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A Funny Thing Happened On The Way Back From The Hospital

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“No.”

Clint closes his eyes on the off chance that when he opens them again, by some miracle, the apparition in red with a machine gun slung over one shoulder, two swords sheathed across his back, and a Frozen Band-Aid stuck to the side of his head over his mask will have vanished. But no such luck.

Failing that, it would have been nice if he’d opened his eyes to regular, annoying, calls-himself-Clint’s-friend Wade, and not fully suited up, all in red ‘so the blood doesn’t show’, crazy-adventures-ahead Deadpool. Nice. Far from likely, but nice.

Because Clint isn't Hawkeye right now, or Ronin, or anyone else in a uniform who fights bad guys. He’s just plain Clint Barton in a hospital gown and boxer shorts. He doesn't want an adventure. He just wants to be discharged so he can leave and get some proper sleep.

“No,” he repeats, as firmly as possible, trying to channel assertiveness as taught in a long ago SHIELD seminar on making the general public do as they’re told.

Unfortunately Deadpool doesn’t count as the general public. Clint isn’t sure what he counts as. Actually, after the mess that was the Sokovia Accords and then later Stark declaring war on said Accords with an army of lawyers, Clint isn’t sure what most of the people he knows count as, but Deadpool loves living outside the box anyway.

Clint just wishes he was elsewhere. Then again, if wishes were worth anything he wouldn’t end up in a hospital bed half as often as he does, so here they both are.

“Is that really the way to greet your heroic rescuer?” Deadpool says, fake-mournfully.

At least Clint is pretty sure that it’s fake. He prefers to believe that all of Deadpool’s melodramatic displays of emotion are fake; that way no one has to engage in any awkward conversations about feelings.

In return, Deadpool tends to believe most of the words that come out of Clint’s mouth – especially ‘no’ – are fake. Speaking of feelings, Clint doesn’t feel that’s fair.

“You’re not rescuing me,” Clint tells him. “I don’t need to be rescued. Nat is coming to pick me up at one. I’m good, thanks.”

Later he’ll wonder if it was the ‘thanks’ that was his undoing.

“Oh, it’s fine.” Deadpool adjusts the machine gun so that it sits more securely on his shoulder and starts advancing towards Clint’s bed. “No trouble at all.”

“No,” Clint tries again, but he doesn’t stop. “If you come any closer, I swear, I’ll punch you.”

Deadpool moves within range and, true to his word, Clint takes a wild swing.

It’s not his best plan ever.

Hawkeye, did you miss? I’m shocked, shocked I tell you.” Deadpool pats him on the head gently. “There, there.”

“I am on drugs right now,” Clint complains from where he’s twisted himself up in his sheets, the attempt at throwing a punch with his bodyweight behind it having flopped him over onto his side like a freshly landed fish. His words half-muffled by the pillow, he adds, “Also: still no.”

“But I brought sparkly things for your wheelchair!”

 

The thing about Wade Wilson, Clint thinks, is that he exists in a different reality to everyone else and that, wherever he goes, he insists on actual reality and the people in it warping until they fit his worldview. Which is how Clint - his left leg in a cast, limbs kind of noodled, and brain still woozy – ends up being pushed out of the ward in a wheelchair, its spokes decorated with sparkly things that flash as they catch the light and make a constant click-clacking noise as the wheels turn.

And possibly how no one stops the armed, masked guy wandering around the hospital, who knows? Maybe the police have already been called and are on their way, or maybe the events of this week have been that crazy - aliens, again, for fuck’s sake, so many aliens - that Deadpool no longer registers as anything out of the ordinary.

“I brought you another present too,” Deadpool announces, dumping a miniature crossbow in Clint’s lap, already loaded.

“I sort of hate you right now,” Clint mumbles.

He’s never not going to love archery, but sometimes…. Sometimes he just needs to put the weaponry down and build a porch, or retile the bathroom, or redesign the kitchen. He’s used a bow to entertain in his life as much as he’s used it to harm, but it always has the capacity to be dangerous. Sometimes he just doesn’t want to hold that in his hands.

“Well if you don’t want it – ”

“Hey!”

Clint clings to the bow with all the strength he can muster, like it’s the last vestige of sanity fortifying him against the madness ahead. It’s not, obviously, but despite how un-Hawkeye-like he feels right now, sometimes feelings have to be put aside in favor of self-preservation. It’s always better to be armed in situations like these. As in, Deadpool situations. Or really just any situation where other people have weapons; Clint wants to have them as well to make it fair.

Come to think of it, that's probably part of why he isn't as mad at Stark as he should be. The guy makes mistakes, but then so does everybody and at least Stark’s idea of an apology includes gifts of top notch weaponry, as good as his own. That, and there’s an hilarious amount of entertainment in trolling him. Clint’s missed that.

“I knew you’d see it my way,” Deadpool says cheerfully and speeds up.

He pushes Clint down a long corridor that has a normal wall punctuated by doors on the right and a wall of glass panels on the left, providing a pleasant view into a courtyard with a fancy water feature occupied by a family of ducks. On the other side of said courtyard, through an opposite glass wall, Clint can see an even better view: a familiar face queuing at the reception desk. He waves to catch her attention. It takes effort, his arm and hand feeling much heavier than usual.

