Clint’s been in the vents for a solid day and a half before Steve calms down.
Tony hasn’t calmed down, but Clint can handle Tony. Tony’s death glares are nothing compared to the way Steve’s eyebrows get when he’s angry and sad at the same time.
Wait, scratch that. Tony makes a snide comment directed towards Barnes, who’s been awkwardly standing behind Steve the entire time, and Steve starts yelling again.
Well, great. The coffee’s down there, and Steve’s yelling again.
He reaches up to turn his ears off and silence Steve’s righteous, offended shouting when he looks over at Barnes and freezes.
Barnes is looking right at him through the grate.
Well, shit. Compromised again, Hawkguy.
Barnes raises a subtle eyebrow, and Clint shrugs innocently. Clint gestures towards the hallway.
“Stevie, I’m gonna go take a piss,” Barnes tells bluntly, already walking away from Angry Steve.
“Yeah, sure, Buck,” Steve says distractedly, too absorbed in arguing with Tony to actually care.
Clint moves quickly through the vents, pausing briefly when he notices someone hiding out in the pantry — Nat’s casually listening to the ongoing fight, snacking on Clint’s leftover pizza, but Clint’ll let it slide for now, since he’s preoccupied — and signals JARVIS to slide the hallway vent cover open.
AI-controlled vent covers. Who would have thought?
“Fancy meeting you here, Barnes,” Clint greets, blinking innocently.
“You’re the archer,” Barnes recognizes vaguely. “Hawkguy.”
Aw, Barnes… “Hawkeye, actually.”
“Why are you in the ceiling?” Barnes asks, ignoring him.
“Hiding from Steve,” Clint responds casually. “Has he always done the eyebrow thing?”
“Yeah,” Barnes snorts. “Had me wrapped around his finger with the eyebrow thing.”
Clint nods seriously, pledging to think of a better name for Sad Angry Eyebrow Steve, and tilts his head slightly. “You were brainwashed and forced to kill people you care about, right?”
Barnes flinches slightly, and Clint internally curses his lack of a filter.
“Yes,” Barnes says slowly, his shoulders tight and his eyes darting around, obviously identifying his exit points.
“Cool. I mean, not cool. Uncool, even,” Clint corrects. “I just meant that hey, me too. Brainwashed, check. Killed people I care about, check. Traumatized beyond belief, check. Hey, who brainwashed you? I mean, HYDRA, no shit, but anyone in specific?”
Barnes just looks at him for a second, sizing him up. “You’re not afraid of me.”
“Nope,” Clint agrees.
“Everyone else has been on edge around me,” Barnes continues, “watchin’ what they say, but you don’t give a shit.”
“Not a single shit,” Clint confirms with a grin.
Surprisingly, Barnes chuckles. “Arnim Zola. HYDRA scientist. Real piece of work.”
“JARVIS, friend, could you print off a picture of uhh. That name Barnes just said, and get Butterfingers to bring it to the range?” Clint asks politely, never one to disrespect his robot overlord. “Oh, use the fancy printer in Tony’s lab, it pisses him off.”
“Of course, Agent Barton,” JARVIS agrees smoothly. “I must warn you, if you intend to bring Sergeant Barnes to the range—”
“Yeah, yeah, Fury said no,” Clint huffs. “Fury can suck my dick.”
“Wanna tell me what you’re plannin’, pal?” Barnes asks, and Clint suddenly remembers that he’s there.
“Therapy?” Clint suggests weakly.
Barnes looks at him and shrugs. “Sounds about right. I’m coming up.”
“I don’t like people in my vents,” Clint mutters under his breath, shuffling back compliantly to make room, “but my dislike for the eyebrow thing outweighs that. And therapy. Therapy’s important.”
Barnes hoists himself up with his metal arm, clambering into the vents in front of Clint. Once he’s up, JARVIS slides the cover closed again.
Barnes blinks. “These aren’t normal vents.”
“Nope,” Clint agrees cheerfully, “Tony designed them just for me. I basically live up here half the time.”
“Why not?” Clint counters, and Barnes snorts.
“Sounds about right, from what Stevie’s told me about you,” Barnes says with a fond shake of his head, and wow, it’s weird to hear someone call Captain America Stevie.
“Therapy,” Clint says, “C’mon.”
