A/N: Thanks again to dysprositos for beta magic. Seriously. Ma-Gic. Thanks to everyone who has commented, liked, and followed. Concrit is always welcome! Hope the wrap-up works for everyone!
They make it two more days in the cabin. Clint sleeps fitfully at night, and spends most of his time sitting on the hill while Steve draws and Phil reads. He gives them permission to share his story with Fury and with the psychologist, and both suggest that they come back to SHIELD sooner than Steve had hoped.
But they take two days. During those two days Clint chooses at least one meal a day, chooses to take the medicine without complaint, chooses to go on two quiet walks with Steve, and chooses to sleep in between Phil and Steve each night.
There's not much else he'll choose, and he doesn't talk much more about what happened. The first afternoon, he sits on the overlook and calls Natasha on his cell phone. They talk for a long time, but Phil and Steve don't press him for what they discussed.
Steve watches carefully. He watches Clint and Phil, sees how Phil is cautious, patient, and gentle with his lover. Steve knows that Phil is used to being able to control situations. So his hear t breaks a little when Phil leans into his arms the first night as they watch the fire and Phil shudders, saying "I just want to fix him. I wish we could just fix him."
"We are," Steve whispers into Phil's hair, rubbing Phil's arm as he speaks. "We really are."
But it's hard.
The day after Clint's suicide threat, they pay careful attention and realize just how often Clint is 'zoning out,' so Steve starts trying to keep Clint engaged in conversation more often. It works a few times during the day, but it also doesn't stop Clint from not hearing Phil or Steve for long stretches at a time, no matter what they say.
Phil drags Clint into the kitchen on the second day, asking him not just to choose the evening meal but to help make it. Clint freezes for a moment, but then shrugs, saying, "It's something to do." He makes a hell of a stir-fry and Steve feels warm as he eats it.
Steve finds a baseball game for them to watch that night, and Natasha stops back in, shrugging and saying, "I tried to stay away. Only managed to wait for an invite." Steve gives her a hug and then all four of them cram onto the couch watching the playoffs, eating popcorn and debating the changes to the game that Steve just can't leave alone.
When they get back to SHIELD, Clint is escorted to Director Fury's office alone, and Phil and Steve are directed to the psychologist's office. They are told that suicide threats often come again, and that keeping Clint on suicide watch for at least a couple of weeks while he's in intensive therapy would be difficult if he went back to the Tower right away. Steve and Phil agree, but also tell the therapist that they won't be going back to the Tower either, not until Clint is ready.
The psychologist asks a lot of questions about the trip, about the stories Clint told, about how Phil and Steve are dealing with this. Phil closes up and Steve has to draw him out, but finally they both admit how frustrated and worried and tired they are as well. The psychologist suggests some individual sessions for both of them.
When Clint is finished in Fury's office, he emerges looking pale and tired, but the therapist wants to start right away. They all look at each other and Steve says, "This is going to be work, right?" and Clint nods and goes silently into the psych department. Steve turns and Fury is standing there, his eyes dark and filled with concern when they rest on Phil. Steve watches as Phil goes to him and shakes his hand, and he sees Fury hang onto Phil's hand a moment longer than normal, sees him catch Phil's eye and hold his gaze, and then Fury looks at both of them and says, "You brought him back safe and a step closer to better. Good work."
Phil says, "Almost didn't," and Fury nods, letting go of Phil's hand and motions toward his office. "Phil, come with me for a bit." Steve knows Phil needs to brief Fury on his side of things and that's okay. That's Phil's job. He watches as the two men head for Fury's office. He pulls out his own cell phone and calls Tony, telling him that they're back in town but will probably stay at SHIELD for a while. Tony's upset, wants his people back at the Tower, but he relents when Steve promises that they'll be over for dinner once the dust settles. It'll be good for all of them.
Clint emerges from psych an hour and a half later looking shaken, and he just folds himself into a corner of the couch in Phil's base quarters after Steve walks him back there. Phil's still in with Fury. Steve sits down close to Clint and leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees, afraid to try to touch Clint no matter how much he wants to. After a few minutes, he is surprised when Clint unfolds from the corner and leans into Steve's arms, letting him wrap him up and pull him close the way they always did when Clint was having a nightmare during the months Phil was still believed dead. Steve holds him close and pushes his cheek into Clint's hair, getting from Clint what he needs just as much as Clint is getting it from him.
They stay there until Phil finishes with Fury an hour later, and when Phil comes home they fix a quiet meal in his kitchen and crawl into bed, all of them exhausted.
A few days pass like this – therapy in the morning, PT in the afternoon, more therapy before a late dinner. Steve works and looks over some pending missions while Clint is in therapy, works with him during PT, and works out himself during the late afternoon sessions. Phil is swept back into meetings, briefings, and his usual overwork, but he makes it a point to be around for dinner and tries not to have to go back to work afterward.
By the time dinner ends each night Clint is exhausted, stumbling into a shower, maybe watching a game or a movie on the couch, and then tumbling into bed. But he starts to sleep a little better, and his eyes start to look brighter after a few days. He's still not showing much interest in things, though, and still zones out a couple times a day.
One afternoon after Clint's PT, Bruce comes by the mess hall where Steve and Clint are having some coffee and sharing what Clint keeps calling "the good, old-fashioned newspaper" whenever Steve asks if he wants a section. "Sure, I'll have a section of that good, old-fashioned newspaper," he says each time. Steve likes Tony's tablets, but this is something he can hold onto and so he does, despite Clint's jokes.
