Bruce Banner was not a man who was easily worried. He was sympathetic, yes. He was caring, yes He was compassionate, yes. Overall, he was a very kind man. But he was not easily worried.
At least, not until he woke up at three forty-seven in the morning, with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Clint Barton nowhere to be found.
Clint had been Bruce's close friend, lover, and bedmate for almost a year. They were accustomed to each other's sleeping habits. Clint would leave at odd hours of the night, called away on missions that Bruce could know nothing about. Bruce would crawl into their shared bed early in the morning, having spent all night experimenting with Tony.
Despite their very different schedules-and Clint's "if I told you I'd have to kill you, and I don't want to kill you" attitude towards his work- they had not spent a night without each other. And Clint had never left without telling Bruce goodbye. Or, if worst came to worst, leaving a note, scribbled in Clint's messy handwriting.
But despite Bruce's frantic searching, nothing was found. And it scared him. It scared him to the point that he was down the stairs and knocking on Tony's lab door before consciously making the decision to move.
"Yo." Tony didn't turn around as Jarvis opened the door, opting instead to remain hunched over his keyboard.
Now that Bruce was in Tony's lab-mentally and physically- he felt uncomfortable. He was a shy man, not one to beg for favors, and one who felt ashamed at having to ask for them. If Clint wasn't the reason he was here, he would have turned and walked out. But Clint
his Clint might be
He forced the thought away, banishing it before he Hulk'd out. "Have you seen Clint?"
Tony straightened as Bruce spoke, turning around and pushing his goggles down onto his neck. "Jarvis," Tony's eyes were concerned, though his voice was kept under control. "Locate Agent Barton."
It took only three seconds for Jarvis's accented voice to respond with, "Agent Barton located, sir." Bruce had always wondered if Jarvis's voice was an actual person, not just a robot with a voice Tony had invented. "Would you like me to take you to him?"
"Yes." Bruce's voice was the one that answered, the tone leaving no room for questioning. Not even by a robot with a voice.
It was pouring. Agent Clint Barton didn't care-didn't notice. He was wearing only gym shorts and a hoodie, the cold water hitting him in sheets, rolling off his body, taking his warmth with him as it formed a puddle at his knees.
He was on his knees, his arms wrapped tightly around himself, looking at the grave in front of him with tear-filled eyes.
"Hey, Phil," he whispered, his fingertips brushing against the engraved leaders on the headstone. "I've got to tell you something." He took a deep breath, fighting back a stronger flood of tears.
It hurt being back here. He had been here once before, the day they dug the grave for Phil. The day he swore his heart would never feel again.
The pain-the emptiness that stirred within him- as he looked at the final resting place of the man who had once been his lover was too much. The tears broke through, the sobs wracking his body. "I'm sorry!" Clint yelled at no one, screaming as a part of his heart he had tried to forget about resurfaced, shattering once more as the wind swallowed his tortured words."I'm fucking sorry, Phil!" The pain at the name of his former lover was too much, and Clint collapsed forward, his hands extending to catch him as he sobbed to the ground.
He couldn't breathe through the tears, but that didn't stop his roaring thoughts. Memories of days spent with Phil: stolen kisses, whispered promises, silent understandings. Their relationship could never fully develop, become too intimate. Clint would never-could never- admit he loved Phil.
Phil had died- Loki had fucking murdered him- not knowing Clint loved him.
The sobs worsened. Clint's body was trembling, the rain soaking through every article of clothing he had on, but he didn't notice.
"Phil," Clint looked up from the ground, his face raw with tears, his blue eyes broken. "I love you. I loved you
I miss you. Every fucking day, Phil." Clint choked out, forcefully wiping tears away with the back of his hand. "But
I love Bruce too." More sobs. Clint had never felt so fucking helpless in his life. "What do I do, Phil?!" he yelled at the sky, not bothering to wipe away the fresh onslaught of tears. "I don't know, I don't know, I don't- I miss you! I fucking love you! I never fucking told you, and- Ph-I-I- fuck!"
Tony had donned the Iron Man suit to take Bruce to Clint. When they landed, Tony set him down and said something, something Bruce didn't quite hear. He was staring at the cemetery, not quite sure why Clint was there at four in the morning.
Tony pointed him in Clint's direction, sitting back and letting Bruce go on his own. He knew where Clint was, even if Bruce hadn't the faintest idea.
Clint was on all fours, the rain pounding away on his trembling body. Bruce stopped dead, watching as Clint turned his face to the sky, screaming words that he would never hear.
Tears- actual tears- were streaming down Clint's cheeks. Bruce had never been so terrified in his life.
He ran to Clint, skidding to an ungraceful halt beside him, falling to his knees as the tears continued to slide down Clint's face, mingling with the rain. His arms were around Clint in an instant, pulling him up, holding him close. "Clint," Bruce breathed, one hand tangling in sopping wet, dirty blonde hair, the other on his soaked back. "Oh, Clint."
Clint's tears didn't stop, but his arms were around Bruce, holding him closer than what was considered humanely possible. "I love you!" Clint cried, his voice muffled by Bruce's neck. "I love you so much, Bruce!"
"I know," Bruce turned, speaking softly into Clint's hair. He was confused as hell, but he continued to hold Clint, letting his tears soak his shirt.
Clint sobbed into Bruce's neck, his hands wildly exploring Dr. Banner's body, reassuring himself of Bruce's heartbeat with every touch. "Don't
don't leave me like he did, Bruce."
Bruce had left his glasses at Stark Tower, leaving him unable to read the name on the headstone. "I promise, Clint," he pulled Clint closer, turning his face so that his cheek was pressed against the archer's, "I promise that I won't leave you."
Clint choked back another sob, his eyes staring brokenly into Bruce's. "I love you."
Bruce looked into Clint's eyes, beginning to understand the pain that his lover was going through. He didn't know-he didn't care- how long it was going to take for him to stop the pain. He was going to do it. He couldn't stand to see the pain in Clint's eyes, the pain of the archer causing him to hurt in places he had never imagined could hurt. "Clint," Bruce choked, pulling him tighter, burying Clint's face under his chin. He blinked back the tears easily enough, but his voice was another matter entirely. He didn't say anything else, hoping his presence- his strengthening arms, his pounding heart, his warm body- would speak for him.
Tony watched them, the Iron Man suit catching every word they said. "Jarvis?"
The phone rang for what seemed like an eternity, Steve's sleep blurred voice speaking just before Tony lost his nerve. "Hello?"
"Steve, it's me."
"Tony? What the hell are you-?"
"It's not important. What is important is what I'm about to tell you." Tony's voice was urgent, and he found himself wishing that Steve was with him. He wanted to see his face-to hold him just as Bruce was holding Clint. Preferably without the tears. "I love you, Steve
There was silence on the other end of the phone, and Tony continued without second thought.
"I fucking love you."