She tells Fury she wants a vacation.
He is obviously included in this request, although she doesn’t voice it. Fury gives them both two weeks, which Clint thinks is fair because he can’t remember ever taking use of the vacation days he should have been piling up over the past few years.
She’s packed and ready to go in twenty minutes. He takes considerably longer, probably due to the fact that he actually owns enough clothes that he has to pick out which ones to bring, rather than just empty the contents of his dresser into a bag, which is most likely what she did.
She tells him they’re going to France on the drive to the airport, and he can’t find it in him to complain. He knows she has a safe house outside of Paris, and honestly he doesn’t care where they go. He’s just as eager to get out from SHIELD’s thumb as she is. They might have all banded together for the fight in Manhattan, but he knows there are still far too many kinks to be worked out before the Avengers ever happen again.
And then there’s the whole matter of how he blew up the helicarrier and killed half a dozen agents while under the influence of one crazy ass God, but he’d rather not talk about that one.
Natasha doesn’t talk much on the flight. She hasn’t been distant with him lately, not exactly, but things have certainly changed. He’s not surprised. He can’t bring himself to be the same person he was three weeks ago, and he understands if she can’t either. This whole ordeal has messed them up for good.
They land at 11 at night, Paris time, and she checks them into a hotel before they even set foot outside the airport. They hail a taxi to get to the hotel, a tall, glittering building on a busy street. It’s odd; Natasha typically goes for the small, tucked away places no one’s ever heard of. A hotel with hundreds of other guests is usually a red flag for her. She doesn’t say anything about it, though, and aside from a small disagreement about payment at the front desk, she doesn’t say anything to him.
They dump their stuff on the floor of their room unceremoniously, and then both collapse onto separate beds. Clint swears he only closes his eyes for a second, but when he opens them again it’s already morning. Natasha’s no where to be found, so he takes a long shower and then flips through the channels on the TV.
She comes back around 10, carrying a bag full of something that smells absolutely delicious, and two coffees. She hands him his with a small smile, then plops down on the bed next to him.
“That better be food.” He mumbles, reaching for the white bag. She pulls it out of his grasp, and reaches inside, pulling out a pastry and handing it to him.
“You’re the best.” He groans, before taking a big bite. She rolls her eyes at him and sticks her hand in the bag again, taking out a stack of napkins. He accepts one gratefully, and attempts to talk around a mouthful of food. It comes out as clogged noises, and she raises an eyebrow. He swallows and tries again.
“Paris?” She shrugs. “I like it here.”
“The city just seems a little… Mainstream for you.” He takes another bite, ignoring the crumbs that fall onto his shirt.
She is incapable of ignoring things, of course, and reaches over to flick them off. “It’s nice.” She says, like that answers everything.
Clint knows when not to press things with Natasha though, and decides to just concentrate on the food.
When he’s done she talks him into taking a walk around the city. The weather is just starting to get warm, and he follows her down main streets and alleys, past corner cafes and open markets. She doesn’t stop anywhere, just keeps going and going. They finally reach some body of water that he wouldn’t be able to pronounce anyway, and she finally stops.
The sun is setting behind them as they stand on top of the bridge, leaning over the rails to stare into the water below. He can see her reflection clearly, but his looks distorted, like something’s floating just under the surface, causing it to look strange.
She takes his hand and pulls him along after her as they walk back to the hotel. They order room service for dinner and pay for it with SHIELD’s accounts (Fury’s going to have a field day when they get back), and then he finds some French-dubbed movie on Lifetime and they don’t talk for the rest of the night.
The next day is Friday.
She wakes him up at 6:20 and tells him to pack his bag up again. He doesn’t think he’s quite ready to head back to SHIELD just yet, and tells her so. She rolls her eyes and just tells him to pack his stuff.
She loads their bags into a rental car she picked up this morning, and slams the trunk. They drive for about two hours until they’re well and good out of the city, and she pulls over. By now he’s very to incredibly confused, and she’s clearly not offering any answers.
“‘Tash, if you’re gonna shoot me and leave me in a ditch, at least let me tweet about it first.”
She fishes around in the backseat for a moment and comes up with a map.
