Chapter 1: Nervous starts and Maria to the rescue (again)
Natasha clutched Clint's hand tightly, taking the smallest steps possible to the brightly coloured room she would be spending the rest of the day in.
Dragging her feet, gaze down, as they approached the day care, Natty tugged on Clint's hand, sniffling.
Clint paused, stepping away from the door and off the side. "Hey, sweetheart, I know you're scared but we talked about this, hmm?" He asked softly, taking her other hand into his.
Natasha didn't say anything, just hiccuped and sniffled again, louder this time. Her lower lip was wobbling and she shuffled from one foot to the other.
"I know you don't want to go but daddy did everything he could to try and find a babysitter and there's just no one available, love. I won't be gone for long, me and Uncle Phil just have something we need to do." He let go of her hand so he could rub his thumb over her cheek and catch the tears falling down them.
"If you really don't wanna go, I need you to tell me, okay? If you really really can't do it, I can ask Uncle Nick to watch you. But," Clint crouched a little, pitching his voice lower, "Uncle Nick is gonna be super boring and he won't be able to play with you or read you a story for nap time or anything. But here, you can play all day, you don't have to talk to anyone if you don't want. But you know what? Guess what Bobbi told me, huh?" He hummed as Natasha tilted her head, still upset but now intrigued as well.
"Bobbi said that Maria is gonna be here today and that she would very much like to show you her new colouring book. Would you like to play with her?"
Natasha sighed softly, biting her lip. "I guess." She whispered.
"That's my girl. If it gets too much, all you have to do is go to one of the bigs and give them the note I wrote. You have it in your pocket still?" He asked.
Nodding her head, Natty patted the pocket of her dungarees. "Got it." She murmured.
"Good. All you have to do is hand it over and they'll call Uncle Nick and he'll come get you. Okay? If anything happens or you start to feel bad, you don't have to stay. But, I think you're being a very brave girl and I'm super proud of you."
Natasha flushed, dropping her gaze to her feet. "Nu uh."
"Yeah huh." Clint hummed, tilting her chin up and pressing a kiss to her forehead. "Alright, little love, are we ready?"
Natasha shrugged but started towards the door. Clint pulled it open and they both walked in.
The place was huge; big enough for at least thirty littles and a good handful of bigs. It was busier than it usually was, since the brief and mission prep Clint was heading to included a lot of the higher ups and therefore there were quite a few littles needed looking after.
Clint had been to the day care a couple of times, he rarely dropped young enough to need it but he'd enjoyed the times he'd been. He especially liked the play area: lots of things to climb up, crawl through, slide down. They had firefighter poles, a little safe rock wall up one side, a ball pit and lots of other fun stuff.
Clint wasn't sure Natasha would venture over to the play area but that was okay, there were plenty of other things to do. They had arts and crafts tables with paints and pens and colouring books. They had adult size fake kitchens, a fully functioning tea set for tea parties, toy cars and race tracks, a whole wardrobe full of dress up clothes, shelves and shelves of books for all ages. They had napping areas and changing rooms and an outdoor play area with a sand pit and swings and other fun stuff.
They even had a room attached called The Quiet Room. If a little got stressed out of upset or overwhelmed, they could head in there and take some time to relax. There were bean bags and hammocks and cots and headphones and a bunch of dolls and stuffies and blankets. There was also a button on the wall that if pressed, would alert the Bigs and one or more would come to check on whoever pushed the button. It was useful if someone got too upset or too scared or had been triggered and couldn't bring themselves to leave the room.
Clint thought Nat would maybe spend most of her time in there.
Still clutching his hand, Natasha tentatively looked around the room.
Clint squeezed her hand. "Okay, sweetheart?"
"Busy." She whispered, shuffling closer into his side.
"I know, baby. Would you feel better if you chose somewhere to sit and I got you settled in?"
Natasha nodded, scanning the room again for somewhere quiet to sit. After a minute, she finally pointed to one of the corners of the room, conveniently very close to the fire exit. The floor in the corner was covered in foam jigsaw pieces and was usually where kids who brought their own toys went.
"Over there?" Clint asked, "okay, kotyonok. You're doing so well."
Once they were in the corner and Natasha was sitting against the wall with her backpack in her lap, Clint glanced around to see if he could find Bobbi or Maria.
"Okay, love, I think Maria might be running a little late but she's definitely coming." Glancing at his watch, he watched Natasha's face fall a little.
"Going?" She whispered.
"I'm sorry, Natty, I wish I didn't have to." Clint murmured, gently reattaching her little butterfly clip in her hair so it was out of her eyes. "I'll be back soon and you can get them to call Nick, remember? And Ria's gonna be here real soon and then you'll have someone to play with. I love you so much, baby."
Natasha sniffled and rubbed at her eyes, pitching forward and flinging her arms around his neck.
Clint hummed and gently shushed her, rubbing a hand up and down her back. "You're okay, you're my brave little girl." He murmured against her ear.
