Shankyknitter

A tiny, occasionally homicidal, crafter
"I am not of woman born/from my mother’s womb I was untimely torn."
Take comfort tumor baby, you  can take down a tyrant. 

"I am not of woman born/from my mother’s womb I was untimely torn."

Take comfort tumor baby, you  can take down a tyrant. 

(Source: erisender, via callmebliss)

You Don’t Have to Face Your Gremlins Alone

Yes  I am posting here late, but *shrugs* I discovered Winterhawk week at the tail end of a three day binge of writing this, realized it fit a couple of the themes and wanted to share. FIgured if anyone appreciated it it would be you guys.. Themes: First meeting, disability (PTSD), 

Clint was fine, thank you very much.

S.H.I.E.L.D. was dismantled, which meant he was out of a job. Natasha was missing, which meant he had no idea where the last remaining person he trusted completely was. But other than that he was fine. He certainly wasn’t chafing at being left behind while his Captain left to go hunt down a mythical assassin that just happened to be his best friend from before the Second World War. It certainly didn’t irritate him that Cap had taken someone else with him, only serving to reinforce how useless Clint actually was.

He was used to being useless and forgotten. Point him at a target? He wouldn’t fail. But without a handler he was painfully aware that he was a bow without an archer; dangerous in theory, but not hurting anyone without someone to draw it back. And after Loki he wasn’t exactly hunting for someone else to take orders from.

He was trying to learn how to be his own man, for the first time in his life. He’d bounced from controlling father, to controlling mentor, to controlling government agency, to controlling god, then back to the government agency, then… nothing.

Clint was fine. That didn’t mean he wasn’t bored out of his skull.

Without a job he was without assignments. While it was nice to go to bed being reasonably sure no one was going to break any of him while he slept, living in Stark tower wasn’t exactly the most exciting place for an assassin. At first he’d kept up his skills in the range Stark had built. But firing at stationary targets was something he’d mastered almost as soon as he could walk. It didn’t do much except let him feel the power of his bow in his hand. He’d taken to sneaking through air ducts. But after the third time he startled Stark by appearing from nowhere in his lab, bearing coffee no less, Jarvis locked him out.

For a short time he’d debated hunting for ‘Tasha. He missed her. But she needed time to process not working for an extra-governmental shadow organization just like he did. Hell she probably needed it more. And, best friend or not, if he found her before she was ready to be found she might kill him. Scratch that, she probably would kill him. She’d just kill him quickly, with little pain, in honor of their years of comradery.

This was how Stark found him, sitting in the common area googling ‘Shadow Governments looking for assassins’. 

“Well Featherbrain, I’m glad Stark Tower is already on every watch list known to man and some known only to monkeys. Anyone ever explain to you how the internet isn’t private?” he popped a handful of what looked like some kind of cereal into his mouth and crunched noisily. “”Cause I don’t exactly have time to teach ‘internet safety 101 for circus people’.”

“Carnie, not circus.” Clint didn’t even look up. “Circuses don’t have freak shows.” He debated clicking a link mentioning Syria and thought better of it. “Something you need metal pants?”

“Leave the vaguely insulting nicknames to the professionals, tailfeathers. But as a matter of fact yes.” He shoved more cereal into his mouth. “Cap’s back. And a mentally unstable homicidal stray followed him home. I told him to take it to a shelter, but you know he gets.” He munched more cereal. “I need you to keep an eye on him. I’m putting him on lock down, only team members and therapists until further notice.”

Clint looked at him, slightly confused. “Why me?”

“I need someone to watch the assassin in my basement. Why not the assassin using my Wifi to test if Big Brother is actively watching me or only has a passing interest? Besides, Captain Redemption is biased, Nat is gone, Bruce would make a horrible baby sitter, Thor is off world, and I’m too busy. That leaves you. So cash, credit, or bird seed?” He offered Clint the cereal box.

“You had Jarvis steal my bank information. Direct deposit it.” Clint took a handful of what he now saw was granola.

“I had Jarvis secure your banking information! No need to thank me for making sure your identity doesn’t get stolen or anything.” Tony indignantly took his granola back.

“Whatever helps you sleep at night Stark. You said he was in the basement?” Tony nodded, mouth full, so Clint collected his gear and headed for the elevator.

Clint doesn’t dislike elevators exactly. They’re convenient, they’re quicker than stairs; they’re a choke point. He’s taken out more than one mark as they enter or exit the tiny box. He knows Natasha has done a lot worse to a mark in an elevator. However Stark built the tower around his idea of luxury, style, and electronic security, he didn’t exactly consider how entrapping an elevator might feel to someone who’s killed in them. This simply meant the stairs were built so far out of the way, that using them added roughly ten minutes to leaving the floor every time Clint wanted to go anywhere. So he kept an arrow in hand, his bow strung, and took the damn elevator.

The doors slid open soundlessly. He’d tried once to convince Stark to have them make the sound from the doors on Star Trek. Now whenever they opened on his floor they made random bird calls. He should have expected that.

The basement of Stark Tower was a series of abandoned lab rooms. They’d been converted to holding cells after Steve left to hunt down Barnes. With S.H.I.E.L.D dismantled the Tower was the only logical place to house a mentally unstable super assassin. For security reasons Tony had made the decision to keep Bucky isolated until it could be determined he was safe. Or whatever level of dangerous insanity passed as safe enough in Tony’s mind. Barnes had been given a single cell to start out with, he may be Steve’s friend, but they were taking no chances with giving him anywhere to hide.

Steve and Barnes were both in the cell when Clint arrived. He’d expected no less.

“Welcome home Cap.” Clint didn’t take his eyes of the bedraggled, dark haired man who sat hunched in the corner.

“Thank you, Clint. I assume Tony sent you?” Steve sounded tired. He looked like hell. A quick once over assured Clint he was uninjured, though with his super healing he could have broken bones two hours before and Clint would never know.

“Designated Bucky-sitter reporting for duty.” He gave a mock salute. “Go shower Cap. Sleep.” Steve started to argue but was cut off. “There’s nothing else you can do here that you can’t do after both of those.” Reluctantly Steve left, casting more than one look back at the man in the corner.

Clint took up his post outside the door looking in. The walls were entirely glass. Shatter proof and Hulk resistant, they should keep even Bucky contained. Clint felt a twinge of sympathy for the other man, trapped in what amounted to a fish bowl. He settled in for a long watch.

About an hour or so in Barnes lifted his head and started looking around in wild eyed panic. He shrank further into his corner, shouting in Russian. Clint knew that look, didn’t know the words (languages had never been his strong suit), but the panic, the need to scream at the darkness to reassure yourself the monsters were gone, that he knew. He also knew that reassurances of safety were bullshit. He could get up and tell Barnes he was safe and no one was going to hurt him, but those were words. All they did was make the speaker feel better about what was happening. So he sat. Still and quiet. Barnes screamed himself hoarse, and collapsed from exhaustion. Clint asked Jarvis to wake him if anything happened, and let himself drift.

~*~

“Agent Barton? Sir, I believe your attention is required.” Jarvis’s mechanized voice woke him. He glanced into the cell to see Barnes thrashing on the floor. His mouth hung open, whines that would have been screams poured out, high pitched and rough. Clint knew better than to shake anyone out of a nightmare, let alone a trained killer.

“Jarvis, can you play some music in there? Something loud but inoffensive? Nothing Tony plays in his lab.” Clint rose carefully, feeling his spine pop. He really needed a chair or something, maybe a cot, if he was going to be sleeping much more on this floor. Frank Sinatra began blaring from inside the cell, startling Barnes awake. Instantly he reached for the gun that no longer hung at his side, whipping his head around to scan the room.

Taking a chance Clint walked into the room with him. He said nothing, just sat at the small table and watched. Barnes followed him with eyes wide with distrust and panic. Clint kept both hands on the table where the other man could see them. Gradually Barnes started to relax. He sat back down and croaked something in a language Clint didn’t recognize.

“Sorry, they stuck you with a baby-sitter than only speaks English. Well and a smattering of Hungarian, but Budapest doesn’t count.”

“Water?” Barnes looked at him as though he was going to be punished for asking. Clint figures at one point he probably was.

“Sure. Jarvis? If Steve’s awake could you ask him to bring down some water?” He took another appraising look at the dark haired man in the corner. “And a couple of cough drops?”

