He wished he could say he felt the tranq that hit him, but he really didn't. He did, however, feel the aftermath and it was something he would definitely pass on if given the option in the future.
He remembered being up top, calling shots and angles and taking down more than a single bad guy on his own. He remembered the chatter of voices, Cap calling orders, Natasha giving status updates, and Stark pretending he wasn't listening while making one-liners and being exactly where he was supposed to be when he was supposed to be there. He remembered a bolt leaving his bowstring, the reverberation in his fingertips, the satisfaction of knowing it was headed exactly where he wanted it.
He didn't remember ever seeing it hit its mark.
He took stock of his current situation as unobtrusively as he could. There was a subtle vibration beneath his feet; he could feel it through his socks which was troubling because, needless to say, he had been wearing his boots while on the mission. His arms and his back ached, and there was a slight yet unyielding pressure against his wrists and throat that matched that around each ankle. His arms were outstretched, suspended to the sides, and there was a prick of almost pain in the right one near his elbow with a cool pressure in his veins that spoke of a line of some sort, filtering garbage into his system. His head felt like he had tried to out-drink Thor again and his mouth had that annoying feeling of cotton to it. He had been stripped to just his undershirt and boxers along with his socks, which was worrisome. Even more worrisome was the complete lack of sound.
He should have been able to hear whatever was causing the movement beneath his feet, at least an echo if it was enough to make the floor vibrate. He should have been able to hear the shift of cloth, the huff of his breath, the rattle of whatever held him in place as his body swayed slightly to the left.
He heard nothing. Okay, that wasn't true. He heard a very slight background hum with random increases and decreases in volume but no actual identifiable coherent sound.
He dared to open his eyes, just a fraction, barely enough to separate his eyelashes. There were shapes moving before him, backlit by an incredibly bright light. There were metal walls that extended too close and too short and flexed and bowed like they should be twanging annoyingly. There was a flat surface that resembled a table before him, bolted into place, random shapes strewn atop it that bounced with apparent inherent movement.
He heard none of these.
His eyes betrayed him as they opened too wide for a split second before he closed them again, just long enough for one of the figures to move forward.
There was a jump to the vibration beneath his feet and, now that he strained to hear it, the very slight hint of footfalls on metal. But it was too faint, too far off despite the fact the man stood before him now and gripped his chin, twisting it this way and that, grip hard enough to bruise.
A slap to the face made him open his eyes. The light was too bright and cast the man in shadows, his face a chiaroscuro that revealed only thinning hair and a bushy mustache and lips that seemed to be moving. His eyes narrowed on those and he read far more than heard the grunt of, "Wakey-wakey."
He knew then exactly how he was going to handle the situation.
He had played this game before, but it was long ago and without the tech that he suspected was nearby and waiting for him to abuse. He modulated his voice, careful and precise and changing pitch and tone within a single word, acted far more confused about the situation than he felt, and said, "Can't hear you. Everything's quiet." He even went so far as to finger-spell the words, his current restraints preventing other signs from being created.
The man released him, looking both disgusted and annoyed. Clint watched as he demanded to know if this was the result of the tranq or the sedative and as another man with an annoying pitch he could actually make out most of insisted it couldn't be. His eyes slowly adjusted to the light and he could see that the bulkier guy with a cliche ponytail was quite adamant that whatever was going on was not his fault.
The punch, when it came, was not a surprise. Neither was the accusation that he was a liar. He didn't get all of what was said next but, then again, he wasn't really trying. Instead, he said, with the same careful inflection, "I am deaf. You removed my hearing aids. How the hell am I supposed to be interrogated, asshole?"
The next punch was also expected, but it also served to make the guy move enough so that Clint could actually see just how many people he was facing. There were only five, with at least one driver of what he now suspected to be a semi-truck that he was in the cargo hold of, the reverberation caused from the wheels on the pavement, and the sway caused by turns and probable lane changes.
He took the next few minutes of manhandling and tried not to roll his eyes when the guy and his buddies scoffed at someone "disabled" being allowed on a strike team. Their actions told him two things: the first was that they didn't actually know his full history, and the second was that they were so far undertrained if mustache-guy was already shaking his fist out. They also told him that they were not aware of his lip reading abilities as they over-exaggerated and play-acted everything out in a mocking manner.
"Occupational hazard," he shrugged, or did as much as he could manage the way he was strung up. "Was given eyes in exchange for ears."
The men continued to doubt him and he decided to ignore them because it actually worked in his favor. Instead, he focused on the fact that he was still in a moving vehicle. This was troubling. He could estimate how long he had been unconscious, give or take fifteen minutes to a half hour to account for the sedative he was still hooked up to. From that, he could estimate how far they would have been able to carry him. However, being unconscious while in a blacked out tin can meant that, no matter how many twists and turns he had accounted for in the past few minutes, there were far too many he didn't know about to actually aid him in determining his current location.
