Natasha looks up to find her six-year-old son hovering in the doorway with an oddly nervous expression on his face.
“Yes? What's up?” she asks, taking a moment to switch her mental gears from the Finnish of the report she had been reading to Russian.
“Um,” John says, and twists his fingers in his dog's ruff. The dog – an overly excitable Australian Shepherd with clear direwolf in her heritage – tends to cling to John anyway once he's returned from school, but right now Frog is looking like back-up. Natasha is getting concerned. “Wehavetowriteareportonyouand-”
“Vanya, spaces between the words.”
John takes a deep breath. “We have to write a report on what mommy and daddy's jobs are.”
“I told Ms Hart that I wasn't allowed!”
John's green eyes are wide and he's looking so earnestly upset that Natasha has to clamp down on the urge to either crack a smile or facepalm.
At least he knows how important Not Telling is.
“I'm sure you did,” is what she says. “But it's for homework, so we'll have to think of something.”
His expression shifts, turning speculative. “Am I really not allowed to tell that you stop bad guys?”
...Or maybe he doesn't know, if he's trying to get around it. “No, you're not allowed.”
“But it's interesting.”
“Mmm. Interesting isn't good.”
“But daddy's boring.”
Ah, the contempt of familiarity at the stay-at-home parent. “Daddy has a bow, that's not boring, is it? And he helps teach people at my work, now that you're at school. And...why don't you go and get your homework book, and let's work it. Okay?”
“John,” she says, and she so rarely calls him John that he stops and looks at her. “You know why. It's safer. For us, and for Frog.” Frog, hearing her name, pricks her ears and tilts her head before licking John's fingers. “So. Go get your homework book, and we'll write the report. And then what do you say to making a chocolate cake?”
“Really. It'll be a surprise for daddy when he gets back. We can have sprinkles on it. But, only once we've written the report. Deal?”
“Deal,” he says, and then he runs off with Frog at his heels. Natasha waits until their feet hit the stairs before she pinches the bridge of her nose.
She knows the technical-truths to spin – she's a translator who has to travel a lot, Clint's a part-time security consultant – it's just that talking John into them is always stressful. All he knows is that her work involves stopping bad guys, but the explanation for the need for secrecy unfortunately is one that catches the imagination of a little boy.
Thank everything he still hasn't worked out who his parents' friends are. Trying to get a six-year-old not to tell everyone that Captain America gave him a puppy would have been impossible.