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04 May 2015 @ 04:27 pm
fic: an eye for an eye  
This is not the Age of Ultron fic you're looking for ;p This is the continuation of me writing demon AU fills for Valentine's prompts, because, hey, it's only May. This isn't all that bad timing for me!

Title: an eye for an eye (also on AO3)
Rating/Warnings: PG13 (off-screen multilation of dead bodies, sometimes Clint kills people for a living, this demon wants to eat dead people, swearing, and Clint rambing whilst on drugs - for medical reasons)
Length: 4515 words
Summary: In which a red-haired demon follows Clint home, but he takes a while to catch on.
Author Note: Sequel to The Summoning. Written for this prompt from scribble_myname in the be_compromised 2015 Valentine's Mini Promptathon. With thanks to franztastisch for beta-reading this into better-ness :)
This is a mix of a lot of things – MCU, Fraction & Aja’s Hawkeye, and my portrayal of Stephen Strange is the MCU version that you haven’t met yet and will most likely be jossed ;) Remember: it’s not cannibalism if you’re eating a different species and the author takes no responsibility for anyone practicing demonic arts (even if acting on information provided by Strange).


An Eye For An Eye


As a Specialist, the SHIELD post-mission protocol applicable to Agent Clint Barton is a verbal debrief with his mission handler as soon as possible, followed by a written report to be submitted by an appropriate deadline of the handler’s choosing, which is usually forty-eight hours later.

Clint walks into Office 314 expecting to see Agent Garrett and to be done debriefing by lunch, since this is the fourth time that Garrett has run an op that Clint’s been on and there’s never been a problem because the guy knows his shit. Instead Clint’s faced with Deputy Director Maria Hill. Out of the field, it’s rare for SHIELD to break protocol and Hill especially hates doing it, so this is a flashing, neon sign signaling that something has gone sideways.

“To what do I owe the honour?”

There’s a free chair on the other side of the desk to hers and he drops into it, grateful to be off his feet and in an air-conditioned room after the jungle trek to his exit transport. Sweat has stuck his undershirt to his skin and he’s dying to remove his boots, but he’d never live down accidentally assassinating the DD with the smell.

“This is confirmation of the completion of your latest assignment,” Hill says, getting to straight to business.

She slides a photo in front of him. It’s a computer printout on glossy paper of his mark, complete with an arrow through their eye. The image is grainy due to being taken from a distance, probably a satellite image, and then blown up.

“And this,” she continues, placing a second photo next to the first, “was taken approximately eight minutes later.”

In image number two it looks like someone has skillfully sliced open the skin and muscle of the mark’s legs, peeled the layers back, and removed the kneecaps.

“Quick work,” says Clint.

A third photo is added to the row.

“And this is from three weeks ago, Hansen Mugambi, the first recorded confirmation image approximately two minutes post mission completion.”

Mugambi is missing all four fingers on his left hand, removed completely from the point where they’d join the hand at the knuckles.

Photo number four: a woman with sunken eye sockets, the eyes removed and leaving blood trails like tears behind.

Photo five: a hand severed at the wrist.

Photo six: seemingly nothing, then photo seven: a mouth held open by a gloved hand to show a cleanly sliced off tongue.

“Due to the timing and your direct involvement in each incident,” Hill says, both her tone and expression neutral, “you’re under investigation.”

“For what?” Clint picks up the second photo, of the missing kneecaps, to see if he can distinguish the type of blade used. “Mutilating my kills?”

“Have you ever kept trophies, Agent Barton?”

“Okay, first no, because ew.” Clint replaces the photo, leaving grimy fingerprints behind, and folds his arms before leaning forward and resting them on top of the desk. “Second, even if they were first on the scene, a person would be hard pressed to remove kneecaps that fast and that neatly, and, third, the whole point of being the sniper is to be far enough away that I’d be last on the scene, if ever.”

“Congratulations, Barton,” says Hill, folding her arms as well but her posture the opposite of Clint’s loose-limbed sprawl. “You can count to three.”

Clint sighs.

