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NAME : LadyNorthstar
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Warnings: mentions of rape and suicide
Summary: Bruce has been keeping an eye on Clint since their battle with Loki… because no one knows better that dr. Banner what guilt can do to a man.
Bruce had been keeping an eye on Clint since he first saw him on the battlefield, mostly because Natasha had seemed genuinely worried for him when he was under Loki’s influence, and she didn’t seem the kind of person that would show openly to be worried about anything.
So, being rather an expert on guilt trips, his awareness of what was probably going trough the young man’s mind suggested him to always stay on range, looking for signals of him being about to lose it.
He didn’t have to wait long.
They hadn’t talked much since the fight with Loki, but Steve insisted for the whole team to meet on a weekly basis to train together and get to know each other. Clint gave off the impression of a usually quite sociable person, a bit of an hot head and a wise ass but not unpleasant to have around, but something was blocking him off.
He was always on the verge of snapping, leaving everything here and just walking away, to climb in some high place and just observe the rest on the world from above.
He rarely saw him talking with someone that was not Natasha, and the few times Steve tried to get him involved it ended up in verbal or not exactly verbal fights, so that in the end Captain America just gave up. Everyone gave up.
Everyone but Bruce.
It was one of those times in which Clint simply slammed the gym door and left without a word, the usual for the others, but Bruce noticed there was something different. He saw his hand shaking since he arrived. That was never a good sign.
He raced after him, blocking his hand on the handle of the back exit.
"We have to talk."
That was probably the first time Clint looked him directly. His eyes were circled by a purple outline, tired, reddened, his eyebrows bended in an accent of desperation hard to mistake.
Bruce shifted his hand on the young man’s shoulder.
"Please, talk with me."
"There is nothing you can do."
"I can listen. I’m quite good at listening."
"Listening won’t help me."
"It will, trust me, it’s…"
"DO NOT TRY TO SAY IT’S GOING TO BE FINE!"
Bruce was expecting him to react badly, he wasn’t expecting him to shout. He stared at the blonde, fists clenched and eyes low.
"I was not going to…"
"It’s never going to be fine, NEVER! Never…"
Bruce could hear the glass shied Clint had built around himself cracking, trough the pinch of his voice.
"I could have fought him back. Selvig did. I could have… I killed them. I killed them all…"
"It wasn’t you."
"IT WAS! I attacked my home, my friends, and I couldn’t even… it wasn’t another me, it was ME! I was firmly believing I was doing the right thing! I wanted to do it! I wanted to kill all those men! I wanted to kill people I’ve lived and worked with for years I…"
Bruce took just a step closer, placing both his hands on Clint’s shoulders, without saying a word.
"I wanted to serve him. That monster. I…"
Bruce couldn’t help notice the first tears. How long did Clint hold off those tears? Bruce knew better, how poisoning that could be.
"I told him all our secrets. I’ve let him in. He… he killed the person I loved with the same hands he touched me with, he…"
Bruce just closed his arms around the blonde, and Clint didn’t fight back. He let himself go, let the tears flow, let his body go limp, harbored in the doctor’s embrace.
Bruce didn’t miss the tone when Clint said touched me. He suddenly wished Hulk’d hurt Loki more. He suddenly wished Hulk had broken every single bone of the demigod’s body.
"You couldn’t do anything to fight him."
"Selvig is a genius with a IQ that makes me look like a pre schooler. No one can blame you for being just a human being."
"I should be dead…"
He was waiting for him to say that. That’s exactly how it went for him, just… Bruce didn’t have anyone to listen to his screams at the time. He didn’t have anyone to cling to. He didn’t have anyone to cry with.
"No, you should not. Think about all the people you saved during the battle, I saw the footages…"
"No, no, it was… anyone could have…"
"No, anyone would not have cared to pull kids out of the wreckage of a bus before everything else. And anyone would not have kept an eye on civilians for the whole fight instead of just chasing vengeance" Bruce was rubbing gently his back, letting him give vent to his tears and sobs. "You are a good man, Clint. A great man. It’s not your fault."
"It is, it is…"
Bruce shook his head, smiling sadly, lananing a kiss on the blonde’s temple.
"It is not. And I will not say it’s going to be fine, because that would be a lie. You’re never going to forget, or stop thinking about it but… you have to turn this rage into something else."
Clint shifted in his arms, to look up at him. His eyes were of the same pale blue of the sky in winter, Bruce couldn’t help but notice.
"Turn this rage into motivation, into strength. You can’t live hating yourself, but what good will come with just ending it all? You could do so much for the others then… do it."
Clint hid his face again against his shoulder, tightening his hug, practically clinging at Bruce.
"We all believe in you. And we are all here to help, or listen. You don’t have to be alone, Clint."
The sobs began again, but this time Bruce could sense relief in them. They kept on just hugging there, standing in the hallway, in silence, for at least an hour. Clint’s words were playing on repeat in Bruce’s head. He was expecting for Natasha to be Clint’s lover, she surely was his confident, but he was mistaken… Phil Coulson… no wonder Clint was so broken.
The week after, when they met to train again, Clint stuck around a little longer, and even managed to have a conversation with Steve without trying to stab him. The week after that, he actually exchanged some words with Tony too, and the week after that, he came to Bruce, dragging him in the same hallway of the last time.
"You know for what."
Bruce couldn’t resist the temptation to run an hand down Clint’s cheek, caressing it, smiling at him.
"That’s what friends are for."
Clint finally returned his smile, turning his head to meet the doctor’s hand, eyes escaping any possible contact.
"Yes… I suppose so."
It was a month after, the first time Clint kissed him. Bruce didn’t notice how close they had become until he found the archer’s lips pressed on his own, until he found himself returning the kiss without a second thought.
They weren’t building this relationship on healthy foundations, probably the less healthy you can thing of but… he can feel how much Clint needed him, in that kiss. And until then he didn’t realize how much he needed him too.