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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



"The thing is-" Clint breaks off, swallowing the words he hasn't found yet, eyes darting to the recorder sitting on the desk as he wonders if Dr. Pierce is about to turn around and dash for her notepad because she's decided- and he's seen enough shrinks to know- that this hesitation means something.

"Relax." She doesn't even look over her shoulder. "You're doing fine." When she turns around, she's got two cups of coffee poured from the carafe. The mug's hers, the paper cup, his. It feels deliberate, like a bribe, or a distraction. "Your own words, in your own time."

How about never? For a minute, he just holds the cup, lets it warm his hands.

If he tells her the wrong thing- though it'll probably be the right thing, as far as her word-twisting capabilities go- Loki won't like it. He'll do something horrible, and he'll use Clint to do it.

"Kind of a big question," he plays for time while he tries to figure out what he can get away with. "It's been a rough week, and I've had nothing to do but think."

Her brow quirks; she's too practiced to press.

About what?

Clint sighs. Tries not to look past the sun shining in through the window because outside just feels like another bribe he hasn't earned yet.

"See. There was this deal," he says eventually, still waiting for Loki, who must've sensed what he's about to say already, to interrupt.

When it doesn't happen, he's left wondering what the hell he's supposed to do next. He knows he's not really supposed to be telling stories in here, because shrinks tend to dislike the distancing it offers, but she's nodding like she'll allow it, and anyway, she's just going to have a bunch of too-dead-on questions afterwards. It'll all amount to the same.

"It was back a few years. I was in a tough spot. Backed into a corner by a man with a gun." He'd still been holding his broken bow, stupid piece of crap he hadn't been able to properly maintain since he'd started running, but that wasn't the point of this. "There was a bit of a standoff, and it could've gone differently, but Coulson was the one holding the gun. Brought me in as an asset. I started training. The usual. Physical and psych evals, endless IQ and marksmanship testing. Ah. Firearms. Not. You know." He mimes drawing back and releasing; she's already nodding.

He'd hated the entire process at the time. Firearms, regardless of range, had never really been his thing, but admitting that he'd used all his practice range time to instead fuck around with a bow he'd been using since age 15 doesn't seem like the right way to go.

"Your scores are still the highest the agency's seen," she says, nodding over at the computer sitting on her desk, like he'd been fishing for the compliment.

He shrugs. "I was down there one night, fixing up the stabilizer mount on my bow. I realized- I don't know how long he'd been standing there, but I turned around and Coulson was standing right there. Thought he was gonna give me hell for not practicing with the gear I'd been issued, but... he just asked me why I wasn't."

"What did you tell him?"

"An M9 holds fifteen rounds, you know?" She nodded; it wasn't likely that she hadn't had at least a little training, freakin' obviously. "And an M4 Carbine holds thirty. That's too many. If you only have five or six sticks, no caliber to speak of, then you're going to be a hell of a lot more careful about letting them fly."

He'd been bullshitting, back at the time, and he's pretty sure he's managing it again now. Back when he'd explained it to Phil, he'd had a bowstring to distract himself from looking up. Right now he's got nothing but the coffee to fiddle around with, but it works about the same.

"I asked him if it was going to be a problem. And he said- I'm gonna only get the gist of it, but. 'Arrows make an impression.' Then he said, 'one that might be unwise when it comes to the associates of a target being able to later identify a trigger man.'" He can't help grinning at the memory, and he ducks his head, but she probably sees it anyway. "Like he had a bigger issue with the practicality than the fact I wasn't doing what I'd been ordered to do."

Dr. Pierce looks like she's trying to predict where he's going with all of this; he didn't honestly know himself.

"Then he said that I'd freaked out a few of my fellow trainees. I thought someone had complained, was waiting for him to come down on me for it, kick me out, end the arrangement, but he just shrugged, said 'not yet,' and that there hadn't been any complaints yet. I just stood out."

"Stood out?" Maybe it was the weight he'd placed on the words when he'd said them. Maybe she's just repeating the last ones she's heard.

"Yeah. Said that as long as I kept doing so for the right reasons, we weren't gonna have a problem."

