A/N: So, here is another Avengers fic. Mostly I wanted some Clint!whump and this is what happened. Thank you SO much to MountainRose for beta'ing. She is the most amazing beta ever. Go read her fics. She has Tony!whump and Clint!whump! I do not own the Avengers, etc.
"The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for."
Tony frowned at the inside of his faceplate, fingering the long trench that had been carved into the metal and almost ripping it in two moments earlier. Of course the bad guy with the samurai blade would come after him. It was true that Tony preferred long distance fighting, often using Jarvis for the close up bits, but the guy had legitimately teleported and had been arching his blade in a deadly parabola before Tony could even blink.
Choice words, some only half formed sounds of outrage, had filled the comms. as Tony retreated backwards as quickly as his thrusters would allow. The blade had sliced into the metal so cleanly there had been mostly a feeling of sound rather than the actual cry of metal on metal. Tony hovered, convinced that this lunatic had just cleaved his brain in half and if he held still, maybe the pieces wouldn't separate. A beat of silence followed (did the guy take off his ears as well?) as his neck pulsed with the pain of what Tony could only think of as whiplash. After taking inventory of his face to confirm that yes, his skin was still intact, he opened his eyes to find his HUD malfunctioning and repeated his tirade of angry words much louder.
"Stark!" Steve, ever the fearless leader, was obviously fighting and conversing at the same time. Tony was a little taken aback his comm. obviously still worked. He was also surprised and a little impressed Cap's innocent ears hadn't withered and died from his outburst, considering how many phrases he'd thrown in. "Who's got eyes on Stark?"
"Taken care of," was the weary reply of their resident hawk. "Stark, take your helmet off before you crash into the observatory. We are not getting blamed for destroying something solely because of your clumsy pride."
Tony bristled, but decided to let that slide. "Uh, freaky ninja with a samurai blade who almost cut my face in half is probably waiting to finish the job." Tony scowled at his blank HUD. "I think I'd prefer my face in one piece, thanks."
"Actually," Natasha piped up, not sounding winded in the least, "he's currently in a fountain with an arrow through his neck."
"And tweety bird didn't feel like sharing this fact with the class while I waited with baited breath to die?"
"Don't be so dramatic, Stark. I had the shot," Barton's voice interjected, dripping with mock offense.
"Could you have, I dunno, taken the shot before my face was almost cut in half?" Tony growled.
"He teleported," was the innocent reply back.
"Barton, I'm gonna shove an arrow so far up—"
"Stop it now, both of you!" Steve grunted and the air fell silent. "Stark, take off your helmet. Clint, stop baiting him!"
"Spoilsport," Clint muttered under his breath directly into the comms. causing Tony to rip off his helmet in search of the soon-to-be-dead archer.
The bright sunlight blinded him momentarily and he slowly focused on the city square—more specifically what was left of the city square—which was now littered with crows (seriously, crows?) that had been attacking Thor for most of the battle. They surrounded his grounded teammates like forgotten roadkill, smoking suspiciously. Thor was meticulously picking black feathers out of his TRESemmé commercial hair. It would have made an awesome viral video, Thor patiently plucking feathers off of him like a bug-eating monkey, had Jarvis been online to record it. Tony's scowl deepened grumbling choice phrases about the person responsible for maiming Jarvis as he landed on his dead attacker now sprawled bonelessly in the fountain.
"Tony, he's been dead for over five minutes," the Black Widow informed him flatly, toeing the abandoned samurai sword absently. Tony's eyes followed her gaze and felt a smile spread across his face. It was time to enact the spoils of war law, especially since S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn't here to get their grubby little hands on it. Diving for it, he had it in his grip for all of half a second before it was stolen from him by none other than their pet canary.
"Hey! That's mine!" he whined sullenly, poking out his lower lip for full effect.
"Actually, it's his," Clint gestured to the dead man as he leveled the blade out in front of him, weighing it casually from one hand to the other. "And now it's mine." He brought the blade to eye level, tilting it back and forth to catch the sun.
