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Under The Mountain

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It all happened so quickly. One moment Clint was running up the tunnel out of one of Doom’s underground lairs, Bucky one step ahead of him and the others a bit further up, then the next there was a worrying rumble and cracks started ripping through the rocks of the ceiling.

“He’s engaged the auto-destruct!” Tony shouted from up ahead. “We need to get out!”

Everyone started to sprint for the exit but Clint already knew he wasn’t going to make it. He was way too far back and didn’t have super-soldier-powered legs, or a suit capable of supersonic flight, or god-like powers.

The whole ceiling started to collapse in, rocks tumbling down into the tunnel. Oh shit, there really was no way he was getting out in time. He was going to get crushed to death.

He glanced around, desperately looking for some kind of cover.

Something hit him from the side and pushed him back against the stone wall of the tunnel as the whole place caved in with a roar, cutting out the light and filling the air with dust and rock. Something hit Clint’s shoulder and he felt himself fall, curling up into a ball to try and protect himself.

When the concussion of falling rocks had finished, Clint had to take a moment to make sure he was still alive, then took a deep breath that left him coughing on the rock dust in the air. Every shake of his body as he choked made his shoulder throb with pain.

“You okay?” asked a voice in his ear, and he realised that the thing that was pressing him against the wall and which had shielded his body from the worst of the collapse was Bucky.

He’d protected Clint by putting himself in the way of danger. Clint didn’t have a clue what to do with that, so he just pushed it to one side to be dealt with later, when he wasn’t surrounded by a cave-in.

“Mostly,” he said, then coughed again as he inhaled more dust. “Jesus fuck,” he added, with feeling.

Bucky tried to move back and Clint realised just how closely their bodies were pressed together. There was a clack of falling stones and something shifted in an ominous way, and Bucky went still again. Probably wise.

“Better question, are you okay?” asked Clint. “You must have taken the brunt of that.” He gingerly turned so that he wasn’t facing the cave wall and had to suck in a breath as the movement sent pain lancing down from his shoulder. Okay, that was clearly seriously fucked up.

He blinked against the rock dust doing its best to get in his eyes and realised that it was so dark that there was very little difference between having them opened and having them closed.

“I’m fine,” said Bucky, and started moving again, this time a lot slower and with more care. He managed to pull back enough that Clint was able to fully turn over and sit up, very, very carefully. He unclipped the release on his quiver and let it drop so that it wasn’t pressing into his spine when he leant back against the rock. He was trying not to think about the fact that he’d dropped his bow somewhere in the confusion and it was probably buried under half a mountain at this point.

He tapped at his comms unit. “Hawkeye to Avengers,” he said, without much hope. “Can anyone hear me? Cap? Iron Man? Widow?”

There was no response. “Is yours working?” he asked Bucky.

“Nah,” said Bucky from somewhere to the left of him. “It got smashed.”

Well, of course. Just what this situation needed; an inability to communicate with the others. Christ, Clint hoped they got out before more rocks came down. Just because things were temporarily stable didn’t mean a minor shift wouldn’t put a sudden end to the space they’d found themselves in.

“I can’t see a thing,” he said, into the darkness. Bucky had moved far enough away for Clint not to be able to feel him and there was a strange sense of vertigo as he realised he had absolutely no idea what the space around him was like. He felt about him with his uninjured arm and found rock behind him and to his right, and about a foot above his head. That was too low for him to even stand up.

“I can see a bit,” said Bucky, still moving around and presumably investigated just how big this space was. From how close his voice still was, it didn’t seem to be that large. “It’s not encouraging.”

Clint reached out again, trying to map even just the space within in arm’s reach, which turned out to be a bad plan when it joggled his shoulder again. He clenched his teeth against the pain. Okay, something very bad had happened there. He ran his hand gently over his shoulder, feeling for the injury. Shit, it was dislocated. Not good.

Nothing about this situation was encouraging. “You reckon we’re gonna be able to get out?” he asked, without much hope. When that amount of rock fell, it wasn’t going to leave a handy passage back out to daylight.

There was a scrape of a rock, then a sigh. “Not without assistance, or we’ll bring the whole damn lot down on us.”

Clint slumped back. “Okay, I really don’t want to ask this, but...can you see air getting in at all, or are we on a countdown to suffocation?”

Bucky shifted around again and there was a grinding sound as two rocks shifted together. “Can’t see,” he said. “There’s something that might be a gap, but it might not. I can’t see all that well, you know.”

Clint let out a long sigh. “So, to recap: we can’t get ourselves out, we can’t talk to the others, we may run out of air, my shoulder is dislocated and Doom is an asshole.”

“Your shoulder is dislocated?” asked Bucky, latching on to what seemed to be the least important thing. “Is it bad?”

“No idea,” said Clint. “Can’t see, remember? Besides, it’s not gonna matter unless the others get us out.”

Clint heard Bucky move closer, then flinched as a hand touched his leg. “Which shoulder?”

Clint batted at the hand. “Don’t even think about touching it.”

“I’m not gonna hurt you,” said Bucky, his hand moving to Clint’s stomach then moving up to his chest. Okay, this was getting unexpectedly intimate.

“Right,” agreed Clint, grabbing his hand at the wrist. “You’re not gonna hurt me, because you’re not gonna touch it.”

“We need to put it back in,” said Bucky from very close to Clint’s ear. “I can help.”

“Nope,” said Clint. “We need to leave it, because either I’m gonna suffocate in the next couple of hours and it doesn’t matter what state my joints are in, or we’re gonna get rescued and trained medical professionals will be on hand to do it. Trained medical professionals who can see what they’re doing.”

“I can see what I’m doing,” grumbled Bucky, but Clint could tell he’d moved back.

“You can see slightly better in the dark than me, you’re not wearing night-vision googles,” said Clint. “Quit playing the invincible super-soldier card.”

Bucky sighed. “Ain’t nothing invincible about super-soldiers,” he muttered, and pulled his wrist out of Clint’s grip. As his hand slide across Clint’s, Clint could feel the distinctive, sticky feel of drying blood on it.

“Are you bleeding?” he asked.

There was a telling pause. “Not much,” said Bucky casually. “Hit my head, that’s all.”

Oh great, they were both injured. “And it’s bleeding?” asked Clint. “Is it bad?”

“It’s nothing,” said Bucky, with a dismissive tone that Clint recognised all too well from hanging out with way too many guys who felt the urge to downplay their injuries.

“Yeah, right,” said Clint. “Hey, remember how you just said that super-soldiers aren’t invincible? Do you want to maybe pretend you believe it?”

“I’ve had far worse than a rock falling on me,” muttered Bucky.

Clint ignored him. “Have you got a concussion?”

There was a long sigh. “I don’t know,” said Bucky. “I’m kinda dizzy, but like you said, doesn’t matter much right now, does it?”

That didn’t sound good. When Clint gave that kind of answer to EMTs, he usually ended up staying in medical overnight for observation.

