Chapter Four – Time Enough
Agent Barton was easily one of S.H.I.E.L.D's best, despite his relatively short tenure as an agent. So, it was safe to say that Fury didn't regret recruiting him, even with Barton's intense and dangerous alternate identity. But there were some times when he wondered if having magic hadn't driven Barton irrevocably insane.
Take his last mission, which was supposed to be cut and dried. As in, Barton goes in, takes out very dangerous rogue assassin, comes home. Instead, Barton goes in, takes out a dozen assassins, recruits the rogue, comes home.
Fury sighed and rubbed his forehead, the words of his agent's cramped handwritten report dancing annoyingly behind his eyelids.
- ,and the target's willingness to work with me against the hired thugs (Fury could almost hear Barton's derision for mafia hitmen) who attacked me during the course of my mission, as well as her skill in doing so, proves that she would be a capable agent and valuable addition to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s ranks. Therefore, it is in the opinion of this agent that one Natasha Romanov, aka the Black Widow, be recommended for full S.H.I.E.L.D agent training and complete integration into the agency's ranks.
Fury signed again, now wondering exactly what gods he'd angered, and glared at the unrepentant agent standing in front of his desk.
"Agent Barton, provided I agree to your … request, are you willing to take complete and total responsibility for the Black Widow? Not only for her integration into S.H.I.E.L.D's ranks, but also for any and all missteps she may or may not take?"
"Yes sir. I am more than willing to take complete responsibility for Natasha Romanov." Clint said, while subtly emphasizing her name, and leaving unspoken that he wouldn't have asked if he hadn't been willing.
"Well then, she's all yours. Make sure she knows not to miss any of her appointments and that she reports to Coulson, same as you. And, make sure she knows that failure to comply with any of the rules and regulations during her probationary period will result in her immediate termination. Am I perfectly clear, Agent Barton?"
"Dismissed, Agent Barton."
Clint nods and turns to leave, he's almost out the door, in fact, when he stops, almost as if he's just remembered something important. Not even bothering to turn around, he offhandedly remarks, "By the way, Director, she's a witch as well."
Fury releases an anger-filled growl as he watches his agent quickly disappear out of his office (and probably straight up into the vents), feeling his headache redouble its pounding.
Clint was nothing if not brutally pragmatic. A carry-over from the war, he guessed, where anything potentially detrimental had to be gotten rid of, removed, before it could cause harm. So he understood the point of missions like the one he was currently on, but that didn't mean he liked having to do them. Because here was a girl his age who should've been in college and out partying and living, but here she was killing for money. Just like him, his traitorous mind whispered, except he could take the moral highroad because he worked for the government and she for the highest bidder. Not that that made him feel better, because he'd chosen this path, but she'd been made, been molded, into this so she had no way out.
Still, she was dangerous and needed to be taken out before she irriversably damaged the already fragile web of alliances connecting the world's underbelly. Which she already started to do, however knowingly or not, with the destruction of the hospital in São Paulo, Brazil. Not to mention, she had to be a very powerful witch, since he could feel her power the minute he entered the city. Which meant she could also throw the magical underworld into chaos.
Unfortunately for Clint, S.H.I.E.L.D wasn't the only group who decided to remove the Black Widow, and because Fate hated Clint, they all decided on the same exact day to attack. And unlike Clint, who just wanted to get this mission over and done with, most mafia hitmen were more than willing to kill anyone who interfered with their "kill". So Clint was forced to fight for his life up on the roofs of this freezing Russian city when he quite literally drops in on his original target. He doesn't even have time to think about warming her before the hitman who had just been trying to take his head of with some sort scythe-like nuchuck thing drops in through the newly made skylight for her attic room, so Clint just reacts, rolling onto his back and angling his knife up and in, straight through the heart.
That taken care of, he stands up and introduces himself with far more cheer than he expected for having just been ambushed by about a dozen hitmen. "Hi, my name's Clint Barton. I work for S.H.I.E.L.D., and I'm here to offer you a job. Cause, you see, you've got at least a couple dozen Families and various organizations that are very upset with you and out to kill you, so I think it might be a good idea to accept." Even though he really didn't have the authority to make that offer, and Fury was probably going to kill him for pretty much throwing his orders out a window and lighting them on fire as he laughed manically. And if Fury didn't kill him Coulson was sure to, because he was the one most likely to become her handler if she accepted. But he couldn't bring himself to care, because deep down he still had a saving-people thing, and if anyone deserved saving, she did.
She had just opened her mouth, probably to tell him what exactly he could do with his offer, when another hitman slips in through the hole in the roof, one barges in through the front door, and one more rolling out of the bathroom, somehow having come in from the absolutely minuscule bathroom window. After the intruders are dealt with, she simply cocks her head to the side and asks "Why?"
Clint shrugged, "Because I think you deserve a second chance. A chance to live your life how you want, away from this, away from the life that makes you wash in innocent blood and twist your magic to do so."
Natasha snorted, "You think so? Because I sure as hell don't."
Clint frowned mulishly. "Well, you do. Quite frankly, I'd be willing to fight Death himself to give you that chance. Because I was worth one, even after everything I did, and so are you."
