khiela: (Tourist in red)

 

Title: What It Feels Like
Summary: When an “easy” (it never is) IMF op goes wrong Clint doesn't hesitate to call S.H.I.E.L.D. for back-up.
(Clint Barton is William Brandt)
Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
Rated:  PG-13
Words: 4,400+

A/N: When I say “half a dozen feet” I’m thinking circa two metres. (6 feet = 1,83 metres if we’re being precise)

Since I have to recognize not everyone knows military slang SOP stands for Standard Operating Procedure. Because in my mind, Phil was Special Forces before Fury snatched him up. For the love of Generation Kill let’s go with Recon Marines? :D

I saw the UK trailer for Thor: The Dark World today and I got the feeling the stuff I have in this chapter (/story) about Jane and her relationship with Thor will be very different from that movie. Just thought I’d point that out.

 

 

xxx

Chapter 2

 

Clint hasn’t seen the IMF team since they parted few hours ago; the team to receive their briefing and Clint to give a brief report of the night’s happenings to Director Fury. The only reason Clint gets to leave this quickly is due to the fact that he will have to come back the following day to give much lengthier report, both verbally and in writing, of the last two or so months he’s been on loan to the IMF.

Leaving the Director’s office and softly greeting people passing by on the corridors, he heads back to the Quinjet. Just as Clint predicted he finds Natasha there, lounging in the pilot’s seat. Silently he takes the co-pilot’s seat.

For a while Clint just looks out of the window at the sky and the few people walking around the deck going about their tasks. When he turns to finally look at Natasha he finds her eyes already on him.

“We waiting for Steve?”

“Yes,” she replies, her eyes cataloging his appearance in a blatantly obvious manner. After having known the other assassin for close to eight years Clint can read the ‘How have you been?’ in the act.

The fact that he knows what she meant does not mean he has to act accordingly and Clint enjoys ruffling her feathers from time to time. “Thanks for today,” is what he says instead. Natasha huffs and Clint grins at her.

“I owe you,” Natasha says plainly, her face carefully blank.

“I thought we were over that owing thing. How long are you gonna hang onto it?”

“A long time,” Natasha’s eyes pierce into Clint’s and he knows she’s saying ‘You saved my life’ (and ‘No not mess with me’). He knows better than to argue about this with her, knowing she would take his protests as an insult, so he chooses to let the matter drop, for now.

“How you’ve been, ‘Tasha?” Clint asks and shrugs innocently at her when she gives him a pointed look.

“Good. There were two Oh-My-God-Aliens-Exist missions I was sent on. Doctor Banner’s words,” Natasha doesn’t look uncomfortable but as that is no guarantee with her, Clint decides to proceed gently and all the caution he possesses (which, admittedly, isn’t always that much but at least he tries).

“Bruce is still around?”

“Yes,” Natasha says simply, her eyes following a technician approaching the Quinjet with a refueling hose.

Clint isn’t sure if he should be surprised or not, the Doctor had stayed at the Stark Tower after the Battle, at least the few weeks Clint himself had stayed there, but a part of him had expected the Doctor to take his rucksack and go back to the other side of the globe.

Then again, Clint’s own decision to stay at the Tower could also be seen as a surprise, but Tony had offered and at the time Clint hadn’t been keen on staying on S.H.I.E.L.D. provided quarters. He hadn’t felt sure of his welcome – and after Phil was transferred into a real hospital three days after the attack, Clint had made an effort to stop feeling any residual guilt for his decision.

And after he had been released from the infirmary – having been required to spend the night there in observation – he’d taken Stark up on his offer. Natasha had followed Clint, probably for a multitude of reasons (order’s from S.H.I.E.L.D. to keep an eye on him probably not the least of them). But the main reason had been easy for Clint to see in the worried look in her eyes when they followed him around even more closely than usual, and in the occasional, wary way she touched him (Natasha being the antonym of a touchy-feely person she normally is). The worry hadn’t completely disappeared even after they had gotten the word Phil was alive.

