Surprise! I finished another chapter!
*Does a victory dance*
Actually, I finished two. That’s right, two. Unfortunately, I’m still editing the other one, so I won’t be posting it until tomorrow. It was originally one extremely long chapter, but I had to cut in half. So, if the ending of this one feels a little abrupt? That’s because you’re getting the second half tomorrow.
This chapter was actually the first thing I pictured when I decided to write this crossover. In the Avengers movie, we never learn where Clint and Loki go after fleeing the base. Later on, Clint takes a quinjet to attack the helicarrier and retrieve Loki, but we never learn how he got his hands on it. I had fun answering those questions.
Okay, here’s what you need to know about this chapter: for some strange reason, I kept picturing Loki in all his glorious armor the first time Bella sees him and the image just wouldn’t leave me alone, so I decided Loki donned the look when the chopper was chasing them. I know that’s not what really happened, but let’s all just silently agree to pretend that it was. Also, I’ve decided that Bella knows Jasper used to be a soldier, even though that conversation didn’t happen until after Italy.
Let’s just say she got bored one day and googled him, since she couldn’t ask him about his human life in person. Either that or Alice mentioned it in passing. Who knows? Maybe she even told Bella she has a thing for soldiers. The point is that, somehow, Bella found that out. It’s not really important, but I felt the need to put that out there.
There’s a bit of a mystery in this one that will leave you guys thinking, “How?” I stuck a very subtle hint somewhere in this chapter (actually, there’s technically two), but I highly doubt you’ll figure it out from that. You’ll find out later how Bella does what she does, in a future chapter. Right now, it’s as much a mystery to her as it will be to you.
If you think you’ve figured it out, please don’t stick in a review. PM me instead and I’ll let you know if you’re on the right track. I don’t want to spoil it for everyone else, which means I’ll have to delete your review if you put it in there. Since deleting those reviews is like taking a drug away from an addict, please don’t make me.
*Giving you puppy dog eyes*
That’s it! I hope you all enjoy the next few chapters, because I definitely did. They’re some of my favorites…
Disclaimer: The Avengers and the Twilight Saga belong to Marvel and Stephanie Meyers, respectively. I’m just a a bored writer with internet access and a firm believer that Clint and Bella both deserved more.
The first time Bella opened her sleepy eyes, waking up was gentle. Discovering the house was shaking was odd, but it wasn’t something that alarmed her, so she went back to sleep. The second time it happened, something was different. She wasn’t gently nudged awake, she was violently ripped from slumber’s sweet embrace.
Bella was a light sleeper and had trained herself to wake up at the slightest of sounds. Certain noises sent adrenaline rushing through her veins and, whenever her ears registered those noises, she went from resting peacefully to awake and fully alert in a matter of seconds. So, when Bella felt the effects of that adrenaline working its way through her system, she tensed on instinct and her eyes snapped open in alarm.
Bella was confused at first. She didn’t understand why she’d woken up or why she felt so uneasy, but then a sound caught her attention. Tilting her head, she listened carefully, her stomach tightening with dread once she realized what it was that woke her up. Cars. She heard two cars driving up the winding dirt road that led to the house. They were moving fast, too, undoubtedly approaching at breakneck speeds.
Panicking, Bella sprung to her feet and kicked her sleeping bag and pillow underneath the bed in the center of the room. She grabbed what few things she hadn’t stashed in her car earlier and frantically shoved them into her messenger bag before yanking the strap over her head and shoulder. With a sense of urgency, she quickly shoved her shoes on and grabbed her gun, sticking the weapon in the back of her jeans before pulling her shirt down over it. She hit the light switch as she flew out the door, cloaking the house in darkness, and sprinted towards the stairs. Sadly, Bella only made it down one step before she froze, her head snapping up to look at the front door as someone jiggled the handle.
Too late, Bella realized she shouldn’t have made a break for the backdoor. She should’ve just climbed out the window.
Uneasy, Bella quickly backtracked, quietly slipping back into the bedroom she was using as her own just moments ago. She carefully started to close the door, being extra gentle in a desperate attempt to shut it soundlessly. The front door swung open before she managed to close it all the way, leaving an inch of space left between the door and the frame. She mentally cursed, realizing if she tried opening the window now, when the door was still open, the sound would catch the attention of whoever just walked into the house.
Something inside of her eased when her ears registered the sound of loud footsteps and breathing. She didn’t relax completely, keenly aware that her unexpected visitors could still be lethal, but she quickly realized that, whoever they were, they weren’t vampires.
“You two, take position out front. And the two of you, set up a perimeter around the property line. If you see any cars or choppers heading our way, inform me immediately,” a deep, husky voice ordered, one that made her heart leap and caused a familiar, involuntary shiver of desire to roll through her.
