A flicker on the radar was the only sign that things were about to go pear-shaped. Clint may have had his issues with Stark from time to time, but he trusted his tech and if the tech said something was there, even for the briefest of moments, it was probably there.
"Incoming," he called, and took evasive maneuvers against something that the systems now claimed never existed. There was a shudder and a whir of air displacement near the wing, and he swore he caught the glint of silver out of the corner of his eye.
Natasha, of course, was at his side in a moment, crowding him in the tiny cockpit of the latest Stark luxury jet Tony had insisted on taking and demanding, "What did you see?"
She eyed the readings, perfectly blank and normal, and then pushed forward to look out the small window herself. It warmed him a little to know she trusted him more than the massive machine that carried them thousands of feet in the air. A massive machine that was unarmed against whatever it was he had seen because Tony had wanted to show off his new toy to the two senators and congressman they were escorting instead of using the standard, and neatly weaponized, Quinjet.
"Vanished from the sensors," he told her. He twisted more on instinct than on any quantitative evidence, and was rewarded with another glint of silver. "If I was to guess, I'd say it was one of those," he finished. He only wished he was surprised when the glint whipped back around to bear down on them once more.
He twisted again and felt Natasha steady herself against his chair, her own innate balance doing for her what a five-point harness was attempting to do for him. He spared a glance at the screen that showed past the short and narrow passageway behind him to check on the others. Steve had buckled himself in and looked to be demonstrating to their guests how to assume the crash position which was really an awesome statement on his confidence in Clint's flying abilities. Thor was standing and trying to look though the little port holes as though he could both see and destroy the nuisance through sheer force of will alone. Tony was, of course, striding towards the cockpit, looking arrogant as ever in a suit that probably cost more than Clint's monthly salary and that was saying a lot, and bitching that Clint was trying to break his latest toy. At least he had activated a comm unit on either his tablet or the wall so Clint could hear him through the headphones he currently wore, so score one for consideration. As for Bruce, Clint was just glad that the big guy was already on the carrier and not crammed into a little sardine can being pelted by something likely explosive.
"Was that a missile?" Tony asked as the plane shook and shuddered another time. He pulled up a display on the tablet and muttered, "But why isn't it showing on the sensors?"
Clint cycled through several disparaging comments as he avoided what was definitely now two little silver glinting things, and finally settled on the practical reply of, "Visual confirmation only."
"But I designed these things myself," Tony protested, pulling up screen after screen, searching for something that simply was not there. Stark tech was good, damned good, but someone had clearly found a way around it. Of course, Tony being Tony, it only took him a minute or two before he said, "Ha! Found you, you bastards!" A few more clicks and he announced, "Barton, uploading the upgrade now. You should be able to see the little fuckers in a moment."
Clint was tempted to tell him that he already was seeing them, had been seeing them all along, and, hey, isn't that how he'd been avoiding them thus far? He refrained though, knowing there was a time and a place to get into the instinct versus technology debate, and in the midst of an attack against a jet high above the earth was possibly not the best of options.
His displays dinged, and then started flashing all sorts of warning and alarms that served to do nothing more than distract him. Natasha neatly flipped each one to silent, glowering in Tony's general direction, but did not say a word as Tony began to rattle off the specs on what he was seeing and calculate the best way to counterattack or evade without any actual weapons on the jet. She looked ready to take the copilot's seat for herself, hand hesitating above her own headset, but wisely reached towards their gear instead. If this thing wanted them down, and it was pretty obvious it did, she would be far more useful armed and ready than strapped to a chair.
One of the things nipped a rear stabilizer and Clint fought to compensate while bitching that maybe "missile" was not the correct word considering the damn thing swung back around again.
"Missile is a perfectly acceptable word," Tony insisted, still pounding away at his tablet. "Missile simply means projectile and not all missiles go boom."
"Most of the ones aimed at us do," Clint pointed out. He swerved again, and nodded in thanks when he saw Nat finally pull on a headset and send out the formal distress call to SHIELD.
"True," Tony conceded. "And no, I'm not getting into a linguistics debate with you right now because you will lose and we both know it and it will be very sad as you were doing so well with your 'Big Words for Little Men' self-help guide you hide under your pillow at night."
"Tony..." Steve warned, voice carrying through the comm. Clint could not tell if his head was still down, or if he had raised it to glare at them, but could picture the disapproving look on his face. He was using his chiding command voice though, which always seemed weird when it was not accompanied with the red, white, and blue of his uniform.
Stark ignored him and pressed on as though not interrupted, "But most missiles need a guidance system and a system is something I can hack into, which is something I am doing right now even though it is damned hard to do two of these suckers at once and, since I am currently doing it and said hacking lends credence to my definition of the word, I win and it's a damn missile." He paused as one swooped far too near to the cockpit window for anyone's liking and circled back around again. "It's just a very persistent and annoying missile and we should be glad that there are only two of them."
That was, of course, when a third silver glinty thing appeared and managed to slice right through the tail of the plane.
Tony cursed, Thor said something noble and probably held up his hammer, and Natasha gripped Clint's chair that much harder while Clint dealt with the obvious loss of the rudder and tried to keep them from careening into the planet. Yaw was a bitch to control without an actual stabilizer, and the gaping hole was not exactly helping matters either, but he was doing what he could for as long as he could, or at least until he passed out from lack of oxygen.
Tony's tablet was the first casualty, falling from his hands and getting sucked out of the rapidly decompressing plane while Tony tried to find something a bit more stable to hang on to. Clint attempted to bring them down in altitude, knowing it would probably make them that much easier to pick off, but also knowing he rather liked that whole pesky breathing/bloodflow/living thing and would like to keep tabs on that.
He spared a glance at the monitor when he heard Tony cursing even more colorfully than usual, and watched in horror as the other man started to lose his grip on the tiny little bit of solidness he had sought shelter with, fingers slipping and sliding and trying to find a hold even while his feet scraped against the carpet and his back slid along the little half-wall he had sought shelter behind.
"Stark!" Natasha yelled. She risked letting go of the chair to pry open the little closet behind them. A familiar red and gold suitcase appeared in her hands for a split second before she tossed it towards him. "Suit up if you can. You're of more use to us out there than you are smashed into Brooklyn or whatever else is below us."
Clint did not hear his response, but glanced away from the spiraling readouts in time to see Tony fully let go, hands shoved into a dissolving box of metal and suit forming around him even as he flew back into a blue and white abyss. Thor made a grab for him and, failing that, readily let go and sailed out behind him with a shout about how the suit might not being enough and it being better to have two warriors to protect the plane than none at all. Clint had no idea if the god-like alien would be able to save Tony, let alone the rest of the team, but figured he had a far better chance than anyone else, and wished him well.
For himself, he just wished the plane would stay in mostly one piece, or at least enough of one piece for him to set down the remaining portion in a less than death-inducing manner. "Chutes on!" he ordered. He knew there was no way for him to get to his own parachute, not and keep the plane steady enough for Natasha and Steve and their guests to disembark without risk of serious injury. There was a chance, a very slim one, that he could aid their departure, set the controls for a hopefully less than catastrophic crash, grab his own chute, and escape, but he was really not counting on that sort of miracle, not with their luck.
"Clint..." Nat started, but she also reached for where he knew the emergency chutes were stored, so at least there was that. She had likely read the situation the same way he had, and had come to the exact same conclusion.
He was going to say something witty and wry, maybe something about her needing to talk the Cap through modern chuck and bail techniques, but never got the chance. Another silver dart, and yes he was calling them darts solely because Tony called them missiles and he was trying really hard not to think of what was happening to Tony right now, collided with the left wing, ripping both the aileron and flap to shreds and sending them into a tailspin that he really hoped he could pull out of.
