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it was his lode, his lord, his appointed star

Chapter Text

When Loki steps into the room, the HYDRA goons go silent. It’s a nice change from the demanding rambling, actually, even if Clint’s whole body shudders.

“What is this?” Loki asks quietly, head tilting in what seems to be honest curiosity.

The goons all look at each other. Clint wonders who’s actually in charge of HYDRA this week. Is Red Skull dead again?

“We were interrogating the prisoner,” the head goon says, spine straightening. “He has important information and– ”

“Do shut up,” Loki orders pleasantly, eyes focusing on Clint.

“You in charge of these fuckers?” Clint scoffs. “Gotta say, that’s a step down.” He just barely cuts off the sir before he says it. Fuck. He shudders again.

Loki’s lips curl in what might be a sneer or a smile. Clint can’t tell anymore. He could’ve, once. He’d almost forgotten how right it felt, when his whole reason for existence was making Loki’s will happen.

“A regrettable choice of allies, yes,” Loki drawls, stepping forward. The goons all move out of the way, showing a surprising amount of self-preservation.

“Here to interrogate me yourself?” Clint’s attempt at bravado only makes Loki’s lips curl again.

“Oh, dear Agent Barton,” Loki purrs. “You know that you’ll tell me anything I ask.”

Yeah, Clint knows that. Being this close to Loki – it hasn’t happened since Thor took him back to Asgard. He’s been on Earth again for over a year, and focused on Thor every time the team broke up whatever he was doing. Seemed like he’d barely been trying, to be honest. Clint looked at him through a scope or from the top of a building, and never needed to get closer.

But now… tied to the chair with a shattered ankle and broken arm, with a concussion making his head swim, with at least two cracked ribs and an eye swollen nearly shut, Clint can’t help it. His head hurts, and Loki is- no, Loki was, Loki’s the enemy, and he killed Phil and tried to conquer the world, and he’s crazy, and–

He’s touching Clint’s face.

Clint wants to jerk back, but he’s frozen, staring up at Loki’s eyes. “You’re useless while broken, Agent Barton,” Loki says. He almost sounds gentle, with a matter-of-fact tone. “These fools were trying to show initiative, I fear. You have my apologies,” he murmurs, heat flaring out from his hand.

Everywhere the heat goes, it replaces the pain.

Clint would be relieved, except he remembers that heat.

“No,” he whispers, wanting to close his eyes. He can’t. “Please, Loki.” Not again.

“Hush, warrior,” Loki murmurs, hand dropping away. He turns, looking back at the goons. “Leave,” he orders. “I have no more need of you.” They start to flee, but then he says, “Wait.” Glancing back down at Clint, his lips curl in an unmistakable smirk. “Do you wish to avenge yourself?” he asks. His emphasis on avenge is so sarcastic the air sizzles.

Clint’s gaze slides from Loki to the goons who just spent the past three hours beating the shit out of him for answers he didn’t have.

It’s been awhile since he killed someone with his bare hands.

“Yes, sir,” he says.

“What?” the head goon shouts, but the ropes are gone and Clint’s body is thrumming with energy, and his master deftly steps out of the way, smiling.

The door doesn’t open and their weapons jam, and Clint is determined to impress Loki with both his efficiency and ruthlessness.

He succeeds on both counts. He surpasses expectations.

.

When the Avengers find the HYDRA base, every enemy agent is dead and Hawkeye still missing.

It’s a week before they realize what happened, and then only because an arrow lands at Captain America’s feet. He survives the ensuing explosion because he recognizes the arrow, throws himself backwards, and raises his shield.

“What the fuck!” Iron Man yells.

Loki steps out of thin air, clapping. “Wonderful reflexes, Captain,” he drawls, wearing his ridiculous armor. “You and your team misplaced something very dear to me, so I have reclaimed it.”

He catches the knife a foot away from his eye and lets it fall, grinning at Black Widow. Another arrow shoots past her, embedding in the wall behind her. She lunges away, crouching behind some rubble from the previous battle, before Loki’s appearance, and another explosion fills the air with smoke.

