Despite the notions of the betting pool being run by R&D, Nick Fury is, in fact, human. He eats, sleeps, shits, and, once in a great while, makes mistakes. Some of them are huge (Budapest), some are small (forgetting his daughter wanted a pink, not blue leotard). While his latest mistake was small in nature, the ramifications are enormous.
As demonstrated by the chair he is currently chained to and the hood that has been tied over his head. He hadn't gotten even a look at his assailants, but some things have signature all their own.
"I was going to call you personally."
"You didn't." The voice is very cold, exceptionally British. "Instead, we make our weekly call to our son, and his archer answers. His suspended, unstable, mourning husband, upon whom we inflicted greater emotional damage by asking to speak with Philip. I am not pleased Nicholas."
The hood is whisked off to reveal a platinum blond woman in an exquisite Chanel suit. The Glock held at her right side is as much an accessory as the perfect strand of pearls around her neck. To her left, a graying bear of a man, uncharacteristically solemn, regards Fury with grave disappointment.
"You will explain, now, please, what exactly transpired. Leave no details out." He rumbles, and left unsaid is the admonition that if either of them are displeased, Fury is not long for this Earth.
"He's not dead."
"Would you mind unchaining me, now that we all know you're not going to be dumping my body in the harbor any time soon? Yes, Coulson's alive, no, I did not inform either you or Barton. Frankly, the need to mop up New York, and then take care of the families of agents who actually died occupied too much of my time to properly take care of communication with you. Had I known you'd be talking with Barton, I would have contacted you earlier." Fury sighs, all the weariness of the past week catching up at once. The chains around him disengage. "Thanks, Marvin." A knife pricks at the back of his neck.
"How did you know it was me?" Marvin's voice hisses out.
"Cause Joe's dead, Frank wouldn't have given a shit if I'd seen him, and the last I heard, you were running around Moldova doing a favor for Ivan here."
"Fair enough." The knife is removed, and Nick stands up and stretches. He's been out for three hours if the kinks in his back are any indicator.
"Everybody just sit down, please. By the way, where is Frank?"
The couple in front of him exchange glances. The cold tension leaves Victoria, and she safeties her gun and sits. "With Clinton. Frank was...worried he might try something rash."
"I'll bet," he replies, too familiar with Barton's impulsive streak when it comes to ops.
"No. Something more personal." As always, she sees right to the heart of things.
Fury closes his eye. Damn it to hell. Another fuck-up on his watch.
"It wasn't supposed to be this way." He drops back into the chair.
My boss is going to kill me. Oh well. Second chapter, quite a bit lighter, set shortly after the events of RED, so...two years ago?
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"I look okay, right?" Clint's fingers nervously smooth down his sweater (blue, cashmere, birthday present from Phil) for the hundredth time that day.
Phil lets out an exasperated huff of near-laughter, grabs Clint's hands, and gently squeezes them, feeling their new rings shifting into place. "You look good, they don't bite, we'll be fine."
"Yeah, yeah, just, your parents, and it'sreallyimportantthattheynothateme, and..."
He wraps Clint in a hug, murmuring into his hair. "My mother will love you. Trust me."
Maybe he should have warned Clint that his mother was Victoria Winslow.
"WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME YOUR MOTHER IS VICTORIA WINSLOW?"
They're out back, breathing (or hyperventilating) in the chill spring air.
It had been something to see: Victoria's gentle correction of her last name to Winslow instead of Coulson, and the instant that Clint had connected the gracious lady in front of him with the legendary CIA/MI6 sniper. The way every muscle had locked into place, a glazed look passing over his face, and a faint sound that could only be described as "gnheeee" passing through his lips.
Phil had smiled indulgently, asked Victoria and Ivan for a moment, and gently led Clint out onto the back porch to wait until the shock wore off. With a vengeance.
"It was never really anything I considered special, growing up. When I joined SHIELD, there were enough ex-CIA personnel around that I never wanted to bring it up. Sorry."
"Oh, God. Victoria Winslow is my mother-in-law. And I just made a complete idiot of myself." Clint is looking around like a child who's been given his heart's desire, then dropped and broken it.
