Fatigue – Ch. 3
Clint was half dressed the next morning when the lights flashed alerting him to a message scrolling along one wall; someone was requesting to be allowed up. Clint slipped on his big hearing aids and dressed quickly before heading to the door. The steel reinforcements were already retracting as the door opened letting Natasha in. She stopped, looking him over with an expression of shock frozen on her face before she got herself under control.
“Fury wants us on base. It’s urgent.” She said finally watching him tug on his gloves.
“Mission?” He asked turning back to open a weapons locker in the hall hidden behind a convenient painting that Jarvis dropped out of the way.
“No, you don’t need a gun.” She said making him turn back with a raised eyebrow.
“I’m on medical suspension, Natasha.” Clint said with a huff resisting the urge to glare at her, “They can’t call me out unless the world is ending and for that I’d need a gun. What’s going on?”
“It’s just a meeting on the carrier but I insisted that you had to attend.”
“You know what it’s about?” Clint asked tucking a gun against the small of his back out of paranoia, if Natasha said he didn’t need it then he didn’t but there was no reason to call him in either.
“Yes, but you need to see if for yourself.” She said guiding him into the elevator and to the roof where a Quinjet was waiting, hovering to one side as he climbed on board.
“Who else?” Clint asked buckling in and ignoring the wide eyed look he got from the copilot who quickly locked up and moved to the front of the plane, he clearly hadn’t been told who they were picking up.
“Stark, Rogers, maybe Banner but I think he might still be in Brazil.” She said eyes watching as he tugged off the knit cap and leaned his head back against the bulkhead.
“Fury in on this?” He asked suppressing an exhausted sigh; he just didn’t have the energy to spare for Fury’s drama right now.
“What isn’t he in on?” Natasha said with a note of irritation finally breaking her careful tone. “How long?”
“I’ve been sick since Loki.” Clint says with a stiff shrug, “No one has any idea what it is or how to fix it.”
“Has medical,” She started before Clint overrode her.
“Medical tested me for everything before sending me on with a pat on the head. At this point Shield’s written me off.” He snapped wrapping his arms around his chest and trying not to openly wince as they hit small spots of turbulence. “Pepper’s got me seeing a new doctor, maybe he’ll find something.”
They watched each other in silence for the rest of the ride. Thankfully she made no move to help him as they landed and headed to one of the main conference rooms. You could hear the yelling through the closed door and Natasha paused before opening, looking at him with a pained look.
“I’m sorry.” She said simply before opening the door and heading in.
Tony and Steve were shouting at Fury to one side of the room with Hill looking on as Natasha shut the door behind them. He automatically scanned the room and heard someone gasp before he located the silhouette hidden in the shadows on the other wall. He knew that shadow, it had haunted his dreams often enough. Without a second thought he drew his gun silencing the room, he gave Fury a hard look before handing the weapon over to Natasha ignoring the gun Hill had drawn reflexively and how Steve had automatically moved to shield Tony.
“Why?” he asked his voice flat as he moved forward to see his ex-handler and lover watching him with a shocked expression, the only one in the room whose hand had never moved towards his weapon.
“I was told you were on a mission.” Phil said stepping forward yet hovering just out of reach uncertain of his welcome, “I had months of therapy to recover and everyone said you were working. Level seven and above knew I was still alive so you should have as well.”
“I was on medical leave, suspended, I have no access.” Clint said his voice still dead; he glanced over at Fury and gave a slow nod. He’d always known Nick would sell his own mother to save the planet, in the end Clint was just another body in the machine.
“Wait, what was Agent to you?” Tony asked with his normal lack of tact into the silence.
“Nothing,” Clint said flatly stepping back even as Phil reached out haltingly, “Apparently I was nothing to him, just someone to fuck on occasion. Enjoy not being dead, Phil.”
Phil made a broken sound behind him but Clint didn’t turn back to see the damage his comment had caused. It was taking every ounce of his energy to keep it together. He waited on the flight deck and eventually Steve and Tony came out. They took the same jet back to the tower but Clint ignored them, taking the stairs back to his rooms once they arrived even if he was gasping with exhaustion and hobbling in pain by the time he made it.
“Lock down the floor, Jarvis.” Clint bit out, shakily peeling out of his jacket and shuffling to his bedroom.
“Agent Barton, both Ms. Potts and Sir have asked for me to ensure your comfort tonight. Is there anything you require?”
“Yeah, don’t let anyone bug me for a while. I’m probably going to have a couple bad days.” Clint said taking several pills and moving to turn on the shower, he needed the pain right now to keep him moving.
“As you wish, sir; I will only override your instructions should you require immediate medical assistance.” Jarvis said sounding resigned.
“Thank you, Jarvis.” Clint muttered stripping down, setting his hearing aids to the side, and easing himself under the water with a hiss.
He had no idea how long he sat in the shower whimpering as he cried. Phil had been alive the entire time Clint had grieved and forced himself through each pain filled day. He’d been healed and working for months considering he was wearing his second favorite suit with a new tie and the cufflinks Clint had given him three years ago for his birthday. He’d thought Clint knew he was alive and was willing to ignore him for over a year. He’d let Clint think he was dead for over a year, not bothering to even bend the rules to contact him.
