Rating: T (language)
Fandom: Avengers (movieverse)
Characters: Natasha, Clint
Summary: Plans change. So do alliances.
Notes: Thanks first to Tripp3235, who is always nice enough to beta for me! Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read this thing and especially those who drop me a review! Enjoy!
Paris - November 2006
"Just one moment, darling."
"I'm in no hurry," Natasha practically purred from where she sat on the sofa. She gave Franklin Myers a coy smile as he retreated into the bedroom, only to drop it the second he left the room.
Natasha Romanoff... No, she wasn't Natasha. Nadine Renaud had first ran into Myers five weeks ago at an art gallery opening in Paris and convinced him that she should become his personal assistant. Who better to help an American businessman in France for the first time than a young woman who had grown up in the city? Within a week in his employ she'd streamlined his business and gained access to all of his personal files and information. Last week she started seeing him more intimately.
Of course what was considered intimate varied greatly from person to person. Their relationship wasn't sexual, it wasn't even very personable. He liked having her on his arm because she was young, beautiful, and had thick brunette hair that reminded him of his mother. She liked being there because... No, she didn't like being there at all. It was her job.
The man was repulsive. Sure, he looked nice, but beyond that he was a classic creep. He treated her like she didn't have half a brain. He fished for complements and then dished out backhanded ones in return. He had a seriously unhealthy fixation on his mother and his French was atrocious.
"Ready?" he asked as he came back into the room, smiling brightly at her before turning to the mirror above the dresser to check his own reflection.
"If you are," she answered.
"Don't I look ready," he said, but it wasn't a question.
She got to her feet, a smile on her lips as she crossed the room to him and ran her hand down his lapel, smoothing it down salaciously, as if nothing in the world pleased her more than to be at his side. Her eyes said that she wanted him, but her head was already ticking down the days to the predetermined rendezvous. Three more days and she'd be done with this guy, hopefully forever.
Myers put his hand on the curve of her back and pulled her close. He smelled like he'd showered in cologne. She hated that. But instead of pulling away, which would be charitable considering she could snap his arm in half, she gave him a throaty laugh and tipped her head down as her eyes shot up to meet his.
"What's the name of this place we're eating at again?" he asked as he steered her towards the door but, before she could answer, Myer's was already talking again. He loved to talk. Next to his mother, he loved his voice best. "We can get some of those pancake things you like afterwards. They've got those. All these restaurants here do."
Out of the hotel room, down the elevator, through the door, he talked. Myers talked all the time. Natasha hated anything close to idle chatter. Even if the guy was giving her a gold mine of information, it almost wasn't worth it. In fact, if they hadn't needed this guy alive, she'd have shot him days ago just for some peace and quiet.
The chauffer arrived with the car and, after Myers went first, handed her in as well.
"Tell him where it is we're going," Myers said, motioning towards the front of the car.
Natasha looked up and rattled off the directions in French, her green eyes meeting the driver's blue in the mirror. The man gave a firm nod before pulling out into traffic, letting Natasha turn her attention back to Myers who was still talking.
"If this goes well," he rambled on, "we can open offices all across Europe. And, between you and me, it's already going really well, Nadine. You've helped with that," he continued, throwing an arm around her shoulder and pulling her nearly into his lap, "you've really helped with that. I don't know whose luckier, you or me? Am I right? I'm right. What would you be doing if you hadn't met me?"
Before she could answer, not that he'd have let her give an answer, the car swerved hard to the left.
"Pardon," the driver said quietly, shaking his head.
"Can you tell him to watch the road?"
Natasha didn't bother. Myers was already babbling on again, about his house, his car, his cat, his everything. Another ten minutes, and several more hard turns, and he finally stopped talking long enough to wonder exactly where they were headed.
"This doesn't look right to me," he said, peering out the window. "Does it look right to you? I don't think this is it. Is this an alley? A side street? Where are we? Driver. Driver, where are we?"
"Oh my God," the driver snapped. "Shut up!"
Before Myers had time to blink, Clint had swung his arm through the window separating them within the car and fired a tranquilizer dart straight into Myer's thigh.
"You couldn't have done that to start with?" Natasha asked, pushing the slumped man off of her and onto the floor of the car.
