Code Of Conduct

Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or Avengers. All recognisable characters, content or locations belong to their respective owners. No copyright infringement intended.

Part One: Living With Ghosts

"Life is about choices. Some we regret, some we're proud of. Some will haunt us forever." - Graham Brown.

Chapter Fourteen: Restless

5th - 6th April, 2005

Once the veritaserum had been made and administered, William Cross sang like a canary. The interrogation team, led by Maria Hill, pulled as much information as William could give before, finally, they began to make arrangements to see him put to trial, and eventually, imprisoned. Meanwhile, the SHIELD analysts began to study all of the information William had provided, and as word filtered down the grapevine, Gwen learned that it wasn't pretty.

Apparently, William Cross (Senior) had been selling men, women, and children to buyers intent on human experiments of the unethical variety, and that was only the beginning. Cross Incorporated had a laundry list of illegal dealings to their name, and there was no possible way they could cover up everything.

The most disturbing thing, however, was the knowledge that even as they sold people to other contractors, they themselves had been experimenting to create a genetically engineered super race of humans and animals to meet their own ends, whatever those were.

"What do you think will happen?" Gwen queried. She was with Clint in a dive bar in downtown DC, it was the end of their work week, and the month-long hiatus from missions had grown tiresome.

"The usual," Clint answered, "One of the strike teams - us, most likely - will be sent in to clean up the mess, rescue civilians, that kind of thing. Someone will inevitably escape, and yet another bad guy will crop up out of the wood work, like they always do."

"That's rather cynical of you, Clint," Gwen jested.

"I like to think of it as realism," he answered mildly.

"If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck, love."

Clint shrugged, unfazed, and washed down the last of his chips - pardon, fries - with a mouthful of rum and coke. Gwen eyed it, envious, sipped her lemonade, and reminded herself that her 21st was only 16 months away.

When it eventually arrived, she would get herself absolutely sloshed, and she would do so without regrets.

"You ready to go?"

Gwen nodded, drained the rest of her drink, and followed her partner out of the bar.

"Are you staying at mine tonight?" She asked him. Clint generally spent a few nights a week at her place, or alternatively, Gwen sometimes crashed at his. 4 nights out of 7 were spent alone, however, and given that they'd only been 'together' for a month or so, it was probably a good thing. Maybe.

Clint shrugged. "Sure."

They stopped by his apartment in order for Clint to retrieve the things he'd need, and reached Gwen's place as night fell. Lottie met them in the kitchen, enquired as to whether or not they'd bee around for dinner, and then disappeared into the kitchen when Gwen offered her their confirmation.

"How does a movie sound?"

"Sounds great," Clint answered. He dropped onto the sofa, kicked off his boots, and added, "Just no chick flicks, please."

"But they're the best," Gwen teased, her 'Titanic' DVD in hand. "Are you sure?"

Clint offered her a deadpan glare, and Gwen acquiesced with a laugh. She instead settled on 'The Day After Tomorrow', and her companion, blessedly, did not protest.

Partway through the film, as Gwen finished up a helping of the dinner Lottie had served, Clint's phone blared to life, and the witch glanced in his direction. Clint spoke briefly to the person on the other end of the line, hung up, and exhaled deeply.

"Everything alright?"

"That was Coulson," Clint answered, "He wants us in the office tomorrow at six o'clock."

"Why so early?" She wondered.

"We've got a job," he answered, "I don't know the details, but it's fairly safe to assume Cross Incorporated is involved.."

Clint shot off a text to Natasha, Gwen slumped against his side, and they watched the rest of the film in silence. She wasn't sure how much Clint paid attention, but most of Gwen's thoughts were on the day ahead, and on the friendship she had lost to selfish greed and ambition.

Lottie silently cleared away the dishes, the time ticked by, and the hour grew late.

"Let's go to bed," Clint encouraged. "We've got an early start tomorrow."

Gwen acquiesced with a nod, locked up, and bade Lottie a restful sleep. Clint was in the shower by the time she'd reached her bedroom, and Gwen, briefly, considered joining him. Clint had the habits of a soldier though, and the water had stopped running before she could decide if the close quarters and awkward angles would be worth the new experience.

"Shower's free."

"You don't say?"

With his quick reflexes, Clint slipped passed her guard before Gwen could mount a defence. His questing fingers found her ribcage, and Gwen squirmed away, laughing.

"Smartass," he said affectionately, cuffed her below the chin, and proceeded to get dressed for the night. Gwen left him to it, and retreated into the bathroom. In the mirror, she saw that the smile on her face lingered, chased away the shadows in her eyes, and brought a content flush to her cheeks.

She could grow used to this kind of contentment.

-!- -#-

Despite Gwen's earlier good mood, her sleep was restless. Concerns about their upcoming mission plagued her thoughts, and not even Clint - and his absurdly dexterous fingers - could relax her enough to fall asleep.

She'd been the same during the war, she recalled, far too wired for any sort of rest before planned raids and what have you. It had never hampered her abilities in combat - not obviously, anyway - but she was rather inclined to break the unfortunate habit.

"What's wrong? Clint wondered, voice made husky by sleep.

Gwen shuffled backwards until she rested against his chest, and answered, "Just restless, I think."

Clint traced circles into the curve of her hip, and hummed his acknowledgement. He was already on his way back to dreamland. "Try relax."

Unimpressed by his advice, Gwen glared into the gloom, unwilling to turn to glare at him. She'd disturbed his rest enough already, and at least one of them should get a decent night's sleep. It wouldn't be her, of course, but she'd managed on fumes before. She would be just fine, and Clint and Natasha would be, too.

She wouldn't allow anything less.

Author's Note: Whew, sorry for the long wait. I wouldn't say it was writer's block, though that was particularly irritating. Actually, I only started writing this chapter last week. I guess I was inspired by other things. Check them out, if you haven't already? Or not.

Hope you enjoyed. Leave a review. -t.