The sky and I we’ve had our fights, but I’m coming round to rain
The Captain and Hourglass – Laura Marling
Clint knows he’s not the easiest person to get on with. Hell, Clint purposefully cultivates it as a personality trait. The more hostile and unforthcoming you are, the more you’re left alone, and that’s important if you’re the youngest down-and-out in a collective of shady down-and-outs.
So yeah, he knows. He can be short, he can be tactless, he can be obtuse and down-right rude, intentionally and unintentionally. His jokes can be tasteless bordering on offensive sometimes and he sometimes laughs too loud and at the wrong times. He knows all this. But if he’s honest, he doesn’t know any other way; he’s spent too long being the guy on the wrong end of the punch. It’s a protective measure, and it’s worked well for him so far.
The people who get past all this and actually come to be friends also tend to be cut from essentially the same cloth as him; too much violence and too little trust. But Clint doesn’t need many friends anyway. Respect gets him pretty far. And you don’t have to like someone to respect them.
(Case in point: Maria Hill. Clint and Maria will never get on; they will always fight and snipe at each other – they will always be petty and contradictory. If they’re picked to spar against each other they’ll fight dirty and hard and there will always blood. But Clint would follow Maria into battle, and if she said jump, he’d jump – and vice versa, he’s sure – because he respects her, and trusts her to make the right call.
Maria and Clint don’t get on. But that doesn’t matter really.)
But then came the Avengers. Then came Loki and his war and his will. And in the wake of that Clint woke up to find he had friends; friends he hadn’t asked for and didn’t really want but who were there anyway.
Clint isn’t really sure how to deal with that.
If Clint is honest, people he’d actually count as friends number… three. Natasha obviously, and Bobbi Morse from the labs, who he dated for a while, and Carla Santiago, a cantankerous old woman from his days at Carson’s who was the only reason he didn’t starve after his brother left. And out of those three, the only one he sees on anything even resembling a regular basis is Natasha.
And now there are four guys who sort of just assume they’ll all get on.
OK so that’s not actually fair. Stark is probably the only one who assumes they’ll be friends. But then again, Stark probably is about as successful as Clint when it comes to friends. Clint isn’t sure that he knows this but he’s a genius, he must have worked it out.
And OK so that’s not really right either. Stark probably doesn’t assume. Probably no one assumes. But there’s a general feeling that everyone should try, and beyond those types of trying that include must-get-better and hey-that’s-a-combination-of-foodstuffs-that-hasn’t-been-in-my-mouth-before, Clint doesn’t try much. Trying is synonymous with failing in Clint’s book. And he’s had enough of failing.
But it’s very noticeable that he’s not trying when everyone else is.
So Clint tries.
Tony turns out to be pretty easy. He’s basically the same bundle of issues as Clint, just with a different coat of paint and much more money. They can bicker and trash talk and essentially enjoy the same kind of slightly superficial relationship that Clint has with several SHIELD agents. In fact, Clint is surprised by how easy Tony is. Classic cars and music can gloss over a multitude of conflicting personality traits.
Score one for Clint trying.
Also, by virtue of basically living in her house now, Clint has to try with Pepper Potts as well, which doesn’t bother Clint half as much as making peace with the rest of their motley crew.
In general, Clint gets on better with women than with men. He’s sure this has some link to childhood trauma and other such things but Clint hates self-analysing, so he doesn’t question it too much. Nevertheless, Clint gets on with Pepper easier than he does with anyone else in the Tower. She’s familiar in many ways, and it turns out the two of them can talk about much the same things as Clint and Natasha do. Just… minus the childhood trauma, weapons-talk and thinly veiled innuendo used to deflect a sexual tension so thick he could choke on it sometimes – not that Clint thinks about that. Much.
If any of Tony’s friends come round though – James Rhodes springs to mind – Clint makes himself scarce. There’s only so much Clint can cope with right now and, as Ketteridge always reminds him, forcing it won’t help. Rhodes seems like a nice guy, but Clint isn’t in the mood to bite off more than he can chew.
