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Fic: Macho when you're dead

Prompt: Clint, being one of the more 'human' Avengers (no special powers, no suit of armor, just good old-fashioned impeccable aim), sometimes goes a little overboard proving that he's as tough as the rest of them. Pretending not to be sick when he is sick is actually so normal for him that everyone leaves him alone as long as he's not on the verge of death.

But ignoring a cold or a fever is one thing. Insisting stomach pains are no big deal becomes a big deal when your appendix ruptures. Dismissing a migraine is just bloody dangerous when you actually have meningitis.

Eventually, the rest of the team put their collective foot down. It's impossible to be macho when you're dead, and some illnesses should NOT be worked through, and these are lessons Clint really needs to learn.

also: gen, g, not quite an exact fill

and: Clint h/c makes me so happy! You too and you know it? Clap your hands! (in comments, LJ style)


Barton's sitting in a meeting room deep undergroud. His head aches, and there's not enough air. He feels a warm wet trickle slide down from his nose, and stops it with the back of his hand, embarrassed.

His hand comes away red.

He stares at it for a moment. Fury ignores him. Natasha reaches across the table and throws a box of tissues at him. He catches it one handed and pulls a wad from the box and presses them to his face.

'I'll go clean myself up,' he offers to the room. They nod, attention still on Fury. When he doesn't return, they decide he's taken up the rare opportunity for freedom and they don't really blame him.

What he does is sit in his quarters, feeling the hot blood stream from his nose as it soaks through the ever-growing pile of tissues, waiting for it to stop. When it finally does, his face is white and his hands are shaking.


About a month ago, he was sick. Not sick enough to warrant admitting it, or miss a single shot out of a hundred, but sick enough that even Stark steers clear of his bad temper.

At one point, Cap looks over at him, huddled over the latest briefing on the political climate in Sierra Leone. 'Are you feeling--'

'I'm feeling the urge to shoot you a third eye,' Barton grates out. His throat hurts when he speaks, but if he has to he might as well make the most of it. He's so tired of everyone looking at him like he might break.

Banner nudges Cap and mutters something to him. Cap's eyebrow raises, and he very carefully doesn't look at Barton, who's grateful that no-one troubles him again.

When they deliver his next package of briefings, they deliver it to his quarters and with a bottle of tylenol, but they do deliver it.


Two days after the tylenol appears, Barton's perched high in the ceiling beams of a S.H.I.E.L.D. lab. He wonders how his hands can feel frostbitten when his chest and throat and face feel like they've been on fire for days.

Thirty feet below, an AI powered missile is being developed. He watches idly as someone inserts a small chip into the football-sized missile and half a dozen remote controlled helicopters are brought out. He can read on the file that one of them is strapped with a tiny explosive and the missile's job is to determine which and destroy that target.

Helicopters and missile launch with a loud whir, rising quickly. The helicopters swoop and dive but the missile has one tracked. Suddenly it swerves at Barton who ducks out of the way but it's too late - the tiny missile explodes like a firework inches from his face.

Off-balance, Barton scrabbles for purchase on the narrow beam but his feet only find air and his hands can't quite hang on. His stomach lurches when he realises that he's free-falling but he didn't grow up in a circus for nothing.

He bends his knees, tucks his chin to his chest and at impact lands feet-launch-roll to somersault back to standing in front of the stunned agents below.

At least his hands are now warm from the exercise.


The day after that, his temperature rises until he's sure he can see shimmering heat waves radiate off everything in his field of vision. He still doesn't miss a shot, though, arrow skewering through the mechanical eye of a giant robot that's appeared out of nowhere and is made to vanish just as quickly.

He watches the metallic form's slow, screeching fall, and allows himself a fist pump of exhultaion.

He's less thrilled about the number of steps from the roof to the ground floor, but the power's been cut and he doesn't intend to hang around all day waiting for someone to get the elevators back online. It's twenty floors of dark, suspicious-smelling fire escape stairs but his legs are most definitely, without a doubt, not wobbly at all when he gets to the bottom.

