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Where You Lead, I Will Follow

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When Natasha was twelve, she met a man named Clint Barton. 

She hadn’t had an official name since she was nine. That’s when the second pervert of a male that the government had sold her off to was found dead in their house. Exactly like her first husband. She had three more (arsenic, head injury, knife wound) before they realized that a girl trained as an assassin couldn’t be a child bride and an assassin at the same time. 

So they kept her as an assassin. Then she finally had a name. Well, at least a nickname. But the Black Widow truly didn’t get a say in what anyone called her. 

Until Clint Barton.

————————————————-

She was surrounded by nineteen dead men. 

She had killed thirteen of them. 

The only person she hadn’t killed in the room was the man who had seen her being attacked and killed the other six.

“What’s your name?” He was older than her, by ten years at least. His weapon of choice was a bow; the antiquity of which threw her off but only for a moment. His blond hair was specked with blood and he wasn’t alarmed by that. She liked that. 

“The Black Widow.” She said, no emotion showing on her face.

“No. That’s what they call you. What’s your name.”

“I…” She stopped short. She used to have name. She’s sure she did.

“You don’t remember. Those…” Clint cut himself off with a noise that sounded like a caged animal. Natasha didn’t even flinch. Clint spun around with his bow and the man had the door received an arrow to the eye. 

“I’m supposed to take you in to SHIELD. But I won’t. Because they’re going to use you just like these assholes. I don’t trust them. This is wrong.”

Still Natasha didn’t speak. 

“I’m going to ask you nicely not to kill me. Because I know you can. But I want to get you out of here and then, you can either stay with me or not at all. It’s up to you. But you have my word, whatever that means to you, that I won’t hurt you.”

And a week later, Natasha had a name, picked out at random from a Russian newspaper that Clint had stolen from a coffee shop. She had pointed to it and nodded. Clint had been overly excited at her picking her own name. 

In addition to a name, Natasha also had Clint and as a result, a way out of her old life. He had seen her at her most vulnerable and as far as she knew, had given up her entire career and life in order to help her. According to Clint, his company thought that the Black Widow was at least thirty. He was positive that his superiors had lied to him and wanted to take advantage of her. Clint was a dreamer, a romantic, a fighter, and he wanted to take her with him.

She wasn’t about to let that go. 

Especially when:

“I can cook fish.” He offered to her on their eighth night together. They had finally finished his rations and he was fashioning a fishing rod out of a branch. 

“I like fish.” It was the first she ever said to him AND it was an opinion. Clint was so ecstatic that he looked as though he was about to cry. He didn’t. Mainly because he knew Natasha would raise an eyebrow at him. She was scary good at that.

“Oh thank god.”

That was Natasha’s first sign that everything was going to be okay. He was so relieved that he was able to provide some measure of small comfort for her.

“I can’t cook anything else but I can bake. Hope you like pastries. Well, once I have access to an oven, I suppose.”

Natasha loved pastries. 

She didn’t tell him that though.

It was difficult for Natasha to adjust or at least pretend to fit in to a semi-normal life with Clint but she liked having a father figure who didn’t try to get her to kill people. After all, Clint was the one who protected her when everyone else wanted to abuse her. He took her away and didn’t even attempt to touch her. 

————————————————-

That was three years ago. 

But it had been a long three years.

————————————————-

“Are you okay? You screamed. It was just a nightmare. You’re okay.”

Natasha nodded slowly and Clint didn’t move into the room. Not with her looking wide-eyed and terrified.

“You have your knife?”

She nodded again.

“Then you’re safe. You know you’re safe.”

That didn’t stop her from shaking.

“I. Fuck. Natasha, I want to come and hug you but I don’t want to freak you out. Do you want to sleep with my bow? I can sleep on the floor next to the bed. We can put all the lights on. Fuck, we can go for a jog or head to a new city right now. What do you need?”

“That.”

“That? What? I gave you a few options.” Clint secretly hoped it wasn’t the new city one because he had just found a job as a handyman. On the other hand, he’d grab their emergency duffels in a heartbeat to ease her mind.

