Disclaimer: I do not own the Avengers or any of the characters affiliated with them. If I did, there would totally be a Hawkeye/Black Widow movie in the works.
Author's Note: While I embrace constructive criticism, remember this old saying if you choose to leave a review "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all"
This is a one-shot in my Vantage Point Universe. It is a short counterpart to my story "The Heart Bleeds" and shows the story behind a reference made in chapter two of that story. You can still enjoy this if you haven't been reading that, but it will make even more sense if you have.
No Thor in this story, sorry. As my other stories dictate, until "The Heart Bleeds" he's not been at the Tower very much.
Thanks to Strawberrywaltz for the inspiration to do this one-shot
"Bruce never came and trained with them. One nearly disastrous occurrence while Clint and Steve were sparring convinced Bruce never to step foot in the training room again." -"The Heart Bleeds", Chapter 2
"You should come train with us or at least watch if you don't want to train," Steve suggested as he loaded the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher. Clint had made waffles. Steve loved waffles. Steve did not love the syrup that glued itself to plates when one ate waffles or the ingrained habit that couldn't help but have him try and clean it off before he put the dish in the dishwasher. He hadn't grown up with a dishwasher. He'd grown up with soap and water.
"I don't know if that's a good idea," Bruce frowned doubtfully as he set the tower of juice glasses he'd collected from the table onto the counter. "You know I don't do well in stressful situation."
"Oh come on, Jolly Green, it's quality time with the team. You don't even have to do anything stressful you can just stand there and look angst ridden," Tony insisted as he pointed at a spot of syrup Steve missed in his scrubbing.
"You should come, Bruce," Pepper piped in as she came into the room dressed in what Tony called her 'bossy clothes', but were in fact just appropriate clothes to wear when you were the CEO of Stark Industries. "I'm going to watch for a few minutes before I go to the office. You can just leave when I do."
"I guess I can watch for a few minutes…" Bruce hedged carefully.
"Perfect! It'll be fun!" Tony crowed enthusiastically as he pointed at another spot of dried syrup Steve had missed, ignoring the glare he got for his trouble.
"Come on, Capsicle! Kick his ass!" Tony jeered from the edge of the sparring ring.
Clint scowled at him from where Natasha was helping him strap on his sparring gloves.
"If I could hold up one finger right now, which one do you think I'd choose?" Clint asked with a mocking smile. Tony grinned.
"Just stay focused," the Russian assassin instructed firmly. "You've already done a full sparring session so make sure you account for fatigue."
"I'll be fine," he assured.
She nodded in assent, trusting that he knew his limits, and climbed out of the ring. He turned to face Steve who was stretching out his arms.
"Ready?" Steve asked.
"Come and get it, Cap," Clint smirked.
On the ground, Bruce stepped up to Natasha's side.
"Is this really a good idea?"
"He'll be fine," she waved away the doctor's worry. "They've done this dozens of times. Steve's never landed a real hit."
"Really?" Bruce's eyebrows rose in surprise.
"Nobody moves faster than Clint," Natasha smirked, watching the sparring session get under way.
Bruce had to admit he was impressed. Steve, even with his superior strength and reflexes, was hard pressed to keep up with the lithe archer as he moved around the ring. Both men were sweating profusely after only ten minutes.
He was watching Clint do a particularly fantastic acrobatic move off the ropes of the sparring ring when he first felt it.
A stirring in his consciousness.
The other guy was starting to pay attention to the fight as well, was zeroing in on Clint with surprising focus. Bruce frowned and steeled himself to keep his other half quiet. He already knew the other guy was protective of the archer, ever since the showdown with Cole Williams, the green side of him had been keeping one eye on the assassin to make sure he was safe. Bruce didn't know what had spurred the protective instinct, but the other guy was fairly adamant about it.
The fight started to wind down and so did the other guy. Both Steve and Clint were tiring and they were smart enough not to risk a careless injury. Pepper stood and gathered her things, preparing to leave for the office as soon as the sparring session ended. She'd already stayed longer than she'd planned. Tony had turned to tell her goodbye and in the end it was only Natasha and Bruce that saw it happen.
One moment Clint was feinting the left and jabbing a fist at Steve's head. The next Steve was ducking and throwing a wild uppercut at Clint's ribs. Clint almost dodged it completely. But then Steve's padded glove was skimming across the front of his ribs and down the side, and Clint was flying backwards, landing in a jarring heap on the sparring floor.
Bruce didn't even have a chance to warn anyone. As soon as the glove hit Clint's side, the other guy was roaring his way forward and leaping into the ring.
Natasha instinctively moved around the edge of the ring towards Clint, who was already on his hands and knees. He nodded to her unasked question. He was okay. They both looked over his shoulder when the Hulk roared and yelled something indiscernible at Steve.
