carriesagun: The Hulk, in cartoon style, in a field of daisies, being very happy. (Default)
[personal profile] carriesagun
Title:- Sound the Bugle
Author:- carriesagun @ LJ/irradiations @ Tumblr/Twitter/AO3
Beta:- techno4tomcats
Fandom:- Avengers (MCU)
Characters/Pairing:-Clint Barton/Bruce Banner, cameos by rest of the team.
Rating:- R (For dark themes).
Genre:- Angst/Hurt/Comfort
Word Count:- 3,385
Spoilers:- N/A
Warnings:- Injury leading to disability. 
Summary:- It was such a simple mission. In, out, done. How did it all go so wrong? 
Disclaimer:- I don't own them. Or they'd have had far more on-screen time together.
Notes:- Wholly inspired by the song of the same name, Sound the Bugle by Bryan Adams. My first foray into something quite so dark, but I hope you'll enjoy it.


The mission was simple; Natasha would infiltrate, scare them into the open, Clint would pick them off, they'd all go home to a job well done and everything would be normal. Because that was how things worked around here.

Natasha pushed the arm's dealer's men into Clint's line of sight, waiting for that subtle whine of an arrow loosed with deadly accuracy. A sound that never came. Without a second thought she dispatched the men easily, then stood among the bodies, hand to her comm, trying to stay calm while her heart climbed her throat. "Clint?" Nothing. "Barton, answer me."

Silence.

"Answer me now you son of a bitch," she hissed, turning to where he should have been, scanning the dark sky for anything, out of the ordinary or not. Silence.

For the first time in her life on such a simple mission, Natasha Romanov was scared. What she had told Loki was right - she didn't love Clint, not in the way everyone thought she did, anyway, but they were a team and his safety impacted on her own. And so she ran, ran faster than she ever had before, continually saying Clint's name into the comm, a shrill note of panic now there that hadn't been previously.

His hide was close. She could hear her own voice coming from a comm somewhere off to her left - someone had gotten close enough to Clint to rip the comm from his ear. Definitely not a good sign. She checked her surroundings, finding nothing but silence and desert dust, and crept into the makeshift hide, gun drawn at her side.

From the sheer quantity of blood there was in the hide, she presumed he was dead. She pressed the back of her gloved hand to her lips, closing her eyes slowly, holstering the gun. It seemed pointless holding it. Whatever had happened, she'd missed it.

And Clint Barton was dead.

She knelt beside him, noting the absolute mess that was the middle of his back, skin and flesh ripped up even through his vest, bow missing, face down in the dust. She felt for his neck, and half screamed when he reacted to her touch, nothing more than a twitch, but life.

"Clint? Holy shit, Clint? Can you-" She lay on the floor beside him, turning his head against every piece of medical training she had ever been given, so she could watch his face, judge his reactions.

He muttered something unintelligible. Her hand went back to her comm, this time tuned into the wavelength of the plane waiting to pick them up. "I need medical, Barton's down." Her voice was calm, the pulse leaping in her throat the only clue as to her current state.

"What?" came the reply.

"Don't make me repeat it." A threat holding deadly intent.

There was a pause. She hated them then, could almost hear the conversation - 'This is a joke, right?' - and wanted to scream in frustration. He could be bleeding to death while they tried to work out whether it was April Fools Day or not.

"ETA 2 minutes. Can you give us any details for the medical team?"

"He's… Look, just hurry up."

*~*~*

Bruce Banner didn't sleep well when Clint was away. The bed was too empty, he wasn't being huddled up to all night, no one to talk to about how Tony nearly blew the whole carrier up or bring home cupcakes to. All the things that shouldn't work in their line of work, but that they both needed.

Instead, he was sitting in the lab, typing away at a report on alien technology for Fury's next meeting with the council and trying to ignore the burn in his eyes from staring at the computer for too long. The door swished open, and Tony walked in, eyeballing Bruce with a meaningful glare which he had clearly rehearsed extensively with Steve which basically said 'Go to bed'.

"When I'm done with this," Bruce replied to the look, re-reading the last sentence he wrote to make sure none of those words had ended up in the report. When he was tired, odd words would slip into his work, and after including the word Banana in a deadly serious report about potassium as a stabiliser, he had learnt to double check everything.

