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Disclaimer: The Avengers and its characters do
not belong to me. I'm just borrowing them for my and (I hope) my
readers' amusement only and have no intention of trying to make
money off of them in any way, shape or form.
Warnings: None to
Author: The RCK
Last Updated: 18 May 2014
Thanks to my husband for advice and beta reading. Thanks to
Jelazakazone for advice. Remix of Trojie's Homecomings.
Repairs (The Mary Ellen Carter Remix)
Clint sat very still. Even if the topic made him uncomfortable, he
wasn't about to show it by fidgeting. He wished he was talking to
Natasha instead of to this psychologist. Natasha understood. Dr
Bond-- Well, Clint didn't know what Dr Bond understood. He didn't
think she'd ever seen combat, and he was damned sure she'd never had
someone else crawling around in her head. Still, she had to be good.
Fury had no patience for people who weren't good at what they did.
"What would you say to Loki if he were here right now?" Dr Bond
asked. If anyone had asked, Clint would have described her as
grandmotherly. She had to be at least sixty. She wore her gray hair
short, and reading glasses perched on her nose.
Clint stared at her. "Nothing." I'd like to put an arrow through
him. That doesn't require talking. "There's nothing to say."
His stomach clenched as he answered. Easy. I'm not telling her
anything important. And she's an ally. The reassurance did
nothing to calm him. What can she do if I go off on her?
Dr Bond wrote something on her notepad.
Clint wished he could see her notes. He suspected she considered him
uncooperative. He knew that he was frustrated. He needed help. He'd
been fine right after, during the crisis, but now... His head hurt.
It almost always did. The only things that helped were shooting and
sparring. When there was nothing but him and the bow and the target
or nothing but him and his opponent, then there was peace. He knew
then just what he was supposed to do.
"If I'm to help you, you'll have to confront your memories." Dr Bond
met Clint's eyes and held his gaze. "This is a safe space."
Clint nodded. I'm not ignorant. I know what CBT is and exposure
therapy. I'm not the first SHIELD agent to end up with PTSD. Yeah,
but how many of them had their minds taken from them? He
stifled a wince as he answered himself. The others Loki
enslaved-- Am I the only one losing it?
Dr Bond looked down at her pad. "You've been having difficulties.
Tell me about that."
Clint swallowed. I hate to put it into words. "Mainly it's
nightmares." Don't ask for details. "I'm not sleeping much."
"Hm." Dr Bond made more notes. "You're here because you struck Agent
Nash. What were you thinking then?"
"I wasn't." That's true enough. Clint can't help rubbing his
left hand over the closed fist of his right. "He smirked." Clint
actually couldn't remember Nash's expression. All he'd been seeing
right then was Loki. I'm a danger to other people. Too bad
Natasha's on assignment. She could take me if I lose it
altogether. "And I hit him more than once." He'd taken Nash
entirely by surprise. The other man had taken a couple of seconds to
register what was happening, seconds of which Clint had taken
advantage. "He was slow."
Dr Bond almost frowned.
Clint wondered if she were capable of any real facial expression.
She was so carefully neutral that he wanted to provoke her somehow.
No. I need-- I want-- her help. I don't need to like her. But I
do need to trust her. How do I trust someone who keeps asking me
"Agent Nash shouldn't have needed speed just then." There was faint
reproof in her voice, and Clint counted it a victory. "What happened
before you struck Agent Nash? Do you remember?"
Clint felt himself go rigid. His fists clenched. No! This is
safe! It was all he could do to remain seated. "I remember."
His lips felt numb. But I'm not going to tell you. I won't give
you anything you can use against-- Against who? Really, against
who? He struggled to see Dr Bond but found himself facing Loki
again, hearing Loki as he prompted Clint to spill his guts, telling
everything he knew about SHIELD in general, about important people
specifically. "No! You're not getting any more! Haven't I given you
Loki didn't move. "Striking a fellow agent is out of the ordinary
for you. If we know why it happened, we may be able to avoid it
happening again. Not to mention discovering the root of the
Clint was on his feet. He knew he shouldn't attack Loki, but he
couldn't think why not. "You're the root of the trouble," he
snarled. He also couldn't think why he was unarmed. He always had
weapons when he talked to Loki. For his protection.
