Bitter Sunday prompt: Team Freeloader seeing that Tony Stark doesn't need them when they get back and yet they need him. But he's all out of fucks to give about them.
For some reason I feel like I keep being the hardest on Clint in these bitter posts and showing more understanding/regret/etc from Natasha and Steve, so I figured I’d mix it up and start this one with him. Because I genuinely like all the characters, I’m just very unhappy with some of their choices (and obviously Tony is my favourite and I’m by no means unbiased).
When Clint first gets off the plane back in his birth country he isn’t happy like he’s envisioned himself being for months. He’s dreamed so many times of this moment, but now that it is actually happening, there’s no relief. No excitement.
Only–he’s not sure what’s left or how to call it but it feels empty.
Seeing his family again goes not at all and exactly like he thought it would. Laura slaps him, though she’s crying to hard for it to truly hurt. Unlike when she twists away from him, avoids his touch, because that. That won’t ever not hurt. Lila is smiling at him, a tiny thing, like she’s not supposed to but can’t help herself. She’s clinging to Cooper’s hand, who’s glaring darkly in a not at all encouraging way. And there’s Nathaniel, the son that doesn’t even know him, just pats his mother’s cheek awkwardly in an attempt to stop her tears and–
Clint isn’t ashamed to say he flees. He doesn’t know what to do or say to make this better and he just…takes the easy way out. He moves back into the compound, away from the family he doesn’t quite know, only it’s not the same.
The compound has always been his home away from home, sometimes perhaps more so than it should have been. It’s different now though, hasn’t been the same since their return. At first Clint assumes he’s simply remembering things better than they actually were. With how often he’s been lying in Wakanda’s ridiculously idyllic gardens, dreaming of this place, it’s entirely possible after all.
Besides a lot of the things he notices in the beginning are small, easily forgotten. They just begin to pile up after a while.
Like the way Clint can’t remember the water ever having turned cold on him before–but maybe he’s just never showered long enough? Or the way their fridge ends up being empty more often than not and how their laundry just keeps piling up until Sam snaps and declares Saturday laundry day–and you better be there or else.
Then there is their battle gear. It’s starts with the clothes, which are good quality and the right size. But. They aren’t great quality and they aren’t tailored. And Clint wouldn’t have noticed this a few short years back, but now he does. Now he knows how it could be. Knows that the material doesn’t have to stick to his skin quite as uncomfortable, doesn’t have to limit his mobility just a slightest bit. It goes on with his weapons. The knifes that are decent but not perfectly designed for the kind of throwing he prefers. The arrows that are just arrows, are replaced after every fight but don’t suddenly appear out of thin air–and that is something Clint remembers well, the excitement when he used a new kind of arrow, uncertain of what to expect, the thrill of all the new possibilities once he realises what their purpose is–and he misses it.
The first time they’re out in the field again, they almost get killed. Sam is in the hospital for three weeks, Clint only barely escapes with a broken arm and a concussion. It’s not because they’ve forgotten how to fight, it’s because they’ve made a terrible, idiotic mistake that Clint wants to hit himself for even months later.
Because for some inexplicable reason it hadn’t occurred to any of them that Iron Man wouldn’t join them. (He hadn’t been called on, they later learn, because the threat hadn’t been deemed that dangerous–and it wouldn’t have been, if only they had adjusted their strategy accordingly.)
The training Steve puts them through after that episode is rigorous but nobody dares to complain. And it doesn’t happen again, not on that grade, but Clint is a decent agent, he recognises that their efficiency isn’t what it was. He recognises what–who–is missing.
He finds himself watching Stark on TV sometimes now, during reports of attacks they haven’t been called in to handle–Stark’s not alone, Clint notices, and can’t put his finger on why that bothers him–interviews, even gossip channels. He doesn’t know why. Doesn’t know when he’s stopped hurling insults designed to hurt at the screen, just that he did.
It takes Clint three months to admit to himself that he misses Tony Stark. He doesn’t say it out loud, isn’t sure he ever will. He never asks the others about their thoughts on the billionaire either, though it’s no secret that Steve has been trying to patch things up–and has been insistently rebuffed with a polite distance Clint wouldn’t have believed Stark capable of if he hadn’t witnessed it with his own eyes.
He doesn’t reach out, doesn’t call the man. He could, he supposes, though the thought of having to apologise for some of the things he’s said in anger leaves a stale taste on his tongue. Clint has never been good at apologies. He’s much preferred that silent understanding he used to share with Tony–and maybe that’s part of the problem.
Either way it doesn’t matter because Stark is so far removed from them now, it’s hard to imagine they’ll ever be reunited again. He’s there occasionally, during battles, but they never even hear his voice, it’s always just FRIDAY on the comms. And contrary to Steve Clint can take a fucking hint. He isn’t going to run after the other man, he doesn’t want to.
And if he occasionally finds himself glaring at the TV where Stark and a masked Spiderman exchange jokes in front of the excited reporters, well, it’s not like he’s jealous or something. That would just be stupid.
It takes another thirteen weeks for Clint to admit to himself that the things he misses most about Stark aren’t the nice things he gave them, the money or the way he always seemed to know how to redirect the presses’ attention in a way that benefitted them.
It’s the way Stark used to join him in the kitchen at ass crack in the morning sometimes, hand him a cup of hot chocolate and stare silently into nothingness, just to keep Clint company. It’s the way they used to watch Gilmore Girls together and constantly make references to the show, just to confuse Steve and piss him off. It’s the way Stark nodded off against Clint’s shoulder sometimes, after a particularly exhausting day, like he hadn’t been mind-controlled by a psychotic alien mere weeks ago.
Not that it matters anymore, now.
Staring unblinkingly at his ringing phone showcasing Laura’s number that Clint can’t bring himself to answer, he bitterly wonders to himself if maybe that’s why he was always going to follow Steve’s call at the drop of a hat–because he’s always been better at running rather than staying.
I’m not sure this is what you had in mind but I tried my best. The focus was supposed to be Clint’s friendship with Tony rather than the fallout from the Accords, and then things just got completely out of control *shrug*