Based on this prompt at avengers assemble: Sometimes S.H.I.E.L.D. borrows Clint or Natasha for missions other agents aren't qualified to do. The Avengers aren't too pleased with the state S.H.I.E.L.D. returns them in.
Clint and Natasha!whump with the rest of the team taking care of them.
Disclaimer: I do not own any property related to The Avengers.
Pairings: Natasha/Clint, Tony/Pepper(But don't hold your breath for any hot romance.)
Characters: Will include all The Avengers by the end. And an OC.
Warnings: Spoilers for the movie. Rated T for habitual use of profanity, hint of drug usage, and other assorted adult concepts.
Author's Notes: I want to apologize up front to any of the following parties which might be poorly represented in this fic: people who understand computer coding, people who practice medicine, the elderly, numerous belief systems, people who have been shot and really know what it feels like, people hoping for structured sentences, people who speak native Lithuanian, people who speak Russian, and the entire population of the Republic of Lithuania.
I would like to thank my co-authors: Bing Translator, Microsoft Word Spell Check, and various websites on the Republic of Lithuania.
Thanks so much for reading!
In a Winter Month
Republic of Lithuania
December 20th, 2012
Natasha and Clint are hidden away in a crumbling shack of a safe house, tucked in a rugged, overgrown corner of Palanga, where sand and wild grass meet pine trees.
The old woman who owns the house is named Jadvyga.
It is said that she lost her husband and two oldest sons many, many, years ago, to the honorable uprising of Lithuanian partisans against Soviet rule.
"Berniukai," she once told Natasha during a previous stay.
Boys, her sons that died so long ago. Not men. They were only boys.
She has a third son, one she was pregnant with when her husband died, but she has not seen this third son since he was twenty and grew tired of the coastal town and left her alone.
Natasha is unsure of how this very old woman became a concealer of international spies and assassins but this shack of hers is one of Natasha and Clint's favorite places to be when they have to lay low in Northern Europe. Natasha is appreciative of the beach and sea air and the isolation while Clint is fond of Jadvyga's cooking and the way she dotes on him. The old woman is convinced that he is the reincarnation of one of her murdered sons and Clint humors Jadvyga with excessive affection and compliments and when they happen to stay with her during a warmer month, displays of his archery skills.
But it is not warm today.
It is a bone chilling -11.1 degrees Celsius outside and the sky has been grey and dull since they first arrived in crisis late yesterday afternoon. And while Jadvyga has a generous fire burning in the stone hearth that compensates for the draftier corners of the small home, a storm is threatening all around them and the wind surrounds the shack with rattles and whistles. The noise has Natasha feeling dark and ill at ease, as if it is Mother Nature's way of signaling impending doom.
Beside her, semi-asleep on an old couch, is Clint, wrapped in two blankets but still shivering.
It doesn't matter how much wood they put on the fire, it won't help Clint feel the warmth.
His body is fighting the beginnings of an infection, the unwelcomed after-thought of a bullet that dug its way through muscle into his chest yesterday morning.
He moans a single word too low for his partner to interpret and then, just as quick, he returns to silence.
Maybe he's dreaming.
"Shhhhh," Natasha whispers into his ear, and then in Russian she tells him, "CoH."
She waits until she can tell for sure that he has, before she closes her eyes.
The United States
New York City
December 19, 2012
"Is anyone comfortable with this?" Tony asks Steve, Bruce, and Pepper over dinner.
Steve pierces a piece of steak and seeks clarification. "Comfortable with what? This steakhouse? Heck, yeah. Best piece of meat I've had in well over sixty- something years."
"Okay, no, not your dinner, thank you for that input and ...image," Tony says, not trying to hide his impatience. "Comfortable with...let's try, maybe, I don't know, the whole not hearing from Katniss and Buffalo Bill for two weeks."
"I really, really, don't think Barton appreciates that nickname," Bruce chimes in, before pouring himself a second glass of wine. "And I dare you to call Natasha that to her face."
"Well, whatever," Tony says. "The point being, something is not right. I have no factual basis for this conclusion or tangible theories, but I intend on finding one, because I'm telling you, something is not right."
Pepper sighs. "I'm sure everything's fine."
"Really?" Tony asks, twirling his fork at her. "And aren't you supposed to be at the theater tonight with a certain Black Widow and remind me again why you aren't?"
Pepper patiently blinks at him. Translation: Calm down, crazy man.
"Oh, wait," Tony continues. "I remember now. You aren't at the theater because...aforementioned Widow is...missing."