“That area over there looks nice for a body dump.” He gestures to a section on the map.
Natasha swats his hand away. “Shut up.” She mumbles, fingers tracing a path on the laminated paper. “I haven’t been here in a while…”
“Oh, are we going to your place?” He sits up straighter, tugging gently on his seatbelt. “You’re not going to knock me out this time, right?”
He’s been to two of her safe houses, and he knows she’s got at least seven scattered around the globe. She knocked him unconscious before taking him to the last one, which was a great display of trust, really.
She remains silent, her fingers still running over the map. She seems to decide on a route and starts the car again, pulling back onto the empty road.
They drive for another half hour before reaching a cluster of houses. She passes all of them by, and then it’s another twenty minutes before they reach a solitary house on top of a hill. She parks at the bottom and hops out, going around to the back of the car.
“You’re not gonna make me climb that thing, are you?”
“Baby.” is her only response as she pulls their bags out of the trunk, dropping his onto the dirt by his feet.
He picks it up and reluctantly follows her.
“So how long are we staying here? Or do I not get to know?”
She pauses in setting the salad on the table, fixing him with a hard stare.
“I mean, I like this whole… Cottage vibe, and you cooked dinner, which is mind blowing, but am I going to have to pack up again in the middle of the night? I’m getting kind of tired of it.”
“We’ll stay the weekend.” She answers, sitting down across from him at the unimaginably small dinner table.
“Just the weekend?” He digs in eagerly, as she picks slowly at her plate.
She shrugs in response.
This whole silent treatment is getting kind of annoying. Natasha’s never been one for long speeches, but she’s also never ignored him like this before. They’re supposed to be on vacation, and she won’t say more than three words to him.
She retires to her room directly after dinner, and he searches all four rooms of the cottage (her room, bathroom, kitchen, and living room), before laying down on the couch.
She wakes him up the next morning in a light blue dress. It’s an odd sight, and he sits back for a moment staring at her.
“I’ve got something to show you.”
Clint gets dressed quickly, and they’re out the door before he even has time to advocate for getting breakfast.
She treks barefoot down the hill, and he follows a few steps behind. She leads him down the dirt road that stretches out behind the house, through a cluster of trees to a wide looking lake.
He squints out across it. He can barely make out more trees on the other side. He doesn’t know why she’s so fascinated with water recently. He turns to face her, ready to ask, but she stops his question.
She pulls the blue dress up and over her head, letting it fall on the ground. He does his best not to ogle, really, but then she undoes her bra, slipping it off of her shoulders, and steps out of her underwear.
Well, this was unexpected.
She takes a few steps towards the water without looking at him, and her footprints start to appear in the mud. She walks out until the water is lapping at her calves, then pauses. She reaches her arms over her head and dives forward, feet disappearing into the waves. She resurfaces a few feet over, head bobbing up above the water.
He raises his eyebrows.
Natasha smiles- a real smile, not a little twist of her mouth or the ones she uses to show all her teeth- and goes back under again.
He has his shirt off quick enough, and his pants and shoes follow soon after. He debates going in in his boxers, and then says screw it, because she clearly did.
The water’s cold, even on his toes, and he scrunches them up in the mud. He keeps going though, and her head pops up again a little bit closer.
“It’s freezing.” He complains, but she rolls her eyes.
He gets out to knee high, then waist high, and stops when the water reached his chest. She swims up to him, red hair sticking tight to her cheeks and neck. He pushes a piece away from her eye, and she smiles again.
Then she places both hands on his shoulders and shoves him under the water.
Clint pushes her away in shock,and when he resurfaces she’s laughing like a madman. He splashes her in retaliation, but it doesn’t do anything.
She pushes away from him, body gliding though the water quickly. She’s a good swimmer, he remembers, better than he is anyway.
Still, he takes the bait and goes after her, feet pushing him off of the slippery bottom.
She lets him chase her for a good minute before finally slowing down. His arm catches her around the waist, and she lets him pull her closer. They’re face to face, and there’s a drop of water making its way down her neck that looks really inviting.
She rests a hand on his chest, her nails scraping against his skin slightly. She looks younger, he thinks, with her hair slicked back from the water. Her face is clean, and her eyes look wide.