"Make sure you do. Barton'll shoot me or something if I let you stay up past bedtime," Tony answered, grabbing a file to take back for some light reading. He didn't continue the conversation, just strolled out of the door with a wave over his shoulder.

"Night, Tony," Bruce said to himself, clattering away at the keys again to complete the report before bed. Tony was right; he usually was. Bruce should get some sleep, at least, but only once this was finished.

*~*~*

Natasha wasn't sure what was worse; Clint barely conscious in the hide, or Clint pretty much lucid and screaming to high heaven, because the morphine was taking too long to kick in and just wasn't strong enough to hold back the pain from his ruined back. She clutched his hand, tried to help, talking to him, asking him questions, near begging him to answer her.

He grabbed her elbow, a pause in the pain seeming to come over him, clarity in his eyes. "Don't let me die, please don't let me die, Tash, I have to get back, I have to."

"I won't, I won't," was all she could reply, swearing harshly in Russian to herself. "Think about it. About Bruce. What does he like doing?"

Clint couldn't answer. Pain had come back, wracking his body in endless waves, and she could just sit by helpless. She didn't pray. But she did cast a thought to the sky to end this - one way or another.

*~*~*

Bruce startled awake, aware of two things simultaneously; that his face was melded to the shape of his keyboard, and that someone's hand was on his shoulder. He sat up, blearily rubbing his eyes and turning to see his visitor. "Maria? What're-"

The look on her face made his stomach plummet to somewhere around his knees. "Get to the infirmary, Bruce. Just go," she said.

He didn't need telling twice. Their relationship was well known, it just wasn't really mentioned - fraternisation policies and all that. And he knew that right now the only place he needed to be was that hospital wing.

*~*~*

There was at least some blessing to be had in the stronger pain medication on the helicarrier. Clint was definitely not lucid enough for conversation, but still seemed to be aware of what went on around him, if the way his pupils dilated and his heart rate slowed as Bruce tore into the room, knocking a passing M.D to the floor in his rush.

Natasha looked up at him, standing up, ready for a confrontation or tears or something, and instead witnessed Bruce just walking to Clint's side, ignoring the fact that his partner was face down with a large dressing seeped in blood across the middle of his back, leaning down and planting a kiss on Clint's cheek. "S'okay, Clint, you did it, you came back, s'alright," he whispered, and Tasha felt her skin prickle, like she was watching something far too intimate for her eyes.

"I'll, just, I'll-"

"Stay, if you like. He'll probably want to speak to you when… He wakes up," Bruce replied, not even looking over at her.

She had expected him to ask her what had happened, every detail, to work it through in his analytical mind. He drew a chair up next to the bed, tangling his fingers around Clint's, and sat down heavily, his face completely neutral. Whatever was going on behind those intelligent eyes was anyone's guess. Natasha left him to it; she had to find the bastard who'd done this.

*~*~*

"So I told Tony, 'You can't expect a Hadron collider to be able to fit in a Quinjet, it just won't work', and you know what? The smarmy git actually found one that would fit. I mean, it's mad, but he did it. When you're better, I can take you to see it," Bruce said, running an update on everything that had happened since Clint had been away.

He didn't look when the doctor came in to change the dressing. It made no difference knowing what was under there; the outcome would be the same. Whatever that was.

"You've got to wake up, see? I can't deal with Tony's primadonna issues alone anymore, I'll kill him," he added, laughing softly. He saw a stray tuft of hair over Clint's ear, and smoothed it back gently, running his knuckles along his partner's cheek, the fear he'd had all night over-whelming him suddenly.

Bruce shuffled his chair nearer, rubbing his warm hands over Clint's cold forearm, stooping his head to kiss Clint's hand. "Please be okay. Just… Be okay. You did it, you promised you'd come back and you did, now come back to me. Okay?"

*~*~*

"He's been in there all night."

Tony looked at Steve, then back at his lab buddy, who was sat by the bedside of his clearly dying partner, and he rubbed his eyebrow tiredly. "Yeah, I noticed. Did anyone… I don't know, take him a drink or anything?"

"No Tony, they let the guy dehydrate. He's been drinking everything they bring him, but he won't move."

Tony sighed. "Have they told him?"

Steve huffed a sigh which was dangerously close to over-emotional. He wasn't ready to lose another team mate, not again, not after Bucky. "No. Not yet."

