“Clint. One of these days you’re going to have to let someone in –“
“I have.” Clint grunted as he squeezed his eyes shut, riding out a wave of anger spilling out from a room several floors away. “You –“
“Someone other than me. I won’t be around forever.” Phil Coulson’s voice was perfectly serious and Clint didn’t need to look at him to know the other man was fixing him with a painfully intense and honest stare. No, he could feel that perfectly fine.
“Drama queen.” Clint huffed as Coulson stood beside him, helping him ride out the worst of it, radiating nothing but calm.
Clint stared at his own tired reflection, taking in the almost sick pallor and the dark smudges underneath his eyes and wondered how he was going to make it through another day.
It was getting worse, possibly worse than it had ever been and he could feel his control slipping from his already faltering grasp.
He reached a hand up to coax the building headache away, the one that seemed to be there every morning upon waking, pulling him from blue tinted dreams.
“I’m serious, Barton.” Coulson’s tone shifted towards stern and Clint could feel the smallest brush of frustration; it wasn’t Phil’s fault. Sometimes, no matter what someone did to mask their emotions, they got through. “We need to find someone who can help you get this under control –“
“I’m fine.” Concern pockmarked his pathetic shields; it was Natasha. Her emotions were always so sharp and pure. She had to be haunting the hallways and Clint felt a stab of guilt – his own guilt, thank you very much – over the many lies he’s told her.
This time it was a migraine.
“Phil. Just. Please.” Clint felt dizzy and wasn’t exactly up for a lecture. He knew he needed help. It was painfully obvious, but he couldn’t see a situation in which SHIELD didn’t find out, in which Natasha didn’t find out.
She’d never forgive him. Everything they had was built on trust; what would she say, what would she do when she realized that the foundation itself had been a lie?
“Okay.” Phil said, pressing the matter no further, but Clint could be the cool calm increasing, washing over him again.
Clint filled the sink with ice-cold water, doing his best to ignore the way his skin was crawling and splashed the liquid into his face.
It’s what Phil would have done; they had had a way of dealing with it and it had always started with cold water against his face and on the back of his neck.
Clint dipped a rag into the pool of water and, after ringing it out, slapped it on the back of his neck, taking in deep, calming breaths.
“Breathe. Just breathe, Clint.” Phil said as he placed a hand onto the archer’s back, working soothing circles over strained muscles.
Clint did as he was told, taking in the soothing scent of Eucalyptus scented water. Little by little the chaos retreated, pulling away from his mind as battered mental shields rose again.
The water didn’t smell like Eucalyptus this time and maybe that was why it wasn’t working. Phil had always been the one to add the oil to the water and Clint had never seen where it had come from or where he put it when they were done.
Clint took another deep breath, this one ragged and impatient, as he waited for it to begin its retreat.
It didn’t come.
Clint slammed a fist down against the sink, ignoring the way the pipes creaked in protest, and couldn’t help the near growl of frustration that escaped his lips as the headache kicked back, increasing in intensity with every heartbeat.
Clint’s breathing evened out and all that was left was a small prickling against the back of his mind; nothing but the slightest reminder of what he was. What he is.
“Better?” Phil questioned, his breath hot on the side of Clint’s neck.
Clint nodded, exhausted. These bouts always left him feeling drained and useless; if it weren’t for Phil SHIELD would have cut him loose a long time ago. How could he ever trust anyone but him with his dirty little secret?
“Good. Come on.” Phil tugged him gently away from the sink and Clint followed, reveling in the fact that he’d regained his headspace, that everything he was feeling was his. Mostly. “Let’s lay down for a bit.
It wasn’t getting better.
“Fuck.” Clint hissed under his breath as he gripped the edges of the sink with an iron grip. Clint caught his reflection again and his skin gleamed with an unhealthy cold sweat.
This was how it ended, Clint realized. They’d find out, SHIELD would find out and after that the Avengers. They would realize just how goddamn unstable he was and that would be fucking it.
They’d do the necessary tests, run the blood work and without Phil there to make the ‘necessary corrections and/or omissions’, he’d not only be suspended for falsifying medical documentation, he’d be considered a liability.
Loss of his affiliation with SHIELD and the Avengers Initiative was sure to follow.
In his mind there was only one last thread connecting him to the world he lived in now.
Right now she was a couple hundred miles away and he was almost positive this mission of hers – only a couple weeks, she had told him – was sure to be the final nail in his coffin.
