i own nothing. inspired by ahawkeyesview on tumblr: ahawkeyesview. tumblr com post/34291992418/tony-no-i-cant-take-this-anymore-i-just-want
Tony grips his hands on his lap, because he can't touch Clint anywhere without hurting him. Clint is in bandages, an oxygen mask fit over his too-pale face. There's no skin on him that's not covered by a bruise, a cut, a burn, or bandages.
He tries not to remember what it felt like when he saw Clint dropping from that building, unconscious and not able to shoot his grappling arrow. He'd flew, flew as fast as he could, but then the building had collapsed on Clint on top of it. He barely remembers blasting away pieces of debris.
He does remember cradling Clint's broken body to him and running electrical pulses through his body until JARVIS detected the faintest of pulses.
Doctors told him it was his fault that Clint was in a coma. Bruce told him he'd saved Clint's life. He tells himself repeatedly that what Bruce said mattered most, because who cares about what some textbook doctors said, but it's hard, especially when Clint looks so fragile.
Clint has been asleep for three days now, and his face is already gaunt. Clint doesn't have fat to be stripped away, but without any sort of food for three days, he's already starting to lose weight. Tony doesn't know what to do. He's never seen Clint so fragile and weak before.
It scares him. Because Clint is nothing if strength and sass and pride. Even when Clint is snuggled up to Tony at night, he's grinning and poking Tony on the side and making Tony's arm fall asleep. Clint is never so quiet, so pale, so inanimate.
"You're not allowed to be not okay." Tony whispers, wanting to grip a bandage-covered hand but not allowed. "You hear me, Clint? You have to be okay."
Despite it all, Clint is not okay. In fact, he goes through two clinical deaths and gives Tony a literal heart attack. Pepper slaps him on the arm multiple times, but Tony barely feels the pain and he demands to be back by Clint's side.
Clint doesn't wake up for a total of thirty three days, during which Tony makes a mental list of all the things that could go wrong. Clint loses too much weight, his arms and legs are too thin when the bandages are unwrapped, and his cheeks are sunken.
Clint's lost his healthy tan from being outside, shooting arrows and looking beautiful. He looks unnaturally pale, with sunken eyes and cheeks and looking not too different from a skeleton.
On the thirty forth day at exactly 10:41 PM, Clint's eyes blink open. Tony can't say anything, just gapes down at Clint, and Clint says, in a voice barely above a whisper, "You lost so much weight."
And Tony laughs and cries and wants to hold Clint's hand and tell him he's lost so much weight, except he can't hold Clint's hand because his wrists are still broken. So he settles for stroking Clint's bruised cheek and planting a kiss everywhere he can touch.
Clint won't be okay for months to come. Tony doesn't even know when he'd be allowed out of the hospital, and he won't be returning to the field anytime soon. But Clint is awake now, and that's all he really cares about.
It turns out not okay starts about two weeks after Clint wakes up.
Despite the fact that most of his motor functions are still shot, Clint gets restless, and won't stop trying to escape, so medical begrudgingly moves him back into the tower. And because Tony is back in the tower with him, it means he starts maniacally working on a new suit. Faster. Stronger. Better.
After about a week of watching Tony from the bed conveniently located in Tony's lab, Clint speaks up quietly. "Tony.."
And there's something about that voice, that tone that he's heard so much with Pepper when she was begging for him to stop, to get some sleep, to stop working so hard, that he knows. He turns to Clint, and he grits his teeth. "No! I can't take this anymore; I just want you to be safe."
Clint smiles sadly. "This is nothing, big guy. Just a few broken bones."
Tony wants to laugh because a few broken bones doesn't even begin to cover everything. A building had fallen on top of him and Tony doesn't even want to think about all the injuries Clint had, the list that Bruce had cautiously read to Tony that never seemed to end. Instead he snaps, "It's everything! Don't you get it Clint? This is a reminder, a reminder that I can't save you every time, that what if I'm too late the next time?" He doesn't point out that he had been almost too late. That if he hadn't had his suit, Clint wouldn't even be here to smile at him. That if he'd been just a minute late, he'd be at Clint's funeral, not at his hospital bedside. He choked out, "I hope I can protect the one thing I can't live without. Without you, what's the point?"
