Rumor Has It: Avengers Fanfiction

Written By: Katerinaki

Published: June 30, 2012

Beta'ed: No

Summary: Clint has a girlfriend, except nobody bothered to tell Natasha Romanoff. It wouldn't normally be a problem, except Natasha is always compromised for Clint. BlackHawk

Part 1

When Natasha Romanoff's Quinjet landed on the helicopter pad at the SHIELD Headquarters in New York, she couldn't have been more relieved. It had certainly been a difficult mission. She never got used to the heat of the desert, not like Clint could. Maybe it was just the Russian blood in her veins. And when it finally came time to take out her target, the weapons dealer had decided to lead her on a merry chase through the world's largest marketplace, The Grand Bazaar in Tehran. She'd made his death a bit more drawn out for that, but the scum of the Earth deserved it. He was selling missiles to terrorists who targeted innocents exclusively.

Right now what she wanted was a nice cool shower to get the dust and sand off her and then perhaps she could find Barton and they'd have a movie night or something. He was usually okay for that, especially after one or both of them just returned from a mission.

Agent Hill met her at the elevator down. She welcomed Natasha back and they passed the ride to the debriefing room in silence. The atmosphere in the elevator felt charged. Hill had taken over for Coulson after New York and the agent was good at her job. She was always ahead of the game, got things done even if they seemed impossible, and could multitask in her sleep. But she wasn't Phil Coulson which was why the two-minute ride felt like two hours. They met Fury in the debriefing room and Natasha gave her detailed report on the hit. Fury preferred to debrief her and Clint directly now, though before the task had always fallen to Phil. It wasn't that he didn't trust Hill; again she just wasn't Coulson.

When Natasha finished Fury gave her a nod of approval. "Good work, Agent Romanoff."

"Thank you, sir," she replied.

"I'm scheduling you for some down time. With five missions in a row, successfully completed, you've earned it."

"Thank you, sir."

Natasha showered in the SHIELD locker room and changed into civilian clothes before taking one of the SHIELD vehicles. Ever since the attack on Manhattan and the formation of the Avengers, Natasha had taken to living out of Stark Tower. She hadn't wanted to at first, but Fury pointed out that it would make it easier to assemble the team if they were all in one place. And then Clint pointed out that with all her missions, she didn't tend to stay in one place that often anyways. Tony was offering free room and board, which meant she didn't have to pay a landlord for an apartment that she rarely slept in. Banner was already staying with Stark, working in his R&D department. Rogers had transferred out of the 1940s world SHIELD created for him and was also staying with Stark, though this was apparently more at Pepper's urging. Thor sometimes stopped in, and when he did he too had a place at Stark Tower. Natasha and Clint had been the odd men out. A bit more wheedling on Pepper's part meant Clint agreed, and so Natasha had begrudgingly taken the large bedroom and en suite bathroom.

When she stepped off the private elevator, that Stark had "graciously" allowed them access to, she found Stark and Banner reclining on the leather couch, watching Stark's ridiculously large flat screen TV, dressed in suits and drinking a couple of beers.

"Agent Romanoff," Stark greeted her, sinking back and crossing his legs up on the coffee table. "And here I thought you were dead and Fury just didn't have the guts to tell anyone."

"Stark," Natasha replied. She smiled at Banner. "Hello, Bruce."

"Natasha," Bruce nodded back.

"How are you doing?"

Banner smiled in her nervous way. "Fine. No incidents since you left."

"Yeah it's been boring as hell. Like watching kiddie show re-runs. And why is he allowed to be called 'Bruce' but I always get 'Stark'?" He hardened his face, mocking Natasha's normally neutral expression.

Natasha ignored him, sitting on one of the armchairs and snagging an unopened beer. She flicked the lid off on the edge of Stark's shoe and took a long, refreshing pull.

"Hey, that's Italian leather!" Stark protested, jumping to examine his still pristine dress shoe.

"So where is everyone else?" Natasha asked Banner, once more choosing to ignore Stark. "And why are you all dressed up? Going somewhere?"

"Steve is getting ready; he just got back from a run," Banner said. "Thor went back to Asgard a few months ago, some business with Nornheim?"

Natasha shrugged. She never knew what Thor's duties were beyond his stays on Earth and after a while she chose to operate on a need-to-know basis. It wasn't very spy-like of her, but it would save her the hours of Thor's booming about realms Natasha would likely never see or have any sort of contact with. If they threatened Earth, then she cared.