Now Phil really does laugh. "She's actually used to that reaction from people in her line of work. Those who aren't trying to kill her, anyway." He wraps his arm around Clint's waist and begins leading him back into the house.
"So, in the star-struck daze, I think I may have completely missed your father's name. Care to keep me from making a bigger idiot of myself?"
Clint stops dead and sways a bit. "Would that be the Ivan Simanov, formerly of the KGB, that Natasha told me to run away from really, really, really fast if I ever see him? The one whose case files she reads when she's laid up in the infirmary? He taught her how to place demolitions?"
"About that, do you think she'd like to meet him again?"
He's broken his husband. Not even a month out of the box. Damn.
Dinner is delicious, as usual. The recent bullet in her side doesn't appear to be slowing Victoria down. She looks radiant tonight, though that could simply be reflected light from the stars shining out of Clint's eyes. He's never seen Hawkeye simply...gush like this. Ivan smiles indulgently at his besotted son-in-law as he and Victoria trade stories.
Phil takes a rare moment of silence to inject himself into the conversation. "Did Clint tell you about the record of yours he broke?"
Victoria's smile is a bit impish as Clint begins to stammer. "Goodness, no. Which one was that Clint? Rifle combined distance and accuracy?"
"Whoa, no. I tried that once, cheating, in the Chunnel. Didn't even come close."
"So which of the others?"
"Uh, most consecutive headshots on an op. It was Budapest, and a really target-rich environment. I'm sure if you'd been there, the record would have stayed yours."
Phil excuses himself before he can fall out of his chair laughing.
After dinner, dessert, and a nightcap, the two of them make their way up to bed. As delicious as Clint looks in fine wool, it's not a patch on how he looks half-peeled out of it.
And half is only as far as Phil gets before Clint is pulling away, blushing a little.
"Phil, I mean, this is just, I mean, you're Victoria Winslow's son. It feels kinda weird having sex with you in her house."
What the fuck?
"Are you serious?" Phil absolutely cannot believe this. Because of his mother? Then he catches the tiniest quirk of Clint's mouth and knows he's been had. Retribution comes in the form of a tackle onto the bed and falsetto crooning.
"I'm sure the record would have stayed yours, ma'am! You know, I'm sure I could get her to sign your bow for you."
"Oh, shut up. One day one of those Arctic expeditions of yours will find Captain America. And I will have my revenge."
I wanted to give Clint someone to fanboy too. Originally planned on having Phil/Clint/Natasha, with Tony pointing out the crazy Oedipal-ness of the relationship (Awesome sniper? Legendary KGB agent?), but it didn't quite work.
Aaaand back to the angst. Sorry for the delay, but food poisoning, two plumbing disasters, and fifteen-hour workdays are surprisingly unkind to my writing motivation.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
She'd broken it gently on the ride back to the Helicarrier. Loki. A spear through the chest. Not his fault. (Really? Who was it that blew the engine, led a team of mercs on board, and fried the computers then, Tasha?)
Hill debriefs him. He can't look her in the face, the cuts and bruises reminding him of how he'd tried to kill her twice over.
After the debrief and medical exam, Clint is informed that his clearance has been temporarily revoked, and his SHIELD quarters off limits. He is escorted off ship and given his choice of destinations. The Portland Jetport is close enough to be acceptable to the pilot.
He doesn't rent a car, choosing to walk instead. The crisp sea air lifts some of the post-fight, head injury and no sleep for 24 hours grogginess and he makes it home shortly after nightfall. With Clint's first step inside, he knows this was a supremely stupid idea. Phil is everywhere, from the floorboards (No, you were supposed to leave the path out. How long til the varnish dries?) to the walls (Captain America posters go in your office, not our bedroom, I don't care if they're vintage) to the ceilings (I think I saw this chandelier in a HYDRA base. Yeah, that has to go.)
He quickly walks out into the back yard, pausing only to drop his duffle and grab a bottle of bourbon. Dragging an old Adirondack chair onto the patio, he breaks open the bottle. Half of it is gone before, alone and without any watchers, Clint finally lets the mask crack. But before the tears can begin to flow, his phone rings. The civilian one he'd stuffed in his pocket without thought in case Phil needed--the caller ID flashes "MD."
