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How to Save a Life (One Year Later)

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“Babe?”

“Mm?”

Clint and Bucky are curled up on the couch together while Steve naps in the big bed because sometimes their husband deserves these things.

“You remember way at the beginning of our, um, whatever you’d call it when I was flirting with you–I realized you and I were alike and I just called it ‘that soldier thing?’”

Clint grins fondly. “I remember.”

“So if I…well, no if. I did kind of…accidentally find someone else who reminded me of that, and he’s kind of a mess, I think he’s basically at ‘that soldier thing’ levels of understanding his…stuff.”

“Mmhmm.”

“So I was wondering if you thought I should invite him over or something. I mean, maybe we could help him? We don’t have to, but–”

“But I am an Avenger. Were you going to say something like that?”

“I dunno.”

“I’d be okay with it. Honestly. But if we’re going to invite anyone over, Steve needs to give the okay too, and if there’s a glitching system…”

“Yeah, kinda. He loses time and stuff.”

Clint shrugs. “Yeah. That happens.”

Bucky looks like he’s about to ask a question but thinks better of it. “Steve’s been over it lately. Let’s make sure he gets a real meal tonight, huh?” he offers instead and Clint nods.

“Buttering him up a little?”

“He wouldn ‘t think so.”

Clint grins. “That’s true. He wouldn’t.”

They feed him well that night, good Italian food several steps above cold pizza, and he’s happy and warm inside–both of them can tell.

****

Steve is Steve, so of course he says yes once he’s heard enough of the story, and not two days later Moon Knight is standing in their living room.

Today they get Marc, which may be a minor miracle all on its own.

So Clint talks directly to him.

“Hey, man. I heard it hasn’t been great lately.”

Marc eyes Clint warily. Actually, that’s the understatement of the year, and Clint braces himself for much more of that.

What do we do, do we fight him?, Clint’s headmate Mike asks. And it’s a fair question, considering their day to day occupation. But. No.

No, we don’t fight him. Bucky says if we don’t help this guy he’s close to implosion.

Even Steve is a bit on edge, since he’s actually never met this guy before and doesn’t know what to expect either from his head world or his powers.

“Even if that’s true,” Marc says, “which you can’t expect me to verify–I don’t know you. Why would I even tell you?”

“Well, uh, Bucky here asked us to–”

“Oh, right. Of course. Barnes.”

“Yeah. The one,” Clint said.

“The only. But don’t worry. He’s mostly my problem,” Steve says, and he’s smiling genuinely as he says it. Because no matter what, Bucky will always make him smile, especially when he really needs that connection to Bucky.

But Marc wasn’t having anything to do with a balanced polyamorous family hour.

“Of course he’d–”

Marc’s voice was getting heated and his fists were clenching.

“I’m right here, you know,” Bucky said, doing that thing where he went from silent observer to filling the room with his presence. “We want to help.”

 

“Sure you do, Barnes. What did Barnes say about me? Tell me.”

“That you’d be about as jumpy as this,” Clint says.

“I don’t need the third degree about–anything.”

“Listen,” Clint says, “I’ve got a ton of people in here all reacting to you and I’m completely exhausted. Bucky wanted to help you. He’s good at spotting us.”

“Wait. What?”

“Soldiers with this kind of trauma,” Clint offers. “And no. That isn’t everyone.”

“No, it definitely isn’t,” Marc says,

“But it’s more people than you’d think.”

“I’ve had a lot of practice. So have you,” Clint adds quickly. “Bucky’s pretty intuitive about this stuff. If we all work together–”

“I don’t do that. Work together Who are you?”

“The Avengers. Sometimes team sports pay off, Marc. We could get to the bottom of the next right step for you and maybe you’d be in less agony. That would be what we’d want.”

“Steven’s…”

“We can be careful, so Steven’s safe, okay?”

Marc deflates. He nods. “After everything– That’s what I want. He’s my–”

“--safe space?” Clint asks.

