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What Goes Through Your Mind When You Could Lose Everything

Chapter Text

“Well doors open from both sides.” Fury gave the archer a look just before the portal opened, just before everything changed forever.

The man with the maniacal smile appeared. The man who would change everything.

“Sir. Please put down the spear!” Fury called out to the man with the maniacal smile. He only looked down and grinned. He started shooting, things were exploding, the guards were firing, but they only missed.

Clint drew the gun from his side holster and hit him directly in the face, the bullet merely bounced off of him. He never favored guns, he always prefered his arrows. He didn’t have time to think about that as he pushed Fury out of the way of another blast and rolled the opposite way. Keep the director protected, he’ll take care of Tasha if anything happens, he thought to himself.

The man with the maniacal smile walked over to him with an intensity that made him look like he was floating. Clint had taken the tail end of the last blast and was struggling to get up. When he felt the other man’s presence he snapped around and drew his weapon, but it was useless as the man held his hand back.

“You have heart.” The maniacal man touched the tip of his spear to Clint’s chest, he glanced over at Fury just before she came to him.

“Clint! Clint get down!” She screamed at him even though he knew she wasn’t there. He could feel her long red curls in his hands on a lazy Sunday morning as they watched the sunrise.

 

He could smell her, feel her, see her. Everything he loved about Natasha Romanoff came to him at once. Her name, her story, her favorite color. Anything and everything about her came at once no matter how he tried to stop it, no matter what he did to try and keep her a secret.

He tried to keep their love hidden, he put up every single wall he could. He tried to keep the way she looked in that black dress to himself. He tried to keep the way she stole his t-shirts to himself. He tried to keep the long nights when neither of them could sleep because of the nightmares a secret. He tried to keep Odessa, Budapest, Moscow, the Children’s ward. Anything she had told him a secret, anything about her a secret, but it slipped through his mind and into the other man’s hands to play with.

He was a prisoner in his own mind, trapped without anyway out. He could hear Fury and the other man talking, but he knew nothing of what they were saying. He screamed in his mind, trying to let someone know he was there, but he was only met with a scream.

“Silence!” The man screamed inside of his head. Clint didn’t stop, he continued, he could feel the other man’s attention divided.

“You pathetic lovesick child. Silence or you will pay the price!” He yelled again.

“You aren’t going to stop me that easily. Let me go and maybe I’ll let you live.” He said in his mind without opening his mouth to the other man. He knew he wasn’t entirely himself. He could feel himself slipping away as a coldness spread over his mind and his eyes were flooded with a mess of pictures of Natasha.

“I see you have a fellow mortal to love. What if I did this to her?” The pictures of her suddenly changed, the mess of warm memories turned to terror. Natasha’s eyes glazed over with death, her throat slit as he watched the last bit of life drain out of her, the bullet hole between her eyes as he sat next to her and could only watch.

Clint couldn’t move, he couldn’t breathe, it was like someone had sucked the oxygen from the room and left him there. The man came up to him in his mind and he felt even more of himself slip through his fingers, like sand.

“I swear to god if you touch her, I will not only kill you I will personally guarantee you the worst spot in hell.”

“Oh I won’t touch her. I’ll make you do it, in every way you know she fears. I’ll make you do it slowly, painfully, and you won’t even know what you have done until I let you wake to see your good work.”

“I’d never touch her. You’ll have to kill me.”

“Oh that’s just not true you pathetic creature. When is this building going to collapse, where am I?”

“You are in the basement of project Pegasus, harvesting energy from deep space. The building has one minute tops. Fury is stalling to kill us here and now before anymore damage can be done.” Clint announced like he was proud to and he lost the last bit of control he had over his own mind. He knew every movement, every action, he heard everything and saw it just as well, but there was nothing he could do. His life was a movie playing out in front of him and the man could do whatever he wanted with him.

He was a shell, a puppet, anything the man wanted him to be, he was the perfect soldier.

“Tell him.” The man demanded in his head.”

“Sir. Director Fury is stalling, he means to bury us.” Clint finally said with his mouth for the first time.

“Like the pharaohs of old.” Fury said speaking in code trying to see if Clint was still in his own head somewhere, but Clint only stared back at him blankly.

“He’s right the portal is collapsing in on itself. We’ve got thirty seconds before this goes critical, tops.” Another man shouted over the noise.

“Well then.” The man said aloud and Clint pulled the gun from his holster and shot Nick Fury dead center in the chest. He shot the man who always wore a bulletproof vest, in the chest.

Clint Barton may not have had control over himself, but he would be damned if he didn’t fight every second this bastard was in his mind. Nick Fury was Natasha’s father, he refused to let his death come at his hands.

He refused to let down the love of his life whether he was in control of his mind and body or not.

He grabbed the case and passed it off to the other man under orders. He led the maniacal man out of the building as the other two men helped him walk, he wouldn’t help the bastard who was taking him hostage unless he was forced to, and those weren’t his orders.

“I need these vehicles.” He shouted out to Hill hoping she would realize something was wrong, hoping that she would get word back to Natasha before he was forced to kill her.

“Who’s that?” She asked him.

“Tell her who I am. I am Loki of Asgard. And I am burdened with glorious purpose.”

“He didn’t tell me.” Clint grumbled out, it took everything he had just to disobey that small order, but it showed he could do it.

Over the radio static appears and a very angry Fury yells through the static at Hill as she walks away. “Hill… Barton is… Do you copy?...”

“I thought you killed him!” Loki yelled in his mind as Clint, without wanting to, fired off warning shots at Hill, she easily avoided them.

“I shot him. I followed your orders.” He snapped back as he got into the armored jeep and drove away. Natasha flooded his mind again, she was the only thing tethering him to himself.

“Don’t you dare think about her for another second! Get us out of here! I will take care of the guards following us. Keep our path clear.” Loki ordered in his mind.

Clint pressed down on the accelerator following the orders, he wanted out of there as fast as he could, the faster he got out of that underground timebomb the faster he might be able to get a message to Natasha.

“Barton! Are you even listening to me? Not another thought about her!” He ordered.

Clint refused to listen, he knew if he held onto the thought of Natasha he could hold onto the last bit of autonomy that he had. He knew if he thought about protecting her, keeping her safe, getting back to her, he could keep the last bit of himself in tact.

“Barton take care of the woman in front of us. I told you to keep the path clear.”

“That’s Agent Barton to you, sir.” Clint voiced back as he fired off warning shots at Hill that did nothing.

“Barton!” Loki screamed.

Clint swerved and got hill off of the front end of his car. The path out of the tunnel was now clear, he pressed down on the accelerator as hard as he could. He could feel the building collapsing around them. Clint had gotten them out of there in one piece.

“Sir?” Clint felt the coldness wash over him again as gunshots fired into the cabin. Clint yanked the wheel and turned them down a dirt road that led away from the oncoming helicopter. Loki let fly another blast and the helicopter fell from the sky.

“See Agent Barton. Those who you are loyal to are willing to turn on you as soon as you go against them. You aren't even in control of yourself, yet they were still willing to kill you. Why would you think your lover, your beloved Natasha, would do anything else. She’s a spy, an assassin just like you, what’s stopping them from sending her after you?” Loki appeared in front of him in his mind. The coldness spread and pain took over. It felt like torture, his mind ran through every interrogation tactic he knew and forced it upon himself.

Every memory of Natasha flooded with pain. Everytime she saved him ripped from his mind, distorted and shoved back to show Natasha killing him. He refused to break, refused to believe it. He would not lose to the God with daddy issues.

“You are strong, but I will break you Barton. I will find out what I need to from your own mind to break you.”

“You can do whatever the hell you want to me.” Clint choked out in between gasps of pain. He could feel each of his individual bones breaking and being put back together. He felt the heat of fires being burned into his skin, but he would not break his spirit. He had his Natasha, that was all he needed to hold onto.

“Oh. Is that so? Fine.” Loki said as the images changed his mind was wiped clean, there was nothing there, it was a white expanse.

“Clint. Clint, please come home. Clint please!” Natasha screamed out for him while he was trapped in the prison of his own mind.

“Nat! Natasha! Natasha! I’m here! I’m here!” He yelled out into nothing. There was nothing there.

“Clint. Please.” He saw her strapped to a table, he heard her screams as Loki tortured her, destroyed her. He tried to get to her, but she was unreachable, trapped outside of her mind.

“Clint. This isn’t you!” She yelled as he was now the one with the weapons at his disposal. He wanted to do it. Loki was watching, his wish was Clint’s command. Just before he started his job he was pulled from the nightmare, and met with Loki’s eyes, approval was gleaming from them.

“Glad to have you on board Agent Barton. I’m going to need help, find me some.” He ordered.

“Yes sir.” Clint did as he was told, his control stuffed away into the smallest corner of his mind, under lock and key. He could only do as Loki told him, he was no longer himself.

“Sir. I need two things before I get started.”

“Whatever you need you will have.” Loki said as a bow, a quiver of arrows and a untraceable cell phone appeared.

“Thank you sir.”

“Oh and Agent Barton, I will have a reward waiting for you when you finish.” Loki teased him with a grin.

Chapter Text

“We need you to come in.” Phil Coulson said through the shitty burner phone of the Russian mobster.

“Are you kidding? I’m working.” She snapped, she was close to uncovering the last of the secrets that Russia was hiding from her about her past, about the Red Room, everything that she couldn’t remember about her life.

“This takes precedence.” Couls said, trying to get Natasha to come in without telling her what had happened.

“I’m in the middle of an interrogation and this moron is giving me everything. Look you can’t pull me out of this one right now.” Natasha told Coulson without an ounce of doubt in her voice.

Coulson took a deep breath and shook his head. This isn’t how he wanted to do this. This wasn’t going to go over well. “Natasha. Barton’s been compromised.”

Natasha’s breath hitched ever so slightly. Everything she had ever told him flooded through her mind in a millisecond, everything they had done together ran before her eyes. Her mission could wait. She needed her Clint, she needed to bring him back, she needed to bring him home.

“Let me put you on hold.” Natasha announced. She gave the phone to the general and broke free. The only thing that was on her mind was Clint. She only wanted the people out of her way. She would come back to them when she finished finding Barton. Maybe she took out a little too much of her aggression on the goons, but she couldn’t think about that right now. She had other things on her mind.

“Where is Agent Barton now?” Natasha asked already planning a rescue mission in her head. She didn’t like the way coulson was sounding and she liked the fact that they were assembling the Avengers even less.

“We don’t know.” Natasha’s took a deep breath knowing what the next question needed to be and hoping for the right answer.

“But he’s alive?”

“We think so. I’ll brief you on everything when you get back, but first we need you to bring in the big guy.” Natasha let go of the breath she was holding and let a smirk slip onto her face. He was alive, and they were going to have Stark’s resources at their disposal. She would be able to find him in no time.

“Coulson you know Stark trusts me about as far as he can throw me.” Natasha said smiling and remembering the time she spent with Stark about a year ago. It was a welcomed distraction from all of the other horrible things running through her head about what happened to Clint and what he must be going through.

“Oh. I’ve got Stark. You get the big guy.” Coulson said with a slight smile on his face. He knew Natasha would need something to bring her in, with Clint compromised it was only a matter of time before she would leave to find him. Giving her tasks and challenges was going to be the only way to keep her on track right now.