“Give him back!” Captain America demands.

Loki’s smirk is full of false sympathy. “I think not,” he says. “But he requested that I let you know he’s happy and healthy.” Loki shrugs elegantly. “It is an easy enough request to fill.”

“Brother!” Thor thunders, landing heavily at Loki’s back. “What have you done?”

Rolling his eyes, Loki flicks his fingers.

The arrow that hits Thor in the chest, sticking in his armor, isn’t one any of them recognize. Or the smoke that starts billowing out, or the substance that starts eating his armor. Thor’s scream of pain is one none of his team will ever forget, because it’s a sound they’ve never heard before.

Loki vanishes, of course. He takes Hawkeye with him.

.

“Are you happy?” Loki asks, threading his fingers through Clint’s hair. It’s getting long again, longer than he’s worn it in awhile.

“Yes, sir,” Clint answers, closing his eyes in pleasure.

“Would you like to kill in my name?” Loki murmurs.

Clint smiles. “Always, Loki,” he replies, already planning which weapons to use.

His eyes, when he opens them to gaze at Loki, are a clear, unclouded blue.

Chapter Text

Loki watches his warrior send arrow after arrow into the target. Every ring is filled, no arrow touching another, and the one sent into the center explodes, leaving only a scorch mark on the floor after the smoke clears.

“Would you like a mission, Clint?” he calls, materializing behind him, leaning against the wall. He knows it gives his warrior a thrill to hear Loki speak his name.

“Yes, sir,” Clint says, turning on his heel and lowering his weapon.

Loki smiles.

.

Nick Fury takes a two day vacation once a year. No one knows where he goes or what he does, but he always comes back relaxed, with a smile that terrifies all of his subordinates. (Coulson hadn’t been frightened, but he’s been gone for a year and a half now. Even Hill still gets nervous. It’ll take time, but he’s sure she’ll one day be as good as Coulson.)

This year, six months after Loki snatched Barton away and vanished, Nick is in Seattle and watching bad television. His phone is off, he’s not checking email, and Hill has orders to only get him if the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance.

The glass has been reinforced to withstand anything humans can manufacture. That doesn’t stop a bullet made by Loki, aimed by Hawkeye, from going in his one good eye and out the back of his head.

When Hill finds him two days later, the only thing left in the building is his body.

.

Victor von Doom had thought to use his partnership with Loki to his advantage and then execute Loki the moment he became anything but completely helpful.

He used Loki’s intelligence, his abilities, and his resources, and then tried to double-cross Loki, hoping their mutual enemies would take care of the hindrance for him.

Loki modifies the arrow used on Thor, when he revealed his reclaiming of his favorite Midgardian, and laughs when Hawkeye lets it fly.

Dr. Doom is left in the den of the Fantastic Four’s living quarters. Surveillance reveals that Reed Richards’ sobs like a baby when he absentmindedly wanders towards the kitchen for breakfast.

For months, everyone is sure Dr. Doom is simply faking his death – but he never surfaces anywhere and his criminal empire is in shambles.

.

Thor invites his friends from Asgard to visit Earth. He takes them to all his favorite spots, shares with them all his favorite foods, and gives them a tour of SHIELD, to explain what he is doing on Midgard.

With his teammates’ help, he even demonstrates all their strengths.

Volstagg is the first to fall, mid-word. (Loki wonders if anyone understands that is a mercy – Volstagg had always been the kindest.) Fandrall is next, then Hogun. The Avengers institute a lockdown, but Thor is frozen, looking at his friends. He turns to Sif, horror in his eyes, and she dodges, trying to bat something out of the air.

Thor has not heard Sif scream since they were children together, but she screams in pain, in rage, until she can’t anymore.

No explanation is found, for how Hawkeye could have possibly gotten into the facility undetected. None of their scientists can determine the poison used; the pellets that delivered it dissolve before any testing can be conducted.

Loki, of course, Thor mutters wearily. Of course Loki. He takes their bodies home, for a warrior’s sendoff, and does not try to determine what his brot-Loki could have possibly gained from this.

.

