Chapter 1: Chapter 1
He appreciated that Natasha gave him a heads-up about everything regarding SHIELD and the utter shit-show that was to follow. It let him pull out of the mission he was on and take-out his handler, who had been a hundred and seventy percent HYDRA considering how loudly he’d yelled their stupid catchphrase at him before Clint tased him into unconsciousness.
But he was getting ahead of himself, or behind himself. Whatever . That wasn’t his point.
He appreciated the heads-up, but he definitely was not appreciating the favor she asked. Not that he would ever say no to Natasha asking for a favor. But he still regretted agreeing to it. Even if at the time it had seemed like a longshot, go trailing after the Winter Soldier - aka Bucky Barnes - while Natasha, a guy named Sam, and Steve handled Steve’s recovery and the downfall of SHIELD. Most likely he wouldn’t find anything. The Winter Soldier had been a ghost story for decades, a master assassin, a notorious agent who had escaped the clutches of international agencies for years -
A guy standing four yards away from him trying to subtly steal a baseball cap.
Clint ended up standing there and watching with morbid curiosity as the Winter Soldier stared down a red cap and then the shopkeeper and then back at the cap. It went on like that for five minutes. He leaned against a wall and just watched. Eventually the Winter Soldier - or Barnes or James he guessed - gave up and slunk away for whatever reason.
Before his brain caught up with his body he was already sprinting across the street to the little store front. He snatched the cap from the rack it was on and waved it at the cashier. The amount he was looking over his shoulder probably freaked the guy out, but he didn’t have time to dwell on that. Instead he threw a sweaty, crumpled up twenty dollar bill at the cashier before turning to try and catch up with Barnes.
Despite the couple of minutes between him watching Barnes leave and now, he wasn’t that hard to spot. The hood up in the middle of the day was suspicious, not to mention there was a way a person carried themselves when they were hyper aware of everything around them - and oh was Barnes projecting it. That made him easy to follow, but dangerous to approach. Clint wasn’t going to attempt it when in a crowd of people not knowing how Barnes would react. He assumed it wouldn’t be well. So he would avoid civilian involvement by following after him and hoping that he managed to turn down a sideroad or alleway that was a bit less precarious.
After ten minutes of following he got his wish. Sort of.
As soon as he stepped into the alleway after Barnes, the man rounded on him. The metal hand tangled in his shirt was more than enough to shove him back against the brick wall. Clint winced as his bow case jostled roughly against the bricks and made a horrible scraping sound. “Aw no, I’m not here to fight.” Clint raised both hands up in the air, hoping that the universal sign for ‘don’t punch me in the mouth’ would be understood.
The cold look he got in response was better than a punch in the face, Clint decided.
It was about then he realized he had the hat in his hand, and his expression immediately brightened. “The hat, I saw you looking at the hat so I bought it for you.” Clint looked between the hat and Barnes’s steadily more confused expression. Definitely still better than being punched. “You didn’t want to steal it, or didn’t think now was a good time - so I bought it instead.” He waved the hat around by its bill, the motion just enough to get those cold gray-blue eyes off of him and on the hat instead. It helped him feel less unnerved.
“Take it, seriously, it's for you.” He flipped the hat up into the air. “Red isn’t my color.”
Unsurprisingly, Barnes caught the hat with his flesh hand. He didn’t put it on right away but he also didn’t crush it in his hand or stab Clint with the secret knife he was sure was on him somewhere.
“Why?” Barnes asked, his voice sounding rough from disuse. He held the hat up unnecessarily to emphasise his question.
It took him a few moments longer than it should to respond to Barnes’s question. The sound of the other man’s voice was surprising. Clint lowered his hands and shuffled his feet so he was able to get a better stance just in case Barnes decided to shove him around a little more. Not that he thought for a moment he could beat him in a contest of strength, but he didn’t want to make a complete fool out of himself.
“You wanted it, to hide i’m guessing,” Clint started and when he got nothing in return he continued. “So I bought it for you, to help you hide.”
The look that Barnes gave him made it clear he thought Clint was an idiot. He knew that expression well, most people wore it around him within the first fifteen minutes of meeting him. Clint adjusted his shoulders and then stopped when he saw the way that made Barnes’s arm tense and his hand tighten in his shirt. He raised his hands again and felt like he was going to be doing a lot of that. He had a few things he could say but he kept his mouth firmly shut to let Barnes process, yeah, that’s what he was doing. It wasn’t to make sure he didn’t say something that got him punched with a scary-but-cool metal hand.
