First Chance At Life

A/N: This is a Hawkeye/OC story but I have been thinking of writing an alternative story that is the same first chapter but Steve/OC after the first chapter. Let me know if that is something you would be interested in reading. Feed the muse: Favourite, Review or sign up for updates.

My OC, Caterina, is loosely based on the TV show Dark Angel.

If you are looking for smut skip ahead to chapter 20.


Chapter 1 – The new avenger

Director Fury watched silently as the Avenger team filed into the conference room at SHIELD headquarters. His gaze lingered on each person, wondering how they would take the addition of a new member to the team. Steve, he knew, would try his best to make Caterina feel at home. Thor could always be counted on to be jovial and Dr. Banner would be reserved but polite as usual. Fury turned to take in the three people sitting on the other side of the conference table. These were the people he was unsure about. Tony was not easy to get along with normally but he would be even more precocious in the company of a new female agent. How Natasha and Clint would react beyond professional detachment was anyone's guess. Those two would almost certainly be the most reserved in their trust. Without further a due Director Fury stepped up to the table and began the meeting.

"Let's get started, shall we?" Began the Director and everyone turned to look at him. "I called you all here to introduce you to a new Avenger." No one spoke but they exchanged startled glances. It had been months since the battle of Manhattan and they were finally starting to work well as a team. Now they would have a new personality to deal with. Fury let them have a moment before continuing. "Her call sign is Shadow Cat. She is a genetically engineered human." All eyes turned to look at Steve but it was Bruce who asked what they were all thinking. "Was it something like the serum used on the Captain?"

Director Fury took a moment to respond, "No, Shadow Cat's DNA was engineered not enhanced. It was modified at the embryo stage so more significant changes could be made. She does share many of the enhanced physical attributes of Captain Rogers along with a few additions. Her fighting style has more in common with Agent Romanov than anyone." Fury paused to let them consider the possible benefits of adding someone like that to the team. He could see Dr. Banner and Tony Stark sharing a look and he knew they wanted to study the science behind what he was saying.

"I want to warn you," Fury went on, "that she had an…unorthodox life. She was raised in a military compound since birth and has never been part of a normal society. She did not even have a name, other than her call sign, before we liberated her just over a year ago. Since that time she has made significant progress intergrading into a more relaxed atmosphere but she has still never been outside, around civilians." Surprised glances were exchanged again by the people around the table, this time accompanied by some murmured comments. Of the entire team only Natasha had insight into what a childhood along those lines would be like and she would not wish that on anyone.

"Before I have her brought in I just want to warn you again that her social skills are a bit under developed so keep that in mind. In addition, her modified DNA may have given her enhanced abilities but it also altered her physical appearance, you will see what I mean in a moment. She is quite sensitive to stares so try not to act too surprised." All eyes turned to Tony. They knew he had a habit of making people uncomfortable and speaking without considering other people's feelings. Tony tried to look both innocent and aghast that they would suggest he didn't know how to act. After a moment he held up his hands in surrender, "I promise to be nice, happy?"

Fury did not show it to anyone but his heart ached for everything Shadow Cat has gone through. He has the ability to protect her from Upsilon Pharmaceutical but not from the stares her appearance drew. She would never be considered normal by the world at large, never be fully accepted and he felt sorry about that. He took a breath, pushing aside his inner musings. If Shadow Cat could find a home anywhere it would be among this seemingly mismatched group of people just as different as she was. Fury knew he would never be able to predict if this arrangement would work so he might as well throw them together and hope for the best.

He pressed a button on the table which signalled to Agent Hill in the hallway that he was ready for Shadow Cat. All eyes snapped to the door when it opened. A young looking woman marched in and came to attention at the end of the conference table opposite Fury, three members of the Avengers seated on each side of the table between them. Fury let his eyes roam over her, trying to see her as the others would. She stood around 5'5 and he knew that under her baggy black fatigues her figure was hardened muscle punctuated by feminine curves. His eyes automatically sought out what she refered to as her defects, the traits mutated when feline DNA was knitted with her own. The larger canine teeth and pointed ears were hidden for the moment behind her lush lips and loose brown hair. Her high cheekbones and almond shaped eyes added to the exotic elfish look her pointed ears were reminiscent of. The only visible mutation at the moment starred back at him. Her yellow-green cat like eyes, with the vertical pupils often made others uncomfortable. He could only hope the original members of the Avengers would take his warning to heart and not stare.