“Of course, Agent Barton.” The AI’s voice filled the room, and for a moment Clint worried that Barnes was going to freak out again. But apparently on a scale of one to shit-he’s-done a dismembered, computerized voice didn’t even register to him as weird.

Neither said anything else until Steve arrived, baring a backpack stuffed full of bottled water, cough drops, hard candy, and Harry Potter.

“Figured you might get bored down here, Buck. I know they’re kid books but you might like ‘em.” Steve half apologized as he handed the first book over. He looked better, like he’d showered at least. Perhaps he’d actually slept a little. Clint chose to leave the two of them alone now that Cap didn’t look like death walking. He slipped out, unaware of the brown eyes watching him go.

Chapter 2.

In the first week a routine developed. During the day Steve would visit with Bucky, he refused to allow anyone to call it guarding, bring him food and the newspaper and talk to him about random things. Clint didn’t intrude on those times. His assignment was the night.

Clint watched over Bucky’s nightmares. He’d discovered that swing music would wake the other man up with less fear and panic than anything else, that spicy cinnamon hard candy was the preferred method of soothing Bucky’s torn throat after screaming himself hoarse. He’d discovered that Bucky talked in his sleep.

At first he didn’t say anything significant, at least nothing that Clint could tell. It was mostly unintelligible screams, or foreign languages Clint never got the hang of. Then the names started. A recitation, like a prayer, always in the same format.

“Target, James Bogda. Status, complete.”

Over and over, each time a new name. Sometimes the names repeated, sometimes new ones were added. The litany always directly proceeded the screaming. The first time it happened Clint tried to remember just how many confirmed kills the Winter Soldier had to his name; then he decided it didn’t really matter. He’d just ask Jarvis to queue up the next song and start to pull out the hard candies.

He rarely spoke to Bucky. He didn’t feel the need to; Steve spoke to the man enough for the whole team in his opinion. He remembered coming out of Loki’s control, remembered how loud everything suddenly was without someone else in his head filling it with white noise. Everyone wanted to talk to him, to tell him he was safe and ok, and no one blamed him for what he’d done while he was in that blue haze, but he would have happily shot most of them for a few hours of quiet companionship. He guessed Bucky had to be dealing with something similar. He figured if Bucky wanted to talk then he’d ask.

One night he did.

~*~

Bucky liked Clint. Clint was safe. Clint didn’t make his skull itch with memories he didn’t have. Nor did the blonde look at him in pain when he didn’t remember something. He just handed Bucky a bottle of water, or one of those cinnamon candies he seemed to always have, and let him be. He didn’t try to force him to explain the nightmares, didn’t tell him to relax when he forgot where he was, hell beyond waking him up and giving him something to make his throat stop hurting Clint didn’t even acknowledge Bucky was having nightmares.

Clint didn’t treat him like a broken doll. It was comforting.

Steve he was starting to remember more and more of. It was painful. The memories came in disjointed flashes, sometimes Steve was big, sometimes he was scrawny and sick. Bucky didn’t know what to do with those memories, didn’t know if they were real or if they’d been planted by his handlers in Hydra. He was afraid to ask. Steve talked to him about Brooklyn, about growing up hungry and dirt poor, about how Bucky saved him in scraps because he was a punk who couldn’t keep his mouth shut. That felt right so Bucky guessed it was. But he still wasn’t, and couldn’t be, sure.

He didn’t have that problem with Clint. He’d asked Steve if he’d ever met the small blonde before he’d come to stand watch over his cell, to the best of Steve’s knowledge he hadn’t. He didn’t need to try to remember Clint, didn’t need to try to make him fit in his head. He had never been a friend or target. He was a guard, a nice one, but he wasn’t expecting Bucky to remember him as anything else.

Bucky was also starting to notice the blonde in ways he didn’t expect. Whenever Clint left in the mornings, Bucky’s eyes were drawn to the way his jeans hugged the curve of his behind. He would occasionally ask Clint to hand him something, just to watch the archer’s arms flex and see the play of muscle under skin. Clint was mesmerizing to see move. Yes Steve was the pinnacle of physical perfection, but there was something in how the smaller man held himself that captured Bucky’s attention like nothing else.

He wasn’t sure if he’d ever been attracted to men before. He had very few memories of sex at all. Such impulses had been deemed non-vital and removed during his programing. The few encounters he did remember were all with women, but they were also in the ‘30s and early ‘40s. Every time he’d been thawed since being programed he’d been given a target and put back in cryo as soon as he was done. He’d never been unfrozen long enough, or mentally free enough, to consider attraction to anyone. Perhaps he was attracted to men as well as dames.

He always tried to be careful so he didn’t get caught staring too long, especially when Steve was visiting and Clint heading out for the day. But after the third day of being unable to tear his eyes away from Barton’s retreating behind he realized the jig was up. Steve had noticed.

“Somethin’ you want to tell me Buck?” He could hear the barely contained laugh in Steve’s voice. Bucky just shook his head. He wasn’t allowed wants. He couldn’t want. All that mattered was following orders, finishing assignments. He had no orders. He felt the panic start to rise, like acid radiating from his heart through his veins, burning but cold at the same time. He spun and punched the wall with his metal arm.

To his credit Steve didn’t jump, didn’t even flinch. “Why?”

“I want nothing, Captain.” His voice was cold, shaky. He needed to force the panic down. He’d compromise his mission. Who was his target? He couldn’t think. Who was his Target? They’d wipe him again; he’d be punished for his forgetfulness. WHO WAS HIS TARGET?!

“Breathe Buck.” Steve was calm. “What caused the attack this time? Answer me.” The order cut through the panic.

“I have no wants. I want only to follow orders.” His Russian accent was creeping back in, but his heart rate was slowing back to normal and he could breathe.

“Ah. Here’s your order then Soldier. You are to speak to Barton when he comes back tonight. I cannot be the only one you speak to. Do you understand?” It was clear Steve hated talking to Bucky like that, but he was a leader, he watched for what his men needed and did his best to make sure they got it.

Bucky nodded and visibly relaxed. He had a mission, small as it was. He even managed to sit back down at the small table and talk to Steve about the damn children’s books he kept bringing him.

~*~

His 9pm alarm went off and Clint groaned. He rolled himself out of bed and stretched the kinks out of his muscles. He was exhausted. He couldn’t keep spending every night watching Bucky have nightmares. Then again with ‘Tasha gone he really didn’t have much else to do, or really much other social contact. He supposed he could go out into the city, but he didn’t much care for crowds. Too easy to slip a knife in someone’s ribs, too easy to stick someone with a needle of something, in the press of the crowd a killer could go unnoticed. He’d done it before. But really he *should* get out and meet new people.

Cap was decent company, but all his time between press conferences and basic life functions was spent trying to help Bucky remember. Stark was fun in small doses, but had little use for Clint as he was neither a genius nor someone Stark wanted to sleep with. Bruce was better, but he was even more introverted than Clint himself.

It was in times like this he missed Nat. She knew almost everything about him. She accepted his scars, physical and mental. She knew what it was like to kill someone for no explained reason. She could comfort him when ghosts kept him from sleeping. And she was off on some mission of personal discovery and hadn’t even made contact in the three months she’d been gone. There was nothing for it but to strap his boots on and go back to his current mission, small as it was. 

Steve met him in the hallway. “Barton, a moment?” Clint let himself be pulled aside. “Bucky needs a friend.”

“He has you.”

“Not me. Someone he doesn’t have to remember.”

“Gee thanks Cap. Good to know I’m forgettable.”

“That isn’t what I meant.” Steve sighed and leaned heavily on the wall. “I am his friend and always will be. But the man in there now? He isn’t the man I grew up with. He isn’t Bucky. Not yet. And I can’t help the man he is now. But I have a feeling you might.” He rubbed a hand over his eyes. “All I am asking for is for you to give him someone who understands. Can you do that? Please?”

He looked so hopeful and so lost. Clint couldn’t refuse. He knew it wouldn’t do a lick of good, especially if Barnes didn’t want someone who understood, but there wouldn’t be any harm offering. He nodded and watched the gratitude flood Steve’s face. 

“Thank you Barton. I owe you one.”

“Sure Cap, go get some sleep.”

Clint walked the rest of the way to the cell on his own. Barnes sat in his corner, book open to a spot three quarters of the way through Prisoner of Azkaban. He looked up when Clint entered. Barton was pretty sure he imagined the flicker of joy that flashed through the other man’s eyes. Before Clint could decide what to say Barnes opened his mouth.

