I'm alive! Sort of…next week is finals. Nearly done with all my projects though!
In all honesty, I'm not sure who to feel more sorry for in this story.
In his defense, Clint hadn't asked for it to happen. He hadn't asked to be put in this position and he sure as hell didn't want to hurt anyone, especially his best friend. The archer hoped by telling the truth the knife in his heart would go away.
Clint walked into Tony's lab after two days of debating over the issue. In the end he knew there was no other choice. Barton couldn't live with the guilt and he definitely couldn't live with them when she was pretended like nothing had happened, he needed to be honest – Stark deserved to know the truth.
"Clint! My favorite feathered friend." Tony chimed when he saw Clint had joined him. The billionaire's eyes were smiling with cheer. He had every right to be happy. His best friend and now fiancé had survived a rather sticky situation a week ago. Now they were both okay, although not really. "What can I do for you, my friend?"
Clint stared at his friend and teammate and hesitated, mouth opening and closing a few times before the archer managed to find his voice. "Tony, we need to talk." His voice sounded rough, almost as rough as what he had to tell the man in front of him. Unable to look Tony in the eye, Clint stared at the floor as he said the words he had come there to say. "When we were in that place, the forth day when I wasn't doing so good, Pepper kissed me."
The long stretch of silence coaxed Clint into raising his eyes. He watched the emotions run through Tony's face. First the last threads of shock morphing into confusion and then finally anger. No, Clint corrected himself silently, it was pure rage.
"You," Stark shook his head, setting some sort of metal thing he had been handling down on the table a little rougher than necessary. "You kissed my fiancé?"
"No," Clint held up his hands in defense, thoughts stumbling over themselves but no words forming into useful sentences.
"So you didn't kiss Pepper?" Stark interjected quickly, his eyes blazing with his anger.
The archer sighed. "Yes, but, it didn't mean anything. She – she must have thought they were going to kill me. I don't know, it just – "
Tony closed his eyes, hand jerking out to silence Clint, "I swear to God, Barton if you say 'it just happened' I'm going to kill you."
Clint was shocked by his friend's tone, Stark actually sounded pissed enough to follow through with the threat. "It didn't mean anything, that's why I'm telling you. I had to tell you."
Silence followed. Stark's glare didn't lose its edge or heat. "I don't believe you." Tony stated finally, coming around the table to face Clint.
At first the archer wasn't sure what Tony couldn't believe, maybe he didn't believe that Pepper had done something like that?
The distance between them was closing as the billionaire continued. "I gave you a place to live, fed you, hell I'm pretty sure I bought you the jacket you're wearing," Tony hissed darkly, "I treated you like you were my brother. This is how you repay me?"
Clint felt the knife that had slid into his heart the moment Pepper's lips pressed against his twist sharply with every word. "Tony,"
"Don't." Tony barked, cutting Clint off again. "You're out. I want you out of my tower within the hour. Stay away from me and stay the fuck away from Pepper."
For a minute they just stared at each other, both with different burdens of betrayal.
"I had to tell you the truth." Clint spoke, voice reserved, bordering on despaired. The archer swallowed as he took a step backwards, away from his enraged friend. If Stark wanted him to leave, he would. "I couldn't live a lie. Our friendship means to much to me."
"Yeah?" Tony asked, eyes dead to emotion. "What friendship?"
It was all that had needed to be said. Finalized. Still Clint had one last thing to say before he left. "Tony, I'm sorry."
"Get out." Tony said without pause. "Get out of my life you ungrateful bastard."
With one final, accepting nod Clint did as requested. All but fleeing the tower. He didn't stop to grab anything to bring with him, there was no point anyway. There was nothing he owned currently that he'd need for his new life.
An hour later Barton was standing in front of Director Fury. Nick stared back at his old friend standing on the other side of his desk. "Are you sure you want to do this? The Avengers,"
"Won't trust me by the time Tony speaks with them." Clint interrupted quickly. He didn't want to hear that he was making a mistake. He couldn't face the team after what he had done to Tony. Stark was right, Clint had betrayed him. During the time they had lived together, at some point Clint must have given Pepper some sort of signal – some sort of false sign that he was interested. He hadn't meant to, but that didn't matter now. Now everything was ruined, over. Finished.
The director narrowed his eye at his former, now reinstated agent. "What exactly did you do?"
Clint paused, wondering how much he should say. Tony and Pepper's relationship problems were their deal. Not his. It wasn't his story to tell. Not really. "I told him the truth." Clint said numbly.
