Chapter 5

Second Drawer – White Oxford Shirt

Natasha was tired. Bone weary and sore and just plain tired. Loki and Thor had just vanished, that bloody blue cube along with them, and she was about to take advantage of her partner's noble nature and force him into something for his own good.

Clint was standing, arms crossed, sunglasses on, still staring at the spot where the two demigods had been. She didn't have to touch him to know he was tense and angry. Guilt ridden and frustrated and messed up inside.

"Let's go," Natasha said, not bothering to wait for Clint as she turned and headed for the car. Stark and Banner were already heading out, Rogers was putting on his helmet. She pulled the passenger door open and dropped down into it, tossing the keys over her shoulder as she did. She heard the chink of them being caught and then Clint was sliding behind the wheel.

"We're off duty," she said casually, as Clint turned the motor on. She heard the engine rev, and felt his gaze land on her face. Natasha didn't bother looking over at him. Instead, she slid her own shades on and slouched down a little in the seat. "Bags are in the trunk, we've got two weeks. I'm taking a nap."

She heard the motor rev again, then a third time, like Clint was trying to make up his mind. She went ahead and closed her eyes, fighting the smile that was trying to pull at the corners of her mouth. Then the wheels turned and they were heading out. North, she thought drowsily, he'd go north.

She'd dropped off into sleep almost immediately, and didn't wake for several hours. When she did, it was from a deep, peaceful sleep like she hadn't had since the last time she'd ridden shotgun while Clint drove. Something about her partner behind the wheel and a long road kept the dreams away, every time. She stretched and turned her head to look at the man next to her.

He looked better, she though. More relaxed, more thoughtful than angry and guilt-ridden. The man had needed to just drive. He was a sniper, a patient, watchful, waiting man. The stillness of controlling a speeding car was just what he needed.

Natasha yawned. "Where are we?" she asked.

Clint had one hand on the wheel, the other lying relaxed on his thigh. "Maine," he said, glancing over at her and smiling a little. "North, right?"

"North," she agreed. She knew her partner. Cool, clear air. The sea. Stillness and peace and few people. North.

They lapsed into silence, tarmac speeding away under the tires of the car. The radio was on, softly, and she could hear Clint humming along. She wasn't sure what the song was, she didn't know as much about American music as Clint thought she should.

Natasha let her mind drift, watching the scenery go by. Trees and water and rocks. It all blurred and relaxed her. The sound of Clint's voice, singing softly now, slipped in and almost lulled her to sleep once more.

Hello again, hello. Just called to say 'hello'. I couldn't sleep at all tonight, and I know it's late, but I couldn't wait.

The sun was starting to set, and her mind was blessedly blank. The light was gleaming and flickering golden-red through the treetops.

Hello, my friend, hello. Just called to let you know, I think about you every night when I'm here alone, and you're there at home. Hello.

He really was a good singer. And she'd never tell him so, but when he was up on a rooftop, watching over her down below, the sound of his voice soft in her ear was… soothing. Relaxing. It had become something she depended on, there in the back of her mind while she was working a mark.

Clint flicked a blinker on, and they started to slow. She rolled her head to look at him. "Holiday Inn," he nodded at the lit sign down the road. Natasha stretched again in her seat and sat up as he pulled into the parking lot. She could do with a shower and a meal.

Natasha was out of the shower, dressed in jeans and a plain brown t-shirt, rubbing her hair dry with a towel when the knock at the adjoining door came. The door swung open a moment later, Clint standing behind it.

"You ready?" he asked. He'd clearly done the same as her, showered and changed. His hair looked still damp, and he'd changed his shirt. He was wearing a white button-down, untucked, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and the collar open. Dark jeans, rugged shoes. He pushed his hands into his pockets, and leaned a shoulder against the doorframe.

"Almost," Natasha said, turning away from him. Something had started shifting around in her stomach when he'd opened the door, and she had the feeling she needed a moment before she went off with the man leaning against her doorjamb. She stepped back into the bathroom and reached for a comb.

"Hello, again, hello. Just called to say, 'hello'," Her hand slowed midstroke and she stared into her own eyes in the mirror. He was singing softly in the other room.

"I couldn't sleep at all tonight. And I know it's late, but I couldn't wait…"

Natasha silently set the comb down and closed her eyes. She'd arranged these two weeks with Fury in an effort to get her partner back. She wanted the man she'd known before he'd left for New Mexico, before Loki and aliens. The one who had her back at all times, who cracked stupid jokes and elbowed her during briefings. The one she'd started to… feel differently about.

