“What’s her name?”
Will startles. He turns to face Jane, almost unconsciously moving his left hand and the phone clutched in it out of her sight. Jane lifts an eyebrow and gives Will the nearly universal “Seriously?” look.
“What?” Will asks and he’s proud to sound only slightly defensive.
With a half shrug Jane lets the matter of the phone drop and says, “I said, what’s her name.”
“…Whose name?” Will is genuinely confused. Jane sighs and gives him another look; one Will isn’t sure how to interpret.
“We’ve been holed here almost two weeks. Two weeks that you’ve been nearly inseparable with that phone. Which is not IMF issue, I might add. That level of dedication? I’m guessing a woman, so… What’s her name?”
“Jane,” Will says, turning his whole body towards the brunette.
“No, I mean, the person I last texted is named Jane.”
“Oh?” Jane says, lengthening the O and letting her inflection play suggestive games with it.
“’Oh’ nothing. Nothing like that. She’s actually the girlfriend of a friend,” Will laughs.
“Sure,” Jane draws the word out; making sure Will gets she’s not buying his story. He laughs again.
“I do have friends, you know,” Will gives her a mock stern glare.
“I don’t doubt that,” she teases him, coming to poke his side, “It’s just I doubt this ‘Jane’ is just a friend.”
“That so?” Will brings the phone up and in front of him and starts flipping through the few innocuous photos he’s got in it. Finding the most harmless shots of Jane and Thor he has (one where Thor’s hair is on a ponytail and he’s wearing jeans and a T-shirt, for a change), and shows it to Jane. “That’s them.”
Jane leans in a little to look at the couple smiling and Will surreptitiously watches her expression. Part of him almost wants her to recognize Thor from the snap shots people took of the Thunder God during the Battle in New York. What most people remember from those pictures is red cape and Mjölnir, that and the fact that the guy could fly. But Jane, like Will, has been trained to pay attention to details such as faces. Another part of Will is wishing Jane hasn’t seen that many pictures and won’t recognize Thor at all and Will won’t need to explain why he has a candid picture of an Avenger.
He’s been William Brandt on and off for almost two years now. He’s only known Jane Carter for eight months, but they’ve been pretty intense and Clint would love to have her in the know. Bending rules isn’t a characteristic of his William Brandt persona, but after everything he went through two months ago Clint developed distinctly unfriendly feelings towards lying to people close to him. Those feelings have been giving Clint uncomfortable dreams and thoughts regarding his lies to his IMF team. Alone Loki’s mind games he could have probably shaken off in time but thinking Phil was dead for two days (first due to Fury’s machinations and then World Security Council’s interference) had been like a kicking the already beaten.
Thinking of Coulson’s near death makes him clench his fist automatically. Jane who was still looking at the picture takes a hold of Will’s wrist.
“Everything okay?” she sounds worried.
“Yeah.” Seeing she isn’t really believing him, Will continues, “A… friend of mine was in an accident during that leave we had two months back. He almost died. Hell, we all thought he--” He can’t hold on to the persona of Brandt and it’s pure Clint as he almost chokes on the word “died”.
“Oh,” Jane says, clearly not sure what to say. “He?” She asks after a pause, sounding only mildly suggestive, obviously trying to lighten the situation.
Clint laughs, and it sounds little ugly to his ears but Jane doesn’t react, she only gently squeezes the hand he’s still holding the phone for her to see. He shakes his head. “He’s my best friend. We’ve know for… must be over ten years by now.”
Jane regards him for a while, and Clint looks back at her. “I’m glad he’s okay, then.”
Clint offers her a smile. “Thanks, Jane.” At least about this he doesn’t need to lie.
She smiles back, “What’s his name?”
They look at each other silently for a moment, still smiling slightly. “So. That couple. He have a brother?” Jane’s back to teasing tones. Clint huffs out a breath and shakes his head in an exasperated manner and pushes himself back into the headspace of William Brandt before answering. He is not going to be thinking about Loki.
“No.” If it comes out little curtly, well, nothing Will can do about it. Except change subject, “Shouldn’t Ethan and Benji be coming back already?”
“Maybe there’s a line,” Jane shrugs and walks to the window.
Will suppresses the instinct to say something like “What’s with the obsession over warehouses as bases of operation? Way to be cliché,” because that’d be Clint speaking and instead he just says “You’re probably right,” and turns back to the computers Benji set up to help monitor the warehouse 400 yards from their current hole in the wall base, owned by this weeks psycho’s front company. Okay, Will might be exaggerating a little. Trevor Handelsen is the fucker of the month; even IMF doesn’t deal with threats to national security every week.
