He could feel his face flush; this was verging on far too touchy-feely for him, but he needed to say it.
Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who answered the poll. I can’t tell you how much it helps to get feedback from you guys. I know it sounds funny but knowing people are reading gives me an extra little push of happyness and inspiration to write more. So, thank you!
Link to chapter 5 is here:
Clint was awoken from a sound slumber by a strange feeling. Usually he slept very lightly and was awakened by an alarm or someone, Fury or Coulson most likely, yelling at him to get up and get to work. This was different. He realized it had been the gentle brush of lips against his cheek. Rolling onto his back, he came face to face with Tony, smiling down at him from inches away.
Clint smiled up at him. “Hi.” Tony kissed him again, this time on the mouth, slow and lingering. He hummed happily when they separated. “Glad to have you back.”
“Glad to be back.” Tony flopped onto the bed beside Clint. “You were out like a light.”
“Oh yeah?” But he realized now that it was true. He had slept so well in Tony’s bed, so soundly, and not awoken when the man returned. Ordinarily Clint would have woken the instant someone entered the room, if not at their approach. That said something about their relationship, about just how much he trusted Tony. It made his stomach flop nervously, but it was a good sort of nervousness. Still….he shook the thoughts away. “How was the trip?”
“Good. Lectures went pretty well. I mean, it was all standard stuff, so it wasn’t like it was anything difficult, but hey, have to do it, right?”
“You must be tired.”
“Exhausted.” Tony tugged at his collar, loosening his tie.
Clint shoved the covers back, crawling on his knees over to Tony, who watched him with a hint of surprise in his eyes. “Here.” He gently pushed Tony’s hands aside. “Let me help.”
Tony smiled as Clint undid his tie. “Gladly.”
Clint snorted. “You’re not getting sex, you pervert.”
“Awww, come on!”
“No. You just said you’re exhausted.”
“I’m NEVER too tired for sex.”
Clint shook his head, smile on his face. “I don’t care. You’re going to rest.” He set aside Tony’s jacket and shirt, gesturing with a hand for Tony to shift, to give him access to his lower half. “Pants.”
Tony gave his best pout. “Fine.” He undid his slacks, allowing Clint to help him out of them. “I’ll sleep.”
“Good. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Stripped down to his boxer briefs, Tony flopped back onto the bed once more, but he wasn’t done. Arching a brow, he smiled up at Clint. “And THEN sex?”
Clint couldn’t help the burst of laughter. “You never stop, do you.”
“Nope. And that’s not an answer.”
Clint shook his head, grinning. Tony was so ridiculous. “Fine. Sex after you sleep. But only if you ACTUALLY sleep.”
“Okay. I can manage that.”
“You better.” Clint tugged off his own t-shirt and held it out. “Here.” Tony looked from the shirt to Clint, confused.
“What’s this for?”
“You can’t sleep in just your underwear; you’ll freeze.” It wasn’t exceptionally cold out but it wasn’t warm enough for Tony to sleep in so little clothing.
“…..what about you?”
“I’ve got pants on, I’ll be fine. It’s you I’m worried about.” Clint was taken aback by the look that crossed Tony’s face. He looked so happy, so……in love. Without another word, he took the shirt from Clint and tugged it over his head. It immediately slipped down one shoulder, exposing his collarbone. Clint’s clothes were always slightly big on Tony. He wore his casual clothes a little large to begin with, and he was bigger than Tony, so it only followed that they were too big on the brunette, and it was adorable. Clint loved seeing his clothes on Tony, and seeing him there in his underwear and the too-big shirt slipping off his shoulder like that, he almost wished he hadn’t insisted on waiting on sex. But Tony’s health came first. Hands on Tony’s shoulders, he leaned in, giving the man a gentle kiss. Tony smiled up at him.
Clint smiled. “Of course.” He stretched out beside Tony, tugging him into his arms and kissing the top of his head. “Now sleep.”
“And then sex?”