Clint did not smile. Instead, he looked sad, and maybe angry, and started to speak softly. "The point is the lives you save. If you could save a thousand people or me, you sure as hell better choose those people. This isn't my first rodeo, Tony; you forget I've been doing this a lot longer than you and without a suit. I love you, Stark, but some things are more important than what you want, even if what you want is me."
Tony grits his teeth. "Well, this will help me save more people, so shut it, Clint." He turns away from Clint, because if he keeps looking at Clint, broken and fragile and weak, he's going to cry. So he ignores Clint and works on his suit, his goddamned suit, because he can't fix Clint up like he can fix his suit.
Clint says nothing, but when Tony walks near his bed, he touches Tony's arm and Tony has a hard time not to grab the hand in a crushing grasp. Instead, he takes the hand and tenderly kisses every part that's not covered in bandages.
He forgets about the suit for the rest of the night and stands by Clint's side. He rests his head gingerly on Clint's lap, and lets Clint stroke his hair to sleep.
Clint doesn't say anything about Tony not eating because of his new suit, mostly because at night Tony staggers back to Clint and lets him be petted to sleep. He sort of feels like a dog, sometimes, and Clint says he's catty, but when Tony looks up at Clint, he looks happy and that's enough for Tony.
It's not until about a month later that the bandages come off and Clint tests his healed bones. Tony chokes back tears at how thin he is, and when he turns around he sees everyone else looking equally concerned. Clint tries to stand up, but collapses after about two steps and Tony all but lunges to catch him. "Good catch." Clint smiles, but it's sad.
Tony says nothing. He instead helps Clint to his feet, and the rest of the Avengers spend the entire day and the week after that helping Clint walk, step by painful step. By the end of the week Clint can take maybe five steps by himself before Tony is clutching at his arms again, keeping him from crashing down.
Clint hates it. Tony can see the tension building every day in his muscles, quivering violently when Tony rushes to catch him. He's not surprised when Clint screams one day when Bruce tries to get him to do more physical therapy, throwing everything he can reach and yanking out his IV in the process.
Bruce admirably stays calm throughout Clint's entire tantrum. Clint wears himself out, curling up, too tired to even cry properly. Tony holds him as tightly as he can as Bruce reattaches his IV drip and coaxes Clint into the oxygen mask again, and even manages to inject him with painkillers.
"I hate it." Tony says, when Clint drifts off into a drugged sleep. "I hate this."
Bruce doesn't say anything. He only watches quietly as Tony wraps himself around Clint, wanting to cry but not able to because he has to be strong.
In the end it's because Tony gets so absorbed in making a suit to protect Clint that he doesn't hear it from Clint – he hears it from Steve. "He thinks he's worthless." Steve says, and he looks at Tony like it's all his fault. Which it probably is.
But it doesn't mean Tony can't be mad at Clint about it. "Why do you feel worthless?" He demands to Clint. It may not be the best time, because Clint is trying to take steps again, and Natasha glares at him like do you want to die. But there really is no better time.
Tony takes Natasha's place instead, holding onto Clint's arms. He stares at Natasha to leave, but she's defiant, staring him down. "You're not worthless." Tony whispers. "You mean the world to me." And he means it, more than anything.
Clint only hangs his head and doesn't walk for the rest of the day. He holds onto Tony, though, and doesn't let him go, so Tony thinks maybe, just maybe, he might have gotten through to Clint.
He stops working on the goddamned suit for a while, and instead focuses on what he'd left Bruce and Steve and Natasha and Thor to do, which is to help Clint walk and eat and otherwise develop normal motor functions, and he realizes. "I should've been the one to help you do this." Tony says, hovering near Clint as Clint makes it shakily across the room. Clint glances back at him and grins unsteadily. "I'm so sorry." He fights the urge to sweep Clint off his feet and instead waits until Clint makes it across the diagonal of Tony's large lab. Once he reaches the end, it's Clint who turns around to throw his arms around Tony. "You're irreplaceable." Tony whispers, clutching onto Clint. "But I – The suit means nothing to me, Clint. It really was – I just – I just couldn't imagine if I was too slow to get to you next time, if I wasn't strong enough, if I wasn't.."
He trails off and Clint only clings onto him. "You were always strong enough." Clint mumbles into his shoulder. "Stop playing with the suit, you dumbass."
Tony can't help but laugh. "It really was for you." He said, clutching tighter onto Clint. "It's always about you."