Clint would like to say he was surprised, or maybe stunned, when he pressed his fingers to a slightly cleaner tile on a wall of tiles and a large opening slid silently into existence on his left. Mostly he was just disappointed; after all the ingenuity that went into building a secret base, they made the entrance way so obvious that anyone who actually took a moment to look would have discovered it. What a waste of effort.
"Hawkeye, status?" Langer's deep baritone asked in his ear as Clint stepped briskly around the secret door's edge and peered into the space beyond. Spread out before him was a bright and clean hallway that had one guard standing to attention at the far end. The guy's lips parted in surprise but that was the only expression Clint could read due to the fancy-schmancy mask he had covering the upper-half of his face. Clint loosed an arrow and had another nocked before his target began his slow crumple to the ground. He'd never even had a chance to voice his surprise.
"Intel's good. One hostile down. Going silent." Clint muttered quietly, hoping that Langer would actually comply with his request and not yammer into Clint's ear, demanding updates every few seconds like his last handler had. That shit was distracting when he couldn't actually respond due to the stealthy nature of his assignment.
"Copy, going silent, you have fifteen minutes, Hawkeye." Langer agreed. Fifteen minutes actually meant closer to seventeen, as his back-up team couldn't stage too close to the butcher shop for fear of being noticed. They were three streets over disguised as a small tour bus parked outside a motel with a florescent green cactus flashing over its main door. Clint glanced at his watch as he swept down to the inert guard and snagged the key card clipped to his belt, barely slowing down.
He felt uneasy as he moved through the too bright corridor. His black and burgundy uniform stuck out like a sore thumb, but he'd felt off about this mission from the get-go and didn't believe the lack of cover had anything to do with his unease. Langer spouted off some bullshit about him missing Coulson in the field when he'd brought it up, which was a given, obviously, but Clint had not appreciated his instincts being dismissed so easily. He hadn't brought it up again, but he had gone through all the Intel two more times to make his point. He'd heard one of the techs who had helped put it together muttering about him being an idiot if he couldn't remember it after the first read through. He'd considered suggesting that maybe the tech would rather be the one to infiltrate the secret enemy base that they knew next to nothing about, had no idea of the layout and was predicted to lose communication once they reached the epicenter with an unknown number of guards carrying weapons they may not have come across before. Instead Clint had just looked at him, and that seemed to make the guy double his efforts to go through the info one more time with Clint.
Clint paused at a bend in the corridor and listened carefully. He quietly pulled two more arrows from his quiver, slipped them onto the string alongside the one already resting there, pulled them back and took a big side step into the hall. He barely had to aim and all three heavily armed guards were crumbling to the ground, hands gripping the shafts that had pierced their throats. Clint whirled around, loading two more arrows as he moved and let them fly. Just in time, as the guards at the other end of the corridor had almost managed to raise their weapons at him.
Nobody had had time to shout in alarm. Clint eyed the two men, glad to note that their position was a dead end so he wouldn't have to worry about reinforcements sneaking in from that direction; they had been the reinforcements. He would still keep an eye out of course, because dropping your guard was amateur and he refused to tarnish his rep over such an idiotic move.
Clint paused to listen for further danger as he eyed the door the three men had been protecting. Intelligence hadn't predicted there would be this much presence. As far as they had determined this base was supposed to be in the final stages of abandonment; just one or two guards for show until it was cleared out completely. SHIELD had just gotten wind of it and needed someone to infiltrate with extreme prejudice. Clint, freshly healed from a sprained ankle and with no Avenging duties in the near future, had taken the job to save himself from boredom while they determined where his next mission was going to be.
Stopping in front of the shiny steel door the dead men had been protecting, his nerves shivered once more. He checked over his shoulder sharply but saw no threat. There were too many guards for a base that was supposed to be dismantled. It didn't feel right.
"Hawkeye to nest," he broke radio silence, wanting to at least warn them, again, that he thought something was off. There was no response. "Nest, come in." The continued quiet confirmed that Intel was at least correct about the predicted communication barrier. He eyed the big shiny door speculatively, and then shrugged. He'd wanted something to do; at least now the unpredictability of this mission was interesting.
Phil was probably going to give him shit for this later.
He held the key card up to the scanner beside the door and, like most mundane access panels it flashed green before the door hissed open. He wasn't expecting to be greeted with mild chatter and a soft, repetitive thunking sound. Bow up he stepped quietly into the room and paused, because what the fuck?
There were two more guards, one tapping away on what looked like Tony's latest Starkpad, his gun leaning against the chair he sat on, and the other throwing a tennis ball against a large cylindrical tank. A tank that had a body floating in it.
