"Okay," Kate Bishop muttered to herself. "This looks bad."
She wished she had her bow. It was not a practical wish; she just really, really wanted to shoot an arrow into someone's ass. The guys who'd nabbed her after last night's charity gala had been, unfortunately, professionals — Kate had been drugged, gagged, black-bagged, and shoved in a panel van before she could do more than break Thug #3's nose and Thug #1's wrist.
She'd woken up here: a stone cell with iron bars. It looked like every dungeon in every Disney movie she'd ever seen, and it smelled like really dead fish. She didn't have a window, and didn't know shit about what kind of stone came from where, but the smell made it pretty clear she was near water.
Which body of water? That was beyond her.
Kate paced behind the bars, arms crossed over her chest. Her dress was short and sleeveless — perfect in the crowded ballroom last night, but not the best for a damp, cold cell. They'd taken her shoes (high heels, she had to admit, were a pretty obvious potential weapon), and being barefoot on stone sucked. Cold and bored, Kate decided to run through some warm-up exercises and stretches. An ass-kicking opportunity could pop up at any moment, right?
Twenty minutes later, she was back to pacing and only slightly-less-than-freezing, when she heard a noise on the stairs.
Thug #3 and another goon she didn't recognize came down the spiral staircase (seriously, could this architect have loved clichés any more?), hauling a third man in a suit between them. Suit Guy was struggling, but Kate had hung around Clint enough by now to recognize the motions of the heavily-drugged and/or head-injured. The guy wasn't being all that successful.
The thugs dragged Mr. Suit into the cell across from Kate's. Apparently, he rated getting chained to the wall. Kate, loose and unhindered in her own cell, felt kind of insulted. He was some rich schmuck being held for ransom, and just because he was a dude, they felt all threatened.
"Don't suppose you guys could turn up the heat a little," she drawled, before she could think better of it. Shit, she'd been spending too much time with Clint if she was picking up his henchmen-taunting bad habits. She was half-serious, though. It was already uncomfortably cold, and would only get colder as the sun went down.
"Shut up, bitch," Broken Nose snarled. It wasn't the first time Kate had been called names, and as it turned out, someone snarling with a broken nose sounded hilarious.
She really couldn't stop the grin. Honest.
Ooh, he could turn a nice shade of red. He stepped close to the bars and hissed, "I sure hope Madame Masque wins this bidding war with the Swordsman for you. I hear she gets real...creative ."
He still sounded ridiculous, but Kate suddenly had to struggle to keep up the smirk. This wasn’t going to be a situation where the lesser of two evils worked at all, but she couldn’t let on that she was totally fucked.
Hawkeyes didn’t do petrified with fear. It wasn’t their style.
“C’mon, man, you know better than to talk to the merch,” the matching goon said, interrupting the glaring contest. “Let’s get back upstairs.”
Thug glowered at Kate one last time. He snorted, winced, and followed after his cohort.
Kate slumped against the wall. Well. On the upside, at least now she had some information: these guys were experienced kidnappers, but they hadn't abducted Kate Bishop, Rich Socialite, like she’d expected. They'd targeted Kate Bishop, Hawkeye.
On the downside, Kate really liked her eyes the way they were — functional, pain-free, and not being used as Madame Masque's ashtray.
As the last echoes of thuggish boots faded up the stairwell, Kate thought she heard the man across from her mutter something. She couldn't see, chained as he was against the far wall of his cell, but when a sudden clanking noise started up, she rolled her eyes. Typical suit.
"Rattling those chains won't get you anywhere, Marley," Kate said, starting to pace and rub at her arms again.
"No," a voice floated back. "But the lock picks in my watch will."
Kate halted, narrowing her eyes as the guy walked forward to the bars, wavering just slightly on his feet. The gas had fucked up her balance but good; if he was only wobbling a little, he was making an effort — and a good one, at that.
She sized him up from the shadows of her cell. Instead of puking or falling over, the man casually straightened his cuffs and watched her. Not just a suit, then.