“Fuck me.” Natasha whispered to herself in russian. She didn’t want to be doing this. She didn’t want to be on a team right now, she didn’t want to be in charge of anything right now. She wanted to find Clint. She wanted to make sure he was safe, she wanted to bring him back home.

“Natasha, we are going to find him. We’ve got everyone not working rescue working on finding him and the Tesseract, and the guy who took him.” Coulson said trying to calm her down and get her to focus as she walked out of the building and found the car she was dragged here in.

“Wait. You know who has him?” Natasha said as she stole the generals BMW and made her way to the airport.

“Natasha.”

“No Coulson. How compromised is he? I need to know. Will I ever be able to get him back?” Natasha demanded, she kept the fear out of her voice just like she was trained to do. She kept her emotions in check, but she needed to know. She loved him, no matter what she told anyone who asked.

“I don’t know Natasha. Thor’s brother took him, used some sort of mind control. Fury saw the whole thing, he looked straight through him, he wasn’t in his own head.”

“I’ll find him.” Natasha said slamming the door and walking into the airport.

“Natasha. We need you here. As soon as we get a location on him you can go after him. But right now we need you on this team, we need you back at base. Get to Banner bring him here.”

“Coulson.”

“Natasha. That’s an order.”

“Fucking hell Coulson!” Natasha yelled at him. She was furious, she needed to find him, he would do the same for her. Their relationship was more than just being partners, it was more than just friends, they were more than just lovers.

“Natasha I know. I know exactly what’s going through your head which is why I’m making this call instead of Fury. You cannot go after him. I’m sorry Natasha.”

“I’ll bring you Banner.” Natasha agreed.

“Your tickets and luggage are waiting for you at the ticket counter. Same passport as before. Banner’s location is preloaded onto the cell phone in the front pocket of the suitcase. I packed you a nice Sari.”

“Any layovers?”

“No, but there is a laptop that is continuously being updated with the search for Barton in the backpack. Fury wants a call when you land.”

“Thank you Coulson.” Natasha said with a small smile coming to her face.

“Stay safe Natasha. A team will meet you when you land.” He said hanging up the phone and leaving Natasha alone with her thoughts.

Natasha took a deep breath to calm herself. Clint was missing. He was taken by the god of mischief. She couldn’t go after him because the Avengers were being assembled. Her current mission was to bring in Dr. Bruce Banner. She needed to keep her mind clear and herself focused. She tried to compartmentalize her feelings, compartmentalize her worry and pain at the fact that Clint was somewhere in the world and probably couldn’t even recognize her at the moment. She tried to push away the memory of him giving her the arrow necklace and promising her that when he got back from guarding the Tesseract he would keep their last date that he missed.

She tried to push away the last conversation that they had. She tried to forget how abruptly it ended and how she wasn’t able to tell him that she loved him. She wanted him to know she loved him, that she would never leave him, but work got in the way just like it always did. Natasha never minded when missions got in the way of their life, but right now she was furious. She wanted to find Clint and bring him back home, she wanted him to be safe.

Natasha stopped thinking and composed herself. Mission first. Nothing else matters right now besides the mission. She took a deep breath grabbed her purse from the backseat of the car and headed into the airport. Her luggage and tickets were waiting for her exactly where she was promised. She looked at the phone that was packed in the pocket as she walked to the gate to wait for her flight. She wasn’t stopped by security and walked through the airport with ease. The phone she was given was loaded with messages, mostly from Hill and Fury. Coulson left a video for her to watch while she waited. Her plane was leaving in half an hour, they were already boarding. She walked onto the plane and watched the video.

“Hey Nat! It’s Clint. I’m bored out of my mind here. When are you coming back from your mission? I want to reschedule that date I missed. I miss you Nat, stay safe. I love you Natasha. Always know that.” Clint said in the video, it was a video message he had meant to send to her before Loki had arrived. When Natasha saw it a few tears slipped from her eyes as an old woman sat next to her.

“Excuse me miss. Are you alright?” The kind woman asked her.

“Yes. Thank you, I’m sorry is this your seat?” Natasha asked, moving her backpack, and trying to hide her confusion at the womans kindness.

“Oh no darling. I saw you crying for a few minutes and I wanted to check on you. Is that your husband?”

Natasha realized she had been watching the video on loop for ten minutes and been crying for longer than she thought. “Yes, I'm sorry. He was in an accident. I'm trying to get home to him.” Natasha said making up a story to make the woman go away.

“I'm so sorry sweetheart. I hope he will be ok. Stay strong. You'll get through this.” The woman said putting her hand on Natasha's shoulder gently.

Natasha looked up at the woman with a grateful smile and she returned to her seat. The woman's kindness gave Natasha just enough hope that she was going the right thing as the plane began taxiing the runway.

Chapter Text

“Agent Barton. Where did you find all of these people?” The sly voice asked in his head as lines of troops filed into the underground stronghold that Clint had found for them.

“S.H.I.E.L.D has no shortage of enemies and the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” He replied while checking in the recruits one by one on a tablet.

“Are any of them likely to break through the programming, or resist to it?” He asked as he touched the spear to each person’s chest.

“Not likely. Many of them are willing to fight for any cause they can. Wash outs from S.H.I.E.L.D, rejects, the occasional radical reformer. They want to belong to something.”

“A very diverse crew you have found.” He said with a smirk.

“Sir. I followed orders. These soldiers all of fighting experience of one type or another. I even recruited a few of S.H.I.E.L.D’s elite who are disenfranchised with our employer.”

“So the Hydra agents you could find?” Loki asked, already knowing about S.H.I.E.L.D’s inner workings and the parasite within them.

“The what? Sir.”

“Oh. You'll find out.” Loki said with a bright blue glow in his eyes and a maniacal smile.

Clint only looked at him with empty blue eyes. Loki saw a tiny bit of contempt hidden behind the blue glow. “Agent Barton. I think it's time for your reward now.” Loki took him by the arm and away from his supervision spot overlooking the rest of the troops.

“Doctor Selvig. I need the Tesseract.” Loki ordered and the doctor handed it over without a second thought.

“Agent Barton. This is for you. You'll see what your looking for.” Loki said as Clint took off his gloves. He held out his hand and Loki placed it in his.

Clint took a deep breath and the blueness was gone from his eyes. He was sent swirling through visions of what would happen. Of Helicarriers firing on one another and crashing in Washington D.C. He saw Natasha being chased by the Hulk and trapped under ruins of a halfway destroyed Helicarrier. He saw his hand in Natasha’s on a rooftop in New York with matching wedding bands.

He saw a flying city. Millions of men made of metal. A woman throwing red. A blue blur, a dead kid with bullet holes riddling his body. He saw himself fighting Natasha. Another woman with a baby on the way, she looked like his best friends wife. A little girl with pigtails in Natasha’s arms. Himself picking out an engagement ring. Firing on the Helicarrier. Stark carrying a missile through a wormhole.

Natasha kissing doctor Banner. Conversations with Fury. Natasha’s eyes filled with hatred. Her trapped behind bars. Thor arriving on Earth. Natasha and CLint entering a futuristic building. Natasha with a baby in her arms. It was a jumbled mess nothing made sense, there wasn’t an order or a reason but somehow Clint knew all of these things would happen.

Then it all went blank. It focused in. A building, something to do with S.H.I.E.L.D. Anti-protons. A man in a lab coat, his next target.

Loki pulled the Tesseract from his hands and his eyes were normal for only second, all he could see was Natasha. Then the blue and coldness reappeared, but he knew what he needed to do. He had regained some of himself.

“What did it show you Agent Barton?” Loki asked after talking with the doctor.

“My next target.”

“What do you need?”

Clint snapped the bow from his case, opening it. He had formed a plan, he needed to get back to S.H.I.E.L.D, he needed Fury. He needed Natasha. The visions were still swirling in his mind, but it was becoming clearer. His mind was splitting itself, Clint Barton was coming unlocked, he could feel his control coming back, but Loki was still in the driver’s seat. He was still under his control. Loki’s wish was his command, but he knew where he was, what was going on around him, it was starting to come back to him.

“A distraction. And an eyeball.”

“Very well then Agent. You will have what you need, but first tell me about the other so called Avengers, the other misfits and outcasts like yourself.”

“Where do you want to start?”

“Anthony Stark.”

“Tony Stark, genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. Has a suit of armor, flys, he’s basically indestructible in it. Used to be a weapons manufacturer, now his company does tech. Him and his longtime secretary and girlfriend Pepper Potts run the company.”

“Anything else I need to know about him?”

“He’s dangerous. Him, and Romanoff could take you down by themselves if they wanted to. They work well as a team. He’s got issues with Rogers. His father always favored Rogers over him. Both of his parents were murdered when Tony was only twenty-one, twenty-two. He’s got an AI that’s more powerful than any computer I’ve seen.”

“Rogers. Who’s that?”

“Steve Rogers, the first superhero and supersoldier. Created during World War two to take down the Nazi’s and Hydra. He’s the man out of time. He “died” to save the world and was frozen for seventy years in an ice block in Greenland, I think.”

“Supersoldier?”

“He was a sick kid from brooklyn who wanted to fight in the war, his dad served and died in the first World War. His mother worked in a hospital treating soldiers. He always wanted to fight. He was part of an experimental program to create the perfect soldier and the perfect man. His best friend died in the War. He’s got no other connections or family still alive. They call him the first Avenger. They have been building this program for a long time.”

“Well then, what exactly is this Doctor Banner? Some sort of monster?”

“Not exactly. Banner is one of the smartest minds in the world, just behind Stark in intellect. He’s more biology based. He was trying to replicate the serum used on Steve Rogers to become a supersoldier. There was an accident with the radiation and it created the Hulk. He’s indestructible. He can’t die, the angrier he gets the stronger he gets.”

“Can he control it?”

“Most of the time he can, but when he gets angry or hurt, there’s often times no stopping it.”

“Anyone else?”

“Your brother.”

“I don’t need to know anything else about that blundering buffoon. I can take care of him.”

Clint was silent. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t want to bring up the fact that Natasha was also on the team.

“Barton. What about the girl?”

“She’s on the team.” He said keeping it as short as possible.

“What are you not telling me about her. Do I need to pry it out of your head again or will you just tell me?”

“She’s going to kill you. She could kill you with her toes if she wanted to. She is the most talented person that I know. She’s beautiful, cunning, manipulative. She uses her beauty to her advantage, she always gets what she wants. She’s incredibly smart, can hack into almost anything, figure out things from the subtlest of hints. She’s the threat you don’t see coming on the team. She’s wicked good with weapons. She doesn’t let anything stop her. She’s the one you need to watch out for.” He let himself get carried away as images of Natasha flashed through his mind.

“Why?”

“Like I told you. You won’t see her coming, you won’t know what she wants until she has it, and you won’t realize she has won until she’s gone.”

“I’m Loki. The god of mischief and deception. I can handle myself against some meak mortal.”

Clint let him believe the diluted image he had in his head, he knew the truth, he knew Natasha, he knew she was coming for him. It was buried deep inside of him, but it was hardwired into his DNA, he knew Natasha was coming for him, she would move heaven and Earth to find him.

