Disclaimer: The Avengers characters are not mine, just borrowed for this story.

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No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

The day had been a success according Pepper; she had accomplished everything she set out to do and it wasn't even time to meet Tony for dinner yet. One more stop and her mission to find the perfect present for Stark's birthday would be complete. She and Clint walked side by side down the sidewalk towards the bank. "I want to thank-you again for helping me out today Clint."

"Not a problem," replied Barton without pausing in his stride; his face was completely unreadable and Pepper wasn't sure if he really was happy to be there or not.

It had been seven months since the Avengers had saved the world and since then there had been a constant coming and going of the different members to Stark tower; the result was a close bond between each member and with Pepper through Tony. She had noticed that Barton never seemed to show up unless Natasha was there; the archer was one of the team's more elusive members.

For his part, Clint was indifferent about the day's events. He figured he was asked to help, not based on his expertise as Pepper claimed, but rather he was the best out of her limited options. She couldn't ask Tony because the surprise was for him. Thor wasn't on Earth at the moment; not that he would have been much help anyways. Steve wouldn't have a clue; modern things weren't his speciality, and Bruce didn't strike Clint as having a fountain of information on the subject, and finally Natasha was currently engaged on a mission for Fury. Process of elimination left Barton as Pepper's only resource that wasn't on the Stark payroll and thus could keep a secret without fearing Tony threatening his job as a way of gaining information.

It wasn't like he had anything planned anyway; things had been rather quiet of late. He was surprised when Pepper had asked to see him that morning; he'd received a text message on the phone Stark had issued to each team member. Tony's claim was they could either have cell phones to keep in contact or they would have to have to get matching team rings: Clint still shuddered at that particular thought. She had asked to meet him at a small cafe for brunch to discuss a problem she believed Barton could be of assistance with.

Brunch, as with the rest of the day, was filled with its fair share of awkward silences; but Clint was comfortable with uncomfortable silences and to Pepper's credit, if it bothered her, she never let on.

"Tony's birthday is coming up and I mean what do you get the man that has everything, right?" started Pepper after the waiter had taken their order.

Clint gave a little smile and nod as she continued, "anyways, he's been going on and on to Steve about this television show he use to watch when he was a kid; so I did some research on it and found a guy selling the motorcycle from the show. I know absolutely nothing about bikes and Tony mentioned once that you had one, and I was thinking that since Natasha is away on a mission..." Pepper paused for a moment and frowned at her little slip of information. "I mean not that I would know that Natasha was away on a mission or anything; but I was hoping you could check it out with me and make sure it's the real deal, runs, etc so I don't get swindled."

He held his hand up to stop the onslaught of rambling. Clint wasn't surprised that Pepper knew about the various missions they went on; Stark couldn't keep his Iron Man identity a secret from the world, why would anyone believe that he would keep classified information from his girlfriend? Taking in the hopeful look of his lunch companion, Barton let out a sigh.

"I suppose I could take a look at it for you," offered the archer. He would have thought he just proved the existence of Santa to a disbelieving child the way her face lit up, and she proceeded to thank him incessantly.

They had checked out the bike and everything seemed to be authentic and in working order. Pepper had engaged in negotiations over the price and Barton was extremely impressed at her skills; it also shed some insight into how she managed to hold her own against Stark. When they finally agreed on a price, the pair set off to the bank to set up the transfer from an account that Tony didn't know about. The last thing Pepper wanted was for her surprise to be ruined because Tony suddenly decided to take an interest in that month's banking transactions.

Clint opened the door for Pepper, who smiled and thanked him as she walked into the bank. As they entered the main lobby, a man in a dark grey suit walked towards them with his arms wide open; he placed both his hands around Pepper's and shook it with a big smile. "Ms. Potts, right this way please," greeted the manager as he led her towards the stairs to his office.

She turned to look at Clint who was trailing behind her; he pointed to himself and then to the wall signalling to her that he was just going to wait out there for her to conclude her business. He watched as Pepper began to explain what she wanted while heading into the manager's office.

Barton sauntered over to the wall at the base of the stairs and leaned against it. He watched the people come and go through his dark sunglasses. Sure there weren't any enemy agents to be on the lookout for; but the habit had been deeply ingrained in him to not let anything escape his attention, so he watched.

The whole meeting took twenty minutes; the manager loved to engage in small talk. Pepper was sure the only thing that saved her from having to hear another supposedly amusing anecdote was the fact that the bank was closing in ten minutes. Pepper headed down the stairs to find Clint leaning against the wall with his arms crossed across his chest, staring out towards the lobby. She felt bad knowing that he probably hadn't moved an inch in the entire time she'd been in the office. "Sorry that took so long," she said as she reached the last step.

Clint shrugged and was going to tell her not to worry about it, when he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. The bank was closing soon; they might have even been planning on locking the doors early, but there were still too many people there for that. He saw the man place something on the door handle and reach for something hidden under his jacket; Clint didn't need to see the object to know what it was.

Just before the shower of bullets ripped through the lobby, Barton manage to take the two steps closer to Pepper and propel them both through an open office door and down to the floor. The second he felt the impact with the ground, he rolled off of Pepper and kicked the door shut with his foot. His companion let out a small cry of horror, and Clint crawled back over and covered her from the glass and drywall that was raining down upon them.

Pepper covered her ears from the deafening sound of the rapid fire of several weapons and the shattering of glass. She screwed her eyes tightly shut and held her breath, waiting for the horror to end; vaguely aware of Barton shielding her from the glass window that was shattered from the onslaught.

When she finally opened her eyes the dust had settled; the only thing she could hear was pounding of her heart and her own ragged gasps. Eventually the shouted demands of the gunmen overshadowed the pounding of her heart, but she wasn't able to make out the words. Her body felt heavy and it took her a moment to realize it was a body on top of her, and another to remember it was Barton.

"Clint?" Pepper was surprised it was even her voice; it was a small fraction of what it usually was. She tried again but still didn't get a response.

She managed to wiggle herself out from under her companion and went to roll him over. She grabbed hold of his shoulder with one hand and placed the other on his waist. Pepper pulled him onto his side; her hand came away sticky. She looked down at the red substance that coated her delicate hand and after a few seconds her brain connected a word to what she was looking at: blood.