Clint is, like, 90% sure that Tony installed the vents in Avengers Tower with him in mind because they're bigger than normal, and Clint can sit up straight and he can crawl through them without getting cramped, and it's glorious. Of course, Clint doesn't expect to run into someone else while he's in them, but there's a first time for everything.
"Well this is awkward," Clint says aloud, face to face with a man who looks as caught off guard as Clint feels. The man stares at him. "Um, hi?" Clint asks. The man, who is dressed in a hoodie and has long brown hair hanging into his face, says nothing. He blinks once. Twice. He looks like he's deciding whether or not to take off running in the other direction, though it wasn't really possible, as one couldn't quite run if one couldn't stand up. Maybe he could crawl really fast.
"Hold on," Clint says to the man, who's frozen stiff and probably won't move in the next minute or so, and backs around a corner and sticks his head out if the vent through a small opening in the wall. Nat walks into the hallway to see him with only his head visible outside the vent. She shoots him an exasperated look and walks off. "JARVIS?" Clint calls.
"Yes, Agent Barton?" the AI responds. "Who's in the tower right now?" Clint asks.
JARVIS pauses. "Dr. Banner is out at the moment, leaving yourself, Mr. Stark, Ms. Potts, Agent Romanoff, Captain Rogers, Mr. Odinson, and the staff in the medbay and on the first floor, sir," JARVIS answers.
Clint nods. "Anyone else?"
"Not that my sensors indicate, sir," JARVIS replies.
"Alright, cool," Clint says, retreating back into the vent. The man is still there, watching him. "JARVIS can't sense you in the vents," Clint points out. "Or he can't sense you, period." The man doesn't respond. When Clint takes a better look, the man looks worn down. His hoodie is dirty, his jeans are ripped, and not in that weird pre-ripped way that Clint doesn't understand. His hair is rumpled and knotted. "You don't look like you're here to kill us," Clint tells him.
The man finally speaks. "How do you know?" he asks softly. The sentence is defiant, yet the voice is not.
Clint sits back and shrugs. "I'm good at reading people." Clint looks down and notices a hand made entirely of metal. Barnes. Clint meets the man's eyes again, and Barnes shifts his weight. "Is that my shirt?" Clint demands. Barnes blinks, puzzled. "That's my shirt, you stole my shirt," Clint says, pointing to the white shirt with a purple bullseye that Barnes is wearing under his hoodie. "I thought I lost that two weeks ago." Clint pauses. "Have you been here for two weeks?"
Barnes looks dangerously close to either pulling out a knife or bolting. Likely the later, as he's slowly inching away from Clint. He whispers something Clint only recognizes because Nat likes to swear in Russian.
"Whoa, hey, wait," Clint says and Barnes freezes in his tracks. "How about I get you a new shirt and let you stay here in exchange for my shirt back?" Clint offers. "I won't tell."
Barnes looks like he might be considering the offer. "How do you know you can trust me?" he asks. His voice sounds rough and unused, yet he talks with a quiet intensity.
"I told you," Clint returns, "I'm good at reading people."
Barnes blinks. "How do I know I can trust you?" he mumbles.
Clint looks him in the eye. "I guess you'll just have to take a leap of faith."
Clint's back ten minutes later carrying a new shirt, this one clean and black, a deck of cards, and a bag of Teddy Grahams. Clint hands Barnes the shirt. "You can drop my shirt off in the laundry pile whenever," he tells him and Barnes watches him curiously. Clint starts pulling out the card deck and passes Barnes the Teddy Grahams. "Open these," Clint tells him, and he does, peering into the bag.
"What are these?" Barnes asks, pulling one out with his non-metal hand.
"Teddy Grahams," Clint says, dealing out cards.
"I know what they're called, I can read," Barnes replies, "But what are they?"
"Eat them," Clint responds. "They're good."
Barnes sticks one in his mouth, and evidently, they don't suck, because he pulls out a handful and continues to munch on them. "I don't really like poker," Barnes informs him, eyeing the cards Clint has laid out in front of him.
"That's okay," Clint answers, picking up his own cards. "I only know go fish. You got any fours?"
Barnes picks up his cards. "No," he says, and shovels the rest of the Teddy Grahams in his hands into his mouth.
"Shit," Clint mumbles and picks up a card.
Barnes swallows. "Do you have a queen?" he asks.
Clint passes the card over. Barnes almost looks happy.
