by House of Ares
Warnings: EVERYTHING. D/s, electricity, dubcon, violence, restraints, psychological nudity, panic attacks, D/s, noncon flashbacks, intervention and non-consensual medicating, humiliation, Tony Snark, alternative methods of psychological rehabilitation, and other minor things.
Despite all that, it’s pretty feel-good, if you can imagine.
It takes a couple of months.
Coulson is released from medical, his stitches out, although the scar is still fresh and there are numb places on his chest where the nerves were cut. He’s back to work, living in the tower with the rest of them.
There have not, thank God, been any more Chitauri or aliens or anything requiring more than a minimal SHIELD presence. Rogers has become domestic – grocery shopping, watching movies, reading Wikipedia, catching up on 70 years of history. Banner and Stark work in the lab. Natasha does what Natasha does, which is largely side-work and assassin jobs.
Barton has become a snippy recluse; he’s in the ductwork as often as he’s in the indoor range. Coulson has looked for him in the middle of the night, hoping to catch the archer sleeping. But he’s never in his bed; one of the pillows disappeared weeks ago, and Coulson knows he’s somewhere in the building, but there’s no finding him without more exertion than he can handle at this point.
Barton has become withdrawn when he even deigns to show up; he drinks coffee sometimes when everyone else is gone. Coulson can tell, when there’s a new pot brewing even when Barton isn’t in evidence. He snaps at the others when they catch him at the range and bring him up to dinner, and he even shook Banner’s hand off his arm with a snarl when the scientist asked what was wrong.
It hurts to watch his asset in pain, but Coulson’s not sure he’s up to the task of fixing it.
He finds Barton at the range, no shooting glove and no armguard, firing arrow after arrow into the pop-up targets. His forearm is swollen and bruising already -
(Agent Barton, there are at least six people who will help you with your form so you don’t even need an armguard, you’re damaging SHIELD property)
but he’s self-taught and what he does puts arrows in targets, and he’s too damned proud to change now.
Barton ignores him, although Coulson knows that he knows he’s here, and keeps shooting. His fingers have to be a mess of blisters.
When Barton puts the bow down to retrieve the arrows, Coulson moves, trusting.
“Agent Barton! Get over here, now!”
Barton growls and doesn’t pause, doesn’t look back at him.
Coulson strides up behind him and grabs his hands, yanking them back and cuffing them in a practiced move.
It’s so unexpected that Barton doesn’t even get it, doesn’t fight, until the second one clicks shut, and then he twists, trying to yank free, trying to bite, and Coulson steps behind him and jerks the chain down.
It brings Barton to his knees, and when Coulson steps around to look at him, the archer is livid with rage.
“What the fuck, Coulson? You cuffed me? Let me go! I’m training!”
“You’re killing yourself, Agent, and I want to know why.”
Barton gets to his feet and glares.
“None of your fucking business,” he spits, teeth bared and glaring. “You don’t fucking understand anyway.”
“Try me,” he says, gently.
Barton looks like a trapped animal, panting with rage.
“Fuck you,” he snarls, and thrashes in the cuffs.
Coulson takes a deep breath.
“Agent, USASOC was awhile ago, and I was there for a minute. But if you think I’ve forgotten how to discipline a disrespectful soldier, you’re very wrong.”
“I’m not your fucking soldier! Fuck you!”
Coulson unbuckles his belt and tugs it through the loops.
“Fucking pervert!” Barton’s walking away now, although the inability to use his arms hinders him.
“Stand down, Agent Barton!”
“Make me,” he roars.
Coulson makes a loop and drops it over Barton’s head, then yanks it downward. Barton goes to his knees again, gasping from the momentary lack of air.
He pulls up on the leather, cinching it tight again, and Barton’s face starts to go red.
“You’re still my soldier, we’re on the same team. And I’m tired of your attitude and your apparent inability to take care of yourself. So help me, Barton, I’ll take you right down to basic-training level. I won’t have you treating your teammates the way you have been.” He lets up on the pressure, and Barton gasps in air.
The fight seems to go out of him, and he hangs his head in the leather loop.
“Yes, sir,” he murmurs. “Sorry.”
Coulson looks at him; this sounds too easy, and he doesn’t trust it, so he rubs a hand up Barton’s neck. There’s no tension there, like he’s going to bolt up and try to attack, and Coulson scratches a little in the soft, bristly hair.
“Good.” He takes the belt off, but leaves the cuffs.
“Come on. You’re sleeping in my spare room.”
Loki calls him out of a dead sleep, and he finds himself kneeling at the god’s feet.
“You know what I want, Hawk,” he purrs, and Clint hates himself, hates what he does – but he wants this. Wants to please Loki; his master’s pleasure is his own, and he creeps forward, noses at the armor and strips it away.
Loki, strangely, wears something like boxers, and Clint pulls him out and bends his head down to suck.
“You’re so good, Hawk,” he says, quietly, and Clint feels the fine-boned fingers in his hair. “It’s so delightfully trashy. Like a human being sucked off by a dog.”