And that, he realizes, is a huge part of the problem. Because he has been standing out, lately, and his reasons?

Definitely not the right ones.

Dr. Pierce skips ahead, and part of him is really getting tired at other people knowing what he's thinking before he does. "You're concerned that you're going to be kicked out?"

"I killed a civilian." He says it out loud before he even means to, but there's no great relief that comes from realizing it and he wonders if there should be. "Back in that alley, during the standoff, it wasn't the first thing we talked about, but it came up pretty damned quick." And Phil had let him lower his weapon, dust himself off, and walk himself out of the alley. He'd brought him in without handcuffs, and at the time, Clint had been too stupid to see it for the risky play that it had been.

"And that's bad enough, what I did. And I hate it. But back then, he... Coulson stuck his neck out for me, you know?"

"Coulson."

She's missing the point entirely.

"You keep calling him Coulson."

"Yeah?" Clint winces. Maybe she hadn't. "It's 'cause we're working. Well, you are. It's a workplace thing."

"It isn't entirely, though, is it?"

It takes him a moment, but he shakes his head. The coffee's not as warm as it had been a minute ago. All you need to do to know how right a shrink is, he figures, is pay attention to how badly you don't want to hear their questions.

He hadn't wanted to hear Loki, either, but right now, anything that fucker could come up with would be better than hearing her finish the thought. The professional thing is the personal thing, and it doesn't leave him with much of anything else.

But there's nobody forcing his hand, here. Loki doesn't come laughing into his head.

It's almost a disappointment.

---

She'd talked about trust and she'd talked about returning to normal and he'd managed to only barely wince when she'd started in about healing, but he'd been so annoyed and worn out by the end of their session that he thinks he's missed something.

They're letting him eat out in public- well, in a cafeteria that's more heavily armed and guarded than he remembers it being- for the first time since he'd been brought in. Even though they hadn't been in the room when she'd mentioned it, he doesn't know if Dr. Pierce's orders to do so had been meant for him, or for his chaperones.

He's more or less cornered by the windows, with Vaughn and Jacobs watching-while-not-watching him from the next table over as he tries to down his sandwich. It's just turkey, nothing special, but concentrating on the taste and the texture is the best move he can come up with right now, because otherwise, he'd be tempted to keep listing more reasons why this was a terrible idea.

The glass is double glazed, at least, but they're only three stories up. They've got him hemmed in from the left, but he could make it over the table and at least twenty feet before they even found theirs. On top of that, he knows without having had to look that there's cream and sugar in Jacobs' coffee, or that Vaughn drink his black. And while that's all he might know about their taste preferences, he knows everything that's important about them, in a situation like this.

He'd been working with them for years. Probably logged in three hundred hours hand-to-hand training with Vaughn alone. The guy's good, but he's got crappy reach; all Clint needs to do is stay out of close quarters. Jacobs is a bit more problematic; prone to launching himself at an opponent like he thinks he's got superpowers. If he does, it's classified so far above Clint's pay grade that it doesn't bear contemplation, but if Clint wants to get around him, he has to be gone before Jacobs even notices he's moved.

It's totally normal, he tells himself, to be thinking along these lines. They've all got their roles: they're the guards, he's the prisoner, and they've all had the same training. Either of them were in his position, they'd be thinking how to neutralize him, too.

But they're on his side, and just thinking about it feels like he's leaking vital intel to the enemy.

But still- again- nothing happens. Because either Loki doesn't care what Clint's doing, or he just doesn't care what he's doing right now. And yeah, looking down at the picked over remains of his sandwich, or contemplating the awkward walk back to his cell in the infirmary, it's hard to imagine that there's any reason for Loki to waste his time with the likes of him, anyway.

---

Thor's first thought, upon reaching Midgard, was that the situation had grown more dire than he'd predicted.

He's yet to be given a reason to think past it.

He tries all the names he knows. Tony Stark. Man of Iron. He tries breaking them down the way the Midgardians do when they're better acquainted than the two of them are, but there's nobody else here to notice his assumption; nobody is here to correct him when he tries. "Stark. Please... Tony!"