Recognizing that voice instantly, Bella’s tense muscles relaxed and her anxiety vanished. Relief flooded her petite frame and she nearly flung the door wide open, revealing her presence. Clint spoke again before she could make that foolish mistake and Bella stopped herself just in time, his words making her freeze in her tracks and her blood run cold, “If you see anyone at all, shoot first. Ask questions later.”
For a split second, Bella’s mind completely blanked. She couldn’t even begin to process the order Clint had just given. The words seemed to echo in her ears and her breath caught in her throat as the meaning of those words finally sank in. Clint just gave his men permission to execute anyone in the immediate vicinity, to shoot them on sight. Bella was the only one that qualified. He’d just unknowingly ordered her death.
The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end and her stomach dropped. She suddenly felt like she was in a free fall, like the ground had unexpectedly disappeared beneath her feet, and an uncontrollable shiver skittered down her spine, one that felt so much more unpleasant than the shiver Clint’s voice had triggered. Something was horribly wrong, but Bella couldn’t quite figure out what that something was.
Without a doubt, that was Clint’s voice, but Bella was somehow convinced that Clint would never give an order like that one. She hadn’t known him long, nor did she know him well, but he hadn’t struck her as a cold and calculating man when she met him earlier today. Any strangers around here were bound to be civilians and the Clint she met at lunch would never order the death of unarmed civilians.
From the moment she met him, Clint wanted to protect her. He knew she was somewhere in the general area, so he also knew that Bella could easily end up being the stranger they executed instead of questioning. After how badly he wanted to protect her earlier, that order made absolutely no sense to her. None at all.
In the back of her mind, Bella understood that she was now trapped. If she ran into one of the guards outside, they would shoot her on sight. She was completely aware of just how utterly fucked she was, but she couldn’t quite bring herself to care at that moment. It mattered to her on some level, yes, but not enough for her to waste any energy fretting over it. It just wasn’t her main priority.
Figuring out what was wrong with Clint, on the other hand, was. She refused to believe Clint would ever willingly give an order like that, which meant something was undeniably wrong with him and she was determined to find out what that something was. Figuring out a way to help him was the only thing that mattered to Bella and the only thing she cared about. Everything else, including her own survival, was put on a back burner.
Concerned, Bella shifted and peered through the crack in the door. She’d picked this room on purpose because it overlooked the entryway and the foyer on the first floor, so she was able see Clint clearly after she repositioned herself.
Clint was standing with his back to her, facing the doorway. The headlights from one of the cars out front filtered through the dark house, illuminating his muscular form. She recognized the bow and quiver strapped to his back instantly, though he was now also wearing a jacket, fingerless gloves, and a gun strapped to his thigh. He was looking at a strangely beautiful man decked out in pristine green and golden armor just outside the doorway. The man turned and said something to someone else behind him, someone Bella couldn’t see, before he crossed the threshold, stepping into the house.
Bella studied the newcomer intently, wondering at first if this unearthly beautiful man might possibly be a vampire. He was a few inches taller than Clint, had shoulder length black hair, an elegant looking face, and a unique skin tone, one that seemed to shine with a strange pearlescent glow. Oddly enough, his skin tone nearly matched the hue her of own, though hers lacked his skin’s entrancing luster and shine.
She swallowed nervously as she took in the fact that he was armed. He quite literally looked like a knight in shining armor, as if he’d stepped right out of the Middle Ages. There was even a spear in his hand, one that looked incredibly lethal and had a wickedly sharp blade. Her eyes followed the curve of that blade downward, coming to rest on what looked like an icy blue orb of energy. Running her eyes over the odd weapon, she decided it was more of a scepter than a spear.
Her gaze snapped back up to his face and she quickly realized that, yes, he might’ve been inhumanly beautiful, but he was not a vampire. His eyes were neither red nor gold. They were blue, which meant he was definitely not one of the vampires she was so desperately trying to avoid and she highly doubted that he sated his thirst with human blood.
Even so, Bella did not get a good vibe from the man standing just inside the doorway. He seemed oddly predatory to her and moved in the same unnaturally graceful way that she always attributed to vampires. He might not have been a blood drinker, but she had no doubt that he was just as dangerous, if not more so. There was no question in her mind that he wasn’t human. Honestly, she had no idea what he was, but she highly doubted he was vampire, human, or shifter.
What have you gotten yourself into, Clint? she wondered, chewing anxiously on her bottom lip. And how the hell am I going to get you out of it?
“This is a rather subpar dwelling, Barton,” Loki commented, his face reflecting his distaste. “Why have you brought us here?”
