He jumps slightly as her arms drape themselves tenderly about his shoulders, a welcome gesture, but entirely unexpected, as ever, given the fact he hadn't heard a sound of her approach, also as ever. Twisting around, looking away from the precariously balanced papers to balanced papers on his knee to gaze up at her instead.
"I'm going to sew little bells onto all of your clothes to stop you from doing that." He warns her, ruining the stern effect of the words by lightly kissing her on the cheek as a hello.
Smiling playfully she nuzzles against his neck, one hand tangling itself through his hair as she greets him.
"Hi." She murmurs, smile broadening as she does so.
He groans in answer. "What?" He demands, hopelessly burying his face in his hands, the word muffled by his fingers, not sure if he really wants to know, or if he's really ready to know just 'what' is.
Widening her eyes at him in a mixture of mock hurt and disapproval as she pads around to the front of his chair and settles herself on top of him, curling up in his lap like a cat and making herself comfortable. Instinctively, he wraps his arms around her and draws her in even closer still, kissing the top of her head fondly, despite his mounting trepidation regarding whatever mischief he's sure she's gotten herself in to.
She burrows happily into him as she says with an innocent indignation he doesn't buy for a second, "I didn't even say anything."
He huffs out his breath in a sigh and feels her shiver slightly when it tickles her neck, "You didn't have to." He informs her evenly, mildly amused by the hurt in her voice at being rumbled so soon in spite of himself, "I can sense the tone."
"Oh there's a tone?" She teases, squirming in his arms so she can squint up at him, looking altogether too pleased with herself for his own good.
"Yes, there is." He says stoutly, refusing to rise to her bait and distract himself, "Come on." He insists, tickling her and catching her off-guard making her gasp and squeal hopelessly, "What is it?" He asks, raising his eyebrows and relenting with his tormenting to allow her to answer.
Slightly breathless, she finally gives him a hint at least, "I need you for..." She pauses a moment, choosing her next words carefully, "Moral support this evening." She concludes at last, maddeningly vague.
"Moral support?" He repeats, pondering.
"Mhm." She says with a lazy smile, blinking up slowly at him, her eyes deep and entrancing as ever.
Leaning down, he lightly presses his lips against hers, "You know I've got your back whatever's going on."
"Is that a yes?" She presses, smirking, shifting herself into a more comfortable position and making him lift his arms from around her while she does so.
He waits until she settles again before offering up an answer with a resigned sigh, lightly tickling her sides again, "Yes it's a yes." He says, "Now what are you up to this evening?"
She nestles against him apparently content once more and tugs at his wrists until he drapes his arms around her again, cuddling her into him, then she says smoothly, "We are babysitting the little monsters so Clint and Laura can go out for their anniversary."
He tenses under her, gaping, entirely thrown by this revelation. Blinking up expectantly at him, one eyebrow raised, awaiting some kind of response. It takes him a moment or two to find his tongue and once he does he stumbles over it, "No, no I'm not babysitting material, Natasha, I-"
"Said you had my back." She reminds him sweetly, widening her eyes at him.
"I did, I do." He gabbles, "But I thought you meant-"
"What?"She prompts, looking distinctly entertained by his currently plight. He waves a hopeless hand in the air and mumbles, "Something SHIELD-y, global catastrophe, aliens pouring from the sky, robots Hell-bent on destruction, I..." He trails off helplessly, catching her barely-concealed grin even as he buries her face in his shirt to hide her expression.
When she emerges a moment later it's entirely neutral, matching her tone, "Well, this is much easier."
"No this is not 'easy' is not the word that springs to mind." He tells her, hopelessly.
She rolls her eyes at him and jabs him in the side to make him behave himself, "Kids are simple." She informs him blithely, "Feed them, let them make a huge mess, tell them a story, they'll love you."
He blinks blankly at her in silent indignation. She smiles again and jostles him reassuringly, "Besides," she goes on, her voice a little softer and less playful than before, "I'm running point on this one, you just have to sit back and look pretty. Moral support, remember?"
