A/N: This is a companion piece to "Safe House", which you don't need to have read (although I would of course be happy if you did). It's an early birthday gift for Kylen – because my life between now and the actual day is full and unpredictable, and she deserves a story of her own.

Warning – some movie-level violence; swearing; and spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode 1-22. Special thanks to Runawaymetaphor and JRBarton for giving this the once-over; any errors and omissions are mine alone.

Finally, I don't own any of the MCU (on which this is exclusively based), except for an impressive BluRay and t-shirt collection and a Hawkeye action figure.


Recurve

By Alpha Flyer


The leaf cover is thin enough for a decent view of the driveway; street-side, the foliage is denser. You'd need to know where to look to spot the sniper. God bless leafy Westchester County.

Angle is going to be a challenge, if the mark gets out on the passenger side. Not totally dire (World's Best Marksman, right?) - provided the guy is over five-two and doesn't drive a van.

Does Martens have a driver? Intel's silent. Here's hoping not. He's out of a job, so. Unless minions are paid from a central fund, and he's high enough in the HYDRA food chain to merit one?

Whatever. Angle, Barton?

If he gets out on the driver's side, back side of the neck. (Good thing it isn't raining. Goretex hoods can throw off the impact point - that empty space? Unpredictable.) Passenger side, right eye or the side of the throat. Maybe the left, when he turns and straightens to shut the door. Yeah, left it is.

Martens first, then whatever minion(s), if any. Priorities.

Breathe.

Not the most comfortable stakeout ever, but also not the most awkward. There's a small knot digging into Clint's back, but the branch is wide enough to put both legs on it; he can change positions. No danger of his butt falling asleep. Damn, that was embarrassing, that time in Modena, when he fell out of the fucking tree? Good thing it happened after the job was done, but he almost didn't make it back to the car, what with a sprained foot and Natasha not there to lean on.

She won't be there today, either.

Lying low after her testimony, no contact with anyone except through Coulson, or Hill at SI.

That's good. Necessary. The right thing to do for both … for all of them. Yep. A good thing. Right? Right.

Natasha. That little gleam she gets in her eye when she looks at people she likes. The way her mouth opens to his. The spot where her neck curves into her shoulder …

Get a grip, Barton. It's good that she's gone (for now). Staying alive is best done underground. Steve's gone, too, on that wild goose chase with his new buddy. Wilson sounds like a good guy. Can't have too much air support, New York proved that.

And Coulson. Running things now? Hill won't say where, but orders are coming in. Suggestions. But definitely no more of that 'Hawkeye – status? Do you have eyes on the mark? Talk to me!' in his ear. Used to piss him off, that. Now …

Shit.

Infrastructure, back-up, colleagues, friends – all gone, and not even in a blaze of glory. Fuck you, Alexander Pierce.

How'd Insight manage to build three of these flying boats, anyway, right under the Triskelion and no one the wiser? Must have taken thousands of guys with blowtorches - all with higher security clearance than Hawkeye, Cap or Widow?

Fucking agency stovepipes.

Fury probably kept the Avengers Initiative in the dark on purpose. Did Stark know? JARVIS must be as deep in the S.H.I.E.L.D. files as HYDRA, no? Besides, those engines had repulsor tech, you could tell from the CNN clips. Not so easy to bring down with a single arrow - the point, that. Score one for Hawkeye, helping HYDRA build a better future.

He can hear Hill in his ear – 'Stop wallowing, Barton, and don't flatter yourself. This isn't about you!' But dammit, that fucking spear of Loki's really is the gift that keeps on giving, isn't it just.

Fury knew, of course. (Did Hill?) Had Coulson, Clint, Natasha and Steve going every which way on missions, all over the damn planet – anywhere, except in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s basement. That worked well for you, Nick, didn't it. Real well. No more basement. No more S.H.I.E.L.D.

Boom.

Honestly? Clint doesn't miss S.H.I.E.L.D. orders, especially knowing some of them were basically variants of what he got … took from Loki. (Standing ramrod straight, eyes glass blue … shit, don't go there, Barton.)

No wonder Cap's the most pissed Clint's ever seen him. Finding out he'd served what he'd essentially died fighting …? Hell, the S.H.I.E.L.D. eagle would have looked good on a Nazi dagger, and why the fuck didn't anyone catch that one?