Bella’s unease steadily grew with every word, registering the rich tone of the newcomer’s voice, his unfamiliar accent, and the odd way in which he phrased things. In her experience, that combination never boded well. The overly proper way he spoke reminded her a little of Carlisle, who was hundreds of years old, and yet, somehow, Bella got the impression that he might be even older.
Carlisle was a peaceful, compassionate man, but Bella knew he was an exception to the rule. Most creatures his age only managed to survive that long through cunning and a talent for violence. It took skill to survive for centuries and a kind of lethal perseverance that made her instinctively wary. Something told her that this newcomer was not a person to be taken lightly.
At the same time that Bella considered this, she felt her chest tighten with an emotion that baffled her. A lump formed in her throat and she swallowed hard, furiously blinking back tears. She didn’t know why, but whenever this stranger spoke… his voice made her feel homesick. Her thoughts drifted to Charlie and a pang ran through her, making her chest throb with the desire to go home.
She just wanted to go home.
Bella shook her head, violently slamming the door shut on thoughts of Charlie. Confused and thoroughly unsettled, Bella turned her attention away from the man in green and golden armor and focused on Clint.
From the very first second she’d laid eyes on him, Bella had formed the impression that Clint was a man with an extensive military background. She didn’t doubt that he was highly trained and it wouldn’t have surprised her if she learned he once served in a branch of special forces. At that moment, the soldier inside him shone through like never before, visible in the way he carried himself; his back ramrod straight, feet evenly spaced apart, and his hands tucked behind his back. She’d actually seen that very same pose before, it was a stance that Jasper often took out of nothing more than habit and Bella knew for a fact that Jasper was once a soldier.
“We need a place to lay low for an hour or so, sir. This property is a recent foreclosure, one that’s still powered,” Clint explained and flipped on the lights downstairs. “Fury will close down every highway leading out of the state and keep an eye on every airport, bus terminal, and train station within the country. That means we need a place to hide out until we find a means of transportation and he won’t expect us to remain so close to base at a time like this.”
Loki nodded slowly in understanding and Clint added in a respectful tone, “I’d like to send Thompson out to retrieve us a quinjet. We were still in the process of evacuating when the base collapsed, so Search and Rescue will be flying out survivors. If we commandeer one of those jets, then we can fly anywhere in the world without Fury’s knowledge.”
“How so?” Loki asked, curiosity in his voice.
“Our quinjets come equipped with stealth technology,” Clint explained. “Once we activate it, the jet will become invisible to the human eye and radar. They’ll be unable to track us.”
Loki looked pleased by that information and waved his hand at Clint, “Do what you must, Barton.” Clint nodded sharply and walked back out the front door, sending a spike of anxiety rushing through Bella when she could no longer see him. Loki looked around, his gaze lingering on the table in the dining room to the left, before calling out, “Dr. Selvig! Bring the Tesseract inside.”
While he called out for Dr. Selvig, Loki’s outfit changed, shifting back into the clothing he wore when he first stepped through the portal. He’d donned the armor when the helicopter started shooting at them, but there was no need to wear it now. Bella instinctively stilled at the sight and wonder swept through her. It was like watching the wolves phase for the first time all over again, when she first realized there was so much more to the mythical world than vampires. She blinked twice and found her gaze lingering on the man in green, her eyes once again drawn to the icy blue orb of energy on his scepter.
She shook her head slightly in disbelief, not quite believing she’d once again stepped into a situation that involved magic and the supernatural. It was hard for her to realize she was getting yet another peek into the supernatural world, yes, but not hard for her to accept it. Bella dismissed that part of it easily, readily accepting the fact that the mystical world included more than shapeshifters and vampires. Magic, genuine magic, also existed and Bella just saw proof of it.
Unfortunately, that was not exactly reassuring news. The man in green was not a man she wanted to meet and learning that he had magical abilities didn’t exactly soothe the nerves Bella was wrestling with. In fact, it alarmed her and made her even warier than before. Her last few experiences with the supernatural had forced her to leave her life behind and abandon everyone she knew, so it was only natural for Bella to be a little anxious.
Brows furrowed, Bella nervously watched as Dr. Selvig walked through the front door, carrying a large silver case with him. He gave Loki a questioning look and Loki pointed his scepter at the dining room table. They both stepped into the other room while Loki said, “You must tell me what you have gleaned so far in your studies, Selvig. The Tesseract has many glorious secrets, tell me what you will require to unlock them. When Barton returns, we will discuss strategy and find you a suitable environment for you to accomplish the tasks I have for you…”
Over the next thirty minutes, more than one unfamiliar face entered the once abandoned house, effectively turning Bella’s safe house into their temporary headquarters. Bella figured out quickly that the man in green was in charge and that Clint was his second in command. Clint barked out a list of orders at one point and the rest of them flew into action. The house was no longer the calm and empty space Bella was used to, but rather a whirlwind of excitement and energy.
