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There's No 'I' In Denial

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“You all tell lies!” shouted today’s supervillain, flourishing dramatically with his cloak at the huddled group of senators. “We trust you with power and you use it to hide your misdeeds!”

Clint tried not to sigh, glancing over at Steve as if he was going to change his mind about taking the guy in alive.

“I understand you’re angry,” said Steve, holding his hands out in a calming manner. “This isn’t the way to change the system, though.”

“No?” asked the man, spinning around so that his cloak flared. Clint had a feeling he’d spent a lot of time practicing that. “I should just go on letting them lie to us all? No way!” He hefted the improbably large gun he was holding. “One shot from this, and they’ll never be able to lie again! Nothing but honesty from our elected officials! Wouldn’t that be better?”

“Sometimes we all have to tell lies for the greater good,” said Steve. “These men keep state secrets. You must see the importance of that.”

“I should have known that Captain America, stooge of the military establishment, wouldn’t understand why a regular guy might want some honesty from his government,” said the guy. Clint saw Bucky shift his weight, hefting his gun slightly, and knew he was just as pissed that he wasn’t allowed to just shoot the guy as Clint was, but there were way too many press around for them to just gun a threat down.

“Maybe you should start telling the truth too!” shouted the guy, and a bright blue beam sprung out of the gun towards Steve.

Clint reacted immediately, jumping at Steve to push him out of the way and taking the full force of the beam himself. It didn’t hurt like he’d thought it might, in fact it didn’t really feel like anything much. There was a weird tingle across his skin, but that was it.

A shot rang out and the caped guy fell backwards.

“Bucky!” snapped Steve.

“He shot Clint!” protested Bucky, lowering his gun. “Hey, you okay?”

Clint sat up, opening his mouth to say he was fine, but that was not what came out. “I’m fine except for a couple of bruises and the exhaustion from only sleeping about an hour last night between nightmares. They’re a symptom of my poor mental health, which I’ve been ignoring as it progressively worsens,” he said and, wow. That was a lot more than he’d intended to say. More than he’d even really been conscious of. Did he really have a mental health problem? The nightmares were totally normal, right? And the general feeling of overwhelming hopelessness that he got for a day or two every so often?

Fuck it, he could think about that later. Much later. Maybe never.

Steve and Bucky were both staring at him. Clint managed a weak smile. “So, his truth gun works.”

Steve stood up, looking around the scene. Tony was off dealing with the senators, while Nat and Sam were kneeling by the bad guy. Sam was doing some kind of first aid while Natasha checked him over for any other weapons, but it didn’t look like he was going to be getting up again. Getting shot by the Winter Soldier wasn’t generally something people recovered from.

“Clint, get back to the Tower,” said Steve. “We’ll figure this out, but it’s probably better not to have you in public right now.”

“I am something of a public relations disaster at the best of times,” agreed Clint, then pressed his lips together. Damn, this was going to get annoying.

“I’m going with him,” said Bucky.

“No, you’re not,” said Steve. “You shot a guy. You need to stay and do the debrief.”

“Steve,” started Bucky with exasperation, and Clint took his chance to nip off back to the Tower before anyone asked him any further questions.

****

He had showered and made coffee before the others came back. Tony was holding the guy’s truth-shooting gun in one hand, and his face lit up when he saw Clint.

“Hey, Hawkeye, tell me your most embarr-”

“No!” interrupted Steve before he could finish. “Tony! Just work out how to fix whatever that gun did.”

Tony deflated. “Aw, Steve.”

“No,” said Steve again. He had that note in his voice that said he was reaching the end of his tether, which probably meant he’d had to actually talk to the senators at some point. Elected officials always pissed Steve off.

Tony gave Clint one last, longing look, then slumped off to the elevator.

“You,” said Natasha, moving towards Clint with the look that meant she was about thirty seconds away from smacking his head. “What the hell were you thinking?”

