A/N: I don't own the Avengers. Also, I'm not a Marvel person. I know pretty much nothing about them, except from what I've seen from the movies. But I've seen all Marvel movies, and I did a teeny bit of research to make this happen. I made Tony super human from his Extremis virus injection, and I took the comic book-Black Widow, in which she's biotechnically altered, and is actually really old and just doesn't age. In other words, Clint is the only pure human. And the youngest of the group. So be cautious when you read.
i. the leader.
Steve worries about him. He worries about all of them, because, well, they are his team, but he worries the most about him. He knows Tony keeps an eye on him during their many battles, which makes him worry a bit less, but still enough to never leave Clint out of sight. And his caution has saved Clint multiple times when he fell from his high perch, either too injured to shoot his grappling arrow or unconscious.
Steve has debated himself about sidelining Clint. He knows it's ridiculous – Clint would probably shoot an arrow through his eye if he even suggested it. Unlike the rest of them who has biological enhancements, Clint has fought tooth and nail to get to the top. Clint is probably the strongest warrior out of all of them.
But still, it doesn't keep Steve from worrying.
Especially when one day, he sees Clint being grabbed at the neck by one of the large golems that they'd been fighting and slammed to the ground. Repeatedly.
Steve doesn't really remember much after that, and neither does anyone else. What he does remember is waking up in a hospital bed, with Tony on his left and Natasha on his right. Thor and Bruce are in nearby chairs, and both of them look distracted. Steve notices Clint isn't there with them. "Clint." He manages as he sits up. His body is throbbing dully, but as far as he can tell there's no lasting damage.
Bruce rubs his temple. "In surgery." He says no more and Steve doesn't ask any more questions. Tony wakes next and then finally Natasha. Steve bitterly notices that none of them are injured past bruises. He knows he shouldn't be mad, that his team being so invincible is a good thing. But right now it only tells him now fragile Clint is.
Steve and Natasha and Tony pull themselves out of the infirmary room and Tony hacks into the hospital feed to check how surgery is going. He gets JARVIS to do a scan on Clint, and Steve can only stare at the bluish screen as the doctors work silently around Clint, and Clint has never looked more fragile in his life. He remembers that the golem had its hand around Clint's neck and fears the worst.
JARVIS reports concussion, internal bleeding, broken ribs and legs, a broken clavicle and shoulder blade, dislocated shoulder and a bruised lung. There is no broken spine or broken neck, and Steve almost collapses in relief. Natasha tries to look like she's never been worried in the first place – "Clint is a top-ranking Agent. He knows how to handle himself so he'll take the hits without getting too injured" – but he can read the relief in her eyes mirroring his own.
Coulson comes about an hour to summarize what happened. After the fourth time the golem slammed Clint on the ground, Tony shot its head off. And then the other Avengers had killed off the rest of the golems in range. Coulson shakes his head, worry cracking through his usually bland visage for a moment. "Next time," he says tiredly, "please find some other provocation that's not in the form of almost killing one of SHIELD's top agents."
Steve can only nod in reply, and they all stare at the blue feed on Tony's monitors without really moving.
ii. the doctor.
It is Bruce's idea to take Clint back to the Tower and not leave him at the hospital, despite the doctors' protests that Clint needs to be in the Intensive Care area. As far as the Avengers are concerned, their only doctor is Bruce Banner, and his opinions is the only one that matters.
Bruce will usually be unnerved at the Avengers' complete trust of his medical abilities –his title is "Doctor," yes, but he's not a medical doctor. But Tony always points out that Bruce's knowledge in the medical field is better than any doctor's, and Bruce doesn't argue.
And right now, he doesn't want Clint in the hands of doctors whose primary concern isn't really Clint's well-being. Clint's injuries aren't too serious, yes, but pulmonary contusions can lead to death if carelessly treated, and Bruce won't have that nagging on the back of his head.
He's thankful for Tony's advanced technology as he sets the vitals check on Clint. "JARVIS, please alert me if any of Clint's vitals go even a little out of the normal range."