Bruce is also a similar bundle of issues as Clint, but his coping method is so spectacularly different to Clint’s that he hasn’t the faintest idea how to approach him. Not that his coping method is that surprising considering what happens when he can’t cope anymore, and mercifully the other guy hasn’t turned up much – Bruce has crazy control and (thank God) the sort of situations that require the other guy are not common.
In the end, Clint takes a leaf out of Natasha’s book, and approaches with caution and relatively neutral topics like history, travel and films. They end up bonding over classic Hollywood, and things are made easier by having Tony and Pepper around as buffers. In fact, Pepper should be employed by SHIELD considering how good she is at disaster aversion.
So, score two for Clint trying.
Steve is harder, but possibly more worthwhile. Clint can admit that, given time, Steve could bump up Clint’s number of actual friends to four. The problem with Steve though, is that he’s dealing with so much than its like juggling; keeping an eye on everything to avoid disaster takes up so much of his concentration that Clint can never be sure if Steve is reacting to him or to a combination of time displacement, loss, culture shock and a perceived responsibility so strong that Clint is sure that, if it were him, he’d buckle under the pressure.
Nevertheless, Steve tries more than anyone, and Clint has to respect that. He goes to art galleries with Pepper, pays attention to Tony’s attempts at cultural integration, approaches Bruce with questions about technology and listens patiently to his answers. He spars with Natasha and uses the firing range with Clint and if he’s a little distant sometimes, well, that’s understandable. He’s dealing with way more than anyone else in the building, and dealing with it better than ninety nine per cent of people would, if they were in his position.
So Clint tries, really tries, because Steve Rogers deserves that and more.
And then there’s Thor.
“I don’t like him.”
“You do like him, that’s why you don’t like him.”
Clint pauses while circling Natasha on the mat to throw her an incredulous look. “I cannot even begin to point out everything wrong with that sentence.”
“Shut up,” says Natasha, snapping her arm out and narrowly missing his face, “You know what I mean.”
“I know what you’re implying and I’m telling you you’re wrong.”
Natasha rolls her eyes while ducking a punch. “Fine.”
“Don’t you ‘fine’ me.” Dodge, dodge, kick. “I don’t trust anyone who’s that chipper in the morning.”
“Coulson was chipper in the morning.” Block, duck, twist.
“Did we know the same guy, Nat?” Clint narrowly avoids a roundhouse kick to the head. “Because the Coulson I knew was never chipper. He was just constantly with-it.”
A solid punch to the jaw he didn’t see coming sends Clint flying, and over the haze of pain he hears Natasha say, “That’s really not the point Clint.”
“You better not have loosed any teeth, Tash.”
Natasha rolls her eyes. “You don’t like Thor because you don’t trust someone to be that open and friendly without ulterior motives because you’re damaged blah blah blah.”
She looks at him for a moment in silence. “Not everyone’s out to hurt you, Clint,” she says eventually, quiet in the empty gym.
“Says the Black Widow. Who also just punched me in the jaw,” Clint grouses, to cover up how close to home that comment hit.
Natasha rolls her eyes and turns to leave the room. “C’mon you big baby. Shower. You’re all sweaty and gross.”
“You’ve talked to him about this, haven’t you?” Clint calls after her, as he picks himself off the floor and finds his discarded t-shirt.
“‘This’ being?” Natasha arches an eyebrow and props the door open with her hip.
“About him being too friendly and it freaking people out.”
“And by people you mean you?”
“And you, Nat,” Clint says. “Or have you forgotten you also belong to the Esteemed Club of Totally Warranted Paranoia?”
Natasha is quiet for a moment before saying, “Of course I’ve talked to him, Clint. Because I am a grown-up, unlike some people,” and walking out the door.
“Ooh burn!” Clint calls after her.
Natasha has a point though. Clint hasn’t actively been avoiding Thor but… well, Thor’s brother decided to play around in Clint’s head for kicks. Clint’s tolerance for Asgardians is probably lower than other people’s, no matter how friendly they seem.
Also Thor’s not around much. Clint can’t hang out much with a guy who spends most of his time in another dimension now, can he?
So of course that has to go and change.