He watched as she remembered that standing at attention is not necessary and slid into an 'at ease' position, feet spread, and hands clasped behind her back. He could feel a smile tugging at his lips but suppressed it. After more than a year away from the Upsilon compound she still had not gotten the hang of relaxing or standing casually. "Shadow Cat, as we discussed earlier I think you are ready to join a new team so I would like you to meet the Avengers. Everyone please introduce yourselves and keep in mind that Cat has not seen the news coverage of the battle of Manhattan or read your files."

Steve stood up from his chair, which happened to be closest to her end of the table and offered his hand for her to shake. "Captain Steve Rogers Ma'am pleased to meet you, Captain America to the rest of the world. I was given a serum that enhanced my physical attributes. Welcome to the Avengers." He finished with a smile. Caterina hesitated for a moment before shaking his hand and offering him a small one-sided smile in return. She was quite impressed that no one in the room showed any reaction to her unusual eyes but did not show it. She could only hope the Captain would be as welcoming when he saw her teeth and ears.

The Captain returned to his seat and her attention moved to Thor, who was seated beside the Captain. His booming voice was loud in the small room, "It is good to make your acquaintance Lady Cat. I am Thor son of Odin from Asgard. You humans call me the God of Thunder. We will feast together and drink merrily soon!" Cat eyed him with a bit of confusion. She had spent enough time among the SHIELD staff to know that his mannerisms were unique. She also had not been briefed on where or what Asgard was but the fact he separated himself from human was enough information from now. She offered him a nod as well.

"Dr. Bruce Banner. Pleased to meet you Shadow Cat. I have a doctorate in nuclear physics and am an adequate medical doctor as well." Bruce said in his soft, pleasing voice. When it looked like he was not going to say more, Tony cleared his throat and looked at him pointedly. Bruce sighed, "And I can turn into a large, green, strong, and pretty much indestructible creature that people like to call the Hulk. I prefer to say the other guy." He turned from Shadow Cat to Tony as if daring him to say anything else about his introduction. Tony just gave him a cocky grin.

Shadow Cat turned her gaze to the other side of the table where Tony was sitting farthest from her. "Tony Stark. Billionaire, genius, philanthropist and of course I am the Iron Man." He got up from his chair and walked past Natasha and Clint to hold out his hand to her. She put her hand in his but was surprised when he bent to kiss the back of it instead of shaking it. Cat quickly pulled her hand back, looking somewhat horrified and wiped it on the leg of her pants. Tony gave her his dazzling smile and returned to his seat looking cocky.

Natasha threw Tony a glare for his behaviour then turned to study Shadow Cat. "Agent Natasha Romanov, Black Widow in the field. I am an expert at infiltration, interrogation, information gathering and hand to hand combat." She said in a quiet tone. The two women paused for a moment, sizing each other up. Everyone in the room waited to see what would happen next. Something unspoken happened between the women because suddenly they offered friendly smiles. Natasha was normally very cautious about offering her friendship but she and Shadow Cat were two of a kind.

Still smiling a little Cat turned to the last member at the table. The smile faded when she took in the way his serious eyes were studying her intently. She returned his careful inventory in kind. His short, dirty blonde hair was ruffled like he often ran his fingers through it. His eyes, which kept drawing hers back to them, were a crystal clear blue. As they moved over her body she felt the urge to shiver but she was not sure why. "Agent Clint Barton. Sharpshooter, with a preference for the bow. They sometimes call me Hawkeye." His voice was gruff and his speech straight to the point. She took a moment longer to note the breadth of his shoulders and the ridges of muscle under his t-shirt. Despite knowing that some of the other people in the room had extra-human abilities she felt the most cautious of this Hawkeye. She only took her eyes from his when Fury began speaking again.