A couple of weeks …
He wanted to tell Natasha and he would have much earlier in their relationship had he had a better idea of what her reaction might be. The longer he waited the worse it would get, he told himself.
He needed to tell her, he needed her help but how could she trust him after he’d spent nearly fifteen years lying to her? He and Coulson were the only people she had ever trusted – even Fury was still on the fence.
It hadn’t just been a lie about his past, about what he had done before, about the blood that covered his hands. She knew all that. All of it.
This was a matter of lying about who he is.
That, in Clint’s opinion, was far graver a betrayal.
If – when – he lost Natasha, it would truly be over. After that he’d be nothing. He would have nothing.
“Fuck. Goddamnit!” Clint growled and before he could stop himself his fist was colliding with the mirror, shattering the thing into knife-like shards, cutting his knuckles to ribbons.
Clint stared at the blood streaming down into the sink and than back up at the remaining shards, stubbornly stuck to the mirror’s backboard and hell, he can’t help but hate everything he sees.
He’s been told, more than once, that he had just been born unlucky, that the stars hadn’t been aligned correctly or Mercury had been in retrograde, or some crap like that.
Whether it was true or not, Clint couldn’t really say; he never put much stock in astrology or horoscopes. He did, however, believe wholeheartedly in genetics and if he were to point the finger it would be right at the old gene pool.
And his gene pool was royally screwing him on a daily basis.
It was only a matter of time.
Phil had been the last thing standing between him and what Clint could only assume was death caused by the slow pull of insanity.
“I – I think I’m losing it, Phil. I can’t do this.” Clint said when it got really bad, hen he couldn’t stop feeling so angry for reasons unknown to him, or when he was riding high on the lies of someone else’s happiness, only to come crashing down back to himself. He didn’t even know who he was anymore, what he felt for anything or anyone.
Was he human at all?
“You can. You will.” When it got this bad Clint could swear he felt warm, encompassing waves of what he thought might be love, but that was absolutely ridiculous; he knew it was coming from someone else, someone far away who didn’t even know him, someone who certainly didn’t love him.
“Look at me, Clint. You are strong and you will survive because you know no other way. We can do this.”
Clint took in a shuddering breath as he wiped the back of his hand across hi sweat-soaked forehead; he could feel the warmth of his own blood smearing across his face but he didn’t care.
Positive emotions were the worst; everyday he lived under the promise of love and excitement and happiness and by the end of the day it was gone, stolen away from him by their respective owners.
That is what would drive him insane, more than the grief and anger and fear …
And really, he wouldn’t be the first mutant driven into insanity by whatever ‘gift’ the X-Gene had bestowed upon him, had cursed him with.
“It’s not a curse unless you allow it to be, Clint.” Phil said softly; the room painted in warm compassion.
That was what Phil had always called it; it’s what Phil said every time he had a particularly bad day, the kind of day, like today, where his brain is doing the best to murder him and in the most confusing way possible.
Phil had been the only one to have ever called it a gift and for a long time Clint had believed him. But now, with him gone, it was back to being what it truly was, what it always had been.
A fucking curse.
A shrill chirp stole his attention and he realized after a moment that his phone was ringing.
Clint grabbed a bunched up piece of cloth, a T-shirt, and wrapped it around his knuckles as he crossed the room to retrieve the phone that was threatening to vibrate itself of the bedside table.
“Barton.” He said with forced ennui; it was only half convincing, judging by the pause on the other end of the line.
“Briefing Room, twenty minutes. Wheels up at 1100.” Fury’s tone was of the ‘absolutely-no-bullshit’ variety and Clint was glad for it.
He never had to worry about the Director; he was made up of a predictable blend of emotions that never bordered on any extreme: frustration, focus, shades of anger, some creepy bastardization of calm and pride.
Only the last had been surprising.
“Copy that.” Clint suited up and gathered his weapons and hoped for a mission far, far away, somewhere where empathy couldn’t touch him.
The mission in Yambol and it should have been perfect.
For six days Clint sat in his sniper’s perch, watching the target through his scope, wondering why it wasn’t going away.
When the time came he took the shot; it was perfect and clean and is followed by chaos as the target’s men tries to find him.
They wouldn’t, but he ran regardless, trying to ignore the anger and fear and confusion rolling towards him like a tide.
