I was watching Iron Man 2 the other day for the millionth time and it occurred to me that I really haven't seen anyone address the pictures. So this is a little something that came to mind. I'm not entirely happy with it but I'm done for now.

Please review and I apologize in advance for any spelling or grammar mistakes.

The In Between

He heard the door open then slam closed behind her. The sound of her heels hitting the far wall was a dead give away that her mission had taken a tool on her. Natasha was not one to throw her shoes around as they were one of her few indulgences. Her closet had a large number of designer names hung neatly on the shoe rack he had built for her last Christmas.

From what he had seen, heard, and read about Tony Stark, Clint knew the man would push Tasha's buttons. She had made a name for herself before SHIELD killing men like Stark for information, money, and occasionally just for kicks if they pissed her off.

Clint had been keeping tabs on her progress through out her assignment, without her knowledge of course. Natasha didn't appreciate his more protective instincts as much when they were employed in spying on her. To be honest he didn't get much appreciation when they were geared toward keeping her alive either, but whether she liked it or not Clint had a vested interest in her safety that was unlikely to ever change.

A pit fall when one was in love with their partner he had found.

It had taken a great amount of restraint on his part not to hop on a carrier to Malibu after he found out about Stark's epic failure of a birthday party. It's not that he didn't think she could handle herself, quite the opposite really. Clint knew she could handle any situation but that didn't change the fact that he wanted to be there for her, to support her and possibly put an arrow or two in Stark's ass if he tried to lay a finger on his partner. Clint knew first hand just how alluring Natasha could be, and although rationally he couldn't blame any man for wanting her, rationality rarely came into play when those men tried to hit on what was his.

He made himself comfortable on her spacious bed knowing she would find him soon. Other man would fear for their lives about now, to be caught lounging in the Widows web was a death sentence for most, but he had built up an immunity to her poison over the years, had come to crave it even. Clint had a health respect for her formidable skills but never fear.

As expected she found him seconds later. She paused at the door and Clint couldn't help the surge of male pride that shot strait down his spin at the look on her face. Two bottles of beer clutched in her hands, ruby lips poised to berate him for breaking into her apartment frozen mid motion, and her emerald eyes growing wide in appreciation before the shutters slammed shut. He would be lying if he said it didn't hurt when she shut him out but the years had taught him to expect as much.

Mentally shrugging off the sting he went back to admiring his most recent acquisition, stolen right from underneath Fury's nose. The glossy photos before him were nothing compared to the original, although far less detrimental to his health.

Clint knew the exact moment Natasha realized just what he was looking at, her stance tensed, shoulders squared, and one of the beer bottles slammed down on the dresser with a crack. He did his best to suppress his smirk, really he did.

"Where did you get those?" Each word a silk covered dagger amid at his throat and thrown with precision.

Clint's lips pulled back of their own accord in what she had dubbed his 'devil may come' grin. "I have my ways," he teased with a calculated wink, knowing it would rile her up.

Score! Alabaster cheeks flushed a becoming shade of indignation.

Clint had undertaken his own super secret mission to break into Fury's office a few weeks ago, the theme from Mission Impossible playing in his head the entire time. Which reminded him that he really needed to talk to Fury about upping his security; it was hardly comforting to know that it had taken him less than two minutes to break into the Director of SHIELDS office where all their personal information was stored.

"Besides, I was there the day these were taken, unless you've forgotten." He glanced up from one of his favorite shots of her reclining on her stomach, one hand hugging a silk pillow and the other teasing her parted lips clad in nothing but a little black and white lace bra and panty set he had selected, to meet her eyes in challenge.

For a second she appeared to be lost in a haze of memories, but too soon for his liking she snapped back to reality, glaring down at him.

"Last I checked you are the one with the eidetic memory and therefor you do not need hard copies, Barton." She reasoned, but he didn't miss the subtle quiver in her voice or the way she took a swig of her beer to hide the slight tremble in her hands.

When Fury had laid out her cover for Stark's evaluation, Clint had been more than a little upset. Although he was aware of what her job occasionally entailed and had covered her more than once while she seduced the target with both her words and body, but he wasn't overly fond of the idea of some low class photographer shooting her in next to nothing. He had made is objections known and after a very long night of arguing and way too much vodka Natasha had agreed to allow him to be present for the photo shoot.

He was more than a little proud of himself for winning that fight.

Upon arrival they found that the set had already been set up and a selection of lingerie waiting for her. Natasha, who had been rather unaffected by the whole affair, went to change behind the screen without a word to the poor newbie that had volunteered to be the photographer.

Clint almost felt sorry for the guy when he all but swallowed his tongue as Natasha came sauntering out in little green satin number minutes later. Almost, considering Clint had been rendered speechless himself, but who could blame him with all his blood currently pooling south of the border. It was hardly fair to except coherency while she stood there like a vision plucked strait out of his fantasies.

