Disclaimer: I am not Stan Lee or Marvel or Disney. Therefore, I own nothing of these characters.

There are spoilers for the film. (But that shouldn't matter because you've all seen it. If you haven't, then, seriously, go right now. It's amazing. Actually, even if you've already seen it, go see it again. I don't mind. I'll wait here til you're done.)

She'd brushed it away when he'd asked. Hadn't even waited for the entire question to make it out of his mouth.

"How many agents did- "

"Don't torture yourself like that", she'd told him. "It's not you. It's Loki. It's magic and monsters and nothing we ever were trained for." And she wasn't wrong. Clint had lived on battlefields of one kind or another for the better part of his life and, even just coming off of the twisted gut-wrenching realization of being so used as he had been, he knew that she was telling him the truth. It was something every soldier, every warrior, had to learn eventually. Well, the ones who managed to stay whole.

Control was faint at best and illusionary at worst. Nothing governed a firefight but physics and God. Attacks would come whether or not you were prepared, whether or not you were equipped. People died though your hand never faltered in staunching the blood flow, though you made it back with the medicine in time, though the mission was over and you were supposed to be safe. You had to learn to do what you needed to do, knowing all the while that your effort and emotion might come to nothing.

It was something he'd thought he had mastered, far before taking up arms for his country in the military. When his father came home, full of whiskey and the bitterness if failed to dull, it had never mattered what Clint did. If the house was clean, if he stayed perfectly quiet, if the food was prepared, if he had good grades, if he didn't talk back then the pain came anyway. His father would yell the excuses, shout his justification for such 'punishment' but Clint had been four when he'd realized that, in this, there was nothing he could do to change the outcome.

So he had learned to control the only thing he could. His actions might never dictate change but choosing to act was still his. And when his first mission went south, those old lessons came back and found a new application.

This time, though, he'd lost control of the one thing he thought he had. Of course he'd had SERE (SHIELD had their very own special, home-made version of it). He'd been put through the paces of what it could mean to be influenced or compromised or, yes, tortured into acting against his beliefs. But this had been so utter, so complete. To be unmade. To be, essentially, himself except with any of his own input. If he tried to think back, the memories of his actions were hazy, tinged with flaring red, but the sense of reasoning behind it had been absolute.

He'd known that Natasha was right. It's Loki, not you. If he had ever deluded himself into thinking that he knew how the world worked, into believing that, at the very least, he could control himself, then the world was teaching him that control is never absolute in human hands. And he would, as he always had, work to reconcile himself with that.

But for now, he was himself and Natasha could be right all she wanted. After the clean-up crew arrived and Loki was properly stowed away and everyone proved themselves to be more or less in one piece, Clint had found an empty lab (not an easy task when half the Helicarrier had been blown or crushed or smashed or rammed through). He'd pulled a chair toward a working console and hacked, with a little subtlety, into the infirmary's records. He'd followed the name of each of the dead or injured into their personnel files and he read about all the people he had killed.

It wouldn't change anything. That, like so many other things lately, was beyond him. But he could make the choice not to turn away.

Natasha leaned against the cool metal wall right beside the doorway. She knew Clint was inside and she knew what he was doing. She wasn't entirely sure she knew why, beyond a sense of guilt that made him a better person than he would ever acknowledge, but she left him alone for now. He was a grown man, a Hell of a soldier, and perfectly capable of making his own decisions. And if she told herself that enough, maybe the rising urge to drag him bodily away from that screen would go away.

She glanced up at the sound of footsteps echoing in what should've been an abandoned hallway. She didn't reach for her gun but she didn't relax either. "Mr. Stark."

"Ms. Romanov." He came with a smile and a jaunty wave that seemed out of place with the slight limp he walked with and the bandages visible from beneath his sleeve.

"Agent," she corrected and was surprised at his reaction. Something about her reminder - or was it the word itself? - darkened his expression and slowed his pace. She wondered quietly what could cause something like that in a man like Stark. "Is there something I can help you with?"

"Not unless you've got a couple hundred terabytes for me to sift through." She arched an eyebrow at him. "No, not here for you. The computers in Banner's lab are either fried or in pieces. Thankfully somebody had some foresight and all research is automatically saved every thirty seconds. You can only access the information from another lab, though. I need the room behind you."

"It's in use."

"By who? Or," he held up a hand, "better question, by who that's more important than me?" He made to step around her but she shifted smoothly to block his path. "Ooh. Is someone still iffy about my hacking into your network? Because I figured we'd put that all behind us, what with my saving the world and everything." He mimicked holding a globe in his hands. "Whole world. All me. Mostly me." Natasha crossed her arms. "Okay, you helped. Will you let me get on with potentially ground-breaking work?"

"This isn't SHIELD. This is me, telling you that this room is being used. Find some place else." Tony opened his mouth and Natasha, wrangling every instinct that told her to do otherwise, cut him off with an added, "Please."

