Chapter 1: My Little Hawk
In which Loki breaks Clint.
Loki has always wanted a pet.
He stands from his place at the top of the room, overlooking the works, and spots his pet. He thinks it’s a perfect, perfect choice. A little bird stripped of its freedom. He marvels at the irony of it all. He hasn’t leashed his little pet, but because he’s clipped its feathers it can’t fly away, and it’s doomed to stay with him forever.
Loki jumps down gracefully and calls his little bird to him. His bird obeys instantly.
His bird is, actually, little. Loki is tall, of course, being an Asgardian and therefore superior to every Midgardian in every way, but his bird is little, considering his gender and age. Loki doesn’t quite care. It’s the little imperfection in details that makes him so attached to his bird, after all. His bird tilts his head to one side as birds do when they’re considering something, and Loki finds it quite endearing. “Agent Barton, let us retire.” He doesn’t offer an explanation, but his bird needs none. He merely follows obediently as Loki turns, half a step behind him in respect.
Loki lies down in his large bed and sighs in content. “Come here, my little bird.” His bird obeys. “Take your clothes off, my little hawk. Don’t you know it’s manners to take filthy clothes off in bed?” His bird obeys again, stripping himself of his combat boots, pants, jacket and shirt before sitting on his bed.
Loki takes the moment to admire his little bird. His body is scarred, because of course, he was a spy and an assassin. “How your previous masters mistreated you, my little bird.” Loki coos, pitying. And it really is quite a pity that his precious bird should have been so scarred, marring sun-kissed flesh in ways he doesn’t like. “Do you enjoy it, my pet? Having a new master that cares only for your well being.”
The answer comes immediately. “Yes, sir.”
The answer curls a smile into Loki’s lips. “Of course, you are, my little bird. Of course. Look at all these ugly scars you carry. They let you fly, and you fly into all these obstacles, all these hazards and dangers, and look how you’ve suffered.” He pulls his pet down onto the bed below him, and his bird doesn’t fight him. “I’ve clipped your wings, yes, but look how safe you are, my little bird. My precious little thing.” He says softly. “Do you wish to fly, my pet?”
“Master. I am your master, little bird. I wish to hear it from your lips. Who am I?”
His hawk doesn’t hesitate. “My master.”
Loki smiles again, moving his hands lower to free his hawk of the last of his garments. “Good, such a good pet. And your master will always reward obedient pets.”
The next morning, Loki wakes and finds his hawk, still sound asleep next to him in his bed. His superhuman senses can still smell the scents lingering on his hawk, the smell of sweat and sexual excretion and blood. There are stains of it on the white sheets, but Loki cares not for them. It excites him to have been the one to relieve his hawk of his innocence, and it surprises him that his hawk has never had a sexual encounter.
His hawk will not wake until much later, he is sure, because Loki has kept his little bird up until the first rays of the sun has started to poke through the windows. And even when he does wake, Loki doubts his little pet will be doing much walking.
He steps out, fully garmented, and the physicist greets him. “Where’s Barton?”
“Resting.” Loki smiles. “I’m sure you all heard his voice last night.”
The physicist grunts, looking unabashed. “Needed earplugs.” The rest of the men, who are, of course, not under his own mind control, look a little embarrassed at the comment. Midgardians. Loki will never understand their shyness with mating, because all of them are products of one. He quite cares not. The others go back to work, and whatever they’d heard overnight is forgotten as they work.
Loki strolls around for a bit and beelines back to his quarters, where his hawk is still deep in slumber. Loki pulls the thick sheets off of his naked body to examine his pet. His hawk is muscular, like all hawks. He is quite aware that his hawk is a powerful Midgardian, even with his small stature, and the lean muscles do not stop at his arms and torso but down to his powerful, lean legs.
But even so, his hawk is quite slender at the waist, and currently the inwardly curved waist line is dotted with finger-shaped bruises that Loki has left the previous night. Loki chuckles quietly and uses a thumb to brush away the dried blood from the inside of his pet’s thighs, and pulls the blanket back over him.
The movement is enough to wake his pet, and brilliant blue-green-gray eyes open. Loki flinches, and grabs his scepter, but his pet blinks and the sky-blue of the mind control is back. He lets his scepter go, and chuckles when his pet tries to get up. “Rest, little bird.” He coos, as if he is talking to a child. And by Asgardian standards his hawk is a child, barely an infant of itself. “Your body needs it.”
His pet sighs and floats back to sleep, and Loki chuckles. He is going to keep this little pet, and it will stay at his side forever. When Loki can access the Tesseract’s powers, he can access Asgard, meaning he can give his little pet Golden Apples. The apples will not make his pet a god, by any means, he knows, but they will expand his life span.
He and his little hawk spend most of their nights engaging with each other. No, Loki corrects himself as he watches over his sleeping hawk, it is him who is doing the engaging. His little hawk is almost laughably helpless during its moments, buried under what Loki knows is mostly pain instead of pleasure, but because he is such an obedient little pet, his hawk only reacts the way Loki wishes him to.
Tonight is one of the nights where he cannot actually resume his usual nightly activities with his precious little hawk, because his hawk is, after all, the best agent with the best physical abilities and they need him to operate. Pity, he thinks, but he has all of eternity to spend with his hawk and a night means nothing.
Especially if he can watch his little pet sleep. In his sleep the hawk looks completely vulnerable, and, to Loki’s knowledge, he is. The lines of his age disappear completely and he slumbers on his side, curled up as a human fetus. A pillow nestles not only under his head but between his legs and between his arms, clutched to his stomach and torso. Loki thinks it’s quite endearing.
Yes, Loki decides, he has actually found the perfect pet.
The mission on the next day goes exactly the way they’d planned it. Loki even gives away his scepter, even though he could have dematerialized it. They know none of his plans, his powers, which suits him fine. The one thing he does get annoyed at is the run in with his adoptive brother, but he gets quite amused watching his all-powerful brother and the two not-so-human Midgardians brawl.
He smirks when he sees the Hulk, because it will be so very easy. He is generally unimpressed by the one-eyed human’s threats, and even less impressed by his rather pathetic attempt at humor. He is then even less impressed by the redhead’s attempt to fool him, because his little pet has warned him about all of it already. He spills what the redhead wants to hear, but it is all rather amusing because they think they are playing him.
He almost laughs at how gullible they are, how easily their pieces are moved. They have obviously not realized that he is the god of trickery, as his brother is the god of thunder. He waits, and then there is a large blast and he knows his dear little pet is here.
It is almost laughable that out of the entire crew of the ship, he is in the one safe place, in his little prison. It doesn’t take very long for him to step out of it, of course, and then his brother falls for the same trick again, which is almost quite laughable again. He stands there to taunt his brother for just a little more, but he can’t help that he is quite giddy to see his little pet once again, and their sexual ministration is going to go on for a lot longer than usual tonight.