The more Bella listened, the more concerned she grew. Most of what they discussed and the plans they made went right over Bella’s head, but that didn’t matter, not to her. She had no idea what they were planning, but neither did she really care. Clint was the only one she gave a damn about and she found herself desperate to talk to him.
He just didn’t sound like himself and that rubbed Bella the wrong way. How Clint acted bothered her more than anything else she’d seen tonight. The Clint downstairs wasn’t the same man she met at lunch today and that realization physically hurt. Her chest inexplicably throbbed in pain and she impulsively decided enough was enough. She needed to gain his attention somehow and draw him to her so she could have a chat with him in private.
At a loss on how, exactly, to go about doing that, Bella glanced around. Her gaze landed on the light switch to the right and an idea slowly started to take shape in her mind. She peeked out the door again just as Clint stepped back into the foyer beneath her, his expression calculating. Realizing he was finally alone, Bella didn’t waste another second and boldly flipped on the light. She then quickly tucked herself into the corner between the door and the wall, hiding herself from view while she listened for the sound of Clint’s footsteps.
Her heartbeat hammered away in her chest and she closed her eyes, saying a silent prayer. Bella knew there was a very strong possibility that everything was about to go to hell in a hand basket, but she still fervently prayed the gamble she just took would pay off somehow. Out of all the places Clint could’ve taken the men downstairs, he’d brought them here, to her. She couldn’t help thinking that there had to be a reason why fate had led him here. Foolishly, perhaps, she had an overwhelming instinct that fate wanted her to intervene, that fate wanted her to step in.
Over the last eleven months, Bella had thought about the idea of fate often. She was the only human in the world to live after being let in on the vampire secret and she thought about how differently her life could’ve gone if she’d never discovered the Cullens were vampires. Bella liked to think there was a reason behind it all, a grand plan she couldn’t quite see. She didn’t know what part she played in that grand design, but Bella had faith that it existed. It was fate that brought the Cullens into her life. It was fate that led her to the wolves. It was fate that kept her in the library that night in Seattle, when Victoria was breaking into her dorm room.
Fate had brought Clint here and faith kept Bella standing there.
On her eighteenth birthday, the disastrous night that sent her life spinning in an entirely new direction, Carlisle had told her his story while he bandaged her wounds. During that story, he told her that he wasn’t sure if he believed in the things his father did, but he did believe there was some type of guiding force out there, looking out for them all. That conversation, the last one she ever had with him, was something she often replayed over the last year.
She, too, believed in that guiding force. Bella believed in fate. She believed that there was a reason things had turned out the way they had and she thought about fate in that moment. Her path had been a lonely one and she believed there was a reason Clint had crossed that path twice in one day. There had to be a reason he came here, a reason he unknowingly sought her out…
There had to be a reason why Clint’s path had brought him back to her.
In all honesty, Bella could’ve left at any time. She could’ve climbed out the window, gotten in her car, and driven away, but that thought never once occurred to her. She refused to even entertain the idea of leaving without Clint. Like letting the wolves face an army of newborn vampires, it just wasn’t an option to her. The idea of leaving Clint in such a perilous situation didn’t sit right with her and it was with a sad awareness that Bella realized their fates were bound. If Clint never left this abandoned property, then neither would she.
It didn’t take long for Clint to notice a light had been turned on upstairs and, like any well trained soldier, he decided to check it out, just as Bella hoped he would. Pure adrenaline coursed through her veins while she listened to the sound of feet slowly climbing the staircase. Bella’s body tensed with anxiety and she locked her muscles down, biting down hard on her bottom lip as Clint cautiously stepped onto the second landing. She stopped breathing entirely when she heard his footsteps come to a stop just outside her door, not daring to exhale.
Gun raised, Clint slowly pushed the door open and Bella silently backed up even more, pressing her back into the wall behind her. Clint took a step inside, his raised gun inching just past the edge of the door, and Bella stared at it with wide, startled eyes. For a second, she found herself frozen in place, unable to move even if she had the nerve to. She hadn’t exactly thought her impulsive plan through and she was afraid one false move would get her shot.
Clint warily scanned the room before slowly relaxing, lowering his weapon, and Bella nearly let out a relieved sigh. Seeing no signs of life and believing the room to be empty, Clint holstered his side arm and took a step back, turning to leave. To Bella’s relief, Clint paused and looked at the room again with furrowed brows. Deciding he needed to take a closer look, he stepped further into the room and Bella soundlessly started to shut the door behind him.
Hesitantly, she reached out with a trembling hand, simultaneously pressing the door gently shut with her foot. The door made a small clicking sound and Clint stilled in front of her, his body subtly tensing when he realized someone was behind him.
