Hawkeye hated waiting.
Given the nature of his profession, he was used to doing things. Training, exercising, fighting, monitoring for threats, making public appearances for charitable and civic organizations. He was an active person.
Inactivity made him feel lazy and useless.
He just leaned against the bulkhead of the SHIELD helicarrier, constantly staring down the corridor at the fifth door from him. Behind that door, doctors and nurses examined Summoner.
Hawkeye scowled, pressing his folded arms harder against his chest. He stared hard at the door, willing someone to come out and tell him Summoner would be fine.
Please, God, let him be fine.
He looked at the other Avengers. Wonder Woman had an arm around Free Spirit, who made no attempt to hide her worry. Captain America and Colossus maintained stoic expressions, though Hawkeye knew beneath their brave visages they were just as concerned for Summoner as anyone. Black Lightning and Flash seemed even more impatient than Hawkeye.
At least the remaining two Avengers had stuff to keep them busy. Wasp had gone off to help SHIELD agents gather intelligence on the whereabouts of supervillains specializing in mental manipulation who may have affected Summoner. Dr. Mid-Nite – who was an actual medical doctor – aided the SHIELD medical staff in their examination of Summoner.
Nice to be useful.
Hawkeye groaned and stared at the floor.
He had no idea how much time passed before the door to the examination room slid open. Out stepped Dr. Mid-Nite and the Director of SHIELD himself, Nick Fury.
"How is he?" Free Spirit rushed over to them.
"He's fine," Dr. Mid-Nite answered.
"Oh thank God." Free Spirit placed both hands over her heart.
The veins in Dr. Mid-Nite's neck stuck out. Hawkeye stiffened. He had a feeling his fellow Avenger had more news to share.
He doubted it would be good news.
"I should rephrase that. Summoner is fine physically. We found no sign of any cerebral trauma, no evidence of disease or psychic intrusion."
"We also couldn't find any anomalous energy readings around him or his cabin in Utica," said Fury. "Bottom line, people, these energy beings Summoner spoke of don't exist."
"But he wouldn't just make that up," Free Spirit blurted.
"I agree," Hawkeye added. "C'mon, Fury, you know him as well as I do. Summoner doesn't make up stories."
"I wouldn't say he's making this up," Dr. Mid-Nite said. "I'm sure these energy beings are very real to him."
A perplexed look formed on Captain America's face. "I'm afraid I don't follow."
"After we did all our medical tests on Summoner, one of SHIELD's psychiatrists had a session with him. It's his conclusion that Summoner is suffering from schizophrenia."
"What?" Free Spirit gaped at Dr. Mid-Nite.
Hawkeye found himself numbed by the news. Schizophrenia? Summoner had a mental illness?
But how? He'd served with distinction in the Air Force. They'd fought side-by-side on numerous occasions. He'd always been cool under pressure.
How the hell could this happen to him?
"The psychiatrist thinks that's where the energy beings came from," Dr. Mid-Nite explained. "They were hallucinations, one of the more common symptoms of schizophrenia. Pushing you away, Free Spirit, being reluctant to accept our help, long periods of silence around us. Those were signs of social isolation."
"And lashing out at us the way he did?" asked Captain America.
"It looks like that was related to his delusions and paranoia. Summoner apparently believed he was the only one who could stop these energy beings, especially since he was the only one who could see them. When any of us cast doubt on their existence, we became an enemy to him."
"What . . . what'll happen now?" Free Spirit asked in a shaky voice.
"We'll keep him here on the helicarrier," Fury told her. "You have my word, Summoner will receive the best treatment possible. We'll also contact the Algonquian tribal elders. They might be able to help, too."
"Will they let Summoner keep his Elemental Stick, given his condition?" asked Wonder Woman.
Fury gave a slight shrug. "I don't know. I guess that'll be up to the elders."
Tears trickled from Free Spirit's eyes. "Oh no. He worked so hard to earn the Elemental Stick. Being Summoner meant so much to him."
Wonder Woman put a comforting hand on Free Spirit's shoulder.
Hawkeye shook his head. He turned and slowly walked away.
Schizophrenia. Summoner has schizophrenia.
He turned down another corridor and leaned against the bulkhead. He'd been so sure Summoner had been under the influence of some outside force, be it these unseen energy beings or some supervillain.
Instead the problem had been inside him all along.
And he hadn't even considered that possibility.
He turned to find Wonder Woman behind him.
"Are you all right?" she asked.
Hawkeye exhaled slowly. "I never expected that. All the things we deal with, and it turns out to be schizophrenia, something regular folks can get."
"You got broken ribs during our fight with Summoner. Regular people get those, too."
"It's not the same. Broken ribs, separated shoulders, fractured wrists, concussions. That comes with the territory. But those things you get in fights. You can defend yourself from kicks and punches. What the hell can you do when one little wire in your head short circuits?"
He faced the bulkhead, pressing a hand against it. "Maybe that's our problem."
"Everything we deal with is out of the ordinary. Superpowered beings, alien invaders, cosmic entities. Out of the ordinary is the norm for us. Summoner's not acting like himself and we start thinking mental manipulation. We start thinking something not of this world. None of us even stopped to think he could be suffering from a mental disorder."
"You're right." Wonder Woman's eyes flickered around the corridor, looking unsure of what else to say.
"You know what else is scary about this? Look at all the stuff we can do. Fly, throw lightning bolts, transform flesh into organic metal, run beyond supersonic speed, control the elements of the earth . . . put an arrow through the center of a quarter. But when you get right down to it, we're all human. What's to prevent what happened to Summoner happening to any one of us?"
"I think you know the answer to that, just like I do."
Wonder Woman stepped forward and looked him in the eye.