He runs into a little more trouble that he’d have liked, which ends up in him having to leave without his dear hawk. He is quite annoyed with that, but he knows his hold on his pet won’t relent anyway, and he’ll be back for his bird.
The next time he does meet his bird in about 24 hours, he’s shocked to learn that his bird is shooting at him. He is highly annoyed by this, very much so. And it distracts him enough not to remember that his little bird packs explosives in his arrows, and it annoys him even more that the big green beast throws him around.
He does black out after that, and when he wakes he sees his little bird, kneeling next to him, an arrow notched and the string taut. He cannot help but smile at the sheer anger, the sheer pain and hatred in his bird’s eyes. He asks for a drink, which the man in the ridiculously colored suit provides him with. They wait, and his little pet is his prison guard as they wait.
He turns to his bird. He is defeated – he is smart enough to know when – but he cannot help himself. “My little bird.”He whispers, quiet enough that no other can hear. He smirks softly.
“Shut up.” His pet hisses, his tri-colored eyes livid.
“Does your body ache, little hawk?” He coos softly. He is aware his brother is staring at him, and aware that his hearing will allow his brother to hear everything. That is, in the end, what he wishes. “Is it the pain of the battle that wracks your frail body, little bird, or is it the aftermaths of our many nights together?”
He notices the hand that’s holding the string and the arrow shake violently, the anger in the eyes turn to sheer fear and pain before he’s tackled to the ground by his angry brother. The others are surprised, he can tell, as Thor grabs the neck of his garments and shakes him, spitting angry curses at him. His bird is shaken, shaken badly, and that is all Loki wants to see.
His little bird is still his prison guard aboard the large ship. Loki is placed in the same container he’d been in before – of course they’d made multiple ones – and his bird sits outside of it in a chair, his bow in his lap and his quiver of arrows at his thigh. The redhead has tried to convince his pet of rest, but his pet has refused it. “What is it that you wanted from me?” His bird asks softly, his gaze so neutral that even Loki cannot read the emotions. “To be your pet?”
Loki sees no reason to lie to his precious little pet. “Yes.” He says, a little forlornly. “My little hawk.”He steps as close to his little pet as he can, and his hawk flinches. There is no more question, which Loki is surprised about. He had expected questions about their nightly activities, but none comes. “My brother.” He offers, wanting some emotion from his dear bird. “He will be protective over you, now that he knows the depths of what has happened between us.”
“There was nothing between us.”His hawk says harshly, gripping his bow in one hand. “It was all your fantasy.” There is anger and desperation and mostly fear in his voice.
Loki smiles. “Was it, little pet? Why do you readily push your memories away?” He is smug, because even though he has lost the war, the battles, he realizes he still owns his little bird. “Yes, there was mostly pain, but you cannot completely deny that there was no spark of pleasure.”
“Enough.” A new voice booms, and Loki sighs. It is one he is very familiar with. He turns to find his older brother, and almost regretfully only his only brother, standing at the entrance. “Go rest.” Thor tells his little pet. “You need it. There is no need for you to listen to his poison any longer.” His pet obeys quietly, and Loki feels a thrill at the willingness. They do not speak until the hawk’s ever-so-light footsteps disappear from the halls. “What were you thinking, Loki?” Thor says, sadly. “What have you done to him?”
Loki turns his back on Thor, something he knows highly annoys him. “Do you remember, brother, that little pet we had, when we were younger?”
Thor glares. “Humans are not pets, brother.”
Loki chuckles lowly. “No, Thor. Perhaps not, not all of them. But he’s a hawk, brother. My little bird.” He turns, his green eyes flashing almost violently. “Do you think you can protect him from me?” Thor meets his gaze evenly, and Loki smiles. “I have marked him, Thor. He is my precious little bird.”
Thor sighs. “You will return to Asgard tomorrow morn, Loki. You will no longer be able to touch him. I will personally make sure of it.”
Loki only smiles as an answer.
The morning after, Loki is cuffed, and they even gag him. Loki suspects it was Thor’s idea so he could not spit more of his “poison” at his hawk. It is quite a pity, because Loki would have liked to see his little pet squirm. He does not struggle as Thor hands him one end of the Tesseract, but his eyes are focused on his little hawk.
His hawk tries to look like he doesn’t care, tries to smile as the redhead whispers something in his ear, but Loki can read the fear in his eyes. He smiles, and though it is with just his eyes he is aware his hawk has caught it. He is awarded with a flicker of almost painful terror in the multi-colored eyes of his beautiful hawk before the Tesseract yanks them from Midgard.
Chapter 2: Clipped
In which Thor contemplates Loki's control over Clint.
Loki’s punishment is simple, so maddeningly simple that it is elegant. It is Thor who suggests the punishment, because he knows, above all, the god of mischief hates boredom. So Loki is confined to their father’s castle, with at least two supervisors at all times. Odin himself will be with Loki most of the time, and Loki is ordered to attend every formal meeting, which, Thor knew, irks his adopted little brother the most. Both he and Odin warn the supervisors to never heed any word Loki utters, because Loki is the god of mischief, and no one is better at mind games than he is.
Thor returns to Midgard after that. He already has a dwelling at the Stark Tower – he is informed that it is now called the “Avengers Tower” and his floor is right below the hawk’s, which suits him fine. The Avengers work seamlessly with one another after that, which is to be honest, to Thor’s surprise. But he has long learned that humans are the best at adaptation. Even the things that come with knowing each other for a long amount of time come after about a year of working together.
Thor watches Clint. The only female in their group often expresses concern over him. There are moments after battle where Clint will not leave the shooting range, where he will stand still and shoot nothing, just stare into the target on the far end. Then other times he will indulge himself in the pool, taking dives that Thor is aware are too straining on the human lung. Worst of all, sometimes Clint will, out of nowhere, lose consciousness, shooting everyone to alarm. Once it has happened while he was on a mission, perched on top of a tall pole. It had been Iron Man who had caught Hawkeye from plummeting to his death.
Currently Clint is asleep in his bed, as still as death. He does not move or flinch during his sleep, and is pale. No one understands, and Thor will tell everyone that Loki has worked no magic. And it is not magic, he knows. He waits quietly until Clint wakes up. The moment he wakes up, Clint vomits all over the sheets, and Thor quietly holds him. It is in mere moments that Tony is at the door and running to Clint’s side, pushing Thor out of the way and holding Clint.
There are no sounds except Clint’s painful retching, and Tony manages to carry Clint to the bathroom where he vomits into the toilet. A muttered command brings machine arms down to pull the soiled sheets from the bed, but Thor for once does not pay heed to the machines and follows Tony to the bathroom. Clint is now dry-heaving into the toilet, and Tony mutters a string of colorful words before he mutters something that Thor cannot hear. But the machine arms drop down again and Tony apologizes before he slides the needle into Clint’s arm, and in seconds Clint falls limp against him.
