Helluland - Snow Sentries

Summary:
June 29, 2014: After the team arrives and sets up camp for the night, two hired hands that don't particularly trust one another both claim first watch. (Takes place between Part 1 and Part 2. Language warning.)

An icy cave around Helluland.

It's very cold, way up north, and creepy as all heck as far as giant ice caverns go.


Characters

NPCs

  • None

Mood Music:
None


First night in, and it's a late one. With Ila's soft chanting happening within the cave serving as the group's encampment for the night Domino opted to be on first watch duty, partly due to the chanting and partly due to her preferring to pull a late night rather than to have her sleep get interrupted. Also because Hawkeye is staying up and the two don't trust one another.

It isn't until the two are a ways away from the rest of the camp that the albino makes her move, quietly wadding up a pile of snow as she eyes the archer from behind.

Then she chucks a snowball at the back of his head.

*

First watch. It's not as boring as it could be, that is, third watch, but it's not the easiest hearing the final sighs as exhausted sleep overcomes the team. It's cold, dark; the only light comes from the turned down lanterns and a fire. This is God's Own Territory with absolutely no light pollution. Hell, if one stuck their head outside, the stars could light their path, as well as the moon.

Hawkeye's got a knife out, as well as his equipment; mind, he is also carrying his sidearm, but that's not about to come into play in a cave. Forever working on keeping his equipment up, he's sharpening the knife, testing it's sharpness with cutting the hair on the back of his ungloved hand.

*thoomp!*

That sure as hell gets Barton's attention, and jumping straight up, he's on his feet, the knife ready to be thrown until it dawns on him that he's covered in.. snow. "What the hell.." is mumbled- must'nt wake those sleeping, but blue eyes are locked onto the albino. "Really. You had to do that."

*

"Gettin' sloppy, Barton," Domino teases as she steps a bit closer to his moonlit surroundings. Unarmed, for the most part. The white-out painted bullpup can still be seen slung across her back but her hands are empty. "Gotta watch your six."

Funny that she should start showing any concern for his safety.

"Quite the change of pace from the Triskelion, huh," she adds while stepping toward the mouth of the cave, her attention drifting skyward despite standing right beside the man who may as well be her arch nemesis these days.

It doesn't last.

"What the hell are you SHIELD kids even doing out here?" she then pointedly asks, turning to eye the man with an expression that isn't as accusing as it is very, very curious.

*

Clint brushes the snowpack off him, an involuntary shiver taking him at the thought of getting that snow deeper in between skin and wool. He still keeps his voice canted low as he talks, "Yeah, well.. there's no protecting against crazy." He doesn't sound mad, or accusing. Or annoyed, go figure. As if he expected it and wasn't disappointed.

"I'll be sure to keep an eye out for errant snowballs for the rest of the trip."

Barton watches Domino's path towards him, and as she looks outside, he does as well, contemplating her words. He's a long way from home, yup. Not the farthest he's been, but it might as well be. Most foreign place on Earth. "Figured the city life was over-done. There's a program that lets city kids go out to the country for the summer. Guess I signed up on the wrong sheet. I should be in South Jersey right now, on some farm."

Like that'd ever happen.

The question brings him around, and Barton stares at Domino for a long moment before he smiles tightly, "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you." There's a pause and his tones drop, "She's not here with SHIELD," meaning 'Widow. "Only me. And you can't say for a minute that we wouldn't be interested in what's going on here."

*

"Crazy is as crazy does. You've gotta make your own fun."

Fortunately Domino's incredibly colored rap sheet doesn't mention anything about being crazy. Sociopathic, sure, but not psychopathic.

A moment later and the pale woman is smirking. "Oh come on, this is way better than Jersey. Swap out some llamas for polar bears and be able to pack heat legally, win for everyone."

The part about having to kill her gets a dramatic roll of pale blue eyes, "Spare me the cliche's. And your friend being here for any other reason only makes me that much more suspicious."

Again eyeing the archer, she says "These are a bunch of ruins surrounded by folklore. I don't see how that has anything at all to do with strategic homeland intelligence unless you're all worried that our lovely Miss Croft is going to kickstart Ragnarok on all of our asses. So no, I really don't understand, though feel free to enlighten me."