In the end all they understood was "arrow man".
Clint pushed himself to his feet and before Natasha could stop him, he was sliding under a flailing green arm and putting himself between the advancing Hulk and the profusely apologizing Steve.
"Clint! Are you alright? I'm so sorry! It was a wild swing and I should have checked it! I'm so…"
Clint cut him off with a wave of his hand.
"I'm fine, nothing hurt but my pride," he assured, before turning back to the green giant who was still raging in indiscernible yells.
"Hulk!" Clint shouted, putting up both his hands in a placating manner. When the large green man didn't stop his roaring, Clint tried again. "HULK!" he yelled as loudly as he could.
Abruptly the neon green eyes focused on him and the roaring stopped.
"Arrow Man hurt!" Hulk yelled angrily, banging his fist on the floor of the sparring mat and making both Steve and Clint stumble. He raised his fist to reveal a crater in the mat.
"I'm not hurt!" Clint insisted, holding his hands out wide from his body. "See? Not hurt!"
"COLOR MAN HURT ARROW MAN!" Hulk roared, coiling like he was going to lunge at Steve.
"HULK!" Clint scolded, moving forward and putting a hand on the green giant's clenched fist and pushing against it.
"Clint!" Natasha hissed at him, but he ignored her.
"It was an accident! Steve would never hurt me. Accident! I'm not hurt. Understand?" Clint reasoned firmly.
"Arrow Man not hurt?" Hulk asked in what could almost have been a tentative tone if not for the fact that a green giant was saying it.
"No," Clint assured. "Arrow Man not hurt." He gently pushed Hulk's unclenching fist down. "Okay?"
Hulk nodded and very suddenly shrunk away.
The entire room let out a collective sigh of relief.
Clint doubled, bracing his hands on his knees. Steve leaned heavily against the corner of the sparring ring. Natasha snatched a towel that was hanging off the back of a chair and climbed into the ring. She tossed the towel to Bruce, who was looking horrified, and moved to Clint, resting a hand lightly on his shoulder. Tony straightened from where he'd curled protectively over Pepper and the CEO blinked in wide eyed shock.
"Okay?" Natasha asked her partner quietly.
He straightened with a nod, but she could see the flash of pain in his eyes. She didn't call him on it. Steve was already looking guilty enough and they didn't need a repeat performance with the Hulk. Instead she met his eyes and promised she'd look at his side later. He dipped his head once in acknowledgement.
"Clint, I'm so sorry," Steve stated miserably.
"Don't sweat it, Cap, I hate to say it, but I've been hit harder."
Steve huffed a laugh and shook his head in disbelief.
"That's truly horrifying."
Clint shrugged and offered the super soldier a smile. Steve nodded in acceptance. Clint turned, intending to see how Bruce was doing only to find the man and the towel gone.
Tony, after the initial shock had worn off, had found it all quite fascinating. His favorite part, of course, being that Hulk called Steve 'Color Man'. When the tension had died down and Clint and Natasha had left the training room, Tony had laughed quite hysterically at Steve's expense. The red, white, and blue hero had smiled sheepishly and commented that he supposed he could understand the reasoning behind the nickname.
It was after Steve had headed to his room to shower and he'd seen Pepper to her car, that Tony really considered the full weight of what had just happened.
Hulk had protected Clint...from Steve. From good old boy, stars and stripes, unerring moral compass, Steve. The absolute last person in the world who would dare consider harming a fly unless it was absolutely end of the world necessary. Tony thought it was quite remarkable.
He knew first hand just how effectively Clint could protect himself and those around him. After their hellacious foray into South Africa, his respect for the all too human archer's abilities had only grown. He was as skilled a fighter as they come and had supernatural aim to boot. Clint was possibly the last person on their entire team that needed or wanted someone fighting his battles for him. Except maybe the Russian, but Tony rarely let himself consider what that red headed terror was capable of.
But on the other hand, Clint was in many ways the one that needed it the most. Tony had learned during their captivity in South Africa, that Clint was almost painfully human. His body had limits and sometimes he reached those limits despite possessing quite possibly all the stubbornness the world had to offer. But he was also human in the respect that he cared deeply about things, something you would never know unless he allowed you know. He had a tragic past that he only ever alluded to, but that still seemed to haunt him at times.
But within that humanity, he managed to carry a strength no man should be able to possess.
So in a weird way, Tony got it. He got why Hulk chose Clint to protect. Clint would always and would never need it.
Tony smiled at the paradox.
Steve stepped out of his shower and quickly toweled off. He was still reeling from what had happened. As if hitting Clint hadn't been bad enough, Hulk had made an appearance. Steve still couldn't shake the shock that had taken over him when he'd been suddenly faced with a raging green giant.
