Disclaimer: I do not own the Avengers or any of the characters affiliated with them. 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"
And we are back yet again with another installment to the Vantage Point Universe. Life prevented me from posting this yesterday, as I'd hoped, but it's here now :)
If you are new to my work, this is another in an increasingly long list of stories in a series that revolves around Clint Barton. This is the sixth multi-chap story so far and there are more to come. This story can be read alone, but you'll get even more out of it if you read the others. :) Though since I write the stories out of chronological order, they can also be read out of order so I leave it up to you :D To catch you up, this story is established BlackHawk (origin of which is in my story "Vietnam") and Phil Coulson is Clint and Natasha's handler. He has a very strong brotherly relationship with Clint which originated when Phil recruited him to SHIELD during the events of my completed story "Youngest In History"
Special thanks to all of those who reviewed the first of the Milestone Series one-shots. "Year One" get a great reception which made me super happy! So thanks to: discordchick, Reteka Hyuuga, j3ntheninja, CyanB, xx-Forever Yours-xx, GregsMadHatter, Fyroni, Leo-firefly, Sam Mayer, VoldieBeth, Sinkme, snitch-bewitch, authorunable, Mirabilem Electo, Blackwindmill, Rivan Warrioress, jacedsbff, WickedBlue, Cass-dawg, Drake.12, ziggy488, animexluva13, Top Hats and Other Items, Honey-Bee128, viressiel, topcpy, KiaraAlexisKlay, lunarweather, ArabianForest, Susan M. M, tpt player 5701, JaymieCaitlyn, Sam M. Holmes, Dsgdiva, clovely-littleme, Cara, liberated vulcan, chrisfaithalin, I've Slept Alone Since Paris, booknerdhere, the real vampire and The Pris
Now, without further ado, here is the story of Budapest
It is the surmounting of difficulties that make us heroes. –Louis Kossuth
Natasha stretched lazily as she woke, her senses recognizing the feel of her sheets and the scent of her pillow and deciding she could wake slowly. It may have also had something to do with the warm mass on the other side of the bed. She yawned and rubbed a hand over her eyes, rolling onto her back.
Clint shifted next to her, but didn't wake. He was sprawled on his stomach, head turned away from her, one arm hidden under his pillow and the other hanging off the bed. She knew better than to wake him. His hidden hand was probably wrapped around his favorite knife, a gift from Coulson.
Instead, she just watched him sleep. He'd returned to the base late last night and had come to see her after his debrief with Coulson. He'd been exhausted, dark smudges under his eyes and a weary set to his shoulders. But he hadn't been too exhausted for her to give him a proper welcome home. She smiled as she thought of their late night activities and rolled to her side, propping herself up on her elbow. They'd been together for six months now and she was still fascinated by the affect he had on her. All he had to do was smile that warm smile of his, the one that was crafted just for her, and she melted. Never in her life had anyone ever had that affect on her. She also felt inexplicably safer when he was with her. Whether it was in sleep or in a fight, she knew he had her back no matter what.
She sighed, eyeing the state he was in.
He had a nasty bruise on his left temple and one to match stretching from the top curve of his left shoulder down to just below the shoulder blade. He hadn't had a chance to tell her what had happened yet, but she knew he would. She resisted the urge to brush his hair off his temple so she could see the bruise more clearly and gage its severity. Watching him get injured on a mission was hard. Seeing him come back with injuries she might have prevented if she had been there…was harder. She knew he felt the same. She saw it in his eyes when she came back from Barcelona eight weeks ago with a knife wound on her abdomen.
Her eyes slid down his back to the only lasting mark from his recent debacle in South Africa.
The bullet scar still stood out in sharp prominence on the far left of his back. His hand, formerly ravaged when he'd slipped a pair of handcuffs, had healed nicely leaving only faint scars that would all but disappear in time. The cuts on his face hadn't even left lasting marks, a small mercy she knew he was grateful for even if he'd never admit it. The same was true for the shallow cut that had trailed from under his right eye down to just above the bullet wound. That one had healed the most quickly.
