Once upon a time, The Amazing Hawkeye brought the crowds streaming into Carson’s Carnival. They came in their droves to see the flash, the sparkle, the skill; to watch with baited breath as he defied the laws of physics and occasionally death itself. He was a hero to them all, pulling oohs and ahs and gasps from their mouths like a magician pulling rabbits out his ass.
Of course, once upon a time only ends happily ever after in fairy tales and these days the only crowds Clint Barton sees are the ones clogging the sidewalk as he’s trying to get back to his goddamn apartment. He can't even get the grocery clerk to pay him any attention when he's buying his eggs.
The hubbub means his hearing aids are pretty much useless, so he's left to actually stop and turn to see what's got New York so excited today. He follows the camera angles of a dozen smartphones to see Captain America and the Winter Soldier fighting a flying - what looks like a man in a Hallowe’en costume to be fair - in the middle of the air.
Sure, it’s a spectacle, but it’s not like it doesn’t happen every week. Fuck this shit, seriously.
Clint Barton is over superheroes. He was saved by one once. It was pretty humiliating.
And he's got places to be. Natasha finally cleared the last of her stuff out of the apartment last night. She's now officially living with Sam, which is apparently something you do after you’ve been going out for almost two years. Good for them, seriously. Clint’s happy for her.
But it means that he’s got a new roommate showing up tonight, some guy Sam knows, and Clint’s gotta try to make a good impression. Well, he’s got to try not to scare the guy away, because there's no way he can afford the rent on his combined salaries as a dog walker and archery teacher, and it's not like he's got any savings to dip into. If he doesn't get a roommate soon, he's gonna be selling the furniture.
He makes it past the crowd, away from the midair battle, and hurries back to his house. He’s gonna have the place tidy-ish and he’s gonna order pizza and be the most normal, undisastrous potential roommate he can be. And he’s got an hour to get it done. Totally doable.
He really hopes Barnes isn't a psycho.
3 hours later and Barnes still hasn’t turned up.
Clint tried to save him some pizza, he really did, but there's being polite, and then there's letting pizza go to waste because your new roommate is apparently a complete flake. Great. That's the last time Clint's taking recommendations from Sam.
He's just got his phone out to text Sam that his friend hasn’t shown when Lucky crosses to the door.
“It’s not walk time,” Clint tells him, and is surprised when the words are muffled more than they... Aw crap. He forgot to charge his hearing aids again. They're supposed to beep when they’re running out of battery. That at least explains why next door have been so quiet this evening.
Lucky’s pawing at the door, and making the face that means he’s definitely whining. His tail’s wagging ten to the dozen.
“Alright, I’m coming,” Clint says, changing his hearing aids out for the boring beige ones on the way, which should at least work, even if they do give him feedback when there's more than one source of sound.
He gets to the door and swings it open to look wearily up into the face of...
No wonder Natasha smirked at him when Sam mentioned his friend Barnes. Fuck this guy is hot. For all he's got his hair falling over his face like he's hiding behind it. He looks concerned and tired and... maybe a little stoned. Aw hell...
“Barnes?” he asks.
“Yeah,” Barnes says. “Thought you weren’t gonna answer.”
“Didn’t hear the door,” Clint says. Lucky surges forwards from behind him, almost knocking him into the doorframe, and pushes his snout right into Barnes' crotch. Clint smothers a chuckle at that.
“I was knocking for five minutes."
Clint just looks at him.
“I didn’t hear you,” he repeats. He cannot be bothered with this shit right now. But he needs a roommate, god help him, and maybe unreliable stoner guy will turn out to be more than just eye candy. Here's hoping.
One plus in the guy’s favour is that as soon as Lucky lopes up, he’s crouching down and petting him, making Lucky’s tail – which Clint swears is full of lead weights - bash repeatedly against Clint's legs.
"----- late," Barnes says. Apparently these hearing aids are worse than Clint remembers, but he's going to assume that's an apology for Barnes' tardiness. He doesn't hear the explanation, it's muttered to Lucky instead, which is great and all, but Lucky doesn't care. All he knows is that he got extra pizza tonight, and he'll love anyone who scratches him behind the ears just right.
“It’s fine,” Clint says. “You wanna look around?”
"Sure." Barnes straightens up, and as he does so his face blanks out, his eyes tightening. Clint swears the man was smiling at Lucky a second ago, but apparently Clint is making him think murdery thoughts.
Clint reminds himself to think of the rent.