Bruce walks up and says, "Hey guys, I was hoping I'd find you here." It's the first time he's seen Clint out of the hospital in a while and his grin lights up his face. "Clint, it's good to see you."
Clint nods and smiles, gesturing to a seat next to Steve. "Want some coffee?"
"No, thanks," he says and doesn't sit down.
"What's up, Bruce?" Steve asks.
"Clint," Bruce says, "I was wondering if you had an hour or so to help me out with something."
Clint looks up, curious. "Um, I guess?"
"Good. Remember that time you helped me do some measurements in my lab a while ago?" Clint nods and Bruce continues. "Well, I've got some more stuff like that to do here, and a couple of the SHIELD nerds want to help, but I told them I'd already got someone to assist me – that is, if you're interested. I just thought it would be a change of pace for both of us. I'm kind of tired of hanging around the nerds, but this has to get done."
Clint looks down at the newspaper and over at Steve, who shrugs. "Okay, I guess so," Clint says, and he stands up and drains his coffee cup. "I've got psych in an hour, though."
"Sure, I'll make sure we're done by then," Bruce replies.
"See you back at quarters later, Steve," Clint says, and Steve just grins and watches them depart.
That's how it starts, Clint's returning interest in the things going on around him. He talks incessantly about the experiment Bruce was working on with SHIELD at dinner that night, and Bruce steals him again the next day. The third day it happens, Steve suggests that Bruce stay for dinner, Clint suggests they go out, and Phil suggests calling Tony and Natasha to join them. They end up at Clint's favorite Thai restaurant and Steve watches as Clint jokes with Tony and gets into a stupid-villain story trading session with Natasha, and then gets into a cooking conversation with Bruce about spicy foods. Steve catches Phil's hand under the table at the restaurant and they sit watching and smiling, and Clint doesn't zone out at all during the meal.
There are bad days, too, though, days where Clint comes out of his therapy sessions covered in a thin sheen of sweat and won't talk to anyone the rest of the day, but the dissociation lessens and after about three weeks the psychologist suggests that they all head back to their home at the Tower again. They keep a careful eye on Clint, and Bruce keeps pulling him down to the lab to help. Then he gets cleared for range practice, and spends hours down there while Steve reads or works outside.
They lose sight of him one afternoon and he disappears for about two hours, scaring everyone senseless. When Natasha finally finds him in the basement of the Tower, hiding in the rafters, she drags him upstairs where he apologizes, saying that he just had to 'get the fuck away from people for a while.' They come to an agreement on him making sure they know where he's going for "just a while longer," and he follows their agreement to the letter.
It's two months before Clint's cleared for missions again. Fury makes sure to assign him only to Phil and the Avengers, and the light is back and Steve feels safe when he doesn't know quite where Clint is all the time. At first, the mission preps are awful for everyone; Clint, who used to just listen for his name and play with a Rubik's Cube otherwise, nitpicks everything, yells at Tony for not paying attention, and generally throws a temper tantrum unless every detail is accounted for. He relaxes a little after a while, but never quite goes back to the laissez-faire mission prep attitude he had before.
One night early on, after a fight with some of Doom's goons (Clint threatens to make stickers with that printed on it – "Doom's Goons" and Tony starts planning), Clint and Steve crash on the couch in their apartment, Phil sits in his recliner with his tablet reviewing files from the op. Clint is leaning back into Steve's chest and Steve's got his eyes closed, resting.
"You okay, Steve?" Clint says, gently.
Steve opens his eyes and runs his hand down Clint's cheek. "Yeah, I'm okay. Just a little tired."
Phil looks up from his work. "What about you, Clint?"
He looks up at Phil and shakes his head. "I'm okay. Glad to be working again." He pauses and then sits up on the couch. "Thinking about Pentress."
Steve stiffens and sees Phil do the same. This is the first time Clint has mentioned any of the agents lost in the botched Peru op. "What about?" Steve asks, gently.
"He used to find me after an Avengers op and make me go have a beer with him. Wanted the details of the fight, what it was like, how much shit Tony gave us, stuff like that. Just wanted to hear about it. I'd tell him if it wasn't classified, and he loved hearing it. I asked him one time if he was jealous. You know, seriously asked him." He paused for a long moment and Steve ran a hand down his back, feeling Clint relax at his touch.
"What did he say?" Phil asks.
Clint smiles. "He said he wasn't. He said that dealing with the Avengers sounded like too goddamned much to worry about. He said I was crazy for wanting to do it and still work for SHIELD." His breath hitched and he added, "I've been thinking about him a lot lately."
Steve isn't sure what to say. This feels like dangerous territory. Like if he or Phil says the wrong thing then it might be bad for Clint. He settles for, "You guys sound like you were good friends."
"Yeah," Clint whispers, running his hand over his face, "Yeah, we were. That's why I chose mercy for him. That's why I chose it."
Phil shoves his work aside and moves to the couch next to Clint. Clint leans into him.
"I know there wasn't a right answer," he says quietly. "I know that now. It was just a couple of mistakes and a bunch of maniacs. But you know what?" he asks both men. Steve scoots a little closer. "I'm glad I chose mercy for him, and I'm hanging onto that. I'm glad, and it's okay."
Phil pulls him in and kisses him, and Steve pulls both of them into an embrace, feeling Clint breathing against his chest and feeling Phil leaning into them.
"That's all we can do," Steve says. "We just have to accept our choices for what they were at the time."
The three of them sit on the couch for a while, and Clint talks more about Pentress and other friends at SHIELD, and they crash together in their bed later, finding comfort in each other and sleeping soundly the whole night through.