They do not speak until Clint is tucked into his fresh bed. Tony then turns to Thor, and Thor can read the fury in his coffee-colored eyes. “What the hell is wrong with him?” He says, his voice low. “It’s been a fucking year and he still can’t shake the nightmares.”
Thor says nothing. Clint has nightmares, violent nightmares of his rape, Thor knows, but outside he is still. It is the worst, because none of them know when it hits until it hits. They look to Thor for answers, and look for him to fix it. Thor has never been good at fixing anything. He is usually the one breaking things, not fixing things. He is hesitant to reach toward Clint, because his hands are used to hurt, to break, not to mend and heal.
He hasn’t told the others of Clint’s rape. He has battled with himself for a year now, pondering if he should. Clint himself has told no one, and Thor knows Clint would prefer that he tell no one. Does he choose Clint’s own well-being or his privacy? He doesn’t even know if the two are mutually exclusive. This is why he would rather stay away from Clint, because he knows he’s more likely to choose the wrong decision rather than the right one.
He is a warrior, meant to battle.
They all are fighters, in one way or another. Out of all of them Thor understands the star-spangled soldier the most. The two of them are warriors that dive courageously into melee battle. He understands the red-haired female as well, because she, too, is a woman of war. The scientist and the man in the armor are slightly less easy for him to understand. They will battle if necessary, but would rather not dive into the heat of it.
The hawk is the one he cannot understand the most. The hawk is never eager to go to battle, and he is never eager to hurt. He will dive into battle at the first call, but he is a silent, distant hunter. And one thing Thor has learned from fighting alongside Clint is that he will never kill unless necessary. It is the reason why he uses the bow and arrow instead of something deadlier.
It had been Natasha’s first suggestion at what the humans call the hawk’s post-traumatic stress disorder. Clint has blackouts because he is severely stressed, and one of the reasons is because he had been forced to commit murder of tens of people, all dead at the tip of his arrow.
Thor believes it. Killing is never glorious. He himself has long seen the error of his ways and knows that no one should ever have the right to pass judgment on the life of another sentient being. But they do not know that it is all.
Tony does not leave, and is waiting for an answer. He has been, since Thor fell silent into his own thoughts. He neither pushes Thor for answer nor pulls away without one. The message is clear: Thor is allowed to organize his thoughts, but Tony demands an answer. Thor chooses his words carefully. “It’s not Loki’s magic.” He says softly. “Loki no longer holds magical claim or mental claim over him.”
Tony’s gaze does not waver. “You forgot physical.” Thor does not answer, and Tony hisses lightly. “How can he have physical claim over Clint if there’s no more magic left in him?” Tony’s arms come up to grab at the neck of Thor’s garments, something Thor has learned MIdgardians do in anger. “Damn it, Thor. I don’t care if Loki’s your brother. Clint is a friend, someone that matters to all of us. You tell us what you know, stop protecting your fucking brother. We can’t do anything to him anyway from here on Earth, so whatever it is that you know, spill now, and maybe I’ll forgive you for holding it in for a year.”
Thor says nothing. Tony’s anger is understandable, but he still does not know how to make the right decision. He speaks carefully again. “It is not for Loki’s sake that I withhold this information from you.” He says softly. “It is Clint’s, and I have no right to speak of it unless he permits it. Loki made it aware to me so I would suffer with the information, to have it and yet not understand what to do with it.” Tony lets his collar go, and Thor shakes his head sadly. “It is not my place to say.”
Tony looks furious, but he sits down by Clint’s bed and shoots Thor a glare. Thor is thankful that the glare isn’t fully aggressive. Tony is an intelligent Midgardian, Thor is aware, and he may already have an idea of what happened to Clint. Either way, Thor does not make a decision, because he does not know which one is the best. However, he does understand that not making a decision is also a decision, and hopes that somehow that he is doing the best he can do.
Clint wakes exactly 8 hours later. Tony is still at his side, and others have come and gone. Thor hasn’t moved from his standing position either. Clint sees Thor, then sees Tony’s expression, and sits up with an expression that Thor cannot read. “Spill.” Tony orders, his voice smooth and quiet but demanding. “I want to know what you have nightmares about.”
Clint doesn’t answer, but Tony isn’t one to back away either, and Thor just watches as Clint stares blankly on ahead. There is tension building up in the room, thick enough that Thor thinks if he swings his Mjolnir, it will actually break something physical. Tony hasn’t moved from his seat, and Clint has not moved since he roused.
It leaves Thor time to think, and Thor considers birds. He is aware that birds are a symbol of freedom and dreams for mankind. They possess the one ability that mankind has wanted ever since its creation, but have not been able to harness. The power of flight awes and inspires humans, and so birds are mystical creatures to Midgardians. They are symbols of everything. There is a reason why one of Earth’s most powerful countries chooses an eagle as its symbol. There is a reason why the white dove is a carrier for peace. There is a reason why the black raven is an omen of death.
The hawk is a powerful predator. It knows no fear, feels no threat. It is the epitome of freedom and pride and strength and honor. Thor thinks that there is no other Midgardian more worthy of its namesake than the man sitting in the bed near him. Even in his ill state, Clint is a proud, strong man.
Thor understands why Loki is obsessed with owning the hawk. Loki is sadistic, incredibly so, and Thor has no doubts that seeing the hawk held and clipped against his will, stripping him of everything that defines him excites Loki. Loki has clipped the hawk’s wings.
He must have spoken out loud, because Tony glares at him. “Clipped wings aren’t permanent, Clint.” He grits out. “Bird feathers grow back. They grow new feathers. So why aren’t you healing? Why won’t you just tell me what’s wrong so we can help you?”
There is silence again, and Clint lifts his gaze. Thor has never noticed the hawk’s eye color before, but it is a brilliant mix of green and blue and gray. Clint’s eyes do not leave Thor as he speaks softly. “Clipped wings, huh?” Clint chuckles, but the sound is humorless, almost frigid. “Clipped wings do heal.” He continues. “Have you heard of pinioning, Tony? Thor?” It is a word unfamiliar to Thor. Apparently Tony has never heard of it as well, because he frowns and shakes his head. “It’s when people perform surgery on birds. They take out a piece of a flight bone so the bird is permanently landlocked.”
Thor stares. He is aware that some humans are cruel, malevolent, but this news sickens him to the core. Tony looks disgusted as well and Clint ignores them to stand. He continues to talk softly, and Thor is suddenly aware that the truth is going to be laid out into the open. “He raped me, Tony. Over, and over again, and I was trapped in my own head and unable to resist.” Clint says, and his voice sounds broken, shattered, and nothing like the strong assassin Thor has known. Tony is frozen in his seat. “Will you help me heal?”
Chapter 3: Pieces
In which Loki is confronted.
Loki paces. It’s about the only thing he can do in the damned castle. Pace. He knows for certain that it is Thor’s idea to have this as his punishment, because Thor may seem unintelligent sometimes, but most times he’s keenly observant and Thor alone knows how to push all of Loki’s buttons.