"Fuck," he swore, though it was mostly lost in the cacophony of alarms and sheering metal and the panicked shouts of everyone else. "Go!" he shouted, not being able to spare the attention away from the controls long enough to check to see if the others were going to be able to make it out.
There was a crash and a thud behind him, and he hoped it was only whatever the hell else was in the storage closet breaking free. The decompression and decent were getting to him though, and he found black encroaching on the edge of his vision, red spots dancing in front of his eyes and causing the instrument readings to blur and merge into something he could only translate as "not good." He thought he saw something green and open and edged with blue and brown and hoped it was not just a hallucination as he aimed for it, pulling up with everything he had and hoping to limit the inevitable damage. He never felt the impact, another glint of silver his last sight before everything spiraled down into nothingness.
His next coherent thought was that he was surrounded by darkness and in a hell of a lot of pain. The darkness he remedied when he forced his eyes open and noticed the red flashing lights of the few redundant control systems that were valiantly trying not to crap out on them. The pain had no direct remedy, save for pushing it to the back of his mind to deal with at later time, hopefully in the presence of opiate-based meds and a soft bed in a secure room.
First things first though. He needed a sit rep, or at least as much of one as was possible, and he really needed to know which of his friends and teammates were still around to bitch to.
He reached for his headset but discovered two very important things. The first was that the thing was knocked half off with one side spurting sparks and the other, which was thankfully the side still attached, not even managing a bit of static as it was well and truly fried. The second was that he couldn't really reach it at all as one arm and both legs were pinned beneath a mound of metal and wires from what he assumed were the remains of the cockpit.
"Shit," he groaned, both from the ache racing up the left side of his body and from not having access to the number one way of telling if the others made it out alive and well.
There was one possible alternative, and it depended on Stark being logical so he was not certain if he wanted to take any bets on it actually working. He focused as much of his concentration as he could manage on the blinking lights in front of him and, with something that was definitely not a moan, reached out as far as he could with his free hand and flipped what he hoped was the switch for the radio and not for the self-destruct.
The crumbled cockpit was immediately filled with a burst of white noise. The noise ebbed and waned and peaked right back up again but, within the jumble, he swore he heard a familiar pissed off voice demand, "Stark? Barton? Reply, damn it!"
"I would love to, Director Fury, but I highly doubt you could hear me right now," Clint choked out. His lungs still hurt from the decompression, and he doubted the bits of dust and metal raining down on him were doing them much good either.
Either the lights were fading or he was beginning to pass out again, so he closed his eyes and concentrated on the noise as much as he could, hoping to glean something important out of the little bits and pieces he was able to make out. In between the bursts of static and Fury's cursing, he thought he heard something new, something softer, something closer.
"Clint? Barton? Where are you?" Romanov's voice finally sunk in through everything else. By her tone, it was not the first time she had asked.
"Natasha, darling, please tell me that you actually listened, escaped, made a textbook perfect landing, and are now outside the accident radius, waiting to claw your way in to my rescue?" he tried, already suspecting the answer.
There was a definite snort and the clear screeching of metal against metal. "Not exactly," she replied, and did not even have the decency to sound ashamed.
"Cap? Things One, Two, and Three?" he prompted.
"No idea," she admitted. "I haven't been able to get back there to check yet."
"I thought I heard Stark on the comms right before we hit, but it might be wishful thinking." There was a grunt and then a chunk of metal and wires landed close enough to brush his thigh. He tried not to take it personally, especially when she added, "My comm is dead, smashed in the crash." He winced at that, knowing she had been wearing it at the time and just how much it hurt when those things cracked against your skull.
"Just how bad, Nat?" he asked, needing to know. There was no answer even though he was fairly positive she had heard him. "Sit rep, Agent Romanov," he ordered with as much authority as he could muster.
Another piece of metal flew at him, which he took to mean she was pissed, but contemplating honesty. "Minor injuries, pinned under debris, attempting to free myself but this damned shoulder is in the way," she listed off sullenly.
"Dislocated?" he guessed, knowing her standard definition of the word minor.
"Likely," she agreed, which meant that it was. "But I can't get it back into place with this wall on top of me." There was another crash, followed by some colorful swearing in more than a single language, followed by, "And you, Agent Barton? Do you care to give your situational report at this time?"
He contemplated lying, but calculated in the fact that she was doing to him exactly what he already did to her mixed with the fact that she was already digging herself out which meant she would be close enough to smack him sooner than later. With images of a seriously ticked assassin dancing through his fading vision, he dutifully reported, "Left side is fully immobile with likely damage to the anterior ribs and possible sprain or break to my left wrist, though it's hard to tell because I can't feel it. My legs are too numb to assess, but there's a fair chance I am bleeding out from my right side." He could feel the growing puddle of rapidly cooling warmth spreading beneath him and noticed how the lights just did not look like the right shade anymore, and increased the likelihood to "pretty damned good" instead.
"Fuck!" Natasha swore, at least using a language that did not take his higher brain functions to try to translate. There was a flurry of banging and movement at the edge of his senses, and he could almost picture her thrashing this way and that to get her pesky arm back into place to get the hell out of wherever she was.
"Tasha..." he sighed, but knew he would be ignored.
"Oh no, you don't get to 'Tasha' me after that little revelation," she growled, somehow transcending to a place beyond pissed. He'd be impressed, had he not been fighting to stay conscious.
He started to fade again, the noises becoming an almost gentle hum of background noise. He was not certain how much time had passed when he startled back to full consciousness, Natasha's noise overlaid with a newer, more hollow vibration that he felt more than heard. "Tash?" he asked, voice harsh to his own ears even though he kept it to no more than a whisper.
She stilled immediately, which told him more than her answering, "Felt it," that she knew exactly what he meant.
He cleared his throat to try to sound like something more than gravel, and quipped, "Is now a good time to remind ourselves about the little silver dart things that were after us and how there was some sort of intelligence behind them that probably didn't just wander off after they managed to knock Tony's toy from the sky and are probably outside right now making sure they actually caught us?"
"Yes, yes it is," Natasha said in reply. He was willing to place actual cash on the chance she was currently scrounging for anything to use as a weapon, pinned down or no. He figured the little shards of metal should do nicely what with there being so many of them and them being within easy reach of the one hand that was still mobile. He also figured Natasha would have figured the same thing out, and felt no need to advise her of the obvious, especially with a possible enemy within listening range. Given that she had been gearing up before the crash, there was also the chance she had far more than a few bits of glass and metal at her disposal but, again, he wasn't dumb enough to ask right now.
He reached for one of the numerous pieces of debris beside him, jagged metal pressed tight against his palm, and prepared for the worse. Of course, all the wound up tension had absolutely no release as Fury's voice sounded over a burst of static, "Barton, Romanov, Rogers, if you can hear this transmission, we have a lock on the crash site. Rescue team is being dispatched, but ETA is to fuck and gone as we are currently under attack." The transmission died shortly thereafter but, unfortunately, the random sparks and quiet static remained.
"Well, that was extremely non-helpful," Clint grumbled, shifting his grip on the metal. The low thrum of banging had not only not subsided, but seemed to come even closer during Fury's little tirade. Help was coming, likely not soon, and likely not before their mysterious guest or guests fully announced themselves. Awesome.
The thrum stopped just as suddenly as it had started and, for the briefest of moments, Barton contemplated breathing a sigh of relief. That was, of course, when the thrum was replaced by the high pitch whine of shearing metal, and a tiny little rectangle of what appeared to be sunlight cut through the cabin, highlighting the mess of wires and metals and utter fuckedness in all its glory.
