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i'm scared that you won't (be waiting on the other side)

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There is shwarma.

Then there is ‘vacation’.

And then, once the council has calmed and Manhattan is being rebuilt, there are psychiatric evaluations, medical exams, and then more psychiatric evaluations.

It’s then and only then that Clint returns to his (their) apartment. He lets himself in and immediately wants to step back out. There’s memories and an influx of emotions that he isn’t sure how to deal with, but also it’s not right.

Phil’s things are gone, cleaned out by SHIELD and it really is Clint’s apartment now.

He does a walk through, not taking his shoes off, because Phil isn’t there to fuss and the thought makes him feel guilty enough to stop and kick them off before he even makes it to the hall that leads to his (their) bedroom.

There are no suits in the closet, no polished black shoes by the drawer, no jeans and ratty t-shirts in two of the drawers, no brand name shaving cream in the cabinet behind the bathroom mirror.

There is a box sitting on the foot of the bed with a purple sticky note on top. It says ‘Sorry’ in a loopy script that Clint immediately recognizes as Maria Hill’s. It feels like a punch to the gut that causes all the air to rush out of his lungs and leaves him gasping for breath.

He pulls the box open.

On top, there’s a ring, simple and silver. The ring is sitting on a framed photo, which is sitting on a old Harvard hoodie with letters peeling off. There is other stuff in the box, an old Rangers shirt with ‘COULSON’ in black block letters, though the name is almost faded off, a mug with a chip in the top that says ‘#1 BOSS’ with boss scratched out and ‘HANDLER’ added in purple sharpie. There is a photo album, a bottle three fourths of the way filled with cologne, a postcard from Budapest with no postmark, and a cd of cello music. The last thing he comes across is a metal chain with dogtags on the end.

He doesn’t cry but he does make a mental note to make it up to Maria, goodness knows what she had to do to get all of this stuff before SHIELD could lock it in storage to never be touched again.

In jerky movements, Clint pulls off the faded black shirt he’s wearing and pulls on the Rangers shirt. The name falls over his heart and he rubs his finger over it absent before pulling on the Harvard sweater next. The cuffs of the sleeves are frayed and clint has to keep himself from picking at them, instead pushes them up his arms halfway. He unhooks the chain for the dogtags and slides the ring on with them before clasping it around his neck. Tucking that under the shirt and sweater, he stands and walks into the kitchen, going slowly and touching everything in his path from the bedroom to the kitchen.

His heart thuds in his chest with memories.

The kitchen is bare and Clint is shoving his feet back into his clunky combat boots before he really realizes it. He needs out of the apartment before his heart beats out of his chest.

He doesn’t bother locking the door, just picks up his id and SHIELD issued credit card, before leaving.


The grocery store is fairly empty and no one pays Clint a bit of attention as he walks back towards the aisles, not even pausing to consider getting himself a cart.

Shopping had always been Phil’s thing.

The cereal aisle is first and he has no idea what he’s doing there, simply staring at the boxes. No one comes to help him though, no one even comes down the aisle. He reaches out and wraps his fingers around one of the boxes in front of him, not paying much attention to what it is or what it costs, just wanting out of the aisle.

“You should go with the bigger box. You get more for your money.”

The box slips from his grip and hits the linoleum floor with a thud, muted by the blood rushing in his ears. Clint squeezes his eyes shut and purposefully doesn’t look in the direction of the voice when he finally opens them again to retrieve the box. Just turns in the opposite direction, clutching the cereal box like a lifeline.


He shakes his head hard, nearly turning the path of his feet with the force, “Just in my head,” he mutters to himself and finds himself stopping at the end of the aisle, unsure of where to go or what to do because he’s hearing things.

Protocols fire off in his head and he doesn’t want to follow them, because the psych department just cleared him and he’s not going to give them any reason to question his clearance.

“Clinton Barton, I swear to whatever deities are out there, if you do not stop and look at me, I will revoke your range access.”

