He looks up as he hears his name coming from the other room. “Yeah?”
Obviously he’s not moving fast enough for her because she’s chanting his name, over and over again, in a weird sort of voice that he’s never heard before. The computer they seldom use except for filing reports is on and she’s got her hands over the screen.
“What?” As much as he tries to keep the irritation out of his voice, his back muscles are still tight from the fourteen hours he just spent shooting arrow after arrow into some oversized blob that decided to eat Houston. If Bruce hadn’t found some sort of antidote/reducer serum, he might still be there.
But her eyes are wide as if she’s just seen something horrible. “Do you remember how you and I convinced Fury that the few photos of us that got out after New York and then Cleveland weren’t going to hurt anything? And how he threatened every major new station from carrying anything with our faces ever again?”
“Yeah. Is that all? Couldn’t I have just yelled that answer to you from the other room where I was comfortable... oh, merciful saints. Is that you? And me?”
She’d dropped her hands but he wishes she’d kept them up in front of the screen forever. It’s hard to look away from the picture now that he’s got an idea what he’s looking at.
“Someone took two photos and spliced them together. So that it looks like we’re... together.”
“Creepy,” she finishes for him when he can’t find the right word to explain the way his stomach is flopping about, like it did when he had the flu a few months ago. But he can’t decide if he’s disgusted or mesmerized. Disgusted, of course.
But still pretty mesmerized.
“It gets worse.”
How it gets worse, he can’t quite tell until she slides out of the chair and offers it to him. When he’s settled, she switches to another screen. It’s all words, no pictures. What harm is there is that?
As he gets to the second paragraph, Clint realizes just exactly what he’s reading. It’s a story. About Tasha. And him. He’s taking off his clothes and...
“Why are we in the shower together?”
“And why am I... is that even physically possible?”
He closes his mouth with a sharp snap, nearly biting his tongue, as he gets to the point where this character with his name is licking (LICKING!) soap suds off the character named Natasha. When the character is moaning, he has to remind himself to breathe.
It’s when he gets to the part where the character with his name goes down on his knees that he jumps out of the chair and away from the computer screen. “No. No, no, no. No. Definitely not. I’m not reading any more of that.”
Natasha’s got her arms crossed over her chest, a hand splayed over her mouth so that he can’t tell if she’s smiling or frowning. “There’s more,” she says through clenched teeth. “Lots more.”
“What do you mean, lots more?”
“The news reports may not have aired but they found their way to the internet, as did all the footage we didn’t think to recover from the people who were there on the ground. They follow us. Regular people. They tweet to each other about where trouble is and they wait for us to show up.”
He pulls out a knife from the small of his back and begins to rub at the handle for something to do. When he’s nervous, it’s either that or taking his bow down to the shooting range but he doesn’t think his shoulders can handle that right now. The urge to throw the knife, and several others, is strong but Natasha has a thing about keeping her walls free of gashes so he holds back. Next time, he’ll have to suggest they spend their free night hanging out in his room so he can throw all the knives he wants.
“But why... why this?”
“There’s a whole group of people that think-” but she doesn’t finish her sentence, only walks out into the other room.
He’s not sure if she wants to get away from the computer or him so he follows slowly, watching her from the doorway. “What do they think, Tasha?”
She’s rearranging pillows on the couch, tossing the pale blue next to the dark blue without any regard for the color order she likes to keep them in. When he repeats his question, she’s as quick as lightning with the pillow in her hand and it ends up thudding into his gut.
“They want us together.” She covers her face with her hands. It’s not until he gets closer, suddenly worried about her, that he realizes she’s laughing almost hysterically. He’s only seen her do that once before and that’s not a night he wants to repeat. “Can you believe that, Clint? They think we should get together. Like boyfriend/girlfriend sort of together. Married or living together or what have you. The whole nine yards. There’s even,” she points back into the room with the computer as if there’s a horrible monster waiting for them there, “a few stories where I’m pregnant. A few more where you are.”
She stops when he gets too close, her hand out to remind him to keep his distance. The laughter has produced some tears but the streaks are minimal so he doesn’t feel the need to step in and calm her down. “And you should see what they write about Steve and Tony. It’s... well, it’s pretty much true. But you and I. We don’t... we... not us. Right? Not us.”
“Not us,” he repeats, as if on autopilot. But then he gives that a thought. “Why not us?”
“Why don’t we take showers together like that?”
She gaping at him like a fish. “What?”
“We’ve been partners for nearly seven years now. Friends for even longer. You’re going to live for almost as long as Steve but I’m not getting any younger. Why aren’t we taking showers together like that?”
“You... you didn’t... you said you... there was Bobbi.”
Ah, the rub. She was still holding that against him. “Bobbi and I broke up six years ago. And do you want to know why?” He’d never told her this and wasn’t sure he wanted to now but it needed to be said. “Because she thought you and I were too close. That we shared too much together. Like this. Tonight. We can’t be apart.”
“Sure we can.”
“When was the last time that we spent time alone when we were both at Stark Tower at the same time?”
So many stipulations to think of. So much damning evidence. He can see it in her eyes. Can see the conclusions she’s reached and knows it matches his own. Before he even realizes she’s moving, she’s got her arms wrapped around his neck and she’s kissing him like he hasn’t been kissed in a long time.
When they’re both breathing hard, she leans her forehead against his cheek. “You just took a shower. Are you up for another?”
Protesting shoulders be damned, he has her in his arms before she can finish the question. “Yours or mine?” he asks but he’s already heading toward hers, wondering if his body will let him do the extremely graphic motions from the story. He’s game to try.