Title: Blood on My Name
Chapter title: Epilogue
Author's Note: As promised, the final chapter. Thank you so much to those who have supported this story in form of reviews, favorite, following and all that jazz! You guys rock! Enjoy this final one!
Disclaimer: All rights go to Marvel, Disney and whoever else is lucky enough to have a part in the glorious MCU and its characters!
Three months later
Clint ran his fingers gently across his bow as it rested in his lap. He sat on his bed in his quarters, all of his things pulled out from their trunks and scattered across the room, though aside from weapons it wasn't much. He had meant to pack but stopped short the minute his hands touched his bow.
He traced every single detail engraved in the shiny material and every nick and scrape it had sustained over the years as it had been dragged from one country to another on countless missions. It had followed him ever since he had joined SHIELD. To him it represented everything that agency had done for him; the new beginning, the second chance. It was invaluable and had served him well the past decade. He turned his head to his right where his old bow lay resting on his bed. It wasn't as sturdy as the one he had now but it was from home. He had nicked it the day he left the circus Carson's Carnival of Traveling Wonders. Despite all the bad memories that place held, it also was the only place Clint could remember that had had any sense of family. That bow was part of his first solo act in front of an audience and it had brought him food on the table when he was alone in the world. Whenever he looked at it he felt a sense of gratitude. But with it came also distaste. That weapon was also what he had used when he had killed people. It was what he had used to kill Kyle Coleman.
He was glad it was over. It was no secret that he felt several pounds lighter and the burden on his heart wasn't quite so heavy any longer. He would still have nightmares. It would still pop up randomly in his head and remind him of what he had done in the past and that would never go away. But he didn't need it too either. It would serve as a healthy reminder of what he had been and what he could never go back to.
He shook his head and drew in a shaky breath.
Now was not the time to think about or regret the past. He had things that needed to be done. He ran a hand over his face tiredly and stood up, his body slightly shaking. He hated that he still felt this weak even though months had passed since he woke up. Every day he got just a little stronger but he still felt the fatigue buried deep within his bones. Minor actions such as taking a walk or shooting his bow at the range left him exhausted. Clint absolutely despised feeling this weak. He knew it was a simple matter of time but it seemed to stretch on forever this time.
A knock interrupted his solitude. "Yeah?" he called.
The door swished open quietly to reveal Captain America standing uneasily in the entrance. With a spike of annoyance and spite, Clint noticed that no cuts or bruises remained after their venture. Steve showed no signs of having had a piece of rebar sticking out of one arm or having the other one fractured by a giant man. Clint knew it was irrational to feel like he did. It wasn't Steve's fault that he had the super soldier serum running through his veins, but it still irritated him that he was still limping about and Steve showed no injuries.
"Hey. Can I come in?" the soldier asked.
Steve entered and the door closed after him but he ended up only a few steps into the room where he just took it all in. A heavy silence stretched on between the two men and Clint suspected Steve would need help with saying what he actually came here to say.
So Clint decided to be the first one to break the silence. "I heard you're heading your own assignment in a few days."
Steve smiled happily as he nodded sheepishly and shrugged his shoulders. "Well, Romanoff's gonna be there to make sure I don't screw up."
"Ah, don't worry about her. She'll be judging you, no matter how you do."
Steve huffed a laugh. "I don't doubt that for a second."
"She'll do it silently though, so you won't even notice she's there," Clint continued and then tilted his head. "Unless of course she starts talking."
"Really? Somehow I can't really imagine Romanoff being the big talker."
"Oh no, that's just a cover. Nat can chew your ear off when she first gets going. Just don't let her plant any ideas in your head," Clint smirked.
"I'll try and remember that," Steve promised with a look of utter disbelief. He looked convinced that Clint was yanking his chain. Clint couldn't help the laugh that escaped his lips. If Steve didn't believe him now, he would eventually. If Nat hadn't talked his ear off yet, that meant she was holding out. Any day she would be as open with Steve as she was with him.
He turned his attention back to packing up his stuff. It was only now that he realized he didn't exactly have many personal items to bring with him: a single picture of his circus family - those that hadn't left him dying and whom he still cared about - along with a few handguns and his arsenal of arrows. Small trinkets and memoires, mostly from both Phil and Natasha. Clothes. It didn't exactly take up a whole lot of space.
All the while he could feel Steve's eyes tracking him and he could practically feel the moment Steve sobered and the smile was replaced with a concerned frown. He continued to look on as Clint stuffed more clothing into the duffel bag.
"You leaving?" he gently asked after a few minutes.
Clint stopped what he was doing as his hands grabbed a hold of his beloved bow. He turned in over a few times in his hand, his back turned to Steve.
"I'm …," Clint cleared his throat a single time before he turned around to face the soldier, staring at him softly. "I'm taking a few days. A lot has happened these past few months. I need to clear my head."
He had already had the discussion with Natasha. She had understood his need to get away from everything for awhile. But he had to keep her from coming with him, her reason being that he was unable to keep from running into trouble. Despite her promise not to follow, he still wasn't entirely sure she wouldn't be waiting for him the moment he stepped out of the Triskelion garage with his Ducati bike.
"You know where you're gonna go?"
"No," Clint honestly answered. "I'm just gonna drive and see where that road takes me."
"Sounds like a good plan," Steve nodded.
"I sure hope so. Don't cause too much trouble while I'm gone." Clint grinned.
"I thought that was your department anyway," Steve replied with a raised brow.
"Which is why I want you to stay out of it. You've already snatched my partner. Keep away from the rest of my stuff."
"I'll try my best," Steve chuckled.
The silence threatened to return after that so Clint decided not to give it a chance to fall. He was still holding the black, SHIELD bow in his hands and the decision came quickly and easily. With a breath to steel himself he extended the advanced weapon towards the soldier.
"Will you keep this for me while I'm gone?" he gently asked.
Steve's eyes widened as the gesture struck him. Clint knew what he was thinking. He was handing over one of his most prized possessions. He had never willingly parted with his bow, but he could never leave the one that had shaped everything he was behind. One needed to stay behind in Washington and aside from Natasha, there was no one he would rather have keeping it safe until he returned. Steve accepted the gesture readily and carefully took the bow from his hands, holding it as if it were made of glass.
"It would be my honor."
It ached a little to see his beloved weapon in someone else's hands, but Clint knew it would be there for him when he came back, whenever that was. He looked around in his room and knew there was nothing else to be done. The clenching feeling of trepidation that had been persistent in his chest for the last month flamed up and he knew it was time to leave before he imploded. He needed to find solace if he ever were to return to what things were before.
Clint hoisted up his filled duffel bag and grabbed his old bow from the bed. He turned his attention to the super soldier still standing in the middle of the room, a hint of pride glinting in his eyes, although for what he couldn't tell.
"Keep her safe for me, will you?" Clint said. He didn't need to specify who he was talking about.
"Always," Steve didn't hesitate in his steady answer. "You be careful out there."
Clint gave him a wry smirk. "Don't worry. I have someone to watch my back."
"You know where to find me," Steve promised and extended his hand.
Happy and without hesitation this time, Clint clasped it tightly.