Even the lingo was the same.

"Freedom from freedom,"Loki had said (with Clint standing there, watching…). "Give the world the freedom it deserves," Pierce told the Council, according to Nat's testimony.

Variations on a theme.

When it comes to definitions of freedom, Clint will go with the Barton version: 'Look at the facts, think for yourself, do what's necessary and right.' (Simple and straightforward, provided your sense of 'right' and 'necessary' isn't batshit crazy to begin with.) And don't hold anyone else accountable for lousy decisions you make yourself.

Wonder if Sitwell had any regrets? Ward? Rumlow was a 24-karat, pure-blooded asshole, so probably not.

If someone like Sitwell – dammit, Jasper! - can turn HYDRA though, what does that say about Clint Barton, out here killing snakes in his spare time? Following up on tips is a choice. Your mission, should you choose to accept it. A name, an address on his smart phone – Coulson, Carter, wherever they come from. Might want to check that one out, Hawkeye. (Or not.)

Except, there is no choice. Not really. Not in this.

Hawkeye's no superhero, that's for sure. Can't fly, can't run three miles in a minute, can't knock down buildings, can't spit lightning from his fingernails. Hell, he can't even build the arrowheads he designs in his head (has to talk Stark or people like Fitz into doing that), and being thrown into a wall leaves bruises for a month.

But this, this he can do: His bit to restore the balance. Like Hill, like Tasha are doing, but his way. Take out the threat, one arrow at a time. And he doesn't fucking miss. That counts for something, doesn't it? It does. It'll do. Don't have to be super to do your bit.

Martens, William H., ex-Chief of Staff to Senator Stern. Guy just landed a job in a think tank (rather than the tank, where he belongs), thanks to his telegenic outrage at Stern's betrayal of "our American values". Maybe no court date for this one, but there are different forms of justice.

Quick visual on the equipment. All good. Touch? Ambient temperature. No surprises on elasticity, then.

Traffic on the street is light; it's not a main thoroughfare but there's a couple of side streets running off. Here's hoping nobody takes exception to the rental he parked over there. (One time he parked in a neighbourhood like this for a job, there was a note on the windshield: You don't live here. No parking overnight, asshole. Class warfare by other means.)

The house has a For Rent sign out front and extra garbage bags on the curb, like someone's been editing closets. Martens must know it's only a question of time before Tasha's intel dump will spit him out, even if it's not enough to take him to court. But if he is, he's obviously not thinking in terms of his own death – just relocation. Clearly, HYDRA needs to work on its recruitment policies. Political hacks may have their uses, but they're too fucking self-absorbed to drop everything and just run.

Looking at those garbage bags … Clint's own loft could use some cleaning up; fletching supplies were getting out of hand last time he looked. There's probably dishes in the sink, too. But the place is compromised, and he hasn't been back since ... Good thing there's no pet to feed.

Hill's place has been decent enough to crash in for a few days. He's always respected the Deputy, once he'd figured out that her attitude to having an ex-carnie in the agency wasn't judgment, but concern for the job getting done right. Subtle but important distinction, and once she saw he could be trusted to deliver - if not always exactly the way she'd thought - they'd gotten along just fine. And now … well, these days respect and trust count more than ever.

And with Hill razzing him whenever he leaves the toilet seat up, well, they're practically friends. Who'd have thought.

Another car, slowing down; signaling. The driver swings out (why do people do that?) before turning into the driveway across the street; its headlights reflect off something in the bush below.

Hold on. That a kid's bike? Martens' bio said nothing about a kid.

Clint Barton Rule # 1: No killing in front of kids, except in their defence. Ever. Fury figured that one out quickly, after finding an arrow with a note on his desk: Never again. To his credit, he just nodded. We make our deals.

Shit. It is a kid's bike. Small, too. Like for a six-year-old or so. Shitshitshitshitshit...

Across the street, a woman gets out, grabs some bags, looks back at the bush and the 'For Rent' sign and heads into the house. She looks a bit like May, but a lot softer around the edges and May wouldn't be caught dead in a skirt so tight that kicking someone in the face wasn't an option.

"Yi Peng?" the woman shouts. "How often have I told you not to leave your bike out on the street? And especially not at the neighbours' place? Get out here, right now!"