“So, Rogers keeps bringing me these damned things. Ever read ‘em?”

Chapter 3:

“I know him.”

“You met him on a previous mission.”

“No. I know him.”

“Wipe him and start over.” Hands, forcing him back, the whirr of the machine. Searing, Blinding pain – dance hall music? He startled awake. He was getting more and more used to waking up to big band swing. Barton was already in the cell with him, cinnamon candy in hand.

“You gonna tell me about it or are we pretending it didn’t happen?” Clint asked after Bucky had been sucking on the candy for a moment.

“Ever have someone take your brain and play? Pull out everything that was you and shove something else in?” Bucky asked sharply. How could he know, how could he even begin to understand? He couldn’t. No one could. He was shocked when Barton just started laughing, a full throated unrestrained laugh.

“Oh man. Now I know how Tasha felt. Look big guy; let’s just say I’ve got some experience in that department and leave it at that ok?” Bucky watched, confused, as Clint wiped a tear of mirth out of his eye.

“What do you mean?” The ache in his throat was finally starting to subside. He didn’t want to force the other man to talk about something uncomfortable but he had to follow his mission. His wants don’t matter. He saw Clint’s face harden. Long, uncomfortable, moments passed before he got any sort of answer.

“Look Barnes; what I’m about to tell you isn’t something I generally get into. But I figure it may help if you know, and since neither of us will be sleeping any more tonight I may as well tell you.” Clint focused on the wall behind Bucky’s head and started to speak.

“I’d been tasked with guarding a scientist, Eric Selvig, in a top secret facility while he experimented with something we never should have had in the first place. Something went wrong. All of the sudden this guy in green leather shoots out of the thing holding a glowing spear that shoots some kind of blue electricity. I do my job and try to take him out. Next thing I know he taps the damn spear to my chest and my whole world goes blue.

“I still don’t remember what I did. I dream about it sometimes. I see the faces of agents, flashes of knowledge that they’re dead ‘cause of me. I’ve dreamed about blowing up the helicarrier, I’ve got no idea how many people I killed with that. All I remember is Loki’s voice in my head, whispering orders that made perfect sense. So I obeyed. I killed god only knows how many people, all because that bastard told me to.

“So yes, I do know what it’s like to have some wackjob on a power trip with visions of world domination take my brain out and play. I know what it’s like to wake up screaming from things you can’t remember. I know how it feels to wonder if you ought to feel angry that you can’t remember, or happy because if you knew what you did you’d be trying to forget. You aren’t the only one here who’s messed up, Barnes.”

Bucky had heard a little about the battle of New York. He’d been frozen when it happened, but he got a bit of it when he’d been sent after Fury. He had to blend into a city still scarred by a war they didn’t realize was being fought, his cover demanded he know at least a little of what happened. But he’d never been told about what Loki’s spear did. He sure has hell hadn’t been told about a compromised agent. Hydra didn’t tolerate compromised agents; to be compromised was a failure. He was shocked Barton was still alive, let alone a trusted member of the team.

And still Clint spoke. All Bucky could do was listen. Listen to how long it took for Clint to be able to sleep without having nightmares about a blue fog. How long it took to be able to trust his own judgment again. It was almost like a dam had broken in the blonde and Bucky was just getting washed away in the flood of words. Bucky learned about Clint’s nightmares, listened to how the man was still haunted by the ghosts of his own targets.

Eventually Clint ran out of words and they sat there in silence. At a loss of what else to do Bucky reached out with his metal hand and rested it on the smaller man’s shoulder. Clint shifted to lean heavily on the wall next to him. Bucky watched his eyes slide closed and took the opportunity to study the man next to him unobserved. He hadn’t shaved today. His beard was darker than the hair on his head, though not by much. It was enough to shadow his jaw, emphasizing the squared off lines of it. His eyes were more heavily lined than Bucky realized.

He was beautiful.

Bucky didn’t know how to cope with that thought. Oddly the panic didn’t rise. He thought it would every time he felt uneasy. Somehow knowing that the other man was right there, and would catch him if he started having an attack, was soothing and kept the attack at bay.

“Thank you, Agent Barton. It was … difficult being alone.” Bucky slowly forced out. He needed to stop that line of thought. It was dangerous. It would complicate his mission.

“Clint.” He replied without opening his eyes. “My name is Clint. You should use it; we’re a bit past formalities at this point, Barnes.”

“Bucky. Fair is fair, Clint.”

“Alright then. We’re a bit past formalities here, Bucky.” Hearing his name on the blonde’s tongue almost made his heart stop. He felt something similar to the Panic. A burning in his chest, this wasn’t the acid though. It was more languid, thicker. More unsettling, but not bad. He lacked a name for it. His skull itched like it always did when he was forgetting something he should remember. He felt the burning thin and the acid start to flow. Something must have changed. Barton’s, no, Clint’s eye’s flicked open and bored into his own.

“Oh shit.” Clint scrambled to his feet and squatted in front of Bucky, grabbing his shoulders. “Stay with me Bucky. Look at me!” Bucky’s eyes snapped onto Clint. “Breathe. Inhale for 7 count, hold for 7, exhale for 7.” Bucky obeyed, he didn’t have a choice. He felt the acid feel of panic start to recede.

“I’m sorry. Thank you.”

“Did you miss the entire speech I just spent half an hour giving you? I get it. Don’t apologize for your brain gremlins, we’re both magnificent disasters.” Clint was adamant. Then he must have realized how close he was to Bucky and he started to pull away. Before he realized what he was doing Bucky reached up and grabbed his wrists and kept him where he was.

“Thank you.” Then before he could think better of it he leaned forward and kissed the smaller spy. His lips felt smooth and warm on Bucky’s own. More importantly he could think. He remembered how to do this, remembered what he was supposed to do. A cascade of memories flooded his mind, one after another after another, but none of them hurt. His skull didn’t itch. For the first time since he fell he remembered what it was like to be Bucky, not just remember that he once had been. It was intoxicating.

It felt like coming home.

Until Clint pulled away, scrabbled to his feet, and ran.

Chapter 4

His heart was racing. He couldn’t believe Bucky had kissed him. More to the point he couldn’t believe how right it felt. Even in his current disheveled state Bucky was incredibly attractive. For all the horrors they’d inflected on the brunette, Hydra had made sure he was a beautiful example of human biology. Clint wasn’t dead or purely straight, and he had been spending a lot of time with the man, of course he was going to notice. But he couldn’t take it personally. Given the condition he was in Bucky would have latched on to anyone who visited. He was the only friendly human contact the larger man had aside from Steve. He wasn’t actually attracted to Clint. He couldn’t be.

It wasn’t that Clint had self-esteem issues. He recognized that he was attractive. For an unaltered human. And there was the problem. Compared to the rest of his team he was nothing. He wasn’t a genetically engineered super soldier like Steve. He wasn’t blessed with classic good looks and Hawking level genius and more money than god, like Stark. Natasha was stunning and had been trained since early childhood to wield her looks as just another weapon in her arsenal. Thor was a god, enough said. Hell even Bruce was adorable with his dark looks and quiet demeanor. Clint just… was. He existed. Sometimes being less bothered him, sometimes it didn’t. It was just a fact.

Bucky was latching on to him because he was there. He needed to talk to Stark and get someone else to sit with the brunette for a few nights. Give the man some space away from him. He needed to let Bucky focus on someone better for him. He needed Nat. At this point he was willing to risk death by Widow Thighs if it meant he got an hour with someone who could straighten him out.

He had to see Stark.

~*~

For the first time in weeks Bucky was alone. Completely, blessedly, terrifyingly alone. He shouldn’t have done that. Clint wouldn’t have left if he’d maintained control. The new memories swirled in his head, without Clint there to stabilize him he was thrown from scene to scene.

He was in France, the wind was rushing past his body. His left arm ached and burned, he wanted to look but something in him stopped him from looking over. He heard his name being screamed from somewhere far away before his world exploded in pain.

He was in New York, in a small apartment. Someone was coughing, wheezing. He’d been told it’d be a miracle if the cougher lived through the night. He was in a small kitchen area, pretending to stir some kind of broth so the frail being in the other room didn’t see him cry.