“That Captain America knows far more secrets than Hawkeye,” said Clint, “and that Steve tends to repress shit so if he ended up blurting out his deepest secrets, he’d hate it, whereas I’m pretty much an open book, so what does it matter if I tell Tony the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me? He pretty much already knows, anyway. He was there.”

Natasha tipped her head to one side, considering. “The thing with Bobbi and the press conference.”

Clint nodded and shot finger guns at her as Steve protested, “I’m not repressed.”

There were a number of snorts, and Bucky slapped a hand to his shoulder. “Sure, Stevie.” He gave Clint a careful once-over then said, in a slow tone that meant he was picking his words carefully, “Other than having to tell the truth, did the gun have any other effect on you?”

“Everything went tingly for a bit,” said Clint, because apparently he was the king of overshare now, “but that’s faded. Which is a shame because it was kinda nice, like how you feel just after a really, really good orgasm.”

Bucky stared at him for a moment, then looked around at Steve with a helpless expression. “What the hell am I meant to do with that?”

Clint just took another sip of his coffee, and wondered how long it would take him to get used to having no filter.

Eh, it’d just be like he’d hadn’t woken up and had coffee yet, only all the time. He could live with that.

****

Tony came back up from his lab in a towering rage. “Magic,” he spat out like it was a swear word. “The fucking thing runs on magic.” He looked at Clint and gave him an apologetic shrug. “Sorry, birdbrain, I can't fix you.”

“It's cool,” said Clint. “I don't feel very broken.”

There were clearly hundreds of questions on Tony's lips about that, but he glanced at Natasha and then carefully pressed his lips together. She must have had one of her quiet talks with him.

“Okay,” said Clint, standing up. “If you don't need me for anything, I'm going to shower and jerk off.”

He hadn't actually meant to say that last bit, but he had a feeling most of them could have guessed it.

Tony groaned. “Oh, come on,” he muttered. Clint just shot him a thumbs up and headed for the elevator.

“Steve, we need to fix him,” he heard Bucky say in a very serious voice as he left. He just rolled his eyes to himself because how come no one else realised how much of a big deal this wasn't?

 

 

Clint was getting his mid-morning coffee the next day when Bucky wandered into the kitchen.

“Hey, how're you?” he asked, and then a moment later clearly remembered that he wasn't meant to be asking Clint any questions.

Too late. “Better now you're here,” said Clint. “Things are pretty much always better when you’re in the room.”

Huh. He hadn’t really noticed that before, but he guessed he did like hanging out with Bucky more than he liked being alone.

Bucky was just staring at him, so Clint shrugged. “You did ask,” he pointed out.

“Yeah,” said Bucky. “Okay. If, uh, if I promise to try not to ask any more questions, do you want to go to the range?”

“Pretty much always,” said Clint, just as he always did when asked that question. He grinned. “Hah, hey, guess that one’s true, then.”

Bucky rolled his eyes. “I actually didn’t doubt that for a moment.”

He was a lot more careful with what he said, avoiding questions entirely as they shot together, which was sweet of him, although probably unnecessary. Clint was pretty much an open book, after all.

It wasn’t possible to watch your tongue completely though and Clint was expecting a slip-up even before it came.

He was watching as Bucky nailed bullseyes on a rotating swirl of targets, eyeing his form, when Bucky glanced back and caught his look.

“Enjoying the view, hotshot?” he asked, in an over-the-top flirty drawl, because that was exactly the kind of shit they usually gave each other.

Except this time, instead of Clint cracking out some bullshit about thinking about all the ways he’d be doing it better, he opened his mouth and said, “Yeah, you’re pretty much the hottest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Bucky went still, staring at Clint with complete shock.

“Oh wow,” said Clint, casting around for something to say to backtrack, “I had no idea I thought that.”

Shit, that wasn’t exactly helpful. He set his bow down very carefully, then added, “I’m going to run away now because I’m very embarrassed,” and jogged for the elevator, because nothing about the situation looked like it was going to get any better.

