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Trainwreck Through A Rear Window

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Clint should probably be less proud of himself that it had only taken him four days to get around to replacing the blown bulb in his lounge, especially given that the string on the sweatpants he was wearing had broken about six months ago and he was still just keeping them up with hope and a prayer.

The bulb was too high for him to reach from the chair, so he'd had to put it on top of his coffee table, then stretch up as far as he could without dislodging the tower of furniture to unscrew the old bulb. Just as it came free, the chair wobbled slightly, Clint shifted his weight to compensate and his sweatpants came free of their precarious grip on his waist and collapse down to his ankles.

Okay. Fine. Try and pull his pants up without falling off the chair or just power on, get the new bulb in and deal with the rest later?

He took the new bulb out of his mouth, replaced it with the old one and started to screw it in. The chair wobbled again, but he held it all together long enough to get the bulb in. Oh yeah, he was the best.

He glanced down, trying to work out if he should try and pull his pants up or just climb back down, and realised he was being watched. And not just by Lucky, who had settled on his bed with his head on his paws and a look that said he thought this was going to be hilarious when Clint first started piling up furniture.

Through Clint's big main window, you could see straight across the street and into the apartment opposite, where a man was standing, staring at Clint as if he couldn't believe what he was seeing. When he caught Clint's eye, he just shook his head slowly.

Clint thought for a moment about having a sense of shame about being caught standing on a mountain of furniture with his pants around his ankles, then just gave the guy a thumbs up and tried not to think about how old his boxers were. The man responded with an exaggerated hand gesture that clearly meant What the fuck? Are you insane?

Clint shrugged, then tried to hop down from the chair as gracefully as possible. Naturally, his foot got caught in his sweatpants, he stumbled, tried to catch himself on the coffee table, failed, and ended up landing heavily on the floor with the wind knocked out of him.

He really should have seen that coming. He struggled to his feet to see the guy had pressed closer to the window and signed I'm alright before he remembered that most people wouldn't get that and followed it up with a thumbs up, trying to pretend that parts of him weren't now throbbing with pain.

The man just stared, as if he couldn't believe what he was seeing, then raised his hands.

You're a complete moron, he signed, and Clint felt himself perk up. Oh, hey, someone who knew ASL. That was pretty awesome.

Only on Tuesdays, he signed back.

It's Wednesday, signed the guy.

Oh right, okay, Clint probably should have known that.

Shit, if it was Wednesday, then he was meant to be meeting Nat for lunch. He glanced at the time, then back at his sweatpants, and yanked them up so that he could rush off to get changed.

****

The problem with having two jobs was that they never seemed to fit together in a way that meant Clint got a full night's sleep. After working at the bar until gone midnight, he had to get up ridiculously early for a class at the range that was meant to be aimed at professionals getting some practice in before they went to work, but mainly seemed to be filled with bored retired folks.

Clint staggered out of bed only fifteen minutes after his alarm and headed straight to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee to try and jumpstart his brain. He didn't bother with a mug and just swigged it straight from the pot.

Ah, blissful nectar.

He managed to get his eyes open more than a crack and spotted the guy across the street, still standing in his window but this time leaning against the frame with his arms crossed, as if he'd been there a while.

Clint waved at him.

You're going to burn yourself, the guy signed in return.

Clint waved that away. Anyone ever tell you that you worry too much?

The guy twitched and folded his arms again, glancing away so that his expression was hidden. Clint found himself realising that he was pretty hot, even with the brooding thing going on. Actually, maybe especially with the brooding thing going on.

It was pretty much typical that the first hot guy Clint had actually communicated with in ages thought he was a moron. Eh, it wasn't like he'd have had a chance anyway.

Have a good day, he signed over to the guy, then headed off to get dressed.

****

After that, Clint couldn't help noticing that the guy seemed to spend pretty much all his time looking out the window. He took to waving at the guy whenever he wandered past the window, occasionally pausing to exchange a few pleasantries like Spotted any murders yet, Rear Window? or These pants are super-comfy, it's not my fault they fall down all the time.

The guy just rolled his eyes and replied with, Those boxers have a hole in the ass, which made Clint glance over his shoulder. Aw, boxers, no. He really was going to have to bite the bullet and go clothes shopping.

When he came home with a new pair of sweatpants, he took them out of the bag and held them up for the guy to see.

Oh, thank fuck, signed the guy. I was this close to reporting you for indecent exposure.

Lies, replied Clint. We both know you love my ass.

Right, the sight of it lights up my life, signed back the guy, then added, Eye roll, as if he were worried the sarcasm might not come across.

Clint grinned at him, then turned so that he could shake his ass at him. When he looked back, the guy had his head in his hands but his shoulders were shaking as if he were laughing, so Clint took it as a win.

****

There was another guy who lived in the apartment with Rear Window, a blond with muscles on his muscles who kinda made Clint feel inadequate just by existing. He was in and out of the apartment at the kind of regular hours that meant he had a job. When he was home, Rear Window tended to spend less time just standing staring out of the window and more time slumped on the sofa pretending to watch the TV but with his head turning towards the window more often than not.

Not that Clint was now spending as much time staring through the window across the street as the guy over there did, or anything. He definitely hadn't spent way too much time trying to work out if the blond guy was a boyfriend or just a roommate, because getting a crush on someone who was only one step away from a stalker was a terrible idea.

It wasn't until Clint was watching the two have a row about something that involved a lot of big arm gestures and, for some reason, the blond throwing a coat at Rear Window that Clint admitted to himself that he was probably also a bit close to the stalker line.

The fight ended with Rear Window throwing the coat back at Blond and storming off into what Clint figured was a bedroom. Blond stood still for a minute, just holding the coat, then threw it on the sofa and left the apartment.