Clint had hoped to find Natasha waiting for him upon his return but as soon as he set foot in Stark Tower he knew she wasn’t there.
This was the other (less terrible) part of his so-called gift.
It was of the more passive variety, existing within him, unable to be manipulated or used as was the case with his empathy.
Phil had been the one to explain this to him; upon finding out about his ‘condition’ Coulson had managed to read through every scientific publication by Dr. Moira MacTaggert and had blazed through Dr. Hank McCoys eight-hundred paged thesis concerning genetic mutation and the growing prevalence of the ‘x-gene.’
“The more we know about your mutation,” Clint cringed. He hated that word, more than anything else he’s ever been called, and Phil knew that. He was trying to get the archer used to the idea that ‘mutant’ wasn’t the same as ‘freak’ or ‘outcast’, “the better we can deal with it.”
“Knowledge is power?” Clint asked, flipping through McCoy’s Bible-sized thesis but not really taking anything in. Genetics had never been his strong suit and each sentence was littered with words so foreign to him they gave him a headache.
Coulson had explained each part of McCoy’s and MacTaggert’s work to him in depth; most of it was a painful account concerning the progression of evolution and the diversity in which the ‘x-gene’ presented itself but when Coulson started talking primary and secondary mutations Clint found himself paying close attention.
Clint couldn’t even be sure whether he would have recognized his ‘secondary’ ability for what it was had Phil not shared the information with him.
Until that moment he had just thought that he was extremely spatially adept.
Though it was separate from his empathy, it operated in a similar fashion.
He knew where the others were – Tony, Steve, Bruce, Thor, Pepper – because he could feel them.
“Emotional GPS.” Coulson grinned as he picked through MacTaggerts paper entitled ‘ the expression of the x-gene in subjects wth kinesthesia and special awareness.’
It was a ridiculous thing to say but for the first time in perhaps ever Clint could laugh about it.
Tony and Bruce were twelve floors below in the R&D lab. There was a touch of giddiness there, excitement even, and it wasn’t hard to surmise that it was mostly coming from Tony. The man almost always carried some form of excitability with him; on his best days it was so intense it was frighteningly contagious. Clint had once been reduced to giggles by proxy and that had earned him more than a few strange looks.
Excitement wasn’t the only thing surrounding the two; if anything it was the lesser emotion.
Clint could feel their focus, their intensity, sure, but there was also the sticky, self-resentment, the pain they both tried to hide on a daily basis.
Anger, however, was the strongest emotion. It was as though Bruce was anger-incarnate and it was at constant odds with the genuine, wonderful kindness within him.
Pepper, light and airy and so calm she could be a female Phil, was a few floors down; she was the perfect picture of focus. She exuded confidence and she was undoubtedly comfortable in her own skin.
Clint liked her. She, like Natasha, like Phil, was easy to understand; there were no undercurrents or confusing fluctuations in her emotional state. She was steady and straightforward and, like Banner, so naturally kind.
If he ever found a way to separate everyone, to pull apart the chaotic colors of their emotion, so mushed together that it was almost black, he would spend more time with the woman, but until then, not even her confidence could combat Bruce’s anger of Tony’s self-hate.
Steve, like Pepper, was full of good and positive things, but like Tony and Bruce and everyone else in the world, there was something toxic he held close to his heart.
Steve was down in the gym, uncertainty and trepidation spilling off him, further confirmation that the man was trying to bear the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Thor was perhaps the loudest of them all; he talked the loudest, walked – stomped – the loudest and felt the loudest.
Where Fury was a man who didn’t edge on extremes, Thor was a man who avoided the in between at all costs. Currently, he was feeling some very extreme amusement in what Clint guessed was the theatre.
He knew he should probably check in with someone, let them know he was back safe and not dead but that wonderful adrenaline was wearing off and those stupid shields, the ones Phil informed him all those with ‘psychic’ mutations had, were cracking again.
So, he decided to do what Phil always told him not to do.
“Don’t shut yourself away, Clint. Don’t hide from those who want to help you.” Phil said, voice low and there it was again. Affectionate. Caring. Loving.
Clint took the stairs to his floor, not wanting to risk running into anyone, and quietly made his way into the bedroom.
He locked the door behind him.
“I really don’t think he needs or wants that, Tony.” Bruce said from the workbench, his hands working delicately over impossible tiny screws with an impossibly tiny screwdriver – he was fairly certain Tony was messing with him because he knew the man had at least twelve robots that could do this job, but he decided to humor him.