“The first one.” Natasha said quietly. Clint ran through his choices again and oh. Okay. 

“Okay. Well, I’m going to come in? You already know you can incapacitate me if you need to.” Clint smiled openly and Natasha exhaled. It was a start. 

Clint slowly moved into the room and sat on the edge of the bed. He held out one arm and Natasha slowly, very slowly slipped under it. He settled against her headboard and let her attach to his body however little she wanted. And minute by minute, Natasha’s breaths evened and she was plastered against his side, laying down entirely as he remained upright, keeping watch for her imaginary demons. 

————————————————-

For the first year, Natasha barely talked. But that was okay because Clint talked enough for both of them. He became an expert at reading her minimal facial expressions. And in return, Natasha became a specialist in Clint Barton.

The man gave up her life for her. It was the least that she could do. 

————————————————-

“Don’t give me that look. Yes, your teacher asked me out. I turned her down.”

Natasha raised an eyebrow and tilted her head slightly.

“I do not need to get laid. Did you finish your homework?”

That was a look of pure exasperation. Of course she had finished her homework. Her IQ was off the charts and being in school was incredibly boring for her. Clint had told Natasha to think of it as an undercover job. That hadn’t helped.

“Okay, maybe I need to get laid but definitely not by her.”

A slight brow furrow. She was officially intrigued. 

“Because she…uh…I’m not really into…” Clint didn’t blush but he rubbed the back of his neck and avoided eye contact as long as he could handle. Which wasn’t long.

Oh. Natasha’s eyes widened. That information would have put her mind at ease for their first few weeks (months) together.

“Would you even have believed me if I told you?”

She shrugged. That was a good point. She hadn’t quite believed anything that Clint told her in the beginning.

“Well, now you know.” 

A slow and plotting smirk came over her lips.

“Don’t give me that look. You’re not trying to find me a boyfriend.”

————————————————-

One year ago, Clint bought himself and Natasha a house in a small town in New England.

Later in his life Clint would describe the move (their thirteenth move in three years) as the best mistake of his life.

————————————————-

 

 

They had moved into a large, empty, previously abandoned house. It was almost too massive for Clint, who still jumped at every noise. Natasha wasn’t any less paranoid but she was confident in her ability to secure the house so Clint acquiesced and they moved to the big house in the small town.

Clint had managed to enroll Natasha in the local high school but had forgotten to get them any food. Or at least, no food that Natasha deemed edible to get her through a full day at an American school. And Clint only let her drink her vodka on special occasions. 

“I saw a diner. It’s called Phi’s and it’s in the center of town.” Natasha told him hopefully. She loved diner food. It was one of the many interests they shared. 

It’s how Clint found himself falling asleep on a diner bar while waiting to be served coffee. He vaguely heard Natasha order him coffee and a combination plate of waffles and pancakes while getting a spinach, egg-white omelet for herself. 

“I like this place.” Natasha announced to him towards the end of her meal. Clint had eaten most of his breakfast and the rest was already packed up for his lunch.

“You like this place?” Clint lifted his head from where he was dozing again on the counter and looked at her suspiciously. He turned to the man who had taken their order. “She likes this place.” He said dumbly. When he realized the diner man was staring at him, he ducked his head and ran his fingers through his hair. “I guess we’ll be around more often. Clint Brandt. This is my daughter, Natasha.” He stuck out his hand and the man behind the counter shook it.

“I’m Phil.”

“So is the place yours or does the owner require a Phil moniker for employment?” Clint gave Phil his best charming smile.

“The place is mine. Anything else I can get you and your…”

“Daughter.” Clint supplied easily. 

“She’s yours.” It wasn’t a question. “You look young.” Phil gave Clint a once-over that made him want to shudder. In a good way though. Natasha noticed and smirked at him. He ignored that. 

“We’re all dumb when we’re teenagers. Though, Tash is far from a mistake.” Clint smiled proudly. He didn’t mention that he was only ten years older than Natasha. No one knew that except for the two of them. His current license for Clint Brandt has him listed as 32 years of age. 

“Oh my god.” Tasha whined, in a perfect annoyed teenager voice and dragged Clint and the rest of his coffee out of the diner.