Clint wondered why anyone bothered having curtains and took another swig of coffee. This was better than a soap.

The next day, they'd clearly made up because they were back on the sofa, Rear Window perched on the arm so that he could see out the window properly. Clint gave him a brief wave on his way out the door with his bow case slung over an arm and Lucky's lead wrapped around his hand. Rear Window waved back and Clint caught Blond glancing over with a frown at them both as he shut the door so he gave him a wave too. If he was going to be overly friendly with the neighbours, he may as well be overly friendly with all of them.

****

Two days later, Clint shuffled into the kitchen, made the biggest pot of coffee he could manage, and wondered if he'd ever manage to sleep through the night when it was over 80 degrees again. As soon as it started heating up for the summer, all the nightmares he'd packed away in the fall came back, until he was starting awake three or four times a night.

Maybe he should move to Alaska or somewhere fucking freezing like that. Except, that felt like giving up. Five years after getting out of the Army, he was damned if he was going to just roll over and give in to hiding from the summer.

He was halfway through the pot of coffee when he realised there was a frantic movement in the corner of his eye. He glanced outside to see Rear Window waving both arms at him, clearly trying to get his attention. As soon as he realised he had it, he started signing.

Your dog got out the window and went up on the roof.

Clint groaned. Of all the days for Lucky to find a spirit of adventure. He put the coffee down and headed for the window that led out to the fire escape, which he'd left open last night in the hope of coaxing a breeze inside. He climbed out with a wave at Rear Window, who was staring at him incredulously.

Pants? he signed. Shoes? Maybe even a shirt?

Clint glanced down at his boxers and shrugged back at him. It's not like you haven't seen all this before, he signed. Just enjoy the view.

"Lucky!" he called, hoping he wouldn't have to actually have to go on a chase over the rooftops. "Hey, Lucky! Come here! Lucky! There's pizza!"

Nothing. Rats.

The metal of the fire escape was already hot enough to make Clint's feet burn, but he didn't want to give in and get shoes with Rear Window still watching him. He just moved fast and tried not to think about the scattering of gravel on the roof and how badly that was going to hurt.

Lucky was about a foot away from the edge of the roof, lolling on his back in the sun.

"Seriously?" Clint said to him. "You couldn't have just come when I called? Only one of us is deaf, and it ain't you."

Lucky rolled over and lolled his tongue at Clint happily. Clint grabbed his collar, pulling him up and back down the stairs. "We're not telling Natasha about this," he said. "She'll just tell me it's my own damn fault for getting a dog when I'm such a disaster myself."

He waved at Rear Window once he'd got Lucky back inside and closed the window so that he couldn't get out again.

Thank you, he signed. Guess it pays to have a friendly neighbourhood stalker.

I'm not a stalker, said Rear Window. If I was, I'd be stalking someone less of a trainwreck than you.

No, you wouldn't. Trainwrecks are way more interesting to watch than some dull fuck who's got his life together, replied Clint. Now, excuse me, I have to go bath my feet in cold water, because that fire escape was scorching hot.

Rear Window really did look good when he laughed. Clint just sent him a grin and escaped to the bathroom.

****

Clint lined the shot up and let the dart fly, hitting the bullseye dead on. Again. Oh yeah, he was still the best. He allowed himself a bit of a dance as he went forward to pull the darts out of the board.

When he turned back, he realised Rear Window was watching him. Eh, too late for shame. He gave him a wave. I'm the best, he signed at him.

Rear Window rolled his eyes. He'd moved some bit of furniture in front of the window that he was sat on the top of, leaning back against the wall as if he were exhausted. Clint wondered if he were sick or something, and that was why he never left the flat.

I guess you've got to be the best at something. It certainly isn't dancing.

Clint sent him a gesture that wasn't technically sign language, but which was instantly understandable to most people. Rear Window returned it.

How about you put your money where your mouth is? asked Clint. Bet you ten bucks I can beat you best two out of three.

Well, I'd kinda be at a disadvantage from over here, said Rear Window.

Clint shrugged at him. So come over here. I've got beer and everything.

Even with the street between them, he could see Rear Window freeze up and his face go blank, as if he'd been wiped clean of emotions.

Several long moments passed before he responded. No, you're all right, he said. I wouldn't want to cramp your style.

Well, okay, maybe it was weird to invite over a guy who you only knew from staring at each other through windows, and it wasn't as if Rear Window had seen Clint at his best.

He turned back to the board and threw the darts again, scoring 180. Hmmm, maybe he should stand further back, or try throwing over his shoulder or with a blindfold or something to give himself a challenge.

He pulled the darts back out and looked over at Rear Window again, who had hunched his shoulders over but was still watching.

Can you even see what great scores I'm getting from over there? Clint signed.

Rear Window shook his head. I can't even tell if you're hitting the board or not.

I'd suggest binoculars, said Clint, but that probably is a step too far on being a creeper.

I'm not a creeper, signed back Rear Window, with a scowl. I just like knowing what's going on around me.

What's going on over here is that I'm killing it, said Clint, and threw another bullseye, just to prove he could.

He threw a few more rounds, then took Lucky out for a last stroll around the block before bedtime. From the street, he could still see Rear Window tucked in his window, staring down at the street, so he gave him a wave and got a vague gesture in return.

Okay, maybe he shouldn't be treating the guy like a buddy just because they happened to have windows that stared at each other.

When he got back to his apartment, he did his best not to look over at Rear Window as he went through his night-time routine, then headed into his bedroom, where the window looked out in the other direction anyway.

He managed to get to sleep relatively quickly, but he didn't stay asleep. The third time he woke up with a start, hearing the echo of the explosion that had screwed his ears up echoing across a desert plain that he really could do with never seeing again, not even in his dreams, he gave up on sleep. Fuck it, he'd just be half-asleep for his class tomorrow morning, then try and get a nap in the afternoon before he had to get to the bar.

