Chapter 6

Hawkeye glared down his scope at his unsuspecting target. The night was black, thick clouds and cold rain blocked the stars and moon making the conditions for this hit miserable at best. Clint was soaked to the bone, hands nearly frozen onto his rifle.

"If you're ready, Hawkeye, please take the shot." The voice in the hawk's ear nagged. Coulson could never be replaced but this new handler was a piece of work. Douche bag engraved deep into his heart and soul. Clint was pretty sure at this point if he were to look up 'asshole' in an encyclopedia he'd see Agent Granger's face staring back at him.

While the smug bastard sat warm and dry back in the safe house, Hawkeye had been out in weather conditions not fit for an animal. Constantly Granger berated Clint over the comm. link for shots not taken. Both times civilians had been in the area and the risk level had been too high. The man had no patience and it rubbed Clint the wrong way.

Barton made a point to ignore Granger – he'd complain to Fury about the idiot later. For now the assassin focused on finishing the mission. Clint needed to get back to the Avengers Tower. He had plans and time was quickly running out.

After the hawk made a few last minute adjustments to his aim his frozen finger pulled the trigger. The bullet flew true and tore through its intended target and just like that the mission was completed.

"Target down." Clint announced as he began to pack up the rifle. Unfortunately Fury had requested Barton not bring his trusted bow along for this job – that had been as much of a disappointment as learning Natasha wouldn't be coming with him.

Clint had promised he would return in time.

"Finally." Granger breathed over the line. "Get your ass back here, I've got a date."

So do I, Clint thought to himself as he broke down his weapon and stowed it in its case.

A crash over the line halted Barton's movements. Granger made an odd strangled sound before two blasts of gunfire sounded quickly followed by a dull thud. Clint immediately identified the sound as a body hitting the floor.

"Granger, what's happening?" Hawkeye questioned, slipping the rifle case into a gym bag as he stood with one hand pressed against his ear. "Granger? Granger!"

"I'm coming for you, little Hawk." A raspy voice spoke over the connection. That was definitely not Granger.


The door to the roof was kicked opened behind Hawkeye demanding Clint's immediate attention. "Crap." The archer sucked in a breath before he dove for cover and out of the way of several bullets.

"Don't fear my men, Hawkeye." The voice spoke again. It was familiar and heavily accented. "They are to take you alive. I want the pleasure of taking your life personally."

Inwardly Clint groaned. Natasha was going to kill him for being late.

Natasha stared blankly out the window, a reflection of her partner on bad days. But Clint wasn't around to sit in his spot, which was painfully obvious to Natasha.

"Whatcha looking at?" Tony's voice asked from behind her. She had seen him walk into the room through the window's reflection, though she had silently hoped he'd lose his nerve and walk away. Apparently she had absolutely no luck as of late.

"Go away, Stark." Natasha begged quiet yet firmly, her eyes focused somewhere far away.

Tony hesitated for a moment, but didn't leave. "Look, I don't know what's wrong, but you're seriously worrying Steve and Bruce and they won't leave me alone. So let's resolve this thing so I can get back to work and you can get back to doing whatever it is assassins do, okay? Okay." Tony clapped his hands together in front of him and flopped down on the couch next to Natasha.

The Black Widow ignored him.

"Okay – " Tony stretched out the word when he received no reply. "What's going on? You haven't exactly been subtle in your moping – I mean seriously, it's been two days. Is this about Feathers? I'm sure Barton can take care of himself."

The billionaire paused for a moment, dropping his head to the side in second thought. "Well, he can handle himself most of the time. Although his talent for getting himself into trouble is almost as awesome as mine – " Tony rubbed the back of his neck with a sheepish look. "This isn't helping, is it?"

Natasha knew Tony wouldn't leave her alone until he was satisfied or dead. And since killing him wasn't an acceptable option…

"He's late." She answered him simply, her expression made of stone – eyes still focused on the window.

"Wait, the mission had a timeline?" Tony's eyes narrowed, his question sincere with concern. For some odd reason Clint and Tony had become good friends. Actually Clint had grown attached to all of the Avengers – truthfully Natasha had as well.

"No," Natasha sighed before she glanced at her annoyance. "Tonight is our anniversary."

Tony's jaw dropped. "Y-you two are married! Yes, hey Bruce!" He turned his head towards the hallway and shouted the doctor's name. "You owe me fifty bucks! They're married!"

Natasha didn't blink but her eyes narrowed fractionally. It wasn't like she hadn't known about the bet, it was actually an inside joke between her and Barton. "The anniversary of our first mission together, Stark."

"Damn it." Tony cursed looking away. Somewhere beyond the living room Banner snickered.

"You two don't have to hide down the hall." Natasha called out. Her solitude had already been broken she might as well invite people she actually liked to the small party.

Steve and Banner shyly made their appearances and joined the rest of the team – minus Clint and Thor, who was visiting Jane – in the living room. After a year of working together the Avengers had grown into a twisted little family.

Once they were all seated the tension seemed to grow with the silence.

"He could still make it," Steve offered finally. "The day's not over, Clint could show up any minute now."

Natasha shook her head slowly. "Even if he got back to Shield right now he would still have to debrief with Fury and report to medical." She shrugged, trying to pretend she didn't care – but it was obvious she did. It had been obvious all day.

"How do you know he hasn't gotten back?" Tony asked curiously. His answer was a glare. "Right, he'd call." The billionaire huffed, crossing his arms protectively over his glowing chest. "You know, if looks could kill we'd seriously have to get you a blindfold."

