Disclaimer: During a misspent week in September 2012 I mainlined the Avengers and Doctor Who until my brain managed to superimpose River Song and Natasha Romanoff and fuse them into one character. Then she started dictating. Before I knew it, Clint Barton and Phil Coulson had elbowed their way in. That's how this AU 'verse came to be. It's involved some tweaked timelines, altered plot points, a ton of original back story for River, and a lot of fun on my part. I'm having a ball playing in Marvel's and Moffat's sandboxes (and making no money).

Spoiler Note: This series contains spoilers of a vague, AU sort for A Good Man Goes To War and Let's Kill Hitler.

This is a little bit of character semi-fluff that I did for a bit of light writing while working on the longer case fics for this 'verse.

Like-a-raven-14 gets ALL the beta-ing points. And the cookies. And the wine.

Work Text:

Part 4: The Marvelous Tale of an Agent, an Archer, and an Assassin

Chapter 1

February 2006

"What do you mean I need a code name?" Song asked with a frown.

It had been almost five months since they'd brought River Song home to the SHIELD base in New York. All things considered, their new recruit was working out far better than Coulson had ever anticipated. Even Fury was happy with her progress (and the fact that she hadn't leveled any buildings or attacked anyone on base). If everything went to plan, Song should be off probation in another month or so.

"I think it's fairly self-explanatory," Coulson said. "You need a code name to use on missions. Anything involving open communications."

"No, I know that." Song gave him a skeptical look. "I mean, why are you asking me about it?"

Coulson deliberately did not sigh. The level of distrust that Song was capable of maintaining made him tired sometimes.

"I thought you might like some input. Give it some thought," he said.

She shrugged. "Why not just stick with the one I already have?"

Coulson raised his eyebrows at her.

"There will probably be missions where using your persona as the Reaper will be very useful," he said. "As far as how you're known within SHIELD, though? Is that something you want that following you around? I was under the impression that you wanted to 'leave the past in the past' and start over here."

That was her argument whenever Song wanted to duck questions about her history, anyway.

Her eyes narrowed a bit, but she nodded. "I'll give it some thought."

"Do that," Coulson said. "We'll help you."

"That's not necessary. I'm sure I can come up with something on my own."

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Naturally, Barton took it upon himself to help.

"Ow, shit. We should call you Rocky," Coulson heard him say one day during sparring practice after Song managed to duck under his guard and lay him out.

Song stood over Clint, gloved hands on her hips.

"How about She Who Shoves An Arrow Where The Sun Doesn't Shine?" she replied.

"It's a little long. Wouldn't really work over a comm."

"I'll pick one," Song said. "I don't need your help."

"Uh, huh."

Coulson could have told Song that she should look out, that she was distracted and being a little overconfident. By now, she should have known that as well. Instead he watched with a small smile as Clint swept his leg to one side, knocking her feet out from under her. She landed hard, flat on her back.

"Ow! Damn it."

"Let me know how that works out for you, She Who Got Cocky And Got Knocked On Her Ass."

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"Mama Bear."

They were on one of the SHIELD jets on their way out to Los Angeles for an exercise and Coulson was taking advantage of the time on the air to catch up on some rest. He was half-dozing in his seat, eyes closed.

Clint was apparently using the time to give some more thought to Song's still undecided code name.

Even half asleep, Coulson raised his eyebrows at the suggestion. Though he couldn't see her, he imagined that his expression must mirror Song's.

"You're joking, right?" Coulson heard her say.

"No. Mother bears. They're dangerous. Nothing you want to cross. It fits you."

"I'm seventy-two percent sure that's a compliment," Song replied dryly. "You know that, by extension, that makes Coulson Papa Bear."

Coulson frowned. If they thought that was happening…

"Yeah, well, that fits too," Clint said. Coulson didn't have to see to know the precise shit-eating nature of the grin the agent was wearing.

"So," Song continued, "by default that would make you-"

"Okay," Clint said hastily, apparently just realizing the error in his strategy. "You're right. That was a crappy idea."

