AUTHOR'S NOTE: My stories tend to hang together (however loosely), but I don't usually do sequels. This, however, is very much a sequel - so while it isn't completely necessary to have read my Marvel_Bang story "Second Mouse," it would most certainly help.
This is a slightly more polished version of a Little Something I wrote for Crazy4Orcas as a Hallowe'en treat, because she had asked so nicely and even offered bribes (I'm not cheap, but also not proud). It's been sitting on my Mac ever since; but so many others of you seemed to want a little more of that particular fusion 'verse and I had some time yesterday, so here it is.
I own none of the characters mentioned herein; my only profit is the fun of writing. If you run into Daniel Craig or Jeremy Renner, though, feel free to give them my coordinates.
(A Coda to Second Mouse)
"You wanted to see me, M?"
"Yes, Bond. I did. Please close the door, Ms Moneypenny. From the outside."
Bond winks at Eve as he shuts the door in her face, in that if-you-have-dinner-with-me-I'll-tell-you-everything-(maybe) way that is increasingly getting traction with her. He turns to the Director, one eyebrow raised in anticipation.
"Ma'am," he says, his lack of inflection signalling his resignation to whatever she might throw at him today. Given the peremptory summons that pulled him out of a job tracing hostile infiltration of the CERN institute, it has to be a doozy. In this line of work, Bond knows, you have to be ready for everything.
Well, as it turns out, maybe not quite everything – which, in the age of high-energy particle colliders and inter-dimensional rifts over Manhattan is saying something.
As usual, M does not beat around the bush.
"Remember that agent from Nick Fury's outfit, the one who helped you almost fuck up that operation on Skye? What was his name again, the one with the arms?"
Bond blinks back his surprise at the mundane nature of the question. At least he doesn't have to think about the answer, having just had the New York station chief send Clint Barton a case of Smithwicks - on the assumption that the guy could probably use it, after the shit that went down there last week. (Of course, having been stuck in Geneva, where they roll back the sidewalks at 5 pm, Bond has no way of knowing whether Barton had been involved in all that mayhem, but he doesn't seem the type to sit out an alien invasion.)
But what really throws Bond is what M seems to consider Barton's most memorable feature; he files the info for future reference. Seriously. Who knew she … looked? Possibilities.
"I think you mean Agent Barton. Clint Barton, Ma'am."
"Clint? Really? How … quaint and yet, how strangely appropriate. But yes. That sounds right. Anyway. You do remember the things I authorized to be given to that man, those arrowheads Q had insisted on building for him in his spare time?"
The Director's distaste for one of her underlings actually having such a thing as spare time is obvious, but there seems to be more at play here. Bond just frowns and nods; she will get around to telling him what she is really getting at in her own time. Testing his memory surely isn't the endgame.
He doesn't have to wait long.
"It seems, Commander, that one of those arrows has been implicated in those shenanigans in New York, specifically in almost bringing down Nick Fury's favourite toy. You know, that flying aircraft carrier with the cloaking mechanism, that they think we know nothing about."
She gets a faraway look in her eyes as she is – briefly – diverted by the notion of owning such a ship. (The good Director is still pissed off about the time that nutcase Silva blew up her office, and MI-6 had to operate from the sewers for eight months.) But just as quickly, the realization that Her Majesty's Treasury would never stand for such an extravagance crosses her features like a shadow, and she gets back on point.
"Apparently one of the things Q built for this man is an arrow that, when precision-fired into a computer console, would act as a virulent USB stick."
Bond nods; that rings a bell, he remembers Barton gloating over it. M continues with a sour expression on her face.
"The device disrupted essential operations on the helicarrier within seconds. And it appears that your Mr. Barton deployed it, unless S.H.I.E.L.D. has more than one archer on staff. Not that this is strictly our concern."
Bond digests this pronouncement for a moment. M is not one to linger over feats of technology or marksmanship, and the whole idea of trusted agents working for the enemy is par for the course in their lives (even if he wouldn't have thought it of Barton – a thought to be examined later; you don't give up on friends that easily).
So, being a practical man, he concludes that what he should probably take away from all of this is the fact that an MI-6 produced piece of equipment has cost a foreign agency rather a great deal of blood and treasure. And that they might want some of that back.