He couldn’t help laughing. “And then sex. Now shut up and sleep.”
“Yes, mom.” But shut up Tony did, and he obviously WAS exhausted, for it wasn’t long before Clint heard his breathing even as he fell asleep.
Clint had been in that bed for hours now but even so, he had no desire to quietly slip away. He had desperately missed Tony these past few days. All he wanted to do was stay here and hold the man. He realized that Tony hadn’t said “I love you.” He wasn’t sure whether or not to feel nervous about that. Did Tony not love him anymore? But no, that couldn’t be, he was positive; he felt ridiculous for thinking it for even a second. Tony was just giving him space. Tony always had been good about that, right from the morning after the gala. It was actually ridiculously surprising how thoughtful Tony was about that. No one would ever expect Tony Stark, with his loud mouth and brash attitude, to be so caring, but he was. He was the most caring and considerate person Clint had ever known. Though not to many people. Clint knew that Tony didn’t let many people see that side of him. For some reason, Tony liked to keep up a façade of being uncaring, of not giving a damn about anyone but himself, but Clint knew for a fact that among Tony’s faults was caring far too much. He was fiercely protective of his friends, even those he wasn’t close with, like Steve. When Clint had found out about Tony’s reaction to the news of Coulson’s “death”, he had been stunned. Tony and Coulson were constantly at each other’s throats, and yet he had seen the video footage, had heard from Fury and Steve of how despondent and angry Tony had been. He wished he could tell Coulson, use the information to prove to Coulson that Tony was a good man, that he wasn’t the person Coulson thought he was, but he knew that Tony would be furious. Not AT him…..somehow he knew that Tony would never truly be mad at him, which was also astonishing and Clint would never really get used to it…..no, Tony would be upset that Coulson knew that he actually cared about something. It sort of bewildered him, and yet on some level he understood. Clint also tried to maintain a “not a care” attitude, so it sort of made sense to him. Sort of. But he was getting much better at sharing his feelings. He had Tony to thank for that. Tony, who was so patient with him. Tony, who never pushed him to move faster than he was comfortable with.
Clint looked down at Tony, sleeping so soundly. It was clear that nothing was going to wake him up. Stomach still flip-flopping nervously, Clint tried the words aloud, wanting to get a sense of them, to see how they felt on his tongue. “I love you.” Immediately he flushed bright red, shaking his head. No, they still didn’t feel quite right; he still wasn’t ready. But they didn’t feel terrible. Speaking them had filled him with a sense of nervousness, but it was a sort of nervous hopefulness; like looking forward to something good…….something wonderful.
Clint stroked Tony’s soft brown hair. “Not long,” he murmured. “I’m getting there. Just…..be patient with me. Please?” But he knew there was no reason to ask; Tony would be. Tony always was.
Tony made some sort of noise in his sleep. Clint shushed him and he quieted, settling. Smiling, Clint brushed his hair back, giving his forehead a gentle kiss. “Thanks,” he said softly. “Thank you.”
It had been several months now. Clint had been getting sent on longer missions, and while he was growing accustomed to it, he would never grow used to how gut-wrenchingly lonely he felt each time he left Tony. Tony clearly felt the same, and despite his respect for Clint’s boundaries in public, behind closed doors he clung desperately to Clint every time he returned from a mission. Each reunion always involved kisses, good food, tons of snuggling, and welcome home sex. Lots and lots of welcome home sex.
The past mission’s end had brought about a particularly spectacular bought of love-making. Clint grinned as he remembered, thinking back to Tony’s rather creative use of mangos…
Clint jumped, torn abruptly from his thoughts and brought back to the matter at hand. “Yeah?”
“Pay attention. We need you calling out positions.”
Clint had to bite his lip to hold back a snicker. The use of the word “positions” did nothing to dissuade him from his train of thought. Still, he had to focus. The others were depending on him.
The Avengers had been called out on a mission. Someone was attacking New York City. It was a relatively new group, a name Clint hadn’t recognized right away. Still, they seemed fairly well trained, pretty decent shots…..though not to hear Tony speak it.