Clint did what he thought was the sensible thing, and chucked his piece of shrapnel at the hint of shadow that dared to cross the beam of light. There was a clank, a gasp, and then the only mildly irritated voice of his erstwhile team leader huffed, "Good, you're conscious. Tell me if there is anything I should avoid, or should I just start tearing up the rest of the side to get in."
And he couldn't help it, he let out a near hysterical little chuckle followed by, "Christ, Cap, warn a guy so he doesn't try to kill you, will you?" The pain in his side ratcheted up a notch, and he assumed that meant he had either dislodged whatever had ripped through his skin, or forced it deeper with his actions.
Steve, of course, was completely unperturbed by the whole thing, and simply calmly chided, "That was an attempt at an attack? Then you're worse off than I thought - your aim was at least six inches to the left."
"Give a guy a break," Clint huffed, and tried to ignore the way the pain bled through in his voice, much like he was trying to ignore the way warmth bled through his side. "Movement's a bit limited here, if you get my drift." He had no idea what Steve's status was, if he was compromised, being watched, or free and clear, but he knew enough not to give everything away just at the first hint of a familiar voice.
"Copy that," Steve replied, likely understanding, at least if it really was him. "I've got our guests with me, everyone safe and accounted for, if a bit roughed up. We're going to try to get you out of there. Do try not to kill any of us in the attempt?"
"No promises," Clint told him, readying another shard of metal just in case it was needed. Cap had not asked after Natasha, which meant he either assumed she was safe as no one on their team ever assumed she was dead, silent or no, or he feared they were still at risk and did not want to reveal a potential surprise ally to any observers.
Steve started pulling apart the side of the plane and Clint started concentrating on breathing through the pain. He needed to stay alert and ready should the whole thing be one enormous trap. Not that he was certain he could do much at this point, pinned down and with limited lines of sight, but he was kind of hoping that whatever super villain was after them this time was smart enough to let Steve dig them out. It made sense, really - don't waste your resources when you can weaken the enemy and all that. Of course, the "enemy" being the Avengers, this meant that, even with a gun held to his head, Steve Rogers would find a way to provide the aid that Clint just could not get on his own.
The rectangle of light became a square, which in turn became a giant gaping hole soon enough. The hole was big enough to fit Steve's large frame, and just happened to provide a hint of a view behind him, where Clint could see the blurry outlines of what appeared to be at least two bedraggled government officials.
"I'm coming in," Steve announced and then, over his shoulder he added, "You three stay here, there is not enough room for everyone inside and you would put yourself at risk for injury."
"More risk than being shot out of the sky?" a sarcastic and relatively bitter voice replied.
"You can see anything coming towards us out here; I can't say the same about in there," Steve explained with far more patience than Clint ever would.
"The sky is clear right now," a distinctly female voice sounded. "If we need cover, we'll head for the wing or climb in with you," she suggested. There was more mumbling, but it was short-lived and stopped altogether when Steve said something short and clipped and possibly in that tone of his that few could refuse.
That apparently sorted, Clint watched as the bar of light dimmed to near darkness and then the familiar form of an un-uniformed Captain America loomed just inside, no doubt assessing just where the hell he could walk without damaging himself or his teammate.
Before he got far, there was the all too familiar sound of a safety being flipped off and the cocking of small caliber weapon. Clint had about half a second to wonder about it being a set up, about Steve being compromised after all, before he heard, "Oh, thank god, Widow's in here too."
"Hello, sweetheart," Nat's voice sounded from across the crumpled cockpit. "You really you, or are we about to risk ricochet?" If she had given herself away in such an obvious manner, she must have suspected they were in the clear, but Clint couldn't fault her need to verify.
"It's me," Rogers verified. "Sit code alpha-six-two-eight-niner," he recited as he edged closer to what must have been the sound of her voice.
"Niner?" Clint asked, trying to remember the specifics of that one. It was something along the lines of believed safety but likely screwed. He was honestly surprised more of their missions did not end up with the designation.
"Yeah," Steve agreed, far closer than he had been a moment before. "Saw one of the silver things come towards us but head off in another direction. It was the same time Senator Castlethwaite was playing with a phone in his pocket. Don't know if it was a coincidence and don't care. I'm putting him on watch for now." There was a pause, followed by, "You pinned in?"
Clint nodded, trusting Cap's super senses to catch the movement. "Well and truly, though I suggest you get Nat out first so she can watch your back." He hurt, and he didn't know how much longer he could remain conscious, but someone needed to take care of what was left of the team and protect them from their guests, and Nat was in far better shape than he was to do so.
"Fair enough," Steve said, apparently agreeing with the suggestion. He would have no idea who was worse off at this point, and would readily rely on input from his team. If that input happened to aid Natasha's chances of making it over Clint's own, so be it. The phrasing it for Cap's own safety should keep her from beating him too badly for the omission of his true status.
"Oh, and Cap?" he called, craning his neck as much as he dared in his friend's direction. This, above all things, needed to be said before he risked passing out and never being able to be heard. "I don't care how shiny Stark's new toys are, next time we take the fucking Quinjet."
"Copy that," Steve replied with only the barest hint of a chuckle.
He tried to listen as Cap shuffled away from him, clearing a path through the rubble in his wake. There was a hushed discussion that he couldn't quite make out through the continuing static from the radio, but sounded like Steve trying to convince Nat to put the gun to the side for long enough to help push something off of her. There was a crash and clank and then a huff of, "Of course he is. Now let me fix that shoulder and we can go get him."
He would have been hurt about the whole tattling thing, but was more concerned when he heard a new voice gasp, "Gross!" and start to make hopefully fake retching sounds.
"Nice," Natasha sighed, but the edge of pain and tension was gone from her tone, which Clint took to mean as her shoulder was back in place and one of the Stooges had the pleasure of watching the procedure. His suspicions were confirmed when he heard her ask, "Aren't you supposed to be outside?"
"Yes, he is, but he listens about as well as my three year old," the female voice from before replied. There was a faint grumbling, but the woman spoke over whatever her colleague was saying to advise, "We saw another silver thing, but it turned away again."
"Probably doing recon at this point," Clint guessed. The comment was mostly him thinking aloud, but he knew better than to assume his teammates did not hear him. The things had a definite intelligence behind them; he would not be surprised if they were equipped with sensors or relays to advise their master as to the status of their target. He also wouldn't be surprised if someone or something was on its way to collect them right now.
Which is why he really didn't protest when Cap said, "Let's get you out of here before we deal with our little uninvited guest."
"Do you need help, sir?" the woman, who Clint really needed to remember her name, asked from her place in the makeshift doorway.
"There's no room in here," Natasha told her, almost too quickly. There was probably enough for another person, maybe even three if they cramped together, but stating there wasn't meant holding off dealing with the three unknowns, at least for a short duration. There was a shifting of metal that Clint took to mean as his teammates approaching his position, and then Nat spoke again. "Try to keep the others away from the opening - we could use the light," she directed.
It was apparently enough as Clint heard no more from the woman and even swore the light grew a bit brighter, though that may have just been her stepping away from the opening.
He knew when Natasha had reached him not by the scraping of metal or sudden release of pressure at his side, but rather from the light tap upside his likely concussed head. "Dumbass," she said affectionately, which meant she probably wasn't completely pissed at him. She even took the still sparking headset the rest of the way off of him, which just furthered his suspicions.
"How's the arm?" he asked when he noticed she still held her right arm awkwardly at her side, slightly pinned up against what must have been her good shoulder.
"How's the legs and the bleeding out?" she countered, eyebrow raised.
