Natasha had pretty much successfully hidden her little side for over 4 years now, and two of those years she had been hidden from Clint.
She wasn't entirely sure why she had kept it a secret for so long. It wasn't like Shield didn't allow littles or that her role there would change once they knew.
Unlike a good majority of the little population, Natasha had never been publicly little.
No trips to the specific little playgrounds, no shopping for toys at the store, no walking around in cute clothes.
No interacting with other littles whilst in her little headspace.
She had been taken when she was actually a child and by the time she'd grown up and realised she was little, it had been used against her.
Because the whole little/big thing didn't extend across to everybody, some people still looked down on it. Couldn't understand it. Didn't understand why adult men and women were walking around in dungarees and playing in sand boxes.
Now The Red Room hadn't been like that, in fact they had very much understood.
Those with little tendencies were pushed to the tops of their classes, were entered into lessons quicker.
Specifically, they were entered intothe 'life skills' class which included but was not limited to entraping, seducing and sleeping with marks.
It was different for littles because they would be taught how to do those things in both headspaces. It was beyond fucked up to even think about anymore. She would spiral if she let her mind drift there.
When Clint had been sent to kill her, Natasha had locked away that part of her.
Natty hadn't made an appearance in over a year, not since she'd escaped the Red Room and fled Russia.
Shield didn't know the extent the Red Room went to to ensure the world was as they wanted it.
Didn't know all that they put the girls through.
Natasha had opened up over the next two years, about almost everything.
The conditioning, brainwashing, murdering and torture, the rape.
She just hadn't told her partner about the little side of her. About how the little girl inside her had been abused and starved and forced to have sex, long before she had physically come of age.
Natty had been hidden for a long time.
She would come out sometimes, no matter how Natasha fought to keep her inside.
But when she was alone.
She had nothing little but a small blanket, shoved under her bed at the academy.
She would curl up with her one little item, eyes burning with tears as the girl remembered.
She would shove the blanket under the bed and, frustrated and disgusted, take a freezing shower until Natty was hidden again.
She had been doing a good job of hiding her other side from those around her. From Clint, from Nick and Phil and Maria.
It was ironic that after hiding Natty from them for so long, they would all be there to witness the breakdown.
It had been one rough mission after another and after weeks of flying around the world for different jobs, Natasha and Clint were finally in debrief.
Natasha had been pushing the little down for almost six hours; from their flight home, to medical, to debrief.
Just hold out. One more hour then you can be home. No one has to know. No one has to-
Fury was staring her down and she realised that he was waiting for an answer to a question she hadn't heard.
"I'm sorry?" She asked quietly.
"Romanoff, if you're not going to listen to a damned word I say then you may as well collect your shit and leave."
The redhead fumbled for an answer, her eyes inexplicably burning with tears.
No no no not now.
Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment and she studied her hands intently, looking like the chagrined child she felt like.
"Romanoff?" Fury's voice rose and Natasha bit the inside of her cheek, heart hammering, pulse pounding in her ears.
Don't make eye contact. Don't look up. Don't say anything.
Fury pushed back his chair and Natasha flinched violently, jumping back a little in her seat.
She could feel Clint touching her shoulder as her vision tunelled and her chest burned.
"Natasha?" A soft voice asking her name.
That was all it took for her to tumble over the edge.
In a second, the world was crashing down and all Natasha could think was to get down, to hide.
Her chair flew back as she dove under the table that her fellow agents and boss sat around.
Her legs were drawn to her chest, hands sliding over her ears, face buried against knees.
"What the fuck?" A male voice questioned and Natasha only clamped tighter over her ears.
Clint was already crouching below the table, not wanting to touch her for fear of making...whatever this was worse.
He was stricken to find tears rolling down her cheeks.
She'd had flashbacks before and was no stranger to panic attacks but only rarely did he see her cry. And not over a small trigger like the one she'd just encountered.
It was Hill who realised something was off.
"Is she a little?" Maria asked as she joined Clint on the floor, taking one look at her tear stained face and moving her gaze to her boss.
Fury looked ever more confused, shaking his head. "It's never been mentioned, no." He looked over at Phil.
Phil had a strange look on his face, something akin to pain. Which it probably was.
Phil was a caregiver completely and utterly, and to know one of his best agents had been hiding her little side caused his heart to hurt perhaps more than it should.
"How would she have hidden that for so long?" Clint asked. That had to be wrong.
Littles...littles were little quite often. Never once in the two years since he'd brought a Russian stray to Shield had he had any idea there was another side of her.
He'd seen her interact with littles/bigs around Shield often but he'd never considered that she would be one too.
She was very kind to the littles but had never offered babysitting duties, and only played when their handlers were in meetings. In other words, only when necessary.
He was much the same when it came to caregiving; only when necessary. But when it came to being little, nearly everyone at Shield knew that when Barton climbed through the vents or raided the kitchen for chocolate pudding, it wasn't big Clint.
He was little, on the higher side of the age spectrum, normally settling at about 12 or 13.
Natasha had looked after him many times whilst he'd been regressed.
Frowning, he had no idea how he had missed this.
Littles tended to gravitate towards littles, for friendship, for playing with, for napping with.
Clint was a little, so how had he not noticed? Was that side of her really so locked away that one of the most astute agents Shield had to offer hadn't seen it?
Thank fuck for Maria because she seemed to know what to do.
She was Shield's 'most famous' switch. She was almost completely 50/50, half little, half caregiver. It was a mix that was rarely seen.
The woman started to move under the table, talking softly in that happy bright voice caregivers often used without realising.
"Natasha, honey? It's Maria, we work together. We're friends, can I come closer?"
The redhead's eyes widened and rather suddenly, she was sobbing in earnest.
Her cry tore into the hearts of the other four, even those who had never considered themselves as caregivers.
Maria still didn't touch her but continued to crawl closer.
"Hey baby, oh it's okay, you're okay beautiful. Do you wanna tell me what's wrong, hmm?"
Natasha inhaled raggedly, snot dropping down to her lips and her cheeks burning with the emotions she was feeling so deeply.
The redhead wiped at her nose and eyes but it didn't make much difference because tears kept coming.
"N...not s'pposed t...to k...know. 's bad, 's bad!" She gulped, nails digging into her knees.
Maria hummed softly, voice calm and quiet. "What's bad, darling? Can I come over and give you a hug, Nat?"
Natasha watched the woman for a couple of seconds before hiccuping weakly, moving onto her knees and crawling over to the woman.
She collapsed against Maria's lap, loud, gasping sobs wracking her body.
"You're okay, baby, you're okay." Maria quickly gathered the woman so she was properly on her lap, arms wrapping around her and keeping her to her chest.
"I've got you, Nat, you're okay. Everything is okay."
Her words muffled by the woman's shirt, Natasha just continued sob, uttering just a few words.
"'S never gon' be okay."