————————————————-

“Our last names are Brandt now?”

“You got to choose last time. I chose this time.”

“I wish I could be Natasha Barton.”

“Yea, me too.” Clint knew it would be foolish to say ‘One day’ but he could still dream about it.

————————————————-

“I think you should ask him out.”

“Yea, I’ll get right on that. What do you need from the grocery store?”

“That almond milk. And pierogies.”

“K. Any more school supplies?”

“I don’t even use the ones I have, Dad.”

“That’s because you’re a genius.” Clint said proudly. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer to kiss her temple. He still felt a warm feeling whenever Natasha called him ‘Dad.’ He had never even brought it up to her but after their first rough year together, it just started happening. 

And it was the best feeling in the world.

————————————————-

Clint soon found himself in a life where the majority of their breakfasts were held at the diner and most conversations at his house revolved around normal teenage problems that Natasha was experiencing. 

One time, she even brought home a friend. 

To talk with. 

About girl…stuff. 

Clint was both relieved and unnerved by the turn his life had taken. 

“Did you go to prom?”

“You know I didn’t.” Clint narrowed his eyes from where he was making her lunch. He wasn’t sure if she was still just pretending to be a teenager or she had embodied the American spirit but Natasha insisted on peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for lunch. At least it was something that Clint could make for her.

“I know. But I like hearing you talk about it.”

“Only you would like stories about me coming into awkward adulthood in the circus.”

“I’m sure Phil would like to hear those stories too.”

“Don’t you dare.”

That’s how Clint had to deal with unnecessary circus puns for the next week whenever they were in the diner.

Clint found that he didn’t mind. Not between Natasha talking willingly to a stranger and Phil’s quiet smile as he poured Clint an unhealthy amount of coffee.

————————————————-

Their life wasn’t all sunshine. Natasha had her nightmare weeks where she stayed home from school due to ‘pneumonia’ and slept in the fetal position in Clint’s bed with her knives out. Clint called out of work too, in order to stay with her, which only got him in trouble but he could care less. Natasha was so strong in everything else and to see her reduced to a terrified child hurt him more than he could talk about. 

When she realized spoke up long enough to request food, Clint was more than happy to run out to Phil’s to grab her some dinner. It was an added bonus to hear Phil’s concern for his daughter.

And when Clint was fired the next day for being out sick with said daughter for a week, he honestly didn’t mind. Natasha felt well enough to kick Clint out of the house that night and told him that he was annoying when he was mopey. 

(He hadn’t told her about the job. He’d have a new one soon enough anyways. He always did.)

“You know what would help you?”

“What?”

“Sleeping with Phil.”

“Oh god, shut up.”

“Go to the diner. Get yourself your late-night coffee. And then don’t come back until sunrise.”

“Tasha.”

“I’m serious. Go get that.”

He was so happy that she was acting like a teenager that he didn’t even argue.

Well, he also wanted some coffee.

And okay, maybe Clint also wanted to see Phil. It had been a long day, okay?

————————————————-

“I’m sure it wasn’t that bad of a day.” Phil deadpanned when Clint had dramatically threw himself through the door of the diner. 

“Yea, well. Yea, you’re right. Of course. It’s not.” Clint really didn’t want to argue with Phil. Ever. He knew it was a problem. He was working on it.

He was pretty sure Phil knew that he was humoring him though because he had a concerned look on his face and got out one of the largest coffee cups in his diner. He set it on the counter and gestured to the stool in front of it.

“You, sir, are a god of coffee.” Clint said reverently. 

“Well, I’m more than happy to help in anyway that I can.” Phil finished pouring the coffee and instead of just putting it back like he would have normally, he leaned over the counter and covered Clint’s hand with his own. “You’re going to be fine, Clint. Whatever it is. There’s nothing that you and Natasha can’t get through together.”

Clint ducked his head but didn’t move his hand. The diner was nearly deserted, which is probably why Phil leaned over even further, lifted Clint’s chin with his free hand and kissed him. 

It was Clint though, who broke the kiss and flipped the bolt on the front door of the diner. He closed the shades on the wide windows, one by one, knowing full well that Phil was breathing heavily, waiting for him behind the counter. 

