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No Straight Lines

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It still gets him, how space looks when you're actually in it. It's not even the sheer clarity of the stars out the window, but the shifting perspective. Space is not black, not empty, but full of lights of differing brightness and patterns that stretched back and back and until you might just reach the -

“You can't travel in a straight line.”

Clint had heard her footsteps (bare feet on the floor are not as silent as spy novels would have you believe), but only now does he turn his head, swivel slightly in the pilot's chair. He raises an eyebrow.

“It's curved. You'd end up at the starting point.” Natasha pauses, tilts her head. “Space doesn't have an end,” she adds, trailing her fingers across his shoulders as she passes.

“Still tempted to try,” he says, watching as she pours herself carefully into the co-pilot's chair, tucking into herself with her knees to her chest. Her eyes slide across to look at him, and her expression isn't exactly subtle so he huffs a laugh. “You'd come, too.”

“It would be illogical,” she says, which isn't exactly a no, so he just tosses her a smirk. A smirk that fades as he looks at her, taking note of reddened eyes and the uneasy way her fingers are playing with the armrest.

“Hey, 'Tasha,” Clint says, voice pitched low. She shakes her head, glares at him.

“Heard me screaming, didn't come.” Her voice is sullen, accusatory.

“Last time,” he says, carefully, “you told me not to.”

Natasha falls silent, and he doesn't say anything else. That is not, has never been, how they have worked. He knows better than to call the ship's cabin silent, though. There is the hum of electrics, and through whatever the fuck the Red Room did to Natasha's brain, 'silence' is not exactly a thing she experiences very often.

“I miscalculated,” she says at last. “Mission parameters require back-up.”

“I'm not slugging the doc.”

She gives him another one of those 'you're an idiot' looks (but it's from her, and it's slightly amused, so his comment had the desired effect). “He has needles, all in rows. Stick them in and ask your reaction because the nervous system is a playground, ask, ask, ask-”

“You're not getting any better, baobei,” Clint says, meeting her gaze and holding it until her eyes slide to the edges. The look, though, before he gaze scuttled away, was almost one of betrayal.

“Biochemistry is complicated, side-effects problematic. I should be a computer, then you just need new wires and I'll be good as new. Be easier.” Her tone is more sulky than anything else, but the underlying bitterness is deep and sharp.

“Then I couldn't pull your hair, and that'd be a tragedy. C'mon,” he says, tone gentle. “Banner's working on it.”

“Robert Bruce Banner, doctorate in physics. No formal medical training.”

“Now you're being elitist,” Clint says, lightly. He swivels his chair back towards her, and holds out his hand. Natasha doesn't move for a long moment, and then she unfolds her arm like she's on a ballet stage, takes his hand with fingers slender and calloused. “We'll find something,” he says, and he hopes it's more like a promise instead of a prayer.

She smiles, faintly, and looks out towards the stars. “Can't go in a straight line,” she says, as if they were still talking about the stars and the universe. “We'll have to zig-zag.”