“Honestly,” his voice came in over the com, “who designed these weapons of theirs?”
“Stark…” Steve’s voice was wary, and Clint would wager good money it wasn’t from the fighting. Tony had been going on about this since the battle began.
“Hey, Cap, you think I can bring one of these crappy guns back with us? I bet Justin Hammer would love to get his hands on one…examine it. Could be a good learning experience for him.”
Clint bit back a snort of laughter even as Steve barked “Stark!” But there was no real bite to the name. Cleary the man was exhausted, and Clint didn’t blame him. Most people didn’t know how to put up with Tony, and having to do it at the same time as fight was definitely an uphill struggle.
“What? Just trying to be helpful.”
Clint shook his head, grinning, and glanced in Tony’s direction. There was a shooter directly below him. “Tony, below you!”
“I got him.” A repulsor blast and the man fell to the ground. “Thanks, Robin Hood.”
Clint rolled his eyes. “You’re welcome.”
“What, I don’t get a nickname? I’m wounded.”
“You are not, you ass.”
“I totally am. I’m gonna…” Tony’s voice cut out suddenly; Clint glanced back at him just in time to see Tony barreling towards him. “Clint, watch out!”
Turning, Clint saw one of the shooters in front of him, not that far away. He had somehow managed to sneak up, and in some corner of his mind Clint was still able to feel vaguely impressed, despite the situation he was in. Not many people could sneak up on him. He raised his bow, but the man already had him in his sights….there was no way he was going to fire first. True enough, the shot rang out, and then Tony was in front of him. The shot hit Tony full in the chest, the impact knocking him backwards into Clint, and both of them fell to the ground.
Clint stared with wide eyes at the man in his lap. “Tony!” But there was no response. “…..Tony?” He had forgotten all about the shooter; gone was every other thought but ensuring that Tony was okay. He gave him a shake. “Tony!”
There was a noise that he thought might have been a grunt of pain, then Tony flipped his visor up. “Yea?”
A wave of relief swept over Clint. “You….you’re okay.”
Tony gave a dry laugh which immediately turned into a hacking cough. “Depends on your definition of ‘okay’.”
Clint felt that heat behind his eyelids. He never cried. He REFUSED to cry. Damn you, Tony. “You…..you STUPID!”
Tony let out another choking laugh. “Love you too, babe.” He reached out, fingers tracing Clint’s cheek. “You’re okay?” His hand was shaking so terribly. His whole body was shaking, now that Clint noticed. He caught Tony’s hand and held it to his cheek, nodding.
Tony smiled. “Good.” And his eyes slid shut.
Clint felt panic stirring in him. “Tony?” But again there was no answer. “Tony!” A hand landed on his shoulder and he half jumped out of his skin, but it was Natasha.
“Clint, they’re here with the helicarrier….they want to take Tony to medical.”
He knew he should be nodding, be doing SOMETHING, but he could only stare at her. When the medics came to take Tony away, they had to pry him from Clint’s arms. Even though he knew that Tony had to go, that he had to leave with the medics to get better, Clint just didn’t want to let go of him. He simply knelt there on the ground where he had been with Tony, the spot Tony had saved him, and stared at his hands. There was blood on them.
He felt Natasha’s hand on his back again, and she sat down beside him. “He’ll be fine.”
“How do you know,” Clint asked, voice dull.
“Because he’s too ornery to die.”
He couldn’t help the sharp burst of laughter, but there was a choked sound to it, and it was as if something broke; before he knew it, he was in tears. Tasha wrapped her arms around him, pulling him close. She didn’t say a word, just let him cry. Somehow, despite all her attitude and emotional detachment, Natasha seemed to understand him better than anyone. Well…..anyone but Tony. Oh God, Tony.
Clint shook his head, forcing the thoughts away. There was no point in getting all panicky when he didn’t know what was going on. And as always, Natasha seemed to read his mind.
