"I really appreciate you meeting me on such short notice," James said as he climbed into the passenger side of a red Audi.
He thought for a moment. "I guess I just didn't know who else to call. Is it done?"
"And where's Steve now?"
"Training exercise. With the others. But we only have an hour so we have to act fast."
"Right. Then let's go."
They drove on in silence.
"Why didn't you let Natasha help you?"
He frowned. "There's too much history. I can't have her knowing where I am. She might tell."
"And how do you know I won't?"
He shrugged. "I thought you didn't want to find me in the first place, Barton."
Clint grinned. "You're right about that." He gestured over his shoulder to the back seat. "There's a black hoodie back there and a pair of gloves. Make sure your face is covered. You'll probably want to cut your hair too.."
He grabbed the bag from the back seat and rummaged through it. "And there's no chance they'll be able to find me?"
Clint shook his head. "I erased all the information on the Winter Soldier from the S.H.I.E.L.D. database. You might as well never have existed."
James whistled. "You won't lose your job for that, will you?"
"No. They'll never know I did it. I'm not stupid enough to use my own access code."
"So.. who am I now?"
Clint turned to look at him through his sunglasses for the first time. "I don't know. You tell me."
James smiled. "I'd rather not."
"Good. Anyway, you can be whoever you want now. We'll have no idea."
He leaned his head back against the headrest.
They drove on in silence for a few more miles before they were at the airport. "I've got a fake identity set up for you for the purpose of this flight," Clint said. "Destroy everything when you get to where you're going."
James nodded. "Thanks, Clint."
Clint nodded back. "Anything else, kid?"
"Yeah," he said quietly, looking down at his gloved hands.
"What is it?"
He looked up. "Tell Steve I'm sorry."
"Sure thing. Good luck, kid," he said as James made his way out of the car and shut the door.
"All his records have been erased from S.H.I.E.L.D. computers. There are no print files, either," Bruce confirmed.
"Dammit," Steve cursed. "Tony, can you fix it?"
"I tried, Cap. I'm afraid I've got nothing."
Natasha glared quietly from the corner.
He turned on Clint. "Was this your doing?"
"Don't look at me. I just gave him a ride to the airport. I had nothing to do with anything else," Clint said, raising his hands defensively.
"Why on Earth would you do that?" Steve shouted.
"Excuse me? I believe it was you who suggested to Fury that I be charged with keeping him safe," Clint retorted. "I was just doing my job, Captain."
"Come on, Cap," Tony said, placing a hand on Steve's shoulder. "There's nothing more we can do here tonight. Let's get you home."
Bruce nodded. "We'll talk to Fury about this in the morning," he added.
Steve sighed agitatedly. "Fine. Let's go."
Natasha silently turned her face towards Clint after they'd gone.
"What? I suppose you're mad at me too?" He said accusingly.
"No." She shook her head. "I'm actually proud of you, Clint."
He looked up, shocked. "Proud?"
She nodded. "He needed a safe out. You provided that for him. Maybe this is just what he needed to turn his life around."
Clint frowned. "I don't think Steve sees it that way. And I hope Fury agrees with you."
She placed a hand on his knee. "Just give him time. He'll be okay. And Fury I think at least had an idea of what you were planning."
Clint nodded. "You're probably right about that."
"So.. are you coming up north with me tomorrow?"
He sighed. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm coming up north with you. We're partners, right?"
She smiled. "Right."