Natasha’s eyes catch his, flick to Deadpool, and return.

Help, Clint mouths desperately.

Her lips curve up into a wicked smirk and Clint knows - knows - that when she turns away it isn’t to come to his rescue. It’s to walk out.

“Oh em gee,” Deadpool drawls in a high-pitched tone. “The Black Widow just smiled at me!”

“Sure, that’s what that was.” In his head Clint runs through all the things he could possibly have done to deserve this kind of punishment from Nat that she hasn't already paid him back for. Shaking it in an attempt to clear the drugs fuzz doesn't help. “Maybe I hit her too hard after all. Or something.”

“Is there such a thing as too hard when it comes to hitting that? Because I - ”

“There’s a line,” Clint interrupts, hugging the miniature crossbow to his chest. “It’s the point at which you piss her off.”

“I hate to criticise, bro,” Deadpool says as they round a corner, “but friends don’t let friends be that guy, so: if you’re pissing people off, then you’re really not doing it right.”

Clint opens his mouth to explain that’s not what he meant, damn it, then decides that it’s not worth the energy and settles for a sigh instead, letting his head drop forward to rest on the butt of the crossbow.

 

Clint is far too familiar with hospitals.

He used to do a lot of exploring as a bored little kid waiting for his mum to be patched up, before the days of waiting to be patched up himself, but only Laura and Nat get to know that. Plus whoever’s managed to hack into his medical records, but he tries not to be too paranoid about these things.

What everyone else knows is that Clint tends to get injured rather a lot. To be fair, place his medical history next to his CV and there’s a correlation. Clint’s been in the circus, the army, SHIELD, and the Avengers; he doesn’t exactly avoid dangerous situations. Injuries happen. He lands in hospital so often he’d like the patient equivalent of frequent-flyer points - he likes to imagine earning things like drinkable coffee and pizza delivery - but since those don’t exist he can’t be blamed for his habit of wanting to leave against medical advice when he’s had enough of jello and the antiseptic smell. Unfortunately other people have this habit of trying to stop him from exercising his right to freedom of movement, so Clint knows his way around hospitals. Especially the escape routes.

All of which adds up to the fact that, when Deadpool wheels him into an elevator on a quiet corridor and hits the button for the lower basement level, Clint is unfortunately pretty sure where they’re heading.

“Please tell me we’re not going where I think we’re going,” he says, just in case.

“We are going,” Deadpool replies, “to save Lucy.”

He starts humming and tapping his fingers on the handles of the wheelchair in a vaguely familiar rhythm, just not familiar enough for Clint to be able name that tune.

“Lucy,” Clint repeats flatly. “I thought you were rescuing me.”

“Oh, I am. From boredom.

Clint groans.

“Dear little Lucy,” Deadpool continues, self-accompanied by the finger drumming. “The latest target of an organ harvesting ring. They started by taking knocked-out patients downstairs to remove those pesky extra organs - the ones no one thinks much about having two of until, whoops, one kicks it and you need a backup. But then they escalated to taking more important bits and now, well, what’s a little extra death, right?”

“Lucy? Really?”

“From the orphanage.”

“Right.” Clint, wise to his ways, is unable to keep the disbelief out of his tone. He raises the miniature crossbow anyway, just in case, and rests an elbow on the arm of the chair to steady himself. Then the tune comes to him: “It’s A Hard Knock Life.”

“Aww.” Deadpool stops with the tapping and leans forward, draping his arms over Clint’s shoulders. “This is why we’re friends.”

“We won’t be anymore if you keep that up,” Clint grumbles.

He has three small kids; yes, he’s watched a lot of kids’ movies, even enjoyed most of them, and earned Dad Points for being able to sing along to Lila’s favourites. Look, once upon a time under a big top he wore a sequined leotard - just one example from his history of loud costume choices - in front of hundreds of people every night for cash, and once nothing but a thong and a shit ton of body glitter to a supermarket at three in the morning for a dare. Not to mention the many decidedly not-fun naked times in his military and SHIELD days.

The point is: he’s never going to be embarrassed by having spent time doing kid things with his kids and therefore being able to recognise songs from kids’ movies. He’s just not a fan of films with orphans and child abuse.

“Anyway, it's Annie in the musical. Not Lucy.”

“Annie is fictional,” Deadpool says, standing up straight as the elevator doors ding open facing a sign for the morgue.

 

This corridor is empty of people, allowing Deadpool to whizz down it and shove straight through the push doors at the far end - the wheelchair’s footrest thankfully taking the hit and not Clint’s legs - and into the morgue shouting, “Those of you not stiff yet: hands above your head!”

A scrawny, middle-aged man is the room’s single live occupant, with safety goggles perched on top of thinning hair and a protective apron over his scrubs. Hardly a match for the invasion of Clint, with his bow, and Deadpool, who’s pulling the machine gun off his shoulder. The man startles at the noise and then stumbles backwards, quivering like a leaf with his hands raised high in the air.

