Disclaimer: I do not own the Avengers or any of the characters in the story except Le Roux and his henchmen. If I did, there would totally be a Hawkeye/Black Widow movie in the works.
Author's Note: While I embrace constructive criticism remember this old saying if you choose to leave a review "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all"
This is the same plotline/universe of Vantage Point as you can tell from the very first part of the chapter :D If you haven't read my first Avengers story, you won't be too terribly confused, but you won't understand some references either. I leave it up to you on whether or not you read it first :)...I hope you all enjoy this one!
Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Deep breath, Agent Barton."
Clint obediently inhaled as deeply as he could, hiding any signs of discomfort as the doctor's fingers pressed the just healed wound on his back. Getting stabbed sucked. Getting stabbed in the lung sucked worse.
"You're lungs are clear, so far so good."
"They were clear last week when you accosted me into getting naked for you then…I should report you for sexual harassment."
Bruce blinked at him, mildly amused.
"Do you want me to make sure you'll be good to go tomorrow, or not?" He questioned with an arched eyebrow. "And if I wanted to get you naked, I'd like to think I'd be more successful." He added with a smirk, motioning at the pants Clint still had firmly around his waist.
"Bruce, you're making me blush." Clint feigned embarrassment.
"Nothing makes you blush." Natasha refuted as she strode into the room.
"You would know." Clint admitted with a mischievous smirk in her direction. She ignored him.
"How's he looking?"
"His lungs are clear and the wound is healed nicely…if he's not lying about there being no more pain, then I'd say he's fully recovered...if he'd stayed in bed like he should have, he'd probably be cleared already."
"He's right here." Clint pointed out as he yanked his shirt on. So he hadn't stayed in bed for the prescribed amount of time, he and Bruce both knew he'd still made a remarkably swift recovery. The Doc just liked to bust his chops about following the rules. Coulson used to do that too. He saw Natasha's eyes flash with something and he sent her a quelling look. There was no way he was letting her send Bruce into a mother-hen frenzy by revealing the ache that seemed to have permanently settled around his stab wound.
She gave him an icy glare that promised she wouldn't let it slide, even if she kept his secret. He shrugged one shoulder. He'd expected as much.
Bruce watched the silent exchange in confusion. The way those two communicated with looks was downright scary sometimes. Whether it was shared looks of annoyance over something or full conversations, that they could do it without speaking baffled the rest of the team to no end. Bruce cleared his throat, drawing their attention back to him.
"I for one am ready to have you fighting with us again...the other guy misses you and he's been a little frustrated with how long it's taken you to heal up." Bruce mused as he walked them to the door of the infirmary.
"Tell me about it." Natasha muttered too low for Bruce to hear, but Clint tossed her a smile. "He's right," her tone returned to normal, "Hulk has been particularly cranky lately...keeps asking when "arrow man" is coming back."
Clint smirked. "I didn't know he'd gotten so attached."
The tall blonde Asgardian strode towards them, arms spread wide.
"Thor." He greeted with a genuine grin. Ever since Tony had helped the big guy track down Jane, he'd been in and out of the tower, splitting time between visiting her, returning to Asgard, and returning when they needed his help. They didn't get to see him very much.
"Have your ailments healed enough for me to offer you the traditional Midgardian farewell?"
"You're leaving?" Clint frowned. He hadn't even gotten to see the big man since he'd returned from Nevada where he'd been visiting Jane.
"I must return to my home in Asgard, the high council is holding court and my presence is of upmost importance as they only hold court three times in every Asgardian king's lifetime. This marks my father's third...the next will be under my rule."
Clint nodded. Thor spread his arms, his eyes questioning.
"Go ahead, big guy."
Thor smiled widely and wrapped Clint in the equivalent of an Asgardian bear hug. The archer glared at Natasha when she smiled evilly as his feet ended up a foot off the floor. His ribs creaked and after indulging the hammer wielder for a moment, he patted him on the back.
"Okay…need to breathe now."
Thor returned him back to the ground and Clint stumbled back a step, a small smile on his face. The warrior god was a teddy bear; Clint wouldn't let anyone tell him differently.
"Steve tells me you will be returning to our numbers soon, is it so?"
"I have my evaluation tomorrow." Clint nodded. "I should be back in the field by lunch."
"That is wonderful news!" Thor boomed, turning to follow them as they continued away from the infirmary. "I will hasten to return to this realm so I may fight at your noble side once again, Archer."
"Sounds good, Big Guy." Clint grinned as they came into the kitchen.
