But Our Story Was Not Told
"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." – Doctor Seuss
There was a period of nothingness for the few seconds after the car collided into them, a sense of weightlessness and the terrifying knowledge that that wasn't a good thing – that there was a much worse sensation coming when that oblivion ended.
As per usual, Clint was more right than he wanted to be.
When that oblivion faded, and the world came rushing back to him, the pain began to truly set in.
Their car was still rolling forcefully when Clint's senses caught up with him, crashing into the unforgiving road again and again until slowly they came to a halt with the car overturned, rocking precariously but finally grounded.
For the few seconds after his ears rung painfully and his eyes refused to focus, the after-effects of the abuse his senses had undergone not dissipating when the car stilled. It made deciphering what the hell was going on at little more difficult, but not impossible.
Clint wiggled slightly, testing his range of motion, while also checking for broken bones – the diagnosis was not great. His bullet wound was throbbing and no doubt bleeding again, head aching with pain only a pretty severe concussion could bring and one of his shoulders dislocated. Badly.
And the car hadn't even hit his side.
"Romanov, you alright?" He groaned, attempting to turn towards her despite being strapped upside-down to his seat by his seat belt. It didn't go so well, and she didn't answer. "Widow?" He asked again, more urgently, "Widow, can you hear m-"
"Shut up." Her voice at the best of times was chilling, but the alarmed hiss she spat in his direction was downright terrifying. Not once – despite having been attacked, shot at and blown up – had her calm façade broken. The annoyingly confident glint in her eyes had never faded despite Clint's efforts to intimidate and threaten her.
It was gone now though – and to Clint's astonishment he wished it weren't.
Because whatever frightened her, petrified him.
"Don't move." She hissed as Clint felt her attempting to move in her set, still as trapped as he was. From what Clint could make out of their car the passenger side had been almost completely crushed. He was surprised she was alive, let alone conscious.
The damage that had been done to them and the car seemed to be the least of her worries though as she continued. "You have to be quiet – be still – if she thinks you're dead she might leave you alone."
A hand suddenly shot out and seized the front of his shirt – a bloody, broken hand that grasped him with more strength than it really should have been able to. "You have to stay in the car." She hissed, the fear in her voice making her sound younger. Like the child she probably was. "No matter what happens, stay in the car, and when she leaves you have to go for the case. It's on the third floor, apartment 33B." She whispered. Clint's ears had finally stopped ringing and he was able to make out the sound of approaching footsteps. Of glass crunching under heavy boots.
The Widow's next words were barely a murmur but they hit harder than all the others. The fear in them was infectious, and paralysing.
"If you fight, she will obliterate you."
They were also her last words.
A hand crashed through what was left of the passenger widow – spraying glass over both Clint and the Widow – before clasping a fistful of Romanov's red-hair and dragging her with incredible strength from the car. Clint heard her hit the glass-strewn road a moment later.
The sound broke his paralysis.
Despite his dislocated shoulder Clint managed to manoeuvre himself so that his uninjured arm could reach his seat belt and wrench it from the car wall. The satisfaction the small success brought was short lived as without the belt he fell painfully to the roof of the car, barely managing to keep himself from crying out in pain as he landed on his dislocated arm and – by the sound of the landing – broke it. He was about to crawl through the shattered windscreen when a paralysis set in once more.
Only this one wasn't caused by fear.
Clint hadn't noticed it before. The soft whistle, that resembled a kind hum, that echoed through the wrecked car. It was soothing at first. His ragged breathing calmed and his erratic heartbeat slowed. Even his pain lessened. He was able to crawl halfway through the windscreen with more strength than he realized he had, until he couldn't.
Until he couldn't move at all.
That soft whistle seemed to fill his very bones, rendering them heavier than lead. He collapsed forwards onto the road face first, unable to even get his hands up to break his fall. He was trapped, half way through the windscreen, a tingling settling in his spine that more terrifying than anything he had ever felt.
He was completely, and utterly, helpless.