“If he moves, shoot him,” Deadpool orders gleefully.

Clint eyes the shaking man and the spreading damp patch on the leg of his trousers and lowers the bow, although he still keeps hold of it. His aching arms thank him.

“How about no.”

“You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

“I know what it means,” says Clint. “Really not sure about you.”

It smells like chemicals down here, but also stale smoke, burnt plastic, and gas stations in the midday sun. Like the city, it smells like an urban warzone. Because of course it does. Clint himself still smells like that, where the sponge baths and the shitty hospital shower that he graduated to this morning didn't quite do their job.

He tries not to look at the sheet-covered shape on the slab to his right, another on a wheelie trolley to the side, and the one in the half-open fridge drawer near Morgue Guy. There's something extra-tragic about the saveable ones - the ones who got this far, to a hospital, to help, and still didn't make it.

“Take whatever you want,” Morgue Guy stammers, backing away further until he hits a wheelie table with a metal tray of sharp instruments that go crashing to the ground. Clint tracks each one as they fall, but Morgue Guy doesn’t attempt to reach for any of them. He just whispers, “Please.”

Deadpool swings the machine gun up to aim at him.

“Don't fucking move!”

Morgue Guy shrinks in on himself. Satisfied, Deadpool turns away to rummage through cupboards and drawers. He finds his apparent target in the false bottom of a body-refrigerator drawer and empties it onto the floor: a pile of transparent plastic bags packed full of powders and pills.

“Funny looking stolen organs,” says Clint, keeping one eye on Morgue Guy. He’s ninety-nine percent sure there's no danger coming from that direction, but underestimation is an embarrassing way to die.

“Organ harvesters, drug gangs; to-may-to, to-mah-to.”

Deadpool rips open one of the bags and inspects the powdered contents.

“So, no little Lucy.” It isn't a question.

“You don’t know that.” He peels his mask off up to his nose, licks a gloved finger, swipes it through the powder, and licks it again. He hums appreciatively. “Drugs destroy, Hawkeye.”

“But you’re not doing this because of a girl called Lucy.”

“More because of a girl called Vanessa.”

Clint sighs.

“You mean your girlfriend Vanessa?”

“Well, technically because of a friend - well, more a colleague - of Vanessa’s, who was totally clean until some absolute douche canoe got her back on this shit. And why mess around with fucking up that one annoying salesperson when you can take the whole company out of business, am I right?”

Clint can't say he disagrees exactly, but, “You kidnapped me to help you out with a favour for your girlfriend. Really?”

“I do nice things for my girlfriend. This is why I get laid.” Deadpool tosses a pill in his mouth and pulls his mask down, crunching. “Aww, don’t be jealous, I did bring you presents.”

Clint scrubs a hand over his face. “You do remember that I’m married, right?”

“What’s that got to do with sex?”

He sounds genuinely puzzled, which: okay, fair, and Wade hasn’t met Laura or seen how handsy they are when they’re together, but Wade does know that, “We have three kids.”

“So you did it at least three times, am I meant to be impressed?”

Clint thinks of a whole range of replies as Deadpool starts stuffing drugs into a bag marked ‘biochemical waste’, all of which Laura would have mocked him for so it’s probably for the best that the gang of drug dealers shows up before he voices any.

Just a small, three-person gang.

Not that Clint is being cocky, because that’s usually a brief stop on the way to being dead, but in recent years he has been taken over by an alien, seriously fought Natasha, fought an army of aliens attacking Earth through a giant hole in the sky, fought a robot army while on a flying city, fought Natasha again, gone on the run from the United States government, fought an army of aliens again led by a huge alien trying to destroy the universe, and… Well, he’s not saying that a drug gang consisting of three people and a cowering mortician is a walk in the park or anything, but it’s definitely closer to a park than he’s been in a long time. Like, a mugging in a park.

What he’s saying is that Deadpool could handle this on his own, so any worries Clint had about being insufficient, injured back-up have shrunk significantly.

Morgue Guy’s knees give out on him and he crumples to the floor, which is actually the safest place for him as the apparent leader - a woman with arm muscles Clint envies and an impressive sleeve tattoo - opens fire with an automatic.

She sends a burst of bullets at the ceiling to get their attention, another to take out the security cameras.

Clint disapproves. They should have disabled the cameras before entry or had Morgue Guy do it, and their reaction to a guy in a bright red suit and mask armed with a machine gun should have been an immediate kill shot. Amateurs.

Deadpool shoves the wheelie trolley, with the sheet-covered body Clint doesn't want to think about, between the woman and Clint, giving him some cover.

Behind her the other two - bodybuilder-types, one with piercings and the other with truly awful taste in facial hair - wave around their own firearms in a threatening manner. Clint has to compensate for his uncooperative muscles when he aims, but he manages to put an arrow through the gun hand of the one on the right and the guy drops the weapon with a swallowed scream.

Clint finds most thugs are useless without their guns and this guy is no exception, frantically looking around for something else to arm himself with and not noticing nineteen perfectly useful things within his reach. Typical Second Amendment trigger happy idiot - strip the gun away and he panics.

