Author's Note: So… I have made some of you very happy. Some of you – sorry! I was very nearly swayed towards Bruce but I think Steve had more support. And it does make for more angst in the sequel with his old-fashioned-ness I think. If it makes you feel better as well as a sequel to this I have come up with a cute little Clint/Bruce one shot. Along with another Clint/Steve story. And another Clint/Steve story. And the sequel to Why Clint Has Never Tried It On With Natasha...

This is gonna be the last chapter. Thank you so much for all the reviews and alerts and love. As previously discussed I do plan to do a sequel to this (but not straight away – need to sort out a plot before I dive in), along with several other stories so hopefully I'll see you all again! xxx

Disclaimer: Don't have anything to do with Marvel and their wonderful play-land of creations … sigh…

They Didn't Know

Clint's breath hitched, his heart leaping into his throat. His brain desperately tried to form a reply, a retort, some kind of denial but nothing came to him.

"Oh sorry..." Loki feigned an apologetic expression. "Secretly lusting after you."

Steve scoffed.

"Do not be ridiculous. We all know it's not me."

Loki smirked, a short laugh escaping his lips.

"So modest," he arched an eyebrow at Clint. "Is that one of the qualities you find so endearing Agent Barton?"

Clint inhaled deeply. Still he tried to think of a reply. Steve clearly did not believe Loki's words - but a quick glance at Bruce and Tony out the corner of his eye told him that his reaction had given him away. His secret was out.

Steve shook his head dubiously.

"You think we would trust anything that left your lips?" he asked, turning to look over at Clint. He blinked rapidly as he found the archer pale, his wide eyes fixed on the floor. A faint frown pulled on his brow. "Clint?" a short silence fell as the captain looked from Clint to Natasha, the female's sombre, concerned looks confirming Loki's words. Steve's eyes widened, his head bowing as he took a small step backward. "Oh."

Tony and Bruce looked around helplessly as Loki stood smugly observing the scene. The Asgardian opened his mouth to offer further comment but a low growl from Bruce's direction quickly shut his mouth again.

Finally Clint looked up. He glanced wearily over at Loki but the Asgardian had looked away. He could feel the eyes of his teammates on him - all except their leader. The archer could not quite bring himself to look over at Steve but out the corner of his eye he had seen the slight step back and he could see his head was now bowed.

Suddenly Clint turned away from the group, heading swiftly for the door. Behind him Natasha moved to follow but Tony moved faster. The female let him go - reassurance from one of the guys would probably mean more to Clint than any assurances she may have to offer. Taking a deep breath she returned her attention instead to Loki, noting that Bruce too did the same.

Outside the room a quiet curse filled the air followed by a not-so-quiet thud as Clint slammed his fist into the wall. Inhaling deeply and exhaling heavily he leant his head again the cold plaster, closing his eyes.

"You know no one would have stopped you doing that to Loki's face?"

A wry smile pulled on Clint's lips. Rolling round so his back was against the wall he opened his eyes and looked over at Tony.

"I was tempted," he admitted, looking down at his knuckles, now red and bloody. Tony arched an eyebrow, regarding the archer thoughtfully.

"I really didn't think he was your type," he commented lightly although his attempt at a casual tone was still laced with concern. Clint chuckled dryly.

"He's not. He's really, really not," the archer shook his head. "I mean, it's not like I get like this often but..." he arched an eyebrow. "Then again I don't think I've met a guy like Steve before."

Tony gave a conceding nod.

"He is one of a kind, even without the super-serum," he agreed before tilting his head slightly. "What Loki said about… this being more than a crush…"

Clint's face screwed up, his eyes closing briefly as he ran a hand through his hair.

"Yeah…" he sighed tiredly. "I've never had it this bad."

Tony offered a half sympathetic smile, half reassuring.

"He'll be ok with this."

Clint scoffed.

"You reckon?" he replied dubiously. "You have heard him giving one of his there's only one god speeches right?"

Tony arched an eyebrow in acknowledgement. He had learned to stop calling Thor a god in Steve's presence he had to admit.

"Not all Christians are homophobic," he responded. He was supposed to be reassuring the archer after all.

"Maybe not," Clint conceded. "But what about the ones who were brought up at a time when guys like me were jailed if not worse? I mean just a few months ago to him this..."

Tony inhaled deeply as Clint waved his un-injured hand about helplessly. A fair point...

"I'm sure Steve doesn't think like that," he said, mostly convincingly. "He certainly hasn't said anything like that."

Clint arched an eyebrow.

"And has he said much at all? Or has he been happy to try and sweep it under the table? Thinking it wasn't him and knowing I intended to ignore it? Cause trust me – he was the most relieved during my little chats with the four of you and he couldn't get the conversation over with fast enough."

Tony took a deep breath. Perhaps he should have just let Natasha come out…

"Just… give it time," was all he could offer. Clint's brows raised as another wry smile pulled on his lips.

"Yeah…" he glanced back toward the door through which he and Tony had exited. "You reckon they have everything under control in there?"

Tony gave a definite nod.

"I think the other guy has it covered."

"Well then," Clint pushed himself away from the wall languidly, rubbing at his bruised hand tentatively. "I should probably head to medical and get this looked at. Think I might'a broken something."

Tony just gave a small nod, stepping backward to allow Clint to pass. Sighing quietly he turned to head back into the room to join the remaining Avengers and Loki, not entirely convinced he had really helped any.

x-x-x

The faintest of frowns pulled on Natasha's brows as she kept glancing at the doorway. Fury stood at the front of the room debriefing the team (minus Thor) – and she was listening – but Clint had not appeared for the briefing. Tony had said he had gone to the medical wing. Clint had never voluntarily sought out medical assistance in the whole time Natasha had known him – and he had been in pretty bad shape more than once. Although Tony had also said his hand did look bad. A broken hand would prevent him from using his bow. That – coupled with it being a good excuse to get away from the team, from Steve – might have made the archer change his habits…

"Another good job," Fury finished with a satisfied nod. "On another note – agent Barton has taken a leave of absence," the director arched an eyebrow. "I don't know what the Hell is going on but please fix it."

Bruce and Tony exchanged a bemused look as Fury breezed from the room.

"Did we just get into trouble for Clint taking a holiday?" Bruce asked. Natasha sighed.

"Clint has not taken a voluntary holiday the whole time he has been with SHIELD," despite her obvious concern she rolled her eyes slightly. "You have to handcuff him to a bed to get him to take sick leave."

Tony and Bruce gave understanding nods – Steve simply listened with a neutral expression.

"He will be back though, right?" Tony arched an eyebrow. Natasha nodded firmly.

"Oh he will return. He knows I'd hunt him down otherwise."

Again the females light words did not hide her underlying concern but the men believed her. Steve stood from where he had sat in the corner.

"Perhaps a break will do him well," he stated blandly. "I'm sure we could all use a rest. I will see you another day."

The three remaining occupants returned a civil smile and/or nod as the captain left the room.

"I get the feeling it's going to take more than a holiday to sort this one out," Tony commented, his brows furrowing slightly as he regarded the doorway through which Steve had just departed. Bruce gave a small nod of agreement as Natasha sighed.

"Clint does not do well with… feelings," despite herself her lips quirked into a faint smile. "He had trouble enough just making friends with you lot."

"Well he wouldn't be part of this motley crew if he didn't have issues," Tony smirked before his sombre expression returned. Tilting his head slightly he pointed toward the door. "How you reckon the cap will deal with it?"

His query was greeted with silence.