The pavement of the jogging path was hardly abandoned as the last hints of sunlight faded over the New York horizon. Hues of orange and pink faded into blues and purples and then into blackness though no stars were visible thanks to the luminous glow of Manhattan in the evening. Winding her way between tourists heading back into the bustling city just beyond the trees, Scarlett Damien checked the time on her watch. Every night for the past two months she'd run through the park for an hour. The grass that lined the sidewalks changed to a sickly hue thanks to the chill in the air recently returning to the city thanks to the change in season.
Twenty minutes to go and then she could head back through the park, grab a coffee from a nearby street vendor to feed her caffeine addiction and then hail a cab that would take her back downtown. The area she lived in was usually reserved for Wall Street firms but considering her home doubled as her office, there had been an exception made. For Scarlett it had taken a long time to call the place home, since home was a term she'd deemed generally unfamiliar.
The past two months had been the longest Scarlett had ever spent in one place, at least since her youth in London with her parents. Until recently she had been a mercenary and her job had taken her all across the globe. Scarlett had always hated the term mercenary but there wasn't a more accurate one out there for what she'd been. She only used it if she absolutely had to pick just one word. Some referred to her as a spy, others as an assassin, and there were those that called her a thief or a murderer. None of them were wrong but none of them were right either. The English language was a complicated thing; there was no real word for what she'd been.
Scarlett suddenly made a turn off of her usual path, plotting a course further into Central Park. The crowd in front of her had been too daunting for that night so she chose to make another lap before she headed out for her daily coffee and caught a cab. Less crowded the further in she went, Scarlett easily lost track of time amongst the trees. She hadn't felt this good in months, maybe even longer than that.
It wasn't that Scarlett had been lazy about her exercise routine; far from that. The last year hadn't afforded her much of an opportunity to work on her physical stature, in fact it had done nothing but hinder it. Due to the nature of Scarlett's sketchy career, as far in the past as it seemed to now be, she had run into a bit of trouble. No, she'd run into too much trouble. A bit didn't properly describe the tumultuous year. Her ex-boyfriend had set her up to work with a company that hid their violent acts of terrorism behind a mask of benevolence, claiming to have delivered medical care to third world countries. Since she had always had an affinity for medical work and the technology involved, it had been an easy fit.
Scarlett had discovered the hard way that her ex, Scott Aaronson, had been betraying her for years before that point. Everything from stealing her discoveries she'd kept written in a little notebook on her person and selling them under the table to setting her up on a job to be tortured and brutalized in a third world country. He definitely got bad-boyfriend-of-the-year award. Now that Scarlett knew the truth she didn't know how she ever ignored it.
Gritting her teeth she picked up her pace over the concrete and through some of the lesser populated paths through Central Park. The tourist crowd that frequented Manhattan regardless of the time or season was thinning out in search of restaurants for dinner. Maybe she wouldn't go home in twenty minutes after all. She could simply keep running until her stress melted away into exhaustion.
Recovery had been a long and difficult path. But Scarlett had realized only the other day that she was still recovering from the chaos that had unraveled in the last year. It hadn't helped that after her initial torture in Afghanistan and subsequent escape she had taken what she thought was a legitimate, legal job and had instead been held against her will a second time and this time at the behest of her boyfriend. She'd been so blind to his motives that she'd practically ignored the signs. While at that time she hadn't thought it was Scott's fault and never would've suspected him, it had been his doing all the same.
One thing led to another and Scarlett thought Scott had died because of her actions. She had then been saved by the one and only Iron Man, the very man she thought was behind her captivity in the first place. That still ate away at her mind. How was it that MedCo, short for Medical Engineering Development Corporation, had gotten their hands on so much Stark Industries technology? It was one of the many things that had bore away at Scarlett's mind while she lay awake in bed at night next to the CEO of Stark Industries himself, Tony Stark.
She was still having a hard time believing that her relationship with the snarky billionaire, once the ultimate playboy, was working out as well as it truly was. She'd hated him for both his reputation and his hero act for the longest time and now she went home to him every night. They only sort of lived together. Her romantic situation with Tony was as complicated as the last year had been.
It was best not to think about how it all happened, she thought as she pushed harder at her run, concentrating on the sounds of her footfalls against the old pavement that was desperately in need of repaving.
Despite the chaos that Scarlett's mind tangoed around outright thinking about her body had healed up nicely. She'd had a nasty case of pneumonia for weeks after having neglected her health in pursuit of MedCo and her ex-boyfriend but it had faded long ago. The other wounds she'd sustained, while most of them were nothing more than bruises and scrapes, had healed with time. Other than a few remaining scabs from a gunshot wound or beatings she preferred to keep off of the forefront of her mind, Scarlett was in fighting shape.
