Bottled Lightning – Ch. 9
The next few weeks were the best that Clint had ever had. He moved in with Phil after just a few days and they relaxed into the shared space like they’d been together for years. He went back to healing and started going to different hospitals once a week with a small crew of Shield officers to smooth the doctor’s pride as he healed their patients that had been at death’s door or languishing in back patient wards in comas.
He let himself relax into his new pattern of life and clutched at Phil each night like he never wanted to let go. Clint had never gotten to keep the good things when they happened and he dreaded when this too would be taken away. He still needed to decide if he wanted to tell the rest of the team the full story of his abilities or not. He was terrified of upsetting the current fragile balance in the tower to bring it up on his own.
He exercised and practiced, slowly building back up to his normal training regimen. The team had yet to be called out for any missions but Steve had got them together twice to run through a few scenarios so everyone could get used to having Clint back on the team. The trial runs went smoothly, especially since the Hulk was sitting out, but no one pushed Clint to use his powers beyond offering to heal any scraps or bruises at the end of the day.
Phil was still working light duty, mostly spending time at the New York Shield office. They both knew it wouldn’t last forever; eventually one or the other of them would have to run halfway around the planet on a mission to save the world or at least a small part of it. For now they both intended to savor every moment they could have together.
Clint was in the middle of a vicious round of sparring with Natasha when an alarm began blaring sending them both back to back, fists at the ready.
“Sorry for the interruption, but you are both needed in the command center. Agent Coulson has an emergency that requires the Avengers.” Jarvis said once the alarm fell silent.
“About time,” Natasha huffed, tossing him a grin as they both raced to the changing rooms and started pulling on their gear.
“What are we fighting, Jarvis, any hints?” Clint asked as he buckled on his weapons harness catching the quiver and gear bag that Natasha tossed him a second later.
“The video footage has been unreliable. It appears to be some sort of shapeshifting beast attacking Brooklyn.”
“Cap’s not going to be happy about that;” Clint said with a smirk as they trooped into the elevator.
“The others are already on site and will have coordinates ready when you reach the jet.”
“Thank you, Jarvis.”
Clint was dropped off on a roof near the fighting with three full quivers while Natasha was taken down the street and repelled down a rope to street level. He watched Steve fighting off a weirdly marked grey and green mountain lion for a moment before he started scanning the streets for the rest. Reports had varied but they thought there were at least six of the beasts.
“I’ve got a weird shimmer one block from Rogers, headed towards the Shield vans.”
“Copy, on my way;” Natasha said leaving the cat to Steve and jogging toward the shimmer.
The weird animal burst out of hiding when she came within a few feet. It was a mismatch of several beasts, tentacles fighting for room on the rhino like body. He left her to it after shooting out one eye so she could hit it with her bites. Two more shimmers were reported and tagged with an arrow forcing them out of hiding, Steve jogged towards the closest to his position since the lion was being loaded into a van by Shield agents while Natasha finished off the rhino.
Clint sent another arrow into the rhino to keep it down while a Shield agent pumped it full of tranquilizers. Instinct had him spinning even as two more shimmers of air resolved themselves into mutated beasts. He fired three arrows before he was slammed hard into the roof gravel dodging a swipe of barely visible claws as he twisted and fought his way back to his feet.
The first went down with an explosive arrow to the throat that blew it apart spraying the rooftop with gore. The concussion stunned the second beast long enough for Clint to notice the four simmering heat mirages that were surrounding the Shield mobile command unit a few blocks away. He got his bow up just as the beast launched itself back into the fight.
“Someone get to the van!” Clint barked out in to the com even as the tiger like beast he was fighting snapped his bow like kindling.
Clint drew out a laser knife and cut through the beast’s arm and neck dousing himself with blood. It gave a gurgling roar even as the life fled from its quicksilver eyes. Two more heat shimmers stalked towards him as Clint risked a glance at the armored bus that was shaking under the animals’ assault.
He left the knife quivering in the next animal’s chest as the charge died. Drawing his gun he let the last beast circle while he waiting for the shot, he’d only get one chance at this. He forced his gaze to stay on the beast, ignoring the chatter over the coms as the team fought to get to the van before it was breached. He knew Coulson was organizing the technicians to fight back even as the armor plating was being pulled off the van with a scream of metal.