Meanwhile Clint scoops a dropped scalpel and a pair of thin, pointy scissors up off the floor - victims of Morgue Guy’s earlier clumsiness - and throws the scissors into the leader’s thigh as he leans back up. She spits out a curse and turns on him.

Demonstrating a different form of gun idiocy, Deadpool adds to the attack on the leader by throwing his machine gun into her face, yelling, “Yippee-ki-yay motherfucker!”

“What the hell?” Clint demands.

The dumbass move does at least buy them a moment while everyone else wonders the same thing, giving Deadpool time to dump the bag of drugs in Clint’s lap, grab the handles of the wheelchair, and make a hasty exit the way they came in. Clint has to hold onto the armrests to stop himself from falling out as Deadpool spins the chair around.

“No bullets,” Deadpool says as the sound of crashing in the morgue behind them signals the start of pursuit. “What else was I gonna do with it?”

“Wait, it wasn't loaded?”

“Of course not!”

Clint struggles with the logic, and with reloading the miniature crossbow.

“No, but really,” says Deadpool. “Why would I bring a loaded gun into a hospital? What kind of horrible person does that?”

Bullets smack into his back as their pursuit gets hot. Clint cringes, grateful that Wade is unkillable but hating that he’s getting hurt by being Clint’s human shield.

They retreat to the elevator.

“Think they’ll take the stairs?” Deadpool says calmly as the doors shut, bullets thudding into the other side before the bad guys realise they’ve missed their window of opportunity and it goes suspiciously quiet, other than the noise of the lift machinery as it ferries them upwards. He reaches down to take the crossbow off Clint, reloading it and handing it back.

“Yeah,” Clint replies in the same tone, picturing it in his head. “Turn right, five metres down the corridor, double doors on the left. That's their closest staircase, should be where they come out.”

“Want me to leave you in here?”

“No.” It’s a really bad idea, but there’s something about being shot at that Clint takes personally, Wade is right about what kind of dicks bring guns into a hospital, and Clint is the kind of person who helped to save the universe recently; he’s not going to let a friend face a drug gang alone. Clint braces the crossbow. “Let's ram ‘em.”

“Really?” Deadpool sounds delighted. He tosses the drugs in a corner and rubs his gloved palms together. “Insert rallying speech here.”

 

They hit the doors at the top of the stairs at a run, which swing open with enough force to slam against the walls. Then they just keep going, Deadpool yelling wordlessly and Clint joining in. With the element of surprise long gone, might as well try a battle cry to strike fear into the opposition.

Clint somehow stays seated for the first few steps that the wheelchair bumps down. Thug Number One, leading the charge for the other side, is only a few steps lower and Clint’s arrow gives him an extra, fatal piercing in the time it takes the guy to raise his gun. Then Clint is flying, catapulted forward as the wheelchair gets stuck on Thug One and crashing into Thug Two, who throws up his hand - the one Clint has already used for target practise - in an attempt to protect his face.

It’s at this point that Clint remembers he’s wearing a hospital gown and is very, very grateful for the pair of boxers he’d managed to put on underneath this morning, even though the rest of the clothes Nat had dropped off for him had felt like too much of an effort to manage. Sure, Clint’s done a lot of things wearing less, but he likes to think his days of naked indignity are in the past.

Thug Two cushions Clint’s fall, toppling backwards and then acting a little like a sled as the pair of them tumble down the remaining steps. They slide to a stop on the landing below, helped by the wall that Thug Two’s head cracks against.

Deadpool leaps over the crash site, slicing at the dazed Thug Two with one of his swords. Thug Two screams. Blood pools on the floor. Clint leaves handprints in it as he scrambles forward on his hands and one good leg to finish him off with the scalpel. One slice across the throat. More blood, soaking into Clint’s flimsy gown.

Deadpool and the leader face off on the next landing.

She has a gun and Deadpool a sword; it shouldn't be a contest. Even with her limping, the morgue scissors still jammed in the meat of her thigh.

There was a moment like this in an Indiana Jones film, Clint remembers, but Deadpool can’t die and won't quit, no matter how many holes she drills into him and he doesn't give her chance to make many.

“This is a hospital,” Deadpool admonishes her corpse. “Shame on you.”

It's quiet for a moment.

Deadpool wipes his sword off on the body at his feet. Clint prods at his throbbing chin, spits out blood, and takes a minute just to sit and catch his breath as the adrenaline wears off. Everything hurts.

A doctor appears at the top of the stairs. The expression on her face gives Clint fond memories of the SHIELD extraction team that last time he was in Azerbaijan. Clint had been very happy to see all those extra hands for clean-up. They, on the other hand, had filed a report summed up as ‘not in our job description’ that led to no more extraction teams dispatched for Strike Team Delta.

Two nurses crowd in behind her, wearing scrubs decorated with cartoon characters. Nurse Pokémon wouldn't look out of place in an army recruitment poster and has a glare Maria Hill would be proud of. Nurse SpongeBob looks like Melinda May on the warpath.

Clint offers them all his most charming smile.