Now, looking into her eyes, and not seeing that worry there anymore, Clint asks in a calm voice, “And how’s that going? Living with him that close?”

Clint is actually little surprised she hadn’t moved back to S.H.I.E.L.D. housing after he’d left on the IMF mission six weeks ago.

Natasha gives him a look, telling him she knows exactly what he’s asking, even without the asking. She answers anyway.

“He understands that I –,” Natasha shifts on her seat and looks at Clint. “He understands.”

“Yeah,” Clint says quietly, remembering the night following the attack when, without needing words, Natasha and he had curled up together on two, pushed together infirmary beds at the Helicarrier. Haltingly Natasha had told him about facing the Hulk alone in the confined spaces of the service pathways and how, after Thor drew the Hulk’s attention elsewhere, she had been so terrified she couldn’t move, not until Clint had been spotted (‘I couldn’t trust them not to…’ she had whispered, not finishing her sentence but they both knew what she meant to say. ‘I couldn’t trust them no to kill you.’).

Together they had also mourned for Phil Coulson and Natasha had promised him that when things would eventually get straightened out in the city below, they would get a bottle of vodka, or two, and properly toast to Phil Coulson. Of course, by the time things were easing up and they would have finally had time for vodka, Phil had been out of the ICU and awake for short periods and they’d had their own rooms at the quickly mending Stark Tower along with Tony, Pepper and Bruce.

Instead, they toasted for whole host of things – including but not limited to: surviving against all expectations, human resilience, Russian war songs (near the end of the first bottle Natasha hadn’t been the only one singing), Stark’s awesome liqueur collection, and to the color red (because it is the opposite of blue and also the color of Natasha’s hair). Clint’s hangover had been spectacular and while his problems hadn’t gone away he felt a little lighter thinking about them.

“Stark has been remodeling the Tower,” Natasha says breaking the hush that had fallen.

“Like he talked about before I left? Tell me more.”

“Ms. Potts showed me the plans. The floor we stayed has been designated as common quarters and the rooms we used will be guest rooms. Apparently each of us gets one whole floor.”

They share a slightly incredulous look that Clint decides to interpret as ‘only Tony Stark...’

“Sounds grand and exactly what Stark would do. Who all is included in ‘us’?”

“You. Me. Doctor Banner and, of course, Tony. Ms. Potts lives with him. Steve hasn’t agreed definitively, not yet, but I think Tony is still doing a floor for him. Steve’s been staying at that little apartment of his in Brooklyn but he’s over at the Tower most days. There is also a floor for Thor but only a bare minimum has been done to it since Doctor Foster refuses to decide on anything without Thor’s input. From Ms. Potts I gather the Doctor is mostly doing it to annoy Tony.”

Clint smiles to how at ease Natasha sounds describing the new home Tony Stark is apparently building for them before realizing something.

“Oh, so that’s what she meant,” Clint has to let out a few amused huffs, before elaborating, “Jane texted me earlier – something about ‘if that Stark won’t soon stop sending me e-mails about paint I will sic Darcy on him and then we’ll see who laughs longest’. Direct quote, I swear,” Clint smiles at Natasha who returns the smile.

He’d been re-acquainted with the petite Doctor the fourth night after the invasion.

Though maybe saying “re-acquainted” is misleading since the first time Clint had met Jane Foster had been around a year ago, when S.H.I.E.L.D. had first been made aware of the existence of aliens, and he hadn’t spoken with her beyond a semi-polite “ma’am” when he’d accompanied Phil to seize all of her research. She’d been running around, understandably too upset about loosing her equipment and materials to pay any attention to individual agents.

