“They’re collecting snipers,” a man says before Clint is fully conscious again. “I do not know why.” His accent is familiar-different, sort of Brooklyn, sort of pained, and Clint opens his eyes.
They’re in a cell, he and a long-haired man with, Clint presumes, a vaguely-familiar accent is staring at him. His eyes are dark and he’s hunched over something glinting and metallic in his lap.
Clint blinks, then blinks again, but the sight doesn’t change. “You’re the Winter Soldier,” he says.
The assassin across from him smiles, no teeth and oozing threat and charm in equal parts the way Natasha always smiles at him.
“You’re Hawkeye,” the assassin replies, “And they’re collecting snipers.”
“I thought you were on ice,” Clint says, because blurting out SHIELD’s best guesses about enemy asset locations is totally allowed when faced with said assets—there’s actually a paragraph on that in the handbook. He’s used the existence of said rule to his advantage more than once, in fact. He glances around: there are three cells he can see into, each with a pair of bristling, quasi-famous snipers in it.
He wrinkles his nose at Bullseye, who licks his lips, and turns back to his cellmate.
“Well, then this must be a hallucination, pal,” Winter Soldier replies, shaking his head slightly. “They always said your partner was the brains of the pair, but I never thought I’d see living proof.”
“Partner?” Clint asks, standing up to inspect the cell. He figures Winter Soldier probably already did it, and he has a mechanical arm to use to his advantage, but still. Cell; escape. Things that go together.
“Red hair, this tall, so pretty it’s like poison under your skin?”
“Oh, that partner,” Clint mumbles. He stares at the cinderblock wall, judges distance, then gets a grip to scale it; there might be a painted over vent or a loose block or something.
“She ever talk about me?” the Winter Soldier asks conversationally. As much as it galls him to put his back to a stranger, Clint doesn’t look at him.
“Who do you think told me you were on ice?” Clint replies, and his fingers sink right through some plaster, crumbling bits of the wall. Clint flinches, excepting to hear the chunks hit the floor, but they don’t, so he looks down. Winter Soldier is standing just beneath him, holding the largest of the chunks.
“Huh,” the Soldier says, peering up. “Didn’t catch that.”
“Neither did they. I’m gonna clear this up, you just stay right there and catch the big pieces.”
“Aye aye, sir,” Winter Soldier replies.
Clint manages to make a hole large enough for a man to get into the ancient HVAC system before any of the other inmates seem worried. Winter Soldier patiently conceals the debris, and when Clint’s got enough room, he eyeballs Winter Soldier to make sure he’ll fit too.
“Ready?” he asks, bouncing down from the wall. “I’ll give you a boost.”
“They took my arm out,” Winter Soldier says, eyeing him warily. Clint shrugs.
“Use the other one. I got a friend, he’ll get you patched up in no time.”
“Why do I have to go first.”
“Can you get up this wall?” Clint asks, genuinely curious. He has a knack for scaling unscalable things and doesn’t really know how to determine if a normal person can climb something.
Winter Soldier gives him a look that would speak volumes, if Clint cared to learn the right language, and it feels just like meeting Natasha for the first time only with fewer knives.
“I’ll give you a boost, bro. It’s cool, truce til we’re clear, kay?”
“If you weren’t American,” the Winter Soldier says. Clint shrugs again. He thinks maybe nationality has nothing to do with propensity for sticking allies in the back with knives, but maybe Winter Soldier just means white-hat American, because yeah, they are pretty pro-handbooks in his world.
Wasn’t always his world, but who among his colleagues could really throw stones, right?
Clint boosts the Winter Soldier into the vent and follows just as Bullseye decides it’s time to kick up a fuss. Clint waves back at him cheerfully and has to shimmy his ass pretty quick to keep up with the Winter Soldier.
“Wow, this sucks,” Clint says. He’s gotten way too used to the Helicarrier with its maintenance shafts and the newly remodeled Stark/Avengers tower and Tony’s secret soft spot for certain snipers.
The Winter Soldier snorts. “We gonna take down whoever this is, or would you prefer to find some backup first?”