Tony stopped, his look sharpening with interest and something that might have been concern. She knew such a sudden shift in her demeanor would likely only spur his curiosity and desire to get into the room. But she guessed (hoped) that it would be exactly that which would make him reign himself in. "You know, I'm not a big fan of secrets," he told her.

She almost smiled at that because Tony Stark had been three minutes into a press conference before he announced to the world he was Iron Man and she, who was so good at what she did, had been mere weeks undercover when his nosing around caused suspicion. "I know."

He nodded and turned to walk away. And she returned to leaning on the wall, trying to listen to what might be happening inside despite the thickness of the door.

In the ruins of what had been his lab, Bruce sifted through twisted metal and broken glass for anything that might be salvageable.

"Dr. Banner," Steve greeted as he walked in, "I didn't know you would be here."

"There isn't really any other place for me to go," he said. There was very little chance of him retrieving anything worth keeping but it had looked like the only other place he'd be welcome to stay was the infirmary. "Mr. Stark was here briefly, as well, but I think he went to find out if anything of our work can be saved." He pushed the glasses further up on his nose, turning to cast a brief glance at the soldier. "What are you doing here, Captain?"

Steve shrugged, looking a bit sheepish. "There isn't any place for me to go right now, either. They assigned me quarters when I came aboard but I think you and Thor sort of...rolled through them."

Bruce nodded. The only thing he remembered before waking up naked in an empty warehouse was Agent Romanov. He remembered that she tried to calm him down, tried to reassure him but there had been fear in her voice. Feeling his heartbeat speed up (not out of fear or anger, but at the thought of being the cause of such fear and anger), he forcefully pulled his thoughts away and back to the present. "Sorry," he offered.

Steve looked surprised but smiled. "I wasn't blaming you, doc. Doubt anyone else is either."

"Good to know they won't be sending a bill for the repairs."

"Ha! If they're going to bill anyone, it would be me, because I could actually afford it," Tony said as he came in. "Not that I'd pay it. Because what happened today? Definitely worth more than a consultant's fee."

"You could've just commed me," Bruce said to Tony. "If you were able to retrieve the information, it would be better to stay in a functioning lab while we review it. There's nothing working in here."

"I don't have it."


"Well, according to the schematics I had Jarvis download - "

"You mean after hacking into encrypted files?" Steve asked mildly.

Tony, for a brief second, wasn't sure if an argument was starting again, but caught the joke for what it was. He sighed. "Yes, fine, according to the schematics I very illegally downloaded - bad me - they only have three labs on this tub. One that they gave to you, Dr. Banner. One that is mostly strewn across the Atlantic Ocean. And a smaller, almost back-up one, which is "in use" currently." As he talked Tony made his way out of the room, confident as always, that everyone would follow him. After exchanging a look, Bruce and Steve did so.

Walking down the small set of stairs and into Command, Tony shooed one of the agents away from a working console. Steve was about to point out that maybe the man was doing something important until he saw the Galaga screen right before Tony pulled up something else. "What're you doing now?"

"You can't access anything from here." Bruce frowned. "That was the point of going to the - "

"I'm not looking for the research. I'm trying to get into the security cameras." Tony noticed that the volume of his voice had caught the attention of the woman sitting next to him. She stared at the three of them rather stonily and he rolled his eyes. "Please. Like it isn't anything I couldn't have done otherwise. It's just faster if I don't have to start from the outside."

"Care to explain why you're doing it at all?" Steve asked.

"The last lab, the smallest, was being used."

"Yeah, you mentioned that," Bruce said.

"Ms., er, Agent Romanov was standing guard by the door and kept me from going in. She wouldn't tell me why."

Steve shook his head. "That's not a surprise."

"It wasn't a SHIELD thing. It's something else." Tony looked at his two teammates. "And she said please." That was enough to silence them both, for a moment anyway. A few more rapid clicks and the screen was filled with the clear image of a hallway where Natasha Romanov was leaning against a wall. The time stamp in the corner told them that it was current and Tony quickly found the equivalent of a "rewind" button. It seemed that she had been there, mostly unmoving for at least three hours before they saw why. Just far back enough, they watched as Clint walked through the empty hallway and slipped into the room, followed minutes later by his redheaded guard.

Tony rubbed his hands together. "Now to find out what he's doing."

Author's Note: That was a bad place to end this but I needed a break-off point and couldn't really find anywhere else for it to go. I'm sorry that the end is so abrupt.

The italicized parts in the first section are quoted from the movie, or as closely as I can remember it.

I'm slightly mixing MCU-verse with comic-verse, when it comes to Hawkeye's history. In the movie, Hawkeye seems to be a composite between the world-616 character and the Ultimates counterpart, but I'll be going off of the original for now. Since The Avengers didn't really expand on his past very much, let's all pretend that I'm not cheating. XD Other than that, I've tried to keep everyone in character with how they were in the movie.

Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear what you think. God bless.