with expert precision, the way he did everything.
"Is there a reason you are just standing there, Stark?" he finally asked and Tony cursed under his breath. He thought he had managed to sneak up on him.
"Actually yes, I came to talk to you."
"So talk," Barton still hadn't looked at him.
"What are you working on?" Tony started, collecting his thoughts. He had a several pre rehearsed speeches but decided to discard them all. He worked better off the cuff anyway.
"A bow," Clint dead panned.
Ok, that was a stupid opener. "That's not your normal bow, why are you working on it?"
"You can't tell? I thought you used to be a weapons manufacturer," he snarked and Tony had to bite back a harsh comment. This was going to be even harder than he thought.
"True, but we specialized in cutting edge, post Stone Age weaponry. Bow and arrows were so 4000 b.c."
"Compound bows were invented in the 60s," he stood up and went to a box to rummage around for something. Tony reached out to run his fingers along to front of the bow and heard, "please don't touch that." He jerked his hand back as if burned.
"You never answered my question, why are you working on this one?"
"Because this is a heavier duty bow than the one I normally use. It has a 125 pound draw weight pre let-off," Tony did some quick calculations, assuming it was a carbon composite, of the potential energy that thing would store with that many pulleys and that high of a draw weight. Clint smiled at his stunned face, "it can shoot through a tank or more importantly, Kevlar." It made sense, even with the higher speed of a bullet; an arrow fired from this thing would have higher force and a sharper point for a higher Psi that would tear through a bullet proof vest. This wasn't a weapon for sport, it was a man stopper. "I answered your question, now answer mine, what do you want?"
"Why not just use a gun?" he spit out before he realized it.
"Who says I don't?" Barton dead panned and Tony realized how stupid his statement was, given that he knew Hawkeye carried at least a pistol on his leg everywhere he went. He had also seen the man use a sniper rifle with deadly effects. Hawkeye killed with a gun when he didn't want anyone to know who did it and with an arrow when he did. "Why are you here, Stark?"
"I actually wanted to talk to you about something," he decided to take the plunge but maybe doing it in a room full of weapons wasn't the best choice. "So I was thinking about that story you told us."
"So you broke into SHIELD's database and pulled up the videos?" Clint interrupted him.
"What makes you say that?" he started then figured it wasn't eve worth denying. "Yes, I did and it got me to thinking about my own stint behind enemy lines. It's something we have in common, that none of the other Avengers could understand." Barton's back was to him, not that it made a difference, his face wouldn't have been any easier to read. "I just think that because of that we should, I don't know, understand each other a little better." He hoped opting for sincere was a good choice.
"You know, Tony, I think you might be right," Barton said, back still to him but more interestingly, he had called him by his first name. Barton never called anyone but Natasha by their first name. He turned around and looked Tony in the eyes, "we should go out and get some coffee and discuss how awful it was and how it scared us for life. Maybe then we should hug it out and have a sob fest and eat a gallon of ice cream," he shot back sarcastically.
"That's not what I meant, I just," Tony started.
"I know what you meant but don't forget that about 1000 other soldiers share that experience with us so we are nothing special. Not to mention that wasn't the first, second, or last time I was captured and tortured. It was a job, I got the short end of the stick on that one, but it's over and I'm over it."
"How can you say that? I wasn't half as badly treated and I still have nightmares about it. I'm way smarter and better adjusted than you so you should be a wreck," Tony snapped, becoming defensive.
"Maybe I'm tougher than you," he smiled, rather unkindly and Tony scoffed. There was no way this nobody was tougher than him.
"Or maybe you are just better at denying it?"
"Clearly, must be why I'm so crippled by fear I can't leave the house without my costume," Barton snapped back and Tony moved his eyes to stare at the black oak leaves on his collar denoting his rank as a major without standing out against SHIELD's all black military uniforms. It never occurred to him before that Barton technically out ranked Rogers.
"Look I didn't come here to fight, I came here to try and," he stopped, no longer sure what he had been thinking. This was a mistake.
"You look. We are coworkers, not friends, Stark. The sooner you realize that the better." He got up again to start putting things away, the bow apparently restrung.
Tony walked up to it and braced his hand the way he had seen Hawkeye do it and pulled back with all his might. He managed to draw it back to a point where the cams kicked in and then it was not hard to hold there. He then waited till Clint turned around and purposely let go, dry firing the bow. All of the potential energy with no arrow to propel fed back into the cams, knocking them out of line and unstringing it. He didn't know much about bows but he did know you never dry fire them. Barton looked livid, the first genuine emotion he could truly say he read on his face. He counted it as a win and a tiny ding in the mammoth defensive walls he had. It was just a chip but it was enough for today.
"Sorry," Tony wasn't sorry at all.
"Get out, Stark."
Tony left and pondered where he could find some good research on how to tame a hawk, because it was going to be a challenge and Tony loved challenges.
A/N 2: I want to thank everyone that reviewed, alerted, or fav-ed my story. The response was awesome. This has been such a welcoming fandom I may have to come play again!