Okay, so this? Looked bad. Even Clint had to admit that. He was shirtless and shoeless and hung from his wrists in the middle of an extremely bland room. He could just barely touch the floor with his toes, which was how he knew it was just as freezing as the rest of the place, and the room itself was a windowless affair with one entire wall comprised of bars that both overlooked an equally drab hallway and let others look in on him as they pleased.
In short: things sucked.
To be fair though, he had been in far worse conditions before. These guys even let him keep the bottom half of his uniform, sans anything useful in the pockets, and only pulled him up to hang when they thought they could intimidate him into telling them things. When he wasn't serving as a human punching bag, they let the slack out of the line he currently hung from and even let him sleep on a bare mattress and gave him an unopened can of broth for his meals, serving as both food and liquid at the same time. In comparison to past missions gone wrong, this was the fricken Hilton.
Still, he'd rather get out of this place if he could. There was a tv movie he had been waiting to see, and he rather missed his bow. A shirt would be nice too. Maybe a sweater given that he could see his breath in the dim light from the hallway last night.
His thoughts were interrupted when Big and Ugly came in. He spoke with an accent, somewhere from the Eastern Bloc though the exact area was hard to pin down, all muscles and scars and a face only a mother could love if she tried real hard.
He talked and Clint pretended to listen. He hit and Clint pretended not to feel it. He stormed away and Clint pretended to give a damn. He was a bit disappointed that he didn't get to go back to his mattress though - he was kind of tired. This must have been the "give him thirty minutes to think about replying" scenario. Wonderful. He might as well get comfortable.
Twenty minutes into his wait, the room shook, dust pouring down from the ceiling and walls and throwing Clint off of his delicate tiptoe perch. Another minute and another shake, this one accompanied by the light from the hallway changing from yellowish to reddish and the area filling with a really annoying alarm.
It would appear the calvary had arrived.
Three days was pretty damn good by SHIELD standards, but something still felt off. There were no methodical patterns to the explosions that rocked his little room, the bangs were accompanied by an odd sort of whine first, and the lights now sparked and sizzled like tiny little lightning storms. He blamed the cold and the whole lack of decent sleep thing for his surprise and sluggishness at realizing it was not a standard SHIELD extraction team bearing down on the complex, but the Avengers instead.
When Captain Fricken America came barreling around the corner, backlit by flashing red and smoke from the explosions, Clint felt he was more than justified in asking, "What the hell are you doing here?"
Cap, for his part, simply keyed his earpiece and said, "I found him. He doesn't look good."
"What?" Clint asked, surprised. Okay, so there were the bruises and the bloodied lip that had reopened, but he was fairly certain nothing was broken and that most of the little cuts wouldn't even need stitches. "I'm fine, this is nothing," he waved him off. Well, waved him off as much as he could with his hands still bound above his head.
There was a clank and a clatter and then, in testament to how weird his life had become, Iron Man appeared beside Captain America. The mask shot open and Stark looked at him critically before he announced, "No, really, you're not."
Clint looked heavenward, but found only stucco and chains. "What are you doing here?" he finally asked, knowing he was repeating himself but not really caring. He still had not gotten an actual answer out of them and, really, he had the right to be curious.
"Um, saving you?" Steve said, clearly confused at the reception he was getting.
"Wait, is this like the time we busted in on Natasha and she was pissed at us because she thought she was in the middle of an interrogation and we thought she was in the middle of an unanesthetized tooth extraction?" Tony guessed. "Because you kinda look like your targets left you hanging and were not exactly the sharing type."
Clint shook his head and, okay, the way the room took an extra moment to settle was new. "No, Nat's just insane. I was stupid enough to get caught and hadn't found a way out yet."
"Well then, this is your lucky day!" Tony grinned.
Steve for his part, held his finger to his ear and winced before he announced, "Our comms were open and Widow says to tell you she heard that." He looked apologetic, likely understanding the subtext to that statement.
Clint shrugged. It wouldn't be the first time Nat had wiped the floor with him over something he had said. Instead, he prompted, "So this rescue?"
"Oh!" Steve said, and swung his shield into position. He looked like he was going to hack the lock on the cell door open with brute strength. He tried once and sparks flew. He lifted his arm to try again, but was stopped by a gauntlet in his way.
"How about you take on the regiment that's on their way down here and I take out the door?" Tony suggested. He then went on to explain, "We know from the layout that the cell is on an outer wall, but if I start blasting bad guys, I could take out a central support beam and this whole thing comes down on us. Kinda ruins the whole 'rescue' part of today's events."
Steve agreed readily enough and they switched places. The room rung with the sound of metal and steel as he fought the first wave, and Tony stepped up to look at the setup of both the lock and the room. The bars were actually surprisingly sturdy, as evidenced by withstanding a direct hit from the shield, and Tony lifted a gauntlet, likely on instinct to blast at it, only to stop at the last moment when he realized just how small the cell was and how Clint was lined up directly with the door.
"Any chance you could swing a bit to the right?" he tried.