In comparison to years past Scarlett was in better shape than she could remember. Every day since she'd recovered enough from the pneumonia to function she'd spent her time training to get back the muscular structure she'd lost while being in captivity and while in pursuit of those at MedCo who had attempted to ruin her life. On top of that she began to make attempts to retain the rights to discoveries and developments she'd made over the years but had been torn from her possession right under her nose and sold for a profit. That meant lawyers and law suits, courts, and putting the painful betrayal in the limelight for everyone to scrutinize. When she wasn't trying to find pieces of her life scattered throughout the ashes of her bad decisions she was "working" with Tony Stark. What it really meant was that they were getting very little done since their romantic tension hadn't diminished with time.
Tony had been surprisingly helpful when it came to her legal troubles. Though Scarlett thought she shouldn't have been surprised by that considering that half of Tony's life had been legal troubles and dancing his way out of a court room without paying a fine. He'd given her access to his lawyers but she had insisted on paying the bill on her own which had been a fight to get her way on.
Tony was also a surprisingly generous boyfriend.
Scarlett shook the thoughts from her head and concentrated again on the pavement. That was why she liked running in the evening. There was nothing but her, the pavement and the occasional group of tourists that she had to run around. But even that was calming. Central Park was a little paradise hidden in Manhattan. Somehow walking through the grass, past the horse drawn carriages, and beyond the trees drowned out the craziness of the rest of the city.
Finally her attempts to drown out her thoughts had succeeded and all she concentrated on was her heart rate, the sound of the pavement and how it felt so damn good to run her troubles away. Reaching into the pocket of her light sweater she turned the volume up on her mp3 player to further drown out the sounds of reality.
Her peaceful thoughts didn't last as long as she'd like when something, or rather someone, pushed her hard from behind. Nimbly Scarlett bounced from foot to foot, avoiding stumbling and falling over. Pulling the ear buds away, she let them dangle around her neck and watched a haggard looking man run past her, the gray hood of his dark sweatshirt falling away from his face. He was young but looked well past his age. Checking over his shoulder to see what he'd run into he flipped the middle finger then continued his run.
"Rude." Scarlett shook her head in dismay, running in place to keep her heart rate up while she was stopped. It wasn't the first time she had been practically run over by some kid not paying attention to where they were running on the path. But it was the first time that someone had flipped her off when they'd nearly mowed her down. There had been apologies, waves, and even some ignoring what they'd done but never aggression. The people of New York were generally friendly, if not particularly forward, people. Scarlett decided against teaching him a lesson and went on her way. What a way to ruin a perfectly good evening!
"Whatever." Scarlett rolled her eyes and went to put the ear buds back where they belonged so that she could drown out the annoyance with a sweet guitar song played by Jeff Beck. Pulling her long chocolate curls back into a proper ponytail she was instantly relieved she hadn't pursued the young man. The runner already from her mind even though she could still see him on the path in front of her, Scarlett smiled instead at the memory of Tony having replaced all of her music with Ozzy Osbourne tracks a few weeks ago. He knew how little she cared for Black Sabbath and had apparently gotten bored while waiting for her to get ready one night before dinner. It had been a very unpleasant surprise during her run and had cut it short since she couldn't tolerate it. Tony had been nothing but amused.
"Scarlett!" A familiar voice called from behind Scarlett and she stopped just short of putting her ear buds back. The dulcet tones of Jeff's guitar were so close and yet still so far. It was a voice she knew she wouldn't be able to ignore no matter how she tried or how much she wanted to. "Stop that guy! Catch him! Don't let him get away!"
For a brief second Scarlett considered at least trying to ignore the voice but her newly formed conscience wouldn't let her. Damn moral compass, why did it suddenly decide to point north? There was no avoiding what would come next. So Scarlett let the ear buds dangle around her neck and ran after the man who had nearly knocked her off of the pavement. It seemed she'd be teaching him a lesson after all. Picking up her pace, Scarlett shoved the dangling wires into her pocket so they wouldn't be ruined or get in the way.
"Damnit, Barton!" Scarlett shouted toward the voice behind her, focusing on the man in front of her who was quickly making his way out of the park. The path was dimly lit now that the sun had completely disappeared over the horizon. She hadn't realized just how long she'd been running.