“You’re checking my quarters right now, aren’t you?”

“And your apartment.”

Hill is unapologetic. He’s always like that about her; that she never sounds sorry about being the person in charge who has to bust your balls or like she’s enjoying it either.

"Where would people even keep shit like that?"

"The fridge I suppose, if they didn't want it to smell. Or the freezer."

She also has a great poker face.

"Bodies in the freezer.” Clint scratches at his nose where drying sweat is making his skin itchy. “Too obvious. Everyone's seen that movie."

"Second freezer," Hill offers.

"Hidden in a secret room?"

“Behind a bin or the toilet.”

“Nasty.” Clint grins. “I like your thinking.”

He looks down at the photos still spread out in front of him. They were clean kills until body parts went astray.

“You don’t believe this has anything to do with me, right?”

Clint’s pretty sure that he knows the answer, but pretty sure isn’t sure and he needs to hear her say it.

"No." Hill sighs. "But if it isn't, I have to start considering if you have some kind of stalker."

"A stalker with a thing for body parts?"

"Yes."

“Well shit.”

He has to remain under Hill’s supervision in the office until long after lunch whilst his quarters and apartment are thoroughly searched for pieces of dead people. Though there aren’t, of course, any to find.

~O~

SHIELD have not inconsiderable resources when it comes to getting images from satellites, drones, security cameras, camera phones, and the other electronic eyes that watch the world, but Clint trusts his own eyes more. He starts staying longer than he really should in his nest after an execution order, but, even with eyesight and aim so good they call him ‘Hawkeye’, he still never catches the culprit in the act.

Neither do SHIELD.

Clint does three ops under Sitwell and another coordinated by Garrett before he finally gets called out for ‘idiotically dangerous behaviour’ by an Agent Coulson who runs the op in Calcutta. After that he’s back to vacating his nest as soon as his job is done, unless ordered otherwise.

He keeps track of the incidents and realizes it’s always his kill orders that are mutilated, never marks that he’s been tasked to get information from or to observe and track. Clint supposes that’s something to be grateful for at least, that his stalker isn’t a murderer. Although that’s kind of ironic considering that Clint is.

He tries to think of anything else the assignments have in common, other than Clint killing someone at the end of them, but there’s no kind of pattern that he can see. Hill lets him take a look at SHIELD’s official file when he asks nicely, because he has a reputation for spotting things other people miss, but even that brick of paperwork and the electronic archive yield no clues.

Failing that Clint tries to figure out how it’s done – the mechanics, the timing, the skill, the equipment needed – but it seems impossible. However he looks at it there’s no way someone could do these things in the time given and without being seen.

There’s a dead body and then there’s a dead body with parts missing. Like some kind of magic trick.

~O~

Clint meets SHIELD’s newest consultant on a Tuesday, after a mission in Milan that wasn’t supposed to end in any dead bodies but did when a number of people took issue to Clint leaving the city. Three dead, to be exact, and by the time the cleanup crew reached them they’d all somehow lost their left ears.

“This is Doctor Strange,” Hill says, doing the introductions. “Doctor Strange, Agent Barton.”

“Doctor of what?” Clint asks as he takes a seat at the small conference table.

“Medicine.”

“I was a surgeon,” says Strange quietly. “In a previous life.”

He seems to hover for a moment, uncertain of his next steps in this social situation when Clint hasn’t offered him a handshake and Hill hasn’t invited him to sit. The two SHIELD Agents watch his reactions, weighing him up, whilst pretending they couldn’t be less interested.

Eventually he decides to take a seat on the other side of the oval table to Clint but not quite opposite. He’s about Clint’s age, maybe a bit younger, with a beard that makes the estimate more difficult. His hands tremble slightly and he clasps them together on top of the table like he’s not ashamed of that, or at least trying not to be.

“Which is not the point,” Hill continues. She remains standing. “Doctor Strange is here as a specialist in the supernatural.”

“Magic, huh?” says Clint nonchalantly.