As far as he can tell, the concussion isn't too bad, especially for someone who's been thrown back and forth on the concrete by a huge monster. Bruce doesn't really remember what happened, but apparently neither does anyone else. They had all experienced, on some small level, what it felt like to be Hulk, to be blinded by rage. Coulson had told him that Hulk had been the one to pick Clint up into his arms and cradle him to the hospital.
Bruce sets the brain scan for every hour, and then makes it every half hour instead. It's Clint's brain, and no one can be too careful with brain damage.
The Hulk is surprisingly gentle with Clint. Bruce can even dare to say that the Hulk likes Clint, if that's really possible for a monster whose only emotion is anger. But no, Bruce corrects himself. Ever since the Avengers, he can feel some emotions from the Hulk. Hulk feels a sort of respect for Thor, who can take his hits and deliver ones of similar strength. Hulk is annoyed by Tony and Steve and Natasha, but not in a bad way, more like a fond way. Sort of like, if Bruce can dare to think so, a child who's annoyed at the butterfly that keeps fluttering around it, but is mesmerized by it at the same time. And the child won't hurt the butterfly, either, so Bruce is happy with that. And the Hulk likes Clint. The Hulk will even left Clint ride on his shoulder or cling to his back.
If Bruce is really, really daring, he'd say the Hulk is sharing his own worry for the archer. Bruce worries about Clint. Everyone worries about Clint. It scares him at the end of battles when Bruce's worst is that his clothes are torn, and Clint's sometimes bleeding badly out of his stomach, or burned by fire or acid, or suffering from fractured ribs.
The human body is fragile, and no matter how much of a trained agent Clint is, he's still human.
Bruce worries. He pulls the heart monitor to him. It's slow and a little faint for his own liking, but it's steady and that's enough for Bruce. He flicks it to the other side of the bed and pulls the oxygen intake and carbon dioxide output monitor. Again, Clint is taking in little oxygen and spitting out even less carbon dioxide, but it's steady and present and Bruce will take it.
Bruce sets up blood pressure monitors, blood sugar monitors, and every other thing he can think of, just because. Because he'd rather be too cautious than not cautious enough. Clint has always suffered injuries, but never ones as bad as these, and it scares Bruce. He doesn't want to lose Clint.
And he won't lose Clint. Not if he can help it.
iii. the widow.
Natasha has known Clint for more than anyone else has known Clint. Well, with the exception of Phil. That means she's been worrying about him the longest, and it's all sort of something she's gotten used to. But she still can't hold her anger back when the golem smashes Clint onto the concrete.
She doesn't really visit Clint while he's unconscious, but she's there, hovering in the ceiling tiles and watching Clint sleep. Bruce sets up about a thousand monitors and Tony later sets up about a thousand more. She thinks it's all a bit overboard, but she doesn't say anything against it, because even though in the back of her mind she knows that he's going to be okay and all, she still worries.
The other Avengers will say that he is human, so breakable. She will tell herself that he is a strong human, and not so breakable. She tells herself that, but it is the one thing she is always unsure about. Even when she's moving as silently as the darkness on an op they're on together, on the back of her mind she worries about him.
But she doesn't show it, because Clint has a complex about being the only human on a team of super humans. She'll worry her own way, by hiding and keeping track of him instead of hovering like the others do. She doesn't bother to try to read the monitor readings, because if JARVIS finds anything even slightly abnormal, he'll report it to the entire Tower. Instead she settles with watching his chest fall and rise periodically and takes comfort in the fact that he doesn't look like he's in pain. He's sleeping peacefully, and it's been a while since she's watched him sleep.
She remembers when she used to sing him to sleep to help with his nightmares, and having him curled up next to her on her bed would chase away her own. Now she doesn't get them anymore, and neither does he, and he sleeps curled up to another person, but still she loves him more than she has ever loved anyone else, sees him as her own son.
It's sort of laughable and no one else will see it that way – she doesn't look her age. It's not really that she takes care of herself or anything, not that she doesn't, but it's the modifications that's been done to her. She's sort of like Steve, in one sense, she supposes. But she's years older than everyone else on the team – save Steve and Thor.