"Daddy's gotta go now love. You've got your lunchbox, your drink, your blankie, your paci and BunBun?" Clint knew she had them, having packed up her backpack for her, but it was always good to remind her she had her comfort items and her favourite food.
Natasha pulled back and nodded, clutching her backpack to her chest. "Later?"
"I'll be back later." Clint nodded. "Promise. You want to pinky promise?"
Natty offered out her pinky finger and Clint carefully wrapped his around hers. "I pinky promise that I will be back later." He pressed a kiss to their joined fingers and pushed up from his knees.
"Love." Natty whispered, waving her hand.
"I love you." Clint blew her a kiss and waved as he weaved in and out of people playing.
He nodded at Isabelle as he headed to the door. He'd already spoken with her and Victoria and they knew what to do if Natasha handed them the note.
Taking one last look over at the corner and Natty huddled against the wall, Clint left. He felt awful about leaving her but with their job, it was unavoidable.
He knew she'd be okay. She always was.
Natasha sat against the wall for a little while. She regretted having all that juice at breakfast cause she felt all sick and icky.
She tentatively pulled her bunny from her bag, hiding her face against the fur, sniffling softly.
She stroked repetitively through the soft material, trying to block out all the noise from the kids playing. She only looked up when she heard a soft squeal of her name.
"Natty!" Maria grinned, bounding over.
Bobbi was smiling behind her. "Hey Natty!" She waved at the redhead and then looked at the back of Maria's head. "I know you're excited love, how about you say goodbye to me first?" She chuckled.
"Sorry mommy!" Maria giggled, running back over to throw her arms around Bobbi.
The blonde hummed and squeezed the girl, kissing her temple. "Have fun, pumpkin. You two look after each other. I'll be back at five." She smiled.
Maria waved enthusiastically and finally made it over to Natasha. She plopped down beside the girl, dropping her own bag in front of her.
"Hi Ria." The redhead whispered, fingers still clutched around her stuffie.
"Hey Natty." Maria grinned, bumping shoulders with the girl. "Mommy told me that she told your daddy 'bout my new books an' that you might wanna play with me. If you don't wanna though, that's okay."
Natasha sniffled and looked up from BunBun. "I gots my new pens." She said softly, dragging a hand over her face to get rid of the leftover tears.
"Yeah? C'mon we can go over to the empty table. Did you bring your milk money?" Maria asked as she hopped up and grabbed her bag.
Shaking her head, Natty clambered up too. "Daddy packed me some milk." She murmured. The idea of needing to go and ask a big for her milk and hand the change over was scary. Daddy knew that and had thought of everything. He even packed her favourite pink milk with the straw.
"Okie dokie, I just wanna go grab mine an' then we can start." Maria beamed, offering out her hand when Natty stayed in her spot. "No one's gonna hurt ya, and if anyone is mean, I'll make 'em regret it." She said firmly.
Biting her lip, Natasha nodded and accepted the girl's hand, letting Maria pull her over to the little cafe area. They could bring their lunches or buy one there, and there were a range of snacks available at all times.
Maria had been to the day care plenty of times so it was easy for her to skip up to the counter, choose her milk and pay for it.
Drink in one hand, Natty's hand in her other, Maria led them both over to the table they'd spotted earlier. There was one person there now but whilst Natty hadn't interacted with her much, Natasha had and was friendly with her and she knew Maria was good friends with the girl.
She was quiet, which Natty liked and as the pair sat down, she looked up from her book. "Ria!" She smiled, looking over at Natty.
"Hi, Natasha." She said softly, "it's nice to see you."
"Hi Sharon." The redhead mumbled, offering a small smile.
Maria had already spread out her colouring books. "You wanna colour too, Sharon?"
The blonde hummed and nodded. "Sure. If that's okay?" She directed the phrase at Natasha.
"'S okay." Natty nodded, carefully placing her pens on the table in colour groups. "Jus' if you put the pen back in the same group when you're done with it." She added.
"Course, things gotta be organised." Sharon grinned, carefully selecting a light blue pen from the table. Natty thought that was a very good choice.
Natasha had bought one of her own colouring books, in case plans changed, in case she would be on her own for the day. Cause if she didn't bring a book and Maria didn't want to play with her, she would be too scared to use the crafts table and wouldn't be able to do her activity.
But since Maria was there and she had a whole collection of books with her and since daddy had said it was okay to play with them and Sharon had already taken one of them, Natty thought maybe she could borrow one too.
Once Ria had picked one too, Natasha quietly grabbed the one she'd been hoping no one else would pick; a book full of cats! Cats in hats, cats in human clothes, cats playing board games, cats in a band. So many cats.
Natty hoped that one day she would be able to have a cat. She had looked after lots of stray cats in Russia and maybe one day she could take care of her very own.
Flipping through the book, Natty came upon a picture of a cat laying on the beach, he had sunglasses and a bucket and spade.
The girl got stuck in immediately, taking care to keep in the lines, lost in her own little world.