"Sorry!" Scarlett cut through the grass, jumping over some of the bushes that were in her way, careful not to trip as she increased her speed in attempts to catch up with the man that Clint was pursuing. Clint Barton, also known as Hawkeye, was an agent working for S.H.I.E.L.D., a corporation that claimed they were making attempts to save the world. Scarlett hardly believed that any big shadow government agency such as the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, had such benevolent intentions as great a notion as it was. Hawkeye was the best marksmen around, or so it had been claimed, Scarlett hadn't seen that side of him in her experience though she only doubted it because it irritated him that she did.
"Don't lie to me!" Scarlett panted as she ran, following the young man out of the park and through the streets of Manhattan into an area that Scarlett wasn't familiar with. She usually stayed to her side of the park and then made her way back into the bustle of Midtown so she could catch a cab or hop on the subway.
Clint Barton, short cropped blond hair, blue eyes with a stocky build came running through the park, strides behind Scarlett now but still close enough that she could hear and see him if she glanced over her shoulder. Red in the face, Clint looked like he had a bruise forming around his eye and as though he'd been chasing this particular fellow for quite some time. Scarlett would have to help him.
This was not the first time Clint Barton had interrupted her day with a bang. The last time she had been on her way out of a meeting with her lawyer and had been practically struck by a stray arrow. Yeah, Clint was that kind of marksman. It had ended bloody and very public though Scarlett couldn't deny that she'd had fun.
"I thought I told you that I don't work for S.H.I.E.L.D.!" Scarlett followed the younger man through the twists and turns of Manhattan streets and alleyways. The man they were pursuing through the streets seemed to be familiar with the area. Scarlett knew that was likely bad news for the both of them. Clint, in street clothes and not the maroon and black S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform Scarlett was accustomed to seeing him in, caught up to her but was breathing harder than ever.
"I know! I know you're not but I happened to see you in the area and I could use the help!" Clint panted, nodding toward the alleyway. "See you on the other side!"
"He's smarter than that!" Scarlett shouted after Clint but he was already gone. S.H.I.E.L.D. had been trying for months, ever since her incident with MedCo in Russia, to employ her but she had declined the offer on every occasion. Scarlett saw the offer as an attempt to control a loose cannon. They didn't want people like Scarlett running wild out in the world, people with superior skills and intellect. It wasn't that Scarlett had any inhuman skills it was what she did with the skills she did have that made her a threat.
That was the real purpose of S.H.I.E.L.D. or at least that's what Scarlett had guessed it was. She assumed it was handy for people who weren't purpose driven like Clint or a few of the others that Scarlett had met in passing but couldn't recall names (though she was sure there was a Peter Parker which she thought was a hilarious name so had remembered). But for people like Tony and like her they didn't need anyone trying to control them, in fact the attempts to control them only forced them to further rebel and to cause more chaos.
It was true that Scarlett had caused a considerable amount of destruction over the years, but she was doing her best to make amends for that now in her own way. She didn't want S.H.I.E.L.D. holding her hand through the process or telling her what she could and couldn't do. Sometimes Scarlett did the opposite of what she was asked to do just to let people know that she could do whatever the hell she wanted. The only difference was that S.H.I.E.L.D. had the power to put her in prison if she didn't cooperate.
It didn't seem to matter to some S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives whether or not she was employed by the agency or not. Such as the Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff, who was an old colleague of Scarlett's and Hawkeye who she'd been introduced to in Moscow a few months ago when she'd been at her worst. They had managed to involve her in S.H.I.E.L.D. business and personal business at every opportunity. It was both endearing and horribly annoying.
Scarlett looped around a trash can on the corner of the street, jumped on a concrete barrier left over a grating above the subway. The man in the hooded sweatshirt ducked out of the alleyway, hoping to fake out his pursuers and instead nearly ran straight into Scarlett. With a yelp he tried to shove her out of the way.
Grabbing his arm she twisted him around and shoved him hard against the wall. Coughing from the force of the impact, the man twisted away, slid out of the hooded sweater that had gotten him caught and ran past Scarlett, jumping over the same barrier that Scarlett had leapt over only seconds ago. Holding onto the sweater in case Clint needed it, Scarlett turned and ran after him.
"Duck!" Clint yelled and the whistling of an arrow rang past her.
"What the hell?" The man shouted in surprise when the arrow narrowly missed him. It wasn't everyday that people were pursued by an archer in the middle of Manhattan.
"I told you!" Scarlett shouted to Clint who was running behind her again, having jumped from the fire escape in the alleyway that he'd suspected the man would run into but had faked them out on instead.
"We can't let him go, hold onto that jacket if you can! It might have evidence!" Clint grumbled under his breath about running this much not being part of his job description.
