Will looked around the apartment in Queens and wondered at the budget that IMF was giving them for this job. The tastefully furnished apartment was had everything but food, and there was no dust. Ethan had mentioned that there was a maid who would come in if they were there longer than a week, but Will didn't think that the mission would run that long. He turned to look at his teammates, and felt his gut clench. He'd been on a team before, and that hadn't ended so well. A flash of blue in the corner of his eye made Will jump, but it was Ethan, wearing a blue t-shirt, and coming into the room with a bag. "Everyone is familiar with the mission," Ethan said calmly.
"Yes," Benji said, "and I'm curious, why are we in New York, exactly?"
"Because Stark Industry designed the drones," Will offered, "and its unconfirmed rumor that Stark has a back door to any project he let out of his hands."
"Isn't Stark Industries in California?" Benji asked.
"Most of it still is," Ethan replied, "but Stark moved his private work to the East Coast just before the Battle of New York and has since made the city his home. If that back door exists, Stark will have the access codes nearby."
"All right," Benji said, "what's the plan? Do I get to wear a mask?"
"Better," Ethan said, "You, Benji, are going to hack Stark Industries and see if you can find them."
"Me? Hack Stark Industries?" Benji replied looked from Jane to Will.
"Can you do it?" Ethan asked.
"No," Benji replied, "absolutely not. The security at Stark Industries makes Fort Knox look like my secondary school. No one has ever successfully hacked Stark Industries."
Will scratched his nose, because he knew that wasn't exactly true. "People have said that about the CIA," Ethan replied, "that was done."
"Yes," Benji said, "but the CIA doesn't have Tony Stark providing security."
"All right," Ethan said, "if you were going to hack Stark Industries, what would you need?"
"This isn't Burj Khalifa, Ethan," Benji said, jumping to his feet in agitation, "this isn't that simple."
"Simple?" Will asked.
Benji stared at him for a moment and seemed to deflate, "Stark Industries is located in Stark Towers, home of Tony Stark," he told them, "although the moniker Avengers Tower is also used, it was Stark's building, it was his baby. He designed all the security for it, the most distinct is that there is no server room, or if there is one, nobody knows except Tony Stark."
"Doctor Goodfellow or Doctor Banner might know," Will offered, "they are Stark's closest associates, with Doctor Goodfellow being Stark's second in SI's R and D program, and Doctor Banner having been a founding member of the Avengers."
"All right," Ethan began.
"The catch," Will continued, "is that Doctor Goodfellow has a personal bodyguard in the form of his twin brother, Steven Goodfellow, retired SAS. He purportedly left Her Majesty's military for the express purpose of protecting his brother after a botched kidnapping attempt. Doctor Banner, on the other hand, might look like he couldn't stand up for himself against a small dog, but you have to look out for his other side, also known as the Hulk."
"What do you suggest then?" Ethan asked suspiciously.
Will shrugged, "I really don't have a suggestion, Ethan, I'm just trying to make sure we all don't end up guests of the Avengers."
Ethan eyed him for a moment, and Will suddenly remembered that this man had read his IMF file. Nothing about SHIELD was actually in that file, but he knew it mentioned his transfer from a redacted agency.
"Benji," Ethan said, "if we found your server room and got a line in, could you get into the system that way?"
Benji regarded Ethan for a moment, "I might," he said finally.
Will scratched his nose again, because he knew what Benji would find in Stark Tower, he just wanted to be around for the whole show. "Something for you?" Ethan asked, looking at Will.
"No," Will said, trying to hide his grin. "I'm actually looking forward to," he waved his hand, "everything."
"What do you know?" Jane asked.
"Not as much as I'd like," Will replied, "but I do have a healthy respect for the paranoia and mechatronic talents of Tony Stark and his coterie of scientists that live in Stark Tower." He held up his hands as Ethan frowned, "I'm not saying that you're going to fail, because it's possible you might succeed, I'm just saying that I'd rather not find myself on the bad side of the Avengers."