He dragged himself out when Jarvis cut off the water and crawled the distance from the bath to the bed. It hurt but he got himself curled under the blankets waiting for sleep he doubted was coming. Natasha had known it would crush him but couldn’t deny him the truth, no matter what kind of shape he was in.
Maybe it hadn’t been as serious for Phil as it had been for Clint. They’d been together almost five years when Loki attacked, living and working together for longer than that if you counted the year they’d started out as fuck buddies. Had that been all it was? Was it sex without the love Clint had sworn he saw returned in Phil’s eyes?
“How can I assist you, Agent Coulson?” Jarvis asked his tone cold.
“I need to know if Agent Barton is okay. I know seeing me today shocked him. I didn’t realize he’d been sick recently.” Phil said scrubbing a hand over his face and pushing the tablet with Clint’s Shield medical records away from him. “I just need to know that he’s okay.”
“While I cannot comment on his mental health, Agent Barton is in the same condition as he was this morning. He is not in serious medical distress or in need of immediate medical treatment.”
“But he is sick.” Phil said frowning at the notes he’d made, “They tested him for everything and don’t know what’s causing his symptoms. Is he seeing anyone outside of Shield? His file says he refused treatment several months ago and was put on permanent medical suspension until he returned and could pass the general intake physical.”
“I am not at liberty to discuss Agent Barton’s medical records.” Jarvis said stiffly.
“I just need to make sure he’s okay, Jarvis. I thought he was sequestered on a mission, not suspended.” Phil said mentally kicking himself for going along with Fury so blindly, he’d said Clint was on an eyes only mission and Phil had never dug deeper trusting Fury’s updates every few months that the mission was still on going.
“I’ve been given leave to allow you access to the cameras on his floor however if you wish to contact Agent Barton you will have to wait until he grants access.”
“What do you mean grants access?” Phil asked watching as one screen of his computer changed to display Clint’s bedroom, he was curled naked on top of the covers, a blanket tossed off to one side like he’d kicked it away.
“Agent Barton has requested that all contact be refused and entrance to his floor be denied unless it is a medical emergency.”
“He’s refusing my calls.” Phil said with a small hysterical giggle, taking in the knobs of spine and ribs that were exposed to his voyeurism.
“He is refusing everyone’s calls, sir.” Jarvis said with a small reproachful sound.
“How did he get this bad? Surely people noticed.” Phil muttered not really expecting a response, Clint looked even worse than the ragged mercenary he’d recruited all those years ago.
“It was noticed however his Shield doctors continued to push him to continue as if he was an able bodied agent.”
“And Clint was never one to give in to anything without a fight.” Phil said with a sigh, “He’d fake a smile even when he was half dead if it meant he wasn’t seen as weak or pitied.”
“Shield appeared to give up on him after several months of treatment showed no progress so he strived to continue on as long as he could.” Jarvis said mildly, “I’ve endeavored to make his stay at the tower as comfortable as possible but he would accept few changes to his daily life.”
“Other people always come first to Clint.” Phil said with a frown. “He’s still working for Stark Industries?”
“Yes, since his hire the security of our buildings and factories has been completely reworked and we’ve seen an increase in morale and productivity in many of the areas now that most incidents are being caught well before they affect the general employees.”
“He’s very dedicated to any position he’s given.” Phil said with a nod, “He worked himself half to death the first few years after he joined convinced Shield was always a few steps away from tossing him away. It took years to realize that he had a home here.”
“It appears that his ‘home’ was denied him after the Battle of New York, Agent Coulson.” Jarvis said in a disapproving tone, “He was shunned openly by many agents when he had to interact with them on Stark properties and would only go to base for his appointments.”
“Clint had no control over what happened in the battle, he isn’t responsible for what Loki caused.” Phil said fiercely.
“Few seem to agree with you and the others who might have protested the treatment he received, such as Agent Romanov, were sent away on long term missions or off to other bases.”
“Fury wanted him isolated for some reason.” Phil said with a groan, “What is that man trying to do now?”
“Was Directory Fury aware of your relationship?”
“If he wasn’t I’d be very surprised, we lived together even if our apartment here was destroyed in the attack. Our files listed us as living together and in a relationship; I made sure we were each other’s medical power of attorney considering how dangerous our jobs are. Clint should have been notified the second I was revived.”
“And yet you didn’t expect Clint to be at your side while you convalesced?” Jarvis asked his tone sharp. “Was he not a devoted partner?”
“No, Clint would have been there if he could have. I just thought Nick had talked him into an important mission; he was there to check up on me every few days so I thought he was notifying Clint of my progress. I should have known better, Clint would never have accepted a mission if I was that severely injured. I don’t understand it.”
“Could the Director done something to ensure your compliance?”
“I don’t know what he might have done but that I can at least find out.” Phil said taking a last glance at Clint’s frail back before standing and straightening his suit jacket. “Thank you, Jarvis.”
“You are most welcome, Agent Coulson. I will inform you once Agent Barton is up to visitors.”
“Good.” Phil said with a nod taking a deep breath and heading out, he had a Director to confront.