“Yeah. Kinda.” Marc smiles wryly. “He’s getting there–one day he’ll be able to really kick ass on his own but I just–”

“Talk us through it. If my people have any observations…I’ll hear them but I’ll tell them to cool their jets til you’re ready. Okay?”

“I um. Listen. I can only tell you this because you have them too.”

“I know. Bucky knows.”

“And, uh, I assume this is Cap, so what about Cap?”

“He’s known about me for a long time. He was the only one on the team who did. But he’s kinda beefed up, so he never fully fell apart and developed people like you and I and Bucky did.”

“Okay. You trust him?”

“He’s my husband.”

Marc tenses. “You just–”

“I trust him. We’re safe here, Marc, I promise. If we weren’t, the whole building would rise up in our defense. We’ve done it before.”

Marc lets out a breath. “Then I’m glad you have him. Even if I think this stuff is impossible to explain to a…a spouse.”

“We can start getting you there.”

Marc clenches his fist again but nods. “Okay. The thing is, I don’t even know–how many–Sometimes I split at the most random times. Glitchy vision. Don’t know if it’s going to be Steven who shows up.”

“It took me a while to find all of mine. But we’re on good terms now, and if you’re on good terms with Steven– You can probably find the others.”

“I don’t want Steven to lead me to them. He’s messed up enough about our mother already because of what I did.”

“Okay.”

“He’s soft. I–”

“That’s all right. My sweet Rosa is really soft. Kinda balances me out so I can do the work, you know what I mean?” Clint could bet that Marc did.

“Rosa?”

“Yeah. She was a surprise, but she’s really with it. Keeps us on our toes and functioning.”

“Is she gonna–”

“She’s in the back. But sometimes you can see her on my face.”

Marc squints, but decides to let it go and nods.

“So what do you do. You found them all? They like you?”

“I found them all so far. I guess there could be more. But I go by their word to me.”

Marc nods. He’s relaxing a fraction, the lines of his body saying he understands he’s in the presence of someone who’s been through something close enough to what he has that it’s probably safe to listen.

“Was it your–”

“My dad,” Clint says, and he automatically lowers his head as if he is expecting a blow that won’t come.

Steve and Bucky see this happen, and they each tense, waiting.

“But my mom, you know, she wasn’t better than him. My brother’s kind of the most messed up about it. He saw it all. Kinda cracked him. Different way than me. I guess the whole thing gave me my moral compass. Barney though…”

“Yeah, it doesn’t always happen that way,” Marc says.

“No kidding. Hey Marc?”

“Yeah?”

“Would you wanna–later on–meet some more of us? Sam? Natasha?”

“This is enough people for now.”

Clint lets out a chuckle. “Boy, do I ever know what that feels like.”

“Yeah.”

“Sam and everyone, though, they’d be good to you too.”

“I think I need more control first. How do you do it?”

“Well, first, you acknowledge that you need to talk to them regularly, and really, really listen.”

“Mm. That’s all?”

“No, that’s not all, not really. I mean, it’s that simple, and that hard, at the beginning. What’s your inner world like?”

“Psych hospital.”

“That’s….”

“It’s charming. No, it’s hell. This guy Arthur Harrow– He went nuclear. FUBAR.”

“Yeah. I’ve seen the type.”

“And he’s in there with me.”

“That’s…that’s not good. No wonder you’re not–”

“This is what I’m telling you. And he’s in there with Steven.”

“Well, then, you keep treating Steven well. You keep talking to him. You find the others. You talk to them too. They may be all over the place mentally, but that doesn’t mean you don’t talk to them. If you want to keep coming by, we can talk things over–I use video chat too, easy to sign on there.”

“Sign?”

“Yeah, my dad busted my ears.”

“Shit, yeah…”

“I only have this hearing aid because of Stark, which I’m not particularly proud of. It’s pretty good, but I’m fluent in sign and so is Steve. Rogers, I mean–the one sitting here in the flesh right now.”

“You three are really–?”

“I wouldn’t want it any other way.”