He'd only been cleared for active duty forty eight hours before Fury had assigned him a mission in Bosnia. Natasha had been in St. Petersburg at the time on a mission of her own and had returned a week ago to be told Clint had just been sent out.
That had been frustrating.
Ever since Fury had decided their skills were to "valuable" to be consolidated into single missions, they'd been forced to get used to saying goodbye a lot. Clint had been on the injured list for the three months following South Africa and had been itching to get back in the game, especially after having to watch her leave on two missions on her own while he was restricted to "light activity".
She knew they'd get used to watching each other leave on missions, but she didn't think she'd ever be okay with it. They'd gotten used to watching each other's backs. She sighed and lay back on the bed. So much had changed in six months.
They'd finally acknowledged and admitted that they were much more to each other than just partners. After Vietnam, it had been easy to make the transition, easier than she'd expected. She knew Coulson knew. Clint had told her about the conversation with his handler on the Fourie mission. She suspected Fury knew, because Fury always knew. But Clint and Natasha genuinely tried to keep out of the public eye, never showing their true affection unless they were in the privacy of one of their rooms.
Then Fury had split them up and Clint had been sent to South Africa and come home with one of the worst results a covert operative could ever have. Someone had survived to remember his face. Coulson had battled to have Josia Fourie listed as an imminent threat and have a hit issued, but the Council had denied every request. Even Fury hadn't been pleased. Clint was one of the best, if not the best, agents SHIELD had and as long as Fourie was alive, Clint had a target on his back. Natasha had made it a point to memorize Josia Fourie's face so she would know him if he ever turned up. Knowing that there was someone out there that was hunting Clint, knew what he looked like, and had friends in a lot of places made it even harder to watch him leave on missions without her.
She trusted Phil to watch Clint's back, but Phil wasn't always on the mission with Clint. And when he was, he was never in the field with him. She knew their handler hated that just as much as she did. She knew that he worried right along with her that Fourie would catch up to their archer one day.
The intercom next to her door suddenly buzzed, signaling a call in.
Clint flinched awake, reaching instinctively for his cell phone on the bedside table. He ended up knocking it off onto the ground with a flailing hand. The intercom buzzed again and he turned his bleary gaze towards the door, frowning in confusion.
"Your room or mine?" he asked with a confused furrow in his eyebrows.
Natasha laughed lightly.
"My room," she explained, climbing out the bed to answer the intercom. Clint dropped his face back down into his pillow with a groan. She realized he was still tired. Normally he was more aware than that when he woke up, snapping to awareness quickly. He very rarely, in all the time that she'd known him, woken in sleepy confusion. He had to be sleeping very deeply, a product over being overly exhausted, and be startled awake for his mind to have that lag time. More common was when he was in the infirmary and they had him on drugs. Pain medication tended to muddle his alertness as well.
She pulled on one of Clint's training t-shirts, one with his last name printed across the shoulders, and pressed down the 'talk' button on the intercom.
"This is Romanoff," she spoke into the speaker.
"This is your wake up call, training room in 30." Coulson's voice sounded a little metallic as it came through the speaker in response.
"Got it," she assured.
"Test the range of motion on his shoulder. He refused to go to medical for it last night," Coulson went on easily. Natasha smirked at his assumption that Clint was with her. He seemed to be warming up to the idea of them being together, if only slightly.
"I'm fine," Clint announced loudly from the bed, his head still buried in the pillow.
"Will do," Natasha promised, ignoring the claim.
She moved away from the intercom and crawled back onto the bed, leaning over him to brush her fingers gently across the bruise on his shoulder. He flinched away from her fingers and pushed himself up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed with a sigh. He stretched his neck from side to side and held his arm out to her.
"What happened?" she asked quietly, taking his left elbow in her left hand and lightly resting her right hand on his shoulder. She slowly started shifting his arm this way and that, keeping a critical eye on his face for any indication of pain.