“You’re an Avenger,” Barnes said, his eyebrows knitting together in either concentration or anger. “Hawkeye.”
At that name Clint let out a long sigh. He nodded all the same. “I guess so, I haven’t done a lot of Avenging lately but I think my membership hasn’t been revoked yet.” If it had he was pretty sure Natasha wouldn’t have called him , Clint thought with only a small tinge of bitterness. He watched a fascinating tangle of emotions slide over Barnes’s face over the revelation. The hand in his shirt didn’t tighten, Clint was waiting for it to happen.
Instead the hand loosened and Clint no longer had his case digging into his back quite so much. He counted that as surviving his first encounter with the Winter Soldier, even if they were still standing face to face and he could be on the wrong end of an attack at any moment.
“Captain America sent you,” the look that Barnes sent him was questioning, or maybe accusatory.
Clint shook his head. “The Black Widow did,” he smiled almost wryly, but the lack of reaction from Barnes made that expression fade fast. “She said you had gone off the grid and someone should watch your back. So she asked me.”
He didn’t quite understand why yet. Natasha hadn’t been hurt, at least not badly. He figured she wanted to help SHIELD regroup what good was left in it, or look after Steve. But he did understand not wanting to ask Stark and Banner, neither exactly had the skills. Not that Clint thought he had the skills to deal with this, especially not when he looked into the shuttered expression that was a hundred percent Winter Soldier on Barnes’s face. Considering he was one of the few from SHIELD who were definitely not HYDRA though, he understood why he was on the short list.
“Listen, i’m sure you don’t want someone tagging after you but if you don't want HYDRA catching up with you then having some help isn’t going to hurt.” Barnes had broken free of them somehow, something having to do with Steve - he only knew that much. But he didn’t think that Barnes had connections, or safe houses, or cash. All of those were really important things if you wanted to stay on the run and out of sight. So was good intel. Clint at least had some sort of network.
“Plus, even if you say no i’m gonna have to follow you in order to not feel like a piece of shit for just giving up.”
Barnes stared at him with a look of pure exasperation. “I don’t want help.”
Clint grinned, that was exactly the response that he was expecting. “Figured as much, but you still need it.” He was taking all sort of liberties here, which was dangerous, but no one ever accused him of being tactful or prone to feats of great self-preservation.
He knew that this could go a number of ways. Worst case, Barnes kills him. But he thinks if that was the option he was going with that he would already be dead. Best case, they walk to the nearest airport and fly to where Steve and Natasha are holed up. Clint isn’t optimistic enough to think that was what was going to happen. Not with the guarded, squirrely expression on Barnes’s face. There was something eerily familiar about that look that he couldn’t quite place. Or maybe he was just looking for something to understand in Barnes so that the man didn’t seem like such a mystery.
“I’m not...ready to see him again,” Barnes explained slowly, as if picking his words carefully.
Ah, well, that made sense.
“Okay,” he wasn’t really sure what to say to that. “Then what’s the plan?”
The look Barnes gave him was unreadable. Clint just kept looking at him. Considering there was still a hand in his shirt that didn’t let him move, he didn’t have many options. He had a feeling that trying to push Barnes to do something he didn’t want to wouldn’t go over well.So he’d wait until Barnes figured out what he wanted to say and then wing it from there.
“I need to remember who I was, who I am,” Barnes said, diverting his gaze so he was no longer looking at Clint. “There’s too much there now that doesn’t make sense.”
Clint felt all the air go out of his lungs.
So that’s why Nat wanted him to help.
Licking his lips, Clint nodded. “I get that.” He really did. God knows he could have used some of that time and space to sort himself out before, but he had a bunch of aliens to shoot. The thoughts that rattled around in his head for weeks after the Battle of New York had to be nothing in comparison to what was going on in Barnes’s head right now. He had decades of memories as the Winter Soldier - not to mention whatever he forgot from being Bucky Barnes. This wasn’t going to be a quick process Clint guessed.
“I’ll help you do that then.” The confusion crept back into Bucky’s expression. “Look, i’m not exactly an expert on recovering lost memories but I do have the connections and safehouses that make figuring it out a lot easier. To give you the space you need or want to do that.”
He could already think of a few places, his apartment in Bed-Stu, the Condo down in Florida he had inherited when Phil died, the shitty flat in Budapest that he kept more out of nostalgia than ever wanting to go back, and the farm he’d gotten decades ago but never visited. None of them on SHIELD’s radar. Two of them only Nat knew about, but he didn’t think she would be coming after him anytime soon. Not if he didn’t give her a reason to.