Will is spared from thinking deeper into their current mission as he sees Ethan and Benji coming back.
“Heads up, food’s here,” he calls to Jane.
“Finally! I was beginning to think we’d have to starve to death,” Jane smirks at Will when he turns to give her a look for her efforts. He just shakes his head at her, thinking they’ve been cooped up way too long inside these four walls.
“We need to get out of this room, and soon,” he mutters to the screens. Jane mmhmm’s her agreement emphatically.
One might think that having worked as a spy/master assassin/field agent for over ten years Clint would have learned not to say stuff like that aloud. But no. Then again Clint’s always been the guy who says the “Could have been worse” line.
It’s barely three hours after they’ve stuffed the final wrappers to trash that stuff starts happening on the computer screens. One of their perimeter alarms has been triggered. It doesn’t take the team long to realize their surveillance has been made. The dozen or so guys armed with what looks to be M16's and MP5K’s are a huge tip off, especially with the way they’re creeping towards their surveillance position.
“Is that one,” Benji points to a man little behind from the others, “carrying detonation pins?”
“Shit,” they say almost as one. They have no real backup since their mission was supposed to be easy information gathering and monitoring gig. (Nothing is ever easy.) Will goes over their situation quickly and comes up with poor chances for continued survival and he’s already slipping into Clint’s headspace when he comes to that conclusion and reaches for his personal phone. After all, it had been one of the conditions he got on this mission – “—inform S.H.I.E.L.D. should you be in any danger, physically or mentally, understood agent Barton?”. This should amount to “any danger”.
Ethan, Jane and Benji jump when Clint’s phone starts to talk almost immediately after he sends the distress message through Stark designed Avengers comm.
“Your message has been directed to agent Coulson.”
“JARVIS,” Clint tries his best not to sound too homesick at the sound of the AI’s voice, “I need a lift for four. And preferably back-up. There are at least dozen men with machine guns and one appears to have explosives.”
“Who would you like me to inform?” Clint thinks there’s something pretty calming about JARVIS’s even, British tones.
“Those you can reach, I suppose. Tasha and Cap, at least. And the Director, too.” Clint feels a little conflicted. He knows who he wants to have his back (the Avengers) but he also knows who he needs to tell (S.H.I.E.L.D.).
“Would you like me to patch you in on the comm. line?”
“Yeah, sure. Thanks, JARVIS.” There’s barely a crack and Clint can hear someone draw breath so he hastens to say, “You’re on speaker.” He figures it won’t hurt to try and keep his secret a while longer.
“Okay,” Cap sounds a tentative, but Clint knows Steve has been introduced to speaker phones so he figures he’s just filling the silence, gathering his thoughts. “Fill me in.”
“Dozen or more men. Machine guns and explosives,” Clint says and it seems “explosives” is a magic word because the other three in the room explode into action, gathering stuff, cocking guns and readying themselves for a firefight, their momentary distractedness gone. “We’re in four-story abandoned building, we have roof access. They’re about two minutes out. You?”
“Closing in fast to your location. Maybe two minutes.” Clint thanks all known deities for Trevor Handelsen being based in New York City and not on the other side of the country.
“I’m here,” Tony’s voice speaks up, “So, how about I distract these guys with pretty lights and you haul your ass to the roof so Cap and Widow can pick you up. All of you.” The way Starks says it doesn’t really make it sound like a suggestion, but that’s nothing new and Clint’s already used to it. Steve voices his affirmative over the line and Clint turns to the others.
“You coming?” He asks and from the looks on their faces gathers he’s already behaving differently enough from William Brandt that they’re starting to notice. Ethan gives Jane and Benji quick glances and then nods, “Let’s go.”
They get out of the room and to the stairs before the tell tale whine of Iron Man’s repulsors can be heard just before something explodes. Clint has to nudge Jane to continue climbing because she froze at the sound, ready take cover.
Emerging on to the roof Clint hears the familiar swooshing of a Quinjet, even though he can’t see it, mixed with the repulsor shots, machine gun fire and the pinging sound that bullets make when they hit the Iron Man suit. Then there’s a sound of something hitting the roof little to the left of the door and the Quinjet flickers into view. Clint can hear Benji gasp.
“That’s new,” he mutters, walking towards the opening hatch pushing Jane and Benji in front of him. Jane steps in first and her gasp “You’re Captain America!” is audible even over the racket going on below.