"I had to jump off a three story roof," he revealed. "The guy I was aiming for broke the landing pretty well, but I still hit the ground pretty hard."
"Is that what this is from too?" she brushed her right thumb across his temple before returning her hand to his shoulder and continuing her examination.
"I might have hit the wall with my head before I hit the ground."
Clint shrugged and allowed her to carefully inspect the bruise on his temple.
"Didn't break the skin," she observed. "Concussion?"
"Not that I noticed."
She nodded and pulled away.
"I'm gonna shower before breakfast," she announced as she pushed off the bed and moved over to her dresser. She dug around, pulled out fresh clothes, and carried them towards her bathroom. Clint flopped over towards the foot of the bed, searching the ground for the go-bag he'd dropped somewhere last night.
He saw it over towards Natasha's side of the bed and reached for it, snagging a handle and pulling it towards him. He pushed aside a Desert Eagle handgun and dug out fresh boxers, sniffed a t-shirt to make sure it was wearable and pulled out his favorite athletic shorts for training. He bundled his selections and rolled off the bed following her path to the bathroom.
It was more economical to share the shower. Saving water and all that.
Phil looked up from his breakfast when Clint and Natasha strode into the dining room. They went through the mess line quickly and joined him at their table.
"Morning," Phil greeted.
"Mornin', Phil," Clint smiled.
"Good morning," Natasha responded as well.
"How's his shoulder?" Phil asked the red head.
"Range of motion was good, doesn't seem any worse than a bruise," she reported immediately.
"I'm sitting right here, you know," Clint groused.
He got two equally unrepentant looks that had him rolling his eyes.
"I'll just eat my high protein oatmeal," he decided ungracefully, wondering when they'd united against him.
Neither Natasha nor Phil looked the least bit sorry as they launched into a discussion about Natasha's last mission. Clint pushed his oatmeal around in his bowl and vowed to find some free time to go into the city and get some real food. SHIELD was responsible for feeding too many people to put any real effort into making their food selections anything but healthy. The only exceptions were dinner time. If you were lucky you could snag a hamburger, a plate of spaghetti, or some fried chicken before it was all gone.
He only half listened to Natasha and Phil's conversation as he started spooning the breakfast into his mouth. Mostly his mind drifted to the events of the last six months. A lot of good and a lot of bad things had gone down. He and Natasha had finally done something about all the feelings then been denying/ignoring and he could honestly say he was the happiest he'd ever been in his life. But the dark cloud of Josia Fourie cast a shadow over everything these days. He hoped, in time, he could put that mission and that man behind him. He hated to think he would never be able to go back to South Africa or the beautiful city of Cape Town.
Some nagging feeling in his gut told him that wasn't going to happen any time soon.
It was stressful, feeling like he had a target painted on his back. Josia Fourie was new to running his father's business, though, and Clint could only hope his reach wasn't long enough to make it out of South Africa yet. He still found himself behaving in an even more paranoid fashion that was normal for him. That was saying something. Clint was, by nature, a very paranoid person. When on a mission, he always had eyes on exits, faces memorized, postures analyzed, and threats categorized. These days he found himself studying someone with frightening intensity if they even glanced in his general direction. And god help him if someone had a camera out. Then he was all hoods pulled low over eyes, shifting to shadows, hand brushing the hilt of his knife, and planning all the ways he could get the camera without anyone noticing.
It was exhausting.
He wished the Council had just issued the kill order when Coulson and Fury asked them to. With Clint directly compromised as long as Josia Fourie was alive, it should have been an easy thing to convince them the man needed to be eliminated.
But Clint knew from personal experience that issues with the Council were never easy, especially not for him.
And he'd found his way onto their shit list from day one, so he didn't think they'd be too broken up if he ended up dead because of Fourie. They might actually sigh in relief. He still didn't know what he'd done to piss them off back when he'd first come to SHIELD. Even Phil was clueless about it and Phil was rarely clueless about anything.
