Rumor Has It: Avengers Fanfiction

Written by: Katerinaki

Published: July 29, 2013

Beta'ed: No

Note: It's rough. Good God is it rough! And not particularly long either but I wanted to write and I was able to squeeze in some time to at least finish this part. Hopefully now I can get back into the swing. I know that I've gotten some comment about not enough Clintasha. Thank you for speaking your minds. I stand by my summary, it's Blackhawk/Clintasha, whatever you want to call it. You'll see. I ask you to continue to have patience, and hopefully by the end you will feel fulfilled.

-Katerinaki

Part 9:

In theory, sneaking in and out of Stark Tower would be extremely hard, if not impossible. Between the SHIELD-installed security, plus Stark's own modification and the tower's A.I., JARVIS, Stark Tower was probably more secure than Fort Knox. However, Natasha and Clint were trained for the impossible and so they found themselves sitting on the C train towards Euclid Avenue, roughly half an hour before Clint was supposed to meet Jacqueline. He sat with his elbows on his knees, fidgeting. Natasha sat next to him, leaning with her back to the side of the car. She was dressed in a black shirt and pants with her red hair covered by a brown wig. She looked like a tired waitress, perhaps on her way to her second job. But her eyes were constantly scanning the car as they made each stop along the way and passengers entered and exited. The chaos of a New York subway was a blessing and a curse. She and Clint could easily hide in the bustle, but so could a potential attacker, and the proximity of strangers had both constantly on edge.

"Where did you and Jacqueline go on your second date?" Natasha asked.

Clint looked up and Natasha watched him force himself to sit still and relax. He would draw more attention to himself by appearing anxious.

"A café that Jacqueline knew from Paris. Le Pain Quotidien."

"Remember you can't eat anything."

"Yeah."

"And we won't be able to stay long. JARVIS probably already knows we're gone, which means Stark will know soon if he doesn't already."

And Stark couldn't keep his mouth shut if his life depended on it, Natasha added silently.

Clint sighed heavily. "Thanks for doing this, Natasha."

He grinned at her and Natasha forced herself to swallow the knot in her throat and grin back. "It's what partners do."

They got off at Canal Street and made the short walk to the restaurant, arriving before Jacqueline. Natasha entered and bought a drink before taking up position near the back of the restaurant and pulling out a book. She didn't care if Jacqueline saw her or not, but she had no intentions of cutting in on Clint's date. She was there as back-up, in case the worst should happen. Clint entered just a few minutes later and bought a drink as well before taking up a table against the wall near the front of the restaurant. He was within eye sight of Natasha, while also able to clearly see the street through the front windows.

At least she was prompt. Just a minute after their agreed upon meeting time, Jacqueline stepped into the restaurant. She was dressed in the all-black clothing she wore for her work at the coffee shop and her blonde hair was pulled back away from her face. When she spotted Clint she smiled and hurried to meet him. Clint rose as she practically threw herself into his arms and placed a brief kiss on her cheek. Natasha watched the two of them settle once more, Jacqueline jabbering on in French and she felt like she was going to be sick. Natasha hadn't seen or spoken to Jacqueline since the disastrous Russian lunch. She'd forgotten how dainty she was, and how pretty. Clint was no giant, but he seemed to dwarf her as he held her in his arms and murmured into her ear, probably in French as well. Natasha could feel the heat boiling up in her stomach, but she tamped it down. She was on a mission; there was no time for her to act like a child.

Natasha kept her eye on her partner and his girlfriend, as well as their surroundings for over half an hour. All the while she would periodically turn pages in her book and pretend to sip from her cup, which remained just as full as it had been when she bought it. Nobody noticed because she didn't seem to be doing anything more than enjoying a brief respite. She couldn't say exactly when she saw the shift, but Natasha found herself glancing up at Clint's date more and more often. Something was off; it was just a feeling she had. Jacqueline leaned in and gave Clint a dainty peck on the cheek before standing and heading towards Natasha. She bypassed her, though, and instead disappeared into the ladies' room. Natasha sunk into her book a bit, just in case Jacqueline looked her way, but the girl seemed to be floating on cloud nine with a stupid little smirk on her lips and an extra bounce in her step.

As soon as the door to the bathroom closed, Natasha stood and made her way out to Clint's table. Her partner also was smiling as he noticed her approach and Natasha had to fight the butterflies in her stomach. Now wasn't the time.

"We shouldn't be much longer," she murmured as she passed him in favour of another table.

"I know," Clint replied out of the corner of his mouth as he pretended to take a sip of his drink. He was just putting his cup down when Jacqueline returned and this time Natasha was situated close enough that Natasha could hear it all.

"It's so good to finally see you," she said, grabbing Clint's hand. "I missed you. You've been so busy."

"I know," Clint said.

"You can't tell me anything...?"

"It's better I don't."

She pouted. Natasha nearly gagged.

"Well, since you don't know how much longer you'll be busy, maybe I could come a visit you. I have a late rehearsal tomorrow and...you're a spy. Surely you could sneak us in..."

Natasha had to fight to keep herself relaxed. As it was, she nearly ripped the page of her book as she turned it. The words blurred before her eyes but Natasha refused to let herself look up. She was afraid what she might see. Jacqueline with her lips near Clint's ear and her legs draped across his lap. And Clint, would he have that little smirk he always got when he made a difficult shot or something in a mission went their way. She didn't want to see it.

"Ow!" Her reaction was instinctive. She looked up and saw the wince of pain on Clint's face, right as Jacqueline jammed an epi-pen into his leg.

Clint!

"Oo, sorry baby," Jacqueline cooed as she stood up, tucking the used pen into her jacket. "You know how sometimes I get a little...excited. I should be going. I'll call you, alright?"