“Okay, so that’s another problem that’s more serious than my shoulder,” he said.

“I’m fine,” said Bucky, dismissively. “It’s nothing, I told you. I’ve had worse.”

“Yeah, not really the point,” said Clint. “For one thing, you’ve not had worse while saving my life, and for another, I really don’t want to be rescued just to have to tell Cap that you didn’t make it.”

“I didn’t save your life if we suffocate in here,” said Bucky, which wasn’t even close to what Clint had wanted him to take away from that. He kicked out at where Bucky’s voice was coming from and was rewarded with a thump and a grunt.

“Focus,” said Clint. “Worrying about suffocating isn’t gonna make a jot of difference to whether or not we do. We need to focus on shit we can do something about. If you’ve got a concussion, we need to keep you alert. If you lapse into a coma and die, Steve really will lose his shit.”

“Shit we can do something about. Like your shoulder, you mean?” grumbled Bucky, kicking back at Clint and catching the sole of his boot.

“Shit that it makes a difference if we do something about it,” said Clint, using all his maturity to not kick Bucky again, because this wasn’t the time or the place for a kicking match. “A dislocated shoulder’s not gonna kill me before we get rescued, but head injuries are tricky.”

Bucky let out a very long sigh. “Yeah, okay. What’s your genius plan, then? Cuz, I don’t know if you noticed but we’re not exactly swimming in options.”

Clint shrugged his uninjured shoulder, then bitterly regretted it when the movement pulled across his body to the dislocated one. Okay, great, as little as movement as possible, then. He could do that.

“We’re gonna just have to keep talking,” he said. “I know you like doing the whole strong silent type thing, but if we sit in silence in the dark, I’m not gonna know if you pass out.” Also, he’d probably go a bit nuts. He could already feel the reality of their situation stirring up panic in his chest, but as long as he focused on Bucky, he could keep it pressed down deep.

“Strong silent type,” repeated Bucky, in an unreadable tone of voice. “Right.”

“Well, with anyone other than Steve,” said Clint, because he’d heard Bucky chattering away to Steve often enough. And, actually, he’d heard him occasionally talking to some of the others, it was only when Clint walked into the room that he fell silent and then escaped as quickly as he could. Clint had stopped trying not to take it personally a few weeks ago, and was now just resigned to the fact that Cap’s best friend apparently hated him.

In fact, their current conversation was probably the longest they’d ever had, which made Bucky’s actions earlier make even less sense. Why the hell had he risked getting crushed to death for his least favourite member of the team?

“I guess I’ve got a lot of practice talking to Steve,” said Bucky. There was a shift of rock and Clint felt Bucky’s legs spread out in the small space, foot nudging Clint’s before he shifted it away. “Okay, so, what do a pair of guys trapped under a pile of rocks and waiting to suffocate chat about?”

“Baseball?” suggested Clint, which drew a snort of amusement out of Bucky.

“Good luck with that, pal. Last time I paid attention to a game was 1943.”

Clint tipped his head back against the rock behind him. “Well, I’d suggest I Spy, but you’d kick my ass.”

“Something beginning with R,” said Bucky.

“Rocks,” said Clint, immediately.

“Yep,” said Bucky. “Guess you won after all.”

“Awesome,” said Clint, with a sigh. “Well, that killed thirty seconds.”

There was silence for a handful of seconds. Silence when sitting in the dark surrounded by layer after layer of rock was very loud, somehow. Clint found himself becoming very aware of just how much mountain was over their heads, held up by a few carefully balanced rocks.

He nudged at Bucky’s leg with his foot. “Don’t pass out.”

“I didn’t,” said Bucky. “I just had nothing to say.”

“Don’t care,” said Clint. “I’m serious about you needing to keep talking.”

There was a long, heartfelt sigh, then a movement that sent pebbles tumbling and made Clint freeze in panic before it became clear that the roof was staying up, for now. “Aimless conversation ain’t my strong point.”

Clint made a face to himself. “Yeah, I’m getting that. Can’t you tell me some story about Steve being an idiot when he was a kid, or something? Doesn’t even have to be true.”

“Yeah, okay,” said Bucky, sounding put upon. Clint didn’t give a shit if he was pissing him off, he wasn’t sitting here in silence. “You ever hear about the time I persuaded him to go on the Cyclone at Coney Island?”

“Nope,” said Clint. “Go for it.”

Clint kinda expected that Bucky would just get it out as quickly as possible, like giving a mission debriefing, but he took his time with the anecdote, stringing it out with added details and asides. Clint found himself sniggering long before he got to the climax of Steve throwing up, which made Clint laugh hard enough to jar his shoulder.

“Ow, fuck,” he said, reaching for it and then thinking better of touching it. “Okay, the next story needs to be less funny cuz my shoulder’s killing me now.”

“Sorry,” said Bucky. “I mean, I’ve actually got a whole lot more depressing stories than I do funny ones, but I’m not sure this is a good place to be telling them.” There was a pause, then he added, in a diffident voice, “I prefer making you laugh, anyway.”

Well, that sounded like bullshit.

Clint frowned to himself. “Wait, does laughing use up more oxygen than just talking?”

“I thought we weren’t worrying about that?” said Bucky.

“Yeah, it’s hard not to,” said Clint. “Eh, fuck it, I’d rather die laughing that get another five minutes trapped in here and then die miserable.”

Not that the last few minutes wouldn’t be miserable either way, but Clint wasn’t going to think about that until it became an actual problem.

“You’re not gonna die,” said Bucky with far more confidence than Clint felt right now. “The others will rescue us.”

“Right,” said Clint because he might as well act as if he believed that. “How long do you think that will take?”

Would they even be rushing? If Clint had watched two guys disappear in a collapsing tunnel like that, he’d have assumed they’d died in the first ten seconds. Of course, he didn’t have Steve’s stubborn belief that he could change reality if he just fought it hard enough. Clint could imagine him digging through rocks with just his bare hands to get to Bucky.

He wondered if he’d put as much effort in if it were just Clint in here, then shut that line of thought down as unhelpful.

“You know, not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment,” he said to Bucky, “but you would have been better off just sprinting for the exit rather than trying to help me. You’d have made it out, I’ve seen how fast you can run.”

“You’re kidding, right?” said Bucky. “You think I shoulda just run off and left you to get crushed?”

Yeah, that was exactly what Clint thought, and what he’d have expected if you’d asked him what Bucky would do before this happened. The guy barely spoke to him, what the hell was he thinking sacrificing himself for what had only been a very thin chance of actually being able to help Clint?

“I might not have been crushed,” he said rather than point that out. “I might be sitting right here, just I wouldn’t have to share the air with another guy.”

Bucky snorted. “You’da been crushed,” he said. “You were just hanging out in the middle of the tunnel waiting for it, like an idiot.”

“I was considering my options,” corrected Clint. “Looking for cover.”