A humored, distracted Tony was a less likely to cause trouble Tony.
“It’s not a matter of need or want, it’s a matter of responsibility.” Bruce quirked an eyebrow as Tony filled the arrow tip with what looked like glitter on steroids. “It is my responsibility to share this creation with the world. A terrible burden, I assure you. But I will endure and Barton will benefit from my sacrifice.”
Bruce couldn’t help but roll his eyes.
He didn’t know Barton all that well but he was fairly certain the archer wouldn’t find much use for arrows that spontaneously shot fireworks and glitter as they flew. He wasn’t even sure why Tony had thought of it in the first place.
He should probably ask.
“Tony, why –“ Before he could get an answer to the burning question, JARVIS’s soft lilt filled the lab.
“Sir, excuse my intrusion, but Agent Barton has returned.”
“Splendid. Have him meet me at the archery range, let him know I have some toys for him to try out.” Tony could hardly keep his devious expression in check as he gathered an armful of arrows, all of which did an array of utterly useless things.
“Of course, sir.”
There was a small pause, presumably because JARVIS and Clint were speaking, and then the AI is back, his tone regretful.
“I am sorry, sir, but Agent Barton has politely declined.” Tony seemed genuinely surprised, his lips tilting into a frown.
“What? Why –“
“He just got back from his mission, Tony. He’s probably tired –“ Bruce offered as he let loose a small curse as he stripped a screw.
Tony ignored the voice of reason and grabbed his phone.
His phone buzzed and Clint lifted the arm cast over his face with no small amount of caution. As he suspected it was a text message from Stark.
The adrenaline has faded and his headache is back and this is the last thing he wanted to deal with. Exhausted, Clint let the phone rest on his stomach as he closed his eyes again, trying to sleep and escape the tingling under his skin.
His phone buzzed again.
Very rude. Is that anyway to treat the genitals developing the arrows that will change everything you know about archery.
Clint stared at the text and it would have been funny if his skin hadn’t been fucking crawling.
Fuck autocorrect. Genius*
Clint could feel Tony’s exasperation from here and it was only making things worse, stacking on top of his fatigue and Thor’s melancholy – the movie must have been a real downer – and Bruce’s weird version of anger.
If you don’t come down here within fifteen minutes I’m coming up there. I’ll bring Dum-E. He’s particularly malfuctiony today.
Clint groaned and rolled out of bed.
Tony wasn’t quite prepared for the sight that greeted when he turned around to the sound of the Agent’s voice.
He looked like absolute shit and that was putting it nicely. He looked as though he hadn’t slept in weeks; the dark bruises under his eyes standing out in stark contrast against his pale skin. The lighting probably wasn’t helping but this looked to be beyond a little fatigue.
Tony glanced over at Bruce and he could tell by the man’s expression that he shared his sentiments.
“Bruce.” Clint nodded in the man’s direction, his voice rough and sure, he’d just come back from a weeklong SHIELD field trip or whatever but really, it shouldn’t have worn on a seasoned agent like himself. Right?
“Now what was so import –“ Clint didn’t get the chance to finish because it seemed to Tony that he was just going to ignore the fact that he had come down here looking like the walking dead.
“Um, before we talk about that, what the hell happened?” Clint didn’t look particularly put off by the question, if anything he looked, well, it was hard to say, Clint’s resting face is extremely deceiving.
“What?” Clint asked in a deadpan, his voice still a little too … contained.
From what Tony had read in the man’s dossier – it made for rather lovely reading material – Clint had always been mouthy, had bordered on insubordination and was a quick with words as he was with that bow.
Tony couldn’t help but think one of two things. A, SHIELD’s analysis of the man’s personality was tragically inaccurate or, B, something had changed and seeing as Tony had only truly met the man after the attack on New York, he’d bet a whole lot more than 15% of his company that that particular event had been the catalyst.
“What do you mean ‘what’? You look like shit. Bruce. Confirm.” Tony looked to the scientist for help and it was testament to how terrible the other man looked that Bruce actually backed him up.
“Are you feeling unwell?” Bruce asked in soft tones. He would always have more tact than Tony.
“I’m fine.” Clint looked about everything but fine but it wasn’t so much just the fading bruises on his jaw or the sunken, tired appearance.