“SHIELD has always believed in exploring all possibly avenues of investigation,” says Hill, and there’s a slight reprimand in there. Even though when he’d returned his last review of the unofficially titled Barton’s Stalker File with a post it note saying that’s it, we’re looking for a magician she’d screwed up said note and launched it into his unfinished cup of coffee.

“Sure.” Clint leans back in his chair, carefully not smiling. “I grew up in a circus, remember? Fortunetellers, mind readers, we had the lot. Bring on the occult. Just no tarot cards or future readings, okay? I don’t mess with that kind of stuff.”

“Wise choice,” says Strange.

Clint laughs on the inside at what Hill must be thinking of him ever being described as ‘wise’, but her perfect poker face remains in place.

“What I had in mind was to test you for traces.”

“Magical, occult traces,” Clint clarifies, because watching Hill’s poker face is a thing of beauty, especially when you have some idea of the mental eye rolling she must be doing.

“Yes.”

Strange, on the other hand, doesn’t sound like someone who knows they’re being teased and is choosing to remain professional; Strange sounds like a Field Operative when they’ve been asked a stupid question like, ‘So have you ever killed anyone?’ He sounds like he’s seen it all and a civilian’s opinion doesn’t matter.

Clint sits up straighter in acknowledgement.

“Okay, so how’s that gonna work?”

Strange examines him with something that looks like the lovechild of a sextant and a barcode reader and pronounces him free of influence and charm, but with an aura of demonic darkness; specifically Fourth Level, as in Fourth Level of Hell. There are no smelly candles or incense involved. Clint isn’t sure whether to be disappointed about that or not – in the circus everything came with some kind of performance.

“Your stalker is a Fourth Level demon,” he says evenly, and Clint starts to wonder if Strange is also demonstrating a poker face or if these kinds of things are normal to him. “Usually a demon is summoned, confined within a circle, bound to a task, and then dismissed to Hell upon completion of that task. Unless the demon manages to trick or corrupt the one who summoned it.”

“Hey, I’ve not done any summoning of anything,” says Clint. Hill just looks at him and he insists, “No, really, I’m pretty damn sure I’d remember summoning a demon.”

“Hmm.” Strange peers at something on his device. “Alternatively someone else has summoned a demon and has sent it after you. Regardless, you are the focus of its attention. The fact that its actions are not harming you directly, and only to a relatively small degree indirectly, is highly unusual.”

“Fantastic.”

Strange blinks at that and Clint wonders what’s going on behind his eyes.

“So what protection can you give my Agent?” Hill asks. “And is there anything you can do to stop this thing from interfering in SHIELD business?”

“To answer both of your questions: nothing without further information.” Strange steeples his fingers, his hands steadier than they’ve been for the entirety of the meeting. “I will think on it.”

Clint shrugs. That’s that then.

~O~

There are more missions with missing body parts and a few missions without them, and then Clint gets injured and there are no missions at all. He checks himself out against medical advice, because that’s what he always does and, besides, Medical doesn’t have Dog Cops or Misadventure Time TiVoed.

Plus he has a dog and he feels he should be at home to take care of said dog, even though Katie-Kate takes one look at him, rolls her eyes, and absconds with the dog. Or at least he thinks that’s what happened, because there’s no Kate and no dog, and eye rolling is something that she does.

At least the dog is getting looked after.

Clint lies on his sofa contemplating the ceiling. He hadn’t realized how many spider webs had accumulated up there. He wonders if he could make an arrow for ceiling cleaning, like a fluffy duster explosion thing.

He really wants to scratch under the cast on his leg, and he would even though that’s a bad idea, but that would require moving and moving is something he’s going to have to work his way up to. Everything feels a bit wobbly and very bruised. Like even his bones are bruised.

He at least manages to roll his head to the side when he hears a noise in the kitchen. He loves his open plan apartment that allows clear lines of sight everywhere. Which is how he can see the woman with fiery red hair pulling out yesterday’s pizza box from the fridge and opening it on the breakfast bar to inspect the remaining half. She picks off a circle of pepperoni and chews it dubiously.

