A/N: Set during Iron Man 2, when Rhodes and Tony have that blowout battle halfway through the movie. Ever wonder where Natasha/Natalie runs off to? I did. :P
She noticed Clint just as Stark crashed through the roof of his Malibu mansion's living room. The crowd gasped, the women emitting excited screeches while Pepper Potts looked on in horror. But Natasha wasn't looking at any of them—she was staring pointedly at the hole in the ceiling. More specifically, she stared at Hawkeye's retreating form, nearly invisible against the black night sky.
He'd only been there a second, but she recognized his movements anywhere. She let out a short breath and glanced back at the action. Stark's military friend, Rhodes, was doing a nice job of keeping Iron Man occupied. Potts hadn't glanced her way since the party began. No one would miss her. Besides, men battling in iron suits wasn't really her area of expertise.
She slid around the edge of the crowd, and she couldn't help but think that it took a special kind of idiot to stick around during a fight like this. But they continued to stare, obviously anticipating the next hit, oblivious to the fact that the mansion had become a warzone.
Well, they weren't her problem now. With a shake of her head, she leapt against a pile of rubble and propelled towards the roof, hooking her fingers on the edge of the building. She hauled herself up in a swift motion, an impressive feat in her dress and heels.
"Hawkeye," she snapped, locating her partner in a quick sweep. The roof was a mess, coated in rubble, and although he was crouched behind a large chunk of concrete, his bow was hard to miss. Below them, the crowd had fallen silent as the fighting paused.
He straightened, meeting her gaze unabashed, and replied, "Black Widow."
"What the hell are you doing here?" she demanded, storming over to him.
"Bullshit," Natasha put her hands on her hips, narrowing her eyes dangerously. It was an age-old excuse; whenever either of them were caught where they shouldn't be, they hid behind "recon." But she was in the middle of a mission, damn it, and she wasn't going to let him get away with it this time.
Below them, visible through the giant hole several feet away, Iron Man turned to the crowd and roared angrily. The resulting screams filled the air, and Clint shouldered his bow. "Fine. I'm here because of him."
"Did Fury send you?"
"No. No one sent me."
"Do you realize what will happen if someone sees you here? My entire cover will be blown. Clint, I've spent weeks solidifying this role!" Natasha stepped closer to him, drawing herself to her full height, anger rising.
Another crash from below, and then a wave of smoke billowed from the nearby chimney. Clint glanced at it, frowning. She snapped to regain his attention.
"You have to leave. Right now," she said. "I'm still collecting intel, and we're almost to the point where Stark will require intervention. You're going to ruin this entire op—"
"Do you hear that?"
She scowled, irate that he had the nerve to cut her off mid-rant. Still, he looked concerned, so she listened. Silence filled the air. She folded her arms and said, "No."
"Exactly. Time to go," he grabbed her hand and sprinted, barely giving her a chance to regain her balance as she stumbled after him. His bow clattered against his quiver of arrows as they ran, and she heard the sound of Iron Man's repulsor rays charging.
They leapt off the roof just as an explosion shook the mansion. Clint stripped his bow midair, tossing it aside before he hit the ground. The impact jarred Natasha's entire body, but she rolled on instinct, displacing the momentum. Clint spun as well and was on his feet in a heartbeat, shielding her from the debris flying through the air.
When the smoke cleared enough to see, he dropped to the ground beside her, massaging his shoulder with a groan.
"That's why I came, Nat," he said. "Stark's dangerous."
"No more so than you or me," she replied, pushing her hair from her eyes.
Clint glanced sideways at her and shook his head, "He's going to get you killed, and I won't let that happen."
She stared at him, heat rising in her cheeks.
He rubbed his forehead and continued, "I'm sorry. But trust that I'm fairly decent at keeping out of sight during a mission, even when it's not mine. I have no intention of ruining your cover."
"Sure. That's why we're sitting on Stark's front lawn together, watching his house catch on fire," she drawled, but a smile played on her lips. She liked that he cared. "Next time, a little warning would be nice. Call it a professional courtesy."
He shrugged and pushed to his feet, and they both watched the sky as one of the suits flew down the coast. "Looks like your employer's booked it. I'd say your mission's nearly compromised anyway, Nat."
"I doubt it." She took his offered hand, and he lifted her to her feet, "Ten to one says it's the best friend stealing his suit."
Clint chuckled and walked to his bow, shouldering it again. He turned towards her, "Either way, I think your period of employment is over. Might want to let Fury know."
"I'll check in once I show my face to Potts. She'll get suspicious otherwise."
"She doesn't seem to like you."
"I'm encroaching. No woman likes that," Natasha replied.
He looked her up and down, took in her ripped evening dress and disheveled curled hair and said roughly, "I don't like it either." He seemed like he wanted to say more, but instead he let out a sigh and walked towards the ocean. She followed him, raising an eyebrow at his back.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
He reached the edge of the cliff and faced her again. She stopped short, not daring to move as he regarded her, dark eyes unreadable. The charge in the air was undeniable. She held her breath, hoping he wouldn't break from this mood. She didn't know what to expect.
Maybe he'd reach for her. Maybe he'd pull her against him and finally kiss her right there on Stark's lawn, a hundred feet above the ocean.
The distant sound of sirens make him blink, and she nearly gritted her teeth in frustration as the reverie was broken. Instead of kissing her, he smiled and started to climb down the cliff. He paused and looked up at her, his hands keeping a secure grip on the rocks.
"Don't wait too long to tell Fury. He doesn't like it when you withhold information."
"And keep an eye on Stark. He's not exactly stable."
"Why do you think I'm here?" she drawled, unable to keep the exasperation from her voice. Her partner laughed and continued to make his way down the cliff's face, leaving Natasha alone on the expansive lawn of Stark's mansion.
Only when she couldn't see him anymore did she turn on her heels and start walking towards the sirens, mind spinning through explanations of her mysterious absence. But although she went through the motions, she couldn't keep Clint from her thoughts.
She wondered what other sort of situations would bring out that side of him.
Maybe it was time to experiment.
A/N: Since I know you're going to ask, no, I don't know if I'll be continuing this. If I did, it'd be a series of oneshots with Natasha and Clint before the Avengers movie. But it's all speculation at this point...
(Do you believe that I *hated* Black Widow when I first saw Iron Man 2? I was like, "Dude, who's this chick flirting with Tony while Pepper's right there?" After seeing the Avengers, however, I'm much more partial to her character, especially her with Hawkeye.)