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The Comfort of the Familiar

Chapter Text

Apparently, Clint has been on a real writing kick while Kate’s been gone. It’s ridiculous, because who even uses pen and paper these days?

She tells Bobbi it’s ridiculous, when Bobbi drops the unfinished letters that have been rescued from Clint’s apartment into Kate’s lap.

“There’s one for each of us. Jess, Natasha, you, and me,” Bobbi says, and she gives the kind of smile that doesn’t reach past her nose when she says, “If you ask me, I’m sure Steve’s letter was next on his list.”

“Letters. Because talking is too complicated,” Kate says, more at the sleeping and unconscious figure on the bed beside them than at Bobbi.

Bobbi just squeezes her shoulder and asks Kate if she wants anything from the vending machine.

Vending machine coffee is completely fucking ridiculous - even more ridiculous than Clint Barton’s entire existence - and Kate is in the middle of a rant about that when her voice gives out, and she has to turn away from the woman whose mask Kate once wore because cruddy coffee from a coffee vending machine is making Kate break down.

By the time that Kate has composed herself, Bobbi is no longer there, and Kate’s only company is a still unconscious Clint Barton. His breathing is steadier than hers, and Kate clings to that fact as she sits down beside him and begins to read the letter he never sent.

Chapter Text

He wakes up, and immediately he notices that something is wrong.

His eyes focus on the whiteness of the ceiling, and he knows this isn’t where he belongs.

(He doesn’t remember where he belongs. But if he could remember, he’d know that his ceiling has a bright yellow stain that needs fixed, from a leak that he’d repaired, but not before it had left a nice vaguely-unicorn shaped design on his roof.)

The ceiling is too smooth and too … quiet.

Everything is too quiet. When he raises his head slightly to look at the other people in the room – four ladies and a blond man – the silence only becomes more obvious. They all look so relieved; it’s funny how relief can look so different on five different people.

But their relief turns to frustration, surprise, horror, shock, and grim acceptance. The blond guy and the blond girl immediately exit the room and bring back a doctor a few minutes later, the redhead … fondles her guns which, wow, should surprise him more than it does. One of the brunettes takes a closer step to his bed.

He wants to ask what’s happened to her face, but then the doctor comes in and confirms what he already knows.

He doesn’t listen to the doctor, though; he can’t. He can’t hear anything, and it is both frustrating and … familiar.

He doesn’t know why it’s familiar, because he can’t remember anything, either.

~

Four of the five leave, eventually. He gets a hug from the blond man before he goes, a kiss on the cheek from the blond lady, a kiss on the forehead from the redhead, and a sad headshake from the older brunette before they leave.

When they are gone, he turns to look at the remaining lady. She looks angry. He wonders if she’s angry at him, but that seems unlikely. Why would she be angry at the deaf guy with amnesia in a hospital bed?

After a minute, she picks up a pen and paper and begins to write. “Kate,” she writes, and she points to herself. “Clint,” she writes, and points to him.

He rolls his eyes and takes the pen and paper from her and scribbles “Figured out the Clint part.” He taps his lips and motions to hers.

He’s not sure why it was so easy to read their lips. He couldn’t read everything. Just the six million times they’d called him Clint and a few other words here and there.

Kate nods and mutters something about “spies.” “Do we need paper or can you read me?” she writes next.

“Keep paper,” he tells her.

She looks momentarily angry again, and this time he’s sure it’s not directed at him. It’s directed at someone else – the people who did this to him, he supposes, though he can’t read lips well enough to know who did do this, he knows he didn’t shoot himself.

At least, he’s pretty sure of that.

He picks up the pen and paper and writes, “You can go if you want.”

“I know I can. But I’m choosing to stay with you,” she writes back.

It is comforting enough that Clint relaxes into his pillow, and it feels familiar.

~

A few hours later, they are running out of paper, and another stranger shows up. This one doesn’t stay, just drops off a package for Kate. He waves at Clint and blushes, making his black hair look all the more black against a backdrop of flushed red skin.

Kate pulls a board out of the bag that lets them write and erase words with markers instead. “Won’t run out of paper this way and it’s way better than tiny computer screens,” she scribbles. “Hospital has a never ending supply of TP, so free erasers.”

Clint takes the board, and very importantly writes “Did he hurt you?” and gestures to the empty doorway where flushing red boy had been.