"What? In the middle of the city?" Clint asked, pulling the car into the designated location and parked behind an abandoned building.
"I'd have risked it," she answered as she got out of the car.
"He's lucky I didn't shoot him in the throat," he said, joining her at the trunk as they began to organize and change. "Nice dress."
"You can wear it next time," she said, turning and motioning for him to unzip it. "Who tied your tie?"
"Phil did," he answered as he undid it, stripping off his jacket next and tossing them both aside. "He sends his regrets that he couldn't pick you up himself. Timeline changed. Heard rumors about some very bad people moving in."
"We flying?" she asked as she pulled on a nondescript shirt and a pair of jeans, before tying her hair back and strapping on a holster.
"After we drive to Belgium."
"Okay," she said, having finished and watching as Clint did the same. "As long as motor-mouth is doped up enough to stay out, I'm ready."
"Phil should be here..." Clint started to say as he shut the trunk lid, but as he did, the back window of the car shattered as they both ducked, the sharp retort of gunfire sending them down.
Natasha peeked not once, but twice, before taking three shots at whoever it was pinning them down.
"Get on the comm," she snapped as Clint took two shots of his own.
"Can't," he returned. "Left it in the front seat."
"Son of a bitch," she muttered, shaking her head as she rattled off another three shots, at least one of them connecting. "I can't see these guys."
"They're moving in," he said, before beginning to skirt the side of the vehicle in an effort to fix what he'd screwed up. Clint knew he should have never put that radio down. It had been a stupid mistake to make and now they had no way to call for help.
"Wait a minute..." Natasha said, obviously having heard something Clint had not. Then, without warning, she stood up and shouted something, probably Russian, and Clint was surprised that the shout in return almost sounded friendly.
"That it?" Clint asked, halting his progress and looking up at her in surprise. "Just like that, it's over?"
Natasha looked at him with something close to pity and said the only word he was positive he'd ever understood in Russian, "Nyet," before solidly connecting her boot to his face.
He was drooling.
Clint's first conscious thought was that he was drooling blood into his lap, which was never a good thing and that he couldn't quite open his left eye all the way. Shortly after that he registered the fact that his boots were gone and his hands were shackled behind him. All that and he was leaned against some kind of metal beam on what might be the world's filthiest floor.
He kept his head down, giving him time to fully come to, and as he did voices began to drift over from across the room. Three men from the sound of it and one unmistakable woman.
Son of a bitch, indeed.
"He's awake," the tallest of the men said, motioning towards Clint.
"Doesn't matter, he's not going anywhere," Natasha answered. And then, louder still, called out across the room, "Are you, Hawkeye?"
Clint rolled his head to the left, allowing him to look up with his still relatively good eye. What he saw wasn't good, because it was never good when the people, who at this point could only be termed as his captures, smiled and laughed as he struggled with consciousness.
The big guy, again, said something more, this time in Russian, and even Natasha cracked a smile.
"It was... disappointing," she said, slowly walking towards Clint. "If there is one thing I've learned," she continued as she reached him and leaned down, tilting his chin up to look her in the eye, "it's that SHIELD agents lack stamina."
"Why are you doing this?" Clint asked.
"I told you one day you'd regret taking me with you," Natasha answered, her face so close to his he could feel her breath on his cheek. "Those weren't just words. They were a promise," she finished, pushing her hand upwards and causing his head to fall back and smack the beam behind him.
Sheer frustration nearly drove him to his feet, but Natasha was quicker than Clint. For the second time that day her boot connected with his face and he was, again, sent sprawling to the floor.
"Do yourself a favor and stay there," she said with a smirk, planting a heel on his inner thigh.
"Why didn't you come back?" asked one of the men, the blond one this time.
"I had no one to go back to," Natasha answered. "And they'd been careful. Their underlings are pathetic," she added, pressing down harder and earning a muffled moan for her effort, "but they are careful. They kept me close until now. Until they trusted me. Fools."
"What did they want with the American?" the shortest one asked. Clint could hardly see him at all, there were actual tears in his eyes from whatever pressure point Natasha was mercilessly extorting.