"What did this kid do?"
"I was under cover!" Clint gritted his teeth, doing his best to keep up with Scarlett. It was obvious that cardio was not part of his usual exercise regimen. Given that he was generally a long range fighter, he obviously didn't anticipate getting into any high speed pursuits outside of a car.
"That explains why you look ridiculous."
"Ridiculous? This is more ridiculous than what I usually wear?" Clint laughed behind her the tension immediately easing.
"Yes." Scarlett realized it would explain why she hadn't seen Clint for weeks and why it had mostly been Natasha that had been interrupting her at weird times of the day in futile attempts to get her to join up with S.H.I.E.L.D. "What did this guy do that warranted a S.H.I.E.L.D. undercover sting operation?"
"Drug trafficking! This asshole has been pushing dangerous substances around the neighborhood and we needed to find out who he was getting them from! Cover was blown while collecting evidence. Long story short, he wasn't where he was reported to be and they suspected me from the get go. Can't let him go now or all that work is going to go to waste!"
"We have to corner him. It's the only way." Scarlett nodded toward the man who was seemingly panicking and getting sloppier. He couldn't run forever and she guessed that even though Clint wasn't prepared for running, the man they were pursuing wasn't in nearly as good shape as either of them. "Drug trafficking seems a little out of S.H.I.E.L.D. territory, Clint. What's the rest of the story?"
"This isn't pot or even heroin, Scarlett" Clint grunted, looking at his options. "I'll scare him back around into the alleyway, you cut around."
"What's the drug then? Has to be nasty…"
"I'll tell you later! Out… of… breath!" Clint waved her off and started running in the opposite direction. Scarlett wasn't sure that his idea would work but it was better than continuing their pursuit. She'd already been at it for long enough and her legs were starting to feel like jelly. It would be a wonder if she was able to properly stand the next morning after running for so long.
"God damnit, Barton…" Scarlett cursed under her breath and slipped into the alleyway that Clint had pointed out between two stores that had already closed their doors for the evening. She hadn't bothered to look at what they were. Stopping, Scarlett hunched over and caught her breath then flattened herself against the wall to avoid revealing her position with her shadow. Once this was over with, she would be able to catch her breath and possibly smack Clint on the back of his head.
Footsteps signaled their approach. She could hear the sound of another arrow whistling past nearby. Clint very rarely missed his target; he was missing this guy on purpose in hopes of directing his run which was clever but Scarlett wasn't sure that this kid wouldn't see through it. Then again they'd been running for a long time and even longer before they'd run into Scarlett. It was possible that he would be too tired to be on the lookout for a clever maneuver.
Scarlett took the sweatshirt she'd swiped and hid it behind the trashcan nearest to her before continuing her wait. Sure enough, seconds later the young man came running around the corner in hopes of throwing off Clint.
Before the runner had realized what hit him, Scarlett clothes lined him. He fell flat onto his back, the wind knocked out of him on the concrete. Clint came running from behind, holding onto the black bow that he'd been using to guide his target.
Leaning over the man on the ground who was holding a stitch in his side and coughing, Clint grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him close.
"You little shit!" Clint made attempts to catch his breath, folding up the retractable bow and slipping it over his back and into his quiver. Then he swung at the young man, knocking him back on the ground and giving him a black eye to match the one that was forming around his own eye. "Scarlett, good going! Check his pockets."
"Uh, Clint?" Scarlett had been about to help him pull the young man to his feet but had stopped when several men had come creeping out of the shadows, none looking too pleased with them.
"I don't run asshole, do you hear me? You have me chasing you all through the damn park and you think I'm not going to punch you in the face?" Clint threw his fist into the young man's face again but he only laughed in response. "Don't laugh at me! Scarlett he's laughing what the hell did you do to him?"
"Clint." Scarlett grabbed his shoulder and forced him to pay attention to her. Wild blue eyes met hers, adrenaline and rash decisions obviously on the forefront of his thoughts.
"What?" There was no need for her to respond once he saw the dozen or so men that had emerged from the shadows of the alleyway and from the street. The success faded from his features and was replaced by dread. "Oh, that."
"Narc. Rat. Fucking cop." The bloodied man on the ground spat at Clint and then got to his feet with the aid of one of the men who had entered the alleyway.
"I told you he was too smart for this." Scarlett whispered under her breath.
"He lured us here. Didn't see that coming."
"He lured you here, I saw it coming." Scarlett pursed her lips. "I was just out for my run, this is your fault."
"I would've hated for you to miss out on all this fun."
"What a gentleman." Scarlett took deep breaths in hopes of shaking off the exhaustion.