"Uh, he almost sliced my face in half with that, so it's obviously mine. Gimme," he waggled his fingers, outstretching his hands.
"That's Clint's arrow that severed his jugular," Natasha fingered the feathery tip absentmindedly, gazing impassively at the slack face of the ninja.
"An arrow that I helped designed," Tony countered, glaring at her. Natasha transferred his gaze to him, adopting the blank mask that she knew always scared the crap out of him. With a loud huff, he scowled and gave his attacker one more hefty kick forfeiting the argument gloomily. If the ninja assassins ganged up on him, he wouldn't win no matter how justified his argument was.
Clint, however, eyed him thoughtfully. He glanced at the sword once more before flipping it midair and offering the hilt to Tony in an exaggerated bow. "My liege."
To say Tony was suspicious was an understatement. Cautiously, he grasped the hilt, boring his eyes into Clint's in search for the perpetually present glint of mischief. If it was there, it was being smothered by the all consuming exhaustion blanketing the archer's eyes. He looked like a man who would give anything for an unspecified amount of time with a surface and unconsciousness; including, apparently, a beautifully forged samurai sword with a wickedly sharp blade. Just as Tony opened his mouth to voice how much Clint looked a hairsbreadth away from ceasing to function, Clint dropped his eyes and support on the sword simultaneously in favor of collecting his arrows from the various no longer living life forms littering the once manicured flower beds.
Tony shifted his gaze to his new sword, but not before he caught the naked worry in Natasha's eyes as she moved to help Clint collect his arrows. Tony frowned thoughtfully as he watched the archer stiffly meander through the destruction. He wasn't sure what was wrong, but the fact that the Widow was not bothering to hide her concern was cause for concern in and of itself.
After S.H.I.E.L.D. reinforcements finally deigned to show their faces, the team was herded to a smaller jet Tony designed specifically for post battle comfort (complete with a small Jacuzzi). Bruce was clothed, Thor was now featherless, Steve had his cowl down with a towel held to a freely bleeding gash at his hairline, and Natasha and Clint were off to one side whispering together. Natasha was practically glued to Clint's side, giving off the air that he was supporting her when it was obviously the other way around. Clint was most definitely – wilting was the best word to describe it, Tony decided. As the assassins turned to head toward the jet, Tony noticed that Clint was limping, favoring his right leg more outwardly than he normally would as he gradually sunk closer to Natasha.
Watching Clint attempt to climb the stairs to the jet was painful, even if he didn't walk any slower than he normally did. His lips faded to a bloodless white as he clung to the railing with a death grip that would make Steve proud. Just as Tony was debating whether or not Clint would pass out at the top, Clint made it to the entrance. Thor poked his head out of the door and surreptitiously guided the archer by an elbow into the cabin.
When Tony made it into the cabin, Clint was being deposited gently on a plush leather couch. The fact that he not only smiled but offered a relieved sigh as he sank down sang alarm bells in Tony's ear making him forget completely the I-do-not-care-about-my-teammates'-well-being as he exchanged his non-functioning earpiece to a bluetooth directly connected to Jarvis. He murmured quietly to Jarvis to do a full scan on his whole team (God forbid he look like he's singling out any one of them).
Clint was now hiking up a pants leg very slowly as Steve was worriedly conversing with him.
"—fine, Cap. This didn't happen during the battle," Clint was saying as he uncovered a brace he began to loosen. Steve's resulting hiss at the flesh underneath prompted Tony to peer around their captain's crouched form since the guy was like a small mountain at best. The sight was indeed impressive as far as half-human-looking masses of flesh came. Clint's knee was easily four times its normal size and mottled with deep purples and angry reds. Streaks of fading green and yellow were the only sign of the injury's age. Clint ghosted his fingers across it, involuntarily letting out hisses of pain as he assessed the condition.
"Not walking on it anytime soon," he allowed reluctantly, carefully maneuvering the leg with both hands onto a pile of pillows the now clean Dr. Banner had provided. Bruce was looking at the injury from the end of the couch, a frown playing on his lips as he was no doubt coming to similar conclusions that Tony was coming to. Natasha appeared between Tony and Steve (he would honestly never get used to that apparition skill) with one of Tony's patented braces. It adhered like a second skin to any injury, providing cold, anti-inflammatories, and stability at the same time. Tony had been quite proud of them and had used both assassins to perfect the design.
