Clint glanced to behind him when the sound of pounding of feet on pavement fell in line with his own strides. Steve slid through the handful of pedestrians with ease, pulling up even with Clint, a small smile on his lips. Clint huffed under his breath as the super soldier easily kept pace.
He had intended to go on a rather long and punishing run so that he could collapse in exhaustion tonight. Clint gave a small grin and upped the pace. Might as well see if super soldiers could sweat.
Several hours later Clint dropped to a limping walk, the scars on his right leg and abs throbbing violently in time to his heartbeat. He was pleased to see that Steve was not unaffected, even he was sweat covered and breathing hard. They might as well walk the last mile to the hotel.
“Was that a deliberate punishment or do you always run like that?” Steve asked stopping to buy two waters for a street vender and tossing one to Clint.
“You’re the one who decided to tag along.” Clint said with a grin, sipping at the cold water.
“Remind me never to train with you.” Steve said with a snort.
“You should try training with Natasha. She thinks you’re not trying hard enough if you’re not bleeding.”
“Listen, I’m not here to drag you back. I just wanted to make sure you were doing okay.” Steve said, stealing glances at Clint as they walked.
“I’m alright, Cap. I was planning on coming back on Sunday anyway.” Clint said with a sigh, tossing his empty bottle into a nearby trashcan, not bothering to check that it landed. The one thing he could say he still had was his aim, he thought darkly.
“That’s good to hear. Natasha’s been on a bit of a rampage at headquarters and Tony’s all but living in his lab.”
“Nothing Tony can fix about this, Steve.” Clint bit out trying to rein in his rising temper. He was not a broken toy to be fixed.
“Doesn’t mean he won’t try.” Steve said with a snort. “You know he doesn’t deal with relationships well. He’s an engineer.”
“Maybe I don’t want to be considered broken.”
“He’s not trying to fix you, just the situation.” Steve said earnestly. “I think he’s building you a new phone. One that’s untraceable and lets you block all unknown callers.”
“Look, I just wanted to check in. I’ll see you on Sunday. Call me if you want to do another run before then.”
“Sure, see you, Cap.” Clint said watching as he jogged away with a small wave. He knew the man meant well but Clint felt more uncertain and depressed now than he did before he started the run.
That night Clint took a long time to fall asleep. Even having the vague warmth of a nearby body and the soft sound of Phil’s breathes in one ear would not let him relax. Exhaustion finally pulled him into troubled dreams after what seemed like hours of trying to decide if the room smelled different with Phil next to him.
Clint lay sprawled on cold concrete, his attackers circling around him. They shouted and spewed abuse as the blows landed. When one grew tired the next would step up.
“Freak, should have drowned you like the runt you were.” His father muttered drunkenly, pouring whiskey over his wounds making Clint scream.
“Yeah, scream. You know they pay more when you cry.” Trickshot said with a leer.
“Only good for your ass and your aim.” Barney agreed with a smirk, aiming his crossbow and shooting Clint in the shoulder.
“I was trying to make something of you, boy.” Swordsman said with a disappointed look. “Look at you now, broken and useless.”
“Not good for anything but a fuck.” Barney agreed. “Dad had that right at least.”
“Don’t say that, Barn’.” Clint whimpered.
“Not even a man anymore, are you? Managed to lose even that.” His father said, tossing the bottle to shatter and spray Clint with shards of glass.
“I’m still a man.”
“Missing body parts is a pretty good identifier in the spy business. You planning to lose an arm next?”
“All you have is your aim. How long do you think Shield is going to let that pay your way once word gets out? Only doing solo jobs since they think you’re going to turn on them. Heck, maybe you should, get yourself a nice padded cell or a clean death.” Trickshot said with a sneer.
“You haven’t earned the right to a clean death. You’ve lost your honor.” Swordsman murmured, pulling his blade.
“I haven’t.” Clint choked out. “I’m not…”
Somewhere in the wash of words he heard a steady chant of “Clint.” that he clung to like a lifeline. He whined as the blows and words rained down but the voice continued. Eventually a barked command of “Hawkeye.” snapped up back to himself.
He was curled tightly into a corner of the room. Phil sat on the bed to one side watching. Clint blinked at him for a moment his mind too muddled to understand what was happening.
“Hawkeye?” Phil prompted, like he was on the coms waiting for a response.
“Sir.” Clint managed to choke out. He was shivering violently, he realized. Everything felt remote and distant.
“What do you need, Clint?”
“Don’t know, sir.”
“Do you know where you are?”
That made Clint blink, did he know where he was? He glanced around the room taking in the uniform carpet and bedding. The bland beige walls screamed middle class or higher hotel.
“That’s right, Clint. You’re in a hotel in New York.”
New York, right. He was staying out the tower because he’d had a fight with Natasha. Phil had been staying with him.
“What are you sorry for?”
“Woke you up.” Clint muttered as he slowly uncurled himself. He couldn’t make himself move out of the corner.
“Trust me. I’ll be waking you up by the end of the week. You’re not the only one with nightmares, Clint.”