"That's me." Clint smiled then spoke to the group of men who had surrounded them and now watched them skeptically. "So… how long have you known?"
"Long enough." The thick Brooklyn accent of a scarred up man on the right met them. "You're gonna pay. Traitors lose their tongue."
"Well, I like my tongue so we'll see about that. You see this is my good friend here and she's pretty pissed off that I interrupted her jog through the park. She's angry enough to take you all out, I think." Clint nodded toward Scarlett who rolled her eyes. "We really do need to come up with a name for you. My pointing and gesturing doesn't quite do it justice."
"I told you, I don't do nicknames. I'm not twelve, Hawkeye." The gangsters watched the conversation, exchanging confused and wary glances. Some of them laughed at Clint's threat obviously not taking it very seriously. Scarlett wasn't sure that Clint should be bragging about her then and there. A dozen to two were pretty dreadful odds, even if they were particularly skilled at what they did. It was likely these men didn't come unarmed.
"Oh come on, they're fun, even Natasha has one. Black Widow is bad ass, we can come up with something just as cool for you."
"Enough!" The scarred man stepped forward, tired of the mocking conversation. "Teach him a lesson boys. Stay out of this little lady and I'll spare you. I don't like to hit girls."
"That's a shame because I have no problem hitting boys." Scarlett tilted her head to the side and glared at him. "Clint."
"Now?" He responded knowingly, the bow removed from his quiver at once. Scarlett nodded her head, hoping that Clint would get somewhere high above, so he had a better vantage point and could stop their assailants easier. He was instantly more useful when he was a flight higher than everyone else.
The scarred man, angry as can be, and waved his hand to signal to his men. With a yell, the gangsters ran toward them, sure that they had outnumbered the traitor and the woman he'd picked up in the park. The man closest to Clint removed a switchblade from his pocket and swung wildly at him. Clint snapped his bow open with a flick of his wrist and smacked away the hand that held the knife though he didn't drop the blade. With another artful spin of his bow he'd successfully made the man stumble toward Scarlett.
The gangsters didn't seem to want to hurt Scarlett, which played to her advantage at first. It was unbelievably stupid for them to hold back simply because she was a woman. When he nearly ran into her after losing his footing, Scarlett grabbed the gangster by the arm that held the knife, spun him around and then smashed him face first into the wall, holding the back of his head with a yell. There was an audible wince from the other gangsters as their comrade fell to the ground with a thud. Scarlett kicked the knife far out of his reach in case he came too before they were finished.
So much for a peaceful evening run through the park.
"You bitch!" The scarred man, the leader of the group, rushed toward Scarlett, obviously aggravated with her and no longer afraid to hit a woman as he had claimed. When he made a sloppy grab for her, Scarlett ducked low out of his reach, clenched her fist then hit him hard in the stomach before kicking him backwards.
"You wanted to see how hard a girl can hit, how's it feel now buddy?" Scarlett stood back up and braced herself for a fight. Thankfully for her, and for Clint at that matter, Scarlett rather liked fighting. She was good at it and it was more fun than she was willing to admit. What she didn't like was the fact that these guys were likely armed and willing to play dirty.
"I warned you guys!" Clint shouted over his shoulder, swinging his bow around toward the next gang member who came toward him. The bow string snapped open and with it he pulled the assailant closer to him, catching him by surprise. He then swung the gangster around with the momentum built and released him stumbling into another gang member who came at him with brass knuckles on each hand. The bow still had an advantage, since the assailants didn't seem to know what to do with it.
"Get to your advantage!" Scarlett shouted over the grunting chaos of the fight.
A man to his left punched and Clint dodged then made an attempt to jump and grab the fire escape. His fingers clutched the ladder before he was grabbed around the waist and pulled away from it. The ladder slid downward with a metallic crash. As he got to his feet another attacker grabbed his shirt and pulled him backwards away from the ladder. He smashed his hand into the assailant's nose and was released, then dodged left and right to avoid further attacks from another. Sliding away from the group he pressed a few buttons on the grip of his bow which triggered his quiver that would change the heads of his arrows. As quickly as he'd slid away, Clint then had an arrow in his hand which he pulled back into the bow and aimed at the man closest to him.
The bow hit its target, not puncturing through flesh but rather gripping at it with a claw and then releasing a strong electrical jolt that would knock him straight into unconsciousness. It was better than a stun gun. The man twitched and screamed in pain, falling back into the one behind him and knocking them both to the ground, twitching and unconscious.