Clint grins. He sort of loves seeing or hearing people having that reaction to Steve. There’s something deeply satisfying seeing the toughest (or most unflappable, as in Phil’s case) people get flabbergasted and/or flustered in Steve’s presence.
“He really is,” Benji mutters weakly as he goes in. Clint and Ethan briefly have a battle of wills before Clint rolls his eyes and goes into the plane before Ethan.
Seeing his cover is pretty much already blown (he kind of has Captain America on speed dial) Clint goes straight to Steve, receiving a manly half hug.
“Tony,” Steve says like it explains everything and it really does.
“Figures. Thanks for coming.”
“Of course we came,” Steve’s smiling that earnest smile Clint swears only Steve can pull off. Cap holds out a com set to him which Clint immediately accepts.
“S.H.I.E.L.D.?” he asks as he puts away his phone.
“On their way. Phil said they’ll handle this one,” Steve glances Jane, Ethan and Benji seated on one side of the Quinjet, their eyes taking in the sights around them. Clint get’s the message. Coulson will deal with the guys with guns, Clint gets the explanations. Somehow, he might prefer the gunmen.
“Great,” Tony speaks up, “then I can get out of here. Any chance I’d get a ride?”
“What’d you do this time?” Natasha’s voice comes muffled from the cockpit but also clearly from the comm.
“I resent that, Spider Lady. One of them got of a lucky shot into my flight stabilizer. It’s not going all that smoothly,” Tony usually plays down stuff like this and seeing what the billionaire is angling for makes Clint huff.
“So this wouldn’t have anything to do with your curiosity, then?”
“Me, curious? What ever about?” Tony doesn’t sound nearly as innocent as he probably thinks he does.
“Uh huh,” Clint does his best to sound unimpressed, even though he’s fighting a grin. He’s missed the craziness life around Tony Stark is. “Just… Try to behave, please?”
Cap laughs at that, and walks to the hatch, shaking his head. “That’ll happen.”
Clint looks to his team – his friends? – and goes to sit opposite of them. “Hold onto something, we’re letting in one more passenger.”
The wind starts howling as Cap presses the button to lower the slip and Iron Man swoops in, true to Tony’s words little unstably.
“I know I’m pretty, but come on now, no need to stare,” Tony says, his voice coming through Iron Man’s voice processors and Clint finds he’s missed even that, slightly distorted, sound. He looks around and realizes they are all indeed staring, even Cap, who’s examining the damage to the suit’s back.
“Can you get out of it?” Steve asks.
Opening the faceplate Tony replies, “You offering to undress me, Cap?”
Used to Tony’s liberal innuendos Steve just gives him a steady look. Tony grins at him, “Might have some issues with the back plate, but otherwise, yeah.” Then he turns to Clint and his grin widens. Clint grins back, he can’t help it. “Damsel in distress, Barton? Really?”
“Oh fuck off, Stark,” Clint quips back lightly, stands and, careful of the suit, copies the hug he got from Steve with Tony. Tony studies Clint’s face for a moment before turning to the IMF team who are looking curiously at all three of them. Clint thinks Benji might have just a little bit of drool in the corner of his mouth.
“Sooo… You’re them.” Tony says insinuating anything and everything possible. Ethan raises his eyebrows at Clint who hurries to explain “He has no idea who you are. He’s fishing.”
“I don’t fish,” Tony says, dropping the subject as he goes over to “his” part of the Quinjet to remove the suit, Steve trailing behind him probably expecting his help to be needed. Clint doesn’t think for a moment both of them aren’t listening in. Hell, Natasha is more than likely listening in.
Sighing, he goes back to the bench opposite the three. He’s met with assessing eyes “So,” is what he gets out before he runs out of things to say.
“So,” Jane agrees.
“I don’t really know what to say to you guys,” Clint says slowly, searching for his words.
“How about the truth?” Ethan suggests, touch snidely.
“I –” Clint falters, then reaches to push a button on his comm. set, “Sir?”
“Yes, Barton?” Coulson sounds calm as always.
“What can I tell the IMF agents?” This makes Ethan raise his eyebrows again and Jane tilt her head. They’re all trying to figure him out, and Clint can’t really blame them for that. He’d be doing the same if confronted with Jane (or Benji or Ethan) knowing (alleged) superheroes and being buddy-buddy with them.
“Viewers discretion. They’ll be debriefed after you land.”