Their second meeting hadn’t started off much better. Jane had been more than little angry since Thor had apparently paid her a short visit before he returned to Asgard with his brother and she had then been told parts of the story by news casts and Dr. Erik Selvig, who himself didn’t know everything nor could he tell her much over unsecured lines. She’d without further ado hunted for and taken the next available flight from Tromsø to New York City (there hadn’t been any till three days after the invasion). And because she had really only met and interacted with Phil in New Mexico, she had logically been asking for him at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. Somebody had directed her to Sitwell, who had wasted no time in pointing her towards the Stark Tower. Meeting a seething Jane Foster in the Tower lobby Clint (and Natasha who had followed him) had been summarily met with ‘Don’t you dare to re-direct me to someone “better qualified to answer your questions, ma’am”! I want answers. Now.’ So it had been Clint and Natasha who had finally filled her in.

After a whirlwind of four days, comprised of signing confidentiality agreements, debriefs, meeting people and extracting promises to notify her if any one of them heard of Thor, Jane had headed back to Tromssø to finish what she’d barely started there but she and Clint had kept in contact, if somewhat sporadically. Over the weeks occasional “How is Agent Coulson?” and “Has there been any word from Thor?” morphed into Jane telling him how crazy her assistant was (and few hijacked texts complained about the even crazier boss who refused to eat like normal people – regularly).

The two women quickly became Clint’s main source for daily laughs especially during the latest boring intelligence gathering mission for the IMF. Darcy Lewis was the reason his personal phone even had the picture of Jane and Thor he’d shown to Jane Carter earlier. In turn, Clint had groused about the crazy Ethan got up to at times and tried to outdo himself in the vagueness of his answers in each subsequent text he send back to Darcy’s exceedingly nosier questions about his undercover work. Having more than two friends is still somewhat new experience for Clint but one that he finds himself liking.

After their laughter fades out Clint and Natasha sit in comfortable silence, watching the people going around, doing their jobs on the deck.

It’s half an hour later, when Clint sees Steve appear on the deck and head towards the Quinjet that he turns to look at Natasha.

“Missed you.”

“I missed you, too,” she says and they share a smile just as Clint hears Steve’s steps on the ramp and, soon enough, he’s standing in the cockpit.

“What’s the plan, Captain?” Clint twists a little in his seat to look Steve into the eyes.

“Director Fury suggested we head back to the Tower – gives you time to see the others – before the IMF agents join us after they’re done here,” Steve replies, and Clint snorts. That didn’t sound like a suggestion and he says as much.

“No,” Natasha agrees as she starts flipping the switches on the dashboard, “it really didn’t.” With familiar ease she puts on the flight headset, readies the plane for flight and goes through the protocols to get permission to take flight from the aircraft carrier.

“Hey, wait a second!” Clint suddenly realizes the implications of her actions, “We’re gonna fly there? Since when can you fly a Quinjet to the Stark Tower?”

“There’s a landing pad on the roof. Tony added it a week ago,” Steve says from his seat, right behind Natasha’s.

“Aww, all these new things, and no one told me?” Clint smiles slightly to let Steve know he’s not really affronted.

“The landing pad is on the same roof Doctor Selvig used to open the portal from so the transformation was relatively simple and the, uh, invisibility cloaking you saw earlier is actually a test run, or so Tony says,” Steve answers and Clint silently rewards him a point for not pausing when he mentioned the portal.

They are quiet as Natasha smoothly maneuvers the Quinjet of the deck and towards the Tower. Clint takes advantage of the waning daylight and looks at the repairing city.

“She looks to be rebuilding well; everything looks cleaner than when I last saw her,” he comments, knowing from Phil that Steve is involved in the efforts.

“She’s getting there. Most of the outside damages have been repaired but there are still many homes and businesses that need work done in the inside.”

The flight to the Tower takes only few minutes and when Clint sees the lonely ‘A’ hanging from the side of the building he raises his eyebrows. “How come Tony hasn’t fixed that?”

Steve gives a slightly weird sounding laugh, “He says it’s fitting since ‘the Avenger’s’ now live there.”

