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[personal profile] jendavis
Title: Come Undone
Fandom/Pairing: The Avengers, Clint Barton/Phil Coulson
Spoilers/Warnings: Is there anyone who hasn't seen the movie yet? Well, if not, this is a fix it. Eventually.
Rating: R
Summary: It was supposed to get easier, afterwards.

Previous Chapters: DW // LJ // AO3



No.

At first, it nearly registers as a familiar dream, only this time, Loki's dragging him down the street, not spurring him through the carrier, damning him with every step. Clint remembers this; he'll know how it feels, down to his bones, for the rest of his days, but it's so damned vivid, now. He can't fight it, can't think, can't even connect two thoughts together, because they're being ripped apart on Loki's rough edges.

He watches himself steal the car, and rides passenger in the driver's seat.

Fuck. No. No.

---

The first time Loki had frozen Clint inside his own head, it had felt like an avalanche crashing over him; too overwhelming to track, impossible to dodge, and the ice had gotten in everywhere. He'd been so damned cold, then, though Loki hadn't granted him the ability to shiver.

This time, though, there's no need. He doesn't even feel the cold. He manages to catch his reflection as he breaks into the car, and his eyes are blue, his skin is once again tinged with hypothermia. He feels none of it. It's a small mercy, at least.

Loki's gravity comes in waves, rolling and banking, and when he pulls again, Clint ditches the car on a side street and begins to walk; he doesn't know how for how long, but the sun's been down for a while. Loki's hold feels weaker, this time, but it only makes it worse. There are moments, brief like a record skipping, when the storm recedes, drifts away, and Clint's nearly himself again.

He first notices it in the park, when he's suddenly in control again, grinding to a sudden halt, fists clenched mid-fight. He's not sure who's more startled, the jogger giving him a wide berth, or himself, but he doesn't even have the chance to try to recover before Loki jerks his leash, pulling him onward, dragging him towards the alley.

Why won't someone stop me?

---

The worst part is that he knows what he's doing, now, and the lock on the restaurant's door is shoddy at best. The part of him that's driving has already scanned the windows; there's nobody inside and the lights are out but that doesn't change what he's there for.

No, fuck. No.

He's grabbing the knife off the drying rack, and he's almost able to drop it on the floor, but even as the idea's occurring to him, Loki's purpose slams back into his head. Full force, harder than before, like Clint had caught his wandering attention.

If he could just prepare himself for it, he could do something. Make a scene. Run out into traffic. Start yelling. Throw himself off the fire escape. Make it stop. There's no preparing for the lapses, though, no pattern, and they're few and far between. He fights, and he fails every time.

He still tries, though.

---

Please, fuck, stop, he begs, but if Loki hears him, he doesn't give a damn.

Clint's waiting the shadows next to the library's back door when the tumult ceases, suddenly and without warning. The door's opening and the guard's stepping out, and Clint still has the knife in his hand but he doesn't have to use it. He can warn her, give her a moment to react, maybe even get away. He's stepping back, opening his mouth to speak, and he can see her eyes finding him in the shadows.

By the time she's glancing down to the knife in his hand- eyes wide and startled but not even horrified, yet- he's moving forward, grabbing her, and Loki's laughter is a bomb going off as he cuts her throat.

---

Natasha wakes Phil in the morning with a handful of pills and a glass of water, but she promises him coffee if he can get showered and dressed. Something's happened.

"What's going on?"

"I don't know. Fury's called everyone in for a briefing," she says. "And it's happening here." Standing, she crosses the room to frown into the closet. For a horrible moment, she appears to be considering one of Clint's sweatshirts, but opts for one of Phil's work shirts instead. Her face is blank enough that she might not have realized the near mistake. She'd probably merely been contemplating the ease of getting dressed.

"They've got something?"

"Nothing Hill could tell me on the phone, other than that we've got a lead."