He got up and headed to the kitchen for a glass of water, then changed his mind and went for the whisky instead. He glanced out the window to see how close to dawn it was, and realised that Rear Window was still sat pretty much as he had been when Clint went to bed. He was staring down at the street, his head turning to watch every time a car went past.

Clint thought about just taking his whisky and heading back to bed, but there was something about the weary slump of the guy's shoulders that was all too familiar. He waved at him until he had his attention. Can't sleep?

Rear Window stared across the street at him for a long moment before he raised his hands to sign back. No. Doesn't seem to be a good night for it.

Clint nodded his agreement, then added, I gave up after the third nightmare, because there was something about the dim grey of the night and the separation between them that made talking about this shit seem much easier. Five years since I got invalided out of the Army, and I still dream about the fucking desert.

Rear Window gave a twitch and Clint winced. Aw man, he shouldn't have said that, he should have just gone with some generic platitude and escaped back to his bedroom with the whisky. Not friends, he reminded himself. Not even really neighbours.

Five years? signed Rear Window, slowly. I'm only on three months. He paused and ran a hand through his hair. I was hoping shit would be better by five years.

Oh. Oh, okay, that was different. And, actually, made a lot of sense. Clint thought about the way the guy never seemed to leave the apartment and needed to know exactly what was going on outside at at all times. Hyper-vigilance, paranoia, agoraphobia, insomnia...suddenly Clint felt like he had a handle on what was going on here.

It does get better, he signed back, and then added, if you work at it, because he'd got out at the same time as a couple of guys who'd tried to pretend PTSD didn't exist, and that hadn't gone so well for them.

Rear Window gave him a scowl. Now you sound like Steve. My roommate.

That must be the blond guy. Sorry, it sucks, but it's true. Of course, you're also not meant to just start drinking in the middle of the night, so it's not like you should be listening to me anyway.

Rear Window snorted and shook his head, then glanced over his shoulder. Fuck it, he signed and hopped down from whatever he was sitting on and disappeared for a minute.

Clint took another sip of whisky, then grabbed a cushion from the sofa and opened the window to the fire escape so that he could settle out there.

When Rear Window came back, he was carrying his own bottle and a glass. It's not drinking alone if we're both doing it, right? he signed.

Clint snorted and raised his glass. Cheers.

The guy did the same in return and then took a sip. I'm Bucky, by the way.

Huh. Clint was beginning to get used to thinking of him as Rear Window. Bucky didn't quite have the same ring to it. I'm Clint, he replied.

Bucky snorted. I think I prefer Trainwreck.

Just because it's accurate doesn't mean it isn't hurtful, signed Clint.

They sat there for a couple of hours as the sun slowly rose. Clint stopped after one glass, all too aware that he was going to have to stop twenty teenagers from shooting arrows at each other in a few hours. Bucky didn't seem to have much more, although Clint lost track in between their discussion of where they'd been stationed, how much they now both hated sand, and whether or not Army food had destroyed their tastebuds.

Bucky kept a close eye on what was going on in the street, but Clint thought that he looked more relaxed by the time it was definitely morning and Lucky came out to nudge at Clint's leg for his breakfast. Clint stroked over his ears, then forced himself to move, wincing as his joints cracked.

Got to get to work, he signed to Bucky. You gonna try and get some sleep?

Bucky shrugged, then glanced over his shoulder. A moment later, Steve came out in a t-shirt and shorts and said something with a frown. Clint left Bucky to try and justify staying up all night with a bottle of whisky and went to put some coffee on.

****

Bucky was absent from his post when Clint came home for lunch, which Clint hoped meant he'd gone to catch some sleep. He had lunch, took Lucky out, then had a nap himself, sacking out on the couch with the TV playing in the background.

When he woke up, Bucky was back out in the main room and seemed to be having another argument with Steve. Clint watched them go at it while he microwaved dinner. It ended with Steve putting his hands on Bucky's shoulders and saying something that made all Bucky's tension melt away. He ducked his head forward, resting it on Steve's shoulder for a moment, and Clint made himself look away, feeling horribly intrusive.

Maybe he should look into curtains.

Eh, who was he kidding? Curtains were way too much hassle. Instead, he sat down with his back to the window to eat, and tried not to think about what might be happening in the apartment across the street. Just because he'd had a chat with Bucky, and had a bit of a crush on him, didn't mean that he could go around sticking his nose into whatever was going on.

Maybe he should pop over there some time with a couple of coffees and doughnuts or something?

No, that would make him the creeper. Wouldn't it? Where was the line between friendly and creepy again?

He glanced at the clock and, crap, he was going to be late for work. Again.

He abandoned his dinner and rushed off to the bedroom to get changed, and came out with his shirt in one hand while he tried to do up his jeans with the other, which was when Lucky decided to get involved and he ended up going down ass over kettle.

“Fuck,” he said, from the carpet, once he'd got his breath back.

He got his jeans sorted whilst he was down there and then got up to find Bucky staring with the look that meant he couldn't believe anyone was such a disaster. Clint waved at him, then pulled his shirt on.

How are you not dead yet? signed Bucky.

Sheer dumb luck, replied Clint. Have a good evening.

He dashed out the door, then doubled back to grab his keys and wallet, sent Bucky one last wave, and left again. Man, he was gonna have to run pretty much the whole way there.

****

The next day he had a free morning, so he spent most of it asleep before stumbling out to the kitchen, waving across at Bucky and putting on coffee. It was only after the first cup that he realised waving at Bucky had become as much part of his routine as checking Lucky's water bowl didn't need filling.