"She's not missing," Pepper counters. "She's busy doing things which I, for one, do not want to know what."
Tony puts his fork down. "Busy being...misplaced? Astray?" He looks stone still at Pepper and says in an unusually serious tone, "Abducted? Dead?"
Steve glances around the noisy, crowded steakhouse to make sure no one is paying attention to the conversation before he assures Tony, "I'm sure that they haven't contacted us because protocol forbids it."
"Well, you know what?" Tony says, his voice tight and controlled, "Fuck protocol and fuck procedure and fuck all this covert bullshit. Something is wrong. They've never been gone this long without contacting at least one of us. "
As if to solidify his conclusions, he stands up abruptly, taking turns glaring at each one of them and his fingers tapping on the back of his chair. An unsaid look of, 'And I know the rest of you agree with me whether or not you are willing to admit it out loud.'
Pepper glances wistfully at her remaining food, calls for the waiter, arranges to-go boxes, and then summons the car.
So much for a quiet evening out on the town.
Jadvyga carefully hands Natasha a piping hot cup of tea. It has a distinctive taste, like tea from no other region and every time they come here, Natasha tries to remember to bring a little home, although she never does.
They are always in a hurry, she and Clint, whenever they have to leave this peaceful place.
"Grietinėlė?" Jadvyga says quietly, lifting the cream towards Natasha, asking if she wants more.
"Ne," Natasha shakes her head. She smiles at the old woman, "No, thank you."
Their exchanges tend to consist of just a few words. Neither Natasha nor Clint is fluent in Jadvyga's native Lithuanian.
But hand signals all three of them have mastered and Jadvyga puts that particular skill set to action by pointing to Clint, making a drinking motion, and then pointing back to Clint.
"Tai bus gera karščiavimas," the old woman says, waving her finger in Clint's direction.
Natasha doesn't catch it all, but she does make out the word, 'fever', so she assumes that Jadvyga must be telling her to give Clint some of the tea.
Although she hates to wake Clint up, the old woman is probably right in the sense that Clint should take in some fluids. Maybe even try and eat something.
Satisfied that Natasha has understood her, Jadvyga returns to the kitchen and her self-appointed task of fixing everyone breakfast.
With some distance between them and the old woman, Natasha is comfortable using real names instead of their alias. She nudges Clint's shoulder and when he doesn't respond to the movement she says softly, "Clint. Time to wake up."
There's still no response.
He's lying on the couch, curled into a compact crescent to compensate for the lack of leg space, with his head on her lap. She forks her fingers through his short hair, in his favor spot, directly above his ear.
He finally stopped shivering a few hours ago in the very early morning and despite the fact that he has a bullet hole in him, he actually looks somewhat peaceful and she feels guilty, forcing him into consciousness.
But she should check his bandage and he needs to drink something.
"Barton. I need you to wake up."
The use of his last name triggers a reflexive awareness and he lifts a hand to an eye, rubs at it with a fist, and asks groggily, "Time to move?"
'Move,' is code for resume their mission and she has to give Clint some points for his optimism for even thinking that 'moving' is an option.
Sitting him upright is the immediate goal.
"Come on," she says, scooting over so she can assist him to a sitting position. "Time to get up. Go slow."
He's a bit shaky and clearly still confused. Now that he's up, she sees that his sleeping position and blankets were hiding the full effect of a day's worth of blood loss and fever. He's pale, his cheeks flushed, and his white T-shirt spotted with a dried red inkblot on the right side of his chest several inches below his collarbone.
By sheer luck there doesn't seem to be any lung damage but the bullet wound had bled a lot after the initial shooting and even more due to the impromptu surgery she had to conduct in a freezing, vacant building, free of anything to dull the pain and with nothing more than a small bottle of perfume to serve as a sterilizing agent on her sharp knife. She had bandaged the wound as carefully as possible but left it open, even now, after she has gotten a chance to properly clean it hours later at the safe house, because she knows there's a fragment or two still lodged in Clint and she can turn off her emotions, sure, but not even Natasha can bring herself to be numb enough to dig around his chest for pin-size slivers of lead without a proper anesthetic.
Hands covered in his blood, the cuffs of her shirt saturated red with it.
Trying so hard to keep as steady as humanly possible. Trying not to hurt him. But that's impossible.
"It's okay. It's okay, Clint. I almost have it."
"Fuck, Nat. Just get the damn thing out. Just fuckin' cut."
His left foot pounding up and down on the dirty concrete. Anything to try and alleviate the pain. Anything to distract himself from screaming and revealing their location.