Clint sighed deeply. He looked up when he felt Natasha and Phil's eyes move to focus on him.
"You okay?" Phil asked carefully.
"Just thinking about Fourie."
"I put in another kill request with the Council yesterday," Phil revealed.
"Like that'll do any good. They'd probably be tickled pink if the bastard managed to off me."
Natasha kicked him under the table and Clint shot her an apologetic glance for the morbid comment.
"Sorry," he offered verbally to Phil.
"I understand that you're frustrated," Phil replied. "We'll get it worked out."
Clint nodded, accepting Phil's assurance.
"Now, we've got some training to catch up on, so let's get our asses in gear. I want fifteen miles out of both of you," the handler announced suddenly. He stood and waited for them to do the same before he strode out of the mess hall.
"I think he likes torturing us," Clint frowned as he and Natasha followed his path.
"You, Clint, he likes torturing you."
Coulson clicked the lap button on his stopwatch as Clint jogged past him. Natasha was a half a lap behind him and holding steady at her own pace. He glanced over as Fury came to stand beside him. The Director glanced at the stopwatch.
"That a full lap time?"
"Damn that kid's fast."
"Always has been," Phil reminded. "He's only gotten faster."
Fury nodded in agreement and they watched the two assassins jog the track in silence.
"The Council said no, didn't they," Phil deduced suddenly.
"Yes. They still don't think Josia Fourie is a big enough threat to merit a kill order."
"He's a direct threat to Clint."
"I realize that," Fury assured. "I did everything I could, but they wouldn't be swayed."
Phil sighed deeply and tracked Clint's progress around the track. Maybe the twenty four, nearly twenty five, year old was right. Maybe the Council did have it out for him. Coulson shook his head. Clint's birthday was next month and he'd be twenty five. Coulson still felt like it was just yesterday that he cornered Clint in that alley and offered him a job. So much had changed since that fateful day in Vienna that had changed both of their lives.
Coulson wouldn't trade a moment of it.
He clicked the lap button on a second stopwatch when Natasha went jogging by. She was pretty fast herself, he mused. Still markedly faster than the average SHIELD agent, just not as fast as Clint. But nobody was as fast as Clint.
"Director, if Fourie starts spreading Clint's description around to his friends…"
"I know, Phil," Fury sighed. "But Fourie is young and the word from our sources says that he's keeping it low key at the moment. He's sticking to Cape Town for now and taking the time to learn how things work. He's barely gotten his feet wet in the smuggling business. So, thankfully, he's got bigger concerns at the moment. I think Barton is safe for now."
Phil nodded in acceptance because there was little else he could do. They stood in silence for a few moments before Fury spoke again.
"You've done good work with him, Phil," the Director praised suddenly. "Six and a half years ago I didn't think he'd ever get to this point and now he's exceeded all expectations."
Phil's eyes widened a bit in shock. That was high praise coming from Fury.
"He's the best we have and I'll do what I can to protect him," Fury promised. "I'll keep someone on Fourie."
Phil nodded his thanks silently.
"Romanoff is coming along nicely too. I was certain she was going to turn out to be a mistake. Looks like she proved me wrong herself. And Barton was right three and half years ago when he defied us all for her." Fury shook his head, still slightly awed by Barton's audacity when it came to Romanoff's recruitment. "Looks like he's managed to prove me wrong twice."
Phil smiled proudly as Fury strode away and clicked his stopwatch again as Clint ran by.
His agent had a way of doing that. Exceeding expectations and proving people wrong about him. He was so unassuming when he met people, an expert now at being easily forgotten, that he was often underestimated. Even by people at SHIELD. In Phil's opinion, it was his most lethal quality, more lethal even than his aim. Even Natasha, arguable the most effective contract assassin to ever live, had dismissed him the first time she saw him. She'd seen nothing more than the stereotypical body guard he was portraying. She hadn't noticed him until it was too late and he was stopping her assassination attempt cold in its tracks.
To her credit, she never made the mistake of dismissing Clint or his skills again.