"Clint! How'd it go?" Steve greeted them with a smile from where he was making a simple ham sandwich.
"Doc says I'm all clear."
"That's great! We've missed you out there."
"He's been gone? I hadn't noticed." Tony tossed out flippantly as he strode into the room. "Though there have been distinctly less feathers lying around."
"Don't listen to him." Steve gave Clint an apologetic smile, but he needn't have worried. Clint was beyond letting anything Stark said bother him. He'd had three months of comments about everything from his wings being clipped to being careful not to fall out of his nest.
"Three months to get cleared…I was Iron Man within a month after being tortured."
"No you weren't." Natasha called him out bluntly.
"How would you know, you weren't sent to spy on me yet." Tony shot back.
"How about I stab you, Stark…then we can compare recoveries." Clint joined in.
"Now now, Big Bird, don't let your feathers get ruffled."
"Bird jokes? That the best you got, Tin Can?"
"Hey, I just stick to what provides the best material…it's either that or call you Katniss Everdeen."
Tony glanced around at the five blank looks he was getting.
"Really?" He asked in shock.
Natasha arched an eyebrow.
"Alright…those two," he pointed at Thor and Steve, "I understand…and even Big Green here has the excuse of forcing himself into exile for the past several years…but you two," He stared at Natasha and Clint, "that's just sad."
"Enough, Tony." Steve sighed.
"No really…The Hunger Games?" he looked around, "Anyone? That's dancing close to being criminal….what do they teach you people at SHEILD."
"How to kill people without leaving any traceable evidence." Natasha replied a hint of a smirk on her lips. Tony's eye twitched as he tried to figure out if she was threatening him.
Clint rolled his eyes and took Steve's sandwich from him. He deconstructed it quickly and started putting it back together with several more ingredients added. He slid it back Steve absently and started making one for himself and one for Natasha. The Captain regarded it with skeptical eyes waiting for an encouraging nod from Natasha before he bit into it. Clint hid his smile at the super soldier's immediate wide eyed enjoyment.
Natasha took her sandwich when it was offered and moved to sit next to Steve. Clint filled the stool on the other side of her.
"Where's my sandwich?" Tony questioned.
Clint ignored him.
"How very un-Mother Goosey of you… so disappointing."
Bruce sipped a bottle of apple juice watching the exchange with interest. Clint was the only one of the group that could take Tony's constant babbling without reaction. Had to be something to do with his patience level. Steve usually stuck it out like a trooper before kindly lying about having something to do. Thor, when he was there, just looked at him in confusion before walking away without explanation. Natasha tended to cause him bodily harm; Tony didn't talk to her very much. And Bruce, he had mastered steering the man towards scientific conversation. Pepper, as far as Bruce had noticed, babbled just as much. The two spoke over each other so much it was often hard to track the conversation. Clint, though, he actually managed to fire back with growing consistency. Granted the two men argued almost any time they spoke, so name calling had become an issue none of them knew how to deal with.
Some of them were impressively creative.
But that was neither here nor there.
Bruce was sure, now that Clint was officially off the injured list, the clashes between the two were certain to grow in intensity.
After seeing Thor off, Clint strode into the SHIELD base like he always did, like he owned it. He ignored the wide eyed looks he got from new recruits who had only heard rumors of the famous Hawkeye. The man who never missed. The man who had killed his own.
He ignored the hateful glares of the friends of the agents he'd killed 9 months ago during the Loki incident. He, with the help of Phil and Bruce, had forgiven himself for what was never his fault to begin with. The SHIELD agents who still held a grudge could kiss his ass. That didn't mean he enjoyed being in the same square mile as them, though. The temptation to wipe the hate filled looks off their faces got stronger the longer he was exposed to them.
He knocked once on Director Fury's office door and waited. In his younger years, Fury had taken great pleasure in making him wait outside his door for ridiculous amounts of time. No doubt it was an attempt to curb Clint's blatant problems with authority.
Those problems had cropped up after his mentor in the circus betrayed him and tried to kill him. It had carried over into the Army, but lucky for him, he'd been too damn good for his CO to do more than reprimand him.
It was hard to out wait a man with Clint's patience though, and the Director's attempts had been so unsuccessful that Fury had given up. Especially after one particular incident of Clint bombarding a group of recruits with tiny paper balls to pass the time.
The prompt command cued him to push the door open. He sent a mocking glare of his shoulder to the many agents staring at him. Not just anyone got to meet with the Director face to face. He wanted all of them to know he was still top dog in this place. Call it pride, but it felt damn good to see them all quickly lower their eyes and return to work.