"Do you think they would do something?" Benji asked, looked suddenly nervous.
"Of course not," Ethan replied, "they'll never know we were there."
Will was hard pressed not to react. The Avengers probably already knew they were coming. Instead he half raised his hand, catching Ethan's attention. "I didn't eat on the plane, is it at all possible for me to go to the convenience store on the corner and get something? My stomach thinks my throat's been cut." To prove his point, Will's stomach growled.
"Go," Ethan said. "Jane and I will handle the infiltration of Stark Tower if you're so afraid of the Avengers."
Will was tempted to protest, but he knew that his presence in Stark Tower would be nothing but trouble, trouble for Ethan and the team, trouble for the Avengers, even trouble for Stark Industry if the reporters that hung around became suspicious. "Thank you," he said finally. "Don't forget about the reporters."
As he walked to the store, Will pulled a burn phone out of his pocket and dialed a number he would never admit to remembering. "Avengers Tower," a crisp, English voice said.
"I have a message for the green doc," Will said, scanning the street for people paying too much attention. "Tell him that he really wants shawarma later this week with his best gal and an old friend. Tell him I'll bring the gummy worms."
Will hung up the phone, shoved it into his pocket and entered the store. In moments, he had collected some snacks that were marginally healthy and would hold him until Ethan remember that he was, in fact, human and not a robot and would send someone for takeout. The last thing Will picked up were all the packages of gummy worms the store carried. He didn't always indulge in his favorite snack, but given his continued commitment to give up drinking, he needed something to help him cope with the invisible stresses of this job.
Will hesitated in the act of paying as Coulson came to mind. He missed his handler still, although time had faded the pain of losing Phil Coulson, there were still moments when remembering Phil could draw him up short. "Sir?" The cashier asked.
Will smiled at him tightly as he handed over the money, "Sorry, I thought I'd forgotten something."
The man nodded and finished the purchase. "Have a great day sir."
Will picked up his bag and headed for the door, "Oh, it will be. You have one too."
The apartment was quiet when Will came back; Ethan and Jane were leaning over a tablet, probably studying blueprints and security while Benji was typing away at his own laptop. "Anybody want some popcorn?" Will offered.
"Sure," Benji replied.
Will nodded and headed into the kitchen to get a bowl and put up the other snacks.
While everyone else bent over computers, Will took out his gun and began to quietly clean it, a ritual he didn't often perform in front of anybody. He didn't like the vulnerable feeling that came from not having a loaded gun on a mission.
Will was so caught up in the work that he didn't even notice Ethan heading into the kitchen, "Why are there seven bags of gummy worms in here?" Ethan called.
Will glanced up as Ethan came to the door of the kitchen, "Those are mine," he said and began to put his gun back together.
"I figured as much," Ethan replied, "my question was why they are here at all?"
Will smiled as he slammed his clip home, "Because I am trying to distract myself from a bad habit. Chewing gummy worms helps with that." He stood and put his gun away, "I'm not the one making you eat them, Ethan. Just leave them on the counter. There is chocolate and strawberry milk in the fridge."
Ethan stared at him for a long moment, the deep, penetrating glare that he normally reserved for questioning criminals. Will kept his smile bland as he met Ethan's eyes.
An explosion outside the window made Ethan turn to the window, hurrying over with Jane and Benji just behind him. Will picked up the remote from the coffee table and turned on the local news station. "It appears to be doom bots," the TV announcer said, "Iron Man, Thor and Captain America are already engaging them, but there is no sign of the Hulk or Black Widow."
Will straightened as a shaky, but visible shot of the battle came on the screen. Just as the camera stabilized, an inhuman roar announced the arrival of the Hulk.
"Should we evacuate?" Benji asked suddenly.
"No," Will said, "they're in Manhattan by the footage. We might hear more explosions, but the Avengers tend to shut things down quickly."
"Benji," Ethan said, "come and look at this."
The battle ended not half an hour later, which surprised Will, especially given that the Black Widow had never shown up. He had expected some comment about the Widow's disappearance, but the news program went, instead, to something to do with Stark Industries.