Clint leads Barnes through his vents. He’s surprised for, like, half a minute that Barnes is just as good at stealth as he is, but then he remembers that Barnes is also an assassin, and a damn good one.
They drop down two floors, and JARVIS lets them out at the range, with another warning about Fury and rules and deadly weapons, but Fury can suck his dick.
“Butterfingers!!” Clint exclaims as he spots the bot, who beeps enthusiastically at him. “Barnes, meet Butterfingers, one of Tony’s children. I’m his favorite, don’t tell anyone. You got what I asked for, buddy?”
Butterfingers beeps in confirmation, dropping the picture when he tries to hold it out to Clint.
“Hey, don’t worry about it, bud,” Clint reassures when Butterfingers beeps sadly at the fallen picture. “You got it all the way here, I’m proud of you! Why don’t you head back to the lab now? It’s probably gonna get loud in here, and I don’t want you to get scared.”
Butterfingers beeps happily when Clint pats his head, then rolls out of the lab, either heading back to the lab like Clint told him to or going to find Tony and terrorize him. Clint’s got no preference, terrorizing Tony is one of his favorite things to do.
“Right! Therapy!” Clint announces, retrieving the picture and crossing the range to stick it to the target next to his own Therapy Target, which has a fresh picture of Loki. It’s so fresh, it’s only got, like, three arrows hanging out of it. “What’s your weapon of choice, Barnes?”
Barnes blinks slowly at him. “Yes.”
Clint pauses, halfway to the gun rack. “You know what, that’s a valid response. Take a look at what we’ve got and pick something, I guess?”
He jogs the rest of the way to the rack and waits. JARVIS flashes the lights once, Clint assumes as a final warning, before opening it.
“Voila,” Clint gestures dramatically at the well-stocked weaponry. “Choose your weapon.”
He’s already got his bow slung over his back, his quiver stuffed full. Barnes doesn’t need to know that he only carries his bow with him when he’s feeling anxious, not at all.
“You opened the secure gun rack, which contains an alarmingly large amount of weaponry, and you’re telling me to pick something,” Barnes deadpans, looking at him. “You’re not afraid of me at all, are you.”
“Not at all,” Clint cheerfully agrees. “You gonna pick, or am I gonna pick for you?”
“Don’t be impatient, jerk,” Barnes huffs, glaring at him briefly before grabbing a rifle.
“Nice,” Clint comments, “I pegged you as a sniper. ‘S why the targets are so far away.”
Barnes glares at him again, shouldering the rifle and heading over to set up. Clint hurries to catch up with him.
“Lemme know when you’re ready to start shooting,” Clint requests, grabbing his bow and expanding it. “I turn my ears off when there’s people shooting, so you’re gonna have to get my attention some other way if you need something.”
“Turn your ears off,” Barnes repeats slowly.
“Oh, shit, right,” Clint curses, “I’m deaf. I wear hearing aids most of the time, but gunshots at really close range make them go all static-y.”
“Doesn’t that—” Barnes cuts himself off, looking away from Clint and tensing up even more, if that’s even possible.
“Therapy, remember?” Clint reminds. “You can ask. We can talk about our feelings before we shoot these bastards in the face.”
Barnes shakes his head sharply. “Don’t wanna be rude when you’ve been a good guy.”
“I don’t care if it’s rude, Barnes, you can ask.”
Barnes hesitates for another moment. “Doesn’t that— you’re not afraid to be in the same room as me, when I have a gun, without being able to hear?”
“I’m not afraid of you, Barnes,” Clint says for what feels like the hundredth time that day. “The static would fuck with me more than a bullet, so I’m gonna go deaf while you shoot, and I’m not even a little bit afraid.”
“You. You trust too easily,” Barnes says slowly.
Clint laughs. “You’re wrong there, my friend. I don’t trust easily at all. But I trust Steve and Nat, and both of them seem to trust you, so you’re alright in my books.”
“Natalia trusts me?” Barnes asks, disbelief creeping into his tone.
“There’s a tough question,” Clint sighs. “I don’t think Nat really trusts anyone, ‘cept maybe Banner. Dunno how much you remember, but she remembers everything. She knows you, and she can predict you, and that’s the closest she gets to trust.”
