A/N: So I'm playing around with a trope here, messing with style and structure, so I hope you enjoy. Thanks so much to dysprositos for beta talents galore. Reviews and concrit are appreciated. Trigger Warnings: Torture, violence, suicidal thoughts, depression, threesome (do I need to warn for this? I guess so.)
This takes place in the same AU where my stories "The Last Time You Slept" and "Seeing The Stars" take place. If you accept Steve, Phil, and Clint in an established relationship, then you don't have to read those to understand this one. Post-Avengers (hand-wave here, but Last Time You Slept deals with the fix-it element).
The bikers ride on a classic 1974 Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle with purple accents and shining chrome, and their helmets match, black helmets with an arched 'A' on the side. They are both in jeans and leather jackets, one in brown and one in black, and the man in black is riding passenger, his arms wrapped around his companion's waist and his head often braced against the other man's back. They're riding on an old two-lane highway as a midnight blue 1968 Corvette Stingray follows a few lengths behind them, as if it's following them.
The vehicles are shiny, restored, and purring down the road under the open blue sky. They don't speed, and whenever the road is free of traffic, the cycle will slow, letting the car slide up beside it. They only cover about two hundred miles in one day because they take it slow and stop at any and every roadside view spot, pulling off their helmets, sharing water and fruit from the cooler in the car. The driver of the car and the taller man driving the bike ease the man in the black jacket off of the bike gingerly each time, letting him lean on them as they soak in the views of the Adirondack mountain range as they progress up the road. It's dusk when the cycle leads the way into a hotel parking lot in Binghamton, New York.
"Psych wants him out of the city for a few days at least, Phil. Get his mind off of what happened." Fury is standing behind his desk, arms crossed tightly across his chest and his face caught between sternness and worry.
"Did medical sign off, too?" Phil asked, standing as well but leaning heavily with both hands on the back of the chair in front of the desk.
"They want to talk to you before you go, but yes, they signed off. Conditionally."
Phil stood straighter and sighed. "Okay. I'm taking Rogers, too, though. He'll be on stand-by if you need him, but I want him to come."
Fury nodded. "I hope you guys can help, you know. I don't want this to wreck him. After what happened last year, and now this…" He reached down and passed Phil two files. "One's from Psych and one's from Medical. They'll both meet with you before you leave."
"Yeah. Okay. I'll stay in touch when I can, right?" Phil asked.
"When you can? You gonna take him off the grid?"
"Maybe. We'll see what he's up for. Might not be reasonable, but maybe just for a bit if we can."
"Okay. Stark can get to you even if you're off grid, so don't worry about checking in." Fury stepped around his desk to Phil and reached his hand out. Phil shook it. "I'm sorry for how this went down, Phil," Fury said.
Phil shrugged. "He's worked with Sitwell before. The op just went to hell. Sometimes that happens, right?" He hoped to hell that's all it was. Random. One piece of minutiae that triggered hell – sometimes even the best handler can't stop a piece of minutiae.
"Right," Fury said, and he stepped back around behind his desk and sat down. "See you next week sometime. Use your discretion on the time frame."
Phil nodded. "Thank you." And that's all that needed to be said, so he left. After he shut the door to Fury's office, he leaned against the wall with his hands pressed against it and dropped his head to his chest, taking several deep breaths to calm himself before straightening his suit and heading down to Medical.
Steve shuts the door to the hotel room gently behind him and watches as Clint shrugs his jacket off and tries to hide a wince of pain as he clearly pulls his stomach wrong. Clint readjusts and manages to pull his jacket off and hang it up. Phil is getting some supplies at the nearby grocery store, so it's just Steve and Clint for a few minutes. Steve wanders over and hangs his own coat up and moves to Clint's side. He's just standing in the middle of the room, looking lost. Steve leans into him, though not wrapping him up in his arms like he wants to; he just leans into his arm, touching their t-shirts together.
"You okay?" He asks, unsure of what he's asking about, when he stops to think about it.
Clint looks over at him, his eyes tired. "Sure," He says, his voice flat. He pauses and turns to one of the beds. "Felt real good to be outside today. I haven't been outside that long when I wasn't on an op in months." He sighs and sits down on the edge of the bed. "Tired, though." He toes off his shoes and scoots back on the bed. Steve reaches over and offers a hand to help him lay down – he knows any action requiring Clint's stomach muscles right now is bad news – and Clint accepts it with clenched eyes and a breathy "thanks."
Steve watches as Clint just closes his eyes and is surprised when Clint falls asleep a minute later. Settling himself down in a chair nearby to wait for Phil, he gazes at his lover. He still looks bad. There are dark circles under his eyes despite two weeks in medical, resting. His cheeks are too hollowed; he looks gaunt. Steve tries to recall how many pounds medical said he'd lost but he can't remember. Too many. There are still marks on his face, finally starting to fade but still visible, and Steve's eyes travel to Clint's wrists, where bandages still cover the wounds that haven't yet healed.
It's in Clint's eyes, though, that Steve sees the most trouble, and he's quietly grateful that Clint's got them closed, because every time Clint sleeps these days Steve hopes a little more light might be there when he wakes up.
He remembers that weary, faded look in Bucky's eyes when he finally got back to camp after Steve rescued him, after the hoopla and reports to the Colonel. Bad things had been done to him, and he'd watched comrades die. The fire didn't return to his best friend's eyes quickly, and Steve knows that bike rides are a good place to start, but the fire might take a while to come back to Clint as well. You don't see those kinds of things and just come back into the world easily. It would take coaxing.
Steve glances up as the door opens and Phil enters, taking his hooded jacket off and hanging it up. He glances at Clint, asleep on the bed, and sets two bags of groceries on the small counter above the mini fridge.
