Here it is, the last chapter. And the most action pact if I do say so myself. Enjoy!
Clint looked up and over when Bruce's stool shifted, just in time to see the doctor get shoved a second time and fall gracelessly to the floor. Immediately Clint put himself between Bruce and the source of danger.
In the back of his mind Clint knew he should be worried about Bruce hulking out, but the fresh memories of his brother being hit by his father sent Clint into his defender mode.
"Hey!" Barton growled and deflected a fist thrown at his face with mastered skill. With a hard glare directed at the tattooed monster Clint threw his own punch. The drunk man was too slow to block and Barton grinned wildly when he felt the drunk asshole's nose shatter under the force of the hit.
The man stumbled back and gave a very hulk-like roar. Six other tattooed men stood from various places around the bar.
"I see I struck a nerve." Clint grinned and readied himself for an all our brawl.
Bruce picked himself up off the floor, keeping out of the way of a rather angry Clint. He watched as the archer punched the drunkard in the nose, shattering the bone and couldn't help but wince. He tasted blood in his mouth and soon found that his lip was cut but a quick feel of his mouth revealed no loose teeth. The edges of his vision threatened to go green as he felt anger boil up inside him.
"Calm down, Banner," he muttered to himself, counting under his breath in an effort to keep the other guy under control. Shaking, he stood up, sending Clint a pained glance.
"I think we'd better go," he said quietly. Already his hands were shaking and his breathing ragged.
"What's the matter? Can't stand up for yourself? Got to have your boyfriend looking out for you?" one of the now broken nosed man's cronies jeered. The rest of the now alarmingly large group joined in their laughter. Bruce felt Clint look him over for injuries and signs of the other guy.
"We really need me to leave," he repeated. A heavy hand came into contact with the back of his head, knocking him straight into Clint's chest. That only increased the level of jeering around them. Bruce really needed to get out of there before he smashed the whole building up. What he had to do was get away from Clint, Hulking out whilst practically on top of him would not be healthy for the archer. He hoped that SHIELD had trained their agents to extract green anger monsters from bar brawls. Somehow he didn't think it was one of their practiced scenarios.
Clint caught hold of Bruce's shoulders in an attempt to steady the rather unsteady doctor. Even without hearing Bruce's words the agent was very aware that Banner needed to get out of the newly developed high stress situation. Luckily for them both, Clint excelled at two things: winning impossible fights and protecting assistants in dangerous situations.
The problem was Clint tended to forget to protect himself while he protected people he considered more important. Plus, he had unintentionally placed Bruce in this situation, he'd be damned if he let anything happen to the doctor.
Quickly Barton took in his options. The six tattooed thugs had formed a tight circle around the two Avengers. The other patrons of the bar had backed off or left, not wanting to get involved in the fight. The closeness would seem like a bad thing to most people, but Clint smirked. It would be easy to get Bruce an opening to slip out the door.
Calmly Clint gave a gentle squeeze to Banner's shoulder to grab his attention. "When you get an chance, make a run for the door. Do not slow down, do not look back – focus on getting away from here and calming down. I'll find you once I've finished teaching these guys some manners." The directions were given in a low voice, for Bruce's ears only. Clint was rushed: the tattooed guys weren't exactly thrilled to be ignored.
"Whispering sweet nothings in your lover's ear? How romantic, you make me sick." One of them asked, pushing Clint from the side – his first mistake. Barton let go of Bruce's shoulders to block an attack on the doctor. In a swift movement Clint twisted the arm around the guys back, swiftly dislocated the limb and pushed the screaming man away.
In a flash a second man was down on the ground, struggling to breathe after Clint slammed his fist into his exposed throat – Barton ignored the fact that the same guy had landed a solid punch in his side.
Two men rushed Bruce from behind while Barton was dealing with the first two.
Someone broke a bottle against Clint's back as he turned to shield Banner and engage the two in the back. Blocking a punch Clint shoved a flat palm against one man's chest and kicked the other in the side, sending him across the bar smashing into a table that buckled under the force. Spinning Clint stopped a man's fist mid-air and glanced back at Banner. "Go."
The man still holding the broken bottle rushed Banner as Clint nudged the doctor in the direction of the door. The broken bottle cut into the archer's bicep before it shattered completely against Clint's head.
Barton grunted and grabbed the culprit's head with his now bloody arm and slammed it into the counter of the bar.