He closed the door behind him, dropped into parade rest, and glanced at the clock. He was two minutes early. Phil would have been shocked.
"Ready for your evaluation, Agent Barton?" Fury asked casually as he rifled through some papers on his desk.
"I was ready two weeks ago, sir." Clint replied easily. Fury raised his one eye to regard him.
"That's not what Banner said."
Traitor. Clint thought. If it wasn't for the green guy on the other side of the coin, he'd totally retaliate for that betrayal in a very creative way.
"Well then I'm ready now, sir."
"Good…I need you back in the field yesterday…there's this thing in South Africa…" Fury shook his head. "I'll brief you later, as you know, normally a Return to Field Evaluation is done by the agent's handler…but given you unique circumstance, we've had to get creative."
Unique circumstance, my ass. Clint grumbled in his head. Phil was dead, why was everyone afraid to say it around him.
"Yes, there is a group of agents up for their semi-annual evaluations…you'll go through the process with them."
"Sir?" Clint couldn't help but be surprised. He hadn't done an evaluation with any agent but Natasha in years. Phil had always handled all of their evaluations in private. It wouldn't be fair to put him or Natasha in with regular agents.
"I know it's not what you're used to, Barton...but I don't have another option right now...I've got all my trainers tied up with new recruits and not enough personnel to handle evals...make it work."
Clint's eyes hardened and his posture straightened. The only reason they had such an influx of recruits was because of the Loki incident. SHIELD had been trying to rebuild their numbers ever since.
"Good, now get going, they're scheduled to start in 10 minutes."
Clint stretched out his back as he eyed the rest of the agents on the training grounds. After the Loki incident, the people at SHIELD had looked at him like he was a wolf among the sheep. What they didn't realize is, he'd always been the wolf, and they just hadn't seen it until Loki. It didn't mean Clint liked being looked at like a traitor, though.
He'd checked in with the agent doing the evaluations when he got to the grounds. Roberts was his name. Clint didn't know him, but the guy seemed to know him. He'd looked at him with awe instead of hate, though. So Clint decided not to give him a hard time. He wasn't Coulson and probably wouldn't take it very well. He had enough people that didn't like him.
He watched everyone around him, keeping his back to no one out of habit. The entire group wore the same black Nike athletic shorts and gray SHIELD t-shirt; their last names were printed across their shoulders. He passed the time memorizing faces and names.
"I can't believe they let that traitor stay…they even send him on missions still."
Clint didn't turn his head to look at the two agents talking to his left. Connors and Matthews. He didn't know them personally, just two more names and faces he'd committed to memory. They were whispering, probably didn't think he could hear them. But Clint's sight wasn't the only sense he had that was nearly supernaturally attuned.
"I hear Fury still calls him one of the best agents SHIELD has…best at killing his own more like it." Matthews replied.
Clint remained unmoved.
"Why is he doing the eval with us? Shouldn't he be isolated from the group…what if he decides to start offing agents again?" Connors wondered.
Clint smirked to himself. He was seriously considering it at this point. Starting with those two chuckleheads.
"I heard his old handler got killed when he brought that alien dude on the helicarrier…its why he has to do the eval with us…I bet his handler knew he was a traitor…and that's why they killed him…"
Clint's eyes darkened.
Those ass hats are going down.
He decided as the trainer called the group over to the obstacle course. They could call him a traitor all day. But to insinuate that Phil got killed for anything short of heroic bravery, with a healthy mix of stupidity, was unacceptable.
Natasha leaned over the railing overlooking the training grounds. The evaluation was halfway over. The agents were in the middle of their run right now. She smirked when she saw Clint was half a lap ahead of the rest of the group and gaining ground.
She didn't turn to acknowledge Fury as he came to stand with her.
"How's he been doing?" Fury asked with uncharacteristic concern hidden in his voice. Natasha was a master of reading what was supposed to be hidden, though.
"Glad to hear it." Fury nodded.
"He and Stark are clashing, though." Natasha admitted, watching Clint lap the slowest of the group.
"I could have predicted that...their attitudes are too similar not to cause fireworks."
"It hasn't been un-entertaining." She arched an eyebrow.
They watched Clint advance to the middle of the group. Even from their distance, they could see the shock on some of the agent's faces.
"He's a fast little bastard isn't he?" Fury observed.
Natasha didn't reply, knowing what they were witnessing was evidence enough to that point.
"I've got a mission for you." the Director revealed abruptly.