Chapter Text

“Attention passengers. Welcome to Calcutta. Thank you for flying with us. Enjoy your stay.” A voice came over the loudspeaker, waking Natasha from her stupor as she flipped through the S.H.I.E.L.D intel page looking for any signs of Clint.

Clint had been missing for almost eight hours at this point and Natasha was no closer to finding him. His S.H.I.E.L.D login hadn't been used, he had sent her no messages, if he was anywhere near her she would never know it. She was as lost to his location as everyone else was.

Natasha walked off of the plane and made a call.

“Hello Agent Romanoff. Long time no speak. Or is that even still your name? I really don't know with you.” Tony Stark asked when he picked up.

“Tony. Do you know what's going on?” Natasha asked with concern peeking through her voice.

Tony paused for a second. Natasha never called him Tony. She never acted concerned, something was wrong. He muted his side of the call and spoke to Jarvis.

“Jarvis trace the call. I need to know where she is at and if she needs help.”

“Running call trace now.”

“Yeah. Agent Coulson stopped by. Something about the world ending because of some God with daddy issues.” Tony said trying to keep the tone light as Jarvis got closer to her location.

“Tony. He took someone. I need your help to find him.” Natasha said taking a deep breath as she got into the S.H.I.E.L.D convoy that was waiting for her as she walked out of the airport.

“Sir she's in the country of Calcutta. I cannot trace her any farther.”

“Natasha. Who'd he take?”

“Agent Barton of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

“Shit. I'll get on finding him now. Any idea where he is?”

“Not a clue. We've got every available resource looking for him and we can't find a trace.”

“Have you gone out looking for him. I mean. No one knows him better than you. You two are…”

“Tony don't. Please. Just look for him if you can. I can't. I'm on a recruitment mission.” Natasha sounded so desperate over the phone to find him. She sounded angry and hurt and Tony didn't know what to do other than to help her.

Tony liked Natasha even if her secrets got under his skin sometimes. He loved the way she would sass him when he got out of line, he like having her around, she was closer to him than she realized and he wanted to help her.

“I'll work on it. Stay safe Natasha. You know what you're getting into, right?” Tony asked her as the location of Bruce Banner came closer to the possible location Jarvis had on Natasha.

“I can handle myself Tony.” Natasha said and hung up. She was tired of people thinking she was incapable of handling herself. She wasn't a child, she had been doing things like this since she was ten. She wanted to finish her mission, find Loki, find Clint and end this.

Fury might have believed that she was an Avenger but she would never believe she was a hero. She wasn't the type. She's a spy, not a soldier. She was never trained to save the world or fight wars, or go toe to toe with gods, but if that's what it took to get Clint home, that's exactly what she would do.

“Agent Romanoff. You have an incoming call from Director Fury.” one of the other agents in the convoy said handing her another phone.

“Agent Romanoff. So glad to hear from you. How was Russia?” Fury asked her as she put the phone to her ear.

“Annoying and short. Any updates on Barton?”

“No. The search is still ongoing. We haven’t been able to find anything on him yet. Natasha. I need you to bring in Banner.”

“Do you want the scientist? Or the other guy?” Natasha asked taking a deep breath and changing into her longer skirt and burgundy top that Coulson had left for her in her luggage at the airport.

“I want them both. We need Banner to track the cube. Hopefully that will lead to a location on Barton.” Fury said baiting her.

“What do you need the other guy for?” She asked not falling into his trap of not asking questions.

“Natasha. We are at level seven, we are at war. There is no going back. The Avengers are being assembled. The world will never be the same again. Do you want Banner on our side in the war or against us if Loki gets his hands on him.”

“Fury I’m not a soldier.” Natasha said trying to reason with him.

“No, you aren’t, but you’re who we need. You are an Avenger, the smartest tactician I know. And I know you will do anything to bring your guy home. Natasha you were made for this.” Fury told her, knowing that she didn’t want to hear it. Knowing that hearing what he said infuriated her. Knowing her story, knowing how she rose from the Red Room, reading Director Carter’s reports on the program, her following of all of the girls that she could.

He knew that she was meant for this, he believed in her even if he couldn’t entirely trust her. He knew in his heart that Natasha Romanoff was one of the strongest assets on the team that he had assembled and that they needed her. He loved Natasha, even treated her like she was his own daughter, just like Maria, just like Carol. But right now he wasn’t telling her the full story, he was compartmentalizing, he couldn’t tell her, not now.

“Is it true that Barton looked right through you like you were nothing, like he didn’t even know you?”

“I’ll show you the video when you get here. Bring me Banner.”

Natasha sighed and passed the phone back to the other agent after Fury hung up the phone. She looked out of the car window and saw kids playing in the street. They were in the middle of one of the nicer neighborhoods in the city and saw a girl being chased by a man. She had a look of pure terror as she traipsed through the market trying to get away from him. She would occasionally stop and beg a woman to help but everyone acted like she wasn’t there.

Natasha thought she knew what was happening and wouldn’t let it continue. She could use the girl to bait Banner away from the city and she could save her from the man that was trying to take her. It would help ease her conscious a little after everything she had done.

“Pull over.” She demanded.

“Agent Romanoff. We’ve been tasked to take you to Dr. Banner to recruit him. We can’t make any unnecessary stops.” The driver responded.

“A child is about to be kidnapped, I could use her to bait Banner. Pull the car over.” Natasha demanded and the tone of her voice and the look in her eyes made the other man do as she said.

As she closed the door she ordered them, “Go around to the other side of the market. Make sure the girl doesn’t get away, but don’t hurt her.”

She opened the door and dodged the other traffic as she crossed the street. She followed briskly behind the man who was running after the girl when he passed an alleyway Natasha pulled him into it.

Natasha had no sympathy for the man she beat him to a near bloody pulp, when she thought she was finished she asked him why he was chasing the girl.

“Why are you after the girl?” She asked him in passable Hindi.

“Why wouldn’t I? She was sold to me by her family. She is my wife.” The man responded out of breath and spitting up blood.

Natasha only glared at him and snapped his neck, she felt no remorse, no sympathy, for him. She was killing a man who prayed on children and took advantage of poor families. She knew what that little girl was going through, if she hadn’t passed certain tests in the Red Room she would have ended up just like that little girl who was running in the street. She couldn’t remember how many of her classmates in the Red Room fell victim to the vicious men who came into the Red Room looking for new wives to replace their other ones once they got old or died. She knew how many kids fell victim to predators, she did the world a favor by taking out one of them, she had wiped a little bit of red from her ledger.

She turned away from the man’s dead body and back to the market, scanning the area for the little girl. She saw a flash of the girl’s dress slip underneath one of the tables and she headed off in that direction. When Natasha got to the suspected table she heard heavy breathing that was trying to be stifled as she kneeled down next to it.

“Hi there.” She whispered to the girl without lifting up the table cloth. The girl didn’t move and Natasha could hear her breathing intensify.

“It’s ok. I’m not going to hurt you. I took care of the bad man. You’re safe now.” She said without lifting up the cloth and sliding her hand underneath it.

“Please. He will take me.” The little girl begged and Natasha could hear the fear and tears in her voice.

“It’s ok. I’ll take care of you, but I need you to trust me. Take my hand. Trust me.” Natasha soothed and held her hand up for the little girl to take.

Natasha held her hand up for five seconds as the girl contemplated what she would do. In the end the little girl decided to put her hand in Natasha’s and her life in her hands as she came out from under the table.

“There you go. See it’s ok. You’re safe.” Natasha said pushing the hair out of the little girl’s eyes and looking at her arms for any injuries.

“My name is Natasha, I’m here to help you. What’s your name?”

“My name is Anya.” The little girl said in shakey english.

“You speak english?” Natasha asked her.

“Not a lot.” The little girl replied as Natasha continued to check her for any injuries.

“That’s ok. Anya, how old are you?” Natasha asked turning her around.

“10” She winced as Natasha touched a spot on her shoulder. Natasha held her anger inside as she let go of her shoulder and came around to face the little girl.

“Did he hurt you? The man you were running from? Did he hit you?” She pulled the little girls chin from her chest as she was staring at the ground to look at Natasha in the eyes.

The little girl shook her head no and the terror reappeared in her eyes.

“Anya. Listen to me. That man will never hurt you again. You will never have to see him again. You will never have to go back to him. You are safe now. You are with me, I’m going to take care of you. Now I need you to trust me Anya. I need you to tell me the truth. Did he hit you? Did he hurt you?” Natasha said as nothing but images and memories of Clint came rolling through her head. Everytime they picked up a kid on a mission and brought them back to S.H.I.E.L.D with them because they would be safer ran through her head.

Everytime Clint interrogated someone who had been held captive by the bad guys. The way his voice sounded, how calm he was with them. How compassionate he was towards them. All of that came rushing through Natasha’s mind, how much she missed him came running through her mind. If Clint were here he would know what to do, he would know what to say to the little girl who was just so scared.

The little girl nodded her head yes as tears started to come to her eyes.

“It’s ok Anya. You’re safe now.” Natasha said as she took the little girl’s hand.

“Anya. I’m going to take you with me now. I’m going to take you to meet some of my friends. We’re going to take care of you.”

“Please. Please no. Don’t take me! He’ll kill me! Please!” Anya begged as Natasha stood up.

“Shh. It’s ok. Anya. Do you trust me?” Natasha soothed kneeling back down to the girl’s eye level.

The little girl nodded yes as she calmed down.

“Ok Anya. I will keep you safe. He can’t hurt you anymore, I promise. I need you to come with me though.” Natasha reasoned with the girl as Natasha heard screams coming from near where she had left the man’s body.

“Ok.” The little girl said as Natasha stood and started walking away from the market and back toward the S.H.I.E.L.D car that she had left waiting for them.

When she opened the door the other S.H.I.E.L.D agents she had left were on the phone with someone, presumably Fury or Coulson.

“Ok. Anya, we’re going to take you someplace safe now.” She said setting the girl into the seat next to her and buckling her in with the seatbelt. She never bothered with them if she was being driven, but whenever her and Clint had kids in the car with them they demanded that they be buckled up.

Natasha got in the other side of the car and was met with a phone shoved in her face and a very confused Coulson.

“Agent Romanoff. You’ve been busy.” He said with a chuckle.

“Hold on Coulson.” She said pulling the phone away from her face.

“Anya. Are you hungry? Do you want some water?” Natasha asked the little girl in hindi as she pushed her hair away from her eyes.

The little girl nodded and Natasha spoke to the two agents in the front of the car, “Stop somewhere and get her some food and something to drink, then find us a clothing store and a hotel.” Natasha ordered in english and the two men refused to disobey her.

“So Natasha. Care to explain what you’re talking about?” Coulson asked her when she put the phone back up to her ear.

“She’s a kid Coulson. I saw her running from her husband while I sitting in traffic. I couldn’t just watch her get taken.”

“Natasha you have a mission.”

“I understand I have a mission and she can help me with it. I can use her to bait Banner.”

“Natasha. Why did you pick up the girl?”

“Coulson. I couldn’t watch her be taken to be married to a man more than triple her age. Clint wouldn’t have let it happen Coulson. I’m not sorry for what I did. I saved her life.”

