A/N: This just flowed. Two updates in one day, this is some kind of record. All the same, I couldn't keep you guys hanging. Got 7 reviews, so figured this was good enough.

Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine. Sadly. I wish they were. Have you seen Clint's arms? *fans self* I mean, really.


Chapter Nine

Clint was still flatlining when they landed. Her partner was pale and listless as the medics went into full-scale panic attacks and screamed medical mumbo jumbo at each other. She knew the image of him so lifeless would be burned in her memory forever, swallowing hard as she strapped the oxygen mask over her face.

The plane had landed. The ramp dropped a moment later, and seconds after that, there were more doctors running up towards them, shouting things her ears no longer registered. She'd read their lips as they said CHARGING ONE HUNDRED, before putting those paddles on her partner's flushed chest.

Unable to stop it, she had flinched alongside Clint when his entire body jolted, his back arching upwards.

Nothing. Not even a twitch.

The tears formed in her eyes then. From a combination of emotion or forcing herself not to blink, it was impossible to tell.

"Come on, Clint," Phil was chanting, not even daring to take a step towards his downed charge in fear of getting in the way of the people desperately trying to save him.

They'd charged again, causing her to flinch in unison as her partner's body arched upwards a second time, his hand flopping lifelessly over the edge of the stretcher. Those big hands, so strong and sure, completely lax, long calloused fingers dangling towards the floor. Her heart clenched, wondering if he would ever get to hold a bow again. She shoved that thought aside instantly, locking it back in the far corner of her mind.

They shocked him a third time. His body arched so badly that his entire frame shuddered from head to toe before collapsing. As if he needed more things to fuck up his muscles at this point, she thought bitterly.

Everyone held their breaths.

A faint beep. A line skittered upwards on the EKG, but it was there.

Once sure his heart wasn't going to randomly stop, they switched him to a gurney and strapped him down again, wasting no time in running down the ramp towards medical.

Natasha could have cried, but she forced herself not to. Now was not the time to show weakness. She and Coulson were right on their heels as they sprinted into the Helicarrier, making a beeline for medical.

"Agent Romanoff, Agent Coulson, this is as far as you go," a no-nonsense nurse announced, standing before the doors that had just swung shut after Clint.

She opened her mouth to argue, but Coulson simply pulled her away and urged her to sit down in the chairs against the wall.

And then they settled down to wait.


The SHIELD medical wing was something avoided at all costs by the agents of the organization. Nobody liked being in medical—everything was too white, the beds were like sleeping on concrete, it was always cold, the nurses were bitches, and the doctors were all secretly sadists who liked to stab them with needles with far more force than was necessary.

Natasha sat still as a statue, staring at the doors to the operating rooms without actually seeing them. Currently, she was in a state of mild shock. Her lack of sleep combined with her fear for Clint and the stress of struggling to keep him alive had finally caught up with her and her mind was shutting down, trying to urge her to sleep.

She didn't want to sleep.

What if she woke up and he was gone? Just like her family, all those years ago in that fire.

Exhaustion tugged at her mind, but she shoved it aside. No time to think about that now. Not when her partner could be dying.


Hours passed. Coulson and Natasha both adamantly refused to leave, even when summoned by Fury for a debrief and to, in Fury's own words, "explain this clusterfuck of an undercover mission right the fuck now before I fucking shoot someone, preferably Byer".

Both knew that the Director would eventually come to them. He'd also probably be pissed to hell. Surprisingly, for once in his life, Phil couldn't summon the energy to give a fuck.

When the doors in their right peripheral vision swung open, both agents noticed. Neither removed their gazes from their fixation on the doors that led to the surgeons and other shit that went on back there. The very same doors that would hopefully open soon with good news about getting Clint stabilized.

Fury strode towards them with his usual purposeful stride, his black trench coat swirling around his knees and ankles with every step he took. As usual his arms were folded and tucked behind his back, his expression stern. The eye patch only made him look fiercer.

Coulson idly wondered if he knew that Clint referred to him as "Cyclops" nine times out of ten. Never to his face, though, usually behind his back.

He probably knew, Coulson decided.

Nick Fury didn't miss much.

"Agents," Fury greeted them in a voice tinged with . . . well, fury.

"Director," they chorused in the same flat tone without looking at him.

Fury's eyebrow twitched. The constant silent communication and/or creepily perfectly chorused sentences had gotten on his nerves hundreds of times, not that he would ever tell his Golden Trio that. It was like the three of them were on the same fucking brainwave all the time. Half the time listening to their recorded missions was a waste of goddamn time—Barton always knew what Romanoff was going to do before she did and Romanoff was nearly as good as predicting what Barton would do. That damn sarcastic asshole of a kid's insight was creepy as hell.

They didn't call him Hawkeye for nothing, that was for sure. Those blue-gray eyes didn't miss anything.

"Does somebody want to tell me what the fuck happened?" he wondered in a deceptively mild tone. He shoved his worry for the kid aside, considering the other two members of the trio looked like shit. He was pretty sure Coulson was still in the same suit he'd been wearing when he'd burst into his office hours ago. "And elaborate on why one of my top two agents is currently on the verge of death?" he added to get their attention.

That made their eyes snap to his.

"I ordered them to wait to report on his condition," Fury sighed, his shoulders sagging suddenly. "I figured it would be better coming from me."

Coulson and Natasha were so tense they were literally vibrating. Green and blue eyes bored into him, demanding answers.

"They lost him twice on the table," he informed them in his best I-am-the-Director-of-this-institution-so-do-not-fu cking-interrupt-me voice. Good thing these two knew better than to say anything; Barton would have likely been insulting him by now. "He is marginally stabilized. The doctor will be out to see you when they are sure, but for now, it is all very touch and go. You two should go take a shower, get some sleep. He is out of the woods for now."

"No," they chorused again, that same flat tone causing him to harrumph in frustration. Well, he'd fucking tried. These three idiots were more stubborn individually than the entire organization combined; together, they were nothing but a constant fucking migraine.

Fury sighed in defeat and snapped his fingers, gesturing at the two agents who had accompanied him. "Figured you'd say that," he said evenly, dropping into the seat beside his right-hand man as the doors swung open and two junior agents hurried in with bags of food. He passed one to Phil and one to Natasha, opening his own to eat a French fry, waving the agents off and fixing his one good eye on the doors.

"Sir?" Coulson said uncertainty, staring down at the bag emblazoned with his favorite burger joint's name. He opened the bag tentatively to find French fries and a burger just how he ordered it normally. Was he surprised Fury knew his order? Not a goddamn bit.

"Just shut the fuck up and eat your dinner, Phil," Fury said gruffly, not even glancing at him. "And stop fucking calling me 'sir,' it makes me feel old, you little shit."

Phil obediently crunched on a French fry to hide his smile. He had been hungry, a little bit. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Natasha do the same.

Fury cared, all right. He didn't like to show it, but he cared.

And he proved he cared, by staying up with them for the duration of the night in a silent vigil, awaiting the prognosis of one of SHIELDs top two field agents.


E/N: Had to throw in some Fury there, guys. He's not sentimental, but you can bet your ass he's going to be pissed as hell that the US Government screwed with his agent without his say-so. Pissed Fury is scary Fury. Scary Fury is you-are-all-dead Fury.

Fury is awesome. All arguments are invalid.

Reviews are loved!
C'mon, can I get some extra ones for posting so quickly? Pretty please? ;)