Clint gives the blond man searching look, only to be shrugged off with a smile. So, there might be an Issue, with a capital letter, behind the reason Steve hasn’t moved into the Tower with the rest of the Initiative. Clint hopes he’ll have time to find out more before the IMF recalls the team. That is if he’s still wanted there, or has a team. Resolutely Clint turns his thoughts back to the Tower; he can worry about the other thing later.

For the last two weeks he’s spend trapped essentially all day everyday in one room, or sleeping in another, Clint found he kind of missed the couches in the “common room” at the Tower. And the big screen TV. Watching Animal Planet had been great distraction and a good source for off-topic conversations with his newly formed team. Tony had actually called their night of rating the predator hunting styles ‘a team building exercise’.

Just as Clint is getting up from his seat his private phone pings with a text message from Phil, informing Clint his friend will be over to the Tower once he is done with his debriefs and has had a chance to change clothes. Clint grins and simply fires back a quick ‘Bring food!’ Clint, not so secretly, is of the opinion that Phil’s knack to find delicious food anywhere (really, anywhere) should be listed in his agency dossier as a special ability.

Getting off from the jet to the roof and the few steps down on to the private terrace of the Tower’s penthouse they’re greeted by Tony Stark, holding some sort of smoothie.

“Barton! Has somebody filled you in on the remodel I’m doing on the Tower?”

“Tony, let them get in, at least!” Pepper’s voice calls through the open glass door, emerging around a corner, her eyes focused on a tablet in her hands. With manner that speaks of familiarity she makes her way to the terrace, thrusts the tablet in Tony’s free hand and motions everyone to head inside.

“Hello, Natasha. Steve,” she greets the Tower regulars before turning to Clint.

“Hello again, Agent Barton, I’m sorry, we didn’t get much of a chance to talk before you had to leave but I’ve heard a lot about you,” she extends her hand for a shake which Clint accepts, shaking his head slightly.

“Please, Ms. Potts, call me Clint. I just hope that what you’ve heard hasn’t been all bad.”

“Well then, Clint, call me Pepper. And no, don’t worry, Phil and Natasha both have had only good things to tell,” Pepper assures him with a genuine smile playing on her face.

“Good, good,” Tony interrupts, “I don’t see a problem in that,” he says giving the tablet back to his girlfriend. “So. Did you hear?”

Pepper huffs, obviously thinking Tony’s being his rude self but too used to it to comment, and with a one last smile to Clint shifts her attention to the tablet, drawing Natasha in to discuss it. The act reminds Clint that Natasha had gone back to being Pepper’s PA slash bodyguard in the aftermath of the Battle of Manhattan. Her red hair had done her no favors in trying to stay unnoticed (not to mention flying around in one of the alien vessels) and doing something was more her style than sitting idle.

“I heard you had a crazy plan,” Clint answers, stealing a look at the quiet Super Soldier standing next to him. Steve’s attention is on a large TV screen mounted on the wall, showing a news clip of the aftermath of the mess Clint and the IMF team had been in the middle of not so long ago. Apparently it’s being labeled a drug lab explosion.

“It’s not so crazy if you think about it, actually. It’s genius. Makes life easier for everybody. And it’s more secure than if everyone lived all over the city,” Tony continues on talking, telling Clint much the same things Natasha had, and drawing Clint and Steve over to a table that is showing a floating holographic model of one the Iron Man suits. With a few flicks of his fingers and a command to J.A.R.V.I.S. they’re looking a model of the Tower.

With another flick the focus goes onto the highest floor. “This is Pepper and me,” another jab and the hologram moves to the floor below, “The common floor, you stayed there after the attack. Then there’s Bruce. Thor. Cap. You. Natasha,” each name is accompanied with a flick and floor plans, Bruce and Natasha’s more detailed than the other three in between them.

“Then there’s this one,” Tony flicks on another floor, “there’s a lab, gym and my workshop. So far. There’s room for other stuff to be added later.”

Clint has to admit he’s impressed if not only for the fact that Tony not only situated his floor close to Natasha’s but also for putting as many floors as he did between Natasha and Bruce. Seeing Tony is definitely waiting for some kind of response Clint gives a light laugh. “This is definitely some sort of crazy,” he grins, “but maybe it’ll work. You really gonna have us all here without paying rent?”