It wasn’t until the doors had shut after him that he let himself actually think about what he’d said. Did he really think Bucky was the hottest thing he’d ever seen? Because, okay, yeah, he was hot, especially when he was shooting, with all that swagger he had, and the way he grinned when he knew he was killing it, and the flex of his arms as he pulled the trigger and-

Huh. Okay, score one for the truth gun, apparently Clint was into Bucky. He guessed that was good to know, although he could probably have stood to find out in a less awkward way.

****

Natasha came to find him that afternoon, perching on the end of the sofa where he’d sprawled out to watch reruns of Dog Cops while trying to work out how to make the idea for a boomerang arrow that he’d had work properly. He really didn’t want to have to resort to asking Tony for help.

“Bucky was acting very strangely at lunch,” she said, and Clint appreciated that it wasn’t a question.

“I told him I thought he was hot,” he said, because it wasn’t like he’d ever had any secrets from Natasha anyway.

“Ah,” she said, slowly. “I take it you hadn’t told him that before.”

Clint shrugged. “I didn’t know I thought it before.”

She stared at him, then muttered something unflattering in Russian under her breath. “You’ve been staring at his ass every chance you get for months.”

“Have I?” asked Clint, thinking back. “Huh, I guess I have.”

Natasha raised her eyes to the ceiling. “Do you-?” she started, then stopped herself. “It’s not my place to force you into any realisations,” she said. “But perhaps you should take some time to think about your feelings.”

Clint made a face. “Ugh, no way. I hate thinking about feelings. I’m just going to sit here fiddling with this arrow and not thinking about anything that could lead to a self-realisation.”

“Oh my god,” she said. “Clint. Seriously?”

“Seriously,” said Clint, then held up the arrow. “It’s a boomerang arrow. It comes right back to you. Or it will, once I figure it out.”

She stared at it, then at him. “Why the hell would you want it to come back?”

“Because too many people and things in my life have gone away and never come back,” said Clint, then winced. “Aw, no,” he said, looking sadly at the arrow. “Self-realisation happened after all.” He set the arrow down on the table and pressed his hands against his eyes. Was he really that obvious?

Natasha sighed, and set a careful hand on his shoulder. “I can go, if it’s easier not to have someone around to prompt unwanted truths.”

Clint shook his head. “No, I always prefer having you around,” he said. “You’re my best friend.”

He looked up and was surprised to see a moment of naked emotion on Natasha’s face. She had to have known that, right? She knew everything about him.

“Very well,” she said, once she’d recovered from the split-second of reaction. She looked back at the TV. “We’re not watching this, then.”

Clint picked up the remote and handed it to her. “I’ve recorded a bunch of things I thought you’d like for when you come over,” he said, which wasn’t something he’d necessarily have told her, but he figured he might as well get used to just being that open all the time.

She took the remote and flashed him a smile. “You’re a good friend, Clint.”

Aw no, this truth thing wasn’t meant to cut both ways. He ducked his head to avoid the flush of emotion, turning his attention back to the arrow.

****

“The team is gathering for dinner,” JARVIS announced some time later, and Natasha turned to give Clint a long look. “We can just eat here,” she offered.

Clint shook his head. “I like when we all eat together. It feels like the family I never had,” he said. Okay, well, maybe he should gag himself first.

“Yes,” agreed Natasha softly. “I feel the same, sometimes.” She stood up. “Other times, Tony opens his mouth,” she added, and Clint laughed.

Pretty much everyone had gathered for dinner including Bucky, who took one look at Clint then actually went pink. Clint had no idea what to do with that, so he pretended he couldn’t see him and just concentrated on getting drinks for himself and Natasha, and then finding a seat at the other end of the table from Bucky. He didn’t want any more weird realisations pouring out, not in front of the others.

Natasha cleared her throat as she sat down, fixing the whole table, but mostly Tony, with a look. “Just a reminder that we all need to watch what we’re saying to Clint,” she said, which made Clint give her a grateful grin.

“Of course,” said Steve. “Clint, we will find a way to fix this for you. Doctor Strange has taken the gun to look over.”