"You must be cold," he said, finally.
"No shit, Sherlock." Kate suppressed a shiver.
To her surprise, the man shrugged off his suit jacket and stretched his arm across to her through the bars. "Here," he offered, when she made no move toward it.
Kate reached out her hand. It was slightly too far away, but a gentle swing from the guy let her grab the tails and pull the jacket from his grip. She immediately put it on; it was still warm with body heat, and made of good-quality wool. Pulling her hands into the sleeves, she set to work limbering them up.
"Thanks," Kate said, warily. She was grateful for the jacket, but she had no idea who he was, what he was capable of, or what he wanted. She wasn't going to trust him.
She did maybe like him a little better now, though.
"You're welcome," Not-A-Suit said absently; he seemed to be studying the cell door. "Escaping won't be very easy if you get hypothermic on me."
"Yeah, okay. Lockpicks won't work on the door," Kate said.
He looked up at that, studying her face. "You're Kate Bishop, aren't you," he said, and it wasn't a question. "I've seen your picture," he explained. "I guess someone thinks you’re worth a lot to your family."
Goddamn tabloids and their obsession with rich people. "Something like that," Kate evaded. "So what's your name?"
He smiled. It was a nice smile, with the corners of his eyes crinkling up to turn his face into something warm. "You can call me Phil, Ms. Bishop."
Phil? No one would choose that for a fake name — so either he was telling the truth, or he was a consummate, experienced liar.
"Okay, Phil," Kate said. "The locks have some sort of control mechanism off to my left. I can't see it from here, and they had a bag over my head on the way in. Why don't you make yourself useful and tell me what you see?"
Phil peered off to the left, then back at the cell doors. "Looks like a lever system controls the locking bars. Pretty straightforward. You ever seen The Rock?"
"Sure." Clint had a Thing about Sean Connery, and they both enjoyed good explosions while mocking Michael Bay's complete failure to understand women.
"Something similar to their escape from the cells will work."
"Well, we're fresh out of sheets to tear up, Houdini."
"Clothes, then." Phil started loosening his tie, while Kate looked down at her own, limited options. Tiny dress? Only as a last resort. And she really didn't want to lose the jacket.
Phil, having meanwhile efficiently stripped off tie and dress shirt, was down to a white undershirt and trousers.
"This should get us most of the way, but we need another couple of feet at least," Phil said thoughtfully. He considered his pants with what Kate could only describe as a mournful air.
Kate suddenly realized — she had an obvious solution here. Duh, Hawkeye. "Okay, not a word from you," she warned, and reached under the jacket to unhook her bra through the dress and pull it out the sleeve.
Phil, to his credit, didn't bat an eye. "That should be perfect," he said gravely.
Kate offered it to him through the bars, trying not to think too hard about the fact that she was handing a strange man her underwear while locked in a dungeon. "Here — my knots suck."
"What makes you think mine are any better?" Phil said, but the speed with which he proceeded to string together their various items of clothing gave him away. "Any loose rocks over there?" he asked, randomly.
"Nope," Kate sighed. She'd checked for projectiles first thing.
"Hmm," he said. After tying the last knot, Phil started wandering the perimeter of his cell. He paused and started working at one spot with his fingers. Returning to the cell door, he displayed the fruits of his labor — three stones, roughly the size of golf balls.
Phil tossed one to her, which she tucked it into the pocket of the jacket. He kept the second for himself, and then stripped off one sock (they'd taken his shoes, too). He dropped the third in the sock, tied it incongruously to the free end of Kate's bra to act as a weight, then coiled everything neatly — well, as neatly as someone could coil a knotted line consisting of a dress shirt, a silk tie, a bright purple bra, and a sock with a rock).
He handed it across to her. "You have the better angle," Phil explained. "And I'm still a little—" He teetered his hand back and forth, a gesture Kate decoded as still recovering from being gassed unconscious, dragged around in a stinky bag, and chained to the wall in a Disney dungeon. "Your aim is probably better than mine," he concluded, smiling slightly.