In the short time Tony has known the man he’s never seen him fidget so damn much. Now, it wasn’t easy to spot; he wasn’t ringing his hands or shifting his weight or any of those obvious tells.
It was a slight twitch in his right brow, the way his muscles bunched in his jaw as he clenched his teeth.
Tony quirked his head as he took in the small beads of sweat collecting at the man’s temples; it was hardly noticeable but Tony was no stranger to what was going on in front of him.
He’s hiding something.
“Tony, if he says he’s fine –“ Bruce must sense something as well because it sounded so terribly placating.
“I don’t think that word means what you think it means.” Tony supplied as he rounded his workbench to face Clint more directly, those ridiculous arrows long forgotten.
“I’m fine, Stark.” Clint grit out as he crossed his arms in front of his chest, taking the slightest step backwards.
“Is Fury treating you right –“ Tony poked.
“Stark.” Was it just Tony or did the archer’s voice waver ever so slightly?
“ – or maybe the Widow’s absence is weighing on your romantic soul –“ Tony prodded.
Tony wasn’t an idiot or completely socially inept; he knew he should back off, that this was a somewhat … aggressive attempt to get the truth out of the man but Tony really didn’t know another way.
And it wasn’t like he was asking that much. If they couldn’t have a bro-chat once in a while Tony really couldn’t see how this was going to work.
The man was living in his freaking tower and yet not a single one of them knew anything about him, save for Natasha and they knew even less about her.
Tony wanted to get to know the apparent ass-hat SHIELD’s Agent database raved about. He’d been trying, really. There was the archery range on the floor below Clint’s, the catwalks that were completely unnecessary, unlimited access to their hideously large stockpile of pop tarts, and here he is extending the olive-arrow-branch of peace and goodwill and all that other junk and the man is acting like an absolute jerk.
Clint had been brooding long enough and based on the man’s appearance he couldn’t take much more of it … whatever it was.
Clint had once taken a bullet to his right scapula in an ambush in Mogadishu; the intel had been shit and after a twenty minute firefight he’d been the last one standing. Despite his near shattered shoulder blade and the terrible pull of blood loss he had managed to cross the border, hike twenty miles and remain lucid enough to make some ridiculous remark as he collapsed into the safety of Phil’s arms.
That had been hell.
This was worse.
Though the lab was large, Clint felt like he was suffocating.
Tony was talking – always talking – and Clint was doing his best to hold it together. He could hear what the man was saying but it was making less and less sense as he went. It wasn’t Tony’s fault. He was still speaking English and saying things Clint knew, subconsciously, to be completely valid, albeit annoying.
It was just that his ears were sort of ringing and the pounding in his head was making everything sound waterlogged; it also didn’t help that Tony’s rising excitement, sprinkled with small jabs of frustration, was clashing so incredibly with Bruce’s ever present anger and that smattering of disapproval.
It was directed at Tony but it didn’t quite feel that way.
He knew better than to take Bruce’s disapproval and project it onto himself; logically he knew it wasn’t for him, wasn’t directed at him but it didn’t matter.
All that progress he had made - or thought he had made, maybe he had been tricking himself all along – was crumbling down an unending slope.
“We’re making progress.” Phil’s voice was soft and proud as Clint blinked up at him, coming out of the meditative state Phil had helped him into, the one that had sounded so stupid initially.
“Yeah?” It was all he could really manage because there were no words for how he was feeling; it was almost as though he were a normal person. Is this what it was like to have your headspace to yourself?
“Yeah.” He decided after giving it a moment to settle.
“How do you feel?” Phil asked tenderly as he handed Clint a bottle of water, watching patiently as he downed the entire thing. The archer exhaled, a sound so bordering contentment Phil was almost at a loss for words, and fixed his handler with a serious gaze.
“In control. Like –“ Clint shook his head, unsure of how to express it in a way that did it justice, “- like this is how I was meant to be. It feels natural. Normal. I feel normal.”
Normal. Phil didn’t believe in the concept but he knew his Agent did and if the man didn’t look so damn content he would’ve lectured him on the ridiculousness of the word ‘normal.’
Phil’s expression slipped only for a moment, a frown gracing his features for a mere second as he watched the life and energy return to Clint’s eyes. He looked refreshed, more comfortable, but it only made everything so much more difficult.
Coulson couldn’t know know how long this would last but he was determined to help Clint to find a way to find balance.