Fuck. He does not want to talk to Ivan and Victoria now, not when they've just heard that Phil's dead, not when they'll want more details than SHIELD will give and he can't bear to tell them it was because of him. They deserve it, though, the right to know that their son died going against a god, that his husband had sold him out because of a fucking glowstick. The right to kill him if they want to.
Victoria's warm voice answers back. "Good evening, Clinton. Time for the weekly status update, which should be fascinating. I assume that since you're answering your phone and Philip isn't his, that he is off managing SHIELD efforts for the Manhattan cleanup?"
Oh god, no one told them. What the HELL? How could no one have told--
"Clinton, what's wrong?" Her voice hitches for a moment. "Let me speak with Philip."
He sucks in a ragged breath and to his surprise only manages to sob out "I'm sorry" before dropping the phone and completely falling apart.
Faint hints of dawn lighten the sky, waking Clint from restless unconsciousness, the rest of the bourbon a nauseating yet still intoxicating memory. There are two people on the patio, one male, one female, standing with trained stillness. He scrubs one hand over his face.
"Get it over with, would you?"
"What exactly would 'it' be?" The voice is male, American, and definitely not Ivan. Shock pulls him up to see--
He'd met them once, about a year ago. Frank, an old colleague of Victoria's, an old adversary of Ivan's, and as much a legend as either of them. Sarah, who was just as awestruck as Clint at the company around them, though for slightly different reasons. This made no sense. Why would Victoria and Ivan send them? Why wouldn't they do it themselves?
"Yeeees. Victoria called us." Frank is watching him, carefully blank like he's trying to work something out. Sarah just looks stricken.
"But...Sarah doesn't kill anyone unless it's self-defense. Why is she here?"
She makes an exasperated noise and strides over to him, eyes filled with sympathy. "Oh, for crying out..." The hug is fierce, and less expected than a bullet.
"I don't understand, I don't."
"I know. Come on, kid. Let's sleep it off."
Drunk, completely off balance, he lets them lead into the house.
As for Sarah? It has been two years since RED. She's gotten some skills.
Sorry, but work has decided to take me out back and beat me with a spiked baseball bat. Don't know when the next update will be, but thanks for all of the feedback and kudos. I'm working on the next chapter, honest!
Back to Nick, Victoria, and Ivan.
"I honestly did think he was dead. The medics pronounced him on site, then I had to go beat the world's last chances heads together so they'd stop going after each other. After the little invasion we had to deal with, the infirmary called. They'd gotten his heart started again and were simultaneously trying every experimental treatment we had to make sure it stayed that way. Between cleaning up in the aftermath, making sure the damned Security Council understood just who they were not going to fuck with, and the fact that even our best trauma docs weren't sure that Cheese was going to pull through, no, I didn't tell Barton that he was alive."
Fury leans back and rubs his face, the past days of non-stop toil and loss hitting him now that he has nothing less to focus on.
"That doesn't explain why you exiled Clinton."
"Barton spent the last few days being mind-fucked by an alien using weird-ass alien tech, recruited himself an army of some the worst mercs and war criminals I've ever known, and blew us out of the sky. Hell no do I want him anywhere near our personnel while they're still picking up the pieces of their fellow agents."
"This was done for his protection?"
"Fuck you, Ivan, that's it exactly. I don't have the damned time to lead him around like a new puppy and tell everyone to play nice. My good eye is out of commission, possibly permanently, one of our top research bases is rubble, we lost a third of our HQ personnel, the carrier's a floating disaster zone, and the people who control our funding just tried to nuke New York and are not happy that we stopped it. So if you're going to blow my head off for the communications breakdown, feel free. I'll welcome the break. Otherwise, I have a lot of work to do and the personnel Hill's probably got out looking for me are just being diverted from where they're needed."
Ivan and Victoria exchange a look. "Very well, Director. We shall escort you back to your ground base. From there, however, we will be going to wherever you have secreted Philip. Frank will bring Clinton. Don't argue," she orders when he opens his mouth. "After he's delivered Clinton, Frank and Sarah will assist your reorganization efforts. Ivan and I may have some small caches of information you might find useful as well."
