He’d know it was too good. When Fury rang to tell him they’d figured out a way to remove Loki from his mind; permanently, to remove the nightmares that had haunted him, the memories that plagued him. He should have known there’d be a catch.
The procedure had been painful; an odd mixture of drugs and electro-shock therapy but hours later when it was all over he felt relieved, refreshed and free.
Natasha had tried to talk him out of it, ‘unforeseen side affects’ she’d lectured him. But he'd insisted, he needed to erase those memories. He knew why Natasha was so worried, but he had faith everything would work out, misguided faith he now realised. He should have listened to her.
They’d kept him in for days following the procedure; probably to make sure he wasn't going to go on a psychotic rampage or a murdering spree, but once they’d ran their tests and done their observations they seemed satisfied and let him leave.
He chose to walk home back to the tower; he’d been cooped up inside SHIELD for far too long and welcomed the fresh air.
“Welcome back Master Barton” Jarvis’ voice chimed as he entered the reception area.
“Hey Jarvis, what floor is Tasha on?”
“She’s on the 47th floor sir; would you like the elevator to take you there?”
“Yes please, thanks Jarvis”
Clint was looking forward to seeing her, he was a bit disappointed she hadn't visited him at SHIELD, but he completely understood. Playing with memories was not something Natasha was comfortable with, and the fact that SHIELD was now experimenting in that field concerned her; much more than she was letting on.
When the elevator opened Clint was met with a gun pointed at his head. This certainly was not the welcome home he’d been expecting.
“Tasha, sweetie, what are you doing?”
“Who the hell are you and how did you get in here?”
“I live here! Nat this isn’t funny, please”
“Jarvis please could you inform the others there is an intruder in the tower and ask Tony how the hell he got in?”
“Jarvis don’t tell the others, she’s referring to me!”
“Ms. Romanoff, Clint is a resident here at the tower. You don’t remember him?”
She looked at him and Clint recognised a hundred emotions in her eyes all at once; fear, panic and confusion, anger, rage and pain.
“Jarvis, i’d feel a lot better if you called the others”
“Right away Ms Romanoff”
She never lowered her gun, never relaxed her stance and never took her gaze off him.
It pained him; he wanted to reach out and touch her, comfort her and tell her it was okay. He wanted to pull her close to him, hug her and kiss her. Tell her that he loved her like he did every day. Being this close to someone you loved, someone you know loves you back, but not be able to do anything was more than he could bear.
He looked at her; the face he knew better than his own, and felt like all the air had disappeared from the room as she looked back at him; no recognition or familiarity in her eyes. She truly didn’t know who he was.
He stood in silent disbelief; his eyes took in the scar above her right eye that he himself had caused the day they'd met, the burn on her palm from the fire in Marrakesh. He’d been there both of those times. He knew her body like an atlas; the knife wound on her right thigh from London, the bullet wound in her shoulder from Azerbaijan, the scar along her abdomen left after she’d needed surgery when a building had collapsed on her in Brussels; she’d only been in the building because she’d gone back in to get him. They’d saved each other’s lives on numerous occasions; he saved her from drowning in Dubai, and dragged her out the path of bullets, he’d gotten her out of an exploding building before it was too late in Rome and he’d resuscitated her in Cuba; if he didn’t exist to her then what had happened on those occasions? How had these marks still come to exist? Why didn’t she know him?
It took what seemed like forever for the others to arrive, it seems Tony and Steve had taken the time to suit up before riding the elevator up to his and Natasha’s floor.
They walked around him cautiously, joining Natasha on the other side of the room; each fixing their own unrecognising gaze on him. Great, they didn't know him either.
“How on earth...” Tony began, but Clint interrupted; “Jarvis, please tell them that you know who I am”
“Master Stark, this is Clint Barton; Agent of SHIELD, Avenger and resident of Avengers Tower. He shares the 47th floor with Ms. Romanoff”
“You hacked my AI!” Tony accused outraged.
“Is that even possible?” Steve questioned him back
“I’m not sure... I didn’t think so, but evidently...”
“I did not hack your AI Stark! Listen, phone Fury, or Hill. They’ll tell you!”
“How do you...”
“Just please, ring them?”
Jarvis dialed Fury’s direct line, activating the video call function causing the large screen of the TV monitor to turn on. When Fury answered his unamused face appeared on the screen.
“What is it Barton? What do you want now...” his deadpan tone disappeared and a look of concern took over his face as he saw two members of his team in their battle suits and Natasha pointing a gun at her partner.
“Fury, they don’t know, they don’t know who I am!”
“All of you, you need to come into SHIELD. Now! And Agent Romanoff, no shooting Barton!”
The TV turned off, but Natasha never lowered her weapon.
Well, this is going just great! was all Clint could think before Thor hit him round the head, leaving him unconscious.