“Clint,” she whispered as she gently placed her hand on his shoulder, a move she greatly regretted less than a second later.
Clint whipped around, moving so quickly that she would’ve missed it had she blinked, and roughly slammed her against the door, his hands on her throat. Immediately, she attempted to push him away, frantically scrambling for air, but she quickly realized doing so was a futile endeavor.
Clint was well trained, talented in hand to hand combat, incredibly strong, and had reflexes so quick that the speed he moved at shocked her. She expected all of those things from Victoria, but she hadn’t expected them from a human, and she realized instantly that Clint had unparalleled skill. She didn’t know how to best someone with his training and she didn’t even try to. Even if her perceptive mind could’ve come up with something in that moment, Bella wouldn’t have carried it out. At her core, she didn’t want to hurt him. Clint made her protective instincts flare and everything within her violently rebelled against the thought of intentionally harming him.
Panicking, Bella’s frightened brown eyes locked onto his deadened blue ones and that was when her world tilted, shifting on its axis. She hadn’t been able to see his eyes very clearly until that moment and she could see now that something was tragically wrong with them. His eyes were still blue, yes, but they weren’t the same beautiful shade that damn near hypnotized her earlier today. Gone was the steely blue color, a strange icy hue in its place. In fact, both eyes had an eerie blue sheen to them. Even the whites of his eyes were tinged with blue. What bothered her most, though, was how utterly empty and lifeless they looked.
During lunch, Clint struck her as a man full of energy, his eyes vibrant and dancing with a beautiful spark of life. Now that spark was decidedly lacking and his once warm eyes were so cold and unfeeling that she instinctively shivered. Her stomach abruptly twisted, knotting up in a sickening way, and her heart constricted painfully, leaving her wholly unsettled. She had enough experience with vampire abilities to recognize it when someone was being influenced and it was obvious, at least to her, that Clint was no longer in the driver’s seat. She understood now why Clint didn’t sound like the same man she met earlier today. Someone had taken control of his mind and commandeered his body.
A lone tear escaped her as the edges of her vision started fading into black. Bella knew she was dying, that she didn’t stand a chance against someone like Clint, but it wasn’t her own death that pained her. She’d been living on borrowed time for so long that she just couldn’t seem to summon the energy to feel upset about it. Instead, all she felt about her death was acceptance. The tears gathering in her eyes had nothing to do with realizing death had finally caught up with her. She wasn’t crying for herself… she was crying for Clint, painfully aware of what it felt like to feel betrayed by one’s own body.
Even now, years later, Bella could still vividly remember how frustrated she felt anytime Jasper altered her mood or put her to sleep without her permission. Likewise, she also recalled how nauseated it made her whenever Edward dazzled her into doing things she would’ve never agreed to if he hadn’t used his vampire allure against her. Knowing they could influence her that way, and that it would be an easy thing for them to do, put her on edge. It didn’t matter how much she loved Jasper and Edward in that moment, they had the power to usurp her free will, and that knowledge always left her feeling helpless and painfully vulnerable. Sensing this, Jasper rarely touched her emotions from that point on in an effort to help her feel like she wasn’t powerless. She wished she could’ve said the same for Edward.
Bella knew what it was like to have her mind think one thing and her body do something else entirely. She knew what it felt like to have someone else take control of her body, to make her emotionally react in a way she normally wouldn’t. She also knew what it was like to have another’s will and desires forced upon her.
Bella hadn’t realized how controlling Edward was until long after he’d left her. She was blind to his faults at first, but the past three years, especially the last eleven months, had given her a lot of time to reflect on their relationship. She slowly began seeing the unhealthy relationship for what it was, a need for control on his side and codependence on hers. Edward exercised his control over her by making decisions for her without her input and dazzling her whenever she showed the slightest bit of resistance. Every time Edward dazzled her into agreeing with him, he was forcing her to comply with his will.
Sadly, Bella knew her experiences with manipulative abilities were only a pale shadow of what Clint was currently going through. Jasper and Edward had gently influenced her, but whoever took control of Clint was anything but gentle. The man controlling him had forcibly ripped away Clint’s free will and viciously taken full control of his mind.
Bella couldn’t even begin to imagine the pain Clint would feel when he finally regained control. If Bella was so bothered by being dazzled into compliance by Edward and having her mood altered by Jasper, how would Clint feel when he realized he didn’t just have his emotions controlled, but his entire body and mind?
If he ever regained control at all.
With that last terrifying thought, something inside Bella’s mind snapped. An uncontrollable urge to protect Clint welled up within her and she reached out, gently cupping his face with her hands. She wanted to protect him so badly, to shield him from the influence of the puppet master currently pulling his strings, and something within her mind responded to that desperate urge. A shimmering force suddenly shot forward, spreading from Bella to Clint, and molded itself to his body. Inexplicably, she could suddenly feel him, sense his mind like seeing a spark ignite in the darkest of alleys. She watched in wonder as the unnatural blue faded from his eyes and his features became more cognizant, more aware.