There is one man on Earth who can comprehend the tesseract. SHIELD thought to hide him away, following the failed invasion. Hoard his knowledge. Learn everything he knows.

Erik Selvig never notices his shadow. Nor does Jane Foster realize until three days later, when Selvig’s body is found, how close she came to dying.

Clint had no orders regarding her, and so he left her alive.

.

Captain America is the heart of the Avengers. Loki doesn’t want him dead, yet, but he gives Clint leave to do whatever he chooses.

So while Loki’s true plan goes off without a hitch, Clint provides a very distracting distraction by filling Steve Rogers full of arrows. He uses everything in his arsenal but the truly fatal, utilizing a mini-portal Loki created to building-hop so no one can find him.

He waits until the last possible moment, watching Black Widow and Iron Man remove the arrows while Hulk smashes buildings looking for him, and then he leaves.

.

“If I asked you to prove your loyalty,” Loki murmurs into Clint’s ear, arms curled loosely around Clint, his chest to Clint’s back, “if I told you to kill whoever you loved most in the world… what would you do?”

Clint thinks it over for a few minutes, head resting on Loki’s shoulder, neck bared. Then he says, “I’d kill my older brother, sir. And Natasha.”

Loki kisses behind his ear, trails his lips down his throat, and whispers, “See that it’s done, my warrior hawk.”

“Yes, Loki,” Clint gasps, and Loki stares into his blue eyes, clear as the sky, smiling.

Chapter Text

Once upon a time, Barney Barton watched two grown men beat his little brother into the ground. Physically, Clint barely survived. But he knows that part of him died that day, bled out into the dirt. Despite that, he still loved his brother. Still does, in fact.

Loki is a jealous god. He doesn’t want Clint to love anyone else, and so Clint hunts his brother down, puts an arrow through his heart. Barney dies without ever knowing why.

.

Once upon a time, Hawkeye was sent after Black Widow with orders to terminate her ASAP. She was too dangerous, the higher-ups thought. They could never trust her. But Clint, looking at her through the scope, thought otherwise. So he talked to her, brought her to Coulson, and SHIELD got their greatest asset.

Clint loves her like the sister he never had. She’s his best friend. One of the few people he actually trusted, before Loki.

But… Loki is a jealous god. And he can’t bring Natasha in this time.

.

Clint is about to let the arrow fly when he hears Loki in his mind: I have need of you. Let the spider live another day.

He doesn’t breathe a sigh of relief; he just packs up his kit and leaves.

.

“Clint,” Loki says, glancing up from the hologram in front of him, “have you heard of the Winter Soldier?”

“Yeah, Boss,” Clint replies, leaning against the wall and crossing his arms. “He’s a ghost, according to most of the intelligence community. A legend.” He pauses, but Loki just smiles, so he adds, “Natasha once told me that he had a hand in training her, but she never said anything else about him.” He huffs a laugh. “He did shoot her once, though. Only other person who coulda made that shot.”

Loki dissipates the hologram with a flick of his fingers. “The Soldier’s masters have let him loose on the world and you are going to capture him,” he orders, sounding just a bit giddy. “You’ll bring him to me.”

Clint just stares at him for a moment. Loki raises an eyebrow. “Do you find something about my wishes unclear?” he asks haughtily.

Shaking his head, Clint says, “No, sir. I just, uh.” He licks his lips. “Well, until about a minute ago, I thought he’d been dead for about a decade. So.” He shrugs. “Hunting down and capturing the Winter Soldier. Sounds like fun.”

Loki holds out a hand to him, so Clint pushes off the wall and steps into Loki’s arms. “You’ll still be my right hand, Clint,” Loki assures him. “But with the Winter Soldier, I can begin building my army.” He chuckles into Clint’s hair and whispers, “Did you not wonder, my dear, why I ordered you to keep the captain alive?”

.

Of course the Winter Soldier is Hydra’s. Why not? And reading through the files Loki magically cloned, of course he’s actually Captain America’s best friend, thought dead for 70 years. Clint snorts because it’s just that ridiculous.

