Natasha slowly walked out of the bedroom into the living area to find her partner sitting on one of the couches staring at the wall. She could tell from his stiff posture and the dark rings under his eyes, that he hadn't slept at all that night in the bedroom Stark had offered him in the undamaged lower floor in his tower. As she walked over to Clint, she spotted the remains of his hearing aid on the coffee table, which explained the reason why the normally alert archer had not noticed her presence.
After running back into her room and retrieving the parcel she had been given from Fury, via a S.H.I.E.L.D agent after the battle, as well as a message that they were off duty for the time being, she extracted Clint's spare hearing aids. It was a little known fact that Clint was almost 80% deaf, caused by an explosion when he was still a sniper in the US army and therefore without his hearing aids, he could barely hear anything. The archer had a pair which fitted inside of his ear for missions and a more normal everyday pair, though Clint tended just to wear his mission pair because he didn't want to appear vulnerable.
She walked back up to Clint and placed the hearing aids next to the broken ones right in front of him on the coffee table. This action seemed to catch the zoned out archer's eye and he whipped his head around to find his red haired partner standing next to him.
I'm just going out Natasha signed to him
I'll pick you up later Clint replied, knowing and not questioning where she was going.
It took Natasha longer than expected to get to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral just off East 97th Street, near Central Park but she guessed that was because of all the damage caused by the battle the previous day. When she finally got to the Cathedral, she slipped into the back of the congregation unnoticed whilst placing a scarf over the top of her red curls.
Natasha closed her eyes and let the Russian chants wash over her. She could not quite remember why she had first started coming to the cathedral. She was not in any way religious and believing in some mystical being seemed illogical to her; however she had been out exploring New York one day, a few months after defecting to S.H.I.E.L.D when she had come across it. Maybe it was because she craved to hear her mother tongue, after so many months being surrounded by American agents, or perhaps it was because of the smell of the incense, which brought back long forgotten memories of a little old lady, whom she assumed to be her babushka, which was why she had stepped through the old wooden doors which led into the cathedral and why she kept coming back.
However it was not the familiarity of hearing her native language, which had brought Natasha to the Cathedral today, it was the sense of security it brought, knowing that even with all the death and destruction outside, the world was still functioning and it gave her hope that something stayed the same even when the rest of the was rapidly changing.
Until quite recently, she never thought she would be able to work in a team, having a partner had been strange enough for her but now she was an Avenger. Also, she never believed that she could become so emotionally compromised as she was when she had been told that Clint had been taken over by Loki. Normally, the mission came first to her, but when she had heard Coulson's words, the mission flew out of the window, as the only thing in her mind was to get out and help save her partner. It also scared her how much Loki's words had affected her when she had been interrogating him. Though she had pretended not to be affected by his cruel words, they had hurt her deeply and she had not been able to wipe them from her memory.
Natasha sighed as the service continued allowing herself to enjoy these moments of peace. Whilst she was in the cathedral she was in a different world away from all the blood dripping from her still red ledger, as soon as she stepped outside the cathedral, she would be once again, surrounded by all the rubble and destruction.
'Fury says that the Council have decided that the Tesseract should be taken back to Asgard along with Loki, where he taken face judgment for his crimes' Stark announced, as he waltzed into the kitchen, where the rest of the Avengers had gathered and were eating breakfast. 'What do you make of that Barton?' he asked, knowing that the archer really wanted to put an arrow through the mischievous demi-god's eye.
Clint just gave a tired, non committal shrug, before returning his attention back to his banana.
'Where is the Lady Natasha?' Thor asked, as he finished his fifth bowl of coco pops.
The rest of the Avengers, apart from Clint, looked around, realising that the red haired Russian was not there.
'JARVIS, where is Agent Romanoff?' Stark asked his A.I
'Agent Romanoff is not in the building' JARVIS replied
'She went out before the rest of you woke up' Clint said, breaking his silence, he had but his hearing aids in, just before the first of the team entered the room because whilst he was happy to for Natasha to see him at his most venerable he was not ready for his new team to know about his disability.
'And do you know where she is?' Steve asked
'Yes, but I'm not going to tell any of you' the archer replied, before throwing his banana skin into the bin and walking out of the room looking at his watch, Tash would kill him if he was late. Clint knew as he jumped into one of Stark's cars, that the multi millionaire could just track him to his destination, but to be quite honest, he was not that fussed out it, unless Stark made a big deal about it later and then he could always use the arrow he had been saving for Loki and use it on Stark.
Every agent had a way of relaxing, of trying to find peace after a mission, Clint's was to sit on top of the tallest thing he could find, be it, tree, building or lamp post and stare up at the night's sky, so he was not going to begrudge Natasha's way of finding peace. He remembered when he first discovered Natasha doing to the Cathedral. It had been nearly a year after he had recruited her to S.H.I.E.L.D and they had become partners. He had wondered where she disappeared after particularly nasty missions looking stressed but came back looking practically serene, so after one particularly gruesome mission, involving a Chinese gang leader who was trying to be the next Sweeny Todd, he had followed her.
When he had finally plucked up the courage to ask her why she went to a Russian Orthodox Cathedral after missions, instead of getting his ass kicked, like he was expecting, Natasha simply replied 'they speak Russian better than you can' before turning sharply on her heal and walking back along the corridor, ready to be told about her next mission.
Over the years a routine had emerged after long missions. He would stay up late staring into space, trying to find some peace and then the next morning she would disappear out to the cathedral, where he would pick her up from after the service and both of them would feel slightly more refreshed.
However this time, after he pulled up outside the cathedral and Natasha had hopped into the passenger seat next to him whilst tossing her scarf into the back seat, it seemed that Natasha looked just as stressed and tired as she had before she left Stark tower.
'It didn't work?' he asked
'No, not this time' she replied tiredly, the black rings under her eyes now more visible and it occurred to him that he was not the only person who did not get any sleep the previous night. 'Where are you taking us?' she asked as he drove off
'Just around the corner' Clint replied. 'When you were out Fury called to say that Thor could taken Loki and the Tesseract back to Asgard and we need to see them off'
'Then I propose we go somewhere and make the most of the vacation time Fury is giving us' Clint stated with a hopeful smile
'That sounds good' Natasha remarked as Clint pulled up behind a vintage motorbike and they climbed out of the car to greet the rest of the Avengers and say goodbye to Loki
An exhausted Natasha smiled to herself as she snuggled contentedly into Clint's arms, as they tightened around her. Here in his arms was where she felt the safest. When neither of their separate ways of coping with a mission worked they reverted to Plan B, which she rather enjoyed. The first time they had gone to Plan B had been after the infamous mission in Budapest.
She liked the familiarity of his skin pressed against hers, the way his fingers trailed across and down her body making her feel alive. They had been apart for so long and she had missed being with Clint. Yes, he made her compromised but he also gave her strength and something to fight for.
'Thank you' she whispered kissing a now calm Clint tenderly, before she drifted off into a dreamless sleep, finally at peace.
Just a random little one-shot, which I hope you enjoyed
To readers of Lena, I am working on the still untitled sequel and hopefully the first chapter of it will be up soon!