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Paranoia Agent

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Giving a mission debrief while laying on a bed in medical wasn’t uncommon for Clint Barton. In fact, if you asked he would tell you he had delivered more debriefs from medical than in any other place in the helicarrier.

“Congratulations on a job well done Barton!” Phil said as he took down the last details of the mission. “This mission was so successful that Fury has told me to inform you that you are now cleared to be a level six operative.”

Clint stared at Phil for a moment. “I’m level six now?”

“Yes, that means you are actually allowed into that break room you enjoy lounging in so much.” Phil said as he put away the mission folder and looked his agent over.

“It’s a break room. I mean come on, what kind of shit can level sixes have in there that no one else can see?” Clint scoffed.

“Those scones you steal are a top secret recipe from the Queen of England’s personal cook.” Coulson said seriously.

“Those are some delicious scones, sir.”

“Now you can go in and have as many as you want and I can’t even come in and lecture you about proper procedure and protocol.”

Clint chuckled a bit before holding his side and wincing. “Damn it sir, stop making me laugh. Besides, I am sure you will find some other opportunity to lecture me about proper procedure.”

Coulson hummed slightly and looked at the door when Clint’s doctor came in.

“What’s the damage doc?” Clint asked
.

“As per usual, Agent Barton your penchant for getting hurt has astounded me. You have a broken arm you have several contusions and bruises. Considering you fell off a building, I am happy to report that you don’t have a broken neck and recommend that the next time you wish to give base-jumping a try that you do it with a parachute. You also expressed that you had pain in your lower right abdomen during the mission. The results of the cat scan you had came back and it would seem you have appendicitis. We believe that since you are already recovering from a broken arm that an appendectomy would be in your best interest. Momentarily a nurse will be in to get you prepped.” The doctor said with a smile.

“No.” Clint said plainly, his jaw set in a way that suggested he was about to dig his heels in about something.

“Agent, you don’t understand. If you don’t get it removed you it could rupture. If it ruptures you will go into sepsis and you will likely die.” The doctor said.

“You’re not doing it. I’m not having it done. No.”

“Clint, don’t start-” Phil began.

“I said no, Coulson. I don’t want to be knocked out.”

Dr. Hayner stared at Clint clearly baffled by the agents refusal. “Agent Barton-”

“No. You don’t have my consent. Now, if there is nothing else I want my discharge papers. if you don’t give them to me I’ll just sign our AMA.”

“If that’s what you want....I’ll go get those for you.” Hayner said softly as he turned to the door.

Phil looked at Barton who had resumed playing with the sling on his cast. “Are you insane?! You appendix will rupture!”

“They aren’t putting me under. They’ve never done it before and they aren’t doing it now.”

“You had a bullet in your shoulder, they put you out for-”

“Nope, they just numbed the shit out if it. That’s what they’ve always done.”

“Clint this is silly. Why not just let them-”

“I said no! Now go get that paperwork so I can get the hell out of here.”

“Clint, if you don’t agree I may need to step in and do an override.” Phil warned.

“Then you may just need to go get yourself started on that paperwork.” Clint snapped.

Phil frowned and stepped into the hallway, keeping his eye on the door so Barton couldn’t escape.

Dr. Hayner came around the corner and almost ran straight into Phil.

“He needs that surgery.” Phil said harshly/

“You think I don’t know that Phil? I’m the one that said he needed it, but if he refuses there is nothing we can do.”

“I can accept it for him because I’m his handler right?”

“Yes, but...that only if the patient isn’t in his right mind. The paperwork alone for that is-”

“You let me worry about the paperwork. You just get that nurse in to get him prepped.” Phil said as he turned back to the room.

Phil sighed deeply as he looked around the room. Barton had removed his IV and left it hanging by the empty bed to drip on the floor. His medical chart had the words “FUCK NO” written in the agent’s barely legible chicken scratch next to the place that said he had appendicitis.