"With Barton?" She asked, barely managing not to betray her hopefulness.
"But he's going to pass his eval," She motioned to the training grounds, "that's obvious."
"I have another mission for Barton, something involving National Security."
"You're splitting us up." She realized. "You haven't split us up since Loki, why now?" She glared. Fury was unaffected.
"He couldn't handle it until now… you said yourself he's doing better."
Natasha glared at him, furious he was using her own words against her.
"That doesn't mean he needs to be doing a mission alone…he just healed from getting stabbed in the lung."
"Are you implying he's not at 100%?" Fury questioned sharply.
"Clint at 60% is ten times better than any of your other agents at 100%, you know that." Natasha defended her partner. "I know he could handle it, but there isn't any need to take the unnecessary risk."
"I agree, which is why I'm not sending him alone."
"You're partnering him with someone else?" Natasha hissed.
"Not a SHIELD agent if that's what you're concerned about."
Natasha rolled her eyes, looking back at Clint as he pulled back ahead of the group.
"He's been outscoring everyone down there...by a very wide margin...he's my best agent, besides you."
"Including me." She corrected quietly. Clint would always be a better agent than her, because he saw the big picture she couldn't always see.
"That's why I know he'll be fine." Fury assured. "The run is over." He observed, "Ready to watch Barton wipe the sparring mat with the rest of these guys?" He smirked. He didn't have favorites, if he did, it definitely wouldn't be the smart ass, pain in the ass, Barton. But the kid had undeniable talent. And it was damn entertaining to watch him fight.
"Better warn medical." Natasha smirked back.
Clint knew she was watching. He'd felt her eyes on him during the run, and he had caught a glimpse of her with Fury on the observation deck as the evaluation group prepared for the final part of the eval, sparring. Then Clint would be off to the medic for his final check up and he'd be officially back on active duty.
They all stood bordering the sparring mat. Roberts was in the middle.
"Time for a single elimination sparring tournament, just because I'm bored and I know you all know how to spar." The trainer announced. A few chuckles rose from the group. "You all know the rules, winner stays on the mat, loser is out of the running. Last man standing wins…I'll be grading you based on your skills, not on whether or not you win, so no cheating."
Clint smirked inwardly. He hadn't lost a sparring tournament since his first week of training nine years ago. Granted, he hadn't participated in one in over seven years. Coulson had pulled him from general training just over a year and half after he'd come to SHIELD. He'd started his specialized training after that, training to be a deadly shadow. When Natasha had come, she'd become his sparring partner. She had wiped the floor with him the first time they met on the mat. He had laughed, and told her same time the next day. His own skills had sky rocketed with her as a partner. He hadn't met anyone that could match him since. Natasha could still kick his ass though, when he wasn't careful. Just like he could do the same to her, when she got sloppy...that didn't happen often though.
"Matthews and Barton." The trainer announced. Clint couldn't help the predatory smirk that overtook his features. Roberts must have noticed the tension between them throughout the morning. "Barton, try not to cause any serious injury." The trainer requested quietly. Clint smirked again. At least his reputation in hand-to-hand was still respected.
"I'm not scared of this traitor…do your worst, Barton." Matthew hissed.
Clint cocked his head to the side, regarding him, sizing him up. Matthew shifted uncomfortably. Barton was looking at him like he would image a lion looked at a rabbit before he ate it for lunch. Before Matthews could decide what his first move was going to be, Barton moved. A simple, but effective, aerial spin kick put Matthew on the ground unconscious.
The entire group gaped in awe. On the observation deck, Natasha smirked.
Roberts grinned briefly and motioned Connors onto the mat. The ebony haired agent swallowed, watching with wide eyes as his friend was carried to the medics. Deciding he should attack before Barton could do the same to him; he stepped forward and lashed out with a left jab. But Barton wasn't there anymore, he was behind him, kicking his knees out from under him and drawing his fist back to deliver the final blow.
"Give!" Connors announced quickly, hands up in surrender. Barton's storm colored eyes were emotionless as Connors stared up at him. Hawkeye stood, giving Connors room to do the same.
He turned to look at Roberts to see who was next. He sensed the attack before it ever had a chance at landing. He spun, knocking Connor's fist away and delivering a solid, open palmed hit to the man's sternum, knocking him back. He followed up with a sharp kick to his thigh, which made the whole limb collapse and the man's body twist at the sudden loss of support. Clint spun, snapping his elbow into Connor's back, between the shoulder blades. The man fell to his hands and knees, and Clint put him down with a firm fist to the temple. It was hard enough to subdue him, but not knock him out. He didn't think Roberts would appreciate him causing two concussions in one exercise.
