“Time to party, Hawkeye,” Wade announces, signing his words at the same time before he launches himself at Clint.
Wade is fucking heavy, even by - and he’s got a boyfriend with a solid metal arm - Clint's standards. He’s wearing that weird bodysuit again and while Clint supports chaotic style choices, he doesn’t enjoy being half-smothered when Wade doesn’t even wash the thing. His ears might be busted, but his nose works just fine, thank you.
Clint still makes an effort to pat his back uncomfortably as he’s squeezed.
Wade hasn’t zipped up the back of his suit and Clint’s fingers brush against the familiar raised skin of scar tissue. He gives it one more pat and then he’s released from the bear hug, thankfully - his lungs weren’t going to survive that much longer. One of the crew starts yelling and waving a guitar at them impatiently and Wade sags a little like he’s disappointed that he can’t keep bothering Clint.
Clint takes the reprieve as a win. “Have fun out there,” he offers.
“Oh, Barton, I will.” He can’t see Wade wink at him through the costume, but he knows it’s there, and then Wade’s out on the stage and Clint’s left to realize there’s now a Deadpool sticker on his vest.
He tries to remove it. It doesn’t budge an inch. He sighs.
“And that’s why we don’t invite people like that to be an opener to our shows,” Natasha says without looking up from her phone.
“He’s weird, sure, but he’s okay,” Clint reasons as he sits down on a spare amp. One of the techs gives him a dirty look and he ignores them. “It’s not like he’s setting fire to the equipment or bothering the women. I’m pretty sure he’s got a crush on that security guy from his team. Colossus?”
“Piotr,” Natasha corrects. “I guess we’ve had worse.”
Clint hums agreeably and pulls out his phone. They’ve definitely had worse. They’ve had much, much worse - Bullseye, or whatever the fuck his real name is, still weighs on their minds every now and then. Clint’s got a few scars from that particular altercation, and he can happily say that he prefers Wade and his weird shit over that. Also, X-Force is a better band by a mile.
Clint opens the contact on his phone labeled as Bucky and starts typing out a message saying there’s no meet and greet tonight. Bucky found this sweet beach a few days ago that they’d staked out, so they’ll probably meet up there. He’s still pretty fond of the beach.
It gives him the warm fuzzies about the first time they’d kissed, although they haven’t fallen off of any palm trees on this tour.
He doesn’t get a reply back, but that happens sometimes. He’s not concerned about it. Bucky gets busy with whatever it is that he does, and Clint picks at a hole in his pants and the skin underneath, thinks about dying the ends of his hair purple. Probably not worth the effort.
“I was thinking,” Natasha says. “The record label wants us to try a featured artist with the new song.”
“Yeah?” That’s not big news. Labels eat that shit up. “What, you want to do it with Wade?”
“I was thinking someone more mainstream,” she replies. “How do you feel about the Winter Soldier?”
“That’s not our kind of music, the different genres won’t fit together,” Clint answers doubtfully. “I haven’t listened to it, but it’s like dance-y bebop bullshit. Isn’t it?”
She doesn’t answer, and when he glances up from his phone she’s studying his face like she’s looking for something. Some common sense, maybe, although she’d made that joke on Thursday so she’s unlikely to make it again. Clint doesn’t know, so he just stares blankly back at her until she sighs and presses a hand to her face.
Clint feels like he’s missed something important. “Is that look about the collab, or…? Because if you really want to do it that badly, we can do it. I trust you.”
“You know what? Nevermind.”
“Nat,” he says plaintively as she gets to her feet. She ignores him and starts walking in the direction of the back rooms, doesn’t make a single comment as she disappears. Clint frowns and looks back down at his phone, wonders what he’s done wrong. It’s hard to tell with Natasha sometimes, but she seems genuinely bothered about something.
Whatever it is, he hasn’t got a clue.
Off-key twangs of a guitar ring out from the stage and Clint chooses to ignore it instead of taking out his aids. They should’ve tuned it before practice, really, but that’s how it goes sometimes. He’s been in the scene long enough to ignore the swearing and hastily repeated chords with ease.
A notification shows up on his phone as some of the other musicians filter in. It’s getting closer to showtime and while this is a more casual setting than some of their other venues, Clint should probably make an effort to find Yelena and his guitar at some point. He scans over the article that’s been recommended to him quickly, and-
“Aw, come on,” he mutters.
