Clint was good at rolling with the punches, going with the flow. What with sharing living space with super-humans, spies, occasionally a god and Tony Stark – who liked to think he was one too – Clint Barton didn’t think there were many surprises left in the universe. Or, at least, not many that he couldn’t roll with. He was too used to being shocked to still be shockable. Too used to narrowing his eyes, clenching his jaw and just getting the hell on with it.
Add to that his kids. Being a parent had made him pretty damn unshockable too. Nothing quite like having tiny human beings utterly dependent on you for everything. Now that was true terror.
So, unshockable. Calm in the face of the unexpected. And he was now too. Calm. Surprised. And being reminded that a shock could, occasionally, be something good.
No narrowed eyes or clenched jaw. The opposite; softened eyes creased in a smile, a loss of tension. A fond swell of something incredibly sappy and heartfelt that meant he’d probably need to punch something later.
All because of a sleeping Bucky Barnes.
Sleeping. Asleep. Unconscious. Not alert or aware or on edge. And Steve wasn’t even in the room. Clint had never seen Bucky any less that battle-ready unless Steve was in the room. Usually with that besotted, giddy-and-trying-to-hide-it look on his face. He probably still hadn’t told Bucky how he felt, the moron. The only one who couldn’t see that Bucky felt the same. But he wasn’t here, and Bucky was asleep.
Fully dressed, wearing combat boots and a deep blue sweatshirt too long in the sleeves, the man was curled into a ball far smaller than Clint would have thought possible. His hands, wrapped in excess sweatshirt, held each other folded against his chest, like they held a secret to his heart. Self-soothing. And that wasn’t a surprise. His knees were pulled to his chest, sandwiching his forearms in between and, curled into the arm at one end of the couch, he barely took up half of it.
His face looked so different in sleep. Less guarded, more open. The occasional flutter of long lashes against his cheek, the furrow between his brows that came and went as he dreamed. This wasn’t the skittish, wild, hurt man that Clint had come to expect everyday, shadowing Steve like a duckling. There was a vulnerability Clint had known was there but hadn’t seen behind the possibility of danger. It was laid bare now and Clint could see nothing but vulnerability; feel nothing but tender. He felt like he was finally seeing Bucky through Steve’s eyes.
There was an afghan – Iron Man colours, the egotistical bastard – folded over one of the armchairs and Clint must have been missing his kids. It was the only reason he could think of to explain his need to shake it out and lay it as carefully as he could over the sleeping man. Bucky didn’t even twitch and Clint pulled it higher, covering his shoulder and... he was not tucking in a super soldier, he assured himself. A rogue hand swept some wayward hair away from Bucky’s dreaming eyes. He was not.
But it didn’t quite explain why he felt it so vital to make sure all of Bucky was covered, the afghan smoothed over him and tucked around him completely. He even considered removing Bucky’s boots to make him more comfortable but knew he couldn’t. Bucky had a lot to work through and the boots were a Thing. He respected the Thing.
When Bucky woke he would no doubt be confused, wondering where Steve was, wondering who had covered him. Wondering how long Clint had been sitting in the armchair opposite, reading. Wondering at himself and if letting his guard down so much had been a mistake; if he’d been wrong to trust without quite meaning to.
And, when that happened three hours later, Clint would tell Bucky that he’d not been there long, that Steve was close by, that Steve had found the afghan for him – that he’d apologised for the unfortunate colour – and that he’d be happy to go and get him. And he’d be fine with how Bucky’s insecurity would return with wakefulness, and how the vulnerability would hide again behind skittish behaviour and edgy silence. Because Clint could see it; could not unsee it. And would only see it more from now on, because he knew what to look for.
Because he was father and there was a child hiding behind Bucky’s eyes. Because in seeing him, truly, something had changed. Something surprising. Something good.