Title: "Thicker Than Water – Chapter 1/7"
Fandom: The Avengers/The Bourne Legacy
Characters: Clint Barton, Aaron Cross, Phil Coulson, mentions of Natasha Romanoff and Marta Shearing
Pairings: background Clint Barton/Natasha Romanoff, background Aaron Cross/Marta Shearing
Rating: PG-13
Length: 1625 words
Genre: Family / Adventure / Hurt/Comfort
Warnings: some language, movie grade violence, blood, mention of canonical child abuse (non-sexual) in later chapters
Summary: Aaron and Clint learned of each other's existence a few months ago when Natasha brought Aaron and Marta into SHIELD on Fury's behest. Now the brothers go on a mission together and get to really know each other when faced with a struggle for survival.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the story, though I would like to appreciate a Clint and an Aaron of my own, thank you!
Author's notes: This fic was written for a prompt by my friend soncnica, who asked for brotherly bonding after we watched The Avengers and The Bourne legacy together :) I hope you like it, babe!

Lots of love to my betas! To anuna_81 for helping me figure out how to make this fic better :D And to missm0neypenny for helping me fix my grammar and for making sure the thing was readable, thank you :D And a special thanks to venitinmentem for helping me stay sane and cheering me on, and to frea_o for word wars and pointing out that I overused passive voice ;) Thanks ladies, you are awesome!

Thicker Than Water - Chapter 1

Aaron checks his harness one last time as he watches Clint rappel down the rope from the helicopter and disappear in the jungle's lush canopy. He links himself in and follows as soon as he hears his brother's "All clear" through the comm. As he descends, a cool breeze momentarily replaces the hot, humid air of Côte d'Ivoire. He feels an urge to whoop loudly as he breaches the first branches and only his training and professionalism prevent him from doing so. He unclips his harness from the rope as soon as he lands.

"Man, that was fun," his heart beats fast as he smiles widely at Clint.

Clint shrugs, a slight smirk graces his face as he mutters something that sounds suspiciously like trapeze and tightrope, but Aaron can't really understand him over the sound of the helicopter as it flies off. He resolves to ask Clint about that later, stows his harness in his backpack, and turns to his brother.

"You think that Yankees' game next weekend will be as fun?" Aaron asks Clint, who grins.

"As long as there's beer and hot dogs, I'm sure we'll have a good time."

Aaron grins, "That sounds about right. Now let's set this right so we'll be home in time to actually go."

They're here to take out an illegal diamond mine that makes the owners millions of dollars a year. Money that finances wars and genocides all over the continent. Aaron has walked through burned out, ruined villages in West Africa, the stench of death thick in the air. Bodies had lined the streets - men, women and children alike - slaughtered in the name of one war lord or another. He had felt sick for days afterwards and he relishes the opportunity to blow this mine to kingdom come.

"Yeah, you're right. We only have three hours to get there and I don't want to waste daylight."

"I'm ready, lead the way," Aaron replies, conceding the lead position to Clint.

Clint blends into the jungle as if he belongs there, moving like a cat on the prowl, his camouflage pants and olive shirt hiding him well. And Aaron is sure that if anyone chanced a glance, he would look much the same to them, their silhouettes near identical. The only difference between their gear is Clint's bow and quiver strapped onto his specially made backpack instead of the standard one Aaron carries.

The brothers silently make their way to the mine. Aaron spends the three hour trek focused on the dense foliage around them and he's soon able to distinguish the calls of several different birds and other animals. It's growing darker and darker as they move deeper into the jungle, to the west and away from their drop point, when Aaron's keen ears pick up a new sound. He whistles lowly, catching Clint's attention and motions him to hold up as Aaron takes his Beretta from its holster, releasing the safety. His brother immediately reaches for his bow, unfolds it and nocks an arrow before he looks intently at Aaron. Clint inclines his head minutely and raises his brow in silent question.

Aaron closes his eyes, as he lets his senses stray outward and tries to recapture the sound he's heard. And there it is again, to his right, an almost unperceivable rustling of a large body moving through the underbrush. He calmly looks at Clint, points toward the direction of the sounds, and then something large and furry hurtles towards him with a loud growl. Clint's arrow whistles past him just as he's about to pull the trigger and a large dappled cat freezes mid-jump, the force of the arrow's hit at this short range propelling it backwards. Aaron's heart suddenly thumps wildly as he looks at the enormous leopard dead before him, an arrow neatly embedded in its chest.

Then he looks at Clint who smirks at him while packing away his bow and it's easier to breathe.

"Nice shot, Locksley," he laughs at Clint.

"Nice call there, Lassie," Clint replies with a smile. "You okay?"

"Lassie? That's what you're going with? Really?" Aaron throws back at Clint good-naturedly as he stows his gun in his thigh holster.