“I should’ve seen this coming.” Phil sighed as he pulled out his phone. “Sitwell, I need your help.”

@-@

“He left medical with appendicitis?!” Sitwell said as he followed Coulson through the halls of the helicarrier.

“Of course he did. He’s a dumbass, Jasper.”

“Why the hell would he do that?”

“I have no clue, but as soon as I find him I am dragging him back to medical for the surgery.” Phil said as they made one last pass on the floor above the medical wing. “And now for all we know he could be in the wind or off dying somewhere like a damn wounded animal.”

“He couldn’t have gotten far. You said he never entered the halls, so where could he’ve gotten out?”

“The ceiling vents like he always does.That’s why we’re on this floor looking it over.”

“The vent system? Where does he go if he’s up there?”

“Usually to his room, but Hill just called and said she checked and there was no sign of him.”

“Where else does he go?” Jasper asked.



“Where doesn’t he go? The kitchen’s after hours. The level six break room. I think he even broke into Hill’s office and left an origami hawk. He’s a menace in those damn vents and he’s always up in them crawling around. I get so sick of him dropping off paperwork when my office is clearly locked. Or rearranging my furniture so he can drop from the vent on to my desk chair. He even left a go bag in there and said something about my lax security-” Phil stopped and his eyes went wide. “The go bag. Lets try my office, Jasper.”

They hustled along the hallways until they were in the central office area. Coulson unlocked his door and threw it open. Barton wasn’t there.

“Shit.” Sitwell said as he leaned on the door frame. “I was hoping he might be here so we could end this damn hawk hunt.”

Phil stood for a moment staring around the office when he suddenly jumped on his desk.

The Agent grabbed the vent cover right above his desk and yanked it off as quickly as he could. Jasper watched as the other agent swung his torso into the vent and heard a muffled fighting noise.

“You aren’t going to get enough traction to stop me with that cast on Barton.” Phil growled.

Sitwell watched in awe as his friend dragged the specialists ankles to the edge of the vent.

“A little help here Sitwell?!” Phil snapped as he clung to the agent.

“That vent is barely big enough for you and him! What do you want me to do?!”

“Go to your office and get in your vent. That was we can get him out with as minimal damage as possible. HURRY!” Phil yelled and Jasper sprinted to his office next door.

Pulling off the cover and climbing into the vent was no small feat. Clearly, Barton hadn’t made use of his vent yet. Jasper stood on his tiptoes and gave himself enough leverage to pop his head into the vent. It was cramped and creaked ominously as Jasper put his weight on it. He could see Phil and Barton fighting in the passage, each had their teeth bared and unwilling to give up.

“Agent Barton stand down!” Phil yelled as he grabbed Clint’s calf and tried to dodge a well aimed kick at his head.

“Let me the fuck go! This vent isn’t going to hold all of us!” Clint snapped as he tried to pull himself up further before he looked up and saw Sitwell.

“Agent Barton, you need to exit the vent.” Sitwell said calmly as he looked over the bruised and battered agent. Barton gave him the finger (a surprisingly good one at that considering he used his casted hand) and tried to jerk his leg out of Coulson’s grasp.

“So you can drag me back down to fucking medical? Yeah, no, not happening.”

Jasper heard the vent creak loudly and all three stopped moving.

“FUCK! I told you the vent isn’t meant to hold-” Clint began to say. He was cut off by a rather loud twang and the cable holding up the vent snapped.

Jasper watched as Barton’s eyes widened almost comically and the vent began to tip upwards. A loud crash from the next room and some muffled cursing followed and Jasper jumped off his desk and ran to Coulson’s office.

The shaft of the vent had broken through the drop ceiling like an odd parody of a slide. Dust and broken tiles scattered across the floor and the once pristine desk. Amidst the wreckage that was once the ceiling were to agents rolling around on the floor. Phil had a bloodied nose and was gasping in a way that suggested he had the wind knocked out of him only moments before. Clint was gasping in pain and holding his side with his casted arm, but he was still trying to get away from Phil’s expert grasp. If it hadn’t been so alarming, it would have been the funniest thing Jasper had ever seen.