*

"Llamas don't eat people. They spit, sure. But eat? Nope."

Barton takes a step back in and sits down on the ground, the pocket knife having never left his hand. "But yeah. Jersey is too humid this time of year. At least we don't have that here." Just… permafrost freaking cold.

"Hey, sometimes we do our own thing. It's the beauty of the job. We're not always on the clock. We've got skills that are sometimes in demand. Padding the retirement account." Putting the first layer of wool gloves on as they're slightly away from their heat source, Hawk begins to flip the knife into the air, having it land point down in the ice.

"Didn't anyone tell you that there's truth in folklore? You just have to figure out at what point the 'no shit there I was' turns into drunken one-upmanship."

*

"Llamas are also boring as shit," Domino counters with a level tone. "I know you well enough to know that you would be bored to death if you were sitting around on a farm. Random llama maulings are at an all time low these days."

The dry humor doesn't distract her away from the rest of Clint's explanation. Doing his own thing, having the freedom to do his own thing, padding the account… Sure, what person wouldn't like to have a job that permits them a chance to take time off like this to explore their own interests. Thing is, there's something about the way Barton says it that has her curiosity once more coming into play.

There really is more to this guy than she realizes.

"Because I take these kinds of jobs often," she sarcastically replies. "What I do know is that there's something about the place we're heading into that's got the locals worried. I also know that we're a little better off than the guys that tried to face it with nothing more than battle axes. I've got a whole stack of one-ups right here," she claims while reaching back to pat the stock of her automatic rifle.

"Getting introduced to the twenty-first century can be a real bitch sometimes."

*

"Llamas always have partners. They never go in it alone. Never trust the sheep."

There, Barton actually chuckles and he inclines his head in final agreement. "I'd be bored to death. Watching grass grow's never been my strong suit. Or, watching snowflakes fall." Shifting, he looks up; he's taken a seat, but the albino's still on her feet.

"I gotta admit; this isn't the sort of job I take. I'm more the guy in the nest waiting to take the shot." Which is what he truly does best. "Though, watching isn't a bad thing either. You can learn a lot about people that way. And, better yet, no one bothers you. You're just another anti-social kook."

Another chuckle escapes the SHIELD agent, and reaching into his pocket, he pulls out a deck of cards. Most play solitaire with such things, but him? He tosses a card in the air, and in the next heartbeat, the knife flies and impales it in the center, sending both to the ice-encrusted ground, knife-point in the ground. "That's assuming they're not keeping up with the Joneses either. Though, a proper application of lead rarely is a bad thing."

Looking up once again at the merc, brows rise. "You take babysitting jobs? Really. Last few I saw you on, you weren't herding a bunch of cats."

*

For a second Domino merely stares at the archer. (He's really still talking about the fucking llamas.) "Okay, this is starting to get a little weird."

Funny how talking about grass growing helps move things forward in the conversation. "You've got 'sniper' written all over you, Barton. Bow or rifle, the label doesn't discriminate. If there wasn't a very thin line keeping us from going after one another there wouldn't be a window anywhere in the Tri-Cities that'd be safe to stand beside."

Maybe it's because that thin line is yet intact that she takes a seat beside the archer, reaching into her winter coat for a matte black flask. Tactical booze. She claims the first drink, but then..she offers it his way.

"Cat-herding can be surprisingly profitable. But no, I usually don't take on these gigs. One of two things tends to happen, either it's a complete snoozeathon or someone fails to explain just how bad the situation's going to be and suddenly I'm in over my head with a handful of VIP's down. No one likes dealing with that kind of mess."

*

Domino's comment about 'a little weird' actually makes him laugh, and he has to check himself to be sure he doesn't wake anyone. "See? Kook."

Barton snorts as he looks down, pulling his knife from the card. Poking the blade in again, he slices the plasticoated paper easily. The knife is 'stupid sharp'. "Still not a safe place, even if we're on opposite sides." But he doesn't deny the 'sniper' appellation. He is what he is, and it's something he does best.

