Natasha can admit that the sight of Captain America skanking was utterly hilarious. She'd been a little concerned that the living room was going to lose all of the furniture for a while. Darcy, it turns out, is more capable at keeping a straight face than she'd have thought. She does kick Clint when they make it to the kitchen though.
‘Stop laughing. You're just a little bit jealous you can't do that.’ She hops up onto the kitchen side and digs through one of the bags for the package of parsnip chips they bought. She's determined to get at least a couple of handfuls before Thor comes and eats them.
‘Oh, yeah,’ Clint snuffles through the rest of his hysterics. ‘That's just what I've always wanted to be able to do.’
‘Better than your awkward shuffle from side-to-side, I'd say.’ Natasha smiles, a little softer than she'd intended to, and holds the milk carton up like a microphone. She leans forward and growls nobody tells me what the fuck to do/ nobody gives a damn about anything we do into it.
‘Dude, whoah!’ Darcy says from the kitchen door. ‘That was absolutely fucking awesome!’
Natasha tips her head and nods. ‘Obviously.’
'Oh!' Clint exclaims, and shoves the ice-cream into the freezer. ‘Zagreb, 1998. How the fuck did I forget that?’
‘Forget what?’ Darcy says. ‘Unless you can't tell me, obviously. Totally down with all the secrets.’
‘I can't tell you about why we were in Zagreb,’ Clint shrugs, ‘but I can tell you that part of our cover story involved Natasha fronting a punk band for a night.’
‘That seems very public for a mission,’ Steve says. ‘Not exactly the covert ops I'd have expected.’
‘The mark's daughter was into loud, growly, punk music.’ Clint says. ‘I dunno. Not my kind of thing.’
‘I like it,’ Natasha says and drops down from the side. ‘Now, have you introduced Steve to MSI yet?’
‘I'm not sure he's ready for it,' Darcy says, wishing, like every other minute in this place, that she could tweet any of this.
They were in Zagreb for a mission, and when they got back to New York, Natasha was going to be having words with Coulson. He didn't usually send them on the kind of ops that required actual public presence and making themselves seen. They weren't very good at it, and he knew that. Clint always managed to say something tasteless and Natasha ended up being leched at by people. But, as Coulson occasionally told her, like she didn't fucking know, people sometimes had to do things they didn't want to do.
'You know, I like this considerably less than you do.' Clint said as he gestured for another round at the bar. 'You at least like this music.'
'True,' Natasha said, and tipped her head to one side. Clint was more of a Springsteen guy, and if he was a bit drunk he liked to listen to country music. They'd had to draw up a rota for who got to listen to what and when in the early days of their partnership. These days they could work it out by miniscule signals. Clint knew that if Natasha's eyes were narrower than usual that she needed to have something angry and vicious playing, and she knew that if Clint was pretending to be laid back and at ease he needed to listen to some blues music. They rubbed along, and tried every now and then to find musical common ground. It hadn't really worked.
'But,' Natasha said, after downing a shot, 'you aren't the one who has to get out on the stage. You don't mind being on stage. Well, not that much anyway.' She picked the next one up, ‘jivili!’ and downed it, after clinking her glass against his.
'Training.' Clint said and narrowed his eyes. 'Look, we need to keep the mark's daughter away from home. She doesn't need to see what's going down there. We got the bad straw here.'
Natasha raised an eyebrow in agreement. This wasn't her usual thing, but she didn't think she minded particularly. They'd had a string of long, complex, overinvolved missions where they had to blend themselves into corporate empires and invent entire family trees. This was a three-day mission, and someone else was doing the knifing. She'd take it. Even if taking it meant that she was, for one night, and one night only, lead singer of ìzdājnīk.
Clint had laughed himself silly when he'd heard what Coulson had arranged as a way of keeping the girl occupied. He'd cheered up a bit when he realised that their one and only task was to keep the girl in the club until it closed. That someone else was handling the actual kill, and that they would be home and dry straight after. They had no idea who was handling the kill. Natasha had her suspicions, but she was never going to voice them. Clint knew who she'd thought of when Coulson had woven his way around telling them anything about that side of it, and had kicked the side of her shoe gently, in a reminder that he was here.
And now they were both in a small, tightly packed, club in the middle of Zagreb, watching the opening band warm up. At least Clint assumed they were warming up, his Croatian was horrendous, and besides, they were making noises like thirty thousand cats with laryngitis being strangled. Natasha didn't look overly impressed, but the other members of ìzdājnīk were nodding their heads appreciatively.
Natasha still wouldn't tell him how she'd managed to pull off the necessity of being in the band for the night, but she'd played her part admirably, going to rehearsals and coming back sloppy-drunk and loose-limbed. Clint thought that actually might be more terrifying than her usual efficient killing-machine persona. It gave him an uncomfortable insight into what she might have been like if she'd ever been allowed to be a teenager. Even Natasha listening to Against Me! in the living room, with all the volume she could make their equipment muster, never looked like she was entirely throwing herself into it. There was always that little bit of reserve, hiding at the back of her eyes and in the fact he knew she still had a knife tucked into her boot. But here, she'd somehow relaxed into it more. Oh, he'd personally guarantee that she had at least three physical weapons on her somewhere, and she'd still chosen her clothes for maximum flexibility, but her shoulders looked like everyone else's in the club.