Being locked up in one place is on top of the list of Loki’s annoyances. It makes matters worse because the others treat him the same as they always have. His having tried to take over an entire race is nothing new – other gods have tried that with other races. So they treat him like a friend, an equal, and the only thing that sets Loki apart is that he’s not allowed to set foot outside the castle. It drives Loki insane. He would rather be treated as a prisoner, so he could shoot insults at them degrade them and show them he’s on top of them. But when he does it now they just commend his sharp wit. It drives Loki, to borrow a MIdgardian phrase, up the wall.
He has already attempted coaxing his guards to let him sneak out of the castle. But Thor and his father have employed the most able gods and have warned them not to listen to anything he says.
“You look bored, son.” His father’s voice is laughing, but not unkindly, at him. Loki sighs impatiently but respectfully turns toward Odin, mostly because he has nothing to gain from ignoring his adoptive father. “Your brother is back to see you.”
This snaps Loki’s attention immediately. His eyes widen, because he cannot fathom why his brother would be here, not back in Midgard hovering over Loki’s little hawk. “Why’s he here?” He asks cautiously.
His father eyes him as if he knows everything. Loki has no doubts that Odin actually does know everything.”I suspect it has something to do with the hawk.”
Loki sighs. Of course his father knows. As he’d said, Odin knew everything. “Thor told you.”
“Not quite. Don’t be so quick to believe I know nothing about my sons, Loki.” Odin replies softly. “Go see your brother. You two are dismissed. Loki will not run.” Odin says confidently. Loki considers running just to prove his father wrong, but decides against it. Thor would catch him in seconds flat, in any case. He moves quickly to his brother’s quarters, eager to hear about his little bird. Thor greets him with a nod as he walks in, but says nothing for a while.
Loki knows better than to bother Thor for answers when he’s preoccupied, so he chooses a seat and watches Thor fumble something in his large hands. “The hawk.” Thor finally says with a sigh, putting whatever had been in his hand down onto the bed. “He suffers.” Loki ignores the comment and eyes the object, trying to both see it and figure out what it is. Thor notices and picks it back up. “The hawk made it. He is quite able with his hands.”
Loki smirks and meets his brother’s gaze dead on. “I’m aware.” He says, trying to rile Thor. “It’s not that easy to satisfy me, after all.” He wants an angry response from the thunder god, but Thor only nods. He puts the object back on the bed where Loki can’t quite see it, and Loki realizes Thor hasn’t told him what it is yet. Thor looks at it fondly and Loki’s eyes widen in realization. “You love him.” He hisses. Thor neither rebukes nor acknowledges the hiss. Loki is at Thor’s side in three long strides, and he grabs Thor’s arm. “He is mine. You cannot take him away from me. He is my hawk, my bird, my little pet.”
Thor doesn’t even try to shake Loki off. “He is not yours.” His voice is steely, and his gaze is fierce. “Neither is he mine. He is his own master. And he suffers because of you.”
“It is why you return, to seek my help.”
“Have you worked magic on him?”
Loki snorts. “No. The only magic I worked on him was apparently cleansed when the spy woman brutally hit his head. How primitive.” He scoffs at the thought. He then falters, which is not like himself, and frowns. “…Is there magic on him? Who has dared to stain my bird?”
Thor glares. “He is not your bird, Loki.” He says firmly. “I do not know if there is magic on him. I came to ask if you performed more of your trickery on him. The Man of Iron knows what you have done to him and spends his days studying recovery methods, but he has demanded that I ask you if you have done anything else to him.” He stoops to pick up the object that Loki realizes that he still hasn’t identified, and steps to the window, looking forlorn and unsure.
“Midgardians are fragile by nature.” Loki huffs, crossing his arms. “But my hawk is stronger than normal.”
Thor nods, looking down at the object in his hands again. Loki fights the urge to rip it from his hands and study it, because that’s not very composed at all. But it’s the closest thing to his hawk that he’s had in over a year and his entire being reaches out for it. “He’s strong, Loki.” Thor says softly. “But even the strongest hawks die when they lose their ability to fly.”
Loki glares. “He doesn’t need to fly.” He says harshly, glaring at the obscured object in Thor’s large hands. “Listen to me, brother. Look at him! Have you seen all the scars he carries? Let the bird fly, and it hurts itself. There are many, many obstacles in the sky, brother. They are vulnerable, weak creatures that need to be cared for.”
Thor turns to him, and Loki flinches. The look he receives is not anger. It is pity. Loki hisses but Thor only sighs. “You are wrong, Loki.” Thor speaks gently. “The hawk is a strong bird. It knows no fear, and yet you have introduced him to it. You, Loki, are the source of his worst poison. You have stripped him of his existence.”
Loki turns angrily. “You know nothing, Thor.” He paces around the room, angry and on edge. “You are a warrior, not a thinker. Leave the thinking, the deducing, to me. You have your fun breaking and shattering things, like you always have.” He looks up, and he knows he’s hit home with his sharp tone, because Thor finally looks a little taken aback, his large hand curled around whatever the object he’s holding shaking minutely. “What is this sudden tenderness, Thor? You were never one to care about others’ emotions or well-being before.”
Thor bows his head. “You speak the truth, Loki. I know not how to mend. I have yet to use my hands for anything other than to destroy.” He admits quietly. “But I am not the only one by his side, Loki. We are all warriors, more used to destroy than to heal, but we will heal him. I came only to ask if you performed any other of your hex on him, but if you have not I have no more business here.” He stands up from his bed. “I will take my leave now, then. I am more needed on Midgard than back here.”
He turns away from Loki, a clear indication that the conversation is over. But Loki isn’t done, and Loki isn’t the one to let his brother just dismiss him as if he’s a lowly servant. “How is he?” Loki demands. “How does my little bird fare without me?”
Thor gives him no answer, and Loki frowns. He’s about to ask the question again, more scathingly this time, but Thor speaks up. Apparently he’d been trying to think of the best way to answer Loki. “He suffers, Loki.” He offers, then turns, the figure still in his hand. “I’ll be taking my leave.” He tries to brush past Loki, but Loki reached out and grabbed the figure and crushed in his grasp. Thor doesn’t even look surprised, and only sighs. Loki opens his hands to look at the shattered figure in his hands. The wood has splintered badly, but Loki recognizes the familiar shape of the hawk. Thor and Loki stare at the broken wooden hawk, and then Thor doesn’t look at him as he speaks. “A hawk broken by your hand.” Thor whispers quietly. “Fitting for the situation.”
Loki hisses and throws the pieces at Thor. Thor replies by squatting to pick up the pieces. Thor picks up every splinter and every chunk with caution that Loki has never seen on his brother before. Loki snarls when Thor stands back up, pieces cradled carefully in his hand. “Yes,” he spits. “Fitting. You pick up the pieces that I discard and attempt to put it back together. Can your clumsy hands manage, brother? Can they even manage to hold a piece in place without shattering it? How do you even know you’ve all the pieces?”