Clint blinked rapidly for a second before his eyes widened and he murmured, “Bella?”
Relief flooded through her and the shimmering force snapped back to her mind like someone releasing a taught rubber band. Her entire body jolted in surprise and the stilted movement caused a flood of tears to escape her brimming eyes. Clint’s expression abruptly shifted from confusion to pure horror and he released his hold on her throat so quickly that she stumbled forward at the speed. He caught her about the waist, steadying her, while she sucked in a huge, painful breath, greedily gulping down air.
Trembling with relief, Bella slipped her arms around his neck and tucked her face into the crook of it. Clint pulled her even closer to him and wrapped his arms tightly around her. With an expression of absolute guilt and remorse, he brought his lips to her ear and thickly whispered, “I’m so sorry, Bella. I don’t… That wasn’t… I wasn’t in control.”
Bella nodded in agreement and tightened her hold on him. She knew that wasn’t him. When she sensed the spark that was his mind, it had radiated warmth, strength, and security. It was the mind of a man who wanted to protect her, not kill her. It was the mind of someone she was truly safe with. Bella was just grateful he was back.
Clint scanned the room around them while Bella tried to control her breathing, thinking furiously as he tried to come up with a plan. He remembered everything, but it was like he had been operating on autopilot. He’d been oddly disassociated from everything he did. Every action he took, every word that he spoke, and every decision he made stemmed from a connection with Loki. Every thought he had was centered on meeting Loki’s needs and helping him achieve his goals. The second Loki touched Clint’s chest with the blade of that scepter, he stopped connecting emotionally to his own thoughts. Loki had taken Clint, a high level operative of S.H.I.E.L.D., and turned him into a glorified butler. Under his control, Clint’s entire life became centered on serving Loki and he felt nauseated just thinking about it.
Now that his mind was solely his own again, Clint felt disturbingly vulnerable and violated. Surprisingly, Clint found that his lack of control wasn’t even the worst part about it. The worst part was hands down the way he felt while under Loki’s sway… or maybe he should say didn’t feel. Loki had hollowed him out, taken out everything that made him who he was, and stuffed something else inside him, something cold, calculating, and ruthless.
All human emotion, everything that made him humane, had been stripped away from him and replaced with the chilling sensation of ice flowing through his veins. The only thing Clint could even remotely consider an emotion was the weird, twisted sense of loyalty he’d felt to the being who suppressed his humanity.
Everything that made Clint the man he was, a man Clint was proud of, was brutally torn away from him and replaced with the need to help Loki succeed whatever the cost. Under Loki’s thrall, everything Clint valued and cared for became meaningless to him. Even Bella, the girl who could make his heart hammer in his chest by aiming just one shy blush in his direction, meant absolutely nothing to him. Loki had destroyed the man Clint had so proudly become and turned him into the type of man Clint openly despised, one who didn’t care who he hurt as long his objective was met.
Clint never wanted to become a man like that, a man with a casual disregard for human life. He joined S.H.I.E.L.D. instead of becoming a mercenary because he valued human life. He didn’t want to be a gun for hire; he wanted to be on the side that fought for the victims instead of the side responsible for creating them. Clint had always wanted to protect others, not destroy them. To his dismay, Clint had almost turned Bella into one of those victims.
Since the moment he’d met her, Bella had constantly been in Clint’s thoughts. Speaking with Bella had a profound affect on Clint and, by the time Clint had to say goodbye and head back to base, he already cared deeply for her. There was just something about her that called to him. He wanted her, yes, but he also wanted to be there for her. He wanted Bella to come to him with her problems and he wanted to be the one she counted on when she felt backed into a corner. Clint wanted to be a part of Bella’s life, which honestly surprised the hell out of him. The desire to get close to a girl was an urge he could honestly say he hadn’t felt in years. With the way he felt for her, he never imagined he’d ever end up in a position like this. He never thought he’d be the one to hurt her.
After spending just one afternoon with the dark haired beauty, Clint had found himself doing anything and everything he could to find a way to protect her. Under Loki’s influence, though, every positive emotion he felt towards Bella had been stolen away from him. Instead of seeing Bella as someone to cherish and protect, he saw her as a threat. She was a possible witness that could lead S.H.I.E.L.D. straight to them. He’d seen her as a problem he needed to take care of. Where warmth once resided in his chest, all Clint felt was ice and he reacted like a man with a heart made of it. His altered thoughts had turned calculating and he spent less than a second deciding whether or not he would let her live. Coming to the ruthless conclusion that Bella was of no use to Loki, he attacked.