The slight jolt Steve makes Clint think he’s found the root for the Captain’s Issue. Tony is looking squarely at the Super Soldier as he answers Clint, “Yes, I am. In case you’ve forgotten I’m a billionaire. I don’t need your money.”

For a moment Steve and Tony just stare at each other, before Steve nods once and Tony grins. Covering his own grin at the exchange Clint says, “Well, that works for me. Better here than in S.H.I.E.L.D. quarters, or having the neighbors constantly calling the police, thinking I’ve died when I’m away on missions.”

“You make it sound like that happens regularly,” Steve notes.

“Twice to me. Five times to Natasha,” Clint grins widely, “Something to do with her male neighbors missing her, I’m sure.”

From the couch half a dozen feet away Clint hears Natasha harrumph and mutter something to Pepper, making the other woman laugh.

Before her laughter has died J.A.R.V.I.S. announces that Agent Coulson has arrived and is making his way up.

 

***

 

After Phil has exchanged the usual niceties with the others, Pepper suggests he and Clint go take a look at Clint’s new living quarters on the 65th floor.

“Take this with you and talk with J.A.R.V.I.S. about what you wanna do with the space,” Tony produces another Stark tablet from somewhere and passes it over to Clint. With a quick glance he can tell it’s already showing the schematics to his floor.

Tony’s back at the holotable and asking Steve what kind of an apartment he’d like to have before the elevator door is fully closed. The small space is quickly filled with a smell of something delicious coming from the bag Phil is carrying.

“I hope there’s something to sit on, because that smells good,” Clint says, “What is it?”

“There’s an Indian place two blocks from here that is back in business. I got Tandoori Chicken.”

Clint hums his acknowledgement as the elevator door opens. He takes a few steps and has to stop to stare. “Oh, that explains a lot.”

“What do you mean?” Phil asks, coming stand next to Clint. He’s looking around looking faintly curious.

“Well,” Clint starts, walking further in, looking for something to sit on, “some time ago I got a text from Tony asking how I felt about windows, but you see, it wasn’t the first non-sequitur I’ve gotten from him and after the few of those I learned not to ask and just answer.” The space is clearly unfinished, bare concrete structures, but surprisingly clean from dust and other by products of on-going construction.

“Huh. So, what did you say?” Phil comes to stand in a room that Clint is pretty sure will be his living room.

“I think I replied something like ‘windows are great’.” They stand there side by side looking at the six huge windows that form two of the room’s four walls.

Phil turns back to Clint and nods slowly. “…You’re right. That does explain a lot.”

Quick tour of the floor doesn’t yield better places to eat so Clint and Phil sit on the two steps leading up into the kitchen area from the living room. They don’t talk much while they eat from a habit, having long since learned that if they talk shop while they eat they’ll never finish a meal.

Before taking one last forkful Clint looks over and asks, “How did it go?”

Phil takes a sip from his water bottle and makes an unimpressed face, “Apparently Iron Man showing up scared the thugs into pretty much surrendering on sight. Except, of course, for the man with the explosives. Small miracle, but no one got seriously hurt, except him. Agent Callahan shot him on the arm. Then the idiot tells us there’s a timer on the one explosive he did get to set,” Phil shakes his head.

“Amateur,” Clint mutters, not quite seeing how it ties onto what he knows about Handelsen. Clint wouldn’t have figured Handelsen for someone who hires amateurs.

“Indeed. We cleared the building in time and called the clean up team.”

“Yeah, I briefly saw the news. They’re saying a drug lab exploded.”

“As good a story as any,” Phil says, gathering their trashes back into the plastic bag, “They will collect a sample but from what the guy had with him, it’s a pretty fair guess what a test will show. He carried military grade C-4.”