"I don't know," she said. "But, if they want him, they'll pay for him. This one too," she said, kicking Clint, hard, before walking away from him and back to her co-conspirators.
"I say we off him," the tall one said, shaking his head as he spoke. "I don't care what he's worth. I want to play."
Natasha shrugged, as if she didn't care either way. "I know who to call about Myers," she said, drawing the other two off with her. "Don't have too much fun. Leave him recognizable and they might still give us something for his corpse."
Clint heard the door slam shut but he kept his head down, regulating his breathing, as he listened to the large man approaching.
"You going to fight me, little man, or are you going to just lay down and die. Either way... I'm not particular."
Clint counted. One thousand one. One thousand two. One thousand three. On three, just as he felt the man crowd his personal space, Clint reared back and then forward again, butting the man's head with his own. It wasn't near enough to knock the other man out, but it did stagger him, which was all Clint needed. In one quick hop, Clint was on his feet. In another, he'd swung his hands underneath his feet, so that they were back in front of him, although still chained.
The tall part turned out to be an understatement. Once Clint was face to face with him, he was less tall and more giant, but there was no time to be intimidated by his size.
The giant lunged at him, and Clint took advantage the only way he could, by dodging the attack. With one, if not smooth at least quick, sidestep, Clint managed to get behind the man and kicked him as hard as he could into the beam he'd just been leaning against moments beforehand. Before the man could right himself, Clint threw himself onto his back and pulled his own shackles taunt across the giant man's neck.
It took three minutes, and by the end, Clint's arms were shaking from the effort.
Exhausted, bruised, still bound, and he thought maybe bleeding, Clint hobbled towards the door he'd seen Natasha exit out of, determined to catch up.
As it turned out, he didn't have to. Before he got there, the door banged open and there she was.
"What took you so long?" she asked. "I was getting worried."
"Sorry," he snit back at her. "Some psycho kicked me in the nuts and then left me alone with Paul Bunyan."
"I missed, okay. I am sorry, but it had to look -"
"Real," he finished for her, holding out his hand so she could undo the handcuffs. "I know."
Natasha didn't apologize again, Clint was kind of surprised she'd even said sorry in the first place, she only shrugged as he rubbed his wrists.
"Where's Myers?" he asked.
"Safe," she assured him.
"Sleeping like a baby."
"Good," Clint said, as he walked out the door just ahead of her. "Because the last thing I need right now is to hear that man's voice again. I'd rather have you hit me a few more times."
"I can arrange that."
"I'm sure you can," he said with a smile, which he immediately regretted. His whole face hurt.
For awhile it was quiet between them. They worked together to get Myers back to the pickup point. Clint made a quick call to Phil, who was as close to nervous as either of them had ever heard him, and assured him that they were fine and everything was good and, oh yeah, if he could send the damn car already, that would be great.
And then, they waited.
Until finally, "So how did you know?"
Clint looked up at Natasha, who was staring at him, her expression blank.
"How did I know what? How to take care of that guy?"
"No, I know how you did that. I knew you would do it," she added. "But... you weren't even a little nervous? Worried?"
"What? That you'd gone over?"
Natasha nodded. It had worried her, really worried her. She thought Clint might not get it. That he might have really believed that she'd abandoned SHIELD. That she'd abandoned him.
"You called me Hawkeye."
Natasha continued to stare at him.
"You wouldn't have called me by my codename if you planned on flipping," he reasoned. "Why bother unless you still wanted to protect my identity?"
"Pretty much," he admitted. Then, after a pause, he added, "That and, if you wanted, you could have put your whole boot through my head. When I woke up breathing, I knew it was an act."
"You really need to work on being more convincing," Clint chided, earning a rare laugh for his effort. "On a scale of one to ten, that back there was maybe a three. Three and a half, tops."
"It sounds like you're asking me to kick your ass. You know that right?"
"I'm not asking, I'm begging."
"You may want to get help for... whatever it is that's wrong with you," she said, laughing again and, despite the swollen eye, the bruise the size of a grapefruit on this thigh, nearly dying, and the never-stop-talking man they'd been trying to protect, completely making his night.
"There's no help for me," he admitted.
"I'm starting to believe that, Clint."