The ability he had to blend into any crowd, to be so purposefully unremarkable that he could have a conversation with his target one day and be forgotten about by the time he made his move and killed them, spoke to what a perfect assassin he made. It was a brilliant compliment to Natasha's ability to do the opposite. Where Clint was an expert at being forgettable, she was an expert at being memorable. She walked into a room and everybody noticed. It was her beauty and the way she carried herself. She drew everyone's eye while Clint deflected it. Her real deadliness laid in her ability to have everyone so distracted by her beauty and poise that nobody even thought about what she was doing, if she belonged there, or why she zeroed in on a specific person so quickly.
They were an ideal team.
And despite what Fury said, they would always be their most effective together, not apart.
"Let her come to you before you make your move, Clint," Phil coached from the edge of the sparring mat. "Romanoff, you've got to be unpredictable in your moves or he'll dodge you every time."
Clint bent backwards to a nearly ninety degree angle and watched Natasha's leg skim through the air a breath above him. As she completed the move, he threw his hands back and launched into a quick back handspring, giving himself some room. She pursued him across the mat and feigned a kick with her left leg. She waited until he reacted, ducking down and to his left. Then she spun in the air, hooking her right knee behind his head and sliding her left leg up between his right arm and his body, using his own arm to lock her leg into place. She heard him curse as she threw her weight forward, intending to throw off his balance and spin him backwards in a full turn and ultimately onto his stomach on the ground. She'd already have him trapped and would be able to manipulate him into an arm bar easily.
She realized belatedly that she should have known Clint's balance wasn't so easily thrown off. He spun with her, as she'd intended, but didn't falter as she'd hoped. Instead, he tightened the arm she'd used to anchor her leg, locking her to him with a firm grip on her waist. Then he accelerated the turn, and twisted them both into the air. They were airborne for a moment, still twisting, and then they hit the mat hard. They both coughed the air out of their lungs when they landed. Natasha, because she'd landed flat on her back. Clint, because her knee had slammed forcefully into his side.
"Disengage and keep going," Phil instructed.
He sighed as he watched his two agents take a moment to breathe and then re-engage in their rather heated sparring match. It was odd sometimes, coaching to two different fighting styles. Clint was an expert at evasion and striking when it would do the most damage. Natasha was brilliant at attacking with such sudden ferocity and intensity that her victims didn't stand much of a chance at mounting a defense.
It was interesting, now, to watch and analyze how the two had rubbed off on each other. Natasha had taught Clint to use his acrobatics and agility and transform them into fighting moves that used his body weight to provide the force. Clint had taught Natasha some wildly agile evasive tactics that Phil himself could never dream of being able to pull off. They'd somehow blended their two fighting styles into something that was utterly unique to both of them.
Phil was thrilled because it made them that much more dangerous in a fight. What was even more fantastic was when they fought together. Every now and then Phil got approval to enlist volunteers to spar against the pair. There was always a ready list of agents wanting to earn some recognition by taking down one of the assassins. Clint and Natasha had never lost, no matter how many agents teamed up against them. And for some reason, Phil still never had trouble finding volunteers. And there was always a crowd gathered during those sessions, gasping in awe when Clint and Natasha got to work, moving so fluidly together they might as well be one being.
That synchronization and fluidity had come into its own after Vietnam. He knew that the shift in the two assassins' relationship had been the difference. They'd always been aware of each other, but now they were in tune with each other.
And as much as Phil never thought he'd admit it, those two were better together. In every way. Clint was better. Clint was happier. And for Phil, in the end, that's what mattered.
He hadn't been thrilled in the beginning when Clint told him the truth about the two of them. He'd gone so far as to say it was a bad idea. Clint had been firm though and adamant in his decision. So Phil had accepted it because Clint wasn't eighteen anymore. He wouldn't just hop to when Phil told him to do something. Though, in retrospect, Clint had never really hopped to when Phil told him to do something.
