He waits for her, and she takes her time.
He won’t be sprawled so much as arranged on the bed. His body will arch in a sinuous line; he’ll be naked, perhaps with a sheet draped around a thigh to let her imagination and memory fill in what rests beneath. His arms will be stretched languidly above his head, and he’ll move one lazily in what could be a wave or simply a shift to make sure she notices the motion, notices him.
“Pep,” he’ll say, as though she’s surprised him, as though they both haven’t been thinking about this for hours. “You’re home.”
When they consolidated their quarters—“Shacked up,” Tony said helpfully, and was lucky that Nat didn’t stab him—Clint’s mind was mainly on the immediate logistics. Both suites were about the same size, but Clint’s had the private range; Natasha’s kitchen was bigger, but she said his would do. They didn’t need two televisions—Clint’s got used mainly for morning news and Natasha’s for movies when she’s tired—so they didn’t bother moving hers. She’d picked out her couch special, though, along with the chairs and dining table, so those all went downstairs. They kept Clint’s mattress but Natasha’s headboard and bed frame. (Clint is fond of Natasha’s headboard and bed frame, which are wrought iron and very sturdy.) Their book collections are drastically different (he likes science fiction; she likes literary biographies) so that wasn’t a problem. He has CDs and vinyl, but all her music is digital.
But what surprised him, though it shouldn't have, was coming out into the living room one morning and finding her hanging filmy translucent drapes on the wide windows. He remembers them—she had them in the same place upstairs—but for some reason it hadn’t occurred to him that she might want them down her. She’s listening to Stevie Nicks and humming along; the sunlight filters gently through the fabric and washes the room in a warm maroon.
Natasha smiles at him. “Hey,” she says, and crouches down to take another matching curtain from a box. “There’s fillings for an omelette or a scramble if you want.” She nods toward the kitchen, and then pauses to look at him. “I’m sorry—I didn’t think. But you didn’t have anything here—”
“No, it’s fine,” he says. “That kind of thing just doesn’t really occur to me.”
She rolls her eyes. “Yeah, the mattress on the floor for the past year kind of gave that one away.”
“The windows tint themselves,” Clint points out. “You don’t have to cover them if you want to keep the light out.”
“I know,” she says. “But it’s nicer this way.” Standing turned against the sun, she’s radiant in the pale gold light.
“It is,” Clint agrees, and makes her an omelette, too.
They thought they were going after mutant squids. They got human trafficking instead.
Their job really sucks sometimes.
Showering after a mission is standard: at best they’re sweaty; at worst…well, blood isn’t inherently bad depending on how much and who it belongs to, but that chartreuse (not yellow, not green, but chartreuse—Steve insisted) alien shit was pretty fucking foul. That was a really long shower. It’s too bad bleach is toxic, because Clint could really have used some of that after four hours covered in yellow—pardon, chartreuse—excrement from another planet.
Showers are normal, like Mad Men on Sunday night is normal and like Thor accidentally blowing up the toaster is normal.
Natasha’s sitting in the bath, and Clint thinks she probably would have poured bleach in it if she could have, even though they didn’t come home covered in anything worse than perspiration and the dank odor of human bodies in a tight space.
Clint doesn’t shudder, but it’s a near thing. He wouldn’t mind washing that the hell off right now, but he goes in and sits with Natasha instead. She doesn’t say anything, but after a while, when he unfolds a towel and offers it to her, she rises and takes it and meets his eyes, just for a moment.
The bed is big enough for a basketball team (Bruce decides not to go much further with that thought), and yet somehow Tony manages to both take up most of it and still keep a hand somehow, somewhere, on Bruce, as though Tony’s afraid he’ll disappear in the night.
OK, that’s not necessarily unreasonable. Bruce will grant him that one. But he’s stayed so far. Stayed so far and he’ll stay tomorrow and they’ve gotten through these months like that. Tomorrow ebbs and fades and dawns as the day after, and suddenly a week has passed, and then a month, and this is Bruce’s life: most days in the lab, some nights with Tony, other nights peaceful in his own bed with a book.
He doesn’t deserve it, not any of it, but it’s not a bad life. It’s a pretty damn good life, actually, and Bruce just hopes, more than he’s ever let himself hope for anything, that he doesn’t destroy it.
“Daddy went shopping!” Tony exclaims when he sees Steve’s armload of bags. Tony was on his way out, but examining Steve’s purchases is always way more interesting than just about anything except a new idea or Pepper and-or Bruce naked, so Tony doubles back and follows Steve up to his quarters. Steve, used to it by now, doesn’t complain, just hands him a bag. Steve’s a big proponent of everybody pulling their weight, even when it’s his weight, in this case. But Tony considers it a fair price.
The first bag is books, which is not surprising. Steve loves to read—but he’s also still blown away by the advances in printing technology and the reproductions of art that are available in nothing more than a bound book for sale to the masses, or at least the masses with fifty or a hundred dollars to drop on it. (Steve is scandalized by the prices of things now, but not too scandalized to curb his Taschen habit.) He wants to see the originals, he says, and has started to make the rounds when he has time (Steve’s expression in the Rijksmuseum was absolutely worth commandeering the quinjet and Fury’s resulting apoplectic, well, fury); when there’s not time, though, he has the books, which he handles with great care, as though they’re made of something precious.
Today’s Taschen is Chagall, an enormous hardcover that would have been difficult for anyone else to cart home. Steve carries it over to the coffee table, which is where most people show off books like that, but Steve likes to keep them there for ease of browsing and also because nobody is allowed to eat or drink in his living room, so they’re safe from desecration. He opens the book and looks through it desultorily but almost reverently.
“I saw some of his work in an exhibition a couple of years…before,” Steve says. “Not many people in the U.S. aside from other artists had heard of him yet. I hadn’t—I just read a review of it in the paper and thought it sounded interesting and went to check it out.” He pauses and turns another page. “It was…I had never seen anything like it before. Nobody else did anything like that.”
Art is Pepper’s and Steve’s thing, not Tony’s, but as he looks at the pages Steve leafs through, he can appreciate the rich colors, the mystery of it, the desire to fly away until you’re lost.
“You been to the Met yet? The opera house, not the museum,” Tony adds.
Steve makes a little bit of a face. “Not really my thing. Too much singing, not enough…anything else.”
Tony laughs. “Pepper would challenge you to a duel if she heard you saying that, but yeah. I’m with you for the most part. So you haven’t been to the Met, I take it.”
Steve shakes his head. “No.”
“We’ll go tomorrow,” Tony says. “After dinner, barring unforeseen interruptions by aliens and-or evil. It’s best at night. We’ll hit the Paris opera, too, but let’s save that for September or October.”
Steve looks at him in befuddlement, and Tony gets up to leave him to his art. “Don’t worry,” he tells Steve. “You’ll like it.”
“I’m taking your word on this,” Steve says dubiously.
“Good,” Tony answers, and means it.