Clint knew he was getting ahead of himself, Barnes hadn’t even agreed yet. He was still giving him that confused yet unreadable expression.
“Why?” Barnes questioned, his voice low and hesitant.
“Nat asked me to help —”
“That’s not the only reason,” Barnes interrupted, eyebrows knit together again.
He wilted slightly, Barnes was clearly perceptive even if he had a few screws loose. “Because, ugh, maybe I think I can help you. I sure as hell won’t be able to help with the whole SHIELD falling apart thing, and it isn’t like I have anything better to do.”
Clint felt stupid saying that. He was a damn good agent, a great assassin, and the best marksman in the world. He should totally have a bunch of backup plans for if his current gig ran out. But with the Avengers only intermittently needed and SHIELD having gone down the drain he didn’t. If Natasha hadn’t called him he would have either gone to wherever she was to wait for instructions or gone to hang out in his apartment trying to get the cable to consistently work. The prospects were kind of depressing if he let himself think about them too much.
The hand holding his shirt dropped away and Clint found himself finally able to step away from the wall. He reached up and adjusted the strap of his bow case, slowly. He didn’t want to spook Barnes anymore than he already had.
“Fine, but only until I don’t want your help anymore,” Barnes replied.
Oh shit, he actually agreed.
It was clear that Barnes wasn’t entirely convinced about accepting help, but something Clint had said got through to him. Instead of turning and walking away like he looked as though he wanted to do, Barnes just looked down at the hat in his hand and seemed to contemplate something.
“Red is too eyecatching, I was looking at the black one.”
That...was not at all what Clint was expecting. It left him blinking owlishly down at the hat in Barnes’s hand and then back up at the man himself. “So, uh, let’s go buy the black one?”
It was utterly surreal to walk out of the alleway with Barnes skulking two steps behind him. He marched straight back to the same shop as before and picked up the black ball cap, smiling sheepishly at the cashier who gave him a very confused expression. He completed this transaction a bit less hastily, handing over the money and saying thank you when he got the hand and change in return.
He turned to Barnes and held out the black cap, which he realized was a much more subtle color in comparison to the bright red one the man was holding. They swapped and without much thought Clint pulled the red cap on his own head, not really having anywhere else to put it. The last thing he wanted to do was give it back to the cashier or do anything else to alarm the man.
As soon as Barnes had his own hat situated Clint turned and stared to walk away from the shop, surprised when Barnes followed him. Too bad he had no idea where they were going.
“So, uh, why Baltimore?” He turned to look half over his shoulder at Barnes, the man’s face completely hidden with the way it was ducked and the brim of the cap. Smart.
“Big city, close to D.C., and lots of transportation between the two.”
“Oh, okay.” Clint should have realized that. “Do you have a place you’re staying here?”
It had been over a week since the Triskelion fell. But there was no telling how soon Barnes had moved from D.C. to Baltimore. Considering he was on the run from basically every organization on the planet, he had to be extra careful. The metal arm and stupidly handsome face were going to get him a lot of attention. Not to mention the surly attitude. It made him wonder when Barnes had stolen these new clothes, he certainly couldn’t have traveled in whatever his tactical gear was.
Huh, okay. That was another surprise.
“Is it like a paid for place or did you break in?”
Barnes gave him a cold glare, lips pressed together in a thin line. “Abandoned,” he snapped.
“Okay, okay sorry. How about we go get your stuff and then rent a hotel room or something and figure out a real plan?” When he didn’t get an answer he continued. “You can pick which hotel if it makes you feel better.”
That got a curt nod, and Barnes soon over took him to lead the way. They quickly left the populated part of downtown and eventually made their way into a much more industrial area. Clint was on edge, realizing this was the exact kind of place you take a guy to knock him out and leave him while you run away. Except they walked further and further away from the center of the city and Barnes made no move to lash out at him. Clint started to relax, or rather, his attention was focused less on Barnes and more on their surroundings. He wasn’t exactly familiar with Baltimore or where it started to get sketchy. Getting into a fisfight alongside a guy who spent the last seventy odd years as a brainwashed assassin did not seem like a good idea. Sure, they’d win. But he had no guarantee that Barnes would know where or how to stop once he got going.
