Disclaimer: Joss is the boss.
Characters/Pairings: Clint Barton/Natasha Romanoff (this chapter)

For BlueEcoFreak and Lyssie212. Happy Holidays to all!


It's not that Natasha dislikes the holidays. No, no, it's not that at all. She definitely likes the idea of Christmas, likes the celebration and cheer and bright colours and lots of food, even if it all takes place a few days earlier in America than it would in Russia.

It's just that this is the first time since she was a small child that she's actually done anything remotely Christmas-related.

Clint, being Clint, wastes no time in noticing her slight apprehension. Handing her a drink and taking a seat on the stool next to her, he asks, "You good?"

"Yeah, of course." The look he gives her says that won't do, and when has she ever been dishonest to him without life-or-death reason? "It's just taking a while to get settled, that's all. New place for the holidays every year."

"Well, this is nicer than where we were last Christmas," Clint says, his eyes doing a sweep of the room and all the people in it.

Natasha's brow furrows slightly. "What, you mean Mumbai?" He nods once. She shrugs, thinking back to the high ceilings and oriental music and assassination assignment. "I don't know, I thought that place was pretty classy."

Clint picks something up off one of the nearby trays and pops it in his mouth. Chewing it carefully, he ultimately decides there must be better things to eat and very inelegantly spits it back onto his plate. "Though the food here certainly leaves something to be desired in comparison."

"And I'm not wearing a fancy dress," she teases, smiling slightly and giving him that look. The look that can easily reduce her targets (or, in this case, him) to speechlessness.

Slightly distracted, Clint's eyes sweep over her quickly as though remembering her in burnt orange, just a few shades lighter than her hair. ". . . You could put on a fancy dress. I have no objections to you in a fancy dress."

The look she gives him in return is more disparaging this time. He shrugs his head slightly. "Only if you put the penguin suit back on," she retaliates.

"I'll have you know, I looked awesome in that," Clint boasts. She rolls her eyes at him as he takes a drink.

There's a pause in which they both merely sit there, watching the people around them who are meant to be their team but are quickly beginning to feel like family. The annoying, dysfunctional, peeping-into-matters-they-shouldn't sort of family, but it's family nonetheless, and it's more than either of them have had in a very long time.

Clint, of course, is still the most important to her. In the years they've been working together, all the missions and gun fights and hostage situations and bruises, he's become more than just family; in her world, Clint's a fact. Black Widow and Hawkeye. They simply exist beside each other. And, though that kind of relationship (though she's never sure how exactly to define that relationship-partners, co-workers, best friends, more . . .) has its advantages, it also has its disadvantages. Trusting so few things, so few people, takes its toll. In their world, every moment is spent on guard and the only people they can depend on are one another. It's kind of nice, Natasha thinks, to have a minute to just sit down among others without too much worry.

Then again, looking around the room and at all those present, she supposes there's always room for some worry with the Avengers around.

Clint clears his throat, prompting her to look up at him. "Still, there's a tree here. That's important." He chuckles and takes another sip from his glass. "And we're not in any immediate danger of being shot."

"It's nice you feel comfortable saying that," Natasha murmurs under her breath, narrowing her eyes at him. Clint coughs up his drink, and that's enough to get a full smile out of her. Nothing to make a Black Widow and Hawkeye Christmas complete like a couple of off-hand death threats.

FIN