---

Phil installs himself in the recliner; it's a slightly awkward angle, but not nearly as awkward as belatedly realizing that only two of the five people balancing mugs and filtering into the living room have any idea that he and Clint are together, though that'll be changing any minute, now.

Stark doesn't say anything when he catches sight of the framed photo on the bookshelf, but he does raise his eyebrows briefly. Rogers keeps staring in confusion at Clint's old circus bow, hanging on the wall. Banner, at least, doesn't seem to notice. He's barely glancing up from his coffee. Thankfully, Fury's not the type for prolonged small talk, and Phil doesn't have to explain anything just yet, though it's bound to come up. Hopefully, he'll manage to finish at least one cup of coffee, first.

"Okay people," Fury says. "Last night, quarter to midnight, Agent Barton was caught on the security cameras at NYPL's main branch."

Rogers frowns. "Why?"

"I've got arc reactors on display at all the branches," Stark announces, and Phil remembers, vaguely, the press briefing he'd seen. "They're functional, but it'll take anyone wanting to replicate them three years to get underneath the coding. Barton grabbed one last night."

"We're gonna have a serious talk regarding the wisdom of leaving very powerful technology where literally anyone can get their hands on it, but, moving on." Fury glances at Phil; it's obvious he's trying to get a read on him, which means that whatever's coming next is going to be horrible. "Barton killed one of the security guards, used her key to gain access to the loading dock and then the main lobby, where he stole the arc reactor that's been on display there. The remaining guard did see him on the video cameras as he was leaving and contacted the police when his partner didn't check in, but Barton was long gone by the time they arrived."

Clint had killed someone. A civilian, someone who hadn't had it coming. The others are looking at him, and though it's possible they're just following Fury's gaze, Phil's not sure how long he can hold up under the scrutiny. For now, he refuses to let it sink in. It's a relief when Rogers finally coughs and turns to Stark.

"Any idea why he stole it?"

"Because arc reactors are fucking awesome." Stark shrugs. There's a vibrating noise, and he's pulling out his phone, continuing as he reads. "All the power you need, highly portable, and chicks dig 'em."

"I still don't get it." Banner's shaking his head. "I mean, say you're a god, got the entire mojo angle taken care of. Why would you even need a battery? Or Barton to get it for you?"

"Because," Phil's startled by the sound of his own voice; it's the first time he's spoken since they'd gotten started. "Whatever he's got planned is at least as big as last time."

"Actually, it's twice as big," Stark rolls his eyes, then holds up his phone. "The SIBL on 34th and 188th just reported that theirs was stolen, too."

Banner sets his mug down. "If one arc reactor's not enough, what are the odds that merely doubling it will be?"

It's a good point, given the fact that there are literally dozens out there. "Contact your people," he tells Stark, without missing a beat; Stark's already typing out a message on his phone. "Have them gather up the remaining ones and get them somewhere safe."

Natasha frowns. "Is that the best play? We could use them as bait, try luring Barton towards them."

"It's better bait if it's all in one place," Rogers says.

Phil knows where this is going, but someone has to say it. "So what's the plan if he takes it?" He's careful to keep his tone even and ignores Natasha's sympathetic glance; he's pretty sure he's missed objectivity by miles.

"We stop Barton, bring him in, find out what he knows, and use it to stop Loki."

"Ah, yeah. We tried that, remember?" Stark, for one, is unimpressed.

Fury's glare is withering. "Then don't drop the ball, this time."

---

The others are already downstairs, but Natasha's stayed behind to force some toast and juice down his throat and load the dishwasher; she'll catch up with them on the road. "You sure you want to be listening in?"

"I'm sure I don't, but I want to not hear even less," Phil checks the booster again, palms his earbud and stands up. He wants to be done with this, already, but it's unlikely anyone else is even online yet.

It's the impatience that's making his skin crawl, tells himself as much, but he knows it's less to do with waiting and more to do with what he's waiting for.

She finishes loading the dishwasher and shuts the door. The noise, when it starts it's cycle, is strangely normal and doesn't jive at all with the thoughts in Phil's head. He realizes he's zoned out on the sound only when Natasha steps towards him, the concern written on her face; he dreads what she's seeing on his.