He glanced back out the window at Bucky and realised that although he was in his normal position, and had waved back at Clint, he was on the phone. Huh, that was new.

Clint had enough time before he had to be at the range to have lunch, call Natasha, take Lucky out for a walk and consider doing the washing up before deciding it could wait. For the whole of it, Bucky remained on the phone, while Clint tried to pretend he wasn't keeping tabs on him. Apparently, he didn't do a very good job at that, because when he picked up his bow case and headed for the door, Bucky gave him a wave goodbye.

Clint returned it, and told himself that as long as they were both being kinda stalkery, it was fine.

He went straight to the bar for a shift from the range, then got back late with just enough time to catch a few hours sleep before getting up and doing it all again.

Not that he got any sleep, of course, because it was still too damned hot. He gave up earlier than he usually did and headed out to the sitting room, then felt unaccountably disappointed when Bucky wasn't in his window. Aw, come on, Clint, don't be the dick who begrudges his neighbours getting enough sleep.

Instead, he watched a couple of episodes of Dog Cops before drifting off on the sofa.

When he woke up, Bucky was there and Clint felt his whole mood lift and then told himself he was being ridiculous.

Morning, signed Bucky. Are you going to manage to get dressed without breaking any bones today?

Here's hoping, replied Clint, and headed for the coffee machine.

I'll keep my phone handy in case I need to call an ambulance, signed Bucky. He hesitated, then added, I guess there's a benefit to having a friendly neighbourhood stalker.

There's plenty of benefits, signed Clint, grinning across at him and thinking that maybe this wasn't so weird after all. Bucky certainly didn't seem to think so, after all.

Clint had two classes in the morning, then lunch with Natasha to get through without accidentally mentioning the hot dude in the window opposite (he made it nearly a third of the way through, a personal best when it came to withholding gossip from Natasha's 'what aren't you telling me?' look) and then the rest of the day was free. He didn't even have a bar shift that night, which meant he could go home, put on his new sweatpants, and continue ignoring the washing up.

Bucky was on the phone again when Clint got back, but he'd got off by the time Clint was getting coffee on. Clint waved at him and got a brief flick of fingers in return, but it didn't look as if Bucky was interested in any long-distance communication right then, so Clint left him to cradle the phone in his hands and stare down at the street with a frown.

He took Lucky out and when he got back, the warm air in the apartment felt like it was trying to throttle him so he jammed the window open and sat out on the fire escape with a handful of arrows and his fletcher's kit.

What are you doing? asked Bucky after about five minutes of trying to pretend he wasn't squinting over at Clint's hands.

Clint held up an arrow in reply. The fletching doesn't always hold up to repeated use.

What? replied Bucky, and Clint thought that 'fletching' maybe wasn't a very common word to have learnt in ASL, even for someone as fluent as Bucky was. Bucky shook his head. Wait, please tell me you're not secretly Robin Hood. You're a menace to yourself, I can only imagine what you're like with a bow.

I'm fucking awesome with a bow, said Clint, taking offence. Here, wait a minute.

He ducked back into his apartment to grab his bow and a couple of arrows that weren't in need of repair and, after a moment of thought, a pad of paper and a pen.

Robin Hood doesn't have shit on me, he scrawled on the paper, secured it to the shaft of an arrow with a band, then ducked back out onto the fire escape.

Both the windows in Bucky's apartment were wide open so Clint took careful aim through the one furthest from Bucky, calculated just how much force would be enough to get it over there without smashing any shit, and let fly.

Bucky jumped up as the arrow buried itself in one of the cushions on his couch and Clint realised, too late, that maybe shooting a weapon into the house of a guy who was struggling with his mental health probably wasn't the best idea.

Aw, man, when would he learn to start using his brain?

Bucky didn't freak out though. He headed over and pulled the arrow free, pulled off the note and read it, then turned to roll his eyes.

Okay, fine. You're awesome, he signed.

Clint decided to ignore that he probably intended that to be sarcastic, and preened. Damn straight I am.

Bucky twirled the arrow in one hand, then set it down so that he could sign properly. I actually wanted to thank you. For the other night. I thought about what you said about helping yourself and all that, and- He hesitated and gave a deprecating shrug. Well, I finally let Steve give me the number of a VA guy he knows. I called him and he's been pretty great.

Clint beamed across at him and gave a double thumbs up. That's awesome, well done! I know it sucks to start, but so does doing nothing, right?

Bucky made a face. Yeah, I guess. He's coming over tomorrow so we can talk properly. He glanced around at the apartment. I don't know about having him here, if I'm being honest.

It'll be fine, said Clint. Remember, you've got Robin Hood across the street, watching your back.

Bucky laughed and Clint noted that, yup, he really was hot when he laughed. He wondered if he'd ever get to see it up close.

****

It took another few weeks for the weather to cool down but Clint didn't seem to notice it as much as he usually did, not with Bucky across the street to try and persuade him that standing on the fire escape to chuck a bucket of ice water over his head was a bad idea, or to laugh like a drain when Lucky got involved at the last minute and Clint nearly dropped the bucket onto Mrs. Hastings on the pavement below.

The VA guy came by a few times, and called a few more, and Clint thought Bucky was starting to look less tense all the time. The day he came home and Bucky was reading a book on the sofa rather than staring down at the street made him want to do a victory dance.

Bucky didn't seem any closer to leaving the apartment though, even though Clint knew that Steve hadn't stopped inviting him along when he went out. Clint wanted to add his own invite for Bucky to come over to his, or even just let Clint come see him, but he didn't say anything. Bucky had to do this in his own time and besides, who said the first place he'd want to go would be the shitty apartment he'd spent weeks staring at? Or that he'd want to actually have Clint, who was still pretty much a stranger no matter how you sliced it, in his safe space?

