Damsel In Distress
Summary: Coulson places his trust in magic to find his missing agent.
Buffy gave Coulson her best reassuring look as she and Willow approached him. She knew first hand what it was like to have a member of your team be taken by the enemy and that he wasn't going to accept any platitudes. The best way to help Coulson was to find Clint, and fast.
“Miss Summers, thank you for arriving so quickly,” Coulson said with a solemn nod.
“It was no problem. Willow, this is Agent Phil Coulson of a ridiculously long named organization, Coulson, this is Willow Rosenberg, my long time friend and witch.”
He reached out and shook the redhead's hand. “It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Miss Rosenberg.”
“Same here,” she said with a small smile. “I just wish it had been under better circumstances.”
“Don't we all,” he replied. “I have Agent Barton's usual bow. Will that work for the tracking spell?”
Willow gave Buffy an inquiring look. “It's his weapon of choice, apparently. I think Coulson has mentioned him sleeping with it from time to time,” Buffy explained.
“Then it should work just fine,” Willow said. Coulson handed it over and then gestured to the entrance to the catacombs. “Give me a minute to get everything ready,” she said softly before moving to the indicated entrance.
“Coulson, I wanted to go over a few things before we go in there,” Buffy said while Willow set up her spell.
“What is it?”
“I don't want any of your agents going in there with us. It'll get real crowded, real fast if we run into the baddies while looking for Clint. I don't want casualties because we lost our ability to maneuver,” she explained.
He gave her an assessing look. “How do you know we have agents here besides myself?”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “I counted at least four of them on our short walk over here. Plus I see a few of them on top of the nearby buildings. Doesn't matter if they are dressed like civilians I can pick them out of the crowd. And even if I hadn't seen them, if it had been one of mine who was taken, I'd have a team here as well.”
“Agreed,” Coulson said with a nod, the corners of his lips twisting up ever so slightly into a hint of a smile. “With one change, I go in with you and Miss Rosenberg.”
“Perfectly acceptable. In fact, I would have thought less of you if you hadn't asked.”
“Glad to pass the test,” he said with a straight face. “Anything else?”
“If there are humans in there, we don't kill them, it's a knock out only. If it's demons, we shoot to kill, no pausing to ask questions. On the off chance they are demons, I'm willing to work with you and your organization to help you track down and eliminate your person of interest. If they are human, I'll leave it up to you, unless you want our help.”
“I think I can accept that.”
“Good,” she said, letting a smile lighten her features. “I think Willow's ready, shall we?”
The bow glowed briefly in Willow's hands as they joined her. “I've modified the tracking spell to take in account the nature of the catacombs. Rather than leading us in a straight line to Agent Barton, it should help us navigate the maze without having to do any backtracking. I figured time was of the essence,” she said with a shrug.
“Thank you, Miss Rosenberg.”
“Please, call me Willow.”
Buffy let out a snort. “Forget it, Wills. I've been trying for the last eight months to get him to call me Buffy, and you see how well that's turned out.”
“Well, it never hurts to try,” Willow replied. “Let's see if we can rescue your missing agent,” she said as she stepped through the threshold.
Buffy and Coulson filed in behind the redhead as they entered the dark catacombs, they each carried a flashlight. It became too dark to see faster than Buffy had thought it would and it forced her to turn hers on. In front of her, Willow held out the bow horizontal to the floor and confidently led the way.
The blonde managed to keep silent for fifteen minutes before she asked, “Your spell doesn't happen to give you a time estimate, does it?”
“I can tell we're getting closer, but that's about it,” Willow said softly in the dark tunnels. “I don't think it'll be much further.”
Buffy's frown was lost on the other two since they were unable to see her. “I don't like it.”
“Don't like what?” Willow asked.
“If you think we're getting close, we should have seen evidence of the group holding Clint. Noises, trash, hell, even some lights. But it's still as dark and silent as it was when we first entered,” she said, stopping where she was and forcing Willow to come back a few steps. “I don't like it.”
Coulson nodded his head as he looked at the two women in the meager light that the flashlights provided. “She's right. This could be some sort of setup.”