He flushes at the comparison and takes him deeper; he’s a dog, yes, he is nothing compared to the god whose dick he’s worshiping
(you’re better than this, this is sick, this is -)
(this is all i want, forever)
and then Loki shoves him away, roughly, and Clint looks up in shock. There’s almost always warning when Loki’s displeased, and now -
Coulson puts himself back into his boxers, staring at Barton, and realizes he’s not quite awake.
“What were you… why are you in here?” he asks, and Barton just stares up at him, confused, before he starts to shake.
“Oh, God,” Barton chokes, eyes bright. “He’s back, he’s in.”
Coulson can hear him panting.
“He’s in my head,” Barton moans. “He doesn’t have to be in a place…. God, I’m never gonna …”
He watches, stunned, as Barton curls on the floor, arms over his head, the fearless archer Coulson worked with for years turned into the picture of terror.
“Get it out, get it out, get it out,” he pants, a litany of pleading, and then he’s on his feet and advancing on Coulson with eyes devoid of any rationality at all, arm cocked back as if to strike.
Coulson’s been there; he knows a panic attack when he sees one.
He cold-cocks Barton and drops him in a heap.
Barton comes around slowly, moving only a little in the bed. Coulson’s awake – sleepy, but awake – keeping an eye on him.
There’s a confused blink.
Coulson pats his forearm.
“You had a panic attack. I gave you some of my Xanax.”
“Ohh.” Barton rubs his face like it’s staticky.
“Ohh,” he mutters again. “Where am I?”
“The spare bed. Stay here.”
He brings a glass of vodka and water – it’s not good to mix Xanax and alcohol, but it’s the next best thing to sodium thiopental he can get his hands on at the moment.
“Drink this,” he says.
Barton sits up a little and holds it to his head before doing so, and Coulson sits beside him and waits.
“Tell me what he did to you,” he says quietly, a few moments later.
Barton tells him everything.
“I need it,” Barton says. Coulson believes him.
Freedom is a curse.
The next morning, Coulson calls a psychiatrist – not one from SHIELD – and books the whole morning.
“Um,” he starts lamely, and she nods and smiles.
“I was in an abusive relationship for a long time. Emotional. Psychological.” He clears his throat. “Sexual. I…want to go back and reclaim that, but with someone….better for me,” he says, and he can’t keep the flush from his face.
“That’s not healthy,” she says. “After being in that situation, you may not know what better really is.”
“Yeah. But I don’t want to be coming here every week. And I don’t want medication.”
They talk for forty-five minutes, about his needs and ‘healthy relationships’ and finally she stops.
“This isn’t about you, is it?”
He forces a mild smile.
“No. It isn’t.”
“I’ve had a lot of patients tell me about ‘a friend’ who needs help. I’ve never had someone come for help for an actual acquaintance.”
“He’s more than an acquaintance.”
“So… you want to be the one who walks him through it?”
“No. But I’ll do it.”
She nods and pulls out a book and leans over the table with it.
“Here’s where you might want to start.”
“You’re a good man, Phil,” she says when they’re done.
He blows out a little chuckle.
“And I bet your name’s not Phil, is it?”
“No. It isn’t.”
When he returns at three in the afternoon, Barton is sitting at the table, drinking coffee. His eyes are red and empty, and Coulson puts the bag down on the couch.
“Come here,” he says.
Barton doesn’t even look at him.
“Now,” he says, putting some real heat behind it, and Barton puts his mug down and comes over, shoulders slumped.
Coulson pushes him to his knees; it’s so goddamned awkward, but if this is what Barton needs, he’ll do his damnedest.
Barton just stays there, still as a statue, until Coulson wraps the leather collar around his neck.
“I was going to have them strike a name into it,” he says. “But I didn’t want it to be the name Loki used.”
“It’s up to you,” Barton says softly, head down.
“And I choose not to set you off,” he says, sliding a finger under the collar to check the fit. “I’ll put a name on it soon, maybe.”
“Mr. Stark requested I inform you, there is pizza here, and the breadsticks that you favor, Agent Coulson.”
“Thank you, JARVIS.”
This is the calmest he’s seen Barton in ages, it seems. Maybe ever. This is as natural a state for him as full draw, and Coulson tips his face up by the chin.
“We’re going upstairs for pizza,” he says, and there’s a flicker of concern across Barton’s face. “Don’t worry. I’ll deal with the questions. You deal with greasy bread and cheese and pepperoni. Go put on that blue tank top and those black cargo shorts you have.”
It’s a stupid request; he doesn’t give a shit what Barton wears. But it makes the relaxation stick as he nods and goes to change.
He pulls Rogers into the kitchen as soon as Barton is parked on the couch with a plate of pizza and watching True Romance with Thor. The god ignores the collar and hardly speaks to Barton anyway, unwilling to piss him off.
“This is going to look unspeakably cruel, Rogers,” he says.
Steve frowns that always-serious frown he has.
“You know he had issues even before Loki. Abandonment, authority… this isn’t something he’s just going to bounce back from. I’m going to try to get him back to normal, so he doesn’t need it, but it’s going to take awhile. I just … need everyone to be on board and back up my authority. You’re the squad leader, so.”