Banner's waiting for him at street level exit. He glances at Barton, taking in the glassy stare and the hectic flush across his cheeks. Banner's mouth tightens but, 'Nice shot,' is all he says.

'Damn right,' replies Barton.


The point is Barton's fine. He's not at peak performance, admittedly, but he can damn well hold his own in a fight and put an arrow or ten through any target you cared to name.

He's fine because he has to be. You don't work for S.H.I.E.L.D. and flake out because you have the sniffles. And you damn well don't work as part of the Avengers and let your game down unless you're bleeding out on the street and you've taken down every threat in the vicinity first. Barton might not have a super suit or chemically enhanced biology or god status but he knows he's a superb marksman, an elite athlete and most importantly, he has the relentless, burning desire to be the best.

Still, sometimes his body betrays him.

In Tokyo, a combination of overwork, dodgy ramen and a night of hard drinking had seen him throwing up so violently the next day that he genuinely thought his stomach would come up as well. But he'd gotten Stark to prop him up against a vent on the roof and he'd duct taped the bow to his hand and he'd picked off every single target as it approached without missing a shot.

In Xiamen, he'd lost his voice to bird flu or something and spent a week unable to use the comms system, relying instead on a rough sign language hastily cobbled together with Natasha. After a few unfortunate communication errors, they'd hammered it out and they still use it between themselves when they don't want to be overheard.

In Mexico Ciy, he didn't know what he had, but for days he couldn't stand without getting dizzy and faint. He'd modified a crossbow and fired off shot after shot while flat on his back and with his eyes firmly closed.

Even when his body betrays him, Barton's resolve never does.


He gets nosebleeds four days in a row and he becomes used to the tell-tale coppery trickle down the back of his throat.

There's a dull rash across his stomach. The pinprick dots are the colour of old blood but it doesn't itch or hurt so it's easy to forget. There's the bruise on his hip from when Natasha threw him, judo-style, to the ground - but it's no longer just a bruise on his hip. It's spread across his ass and down his thigh, it's dark purple and stiff.

All he can smell is the sour metallic tang of his own blood.

But he doesn't feel so bad, despite everything. He feels much better, in fact, than when he had that virus a month ago, and it's easy to brush off the others' concerns.

'I'm fine,' he says curtly to Cap, who's lived through a world war and who demonstrates the meaning of 'stiff upper lip' better than all the rest of them combined.

'Never felt better,' he announces to Banner, who looks tireder and more battered than he does.

'Quit fussing over me,' he snaps at Natasha, who just raises an eyebrow at him. She's the last person who could be accused of fussing or mother-henning, and she quite happily leaves him alone when he growls at her.

'Don't you have someone else you need to piss off?' he says quite unfairly to Stark. Stark cocks his head and squints at him like he's a puzzle of broken machinery.

'I don't mean to care,' Stark says, 'but you look like Hulk here's done a number on you.'

'Just drop it,' Barton says firmly. 'I'm fine.'

He's fine.


In his past life, he must have been a gargoyle, Barton thinks. There's no other explanation for why he spends so much time perched on cold, windy, deserted rooftops in this one.

His head is pounding like no-one's business and his legs are just a fraction unsteady.

Barton almost - almost but not quite - wishes he was sitting this one out.

On street level there's a roaming pack of snarling, whirring beast/machine hybrid things with snakelike arms and snapping jaws. They're not doing much, more like a scouting party and any kind of attack. But in their wake, power grids flicker out, anything that's run by a computer chip freezes and refuses to work, and any metallic weapon being used against them twists in lifelike agony to drop uselessly to the ground.

Barton's using a carbon fibre bow without a trace of metal. He's been re-outfitted in a suit of kevlar and cotton with plastic buckles and his arrows are carbon fibre and wood.

Stark's benched for this one, because proximity to the hybrids is sending Jarvis haywire, and Natasha's guns don't work. Cap's left his shield behind, just in case, and Banner hovers nearby. Everyone's hoping that the Other Guy won't be needed.