The reaction to turn on his heel is almost Pavlovian, because that’s a threat he knows will be carried out. His brain kicks in a few seconds later and he doesn’t expect to see anything, but he does.

He blinks.

And again.

Then drops the box to push the heel of his hand against his eyes.

There are footsteps, loud and deliberate, so Clint drops his hands down and watches.

Phil is dead.

Phil is dead.

Phil is dead.

Phil is standing an inch away, his hand hovering like he’s considering touching Clint’s cheek and Clint, once more unconscious movement, his body reacting to Phil without his mind’s consent. He doesn’t think his cheek will connect with anything but air, but then there’s a warm, calloused hand curling around his cheek, a thumb rubbing at the hinge of his jaw and Clint chokes on a sob.

His hand flounders between them, because he wants to touch but he doesn’t want the illusion to shatter.

He’s having a breakdown in the middle of a grocery store but he can’t find it in himself to care.

“Clint, this is happening,” Phil states softly and Clint shakes his head as a tear slides down his cheek and then another one follows and he can’t stop them.

He’s propelled forward, a hand resting against the curve of his spine and Clint presses his face into Phil’s neck and tries to pull himself together, “You’re dead.”

“Was dead,” Phil corrects softly in a tone that Clint recognizes. Patient and painfully honest.

Clint shakes his head and brings a hand up, setting it over Phil’s heart. He can feel it, can hear the blood, but there’s something more than just clothing between his hand and Phil’s chest. Thick bandages. “Are you -” he stops and clears his throat and tries again, but his voice cracks just the same as it did the first time.

“I’m on medical leave and vacation and possible suspension.”

Clint’s eyebrows pull together in confusion.

“Medical until I heal, vacation until I feel like going back in, and suspension because apparently throwing punches at the boss is frowned upon,” Phil states in his deadpan, almost put upon voice.

Choking on an anguished laugh, Clint shakes his head, “Fucking Fury.”

Phil nods and his fingers slide into Clint hair, his nails scratching at Clint’s scalp in a way that never fails to make him putty in Phil’s grasp.

“There’s a team packing up the apartment,” Phil murmurs after a few minutes of Clint simply clinging and taking Phil in.

Clint pulls back and blinks, bringing a hand up to rub at his eyes, “There’s not too much left there,” he mumbles and looks at their feet, feeling embarrassed as he drags the toe of his boot across the floor.

“My things were moved without my consent into Stark Tower,” is the response he gets in the same deadpan tone that Phil always adopts when Tony Stark is remotely involved.

He doesn’t even notice that Phil is leading him out of the store until their on the sidewalk and Clint is trying to stay as close to Phil as he can without demanding a piggyback ride from the other man or climbing into his skin with him.

“Why there?” He asks after they’ve been walking in silence for a while.

Phil makes a noncommittal sound, “Because that’s where my husband is going to be and I’d kind of like to live with him.”

“I...what?” Clint shakes his head before gasping softly and stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, fumbling to pull the chain from around his neck. His hands are shaking too much to unhook the chain but Phil’s hands come to rest over them for a second before he brushes them away, brown eyes soft as the older man unhooks the chain and removes his ring from it, because he always knows Clint’s next move.

“I was wondering where this got off, too,” he murmurs softly, as if he just found a sock that had gone missing in the laundry, but he slides the ring on and rubs his thumb over it several times before nodding in satisfaction.

Clint’s hand finds Phil’s and he tangles their fingers together because he can, “So I’m moving into Stark Tower then.”

Phil nods, “Fury wants you all in one place and the council things it’ll be a good way to keep an eye on all of you.”

Biting his lip, Clint nods once, “I’m sure Nat’s going to love that.”

“Oh, it’s Stark and Rogers that I’m worried about,” Phil murmurs and says it like they’re talking about the weather. The reverent tone that used to be there whenever the topic of Captain America was even barely breached is gone and Clint considers asking but doesn’t.

There’s time for that later, but right now, Clint just wants to take advantage of the newfound time he has with Phil and knows, promises himself, that he’s not going to let a single second of it go to waste.