“Natasha are you doing this because of Clint? Are you compromised?” He asked her in a deadly serious tone. She knew the answer to this question, so did Coulson. Clint was the love of her life, losing him would not be good for anyone.

“No Coulson. I did this to save a little girl’s life. I saw too many other little girls married off to men by the Red Room and I couldn’t see another one fall to the same fate. I did this for me Coulson so back off.” She demanded with a hurt buried in her voice that Coulson knew he needed to back off.

“I want Banner here in twelve hours.” He ordered knowing that Natasha was going through more than anyone at S.H.I.E.L.D could imagine right now. She was not only reliving her past, but losing the person who had pulled her from it at the same time. She had lost friends at the Project Pegasus collapse and was being called on to save the world and be brave for everyone else at the same time. He knew they needed to find Barton fast.

“I’ll have him to you in nine. I need a quinjet though.” Natasha responded with a hint of a lighter tone.

“It’s already waiting for you at the airport.”

“Thank you Coulson.”

“We think we have an update on Loki’s plan. I’ll brief you on it when you get back. Make sure you drop the kid off before you get here please.”

“I already planned on it.” Natasha said and then hung up the phone as an agent passed back a Happy Meal to the girl sitting next to her.

“Agent Romanoff. The hotel reservation you asked for is ready to go. Would you like us to go there first or stop at the clothing shop?” The agent sitting in the passenger side asked her as he held a phone away from his face.

“Drop us off at the hotel, then you two go get her some new clothes, she’ll need at least three sets. Then we will get ready to bring in Banner.” She ordered and the agent nodded putting the phone back up to his face and resuming his call.

“Natasha.” The little girl called out to her in english.

“Yes Anya?”

“Thank you for saving me.”

It was an hour after the two agents dropped off Natasha and Anya that they returned with he new wardrobe, thankfully one of the agents had a daughter around Anya’s age and got the things that they would need. After they dropped the clothing off in the room they stood guard outside of the door.

After Natasha laid out her clothes and Anya was dressed Natasha turned off the T.V to talk to her.

“Anya. I need your help. Do you think you could help me?” Natasha asked her when the girl looked at her.

The little girl nodded and Natasha continued. She pulled out a picture of Bruce Banner and handed it to her. “This man is a friend of mine, he isn’t talking to me right now and I need you to bring him to me so we can talk.” Natasha lied to her so smoothly no one other than her would have been able to know.

“What happened?”

“He got angry at me for something I did a long time ago. He moved here to start a new life afterwards.” Natasha continued to lie.

“How can I convince him to talk to you?”

“Well. That’s the thing, you won’t be able to. I need you to tell him a story.”

“What do I tell him?” The little girl asked only wanting Natasha’s approval, Natasha was manipulating the girl and she knew it, she didn’t like it, but she needed to get the job done.

Natasha sat waiting for Banner in the house. She had the agents surrounding the house and one of them tailing Anya to make sure she was safe. They had their orders, the two who had picked them up were to take Anya back to the U.S. get her to a secure location and work on getting her in the system.

As she sat she noticed her focus drifting, she tried to find something, anything to keep her mind occupied, to keep it away from Clint, but everytime it kept drifting back to him.

It drifted to the way her fingers felt in his hair, the way her hand fit in his, the way he would jump when her cold hands touched him on a lazy morning. All of her thoughts, every single one of them, no matter what she tried, drifted back to him, they would always drift back to him.

It wasn’t long before Anya ran through the house, it took even less time for her to get the doctor to agree to come in. She let him see some vulnerability in her, Fury wanted him to trust her, she needed to figure out if she could get him to. When the calvary was packed up into a convoy they headed to the airport. She didn’t look up from her phone until Banner talked to her on the car ride.

“Why did Fury send you?” He asked, trying to get a read on her.

“Doctor we have been putting together a team. I am one of the members of that team. I was tasked to bring you in.” Natasha said not looking up from her phone as a message came in from Hill.

“That didn’t exactly answer my question.” He fired back.

“Well Fury didn’t exactly tell me.”

“Who’d you lose?” He asked watching the video play on her phone from the reflection on the window. It was the video of the portal collapsing in on itself at Project Pegasus.

“I don’t know. The total body count isn’t up yet. A lot of people still missing, it’s a devastating hit nonetheless.” Natasha said putting down her phone for the first time, she had meant for him to see the video, not for him to start asking questions about her personal life.

“Boyfriend?” He asked.

“Don’t have one.” She didn’t lie, Clint wasn’t her boyfriend, he was something more even if that something didn’t exactly have a title to it.

“Best friend?”

“I didn’t lose him in the explosion.” Natasha said referencing Clint. His status in her love life might not have been clear, but he would always be her best friend and her partner.

“What does that mean?” Banner asked not understanding what had happened, or even fully knowing what was going on.

“The Tesseract wasn’t the only thing taken by Loki. He has some sort of mind control. He took my best friend and another person. Dr. Eric Selvig.” Natasha told him as Fury’s words echoed through her head.

“Get him to trust you, we need him to trust you.” He told her when he first told her about the Avenger Initiative, she was always going to be the one to bring him in, no matter the circumstances. Fury had a plan even if he wouldn’t tell her.

“Selvig. He sounds familiar. What type of scientist was he?”

“Astrophysicists, working on harvesting energy from space.”

“Oh.” He said. Natasha let the silence stretch on. She went back to her phone. They were at the airport quickly and Natasha had the two of them in the air in no time, at the rate they were going, she would have Banner to Fury in well less than nine hours.

She piloted the plane, she didn’t dislike flying, but she much prefered to be the co-pilot. She like manning the controls while her partner flew. She missed him more than she wanted to think about, but piloting the plane by herself reminded her just how much she missed him.

Chapter Text

“You’re thinking about her again aren’t you?” Loki asked him even though they were nowhere near each other.

“Not if you don’t want me to be.” he responded coming back to full attention at his post, he was set to leave in an hour. Loki needed to arrive first. The entire plan was laid out in his head, all he needed to do was go through with it.

“Agent Barton. Are you going to marry her one day?” Loki asked as he flashed images of the red head through Clint’s mind.

“It’s the eventual goal. I’ve already got a ring picked out, I just need to execute it.”

“Well then why haven’t you done it yet? You two have been together for what, five ten years?” He asked scrolling through Clint’s memories like a book.

“I don’t know how you guys do it where your from, but it’s different here and it’s especially different for her.”

“What do you mean?”

“Natasha isn’t the type of person you can just spring a marriage proposal on. You have to work it into her brain without her even knowing about it. She isn’t the type of person who likes surprises.”

“Then why even marry her at all?”

“It’s an Earth thing. You wouldn’t understand.”

“Tell me.” He offered slyly

“Marriage is what you do when you love someone so much that it feels like you can’t live without them. When you finally find them it’s like finding the thing you’ve been looking for your whole life without even knowing that you’re looking for it.”

“You saved her life. Why?”

“I knew she was meant for more than her life had her doing. She was too valuable a resource to eliminate.” He watched as Loki replayed the night that he had saved Natasha.

“She means a lot to you?”

“She means nearly everything to me.”

“Tell me mortal, when you lost everything, what was the first thing you thought about?”

“Natasha Romanoff.”

Loki was tired of constantly hearing about her about how “special” she was. She couldn’t be anything, she was only a mortal and not even a superpowered one at that. She was an over glorified favorite who somehow found her way onto a team of superpowered humans because this blithering idiot couldn’t kill her. Couldn’t kill a killer because of some moral code that he had. He couldn’t understand it and to him it was an obsession, not a love.

“Why are you so obsessed with her?”

Every image of Natasha flashed through his mind, from her in jaw dropping ball gowns, to a tattered and torn mission suit covered with blood as she bled profusely, to a pair of leggings and a sweatshirt of his that she had stolen. He saw her working, he remembered feeling her hand in his when he woke up and couldn’t hear anything. He felt her soft lips touching his for the first time, following her to an orphanage for the first time and watching her hold a newborn baby who wouldn’t stop crying. He saw the love of his life and nothing else. He saw her beautiful heart, her kind eyes, the pain she holds inside that brilliant brain of hers, he saw it all. Everything he had ever loved.

“Because she is the most beautiful person I have ever met.” He said with the first smile coming to his face since Loki had taken him.

“She’s only a mortal, she will die like the rest of you when she stands against me.” He said with the ego and disgust clear in his voice.

“Yeah. She might, but I know she will stand against you no matter what, no matter if you have me or not. She will do the right thing, that’s what she does.”

“What makes her so special to you?” Loki asked not understanding how he could love her as much as he did. To him she was just a killer, she was no more than he was, to him she was nothing.

“Words can’t describe what makes her so special.”

“Well then, show me.” Loki baited, he knew she would come to him, he was planning to be captured, it was part of his plan, it was always part of his plan.

Every single mission Clint had with Natasha, every single story that she had told him. Everything. He didn’t want it to happen, but he wasn’t himself he still had no control. He even let Loki see the things he had never allowed anyone else to see, his disdain for everyone who had ever hurt her. His feelings of love for Maria, Coulson, and Fury. His advanced clearance, S.H.I.E.L.D mission plans, world security council meetings he sat in on.

Anything Loki wanted was fair game now, he had let him in a fraction to show him and he had unlocked everything that he had hide from him. Stark tower, the Helicarriers infrastructure. Clint was beat, and he knew it. He had lost. Loki had won, he had access to everything, every secret, hell he even knew that Clint had never meant to kill anyone when they were leaving Project Pegasus.

Loki suddenly appeared in the plane. Every ounce of hope fell from him. The coldness, the pain reappeared. He couldn’t move. Loki ripped him from his seat on the plane and threw him against the opposite wall.

“Why! Why did you lie to me!” Loki screamed picking up Clint by the throat.

“I…” Clint choked out.

“You useless goon! I should kill you here and now. It would save me much time, but I need you.” Loki growled throwing him down.

“I will make you kill her. I don’t even care anymore, the next time you see her will be your last. Her death will be so painful they will leave nothing for you to remember her by. You will watch the life fade from her eyes and feel nothing until I let you wake, you will only know that pain when I force you to see what you have done. What you have done to your beloved.”

Clint couldn’t respond, he only stared back at him in fear. He watched as Clint destroyed the Helicarrier, murdered Natasha, Fury, Maria. Hacked into S.H.I.E.L.D, released every file, every secret. He watched it all happen because of him. He was trapped in the nightmare that was his own mind and this time the thoughts of Natasha couldn’t save him, they only brought him more pain.

“Good. You disastrous excuse for a human being. You deserve nothing but pain. I will ensure that you feel nothing but pain.”

Clint shut his eyes trying to get it to stop. Trying to get the images of Natasha's death to stop. His head burned like it had been set on fire, his mind was reeling, he was so lost in his own head, his own pain, that he didn't notice loki's laughter, his sudden disappearance.

Clint finally caught his breath and the pain released him, a new plan was inserted into its place. He was gone, farther than before, he didn't even recognize his actions his movements, he didn't know what he was doing. In his place of knowing what he was doing Loki placated him with Natasha.

Him and Natasha wrapped up in sheets, her soft skin, her hair, the way she felt. She overwhelmed his senses, all of them, he saw what he was doing, but he couldn't care less. He had Natasha, she was safe in his arms, he could feel her heart beating, her breathing. She was safe. That was all he cared about.