That tone sounds...promising. Fury squints at her. "What kind of information?"
The smile that crosses Ivan's face is rather predatory. "The illustrious members of the World Security Council are not nearly as well-hidden as they wish they were. Nor their bodies as deeply buried. Your funding should be safe for some years to come."
Fuck. SHIELD may be getting out of this one intact after all.
And he's getting Sarah and Frank Moses on his payroll, however long he can hang on to them. Goddamn, but this may be his best fuckup yet.
"I'll come, too."
He'd forgotten about Marvin. Shit. Well, if Hill can manage him, she's definitely ready for the big chair.
Maria Hill does not get paid enough for this crap.
Never mind her boss disappearing in the middle of their reconstruction and rearming projects. Never mind said boss returning without explanation but with a legendary assassin/secret-agent, another legendary assassin/secret-agent who promptly disappeared into the HVAC system, plus some woman who's been wandering around the Helicarrier asking random questions irrespective of the clearance level and getting answers. Never mind that she's been fielding queries from every SHIELD satellite office and ops HQ because an alien invasion apparently causes seasoned goddamned agents to completely forget their competence. Never mind that slimy nano-prick Gunther, the WSC's spy and chief toady, questioning her fucking competence every time she turns around.
No, no, no, now she has a three-star general on her screen, yammering about the Hulk and spraying demands and threats through the line like Barton pops off arrows. Maria feels her left eye start to twitch. Oh, that is it, this crackpot is going to feel it for a month--
"Excuse me, general." The voice behind her is quiet, calm, but very firm.
"Who the hell are you?" Ross sounds even angrier at his tirade being interrupted while Maria appears to be struck dumb.
"Who I am is probably classified at this point. Who you are, weeeeell, that's the interesting thing. Let's just forget for now that you're an officer sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States, including the little anti-slavery-slash-indentured-servitude amendment you've apparently overlooked. Let's look at what you are. A god? No, only have one of those at the moment. A super-soldier from World War Two who might as well be a god as far as the US military is concerned? Nope. Someone who has been at the forefront of every technologically significant way to kill people for the past twenty years? I'm sensing a pattern here. One of the six best assassins and/or secret agents still breathing? Missed on that one too."
The firmness has become a slab of very cold, very hard granite. Something with a name and two dates chiseled in. "Here's something else you are not, general. You are not on Bruce Banner's side. The people I just mentioned? Are. And if you keep up this line of demands, pretty soon they will not just be on his side, they will be against yours. Who do you think will side with you, general? Against them? Who do you think the US government would rather cut loose? Please contemplate that before you start demanding the head of a man who just saved the world. And have a nice day."
The sigh seems to start from the soles of Maria's feet and work its way up. She closes her eye for a moment, savoring the complete silence before the connection is broken on Ross' end.
"Hey, sorry, didn't mean to break up whatever you were about to do to the general, but the eye twitching is never a good sign in someone with a gun. Director Fury asked me to get you up to speed on the Helicarrier repairs. I've checked up on all the physical repair crews; in summary, everything's going okay, but they've had to shut down the armor repair until the next shipment gets flown over in an hour. Computers are restored, they're just running a final diagnostic, and the last patients have been moved from MedBay to Bethesda. Also, Frank's going to be handling the remote sites from Coulson's office and Marvin is checking all the nooks and crannies for any surprises Loki might have left behind. He's taking an Agent Gunther with him. Something about using him to test for traps."
The near-constant tension headache finally eases, and Maria chooses to blame the relief for her blurting out "Who are you?"
"Oh, sorry. Hi, I'm Sarah Moses."
"The Sarah Moses? The one who faked official communications from the Moldovan President to send half of their army on a mission to preserve the trees of the Dniester Ridge?"
"Yeah, that was kinda...spur of the moment. Apparently he has a really high-pitched voice."
"Okay. Good. Thank you."
Sarah smiles at her and strides off.
Holy shit. She's working with Sarah and Frank Moses.
In my head canon, Sarah has become gyroscopically mentally stable and a minor logistics goddess since the events of RED. Maria Hill has a reason to be excited about working with her. I mean, Frank can kill pretty much anyone, but Sarah can organize the Helicarrier repair crews and BS people who speak a language that had to be written out phonetically for her.