Barnes isn't in the spot the next day. Clint leaves the vents and goes digging through the closets. After finding ones filled with poptarts (Thor's), boxes of tea bags (Bruce's and/or Nat's), Hawkeye merchandise (Clint's), and frozen pizzas that are no longer frozen (who even knows), Clint finally finds the extra bed sheets and pillows.
He digs through the stash, grabbing Tony's expensive ones. Clint stacks a couple pillows by the door and counts them, unsure if whether to bring four or five. He grabs six, just to be safe, and snags an extra blanket as well. Clint gets caught on his way to the vents.
"Why'd you need that many pillows?" comes Tony's voice from behind him. Clint whirls around.
"Is it not obvious?" Thor questions. "The Man of Hawks intends to build himself a nest."
"More a fort than a nest," Clint says,jumping on the excuse. "But sure."
Tony's eyes light up. "Barton," he says seriously. "Take all the pillows you need."
Clint nods gratefully and dashes off to the vents.
Barnes doesn't turn up all day and Clint leaves the pillows and blanket in the spot where they met, along with a new shirt and a bag of Teddy Grahams.
Clint notices the empty bag of Teddy Grahams in the garbage in the kitchen the next morning. Clint's bullseye shirt and the black one show up in his laundry two days later.
Barnes shows up the next day so Clint brings two StarkPads and introduces the man to Pokémon Indigo. Clint is logged in and shows Barnes how to create an account. "Can I ask you a question?" Clint asks. No answer. "What do you want me to call you?" he asks and Barnes looks up. "Because Mysterious Vent Man only sounds cool in my head."
Barnes stares at him. He does that a lot. "I-" He mumbles. "James."
"I James?" Clint asks. "I Clint." Barnes glares at him, a brief moment of irritation, and Clint grins, happy that he got an actual emotion out of the man.
"James," Barnes repeats. "Call me James."
"That your real name, James?" Clint asks, knowing that it is. Barnes looks deeply uncomfortable and Clint realizes he crossed a line so he keeps talking. "Technically Clint isn't my name, it's actually Clinton, but that's sort of dumb, so everyone calls me Clint. I mean, can you imagine calling me Clinton?" Barnes' eyes flick down to his tablet then back up to Clint. He continues to stare. "Except when I go to Starbucks they always write the L and the I too close together so it looks like CUNT, and Tony always laughs and takes a picture." Clint knows there are at least seven pictures of that kind of incident on Tony's Twitter account. It was treading last month. "And it's kind of super mean, and I feel insulted and foul-mouthed just talking about it."
A ding from the StarkPad alerts Clint to a notification on his Pokémon account. Clint grins as he sees that Mysterious_Vent_Man has sent him a friend request. Clint accepts and challenges him to a battle.
Barnes stares at the screen. "What am I supposed to do?" he asks blankly.
"Throw out a Pokémon," Clint tells him, choosing his Starly, something low enough that he won't beat Barnes by too much.
Barnes throws out a Chimchar named Steve and Clint has to restrain himself from laughing. He can almost see the resemblance.
Clint starts off with an easy attack, and Barnes' Chimchar only goes down a few HP. Barnes fires back with an attack and Clint swears quietly as 'CRITICAL HIT' pops up and Starly loses almost 80% of her hp. Clint fires back with another attack, and Barnes manages to knock Starly out with over half of his hp left.
Clint screams and Barnes' mouth quirks up briefly in what Clint definitely decides to call a smile. Both men sit straight up as they hear a voice yelling into the vents.
"Clint?" Tony shouts. "You okay?"
Clint leans back to yell at Tony. "I hate Pokémon!" he screeches for Tony to hear. "I hate it!"
Silence. Then Tony practically growls. "You fucking take that back."
"You're so serious all the time, James," Clint tells him, and Barnes looks up from his Pokémon game to stare at Clint. Again. "Would it kill you to laugh?" Maybe not the best approach, sure, but then again, Clint has made worse decisions.
Barnes blinks. Looks down and then back at Clint. "Would you like to hear me tell a joke?" he asks softly.
Clint's eyebrows shoot up. "Yeah, sure," he answers.
Barnes narrows his eyes briefly in thought and then says steadily, "Knock-knock."
"Who's there?" Clint replies smoothly.
Barnes stares straight at him. "Go fuck yourself."
Clint instantly approves of Steve's choice in friends and doubles over laughing while Barnes goes back to his game.