Kate nodded. He had no idea how much better. "How far is the lever, again? And tell me exactly what everything looks like."
Phil told her, and Kate closed her eyes to picture it. She spun the weighted end for momentum and let fly. A muffled clunk — which Kate assumed was the sock-covered rock hitting something — sounded, and she tugged cautiously. The line pulled taut.
Phil whistled, low and impressed. "Got it in one," he said.
Goddamn, she was good.
The knots held when Kate yanked harder, and she had to draw her arms swiftly back through the bars of the door as it popped open. She went straight for the control lever to Phil's cell, but just as the door swung free, a clattering of feet came down the stairs.
Kate whipped around and shut the door of her cell, as silently as possible. Phil pulled his door nearly closed out of the corner of her eye — not far enough to lock, but enough to keep up appearances — while she ducked into a shadow alongside the foot of the stairs. Hidden there, Kate wrapped the necktie ends around her hands in preparation, just as the footsteps burst into the dungeon.
Kate was halfway through her lunge when she saw the bow.
Clint startled and turned as she stepped forward into the light. His bow was drawn and ready, eyes sharp and guarded — and if anyone knew how dangerous that look could be, it was her. Then he grinned, and relaxed. "Hi, Katie," he said. "I'm here to rescue you!"
"Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?" Kate quoted back, taking the spare bow and quiver Clint immediately unslung from his back.
It was, of course, in that moment, with their hands full of equipment, that a slightly more intelligent and stealthy specimen of thug stepped out of the stairwell, gun raised.
"Don't move!" he said. "Drop the fucking bows!" Clint must've done something upstairs, because the guy sounded pissed.
"Aw, henchmen," Clint said.
"Missed one, huh?"
They both turned to face him, set down the bows, and raised their hands.
"Back toward the cell," the Unfortunately Smart Henchman ordered. His gun didn't waver from its aim on Kate's face. Kate felt vaguely grateful for that, because it meant Clint wouldn't do something dumb — such as risk his own life like it didn't matter as much as hers.
It was good to have something to feel positive about with a gun pointed at her head. It helped with the fear.
They walked back to the cell door as the henchman stepped forward to the controls. He glanced at the levers for a second — and his gun hand drifted to the side.
Kate tensed to dive for her bow, but before she or Clint could move, the door to Phil's cell shot open.
It caught the man at the forearm, knocking it aside as a shot went off. Kate thought she saw the shell casing eject right in the guy's face, but Phil moved so fast that she couldn't be sure.
He was armed with a sock.
The rest was a blur: three swings took the henchman at the wrist, solar plexus, and temple. The gun went flying. The man crumpled to the floor.
Kate and Clint had their bows up and ready by that point, but Phil hadn't left them anything to do.
"Okay, who are you?" Clint asked, standing over the unconscious goon. He had his bow aimed...at Phil, actually.
"Phil Coulson," Phil said, bending to retrieve the gun. He straightened, tucking it into his waistband. “Agent of SHIELD. I apologize for not introducing myself properly before, Hawkeye," he said, and nodded at Kate. He turned to Clint like an afterthought, and added, "Hawkeye," with another nod.
Yeah, Kate wasn't pointing an arrow at anyone. "Did you just take that guy out with your sock?"
Phil looked amused, and held up the dress sock. Now that it was less blur-like, she could see something hard weighting down the toe. "And a stone," he said.
"Rock and roll," Kate tried, and Clint finally lowered his bow with a groan. "Oh please, you've said way worse," she said, before he had the chance to complain. “Was that the last of them?"
“Yeah, I think so.”
Kate looked pointedly at Clint’s bow, with its still-nocked arrow at the ready. Clint still hadn’t taken his eyes off Phil. “C’mon, Hawkeye, relax.”
“Look, I appreciate the assist, but we have no reason to trust that Mr. Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot here—”
“That’s Agent Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot to you,” Phil said. Kate reminded herself that an awesome poker face was still not a valid reason to trust a guy.