"Bloody hell?" seems the most appropriate reaction under the circumstances, and covers a lot of territory.
"Precisely," M agrees. "We cannot have this officially traced to us. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is on the war path against agency spending, and the last thing MI-6 needs is a claim for damages from the World Security Council. Or, worse, having the media decide they need a juicy follow-up to Wikileaks, and finding a way to blame us for the shit storm that hit New York."
That makes sense. But what does she expect him to do about it?
Unfortunately, M reads minds (his, anyway) as well as she does tea leaves and the entrails of politicians, and answers his unspoken question with only a tinge of annoyance at its perceived impertinence.
"What I expect you to do about it, Bond, is to make this problem go away. I do not care how. Just … fix it."
She punctuates her statement with a resentful look, as if the whole thing is somehow his fault. (Maybe it is; maybe he should have just let Barton fall into that volcanic fissure?)
Without another word she turns to the window, where the usual May shower is causing rivulets of water to crawl down the glass.
Contrary to popular belief, even agents assigned to the vaunted Double-Oh cadre have actual offices, hidden deep in the bowels of MI-6 headquarters. Bond isn't in his very often - usually only to do paperwork after an assignment - but it's where he's headed now, for want of a better place to sit and think for a while.
Or he would be, if Moneypenny hadn't stopped him in his tracks on his way out of the Director's lair.
"Well?" she prompts nonchalantly, her brown eyes wide with artful curiosity, and just this short of batting her distractingly long eyelashes. "What did she want?"
Finally. Usually, Moneypenny has the drop on him, given her proximity to the boss. This is an opportunity that does not come very often. Bond allows the smallest of smiles to curl his lips.
"Dinner?" he counters. Nothing in this world is free, and what he's just learned ought to be good for three courses, possibly even drinks afterwards. "I'll tell you then..."
Eve sighs and rolls her eyes.
"Fine. I pick the place though – I'm done fighting with lobster tongs and worrying about linen table cloths. I'll send you an e-mail with the coordinates and the time. Don't be late, Bond."
"I wouldn't dare," he deadpans and heads for the elevator. It's getting easier – maybe it's time to try for drinks afterward.
He starts taking mental inventory of what he's seen on TV in his hotel room in Geneva. That pretty scientist turned out to be more interested in the news than in his company, but he couldn't actually blame her, and they'd spent a surprisingly pleasant evening switching between BBC and CNN before she'd confessed that all that violence actually turned her on and …
Extrapolating indisputable facts from journalistic hyperbole, these are the basics: Some madman naming himself after the Norse God of Lies and Tricks, commanding an army of aliens. Tony Stark, former arms dealer turned vigilante do-gooder, flying through the air shooting at things, apparently with a companion wearing a cape doing likewise. A raging green … abomination, similar to the one that trashed Harlem a few years back, wreaking havoc in a way that seemed to reduce the external threat. A competent soldier in a ridiculous outfit, conducting traffic on the ground.
S.H.I.E.L.D.'s command centre, crippled by MI-6 technology last seen in the hands of Clint Barton, archer extraordinaire. Who could fire an arrow into a computer, and make it stick? M is right, even the M.O. has Barton's name on it.
Bond feels a trip to New York coming on. But first, a spot of research.
He enters the office he shares with 005, who has been on a long-term assignment to Moscow since March; it is blissfully empty. Good. Bond folds himself into a hideously uncomfortable chair and flicks on his computer. Almost immediately, e-mail notifications start blooming on the screen in a series of tiny, rectangular assaults on his sanity. Finally, the computer gives up and just says "you have received additional messages". (Whatever happened to stove-piping?)
He scrolls through them rather perfunctorily given his primary mission, but he hasn't been here for some time, and he might as well. (He once missed an official notification from Records that he'd been declared dead – why they'd sent it to his e-mail remained a mystery – and it had taken three months to get his salary reinstated.)
One of the subject lines catches his eye: "Your New York Friend". Coincidence? Bond has been around far too many blocks to believe in that anymore. He pounces to open the message before it vanishes into the "2,376 unread" vault.