“Sure,” said Bucky. “Let’s assume you’d found some; you’d still be dead. The rock that bounced off my head wasn’t the only one big enough to cause injury. I’ve just got the advantage of an arm that can take a few hits, but you’d have had your skull crushed in.”

See, this was what Clint really hated; being treated like he needed protecting just because he wasn’t souped up on super-soldier serum, encased in a suit of armour, or a god. “Great,” he snapped back. “Now we can both be dead, just it’ll be a slow death of thirst or suffocation.”

“We’ll get rescued,” said Bucky with the confidence that Clint was starting to find really irritating. “Steve ain’t gonna leave us here.”

Clint squeezed his eyes shut against the dark, then opened them again to no noticeable difference. “No?” he asked. “Because he did last time you were on a mountain and everyone thought you were dead.”

There was a telling silence and Clint winced. Okay, that had been over the line, he was officially a dick, no wonder Bucky didn’t like him.

“I’m thinking he might have learnt his lesson on that one,” said Bucky eventually.

Clint let out a long, slow breath. “Sorry,” he offered. “I’m not really enjoying this so much.”

Bucky’s leg nudged against his foot. “I get that, but you were right earlier. No point in losing hope.” He added, in a much quieter voice. “I spent enough time without hope.”

Clint ran his hand through his hair, grimacing at the feel of rock dust in it. “Okay, okay, let’s keep things upbeat then. Did you ever hear about the time Tony thought it would be a good idea to take Thor to Vegas?”

“No,” said Bucky. “That sounds like it got messy.”

“It really did,” said Clint, and launched into the story. He’d told it often enough for it to just flow off his tongue and Bucky snorted with amusement at all the right parts, so the strained atmosphere soon dissipated.

“I don’t understand how Tony didn’t see that coming,” Bucky said at the end.

“No one did,” said Clint. “Anyway, after he’d officially apologised to the city and paid for the damages, he gave Thor a list of cities he’s not allowed to go to.”

“Oh, there’s no way that went down well,” said Bucky, laughing.

“Nope,” said Clint. “Thor took it as a challenge. He and Jane have been to about half of them now, and they’re planning to get to them all by the end of next year. As yet, only two have banned him for life.” He frowned. “Wait, no, three.”

Bucky snorted. “I’m betting Tony isn’t taking that so well.”

“Not really,” agreed Clint. His ass was starting to go numb from sitting on bare rock, so he shifted his weight, then sucked in a pained breath as it jolted his shoulder. “God fucking damn it,” he muttered. He really had to remember that any movement was a bad idea.

“How’s the shoulder?” asked Bucky.

“Fucked,” said Clint. “If we get out of here-”

“When,” corrected Bucky.

“Right,” said Clint. “When we get out of here, I’m gonna have an annoying amount of physio to get through before they’ll let me near a bow again. How’s your head?”

“Pretty much healed up,” said Bucky, “and I’m not feeling dizzy anymore.”

Clint sighed. “Fucking super-soldiers.”

“Sorry,” said Bucky. “I can pretend it’s still bleeding if you want?”

“Nah, it’s okay,” said Clint. “At least I don’t have to worry about you lapsing into a coma.”

Which meant they didn’t have to keep talking, but Clint was damned if he was going to go quiet and just sit in the dark. Especially not now he seemed to be winning Bucky over. Or, at least, not now that Bucky was getting better at pretending to like him, but whatever, close enough.

“Right,” said Bucky. “Just have to worry about the rest of it.”

Clint kicked at his leg. “Oi, we’re not worrying, remember? Everything’s going to be fine, nothing could possibly go wrong, no way in hell there’s going to be a sudden shift that ends with us crushed under a ton of rock, or the air will run out, or it’ll be Doom that digs through to us instead of the team, or we’ll just be sitting here for days until we die of thirst, or-”

“You know, for a guy who’s not worrying, you’re kinda pessimistic,” interrupted Bucky.

“Turns out optimism is harder than it looks,” said Clint, tiredly. He was becoming increasingly aware of having a headache, which wasn’t a good sign. It might just be caffeine withdrawal or dehydration, but it was also the first sign of carbon dioxide poisoning. If this was a sealed space, the build up of carbon dioxide would kill them faster than running out of oxygen.

Man, he really was failing at optimism now. He nudged at Bucky again. “C’mon, your turn for a story.”

Bucky sighed. “Didja ever hear how Dum Dum got his hat? He had a shitty old bowler hat he used to wear everywhere.”

“Dum Dum Dugan?” said Clint. “Nope.”

“Okay,” said Bucky, and started on a story that Clint had a feeling might be complete bullshit, but it was entertaining enough to keep his mind off the weight of rock pressing in around them.

“Seems he was quite a character,” he said at the end.

“Oh yeah,” said Bucky. “You’da got on with him, I reckon.”

“Unlike you, you mean,” said Clint, then wanted to bite his tongue. He was letting the darkness and the stories lull him into letting thoughts he should be keeping a lid on slip out.

“What do you mean?” asked Bucky.

“Oh, come on,” said Clint. “It’s no secret that you don’t really like me.”

There was a pause, during which Clint really wished he could see Bucky’s expression.

“Look, don’t worry about it,” he said, not wanting to spend what could be the last few hours of his life talking about this. “It’s not like it impacts on the team at all, and there’s nothing to say you have to like the guys you work with. I can think of loads of guys I thought were dicks back at SHIELD. Of course,” he reflected, “most of them turned out to be Hydra.”

“I don’t dislike you,” said Bucky, slowly.

Clint laughed, “Oh, come on! I can tell when someone’s not keen on being around me, you know. I mean, just yesterday, I came into the kitchen when Sam was making pancakes and you stopped laughing with him and Steve and escaped within, like, three minutes.”

“That’s not,” started Bucky, then cut himself off and made a frustrated noise. “That wasn’t because I don’t like you.”

“Okay, sure,” said Clint. “You just don’t want to be around me, whatever.” He didn’t want to talk about this. Why the hell had he brought it up? Seriously, he should get an award for being able to make any situation a thousand times more awkward with just one sentence. “You watched any football since the forties?”

“No,” said Bucky. “Look, it’s not that I don’t like you. C’mon, you think I’d have tried to protect you from a whole fucking mountain if I didn’t like you?”

Clint sighed and rubbed at his forehead. “I don’t know. I mean, we are Avengers, we do have a tendency to throw ourselves against ridiculous odds in an attempt to protect people. And you like Natasha, and she likes me.”

“Everyone likes you,” said Bucky. “Including me, seriously.”

“Yeah, okay,” said Clint. ”Hey, did I ever tell you about the time Natasha got sent undercover at Disneyland?”

There was a pause, then Bucky sighed. “No, go on,” he said, grumpily. Which was pretty standard for him, so Clint ignored it in favour of changing the subject to Natasha beating up an AIM cell while dressed as a mermaid.

It was hard for even Bucky to remain in a sulk while listening to that story, and when Clint reached the end he was pretty sure that he’d successfully managed to kill the awkward.