Target: Howard Stark. He must be taken out publically, tragically. Make it look accidental. Collateral damage acceptable and recommended. Brake lines are easy to tamper with. Status: Complete.

“Come on Punk. Come dancing, it’ll be fun. I ship out tomorrow. I’ve got a dame you’ll like.”

He woke up on a table, trapped in some compound. “Oh good, he’s awake. Prepare the injections.”

Steve, big and unfamiliar, was bombing everything, yelling for him to run.

He couldn’t cope. It was too much. His skull was stuffed, over heated and over loaded. The acid panic flowed through his veins and he started to shake. He jumped to his feet with a roar and flung the table into the glass wall keeping him trapped. When that failed to break him free he slammed his body into it, metal arm first, over and over and over.

He didn’t notice the calming gas filling the chamber until he rose for one more run at the wall, stumbled, and slid to the ground in forced oblivion.

~*~

“Let me get this straight; you’re going to run off for an undetermined amount of time, until you find your Russian super assassin best friend, who’s trying to cope with the collapse of everything they’ve ever known, that doesn’t want to be found?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I don’t know if you missed it, Barton, but that’s Captain puppy’s gig.” Stark looked at Clint over a table covered in three day old coffee and bits of what Clint suspected had once been a trident missile. Clint opened his mouth to retort and was cut off by Jarvis.

“Sir. There has been an incident in lab cell 1.” The blood drained out of both men’s faces.

“What kind of incident Jarv?” Stark’s voice was deceptively calm.

“It appears Sargent Barnes has suffered an anxiety attack and required sedation.”

“Wake up Rogers and get him down there.” Stark wiped his hands on an already greasy rag. “And Jarvis? Make sure Rogers knows he’s got to find a doc for his pet or I will. I’m not keeping a mad dog in my house.”

“Of course Sir.”

Clint felt his heart sink. If he left now Bucky might be gone by the time he got back with ‘Tasha. But if he stayed he ran the risk of becoming more attached to the man in the cell. Call him selfish but he couldn’t run that risk. He wouldn’t be able to cope with believing the other man wanted him for him before getting tossed aside. He was always tossed aside, it would be easier to leave now and force himself to remember that eventually Bucky would find someone else. Someone better. He had to let Steve deal with this. It would be better for everyone involved.

He left to gather his gear. Hopefully ‘Tasha would forgive him for finding her.

~*~

“Hold still Sargent Barnes. The procedure has already begun.” He felt nothing but agony blooming from his left shoulder. His nostrils filled with the stench of burning flesh, he heard nothing but a mechanical whirring and grinding. He screamed.

He woke still screaming.

“Buck?! Bucky it’s ok. You’re safe.” He whipped his head toward the voice. Steve, big Steve, not the little Steve he saw sometimes. Target.

He lunged.

Chapter 5

Clint was quickly running out of safe houses to check. He knew Natasha’s hide outs almost as well as he knew his own. The problem, he was quickly realizing, was that the information dump she’d done to expose Pierce as the Hydra shill he was, also exposed all of her identities. Which, unfortunately, meant that every lease in every name she’d ever had was searchable online. None of her safe houses were actually safe anymore.  He needed to check them all, just to be sure, but soon he would need to rely on her patterns and find her new identities.

Somewhere between Dublin and Belarus he realized he knew where she had to be. There was only one place she would hide that no one would think to check. He booked a seat on a train heading for the Orel Mountains and prayed he remembered exactly where she said the facility was hidden.

~*~

The panic acid hadn’t stopped flowing since Clint left. He longer knew if he was sleeping or awake. He couldn’t tell the nightmares from the flashbacks. He screamed in sleep, screamed while awake. He couldn’t scream anymore. His throat was raw enough that he could taste blood when he breathed.

Since he’d lunged at Steve he’d been alone. The closest he got to company was when Steve came down to watch him through the glass. The bruises he’d left on his childhood friend had healed almost instantly. But that was all it took to convince Stark that he was entirely too dangerous to have physical contact with. In his rare lucid moments he couldn’t exactly disagree with the assessment.

He refused to say he missed Clint. He did however miss being saved from his own brain by dance hall music. He missed the cinnamon candies. He missed the archer’s quiet understanding. He missed the feeling of lucid calm that settled in when the smaller man was there.

Ok, maybe he actually did miss Clint. For all the good admitting did. Admitting he missed the man didn’t bring him back. Admitting it didn’t mean Bucky hadn’t driven him away. If he hadn’t kissed Clint his archer wouldn’t have left. He wouldn’t have had to run half way around the world to get away from Bucky. It was his fault, one more sin to lay at his feet. Maybe one day he’d actually remember them all.

He leaned back against his wall, slammed his head back and closed his eyes. Maybe this time he could sleep.

Unlikely.

~*~

Clint needed to be focused. He knew Natasha well enough to know there would be traps around the Red Room. Just because she ran to somewhere she felt secure didn’t mean she wouldn’t take steps to make it more so. He had to focus. But his thoughts kept turning back to a small room in New York. He hoped Steve got Bucky help. He hoped that Bucky was healing. Something inside him doubted it. He kept seeing Bucky’s face contorted in pain, real or imagined. He hoped Jarvis told whoever was watching Bucky sleep about the music and candy.

Halfway through considering calling to check in, he made a wrong step and felt the pinch of a dart sliding into his neck. The last thought he had before the world faded away was ‘at least I found her’.

~*~

“Give me one good reason why you should be alive right now, Barton.”

“Missed you too ‘Tasha.” Clint groaned out as he came to. He was lying on a cot in a small, nearly featureless, room. Sitting next to him was a very angry Natasha Romanov. He winced.

“A clever man would have assumed I wanted to be alone.” Her voice was steady, anyone who knew her less would have missed the slight amusement that colored her tone. Oh good, perhaps he wasn’t about to die.

“Never claimed to be the smart one.” He struggled to sit up with drug leaded limbs. “Besides, you’re missing all the fun; I knew you’d actually kill me if I didn’t invite you to the party.” She didn’t respond, just stared at him in her impassive, catlike way. 

He sighed. “Natasha, Steve found Bucky.” That got a response, albeit a tiny one, just a twitch in the muscles around her mouth. Clint continued. He’d traveled halfway around the world to find his friend and tell her what was going on, he certainly wasn’t going to waste the trip. After all, she may still kill him.

He told her about watching Bucky at night, made sure to mention how handsomely Stark was paying him to do it. He told her how Steve had damn need begged him to offer up friendship to the trapped man. Told her how he’d confessed about Loki to the broken brunette.

“He was just so lost ‘Tasha. Remember that moment on the helicarrier? When I woke up and asked you if you’d ever been unmade?” She nodded. “He’s been living in that moment for months. He needed to know he wasn’t alone.”

“And is that the only reason you told him Barton?” From anyone else, using his last name would be distant and formal. She somehow managed to turn it into a fond caress, a pet name. She reached out and stroked his face, all pretenses at anger gone. “There is something you aren’t telling me.”

Clint shifted uncomfortably. There was no use holding it back, ‘Tasha knew his mind almost better than he did. She also had a very unique set of skills. She’d drag it out of him whether he wanted to tell her or not.

“After I told him, he kissed me.”

She raised a single eyebrow. The closest she ever got to showing shocked disbelief. “The Winter Soldier kissed you?”

“No. Bucky Barnes kissed me. There is a distinct difference.” Clint snapped in annoyance. Natasha stroked his hair by way of apology.

“Of course there is my Hawk. Apologies.” She said soothingly. “So what are you going to do?”

He shrugged. “He’s confused. Guy kissed me since I’m the only human contact he’s got, Cap aside. What can I do except leave?”

Natasha’s eyes narrowed. “Did you enjoy kissing him, Clint? Is that why you needed to run half way around the world? Because a man kissed you and you enjoyed it?”

Clint shook his head in denial. “No ‘Tasha. I ran half way around the world to find you.”

“Bullshit. If that were the only reason you came you wouldn’t have missed the dart trap. You were distracted. Now you’re defensive. You enjoyed it so you ran.” Her voice wasn’t even sharp, just matter of fact. Clint wasn’t sure what annoyed him more, that she was right or that she sounded so smug about it.