It had taken Phil less time than he thought to come around. The shift in his opinion had started when they got back from South Africa three months ago. He'd been afraid that Natasha didn't feel for Clint what Clint felt for her. That his agent was just a passing interest to her. She was the Black Widow after all.
That had gone out of his mind the moment he saw the look on her face when he and Clint returned to SHIELD and she found out what had happened.
Approximately Three months ago…
"I don't need a damn wheelchair," Clint snapped at the infirmary attendant that had been sent to fetch him. The attendant looked as if he were about to force Clint into the chair himself. An action that Coulson knew would end badly for the attendant if he attempted it.
"Clint, stop antagonizing the infirmary staff," Phil instructed as he moved down the ramp at the back of the jet and came to stand with his agent. He nodded to the attendant that he could go and that Clint could, indeed, make it to the infirmary of his own power.
The man nodded and wheeled the empty chair away. Clint smirked in satisfaction and glanced at Coulson, who was giving him a withering glare. He quickly stowed the smirk and shifted his pack on his shoulder.
"I'll just get going to the infirmary then."
"Yeah," Coulson agreed.
Clint headed for the hangar exit and Coulson turned to thank their pilot. He turned back to see Clint stopped at the door and talking to Natasha. Phil's eyes narrowed and he shifted subtly closer, trying to get a read on the situation.
He was shocked to see concern in Natasha's eyes, even though her face was as emotionless as ever. He watched her eyes flick down to Clint's wounded side and her eyebrow arched delicately as if to say 'really…again?'. Then she grabbed Clint's left forearm, inspecting the gauze wrapped around his wrist and hand. He noticed both of them were careful not to stand too close to each other. Not to do anything normal partners wouldn't do.
He could see Clint saying something. He seemed to be explaining what happened because her eyes moved from his wrist to the cuts on his face then back down to his bullet wound. He knew the exact moment Clint told her about Josia Fourie. He knew because he saw something flash across her face for the briefest of moments. Something that told him everything he needed to know about how Natasha Romanoff felt about Clint Barton.
He saw raw fear. Fear for Clint.
It was then that he knew she cared for Clint as much as the archer cared for her.
Coulson let his lips quirk as he watched them go tumbling to the mat, locked in a deadly knot of limbs. It had taken time after that, but he'd come to realize that Clint didn't just want Natasha, he needed Natasha. He needed that relationship in his life. It had taken a little longer for Phil to realize that Natasha needed it too. They made each other better.
He hadn't come out and told them any of his realizations yet. He wasn't sure why he was waiting.
Maybe part of him was still wary that it was a passing thing. But it was a small part, and getting smaller as the days went on. He knew Natasha sensed that part. She'd been tiptoeing around him ever since she'd found out Clint had told him the truth. But she didn't let it affect her job or her professionalism. If Natasha was anything, she was professional.
He needed to talk to her. He'd have to find a time when Clint wasn't around and put her mind at ease. Because, honestly, now that he'd gotten used to the idea, he couldn't imagine those two as anything but what they were now.
Two halves to the same coin.
Or maybe more appropriately, two edges to the same blade.
End of Chapter 1
For those of you that have been wondering when Coulson started accepting their relationship...here you go :)
This story, as usual, is complete and you can expect daily morning updates. Since the school year has started and I'm a teacher who must be at work by 7:30, they will be early updates (about 6:30am my time) except for weekends...on weekends I like to sleep, so the chapters will go out between 9am and 10am my time those days. There are nine chapters, so it's not as long as some of my others, but it's by no means short. "Trust" was only nine chapters too, if you remember :)
Reviews make me happy!
Here's your preview
"Romanoff," Phil started only to trail off.
She glanced at him curiously.
He started again.
"I know I haven't seemed supportive of you two," he stated bluntly. "I'm sorry for that. But I just want you to know that I trust you."
Her eyebrows rose in surprise. If he meant what she thought he meant, it might have been the kindest thing he'd ever said to her. His next words confirmed it.
"I trust you with him."