From the corner of his eyes Clint watched the doctor, making sure he made it out the door safely before turning back to make sure none of the tattooed idiots bolted after the doctor.
Three were down for the count – that left three still red faced and pissed off. Clint's vision swam for a moment, but the adrenaline pushed the weakness away.
Barton looked directly at the man with the broken nose. "You know what? I think it looks better that way." Clint chuckled.
Bruce pushed open the door into the cool air outside, his head swimming as he tried to get his breathing under control. Some part of him felt guilty about leaving Clint alone in there but realistically he had had no choice. The SHIELD agent could more than look after himself, even if he had seemed to be taking a few too many direct hits to his body. The sounds of the fight still reached him through the open windows. Bruce sank to the pavement, cradling his head in his hands to block everything out and fight the other guy for control. The opening of the bar door interrupted. He glanced up, expecting to see a slightly battered Clint. Clint was not that tall and did not have a tattoo running up his arm.
"Think you could hide like a coward? Your boyfriend's in there getting beaten up and you're out here like a sissy." Bruce scrambled to his feet and tried to back away down the sidewalk.
"If I were you I'd leave. You really don't want to make me angry," he told the man. It sounded pathetic and fake as his voice was strangled with fear. Not for himself, but a fear that the other guy would break through.
The man laughed at him, taking one large step to block Bruce's way. He was now backed up against the wall with nowhere to go. He should have gotten further away when Clint gave him the chance but he had assumed that the archer could deal with the thugs inside the bar. It had never occurred to him that one might have stayed back and follow him out.
"Not got your boyfriend here to save your skin now, do you?" Bruce didn't think it would be an appropriate time to point out that he and Clint weren't a thing. Clint and Natasha, maybe. Thinking of Natasha he wondered if the Black Widow had followed or even watched her partner's attempt at socialization. Probably not seeing as she had failed to step in.
Bruce had never tried to fight back before; he had just gotten out of the way. Raising a hand like Clint did he was shocked when a blow that would have smashed into his face fell harmlessly away. His arm hurt slightly but not as much as his face would of. He didn't exactly fight back; more defend himself against the blows. As his attacker raised his arm for another punch he saw an opening. A fist caught him on the back of his head, sending his vision spinning. Nevertheless he ran to his right, tripping down then up the curb, nearly getting run over in the process. An empty alleyway presented itself and he collapsed in the shadows.
It didn't take long for Clint to dispose of the three remaining men once Bruce was out of foreseeable danger. After all they were drunk and he was a trained assassin. The only reason the group had managed to get a few hits in on Clint was because he had been focused on protecting Banner by any means necessary – even if that meant using his body like a shield. It had been the archer's fault Bruce had been put in this unfortunate situation – the hits were deserved.
Once the three men were either unconscious or crying on the floor, Clint smirked a bit and took a moment to glance down at his arm. The scratches were shallow, nothing worth a second glance. The hit to his head hadn't been hard enough to worry about, though his hair was littered with shards of glass. Shaking his head the archer dislodged a few of the bigger pieces from his hair as he headed for the door. Apart from a few unimpressive bruises the assassin would be fine.
Outside Clint glanced around for any sign of Bruce and noticed some commotion in the middle of the street. A bunch of cars were stopped and a body was sprawled out on the ground. Immediately Barton knew that it wasn't Bruce – the Hulk would have made a show of destroying the car that dared hit him.
Joining the slowly growing crowd Clint saw that it was another tattooed man – Bruce had been chased. "Damn it." The archer cursed and moved across the street. Apparently Banner had run across the street, the tattooed guy chased behind him. Banner hadn't stopped for oncoming traffic, neither had tattoo face, who had been struck. Bruce must have kept going. Going where? Probably the first dark deserted place he saw that he could hide in.
Finally Clint spotted a nearby alleyway.
Carefully Clint approached, hands out in front of him as his eyes searched the darkness for his teammate. "Bruce?" He called, hoping he'd find the doctor and not his green counterpart.
Bruce was curled up, hugging his knees tightly to his chest. His head snapped up when he heard Clint call his name.
"Go," he managed to mumble through clenched teeth, determined not to let the other guy beat him again. He just wanted Clint to get out of there in case he lost the battle raging inside him. Turning into the other guy was painful, even if Hulk didn't really feel pain, it always came back to bite Bruce when he woke up. Fighting was just as bad, like trying to rip your own head apart. He sensed that Clint was still there, hovering uncertainly at the alley's mouth.