————————————————-

That’s how, a year into their stay in the small town, Clint and Phil slept together.

And then all hell broke loose. 

 

————————————————-

Clint knew that he and Phil had been building up to this night ever since the first time that he and Natasha had eaten in Phil’s diner. 

He just hadn’t expected it to end horribly. Phil had just gone to get a washcloth to clean them up and Clint didn’t even need to be back home. In fact, Natasha told him if he was back before sunrise, she would personally lock him out of the house.

It was Clint’s own fault for idly looking for a glass of water. He had opened one of the cabinets in Phil’s apartment and found a small weapons arsenal instead. With a SHIELD logo scratched off one of the smaller guns.

“Glasses are in the other cabinet.” Phil’s voice made Clint jump because after three years, his reactions were more civilian than not.

“You’re one of them.” It wasn’t a question.

“Clint.” Phil started and rounded the kitchen counter. “I’m retired.”

“You don’t look retired.” Clint shook his head and began to back up, away from Phil and closer to the door.

“Neither do you.” Phil frowned. 

“I’ve a kid now.”

“The Black Widow is no kid.” Phil let out a huff and immediately regretted it when Clint when black in the eyes.

“Don’t- Don’t you dare fucking call her that.” Before he could say or do anything else, Phil, who was, in fact, retired and hadn’t trained in a year and a half, was knocked out by a kick to the head.

————————————————-

Clint burst through the front door and found Natasha on the couch with a textbook. “Pack up. We’re leaving.”

“What? Why?” Natasha was up and moving towards him but that didn’t mean she wasn’t asking questions. It had been over a year in this town without incident. 

“Because I made a mistake.” Clint stopped halfway up the stairs but didn’t look at her. 

“Why are we leaving, Clint?” She asked again, slowly moving back to her seat on the couch. He slammed his fist against the railing and came back down the stairs.

She tried again. “Why do we need to leave? I like it here.”

Clint fell to his knees in front of her spot on the couch. He rested his head in her lap and she started combing her fingers through his hair. “I know. Fuck. Tasha. I’m so sorry.” He choked out.”I fucked up. I know you like it here and it’s all my fault and you can hate me forever, okay? I’m going to hate me forever. He’s one of them.” Natasha’s tension increased slightly, as though she had figured out exactly what he had done. Or at least, she had a good idea about it. She knew where he was tonight, after all.

“It’s okay, Clint.” She said softly.

“It’s really not.”

Clint still held household drills, even after a year of not having a close-call with any kind of government agencies. The practice paid off because it took them all of ten minutes to grab their emergency bags, lock up the house, sprint to their hidden car, and get the hell out of town.

————————————————-

“You haven’t been out of bed for a week. And you don’t even like this safehouse bed. I remember you groaning about when we set it up.”

“I went fishing yesterday.”

“You tried to fish out of the bedroom window.”

“You love fish.”

“I’m tired of fish.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

————————————————-

It took another week of Clint being silent and paranoid for Natasha to take matters into her own hands. Though, Clint insisted he made progress by showering and moving out to their shitty couch.

Then Phil appeared in their doorway and Clint wanted to just wake up from his nightmare.

“What the hell are you doing here.” He snarled, standing up and pulling Natasha behind him.

“I called him.” Natasha said, no regret in her tone.

“What the hell were you thinking?” Clint snapped.

“You were sad.” She hissed right back at him.

“And that gives you a right to invite a government agent into our house?”

“Yes, it does.”

“All I want is to keep you safe.”

“I think you should listen to what he has to say. You’re doing a good job. I’m safe, Clint. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be happy.”

“It does. And I made my choice. It was the right choice. You don’t understand.”

“What don’t I understand?” Natasha asked angrily. “I know he says he used to be an agent.”

“Not just an agent. The agent.” Clint looked at Phil, who hadn’t taken a step into the apartment but he seemed tired, weary, as though Clint’s accusations physically pained him. Maybe they did. Clint addressed him with what he had figured out over the past two weeks. “You were that agent in Moscow. The one who saw us run. I knew I wasn’t just seeing things.”