The whole exchange lasted less than seven seconds. Even the trainer was slack jawed.
"Only because I don't want my entire group in the infirmary, Barton, you pass…head to medical for your check up." Roberts instructed. Clint shrugged, unconcerned, and headed out of the room.
Above them, Natasha smirked at Fury, who was trying to hide his own grin, and headed to meet her partner at the medic. She stopped him just before he headed into the exam room.
"Hey, Barton." She greeted. "Nice moves back there."
"You liked that?" He smirked. "I've got even better moves I could show you later."
"Looking forward to it." She grinned coyly. "Last step." She pointed at the exam room.
"About damn time, too…I should have been cleared two weeks ago." He grumbled.
"You were still having trouble breathing two weeks ago." She shot back, eyebrow arched.
"I could have hid-" Clint broke off when someone bodily knocked into his shoulder from behind. Someone coming out of medical. Matthews. Whatever the agent had apparently opened his mouth to say was lost when he got two menacing glares for SHIELD's two most deadly assassins.
"Apologize." Natasha ordered, her tone terrifying.
"S-sorry, Bar…Agent Barton…" He stuttered, turning tail and walking away as quickly as he could.
"I think you made him piss his pants." Clint chuckled, watching the guy retreat.
"I heard some rumors that he and a couple others have been giving you a hard time." Natasha arched an eyebrow in question.
"Yeah well…there's a reason I don't like coming here." He shrugged. "It's not the same without Phil."
"Yeah." She agreed quietly, searching his eyes for any sign of the soul crushing guilt that had plagued him for so long. Instead she just saw sadness, and longing.
"I just miss him, Tasha…that's all." He assured quietly.
She nodded and glanced over at the door to medical.
"Guess I should get this show on the road." He mused, heading towards the door.
"I'll be here when you're cleared." She pointed towards the waiting room. He nodded over his shoulder and pushed into the room.
Clint has always hated medical. Mostly because he was usually there because he'd gotten hurt or someone he cared about had gotten hurt. Phil used to serve as a fairly effective distraction. Now the whole place just gave him chills; and not just because they kept it unrighteously cold in the exam rooms.
"Sit there and take off your shirt." The doctor ordered. "You were stabbed three months ago…the knife punctured your lung…you're here to get cleared for active duty." He summarized dispassionately. Clint knew he was just another chart to this guy. He suddenly wished it was Bruce giving him this exam. At least Bruce actually seemed to care if he passed or not...and wouldn't fail him for being a smart ass.
Nevertheless, Clint did as he was instructed. He sat with his back ramrod straight, not even flinching when the cold stethoscope touched his back.
Clint sucked in the cold air of the exam room.
He forced the air out of his lungs.
This went on for several minutes, as the doctor moved the stethoscope around to different parts of his back. Finally he turned away to write something on his chart. Clint waited patiently.
"Any pain around the wound?" The doctor asked clinically.
"No." It wasn't a total lie. He didn't think an ache was the same as pain. At least not to him.
As if to test him, the doctor poked and prodded the pink puckered scar. Clint kept his muscles relaxed and his face impassive. Years of anti-interrogation training had taught him to hide even the worst pain. The near constant ache that originated around that wound was easy compared to the time he'd had to protect Natasha's location with a salted bullet wound, a fractured cheekbone, a dislocated shoulder, three broken fingers, four broken ribs, after a round of water boarding. Good times.
"You're cleared Agent Barton." The doctor signed his chart and turned away.
Effectively dismissed, Clint pulled his shirt back on and left the way he'd come. Natasha rose gracefully from her seat and fell into step with him.
End of Chapter 1
So I realize there isn't a lot of plot development in this chapter. But I thought it was fitting to show the transition from Vantage Point and how things had developed since then. I've finished the whole story and I promise that Clint and Tony are going to be the center of it.
I'm going to update daily :)
Reviews make me happy!
Here's your preview of Chapter 2:
"Clint." Natasha's voice rang out in warning across the room. The archer ignored her and advanced. Tony finally had the fight he'd been looking for, but he realized belatedly that he didn't have a hope of keeping up. It wasn't until Clint threw himself into a half cartwheel, his legs coming up to scissor around Tony's chest, and then slam him to the ground, did Tony decide this had been a mistake, his biggest one in a while.
"That's gonna leave a mark." Tony gasped, wondering if there was a phone ringing or if that was in his head.