"It's, okay," she said, slowly easing the bloody bullet out of his chest with the tip of her knife. "See? I got it. It's okay. You're okay. Это делается. Это делается."
It's done. It's done.
Hours after Tony forced an early ending to dinner, he's throwing a small rubber ball against the back wall of one his mini-labs that nobody knows about but Pepper and the twenty-two year old currently sitting at one of the nine flat-top plasma projection screens in the laboratory.
"How we doin' there, Sport?" he asks the kid. "Because last time I checked, you told me fifteen minutes tops and that was…what … seventy-two freaking minutes ago?"
BAAM! Goes the ball against the wall and then back into Tony's hand.
"I'm almost there, Mr. S," the kid tells him and Tony hates that he calls him Mr. S but the kid, Jerry, is a hacking wunderkind who was born with a right hand called encryption and a left hand named decryption and the two of them are flying across the plasma projection screen's keyboard like competing hockey teams.
Tony's head pivots immediately to the screen Jerry is working on because that BLIP is distinctly different from the thousand other noises that have signaled failure in the last seventy-two minutes.
This is a happy BLIP.
This BLIP results in Tony walking over to Jerry and placing a hand on the young man's shoulder and telling him, "Jerry, go ahead and put a bid on that ocean front property you were telling me about."
And Tony does too. Because staring back at him and Jerry, in beautiful 3-D loveliness, is the S.H.I.E.L.D . homepage.
"Jarvis, assist Jerry out. And transfer the funds I previously discussed to his account."
Tony turns to Jerry and asks the kid, "What's our first rule, Jerry?"
Jerry smiles. He knows this one. "Keep my mouth shut or be thrown off Stark Tower. No witnesses. Except you, because you'll be the one doing the throwing."
"That's correct," Tony applauds. "And what's our second rule?"
Jerry continues smiling. He knows this one too. He tells Tony on his way out of the lab, "Do not spend all the money I just earned on the Wacky Weed."
Tony waits for the door to shut and then he interlocks his hands, cracks his knuckles, and fans his fingers in gleeful anticipation before beginning to surf the S.H.I.E.L.D. website for secrets.
Red Rover, Red Rover, send the Widow's and Barton's current mission on over.
Natasha lifts the cup of cooling tea to Clint's lips. He reaches for it but she halts his attempts to hold it himself with a simple, "Stop."
He could hold it, yes, but she doesn't feel like taking the chance of his only fully functioning hand spilling any of it on his person, so she waits until the cup has lost a little of its volume before placing it in his left hand.
He's barely moved his right arm and Natasha asks him if she should maybe put it in a sling. Would that be better? Would it make his chest hurt less?
Clint shakes his head 'no' and takes several more sips of tea.
"Do you think you can make it to the kitchen table?" Natasha asks him. "Jadvyga has made us breakfast."
Clint blows out a small sigh and looks in the direction of the kitchen.
The sound of a table being set filters back into the living room. Old china on worn wood, silverware's contact dulled by well washed cloth napkins.
"I'm not really hungry, Tasha" Clint tells her. "Maybe by lunch."
Natasha considers his answer and then begins negotiations.
"Maybe now. Maybe some breakfast," she says. "It's oatmeal. Plain. Nothing too greasy. It'll be good to get a little food in your system."
He hasn't eaten since breakfast yesterday, most of which was vomited up during and after the impromptu surgery.
"Come on," she encourages him. "Just a little. Enough to make Jadvyga feel better. She spent half the night praying for you."
Clint nods. He knows Natasha is right. He needs to eat something. And the old woman, it's a small gesture to repay her for his safety and her concern.
"You need to drink more," Natasha tells him. "Tea, water, both. I don't care. But something, alright?"
Clint nods again.
He's so quiet and that's not helping Natasha's dark mood. She'd rather have him bitching up a storm or complaining than be so pliant.
She stands up and then waits for him to copy her effort, reaching out to assist him.
He manages it in one attempt but before they begin walking to the kitchen, he leans over and puts his forehead against hers.
She places a single hand on his face, her palm cupping his chin, her fingers absorbing the heat from his cheek.
He's too quiet. He's becoming too warm.
"We're good," she tells him, pretending her words are solely to assure him and not herself. "You just need a little food and a few days. Then we'll finish this and go home."
Clint doesn't say anything. He just stays pressed against her.
"Kaip," Jadvyga eventually calls to them from the kitchen.
