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November 2016

Exhausted, Clint dumped his duffel bag onto the bed of the hotel room. He’d been driving for days; flying when he wasn’t the pilot had never been on his list of favorite things. He hadn’t intended to go this far away from New York. He was supposed to have gone to his farm, spent some time with his kids, sign the divorce papers, and leave. But that meant leaving the only home he’d managed to have in his entire life, and it was messing him up something fierce.

Especially since Laura had told him if he went back to being an Avenger, he wouldn’t have a home to come back to. She was done with him being gone all the time, done with his nightmares, done with the things he couldn’t tell her, done with his half-finished renovations, done with having to manage three kids and not having the help he’d promised, done with coming second to everything else. He’d promised her he’d retire, spend time with their kids, and that had lasted all of a month before he’d picked up his bow and quiver and ran headlong into danger because Captain America asked him to help. He couldn’t blame Laura, especially after he’d found out that she’d asked Steve if he was done leading his team into dangerous situations. It had taken months for the political machine to hammer out a resolution to half of the Avengers getting arrested. Officially, all of them save Bucky were confined to the Avengers Facility in upstate New York, under house arrest until further notice. Bucky was in cryofreeze in Wakanda; Clint had gotten an exception for the week to see his family. After two hours of being with his children and now ex-wife, Clint had had to leave, unable to stand being around the shattered remains of his dream.

His phone buzzed. Clint picked it up, aware that his teammates were concerned, and that he couldn’t run far without at least one of them tracking him. Some part of him that lived in terror of being lost to someone else’s control felt relief at knowing that.

Forty-eight hours and we’ll come pick you up unless you say otherwise, Steve’s text read.

Clint closed his eyes, grateful that Steve understood. No, forty-eight’s good. I’m in Portland, Oregon. Gonna find someplace to eat and get a few drinks. But if you’re thinking of flying me back, I don’t want to leave my Jeep.

You leave how we get your Jeep back to me. It’s better for both of us if you don’t know how it wound up in Oregon. I’m more concerned with you being back before the week is up.

Forgetting Steve couldn’t see him, Clint nodded agreement before belatedly sending an emoji of a nod. 

You should check out this brewpub, came the reply, with a link to directions.

Been here?

It was on my list, Steve replied. Tell Eliot I said hi if he’s there.  

Clint half-laughed at that. Steve’s list of things he had to check out was now infamous amongst the team, especially since they’d taken turns helping him cross off items. Steve had a harder time with modern slang and pop culture references than he did technology, and it had been fun getting to know Steve in the process. By now, Clint knew there was very little the older man wouldn’t do for his friends. Meeting Bucky after all the mess in Siberia had only cemented that belief. Clint knew Steve had taken a road trip after the Battle of New York, claiming he wanted to see some places that he hadn’t gotten a chance to see while touring with the USO. Clint didn’t doubt that Steve had made a number of acquaintances along the way.

Clint texted his thanks and decided, after looking at the Yelp reviews, that the brewpub sounded good after a shower and a change of clothes. He needed a distraction from the heartbreak rattling around in his heart. He suspected that once he got back, Steve would be volunteering to let him work off some of the grief, maybe even getting the others to help. For now, though, some place that wasn’t a meat market, with good food and decent beer, sounded like just the place. The pub was within walking distance, so Clint felt okay about leaving his Jeep in the hotel parking lot.