So, there they were. The Avengers, eating shawarma. Well, Clint thought, he'd ended up in worse places after a fight. He was exhausted, tired to the bone, mechanically moving his jaw as he ate and his left leg resting on Nat's chair while the occupant looked at him with concern. She'd forced him, stubborn Russian that she was, to at least allow himself that small mercy, note to self: smashing New York skyscraper windows with your feet isn't good for the bones. As far as Clint could figure, he must have done something to his ankles, maybe broken them? He couldn't be sure. Everyone was silent as they ate, and only Thor seemed unaffected by the battle they'd just partaken in as he stuffed yet more shawarma into his mouth.
The silence was interrupted by none other than Commander Nick Fury walking through the door.
“Commander!” Stark declared, grinning at the man. “Come, join us, it's on me.”
“Shut up, Stark.” Fury growled, “I'm not staying.” He looked at Clint, who allowed his head to drop in a moment's disbelief before nodding and removing his leg from Nat's chair.
“Wait, Clint, where are you going?” Nat asked quickly, alert at once.
“He has a mission, Romanoff,” Fury said coolly, meeting her icy gaze.
“He just finished a mission, can't he have a few hour's break?” She demanded, looking to Clint himself and was surprised to find none of the rebelliousness there.
Clint looked at Nat with as much warmth as he could muster, and show in front of the Avengers, he stood and looked down at her for a moment, before reaching into a zipped pocket of his trousers. From it he pulled a small jewellery box, black velvet, which he handed to Nat, winking at her as he did so.
“Can you walk, Barton?” Fury asked.
“Just about, sir.” He replied, grabbing his empty quiver and bow from where they'd been leaning against his chair.
“Good, you better keep up then.”
They were stood, all of the Avengers, watching the two Asgardians return to their home. Nat leaned over to Clint and whispered in his ear, “I knew you weren't gonna have to go on a mission just yet.”
Clint only smirked in reply, and it was once they were in Nat's car did he actually voice his reply.
“I do have to go on another mission, Nat. Fury gave me the briefing, I might as well be gone.”
“When are you leaving?” She asked, keeping her eyes on the road, she hated it when Clint had missions without her.
“Tonight,” he sighed softly and shifted his legs, which still ached on occasion, along with his head. “You haven't opened the box yet, have you?”
Nat drew in a sharp breath, “no, not yet. Clint, if it's a wedding ring, I swear I'll-”
Clint's laughter cut her off, “I wouldn't worry about that, Nat.” And paused to smirk as he realised he'd rhymed. “Just, do open it, promise me.”
“Alright, Clint, I promise.”
Inside the box was a necklace, a delicate arrow made of silver, gleaming against the velvet cushioning beneath it. Natasha was in her apartment, curled up on her large leather sofa, she pulled the necklace out of the box and studied it for a moment, before slipping it around her neck and fixing the clasp. Underneath the cushion was a note, written in Clint's familiar scrawl.
Nat, This one's going to be a long one, I don't know how long I'll be gone exactly, but hopefully Fury will let you know I'm alive.
Don't worry. Actually, do worry, it's me.
Remember, there's a point to everything.
Don't die, Fury would make me pay for your funeral.
Natasha couldn't help but smile at the note, it was so typical of Clint, he always left her a note somehow when he went on a mission, but this was the first time he'd left her jewellery. However, it wasn't the first time he'd left some kind of riddle at the end of the note, and Natasha had a feeling she knew what this one meant.
Her suspicions were proved correct during with one particularly resilient bodyguard of some mob boss, she'd beaten him every single way she knew how, and yet he still wasn't done. It was a spur of the moment thing, really, Natasha had taken a few hits to the head and she was out of options. She yanked the chain from around her neck and stabbed the small arrow into the guy's ankle as he loomed over her, within seconds he was collapsed on the floor next to her. Dead.
“Thanks, Clint.” Natasha breathed, and she plucked the arrow from the agent's ankle, wondering how many more times Clint was going to save her life.