“—that Agent Phil here is actually with SHIELD.”
“Well, there are his scary ninja moves,” Kate mused.
“And all the secret-keeping.”
“Exactly,” Clint agreed. “I’ve never even heard of an Agent Coulson at SHIELD.”
“That’s probably because your ex-wife tends to call me ‘Sam the Eagle” when she’s not on duty. And sometimes when she is,” Phil said.
“You’re Agent Sam? Wait — no, of course, bald eagle.” Phil looked rueful as Clint cracked up.
Kate raised her eyebrows at Phil, completely lost.
“I do a mean Muppets impression while high on truth serum,” he explained.
Kate bit her lips together to keep a straight face. “I see,” she said gravely.
Phil gave her one of his tiny invisible smiles. “I was also the handler assigned to Captain Rogers on Operation Eucritta, if that helps,” he added.
That one scored with Clint, who cut off his wheezing laughter. “Hill didn’t handle all three?”
“None of us thought that would be a good idea,” Phil said dryly.
“Yeah, probably not. Hill probably would’ve had an aneurism if she had to work with me and Logan.”
“Who did get stuck with Wolverine?” Kate asked, curious.
“Poor guy,” she said. Wolverine didn’t warm up much to strangers. Or friends.
“Actually, they got along surprisingly well. Jasper said they went for beers after.”
...Yeah, Kate still had no idea how good a liar Phil was or wasn’t.
“Oh, hell, you win,” Clint said. “Only a very few people know about Eucritta, and if you know about that and have had surveillance on the Avengers long enough to know a hungover SHIELD agent named Jasper once crashed at the Tower, then I think we’ll be screwed regardless if you turn out to be evil.” Aww, Clint was being sort of rational about this. How cute. Then he shrugged. “Steve said he liked the agents he worked with on that one, anyway.”
“He did?” Phil said. He was clearly trying to tamp down on the delight in his voice, but wasn’t entirely successful — which honestly sold the story more than anything. Captain America had that effect on people.
Clint must have agreed, because he finally took his hand off the bowstring, and held it out with a smile. “Thanks for the assist, Agent Coulson.”
“Thank you both, as well. Your work in Madripoor saved the lives of at least fifteen agents, including my own.” He took Clint’s hand in a strong grip, and relaxed as they shook on it. Kate hadn’t been able to tell he was anything other than completely confident until that moment.
Clint and Phil cemented the handshake by each taking one of the unconscious henchman’s legs and dragging him into a cell. Kate took the opportunity to unknot her bra from the line, shoving it deep in the jacket pocket before Clint could catch sight of it. By the time the guys had stripped Sleeping Beauty Henchman of everything even remotely useful, Kate had Phil’s stuff loose as well.
The agent himself was examining the thug’s boots and frowning.
“Those gonna work for you?” she asked.
“No. Four sizes too small,” Phil said. He passed the boot to her as she handed off the clothes. “You?”
Kate held the sole up to her foot. The end fell significantly short of her toes. “What the fuck, this guy has the world’s tiniest shoes.” She lobbed the boot at the lever for the cell door, which swung shut again with a clang.
“Well, hey, if it makes you feel better, you know what they say about guys with big feet,” Clint said — and then made a hilarious face when he realized that, in the process of insulting the goon, he’d just accidentally dick-complimented the SHIELD agent. Didn’t think that one through, did you, Hawkeye.
It won another of Phil’s nice smiles, though. “Thank you,” he said. “That is very helpful.”
“Okay, so no boots for the man who rocked his socks off, and no boots for me,” Kate said. “We need to find our stuff anyway. I definitely want those heels back.”
Clint suddenly came down with one of his shifty faces. “Were they purple, by any chance? Strappy, heel that could shiv a guy?” he asked, gesturing illustratively.
“Yes!” Kate exclaimed. “Where are they?”
“I saw them upstairs,” Clint said, and Kate headed for the stairs, the guys trailing behind. “Right before I shot a tear-gas arrow into the room and locked the door.”
