Natasha nearly froze when she limped into the kitchen and saw Clint seated at the table. She'd spent hours waiting for the opportune time to grab a midnight snack. It was very late, and the normal agents across S.H.I.E.L.D.'s base were all asleep. She thought she'd be safe. Apparently she was wrong.
He glanced up when she stopped short. "Oh, hey. Didn't expect you to be awake," he said casually, looking back at the crossword puzzle under his left hand.
"Me either," she replied, putting on her best front, forcing herself to walk normally. Too late to back out now. Her eyes flickered to Clint, but he wasn't watching her. His pen tapped against his chin as he stared at the magazine before him. Maybe she could get her snack and leave before he even realized something was wrong.
She pulled open the fridge and grabbed a Jell-O cup. They were Coulson's, but she didn't think he'd mind sharing. She tensed when Clint said, "Grab me a beer, will you?"
On a normal evening, she'd have pointed out that midnight wasn't exactly the ideal hour for alcohol. But tonight, she merely wanted to vacate to her bedroom as fast as possible. If that meant getting Clint a beer, then so be it. She chose the closest bottle, even though it wasn't his favorite brand, and said, "Heads up."
He caught the bottle without looking, "Thanks." He set it down beside the magazine. "What's a nine letter word for 'leafy undergrowth'?"
The silverware drawer was within reaching distance, so she leaned on her good ankle and retrieved a spoon with her free hand. "Shrubbery," she said after a moment's thought.
"Perfect," he said.
Jell-O cup and eating utensil in hand, she shuffled for the door. She nearly made it, too, was rounding the door frame when he called, "Natasha."
She froze again. Busted.
"Can I get a bottle opener?"
She breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Get it yourself, you lazy bum." Truthfully, her ankle was throbbing again, and the bottle opener was all the way on the other end of the kitchen. She'd managed to stay hidden behind the island counter for most of this excursion, but he'd definitely see if she had to limp to the distant drawer.
Plus, snarky humor was a good fallback when trying to hide a minor injury.
He twisted in his seat and looked at her fully for the first time. He raised an eyebrow and said lightly, "You're already up. Do me the favor?"
She wanted to leave him hanging, but damn it if he didn't do little favors for her all the time. Biting back a hiss of pain, she forced herself to stand straight and stroll to the other side of the kitchen. He couldn't know she was hurt, because he'd demand to know how she'd gotten hurt. And the truth was not something she wanted circulating around S.H.I.E.L.D.
"Here," she said, finally getting the dreaded bottle opener and tossing it to him as well. He caught it with one hand and turned back to his crossword.
"Thanks," he replied, popping the cap off the bottle with a swift yank. Natasha was halfway across the kitchen, working steadily towards the solace of the empty hallway, when he said, "Can you put it back?"
He lifted the metal utensil and made a motion as if to throw it. She let out an aggravated huff before she could stop herself, gripping the island countertop with her free hand.
"The exercise will do you good," she said shortly. God, her ankle hurt. Was the Jell-O cup really worth this? She'd skipped dinner, sure, but what was one hungry night compared to this humiliation?
Clint hooked his arm over the back of the chair and said, "Something wrong, Nat?"
He was doing this on purpose. He had to be. Fine, she thought, I can play that game. She gritted her teeth and forced a smile, "Nope."
"You sure? You seem pretty tense."
Only because you won't let me leave, she thought bitterly.
"Nothing's wrong, Clint."
He pushed to his feet, twirling the bottle opener around his finger as he walked towards her, "Then why are you limping?"
She drew herself to her full height, still several inches shorter than him, and insisted, "I'm not. But since you're up, you can put that away yourself. Good night." She turned to leave, but her ankle was done supporting weight. Her leg buckled underneath her, and she grabbed the counter again to keep from dropping to the ground.
Clint leaned against the fridge and folded his arms, "Oh, sure. You look perfectly fine."
"I am fine," she hissed, spinning on her good leg to stare him down. "Leave me alone."
"What happened?" his tone was no longer flippant. He held her gaze with practiced ease, and she found herself looking away. With a growl of irritation, she ripped the lid off her Jell-O cup and dug her spoon into the snack.
He slipped the bottle opener back into its drawer as she took a bite, and once her mouth was full, he whisked her off her feet. She yelped, swallowed, and struggled in his grasp, "Put me down, Clint!"
"Sure," he replied, and dropped her into a chair at the kitchen table. He took his own seat again, pushing his crossword aside to give her his undivided attention. "Now tell me what happened."
She almost said that Iron Man did it. That could be believable—the man loved his crazy experiments. Clint wouldn't have questioned further. Problem was, he also wouldn't hesitate to train an arrow on Tony Stark when the billionaire least expected it. Fury would be, well, furious if his prized consultant died of a sudden head wound.
So instead she went with the next easy lie: "I was walking in heels, and I fell."
"What?" she said indignantly. "The ground was uneven. You try walking in six-inch stilettos. It's damn hard!"
"Natasha, I've known you a long time, and I've never seen you fall in heels. Not once. Not even that one time in the Czech Republic when those diplomats were chasing you."
"Well, I did today."
"Try again," he said, taking a swig of his beer.
She swallowed another bite of Jell-O and snapped, "Fine. I was trying to get away from a spider."
For a moment, silence filled the room. Then he laughed out loud. Her face grew red with humiliation, and she wished she'd thought to bring a knife to this little snack run. That would have silenced him real quick.
"A spider," he repeated dryly. "Come on, Tasha, you can do better than that. Tell me what happened."
"It was a damn spider, okay?" she snarled, jabbing her Jell-O fiercely. "Shut up!"
His chuckles died down and he stared at her for another moment, taking in the blush of her cheeks, the way she concentrated on her food. He set his beer bottle onto the table and said incredulously, "A spider? You're Black Widow."
Her face burned. A lot of people dealt with arachnophobia. Why couldn't he just leave her be? She bet he'd known about her ankle the minute she stepped into the room. Of course, he was Hawkeye. He probably knew even before that, and just insisted on taunting her.
No, she decided silently, staring at her midnight snack. Definitely not worth leaving my bedroom.
When he realized she wasn't going to expand—or offer any reply at all—Clint let out an exasperated sigh. "Next time, Natasha, just give me a call. Hell, knock on the wall for all I care. I'll come get the spider."
Their bedrooms were side-by-side. She wished she'd thought of that when she'd seen the hairy bastard on her nightstand, before she utterly destroyed the room hunting it down. She met her partner's gaze and smirked grimly.
A/N: I've read a couple fics where Natasha is, ironically, afraid of spiders. The idea still makes me laugh. :P