“What’s the matter?”
“New song dropped,” Clint replies when Phil continues to look at him with mild concern. He’d barely noticed the man come in. Phil offers him a soft, slightly confused smile and continues fussing around with the cherry red bass guitar in his hands.
“And what does that mean, in this moment?”
“It means that they’re speculating on the song’s meaning,” Clint says blandly, waving his phone at Phil. “It means that they think Nat’s got herself some loving on the side.”
“I don’t know, I’ve been busy with my loving on the side,” Clint replies.
The song’s about him and Bucky, not Natasha. Why would it be about Natasha? Then he stops. Takes another look at the article on his phone and plays back Natasha’s weird behaviour earlier. She’s been acting weird for weeks, though, ever since he’d come out with the lyrics for the new song. The lyrics about-
Shit, maybe she does have a new lover.
Clint immediately feels guilty. He’s oblivious sometimes, sure, but surely he should’ve noticed if there was a romance. He’d thought maybe, with Maria the roadie, and yet it had turned out she’d been in a relationship with a girl back in New York. Natasha’s never met the other girl, he knows that much, so it’s not a poly situation.
He should probably talk to her. He should definitely talk to her, or he’s a bad friend. Clint’s a lot of things, but he tries not to be a bad friend. Natasha’s all he’s got while they’re on the road and as much as he likes complaining, he loves her. He really does, he’s just been caught up in the euphoria of having something that’s just his.
He hadn’t thought he was paying that little attention that he hadn’t noticed a relationship, though. He’s normally pretty attentive. Man, that’s a fuck up of epic proportions.
Yeah, he’s definitely got to talk to Natasha.
“I think Wade’s got your guitar,” Phil observes, and Clint’s attention swings back to the present. Sure enough, when he looks he can see one of his favourite guitars - fuck, it’s the purple one, too - being swung around on stage and he swears, forgetting about Natasha and Bucky and romance as he runs out onto the stage to reclaim his baby.
“I’ll see you later,” Natasha says as they’re coming offstage.
She doesn’t offer any reason as to why, which is fairly normal, but she also doesn’t make an effort to get changed or fix the way she’s dressed before she heads for the way out. No coat, no reapplying any makeup, not even a switch of her uncomfortably high-heeled shoes for the flats she normally wears. Her hair is sticking up in one spot and Clint stares at it blankly as she disappears from view.
Yeah, okay, now he’s looking for it he knows that Natasha is acting weird.
Clint’s practically glued to his clothes with sweat and he’s got a few cuts to disinfect, so he lets her go and heads for the shitty venue showers instead. No one’s stolen the spare clothes he’s got stashed there and he rinses off the makeup and mess, glances at himself in the mirror and wonders when he started looking so goddamn tired all the time.
His phone doesn’t make a sound, and when he checks there’s no reply from Bucky still.
Clint’s not even sure if he got the first text - he briefly wishes there was a ‘read’ option for text messages even though it’d be a mess for him because he never replies to their managers - but it’d be a dick move to leave him hanging out at the beach. He can make the time to swing past there before he goes chasing after Nat.
There’s time. Their hotel rooms are right next to each other, after all, and they share a tour bus. They practically live together.
He can always find her in the hotel later, once he’s checked in with Bucky.
There’s an unattended fire going on the beach when Clint hops out of the Uber. His - admittedly, very short - shorts don’t do much to save him from the chilling breeze and he gravitates towards the flames automatically, crouches down and holds his hands out to warm them. He wiggles his toes in the dirty sand and settles himself down to wait.
Shit, this was easier in the summer months.
Clint’s jaw makes an interesting noise when he yawns - and really, he should’ve considered warmer clothes, but he hadn’t realized he’d be out here for long.
He checks his phone again. Nothing. It’s still not that much of a reason to be worried, and he tucks his hands under his knees in the hopes that’ll help them stay warm. It helps enough that he doesn’t bother with moving around, and he entertains himself by staring at the fire. Is he too old to be wearing mesh shirts now? Maybe he can make Bucky wear them instead.
Bucky in a mesh shirt might kill him, actually. Nevermind.