“Goes along with the military assault rifles they were carrying. Also pretty much confirms that Handelsen is dealing with someone with better access than his usual guys,” Clint muses, thinking about the mission. “IMF?” he asks ambiguously, not quite sure what he wants to ask.

“When I left they were just setting up the interviews and to my understanding your team was to observe. After that they are being escorted here. Officially you are still on loan to IMF, but as you and I both know a lot will depend on Hunt and your team. It is more than likely this mission will be seen through as a joint op between S.H.I.E.L.D. and IMF, so you’ll have to work with them at least once more. Beyond that is up to them.”

Clint nods along and has to smile at Phil’s efficient, cover-all answer.

“God, I’ve missed you,” he leans to his friend’s shoulder, “Ethan doesn’t withhold information, but next to you it’s like pulling teeth!”

Phil gives him a wry smile and winks so quickly that Clint might think he’d hallucinated if he didn’t know the man underneath the blandly smiling exterior. Jabbing his elbow very slightly into Phil’s side he muses, “You should do that where Stark can see you. His reaction would be hilarious.”

“I’ll put it under consideration,” Phil allows, his facial expression betraying absolutely nothing.

Clint huffs, “Just don’t do it if I’m not there to enjoy it.”

Phil gives him his patented blank agent smile. “Why were you on a recon mission, anyway? To my understanding that’s not SOP for IMF field teams of your caliber.”

“I’d say they’re babying me but that’s not how IMF rolls. Maybe Ethan finally managed to piss someone off in operation control?”

Phil doesn’t look like he believes that, and honestly, neither does Clint. He and Jane have talked about this exact thing a few times – they’ve certainly had amble time for it – and from her Clint knows Benji had actually asked Ethan about it. He’d had no answer. Whether he was telling the truth or not, none of them could be sure.

“You should probably make sure you get informed when the IMF agents get here,” Phil says, getting up and dusting his pants.

“You’re probably right... Then we can see about this apartment,” Clint says, taking yet another look around.

“J.A.R.V.I.S.?” Clint asks little hesitantly, the place doesn’t look like the A.I. could be connected to it (not yet, at least – Clint has no doubt it will be, eventually, since the building does belong to Tony Stark) but Tony did say to talk to J.A.R.V.I.S. so Clint figures he’ll give it a chance before trying another method.

Yes, Agent Barton?” the A.I.’s voice comes little muffled from the tablet Clint has tucked under his arm, making him jolt minutely.

“Can you let me know when Agents Hunt, Carter and Dunn from the IMF arrive?”

Certainly, Agent Barton.

“Thank you, J.A.R.V.I.S.” Clint had quickly adopted a polite way of talking to the A.I. when he’d first started sleeping over at the Tower. He’d read enough science fiction as a kid to want to play it safe.

“So,” he says, tilting the tabled so that Phil can see it more easily, “This is obviously the living room, don’t you think? And that’s kitchen,” he says gesturing the slightly raised area behind them. “But what is this?” he points at an L shaped area that seems to crowd his bedroom into a corner.

Phil tilts his head, “Could be used as an office, or maybe award room? You have all those marksmanship awards you could hang up.”

“Maybe,” Clint also tilts his head, trying to see what Phil saw, “What would I do with an office?”

Phil doesn’t answer and only gives Clint a slightly raised eyebrow, which is fine since it was really a rhetorical question, anyway.

“I should ask Natasha, huh?” Clint remarks with a little smile.

“You should ask, Natasha,” Phil agrees with an emphatic nod.

 

xxx

 

Notes:
So, that was a lot of talking… And so far, at least the start of chapter 3 seems to have some more talking.

About the vodka and “Russian war songs”... The idea is based on my Russian step-mom who once, after few shots of vodka, entertained us with her rendition of Katyusha. “Written during World War II, the song depicts a girl longing for her fighting military husband,” says Wikipedia. There! Have a piece of Russian culture. (go listen, it’s a beautiful song)

Trying to put a name for Tony Stark’s computer is unspeakably… frustrating, so, holotable it is.

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