“I remember,” Barnes swallows, “a lot. I’ve been tryin’ to forget some stuff, but I remember a lot. Too much. I remember the Red Room. I remember Natalia. She— she was— elegant. Destructive. A beautiful storm.”
“She still is.” Talking about Natasha, talking about her past, isn’t easy. Clint’s mouth is dry, and the warmth of the room is bleeding out of his skin. “I can’t talk about this right now. Sorry, Barnes. I’m gonna go deaf. Let’s shoot things.”
Clint switches his ears off and grabs an arrow. He watches Barnes just long enough to make sure that it’s gonna be fine, that Barnes isn’t gonna freak out once he starts shooting, but the first shot catches the picture of Zola right in the forehead and Barnes looks calmer than he’s been since Steve dragged him into the tower.
They’re gonna be fine.
With that reassuring bit of information, Clint nocks an arrow, pulling the string tight against his cheek. He glares at the hole-ridden picture of Loki, and he pretends that it’s not a picture.
Loki’s left eye gets an arrow.
Loki’s right eye’s gotta match its partner.
He’s completely calm.
Two arrows in rapid succession, and Loki doesn’t have kneecaps anymore.
Suck on this arrow, Loki.
He exhales, and he forgets. Nothing else exists.
Arrow after arrow, he gets his revenge. He takes his frustrations out, he clears his head. He stabilizes.
Before long, his quiver’s empty. He looks over at Barnes and flinches back slightly.
Barnes is sitting there, completely silent, staring at him.
“What are you doing?” he demands.
Barnes says something, but Clint can’t hear him. Clint’s deaf.
“Right, ears,” Clint remembers, flicking them back on. “Same question.”
“Was waiting,” Barnes shrugs. “Didn’t wanna touch you and scare you while you were shooting.”
Clint definitely remembers telling Barnes to get his attention. He definitely told Barnes— aw, brain cells, no. He hadn't told Barnes how to get his attention when he’s deaf.
“I’m an idiot,” he declares. “I didn’t tell you, if you need my attention, just ask JARVIS, he’s got a protocol.”
“The robot?” Barnes asks, looking suspiciously at the ceiling. “He’s here, too?”
“I run the tower, Sergeant Barnes. I monitor every room,” JARVIS confirms.
“That’s creepy,” Barnes says firmly.
“Nah, J’s a good guy. He’s real helpful,” Clint insists.
“Thank you, Agent Barton. I am only here to help, Sergeant Barnes.”
Barnes looks unconvinced, but he lets it go. “So if I wanna get your attention?”
“Simply ask me,” JARVIS says smoothly, “and I will flash the lights once to indicate to Agent Barton that he should turn his hearing aids on.”
“Oh. That’s kinda handy,” Barnes admits reluctantly.
“Right?” Clint agrees.
Clint blanches. “Shit. Therapy’s over, time to go. JARVIS, let us up. Into the vents now.”
“What’s the rush?” Barnes demands, but he abandons the rifle and follows Clint.
“That, my friend, is Fury finding out that I let you shoot,” Clint tells, not a hint of guilt or regret present as he laces his fingers together. “Ceiling’s high here. I’ll boost you, then pull me up.”
Barnes doesn’t argue, stepping into Clint’s hands and pulling himself up into the vents. He reaches down with the sick metal arm and easily pulls Clint up. Impressive. Clint’s not light, and Barnes lifted him one-handed with ease.
The cover slides shut just on time.
Fury storms into the range, looking back and forth and taking in the state of the range. He hones in on the discarded rifle, the destroyed picture of Zola, and Clint’s standard arrow-filled picture of Loki.
“Barton, I know you’re in the vents,” Fury calls, his voice cold steel. “Barnes does not have clearance to be in here, nor does he have clearance to carry or use a weapon.”
“Clearance?” Barnes mutters under his breath. “I’m carrying twelve knives.”
It takes everything Clint has to suppress a snort.
“It’s therapy, Fury,” Clint responds innocently. “Barnes and I, we had a great therapy session. We talked about our feelings and everything, promise!”
“Barton,” Fury says warningly.
“Is there a problem, sir?”
“You. You’re the problem,” Fury sighs. “Pain in my ass. I don’t know how Coulson put up with you for as long as he did.”
“Phil’s a saint,” Clint says with a shrug.
Fury snorts. “That, he is.”