Kate halted at the bottom of the steps. Now that she was concentrating, she could hear faint thumping noises echoing down the stairwell.
“So. My favorite heels are locked in a room, with a bunch of goons—”
“—with five goons, some tear gas, and probably a lot of guns?”
“Right.” Kate started climbing the stairs. “Barefoot it is. You’re buying me a new pair later.”
“You do remember you’re rich, right?” Clint bitched, drawing up beside her. He was still on his guard, eyes checking corners and windows just like Kate, but he spared enough attention to bump their shoulders.
“It’s a matter of principle,” she said, loftily.
Phil spoke up behind them. “Or I can ask the retrieval team to get them for you,” he said.
“Oh — thanks,” Kate said, a little surprised. Hey, nice. Secret government agencies could be kind of handy when they were on your side.
“You’re welcome. He’ll owe me a pair, too, if we can’t get them back,” Phil said. “Better start saving.” His eyes — there was no other word for it — twinkled at Kate as he looked over, ignoring Clint’s exasperated reply.
They walked outside into afternoon sunlight, and she felt the chill of the cell seep away. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and she turned to take in the view—
“Okay, what the hell is this place?” Kate said, staring up at the bizarre, crenelated castle-thing they’d just emerged from.
“Some guy built it to store Army munitions surplus after the war.” Clint shrugged. “No idea why he has a dungeon, though. Rich people are crazy.” Kate smacked him lightly on the arm without looking away from the monstrosity.
“Probably for his business rivals,” Phil said. “CEOs can be even worse about their competition than supervillains get about arch-nemeses.”
Clint made a little noise of agreement. “Tony mostly just talks people into submission, but I should probably never give him the idea to build a dungeon. C’mon, our ride’s this way,” he said, and led them down a steep, rocky path.
Kate and Phil were forced to a slower pace than Clint, who had boots on. Not that Clint went very far — Kate wouldn’t call it hovering, exactly, but he clearly concerned about leaving her all alone with the big bad SHIELD agent. He wasn't quite resorting to circling back to check on her, but there was a good deal of speeding up and slowing down going on.
Phil, on the other hand, seemed largely unconcerned by anything. He picked his way carefully along the path, moving at Kate's pace — which he made look very natural, until Kate thought about how much longer his legs were. She narrowed her eyes at him. He better not be getting any ideas about needing to catch her if she fell.
As it happened, Kate was the one who shot out an arm to brace Phil, when he stepped on an unstable rock and nearly tipped into her.
She still wasn't all that comfortable being near strange men, sometimes. Phil wasn't bad, though — he smelled clean, didn't grab or push, and backed away from her personal space as soon as he found his balance.
"Thanks," he said, simply.
"Welcome," she replied shortly, and focused on where she was walking.
"Looks like you're doing better than I did." For a second, Kate thought he meant not falling over. The verb tenses caught up with her as Phil continued, "It's hard, the first few times it gets personal."
Kate glanced at him. She really wasn't used to talking about shit while being Hawkeye — especially with Clint, who was worse at it than anyone she knew. This wasn't school, where she wouldn't talk about Hawkeye stuff even if she could, and it wasn’t her shrink's office, where she used her time productively (meaning, she practiced techniques Natasha taught her by lying through her teeth like a champ). And he didn't seem to expect a reply. He was just...talking at her.
She could probably let him do that.
"Most people I fight don't know my name or remember what I look like, if they're even alive later. It was like that in the Army, too," he said. "The first time someone wanted to kill me personally, just for being myself, for doing what was right...I didn't handle it well. You guys get that all the time."
He fell silent, and that seemed to be it, the conversation fading into the sounds of gravel crunching and shifting under their feet. Kate heard the shuffle up ahead getting louder, which meant Clint was deliberately slowing down again.
"This was better than last time," she said, quiet. "I'm okay."
"Okay. I'm glad," Phil said, smiling at her.