He looks up as a figure appears over the dunes. It’s too dark to make them out clearly, but the silhouette is pretty heavily muscled and Clint’s nearly bowled over by a wave of relief. Oh, thank god. He’s not going to have to sit out here for two hours. He likes Bucky a lot, but he’s not worth catching hypothermia over. (Yes he is.)
“Took you long enough, hot stuff,” Clint calls out.
He recognizes Steve a second later and can’t do much more than give him a puzzled look. Steve’s hair is sticking up in a thousand different directions and he looks tired, kind of resigned as he stops a few steps away from Clint.
“Sorry,” Steve says apologetically, sits down on the log that Clint hadn’t even noticed until now. Shit, now he’s got sand on his ass and he hadn’t even needed to. It’s probably a good thing that the paparazzi don’t care about him.
“He’s okay, right?”
Steve wouldn’t be sitting down if it was an emergency, so he’s not worried about that. Clint tries not to sound too clingy. Does Steve know he gets clingy? Now he’s worrying about how much Bucky actually says about him - but hey, Bucky’s said enough that his best friend is here and talking to Clint. That’s kind of nice, actually.
“Yeah, he’s fine,” Steve says. “He just had… something to take care of. But his phone went dead and he asked me if I could come meet you and explain for him.”
That doesn’t make Clint feel any less worried, really. Something to take care of? “And you’re sure he’s fine.”
“I’m sure,” comes the reply. Steve’s lighting a cigarette with the fire and Clint cringes a little at how close his fingers are to the flames, but Steve doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. He sounds sure enough that Clint takes a deep breath, lets it go in a whoosh. Okay, so Bucky’s fine, but something’s happened that’s so important that he couldn’t spare the time to check in.
It’s still kind of worrying, but he turns his attention to the smoke Steve’s breathing out instead, watches it billow into the air. “If I’d known I was finally being introduced to the Steve Rogers, I would’ve worn pants.”
“Would you have? Really?”
“No,” Clint admits. “I like looking at my leg tattoos.”
Steve snorts softly and Clint feels the smile spread on his face without consciously meaning to. From the stories he’d heard about Steve, he’d been expecting someone more… he doesn’t know. Different, somehow. The fire is pretty small but it’s bright enough that he can see the curl of ink disappearing under Steve’s sleeve, the swirls of red and blue and a vaguely familiar star, what looks like dog tags inked on his skin.
He forgets to look away before Steve notices. There’s no awkward moment, though - Steve just glances down at his own bicep and a faint grimace curls his lips before he uses his free hand to tug down the sleeve over the tattoo. Clint doesn’t comment on it, but his curiosity must show because Steve speaks a few seconds later like the question has been asked anyway.
“I was naive,” Steve says with a wave of his hand. “Got caught up in how glorious they make it sound, when they tell you about wars in grade school, you know? When you're a kid, all you care about is being a hero. Thought I was helping people by fighting. Left art school for it.”
“Huh,” Clint answers.
Steve looks down at his hands, back up at the flames. “I think I- the music’s better, I think.”
Clint decides that he likes Steve Rogers in that moment.
“Did you always want to do this?” Steve waves a hand at Clint’s- everything, really. Clint looks down to make sure his shorts are still sitting correctly. “The rockstar thing?”
That’s a loaded question. For him, at least - they’d already started setting up for the documentary about Natasha. Clint hadn’t been asked to come in for his own backstory, just to talk about how Natasha was in the beginning, and some part of him is quietly relieved about it. Digging up the bad parts of Natasha’s childhood had been traumatic enough for both of them.
It’s starting to seem like everyone on this tour has a depressing backstory.
“I guess? I’ve always loved music,” Clint answers finally. “Should’ve started when my hearing was better, but hey, I got here eventually.”
“Bucky said you used to be in the circus,” Steve replies.
Clint blinks. “Yeah, that’s where my fashion sense came from. I was like, fifteen and I thought it was appropriate to take tips from the acrobats, which is how I ended up looking like this.”
He thinks they'd be proud of him, if they were still around.
“You’re interesting,” Steve reasons. “Unique.”
“Bucky said the same thing.”
“Yeah,” Steve says. “I was surprised, when he told me that you and he were an item. I knew he’d been talking to you, but I wasn’t expecting- I don’t know. He’s steered clear of relationships for a long time.”
