Fic I've Chosen To Remix (please include link): Miss Fisher's Murder Mystery AU
Rating/warnings: PG13 for a dead body, Natasha does not do nice things for a living (nothing is graphic or on screen)
Summary: Detective Inspector Barton is not surprised to find Natasha Romanoff in the vicinity of a corpse. Not even a corpse in the underbelly of the space station and her in a ball gown.
Author's Note: Written for the be_compromised 2014 Remix Exchange. frea_o challenged me to write an AU of an AU and when I got the lovely hufflepuffsneak in this remix I had plenty of AUs to choose from! I ended up going through many versions of this, from a dystopian space ship searching for new worlds to a steampunk space station, and this is where I ended up. Hopefully I did justice to their excellent peaks through the window into alternate worlds. Thanks go to franztastisch and alphaflyer for cheerleading and sugar_fey for organizational awesome. (Also here on AO3)
“Well, I would say I’m surprised,” says Detective Inspector Barton on finding her crouching next a corpse in Freight Storage 17B, “but I don’t think you would believe me.”
He’s a much more appealing sight than the dead body that was previously the focus of Natasha’s attention and she takes the time to thoroughly appreciate it. Barton wears the standard black jumpsuit of SHIELD – the Strategic Hub Intervention, Enforcement, and Law Division. It’s a practical design meant to protect the wearer from injury and the colder temperatures of the lesser used areas of the space station, covering everything except his head and hands, but he fills it well with his broad shoulders and muscular arms, and his face is Natasha’s favourite part of the picture anyway. Particularly the way the corners of his mouth curve upwards in pleasure at seeing her however much he tries to fight it.
He offers her a hand up and she accepts, taking care not to stand on her dress. The floor-length gown is an extravagant Upper Deck design perfect for the gala where her evening had begun and not so perfect for filthy docking and storage areas. She likes the effect it seems to have on Barton though.
She leaves her hand in his for longer than necessary and adds the way his cheeks flush to the list of his physical attributes that she does so like to admire.
“Well I am a Private Investigator after all,” she replies, “and it’s easy enough to tell when you’re lying, Detective Inspector.”
“Now that the police are here you can return to your practice,” he says, turning his back to her to examine the body, but obviously also to hide his face. “I’m sure there’s a missing dog somewhere that needs to be found.”
Natasha has never found a missing dog in her life. Missing persons, yes, and then depending on the reason for their disappearance either returned them or ensured that they stayed missing for good. She has returned missing cargo, jewels, and drugs, with and without evidence of the deaths of those who did the stealing. She has destroyed people and their families to ensure that things have remained missing. She has dealt with a great number of missing things in fact, but so far none of them have involved dogs.
There are those that say the Strategic Hub exists to preserve order in all things aboard the station, but that if you want something done to your satisfaction then you hire private help. In this case, if you want law and order go to SHIELD and if you want justice hire an Investigator. Natasha isn’t naive enough to call what she does justice though. It’s payment for services rendered, and she deals in lucrative cases.
The Hub, tied by their own rules, have to accept the existence of people like her unless they can actually prove an instance of them committing a crime. Natasha is in the habit of avoiding SHIELD, not that she would ever do anything that would provide them with evidence that could stick, but there’s something about Barton that makes her do moronic things like remain at murder scenes when SHIELD are on their way just because she knows that he’s on shift.
“Well, I suppose I can leave if you need me to, but the woman who owns the property has asked me to look into things.”
“Someone owns an entire Freight room?” Barton asks oh-so-innocently. As if she she’ll let slip that her current employer owns the room or the cargo their corpse is decaying next to so that he can figure out who said employer is.
(Actually her employer owns both, and five more Freight rooms besides.)
“Now, now, none of that,” she says and Barton sighs.
“Any conclusions you’d like to share then, Miss Ramonoff?”
“I do love to be of service to the police,” Natasha answers with a smile that, unlike Barton, she doesn’t try to hide. “He wasn’t killed here,” she begins, stalling for time whilst she works out how much she can tell him and how little she can get away with.
Barton nods in agreement. “There’s no blood.”
She considers the dead man and what she could feasibly know about him just from this crime scene. She’s able to determine he’s in his late fifties and was a heavy drinker if she’s reading the veins in his face correctly, yet there’s no signs of alcohol on his person. The jumpsuit and its shabbiness tells her that he worked the Lower Decks, and oddly he smells of shoe polish and butter when a man in his position wouldn’t be able to afford either.
The most obvious thing is the gaping stab wound in the man’s chest, so Natasha takes great pleasure in stating, “And I’ll think you’ll find that cause of death was poison.”
“Poison,” Barton repeats flatly.
“If you want to know more, you’ll need to invite me to join your investigation.”
Abruptly Barton’s full attention is on her, his eyebrows raised, and Natasha knows how he feels because she can’t believe the words that have just come out of her mouth either. There is no way that this can end well.
“Sir!” A SHIELD subordinate jogs out from between two aisles of plastic wrapped pallets. She side eyes Natasha as she comes to halt. “Message from the Hub, Sir.”
“Continue,” the Detective Inspector orders, despite the Officer’s discomfort at sharing a message too sensitive for electronic communication in front of a civilian.
“There’s been… an incident at the Richardson gala, Deck 3.”
Barton pauses her there with a raised hand, his attention never having left Natasha; Natasha in her gorgeous designer gown.
“Miss Romanoff, would you assist the police in this murder investigation?”
“Why, Dectective Inspector Barton, I’d be delighted,” she says, as if there’s any other answer she could give now, but she can’t stop the urge to run from welling up or her fingers from curling inwards towards the illegal weapons disguised as heavy bracelets that she wears on both wrists.
Barton’s sharp eyes track the movement and he shifts his bodyweight just enough to draw attention to the quiver and bow on his back, archaic but capable of killing at a distance without fear of piercing the space station’s hull. Not that Barton ever misses, or so she’s heard.
“Your further information: he was poisoned with nitrobenzene. He smells like shoe polish, despite the fact his shoes have obviously never been shined since he bought them.”
“Really?” says Barton, challenging her. “And how do you know the smell of nitrobenzene?”
“Reading. It does wonders for the mind.”
Natasha dares to wink at him, because why not at this point, and leaves him and the Officer to have their private chat whilst she inspects the surrounding area before the SHIELD cleaning crew shows up, pretending she can’t feel Barton’s eyes on her every step of the way.