He could, however, still see. His head had fallen in such a way that the Widow and whomever had wrenched her from the car were directly in his line of sight.
Or at least their feet were.
And somehow, despite having taken the brunt of the crash, the Widow was standing – or more accurately leaning – against the upturned car with the other woman barely an inch in front of her. Maybe even holding her up.
The whistle that echoed in Clint's ears hadn't faded, but he could still make out what they were saying. Or what the Widow was saying. The other woman never said a word in response.
"It's okay." The Widow whispered, the fear that Clint had heard in her voice still there but mixed with something else. Gentleness. A comforting softness that, unless he had heard it himself, he wouldn't have believed she was capable of.
For a disturbing second Clint thought that she was talking to him. That for some reason she was comforting him. Though considering that she had shot him earlier that week he really doubted it – and he found the tone and the words more disturbing than comforting.
It was when she spoke again that he began to suspect the words weren't meant for him. They were too soft. He could barely make them out, and his hearing was better than most.
And the whistling stopped.
"It's okay." The Widow repeated in a murmur. "Of all of them, I'm glad it's you." None of the mercenaries or assassins Clint and the Widow had met so far had seemed to harbour any friendly feelings towards the Widow. And she seemed to despise them even more. Clint hadn't imagined her capable of civility let alone friendship. Her next words proved him wrong. "Old friend," She whispered to the woman. Clint was beginning to believe that he hadn't given the Widow enough credit.
Her next words solidified that belief.
"Just leave him." The Widow implored. "Leave him and the case. I'd like to be able to say that I did at least one good thing in my life – spared one good life – I think I'm owed me that much." She said before she let out what sounded like a painful sigh. A longing tinted her next words. "Let me have that much."
The other woman remained silent, and for a moment Clint braced himself, sure that she was about to slit the Widow's throat and come for him. Despite that the whistling had stopped he still couldn't feel move his body, couldn't drag himself to his feet, or protect himself in any way. If she came for him, he was a dead man.
But she didn't.
In fact neither of them moved.
"It's okay." The Widow repeated again, softly. "We both knew this was coming. Just make it fast, will you?"
That was when the situation really set in for Clint. When he finally understood.
This woman was going to kill her.
And the Widow was letting her.
"Until next time, old friend." The redhead said before breathing a quiet, dark, chuckle. "Maybe we'll share a pit down there."
Again there was silence. Or at least what he thought was silence. After a few seconds that earlier whistle became audible once more, steadily growing louder – only it didn't remain a whistle. The sound morphed around Clint, softening and soothing, until it became a lullaby.
Clint felt his consciousness slip away from him as the two women finally moved. He felt a body slam down into the glass beside him. Caught a glimpse of red hair splayed out on the road next to the car. Of a tall, looming, figure bending down into his line of sight.
A flash of a blade.
And then nothing.
That nothing didn't last all that long however, that much he could tell when he came around.
There was still glass underneath him, the smell of blood and metal around him and pain. Pain fucking everywhere.
Yeah he definitely hadn't been out that long.
Some time had clearly passed though because instead of the whistling that had been present in his ears since the car crashed he could hear voices. Hear shouting. He and the Widow were no longer alone at the scene.
The last few moments of his consciousness flooded back to him and he forced his eyes to open, to focus. He had to know if she was dead – the other woman had clearly been here to kill her and she had been doing very little to prevent that from happening the last time Clint saw. Had the other woman actually listened to her when the Widow had asked her to leave him and the case alone?
Now he really needed to get his limbs to cooperate.
She had told him where it was, apartment 33B across from him, he just had to make it there. Just had to make it there and then back to Phil – because Phil would take care of this. Even furious and stressed as Clint was sure Phil was in that exact moment, Phil would take care of everything so long as Clint could get him the case.
Phil always took care of him.
Finally Clint did manage to pry his eyes open. He found himself exactly where he was when they had closed – half way through the windscreen of the car. Only now he could move.
