Author's Note: For my futurefic square on Trope Bingo Round Three.
Inspired by a series of non-English words that are simply awesome: buzzfeed DOT com slash alanwhite/23-charming-illustrations-of-untranslatable-words-from-other.
To gradually steal all the possessions out of a neighbour's house by borrowing and not returning
"Regimes fall every day," she had told Loki, god of lies and mischief. "I tend not to cry over that. I'm Russian. Or— I was."
Natasha Romanoff proved her words when SHIELD went down, and she took a week off after, while Steve and Sam went chasing down the Winter Soldier, to chase down her own partner. His mission probably went south in a bad way, but she wasn't actually worried about him.
She showed up at the personal safehouse he'd holed up in (not one of SHIELD's; it was a well-known fact that many agents felt a need for an extraction plan from SHIELD, just in case) and nearly kicked him in the head for neglecting to call.
"Stark's set his lawyers on protecting the list of loyal agents Maria gave him," she told him over vodka.
Clint flinched under her hands, more from the needle and thread as she stitched up a gash he couldn't reach.
"We can go back to New York," she said quietly. Quietly because she wasn't entirely certain of the 'we.' Clint was her partner but he had never shared her perpetual paranoia and was probably feeling more betrayed by all of this than she was.
But he nodded, sighing deeply before taking another swig from their bottle. "I'm going to have to move, aren't I?"
Natasha had already moved. Their apartments in New York weren't safe anymore, nor any place listed in SHIELD's files before the dump. "I cleaned out the most important things. Your storage room is gone, so I put it all in the cache."
Another something they'd kept off of SHIELD's radar.
Done stitching, Natasha ran one hand over the injury, ostensibly checking her handiwork but also confirming to herself that he was real and safe and here. "Stark's offered the Tower."
Clint laughed with tired humor and kissed her. He didn't realize she was being serious. "Tell him thanks, but no thanks." He curled his fingers into her hair and kissed her again.
Their world had gone to hell. They had one foundation in their lives left, and they clung to it, losing themselves in each other for another night before he fell asleep in her arms. For a little while longer, she felt like this end of the world was just another regime change, just another skin she could shrug off and pull on another.
She shuddered and tightened her grip on Clint. It wasn't the same. She needed him with her because everything she had thought was good in her world was bad, except for Clint and Maria and Fury and the people she had cared about. She needed him.
Even with the fall of SHIELD, Clint Barton was a stubborn, stubborn man. He wouldn't want to move into the Tower or have much of anything to do with Tony Stark on a day-to-day basis, but Natasha thought it only practical. They needed resources and there was a reason Maria Hill had ended up at Stark Industries. Clint was stubborn, but his partner was a woman with an even stronger will, even if Natasha thought he forgot that fact too frequently.
Maria Hill preferred to begin her morning with coffee. It wasn't good enough to rely on stimulants instead of her own will and strength to keep going, but she wasn't about to avoid her favorite beverage to prove a point either, so after the drive to the Stark Tower, she found some time to go in the break room before nine a.m. and grab a mug.
This morning, her hand paused halfway to the coffee pot as she saw a white mug, scratched and worn from use, sitting on the countertop. A purple 'H' covered the outward facing half. She glanced up as a certain redheaded Russian entered.
"Is Barton here?" Maria asked. She finished pouring her cup as she noted Natasha was wearing one of Clint's dark blue t-shirts.
Natasha picked up Clint's mug and poured her own coffee. She believed even less in stimulants than Maria, but her constitution (always patriotically blamed on Russia) could handle a seemingly endless supply or lack thereof with the same equanimity. "I'm just borrowing it," she said and sipped.
Maria decided not to comment.
Natasha split her nights between Clint's new place and the Tower. He had spared nothing in setting up his own security system, and it gave her a sharp pang when she realized there were no new SHIELD recruits to terrorize by having them attempt to penetrate it.
