Fatigue – Ch. 6
The last week had been weird even by Shield standards. Phil followed Clint and Pepper into work on Monday and quickly slotted himself into the office with barely a ripple. For now he was working as a researcher for the team, coordinating missions with the other security team members, and showing them how a real Shield Handler worked high level missions.
Clint let him do what he wanted, Pepper had already announced that he was there to assist him and that he had the same authority as Clint so most of the staff was at least willing to try what he asked them to do. For the most part he approved of how Clint had been handling things, only adding small details to the different security details and trips for Pepper that were coming up. Clint wasn’t sure what to do with his dead boyfriend/boss coming back to life and suddenly living with him frankly so he was letting things go as they would for now.
They went to work, went to meetings, had lunch in his office or at one of the breakrooms scattered about the building, before returning to the tower and having dinner with maybe a book or movie before bed. They were still sleeping in separate rooms and beyond a few chaste kisses from Phil they weren’t even touching often. They were more roommates then boyfriends at this point and Clint wasn’t sure if he wanted to poke at that or not.
So far Phil had been all but setting himself up to take over Clint’s head of security position as needed. It made sense but he wasn’t sure how he felt about handing over his current job to his former boss even if he was over qualified to do the work. Of the two of them Phil was definitely the most mobile right now and would be able to work remotely from the tower if Clint needed him there for some reason. It made sense but Clint felt like it was just one more thing showing how much his health was costing him, which all stemmed from Loki.
They’d both lost a lot to Loki. It was a fact Clint couldn’t deny. He’d heard Phil having his own nightmares on the nights he couldn’t sleep and knew at least a few of them had to be from the scepter and whatever was done to bring him back. He’d agreed to allow Dr. Banner to run some tests and while most of the test came back normal a few were wildly off, the abnormal DNA in his spinal fluid and blood for one.
So far Fury was remaining silent on what they’d done exactly to Phil to heal his injuries but it clearly wasn’t anything conventional. Phil continued to try and fight the memory conditioning and said he was starting to remember small things in his dreams but didn’t say more. Clint left him to it; he’d talk when he was ready if he wanted Clint to know. Right now Clint had enough on his plate without trying to cure his former lover as well.
Natasha had commandeered Steve and they were working whatever mission Fury originally wanted the team on before the big reveal went to pot. For now both Phil and Clint were on sabbatical from Shield with Clint still technically on medical suspension with pay. Clint was pretty sure he could have forced the retirement if he really wanted to but he knew they might need a favor from Fury at some point given how things were going.
Phil staggered into the wall reaching out instinctively to brace the security guard he was talking with. The fire alarms began blaring and he started pushing people towards the exits. His phone went off as he handed off a limping woman who’d twisted her ankle to another man going down.
“How large was the explosion?” Phil asked as the line connected.
“We have damage on five floors above and below research level eight.” Jarvis said, “I need your assistance at Master Barton’s office, his assistant is not responding and the area is on fire. I cannot turn on the fire suppression until she is removed.”
“On my way, what caused it?”
“It appears to have been caused by one of the research projects but I do not have access to the footage currently.”
“As long as it wasn’t that glowing algae that Clint’s been ranting about, he normally has good instincts about things that blow up.”
“I cannot confirm or deny that as this moment.”
“Damn,” Phil muttered making it to the main security floor by the emergency stairs.
Smoke filled the floor limiting visibility along the remaining walls but the side of the building was open like something had sheared off the last wall and its windows sucking the smoke out as fast as it could be produced and fanning the flames. It took a minute to find Nancy unconscious near the door and start dragging her to the stairs.
“Jarvis is there anyone else?” Phil asked trying to see through the thick smoke.
“Master Barton is in his office however Sir is on the way.”
“In his office?” Phil repeated before glancing back at the closed door of the stairwell and yelling to the next person rushing down, “Hey! Can you take her down? I have to get someone else!”
“Sir is on his way, Agent Coulson, and Master Barton is not in significant danger.”
“Clint’s always in danger, it’s his middle name.” Phil said flatly pressing his handkerchief around his mouth and nose before ducking back into the rubble strewn hallway.
Clint’s office had been on the other side of the building, right above the research departments. Now his office was a crater full of smoke and falling pieces of rubble. Phil scanned the deep pit that was several floors deep seeming to end in one of the lower research labs.
“Where is he?” Phil snapped trying to see through the smoke and getting a lungful instead leaving him hacking.
“He is safe on the far wall, Agent Coulson. I must advise that you move to a safer location.” Finally Phil saw the limp form of his partner sprawled on his side at the edge of the drop off.
“That is not safe, Jarvis. How long will it take Stark to get here?” He snarled trying to find a way to get to Clint but there wasn’t any way, the entire floor was gone except for the thin line along where Clint was laying.
“Sir is on his way; I’ve rerouted him to collect Master Barton first.”
“Good.” Phil muttered watching as Clint started to move, “Clint, stay still!”
He didn’t seem to hear him and Phil watched helplessly as he felt about the thin ledge he was on before tugging out his phone and settling back against the rubble under him. Phil watched waiting, coughing in the swirling smoke as Ironman moved in with a scream of repulsors and gathered up Clint in his arms. It was only then that he got his legs to unlock and started conferring with the rest of the security detail to help with crowd control.
Clint blinked watering eyes dazzled by the harsh light, groaning as he patted along his chest and side to make sure his weapons were secure. Whatever had caused the blast could still be an issue. Where were his guns? His ears hurt, the utter lack of sound meant his aides were lost or fried leaving him mostly deaf.
His head and body rang with the blow that must have thrown him into the wall he was resting against yet all he could see was billowing smoke and falling bits of concrete and debris. He felt along the edge for the drop off near him, where the hell was his gloves? He never went on a mission without his gloves if he could help it.
