A/N: Written for proudofthefish in the 2012 I Need My Fics exchange.
And Here We Go Again
"Tony!" Clint hollered as he entered the laboratory, earning an instant glare from both of the two men bent over some complicated, wire-dense apparatus they were clearly in process of working on.
When not saving the world, Tony and Bruce had been getting together almost every chance they had, holing up in the lab, and turning out some remarkable products and technologies, but...
"Is my app ready yet?" Clint went on as if they had never glared at him. "I need to know whether it's safe to go out or not."
Bruce chuckled under his breath while Tony sighed. "Do you have any idea how long it takes to research, let alone develop, a way to analyze the forecast for world threats? This isn't a weather app you're asking for."
Clint crossed his arms. "You said you could create something like that." He had also absolutely refused to tell Tony why he might need one, though he was fairly certain that Bruce had an inkling of the far-more-concerning threats of bodily harm Natasha leveled his way whenever the latest grand villain with big ideas decided to interrupt their time out and bring the Avengers team together under the banner of safeguarding world peace. She did not even have to say a word. One look and Clint was wondering why they even bothered to take time away from the Tower.
Tony threw up his hands and turned back to his end of their work. "I'm working on it, but I cannot at this time give you the local supervillain forecast."
"As if that's the only world threat," Bruce interjected mildly.
Tony handed him a solder. "You stay, you work."
Bruce shrugged at Clint and took the solder.
An effective dismissal if Clint had ever received one. A trifle put out, he wandered back out of the lab and down the hall.
He almost went into Natasha's room, but when he raised his hand to the door, the soft murmur of a Russian lullaby stopped him. She was happy enough and would be until he told her he had no idea if they could pull off the entire amount of time required for their favorite extra-curricular activities. So he kept on wandering until he reached the kitchen, then stopped on the sight of Thor looking both morose and like a man bracing himself for battle by drinking the bottle of Sprite in front of him. Knowing something about bracing himself, Clint sat down beside him.
Thor yanked another bottle out of the six-pack, handed it wordlessly to Clint, then lifted his own for another swig.
Neither spoke until their bottles were emptied.
"You and the lady are going out?" Thor asked, only somewhat interestedly.
Clint nodded, tapped his fingers on the table. "Visiting your brother?"
The change in Thor's expression was subtle, but being a brother himself, Clint noticed the hint of sorrow, the feeling of loss and frustration mirrored there. "He should have visitors. We..." Thor shook his head. "We care for him, even if he does not for us."
Clint said nothing. Sometimes caring was enough and sometimes, it was more complicated, intertwined with all the lostness a soul could gather up into itself. "I better go check on Tasha."
Thor nodded, gathered his composure, and stood to go himself. "May nothing bar your way."
Clint laughed. "Amen."
~ o ~
Natasha was ready, dressed to the hilt, and bristling with more hidden weapons than Clint could probably ever count—especially seeing as he would have to include the items of clothing and innocuous hair tie. She grinned at him and his own uniform. He often preferred his uniform to street-wear, but even so, it was a bit of a joke between them. She could wear anything and still take names and be generally awesome, whereas he didn't even like to get his coffee without a bit of his Hawkeye persona to go with it.
And that was just the problem, wasn't it?
She called him, "Bratishka," and he gave her that look. Not your little brother. She grinned. Of course, he was. Today. Long enough to make them both human again.
They began with a slow coffee, sitting on either side of a small table at Starbucks, laughing together and talking about anything ordinary. "I remember the skies in Russia. They aren't the same here." "I've been thinking about my brother. He might have liked this kind of coffee." It took a couple hours for the layers to start peeling away, for them to shed their guard while wandering up and down the walk, in and out of shops, and each to never glance to see what lay beneath.
They always took time to skip stones on the nearest body of water. Clint insisted. It reminded him of happy memories with his brother. Natasha smiled when he got more than five skips and acted as gleeful as a little child. Afterward, they would visit the ballet. She would fish out a dress she brought for the occasion and transform herself with fifteen minutes in the ladies room. At some time during the performance—the exact moment would vary—she would lay her head on his shoulder. He would always pretend he didn't notice she left his jacket damp.
Five hours and a sigh of relief later.
I'm a human, he knew that sigh meant. Not a weapon, not a spider, but Tasha.
"I'm really not your brother," he murmured as she lifted her head, smoothed her dress with one hand, and reached for her clutch.
She smiled softly. "Today, Clint."
Today, you are my brother. Today, I am a sister. Today, we are human.
His cellphone buzzed and he dropped his head against the back of the seat and groaned. "Please tell me the city is still in one piece." Five hours. Just five hours, that's all they needed, and never even once—
Natasha plucked the phone from his pocket, flipped it open, and raised an eyebrow. "Has he finished that app yet?"
There was no graceful way around it, so Clint opted for bulldozing through. "No."
"This was entirely foreseeable," she retorted and handed the phone back.
Clint glanced at the text and groaned. "I'm sure this isn't a big deal. Thor always goes to visit his brother."
Natasha dragged him along out of the theatre, not even bothering to glance back at him. "That shouldn't include bringing Loki back to the Tower. He'll compromise us."
And here we go again.