She leans in first, lips brushing against his. He slides his hand up from her waist, holding onto her arm. She comes closer, opening her mouth and slipping her arms up, one hand resting on the back of his neck, the other on his shoulder.
He has to ruin it, of course, because he has to ruin everything, because he has all these stupid feelings.
He pulls back from her, hands resting on her shoulders. “Is this… I mean, we’ve been kind of weird lately. What is this?”
Another eyebrow raise. He’s in for it.
“I just mean… Jesus, Tasha. You drag me out here and then you don’t talk to me the whole time. I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean.”
“You’re an idiot.” She groans.
This conversation sounds promising.
He doesn’t say anything, just waits for her to continue. Maybe if he plays the silent game too she’ll start talking.
“I didn’t mean to ignore you.” Natasha takes a step back, and her shoulders disappear as she sinks further into the water. He imagines her feet resting on the muddy bottom, and realizes she must have been standing on tip toe before.
“We’re both in kind of weird places, right?”
The answer’s yes, obviously. He thinks they’ve both been in weird places for most of their lives, but keeps that thought to himself.
“I was…… worried. About you. When… You know.” She’s mumbling and it’s kind of cute, because he’s never seen her be unsure about anything. She closes her eyes briefly, reaching up to smooth her hair back. “I don’t really know what we’re supposed to do now. Everything’s supposed to be perfect and good with the world, and we’re still fucked up.”
Clint doesn’t know what to tell her. There are still things in the world just as fucked up as they are, but it does feel like they sort of rode into the sunset after Manhattan. It feels weird, like they should be happy about it, but they just can’t be.
“I don’t know what to tell you, Tash.” He crosses his arms, which is actually kind of difficult underwater. “What do you want to do about it?”
She looks angry suddenly, and she takes another step back. “Nothing. You can’t do anything, I just…” She gently waves her arms out, then curls them back in, causing ripples to push out away from her.
Clint watches her take a deep breath just before sinking under the water, until even the top of her head is submerged. He waits for her to come back, one mississippi, two mississippi.
She pops back up at eleven, face barely flushed. He remains silent, waiting for her to continue.
He finally caves with a sigh. “Everything’s still fucked up, and we’re still fucked up, and that’s not going to change. It never did change. I know we’re not good at talking about… Issues, but-“
“We’re not going to go back to normal are we.” She cuts him off suddenly. It’s not quite a question, and he doesn’t know how to respond.
Natasha stares at him for a moment, her eyes squinting in the sun. Finally she steps back towards him, the water ripping around her shoulders.
“Were we ever normal?” He asks. She stifles a laugh, and it comes out sounded like a very undignified snort.
“Not really.” She answers. Clint smiles, and she mirrors it slightly.
“You’re right.” He frowns, and she pushes on. “We’re not good at talking about things like this.” She presses her lips together, her gaze drifting to something behind him. He doesn’t really know what’s coming; she’s never like this, never unsure of herself.
“I didn’t really know how to be around you, after… Everything.” Natasha snaps her eyes back to him. “It was weird. And I know I shouldn’t have ignored you but I kind of hoped it would all work itself out without me having to address the…. Problem.”
To be fair, that system has worked for them for years. They’re not much for talking about serious issues, at least not with each other.
Clint shrugs, and suddenly realizes for the first time that there are goosebumps littered all over his arms. He rubs his fingers together and feels wrinkles, like when you sit in the bath too long.
“This is good that we’re actually talking about this stuff, but do you mind if we continue this conversation on land?”
Natasha rolls her eyes again, but there’s a smile on her face. Nodding, she takes another step towards him. “Sure.” She says, and it’s so quiet he can barely hear, even with her still only a few feet away.
“Okay. Good.” Her hand barely brushes against his, and he looks over at her with a smirk. He grabs her hand, lacing their fingers together and lifting their hands out of the water. She quirks an eyebrow, and he can see just the hint of a smile on her face before she pulls her hand away and uses it to push him under again.
She beats him in a race back to the edge of the lake, and they both pull on their clothes again still half-wet, then make their way back to the house on the hill dripping water onto the dirt roads.