Burned – Ch. 5
“Jarvis, can you monitor Clint’s heart rate and alert us to possible injuries?” Natasha asked.
“He can and will. I already tuned the medical scanners and upped Barton’s rating to as high as it will go. If he sneezes funny, Jay will let us know.” Tony said, flopping into a nearby chair.
“Clint’s good at working around pain. He’ll hurt himself without realizing it if someone doesn’t keep an eye on him.”
“Yeah, I noticed that.” Steve said, setting his beer to the side. “He was up and walking not even thirty minutes after they extubated him.”
“It’s training. The hardest thing to train an agent in is dissociating from pain due to injury or torture. Clint’s good at it, too good sometimes. He drove Coulson crazy with his hyper focus during solo missions. He’d do anything to get his mark, broken bones, gunshot wounds, nothing would faze him until he came down after the debrief. It’s why I was partnered with him originally; they knew he would take anything I tossed at him without blinking.”
“What are some warning signs than if we need to know when he’s zoning out?” Bruce asked, cradling his cup of tea against his chest.
“Zoning out; ignoring outside stimuli or pain.” Natasha said with a sigh. “He could be bleeding out and walking on broken bones and his stride will be dead on, not a hint of a limp. Most of the time he does not get that deep but it takes a lot to shake him out of it when he does. With how much pain he’s going to be in it’s likely that he’s going to be dissociating himself a bit on instinct, don’t let him. Talk to him, keep him present. If that doesn’t work and he zones out, come get me.”
“Is he violent?”
“Only if you offer violence, He responds on autopilot most of the time. He’s not going to be trying to hurt or kill unless you’re doing the same.”
“Great; Any other words of wisdom, Obi One?”
“Only the stuff we tell junior agents. Don’t wake the assassins by touching them; you’ll lose something, normally an eye.”
Natasha went to wake Clint for lunch several hours later, helping him out of his hoodie so the new nurse could redo his bandages and give him his meds before he ate. He sat on the bed while the nurse worked, arguing that he could totally shower with his arm in the sling. Natasha watched from the doorway smirking as he was shot down.
“Be nice and I’ll help you take a bath later.” She offered with a small grin.
“Yep, she only loves me for my body.” He said with a mock sigh, making the nurse laugh.
“Don’t make me play the dumb blonde again.”
“You totally need to do that, I want to see Steve’s head explode.”
“Which blonde are we talking about?” She asked, helping off the bed with one arm and letting him lean against her for a moment until he was sure his legs would hold.
“The airline stewardess.”
“I don’t think they are called that anymore.” Bruce pointed out as they walked out into the main room.
“What do you want to eat?” Natasha asked, pushing him lightly toward one of the bar stools. She pulled out a bottle of blue sports drink that he normally liked and set it to one side already opened which earned her a snort.
“Not much, cheese and crackers?”
“I expect you to eat more once you’re off the pain meds.”
“Sir, yes, sir.” he said with a grin slouching in his seat. Once the food was ready he gave her a grin and straightened up. He shifted in his chair to pull it a bit closer and suddenly folded with a gasped “Fuck.” his entire body curled in on itself.
“Fine.” he rasped, breathing harshly before he shakily straightened up. “Hit my elbow, worst funny bone ever.”
“How about we move this to the den, less hard surfaces to hit.” Bruce offered with a wince.
Clint eased himself off of the stool and made his slow way to the couch, giving Natasha a slight look when she set the plate in his lap and sat down at the other end of the couch with his drink.
“So, how long are you guys going to be treating me like I’m made of glass?”
“Just until you are back to being able to murder all of us in our sleep.” Tony quipped from his spot near the wall; he was eying the kitchen area like he was mentally redesigning things.
“Could do that now, Stark.”
Clint got through about half the crackers and cheese before pushing the plate away and finishing off his drink.
“It’s just the meds.” He told Bruce with a sigh, “I never eat much when I’m on them.”
