22: Sparrow

Darkness. Just darkness. Dark and cold and empty. Deeply, deeply wrong.

Shadows, dancing and flickering, brushing past or skirting around, giving her a wide berth She was a shadow to, but she was still – while they were like trees, she was a statue, unbent, unwavering. Made of cold, hard stone.

Dreaming. Dying. Dreaming? Yes. Of dark and cold. Of gunshots and footsteps and the guttural, desperate gasps of the dying. Of shadows, and shadows, and shadows, one after the other, some marching, some fleeing. Some chasing, some falling.

The shadows danced and chased each other, in and out of her dreams. Shadows hunting shadows…and she was the darkest of them all.

She felt well-rested for once, if a little disorientated by the dream. So many shadows, and she had no idea where they had come from. With a groan, she dragged herself out of bed and dressed, stopping only for a second to admire the view of New York the room afforded before venturing out into the rest of the tower.

It wasn't hard to find Clint and the other residents of Avengers Tower; Imogen just followed the sound of their voices to a big, open living area at the end of the hall. This one was more welcoming than the one downstairs by the lab – light, open, almost like a family space with a full kitchen and dining table and sitting room and all. Natasha, she realised with some surprise, was in the kitchen, cooking something with the help of a woman Imogen recognised as Pepper Potts, the CEO of Stark Industries (who wouldn't recognise her – her face was everywhere these days). Clint was darting about, being of no use at all. Tony was seated at an island bench with two other men, their backs turned to her, all three engaged in a conversation she couldn't hear.

There was a bark, and then Lucky came trotting out from under the table to greet her, panting happily. Everyone turned at the noise; Natasha offered her a small smile and turned back to her cooking, the conversation at the bench died away, and Clint left the two women in favour of dragging her into the group, with a mischievous glint and an arm thrown around her shoulders.

"Nice to see you alive and well, Sparrow," Tony said in way of greeting. "Thought you might be dead, you slept so long."

"Tony!" Pepper turned, looking affronted. He waved her away without even looking.

"Sparrow?" Imogen asked, ignoring his second comment.

"Yeah, sparrow. Like a hawk, but smaller and much less intimidating."

"This is Imogen," Clint cut in, before she could pursue the topic. Just this once, she let it go, let him have his moment. "Imogen, this is Pepper, Bruce and Steve." He pointed to each in turn. She recognised the man on the end now – Captain America, whose face and shield were also everywhere you looked these days, especially in the news, along with Natasha. He'd been the one fighting in DC after all, the one who sank three helicarriers into the Potomac. Bruce she didn't recognise at all, though she had a feeling that he wasn't here on Stark Industries business.

"I hear you've had some trouble with HYDRA," Steve said politely.

"I hear you've had some too," she replied not so politely, a smile playing on her lips.

"Nothing he couldn't handle, right Steve?" Clint chimed in.

Steve shrugged. "I had plenty of help." He glanced at Natasha, who didn't bother turning to acknowledge him, though she no doubt had heard every word of the conversation so far.

"You should give yourself more credit, Cap," Tony said. "Modesty is so old-fashioned."

"Well that explains why you don't have any." That was Clint again, as he wandered away to bother the girls.

"Are you an Avenger?" Imogen asked Bruce.

He hesitated, and Tony jumped to fill the silence, slapping Bruce heartily on the shoulder. "Bruce here is our resident green rage monster," he explained. "He keeps the burglars at bay." Neither Steve nor Bruce seemed particularly happy with his answer, but neither sought to contradict him. Imogen was lost for words for a moment. The Hulk; she might have guessed. Though she hadn't expected the Hulk to be so quiet and calm and able to disappear from the conversation whenever he fancied.

"Must suck," was all she said eventually. Bruce almost laughed.

"You get used to it," he replied with the warmest smile she'd ever seen on a man that was supposed to be a monster.

"So then Sparrow, I hear you have superpowers now," Tony said, leaning back casually.

"What?" Steve snapped forward, glancing between them.

She shrugged. "Not really," she replied.

"She is not becoming an Avenger, Tony," Clint threw over his shoulder as he leant around Nat.

"Cryokinesis, right?" Bruce asked, ignoring the thinly-veiled insults now being thrown between Tony and Clint.

She nodded. "Latent. Useless, really."