"Barton..." Steve sighed, and Clint swore he could feel the disappointment rolling off of him in waves. Steve being Steve though, he kept to the situation at hand and his voice was only a little bit terse when he ordered, "Give me a full assessment of your injuries, for real this time, so I don't accidentally paralyze you getting you free."
Clint obliged, but mentioned only the things he knew for fact and nothing of what he suspected. He knew for a fact that his left side was fully pinned. He knew for a fact that there was a puncture injury to his right side. He knew for a fact that there was a great deal of weight pressing down on his legs. He suspected a cracked or broken rib or three. He suspected a sprained if not broken wrist. He suspected his ankle was going to hurt like a motherfucker when they finally freed it from the odd angle it was currently trapped into. Besides, he had hinted at these with Nat, and she had already told on him once. If she deemed them important enough to mention to their teammate he couldn't stop her, but that didn't mean he had to be quite so forthcoming himself.
Steve nodded in understanding, the action somehow highlighting a small but healing gash along his hairline, and seemed to contemplate how best to get him out. Natasha gave him a look like she knew he what he was hiding but would leave him his pride for now, and started to dig.
"Aren't you supposed to be watching his back?" Clint asked. He resolutely did not gasp when the weight on his chest shifted. He just happened to breathe deeply and forcefully, that's all.
"I'm multitasking," she replied, but stepped back when Steve reached for the largest part of the control panel currently blocking their way.
Clint would have thought that the removal of the heaviest of weights pressing upon him would have brought relief. He was wrong. The pressure had disguised the overwhelming agony that lay just beneath the surface, and his vision started to gray out yet again as that agony surged forward once freed.
The good thing was that, with the worst of the debris gone, Cap and Natasha were able to clear the rest that much more quickly. Of course, that meant manipulation of possible broken bones lay on the horizon, but it also meant he could get the hell out of where he was, so he took it as a positive over all.
He swore he had only blinked during this self-reasoning, but Nat was now kneeling at his side, a first aid kit salvaged from somewhere in her hands. "This is going to hurt," she said, likely the only warning she was going to give him. She yanked a shard of metal the size of her hand away from his side and he gave in to the urge to shout in pain even as she finished with a semi-apologetic, "A lot."
She tugged his t-shirt back from the now open wound, and he shivered from the removal of the wet stickiness that had served as his only bandage up to this point. He kind of lost track of time after the muted torture of gauze pressed against the wound and, hey, look, there was another right beside it that might explain the amount of bloodloss. Both chunks of debris tapered into something sharp and dark, likely with his own blood. The up side was that at least the entire hulk of metal had not been shoved into his side, but just the edges in each case.
Cap continued to mess around on his other side, gently lifting an already black and blue arm to rest over his still heaving chest, his own elbow pressing against his sensitive ribs, and then to dig some more until all that remained were two large pieces that seemed damned near wrapped around his lower legs. He was impressed; he hadn't know that metal was that malleable.
"It is with enough force," Steve said, voice sounding as though he spoke from experience. The worrisome part was that Clint did not remember speaking his thought out loud, something made even more worrisome when Steve commented, "You did and you still are and just what did you give him, Widow?"
"Nothing yet," Natasha insisted. She finished taping something in place against his aching side and quickly ran her fingers across and through Clint's hair, the strands feeling like little knives in her grasp. He caught her share a look with Steve and then, almost as one, they sighed, "Concussion."
"Must be a doozy if he's this out of it," Cap said with a shake of his head.
"Hey, 'he' is right here and doesn't need you speaking over him," Clint protested, and even managed to sound indignant. "Besides, it's more like the concussion mixed with the bloodloss than anything else and, yes, I am aware I am saying that this time," he muttered.
"Yeah, about that whole loss of blood thing, when were you going to bring that up?" Steve asked while he searched for either a hold or a way to break up the remaining pieces to lift away.
"Figured you would figure it out on your own eventually," Clint said with what passed for a shrug, though he immediately regretted the movement.
"What, when we slipped in it?" Steve scoffed.
"Remember the part where I called him a dumbass?" Nat smiled without cheer. It looked like she had stored the majority of the medical kit away, which meant she was ready to help tackle the final pieces so Clint would finally be free. He told himself that this is why he would not take offense at her words but, one look from her with that eyebrow raised and mouth crooked just so, and even he wasn't buying it.
His two teammates made short work out of the remaining pieces, and then it was just the matter of cutting him out of his mangled harness. Natasha secreted the blade back away somewhere on her person and then glared down at him in the low light. "You want to mention any other injuries, or should it just be a surprise when we lift you and break you?" she challenged him.
"I may care to mention my ribs at this time if you're going to haul me up," Clint granted. He had mentioned them before, but only to her, and knew this was her less than subtle hint to offer a full disclosure on at least this to Steve as well.
"See, was that so hard?" Steve asked.
"Yes, yes it was," Clint replied. He resisted sticking out his tongue though as that would have just been childish.
"If he's mentioning them, they're probably cracked," Natasha pointed out since he had not been specific in his revelation. He called her a traitor in her mother tongue, but the effect was limited since she said it at the same time, mocking tone and all. "Mix that with his wrist, bloodloss, and concussion, and this should be interesting getting him out of here."
"You're always a ray of sunshine, you know that?" Clint told her, adding a glare for slipping in the wrist part of his injuries.
She nodded readily enough and deadpanned, "It's a gift."
"Can we get a return receipt on that?" he asked, but the end of the sentence was lost in a groan as apparently the good Captain America had gotten tired of their bickering and decided to take matters into his own hands. He was careful, but any amount of maneuvering was going to hurt and, really, getting from laying down on a broken chair to standing was going to take more than a bit of finagling.
Natasha swung the med kit over her good shoulder and took point, weapon at the ready, while Steve busied himself keeping Clint upright and moving through the wreckage. The first time he tried to put any weight on his bad ankle was excruciating, and the second time even worse. Clint gritted his teeth and kept moving though, having survived much worse in his tenure as an agent. Besides, his boots provided nearly as much support as a formal brace; he would just have to make some minor adjustments to how they were tied and he should be good to go, go being the operative word as he rather wanted to get out of the crumbling heap of metal sooner rather than later.
When they tried to get past the ripped open storage cabinet though, Clint saw something he simply could not live without. He pulled away from Steve's support and grabbed both his bow case and quiver with his good hand. He felt the wound in his side and his damaged ribs protest the movement, but he also felt an odd sort of contentment in knowing he was no longer the most vulnerable member of the group.
"How are you even going to fire those?" Steve asked, but notably did not make him put them back.
Clint snorted. "I've shot far more messed up than this before, and still made the target. Besides, there's no way I'm leaving these behind to be found by whoever or whatever is after us," he reasoned, thinking of the specialty arrows Tony had made specifically for him and pointedly not Tony himself. He pushed even that aside though, and focused on continuing the journey to the outside and its near blinding sun.
The light did nothing to ease the pain in his head, but did a hell of a lot to illuminate the situation for him. The plane was toast, that much he knew before he even hobbled out of it. Stark's fire suppression systems had done their job and the hulk of metal was just a smoking, smoldering mess instead of actively in flames. Clint had somehow managed to land it at the very edge of what was once a relatively wide open field that now held the deep furrows of a plowing crash, just before a sharp drop off shrouded with trees and rocks. It was a decent vantage point, save for the fact anyone approaching would see them at least as quickly as they would pick out their attackers, which meant no real benefit gained save for the solid wall of the plane to use as a barricade. Given that would likely be expected, they needed to find someplace else to set up camp until the reinforcements arrived.
The most obvious place was down the hillside. Again, obvious so it had the downfall of being the first place searched after the plane itself, but at least it did not involve a trek across a wide open field with absolutely nothing for cover.