He counts nine hybrids, each the size of a small circus pony. The comms unit in his ear crackles.

'Hawkeye, you're clear --' Static swallows the rest of the message and Barton yanks the earpiece out.

He nocks an arrow, draws smoothly. Accounts for the angle, the wind direction and the way his hands are shaking. Releases.

He hits one in the neck, between the overlapping shiny armour/scales. It shrieks terribly, halfway between a wounded creature's scream and the high pitched whine of an abused machine. The sound makes his hair stand on end.

He reaches for another arrow, heart thumping in his ears. Sweat beads on his forehead and upper lip, dampens the palm of his gloves. It takes him longer to line up the second shot, and darkness threatens at the edge of his vision.

Another hit. Another unearthly scream.

His aim never falters, even if his breathing does.

A third hit, and a fourth.

Barton is panting now, gulping against the rising nausea.

He sucks in air, sweat slick across his face and down the small of his back. Phantom black dots swim across his vision.

On the ground, a car twists and screeches and hurtles at a building.

Barton nocks another arrow. He thinks his teeth are chattering. He imagines Cap and Natasha, impatiently waiting for him to finish his job. This time, he feels every pound of the draw weight of his bow but he doesn't miss.

He's Clint Barton. He never misses.

The sixth one is harder. He's pretty sure the wetness on his face is as much blood as sweat. His nose is bleeding again and the warmth runs down over his mouth, over his chin. He can't spare a hand to wipe it away.

Number seven is released almost in a void. All he can hear is the rushing of blood in his ears and his vision falters in and out.

His hand fumbles for the eigth arrow. After this one he can stand down, mission discharged without dishonour. Barton doesn't know where the eigth arrow lands. He doesn't know if it strikes his target or if it tumbles uselessly into the street. He doesn't have the energy to care.

He is grateful to stop fighting the bonelessness in his legs and sink down on to the damp concrete. He folds his head to his knees and lets the blood rush back to his brain.


Slowly the world comes back. His heart quietens its frantic pounding and he can lift his head without it threatening to burst.

Barton wipes a rough hand across his face, scrubbing away the blood.

He wants to see where the eigth arrow landed but it takes a lot of willpower to get his legs to agree to stand. There's a fair bit of chaos on the street. Onlookers have crowded the scene, poured out from the buildings where they had taken refuge. One of the hybrid things is wrapped in sticky strands of goop and Stark and Banner are studying it with a mixture of puzzlement and amazement.

He counts seven forms stilled by an arrow, and an eigth that's pierced by both arrow and a white knife that gleams dully - one of Natasha's ceramic daggers.

Sevem and a half hits out of eight - not his best work, but Barton's willing to live with it for the moment.

He carefully packs up his bow and picks up the abandonned earpiece. Barton's meticulous when it comes to his equipment, but all he's thinking of is heading back to base, lying down, and sleeping for a month.


Steve takes the stairs up two at a time. He's not panicked - World War II only ended a few months ago for him, and he's fresh out of panic from that - but he is concerned.

Clint has been off his form lately, and today's shooting has been erratic, if effecive.

He pushes open the rooftop door to see Clint unstringing his bow, hands fumbling and uncooperative.

Clint turns to face him and Steve's eyes widen. The man is ashen grey and there's drying blood smeared under his nose and down his throat.

'Hey, Cap,' Clint greets him. His words slur together lazily. 'Quite a day, huh?'

'What's wrong?' asks Steve urgently. 'What happened to you?'

Clint blinks at him, then grins. 'I think...' He stops, swallows hard. 'I might be feeling a little under the weather,' he says self deprecatingly. 'Actually, if you don't mind, I think I'll just take a seat...'

Steve rushes to support him as he lowers himself unsteadily to the ground. 'Why didn't you tell us?' he demands, more sharply than he'd intended.

Clint shrugs, eyes closed. 'I thought it was nothing a bit of sweat and determination couldn't fix.'

Steve frowns at him. 'We should find you a doctor,' he says, because as much as Clint deserves a dressing down for this, he also looks utterly defeated sitting on the ground with his head in his hands.