The two fell silent for a moment before Barton spoke up again. "So, do you have any dangerous missions available sir? Something far, far away from here?" Clint's voice was cheerful as if he were joking, but Fury knew him well enough to realize that he was also serious.
"I think I have just the job." Nick nodded, although hesitant. Normally he probably wouldn't give an agent this emotionally compromised a mission with such high risk, however, he also knew Clint was the best man for the job. "It's long term, undercover and risky. Got any problems with that?"
For the first time since coming back to SHIELD, Barton gave a genuine smile. "Not at all, sir."
The Director hesitated for a moment before nodding again. "Alright, Agent Barton. I'll make the arrangements for tomorrow. Will you be returning to the tower for the night?"
"No." Clint was quick to answer, his grin fading into a soft, sad smile. "If you don't have room for me here I'll find a hotel near by."
"Nonsense." Fury waved the idea off. He had hoped Clint would return to the Avengers tower and things would be worked out before he actually could go on the mission. It didn't look like that was going to happen, though. "Your former room is still available. I trust you remember the codes?"
"Yes sir." Clint nodded.
"Well then, Agent Barton. I will send someone to collect you for a briefing before you head out. Here is the file, memorize the information, it will help keep you alive."
"Will do, sir. Goodnight."
Elsewhere, Tony was fuming, pacing, and waiting for Pepper to return to the tower. He had texted her that he needed to speak with her ASAP, but it felt as if she might be avoiding him. Hell, maybe she was.
When she finally walked into the lab Tony stilled, staring at her without words.
"You know." She said simply, her face sad, but accepting. "Clint told you."
"Yeah." Tony managed, the anger left him with emptiness. She had just confirmed that this wasn't some sort of twisted joke. Collapsing onto the nearest stool Tony suddenly couldn't bare to look at his fiancé.
Pepper was silent for a few moments before daring to speak again. "He told me to tell you, he wanted you to hear it from me." She sighed. "I told him I couldn't, I couldn't do that too you." There were tears in her voice, but Tony didn't look up at her. "He said he couldn't live with that kind of lie. I'm not surprised he told you."
"He's gone." Tony said suddenly, looking up. "I told him to get out and leave us alone. I'm sorry this happened, I'm so sorry Pepper." Tony was desperate now, reaching out to his surprised CEO. "I love you, that hasn't changed. Now that he's gone, you'll be safe."
"What?" Pepper gasped, pushing Tony back so she could look into his eyes. "Tony, what exactly did Clint tell you?"
"He said he kissed you." Tony stammered, fear twisting in his gut at her reaction. Why wouldn't she just let it go, let Barton go? Why couldn't they move on like nothing happened? A life without this kind of betrayal?
Pepper stared for a moment before she started crying. "Tony, Clint didn't kiss me, I kissed him. He stopped it immediately. He said he had no feelings for me, that it was wrong, he said you were his best friend. His brother, his family."
Tony swallowed thickly. Clint had been telling the truth. The whole truth. He had been honest when Pepper hadn't been. "Why didn't you tell me? Why did you try and keep it a secret?" Stark demanded suddenly, although there was no real anger in his voice, just despair and hurt.
"I – I thought I could hide it. He didn't love me back, he never would. I still love you, just – "
"Just not as much as you love him." Tony finished for her, feeling as if his heart had been dragged through mud and sharp rocks only to be trampled by a horse. "When did this start? While you two were taken?"
Pepper shook her head. "No, before that. He was clueless. Natasha had just refused him and he was broken. We talked for a bit, he just needed a friend and I was there. And then I realized I wanted to be there all the time, but Clint didn't see me that way."
"Wasn't my love enough?" Tony asked suddenly, eyes filled with shattered emotions. When Pepper dropped her head he knew her answer. Feeling lost and confused Tony turned his back on the woman he had loved with all his heart – the same woman who had betrayed him for his best friend. "I don't know what to do." Tony admitted.
"I'll leave." Pepper said after a few minutes of lingering silence. "Just, don't blame Clint. This is the only family he's ever had, please don't take that from him because of something stupid I did."
Tony's shoulders tightened with tension as she spoke, he wished she would just stop talking.
"Please." Stark spoke thickly, not bothering to look back at her. "Don't tell me what I should do. Just leave."
There was a pause of hesitation, but Pepper did as requested, leaving the lab, walking out the door with the sound of clicking heels ringing in Tony's ears.
This probably could be a rather long story, but for now this is it. I hope you liked it! It's definitely a bit different from what I normally write…
The title of this lovely story was inspired by the song Your Lie by The Spring Standards
Reviews are always loved!