Clint exhaled a shaky breath, his eyes slipping shut as the micro needles delivered near instant pain relief. The tightness of his eyes disappeared as he sunk down on the soft leather looking dead exhausted.
Jarvis quietly beeped in his ear comm. beginning to relay his team's wellbeing. Tony interrupted smoothly, telling the A.I. to skip to Clint's stats first.
"Minor tears in every ligament and tendon around the knee, including the patellar tendon and the tibial collateral ligament, low electrolytes, a slightly elevated heart rate due to fatigue, soft tissue damage above the liver that has resulted in minor swelling, a low grade fever of ninety-nine point four degrees Fahrenheit most likely due to trauma, and a jammed ring finger on his right hand." The list Jarvis had provided was both comforting and distressing. He was pleased that Clint wasn't hiding anything, but distressed that he had been sent into the field in that condition.
"Will he require surgery?" Tony asked Jarvis softly, fiddling with his gauntlets nervously. He knew the archer had had his fair share of injuries that required hospital intervention, but he also knew that Clint didn't trust doctors. Tony could definitely agree with the sentiment. The list of medical professionals trying to get a look at the arc reactor was monumental and Tony had not so politely turned every one down.
"With my limited knowledge of medicine, sir, I do believe that these injuries will heal by themselves with proper care," Jarvis responded wryly.
"Yeah, that'll probably be difficult," Tony sighed quietly, shaking his head minutely. Clint was generally known for being forthcoming with injuries that might compromise his team in the field, but he also had little patience for giving his body the prescribed amount of time to heal. Tony would just have to pull his best physical therapist on payroll. Clint was so lucky he was a billionaire and mostly cared, because he couldn't imagine anyone else helping the archer out of the kindness of their heart. Yeah, right, like he had that kind of heart.
His thoughts were interrupted by a loud, agitated sigh from Steve and a disgusted look Banner was apparently sending the disco ball hanging from the ceiling. Fighting the urge to tell Bruce that blaming his disco ball for his feelings would do nothing to help him maintain a low blood pressure, he decided for a milder form of conversation. "What's got your spangled tights twisted, mon Capitán?" Well, maybe milder wasn't exactly the best description of that effort, but the air had thickened at least five times its normal density with frustration that was palpable.
Steve leveled him a glare that had improved in quality since his stay at the Avengers' Tower. Tony couldn't help but feel a bit proud by that fact.
"Have you been listening to anything we've said for the past five minutes?" Steve gave another heavy sigh. Tony knew how to recognize a ceiling question when presented one, but decided that not responding resulted in not getting punched in the face immediately. Deciding the safest course of action was to look to their resident arachnid, he turned to Natasha with a questioning eyebrow.
"Forty-nine hours ago Barton was in Syria tasked to take out an arms dealer. After taking out the target and subsequent affiliates, he was ordered to join us in battle against suspected Hydra assassins five hours ago. Although he had twisted his knee severely, acquired moderate smoke inhalation, and hasn't slept in more than fifty-four hours, our new handler," she injected the word with such venom that even Tony had to fight the instinct to flinch. "—decided Clint was fit for duty by claiming the fight would be safer for us if he had out backs." Natasha carded her fingers through Clint's dirty blonde hair, a soothing motion that juxtaposed her livid expression.
Barton seemed mostly oblivious to the Widow's fury as he sleepily interjected, "'Tasha, 's okay. Hap'ned so fast 'e made th' bes' decision he could. 'Sides, not like 'ny of it was pl'nned in 'vance. 'N I had y'r back, jus' in case." A smile tugged at his lips as he relaxed further. "S'good drugs, T'ny." Clint opened an eye to look blearily at Tony. "G'tta get me a s'pply." He looked so utterly pitiful that Tony decided this was a good place to deflect.