"Hey," she says, ducking into his line of sight. It's not concern, he realizes, and it might be fear. "Try not to worry, okay?"

"Natasha-" he doesn't know how he's supposed to say it without begging. "Just-"

Her arms are thin, winding underneath his own, and she's careful when she hugs him, tilting her chin up to clear his shoulder. "It's going to be all right. I'll make sure of it."

"I know." He feels like an idiot, but whether it's because she's actually thinking that she needs to say it out loud, or merely because she's trying to make him feel better- or the fact that he's holding onto her like she's all that's keeping him breathing- is anybody's guess. "It's just. Clint, you know?"

"I know." She nods; her hair brushes against the side of his face, catching on his stubble, but when she pulls back, there's not a strand out of place, but her expression is working its way back to neutral, though it hasn't reached her eyes yet. If it were up to him, she wouldn't be going out in the field like this. They both know how badly this could go. She's going to be the one following orders that aren't his, and he's going to here, just listening. It's the helicarrier all over again.

"Be careful out there, okay?" She's already nodding, but she's missing the point, though it's one he dreads making. "No, I mean it. If it comes down to it-" finding the right words is impossible. He casts out for an approximation, and hates himself for finding one. "Do what you have to do to stay alive. Don't let the fact that it's-" he can't say Clint's name right now. He just can't. "-him get in the way of your judgement."

She blinks, only once, and if she doesn't survive this too, Phil's probably going to wind up in a locked ward. "Is that an order?"

If it is, it's the only one he's going to have the opportunity to give. "Yes. It is."

---

Phil lies on his bed, eyes closed, and listens.

"You think Loki's just trying to get our attention?" He can't see the expression on Banner's face, but he can guess at it.

Rogers replies, and Phil's finally able to identify where the wind noise he's been hearing is coming from; he'd ridden his motorcycle this morning. "Seems little low profile for the likes of him."

"Loki doesn't give a damn what happens here, unless it's part of something larger."

"We should've kept him here,"
Stark points out.

"You sayin' you've got a clue where we could hold him?"

"No, Dread Pirate Fury, I'm just saying. His entire game was about getting back to Asgard. He went back in chains, yeah, but he's still there, still got what he wanted. There's got to be a reason."

"Think we're about to find out what it is?"
Banner's voice, this time.

Phil can't hear what the response is, but it's probably a round of shrugs. When Stark speaks again, it's to point out that his security teams have already brought in several of the arc reactors and are working their way north.

"Rogers, Romanov, I want you to break off and head north. I've sent Agents to assist from the northwest, you hit City Island, retrieve the device, then start working your way in. Stark's going to keep the map live and updated. The sooner we gather them all in, the better."

"Yes sir,"
Natasha's voice comes on the line, her voice sounding compressed. She's on her bike as well, but at least she's wearing a helmet. "Rogers. Your Harley. My Ducati. Let's settle this."

---

The terms of Loki's imprisonment are actually quite agreeable, and easily maintained. Today, Thor seems irritable, stepping through the shimmering barrier to stand over him. There are no threats, no meandering one-sided conversations. Thankfully, there's no shameful pleading. There's only the inevitable question.

"Will you not speak?"

Loki smirks and shakes his head, again plays the part of the uninspired and unimpressed. Thor's guilt-ridden visits provide a moment's distraction, but the truth in the matter is that Loki has no need of attempted petty conversations. He is, all things considered, quite entertained. But it's better if Thor reads his reluctance as spite. It's a minor, expected challenge of Thor's victory, no more and no less.

"Then in your silence keep," Thor shakes his head in disappointment before stepping back and away. He disappears from view entirely a moment later.

Loki rocks his head back, enough that he could feel the magic of its construction pressing against his skull, were he entirely himself, and closes his eyes.

He needs to rest, now. It's nearly time.


Chapter 8
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