“That’s cool,” said Clint. “It’s not that bad, though.”

“He is very sweet like this,” said Natasha, because sometimes she was a filthy traitor. “Apparently, I’m his best friend.”

“Well, now I’m heartbroken,” said Tony. “C’mon Clint, bro, buddy, amigo, I thought we had something special.”

“You’re my favourite billionaire,” Clint told him, which was enough to make Tony grin.

“I seriously can’t believe you willingly went for being truth-whammied,” he said. “There’s no way I’d have thrown myself in front of that bullet for any of you guys. An actual bullet, maybe, but not a truth one.”

Clint shrugged. “I didn’t know I had any secrets I wanted to keep hidden,” he said, and then frowned. “That was meant to be that I don’t have any secrets I want to keep hidden,” he said, slowly, testing out the words as he said them. Those ones all came out as he intended, at least.

“Huh, “ said Tony, eyeing him. “So, you have secrets you don’t know about?”

No, Clint tried to say, but it changed in his mouth. “Yes.” He frowned. “Oh come on, how’s that possible?”

“The hardest secrets are the ones we keep from ourselves,” said Natasha, watching him far too closely for Clint’s liking.

“Okay, one way to clear this up,” said Tony, in the cheerful tone that was a glaring neon sign that he was about to do something completely dickish, “Hey, Clint? What’s your biggest secret from yourself?”

“That I’m in love with Bucky,” said Clint immediately, which wow. Really? Fuck.

The whole table went quiet, staring at Clint and then, inevitably, all eyes slowly turned to the end of the table, where Bucky had been keeping his head down and concentrating on his lasagne. He looked up with wide, surprised eyes, and Clint couldn’t take a second more of this. He got up and darted for the elevator, then changed his mind and went for the stairs instead, because he wasn’t waiting around for the elevator doors to open, not when he could be curling up under his bed and screaming into a pillow.

“Tony!” he heard Steve shout behind him. “What the hell?”

“How does anyone not know that they’re in love?” protested Tony, then Clint was through the door to the stairs and out of earshot, taking steps two at a time as he headed for his room.

Inside, he made sure the door was locked, then he dropped onto his bed, putting his head in his hands.

What the fuck had that been? Was he seriously in love with Bucky? Because, okay, sure, he was hot, and funny, and sometimes did that sexy smoulder thing that made Clint‘s knees go weak, and he’d been through so much shit and managed to come out still fighting, still laughing in a way that just lit up his whole face and-

Shit, Clint really was in love with Bucky.

What the hell else didn’t he know about himself?

“JARVIS?” he asked in a croaky voice.

“Yes, Agent Barton?” asked JARVIS.

“Can you ask me what other secrets I have?”

There was a hesitation, then JARVIS asked, in an unusually gentle tone, “What secrets are you keeping, Agent Barton?”

Clint let his mouth fall open and the words flow out. “I don't hate Agent Hardwick because he took the last doughnut that one time, I hate him because his voice reminds me of my father’s. I am still angry that Fury lied to us about Coulson being alive, and I probably always will be. I've been in love with Bucky since the second time we shared the range. My mental health has been worsening for months, and it's likely I'll have a full breakdown within six months if I don't get help. Sometimes when I'm shooting, I still want to make my old mentor proud. I hate it every time Tony makes a snarky comment about my bow because not all of us get to be billionaires with a thousand different talents, and shooting that bow is the one thing I have. George wasn't a fuckbuddy, he was my boyfriend, and I should have told him that. I haven't made any plans for a long-term future because I assume I'll die on the job and some days, I don't do as much as I could to stop that happening.”

He paused to take a breath, feeling like he was spinning with all the revelations, and thankfully, they came to a stop. He took a deep breath, resting his head in his hands, and JARVIS made the noise that was his version of a politely cleared throat. “Would you like me to contact SHIELD psychiatry and make an appointment?”

“Nah,” said Clint. “Apparently, I've got six months, that can wait.”