"If you expect I speak drunk fluidly, you'd be mistaken. Normally what time I get to practice the language ends up largely forgotten. Pepper might disagree, though, but for some reason I understand her drunk, which is really odd seeing as I've only ever witnessed that maybe twice in our entire acquaintance. Maybe women are just better at speaking drunk than men. That'd be an interesting experiment, actually. Hey Widow, wanna help me test it?" The expression on Natasha's face could have melted titanium, which was consequently what his suit was largely made up of and he made a quick save. "So Barton, what'd you do to inhale smoke, save some girl scouts from a bonfire?"
"Th' idiot w'sn't th' right head honcho. She sp'tted me 'n I had t' shoot the flame arrow which she threw b'ck 't me." A frown creased Clint's face at the memory of the debacle, his eyes growing more lucid and less sleepy. "Then this tank decided t' tackle me 'fore I was able to 'scape 'n I wasn't able to pr'form a proper b'ck h'nd spring. M'knee twisted 'n popped 'n I went d'wn pretty h'rd. Had t' army crawl t' fresh air."
"Oh, if that's all," Tony pretended to be unimpressed while internally he was reeling with an imagined battle with Clint, defenseless and robbed of his senses, trying simply to escape to fresh air. Before he could counter, Bruce interrupted by edging over to Steve and reaching for his improvised head bandage.
"Clint, I think you'd better rest your voice before you end up losing it entirely," Bruce carefully pried the bandage from Steve's head, probing gently at the nearly healed gash. His soft voice cut Clint off again as he opened his mouth, presumably to inform them all that he was fine. However, he closed his mouth and gave the tiniest of nods before letting his eyes flutter shut. Tony was stung that he hadn't noticed the gravelly tone Clint was speaking with and mentally berated himself badly for his lack of observation. Bruce made eye contact with him, silently informing Tony that he had done nothing wrong. This only encouraged more mental kicking since his concern was now apparently obvious to the team.
He was lost in thought between trying to devise a way to save face from the fact that he was caught caring and designing new S.H.I.E.L.D. pants for Clint that provided more stability for his joints as well as maintaining their flexibility when Bruce all of a sudden was occupying his vision. Tony blinked, wondering why on earth Bruce was in his bubble and how did Banner maintain that odd not-four o'clock shadow he always seemed to sport when he was poked none-too-gently on his cheek. To say that he was indignant would be inaccurate and he was about to inform Bruce of that when a hand was also slapped over his mouth. It was almost an instinct at this point for his tongue to welcome the hand with a lick, but apparently it would take more than that to remove the offending appendage. Bruce just sighed, muttering something about hygiene, as he ordered Jarvis to release Tony's armor. Quite surprisingly, he was suddenly a whole lot lighter and smaller as the armor dropped to the floor with more force than was probably necessary.
"Bruce, if I have dents in my floor it is coming out of your paycheck," Tony sniffed indignantly, leveling his best flat gaze that always made Bruce uncomfortable.
"Oh please do," Bruce said back, running his fingers over Tony's suddenly very sore neck and completely ignoring him. "Seeing as you pay me nothing, however, I regret to inform you that I will not be paying up." He hit a particularly sore spot and Tony nearly jumped out of his skin.
"Watch it, Dr. Frankenstein, that is most definitely still attached to my nervous system." Tony gingerly flinched away as Bruce huffed what sounded like an exasperated sigh.
"Well, with my limited medical experience, you have pretty severe whiplash and a nice bruise on your face from your helmet almost getting ripped in half." Bruce handed him the heat equivalent of what Barton was currently sporting and he applied it to the back of his neck. He groaned quietly and slumped forward, cradling his head in his hands propped on his knees. Bruce insistently tugged at his arm until he moved to an adjacent seat that wasn't currently covered in the pieces of his armor.
Sinking into the plush leather, he gazed up at the fond expression Bruce was currently wearing. "How's Barton?" He had no idea how long he had been at war with himself and one look out of the window into a cloudless blue sky gave him no answers.