He was going to suggest the journey, despite his own want to just curl up and rest for a bit, maybe a week or two, but figured both that his teammates would have sorted the same thing out for themselves and that he should wait until Nat was done doing whatever she was doing with their new entourage.
Natasha had the trio of political leaders on their knees, hands raised and behind their heads. She was methodically going through every pocket and parcel, and tossing the possessions into a neat pile behind her, gun casually cocked at her side. Clint noticed the gun was was in her right hand, the one attached to her injured shoulder, but that she gave away nearly no tells as to the damage. One of the men had already seen her and would know of the weakness, but her reputation may have been holding off any action on that part for now.
"Should we stop her?" Steve asked out of the corner of his mouth, and Clint could see the argument to be made about harassing the politicos.
Being that he could also see the use in getting their hands on possibly working communication devices as well as possibly finding evidence as to whether or not there really was a traitor in their midst, instead he just asked, "Why?"
Cap was surprisingly fine with that response. He helped to guide Clint over to the edge of the pile, which was helpfully placed near the fallen wing, propped Clint up against a piece of said wing, and started digging through the treasure to see if there was anything usable to be found. Steve was not exactly the most tech-savvy person on the planet but, for someone misplaced from the 1940's, he did know more than his fair share. Tony was to blame for this, of course, always making sure his teammates not only had the latest and greatest that Stark Industries had to offer, but holding embarrassing "seminars" on the use of each item every time. To her credit, Natasha had only tried to shoot him once, and it happened to be when he was showing off some new shielding technology, so she still had plausible deniability on that one.
"I could sue you," one of the men griped, though Clint noticed he kept his hands on his head. "I should sue you. Harassment, that's what this is. It's an embarrassment. You have hard working Americans on their knees while a known Russian spy goes digging for secrets and the true enemy could attack at any time."
"Natasha, no," Clint said mildly without looking up. She had not made any obvious moves, but he knew her well enough to know she was tempted to do something dire to the ass.
"Shut up, Bret," the woman of the trio said instead. "They have no way of knowing who's involved at this point. Wouldn't you rather have them figure out Paul here is secretly sending messages to someone and shoot him instead of us?"
"Hey!" the aforementioned Paul protested.
"You know what I mean," the woman amended. At this point, Clint would not be surprised if she was the spy and just really good at pushing attention off on the others.
"There will be no shooting of anyone," Steve promised, and Clint tried not to laugh when Nat turned to him and mouthed the word, "Yet."
She tossed a final phone at Steve, took one of the others over to Clint, and kept the last one for herself. The miscellaneous laptops and tablets they would go through later; they were not as portable should they need to run, and Steve had already mentioned his suspicions regarding a phone being used against them.
Clint was far too tired to run through the hacking algorithms and so, after a moment of flipping the phone around to see if there were any tells, simply called out, "Password for the one with the screensaver of two highly inappropriate rabbits?"
There was an answering snort, and then a chuckle, and then a very reluctant, "I swear they are just snuggling and it's BUN4ULUV." It was followed by a near immediate, "And before you say anything, I bought my granddaughter two rabbits for her birthday last fall. She now has about ten."
"Bunnies are evil," Clint said as he typed in the code.
"But tasty," Natasha added with a hint of a grin as she cracked her own with no assistance.
Clint ignored her and dug in to his newfound data. Amongst other things, he discovered the cranky old man was Senator Castlethwaite, the non-lock screen wallpaper was of a girl who was roughly ten surrounded by little fur balls that may or may not have been rabbits, and that he had some definitely non-child and non-bunny appropriate apps on his phone.
He shut down all apps he could find, but knew there could be others running in the background if someone was smart enough to code them that way. He was reluctant to destroy the phone itself, especially since it appeared to actually be getting a signal. However, when he saw Nat dial out on hers and Steve attempt to do so on his, he had no problem powering the thing down and removing the obvious battery.
He would have sent an arrow through it to make sure, but figured that would probably be overkill, even if it would help him figure out his aim in his current condition. Instead, he set to work taking his bow from its case and making sure it was in working condition.
Steve seemed to be working his way through what Clint liked to think of as the SHIELD Emergency Phone Tree. There were about fifteen levels of identification just to get to talk to someone who may or may not get your message to the right superior, and they might just send a team out to take you down if they didn't like your answers.
Natasha appeared to bypass all of that and had apparently dialed Pepper's personal line and was trying to get her to both get a read on Tony and send a message to Fury.
Satisfied with the state of his weaponry, he took the opportunity to keep watch, assuming each and every sudden puff of white and gray against the blue were explosions either at or within SHIELD's hands. He rather did not like he number. He had reached the double digits when he heard Natasha finish her call, and he took the opportunity to look away from the sky and the tree line and focus on the immediate needs instead, knowing she would take over for him.
"What'd you see?" she asked as she leaned against the piece of wing beside him.
"Booms. Lotsa booms," he replied. He shifted to reach for his boot to tighten the laces, not at all surprised when she slapped his hands away and did it herself. "Fury wasn't lying about being under attack. It's doubtful they can get a jet out to us through that mess, at least not anytime soon." He grunted as she tugged, but felt the boot grow snug around his injury and figured he was getting off easy. He was lucky, based on the swelling it was probably only a sprain and not a true break. The boot may eventually need to be cut off, but it would work for now.
"Any sign of Stark or Thor?" she asked, quiet enough to not give anything away to the trio of guests. The trio that still knelt with their hands above their heads as they had not figured out she no longer had a weapon trained on them.
He shook his head reluctantly. "Not from this distance," he sighed.
She rummaged through the gear he had gathered and tossed him his guard and fletching glove. When his hands, numb and clumsy, had trouble getting the straps just right, she neatly adjusted them and gave him a look. "How bad?" she demanded, for it was obvious she was not simply asking.
"I can still shoot, and that's all that matters," he told her, and she nodded in acceptance. "Walking is going to be a bitch, at least down that hill, but we can't stay here so I'll deal."
She nodded again and checked the bandage at his side. "Bleeding's slowing, for now. You want something for the pain?"
He would love something for the pain, enough morphine to take him out so he could sleep off the worst of it, but he didn't want to risk it. "Probably shouldn't," he replied. He saw her prep a syringe from the kit anyway and gave her a look.
"Antibiotic," she told him. "It should hold off the worst of the infection until we can get you something better."
He hated needles, but hated dying of some terrible blood disease more, so he held out his arm for the shot. When it was immediately followed by another one, he frowned at her. "Nat..." he said warningly.
"I lied," she shrugged, completely unsympathetic. She discarded both needles and cleaned up what she had removed from the pack. "Half dose only, but it should be enough to take the edge off and reduce the swelling."
Cap seemed to finally finish his call, tossing the phone back onto the pile of discarded tech. "SHIELD is a bit-"
"Indisposed at the moment?" Clint guessed. He motioned to the sky above them to show how he knew and asked, "Anything useful out of them? ETA? Knowledge that our dear teammates are safe and sound?"
"Iron Man was on the radio as of about a half hour ago, but they lost contact after Fury switched off the comms due to 'interference,'" Steve said, which likely meant Stark's choice in music. "Banner also suggested finding the emergency radio to prevent the hassle of dialing in, and discarding everything else on the assumption it's bugged."
"They let you talk to Bruce?" Clint asked, surprised at the breach in protocol.
Steve grinned, quick and grim. "Yeah, apparently they hoped he would find my word that the three of us were safe and sound more soothing than that of a junior agent. I doubt he was going to let the Other Guy out, but he scared a few agents something awful until he got me."