Thor nods. “You are correct. I do not know. I cannot affirm to any of those questions.” He offers no more and brushes past Loki. When he is about three steps away, Thor turns. “Forget about him, Loki. He is not yours. Has never been, and will never be.”
Loki cries in outrage, but Thor does not even look back as his crimson cape flows behind him, seeming to mock Loki with a rustle every time Thor moves.
Chapter 4: Trust
In which Thor and Tony attempt their hands at a metaphor to tell Clint they care.
“Loki broke it.” Thor offers as an explanation as he carefully lays the pieces out for Tony. Tony stares at the pieces. “Can you fix it?”
Tony picks up a wood splinter. “I don’t know. I’m more of a metal and electricity kind of guy.” He puts the splinter down and picks up the biggest piece – the lower half of the body. “You may be better off if you just ask Clint to make you a new one. It gets things off his mind, too.”
Thor stares at the pieces. “Yes.” He agrees. “That is easier. To obtain something new to replace the broken. But I would rather fix the broken. It is dear to me. I think you may have a better chance than I, but if you do not think you can do it, I will attempt. I think I may ask Clint to aid me.”
Tony pauses. Thor looks up, and their eyes meet. Tony looks back down at the pieces, nodding slowly. “…I get it. But you know what? I think we should do it together. And we should have Clint help us. Because I honestly think it’s a lost cause without Clint. Let’s move this to Clint’s room.”
Thor nods, and then watches Tony carefully scoop the pieces in a towel. The towel moves to Thor’s hands, and as they board the elevator, Tony sighs. “I haven’t really talked to him. Since. You know.”
Thor knows. It has been two days since Clint told Tony. Tony has not told anyone else, and he has told Thor not to tell anyone else. Thor is glad for someone to make the decision for him. To take the blame if it goes awry.
He is being a coward, and he knows it. But his concern for his friend outweighs his disgust at his own cowardliness, and he really would rather leave Clint’s well-being in the hands of someone who knows better than he. “Your reading. Has it helped anything?”
Tony snorts. “No. I didn’t really expect it to, either. None of those really talk about being fucked mentally. It was just… something to do.” He shrugs uneasily, and when the elevator doors open, he swallows thickly before stepping through. Clint is sitting on the far window ledge, his legs hanging over the edge. If it were anyone else, Thor would be concerned about their safety. But Clint looks like he belongs there, on the edge of safety and danger.
It makes Thor even more worried. He and Tony carefully make their way to Clint. Clint has noticed them already, of course, probably has since the elevator arrived. He does not acknowledge their presence, but he does not shun them, either. Thor wonders if it is a good thing. Tony carefully places the towel containing the splintered wood pieces on the windowsill next to Clint. “Wanna come down?” Tony says, trying to sound bright. “You’re scaring me.”
“I won’t fall, you know.” Clint does not look at either of them.
“I know. But…” Tony trails off, as if he cannot put word to his concerns. Thor understands. Clint looks fragile, teetering on the edge of a knife. Even though Thor is certain that Clint will not accidentally lose balance and plummet to the ground below, he is not so certain that Clint will not push off himself. On an impulse, Thor reaches out and grabs Clint’s arm.
Clint does not look surprised. He does raise an eyebrow, and then chuckles emptily. It is a heart-wrenching sound that Thor does not like. “All right, I got it.” He swings his legs over and for a moment Thor thinks he might topple backward, but Clint has the grace of a feline and he sinks down into the soft, plush carpet. Thor notices Clint is barefoot, and wonders if he should take his boots off. Tony is staring at his own sneakers, apparently wondering the same thing. Clint notices. “You can keep your shoes on. JARVIS cleans the carpet every night when I’m asleep, anyway.”
All the same, Tony decides to step out of his sneakers, so Thor crouches to loosen his boots and step out of them. The carpet feels heavenly under his bare feet. Tony yanks off his socks along with his shoes, and sits next to Clint. “Okay, so. Loki sort of broke the toy you made Thor, and we’re gonna try fixing it.”
Clint flinches visibly at the mention of Loki, but he shrugs as Tony lays the towel on the carpet. “Glue gun.” Clint says, voice unwavering, and JARVIS’s machine hands drop down to place the tool into his hands.
“Glue gun?” Tony frowns. “You don’t want just a tube of superglue? I don’t feel like a glue gun is the best thing to use to fix a tiny little hawk carving.”
Clint considers this for a moment, then frowns. “But using superglue with our hands will just make everything stick to each other and get messy.”
“So will a glue gun, for something this small. And on top of that, we could get burned on it. JARVIS, three tubes of superglue.” Thor does not actually know why one is suited for this activity than the other is, but that is all right. After all, that is why Tony is here. To figure out the best tools of the process. Clint seems to agree, so Thor carefully unscrews the top and stares at the silver covering. Tony laughs. “Here, buddy. Use this one. Don’t squeeze too hard, or it’ll stick your fingers together and then we gotta ask Pepper to unstick our fingers.”
Thor catches the one Tony throws him, but, alas, squeezes too hard and ends up squirting gel onto Clint’s arm. Clint stares and Tony laughs again. “Whoops, should’ve known you’d squeeze so hard to pop the cap off. Wait, don’t touch- Ah. Well.” Thor has reached over to brush the gel off of Clint’s arm, but instead ends up with his fingertips attached to Clint’s arm. “Hold on, lemme call Pepper. JARVIS, dial Pepper, please?”
“I told you superglue wasn’t a good idea.” Clint says, but there is a ghost of a smile lingering on his lips, just barely, and Thor stares at it. Clint does not seem to notice Thor’s fixation on his smile. Pepper picks up the phone – at first she’s annoyed that Tony’s calling her during a board meeting, but then Tony mentions how Thor and Clint got themselves stuck together and Thor hears the warm concern and amusement in her voice.
“Acetone.” She says, clicking her tongue. “Acetone really helps with superglue.”
Tony grins, thanks her, and then asks JARVIS for acetone. They end up pouring almost an entire bottle of nail polish remover onto Clint’s arm, and the room smells of acetone, but at least Thor’s fingers and Clint’s arms are not attached anymore. “All right, down to business, then.”
Clint still looks faintly amused, and it is the happiest Thor has seen Clint ever since Loki. They spend hours and hours piecing the hawk together, clicking things into place to see if they fit. Thor gets the job of holding glued pieces together as the superglue dries, and more often than not, he ends up with his fingers attached to the pieces on top of it. The room reeks intensely of acetone, but no one seems to mind.