Clint eyed the position of the lock, the height and the trajectories of any likely blasts, and offered, "How about I do one better?"
He pushed off with his toes and grabbed on to the bit of chain above his head. He then curled himself inwards and upwards, body folding in half until he probably could have rested his feet against the ceiling, had he not known that stucco and bare feet sucked. He definitely felt it in his abs... and his glutes and his back and his arms and... but it did the job and got him safely out of the path of any potential damaging pulses. "Aim low," he reminded him, trying his best to keep his breath steady and to stay in one place.
"Circus freak," Tony accused without heat. He flipped his helmet back into position and took aim, the lock and a fair deal of the cell wall across from it crumbling under the force.
Clint lowered himself slowly and, if anyone asked, the unsteadiness was solely from the ringing in his ears. His feet now rested upon little shards of metal and stone, and he tried to settle them in a way that would equate to the least amount of slicing.
Speaking of blood, he noted the way Stark came storming into the room, only to pause, the eerie lights of his faceplate seeming to zero in on every single little stain not currently covered by the debris. There were plenty of them, which is why the action was noticeable, as was the way his voice was tinged with what sounded like actual concern when he asked, "Barton?"
"I'm fine," Clint sighed. He saw the way Tony's masked head kept darting back and forth though, and knew how little his teammate believed that. "Hey, here's a thought, instead of having that little robot computer of yours calculate the exact number of deciliters or whatever I bled out, why don't you ask it how to get me down from here?"
The snark worked as it pissed Tony off just enough to do something rash which, in this case meant shoot the chain above his head. Chunks of ceiling came raining down as did, unfortunately, the chain itself. While it felt good to lower his admittedly aching arms, the accompanying heavy length of metal crashing down on his shoulder was less than pleasant. The only redeeming part of it all was that it also bounced off the suit, making a satisfying clank that both seemed to startle Stark and make enough noise to catch Cap's attention.
"Do I need to remind you that this is a rescue mission, not a 'torture the archer' mission?" Steve called from in front of a growing pile of discarded bad guys. There was a pause and he did the thing where he cocked his head to the side slightly as he listened to his radio, and then he added, "Widow claims she has first rights to that." There was another pause, followed by, "And now she is explaining to Thor that she was only kidding."
"Partially kidding," Tony muttered, though Clint was not sure if he was correcting the quote or making an educated guess. "He's fine by the way, especially if you ask him. I am too, not that you asked."
"You're in armor, he's in chains," Steve pointed out as he smashed against another attacker.
"Yeah, about that..." Clint prompted. He held his hands up, but Stark shook his head.
"I blast that and I blast you - that's a no go, but the way," Tony explained. Instead, he called over his shoulder, "Hey Mom, you want a go at the chains and I'll have a go at the goons?"
Steve slid back and Tony slid forward, with only a gentle reminder not to bring the building down on them passed in between. Captain America tried to break solid rings of metal with his bare hands, while Iron Man tried to take down guards without using any actual weapons. Clint wasn't sure who had the more difficult task.
Cap managed to break the loop that held his wrists together, but had some trouble with the manacles themselves. He stretched the right one and Clint was able to slide his hand through, aided in part by a bit of his own blood and skin. He reached for the other one, which happened to be the one weighed down with the most chain, but Clint caught movement out of the corner of his eye and stopped him.
"Duck!" he shouted and, as a testament to the amount of trust Steve had for him, he immediately did so.
Clint swung the chain outward and upward, connecting solidly with Big and Ugly's head. He had been wondering where he had wandered off to. It was not enough to bring him down, but it was enough to split open his face all nice and bloody like. The man growled something that was definitely not in English and lunged towards him.
Cap moved to step forward and block the blow with his shield, but Clint neatly stepped around him and declared, "Oh no, this bastard is mine."
He wasn't sure if Steve actually said anything to that or not, because he was too busy dipping low and swinging high, feeling the chain connect with its target again and again. There was a punch, and yeah, that rib was sore, and another swing and then the feel of a tac vest beneath his feet as he kicked out. It didn't take long for the guy to figure out what Clint's current weapon of choice was, and he reached out with one beefy hand and grabbed the length of metal only inches away from his face and tugged.
Clint let the momentum carry him forward, using the man's grip as a pivot point as he jumped and spun, wrapping the chain around Big and Ugly's neck as he landed. Now it was his turn to tug and, though the guy lashed out more than once, he eventually landed with a satisfying thud on the broken ground.
Clint yanked the chain free from the now unconscious body and looked up to find Iron Man staring at him, hands on his hips. "You have some serious anger management issues, has anyone ever told you that?" Tony's voice resonated from inside the suit.
"Yeah," he agreed, panting perhaps a bit more than he'd like them to see, especially if he was to keep up this whole being fine facade. "Pretty much every psych eval I've ever had."
Tony laughed and Steve shook his head, and then it was simply the matter of making their way through piles of unconscious bad guys to find the rest of the team.