“Um, could you call the police please?” he says as a reassuring opening line. He hopes his cast and the crashed wheelchair indicating ‘patient’ will go some way towards cancelling out his blood-covered state and the whole terrorist vibe Deadpool has going on. Also: “It’s okay, I’m an Avenger.”

That used to work, back when ‘Avenger’ meant ‘one of the good guys’, and he reckons it’s worth a try. After all, they did just save everyone from aliens. Again.

SpongeBob punches a code into her pager and Pokémon takes a step forward, folding his arms to appear even more bulky and intimidating.

“Just...don't move,” the doctor orders.

Clint chokes on a laugh.

“Yeah, that's really not a problem.” He leans back against the wall and closes his eyes, letting his body go limp. “Also, there’s a bag of drugs in the elevator that I believe belongs to you. And you might wanna fire the guy in the morgue.”

 

Apparently, having made an unholy mess of the morgue, a lift, and a staircase, the least Hawkeye and his masked friend can do is to spend some time in the nearest kids’ ward. Proof that there's pros and cons to playing the Avengers’ card.

Once Security have confirmed that they aren't terrorists, of course.

At least while they figure it out they let Clint clean off most of the blood and finally get changed into the clothes Nat had dropped off for him. Under guard. While Deadpool flirts with the guard and tries to be helpful by listing various ways to remove blood stains, at least half of which Clint already knew and none of which are any use when all he has on hand is shower gel and water.

Then it’s on to the kids’ ward. Clint isn’t a fan of meet-and-greets, especially when he’s injured, but, as always with any meet-and-greet that involves kids, about ten minutes into it he finds himself having fun. He can’t help it; he likes kids.

He maybe gets a bit too enthusiastic playing around though, because his chin starts bleeding again.

“Thank you,” says SpongeBob, as she fixes his face with some butterfly stitches. “You’ve made their day.”

“Yeah,” says Clint, struggling to keep still when a flock of small people are constantly moving around in his peripheral vision. “Don't mention it.”

Really. He means it. He’s hoping if anyone notices the extra injuries it’s assumed they’re from the battle to save the universe. It won't fly with Natasha or Laura - because Natasha will know and Clint tells Laura everything - but he can live without the ‘old man can’t manage stairs’ jokes from anyone else, thanks.

“If you’re a superhero how come you got hurt?” demands one of the kids drawing on his cast.

“Not a superhero,” Clint tries to say, disturbing Nurse SpongeBob’s work on his chin, because some days the ‘hero’ label sits on his shoulders better than others, but there’s never been anything ‘super’ about him.

The nurse glares him into silence before telling the kid, “Heroes get hurt too, Brian.”

Brian doesn't look happy about this fact. To be fair neither is Clint, who has to fight not to laugh at the kid’s expression.

“He likes purple,” declares a small girl waving a handful of marker pens in various shades of said colour at the industrious cast decorators. “We should use more purple.”

“Purple isn't a boys colour,” scoffs Brian. He reminds Clint of Cooper at that age, complete with the rubbish he’d picked up from kindergarten that they'd had to educate him out of.

“Hey, embrace the rainbow,” says Deadpool, cheerfully accepting a purple pen.

He’s acquired more cartoon character Band-Aids, covering up the bullet holes in his suit. Clint seriously hopes they're not traumatising these kids.

“What’re you in for?” Deadpool asks Brian, tapping the kid gently on his bandana-covered head before leaning over Clint’s cast with his pen. Clint cranes to see what he’s doing, but Nurse SpongeBob moves his face back into position with latex-gloved fingers on his jaw and admonishes him to keep still.

“Cancer,” says Brian.

“Fucking cancer.”

“That's a bad word.”

Brian looks amused though. Nurse SpongeBob less so.

“Fucking right it is,” says Deadpool, “but y’know a wise man once said fear of a name increases fear of a thing itself.”

Brian accepts the high-five Deadpool offers and grins, revealing the gaps where he’s lost three baby teeth. “Yeah. Fuck cancer.”

Actually, maybe the thing about Wade Wilson, Clint thinks, is that he lives in exactly the same reality as everyone else, it’s just that he calls it on its bullshit and mocks the hell out of it. It makes some people uncomfortable, but kids appreciate a lack of bullshit.

So does Clint.

 

Of course Deadpool steals Clint’s phone to call a taxi. Even though it's a well-known, documented-on-social-media fact that Deadpool has his own damn phone; the X Men have even been known to track him down using the location tag on the selfies he posts on Instagram. When they get the urge to lecture him on the error of his ways. Or when he captions a photo of an exploding building with ‘SOS SEND IN THE CLOWNS’. That kind of thing.

“Uh-oh, you got missed calls here.”

Clint tries to grab the phone off him, but Deadpool switches it to his other hand and lifts it up over his head. Clint doesn't have the energy or the coordination to deal with this right now.

“Your contacts are all just numbers, ugh, why?”

“So when people steal my phone there’s a limit to what information they can get from it. Obviously.”

Clint contemplates elbowing him in the stomach, but there are too many Band-Aid covered bullet wounds and he can't bring himself to do it.