"Y-yeah," Clint rasped, frowning. He groaned, keeling forward but Natasha was already there before he hit the table. "Nat."

She held him up, pulling him to his feet and slipping under his arm. "Hang on."

"My legs are in spasm," he told her as they stumbled from the restaurant. Natasha was barely able to get him down on a bench outside. "What happened?"

"It's Jacqueline. She injected you with something." She looked around, trying to spot the blonde head, but there were hundreds of them, going in every which direction. "She's gone."

"We gotta get back to the Tower," Clint grunted through clenched teeth as his thigh muscles clenched again.

"You can't walk."

"Just give me a hand."

Using Natasha and the wall, Clint was able to balance himself on shaky legs. They made it perhaps a block before Clint's legs gave out completely and he almost took Natasha down with him.

"Damn!" he swore, already trying to push himself up again. "It's spreading." He didn't even get to his feet before another attack came.

Normally in this situation, Natasha would've called Coulson. Coulson would've gotten them out of there, no questions asked, and then Natasha could go after the bad guys because she knew that Clint was in safe hands. But that wasn't an option and she found herself cursing Coulson for going and getting himself killed and leaving her in the situation she was now. Really she knew it was her fault. She'd facilitated this, even though she knew it was asking for something to happen.

"Need a lift?" Natasha looked up, just before Iron Man touched down with a heavy clang on the sidewalk. Natasha hesitated just a moment, but Clint grimaced as he succumbed to another attack and her decision was made for her.

"Take care of him, Stark," she growled, handing Clint's arm over so that Tony could sling it over his own shoulders.

"Don't worry about Lover boy," Stark replied. The jets in his boots fired and the two of them were gone, two small jet streams barely discernible amidst the smog of New York City. Some of the people around her had paused to stare open-mouthed at the spot where Iron Man had just dropped in and disappeared from just as quickly. The whole pick up had taken barely fifteen seconds. Most wouldn't have seen it, except the Iron Man suit was not subtle in the slightest. Much like its designer, owner, and operator. Regardless of what they did or did not see, Natasha quickly found far too many eyes on her. She had, after all, spoken to Iron Man. It was time to slip away.

She continued on down the street at a brisk pace, as if she was hurrying to make her metro train. But just as she came to the intersection, she turned right and then right again. A couple more turns and she was in an alley, out of sight and by now out of mind. She doubted many would actually try to follow her, but she wanted to be certain. Lucky for her, it was easy to disappear in New York City. After about ten minutes of walking, Natasha found herself back where she started, Le Pain Quotidien. Her training told her to go back, to regroup with SHIELD and the rest of the Avengers. She shouldn't be out alone, especially after Clint was attacked. Actually where she should've been was back at Stark Tower, right at Clint's bedside and making sure that he survived.

But she was at the restaurant again, glaring up at the lit sign, because she knew what she'd seen. Sweet, innocent, little, French budding actress Jacqueline had stabbed Clint and disappeared the next moment like she was trained. Like she was Natasha. If Clint were there, he'd question her. It's what a good partner did. He questioned her so that she knew what she saw for certain and could remember it at the level of detail the mission required.

What did you see?

Jacqueline stabbed Clint with an Epi-pen in the leg.

Which leg?

The right. Mid-thigh.

Then what happened?

Clint collapsed, less than thirty seconds later. By then she was gone.

How did she leave?

Most likely she slipped out the front and blended into the crowd. That way would've caused the least commotion.

And Natasha's back had been turned. She was stupid. She'd focused so much on Clint that she'd turned her back to the main entrance and exit. She could've gotten herself compromised and then what would've happened? Natasha went over the memory over and over in her mind, trying to figure out what she could based on what she'd observed, even if it was subconsciously. It was a technique that she'd learned from the Red Room and perfected working for SHIELD. Sometimes the most important information came when your back was turned. She began to really solidify the memory and that was when she remembered something she heard. An annoyed shout of "Hey darling!" Jacqueline had run into someone. Looking around she observed plenty of people to collide with, but one in particular drew her attention. There was a food stand set up just to the right of the door to Le Pain Quotidien. In all likelihood, the owner of the stand was not on good terms with the owner of the restaurant because said stand was tucked back, out of view of the restaurant, but still plainly visible from the street. Bent over a side cabinet was the operator of said food cart, a burly man who looked like he tended to eat far too much of the food he sold. Grimacing, Natasha steeled herself, slipping the mask of the Black Widow over the worry and urgency.

"Hey there," she practically purred. It instantly got the attention she was looking for.

"Well hello there, sweetheart," the stand owner replied in a thick, Bronx accent. She recognized the voice instantly from her memory.

"You didn't happen to see a short, blonde girl rush by here earlier, did you?"

He did. His expression said he did, but the words he spoke were not what Natasha wanted to hear. He licked his lips and scratched at the stubble on his cheek, tiny brown eyes roaming over Natasha. She fought to stay calm and in control of her emotions. It wasn't the first time she'd been checked out by a grotesque individual and in her line of work it wouldn't be the last.

"Well I don't know. Maybe we can sit down for a drink and you can tell me all about her to jog my memory."

She rolled her eyes, not having the patience for games like this. The decision not to play was faster than the blink of an eye. One moment the stand owner was leering down at her and the next he was on his knees, his fingers bent unnaturally far.

"That way!" he insisted, nodding down the street. "She went that way, crazy ass bitch!"

"You're sure?" Natasha murmured, "or do I need to jog your memory a bit more."

"I fucking swear!"

"Thank you." Natasha left her unwitting informant behind. The trail may still be warm and time was of the essence. If she could find Jacqueline, then she could find out what she injected Clint with and Clint would survive. If she didn't find her in time, then Jacqueline was in for a slow and painful death, courtesy of the infamous Black Widow. Nobody tried to kill her partner but her.