“Yeah.” He agreed, rubbing his arms.
“Are you cold? Do you want a blanket?”
“No, I’m good.” Clint said too fast, suddenly frantic for Phil not to move.
“Okay.” Phil said, watching as the panicked man slowly relaxed from his instinctive flinch. “Tell me what I can do to help, Clint.”
“Nothing, I’ll get over it. You can go back to sleep.” Clint said with a nod, tucking his face against his legs as he fought against the need to run.
“Talk to me, Clint. I need to know what’s going on so I can help.”
“Nothing helps.” Clint said, clutching at his arms hard enough to bruise.
“Something has to. What do you normally do after a bad night?”
“Would a run help?”
“I won’t stop if I start.” He said, another shiver wracking him while his mind chanted at him to move.
“What if someone went with you?”
“You can’t run.”
“No, but Steve can. Can I call him?”
“I… yeah.” Clint nodded, jerkily getting up and scooping up his hoodie from a chair and pulling it on while Phil was on the phone. Pulling on his shoes, Clint paced the small hall from the door and back, fingers clenched around the edge of his cuffs to keep them from shaking.
“Take your phone. Steve will find you. Be careful, Clint.”
Clint merely gave a shaky nod before snatching up his phone and bolting out of the room. It was pitch black outside and dark storm clouds filled the air with the taste of ozone. He forced everything out of the way except for his feet hitting the pavement. That was all that mattered. He ran.
A sudden crack of lightning snapped him out of his focus. He faltered as memories of gunshots and roadside bombs filled his ears. He leaned against a brick building for a moment as the rain hit, gasping. He had no idea how long he’d been running. Shaking the rain out of his eyes he started again, never seeing the lone figure with a backpack that was keeping pace with him half a block back.
He finally staggered to a stop hours later, shivering and numb. Steve stopped a few feet away, watching as Clint caught his breath.
“Clint. I think it’s time for us to head back. Let me call you a cab.”
“Too wet for a cab.” He managed, forcing away memories that wanted to linger.
“I’ll make sure they take us.” Steve said in his Captain America voice already pulling out his phone.
Clint didn’t bother listening to the conversation. He had to be calling Tony. God, he owed so much to the millionaire already. The man refused to take any money for the rooms he gave them or the other small things like toiletries and food. The amount Clint owed him had to be staggering. Especially if you added in the equipment he was forever designing and giving to the team.
The cab pulled up and Clint patted for his wallet, letting Steve herd him into the car. He’d left his wallet in the hotel. That wasn’t right. He never went anywhere without cash.
“I need to pay.” Clint said with a frown.
“I’ve got this one, Clint.”
“Don’t like owing people.”
“Then you can get the next one.” Steve said easily, clearly dismissing the matter.
Clint frowned but stayed silent. He owed so many people right now. Stark, Steve, Natasha, Phil, the list went on and on. He doubted he could pay any of them back in a manner that they would take.
Natasha would never acknowledge the debt. She claimed that they had saved each other so many times now that the matter was null and void. She was trying to pay off the red in her ledger but said that his name was not listed. Neither of them owed the other anything.
Steve gave freely of everything he had without a thought. The cons that Clint had known from his circus and merc years would have eaten him alive. At least until they let a hint of the rot behind their smiles show. Then Steve would do everything in his power to destroy them and take back what they had stolen from everyone but himself. He wondered how long it would take Steve to see the putrid color of Clint’s soul.
Tony had been abused and abandoned almost as much as Clint had. He trusted no one but had let the team live in his home and eat at his table. It made no sense. The man pushed everyone away, yet wanted a group of broken heroes to live with him. Clint had no idea what he could do to pay the man back. He didn’t need his money, time, nothing. Hell, he didn’t even need his aim with all of his computerized weapons.
Phil wanted things from him, things that Clint was no longer sure he could give. He was a broken thing and no one wanted that in their life. Tonight had proven that. Phil would let him buy coffees or take him out to lunch maybe but that would never be enough.
Clint crawled out of the cab once they reached the hotel and plodded his way to his room lost in thought. He could feel Steve’s eyes on him but he could not deal with the Captain right now. His mind was still stuck on repeat, negatives pressing on him from all sides.
The door was open for them when they reached it, Clint walked in only to freeze as he took in the rest of the room. Phil was fully dressed in his armor, his suit immaculate as always. The bed was turned down and a change of clothes was laid out for Clint, soft sleep clothes and a dry hoodie.
“Go take a shower, Clint. You need to warm up.” Phil said, standing and pushing a warm fluffy towel into his arms, a second towel tossed to Steve.
Right, he could do that. Clint realized belatedly that he was sopping wet and leaving a trail of puddles behind him on the carpet. He flinched slightly when Phil approached with a second towel.
“What do you need, Clint?” Phil asked softly watching the shaking archer.
Clint mutely shook his head, forcing himself to move. He walked into the bathroom and shut the door behind him. He even got the shower running before his knees gave out and he crumpled to the ground.