Maria’s chest moved unevenly, her breathing dangerously shallow. You brushed a strand of dark hair from her face, fighting back tears.
“Stay with me.” You murmured, cradling her limp body in your arms.
Her eyelids fluttered open. “_______?” Her voice was like a gust of wind.
Swallowing back a sob you forced a smile. “I’m here you’re going to be alright.”
She winced. “I’m so cold.”
“I-it’s the blood that you’ve lost,” You answered, glancing down at the blood seeping out from her many bullet wounds. “But I’ll get you patched up and you will be as good as new.”
Maria swallowed, a tear rolling down her cheek. “Get the others, don’t worry about me.”
You shook your head, wiping away your own tears. “No I’m not going to just leave you. The others can wait.”
She offered you a weak smile. “Thankyou ______.”
You nodded in reply, unable to force any words from your mouth. You watched as she slowly closed her eyes, breathing gradually slowing. Her bottom lip trembled as she exhaled a breath, and you waited for her next inhale. But it never came. You sat on the floor stiffly, staring at her still face. Is that how it happened? One moment you’re talking and breathing then the next you just aren’t? You swallowed wiping a smear of blood from Maria’s chin. Somehow you kept surviving no matter what was thrown at you, and it would be a lie to say that it was because of your skill. Dumb luck would probably be the best explanation and unfortunately luck eventually ran out.
You hadn’t known Maria well, but she had been one of the first few people at S.H.I.E.L.D to accept you immediately and for that you were thankful. Steadying yourself and setting your mind back on the present task ahead you stood. If ever there was a time to remain strong that time was now. You retrieved Maria’s weapons and ammo, as wrong as it felt you knew you had to make use of whatever resources you could. Swallowing you cleaned your face and slipped your sais back into place. If it hadn’t been personal before it was now, you were going to make your father pay for all he had put you and your friends through. He had made a very dangerous enemy and he probably didn’t even realize it yet. You were no longer a child. Stepping over the dead body of the guard who had killed Maria, you started through the door and down a long highly lit corridor. Where office cubicles may have once stood there were rows of empty cages. All of which were new and glistened in the bright lights, but as of yet they contained no one. Holding Maria’s handgun out before you, you silently placed one foot in front of the other keeping your eyes on the solid steel door only a few meters ahead of you. Instinctively you knew that it would be through that door that you would find your friends. The only problem was you would also find your enemies.
The steel door stood before you but you couldn’t bring yourself to touch it. Images of Maria being peppered with bullets flashed through your mind. Once you opened the door you would have almost no time to react. It was a given that the room beyond would be packed full of guards, and you could probably handle them on a level playing field. But those few seconds that it takes to fully swing a door open are enough for a guard to begin firing. You covered the doorknob with one shaking hand, the other clutching tightly to Maria’s gun. The fear was so strong that for a split second you considered turning away and fleeing. But you couldn’t do that, the time for acting like a child was over. It had been over the moment you had accepted Fury’s offer and got into that S.U.V on that rainy day. It was at that point that you had thrown away your youth. And you didn’t regret it one bit. Your life had been purposeless until you had joined S.H.I.E.L.D and met Clint. Closing your eyes you gathered your thoughts, you would need your wits about you if you were going to survive your next move.
Finally satisfied that there was nothing else you could do to ready yourself you turned the door knob. The slight creak as the door slowly swung open was magnified in your heightened state of awareness, as were the sounds of alarmed guards pointing their guns towards the door. Before you even consciously comprehended the danger before you, your body went into action. You flung yourself against the wall, slamming your back against it with such might that the air was forced from your lungs. You readied your gun and blindly fired around the corner until the cartridge was spent. Inhaling a deep breath of air you peeked your head around the corner. Two guards lay on the floor clutching bloody wounds in non-vital areas. Another three guards were pressed up against empty cells, their guns pointed towards you. You tucked your head in just before three sets of bullets assaulted the wall behind you. Dust rained down upon you in a white flurry stinging your eyes and clogging your lungs. You coughed, wiping whatever you could from your hair and face. You pulled the last set of rounds from your belt, fumbling with them as you tried to load them into the gun. After what felt like an eternity but had only really been a few seconds you rounded the corner, bracing yourself on one knee as you fired at the guards. One guard fell as a bullet ripped through his neck splashing blood over his comrades. They didn’t react as they fired their own weapons. You felt a bullet scrape past your shoulder but kept your cool for long enough to fire a shot at another guard. As he too collapsed you ducked back behind your wall.