Maria and Sharon chatted back and forth, not ignoring Natasha, but realising that she wasn't going to be joining in the conversation much. And that was okay.
About half an hour into colouring, Natasha dug around in her bag until she could find her lunch bag. She wasn't hungry, still felt too anxious to even think about eating her snack. But she was thirsty and Maria was drinking her milk so Natty wanted hers. She found her carton, still cold from the ice pack daddy had packed.
Dropping her bag back to the floor, she carefully stabbed her straw through the hole and took a sip, eyes looking around the room.
It was still busy, but everyone had settled into their own activities so it seemed a little calmer.
Hand, Hartley and Weaver were walking around checking on everyone, littles were playing all over the place, though most of them were at their own tables with their friends.
Spotting a boy on his own, Natasha bit her lip hard. The boy was sniffling, rubbing at his eyes. He had a bandage wrapped around the knuckles of his left hand and he was staring down at his juice box as if it was making him angry.
"Ria?" Natty asked softly, pulling the girl's attention away from her colouring. "Who's that boy?" She nodded in the direction of the nearly empty table.
Maria peered at him for a moment before nodding. "Grant." She murmured. "He's new, didn't know he was little though."
"He doesn't seem very happy." Natty whispered, biting her lip and fiddling with the cap on one of her pens. She was stuck between wanting to go over and ask if he was okay and being terrified to do that. He could be mean. He might want to be alone. She could make it worse.
Putting the pen down, she reached into her lunchbox and pulled out her bag of animal crackers. Before she could change her mind, she leaned over and whispered to Maria, "spot me" before standing.
She carefully made her way over to the boy, making sure she didn't sneak up on him. She took the seat in front of him and the boy's eyes shot up to her, his expression both wary and annoyed.
"What?" Grant snapped, narrowing his gaze, his grip on his juice box tightening so much that juice spurted up through the straw and over his hand.
Natty could see that there was a dark bruise covering the boy's left eye and continuing over his cheek. It wasn't that seeing injuries on a little was uncommon, in fact she saw a lot of injuries, it was the nature of the job. But something about that bruise rubbed her up the wrong way. It was wrong.
Natasha swallowed, heart racing a little. "I...I just...it's my first day too an' I was real scared to come but...but my friend's here so it's more okay and I thought...maybe you would like a friend to make it more okay."
"You're not my friend." Grant sneered, finally letting go of his crumpled juice box.
"I know." Natasha said quietly, head tilted a little as she examined his bruised features. "'M just here 'cause it might be confusin' on your own. It's nearly snack time, did you bring money or pack somethin'?"
The boy's brows crinkled a little and he glanced from Natty to where littles were beginning to line up to buy snacks.
Beneath the hostility, Grant really just looked sad.
"Your caregiver didn't send you with anythin'?" Natty frowned.
"He...my uncle probably just forgot. He's busy." The boy said stiffly, jaw clenching. His words were just a little stilted, had come out too fast, too rushed.
They were practiced.
"Oh, well maybe it's good I came over. Daddy always packs waaayyy too much food." She dropped the bag of animal crackers on the table and nudged them over to the boy.
Grant critically examined the package, not reaching for it. "Why're you giving me this?"
"Cause it's snack time," she said simply, "you can come an' sit with us if you want. I've got extra juice since yours got all squished amd everyone knows animal crackers are best with juice. Did your uncle bring you today?" She dropped the last sentence in with her rambling about crackers.
"Brought myself," the boy murmured distractedly, tentatively reaching for the bag of crackers. He examined the seals and it seemed to have not been opened or tampered with so maybe it would be okay.
Just then, his stomach grumbled and Natasha's pulse raced a little faster. "You're hungry, huh?" She asked quietly, watching nervously as the boy tore into the bag, shoving more than half the packet into his mouth in mere seconds.
"Did'ya not eat this morning?" Natty asked carefully, her stomach full of butterflies. "Your uncle must be real busy.''
Swallowing his mouthful of crackers, Grant placed the packet down and glowered at Natasha. "So?"
"So nothin'. He just must'a been busy to not give you breakfast."
"Yeah, he is busy. What does it matter?"
Realising she was pushing it, Natty shrugged. "Doesn't. You wanna come over an' have juice with us?"
Grant looked over at the two girls, Sharon colouring and Maria watching the boy.
"Isn't she the deputy director?" He asked quietly, turning back to face Natty.
"Yup. So if somethin' is wrong, she can fix it. C'mon," she stood, holding out her hand. "Come have some juice."
Chapter 2: Friends that play together stay together
TW for a little more stuff in the tags: panicking, a little more abuse talk, mild-ish food issues/eating disorder thoughts etc
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
An hour later and Grant was still sitting with them. Natty had given him her lunch; pb+j with strawberry jelly of course, baby carrots with ranch, strawberries and red grapes and a homemade oatmeal cookie with white chocolate chips. He'd eaten every single bite in no time at all and Natty thought he probably hadn't eaten in a while.