That wrings a smile from him a moment before he shakes his head, long past defeated, "Okay." He says at last, meeting her eyes again. The smile she rewards him with is almost worth it all.
"I adore you." She murmurs lightly, stretching up to press a soft kiss to his lips.
"Mhm. You're lucky I adore you too." He mumbles against her mouth.
"Yes, I am." She agrees, rubbing noses with him before settling back down, nuzzling into his chest and beginning to give him details about their 'mission' for the night.
It's just past six when they arrive together at the Barton's, Bruce looking so uncertain she suspects he would have been a good deal happier if she had wanted him to join her on a deadly and dangerous mission for SHIELD. Children isn't an area he has a lot of experience in, an area she quietly thinks he's deliberately distanced himself from to try and take some of the sting from the knowledge that, thanks to the big guy, he's unlikely ever to have any of his own.
Slipping her hand into his, she give it a little squeeze before knocking and pushing into the house. Clint and Laura both greet them warmly, clearly in the final stages of getting ready and preparing to leave.
"Thanks so much for doing this." Laura says with a slightly flustered little smile, trying to embrace Nat and look around for her bag, which Clint is helpfully and wordlessly holding out for her, at the same time.
"Any time." Nat grins, waving a greeting at the elder of the two kids over Laura's shoulder.
Smiling, Laura releases her and takes her purse from Clint then immediately launches into rhyming off instructions at a hundred miles an hour while her husband exasperatedly attempts to use the belt of her coat as a line to reel her in and pull her towards the door so they can get going.
"I've just put Nathaniel down, he'll need fed later but-"
"But I'm sure he'll let us know when he's hungry." Nat supplies, smirking slyly at Clint as she adds, "He gets cranky when he's not fed, takes after his father that way."
Clint glowers at that but Laura laughs and takes his arm, saying, "I'll go and do something about him now then. Thanks again Nat, Bruce."
They wave them out and off to the car with Clint informing Laura in a mock wounded tone that, "You're supposed to be on my side when she starts," as they go. With the parents safely out of the way, Nicole and Lewis decide Aunty Nat is at last fair game and come thundering over to say hello and get their hugs.
Nat begins to re-introduce him to Bruce but is informed with dismissive eye-rolls that, they know who Uncle Bruce is. After that, they scamper back into the living room to resume their play and she grins up at Bruce, "You've made quite the impression."
"I blow up into a huge green giant, I'm awesome." He quips from the corner of his mouth and she laughs lightly, glad that he's beginning to relax a little with this idea and leads him to follow the kids into the sitting room.
They make themselves comfortable on the sofa, twined together, and he patiently watches her channel-flick distractedly for a bit while the kids amuse themselves, with more success, until the sound of a baby crying interrupts them.
"I'll go." She says, uncoiling and lightly kissing Bruce's cheek.
He nods absently and she's barely gone five paces before she hears Nicole's voice, "Can you tell us a story?"
Bruce looks half bemused and half startled at being asked this but gathers himself quite quickly, catching her encouraging thumbs up, and says bracingly, "Sure." She watches long enough to see them squirm happily up onto the couch beside him to listen.
Wondering vaguely with a faint smile what Bruce is going to enchant them with, she pads down the hall to deal with her own, noisier charge.
"Hey little guy." She murmurs softly, stepping into his room and scooping him up in her arms, jiggling him gently up and down to quieten him some before she goes in search of some food for him. It's not hard, Laura has everything all sorted and laid out and labelled for her in the kitchen and before long, he's sucking happily on a bottle, gazing up at her with bright, guileless eyes. She murmurs quietly to him as she feeds him, feeling a faint pang in her chest at the fleeting thought that she'll never be able to feed her own baby like this.
Shaking that thought off quickly, she refocuses on what she's doing and lightly tickles the little bundle in her arms, unable to stop another smile splitting across her face as he giggles delightedly then she suggest softly, "How about we go and say hello to Uncle Bruce?" He gurgles happily at that, which she takes to mean he's entirely amenable to the idea, and they make their way back through to the sitting room to join the others.
