Disclaimer: I don't own Marvel comics or characters or movies and am making no money off of this fic.
AN: This fic is dedicated to Chalenmimi! As everyone's probably noticed, there aren't going to be anymore Mandatory Fun Day prompts. The mods are on a long, maybe permanent, hiatus. Still, I promised Chalenmimi that I would continue the Winter Soldier!Clint Barton prompt, so here is the third and last fic in the series. I hope you enjoy!
Lucky by luvsanime02
Clint now owns an apartment building in Bed-Stuy. Natasha only hears about this through her old connections, because the building apparently used to be owned by the Russian mafia. The absolute lowest rung of the mafia, but still. They don't own it anymore. Natasha doesn't need to be the best spy in the world to know why, but she is, and so she finds herself standing outside of Clint's new building and staring at the dump in something like disbelief less than half an hour after hearing about the building's turnover in ownership.
She'd forgotten just how derelict Clint is used to living. Apparently, some things really do never change. Natasha isn't sure if she's glad for that or not yet. On the one hand, this is just further proof that Clint is himself again, even more so than before. On the other hand, ugh.
Natasha can't spend all day standing outside Clint's new apartment building. Well, she could, but that would just be weird. She has no doubt that Clint already knows she's there anyway, if he's inside.
A deep breath, and Natasha enters the building. The lock is old-fashioned, nothing electronic installed, but it still only takes her a few seconds to pick. She's banking on the fact that people live here, and that means Clint can't make the building as secure as he'd like to.
Oh, Natasha is sure that he has security set up. She's spotted two hidden cameras already, and she's only just come to the stairs. That's different than boobytrapping the whole place to the extent that Natasha would expect from the ghost of Russia, though.
He's not that ghost anymore, she reminds herself.
He'll always be that ghost, Natasha tells herself in the next moment. Both statements are true, and keeping that in mind, Natasha doesn't bother with stealth. She's wearing a dress and heels, and only carrying one stiletto knife on her, and she feels more naked than the last time she was naked.
Natasha hates being vulnerable, but she swallows that feeling down.
She slowly climbs the stairs - not because she's stalling, but because she's making sure that the floor isn't going to collapse underneath her feet. This place really needs to be brought up to code as soon as possible.
Then Natasha is standing in front of Clint's apartment, and there's nothing else to focus on except raising her hand and knocking on the door. It takes her a minute to manage only that much, and Natasha scolds herself silently. She needs to get her shit together.
The door actually opens, which surprises her, and then there he is. Clint. Her Clint.
He has a black eye that's swollen enough that she's pretty sure his eye socket is cracked underneath, and a bruise along his jaw and several scratches, and his hands are a mess and-
Natasha swallows. Her mouth is dry. "Love what you've done with the place," she quips, because Natasha goes for humor when she's nervous. Always has.
Clint stares blankly at first, but then one corner of his lips curl up slightly, like he has to remind himself that expressions are allowed.
Natasha knows the feeling.
"Thanks," he says, and the tone is still pretty flat, but she knows him. Despite all of their time apart and everything that both of them have been through, Natasha still knows Clint, at least this much, and the relief Natasha feels at that realization would have sent a lesser person to their knees.
Natasha is not letting her knees touch this floor. She doesn't even want to know what those stains on the carpet are.
After a beat, Natasha raises an eyebrow. "You gonna invite me in?" she asks teasingly, but her eyes are serious and sharp. She wants to come inside, but she doesn't want to force her way in. If Clint doesn't feel comfortable letting Natasha into his place yet, then they'll talk right here.
She's fine with taking whatever she can get, when it comes to Clint Barton.
Clint backs away from the door, and that's answer enough. Natasha breezes into the apartment like this is any other day, because if she acts like this is the monumental occasion that it feels like, the both of them will end up very uncomfortable.
She eyes the furniture in the apartment, recognizes that it's the same stuff the previous owner had and nothing Clint has bought for himself, and isn't surprised at all. She does make a mental note to get Clint to go furniture shopping in the next month, though.
There aren't any personal items, really. There's the smell of stale coffee in the air, and Natasha can't explain how nostalgic that smell makes her feel. It's reassuring, and also makes something seize in her chest with a pang of sadness, but she doesn't let anything show on her face. By now, it's not Natasha purposely trying to keep her emotions in check so much as it is pure habit.
If there's anyone who's been able to break through her conditioning, though, it's always been Clint. Natasha turns around and finds him watching her, of course, but she's pleased to see that Clint isn't looking at her as though she's a potential enemy.
Dangerous, sure. Natasha's always been deadly, and Clint's never pretended otherwise. He's not wary around her, though. That's one worry Natasha can let go of.
She fingers the scarf around her neck and watches Clint's eyes follow the movement. "Thanks," she says, obviously meaning his gift.
Clint nods. He's not speaking, and Natasha tries to pretend like it's not bothering her. What did they have to do to him in order to stop his constant rambling? She doesn't want to know, except that she does. Natasha wants to know everything.
Maybe that's where she should start.
Natasha walks over to the couch and sits down and doesn't let herself think about how dirty the fabric is. "You've been busy," she comments idly. "Want to tell me about it?"
Natasha keeps her tone light and her body language open, her limbs relaxed, like she and Clint are just two friends catching up after a week of separation. It's both true and not.
Clint watches her for another few minutes, long enough that Natasha wonders if he's going to speak at all, and then he abruptly walks over to the armchair next to the couch and carefully sits down on the edge of the cushion.
He's armed with at least half-a-dozen knives that she can see and who knows what else, and his body's tense and prepared for an attack at any moment, but he sits and he quirks a slight smile at her again. "Well," he says, "I don't know about you, but my day's been alright."
It's a start, Natasha reminds herself. Clint tells her about helping one of his elderly neighbors fix a leaky faucet, and Natasha tells him about breaking a few traffic laws when she heard that Clint was in the neighborhood, and it's a start.
They don't talk about what Clint's been through. They don't talk about what Natasha's been through without him. They'll have to talk about both of those things and more, eventually, but for right now, this is enough. It's more than enough. Natasha never thought that she'd have this again, talking about everything and nothing with Clint while sitting around in some dump.
Even the dog that carefully walks into the room several minutes later into their conversation doesn't feel out of place to Natasha, really. She glances over the dog, and its fur is a little matted and one of its eyes has been removed, but it nudges Clint so gently and waits so patiently for Clint to slowly sink his fingers into its fur and start scratching that Natasha can't help but find the dog charming.
Apparently, his name is Lucky, when Clint thinks to introduce them. Natasha finds that fitting. The dog is lucky, and so is Clint, and Natasha is the luckiest of all, to be sitting here right now and having a second chance. Her kind of life doesn't often hand those out, and Natasha is determined to grab this opportunity while it lasts and never let go again.
This is the best kind of homecoming she could have ever imagined, really.