“I bet Phil already has come up with a form for this, hasn’t he?” Clint jokes to lighten the mood. He bets even Phil didn’t calculate with alien possession. But, on a second thought, Phil didn’t so much as blink at the cloned dinosaurs in Costa Rica so maybe he did.
But Natasha doesn’t lighten up, instead her expression changes from angry to heartbroken.
“Clint”, she says and ice starts to spread through his insides. “Phil is dead.”
For a heartbeat or two he stares at her, completely unable to comprehend what she just told him.
“No”, is his first reaction. “There must be some mistake. This is Phil we’re talking about. If we made it then he made it, too.” Because this is how the three of them work. They may be knee-deep in shit on the most fucked up mission in some hell hole at the arse end of nowhere with no backup whatsoever but they’ll make out together, all three of them.
“I’m sorry”, Natasha’s trembling, arms wrapped around her body as if she’s going to break apart the moment she stops holding herself together. “Fury called it over the coms while you were unconscious. Loki-” She doesn’t finish but the implication is clear. Loki escaped and killed Phil and he only escaped because Clint led the outbreak.
He’s going to be sick.
Throwing up gives him a short respite from the horrible certainty that he killed Phil. That without him Phil would be out there, fanboying over Captain America and trading sarcastic barbs with Tony Stark.
From the room he hears Natasha making a stifled noise.
It sounds as if she’s drowning.
The icy-numb feeling in his insides is slowly replaced by pain, spreading out through his body like liquid fire. He’s been tortured before.
This is worse.
It feels as if he was flayed alive and someone split ever single bone in his body and is now tearing his exposed flesh away with meat hooks.
Clint draws his knees up to his chin and wraps his arms around them, trying to make himself small and insignificant as if that would help to lessen the pain.
Natasha comes in, still trembling but other than him not crying, sits down next to him and wraps her arms around him, pulling him closer.
It doesn’t feel right.
He remembers Phil’s fingers brushing against his during lunch on that day and his dry smile when Clint complained about being confined to babysitting scientists while Natasha got all the fun in Russia.
Right, I’ll see you for dinner
Those were the last fucking words he ever said to Phil, stealing Phil’s coffee on the way out. He should have done something, should have snapped out of it, should have fought harder-
“It was Loki”, Natasha whispers, her voice breaking. Her arms feel too small and too thin around him.
This will never be right again.