Bruce turned to look at the couch Barton was currently curled up on—as curled as one can get with a now braced knee—his head on Natasha's lap and dead to the world. Thor was squeezed into a seat next to the sleeping archer looking like an overgrown puppy guarding his master. Clint had a different relationship with every member of the team, but none of them were any less intimate than any others for various reasons. Thor had felt he owed Barton an apology after his own brother had hijacked Clint's brain, but after Thor figured out that by trying to help he was reopening wounds, they became almost like brothers themselves. Now whenever one of them was hurt (more often than not it was Clint, a cause of much irritation for the archer) the other would be near enough in case they were needed.
"He's resting right now. That compress you made really is doing the trick and the swelling is already noticeably less. He's still running a slight fever, but I think that's probably due to the hell he's put his body through and not an infection." Bruce shrugged lightly, his gaze never leaving Clint's face. "I really would like to sit down with his new handler and figure out exactly what he thought made the Hydra assassins challenging enough to require Clint's skills. We had Natasha, who by all rights is as deadly if not more so than Clint, so why risk his health? Playing on Clint's loyalty to manipulate him into doing something he shouldn't have needed to do was low."
Tony nodded lightly in ascent, mindful of his locked neck muscles, grimacing at the thought of someone using Clint like that. They all were very aware of how deeply the archer cared under the gruff and sarcastic exterior and manipulation of something that delicate was downright despicable. The only way to get Clint to go against his morals was to dangle something he cared about over the fire. Tony knew that sometimes that was a necessary evil, but even he couldn't fathom an excuse to use it in these circumstances.
"As team leader, I think I should go to the new handler first," Steve commented, walking over to peer at Tony's face in his own mother hen assessment that could rival Pepper's. Tony made a very rude face as Bruce moved to clean up the first aid kit that had bits of Tony's armor scattered around it.
"As much as I appreciate the thought Steve, I think that it would be better for all of us to speak to this new handler." Bruce was rewrapping a roll of bandages that had been knocked loose. "I know that as team leader your word holds a certain amount of weight behind it, but I'm not sure if this new guy would wave you off or not. It'd be easier to all come and voice our concerns together. That way it'd be harder to dismiss or sweep under the rug."
Tony piped up before Steve could voice his concerns. "Bruce is right; you'd have a harder time shooting someone with witnesses. Cut 'em off at the knees, I say. A house divided and all that. We'll make it happen. Jarvis, please get a message to Barton's new handler that we wish to have a face to face with him ASAP. Now, who wants dinner? I am absolutely starving and I happen to have a five star chef in my employment aboard this flight specifically for my expensive palette." Steve only rolled his eyes.
Upon returning to the Tower, Bruce led a sleepy Clint to his floor in a wheelchair. Tony wasn't as shocked as he thought he might be by the way the assassin had caved when Bruce had appeared with the chair. It spoke volumes, but only fueled Tony's determination to make the next few weeks of Clint's recovery as fun and deceptively restful as possible. Natasha trailed behind them laden with both her and Clint's gear, both reeking of smoke and sweat.
Thor wearily left for his room full of pillow pets, announcing that he was showering and sleeping until the strippers came home. Steve was too tired to correct him with the accurate saying. Tony had begun to communicate in grunts and points and was told unequivocally by Banner to get into his Jacuzzi and put the jets on his stiff neck muscles and don't come down until he was ready to "use his words"—Bruce's words, not his.
An hour and one hundred and four degree water later, Tony was left feeling more human than he had previously and oddly ravenous. He stopped by the kitchen for some gourmet sandwiches, grabbing an extra on the chance that Clint would be hungry too. He made his way to the archer's floor, padding in his sock feet almost silently as he balanced two sandwiches and a blue Gatorade for Clint. He actually remembered to knock on the door this time after he found that although the tower was actually his, entering without knocking on an assassin's door could easily end up in a very bloody and painful manner on his part.
A bleary "C'me in" floated from inside the room and Tony had to maneuver his bundle of food in order to open the door. Inside the light was dim and Tony could make out a lump on what he knew to be one of Clint's many beds. The hammock hanging in the rafters above him was abandoned, due most likely to Clint's battered body. Tony approached the shifting lump, guided mostly by the blue light emanating from his arc reactor. He really should add "built in flashlight" to his list of awesome superhero attributes.