“Red Room backup?” Clint asks and shimmies and pretends not to notice the enormous dead spider Winter Soldier kicks into his face.
The Winter Soldier snorts. “Not a chance. I broke through their programming; recognized your partner on tv and… well.”
“Anything for a redhead,” Clint agrees. “You mean my people then?”
Clint spends a few moments wondering if the Soldier means SHIELD or the Avengers, and then he spends a few more moments panicking over how Tony will be reacting right about now; he’s very particular about the people he sees as his and Clint really doesn’t want to have to deal with him moping and Steve giving him accusatory glares because Tony’s moping all over him. He accidentally bangs his head on the top of the duct and curses in three languages.
“No, I don’t think that’s a great idea,” he mumbles, wishing he could rub his head.
“I yield to your—oh boy.”
“What’ve you got.”
“Command center. Hsh.”
Clint hushes up and slows his progress to a barely measurable creep, and he can hear voices down below, muttering in a language he doesn’t speak.
Hopefully it’s a language the Soldier ahead of him does speak, because otherwise they’re wasting a hell of an opportunity to grab valuable intel.
“They’re leaving to investigate the prisoners,” the Soldier murmurs. “We can drop down, continue on foot.”
“That’s pretty—“ the Soldier disappears with a groan of metal. “risky, okay, okay, this I can do,” Clint finishes, dropping down just behind the Soldier.
“Here,” he’s told as a pair of handguns soar in his direction. There don’t appear to be any rifles, so he sighs, makes sure they’re safe, and tucks them into his belt. The Soldier only takes one, and his metal arm is hanging limply at his side.
Clint blurts “You should come with me,” and only just stops himself from clapping a hand over his own mouth. “I mean- after. Join SHIELD. Save the world. Pay’s decent,” he tries, and the Soldier just grins at him, quirked and close-mouthed.
“You haven’t even tried to seduce me yet.”
“Would that work? Because—“
Three people re-enter the room and the Soldier hits the deck while Clint whips out his newly acquired handguns and dispatches them neatly. Gunfire is always louder in a closed room, and it takes him a second to refocus his hearing.
The Soldier climbs back to his feet and nudges one of the downed men with his toe. “I think we should start a fire.”
Clint stares at him. The Soldier smiles and starts pulling drives from the computers lining the room.
“You know how to spark an electrical fire?” he asks, and Clint nods before getting down to business.
One he can smell the stink of burning copper, he grabs the Soldier’s hand—wrong one; it’s cold and metal under his grasping fingers, but he doesn’t redirect, he just pulls, and the Soldier follows him out, juggling hard drives and his single handgun.
The fire is in the walls, and in a building like this, old un-maintained, it’s going to spread quickly.
“Tell me you know how to get out of here,” Clint says, keeping a tight hold of the metal arm.
“I was thinking… window?”
Clint tosses a grin over his shoulder. “Oh, please, please let me seduce you to our side.”
The Winter Soldier laughs, and it’s familiar again, dark and painful and familiar, and Clint thinks, maybe Natasha, except she’s never laughed like that, and then they’re in an office with a window.
“Third story?” Clint guesses, staring at the other buildings in the area.
“Easy,” the Soldier says, and then he’s tucking and rolling and out the window. Clint keeps an eye on the door, then glances down to see the Soldier balancing rather expertly on the phone lines between the buildings. Clint follows, God help him.
The attic of the building next to the one they’d been imprisoned in is dusty and cold and Clint takes a second to lay flat on his back and laugh.
“That was ridiculously easy,” he says after a second.
“Yeah, except we’re in eastern Europe without ids or any way of getting Stateside.”
“Hey, Eastern Europe is like, your home turf. I’ll seduce the papers out of a brothel owner, you sweet talk the police with your fine language skills, and then, home free.”
“We should probably—“
There’s a loud crunching noise downstairs, and Clint groans.
“Time to go, little sparrow,” the Soldier says, and Clint smiles up at him.
They jump out the window on the far side of the attic, skate along some rooftops, and by the time they hit street level, Clint’s adrenalin is pumping again and they’re a good half mile from the building they’d been trapped in, now burning steadily if the sounds of firetrucks on the main streets are any indication.