"And Clint?" she asked, taking another swig. She preferred a nice vodka, but after five months in the field with only a few sips of champagne every now and again, she'd put up with the beer. Maybe later she and Clint could move on to the heftier stuff.

"Oh, you don't know," Stark piped up, suddenly interested again. Natasha's eyes narrowed at his smug expression. "Know what?" she asked, her voice low and threatening.

"Barton—"

The private elevator pinged and the man in question stepped out, dressed just as formally as Stark and Banner. But that wasn't what made Natasha's jaw drop. On his arm, dressed in a sleek, dark emerald green cocktail dress, was a girl.

"Hey guys, you remember—"Clint's voice cut out as he caught sight of Natasha, beer in hand forgotten as she stared at the girl on his arm.

"—has a girlfriend," Stark finished in the stunned silence.

She was short, maybe five feet tall, and thin. Natasha thought she might be able to reach over and just snap her arm with one hand. How the girl managed to even hold up her own body weight was a mystery. She had slender features and big green eyes and her golden blonde hair fell in perfect waves framing her face and down her back. She had a tan, but not a fake, tanning bed tan. It was the kind of soft browning that came from just enough time out in the sun, but not so much that it suggested she only spent her day by a poolside. It was the sort of tan that Natasha could never get; the curse of her Russian blood. In short, the girl who smiled at the entire group, seemingly oblivious to the tension in the air, was perfect. And she was everything Natasha wasn't.

At that moment, Pepper came into the room, dressed in a blue cocktail dress of her own. Pepper, ever the diplomat, broke the silence with a wide, genuine smile.

"You must be Jacqueline." She strode forward and extended a hand to the little girl, who upon second glance didn't look more than eighteen or nineteen.

Jacqueline smiled with perfectly straight, white teeth. "Please, call me Jacqui," she insisted in soft, French-lilted English. Of course, she would be French too. Clint always went dopey-eyed over the French girls when they had missions there.

"Of course. I'm Pepper," Pepper replied graciously. "And you've met Tony, and this is Dr. Bruce Banner."

"Nice to meet you," Banner said, getting up to shake the girl's hand quickly. It looked like he thought the same thing Natasha did because he barely touched Jacqueline's hand. It was like he would break it off if he shook it properly.

"And this is—"

Clint chose that moment to break out of his stupor. "Natasha," he blurted out. Everyone looked at him in surprise, but Natasha instinctively rolled with his blunder. It wouldn't be the first time.

"Natasha Romanoff," she introduced herself, standing and shaking Jacqueline's hand, purposefully ignoring Clint, who kept trying to draw her attention.

"Oh, Natasha!" Jacqueline chimed. "Clint told me so much about you! But he said you were away on business?"

"I was," Natasha confirmed. "I finished early and thought I'd surprise everyone. But it looks like I'm the one who is surprised." She saw Clint wince out of the corner of her eye, but forged on. "So where are you all going?"

"Oh, Pepper suggested we go to the new Mediterranean restaurant a few blocks from here. Nashwa, you said?"

"That's it," Pepper said. "If you're too tired, Natasha, we'll understand…"

"No, of course not," Natasha replied, smiling. "Let me get changed into something a little more appropriate. I'll be back quickly."

She passed Steve as she left the living room. "Natasha, when did you get back?" he asked, startled.

"Just now," Natasha muttered, pushing past him. She made it to her room before she lost control. Thank God Stark believed in privacy in the bedroom because the first thing she did was pick up the nearest object, which happened to be a decorative vase, and throw it. The glass had hardly shattered against the far wall before Natasha had a lamp and it met the same fate. If the walls hadn't been soundproofed, they might've heard and come running from the living room. But Stark had pulled out all the stops and they didn't hear a peep from her. Natasha wasn't stupid enough to punch the wall, but she threw around a few more things before her hand found the photo frame. She hesitated.

It was a photo of her and Clint, taken during leave just after the mission to Beijing. They were laughing about something, what Natasha didn't remember anymore. But she did remember the feeling. Sighing heavily, she set the photo back down on her nightstand and sunk onto the Queen-size bed, her head falling into her hands. Looking around at the trashed room, Natasha snorted.

