They should both be in the hospital, and they aren't. They should both at least have gotten checked over by the SHIELD medics that all the - what the fuck are they calling themselves again? Avengers? Why, thinks Clint, does SHIELD have to have such corny fucking names for everything? - fine, all the Avengers managed to duck by going blocks over to actually get shawarma because it's amazing what Tony Stark can make sound like a great idea when you're punch-drunk on every poison your body can produce. So neither Clint nor Natasha get checked over by medics, either.
And they sort of . . . half-accidentally part company for the awkward bit. The coming down bit. The bit that hit after everyone looked at each other over the shawarma table and went, what the fuck are we doing? We need to go home and split up. Clint gives half a moment to wonder where the fuck Thor's going to go, but doesn't really care. It's so not his problem.
Clint hits one of his bolt-holes that hasn't burned down and sews one thing closed, contemplates painkillers and decides he doesn't need them, and then tries to pass out for a few hours and restart the world.
It doesn't work.
She knows him, and he knows she knows him: this is why Natalia picked one of her nicer boltholes, one of the ones that happened to be an actual town-house, because she's betting on less than two hours before someone feels the need to knock on her door.
Fury knows her, knows them well enough to let them be for at least a night. At least that long, after this kind of . . . mess. Although granted, nothing has ever been quite this bad, but that should only mean the Director makes especially sure to use his brain this time. He won't need them for a debrief until at least tomorrow, because it'll take that long for the city and the world to get beyond okay what the fuck just happened? and they won't add much to that until it's time to get into details.
And Fury knows. Knows her well enough to leave her alone after this much shit, until she's wound all the jagged bits of her brain back in and isn't likely to go looking for a target. In any sense of the word.
It's been a long time since it's been this bad.
It turns out she overestimated the time it takes Clint to come and find her. She's still under hot water, leaning her head against the side of the shower and willing it to burn everything out but especially the fumes of a burning air-ship and the strange chemical-ozone smell that came when Banner stopped being Banner and became something that no human - or god, turns out - could even hope to slow down, let alone defend herself from . . . she's still doing that when the doorbell rings.
She ignores it and stays in the shower until she's scrubbed all the blood, soot, sweat and fuck knew what all else off her skin. Then she towel-dries her hair and puts on black leggings and a black loose tank before she goes to the door.
The clothes are a compromise between something that fits with the persona that bought this townhouse, and what Natalia can stand. Even knowing who it is, she takes one of her Glocks off her suit and has it in hand while she checks the surveillance and then when she answers the door.
The battle didn't damage his hearing: Clint's sitting patiently on the front step while she's at the surveillance-screen, but he's standing leaning on the door-frame when she opens the door. It's somewhat reassuring that he knows her well enough to be that sure she's actually here, that he didn't guess wrong.
Reassuring that, despite the god rummaging the fuck through his head, he still knows her that well.
"Well?" she asks, when he doesn't actually just wander in and toss himself on her couch or, for that matter, give in to paranoia and go sit on her roof. She may, just possibly, deliberately have bought a town with one window that made that easy.
"How do you deal with it?" he asks. The words fall out like rocks out of an open hand, hitting the ground and staying with all the weight. His jaw twitches and he waves the hand he's not leaning around in the general direction of both their skulls. "The head stuff. Remembering it. And forgetting. And everything else."
Natalia wants to sigh. She'd sigh, she thinks, if that kind of thing were natural anymore - if she had any involuntary reactions. But by the time the feeling gets all the way through filters and out where she could act on it, it's too deliberate, too false, too much like acting. So she lets the silence of not lying be the real answer, the one she knows he'll read - which runs Look at me and think about that question again, Clint.
His eyes flick away from hers. What she actually says is, "Vodka," which is a sort of forgiveness for that answer, and a way of showing she's not actually upset he asked it. Of course he asked it.
When Clint looks back up, his mouth twitches. "Vodka," he says. "Really."
"Yes," Natalia replies. She realizes she hasn't put the safety back on her Glock and does so.
"Isn't that a little stereotypical?" he asks, because he always has to push somehow.
She doesn't bother giving him an expression for that one. He doesn't actually deserve it. But he chews on the inside of his mouth and says, "Can I have some?" Which tells her he's coping with this even worse than she thought.
She probably should have expected that. Less practice.
"You're not drinking my good vodka to drink yourself into unconsciousness," she says flatly, where good vodka means vodka imported from Russia.
"Can I have some of your bad vodka?" he presses, a glimmer of himself. She just gives him the Look that question deserves.
As if she has any bad vodka.
His mouth quirks up at the corner. "Can I go buy some of the stuff that's an abomination before man and God and bring it back here and drink myself into unconsciousness?"
"There's a liquor store down the street," Natalia says, and tosses him the spare key she'd stopped to get upstairs. "Knock," she adds.
He gives her the Look she deserves for even implying he'd forget.
Clint's never quite sure why he forgets how bad vodka hangovers are. Especially on top of a bruised body and a significant concussion, even if the concussion is the reason he's himself again and not some . . . puppet.
As this one punches him towards consciousness, the automatic take-stock tells him he's still on Tasha's couch, and that she was even nice enough to throw a blanket over him when he passed out. The lights are all off, meaning she's probably asleep, meaning he really shouldn't open any doors or windows unless he really wants a screaming alarm system and his pounding headache says No to that.
Next question: does he remember the layout of this townhouse well enough to make it to a bathroom before he gets sick all over and without breaking anything?
It turns out the answer is yes because the bathroom has a night-light on along with a towel, soap, a tooth-brush, mouthwash and Advil all neatly in their places on the sink. He notices that after he's done emptying his stomach. Leaning back against the wall, all he can think is huh.
Tasha must actually have been worried about him.
He showers, for the second time since aliens had been trying to kill him, and he tries to remember what he actually said as he determinedly put a layer of Smirnoff between him and the rest of the world. He's pretty sure some of it was really stupid shit to say to Tasha, but if Tasha hadn't been up to hearing it she'd've told him to go away or at least told him not to get drunk. He doesn't, normally. Doesn't around anyone else, in fact.
Mostly because stupid shit comes out of his mouth when he does.
When he makes his way up the stairs, he makes sure not to be quiet. And when he gets to the doorway of her room, he taps on the door-frame three times fast, once slow, and then two more times fast.
Then he stops there.
Tasha's sleeping with her hand under her pillow, which is the reason for the knocks - sometimes it's a knife, sometimes it's a gun, but it's always something that'll kill anyone she thinks is an enemy or at least seriously give them a shitty day. Some of the bruises he can see are going to be spectacular, making him wonder what some of his look like.
But mostly he's wondering what Loki said to her, and if she's ever going to explain whatever was hiding behind I've been compromised. She might not. There's a lot of stuff like that - where he knows what it meant to her, but not what exactly happened.
Without moving, still on her stomach under the covers, Nat says, "Stop standing in the doorway being maudlin so I can go back to sleep."
Clint closes the door behind him and stretches out beside her, on top of the covers, tucking a pillow under his head and relaxing. There's just a little bit of grey outside the window, and Clint says, "If Fury calls tomorrow, tell him I'm calling in dead."
"If Fury calls me before I call him," Tasha replies flatly, "I'm throwing the phone out the window."