Fandom: Avengers (movie)
Pairing: None. Very background Clint Barton/Phil Coulson and Tony/Pepper
Summary: Natasha comes back from a mission and crashes out. Clint does what they always do, much to Tony and Bruce's amusement.
For the Cotton Candy Bingo prompt "Return".
Author's Notes: Title from the quote by Christian Morgenstern: “Home is not where you live, but where they understand you”. Can also be found over at AO3 for those who prefer
Her posture is perfect, her every movement the deadly grace the Black Widow is known for as she exits the SHIELD town car and enters Stark Tower. Rather, Avengers Tower, as it's beginning to be known, and for all Tony's bluster she knows he likes it. She nods impassively to security as she crosses the lobby and the nearest elevator opens it's doors as she reaches it.
“Miss Romanov,” JARVIS greets her as the doors close and she nods, knowing he can see her as the car begins to climb. Once it passes all civilian levels and starts into the numbers you need a biometric scan to even get the button to light up, she finally allows herself to unclench her jaw, close her eyes and lean against the wall.
Sofia to Bucharest to Constanta, chasing human traffickers for ten straight days until they led her to their base of operations and the cargo containers in the warehouse. She had put a very satisfying bullet in the eye of the leader and incapacitated enough of the hired grunts to make the point. SHIELD had taken control of the situation, and the girls caught up in it, and so Natasha could finally leave and go back to the States.
The elevator lets her off at the common floor, where they cook and eat and watch movies together. It's not her floor, like she expected, but maybe that's what she gets for blindly relying on Jarvis. She means to turn around and go up to her floor, but the exhaustion is dragging at her and she can feel every hour of missed sleep and the terrible MREs catching up to her. The couch looks so inviting, and she knows how soft it is because her spot is on the end when they watch movies every Thursday under the guise of catching Steve up and introducing Thor to Midgardian cinema. Really, it's a chance to relax, toss popcorn at each other and heckle Clint's choices in movies. And sometimes Tony's.
Natasha sits on the couch and it's all she can do to unholster her guns, but her hands are still deft as she unloads them and places them on the coffee table beside each other, magazines on each side. She could reload them with her eyes closed, has done on more than one occasion, and as she sinks sideways along the couch it's as comforting as always to know they're in reach. She drags the purple blanket someone left on the couch last week along with her and the last thing she thinks before she finally falls asleep is that it must be Clint's because it smells like him.
Clint was laughing at something Bruce had said when he came off the elevator, Tony right behind them. It was all part of the plan Clint and Bruce had come up with so that Tony would pull himself away from the science and eat something for a change. Bruce tries to follow Pepper's recommendations for the care and feeding of a Tony and Clint just likes the idea of tricking Tony, even if it's for a good reason.
He stopped dead, Tony nearly plowing into his back, and Clint held up a hand for silence. Predictably, Tony didn't actually stop talking as he peered around Clint.
“What's the hold up, Katniss? Is Steve stuck on the-”. He trailed off when he saw what Clint saw. “Hey, Natasha's back.”
Clint shushed him vigorously. “She's a really light sleeper.” After a moment, his expression turned puzzled. “Well, usually. Hazard of the job. We really only sleep well in our own spaces.”
Bruce gave a sort of half shrug. “She seems to be sleeping alright now."
Clint nodded absently as he moved forward silently. Her guns were set on the table side by side in her usual configuration, unloaded, but she was still wearing her boots, feet dangling off the side of the couch, and everything else. The blanket from the back of the couch was pulled haphazardly over her side and her hair covered her face. Very gently, Clint brushed her hair back off her face, drawn and paler than he liked to see.
“She doesn't look like she could kill us all with her pinkie, does she?" Tony said softly to Bruce who just shook his head.
Clint quirked a grin, and when Nat didn't even stir to react to Tony he let himself smile. “Okay, wow, she's out. I haven't seen her crash this hard in a while."
“Difficult mission?” Bruce hazarded, heading over to the kitchen. They heard the sounds of him preparing tea and he leaned on the door frame while waiting for the kettle to boil.
“I think so,” Clint said. He knelt down beside the couch and started unzipping Natasha's boots. He eased them off her and set them under the coffee table as Tony leaned against the wall and watched him tuck her feet up on to the couch.. “She can't come right out and tell me, of course, but the way she reacted before she left makes me think trafficking, something to do with girls or kids, something like that. Tasha has very specific feelings about people using children.” Both he and Tony looked down at her sleeping. Tony's face hardened and Bruce came out of the kitchen with his tea.