Watching the merc take a seat beside him now, Barton tucks in a little in an unconscious 'giving her some room' sort of gesture. They've got the entire cave, so it really is just… a habit. When the booze is offered, there is a pause before he does take it, and takes a swallow immediately (no sniffing the top to see what it is). The quiet slosh of the flask is the only noise for that moment before the exhale comes after the drink, and Clint hands it back soon after.

He's quiet for a few seconds after, his knife also unmoving. "I'm actually hoping for a snooze-a-thon, but I'm pretty sure that's not what it's going to be. There's a reason why I'm here. My job is to not only watch behind us, but watch the group." If that's not a hint that all is not right, well..

*

A thin smirk returns to the albino's face. "Kook," she agrees. "Worse, a kook with a bow."

Dom falls silent for a time after, about as comfortably seated as can be expected in the cold environment surrounding them both. It gives her a chance to process everything, and to make sure what she has in mind to say next is actually correct.

"I'm not what you have to worry about, Barton. My contract was probably just as clear as yours. We're fire support out here. As long as you and your Russkie pal mind my personal space I don't see that we have a problem. It's in my best interest that everyone here gets out of this alive, too. No hidden agendas, no BS."

Here's the part that she really wants to make sure the SHIELD agent hears, focusing her attention fully onto Clint once more. "That also means keeping you both alive." -If- they all share the same mission then it stands to benefit everyone if the mission parameters are followed. Simply put, that's what she's getting paid for. Thus, barring anything major, that is what she will do.

At least until someone else happens to turn on her first.

*

Barton barks another soft laugh, adding a brief nod in acknowledgment. "An anti-social kook with a bow."

Silence is something that Barton enjoys, and it finds the moments between words filling with that comfortable quiet. It's after her words that he looks out to the sleeping forms and looks to make a decision. "Watch McGee. Paperwork says that he might be a problem." Nothing like keeping an extra eye out. If her job is to keep everyone safe, it's pretty much the same as his, only he's got that added intel. Who knows if that intel is the difference between life and death? Still… there's no harm.

With that over, another card is pulled out and handed to the albino beside him. "Let's see what you can do."

*

Huh. Sharing intel already? The name is committed to memory, the last thing Dom wants is one of the team blitzing out for one reason or another. "There's always one, isn't there," she says with a slightly defeated sigh. "Least we know who it is now rather than before it's too late."

Curious, though, how Clint had this bit of intel but she didn't. Was Lara playing favorites with the people she's hiring, or was this a SHIELD pro-tip?

When the card is offered, a Jack of Clubs, she looks down at it before setting the flask aside in the snow to chill, then accepts the lamenated piece. Hooking it between two fingers, she asks "So how much do you guys know about me already, or is -that- classified as well?" before flicking the card forth, letting it slide out across a harder crusted patch of snow.

"I'm guessing you two know more about me than what I know about either of you, which hardly seems fair," she continues while extracting a single blacked out throwing knife. It's given a lazy backward flip into the air, arcing forward until gravity drops it point-first straight down onto the card, pinning it in place. (Bullseye.) "Bet Jack didn't see that one coming."

*

"There's always one. If not him, could be any one. Trick is, watch him, watch his interactions, watch what he does when he does it." And Clint is good at that. Every move could be a 'tell'. Unless the man is the consummate actor, there could be little hesitations along the way which could very well be alarms for he who pays attention. Looking beside him and down, Barton does catch the shift of expression and he lean-nudges her, "I just happen to have a source is all. I got the files on everyone and being a paranoid son of a bitch, I wanted to know who and what I was dealing with. Also did some checking on their kin and best friends." The NSA doesn't have anything on SHIELD.

"Poor Jack never saw it coming."

There is the question as to what he knows about her, and at first, he's not entirely sure whether or not to answer, and then, how much to answer on that one? "I know enough," is the final answer. "Some of the stuff is blacked out to my level, truth be told. And I've got reasonable clearance." Not quite as high as Hill, or 'Tash, but it's a respectable one. If he needs files, he usually goes right to the Old Man and he'll get it, unabridged.

"Now," and here, Barton's got a hint of a smile coming, the expression actually genuine, "I won't answer any questions about Tash." Widow.