The building Barnes led them to didn’t look abandoned from the outside, which was probably part of the appeal. Barnes jumped up and grabbed onto a ladder for a fire escape, courteous enough to leave it hanging down as he climbed up. Clint dragged himself up after, muttering mostly to himself about how a front door also worked. Barnes either didn’t hear, or more likely didn’t care to deal with his complaints.
Once inside it was clear the place was abandoned. The room Barnes had staked out must have been an office of some sort, enclosed and with only one window and a lockable door. The best position he could probably have. He had the advantage of height and cover. In the room was a sleeping bag and a backpack. Other than that the rest of the room was covered in dust and looked as though Barnes hadn’t even bothered to touch it.
He lingered by the door as Barnes heaved the backpack onto his shoulders and then tucked the sleeping bag under his arm.
“That’s all you have?” Clint blurted out despite knowing Barnes had just escaped from HYDRA not that long ago. It was just a sad to see how little Barnes had. He immediately felt like he should go buy the man ten more ballcaps. Or at least a pillow. Instead of a verbal answer Barnes just gave him a curt nod and then moved past him to leave the room, his presence alone making Clint feel the urge to take a step back. He manfully resists but did hesitate a few seconds before turning and following Barnes out of the room.
Climbing down the ladder is easier than climbing up, and he dropped to the ground next to Barnes with a dull thumping sound. “So, where to now?”
“Somewhere safe.” Barnes said as he adjusted the straps of his bag more carefully onto his shoulders.
“Great, we can just head back towards downtown and pick up my car and then we can figure out where ‘somewhere safe’ is.” Clint started to walk out of the alley, but is stopped by the annoyed sound that Barnes made.
“You have a car?” He asked, clearly dumbfounded.
“A car that we could have driven here instead of walking?” Barnes asked slowly, as if Clint might not be able to understand.
Oh, yeah, apparently he did.
“Well, yeah.” Clint scratched the back of his neck, avoiding eye contact when Barnes walked up next to him.
He swore he could hear Barnes mutter the word “Unbelievable” under his breath as he started the trek back to the center of the city. Clint decided to keep his mouth shut so he didn’t say anything else that made him look more like an incompetent idiot in Barnes’ eyes.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Taking a road trip with the Winter Soldier is about as much fun as it sounds.
So Ao3 didn't let me post this chapter for days because of a dash I had put in it that cut off the rest of the chapter. But thanks to one of my eagle eyed friends I got that figured out. So I apologize for the delay. Good news is I have half of Chapter 3 written already so it won't take nearly as long.
The car ride was painfully awkward.
At first he attributed it to the fact that Barnes was pissed he hadn’t mentioned the existence of the car until they had hoofed it all around Baltimore. As time dragged on he was sure the awkwardness was just something that formed when the two of them were in close proximity to one another. Nothing could explain how the car could feel so stifling so fast when no one was even saying anything.
The realization that no one had said anything, of course, is what got Clint to start talking.
“You know I wasn’t suggesting that we just sort of drive around forever.” He turned his head to look at Barnes. When he didn’t get any sort of reaction, he swore that Barnes didn’t even blink, he started to talk again. “I mean we can, well sorta, we’ll run out of gas soon and then we have to stop.” His eyes cut down to the gas tank gauge. “Nevermind it's pretty full so we’ll be good for at least a little whi -”
“Shut. Up.” Barnes cuts him off with a low sound that bordered on a snarl.
Clint pressed his lips together and focused on the road in front of him. He still wasn’t keen on the idea of being punched by a metal hand, and said metal hand was on the side facing towards him right now. Though it was tucked mostly out of sight, the fingers seemingly curled under his own thigh.
Somehow he still found himself humming ten minutes later. He noticed the way Barnes’ human fingers twitched in response. But when he didn’t comment Clint just kept humming under his breath. If he couldn’t talk he had to fill the oppressive silence somehow. He couldn’t imagine turning on the radio would be received well. Whatever station he picked Barnes was likely going to hate it and he really didn’t want to deal with having to explain why his radio had a fist-shaped hole in it.
Two hours into their drive, Clint’s stomach gave a gurgling growl that drowned out any humming he might have been doing. He remembered he hadn’t eaten since the night before, a quick stop at a twenty-four hour diner on his way from D.C. to Baltimore. By now it was bordering on late afternoon and his body was making its intense displeasure at the lack of food known. Apparently his fear of pissing off the Winter Soldier could not override his body’s need for food after all.
As they continued down the steadily darkening road, Clint eyed the road signs. A few miles later he sees a sign advertising gas, food, and a place to sleep ten miles away. Clint figured they could use gas no matter what. The food was just a bonus.