On a personal note, this has taken a long time. Sorry. In my defense, my dad was diagnosed with two types of cancer, my sister had a heart attack after childbirth, and I lost my job, so writing hasn't been a priority. But my mom wanted to watch RED last night, so...
Ivan was assigned to the Red Room once. It was the biggest mistake they ever made.
More head canon. I don't know if this fits with the story so far, but it just wanted to claw its way out of my head today. Blame the rain.
Ivan Simanov is twenty-eight years of age when, recovering from the three bullets the love of his life has placed in his chest with exquisite precision, he is informed that he will be temporarily assigned to the Red Room as a lecturer in advanced traps and explosives. To most operatives, it would seem to be a promotion, or at least a mark of favor from the upper echelons of the KGB. But Ivan is wiser than that, and knows this to be just another test. Of what, he is not sure, until he enters the training facility and discovers just what is being done to his countrywomen.
In the morning, he lectures to blank-eyed girls on how to set shaped charges, disarm nuclear warheads, set a fatal trap using common household substances and devices. In the afternoon, he oversees practical training. When little Alyona could not disarm her mine in time, and her trainer stopped him from using the remote deactivation, he did nothing. Said nothing. Only remembered. Her curly brown hair and big brown eyes, the man's dismissal of a tiny body torn in half with a curt “She was not advancing rapidly enough. Useless.” The careless, offhand waste of life surrounds him, chokes him.
A test, Vanya. They will always test you, nothing is as it seems.
Slowly, Ivan distinguishes his colleagues into categories:
The Unthinking: Mostly young academics, still too young and inexperienced to fully comprehend what they are doing. Watch for what happens when they do, and assign them one of the remaining designations.
The Visibly Uneasy: Mostly civilians, particularly the generalist medical personnel. Unusably obvious in their distaste. Avoid. Most will be killed or banished soon enough.
The Blank Uneasy: Mostly military, hiding their disgust behind a mask of absolute emotionlessness. Some may eventually be useful, as contacts and supply sources if nothing else.
The Easy Uneasy: Mostly KGB and GRU personnel. Good enough to appear at ease with their actions and surroundings (to anyone save Ivan) and to manipulate themselves out of the worst situations. Most useful, but most suspicious. Cultivate carefully.
Those At Ease: From all backgrounds, the majority of Red Room personnel. To be manipulated, destroyed utterly, and killed whenever possible. He has reserved Alyona's trainer for himself.
Over lunch, and morning tea, and evenings planning lessons, he forms his quiet coalition. Galina, the finest interrogator ever produced by the GRU. Dmitri, the geneticist prodigy with four beloved little sisters. Vasilisa, who teaches hand-to-hand combat. Stefan in linguistics, Evgeniya in infiltration. Kseniya the secretary, Pavel the systems engineer, Raisa the deportment instructor.
Even after he leaves the Red Room, there are more to find. Vasili, the KGB archivist whose niece disappeared twenty years ago. Lidiya, the communications specialist whose beloved Oksana was killed after a failed mission. Kolya, the Party chief who was censured four decades ago for his protest against the creation of the Red Room, but knows where every body has even briefly lain.
Finally, finally, after years of preparation, they strike. Slowly and quietly.
Funding is misplaced, reduced. Operations are improperly assigned. Potential instructors are deemed too valuable to be reassigned from their parent organizations. Red Room trainers are reassigned to other divisions; a surprising number of them die on operations, even (especially) when paired with former temporary instructors. A high-level Red Room administrator is found to be a Chinese double-agent. The head of the medical division drowns in a storm on holiday. General Drakov's plane crashes, with him and all of his staff burning to death in the wreckage. (Ivan regretted that, mourned Kseniya's loss and saluted her as a brave operative.)
His successor is executed for treason after certain incriminating documents about his involvement with HYDRA come to light. By the time the documents are discovered as being faked by his would-be successor, it is too late. The Winter Soldier's cryocapsule is misplaced. The lead psychological conditioning doctor develops a brain tumor which kills her in two months. Three members of the genetics enhancement staff defect to SHIELD and erase most of the division records on their way out. An MI-6 operative destroys the main medical facility. Natalia Romanova breaks her brainwashing and they lose another half dozen operatives trying to bring her back. (Ivan remembers her, quick and sure hands with any device he could rig: he'd taken a special interest. He hopes she finds something to live for.)