He didn't want to colour but he'd been convinced by Sharon to check out the bookshelves so he wouldn't just be sitting there.
Whilst he was scanning the shelves, Maria whispered. "What're you doin', Nat?"
Natty swallowed, shrugging a shoulder. "Might be nothin' but...I think his uncle's not a good guy." She mumbled, hunched over her barely touched juice box.
It clicked for Maria instantly and she frowned, reaching out to press a hand to the girl's back. "Then we'll sort it out. Make it stop."
"He didn't have any food, no money, his uncle didn't give him nothin' this morning. An' his face..." she said miserably, shaking her head.
"I'll get uncle Nick to find out who his uncle is." Maria said firmly, "and he'll make it better."
Natasha sniffled, rubbing a hand over her eyes. "Yeah."
Maria leaned in, arm slipping around her shoulders. "'S alright. 'S gonna be alright."
Grant came back then, book under his arm, watching the two girls with suspicion.
"Someone said somethin' mean." Maria lied swiftly.
Grant clutched the book in his hands. "Who? I'll make 'em apologize."
Natty lifted her head. "No, 's fine. What book you got?"
Grant still looked ready to go and make whoever had been mean apologize. He held out the cover so she could see 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'.
"Oh, looks good." She murmured, smiling weakly, eyes going back down to her juice box. Strawberry. It was her favourite and Daddy always made sure to pack it when she stayed with her uncle's. But she couldn't bring herself to drink it.
She didn't want to colour either.
She closed the book and nudged it back over to Maria.
The dark haired girl frowned and shook her head. "Natty, you can keep it. I know cats are your favourite and you colour so pretty, I'd only make 'em look bad. 'Sides, I've got all these books."
Biting her lip, Natty felt too unbalanced to argue, just nodding.
She'd started out the day pretty young, since she'd been so anxious about day care. And then deciding to take action with Grant had caused her age to go up and now, she felt like she might be dropping even lower. It was always exhausting changing ages and she could never force an age.
She tugged BunBun out from her bag, burying her face against the soft fur that smelled like Daddy.
She couldn't wait to go back to their room after day care, to get changed into her jammies and have dinner fed to her and to watch silly stuff with Daddy, all curled up and warm and safe.
She didn't realize that she was crying until she felt a gentle hand on her back.
"'S okay, Natty, you're okay." Maria whispered.
Natasha sniffled and rubbed at her eyes, cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
"Do you miss your Daddy?" The girl asked, sitting in such a way that she was shielding Natty's face from Sharon and Grant.
Natty nodded miserably, though some of it was also realizing about Grant's uncle and the icky memories that came with it.
She had the note, she could get uncle Nick to come get her and she could curl up on the cot in his office until Daddy came to get her.
"Okay, sissy," Maria was using her fake commander voice, "how 'bout we go into the quiet room? We can maybe take a nap and come play with Sharon and Grant later, if you want."
Sure she was about to burst into tears, Natty didn't dare speak, just breathed shakily and jerked her head down in a nod.
"Okay, Sharon you can carry on colourin' if you want, but make sure you don't lose any of Natty's pens. We're jus' gonna go to the quiet room for a bit. Maybe you two could think of somethin' you wanna play later." And with that, Maria was grabbing her and Natty's bag, taking the redhead's free hand and helping her over to the sliding doors to the quiet area.
The shift in atmosphere was immediately noticeable as the doors closed behind the pair.
There were a couple of littles in there, one napping on a cot and the other curled up on another cot with headphones over her ears.
Natasha slumped down on one side of a cot, Maria taking the other side.
"Sorry." Natty whispered, hastily wiping at her cheeks with the backs of her hands.
"'S okay. You're doin' real well for your first time. Mommy had to come get me my first day. It's scary an' new an' you prob'ly got some stuff goin' on 'cause of Grant."
"Yeah, icky." The girl mumbled, clutching the stuffie to her chest.
"Maybe a nap'll help you feel a lil better." Maria smiled, reaching over to rub at a wet spot on the girl's chin.
"Maybe." Natty agreed. Her eyes were crusty and itchy and hurting and maybe she was tired. "'Kay."
Maria hopped off the cot so Natty could flop onto her side and shuffle until she was laying down properly.
The dark haired girl then carefully, albeit slight clumsily, draped a blanket over Natty. "Anythin' else?"
Natasha, already sleepy, pointed at her bag. "Blankie 'n paci?" She asked softly.
Realizing that her friend had dropped lower, Maria nodded. "Course." She hummed, pulling the items from the bag, tucking the yellow blankie under her chin and handing the girl her purple pacifier.
Maria then pulled up another cot right next to Natty's and laid down too, pulling a blanket up over herself. "Sleep well, sissy."
When Natty woke up, things were a little hazy. She was still very much dropped but the nap had seemed to even out her age a little. She'd been hovering between her usual age and a baby and babies had to go to the other day care and then she wouldn't be able to play with Maria or do anything. But luckily, when she opened her eyes, she was more than ready to play.