Tony and Bruce are speaking at a convention in Hong Kong, some STEM thing that they’ve been nerding about for at least three months, and as such they’ve collected together a posse of equally-nerdy people to come with them – Bobbi Morse, those SHIELD ‘science twins’ that Tony loves freaking out, Bruce’s maybe-ex Dr Elizabeth Ross, and Dr Jane Foster, Thor’s… partner. (Clint can’t say girlfriend because Norse Deity, God of Thunder Thor doesn’t have something so commonplace as a girlfriend – and surely ‘girlfriend’ stops applying after the second PhD?)
As a result, Thor is returning to the Tower.
Since coming back to Earth after that SNAFU in London he’d been staying in the UK with Jane, and when she got a SHIELD/StarkTech funded placement working at CERN for six months he moved with her there, popping over to New York for flying (ha!) visits whenever the mood struck him, before going to visit Darcy Lewis or Dr Selvig wherever they happened to be at the time. It was within those six months that Clint perfected his avoidance routine. A justified avoidance routine, Clint maintains, as the whole London thing saw a setback in his recovery.
Aliens are a trigger for him. Who knew, right?
Anyway, now that the Science Bunch are leaving, someone should be around to be hospitable and welcoming. Only, Pepper is currently in DC on Stark Industries business, Natasha won’t be back from her Colombia mission for another week or so and Steve is… deprogramming his best friend, or something equally horrifying that Clint wouldn’t wish on a normal person, let alone someone with as many issues as Steve.
Which leaves Clint.
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, Clint isn’t there when everyone leaves for the convention. Instead he’s at HQ, having one of those annoying evaluation things; the kind that gives you what seems like twenty million questions to answer based on seemingly random situations to assess your mental state, or whatever. And with the quarterly medical exam and the reinstatement of security clearances and everything else, the whole thing took well into the afternoon.
Which doesn’t really explain why Clint is only coming back now, at nearly seven in the evening half expecting to find Thor stood in the middle of the room looking confusedly at the off TV or something.
(He’d been on the range, OK? And also, maybe, avoiding Thor, sort of. Dammit, he hates when Natasha is right.)
But the guy freaks him out a little. Disregarding everything to do with his otherworldliness and his brother, the only people in Clint’s life who had been nice to Clint straight off the bat wanted something from him and eventually hurt him to get it. And possibly his weariness around genuinely nice people is one of the worst things Clint has picked up over his long life of picking up bad habits, but he can’t help it.
What’s worse, Thor is genuinely nice, and when Clint isn’t worrying about the other shoe dropping, and ice blue in the corner of his eyes and his brother, he enjoys Thor’s company, which just makes him feel like shit for not trusting him or whatever and Christ. This is why he hates it; because it’s guilt for something he had a genuine reason to be wary of, and it makes him out to be the bad guy because he’s the one being cagey and quiet.
Anyway, Clint is expecting a very confused Thor when he gets in – which of course he doesn’t find because Thor is not an idiot and Clint should really learn to watch his prejudices.
Thor is watching TV – Star Trek? – in jeans and a t-shirt and drinking tea with the bag still in the mug. He looks… incredibly normal. Clint finds it slightly disconcerting.
“Clint!” Thor says jovially, as Clint wanders into the room. “I was wondering when you would arrive. Tony said you were having examinations, but that you would be back in the afternoon.”
“Ah yeah,” Clint says. “Um, they ran over. And I had to get some clearance stuff done and… sorry about that.”
“No matter, you are here now,” Thor gives Clint a wide smile, and Clint feels even shittier about staying on the range so long.
“I was wondering about having something to eat,” Thor continues, “But I do not understand the cooking equipment in the kitchen. They seem much more complicated that those at Jane’s home in London.”
“Uh, yeah. Tony ‘improves’ his stuff until it’s unfathomable to regular people,” says Clint. “I can show you the coffee machine now, but the kitchen will take a little longer.”
Thor brightens. “You can make coffee? I have become fond of this tea since Jane has been in London but I would like some coffee if it would not trouble you to show me how to make it.”
“Um, yeah sure,” says Clint, moving into the kitchen area. He starts fiddling with the coffee machine while explaining the twelve million knobs and buttons to Thor. However, when coffee is done Clint feels a little at a loss, though Thor seems content to drink his coffee in silence.