*

"Good at reading people, are you?" Domino inquires with a look of mock surprise. Really it comes across as more of an accusation than a question.

The sidelong nudge is..unexpected, but not as awkward as the llama conversation point earlier. She lets it ride. "Paranoid can be handy. Must be nice having all of those resources at your disposal. If I can't get what I'm looking for in a phonecall or two then I'm S-O-L."

Of course, having files on everyone means that he's probably got a whole novel of info on her. Not the most comforting of thoughts, that. Dom's life is her own, she doesn't want anyone else being a part of it. Hell, she won't even let Cable know everything. Though he usually finds out on his own. The big, cheeky ol' telepathic half-metal bastard that he is.

"We're not talking about 'Tash,' are we?" she asks with a thin smirk, gauging the man's reaction as she does. "But, I'm going to take a chance here and say that you've got some foul play logged in your history books, yourself. You don't think like the average government kook. I'm also going to say that you Division kids tore apart my blood samples until you were staring at the backside of my DNA so there's little left to hide there. The real question is, do you have any idea how damned -annoying- that is? I only found your blood type because it was on your driver's license. This isn't exactly a game of 'I'll show you mine if you show me yours.'"

*

"It's what keeps me alive," Clint admits. "I've got to do something to keep up. It's not exactly a level playing field, if you think about it. But, there's one thing that runs through- everyone's got a 'tell'. Unless they're really sociopathic." A chuckle exits the man and he echoes her, "Then I'm S-O-L."

Brows rise, however, as Domino makes her guesses, and he spins his knife around in his hand, letting it drop point first into the ice over and over, blue eyes watching it as it cuts through the permafrost. "Ye-ah. Years worth. Longer than I've been with SHIELD, actually." Canting his head sideways, he studies her for a long, silent moment before, "You've got cute DNA. The way those strands squiggle and wrap? Gotta say, kinda breathtaking." He pauses, waits for it to sink in before adding, "I hope they have the right blood type on my license. It'd suck if it was wrong."

*

The albino's response is swift. It starts with another handful of snow. It ends with that snow getting mashed into Clint's short hair, followed with a heart-felt push against his nearest shoulder. Even so, with the kinds of people she usually hangs around with? Those sorts of comments can get way more vulgar, and most often do.

"So you're just Mister Normal Guy Smith out there with a bow playing with the big kids? I'm not sure if that's more impressive or stupid." But he did make it this far! He also managed to catch Domino's interest once again. "What got you to change your ways? Don't tell me you found religion, I still have a small amount of respect for you."

She's hoping to hear something a little more promising than the old ultimatum of 'either come work for us or rot in a cell for the rest of eternity.' It's not the kind of option she wants to end up facing. Ever. Lately the Division's been getting way too close to her for any sort of comfort.

*

Barton's immediate response to such an action is to grab the albino and bring her down with him; complete with a counter 'attack' with snow, while the knife is left in the cave's floor. At the same time, he's holding her mouth shut with a hand lest she even squeak at the turn-about. He's not weak, not by any stretch of the imagination. (Obviously nowhere near as metas, mind.. but time spent at the gym isn't truly wasted.) That's followed with a 'shhhh'.. just in case.

"Yup," and he's not raising his own voice past a whisper, "Mister Normal Guy trying to make his way in the world. I've seen more than most ever will, met more.." and killed quite a few. "I'll take 'impressive' over 'stupid' any day."

A grin rises in the dim of the cave, "Change my ways? Shooting for the good guys? It pays my rent, and I've grown accustomed to the finer things in life. Contracts were too few and far between. People got stupid, always wanting more. When you start working for someone like Fury, at least there's consistency. A purpose beyond megalomania."

Nope. No religion.

"And access to really cool toys."

*

Speaking of getting sloppy… An immediate and coordinated retaliation is not what Dom's expecting, but it is what Barton provides. Before she knows it she's laid out on the ice with..she'll admit, a stronger than expected archer keeping her quiet. His efforts are rewarded by a look of surprise from her end.

And a hand latched onto the grip of one of her pistols. Still holstered, but there all the same.

Impressive -or- stupid isn't going to fit the bill at this rate. As soon as that hand comes free of her mouth the first words she whispers back are "You ass," immediately followed by a push to get the guy away from her so she can sit up again.