She rubbed at her eyes and pushed the blankets off herself, glancing around the room.
Maria was awake too, flat on her back, arms held up in the air as she flicked through one of the books from the shelves.
Natty rolled over and carefully planted her feet on the floor. "Ria?"
The dark haired girl grinned and hopped up. "Hey, Natty. You feelin' any better?"
"Think so." She nodded, carefully patting at her sleep ruffled hair. "Play?"
"You really wanna?" Maria shuffled closer, patting the girl's knee. "'Cause you don't have'ta play if you're not feelin' good."
"I wanna." Natty insisted. "'M okay now."
The dark haired girl grinned and hopped up, holding out her hand. "'Kay."
Natasha grabbed her bag and took Maria's hand, a little nervous to leave the relative safe of the quiet room. It wasn't safe safe since it wasn't her and Daddy's room and it wasn't uncle Phil's office but it was the closest to safe she would get for a while.
They would play soon but first, because of their nap, they'd nearly missed lunch time.
They found Sharon and Grant at the same table the pair had left them out and as the girls sat down, Sharon smiled and Grant, whilst not actually smiling, did look relatively happier than earlier.
Grant was nibbling at a granola bar that Sharon had either given him or bought for him and the blonde was eating from a bright red lunch tray.
Maria pulled her lunch out from her backpack, excited as she dug through the contents. "My mommy is the best." She sighed happily, eagerly pulling the plastic off her pizza Lunchable.
After a few bites, she looked over at Natasha, the redhead sipping on her now warm juice box from earlier. Her brows pulled together for a moment before she realized Natty had given her lunch to Grant.
"Natty, you want me to get you somethin'? There's lot'sa stuff you'd like." She asked softly. "Do you have your card with you?"
The agents could pay with cash or with pre-paid cards and could use them at any of the canteens or snack machines and the cafe in the day care.
Natasha knew she had her card in the front pocket of her bag, since Daddy had packed it in case she wanted snacks or more juice.
But instead of telling Ria that, the redhead just shrugged. "Nah. Not hungry."
Grant examined his half eaten granola bar. "I'm sorry, Natasha. I didn't know that was all your lunch." He looked sad, dropping the bar so he could twist his hands.
"No, 's good." Natty insisted. "Not hungry an' wanted you to have it." She nodded.
Maria frowned deeper, looking between Natty and Grant. Usually, if there was a little without food, the girl would just buy stuff for them anyway since she had way too much money on her card anyways. But with Natasha, she had to be careful.
"Sure you're not hungry? 'Cause mommy packed too much an' I'll have some left.' She said carefully, trying to gauge the other girl's reaction.
Natty blew out a breath. "Not hungry, Ria.'' She insisted.
Maria sighed softly. "'Kay, sissy. Maybe you'll have a snack later?"
Looking relieved, Natasha nodded. "Yeah."
Humming, Maria went back to her lunch, starting to chat about what they wanted to play.
Nat and Grant were new so they'd never played on any of the stuff before so they left it up to the other two to suggest things.
"We could go outside and play tag or somethin'? It's not rainin' or nothin'." Maria suggested after the other two had turned down most of the other options.
Natasha hummed. Outside seemed like a nice idea.
Plus, it was less crowded which was always good.
She nodded, looking to see if the others seemed interested in that.
Other than playing tag, Natty thought she might like to play on the park a bit. They had the big winding slides that made you go fast and the sand pit was pretty empty.
Yes, outside sounded perfect.
Once everyone agreed, they finished up their lunches and packed their stuff away.
And finally it was play time!
The four of them traipsed outside, piling their bags on the grass and shedding jackets so it wouldn't hinder their running because no one wanted to be caught!
They played a few rounds of rock paper scissor to determine who was 'it' first. Sharon lost and with grins and a few laughs, the other three took off running.
Sharon counted to ten and shouted that she was coming, eyes sparkling as she began to chase her friends around, ducking behind slides and weaving in and out of littles.
Natasha was delighted as she watched Maria get tagged, running as fast as she could to stop the dark haired girl reaching her.
Maria got Grant instead and Natty was even more delighted to see that the boy was fully joining in and that the others were treating him like he'd always known them.
Grant was surprisingly fast and sneaky and he managed to tag Natty not long after.
They played like that for a while, grinning and cheering and laughing.
Eventually though, even spies and agents got tired and out of breath so they all grouped up and flopped down on the grass for a break.
"What now?" Maria grinned, flat on her back, rolling over to look at the others.
Grant shrugged and Natty fiddled with her hands, biting her lip.
"Nat?" Maria prompted, "You have an idea?"
"I thought...maybe, 'cause there's four of us...swings?" She asked quietly. Because then they could take it in turns pushing the other two.
"That sounds like fun!" Sharon nodded. "Grant, you wanna do that?"
The boy smiled, "Sure."
After they'd recovered from tag and had something to drink, the four raced over to the swing set.
