“Do you know who I am, Mr. Barton?”
Charles Bernard Barton stared from his hospital bed at the young woman who was standing at the doorstep with an hand on her right side; a young brunette with perfect hair, dressed with elegant clothes- matching shirt and pants, a red vest, heels to die for; at first, he didn’t recognized her- he wondered if maybe she was SHIELD, or if his ex pals at the FBI had sent her there; but she was too elegant for being a fed; then, she stepped closer to him in the room, and he noticed first thing first the necklace – the X-Men symbol- and he recognized her; maybe Christine Antonia Stark wasn’t as famous as her brother (a destiny they shared, apparently) but, still, CNN had done a pretty number on her when she had outed herself as a mutant while fighting off The Ghost in Manhattan while shopping.
Besides, he liked to keep himself informed on the super-powered community. And she also seemed to be around his brother a lot, so, really, it was impossible for him to not know her.
“Yeah, I know who you are- and frankly, I don’t care. That’s the door, sweetheart.” She chuckled as she got closer and closer to his bed, smirking; part of her was amused- not by the situation, of course, but because Bernard was really a lot like Clint. It seemed that they had done nothing but fight- and yet, they were almost the same. Sibling rivalry- she guessed it was as old as the world itself, and that few things couldn’t be helped. No matter what.
“That’s your blood, collected at the Crime Scene where you attempted on your brother’s life.” She simply said, sitting at the side of the bed and playing with a vial in her hands, filled with dark red liquid. “At a first examination, it seems you are a perfect match to your brother’s tissues. Do you know how rare it is, Mr. Barton? Even between siblings?” She paused, and looked at Barney, concentrated and serious. “I’ll tell you. Between siblings, it’s one on four. Pretty good, but, still- rare.”
Sitting on his bed, Barney looked at the woman; he wasn’t feeling anything, really- the only thing he wanted was to have her out of the room, and preferably his life as well. “Why should I care?”
Chris stood and went to his side; she was petite, so petite she couldn’t scare him, even with the heels. “Clint suffered brain damage recently, and he is getting blind. There’s an experimental therapy with staminal cells we can try- but we need them from a compatible subject. You.”
Barney chuckled darkly. “Sorry lady, but why exactly should I care whether my brother gets blind or not?”
As he studied her- just like he had learnt at the FBI, when he was a profiler, barney saw her features change; she was Christine Stark, full of herself and arrogant- just like her brother- but right now she was a different woman, she was someone who suddenly looked older than her actual age and sad- like she had been defeated by life, or was about to.
“I know you don’t- but I do care about your brother.” Probably more than I should, she mentally added between herself.
Barney kept chuckling, never breaking eye-contact with her. Just like he had been trained to do. “Ok, and I should care about what you want because…?”
Sighing, the vial of blood on the nightstand, Chris carefully removed her necklace, and showed him to Barney; like it was an hypnotist’s pendulum, she made it oscillate right before his eyes, so that he could see it clearly. “The X on my pendant? It’s not for show, Mr. Barton. I’m an X-Men.”
Barney simply stared at the necklace, gulping down a mouthful of saliva, he didn’t know where she was going- but he didn’t like it. Not at all. “So? X-Men don’t kill. With the exception of the Canadian one, Wolverine. And, even if you are as tall as him- you are no Wolverine, sweetheart.”
Chris chuckled, a bit darkly. Her eyes were suddenly filled with sadness, and what Barney assumed was regret, mixed with something else- shame, maybe? Guilt?
“If your file is not mistaken, at the time the team of renegade mutants known as X-Force was operating under what the United Nations assumed was a terrorist leadership you were with the FBI, am I correct?” Barney didn’t answered- but he didn’t deny her claim. “So, I must assume that you were aware of their… methodology. What I wonder, though, is if you were aware that I was part of that team and that the shadow organization had been recently rebuilt under new leadership- Scott Summer’s. Which I assure you is not exactly the best man on the planet. He and his son had always had a very… heavy lifting approach on things. Kill or be killed, let’s say. And Summers recently recruited me for this pet project of his…”
Chris paused, her eyes on the ground, she took a big breath, and then stared again at Barney’s eyes. “I don’t like what I have to do, Mr. Barton. But I know that sometimes it can’t be helped. And your brother- Clint- he is the most important person in my life. And call me selfish- but I need him to live.”
Barney simply sighed. “Yeah, all right, you are deadly- by why should I help you, uh? I’ve tried to kill my brother times after times. And finally I’m getting my revenge on him. He’ll lose everything he has always been.”
“Mr. Barton, you haven’t been listening carefully. What I’m telling you is that I am dangerous- and that I’ve been around a lot. I’ve learnt the most important lesson of them all- that there’s no need to kill a man to break him. That it is actually pointless. But every man has a weak point- and that’s what I’m good at, finding them. So maybe you’ll not help me, and you’ll not save your brother’s sight-despite everything he has always done for you- but I can guarantee you that I’ll look around. That I’ll eventually find something- anything- and I’ll take it away from you. In the most painful way possible. Without killing anyone.”
Barney looked at her- really looked at her- and, in the blink of an eye, he took a decision; it wasn’t that he was scared of her, nor that he had anything he held dear- those times had been long gone, after all, distant memories of his time with the FBI and the military- but it was the fact that she was willing to lose herself. To lose Clint’s friendship- and the respect of the people she held dear, who trusted her. All to save his brother’s sight.
Whoever this woman was to Clint, his brother didn’t deserve her in the slightest- not if he wasn’t ready to give her as much in return. Not if he wasn’t already paying her back in kind. Which he doubted. He wasn’t even sure if this woman herself knew what she and Clint were to each other, after all. But she loved him, somehow- of a deep, total and all-engulfing love, the kind of feeling that people could easily die for.
He chuckled, shaking his head, knowing all too well that now his baby brother was going to owe him, that he would never forget this, and that, one day, victory would have been all the sweeter- they would have fought again, and Barney would have win, and the last thing Clint was going to see would have been Barney’s face as he grinned as he took away his life. “Ok, Lady… where do I sign?”