In fact, Clint’s smile gets slightly bigger so that it is noticeable, and Tony keeps staring, a grin plastered on his own face as they get superglue all over their fingers. Piecing the hawk together takes a lot of time only because most of the pieces look the same, and even Clint has a hard time telling what should go where. Thor announces hunger after they manage to finish the upper half of the body and the right wing.
“You know what? Me, too. And why does something so small take so damned long to put back together?” Tony looks down at the leftover pieces – there are still about half left – and sighs overdramatically. “What’re you in the mood for, Thor? Clint?”
Thor contemplates the many wonders of Midgardian cuisine, but Clint beats both of them to it. “I want Thai food. Pad Thai sounds really good right about now. Can we get Thai food?”
Thor nods along eagerly and Tony orders. They work and manage to find and glue one more piece of the body before the food arrives, and then they have to deal with chopsticks sticking to still-wet glue on their hands. Clint doesn’t eat much, and Thor studies him as he wolfs his food down. Clint barely picks at his food and is more focused on how the hawk looks. For something that has been broken into barely distinguishable pieces, the hawk looks amazing.
“This is good work.” Clint finally announces. “When I first saw the pieces, I didn’t think we could put it together at all, but this is pretty good.” His voice is still soft and uncertain, and there is nothing of the brash, confident agent that Natasha speaks of, but for the moment he is not an empty shell staring down fifty flights.
Tony nods, but it is almost obvious that Tony and Thor are sharing the same thoughts. “It’d be nice,” Tony says softly, “to see you smile again.” Clint freezes, but Tony continues. “We want to help.” Tony says, his voice still gentle. “We want to help fix you, but you have to want to fix yourself. You have to show us how. Like with the hawk.”
Clint says nothing. Tony does not press further either, but the way he is holding himself reminds Thor of the time Tony demanded that Thor tell him what has happened. He is waiting for Clint’s answer. “So it’s a metaphor, is it?” Clint stares at the half-fixed hawk in his hands. “Loki breaks, Thor picks up the pieces, you take the initiative but I have to be there for most of it.”
Tony nods, staring at Clint’s hands. Thor half-expects Clint to crush the hawk in his hands, but Clint deposits the hawk back on the towel and picks up his barely-touched Pad Thai. He is quiet as he eats, and when he finishes about half, he pushes the container at Thor. Thor takes it and wonders if it is the right course of action to dig into it, but Tony nods slightly at him, so he eats. “Clint.” Tony asks softly. “Do you want us to help you?”
There is silence. Thor stops eating to listen to the answer. He understands what Clint accepting means. Clint accepting means he acknowledges he has a problem and he acknowledges he needs help. Thor wonders if Clint knows accepting help from those around him is not weakness. It is strength, being able to trust in people who want nothing but the best for you.
But Clint is a spy. A government agent. He has always worked alone, and has never depended on anyone but himself.
So it is a surprise to not only Thor but also Tony when Clint drops his head and says, “Yes.” He whispers. “I don’t want to… I don’t want to be broken anymore. I trust you.”
Chapter 5: Stitching
In which Clint starts to heal, pieces by pieces.
She is plain. Not plain, plain, of course. One of the best in her field, at least in New York. Tony purposefully chooses her because she is normal, and what Clint needs right now isn’t SHIELD psychiatrists who have too much knowledge of the abnormal. He needs someone plain, normal. He doesn’t need someone who he has to fly in a jet plane to meet – he needs someone who he can drive to, take the subway to.
Tony knows he made the right choice the moment he walks into her office to interview her. She isn’t impressed by Tony’s money – at least, she doesn’t show it. She greets him with a strict professionalism that Tony likes, and offers him coffee or tea, and not the expensive kind, but the normal kind she would offer to all her patients. Tony likes that.
She’s Korean, and in her late 30s, but, being an Asian woman, can easily pass for someone in her 20s. She’s pretty – not in an overly glamorous way or a deadly way, but in a plain, motherly or sisterly kind of way, and that’s one of the reasons why Tony picked her. When he passes her the privacy agreement, she looks annoyed not because she has to read a thick packet, but because he doesn’t trust that she holds her patients’ privacy at the utmost highest. But she reads through everything anyway, carefully, scrutinizing every word. When she finishes, she signs in a neat script on the bottom. Not in showy loops, but in neat, gentle strokes. Tony grins when he takes the contract back. Yes, he thinks, he made the right choice.
He books an entire day, but he has to wait three days before he can do it. She has regular patients that she can’t just cancel on, she reasons, looking stern like a mother scolding a troublesome child, and he agrees.
On the third day, he brings Clint and Thor and sits in the waiting room. “Sorry.” The receptionist apologizes, bowing in the traditional Asian way. His English is a little accented, but it doesn’t bother anyone. After all, they do live in Manhattan. “One of the doctor’s patients had a breakdown early dawn, and she went out to see him. But she was on her way back half an hour ago. She’ll be here soon.”
Clint looks curious. “She visits her patients at their house?”
“If they ask her to.” The receptionist answers with a smile. “It also helps that the patient was on the upper east side – just a subway ride away.”
Tony is impressed. “She doesn’t drive?”
“Oh, no. The doctor is against car pollution. She’s environmentally friendly in weird areas – she’ll never throw away a piece of paper until she uses every white corner, and she recycles all pages and bottles and cans.”
“I’m not weird, Kevin, I’m just helping the earth as much as I can.” The doctor walks in briskly. “You’re early.” She says to Tony, looking at Clint. She’s right – they’re half an hour early. “Well, no matter. Come in, all three of you.” She takes the files that the receptionist gives her, and when they walk in, nods for Clint to sit on the couch. “Sit, lie down, whatever you prefer. If you prefer the floor, that’s fine, too. Get comfortable.”
Clint chooses to cautiously sit on the couch. Thor sits in front of Clint on the floor, like a guard dog that’s ready to jump at any threat that would come to his charge. Tony sits on the couch next to Clint. She smiles gently at Clint, and Clint smiles warily back. There is none of the strict professionalism that she’d treated Tony with – there is a warm gentleness. “Before we start, Mister Stark, Mister Odinson, I’d like for you two to sign this. Usually I don’t do this, as all my sessions with patients are private, but since Mister Barton wants you in here, I’d like you to sign. Nothing that is said in this room by Mister Barton may be uttered outside of this room. If he is all right with others knowing, he will say it again outside this room. Is that understood?” Thor nods and scrawls on the paper. Tony wonders if Thor even knows what a contract is, but he signs his own and hands it to the doctor.
Clint’s eyes are darting back and forth the room, searching for escape routes. Tony’s frankly surprised Clint agreed to this, but now Clint seems to be regretting it. The doctor notices and she speaks up. “May I call you Clint?” Clint nods, blinking. “You may call me Susan, if you want.”
Clint stops looking around. A pink tongue flicks out to dart at his upper lips, and he speaks softly. “Susan.” He nods. “Okay, I can do that.”
