Burned – Ch. 6
Clint sighed and shifted in his seat. He was in a dark smoky corner of a small dive piano jazz bar in Brooklyn. He had been coming here for years whenever he was in town and the address had fallen from his lips as soon as he caught a cab. He hadn’t been able to force himself to take it back and head somewhere else, he loved this place.
He was four days into his rehab and his arm was a solid throbbing blunt object at the moment. He doubted he could hold so much as a pen right now. He took a small sip of his hard cider with a sigh. He was too paranoid to go out and get drunk while he was injured and not able to defend himself.
The bartender had recognized him and offered his normal whiskey before visibly flinching once Clint wrestled off his leather jacket. The burns on his neck and cheek still showed pink and painful looking while the brace and sling hid the worst injuries. His drink was on the house and the old jazz hound’s eyes followed his back as he slid into a shadow filled corner booth.
The band today was tight even if the pianist was fighting to keep up with the rest of the group. Clint hoped he was just a temporary replacement. Nancy, the singer, normally did not tolerate such ineptitude. It was only a matter of time before the barkeep outed him to the rest of the group, Nancy heading over with a grin. They had played together whenever they both turned up at the bar for years.
“Clint!” She called out, gesturing him up to the stage. “You guys are in for a treat. I want you to hear this boy play. He’s the best I have ever heard on the keys.”
Her soft “Oh, Honey.” as she saw his sling made him flinch as he made his way to the steps of the stage. Striding up like the burns on his ribs and hip were not burning from the motion.
“Not sure how much use a one armed pianist is going to be, Nancy.” He said hugging her lightly with his good arm.
“Care to give it a try? I don’t want to force you, Honey, but you look like you could use a good night of jamming.”
“Fuck it.” Clint said with a sigh, tugging at the strap on his sling and forcing it over his head. He ignored the way most of the room was now watching the burns on his skin be revealed.
“Budge up kid. You just got sidelined.” Nancy said dismissing the young man with a flip of one hand. “Charlie, can we get some ice water up here for Clint? Thank you, Darling.”
They played a few easy Sinatra oldies to get him warmed up. Clint appreciated it, he needed all the time he could to just get used to having to readjust every piece to one hand melodies and a few chord progressions. They played about thirty minutes before Nancy called a break and made him drink a glass of water before they could continue.
“How’s the prognosis? They think you are going to get it back?” Tommy, the drummer asked, sipping at his beer.
“No idea yet, the accident fucked up my wrist mainly. They’re waiting for the rest of the swelling to go down before they tell me. Hard to be optimistic when you can barely bend your fingers.”
“Christ.” Nancy murmured. “You know you’re welcome anytime you want to show up here, Clint. Hand or not, you can play rings around most of the guys we pick up for keys.”
“Thanks, Nancy.” Clint said with a small smile. “You guys ready for another set?”
“Sure, you mind if we pick up the tempo?”
“Do whatever you like; I’m amazed the last set even worked. I haven’t touched a piano in months between work and all the crap with the aliens destroying my apartment and piano.” Clint snorted, running through a quick scale with his good hand, pushing it faster and faster until he finally flubbed a note. God, he was out of practice.
They played and it was perfect for a while. Clint felt the eyes on him before he ever saw the team. He knew Natasha had followed him and had been sitting in the back since the start of the first set. He just had not expected Tony, Steve and Bruce to arrive shortly after and take a table to one side. Clint did his best to ignore them as he crooned his way through the next song.
He kept glancing out into the audience and realizing he was searching for Phil. The last few times he had played here the Agent had followed him in, settling in a corner for the evening and leaving before Clint could get through the crowd that always seemed to build once he got a good set going. They never spoke about Clint’s nights out but after that first time Phil would show up whenever the itch got too much for Clint to ignore and he would glance out into the crowd and spot his handler sitting there with a small smile gracing his lips.
Clint played one more set before he slid off the stage and headed like he was going to the restroom. He was out the backdoor and flagging down a cab before the team even noticed he was gone. He ignored the text that hit his phone in the cab. Natasha, of course, had seen him leave. By the time he reached the tower the pain he had been suppressing rose to swamp him. He staggered on to his floor ignoring the Doctor and took his pain pills with a glass of water, crawling into bed, not bothering to turn the lights on.
The team arrived on his floor to find a concerned Doctor watching Clint sleep. He was whimpering and twitching as he dreamed. Natasha merely sighed and gathered up a blanket from the couch before easing her way into bed next to the archer.
“He reacts badly to sedatives most of the time when he’s injured. They lock him into his nightmares sometimes. It’s why he fights taking anything.” She settled in next to him before slowly reaching out one hand and brushing his shoulder. A knife was at her neck in an instant.
“Nat?” He mumbled, glancing at her with glazed eyes, pupils blown wide from the drugs in his system.
“You’re fine. You took some pain pills since you hurt your arm. Go to sleep, Hawk.”
“Ok.” He said, snuffled softly as he shifted to bury his face against her side while she stroked lightly at his hair. “My head hurts, is Phil coming?”
“Phil’s…he’s out on a mission.” Natasha managed. “Go to sleep, Hawk. Everything will be better once you sleep.”
“Liar.” He muttered, slinging his bad arm over her legs. “Never gets better. Never get what I want, doesn’t work that way.”