“Hey, any idea how long we’ve been down here?” he asked.

“Sure, let me look at my watch,” said Bucky. “Oh wait.”

Clint ignored his sarcasm abuse. “Musta been about two hours, right? And we were about twenty feet from the exit. How long does it take to dig through twenty feet of rock?”

“Longer than two hours,” said Bucky. “Especially if you’re trying to avoid causing another fall.”

Clint sighed. “I’m gonna run out of anecdotes.”

“And you’re not the one with the memory gaps,” said Bucky. There was the sound of him moving and a rattle of pebbles, followed by his leg suddenly encroaching on Clint’s personal space then disappearing again. “Can’t even fucking stand up,” he muttered.

“My ass is completely numb,” agreed Clint. “Who knew that sitting on a pile of rocks for a few hours would be fucking uncomfortable?”

“If I ask how your shoulder is, are you gonna bite my head off?” asked Bucky.

“It fucking hurts,” said Clint, because, fuck it, what did it matter if he was honest or not? “My ass is numb, my shoulder fucking hurts, I’ve got dust in my throat that’s making me really want some water and I think I’m developing claustrophobia and maybe a fear of the dark, which I really could have done without. How’re you?”

“Pretty much the same,” said Bucky. “Only, take off the shoulder and add in that my arm is glitching a bit. I think I got dust in the workings, or maybe one of those rocks that bounced off it earlier damaged it.”

“You’re gonna have to let Tony fuck with it,” said Clint, and Bucky groaned.

“He’ll try and talk me into getting a lighter installed again.”

Clint moved his leg and banged his knee against a rock he hadn’t realised was there. “If you’d already agreed to that, it would be kinda useful right now,” he pointed out.

“Fire would use the oxygen up even quicker than laughing,” said Bucky. “I don’t reckon we can afford to be wasting that.”

Ah, so he’d noticed the symptoms of carbon dioxide poisoning as well. Clint wondered just how long it would take to build up to toxic levels, then reminded himself that they weren’t worrying about that.

“A flashlight, then,” he said instead. “And maybe a pack of cards.”

Bucky snorted. “So that when the others turn up we’d be playing poker? Yeah, that’d go down well.”

“We’d have to play Go Fish or something,” said Clint. “I don’t get paid enough to gamble with a guy with a poker face like yours.”

“I was picturing them arriving at the end of strip poker, actually,” said Bucky. “The look on Tony’s face is pretty fantastic.”

Clint snorted. “Yeah, no. It’s way too cold in here to be stripping off.”

“You’re cold?” asked Bucky, sounding concerned, which was not what Clint wanted him to focus on.

“I’m sitting on bare rock in a cave in the dark, of course I’m cold,” said Clint. “But don’t panic, I’m pretty sure it won’t be hypothermia that kills me.”

“You’re not gonna die,” said Bucky in the fierce growl that Clint was more used to hearing just before he went full Winter Soldier on someone.

“We’re all gonna die sooner or later,” said Clint, tiredly. His headache was a lot worse and he was starting to feel dizzy, which definitely wasn’t a good sign. He’d been trying to slow his breathing down to conserve oxygen, but every time he took his mind off his lungs they started working quicker until it felt more like he was doing a work out than sitting still. “Just, we took a job where it was more likely to be sooner, and I guess that’s gonna be really damn soon now.”

“We’re gonna be fine,” said Bucky and Clint could hear him moving, boots grinding against rock. A hand tapped at his arm, then Bucky settled in beside him, pressing up against him. The move joggled Clint’s shoulder and he had to bite his lip to keep in a swear word.

“Figured this would be warmer,” said Bucky.

Once Clint’s shoulder had stopped complaining, it actually was. Clint could feel Bucky’s heat radiating all down his side.

“Yeah, okay,” he said. “Definitely a good idea we didn’t go for strip poker.”

Bucky snorted. A moment later, an arm carefully slid around Clint’s waist, bringing more warmth with it. Clint found himself slumping into the curve of Bucky’s body before he could put the thought together that maybe he should be maintaining some kind of distance. Fuck it, what did it matter if he snuggled a bit if they suffocated in the next few hours? Plus, Bucky was warm and comfortable and right there, and if he didn’t want Clint to snuggle he should have stayed where he was.

“Hey, you reckon you’ll do a Steve?” he asked. “I mean, he was without air the whole time he was buried in the ice, right?”

“I don’t know,” said Bucky, “and I really don’t wanna think about it. Spending a few decades in stasis in a cave with your corpse ain’t high on my to do list.”

Fair enough. “Okay,” said Clint. “Guess it’s time for another anecdote then. Your turn.”

Bucky let out a very long sigh. “We really are gonna run out,” he said. “Or at least, I am. I don’t have that many stories that aren’t about killing people for Hydra, you know. Well, not many that you weren’t around for as well.”

“Tell me how you met Steve,” said Clint. “You gotta remember that, right?”

“Yeah, that one came back pretty quick, once I got free of Hydra. Meeting a punk who ends up leading you into this kinda shit stands out.”

“Yeah,” agreed Clint, thinking of the first time he’d met Coulson, when he’d been recruited to join SHIELD. “It’s good to be able to track back how you ended up in ridiculous situations like fighting a hundred evil spider plants, so you know exactly who to blame.”

“Fuck, those spider plants were an ass ache,” said Bucky. “Fucking Steve. I shoulda just left the punk to get his head kicked in, and lived a quiet life.”

“A boring one, though,” said Clint.

Bucky sighed, chest moving against Clint’s shoulder. “Yeah,” he agreed. “And let’s be honest, a much shorter one. I’d probably have died in the war.” His fingers tightened around Clint’s waist for a moment. “And I wouldn’t have met you, or the rest of the team.”

“Well, that should be a positive, right? Not having to put up with my bullshit,” said Clint. “Or Tony’s, you know, Tony-ness.”

“Tony can be a bit Tony,” agreed Bucky. “Not sure what you mean by your bullshit, though.”

Clint shrugged his uninjured shoulder and then remembered why he wasn’t doing that. Ow, right. “I don’t know, whatever it is that means you don’t like me.”

“I told you, I do like you,” said Bucky, with exasperation.

Right, sure. “You know, there’s not a lot of point in being diplomatic right now.”

“I ain’t being diplomatic,” said Bucky, sounding as if he were becoming more frustrated. “And we’re not going to die, the others are gonna dig us out.”

“Okay,” said Clint, too tired to argue. He felt his eyes sliding shut and forced them back open. Falling asleep now seemed like a bad idea.

Bucky sighed. “First time I met Steve, I was about eight,” he started. Clint settled in to focus on the story instead of thinking about how far away the others might be, and whether or not they were going to make it in time.

Once Bucky had finished, Clint followed up with the story of how he’d met Natasha and what had really happened in Budapest.