Thankfully the young agent had had enough sense to realize that the woman he was ogling could kill him twenty different and very imaginative ways with only her pinkie finger. In addition once he realized that Clint was not only staying, but watching his every move he kept is comments to a minimum and his eyes to himself as much as was possible under the circumstances. Clint had given him a solid B+ for effort.

Once the shoot was underway Clint had found a nest out of the way and settled in to enjoy the view. Over the course of their partnership they had seen each other in various states of undress, but as he watched her from his perch on the scaffolding above, he realized that this was different. His typically caustic partner had never been making love to a camera with hooded eyes. It took all of his considerable will power to resist the urge to throw her over his shoulder, whisk her way and have his way with her.

It hadn't helped matters that Natasha repeatedly glancing his way between shots. Their combined gaze smoldered and ignited into something wholly not professional. Clint had allowed himself to hope for a second that it meant something beyond friendship but as the shoot came to a close he could feel her walls falling back into place. By the time she had reemerged fully dressed he knew the moment was lost.

Reflex overrode thought, his hand shot out of it's own accord and caught the boot Natasha had launched at his head, effectively bringing him back the present. She huffed in annoyance before flouncing across the room, snatched the photos out of his hands and replaced them with a cold beer with out missing a step.

He didn't mind, he had copies stashed away for safe keeping.

Taking a long pull of his beer he listened to her move around in the bathroom enjoying just being in the same room as her once more. His last mission had kept him away for two months, and although they spoke frequently the distance had left him feeling bereft.

"So how was your day, dear?" He could practically feel her eyes roll heavenward at his comment. It had taken Natasha years to adjust to his sense of humor, and even longer before she responded with more than a death threat.

"Let's just say I'm glad to be back."

Her voice sounded tiered and worn, entirely out of character for Natasha.

Clint angled his body toward her when he heard her exit the bathroom and his breath caught in his throat at the sight of her clad in his discarded shirt from earlier. He had hoped she would find it but he hadn't been prepared for the possessive rush of testosterone that accompanied the sight.

Without a word he lifted his arm inviting her to join him and after a moments hesitation she compiled, crawling into his arms willingly.

He lived for moments like these, where he could wrap her in his arms, hold her close without fear of a fight ensuing or offending her independent nature. Moments where the lines blurred and her ever ready walls fell long enough for him to slip in.

Contrary to popular belief it had not been love at first sight on his part. Clint hadn't saved her because he was a love sick fool as Fury had accused him of being when he'd brought her into the fold against orders. He had seen something in her, something that he recognized in himself every time he looked in the mirror. Killing her would have been paramount to admitting that he was beyond redemption, and he hadn't been ready to face that possibility just yet.

Love had come much later. It had taken a year and a half before she stopped spiting at him like an angry cat every time they were in the field together and he disagreed with her 'methods'. Even longer for her to trust him to have her back without question. And still he hadn't seen the shift until he was pacing the infirmary waiting to hear whether she would live or die after a mission gone south.

An array of sights, sounds, and emotions assaulted his mind with harsh detail but he quickly calmed the storm, choosing instead to concentrate on the long strands of her flaming curls wound around his fingers in tight ringlets. He loved the silky texture against his calloused skin but in truth he had always preferred her with shorter hair. The way it had been when he met her. The shorter length suited her personality in his mind; her long mane reminded him of the temptress, not the fierce determined woman that was his partner and woman he loved. The Widow and his Tasha were separate entities in his eyes and they always would be.

"When do you have to leave?" She murmured into the hollows of his neck and he had to suppress a very un-manly shudder at the sensation.

"In a few hours." Clint in-hailed the sweet fragrance of her hair and held it, hoping the sent would ease the ache at the thought of leaving her again so soon. He contented himself with drawing patters across the smooth skin of her arms. Natalia, he traced in flowing scripture. Her given name and the one he reserved for his dreams.

"The orders came in this morning. Coulson's found something in New Mexico that apparently demands my particular skill set to protect, or at least that's line of bullshit he's spinning today."

She nodded against his chest, her small fingers interlacing with his own longer digits in a silent acknowledgment of his irritation at being sent to the middle of no-where. But for all his aggravation this was the life they had chosen and the cards they had been dealt.

It didn't stop him from wishing for something more…

"Fury's given me a few days leave but he's shipping me off for an undercover op in Russia in three days."

His heart skittered in his chest at the mention of her birth place. Clint had half a mind to call Fury and tell him where he could shove his assignment but he knew that wouldn't help and Natasha would flay him for the effort.


"I know Clint. You don't have to say it." She sighed softly and if she hugged his side a little closer and he pulled her in a little bit tighter, nether one of them mentioned it.

Be careful he wanted to say. I love you he wanted to say, all things that went unspoken between them.

But this is where they lived, wedged between the lines. And if it was killing him slowly to hold her like this but never have her, he didn't mind.

Instead he let the minutes tick by listening to her quiet breaths, all the while trying to ignore the nagging feeling in his gut. The one that whispered that for better or worse, everything was about to change.

The End

I have and idea for a follow up, so let me know if anyone thinks I should continue.