Rogers almost looks pained.
“Are you going to hurt him?”
“Yes. Probably badly. But nothing that’s going to do damage.”
Rogers looks unconvinced.
“You shouldn’t be hurting him -”
“If you could get Bucky back, even if the process hurt him terribly, would you do it?”
That shot found its mark, and Rogers nods.
“Whatever he wears or does, I don’t need anyone giving him shit. If he shows up in a tutu, everyone acts like it’s business as usual.”
Rogers sketches a salute.
It’s too late.
Tony’s appraising the collar and turns to Coulson.
“JARVIS said you didn’t want to be disturbed, but I didn’t realize you were getting your kink on with Barton,” he says. It’s not unfriendly, just flippant as usual, but Barton’s got a look like he’s going to gut Tony with his teeth. “Nice collar, although I prefer the ones with spi–“
“Stand down, Barton,” Coulson says, although it’s useless.
He jams the TASER into the back of Barton’s neck just before he gets to Tony. Barton goes rigid and Coulson gets an arm around him, lowers him to the couch before he lets up on the trigger.
“What the fuck,” Stark says, and even Thor looks stunned.
“Thor. Stark. Come in the kitchen,” Rogers says.
“Was that about right?”
“God,” Barton mutters. “Yeah. Just like it.” He draws a ragged breath. “Stark sounded pissed.”
“Don’t worry about them. I’ll deal with them.”
The other three return a couple of minutes later, Tony bearing another slice of pizza for Barton, and it’s like nothing ever happened. Even Coulson’s able to get into the movie a little, and Barton sits on the floor at his feet, one arm slung over Coulson’s knee as he puts away pizza.
“This stays on unless I take it off,” he says, unbuckling the collar. “The only exception is on missions. You get a call, you take this off and stash it somewhere. I don’t want you having an easy handle on your neck.”
Barton nods, and Coulson lets him stand up.
“Go shower, and report back when you’re done.”
It’s ridiculously easy, and he suspects it won’t stay this way for long. Barton will chafe under the attention after awhile, but he’d be stupid not to enjoy the honeymoon period.
He puts the collar back on when Barton’s clean, then walks him into the guest room and fastens the chain around the bedframe, then clips it to the leather.
“No getting up in the ductwork anymore,” he says, and Clint looks at him like Coulson just killed his puppy.
“It’s a privelege you can earn back,” he says evenly. “Lie down.”
“I don’t…” Barton looks terrified.
“I’m not going to touch you. Lie down.”
He gets on the bed, badly shaken, and eases down, watching Coulson.
“We talked about this, remember? I’m not going to touch you that way.”
He’s flushed even talking about it, the fact that Barton really thinks he might do that. He sits slowly on the edge of the bed, watching Clint carefully, noticing the near-panic. After a moment, he strokes still-damp hair; that’s not threatening, and he has known for years that Barton likes having his head rubbed when he’s sick or injured.
What he doesn’t expect is the way Barton crawls into his lap, wraps arms around him, and falls immediately asleep.
When they go up for coffee in the morning, Coulson realizes he forgot the TASER, and lets Barton stay while he goes back, since no one appears to be up.
When he returns, Natasha has appeared, back from Hungary, and is chatting with Barton, who finally seems at ease.
“I like the necklace,” she says, carefully.
“It’s a long story. Maybe Barton will tell you.”
“We’ve discussed it before,” she says, and grins at Clint.
That throws him a bit.
He uses the TASER twice in the afternoon – once when Barton hesitates after being told to clean up the kitchen, and once when he gets snippy at Rogers.
Steve closes his eyes as if the sight physically hurts him, but he acts like Barton being put on his knees and made to apologize is the least-abnormal part of his day. When Coulson lets him up, Rogers even claps him on the shoulder and invites him down to the range for some target practice.
Coulson has been avoiding Banner; the last thing the Tower needs is the scientist seeing a teammate go down in a heap with 50,000 volts pulsing through him.
He pastes on a mild smile when they meet on the elevator.
“You don’t have to worry about me,” he says, clutching a long box to his chest. “Rogers, uh… explained.”
“Good,” he says quietly. “I want to rehabilitate him and let him go …you know, like a hawk.”
“That may not be possible,” Banner says, and Coulson frowns.
“Like hell it isn’t. He’s not that damaged, Banner.”
The door opens, and Banner scuttles over to give Barton the box of arrows.
“I’m sleeping in my own bed tonight,” he says, and grins. “You had me trapped, and I had to piss like a racehorse.”
Barton blinks up at him, surprised, and moves the chain, shifts his shoulder under the pillow.
“Just down the hall. If you need anything, give a shout.”
“Yeah. Yes, sir.”
He should’ve expected it. The clock says 2:14 and Barton’s in his bed, chain and all, curled around him protectively and snoring.
He should get up, put Barton back in his own bed – but he’s too damned comfortable and sleepy, and he reaches up and opens the carabiner on the chain, lets it fall to the floor. Barton shifts against him, and sighs in his sleep, and Coulson can’t help but smile.