“I don't believe that's how it works,” said JARVIS, but Clint wasn't listening.

“I should probably apologise to Agent Hardwick next time I see him.”

There was a knock at the door, and Clint froze in place. “Is that Natasha?” he asked without much hope.

“It's Sergeant Barnes,” said JARVIS. “Do you want me to let him in?”

No, Clint tried to say, but, “Yes,” came out instead. Fuck.

Bucky opened the door, but didn't come fully inside. “Just tell me if you want me to fuck off.”

“I pretty much always want you around,” said Clint, which might have been true but wasn't close to what he wanted to say.

Bucky hesitated as if he knew that, then came in anyway, shutting the door behind him.

“It just feels like I owe you some honesty in exchange,” he said.

“No,” said Clint, but Bucky interrupted before his treacherous tongue could get him in any more trouble.

“No, listen. Knowing you feel like that for me, even if you didn't know before, is really something. I want you to know that you're not alone in feeling like that. Getting to know you has been the best part of living here, even better than getting Stevie back. Hanging out in the range and chatting shit at each other, the way you look when you laugh, even just watching you shoot, Clint, I love it.” He took a deep breath and added, “I love you.”

“Oh,” said Clint, probably sounding a bit simple.

Bucky gave him a sheepish grin and a shrug. “I get it if you want to wait until after someone figures out how to fix this truth thing to do anything, but I wanted you to know that you're not the only one, and as soon as you're okay with it, I'm gonna ask you out.”

“I'm okay with it now,” said Clint, and he had no idea if it was the spell making him say it, or just that he couldn't imagine saying anything else. “More than okay. I want to kiss you, can I kiss you?”

Bucky's face lit up. “Pretty much always,” he said, and Clint was kissing him before he could finish the sentence.

****

It turned out that being cursed to tell the truth actually made dating easier.

“That was the best first date I've ever been on,” said Clint as they walked back to the tower, after an evening eating pizza and playing laser tag, and Bucky gave him a pleased, pink-cheeked smile.

 

“I love going out with you, but I'd actually prefer to stay in with a pizza and just make out on the sofa,” said Clint, a few days later, when Bucky came to his room and asked if he wanted to go out for dinner. “That way I don't have to think about anyone but you.”

“Then that's what we'll do,” said Bucky, coming inside and shutting the door.

 

“Sometimes this seems too perfect to be real,” Clint whispered into Bucky's skin later that night, and Bucky rolled them so that he could press kisses over Clint’s face.

“It's real, and it's perfect,” he whispered between kisses.

 

Despite everyone's best efforts, all of Clint's secrets came out within a few weeks, but even that wasn't so bad. Natasha forced him to make a regular appointment at SHIELD psychiatry once he'd let slip about his mental health problems, which he was dreading until it became clear that therapy was another thing that benefited from total honesty.

Weeks passed, and he got used to just blurting everything out at the slightest hint of a question.

 

“What would you like?” asked the barista in Starbucks with a vague attempt at a smile.

“A nap in the arms of my boyfriend,” said Clint. “He's in DC though, so I'll settle for the strongest black coffee you have.”

She blinked slowly, then turned away to ring that up.

 

“How do I look?” asked Tony, sweeping into the main lounge and holding his arms out to display his outfit.

Clint glanced up. “Like the suave uncle in a mafia movie who ends up imprisoned for sex crimes.”

Tony hesitated, looking down at himself. “I have no idea if that means I need to change or not.”

“Sex crimes, Tony,” said Natasha pointedly, and he sighed and headed back to his room.

 

“Okay, that's the plan,” said Steve, leaning over the map of the AIM base. “Any questions?”

“Yeah, are me and Bucky going to have time to make out between phase two and phase three?” asked Clint.

Steve sighed.

Bucky wrapped an arm around Clint, pulling him in close “We'll make time,” he promised.

Steve just sighed again.