OK you can do this, Barton, Clint thinks to himself. Thor is not his brother. Try.
“Um, so how about this; I’ll give you a whirlwind tour of this incomprehensible kitchen so you can at least make breakfast or something, and then we order Chinese. Yeah?”
“That sounds most agreeable,” Thor says smiling.
So Clint shows him the fridge with the pointless compartments you’d never find if you weren’t looking for them, and the button to get the knife block to raise from the counter – which Clint has never understood because it makes the drawers underneath smaller and doesn’t save any space in the long run and really, what was Tony thinking? He demonstrates how to activate the panel to control the stove, and then explains that the oven panel is somewhere else and no, he doesn’t know why.
Then Clint orders possibly the most Chinese he’s ever seen. Thank god for Tony’s AmEx Black.
Clint and Thor end up sitting back in front of the TV, Star Trek on mute in the background – the Original Series, because apparently Thor’s friend Darcy likes that one and got him hooked – and talking about relatively safe topic of Clint’s evaluations and therapy. ‘Relative’ being the important term, because Clint doesn’t really want to talk about it, but asking Thor what he’s been up to would be akin to willingly jumping on a landmine and Clint wants to do that even less.
“Well, it’ll take a while still,” Clint says, slightly muffled by Chinese. “There’s some more therapy and a bunch of psych evals before Ketteridge can pass me for active duty so…”
Thor looks sympathetic, but also guilty, and Clint can’t stand that look so Thor only gets as far as “I am truly – ” before Clint cuts him off rather abruptly.
“Don’t say you’re sorry.”
Thor looks mildly shocked at Clint’s ferocity, and Clint grimaces before deciding to explain a little. He owes it to Thor really, after the petty avoidance routine he’s been peddling since New York.
“Just…” Clint sighs and rubs his hand over his face. “I hate your brother more than I’ve probably hated anyone in my life and if I saw him now I’d fill him so full of arrows he’s look like a porcupine but… I also have a brother who I care about despite the fact that he’s tried to kill me at least twice so… I get it OK? Just – don’t say you’re sorry.”
Thor looks about as uncomfortable as a six foot plus God of Thunder can, but he nods once and the two of them return to eating copious amounts of Chinese takeout in silence.
“He is dead,” Thor suddenly says.
Clint’s head snaps up so quickly his neck hurts. “What?”
“My brother. He died some months back while helping Jane escape Asgard.”
He looks upset, which is understandable considering it’s his brother he’s talking about, but this news makes Clint feel lighter than he has in months.
Clint lets out a long exhale and collapses back into the sofa, his mind running through everything lightning fast.
“Fuck,” Clint breathes out. Then, “Sorry. That must be… yeah. I – can’t pretend to be sad about that, though.”
Thor looks pained, but says, “I understand,” in a quiet voice.
They’re silent again, Thor no doubt thinking about his brother and Clint’s mind whirling he’s dead he’s dead he’s dead on repeat to the sound of the Hallelujah Chorus, until it snags on you sure? and all the trumpets clash into disharmony.
His brother Barney only got his second chance simply because Clint saw what he wanted to, and not what was really happening. Thor is too good hearted and Loki is too good at manipulation for the same not to happen here.
Clint’s mind tries to shirk away from this line of thought, but seeing clearly is his thing. Being heartwashed, as Natasha calls it, meant Clint knew everything Loki was doing, as well as everything every other unlucky heartwashed bastard was doing. Clint remembers the conversation between Thor and Loki, and how easily Thor was fooled. And kind and good as Thor is, Clint can easily see him being fooled again.
Loki being dead would be the best news Clint has received in ages – if it were true. But Clint can’t be sure without proof, and that proof has to come from someone other than Thor. Oh he wishes and hopes, but if wishing made things true Loki would be a bloody heap at his feet and Coulson would be the one hounding him for his paperwork, and not May.
Clint decides not to mention any of this to Thor now though, but instead vows to talk to Natasha about it when she comes back. And maybe Ketteridge tomorrow. Maybe.
As the certainty drains out of his body, Clint suddenly feels bone tired. So through a yawn he asks Thor if he knows where his rooms are.
