“If you are out of trouble, watch for danger”
The cellphone that Ethan had given him that day in Seattle suddenly rings after a whole year of silence.
It's impossible, Clint thinks as he shakes himself out of sleep, rolling over to grab the offending device. IMF hadn't authorized William Brandt for fieldwork since that incident with Ethan in New York, and the SHIELD would have notified him if his cover was needed. There'd been nothing, and both his phones have even sitting there on the table for the whole morning,
It's Ethan, and Clint sits up this time. If Hunt calls him, then something must be up, because the only other person who ever does text him on this cell is Jane, and last he heard, she's somewhere in Istanbul. She'd sent him a picture message earlier, a simple photo of a red balloon against a blurry background, and he'd grinned when he received it.
"There's an apartment, down at One Fifth Avenue. I need you there now."
There's something in the man's voice that makes Clint snap to attention, the urgency that's hidden under the veneer of calm trained into all of them.
He recognizes that tone.
The archer is out of bed before Ethan is even done talking, grunting in acknowledgement. He dresses in record time in an old sweatshirt and running pants, grabbing the shades that sit on the desk as an afterthought. There's no point in taking anything, because William Brandt lives two blocks away from the address Ethan had just given him, and he's got everything else he needs right there.
Clint shuts the door of his apartment quietly, and sets off at a jog.
Clint expects an IMF team there at the apartment when he gets there. What he doesn't expect though, is Natasha and Coulson sitting on the chairs with a blueprint of SHIELD's headquarters spread out in front of them, looking a little ragged around the edges, and if he looks closer, Clint thinks he can spot a tinge of dried blood under Tasha's ear.
He steps in and shuts the door.
"Wasn't told the IMF was reactivating me."
Ethan looks over, and Clint narrows his eyes at him.
"We were hoping it wouldn't actually come to this, but things got out of hand."
That gets Ethan a raised eyebrow, and an eye roll from Tasha. It just seems to cement Clint's idea of Ethan as a walking, flashing neon beacon which trouble follows around like a lost puppy, it really does, because the one time he'd been roped in, the entire IMF had been disavowed, and the second time Ethan calls him, well, Clint isn't entirely sure he wants to know what's happening this time but asks anyway.
"What the hell happened?"
Coulson looks up from where he'd been poring over SHIELD blueprints, shadows under his eyes and that patented no-nonsense look on his face,
"We've lost Headquarters."
First of all, thank you lucdarling for being a wonderful beta!
Okay, I know there was (for a brief day or so) a second part that was put up before being taken down. I apologize, this fic has managed to block me so bad it's actually quite funny. I went through about four or five different plots before the lack of sleep caught up to me and then I stumbled across this gem hiding at the back of my mind. Then Chinese New Year came around and ate me up, so it took much longer than I'd liked to get this written.
For the curious, Natasha's look is based off this image of ScarJo, complete with blond hair and coiffed hair and shades.
Next up: there are a few hidden references to ScarJo and the Marvel-verse in general. Find them!
He's fifteen floors up with a pack of IMF's new rappelling equipment slung over his back, eyeing Tasha through a sniper scope. She's blond this time, hair coiffed perfectly with a pair of borrowed aviators shielding her eyes. Pepper's black heels look remarkable on her, though all the men assume Natasha picked those because they looked the most deadly of the lot with three inch tall stilettos.
The Black Widow smiles, and it's terrifying how sweet she can look despite the fact there are ceramic daggers strapped to her thigh and possibly a garrote wire concealed in her bra.
"Olivia Wenscombe, here to see Richard Cox."
Clint follows the sway of her hips and the stretch of her legs as Tasha disappears behind glass doors. She's wearing one of the IMF's lense cameras, and Ethan is crouched beside him with a wireless briefcase, shuffling the occasional sepia-tinted photo as they get printed. Clint lets out a breath, shifting the scope up as he counts.
A whispered 'twelve' passes his lips, and Tasha emerges.
"Richard Cox, financial advisor to Hammer Industries and current acting CEO. Has ties to Latveria, and is suspected of selling secrets to terrorist cells." Clint sends a knife flying as he speaks, pinning a photo of a well dressed man talking on the phone against the bizarre spider web of thread and notations spread over the wall.
"SHIELD thinks he's working with Von Doom. We had an incursion into Latveria planned, and losing Central obviously puts a dent in the plans, so macaroni and cheese for anyone who thinks the good doctor is behind this. The IMF also believes that Hammer is loose, courtesy of Victor, and responsible for the radio blackout in SHIELD Central since he's the only nut aside from Stark who can do something like this, but that cannot be confirmed until we get in."
A knife thuds into the wall, another photo of a blonde with glasses perched on her hair.
"Stop making holes in the wall, Barton."