Later that night he tugged Natasha down to lay next to him, the rest of the team finally having left except for Bruce who was laid out asleep in an armchair.
“Nat, Coulson is gone right? For sure?”
“You saw the footage, same as I did, Clint. Coulson’s dead.”
“I know that, Nat, I just… I kept thinking I saw him, talked to him after I got burned. It probably was the meds making me hallucinate but it sure felt real.”
“You want me to double check everything?”
“No, just the footage in my room, I swear he was sitting next to my bed at one point doing paperwork. The next time he talked to me, told me what happened with the allergic reaction. Why would I hallucinate something that I didn’t know about, Nat?”
“You wouldn’t.” She said with a frown. “I’ll take a look.”
“Here, take your pills and get some sleep.”
“Okay.” Clint said with a grunt, pulling himself up painfully so that he could swallow the small handful of pills. His arm was a solid throb of pain now that they had started pushing back his pain meds. “Fuck, I hurt.” he muttered, handing back the cup of water. “Did they add another antibiotic or something?”
“Not that I am aware of, why?”
“Nothing, just an extra pill.” Clint said softly, the drugs already starting to pull him under as he relaxed back into the pillows.
“Jarvis get the nurse in here and wake up Bruce.” Natasha snapped, going through the pill bottles in the kitchen and laying them out. “How many pills is Clint supposed to get?”
“Agent Barton is currently receiving five different medications for six pills in his nightly dose.” Jarvis said as Bruce stumbled into the room.
“The pill cup had seven. I gave him seven.” Natasha snapped, hurrying back to the bedroom. “Clint, wake up. I need to know what the extra pill looked like.”
“Huh.” Clint slurred, “It’s white.” He pushed weakly at where Natasha was gripping him too hard.
“Sit up.” She snapped, forcing him up and wedging herself behind him as the nurse arrived. “Something’s wrong with his meds. There was an extra pill in the cup you left for his last dose of the night.”
“No, Ma’am. It was exactly as ordered.” The nurse watching the drugged man looking at her blurrily.
“I don’t care if it’s your fault or not. We need to get the drugs out of his system. Should we get him to throw up?”
“Don’ want to throw up, Nat.”
“Shot of Narcan would do it.” Bruce said from one side, taking Clint’s pulse. “His pulse is too slow. Jarvis can you monitor and let us know if it drops farther?”
“Of course, Dr. Banner.” A list of vital signs popped up on the wall across from the bed.
“Do you have any Narcan?” He asked the nurse.
“No, they only sent me over with a basic kit and his medications.”
“Tony has a first aid kit you could do surgery with in the lab. I’ll grab it.” Bruce said, leaving the room at a run.
When he got back Tony and Steve were in the room watching as Clint struggled to breath. Bruce quickly drew up the Narcan and injected it into Clint in one smooth motion. Clint laid sprawled limp across Natasha’s lap barely breathing, face pale and lips already shading more blue than was ever healthy. He took Clint’s pulse manually even if his eyes were on the projected vitals that were ever so slowly ticking upward.
“That’s it. I’m building a medical floor in the tower. At this rate we are going to need it.” Tony snapped walking into the living area and starting to dictate to Jarvis.
“Jarvis, I need the footage of Nurse Travis getting Clint’s pills ready.”
“I dosed out the pills just like his orders said, I’ll show you.” The nurse said, almost in tears.
She pulled out the tablet she had been using to document the care given and handed it to Bruce. Natasha slid out from behind Clint after running one hand through his hair. They reviewed the footage and chart in silence. The orders were to take two of the pain pills though the directions on the bottle said to take one. Bruce went and got the pill bottles removing one from each and rattling off the description and lettering on each pill so that Jarvis could check the strengths and medications. One of the narcotics was wrong.
“The strength of the medication is three times what it should be.” Bruce said rubbing a hand through his hair harshly. “If Natasha had not noticed Clint would have just stopped breathing and died.”
“Dr. Banner, if I may. I would have alerted the team as soon as Agent Barton’s vitals dropped below normal sleep levels.”