For the next little while, they took it in turns. Natty pushed Grant and Maria pushed Sharon and then they swapped.
It was a lot of fun and Natasha was impressed at how high Grant could push her into the air.
Up high, Natasha could see why her daddy liked it so much. She couldn't wait to tell him.
She was surprisingly having a very good time and she hoped that everyone else was too.
They played for hours, moving over to the sand pit to build castles with moats around them.
When they'd finally had enough of playing for the time being, they collected their bags and headed back inside, flushed and smiling.
Because of the nap break earlier and then eating lunch a little late and then playing for so long, it was actually nearly time for Bobbi to pick up Maria which meant Natty's daddy shouldn't be far behind!!!
The group sat down at the same table as before. Natty gave Grant her phone number, telling him that if he wanted to arrange a play date at any time, she would like that.
Grant looked confused at first, taking the piece of paper with trembling fingers. "Really?" He asked quietly.
"Really." Natasha nodded. "I'd really like to play with you again." She insisted.
The boy rubbed at the back of his neck before carefully folding the paper up. "I'd like that too. I should probably be going though." He offered a weak smile and pushed his chair back. "Thank you for the nice day." He said politely, awkwardly waving his bruised up hand before leaving the table.
Natty sighed softly and Maria leaned over, bumping into her shoulder. "As soon as Mommy comes for me, I'll ask to go see Nick. 'Kay?"
Natasha nodded, leaning her head against the girl's shoulder for a minute as she absently watched as caregivers came to collect littles.
"I should go too." Sharon sighed. "I had a really nice day." She smiled, collecting her bag and jacket.
The blonde didn't have a permanent caregiver yet, she still on the look out for that right person, but in the mean time, Nick and Phil were taking over her care.
Sharon leaned over and gave a hug to Maria, pausing a little in front of Natty.
The redhead smiled and leaned up, wrapping her arms around the other girl. "Thanks, Sharon."
Looking pleased, Sharon headed to the exit.
"And then there were two." Maria giggled.
The girl's played more rounds of rock paper scissor until Maria's eyes snapped up and she let out an excited squeal of, "Mommy!"
The girl bounded up out of her seat and over to Bobbi who immediately picked Maria up, swinging her around and kissing her hair. "Hey, pumpkin. You have a good day?"
"Real good." Maria laughed as Bobbi set her back down. "But...there's somethin' we have to do."
The blonde looked at the girl questioningly but nodded. "Okay. Let's say bye to Natty first."
Like Maria needed reminding.
The dark haired girl happily skipped over to Natasha, wrapping her arms around her and squeezing. "You'll be okay? You'll tell your daddy about earlier?"
Natty nodded, "Yeah. Thanks for everythin'." She smiled weakly, waving at the pair as they headed to Nick's office.
Natasha wasn't waiting long.
"There's my baby! I'm sorry I'm a little late." Clint opened his arms as he came in, smiling softly as Natasha took off running, jumping into his waiting grasp.
Clint hugged her fiercely, kissing her forehead. "Darlin', I'm so proud of you. So so proud." He murmured against her ear and his voice sounded a little shaky.
Natty pulled back, raising an eyebrow.
"Don't mind me, love. I'm just...happy to see that you had such a good day." He smiled, taking her hand and squeezing it. "How about we go home?"
Natty would like nothing better.
Please leave a comment if you liked it. I worked really hard on this chapter 💛
Chapter 3: The best daddy ever
Hey guys this is where we get more into the food issues/eating disorder stuff so be careful
Once they got back to their room, Natasha eagerly kicked off her sneakers and flopped down on the bed.
Clint set her bag beside her and began to empty the items.
Her stuffie and blankie went beside her, her paci on the bedside table. He took out her lunch box, opening it up to check inside. "You ate all your food?"
Natasha froze, quickly sitting up, pulling her knees to her chest. "Um..." She stammered. She didn't want to lie to her daddy. But she was worried about his reaction.
Shut up, dummy, he won't be mad. Hopefully.
"Nat?" Clint asked carefully, setting the lunchbox down, coming to kneel on the floor in front of her. He took one of her hands. "Did you throw it away?" He asked softly.
"No!" Natty protested, shaking her head frantically. "Didn't!"
"Okay, love, I believe you. But you didn't eat it?"
Natasha whined softly, rubbing at her eyes with a balled up fist. "I...I gave it to the new boy. 'Cause he was so hungry and his uncle don't feed him and he hurts him and he was sad and hungry an' I wanted to help." The girl sniffled, lower lip trembling.
Clint squeezed her hand reassuringly. "Sweetheart, who's the new boy?"
"Grant but you don't need'ta do anythin' cause Ria is gonna." She clumsily wiped at her face.
"Okay. Okay, I'll check in with Bobbi later. We'll sort it out, baby." Clint nodded, lightly titling her chin up so he could wipe at the tears on her face.
Instead of looking relieved that she'd told him, Natasha looked maybe even more upset and...guilty, Clint realized quickly.