“Yeah, you basically have a floor here. Tony’s essentially built a Club House for superheroes. Which is half the reason both me and Natasha keep apartments in the city, to be honest.”
Thor peers at him over his… fourth? box of Chinese. “You think you are not heroes?”
Clint groans. “Thor buddy, I am way too tired to have this conversation right now. How about I show you your floor and you can continue this psychoanalysis tomorrow? Or never. Never would also be good.”
Thor begins clearing the take out boxes. “I am sorry. I did not mean to make you uncomfortable.”
Clint rolls his eyes. “Duly noted. C’mon.” Clint gestures towards the elevator, while watching Thor tidy away the take out. “You can leave that. No one else is here and Tony has bots to deal with that stuff anyway.”
Thor shrugs and finishes up anyway, before following Clint into the elevator and being given a short tour of Thor’s own floor, which is second from the top. Clint thinks Thor was probably given this floor for easy-roof-access-by-flying-hammer. Clint has the floor under Thor’s, probably because much as Clint likes being high up, he can’t actually fly.
(The top floor is used for storage for helicopter parts and other paraphernalia needed for the maintenance of Tony’s private helipad. There’s also a machine there, warped and broken, that looks like something from Star Trek. It sits under a dust sheet and Clint doesn’t go near it).
The next day Clint debates being an antisocial fucker and having breakfast on his floor before deciding that yesterday would mean jack shit if he didn’t follow it up. So he makes his way down to the common level, which was once part of Tony and Pepper’s apartment level and was retrofitted after New York due to its terrace, bar and general communal feel.
Clint likes the terrace and the breeze, but hates every memory from that place – well, all but one; phantom bruises transferred to his skin the only injury he was more than happy to carry away from that battle because it meant that someone had got the better of that fucker, even if it wasn’t him.
Clint finds Thor sat at the breakfast bar, drinking coffee, eating the biggest cooked breakfast Clint has ever seen, and staring confusedly at a StarkPad. Clint only has a moment to reflexively think dumb blonde alien confused by technology before Thor spots him.
“Good morning, Clint!” he says brightly. “I trust you slept well. I have made coffee and food if you wish to have any.”
“Um, thanks,” Clint says, and begins to help himself to eggs and bacon.
“Also,” Thor continues, “I was wondering if you knew how to turn on this tablet. It is a make different to Jane’s and I confess that its lack of buttons has confused me.”
Prejudices Barton; watch them, Clint chides himself for the second time in twenty four hours. He makes his way over to the breakfast bar and dumps his plate down on the counter before reaching for the StarkPad.
“I think it’s like this,” he says, and places his palm against the screen.
“Um, JARVIS?” Clint calls out confused.
Thor jumps slightly as JARVIS’ voice seems to come from everywhere at once.
“Agent Barton, I believe that is Mister Stark’s personal StarkPad and therefore not accessible to you or anyone else. There is another one over by the fridge.”
“Thanks, JARVIS,” and Clint fetches the other StarkPad, dumping Tony’s by the coffee machine. He’s sure to find it there.
“Who is this Jarvis? And where is he concealed?” Thor asks, as he watches Clint boot up the new StarkPad by placing his palm against the screen.
“Oh.” Clint suddenly realises that Thor, for all the times he’s visited the Tower in the last six months, has not been around at the right times to be introduced to the house AI.
“JARVIS is Tony’s robot butler,” he says, just to annoy JARVIS.
“I refute that statement Agent Barton,” JARVIS says dryly. “I am neither a robot nor a butler.”
Clint likes JARVIS; he leaves you alone when you need it and never ever tries to psychoanalyse you. He’s also snarky as fuck with a dry sense of humour, and Clint loves that Tony actually managed to build an AI that talks back.
Also, Clint doesn’t have to try with JARVIS. JARVIS just is.
Clint rolls his eyes and grins, and Thor looks slightly surprised – probably at how relaxed he is with JARVIS compared to his on-egg-shells routine around Thor. Clint feels another twinge of guilt at that.
“JARVIS is Tony’s AI – artificial intelligence,” Clint explains. “Tony built him. He’s… a voice in the walls, for want of a better explanation. He runs the house, helps Tony with experiments and can answer basically any questions you have about anything. He could probably take over the world to be honest, but he’s British so either he’s too polite to do so, or has already done it and just can’t be bothered to tell us.”