They arrive in time to hear the end of Bruce's little science based fairytale, which is being received with general fascination. He wraps it up and leaves the two of them debating it excitedly, to slip over and join her, sliding an arm around her waist and kissing the top of her head by way of greeting.
"I don't know what's more unbelievable." She begins playfully, "The fact you made a children's story from nuclear chemistry," he flushes slightly as she continues to tease, "Or that they just bought it and didn't resort to painting you green to make it stop."
"Don't give hem ideas." He mutters out of the corner of his mouth.
"Next time." She grins. "Hey, check this out." She says, smile broadening as she's struck by her idea, holding Nathaniel out for Bruce's inspection, nodding towards the neat little yellow onesie he's wearing with the words 'little traitor' splashed across it in big, bold letters.
"Really?" He demands of her, clearly torn between amusement and exasperation. She nods proudly, looking pleased with herself as he despairs, his smile running the effect of that somewhat. "You can't dress him in a 'little traitor' onesie." He tells her reasonably.
"It suits him." She announces cheerfully, bouncing him up and down in her arms and making him smile in apparent agreement.
"It's cruel." He protests, cautiously tickling Nathaniel's little tummy and continuing when he giggles in delight.
"It's fine, he can't read." She counters dismissively, smiling at their antics as Bruce offers the baby a finger and immediately finds a pudgy little fist wrapped around it.
"His brother and sister can." He points out.
She grins broadly at that, "Oh I've got that covered." She answers smoothly, "They already know, I have them very well trained." He just laughs at that, and they're spared the necessity of continuing their playful bickering by an interruption and a polite demand to make cupcakes.
She agrees immediately and enthusiastically to which Bruce raises an eyebrow and she waves an airy hand, "We do this all the time, it's fine."
She shifts Nathaniel in her arms and motions towards him, "Can you take Little Traitor and put him to bed while we set up?" He visibly hesitates and she rolls her eyes, "He's a baby, not an atomic bomb."
"I can see that." He replies mildly, "I'm just...Not sure about the best way to..." he trails off, gesturing hopelessly.
Understanding at once, her tone softens, "It's easy." She assures him, "Here-"Carefully, she transfers him over into Bruce's arms, showing him the right way to hold him, realising that with instinct driving him, he doesn't need that much guidance. "There, see." She says quietly, sliding her arms away and watching Bruce adjust his hold slightly then rock him gently to settle him, though after a few initial, feeble protests, Nathaniel calms and nestles in against him without further complaint.
"He likes you." She muses quietly.
"There's no need to sound so disappointed." He teases, smiling more with very passing second at having the little baby in his arms.
"I didn't!" She insists, nudging him very lightly in reproach, "He just, took some time getting used to me, that's all." She explains.
"Well.." Bruce says with a small smile, "You do keep calling him 'Traitor'." He reminds her pointedly. Natasha glowers good-naturedly as he turns and moves back down the hall towards Nathaniel's bedroom.
As he goes, he hears Lewis observe to her that, "Little Traitor likes Uncle Bruce."
Picturing the smirk that no doubt quirks across her lips at that with fondness, he hears her reply emphatically, "Yes, which makes Uncle Bruce an even bigger traitor." Shaking his head and smiling affectionately as she goes on to inquire about the cupcake recipe.
Pushing into Nathaniel's room, he lays him as gently as he can into his cot and tucks him in, switching on the mobile above him as an after-thought, watching it rotate slowly above the crib for a time before he retreats, closing the door behind him, and turns to head back towards the noise and clamour coming from the kitchen.
Freezing in the doorway, he gazes around at what can only be described as carnage, and even then that seems to kind, with every inch of the once pristine and orderly kitchen transformed to something that more closely resembles a battlefield, flour drifting around the scene like snow.
"Do you need any help?" He asks innocently, sliding over to where Natasha is apparently supervising, but seems to be more likely responsible for most of the mess.
"Hmm?" She says distractedly, smiling still as he slides his hands around her slim waist, hugging her from behind, resting a plaintive chin on her shoulder and peering around the room from this new vantage point, wondering if it looks better. It doesn't. Though she seems to disagree, "No, no we're fine. Everything's going according to plan." She insists blithely.