"Will," Ethan said, "turn the TV off and pay attention."
Will schooled his face to impassivity as he turned off the TV, "All right," he said, "what's the plan?"
Will circled around the catwalk over looking Benji's lair, looking outside for signs of trouble. They had relocated to an empty warehouse for Ethan and Jane's infiltration attempt. Benji was handling the monitoring and would guide Ethan and Jane if they found the mystical server room. Will was assigned to make sure nobody surprised Benji.
Ethan had given him a disgusted look when Will had declined a chance to enter the Tower, citing that he had no desire to be fried by the God of Thunder, but hadn't pressed the issue. Will knew, however, that if he had gone into Stark Tower, a lot of things he wasn't supposed to talk about would be revealed.
"Uh oh," Benji said suddenly.
"What?" Will asked as he leaned over the catwalk.
"Someone's made Jane and Ethan," Benji replied.
"Are you sure?" Will asked.
Benji took his earpiece out, "Ethan just called abort."
Will cursed softly and turned to run for the stairs.
"Not so fast," a silky, female voice said.
Will froze as Natasha Romanoff dropped down before him on the catwalk, gun pointed at him. Will lifted his hands slowly, "Agent Romanoff," he said, and swallowed.
"What?" Benji yelped.
Will dared a glance down, two agents he didn't recognize had turned guns on Benji.
"I don't know what you think you're doing in New York," Natasha continued, bringing Will's attention back to her, "but we've been tracking you since you got off the plane at JFK."
Will smiled charmingly at her, "I wasn't aware that IMF had to report the movement of its agents to SHIELD either."
"When you're showing a great deal of interest in a SHIELD consultant and the residence of the Avengers Initiative, then yes, we have the right to know what's going on." Natasha replied. She flicked her eyes down to Benji and quirked an eyebrow.
Will shook his head slightly, enough movement for her to see it, but not enough for anyone else to be aware of it. "Perhaps it would be better if you released Agent Dunn to assist our teammates being detained at Stark Tower and I will be happy to explain our interest." Natasha smirked a little, "There's a really good coffee shop between here and Manhattan. They serve the best blueberry muffins I've ever tried."
Natasha went still for a moment then relaxed, returning her gun to its holster. "Agent Silas, escort IMF Agent Dunn to a rendezvous with the other IMF Agents. I'll debrief Agent," she glanced at him.
"Brandt," Will told her.
"Brandt," Natasha repeated, "and I'll make my report to the Director as soon as I'm done."
"Yes, Agent Romanoff," one of the two agents called up.
Will leaned over the railing, "Benji, just go with them; tell the others that I'll either be back by sunrise or I'm going to need bail money."
Natasha's smirk wavered into a smile briefly, for her that was the equivalent of laughing her head off.
"Right," Benji said, "are you sure?"
Will nodded as he glanced back down, "I'm sure, Benji."
"As far as bars go," Will commented, "this one isn't half bad."
The bar was just that, a bar, no dancing except in rare occasions. The music was soft enough to allow for conversation, and most of the crowd was made up of regulars. "Steve likes it," Natasha replied. "Clint."
"Will," Will corrected her quietly. "My name is William Brandt now, Tasha."
"Sorry," Natasha murmured.
Two beers and two shots of vodka appeared. "Did you really pick me up at JFK?" Will asked.
"Actually SHIELD did," Natasha replied. "Then I got your message."
Will drank the vodka and coughed, "I was afraid they were going to get caught by Steve or Steven. That would not have been pretty, or what if Bruce found them? Tasha, they were heading for JARVIS."
Natasha sighed, "If you would just tell them."
"No," Will replied firmly. "That's the past, I'm Will now, failed field agent turned analyst that gets tolerated because he has a trick memory and a skill with guns. That's good enough for me."
"Is it really?" Natasha asked, "Will, you were one of us. I give it another twenty minutes before someone asks about Hawkeye. You go anywhere with those IMF Agents in New York and they'll know who you are in ten minutes."