“Kate!” he calls out. “Friend of yours is here!” Because Kate must be in the bathroom. Not that she’s ever brings people over. There was that one time but the cool young kids don’t want to hang out with Clint-Hawkeye.

Then again, Kate is looking after Lucky. Elsewhere. It’s funny, but he can’t remember when they left.

“Actually,” he tries, “who are you?”

The woman tilts her head to the side, considering him in rather the same way that she’d considered the pizza.

“You are not right in the head,” she tells him, her tone flat.

“Well, true. Generally true. But that’s mean.”

She abandons the pizza and stalks across the room to lean over him, her mouth parted like she’s tasting the air and frowning like he’s offended her somehow.

“You’re foul. Corrupted.”

“Um.”

“You are not…” She struggles for the right words, frustrated.

Clint gets it and smiles proudly at this achievement.

“I,” he announces, “am on drugs.”

She steps back and breathes out hard through her nose, as if to clear out the smell of him.

“They’re medical drugs though,” Clint assures her. “Also why are you in my apartment and eating my pizza, and have I asked yet who you are?”

“My being here is your fault.”

He blinks in confusion.

“There was a circle,” she says sharply, “in wax and blood. You called me here.”

Clint thinks about this. “Did I mean to?”

“I do not know.”

She comes closer again and sits on the sofa in the space between his spread-eagled legs, where he has one leg pressed against the back of the sofa and the other in its cast propped up on the coffee table. She draws her knees up to her chin, gripping the edge of the couch with both hands either side of her feet and staring at the blank television screen. Taking up less space doesn’t make her seem any less though – no less intimidating, coiled danger, fierce – and he realizes there’s the reason he thought she was friends with Kate.

“You set me free,” she says.

“Oh. Okay. Well good.”

She smells arid, like a desert in the noonday sun, and Clint feels warmer with her nearby.

“Are you hungry?” he asks, being polite. “You can eat the rest of the pizza if you want, I don’t mind.”

“I am always hungry.” She glares at him as if he’s mocking her in some way. “Why do you think I wear this form? There are rules.”

“What kind of rules?”

“I must create a debt so that I can claim the meat of the dead. I cannot kill, but I can influence others to. There has been no meat today,” she says, glaring at him again and then glaring at his cast like it’s personally offended her, “so I have taken this human form so that I may eat. As human I must eat as you eat, be as you are, but I am hungry.”

“The meat of the dead…” Clint jerks upright, or at least his upper body briefly leaves the sofa before his body reminds itself that moving hurts and he drops back down again. “Fuck. You’re the one who’s been stalking me and stealing the body parts, and, oh god, are you really eating them? Because that’s, no, you should eat the pizza, that’s way better.”

“I do not eat in my own form; I consume.”

There’s feeling in her voice now and Clint guesses that eating and consuming must be serious business, but his brain is too busy struggling with how this all applies to him.

“And you’ve been, what, influencing my missions? Helping me? Because I take issue with that. I’m good at my job, thank you very much.”

The woman unfolds, placing her feet flat on the floor, and looks away.

“You have a tendency to be injured whilst doing it.”

Thinking is difficult at the moment, but Clint rummages through his memories for the last time he was injured on a SHEILD mission and comes to the conclusion that he’s almost certain he’s just had the longest stretch of time between Medical visits since he started.

“Huh. I have my own, personal guardian angel.”

She looks highly offended at that and Clint pulls a conciliatory face.

“Only, y’know, not. The other kind. Shit, you’re a demon.”

However muddled his brain is right now he knows that’s wrong and he instinctively tries to move away, only to end up slumping further into the sofa cushions. He also knows that she doesn’t kill people, so she isn’t a threat. Probably. Which is good, because he’s having trouble fighting off a yawn never mind a demon.

“You’re a demon,” he repeats, because that’s important, “who eats parts of dead people. Seriously, what’s wrong with pizza?”

“I do not understand your obsession with pizza.”

His demonic guardian angel makes herself more comfortable as well. She turns more towards him and leans back cautiously, trapping his uninjured leg between her back and the sofa but she’s warm and he can’t bring himself to care.

