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Summary: Coulson was the only person who wasn’t afraid of Clint Barton. Even Fury was, not that he’d admit it. But watching Barton flip over the heavy desk and throw coffee mugs and clocks and various office shit at the walls until it explodes into pieces, Coulson didn’t really blame anyone.
“Where did she go?”
“How am I supposed to know? She requested a leave of absence. How she did that without you knowing, I don’t know. But the only thing I know is that Fury isn’t tracking her after what happened, and you needed to eat.”
He has to find her, now.
Rating: whole fic is NC-17 or heavy R.
Coulson was the only person who wasn’t afraid of Clint Barton. Even Fury was, not that he’d admit it. But watching Barton flip over the heavy desk and throw coffee mugs and clocks and various office shit at the walls until it explodes into pieces, Coulson didn’t really blame anyone.
“YOU FUCKING SNAKE!” A picture of Agent K from Men In Black exploded next to Coulson’s head. It was an inside joke. He merely blinked and watched his agent stomp among the wreckage of his spacious office. “Where did she go?”
“How am I supposed to know? Listen, she requested a leave of absence. How she did that without you knowing, I don’t know. But the only thing I know is that Fury isn’t tracking her, and you needed to eat.”
Clint was seething with rage. Coulson knew he wouldn’t actually hit him, because Coulson was pretty much the only person he trusted besides Natasha. But he’d never seen him this angry before. He hadn’t slept in days. Just sat outside Natasha’s recovery room. He wasn’t allowed in. No one told him that she’s the one who ordered that. He just watched her sleep and regain mobility. When the curtains were drawn he’d just pace in front of the observation window until they were opened. He’d question the nurses and doctors, but no one would tell him anything. After the fourth day, Coulson was told to get the man to eat and out of the doctors way or put him in a detention block. And in the half hour Coulson got him away, Natasha was discharged and took her LOA and disappeared. And here they were, knee deep in rubble as Clint’s walking cast crunched on the glass and he punched the metal walls so hard it dented under his fist.
“Barton, the doctors said her psych eval didn’t show any risk to her own life or other or they wouldn’t have let her go.”
“And you believe them? She’s been trained to lie her way out of anything since she was SIX FUCKING YEARS OLD!” He screamed and Coulson was sure even the sound proofing in his office couldn’t block this out. “Do you even know which Natasha you let out? Jesus, something like this could have triggered…You know she’s been reset more times than a fucking VCR, right?”
“Except that those other people just kind of sit around in her head. She’s seen some traumatic shit, but this… This is enough to make anyone revert back to something desperate. Did you let out Natalia? Did you let out the fucking sociopath junkie? What the FUCK were you assholes thinking?”
Coulson was pretty sure if Fury was here to see this, he’d be wondering how Barton was turning into the Hulk. He shoved that thought aside and pulled a tiny piece of paper out of his pocket, “this is why I’m not worried. I’ve spent enough time around you to know when Romanoff is on the fritz, okay. And she left this for you.”
Clint snatched the paper out of his handler’s fingers. And there in her tight, loopy writing was his address and a string of numbers.
“Phil, I could kiss you right now.”
“I’m making a leave of absence request.”
“I put one in for you this morning. Approved,” he said, pulling a packet of papers out of his jacket. He was to have no tracking, and six weeks before he had to check in. His injuries were cited as the cause, but with the medical tech and medicine S.H.I.E.L.D. had, he’d be better in a week, not six. “Don’t get killed.”
“Haven’t yet,” he rushed out the door. That was their little goodbye. They were friends, but neither of them would ever admit it. But he was going to send Coulson the best fucking Christmas card in the world this year.
He hoped to find her there, waiting. Drink in her hand as she sat in an old t-shirt of his at the table. He could look over her injuries himself, make sure she was the right Natasha, and then hold her and not let go for days. Make her understand how sorry he was that he let that happen to her. The taxi ride seemed to take forever. He was fidgeting with the scrap of paper in his hands, but he dare not let it go. It was the only piece of her he had right now.
