For And Against
3: For And Against
When Imogen woke again, she was slumped in a kitchen chair, hands tied behind her back. Her head pounded with a splitting headache that didn't seem like it was moving any time soon, her muscles stiff and sore. Groaning, she lifted her head and blinked several times to clear the spots from her vision, trying to remember just why she was there.
Her eyes fell on Clint, sitting across the room watching her, and the gun, now lain neatly on the bench beside him. "What's going on?" she asked, shifting in her seat and testing the tape that held her wrists captive. It didn't budge. With a jolt, she remembered the fight – her hands shaking, the bullets missing, Clint knocking the gun away. Something heavy hitting her in the head.
"Well, for one thing, you're not trying to kill me," Clint answered lazily. "Which I'd say is a major improvement on our last conversation."
"Major improvement?" she returned incredulously, glaring daggers at him. She'd always been a hothead, especially with a headache. "I'm tied to a chair!"
"Exactly." He sounded bored, unaffected by her outburst. "Much better for both of us." There was an icy edge in his voice, one that she hadn't heard from him at all in the last two days. He'd been watchful, sure; distrusting, yes, but never cold. It cut like a knife. He'd been so easy to talk to, easy to get along with, and now he was angry and aloof. She took a deep breath. It was her own fault anyway.
Down the hall, her ringtone blared loudly. She jumped at the sudden noise, eyes snapping from Clint to the hall behind him. "What's that?" he demanded, angry eyes turning to her.
"That's my brother," she shot back easily. "Calling to see why I haven't checked in yet." Conveniently, she forgot the part about supposedly being several miles away from this house and the chair she was tied to. Giving her a look, Clint disappeared down the hall, returning a moment later with the ringing phone and a laptop, settling himself at the bench for a time. The phone went unanswered, eventually falling silent. Clint moved on from watching her to a casual disregard, ignoring the phone when it rang for the second and third times, keeping his eyes steadily on the screen in front of him.
About an hour in, she shifted in her chair, trying to find a more comfortable position. He glanced at her, made sure she was still stuck fast and not going anywhere, then went back to his business.
The hours stretched on.
They put Imogen on edge – she was bored and restless, muscles crying for relief. She'd pulled against the tape almost constantly during the hours she'd sat there, but Clint was good at what he did. It wasn't budging. The phone kept ringing as well, at least fifteen times over the course of the day, until she found herself gritting her teeth every time the ringtone began. If she ever got out of this, she decided at about the ninth call, she was changing her ringtone. It was driving her crazy.
With the sun going down outside the window and the silence growing more malevolent by the second, she was fed up. Shifting uncomfortably and huffing a frustrated sigh for the thousandth time that day, she searched for a way to push him into action, to make him do something other than sit there and ignore her. She wouldn't even mind if he knocked her out again; anything for a bit of relief. "Are you going to kill me soon?" she asked finally, voice dripping with a venom she just couldn't contain. "This is really boring."
"Actually, I thought I might just leave you there for a while," he replied lightly, the corner of his mouth quirking upwards. She scowled.
"Why?" she asked, not so much interested in his reasons as wanting to keep him talking to distract herself from the fact that she'd been tied to a chair for almost an entire day. "What does that even achieve?"
For the first time in hours, Clint actually turned and looked at her. "Thought it might teach you a lesson actually," he said rubbing the back of his neck and stretching. "About patience or something."
"It's not working," she informed him in the driest voice she could muster.
He raised an eyebrow. "I noticed."
"Any other wisdom you wanna hand over?"
"Don't trust HYDRA." He was suddenly completely serious. "I don't know how they got you to join, or why you took their offer, but they're nothing but bad news."
"HYDRA aren't the ones taping me to chairs," she reminded him. And suddenly he was laughing again.
"No, they're the ones sending you out after the best sniper in the world."
She snorted. "If you're so good, why don't you just shoot me already?"
Imogen was pushing her luck, and she knew it. He didn't seemed flustered at all though, just thoughtful, going over something in his mind that looked like it might have been eating at him for years. "Redemption," he said finally.
She frowned heavily. "Redemption?"
He nodded firmly. "Redemption."
"What about it?" Frustration crept into her voice.
"Do you really follow HYDRA's ideals?" he asked with a frown. "You think it's okay to kill people who haven't even committed the crime they're being persecuted for?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
He laughed. "So you're just a blind follower? Didn't take you for someone who wouldn't ask questions."
She scoffed. "You don't even know me," she spat back, squirming for a second. Her binds held tight.
"I know enough." His relaxed confidence annoyed her, a scowl crossing her face as she settled back into her seat and became aware once again of her aching muscles. He leaned forward, looking her right in the eye. It was almost as uncomfortable as the chair. "I know that you're not a killer. You didn't shoot me, even though you had plenty of opportunities. I know that you're angry, because you know that you were sent here to die, you just haven't accepted it yet."
She rolled her eyes away, staring at the darkening kitchen, at the ceiling, at her hands and the tape holding them; anything to escape his eyes. "It's a bit late for regret," she said, her voice louder and angrier than she expected.
He sighed. "I don't want to kill you," he admitted, leaning back in his seat. "Whatever your reasons for joining HYDRA, I don't think that you've done anything to deserve that. So I'll give you a choice." A half-smile came over his face, morbid amusement dancing in his eyes. "Choose a side."
Imogen's eyes snapped back to him instantly. "What?"
"SHIELD or HYDRA. Pick one."