“There's left over Thai from last night. Go eat it,” he ordered Tony, who smirked, but did it anyway.
Clint gently moved her hand from under her head and unfastened her stingers, drawing them off each wrist, then removing her gloves and placing them on the table beside her guns. Tony came back in with a take out container and chopsticks as Clint was setting three different knives on the table.
“You really have that down to a science,” he commented, pointing a chopstick at the growing pile.
Clint just shrugged. “We've been doing this a while and you might have picked up on the fact that Nat and I don't trust too many people past Coulson and each other. So, when one of us gets past the point, we know how to take care of each other,” he finished matter of factly as he withdrew a small knife seemingly from thin air under her hair. Tony and Bruce just stared, but Clint continued, nonplussed, adding a minuscule can of mace to the table's collection. Clint laid two more thin blades beside them and sat back on his heels. “I think that's it. Unless she's added more, and if so, I'm not going looking.”
Tony waggled his eyebrows. “But looking's half the fun,” he leered around a mouthful of Pad Thai, but with more obligation to make the joke than any real feeling. “Seriously, though, she can't hear me, right?”
“I don't think so.” Clint stood up, but crossed his arms over his chest and watched her. “She's really out. It's been a very long time since I've seen her fall asleep anywhere that isn't my place, Phil's, or hers. Actually, I don't think I've ever seen her fall asleep anywhere else unless someone's on watch.”
Bruce, who had taken his usual armchair, looked up from his mug of tea and the scientific journal he was reading. “Well,” he said, thoughtful and measured, “she is home.”
Clint stared at him, dumbstruck. He looked back at Natasha and then to Tony, who spread his hands expansively.
“Hey, when I said my casa is su casa, I meant it.” He grinned. “Does this mean I can-”.
“No.” Clint leveled him with a look. He reached down and pulled the blanket up over Nat's shoulders. “No and also no. I'm going to head out and grab a couple of things for dinner. She's going to want curry and we're out of the good cumin. Bruce, are you up to making roti? She loves yours.”
Bruce looked surprised and flattered. “Sure. I'll get on it in a minute.” A pleased smile flickered around his lips as he sipped his tea. “Can you grab a couple of mangoes, too?”
Not to be left out, Tony stood and pulled out his phone. “I'll sound the call; family dinner. Pep and Agent, too?” He was already heading to the elevator, food forgotten.
“Yeah, sure. The more the merrier. Chicken and beef?” Clint asked Bruce as they headed towards the kitchen.
“Definitely. Anywhere around here stock decent goat? JARVIS?”
It was the setting sun coming in through the enormous windows that woke her. More accurately, it was the setting sun bouncing off a familiar knife very exactly placed on the coffee table. She came awake slowly, blinking at the unfamiliar room, which was enough to bring her to full alertness. She only came awake slowly when she was sleeping somewhere safe; hers, Clint and Phil's.
Natasha sat up and the purple blanket fell away from where it had been tucked under her chin. She didn't remember taking off her boots, and all her gear was piled very carefully on the coffee table beside her guns.
Clint. Even Phil didn't know where she kept the smallest knife. There was also a cup of tea with a china lid on it and a note propped up against it.
Dinner in the kitchen. Shower first, you smell like half of eastern Europe. Then dinner.
Also, I saved you from having to kill Tony for taking pictures.
She blinked at the tea and took off the lid. The smoky smell of her Russian Caravan and a taste said Bruce had made it, strong with just the right amount of milk. She could hear people in the kitchen, laughing and talking over each other, and the smell of food cooking told her that Clint was making curry. Curries, by the combination of scents, and she would be surprised he knew what she wanted if they hadn't been living in each other's pockets for years.
She stood up and headed over to the elevator, tea in one hand and boots in the other. The door opened before she reached it and Pepper and Phil stepped off. Pepper smiled at Natasha.
“Natasha, I'm glad you're back. I have a lot to fill you in on,” she said with a wink. “The boys were lost without you.”
Natasha arched an eyebrow, but Phil inclined his head and she decided to reserve judgement for Pepper's stories. “I'm going to go shower,” she replied instead. “Get into some real clothes. You can tell Clint to start the rice,” she said to Phil, who nodded and gave her a small smile.
“Welcome home,” Pepper added, as Natasha stepped into the elevator.
As the doors closed, she rolled the word over in her mind. Home. Not something she'd ever really called her quarters at SHIELD, and never something she associated with Russia. But, with the smell of the tea that Bruce had made her and purple fuzz from Clint's blanket still clinging to her uniform, she realised that despite not realising it, she was home.