khiela: (Tourist in red)
Summary: “I don’t know what you remember so here are the basics. You’ve been assigned to IMF for the last four years under the name William Brandt, and the last six months you’ve been working in a team led by Ethan Hunt. Do you remember that?”
That Clint does remember, but not how he ended up in a hospital and he’s grateful that Natasha is there to have his back.

Disclaimer: I don’t own Avengers or Mission Impossible. The title and three lines I used to separate scenes are from Three Days Grace’s Gone Forever, so can't claim ownership of those either.

Word count: 4,463

Author's Note: Phil Coulson is alive, just because I can make that happen. For the timeline let's imagine the happenings of the Avengers took place in 2012 and Ghost Protocol happened about three and half yeast after that. Add another six months and we get to where this fic takes place. Also, all the hospital stuff... I've got no idea, so I just used common sense.
This fic can also be found at AO3 & FanFiction.net.

~oOoOo~
In This World Around Me

~oOoOo~

*** Don’t know what’s going on ***



“– furthermore I’m going to write ’Agent Barton is an idiot – that’s why he got hurt’ into my report if you aren’t going to wake up some time soon. And you know what? You really are an idiot. What were you thinking, Clint? Wait, no. Don’t tell me. You weren’t thinking. No person with a working brain jumps from the third floor without their rappelling gear.”

Natasha’s voice is becoming clearer by the minute, stepping further and further away from being an extremely weird dream of her scolding him. Clint lets the familiar sound of her voice drift over him in the not-quite-awake-yet state, peripherally aware his legs are hurting and that he can’t quite feel his right arm.

“Clint? Are you finally going to wake up?” Clint hums in assent – or tries to, it comes out sounding more like a moan of pain.

“Can you tell me who you are, and who I am?” Sounds like basic procedure for suspected head injury to Clint which is only a little confusing. But this time he’s pretty sure he wasn’t working with Natasha before what ever she thinks might have messed up his brain happened.

Clint opens his eyes a little to assimilate to the brightness beyond his lids.

“Clint Barton, Natasha Romanoff… Nat, what’s going on?” Clint knows Natasha can hear the confusion in his voice as clearly as he can.

“It’s all right,” Natasha tells him, “I’m summoning a nurse. Now, I need you to listen up. I don’t know what you remember so here are the basics. You’ve been assigned to IMF for the last four years under the name William Brandt, and the last six months you’ve been working in a team led by Ethan Hunt. Do you remember that?”

It takes Clint a little while to decode the rushed way Natasha’s speaking but his training trumps his confusion and he opens his eyes fully. Squinting slightly he looks into the familiar blue eyes and grunts, “I think I do remember, Nat.”

“Wonderful. Your latest mission went a little pear shaped and the end result is why you are in a hospital. Don’t talk to anyone if you can’t remember your story, but you were admitted as FBI Special Agent Brandt. My name is Natalie Rushman, I’m your next of kin and the closest thing you have to a family – we’re practically siblings. Do you understand?”

“Yea, got it.”
“Good. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of this,” she replies, smiling softly and as two nurses come to the room she calls out on her way out of the door, “I’ll be right back, Will. I’ll just have to go call Uncle Phil; he was worried about you, too.”

The part of Clint that isn’t totally shaken awake yet and is more than likely drugged up wishes he could see their supervisor’s face if he ever hears Natasha call him “Uncle Phil”. Even the short laugh provided by the mental image has him coughing. His throat feels dryer than a desert.

One of the nurses is checking his apparently casted leg and all the other bandages he seems to be covered in while the other starts asking all sorts of questions after informing him the doctor will come to check on him soon.

Clint doesn’t stay conscious long enough to witness that.



*** Don’t know what went wrong ***



Next time he comes to he hears a hissed argument.

“I don’t know exactly what Will’s job has him up to, but I know enough to not just let you in on your say so!” Something is wrong with that voice. It’s so familiar but strange at the same time.

“I’ve been working with him for the last six months!” Another female voice hisses back, she sounds like she’s at the end of her rope. Her voice is also familiar.

“And I’ve known him for nearly twenty years!” That’s not true, Clint thinks, and then he connects the voice. Natasha, but different; like she’s acting, for some reason. Clint knows the difference, even though he’s been undercover with her only three times in the past. Undercover, he mulls the concept around. Ah, that’s the niggling thought. He’s undercover. Well, kind of and Natasha is playing Natalie Rushman.

“Nat?” he croaks out. How long has it been since he’s drunk something, anyway?