It took more effort than Clint would have ever admitted but eventually he did manage to pull himself the rest of the way out of the car and stumble to his feet. The shouting he had heard was from a small circle of people that had surrounded the car but kept their distance. It seemed the attack on the consulate had made everyone a little cautious, not that Clint blamed them.
He scanned the crowd quickly, searching for anyone who looked particularly hostile but found nothing. The onlookers seemed to be genuine bystanders, meaning that Clint had mere minutes until the police and other emergency services made an appearance.
Limping heavily he made his way around the car, fully intent on sprinting across the street and into the apartment complex before the police could get their hands on him, but was brought to a halt almost immediately by what he found.
The Widow was still beside the car – lying where he had seen her fall, surrounded by blood.
He knew what protocall dictated. Knew that the case, and whatever was inside it, was undoubtedly important and arguably more dangerous.
But he had to know if she was alive.
There was no doubt in his mind that if she hadn't bargained for his life he wouldn't still be in possession of it – he couldn't just walk past her now.
"Romanov?" He urged kneeling down painfully beside her while locals stared at them. "Romanov? Can you hear me?" He pressed two fingers against the side of her throat, holding his breath. For a moment he could have sworn there was nothing – and then she spoke.
"It's Romanova." She corrected weakly but with enough of her usual dryness that he couldn't help the chuckled that escaped his lips.
"Jesus," He breathed, pulling his hand back from her neck before she removed it for him. "I thought you were dead."
She didn't answer. Instead she lifted her head slightly and Clint, for the first time, took her in.
She looked fucking awful.
The car wreck had clearly left her worse off than him – not surprising seeing that the other car had smashed directly into her side – and whatever the other woman had done to her, it had not been kind. Her head was bleeding so profusely from so many different places that blood covered practically the entirety of her face, like some crude face painting, and her limbs were no better off. One arm looked so badly broken that each joint seemed to be bending the opposite way that they should have been.
Despite Clint's horror at her appearance, and the ungodly amount of pain she must have been in, her wounds seemed not to faze her. In fact she didn't seem to take any notice of them at all.
Her eyes snapped up to Clint's, more alert and coherent than he would have thought possible considering the state of her skull, before she spoke.
"We have to get out of here." She threw a glance around at the people milled about. "We should get the case and get out. The people coming for us monitor the emergency phone lines-"
She broke off as the sound of loud sirens broke through the shouts around them and several large, black SUV's rounded the corner before squealing to a stop mere feet from the wrecked car.
They had run out of time.
Only it wasn't the mysterious 'these people' that had found them.
It was S.H.I.E.L.D.
"PUT YOUR HANDS WHERE WE CAN SEE THEM AND LAY FACE DOWN ON THE ROAD!" A booming voice commanded as scores of agents leapt from the SUV's. "NOW!" The same voice barked.
"Wait!" Clint called out, getting to his feet, putting his hands up for good measure – and so they didn't shoot him on the spot. "I'm Agent Barton, of the New York base, you can lower your weapons there's been a misunderstanding-"
"-WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE!" The voice boomed back – Clint couldn't make out exactly who was speaking due to the multiple head-lights from the SUVs that were currently trained on him and the Widow. "PUT YOUR HAND'S WHERE WE CAN SEE THEM AND GET ON THE GROUND! WE WILL NOT ASK AGAIN!"
Clint blamed his exhaustion, and the fact that he had already been shot once on this mission, for his lack of what would have typically been a very heated argument. And if that didn't work, heated confrontation.
Instead he did as they asked, lowering himself to his knees and then to the ground, but still continued to reason with them. "No, look, listen, I've been running point on this mission with Agent Coulson – just call him and he'll sort this all out-"
"Agent Coulson is the man who ordered your apprehension." The man who had stalked forwards to cuff him replied, his voice still booming but no longer a shout.
"What? No!" Clint began to argue, shaking his head as he watched agents slap cuffs on an apparently nonchalant Romanova as well. "He wouldn't do tha-"
Clint froze mid-denial, because Phil would do that. Clint had run off – injured – without so much as a note hours ago and Phil had no doubt been searching for him that entire time.