Despite feeling as though he had gone a few rounds with the Other Guy himself, Clint cracked a smile at that. During their time together as teammates, everyone had discovered just what they could and could not get away with. Threatening to let loose something that had put the carrier in dry dock for months seemed effective enough for him to remember to abuse it in the future.
Natasha tossed Steve a spare pistol to hold against their charges, and left to dig through the rubble for the requested radio. Clint continued to keep watch, and Steve was enough of a softie to let the politicians rest their knees and arms and simply sit before them. He counted another three maybe-explosions by the time she returned, a battered case under her arm.
"No promises it will work, bit they should at least be able to get the required signal," she said, handing the device to Steve. Together, they started the process of setting it up while Clint continued to watch the skies.
Of course this meant Clint was the first one to have to disobey the whole no shooting directive from earlier, but he figured it was at a thing and not a person so it didn't technically count. One of the silver not-missiles glided down towards their position. He warned the others with a single shout of, "Incoming!" trusting that they would both understand and act appropriately.
His bow was in hand and an arrow let loose before he even finished saying the word. His wrist screamed in pain at the recoil, and his aim was at least five degrees off of what he originally thought, even taking Cap's words from earlier into consideration, but the second shot took out the silver glinty not-a-missile with a satisfying explosion.
Unfortunately, it had not been alone.
Both Nat and Steve fired, and they must have hit the guidance system because the thing was still mostly whole when it veered off to the side, a trail of smoke in its wake, and crashed into an innocent oak.
"We can't stay here," Cap said, stating the obvious.
"Trees have more cover and those things will have to at least work to get to us," Clint pointed out. He attempted to shoulder his quiver, and Natasha casually slid it into place as she offered him an arm to lean on. He waved her off though. They had three possibly hostiles or possibly charges to look after and some impressive tech raining down on them. She needed the freedom to move and the freedom to shoot, two things she wouldn't get if she was busy shoring up his sorry ass.
She nodded in understanding and picked up the med kit and another bag that he was willing to bet held pretty much every weapon she could find during her search of the plane, and then helped Steve herd the politicians towards the hillside, both ignoring the plaintive cries for the tech they were leaving behind.
"If they are picking up a signal from one of those things, and aiming based on that signal, wouldn't you rather have that aim someplace other than your pocket?" he explained when Castlethwaite continued to bitch.
"When he puts it like that, I say I can always take more pictures of my kid and download a new game on a new phone," the one identified as Paul said.
"Hopefully they don't access my email from mine because, really, I was only joking with my husband," the woman, who Clint really needed to learn her name, chimed in agreement. She pushed a strand of dark hair out of her eyes but, other than that and a few scuffs of dirt across her once neat suit, looked relatively unperturbed.
"When we stop, we can send a message to Fury to lock your accounts, if he hasn't already," Natasha told them. There was more grumbling, some of it suspicious as to the true reach of SHIELD. She put a stop to that with the added comment of, "It's either that, or we blow them ourselves - your choice."
The grumbles turned to agreement, and they continued to mutter amongst themselves as they began the hike down the hill. In the process, they called each other by their names enough to key off Clint's concussion-foggy memory. Senator Brett Castlethwaite was the asshole with the love for furry animals and porn. Congressman Paul Lavine was the young one they kept teasing. Senator Lidia Peterson was the woman who may or may not have been working against them, but at least kept the others in line.
It was Peterson that kept glancing back at him, eyes darting from weapon to bloodstained shirt to his obvious limp. She didn't say a word, not out loud, but definitely looked like she wanted to. He had the feeling she was sizing up his weaknesses versus having motherly instincts, and was rather glad he had not splinted his wrist yet as that would have been another tell.
Natasha gave him similar looks, but he knew her well enough to know she was pissed off that he was hurt and that he was lying about the severity. He caught her more than once glare daggers at the back of Castlethwaite's gray and balding head, and almost wished Cap had not stated his suspicions early on as now all three of them were more likely to look at him in a less than favorable light. This could prove disastrous if he was really the innocent or being set up. Then again, Clint had not gotten this far in life blindly trusting others, so he figured he'd even the odds and just assume all three were suspects, right up until he had direct evidence otherwise.
They were barely inside the tree line when he dared to look back. He knew Nat was keeping watch, but he wanted to check on her as much as check on their six. He happened to time it to match up with her warning of, "Get down!"
He couldn't crouch without needing help back up again, so he braced himself against a tree and watched one of the silver things sweep down low, but not penetrate the row of trunks. It circled roughly above the plane and roughly above the pile of gear, and then swooped back out again.
He let out a pained breath, remembering the comments from earlier about surveillance, and was about to remark on the same, but never got the words out. The dart returned, but brought a friend as apparently that was their trademark or something, and the two things headed straight for the wreckage. It took him an extra second to realize the threat they posed, helped in part by Steve's shouts, and then the world exploded into a ball of fire. Chunks of metal and glass and wires rained down from the top of the hill, most caught in the upper branches of the trees, but some filtering down to scorch the ground around them.
Sadly, the threat to the ground litter was not even the worst thing they had to fear as a rather large section of the fuselage teetered at the top of the hill, right before it began its descent, throwing up waves of soil and sparks along its path.
Steve bodily grabbed him and tossed him over his shoulder in possibly the most embarrassing of ways, life saving or no. More than a single arrow hit the ground before he remembered the quiver controls and hopefully saved enough to save them all when the time inevitably came. Natasha pushed and prodded at their stunned charges, trying to get them to move before they were all crushed to death by the weight now bearing down upon them.
He couldn't move the way he was held, could not even really lift himself to watch the wreckage's descent due to the injury at his side screaming in protest at the slightest of shifts. He had always thought he would face death head on, with maybe the slightest possibility of a headshot from behind given his chosen profession. He never really thought his final sight in this life might be Captain America's khaki-clad ass.
It turned out, as usual, that he was to be mistaken. Steve chucked him to the ground and he was able to make out surroundings of dirt and rock for the briefest of moments before he was bodily covered, his dear teammate apparently assuming his super soldier physique could withstand the impact of the better part of a fricken plane.
When he came to - and, yeah, he was man enough to admit he passed out - he found that he was once again trapped in relative darkness. A heavy weight pressed down upon him, and he may have had a brief moment of panic when he wasn't sure if he could even move his toes. "If I'm paralyzed, I'm going to be pissed," he said to the world in general.
There was a chuckle, and then a moan, and then Steve, glorious Steve, raised himself up and off of him, and his limbs filled with the sensation of pins and needles instead of the sensation of being smothered by dead weight. There was a faint bit of light, most of it tinged red with what was likely fire if the background roar was anything to go by, but it was enough to see his supposed team leader roll to the side and huff, "See if I save your sorry backside again."
"Ass, Cap, it's called an ass. I should know because I just got close and personal with yours," Clint replied. He still didn't really move, didn't want to, didn't know if he could.
"You're welcome," Steve said instead because, there may be a day that Clint got Captain America to swear, but today was not that day. It was, however, a private dream of his that he usually took great glee in attempting to accomplish.
There was a pained undercurrent to his friend's voice though, so he asked, "How bad?"
"Enough," Steve replied, which wasn't really an answer.
"Regular enough, or super soldier enough?" Clint pressed. He needed as much of a sit rep as he could and, for now, Steve was the only one could give it to him. Besides, it was only fair considering what he had to admit to earlier.
"Super soldier enough," he finally relented, duty always coming before pride with him. There was a grunt, and then the sound of cloth shifting, followed by the sound of metal hitting metal.
"Cap?" he prompted when no explanation was forthcoming.