“But Agent Barton is down here,” Willow insisted. “The spell I cast on the bow won't steer me wrong.”
“We're not doubting that,” Buffy assured her. “We're just worried about what to expect when we find him.”
“Oh, you mean like an ambush,” Willow said, her eyes widening slightly.
“Either that, or they've bugged out,” Buffy said with a shrug.
“If they have escaped through different tunnels that could mean either Agent Barton doesn't have much time left, or they've left us a surprise,” Coulson added, his voice soft enough to not bounce off the rock walls.
“So what do we do?” Willow asked.
Buffy studied Coulson for a moment and could see that no matter what she and Willow decided, he was continuing on. “No man left behind,” she said in a hushed tone. “We get in and get him out of there as fast as we can. If we know they know we're coming, they won't be able to take us by surprise.”
“Agreed,” he said, his mouth set in a grim line.
Without another word, Willow held Clint's bow up once more and headed back down the tunnels. Five minutes later, they began to see a faint light shining from beyond the bend. Buffy and Coulson flicked their flashlights off and spread out behind Willow as best they could in the narrow walkway. Just as they reached the end of the tunnel, they stopped and listened.
When they didn't hear anything, they continued on, weapons drawn and ready. Buffy kept the scythe in her left hand which allowed her right hand to be free in case she only needed to knock someone unconscious. Coulson had his gun out of its holster, but left the safety on and pointed to the ground.
The slayer's frown grew deeper as they passed through now obviously occupied tunnels but still didn't encounter any resistance. There was evidence that the catacombs had been modified in that area to house people as they actually passed the occasional modern door and a short hallway that led to a large open room.
Buffy's nerves practically vibrated from the adrenaline coursing through her system that had yet to find an outlet. She hated being on high alert like that with no enemy to actually fight. By the time Willow stopped at one of the modern doors and nodded her head, she was ready to scream in frustration. She looked over at Coulson who had the nerve to look calm and unruffled in direct contrast to her own inner turmoil.
“Let's see what's behind door number one,” she breathed out. Willow stepped out of the way as Buffy and Coulson flanked the wooden door. In the dimly corridor she could see him slip the safety off the gun and shift into a more typical stance. She held up her right hand and counted down from three with her fingers before kicking the door in.
Coulson's gun led the way into the room as they rushed forward. He let out a grunt almost immediately and his gun clattered to the floor. “Dammit, Barton.”
“Sorry, sir,” came a not quite apologetic voice.
Buffy's gaze did a quick sweep around the room until it landed on a sheepish looking Clint Barton. The tension she'd been holding in her shoulders eased as she took in his battered, but whole form. “I see our damsel in distress is alive and well,” she said with a slight smirk on her face.
Predictably, Clint's chest puffed out slightly. “I may be a damsel, but I'm not in distress,” he said and he pointed to the pile of rope on the floor that had probably until recently held him captive. “Just managed to escape my bonds before you guys came in guns a'blazin'.”
Willow poked her head in through the door. “It worked!”
“You weren't sure it would?” Coulson asked, his surprise shining out of his eyes.
“Well, I knew the tracking part would, just not the catacomb modification part,” she said with a huge grin. “Yay magic!” She exclaimed before stepping back out into the hallway.
Coulson stared at where she had been for a moment before turning to Buffy. “Is magic that unpredictable?”
“You have no idea,” Buffy said with a snort. “The stories of magic mishaps I could tell you.”
“Oh, those sound like fun,” Clint said, his eyes filled with mirth as he straightened from picking Coulson's gun up from the floor.
“Another day,” Buffy said. She noted the bruises that covered his exposed limbs and face. The blood spatters on his clothing didn't look like he had been seriously injured. “So damsel, do I need to carry you out bridal style or are you able to walk?”
Clint laughed. “Sir, please tell me we get to keep her.”
“I'm working on it,” Coulson replied calmly.
“I hate to break up the party, but we have a problem,” Willow said, popping her head back into the room. “I don't think this was a run of the mill super secret spy thing.”
“What gives you that idea?” Buffy asked.
“The summoning circle I saw in the main room.”