"Not if you don't tell them," Will countered. "Look, we need Stark. Someone's stolen some of Stark's remote drones, and we need to shut them down before they can be used. That's why they went in; they thought they could get Stark's access codes from the server."
Natasha nodded, "I'll talk to Tony."
"Now that that's out of the way," Will said, "catch me up on the gossip. As anyone gotten under Fury's eye patch?"
Ethan paced the apartment living room, trying not to look out the window at the early morning light. Brandt was late.
"He'll be ok," Jane said quietly.
"I shouldn't have let him leave," Benji said.
"What could you have done?" Jane asked.
Ethan spun to glare at them, and his cell phone rang. "Agent Hunt," he growled.
"Agent Hunt," an amused, British voice said, "my name is Steven Goodfellow, and I'm head of Stark Tower security."
"I remember," Ethan replied, "how can I help you?"
Goodfellow chuckled, "Well, NYPD is refusing to release your Agent Brandt on his own recognizance. They require someone sober to come and retrieve him from the precinct. I'm here now, and I can say that except for a black eye, your agent appears to be in one piece, as does Agent Romanoff."
"What happened?" Ethan asked.
"It started with a bar brawl," Goodfellow replied, "and there was a monkey involved, and vodka, and if what Agent Brandt was shouting earlier is true, a pair of midgets."
"How much is his bail," Ethan asked after a moment.
"Doctor Stark has offered to cover it," Goodfellow said, "give that he has more money than God, I suggest you not argue. Besides, now Brandt and Doctor Stark are even."
"Tell me which precinct," Ethan said, "I'll be there as soon as I can."
He wrote down the information Goodfellow gave him and pointed at the other two agents, "When I get back, we're moving. Get this place packed and wiped down." He shut the door behind him without waiting for their acknowledgements.
The precinct was in Manhattan, but Ethan was lucky, he was there within an hour.
Goodfellow was, as Ethan remembered, a short blond with a good natured smile that rarely actually reached his blue eyes. From the files, Ethan knew that Goodfellow had been a British soldier before joining Stark Industries' security, first as a bodyguard to his brother, then later taking over Tony Stark's personal bodyguards, including Iron Man. His promotion to head of security at Stark Tower hadn't been in the file, but Ethan figured that just meant the files hadn't been updated.
The man himself was waiting outside the precinct, dressed conservatively in black pants and a maroon polo. "Agent Hunt," he said, "good to see you again. I am sorry for yesterday."
Ethan gritted his teeth, remembering how quickly Goodfellow had put him on the ground when they'd been stopped. "Let's just get this over with," he said out loud.
Goodfellow led Ethan into the precinct, where a man in a suit and a younger, taller blond man in a flannel shirt were talking. "Captain," Goodfellow said, "this is the agent I mentioned. Agent, this is Captain Hollister."
"Agent," the Captain said.
"Captain," Ethan replied, "I am sorry for the trouble my agent has called."
Hollister grinned, "You've never been drinking with Bar- Brandt, have you? Last night was fairly tame compared to the last time. At least this time they didn't try to scale any buildings."
Ethan nodded slightly, "Is it possible that we can leave quietly?"
"Actually," Goodfellow said, "Doctor Stark wanted to speak with you and Brandt before you disappeared."
"Fine," Ethan bit out.
Moments later, Brandt appeared, escorted by two officers. He wasn't restrained, and was chatting with the two officers like they were old friends. Just behind him, limping, was a woman with bright red hair. She spotted them and muttered, in Russian, "It's about time he showed up. Things would not have stayed painless for much longer back there."
Brandt chuckled a little, meeting Ethan's eyes confidently, as if inviting him to share in the joke. "Brandt," Ethan said.
"Hey boss," Brandt said easily, "this is Tasha, my best friend. Tasha, this is my team leader."
"Not your handler?" 'Tasha' asked.
Brandt sobered instantly, "You know I only have one."
"Will," Tasha said, touching his arm.