“You want to go in there?”
He took a deep breath, nodding. “Yeah. Yeah, I do.”
“Okay.” Natasha rose, offering her hand and a smile. Clint accepted, allowing Tasha to tug him to his feet. “C’mon, Barton. Let’s go check on your man.”
He couldn’t help a small laugh at that. “My man, huh.” He gave her hand a squeeze. “Lead the way, Romanoff.”
Tony lay in a hospital bed, wounds cleaned and wrapped. All traces of blood were gone, but he still looked terrible. Clint stopped dead in the doorway. Immediately he felt Tasha’s reassuring touch on his back.
“You gonna be okay?”
He managed a nod. “….yeah.” Natasha’s hand slipped into his, giving it a squeeze. It helped. He moved into the room towards the visitor’s chair set beside the bed. Slowly he sank into it, never taking his eyes off of Tony. He was vaguely aware of Tasha finding a second chair and carrying it over to sit beside him. Her presence was ridiculously comforting. He was still panicking more than he would have ever thought possible, but he couldn’t begin to imagine how bad it would have been had Natasha not been there with him.
He stared at Tony, that lovely face, beautiful brown eyes closed, long lashes so dark against his unnaturally pale skin. “I can’t lose him,” he said numbly.
“Clint!” Natasha grabbed hold of him, cupping his face in her hands and forcing him to look at her. “He’s going to be fine. If it was that bad of an injury they wouldn’t leave him like this. He wouldn’t be in a regular hospital bed. He’d be hooked up to all sorts of machines, there would be doctors everywhere…..more likely than that, he’d be in surgery still.”
Clint knew she was right….honestly, he had known it already….but it was hard to make himself believe it. Seeing Tony shot…..it had pushed some button he hadn’t known he had, set off a panic reaction he didn’t know he was capable of having. Clint never would have thought he could ever worry so much about losing something. But she was right. Natasha was right. Tony would be fine. He took a deep breath.
Tasha raised a brow, trying to gauge if Clint really did believe her, really did understand. “….okay?”
He nodded. “Okay.”
He spun around so fast that he nearly fell out of his chair. Tony was awake, blinking up at him. He looked more exhausted than anything else, and Clint felt an overwhelming sense of relief flood him. “Tony!” He was on his feet in an instant. There was a pat on his shoulder as Natasha silently said her goodbye, leaving, but he barely noticed. He grabbed Tony’s hand, careful not to squeeze too hard, and held it to his cheek. “You…..I can’t……how’re you feeling?”
Tony gave a small smile. “Okay. You’re okay.”
Clint felt an overwhelming sense of exasperation. “No, not ME, you idiot! YOU! How’re YOU feeling?”
“Oh.” Tony seemed to give the question some thought. “…..okay? Not bad. Bit sore. But not bad.”
“…but you were bleeding.” Clint couldn’t see any major injuries; everything had been wrapped.
“Oh. That.” He shook his head. “Nothing terrible. I mean, the shot got through my armor, but it didn’t hit too deep. Only a couple stitches.” Tony traced his hand over his belly and chuckled. “Heh.” He smiled sheepishly. “Guess those guns weren’t quite as crappy as I thought, huh.”
Now that he knew that Tony was okay, Clint felt an overwhelming sense of relief taking over. Relief….and something else. His worry and fear had been boiling for over an hour, and now that he knew Tony was alright, he was replacing it with an emotion he found much easier to deal with: anger. “Goddammit, Tony!”
Tony looked completely taken aback. “I…..what?”
“Why the FUCK did you do that?!”
“You jumped in front of a Goddamn bullet! Not even a bullet. Whatever the hell those stupid guns shoot.”
“It’s actually a combination of-“
“I DON’T CARE WHAT IT IS!” Clint knew he shouldn’t be getting so mad but he just couldn’t help it. Tony’s injury had scared him to death and it had happened because he had tried to save Clint. Clint couldn’t handle that. “You shouldn’t DO that! What kind of IDIOT jumps in front of a direct shot? How stupid can you be? You just….” He realized that Tony was incredibly quiet and looked at him. Tony was simply watching him with a strange, small smile on his face. “I’m yelling at you, Goddammit, stop smiling!”