Clints sighs, but doesn't object. 'Wanna help me up?'

Steve slings an arm around him and hauls him upright as gently as he can. Clint grunts in discomfort but obediently lets Steve shoulder part of his weight as they descend the stairs.

'I hate stairs,' complains Clint, mostly to himself.

'Hey,' says Steve to distract him. 'Nice shooting back there.'

Clint raises his head and grins smugly at Steve. 'Damn right,' he replies.


What happens next is a consultation with Banner, whose reluctance to be torn away from the hybrid thing immediately vanishes when he set eyes on Barton.

Banner pokes and prods and lifts Barton's shirt and thumbs the pizza-sized bruise on his thigh and shines a torch in his mouth and generally harasses him until Barton knocks his hands away irritably.

'No more touching,' growls Barton, and Banner sighs and takes his glasses off and pinches the bridge of his nose.

'Petechiae, purtura, nosebleeds.'

'In English, doc.'

'A pinpoint rash caused by, uh, bleeding from the capilliaries. Bruising easily. Spontaneous bleeding. You were sick about a month ago, weren't you?'

Barton opens his mouth to deny it, but Banner catches his eye and he subsides. 'Yeah, I guess.'

Banner smiles wryly at him. 'You ran a temperature for nearly a week, snapped at everyone until even Tony avoided you and slept about eigthteen hours a day.'

Barton shrugs, uncomfortable at the scrutiny he hadn't known he was under. 'I guess,' he says again.

Banner puts his glasses back on. 'Classic ITP, I think. Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. The immune system attacks the platelets which affects blood clotting. Often preceded by a viral infection. In some cases it can clear up spontaneously, otherwise there's the option of drugs or removing your spleen.'

'Jesus, doc.' Barton scrubs a hand through his hair. 'I thought it'd be 'You've got the flu, drink lots of water and get some rest.''

'That still applies,' Banner tells him. 'I'm thinking you won't take kindly to bed rest, but you can't overexert yourself for the next few weeks. No missions. No training. Light exercise only. Sleep as much as you can. I'll take some blood and start a round of steroids.'

There's a cool swipe of antiseptic then a pinch as the needle slides in. Banner's face softens at the sight of Barton's crushed expression. 'Hey. It's hard, I know. It's hard to think your body's suddenly betraying you and there's not a whole lot you can do about it. Trust me, I speak from experience.' Banner smiles at him. 'But what can't be cured must be endured. For as long as it lasts, anyway.'

'Right,' says Barton and wipes the emotion from his face. 'Thanks, doc.'

'One more thing,' Banner adds apologetically. 'This way.'

He leads Barton out of the lab and out trhough one of the living areas. Barton tries not to flinch when he spots what looks like an intervention. Cap, Stark and Natasha are sitting on a white leater couch, looking grim. Banner joins them and looks awkwardly at Barton.

'I get it, guys,' he tells them tiredly, sinking down into the couch across from them. 'It's bad form. It endangers the team. I'm sorry.' Barton doesn't believe in excuses. He believes in getting the job done.

Everyone else shares a startled glance.

'It's not about successful missions,' Cap says, looking strangely at him. 'But it's foolish to destroy your health because you're too stubborn to go easy when you need to!'

'What Steve means,' Natasha cuts in acidly, 'is you're a fucking idiot.'

Barton frowns, tries to rub the headache away. It doesn't work. 'I did what needed to be done,' he says finally. 'Any one of you would have done the same.'

'Uh... no I wouldn't,' Stark says airily. 'I have more sense than that. Also, I'm not sure I like you guys that much. No offense.'

'It's probably ok for you to push through something like a mild virus every now and then,' Banner volunteers. 'Unwise, but it probably won't do you too much harm. However, it's completely inadvisable for you to ignore a raging temperature and unexplained bleeding. Really. You can be macho when you're dead. Uh. I mean it. Take care of yourself, Clint.'

'I'm counting on you if we ever need to return o Budapest,' Natasha says quietly and it means a lot, coming from her.