“Will?” the two females call out at the same time, but it’s Natasha whose hands reach for his, and Clint finds himself looking into her face from up close. Her expression is asking him if he’s up to this, and Clint nods minutely and smiles. That’s enough for Natasha and she steps back a little, bringing the other woman into view and Clint finally recognizes her, too. Jane Carter.

“Do you know this woman, Will?” Natasha asks, sounding suspicious even though she knows perfectly well who agent Carter is.

“Yea, Nat,” Clint has to swallow few times in quick succession to avoid coughing again, “Jane.” He offers the brunette a smile which is reciprocated.

“How are you?” Jane asks quietly and Natasha snorts. Clint has to actively stop himself from admiring her acting skills. She’s doing the exasperated and resentful family member very well.

“I’ll be fine,” he responds with his standard answer. Maybe it should be more worrying he has a standard answer, but Clint isn’t game to ponder such trivialities at the moment.

“Oh sure, you will,” Natasha scoffs, making a gesture with her hand and indicating all the medical equipment around Clint and attached to him. If Clint didn’t know any better he’d really believe Natalie the worried friend was frustrated with him, like this situation was all too familiar. Expect, it kind of is, for Natasha and Clint, anyway. “The doctor said they can discharge you tomorrow evening and then you’re coming with me. Uncle Phil promised to get my apartment ready.”

“Now wait a minute!” Jane interrupts, annoyed. Clint doesn’t say anything, just watches as Natasha deals with the situation. He’s careful to hide the satisfaction brought on by witnessing her having his back when he’s not up to guarding it fully. He feels a little bad for Jane being on the receiving end, though. Clint also knows there is no sense in arguing, even if he wanted to - which he doesn’t. If Coulson told them to come home that is exactly what is going to happen.

“You wait a minute!” Natasha spats back at Jane, “I am taking William home. Your team leader told me you can manage without Will and frankly, even if you couldn’t he’s in no shape to help you. Ergo, I’m taking him home.”

Seeing Jane open and close her mouth a couple of times without any sound coming out is for some reason incredibly funny to Clint, but he values his hide enough to keep his amusement to himself. When it seems Jane has finally found an opposing argument to throw back at Natasha the red haired woman takes an intentional step forward and despite being slightly shorter than Jane, Natasha’s presence is overshadowing Jane’s. “And there is nothing you can do about it.”

Clint can imagine the challenge in Nat’s eyes as the two women stare at each other. There is something akin to shock etched into Jane’s features, even when she nods and takes a tiny step backwards claiming her personal space back.

“Good,” Natasha says simply. She then seamlessly goes back to being a worried next of kin as she looks into Clint’s eyes and says “I’ll go get you some water, hmm? Don’t over tax yourself.”

Clint nods, hearing the last sentence for what it is – a reminder not to screw things now.

“We were quite surprised to learn you had someone outside IMF as your medical proxy,” Jane says and Clint can’t tell if she’s disappointed or curious.

“Yeah,” he says slowly, “Didn’t see a reason to change it.” He offers her a small shrug with his uninjured left shoulder.

“Nobody would tell us anything, before she got here. And even then it was sparse,” Jane continues on, not commenting on Clint’s excuse, “And by then it was too late for Benji to alter your file. They would’ve been suspicious.”

He can see she’s unhappy about the situation.

Clint gives her a little grin trying to get across the ‘ Sorry ’ he’s reluctant to voice. “What happened, exactly? I think Nat said something about falling few floors?”

Jane sighs and with a surreptitious look around sits on the chair next to his bed. “Do you remember what our mission was?”

“Yeah…” Clint says slowly, thinking back and hoping he could have that water right about now. “Government contractor, Chinese spies…” Clint makes a ‘and so on’ gesture with his left hand.

“That’s right,” Jane agrees, “We intercepted the latest drop off but one of the men got away.” She pauses to look at Clint’s reaction. He nods a few times, this he remembers.

“It’s after we got into the office building I have problem remembering,” he tells her, his voice rasping almost painfully at the end.

“We got there; Ethan and I went in first, through the front doors. You and Benji were taking the underground parking hall where we’d agreed Benji would stay in the car and monitor everyone’s movements.” She pauses again to make sure he’s on the same page as her. Satisfied that he is, she goes on, “Unfortunately that man, who got away, Degrassi, had had time to hire some guns to help him and Ethan and I had to run around the thankfully and mostly empty building avoiding them. It wasn’t an ambush – we were faster than they’d expected – but it wasn’t far off. I remember you calling out on coms that there was someone fleeing the building on foot. Benji says it was Degrassi and one other man. He couldn’t follow you right away, because he had to make sure Ethan and I got a little headway to the gunmen first. After he disabled the CCTV system of the building, so it couldn’t be used to trap us, he came after you.” Jane looks at him, her expression unreadable.