Tony burst out laughing. “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”
“Totally aren’t,” Clint grumbled.
“I am.” Tony’s smile was soft. “I didn’t mean to worry you.” And with those few words, Clint realized that all his yelling had done nothing to cover up his true feelings, to hide the fact that he had spent the last hour in a state of sheer panic. All the tension left him, his body sagging. Tony held out his hand to Clint. “C’mere.”
Clint took it, allowing himself to be tugged closer, crawling into bed beside Tony and snuggling closer, face burrowing into the curve of Tony’s neck. “I was scared,” he admitted, voice muffled. “I was so scared.”
“I know.” Tony stroked his hair. “I’d apologize but I’m not sorry. You’re alive. That’s what matters.”
Clint pulled back, emerging from his hiding place. “I…..” He flushed. He still couldn’t say the words, still wasn’t sure they were true, they were what he felt. “I can’t lose you.” That much was true. That much was MORE than true.
Tony smiled, stroking Clint’s cheek. “You won’t. You never will. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me now.”
Clint laughed. “Good.”
Tony’s smile visibly brightened at that, despite the surprise evident on his face. “Yea?”
Clint nodded. “Yea.” There was a moment where he just regarded Tony, eyes drinking him in, then he gave him a smack upside the head.
“Oh, shut up. That wasn’t hard enough to hurt.”
“Still shouldn’t be hitting me! I’m injured!” Tony rubbed the side of his head. “Besides, you just said you were glad to be stuck with me!”
“Yeah, and you’re lucky. Most people wouldn’t want to be stuck with an idiot.”
“Hey!” Tony sounded indignant. “I’m not an idiot! I’m a genius!”
“An idiot. Jumping in front of direct attacks.”
“I was trying to save YOU, you moron!”
The room fell silent, the two men simply staring at each other. “….I…..” Clint looked away. “….thanks,” he muttered.
Tony chuckled. “Said so grudgingly.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be. I mean.” Clint sighed, frustrated. He wasn’t good with words. “I’m grateful you saved me. I am. I just hate that you got hurt doing it.”
“…Clint.” Tony shook his head. “I’m fine. Barely a scratch.” Clint arched a skeptical eyebrow. “Promise. Here. When the doctors get back, we’ll talk to them. See if you can take the bandages off, get a look for yourself.”
“Ooh. Take the bandages off, huh.” Clint’s voice was suggestive. Tony looked at him with surprise, then burst into laughter.
“Oh yea. Strip me down in the hospital bed and have your wicked way with me.”
“Always is, with me.” Tony stroked Clint’s hair; Clint pressed into the touch.
“Just…..please be more careful?” He could feel his face flush; this was verging on far too touchy-feely for him, but he needed to say it. “I don’t want to lose you. I can’t.”
“You don’t have to worry, Clint.” Tony’s voice and touch were reassuring, softly stroking Clint’s hair. “You’ve got me for as long as you want me.”
Clint pulled away, looking up at Tony. “Promise?”
Tony looked surprised, but he smiled. “Promise.”
“Good.” Clint leaned in, kissing Tony. “You promised.”
Tony laughed. “I did.” He caught Clint’s face, cupping it in his hands, and gave him a longer, lingering kiss. “I’m tired,” he murmured.
“Should sleep.” Clint shifted, making more room. Tony curled up beside him, pillowing his head on Clint’s chest.
“I love you,” Tony mumbled, already half asleep.
“….I….” The words still weren’t there, but… “….as long as I want,” Clint whispered. There was no response. Tony was fast asleep. It didn’t matter, because he was still there. He was still there, and he had promised, so he would always be there. As long as Clint wanted him. And Clint was really starting to think that that might be forever.
….it had a pretty nice ring to it.