Natasha was waiting at the entrance with Thor, though Clint had seen more than a bit of her handiwork littering the hallways. She took one look at him, bruised and bloodied as he was, and scoffed, "That counts as not looking good? Baby."
"Hey, those were Cap's words, not mine," he reminded her. "I keep telling everyone that I'm-"
"Fine," she chorused with the rest of them. She holstered one of her weapons and raised an eyebrow in his direction. "I seem to remember some other words you said as well," she told him.
He winced, even though he had known at the time those words would come back to haunt him. He then winced again as Thor clapped one massive hand upon his shoulder, right where the chain had landed. "Friend Barton, I am pleased to see you are well," he said with a nod as if that settled that. With him, it probably did. Clint was alive, Clint was breathing, and Clint lived on to fight another day. Really, who could complain?
Apparently Tony could. He babbled on about needing to buff the chain marks out of his armor and then asked how Clint planned on buffing them out of his skin and then went on about the stupidity of the bad guys and how it wasn't really a true challenge and it took Clint a stupidly long time to realize that, while the rest of their teammates were nodding along, they were also herding him towards a waiting transport. One with the annoying logo for SHIELD medical.
"I'm fine," he repeated again, some more, for another time.
He'd say it fell on deaf ears, but a new voice replied, "Of course you are, and I'm just here to make surer you stay that way."
He looked up to find Bruce in a neat shirt and khakis, nothing torn, ripped, or out of place about him. The Hulk might not have been needed, but Clint was self-aware enough to admit something internal settled in to place to see the final member of their team there at his side.
"Are you going to make sure in a pharmaceutical way?" he asked hopefully, only partially joking. He ached and he was tired and he was pretty damn cold now that the wind hit his bare skin and, really, if that's the way they wanted it to go down, he wasn't sure he'd be able to protest all that much. He hated being drugged out of his gourd, but if it meant he was safe and sound and had his team to watch over him, he might just be willing to negotiate.
Instead, Banner just smiled one of his damned enigmatic smiles and shrugged, "If you prefer."
Bruce didn't reach for him and didn't even really blink, but Clint felt something sharp jab him in the neck all the same. He turned to glare at a sweetly smiling Natasha, and felt more than a single pair of hands push him down on the waiting cot while Stark's strangely echoing voice commented, "She's really good at that, isn't she?"
Which is how Clint found himself with damn near no memory of how he got back from his little vacation in the middle of nowhere save for the comfort of warm blankets, the gentle sway of movement, and the hushed voices bickering over who was right and who was wrong and who owed each other what this time out.
When he woke, he was honestly surprised to find himself not in some sterile SHIELD infirmary, but tucked into his own bed, multiple comforters piled on top of him, and the room temp set to near sweltering. There were crisp bandages over the worst of his wounds, but he was still streaked with dirt elsewhere and still wore the tiny bit of clothing they had found him in. He laid there for a moment, assessing the situation, but could find nothing obviously wrong or threatening about it. He had barely kicked off the layers when he heard a rousing call of, "He's up!"
He wasn't sure if JARVIS had tattled on him, or if one or more of his teammates had provided a far more active watch, but he did know that soon enough everyone crowded in around the bed. They were all so clean and neat in comparison to his admittedly rumpled appearance, but no one seemed to mind.
"Burger or soap first?" Tony asked, dangling a bag of something just outside of his reach. He was in jeans and what probably counted as a clean shirt for him, only one noticeable streak of grease across the dark gray.
"If that's from Manny's on Main, hell yeah I want the burger first," he replied. He reached for it and, yeah, he was going to be feeling this one for a few days, and frowned when it was pulled back out of his way.
"Can you even eat this? Or are you going to throw up and be all gross?" Tony asked, making a face.
Natasha, sweet and beautiful Natasha, grabbed the bag out of his hands and tossed it to Clint, who caught it neatly. "Lighten up, Stark, it was only three days," she told him.
"Well, four when you count the fact Mr. Hotshot here slept for like nearly eighteen hours," Tony corrected.
"I was tired," Clint said around a mouthful of beefy goodness. He paused only long enough to take a drink from the soda that Steve provided, and then dug right back in.
Tony made a face, either at his eating habits or the state of his person. Probably the filth given that his next comment was, "You sure you don't want to bathe first? Because that thing will totally heat up again and this time you'll be able to eat it without a side order of tetanus or diphtheria or something." Like he was really one to talk; Clint had seen the state of his workshop.
Clint happily flipped him off and finished off the burger, ecstatic to find another one waiting for him. He was sore, he was exhausted, and he was leaving who knew what on Stark's expensive sheets, but he was home, he was safe, and he was surrounded by people he cared about and who, somehow, seemed to care about him as well.
All in all, it could've sucked a whole lot more.
He looked around the room to his teammates, to his friends, to the dirty bow leaning up against the wall that he didn't even remember anyone grabbing, and to the greasy goodness in his hands and contemplated just what the whole 'team' thing meant in the grand scheme of things. Then he decided that, yeah, he could definitely get used to this.