"I'd certainly trust you to get me out of a well," Clint snarks.

Aaron scoffs, "I'm more likely to push you into one right now."

Clint bursts out laughing, his face a maze of laugh lines, and it's so infectious, Aaron can't resist joining in.

"Can't say I blame you, kiddo," Clint grins and claps Aaron on the shoulder. They walk on shoulder to shoulder, sniggering for quite a while yet.

They reach their destination just as dusk falls and Clint immediately searches for a perfect vantage point from which to guard Aaron. Clint has a clear image of the mine's topography as well as the underground maze in his head, thanks to STARK Industry's latest imaging satellite. The mine is a big hole in the ground with five entrances leading into the tunnels below the hills. Aaron's mission is to set charges to blow up each of the entrances. A guard tower stands strategically in the middle of the depression, large spotlights ghosting over the area in seemingly random patterns. Not random enough for Clint, who knows that he'll have no problem keeping Aaron hidden in the shadows.

Clint finds his sniper's nest at a strategic point set on a slight incline that affords him a perfect view over the mine's bowl while keeping him hidden behind ferns. Aaron nods in approval of the location and Clint silently spreads out his gear before he activates his comm link. Aaron follows suit and flicks his own to life.

"Test, test," Aaron whispers and Clint gives him a thumbs up when he reads him loud and clear. Clint cracks his neck to alleviate some of the tension and smirks when Aaron mirrors his movement unconsciously.

"You ready? I'll guide you," Clint murmurs.

Aaron nods sharply and replies with a grim smile, "I hope your eyes are as good as they say."

"Don't you worry, kiddo, I got your ass covered," Clint answers and swallows down the worry that tightens his throat as he clasps Aaron's shoulder.

"You better, old man," Aaron replies with a predatory grin. "Marta likes my ass whole. And she might seem harmless…"

Clint chuckles soundlessly as Aaron picks up his pack and slinks into the night.

A few minutes later Aaron's voice comes through the comm link. "I'm in position."

Clint takes a deep breath, watches the spotlights dance over the red earth. "Alright, go now."

Clint only sees him move because he knows where to look. Aaron is agile and lithe; he seems to melt into the rocks behind him before he slinks into the first entrance just as the searchlight flashes over the spot he had just occupied.

Clint focuses back on the dancing searchlights until he hears a satisfied, "One down. Take me to the next."

And so begins their dance. Clint calls the moves and Aaron glides out of the tunnel, weaves through the pattern of light and darkness the searchlights paint on the mine's walls before he dives into the safety of yet another mineshaft.

They repeat this pattern until Aaron declares, "That was the last one, coming in now."

And that's the moment Clint feels the steel of a gun's barrel press into his back. Well hell.

"Lower your bow and turn around," a male voice demands in accented English.

Clint obeys and comes face to face with three men; mercenaries from the look of them, Europeans most likely. And they're big. He grins.

This is going to be fun.

Aaron sets the last charge and arms the detonator with a satisfied smile.

"That was the last one, coming in now."

But instead of Clint's affirmation and direction he hears Clint say, "Well, hello boys." A grunt follows and Aaron recognizes it as Clint's from all the times he has watched him spar with Natasha.

"Hawkeye," Aaron calls - those are definitely the sounds of a fight coming through the comm.

No reply. Aaron's stomach clenches.

"Hawkeye," he repeats, more urgently.

"For fuck's sake, Hawkeye, come in," Aaron growls when the comm is suddenly silent.

He creeps closer to the tunnel's mouth; about to throw caution to the wind and just head for his brother, when a large dark shape hurtles towards him from the direction of their nest. Aaron lunges to the side, rolls, and brings up his knife as he stands face to face with – "Clint?"

Clint has rolled as well and crouches on the tunnel floor now. He shakes his head like a dog dislodging water then stands with a wince and says, "Fucking mercenaries, I lost my comm."

Just then a loud alarm claxon starts up.

"Ah fuck," Clint curses and looks at Aaron. "Do you have the detonator switch?"

Aaron nods and takes the device from his pants pocket, "Yeah, right here."

"When I tell you to hit it, you do, no questions, okay?"

Aaron nods and Clint grins maniacally.

"Alright. Now run!"

With those words Clint grabs Aaron's arm and pushes him further into the mine.

Aaron hears Clint's pants over his own, his brother always a step behind him. The eternal darkness of the tunnel is just about to swallow the last bit of light filtering in from the open pit when Clint yells, "Now!"

Aaron flips the switch and a bright light replaces the dark. The blast's shockwave sends Clint hurtling into Aaron. He is knocked off his feet, then his head crashes into the tunnel wall with a sickening thud. Pain erupts in his skull and shoulders, and darkness swallows him whole.