On the first day cool enough for Clint to need a hoodie, he was coming back from the shop with Lucky's leash and a coffee in one hand, three bags of groceries in the other, and a strong feeling that he hadn't thought this through properly. Lucky scented something exciting on the either side of the pavement and dashed across Clint's path, making him stumble to avoid tripping on the leash and clutch more tightly at the coffee, crushing the cup so that the top popped off and hot droplets landed on his hand.

“Fuck!” he swore, fumbling to avoid dropping it and somehow managing to bash some guy in the shins with his groceries. Aw, eggs, no.

“Do you need a hand?” asked the guy, sounding amused, and Clint glanced up to see that it was Steve.

“Oh, hi,” he said, then remembered that he didn't actually know the guy. “Uh, I mean. No, I'm good. Thanks.”

Lucky took that moment to realise that Steve was showing interest in Clint and headed to sniff him and make sure he wasn't a threat, or didn't have a pizza, or whatever it was that went through his head when he got over-excited about new people. This meant the leash got wrapped around one of Clint's legs and he had to do a quick hop to avoid being tangled up in it.

Steve snorted and reached down to stroke Lucky's head. “Okay, I see what Bucky means about a trainwreck.”

“Bucky can go boil his head,” said Clint immediately, then winced. “Uh, I mean-”

Steve's amusement had turned into a grin. “I'll tell him you said that.”

Clint sighed and gave up on not coming across as a disaster to Bucky's best friend. “Okay, you know what?” he said. “You can help.”

He pushed Lucky's leash at Steve, who took it almost in defence, and Clint took the chance to drain the rest of the coffee and chuck the cup at the nearest trash can, freeing up a hand so that he could even out the grocery bags and, hopefully, get the circulation back into his fingers.

Steve just kept petting Lucky and smirking at him. Clint rolled his eyes. “I'm guessing I can't get away with telling you that I'm just having a bad day?”

Steve shook his head. “From what Bucky's said, I'm just kinda glad your pants have stayed up. Not that I think he really minds that so much...”

“I bought new pants,” protested Clint.

“I heard,” agreed Steve, still grinning as if he knew far too much about the whole thing. Jesus, how much had Bucky been telling him about the trainwreck that lived across the street? “Actually, I've kinda been wanting to talk to you,” said Steve, his face going serious.

Clint braced himself to be told to stop being such a creeper towards the neighbour with PTSD.

“I wanted to thank you,” said Steve, and Clint blinked at him with surprise. “Bucky's been so much better since you and him started talking. There was a bit there when he was barely saying two words together and I thought he was going to stay by that window forever, but he's already so much better. Last night he was talking about maybe having a couple of our friends over sometime; he'd never have even thought about that before you said whatever you said to him.”

Clint felt awkward as hell. Clearly Steve thought he'd pulled some awesome therapy thing on Bucky, but all he'd really done was lose his pants a few too many times and hassle the poor guy more than he probably needed.

“I didn't say anything. Well, not much,” he said. “All that stuff, that's all come from Bucky. I didn't do anything.”

Steve shook his head. “He needed a friend,” he said. “Thanks.”

Clint bit his tongue on his denial and just nodded instead, looking down at Lucky. “He's a great guy,” he said, and then wondered if that was too full on. If Bucky hadn't noticed that Clint had a massive crush on him, Clint would prefer it if Steve didn't either.

“Yeah,” agreed Steve, and gave Lucky's leash back to Clint. “I'm glad you noticed that. I know he thinks the same of you.”

Aw man, this conversation was the worst. “He thinks I'm a trainwreck,” Clint pointed out.

“Oh yeah,” agreed Steve. “Doesn't mean he doesn't also think you're great. I'll see you around, Clint.”

“Bye,” managed Clint as Steve walked away, and took a deep breath. What the hell did Steve know about what Bucky thought, anyway? He was only Bucky's best friend and roommate, and the only person other than the VA guy that Bucky was talking to right now.

Okay, Clint was just not going to think about this right now. He took a better grip on the groceries and started back towards home, keeping an eye out for any more kamikaze manoeuvres from Lucky.

****

Clint saw Steve out and about in the neighbourhood every so often after that, but managed to keep their interactions down to vague waves and occasionally a greeting. At least, up until he ran into him in the nearest coffee shop with a short guy with a goatee and expensive-looking sunglasses.

"Oh man, you're Trainwreck?" exclaimed the guy, his eyes lighting up with excitement. "Man, have I heard a lot about you. This is like meeting a celebrity!"

"Tony," said Steve with a sigh.

"I actually prefer Clint," said Clint. "Or Hawkeye, even. Trainwreck's a bit on the nose, you know?"

"Hawkeye?" repeated Tony.

Clint shrugged. "I've got good aim."

"Yeah, about that," said Steve. "Apparently I should be talking to you about the hole in my couch cushion?"

"Ah," said Clint. "Um. It cheered Bucky up?"

Steve snorted. "Okay, that's only gonna work once. Next time, you're coming over with a sewing kit."

"Are you sure that wouldn't end with him sewing himself to the sofa?" asked Tony.

Clint rolled his eyes. "I'm more than willing to come around, although my sewing skills ain't the best," he said. "It's just if Bucky's up for it or not."

There was an awkward pause, during which Steve and Tony glanced at each other.

"Yeah, you'd have to ask him about that," said Steve. "Maybe in a month or two."

"Maybe three," added Tony.

Clint shrugged as if it didn't matter to him and he didn't spend most of the time he was signing at Bucky through two windows and 30 foot of empty space wishing he was in the same room as him so that he could hear his voice and properly see the way his laugh lit up his face.

"Guess that means you'll have to fix your own sofa."