"One-hundred and twenty-three," the man throwing the ball counted after he caught it, and he threw it again. It hit the tank, bounced to the floor and bounced back into his hand. He had his weapon slung across his back, a gun holster at his waist, and an obvious ankle knife.
The computers that were Clint's target took up nearly the entire back wall, but other than that, a few chairs, a bunch of medical equipment and an examination table there was nothing else in the room worth noting. The threat Clint had been anticipating was also not there.
"One-hundred and twenty-four," the man muttered. Clint put an arrow in the mercenary playing on the Starkpad, and aimed another at Mr. Tennis. Mr. Tennis hadn't bothered to catch the ball again, but he also hadn't had time to do more than reach for his weapon before Clint spoke into the silence.
"Don't." The man froze, wearing the same mask all the other guards had had on, but his lips were pressed into a tight line and his body was very clearly poised for action. Clint spotted two more weapons now that he could see him head on.
"You made me lose my count," the man said and Clint saw his fingers twitch.
"Tell me what this place is," Clint didn't take his eyes off his target, his arm holding steady on the drawn arrow. The mission was to go in, eliminate any potential threats, get the information, and get out. At this point he thought it might be nice to take in someone alive for information retrieval, but he wasn't overly concerned either way so long as he walked out of this alive himself. These men weren't innocent, and seeing the body floating in the man-sized cylindrical tank only emphasized that. Plus Clint wasn't in the mood to be lenient. Actually, he was rarely in the mood to be lenient these days.
The guard's response to Clint's question was a sneer and a swift move for his sidearm. Clint let his arrow fly, not bothering with any fancy shots and hitting his heart. The guard had made his choice and the idea of lugging an injured prisoner out of here didn't entice Clint to keep him alive. He highly doubted any of the guards would know something useful anyway. He glanced at his watch. It had been four minutes since his last communication with Langer. He had lots of time.
Moving swiftly to the computer banks, he looked to the man in the tank. Jesus. It didn't take Clint's eyes to see that he'd been through hell before he'd bit the dust and been dumped in there. Scars littered every bit of skin visible to the eyes, and you didn't need to have an imagination to see that they probably also covered the parts hidden by the black spandex shorts he'd been squeezed into. Poor son-of-a-bitch.
"Hawkeye to nest." Clint fished out the memory stick the tech guys had given him and, after a moments searching, located a port on the wall of computers and slotted it in. He was still in a blackout zone. It would take three minutes to run, then he had another stick that apparently carried a virus that would destroy whatever was left in the systems and he could get out of here.
The feeling that he was being watched tickled down his spine and Clint abruptly ducked and twisted away, hoping to dodge whatever projectile might be headed towards his head. He swung his bow around, searching for the danger, wondering how the hell someone had snuck in on him; because he was on high alert and it was rare that anyone other than Natasha could get a drop on him like this.
There was no one in the room.
He scanned it again, not seeing anyone, so he turned to the only other explanation he could come up with, and found himself looking into dark brown eyes. The eyes blinked, and Clint kept staring, because seriously, what the fuck? The man in the tank cocked his head at him, all pale flesh and mottled scars, and then he started convulsing. His body shuddered with minute movements that had his hands jerking at his side, his fingers clenched hard. His mouth was open, his jaw moving in twitchy pulses and his chest seemed rise and fall with matching movement, before he stilled, his eyes closing.
They opened again a moment later, focusing unnervingly on Clint, and this time the man tilted his head to the other shoulder, and he looked curious before the odd convulsing began again and- fuck.
He was drowning.
Clint drew an unintentionally deep breath in response to the sudden realization, watching the unmistakable motions of a body suffering through asphyxiation. Sense memory slammed into him like a rock to the chest, remembering what it felt like to drown, remembering…
The man in the tanks eyes closed again and his head bobbed laxly in the liquid a moment, only to jerk awake and look unnervingly at Clint once more. Clint's chest felt dense, solid where it should be light with air.
Whoever this guy was, Clint was getting him the fuck out of that tank. He quickly switched arrows, pulling out one with a little more impact strength than his usual barbed tips for people. He aimed at the tank, noting that the guy didn't seem phased at all that someone could be pointing a weapon at him, and fired. The arrow pierced the base of the tank, punching a hole through it and sticking midway up the shaft. Water immediately began gushing around it, burbling and spraying and Clint took a few steps back, nocking another arrow and waiting as a fine crack appeared in the glass around the arrow and began to splinter outward. A faint creak could be heard, the water pressure on the damaged glass becoming too much for it. The man inside apparently didn't feel like waiting for the pressure and gravity to do its job and he kicked the wall with a pale bare foot. He kicked it even as his chest convulsed again and his eyes rolled back in his head. The glass crumbled into a thousand little shards and spilled across the room in a rushing wave.