Phil would definitely give an order like that if he thought it might keep Clint in one place long enough for him to reach him and drag his sorry ass back to New York, where Clint will no doubt face months of livid rants and the most boring surveillance missions of his career.
"Yeah, okay, he might have done that." Clint conceded as the agent hauled him by the cuffs to his knees, glass from the road digging into them painfully. "But you got this all wrong. I'm not an enemy. I'm an agent – albeit a dead one once Agent Coulson gets here – but I'm not a threat-" He cut of suddenly when the man beside him hauled Romanova to her feet and threw her several feet forwards – towards the other agents who had yet to lower their weapons.
"-and neither is she!" He spat, straining against his own captor.
The agent who had thrown the Widow looked back at him haughtily.
"We have a kill on site order for the Black Widow." He said before raising his gun to her forehead. The other agents around him did nothing to stop him.
"NO!" Now it was Clint's turn to roar. "No! She has information! Information she's agreed to share! Just let me talk to Agent Coulson, he'll agree-"
"No." The agent replied, steadying the hand holding his gun and flexing his fingers. "She has a kill on site order – so we're going to kill her on site."
"YOU CAN'T!" Clint shouted, being purposefully too loud in hopes that the noise might put the agent off. "This isn't a regulation 'kill on site'! That would require her to be running, or fighting, OR ANYTHING ACCEPT KNEELING IN FRONT OF YOU, DEFENCELESS!" He shouted, furious. "IF YOU PULL THAT TRIGGER YOU'RE ENDING YOU CAREER!"
"As if." The agent scoffed. "They're going to give me a medal for putting a bullet through this bitch's forehead."
The sound of another SUV tearing around the corner caused both Clint and the gun totting, glory seeking, agent to look up. It, too, screeched to a stop just in front of them before Phil Coulson in the flesh threw open the driver's door and came storming towards them.
There had been many times in Clint's short life that he had been glad to see Phil Coulson.
Many, many times.
One such time being in Bangladesh when Clint was about to have certain body parts that he's very attached to removed by drug traffickers.
This, along with Bangladesh, made at least top five of those times.
"Phil!" Clint heaved in a breath of air, relief seeping through him. "Jesus, would you tell this idiot to put his fucking gun down!" He nodded towards where the Widow was still kneeling in front of the gun-friendly agent.
"I'll tell him to put his gun down when you tell me what the hell you're doing!" Phil practically growled, completely ignoring the stand off in the middle of the road and stalking towards him. Thankfully though the other agent made no further move to shoot the Widow. Now that his boss was here it seemed he didn't have to balls to kill her in cold blood.
The same couldn't be said for Phil, however, who looked like he was about to rip Clint's head from his shoulders at any second.
"What the hell is wrong with you Clint?!" He growled, coming to a halt mere inches in front of the archer. "You run off from the infirmary – which you still haven't technically been released from – and into the hands of a homicidal maniac," he threw a wild hand behind him in the direction of Romanova. "Only to get into a massive car wreck hours after leaving said infirmary!"
Spittle was practically flying from the older man's mouth as he shouted – the agents around them looking away with trepidation in their eyes. None of them would be crossing Phil Coulson anytime soon that was for sure.
"In my defence," Clint wheezed, becoming more and more aware of his own broken arm and dislocated shoulder. "The car wreck wasn't exactly my idea."
That seemed to break through the pent up anger Phil had been building ever since Clint ditched him at the infirmary. All rage fled his expression immediately, to be replaced by wide eyes and apprehension. Clint wasn't naïve though. He knew that unpleasant conversation was far from over – merely postponed.
"Jesus Clint," Phil sighed, leaning down to get a closer look at him as he spoke to the agent standing above them both. "Un-cuff him, now." The agent seemed like he couldn't obey fast enough. "And then give us a minute."
Clint was still rising shakily to his feet as the agent made his way over to the others and waited for further orders – only Phil didn't give any. He was still looking at Clint like he wanted nothing more than to reach out and steady him, but he knew Clint well enough to know the young archer would never let him. Not in front of so many others.