They talk as Thor and Tony listen. She doesn’t breach the subject of his rape at all – she seems to genuinely want to get to know Clint, and she tells Clint the same information about her. When Clint blushes as he admits he never got much schooling, she laughs kindly and says, “You saved the world, which is better than what all the men in the world with university level and higher education ever did.” Tony watches Clint’s muscles relax tremendously after that. She tells him about her own college life, how she almost flunked out of Columbia because all she did was party her freshman year, and Clint smiles shyly.
He shows her his perfect aim, not with his usual bow and arrow, but with a slingshot he makes from a rubber band and pencils, with erasers for ammunition. She actually has been to an archery range a few times, and it turns out that even though she’s no secret agent or professional athlete, she’s pretty good at it. Tony notices that she has a writing pad on her lap, but she hasn’t written anything down in it yet.
They ease gently into the subject of the battle that happened more than a year ago. She does it so discreetly that Tony’s caught off track, wondering how they even got to the subject. She serves them lunch – it’s something ordered from a Korean restaurant nearby – and they talk over various Korean side dishes as she teaches Thor how to use chopsticks.
But when the subject of the kidnapping (her word) and his rape his breached, his eyes widen and he clamps his lips shut. Thor’s shoulders stiffen and his hand lands on Clint’s knee, gently rubbing circles on his thigh. Clint reaches over to Tony and Tony takes his outstretched hands, letting them grip into his shirt and bringing Clint to his shoulder.
The doctor watches quietly and says nothing until the shudders disappear. “Nothing you say here will leave this room.” She reminds him, when the trembles stop but he doesn’t look up. The session ends with Clint curled up in Thor’s arms, but when Tony makes another appointment for the week after, Clint doesn’t protest.
The next all day session is similar to the first, and then the one after, and then the one after. “He’s not making any progress.” Tony flops on the couch as Thor carries Clint out. “I think he’s even getting worse.”
She smiles. “Really?” She stands to organize her files. He notices she still hasn’t written anything on Clint. “He let you two carry him in and out like that before?” He stares. She looks up and raises a triumphant eyebrow in his direction. “When he used to have his nightmares, he reached out to you like that, and found comfort in being held?” He blinks, but can feel a slow grin forming at his lips. “He’s a rape victim at the core, Mister Stark. Now, I don’t understand magic. I saw it happen, yes, plenty, when that attack happened a year ago, and at alarming frequencies as Manhattan gets attacked by aliens, but it’s still beyond my understanding. But in the end, he was held against his will for over 48 hours and was raped repeatedly during those 48 hours. Even if he is a secret agent, a super spy, at the base he’s a rape victim, and he has shunned physical contact for the past year. But now he’s actively seeking it, in you and in Mister Odinson, and he’s trusting you to give him the comfort.” She stands up straight and smiles at him. “I don’t think you’ll be needing another session with me.”
It isn’t until after dinner that Tony sees what she is talking about. He spends some time in lab, glues some pieces of the hawk together, and is about the head into Clint’s room when he hears it. It’s faint, barely there, a mixture of a moan and a gasp, but he hears it. And he knows what it is. He sneaks in quietly, as silently as he dares, and he peeks around the corner.
Clint is wrapped in Thor’s arms. His sweatpants are down to his knees and Thor has one arm securely around his shoulder and the other hand stroking between Clint’s thighs. Tony walks toward the bed, silently, and neither Clint nor Thor says anything as he sits beside them, pressing cautiously to Clint’s side. He doesn’t know what prompts him to do it, but his hands wanders lower, lower, until it briefly joins Thor’s hand, and then he pushes his hand lower.
When his fingers breach Clint, Clint lets out a strangled gasp and one of the hands that had been pulling Thor’s hair flies to Tony’s shoulder and digs into it. Tony doesn’t stop, not until Clint finishes with a strangled cry and an intense shudder, sobbing loudly. “Hey.” Tony whispers, moving so he can have a better grip on Clint. “Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay.”
Thor doesn’t bother wiping his hands. Instead, his hand joins Tony’s, and Tony winces inwardly as a thick finger breaches Clint and Clint lets out a wail and continues to cry, thick streams of tears rolling down his cheeks as he clutches for his life onto both of them. Thor’s the first one to kiss Clint’s cheek, to rub the tear-stained cheeks. Tony uses his free hand to rub at Clint’s other cheek before planting a cautious kiss on it, and they lay in tangles of heated arms and legs as Clint cries loudly with abandon.
Neither Tony nor Thor pulls their hands away even as Clint finishes for a second time. “There was blood.” Clint suddenly says. “I remember it hurt, so much. I don’t know why. I’ve done it before. Had sex. During missions. Bled plenty, let guys fuck me, tear me apart and I was fine.” Clint was rambling, his body clenching sporadically around Tony and Thor as he cried and babbled, but neither said anything. “I got to a point where Natasha suggested I was masochistic, because I started to enjoy being fucked to tear. I did it with her, often, you know, she’d pull on a strap on and just pound me into the bed, or, or it would be Coulson, sometimes, and they’d just pull me to bed after I came back after a fuck-mission. I don’t know why it hurt so much. Why did it hurt so much? It shouldn’t have hurt so much, I should have been okay, but god I can still feel his hands all over me.”
Clint started to thrash, but Thor quickly squeezed his arm around Clint’s shoulders. “Clint.” His low voice was a gentle grumble. “Feel this.” Tony felt the hand near his move. “This is not Loki. This is me, and this is Tony. This is us. You are safe here, with us. We will protect you, and you will trust us.”
Clint curled up into a ball, and Tony wiped his hands as it fell out. Thor did the same. Clint’s shoulders quaked brokenly under Thor’s hand on his shoulder, and Thor pulled Clint to his chest. Tony stayed silent until Clint’s sobs quieted and his shoulders relaxed in sleep. “He’ll be all right.” Tony whispered, reaching over to pull Clint’s sweatpants back up to his waist. “What happened with the sudden sex, anyway?”
Thor smiled at him. “I was with him, and it just felt like it was the right thing to do. As you felt it was the right thing to do to join us in bed.” Thor gently let Clint out of his arms and tugged the blanket over the three of them. “That doctor that you found. She did a good job.”
“I don’t even know what she did, and I was there the entire time. They just talked.” Tony snorted.
“Neither do I, but either way it seems the sessions with her sparked something within Clint. Perhaps it was the need to be protected, or perhaps she helped him understand that we are not here to hurt him. It is to my understanding that you humans have professions, and those professionals work without others noticing. For example, you spend hours in your suit, and I do not know what the changes are, but you do. Clint spends hours shooting, and I do not know the difference between shooting the center and slightly off center, but he does. Perhaps she knew just what to say and neither of us caught it.”
Tony looked at their sniper, sleeping under sex-fluid soiled sheets. “Yeah. Maybe.” He suddenly started to laugh. “God, Thor, we just finger fucked him together and he came twice. What the hell. How did this even happen?”