Hydra’s sending the Soldier after someone at a peace summit with representatives from most of the world’s countries. Killing any of them might start another world war. Of course, there will also be representatives from two other planets, so it might the Earth’s first inter-galactic war, too.

“Should I let him complete his mission, Boss?” Clint asks, letting the file close.

Loki shrugs. “It makes no difference to me.”

.

Clint uses one of Loki’s cloaking devices to shadow the Soldier and his handlers from the moment they arrive in Paris. One of SHIELD’s pet magicians has set up a non-violence spell, but the Soldier is well out of its’ range, with a long-range rifle that makes Clint’s mouth water. The handlers are back at the pick-up location, waiting, and Clint follows the scope to see who the Soldier’s target is: one of the aliens. Of course. Prince Baldr of Asgard, Clint’s pretty sure.

Just before he fires, Clint hits him with enough tranquilizer to take down Steve. He quickly collects all of the Soldier’s equipment, neutralizes any trackers Hydra has in him with one of Loki’s devices, and then triggers Loki’s teleport spell.

(He sees later that the summit went off without a hitch.)

.

The Soldier wakes up quietly, way too submissive for the legendary figure that haunts the alphabet agencies. Clint’s leaning against the wall, a tranquilizer arrow in his hands; the Soldier rolls over to face him, sits up, and keeps his gaze down.

He’d have thought Loki would want to handle the recruitment, but he’d shrugged delicately. “As you are my right hand,” he said, watching the Soldier sleep, “he shall be yours. Loyal to me above all, yes, but it is you who will command him.”

Going by the Soldier’s file, Clint’s got his work cut out for him, but he doesn’t want a mindless weapon. He wants the loyal guy James Barnes used to be, mouthy and charming. Steve had some stories to tell, and Bucky was in all of them. What Hydra’s done to him…

“What’s your name?” Clint asks.

The Soldier says, “The asset.”

Clint carefully doesn’t react. “What is your mission?” he asks.

“Eliminating the Asgardian,” the Soldier says. “Eliminating the President of the United States. Eliminating the World Security Council. Eliminating –”

“I get the picture,” Clint says. The Soldier immediately quiets, but he still doesn’t look up.

“What are the protocols if you ever get compromised or caught by someone?” Clint asks.

The Soldier completely stills, even holding his breath. “I am to complete self-termination by any means possible,” he says after a moment.

“Do not,” Clint orders sharply. The Soldier’s body loosens ever so slightly.

Clint really has no idea at all what he’s doing. Natasha had broken her own conditioning about a decade before Clint brought her in and SHIELD’s pet telepath cleared her. He’s operating completely on the fly, following his gut, and his gut says that Barnes is still in there somewhere. A mindless weapon wouldn’t care about self-terminating or not.

“Your name,” he says, “is James Barnes. Hydra captured you a long time ago.”

The Soldier doesn’t react, so Clint just decides to hell with it and keeps going. “You were the second-in-command of an Allied unit in the second World War, and you died protecting Captain America, aka your best friend, Steve Rogers.”

Now, that gets a reaction. The Soldier – James Barnes – raises his gaze to meet Clint’s, just for a moment. Clint points at the file on the table. “You can read, right? They left you that skill?”

“Yes,” Barnes says after a moment.

“It’s all there,” Clint tells him. “Seventy years of your life. It took them a long time to hollow you out and fill you back up with what they wanted. Now, your skills as the asset,” he says, spitting the term in disgust, “are useful, no doubt about it. But I also want your skills as the man you used to be, before Hydra. And if we can get you back to being Barnes, we might just get Captain America, too.”

He waits to see what Barnes will say, if anything, but Barnes is looking at the file.

“They’ve been feeding you intravenously,” Clint says after a few minutes pass, and giving you vitamin and nutrient supplements, so we’re going to start you off with broth.” Barnes ignores him, so Clint snaps, “Look at me.” When Barnes meets his gaze, Clint says, “Hydra’s lost you. Your name is James Barnes and you’re going to be my second-in-command, and you will neither attempt nor succeed at killing yourself, do you understand?”

“Yes,” Barnes replies.