Clint took out the circling bear like beast with a shot to the eye only for three more to take its place. He ignored the steady stream of commands and barked demands for medical over the com as he turned weighing his options. As long as Coulson was speaking he could deal with the van, Natasha and Steve were arriving on the scene any second now. They would keep Phil safe if he needed the help.
With his bow he could have repelled off the building and shot the two beasts as he fell. Stuck on the roof he had fewer options. He pulled his favorite knife and adjusted his hold on the handgun, keeping his eyes on the circling blurs. Natasha was screaming for a medic but he had no time to glance over as the first beast lunged.
When the two beasts were down the coms were silent. Clint glanced around but there were no more shimmers hiding on the streets that he could see. He moved to the other side of the roof so he could see the van only to stumble to a stop, the van was a burning wreck. Medics worked franticly to one side on the wounded but a line of bodies lay shrouded to one side.
“Widow, Rogers?” Clint forced out not seeing them below.
“Hawkeye,” Steve said with a relieved huff, “What’s your status?”
“Four beasts down on the rooftop. I don’t see any more on the streets. Everyone okay?” Clint asked as he jimmied the roof stairwell access and started making his way down.
“Ironman is helping Dr. Banner back to the tower. Widow and I are working crowd control.”
“The Shield van?” Clint pressed, needing to know if Phil was alright.
“Six dead so far, you might want to get down here to help with the healing.”
“On my way.” Clint said forcing his tired muscles to move fasters, the slight burn of building energy tightening his chest. He let it build, he’d need it to heal anyway.
The streets below were deserted, only a handful of Shield agents working to clean up the carcasses. He pointed one towards the rooftop he’d been fighting on and jogged down the road towards the wreckage of the van. He hadn’t heard Phil on the coms in a while but he was probably with the wounded, he hated when people on his watch got injured.
Clint made his way to the injured and started healing those he could. He couldn’t do much for the ones who had lost limbs to the beasts and told the medics as much. He made sure to at least heal the blood loss where he could and he closed a lot of nasty cuts and broken bones.
He was still blinking away the vascular system of an agent when Natasha moved in front of the next man who had a concussion. He took her hand when she offered it with a frown but he healed the fractures and scraps she’d suffered. Her serum would have healed it overnight but if she thought she needed to be in top shape he wasn’t going to argue.
She shadowed him as he finished the last of the healing glancing around for Phil. He bypassed the line of dead agents, there was nothing he could do for them. He glanced at Natasha but she remained silent and on alert so he left her to her watch. Sometimes they needed a few days to come down from a long mission but he would have thought she’d be fine after half a day of fighting.
“Let’s head back to the tower to debrief.” Steve said coming forward and all but herding them towards the waiting jet.
“What am I missing?” Clint asked not liking how serious they were being and how they kept glancing at him from the corner of their eyes when he was looking away from them.
“Leave it until later, Hawk.” Natasha said tugging on his elbow.
“Yes, I’ll tell you after we debrief.”
“Alright.” He said with a frown.
He spent the flight in locking down his abilities, he didn’t need them out of control if debrief was as tense as the flight. Sitwell led the review, looking around the gathered super heroes with a look of shock and grief. They quickly outlined what everyone had contributed to the fight and Sitwell skipped over the attack on the van quickly. Maybe he knew someone that had died Clint mused, when they were quickly dismissed.
“I need to know two things before I tell you what happened.” Natasha said hitting the button for the elevator.
“If you need to expend energy what would be the best location for you if you were completely out of control?”
“Somewhere with no people. I normally drive out to the mountains or desert.” Clint said slowly as they entered the tower and she hit the button for the garage.
“Stark has a mountain house with several miles of uninhabited forest around it. We’re heading to the airport, there’s a jet waiting. I’ll tell you everything once we arrive at the house.”
“It’s that bad?”
“Yes, I’m sorry, Hawk, but I can’t risk telling you while we’re not secure.” She said getting into a sports car and gesturing for him to take the passenger seat.