"Two birds with one stone." Clint smirked but then yelped in surprise when another assailant grabbed his quiver which twisted easily off of his shoulder and threw it aside. Clint snapped the bow closed and then threw it over his shoulder, allowing the string to wrap around his chest. With a running leap he took down the man who had stolen his quiver, knocking them both straight into a third man who Scarlett had been blocking and getting ready to knock out. "You're welcome!"
"You almost hit me!"
"But I didn't so there's that." Clint wrestled with the man beneath him. Scarlett made to assist but instead had to jump left in order to avoid a wild swing from another assailant armed with a knife. When he swung again Scarlett smacked the back of his wrist to throw off his swing which successfully made him stumble forward. Watching his hands to make sure he wouldn't hit her in her next move, Scarlett swatted his hand upward, throwing him off guard, then slipped between the man's legs, sliding on the concrete. "That's more like it!" Clint cheered her on while grabbing the man beneath him in a headlock.
Once behind him Scarlett kicked him hard in the back of his knee and he fell forward, the knife clattering to the ground. On her feet as quickly as she had been on her knees, Scarlett was shoved by another attacker. Turning quickly she grabbed his fist to throw off the next blow which he never made. She twisted his arm and then ducked low and pulled him over her shoulder, making him land on his back on the ground with a sickening thud in a puddle of what Scarlett could only hope was water. Then she kicked him hard in the ribs in hopes of knocking the wind out of him and rendering him useless.
The man who she'd knocked in the knees had retrieved his knife and swung at her again, forcing her to jump backwards out of the way of the blade or get slashed apart. Unfortunately behind her had been another assailant and the two went stumbling to the ground. Before the man with the blade could go after Scarlett, Clint grabbed his wrist, pinched at his tendons and twisted hard until he was forced to drop the knife. Clint kicked the blade far out of the way so it wouldn't be easily retrieved. But the man who once had the knife used his free arm to grab Clint by the back of his shirt and threw him against the nearby brick wall with a crash.
Scarlett was lifted completely off the ground by the man she'd fallen into. He was built like a tank and she guessed had about as much brains. Each blow she'd blocked was sure to leave a bruise. Grabbing onto his thumb, Scarlett twisted it and pressed her fingers on the pressure point just below, being released but also falling hard onto the ground. The tank tried to stomp on her and knock her out of the way but Scarlett quickly slid across the concrete, rolling out of the way of each blow.
It would take more than a few throws and blows to knock this guy out so Scarlett tried to calculate what needed to be done instead. Her best bet was to suffocate him into unconsciousness but making her way to his head would be no easy feat. Dodging another kick, Scarlett slid to the side and grabbed his leg, finding the pressure point in his tendon on his ankle. He fell to the ground on one knee with a howl of pain. Scarlett climbed quickly onto his back and wrapped her arms around his neck but it was so thick that she knew she wouldn't be able to manage. So with a kick against the wall behind her, Scarlett leapt onto his shoulders and wrapped her legs around his neck. One hand over his nose, the other over his mouth, Scarlett squeezed until finally he gave into the wooziness that quickly came over him and fell to the ground.
"The bigger they are… Clint you're missing a pun!"
Scarlett leapt off of his shoulders before he fell and then stumbled backwards as the swing of a baseball bat barely missed her. Quickly she glanced over her shoulder to see if Clint was nearby and if he was okay. Unfortunately it looked like he'd gotten in over his head and was taking on three much bigger guys and getting the hell pummeled out of him. She winced as she saw one of them punch him hard in the stomach and him bend forward with the force, gagging.
As the batter came swinging at her again, Scarlett jumped out of the way of the bat, then grabbed the swinger's arm as he came back to swing again and stopped him from pulling it for more force. With a jab she smashed the bat out of his hand, the handle crashing into his stomach. Coughing and gagging, he stared up at Scarlett with wide surprised eyes. Taking the now loose bat, Scarlett flipped it around in her hands and swung it hard against the batter's back, forcing him to the ground. If she'd hit him any harder she was sure birds would've flown circles around his head. The wood of the bat cracked under the pressure but Scarlett kept it with her anyway. Even broken it was useful.
Sneaking past one of the men coming to provide backup to his batter friend, Scarlett pulled the bat around the front of the man in the middle delivering the blows to Clint and pressed it hard against his windpipe. When he choked and sputters, Scarlett swung the bat around and removed it from his neck, allowing the man to fall back onto the ground. Swinging the bat at the man to Clint's left it cracked over his back and split into two. Scarlett threw it behind her, useless. She didn't want to kill any of the assailants, just give them a good beating.