"Jesus Clint," Phil repeated, eyes raking over every inch of him. "What hurts? List em'-"
"-No Phil, listen," Clint cut him off. "You can't let them kill her!"
"Clint-" Phil began, his voice taking on a weary tone. The tone it always took when he knew he was about to enter into a fight with Clint.
"-She has information." Clint cut him off again, hurriedly. He was all too aware that the other agent had yet to lower his gun. "And she's willing to give it to us. She could be invaluable."
"Yeah, but at what cost?" Phil asked pointedly. "Did she say what the price for this information was?"
This time it was Phil who cut him off. "There are no 'buts' Clint. Some people can't be negotiated with."
"How would you know?!" Clint again blamed his exhaustion for the outburst. "You haven't even tried yet!""Let me guess," His handler replied, forcing himself to remain calm. "You offered her a place at S.H.I.E.L.D? A place where she would have access to huge amounts of invaluable information, of course she said she'd tell us what we want. She's playing you Clint!" That forced calm was quickly fading. "And maybe the information she gives us is real! It would still be nothing compared to what she could get from us!"
"For who?!" Clint demanded. "She's defected? Who the hell is she supposed to sell that information too?!"
"Anyone!" Phil's calm was long gone now. "Close your eyes and point on a map! There isn't a country on earth that wouldn't pay billions for S.H.I.E.L.D's secrets! Hell, half of America's covert services too!"
"She gave up the case." Clint refused to back down. "It's right behind you. Third floor, apartment 33B, of that building just there." He pointed behind them both, at the building across from them.
"Good," Phil said without turning, keeping his eyes fixed on Clint as his voice returned to normal and his expression softened. "And maybe what's in it is valuable, or maybe not, it doesn't matter." He said, much more gently now. "She's too much of a liability, Clint." Clint was ready to argue again but Phil cut him off before he could even get a word out, reading his thoughts like always. "-And I know that's not fair – that she didn't choose this life – but sometimes life it cruel. And so is S.H.I.E.L.D. We have to be."
Phil reached out, despite the audience behind them, and grasped his shoulder comfortingly. "I'm sorry, kid." And he sounded it too.
He released Clint's shoulder a moment later before turning back to the others and beginning towards them while Clint remained where he was, in too much pain to move and not wanting to be a part of what he knew was coming next. What he couldn't stop it seemed, despite his best efforts.
He looked down at the Widow – still on her knees before the gun-totting agent – and had to resist the urge to look away. He had brought her here, and now she was going to be killed, the least he could do was not look away. He had failed to get Phil to listen, to get anyone to listen, and now-
"Devyat!" He called, the word falling from his lips in a desperate last attempt. He had almost forgotten their conversation – her complete trust that that one word would save her – but he remembered now and he had nothing else left.
For a moment Clint thought that Phil hadn't even heard him, but eventually he turned slowly until he was once again facing Clint.
His expression was not one Clint saw often.
"What?" He asked deliberately, taking one small step back towards Clint.
"Devyat." Clint repeated, hope rising in his chest as that one small step turned into several and Phil was in front of him once more.
"Where the hell did you hear that word?!" Phil breathed, eyes wider than Clint had ever seen them.
Clint waved a hand in Romanova's direction but refused to break eye contact with Phil. Not now that he was listening to him. "She said it to me. Said that it would make Fury listen – that she knew what it was."
"What did she tell you?!"
"Just that word." Clint said. "Nothing else." Phil looked back at the Widow uncertainly, and Clint followed his gaze. From where he stood she still looked awful, but she also looked young. Like the eighteen year old she probably was. "It's important, isn't it?" Clint pressed and Phil's gaze slowly returned to him. "Whatever it means, it's important."
"You have no idea." Phil breathed.