Clint only smirks at the rebuke, a shiny dagger twisting over his fingers as he slips the mantle of William Brandt back on. It's the analytical mind he needs right now, the information stored away in neatly labelled filing cabinets in Brandt's head. This is his job, his op, because Ethan doesn't have clearance for this and Clint has a foot in both of their worlds with the know-how to pull it off.
"Now, meet Olivia Wenscombe, personal assistant."
Beside him, Natasha gives an undignified snort. "Glorified secretary."
The archer shares a glance with his partner, the unspoken 'you should know, haha' floating in the air between them, before redirecting his attention to his knife-board slash briefing detail.
"Cox is linked to Hammer, and to Victor. He's the weakest link, so to speak. Doom will not and cannot meet Hammer directly, since Hammer's supposed to be under lockdown in Central. Therefore as of this point, we get this guy, we've got the foundation to do more damage to these clowns." Clint gets up, pinning strings linking Cox, Hammer, and Doom. "He's meeting Von Doom in a day, and the intel we have suggests that they've gotten their hands on sensitive information. Classified SHIELD documents, blueprints for drones and weaponry. We have less than twenty four hours to get him."
At the back of the room, Ethan flashes a grin that is all teeth, holding up a case that looks remarkably familiar.
They've only worked together on one op, but apparently that's enough for Clint - for William - to know what the IMF agent is thinking. He matches Ethan’s grin with a wide one of his own, an expression that is intimately associated with the promise of something uniquely Barton and definitely chaos.
There aren't many guards on the floor, Hammer Industries has been understaffed ever since Justin Hammer's unfortunate incarceration and subsequent disappearance into the complicated justice system courtesy of a couple of extremely covert governmental agencies.
Five minutes for security to respond to their own alarm system going off. Definitely understaffed, and probably underpaid too.
That's how long it takes the guards - inefficient fools, Clint thinks as he makes a quick adjustment to his rifle to nail Cox neatly in the side - to get upstairs once the alarm starts ringing. His second shot makes crimson blossom over Cox’s side, not as much blood as he’d like but he’s aiming to wound and possibly maim, not kill.
Natasha has already started rifling through the documents in the cabinet, taking a brief respite to stab a syringe of clear liquid into Cox’s neck before leaving the bleeding - and now comatose - man sprawled on the floor as she duplicates personnel and bank files to the wireless printer sitting next to Clint a block away.
Two minutes to break down the door; pretty fast, considering its thickness and supposed claim to being blast proof. (One to pack away his rifle and secure his equipment.)
Clint slams the case shut, and hooks it to a carabiner on his pack. He wishes he could see Tasha playing her damsel in distress card, it's both disturbing and worthy of a Golden Globe if she ever decides to go into acting. But he's got other roles to play in their giant game of clockwork, so Clint is up and rappelling down the side of the building, printer-case clacking as it bounces haplessly against his backpack.
One minute to get to the car.
Coulson had gotten him a Hummer. Black, nondescript, most likely bogus Iowa plates. Clint can't help but find it ironic, all things considered, since he is an Iowa native. It'd blend into the streets, because there are a dime a dozen of these out there and no-one would bat a second eyelid at one. The archer finds a pair of his favorite sunglasses sitting on the dash and lights up a wide grin, how thoughtful of his dear agent.
Ten minutes to get there. Less, if they works the red and greens right.
Benji is coordinating traffic and emergency calls. EMS won't get the panicked call coming from Hammer Industries, instead they'll be talking to a disguised Phil, and Richard Cox will vanish into the back of an ambulance courtesy of Ethan Hunt and the IMF. Clint grins, gear stowed away in the borrowed Hummer, as he pulls out onto the street five cars behind a medical vehicle with flashing lights.
Clint fingers the single casing left beside his shades before sliding the CD it holds into the player, and the speakers start blaring garishly loud rock ’n' roll.
It's a good afternoon, not one of the usual killer traffic days, but that might just be a master at work.
Clint rounds the corner, spying two black-clad figures on the street, and a single willowy silhouette standing a distance apart, obviously in (mock) hysterics as the faux-medics wheel Cox out, complete with IV and bloodied bandages. Incredibly melodramatic. He can't see the man's face from here, but Ethan is a genius at making Cox look a complete wreck - a little overkill on the blood maybe, but he doesn't blame Tasha - as they bundle him into the waiting ambulance.
Coulson catches his eye as he casually drives past. They don't exchange gestures, instead Clint reads the slight incline of a nod in the agent's posture and the look in his eyes which tells him everything he needs to know as the ambulance doors are slammed shut.
A minute later, the ambulance is lost in traffic; the easiest way to hide a tree is to use a forest and Benji had opened the floodgates once Clint was clear of his nest.
Clint makes a right into an alleyway in the shade of Hammer Industries, kills the engine, and waits. He manages to hum out half a song before the door clicks, and Natasha slides into the Hummer beside him, toeing off Pepper's heels the minute she's safely inside.