“Fine. I didn’t like it. I loved it. It felt like home, like I was a breath of air to a drowning man. He tasted like cinnamon, and hope, and right. I had to leave before he met more people and realized how worthless I actually am. Is that what you wanted to hear, Natasha? Is it? That I ran like a god damned useless coward because that’s all I am, and ever will be, and Bucky deserves better than that?” By the end he was damn near screaming at her.

She backhanded him, light enough not to actually hurt, but hard enough to get her point across.

“Clint Barton you are many things. Idiot being the first and foremost. However a useless coward is NOT one of them.” Her voice softened. “You need to go back, Clint. You just abandoned him, without a word, after he kissed you. Did you stop to remember, for just a moment, how confusing and painful that is from his side of things?”

Clint shook his head. He couldn’t let himself second guess his decision to run. “He’ll be ok. He just needs someone else. Someone better. Don’t you see ‘Tasha? If I go back all I’m doing is letting myself get attached to someone I’m going to lose. It’s better this way.”

Natasha sighed. “Good thing you never unpacked.” He looked at her in confusion. “Because dragging you back is so much nicer when I don’t need to pack what amounts to my brother’s underwear.” She turned and left.

Chapter 6:

“You’ve lost what little brain you had featherhead.” Stark was the first to break the silence. Natasha was perched on the countertop of the community kitchen, as far away from the oven and Steve as she could be, while still being in the room. Clint filed that away to be examined later. Much later.

“I’m not asking permission, Stark. I’m telling you what I’m going to do.” Clint rubbed his eyes. They’d left Bucky alone. Utterly alone. Clint couldn’t believe it. How the hell was the other man supposed to start healing at all with no one but Jarvis? Come to think of it he doubted even Jarvis spoke to Bucky. He knew the man needed quiet, but not solitary confinement.

“And I’m telling you that you’re going to get yourself killed. Cap, back me up here! You’re the one he went Robocop on last time.” Stark looked from Steve to Clint and back again, getting no support from the super soldier. “Know what? Never mind. Go get yourself plucked tailfeathers. But don’t expect me to pay for your damn funeral.” Stark stormed from the kitchen, while Steve mutely handed Clint a plate.

~*~

He hadn’t eaten in days. He probably should eat, but the gnawing hunger was a nice distraction from the                     oppressive silence he’d been living in. There was only so long he could read the books Steve kept slipping him. Eventually he needed something else to occupy his brain. He almost missed being in cryo. Years would pass and he would never know. Regimes would rise and fall. Life was simple; thaw, kill his target, freeze.  Maybe if he refused food long enough he would finally die.

He heard the door open but kept his eyes closed. He discovered he could keep himself lucid so long as his eyes were firmly shut. He could pretend Clint was in his cell with him, pretend he hadn’t chased the smaller man away. If he tried for long enough he could almost smell cinnamon. As soon as he opened his eyes reality would win out. Clint would be gone; at most Steve would be outside his cell looking sad and hopeful by turns.

He smelled food. Mashed potatoes and chicken. His skull itched.

“James! Go get your sisters, supper’s on the table!” Mama laid out what passed for a feast in the Barnes household. Sitting center was a whole roasted chicken. The apartment was warm, it felt like Christmas.

Ah, a good memory then. He liked the memories with his family. It was nice to remember he’d had one once.  In idle moments he wonders what happened to them, then remembers how long it’s been and the panic starts to rise again. Maybe one day he’ll find out. Maybe he’ll remember. Maybe it’s better if he doesn’t.

“Geeze, I leave for a month and you stop eating? Anyone ever tell you that not even dogs are that devoted, Bucky?”

That voice. That sounded like…no. It couldn’t be. It was a trick. An audio hallucination brought on by sleep deprivation and hunger. His chest tightened, it got harder to breathe. He heard a plate being set on the (now bolted down) table followed by footsteps. He felt someone sit down beside him but still refused to open his eyes. This was the most realistic he’d gotten to imagining Clint was back. He was not going to let reality win out. He didn’t think he could deal with being broken like that again.

“Open your eyes Bucky.”

He couldn’t refuse an order, even one he was imagining. He tried to fight it, tried to hold on to the illusion that he wasn’t alone for a few more seconds. His eyes slid open against his will, meeting the sharp blue eyes of his archer. For a moment he couldn’t breathe just let himself drown in blue.

“I’m dyin’ aren’t I?” He hadn’t spoken since Clint left. His voice cracked from disuse.

“No, you’re not dyin’. Though ‘Tasha might kill you if you don’t actually eat the dinner Steve made. Did you know he could actually cook? We’ve been smelling this for hours.” Suddenly Clint’s hands were under his arms, attempting to haul him to his feet. “Ok big guy, cut me some slack, a little help?”

Bucky stood. His vision swam and the world spun. He leaned back against his wall, waiting for the feeling in his legs to come back. Clint just stood there with him. He rarely remembered how small the other man actually was. Then again he was rarely off the floor. If not for Hydra experimentation he’d probably have lost almost all muscle mass by now. One of the few things he should be thankful for he guessed. He stumbled over to the table and sat down. He took a bite of chicken, earning himself one of Clint’s crooked grins. He grinned back from under his mop of stringy dark hair, honestly relaxed for the first time in weeks.

~*~

Bucky looked like hell. Clint watched him shovel away bite after bite and wondered when the last time the brunette had eaten was. He didn’t even want to contemplate when the last time the bigger man had showered was. The mental image of a naked, wet, and soapy Bucky slammed into Clint’s mind and he forced it away with the shake of his head. Now was not the time. Maybe later, when he was alone in his room.

“Sorry I was gone so long. I had to find ‘Tasha. You’d like her.” Clint just started talking to fill the silence. Bucky didn’t stop him so he assumed it was ok. “She’s the only person I’ve met who could give you a run for your stoic Russian money.”

“’Tasha?” Bucky asked around a mouthful of potato. It was utterly adorable. Clint fought the urge to reach over and run his fingers through the other man’s hair.

“Agent Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow. The closest person I’ve got left to family and the one person that scares Steve more than you do.” Clint couldn’t hide the amusement or fondness in his tone. He glanced over and saw Bucky frozen, forkful of chicken halfway to his lips.

“Bucky? Look at me.” Brown eyes met blue. “You’re in Stark Tower. Whatever you’re seeing isn’t happening.” He reached over and plucked the fork from Bucky’s metal hand. “Just stay with me big guy. It’ll pass.” Clint tried desperately to remember all the rest of the shit the therapists at S.H.I.E.L.D. used to say to him during his required visits after Loki. He carefully laid his hand over top of Bucky’s flesh and blood one.

“I tried to kill her, more than once. She was never the direct target, always in the way.” Bucky’s voice was quiet. Clint had to strain to hear him, even with his hearing aids on. “She is… rather hard to kill.”

Clint couldn’t help it. He laughed. “Yeah, that’s ‘Tasha. You should meet her. I’m pretty sure you two would like each other when you’re not trying to kill one another.” He rubbed his thumb over the back of Bucky’s hand. “If that’ll be too much, tell me. Otherwise I’m introducing you two.”

Bucky just looked at him for long moments before nodding. “I think I would like to meet your friend.”

Clint gave Bucky his trademark grin and reached for his cell phone.

~*~

He hadn’t been expecting the petite red head so soon. Nor had he anticipated Steve coming with her and hovering in what Bucky recognized as a protective manner. Something about that hurt. He watched the woman go to enter his cell before Steve stopped her. He couldn’t hear what they were saying but could see the worry on Steve’s face. He watched her reach up and pat the tall blonde’s cheek before opening the door and slipping inside in one fluid motion.

“Did I interrupt something ‘Tasha? You looked a little busy out there.” Clint teased. “Do I need to go have the good Captain humor me though a threat against his kneecaps?”

“No. I am more than capable of breaking his kneecaps myself should it come to that.” She tossed back flatly.

“It’s the principle of the thing.” She just shot Clint a look that he shrugged off. Bucky figured they’d forgotten he was in the room. Something left over from his programming told him it would be the perfect time to strike; he managed to fight it down. He didn’t know exactly what to do with himself; so remained in his chair, poking at the chicken bones with his fork.

“Bucky?” He looked up at the warm sound of Clint’s voice. “I’d like you to meet Natasha. My best friend and the biggest pain in the ass you’ll ever meet.”

For a moment he felt normal. “I don’t know about that. I did grow up with a scrawny punk whose mouth started fights my fists had to finish.” He shot Natasha a grin. “It’s a pleasure to meet you without a gun in my hand.”