"Or let your loving boyfriend buy you a shiny new one," said Tony, turning to Steve. "One with enough space for two grown men to lie down on without either falling off."

"We don't need a new couch," said Steve, and Tony sighed.

If Tony was Steve's boyfriend, that meant Bucky definitely wasn't. Which meant Clint might be in with a chance. You know, unless he was straight, or just not into blonds or archers or guys who had bruises more often than they didn't.

"Any chance you want to stick it with a bunch more arrows?" Tony asked Clint.

Clint shrugged. "Sure. For a price, of course. I don't assassinate couches for free."

"No one is assassinating our couch," said Steve firmly.

"Of course not," said Tony, patting his arm, and then tipping a wink at Clint. "I'll be in contact."

Steve sighed and gave Clint a long-suffering look. Clint returned it with a grin.

****

About a week later, he got back from the bar tired, aching, and smelling of beer. He stripped his t-shirt off the moment he was inside, throwing it towards the bathroom. Lucky wandered out of the bedroom and gave it a sniff before coming over to greet Clint with a nose to his leg.

Clint crouched to give him a petting. "I know, I smell. Not my fault, I swear. Well, mostly not my fault." He'd only tripped a little bit, he should not have ended up with that much beer down himself.

Lucky didn't look convinced, although he did give Clint a friendly lick despite how much he must have tasted of stale beer. Or maybe because of that, who knew what stale beer tasted like to a dog who ate too much pizza.

When Clint stood up, he realised that Bucky was in his window, hunched over under a blanket and giving Clint the kind of blank look that meant he was either having a bad night or trying to work out a complex math equation.

Or possibly why Clint was such a trainwreck.

Good evening, Clint signed to him.

Are you aware how often you lose your clothes? replied Bucky.

Clint grinned at him. You're welcome. He struck a pose, flexing his biceps until he saw Bucky roll his eyes.

Idiot.

Yes, agreed Clint. How you doing tonight?

Bucky shrugged and pulled the blanket closer. I thought I was meant to be getting better.

One bad night doesn't mean you're not, said Clint. Bucky gave a shrug and hunched over further, then flicked his head around to watch as an ambulance dashed past with lights flashing.

Do you need a distraction? asked Clint.

Not if it means you taking off yet more clothes, replied Bucky.

Clint glanced down at his chest. He was getting kinda cold now, and he definitely needed a shower, but that didn't mean he was going to put a shirt on. He might be a trainwreck, but he was a trainwreck with good abs and killer biceps, and that had to go some way to cheering Bucky up, right?

I could come over? he suggested, because they'd been chatting for a couple of months at this point, and Bucky had been okay with both Sam from the VA and Steve's boyfriend coming over in the last week and, damnit, Clint wanted to be close enough to see what colour his eyes were.

Bucky immediately shook his head. No.

Clint hid the hurt of the speed of the rejection with a shrug. I'd put on a shirt first.

Bucky shook his head again. The first time we meet, it's gonna be when I can come to yours and take you up on that offer to play darts. I'm gonna kick your ass.

Clint had all but forgotten that conversation. Christ, that had been back before he'd even known Bucky's name.

There was a loud bark of laughter from further down the street and Bucky twitched, pressing closer to the window so he could see the gang of men it had come from. When he looked back at Clint, he gave a rueful shrug.

That may take a while.

Clint found a grin. Bucky did want to spend time in the same room as him, he just wanted it to be on his terms. Clint could get behind that. The dartboard isn't going anywhere.

Bucky nodded tiredly.

And until then, continued Clint, there's always Charades.

Bucky put his head in his hands, then looked back up at him. No way.

Clint drew the outline of a square, refusing to be daunted.

No, signed Bucky again, so Clint repeated the gesture.

Jesus, fine, said Bucky. Television show. Why the fuck we need Charades when we both know ASL is beyond me.

Clint held up two fingers and set about acting out Dog Cops, which was way more fun than just signing it.

****

Clint tried to make himself let go of the idea of seeing Bucky, at least for the foreseeable future, but it was hard to shake the thought of what it might be like to actually touch him, especially as his hair grew steadily longer and Clint found his fingers twitching to push it back out of his face.

Inappropriate, Barton, he told himself, and concentrated on just being a good friend.

When he told Natasha that, she laughed at him for a bit.

"Clint, you haven't seen your face when you talk about him. There's nothing about that look that says friendship."

Clint scowled at her. "Shut up. I can be friends with people I have a crush on."

She raised an eyebrow. "A crush? Is that all we're saying it is?"

Clint laughed that off, but he couldn't help thinking about it as he walked home. He'd had plenty of crushes in his time, but Natasha was right. This felt like more than that. How could he feel so much for a guy he'd never actually been in the same room with?

"Hey, bro."

"Bro, stop a minute, bro."

He snapped out of his thoughts. Three large men in tracksuits were blocking his path and looming in a worrying manner.

"Aw, come on, guys," said Clint. "I'm just trying to get home."

He was less than a hundred feet from the door of his building. Fucking typical that this would happen here.

"We just want to talk, bro," said the tallest one, who seemed to be the leader. "Just a little chat, and maybe you give us a present, bro?"

"We like presents, bro," added one of the others.

Clint sighed. "I haven't got anything. I'm pretty much broke. Come on, look at me, do I look like I've got shit to give you?"

"What's in the bag, bro?"

Before Clint had gone to Natasha's for dinner and a couple too many beers, he'd been at the range. Over his shoulder was his bow, which was both the most expensive thing he owned and the one thing he was fully prepared to get beaten up to keep.

"Nothing," he said, trying to edge past them. One of the henchmen stepped closer to block his exit. "Seriously, nothing you guys would want."

"Let us judge that, bro," said the leader, moving closer and reaching for it.

Clint ducked away, glancing around at the deserted street and trying to come up with a plan.