“If you ask her, she’ll give you a completely different tale,” he said. “Don’t believe her, I’m telling you, this is what happened.”

“I’m pretty sure the bit with the chandelier was bullshit,” said Bucky.

“It’s not a proper story unless someone swings off a chandelier,” said Clint. “Errol Flynn taught me that.”

“Errol Flynn,” repeated Bucky. “Jesus, there’s a name I haven’t heard in decades. People still watch his flicks?”

“I don’t know about people,” said Clint, “but I know I do. His Robin Hood is in my top three.”

Bucky laughed. “I remember that one. Steve and I snuck in through the back door of a cinema to watch it.”

“That had a good chandelier moment,” said Clint, fondly. “You know what sucks? We live in a billionaire’s multi-million dollar home, and yet there’s not one chandelier. Tony’s letting us down.”

“Right, because you don’t spend enough time treating the penthouse like a jungle gym,” said Bucky.

“Gotta keep life interesting,” said Clint. He blinked against the dark. “Which might explain how I ended up here.”

“May you live in interesting times,” said Bucky, quietly. “Yeah, been there.”

They were both quiet for a few minutes. It was a lot less anxiety-inducing to sit in silence in the dark with Bucky pressed against him and his arm curled around Clint’s waist than it had been when Clint had no idea whereabouts he was. He strained his ears for a few minutes, hoping to hear the scrap of rock against rock or any other sound that might signify the others were close by, but there was nothing.

“I wonder if my Will is up to date,” he said. HR at SHIELD had kept Wills on file for all their agents, and sent out regular reminders to update them, but Clint hadn’t even thought about his since SHIELD had collapsed. Shit, was it even still valid?

Not that he had much worth leaving to anyone. “Do you think Nat would take care of my bows?”

“You’re not going to die,” growled Bucky.

“Yeah, yeah,” said Clint. “But seriously, do you think she would? I mean, I’d really want them to go to someone who’d appreciate them for the beautiful pieces of incredible tech that they are.”

“Tech?” repeated Bucky. “A bow is a stick and a string.”

Clint drove an elbow into his ribs. “Shut up, they’re incredible. You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.”

“Nah, not really,” agreed Bucky. “I tend to go for weapons that weren’t already out-dated a hundred years before I was born.”

“See, if you gave them a chance you’d know they aren’t out-dated,” said Clint. “If we get out of here-”

“When,” interrupted Bucky.

“Right,” said Clint, not bothering to argue. “When we get out of here, you’ll have to come down to the range with me and experience what you’ve been missing all these years.”

“Sure,” said Bucky, easily. “And then we can go discover the joys of horse-drawn carts, telegrams and flint tools.”

“Just because something’s old doesn’t mean it’s out-dated,” said Clint. “You think you’d know that, Mr Nonagenarian.”

“Oh, I’m definitely out-dated,” said Bucky. “C’mon, I still think a decent pair of shoes shouldn’t cost more than five dollars.”

“That must have made Tony’s wardrobe a bit of a shock,” said Clint.

“Well, Starks have always been a law unto themselves,” said Bucky. “I can remember Howard spending a fortune on clothes that he then trashed with oil or something almost immediately.”

“I hope you didn’t mention that to Tony,” said Clint. “He hates people comparing him to his dad.”

“Yeah, Steve warned me,” said Bucky. Clint felt him shrug and realised just how close he was pressed to him, practically lying on the poor guy. Should he maybe think about sitting up a bit?

Eh, screw it, he was comfy. Well, as comfy as he could get while trapped in a cave with a dislocated shoulder. If Bucky didn’t like it, he could just add it to the reasons he hated Clint, whatever they were.

Clint’s throat was starting to feel seriously dry now, to go along with his headache, exhaustion, dizziness and the way his thoughts were starting to feel sluggish, like they were first thing in the morning before he’d managed to find some coffee.

“Maybe I should start carrying a bottle of water on missions,” he said.

“Maybe you should avoid getting trapped under a mountain,” said Bucky.

“Maybe you should practice what you preach,” said Clint. “We’re both under this goddamn mountain.”

“What kind of a guy builds a secret base in the side of a mountain anyway?” grumbled Bucky. Clint didn’t bother answering, because they both knew the answer already. A fucking crazy guy.

Bucky shifted, stretching his arm out for a moment before he tucked it back around Clint.

“Do you want me to move?” asked Clint.

Bucky’s arm tightened around him for a moment. “No, you’re good.”

Thank god. Clint really didn’t have any interest in moving. It had been a very long time since he’d spent this long snuggled up to someone and he hadn’t realised how much he’d missed it, even when that someone was a guy who didn’t like him, like Bucky.

It was hard to remember that Bucky didn’t like him when they were chatting in the dark like old friends.

“Hey,” said Clint, nudging Bucky gently with his elbow. “Thanks for this.”

“For sharing body heat?” asked Bucky. “You realise it’s benefiting me too, right?”

“No, for just chatting and being relaxed and, you know, acting as if you like me.”

“I do like you,” said Bucky, sounding resigned.

“Sure, sure,” said Clint, patting at his knee. “But seriously, thanks. If- sorry, When we get back to the tower, I’ll keep out of your way for a bit so you don’t have to deal with me.”

“You don’t-” said Bucky, then broke off with a frustrated noise. “Okay, you know what? I don’t not like you, and screw you for not believing me when I say that.”

Clint laughed. “Come on, man, I may not be a genius like Tony or Bruce, but I can tell when I guy’s avoiding me, and why the hell would you be doing that if you like me? You don’t have to pretend, Bucky, there’s no one else here and like I said before, how you feel about me hasn’t impacted on us working on the same team, so what does it matter?”

Well, other than that Clint had enjoyed hanging out with Bucky, if you took out the part where they were both injured and slowly suffocating. If he’d had the same conversation with someone else, someone who he didn’t already know hated him, he’d be thinking about making sure they got to hang out more if they ever got out of this.

When they got out of this, right. Sure.

“Okay, okay, fine,” said Bucky. “If you’re sure how I feel about you isn’t going to affect anything, and fuck it, we’re likely to die in here anyway-”

“I thought we were definitely getting rescued?” asked Clint.

Bucky snorted. “Yeah, optimism can only carry us so far. We both know we’re running out of air and fuck knows how much rock Steve and the others are gonna have to dig through. If we’re gonna die here, I’m not going to do it with you thinking that I hate you when the opposite is true.”

There was a hand on Clint’s cheek, then Bucky’s body pulled away from Clint’s enough for him to turn and press a kiss to Clint’s lips.

“Yesterday, when you came into the kitchen,” he said as Clint froze up with shock. “You’d been running and you were wearing a wifebeater and shorts, and were flushed with exercise and, jesus, sometimes you’re just the hottest thing I’ve ever seen. There was no way I could stay and eat pancakes with you, not without giving myself away.”

“What?” croaked Clint, trying to take that in. “You...what?”