*~*~*

"Doctor Banner, there's no brain function at all and it would be-"

"Turn him off and I'm turning you off. Permanently." The doctor was clearly concerned that Bruce was starting to get angry; he was, in fact, in a state of terrifying calm. His lack of sleep should have made him snappy, but he was feeling more calm than he had in months. Quietly scared, frightened out of his wits that the one person he trusted and loved with all his heart was about to be ripped away from him, yes, but calm outwardly.

It had been three nights and four days since Clint had been brought in. His wound had begun to heal, but he didn't show a single sign of improving. His reactions had trailed off, heart rate and breathing slowing until they'd had to put him on life support, and now they wanted to turn him off.

Bruce was more than prepared to let the other guy share their mutual displeasure and disgust at this idea. "Don't stand there and tell me it'd be a kindness, or better for him, because you have no idea who he is or what he would want. You barely even know his name, he's nothing but a piece of paper to you. Well he means something to other people on this carrier. You touch that switch and you'll have a very angry complaint on your hands. And god help you if that happens."

The doctor span on his heel and stalked away. Bruce took up his seat by Clint's bed again, picking up the Wind in the Willows and starting reading again. "And so Toad returned to Toad Hall…"

*~*~*

Steve liked reading spy novels to Clint. When he thought no one was looking, he'd even put on the voices and act out scenes, trying to say a phrase that might help bring Clint back.

Tony would talk to him in a monotone. He explained that his theory was that he'd bore Clint back into consciousness so the archer could beat him senseless.

Natasha would just sit quietly, occasionally asking him a question. She had tried a selection of languages, choosing the most insulting phrases she knew, but they hadn't worked.

Bruce went to every meeting the S.H.I.E.L.D doctors held about Clint. And at every one, he repeated his threat, that if anyone went anywhere near the little white innocuous button that would cease the life support, he would personally end them. And good luck to anyone who got in his way.

They told him Clint would probably be paralysed. Bruce told them that it made no difference to him whatsoever, and if it mattered that much to S.H.I.E.L.D then they could take their job and ram it where the sun didn't shine.

He stopped working in the lab. He moved his pillows and duvet into Clint's side room, and slept there every night, only leaving when one of the other Avengers would come and relieve him.

*~*~*

"Hm, your horoscope says you're going to come into some money. Maybe it'll transfer over to me considering you're just a very nice decoration, Birdbrain," Tony said, leaning back in his chair with his feet on the edge of Clint's bed.

"Tony!" Steve scolded, his voice hushed like he was in a library. He wasn't entirely convinced that normal voices were okay in such a quiet place, something that Tony disagreed with vehemently. "He's still in there, and he's not just nice decoration. He's one of us."

Tony waved a hand, deflecting the scold with the action. "What? It's not like he's going to suddenly sit up and tell me-"

"Tony."

"What, I haven't-"
"Tony he's moving, Tony get the goddamn nurse or someone," Steve all but yelped, leaping to his feet and running from the room.

Tony looked over at Sleeping Beauty and, sure enough, his eyes were moving, rolling behind closed eyelids. "You lucky SOB," he muttered, a brief affectionate touch to Clint's arm and he was out into the corridor to announce the news to anyone who'd listen.

*~*~*

Bruce was standing in the queue at the cafeteria, a cup of coffee in hand, waiting to get to the front to order his lunch for later. No one spoke to him. He'd blown up at enough people over the last few weeks that they'd stopped asking him anything or even waving. He didn't care. What difference would it make, anyway?

"Bruce!"

Bruce glanced over at Steve, who was a little red in the face and grinning maniacally. "What? Did that doctor come back? Because I swear if he-"

"He moved."

Bruce dropped the cup. That didn't matter anymore, either.

*~*~*

Three days later, Clint was speaking. Not much, and not really to anyone but Bruce, but that was enough.

Even though the first thing he said was "I can't feel my legs".

*~*~*

Bruce didn't feel vindicated. He felt lucky, luckier than anyone else on the whole planet, because his Clint was back, was beautiful and speaking and smiling and Bruce just loved him. One evening he came to Clint's room, pushing a wheelchair and smiling conspiratorially.

"What're you up to, Banner?" Clint asked, frowning gently. So far he hadn't left the room once since waking up, stating he didn't want to go anywhere, though Bruce saw through that and saw that Clint didn't want to be seen. Clint thought he hid his feels well; Bruce could see through his defences like they were gossamer thread.