In the living room, Steve looks up, hearing the crazy laughter from the vents. "What's he doing in there?" he asks.
Bruce shrugs at him.
Friday night is team movie night, though Saturday through Thursday often wind up as movie nights too. It's Steve's turn to pick, not Clint's, so Clint attempts to convince him to choose Blade Runner.
"I've never even heard of it," Steve says.
"C'mon, it's classic sci-fi, you'll love it," Clint urges.
"I don't know," Steve replies. "I kind of want to watch one from my list."
Tony scoffs. "Besides, you're like, what, ninety-six? Ninety-seven?" he asks Steve. "He probably hasn't seen much sci-fi."
Clint opens his mouth to argue but Steve beats him too it. "I was born in 1918, not 1718," Steve says indignantly. "We had sci-fi." Clint sticks his tongue out at Tony. Childish, sure, but it gets his point across. Steve continues. "Bucky loved the stuff. He had this one copy of The Time Machine that he read to death." Steve does that sad face he gets when he thinks about the past and Clint gets a wonderful idea.
Steve winds up deciding to choose a movie from his list, telling Clint they can watch Blade Runner when it's Clint's turn to pick.
"What's on your list?" Tony asks.
Steve closes his eyes, remembering one at random. "Um," he says, "Inception."
"Oh, that's a good choice," Natasha tells him. That pretty much settles it.
When the movie's over, Clint leaves to the eighth floor, where Pepper designed a library. He grabs every single H.G. Wells book he can find, plus some Jules Verne because why not.
Clint brings them to Barnes in a bag the next morning. "I brought books!" he tells him, passing it over. Barnes peeks inside. He fishes out another bag of Teddy Grahams.
"I love this book," Barnes tells him, his voice dry.
"Under that," Clint snaps.
Barnes grabs the new shirt and sets it to the side before grabbing a book from the dozen or so in the bag. "The Time Machine?" he asks.
"Yeah," Clint replies. "You like sci-fi?"
Barnes shrugs and opens the book.
Every single person in the tower has a habit of snacking so no one really notices that Barnes steals food every day. It gets to the point where Clint's not sure if Bucky stole his Lucky Charms or someone else did.
Of course, when things do disappear, it's natural instinct to blame one of the other Avengers.
Natasha looks positively murderous as she stalks into the main room. "Who," she demands, "ate all my Nutella?"
"Not me this time," Tony says and she glares at him. "I wasn't me, I swear!"
The other Avengers all look confused, so it's not hard for Clint to realize that Barnes took it. He lets out a nervous laugh and everyone turns their heads to him. "It, um," Clint says, "might have, sort of, been me?"
Natasha looks at him with murder in her eyes and walks out of the room, her eyes trained on him the entire time.
"Dude," Tony says, "You're sleeping on the couch tonight."
Clint covers his eyes and slouches over. "Aw man, I'm going to need to buy her a dozen jars to make up for this," he mumbles.
"I'd make it two dozen," Steve advices.
Tony whips his phone out and presses a couple buttons. "They'll be here in five minutes," he announces.
"Oh thank god," Clint mumbles.
"Hey," Tony says, "At least you didn't take Bruce's sorbet." Bruce rolls his eyes.
He finds Barnes a half hour later, dipping Teddy Grahams into Nutella.
"Tasha's giving me the silent treatment," Clint tells him.
Barnes looks at him curiously, popping a Nutella-covered Teddy Graham in his mouth. He raises an eyebrow, almost as if to say 'what did you do?'
"You stole her Nutella," Clint points out. "So I told her I took it."
Barnes offers him the jar and Clint takes a Teddy Graham to dip.
"Wow," he says, "that's good."
Barnes practically hisses when the mission alert sounds. He sits straight up, eyes wide, as loud horn noises sound throughout the vents.
"It's okay," Clint tells him, "the Avengers are getting called on a mission."
Barnes squints and covers his ears. "Why does it have to be so loud?" he asks quietly.
"If it's any quieter we all ignore it," Clint tells him. "I'll get you some earplugs while we're out." He finds his way to the hallway and sticks his head out.
Bruce is walking down the hallway with his fingers in his ears when Clint spots him.
"What's the haps, Doc?" Clint asks and Bruce shoots him a weary look.
"Please never say that again," Bruce requests.
"I already regret saying it," Clint assures him.
Barnes nudges Clint's back. "What's happening?" he whispers.