Contrary to popular belief, Natasha Romanoff knew a lot about feelings. In fact, she was an expert in them. The Black Widow did her best work by prompting feelings in other people. You control how they feel, you control their behavior. She knew what joy, sorrow, anger, guilt, love, hate looked like. She knew the signs of all those feelings. She knew how to make others feel them. What she didn't know was how to feel them herself.

Natasha opened her eyes again, and studied her reflection in the mirror again.

"Hello, my friend, hello. It's good to need you so. It's good to love you like I do. And to feel this way when I hear you say, 'hello'…"

Perhaps it was time to learn. She breathed deep, breathed in the calm, then stepped out of the bathroom, shutting the light.

"Ready," she said. Try as she might, she couldn't quite make herself meet his eyes, and that frustrated her. The fact that she didn't know why made her more so. She reached for her jacket, tossed on the end of the bed.

"Natasha…" he said softly. As he had when he'd woken up, sitting next to her in that detention room, a lump on his head that she'd put there and that frightening blue gone from his eyes. Her fingers tightened in the leather of her jacket as she shrugged it on.

Clint stepped out of the doorway, hands still tucked in his pockets. "You ok?" he asked. She could smell him. And it was at once familiar – soap and leather and that hint of musk.

She looked up at him and smiled. "Yeah," she said. She cocked her head at him, eyes on his now. "You?"

His smile seemed to freeze for a second. "Not yet," he said, his lips twisting a little. "Come on," he said, turning away and heading for her door. "I'm hungry."

Natasha followed behind him, absently slipping her extra back-up gun into the concealed pocket of her leather jacket. "I want lobster," she told him as he held the door open for her.

He grinned down at her, the moment seemingly gone. "I figured," he said. "You know they're just big bugs, right?"

Natasha groaned as they started walking down the hotel hallway. "Really? You're going to give me this crap again?"

"Giant cockroaches," Clint taunted as they stepped down the stairwell. "Big ol' bugs…"

She was full of lobster, the night was cool and crisp, and they were walking back to the hotel in a quiet night. Insects hummed in the trees, a few night birds called. The scent of the ocean was in the air and the moon glimmered down through the trees. If she were on a job, Natasha thought absently, this would be a great seduction setting.

Clint was strolling easily next to her, his hands back in his pockets. His white shirt gleamed a little in the moonlight, making him an easy mark. She wondered if he'd planned that, out of some convoluted guilty conscience. He wasn't quite as relaxed as he seemed, and she figured sooner was better than later.

"You ready to talk?" she asked quietly.

Clint didn't answer for a long minute. When he did, it was in a murmur. "You? You want to talk?" There was a thread of amusement in his voice, she was glad to hear. It meant her Hawkeye was in there, in control. "You're the poster child for 'work it out on your own', Tasha."

The nickname soothed her, even as she prepared to push herself past her limits of comfort. "Maybe so," she said, eyes ahead on the road, hands tucked in her jacket pockets. "But you do best when you get it out. And I'm your partner, Barton. If there's something wrong with you, I'm going to help fix it."

He was silent beside her, and she dared to prod him a little. "Even if it means a mild concussion." She got a snort at that, and her lips curved in the dark.

"Thanks," he said.

"Anytime," she gave back in a blandly affable voice.

He sighed and they kept walking. "I'm… working on it," he finally said. He tipped his head back and looked up at the night sky. "Probably a lot a bad dreams to deal with. Probably need to find a gym and beat the crap out of something at some point. Probably…" his voice trailed off and he looked back down at the road. They kept walking.

Natasha waited patiently. It wasn't her strongest suit, he was the one who sat back and waited for the right moment. She was the one who went in close and made the moment happen. She pulled her hands out of her pocket and rubbed them against her thighs. "I need you back," she finally said. She didn't know how else to explain it.

They were almost there, she could see the lit sign of the hotel up ahead. "I know," he answered quietly. "I'll get there." His hands were loose by his sides.

Natasha let herself flow in the moment, and reached over to wrap her pinky finger around his. Not holding hands. Just holding on. "Promise." It wasn't a question.

His finger tightened on hers, and his thumb came around to stroke the back of her hand. It tightened that spot in her belly. "Promise," he said.

They reached the parking lot, and she let her hand slip away as he opened to hotel door, let the moment flow past them and left it back in the night. They'd take these two weeks, and she'd get her Hawk back by the end of them. He'd promised.

Natasha followed his white shirt to the stairwell, and started up the steps. She wondered how they'd dream tonight.

Next Chapter – Black Sports Bra