“Guess I’m just special,” Clint answers with amusement. “Or unique.”
“You’re definitely different from the girls he used to date,” Steve comments, looks briefly regretful before he recovers with a smile. “He always did like them confident, though.”
Jokes on Steve there, the confidence is all carefully-crafted bullshit. Clint doesn’t dispute the comment, though. He’s inclined towards letting everyone outside of Natasha and Kate just think he’s overconfident and self-assured. Technically Bucky’s included in that as well, but Clint likes to pretend he doesn't know about Clint's insecurity issues sometimes.
Bucky's never talked about other people he's dated. Clint hadn't even realized he'd dated girls, and that's quite the oversight. He's pretty sure he's asked before, but Bucky hadn't been interested in talking about it then. Clint's not sure what Steve means by different, doesn't know if it's the gay thing or just that it's Clint. At least Steve doesn't seem to visibly dislike him.
Steve flicks the remainders of his cigarette into the fire and gets to his feet. “It’s cold out here. Do you want to go to a bar or something? Get a drink?”
“As delightful as that concept is - and no sarcasm, dude, I’m interested in learning about all the shit Bucky got up to as a kid,” Clint says. “Unless you’re interested in spooning, though, I’m going to have to turn you down. I’m wiped.”
Clint stands up as well and Steve’s eyebrows lift slightly when he realizes that Clint’s taller than he is. He looks somewhere between surprised and slightly disappointed, and Clint stamps down the urge to laugh at him. He's got to make an effort to get to know this guy more - he'd been planning on it anyway for Bucky, but now he's just curious about Steve Rogers for his own reasons.
“Take a raincheck?” Clint offers instead. “You’re on the tour for a while, right? Managing people?”
“Yeah,” Steve says. “One person, anyway. I’ll be around. If you can’t find me, Bucky’ll know where I am.”
God, Clint loves his bed. He’s going to write a love song about the bed. It deserves it so much, and he’s giving the lady who takes care of the linen a massive tip. He loves her as well. He’s going to spend the entirety of tomorrow wrapped up in the bed watching television. Maybe with Bucky, if Bucky’s done with his business by then.
First he’s got to check in with Natasha.
He’s still plotting a coherent and subtle way to bring up Natasha’s personal life when he realizes her hotel door is open a crack. There’s voices filtering out from inside, and Clint slows down just in case he’s walking in on something he won’t want to see. He’s seen Natasha naked far too many times already, thank you very much.
“If you don’t tell him then I will,” Natasha says, and she sounds pissed off. “I don’t play around, Barnes, and you shouldn’t either.”
Clint stops with his hand on the doorknob.
“I’m going to,” Bucky replies defensively. There’s a beat of silence and then he sighs loud enough for even Clint’s busted hearing to pick up on. God bless StarkTech hearing aids. “I was going to. It’s just- hard, knowing it’ll change things. I like Clint.”
“I like him too,” Natasha says. “That’s why I don’t hide the truth from him.”
There’s a long, heavy beat of silence and Clint feels the frown tug at his face. What the fuck? What are they even talking about - Clint didn’t even know that Bucky and Natasha knew each other, they’d never spoken about it.
Apparently they’re close enough to argue about secrets in hotel rooms while telling him nothing, though. This was the important business Bucky had to take care of?
“Doesn’t change the fact that you overshadow him every second of every day,” Bucky retorts, uncharacteristically upset-sounding. “Everything he does, somehow the media and the crowds and everyone manage to make it about you. You eclipse every part of his life because of how goddamn popular you are. I can’t- I don’t want it to be like that with me.”
“So lying to his face is better?” Natasha’s voice is radiating danger. “You’re not a child, James, you know this is wrong.”
“It’s all wrong,” Bucky says. “This is- it’s not just that, it’s you and it’s me and it’s all of it that’s bad.”
Clint’s been so enamoured with Bucky paying attention to him that he hasn’t even considered where else Bucky goes in his spare time.
The worst part is, it makes sense.
All this time following them around on tour and Bucky always seems to disappear without contact for at least five hours at a time, without ever providing a reason. When Clint’s asked he’s always avoided the question and Clint had never pushed even once because he’s big on respecting privacy.
He thought it was some kind of anxiety thing, not that Bucky was secretly hooking up with his bandmate.