“But where are your personalised ring tones?” Deadpool mourns. “Where are your pictures? The cat gifs? Which is the one true way to pronounce gif, I’ll have you know.”

“Just - hey - just let me call Nat, dammit.”

Clint makes a final effort to snatch his phone back before giving up. He slumps down into the stupid wheelchair that the hospital insisted he be wheeled out in - even though they’d agreed he’s fit enough to be released - and closes his eyes in defeat. At least the kids’ ward had accepted his donation of the spoke decoration things.

“I’m not gonna leave you hanging, bro.”

Deadpool lowers the phone within Clint’s reach and Clint eyes it suspiciously before reaching out to take it. Thankfully he doesn't yank it away and laugh, although he does ruffle Clint’s hair.

When the taxi rolls up there's a moment where Clint considers shoving the wheelchair out in front of it to its doom, but he’s already been complicit in enough hospital damage for one day and this time they might bill him.

“Dopinder! Long time no see!”

Deadpool tosses Clint’s duffle bag in the truck and then holds the door open for Clint as he climbs in the back and hands Clint his crutches. Clint shoves them on the floor and tries to be grateful that he can at least leave the wheelchair behind.

It’s not that he minds getting hurt, not really. Not if it’s for a good cause. But the time between getting hurt and getting better is a pain in the ass that’s only growing longer as the years go by.

“I’m so sorry, Mr Pool,” the driver replies as Deadpool takes shotgun. “There was a traffic accident. And jail.”

“It happens,” Deadpool says.

He looks back over his shoulder at Clint, who assures him, “I don't want to know.”

“They even kept your bag as evidence,” Dopinder says sadly.

“The kitty snatchers,” Deadpool says as they drive off and, really, Clint doesn’t want to know.

“And now the traffic is very bad. The aliens and the Avengers, they left the city a mess and who is going to pay for it all, I ask you?” Dopinder sighs. “They only just finished repairing all of the roads from the last time.”

Clint shifts uncomfortably in his seat and bends his head over his phone, concentrating on texting Natasha. On my way earns him a :) in response. She maintains that her using emojis is a good cover, because it’s out of character. Clint maintains that it’s perfectly in character, because the Black Widow is a troll.

“Anyway, where is it that I can take you today, Mr Pool?”

“To the home of the Avengers.”

“Ah.” In the awkward silence Clint watches Dopinder’s face in the rear-view mirror. It works its way through some amusing expressions and then, finally, settles on a polite smile as he asks, “Will you be joining them?”

“No, no, no, I couldn’t possibly.” Deadpool waves one hand in the air dismissively. “I’m a solo act, Dopinder. Besides, the X Men keep inviting me to join them and it would break their little hearts if I ganged up with someone else.”

“It would.” Dopinder nods his head. “Very heartbreaking. Devastating.”

Clint can see why Deadpool likes him; they make a great double act.

“Now, take a left.” Deadpool claps his gloves hands together twice, laces his fingers together, and cracks his knuckles. “Do you feel happy?” he says ominously. “Because I’m feeling happy.”

 

“That’ll be three Happy Meals please,” Deadpool orders, leaning across - almost crawling over - Dopinder to speak into the drive-through ordering mic that’s on the driver’s side of the car.

“Actually, could I just have fries?” asks Dopinder, his nose squished into the side of Deadpool’s shoulder, manfully ignoring the knee perilously close to his private parts.

“Shush,” he’s told. “You’ll never get the special gold tsum tsum that way.”

Clint picks up one his crutches and uses it to prod Deadpool in the head. Gently.

“Oh, buy the man some fries.”

“Buy? Me?” Deadpool bats the crutch out of the way and slides back into the passenger seat. He props one leg up on the dashboard and runs a gloved hand up it from ankle to groin in a move that’s probably supposed to be sexy. “Why darling, where on earth would I keep money in this suit?”

“It’s true,” Dopinder adds, inching the car forward in the queue. “It would ruin the lines.”

Clint rolls his eyes.

“He has a utility belt.”

“Well, yeah,” says Deadpool, both feet on the dashboard now, “but that’s for the explosives, the crayons, and chewing gum.”

“You couldn’t add a few bills?”

“Easily damaged,” Deadpool dismisses.

“How about a credit card?”

“With my actual name on it?” Deadpool shakes his head and scoffs, “This from the guy who doesn’t even have nicknames on his phone.”

“Fine.” Clint folds his arms and leans back in his seat as they approach the drive-through collection window. “You’re getting my bag out if you want me to pay for it.”

“We’re not paying.”

Deadpool opens the passenger door and walks around the cab, whistling. The driver behind honks their horn at the holdup and Deadpool casually flips them off. Clint twists his head around to check how agitated the driver is - not enough to bother getting out of his car apparently - and automatically memorises the license plate.

The teenager in the window clutching their paper bag of takeaway, all pimples and badly applied dark eye makeup, stares as Deadpool saunters up and props his elbows on the window ledge.

“Hey Winter Soldier Wannabe, do you know a lovely lady called Becky? Becky Wiśniewski? Actually, come to think of it, it might be Rebecca.”