She's never told anyone else, but Clint knows. Which means he's aware that he's the youngest Avenger on the team, but telling everyone else that will just make them baby him more, so she keeps her mouth shut. She's tempted, of course, just to see how Stark and the doctor's reactions will be when they find out she's older than them, but she wisely keeps her mouth shut. Clint's mental well-being is a bit more important than her own amusement.
She watches the rise and fall of his chest until the billionaire and the doctor walk in, and then she slinks away toward the direction of Clint's nest. She wonders if Tony knows Clint has made himself a nest among heat and air vents in his ceiling, but of course Tony knows. Tony knows everything about Clint, more than even she does now.
She finds the little nest of clothes and blankets that Clint has fashioned into a bed – a nest – and settles herself in it. It smells a little like Captain and Stark and the doctor and Thor, but it smells mostly like Clint. She knows if he's not in bed with a certain someone, or in the shooting range, Clint is most likely here, tucked into the sides of his impromptu nest along with a book or two.
Sure enough, when she digs her hand under a blue blanket, her hands come across a paperback. It's folded at the ear a little past the halfway point, and Natasha opens it there to start reading. She has no idea what it's about, except that it's about a bunch of rabbits trying to go somewhere.
She closes it and tucks the book into her belt. She has a better idea for it than it just lying in the nest, which Clint is not going to be climbing to anywhere in the near future with his broken bones and dislocated joints.
She makes her way to the ceiling space above the infirmary and a smile flickers onto her lips when he sees that someone's there with him, holding his hand and just watching him. She'll deliver the book later.
iv. the demi-god.
Thor does not know how to really deal with the injured archer, so he when he comes to visit Clint, he brings his favorite strawberry Pop Tarts and sits next to him, munching on them. He doesn't really want to touch the blue monitors floating around him and doesn't really want to touch Clint, either, so he just sits and stares. The Man of Iron will tell him that Clint isn't that fragile, and that Thor holding Clint's hand won't break him, but Thor keeps his hands to himself anyway.
He remembers that it was dread that crept into his system first before the anger replaced it, and recognizes as the same one he felt that one time when he caught the hawk falling off his perch, and an entire side of his body was drenched in blood. Clint had been conscious then, at least when Thor caught him, and had told Thor that he was okay.
By the time Thor landed, his hands had been covered in blood and Clint was unconscious. Thor still remembers how pale Clint was that day, how breakable and frail the human looked in his hands. It had turned out that the lupine monster that he'd been fighting had quite literally ripped a chunk of his side from him. Thankfully his organs had minimal to no damage, as Clint had managed to rip himself away in the last possible second. It had been only a flesh wound, despite the fact that it was a gigantic flesh wound, and Clint had gotten up from that wound in three days.
The doctor and the Man of Iron had yelled at him, pleaded him and begged him to stay in bed, but Thor remembers Clint downright refusing. Thor remembers hovering around Clint until Clint laughed, gripped his elbow and told him that he was pretty hardy.
Thor isn't so sure. He is well aware the humans are frail. He has come to accept that the Captain is mighty, that the Man of Iron is formidable and the Widow is sturdy. He has come to accept that the doctor, when he the big Green Beast, he is stronger than himself.
But he has a hard time coming to terms with Clint being on the field. He understands Clint is an able, strong human. He hadn't doubted it. Not until that time when he had Clint's blood all over his arms and armor and cloak. And then again now.
The Widow tells him often that Clint is strong, that he is just as mighty and formidable and sturdy as the rest of them. She warns him not to underestimate the hawk, that Clint already feels unworthy of his place on the team. The Man of Iron tells him the same thing. So does the Captain, the doctor. But he can read the worry in all their eyes.
He turns when he hears a sound, and finds the Man of Iron. He's holding a novel in his hands. Tony doesn't look surprised to see Thor there, and Thor offers him a piece of Pop Tart. Tony takes it. "Watership Down." Tony says, lifting the book. "Romanoff found it in Clint's nest." Thor doesn't really understand it, but nods anyway. He stands up to leave, to give the bird and his mate some privacy. "You don't have to leave. I'm just gonna be reading out loud to a guy who's under. At least if you're around I'll feel a little saner."