"There's a plan to this?" He teases, nuzzling gently at her neck, kissing her there.
"Yes, there is." She informs him stoutly, with a certain defiance flavouring her tone, playfully swatting at his nose in punishment for his rudeness. Their mischievous squabbling is interrupted by the sad, solemn declaration from the corner that they don't have any icing sugar left.
"Well that's okay." Nat says, having swooped in for crisis management and now laughing instead, looking relieved, clearly having expected something more distressing from the tone, "Uncle Bruce can go on a mission and find some more."
"He can?" Bruce blinks, bemused.
"Sure, there's a grocery store less than ten minutes away, I can hold down the fort for that long." She says with one of those easy smiles he loves so much, "We'll get started and you'll be back by the time we need you."
He just blinks at her again in disbelief, "You're going to bake something?" He asks doubtfully. She glowers her reproach at that, "I, I mean you're going to bake something!" he amends with a little too much enthusiasm to entirely make up for his initial doubt.
Fortunately, she just laughs at that and stretches up on her toes to kiss his cheek then tells him comfortably, "I can escape from being bound to a chair surrounded by," with a half glance at the kids scampering around them, she goes on, "bad guys and neutralize the situation in less than two minutes." She grins and winks at him, "I can handle cupcakes."
He smiles back at her, "Okay then." He murmurs, lightly rubbing noses with her, "I won't be long, have fun."
"We will." She calls as he heads off, waving goodbye to the room at large.
All in all, he's only gone for about twenty five minutes but he returns to pure unbridled chaos all the same. Surveying the kitchen before him the overwhelming thought comes to mind that it would probably look more ordered and put together if a bomb had in fact hit it. Natasha and two smile, lightly flour dusted children have done infinitely more damage than that in the amount of time he's left them.
"How long was I away?" He demands weakly, still looking limply around the room.
"Not long, your timing's perfect." She tells him, missing, or choosing to ignore, the tone, "Did you get it?" She asks brightly and he nods feebly.
"What happened?" he asks as she relieves him of the sugar, raising his eyebrows at her and gesturing around at the confusion the kids are happily pattering about in, once known as the Barton's kitchen.
"Baking." She replies cheerfully, heading back towards the kids.
"Baking or battling?" He clarifies pointedly.
She laughs and shakes her head, insisting confidently, "I have things completely under control." The pure disbelief on his face reflects what he thinks of that assertion. "Mostly under control." She amends, still grinning.
Spying a bowl in the corner, he wanders over to gingerly inspect its contents, wondering if at least the batter they've managed to produce has been worth all of the chaos. A faint, teasing smile beings spreading across his face as he turns back to face her again, "I can escape from being bound to a chair and surround-" He echoes mockingly, snickering when she thumps his arm, glaring.
"I'm not a chef, I'm an assassin." She huffs irritably at him.
"I can see that, these cupcakes have been well and truly assassinated." He smirks at her, earning himself another light, playful punch in the chest.
"Can you fix them?" Asks a bright, hopeful voice from somewhere near his elbow.
"No." Natasha answers before he has a chance, leaning down and tickling as she insists, "No-one makes better cupcakes than Aunty Nat."
"Is it possible to make worse cupcakes than Aunty Nat?" he mutters out of the corner of his mouth, smiling still.
Glowering, a faint pink flush having the grace to creep up into his cheeks, she says sweetly, "I'm sure Uncle Bruce can take over and show us how easy cooking is."
He just smiles lightly; rolling up his sleeves and murmurs softly in her ear, "Cooking is just chemistry. I'm good at chemistry."
They're standing side-by-side in the kitchen, watching the kids peering with fascination through the oven window, watching the little cakes steadily rise as they cook and debating which one they're going to claim for their own when they're finished when he leans over and says softly, "They smell good don't they?"
"Nope." She lies flatly, mouth watering.
"They do." He presses, the smile tugging at his lips broadening steadily, "Even a little bit?" he coaxes.
Obstinately, she shakes her head. Grinning, he lightly jostles her, wrapping his arms around her waist, crossing his hands over her stomach, making her melt back into him and somewhat ruining her stony faced stubborn boycott of his baking.