Coulson steps up to Loki and sends him sprawling; Clint can’t see what he used from his position on his knees. He wants to get up and defend Coulson, but he’s been told to sit, stay, and he’s frozen to the ground.
Coulson’s nose is bleeding, but for the first time, really, Clint can see that the man was in Special Forces for a reason. Loki has been somehow stripped of some of his magic, and it’s an old-fashioned brawl.
“Why are you stealing that sniveling cur?” Loki shouts, and the grin on Coulson’s face is terrifying.
Coulson sleeps on.
He crosses his ankles and props them on Barton’s shoulder. It’s too high, really, but the point isn’t comfort.
“I wanted to watch the game too.”
“You can listen. Give me the peanuts.”
Barton gives him the dish and settles a little.
“Also the Coke.”
He has to tip a little to get it, and Coulson’s sock feet slide against his neck.
“Sorry,” he murmurs, and Coulson ignores him, watching the Mets.
It only takes forty minutes for him to start fidgeting.
“Hold still, Barton.”
“My knees hurt.”
“Furniture doesn’t whine.”
“Fuck you, I’m not furniture! I -”
Coulson shoves the TASER against the back of his neck and Barton stiffens and tips over, not even able to groan in pain.
He leaves it there only for two seconds, then releases and straddles Barton on his knees.
Barton’s got his head to the side, throat bared, and Coulson frowns. He’s done that every time he gets hit with the prongs – limp and utterly submitting. Three times is definitely a pattern.
“Good. Get up and try it again.”
He gives Barton a folded blanket to kneel on – he doesn’t want to wreck his knees any more than they are already – and Barton is contrite.
“I’m sorry I fidgeted.”
“You’re forgiven, Clint.”
He’s just gotten back into the game when Barton moves one ankle to his other shoulder, so he’s got one on each.
“If anyone comes in here, that looks bad,” Coulson points out.
Barton creeps closer, until Coulson’s knees bend and his calves rest on back.
He’s confused. He’d never ask Barton to -
“What are you doing?”
The look in Barton’s eyes makes his stomach flop. He’s so fucking demure, pupils blown and still looking like he expects to be shocked again.
“May I, sir?”
“Barton, that’s not what I -”
“I want to.”
Coulson frowns at him, and Barton draws away and averts his eyes. He has to sit up, reach out and touch jaw to get him to look up again.
“If you want to.”
(this is sick, this is not what his agent needs, this has been barton’s terror, this is him, phil coulson, abusing his authority and abusing barton)
He shouldn’t allow it, but he can’t push Barton’s hands away as they open his pants. The archer just kneels there on the blanket and is so gentle it’s disconcerting, those big rough hands touching him.
Coulson’s dick is out and this is not what he should be doing, and he’s about to tell him to stop when Barton lays his head on Coulson’s thigh, eyes closed, and lets out a content sigh.
His fingers find their way into Barton’s shaggy hair and massage little circles.
It kills him, what he does; he’s not into being mean and inflicting pain on anyone but real threats. It hurts him every time he has to grab the TASER or twist two fingers into the collar and yank Barton down.
But this is what Clint needs – what Barton needs, he reminds himself – and no one else on the team has the time or the inclination to do it.
Barton is, at least half the time, the picture of a servant, especially late at night or right after he wakes up. He brings coffee, makes breakfast without hesitation, although he always waits for the order. In the evenings, they watch television and Barton sits on the floor, usually leaning against Coulson’s leg or with one hand braceleting an ankle.
It’s the rest of the day that he loses his mind, unoccupied except for a couple of hours on the range, and Coulson has to stay close to him, making sure he doesn’t try to climb the outside of the Tower or con Thor into driving around in one of Tony’s convertibles so he can practice shooting from it or go to the roof and start shooting pigeons out of the sky, and Coulson longs for night when Barton sleeps like the dead.
Barton needs the control, but if they don’t get a mission soon, he’s going to blow up; this kind of personal attention isn’t good for him. A horse needs a bridle, but if you never take it off, it rubs sores.
That night, Barton makes a smart remark about Coulson being old. The TASER’s at the back of his skull before Coulson even realizes what he’s doing, and when he lowers Clint to the floor, he sees that twist of head again.
“You do that,” he says, and traces a vein. “Why?”
“Submission,” Clint says, panting from the floor. “It took a few times to figure it out. Electricity.”
This time, he doesn’t falter when Clint moves between his thighs and sucks his balls before moving up, even wraps a calf around his back to pull him closer and tips his head back and gives in.
What kills him, this time, is the fact that C- Barton, thanks him and crawls onto the bed and lays his head on Coulson’s hip before he falls asleep.
He’s not queer. Not straight, either. He hasn’t had time for sex, and his hand in the shower has been plenty, although it’s a bit depressing. No commitment, no getting a call in the middle of the night and trying to explain. Just get off and get on with the day, pragmatic.
This is new, this adoration. He worked with Barton plenty before, even shared a bed that time in New Mexico when there was only one motel room to be had.
But this… this is new.
Barton never wants to come, after.
He must jerk off in the shower, and Coulson can’t have that.