No longer pinned down by the man in the middle, Clint head butted the guy on his right who fell backwards. Scarlett grabbed him as he fell and twisted him around then ducked low to knock his legs out from beneath him. When he hit the ground she hit him hard in the throat, knocking him out. Clint winced as he watched her work, holding the sore spot on his stomach.
"You should be the Killer Bee because that stung." Scarlett laughed and shook her head.
"I guess you didn't break a rib then? That was so bad." Making a move to help him retrieve his quiver, Scarlett was surprised when someone came running at her from the side. The scarred man, yelling at the top of his lungs out of anger, ran right into Scarlett tackling her and sending them both flying through the door that cracked under the pressure, and right inside the shop.
"Scarlett!" Clint grabbed his quiver and threw it over his back where it belonged then leapt over where the scarred man now lay on top of Scarlett trying to gather his bearings after their fall. The door broken in behind the counter of the shop triggered an alarm that began ringing loudly, lights flashing to alert those outside that the store was being robbed. At the sound of the alarm a few of the gang members seemed frightened and decided that the fight wasn't worth time in jail and ran off. But a handful of those that had been knocked to the ground had woken up and were angry, rejoining the fray.
Quickly Clint pulled the scarred man up by his collar and threw him toward the counter that they were behind. He fell face first into the cash register which crashed open with a comical ding, but scratched up his face in the process.
"I'm fine!" Getting back onto her feet Scarlett dusted herself off and went to help Clint with the scarred man but was pulled back out the door she'd been thrown through by two of the men who had gotten up to join the battle. Turning and grabbing onto the frame of the door, Scarlett spun around and kicked one of them in the face. He fell backwards but the second man continued to grab at her. Still using the frame of the doorway to her advantage, Scarlett jumped up and wrapped her legs around the shoulders of the second man, pulling him into the store and then kicking him face first onto the floor. Jumping from where she held herself up, she straddled the man now on the ground and rolled him onto his back before punching him hard in the jaw, her knuckles now bloodied and sore.
"Hey, Scarlett!" Clint knocked the scarred man in the face and then elbowed him in the face.
"Kind of busy!" She responded, but threw a glance toward him to make sure he was alright.
"Why do I doubt that?"
"We're in a pharmacy!"
"No shit!" Scarlett looked around, realizing that they actually were in a pharmacy which seemed pretty funny considering the whole reason they were in this situation in the first place was of a medicinal nature. Mid-laugh Clint was grabbed by the scarred man and thrown right over the counter with a yelp. Rolling backwards in an attempt to regain his stature without falling, Clint ended up bumping right into the shelves that lined the store filled with various over the counter medications. Making mad attempts to grab the shelves to keep them from falling was futile. Clint fell forward with the first shelf which then crashed into the next and caused a chain reaction. Like dominos the shelves collapsed on one another, leaving a helter-skelter mess throughout the building.
Wincing as she watched the shelves collapse one on top of the other, Scarlett stood on her tip toes, even though she didn't need the extra height to try and catch a glimpse of Clint in the mess.
"Good job, Barton." Once Clint stumbled to his feet and rubbed his head, Scarlett was sure that he was okay. He didn't look off of his game, just a little disoriented from having made such a mess.
"Aren't you just a little concerned for my head?"
"No way, it's too hard to be damaged by that little fall. You'll be fine." Clint laughed, exhaling out of his nose making a comical sound. From the doorway, Scarlett was tackled onto the counter. But she'd known that they were left alone for too long and had been on her guard so prepared herself for a blow. Grabbing onto the end of the counter, she pulled herself over it much to the surprise of the man who had been trying to tackle her. He flopped onto the counter like a fish when she disappeared from his grasp.
Scarlett took him by the back of his shirt then threw him off of the counter and into the mess that Clint had made only seconds prior. Clint stood and watched her, surprised that she'd so nimbly escaped.
"Very nice, Killer Bee."
"That is not and never will be my name, but thank you." Scarlett dusted her hands off of on her exercise shorts even though they wouldn't come clean so easily.
"If you want something darker you could be the Raven." Clint aimed an arrow at one of the men behind the counter, watching him stumble blindly and trip over someone already knocked unconscious on the floor.
"Let it go already!" Scarlett ducked when one of the men came at her from behind the counter, trying to throw a punch at her. He'd been knocked around so much already that he was dizzy and his aim was dreadful. While Scarlett and Clint had been knocked around as well they'd both been trained to handle taking a beating and to still be on their guard. As talented as these thugs were when it came to taking care of themselves they didn't have the skill that the assassins had.
"Think about it, you can quote Edgar Allan Poe every time you do something cool."