"Shrapnel, or what I'm going to call shrapnel," Steve explained. He was hovering over Clint again, which meant he had made it to at least his hands and knees. "It was in my leg, now it's not," he finished with only a slight pant.
"Tasha had the bandages," Clint told him, both a request for the true status of his injuries and an inquiry as to the status of the final member of their current team.
"I... might actually need one this time," he admitted. He shifted again, now sitting instead of crouching next to him. "Widow? What's your status?" he called to the air in general. A large mass of fuselage arched above them, driven deep into the stone and trees and dirt, and it made Steve's voice echo eerily, especially with the backdrop of continuing explosions.
"Contained," came the response from way too far away.
"Injuries?" he prompted when she did not elaborate.
"Minor to all parties," she replied. There was something that sounded like muted bickering, followed by a snapped, "Nothing is broken and there are no lacerations that will require stitches. We are all breathing and alive and therefore this constitutes as minor." Clint did not envy her luck, but would have been lying if he said he wasn't amused by her lack of patience.
Senator Peterson's voice sounded next, as if to convince them of the other woman's words. "I turned my ankle because heels and fiery hillsides do not play well together. Brett has a bump on the head that should swell up nicely. Paul has a few scrapes and his suit will never be the same again but, besides that, we're fine," she elaborated.
Natasha grunted, as much of an allowance as she was likely to grant. "Captain, if you would be kind enough to help me with this wall, I should be able to get you some supplies," she said, voice barely audible above an odd clanking sound.
Rogers pushed himself upright, or as far upright as he could get given their current circumstances, and half-limped and half-crawled to the other side of the opening he shared with Clint. It gave Clint the opportunity to see the damage for himself, up close and personal. He had a scratch high across his left cheek to match the one in his hairline from earlier, and the gouge in his leg probably would have felled any other non-scientifically augmented person.
"You better grab the pack, because I will not go down in history as the person who scarred Captain America's perfect face," he muttered.
Steve turned just enough to frown at him, though there was a hint of amusement to his eyes. "The tree scarred this less than perfect face, Barton, not you." He punched at something solid just to Clint's right, and tried to lighten the mood with his version of humor. "Stop thinking the world revolves around you for a moment, and think of the earth."
And Clint was thinking of the earth, really and truly. He was thinking of the rocks that crumbled around them, the trees lit with fire just outside their little refuge, and the hard dirt beneath his ass. He decided he should shift said ass and see if he could maybe make himself more useful, or at least get out of Steve's way. He tried to push himself into a slightly more reclining position instead of laying slightly on his side, quiver digging into his back, and sharp and seizing pain quickly reminded him of the damage done to both his ribs and wrist, hot warmth oozing down his side telling him he had reopened the wound Natasha had so carefully bandaged.
The shift did at least provide him with a little better view of the situation. They were in a small sort of alcove, with random less-than-solid walls both protecting them from the worst of what was outside and allowing soot and smoke to slowly leak in.
He also saw that Natasha was not quite as far away as originally believed. A pseudo-wall of broken tree trunks and chunks of metal separated them, but he could already see her filthy face through the rough opening they had managed so far. She widened the hole just a little bit more, and then shoved a pack through. He was fairly certain she didn't aim for him, but he still grunted and glared when it thumped against his side.
"Patch him and yourself up while I try to get this radio working," she directed, ignoring his antics.
Steve didn't even balk at her giving orders, but did about her splitting her attention while left with three possible hostiles and no readily available backup. "Open this so we can see you first, all of you," he told her instead.
She nodded, likely hearing his argument without words, and tugged a few more pieces free. Clint noticed that she did not quite make an opening big enough to slip through, but chose places that gave him a clear line of sight from his current position. He exchanged his bow for Cap's pistol, and kept watch the best he could while being poked and prodded with less than gentle care.
Steve made less than encouraging noises as he removed the bandages and repacked the wound on his side, and Clint made a mental note to pretend his teammate would need a full amputation when it came time to treat the gash on his leg. Of course Rogers had to ruin even that dream by jamming a needle of the good stuff into him before he set off to treat himself.
"How am I supposed to keep watch if I'm higher than a kite?" Clint protested. The truth was that it felt damned good to have that much hacked off the edge of his pain, but he knew his sight and judgement would be even more affected now, and that rather pissed him off. He was used to pushing pain to the side, but drugs made any push unpredictable. He'd rather have the reminder of what was at stake and the focus of the undying ache than the dullness and lack of precision gifted to him with the painkillers.
"Widow's got the radio up and I've got the gun," Steve said, pulling the weapon free with far too much ease. "You shouldn't be standing with that much damage, not to mention bloodloss."
"Not standing, sitting," he pointed out, sounding petulant to his own ears. He wondered if he had passed out again while Steve had worked as he really did not remember hearing any actual contact with SHIELD. He also didn't remember his quiver being removed, but it was laying at his side instead of pressing into his back, so it was likely he had been good and out for a decent amount of time.
"Regardless," Steve cut him off. "I simply did what she should have earlier. When this is all done and over with, we're going to have a long discussion about injuries and lying."
"I didn't lie," Clint protested. This was the truth.
Natasha defended him, in her own way. "Omission only, no direct lies. We needed to get out of there, and we did. Now we need to get out of here, and have to deal with a drugged and disabled archer instead of just a disabled one."
He frowned, certain there was something positive to her words, but not fully having the attention span to parse it out. He did, however, have the attention span to know they were likely fucked when explosions started going off close enough to their makeshift shelter/prison to shake new waves of metal and dirt free to rain down upon them. He swore profusely, Nat grumbled, and Cap tried to bodily shore up the largest of the protective walls, even while the smaller barriers shifted to let in a whole lot of smoke and heat.
"That getting out of here would be good," he offered less than helpfully. He raised his arms to prevent something large and crumbly from falling on his face. The dirt clung to him like his sweat-soaked shirt anyway, so he wasn't sure how much good it did him other that jarring his injuries again. "Any time now, really."
Steve changed from trying to shore up the wall to trying to tear it down in a way that didn't involve crushing them both. Natasha started feeding the politicians through a new opening in the side and urged them to help. She armed herself, and pressed a pistol into Clint's hands with explicitly whispered and only partially joking directions to aim towards the side with the politicians first, and then joined the scramble to free them all before they were either roasted or suffocated.
Clint watched as his friends pushed and pulled and he sat on his ass not doing much save for hold a gun and know he'd probably manage more damage than good at this point. There was the sound of another explosion, and then the largest chunk of the fuselage began to crumble around them. Steve pushed one of the guys in a suit down to the ground and he couldn't see which one because his face was full of red hair when Nat tried to cover him as well despite her own bad arm and then there was a roar which he assumed meant something big and flammable going up which would probably all come crashing down around them soon enough.
Only it didn't.
There was suddenly a lot more light and a lot more air and he feebly pushed at Natasha until she rolled off of him just as Castlethwaite swore in a truly impressive manner and Lavine and Peterson looked to be fighting the urge to either vomit or piss their pants and then the smoke finally cleared enough for his gritty eyes to make out something huge and green and imposing where a heap of metal had been only moments before.
"Hey, big guy," Clint greeted him mildly. The Hulk grunted in response, caught another silver thing mid-air, and snapped it in two.
The world was on fire all around them, but not for long as a boom of thunder heralded the sky breaking open with rain, the water seeming to sizzle against his overheated skin and turn his grime to mud. Thor neatly landed beside the Hulk, pushed his dripping hair from his eyes, and declared, "We have been victorious."
"Not quite yet," a new voice sounded from just above and behind him. Through the smoke and ash, Clint could just make out something red and formerly shiny. The Iron Man suit was dented and scuffed and currently firing on something out of sight but probably deadly. There was another explosion, muffled by the protective barrier of the Hulk, and then Tony declared, "Now we have been victorious."