It's from the New York station chief of MI-6, the one he'd asked to send Barton his quarterly case of Smithwicks early. He's not the same as the one Bond had originally tapped for the arrangement, but given that Hawkeye had gotten S.H.I.E.L.D. to pay for the repairs to the Aston Martin when MI-6 balked over some "personal vehicles" rule, Bond had made a point of indoctrinating each of the man's successors. (Besides, a personal beer delivery into S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters is as good an inter-agency icebreaker as anything, and none of them had ever complained.)
The message is chattier than usual, but then again, these are breathless times:
"Delivered refreshments as per usual. HQ of recipient's agency is a mess, much like the rest of mid-town Manhattan. A lot of good people lost their lives, although ranks have closed around some of the more interesting aspects of the invasion, including suggestions of inside help.
Thought you'd be interested in the attached clips, taken by one of our operatives during and after the attack. I had no idea that this mate of yours was this well connected. Do you think you could possibly get me a set of autographs of the 'Avengers' for my daughter? She is particularly taken with Captain America. Morrison."
Bemused, Bond clicks on the attachment – and it's only years of training that keep his jaw from dropping on the table. What Morrison sent is far, far better than anything the BBC or CNN had to offer. There they are, the team Nick Fury had hinted to M all those years ago he wanted to assemble - unbelievable but very, very real, in the ruins of what looks like Park Avenue.
Barton, looking unusually intense and determined even for him, is right in there, firing arrow after arrow, some without looking. He stops to pull several out of dead aliens' faces (Bond winces as he remembers the squelching sound), just after a flying giant in a red cape lands beside him. Thor. The bloody God of Thunder, indeed. And there's the soldier, the one from the comic books.
Clearly, his one-time partner is one of The Six that the papers have been on about, and based on this the hype seems to be true: A god, a legend, a monster and a flying genius billionaire. Plus, the two people widely reported as 'mysterious figures' or 'unknown heroes' in black leather, one of whom is clearly his erstwhile comrade-in-arms, Clint 'Hawkeye' Barton.
But it's the sixth person that leaves him as stunned as James Bond has been these many years: Flaming red hair, as lithe and gorgeous as he remembers her, efficient and glorious in dispensing death among the Chitauri.
Naida Ramirez. No … Natasha Romanoff, Barton had said her name was, just before he headed off to kill her.
Yet there she is - undeniably alive, fighting alongside Barton, saving New York from an alien invasion.
"Sonofabitch," Bond mutters, before clicking on the second clip.
The peace and quiet of Central Park, that same cast of characters - well, the green monster is gone and there's a plain looking guy there instead, which is odd but probably just as well. Plus the one the media called Loki, gagged and in chains.
Barton and Romanoff are walking up to Loki side by side, like old friends heading to the pub. Barton engages in a brief, bitter staring contest with the alien until Romanoff, leaning into him, whispers something that makes him smile, wiping ten years off his face.
Friends? Lovers? Close friends, at the very least, judging by their body language. The kind you've been to hell with and back. How had Romanoff put it? Second Mouse gets the cheese? And Barton never said a goddamn thing, any one of the times they've met since.
Bond puts the thought in park. There's a mission to be completed, and an inconvenient truth to be suppressed. Focus, James.
The little clip has frozen on Barton and Romanoff getting into a car with a stern-looking emblem on the side. Into a S.H.I.E.L.D. car. Together.
Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, is with S.H.I.E.L.D.?
Bond sits back in his ergonomically designed desk chair and pushes it back far enough that he can put his legs on the desk with a thump. Time to re-file, re-sort and re-assess all available information.
He could of course waste time pretending to be peeved off at the thought of Barton having walked off with what increasingly looks like the Grand Prize in their little Scottish adventure. But funnily enough, he isn't, not really. If Barton likes his life complicated, well, he's welcome to it. (Speaking of which – where might dinner with Moneypenny fit on the Barton scale of complicated?)
Bond plays back what he knows.
They haven't talked to each other in a few months; last time they touched feelers, the poor guy was stuck in New Mexico, running security at some top-secret operation S.H.I.E.L.D. was about to set up in the desert. And he was not happy about it. His words ring in Bond's ears: "Coulson and Fury think this is a promotion. Fucking purgatory, is what it is. I kill people, I don't fucking manage them."
The research facility where Barton was stuck – could it have been the same one that collapsed so spectacularly that it registered on the monitoring systems of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, shortly before the alien invasion?