(Dropped me right on my rifle… Ow.)

"Of course people are stupid, nothing short of the apocalypse is going to help sort that mess out," she says while she dusts the snow out of her mop of dark hair. "You gave up the life because of the -money?- Gees Barton, you really are getting sloppy. I'm doing quite well for myself. Job security's no sweat, somewhere someone's gonna want someone else taken care of."

*

Barton allows himself to be pushed away, a lopsided smile playing on his face. His own short, spiked hair needs a little snow removal as well, but nowhere near what he'd retaliated with. It's a brush and gone.

"Yeah, but who had the files, huh?" comes as a softly singsonged tease. "C'mon. What wouldn't you do with a file on someone, huh? Inquisitions are more fun when you already know the answer to the questions you're asking."

Still, he's giving her a little space again. Digging into his pocket, he's grabbing some beef jerky; he brought it as his personal store. "Jerky?" is given in offer before, "Yeah, but always having to renegotiate your contract? And health insurance."

*

Before any sort of response comes forth Domino takes a moment to stare at the other guy. "You're really enjoying this, aren't you?" (So much for guard duty tonight, just look at the two of us out here.)

"I tend to resort to interrogation," she deadpans in regards to the files. "But I guess that's less of an option for you, being human and all."

(Jerky from a jerk.) She accepts some without a word spoken about it, catching an end in the side of her mouth and ripping it free. "You kidding? That's half the fun. Most of those idiots don't know what they're asking for, I can negotiate a two hundred and fifty percent gain before I ever sign on."

Health insurance… Eeeh. "Get good enough payouts and you can cover your own medical bills. Get good enough at pulling slugs and one-handed stitching in a mirror and you save yourself a helluva lot more. I don't mind catching a few bullets if it means I get to keep my freedom."

*

Make no mistake about it. Should it be necessary, Barton would be ready should anything or anyone come at them during his watch. Bow's not far from reach, nor is his knife. Gun, again.. iffy, but he's also not the most orthodox. If he was alone on duty, he'd have found the highest perch and simply remained there. But, he's not, and there's no perch. It puts him at double disadvantage, but that's it. Positional. Nothing more.

"Being human and all, yeah." Why does it almost sound pitiable, 'being human'? "It's not so bad, really. Damned sight better than the options, I think. I don't always have to put my head down when on the move. I blend in. 'Everyman', as it were."

Drawing the bag back, Barton takes one for himself and shoves the bag back into his pocket and chews the end thorughfully. "Got tired of it. Guess it was when I got married. You know, the settle down thing?" Or maybe she doesn't. "Payouts.. cheap bastards in the circles I knew. As for pulling slugs? I'd rather someone with a degree in it pull it."

There's that pause before his voice drops and he sounds almost… apologetic, "You know SHIELD is gonna keep tracking you, right? There isn't a damned thing I can do about it, either. If it's not me, it'll be someone else. It's like… China. There'll always be one more, two more."

*

"Sure, if you want to be average," Dom teases. "There's some security in that. I wouldn't call you an average Joe, though." Not after she's seen the guy stand toe to toe against her out in the field. Not bad at all, for a human.

It's a moment later that Clint's lucky enough to catch the woman with her guard down, if only just. Her response is automatic, a bit dark in tone and speaking from what is obviously personal experience. "Marriage isn't all it's made out to be."

The thought's there and gone in a moment, the topic going right back to SHIELD. It starts with a tired sigh. "Impossible to get off of their damn radar once you've been tagged. And don't feed me that bullshit about it being out of your hands, there's things you could do if you really wanted to. I wouldn't count on you doing any of them, either."

"My best option is to keep a low enough profile that they lose interest and I slip off of their priority list. I'm no longer contagious and I'm out in the middle of freaking nowhere keeping an expedition team safe from rabid penguins. Right now they've got no reason to come looking for me."

Right..?

*

Clint gives Domino a long look at her exhaled response regarding marriage, and he can't help but get that 'feeling' that it's all experience. No one who hasn't 'been there' could understand something like that- and obviously on the 'receiving end'. Those that rock the boat and are the ones that make the fuss don't react quite like that. "Yeah, but 'young and stupid'." Believing that after being gone, officially 'dead', and coming home, things would go back to some semblance of normalcy?