The man spilled out with it.
In hindsight, Clint should have probably tried to find a draining mechanism or something instead of shattering the glass and forcing a near naked man to collapse all over the broken, sharp pieces. Clint took steadying breaths, and waited.
The guy was lying on the ground spread-eagled, eyes closed and chest still. Clint knew CPR, had used it intimately on more than one occasion as a matter of fact, but he didn't make a move to help just yet. He waited with the decision that if he had to act he would use his booted foot for chest compressions, but that was it. He wasn't getting closer than that until he knew what he was dealing with…which, in another flash of hindsight, he should have probably figured out before freeing the guy from his watery prison. Maybe freeing someone who didn't have gills but somehow managed to keep reviving himself after drowning was a dumb idea.
The guy coughed, rolled onto his side, and started to expel water. A lot of water.
Clint did not regret his hasty actions.
He looked at his watch. His three minutes were almost up. He slowly backed up to the computer wall again and, without looking, reached behind him and plucked the memory stick from the port. He kept his eyes on the still coughing man, inserted the second memory stick, and stepped away from the computer.
That was when the guy on the ground started to laugh in between his rasping coughs. Clint watched him recover at an alarming rate as he pushed to his knees, and then his feet. The glass wasn't abundant around him, having been washed and thinned out across the floor, but it was still enough that Clint didn't want him to accidentally step on any. Glass imbedded in your feet was the worst.
"Hold on there, don't move. There's glass all over the place," Clint warned and the guy, hacking out a lung in a fashion that was a bit more dramatic than Clint thought was called for, waved off the thought and began walking towards the guard that had been throwing the tennis ball. He stepped on glass but didn't leave any blood trail.
There were weapons on that guard.
"Don't," Clint warned, and the man paused, which was something at least, and he turned to look at Clint. The emotion in his brown eyes was very difficult to read. Clint had his bow loaded, but he didn't aim at the guy just yet, not wanting to come across as hostile…well, more hostile than he already had, but clearly unwilling to take more chances on an unknown. The guy blinked, cocked his head at the ceiling like an overgrown, confused puppy, and took a deep breath.
"Did you guys see this coming?" he asked, voice thick with curiosity. "Because I did not see this coming! Rescued by a sort of tall, stealthy and mysterious Robin Hood? How could it get any better than this?" He asked seriously, and looked back at Clint with a sudden grin, his lightly scarred lips stretching across his marred face and revealing perfect teeth.
The scars, the talking to the ceiling, the healing; wait, Clint knew exactly who this was.
"Wade Wilson," he stated more than asked and Wade's grin grew even larger. He clasped his hands before his naked chest and damn near swooned.
"And he knows my name," he batted his eyelashes at Clint. "He's a keeper," he told the ceiling and coughed once more before looking to Clint. Clint, having already thrown his SHIELD training out the window in order to follow his instincts, efficiently slid his arrow back into his quiver and slung his bow across his back. Wilson watched the movements closely, and continued to watch as Clint stepped to one guard and unceremoniously pulled his arrow from the body with a sucking sound, checked it, and slotted it back into his quiver as well. He did the same with the Starkpad guard, thinking furiously, before gesturing at the dead tennis ball guy.
"All yours. Leave the guns, they have imbedded trackers," Clint ordered and Wilson didn't seem the least put out to be told what to do, swiftly moving over and taking the guards clothes for himself. He moved with the efficiency and grace that Clint had heard about but never witnessed in person, and Clint knew that in a fight they'd be evenly matched. Well, except that with Wilson's legendary healing factor, Clint would have to work on restraining instead of hurting, and he'd have to do it fast because Wilson would be like the Energizer Bunny, never running out of energy while Clint's, no matter how long he trained, would drain away. Okay, maybe they were not so evenly matched physically, but that had never been a downfall in Clint's experience, it just meant he had to be smart.
Being smart meant he should probably be wary, but honestly Wilson was a mercenary through and through, and Clint doubted he was on his hit list right now, so he had nothing to worry about. Theoretically. At least that's what his instincts said, and he'd always trusted those, even if the person in question was classified as unpredictable and insane. Clint worked with Stark, Hulk, and Natasha; sane was relative. SHIELD had been trying to locate and potentially recruit Wilson, aka Deadpool, for the better part of two years now with no luck. Funny how the world worked.