It was smaller than his old place, sparer. He wasn't ready to let his guard down enough yet to start collecting the detritus of comfort. As she walked through, dinner plate in hand, she remembered her first two years at SHIELD when walking into her own place was walking into a safehouse—not a home. She wondered now if that was why Clint never asked questions when she had appeared in his and spent the night. It had taken two more years for her to move off his couch to his bed when she was over. Now, there was simply no question.
She settled on the bed now, curled up on one leg beside Clint's sprawled form. "It's nice," she said coolly, even if the coolness was strictly limited to her tone.
He knew her well enough to know there was warmth behind her stoic appearance, the faintest flickers of expression she allowed herself around the masks. He grinned and let her eat while they chatted about everything and nothing in particular. Clint hadn't written off working with the Avengers or Maria's people. He was just keeping his options open and reconnecting with networks she sometimes forgot he had. He had been military before he'd been SHIELD and vigilante before he'd been that. There was a lot to catch up on.
Eventually, she eyed the stack of books near his bed. "That one looks interesting."
He glanced over and unerringly fished out the red hardcover she'd been considering. "Borrow it." He tossed it to her.
Steve Rogers didn't like to assume anything about anyone, least of all Natasha, but he had worked with her long enough that he was ninety-nine percent certain of his ground when he asked, "Isn't that Clint's knife?"
She didn't even glance his way as she threw it perfectly into her target, then picked up another just like it. "He's my partner, Steve."
Steve understood that, but he uneasily realized that he wouldn't feel comfortable lending Natasha his shield nor picking up her knives, despite their own partnership. "I'm not sure—"
But she cut him off with a brilliant smile. "I'm just borrowing."
"You're going to leave me naked and cold one morning," Clint growled as he stalked shirtless into the kitchen, unbuttoned a green dress shirt, and tugged it off of Natasha.
She raised an eyebrow at him.
"Can't even find a t-shirt and you're wearing the one clean shirt I have." He groused in a steady stream as he hunted around for his favorite mug, didn't find it, and pulled out an old chipped white one for coffee.
She sighed and buttoned up the shirt he'd only half-pulled on. Sometimes she thought men needed full-time caretakers—exhibit A: Tony Stark. "For someone with impeccable aim, you never can tell me where you threw my shirt."
"It was in the way," Clint protested. He rummaged in the junk drawer. "Where's my calculator?"
"I was borrowing it," she informed him breezily. "I must have left it at the office."
He muttered under his breath but did not otherwise address it.
"Nice library," Bruce commented politely as he waited in the dooway to Natasha's suite. He gestured at the full bookcases along one wall.
She had offered to give him a copy of some materials data sheets he wanted, and so she'd walked into her room and left the door open for him to trail her.
She glanced back over the eclectic collection of pulp fiction, classics, and useful books for mission research. "They're Clint's," she told him without inflection, then handed him the sheets. "I hope you find these helpful." The words were sincere.
Bruce smiled his thanks, then glanced at the bookcases again. "All of them?"
"Mine are in the bedroom."
She could see him deciding whether or not to ask about it; after all, Clint didn't even live here and barely visited, but she found herself approving when Bruce prudently abstained.
Clint showed up at the Avengers Tower approximately two weeks later in the early evening, a dark scowl on his face, still dressed in his uniform and covered in mud and blood from who knows what. Pepper did an admirable job of not being properly horrified.
Natasha ceded her shower with grace, knowing for once that it was a fight she would've lost had she not.
He found his laundry basket filled with his neatly folded clothes on her bed. "When you offered to do my laundry, that meant bringing the clothes back," he pointed out heatedly.
She curled up, one leg tucked beneath her on the bed, cup of tea in one hand and coffee in the other. "You should have specified," she countered primly.
Her tone brought his head up. He studied her with quiet intensity then narrowed his eyes at the purple 'H' on his favorite mug in her right hand.
She held it out.
"You've been stealing from me," he realized abruptly. Borrowing and never bringing back.
"I have not." She kept the prim tone precisely because he didn't trust it. "I've been moving you."
Clint leaned his head back and groaned.
Every once in a while, Clint truly underestimated her. He submitted the change of address form to Maria the next morning.