“Uh, yeah?” He eyes Deadpool’s suit, taking in the colourful cartoon character Band-Aids, and starts to smile. “What, is this a singing valentine or something, man?”

“Oh boy, no. Not unless you mean me ripping your heart out whilst singing, I have been known to do that.”

Clint drops his head into his hands. Mostly to hide the sniggering.

The guy behind them abuses his horn a couple more times in quick succession and Dopinder hits his own in rebuttal. It’s not dissimilar to, oh, every Avengers meeting Clint has ever attended.

“Do you understand what consent is, dickwad?” Deadpool says, shouting to be heard over the horn symphony.

“Yeah?”

Clint looks to see if the teenager’s face is as bemused as he sounds and blinks as in one smooth motion Deadpool pulls a sword from the double sheath on his back and slides it through the open lower half of the window to press the tip against the teen’s stomach.

The world goes quieter, or at least everything else fades into background noise.

“Yes what?”

“Yes, sir!”

He’s a sorry sight, skin pasty with fear beneath his uniform hat.

“See, I don't think you do. Let me see if I can put this in a way that tiny little brain of yours can compute.” Deadpool tilts the sword up so that the tip rests at the base of the kid’s throat instead; the kid swallows convulsively. “Let’s imagine… Let’s say, instead of asking someone for sex you’re making them a Happy Meal.”

“Wade,” Clint says quietly.

The thing is, the reason that they’re friends is that Wade never stops trying to help people in his own messed up way and Clint can relate. But threatening someone with a sharp blade who’s not even old enough to shave is going a bit too far.

“Just because you’ve made someone a Happy Meal,” Deadpool continues, ignoring him, “doesn’t mean that they have to eat it. In the time it takes you to make the Happy Meal they might have changed their mind. Just because you’ve made it doesn’t mean you’re entitled to watch them eat it.” He pauses. “Say ‘yes’, Don. Show me that you’re following me here.”

“Yes, sir.”

Sweat and tears are starting to make the teenager’s eye makeup run. At the same time, Clint at least is paying attention to what Deadpool is saying and the implications are not endearing Don to him.

“And if someone is unconscious,” says Deadpool, his words taking on a sing-song rhythm like he’s reading from a kid’s book, “don’t make them a Happy Meal. Unconscious people don’t want a Happy Meal. They can’t answer the question ‘do you want a Happy Meal?’ because they’re unconscious. You should just put the Happy Meal down.”

He twirls his sword, the blade flashing in the harsh overhead lighting.

“Don’t make them eat the Happy Meal. Don’t force it down their throat. Take the Happy Meal away and make sure that they’re safe. Unconscious people don’t want a Happy Meal, trust me on this. Do you trust me, Don?”

“Y-yes, sir.”

At this point Clint has not only lost all sympathy for Don, he’s contemplating what he’d be willing to do to him if he even so much as looked at Clint’s kids. He should, he knows, be thinking about how to empower his kids to handle this kind of shit themselves, but he’s already been there, done that, had the conversation and the planning session with Laura. A guy can still dream about menacing.

“I’m saying for the world to be a happy place you gotta respect the Happy Meal.”

“Yes, sir.”

“No.”

“I mean no, sir!”

“You have to respect other people, Don.” Deadpool taps the flat of the blade against the guy’s nose. “And embrace the radical concept that women are in fact people.”

Don looks like he’s converted. Or least scared enough to act like he’s converted, which is sometimes the best that can be hoped for, and it’s the actions people take that matter in the end.

“Which is to say,” Deadpool continues cheerfully, “if you go anywhere near Rebecca again I’ll slit you from navel to nose.”

He taps the sword against Don’s nose again, then makes a show of wiping it off on the shoulder of his polo shirt.

“Mr Pool is a real hero,” Dopinder says, beaming with pride. He meets Clint’s eyes in the wing mirror and hastily adds, “Not that fighting aliens is not also heroic! Very heroic and much appreciated.”

“Thanks,” says Clint, amused. He takes a look over his shoulder at the guy behind them, who suspiciously hasn’t attacked his horn for a while and now appears to either be talking to himself or… Clint cranes his aching neck to read his lips. “Also I think the guy behind us is calling the police.”

“Mr Pool!”

“And these particular Happy Meals,” Deadpool says, grabbing the takeaway bag with his free hand. “I’m going to take these and you’re going to have a good, hard think about what I just said. Because I like Happy Meals, Don. And I really don’t need turds like you fucking them up for the rest of us.”

Deadpool returns to the car, slower than Clint would like and dragging the tip of his sword across the hood of the car behind them as he goes. Unsurprisingly, the driver keeps his hand off the horn.

 

Clint prefers pizza to burgers, but the food’s hot and anything’s better than the stuff they serve in hospitals. His tiny kids’ meal doesn’t last five minutes.

Curious, he pulls open the little plastic bag to see what the free gift is and a squishy, sausage-shaped soft toy falls out into his lap. Lila has a pile of them at home; her favourites are animals and Disney princesses. Clint thinks they’re creepy with their warped features and beady little eyes and their resemblance to Star Trek tribbles, like they could start breeding at any minute and cover the world. Or at least Lila’s bedroom.