The man was talking again, this time accusing the lie of being a ruse to get him his comm back. It was, but not completely. His comm had been specially designed by Tony himself after he had looked at the piece of crap high-tech thing SHIELD had thought up. It served as both hearing aid and comm in a combat situation, versus the standard aid-only with the add-on of a comm he had before. The problem was, he had to individually key his aids to get it to that status. He usually only set one because hearing Stark's babble could be distracting at the best of times and he didn't need it overwhelming both ears when he could keep the other one open for more immediate threats.
From his current viewpoint, he only saw one of his earpieces on the table. He didn't know which one it was or what its current settings were. With his hands bound, he wouldn't be able to reset them either. This meant that, even if he was able to get it back, he'd have an awesome tool to contact the others that he may or may not be able to use.
He was so used to wearing the aids that he had, at times, forgot that they were in until they got annoying and he took them out again. He did a quick review and found that, no, the second one was not in place and just inactive but that it was well and truly gone. This was not going to help his argument that they were solely a hearing device if he only came with one.
So he did the obvious thing and mentioned it, making sure to interrupt the guy mid-tirade to show he couldn't or wouldn't figure out what he was saying. "Where's the other one?" he asked. He lifted his chin in the direction of the table and made sure to slur the s sound and over-enunciate his vowels.
Mustache-guy sneered something about how there was obviously only one because who would carry two comms? He held up a Bluetooth headset and the tiny piece of tech and held them side by side before slamming them both down in a hopefully undamaging manner.
"They are hearing aids!" Clint insisted. "Everyone else has their comm in their ears, yes, but mine is set into the collar of my suit. It's not like they can cram two things in my ear at once, right?" Which was, of course, a lie. SHIELD's setup had been just that, but at least there was tech within his suit that could be seen as a possible communications device. It was actually a miniature camera which meant that, at the very least, Stark was reviewing the footage and seeing the faces of the assholes who had taken him. He had originally designed it for mission reviews, though they rarely used it because it turned out that a non-Hulked Banner got motion sickness watching Clint jump from building to building.
One of the other lackeys stepped up now and actually confirmed the original existence of two earpieces. He said the other was on the ground when Clint took a header from the tranq, and that he had just assumed it was a backup piece. Two others were poking at his vest that was laid out on the table. They found the camera imbedded in the collar and nearly flicked it on, which would have been excellent, but managed not to bungle at least that.
"I can't hear you," Clint repeated. He usually kept his status more than a little private as, just like the man said, people with obvious traits to be exploited did not last long in the field. For trained interrogators, which these guys clearly were not, it would be used against him to throw him off kilter and/or key them in to a standardized method of taking his senses away one at a time to try to break him. In this case, though, there was a potential to use it to his advantage and he was going to exploit that potential to its fullest. "Either give me back my single fucking hearing aid because your idiots lost the other one or find someone who can sign because, otherwise, this interrogation is over before it's even begun."
He closed his eyes and began to hum. He made sure it was as off key as possible because he was an ass like that. He also made sure he only used songs that were annoying and stuck in your head for ages. It was extremely difficult not to react when they started shouting just as it was extremely difficult to pretend he didn't know the next punch was coming when the man flat out told him it would be. Instead, he sputtered and yelled, "Give a guy some warning, would you? Oh, wait, you can't because I can't hear you!"
They went around for a while more until Clint felt something shoved into his left ear, hard. It was either the wrong shape or at the most fucked up angle and there was no telltale buzz like there usually was. He finally opened his eyes, but only to accuse, "What'd you do, break this one too?"
Lackey number four grumbled and fished it out again and his lips told Clint that he'd said, "Told you it wouldn't work," whether he did so loud enough for his boss to make out or not.
Mustache-guy, who Clint was fairly certain was in charge at this point, finally relented and held up the tiny piece of molded plastic and Clint really did not want to know what the hell they had just put in his ear to try to fool him. This was the real deal, with the tiny imprint of a stylized letter A that Tony had taken to putting on anything he had made for the team. Even though his head was pounding in time to his now aching jaw, he could still make out that it was on setting three, and he needed it on setting four or higher if this was going to work.
"It slips in the canal, curved side outward. You need to push the button on the side to turn it on if it's not already. You can try it yourself if you don't mind my cooties," he offered. He figured it wasn't or Stark would have had a lock on him by now.
The man did as told, and then winced when his cohort asked him if it worked, clearly not used to the sound relay with what Clint assumed was his relatively normal hearing. "Okay, so it's not a comm," the man relented. "Your buddies would be shouting for you by now and all I heard was that asshole and your mouth-breathing."