He couldn't think about Loki, the Tesseract, the end of the world. It was simply a blur to him, his mind was piloting his body without his control. Loki had pulled him out stuffed something else inside of him. His brain had been played with, toyed with, nearly destroyed by a god, but he would not lose. He had Natasha, he had to fight for Natasha, he had to keep going because of Natasha.

Without her, without her smile, her laugh, the thought of getting to go home to her at the end of this, at the end of all of this kept him fighting, kept him wanting to fight. He wanted to get back home to her, feel her in his arms, feel her heart beating against his chest. He wanted to wake up next to her again. To ask her a million more idiotic questions, make her breakfast. Watch her back on a mission. He wanted to see her playing with kids in some remote country that probably isn’t even on any map one last time if that was all he had with her. He wanted to spend every single moment with her that he could, he wanted to give her the engagement ring that he saw himself buying in his vision.

He wanted to spend the rest of his life with Natasha Romanoff, no matter how long or short it was, because he knew that he would love her until the day that he died.

When Clint was under Loki’s control, when his brain was pulled out, the thing that kept him going was Natasha Romanoff, because she was no longer just his partner, she was encoded into his DNA.

Chapter Text

“Agent Romanoff. Glad to see you again. Dr. Banner, welcome aboard. My name is agent May.” May introduced herself as Natasha flew past her with her bags in hand to set them down in her room and go meet Fury. He had wanted to see her before he saw Banner.

Natasha diverted from her usual route, instead of following the corridors with the least amount of traffic she weaved her way towards the center of the ship where she knew Maria Hill was. She arrived at the main concourse and stuck her head in. Maria was ordering people to prepare the ship for take off, soon she caught Natasha’s eye from across the room and followed her when she finished.

Natasha unlocked the door and left it open for Maria, she was a few seconds behind her. She threw her luggage in the corner and went to the bathroom to change as Maria walked in.

“Hey Nat.” She called out sitting on the bed so she didn’t startle Maria.

“I already knew you were here.”

“I figured. How’s Doctor Banner?” Maria asked her trying to avoid the topic that she knew was coming.

“He’s weird. Any luck on the search?” She asked as she came out of the bathroom in her signature leather jacket, jeans, and red shirt. Natasha still hadn’t looked at Maria.

“Nat.” Maria knew something was wrong, Natasha was the closest thing she had to a sister, they were family. She could read Natasha pretty well, at least when Natasha wanted her to.

Natasha looked at Maria for the first time, she saw the bruises she was trying to hide, the stitches at her hairline, the nail beds that had been picked at so much they were red and had been bleeding.

“What the hell were you thinking?” Natasha asked with her voice hoarse, she never got choked up, never got emotional, but everything in the last day and a half had been too much, and seeing Maria like this was the last straw.

“Natasha I was doing my job. It was my responsibility, I was the last line of defense, you would have done the same thing.”

“Maria. You could have died. I would have lost you too. Maria look at you, you’re battered and bruised. A building fell on you! A building! And you didn’t even tell me, you didn’t even tell me what happened.”

“Natasha don’t tell me you wouldn’t have done the same thing because you have.”

“Don’t pull Beirut on me. Not now.” Natasha warned.

“Beirut? What about Budapest? Moscow? Fucking Abu Dhabi?” Maria screamed. She was not going to let Natasha treat her like a child, she was the assistant director of S.H.I.E.L.D, she knew what she was doing, she could handle herself, she was doing her job.

“It’s different.”

“How in the world is it different? What? Is it because you think I can’t handle myself?” Maria yelled, she knew she was probably picking a fight with the wrong person, Natasha had been through hell in the last day, but so had Maria and she was tired of people walking over her today.

“Of course not! It’s because I know you can, but you're supposed to be safe. You’re the one who I can always count on to be there. You’re not in the field anymore, at least not to the same capacity you were. Maria you’re my sister, I’m supposed to keep you safe. What I do is supposed to keep you safe.” Natasha whispered.

“Natasha…” Maria trailed off.

“Clint almost killed you. He tried to kill you. I’m sorry.” Natasha said turning away from Maria. She wouldn’t break, she refused to break, she couldn’t break. The whole world was counting on her to be strong right now, to do something she never even thought about doing, but she needed to do because it was her job.

“Natasha. We both know if Barton had tried to kill me you would be planning my funeral right now. Barton is in there somewhere. He didn’t kill me, he didn’t even come close. Natasha, he missed.”

“He what?” Natasha said snapping around and putting herself back together.

“He missed. Nat. He’s in there. Clint is still in there somewhere.”

“That son of a bitch.” Natasha said with a half smile coming to her face.

“Agent Romanoff. Agent Hill. Report.” Fury said through the coms devices in their ears.

“This is Agent Romanoff.”

“This is Agent Hill.”

“You two. My office. You have five minutes.” Fury nearly growled.

Natasha and Maria looked at each other. “Copy.” They say at the same time and walk out of the door in stride with each other.

“You think it’s Barton?” Maria asked as they ran up the stairs.

“Could be Rogers, or Danvers.” Natasha proposed

“You think he is going to call in Carol? It’s early and you know.”

“I think it’s more likely than Barton. He wouldn't have given us a countdown if it was Barton.”

“I guess we’ll see.”

“Romanoff.” Fury said as they walked through the door.

“Director Fury.”

Maria closed the door and Fury began. “Natasha. How was Calcutta?”

“Banner is back in one piece so is the city. The kid is with agents.”

“And?”

“I got him to trust me. He's on board.”

“What about the other guy?”

“Never saw him.” Natasha said sitting down on the couch.

Fury grunted. “Natasha you seem to be very short, is something wrong?” He baited

“Nick. There’s movement on the flight deck. I believe they are preparing for captain Rogers arrival.” Maria said trying to steer the conversation away from where it was headed.

“I can hear them Maria. I may be blind in one eye, but I can still hear just fine.”

Natasha weighed her options, she didn’t like any of them, she needed to stay composed she saw from the look in Fury’s eye, someone was listening. She assumed it was the Council. They didn’t like her, didn’t like the fact that she had been chosen as an Avenger. They knew her redacted file and not a whole lot more, when she considered her choices she answered.

“I’m here to follow orders and report back. I was called so I came, is that all Director?” Natasha stood to leave.

Fury nodded and smiled. His eye flickered to the side for a moment and Natasha caught his gaze which was the shelf next to Maria. Maria smiled and took the battery out of the clock she was next to.

“Well now that that is out of the way. Let's get down to business. Do you have any idea where Loki could be hiding Barton?”

“Nothing on any of our safe houses. Maybe if you had let me look for him instead of going after Banner he would be here right now.” Natasha snapped.

“Natasha, please. You know I didn’t want to do that. It’s always been the plan for you to bring in Banner, I needed you to do it.”

Natasha only looked at Fury waiting for a better excuse from him. When she realized he wouldn’t give her one she looked away. He sighed and started again. “Natasha do you know what Loki is after with Barton?”

“Why would I know?” She asked incredulously.

“Natasha you know Barton better than anyone else. What is he thinking, what’s going through his head right now?”

“Nick. I don’t even know what happened, other than that Loki took him under some mind control.”

“Maria?” Fury asked as she was looking out of the window trying to stay out of the argument.

“I felt that it would be better if it was done in person, this wasn’t a video that should have been sent while Natasha was on a mission.” Maria explained.

Nick sighed. “Well then.” He went over to the computer in his office and streamed it to the television on the other wall. He pressed play and Natasha sat down.

Natasha watched. She watched the whole thing, she watched the moment that Clint was captured and the following moment. She watched the moment he was turned into a mindless soldier and could do nothing about it, she saw herself in him for the first time, she saw herself being turned into a child slave as she watched Clint be ripped from his mind and had something else implanted inside of him. She wanted to look away, but she couldn’t so she just continued to watch. She hid all emotion from every part of her body she couldn’t let Fury and Maria know what was going through her head, even if she cared about them, even if they already knew about her and Clint.

When the video finished playing Fury turned off the television and everyone was silent. Natasha had blocked herself off from everything, right now all she allowed herself to think about was the next mission. All she cared about was finding the bastard who had took Clint and making him pay for what he had done.

“Natasha.” Fury started as a voice came through the intercom.

“Director Fury. Captain Rogers is on the final descent.” the voice informed.

“Copy. Someone is on their way.” Natasha was still looking at the television so Fury looked to Maria to go greet the captain, but before she could react Natasha stood.

“This is Agent Romanoff, I’m on my way to the flight deck. Prepare Banner and Rogers quarters for arrival.” Natasha said into her coms device as she walked out of the room.

The door closed behind her and Maria and Nick were staring at each other in silence.

Fury spoke after a moment, “Get me eyes on Barton.” he ordered.

“Understood.” Maria said as she made her way down to the bridge.

Chapter Text

“I need every open source on this planet looking for the Tesseract and Agent Barton. Do whatever you have to do, all open sources, I want eyes and ears on everything.” Maria barked at every intern changing the plan of attack from only scanning the globe through satellites to actually using others people's sources.

“Romanoff we're starting the face trace now, when Coulson lands send him to me.” Fury ordered through coms.

“Copy. Instructions for Rogers?”

“Introduce yourself, maybe tell him a joke, get him acquainted with Banner if you can. I'm less concerned about Rogers.”

“Understood. The plane has landed, I'm waiting for him now.”

“Copy.”

Natasha walked over to the taxiing plane, when it stopped the back hatch opened and both Coulson and Steve Rogers exited the plane. Natasha was interested in Captain America, she wanted to know if the stories were true, she was “educated” in the wicked ways of America in the Red Room with Captain America cartoons, she knew they were lies, but at S.H.I.E.L.D, he was a living legend. When she first came to S.H.I.E.L.D the history of the organization was half of Captain America’s story. It was founded because of him.

Coulson stepped out of the plane and Natasha smiled at his attempt to hide his excitement at being so close to his idol. Fury had put him on his detail because he loved how excited Coulson got when there was anything to do with Captain America, Coulson was the resident Cap expert at S.H.I.E.L.D other than ex-director Carter. He figured Cap would enjoy the welcoming party of Coulson.

“Agent Romanoff, meet captain Rogers.” He introduced.

“Hi. You’re needed on the bridge, they’re starting the facetrace.”

“See you there.” Coulson said walking one way while Romanoff and Rogers walked the other.

“There was a lot of buzz around here finding you in the ice. I thought Coulson was gonna swoon. Did he ask you to sign his Captain America trading cards yet?” She asked him breaking the ice.

“Trading cards?” He asked, confused.

“They’re vintage, he’s very proud.” She offered him.

“Really Natasha? You go with an old joke?” Fury asked her through coms.

Natasha only smiled as she noticed Doctor Banner meet the Captain.

“Good work getting them to meet, now get them inside, we’ll be lifting off soon and I don’t want either of them on the deck one we are up in the air.” Fury ordered Natasha like she was babysitting four year olds.

Natasha walked over to the two who were talking as the engines unfolded from the sides of the carrier and alarms started going off. “Gentlemen, you might want to step inside, it’s going to get a little hard to breathe.”