Clint cringed at the memory of wrapping his hands around the throat of the beautiful girl in his arms. The very thought of ending her sickened him, but it was like his humanity had been flipped off in that moment. All the warmth her presence normally evoked had been missing and in its place had been a coldness that chilled him to the bone.
He knew he was incredibly lucky Bella had acted before it was too late. If she had reached out just one minute later… Clint shuddered at the thought. It made him undeniably queasy to realize he almost killed her and he was so incredibly thankful Bella had used whatever ability she had to somehow give him back control. And Clint knew, without a doubt, that Bella was the one responsible for restoring that control. He felt it when she touched him, felt warmth once again flowing into his body and taking up residence in his heart. With the return of that warmth came his protective instincts and all the emotions Loki had stolen away from him.
Something about Bella drew him to her, like a moth to the flame, and kicked his protective side into overdrive. Loki was literally downstairs, hatching a plan to bring an army to Earth, and he had the Tesseract with him, but neither were Clint’s priority at that moment. Bella was. He needed to get her out of here immediately and meet up with Fury.
Clint gently ran a comforting hand through Bella’s silky hair while he thought. The very last thing he wanted to do was put her in more danger, but she was currently his only defense against Loki’s mind control. It looked like Bella Swan was about to be recruited into S.H.I.E.L.D.
“We’re not safe here,” he whispered and felt her nodding against his neck in agreement. “Stay behind me and stick close. Keep as quiet as you can and I’ll get us out. Can you do that?”
When she nodded again, he pulled back and looked into her eyes. It astonished him to see the amount of trust shining in those deep pools of chocolate. He literally just tried to kill her and yet, somehow, Bella still trusted him. He found himself awed by her in that moment. She was truly amazing.
Taking advantage of having her so close, Clint ran his knuckles tenderly down her cheek and the ghost of a smile tugged at her lips. He nodded to himself and pressed a quick kiss to her forehead before turning towards the door. Quickly realizing what he wanted to do, Bella took a step back, giving him room, and wisely shut off the light. Cracking the door open a sliver, he quickly did a head count of the minions Loki had created. He then silently shut it again and made his way to the window. Bella quietly followed him.
With a quick, calculating glance, Clint made sure the coast was relatively clear before gently sliding the window open. He threw a glance Bella’s way and motioned her closer. She bit her lip nervously as she moved forward, stepping into the moonlight that filtered through the window, and Clint stifled a groan.
Lip biting was not something that was going to help him focus.
With a quick mental shake, Clint ducked his head and climbed out onto the roof. Fortunately, the house was built with an overhang, one that overshadowed the first floor. Bella quickly ducked down and followed him out the window. He helped her gain her footing before pressing her up against the wall with his arm while he peeked around the corner and took in the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents turned guards out front. He could hotwire one of the cars if they could get to it, but he wasn’t sure if the guards would recognize him as a threat now. Having experienced mind control himself, he was reluctant to kill them and hesitated a second in indecision.
Before Clint could make up his mind, Bella gently tugged on his sleeve. He turned his attention back to her and she silently held up a set of car keys before pointing to an SUV parked in back, cleverly hidden behind a storage shed. She then pointed to a drainage pipe that ran down the side of the house before raising her eyebrows at him in question. He gave her an admiring look, realizing she already had an exit strategy in place, and Bella blushed.
It dawned on Clint in that moment that this was why Bella had lured him upstairs, she knew they could slip out the window and book it to her car. Bella was just waiting for him to make her move. She could’ve easily left without him, but she turned on the light and drew him upstairs instead. The sheer amount of pleasure that swept through him with that knowledge was ridiculous. He couldn’t keep the smile from forming on his face if he tried.
Grinning, Clint took the keys from her as he backtracked. The front of his body brushed against hers as he passed her on the way to the drainage pipe and he literally felt the air between them heat. Taken off guard, he paused in front of her, stunned by the sheer amount of chemistry they shared. She tilted her head up to meet his gaze and, acting on impulse, he ducked down and stole a kiss.
More adrenaline pumped through his body than he’d ever felt before when he pressed his lips to hers. It felt like pure electricity was running through his veins in that moment, like a live wire ran just beneath his skin. Bella came alive in his arms and trailed her fingers up his chest, locking her hands together at the nape of his neck. Her touch alone made his body pulse with small, electric shocks and he pressed himself into her on instinct, his hands settling on her deliciously curved hips.
