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If they were normal people, just nine to five how-do-you-do kind of people, maybe it'd be something that sits in the front of Clint's mind. Maybe it'd be something he worries over and thinks about because that's what you do when you know your partner has a fucking pacemaker-slash-defibrillator implanted in their fucking chest.

But they're not normal and Clint forgets about the piece of Stark Industries tech that keeps Phil's heart beating the way it's supposed to. He forgets about the in-the-line-of-duty injury Phil'd suffered years ago that had made the device necessary; he forgets that Phil's a little bit indestructible.

(Natasha tells him about Loki and the staff and Phil and Clint manages to hold it together until after. Until he can curl up on their bed with one of Phil's dirty sweatshirts and huff the scent of stale cologne and staler coffee, and he tries to believe that Phil's gone. But he can't.)


The first week is the hardest. He misses the scents of gun oil and fletching glue, the truly bad coffee Clint makes, and the dirty socks that seem to multiply like rabbits on the bathroom floor. He misses stupidly sung off-key classic rock songs and the goulash that Natasha was always envious of yet could never replicate.

(He does not miss: Stark, paperwork, his flight suit, the WSC.

Okay, he misses Stark, but the rest he could absolutely continue to do without.)

Still, the first week is spent in isolation with not much to do and he's ready to climb the walls in a very-unCoulson-like way. He's too weak to actually do so, his heart still recovering from the blow that'd nearly killed him, and simply being awake for ten minutes at a time takes all his energy but he's still lonely and bored..

He wonders, idly, if the team's finished saving the planet yet, because he really needs to see Clint.


He won't let them move anything of Phil's out of the apartment. Even when the team begins to move into the Mansion by the end of the month, he won't go without all of Phil's things and they frown when he sets up his new room as if there will be two occupants.

Bruce sends a mass text, excluding Clint, with a link and the words: The first stage of grief is denial.


The second week they wean him off the pain meds and, yeah, he fucking hurts—Loki'd broken ribs and torn muscle in his attempt to kill Phil and as the opioid level in his blood drops off, Phil wonders if he has, if this is hell.

Fury visits him, as jovial as the man gets and he doesn't say a word when Phil asks after Clint.

"He didn't make it," Phil mutters as a statement of fact. Fury doesn't negate it, but he doesn't confirm it either, and Phil wants to ask but he doesn't: it's the only logical explanation why Clint hasn't come to see him. And it hurts so badly that Phil wonders if his heart really is healing.

It feels a little bit shattered.

"Rest. Get better."

Phil nods as Fury leaves and lays back, closes his eyes, thinks of Clint's sleepy face on early Saturday mornings when they had no where to go and no where to be.


Six weeks later and the team wonders, some days, if Clint's grief will ever wane: he does his job and he does it well, but he goes days without sleeping and he starts cc'ing his reports to Coulson. He buys bags of coffee no one drinks and leaves notes on them, little arrows in purple ink in the corners like he'd always left for Phil (per Natasha.)

The staff psychologist tells Fury that for a man who has just lost a long-term partner, Clint's actually doing better than most. "He needs time," she tells the team, "Just keep creating a normal, stable environment and treating him as you have been. Be supportive, but it's still Agent Barton so be wary of projectiles."

Everyone nods, from Hill to Stark and they keep ignoring the one-sided conversations they hear in the living room at night.

(Natasha has the room closest—just in case—and she tells Tony one morning that she'd heard Clint talking about a new bow. That he'd said Tony had made it, had engraved Clint's own mark into the metal and Tony ducks his head.

Tony tells her, "Everyone needs something to hold on to," and walks away.)


They release Phil on a sunny day, the summer heat almost blistering, but oh-so-wonderful after the coolness of his hospital room. It's more than two months after and his strength is nearly back to where it should be, his heart beating perfectly thanks to the latest in technology, and he just wants to see the team. He wants to see Natasha, know she's okay, maybe talk to her a little about Clint.

He thumbs the ring on his finger idly at the lonely feeling that bubbles up.

Fury takes him to the Mansion and drops him off, looking worried and unsure the entire time; he's tried to bring up Barton several times since that day, but Phil's never let him refute the idea that Clint's dead and he's never had the chance to explain that he's made a mess of Phil's husband. (Let's be clear, there'd been a plan and a reason. But once a guy starts hallucinating his dead partner in his grief... well, that's land that Fury doesn't know how to navigate.)

The ride up to the suites is too long, and the place is quiet when he gets there. Phil figures they've gone out; he resolves to wait and settles onto a bar stool in the kitchen to catch his breath. He closes his eyes as he paces out his heartbeat, forcing himself to calm and control the rate as the physical therapist had taught him, and when he opens them, there's a cup of coffee under his nose.

"Drink it before it gets cold," Clint mutters, and Phil's pretty sure his heart stops for a second. Then he silently threatens Fury with a long, painful death.


"We took Steve to a Dodgers game last week," Clint goes on, as if he hasn't been absent from Phil's life for the last ten weeks. His head is in the refrigerator and he's poking through tubs of leftovers, saying, "You wouldn't believe how much he loved it. I've never seen a guy so happy about a fucking sports game. Seriously, he cried."

When he pulls back, he blinks at Phil and mutters, "Huh," before slipping a container of sauced pasta into the microwave. He speaks again, telling Phil about the new glove and wrist guard Tony's been working on for him and he kind of thinks Tony's awesome but he won't actually tell that to Tony. "His head's kind of large enough as it is."

Phil listens as Clint talks, and when Clint turns around again, he says, "Clint."

There's a tiny frown on Clint's face—Phil hates it instantly—and he swallows thickly. "You never usually stay this long."

He doesn't know how to respond to that, unsure what Clint means, but yeah, heart definitely shattered and Phil gets up, rounds the counter, and pulls Clint to him. "I'm home."

For a second Clint fights the hold, then something clicks in his mind and he touches the spot over Phil's shirt where the bandages sit. He sucks in a breath, then another, and Phil knows Clint's trying not to breakdown right then and there.

"I'm home. I'm okay," he whispers.

And that's it. Clint's knees go weak and they're on the floor seconds later because Phil can't hold him up right now; he doesn't sob, but there's a growing wetness on Phil's tee, and Clint's trembling, his hands clenched tight in the fabric.

(When the rest of the team returns, one by one, they sit down in a circle around the pair.)