The Red Room does not die in a great explosion of fire and blood, no one heroic stroke. It dies whimpering, choking, starved of blood and oxygen by the hands of men and women for whom its existence was just one atrocity too many in lives filled with them. Bleeding from a thousand razor cuts, poisoned by a thousand little stings. Collectivism at its best.
Galina and Evgeniya, now risen in rank, quietly absorb the remaining operatives into the FSB. And for the first time in years, Ivan relaxes. He takes his assignment to the US calmly, with some regret, but has called in too many favors to protest. And there is still the matter of a certain deep-cover agent in New York, who once was a curt trainer for the Red Room...
Yet more backstory. Forgive me, but every time I try to write the hospital reunion, I flash back to a bad place.
How dare they?
Those fossilized, cretinous, fatuous, self-righteous old hypocrites! She knows for a fact that almost every one of them had been party to affairs with enemy agents. She's heard the stories, seen the way they preened when reminded of it. It wasn't enough that she'd had to kill Ivan, no, now they wanted her to have an abortion too!
How dare they!?!?
Victoria ignores the fact that until her superiors started making high-handed demands she had been contemplating termination of her very early pregnancy. But now her wavering insecurity has firmly come down on the side of keeping her child. Bugger those jackasses if they thought they could dictate her own biology to her.
In a high temper, she storms into her flat, ripping off her coat and hurling it onto the settee. She is so angry that she almost misses the presence behind her, to the left. Victoria whirls, bringing her sidearm up into the face of--“Oh my God, you're Margaret Carter!”
Margaret Carter, first female Director of...well, the SSR, but the first female director of any intelligence agency, smiles serenely at her. “Tea, dear?” she inquires, holding out a steaming cup. “From the look of it, you could stand something stronger, but I doubt that's an option for you, now is it?”
The Director of the SSR has broken into her flat to offer her tea. Numbly, Victoria accepts the cup and walks robotically to the settee, sitting down atop her coat.
Director Carter sits next to her. “Let me guess: Harkness kept calling you 'girl' and leering about your relationship with Simanov, Burke kept going on about how this was why he was opposed to female agents, Steed did his disappointed father act, and M simply sat there while every other member of the review panel demanded you resign or have an abortion.”
“That's about the size of it.” Victoria gives an indelicate little snort.
“What are you going to do?”
“Keep the child, for one thing. I won't even give it up for adoption. And I bloody well won't accept some sham marriage to keep up appearances. Half of them were stepping out on their wives with their secretaries before Moneypenny put a stop to it.”
“They won't react well to that.”
“They can take an express train to Hades.”
“Your career probably won't survive. Your father called in every favor he had just to have you assigned to the field.”
“And the sad fact is that he needed to, even after the board saw my performance scores.” She sighs at the thought of her father, dead two years ago, but ever so proud of his only child carrying on the Winslow legacy of service to the Crown. He'd met her mother when he was in the SAS Brigade and she was an OSS agent in occupied France. Mama has been gone for so long that Victoria sometimes wonders if she truly remembers her, or if she's simply stitched together memories from pictures and anecdotes. Well, one thing's for certain: Mama would have garrotted someone today if she'd still been alive, security or no. Victoria never wonders where exactly she gets her killer instinct. Of all the cold-blooded killers her father and his brigade-mates had known, Mama was the one they always still spoke of with absolute reverence and a bit of uncertain terror.
Director Carter delicately clears her throat, bringing Victoria back to the present. “You've maintained your dual citizenship as I understand.”
“Have you ever considered a transfer?”
“No, I was thinking a bit...further.”
Realization flashes. “The SSR or the CIA?”
Carter grins wryly. “Your skillset is more suited to the CIA, I believe. Director Phillips owes me a few favors...and has a rather soft spot for women who know their way around a sniper rifle. Did your father ever tell you about the time Phillips, your mother, and I...”
Victoria matches her smile and settles back to listen to the story. Oh, this is going to be fun.