Why had Clint just swung his foot onto her chair? It felt uncomfortably possessive, like this was a diner and she was his girl.
Well, it *was* a diner. That its specialty was shawarma wasn't relevant.
Or was it?
What had she been thinking about?
Natasha shifted her weight slightly to put pressure on a different set of bruises, and bumped against Clint's foot. Yes, that was it. Of all their damaged parts, it was Clint's left knee that needed elevating, it seemed.
Maybe it did.
Clint looked fine, though; no more battered than anyone else. Well, actually, Bruce and Stark just seemed tired, and Steve looked better now than five minutes before, as if he was healing in place. Thor simply needed a shower.
But Clint was fading; and she suspected she was, too.
"Hey," she said, shaking Clint's shin, partially to see if it caused excruciating pain (it didn't seem to), "Ready to leave?"
He looked at her like she was speaking Martian.
"You crazy kids have a place to go?" Stark asked, and it was her turn, she realized, to stare blankly.
That's right, she'd been thinking that she'd like to find a bed somewhere, and that Clint might like to do the same.
Clint chuckled, which was kind of surprising, and said, "Home's in Arizona, and it's gone. Rather stay away from the helicarrier. And I don't think we can find a room in Manhattan tonight."
"Same for you?" Stark was directing this at her, it took Natasha a beat to realize. She shook herself and took a slow, deep breath; this drifting was unacceptable.
"I know a place in New Jersey," she said.
Out of nowhere, Stark produced a keycard and tossed it to her. "Use this, Jarvis will do a retinal scan on the spot and you're hands-free after that."
"You're assuming you're open for business," observed Banner, looking a bit bemused.
"We plan ahead," said Stark, with a gratifying touch of defensiveness.
"You destroy your buildings often?"
Clint reached to take the keycard out of her hand; she batted him away, and Clint withdrew his leg and straightened. Is that what she'd been aiming for?
"You mind being underground?" Stark asked.
"Yes, actually," said Clint.
"Okay," said Stark, "Not a problem." Now Stark was clicking away on his iPhone.
Natasha stood and offered Clint a hand up, which he took. "Five blocks," she said. "A piece of cake."
- - - - -
As they emerged into the strangely dark, empty street, a black sedan pulled out of the nearest side alley. Beside her, Clint tensed, but Natasha just sighed. It was Stark's chauffeur, the oddly-named, pugilistically-untalented Happy.
"I beat him up once," she said. "He's fine."
Clint scoffed, but followed her into the sedan. Happy merely nodded in greeting; three minutes later, they were being ushered by one of Stark's toys into his monstrosity, and up a short flight of stairs. (Natasha suspected it wasn't just her retinas which had been quickly scanned as they entered the building; she couldn't be bothered to care.) Some other toys whizzed past them, and then they were standing alone in an unoccupied office which seemed to have been mated with an upscale hotel room: a desk, table, small filing cabinet, and short shelf had been pushed across the vinyl flooring and up against the uncovered wall of window to make room for a well-appointed king-sized bed and several night stands and lamps.
"Well, hey, your friend Tony doesn't know everything," said Clint, gesturing at the single bed.
"It's okay," she said. "Just like Budapest."
There they had shared sleep in a one-meter-square closet for two days. She hoped she had constructed the joke correctly.
Apparently she had, because Clint was laughing as he sat on the bed and took off his boots.
Was it worth covering the window somehow? She'd let Clint make that call.
On the bed, several sets of scrubs had been laid out. Tony Stark (or one of his gadgets, which was pretty much the same thing) had thought of that? Or was this Virginia Potts's touch? (Where *was* Pepper? Natasha had a vague notion that she'd been out of town; would she stay far, far away or come rushing back? What was the normal thing to do in a situation like this?)
Was there a washroom? No. Presumably there was a ladies room on the floor, but it would have taken a lot more than modesty to convince Natasha to go exploring just then. She turned her back to the window - Clint would look, or not - and peeled off her work clothes, then slipped into the smaller of the scrubs.
With a laugh, Clint did likewise, and Natasha couldn't stop herself from staring, trying to see into his mind through the curve of his back. As in the diner, he seemed exhausted, but essentially normal. How could he be normal?
Natasha turned on one of the bedside laps, and Clint flicked off the switch by the door, so that his shadow followed him as he crossed back to the bed.
"No way I'm drawing straws," he said, and climbed in. After a moment, Natasha did the same.
"I'm fine, you know," Clint said. "You can stop watching me."
Natasha shook her head. "I know you are," she said.
How honest should she be?
"I don't know how you can be."
Clint shrugged. "We won," he said.
"We stopped a battle," said Natasha. "We know NOTHING about the enemy. Nothing was resolved." She paused. "And Phil is dead.... And you and Erik Selvig were taken before the battle had even begun! Did you even try to fight?"
"God, Natasha," said Clint, "What do you want from me?"
Natasha felt like banging her head against the headboard. Had she actually just blamed everything - every damned thing? - on Clint?
But Clint just sounded worn as he said, "If you want a superman, there's comics. Or Steve Rogers."
"I'm sorry," she said, "I'm just tired. Let's not say anything more until morning."
Clint nodded, and Natasha turned out the light.
"Tasha," Clint said a moment later, "are *you* okay? Because I'm..."
Really, really not, Natasha realized.
She reached under the sheet across the ridiculously-wide the bed and found Clint's hand; but that was stupid, holding hands was nothing. She moved closer to him so she could place both hands on his arm, around his biceps and triceps brachii. She envied male musculature sometimes, what men could simply do; resented how much more training she needed to be effective. But Clint's automaticity as an archer, the way these muscles responded, had very little to do with brute strength; he trained as hard as she did.
Clint didn't move, his breathing louder now, and Natasha put her head on his shoulder.
"It had better not have been for nothing," Clint said after a moment. "You'd better not be right."
"Well, I'm not *always* right," she said.
Now Clint put his arms around her, and at her body's reaction Natasha thought of how nice sex would be - how nice being in a place where the sex would have been anything but desperate and sad would be.
Tonight, though, she'd let Clint hold her, because, it seemed, she wasn't to hold him. She'd fail to hear what she was not supposed to hear, fail to feel what she wasn't supposed to feel.
And perhaps tomorrow would be better.