'If you die because you're even more clueless about this stuff than I am, I'll be sad, and then everyone will know I care,' Stark accuses. 'That would be incredibly selfish of you.'

'You should guard your health with as much diligence as you do ours.' Cap passes him a pillow and a blanket. 'Sleep.'

That's the most glorious suggestion anyone's ever made to him. Ever. Clint doesn't even protest. He just stretches out on the couch and pulls the blanket over his head and presses his face into the pillow and he doesn't even need to shut his eyes because apparently they've been closed for awhile.

'Thanks Steve,' he murmurs. 'Tony. Bruce. Nat.' He's asleep before he finishes talking and he sleeps through dinner and doesn't wake when Steve picks him up and puts him to bed and Bruce tucks the sheets in around him.


And the next time he's properly sick - coughing till he can't breathe sick - he suits up and prepares to head out anyway before their collective glare sends him back to bed and he's forced to admit that, yeah, it's nice not to have to battle through everything alone.



( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 28th, 2012 06:41 pm (UTC)
*claps very happily* H/C is like a drug to me and you provided a wonderful fix. Thanks for sharing.
May. 30th, 2012 12:47 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed! H/C is my most favourite thing in the entire world and I love it like burning. It's always great to meet others who feel the same!
May. 28th, 2012 07:23 pm (UTC)
'If you die because you're even more clueless about this stuff than I am, I'll be sad, and then everyone will know I care,' Stark accuses. 'That would be incredibly selfish of you.'

Oh, Tony. :)

This was great v
May. 30th, 2012 12:47 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked it! <3
May. 28th, 2012 10:47 pm (UTC)
Awwwww Clint. This was wonderful. So much nummy h/c *claps hands as well*

I love him toughing it out and trying to deny how bad it is. I love how extreme it gets before the others just have to say something. I love the collective sending him off to bed moments.
May. 30th, 2012 12:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your feedback <3

One of my favourite things/biggest kinks is totally when a tough and competent and capable and independent guy is hurt/sick and pushed to the edge and refuses to give in. Words can't even explain how much I love it. I love seeing them be BAMFs despite being sick and uncomfortable and in pain and maybe a bit scared, because they're still them and the best at what they do and even everyday people work through illness and exhaustion and pain and these guys certainly can too. And then I love, so ridiculously much, them letting someone take care of them and carry the load for awhile. It's almost a separate kink, if that makes sense - I love the hurt and the soldiering through it, and then I love the gentleness and caretaking and kindness and friendship. If I were going to write pure, indulgent PWP, it would be Clint (or Tony or Steve McGarrett or Spock or Erik or someone) tucked up in bed with tissues and soup and fluffy blankets and a thermometer and a hot water bottle and omg <3

And wow, that was a lot of rambling!

May. 30th, 2012 01:35 pm (UTC)
If I were going to write pure, indulgent PWP, it would be Clint (or Tony or Steve McGarrett or Spock or Erik or someone) tucked up in bed with tissues and soup and fluffy blankets and a thermometer and a hot water bottle and omg <3
*squeak* You took my breath away with this line. Seriously. That is one of my biggest kinks *EG*

But, yes, it totally makes sense that they're two separate things, the battling through hurt and the giving in to be cared for. I love 'em both too :-) And you wrote it so well here with Clint!

I think I'm going to have to rec this over at an hc journal now :-)
May. 30th, 2012 01:42 pm (UTC)
I will totally write you the world's most ridiculously indulgent fic with the Avenger of your choice huddled under blankets with a box of tissues! Just name your boy :)
May. 30th, 2012 01:49 pm (UTC)
OMG *hugs the stuffing out of you*

Um... DECISIONS! Um... Cap. Yeah. I feel like Tony would be perrrrrrrrfect for that, but I've read a couple awesome sick!Tony fics written by various authors and the only sniffly&miserable!Steve Rogers fics I've read have been my own and set during WWII. So, I'd love to read something with him done in modern day with the Avengers. I'm going to go with him. MAN that was tough to decide though. LOL