Thor matched his hysterical giggles with a grin. “I do not know, but why question the good?”
Chapter 6: Splinters
In which Clint gets splinters.
Later on, Tony will say that it was obvious that since it all started with sex, sex would have had some part in the healing, and Thor will not really understand. But then Clint since opened up a little more to both of them. Sometimes Thor finds Clint burrowed into Tony's side in Clint's bed, soundly asleep, and Tony will be reading some thick volumes of paper like it is no big deal. Thor points out that Clint does not seem to be plagued with nightmares, to which Tony replies that they would not be able to tell anyway, since Clint never shows his nightmares on the outside. But they both know nightmares do not haunt Clint anymore. Other times Thor finds Clint resting his head on Thor's thighs, or his shoulder, or sometimes Clint will even snuggle into Thor's side and steal Thor's Poptarts.
Thor enjoys it. He has always thought he liked battle, the glory and action and loudness of it all. He still does, of course, but he has discovered the pleasant ways of resting in quiet and peace.
Putting the hawk together takes longer than any one of them would have thought, mostly because there are pieces missing (Clint points out that someone should have thought of this, because there is no way every piece could have been picked up), and Thor is insistent that Clint carve out the pieces out of fresh wood to fill it up.
"There are bound to be missing pieces, but new ones can be made to fill the broken parts. It may take long, but I believe the hard work is worth it."
Clint had stared at him for a long time before answering, "I don't know when my life became a soup of metaphors."
But he had agreed to it anyway. So he currently sits at Tony's workbench, and Tony doesn't even complain his lab is taken over by arts and crafts, as he calls it. He sits across from Clint and watches Clint with a sort of fascination that Thor can understand. It isn't until the doors to Tony's floor slide open with barely a hiss that Clint looks up. Coulson is standing there, a thick file in his hands, and Clint carefully stores the pieces he'd been working on so Coulson can place the file in front of him.
"A mission?" Tony scowls down at the file.
Coulson rolls his eyes, but he explains the mission to Clint, his voice strict but gentle. Thor sees the warm ease that Clint is with the agent and wonders if Clint would have ever healed, had Coulson not lived. Thor doubts it suddenly feels grateful that the other man is alive. "Son of Coul." He booms, his chest feeling suddenly tight. "I am grateful you are alive."
Coulson stops in his explanation, and to his credit, does not look confused. Thor has never seen the man confused at anything. He smiles and nods a tiny bit at Thor before resuming his briefing. Clint is trying to pay attention to him, but he looks bewildered. Tony looks just a little understanding. As Coulson rises and beckons Clint to him, Clint blinks owlishly - or is hawkishly a better adjective? - at Thor before following.
"I got you." Tony sighs, rubbing his face. "If Phil died, we'd have lost Clint, hands down. Man, I gotta get Phil a big present or something."
Thor and Tony do not really interact while Clint is gone on his mission. They do not, of course, shirk each other, but now without the link of the archer, the two do not really have a common ground. Thor thinks that this is lamentable. He shall try to forge a better bond with the Man of Iron once Clint is back and they can interact without awkwardness.
It is Natasha who summons all of the Avengers to the Helicarrier. Her voice is tight with an emotion that Thor is not familiar with on the assassin, and a glance at Tony makes him realize that this might have something to do with Clint. And Clint it is. They find him in the infirmary on the Helicarrier. He is awake, but his skin is so pale they rival the white sheets around him, his lips are blue and there are numerous cuts that Thor can see. He does not understand the wires and tubes that are connected to the archer's body but knows that they are there to keep him alive, and the mask over his lips and nose are meant to help him breathe.
The Captain's voice shakes when he speaks up. "What happened?" He demands, sitting by the bed and sweeping a piece of paper clipped to a board.
"Poison." Coulson explains. He himself has an arm completely covered with bandages. "Barton got the worst of it - ingested and inhaled it."
Steve looks alarmed, but Clint raises his hand. "I'm good. Nothing new. I'll be out within the week."
Bruce, who has taken the paper with the board from Steve, fixes the archer with a stern look. "No, you really aren't. You should be in here for at least the next two weeks, with mostly bed rest after that.” But Clint huffs at him.
And Thor is relieved. He knows he should not be, because Clint looks so fragile on the bed, but at the same time he looks stronger than he has seen him for the past year. The despair is gone from his eyes, and his gaze is not shattered with pain. And he knows it is not just this mission with Coulson that has healed him, but his and Tony’s efforts. He smiles and grips Clint’s hand, drawing a protest from Bruce and a soft smile from Clint. “Welcome back, Clint.” And Clint squeezes his hand back.
They take turns visiting Clint, mostly because Bruce has ordered Clint to stay, and they know that even if he is ordered that way, he will leave at the first chance possible if they are not constantly hovering over him. Thor still does not think it is a surprise that Clint finds a way out despite the constant supervision.
It happens when Tony has a watch over him. It was not even that Tony was being negligent. He had been looking over the shots that the nurse brought with him, his back turned on Clint for barely a second, and the next moment there is a clattering of metal as the ceiling vent smashed to the floor and Clint had made his escape.
They spend the next two hours searching the vents for Clint, through which Thor laughs for most of. Natasha also think it is amusing, but apparently Steve and Tony do not think so. Bruce just looks exasperated. In the end they give up, because when an assassin does not want to be found, he will not be found. Thor has a hunch that Natasha might find him if she put her heart to it, but then thinks Clint would trump even her skills if he put his own heart to it.
Steve spends the hour after that pacing in the debriefing room. Tony is still running scans all over the Helicarrier, frustrated Clint has found a way to hide from his technology. Bruce has resigned himself to making a list of things to check over on Clint when he does appear. Natasha and Thor just share amused looks.
When they find Clint, it is neither because they are looking nor because Clint wants to be found – it is because the Helicarrier goes under emergency shutdown. Tony’s poking and prodding into the system in search of Clint has caused an automatic shutdown, to which Fury yells at Tony on the top of his lungs. Clint drops down from the vent above them, eyes wide and looking around. Steve starts admonishing him for running away from the infirmary, and Bruce already has his checklist out. It is then it happens.
One of the agents shoots up from his seat, pale and shaking, and points a finger at Clint. “You did this again.” He says.
The effect is devastating. The entire Helicarrier goes silent. Fury stops mid sentence. Steve whirls around from lecturing Clint, his blue eyes burning furiously. Bruce’s checklist clatters to the floor. Natasha is emanating anger. Tony is staring at the man, his fists clenched and shaking.
Thor sees everything he’d been so happy to see just a week ago crumble to dust. Clint’s eyes shut down, the blue-gray-green that had revived just barely crushing back to a despairing black, and before anyone can say anything, Clint is gone again, the ceiling vent crashing to the floor.
This time, Thor strips himself of his cape and bulky armor and hoists himself through the vents, ignoring Tony’s furious shouting voice at the man who has dared to hurt their archer.