“It’s so … quiet.” Clint remarked, his voice tinged with an incredible amount of wonderment and, in a way, it was childlike in its sincerity.
“Progress.” Phil said again, this time with a wide smile.
“Yeah. Progress.” Clint chuckled still in a state of disbelief. The archer stared down at his own hands for a moment, clearly basking in the peace his mind had found, and Phil watched as the smile faded and turned into something more serious.
“Phil.” The look on Clint’s face was enough to make his damn heart ache.
All that progress was being washed away with each stab of emotion.
Bruce was about to say something to halt this conversation turned near-interrogation when something caught his eye.
It had been in a moment of extreme frustration and disapproval when Tony’s name had begun to form on his lips when Clint flinched.
A God-honest flinch.
Bruce had never seen the man do that before.
Apparently, neither had Tony because the man’s blathering stopped almost instantly.
No one was really sure what happened next.
Clint Barton would never forget the day his mutation had manifested.
He didn’t feel good.
His head hurt and he felt nervous for no reason and no matter how much he told his parents he didn’t want to go to Michigan for a long weekend, that the car ride would only make him sick and he didn’t like Michigan anyway, they still made him.
They handed him a juice box and a carton of animal crackers and told him to try to sleep but how could he? Didn’t they know his skin was prickling? Didn’t they know his head felt fuzzy and weird and that it hurt so much it was making his eyes water?
As they pulled onto I-20 he told them he thought he was going to be sick.
Mom and Dad handed him an empty plastic bag and Barney punched him in the arm and told him to suck it up. Barney liked Michigan.
Another twenty minutes passed but he still felt dizzy; he told them so and Barney complained about how he ruined everything.
“Here, honey, maybe we should pull over.” His mom said as she unbuckled her seatbelt and leaned into the backseat, reaching to put the back of her hand against his forehead.
As soon as his mother’s hand touched his forehead his head split in two.
“He’s fine. Isn’t that right, Clint?”
Clint was too busy dealing with the rush of aggravation and concern and disappointment to answer. Tears previously unshed spilled down his cheeks as he felt his mother’s panic.
His chest tightened and he felt like he was dying.
“Mom, what’s wrong –“
“Harold, pull over!”
He could feel the car shifting to the right as he tried to regain his breath and did what felt natural. He pushed back.
“What –“ The atmosphere grew cold and he opened his eyes just in time to see his mother grow pale, her expression nothing but fearful, and his father throw a hand up to his forehead.
A moment later they merged into a semi truck bound for Chicago, the entire front cabin of their car rolling easily under its wheels.
Clint had told Phil about it but he’d never experience anything like it again, had never … pushed emotions like that, had never forced anyone to feel panic or fear or pain.
Psionic Inundation, Phil called it, reciting McCoy’s publishing.
Incredibly rare and potentially disastrous, a manifestation that, in it’s highest form, could kill.
“Clint –“ It was Bruce, the rational part of his mind supplied, but he couldn’t respond because what he was feeling now felt a lot like what had been feeling that terrible fucking day when he was six.
He could feel himself stumbling backwards in an almost desperate attempt to get away as he threw a hand up to his head. Something warm and thick was dripping from his nose now and he could tell by the way the back of his throat tasted like blood that he had just suffered a rather spontaneous nosebleed.
“Jesus, Clint –“ A hand wrapped itself around his wrist and all hell broke loose.
Pain. Anger. The resentment and fear and hatred desperation and denial and discomfortrageexhaustionterror-they’regoingtofindout,they’regoingtofindout-loneliness-Phil-painangerpainpain …
“I … I’m afraid it will happen again.” Clint wasn’t one to admit his fears. He had gone through most of this life wearing a brave face, pushing everyone and anyone away under the guise of stoicism and resentment and he’d done a damn good job surviving with what he had been dealt.
In a way it had been easier when he had been on his own, working as a hired gun for the military, the CIA, you name it. He didn’t need to worry or care about anyone then, only himself.
But now he had Phil and fuck, what if he hurt him? What if he killed him?
“Hey.” Phil broke him away from the terrible, toxic thoughts, a hand moving to cup his cheek. Clint couldn’t fight the urge to lean into it as his throat tightened.
He was so damn tired of fighting, of being alone.
“It won’t. Not while I’m around.”
A cold chill ran through the entirety of Stark tower and what followed brought its every occupant to their knees.
“Not while I’m around.”
Phil is gone.
Clint loses control.