Neither of them followed her warning and walked closer to the edge of the deck and Natasha trailed after them watching their wonder.

“Is this a submarine?” Steve asked.

“Really? You want me in a submerged pressurized metal container?” Bruce countered, as the engines finished unfolding and started they both stepped back to avoid the wind.

“Oh no, this is much worse.” Bruce said answering his own question.

“Are we finished out here boys? They’re waiting for us inside.” Natasha asked them and they turned to follow her.

“So Agent Romanoff is it?” Steve asked.

“Yes Captain Rogers.”

“This thing we’re on what exactly is it?”

“It’s called a helicarrier, like an aircraft carrier, but she’s got a few tricks up her sleeve.”

“Natasha I really don’t think this is the best place for me to be.”

“Don’t worry doctor S.H.I.E.L.D has taken the necessary precautions to have you on board.” Natasha said weaving her way through decks at a brisk walk as the others tried to keep up.

Bruce and Steve hung a few steps back while trying to keep up, people on the carrier seemed to move out of her way when she passed by, it was easy for them to move through.

“Do you know who she really is?” Bruce asked him quietly, but Natasha still heard.

“A big time agent, apparently she lost someone in the attack, they didn’t tell me much about her in the packet.” Steve offered.

“Packet? What packet?” Banner asked.

“The information packet on that see-through thing. It was kinda like a movie theater, almost like a computer I guess. It had information on who I’d be working with, I get them a lot. It plays videos, it’s how they started showing me about the future.” Steve tried to explain with his limited knowledge on 21st century technology.

“Boys you coming?” Natasha called from the top of the stairs, they had gotten a little far from her for her comfort.

The pair hustled up the steps and stayed closer to Natasha the rest of the walk.

“Do you know what ocean we’re in?” Bruce asked looking out of a window they passed.

“Atlantic. We’re on eastern time if that helps you Doc.”

Bruce nodded looking at his watch which was now several hours off. After a few more minutes Natasha looked back and smirked at their amazement as they walked into the bridge. Steve wandered for a few seconds as Fury finished overseeing takeoff. Bruce immediately went for an exit, but stopped when he saw the armed guards and awkwardly turned around.

Natasha headed to the side to check the levels with Maria, Natasha still didn’t like the helicarrier takeoffs since the second time she was on one it took off and almost fell out of the sky. Fury turned around and addressed the men once the helicarrier had safely vanished.

As he turned around Steve handed him a ten dollar bill and Fury smirked, Natasha figured they had a bet and watched Maria’s concerned face as she watched Steve. Natasha walked over to look at one of the computers that was searching everywhere for Clint. SHe knew it just started but she couldn’t help but look at the progress bar.

She looked at his ID picture as Fury talked to Banner and only half listening. She couldn’t help but smile at how angry Clint was in his ID picture, he hadn’t slept in days after being on a sniper team mission and the last time he could take his mandatory ID picture was when the moment he got back from his mission. Natasha wished she only had to deal with a sleep deprived Clint at the moment.

“We’re scanning all open sources, if it’s connected to a satellite it’s eyes and ears for us.” Coulson offered.

“That still isn’t going to find them in time.” Natasha knew how to avoid being spotted by cameras and how to hide, Clint was just as good at it, there was no way they were going to find them before the war started, or before Loki finished doing whatever it is he was doing with Clint.

“You need to narrow your field, how many spectrometers do you have access to.” Bruce asked as Steve still wondered around the bridge amazed by the technology and would occasionally ask someone a question.

“How many are there?” Fury asked.

“Call every lab you know, tell them to put the spectrometers on the roof and calibrate them for gamma rays, I’ll rough out a tracking algorithm, that should at least rule out a few places.” Bruce ordered, finally starting to feel a little more comfortable.

“You have somewhere for me to work?” Bruce asked.

“Agent Romanoff. Will you show Doctor Banner to his laboratory?” Fury instructed and Natasha led the way out of the bridge.

“You’re going to love it Doc, we got all the toys.” She said as they walked out. The lab was only a few floors above the bridge the walk was short.

When they arrived Natasha got Doctor Banner signed into the computer system and looked out of the window as he got set up. She loved coming here and watching the sun rises when the nightmares didn’t let her sleep and Clint was away. This was one of her hideouts when it wasn’t being occupied by scientists. When Doctor banner dropped an instrument she whipped around quickly to find it’s source, her hand hovered over her holster.

“Sorry, my bad.” Bruce apologized putting his hands up.

Natasha didn’t say anything, but walked over and helped him set the instrument back up on the table, she walked over to a wall and pressed a button releasing computer monitors that could move about the room.

“That help you Doc?” She asked sitting on one of the other tables to watch him work.

“Yes thank you.” He said as he peered over a computer with his glasses on and seemed to be struggling.

“Need help?” Natasha asked pulling over a screen and taking over control of the computer.

“I need access to every spectrometer there is, but I’m more the physical biotech guy, computers aren’t usually my specialty.”

Natasha nodded and got to work, she started hacking and in five minutes Bruce had access to everything he needed, plus some.

“Jack of all trades I see Ms. Romanoff.” Bruce said impressed.

Natasha smiled, “How fast do you think you can find the tesseract?”

“It depends. I have to isolate the signature first, then create the algorithm and then it’s out of my hands.” Bruce said without looking up from the screen.

Natasha didn’t say anything. She went back to the last known footage of agent Barton and watched it again, looking for some sort of clue to where he was.

“So this Agent Barton meant a lot to you?” He asked.

“Means a lot Doctor. He isn’t gone yet.” She responded rewinding the video and slowing it down.

“Right. So this team that Fury has assembled, what is it exactly?”

“A variable threat response unit. We are built to handle almost anything Fury throws at us.” She still hadn’t looked up from her screen and was now zooming in.

“Have you guys ever assembled before?”

Natasha didn’t say anything and walked out of the room, almost at a run trying to get to Fury’s office as fast as possible.

Bruce looked up and watched Natasha, he wondered if what he said set her off. He glanced over at her screen and shrugged, if it was important someone would tell him, he needed to finish isolating the gamma signature.

When Natasha walked with a purpose on the helicarrier people parted like the red sea, and she was nearly running, no one dared to get in her way. When she got to the door she didn’t even bother knocking.

“Fury set the carrier on a course for Europe.” Natasha ordered as she barged in.

Fury sat at his desk on the phone while Maria waited impatiently by the window.

“Yes Mr. President I understand the circumstances, but we need a response team, we cannot deploy the military until we know where the fighting will be happening, if we do it will look like we are looking to start a war.”

“No sir.”

“Sir if we could have access to Colonel Rhodes we could add him to the response team and.”

“Yes sir I understand the situation we are in and you do not Mr. President. The safety of the world is at stake here, I will not leave this situation to politics. I will do what I need to do and the entire world will thank me for it when this is all over.” Fury nearly yelled into the phone knowing he would lose government support for it, but not caring anyway.

Fury slammed down the phone and Maria sat down on the other side of his desk.

“Let me guess, we don’t get Rhodes?” Maria asked.

“Not only that, the president threatened to deploy the army and take over control of operations. He has no clue what’s going on he’s way out of his depth and if he even remotely thinks he knows what he’s doing he’s wrong.”

Fury walked away from his desk and looked out of the window. “Six and a half billion lives are at stake and the president wants to get into a pissing contest with me. He better be lucky I’m busy.” Fury said with a chuckle.

“You could call her.” Maria offered.

“You don’t need to. I know where he’s at.” Natasha said finally demanding attention.

“What?” Fury asked turning around. Maria just looked at Natasha, stunned that she found him so quickly.

“He’s in Europe, hiding underground somewhere and if my guess is right he’s after something that has to do with science, he’s building something, or he’s having someone build something for Loki. It has to do with the tesseract.” Natasha explained.

“How do you know?” Maria asked.

“When he leaves the tunnel he takes out his hearing aids. The only time he wears his hearing aids underground are when he’s on a mission. Why would he take them out as he is leaving the tunnel. He shot you in the chest as he was leaving Nick, where was the last time he shot you?”

“Cover mission in England. He had to prove his loyalty to the mob. Natasha that doesn’t mean he’s in Europe, maybe he’s running underground, but even that’s a stretch.” Fury tried to reason.

“He shot at Maria four times, counting your bullet, that makes five. In the last year Clint and I have been to Europe five times together on missions.”

“Natasha I want to believe you, but I can’t move base off of how many times Clint shot at Maria.”

“Seven of S.H.I.E.L.D’s washed out, disenfranchised recruits, that are on the threat list have caught flights to Europe, Germany to be more specific in the past ten hours. He’s recruiting them Nick. He is leaving clues for us, we just have to follow them now.”

Fury sighed. “You better be right about this Natasha.”

“I am.”

“Let’s go move it out, down to the bridge. Natasha I want you looking for clues and ready to go at a moment’s notice.” Fury ordered.

Natasha nodded and took her leave. Maria waited for her instructions.

“Do you think she’s right?” He asked her.

“No one knows Clint like she does, if she says she knows where he is then she damn well knows where he is. It’s the only lead we have so far. If we follow it and it doesn’t pan out before we track Loki or before Banner tracks the tesseract then no harm, no foul.”

“Do you think she’s only after Barton or do you think she thinks the tesseract is with him?” He asked as they rode the elevator from Fury’s office to the bridge.

“I think she knows that the odds of the tesseract being with him are fairly high.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“She’s playing for us, but you told her to find Barton, she’s following orders.”

 

“Agent Barton.” Loki demanded his attention and his head turned without his noticing, his memories of Natasha were ripped from him and he was now paying full attention to every word Loki was saying.

“Where is the engagement ring you saw? What store is it at?” He asked.

“It’s a store in Milan. It’s a mom and pop store called Piccola Scatola di Velluto.” Clint responded automatically.

“How quickly can you get there?”

“It’s about half an hour in the jet, 15 minutes if I push it.”

“Go. I want you back in no more than an hour. Buy the ring, fly to your instructed position and wait for my word.”

Clint nodded robotically.

“Good. Leave now. I want you seen, but do not make a mistake, or she will pay for it do you understand?”

“Yes sir.”

Chapter Text

“Director Fury the council is on the line.” One of the agents shouted from her post as Fury was correcting course.

He sighed and nodded to Maria and she took over. He walked to the meeting room and with met with nothing but angry faces.

“Director Fury do you care to explain why you are now correcting course for Europe?” The deep southern accented voice asked.

“I don't care to do anything unrelated to fighting the war we are in right now.” Fury grumbled

“Director Fury is there new intelligence into the whereabouts of Loki and the tesseract?” The British woman asked, Fury liked her the best because she was the only one who treated his avengers with any civility.

“We have a possible lead that Loki is in Europe somewhere. More than likely underground, possibly in Germany.”

“Sounds like a lot of what ifs director. Where's the lead coming from?” Another Male asked from the shadows, his voice was much more polished than the first.

“Agent Romanoff has deduced our only lead for now. It's the only thing we have so we are running with it.”

“You mean to tell me you are betting everything off of the information that a spy told you and you don't even know if she's on our side?” The southerner yelled

“Natasha Romanoff has been loyal to us the whole time, I have no doubt that her information is correct.” Fury argued.

“What she is is a spy. A Russian spy for that fact. She cannot be trusted, you turn your ship around right now!”

