Hi! :) A second foray into Avengers fanfiction for me; I avoided dialogue because I'm crazy scared of messing up the characterization. Hopefully this is okay? -shrug-

Disclaimer: I do not own The Avengers or anything associated with it; all rights go to Marvel/Disney.


"The problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world." - Casablanca, 1942


He was tired enough to feel jittery. His fingers wanted to shake uncontrollably until he could just lay down on some kind of flat surface and knock out for God knows how long. And he was hungry, starving, enough that the hunger pains had quickly faded away to become unnoticeable. God, he was just so tired. His head throbbed and ached, his arm held angry bite marks, and he wanted nothing more than to just stop. Stop hurting, maybe stop existing until he became nothing - no pain, no feelings, no duty to the world. But he couldn't, because the world needed saving. The world needed him.

So he pushed the pain and the not-hunger, the tiredness and the aches aside, to last hopefully until the world wouldn't need him anymore. And even though he didn't exactly make it, laying on the floor of some high-rise office building surrounded and embedded with little shards of glass, somehow he pushed through. He pulled himself up off the floor, got a ride to Stark Tower, was there when Loki woke up from his Hulk-smashing, went with Stark and Banner, 'Tasha and Cap and Thor to get shawarma.

The hunger pains hadn't come back yet, and he didn't really feel like eating, even as his stomach churned and his body used his muscles to get the nutrients it didn't have. The adrenaline started to wear off and the grief was setting in because Coulson was dead (dead as in not alive, as in he'll never see him again except for in a coffin) and he could feel discomfort in all his body tissues. And while he nibbled at his fries (if not for the circumstances Natasha would tease him, he knew), he watched Thor attack his messy meat-and-pita combination, while Captain fucking America tried his hardest not to fall face-first into some hummus. They made him feel inadequate; a measly human surrounded by super-soldiers and gods who wouldn't, couldn't fall prey to some shit mind control scheme that ripped their essence out of them. No, that was him, the weakest link, the flaw in the chain, and he felt his stomach churn more violently as he forced down his fries. He turned to look at Tasha instead, casually (unflinchingly) propping his leg up on her chair and turning his body towards her.

Tasha, who was just as tired as Clint, maybe more than him. She had been pulled off a job, sent on a manhunt that turned out to be a set up, pursued by the Hulk, tried to kill her partner. Exhausted. She was exhausted, not just tired. She could feel it in her bones, however cliché, in the aches and pains and in how she could hardly process any thoughts. Her ankle throbbed violently, a sign of the pain she had ignored as long as she could. Eating quietly, she watched Clint right back, but she avoided eye contact. A talented deceiver she might be, but she couldn't hide anything from her best friend. Not after so many years as partners on the field and as friends. And especially not when he was the one person who understood her completely.

He could see through her in a heartbeat, and she knew he was probably reading her body language right now. So he knew that she was tired beyond belief, in pain, but if she looked him in the eyes he would see everything. He would see the guilt she felt over not being with him, not watching over him; the terror from being chased around the Helicarrier by the Hulk (even though the Hulk had a conscience, she knew, because when Thor pummeled him he had just started to recognize her as an ally); the worry she felt once she had knocked him out, the worry she still felt, that maybe somehow Loki could still exert control over Clint and her best friend wouldn't be her best friend anymore. And she knew, because they were partners and she could read him as well as he could her, that the moment she looked at him directly he would blame himself even more, and maybe she wouldn't have him anymore. Or maybe she still would. This, this experience, was wreaking havoc on her mind and her emotions and all she wanted was her best friend back.

And their handler, but she knew that was a futile hope. Because what she didn't know, what Clint didn't know, was everything. They had no idea that Coulson was in surgery, that he would be in a coma for months, but that he would live. They didn't know that, but they knew that the fate of the world still rested on their shoulders, would continue to rest on their shoulders.

So they got up from the table, their meals unfinished, and they headed in to SHIELD headquarters to debrief. They denied themselves the leave they wanted so badly (if only they could pretend for an hour to be regular people, maybe they could cope because their handler was still gone and he would be – forever, to them), because there were more important things than their problems. The world needed them to save the day, just as it needed Iron Man and Captain America and Thor.

And until it didn't, they would just shove their problems under the rug. Because what were the problems of three little people, in comparison to an entire planet?

Nothing.