Barnes looked up when he turned off of the highway and onto the off-ramp. Those cold eyes settle on the side of his face, but he doesn’t look over. Not until he’s pulled into the gas station and shut the car off.
“I figured we’d get gas and food, you have to be hungry by now.” He pointed at the gas station, and then a diner advertising all day breakfast across the road. He doesn’t get an answer, so Clint gets out of the car and filled up the gas tank - taking quick looks into the car to see what Barnes was up to. During the few minutes it took him to fill up the tank and go inside to pay it hardly seemed as though he moved at all. Which was concerning, but not entirely his problem either.
Except it was totally his problem, he was basically the guy’s babysitter. Oh god, he was in charge of another living creature. That was a terrifying thought.
He went to the driver’s door and opened it up, leaning into the car he cleared his throat. “You gotta be hungry by now, right?” He questioned, not sure Barnes wasn’t hungry at this point. Unless he had been smart enough to eat right before Clint found him. Which was totally possible considering most people eat three meals a day, and not one meal plus a handful of protein bars.
When he didn’t get an answer right away Clint sighed and slumped against the car. “Come on my stomach is gonna eat itself,” he whined, he outright whined in order to get some sort of reaction. At first he just got a side-long glare. It send chills down his spine but he continued to look expectantly at Barnes. He didn’t maintain eye contact for long, soon enough he was looking away from Clint. It was a relief to not have to hold those unsettling eyes for very long. He felt like he was under intense scrutiny everytime Barnes looked at him and he absolutely hated the way it made him want to squirm.
He found himself following where Barnes’ gaze landed, and it clicked as soon as he sees those eyes focused on his own metal hand. Well, that certainly made sense. Barnes was wearing long sleeves but the metal of his hand was still prominently on display. As if he didn’t stand out already.
Leaving the driver’s side door hanging open he goes to the back seat and pulls out his bow case. Opening it up it takes only a moment before he lets out a triumphant sound. With the glove in hand he balled it up and tossed it at the side of Barnes’ head. It hit with a dull slap. Barnes turned and glared at him, looking supremely pissed off. But his expression slipped into one that was a lot more like confusion when he picked the glove up and finally realized what it was. “They are fingerless, but they’ll cover most of your hand. I’m sure no one will even notice.” With that he stood and shut the two doors he had opened.
Much to his intense satisfactions Barnes got out of the car half a minute later. The glove was securely on his left hand, hiding most of the polished silver metal. He watched as Barnes tucked the hand into the pocket of his jeans. The gesture is casual enough and you can really only see one metal thumb. There still seemed to be tension lining Barnes’ entire body, but he got out of the car - so Clint counted it as a victory.
He managed to keep his thoughts to himself as he walked towards the diner, practically bouncing with every step. When they get to the door he held it open for Barnes, who just slunk in after him those cold eyes roving over the restaurant. He assumed that Barnes was scoping out all the weak points and exit routes. It reminded him of what Nat would do when they were places, she was just more stealthy about it than Barnes seemed to be.
“You gentlemen can seat yourselves, someone will be right with you.” A pleasant voice called out, and Clint smiled towards it before heading towards a corner booth.
The booth is bigger than what the two of them need, but it would allow Barnes to wedge himself into the corner and look around if he wanted to. To his utter lack of surprise that was exactly what Barnes did, pressing his back to the booth and looking around the whole of the restaurant. He seemed to relax somewhat after a few moments. Clint assumed it was once he got a grasp of the layout. Or once he realized that middle of nowhere Pennsylvania wasn’t a hotbed for dangerous activity. Either way he looked less like he’s snap in two from tension and that was good enough for Clint.
“Can I get you two started off with something to drink?” The waitress questioned, her lined face smiling pleasantly as she set menus down in front of them.
“Yeah, coffee - lots of it, and an orange juice please.” Clint replied with his own grin, greedy hands already picking up the menu to scan it over.
There is a prolonged silence where Barnes is supposed to be giving his drink order. Once it gets to the point of unbearable Clint looked over his menu, his persistent staring etting Barnes to look up at him. He jerked his chin towards the waitress and put his menu down so he could mouth the word ‘drink’ at him. When that didn’t get a response he had to resist the urge to tilt his head back and groan. Instead he turned a ( hopefully ) charming smile towards the waitress. “Sorry, long day on the road - he’ll have some coffee and orange juice too.” He batted his eyes at the waitress for good measure, hoping she’ll forgive and forget.