Thor sits back down, takes another bite of Pop Tart and wishes he could offer some to Clint as Tony flips to a page and starts reading.
v. the lover.
Tony gets through two chapters before Thor dozes off. He smiles at the quiet snoring and continues on with his reading. Tony doesn't wonder at Clint's choice. He knows Clint is a prolific reader, which was something that surprised him at first but not so much anymore. He's been with Clint in his little nest above his lab, where he had the smaller Avenger tucked under his arm while they both read. Tony reads science papers, because he'd read most of the books that existed, and Clint would pore over whatever book had caught his attention for the time being.
He gets through the third chapter and closes the book. A quick but thorough scan through all of the monitors Bruce and he put up shows Clint is doing well. All of his vitals are normal. Tony knows the speed of Clint's healing is slightly faster than most humans, and knows that he heals mostly through sheer will.
He worries about Clint, that's for sure. He worries about Clint more than anyone else does.
But he also knows Clint is strong. He trusts Clint to take care of himself. And he knows Clint tries the hardest out of all of them. He understands. Because they were all normal humans, once upon a time. Or at least, most of them. Steve was a frail little thing, Bruce was a normal scientist, and he himself was just a normal genius. Natasha was also at one point in her life a normal baby, even if her world changed from when she was very young. Thor is the only one that doesn't know vulnerability, but even he understands that Clint is probably the most passionate hero.
Still, sometimes he thinks about the biological enhancements he could give Clint. He sometimes talks to Clint about them and Clint refuses them. They fight about it, and it turns into yelling matches where Pepper has to step in and slap Tony.
Tony still brings it up here and there. Because he can't help but worry. He glances at the hologram projector of Clint's bones, red bold on the blue background where it's broken or dislocated or fractured. Clint's going to be confined to a bed for some time, and then he's going to have to do some physical therapy afterward and do a hell load of training to get himself back.
But at the end of the day Tony is thankful. Because when he saw the golem smashing Clint on the concrete, over and over and over again, he had assumed a broken spine. A broken neck. His mind conjured of images of Clint, forever paralyzed and bound to a wheelchair, hating every moment of his life.
It had turned out that the monster grabbing Clint's neck had provided a sort of a brace for Clint to keep it from being broken, and Clint, being the agent he was, had protected his back. It was the silver lining on a cloud that the golem had fisted Clint's neck, even if it left dark bruises that would probably hurt for a while and broke his clavicle.
And there is, of course, the most obvious. Clint is alive. He takes that little piece of information, and while it means so little to everyone else carrying everyday lives, it means so much to him. He had never really appreciated the status of being alive before. It was a given, something that happened obviously.
But he realized it wasn't. He realized it the first time JARVIS informed him that Clint was freefalling, apparently unconscious, and that Tony wasn't going to be able to get to him on time. He realized it the second time when he saw Clint falling from his perch with his own eyes for the first time, even as he snatched Clint from midair. And every fall after that Clint took made him appreciate the 'alive' status more and more.
And then there had been an incident with a mutated wolf. He hadn't even known Clint had been attacked because he'd been with Bruce and Natasha on the other side of Manhattan fending off another gang when Steve had told him, 'I have bad news but don't panic.'
Steve had gotten the words 'Clint is badly' before Tony had abandoned the wolf that he'd been fighting and had been halfway across the island of Manhattan while Steve said the word 'hurt.'
He arrived on site to find the gang of mutated wolves all taken care of, but Thor was holding something red in his arms, wide-eyed and pale. It took Tony another second to process that the 'something red' was the archer, and that the only thing keeping his intestines and other organs inside his body was the large hand of the god pressing down on the wound.
Even Thor's large hands hadn't been able to keep all the blood in. Red. There was so much red everywhere. Clint's jaw was slack, trailing blood and saliva down his cheek and chin. His entire left side below his ribs was coated in his own blood, and Tony hadn't been able to do anything but stare.
He had just stared as the medic team tried to pry Thor from Clint, but then realized that they had no power over a god and that Thor's hands on Clint's gaping wound was the only thing tethering him to life. He had just stared as Steve pushed him onto the ambulance with Thor and Clint, and he had just stared as Thor cradled Clint to him. Now if he thinks a bit about it, he should have snapped out of his shock to be the one cradling Clint.