Nope.

"I'm not the keeper of their radar, Domino. I'm really not. I have a say on who I'm after, and ultimately, in the field, it's my call and mine alone." Which, perhaps translated, he does have say- if he's the Agent in Charge. "Things change minute by minute 'out there'. You know that as well as I do." Called shots aren't always.

"Only way they'd lose interest is if something bigger and badder was put in front of them. Or, if they were handed something and given a reason to look away." This is SHIELD. "Right now, no. They don't have a reason. And you're out here in the middle of freaking nowhere, keeping an expedition team safe from rabid penguins… and so am I."

*

"Don't make me regret that whole 'not shooting you' thing," Domino replies in a lower tone. "You want to waste your time out here freezing your balls off making sure that I'm not a threat to national security or whatever then be my fucking guest, I know how to play nice." When it's a job requirement.

"It doesn't matter if you're in charge of it or not, Barton. You could make the call that I'm not a threat, you could tell them that I've up and died or gone missing or got out of the game or whatever the hell you wanted to, but I know you're not going to, and I know where that's going to leave us as soon as this field trip into Satan's freezer is over."

She also caught notice of something else in what he said, too. 'If something bigger and badder was put in front of them.' Technically he just gave her a possible out. If she could deliver that bigger badder thing, maybe they would back off. That all comes down to her willingness to throw SHIELD a freebie. Which at this point in time is completely out of the question. She'll be fine, dammitall. They couldn't keep her in a locked down Triskelion. What the hell else could they throw her way?

With that thought in mind she pushes herself upright and goes to retrieve her knife, and the impaled Jack.

*

"You'll always regret that," Barton rejoins. "I'm actually not out here to watch you." He's already said -who- he's watching, and even gave the merc a heads-up. "This is a job, and it's not even contracted through the Old Man. I'm getting paid, just like you."

He snorts in a soft exhale and shifts his position on the ground near her. "I can't do that. I can only make that call in the field. And in that case, it's a shoot/don't shoot. If you walk away, I am gonna hear it- if that's my op. It's a call I could lose my job over, or one where they'll decide to send someone else, or one where they'll drop the whole thing. I never know." Though as of right now, if he's instructed to take that shot? The chances are better than even that he'd tell them to find a different Agent for it. It's the gut reaction he's getting, and so far, he hasn't been off. (At least not as badly as his colleagues.)

Watching her gain her feet, Barton exhales in a sigh and rolls to the side to push himself up and onto his own feet, brushing the snow crystals that haven't yet melted on him off. It's a couple of steps where he regains his equipment, and settling down again, begins to go through it again.. fussing at the fletchings, making sure all his piles are dialed up exactly in the order he wants them.

"For what it's worth, you're okay."

*

Dom isn't going to admit to it but Clint's warning about regretting it is quite possibly accurate. He's not one of the bad guys. Hell, in a lot of ways he's just like her. It's all about the job, nothing personal to it.

"I know you can't," she offers back while tugging the card free of the blade before replacing the carbon steel back in its sheath. "And you know I can't let them walk all over me if they think they have any reason to. I'm not going to let them take me back there, Barton. That's not where I belong."

She'd still much rather not see it come to that, given the option. She knows they aren't going to quit. Either she takes down a bunch of them then finds herself buried in a cell or she takes a bunch of them down and finds herself buried and -dead.-

Walking past the archer, Dom says "You're not so bad, yourself." It's punctuated with a lazy flick of the ruined card to send it back in the archer's direction.

*

"Yeah, I know. So, in the meantime?" Barton draws those blue eyes up to meet the albino merc's blues, "Won't be me on your six."

Clearing his throat, the archer gets back to work, fussing at his shafting, keeping his attention focussed there as the card floats down near him. It's only a few more hours of watch, then he'll get to go to sleep in his sleeping bag. Everyone else, by now, sounds as if they're taken by sleep; even Ila has ceased his chanting, and his light is extinguished.

"It's gonna be a long night."


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