Clint made a show of both not understanding what the man said and staring at the earpiece. "I had it turned down for the mission because the comm they have me use self-amplifies at times. Can you make sure that little dial's on four? Five's probably going to echo in here."
"Oh, now you're telling me what to do?" the man mocked. He spun the dial though, clearly not knowing what part was was for volume control and what part was for other functions. It ended up on six, which was actually even more helpful as it actively activated the internal homing beacon as well instead of just having his team trace the signal.
They shoved the piece into his ear which, again, not the most comfortable as it wasn't adjusted quite right but, considering Clint once had a five hour long session solely with a man and an ice pick, things could have been worse.
Of course he spoke, or thought as the case may be, too soon as now he had to actually pay attention to the petty man and his petty needs. It was a good thing he knew how to multitask because it took all of about a minute before he heard Stark's voice ask, "Barton? Is that you? Where the hell are you?"
Tony was easy to drown out because he had plenty of experience at this point, but it was much more difficult to ignore Natasha because she usually only clogged the comm lines if it was actually important. "Barton, are you free to speak?" she asked because, as always, she assumed the worst and was usually right.
Mustache-guy chose almost precisely that moment to sneer, "Are we all nice and settled then? Need anything else, like a thin mint your highness?"
The sound was very slightly muffled by the overriding comm, but it was enough that Clint could rest his lip-reading skills for at least a little while. He rolled his neck and once again felt the restraint around it, and used that as a reminder that he wasn't out of the woods yet, even if he had just been given one honking axe to use to break his way free. In a much crisper and cleaner voice than he had used up until this point even though it wasn't going to be perfect without both aids, he asked, "Okay boys, now that I can actually understand you, should we get started?"
Pesky matter of not being able to grandstand currently resolved, his captors really took to it. There was a speech and threats both heavy-handed and not and they didn't actually tell him much because they didn't actually ask him any questions yet. The most important thing he picked up from it all was that, yes, the line in his vein was pumping more than just saline. He was currently receiving a mild sedative like he had read earlier with the option of porting in both a truth serum and a poison. Why the hell they didn't use the truth serum to find out if he was lying earlier was beyond him, but he suspected that these guys were not as good as they thought they were and/or were working for someone much better at higher reasoning and were just doing the legwork this time out.
Finally, the guy with the mustache started to ask questions. It was possibly more difficult not to roll his eyes at the ridiculousness of it all than it was not prepping himself for the punch earlier because, of course, he wanted intel on the helicarrier. He wanted to know how Clint broke through the shields and security and just how he managed to nearly knock it from the sky. Apparently he was of the mindset that Clint was the master tactician behind it all - which he had been, to a point - and not of the school that noticed actual aliens and possible mythological gods were involved. Also, he was dumb enough to think Fury wouldn't have closed those little loopholes with the rebuild.
"No, seriously, they're still on about this?" Tony asked. "I thought we shut down all these nut jobs. Oh, and by the way, we've got a lock and are on our way. I'll give you an ETA when I have one."
Clint didn't bother even insisting he didn't know after the first, "Really? Of all the crap you could go for?" He was rewarded with fists, one of which was gripped around a small metal bar that his ribs decided he was definitely not friends with. One guy even ducked behind him for a while to spread the love, which was annoying, but expected. Mustache-guy kept talking though and kept asking him things he wasn't going to tell because A) hello, trained spy, and B) the protocols were long changed anyway, and C) he liked to think someone could demand what his favorite milk additive was, chocolate or strawberry, and he still wouldn't break if it didn't suit him.
It was when the slightly cold feeling along his arm changed to a slightly warm and tingly one that he figured things were going to get interesting. Even with the competing voices in his ear, one of which was Tasha telling Stark to shut up so Clint could concentrate, he did an internal inventory of his reactions to determine just what they had given him. He was sadly impressed. It was the new stuff that was expensive enough to explain their hesitance to use it before it was needed and made sodium pentothal look like you were trying to bribe a kid with cookies and candy.
"So you think dosing me up with your fancy new drug is somehow going to get me to tell you all my secrets?" he asked. He had to admit, he wasn't expecting the giggle at the end of his words. Maybe it was having an effect after all. He'd have to watch for that. At the very least, he had managed to give the team an update as to his current situation.
"Why'd you choose the bow?" the man asked. He was going for the ease into it approach, get Clint used to answering questions without the need to use his defenses while the drug worked its way though his system. The next questions were, of course, "What's the code for the shields?" followed by, "What was your family life like?" and, "How is the defense grid powered?" and the inevitable, "Why did you join the circus of all things?" because that part had been a media hit when it came out.
"Because I was just a poor boy from a poor family and I thought it might spare me my life from some atrocity," Clint replied with wide-eyed seriousness. Yeah, so apparently he could log this drug in his "non-standard reactions" log.