"No power like that is useless," Steve interjected. "You've just got to learn to use it to your advantage."

"Yeah, I'll get right onto that." She gave him a wry smile. "I'm not interested in all that 'protecting the world' stuff anyway. You guys seem to have it covered."

Steve shrugged easily. "It's your choice."

Your choice. Just like that, like the flick of a switch, she knew for sure that she'd chosen the right side to be on.

"Home sweet home," Clint declared as he entered the apartment. "As long as you don't steal my dog, or run away or anything."

Imogen followed him in, finding herself in a combined kitchen and living room, with an old sofa and large TV with its mess of cables and consoles and not much else in the way of furniture. Even the walls were bare – the only decoration to be found was an old bow, predictably. Through their respective doors, she could see two bedrooms and a bathroom, all just as sparse as the main living area.

"Nice place," she commented.

Clint nodded. "It's a bit bare. Haven't lived here in a while. I'm sure you can do something with it. Best part is, you don't even have to pay rent or anything."

She turned to look at him with eyebrows raised. "How did you score the only free apartment in Brooklyn?"

"I own the building," he replied, without missing a beat.

"Why do you own an apartment building?"

Lucky trotted in, stealing Clint's attention for a moment as he crouched down to give the dog a good scratch. "Nice to have you back in New York, Pizza Dog," he murmured. Lucky's tail thumped against the floorboards in agreement.

"So if you're giving me your apartment," Imogen said, leaning down to pat the dog as well. "Where are you going? Back to the farm?"

Clint shook his head. "Got some Avengers stuff to do."

"Anything I get to know about?" He shook his head and she sighed, leaving the dog in favour of the couch. "So I'm just babysitting your dog while you run around being a superhero and all that."

"You don't want Lucky?" he asked.

She tugged at a loose strand of hair, pulling it back impatiently. "That's not what I'm saying."

"Well good. I don't know what I'd do with him otherwise."

"Why'd you even bring him here in the first place?"

"Thought you'd like the company." She sighed, and then nodded, a small smile escaping onto her face. "Seriously though," he continued. "Do whatever you want. Get out of the spy game, if that's what you want to do. Get a normal job. Go to school. Make some friends." He paused, stood up as Lucky wandered off. "There's plenty of money around here somewhere. Should be enough to keep you going. There's always more. People in the building all get together on the roof on Friday nights too; you should go. They're nice."

He glanced at the door then, like he was thinking about leaving. She stood abruptly, and threw her arms around his neck, burying her face into his shoulder as he returned the hug two-fold, almost crushing her. "Thank you Clint," she mumbled, voice muffled by his shirt.

"Hey, no problem kid," he replied, reaching up to ruffle her hair with one hand. She pushed him away, grinning.

"Go on then. Hate to keep you from all the fangirls outside the tower."

He laughed, and turned to go, pausing at the door to give Lucky one more pat. "Stay out of trouble, yeah?" he said over his shoulder, eyeing her.

She could only shake her head in reply. "No promises," she told him. Clint didn't press; he was fighting a losing battle anyway. Trouble would always find her; and in a way, she would always look for it.

A/N: This is the final chapter; Sparrow is DONE. I'm pretty proud of myself xD I'm not very good at finishing things, so I feel preeetty damn good about finishing this, after having it in the works for almost two years.

I want to take this time to inform you that THERE WILL BE A SEQUEL. It is titled Flicker and will be set more or less directly after the events of Age of Ultron (with a feeew adjustments to canon, because there are things that just don't work for me in the movie). I don't know when I'll start working on that - for a while now, I've been planning to move on to something original once I finished Sparrow, which I've been putting all my writing time towards for about three months now...buuut then again if I have a lot of muse for Flicker, I might as well write that first. Basically, I'm looking at anything from a week to three or four months before I start posting again xD

In the meantime, if you wanna recommend fic or chat or give me ideas for Flicker or anything at all, you can always PM me on here; or I can also be found at herebesparrows or ijustwantedtodream on tumblr or JustALittleBirdy on Fictionpress (where I'll be posting regularly if I do actually start on original fiction for a while).

Finally, thankyou to all of you who have favourited and followed and reviewed :D I love you guys so much for that support - I don't think I've ever had so many people read something I've written and it means a lot to me. Hopefully I'll see you all again in Flicker? ^.^ Until then, goodbye!

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