Gritting your teeth, you squinted at your shoulder. Blood was steadily seeping from a small gash and trickling in little rivulets down your arm. You were no stranger to losing a little blood and you quickly concluded that it looked far worse than it actually was. After testing out the use of your arm and finding that the pain was bearable no matter the way you moved, you brought your focus back on to the guard in the room behind you. You could hear him reloading his rifle and murmuring something in Portuguese. Checking your own weapon you discovered that you only had one bullet left. Without allowing yourself a chance to panic you swung around the corner and fired. Unfortunately you had received very little training in the use of firearms and as a result you were average at best. The bullet went wide, skimming past the guard’s cheek and leaving a small wound like the one on your shoulder. You dropped the gun immediately and drew up your sais and began a mad dash towards the man a loud war cry escaping from your lungs. He smiled and lifted his gun. A bullet whizzed past your ear, stirring a few stray strands of hair. Another bullet brushed past your leg, tearing your suit and the underlying skin. You continued to move forward until you were directly in front of the guard. You executed a small but forceful kick at his hands and when his weapon left his grasp you stabbed out with both of your sais burying them into each of the man’s kidneys. The guard held your gaze as he died, dark eyes boring into your very soul. His final few breaths brushed over your face and then his body slumped over. You retracted your sais numbly and wiped them on the guard’s grey pullover. His eyes would forever be bored into your mind. Instead of being full of hate or fear as everyone else’s had been his eyes had been full of understanding. He was the first person that you had killed who had ever accepted the fact that you were both just doing your job.
“It’s about time you got here.” A familiar voice proclaimed, pulling you away from your thoughts.
Tony stood by the bars of his cell, arms crossed over his chest and wearing a very tired smirk. You felt your heart leap out of your chest and fought to keep the smile from your face. You had finally found them!
“The door release is somewhere over there,” Steve stated pointing to a small alcove. “I’ve been watching them since I woke up.”
You nodded. “Ok I’ll go take a look, you two hold tight.”
You made your way down the corridor to the alcove, allowing yourself a quick glance into Clint’s cell on the way. He was leant up against the far wall, he looked weak and tired but he was conscious. You yearned to feel him in your arms once more, especially when he flashed you a mischievous smile as you passed. Your heart was thumping wildly in your chest as you rounded the corner into what must have been used as a break room. A large card table stood in the center of the tiled area surrounded by foldout chairs. A small sink and refrigerator took up the majority of the rear wall and were separated by a worn kitchen counter. There were two rows of small silver dials mounted on the wall to your left, each one with a small circular light fixed above it. Only three of the ten lights blinked steadily indicating that their corresponding cells were activated. You promptly turned all of the three dials to the left, satisfied when you heard small clicks as the doors were released. Exhaling a deep breath you rested your hands on the card table, relief surged through your system with such force you nearly collapsed into a heap right there. Fortunately the sounds of Tony’s cheers of triumph were enough to keep you in the moment.
You made your way to Clint’s cell to find that he was now standing. Despite the fact that he obviously felt like crap a broad smile stretched across his face.
“Hey.” You murmured stopping a few inches away from him.
His arms reached for you, smile never wavering. “You can hug me you know.”
You eyed the bandage wrapped tightly around his torso tentatively. “What happened to you?”
He tugged you towards him ignoring your small sounds of protest and firmly encompassed you. You felt him bury his head into your neck and you forgot all about his injury at that moment. You wrapped your arms around his neck as he seemed to explore the length of your body with his hands. His lips kissed small trails along your jawline as his hands made it to your hips.
But you soon pulled away smiling up at him sheepishly. “You need to save your energy.”
He ignored you yet again, brushing his lips against your bruised cheekbone, the very injury you had received from your own father.
“Clint stop it,” You spoke more firmly this time as you pushed him away. “I can’t do this at the moment.”
He nodded, tucking a stray strand of hair behind your ear. “I know and I’m sorry, I just thought I’d never see you again.”
You sighed placing your hand over his. “we’re ok now.”
“_____,” Tony poked his head into the cell. “We might have a little problem out here.”
You frowned. “More guards?”
“Think more on the lines of a large green man in need of some serious anger management.”
“Any chance he will recognize us as allies?” You questioned, feeling your heart pick up pace.
Tony scratched the back of his head. “The hulk isn’t known for asking questions and we’re the only ones in this room full of jail cells.”
“What about morphine, can’t we dose Bruce up and carry him out?” Clint asked.
You shook your head. “I don’t like the risk, if he wakes up while we’re carrying him we’re as good as dead.”
“Wait a minute,” Steve entered the little group discussion. “Do we know for sure that when he wakes he’s going to be ‘the other guy’?”
“Are you suggesting we hang around and find out?” You questioned skeptically.
Steve shook his head. “Not all of us, just one of us who can assist Bruce in getting out of here. You never leave a man behind.”
Clint placed a hand on your shoulder possessively. “Well I definitely can’t and ______’s staying with me.”
Tony shifted his weight uncomfortably. “I think you’re on your own cap.”
Steve smiled grimly, pulling his cowl back over his head. “I’ve survived worse, get to the elevators.”
You looked up at Clint, torn. “I’m going to stay and help.”
“What?” His hand subconsciously tightened on your shoulder.
Sighing you pulled away. “I’m sorry, but I’ve already lost Maria I’m not losing Steve as well.”
Clint opened his mouth to argue, but when he saw the firm set of your jaw he knew there was no use. He didn’t know what had happened to you since the afternoon but you had changed drastically.
You watched numbly as Clint and Tony slowly made their way out of harm’s way, Clint using Tony for support. Steve had moved to Bruce’s side to continue to monitor his progress. You didn’t want to see yourself separated from Clint when you had only just reunited with him but you knew you had to. If Bruce did happen to reawaken as the hulk; which you doubted, Steve would definitely require your help. A low groan made you start.
“He’s waking up.” Steve called to you, his blue eyes showing traces of apprehension.