"Seriously though," Wilson spoke to Clint directly for the first time as he yanked a bloody shirt on and, after a moment, carefully arranged the guards mask over his bald head and effectively covered his eyes and nose. He seemed to relax a bit more with every piece of clothing that covered his skin. "Oh, fancy scan vision. How did they not see my night in dull armour coming?" He wondered aloud, and looked at Clint. "Hmm, doesn't see through clothes though." He seemed genuinely put out by this and then seemed to remember he'd started a conversation with Clint and focused on him once more. "How did you know I was here? Also, who are you? I feel like I should know you, but I would never forget a pair of biceps like those. Do you work out?"
Clint blinked, frowned, and in what was probably his dumbest move this mission yet (which was saying something), turned his back on the assassin and headed for the door. He heard the tell-tale slide of a knife slipping from its sheath and stiffened, preparing to see if his judgment was off, because at this point in his life he wouldn't be surprised by that (god knew he'd fucked up more than once trusting people), but Wilson didn't attack. Instead he appeared beside Clint, his steps silent and his gaze penetrating. There was still water drying on his hairless head, stuck in the uneven fissures of scar tissue. Clint kept his ears open for signs of alarm, but he doubted this place had more security coming.
"You weren't my mission," Clint informed him as they stopped at the bodies beyond the door and Clint carefully extracted each of his arrows. Normally he wouldn't bother, but he had the time and SHIELD had made it clear this was an in-and-out operation, no lingering, and he didn't feel like chasing down agents later to get his arrows back. There used to be a time he never had to ask, but things changed and Clint didn't spend as much time at SHIELD bases as he used to. Not after the Chitarui. "I'm with SHIELD. There was no intel that you would be in there and no plans for extraction." Clint frowned at that and looked up at Wilson, who was leaning against the wall and pulling on a pair of gloves Clint hadn't seen him acquire, but he knew which guard they had come from.
It had been just under ten minutes since last radio communication. Clint had lots of time. He looked at Wilson, who was holding his hands up and wiggling his fingers, seemingly fascinated. This would worry Clint, but he had read SHIELD's file on him a few years before, so he was aware that the guy had some…concentration issues.
"How long have you been in there?" Clint asked, maybe a bit softer than was his usual M.O., but he couldn't help that, just like he'd never be able to forget the image of Wilson sucking in water, trying to breathe, and drowning again and again and again as his infamous healing factor kept dragging him back to life.
The way Wilson stiffened now meant that Clint must have given too much away with his tone. It also told Clint that he had probably been in there way too long, though as far as he was concerned, drowning even once was already too long.
"Long enough to wash behind my ears," Wilson stated after a telling pause, and then rubbed a gloved finger behind his ear, most likely unaware of the action. "SHIELD huh?" He asked and looked Clint up and down, staring at his arms a bit longer than necessary, but Clint ignored that without concern. "So this isn't a recruiting tactic?" There was a hint of displeasure in his tone, like he was tired of being hunted, and Clint eyed him a brief moment and came to an easy decision.
"Nope," he popped his 'p' a little more than necessary, feeling better now that he had a course of action. "Not my job to recruit."
"And you're not arresting me?" He almost seemed hurt by this, and Clint probably should be bringing him in for who knew how many counts of murder, or trying to at least. It was kind of his job.
"I think you've had enough to deal with lately," Clint explained, and while he couldn't see Wilson's entire face anymore, he could still read the surprise. Giving reprieve to a crazy mercenary because they'd had a bad…few weeks? Months? Days? Besides, Clint didn't feel like being a judge today. Wilson wiped a slow moving drop of water off his jaw.
"My fans think you're telling the truth," he announced with wonder and Clint…yeah, he didn't know what to say to that so he ignored it and reached into one of his tucked away pockets. He pulled out few hundreds that had been folded together, his emergency cash, and flicked it at Wilson, who grabbed reflexively and blinked at it.
"Don't spend it all in one place, and don't kill any innocents," he ordered, pretty sure it was wasted effort because Wilson wasn't known for taking orders but Clint had never heard of him going after anyone too innocent. "I'd hate to have to come after you on purpose next time," he warned, and then went and swiftly collected the arrows from the other two downed guards and began his exit. Wilson had disappeared, but there was no hiding the slight shine of water that had been squeezed from his shoes, at least not from Clint.
When he reached the first guard he'd taken down there was no arrow to collect. He stared at the body for a moment, hoping he hadn't just made a really dumb mistake by following his instincts, and then quietly slipped back into the butcher shops dark freezer.
"Hawkeye to nest," he called, making sure the way was still clear as he quickly vacated the premise.
"Nest here, go ahead."
"Mission complete, I'm coming home." He kept to the shadows, because even in a city like Vegas someone walking around with a quiver on their back would probably get noticed no matter the late hour.
Yeah, Clint sighed to himself, shattering glass and water on his mind as he stepped over a glistening puddle in a back alley, this was going to be a fun debrief.