Unlike everyone else, Thor seems to take this revelation easily, and once again Clint gets a feeling of unease over just how different Thor is. That he comes from a place where voices in the walls are normal and space whales aren’t a major perception shift. Clint took about six months to get used to JARVIS, and the less said about the space whales, the better.
Thor is not his brother, Clint thinks for the millionth time.
“So which one is it?” Thor asks the room at large.
“I couldn’t possibly tell you, Mister Odinson,” JARVIS replies sounding amused, and Thor’s grin is open and happy.
You do like him, that’s why you don’t like him Natasha had said. And dammit she was right again. Watching this giant of a man make scrambled eggs and watch Star Trek, joke with an AI and hold no grudge against him for his shitty behaviour, well.
This, this could be alright. This could work.
Not everyone is out to hurt you.
Clint has another session with Ketteridge that morning, so Clint and Thor spend time in the gym before Clint has to leave. They don’t say much, but after showing him how to work some of the more technical machines, Clint watches Thor out of the corner of his eye. Damn but that man has some crazy muscles. Clint never wants to mention it to him ever, but he has a feeling that Thor could draw even his heaviest bow with minimal effort, which kind of depresses Clint until he remembers that Thor is essentially a god.
In the afternoon Clint feels like Ketteridge has gone at his brain with a fork (Clint mentioned the Loki-might-be-dead thing and god was that a terrible idea) so he suggests taking a walk down to Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty, figuring that Thor has never seen it and it’d be nice for them both to get out of the Tower. And Clint needs to clear his head.
Only, they end up instead at the 9/11 Memorial, because apparently Clint is feeling masochistic. Having to explain 9/11 to Thor, and its significance pre-alien invasion, is something Clint hopes he’ll never have to do again, ever.
The next couple of days are slightly stilted, something not helped by Ketteridge giving Clint the third degree about the Loki-might-be-dead thing (he really shouldn’t have mentioned it, even though Clint can tell that talking about it is actually helping). Nevertheless, Clint racks his brains for things to do with Thor, because he feels he should make an effort, and the results are a little hit and miss. Coney Island is an unmitigated success – Clint feels ease in amongst all the pseudo-carnival paraphernalia and Thor delights in almost everything – and walking round the city proves to be good for both of them, allowing them to talk when they felt like it, and walk in silence when they didn’t.
On the other hand, a split second decision to look at the MoMA was less successful; the main exhibition was an Yves Klein Retrospective, which confused Thor and left Clint feeling off kilter. It wasn’t the right shade of blue, but there was too much of it nevertheless; strong and vivid and overpowering.
All these little outings take place in between Clint going to HQ for therapy and training new recruits, and what Thor does while he isn’t there Clint has no idea. Cooking seems to be popular though, as there is always food when Clint gets back; something for which he’s very grateful – Clint can cook reasonably well, but he can’t do it for fun, and rarely does it just for himself. He does introduce Thor to Krispy Kreme though, and that goes down a treat.
It seems, though, that one of the things Thor sometimes does when Clint is away is visit Steve in Brooklyn. Since Steve and Natasha came back with the Winter Soldier and told everyone that yes, this is Steve’s friend from the war and no, they weren’t going to terminate him until they knew he was unsalvageable, Steve had been splitting his time between SHIELD’s holding facility upstate (a place Clint knew well from the time Natasha was the one being held there) and his small apartment in Brooklyn. He’d turn up at the Tower occasionally, but mostly people let him deal in peace – at least they could all be sure that he’d ask for help if he needed it.
Steve had also become close friends with Agent Wilson, something Clint was pretty pleased with. Wilson was a good guy and Steve needed someone slightly less complicated than the inhabitants of the Tower to talk to. But Clint was also pleased that Thor was visiting Steve while Clint was at HQ, both because it meant that Clint didn’t have to feel so responsible for Thor and because Steve and Thor got on incredibly well. It also must be tiring for Thor to be almost constantly around someone as wary of him as Clint was.