Luckily she doesn’t seem shaken, just writing down their order. “I’ll get you boys the biggest pot we have,” she promised with a wink before walking away.
Once he was positive the waitress was out of eye sight he snapped his fingers between them, immediately getting Barnes’ attention. “Hey, come on. If you want to blend in trying would help a lot.” He sounded exasperated, and he was. He still had no idea what he was doing and it wasn’t as though Barnes was making it any easier either.
Barnes made a noncommittal sound and reached out to pick up his own menu. He didn’t actually answer the question that Clint posed. If anything he outright ignored it.
He rolled his eyes at the lack of response and focused back on his menu. It didn’t take long for him to figure out what he wanted. Once he had Clint simply looked around the diner idly. No one was staring at them or trying to make covert phone calls. He didn’t expect anyone to actually notice either of them. He was by far the least known Avenger, and the Winter Soldier was still barely anything more than a Ghost Story. Not to mention Barnes hardly looked like what someone would consider the Winter Soldier. Especially not with the ball cap pulled down on his face and the excessive stubble that at this point was bordering on a beard.
Clint realized he was looking more at Barnes than anything else only when confused eyes met his own. Luckily he was saved by the arrival of their waitress.
“Here you two go, biggest coffee pot we have.” She smiled while he set down an impressively large carafe of coffee along with some creamer and sugar. “Now what can I get you to eat?”
Clint quickly rattled off a large order of food. Pancake, eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and of course french toast. He didn’t miss the amused look on the waitress’ face as she wrote down his order.
Much to his surprise, Barnes actually spoke. “I’ll have the ham and cheese omelette.” Barnes ordered and then handed over the menu, ducking his head back down and shielding his face once more.
Once the waitress was gone, he leaned forward and poured them both coffee. He nudged one cup towards Barnes and then dumped a few spoonfuls of sugar into his own. Usually he’d go black, but he predicted a long night of driving aimlessly ahead of them. Which meant sugar and caffeine were going to be seriously necessary.
Their breakfast-dinner or “Brinner!” As Clint attempted to make a joke out of, goes well enough. Barnes answered all of his questions and comments in one word responses or piercing stares.It wasn’t punching or going on a homicidal rampage, so he considered it a win. He figured he’d wear Barnes’ down, or possibly build up his tolerance to him speaking. Either way, he would die if he had to stay quiet the entire time they were together so he was going to figure out a way to get Barnes to not look at him with a promise of death every time he opened his mouth.
Brinner was paid for in cash, with two large styrofoam cups of coffee brought along for Clint’s sake.They got back onto the road without any firm direction in mind other than away from Baltimore.
A half hour into their drive, Clint’s phone rang from his bag in the backseat. Despite the numerous dangers he reached behind himself and dug into his bag until he got his hand around his phone. It was long after the phone had stopped ringing, but he still made a noise of triumph after he finally managed to get his hand on it and sit upright in his seat again.
Before he could even look to see who was calling the phone was snatched from his hand, and the sound of crunching metal and plastic filled the car.
“What the hell?” Clint yelled, turning fully away from the road to gape at Barnes. “Why did you just destroy my phone?” His phone was literally destroyed. It was a twisted hunk of plastic, broken plexiglass and metal bits in Barnes’ metal palm. Utterly destroyed.
“You can be tracked by your phone.” Barnes met his gaze and then blinked slowly. “Eyes on the road.”
He let out a frustrated groan while hitting his head back against the headrest. “The phone wasn’t traceable, the only people who had the number are completely trustworthy and my car insurance was on there!” Now he was going to need to find a computer, a printer, and print his insurance out like a heathen. This was the twenty-first century and the only two people without cellphones in the world were the two of them in this car.
Barnes stayed quiet for a long moment before he dropped the hunk of plastic in the backseat. “We have to be careful anyways.”
Clint took his hand off the steering wheel and flipped the bird at him, holding it up for far longer than was absolutely necessary. It didn’t do anything, but it made him feel better to have his middle finger shoved in Barnes’ face.
“Just for that we are stopping at a Walmart,” he snapped, shoulders scrunched up towards his ears as he sunk down into his seat. He also turned on the radio to some god awful top twenties pop song station ( that it totally wasn’t already set at ) and turned the volume up high enough it couldn’t be ignored. He could feel the dirty looks that Barnes sent his way but Clint steadily ignored them and Barnes himself out of pure spite.
The nearest Walmart was an hour and a half away. Further than he thought, but close enough the righteous annoyance he felt hadn’t yet had time to fade.