"You won't be wanting to eat any when they're done t hen?" he teases, very softly tickling her side, trying to make her crack, "No, I-" She begins baldly when Nicole hurtles over her flat admonishments and gives the game away just a little by demanding with pronounced shock and awe in every syllable, "We can eat Uncle Bruce's cupcakes?"
Blinking down at her, Bruce enquires further, "You didn't eat Aunty Nat's cupcakes?"
"No." She replies plaintively, shrugging and swinging idly from Natasha's hand, "She said they were just for fun."
Bruce manages to keep it together long enough to inform Nicole that they will definitely eat these cupcakes and send her scampering off, delighted, to tell her brother, before he rounds on her, eyebrows raised, making her squirm beneath his gaze.
"Okay, okay." She sighs, defeated by a five year old, "I would never push it far enough to give them food poisoning." He just smiles in quiet triumph before he retrieved the cupcakes, leaving them out to cool while supervising the making of the icing.
She heads over to supervise him in turn when she catches him sampling it, swatting at his hand, "There won't be enough left for decorating."
"I only had one." He mumbles, having the good grace to look abashed.
"And the other three." She scolds, half-amused, half-stern.
Bruce decides quickly after that that it's time to start decorating and the four of t hem set to work. Nathaniel causes a slight distraction in the midst of it all and Bruce volunteers to go to him this time. He's only gone for a few minutes before he returns and she holds up a small, green Hulk-shaped cupcake for his inspection. Smiling, he leans in and tenderly kisses her before offering up his own creation, a small, simple red spider. She smiles too and nuzzles in against him murmuring softly, "Well played, Doc."
Jerking out of his reverie at Natasha's soft yet insistent elbow to the ribs that sets both children to giggling and Bruce realises it's his turn again and hastily scrambles to pick up the dice. Half-way through marching his, appropriately green, or so Lewis insisted, counter around the board, he's interrupted by a gently tugging at his shirt.
Blinking down in surprise, he finds Nicole standing on her toes, clearly pleased to have gotten his attention at last, "Uncle Bruce..." She begins, gazing up at him with large, hopeful eyes, "Can I ask you a question?" She enquires cautiously.
Startled by this tentative approach rather than her simply blurting out whatever's on her mind, the way young children are prone to doing, he nods and confirms, "Of course you can."
Smiling almost shyly, she beckons him closer and he obliges, leaning down so she can whisper in his ear, "When are you and Aunty Nat going to get married?" is the innocently posted question that nearly knocks him off his chair in shock.
Almost at once, Bruce feels a dark flush of colour and heat flood into his cheeks which piques Natasha's interest. More so when he flounders, trying to find a suitable answer to the question, all eyes now, expectantly, on him.
"What did she say?" Natasha asks, half-laughing, no doubt at the expression on his face.
Bruce gapes hopelessly and so Nicole intervenes, beckoning Natasha this time and she obediently leans down just as he had to have the question repeated in a childish whisper in her ear. He's somewhat relieved to see a similar mixture of bemusement and surprise and shy embarrassment colour her cheeks in response.
"Well-" Bruce begins, gazing beseechingly towards Nat in mute appeal, "Well we haven't decided that yet, or, no, we haven't decided if we want to, or if, erm, Natasha?"
She opts for deflection as opposed to trying to add to his woeful attempt at an answer. Ruffling Nicole's hair, she asks curiously, "Why do you want to know, Squirt?"
It becomes apparently a moment later that she's hit the nail on the head with that because Nicole immediately then gushes out the heart of the matter, "Can I come?" She wants to know excitedly, appealing first to Natasha and then to Bruce, but before either can supply her with an answer, she steamrollers on with more questions, "Can I be a flower girl?" She asks, "Can I be a bridesmaid? Can I be both?"
Laughing now, Natasha rescues them and quickly manages the bubbly situation, "Yes." She responds brightly, "If we get married you can definitely come, and you can be whatever you want to be okay, Squirt?"
"Okay." She beams, looking delighted at the way this has resolved itself.