“Yeah, but it should not have happened in the first place.”
“That we all agree on.” Steve said, eying the sleeping archer. “What do we need to do now that the drugs are out of his system?”
“He’s going to be in a lot of pain when he wakes up, probably dizzy and nauseous from the Narcan. We should probably see about him getting an IV line placed. I’m going to have to keep giving him injections every few minutes if his respirations decrease at all. A continuous infusion would probably be better until the drugs are out of his system.”
“I’ll call Shield.” Natasha said, moving out of the room, pushing the nurse out with her.
“Jarvis, send the latest evidence to Fury, his eyes only. I think from now on we are double checking every medication when it arrives and before anyone takes anything.”
“I shall add it to my list of duties, Captain Rogers.”
“I think we need a team meeting to discuss pushing Shield out of the equation.”
“Most of the issues do seem to be coming from their end.” Bruce said with a sigh, pulling out the vial and giving Clint another small dose. Natasha came back in ten minutes later escorting Dr. Harris into the room.
“That was fast.” Steve murmured, watching as the older woman checked Clint’s vitals and got an IV going. The patient never even twitched when the IV line went in making the doctor frown.
“He shouldn’t be sleeping this deep. How much Narcan have you given him?” Bruce rattled off the milligrams and Clint’s stats since he arrived on the scene. “I’m going to take some blood. I want to run another full tox screen just in case there is something we’re not seeing.”
Clint dreamed. Phil Coulson was packing a bag in one of the dumpy Shield safe houses they had used on a mission together. He watched as guns and suits were precisely packed away and the final bag zipped up. Coulson was leaving.
“I don’t like this op, Coulson.”
“It’s just another op for Fury, Barton. I’ll be back with the team in no time.”
“No, you won’t.”
“No, you’re moving up. They won’t let you back down to play with the assets any more. You’re going to be working with superheroes, Coulson. Fury and Shield is playing with powers they need to leave alone. It’s going to blow up in their faces.”
“I’ll see you in a few weeks, Barton.”
“No you won’t.” Clint whispered as Phil headed out the door, off to recruit heroes while Clint went to watch the tesseract.
Clint had been unconscious for twelve hour before he finally started to come around. He woke to pain, his arm and head a solid wall of pounding pressure and pain. He fought his reaction down to a choked off gasp and forced his eyes open.
“How are you feeling, agent?”
“Crappy. Head an’ arm hurt.” Clint rasped, “What happened?”
“Apparently you have made some enemies in Shield. Someone tampered with your medication.”
“Some are still pissed from Loki.” Clint mumbled, watching with drooping eyes as the Dr. manually checked his vitals. “Nat?”
“She’s at Shield. We insisted Steve go with her. He at least might be able to keep her from killing anyone.” Bruce said, at Clint’s rather blank look he continued, “She was rather upset that you’re being targeted and said she needed to make sure all of Shield understood that fact.”
“Did she look at the camera feeds?”
“She said she would discuss it when she got back.” Bruce said.
“Good.” Clint said tiredly, watching as the Doctor carefully changed the bandages on his arm. “What happened to the nurse?”
“She was sent home.” Dr. Harris said with a frown. “What hurts exactly in your arm?”
“Hmm? Wrist, hand.”
“Good. Those were the worst burns; it means that your nerves are recovering. Anywhere else?”
“Headache. When can I start doing rehab?”
“Give it 48 hours. I’m going to leave you with a few small exercises to do once I’m sure you’re over the medication but you need to take it easy. We want to keep the tendons loose but not to strain the muscles that are still healing. Try to wiggle your fingers, flex them very slightly, that kind of thing. No big motions.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Clint grunted, wincing as she forced his swollen fingers to fit against the new brace and strapping them down lightly.
“I want you to wear this only half the day at most. Give it a good hour but if it hurts too much take it off and wear the regular one for a few hours before trying again.”
“Jarvis, start a timer. We’ll see how it feels later.” Bruce murmured glancing between Clint and his displayed vitals.