"Ah, bro, be friendly, bro," said the other henchman, moving in to grab at Clint's arm.

"Yeah, not so much," said Clint, and exploded into motion. He grabbed the guy's wrist and bent it back, wrenching his arm up so that he lost his balance and Clint was able to duck under and down the alleyway between his building and the next.

There was a wire fence about ten feet in that he threw himself at, swarming up it and getting nearly to the top before a hand grabbed his ankle and yanked him backwards. Another hand yanked on his bow case and he was pulled off the fence, landing in a heap on the ground.

Crap. He'd planned for that to go better. A lot better.

"Bro, you make trouble, bro," said the leader, and sank his boot into Clint's stomach. The air collapsed out of his lungs and he curled up instinctively as one of the others kicked at him from behind, catching him in the ribs.

Okay, there probably wasn't a way out of this one right now. Clint grabbed the bow case off his back and tucked it tightly into his chest to make sure they couldn't get at it. He was fucked if they were getting that off him as well as giving him a kicking.

There was a brief flurry of kicks that Clint did his best to weather, then someone grabbed at his hair and yanked his head back.

"Bro, wallet, bro."

Clint snorted. "It's got two dollars and a condom in it. You sure this is worth that?"

"Give us bag then, bro," said the leader, grabbing for it again. Clint spat at his face and held on tighter and, wow, he really did not like that. Another boot went into his shoulder, followed by one into his ribs.

"Oi!" shouted a voice from the end of the alley. "Leave him alone, fuckers!"

There were pounding footsteps, then the crack of a well-thrown punch, and the thugs lost interest in Clint.

Clint rolled away from them and got to his feet to see a figure in a dark hoodie surrounded by all three thugs and still somehow managing to hold his own. Clint resettled his bow over his shoulder and stepped up to give him a hand, grabbing the nearest guy and landing a solid blow on his face.

The thugs only hung about for a minute or two before they took off, leaving Clint and his rescuer to stare at each other.

"Bucky?"

Bucky shrugged an awkward shoulder. "Hey."

Clint felt like his eyes were going to burst out of his skull. "You came out here?!"

"It looked like you could do with a hand," said Bucky. He glanced around at the alleyway. "Not sure why I was so worried about being outside. Those guys seemed kinda pathetic."

"Their boots weren't," said Clint, gently pressing his ribs and hoping they were just bruised.

Bucky looked him over as if seeing his injuries for the first time. "Do you need a hospital?"

"Fuck, no," said Clint. "I can patch myself up."

"Right," said Bucky. He looked back down the alley towards his apartment window, then back at Clint. A look of resolution took over his face. "Need a hand?"

Clint grinned at him. He couldn't help it; the joy of actually being here, listening to Bucky's voice, just took over his face. "Sure," he said. "I can maybe even find a beer for my noble rescuer."

Bucky smiled back at him, and he looked just as happy as Clint felt. "Sure, that sounds good."

****

Bucky was kinda twitchy as they headed into Clint's building. Clint tried to pretend he hadn't noticed him glancing over his shoulder every few seconds. While Clint unlocked his apartment door, Bucky stood facing the corridor with his hands clenched into fists, and Clint wondered just how long this would last before Bucky would make an excuse and escape back to his place.

Once they got inside and Lucky had come bounding out to greet them though, a lot of the tension melted away. Bucky headed over to the window and looked out of it, across to where he usually sat.

"It's weird from this angle," he said, then turned and ran his eyes over Clint's apartment. "And this place is messier than it looked from over there. Is the coffee table held together with string?"

Clint glanced at the leg he'd had to fix. "And duct tape," he said. "It's totally sturdy, though." He gave it a nudge with his foot to prove it. There was a crack and the whole thing slumped sideways.

"Okay!" he said brightly, looking away. "Beer?"

“Sure,” said Bucky, still staring at the table. "If I sit on the sofa, will that collapse?"

“Nope,” said Clint with more confidence than he felt, and went through to the kitchen for a couple of beers.

“I hope you're gonna let me take a look at what they did to you,” said Bucky when he came back.

Clint snorted. “I thought you'd had enough of me taking my clothes off?”

Bucky shrugged a shoulder. “I guess I could stand a bit more of it,” he said and, wow, was that flirting? Was there actually flirting going on here? Was Clint actually going to get that lucky?

“Well, in that case,” said Clint, and set his beer down so that he could strip his sweater off.

There were already bruises forming from the thugs' boots, and raising his arms to get his t-shirt off made pain throb through multiple parts of him, but it didn't feel like any of his ribs were damaged, so it could have been worse.

Bucky sucked in a breath when he saw the damage. “Christ,” he said. “I shoulda got there quicker.”

“You got there plenty quick enough,” said Clint. “Have I thanked you for that, by the way? It was awesome.”

“Rear Window, right?” said Bucky. “Kinda in the job description to keep an eye out for potential murders. You got anything to put on those bruises?”

Clint shook his head. “It's cool, I'll have a shower later.”

“And wake up with all your muscles stiff and aching,” predicted Bucky. “Given how things seem to go for you, you'd think you'd have an industrial-sized med kit.”

“Nah, I'm not that bad,” said Clint, and then admitted, “Natasha's got a lot of stuff. Usually I go to hers when I need patching up.”

Bucky laughed. The look on his face and the way it made his eyes shine was every bit as beautiful as Clint had hoped it would be, and he had to blink a couple of times to stop himself just staring. Oh man, getting to see that was definitely worth getting kicked a couple of times.

He cleared his throat and looked over to where Lucky was watching them with a hopeful look that Clint had a feeling was related to how often he ordered pizza when he had a friend over.

“You know, I'm sure I used to have friends who didn't find it hilarious when I got hurt,” he said.

