Title: Red

Author: Red Shiloh

Disclaimer: I don't own Avengers in any universe never mind the movieverse. That's Joss Whedon's baby.

Author's Notes: This is a vague kind of mishmash of history that I like to think would fit with the movieverse Black Widow. I just really love Natasha and her murky red spotted past ok? Speaking of which, the title is an 'oh so clever' reference to the red in her file and her links to the Soviet amongst other things. It's not just titled after me. Because that would be weird and awkward.

/

Natasha considered herself to have pretty good instincts. She knew when she was and wasn't being observed just by the way the hairs pricked up on the back of her neck, and right now, they were prickling something terrible.

"What do you want, Stark?" Natasha asked without looking up from her laptop screen. Her fingertips twitched over the touchpad, willing the man to move on and leave her in peace. Unfortunately, her wish was not granted.

Tony took the acknowledgement of his presence as an invitation and he went from leaning against the mess hall doorway to sitting opposite her at the table. His brown eyes peered over the screen of her laptop. With his brows piqued in just that way that made Stark look unsettlingly like a puppy dog, he was impossible to ignore.

"We're friends, right?" Tony said in such a way that Natasha knew he was angling for something. "I mean, we are kind of members of the same dysfunctional family unit now, and technically I did know you even before this Avengers deal, so really, in the grand scheme of things, you couldn't not consider us friends."

"Yes, Stark, I guess you could consider us friends," Natasha said. She kept her eyes trained on the screen, she'd read the past sentence three times over already. "So what do you want?" Her tone wasn't unfriendly, but it wasn't exactly inviting either, she just wanted to get through these field notes before the end of the day.

"I just want to get to know you a little, Tasha. That's ok right? Calling you Tasha? Because that feels like a friend thing to do."

Natasha hated Tasha; she hated Tash and any other variant of her name that wasn't Natasha, but she reasoned that if Tony knew that, it would only give him more incentive to use it.

"You don't think you know me?" she asked, shifting the cursor to follow the words on the screen in an attempt to stop her reading everything over a fourth time.

"Well I know you're scary good at assassinating people. And that you're not a half bad personal assistant. Oh, and that Pep still hates you a little. But that's not much, is it?"

"I'm good at what I do, isn't that all you need to know?" Natasha said with a hint of amusement.

"No," Stark said simply, "Come on, Natasha, you're like a walking mystery. I know more about everyone else than I do you, even Clint."

"What do you know about Clint?"

Stark gave a quick smile and a wink. "Things," he said, "Many things. The man likes sport and beer chips. I like sport and beer chips. We hang out."

Natasha actually knew about their unofficial Saturday night boy's nights. She couldn't say it appealed particularly. She sighed, realising she wasn't about to get rid of Tony any time soon, she closed her laptop.

"What do you want to know?" she asked finally.

"Oh you know, shoot the breeze. Where are you from?"

"Originally?" Natasha blinked. "Russia."

"I hear it's cold there. Where in Russia?"

"The cold part."

Tony rolled his eyes. "Clever," he said. "When did you move to America?"

"In my twenties. You're not trying to work out how old I am are you? Because a lady never tells."

"Not how old you are, no," Tony said, which mean that there was something he was looking for. "Besides, I think our friends Cap and Thor are prime examples for why age is purely relative." He remained silent for a moment, and then he asked, "How long have you known Hawkman Barton?"

And there it was; Tony revealing what he had been after this whole time, but the reason why still remained a mystery, although Natasha had her suspicions, Tony could be a terrible gossip when the mood struck him.

"A few years," she said evenly.

"You guys are pretty close then, huh?"

"I suppose…" Natasha pursed her lips. She sat forward in her chair, chin resting on a fisted hand and narrowed her eyes. "Why the sudden interest in me and Clint?"

Tony grinned his best 'butter wouldn't melt' grin. "I'm just curious, really. I think it'd be cute having little baby BlackHawks crawling around the base."

"Little baby—" Natasha cleared her throat, unsettled by the thought. She swallowed and hoped to God she wasn't blushing, though if she were it would only be from surprise, not for anything else. "Stark." She glared at him. "What the hell?"

"I'm just saying," Tony shrugged. "You two like to have your private little chats an awful lot, there has to be something to it."

"It's not like that," Natasha said. "We're not like that." But then she shut her mouth, resisting the urge to say more. Humouring Tony had been fun, but that had worn off now, she was done playing his games. She smiled placidly and gathered her laptop under her arm, then she bid Tony adieu and walked swiftly out of the room to a more private location. Tony said something to her retreating back but Natasha was done listening.

Natasha stopped herself from going to the first spot that came to mind, the rooftop, since that was generally Clint's spot that she had come to adopt. As she walked, she began to feel the stirrings of anger for her fellow teammate. Tony was just about tolerable at the best of times with his constant stream of one liners and sass, but prying into her – and clint's – lives was just one step too far.

"How dare he?" she raged to herself.

"How dare who what?" a voice drawled in front of her. Clint, just the wrong person at just the wrong time. Natasha's eyes whipped up and she glared at him.

"What did you tell him?" Natasha hissed. At Clint's baffled innocence, Natasha spat like an angry cat and shoved him aside. She stormed away down the corridor, heels clicking primly, personifying her anger.

Clint watched her retreating back with stunned eyes. He glanced around him, then back at Natasha, and then a look of realisation dawned. There was only one person that could get Natasha as riled as that. Clint jogged off in search of Tony Stark.

/

"That woman is terrifying," Tony said to Clint. Clint stood calmly in the doorway to the mess hall with arms folded and watching Tony under lowered brows.

"You know if you want to keep your balls on your person you're best never letting Natasha hear you refer to her as 'that woman'," Clint said evenly, "ever."

"You're right." Tony glanced at him. "That was incredibly sexist of me… plus I'm fairly certain that without my suit, she could destroy me."

"Even with yer suit I bet," Clint said with a quiet smile. "So what did you say to her anyway, Tony? 'Cause she was some kind of angry when I saw her."

"Really?" Tony had the sense to look a little unnerved. "I didn't mean to piss her off, I was just doing some personal investigation work."

"About what?"

"About you," Tony said.

"Ah geeze…" Clint dropped his head into his hands, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Tony you didn't… I told you not to ask her anything."

"What can I say?" Tony shrugged with a devilish smile. "I like to live on the wild side. Plus you weren't giving me anything so…"

"That's because there's nothing to tell. Nothing that concerns anyone else, anyway."

"See now, that's just mean. You can't do that! You can't just go around being all mysterious with your secret little in-jokes and references to some big huge history and not give the rest of us just a titbit of information." Tony pointed to himself fervently. "I hate not knowing things! It drives me insane."

"Tony I like you," Clint said. "And Natasha likes you too… kind of," he added as an afterthought. "But this, you're just gonna' have to leave it well alone. Natasha's past is her business; my past with Natasha is mine. Prying's just gonna get someone hurt."

"I get it, Natasha's past is patchy and she's 'trying to get rid of the red','" He made little bunny ears with his fingers as he quoted one of Natasha's favourite sayings. "We all have red marks in our files; look at Bruce for Christ's sake. All I want is the rundown on you two. I mean when I'm old and pissing in a pan I want to be able to tell the kiddies the whole story of how we all became the greatest team ever to live ever. I don't want crappy little blank spots."

"Tony," Clint said, ever patient, ever calm. "Drop it." Clint turned and walked away, leaving Tony alone in the mess hall. "Well I hope you're prepared to explain it to the kids!" Tony shouted after him. Clint tried not to roll his eyes; everything seemed to be just a game to Tony. If Natasha hadn't been so genuinely pissed, it would have been funny.

/