Umm… yes. Mostly because there are not nearly enough Cap/everyone friendship fics out there.
So, without further ado, Steve and Clint becoming friends. If Steve seems a bit clingy or Clint seems to adjust faster, it’s because I see this as Steve wanting to distance himself but can’t (I mean, the guy’s true superpower is getting people to work together!) and Steve’s simple presence helping Clint to recover from being brainwashed. Steve just wants company–I guess part of it is he wants his best friend back, but he’s lost just about everyone and everything that he left his mark on or was even familiar, so he’s kind of starved for affection right now, but doesn’t want to admit it. Even when he’s so alone, he can’t stop offering to help others as well… *sniffle* When did these idiots first waltz in and start ruining my life!? *sigh*
There’s precious little plot to this one, it’s all flow.
Here we go.
The Brother Code
Two weeks after Loki, when they were all back together again for a while, hanging out in Tony’s tower, was when Clint noticed it. Whenever they split up, Steve tended to turn up around where Clint was. The captain never actually talked to him much; he was just there, reading or drawing or sometimes destroying a punching bag in the gym while Clint practiced his marksmanship. When the Avengers were all together in one group, Steve would gravitate toward Clint. It wasn’t as if Steve was doing it deliberately—if anything, Clint thought the captain looked slightly lost whenever Clint would be hanging out alone and suddenly Steve was there too—but it still was odd. And sometimes, when Steve thought he was alone, Clint would notice that the man’s gray eyes were straying around the room, as if he was looking for someone who wasn’t there. However, the feeling of not-being-alone, around someone other than Natasha who wouldn’t judge and wouldn’t even require vocalization of him much, was nice and Clint allowed it to go on.
A week later, they were still training and working together—to be prepared for the next time the world would need saving. Clint went for a jog and met Steve running in the park. It wasn’t planned, but they went running together anyway. Afterwards, they stopped by a corner ice cream shoppe (Clint hadn’t expected Cap to be a butter pecan praline kind of guy), and the girl behind the counter asked, “Are you two brothers?” Clint didn’t have to look at the captain to know that Steve was just as surprised as he was.
“No…” Steve said, still confused.
“We’re coworkers,” Clint put in. The girl smiled and said “That’s nice” and paid no further attention to the two of them. Clint finished his two scoops of pistachio in a waffle cone and threw the cone liner cup away. They headed back to the tower in silence. Not awkward, but thoughtful.
As they mounted the stairs (all six flights) from the office levels up towards the secured levels, Clint asked, “Why have you been hanging around me?” Out of curiosity. Nothing more. Steve looked surprised, unfocused for a moment.
“I guess I have been,” he said, shrugging. “I don’t know.” He shook his head. “I just miss the company, I guess.” Clint suddenly realized the reason.
“Bucky Barnes,” he said. The Captain glanced at him, surprised. “It’s in all the history books. Any American history teacher worth his salt knows that Bucky Barnes and Steve Rogers were closer than brothers. It was what? The day after he died? when you stormed Schmidt’s final base. You haven’t had time to grieve, to get used to being alone, after having a friend like that for so many years.”
“Since before I can remember,” Steve echoed quietly, a human side that Clint hadn’t seen before coming out on top. He scrubbed a hand quickly across his eyes.
“But why me? You could hang around Bruce and he wouldn’t expect you to talk. He’s perfectly comfortable with hanging around someone who is almost-not-there. You could confide in Natasha—wait, not Natasha. Pepper. So why do you keep coming around me?”
“I guess it’s partly because you’re just as messed up as I am,” Steve said quietly, not looking at him. “But mostly I think you just remind me of Bucky, and I used to just… follow him around.” He’s looking for someone who’s not there, Clint thought.
“I’m not him,” Clint said, as gently as he could.
“I know. At least, I know that, intellectually. Something else desperately wants to believe otherwise.” They had reached the elevator by this time, and Steve punched in the security code, then hit the button for the communal floor. “I sometimes want to push people away, but I can’t. It might hurt less, but… sometimes the thing that’s most painful heals fastest.” Steve stared at the closed doors of the elevator. He shuddered, involuntarily. Clint wasn’t sure if he disapproved of the emotions written clearly in the expression and body language. It was nice to see someone who didn’t hide what they thought, but that sort of thing was vulnerability, by design. Claustrophobic. Captain America is claustrophobic. No one knew this before? How could they miss it? And dealing with the emotional mess that is known as post-traumatic stress and grief.
“The SHIELD shrink sucks at his job,” Steve added. Clint snorted back a laugh.
“What, you too?”
“Well, this one, not so much. Ever since I got transferred over to Agent Lonsley, it’s been better. As your team leader, I could recommend that you be transferred as well.”
“No thanks. I’d rather get this over with as soon as I can. I have to deal with this on my own.” Steve turned toward him, gray eyes piercingly sincere.
“Clint, no one is prepared to cope with a traumatized soldier faced with brainwashing by a Norse god, but some people are more qualified than others.” Steve straightened his spine. “As your team leader, I’m recommending you for a transfer. Blackwell is an idiot who thinks that by prodding old wounds he can heal people. I’m not certified as a medic or as a psychologist, but even I know that that’s the worst possible way to try and pull someone out of his shell.”
“Well, thanks, I guess,” Clint said. From what he had seen of Captain America, as well as what Coulson had told him, he had absolutely no chance of changing the Captain’s mind. Stubborn as an Iowa mule, Coulson had teased him, referring to his birthplace.
Oh, Cap in a contest of stubbornness with the rest of the Avengers. That would be a show.
“You’re claustrophobic,” Clint stated. Steve gave him a blank look.
“It’s a phobia. You don’t like enclosed spaces; they make you feel trapped. When you can’t control it, you start to panic. Sound familiar?”
“I don’t like to talk about it,” Steve said.
“It’s obvious,” Clint replied. “If I get transferred, that’s going in your file.” Steve gave a tiny half-smile.
“Having your back.” Clint replied. “Nat loves tight spaces. It’s in the wind that you might be partnered with her in the future—if that’s in your file, they’ll at least have some consideration.”
“It’s just an irrational terror with absolutely no basis. I can handle it,” Steve insisted.
“Yeah, big guy. If it gets in the way of your duty, out the window with it. But you shouldn’t have to.”
“That’s my point about you.”
“Exactly. You’re still grieving. I’m still recovering from… being steamrolled by Loki. If you want to help me, you’re going to get help, like it or not. That’s the deal.” Clint grinned cheekily. “I hear that having someone else know helps.” Almost reluctantly, Steve laughed. It was a nice sort of laugh, Clint thought. They laughed too little in this business.
“You really do remind me of Bucky.”