Bruce rubs his eyes. "We have to get going," he tells Clint. "Doctor Octopus is throwing Spider-Man around Manhattan and threatening to blow up the Empire State Building."
Clint groans and gets ready to jump from the vent. He gives Barnes a small wave that Bruce can’t see and jumps out, landing on the floor with both feet. He complains the whole walk to the Quinjet with Bruce.
The battle is shorter than the amount of time Clint spends picking out earplugs. He finds Steve outside, staring at the Empire State Building. Clint pockets the earplugs as he walks up to him.
Steve glances over. "You're deaf," he points out, "Why are you buying earplugs?"
Clint narrows his eyes. "Why aren't you buying earplugs?" he asks.
Steve shrugs, accepting that as a reasonable answer. He knows something’s up but doesn’t push. He looks back at the Empire State Building. Clint follows his gaze.
"I'm glad it didn't get blown up," Clint says casually. Steve mouth quirks up.
"You know, Buck and I watched the building's opening," Steve replies.
Clint's eyebrows shoot up. "Really?" he says, "That's so cool." Steve looks like he's waiting for the old man joke but it doesn't come. "I kinda wish we could have seen Hulk climb the building like King Kong."
"No," Bruce says as he walks past. Steve and Clint look at each other and crack up.
When it's Clint's turn to pick a movie that night he decides on the original King Kong, though Bruce shoots him the nastiest look. After the movie's over, Clint leaves the earplugs in the vents, along with a snow globe of the Empire State Building that Clint picked out from the lobby.
Damn cashier still wouldn't give him an Avengers' discount.
Clint's got extra time on his hands so he raids Tony's Nintendo collection. Clint's safe, more or less, as Tony won't be using it after getting banned due to the great Mario Party fight of last June. Tony spots him carrying two DS's and some games and starts loudly complaining.
"Why can Barton use Nintendo and I can't?!" he shouts and Pepper rolls her eyes.
"I do believe it was you and not the Warrior Barton who smashed the windows," Thor offers, "Was it not?"
"And the tv," Pepper adds.
"But I paid for the damage," Tony whines and Clint shoots him a gloating look as he dashes off.
Clint feels very accomplished when he sees the snow globe displayed carefully next to Bucky's pillows. "I brought Super Mario," Clint tells him, passing him a DS.Barnes sits up, taking it.
"What is this?" he asks, opening it.
Clint looks at Barnes. "James," he says, "Get ready to meet the friendship-ruining video game that is Mario."
"Um," Barnes blinks. "Okay." He boots up the game. "Which character do I pick?"
Clint waits for the intro to end on his own screen. "Well, pretty much everyone picks Mario," he says.
"Hm," Barnes murmurs, selecting Luigi.
"You have any younger siblings, James?" Clint asks, glancing up at him.
Barnes tenses, his face closing off. "Why?" he asks.
Clint resolves not to suddenly ask personal questions in the future. "Nothing," he replies. "It's just my older brother Barney used to do the same thing." Barnes stared at him. "You know," Clint offers, "the thing where you choose what no one wants first, so the other person's happy? Barney did it to me all the time."
Barnes blinks. "Oh," he mumbles. "Yeah, I- I had younger siblings. 3 sisters and a brother."
Clint nods but doesn't push, and simply starts the game. Barnes slips off his hoodie before starting his.
Tony's not sure whether he's happy or irritated when he hears Clint swearing loudly.
"No, no, stop beating me dammit!" Clint cries, and something lights up in Barnes' eye that could be described as either happiness or intent to murder. By the way he keeps beating the Koopa Troopas to death, it could go either way.
Clint glances up and catches sight of the red star painted on Barnes' arm. It's partially covered by a blue sleeve but still, Clint feels like it's some kind of massive step forward with trust, as he hadn't so much as taken off his hoodie in front of Clint before. Then he remembers that the red star was the Soviet's symbol.
A musical noise from the DS informs Clint that Barnes got his hands on yet another power star. And then ran right into Clint. "Stop killing me, you're not supposed to kill me," he whines and then freezes, glancing back at the arm. "Hey," he says, and Barnes looks up. "I've got an idea."
Clint comes back with yellow, black, and white sharpies. Barnes looks hesitant, but lifts up his left sleeve. Clint covers the star with yellow and uses the black and white sharpies to make eyes, turning it into a power star.
"There," he says. "Done."
Barnes looks down at his arm."Does this mean I'm invincible now?" he asks.
Clint grins. "Fuck yeah."