"What is this, CSI: Miami? Come on, Barton." Scarlett couldn't help but laugh at the mental image of her dressed all in black with a feathery cloak, quoting the Tell-Tale Heart after having taken out a number of villains.
"It isn't but it could be. I've got some sunglasses in my pocket." Clint smirked then peered around Scarlett, surprised that they weren't overrun by gangsters. The store alarm was still ringing loudly and annoyingly. Scarlett caught sight of shadows moving behind Clint and widened her eyes before taking cover.
"Get down!" She shouted and Clint didn't hesitate to jump behind the debris of the shelves that had been knocked over. Large heavy barrels, turning out to be trash cans, crashed through the front windows of the pharmacy, showering glass every which way over Clint and over Scarlett who had ducked behind what remained of the shelves that didn't provide nearly enough cover.
The scarred man, in the confusion, had climbed out of the rubble and started after Clint again, throwing punches at him. Clint blocked them with his arms and then kicked him away. Scarlett was on her feet again, but knew that they were far outnumbered and worse off than they had been through the entire fight. The men she thought had run away cowering from the alarm had in reality gone to retrieve weapons that they could have an advantage with.
"Barton, we're in trouble." Clint stepped over the rubble and met her in the middle of the store near the half destroyed counter. Standing back to back with her he pulled his bow out again, opening it with a skilled flick of his wrist. The men scattered about the brutalized pharmacy were getting to their feet at the behest of their leader who circled around to the front windows, bleeding from a cut near his eye, his lip puffy and swollen from the beating he'd taken.
There were six men at the windows of the pharmacy, each holding a handgun or a shotgun of a variety of makes and models. Scarlett looked toward the back of the store and saw three more men holding various short range weapons, including half of the baseball bat she'd earlier broken on the backs of one of them.
"Mid-back." Clint whispered. Scarlett stood back to back with him and reached behind Clint where she felt that underneath his shirt in a hidden holster he had a handgun in case of emergencies. Removing it from the holster quickly she cocked it and readied herself for a shoot out.
"Street lights." She whispered. If they could disorient the attackers then they would be able to get away, maybe.
"Smoke." Clint nodded toward the quiver on his back filled with various arrowheads, each with a different ability that could work to their advantage. To think that only a little while ago Scarlett's biggest worry had been finding a cab to take her back to Stark Tower.
"On three." Scarlett calculated their odds and they weren't great, but she'd faced worse in the last few months alone. In the back of her mind she wondered just how mad Tony would be when he found out how her afternoon had gone. Tony Stark didn't like missing out on the action and not being the center of it. Then again, he was the one who insisted he couldn't come running with her because they'd spend more time giving autographs than they would exercising which Scarlett found ridiculous.
Before Clint began to count sirens could be heard rounding the corner. The alarm had alerted the police to the break in and in the moments that past they had become aware of the blow out that had occurred in the alleyway. Someone must have phoned in a tip about the fight.
"Hands up!" The voices of cops outside on the street echoed throughout the store. Scarlett relaxed her shoulders as the men on either side of them held up their hands and promptly dropped their weapons. Even the gang members knew that they wouldn't make it out of there if they fought and the charges would be even worse than they were already. Scarlett rested her hand with the gun down then turned to give it back to Clint who took it gratefully.
"Come on, right here!" Clint held up his hand for a high five which Scarlett looked at skeptically. Seconds later she reconsidered and gave him a high five. That was until the cops pointed their weapons at them and told them to freeze.
"Sir, put down the weapon! Ma'am step away from him!"
"You guys don't understand." Clint started forward, making no attempt to drop either the gun or his bow.
"Stand down! I said stand down!" The police officers held up their weapons and aimed them all at Clint who froze in place and held his hands up on either side of him as a gesture of peace, his eyebrows so high on his forehead he could've sold the space on his eyelids for advertising
"Clint, I suggest you stand down." Scarlett looked at him knowingly, trying desperately to keep a straight face. It was a priceless moment, at least until they turned their aim to Scarlett.
"On the ground! Both of you get on your knees!" Scarlett knew they had no other choice. It didn't matter how much they objected or how long they tried to convince them that they were the good guys, it wouldn't matter until they got clearance from S.H.I.E.L.D.
For all the cops knew, they were just as guilty as the gangsters they had been taking refuge from. Clint looked knowingly to Scarlett then put down both of the weapons he had, kicking them away from him. After that he got on his knees and placed his hands behind his head. Scarlett did the same, what else could she do?
It was just another evening spent with Clint Barton, codename Hawkeye.