Her mind raced. She'd never been good at choices – she tended to just do whatever came to mind first, and suffered the consequences later. Usually, her first move was to attack blindly. It didn't work out for her much, but she kept on doing it.
Not an option now. Move on.
Her next thought was to side with HYDRA, like she'd been taught to as long as she could remember. Even before she had joined SHIELD, she had been HYDRA. As a child, she'd known more about the makeup of SHIELD than any true SHIELD agent ever would, because she'd known about HYDRA. But as she opened her mouth to spit HYDRA's name in his face, she stopped herself. There was something in the back of her mind, a niggling seed of doubt that stopped her from making her choice. She'd been sent here to die. Just like, as far as Clint was concerned, other people would be sent to die for nothing.
Was she really sure she wanted to serve HYDRA?
But SHIELD weren't any better.
Did she want to be on any side at all?
She was in too deep to get out, she knew. As soon as the thought came to her mind she discarded it – if she left HYDRA, she'd be hunted for the (assuredly short) rest of her life. Any smart agent would claim SHIELD, and betray him later (if there was a later – who knew where he intended to take this), but she sensed this was a challenge to her loyalties, her beliefs, and she never could bring herself to back down from a challenge.
There was a crash somewhere in the house, providing her with blessed relief from her impending choice. Clint shot up, turning in the direction of the front door. Without a sound, he ghosted to the front of the kitchen, pressing himself up against the wall there and peering around the corner into the hall. Imogen could see straight down it from where she was sitting, just enough to spot the dark shapes of two men creeping down the hall towards the kitchen. A flicker of movement in the corner of her eye told her there were more outside, moving past the window.
In the half-light, she could see Clint mouthing what she expected were swear words. He glanced at the gun sitting on the bench, then at the door beside him. He'd have to expose himself to get to it. A small shake of the head, a glance at her, and then he took off down the second hallway and into the bathroom, the only room in the house without windows.
For a moment, she wondered what he was hoping to achieve by barricading himself into a bathroom, but then the two men (one of which actually turned out to be a woman) from the hallway burst into the room, swinging guns around and taking in the scene. Finally, the man lowered his gun and fixed his eyes on her, and she recognized the face of Will, looking relieved as he put away the gun and started pulling at the duct tape expertly holding her to the chair.
"I thought I told you to get out of here," he muttered as he worked.
With a bit of difficulty, she shrugged. "He didn't look dangerous," she said.
"He could have killed you," Will said, gritting his teeth. "In fact, from the look of it he was about to."
No he wasn't. A voice whispered the treacherous thought in the back of her mind.
Yes, he was, she told it firmly, pushing it aside. The last of the tape fell away and she moved and stretched for the first time all day, relishing the sweet feeling of relief and fresh blood pumping into her muscles.
"Where is he?" Will asked. She gestured to the bathroom door, and the woman who had followed him in was there in a flash, setting to the task of opening it. Imogen turned back to Will and his frown.
"Look, I'm fine," she insisted. "I had to try. At least now I have a chance. You know Ferson wouldn't have given me a chance if I'd just run away. He has just as much power to kill me as this guy."
Yelling and the sound of gunshots from outside pulled their attention. Will raced outside, pulling his gun out again and joining the fray. Imogen was slower. There was a small team of HYDRA agents clustered around the house, ten or so as far as she could tell. All of them had guns pointed at the roof. She stumbled across the lawn to join them, looked up – and saw Clint, glancing down at the group in general before setting his eyes on a tree growing particularly close to the edge of the roof and jumping into its branches. The sound of guns firing filled the air, making her ears ring, but it didn't deter him. Before anyone knew it, he'd made it to the branches of a tree in the yard next door, and then to the ground and out of sight behind a high fence.
The night fell silent and suddenly uneventful. Will turned to the rest of his team, barking out a few orders, then grabbed Imogen's arm and steered her back into the kitchen, sitting her down at the bench. "What are you doing?" she asked as he forced her into the chair.
He gave her a stern look, pointing at her chair. "Stay there." And then he disappeared into the house, making a lot more noise than he originally had. She could hear him in her room next door, and then the bathroom Clint hadn't used as an escape route, and then the second bedroom. The most noise came then, as he went through something.
He returned with a bow and a quiver of arrows, among other things, dropping them on the bench in front of her. "See," he said, faintly triumphant. "Hawkeye. An Avenger. You should have gotten out while you still could."
"Like you could have done any better," she scoffed. It was the best she had when faced with the unusual weapon. Reaching out, she ran her fingers over the arms of the bow, remembering what Clint had been saying to her before. Pick a side, he'd said. I don't want to kill you.
It hit her like a train, her hand snapping back to her lap. Had that been her choice? The way she'd chosen all those years ago, before it was even real, or a second chance with SHIELD? She felt stupid for not realising it before, for letting anger swirl through her system and cloud her mind. Even more, she felt stupid for the things she had been thinking at the time, the things she had been considering. Had she really begun doubting HYDRA? She remembered considering getting out, knowing how futile it would be. She knew that without doubt. Why had she even considered it?
"Imogen?" Will asked with a frown. She shook herself and stood, grabbing the bow and quiver full of arrows.
"Let's go," she said determinedly, pushing towards the front door without waiting for his answer. This was her choice, the path that Will had kept her on whenever she had strayed because he wholeheartedly believed that it was the right one. The one that her parents had followed, the one they had died for.
Any path her whole family followed had to be the right one. Right?