Natasha pulled out her mobile phone and said something under her breath in Russian.
Matt guessed it was a swear, or a string of swears, but he wasn’t sure which ones.
“What is it?”
“Clint’s been in a fight. Idiot,” she murmurs to herself, already standing and going to the door, needing nothing other than her jacket, her weapon and her phone. “Some mafioso fired a gun at his head – he missed, but he’s temporarily lost his hearing in one ear.”
Matthew can almost hear the roll of her eyes alongside the static of her hair.
“Is he okay?” he asks, walking towards the sound of her voice and finding his things, taking his stick in one hand and her arm in the other.
“Yeah, he’s fine, but he’s not speaking or signing.”
The ride to the hospital is fairly short, but crammed with New York traffic and the rumble of Natasha’s bike.
She doesn’t stop or slow her stride through the long halls of the hospital. She doesn’t sound like a lady – not at first.
Then, comes the swish of her thighs, the sound of her hair sweeping across her shoulders, the smell of her lipstick.
Matt allows himself to get lost in the noise of the hospital – the din of noise, coughs, splutters, groans, lungs learning to breathe. The phone ringing, constantly, call after call, being answered, being transferred, being put on hold. The sound of the machines, humming, beeping, monitoring, clicking. The vibrating, buzzing and droning of various vending machines, fish tanks and television sets set to mute. The echoes of chatter, talk, orders, requests, threaded through the rest, floating loose, waiting to be caught by an ear.
Crying, tears, stifled sobs. A whispered prayer.
No matter how many times he tries to avoid it, he’s taken back, right back to a too-big hospital bed with awful, awful cotton sheets and lights so loud and so bright he can feel them.
“Hey,” comes a soft voice beside him. “He’s right in here.” Nat leads him in and sits him down beside the bed, letting go of his arm.
Natasha leans over the bed and looks Clint square in the eye, starting to sign the first thing that comes to mind.
What the fuck is wrong with you?
He looks at her reluctantly, somehow avoiding eye contact, only watching her mouth.
“You’ll be fine, Clint,” she says, voice tight. “They’ll discharge you tomorrow morning, you know that.”
And Clint did know that. But he couldn’t help it. He couldn’t help how vulnerable or scared he felt. He felt like he did when he was little, when he’d first sustained hearing damage. Alone. Isolated. Hurt. He didn’t want to look at anyone. He was too ashamed. He felt stupid.
Nat decided, after the better part of an hour, to leave.
“Want to come with?” she asks, looking at Matt, chin over her shoulder.
“No, no. I’m okay. I’ll stay here,” he replies, giving her the best smile he can.
“Okay. I’ll come back later,” she answers, putting on her jacket and pulling back the curtain.
“Rough day, huh?”
Clint know the question is meant for him. He tries to speak, clears his throat and tries again. “Yeah. Something like that.”
Matty reaches carefully for the other man’s hand, and Barton closes the gap, linking their fingers together.
“You’re going to be fine.”
Clint knows he can’t argue with him. He’s been through the same, or worse, and survived. Thrived, even. They both have.
“Yeah. I know.”