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Nobody Panic This Time

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“Get in, losers, we’re going shawarmaing.”

Stark’s halfway into the limo before he finally notices they’re not trailing behind him like baby ducks anymore.  He turns around, sees them still clustered in front of the entrance to the Tower, and sighs.  “Really?  Mean Girls?  None of you?  I mean, you I get –” He gestures to Banner, Thor, and Rogers, who all look equally blank.  “But not even you two?”

Clint and Natasha reply with identical uncomprehending expressions.  Stark heaves another sigh.  “We’re definitely having a movie night, because what I just witnessed?  That was criminal.  Now look, we saved the world.  I think we’re entitled to some downtime, and I saw a shawarma place while I was dying on the pavement.  I’m buying.  Let’s go.”  He slides into the car with the practiced grace of a man who lives in limousines.  Banner follows, knotting his fingers together, and Thor clambers in awkwardly.  His shoulders barely fit through the door and that ridiculous cape of his gets caught on the handle.

“Might as well,” Natasha says, going over to help Thor untangle himself before he rips the entire door off out of frustration.  Clint glances back over his shoulder.  Fury (who showed up about five minutes after all the fighting ended) gives him a look that expressly says get the fuck out before I use your eyes as cocktail onions and turns back to the small crowd of SHIELD agents he’s addressing, so Clint squeezes in after Rogers.  It’s not a small limo, but Thor and Rogers are twice the size of normal men and Stark’s ego fills about three seats all on its own.  Clint tucks himself into the corner next to Natasha, leans his head back, and does his best not to fall asleep.

He’s so fucking tired.  Loki didn’t let his subordinates sit down for more than five minutes at a time, much less sleep or eat – he kept them going though a mixture of magic and sheer will.  A great honking asshole he might be, but the little fucker was determined.  Clint would admire that sort of pure pigheadedness if Loki hadn’t crawled into his skin and reorganized his brain, taking that unswerving loyalty to people he actually gave a damn about and redirecting it towards himself and shelving everything else. 

Stark is saying something as the limo purrs to life, but Clint misses most of it.  Three days of no rest are catching up to him now that he’s not riding the biggest adrenaline rush of his life.  And he can’t hope for proper sleep post-shawarma, there’s going to be debriefing after debriefing after debriefing, because Coulson is thorough to a fault, and then mandatory psychiatric evaluations where they’re going to pick Clint’s brain apart and demand answers he can’t give because he can’t remember everything he did under Loki’s control.  He remembers Natasha kicking his ass on the Helicarrier, he remembers blowing up a few trillion dollars’ worth of SHIELD technology (god, he hopes they don’t take that out of his paycheck), he thinks he might have shot Fury at some point, but almost everything else is coated in a pale blue glaze and when he tries to scrape it away to get to the memories beneath, he just gives himself a headache.

Someone squeezes his wrist, and Clint opens his eyes to find that they’ve stopped.  There’s absolutely nothing resembling a restaurant outside.  “We have to walk a few blocks,” Natasha explains when he gives her a questioning look, removing her hand from his arm.  “Too much debris in the street.”

Walking’s kind of the last thing Clint wants to do when he’s this tired.  He’s hungry, though, so he obediently climbs out behind her and follows the rest of the motley crew along the sidewalk.  He’d forced down a few chalky protein bars on the plane so he wouldn’t crash mid-world-saving shenanigans, but they didn’t make up for several days of malnutrition and his stomach feels tight and empty.

“Here it is,” Stark calls from up ahead, sidestepping half a car and opening the door to a nondescript if battered little restaurant.  Two people inside – the owners, Clint presumes – look up from their sweeping and stare as they all shuffle through the door.  “Hey, uh,” Stark pulls his wallet from his back pocket and holds it up, “can we eat here?" 

They both gape at him, like maybe they’re a little dumbfounded by having Tony Stark walk into their restaurant and ask for food an hour after aliens invaded Manhattan.  The man recovers first and says, “Yes, yes,” hastily righting one of the few unbroken tables.  Rogers rushes over to help him and Stark, smirking, waves the rest of them up to the counter to order.

Clint not only knows what shawarma is, he’s had it before – unlike Stark, which is something not a lot of people can probably say – so it’s not much of an adventure to him.  He slumps into one chair and props his leg up on another.  His ankle (and his back, and his neck, and his shoulders…) protested the impromptu trip through a window and there’s a steady, slow ache crawling up his calf.  Natasha detaches herself from the group a moment later and nudges Clint’s foot over so she can sit down.  “Are you all right?” she says quietly.

“Yeah,” he replies.  “Just exhausted.  I haven’t slept in a while.”

Natasha scrutinizes him, then nods and leans back.  The others file over one by one, fit a few extra chairs around the table and flop into them, and just like that they’ve gone from heroes to a bunch of tired, hungry people in weird clothes.  There are bruises under Banner’s eyes, Thor’s been carrying around this melancholy air ever since they’d turned his brother over to SHIELD custody, and Natasha looks only somewhat less close to collapse than Clint feels. Rogers glances around at the destruction before muttering, “Tony, are you sure we should be here?” Stark blinks, and he goes on, “There’s a lot of damage, and we’re asking them to make us food.”

“Relax, Cap,” Stark says, “I will tip them very well… that should cover most of the repairs.”  Rogers, mollified, says nothing more, and no one speaks again until the food arrives.

Curiously, by the time Clint gets his shawarma, he doesn’t actually want it.  The sharp clench of hunger has evolved to a roiling nausea.  He’s not too queasy to eat, but it’s getting close, so he takes a bite and figures if he pukes, he’ll get Stark to up the tip.  Aside from Stark’s “Huh, this is good,” and Thor’s booming declaration of enjoyment, they eat in silence.  It’s comfortable, companionable.  Like they’re really a team.

Clint’s not entirely on board with this whole ‘team’ thing, yet.  He doesn’t play well with others.  That deficiency, along with a hefty dose of insubordination and a dick of a commanding officer, is what got him kicked out of the Marines after two years of service (well, the official reason was somewhat different, but he knows the truth).  He promptly earned the highest score in SHIELD history on the marksmanship exam and became a valuable asset to the organization in half that time.  They’ve let him work alone, or with Natasha, who’s like a part of himself, until now.  Still, if he has to be on a team, it might as well be made up of the biggest pack of freaks this side of Earth.

He only gets halfway through his shawarma before becoming unbearably nauseated.  He picks at some French Fries for a minute and concludes that nothing else is going down without making a quick return trip.  It’s unnerving, that he’s literally incapable of eating – he went for an entire week without food once, proceeded to inhale a pack and a half of Oreos regardless of sound medical advice, and felt perfectly fine.  Of course, prior to that, he’d been dry heaving all over the place because taking his meds on an empty stomach wasn’t –

Oh, fuck.

The nausea, it’s a fucking aura, he’s getting lightheaded and he has maybe ten more seconds before he loses consciousness.  He tries to say something, but nothing happens and nobody’s paying attention, not even Stark, Clint’s looking right at him and he’s studying his shawarma.  None of them have any idea what’s coming and he almost wishes he could watch this because it might actually be morbidly funny.

Everything tips on its side.  His vision grays out.  

Oh, fuck, he thinks again, and he’s gone.