“Phil would probably calm me down, Nat.” he said trying to ignore the fact that her mask was fully up, something she hadn’t done to him in years.
“Phil’s stuck in meetings with the mayor.” She said gunning the engine and taking the through the streets with reckless speed.
“Tony could do that.”
“Tony’s in the Hulk tank with Bruce.”
“He’s headed to the Helicarrier to deal with Shield and the WSC with Fury.”
“You really think I’ll react that badly?”
“Yes, I think you will.”
“Alright.” Clint said with a sigh, settling back into his seat.
Two hours later they were in the mountains, Natasha driving into the underground garage and leading the way into the house. Considering it was Tony’s it was tastefully done in forest greens and dark wood, modern sleekness vying for space with rustic leather furniture and wood grains. Clint made his way to the balcony overlooking the lake and took a seat on the deck planks making sure his powers were locked up tight, just in case.
The only thing he could see making him lose control at this point was Phil. He’d been lucky that he hadn’t known Phil was thought dead during the battle. He’d only found out after the fact. Fury had taken him straight to the medical bay to heal Phil once the fight was over, only telling him the others thought he man dead several days later once they were sure Phil would recover.
In fact, he hadn’t talked to Phil after the battle. He should have been the one leading the after mission debrief, not Sitwell. Phil always made sure to check in with his team after a mission, they’d had too many close calls for them to not check in. Natasha dropped to a seat next to him with a frown, watching him closely.
“It’s Phil, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Steve was afraid you would go super nova if you found out in town and there were too many people there who could be hurt.”
“He jumped in front of the beast that attacked the technicians. He was mauled badly and the medics called it once they arrived.”
“There were three surrounding the van.”
“He killed one of them himself, the other was killed by the van’s defense system before it was damaged.”
“Who killed the last one?”
“Are you alright?” she asked hesitantly.
Clint shrugged and turned his eyes to the distant mountains around them. Natasha was the only human he could sense for miles, only deer and a few bear filled the woods and rocks around them. A good place to let go he thought with a sigh.
Phil had been the only thing holding him together for years now. He was the only reason he’d stayed at Shield as long as he had. Sure, Natasha had needed him for a while but she was working well with the Avengers, they would make sure she kept up the good fight.
The sun slowly set as he considered his options. He could send Natasha away and let go for a while but it would destroy the area, reducing every bit of life and beauty around him to ash and he didn’t think Phil would have approved. He could keep going as he was and fight the good fight, the never ending battles, but he’d been honest when he told Phil he was tired. He’d been ready to rest by his side as long as he was able, that hadn’t changed.
He let Natasha get him settled on a couch for the night and he pretended to sleep. He used a tablet once she was actually asleep to send out the messages he needed and to arrange for the few things he’d kept hidden over the years to be given to those who could use them. He let Natasha fix him breakfast and even ate it before he finally broke the silence.
“When is the funeral?”
“In two days if you’re up for it. Fury’s willing to postpone it if you need more time.”
“No, two days is fine. We need to head back soon anyway.”
Clint spent the next two days in silence. He made the arrangements he needed before ensuring that Jarvis would keep an eye on everyone for him. They would need someone to keep an eye on the long view.
He waited through the funeral, waiting until everyone but Clint, Fury, and Natasha were left by the grave side. He waited as she and Fury said their goodbyes before moving away to give him some space. He took a seat next to the headstone, fingers tracing the letters. He’d waited for hundreds of years to find someone like Phil, he could wait a while longer.
“I knew I’d be the one left waiting eventually, Phil. I’m not built to be the first one to die no matter how I’d have wanted it that way. I don’t know if there’s a heaven for people like me but I hope you made it. I’m sorry, Phil, I know this isn’t what you would have wanted but I can’t wait any more. Forgive me.”
He faintly heard Natasha scream as the energy and heat ripped him apart but he couldn’t stop it. He had no idea what was waiting him or even if he’d be able to die properly but he hoped Phil would forgive him. He couldn’t wait alone any longer. They watched in shock as Clint’s body burned itself to ash, burned until nothing was left but a shallow mark in the grass next to the grave.