Brandt stepped back, his face hardening, "You don't know what was between us, Tasha. You weren't there for the beginning, ok? I only have one handler; always have, always will."
"Fine," Tasha said shortly. She glanced at the blond, "Am I needed back at headquarters?"
"Not right now," the blond replied, "I was told that he was unwilling to see you until he'd calmed down some. He is apparently rather irate. You're coming back to the Tower, and staying there unless we're called out."
Ethan glanced at Will, "Did no one," Will began, "Cap, hey, Cap, this is Ethan Hunt, my team leader. Ethan, this is Steve Rogers, but we all like to call him Captain America."
Ethan looked between Will and the tall blond, who was blushing. "I can see that you haven't changed a bit," the blond managed. "It's nice to meet you, Agent Hunt."
"Likewise," Ethan managed, and shook the Captain's hand. "I understand that we have a meeting," he glanced at Goodfellow.
"Yes," Goodfellow said, "sorry, right. We have a car; we can take you straight to the Tower."
"All right," Ethan replied after a moment.
Having penetrated the building before, Ethan could honestly admit he was impressed with the security the Tower boasted. It was tight, and had been difficult to get past in the first place. Now, escorted by Captain America and Goodfellow, they were allowed to enter an elevator unchallenged.
Right after the elevator started, Will yelped. Ethan glanced back to find Will glaring at Tasha, "Ethan," Will said, "I guess I should say, Tasha is Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow."
Ethan stared at the pretty red head, "It's nice to meet you," he managed to say.
"Indeed," Romanoff replied, "It is good to meet the famous Ethan Hunt face to face. We almost met before, as I recall."
Ethan only nodded. "I was unaware that you had friends like these, Brandt."
Will shrugged, "I don't like talking about it. Although I suppose you're going to make me now."
"Not right this second," Ethan said as the elevator came to a stop.
"Welcome to Avengers Tower," Goodfellow said as the doors opened. "They've had some advanced warning, so hopefully you won't be traumatized."
"Too late," Brandt quipped.
"My friends!" A large blond man exclaimed as he came out into the entrance hall. "It is good to see you returned. Lady Natasha, I am most disappointed. Why did you not call me to assist you in dealing with the miscreants?"
"I had back up," Natasha said, "Thor, this is Agent Ethan Hunt, and this is Hunt's teammate."
"Hawkeye!" 'Thor' exclaimed, "I did not know you were back in New York!"
Brandt sighed, "I'm not Hawkeye, Thor. My name is William Brandt, or Will."
"Of course," Thor said, nodding. "I must go; my Jane will be arriving soon."
The big blond passed through the group and into the elevator. Ethan stared at Brandt for a long moment, "Hawkeye?" He asked finally.
Brandt actually winced, "I'll explain later."
"Agent Hunt," Goodfellow said.
Ethan turned to find three more people had come into the entry way, "Good morning," Ethan said.
"Agent, these are Doctors Stark, Banner, and Goodfellow. This is Agent Ethan Hunt, one of our intruders from yesterday."
Tony Stark stared at Ethan for a long moment, "Hunt," he said finally, "If you had just asked, or better, sent your shadow up, we would have given you these without all that mess with security. Although, I suppose I should be thanking you. You've made the position Steven and Iron Man hold stronger than ever. The Board is finally allowing them to upgrade security protocols against a future break in. Because of that gratitude, I'm giving you two things." He held up a memory stick, "The backdoor codes to those drones you're after, and two weeks."
"Two weeks?" Ethan repeated.
"Shut those drones down in two weeks or Iron Man will take care of it," Stark replied firmly. "Do you understand?"
"I understand," Ethan managed and accepted the memory stick.
Stark grinned, "Good. I'd invite you to have a drink, but I'm needed in the labs for a very important experiment." Trailing Banner and the second Goodfellow, Stark vanished into the elevator.
"Translation," Goodfellow said, glancing up at Captain America, "he's going to go hide from Pepper to get out of a board meeting."
Captain America chuckled, "I don't doubt it, Steven."