Loki didn't answer for a moment. Instead, he wrote something on the
notepad he held. Finally, he said, "Mr Barton, you're clearly having
difficulty. Would you like to terminate this session and recommence
Clint shook his head, more in an effort to clear it than in
negation. Loki wasn't behaving normally. He's planning
something. He's always planning something. I should kill him while
I can, while my mind is clear. But my mind's not clear. And he
doesn't know that I could kill him. He can't know that, or he'd do
something about it. I should-- No. If I leave, I can take the
opportunity to think, to find a weapon. He looked around the
room, his gaze settling on the door. I need to know what he's
planning. Killing him might not stop it.
He bowed to Loki. "As you wish, my lord." Bowing made him want to
vomit, but he knew he needed to keep Loki thinking he was still
enslaved. He walked to the door, opened it and walked out.
Maria Hill regarded Clint from across a desk that seemed to Clint to
grow larger with every second. "You're a danger to the rest of us,
Clint could only shrug. It's probably true.
Hill tapped a finger on the manila folder that lay in front of her.
"Dr Bond thinks she can work with you. That's non-negotiable."
Clint nodded. Though why she's willing to work with me after the
display I put on in her office... I suppose nothing phases her.
"Dr Bond does feel that you should be removed from-- How did she put
it? 'This stressful environment.'"
Clint started to say something then thought the better of it. Where
would I go? Better I endanger agents than civilians. He took a
deep breath. "I suppose SHIELD has a facility for malfunctioning
agents?" He didn't like the idea of some sort of psych hospital.
Hill ignored the question. "As it happens, we have an offer of a
place for you that should be low stress and still keep you close
enough to see Dr Bond regularly."
Clint frowned. Getting away from the helicarrier would be good.
But where--? Doesn't matter. They were always going to send me
away. Dr Bond's office is in the city. Yeah, but they might have
let me find a place of my own. Could I afford a place of my own?
He tried to picture himself with roommates. "I guess I'm in."
In retrospect, Clint thought Stark Tower should have been obvious. Where
else would they send me? Stark has Banner living here. One broken
killer isn't any greater risk.
He wasn't entirely sure what to do with the room Stark had given
him. He wasn't used to having so much space, and he hadn't brought
anything to make the space seem more his own. Well, I could
drape my clothes over the furniture. Except that he wouldn't,
couldn't. Everything had a place, and clothing belonged in the
closet or the dresser. Anything else would get in the way when I
have to react fast.
He spent his first day mostly in his room, emerging only when hunger
or a need for the toilet became too urgent. The second day, however,
he started looking the place over. I'll feel safer if I know
where the choke points are. There must be some defensible points,
right? But a couple of hours of wandering led him to conclude
that Stark had had something else in mind when he planned the living
quarters and workshop space.
While wandering through the workshop, he helped himself to some of
Stark's coffee, taking a mug that looked mostly clean. There were
six mugs, but he hadn't seen anybody but Stark, Banner and Ms.
Potts. All of them seemed to be busy, and he hadn't wanted to bother
Maybe the defenses are all at the perimeter. He recalled
Stark showing him how to get in and out of the private space.
Biometric locks were harder to fool, but it wasn't impossible. If he
were trying to break in, he'd kidnap Ms. Potts. From what he could
tell, she spent the most time outside. But Loki got in, and they
set up the gate right out there. There's nothing but the height of
the building stopping people coming in.
So he set himself to patrolling. He couldn't be awake and alert all
the time, and he couldn't be everywhere at once, but he was better
than nothing. He hated it when, on the third day, he had to leave to
see Dr Bond again. He knew that it was likely that nothing would
happen, that Stark and Banner could take care of themselves. But
it feels like I'm abandoning them.
It was an hour to Dr Bond's office. Clint spent the entire trip
terrified that he'd have another flashback and attack somebody, but
nothing happened except that his headache deepened. When he
mentioned headache and anxiety to Dr Bond, she referred him to a
colleague, a psychiatrist, who she said would help him with that.
Clint didn't like the idea of medications, but he accepted the
This time, Clint made it through the entire forty-five minute
session. It was a near thing a couple of times when Dr Bond pressed
him with questions, but he held it together. She actually smiled at
him when they scheduled the next session.
Clint detoured on his way back to Stark Tower to buy a few
groceries. He couldn't carry as much as he wanted to buy, so he
limited himself to a few luxuries. Stark said I just had to ask
for anything I wanted, but-- I want to buy something for myself. I
wonder if Stark and Banner will be polite enough to stay away from
my food? Stark strikes me as assuming that everything around
belongs to him. Banner-- I don't know. I've hardly talked to him.