There were times when Clint hated his job. That time in Afghanistan when he been left for dead in an old barn amongst cattle was one of them. Another was the time he'd spent weeks tracking down what he thought was a terrorist organisation when it turned out to be a group of druggie kids taking themselves way to seriously online. This was another of the times, just another chapter in the endless book of 'Clint Barton Can't Catch a Break'. Because, seriously? Trekking through the Sahara desert, a piece of cloth form what had been his parachute tied around his head and the rest around his body, with barely enough supplies to last him a week in a luxury apartment, let alone the middle-of-freakin'-nowhere, was by far the most spectacular screw up that had ever occurred to him. It was ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. S.H.I.E.L.D pilots were supposed to be good at their job, so how had they got their aim so catastrophically wrong that he was now trapped underneath the relentless midday sun instead of spying on the leader of a large drug ring in Johannesburg? Not one of his forms of communications was working, for some reason they malfunctioned if so much as tried to turn them on. The unforgiving sun continued to beat down on him and his bow and arrows were so heavy that Clint seriously considered just dumping them then and there, there was nothing for him to shoot at. What was he supposed to do with them, fire arrows at the sun and hope it got the message?
The thing that angered Clint the most was not that he would die out here, though that was a major inconvenience, but that he would die for no reason. Nobody would even know for certain, he would be labelled as M.I.A and S.H.I.E.L.D would soon enough find someone to replace him; they always did. He couldn't help his thoughts drifting to Nat, he hoped she'd liked the necklace, and that she'd been able to use it. Maybe him dying out here wouldn't be so bad if he knew he'd managed to keep her safe one last time, though it wasn't like she needed it.
In a way, Clint supposed he should be thankful to Tony Stark. What were the odds that the billionaire would have gotten bored at that exact time, and that he happened to decide to fly over Africa, and that he decided to fly over the exact part of the Sahara that Clint was stranded in was nothing short of a miracle. Still, if the guy was going to gloat about it then there was no way Clint was thanking him.
These were Clint's final thoughts as his body dropped to the ground, as Tony Stark landed beside him and said: “not looking quite as light on your feet there, Legolas.” Then Clint blacked out.
The world came into focus around Clint and he began to wish it hadn't, he hated hospitals, always had and he was fairly sure he always would. There were machines beeping around him and some kind of drip feeding into his arm.
“Ugh,” he groaned and tried to raise his head, but quickly decided against it as waves of dizziness rolled over him.
“Woah, take it easy there, Clint.” Nat said, her voice unusually gentle. “You had heat stroke, kind of still do, I guess.”
“This is getting way too normal,” Clint said with a small smirk as he looked over to Nat who, he noticed immediately, was wearing the arrow necklace.
“Well, if you will insist on wandering around the Sahara desert for no apparent reason with inadequate supplies then...” Nat spread her hands, “it's going to become the norm.”
“Whatever,” Clint muttered. “Fury had better have fired the guys that dropped me there.”
Nat frowned, “you mean you weren't there for your mission?”
Clint scoffed, “'course not, I was supposed to be in Johannesburg, that was not what I planned.”
“So you just leapt off the jet without a second thought?” Nat asked, raising an eyebrow.
“No,” Clint said with a small frown. “You know how they had Stark design the new jets? I think they let him have too much of a free reign with it, there was some kind of hologram device installed, I was looking at Johannesburg when I jumped of the jet.”
“Someone really wanted you dead, then.” Nat mused.
“I feel so honoured.” Clint said drily.
“Should do, personally I've got no idea why someone would want you dead, Katniss. You're nowhere near rich enough.” Tony said from the doorway where he was leaning, a Starbucks in hand.
“Stark,” Clint said, deciding not to comment. “Guess I owe you now.”
“If you want,” Tony said with a shrug, walking into the room. “Oh, Fury's pissed by the way. Something to do with you not using your comms?”
“They weren't working,” Clint said through gritted teeth, getting tired of people telling him, effectively, he had been a moron.
Tony frowned, puzzled; for once. “What do you mean, 'they weren't working'?”
“As in,” Clint said with exaggerated patience. “I tried to turn them on, and they wouldn't turn on.”
It was at this point, possibly to prevent any further argument from developing, that a nurse bustled in. “Alright! That's enough excitement for now, come on you two, leave the poor man alone.” Either the nurse was unaware she was speaking to the famous Tony Stark and the infamous Black Widow or she was simply too dedicated to her job to be bothered by the billionaire and the master assassin.