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Winter Plumage

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There were few things as utterly shitty as having to be so very still while being so very cold. Normally Clint relished in the silence and concentration of his nest, adrenaline and anticipation dancing along every nerve along with, let’s be honest, just enough cocky pride in his own skill to make it at least a little bit interesting if not fun. Not that killing some poor bastard when he least expected it was really fun, in any sane or normal sense of the word, but Clint had given up pretending to be sane or normal long, long ago. No, it wasn’t fun. But it was…a brand of enjoyable that came with doing anything with the level of skill he did. Comfortable, confident, knowing that there really was no one that could do it better.

If only pride could keep him warm. Winter fatigues were cozy, but his body wanted him to move and stamp, to get his circulation moving, his heart speeding. His monkey brain was convinced he was freezing to death, even if the core of his experience was confident in the knowledge he had a few hours yet before any serious damage occurred.

Frostbite was a bitch, and right now toes and fingers were at risk, nose too, if he wanted to be fair, but his nose had been broken so many times he wasn’t sure that some frost damage wouldn’t be an improvement.

Movement through his scope gave him a bit of hope that maybe he would get to wiggle his toes sooner rather than later. He slowed his breathing (the exact opposite of what his body was screaming for) and allowed snow to coat him as he waited. Everything sounded muffled in the snow, everything but the voice in his ear asking for a status report.

“I have a shot.” His target politely paused in a rather perfect spot, checking his phone apparently. “Taking it.”

His arrow was rather perfect, given the ambiance. It was all but silent as it moved through the snow. One silent arrow through the eye and the targets phone fell to snow splattered with a bright bit of red.

“Target down.”

“Then get your ass down here.”

Clint smiled. Natasha had a way with words when she wanted.




Seven out of ten toes were accounted for. Not bad. Eight out of ten fingers. He hated the numbness- he rather missed the itchy pain that let him know everything was still working in there. His hands being his livelihood and all. His earlobes were a lost cause- then again, they stopped being sensitive to cold after the first few times he had managed to stay out in the cold too long and get mild to moderate frostbite.

“Next time, wear a hat.”

Clint looked up, and stopped pinching thoughtfully at his earlobes to catch whatever it was Steve had tossed him. Unexpected heat made him wince and drop his prize even as his brain fixated on the sensation. Little packets of carbon sat in his lap, radiating a delightful warmth. “Hand warmers? I didn’t know you cared, Cap.”

“I am less than fond of the cold.”

They shared grimaces, for a moment nothing more than two soldiers, comrades in arms sharing one of those Old War Buddies moments. And then Clint shifted, awkward as he always was with anyone who was not Natasha, especially when injured. He wanted to hole up, lick his wounds, sort himself out and get everything back in order before facing the rest of his team. The hand warmers from Steve were tangible evidence that the other man knew he was less than 100%. It made Clint feel vulnerable in ways that made his flesh squirm.

“Let me have a look at you.”

“I’ve been to medical.”

The look Steve leveled at him was rather priceless, and had probably inspired soldiers back in his time to shift and consider the error of their ways. Clint merely shrugged and scratched at a shoulder that didn’t really itch.

“Hands, Barton.”

“Well, they are my most attractive feature.” Clint reluctantly held out his hands- it was very very hard to argue with Steve when he had on his Captain America face, complete with concerned eyes in the middle of a stern face.

“Well, they are up there, but I would argue with most attractive.”

The matter of fact quality of the statement almost caused Clint to miss it entirely. His brain was pretty sure it had never happened, even if his libido was doing some manner of Dance of Joy. “Come again?”

“I would argue your eyes are your most attractive feature.” Steve poked, prodded, and flexed Clint’s fingers, frowning occasionally. “Well, the good news it is looks like frostnip as opposed to proper frostbite. So you are probably not looking at permanent damage.”

“You find me attractive? Seriously? Did you get frostbite of the brain while napping in that ice cube?”

Steve raised one eyebrow, and did not relinquish Clint’s hand.

Clint really wished he had sensation in all of those fingers right now. The visual of Steve’s fingers running up and down his own, as fascinating as it was, really needed some sensory input to go along with it. Something to ground it. To make it real.

“Red and blotchy is not your best look, Barton. Have you been to medical?”

Natasha always did have impeccable timing. And a casual disregard to personal space when it came to one Clint Barton. She entered the room, ignored the clasped hands (Clint had no idea why Steve was refusing to drop his hand. Well, he had some idea, but the idea was more alien than creatures from space storming New York City) and peered at Clint’s face.

And then flicked his left earlobe. “Wear a hat next time, or I am piercing them the next time you are unconscious.”

“Duly noted.”

“I’ll leave you to it then.” She nodded to Steve, a slight smile curling at the corners of her mouth and crinkling around her eyes, and left as abruptly as she had entered.

“Leave you to what?” Clint wished he still didn’t feel so muffled. It felt like his brain was neglecting to thaw out with the rest of him.

“Well, you are avoiding medical and ignoring subtle attempts to warm you up. I was going to try for less subtle.” There was a definite smile on Steve’s face.

And the heat in his eyes thawed Clint out in record time.