He tried to bolt out of the cab but was suddenly made painfully aware of the broken ankle housed in the clunky cast. He didn’t care. The elevator ride seemed so painfully slow that he was sure he was going to die. But he also knew 50 flights of stairs in a cast would have been worse and probably a lot longer. I’m coming, Nat, was all he could think. He just wanted to wrap his arms around her and bury his face in her hair. He needed to know she was okay.
His keys fumbled in the door and he punched the entrance code on the keypad with such urgency he probably broke the damn thing. The locks unclicked and he burst through the door into blackness.
The city shined through his window, casting shadows on the open plane. There was an empty bed. There were fresh targets at the far end of the room. There were empty chairs around the table. His shoulders slumped in defeat and he punched the door frame and his knuckles split on the metal. He muttered a string of profanities that would even have made Natasha blush as he hobbled to the sink. There was a box on the table. He didn’t remember leaving a box on the table. He forgot about his bleeding hand.
It was heavy and cold when he picked it up. There was a dial on the side. The numbers made sense now, but he knew she wouldn’t just give him the code. He flipped through all the dates and numbers she could have used in his head, and then he reversed them. One stuck out. November 10th, 2004. 11/10/04. Between false numbers they were crammed in. The day she was supposed to die. The day he was supposed to kill her. The day he gave her a new life. He dialed in the numbers and the lock released. He was a little afraid to open it. He didn’t know what he’d find. Inside there was another scrap of paper.
“You’re killing me, Nat,” he whispered as he pulled it out and examined it. More numbers, but these looked like map coordinance. He got his laptop from under his bed and looked them up. The computer whirred as they pinpointed to a tiny island off the Alaskan coast in the Bering Straight. He smiled to himself; she still craved the comfort of the cold Russian winters, large amounts of vodka, and the hearty food of working men. It was midnight, he decided he could sleep on the plane.
Once he was in Alaska it was a different story. He’d felt better after getting some sleep for the first time in a week. But he was still anxious, he just wanted to get to Natasha, and he wanted to get to her now. If she was even there.
“Listen, I showed you my pilot license, just give me a fucking pontoon plane. I’ll pay double. “
“And how’my gonna get my plane back when you die out there, mister?”
“You’ll get it back. Look, I’ll buy the fucking plane.”
The man’s bushy eyebrows raised and he snickered, “You gonna give me $300,000 for a one way trip? Boy, you’ gonna die out there.”
Clint pulled stacks of cash out of his duffle bag, and made a point of revealing there was a lot more where that came from. As well as a myriad of weapons. He set the money on the battered counter and held out his hand for the key. “If I don’t die you can have the plane back free of charge, okay. And don’t call the coast guard.” He flexed his hand impatiently. The man dropped it in the open hand, still a little too shocked to speak.
There was a single dock on the tiny island, and there was another pontoon plane already there. The thick coniferous trees covering the island didn’t give him any idea of the layout, but he could see the storm rolling in the previously clear sky, so he was running out of options.
Getting out of a tiny plane with limited mobility wasn’t a pretty sight, he fell flat on the dock. He was glad there wasn’t anyone around to see him. Beyond the dock there was no path, there was nothing he could see, but the forest had to provide some sort of shelter from the cold wind coming off the sea. He picked up a walking stick, his duffle bag slung over his shoulder and marched into the dark woods.
He had to find Natasha.
The rain started to beat down. It was cold, he was wet, and his walking cast was starting to chafe on his leg. But he wasn’t going to stop until he found her.
The storm drowned out his call, but he just kept walking and calling. He walked for an hour through the thick forest. It was a small island, but it was slow going. He estimated he was only about half way across. Something hit him in the head. Not hard, but it stung like hell. He turned to see Natasha. In her heavy rain boots and her oversized insulated coat holding a couple pine cones, she looked almost childlike. But he didn’t doubt that she could probably kill him a hundred different ways with those pinecones.