"He fell asleep fast. Is he okay?" Phil asks.
"Just tired for now," Steve says, and then after a pause, "I think."
Phil nods and leans over Steve, brushing his lips in a soft kiss. Steve closes his eyes and savors the contact, reaching for Phil's hands and pulling them close to his chest. He needs a little grounding after a day of what felt like running as far and as fast away from the city as they could.
Phil pulls back and looks at him, concerned. "Are you okay?"
Steve nods and stands up, moving to Clint's side along with Phil. "Worried. As usual," he says with a grin.
"It's what you do," Phil teases.
"Yeah, well, I've seen a lot of things, but I've never seen anyone that far gone," Steve said softly, pulling a blanket up over Clint's prone form and then sinking back into one of the chairs nearby. "I didn't think we'd get this far when we found him."
"Neither did I," Phil says as he moves to the other bed and sits down, pulling off his shoes and stretching out on top of the covers. "We can't let him sleep too long right now, but I think an hour will be okay. That'll put us on the tail end of his medicine's time range."
"You going to sleep a bit?" Steve asks as he digs through his pack for his sketchbook and pencils. He needs this kind of grounding, too.
"Yeah, can you wake me just in about twenty minutes? I just need a power nap before dinner. Then we'll get him up and go find a place to eat."
"Sure," Steve says, and settles into the chair with his drawings. Soon Phil is snoring softly and Steve smiles at the old military in him that knows how to fall asleep practically on command. He's often grateful for the military elements of Phil's existence. He needs that kind of perspective more often than he acknowledges.
For now, he draws, letting his pencils drift across the page, and soon a small portrait of Clint appears, but Steve gets stuck when he gets to the mouth. After looking over and watching Clint sleep, he decides to be honest with himself and draws some more, letting the straight line of the mouth appear and adding shadows to the eyes. He stares at the drawing when he's finished, and adds the date at the bottom of the page. This is Clint today.
After checking his watch, he packs up his pencils and book and goes to Phil's bed, stretching out beside him and gently leaning over and running his fingers through Phil's sandy hair, saying, "Hey, you should get up, okay?" He hates waking either of them, as sleep is a precious commodity right now in their world, but he knows he can't wake Clint on his own, not yet.
Phil rolls into Steve's arms and presses his face into the crook of Steve's neck. "That was fast," he mumbles, yawning, and then as he makes Steve's chest into a pillow, he promptly falls back asleep. Steve watches him sleep for a minute and thinks 'maybe this time it'll be okay.' He knows Phil needs rest, too; none of them have managed to get back onto a regular schedule since the incident. So he pulls himself away from Phil and stands, moving to the suitcase nearby. If he can wake Clint up and give him his medicine, Phil could get another hour or so before the prudent time to get dinner really passed.
So Steve rummages through the bag, finding the clear plastic bag holding three pill bottles and pulling one out. He runs a glass of water and sets the pills and the water on the bed stand. He takes a deep breath and moves to Clint's side, careful not to touch him. He leans over and speaks firmly into Clint's ear. "Clint. Can you wake up? Clint, wake up. You're safe. You're in a hotel with me and Phil, okay? Please wake up."
He watches as Clint stirs, and suddenly Clint opens his eyes with a gasp, his eyes wild in fear. Steve makes sure he's in his line of sight and speaks again. "Clint, you're safe. You're in a hotel. You're safe." Clint looks at him and takes a few heaving breaths. He sits up quickly, looking around the room.
"Phil?" he says, looking at Phil, who had curled up around one of the pillows on his bed.
Steve quickly says, "He's fine, Clint. He's okay. He's just sleeping, all right?" and he kneels down in front of Clint, putting his hands on his knees just like he'd watched Phil do the last week or so. Clint flinches and then looks at Steve, finally finding his eyes and nodding.
"Okay," he says, his breath coming normally now. "Okay. He needs to sleep."
"Yeah, I thought so, too." Steve says with a grin, feeling like things might be progressing. He moves to sit on the bed next to Clint. "You need to take your medicine, though, to stay on schedule." He feels Clint go rigid at his words.
"No," Clint says, darkly.
"Yes, two more days. Remember? Just two more days," Steve says.
Steve reaches for the bottle and shows him. "Yes, Clint, look. Here's the date. You have a couple days left."
Clint stands from the bed without looking, crosses his hands over his chest and turns his back to Steve. He says, "No. I'm not taking them." He sounds like a petulant child.
"Please, Clint. Just take them. Trust me," Steve says, as Phil begins to stir on the bed behind them.
"No, goddam it! Clint shouts, and he reaches up and pulls on his hair as he limps to the window, breathing through clenched teeth. Phil sits up with a start, climbing quickly to his feet.
"What's going on?" he asks Steve, panicked.
Steve looks at Phil apologetically. "I thought he might take them from me this time and I could let you sleep, Phil." He hands him the bottle, and Phil just nods and moves quickly to Clint's side. Steve watches as he holds the bottle out to Clint and says, gently, "Will you take them from me? Steve's right about you needing them." Phil reaches out with his other arm and gently rubs Clint's back, right in the middle, and Clint visibly relaxes, turning away from the window and looking furtively over at Steve and then back at Phil. He looks down at the pill bottle and clenches his eyes shut. "I don't want them, Phil, please."
"I know," Phil says. "But you're still healing, and you need them. Just a little longer, okay?"
Clint stares at the floor for a few moments and then nods, and Phil steps closer and gives him two pills and the glass of water. Clint's hands shake as he puts the pills in his mouth and takes a drink.