"Please introduce yourself Caterina." She went back to full attention and focused her eyes on a point above the Director's head as she began to talk in a dispassionate voice. "My name is Shadow Cat though since being liberated from the Upsilon training compound Director Fury has assigned me the name Caterina Marcos. I was genetically engineered before conception and this has given me enhanced speed and strength. Part of my DNA sequence was adapted from various felines which has given me incredible night vision, heightened senses and better agility. This also lead to the," she pauses for a moment, "alterations in my eyes, teeth and ears." Since she began speaking they all had a chance to see the sharpened upper and lower canines. As she spoke she pushed her hair back so they would see the pointed tips of her ears. Cat did not look at the team, avoiding their reactions. "I was raised in total seclusion on a military training base so many of your references or sayings might have to be explained."

It was obvious that she was done speaking because she returned to her more relaxed stance. She still avoided looking at anyone other than the director. Shadow cat did not want to see the fear or disgust written on any more faces than she had to. Even the SHIELD agents she had worked with in the past year often stared at her when they thought she was not looking. She just did her best to ignore it.

The Director's deep voice cut through her inner monologue, "I am expecting all of you to make an effort to include Caterina as part of the team. She will be moving into Stark Tower this afternoon." He informed the others. To Cat he said, "Gather your things and report to the motorpool for transfer. Dismissed."

Caterina turned and strode out the door on her way to her quarters. She was aware of the other Avengers following her out of the conference room but paid them no mind until she heard someone following her instead of heading towards the exit. She turned to see Steve coming after her. When he caught up with her he spoke, "Would you like help with your bags?"

She eyed him curiously. Growing up in the military each soldier was responsible for their own gear. "Why?" She asked. He smiled at her. "Because where I come from it is considered polite to help a teammate." She considered this for a moment, glancing at Natasha who was still standing outside the door watching. Natasha gave the slightest nod of her head indicating she thought it was a good idea so Cat agreed.

In her quarters Steve found all her belongings already packed in a large military issue duffle bag. There wasn't much use for personal items on a military base he supposed. He slung the strap over his shoulder easily though he knew for a normal person it would have been quite heavy. His attention turned to Cat who stood standing in the middle of the tiny room that had been her home for the last year. The closest thing to a home she had ever had anyway. At last she moved to the bed and snatched up a thick throw pillow and hugged it to her chest before slinging it under her arm. Steve couldn't help but smile at the embroidered kittens that scampered across the pillow. This woman could snap someone in half but she wanted a pillow with kittens playing on it. There was more to her than meets first glance.

They set off on the way to the parking garage, walking in silence for a time. Steve cleared his throat, "You know Thor and I also aren't up on pop culture or turns of phrase." Cat raised an eyebrow in question. "Thor I understand, being from Asgard, whatever that means, but why are you out of the loop?"

Steve gave a tight smile, thinking for a split second about the plane diving down towards the frozen ocean. "It's a long story but basically I was frozen for 70 years. When I woke up the whole world was a different place. I am slowly getting used to most of the technology but the changes in culture are the hardest." When he didn't go on Cat watched him out of the corner of her odd coloured eyes. She didn't feel comfortable pressing him for details, not when he looked so grim. 'Maybe,' she thought, 'this team will be different than the other SHIELD teams she had been assigned to.' She wondered what it would be like to feel like part of the group instead of an outsider just lurking around the edges.

They reached the desk of the Agent on duty in the parking garage before either of them broke the comfortable silence. Steve requested a car and signed the required forms before being handed a set of keys and directed to the proper lot number. He slung the duffle bag across the bench seat in the back of the matte black SUV while Caterina got in the passenger seat, her pillow cuddled on her lap. He hopped in the driver's seat and turned to study Cat. "Are you ready?" He asked in a soft tone. She wasn't sure why but she got the feeling he was asking about more than their immediate departure. She met his eyes and gave him a firm nod. There was no point in delaying the inevitable, no matter how much she would like to stay in the realm of what she had come to know.