But that experience had been enough to keep him sticking within a 100 feet radius of Clint. Aka the distance he can fly to Clint under a second. Clint thinks it's annoying, but doesn't say much, mostly because Clint still has the scars where Bruce and Tony had to regrow skin cells.
Tony knows why this happened, even though Tony had been within one-second flying distance to Clint. He knows it's because the moment he turned and saw Clint hanging limp in the golem's hand by his neck, he froze. He froze and hadn't reacted to Romanoff or Steve screaming in his ear.
He thinks that he's the weak one, not Clint. Clint just pays for his weaknesses. "There's guilt in your eyes." Tony blinks and looks up. Clint's tired blue eyes look back at him and Tony quickly scrolls through the vitals again. Clint's heartbeat is on the slow side, but it's still within the normal range. "It wasn't your fault, Tony." Clint's voice is muffled through his oxygen mask, but the plastic doesn't hide Clint's smile. Tony grips Clint's hand and Clint speaks up again. "I feel like I've been hit by a truck." He groans. "Can I sit up?"
"JARVIS, inform Bruce that Clint's awake. Actually, inform everyone else, too. And no, you can't get up. You have a broken clavicle and a once-dislocated shoulder that still needs rest. Not to mention all the other broken bones." Tony nods at JARVIS' mechanical answer and scrolls through the vital monitors again, just because it makes him feel better. He glances at Thor. "Should wake him up. I think he left that last piece for you."
Clint starts to laugh but ends up wincing, which is what wakes up Thor. His eyes fly open at the first sound of distress form Clint, and he shoots up from his seat. "Clint Barton! You are awake. Are you in pain? Shall I call the doctor, or…" He trails off when he sees Tony and lets out a sigh. "Is he all right?"
Tony nods. "He's fine." He scrolls through the vitals again, but in the midst of it Clint manages to kick him with his casted leg. "Clint." He scorns, but he gets it and lets the blue screens float to where they had been.
Bruce is then rushing into the room and then doing the same thing Tony has just done two and a half times in the last five minutes. Clint says nothing about it as Bruce lets out a sigh. "You're okay." Bruce says with a relieved, small smile. "You might be dizzy, nauseous for a bit, and there is going to be absolutely no walking for you until all your bones mend back. And you're not getting out of that bed for at least three weeks while I monitor your concussion. But you're okay." Clint lets out an exasperated groan and Bruce rolls his eyes.
Then Natasha drops out from a ceiling vent. "Don't hit him on the head." Tony speaks up when Natasha comes over with a murderous look on her face. "Concussion."
"It wasn't my fault." Clint protests weakly as Natasha settles for punching his relatively unhurt draw arm.
"Of course it is." Natasha glares harshly. "Every injury on your part is your fault."
It's Tony who cuts her off. "Actually, every injury on him is my fault." He says and dares to glare at Natasha when her glare turns from Clint to Natasha. "But let's not talk about that right now." He just wants to sit here, hold Clint's unhurt hand and just appreciate the fact that he's alive.
vi. the archer.
Clint thinks it's amusing to watch the Captain – who had been out buying food – scramble into the infirmary floor and get frustrated he wasn't in the tower when Clint woke up. Bruce tells him that Clint's been awake for less than ten minutes and that he's not late, but Steve settles himself next to Bruce and demands an explanation from all the vital monitors that even Clint can't bother with. Bruce patiently goes over each and every monitor, explaining what the numbers and little marks mean. Steve learns quickly, and Clint rolls his eyes at him.
They worry about him, and he knows. Coulson and Hill and Fury worry about him, even though none of them would ever admit to it. They barely show it in incredibly subtle ways, little ways that only Clint can notice because it's about him. Clint once noticed that every time he's about to go on a mission and when he comes back, the cafeteria on base only serves the stuff he likes. When he asked the cafeteria staff about it, they'd only replied it was 'orders from above.' Clint had done some digging to find out it was Fury.