"But right now, "Nat adds quickly, her tone becoming a little firmer, "You can go and get your pyjamas on, go on."
Both kids scamper off obediently at that and she manages to contain herself until they're out of range before she catches the still shell-shocked look on his face and bursts out laughing, burying her mirth hopelessly in his shoulder, her own shaking uncontrollably as she tries to pull herself together again.
"HYDRA's top interrogators have nothing on her." Bruce mutters weakly.
Nat smiles and nuzzles affectionately into his neck the way she's want to do, grinning against his skin as she teases, "Well you resisted very well." Another faint laugh bursts from her as she adds, "My brave, mighty avenger-"
"Stop." He whines hopelessly, poking at her sides in a bid to make her behave herself, "It's not funny." He says, the stern effect ruined by him trying to choke back laughter himself.
Leaning up, she's in the midst of brushing a tender, placating kiss to his lips when they're interrupted by the rapid pattering of feet and a small blur hurtling towards them.
"This isn't pyjamas." Natasha observes, trying to sound strict as she plucks at Nicole's unchanged t-shirt, "No." The girl agrees, slightly breathless from her headlong rush back to them, "it's better." She informs them stoutly.
"Oh I see." Nat mutters, glancing up to grin at Bruce before she's distracted by Nicole squirming insistently up to plant herself squarely on the sofa between them.
Beaming, she proudly displays the paper she has in her hand, explaining unprompted, "That's you, and that's Uncle Bruce," She informs them, pointing at two little crayon figures in turn, "And you're getting married," She continues, matter-of-factly blunt on the subject. Unable to help himself, he looks up from the drawing, over Nicole's head and towards Nat, finding her gaze and shy smile ready to meet and mirror his. "And that's me." Nicole announces, oblivious, jolting them both back down to Earth, "I'm a flower-maid." She explain, looking extremely proud to have managed to combine the two roles so succinctly.
"It's beautiful." Nat tells her warmly, fondly ruffling her hair again.
"You like it?" She asks, delighted, beaming up from Natasha to Bruce, who solemnly nods, "We do."
Grinning, Nat turns to him, "Our future has been mapped out for us by a five year old, how do you feel about that?" She enquires loudly.
"Well, it could be worse." He begins evenly.
She laughs, "That's very romantic, you should make sure that's included in our hypothetical ceremony." She teases.
He glowers good-naturedly at her before he goes on more seriously, "Well there's you, and me-" He starts slowly, "And me!" Nicole pipes up. "And you." Bruce agrees, leaning over and twining his fingers through Natasha's looking directly into her eyes as he says, "We're together, safe, happy...I'd call that a win."
She smiles and softly rubs noses with him, agreeing quietly, "Me too." Before she kisses him.
Both Nicole and Lewis are visibly flagging when she glances up at Bruce. A curt look and an understanding nod passes between them and they rise together to scoop the kids up and carry them off to bed, smiling at the sleepy but insistent murmurs telling them that they're the best babysitters ever.
Once they've settled the two of them in bed and said their goodnights, they head back into the kitchen. The breath huffs slowly out of him as he looks around in exasperation and muses quietly to her, "Do you think we could get away with calling the Stark Relief Foundation to help us clear all of this up?"
Laughing, she whacks him playfully with a coiled up dish cloth and tries to insist bracingly, "It's not that bad, it won't take long if we both get stuck in...You want to wash or dry?"
Surprisingly, she turns out to be quite right and it doesn't take too long to return the kitchen to its previous state, with only a minor intermission that took place after a stray splash of water from the sink led to a childish, breathless water fight over the dishes.
Gratefully, they troop back in to the living room and settle down on the couch together, glad to be able to snatch a little alone time, just the two of them, amidst the chaos. Within a few minutes, she's squirmed her way into her accustomed place on top of him and they've twined themselves together enough to say that they're comfortable.
He's absently rubbing her feet when she wriggles about, apologising for accidently shoving an elbow into the region of his spleen as she does, then raises her eyebrows questioningly at him, "Well?" She prompts vaguely.