Clint felt like the proverbial spare part. He’d let Natasha choose his clothes for him, so he knew he wasn’t going to stand out quite as much as he could have done. And that had been weirdly painful. He was so used to being able to slot himself into situations, and come up with a plan and a method and a persona, but this was not his scene in any way. He’d been introduced to the band as Natasha’s second-cousin, from Missouri, touring Europe after college. They’d looked him up and down, shrugged and then sent him to the bar to buy some more drinks. Let the American use his dollars, he guessed was the theory and grinned when he had to go to the bank and draw some more money out of the ops account the next day. Coulson was going to have a mile of paperwork to fill out, and Clint was going to watch him from the air vent.
Natasha leaned over and snagged the shot sitting in front of him, downed it and then patted him on the shoulder. ‘Time for me to go and play,’ she said, ‘do try to look like you’re having fun.’
‘Srećna!’ Clint said and lifted his empty glass to toast them. The bass-player rolled her eyes at his mangled pronunciation and pushed through the crowd. As she parted the people Clint caught a glimpse of the girl, and nodded to himself. She was still there, and she seemed to be having a good time. Probably the last one for a while, he thought to himself.
The lights dimmed and Clint turned to see the stage, where the band were walking out and fiddling with guitar strings. Natasha’s hair glowed in the lights and she had a snarl on her face. Clint shuddered, he knew that face, it was her I am going to fuck you up so badly you aren’t going to know how to breathe, or want to because you’ll be alive, and you’ll wish you weren’t smile, and it seemed entirely incongruous in the situation. Until she opened her mouth to sing and out of her came a string of pure rage.
Clint leaned back on the bar, his eyes wide, as if someone had just pulled a crossbow on him when they were in the middle of a firefight. He knew Natasha had anger in her, had seen her take down groups of assassins, and seen the flare in her eyes as she told them exactly why she was hurting each small piece of them, and had seen her shaking after finding people chained to pipes in basements, but he hadn’t really realised exactly how much anger was sitting inside her, waiting to be released.
The song finished, and he let out a low breath. The crowd did the same and then they roared with appreciation. Clint saw the mark’s daughter right at the front, against the barrier and a flash of worry went through him, until he caught sight of the look of bliss on her face. Like she’d just discovered the secret to life and happiness and everything else. It was a fierce contrast to the expression of pain on Natasha’s face, but he recognised it as being the good pain. The kind she fought for in sparring bouts and lifted too many weights for, and took too many missions in a row on for. This wasn’t going to wipe much red out of her ledger, but it was going to make her feel better.
‘Wow,’ Darcy said from in front of her computer screen. ‘I mean, just wow. I mean I knew she was hot, like, hello, have you seen her? But, wow.’
‘I don’t think this is the first time Agent Romanoff has rendered someone speechless,’ Clint said as he wandered into the living room. ‘But, I gotta say, she’s really done a number on you.’
‘Huh?’ Darcy said, and looked over her shoulder. ‘Yeah, okay. Whatever, but, like, look at this video. Coulson sent me it.’
Clint walked over to the computer and blinked as Darcy hit replay. It was Natasha in that club, in Zagreb, singing her heart out and meaning every word as the whole of the club looked at her like she was the second coming. ‘Coulson had this?’
‘Yeah, he said he was keeping it for an emergency,’ Darcy said, not really paying attention.
Steve smiled, awkwardly, ‘I believe his exact words were “I was keeping this in case I needed Romanoff to do something for me. I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.” He signed his email hah.’
Clint took a minute to marvel at how precisely Steve had italicised Coulson’s hah and turned his attention back to the screen. His focus still zeroed in on the mark’s daughter, and he couldn’t help but remember her screams, tearing the air apart at four in the morning. The killer hadn’t done their job well. Hadn’t really done it at all, and all of Natasha’s hard fought peace and relief had come crashing down around her as they realised they were going to have to finish the job.
‘What are you guys doing?’ Natasha said, swinging herself onto the back of the couch. ‘Is that?’
‘Yup,’ Darcy said, sounding a little like she had when she first met Captain America. ‘That is you, singing in a club in Zagreb. I really wish they’d let me tweet this shit.’
‘I look hot.’ Natasha said, and nodded approvingly. ‘My hair looks better than I remember.’
Steve barked out a laugh and then looked apologetically at Natasha. ‘Sorry, it’s just? That’s what you’re thinking as you look at that?’
‘Well, that and I think the drummer is a little offtime, but there isn’t very much I can do about that now, is there?’ Natasha frowned at Clint like he might have the answer.
‘Don’t involve me you guys,’ Clint said. ‘I have to go and sit on the roof and try and work out how, and why, Coulson has us on video in a club.’
‘He likes to look at your pretty face,’ Natasha said and winked slowly.
Steve shuffled a little, and hit replay on the video. ‘Could you teach me this song?’