“Pizza. And coffee. They’re good things.” He yawns. “I have other stuff in the kitchen though, if you want. I think.”

Clint’s eyes drift shut and when he forces them open again he finds her watching his face.

“Hey, you never told me who you are. What’s your name?”

“Names are for people,” she says dismissively.

“Okay,” says Clint, because at the time this makes perfect sense. He’s quiet for a moment as he battles the urge to sleep, then: “Do you want to watch Dog Cops?”

~O~

When he’s well enough to return to work, although he’s stuck on desk duty until his leg fully heals, Clint dutifully relays the incident to Hill, who calls Strange back in to hear it as well. He tells them that he can’t be sure he’s remembering all of it properly since he was on drugs, adding that, just for the record, the drugs part really wasn’t his fault.

Hill flicks through the notes she’s made on one of the yellow legal pads she always uses when she wants a note of her own impressions as well as any recordings.

“Your description of her physical appearance is quite detailed for someone who was medicated.”

“Oh, yeah,” says Clint. “Well, she came back so I got a better look at her after the drugs had mostly worn off.”

“She came back,” Hill says flatly.

“Ah. I should have mentioned that, right?”

“She came back for what? To watch TV with you?” Hill says with an edge of exasperation.

“We did that,” Clint says carefully, realizing he should maybe have mentioned that he’d been visited by a demon more than once at the start of this meeting. “And we ordered more pizza. I told her it was better hot and she agreed.”

“Really?” asks Strange, leaning forward in interest.

“Yeah. Although she said meat still tastes better consumed than eaten.” Clint shrugs. “Apparently there’s a difference.”

“Eating is an act specific to the biology of beings on this plane,” Strange says. “Within that the specifics of our taste buds, sense of smell, etcetera, make eating as we know it to be a uniquely human experience. For those without a physical form, the act of consuming can be generalized as taking into oneself that which isn’t part of oneself. In the case of demons this can often be conducted using an element with which the demon is affiliated, such as by breaking something down with water or fire.”

“Where do you even start learning this kind of stuff?” Clint asks when Strange seems to be finished with his lecture.

“Like anyone in search of knowledge I am constantly learning, but I began by being instructed by a hermit called the Ancient One in the Himalayas.”

“You know,” Clint says, smiling because he doesn’t have a poker face anywhere near as good as Hill’s and he just can’t help himself, “I can’t tell if you’re serious or not and it’s wonderful.”

~O~

It becomes Clint’s new normal to have a demon in human form sitting next to him when Dog Cops is on. He asks her once how she always knows when he’s about to watch it and the answer is that she’s always around, just not always human. Clint’s not sure how he feels about that, because on the one hand he has a demonic stalker and on the other he has a guardian angel, and on both hands it’s kind of nice that someone thinks he’s worth being around for all that time but he’s self-aware enough to know that’s because he has ‘issues’.

They eat different kinds of takeout and a couple of times he cooks. They’ve yet to find any meat that tastes good to her, so amusingly enough he thinks as a human she might end up being a vegetarian.

The thing is, she keeps showing up even after he’s back in the field and they’re back to magically disappearing body parts, but she’s only ever human in his apartment, until the day that she’s not.

Clint wouldn’t say that he’s bad at close quarters fighting – that is, bad for a SHIELD Agent – but it’s far from his best skill, so when the human trafficking ring that SHIELD have managed to infiltrate get smart and find his nest, a thrill of panic travels down his spine at the six-to-one odds. He only hopes they think that he’s here to pick one of them off and that they haven’t discovered the undercover Agent Mendez, who Clint is providing backup for.

He already has an arrow nocked and he manages to send that through one gang member’s eye before they’re on him and it’s fists, elbows, his bow driven into someone’s stomach, feet, knees and heads and knives…

Then two of his opponents accidentally knock each other off balance and topple over the side of the roof Clint has been camped out on, one of them windmilling his arms like that’s ever helped, and Clint grins even as his lip splits because he has a guardian demon on his side and these days he recognizes her work.

