This strange little story popped into my mind at 2:30 this morning, pulling me from sleep and nagging to be written. I rolled over, grabbed my phone, typed it out in memo in three minutes, and this is the result. Sorry if it sucks…? Lol. The narrative is purposely fragmented and jumpy to illustrate a not-quite-cohesive thought process.

The story's mine, but that's it. I'm just playing in Marvel's sandbox. Rated T for nasty language, violence, and adult themes. If anyone feels the rating is too low, let me know, please.

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Slipping

By: Syntyche

Clint Barton hates zombies.

It's worth mentioning that he didn't before - stuff like that didn't bother him in the slightest - but now he squirms just a little at the thought of mindless killing machines, and resolutely pushes aside the distinct feeling of discomfort crowding in on him when he awakes gasping and panting from the newest nightmares added to his already nightly haunting, disturbingly real dreams about unthinking undead.

In his dreams, they snarl and snap at him, soulless eyes boring into his as their decaying fingers dig into his flesh, smearing their blood with his.

In his dreams, they bleed a glowing blue.

Clint comes awake with a start and immediately feels for the hunting knife under his lumpy pillows and nestlike mass of blankets, sliding the long blade from its sheath, and he folds his compact body onto the edge of the bed with his taut forearms braced on his knees and he trembles as the last of tonight's dream slides away into half-remembered fuzziness. He swallows dryly as he realizes he can't recall details, just the clinging sense of horror left over in the nightmare's wake that something about his dream has left him terrified and he doesn't know what it is.

He can't remember, and that scares him even more than the stupid dream.

Clint moves to the windowsill with easy grace, because he knows trying to sleep now is useless and he doesn't want to dream about zombies. He perches easily on the ledge and looks down at the busy city; there's something to be said for Stark Tower and its fantastic view. The city doesn't sleep, and neither does he so much any more.

The hawk has been awake for days, the snatches of restless napping he gets not enough to recharge his exhausted body for long. At least saving the world (after first endangering it, and he thinks again about those damn zombies) has earned them all a bit of a respite; Clint knows the limits of his body, and he knows that his reserves are too low. A part of him gratefully and tiredly welcomes this knowledge, that the next time he's called out he might not be fast enough to save himself, but a tiny, persistent voice deep in his mind tells him not to be such a coward and that Tasha will kill him in horrible ways if he dies on her.

He shifts, winces. Bruises that should have already healed are still livid against his pale skin, tucked out of sight under the long sleeves of his old white Henley, and his left knee, painfully wrenched, is reminding him that he shouldn't just take it, shouldn't accept it, shouldn't want it, that letting his fellow (former?) SHIELD colleagues trap him in dark spaces and pummel him senseless isn't justice, isn't what he deserves.

He can't keep up the façade though, because he knows he does deserve it.

As he sits, the tired hawk can feel his eyelids sliding shut, but he jerks awake and calmly assesses the smooth metal grip filling his palm, twisting the blade in his hands and trying not to think of mindless, remorseless, fucking unfeeling monsters that bleed Tessaract blue.

Clint closes his eyes, and digs his knife through his pajama pants and into the skin of his thigh. He's been doing this since he was recalibrated, since he started dreaming about zombies, and scattered and hidden across his body are the marks. Clint bites the inside of his cheek and inhales swiftly, and opens his eyes to survey the damage.

No glowing blue. Just warm, normal red spilling over his thigh, soaking into his worn flannel pants.

Not a zombie.

Not any more.

He sighs in relief.

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It was originally a one-shot, but I think there's potential here for more if anyone is interested? It's my first time playing with the Avengers, so I'm a little nervous about it. :)