 

By the time Doctor Strange brought the truth gun back, with apologies for the delay because he'd been trapped in another dimension, Clint had lost track of what he was saying because of the spell and what he'd be saying anyway.

“Wow, you look like shit,” he said as Doctor Strange came in to the lounge. “Have you slept at all?”

“Not recently,” said Strange. He set the gun down on the coffee table and Clint sat up to get a closer look at it. When he reached out to poke it, Bucky took his hand and pulled it away.

“Let’s not tempt fate.”

Clint shrugged, slumping sideways against Bucky and turning his hand to link their fingers together. “This particular fate ended with us together,” he reminded him. “I’d happily put up with all kinds of shit to be with you.”

Bucky smiled at him with the pink-cheeked look he always got when Clint said stuff like that. “Happily, you don’t have to.”

Strange cleared his throat. “If we can focus?”

“Yeah, c’mon, doc, tell us how to end the pain of Barton’s smitten little truth bombs,” said Tony. “Wave a magic wand, say some mumbo-jumbo?”

“I’m afraid it’s not that simple,” said Strange, and Tony let out a sigh.

“With magic, it never is.”

Strange glared at him. “The gun is tailored very specifically to the maker’s magical signature. The only person who can use it to remove the curse is him. Do you have him in custody somewhere?”

There was a long, awkward pause. Everyone turned to look at Bucky, who winced and hunched his shoulders over.

“Bucky shot him,” said Clint, because if no one else was going to answer the question, he was going to have to. He added, “Which was totally understandable, under the circumstances,” because he hated seeing that look on Bucky’s face. Besides, if Bucky had been the one hit by some unknown magical bullshit, Clint would totally have shot the guy responsible as well.

“Ah,” said Strange with heavy weight. “Then I’m afraid there is no lifting the curse.”

“I’m going to be telling the truth forever?” asked Clint, and he nodded. Clint considered that. “Okay.”

“What?” said Bucky, sitting up and letting go of Clint’s hand. “No way, that can’t be it. There must be something more you can do.”

“Hey, chill,” said Clint, grabbing Bucky’s hand again because he wasn’t ready to let go of it yet. “It’s cool, Bucky, it’s not exactly hurting me.”

Bucky gave him a flabbergasted look. “How can you be okay with this?”

“Because it got me you,” said Clint. “Because telling the truth to you guys means I’m finally telling it to myself, and it’s not nearly as shitty as I always thought it would be. Because my therapist told me yesterday that I was making excellent progress and she was very proud of me, and I haven’t thought about how easy it would be to just let myself die in the next fight in weeks. Because I can imagine growing old with you, and telling you I love your grey hair and wrinkles, and knowing you know that I mean every word. Because it means there’s not a chance that Steve will ever ask me to do press duty ever again. There’s lots of reasons.”

“Did anyone ever tell you that for an ex-spy, you’re pretty crappy at top secret shit?” asked Tony.

“Yes,” said Clint, without looking away from Bucky’s face, because he could see him thinking that all through.

“Okay,” said Bucky, quietly. “Okay, I guess I don’t get it, but it’s pretty clear you do.” He leaned in and kissed Clint.

Clint happily kissed him back, but a worrying thought had occurred to him. “Hey, you don’t mind, do you? That I’m Captain Overshare?”

Bucky blinked and then laughed. “Clint, the only things you’ve said about me since you got hit by this thing have been compliments or declarations of love. I’d have to be a idiot to mind that you spend half your time telling me exactly how you feel.”

“I love you,” said Clint, and Bucky smiled.

“Yeah, exactly,” he said, and kissed him again. “I love you too.”

Somewhere outside of the little bubble of Clint-and-Bucky Tony sighed. “C’mon, doc, they’ll be at this lovey-dovey bullshit for a while. You should head home and get some sleep.”

Both Clint and Bucky ignored them. “I want to grow old with you too,” said Bucky, and Clint smiled.

“I’m gonna want a dog,” he said.

Bucky laughed. “Yeah, I kinda figured,” he said, and kissed him again.