Clint nods sharply. “Good. Read the file, eat your broth, drink as much water as you can stand. Rest, if you can.” He goes to the door and taps on it. When it swings outward, he looks back to tell Barnes, “This won’t open for you, not till we’re sure if you’re ours or not. I’ll be back in the morning.” He waits, but Barnes says nothing, eyes flicking his way once before going back to the file.

Barnes does react when the bowl of broth and glass of water appear beside the file: his eyes widen and he jerks back a little. He immediately blanks his expression and resumes his perfect posture, but Clint smiles anyway.

The guy from Steve’s stories is still in there, somewhere.

.

In the morning, Clint asks if Barnes has any questions. He sits patiently across the table as Barnes eats more broth and slowly sips the water.

Barnes doesn’t ask about Steve, focusing on his various missions for Hydra. There was nothing personal in the file at all; Hydra didn’t care about the man, beyond what it took to break him. Clint’s prepared another one, about the man. He’ll give it to Barnes this evening.

“Barnes,” he says when the bowl is empty. Barnes meets his gaze immediately and holds it. “I need you to understand what we want.” He reaches out to tap the file. “They wanted a mindless automaton that followed orders without hesitation. That’s what they turned you into, and what you’ve been for longer than I’ve been alive.”

Barnes actually nods but doesn’t look away. Clint carefully doesn’t smile. “That is not what we want.” Barnes blinks, the extent of his reaction. Clint continues, “Automatons can’t improvise or react outside of specific parameters. They are not loyal.” He taps the file again. “If you have the words for it, tell me what you think of Hydra. Your handlers. The scientists and the techs that kept you running.” He withdraws his hand. “Take as long as you need, Barnes.”

An hour passes before Barnes says quietly, “I hate them.” When Clint nods encouragingly, Barnes adds, “I can feel them in my head, burning. It’s so cold.” He shudders, looking down at the table. “That man, at the beginning, Barnes…” His jaw clenches, and then he says, “Barnes would hate what I’ve become.”

“You are Barnes,” Clint says. “Mindless weapons don’t hate.”

Barnes nods. “If I am to become your weapon,” he asks, “what would you have me do?”

Clint leans back in the chair. “Whoa, whoa, dude,” he says. “You’re not gonna be our weapon – we have actual weapons for that, guns and arrows and shit. Magic, too, but that’s more of the boss’s specialty.” He shakes his head. “You’re gonna be my right hand, Barnes, there for whenever I need help, or someone to take over while the boss and I have to do something else. You’ll be the one the minions go to if they have questions or concerns because they’re too scared to approach me. You’ll be the good cop.” Barnes furrows his brow, so Clint laughs. “And that means jack-shit to you.” He sighs, tapping his fingers on the table.

“Look,” he finally says, “take the day. Books will be provided, if you want to read. Lunch will pop in, when it’s time, and the water glass will refill every time you empty it. Think about our talk; I’ll be back at dinner with a file on the man you were before Hydra.”

“Sir,” Barnes says just as Clint’s about to walk out the door. He turns and Barnes asks, “If I choose not to become yours, what will be done?”

Clint smiles at him. “I figure you’ll want to tear your way through Hydra, yeah?” He shrugs. “No skin off our noses.”

.

“How goes it with the Winter Soldier?” Loki asks while Clint practices at the range.

“Pretty well, actually,” Clint says. “He heals about as fast as Steve does, and you burnt all the drugs out him.” He sighs heavily, letting the string loosen. “I’ve seen some sick shit, Boss, and I’d really like if one of my first missions with Barnes is cutting a bloody swath through Hydra.”

Loki pats his cheek. “I’ve nothing pressing in the works, so do as you like when he’s ready.”

“Thank you, sir,” Clint breathes, leaning into the touch.

.

Barnes reads the file on the man he was and ends up destroying all of the furniture in his room. His rage is silent; he doesn’t scream or shout or cry. Clint leaves him alone the next morning, going around their base to check in on the rest of Loki’s minions.

(He also checks the Avengers’ feed: they have a mission in Latveria, where Doom’s successor is massing an army.)