He pulled into the parking lot, mostly empty due to the time of day and the fact that they were basically in nowhere Pennsylvania at this point. Killing the engine Clint turned his body so it was angled towards Barnes. “Come on, you are suffering through this too.” He said loud enough that Barnes couldn’t play at not hearing him.
The huffed out sigh that Barnes let out let Clint know he had definitely heard.
They walked in to the building together and he couldn’t help but try and catch a glimpse of Barnes’ reaction. He looked horrified. He blinked at the bright lights and looked around at the huge store with a face that made it seem like he had smelled something terrible. Which, maybe he had - super nose or something like that. Clint started to laugh and didn’t stop even as he picked up a basket and started to lead the way through the aisles. They didn’t need a lot but he was certainly going to drag this out as long as possible, both to stretch his legs and pay Barnes back for breaking his perfectly good cell phone.
He hadn’t expected Barnes to get sidetracked five minutes in by a child-sized t-shirt with Captain America’s star spangled face on it, though.
At first he lingered a little ways off and trying to politely not stare at the back of Barnes’ head. But he couldn’t leave him alone in the store and it quickly became apparent that he wasn’t going to move anytime soon. Slowly Clint approached him, stepping lough enough to be heard as he came up beside him. “How much do you know, or I guess remember about him?” No one had filled him in on how much Barnes remembered. Natasha said that she and Steve thought he remembered a good deal, considering Barnes had saved Steve’s life from that river.
“I don’t know.” Barnes’ response was painfully honest sounding, soft and a little hesitant. “There’s a lot there, and I don’t know what’s real and what isn’t.”
Clint felt his heart give an odd clench at the answer. Ducking his head he tried to think of something to say that might be comforting, but nothing seemed good enough. How do you comfort someone who just woke up from what was essentially a seventy year coma where their body had been moving without their permission?
Barnes turned and walked away from the shirt first, clearly ending that line of conversation.
He felt guilty for how grateful he was for that.
As they walked silently through the store Clint dumped things into the basket they’d need. Deodorant, some shampoo, a set of gloves that would cover the entirety of Barnes’ metal hand - things that he had thought about before entering the store. He almost passed entirely by the section filled with school supplies, but his attention was caught by a display of notebooks that read three for five dollars. The thought hit him suddenly and he was grabbing the different notebooks even before it had fully formed in his mind. He grabbed a package of pens for good measure and added them to the basket.
There was no telling if he was ever going to get the courage up to give them to Barnes, but they seemed like a good idea just in case.
They left the store armed with a few bags full of food, basic hygiene supplies, a prepaid cell phone, and various other things Clint thought were necessary - that included the notebooks. Clint tossed the gloves at Barnes once they were outside and took more pleasure than he should have out of the way his expression transformed from confused to understanding between one second and the next.
By the time Clint dumped the rest of their supplies in the backseat and got into the driver’s seat to start the car, Barnes already had the new glove on with his hand resting openly on his thigh.
Clint took that as a win.
Despite the outrageous amount of coffee he had put into his body by the time his car told him it was bordering on ten-thirty at night, Clint decided that they needed to pull into a hotel somewhere and get some sleep. He wasn’t even sure if Barnes slept but sitting in a bed instead of a seat of a car had to be preferable. A road sign indicating a hotel at the next exit seemed like a sign from heaven and Clint decided to take it.
The hotel they pulled up to looked nice enough. Clearly built because of it being an exit off the highway, meaning it wasn’t anything fancy but it looked nice enough that families on road trips would stay there. Or two guys who had no idea where they were going. There were plenty of restaurants and gas stations peppered around the hotel too, but Clint only had eyes for the hotel and the beds it surely promised.
He turned off the car and hesitated about leaving the keys inside. He thought he looked rather stealthily between Barnes and the keys before deciding to take them with him. Barnes’ voice suddenly cutting through the air after a few hours of silence proved him wrong.
“I know how to hotwire a car.”
Clint swore he sounded almost amused.
“Well, fantastic. But don’t.” He muttered, not sure if Barnes would listen. He shut the door a bit harder than necessary as he walked away from the car.
Thankfully it didn’t take long to book a room with two beds for the night and then collect their belongings from the car to be stored instead in the room. Clint called first dibs on the shower, which was somewhat lacking in water pressure but was hot and came with a free bar of tiny soap he used generously to get the smell of road and fear-sweat off of his body. He collapsed face-first onto the bed Barnes wasn’t sitting on after he had finished and redressed. Not even bothering to really dry his hair and instead let the scratchy comforter of the bed take care of that.