Getting back into Stark Tower was so easy that Clint's shoulders
crawled. How many people work here? How many deliveries a day? I
bet Stark orders his groceries in. Does he worry about poison? I'd
worry about poison. He relaxed a little when he reached the
uppermost floors, the private floors.
He kept most of his purchases in his own room. Only a few things
needed refrigeration. He put those in the kitchen. How much does
one of those small refrigerators cost? Can I afford one? He
wasn't sure how much SHIELD was paying him now. Less, I'm sure.
It's not like I'm currently useful. Maybe half pay? SHIELD's
salaries weren't overly generous to begin with. Clint suspected that
this would be his last splurge for a while. Who knows what I'll
need money for? I'd hate to spend my savings. I suppose I should
be glad Stark doesn't want rent.
He rolled his shoulders, pulling each one forward for a moment to
loosen them up. Then he hefted his quiver and picked up his bow. There's
something wrong with wanting to go armed all the time. No. Yes.
No. The bow is what I am. I should find somewhere to practice.
Google'll turn up some place where I can shoot.
He walked through the living space. He wanted to check Stark's room
and Banner's for intruders, but he suspected neither man would
understand. Probably nobody's going to scale the building in
daylight. Someone might see a hang-glider, and we'd hear a
helicopter. Well, maybe. Stark likes his sound proofing.
He gave more attention to the workshop. This is where everything
worth stealing is. The things in Stark's living room may be
valuable, but they're just things. This is where the secrets are.
He looked around the aisle he was walking and regretted the way
equipment blocked his line of sight. Pity the ceiling's so low.
It's much easier to watch from above. I can cover more area.
There were eight mugs by Stark's coffee machine this time. The two
newcomers both looked pristine. One was hideous, pink and gold and
white with Cupid and his bow featured prominently. The other was
more subdued. It was black and red and gray with a geometric
pattern. Clint hesitated. Two different people bought those. Is
that one a joke? If it is, is it funny? He grinned and filled
the Cupid mug with coffee. He added milk from the mini refrigerator
and walked on, carrying the mug with him.
Stark didn't look up when Clint passed, but Clint didn't see how
Stark could have missed seeing him. Wonder what he's working on?
He sipped his coffee. I probably wouldn't understand it.
As he came to the area Stark had set aside for Banner, the equipment
surrounding him changed. Stark is an engineer. Banner is a
scientist. He knew it was more complicated than that, but he
figured he didn't need to know the details.
Banner sat in front of a laptop next to large machine that whirred
and clicked. He typed then paused, apparently studying something on
the laptop. Then he started typing again. He looked up as Clint went
past and nodded.
Clint nodded back. He was about to continue on when Banner spoke.
"I see you picked the mug that Tony bought." There was a hint of
laughter in Banner's voice. "Pepper thought it was tacky. She
provided something much more tasteful."
Clint stopped and turned toward Banner. "Well, it is tacky. That's
the point. I like to think I can laugh at myself."
"That's a start. I just know that, based on the last couple of days,
none of us-- not even Tony-- expected it of you."
Clint wasn't sure what to say to that. I suppose I have been...
focused. "I'm still settling in," he said at last.
"Tony said we should give you space." Banner sounded like he
"I don't mind people." Though there's a risk I'll attack you. I
suppose you're the one person I don't have to worry about hurting.
The collateral damage, however, would be impressive. No. The Hulk
would smash me like a bug. "This is very different from a
typical SHIELD operation."
"We don't have a mission," Banner agreed. "That can be hard to get
used to. I'm more accustomed to being useful."
Clint thought about what he knew about Banner. It wasn't as much as
he would like. Though it was more than enough for Loki.
"You've spent a lot of time in the Third World."
Banner snorted. "I don't like that term. At best, it's
Clint shrugged. I suppose I can understand that. He drank
some coffee. "I just meant it must be quite a difference.
Between the places you've been and Stark Tower, I mean. Up here, you
can't see anything but the money."
"I missed doing research. I got used to doing other things, but
research is where I started. You always remember where you started."
Banner stood and stretched. "I don't know that I'd trust me with
equipment like this, not when the Other Guy might come out any
He knows what it's like to lose control. Part of Clint wanted
desperately to turn away, to continue his patrol. But I didn't
get to be who I am by running away. "How do you face that? I
mean the knowing that any moment you could just lose control and
hurt people." I don't feel guilty about Nash-- well, I do, a
little-- and I didn't actually hurt Dr Bond, but... He hid his
confusion in his cup of coffee.
