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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.
A/N: 6 months later, Jen finally gets her act together...sorry for the massive delay! It's not abandoned- I just got caught up with writing deadlines, school and work. It's mapped out through the end, however, and will be finished, I swear! Thanks for bearing with me.

Previous Chapters (you'll probably need them): DW // LJ // AO3



"Do you think Barton's ready?"

Nick's asked that same question three times, today.

"He feels like he needs to regain his footing, if not with you, or with everyone else, then with himself," Dr. Pierce had said. "Giving him the chance to prove himself will help him much more than merely telling him that everything's okay."

"I just don't know, sir." Phil had been apologetic, but Nick wasn't actually enough of a bastard to force an answer out of him right then, and it wasn't like he couldn't see the conflict of interest coming from a mile off. Phil wouldn't have been able to say yes without spending the rest of the day second-guessing himself, and, knowing Phil, he couldn't have said no without hating himself for doubting his partner.

But the fact of the matter was this: Thor had crashed down- sending Stark to medical in the process- and come face to face with Coulson, who, as far as he'd known, was dead, in the middle of a desert surrounded by SHEILD agents, and yeah. It hadn't been looking good. And that was before Banner had realized that Stark was in trouble. And before Rogers had run off to keep the Hulk clear of the area while Romanoff and Phil tried to talk him down.

It wasn't going so well.

Nick wasn't sure how they'd managed to talk him down, but the fact remained that Thor didn't seem to be in a trusting mood. And he'd locked onto the one thing that nobody was certain they could give him.

"He thinks Coulson's a ghost," Romanoff reported, shouting into her phone. "And that Loki's already started a war here. He's asking about Barton."

"Why?"

"Because he's convinced that since Clint's not with us, he's either working with Loki, or we're hiding something. Coulson's trying to explain it," Romanoff said. "But I don't know how well it's going. Sir? If I may make a recommendation, it might not be the worst idea to get Barton on the line to talk to him."

"You think that will work?"

She didn't answer. And that was when Nick asked his question a third time.

"Do you think Barton's ready?"

"You need him to rally? Give him a reason to," she eventually said, but it was her next words that had any strength behind them. "Failing that, just tick him off."

---

"You done resting yet?"

Barton's glaring at him the moment he steps through the door, and he stands, but his arms are crossed in front of his chest. Defensive but trying to prove otherwise. "Director Fury."

"Tell me, Agent Barton," Nick smirks, because smiling seems too patronizing right now, and he's liking Barton's spark of anger. It's the best confirmation of everything Dr. Pierce had said about him. Glaring like that, he looks ready. Ready enough, anyway. "How do you feel about getting out of here?"

"That depends on you, doesn't it?" He's not giving anything away, but Nick hadn't been expecting him to. "Your call. Sir."

"Thor's, actually. He requested your presence down in New Mexico."

At this, Barton's eyes narrow. He believes what he's hearing, he just doesn't trust it. It takes him a long time to speak, and when he does, he only takes half a step forward. Scowls at the walls instead of looking back at him. "So let me get this straight. I'm a security risk. I've been locked up here for days. I've proven to be enough of a risk that Tasha was benched 'cause of me. And now you're just gonna let me off the leash because Loki's brother, who might as well be from Mars, says it's okay?"

"In case you haven't noticed, Agent Romanoff is currently out handling your handler." The fact that Nick's taking her advice- that a pissed-off Barton is a functional Barton- rather than Phil's recommendation to ease him into it, doesn't need to be highlighted here. "I'm giving you the chance because Dr. Pierce says it's okay, but also? Because Thor most adamantly does not. He wants a closer look."

"And if Pierce is wrong?"

"Then Thor's exactly the person we want in the room when we find that out."

---

As soon as he lands, having ignored the stares of his escort-guards for the entire flight, he waits for the quinjet to power down and the door to open. When the lock finally gives, he's blasted with a gust of hot, dusty air, and Phil's face smiling back at him.

"How was the flight?"

It's been a long time since he's seen Phil in natural light. Too long.

"Good." Later, he might mention that the three escorts he'd had with him had been terrible at masking their surveillance, but it's not worth mentioning now. Stepping down onto the ground, he and Phil immediately fall into step. "How's it going here?"

"Natasha and Rogers are with him," Phil says, pointing ahead to the Secondary Mobile Operational Control Center For the Love Of God Don't Call It A Damned Trailer. "Got him up to speed, but he wants to see you before he tells us what he's doing here."

"Why's that?" He's regretting the question before he's even done asking it.

The corner of Phil's mouth tightens, a mild grimace. You know why. It's a stupid little thing, but ever since he'd gotten on the plane he'd been able to convince himself that things were heading back to normal.

He'd managed to forget, for a while. But now he can't help but scanning, as they walk towards the trailer, to check the placement of the agents watching them. Agent Weston's probably got her sniper rifle trained on the door, but there's no point turning to look for her. He and Natasha had trained her well.

"Here," Phil's hand brushes his own, and it takes him a moment to realize he's being passed an earpiece. "Keep this on." The contact could last a bit longer, if it were up to him, but Phil's stopping short of the doorway.

"You're not coming in?"