“Of course not, you’re Hawkeye.” Phil allowed. 

“Not anymore.” Clint said tightly.

“I was also there in Florida when you spent a week in St. Petersburg. Clever, by the way.” Phil offered.

“You left us alone.” Clint was confused. Nothing made sense.

“She wasn’t a threat anymore. Neither of you were. I couldn’t convince SHIELD of that so I quit. They were convinced that you two were going rogue for a different agency.”

“You what?”

“I quit. I…didn’t agree with a lot of what they were doing. I stayed on for six months and fed them false information to give you both a headstart. Records, photographs, any information. Then I retired.”

“You retired.”

“She was safe with you. I saw you both in Florida. She was safe and happy and you were both trying to live a normal life. Then you two stumbled into me. I was minding my own business at my dad’s old diner.”

“The arsenal? The SHIELD logo?”

Phil frowned. “You can’t tell me that you don’t have a weapons cache. Natasha has to have at least two knives on her at all times.”

“Four.” Natasha said quietly from her spot by Clint’s side. She wasn’t looking at Phil though. She was watching Clint’s expressions.

“I’m done with SHIELD. Just like you were done with them when you realized what they were planning on doing with Natasha. They’re going to leave me alone. I have blackmail on their operation. And Iron Man owes me a few favors.”

“Creating a life from blackmail never ends well.” Clint told him, practically stoic.

“Which is why I convinced Tony Stark to delete me entirely from SHIELD and all government records.”

“Tony Stark is in your debt?” That got a reaction and a slight widening of the eyes.

“We go way back.” That was all Phil offered.

“Of course you do.”

Clint didn’t want to let himself hope. Not even a little bit.

“I already swore that I’d kill him if anything happens to either of us.” Natasha reminded  Clint.

“You can’t kill him if you’re dead, Tasha.”

“Watch me.” And wow, Clint was used to seeing that terrifying smile when Natasha had a plan to order takeout from her favorite Thai place. It had been a while since Clint had associated it with homicide.

“You retired.” Clint said in disbelief. “You let us go.” He still couldn’t quite grasp it.

“I’m retired. I own a diner now. I even think someone once called me a god of coffee.”

“Oh yea?” Clint let loose an exasperated laugh that made him sound like he was on the cusp of hysterics. Natasha took that as a good sign.

“So we can move back to town now?” She asked hopefully, looking from Clint to Phil.

“That’s up to your dad.” Phil said quietly and they both turned to Clint.

He looked up at Natasha, finally looking like a normal fifteen year old. Just hopeful to go back to her friends and the life they had made for themselves for the past year. 

“Well, I didn’t sell the house.”

“No?” Phil asked, a spark of hopeful anxiety lit in his chest. 

Clint shook his head. “Didn’t have the time.” When he looked up at Natasha, he smiled. She let loose a squeal very unbecoming of a trained Russian assassin but perfect for a teenager. She threw herself at him for a tight hug. 

“And Phil?” She asked from Clint’s lap with her arms around his neck. They both looked over at him, perfectly in sync, just like a family.

“Well, we’re going to need somewhere to eat. You know that I can’t cook.”

“That’s true, you need to stick to baked goods.” Natasha smirked. She knew exactly what was coming.

“Clint…” Phil breathed. He wanted Clint to be sure. Absolutely sure.

“Phil.” Clint said firmly, still weighted down by Natasha. He smiled at Phil, hesitant and shy but genuine. Phil quickly closed the space between them, placed his hand around the back of Clint’s neck and kissed him.

“Ew.” Natasha fell backwards off Clint’s lap into a roll but it didn’t break them apart.

————————————————-

Phil (and really, Tony Stark) kept his word and as a bonus, Natasha and Clint now had their legal, real IDs that stated them as Bartons, just like they had wanted for three years. 

Though, in another two years and after another (smaller) freakout by Clint, everyone had to get their names changed again. But that was only to add a hyphen and an extra name to their records. 

Natasha had wanted to be Natasha Barton for a long time but she could definitely get used to being Natasha Barton-Coulson.