Clint thinks back few hours, to having wished he could tell Jane the truth and can’t help the chuckle that escapes. “Copy that. And Phil? Be careful,” he tells Coulson and after hearing an affirmative takes the headset off. He rolls it in his hands as he looks to his three team mates, trying to decide how to proceed.
“You call your best friend “sir”?” Jane asks, sounding little unsure. Clint blinks uncomprehendingly at her few times before remembering he’d told her Phil’s name earlier, a fact that she’d apparently used to make a leap of logic.
“Yeah, I do. At least, over the comm.’s,” he smiles at her and reminds himself that he knows these people. It’s them, at the moment, who feel like they might not know him.
“I’m Clint Barton,” he blurts out and winces a little. He meant to be little smoother than that. Figuring he better just barge onwards now that he’s gotten started he continues, “I work for S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Seeing confused faces he elaborates, “Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.”
He hears Tony mutter to Steve “That’s still an awful name.” and Steve shushing him.
“I’m actually more of an assassin than a spy and certainly only passable analyst. I’m one of the best marksmen in the world. Which combined I suppose is the reason I was asked on to a loan for IMF when one of their top agents went on a holiday with his newlywed wife.” Clint glances at Ethan before continuing again, “We all know how that went down.” Well, they do. Just different versions of it.
“I went back to S.H.I.E.L.D. afterwards. That was about year and a half ago. Had all kinds of fun; watched Captain America slowly thaw out, met an alien that is actually kind of a Norse god of Thunder. Then, almost year later, I get a call from the IMF asking if I’d like to work with Ethan Hunt. I’m pretty sure they were expecting trouble, even if not Ghost Protocol level trouble. Anyway, the Secretary played me and then he played you, too. I mean, seriously –no offence, Ethan– but there’d been no way you’d have “overpowered” him and me. Well, mainly me. And then, well, you know what happened. When we split after the Salzburg-Munich mission I got a classified assignment from S.H.I.E.L.D. and little over a month after that, well. More aliens were coming to Earth and trying to take over New York City.” Clint pauses, not really wanting to talk about Loki or what he’d been made to do under his control.
Jane breaks the silence with a soft, “You were there, weren’t you?”
“Yeah. Lot happened that day. Remember how I told you about my friend today? Yeah, I – we – really though he was dead. For two days,” Clint stops there before he chokes up again. He’ll better finish this on one go. He’s a little shocked to hear growl coming from Captain America, though, and when he looks over he sees compassion is Steve’s eyes and he has to smile. “But he wasn’t. And let me tell you, you have not seen a talking to until you’ve seen it done by pissed off Captain America,” he laughs a little, and then laughs more, seeing the furtive glance Benji is giving Cap. He’s obviously imagining it.
Clint turns to look at Steve again when he hears him mutter to Tony, “It was deserved. The Director could have at least taken the time to let us know…” and Clint has to smile slightly when Tony nods few times, pats Steve on the shoulder with his still armored hand and says “I know, buddy, I know.”
“So, yeah. I was there. In New York. With these guys,” Clint continues, gesturing at Tony and Steve. “And the Hulk. And the Black Widow, who’s by the way, our pilot at the moment. And Thor.” Clint looks at his audience’s faces fully for the first time since he started his story telling. He’s awarded with the looks of dawning realization as each of them piece together what he said, and didn’t say, with what they know.
“You were that guy with the bow?” Jane asks, little hesitantly, obviously thinking her question sounds a little silly.
“That’s right,” Tony interrupts before Clint can answer, sitting down next to Clint and wrapping his arm over his shoulders. “Hawkeye, the world’s greatest marksman.” Before Clint can say anything Tony moves forward at his usual pace, “Anyway, where are we headed? The tower of the carrier?”
Natasha’s voice answers something from the front.
“What’d she say?” Tony asks, mainly Steve.
“The helicarrier. Apparently the Director wants Clint’s friends debriefed and to sign some paperwork.”
“What is it with this organization and their obsession with debriefing? You know, that’s how I met Coulson. I’m sure had you woken up while he was by your bedside his first words to you would have been 'I need to debrief you'.” Tony muses talking at his normal, erratic speed.
“Followed closely by 'Could you sign my cards?'” Clint can’t resist adding, just to tease Steve, who always blushes a little when reminded Coulson is a fan of Captain America.
When Clint turns his attention back to the IMF agents he finds all three of them are smiling and still watching him; assessing, measuring, but there’s something slightly different about it than before. They’re already looking at him differently. Clint just hopes it’ll be good different.