Come to think of it, that had been a bad week for research facilities - the New Mexico collapse was followed by a spectacular raid on one of the most secure scientific institutions in Germany. Two guards, dead from arrows in the eye socket.
It's a trail of breadcrumbs at best, but enough to suggest that Barton maybe didn't start this little alien escapade on the same side where he finished it. Why …? Then again, why is perhaps not relevant to Bond's current assignment - although it would sure be fun to find out, preferably from the man himself.
But that he'd apparently been fighting for the other side …. Yes, there's some evidence of that, right up to the arrow M is fretting about. (Evidence only in the widest sense, of course, but that's the difference between intelligence and law enforcement: the freedom to act on pure speculation.)
Bond finds a pencil to chew on; he wastes a precious two seconds wondering whether the pre-existing teeth marks are his own or 005's, before deciding that he doesn't really give a shit. The taste of graphite is the closest thing you can come to a dry martini on MI-6 premises and he sure can use a hit of something.
Time and again, his mind churns through the facts, re-sorts the puzzle pieces, tries to jam them together:
- S.H.I.E.L.D. asset gone rogue.
- MI-6 asset used for nefarious purposes, presumably by S.H.I.E.L.D. asset.
Common threads: Assets, compromised. Neither agency wanting their dirty linen washed in public.
Bond's eyes wander back to the picture on his screen, still frozen on Barton and Romanoff and the car with the S.H.I.E.L.D. markings.
Talk about compromised.
Bond spits out the pencil, shortened by more centimeters than he cares to take note of, and taps the "E" key on his smartphone.
"What?" comes the snappy answer, and a smile ghosts across his face.
"You recognize my number?" he says. "I'm flattered, Moneypenny. Flattered."
She doesn't take the bait; he'd have been disappointed if she had.
"I haven't gotten round to sending you the e-mail with the restaurant yet, if that's why you're calling, Bond."
"It's not." (Why hasn't she? Irrelevant.) "This is a professional call, Ms Moneypenny. Can you find out for me whether Scotland Yard still has an arrest warrant outstanding for Natasha Romanoff, in connection with the murder of Naida Ramirez? And whether Interpol ever issued a Red Notice on her?"
There is a momentary pause at the other end of the line, followed by a long, Lord-give-me-patience type breath he recognizes all too well.
"You do realize that this is the Office of the Executive Director, Bond, and not the Research Department? Or Analysis? Or Law Enforcement Liaison? Or …"
There's a rumour that Double-Oh agents do not wheedle; this is a lie. They can, and most definitely do, when appropriate or necessary for a strategic objective or the good of a mission.
"But you can get important information faster than anyone I know, Eve," Bond wheedles. "That's why M keeps you around, isn't it? So she can pretend to know everything?"
"Yes, and M is who I work for. Not you. Allow me to introduce you to this modern invention, called the computer, James. The one on your desk has a direct link to …"
Another – heavier - sigh, followed by some quick tapping of computer keys. Bond heroically refrains from high-fiving himself. He's still got it. (And he didn't even have to be there in person, to give her The Look.)
"That's a yes on Scotland Yard, and a no on Interpol." He can practically hear her scrunching her forehead. "Funny that. I could have sworn there used to be one …"
"Nevermind – I can guess what happened to the Red Notice." S.H.I.E.L.D., most likely. "The Scotland Yard one is much more useful anyway. Send me a copy? Thanks – you're a star, Moneypenny. Dinner is most definitely on me."
Her snort is cut short when she hangs up on him, but within seconds a new e-mail notification blooms on Bond's screen. He pounces on it, clicks on the attachment and hits 'print.' He leans back in his chair, clasping both hands behind his head and feeling smug as the printer spits out a copy of a highly incriminating piece of paper, an arrest warrant bearing the name of Natasha Romanoff.
Surely, an unblemished Avenger is a fair trade for an inconvenient arrow?
Of course, he will leave both the blackmail and the eventual purging of Scotland Yard's records to M; she's so much better at that bloodless stuff than 007 could ever hope to be.
Bond licks his lips. Dinner with Moneypenny will be interesting indeed.
And tomorrow, a trip to New York is definitely called for – to worm the dirt out of Barton, and to celebrate the first mission on James Bond's personal service record to have been solved with but the touch of a mouse.