“Right now it fucking hurts.” Clint said, fighting against the instinctive need to move his hand away from the pain.
“Try it in small doses if you have to, twenty or thirty minutes at a time. I want to see if we can get your tendons to relax a bit; your fingers are trying to lock in a curled position. It might just be from the swelling but I’d rather be safe than sorry.”
“A bit of mild pain medication.” She said picking up a syringe to one side and injecting it into his IV. “Be careful, with all the meds you’ve been on today you’re likely to be dizzy.”
“Are you thirsty? Can I get you anything?” Bruce asked as he lingered near the door.
“Water’d be good.”
“Get him one of the protein shakes.” Dr. Harris told Bruce before turning back to Clint, “You need the calories. Your blood results were a little low. You’re not eating enough.”
“Trying not to have to throw it back up.”
“That’s what anti-nausea meds is for. Drink your shake and I’ll give you a dose.”
“Fine.” Clint sighed, watching the Dr. ready another syringe. She set the syringe and vial on the counter for a moment, a quick blue scan running over the meds before she picked them up and injected the meds in his IV.
“Jarvis is scanning for what exactly?” he asked as Bruce returned with his drink.
“Just a medication double check. One of the pain pills you’d been prescribed was miss filled and then ordered incorrectly on the nurse’s chart.”
“Like the one that caused my allergic reaction?”
“We still aren’t sure what caused that. The lab found a possible contaminant but your file does not have you allergic to anything.”
“No allergies that I know of.” Clint said with a shrug.
“Were you sick when you were a kid?”
“All the time,” Clint said, his face falling into a blank mask, “but mostly it was from a different source. I’m not allergic to anything.”
“Drink.” Dr. Harris reminded him with a small nudge. “If you want to get cleaned up, you can once that is empty.” Bruce ducked out of the room without another word.
“He’s just trying to help.”
“His childhood was just as bad as mine.” Clint snapped. “He should know better.”
“Everyone deals with trauma differently, Barton.”
Natasha came in a few hours later when he was sipping at another protein shake. She made a slight face for him, knowing how he hated them.
“Any good news?” He asked, as she sat down on the end of the bed.
“We have three people in custody for tampering with your gear.”
“When?” Clint asked fighting to push himself further up in bed.
“So far it looks like they only tampered with your practice gear and what was stored at Shield. I’m having Tony look over the gear you used in the last Avengers mission but so far it looks clean.”
“What did they do that we know of?”
“Two weapons and range technicians and one R&D technician changed out your arrows stored in the range for ones that had been altered to break at full draw.” Clint flinched slightly at that. If the arrow had shattered, the recoil would have driven bits of shaft into his arm and wrist.
“No connecting them to the acid?”
“No, it looks like that was someone else.”
“They are still happy I got hurt I bet.”
“Manically ecstatic; it’s very out of character for all of them. The Director wants to have a full department sweep for mind control, anyone who might hold a grudge against you for Loki.”
“Great.” Clint muttered setting his drink to the side and pulling himself a bit more upright with a wince. Natasha pulled out a recorder and set it on the bedside table.
“Whenever you are ready?”
“Agent Romanov, I must ask, is this going to endanger my patient’s health?” Dr. Harris asked. She had been sitting, marking notes in a medical journal she was reading, to one side. Natasha gathered several towels and the trash bin, setting that to one side.
“Accessing that many memories at once is going to give him a migraine and probably make him nauseous but Director Fury insisted.”
“What do you mean accessing memories, exactly?” Steve asked from the doorway, Bruce coming to hover at his side. Natasha ignored him, sitting down on the bed with a towel in her lap, forcing Clint to pull his leg into a tailor’s seat with a small sigh.
“Ready?” She asked watching as Clint forced his body to relax against the headboard, head back and shoulders loose.
“Yes.” He murmured, eyes sliding closed.
“Tell me every instance since the battle with Loki where a member of Shield has indicated that you were to blame for what happened during the battle or where they treated you as less than a full member of Shield.”