Hill is the one who demanded R&D fit him with a grappling arrow, even though he doesn't find out about that until at least two years of using it. When he thanked her, she'd frowned at him and denied anything to do with it, but he'd had Tony hack the security feeds from the rough date he remembers getting his first grappling arrows. Hill had pretty much threatened R&D to make him a sturdy, lightweight grappling arrow and she 'didn't care how much it costs.'
Coulson is, however, his own handler, and therefore the one that ends up doing the most. He's aware Coulson constantly works with R&D to upgrade his suit, to upgrade his bow. But that's not all. Most of the things in his little nest above Tony's lab are things Coulson has put there. Sometimes Clint will come home, exhausted, and crawl to his nest to find a new Steve-shirt or a new Bruce-blanket. Sometimes he even finds little cupcakes and soda bottles. He never really knows how Coulson does it, but he knows it's Coulson because Natasha wouldn't really do anything sappy like that.
And that's just his handlers and bosses. His team worries about him. He can see Steve muttering as he memorizes every detail and learns which signs he should look for in Clint. Natasha looks angry, but he can see the worry and concern in her eyes. Thor had snuck him a piece of Pop Tart under the oxygen mask when Tony and Bruce weren't looking.
And then there's Tony.
Tony feels guilty. Everyone else feels guilty, yes, but guilt rolls of Tony in waves. But Clint has long learned it is a part of being in this relationship, so he says nothing but squeezes Tony's hand. Tony smiles at him, his thumb running over Clint's knuckles.
Clint remembers the last time he woke up in a bed like this with everyone looking like someone had died was the time with those damn wolves who had literally taken a chunk out of his side. That injury had actually hurt a lot more than being slammed into the pavement multiple times, though if he told the others that he didn't know what the response would be.
He feels a little lightheaded, and guesses that's the concussion, and his entire body throbs dully, but otherwise he feels all right. Well, maybe the lightheadedness and the dull throbbing is more because of codeine than his body actually being okay, but he can't imagine that Bruce would sedate him that much. "I'm hungry." He manages. Thor immediately perks up and grabs an unopened packet of Pop Tarts, but Bruce clears his throat. Thor pulls the kicked puppy look incredibly well for someone who's a giant and can beat down the Hulk.
"Let's start off light, Thor." Bruce sighs. "Maybe some soup, some porridge, and then we'll make our way up to Pop Tarts."
Clint frowns. "Is my stomach fucked up?"
Bruce looks stern. "No. Your organs are quite undamaged except your bruised lung, but still, Clint. Let's take it easy. You have a concussion, you're going to get nauseous. I'd like you to have foods your body will have a better time keeping down than Pop Tarts."
Clint eyes the packet longingly, and then his eyes meet Thor's. An understanding passes in between them and they both turn to Bruce, eyes wide and pleading. Steve bursts out laughing and Tony and Natasha smile. Bruce sighs. "It's the double puppy attack." Tony is chuckling now. "Let them have it, Bruce. One isn't going to hurt. I saw Thor sneak Clint a piece anyway."
Bruce looks like he's going to say no, but after a moment lets out a defeated chuckle. "All right, all right. I get it. Just one, Clint, Thor. And then soup. And don't take the oxygen mask off for too long."
Clint and Thor perk up and Thor tears the blue package open with ease. He takes one and attempts to hand Clint one. He pauses and hands it to Tony instead, and watches like a child as Tony takes it and breaks off pieces to hand-feed Clint.
Clint feels babied. But he can't complain. Bruce is shaking his head but smiling, Natasha has dropped her anger mask and is smiling, Steve has come to sit next to Thor and is smiling, Thor is smiling through his Pop Tarts and Tony is smiling.
He'll let them baby him for a bit. Especially because he knows it'll help with Tony's guilt.
But in the end, he and everyone else knows that it's alright, because all that matters is that he's alive and in one piece. Mostly, anyway.
For those of you following Tangle of Red and/or Clipped and don't follow my Tumblr, you're probably wondering why I haven't updated.. My computer with the next installments crashed, and I have to get the files restored. Until I go do that, ToR and Clipped are going to be on a short hiatus. But no worries, I'm getting them restored in the next week, so you won't have to wait too long.