"So much for not being compromised," she said, to nobody in particular. Oh, she was compromised. She was always compromised for Clint. In Nigeria, in Calcutta, in St. Petersburg, in Budapest. When Loki used Clint, when he spat those horrible things at her because he'd learned them from Clint, she had been compromised. She tried to tell herself it was the red in her ledger. He spared her; she owed him a debt. Never mind that the debt had likely been paid off years ago. She always carried the red because he carried red. They were soaked in it together.

Seeing her on his arm…Natasha had called on all of her training and control not to add more red. Listening to her talk with her French accent and her soft voice, her warm smile and her big green eyes. It felt like she'd been shot. The only thing that would've made it worse was if Clint himself had shot the arrow. It was almost like he did.

Why hadn't he told her? Clint had always been there when she returned from a mission. The only exception was when he was on a mission himself. But he always checked in as soon as he could. She did the same thing for him. She'd risked cover plenty of times to get even one word back. They'd communicated a few times while she'd been in the field for the last ten months, but not in the last two. Natasha couldn't help but think that maybe she should've known what was going on. She should've realized something was up when he didn't contact her, when Hill met her in the elevator and not him.

Barton always had a thing for blondes, she thought. She'd seen it a few times, when his eye would linger just a bit longer. She never held it against him; after all Clint was still a guy. But it did make her curious, to the point that she'd worn a blonde wig when they had been undercover in Berlin. She claimed it was to help her get in with the neo-Nazi group she was infiltrating, but it had made her smile when Clint had coughed in surprise as she'd come out and his eyes lingered just a bit longer than usual.

There was a knock on her door and Natasha sprang off her bed, instinctively rearranging her expression into one of neutrality. Thankfully she hadn't cried emotionally since she was five. A few waterworks were fine when it came to softening a target up, but Natasha didn't cry because she was angry or sad. Never again.

"Natasha, are you alright?" It was Pepper. Natasha had a second to cross to the door and poke her head out before Pepper opened it herself and saw the destruction.

"Sorry, just had a bit of difficulty choosing. I'm finishing up," she told Pepper.

Pepper frowned, obviously concerned. "Are you sure you're alright? I know it must've been a bit of a shock; we forget that you've been gone for a while."

Natasha raised an eyebrow. "Pepper, this is me you're talking to. Nothing surprises me. Just give me a few more minutes and I'll be done."

Pepper opened her mouth, ready to insist on something, but she chose better of it. "Okay," she nodded. "We'll be just in the living room."

Natasha closed the door and scrambled to get changed. She chose a black dress that clung perhaps a bit more than necessary, but had a convenient flare in the skirt. The back was almost completely open, ending just under the small of her back. Natasha styled her short, red hair curly and painted on some make-up. After going back and forth for a moment, she opted to strap one of her small handguns to her thigh. The skirt would fall nicely and conceal it, and you never knew when one might come in handy. She chose a pair of black, strappy heels that had almost a three-inch rise before leaving her room and returning to the living room.

She hid a smirk as Stark and Rogers's jaws dropped to the floor. Banner suddenly became interested in a small scuff on his shoes. Clint coughed, his equivalent of Stark and Rogers's reactions, and Pepper smiled at her as soon as she made her entrance. There was a knowing look in the CEO's eye.

"Oh, I absolutely love your dress!" Jacqueline exclaimed.

"Thank you," Natasha replied, and in that moment she decided exactly what she was going to do. She strut across Stark's living room like it was a runway in Paris or Milan and took Jacqueline's other arm, pulling her away from Clint and into the elevator. "You must tell me where you got your dress. I love the color."

Clint was left stuck, standing just inside the living room and watching Natasha and Jacqueline chatter on about designers and collections. Rogers and Banner passed him into the elevator, followed by Pepper. Stark paused, making no effort to hide the way he was checking out both girls.

"You're screwed, Robin Hood," he muttered, patting Clint across the back before joining the others in the elevator.

"Clint, are you coming?" Jacqueline called.

"Yeah Clint, we're all waiting," Stark added sarcastically.

Clint had no choice but to join the others in the elevator. He tried to keep focused on a conversation with Rogers, but he couldn't help but watch Natasha, Jacqueline, and now Pepper as they chattered on in the corner. He saw Natasha glance up in his direction as Jacqueline talked with Pepper and that was when he caught it. Through the polite smile, he saw the glint in the Black Widow's eye. Anyone else would've missed it, but Clint was Natasha's partner. He'd seen that look before, just as she was engaging a target.

Fuck.