“What did you get these for?” Barnes’ voice cut through the white noise of traffic and his own breathing, and it was the only reason Clint lifted his head and turned so look at the other man.
He realized Barnes had gone through all of the Walmart bags and separated everything. The phone was sitting close enough that Clint could reach across the bed and grab it if he wanted. But that wasn’t the focus of Barnes’ attention. Instead it was the notebooks that he was holding up. Barnes’ eyebrows were drawn together, clearly not sure why Clint had bothered to buy them out of all their other purchases.
“Oh, they’re notebooks.” He started, laughing nervously when Barnes’ eyebrows pulled together more in an expression that clearly read ‘I know, idiot’. “You said you remembered a lot of things, but you weren’t sure what was what so I thought….ugh it's stupid.” Clint pressed his face to the scratchy bedspread and wondered why he had even bought the notebooks. They seemed so stupid now. Barnes wasn’t a kid, he might not like Clint butting in and trying to help him without being asked.
Almost tentatively though, he was proven wrong.
“So you thought what?” Barnes’ voice was flat, but Clint could hear the way the bedspread shifted under his form as he turned to look at something. From the way the back of his neck heated up, he assumed it was him.
Face still planted in the bed, Clint took a deep breath. “I thought you could use them, to write down what you know for sure, what you aren’t certain about, and what you wanted to know.” His face felt hot with embarrassment. He shouldn’t be embarrassed, it seemed like a good idea at the time. But saying it out loud made it sound even stupider than he feared it might.
There was a pause before Barnes spoke again, and the sound of paper being flipped. “That’s why there are three of them?”
Clint nodded despite the fact that he was still face-first in the bed. “Yeah.” He sighed again, his shoulders heaving with the motion. “You don’t have to use them if you don’t want, it was just a spur of the moment thing.” He turned so he was lying on his side, ignoring the way his hearing aid dug into his ear uncomfortably.
He could probably take them out. He hadn’t for a few days and they were really starting to irritate him. Usually he left them off for hours at a time when he was anywhere relatively secure. There was probably nowhere safer than with the Winter Soldier, unless the Winter Soldier decided to come after him or someone decided to come after the Winter Soldier. So actually, there were lots of places safer than where he was. Clint wasn’t sure if he could trust Barnes yet. So far they hadn’t come to physical blows, but the destruction of his phone and the other’s testy attitude had made it hard for him to relax completely enough to want to be that vulnerable.
One more day wouldn’t kill him. If Barnes didn’t ditch him while he slept or kill him in his sleep, he’d probably be trustworthy enough to be in a room with when he was completely deafened.
Despite his trepidation about sleeping around Barnes or in his hearing aids, once he got underneath the sheets and away from the scratchy comforter of the bed sleep found him relatively easily. Easily enough that when he woke up, it took a second for his mind to snap forth the information of where they were and what was going on. He turned over almost too quickly once he realized where he was, expecting the bed next to him to be empty.
Instead there was Barnes, clearly having been watching the muted television but now looking at him instead. “What?” His voice wasn’t annoyed, but clearly exasperated with Clint’s antics already. It must have been a new record.
“Uh, nothing. Just wanted to make sure you were still here.” Clint explained as he kicked the blankets off of himself. He went into the bathroom, both because he really needed to pee and it saved him from making a further idiot of himself in front of Barnes.
He did stumble over his own shoes on the way into the bathroom, but he refused to look over his shoulder and see what kind of face Barnes made in response.
Once he had washed his face and smothered his shame down, Clint emerged from the bathroom rejuvenated. Or at least less likely to trip over his own shoes again. He was thrilled to see Barnes had changed and packed almost everything up in the short time he’d been in the bathroom. “Ready to hit the road?” He questioned, accepting the small nod as a good enough answer. He wasn’t exactly perky in the mornings either, and their first stop was definitely going to be coffee.
Walking over to the dresser he picked up his bow case. It let him have a nice view of the trashcan where the packaging for the pens he bought was discorded, along with the paper that had been on the front of the notebooks. But the notebooks themselves weren’t in the trash. He couldn’t help but look over his shoulder at Barnes, whose gloved hand was curled around a plastic sack with the unmistakable shape of the notebooks inside of them.
For once he managed to keep quiet, biting his lip against a smile as he held the door to the hotel room open for Barnes. It wasn’t like he had gotten him to crack a joke or smile, but it still felt like something.