And that was it. He said none of the usual stuff about being careful, no lecturing about being too young or too female or too rich to handle it. It kinda reminded her of how Clint treated her — like of course it was okay, if she decided it was.
She smiled back, and they walked the last bit of path side by side.
Clint was standing on a dock at the end of the path, staring across the water with his fists on his hips.
“I was promised a ride, Peter Pan,” she said, stepping carefully out onto the splintery boards. “I don’t see a ride.” She looked around. “Are we on an island? If we’re on an island, this could be a problem.”
Phil stepped to the edge of the dock and peered over. Following his gaze down into the water, Kate could see the ripply outline of...what probably used to be their ride.
"You came in that?" Coulson asked, looking at the sunken boat. He paused, and fought down a smile before adding, "You're braver than I thought."
Okay. Kate officially liked this guy.
"I'm great with boats!" Clint protested. "And it used to float."
Kate glanced around and spotted an abandoned hatchet on the dock. She picked it up and swung it a bit. "I think our slightly-clever henchman was here."
"Sounds about right. So, are we on an island?" Phil said, and they both looked expectantly at Clint.
"Well, then there must be boats around here somewhere," Kate said. A thought occurred to her. "Unless they had someone who could teleport. They didn't have a teleporter, did they?"
"No," Clint said. "But...I may have taken the hatchet to their boats first."
Phil walked to the other side of the dock and peered over. "Ah. Well. That was stupid of our unconscious friend, then. It's a little cold to swim."
Kate shivered as a well-timed breeze punctuated his words. She had absolutely no plans to go into the water today. "Hypothermia, bad for escape plans. I remember," she said, popping the collar of the suit jacket to block the wind.
"Exactly," Phil said, looking amused.
"That doesn't leave us with a lot of options, though."
"Wait, shh — do you hear that?" Clint said, waving a hand at Kate for silence. He looked serious, so she bit back an instinctive quip and listened.
Kate heard the buzz of the motor just a scant second before Clint shouted, "Ha!" and ran to the very end of the dock, leaning out so far she'd be worried he might fall in, if she hadn't previously seen him do the very same thing on the edge of several rooftops.
Phil made an abbreviated move towards Clint, though, so clearly he hadn't. "Don't worry, he does this all the time," she said.
"You say that like he doesn't have one of the highest injury rates among the Avengers," Phil said dryly.
"Okay, fair," Kate said, and then promptly got distracted by Clint taking off his shirt. Damn, Hawkeyes are a good-looking bunch.
Clint was hollering and waving the shirt around vigorously — oh, to flag down the boat, that made sense. Kate slid her eyes over to Phil, wary that he might go and do something dumb like offer one of his shirts as a flag instead, and give Clint a reason to put his shirt back on.
Phil looked like he was planning to do nothing of the sort. Instead, he had his arms crossed over his chest, and was watching Clint's flexing muscles with...appreciation.
Kate was struck by a sudden wave of oh holy shit, this is going to be awesome, which she just barely turned into a cough instead of a laugh. Phil glanced over. They grinned at each other, and promptly turned back to ogling Clint.
Kate only let the thought distract her a little from carefully watching the boat's approach, but seriously — Clint definitely had a Thing for spies, and agents, and people who could kick his ass, and people who could bring the snark. It was a pattern that started with Sean Connery and led right up to here, the moment where Phil Coulson was totally Clint Barton’s type.
This was going to be hilarious.
The skiff cut its motor and glided to the dock. Clint — who, Kate had to admit, actually was good at boats — caught it in some mysterious way appropriate to boat-driving people and eased it in. Coincidentally, this showed off his shoulders really well, and the boat's owner promptly became the third person at the dock watching Clint appreciatively.
Once the hat was peeled off, the owner turned out to be a weathered old woman with a sharply-lined face. She left off her Clint-watching to look over the rest of the party. Boat Lady's eyebrows ticked a little higher as she took in the bows and arrows, Kate's newly-acquired hatchet, their bare feet, Phil's suit, and Kate's party dress.