“I will not be doing anything of the sort Mr. secretary, but thank you for your suggestion.”

“You have no idea what you are doing director. You are putting the fate of the world in the hands of a lying traitor. Turn your ship around right now! That is an order.”

“I don’t take orders from you. If you guys have no other concerns, I’m going to get back to work on locating the tesseract.” Fury turned to leave, but the woman called him back.

“Director Fury. How is the team coming along?” She asked

“The Avengers minus Mr. Stark and Agent Barton are on board. Mr. Stark will be joining us the moment we have a tangible lead, for now he is better utilized at the Stark Tower, he is working on going through Dr. Selvig's notes there.”

“You should be working on phase two. Your avengers are incapable of the assault we need.” The southerner commented.

“I don't want to hear another word out of you Mr. Secretary. You have no idea the forces we are dealing with in this war. You have no idea the type of invaluable support that Agent Romanoff has provided to us, so you have no idea what is going on.”

The woman on the council saw the looks on both of their faces and knew that this would turn ugly quickly. “Thank you Director Fury. That will be all for now. Keep us updated on the search.” She said ending the call.

Fury walked out of the room and slammed the door behind him to find Maria Hill waiting for him on the other side.

“It didn't go well if that's what your going to ask.”

“We have bigger problems. Agent Barton has just been spotted in Italy.” She said handing him a tablet showing the video footage of Barton.

“Italy? What is he doing there? He's managed to stay off of everything, why blow that now?” He asked handing her back the tablet.

“Because Loki told him to, or ordered him to. He's playing with us. His bank records show that he made a purchase at a jewelry store, a large one too.” She handed him back the tablet showing the records.

“Shit. Get me Coulson. Not a word to Romanoff. I'm assuming you buried it so she can't find it.”

“She can't find it easily, but if she were to find out, it wouldn't be hard for her to know.” Maria sighed.

“Fix that and keep her occupied. I don't want her finding out.”

“Sir is that really the best idea?” She asked him as they walked past people on the way to his office.

“Get me Coulson, whatever he's doing tell him to drop it. This is more important.” He ignored her question and turned away from her, leaving her to go find Coulson.

She made her way down to the lower deck where she knew Natasha was looking for clues and Coulson was keeping her from getting too close to anything that could tip her off to where Clint was.

“Coulson Fury needs you.” She announced.

He gave her a look to ask her if she could handle Natasha and Maria only nodded. Coulson walked past Maria and she sat down next to Natasha. She was going back through the footage of the last twelve hours before Clint was taken. Maria saw the look in Natasha's eyes and knew that she was determined to bring Clint home.

“Natasha. We're going to bring him home. We will move heaven and Earth to get him back to you.”

“I know. I'm not going to stop until I find him.” She said nonchalantly as she rewinded the video.

“Natasha. Have you and Clint ever talked about getting married?” Maria asked her out of the blue.

“It's been brought up a couple of times, I'm not opposed, as long as we get Clint back, I really don't care.” She lamented.

“He’ll be ok Nat. He’s strong.” Maria said putting her hand on Natasha’s shoulder and hating herself for even bringing up the subject, because she knew that Loki had made Clint purchase an engagement ring at the jewelry store.

“Yeah, but this is nothing we’ve ever faced before, he was ripped out of his own mind and had something else stuffed in, he’s been forced to kill people that he doesn’t even know. He has no clue what is going to happen to him at the end of all this, I don’t even know what’s going to happen to him at the end of all of this. I’m not even with him to help him through it.” Natasha sighed, pushing the computer away from herself.

“Nat he knows that you’re fighting for him, he knows that you’re doing everything you can to get him back home, to get him safe. He knows you’re looking for him Natasha. He knows that you would do anything for him.”

“He called me while I was in Russia, he called to tell me that he missed me and that he loved me. He never got the chance to send the message because of Loki, and I may never see him again because of it. I’m going to make that bastard pay for what he has done, I’m going to put him in his grave for it.”

“Natasha this is about fighting a war, not getting revenge.” Maria reminded even though she knew Natasha didn’t need the reminder.

“I don’t give a damn at this point, I can do both. If Fury is going to make me an avenger than he can be damn well sure that I will avenge something.” Natasha nearly growled

“Natasha Clint isn’t dead. He’s in there somewhere and you can find him and bring him back.”

“That isn’t how it works Maria. Clint is never going to be the same, he may not even remember what happened before. He may not remember us. He may not remember that I love him.” Natasha confessed, letting her worries out for the first time since she saw Clint be taken prisoner. She looked down and away from Maria trying to hide the fear from her friend.

“Natasha. Natasha look at me. Look at me.” Maria demanded Natasha’s attention.

“Clint Barton loves you, he will never, never forget that. Natasha the only thing getting him through this right now is you. The only thing he is thinking about is how much he loves you. What is going to get him through this is him wanting to get back home to you because I know that is the only thing that he wants to do right now. The only thing Clint is thinking about right now is how long he is going to hold you after he gets back home. Natasha. He isn’t going to forget that he loves you because you are the only thing that really matters to him and you know that.” Maria said thinking about all of the times that Clint called her to check on how Natasha was doing while they were on separate missions, she couldn’t help but think about how often he talked about her when they were alone, or how often Coulson came back from talking with Clint shaking his head because he was so head over heels in love with Natasha.

Maria didn’t know how this war was going to end, she didn’t know if they would win or lose, or how many agents would die. She didn’t know if they were going to find the tesseract in time, she didn’t know if the Council was going to take over war operations and if her and Fury would be tried for disobeying direct orders. Maria didn’t know a lot of things right now, but the one thing she was absolutely sure of was that at the end of this Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff would somehow, someway end up together no matter what happened.

 

“Where is Coulson?” Fury asked his secretary after three minutes of waiting without Coulson showing up.

“Right here boss. I had to make sure it was properly buried and she couldn’t get to it. Sorry boss.” He rushed in the office and Fury closed the door behind him.

“This is bad Coulson. This is very very bad.” Fury announced walking over to the window to watch the clouds float by.

“Really boss? I hadn't noticed.” Coulson sassed with a chuckle.

“Loki made Clint buy an engagement ring. He bought the ring for Natasha under Loki’s control.” Fury paced

“Yeah boss I know. I also know that we had to hide the fact that we even know where he is from Natasha, because if we do tell her she’ll go rogue.”

“Did you know he wanted to propose?” Fury asked quietly.

“That boy has wanted to marry her for years, he’s been planning the proposal for a year now, I even went with him so he could show me the ring he picked out for Natasha the last time we were in Italy. I just didn’t think this would happen like this.”

“This wasn’t supposed to happen.” Fury whispered

“What? The war that’s going on right now, or Clint and Natasha? Because we both know we couldn’t stop that train once it got started and neither of us wanted to stop it.” Coulson sassed again with a chuckle.

“Not now Coulson.”

 

“We can’t ever let Natasha find out about this. If she does, it’ll be the end of her time with S.H.I.E.L.D.” Fury decided.

“You and I both know that the council wouldn’t let that happen. They’d rather put Natasha in a prison than let her be without an agency under their control.”

“Which is exactly why she can never find out.” Fury reasoned.

“Well Maria is keeping her busy for now, maybe we can set her up babysitting the boys, or cleaning the weapons in the armory. She’ll enjoy that.” Coulson offered as the phone started ringing.

Fury picked up the phone without answering Coulson and put it on speaker, letting Tony Stark’s voice fill the room.

“Nick, why do I have a last known location on Agent Barton that isn’t project Pegasus from 45 minutes ago, and Agent Romanoff is still on your super secret spy ship?”

“You know Natasha doesn’t appreciate you tracking her whereabouts Tony.” Coulson tried to distract him from his question.

“You didn’t answer me. Why isn’t Agent Romanoff following the lead on Agent Barton?” He asked again with the accusatory tone growing in his voice.

“Because she doesn’t know Stark, that’s why, and she isn’t going to know either.” Fury barked.

“Does that fact have anything to do with the lovely engagement ring he just bought for her or are you guys just hiding information from her?”

“Stark so help me god if you tell her. Natash… Agent Romanoff cannot know about Agent Barton and she will not know. This is a matter of world security Stark, don’t go sticking your head where it isn’t wanted.” Fury ordered.

“Yeah that isn’t really my style. I’m, what was it again? Oh, volatile, self obsessed, don’t play well with others?” He sassed as the pair on the other side could hear machinery whirling in the background.

“Stark do not tell Natasha. That is an order!” Fury nearly yelled.

“Whatever. I’m going to check it out right now. Let me know if you find anything else relevant that you want to keep hidden from your favorite daughter while I'm there.” Tony sneered and hung up the phone.

“Maybe Stark’s right about this one.” Coulson admitted

 

“Natasha can’t know.” Fury finalized with a power in his voice that very few people would fight. He walked away from his desk and Coulson followed him out of the door.

“Keep Natasha as busy as you can. I’ll be on the bridge, if you need to send her to me and I’ll keep her busy.” Fury ordered stepping in the elevator and letting it close so Coulson had to take the stairs.

As Coulson climbed the stairs he whispered to himself, “This is a bad idea. Natasha’s going to find out and have our heads on a platter. I would like to know what he is thinking by doing this, just this once, because he has to know this isn’t going to end well.”

 

Fury walked onto the bridge with a scowl on his face and his coat billowing behind him. He glanced up from his post and saw everyone still looking for Agent Barton and the cube and no one was any the wiser for what he knew.

He watched Captain rogers explore the ship with Coulson, through the security cameras and watched Bruce’s progress from the feed he had set up in the lab. Natasha was down in the range, firing with just as much precision as Clint and Maria was working beside him. For now they had access to every resource at their disposal, but they could do nothing they still had no clue where Loki was hiding and had even less of an idea where the tesseract was.

Fury watched angrily for a while, checking the progress on the search every few minutes, until he heard an alarm go off.

“Sir we have a hit on Loki. A 69% match. Wait. Cross match. 79% match.” Agent Sitwell announced to the whole room grabbing everyone’s attention.

“Where is he?”

“Stuttgart Germany. He isn’t exactly hiding.” Sitwell said sending Fury the live feed of Loki from civilian cell phone cameras.

“Captain. You’re up.” Fury ordered to Steve and turned to watch him go with Coulson.

“Romanoff. You’re with him, find Loki and bring him back to me alive.” Fury demanded into coms and watched Natasha’s reaction.

“You found him?” She asked.

“Get your suit on. Your plane is being readied as we speak.” He said watching the flurry of Agents dance around each other preparing plans.

“Was he in Germany?” She asked leaving the room and taking her gun with her.

“Yes. Now hurry. We don’t have a lot of time.”

Chapter Text

“Natasha was right you know, she's playing for our side. We need to tell her.” Coulson whispered to Fury on the bridge.

“No Coulson. That decision is final.”

“Boss…”

“Director, we’re ready.” Natasha interrupted, standing beside the Captain.

“Plane’s ready, pilot is already set, Natasha you’re in the cockpit with him. Captain you confront the target, protect the civilians. I want the least amount of casualties possible.” Fury ordered handing Natasha a box.

“Yes sir.” Cap responded as Natasha opened the box and handed him a coms device.

