This is the biggest chunk of writing that I did for NaNo, and it's been sitting for a while, marinating on my hard drive. The plot is shamelessly lifted from an episode of La Femme Nikita (the one with Peta Wilson), but even if you've seen the ep in question, I think there are some surprises in here for you.

There are six parts; this prologue, four chapters, and a short epilogue, which feeds (more or less) right into my series Taking the Edge Off.

I have to thank EuphoricSound and brbshittoavenge for their cheerleading and encouragement (and for not freaking out when I sent them a fic that was 17k).


As assignments went, it was kind of ridiculous.

He supposed that he should be used to it by now. Really, when had he ever received a straight forward mission? When, for that matter, had he ever had the luxury of falling into something like a routine? The closest thing he ever got to that particular albatross was bickering with Nat about whose turn it was to file the mission report.

But hey, they didn't pay him the big bucks because his job was easy.

He and Natasha had barely gotten back from their last mission (a real cluster fuck of an extraction from Abidjan), when they were called in to the briefing, both of them with heads still wet from interrupted showers. And here he'd thought they'd actually get their promised four days of downtime this go around.

Hah.

Despite the internal griping, Clint didn't really mind, not really, because what was he supposed to do with free time, anyway? Read a book? Watch TV? Organize his sock drawer? Shit, he didn't even have a fucking sock drawer. At this point in his life, he wasn't even sure what he would do if he ever got something as unwarranted as an actual vacation.

He slid into the open seat next to Natasha, still a bit groggy from the flight. She glanced at him briefly as he sat down, smiling slightly, secretly at him in greeting, and his idiot heart skipped a beat. He clasped his hands on the table in front of him to stop himself from reaching out to put his hand on her arm.

She'd been crawling deeper and deeper under his skin lately, inching closer to him, smiled at him, told him things, and it was getting more and more difficult to keep everything professional when she invaded his every waking thought. Working next to her was a special kind of torture, but the alternative was unthinkable. He'd never had a better partner, never had someone who knew him as well as she did, and he'd never known someone as well as he knew her. He couldn't give her up any more than he could give up his right arm.

He just needed to get a fucking grip.

The poor excuse for coffee served up by SHIELD's mess kicked in sometime in the middle of Hill's briefing, but apparently, he hadn't missed much.

" … when two days ago, we received intelligence reports that six canisters of a particularly lethal neurotoxin gas was stolen from a lab in Sweden. Directory Fury wants the two of you to retrieve it before it can be used on the public."

Hill had never been Clint's favorite operative, but at least she cut to the chase.

"Twelve hours ago, we learned that Soren Lindfors, a known associate of the Ten Rings group, is looking to put together a team for an unspecified purpose. Given the parameters of his advertisement, we believe that Lindfors intends to use the neurotoxin in a large, European population center sometime in the next week."

"What do we know about toxin?" Natasha asked, never looking up from where she was leafing through the contents of a manila folder.

"Nothing more than what's in there," Hill said, motioning toward the dossier. "We do know that it's fast acting, so fast that there's no point in manufacturing an antidote, and that it can be aerosolized for rapid and wide dispersal."

"You want us to infiltrate Lindfors' team," Clint said. It wasn't a question, so he didn't bother to phrase it that way.

Hill nodded, and clicked a button on her remote. Two faces popped up on the screen behind her, and she passed Clint two more folders.

"These two are Benjamin and Fiona Crane. They responded to Lindfors' call and are scheduled to arrive at his compound in 15 hours."

Natasha nodded, looking thoughtfully at the young couple on the screen. "We picked them up?"

"Yes. According to our intel, Lindfors has never met the Cranes. The two of you will assume their identities to gain access to the compound and retrieve the chemical agent."

He leafed through the documents on Benjamin, no, Ben Crane, passing the other folder to Natasha while Hill continued with the briefing.

"The Cranes have been married for less than six months, but by all accounts, they enjoy a very physically affectionate relationship. I trust that this will not be a problem for you?" she asked, casting her eyes between the agents.

Natasha was already nodding her agreement, so he went along with it, but he swallowed hard after the two women looked away. They've done married before; he could do married. But "very physically affectionate"? He hoped to hell that just meant he would only have to hold her hand or put his arm around her occasionally because if it meant more than that he was pretty sure he was going to embarrass himself or otherwise completely ruin the only damn good relationship he'd ever had in his life. With anyone. Platonic or not.

He took a deep swig from his mug, draining the end of the sludge, hoping that his voice wouldn't betray him when he spoke. Luck was with him, though, for once.

"When do we leave?" he asked.

"Wheels up in 30," Hill replied.