Natasha laughed. He could see why Clint liked her. “The pleasure is mine Sargent Barnes.” She extended one dainty hand toward him. Eighteen different ways to throw and kill her with that gesture flashed before his eyes.

Bucky reached out and shook it.

Chapter 7

They’d started a rotation during the day. Natasha or Steve would bring Bucky the news and breakfast. Steve would chat with him about the happy things he remembered, eyes lighting up every time he remembered something new. Natasha listened when his memories weren’t so bright, speaking in Russian whenever he started to slip from Bucky’s memories to the Asset’s.

At first he’d be afraid of snapping and hurting her, she was so small and delicate looking. Then she showed him the scar she carried from the first time they’d met.

“I’m tougher than I look Barnes. Faster too. I wouldn’t be in here if I didn’t know I could get out again.” She’d shot him a challenging look. He put his hands up in surrender.

And that was that.

Nights though, nights were for Clint. As much as he liked them both, he looked forward to when Steve or Natasha left since it meant his archer was on his way. His heart sped up when he heard the smaller man’s footsteps, light as they were. More and more he had to fight the smile that wanted to split his face in half every time he saw the man.

Some nights they talked. Some nights they didn’t. Clint always seemed to know whether Bucky needed words or silence. He was the only person Bucky had ever met that spoke the same emotional language. He knew when to push and when to pretend Bucky hadn’t woken up screaming. The nightmares came less and less frequently. Bucky even managed to fall back to sleep after them, dreams of his archer taking their place, with Clint’s reassurances of safety echoing in his ears.

~*~

Natasha had dragged him out for coffee. He supposed it was only fair, he’d dragged her half way around the world, he could at least go half way around the block. Something was bothering her. It took two cups of coffee and almost an hour of silence before she spoke.

“When I left it wasn’t just to cope with figuring out who I was.” She wouldn’t meet his eyes, just stared into the mug she slowly rotated between her hands. “I left to get away from Steve.”

Clint said nothing. If he tried to pry information from her she’d close up tighter than a clam and never bring it up again. It’s just how she worked. He slid the sugar bowl toward her and she flashed him a tight smile.

“He’s overwhelming. He’s irritatingly perfect. I had to leave. I guess that’s why I dragged you back. You were throwing away everything you wanted out of some misguided sense of self preservation and it irritated me so much. And here I was doing the same thing.” She took of sip of what Clint knew was sickeningly sweet coffee. “For the first time since childhood I am at a loss over a man.”

“Have you tried telling him?” It was obvious to anyone who saw them together that Steve was over the moon for the small woman.

The look she shot him would have killed a lesser man. “Barton, I’m a spy. I don’t do the direct approach.”

“No. But you do excel in ambush tactics.” He grinned at her. “What is the Cap’s weakness? Exploit it. I’ve never met a man alive who would turn you down when you wanted them ‘Tasha. Not when you’re actually trying. Cap may be a bioengineered miracle of science, but he’s still a man.”

Natasha raised an eyebrow. “Did you miss the part about irritatingly perfect? I’ve been looking for his weak points. As far as I can tell his only weak point is his lack of modern knowledge. However I doubt I can convince him to come home with me by telling him that it’s now expected that you sleep with your team.” Sarcasm positively dripped from her tone.

“Ask Bucky.”

“What?”

“I said ask Bucky. His memories are returning; he’s bound to know something that’ll help you. He likes you. He’ll help.” Clint took a swig of his own bitter brew while she pondered it.

“Fine. On one condition. You come clean to Barnes first.” She smiled when Clint choked. “Fair is fair my Hawk. I’ll try to catch my super soldier; you at least need to tell yours.”

~*~

Clint was pacing in the cell. Bucky kept seeing him glancing over, pausing as though to say something, then continuing to pace. He was nervous about something, though Bucky would be damned if he knew what it was. It was putting him on edge. Finally he stood and grabbed the other man by his shoulders, forcing him to stop. Clint looked up at him, and he was caught in how blue the smaller man’s eyes were.

The urge to just lower his head and kiss the blonde was damn near overwhelming. He hadn’t said or done anything to act on his growing attraction since that ill-timed kiss that sent Clint running. But it was there. Every time the archer laughed Bucky wanted to grab him and kiss him breathless. Every time he thought he could get away with it Bucky studied Clint, trying to memorize ever plane of his face, every contour of muscle shown by the sleeveless shirts the other man favored. Clint could never know. If he knew he’d run again. Bucky would rather live holding back, than let go and lose the little he had. He forced himself to step back and pull his hands away. 

“Fucking hell.” Bucky almost missed the exclamation as it left Clint’s lips. Clint’s hands were suddenly buried in his long hair, pulling at it in a way that sent blood rushing away from his brain. Clint’s lips were on his and all he could do was throw his arms around the smaller man and hold on. Clint’s tongue flicked against his lips and he happily parted them, eager to taste the other man’s mouth with his own. He slid one hand down, firmly grabbing the ass he’d been staring at for months, pulling Barton close. He never wanted this to end. If this was a dream he’d rather die than wake up.

He let the smaller man pull his head back, exposing his neck. Some distant part of him said he should feel vulnerable, with his windpipe and jugular exposed. But Clint’s teeth traced his jaw and he forgot to think. He tangled his free hand in Clint’s hair, holding on for dear life as the blonde bit down where his neck joined his collarbone. He’d have a mark there, he was sure of it, but he couldn’t care less. The feeling of Clint sucking and flicking his tongue against that tender spot had Bucky imagining what it would feel like to have Clint’s mouth on other places. He ground his hips against the small archer at the thought.

He was achingly hard and panting when Clint pulled away. He felt a whine escape his throat at the loss of contact.

“Easy there, big guy. No need to rush.” Clint sounded a little out of breath himself. Bucky braved a look. Clint’s chest was heaving, and Bucky could see the outline of his own arousal, straining against the confines of his pants. He wondered what Clint would taste like.  

“If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right. You’re not a quickie to let off some steam, Bucky.” Clint said as he began to regain his composure. “I want more than that. If you don’t then now is the time to say it.”

He shook his head, reaching out for the blonde, needing some kind of contact. Clint took half a step back.

“I can’t Buck. If I touch you right now it’s going to end with me begging you to bend me over that table” Clint gestured with his head “and fuck me until I can’t see straight. Don’t think I’m not tempted, but I’ll be damned if the first time I fuck you isn’t in a proper bed. Not some cot in a jail cell in Stark’s basement.”

Right then Bucky didn’t see what was so wrong with the cot.

Chapter 8

The common room wasn’t crowded exactly. But the five of them were all crammed around one coffee table. Clint fought the urge to wince, remembering how Bucky was trapped in his cell, alone, so they could all be here at once. His eyes flicked around to each face; from Steve’s cautiously hopeful, to Bruce’s utterly confused.

“Well my freaky darlings, someone better explain what this is about, or I’m heading back to doing something more productive. Like reading YouTube comments.” Stark slapped his hands on his thighs and went to stand. Bruce’s light touch stopped him. Clint knew Stark wasn’t precisely straight, but he was a bit taken aback by Banner’s lack of taste. Then again he was about to argue that the homicidal maniac downstairs was not homicidal or maniac-y enough to justify continued imprisonment. So perhaps he wasn’t the best person to judge anyone else’s taste in men.

“It’s about Sargent Barnes. I feel he should be ok’d for limited tower excursions.” Clint tried to keep the pleading town out of his voice. Stark narrowed his eyes.

“Give me a good reason birdbrain. As far as I’m concerned robocop can live down there until he drops dead or the tower collapses. Whichever comes first.” Clint saw Bruce tighten his grip on Stark’s thigh.

“He is about as mentally stable as he’s going to get with limited visitation.” Clint began.

“So now you’re a shrink, Barton?” Stark cut in.

“No. I’m the guy who got the closest to dealing with the hell that guy’s been living for the last 70 years. No offence meant Captain, ‘Tasha.” They both waved his statement away. “I’m the guy who had to learn to live with myself after Loki took my brain and played with it. I’m the one who had to deal with months of learning what I’d done in that damned blue fog and coming to terms with it.

“I’m also the guy you paid to keep track of Barnes’s mental state and let you know when I felt he was no longer a direct threat to himself or any other residents of this tower. That’s what I’m doing now, Stark. You want him to get safer? You have to let him out of the cage so he can start to cope with the world beyond that damned box.” Clint sat back and waited for a reaction.