Kate frowns and looks confused, so Clint hesitantly reaches up and touches the area around her eye that is bruised and swollen.

She doesn’t pull away or even wince. But understanding comes over her face. “He would NEVER,” she writes.

“Who?” he says, because it’s suddenly important.

“An asshole,” she writes.

And it’s supposed to be a joke – he thinks – but suddenly he’s so angry at the idea that someone was hurting a woman and he couldn’t stop them.

It feels familiar in the worst way, but he doesn’t see any judgment on Kate’s face when his body responds to this helplessness by throwing up.

She hands him the pan and empties it without calling the nurse.

~

Kate does some furious typing on her phone, and soon after, the blond guy shows back up. This time he has a ridiculous red, white, and blue outfit on and he’s carrying a quiver full of arrows and a bow.

Clint sees Kate mouth “Thanks” and the blond guy says something about “clearing” and “nurses” and Kate says thanks again. The blond guy gives Clint another hug – and part of Clint thinks he should be protesting that, but they are pretty nice hugs.

The blond guy leaves and Kate writes “He didn’t hurt me either.”

“Doesn’t seem like an asshole,” Clint writes, and for some reason, she takes a picture of that after she stops laughing.

“You don’t always think that,” she explains on their board. Then she picks up an arrow and puts it in his hand.

It feels familiar, and the news report that Kate shows him of two “Hawkeyes” in action (“I can’t get closed captioning to work on my phone, sorry,” Kate says) only makes it more so.

~

They spend the rest of the first day watching Dog Cops with the captions on and using their board to argue about Lil and Steve. More people Clint doesn’t recognize show up, and many of them bring food, which is nice.

But they all go away looking like their best friend died.

Kate doesn’t look sad anymore. She does take turns looking pretty angry, especially when she answers the phone.

Now that he knows what she can do with a bow and arrow, he imagines her looking that angry while shooting someone. It makes his heart beat a little faster, and that feels familiar.

~

At 10:30 p.m., the nurses have come back twice to kick Kate out. She doesn’t want to go, and Clint doesn’t want her to go, either.

“I will bring provisions,” she writes under the glare of two nurses.

“I don’t remember what I like,” he writes back, which feels like whining to him, but it also feels okay to do with Kate. He doesn’t remember if he used to whine to her, or if he used to feel guilty about it.

She grins at him. “I remember,” she says “enough for both of us.”

She goes then, and the hurt in his chest as she walks out the door is familiar.

He doesn’t sleep well, and there is no lack of familiarity in that, either.

~

She comes back the next morning, carrying a dart board, two coffees, a sack of “provisions,” and pack of playing cards.

“They tell me you’re being a dick and not eating properly,” she writes. “Not shocked.”

His coffee is perfect and his bagel is superior to the hospital’s eggs by a wide margin.

“I’m usually … ‘difficult’?” he writes. He’s not sure why he used the word difficult, but it seems familiar.

“Sure,” Kate says, then she remembers and starts to reach for the board, but Clint shakes his head and taps his lips.

Kate just nods, settles down in a chair next to him and begins dealing cards. “You can’t deal, in case you still remember how to cheat,” she writes.

“I’m difficult and I cheat?” he pieces together on the board after looking at the terrible hand he’s been dealt. At her shrug, he writes, carefully, “Then why did you come back?”

She’s had the chance to escape the hospital, twice, now, and she keeps … sticking by his side. He doesn’t understand that.

He holds the board close to his chest for a minute, because he’s not sure that it won’t cause her to go again. Eventually, she holds out her hand and he reluctantly offers the board back to her.

She reads it, and for a moment, she looks angry again. This time, he thinks it might actually be directed at him.

She takes a moment to reply, starting, stopping, and erasing multiple times. Clint finishes his bagel and half his coffee before she is done.

“I’m here because I like you an awful lot, you are my friend, and if the situation was reversed, you’d damn well better bring me breakfast in bed,” is the response she finally shows him.

She still doesn’t leave.

“I think I would. I don’t remember, but it seems like I could like you an awful lot, too,” he replies.

She laughs and squeezes his hand. It makes him feel warm all over, and the familiarity of it makes it difficult to breathe.

But then she picks up her cards and Clint does the same. Together, they play through the shitty hand he’s been dealt.