When her lips parted, he swore he’d died and gone to heaven. The taste of her exploded on his tongue and he deepened the kiss, more than eager to experience everything her tempting mouth had to offer. A small groan escaped him and he had to force himself to pull back. Flushed and breathless, she looked even more inviting as he rested his forehead against hers. She bit that damn lip again and he silently wondered if she knew what a turn on that habit of hers was. He trailed his hands up her body and sank his fingers in her hair before warning her in a rough whisper, “This conversation isn’t over.”
Somehow, her flushed skin seemed to turn even redder and he chuckled softly before pulling away, refocusing himself on the task at hand. He was beginning to see hope for a real future with Bella, so he had every intention of keeping them both alive to see that hope one day become a reality.
He quickly shimmied down the drainage pipe and looked up at Bella, who was eyeing the pipe with a nervous, yet slightly excited expression that intrigued him. Climbing down the pipe was such a small stunt in the grand scheme of things, but it was also something the average person would never do and Clint noted in the back of his mind how Bella was more excited to try it than scared. It was something he’d think about later.
Clint glanced around the corner, making sure they were still undetected, before catching Bella’s attention. He gave her the go ahead with a quick hand signal and watched as she gathered her resolve, her shoulders squaring with determination. Moving at a much more careful pace than he did, she began climbing her way down.
Two feet down, her hands slipped and she nearly lost her footing completely, making his nerves soar. He didn’t even think before he reacted and positioned himself beneath her, ready catch her if she fell. She paused a second and astonishment once again filled him as she quickly undid her belt and looped it around the pipe. Bella gripped the belt tightly and used the leverage it gave her to secure a firm hold before resuming her climb.
Clint had to admire her quick thinking and ingenuity. She was obviously a problem solver and he knew that would help her enormously in the coming days. Oddly, it was almost like she was born to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. He knew from experience she was constantly aware of her surroundings and she proved earlier that she always had an exit strategy. He also knew from the background check he ran on her that she knew how to keep herself off the grid. She graduated at the top of her class, so she definitely had the wits needed to succeed and she showed him earlier today how sharp her eyes were, how perceptive she was. For someone he attacked just minutes ago, she was also remarkably calm and extremely resilient. Her latest feat with the belt just assured him she could handle this. She could handle life as an agent.
He just needed to train her how to fight.
It bothered Clint that she hadn’t put up much of a struggle when he had his hands wrapped around her throat. For someone looking death in the eyes, Bella hadn’t fought very hard to save herself. Granted, it would’ve been difficult for even some of the best trained agents to take him down, but Bella didn’t know that.
Throwing her energy into whatever ability she had instead of fighting to free herself, though, turned out to be a wise move. Even if she had thrown all of her energy into freeing herself, it wouldn’t have been enough. He silently wondered if she hadn’t fought harder because she knew that, knew she was outmatched. After all, there had been a second where her eyes lit up with realization, a sad awareness, right before she gently reached out and tenderly laid her hands on his cheeks.
Clint found himself desperate to know what she’d been thinking about in that moment. What was it that made Bella go from struggling against him to caressing the face of the man trying to kill her? Warmth had flooded into him through her fingertips, melting the frost Loki had encased his heart in. As her warmth chased away the bitter cold, Clint had slowly regained control and steadily grew more alert.
Even after his mind had been fully restored to him, Clint swore he could still feel the warmth of Bella wrapped around him. It felt like his body was covered from head to toe in a protective force of pure love and warmth. Love and security literally clung to him like a second skin, like the emotions were a tangible layer coating his body.
Never before had he felt so loved and protected, so cherished and safe, as he did in that moment. He breathed out her name and that layer was suddenly snatched away from him, pulled in Bella’s direction. Bella flinched, making him painfully aware that whatever invisible energy was so forcefully yanked away from him snapped back into Bella just as forcefully. The baffled look on her face told him that she was just as thrown by the turn of events as he was. It was obvious to Clint that Bella hadn’t even realized she had an ability until she used it to save him.
In all his years as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Clint had never once experienced or witnessed something like that before. He’d come across people who had developed abilities from experiments gone wrong, others who had been the victims of a few crazy scientists, geniuses who created technology to give themselves an edge, and even encountered beings with magic like Thor, who literally hailed from another planet, but he’d never come across someone like Bella, someone with an ability that hadn’t been caused by an outside source in some way.
The only beings he’d met who held some type of ability like hers, something magically fueled, came from Asgard. There was nothing in Bella’s history that suggested she had been involved in an experiment gone awry, so Clint began wondering if something happened to her when she went off-grid. For some reason, that theory didn’t feel right to him. He could feel Bella when she used her ability, sense the tender warmth of her spirit. Whatever that force was, it was literally a part of her.
Ironically, it felt like Bella’s ability was a physical manifestation of S.H.I.E.L.D. Bella had literally shielded him from Loki’s influence.
Nordic gods and shieldmaidens, he mentally scoffed. What the hell is going on around here?