The Soldier takes point then, guiding them deeper into the city, which Clint still has no idea what city it actually is, except it’s probably not Budapest. He’s pretty sure.
The Soldier gets them a room somewhere with a promise and a smile, and Clint wonders if he’s going to have to pick some pockets to get out of this place.
“Got you a phone,” the Soldier says, tossing a blister-packed cellphone on the bed. Clint stares at it.
“Call your extraction team,” the Soldier says, nudging the package closer still. Clint grabs his wrist instead. It’s warm skin, this side, and his pulse is strong and slow and even, like they haven’t just been escaping a prison full of snipers.
“I need a shower,” Clint grumbles. “And a seduction. I think someone promised someone a seduction.”
Winter Soldier leans in, breath ghosting against Clint’s lips, and Clint shuts his eyes.
“Call your extraction team,” he whispers.
Clint opens his eyes to see the Soldier’s back as he faces the window. His shoulders are hunched and the muscles are taught with some unknown tension.
Shoot, Clint thinks, and he tears into the packaging and sets up the phone.
JARVIS tells him the team’s in Berlin hunting down leads on his whereabouts. JARVIS tells him he’s been dark for 36 hours, which means at least 24 unconscious. JARVIS tells him he’s homing in on the signal and that the team will be there shortly, and to please not close the line.
Clint tosses the phone, still connected, to what could have once been a bedside table.
“You okay there… uh…” He really, really doesn’t want to call the man before him Winter Soldier because the name is clumsy and stupid and mythical.
“James,” the Soldier says. “I’m… remembering. I don’t suppose you can tell me—the man they have wearing the Captain America costume…”
“I can’t. I’ll tell you my name, no problem, and you probably know more about the Black Widow than I do, but…”
“Loyalty,” James says, and he nods a little. “So, what is your name? I’d call you Hawkeye, but it seems too… mythical.”
Clint snorts at hearing his earlier thoughts echoed. “Clint Barton; pleasure. I’m told my team was already looking for me and should be here as soon as they can scramble a jet.”
“I should leave.”
“You should stay; at least until we figure out why they were collecting snipers. We’ve contracted with independent agents before, and if SHIELD won’t foot the bill for your services, Tony will. He’s very fair.”
“I really don’t think Captain America will be happy to see me,” James says, tilting his head back to smile wryly at Clint. The cadence of the phrase, the accent on those syllables, the would-be Brooklyn accent…
“I think you’d be surprised what Captain America thinks about a lot of things,” Clint says neutrally. He knows the rumors, of course—the Soldier was an American, defected in the war and trained to support Ivan and his cause, but—well, those rumors were ridiculous.
Clint catches his fingers in James’ hair, liking the length. A lot of guys keep their hair short, especially in their business.
“C’mon,” he says, “Before I crash.” Then he kisses the Soldier, and it’s good and rough and dark and desperate, and Clint should probably care that the line to JARVIS is still open, but on the other hand, it isn’t the first time JARVIS has witnessed him having sex and it’s probably not going to be the last, so he takes the Soldier to bed and murmurs ‘James’ into sweat slick skin and other things he probably should say to one-night stands but does anyway, every time.
He’s asleep when his team shows up, James curled around him with the metal arm tucked under their heads.
Iron Man is unmistakable in his armor, and the Soldier is on his feet in a second, and it’s almost a pitiful sight; naked, his metal arm hanging limp. Clint sits up more slowly and stretches.
“What is it with you, near-death experiences, and ill-advised sex?” Tony demands, sliding the faceplate back.
“This was hardly a near-death experience,” Clint protests. The rest of the team peers around Tony, and Natasha freezes.
Clint gives her a shit-eating grin. “I’m actually trying to get a royal flush- how many former Soviet assets can I—Steve? Buddy? You—“
Steve cuts Clint off with a low noise and rushes past Tony to wrap James in one hell of a hug.
Clint wants to say “Told ya,” but he doesn’t. He just quietly sorts their clothing and throws the Soldier’s at his head.
He ignores the fact that Steve is probably crying, ignores how uncomfortable James looks, and says. “Well? Let’s go kill some sniper hunters.”