"Then you can't kill her." Clint surmised, keeping his eyes on Phil's every movement. The handler seemed ready to argue but instead threw another glance over his shoulder at the redhead, clearly unsure now. "Phil," Clint began, his voice taking on a pleading tone that he had never used with his handler before and Phil's attention snapped back to him at once. "I have never asked you for anything." He said imploringly. "But I am asking for this. As my friend, as my brother, don't kill her."
Later Phil wasn't sure what it was exactly that swayed his decision. He wasn't sure whether it was the information that they stood to gain, or Clint's request, or the way the archer's voice wavered slightly when he called the older man his brother, but after a moment of staring at the kid he merely nodded.
"Jaeger," Phil called to the agent still holding a gun to the Widow's forehead. "Holster your weapon."
"What the hell, Phil?!"
Fury's voice had hit an octave that Phil hadn't heard in it in some time – and it was usually reserved for when Clint did something especially aggravating.
"I know," Phil sighed running an exhausted hand across his face and through his hair.
"You know!" Fury shouted through the phone, somehow managing to seem just as commanding and infuriated from halfway across the planet. "What do you know, Phil? Because right now all I know is that you and Barton clearly don't understand the terms 'target' and 'assassination'!"
"Devyat." Phil said evenly, predicting the sharp silence that followed the word. "She knows about Devyat."
"She has information, Nick." He said, feeling as if he were parroting Clint's words from only a few hours ago.
Phil had been stalking up and down the hallways of the Berlin Base infirmary for three hours now, working up the nerve to call Fury and not willing to be more than twenty feet from Clint – who was currently heavily sedated in the room right across from him and unlikely to be waking anytime soon. The doctors had reset his dislocated arm, put it in a cast, and stitched closed his head wound before drugging him into oblivion. They, too, were less than impressed with his Houdini act earlier that morning.
The Black Widow on the other hand was locked down tight in the underground cells beneath the base. She had refused medical treatment despite looking like she had gone fourteen rounds with a monster truck, and none of the doctors had really pushed it on her. They were more than happy to keep a whole lot of distance between themselves and the Widow, not that Phil really blamed them. He'd be lying if he said that he too hadn't been hesitant around her. The only person who wasn't was Clint, and Phil found that less than comforting – it was just another reason why guarding the door to Clint infirmary room seemed like a good idea. He didn't want the kid anywhere near her right now.
Phil's blood pressure was high enough as it was.
"If what she's saying is true then she knows about Devyat," Phil went on. "Knows what it is?"
"If what she is saying is true." Fury repeated pointedly. "Which we have no proof of, unless she's told you anything that you can confirm?"
"She hasn't said anything." Phil admitted. "Said she wont say anything until she's face to face with you."
"Listen," Phil insisted, throwing a glanced into Clint's room as he paced past it – the kid was still out cold. "I don't trust her either, but I also don't think she's lying. She knows something Nick, something important. Call it a hunch or whatever you want, but I'm sure of it."
"Would that be your hunch or Barton's that you're so sure of?" Fury was not the head of the most covert organisation in the world for nothing. He had an uncanny ability to just know things – especially when it came to his agents.
Phil didn't bother answering. They both knew whose hunch it really was.
"When has the kid ever been wrong?" Phil asked instead.
"There is a first time for everything, Phil." Fury cautioned.
"Yeah, well, let's hope it's not this time." Phil said.
Phil could almost hear the frustration in Fury's following silence. Hear his reluctance to allow Romanova anywhere near his base.
But in the end all the reluctance and frustration in the world didn't matter. Fury was a spy – and there was nothing that a spy wouldn't risk for possible Intel they needed.
That didn't mean he had to like the risk.
"This woman better know the god-damn secrets to the Universe, Phil."
Phil glanced into Clint's room one more time, taking in the state of his agent and recalling his desperation to get Romanov this far despite everything she'd done. Despite that she had shot him.
For some unfathomable reason he truly believed in her, and whatever she knew.
And Phil, for better or worse, believed in Clint.
"I think she just might." Phil said.
"Well in that case." Fury relented – sounding like he regretted this decision already. "Bring them on home, Phil."