“A little help?!” Phil rasped as he coughed.

“Sorry, sorry.” Jasper said as he stepped into the office and grabbed the squirming specialist.

In less than a minute the two agents had Barton’s good hand cuffed to the radiator and the agent was swinging his cast wildly to get them to back up.

“You okay, Phil?” Jasper asked as he looked over his friend.

“Fine.” He said as he stood and brushed some of the dirt off his shoulders. “Would you-” Phil made a vague motion to the door and Sitwell saw an alarming level of gawkers had gathered around the office door.

“Alright, alright! Nothing to see here! Get back to work! Official level six business. You don’t have clearance to know what kind of drill this is!” Jasper said with wide sweeping arm motions.

He kicked the door shut once most of the agents had dispersed and turned back to the wrecked office to see Barton tugging uselessly at his cuffs and cursing under his breath. Phil had since leaned against his desk to catch his breath and survey the wreckage that was once his office.

“How did you know he was up there?” Sitwell asked.

“That’s the A/C vent. That medical soap smell has always turned my stomach and I could smell it a mile away.” Phil said as he took a few more calming breaths.

“No fucking way.” Clint said. “I never use that soap.”

“Then it’s a good thing your go bag was moved and the vent was crooked.” Phil said, harshly.

The office was silent as Phil collected himself. After a moment the senior agent turned his gaze to the agent and frowned. “Now, Agent Barton, since you were so kind as to grace us with your presence in my office. Would you care to explain why you left medical while you were being prepped for an appendectomy?”

“Fuck you! They weren’t going to put me under and put that shit in me!”

Phil blinked at the Agent. “I don’t think they properly explained what an appendectomy is to you. Generally they remove the appendix. Putting things in you seems like a counter productive thing to do.”

“Don’t give me that shit! I know what happens when they put you under!”

Both Sitwell and Coulson looked at each other with confused expressions. “I’m sorry, Agent, I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“BULLSHIT! They knock your ass out and fucking up a tracker in you so don’t know where it is but they know where you’re at all the time!” Clint bellowed as he braced his feet on the radiator and pulled at the handcuff.

Phil stared in disbelief at the seemingly crazed specialist. “Barton, they don’t put tracking chips in unknowing agents.”

“STOP LYING!” Clint screamed at his handler.

“Clint! SHIELD doesn’t put tracking chips in agents!”

“Then what the fuck was that thing that Munroe pulled out of his arm?! Sure as hell looked like a tracking chip!”

Phil stopped and thought back to the development specialist. “Clint, he’s designing a tracker that can be shot at targets. That’s why he showed that to you. That was months ago-”

“Then why did he say R&D all had tracking chips and got them after they got up past level six?”

Phil stopped and looked stunned. He sat back on the edge of his desk. “Clint, that has nothing to do with being level six or being under anesthesia. It’s a choice they made. Any specialist that stays in one location for more than a year is given that option in case that base is attacked. R&D have access to more information that any agent there is. It’s an option they are given when they reach level six. SHIELD would never put a chip in an agent without their knowledge and consent in triplicate.”

The agent looked away and muttered, “I still don’t want to get knocked out.”

Phil stepped over the rubble and knelt next to the concerned agent. “You need to have your appendix removed. I seriously doubt you would want to be awake while they do that. They can’t just give you an epidural just because you say no anesthesia.”

“Do you have one?” Clint asked softly.

“An appendix? Yes, everyone does unless-”

“No,” Clint snarled, “A tracker.”

Phil sat back on his heel and gave that agent a thoughtful look. “I do.”

“I do too.” Said Sitwell from where he was leaning on the desk.

“Why the fuck would you want that? You can never be free again if they do that.”