"No, actually this one is starting to grow on me. So, how do you take your porridge, Baby Bear?"

Coulson smiled and mentally awarded one point to Song.

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"Braveheart."

"I can hurt you."

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A SHIELD agent had to be ready to operate in all weathers, so when a snowstorm hit the New York area, half the city may have ground to a halt, but on the base it was just an opportunity for some specialized training.

Coulson rounded up Clint and Song for a run. Only five miles, though. It was pretty nasty out.

The three of them ended up by the Administration Center, soaked to the knees and with ears, cheeks and noses stung pink by the cold. Clint leaned over, hands on his knees, and blew out a cloud of foggy breath.

"Crimea," he said. "For your code name."

Coulson thought he must have looked as confused as Song did. Clint grinned.

"As in the peninsula?" Song asked.

"As in River. Crimea. Cry-me-a-river. Get it?"

Clint tried and failed to dodge when not one but two pairs of hands reached out and tipped him into the bank of plowed snow next to the road.

"That's the worst pun I've ever heard," Coulson said, looking down at him.

"I think it might be the worst pun ever invented," Song added.

"So, I take it Flo is out, too?" Clint asked.

Coulson didn't even feel bad about letting Clint fend for himself when Song started shoving snow down his sweatshirt.

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"If we're not doing plays on 'River' maybe we should do something with 'Song' instead," Clint said over lunch that same day. "We could call you Melody."

Clint was grinning, teasing. He looked as taken aback as Coulson felt when Song's face went white and she abruptly stood up.

"No," she said. She walked away from the table, leaving her half-eaten lunch behind.

Clint gave Coulson a baffled look, but Coulson just shrugged. He couldn't begin to tell Clint how he might have stepped wrong.

"Okay," Clint said quietly. "Scratch musical names."

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"Boudica."

"God bless you," Song said, not looking up from the old brief she was reading.

Clint snorted.

"I mean for a code name. She was a British queen who led this big uprising against the Romans."

Song looked up this time with an expression of impatience.

"I know who Boudica was," she said. She raised her eyebrows at Clint. "How the hell do you know who she was?"

Even from the other end of the table where Coulson was sorting out a pile of old files he could see Clint's face darken, and saw the younger man tuck his chin in a bit the way he did the rare times he was embarrassed.

"I read," he said shortly, eyes going back to his own file.

Coulson frowned as he watched. He knew that this was, on occasion, a sore point with Clint.

Clint was smart. That wasn't even a question. His I.Q. test results spoke for themselves. He could speak half a dozen languages, calculate the trajectory of a bullet or an arrow with no effort, and quickly pick up almost any subject he set out to learn. He could think on his feet and strategize with the best.

He hadn't had any formal education past the seventh grade, though. Knowing that he was smart didn't stop Clint from sometimes getting prickly at SHIELD where he was surrounded by people who were the cream of their colleges and institutions.

Coulson glanced at Song and registered a bit of surprise. Now there was an expression he never thought he'd see on her face.

Shame.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean it like that."

Clint grunted in response.

"I just meant because you're an American."

Clint silently flipped the page in his file.

"I know you're not stupid," Song said seriously.

"I'm seventy-two percent sure that was a compliment." Clint had started to smile again. He never let himself brood for very long, not over that.

Song rolled her eyes slightly.

"Not Boudica. She was brilliant, but her name was hideous."

"Fair enough."

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April 2006

Coulson tapped his earpiece on.

"This is Aerie," he said. "Comm check. Sound off your positions."

"Hawkeye copies," Clint's said. From the window of the hotel room, Coulson could see a still, tell-tale shape on the roof of the building across the square. "I'm in position and have a fix on the target."

"Talon copies," River said. She was down in the square. Coulson couldn't see her from where he was. There were too many people milling about below, but he had no doubt that Clint could get eyes on her in half a second if he had to. "I'm in position and ready to approach."

"Copy, Talon. I have you covered," Clint said.

"All right, people. We are on the clock," Coulson said.

They had their mark neatly circled: the nest, the sight, and the claws. Now it was time to close in.

They had a mission to complete.