Disclaimer: I don't own the Avengers.

The First Snowfall

By Jennifer Collins

"Avengers, assemble!" Nick Fury's desperate voice rang through the Bluetooth.

Natasha looked up from where she had Clint pinned to the floor in the training room. "What's that about?" She asked.

Clint shook his head. "I don't know, but I guess we should go find out."

"Right," she said, jumping off of him and offering a hand.

He took it, letting her pull him up easily. "Just when I was about to escape and show you who's boss," he muttered.

She laughed, shaking her head. "Never gonna happen, Hawk."

The two moved swiftly down the hall to the elevator that would take them to the third floor conference room where Fury would debrief them.

When they walked through the automatic sliding door, they were surprised to see Bruce and Stark were already seated with grim looks on their faces.

"Agent Barton, Agent Romanoff," Fury greeted. "Thank you for joining us."

They nodded politely and took two empty seats.

"What's this all about?" Clint asked.

Fury lowered his head. "I'm afraid we're in a very grave situation."

Natasha looked to Bruce, but he seemed just as confused as she was.

"I'll let you watch this video to get you up to speed," Fury said, popping a disk into his computer.

"Aren't we going to wait for Cap?" Tony asked.

"I'm not sure yet how to break this to Captain Rogers," the director answered.

Natasha's eyebrows furrowed. "Break what to him?"

Fury hit the play button.

Clint leaned closer to the video screen, squinting at the bad quality.

Tony drummed his fingers on the table impatiently until Fury glared at him.

On the screen, they all saw a glint of metal in a dark and snowy landscape. Several figures clad in dark blue cloaks rushed to the scene. One of them bent down to the ground, reaching out and locking a hand around the metal object. The camera zoomed in and Clint was surprised to see it was a man lying on the ground.

Natasha gasped, then quickly placed both hands over her mouth.

Clint turned to her, but she was gazing attentively at the screen. He narrowed his eyes as he turned his attention back to the video, where the anonymous blue-clad men were lifting the form up from the ground and it took him a second, but Clint realized that the metal object was the guy's arm. He continued watching the screen long enough to see the men put the guy into a vehicle, then Fury paused the screen.

"What are we looking at?" Banner asked, confused.

"That was the Winter Soldier," Fury said. "It seems he's fallen into enemy hands. This situation could get very dire very quickly if we don't get him back."

"Winter Soldier?" Clint said, gazing at Natasha, who was looking down at the table. "I've never heard of this guy."

"Me neither," Tony said. "Why should we care about this?"

"Because he's dangerous," Natasha said calmly.

"Very dangerous," Fury confirmed. "And he's Captain Rogers' old partner."

"Partner?" Tony asked incredulously. "Cap never mentioned a partner."

"The Captain believes he's dead," Fury said gravely.

Tony chuckled. "I'm not going to be the one to break the news to him, that's all on you, Director."

"Something doesn't add up," Bruce spoke. "Why does Steve think he's dead?"

"Because they fought together in World War II," Fury explained. "The last Steve saw of him, he fell off a train. He doesn't know that Barnes survived."

"Oh boy," Bruce let out a breath.

"So this guy was what, frozen in the ice like Cap?" Clint asked.

"Something like that. He woke up a few years back. That's how your dad was motivated to rescue the Captain when he was looking for the cube, Tony," Fury continued. "But when Barnes awakened, he fell in with hostile forces in Russia for awhile. That was before he was inspired to break free. But now he's been compromised again."

"What inspired him to break free?" Clint asked.

"That's not of concern to this mission."

"What about Steve?" Natasha asked, a little too loudly.

"You let me handle Captain America. Right now I need you all to review these debriefing packets. I'll expect you all to act tomorrow morning."

"Yes, sir," Clint said, taking his packet.

"You're all dismissed until you hear my signal," Fury replied.

They all rose from their seats, Bruce and Tony murmuring their thoughts on the matter, and Natasha took off, walking quickly through the sliding doors.

"Natasha," Clint called. "Natasha, wait!" He shouted when she didn't turn around.

He ran down the hall just in time to see her disappear behind the elevator doors and he rushed to press the button to keep them open long enough for him to slip through. "Not now, Clint," she said. "We need to focus on the mission."

"We will. But first I need to talk to you," he urged.

The doors opened on their floor and she sighed. "Okay."

"I saw your face when Fury showed us that video. You know that guy," Clint said, a little accusingly.

"Yes."

"Who is he?"

"His name is James Barnes. He called himself Bucky back when Cap knew him. Now he's the Winter Soldier."

Clint nodded. "And how do you know him?"

She covered her face with her hands.

Clint grabbed her wrist. "Natasha…"

"I… trained with him."

"What? How?" He demanded, his mind trying to put the pieces together.

"In Russia," she whispered.

He was confused for a moment, then something clicked in his mind. "Hostile forces in Russia," he murmured. "The Red Room."

She nodded.

"Tasha…something just doesn't make sense. How is that possible, if he was woken up years before Cap?"

She looked away. "I was injected with a…. sort of age-defying serum. I'm a little older than you think I am."

He suddenly found it difficult to swallow. "H-how much older?"

She slowly turned back to him to meet his gaze. "I was born in 1928."

"But.. that would make you almost as old as Cap," Clint said.

She nodded.

"What…? Why did you never tell me this?"

"It never came up in conversation?"

"I think I need to sit down," He said, feeling a little dizzy.

"Okay." She placed a hand on his back and pushed him forward. "We can go to my room."

He gratefully slumped down on the couch in her quarters. "So… you have a history with this guy who I'm just hearing about?"

"Clint.."

"You said you trained with him. What, like how we trained together?" He looked up at her, his eyes wide.

She nodded wordlessly.

"Oh." He leaned back against the wall. "I guess I didn't know as much about you as I thought."

"I'm sorry, Clint," she whispered.

"I'm assuming, from the look on your face, that you were…. ah, involved with him."

"For awhile," she said quietly.

He looked away from her.

"Clint," she reached down the place a hand on his shoulder, but he jerked away.

"Did you love him?"

She shook her head. "Can we not… do this?" She mumbled.

"No, let's. Let's do this, Tasha. You were in love with this guy, weren't you?"

"Stop." She squeezed her eyes shut. "Please stop."

"God, how could I have been so stupid? I thought I knew you. You told me I knew you, that I was different. I guess I'm not so different after all, huh?"

"You don't know what you're talking about, Clint," she said, a little angrily.

"No, you're right. I don't know. I don't know because you didn't tell me!" He shouted. He abruptly rose up off the couch. "We're supposed to be… whatever it is we're supposed to be," he said, so low she had to struggle to hear him.

"We are," she pleaded.

"No.. Tasha. We were partners. I trusted you with everything. You… left out a few major details. How can I trust you like that again, Nat?"

"I… I don't know…" She choked.

"I have to get out of here," He said, crossing to the other side of the room and motioning for the sliding door to open.

"No, Clint, please. Wait," she whispered.

"I don't… I can't," he whispered back. "I just don't know. I don't know anything anymore." With that, he left the room.

She wrapped her arms tightly around herself as she watched his retreating form, suddenly feeling as cold as if it were snowing.