Stark snorted over the line but it was Banner who worriedly muttered, "He's going to get himself killed before we can save him."
Tasha, of course, chimed in with, "It's Barton, what did you expect?"
All of this was said over another round of the physical type of breakdown versus the mental and, wow, the adrenaline spike interacted with the drug in a way that made him feel truly and utterly high. He started humming the chorus of Bohemian Rhapsody and Tony offered to put the damn song on if it made him actually remember the tune in order and then there was a sort of popping sound of exploding tires and the entire truck bed shook and the vibration beneath his feet stopped around the same time he lurched back and forth and to the side in ways that alternately made him want to hurl and make him think his shoulders were going to be ripped out of their sockets.
The roof to the container shook with a resounding thud at the same time the doors in the back were pried open to reveal the red and shiny Iron Man suit and the blue and spangly Captain America costume and Clint wasn't sure if it was him or Tony who first said, "Mamma mia let him go." He was fairly certain it was him who warned, when a meaty fist broke through the metal to reveal beam of hazy sunlight right next to where his restraint was anchored, "Hey, tell Thor not to rip off the roof because he'd totally rip off my head, okay?"
He had a second to wonder if either of his teammates actually heard him over the resulting chaos, before he remembered he was still keyed into the comms and heard both Natasha's relay of his message and Thor's own acknowledgement of the words. He decided that he'd just sort of hang out and watch the show and wait to be rescued at this point because he had a very determined team and some very stupid villains vying for attention and it was quite fascinating, really. It had been a long time since he had been the rescued instead of the rescuer and also the drug was making him really relaxed.
He traced that thought back to its source and realized drug was actually a very key word as there was more than one potential chemical to be pumped into his system with the current setup. Mustache-guy was actually bold enough to reach for the controls to the port, undoubtedly ready to release the poison, clearly willing to at least take Clint down with him if he had to go at all. Tasha was there though, one knife sailing through the air to slice the line and another to slice the asshole's wrist.
Steve pushed the idiot towards where Tony had rounded up the others and Natasha removed the needle and its crapload of tape from his arm entirely while Bruce felt his wrists and throat and said stuff like, "Pulse thready and shallow," and other random things that sounded like they belonged on one of the television shows he liked to mock.
"Hey, Bruce, I think I'm high," he announced.
The damned bright light from earlier was gone, but a penlight was shone into each eye before the good doctor agreed, "You really are."
Natasha turned his head to face her, clearly enunciating each word as she observed, "Your voice is off, are your ears okay?" He tried to focus on her red lips instead of her red hair, but the latter was quite fascinating with the way the light was currently reflecting off of it.
"The idiots lost one and might have damaged the other," he replied, and wondered why he wanted to pout doing so. He desperately needed to flush out his system or sleep off whatever they had given him before he embarrassed himself.
"Tony will make you new ones," Bruce promised, which was reassuring because right now Clint couldn't remember where he put the spares.
They couldn't find the key to the various restraints, but it turned out you didn't need one when both Steve and Thor were around. They escorted and supported him outside because he was far shakier than he wanted to be and his muscles rather ached from being held in place for so long, let alone the alternate forms of abuse he had received. The exit to the real world revealed that they were next to a really bland bit of land just outside of an industrial area where the puffs of gray from the smokestacks made some truly interesting shapes and also that the bad guys were all in a heap and surprisingly unconscious.
Natasha got him a soft blanket and a bottle of Gatorade and he sipped on one and cuddled the other while he leaned up against her in the Quinjet. "They took my ears," he whined. She was one of the few people he dared to ever try it with and this seemed to be one of the few times she wasn't going to smack him for it.
"I know," she said in commiseration. She pulled his head to her shoulder and stroked her fingers through his hair in a way that he knew meant she was looking for possible additional injuries. He decided to find it comforting anyway.
"They said some really mean stuff too," he added, and got an affirmative yet consoling murmur in response. "They kind of suck," he summed up his day as a whole in a nutshell.
"They really do," she agreed, fingers still roaming even though she should have found any wounds by now.
"Also, this stuff could totally be used recreationally instead of by idiotic, power-hungry mobsters looking to take out a protective force of semi-good in the world," he mused.
This time there was a huff and he looked up to catch a hint of a smile before she agreed, "It really could." She reached over and pulled out his remaining hearing aid, likely because he kept rubbing at it but didn't fully trust himself in his current state not to do something that would make it explode. "I've got you," she signed, voice a hum against his skull as she pulled him back down.
He closed his eyes and debated giving in to the effects of the sedative after fighting it for so long. He was tired and a little hungry and his head still hurt but, most importantly, he was safe and sound and surrounded by people he could trust. Even if those people were loud and off key enough for even him to notice when Tony piped in a certain rock anthem on the way home.