“You’re going to shower with me. And you’re not going to touch your dick unless I give permission.”
“Not even to piss?”
“Not even to piss. You’ll ask.”
Barton flushes and frowns and Coulson can tell he’s going to bitch.
“You’re mine. Body, soul. You don’t touch my property without permission.” He twists a finger in the collar, tightens it, and Clint’s head drops.
“Good. Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”
It starts off fine.
Barton washes him, gets that spot between his shoulder blades with a green scratch-pad full of soap, even washes Coulson’s hair.
It’s fine right up until he turns around to see Barton soaping himself, and tells him to knock it off.
“I’m not going to jerk off! What the fuck, Coulson?”
“I told you not to touch.”
“I’m a big boy.”
He can’t use the TASER here and the collar is on the nightstand.
He doesn’t even blink before he sweeps Barton’s foot and wraps elbow around throat, squeezing with his bicep.
Barton flails a little, then goes limp.
“You’ll obey me. I can always make you obey me,” he says calmly, against the shell of ear, before he lets Barton hit the floor.
Barton loses it again after lunch.
“Fuck you! I’m bored, this shit bores me! You haven’t let me go on a single mission in two weeks!”
He pulls out the TASER and Barton crouches, teeth bared into something so animal it’s creepy, paws curled into fists.
“You’re not fit to go on a mission, Barton,” he says evenly. He doesn’t want to shoot the TASER at him; the prongs are hard to control and the key seems to be getting them right at the base of Barton’s skull.
Thor’s so fucking cheerful, Coulson wants to give him an award.
“Fuck off,” Clint pants, still glaring at Coulson.
“Come,” he bellows. “I need a sparring partner.”
Coulson blows out a sigh of relief as Thor drags Barton to the gym. He can’t let the outburst go unpunished, but that will be tonight.
He goes to the gym an hour later.
Barton’s flagging but doing his best; Thor’s just grinning at him. Clint’s lip is dripping blood and his knuckles are red enough Coulson can see them from the window, and Thor hasn’t even broken a sweat.
When he’s rescued from the sparring match, Clint sags against him and follows Coulson wordlessly downstairs to the bed, where Coulson gives him four seconds with the TASER, reminding him about disrespect and disobedience.
He lies there, gasping, throat bared and trusting, and when it’s clear the punishment is over, he pulls Coulson close and sleeps.
Rogers takes him out the next day, for grocery shopping. Coulson considers giving him the TASER, but Rogers wouldn’t use it and Barton getting shocked in the middle of the cereal aisle is the last thing they need.
Also, he wants Clint tamed to his hand, not anyone else’s, but he wouldn’t admit that.
He tells Rogers to use the collar - it’s New York, no one will look twice - and report back when they’re done.
They return with plenty of food; pak choi and fresh bamboo for stir fry, ground beef, a turkey, Tofurkey for Banner, milk and almond milk and bread and bags and bags that Coulson doesn’t even look into.
“Did he behave?”
“A gem,” Rogers says, and smiles.
Barton drops to his knees and licks Coulson’s hand.
He smiles and scratches the angle of Clint’s jaw.
“Go get us some squabs,” he says, although the idea of eating New York pigeon is a more than a little off-putting. Barton needs to contribute, and he’ll choke down a piece of pigeon if it helps.
Barton’s off like an arrow, and Coulson sits at the little breakfast bar as Rogers puts away groceries.
“He behaved? Really?”
“Yes. Except for not shutting up about you.”
“It’s not something I really want to hear about.”
Rogers puts the Tofurkey in the fridge, the rest of the meat into the freezer.
“Sorry. I’ll tell him to keep his mouth shut.”
“It’s just… not something we talked about, when I was growing up.”
“Understood. I’ll tell him.”
“He..” Rogers clears his throat. “He really loves you.”
That pulls him up short, and he grunts out a ‘yeah’ and takes his coffee back to his apartment.
After showers, he should put Clint into the spare bed, but he doesn’t. It’s a bad habit to get into. Tomorrow night, he tells himself, and Clint wraps around him.
He turns in the bed and puts the TASER right where muscles give way to mastoid, although he doesn’t fire.
Clint goes limp and groans softly, and Coulson caresses throat.
“I’d almost think you like that.”
There’s no answer except a small, ragged breath, and he puts the TASER on the nightstand. When he turns back, Clint is hard in his boxers, and Coulson frowns.
“You do like it.”
Barton is flushed and silent until Coulson twists his ear a little.
“Yes, sir. I like it.”
It ends with the prongs against his neck and Coulson with an arm around his chest and a hand on his cock as Clint squirms and begs through his orgasm.
“You’re mine,” he growls, and Clint keens. They don’t even bother to clean up.
Fury calls them out the next day - nothing major, just a small proliferation of lizard-y looking things in the great state of Colorado, who seem to be into digging up a section of pastureland.
Coulson is a little nervous - Barton has been sticking close to him for weeks now, and he’s sure that he’ll be fine, but it still adds another variable.
It’s a relief when Barton goes up the only tree in evidence as soon as Coulson tells him to get up high, and he’s every bit the professional Coulson knows.