SHIELD agents swarmed in from all sides and Clint could care less because his team was there and they had all made it and the drugs were really good and there was a very good chance he was going to pass out again. Before he did though, as the smoke and haze and rain and shiny weaponry and shadows of dark suits began to swim and surge around him, he had the presence of mind to say, "Hey, Stark, check for signals 'cause we're probably tagged."
Tony nodded, or possibly Clint's head drooped, and then he really didn't remember much more of the day's events save to say, "Quinjet," and get something that sounded like a muttered promise about next time in return.
He awoke some time later to find himself in the infirmary with all sorts of lines and tubing attached to him. There was an oxygen mask strapped to his face, which was probably a good thing given the amount of smoke he inhaled, and an IV of fluids and possibly more drugs dripping into his right arm. His left wrist was splinted, as was his ankle, and a quick check showed a neat row of stitches along his side.
He had expected Natasha to be on the bed beside him, but found Steve there instead, a bulge of bandages showing beneath the scrub bottoms he wore. He had no lines attached though, and would probably be free to leave whereas Clint was likely to be a resident for a few days at the minimum, and longer if he pissed off the docs.
"She asked me to stay and babysit you for a few minutes so that you wouldn't do, yeah, that," Steve explained, ending with a sigh when Clint tugged the mask free so he could talk.
"How bad?" he asked. His voice sounded horrible to his own ears, which was not going to help his chances of getting out sooner rather than later. He tried to remember the tricks to getting around that, but pushed it off a a concern for later as his concentration levels were damn near negative until the effects of the drugs died down.
"You or me?" Steve asked with a depreciating chuckle. It reminded Clint that he wasn't used to being laid up, at least not since the serum so many decades ago. Maybe he wasn't the only one working out ways of escape after all.
"Both," he shrugged and, yeah, even that hurt.
Steve pretended not to notice his wince and leaned back against his pillows to recite off, "Both your ankle and wrist are severely sprained - and the docs are a mixed of surprised and ticked at you for shooting like that by the way. You are two and two on your ribs: two broken and two cracked though some of that might have been from me so, sorry about that. The shrapnel missed anything vital, but not by much, and you have one doozy of a concussion." He paused to tug and frown at his own cannula of oxygen neatly tucked off to the side before he added, "All three of us have smoke inhalation to varying degrees as well."
Clint gestured to the obvious bandages and prompted, "And your leg?"
The frown turned into a full grimace. "Shrapnel cut deep enough to damage the muscle, but my body's healing it already. I'll probably be off it for a couple of days though." He held up a hand to stop Clint from talking, possibly because he was as painful to listen to as it was for him to speak, and said, "Before you ask, Natasha just has the inhalation, the dislocated shoulder, and possibly a chipped nail."
Now it was Clint's turn to chuckle, even though it felt like his insides were ripped apart by sandpapered gloves to do so. He stopped when Nat walked in, shoved his oxygen mask back on with her good hand and glared. "It was fully broken, as was my finger," she corrected. A quick glance confirmed the splint on the ring finger of her right hand visible through the sling she was forced to wear.
He rolled his eyes at her and she smirked back good-naturedly and Steve looked like the kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar for daring to make a joke at her expense. He tried to make amends by moving to get up and provide her a place to rest, but she waved in his direction in possibly a semi-threatening manner, and sat down on the edge of Clint's mattress instead.
He knew better than to ask how she was, especially after Steve's truncated report, so instead he pulled his mask down again to ask, "How are the others?"
She pushed the mask back up and gave him a look that promised dire consequences if he didn't keep it there. "Bruce and Thor are fine and Stark won't let anyone get near enough to him to check, which means any injuries are minor. They're with Director Fury right now giving him a status report on the attack."
"Which would be?" he prompted through the mask. It muffled his voice, but also possibly muffled his tone, which would give away his intentions to break out and rejoin the fight if need be.
She didn't fall for it in the least and rested her good hand on his leg with a gentle-for-her squeeze that both told him things were under control and that he was to stay there or she would find restraints to keep him there. She did, however, update him, so there was that.
The attack was, for all intents and purposes, over. Huey, Dewey, and Louie of the politicos were under house arrest, though they didn't know it yet. The arrest was more for their protection though, as every single one of them was clean, at least on the surface. Lavine's phone had been hacked and had been broadcasting a signal, but it honestly looked as though he knew nothing about it and all evidence pointed to a disgruntled aide with ties to some anti-SHIELD organizations.
Stark was to work with the SHIELD techs to determine when the software had been added to the phone and to possibly clear and possibly condemn Lavine. The others were digging through any and all intel on Castlethwaite and Peterson to verify neither of them had set up Lavine and/or to see if they or their aides were involved in the subterfuge as well.
"On the up side, we totally have the vote and support of whichever one of the politicians that isn't evil," Tony said as he joined them. His voice had a definite rough edge to it, and the shadows under his eyes were impressive, but other than that, he looked fine. Likely the suit's internal breathing system helped play a role in that, providing him nice filtered air versus the ash and smoke the others had to deal with, though the decompression issues prior to it kicking in had to be a bitch.
"Aren't all politicians evil?" Clint asked, mainly because it was expected. "I mean, isn't that kinda part of the job requirement?"
Tony huffed a chuckle and amended his statement to, "Less evil, or at least evil in a way that's not actively against us." He paused and took in Clint's condition as if he had not already hacked the medical records, and added, "You know the whole 'going down' thing is supposed to be captains and ships and not pilots and planes, right? No offense, Cap."
"None taken," Steve assured him, possibly because he had gone down with the non-ship as well.
They talked and joked and mused on the idiocy of attacking a plane with at least two flight-capable people aboard it and Stark promised only Quinjets in the future, save for if he was able to arm his next creation both in a way that skirted federal requirements and still looked sleek. Clint was not certain which was more important in Stark's mind, and wasn't sure if he truly cared because, really, he'd still fight for something he personally knew to be reliable and defensive, at least until proven that something better existed.
Bruce stumbled in and crawled up onto the bed that Natasha refused. He attempted to place his glasses on the little table and plopped back against the pillow with a yawn, a vague thanks mumbled when Tony picked the glasses off the floor and put them somewhere a bit safer. The action showed that Tony favored his left side though, something noticed by all assembled save for Banner, who appeared to be having trouble keeping his eyes open. A transformation mixed with the stress of an attack was likely to blame for that, so everyone simply lowered their voices slightly in deference to his exhaustion.
The voices were blurring to a low hum by the time Thor arrived and settled himself at the foot of Banner's purloined cot. Clint blamed the soothing tones and the comfort of knowing his team was safe and sound and in relatively one piece for not stopping Nat when she reached over and upped his pain meds with the ease of a few simple buttons.
He drifted on the opiates mixed with an adrenaline crash mixed with an exhaustion of his own, vision graying out at the edges, and let the voices of his teammates lull him into a state of sort of pseudo-sleep. He worried for a brief moment that those capable of it might just up and leave those who weren't behind to deal with the hospitality of SHIELD medical, but then heard the scrape of a chair and the bitch of Rogers when Stark apparently settled in with his feet propped up on the good Captain's bedside. He then wondered if he'd miss something important as he well and truly could no long follow their wandering conversation, but figured if they were willing to stay, they'd probably be willing to fill him in later. Plus there was the fact that they all saw Natasha drug him, so he totally wasn't to blame if he zonked out on them this time.
With that in mind, he let his eyes slide closed and his mind fill with all the ways the battle would have changed, let alone the day as a whole, if they had just taken the fucking Quinjet.