"Sweetheart, didn't you get anything with your card?" He asked quietly, carefully watching to gauge her answer.
Natasha's face fell and quite suddenly she was sobbing openly, hands pulling from Clint so she could cover her face.
"Hey, hey, you're okay, sweetheart." Clint murmured, sitting beside her on the bed, carefully pulling the girl onto his lap, his arms around her.
He rocked her gently, murmuring soft assurances against her ear. "I've got you. It's okay, it's okay, you take your time. Daddy's got you, baby girl. You can tell me anything."
Unable to look at his face, Natasha buried her head against Clint's neck. "My...my..." She hiccuped, "my head got all...all messy again." She whispered, her tears hot against the archer's skin.
"Oh sweetheart." Clint murmured, tightening his arms around her. "You didn't want to eat?" He asked quietly.
"I...I...my tummy was all flippy an' my head was l...loud an' it jus' happened." She whimpered, fingers clutching at his shirt.
"It's okay," Clint whispered, heart breaking as he rocked his little girl, "we knew this might happen, it doesn't make you a failure or anything like that. These things take time. It's okay that you had a moment today, as long as we work on trying to make it not as bad in the future, okay?"
"I did bad," Natty whispered, sniffling, "didn't want it to be bad. Didn't mean to."
"I know, sweetheart." Clint kissed her hair, humming softly. "I know you didn't mean to. Thank you for telling me, I'm so proud of you for being honest."
After a few minutes, Natty calmed down some, peeking out from behind her hair. "Daddy? Hungry." She whispered.
"Yeah? How about we make you something to eat, hmm? What would your little tummy like?" He asked, fingers tickling against her stomach.
Natty flushed and giggled, pushing his hand away. Just then, her stomach growled.
"We better hurry up, huh, baby?" Clint set the girl on the bed and stood. "What would my warrior like to eat?"
Natasha bit her lip, wringing her hands, her mind was loud and shouty but looking at her daddy's hopeful face now that she'd admitted she was hungry, she knew she should eat.
"Lunch?" She whispered hopefully.
"You want what I made for lunch?" Clint smiled.
"Please." Natty nodded, absently patting her stomach.
"Then one picnic coming up." Clint grinned. "I just need to go down to the kitchen to make the sandwich but I'll be back real soon. How about as a special treat because my baby was so brave today, we set the fort up on the bed and eat in there, huh?"
Natasha, smiling for the first time since they'd gotten to their room, nodded. Clapping her hands, she immediately hopped up to gather the blankets from under the bed.
It was going to be a good night.
Chapter 4: Picnics and cuddles make for a happy little
More food issues and eating disorder stuff but mainly fluff honestly. I hope you enjoy the last chapter!
I have noticed that this installment has done a lot worse than the others, I'm thinking it's maybe the characters I chose? Because I thought the daycare idea was pretty solid and cute. I'd love to hear your input on what I'm doing wrong and what I should do in the future.
Malyshka: baby girl
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Clint got back to their room, the fort was progressing very well.
Natasha had set up the main blanket tent part and it looked great. They were fort masters and had even installed hooks in the ceiling and walls in order to hold the blankets properly.
Natty looked up as Clint came in, balancing a tray in one arm.
"Wow, baby girl, it looks great!" The archer grinned, closing the door with his foot as he set the tray down to finish the fort off.
Once it was all set, with the pillows inside and the fairy lights hanging outside, Clint placed the laptop inside along with Natty's stuffie and blankie.
"Okay, kotyonok, how about we get into something comfy, hmm? You wanna get in your jammies?" Clint asked, happy to see that his little girl looked brighter.
"Yeah!" The redhead exclaimed, already dashing off to their drawers. They didn't have a lot of stuff, but they had a couple of drawers each for their little gear.
"We having a diaper tonight, love?" The blonde asked gently as Natty chose her jammies and went to close the drawers.
Heaving a big sigh, Natasha stuck her bottom lip out.
"I know, I know. It's up to how you feel, if you think you might need it then we use them, right?" He reminded her.
Natty pouted but nodded, digging through the drawer to find a diaper.
"That's my good girl, I'm so proud of you for knowing what you need." Clint tucked the items under his arm and held out his other hand.
Taking the girl to the bathroom, he made quick work of lifting her onto the changing table and getting her into the diaper.
Next, he helped her into her jammies- a soft purple snap crotch onesie and a new rainbow tutu. Then went on the matching rainbow socks, pulled just under knees.
Helping Natty down, he grinned as he watched her run into the bedroom and hop onto the bed, crawling into their fort.
Clint got changed into his usual old shirt and sweats and then followed her out.
He picked up the tray, carefully sliding it in through the blanket opening before climbing in himself.
"Okay, so for my special warrior, we have a feast fit for a princess. Your sandwich with strawberry jelly, of course. Your special little carrots and ranch. Your strawberries all cut up small. One of the homemade cookies we made and of course, I couldn't forget the milk to go with it!" He grinned.