Bucky moved back, his arm slipping away from Clint’s waist. “I get it if you want to just risk getting cold now.”

Clint shook his head. “No, that’s- Seriously? You’ve got, what? A crush on me?”

That couldn’t be right. People didn’t have crushes on Clint, especially not smoking hot super-soldiers.

“Yeah,” said Bucky, and there was a note of trepidation in his voice that made Clint think he was second-guessing his decision to say something. “It’s no big deal though, not like I’m the first guy to have an unrequited thing for a someone else on his team. Like you said, it doesn’t make a difference to what we do.”

Clint blinked at nothing for a bit. “No, screw that,” he said. “You’re buried under a mountain with me. I think it might kinda make a difference.”

It was cold without Bucky’s arm around him and trying to wrap his head around this was making it pound even more. Clint took a moment to let out a long breath, then relaxed back against Bucky, nudging at him. “C’mon, it’s cold.”

Bucky wrapped his arm back around Clint, pulling him in close again, and Clint shifted to take advantage of his body heat.

“That’s all you’ve got?” asked Bucky. “I figured you’d be, I don’t know, uncomfortable or something.”

“I’ve got a dislocated shoulder, I’m dehydrated, suffering from carbon dioxide poisoning and sitting on bare rock in the dark, and you think this is what’s gonna make me uncomfortable?” asked Clint.

“Yeah, okay, good point,” said Bucky. He snorted. “I really know how to pick my moments.”

“Were you seriously not going to say anything?” asked Clint. “I thought you hated me.”

“Why would I say anything?” said Bucky. “It’s not like you’d feel the same.”

And, wow, there was a note to his voice that made Clint’s stomach clench, because he’d been there. He knew what it was like to like someone and know they were never gonna feel the same back, and just how it wore at you every time you saw them. No wonder Bucky tried to keep away from him.

“You seem very sure of that for a guy who never even tried flirting with me,” said Clint.

Bucky laughed, but it sounded a bit hollow. “Didn’t seem much point in that. C’mon, we both know how that would have gone.”

“Do we?” asked Clint. “Cuz, before this, I think the longest conversation we’ve had was about bagels, and that wasn’t even in the top ten longest conversations I’ve had about bagels.“ He considered that. “Hell, top twenty. I can find a lot to say about bagels.”

“So, what?” asked Bucky. “You think I should have asked you out for bagels at the end of it?”

Clint had no idea, but he knew that’s what he’d have done if he had a crush on a guy he didn’t know so well. Or, well, what he’d like to think he’d have done. “Would have been worth a try, right?”

Bucky was silent for a few minutes. Clint realised that in his current position he could hear him breathing, and wondered if his lungs were working faster as well. What speed did super-soldier lungs usually go at? Faster or slower than a normal set?

“I guess,” said Bucky, eventually. “I think I figured that if you were interested you’da given me a signal.”

“Oh, well, assuming,” said Clint. “You know what they say about that.”

He realised he’d slumped down far enough that Bucky’s shoulder was right under his head, so he took advantage and lay it down. Huh, was Bucky’s combat gear more comfortable than Clint’s or did it just seem like that because everything else around him was a rock?

“I actually don’t,” said Bucky.

Of course, because that kinda thing had passed Bucky by while he was being enslaved by Hydra. “It makes an ass out of you and me,” said Clint.

Bucky snorted. “So, you’re saying I’m an ass?”

“Basically,” said Clint, letting his eyes fall shut because, fuck it, it wasn’t like there was anything to see anyway.

“Oh yeah, I definitely shoulda asked you out,” muttered Bucky.

Clint thought about replying to that, but it felt like too much effort.

“By the way,” said Bucky, “if you fall asleep on me, I’m gonna put your shoulder back in while you’re out.”

Clint’s eyes flew open. “You wouldn’t.”

“I really would,” said Bucky. He squeezed at Clint’s waist. “Come on, if I’m not allowed to lapse into a coma and die, you’re not either.”

“I’m not gonna lapse into a coma,” said Clint, shifting himself more upright to try and keep himself awake. “Well, not right now anyway, I can’t make any promises on what will happen in a few hours.”

“Exactly,” said Bucky. “The shit that Hydra did to me means I can survive carbon dioxide poisoning better than a normal fella, so if we don’t get rescued this is going to end with me sitting here with your corpse, at least for a bit before I pass out too.” He cleared his throat, then added, “I kinda want to put that off as long as possible.”

Clint hadn’t really considered that. “Yeah, okay,” he said. “I’ll stay awake as long as I can. And, you know, we’ll totally get rescued. We can rely on our team.”

“Sure,” said Bucky, but Clint could tell he was rapidly losing confidence.

Clint wasn’t sure he really believed they’d get out of this either. Several hours spent sat in the dark and the cold with no idea exactly how much time had passed, or how far away a rescue might even be, had kinda left him numbed to the thought of getting out.

Ugh, he needed a distraction. “Hey, want to hear about the first time I performed with the circus?”

“Yeah, sure,” said Bucky. “That sounds more upbeat than chatting about how we’re gonna die here.”

Clint ignored the defeated note in his voice and started on the story instead, filling it out with as many details about the other people who’d worked at the circus as possible and glossing over just how shit most of being there was.

Bucky responded with a story about a prank war amongst the Howling Commandos, so Clint followed up with telling him about the Maple Syrup Incident, and exactly how close Coulson had come to having a mental breakdown over it.

More time passed and Clint’s head began to throb more. His hearing went a bit funny, as if he were listening to Bucky underwater, and when he moved his legs to shift his weight, his muscles felt weak and wobbly.

He didn’t mention any of that to Bucky, but he had a feeling Bucky already knew. Bucky’s arm around his waist had pulled him closer over the course of the stories, squeezing whenever Clint had found himself fumbling over words that should have come easily to him. His brain was starting to feel as if it was filling up with cotton wool.

God, he was so fucking tired.

“No falling asleep,” Bucky reminded him and Clint realised he’d let his head fall onto his shoulder again.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, tiredly. “I’m awake, it’s all good.”

“Nothing about this is good,” said Bucky bitterly. “I’m starting to think you were right and I shoulda asked you out months ago. At least then I’d have taken my chance and wouldn’t be sitting here, waiting to watch you die with all these fucking regrets.”

“I’m not gonna die,” protested Clint, then wondered why he was bothering. It kinda felt like he was going to die. “Natasha would kick my ass if I did,” he added, because that felt like a reason to push back against the fog.

“And then she’d kick mine,” agreed Bucky.

They sat for a few minutes in silence and Clint thought about maybe just kissing Bucky so that at least someone got something they wanted before they ran out of air, but it seemed like a cheap gambit. He wanted to give a thing with Bucky a proper try, not just make it the last gasp of man about to die. It felt like it deserved more than that, and if they weren’t going to get it, well, just resting against Bucky’s side with his arm around him would have to do.

Bucky suddenly twitched, his whole body tensing up, and then he sat up, disrupting Clint’s position against him. “I heard something.”