"Go, or else you'll get hurt," he repeated. After everything Clint had done that evening he couldn't let the other guy hurt him. "Please, Clint, go before I hurt you."
Bruce tried to focus on something, anything. His earlier mental picture of Clint dressed as Captain America came back and he fought the other guy's rage with humour. It wasn't the calm, soothing thoughts he had tried before but images of birds and beaches never seemed to work.
He felt a slight pressure on his shoulder as Clint placed his hand there to steady the jerks that had been tearing through his body. The archer didn't say anything as Bruce gradually got his breathing under control and finally managed to wrestle the other guy into the tight mental cage he had erected.
"You're an idiot, you know that?" he said shakily. "Any sane person would have been halfway across the city by now." He was glad that Clint had somehow managed to convey a trust in his self-control he didn't even have himself. Carefully he relaxed, leaning against the brick wall beside him.
"So, is this what Natasha had in mind when she told you to socialize?"
Clint grinned back at Bruce when he realized the Hulk was no longer trying to make an appearance.
"Well, nobody ever accused me of being smart or sane." Barton winked with a smirk and sat back on his heels in front of Banner, close enough to protect the doctor if needed and far enough to give the man space to recover.
"And I don't think Natasha could ever have envisioned tonight ending this badly." His smile faded. It had started well, but ended in disaster. Maybe now Natasha would realize he shouldn't be allowed to leave the tower. Clint silently hoped so – only an idiot would put Bruce in such a situation.
"But I'm sure she knew I'd crash and burn in some way or another. It's the principle. She's worried you guys are having trouble trusting me after the whole Loki fiasco. I haven't exactly gone out of my way to get to know any of you." With a sigh Clint checked Bruce over for any notable injuries. For the most part the doctor seemed to be unscathed – one positive in a world that seemed to be purely negative.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have – I should have realized." Barton struggled, running a hand through his hair, dislodging some more glass in the process. "I shouldn't have put you in this situation. As I said, no one's ever accused me of being smart." The archer smiled lightly, trying to lighten the mood. "We should probably get back to the tower."
Bruce frowned at Clint's continuous apologies. They sounded a bit too much like the ones he usually made.
"It's not as if you could have known that those jerks would be there, Clint. It's a good thing that you were here, or else the other guy would be tearing up the city by now." He smiled weakly as he continued. "None of us blame you for what happened with Loki. Sure at the time we were a bit touchy because we didn't understand what happened to you. I know this is a bit hypocritical coming from me but you mustn't blame you yourself. Believe me, it sucks." He let out a long sigh and tried to pull himself to his feet. His legs were less than cooperative and he ended up sagging against the wall.
"You can go ahead of you like; I think I'll just stay here. Stark putting a pointy object in my ribs isn't the best idea right now," Bruce said with weak humor.
"I took you to a bar. Bars are typically full of drunken jerks." Clint shrugged. Although he had to admit that Amnesia hadn't always been this busy. Some nights it had only been Clint and Phil, but those days were gone.
Barton nodded in acknowledgment when Bruce told him he wasn't to blame for Loki. In some ways he knew that himself. It was just hard to not second guess or berate himself for being so weak.
"How about we make a couple deals." Clint offered once Bruce finished. "I'll try to stop blaming myself for Loki if you'll stop blaming yourself for the Hulk. And, we both go back to the tower and I will personally see to it that Tony keeps his sharp objects to himself."
Barton waited for the doctor to nod, even if it was a small, unsure nod. "Good, now lets head back, all this brawling has made me hungry."
There it is guys, the end of our first collaboration. There will be more, Lou and I have about 9,000 words + in our next story. Here's a preview!
Clint blinked until his eyes readjusted to the light and shifted his movements so that they were subtle.
A small cough bubbled in the back of Clint's throat as he glanced over at Bruce, than glared back at Brent.
"You know, when you ask someone to come a rather long distance to help with research – this isn't the type of hospitality you greet them with." The archer growled in an attempt to draw the attention of this weeks bad guy away from Banner.
The more stress Bruce was under the more likely the other guy would make an appearance, which would not be good. The room was small, too small for something as big and angry as the Hulk.
It'll be posted on her profile next time, so keep your eyes open for it!
Reviews are love! And I could use some love, classes start today.