That evening, Clint stands in the doorway and asks, “You want to shower?” The room has a toilet in a closet-sized room and a sink in the far corner (which is smashed to bits), but nothing else beyond a bed, a table, and two chairs. Books are in pieces all over the floor, along with everything else.

Barnes actually glares at him. It’s all he can do to contain the fistpump. Barnes is six days out of cryo and five away from that fucking mind-wiping machine, and he is clawing his way back.

“Well?” Clint asks, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes,” Barnes grits out. “Sir.”

Clint grins widely. “C’mon then.”

.

After the shower, Clint gives him a tour of the place. It’s nothing fancy, really, but far bigger on the inside than it looks from outside. Barnes asks intelligent questions about fortification and defensive measures, but he doesn’t ask about who ‘the boss’ is or about Steve.

It’s not until Clint is leaving for the night that Barnes says, “I was a good man, when I was with Captain America.” When Clint turns, Barnes adds, “And before that, before Captain America, I… I kept Steve safe. I can’t… I don’t remember, but I know that I won’t –” He takes a deep breath. “I will not hurt Steve for you.”

Clint just about howls because goddamned if that ain’t Bucky Barnes, rising from the grave. “We don’t want you to hurt Steve,” he says, trying to contain his absolute exaltation. “We want him on our side.”

Barnes relaxes. Clint does not bounce in place, though he really wants to. “I’ll see you in the morning, Barnes,” he says, and then turns cartwheels down the hall.

.

It’s another week before Loki un-magick’s the door. Barnes is given free run of the place, though he still can’t go outside it. Loki took care of the withdrawal he should’ve suffered, coming off of Hydra’s drug cocktail, and his advanced healing has been steadily working on his mind. He remembers a lot, both before Hydra and during, but he’s becoming someone new: a combination of Bucky Barnes and Winter Soldier.

He kicks Clint’s ass when they spar, and then Clint beats him on the range. Loki hovers just out of Barnes’ sight, appraising him, and then gives Clint a smug look as he departs.

.

It’s a month after bringing Barnes in that Clint asks him, “Ready for our first mission together?”

Barnes nods. Clint grins at him. “How do you feel about fucking up a Hydra base?”

.

Barnes feels fucking giddy about it, is how he feels. Clint can tell by the savage joy on his face as they work their way down, leaving bodies in their wake, and then blowing the place sky high when they leave.

.

Clint isn’t there for Loki and Barnes’ first meeting, but Loki seems satisfied that night, and the next morning, Barnes tells Clint, “The boss is interesting.”

Clint laughs. “I know, right?”

.

“This is Barnes,” Clint says after the minions – both scientists and soldiers – gather in the gym. It’s a tight fit for them all, but Clint feels that face-to-face is the best way to communicate. “He’s the second-in-command after me and Loki.” He waits a beat to see if there are any questions and then says, “Dismissed.”

.

It’s a year before they send Barnes after Steve. Of course Clint is there, cloaked, and it almost aches when he sees Natasha, but –

The Avengers are fighting some giant robots (good old standby, giant robots) and Captain America has been separated from the rest, and Clint blocks his earpiece when Barnes steps in front of him. Barnes is dressed like the Winter Soldier without the muzzle or the goggles, and he cut his hair three months ago, deciding he wanted to see if he still liked it short or not. (He does, as it turns out.)

Captain America drops the shield and it’s Steve Rogers who asks, “Bucky?”

Barnes nods. “Hey, Steve,” he says. “I know you’re busy and all, but after this is done, could you –” He ducks his head and licks his lips before asking, “Will you come with me?”

Steve nods. “I’ll - whatever you - how are you here?”

Clint shoots three goons trying to sneak up behind Steve, and then Barnes gets one of the robots with an electrified knife. “Remember Zola?”

Steve nods again, grabbing his shield and flinging it at a robot. “I should have gone back for you after you fell,” he says, sounding somewhere between enraged and heartbroken.

With a shrug, Barnes rips off one of the smaller robot’s head. “What’s done is done, Steve. Just come with me, please.”