She stared at him for a few seconds, almost as if she can't believe he's insane enough to mean that, and eventually Clint starts to wonder if she's trying to decide how easy it would be to hide his body, when she sighes, and pulls a small rusack from under her cot.
"So, where's my ride?"
Clint grins evilly, "Follow me."
And that is how the Hawk and the Spider meet.
Budapest starts as a standard, in-out, infiltration and assassination mission. Natasha isn't cocky, because that can be fatal, but it has been three years since she joined S.H.I.E.L.D. and she already has a four month string of successful solitary, watchmanless missions behind her. That doesn't mean it doesn't sting when she has to call in her backup because the mission completely falls apart. Still to hear Clint come over the comm telling he'll be there in five, soothes it, a little.
And she's glad it's him, because in the few minutes it takes home to get there, it all goes even more to hell. Because somehow the target has an army, and she's an assassi, not a one women army, so the appearance of an arrow in the eye of one of her vaguely insectiod attackers is welcome. Of course, after that, the fight devolved into less of a battle and more of a weird type of guerrilla warfare. Because the army, and she uses that term lightly, really are quite a bit like genetically engineered humanoid flies (or is it fly-like humans?), and fighting them ends up destroying several blocks of thankful empty buildings in Budapest's slums over the course of the day. By the end of it, she's exhausted, knows there's been at least a couple million dollars in property damage, but the target's dead along with his army and she's still alive and so is Clint. All in all, it was pretty fun and she already knows that it'll be a great story to scare recruits with later.
Except Clint is nowhere to be seen, and when she gets to where she last saw him, he's curled up in a ball, clutching his side and groaning, blood molting his lips from where he's coughed it up. Natasha with growing horror, because she doesn't know how to help him, because a first aid kit can't help a punctured lung or internal injuries and she doesn't know enough medical magic to heal him. And there's no one to call, not even Phil, because Clint had been the only one sent as back up, and she can't fly a Quinjet - even if she knew where Clint had stashed it. So she must sit and watch as he dies.
Except, he doesn't.
Well, that's not entirely accurate, because he does die - or at least his heart stops beating - but then he's alive again, up and gasping for breath as if he hasn't just punctured a lung and drowned in his own blood not 15 minutes earlier.
She knows she should be bothered by the bullshit Clint starts spewing almost immediately after he gets his breathing under control, something about some sort of family ablity and high magic levels, but she's not. After all, stranger things have happened because of magic, and it feels oddly right that Clint returned from the dead. Because, hadn't he promised, all those years ago when he saved her, that not even Death would stop him from making sure she was happy and living the life she wanted? And that he would kill anyone that tried to keep that from her? Besides, he had trusted her when no one else would, had put everything on the line for her, and the least she could do was trust him back.
So when her normally taciturn friend stopped talking, she just gives him a look that tries to convey all of that, and like always, Clint understood her wordless message, as he smiled sheepishly.
AN: So! Here is chapter four, and I must say, y'all know how to show a girl love. I mean – 38 reviews for the last chapter? We're almost at 100, everyone! And that doesn't count the Follows and Favs! And Communities! (23, people!) So this chapter has been in the works since I decided to expand this story, although I guess some of you thought I might have forgotten it? Never fear though! Also, when Natasha talks about Clint fighting death – that's how she views what Clint said. And yes, Clint is still the Master of Death, but basically that just means Clint can't die of anything other than old age, he's not immortal, just really, really, hard to kill. Make sense?
On a different note, I had planned for the next chapter to start the movie. Then, I got the idea of a couple Pre-avengers shots, but that was just one chapter, so whatever. Then, I watched the Avengers on Sunday, and my muse was like "Hey why don't you write something about this? And hey? What about that? Hey! Hey! HEY!" while I'm like "that doesn't fit my timeline you #% $&!". Unfortunately, my muse won, which means both chapters shall be written, and then I'll start the movie. And I will explain the remembering Budapest differently, just have to get there.
Finally, before I start on reviews, I am open to pairings. This story will never be relationship heavy, and there will never be a sex scene because I literally can't write them without it turning into something out of a bad romance novel, but they can be there. I am open to any relationship, gay or straight, for any of the characters Marvel!verse – not Potter!verse. The only person who will remain canon under all circumstances is Thor (because really, I can't see him with anyone but Jane.) So, suggestions are welcome!
Now reviews! (Guest are numbered in order of review age, 1 = oldest, and so on)
Ultima-owner – No, Clint's just joking.
Guest 3 – That was actually all very helpful, and I plan to use some of that, in some for (you'll see soon).
Shadow fang the black wolf – Yes, yes Clint is, although I'm not quite sure about Clint and Tony's relationship.
Guest 4 – I think Harry's near sighted, but I haven't really thought about it.
ShadowGuardianX – Thanks for the ideas! I'm definitely using some of them!
Satan Santa – Unfortunately, I'm not going to stray from the movie too much, although I might write an Omake where that happens.
Anon – Thanks for your ideas past the movie, not to sure what I'm doing yet, but it's appreciated.
Agon Dy – Hmm. Those are good ideas! And – maayybee….
Guest 5 – That's actually a good idea, and I've actually got a couple things floating around my mind now to make that a full chapter after I finish the movie!
Well, that's a wrap! Please don't forget to review!