“Come on in, then,” Clint says.
Barnes shuffles in, one hand stuck, seemingly permanently, in his pocket and looks around. Clint is suddenly very aware that his standards of ‘tidy’ do not live up to other peoples. He remembers arguments with Natasha about where socks are supposed to go.
In his defence, two hours ago, when Barnes was supposed to show up, the place was actually approaching respectable. But then there had been pizza...
“-weird hours," Barnes is saying when Clint turns back to him. "I've got a few part time jobs.”
“I know what that’s like,” Clint says, and Barnes gets this sort of smirk that looks a bit like he doesn't think Clint understands, and that maybe gets Clint's shackles up a bit, so he gives a brief rundown of the rent and stuff, and then hustles Barnes out the door, ready to enjoy his last couple of days of freedom.
Barnes moves in. It’s... well, Clint doesn’t have to wonder about whether he should buy food or whether he should pay the rent this month, so there’s that. Other than that, it’s... a little bit like living with a ghost. Barnes doesn't talk much. Just sort of watches Clint whenever they're in the same room. Clint tries to be kind and accept it as resting bitch face, but the guy’s got a thousand yard stare like a fucking machine gun, and he’s always just... watching. But Clint hasn’t woken up with him standing over his bed holding an axe yet, which is a huge bonus.
“I can barely tell when he’s is in the apartment at all,” he says to Sam and Natasha. They’re settling into domesticity a little haphazardly. Natasha’s not good with people in her space, but they’ll work it out. “He wasn't kidding about the crazy hours,” Clint continues as Natasha raises an eyebrow at him. “The guys in and out at all times of day. It’s a good thing I can turn my ears off, cause I don't think I'd sleep a full night if I could actually hear him coming in."
“Some jobs have antisocial hours," Sam says. "And the guy's still dealing with things. He'll settle down. Honestly, I was more worried about the two of you pissing each other off. Barnes can be a bit of an asshole."
Clint shoots him an unimpressed look, because friends don't let friends get assholes as roommates.
“In order to piss me off he’d have to talk to me, or at least be awake. Some days I come back and he’s just face down on the sofa. I thought he was dead. I couldn’t see whether he was breathing and there was blood on his hands.”
“But he wasn’t dead,” Natasha says.
“Not that time," Clint says. "But whenever I do see him, he's got weird bruises, or he's limping. Oh god, he's a mob enforcer, isn't he? Sam you made me live with a mob enforcer."
“He’s not a mob enforcer,” Sam tells him.
“Rent boy, then. He’s a rent boy and the johns get off on being a little rough.”
“Would you have a problem living with a sex worker?” Natasha asks. He can hear the tone in her voice that says it’s a trick question and Clint stares, a deer in the headlights.
“No?” he says. “I mean... it’s a job. And it’s steady employment... Growth industry even. Just... Is he a rent boy?"
“Not as far as I know,” Sam says, shrugging. “Don’t know anyone who’d pay for his grumpy ass.”
“Really?” Clint says. “I'd've thought he could make a fortune." He notices Sam's raised eyebrows.
“Like that, huh?” Sam asks, shooting a look at Natasha, who’s doing a very poor job of hiding her smile behind her glass of wine.
“What? He's hot. I can notice that and still think he's a freak who's going to murder me and steal my dog."
“He’s not gonna steal your dog,” Sam says. “He works security, gets contracted out to different places."
“Muscle for hire,” Clint says.
“Well... he’s weird,” Clint says, crossing his arms. “He makes me uncomfortable.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” Sam says, his voice laden with innuendo. Natasha doesn’t even bother hiding her laugh this time. Clint has to glare at the both of them. Honestly, it was bad enough when it was just Nat. Now he’s got to deal with this from both of them.
“Shut up.” It’s not his wittiest come back, but the subject does change.
Back at home, he and Barnes mostly stay out of each other’s hair, and Clint only sees Barnes when he's hunching over the counter, eating his breakfast and glowering out from behind his hair. It's a bit different from living with Nat, whose life never seems to be complete unless she's sighing in exasperation at something he's done.
It works... sort of.
The tension breaks suddenly, like a summer storm, when they finally end up talking to each other.
It starts with Clint, in bed. But sadly it doesn’t end quite as well as that would imply.
Bed is maybe not the place he should be at midday, but he'd been out all night and he's got no place to be until 6, so if he wants to be in bed at noon then he can damn well be in bed at noon.
Until Lucky jumps on his back.