Steve spoke first. “I agree with Barton.”

“Of course you would!” Stark threw up his hands.

Steve continued as though he hadn’t spoken. “During the day Bucky has been more lucid, more like himself. His memories are coming back. He’s been getting better at dealing with the panic attacks he does have. He comes down from them quicker. Last time he lost control was over a month ago. And even then he punched the wall he knew wouldn’t break instead of attacking me.” He flashed Clint a smile. “I think, if Barton is willing to keep working with him outside the cell, he’ll be safe enough. He is my friend Tony. My oldest friend. But I would never put this team at deliberate risk. That’s why I agreed to your restrictions when I first brought him here. But he doesn’t need them anymore.”

Stark looked from Clint to Steve before settling his gaze on Natasha. “Et tu Romanov?”

“Barnes has never so much as raised a hand to me in the time I’ve spent alone with him. He’s about as safe to have roaming the tower as I am. Probably safer since he can’t fit in tight spaces.” She shrugged. “Release him or don’t. Just know that if you don’t he’ll probably start to backslide instead of improve. Isolation plays tricks on the mind.”

Unexpectedly Bruce’s soft voice cut in. “You let me in, Tony. And Nat’s right. The longer he stays alone, the more likely he is to get worse.”

Clint watched Stark intently, willing him to say yes, with a sinking feeling in his gut that the genius would say no. Almost before thinking, Clint heard himself speaking. 

“Let him have the run of my floor. Lock the elevator so he can’t go anywhere else alone. That’ll help him get used to the tower, and ensure that everyone is kept safe.”

“Except you featherbrain. He could easily kill you in your sleep.”

“He won’t.”

~*~

Bucky smiled to himself when he heard Clint’s approach. His archer was earlier than usual. Not that he minded in the least. Early Clint meant more time in the small blonde’s company. He wasn’t going to question anything that gave him that.

“Hey, big guy.” Clint grabbed Bucky’s hair, pulling him down for a kiss. Bucky kissed him back, savoring the feel of the other man’s lips on his. “Got a surprise for you.” Clint said when he pulled away. For the first time Bucky noticed he hadn’t shut the door behind him. He looked at Clint in confusion.

Clint pulled Bucky’s head down, so his lips were level with the brunette’s ear, close enough for Bucky to feel his breath slinking across the tender skin. “I told you that I’d be damned if I fucked you in here.” It was all Bucky could do to stand upright when he felt Clint’s teeth sink into his earlobe. “We’re going Upstairs.”

“How did you-?”

“Convince Stark? You’re making progress, Bucky. Don’t sell yourself short. You’re not getting too much more room. Just my floor. If you want to go anywhere else someone’s got to go with you. And you have to see a shrink twice a week. Stark is having one flown in especially for you. Young woman, non-threatening. Your meetings will be on my floor and I’ll be in the other room if you need me. Those are the conditions Bucky. Think you can handle them?” Clint looked at him, so much hope shining in his face that Bucky couldn’t say no.

Bucky let Clint take him by his flesh and blood hand and lead him to the elevator.

END

You Don’t Have to Face Your Gremlins Alone

BuckyxClint. Trigger warnings: mental issues, PTSD, 

Chapter 1:

Clint was fine, thank you very much.

S.H.I.E.L.D. was dismantled, which meant he was out of a job. Natasha was missing, which meant he had no idea where the last remaining person he trusted completely was. But other than that he was fine. He certainly wasn’t chafing at being left behind while his Captain left to go hunt down a mythical assassin that just happened to be his best friend from before the Second World War.

He was used to being useless and forgotten. Point him at a target? He wouldn’t fail. But without a handler he was painfully aware that he was a bow without an archer; dangerous in theory, but not hurting anyone without someone to draw it back. And after Loki he wasn’t exactly hunting for someone else to take orders from. He was trying to learn how to be his own man, for the first time in his life.

Clint was fine. That didn’t mean he wasn’t bored out of his skull.

Without a job he was without assignments. While it was nice to go to bed being reasonably sure no one was going to break any of him while he slept, living in Stark tower wasn’t exactly the most exciting place for an assassin. At first he’d kept up his skills in the range Stark had built. But firing at stationary targets was something he’d mastered almost as soon as he could walk. It didn’t do much except let him feel the power of his bow in his hand. He’d taken to sneaking through air ducts. But after the third time he startled Stark by appearing from nowhere in his lab, baring coffee no less, Jarvis locked him out.

For a short time he’d debated hunting for ‘Tasha. He missed her. But she needed time to process not working for an extra-governmental shadow organization just like he did. Hell she probably needed it more. And, best friend or not, if he found her before she was ready to be found she might kill him. Scratch that, she probably would kill him. She’d just kill him quickly, with little pain, in honor of their years of comradery.

This was how Stark found him, sitting in the common area googling ‘Shadow Governments looking for assassins’. 

“Well Featherbrain, I’m glad Stark Tower is already on every watch list known to man and some known only to monkeys. Anyone ever explain to you how the internet isn’t private?” he popped a handful of what looked like some kind of cereal into his mouth and crunched noisily. “”Cause I don’t exactly have time to teach ‘internet safety 101 for circus people’.”

“Carnie, not circus.” Clint didn’t even look up. “Circuses don’t have freak shows.” He debated clicking a link mentioning Syria and thought better of it. “Something you need metal pants?”

“Leave the vaguely insulting nicknames to the professionals, tailfeathers. But as a matter of fact yes.” He shoved more cereal into his mouth. “Cap’s back. And a mentally unstable homicidal stray followed him home. I told him to take it to a shelter, but you know he gets.” He munched more cereal. “I need you to keep an eye on him. I’m putting him on lock down, only team members and therapists until further notice.”

Clint looked at him, slightly confused. “Why me?”

“I need someone to watch the assassin in my basement. Why not the assassin using my Wifi to test if Big Brother is actively watching me or only has a passing interest? Besides, Captain Redemption is biased, Nat is gone, Bruce would make a horrible baby sitter, Thor is off world, and I’m too busy. That leaves you. So cash, credit, or bird seed?” He offered Clint the cereal box.

“You had Jarvis steal my bank information. Direct deposit it.” Clint took a handful of what he now saw was granola.

“I had Jarvis secure your banking information! No need to thank me for making sure your identity doesn’t get stolen or anything.” Tony indignantly took his granola back.

“Whatever helps you sleep at night Stark. You said he was in the basement?” Tony nodded, mouth full, so Clint collected his gear and headed for the elevator.

Clint doesn’t dislike elevators exactly. They’re convenient, they’re quicker than stairs; they’re a choke point. He’s taken out more than one mark as they enter or exit the tiny box. He knows Natasha has done a lot worse to a mark in an elevator. However Stark built the tower around his idea of luxury, style, and electronic security, he didn’t exactly consider how entrapping an elevator might feel to someone who’s killed in them. This simply meant the stairs were built so far out of the way, that using them added roughly ten minutes to leaving the floor every time Clint wanted to go anywhere. So he kept an arrow in hand, his bow strung, and took the damn elevator.

The doors slid open soundlessly. He’d tried once to convince Stark to have them make the sound from the doors on Star Trek. Now whenever they opened on his floor they made random bird calls. He should have expected that.

The basement of Stark Tower was a series of abandoned lab rooms. They’d been converted to holding cells after Steve left to hunt down Barnes. With S.H.I.E.L.D dismantled the Tower was the only logical place to house a mentally unstable super assassin. For security reasons Tony had made the decision to keep Bucky isolated until it could be determined he was safe. Or whatever level of dangerous insanity passed as safe enough in Tony’s mind. Barnes had been given a single cell to start out with, he may be Steve’s friend, but they were taking no chances with giving him anywhere to hide.

Steve and Barnes were both in the cell when Clint arrived. He’d expected no less.

“Welcome home Cap.” Clint didn’t take his eyes of the bedraggled, dark haired man who sat hunched in the corner.

“Thank you, Clint. I assume Tony sent you?” Steve sounded tired. He looked like hell. A quick once over assured Clint he was uninjured, though with his super healing he could have broken bones two hours before and Clint would never know.

“Designated Bucky-sitter reporting for duty.” He gave a mock salute. “Go shower Cap. Sleep.” Steve started to argue but was cut off. “There’s nothing else you can do here that you can’t do after both of those.” Reluctantly Steve left, casting more than one look back at the man in the corner.

