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Five times Clint stayed in the vents, and one time he didn't

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Clint curled up to the edge of the metal plating, pressing himself into the wall of the air duct. The footsteps and voices below him continued, faint through the walls. He leaned back into the cool metal, as his head throbbed, and tried to quiet his gasping breaths.

 

[“...Hawkeye? Snap out of it, Barton!….”]

 

He dragged himself further along the vent, away from the access panel, away from his room, away from his teammates, oh god, just stay away-

 

[“...Clint? You okay? Back with us?...”]

 

It would be okay. The strained smile, excusing himself to his room, the empty quip… They wouldn’t have noticed, right? They were too busy cleaning up the mess. The mess he made. Fuck. They couldn’t find him here, he didn’t have to be the cool hawkguy, he could fall apart- it didn’t matter about him, he was shit. They’re far enough away. I can’t hurt them here.   I can’t hurt them again…

 

[“...Mind control technology…”]

 

His breathing was out of control, erratic and too fast, and he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think- He pulled his hearing aids out with shaking hands, and slowly slid sideways on the wall he was leaning on, until his face was on the floor. He barely registered it. His head was a turmoil of memories and thoughts.

Not again, I can’t hurt them again-no, Loki stop, I can’t-oh god what have I done, What happened-Tasha, I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry-

He gasped for air, and wheezed instead, body shaking on the metal plating, and he couldn’t move, breathe, control his own actions- and he was back there again.

 

“Hawkeye, on your six!”

“Take a look at his fucking costume.”

“Who is this guy, anyways?”

“Another goddamn wizard? Are you shitting me?”

“Language.”

“ ‘L a n gu a g e’ ”

“Oh, grow up.”

“Chatter!”

“Stark, more magic incoming.”

“Thanks. Got it.”

“No other hostiles detected.”

“Good. No need for a code green this ti-Clint watch out!”

Orange energy

And then...

The arrow in his hand.

On his bow

Arcing through the air until it hit Tony

Bouncing off the armor, detonation denting his knee plates

“Legolas, what the fu-”

Arrow towards Cap

Hitting his shield and sliding off

“Guys, Hawkeye’s compromised, some mind control shit, can you-”

Falcon.

Sam dodged behind a building, arrow whistling past his head

“How’d he hit Clint-”

Arrow.

Miss.

“-Maybe if we take out the wizard-”

Arrow.

Arrow.

Explosion

“Almost there, hang on-”

Arrow.

Nat?

The arrow arced from his bow and he watched in slow motion as it shot towards Natasha, Nat, oh god, no, Nat -

Not again, not again- Fuck-

It embedded itself in her leg, and she startled, noticing the fletching- his fletching - and winced as she pulled it out

And kept fighting

But she’s Natasha, she could fight with her legs, arms, and back broken.

Oh god, what had he done?

He nocked another arrow.

The sorceror went down.

And Clint’s actions came rushing back.

 

It looped again, getting more clouded

Time jumped around, and sometimes he was shooting at Steve, and sometimes he hit Tony, and Sam, and saw them falling out of the sky, sometimes Wanda was impaled on an arrow, sinking to the ground, sometimes Nat, unstoppable Nat, looked at him from the pavement with unseeing eyes, in a pool of blood, and it was all his fault, everything, and then Cap was going down again, and-

 

Thud.

 

Thud.

Thud.

Clint pulled himself out of the flashback with some effort, and could see the inside of the ducting again, and feel the pounding on the wall next to the vent he was in.

He slid into a more upright position, and stuck one of his hearing aids back in.

 

“-int? FRIDAY said you were in here.”

 

[“ Clint- The fuck are you- SHIT-”]

 

He steadied his breathing a bit, and wiped at the trails of water on his cheeks, even though Steve couldn’t see him.

“Y-... Yeah, Cap. I’m in here. ‘S Nat okay?”

 

[“Nat- oh god, Natasha, I’m so sorry, I didn’t-”]

 

He pushed the memory back

 

“Yeah. Just getting the arrowhead out. Do you need to go to medical?”

 

“Nope. I stayed out of the way.”

 

“Want someone to check on the effects of the spell?”

 

Clint’s breath caught at the word spell, but he kept the casual voice going as well as he could while he fell apart.

 

“Nah. I’m good, Cap. Just avoiding lectures about recklessness.”

 

“Alright. You sure you’re okay? I know you… don’t like mind-control.”

 

Clint let out a humorless laugh, just a huff of air, really.

 

“I’m fine up here. See better from a distance, remember?”

 

“Okay. See you at dinner.”

 

“See you.” Clint barely concealed the tremor in his voice.

He listened to Steve’s footsteps fading, and put back his other hearing aid, just in case he might come back.

Now that Cap was gone, he slumped back over onto his side and closed his eyes.

One good thing about the soldier bothering him, he supposed, was that he didn’t seem prone to another flashback or attack at the moment. He still felt a bit of the panicked, shaky buzz in his head that warned of another episode, but it was faded quite a bit.

Thanks, Capsicle.

He was still shattered, still shaken, still scarred to the core at the renewal of one of his worst fears, but… the fact that more people than just Nat cared enough to check in on him, even if it was Motherhen-Rogers.

That maybe they forgave him.

Mattered a lot.

 

Next move? Checking in on Tasha, of course. She’d know he was there, no matter how sneaky he was, which was also good, because…

Because no matter how good an agent’s mask is, it feels good to know people care.

Starts in on erasing all the things you’ve done, the things you’d rather forget. The “blood in your ledger”, as Natasha would call it.

 

God, Tasha.

I’m so sorry.

Clint pushed himself up, groaned, and moved down the vent to recuperate with stolen froot-loops and bad TV shows.

He might even let Natasha have some of the tiny sugary rainbow garbage cereal.

 

But only because he felt slightly guilty, of course.

That was it.