“Clint, do you think they just have people sitting around watching where every agent is? Trackers are for when a person gets captured. It lets SHIELD find them. I decided to do it after I got taken somewhere in Russia and it took SHIELD almost a month to find me.”

“Mine was after some bad intel in Argentina.” Sitwell offered.

“We both chose to get the chips and we both know where they are and can remove them when we choose. That’s the point I am trying to make Clint. It’s a choice. We would NEVER put one in without your knowledge and it is ONLY used when a person is captured.”

“Anyone could look that up if they broke into SHIELD’s system-”

“It needs three override codes to turn on. The immediate handler, the acting director, and a member of R&D.” Sitwell said. “I was nervous about that too.”

Clint shifted slightly and pressed his head to the cool metal of the radiator. Phil reached out and smoothed the agent’s hair out of his eyes.

“Clint, you have a fever. We need to get you down to medical.” Coulson said as he looked the wounded agent over. “You have to be in pain and that will only get better if we get you back to the doctors that can help.”

“I don’t want to be knocked out! You don’t know if they will-”

“Do you trust me?” Phil asked suddenly.

Clint stopped speaking. “Of course sir.”

“Then trust in this, I will watch to make sure that they won’t put a tracking chip in you. I will watch the entire surgery from the gallery and make sure they don’t put anything they shouldn't in you.”

Clint swallowed and met Coulson’s eyes. “Do you promise sir?”

“I promise, Agent.”

Clint nodded and Sitwell unhooked him from the radiator.

“Let’s go Agent Barton.”

~@~

Clint woke up in a hospital bed to the soft clicking of keyboard keys. He looked around and his eyes landed on Coulson who was typing away.

“Can’t even take a little time off Coulson?”

“Not even a moment. Especially when I have to put in a work requisition to fix my office.”

“Oh, my sir. I wonder what happened in there?” Clint said softly a smile playing on his lips.

“Oh, just some belligerent asset being stubborn and instead of using his words decided to try to make a run for it.”

“Sounds terrible sir. Maybe he has never had anyone to trust aside from himself and doesn’t quite know when to use his words.” Clint said softly.

Coulson looked up at him with a sad expression. “Hopefully I can show him that he can trust me with anything.”

Clint cleared his throat and tore his eyes away from Coulson.

“Your surgery went well by the way. I did record the entire thing so you can go over it with a fine tooth comb.”

“Nah, I trust you.” Clint said as he rubbed a hand over his eye. “How long until I can leave this hellhole?”

“A week. If you behave and do as they say. Also we have apparently made the water-cooler.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, apparently you either went rogue or your robot wiring went berserk.”

“So you and I are both robots?”

“Apparently, it takes a robot to take down a robot.” Phil said wisely as he closed his laptop.

Clint smiled and winced as he tried to sit up. “This sucks balls. A week?”

“If it had ruptured it would have been a month or longer.” Phil said. “By the way I have something for you.”

Phil pulled out a small vial with what looked like a grain of rice floating in it. He set it on the over bed table.

“Is that a-”

“A tracking chip? Yes. I told you that all level six operatives are offered them. I know how you feel about them so I won’t say anything more than this one is yours. If you ever decide you want one, I have it.” Phil picked it up again and slid it into his jacket pocket.

“Why would you show me that?”

“So you know it’s not in you and so that you can make an educated decision yourself. It’s your choice. Not SHIELD’s and not mine.”

Clint stared at Phil. “Thank you sir.”

“You’re welcome. Now, sit back and relax. I loaded your Starkpad with DogCops so you can catch up.” Phil said as he took out the purple tablet from his laptop bag.

“Andy Griffith show too?”

“Of course.” Phil sighed.

“You gunna watch it with me?” Clint asked, slurring a bit from the pain killers.

“What kind of handler would I be if I didn’t.” Phil said as he settled back in the overnight chair he had been provided as Clint set up the tablet.

Clint was asleep before the opening had finished and Phil had nodded off before the ending.