Barnes actually smiles.
Clint wakes up to Christmas music. Natasha shoves a pillow over her head and Clint sits up, blinking as Deck the Halls plays loudly through the walls. He stalks out into the hallway and sees Tony hanging up lights. Clint promptly throws a pillow at him. Tony doesn't even acknowledge the pillow as it bounces off of him.
"Happy December!" he greets.
"No," Clint growls.
"Yes," Tony answers. "It's the First." Clint swears the music is getting louder.
Nat comes out in the hall, her hair sticking up in every direction. She starts yelling in Russian and Tony's face goes blank.
"What?" He asks, confused.
"She said to turn off the music," Clint translates. "And some other stuff I won't repeat."
Tony grumbles and has JARVIS turn off the music, and Nat goes back to bed, flipping the bird at Tony as she leaves. Steve shows up in his pyjamas and glares at Tony for a couple seconds before disappearing.
Clint finds himself in the vents after trying unsuccessfully to go back to sleep. Barnes finds him in there first.
"You speak Russian?" he asks.
"You were listening?" Clint responds. He attempts to brush his bedhead down.
Barnes raises an eyebrow. "Your girlfriend told Stark she was going to, and I quote, 'shove all the Christmas lights up his ass'," Barnes says. "It was hard to miss."
"Yeah", Clint shrugs. “That's Tasha for you."
"I didn't know you spoke Russian," Barnes points out.
"Well, yeah," Clint says. "And French, and Spanish, and Hungarian, and ASL. But that's it."
"ASL?" Barnes repeats.
"Yeah, I'm, uh," Clint scratches his head. "Deaf."
"Oh," Barnes says. "I noticed the aids but I thought they were comms."
"Nah," Clint replies. "It's cool."
My little brother was hard of hearing, Barnes signs.
Really? Clint shoots back. You learn sign language with him?
No, Barnes signs. His hearing wasn't that bad. I learned elsewhere.
Clint knows not to ask where elsewhere was. Last time Barnes clammed up and disappeared for three days. What other languages do you know? Clint asks.
Barnes pauses. German, Russian, Italian, French, Spanish, and Romanian, he signs.
Wow, Clint signs. Impressive.
Clint walks through the living room floor with piles of different colored yarn overflowing in his arms.
"What," Steve says, more so a statement than a question.
"Clint likes to knit everyone presents for Christmas," Natasha says without looking up from her StarkPad.
"I didn't know you could knit," Steve tells Clint, who's too busy trying not to drop the yarn to answer.
"Clint has a lot of hidden talents," Nat states. "You stop getting surprised after a while."
Teaching ex-Russian assassins how to knit might just be an entirely useless talent for Clint though.
"We're gonna using the most popular type of knitting," Clint says, picking out a black yarn and attempting to untangle it from the large pile. "It's called weft knitting, though I don't know why, and with this way you keep making stitches in lines, or what we knitters call rows because of reasons." Clint finally frees the black from the pile of rainbow horror. "Knitting's supposed to be very therapeutic and stuff, and-" Clint looks up. Barnes has already finished a dark blue row and has started a second. "-Oh, you've started."
"I'm making a scarf," Barnes informs him.
"Why am I teaching you to knit if you already know?" Clint asks, beginning to make his first stitches.
"I forgot I knew," Barnes replies without looking up.
"When did you learn?" Clint asks, eyes on his own project.
"1963," Barnes replies smoothly. "London."
Clint looks up. Barnes doesn't seem to realize that that's a very odd thing to say. Clint looks at what exists of the man's scarf.
Clint shrugs and goes back to knitting.
"Do you want to help me make Christmas presents?" Clint asks nonchalantly.
"Sure," Barnes replies.
"I'm making Nat a sweater but other than that you're welcome to any presents for the others," Clint tells him.
"We should make a cozy for Mjolnir," Barnes says. "Like a tea cozy but for a hammer."
"James," Clint replies. "You are a genius."
Clint starts noticing chores getting done around the house. While normally he'd assume one of the other Avengers were doing them (such as Bruce, who was always clean, or Steve, who was only a slob with his own stuff and cleaned up everyone else's), Clint realizes that Barnes has been helping out around the house.
Clint's laundry is being done, washed and neatly folded into piles. Clint knows he's not doing it, and, contrary to popular belief, Natasha is really lazy when it comes to personal stuff, so both of them often wind up without any clean clothes and wearing the same pair of pants for a week. Tony varies between finding it repulsive and doing the exact same thing.