Her eyes landed on Kate's face last. "These guys bothering you?" the woman said, and Kate grinned in relief. That didn't sound like Boat Lady was planning to take off and leave a scruffy band of weirdos to their island-y fate.
"I'm good," Kate said, and hefted her bow a little higher with the hand not holding the hatchet. The woman's eyes were drawn to the movement, and she smiled.
"Okay, then. I'm not going to ask any more questions, you're not going to tell me any lies, and I'm going to give you folks a ride to the mainland. There will be no shooting of anything or anyone. Sound good?"
"That sounds great, ma'am," Clint said fervently.
"Good. You come sit up here by me," Boat Lady said. "And call me Marsha." She beamed at Clint, whose step faltered slightly before he sat and pulled his shirt back on. (Shoot.)
Kate grinned at Phil and hopped over the boat's edge. He sat beside her, and they watched with amusement as Marsha patted Clint's shoulder. She didn't linger or pinch or do anything skeevy — Kate would've rescued him — but Marsha was definitely enjoying herself. Clint’s discomfort in the face of a septuagenarian with a sex drive was prime entertainment.
Kate’s smirk lasted the whole way back to dry land.
She stood on the mainland dock where Clint had directed them, hiding a yawn behind one hand and waving cheerfully with the other as Marsha roared away. Clint had rallied against his awkwardness long enough to pull out a very sincere thank-you and a handshake at the end. Phil had promptly trumped him by gallantly kissing Marsha’s hand and complimenting her generosity, as elegant as if he was at an old-fashioned formal, rather than barefoot in the middle of nowhere.
Marsha left grinning and pleased, and Clint grumpily led them to their next ride, hidden in a nearby clump of trees.
“Oh my god, you stole my car,” Kate said indignantly.
“I was in a hurry,” Clint said. “And you weren’t around to ask, which was exactly the point!” Kate crossed her arms at him, and he sighed. “This is another matter of principle thing, isn’t it? Fine — hey Hawkeye, can I retroactively have permission to borrow your car so I can help beat up your kidnappers and rescue you from a dungeon?” He held up the keys with a mock-serious questioning look.
Kate grinned and uncrossed her arms. “Sure thing, Hawkeye. You’re driving us back, though — I need a nap.” She would be pretty cramped in the back, but whatever. Kate turned and called, “Hey, Phil, where can we drop you?”
Phil was standing apart from them, hands in pockets. “No need,” he said.
“Are you planning to walk back to New York?” Clint said.
“I’m not going to New York.”
“What? Why not?” Kate asked.
“My abduction suggests we have another mole at SHIELD. I don’t need to be there, I need a secure hardline so I can call Fury and coordinate. The nearest unmanned safehouse is four hours in the opposite direction.” He pointed to the northwest.
Kate was about to protest, but Clint just said, “I have a secure hardline.”
“You do?” asked Kate.
“Seriously? You’ve mocked me about my phone at least a dozen times.”
“It has a cord! And attaches to the wall! You didn’t mention it was all encrypted and shit.”
“Captain America calls me on that phone.” Clint’s tone added a great big duh to the end of his sentence.
“He does?” Phil said, and for a spy, he was pretty terrible at hiding fanboy glee. At least he seemed to realize the lapse, clearing his throat and adding, “In that case, may I use your phone, Mr. Barton?”
“As long as you call me Clint, and never ‘Mr. Barton’ ever again,” Clint said. “C’mon, you get shotgun. Katie needs her beauty sleep.”
Kate rolled her eyes and clambered into the back seat. Clint had thrown his coat back there on the drive up, so she promptly co-opted it as a blanket along with Phil’s jacket.
Clint started the engine and pulled out of their hiding spot carefully — Kate was pleased to note the absence of branches screeching against the paint job. She closed her eyes when Clint turned the radio on low.
They’d kicked bad guy ass, made a new friend, and were now heading home. That was about as good as it got. Kate yawned, and let the road sounds and familiar smell of her car lull her to sleep.