A weak smile twitched across her lips. She looked as tired as he felt and as broken as his ankle. Both of them waited for the other to move. He wasn’t sure what state she was in, so he didn’t want to fuck up and wind up dead or with more broken limbs. After a moment she took a step towards him. It was full of hesitation and doubt. Something he’d never seen in her before.
He reached for her, and she flinched. The happiness he felt when he first saw her shattered.
“Shit, Nat…” his words hung in the air with his breath. She didn’t look away from his face. She was searching for something. They must have been a sight to see; standing in the rainy woods, shivering and soaked to the bone, just watching each other, broken and raw.
“Follow me,” was all she said.
They walked for a little while before they came upon a log cabin. Clint almost laughed, almost. There was a porch with a rocking swing, and a path of flagstones leading to it. She unlocked the door, and a keypad similar to the one at Clint’s apartment popped out of the wall and she punched the code in. This wasn’t an ordinary cabin. Though nothing about Natasha was ordinary.
The inside was homey. There was a once elegant couch against the wall next to a hand carved book case. There was a table and a couple chairs, though only one of them had ever seen use. The kitchen was small, but all the appliances were modern. The walls were paneled wood, no doubt covering some serious reinforcement and gadgetry. There was a Monet hanging above the table, and Clint didn’t doubt its authenticity. The floors were worn wood and he could see two bedrooms off to the side, and what he assumed was a bathroom and the cellar.
“Your room is there,” she pointed to the first bedroom. He was more than a little crushed that it wasn’t her room too, but he knew better to push her now. “There are clothes in there for you, you need to get out of your wet clothes, I’ll throw them in the dryer.”
His bed was pushed under a large window, and he could see he was wrong about where on the island they were, because out of it, he could see a small, trim back yard and then the jagged edge of a cliff and the toiling sea below. It was a beautiful view, and he could see from the marks on the floor, that the bed had been moved there recently. She’d done it for him. There was a pair of thick jeans, a thermal shirt and a wool sweater and thick socks waiting for him, neatly folded on the bed. All in his size. He opened the wooden dresser and saw it was filled with things in his size. He changed, carefully pulling the jeans over his healing leg before putting the cast back on. It was still damp, but he’d survive.
He walked out to see her sitting at her table, legs crossed beneath her so she was entirely on the chair. Her hair hung loosely around her face, curling as it dried. Her hands held a mug of tea like it was a lifeline. She stared off into the distance, not acknowledging his presence.
“Thanks for the clothes. Uh, what should I do with these?”
“The washer and dryer are in the bathroom.”
When he returned to the main room he sat in the other chair. There was a cup of coffee the way he liked it waiting there. He watched her for a few minutes. She’d silently sip her tea, just staring into the distance.
“So..This must be where you disappear to after bad missions.”
She nodded gently and took a sip of her tea.
“I like it. But what’s with all the doubles and clothes in my size if it’s just for you?”
“I always meant to invite you here, just never found the right time.”
“Following bread crumbs isn’t really an invite, Nat.”
“You didn’t have to come.”
“I did. I needed to make sure you were all right. They wouldn’t let me see you and then you disappeared.”
“I needed some time to think.”
“What did you figure out?”
“I need some time.”
He held back a frustrated sigh and just watched her sip her tea as he sipped his coffee. She looked so powerless, like when he’d first brought her back to S.H.I.E.L.D. after hitting her hard enough to make her forget who she was. It came back slowly, but it wasn’t easy to watch her struggle with herself in the beginning.
“Tash, I’m sor—“
“Don’t be. We finished the mission and he’s dead.”
“He deserved worse.”
He didn’t know what to say, he just wanted to hold her until things were right again. But this wasn’t that kind of story. It never was for them. He was going to fight tooth and nail with his guilt, and she was going slip and slide in the wreckage of her mind trying to piece things back together. Or they’d die trying.
She finished her tea and got up with almost inhuman grace.
She walked into her room and locked the door behind her. The click of the lock broke what was left of Clint Barton’s heart.
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