"I'm not doing it right now. I haven't done it for twenty-five days.
Now is quite enough to be worrying about. There's also this-- The
Other Guy helped out when the Chitauri invaded. He saved Tony's
life. That changes how I feel about him. He's not just destruction."
"There's not a good side to everything."
"Well, I can't think of a single good thing to say about mosquitos,
so I concede your point." Banner glanced down at his laptop then
shut it. "But you're not a mosquito."
Clint choked on his coffee. He knows! Of course, he knows.
SHIELD wouldn't send me here without warning Stark, and Stark must
have warned Banner. He swallowed twice then cleared his
throat. "I don't know what I am now." That's too damned naked. I
didn't even say that to Dr Bond.
"That's one thing I know-- You may see the world a bit differently
now, react a bit differently, but you're still who you were before.
I'm still, after everything else, Bruce Banner. There were things I
didn't know about myself before, things I'd rather not know, to be
honest, but the Other Guy didn't create those parts of me. The me
that I am now follows logically from who I was before."
"So I'm still Clint Barton?" Clint tried for humor but wasn't sure
he made it.
Banner nodded. "I'm going to get some of that coffee. Walk with me?"
Part of Clint wanted to walk away, to go on with his patrol.
Instead, he shrugged. "Why not?"
As they walked, Banner said, "I think part of the problem is that,
much as Loki coerced you, he didn't make you mindless. You used all
of yourself for him. He poisoned everything you'd made of yourself."
Clint hadn't thought of it like that. But it makes sense. He
licked his lips. "He can't touch me any more." I should sound
like I believe that.
"But now you wonder who else could twist you that way. Even without
the... other trouble, you've got to be wondering-- Well." Banner
waved a hand.
Yes. Well. Clint looked around. Anybody could be in here.
I'm not paying enough attention.
When they reached the coffee machine, Banner poured coffee into a
mug that was mostly black. Clint thought the light spots were meant
to be stars, and he wondered if any of the constellations were
"Want any?" Banner held up the pot.
Clint shook his head. Instead, he rinsed his mug and put it on the
bench. Why am I still talking to him? He closed his eyes for
a fraction of a second. Because he understands. He hasn't been
exactly where I was, where I am, but it's close. It's almost like
talking to Natasha. Almost.
"Tony gets the good stuff. Or so he tells me. I can't tell the
difference." Banner added three spoonfuls of sugar to his cup.
"With that much sugar, you wouldn't." Clint couldn't quite conceal
his horror. How can he drink anything sweet?
"I take my calories where I can get them." Banner stirred his coffee
with the same spoon he'd used to scoop the sugar. Then he rinsed the
spoon off and laid it next to the sugar bowl. "Even when the Other
Guy isn't coming out to play, I have to feed him. He can go without
eating for quite a long time, but it makes him cranky."
"Above the usual?" Clint tried to imagine that.
Banner waved his free hand and didn't answer. "If you don't want
coffee, maybe some food? Tony likes to grab something to eat without
leaving, so he keeps some around."
"Nothing now, thanks."
"I'll show you where it is. You might want it some time." Banner
walked over to a cabinet that looked no different from the others
scattered throughout the work area. He opened it. "How healthy the
options are depends on how recently Pepper's been through." He took
an apple out of a bag. "Tony buys honeycrisps."
Clint came over to look. "Ramen? Can't Stark afford better?"
"Probably, but ramen keeps forever, and it's easy to make. You just
need water and a hot plate." Banner pulled out a bag of chips and
tossed it to Clint. "Mostly, I go back to the kitchen to eat. I like
vegetables. And meat that doesn't come out of a can." He closed the
cabinet. "Tony does eat real food sometimes. He works out, too. He
resents the time it takes, but he does it."
"He showed me the gym." Clint turned the bag over in his hands,
wondering what he was supposed to do with it. I haven't used it
yet. I should, but there's nobody to spar with. I've got to find
somewhere to do that, too.
Banner sipped his coffee. He frowned then went and added another
heaping spoonful of sugar. "Keeping busy helps. Even if you don't
trust yourself around people, they help. They're a reminder that
there's a whole world out there that doesn't care about our
Other people-- How can he--? Clint couldn't imagine really
interacting with civilians. It's too dangerous. But he knows
that. He knows that better than anyone. He blinked and stopped
dead. He does know. He does. Better than me. I'm not stupid.
Maybe-- Maybe I can talk to him.
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