Bucky shook his head. “I find that hard to believe. Not that seeing you getting cornered by those guys wasn't fucking terrifying earlier.”

“The fuckers wanted my bow,” said Clint. “As if they'd have had the first idea what to do with it. Assholes.”

“You never know,” said Bucky. “Maybe there's a gang of tracksuit thugs who use medieval weaponry around here.”

“Palaeolithic,” said Clint, because he'd looked that up and was proud of having actual knowledge. “And, fuck 'em, they can get their own cutting edge piece of Palaeolithic technology.”

Bucky laughed again, settling back into the couch in a way that meant he was now a hell of a lot closer to Clint. Yes, please.

Clint picked up his beer to hide his satisfaction at how this was going, and took a swig. “You gonna let me beat you at darts, then?”

“After you've had the shit kicked out of you?” asked Bucky. “No way. When I beat you, I don't want there to be any excuses for your failure.”

His shoulder knocked against Clint's and Clint couldn't help knocking his back, turning to grin at Bucky as if he hadn't just called Clint's epic marksman skills into question. Bucky's face seemed very close, his hair falling into his eyes as he smirked at Clint.

Frankly, it was just all too much. Clint didn't have the self-restraint to stop himself reaching out and pushing the hair back, letting his fingers trail through it. “You ever gonna get this cut?” he asked.

Bucky had gone still, but it felt more anticipatory than freaked out. “Nah, I think I like it long.”

“Yeah, me too,” said Clint, and that was all he got out before Bucky was kissing him, lips rough against Clint's and his hand clutching at Clint's shoulder. Clint cupped his hand around the back of Bucky's head and kissed him back, trying to ignore the surge of disbelief that this was actually happening.

Bucky pulled back. “Oh fuck,” he said. “Please tell me that was okay.”

“More than,” managed Clint, before he pulled him back in for another kiss.

It took rather longer before they pulled apart that time. Bucky stared at Clint's face from a few inches away then let out a huffed laugh. “This is why I wanted to wait before we met properly,” he said. “I knew I wouldn't be able to go ten minutes without kissing you.”

“Hey, you managed nearly half an hour,” said Clint. “I mean, granted, you spent some of that beating a couple of thugs up.”

“And some of it worrying about you getting injured. Again,” added Bucky.

“I'm fine,” said Clint. “More than fine, now.” He kissed Bucky again, because why the fuck not? He'd learnt a long time ago to take the good things when he could, because they never seemed to last.

“Smooth,” said Bucky, but he didn't seem to mind continuing the kissing for a bit. He had both hands on Clint's shoulders now, stroking over his skin in a way that made Clint really glad he hadn't put his shirt back on.

Bucky rested his forehead against Clint's. “Okay, so, I was actually waiting until I was more together for this. You know I'm kinda fucked up still.”

“It's fine if you just wanna put it on hold for a bit,” said Clint. “I can wait until you think you're ready. I don't want to put any pressure on you that you're not ready for.” And he meant every word, even if the idea of just going back to staring at Bucky through the window now, after he'd got to touch him and kiss him and, god, watch him laugh like that, felt like torture. If that was what Bucky needed, then Clint would just suck it up and wait it out. It wasn't as if he wouldn't still get to talk to Bucky, after all, even if it was in ASL.

“Nah,” said Bucky. “No going back now.” He kissed Clint again. “I mean, you may be a trainwreck, but that doesn't mean I want to just watch from a distance.”

“I am pretty spectacular up close,” agreed Clint, grinning like an idiot.

Bucky snorted. “The bruises definitely are.”

Clint wasn't going to let him ruin the mood with his logic and reality, so he kissed him again and, well, they both got a bit distracted for a bit.

Their beers had gone warm when Bucky sat back with a sigh and ran his hand through his hair. “I should probably-” He cut off, looking out through Clint's window. Clint turned to follow his gaze and saw Steve standing in the lounge opposite, talking into a phone and making large, sharp gestures.

“Crap,” said Bucky. “That's his 'I'm freaking out' look.”

“You mean, like he came home to find his best friend had disappeared?” asked Clint.

“Exactly like that,” said Bucky, getting up and going over to Clint's window. He waved his arms, trying to get Steve's attention, but Steve didn't notice.

Clint got up and went to join him, waving his arms and feeling a bit like a tool. “Come on, Steve,” he said. “Look over here, just one glance, come on, come on...”

Bucky gave a couple of jumps as he kept waving his arms. “I'da noticed by now,” he muttered.

“Yeah, but you're a special snowflake with advanced stalking skills,” said Clint, just as Steve turned enough to catch their movements out of the corner of his eye.

He stopped and turned fully towards them, staring at Bucky for a long moment before he said something into the phone and hung up on whoever he was talking to.

Bucky gave him a wave.

“He know ASL?” asked Clint.

“No,” said Bucky. “He's not going to be able to chew me out until I'm back over there.”

Steve turned away from the window and grabbed a sketchpad up, scrawled something on a page and turned it towards the window.

WTF?

“Okay, maybe he can,” said Bucky, giving an exaggerated shrug at Steve.

Steve ran a hand into his hair and gripped at it, then turned the sketchpad around to write something else.

Why isn't Clint wearing a damn shirt?

Clint laughed and responded by flexing his biceps.

“Oh my god, roll on winter,” said Bucky. “I'm guessing you manage to keep clothes on more often when it's snowing?”

Clint shrugged. “Mostly.”

Bucky groaned and put his head in his hands. “Why the fuck am I into you again?”

“Because I'm the most interesting person in the building to perv on through the window,” said Clint cheerfully, giving Steve another cheerful wave.

“True,” said Bucky, and leaned in to kiss him again, right there in front of the window, where anyone could be watching them.