He'd made himself the exact same, despite the fact he detested carrots and preferred grape jelly. Because hopefully if Nat saw him eating the same, she would be more likely to eat too.
"So, what are we watching, little love?" He asked, brushing her hair back as she reached for her sippy of strawberry milk.
Natty hummed, taking her decision very seriously. "Pets?"
"The Secret Life of Pets?" Clint asked and Natty nodded.
"Then that's what we watch." The archer smiled, grabbing his sandwich and taking a big bite as he pulled the film up.
Natty got settled against the mountain of cushions behind them, stuffie clutched tightly in her grasp.
She didn't eat for the first half hour of the film, even though Clint had nearly finished his by then.
"Sweetheart?" He asked quietly, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "I know you're struggling and it's very hard to not listen to the voices telling you not to eat but can you please try to eat something? Anything. Even a little bit, a bite or two, is better than nothing. Is there something else you'd rather eat?" His words were soft and kind as he continued stroking her hair.
Natty bit hard into her lower lip, sniffling.
"I'm right here, malyshka. I've got you." Clint murmured. "Would you like it if I fed you?"
The girl perked up a little bit at the suggestion, biting her lip again before nodding.
"Okay, sweet. You tell me what you want to eat and I'll feed you, hmm? And of course I'll feed BunBun too, you've both had such a busy day."
Natasha giggled as Clint dipped her first choice, carrots, into the ranch and carefully held it a tiny bit away from BunBun's stitched mouth. "Yummy! I think he likes it."
"Now my warrior's turn." Clint waved the carrot through the air, making little whooshing noises as he bought it to the girl's lips.
Eyes lighter and a smile on her face, Natasha crunched happily into the carrot, humming softly. Her posture relaxed a little as she chewed, shoulders loosening from their tense position.
Sometimes, it was best for Clint to not make a big deal out of her eating, and sometimes it was best to comment and praise.
The archer had become very in-tuned to his Firebird, and he normally knew what she needed.
"Good job, baby." Clint hummed as he fed her the carrots. "I'm so proud of you. You're doing so well."
Wiggling slightly, Natasha's cheeks flushed at his words but she seemed happy, so he'd definitely chosen the right route.
"Now, would m'lady like her special sandwich?" He pulled the plate over, "isn't it fun?"
Natasha nodded, looking up at Clint. "Dino."
"That's right, daddy cut it into a dino." He grinned, lifting the sandwich up, making the dino walk across the plate until Natty was giggling. "He would very much like to help you not be hungry anymore."
Natasha popped her mouth open and Clint carefully fed her the sandwich. Jelly was always a risky choice, since it was very sticky, but since he was doing most of the damage control it actually went very well.
The sandwich was completely gone when Natty signaled for a break and they sat back to watch the film.
Over the course of the rest of it, Natasha picked at a good amount of the leftover food, taking sips of her milk too.
Clint was beyond proud of her.
And he told as much, often.
She snuggled up into his side, getting sleepier and sleepier now she had a full tummy and was warm and cozy.
She'd had a very long day and had unintentionally cycled through a few different ages, which was very draining.
She was too tired to mention her panic and tears from earlier, after helping Grant, but when they went to talk to Bobbi in the morning, she would tell Clint then.
By the end of the film, Natasha was burrowed against Clint's chest, fingers curled around his shirt, head tucked into his neck.
Clint chuckled softly as the credits rolled, kissing Natasha's temple and rubbing up and down her back. "Are we ready for bed, love?"
Grumbling, Natty shook her head but was very much interrupted by a loud yawn.
"Come on, kotyonok, let's at least lay down, hmm?" Clint smiled softly, carefully scooping the girl into one arm so he could clamber out of the fort.
Once he was out, Natty's legs firmly wrapped around his waist, he pulled down the blankets and threw them in the corner of the room to be dealt with tomorrow.
He gently lay Natasha down after pulling back the covers, smiling as she curled up around BunBun.
He then set about clearing the dishes and laptop off the bed and wiggling Natasha out of her tutu since it was not comfy to sleep in.
It was only about eight so Clint was very much not interested in going to sleep yet but he returned to the bed and lay on top of the covers, stroking over Natty's hair. "Sleepy baby." He hummed.
Natasha didn't even open her eyes, just hummed herself, thumb moving to slide into her mouth before Clint managed to intercept with the pacifier.
"Sleep, little Firebird. Daddy's got you." He murmured, kissing her forehead and making sure the covers were well and truly tucked around her.
Usually, they would have story time but Natasha was asleep before he'd even finished pulling up the blankets.
He lay there for a little while, watching and stroking her hair. It always helped settle her into a better sleep.
Then, he carefully got off the bed and moved over to the desk to fill out the stupid paperwork for the upcoming mission.
Looking back at Natasha sleeping soundly, Clint smiled to himself.
Yeah, he was one lucky guy.
Thank you so much for reading! I love all you guys so much!