It doesn't work, and his armor isn't any closer to revealing a catch. He cannot even retract the face-plate to see if he still lives. He's fairly certain they'd met in the air while crashing down to the ground. He would have been alive at the time.

Glancing up, Thor can see the trucks heading across the desert floor towards him, and while familiar, it's no comforting sight. They're moving in to surround him, their weapons at the ready.

Which is only right, as he is the enemy, here, but it's no vanquished enemy he's kneeling over, and he doubts that the armaments being aimed in his direction will allow him the opportunity to explain himself.

He should be ashamed. He'd been expecting a battlefield when he'd arrived, here. And he's found one.

And his only ally has yet to move.

---

Natasha glares at him as he flags Agent Porter's jeep down and clambers inside, but she's got her orders; she jumps in behind him. He's ordered everyone to hold back down at the crash site, but it's anyone's guess how long before someone spooks.

"You're supposed to wait in the jet," she leans forward to say, but she's smirking, and Porter's already veering in a long arc towards the- towards them. Even if he could be heard over the wind and the engine, he doesn't think he needs to explain himself. She might even understand already.

It's the wrong time to be thinking about mythology, but as the jeep bounces over the hard-packed dirt, he's looking at the trucks and soldiers surrounding the two downed men and trying to remember a story he hadn't thought of since he was a kid. Something about the glint of a sword as a soldier killed a snake, which had broken the unsteady truce that could've been had. The enemy had seen it from across the battlefield, and taken it as a signal. They'd attacked.

Phil can't remember who the soldiers were, but the feeling that this was the same exact situation grows as they approach the circled trucks, and SHIELD doesn't have the best track record handling Stark, let alone Thor. He doesn't need the distraction right now, and he's damned if he's going to let someone else inadvertently strike at any snakes.

He activates his comms unit and mutters Fury's name.

It's only two seconds before the connection is made.

"Agent Coulson, report."

"Thor showed up, crashed into Stark on his way down. Stark's not moving, Thor's checking him out, and I'm worried that Thor might misread all the attention. That's all we know at the moment. Do you have visual up and running?"

"I see you."

"We've got response on site and I'm heading over for closer situational determination."

"Hang on," Fury says, and Phil's earpiece clicks to indicate the connection with an open channel."

"All Agents. This is Director Fury, and I'm ordering you not to approach Thor or Iron Man. I want you to open a path for Coulson's approach, and keep it open for Medical Response. Any of you spook Thor right now, you'd better have a damned good reason. We've got you on visual."

Whether the threat's needed, Phil doesn't know, but two of the trucks are pulling aside as the jeep draws near, and Thor's latched onto the motion, eyes fixed on them as they come to a stop some ten yards out. With a glance at Natasha- hold your position- he slowly opens the door.

He hasn't let go of the handle yet, when he sees Mjolnir dragging slowly across the ground towards Thor's outstretched hand. He's seen it move faster, but not with that look on Thor's face.

King Arthur, he realizes. He'd been warned about the unsheathing of swords, and thankfully, the only armed person that's twitching at all is standing thirty yards behind Thor.

He'd never wondered if all the stories about King Arthur were true. Not until now. Once they get past this, he decides, because it implies that they're going to, he might even ask.

"Thor!" His voice doesn't carry as well as he'd like it to, but he can't quite muster the breath. "Do you remember me?"

It takes a minute, and it's the slumping of shoulders that answers before Thor manages to speak.

"Son of Coul."

That'll never not be weird.

"Good." Phil starts moving forward, slowly. "I need you to listen to me. Is Stark injured?" There's no hesitation before the answering nod. "Okay. We need to get him some help, but I don't want the medics to startle you. All this, the guns and trucks, they're not here for you. Do you trust me?"

Thor hefts Mjolnir, adjusting his grip, and it almost looks like a threat, but he's just rising to his feet. There are answering shifts on the perimeter, though, that don't bode well. There's something Phil's missed, here, and his momentary distraction's about to bite him in the ass.

"I do know you, Phil Coulson," Thor's eyes narrow, and suddenly, his grip on Mjolnir definitely looks like a threat. "And I mourned your death truly."

---

Chapter 13

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