“Ok. What happened then?” Clint prods her, now more curious than anything. Jane isn’t squeamish by any means and there is something bothering her.

“Benji found the unknown guy with a throwing knife in his back on the nearby alley and you told him over the coms that you had followed Degrassi into one of the buildings. Benji followed the noises, apparently there were few gunshots and then hand-to-hand. He reached you just in time to see you vault Degrassi and yourself out of the window.”

“What? Just like that? No gear?” That sounded vaguely familiar. Had Natasha told him this already? But the question remained. “Why would I do that?”

“We’re as much at loss as you are,” Jane admits, “The only reason you’re not dead or more broken is Degrassi and some very conveniently positioned tarp softening your landing and your apparent skill at landing from high drops.” She sounds a little miffed at that, but Clint doesn’t comment. He can’t remember definitively what parts the IMF knows about his training.

“What happened then?” Clint asks, wanting to move away from the subject.

“Somebody had called the police, so Benji did what he could to make things seem a little more innocent. He slipped you a FBI badge and made a few quick calls. The change in story forced us, Ethan and me, to ‘arrest’ the two remaining men trying to shoot us. Both are here in this hospital. ICU.” Jane offers him a wicked grin which he can’t help but to return. “Ethan called in some favor and everything was smoothed over with the Bureau after Benji submitted a slightly doctored version of the file we had on Degrassi’s act of treason.”

“Degrassi’s?” Clint asks although he’s sure he already knows the answer.

“We couldn’t very well them there’d been more people involved; we’d just killed them all, now could we?” Jane asks him rhetorically.

“Nah,” Clint agrees, and closes his eyes in the quiet following.

“Is it…” Clint opens his eyes when Jane hesitates. He raises an eyebrow at her when she doesn’t immediately continue. She gives a weak chuckle.

“Is it really wise for you to go with her?” She sounds hesitant. Clint tilts his head towards her and gives her a searching look.

“Jane,” Clint waits till her eyes meet his and then smiles, “She knows about what I do. And she’s like a sister to me, and her Uncle Phil is scarily competent at everything. I’ll be more than fine with them. Plus, who’d want to try telling Natalie otherwise?” He attempts at humor.

“She does seem… headstrong,” Jane says mildly. “Uncle Phil?”

“Yup,” Clint grins, thinking of his supervisory agent, “Sometimes it feels like he raised Nat and me.”

“Just feels like it?” Natasha’s amused voice comes from the doorway. “Face it, Will. He’s responsible for both of us having turned halfway decent.” She steps into the room and Clint tries to resist the urge to make grabby hands at the sandwiches she’s holding on her arms.

“Nuh uh,” Natasha shakes her finger at him playfully. “You haven’t been cleared by your doctor yet.”

Clint turns his pleading eyes to Jane who shrugs, “Can’t help you.”

“Would you like a sandwich?” Clint turns to look at Natasha, trying to see what she is playing at. Jane seems little bemused at the gesture, but quickly accepts it for what it most likely is – a peace offering.

“Thank you,” Jane says, taking the offered sandwich from the corner of its plastic wrapping.

“You’re welcome,” Natasha replies, coming to stand on the left side of Clint’s bed. “Water?” She asks Clint rhetorically, already opening the bottle.

“God, yes.”

Sipping the best water he’s tasted in ages Clint contemplates Natasha’s actions. He wonders what the S.H.I.E.L.D.’s profile on Hunt’s team says for Natasha to be this willing to show Jane trust and leave Clint alone with her. Clint doubts the chances of the hospital room having been bugged by Natasha. That leaves him with the option of Natasha giving Clint and Jane the chance to talk a little. He likes that option. Yawning Clint hands the water bottle back to Natasha.

“Don’t take this too personally, ladies, but I think I need to close my eyes for a moment.”

He’s only vaguely aware Jane quipping something about beauty sleep back at him.



*** Now things are coming clear ***





“Agent Brandt? Hi, I’m Laura. I need to check the bandages on your right arm. Would that be alright?”

Clint blinks at the thirty-something woman. “Sure, go ahead.”

“How are you feeling, otherwise?”

“Great,” Clint replies truthfully, “That itches a little.” He adds with a grin, gesturing to his right hand the nurse is wrapping open. It had gotten few deep gashes in the fall.

Laura the nurse clucks her tongue playfully at Clint, “What, no ‘I’ve had worse’?”

Clint gives a genuine laugh, “You treat LEOs often, huh?”

“Often enough. And my younger brother wrestles.” Her expression speaks volumes of her opinion on the matter. Clint opts not to comment on that and instead they chat lightly about the meal he’d gotten earlier in the day and Laura’s opinion on hospital cuisine in general.