Cap turned and made his way to the flight deck, as Natasha went to follow Coulson grabbed her wrist.

“Natasha. Stay on the mission. No distractions. Stark will be joining you, be prepared.”

“Mission comes first.” Natasha repeated like she did so often in the Red Room, she had a feeling that they were hiding something from her, and she was going to find out.

“Agent Romanoff, what was that about?” The Captain asked as she buckled into her seat.

“Standard mission procedure. Buckle in, we’re expecting a quick ride.”

Steve knew that there was something off there, he didn't particularly like this mission, he was fighting the same fight he died fighting for 70 years ago. Someone had to decided to play with forces out of their control and people were hurt, nothing had changed and he wasn't happy about it.

The pilot sat silently next to Natasha flying, he knew that she could handle herself and it was in his best interests not to speak unless necessary. The ride was silent, all of them absorbed in their own thoughts when Natasha got a phone call.

“Romanoff.”

“Hey so what I’m about to tell you is going to piss you off. I’m the messenger, don’t shoot me. No one else is listening don’t worry, I took care of that. Do you promise not to shoot me?” Tony asked her through her headset as the pilot looked at her as he heard nothing through his.

She only looked at him and nodded that everything was ok, he figured that it was classified and went to talk to Cap, he had been wanting to talk to him since Coulson assigned him.

“What do you know that S.H.I.E.L.D isn’t telling me?” Natasha asked quietly, she knew they were hiding something from her and had been since Coulson and Maria hadn’t let her out of their sight.

“They know where Barton is, or at least where he was. I went and checked it out, he was here and was seen, then he vanished without a trace.”

“Don't bullshit me Tony. They would tell me if they knew where Barton is. I trust Fury and Maria.”

“Natasha. I'm telling you. He was here. I'm standing three feet from where he stood. Barton was here.”

“Where?”

“Italy, two hours ago, and you are going the opposite way from where he was. What are you doing?” Tony asked as he tracked Natasha in his suit as he flew to meet them.

“Loki was spotted thirty minutes ago, we are twenty minutes away from his current location.” Natasha growled as her phone vibrated with a message from Tony, showing her the proof of Clint in Italy.

“Natasha, they…”

“They lied. They lied.” Natasha finished with more hurt in her voice than Tony had ever heard before.

“Natasha you're the one who always says that they have a reason for what they do. Don't…” He tried to soothe as Natasha disconnected her headset, ending the call.

“Don, we are approaching I need you up here, Cap, get ready, we've got a live feed of Loki and he's threatening civilians.” She ordered. She shoved every feeling, every emotion into the nether reaches of her brain. She would not let her anger towards Fury jeopardize the lives of civilians, Clint wouldn't have allowed it, she was going to finish this mission and bring him home, that was her nob. She didn't care anymore.

“One minute Cap, you ready?” The pilot asked lowering the back hatch for him to jump out of.

“Ready as I'm going to get.” He said taking his shield off of his back and onto his wrist.

“Cap you've got a window, three, two, go!” Natasha yelled as he stepped out.

The pilot turned the plane to pull into position, through the coms they heard the entire conversation between Loki and Cap.

“You know the last time I was in Germany, and saw a man standing above everybody else, we ended up disagreeing.”

“Loki drop the weapon and stand down.” Natasha ordered over the intercom to him.

Loki fired at the plane and Natasha took control and pulled them away before they were hit.A fight between Loki and Cap broke out, allowing the civilians to escape, but not allowing Natasha to get a clean shot at him, she knew the mission was to bring him in alive, but they needed to bring him in somehow.

“The guy's all over the place I can't get a shot.” She whispered.

“You need another angle?”

“I can't take a shot from anywhere else without risking Rogers.”

Natasha looked down as she heard static coming from her headset as ‘Shoot to Thrill’ blasted through the speakers. Natasha shook her head and smirked. Tony was here and he was going to make an entrance.

“Agent Romanoff, did you miss me.” He asked her through coms.

“Asshole.” She whispered as he slid underneath the plane and knocked Loki out with a blast, lowering his weapons array as a threat when he got up.

The armor vanished from Loki as Cap walked over to them.

“Mr. Stark.”

“Captain.”

“Boys if your done, can we get him in the jet? We're short on time.” Natasha asked as she set the jet down to load the three of them in.

“Yes ma'am.” Cap responded grabbing Loki by the arm and pulling him up roughly.

“Stark get the scepter and get in, you're riding with me.” Natasha ordered.

Tony was too afraid to refuse he knew he could get back to the carrier faster by himself but he knew Natasha wanted to talk to him. “On it.”

“Natasha where do you want him?” Rogers asked bringing him into the plane and standing behind her, she hadn’t turned around, she knew that Loki already knew who she was, but if she looked at him things could get messy.

“Don't care, just make sure he doesn't move from his seat.”

When Loki heard her voice his head whipped around and his maniacal smile reappeared. He let the Catptain guide him to a seat and strap him into it. Tony took notice and spoke up.

“Hey rock of ages, what's so funny?”

Loki said nothing, but the coldness and deadness in his eyes disturbed Tony so he went to Natasha.

“He recognized your voice, is that supposed to happen?” Tony asked her quietly.

“Not really surprised, I'm pretty sure he knows everything.” Natasha whispered flipping switches and pressing buttons to prepare the plane for takeoff.

“Hey Don, it is Don right? Why don't you hang back here and keep an eye on him, me and Romanoff can get us back.” Tony lied trying to get a moment alone with Natasha before they would be surrounded by Fury's eyes and ears.

“Preparing for takeoff. Estimated arrival time, 01:00.” She answered into her headset as Tony sat down and Natasha got the plane off of the ground.

Tony looked down at a side panel on his wrist which was beeping and swiped to see the message.

“Natasha.”

“If you're going to try and talk me down it's not going to work, right now I'm focused on not beating the shit out of our prisoner.” She growled as Tony closed the partition between the main cabin and the cockpit.

“Natasha. Something just went missing from an international space cooperation research facility.”

“Let me guess it vanished without a trace?”

“That isn't the only thing.”

“What, arrows were found in the dead bodies?”

“Yes and…” Tony tried to continue but Natasha cut him off.

“Where?”

“Thirty miles away from where Loki was just at.”

Natasha nodded with a fury in her eyes that more than startled Tony. “What was taken?”

“Iridium, probably to build another portal. It's a stabilizing agent, it slows down reactions and, in… I should get Rhodey on this, he's been doing a joint project with NASA, not pegasus, another project…”

“Stark. What would iridium do that makes it so important to Loki?” Natasha cut him off knowing he was trying to distract her as she noticed she was flying the plane faster than probably anyone else was comfortable with.

“It would make any portal that Loki makes able to open as wide, and stay open as long as needed.”

“So a full scale invasion and an all out war.” Natasha finished his thought for him.

“If we don't stop him in time and get the tesseract from him, yeah. Yeah he could, but we have him, we can find it.”

Natasha didn't respond she just pulled out her phone and handed it to Tony, the video that Clint had meant to send to Natasha before he was captured played. Tony watched the entire thing before handing it back to her and opening the partition with an anger in his eyes.

Tony walked over to Loki silently as Cap and the pilot watched. Tony leaned over and put his repulser on Loki's chest.

“Where is Agent Barton? And I would choose your words very carefully, because I can blow a ten inch whole in your sternum with just a thought.” Tony whispered

“Oh but then you would never get your precious tesseract, and Agent Romanoff would never get her engagement ring, you need me alive.”

“Stark what's he saying?” Cap shouted from the other side of the plane.

“I can find the tesseract with or without you. Where is Agent Barton?” Tony asked again charging his repulser.

“Stark we need him alive.” Cap warned hearing the charging.

“Agent Barton has now made his own choice, not even I know where he is.” Loki whispered with a menace in his voice.

“Then we really don't need you. Natasha can find find him.” Tony stepped away and held out his hand to shoot him as Natasha came over and put her hand on Tony's outheld arm.

She looked him in the eyes and he relaxed. He knew he had lost his cool and had overstepped. He turned around and sat on the other side of the plane, facing Loki.

Loki smirked at him, but Tony saw that he was shaken and just smirked back. Natasha and the pilot went back into the cockpit and the captain eventually came over. Cap and Tony settled into a small conversation and Natasha was talking to someone through her headset.

“One casualty isn't bad. You did what you could. Loki injured him before you guys got there. Good work.” Fury complimented through her headset.

“There was a total of three casualties, the two police officers ended up dying. Don't try and sugar coat it.”

“But you could have done nothing about the three of them, you guys accomplished your mission.”

“We don't have the tesseract, or Barton, what really did we do?” Natasha brought up Barton to see if she could get some sort of response, but got nothing from him.

“Is he saying anything?” Fury asked to get off the topic.

“Not a word.” She growled.

“Just get him here. We're low on time.”

 

“Very well done Agent Barton. It's a lovely ring by the way.” Loki appeared in Clint's mind as he was flying and looking at the ring he got for Natasha.

Loki had been toning down his allotment of memories and illusions of Natasha for the past few hours and Clint had finally been able to get his thoughts together enough to rebel against him.

“She's going to come for you, you know that right? They are all going to come for you, not just her.”

“You still act like I am afraid of them after all of this time. I am not afraid of mortal scum you buffoon!”

“Alright whatever Odinson.” Clint sassed closing the ring box and putting it in his pocket.

“I AM NOT RELATED TO THAT FAMILY OF MURDERERS!” Loki screamed and put more images of Clint torturing Natasha into his head.

Clint winced and tried to fight the images, he brought out the picture of Natasha that he always kept with him and held onto it, crinkling the edges because of how tightly he was holding it.

“Get him under control Loki or I will have to do it myself.” A deep voice warned, Clint had never heard it before and couldn't figure out where it was coming from.

“Yes sir.” Loki responded and walked towards Clint who was still trying to fight away the images of what he was doing to Natasha.

“You think I won’t make you kill her, that is why you fight. So now, that's all you will remember, you won't even remember her, your job is to kill her.” Loki commanded as Clint's brain started to go blank.

“You won't break me Loki. I'm not going to do your bidding because you keep threatening Natasha. She will beat me and I will happily die to save her. You can't touch her.” Clint said trying to hold on to whatever bit of control that he had regained.

“Oh, I can't touch her now can I?” Loki asked as he let Clint in to his brain to see through his eyes. All Clint could see was Natasha flying a plane with both Stark and Rogers in the back.

Clint was mortified that Loki was threatening to kill Natasha but knew she could take care of herself. He was more mortified that Loki's plan was working exactly as he wanted to.

“Natasha! Natasha! Turn the plane around! Natasha!” He screamed, but he knew that she couldn't hear him, he was trapped in the constructs of his own mind.

“I told you Barton my plan is going to work, now, will you submit to save her life, or will you be the reason she dies?” Loki bargained letting Barton back into his own mind.

Every logical part of Clint's mind told him to not submit, that Natasha could take care of herself, but the part that was still under Loki's control persuaded him otherwise.

“I will obey.” Clint bowed and let Loki take over his brain again.

“Wise choice Barton.” Was the last thing that Clint heard before everything he saw actually saw was a blur, and he was reliving his past memories with Natasha.

“I love you Clint.” Was the first thing he remembered when the outside world became a blur.