Clint sat up as well. “Might just be rocks settling.” He couldn’t hear anything beyond him and Bucky.

“No,” said Bucky, “it’s- there’s movement. Not just rocks, I’m sure of it.” He took a deep breath and shouted, “Hey! We’re here! Hurry the fuck up!!”

Clint winced as the sound blasted into his ear, then joined in, “Hey!! Come and get us!”

There was a long pause, then a very welcome voice came blasting back, “Keep your pants on, we’re getting there!”

“Fuck you, Stark!” Clint called back merrily, then nudged Bucky. “Told you we weren’t gonna die.”

Bucky snorted. “Yeah, that’s not quite what you’ve been saying, but okay.”

“Are either of you hurt?” called Tony again, and Clint had a feeling he was using his suit to boost the sound.

“Not really!” he called back.

Bucky sighed. “Fucking martyrs, I’m surrounded by fucking martyrs,” he muttered, then shouted, “Clint’s shoulder is dislocated and we’re both suffering from carbon dioxide poisoning!”

Clint made a rude noise. “He meant are we properly hurt.” He raised his voice again, “I think Bucky has a scratch or two!”

“You are properly hurt,” said Bucky. “Weeks of annoying physiotherapy, remember?”

“Steve says Bucky’s gonna have a lot more than few scratches when he gets hold of him!” shouted Tony.

Bucky sighed. “Always so much drama with that guy.”

It took a while for the others to actually break through to them but eventually Clint realised that there was a light glowing from up to the left, then a rock moved and a full beam shone into the cave, blinding him in a different way to how the pitch dark had. Once his eyes had adjusted, though, it illuminated the whole cave for him. Wow, it was actually even smaller than he’d thought.

Iron Man’s head came through the gap and looked down at them. “Hey guys,” he said. “Sorry, am I interrupting a private moment?”

Clint abruptly realised that they were still pressed right up together with Bucky’s arm around him. He moved away at the same time as sending Tony a rude gesture. “It’s fucking cold sitting around in a cave, waiting to run out of air.”

Bucky’s arm dropped away from him, and it felt like a loss.

“Yeah, yeah. Excuses, excuses,” said Tony, then he glanced back over his shoulder. “Okay, we’re gonna dig this out a bit more, then we should be able to get you out.”

Clint waved a hand. “Take your time, we’ll just keep chilling.”

“No hurry,” agreed Bucky. “We’ve been having a great time.”

“Nothing like being trapped in a cave for a fun afternoon,” added Clint.

Tony started to pull other rocks out of the way, passing them back behind him to someone else. “Yeah, I remember that from Afghanistan.”

It took about half an hour to open the tunnel up enough for them to get out through it, but sitting around in the cave while there was light and oxygen and they weren’t going to just die there was a lot more relaxing than the alternative had been.

Once there was enough space, Bucky had to help Clint get up because his legs were still pretty weak and his shoulder had stiffened up so that every movement jarred it with pain. Tony ended up just picking Clint up to take him back down the tunnel they’d dug, ignoring his protests.

“Quit fussing,” he said. “Carbon dioxide poisoning takes a while to wear off and if you fall over and hurt yourself more, Nat’s gonna have my head. It’s not exactly an easy route out of here, we didn’t wait to lay concrete flooring or anything.”

Clint sighed and relaxed into his arms. “This whole thing is fucking bullshit,” he muttered.

Steve was waiting in the tunnel for them. He gave Clint a relieved grin, then ducked around Tony to grab Bucky’s arms and pull him into a hug that Clint watched over Tony’s shoulder.

“You’re not allowed near any more mountains,” he heard Steve mutter as Bucky hugged him back. Bucky caught Clint’s look and rolled his eyes.

When they finally made it out of the mountain, it turned out to be the middle of the night. The other Avengers were waiting, along with two SHIELD quinjets and one of their medical response jets. Natasha strode over to Clint, looked him over, lingering on his shoulder, then scowled at him.

“You’re an utter disaster, Barton.”

“Yup,” agreed Clint. He tapped at Tony’s shoulder. “You can put me down now.”

“Sure thing,” said Tony, without doing any such thing. He took Clint over to the medical jet and put him down on a gurney, where the EMTs immediately surrounded him. Steve brought Bucky over a moment later and Clint caught his eye.

“Hey, check it out, we made it,” he said.

Bucky glanced around and nodded. “Seems like it. Guess I did save your life, then.”

One of the EMTs was trying to fit an oxygen mask over Clint’s face. He took it from him, holding it away from his mouth long enough to say, “Yeah, thanks for that.”


The EMTs decided they were in good enough shape to be taken back to SHIELD’s medical facility in DC rather than to the nearest hospital, which was a relief because the last thing Clint wanted was to get stuck in eastern Europe for a few days.

A few hours later, his arm was back in and strapped up, he had an IV line putting fluids into him, and every time he took his oxygen mask off Natasha sent him a fierce glare that made him put it back.

Tony came in just after the doctor had told him they’d be keeping him in overnight. “How’s our other troglodyte?”

“Already sick of medical professionals,” said Clint, then glanced at the doctor. “No offence, man.”

The doctor gave him a look that said he’d heard it all before and he gave no shits. “I’ll be back in an hour to check up on you,” he said. “Don’t touch anything, or go anywhere.”

Oh great, apparently he’d heard about Clint’s reputation from the other SHIELD doctors.

Tony settled on the edge of Clint’s bed. “Don’t worry, Romanov will keep him in line,” he said, with all the cheerfulness of a guy who wasn’t going to have Natasha hanging over him and glaring for the next day or two.

Clint glanced at Natasha and, yup, she was still glaring. He slumped back against the pillows as the doctor left.

“You know, you guys don’t all have to hover over me. It’s not like I haven’t been injured before, a lot worse than this.”

“Yeah, hovering seems to be the order of the day,” said Tony. “Cap and Sam have got Bucky covered on that front, I thought I’d come and make up numbers in here.”

“Oh well, as long as Bucky is suffering as well,” said Clint.

“Don’t worry,” said Natasha. “If the look on Steve’s face when we realised you were both buried is anything to go by, he’s suffering a lot right now. I think steve spent the whole time we were digging you out coming up with a speech.”

Clint grinned, because someone else having to sit through a Captain America lecture when you got to avoid it was always good news. Except, wait… “He’s not gonna come and yell at me too, is he?”

“You’re probably okay,” said Tony. “You’re not the best friend who keep trying to kill himself with a mountain.”

Clint relaxed again. “True. I’m just the poor guy who got trapped by an evil megalomaniac’s self-destruct system. I mean, come on, who the hell has a self-destruct anyway?”

Tony looked very shifty. “Uh, only paranoid fools, that’s who. Certainly not anyone else who might be in this room right now.”

“If you destroy the tower in a feat of pique over having your latest plan foiled,” said Natasha, “I will gut you.”