Things clicked back into place when he recognized the sky line outside of the building, one of the main offices in town for Stark Industries. He was in his office, or what was left of it. Glancing over the edge he cursed patting at his pockets for his phone which started buzzing against his side.
“Please tell me this wasn’t caused by the fucking glowing algae?” Clint muttered once he got the connection open, looking over the edge down into what looked like the wreckage of the research floors. “Jarvis, my aids are fried. I can’t hear anything and where I’m at isn’t stable. I’m not moving if I don’t have to. Ask Stark to get his ass in gear.”
The screen scrolled with words, Jarvis telling him to stay in place. Stark was on the way and Agent Coulson was safe and helping escort everyone out of the building. Clint huffed and laid his head back against the rubble under him. He didn’t have anything on him that would work as rope and he didn’t trust his body so he was stuck until Stark got there.
He caught the whine of the repulsors just before the Ironman armor came to a hover next to his ledge. Stark was probably saying something but Clint ignored him, pulling himself up with the offered arm and letting the armored arm pluck him up for a quick dizzying ride to the waiting medics below. He was deposited on a stretcher before Stark jetted off to help the next person.
The next few hours were the most frustrating of his life outside of Shield. No one seemed to realize he was deaf and he wrote note after note on his charts, snatching pens from the doctors, ignoring their outraged expressions. He was given an oxygen mask, stripped to the waist, and left with an IV running while they worked on those in worse shape.
“I’m deaf, I can’t hear you.” Was said to everyone who approached him but his enunciation must be breaking down since few seemed to understand.
Hours later he was finally released to go home. His hearing aids had fried in the explosion and he had them in one pocket for Tony to look at later. He was pulling on his ruined dress shirt when someone stepped into his peripheral vision near the door.
“Ready to go home?” Phil asked in ASL, fingers moving slowly showing how tired he was.
“All okay?” Clint signed back once he had his jacket on.
Phil handed him a sheet of paper as he gathered up his own jacket and bag, leading the way out of the crowded hospital. The paper listed out most of his questions, everyone on their staff was okay with only smoke inhalation for the people on the five floors affected and two people with broken limbs. The only serious injuries were in the main lab where the blast originated, most of the scientists thankfully had been in morning meetings and not at their labs when the explosion went off.
Clint tugged Phil to a stop before the car and gestured to the paper and him. Where was he in all this? Phil looked at him with a frown before signing out that he’d started helping until he found out Clint was in danger. He signed that he’d stayed until Ironman moved him before staying to help with the rest of the emergency was being dealt with before heading out to pick up Clint when Jarvis said he was being discharged.
“Do we need to go in?” Clint asked out loud trying to watch his pronunciation but Phil shook his head leading him to the car and waiting for him to get in.
“Home.” Phil signed before starting the car and pulling out once Clint was buckled in.
Home, Clint thought absently. Was that the tower now? Before this last year he’d have said home was Shield, or even maybe Phil. Now he didn’t know. Shield wasn’t home any longer and nothing felt the same between them now that they were back after a year separation. Were they even still together since technically Phil had died even if it was a temporary thing for him?
He was exhausted, covered in bruises and glass cuts. Tomorrow was going to hurt no matter how his body decided to take the new injuries on top of everything else. He was already stiffening up but the new medications were at least keeping the extreme tenderness from flaring up most mornings so far. Today had been a good day so most of the pain was from the explosion and not whatever his disease was doing.
He shuffled into the bathroom to shower and change for bed while Phil puttered about. He came out to Phil laying out take out and his spare hearing aids waiting at his place. He signed thank you with a small grin, taking his seat.
“I didn’t see any batteries in the case.” Phil said once he’s slipped them in and tested them with a quick finger snap, “Do you need me to pick some up?”
“Yeah, my spares were in my briefcase which is probably in five hundred pieces.” Clint said with a snort, “Thank you for dinner.”
“I kind of doubted anyone in the tower is going to be up to cooking tonight.” Phil said with an answering tired smile.
They ate mostly in silence before retiring to the couch with some random movie playing. All that Clint cared is that it was explosion free and something he could watch without his hearing aids in. He curled on his side of the couch but after Phil had glanced at him for the eighth time in thirty minutes he dropped his head to the other man’s lap and curled under a blanket.
“Okay?” Clint asked his muscles already deciding they liked lying down and a massive yawn leaving him blinking blurrily at the TV.
Phil gave him an okay sign where he could see it and started to lightly stroke one hand through his hair. It was surprisingly nice. Clint drifted there not really asleep, just enjoying the warmth and touches until Phil shook his shoulder lightly sometime later.
“Bed,” Phil signed, offering a hand as he stood that Clint accepted with a grimace as he stiffly untangled himself from the blanket.
“Stay?” Clint asked rubbing at one ear, watching as Phil hesitated in the hallway.
“You sure?” Phil asked signing along with the words.
“Please, I didn’t like not knowing where you were with everything today.” Clint muttered with a sigh, going into his room and pulling down the covers.
They went to sleep with a foot of bed between them but when Clint woke hours later they were spooned against each other, Phil’s chest a firm line of warmth against his back. The next few days were hectic as they repaired the tower and dealt with the media firestorm it generated. Phil stayed in Clint’s bedroom and so far things seemed to be working out.
There were bad days and good days, days where Clint huddled in bed and let Phil deal with things while the medications knocked him out. Thankfully, the good days or at least the okay days seemed to be increasing. They could kiss and curl together on the couch watching movies when Tony or his employees weren’t blowing things up. It was enough Clint thought with a sigh, leaning back against the warm line of Phil’s chest as he pressed a kiss behind one ear of his ears spelling “I love you.” along Clint’s skin.