“Hold fire,” Coulson tells him, when Thor starts talking to the things. They seem to be having an in-depth conversation, and Coulson can hear the creak of bowstring through the radio.
The head lizard, the one Thor’s All-speaking with, looks frustrated, then angry, as if it’s ready to attack.
“Intimidation, fire for effect,” Coulson says mildly, and three arrows slam into the ground over Thor’s shoulder, neatly boxing the lizard in. It looks conciliatory, and a few minutes later Thor returns.
“They want worms!” he laughs. “A journey through all of Yggdrasil to find worms for their king!”
“That’s it? Worms?” Stark is lying on the grass in the suit, as if this is a hardship. “There’s a place up the road that sells worms.”
Coulson rubs his temples.
“They can have all the worms they want if they’re out of here by 2200. Barton, rally up.”
Of course, they’re not home until nearly 4 a.m., and Clint’s keyed up and silly the way he gets when he’s over-tired.
Rogers looks at Coulson like he expects him to do something about it, but he just smiles mildly and lets Clint go on with his stupid puns and climbing into the Quinjet frame, and Rogers grins.
It’s the first time he’s seen Barton act normal, the way Natasha and Coulson said he used to be before Loki.
Clint crawls to the bed without being invited and puts his head against Coulson’s thigh.
This is how he asks, and Coulson can’t say no.
“Come on up,” he murmurs, and yawns so fiercely his jaw pops. He wants to sleep -
Clint presses the TASER into his hand and he groans.
“You were perfect today,” he mumbles, but he puts the prongs right there, and Clint curls backward, ass against Coulson’s hip and trying to stick the snakebite teeth of the TASER into his neck.
“Please,” he begs, and it doesn’t matter that Coulson never planned to do this, never dreamed when he decided to fix the archer that it would involve impaling him and twisting nipples and having to try to ignore the desperate, begging moans.
When he pushes the TASER away and sinks his teeth into Clint’s muscular neck, the archer goes stiff and shakes and comes without a hand to himself, and Coulson follows a few strokes later.
They’re finally getting somewhere.
Clint sleeps with him every night, although Coulson doles out sex only occasionally, as much as he hates doing so. It’s a reward, a treat, and Clint seems okay with that.
Barton’s doing alright, back to pranking the others and having coffee with Natasha and unerringly spoon-flipping mashed potato down the back of Banner’s shirt when the scientist is engrossed in some Animal Planet thing about dugongs.
He gets into a snark war with Tony that’s getting heated and has ranged into hypothetical mother territory when Coulson tracks him to the lab and puts a stop to it before Tony hits him with a repulsor.
The next call is a group of neo-Nazis in Connecticut, of all places, and Coulson’s staying out of the action, watching the standoff devolve.
It takes a few minutes for him to realize that Clint is strangely silent, up in his nest.
“Barton, comm check.”
“Oh, fuck,” he mutters, and he relays the issue to Tony.
JARVIS tells him Barton’s still in the building, on the ground floor, and although he’s still under medical orders not to, Coulson runs.
It’s nothing – two agile teenagers from the compound with a good aim with rocks. He goes to his knees, wiping blood and they’re both up in the loft behind him.
“Check it out, he’s wearing a puppy collar,” one says, and the other laughs.
“Are you somebody’s bitch?” the other says, mocking, and just as he turns to get up one catches him on the head with a boot, and he doesn’t even care anymore.
Coulson’s relieved when he gets there - it’s nothing, Barton’s got a wound in his temple that’s dripping blood, but Coulson cuffs the two little spawn and drags them outside for Natasha to take care of.
“You didn’t take the collar off,” he says quietly. “I told you, on missions -“
“You weren’t there,” Barton hisses, and the reproach in his eyes is worse than a knife.
“I came as soon as I realized you weren’t on the radio,” he says.
“They were here kicking me.”
“Yeah. I’m sorry.” He gets a couple of Steri-strips from his aid pouch and starts closing the head wound.
“You weren’t here,” Barton repeats, but then he just goes withdrawn and silent, and sits in the Quinjet with Natasha keeping him awake until they’re back home.
He has to coax Clint to sleep in the bed with him, and he doesn’t get the usual human-blanket treatment. Barton’s still quiet, although he knows better than to be sullen about it, and Coulson just rubs his bicep and drifts off.
They know he’s just a dog, a non-super totally mortal piece of shit who will be completely useless when his vision goes and he’ll be back out on the street trying to stay one step ahead of everyone who’s after him.
They know he’s compromised, that Loki can come back into him anytime, and Clint knows it’s not true, Natasha knocked Loki out of him, but it still can happen and Banner always gives him that inscrutable look because he knows Clint can betray them any second.
They all know he’s weak and only here because Coulson likes to fuck him and they’ve probably all heard his slutty moans and Tony, at least, Tony and Banner in the lab, they can see it all because of JARVIS and they give him those looks and they’re mocking him when he’s not around, poor Barton, he’s such a bitch that he gets freaked out and needs a cock in him, and he can tell even Natasha knows and hates him for what he’s become.