Goodfellow turned, "There will be a car waiting for you at the entrance, just tell the driver where you want to go."
"That's it?" Ethan asked.
"Do you want us to press charges?" Goodfellow asked. "You've gotten what you came for, now go."
Brandt gripped Ethan's shoulder, "Come on, boss. We need to get out of here."
Ethan allowed the other man to pull him back to the elevator. "Hey, Will," Romanoff called.
"What?" Brandt called back as they entered the elevator.
"Next time," Romanoff said, "let's go down to Hell's Kitchen."
"You're on," Brandt said with a laugh.
They got back to the apartment, and Will let his face settle into a more grim expression. Ethan hadn't said anything the whole time, only glared at him. Benji and Jane were waiting for them, both sitting on the couch, a small stack of bags by the door. Ethan gripped Will's shoulder and pushed him towards one of the armchairs, "Now, explain," he demanded.
Will sat down and sighed. "My story starts a long time ago," he glanced at Benji and Jane, "before I became Will Brandt."
"What?" Jane exclaimed.
"My parents named me Clinton Francis Barton," Will replied, "most people called me Clint."
"Most?" Ethan asked.
Will sat back, "There are those out there who call me Hawkeye."
"You're Hawkeye?" Benji said, "You have to be joking."
"I'm really not," Will replied.
"How did you get into IMF, you were an Avenger!"
Will glanced up at Ethan for a moment. "There are aspects of the Battle of New York that SHIELD never released. Among them was an ability that Loki had. You see, I was head of security for a project involving what we call the Cube, also known as the Tesseract. It's a device that can be harnessed for energy, but also can be used to create gateways between worlds, like the bifrost. Loki used the Cube to come to Earth, and he brought with him a staff. He used that staff to take over some of the agents and a scientist."
Will stopped for a moment, hearing it all over again, "You have heart." The last thing he'd really heard before being overwhelmed by blue ice.
"Will," Jane said, pulling Will from the memory.
"Sorry," Will replied, "It's just, I was one of Loki's chosen. I don't really remember all of what happened, but, I know that while he controlled me, I would have done anything he commanded me to. I did almost everything he wanted."
"How did you break free?" Ethan asked.
"Natasha," Will said, and smiled a little. "She smacked me around and gave me a little concussion. Being knocked unconscious released Loki's hold." He realized that he had hunched in on himself and forced his body upright and gripped the arms of his chair tightly. "After Loki's defeat, I went through some serious therapy to deal with what had happened to me. I also became an Avenger. At first, I was ok with it; I mean weird shit happens to the Avengers. But, then I got caught by a girl with hypnotic powers and I realized just how not ok I actually was. I tried to go back to being just a SHIELD agent, but, it's like I told Fury. If I had to spend one more day dealing with junior agents, people were going to start going missing. Part of the deal in transferring to IMF was that I changed my identity because Clint Barton has enemies all over the world, both from my time as a SHIELD agent, and before that."
"Why didn't you tell us?" Jane asked.
"I'm not supposed to talk about it," Will replied, "I'd prefer not to even think about it, but that's damn near impossible. I flashback to what happened all the time. Between the Battle and Croatia, do you wonder why I decided to get out of the field?"
"Why did you stay then?" Ethan asked.
"Because you asked," Will said, shoulders slumping, "and I'm not a hero, but I help when people ask."
I wrote 'Return of an Old Friends' to be part of the Not My Sins verse, but I kept thinking of different ways that Will could admit that he was Clint Barton. The idea wouldn't go away, so now I'm writing a five things style story only it may be more because I'm not sure when I'll run out of ideas. This is part two. Each of the ways will be an individual story because some of them might actually become chapter fics on their own.
As a reminder, Not My Sins verse is my incomplete story about how Tony Stark's son Steven Goodfellow-Stark became Iron Man. Things to note out of the Sins verse specific is that Steven refers to Tony Stark as Doctor Stark when he's working, as a sign of respect and to keep people from knowing that Steven and his twin Robin are Tony's kids.