Oddly, it wasn't shock that Hulk had defended Clint. They all felt an odd sort of protectiveness over the archer after that whole mess with Cole Williams. It was shock that Hulk would think he, Steve, would ever hurt Clint on purpose. It had stung deeply.
Of course that sting had been wiped away when Clint had slid between them and fervently stated that Steve would never hurt him.
He'd been proud of Clint's claim and that it came without hesitation.
In a lot of ways, Steve thought, he thought he might have reacted the same way if their situations had been reversed. If he had been watching and seen someone much stronger than Clint land a hit that sent him flying, he would have jumped into the ring too. Probably with the same level of rage Hulk had, just without all the yelling.
So he couldn't find it in himself to be angry at the big green giant. How could he be? When he would have done the same thing.
Natasha gently probed Clint's side.
"Nothing seems broken," she decided.
"Didn't feel broken. Still hurts like hell though," Clint replied as he eased his shirt back on.
"The bruise is going to be deep, it'll hurt for a few weeks," Natasha sighed. "Could have been worse, though. You could have been killed by a raging green giant."
Clint's eyebrows rose at the heat in her tone.
"Hulk wouldn't have hurt me."
"What makes you so special?" she scoffed with a grin.
"I'm 'Arrow Man'." Clint smiled widely.
"Arrow Man," she repeated blandly.
"He was protecting me, Tasha. He wouldn't have hurt me."
"This time," she pointed out. "Just please don't make a habit of jumping in front of green giants. It's not good for my blood pressure."
Clint laughed, pulled her in to kiss her temple and then stood. He understood her trepidation. If she wasn't wary of Hulk after the incident on the helicarrier he'd be more concerned.
"I've got to go find Bruce and make sure he doesn't drown in self reproach."
Natasha watched him head towards the large air vent in his ceiling and rolled her eyes. Her hawk and his air vents. Once he had disappeared into the air ducts, she collapsed back on his bed. It was hard to associate Hulk with protection after he'd very nearly killed her on the helicarrier. Clint seemed fairly certain of it though. And if Clint was certain, she knew she could be certain too.
Maybe it wasn't such a bad thing. Having a green giant with rage issues looking out for her man. She'd like to see anybody try to shoot him with Hulk hanging around.
Of course knowing her hawk, he'd find a way to get shot anyway.
"So," Clint dropped down through Bruce's bedroom vent and moved to sit against the wall where the scientist was hunched miserably, fully clothed once again, "what was that about?"
"I'm sorry." Bruce shook his head miserably. "He didn't give me any warning."
"Yeah, I got that." Clint smiled. "Any idea why he freaked out?"
"I don't know," Bruce frowned. "He's protective over the whole team, but he's never reacted like that before. He's still seething right now and angry at Steve."
Clint nodded in understanding.
"He's just extremely protective over you, I guess. More so than the others."
"I have no idea." Bruce shook his head.
Clint chewed his lower lip thoughtfully.
"Tell the big guy thanks," he finally stated.
"Thanks?" Bruce frowned. "He could have killed you and everyone else in there and you want me to tell him thanks?"
"Yeah," Clint grinned slightly. "Tell him thanks for looking out."
With that Clint stood and made his way back over to the vent. Bruce watched him crouch and then jump straight up, snagging his hands on the edge of the opening and pulling himself easily up and inside the air duct.
Bruce shook his head in awe that had nothing to do with the archer's agility. He communicated Clint's message to his darker half, who finally settled down, humming in satisfaction. Still amazed, Bruce pushed himself up and headed out of the room. He silently vowed never to step foot in the training room again. Clint may have talked the Hulk down this time, but there was no guarantee he'd be able to do it twice. It was better not to put anybody into that situation ever again.
He moved down the hallway and smiled as he joined the rest of the team in the living room. Clint was already plopped down on the couch next to Natasha, looking for the world like nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
Only Clint could get knocked across a sparring ring and jump up like he'd gotten hit by a feather instead of a super soldier's fist.
Only Clint could talk down a raging green giant like it was nothing.
Only Clint would thank that giant afterwards.
Only Clint would crawl through an air duct to deliver that thanks.
Bruce took a seat in a free chair and nodded silent thanks at the archer, who acknowledged with a slight nod in return.
And only Clint would make a man who was so ashamed of his other side grateful to it instead. Grateful that someone stronger than any of them was looking out for the all too human archer.
Just as snippet into the everyday lives of our Avengers :)
If you're new to my work, I'll tell you that I would love if you went and checked out my other stories!
Reviews make me super happy! :D
(For those of you that read my other stuff...it is SUPER weird not to be putting a preview right here. It just looks wrong somehow.)