Lucky is very insistent when he wants to be. Usually what he wants is food, or a walk, or petting, all of which Clint is totally okay with - just not when he's asleep.
But this time, Lucky's pulling at his clothes tugging him out of bed and through the door. Clint's a bit worried that the fire alarm's going off or something.
But no, it’s Barnes, standing at the door, looking like murder, his right arm poised to bang on the door. He looks like he might have been at it a while. As soon as Clint appears he starts talking, but that's not going to do any good, because Lucky didn't exactly give him time to grab his hearing aids when he was frantically pulling him out of bed.
He's too groggy to even try following Barnes' lips as he talks at him. He just watches the shapes they make. They’re very nice lips. Very nice eyes, too, even if they do look a bit murdery at the moment.
"I can’t hear you,” Clint says, his voice just as much a muffled blur of sound as Barnes' ranting is. Barnes blinks at him, looking confused and... oh shit.
Well, that explains a lot. Clint had sort of assumed that Sam had maybe said something, or Barnes had noticed the hearing aids. But then they haven't really been in the same room for more than a couple of minutes at a time so maybe.
“I’m deaf,” he says. “Haven’t got my aids in. Gimme a minute.”
By the time he’s got his ears back in, Barnes is sitting on the sofa, stroking Lucky and looking utterly floored.
“You’re deaf,” he says. It's a relief that Clint can actually make out the words now.
“Yep," Clint says. "And I just woke up, so I'm getting some breakfast. You want some?"
“I’m... I’m just going to bed,” Barnes says. “So I’m guessing this isn’t a new thing?”
“Going on five years now. You really didn’t know?” Clint asks. Barnes shakes his head. “Huh, thought Sam woulda told you.”
“You’d think,” Barnes says. His face is still promising murder, but Clint’s pretty sure it’s not his now. Score one for Barton! "So when I was knocking on the door..."
“I take my hearing aids out to sleep," Clint tells him. "Wasn't expecting anyone. But Lucky's usually pretty good at coming to get me if something needs my attention."
“Right,” Barnes narrows his eyes, assessingly. “I forgot my key.”
Clint shrugs. He’s awake now, he should probably walk Lucky anyway.
“No big deal. You didn’t know, now you do.”
Clint is going to kill Sam.
Two days later Clint comes home from his archery to find something has changed. Next to his door, screwed into the frame, with a little wire pulling away from it, there is a doorbell. It is definitely a doorbell. He stares at it, because he has never seen the purpose of a doorbell.
He’s about to open the door – his key is half way to the lock – when the door is opened in front of him and Barnes is there. He's got his hair pulled back for once. It's a shock, because suddenly he looks like a different person. Clint can actually get a look at his eyes. He's also smiling, which is even more of a shock. Clint doesn't think he's seen a smile on Barnes' face. It looks a bit confused, like it doesn’t know what it’s doing there any more than Clint does, but it’s nice.
It also makes Barnes look about five times hotter, which Clint is studiously not thinking about.
“You installed a doorbell,” Clint says, because if he says anything else it’s going to be borderline harassment.
“Yeah,” Barnes says. “After the other day, it seemed like a good idea."
“You remember that I’m deaf, right?” Clint asks. It seems like a relevant question, because what kind of idiot hears 'I can't hear you knocking on the door because I'm deaf' and thinks the solution to that problem is a doorbell.
“Yeah, I remember,” Barnes says. "Push it.”
Oh fuck, he doesn’t just smile. He smirks, and that smirk is fucking dangerous. It's making Clint's insides very confused, because on the one hand the guy's a smug dick, on the other hand...
Clint lifts his hand, not taking his eyes off Barnes’ and pushes the doorbell.
All the lights inside the apartment flash on and off.
“What the...?” he says. He knows he looks ridiculous now. He can feel his jaw slackening, sees Barnes glance down at his mouth caught in a surprised O.
“I hooked up the fire alarm too,” Barnes says, shrugging like it’s no big deal. "I mean, I figured you'd prefer not to burn to death."
“You...” Clint stares. He pushes the doorbell again. The lights flash. “How...”
"Thought it might make things easier," Barnes says, turning away. "Now stop pressing that thing, I've been listening to it all day, it's giving me a headache."
Clint stares at the back of Barnes' head as he walks away and leans over to ruffle Lucky's ears.
“Stop staring at my ass, Barton,” Barnes calls back, loudly and clearly enough that Clint can make it out even with his back turned. "And shut your mouth. You'll catch flies."