But Clint dismisses it, because Steve was always one to start trying to tidy up after everyone else.
Clint's arrows are clean and organized for the first time since he started collecting them. Clint, again, dismisses it, assuming Tony looked over the tech like he wanted to, and wound up sorting them afterwards.
It's only when Clint goes to restock the bathroom on the twelfth floor and finds it clean and shiny, that Clint realizes Barnes is trying to tidy up the house. Because no one uses that bathroom, not the Avengers, not Pepper, not that SHIELD intern that stopped by that one time. Which is why Clint told Barnes to use it, because sneaking out of the vents to use the bathroom was just humiliating.
When Clint goes back to his room, he finds a couple of the sci-fi books that he gave Barnes sitting in his shelf, which was now sorted alphabetically by author.
From what Clint's heard from Steve, Bucky was not, in the slightest, a neat freak. And though Barnes won't leave the vent if anyone- including Clint- is on the same floor, this is his way of saying thank you.
Clint perches his purple-tinted glasses on his nose today, and Bruce finally stops bugging him about them. Sure, he didn't need glasses, and sure, they were practically useless, but they were badass. Plus they made the world look purple. Tony high-fives him as he walks past.
Barnes finishes Thor's Mjolnir cozy, which after long consideration, both Clint and Barnes decided should be rainbow, and hands it over to Clint. "Beautiful," Clint says. "I've said this before but you are an absolute motherfucking genius."
"I know," Barnes replies, and picks up some blue yarn.
"Hey, did I ever tell you about the time I made Fury buy me a farm?" Clint asks, glancing up.
"No," Barnes answers. "You have a farm?"
"Yeah, out in Iowa, it used to belong to my family," Clint tells him. "I made Fury buy it for me."
"How'd you managed that?" Barnes asks, furrowing his brow.
"Got myself emotionally traumatized via brain washing while on the field and they told me I had to take a forced leave of absence," Clint replies before he can decide this is a bad idea. "And I told Fury to buy me my farm or I went to the press and he was all 'you muthafucka ain't doin shit'. But I told him I was serious and then arranged a meeting with this kid named Parker or Peter or something at the Daily Bugle. So Fury bought me my farm plus three cows and eight chickens."
Barnes stares at him. "Wow," he gapes. "The things you do for humanity."
"I know, right?" Clint shoot back. "Course it all wound up online anyway and I'm sitting over here with my farm, just glad I got it when I did. I should take you sometime. You'd like it there."
Barnes hums in agreement. "Your glasses are great by the way," Barnes informs him, and Clint grins, taking them off and passing them over to Barnes, who puts them on. He blinks twice. "These literally don't do anything," Barnes says.
"Not true," Clint tells him. "One, they made stuff look purple. And two, they have the power of general badassery." Barnes grins and adjusts the glasses.
Clint let him keep them. He's got other pairs.
With Christmas, comes gift-giving, and Thor loves the Mjolnir cozy. Natasha gets an elaborate black sweater with a red hour glass stitched into it that Clint spend an absurd amount of time making. Tony gets a pair of Iron Man style gloves with little repulsor looking circles on them that Clint designed ("Fuck yeah," Tony mutters, slipping them on.) and Bruce gets a long purple scarf that Barnes made ("Wow," Bruce says, "this is really soft.").
Clint flat out insists that Steve wears the red, white, and blue toque (which Clint learned was a fancy Canadian word for hat) that Barnes knit. Steve wears it proudly, the red and white tassels falling just short of his shoulders.
In turn, Clint gets disk copies of Blade Runner and King Kong from Steve, a bag of Hawkeye merchandise from Natasha, and some good coffee from Bruce. Tony gives him some tricked out arrows, and Thor, while new at Christmas festivities, hits Clint dead on with a giant jar of Nutella.
Clint leaves a three foot by three foot box in the vents for Barnes, which is filled with Teddy Grahams because why the hell not, along with an exact match of the purple bullseye shirt Clint found Barnes in the first day.
When Clint goes to bed, he finds a small gift wrapped carefully in newspaper. In it, a first edition copy of The Call of Cthulhu.
"Holy shit," Clint says, holding it carefully. He never finds out how Barnes managed it.
"All I'm saying is there's a certain feeling of accomplishment you get after beating Phil Coulson at quiz night," Clint remarks.