She is almost done securing the last layer on his hand when there is a knock at the door. Both of their heads whip up at the sudden noise. Ethan Hunt is leaning against the doorway, looking for all the world as relaxed and laid back as one can be. Clint starts mentally reinforcing himself. They don’t call Ethan Hunt the best just for his death defying acts.

“Will,” Ethan says as a greeting.

“Ethan,” Clint responds, waiting to see how this is going to play out.

“There, I’m done,” Laura says, “I’ll leave you gentlemen alone in a bit. Now, agent Brandt, your next meal will be brought to you in about two hours. Try to eat it all so the doctor, who should be coming for her rounds here around six, will feel comfortable about discharging you.”

“I’ll try my best. Thank you, Laura.”

“You’re welcome. Have a good day,” she exits the room after giving both Clint and Ethan a smile and a nod.

Silently Ethan comes to sit on the right side of Clint’s bed (its view to the door is better than on the left side).

“I hear from our director that you are transferring,” Ethan starts and Clint hones immediately to two specific facts. First of all, why would Ethan specify he’s talking about the IMF director and secondly…

“You heard, or you asked?” Clint smiles to show he’s more amused by the prospect than anything else.

“Fair enough,” Ethan grins, “I might have asked.” He then gives Clint the stare, clearly telling him to stop dawdling and answer the question.

“Yes, I’m transferring,” Clint admits. It had actually been coming for some time. The almost four years he has spent working mostly for IMF had officially been for him to gain new experiences his current S.H.I.E.L.D. team couldn’t provide. Unofficially it was to see if he’d go ballistic after the initial aftermath of Loki’s machinations was dealt with.

Two and half years on the field as an IMF agent had gone long way convincing S.H.I.E.L.D.’s higher ups that Clint was the only one calling the shots in his head.

Croatia had very nearly broken the newly build stability and Clint knows everybody – literally everybody, from Thor’s girlfriend’s assistant to Tony Stark to director Fury – had been worried about him when he wanted to get out from the field. Coulson had made sure he wasn’t left to idle around, though, and he’d found himself as an analyst. He had put all his excess energy into doing his job and made sure to exhaust himself mentally on a daily basis.

The thing about that, though, was that being that good at his job wasn’t going to go without notice and Clint had found himself rising rapidly in rank – nine months into his new life as an analyst and he was working for the Secretary. Month of that and he was made the Chief Analyst. Clint hadn’t complained, the job allowed him to continue to prove to director Fury’s bosses he was no threat and the job kept him from the field. That wasn’t to say he didn’t keep his skills up. If he didn’t in few days there was a knock on the door and an Avenger behind it, innocently asking if Clint –or rather, William, as they had to call him – would like to come to practice or to a sparring session with them.

Somehow, being able to shoot his bow regularly (unlike when he was an active IMF field agent) had helped Clint. It had been soothingly familiar and having his team support and occasionally surround him… Well, Clint didn’t want to get mushy about it, but it had been a great help. By the time he’d been asked to accompany the Secretary to Russia he’d been mostly ready for it, and the soft entry to being on the field again had been appreciated.

When the Secretary had told Clint they were going to go pick up Ethan Hunt William Brandt the analyst had nearly come apart. It had taken him half an hour to give himself a good talking to (“He’s suffering more than you, it was his wife , and you have no right to burden him with your own shit, too” and “What kind of wuss are you anyway? You aren’t just some regular gun toting agent, you aren’t even some analyst! You are an Avenger, you’re supposed to run around with superheroes – one of which is an alien slash demigod – and you’re the best marksman known to man. Get a grip!” It had sounded, at certain points, almost scarily like Tony Stark was giving him a pep talk.)

But it had helped. When Agent Ethan Hunt met Chief Analyst William Brandt Clint had been projecting his best Phil Coulson persona; aloof, immaculate and goddamn good at his job. He’d lost some of his professional visage when the Secretary had started talking about Hunt accosting them and escaping. He wasn’t just going to be accosted, damn it!

Part of Clint is still convinced somebody orchestrated his meeting with Ethan. Impossible shit was always happening around Ethan. Well, even more impossible then the regular Impossible Missions Force type of impossible. The Secretary getting shot probably wasn’t part of any plan and it had been what finally drove Clint back into field work and into helping Ethan Hunt, despite the history they shared. Clint remembers how hard it was those first few hours to battle the adrenaline and try to keep his analyst side up. He’d just gotten back on to the field; he hadn’t been ready to discuss why he’d left it to begin with.


“Will?” Ethan sounds worried and Clint jerks his head a little.