Clint's face appeared from the nest of blankets surrounding him, blinking slowly but looking less sallow than on the jet which made Tony mentally sigh with relief. He wasn't sure what he had expected, but he had forgotten that the archer had most likely dealt with worse and come out on top. There was an awkward moment where Clint rapidly shook off sleep and Tony stood wearing a worn Twisted Sister shirt and silk pajama pants holding two sandwiches and a Gatorade. Before Clint could inquire further, Tony shoved the sandwich and bottle into what he hoped was Clint's lap.
"Dinner. I was hungry and thought that you might be hungry so I grabbed two. And I wasn't sure if you were thirsty, so I grabbed a Gatorade, but it might be warm since it wasn't in the 'fridge—" Tony cut off before he could babble on and reveal things he would rather not. Another pause filled the air between them, causing Tony to shift from one foot to the other nervously.
"…Oh," was the eloquent response he was given. Clint shifted further, ending up in a half sitting position and sucking in a small inhalation of air in pain. His eyes went tight, accentuated even more by the bright blue light of the arc, as he fumbled with the blankets constricting him. Eventually Clint freed his hands and grabbed the Gatorade, popping it open and gulping down half of it in one swig. "Thanks." He gave Tony a lopsided smile as he fumbled for a pill bottle next to the bed and washing one down with another long swig. Sighing, he sagged against the headboard, his eyes closed.
Tony frowned. He wasn't sure what to do next and Clint apparently wasn't in a very helpful mood. Finally after a few more minutes, Clint opened his eyes and looked to Tony. "You can sit down. I haven't eaten in…" another pause. "Twenty-two hours. I think." He picked up the sandwich and gestured with his other hand to a free space on the bed. Tony sat slowly, irrationally terrified he was going to sit on Clint's bad knee. Clint just smirked at him and took a large bite of the sandwich, chewing rather obnoxiously. Tony scowled and bit into his sandwich with more gusto than he had intended.
They sat that way for a while, chewing their food in silence. When Clint finished the Gatorade, Tony had decided he'd had about enough of the perpetual awkwardness that had invited itself into the conversation.
"Thanks. For, uh, you know. Not letting my face get sliced in half. I like my face. It's a million dollar face. So, thanks." Great, that sounded very eloquent. Nice job, Stark.
Clint looked up at him and broke into a small, genuine smile. He fingered the cap on the bottle, pointedly not looking at Tony. "I didn't realize you all weren't in as much danger as I was led to believe. I wouldn't have knowingly compromised you all by coming into the field any less than my best. I swear though, I know my limits and I was fit to back you all. But I'm also not so reckless as to take risks unless I thought they were worth it." He looked into Tony's eyes with such an honest and sincere expression Tony was momentarily taken aback. Clint's smile widened a fraction. "I know that's not why you came, but I just wanted to let you know that. And thanks. For caring." Clint cut off his retort with a look. "I know, you don't care because you're the great and mighty Tony Stark, but thanks. For being family." The last part was said so quietly that Tony wasn't actually sure if he imagined it or not. He decided saving face was more important.
"Yeah, well, just don't tell anyone. I do have a reputation to maintain," he said breezily, gesturing vaguely with one hand.
Clint snorted, giving Tony a superior look. "God forbid anyone sees that you're not an ass," he said gravely.
"Good, I'm glad we're on the same page. Whelp, Pep's coming back tonight and we have some catching up to do." Tony waggled his eyebrows for emphasis. He stood haughtily and glided out of the room.
Right before he shut the door again, he paused. "Hey, Clint." Clint inclined an eyebrow to indicate he was listening, though it was difficult to say that definitively in the murky light.
"You too." You're my family, too. Clint gave another snort and waved his hand in a dismissive gesture, but Tony knew the point was made.
A/N: Drop a line if you enjoyed it! Thank you for all the reads, favorites, and reviews! You all are wonderful!