Phil taps his ear, reminding him that he has yet to actually insert his earpiece. "I'll be listening. Watching too."

Screwing it into place, he's entering the SMOCC sooner than he's ready for. The last time he'd been in here, they'd managed to fit thirty agents into the windowless conference room and it hadn't seemed as crowded as this. As if receiving a signal they've been waiting for, Natasha and Rogers are standing the moment he arrives. Rogers claps him on the shoulder as he passes by him, Natasha just ducks her head and nods, her eyes never leaving his. Encouragement, of a sort.

In the second it takes him to see past the red of Thor's cloak, but with one look at Thor's face, he knows without question that Thor's seeing something in him that everyone else, so far, has missed.

"Thor," he wishes he didn't sound so goddamned wary. He hasn't even taken two steps inside the room, yet. "Good to see you."

"And you as well," Thor replies. The puzzlement makes him sound strangely casual, even if his words aren't. It's not until Thor's glancing between his face and the empty chairs next to them that it occurs to Clint that he's not the only one completely confused by this meeting.

"So," he ventures, pulling out the nearest chair and sitting down slowly. "Word is you wanted to see me."

"Yes, this is true... My apologies. I thought that Agent Coulson would be joining us?"

This is getting off to a wonderful start. Clint shrugs, having no idea what he's supposed to say in response.

"Think he just wanted to give us some distraction-free face time."

Thor nods, mulling it over. "His, I must admit, was not a face that I had expected to encounter upon my arrival."

"I guess not," Clint shrugs.

"Nor was I expecting to see Loki's mark upon yours."

He really should've been ready for this. "You can tell?" It takes all his effort not to bring his hands up to his face, to try to rub off whatever Thor's seeing there to make him squint like this. It's strange to think that there'd be anything wrong with his vision, him being a god and all, but then it hits Clint all over again. The observation and outright confusion. The suspicion. He's getting really sick of it.

Ignoring Phil's orders, and all of his better judgement- funny how intertwined the two are- he yanks out his earpiece and just begins to talk.

"From the beginning," he says, when it becomes obvious that Thor doesn't know where to start, either. "Here's what I know. First, they told us Phil. Coulson had died. Then, they told us he was going to be fine. And then the infections set in and none of their words meant anything any more. It took a while before they told us that he'd pulled through. And believe me when I say that those days sucked more for me than for anyone. I don't know if you consider him an ally or a friend, but I do."

More than a friend, he almost says, and Christ, he's on the verge of saying way too much. It's not relevant. Thor nods for him to continue. "And that wasn't the worst of it, 'cause your brother? Adopted brother, or whatever? He came back and fucked with that. Turns out, once he's gotten his hands on you... you don't have to be blue for him to take you over."

Thor stares at him for a long moment, and Clint doesn't mean to, but he goes absolutely still when Thor stands and comes around the table.

"No," he eventually says, and there's fresh worry there that Clint doesn't know what to do with, crouching in front of him like this. "Loki does not." Thor's face is merely inches away, and he's searching Clint's eyes for something. An answer, maybe something every goddamned scanner at SHIELD's disposal hadn't spotted.

Strong hands frame his face, force him to not look away, and Clint can't breathe; he's waiting for the laughter in his head to start up again, for Loki to shove him aside, take over completely again and make him watch. It doesn't even occur to him to fear the man staring back at him.

"You bear his mark," Thor drops his hands in frustration and looks up at the walls surrounding them as if noticing them for the first time. There's no telling if he sees the cameras or cares about them. "But it is bound to nothing. The connection has been severed."

"For now?"

"For now," Thor nods, only it's not what he's supposed to say, because it means that Loki can come back in whenever the fuck he wants just to-

"Why?" It takes a while to work up the nerve to ask even that much, and he doesn't really want the answer, not yet. He remembers the chatter he'd only half listened to on the flight in. "From what we can tell, it looks like he also took over Erik Selvig."

"It is possible. Have you spoken to Selvig?"

"No," Clint says. Highlighting his reasons for being out of the loop is unappealing at best. "I don't know where he is."

"My brother has, on occasion, taken the form of others. Once, he became a salmon." Thor grimaces, rolls his eyes, and it's a shame that Clint's forgotten it for so long, but he's finally remembering, when he catches himself returning the grin, that he likes Thor.

"A salmon?"

"He has the means, and I'm sure he had his reasons," Thor shrugs, then sobers, and it feels like whiplash. "Though then, as now, I am lost as to what they are."

Thor stands again, looking pointedly up at the corner of the room, and yeah, there's the camera.

Given the chance to think about it, Clint realizes that something Thor's said isn't making sense. He backtracks over their conversation. "Hold up. You said that he's taken the form of others. Salmon included. What about just taking over others?"

"I have reason to believe..." Thor shakes his head, looks back up at the camera with eyes that have gone too wide for comfort. "It is best, perhaps, that I only explain this once."

Even though there are microphones built into the camera, it's enough impetus for Clint to screw his earpiece back into place.

"Coulson," he says, glances up at Thor and pretending not to notice his expression. Whatever's going on, it's enough to freak out a god. "You might want to come in here." TBC...
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