Clint took up his post outside the door looking in. The walls were entirely glass. Shatter proof and Hulk resistant, they should keep even Bucky contained. Clint felt a twinge of sympathy for the other man, trapped in what amounted to a fish bowl. He settled in for a long watch.

About an hour or so in Barnes lifted his head and started looking around in wild eyed panic. He shrank further into his corner, shouting in Russian. Clint knew that look, didn’t know the words (languages had never been his strong suit), but the panic, the need to scream at the darkness to reassure yourself the monsters were gone, that he knew. He also knew that reassurances of safety were bullshit. He could get up and tell Barnes he was safe and no one was going to hurt him, but those were words. All they did was make the speaker feel better about what was happening. So he sat. Still and quiet. Barnes screamed himself hoarse, and collapsed from exhaustion. Clint asked Jarvis to wake him if anything happened, and let himself drift.

~*~

“Agent Barton? Sir, I believe your attention is required.” Jarvis’s mechanized voice woke him. He glanced into the cell to see Barnes thrashing on the floor. His mouth hung open, whines that would have been screams poured out, high pitched and rough. Clint knew better than to shake anyone out of a nightmare, let alone a trained killer.

“Jarvis, can you play some music in there? Something loud but inoffensive? Nothing Tony plays in his lab.” Clint rose carefully, feeling his spine pop. He really needed a chair or something, maybe a cot, if he was going to be sleeping much more on this floor. Frank Sinatra began blaring from inside the cell, startling Barnes awake. Instantly he reached for the gun that no longer hung at his side, whipping his head around to scan the room.

Taking a chance Clint walked into the room with him. He said nothing, just sat at the small table and watched. Barnes followed him with eyes wide with distrust and panic. Clint kept both hands on the table where the other man could see them. Gradually Barnes started to relax. He sat back down and croaked something in a language Clint didn’t recognize.

“Sorry, they stuck you with a baby-sitter than only speaks English. Well and a smattering of Hungarian, but Budapest doesn’t count.”

“Water?” Barnes looked at him as though he was going to be punished for asking. Clint figures at one point he probably was.

“Sure. Jarvis? If Steve’s awake could you ask him to bring down some water?” He took another appraising look at the dark haired man in the corner. “And a couple of cough drops?”

“Of course, Agent Barton.” The AI’s voice filled the room, and for a moment Clint worried that Barnes was going to freak out again. But apparently on a scale of one to shit-he’s-done a dismembered, computerized voice didn’t even register to him as weird.

Neither said anything else until Steve arrived, baring a backpack stuffed full of bottled water, cough drops, hard candy, and Harry Potter.

“Figured you might get bored down here, Buck. I know they’re kid books but you might like ‘em.” Steve half apologized as he handed the first book over. He looked better. Like he’d showered at least. Perhaps he’d actually slept a little. Clint chose to leave the two of them alone now that Cap didn’t look like death walking. He slipped out, unaware of the brown eyes watching him go.

Justifying my new odd ship

I have a new otp. AKA I have a half hour walk into work pre-coffee on Saturdays and have time to think of things before my brain is awake enough to go ‘no that is a horrible idea’. 

My otp is Clint x Bucky. 

Now before all make the “what the fuck” face at me let me explain why it’s perfect. It makes sense guys, trust me. 

Most people pair Bucky with Steve for a variety of reasons, the two most common I’ve seen are:

1. Steve and Bucky were best friends before the war, it’s not a stretch to assume that could blossom into something more. However I don’t ship that. I firmly believe their love and friendship is more brothers than lovers.

2. Steve and Bucky are both men out of their own time. They both have to adapt to living in a century they were not born for, and they have shared life experiences that they don’t share with any one else in their dating pools. Try putting ‘survived WWII and was frozen for 50 years’ in an OKC profile and see how that goes. BUT I see Bucky having less of a hard time adapting to life in the 21st century than Steve. Bucky has had intermittent periods of being unfrozen, he’s also been (for lack of a better word) programmed to adapt. He doesn’t need Steve to help explain cell phones or microwaves in a way someone from the ’40s would understand because he’s already been given knowledge of these things. 

Point two feeds directly into my point 1 of why Bucky and Clint belong together, so more on that in a bit. 

Clint often gets paired with Coulson or Natasha. Which is fine, and a lot of the Coulson fics are adorable. But they strike me as a bit troublesome. Coulson is Clint’s handler. Which technically makes any relationship they have fraternization. Clint I can see flouting rules and regulations, but Coulson gets off on that shit. If he and Clint were going to have a relationship he’d get himself reassigned and get Clint a new handler. And I just don’t see that going well for anyone. But I may write or request a fic like that in the future. 

Pairing Clint with Natasha runs into the same problems I see with Bucky and Steve back in point one. They strike me as more best friends, perhaps with occasional benefits, but not as a couple who would set up house keeping together. Natasha trusts Clint, and clearly cares about him a great deal. She however has been trained to wield sex as weapon, and Clint’s got enough of an abuse background that I don’t see the two of them meshing for any sort of long term romance without SOMEBODY’S brain gremlins screwing up everything that is right and good with their worlds. Also again, a fic I might want to see in the future because I’m a bitch, but not something I’m going to ship too hard. 

Which brings me to Reasons Why Clint and Bucky Should Be Together:

Point 1. Remember how I said Bucky won’t really need help adapting to this century? What he will need help adapting to is living with himself after having been Unmade. He has spent 70 years in unwilling yet unwavering obedience. Give him a mission and he will fulfill it. 

He has gaps in his memory, things he can’t remember doing under orders that would sicken him once he comes back to who he is. And given what we saw in Winter Soldier after he started to remember Steve, those memories will start to come back. 

Who is the only other person on team who has any experience like this?

Clint. 

Natasha was trained to follow orders, trained to repress, but she was also trained from childhood to view right and wrong differently. Assuming she also has memory loss, I don’t see her regretting or feeling repulsion for things she did under orders. Her morals were and are different.  Bucky was raised like Steve was, it’s not a stretch to assume their morals are similar. Clint’s question after waking up “How many did I…?” is closer to what I see Bucky going through. 

Clint has spent all this time since Loki learning to live with committing what he considers evil things because he didn’t have the *ability* to question orders (which is much closer to Bucky’s situation, as opposed to Natasha’s training to lack the *desire* to question orders). This puts him in the perfect position to understand Bucky and help him recover. 

2. They both have a history of being invisible in the shadow of others. Clint dealt with, and continues to deal with , this much MUCH longer than Bucky. However I feel Bucky gets points for how unexpected his overshadowing was.

Clint is the smallest, are arguably weakest, of the team. He doesn’t have any super powers, he wasn’t trained by the KGB to be a super assassin. He’s a mostly deaf, ex-carnie, trickshot who is either incredibly reckless or incredibly brave. Which in my view makes him the most amazingly wonderful member of the team. But without super powers or a suit he gets over looked, discounted. 

Bucky had his hole life turned sideways when Steve showed up to rescue him. Suddenly he wasn’t the big strong friend who gathered attention and protected Steve. He was shoved into a corner, put in a box of only being unique by being Captain America’s Best Friend. His distinguishing feature and what hes remembered for (as Bucky, not Winter Soldier) is being the-friend-who-died. He knows what being a face in the crowd behind Steve feels like, which puts him in a position to best appreciate Clint. 

3. Coping with disability. Saw what you will about the rest of the team but they are all amazing and almost disgustingly perfect visions of physical perfection. Clint needs hearing aids. He is painfully (beautifully) human and imperfect.

There are some who argue needing hearing aids isn’t a “real” disability. To them I give a hearty Fuck You Very Much from someone who needs them but can’t afford them and gets to live in and navigate the world deaf in one ear with reduced hearing in the other. 

Bucky gets to live with the stares, whispers,  and often rudely pointed questions about his arm and what happened. Presumably him more than most as his prosthetic is so distinctive.

The other members of the team can (if they wanted to) put on a disguise and leave the tower and pretend to be someone else for a while. I like to imagine they (except Tony, attention whore that he is) do from time to time to escape. Clint can never not be deaf, Bucky can never not have only one arm.

4. The most serious and well thought out point of all: It’s fucking hot and I want Clint x Bucky fic damnit.