Thanks to Jerry and compliments of hacked S.H.I.E.L.D. files, Tony knows a lot more information than he did a half an hour ago.
For instance, he knows that Natasha and Clint left for an undercover tour of Northern Europe which in fact is an extension of a two year undercover job that they have been periodically fulfilling for S.H.I.E.L.D. as a Mr. and Mrs. John and Victoria Fletcher, second tier weapons dealers.
As an added bonus, John has jet black hair, nine tattoos, a platinum stud earring in his left ear, and Tony can't wait to mock the hell out of that shit to Barton. Jesus, who's in charge of this incognito crap at S.H.I.E.L.D. and how much would Clint probably pay to have Tony kill them? Barton with an earring. Heh.
Victoria is a blond, and well, the thought of seeing Natasha as a blond is nothing to mock, so Tony decides in advance that he'll keep his possibly embarrassing physical reaction to a blond Black Widow to himself.
Tony has also learned that his two teammates are in Lithuania and that something went seriously wrong in Vilnius, the nation's capital, and Clint got shot, although even S.H.I.E.L.D. appears to be sketchy on the finer details of that clusterfuck. And in typical S.H.I.E.L.D. and assassin fashion, neither the agency nor the agents appear to want to declare the mission a failure. Evidently everyone is content with Plan B, which consists of passing a few days in a remote safe house and let Clint heal up enough to finish the job.
Tony can't help but come to the conclusion that no one has considered Plan C, which is an invention of his own, which involves his friends being hunted down and killed and thus die, because, after all, Clint is SHOT and not exactly able to defend himself or have his partner's back completely and that's not cool and it's not going to happen on Tony's watch.
So, if everyone directly involved lacks the common sense to put an end to the situation, well then, it's up to him.
Tony has assigned himself his own little S.H.I.E.L.D. mission and at this moment, he's trying to sneak out of his penthouse to get started on it.
"Where are you going?" Pepper asks, putting a halt to his escape.
Tony clumsily juggles the small duffle bag he's holding into his other hand.
"Huh?" he asks, feigning innocence.
Translation: Leave me alone woman!
"Where are you going?"
"Ummmm," Tony vacillates. "I thought I would, you know, step out. Just, I don't know. Fresh air."
"At one-fifteen in the morning?" Pepper asks skeptically. "With an overnight bag and dressed in your Ironman suit. Really? Fresh air is the best you could come up with?"
"Well," Tony reasons. "I'm not going to stay in the suit. I'm ditching it when I get to the jet."
"Wow," Pepper says, approaching him, hands on her hips. "As long as you're taking it off when you get to the jet, I guess that explains everything. It all makes sense now. I'm ashamed of myself, that I even questioned your leaving."
"I can't be tamed," he shrugs, flipping open his mask, sauntering over to her, and puckering up for a kiss. "I'm a wild creature."
A little smooch will smooth things over.
"Where are you really going?" she asks, withholding the kiss.
"I can't tell you that," he responds, before taking the initiative himself of seeking out a kiss and when he breaks the contact with her lips, he winks at Pepper and says, "It'd be a breach of protocol."
"Oh," she nods. "And suddenly you're all about the protocol, Mr. Fuck Protocol and Procedure?"
"Sir," Jarvis interrupts, "I've arranged for the IV fluids, blood, and antibiotics to be delivered to the jet within the next ten minutes. All very discrete, of course."
Pepper stares wide-eyed at Tony.
"Blood?" she asks.
Tony shakes his head. Great. Well done, Jarvis. That won't stir up the Pepper Potts pot any further. Not at all.
"Thanks, for that, buddy," he mumbles. "That's very stealthy of you."
He attempts a hasty exit, but Pepper is hot on his heels.
"Tony. Blood? IV fluids? Tell me what's happening."
He stops long enough to promise her that everything is perfectly fine, but actually, not yet fine, but everything will be and she just needs to trust him because everything works out, usually, seriously, usually it does and she knows that, right? She totally knows that. Hell, he saved the world from an alien invasion, well, he had some help, but this is a simple thing he's about to do. He's good solo.
So…no, he can't and won't tell her what he's doing.
But Pepper, his perfect Pepper, she totally already has it mostly figured out with his whole protocol play on words and all and she knows he isn't coming clean with the few details she hasn't quite nailed down so they both settle on an unstated understanding when she says, "Be careful. Call me when you can."
"Absolutely," he answers. "Gotta' fly, Sweets."
"Bring them home," she says, not mentioning any names.
And Tony tells her, "That's what the jet is for."
To be continued…