“What?”

“I called your name three times already. You sure you’re okay to be discharged today?”

“Oh. Oh, yeah. This transferring business just got me into thinking the last year or so,” Clint assures him, trying to stay as close to truth as possible.

Silence descends and Clint can see Ethan contemplating what or how to say what he has in mind. Clint knows then that Ethan knows, but waits for the older man to speak.

“It’s been four years, hasn’t it?” When he finally speaks Clint is taken a little aback and it must show on his face, because Ethan smiles and says, “Yes, I know about that.”

Clint can’t help but to take note how carefully that admission is worded. Telling him he knows without actually telling Clint anything of what he does or doesn’t know. But two can play that game.

“And what is it that you know?”

“I know you were in Manhattan that day,” Ethan is gauging his responses so Clint allows this with a nod. “I know you came to IMF month after that and everyone is very mum about where you came from. But you and I both know your brand of specialized training doesn’t just spring from the ground.” Clint grins. Ethan is fishing, even though it’s clear he still knows something he isn’t saying.

“So I had training before IMF,” Clint tilts his head.

Ethan acknowledges that that venue has closed. “When did you sign your transfer papers?”

It seems like an innocuous question but Clint knows better and it surprises him a little that he isn’t worried that Ethan was able to figure out Natasha’s cover. “Last night.” After Jane had left Natasha had beamed at him (yes, the Black Widow , had honest to god beamed ) and told him he was coming home and then offered him the latest and sleekest Stark tablet where Clint had been forced to read and sign a mountains equivalent of paperwork.

“I thought I recognized your friend Natalie when she first came in,” Ethan tells him voluntarily, “So, I played a hunch and found more than I thought I would.”

Clint gives him a slow grin, “So… Who am I, agent Hunt?”

Ethan shrugs playing nonchalance, “You are agent William Brandt of IMF, but also are a specialist for S.H.I.E.L.D. – very secretive buggers, aren’t they? – going by the name of agent Clint Barton. And you also are Hawkeye, as is the alias for one of the few fully human members of the Avengers.”

“You are well informed, agent Hunt,” Natasha says, appearing soundlessly and when less expected as usual. Which Clint thinks is awesome, since he had no idea how to respond to that. Especially since Ethan seemed to be hinting that Clint Barton isn’t his real name either.

“Agent Romanoff,” Ethan pauses only just noticeably to leave room for protest, “Pleasure to meet you. I’ve witnessed your work on occasion.”

“More like the aftermath, right?” Clint can’t help but to quip. He’d like to think he knows both of the people in the room, the assassin and the spy. Ethan’s admission he knows about Clint’s real identity allows him to let’s his usual humor surface as he continues, “This could be a start of a good joke, couldn’t it? An assassin, a spy and a marksman in the same room…”

“Just a marksman?” Ethan raises his eyebrows.

“Well, I might have some other skills, as well.”

Further comments are stalled as another nurse enters the room with Clint’s hopefully last meal in this hospital.

Beyond the “here you go” and “thank you” the nurse and Clint exchange the room is quiet as he prods his meal and starts to eat, trying to keep the fantasies of the food he’ll have access to when he gets home to Stark Tower at bay for a little while still.

Ethan rises from the chair after five minutes and gives Clint a look. “Keep that phone on, would you?”

“I will,” Clint agrees readily. Even if Ethan, Jane and Benji will never be truly his team in the way the Avengers are they still are his friends, and last few months have brought them close.

“Ethan?” Clint calls after him when a thought hits him, “You do know I wasn’t spying on you or anything like that, right? That this assignment was purely about me?”

Clint knows he hit the target when Ethan hesitates. “I wasn’t sure of the why,” he admits with a slow nod, “but I can read between the lines.”

“Good. Feel free to call me, and please, tell Jane and Benji they can, too.”

“I will.”

With that Ethan leaves Natasha and Clint alone in the room. Clint can feel Natasha’s eyes on him, searching.

“I’ll be fine, Nat.”

She hums. “If you say so.” Then she grins wickedly, “Do you know how much teasing you’re going to get for jumping from a third floor window from Stark?”

“Oh don’t remind me,” Clint groans a little. “Is there going to be consequences for that?”

“They might make you see a shrink, but we know that was going to happen either way.”

“Fun times ahead, then. Isn’t it little mean to make me do that when I can’t even make a run for it?”

“I think that’s the point,” she smirks at him and pats his cast lightly. Clint can’t keep the mock affront on his face too long. He’s going home and it would seem he isn’t loosing the new friends he made in the process. Life is good – well, at least till his first shrink or PT appointment.

~oOoOo~
Originally posted August 7th, 2012.

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