Clint had honestly not believed it would be that easy – but it is. After the last robot goes down, Steve follows Barnes into Loki’s portal back to their base, and Clint follows Steve. It leads to Barnes’ first room there, and the door will only open for Barnes, Clint, and Loki.

“Bucky?” Steve asks as he looks around. “Where are we?” Clint turns off the cloak and watches Steve notice him. “Oh,” Steve murmurs, eyes going back to Bucky. “It’s not really you, is it?” He sounds… empty. Defeated. Broken.

Barnes looks horrified. “No, Steve, it’s me, I swear.” He lunges forward to grab Steve’s hands and then wraps his arms around him.

Clint quietly leaves the room.

.

In the morning, Steve is in an exhausted slumber, sacked out on Barnes. “How is he?” Clint asks softly, peeking into the room.

Barnes doesn’t look away from Steve. “He wants to kill every single member of Hydra,” he says. “And he’s going to spend the next five or so years trying to convince me to go to SHIELD. He doesn’t want to believe that SHIELD is almost as much Hydra as Hydra is.”

“But he’ll stay?” Clint knows that if Steve wants to leave, Loki will order his execution. That’ll definitely cost them Barnes.

(“Can’t you just do that mind-control thing again?” Clint’d asked, back when Barnes was still Winter Soldier and sleeping in a drugged stupor.

“No,” Loki answered. “Only those the Mind Gem touched are susceptible to it.” He’d reached out to stroke Clint’s cheek. “And it’s only a nudge, now. Your mind is your own, my dear warrior hawk.”)

“Yes,” Barnes says. “I haven’t yet told him about the boss, but he saw you.” Barnes shakes his head a little, his flesh hand petting along Steve’s spine. “He doesn’t understand, and the boss made a hell of a bad impression, before.”

Clint snorts. “That’s an understatement.”

Barnes glances up from Steve for just a moment. “If you tell him the endgame, I’m pretty sure that’d bring him around. And maybe… maybe the rest of them, too.”

“I’ll suggest that to Loki,” Clint says. He leaves them just as breakfast pops onto the table.

.

Loki is a jealous god. He’ll allow no others to be first in Clint’s heart, or even equal to him. Maybe they could get Stark or Banner, but Loki will never let Natasha in, and Clint knows it’s only a matter of time before Loki remembers that he’d had her spared only because Barnes was let loose.

“Well?” Loki asks as Clint settles beside him on the workbench. Loki’s fiddling with another device, combining his magick with Earth technology; Clint’s pretty sure this workroom alone would tempt Stark pretty fiercely.

“Barnes thinks telling Steve about Thanos would turn him completely,” he says. “But you’ve got a hell of a bad first impression to overcome. But Thanos plus Barnes – I’m pretty sure Steve’s ours, now.”

“I’ll think on it,” Loki says. “But now, there’s a would-be sorcerer in Surrey, and he plays with forces beyond his understanding. Deal with him.”

“Yes, Boss,” Clint says, standing. He presses a quick kiss to Loki’s lips and then heads to his room to suit up.

.

Once upon a time, there was an orphan on the run with his big brother.

Sometimes, Clint thinks about that kid. He’d have never imagined what he became. Clint’s not sure anybody could dream that big. He’d have definitely never believed that he’d be the right hand and consort of a magical alien prince, or be the boss of Captain America and the boogeyman.

Sometimes, Clint wishes that Duquesne and Chisholm had killed him that night.

But the rest of the time, laughing with Barnes and watching Steve sketch and stretching out with Loki, he’s happy with what he’s got.

.

(All of their eyes of blue. All of their eyes have always been blue.

Hill, Fury’s successor, put a kill-on-sight order for all three of them, and soon enough, Loki’s going to try enticing Stark and Banner to joining them.

“Who do you love the most in the world?” Loki asks him.

“You,” he answers, with all the truth of his heart.

Loki smiles, kissing him. “If you can convince the spider to swear allegiance to me, I will spare her. If not…” He kisses Clint again, and murmurs into his mouth, “If not, kill her.”

“Thank you,” Clint tells him fervently, showing Loki his gratitude with all that he has.)