"Better than when you beat Fury at go-karting?" Barnes asks, adjusting the glasses Clint gave him. What could he say, they were fun to wear.
"Oh," Clint retorts. "I don't know if it'll beat that. Maybe a tie." Clint freezes. Looks down. "Fuck."
"What?" Barnes asks.
"Fuck," Clint replies. "Spider. Fuck."
"Kill it," Barnes orders. "Kill it now."
The Avengers, minus Clint of course, stare at the ceiling as they hear what sounds like two grown men screaming and swearing in the vents, along with a lot of banging.
"What the hell?" Tony asks. The banging gets louder and Tony stares at the ceiling. "Shit," he says, just as the vents break, breaking the ceiling and crashing down.
Clint pulls himself out of the wreckage, and Barnes pops his face out. "Fuck," Clint says as the Avengers stare. "Fuck."
Barnes makes a dash for the elevator. "JARVIS," Bruce says, "Don't let the elevator close." Barnes starts slamming the buttons. "Alright, Dr. Banner," JARVIS responds. “I will leave it open.”
"Don't leave me here you bastard!" Clint calls, and goes running to Barnes, who continues to slam the buttons that clearly aren't working. Natasha trips him and Clint goes sprawling to the ground. Everyone starts talking at once. "JARVIS can't sense you, why can't he sense you," Tony demands at the same time Steve asks, "Bucky?" Bruce blinks and asks how long Barnes has been in their vents while Thor asks if those are "the man of hawk's glasses".
Clint screams from the floor, "Never mind about the bastard thing, leave me, save yourself!"
"I'm trying!" Barnes retorts.
"Is that Clint's shirt?" Natasha asks.
"Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck," Barnes mutters with each click.
Steve is the first to move towards Barnes and Clint gets up and throws himself at the man, which he quickly realizes is a bad idea as he attaches himself to Captain America's shoulders and tries to haul him backwards.
Natasha winds up throwing Clint down the garbage chute and if that's not some kind of metaphor for Clint's life he doesn't know what is.
It's not even the first time Clint's found himself falling down this particular chute. He thought it was a vent last month.
They weren't on a very high floor, so the fall isn't that bad, but it still hurts when Clint lands straight in the trash.
"Eeaaghnnuhh," comes a voice from under him. Clint shifts to find a man dressed in red underneath him. "Not cool," Matt groans.
Clint hauls himself up. Groans. "Why are you in my dumpster?" Clint asks, pulling himself off of Matt.
"I was here first," Matt groans and pulls himself up.
"Yeah," Clint replies. "But I live here."
Matt pauses. "How about we share?"
"I'm good with that," Clint laughs. "You look like shit," Clint tells him.
"Thank you," Daredevil replies. "So do you."
"Your eyes are covered and you’re blind," Clint offers.
"Well, you smell like shit," Daredevil offers, and Clint grins, jumping out of the trash.
"That's 'cause I was thrown in a dumpster," Clint tells him.
"This happens to us way too much," Matt says, shaking his head.
"We should start a club," Clint tells him. Clint watches Matt cradle his wrist, which looks to be at an odd angle. "Hey, you should come in, get your wrist checked out."
"No," the man says starkly.
"C'mon, please?" Clint asks. "Do it as a favor to a pitiful deaf man who repeatedly gets thrown into his own dumpster."
Matt turns his head to him, and even though Clint can't see his face, he expects the man is giving him a weird look. "So what you’re saying is the Avengers would owe me a favor?" he asks.
"Yeah," Clint replies.
The man goes silent. Then- "Fine. Don't tell Claire."
When the elevator doors open, Clint sees Barnes sitting in the couch, face red, with the rest of the Avengers circled around him. Steve looks the most offended Clint has ever seen him. Barnes looks to Clint.
"Sit down," Natasha orders, and Clint scampers over next to Barnes.
You have a banana peel in your hair, Barnes signs.
Fuck you Barnes, Clint signs back.
This is your fault, Barnes flashes. You broke the vent. He pauses, realizing Clint spelled out his last name. You know?
"What's happening?" Steve asks. "Why is this my life?"
Clint ignores him. First, you broke the vents. Clint signs to Barnes. Second, no offense, because you're great, but really? How could I not know? You have a metal arm and live in our vents.
Barnes has the decency to look sheepish. Oh.
Bruce stands up. "I need tea," he announces and walks off to the kitchen.
What the actual fuck Clint, Natasha signs.