There’s another down, blood bubbling out of her mouth as she clutches at the guts spilling out of her stomach, and there’s one more facing off against him when Clint senses movement behind him. If he takes his eyes off the guy in front he’s dead, and it he doesn’t turn he’s likely dead, but then there’s a warm back pressed solid against his.

When he gets the chance to turn around, his guy finished with, the guardian demon in question is human and crouched over gang member number six, repeatedly punching him in the face even though that’s really not going to make him any more dead.

“Hey,” Clint says casually.

She stops and looks up at him.

“Thanks.”

She doesn’t acknowledge him, but she does get up, inspecting her bloodied knuckles and running her tongue across them experimentally. She contemplates the body at her feet.

“Um, please don’t eat him,” Clint adds.

~O~

She stays human all the way back to SHIELD and follows him to Office 265, where he should be debriefing with Agent Strzeszewski but isn’t surprised to instead see the Deputy Director and Strange waiting. Nobody sits, nobody introduces anyone else, and Clint keeps himself angled just in front of his demon stalker, because that seems like a good idea for all concerned.

“What are our options at this point?” asks Hill, running her eyes over the redhead whilst she addresses Strange, who watches the same as Hill but with obvious academic interest. “You mentioned demons can be dismissed?”

“She cannot be dismissed.”

Hill pinches the bridge of her nose.

“Why not?”

“The answer is twofold.” He straightens his posture and clasps his hands behind his back. “Since she is not bound by a Circle she cannot be dismissed from one and instead is free to do as she likes, to leave or not as she chooses. Additionally, when a demon is in human form they cannot be commanded as a demon. To all intents and purposes, when they look human they are human. More or less.”

“What’s the less?”

Hill’s hand drifts towards her firearm and Clint wonders if she’s thinking what he’s thinking; that if the rules of humanity apply to a demon in human form does that mean that they can be killed?

Meanwhile Strange is saying, “Being able to return to demonic form, for a start. Agent Hill, the confluence of an unbound demon and one in human form has never been properly researched. My knowledge here is limited.”

“I want her as a partner.”

“Excuse me?” Hill stares at Clint, her poker face almost slipping.

Clint summons moisture to his dry mouth, licks his lips, and tries it again. “I want her as a partner. She’s kind of already working with me. I’d like to keep her.”

“You want us to hire her?”

Clint’s stalker steps forward, standing shoulder to shoulder with him.

“You sent him to do a demon’s work,” she says, and her toneless voice doesn’t sound accusatory but it burns into his brain. “Why not send a demon?”

Hill looks at both of them for a moment and then, slowly, the very corners of her mouth turn up in the smallest of smiles.

“Okay.” Clint looks on apprehensively as she rearranges the world into something she can deal with. “Doctor Strange, thank you for your time. Please continue researching this and inform us of your findings. You’ll be compensated accordingly.”

Strange nods and leaves without further comment.

“Barton, report to Medical. Don’t argue, just do it. And you,” Hill says, turning to the woman who is a demon, “you and me, we’re going to discuss a dietary plan. And then?”

Clint pauses in the doorway, even though he’s been dismissed, wanting to know how this ends. He shouldn’t have worried. Hill sounds satisfied as she states:

“You want to join SHIELD? We have protocols for that.”
 
 
 
sweetwatersong: [avengers] blackhawk smilessweetwatersong on May 9th, 2015 10:59 pm (UTC)
This is FANTASTIC. I love Maria's poker face, I love the small details about Strange, I LOVE that pizza is better when it's hot. And Dog Cops, and choosing to be physical to help him, and, and, and. Also that she never gets a name - and that Clint never insists on her having one. <3 Okay, serious question: has she met Lucky yet? If so, how did that go?
inkvoices: avengers:sjohansson smile black&whiteinkvoices on May 10th, 2015 04:22 pm (UTC)
THANK YOU! Glad you like it :D

I can't stand cold pizza *grins* and oh, there might be something on names in the next fic, and yes, she needs to meet Lucky...and Clint. I have a whole series of Valentine's prompts to fill for this series, slowly but surely ;)