“Hey, I got Captain America,” Deadpool says gleefully.

He tosses the little guy up and down a few times, cackling, and then puts him down on the dash while he steals Dopinder’s, ripping it open to reveal a grey blob that is possibly supposed to be War Machine. Or maybe an Ultron robot?

“Boring,” is the verdict.

Clint’s tsum tsum has a cap of yellow felt hair, a little purple domino mask, and a black outfit with embroidered purple bits, including a purple bow on one side and a purple quiver on the other. He has no idea how it’s supposed to fire an arrow with teeny tiny hands that are the same size as its ears, but he guesses the answer is along the lines of ‘with the awesome power of imagination’.

It looks like Hawkeye is still a hero after all.

Screw the Accords and the court of public opinion; he’s still good enough for merchandise. And even though he can still see those sheet-covered bodies from earlier when he closes his eyes, and even though he can still taste the burning city at the back of his throat, he helped people today. Well, he helped Deadpool help people today, but still. There's drugs out of circulation, a teenager who might grow into being a better human being, and a ‘thank you’ printed in a small child’s handwriting on his cast by his knee.

He snaps a photo of the toy and sends it to Laura captioned, See, all in one piece, and to Nat, #StillGotIt. Laura immediately sends back, Lila already has about 10 of you, which is both cute and a little scary.

Five minutes later he gets, Me too, from Nat and a link to an online article posted this morning titled ‘The Captain, The Ninja, And Blonde Widow’ with a picture of the Black Widow back-to-back with Cap, or Nomad as he’s been calling himself lately, and Clint in his Ronin disguise a blur in the background. Cap is fooling no one, but since Ronin doesn’t use a bow and Clint Barton is rumoured to be dead the jury’s out on who Ronin is supposed to be. Which is how Clint wanted it, but it’s still eye-roll worthy. As is the fact that Natasha changing her hair colour is headline news.

Besides, it isn't news. She did it ages ago. Lose the uniform, a change of hair colour, a shift in how she holds herself, and the Black Widow disappears until she wants to be seen.

Clint searches for an image of a Black Widow tsum tsum - which exists! - and pings that off in reply. Then he tucks Mini-Me into his jacket pocket, squishing him down so he won’t fall out.

“Do you have an Avengers card to pass security,” Dopinder asks, sounding a little excited as they approach the main entrance to the New Avengers Facility, “or a very secret code…?” He trails off into stunned silence.

There used to be a fancy, super secure door set in the reinforced outer wall. Half of it has been melted into slag and the remainder blasted through into the garage behind, along with a lot of the surrounding wall. The road leading up to it changes from smooth asphalt to a six metre wider mess of torn up road and grass that’s hell on the suspension. Dislodged pieces of metal and burnt patches decorate the remaining grass at either side.

“Space ship,” Clint explains.

It looks better than it did: someone has cleared the large debris that was blocking the route so they can drive right through, and nothing is actually on fire any more.

“Uh-huh,” says Dopinder, wide-eyed as he takes them into the garage.

“I am officially impressed,” says Deadpool. “Not that I couldn’t have done better, but impressed.”

Clint unfastens his seatbelt and leans forward between the front seats to offer directions through the parking garage into the main compound; Dopinder obediently comes to a stop in front of the residential building.

“So. This is me.”

Deadpool twists around in his seat and says solemnly, “It’s been real.”

He throws up a peace sign and gets out to fetch Clint’s duffle from the trunk. Clint, wrestling with his crutches, exits the car with considerably less ease and doesn’t object to the help. It’s only fair, since Deadpool put his bag there in the first place.

It’s also only fair that Clint pays for the cab. He didn’t want a cab, he didn’t call for the cab, but the cab took him where he wanted to go, so. He unzips his bag and digs out his wallet.

“Oh, no,” says Dopinder, winding down his window when Clint taps on it and waves the wallet at him. “Mr Pool doesn’t usually - ”

Deadpool, getting back into the passenger seat, slices a hand across his throat.

“Yes, Mr Hawkeye,” Dopinder quickly corrects himself. An Olympic runner could only wish to be that fast off the starting block.

Clint shakes his head, laughs, and hands over the fare. Plus a tip.

They wait for him while he figures out how to get himself and his stuff inside, Deadpool singing The Final Countdown in the background. Clint tries not to be too self-conscious of being watched as he tucks the top of one crutch under his armpit, so that he can slap his palm against the door scanner before grabbing the crutch handle again, all without a single wobble thank you very much.

Stark’s voice recognition password is a bigger challenge. Dopinder gets his wish to see the Avenger’s security in action and Deadpool yells out suggestions that Clint ignores as he runs through Clint, Clint Barton, Legolas, Katniss, Robin Hood, Daryl Dixon, and Ronin.

Hawkeye is the one that works.

“Hawkguy!” Deadpool yells, leaning his entire upper body out of the taxi window to wave goodbye, as Dopinder drives off with a celebratory horn blast.

Clint smiles to himself and pats the tsum tsum bulge in his pocket.

“Alright then,” he mutters. “Avengers reassemble.”