Tony throws his hands up in the air. "JARVIS, please translate for us," he asks the air. Steve blinks.
You tell them anything while I was gone? Clint signs to Barnes, and JARVIS relays his words aloud.
No, Barnes signs back. Tony looks pissed when he realizes JARVIS can't translate what Barnes is saying.
Good, Clint replies. Fight the power. Natasha smacks him in the head.
"What is 'the power'?" Thor asks, just before JARVIS translates, able to follow along due to his Allspeak.
Fight it! Clint signs.
"How long have you been in the vents?" Steve asks, directing the question to Bucky.
"Six months," Barnes answers.
"It's closer to seven or eight," Clint adds.
"And you've been there the entire time?" Steve asks.
"What did you think I did in the vents?" Clint responds. Steve looks more offended, it's that's even possible.
"Also," Clint says. "There's a blind superhero lawyer in the med bay."
"You've got to be kidding me," Natasha says.
"He gets thrown in dumpsters by Russians mobsters and I think his wrist is broken, I couldn't leave him," Clint insists. "He's basically a disabled me!"
"You are disabled," Barnes tells him.
"So are you," Clint replies. "Shut up."
"You shut up," Barnes snaps. Steve stares at him. Barnes notices, of course."What?"
"I-" Steve starts. "Bucky?"
"Look," Bucky says. "If I apologize for shooting you, and trying to stab you, and punching you repeatedly, and attempting to beat you to death, and stealing your Corn Pops, and living in your vents for seven months, are we good?"
"You stole my Corn Pops?" Steve asks blankly.
"Eight months," Clint corrects Barnes. "At least."
"Yeah," Natasha says, standing up. "I'm done. I'll be having tea with Bruce. Call me if things get bad or someone punches Clint."
"Barton," Tony says, "You're sleeping on the couch forever."
"Bucky stole my Corn Pops," Steve mumbles.
"I said sorry!" Bucky snaps.
"I was looking for you in Europe!" Steve exclaims.
"I wasn't in Europe, I was in the vents!" Barnes retaliates. He squints, probably realizing it was a crappy retaliation.
Steve sinks down into his own chair. "I hate you," he mutters, sounding very defeated.
"No you don't," Barnes snaps.
"Perhaps we should easy on Sir Barnes," Thor offers. "I'm sure he was only doing what he thought best."
"He hid in my vents for eight months," Tony complains.
Thor shrugs. "He made Mjolnir a cozy," he offers, as if that should solve all the world's problems.
"Wha-" Barnes interjects. "Why does everyone know who I am before I do?"
"You knit the cozy?" Steve asks.
"And your toque," Clint says.
Steve's face screws up. "Do you remember before?" Steve asks.
"Some," Barnes responds. "Not all, but some." He pauses. "Am I getting kicked out?" Barnes asks suddenly.
"No," Clint replies.
"That's not your decision," Tony says.
"No," Steve says softly. He's doing that thing again when he gets all pensive and sad. Bucky twitches when he notices. Clint suddenly feels bad about all the weeks when Steve up and left to go looking for his missing friend.
"It's my tower!" Tony cries. Thor shoots him a look. Tony pauses. "No, you're not getting kicked out."
"Oh, okay," Barnes mumbles. They go silent.
"Well, this is awkward," Clint announces. "I'm going to go check on Murdock," he says, standing up.
"You're friends with the blind superhero lawyer dude?" Barnes asks.
"Yeah, we're part of the Awesome People Who are Disabled and Kick Ass and Also Maybe Get Thrown in Dumpsters Club.” Clint replies. “We share a bond."
"Can I join?" Barnes asks.
"Yeah," Clint responds. "I think you fit the criteria." Clint walks over to the elevator. "I think we might have to work on the name though." Clint turns to Barnes, who has yet to enter the elevator. Clint crosses his arms as Thor, Tony, and Steve watch the entire exchange. "Get in bitch, we're going shopping," Clint tells Barnes, who promptly gets in the elevator.
"You watched Mean Girls?" Steve asks no one in particular. He still looks equal parts lost and offended.
"It's so fetch," Barnes replies smoothly, pressing the medbay button.
Steve makes a confused face as his mouth drops open. Tony turns to Steve. "You saw Mean Girls without me?" he asks.
"Yes," Steve says blankly, staring at the two people in the elevator.
Tony's voice is the last thing Clint hears before the elevator doors shut. "Boo, you whore."
Clint turns to Barnes. "Well that could have gone worse."