The appearance of a pig-tailed little girl – about six or seven, called it - is accompanied by a stern but loving lecture on the value of bikes and the dangers of crossing the road ('now look both ways before crossing!'). Clint is just glad to see the bike disappear into a house that doesn't belong to his mark.

Breathe, Barton. Slow the heart rate back down.

Breathe.

Streetlights are coming on, changing shadows and angles. At least they'll be constant now. No moon tonight.

Could use some food. But no time to peel off that power bar, dammit. That Vietnamese place just off the FDR looked and smelled good, though.

Hill will appreciate Vietnamese. That was a surprise, when Tasha told him the Deputy shares his thing for Asian takeout. He'd picked her for Mediterranean, grilled zucchini, shit like that. Go figure.

It'll be after nine by the time he gets back – provided Martens shows up soon - but Hill seems to forget to eat a lot. No wonder she's so skinny. Good muscles, though; that gun of hers never wavers when she squeezes a trigger.

Another car coming down the road, slowing down.

Finally?

No such luck. Some old guy, slowing down to a near-crawl, half a block before he turns into one of those side streets. No signal either. Time to turn in that license, gramps, start taking cabs and live to ninety. Neighbourhood says you can afford it.

Hopefully, Martens will drive himself, make it unnecessary to play the odds on some minion being collateral damage. Although, with all HYDRA's bragging about the number of heads, the odds are always in your favour. Any guy with Martens is fair game.

That whole cutting off heads shtick? Might work as a corporate motto, but it's as big a pile of bullshit as anything ever spewed out by people with an ideology and an agenda. Clint has sure put the theory to the test: Eight and counting, - so far, no sprouting. Score.

Talk about cut-off heads. How long will Fury be able to lay low enough to acquire genuine corpse status? Cap holds the record at 70 years, but he was iced. Fury will be lucky to last a couple of months, even with a bandage across his mouth and Coulson in charge. Guy never could shut up for long. All it'll take is one stupid decision by the Council …

Wait.

There still a Council? Tasha stashed one of them in a cooler to take on Pierce, Hill said; the others are dead for sure. No idea whether Her Ladyship survived the Triskelion's collapse, or whether the Council as an institution survived that of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Hill may know. Must ask tonight.

SUV approaching, signalling. Left – where there's no side streets. The only free driveway is Martens'. Show time.

Finally. May make it home in time for dinner after all.

Heart rate? Good, slow and even. Breathe.

The bow feels cool and smooth.

Car door opens; driver emerges. Visual check: Yep. Martens, no minions.

Single arrow, then.

His back and shoulders embrace the pull of the string, conquer it as it sings taut under his fingers. Feel it.

Decision point: Yes or no?

Recap: The man below knowingly and willingly facilitated the appropriation of several billion dollars of taxpayers' money, to create three machines designed to kill millions.

Yes.

He lets go, feels the air move as death flies from his hands.

Hail, HYDRA, fucker.

The body falls against the car door in silence. Clint pushes off the branch, lands softly on his feet and jogs across at an easy pace to retrieve his arrow. The car is as convenient a place as any - across the front seats. Arrow hole facing away (no gushing on clean jeans, thank you), push in the feet, close the door, done.

Rain predicted for later should wash the blood off the driveway. With any luck, it will be days before anyone comes to take look, especially since the car isn't parked on the street to be a blight on the 'hood. Martens has left one job, not yet started another, and HYDRA isn't known for encouraging family ties. Unless he makes regular check-ins, he won't be missed.

And once he's found, well – there's enough on the good Senator's rap sheet to hint at his Chief's connections with the Dark Side, and investigation will be Officially Discouraged.

The windows across the street are lit – people moving around behind lace curtains. Will little Yi Ping sleep well tonight, now that there's one less monster in the world?

If all goes well, she'll never know. The best kind of protection is the one you don't see, the one that doesn't cause alarm - the invisible shield.

He heads back to his car at a jogging pace. (People in neighbourhoods like this don't go for walks, but they do run.) Clint doesn't love running, exactly, but right now it feels good in the legs. Maybe he should go the long way around the block, loosen up a bit? Yeah, that sounds good.

And Vietnamese, after.