"Have you ever spent the day apart?" Bruce asked timidly.

"You must have, right? Going off on separate missions." Tony interrupted – Steve elbowed him in the side. "What, it was a legit assumption."

"We've spent it being tortured together, sparing together on a beach, recovering together in the medical wing, we've spent it on stake outs, at Shield, once Clint sweet talked Fury into giving him a cover to take me out to dinner when I was baby sitting an asset. This will be the first time in the nine years we've been partners that we'll spend it apart."

Hood pulled low over his face Hawkeye walked down the street. He'd gotten off the roof with minor injuries – two grazes, one on his thigh the other on his right bicep and a few new bruises and minor cuts. Clint had managed to take three of the five men out before he bolted. Taking a leap off his building to crash through a window of the building adjacent.

After rushing his way out of the thankfully empty apartment Clint took to the streets and did what he did best – blended in. The new sweatshirt Clint had grabbed in the apartment helped hide his appearance from those hunting him. And they were hunting him. Groups of men patrolled the streets asking questions and barking orders.

He wasn't sure who was after him this time but the man appeared to be pretty damned determined.

Hawkeye spotted a payphone down the street he was walking and checked his pocket for change. Popping the right amount into the machine Clint dialed the number.

"Shield Insurance, how may I direct your call?" A cheery voice greeted him on the other end.

"Code Zulu Alfa six, forty-two, four nine four. I need to speak with Fury, now." Clint rattled the code off easily. Eyes scanned the streets as he waited for his identification to be accepted.

"Agent Barton confirmed, transferring you to Director Fury. Please hold the line."

"Easy for you to say." Clint muttered. The girl wasn't in the middle of a mission gone completely sideways.

"Fury." A sharp growl filled the speaker.

"Director, we've run into a slight problem." Clint greeted in a mock cheerful voice.

"Barton, where the hell is Granger?"

"Dead. Killed just after I finished the hit. The safe house was compromised – the guy in charge knew me by name. I'm being hunted." Clint stilled when one of the groups came into view from the payphone.

"Damn it, he was never supposed to know you were there." Fury cursed to him self.


"Classified, just get your ass back here. Use any means necessary."

Clint blinked. "How is the information regarding someone trying to kill me classified?"

"Take it up with council, Barton." Fury sighed. "Just get back here in one piece."

"I'll do my best." Clint hissed. "If I make it out of here I'm going to the Tower. You can debrief me in twenty-four hours."

"Not acceptable."

"Take it up with Natasha." Clint shot back and hung up the phone. Yes, he'd probably get reprimanded, but Fury had a secret soft spot for his best marksman. Everything would work out for the best.

"What if we took you to him? We could fire up my privet plane and – "

"Stark, this isn't a mission we should interrupt. It could blow the whole op." Natasha shook her head. "Besides, everything is fine. It's just a stupid day."

The others clearly didn't believe her lie – Natasha didn't believe herself either.

"We should do something to get your mind off of it." Bruce offered. "I don't think you've eaten anything since – "

"I'm not hungry." Natasha snapped at the doctor. Bruce shrunk back and the assassin sighed apologetically. "Look, I just want to be alone."

Hesitantly the boys exchanged glances and stood together.

"If you need anything, let us know." Steve requested before they left the room.

Once alone again Natasha fixed her eyes on the city's horizon. Time moved by both agonizingly slow and painfully fast. When the sun started to set Natasha was ready to give up hope. The day was nearly at a close and her hawk hadn't come home to her. It was silly for her to feel so disappointed, but couldn't help herself.

It was close to midnight when Jarvis made the announcement. "Mr. Stark, there seems to be a helicopter trying to land on the Tower. It appears to be in rather poor shape."

Natasha glanced back at Tony – who had been riffling through the fridge – questioningly.

"Let's go check it out." Stark shrugged, shutting the door as Natasha led the way to the roof. Opening the door revealed the helicopter, the copper blades slowing down as the machine cooled down and the pilot dropped out onto the roof.

The wind kicked up, sending Natasha's red hair into a fiery dance as she reached for her sidearm.

"Did I make it?" Clint called out, walking around the bullet riddled helicopter.

The two Shield agents stared at each other from across the roof.

"Jarvis, what time is it?" Tony asked quickly.

"Twenty-four seconds until midnight, sir." The AI answered dutifully.

With a smirk Barton moved forward, tugging his partner closer to him as he bent forward and kissed her on the lips. "Happy anniversary, Nat."

Shocked Natasha looked up into her partner's stormy blue eyes unsure if she should hit him or kiss him again. "You made it." She whispered, a small smile playing on her pale lips.

"I ran into a little trouble along the way, but yeah, I made it." Clint grinned.

At some point Tony had left the roof. Natasha was actually a little unnerved that she hadn't been able to pay attention to the world around her when Clint made his appearance.

"I'm sorry I made you wait." Clint spoke again, slightly out of breath.

"You can make it up to me." Natasha pulled him a little closer. "We have all night."

Well, there you have it! The end. Well I have an alternative ending as well, that'll be up eventually. I hope you guys enjoyed the ride!

If you want to read something while you're waiting for my next adventure (I have three in the works...) I have two one shots you can check out. "Alibis and Lying Eyes" and "He Dreams He's Asleep (Avengers)"

Oh, and I do plan to get this 'refined' so if a beta out there would like to help me out…my grammar skills (or lack there of) could use the help ^^;

Thanks for reading! You guys have all been incredibly awesome! This is my most favorited/reviewed story to date! I couldn't have done it without support! Thank you so much!