You are my new favorite person :-)
May. 31st, 2012 12:02 pm (UTC)
We All Fall Down (Steve)

So Steve is the hardest Avenger for me to write and everyone else kind of snuck in too (except Thor, he's in Asgard). I hope you like it anyway!
May. 30th, 2012 01:41 am (UTC)
Much love for this!
May. 30th, 2012 12:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
May. 31st, 2012 08:21 am (UTC)
I wish I had ten fics exactly like this one. How glorious.
Jun. 11th, 2012 10:29 am (UTC)
There needs to be an infinite number of hurt!Clint or sick!Clint fics. That is all <3
Jun. 3rd, 2012 12:15 am (UTC)
Avengers: Macho when you're dead
User katekintail referenced to your post from Avengers: Macho when you're dead saying: [...] Avengers Pairing: None (Gen) Warnings: None Direct link: http://ysande.livejournal.com/1009.html [...]
Jun. 5th, 2012 10:18 am (UTC)
NRF. Okay, this was SO UNFAIR TO DO TO ME. Watching Clint ignore and ignore and IGNORE his symptoms, oh my god, I was screeching, "DO SOMETHINGGGGGG" at the story. Deliciously gut-wrenching!
Jun. 11th, 2012 10:28 am (UTC)
I'm adding you to my flist because I stalked your LJ and adored your fandom!squee and loved your writing so immensely, hugely, amazingly much <3 I mostly lurk in fandom these days but I'd like to keep track of the fandom people whose writing I love :)
Jun. 11th, 2012 10:30 am (UTC)
*leaps on, hugs* And I'm really, really enjoying your stories too! On you go to my flist, too! :D
Jun. 11th, 2012 10:36 am (UTC)
It's been FOREVER since I was active in a fandom (well, 3 or 4 years) but the Avengers are so ridiculously delicious and the fandom so talented that I can't NOT.

I have to say your writing takes my breath away - I can still hear the 'click' of Clint's broken fingers in my mind. And because I am singularly twisted, I love it. Clint h/c is my most favourite thing in the world right now and you do it so well! <3
Jun. 11th, 2012 10:41 am (UTC)
Ah ha ha, I am delighted that I share this twisted fondness with you! *smooches* And thank you, awwwww!
Jun. 11th, 2012 04:01 pm (UTC)
Most excellent Clint!whump with a side of stubborn dumbass. Well done!
Jun. 14th, 2012 03:31 am (UTC)
*clap clap clap* THIS. IS. CLINT. BARTON! You nailed him! Lmao *gigglesnort* Ahem...yes, totally in character and yay for H/C! Ooooh Clint, poor bb♥ Excellent job with this!

*adds to mems*

Edited at 2012-06-14 03:32 am (UTC)
Jun. 18th, 2012 07:25 pm (UTC)
Very nice bit of h/c. I loved the fill for this prompt, and the intervention at the end.
Jun. 30th, 2012 11:28 am (UTC)
So much love for this one! ::adds to memories::
Dec. 5th, 2012 01:47 am (UTC)
Love sick Clint :-) More please.
Jan. 8th, 2013 01:52 am (UTC)
Okay, so I kinda loved this a little. I'm a sucker for H/C, but the team intervention cinched it. Loved Tony's steadfast not caring except for the part where he does, and Natasha's bluntness and Bruce's kind, "I get it, but you're still dumb." Definitely brought a smile to my face. :)
Jan. 15th, 2013 09:27 am (UTC)
Aw, lovely. Poor, stubborn, stupid Clint. Yay for having a team ho cares.

Favorite line: 'If you die because you're even more clueless about this stuff than I am, I'll be sad, and then everyone will know I care,' Stark accuses. 'That would be incredibly selfish of you.'
Apr. 2nd, 2013 07:11 pm (UTC)
I'm sure this fill is from forever ago but I've been going through and omg I thought Clint has Leukemia and I was so upset. I'm so glad he was okay.
Jun. 3rd, 2014 12:28 am (UTC)
awwwwwww very cute
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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