It’s irrational, he knows, but he can’t stop it; they’re going to kick him off the team and then what, Coulson will be right there and tell him he’s too unstable, I tried but you’re broken, and maybe he should wake Phil up and ask for a Xanax or three, but if Phil sees him like this it’ll all happen faster.
He stumbles into the bathroom and vomits up the bread with jam that Coulson made him eat and goes shakily back to the bed; he can’t catch his breath and his heart is racing and they hate him, they’re disappointed that he’s faked them out with his badass front when they can all see he’s anything but.
He wakes up, slightly nauseous; it’s 4:31 and Barton is sitting on the bed with his knees drawn up to his chest, shaking, the metallic sweat-scent of panic rolling off him in waves.
“It’s okay,” he says quietly, and puts a hand on Clint’s foot – non-threatening, he doesn’t even have to shift at all.
Barton’s off the bed and in a fighting crouch faster than Coulson’s ever seen him move.
“You left me,” he hisses. “I was hurt and you left me. You promised you’d always be there and you were gone.”
“Clint,” he says softly, and sits up. “I’m not a god. I didn’t know you were hurt.”
“I trusted you and you left me,” he repeats.
This, Coulson thinks, is not the time for the TASER, and he is, actually, out of ideas.
“JARVIS. Call Rogers, please.”
Clint looks terrified at that, and launches himself at Coulson.
He’s got the advantage of adrenaline and panic, and Coulson tries to knee him in the balls, but he shifts just enough that it’s ineffective.
One thing he did not expect is those ungodly-big arms and shoulders pasting a fist into his face over and over, and the pain is bad enough he can’t even put up much of a fight.
Clint is dragged off of him, and Phil opens watery eyes to see Rogers standing there, holding Clint just off the ground by the collar. He’s wheezing and struggling, but Rogers looks unfazed.
“Yeah. Right as rain,” he says, and stumbles to the bathroom, a hand cupped under his nose to catch the blood. He wipes his eyes and shoves tissue up both nostrils and gets the little plastic cup from the medicine cabinet, tearing the seal open as he walks.
“Hold him tight,” he tells Rogers. “Need to get him to drink this.”
Rogers gets Clint in a bear-hug and Coulson pinches his nose and pours the Xanax down his throat as Clint still struggles in the grip, and then he gets the TASER. One good four-second burst leaves Clint panting in Rogers’ arms, limp as a kitten. Coulson has him lay Clint on the bed where he sits beside him, one protective hand on the back of his neck. Rogers stays and watches over them until the Xanax kicks in and Clint’s breathing takes on the steady rhythm of sound sleep.
It is not a good morning.
Phil goes upstairs to get coffee for them both after a few hours, when Barton is still out cold.
With the exception of Rogers, they all stare at the two black eyes and the swollen nose. Coulson smiles mildly at them.
“Son of Coul! Who did this to you, for you were undamaged when we returned!”
“Barton had a panic attack this morning,” he says, and the words are a little mangled by the swelling. “It’s over now, so don’t give him any shit about it.”
“Barton did such a thing? I shall repay him for you at our next sparring!”
“No, Thor. He didn’t know what he was doing, and you are not to mention it to him.”
Banner looks a little green, and Coulson gives him a small smile.
“I’m fine, doc,” he says. “It looks worse than it is. He just had a freak-out, nothing to get upset about.”
The scientist nods. “Yeah.”
Natasha takes the coffee and goes to talk to Barton, and Phil just sits on the couch for awhile, watching Super Nanny and sipping coffee and swapping the ice pack on his nose.
“He ran for you,” Natasha says, and tucks the coffee into his hand. “You know Medical told him no running for at least a year. It could blow his heart.”
Barton’s silent, staring into the cup.
“He didn’t know,” he says, sulkily, and Natasha rubs his neck.
“It took him less than five minutes to notice you weren’t talking,” she says. “We all figured maybe you’d finally realized what noise discipline was. He ran for you, as soon as he realized.”
“He left me,” Barton says, but it’s less convinced this time.
“No. He didn’t leave you, Clint. He risked his life to get to you, patched you up, got you home. He let you pound his face in. His nose is broken.”
“Oh, God,” he mutters. “I didn’t mean -”
“He doesn’t even care. He’s up there watching his stupid reality shows and icing his face and I have never thought anyone could be more patient with you than I am, but he is.”
“Ugh.” He flops back to the bed, completely boneless after the Xanax.
“You should go up there and sit with him.”
“Yeah,” he says. He doesn’t move until she holds out a hand and drags him toward the elevator.
The Advil hardly touches the pain in his face, but it’s better when he can sit there on the couch, Clint drowsing with his head in Coulson’s lap, and just scratch through the bristly hair and sigh contentedly.
“How’s he doing?” Banner asks on his way back – apparently – from the lab; he looks exhausted and he and Tony must be on another of their science marathons.
“Good. He’s still pretty sleepy, but he should come around in a little while.”
Clint sits up then, blinking.
Bruce snorts a little. “Yeah, you look it.”
“Sorry I was a jackass,” he mumbles lamely.