It was the middle of the night, in the middle of the night shift. The corridors were empty, and Bruce was kidnapping Clint and taking him out for a walk, whether his partner wanted to go or not. "We're going out."

"I'm not-"

"Shut up. It's happening, Clint, no matter how much you argue with me," Bruce replied, unplugging all Clint's leads and attaching his drip to the wheelchair. He stood there expectantly, waiting for Clint to move.

"If you hadn't noticed, I don't think I can walk."

"I'm not doing it for you. Get in the wheelchair," Bruce answered simply, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. Tough love was going to have to be his mandate right then, or Clint would be forever reliant on others - one thing Bruce knew the archer would loathe. The more independence he could give Clint from the start, the better things would be. "Though, if you can't, I guess-" He let the phrase trail off, looking away, knowing exactly which buttons to press to get Clint working.

"Hold the goddamn blanket."

*~*~*

The first night back in their apartment was the best night of Bruce's life. Twelve weeks of living in a hospital room with Clint had nearly broken him, nearly taken him back to square one, but here was his partner, alive, wheeling himself around in a Stark Industries wheelchair and making a nuisance of himself all over the ship.

He put Clint's overnight bag on the bed, sitting down heavily and watching as Clint rolled around, taking in the little apartment as though it was the Taj Mahal. "You're okay?" he asked, nervous suddenly.

Clint looked up, smiling the most genuine smile he had in weeks. "I'm just… Glad to be home. Can the cripple get a kiss or something?"

Bruce pretended to consider that, but only after he had shot Clint a very withering look about using that term about himself, getting up and planting a kiss on Clint's lips. "You're not a cripple, Clint."

"The wheelchair prett-"

"Shut up. Okay, look, a few weeks ago they tried to get me to give them permission to turn you off. You were dead. Now you've just wheeled yourself back to our apartment. You're not a cripple, that's an… Awful word. Just don't use it, okay?"

Bruce implored Clint with his best Paddington Bear look. "You and those puppy dog eyes," Clint replied, wheeling himself over to the bed. "Hey, no one else's been in here while I've been gone, have they?"

Bruce started counting off his fingers, then winked. "Not even me. It's our bed, Clint, and I wasn't going to sleep in it until you got better."

Clint stared at him then, really looking at him. "You really believed I'd get better."

Bruce smiled softly. "The whole time. They told me you'd be paralysed, probably permanently, and I told them that I didn't care. I love you. Not the fact you can walk around. And, uh, I don't mean to rush you or anything, but it's been eight weeks and I'm desperate to sleep in my own bed again."

Clint laughed. "One track mind, Banner."

*~*~*

Clint sat in the hangar, watching someone work on an engine, desperate to get his hands greasy and work on some machinery himself. He'd taken to wheeling himself down here every morning once Bruce hopped off to the lab, then he'd do a wheelchair tour of the ship, ending in the cafeteria for lunch with Bruce and anyone else who happened to stop by (once they'd had 12 people sat around a table meant for 6), then the two of them would go to physio, and Bruce'd go back to the lab while Clint settled himself down to doing paperwork.

It wasn't his life. He didn't recall his life being so structure, predictable, before his accident, and yet contentment had spread through him, knowing what each day would bring. Natasha sometimes joined him, just walking beside him, their usual comfortable silence sometimes broken by news from the spy world or just idle chit chat, but more often they just walked together quietly.


Bruce liked it when Tasha walked with Clint. Clint was always happier during physiotherapy then, more keen to actually partake as he rattled off everything they'd talked about. And, if he was honest, Clint wouldn't be here but for Tasha.

*~*~*

The man who'd shot Clint turned up dead in the Hudson river. He had two gunshot wounds to the back of his head, and had a carbon fibre arrow shoved into his ribcage, right in the middle of his back. The case was declared unsolved.

*~*~*

Six months after the accident, Bruce wheeled Clint back onto the archery range. It was deserted but for Tony, Tasha and Steve, who were standing beside a lowered shooting platform, watching expectantly.

Clint's first shot was a bullseye. When he looked at Bruce, who was kneeling beside him, and realised they were both crying, he realised that this was all he'd ever wanted. Love. A family. Being a field agent over a desk agent didn't matter anymore.

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carriesagun: The Hulk, in cartoon style, in a field of daisies, being very happy. (Default)
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November 2012

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