However, Clint only worked all of this out when he came back to the Tower one evening, a few days after Thor had first arrived, only to almost walk into Steve while exiting the elevator on his way to the kitchen. Apparently Thor had invited him for dinner, which turned out better than expected; all three of them arguing about various things and Clint laughing at Thor and Steve’s combined confusion.
Somehow that entire evening served to make Clint feel more comfortable, though he still somewhat envied the ease at which Steve and Thor interacted.
He’d get there eventually though. He’d try.
It’s been threatening rain all day; the oppressive July heat building until it feels like a blanket covering the whole city. They’re walking through Central Park – coming back from the American Museum of Natural History, which had an exhibition about space that both Clint and Thor found interesting for different reasons – when the storm finally breaks, sending people scurrying for any available cover.
But neither Clint nor Thor mind the rain. Clint is used to working in all weathers, and the rain is a welcome respite from the heat that has been smothering the city for days. And Thor – well, he’s a god of thunder; liking rain is part of the job description.
“You good?” Clint asks, looking over at Thor walking beside him.
“Indeed,” Thor replies, grinning down at Clint. “I doubt you would be surprised to know I am fond of such weather.”
“No,” he says. “I’m not surprised at all.”
However, by the time they are halfway across the park the deluge has chilled Clint to the bone. It’s something he can deal with of course, but he’d rather not have to, if given the choice.
Thor, of course, is practically glowing; the water dripping from his hair and moulding his t-shirt to his body. Clint gets the impression that if he were anywhere less populated, Thor would be calling down lightning just for the sheer pleasure of the storm.
Clint is suddenly reminded of the first time he saw Thor – in the mud of New Mexico, rain lashing down and him beating the crap out of anyone in his way, not even powered up, just strong and angry and revelling in the storm and the fight – and Clint laughs to himself, before shivering slightly and shaking the water from his eyes.
“Are you alright, Clint?” Thor, grinning and relaxed looks down at Clint’s slightly hunched form, “Or are you finding it a little cool now?”
Clint squints at him thought the rain. “It’s a little chilly now, yeah,” he says, shrugging, “But I can deal.”
Then suddenly the rain stops.
Clint shoulders drop abruptly and he looks around, noticing that the heavy rain continues about a yard away. He tries to walk towards the edge of the circle but the rain moves away; a complete circle with him in the centre. He looks back at Thor.
“Shit, man,” he says smiling. “This is you isn’t it?”
Clint doesn’t expect an answer and Thor doesn’t supply one past a smile and a shrug before shaking his hair out like a wet dog and spraying Clint with water.
“Hey!” Clint laughs, dodging out of the way and moving far enough from Thor that the rain engulfs him again.
“Shit, sorry,” Clint says, moving back so that Thor’s within the circle again.
“Do not worry, friend,” Thor says smiling. “As you are aware, I have no problem with the rain, hence why you are at the centre of the circle and not I.”
Clint stares at Thor for a moment with his dripping hair and clinging t-shirt, before laughing incredulously.
“Right now I can’t decide who’d pay more for you; Armani or the entirety of sub-Saharan Africa.”
“What do you mean?” Thor asks, falling back into step beside Clint.
Clint waves his hand vaguely in Thor’s direction, as if to encompass everything he is in one simple movement.
“You. Armani would wet themselves to have you modelling their underwear. But I’m sure you could also fix droughts with a snap of your fingers. D’you have any idea what some countries would give for that? Or to have you stop the rains? Most of southern England was underwater this February past, the Philippines was almost washed away by a hurricane recently, most of Africa is perpetually in drought and in recent years summer in Australia has meant basically being on fire. You have the power to control weather. If people knew that, they’d probably come clamouring at your door for you to fix the climate, just ‘cause we can’t work out how to fix it ourselves.”
Thor looks puzzled. “I do not understand, what have you to fix?”
Clint scrubs his hands through his wet hair. “We’re fucking up our planet. We pump shit into our atmosphere and oceans and then can’t agree what to do about it. It’s messing up our weather. The planet’s getting hotter. That means more extreme weather; more flooding, more drought, more forest fires. And no one can agree what to do because it means spending money, or slowing our economies, and heaven forbid we pay to get ourselves out of this mess.”