How many times had Bucky blown him off to chase after Natasha? How many times has he been sitting around waiting for Bucky, just for him to be dating Natasha? Have they been doing this the whole time? Surely not. Except there's this, and Nat's been acting weird ever since he told her that he was sleeping with that one fan who always comes to see him. Natasha, who the gossip mags are saying has a new lover.
Clint takes a panicked step backwards and his elbow connects with a vase perched right there.
Fucking five-star hotels and their goddamn hallway vases. It falls with an extremely loud shattering noise and he flinches hard as the shards hit his boots, although they don’t break through all the leather and steel. There’s a thump of footsteps on the other side of the hotel room door, loud voices that fade out of coherency and he can’t deal with this right now.
It's the best course of action he can come up with.
The elevator door opens just as he reaches it and whatever the elevator attendant sees on his face - elevator attendant, what the fuck, he doesn't belong in a hotel this fancy - it makes them immediately press the button for the lobby. Clint doesn’t look behind him. His lungs aren’t working properly and he flips the hood of his sleeveless shirt over his head as the doors start sliding shut again. There’s voices in the hallway now but he ignores them as stubbornly as he can.
Of course they're calling for him to come back.
If he stays they'll probably sit him on a couch, look at him with thinly-veiled pity. They're both eerily pretty, with the same sense of dry humour and all the black clothes - god, they have so much in common. Clint can't believe they haven't said anything before now. They're perfect for each other and he hates it more than he's hated anything before, the rage bubbling up hard enough that he nearly punches the wall.
Their hotel room is way too high in the building for anyone to catch up to him and Clint keeps moving.
There’s a taxi conveniently parked outside and Clint doesn’t take the time to think, he just slides in the backseat and demands the closest airport that the frazzled-looking driver can find. He doesn’t even have his goddamn luggage but it doesn’t seem that important anymore, and the driver doesn’t care enough to ask. He presses his face into his hands and tries to breathe.
God, he just.
He just wants to go home, he realizes, and he can do that.
Luckily there’s still tickets for flights back to New York at short notice, and regardless of Clint’s popularity he’s got enough money to get a first-class ticket. Oh, glorious, glorious solitude. Thank fuck for money. He’s got a million unread texts already - all of them from the same people - and he ignores them all in favour of messaging their manager for this tour to say he won’t be playing tomorrow and to get Phil to play for him.
A simple ok is all he gets back.
Clint snorts to himself. Of course it doesn’t matter to them whether he’s here or not. It’s not like anyone in the crowd will notice he’s not playing.
He also texts Kate. She replies instantly, and she’s leaving Lucky in his apartment when she leaves to go see America tonight. He's so grateful for her that he could start crying, and he already knows she's going to be at his doorstep in the morning with a container of her grandma's food.
Natasha tries to call him.
He presses end call.
She calls him again, and he presses end call again.
She tries a third time and he turns his phone off and jams it as far in the pocket of his jeans as it can go.
Of course he was just a way to get easy access to Natasha. God, he’s so fucking stupid. People have done this before - Black Widow groupies, but they’re usually so obvious. They're usually so much more obvious. Clint’s always been able to tell because they nearly die when he offers to introduce them.
He hadn’t even bothered to offer with Bucky because Bucky hadn’t seemed even slightly interested in Nat.
It was a good play, really. Clever. He’d take his hat off if he had one.
(He’d had a fedora once. It was a bad look.)
Clint keeps his passport in his wallet with his ID, so he’s got everything he needs to escape and the flight is so soon that the waiting time passes before he can even process what he’s doing right now. It feels like he blinks and then they're calling out the number, and a woman had handed him a coffee and he'd let it go cold. He couldn’t be paid to tell someone what the private lounge looks like.
Some part of him is expecting someone to show up dramatically and convince him to stay, but it’s not like they’d even know where he was.
He’s made sure of that, really.
He should text Natasha. This is a whole new level of drama, though, and he’s going to need a while. Time, if nothing else. Maybe he’ll find that bottle of vodka under the sink when he gets home.
“Here’s your seat, sir,” the flight attendant says. “Can I offer you anything?”
Clint shakes his head and keeps it together for long enough that she walks away, and then he curls up into a ball and finally lets himself cry.