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This took me so long to write. It was harder than it should have been. But at least I wrote something!




You should see (the other guy)

Clint is watching Loki. He's high above Loki's cage and he's got an excellent view in, completely unobstructed. He knows that Loki can see him up there, can see his bow in his hand and his arrow nocked and ready. Loki paces, watching the arrow track him minutely. His mouth is covered with the muzzle, but Clint thinks he's smiling behind it.

It'd be easy to loose the arrow but it wouldn't do any good. He knows how dumb this is but it makes him feel better. He doesn't really want to sit here and watch Loki smirk at him with his eyes but he can't help himself. The things he did. Loki sits down on the bed in his cell looking as gleeful as a man in a muzzle in a cell can. More than he should. Clint puts a little more tension on the string.

"Hey."

Bruce Banner is suddenly all he can see, standing in front of him, between him and Loki.

Clint lowers the bow but the arrow is still ready. "Hey," he returns, noncommittal and unapologetic.

Banner smiles at him. "Mind if I—" he says, gesturing a bit to the floor, the railing, Clint himself.

He does mind, but he just shrugs. "Knock yourself out."

"Thanks," he says. He sits down across from Clint, though, against the railing, still blocking Loki. "May I?" he asks, this time nodding at the arrow.

God, it's so strange. Still. He reaches back to the quiver for a free shaft, trying to think of which head to load on it.

Banner smiles. "No, that one," he points to the arrow that Clint has ready. "May I?"

Carefully, slowly and more than a little reluctantly, Clint slips the nock free. He doesn't hesitate to hand it over, though, and he wonders what that says about him. "Knock yourself out," he says again.

For a moment Banner just weighs the arrow in his hands, appears to feel out the balance of it. He taps the head of it and catches his fingers on the fletches. "You know," he says contemplatively, "this would probably sound better coming from Natasha." He laughs a little and it's self-depreciating. "Or at least you'd like it more but—"

Clint really wants to tell him to not say whatever it is, then, but he doesn't because what the hell, why not?

"It doesn't do any good to sit here, to isolate yourself. Sooner or later you have to come down and even if you didn't, you're still there wherever you end up so you're going to have to face yourself eventually. It sucks," he adds, like an afterthought.

God it is so strange. "Okay."

Banner smiles again. "I know what it's like to have somebody else running the show, when the other guy takes everything from you." He looks at the arrow in his hands and turns it over, points it at Clint. "I know what it's like to have to deal with the other guy's fallout. Take it from me; staying here and waving an empty threat at Loki isn't going to help."

He snaps. "Do you know what I did? What he had me do?" he demands roughly, snatching the arrow away and setting it back in place. He levels the bow, the shot dead center on Banner's chest. "Do you know how many people I've killed?"

"Yup," Banner says, almost cheerful. "Well, and no. You're an assassin. I've got to figure there's more I don't know about. Want to know the total value of property I've had a hand in destroying? It's in the billions." He nods thoughtfully, "and then there's the cost of the military operations to consider, and of course there's the human casualties." He snatches the arrow from the bow before Clint can move. "Do you know how many people I've killed?"

It's a strange, strange moment, tense and easy. Clint waits.

"Somewhere between none and a lot," Banner says, handing the arrow back. "I didn't kill anybody, that was all the other guy. But I created the other guy so it's all me, all on me."

Clint turns that over and then frowns. "Are…are you saying I should be grateful? That Loki is the other guy?"

Banner scratches his chin. "I told you I thought it'd sound better coming from Natasha."

"That's so fucked up," Clint says.

"I know," Banner says and he pushes up to stand. "Look on the bright side: at least you don't have Stark telling you that the other guy saved your life for, potentially, some grander purpose."

Clint lets the bow collapse down. "He told you that?" It's horrifying and hilarious.

Banner grins as Clint rises out of his crouch. "Kinda. It was shades of 'with great power comes great responsibility'."

"That sounds familiar," he says, dismantling the arrow and placing the pieces of it back in the quiver, ready for when he needs it. "Who said that?"

"Not a clue." Banner leads the way down the stairs, right past Loki. They both ignore him even when he comes right to the glass. "But it's all the same, in the end you can't change what you did or what he did. In the end it's up to you how you come to grips with you and the other guy."

Clint stops and faces the glass, Loki and his muzzle and his knowing eyes. "I kind of want to bang on the glass like a zoo exhibit," he says.

Banner laughs out loud and Clint follows him out the door, away.
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Circe

November 2012

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