It had been a tumultuous few months to say the least.
Reed had thought he could weather any storm, any disaster, any attack, but the resurgence of Victor- no Doom had severely tested his mettle. Still recovering from the loss of his arm; the stress of being pulled in so many directions. Despite his physical form, Reed’s mental self could only be pulled so far.
The hard decision was made to withdraw from any ‘superhero’ duties from the interim. However long that may be. His body was only capable of so much duress even if the severance site had healed and his heart was not into fighting. Not when he felt as brittle as twigs and constantly looking over his shoulder.
Guilt consumed him. But he was used to that and pushed it aside. Hero duties or not, he still had responsibilities and duties to perform. Ben and Johnny had shouldered some of that; by offering to take up roles within other teams to take on the fights he could not.
It was time to hang up the Mr Fantastic persona and be Reed Richards again for the first time in a while. Scientist and current homebody at the Baxter Building. He had missed the building. He had missed home and it was good to be back. And best of all, it was good to be back with Susan. The dark place he had gone while recovering from losing his arm still lingered but he could endure it with Sue by his side; her smile; groggy and bleary as it was when he kissed her good morning lightened his day and eased his sleep as he cuddled up next to her.
Susan wasn’t the only person on his mind, however.
This year hadn’t exactly been kind to many people he knew.
In particular, he was worried about Clint. The two of them had an unusual friendship; a connection that seemed unlikely but had formed none the less. The attacks that had lead to Reed returning home had also severed Clint from the world he knew but unlike himself; the archer didn’t not have much support to lean on as he made his way back on the road to recovery. Oh he had Lucky; the dog would never leave his side but everyone else had seemed to withdraw from Clint. And in turn Clint had withdrawn as well.
That had sat ill with Reed. It had been the catalyst for something that had been brewing for some time. And he took a leap instead of calculating ten steps ahead.
He wanted Clint in his life. In his and Susan’s life. He remembered his heart thumping rapidly as he confessed his feelings about Clint to Susan, tongue stumbling over words so he could properly articulate what he wanted; shakily explaining the months of adventures, of bonding, of life and death and trust; that he wanted both of them, together. It was different to what he had with Sue; the woman was his soul as unscientific as that was. He did not want to replace that soul. But he wanted to add kinship to it.
Susan had kissed him then, smiling before simply saying she had known that his heart was big enough to share along with hers. The rest of the discussion needed to be with all of them together.
That had been days ago and eventually he had worked up the courage to take charge and go to Clint’s apartment. The frost of winter was melting into spring but it was still chilly when the wind blew through the streets of the city. Wearing a light jacket with the right arm pinned over a checked shirt and plain slacks, he drew little attention as he fumbled to find the right address; the two had been living in close quarters during their stint with the Avengers and he tended to be rather bad at navigating the New York City grid when he was distracted.
Reed dithered at the door for a few minutes, feeling like his stomach had dropped to his knees [a physical possibility but not the case this time] before he knocked on the door.
“Clint? Are…you home?”
It’d been hell for a while. Clint’s life had turned upside-down, inside-out, and practically exploded itself across the pavement.
Almost literally given the shit that had gone down with Doom and Loki and everything. Once again Clint’d had a psycho in his head and it’d definitely messed with him, but more than that he’d been almost killed in the absolute chaos that’d resulted from it, and more or less lost everything he’d considered important in one fell swoop. His boyfriend, his Avenger status — though that was complicated and mostly due to his medical predicament, and a place he’d started to call home. Hell, even his goddamn bow.
So, yeah. Pretty much everything.
Well, except Lucky. Lucky was, like, Harry Potter or something. The Dog Who Lived. Apparently had even mauled some Doom-bots and damn well defended their good friends Reed and Sue, who’d had to deal with Victor von Fuckface blowing up the Stark Mansion and trying to then kill them as they all crawled out of the debris. Lucky had been one of the first faces Clint recalled seeing upon waking in the scarily lavish ICU had been the labrador’s, sad soulful eye keeping a close watch on him and one paw neatly tucked into the crook of his arm.
Ever since then, Lucky’d dutifully kept right by his side nice and close. Visited physio with him, went to post op appointments, psychiatrists — the works. The Avengers were rebuilding themselves along with SHIELD at the same time, but Clint… didn’t want to be a part of it.
Didn’t want to be a threat to them yet again.
So days were spent quietly re-learning how to be a person again, rather than a weapon. Natasha visited of course — nothing save for death itself would likely tear their friendship and trust down — and made sure he got out of the apartment once in a while, but the busier she got the less time she had, and the more times Clint found himself speaking to her through texts at 3 in the morning while she was on the other side of the world. Once again it was just Clint and his faithful dog, the sweet one-eyed labrador whom slept at the foot of his bed and woke him during the middle of the night if he was fitting through a bad dream.
Fate intended for that to change.
The day had started out like any other that week: a hearty breakfast, a measured walk around the block with Lucky, then chucking some trashy NatGeo Wild show on (something about finding bigfood — the people were hilarious to him) while he did his physio resistance training for his hamstring in his mangled left leg.
The big difference came with the soft, yet steadily measured rasp of knuckles at his front door.
Lucky lifted his head and curiously looked at the door, before bolting over to it and stuffing his nose against the bottom of it in an attempt to smell out who was on the other side, barking and eagerly jumping at the door when Clint took too long to get up and answer it, effectively drowning out poor Reed to the archer and his dampened hearing.
"Easy, geeze Lucky. Y’think there’s some pizza on the other side or somethin’?" Clint drawled in mock annoyance as he plucked up his cane from beside the couch where he’d stashed it, wobbling for a moment as his leg adjusted to walking instead of stretching out tender muscles. "Try not to slobber the person to death, alright."
Clint unlatched the door and coiled his fingers about the handle, peering through the peep hole — and just about then he wished he were in more than just his work out sweats and some compression dressings over some of his newer scars, because one of his best friends and crushes was standing right outside his damn door. Complete with those puppy eyes that rivalled Lucky’s own.
He opened the door shyly, almost using it as a shield until Lucky made sure he couldn’t anymore because the dog had clearly missed his squishy chew-toy friend as well. “Reed? Hey. Hi. Uh, I mean. Come in? — Lucky don’t love him to death in the hallway geeze.”
Lucky butted his head against Reed’s stomach and then pedalled behind him to push against his legs, the archer fondly chuckling as Reed was more or less invited in by the dog. Smart dog. Good dog.
"Sorry… about… uh. Me." Clint frowned at the back of his front door while closing it, amused at how his tongue was just damn well not working. "I don’t always lounge around in just pants, I mean. Company’s been rare the past few weeks."
Scruffing at his short locks, the archer momentarily braved turning to look at Reed proper, noting how well he seemed to hold himself now even with the missing arm, and even the almost glow he had to him despite the perils of the past few months. Clint on the other hand was ragged and rough around the edges — thankfully no longer retching his guts out from radiation sickness nor suffering the other effects that’d had him hide from Reed in the mansion months and months ago, but nonetheless he hadn’t exactly gotten a free pass when Loki decided to re-occupy his body and blow up Stark Tower.
His cheeks flushed as he realised he was staring. Clint averted his gaze shyly. “Would you like anything t’drink?”
Hey bro, how’ve you been, holy shit I’ve missed you but been too socially dumb to try an’ visit you.