Tony opened his mouth to protest and then deflated. “Probably fair.”

“Hey, did you at least capture Doom?” asked Clint.

Natasha shook her head. “We were a little distracted with digging you two out.”

“Oh man,” said Clint. “We’re gonna have to fight the asshole again next month.”

“Sorry,” said Tony, with a sharp edge to his voice. “Next time we’ll just leave you to die slowly in a cave, yeah?”

He looked very tense around the eyes, and Clint suddenly realised that he was being stupidly slow. Tony had had enough bad experiences with caves for digging out two trapped colleagues to be the kind of thing that led to old traumas being dug up. No wonder he was hanging out here and making sure Clint was okay rather than just heading straight back to the tower.

He reached out to pat Tony’s arm. “Thanks for getting us out,” he said. “I was starting to think we wouldn’t get out of there.”

“Idiot,” said Natasha when Tony couldn’t manage more than a nod in response. “As if we would leave you.”

There was a gentle tap at the door and Clint glanced over to see Bucky, dressed in a pair of sweatpants and an old hoodie that someone must have brought from the tower for him.

“Please tell me they’re not letting you go already.”

Bucky just gave him a shrug and a shit-eating grin. “Sorry, I already got the all-clear.”

Clint sighed. “Fucking super-soldiers,” he muttered.

Bucky’s grin just widened. “I take it you’re in overnight?”

“Even if I have to strap him to the bed,” said Natasha, with steel in her voice. Clint gave her the wide-eyed innocent look of a guy who definitely hadn’t been considering making a run for it, nope, not at all.

“Kinky,” said Tony.

Bucky glanced between them, then back at Clint. He took a deep breath and set his shoulders. “Well, when they finally let you out, I was wondering if you might like to go get bagels sometime.”

Clint grinned at him. “Hell yes,” he said. “That sounds great. I’ve got some strong opinions about bagels, you know.”

Bucky’s shoulders relaxed and the smile he gave Clint was just incredibly beautiful. Huh, should Clint have noticed before they were trapped in a cave together that he’d been sharing the tower with a total fox?

“So I’ve heard,” said Bucky. Clint grinned back at him.

Steve came up behind Bucky. “Good to see you looking better, Clint.” He glanced at Bucky. “Sam’s got the car ready.”

Clint sighed. “Fine, off you go, leave us poor mere mortals behind.”

“Okay, will do,” said Bucky, grinning again. “See you in a bit.” He nodded at Tony and Natasha, then he and Steve left.

“Did he just ask you out?” asked Tony, watching him leave. “He did, didn’t he? That was definitely an invitation to bagels that had subtext.”

“Might be,” said Clint, unable to keep in a smug grin.

“Huh,” said Tony. “No offence, but I kinda thought he hated you.”

“Right?!” said Clint, waving his hand that wasn’t in a sling dramatically. “Thank you! It totally seemed like he hated me!”

Natasha let out a very long, put-upon sigh. “Men,” she muttered.


It took three days before they made it out for bagels. Clint was still wearing a sling, although he’d have ditched it if he’d thought he could get away with it. As it was, most of the team were being a bit overprotective, which came out in the form of hovering over him, making sure he didn’t over-use his arm and generally nannying the hell out of him until it felt like his head was going to explode.

When he and Bucky finally made it out of the tower and they didn’t have either Natasha watching Clint with narrow eyes for any sign he was thinking about moving his arm, or Steve gluing himself to Bucky as if preparing to have to fight off the next mountain that tried to kill him, it was an enormous relief.

Clint tilted his head up towards the sun and took a moment to enjoy the fresh air. “Do you think they’re gonna be spying on us?”

Bucky snorted. “They better not be,” he said, and then turned to give a long glower at the nearest CCTV camera. A second passed, then it sulkily turned to face a different direction.

“Guess that answers that question,” said Clint.

Bucky shrugged, his shoulders hunching over. “If you’d rather leave it for now, until the scrutiny dies down…”

“Nope,” said Clint. “C’mon, you really think they’re not going to be watching whenever we do this? Besides, who knows what’ll happen tomorrow. We could end up in another cave.”

“We better not,” growled Bucky, but his shoulders relaxed, very, very slightly. Clint realised that he was nervous and took a moment to try and get his head around the idea that Bucky had enough of a crush to be anxious about taking him out. He couldn’t quite manage it because, seriously, this was Bucky Barnes. He didn’t do nervous, he did shooting shit in the face.

They went to a nearby deli and Clint ate a possibly ill-advised number of bagels. Bucky relaxed after a few minutes and the conversation flowed. Clint found himself laughing more than he’d have thought he would, and Bucky’s smile notched wider every time that he did until it was lighting up his face and, wow, this was a lot better than making him laugh in the dark, when Clint couldn’t see just how gorgeous he looked.

“C’mon, let’s go through the park,” said Clint as they left the deli. “Walk off some of these bagels.”

Bucky snorted. “I think you’re gonna have to go halfway to Pennsylvania to do that.” As they headed towards Central Park, his knuckles grazed against Clint’s and Clint realised that they were walking close enough together to be in danger of walking into each other.

Well, fuck it, they’d spent several hours basically snuggling in that cave, no point in trying to reclaim personal space now. The next time Bucky’s hand nudged his, he turned his fingers and took hold of it. Bucky glanced over at him with a happy smile that made Clint want to bounce on his toes.

“I can’t believe you don’t hate me,” he said. Maybe if he’d been a bit less focused on that, he’d have realised that this might be a thing.

Or he might not, he wasn’t always that great with identifying his own feelings, let alone other people’s.

Bucky snorted. “I can’t believe you didn’t notice me checking out your ass when you were doing squats in the gym last week.”

“It is a good ass,” agreed Clint, trying to remember when that might have been and drawing a blank. There was usually a few other people in the gym when he was in there, and he tended to block them out unless he wanted to find someone to spar with.

“I think it was your modesty that first attracted me to you,” said Bucky in a musing voice.

“Don’t lie, it was my ass,” said Clint.

Bucky shrugged. “Might have been,” he said. “Or your shoulders, they’re pretty good as well.”

“See, you mocked archery, but it does killer things for your shoulders,” said Clint. “You don’t get that with a gun.”

“Please tell me you didn’t take up archery just because it makes you look hot,” said Bucky.

“Nah, haven’t you been paying attention?” said Clint, sending him a grin. “I took it up because it made Errol Flynn look hot.” He flicked his eyes up and down Bucky’s body, enjoying the stretch of his Henley over his chest and the way it left his collarbones on display. “Guess I’ve got a thing for guys from that era.”

Bucky snorted, but his grin grew wider. “That’s pretty lucky for me, then,” he said, pulling Clint to a stop and then moving in for a kiss, his hand coming up to hold Clint’s face as he took care to give his sling a wide berth.

Clint wrapped his uninjured arm around Bucky’s waist and kissed him back. Man, he was so glad that Bucky didn’t hate him; this was so much better.