"Hmm?" He mumbles back, his fingers lightly stroking a spot just beneath the nape of her neck that always relaxes her.
"It wasn't as bad as you thought it would be." She says, smiling.
It's not a question but he answers it anyway, shaking his head and murmuring quietly, "No, no, we make a good team."
"We do." She agrees, closing her eyes and nestling against him, humming contentedly.
"They're good kids." He says, his fingers moving up from her neck to tangle in her thick red curls instead.
"Mm, and they love you." She says with a wolfish grin, opening one eye to peer up at him and see his reaction to that.
"Well, I did save the cupcakes from Aunty Nat and certain doom." He teases lightly, a playful smile lifting the corners of his lips and making his eyes dance. "That earns me permanent hero status in their books I should think."
"I'd forgotten about that." Se mutters darkly, squinting up at him in a good-natured scowl, the corners of her mouth twitching into a small smile in spite of herself, "I'm surrounded by traitors." She huffs indignantly.
He just laughs at that, offering her a gratefully accepted fond little kiss before he returns to gently rubbing her feet, making her sigh happily and consider forgiving him for usurping, perhaps with good reason, her crown of head backer.
A little while later, their quiet cuddling and talking on the sofa is interrupted by Nicole coming to inform them sadly that she can't sleep and needs Aunty Nat to come and chase the bad dreams away. Natasha obliges at once, rising and taking Nicole's hand, turning to lead her back to her room.
As if on cue, Nathaniel starts crying, drawing Bruce to his feet as well. "I've got it." He reassures her, briefly dipping down on the way past to gently kiss the top of her head.
"Divide and conquer." She grins at his retreating back.
It doesn't take long to settle Nicole, tucking her into bed again and selecting a favourite stuffed toy to guard her, then she leaves the room, switching the light off and waving goodnight to her, smiling and looking much happier.
Yawning slightly, she pads back through into the living room again, pausing in the doorway, a broad smile splitting her face as she surveys the scene before her. Bruce is lying on the sofa, his head pillowed on the arm, gazing up at her in beseeching helplessness, baby traitor snuggling into his chest, evidently fast asleep.
Shaking her head and smirking, she murmurs softly under her breath so as not to wake him, "Rookie mistake, Doc."
"I sat down for two minutes." He protests feebly, "And then he fell asleep and-"
"And now you can't move." She supplies happily, looking entirely too pleased and amused at how this situation has turned out.
"Help." He implores weakly, looking at her with wide, desperate eyes.
"Maybe I'll go back into the kitchen and help myself to more of those cupcakes and-"She muses aloud, feigning deaf ignorance to his plight.
"Natasha." He interrupts in a low, urgent hiss, not wanting to raise his voice in case he wakes the baby nestled in his arms.
At last she takes pity on him and gently scoops Nathaniel from his chest, rocking him back and forth in her arms to soothe him, murmuring quietly, "I know, I know, Uncle Bruce can be a very genius sometimes."
Once she's settled Nathaniel back in his crib, she returns to Bruce's arms and her place twined around him again. He winds his fingers through her hair, stroking it absently as they talk quietly together until Clint and Laura return from their night out.
"No problems?" Laura asks as she hugs Bruce.
"Besides Nat." Clint adds, grinning while she glowers and elbows him childishly.
Bruce assures Laura that everything was fine and that he and Natasha were happy to do it and are willing to come back again any time if they need them to. They say their goodnights and head back to a relatively very quiet and peaceful home together.
A few weeks later, Natasha accosts him as he comes home and tells him brightly that Clint and Laura need babysitters gain while they attend a friend's wedding and that this time, in light of the incident with the cupcakes and his bonding so well with Little Traitor, she has something for him.
Bemused but curious, he follows her through to their bedroom where she proudly displays a t-shirt in his size with the words 'Big Traitor' scrawled across it to match Nathaniel's Little Traitor onesie.
A slow smile spreads across his face and he pulls her in for a long, slow, deep kiss before drawing away and rubbing noses with her, murmuring quietly, "I adore you, you know."
A/N: thanks for reading! comments are always encouraged.