Barbara wasn't sure what to think of her current position in this team dynamic. Not on Nat's part, of course. Her sister knew where they were going, knew the target's face, and was recognized as part of his operation. It was a big "duh" that she was in the lead. Which left this Hawkeye and Barbara as the follow up sweep, to guard Nat's back. Barbara didn't have a weapon (and hadn't seen the need to relieve Hawkeye of the firearm tucked under his vest...yet), but theoretically they would be melee and range, a perfect pairing.
Except the stupid man wouldn't stop protecting her.
It was sweet if it wasn't so deluded. Had Nat told him anything about the RRA or just told him where to go, who to grab, and then run? Barbara didn't know and didn't care. Her patience was about to run dry...mostly because they were about to be surrounded.
She kept her back to his, eyeing the incoming insurgents. She couldn't see Nat at all, suggesting they were trying to cut them off from each other. Behind her, she heard the archer swear. Glancing, she frowned when she saw that he had run out of arrows.
Okay, she was done being the nice girl.
Reaching behind her, she grabbed his gun (and there was a second clip next to it on his belt, bonus) and instantly slipped into the mindset of the assassin. Cold and calculating, she raised the hand gun and started to empty the clip, going for double-tap kill shots. He jumped and swore, but she only stayed peripherally aware of him. Eliminating all threats, she cleared their immediate area and set out at a trot down the hallway, changing clips on the fly so she had a full one in case of another group.
Sure enough, they'd set themselves up for a bottleneck. Too bad, so sad. She positioned herself on the outside of the door, taking chances between pauses to weed them down and then jumping into the room itself. One after another, down to the last who laid down his gun and raised his hands, begging for his life.
Barbara leveled the gun at his forehead.
"Wait!" Hawkeye grabbed her shoulder, twisting her towards them. He stared down at her in disbelief. "He's asking for mercy, girl."
She tilted her head, re-aimed the gun even without being able to see her target, and fired twice rapidly. Mercy was weakness and had been beaten out of her years ago.
But it was impossible not to notice the disappointment in the man's grey eyes...and that hurt, under her assassin's mask. He took her by the wrist and dragged her further in the complex, seeing the same signs she did that pointed where Nat had been. Barbara wasn't the only one leaving a trail of dead bodies. "What did they teach you in that school?" he complained under his breath, probably thinking she wouldn't hear him.
Barbara twisted her wrist out of his hold and darted ahead of him, standing on the outside of the door at the end of the hall so she wouldn't be seen once it opened. "Don't ask," she said grimly. He didn't need to know...and didn't really want to know, probably.
But he didn't let it go. "Well, SHIELD agents accept surrenders," he told her...or more like tried to order her.
"I'm not SHIELD," she reminded him. And she hit the mechanized switch to open the door.
The sounds of hand-to-hand combat came through. Barbara tucked the gun into the waistband of her skirt. She'd long since gotten used to the ridiculousness of the world's elite assassins being school girls in white shirts with Mary Jane collars and red ties, and black and red pleated skirts. Didn't stop her from wearing shorts under her skirt. She had some decency, and she just had to not get caught deviating from uniform.
Besides, the skirt worked well as a temporary gun holster. Grinning, Barbara darted into the room, grabbing the man that could only be Columbus from behind in a grapple. He wasn't expecting her weight, and he threw her to the side, but it gave Nat an opening to move in and give him a sock to the jaw. Unfortunately, he hadn't needed Nat for the muscle, and knocked her to the side. She paused, looking exhausted, and jerked her head in Barbara's direction. She was more rested. Her turn to at least stall him until Nat could catch her breath and regroup.
Barbara was more than happy to fill that void. It was where her and Nat were different. Nat was excellent at stealth and shooting, whereas those were Barbara's weakest. Her own specialty was tactics...and brawling. Her mask of calm stayed in place, but inside, she was cheering. She had a lot of rage, and she was more than happy to throw most of it Columbus's way.
Unfortunately, he'd been too worn down by Nat. He went down easily enough, underestimating her and overestimating the power of his reach and height on her. She dropped him to the floor...and reached for the gun. Leveling it at him, she tilted her head when he smiled. "Should have known the RRA wouldn't like me playing with their toy for so long," he said. "Well, finish your job."
"Barbara," Hawkeye called from the direction of the door. "Don't."
"You are not the boss of me, Agent," Barbara called back, keeping her eyes on Columbus so he wouldn't do anything sneaky. And he wasn't. But then, neither was the RRA. His words and her training both haunted her, as did her emotions. This... This was personal. "You took my sister from me," she told Columbus. Squeezing the trigger, she fired three times.
Once to the right shoulder. Twice to the left leg.
She lowered the gun so it was pointed safely at the ground, ignoring his cries of pain. He wouldn't hear her, but she needed to say it. So Hawkeye would hear her, and Nat. And the core of herself that had been saved from the brainwashing. "I want you to suffer. But you took other people's sisters, brothers, husbands, wives. They deserve to watch you suffer too." She blinked and she let the mask fall, and some of her emotions back. Exhaustion muffled most of them, but... it was a good kind of tired. Barbara sought Nat's eyes and managed a weak smile. "Some elite assassin I turned out to be, huh?"
Nat stood up and walked towards her, wrapping one arm around her shoulders in a loose hug. She had to nudge Barbara's head so it would be low enough for her to kiss her forehead, breaking Barbara's brain. When had she gotten enough height on Nat that the stupid heals she insisted on wearing into combat didn't let her stay taller? "I suppose since you never graduated, you can be a pseudo-assassin," she said with a small smile.
"No more killing?" Barbara said hopefully.
"Not for you," Nat agreed, though she didn't sign herself up for the sanity.
But that was okay. Barbara let Natalia move her to the side as Hawkeye locked down the room and called in a full detail from SHIELD. It was enough to know that no one was going to make her kill again. Now she just had to figure out how to stop herself from doing it out of instinct.