“No worries,” Bruce says, and hesitantly reaches out to squeeze Clint’s shoulder. “You’re with friends.”
Of course Fury would drop in for a visit just as Coulson is going out – and the wreck of his face has just really achieved its full glory and the sunglasses don’t cover it all. Son of Coul! You look like you have made your ancestors proud! Thor had bellowed at him over coffee.
“What the hell happened to you, Agent?”
He smiled at Fury.
“Barton had a nightmare and started somnambulating,” he says easily. “He threw a few punches before I got him to wake up.”
“You’re still supposed to be avoiding excitement, Agent.”
“I’m aware of that, sir. I’m also supposed to be forging a team, which I am doing.”
“Let me see.” He gestures for Coulson to raise the glasses, and Coulson grudgingly does so.
“Ow,” Fury says, and is that a note of sympathy?
“He was pretty horrified when he woke up,” Coulson says. “It’s not an issue.”
“Yeah,” Fury mutters. “I’m here to talk about those lizard things.”
“Thor’s practically buddies with one of them now.”
“Yeah. Agent, whatever it is you’re doing, do it and get back here. I don’t need questions about why a senior SHIELD agent is running around with a broken face.”
Coulson nods smartly and gets into the car.
That evening, after Fury’s gone – he had to sit through more than an hour of Thor’s relation of every word of his conversation with the lizards, and he even helpfully related the story in their own language, right down to the chirring clicks – Coulson takes Clint aside into the empty kitchen and takes the collar out.
“Falconers have a lot of jargon,” he starts, and Clint looks at him, head cocked to the side. “A bird caught as a downy nestling is an eyass. A one-year-old is a passager.”
Coulson shows him the new tooling on the leather.
“A haggard is a hawk captured after it’s grown its adult plumage. They’re an unknown quantity at first, and they already have their bad habits, but they’re more capable and have more problem-solving abilities.”
Clint touches a G and looks at Coulson intently.
“Kneel down,” he says softly, and Clint drops like a rock and puts his forehead against Coulson’s thigh.
He buckles the collar around his throat and turns it so haggard shows up on the back of his neck and stares for a moment, then urges him back up.
“Sorry I hurt you,” Clint murmurs.
“Haggards have bad habits,” he chuckles.
Six months later
Clint wears the collar every moment that they’re not actually out on a mission. The grocery store, going out for coffee, running Central Park. The first time some junior SHIELD agent makes a smart remark about it on the Helicarrier, she’s surrounded by six very displeased Avengers, and she stumbles through an apology.
“You wish you had one,” Clint says, hidden behind his sunglasses, and waves it off. “Apology accepted, keep your mouth shut.”
Coulson hasn’t tased him in front of the team in three months; it’s become something he doesn’t need the threat of every second, anymore. He sticks close to Coulson except when he’s needed elsewhere, and most days, he feels like yeah, he might not be super, but he’s kind of a badass anyway when he needs to be.
Their days are still mostly lying low in the tower and testing new arrows and watching movies with the gang and no one says anything when he lays in Phil’s lap and makes him grunt, because, honestly, he dwarfs Coulson. The others seem to be feeling out their own comforts – Steve often sits beside Tony, and Natasha almost always shares her popcorn with Bruce – and it’s all okay.
“I’m glad to see you’re doing better,” Rogers says one day as they’re restocking the canned grapefruit that Coulson adores, and the refried beans they’re perpetually running out of because Bruce has no patience for cooking and demands “complete proteins” so he eats rice wrapped in tortillas with refried beans.
“I guess so,” he says.
“When he told me what he was going to do, I was going to stop him.”
“Glad you didn’t.”
“Yeah,” Steve says. “Me too.”
On their own floor, the rules change.
Phil lets him fly on missions, but in their apartment, he keeps him leashed and demands complete, unquestioning obedience which galls the hell out of him for the first two hours after every mission, until he’s reeled in and quiet and gets his center back and can just exist again.
Clint discovers that he can cook, as long as he follows the recipes JARVIS gives him, and that Phil is a total sucker for his baked ziti.
He can sit beside the treadmill while Coulson walks, and make sure that he only jogs for three minutes at a time – the medics are cautiously allowing him to build up his fitness regimen again – and yeah, maybe he’s got a bit of a leash on Coulson too.
When he can’t settle and the panic starts to creep in, Coulson’s right there with the TASER, drops him where he stands and brings him back to reality. He’s always so stupidly grateful and turned on that he’ll kneel, still shaking from the shocks, and blow him right there, in the bathroom or on the couch, because no one else has ever understood and done this without judging.
Coulson watches him, and what started out as just a duty has become something he loves – watching Clint draw that last deep breath and half-close his eyes while he’s on his knees, the last second before he finally gives in – makes him feel stronger than Thor.
He doesn’t mind using the TASER, even – it’s so obvious that Clint needs it, and he’d like to hope that eventually they’ll grow out of that, but even if they don’t, it’s alright.
Nights, when they’re both sweaty and spent, he twists his fingers in the collar just to get a soft growl, and listens to his haggard breathe until he falls asleep.