Clint shakes his head, then shrugs self-consciously at the end of his little rant. Just ‘cause he’s essentially a trigger puller doesn’t mean he doesn’t know stuff. And as someone who regularly goes to places affected by both climate change and other countries' indifference, he’s frequently exposed to the other end of the stick; the part people in their cosy Manhattan apartments can ignore if they want.
Sometimes it pisses him of that so many millions of people can be so selfish and blind, even though his job is essentially to make sure they can stay that way.
They wander in silence, passing a playground and slowly making their way back towards Midtown. The torrential downpour has driven most people inside, making Thor and Clint about the only people in the Park right now – good thing too, considering the circle of dryness that follows Clint around.
Thor seems lost in thought, possibly considering Clint’s impromptu environmental spiel, but his face gives nothing away so Clint can’t tell. They’re nearly at West Drive when Thor speaks.
“I do not think I could fix this problem you have mentioned,” he says, and Clint mind has drifted just far enough that he takes a moment to catch up. “And I think… I think that even if I could, I would not.”
Clint thinks about this for a moment. “Because it’s not your problem or..?”
“Because, if it is as you say it is, then anything I am able to do would only be a temporary solution. And, in a way, yes, because it is not my problem. But not in a callus way, rather… you do not learn if your problems are fixed for you.”
Clint stops walking, right at the treeline, and Thor continues on for a moment, only realising he’s lost his companion when rain engulfs him again.
“So what you’re saying,” Clint says as Thor turns, “Is that we’ve got to fix our own problems. We’ve got to make our own stuff work.”
Thor looks slightly wary, like his isn’t sure what Clint is planning to do. It makes for a pretty amusing picture really; rain pelting down and Thor soaked to the bone, t-shirt clinging, hair dripping, with the rain hazy buildings of Midtown behind him, looking both regal and a little like a drowned lumberjack.
And suddenly Clint realises that Thor has been just as wary of him and he has been of Thor, and for much the same reasons. His brother and the damage he caused wasn’t just damage to Clint. Loki thrust Steve Rogers into a culture shock far beyond anything he would have experienced otherwise, ‘capsicle’ or not. Loki is the reason Tony Stark has even worse PTSD than before (though so is the Mandarin. Tony has a lot of non-Loki issues too, poor guy). Loki turned Natasha into a soldier as well as a spy, blasting her into the light when she’s more at home in shadows. Loki brought Bruce Banner back to New York to face the old demons waiting there for him, as well as the new ones.
And Loki damaged Thor’s ability to trust in himself and his decisions; not in relation to everyone, but definitely in relation to Clint. And Clint should have seen it better before, because until Thor, no one Clint knew had brother issues like Clint has brother issues.
You do not learn if your problems are fixed for you, Thor had said.
The only person who determines your recovery is you, Ketteridge had said.
You do like him, that’s why you don’t like him, Natasha had said.
Thor is not his brother and Clint’s got to make his own stuff work.
“Hi,” Clint says suddenly, holding out his hand to Thor. “Clint Barton, pleased to meet you. I was a dick to you for the past two years because your brother is a douchebag. But you are not your brother, something I should have worked out sooner because I am not my brother. But I got there eventually. Coffee?”
Thor grins again, and reaches for Clint’s hand.
“Greetings Clint Barton, I am Thor Odinson. I do not understand your vernacular pertaining to ‘douchebag’ but my brother is… well,” and he looks lost for a moment before pulling himself back together. “I understand your wariness, and all is forgiven if coffee is on offer. We have quite a walk back still, and the rain is relentless.”
They shake hands, and Clint feels tension he didn’t even realise he was carrying bleed away. He grins back at Thor.
“OK buddy, coffee it is. Though you’re going to have to drop the dry circle now. It’ll be weird having that follow us around through Midtown.”
And the two of them step out from under the trees onto Central Park Street and, this time, the rain engulfs them both.
“You and Thor seem to get one pretty well now,” Natasha comments after she arrives back from Colombia. “What changed?”
“I talked to him, Tash,” Clint says, faux-patronisingly, “Like a grown-up.”
At Natasha’s raised eyebrow Clint starts laughing.