Clint talked nonstop for four hours. He listed name, rank, date, and exactly what was said before moving chronologically to the next event. None of the team had expected the level of harassment the archer had received since the battle. She made him stop occasionally to take sips of water but once he swallowed he went on like he had never stopped. Natasha made him pause only once, when Dr. Harris tried to intervene.
“I don’t like his color or his vitals, he needs a break.”
“Once Clint starts a recall like this he can’t stop until it’s complete. Even now his mind is still stuck in the last memory reviewing it over and over.”
“How the hell does that work?” Tony burst out having joined them in the first hour.
“I’ll explain later. Let him finish first.” Natasha snapped. “The longer this takes the worse it will be and he only has a month left to review. Clint, you can continue.”
Clint’s chest heaved in reaction and he began reciting again, his voice flat and emotionless but a tear slipped from one eye and trailed its way down his cheek. To their shock there were even a few instances of the nurses working on him muttering things.
When he finally stopped he took a few breaths before opening his eyes and reaching out to Natasha. She was already moving, pulling him forward and shoving the bucket in front of him. He threw up for several minutes, mostly dry heaves before pushing the bucket away. He let Natasha clean him up with a wet towel before pushing her lightly away and curling in on himself on his side.
“Jarvis, dim the lights to 30%. Everyone else needs to leave.” She said voice soft. “What do you need, Clint?”
“I’m fine.” He mumbled, “Just need to sleep.”
“Okay. You mind if I explain to the team?”
“Go for it.” He grunted pulling a pillow over his head.
“Come on, Jarvis can keep an eye on him while we talk in the living room.” She said, ushering the others out and closing the door behind them.
“Okay, what was that exactly?” Tony demanded once they were all seated.
“You know how I said that Clint’s good at having hyper focus and ignoring pain?”
“Yes, you said he can get into trance like states where he ignores any physical injuries.”
“I’ve worked with agents for over twenty years, Agent Romanov and that is not an agent pushing through pain.” Dr. Harris said looking disturbed.
“No, that is what happens when you take someone who is already good at compartmentalizing their physical and mental state and they also have an eidetic memory. Clint can get himself into a focused state on missions where he memorizes everything that happens around him to the smallest detail. Except for missions where he has received head injuries his report is generally the one taken as gospel if there are any issues with the operation. It’s also why he generally gives his full debrief in private with only Fury or Coulson present.”
“Yeah, he seriously would be up for Most Hated award if everyone at Shield knew he could spill out random conversations like that. Right up there with Telepaths.”
“Most of the time he doesn’t remember everything around him, he suppresses it, probably on instinct. When questioned he can pull everything up but if he does it for a long period it causes migraines like you saw.”
“So he remembers everything?”
“I don’t think so. It’s only when he forces himself to do so that he locks all the memories in place.”
“A lot of that was from conversations held in hallways and cafeteria chatter that was overheard. How was he able to recite all that back if he was not consciously recording everything?”
“I don’t know, you would have to ask Clint. Coulson would have known so Fury probably does as well.”
“Did Clint rely on Coulson a lot?”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s just… since he moved in he’s seemed really stressed.” Bruce said, “He’s barely here at all, always gone on missions or staying at Shield. Does he normally get much downtime?”
“Coulson was always the one to make sure we had downtime between missions. I’ll have to talk to Fury and see who’s taken Clint’s on as a handler. Last I heard he was still being handed around the pool whenever they had a mission that fit his skill set.”
“So no one is looking at the big picture of how many days and missions he’s been working?”
“There should be, but I don’t know who it is.”
“After the charity fund raiser we all attended Clint said that he had only been in the tower around six days. The rest of the time he was away on missions. It’s been months since the battle with Loki, shouldn’t he be getting more downtime?”
“He should be getting at least a few days in between missions. Coulson always made sure we had at least 48 hours between missions unless there was absolutely no one else that could do the job.” She said with a frown, “I’ll have to see what’s been going on.”