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The Art of Human Relations

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Kate usually used other people like furniture, curling up on them or throwing her legs over Clint's, but Natasha had moved into her usual space on the couch and stretched out over Clint more expansively than even Kate would have.

"Um, guys," Kate said, holding the popcorn bowl hostage and ignoring the wagging dog at her feet. "Show's about to start."

It was time for the Dog Cops season finale and Clint had taken it as a given that she was joining him.

Natasha moved her legs forward four inches, taking Clint's with her and leaving just enough space for Kate to crawl behind if…

She gingerly stretched her legs out over the Black Widow's.

"You can sit all over him," Natasha said, "as long as you don't walk all over him." She reached out and tucked her fingers into the popcorn bowl for a few kernels.

It wasn't actually Clint that Kate was worried about.

"She's like a cat," Clint commented, pushing his knee up to bump Natasha, whose expression turned indulgent at the gesture. "If she lets you sit on her, she's chosen you."

Small relief.

"Or else she's secretly plotting to kill you," he just had to go and add.

He snaked his hand into the bowl and stole some popcorn with a grin.

Kate's eyes slid to the side to study Natasha with deep suspicion.

Natasha smiled.


"We're out of coffee." Kate leaned over a half-asleep Clint on his couch instead of his bed—again—and poked him with one index finger.

He blinked at her. "We?" Clearly, he wasn't entirely out of it. He glanced around, then dropped his head back to the cushion. "It's just Nat."

Kate blinked back at him, then looked around until she saw that Natasha was indeed curled up with a mug of coffee and a fat novel by the window.

"A redheaded Russian has taken over our apartment."

"Our?" Clint sat up, decidedly more awake. "Hey, Nat, can you pick up some coffee when you go out?"

Natasha glanced up with a small smile of faint amusement. "For her, I will."

"For her?" He craned his neck to get a better look at her. "Why for Kate and not for me?"

Natasha merely sighed and closed her book. She ruffled Clint's hair as she passed behind the couch and tugged her purse from under Lucky's position acting as Clint's foot blanket.

"Anything else you wanted?" She looked at Kate expectantly.

"No. We're good. Thanks." As soon as Natasha was gone, Kate looked at Clint. "What was that?"

Clint buried his face under one arm. "You're asking me?"

Lucky thumped his tail and rolled over to go back to sleep.


The Russian assassin who'd taken over their apartment wasn't showing any signs of leaving. Her knick-knacks Clint bought her were starting to move in on various surfaces. Clint's clothes migrated to the new laundry hamper in the closet. Natasha had apparently claimed closet space and a drawer because she was telling Kate she'd cleaned some space out for her too and what did she want to put in it?

And there was a cat on Kate's lap.

"Um… Hi, kitty." She prodded at the feline, who sniffed her chin and showed no signs of wanting to move.

"Liho," Natasha corrected as she appeared in the doorway from Clint's room. "Your drawer is the second on the left. Use the empty hangers before Clint does."

Clearly, help was over for the day. Natasha settled on the couch beside Kate. Liho immediately abandoned Kate's lap for Natasha's and purred as he curled up on her knees. Natasha scratched behind Liho's ears with one hand and set a TV movie to record with the other.

Kate wondered when Clint was getting back. "Do you normally sleep over?"

Natasha shrugged. "About as often as you do."

Which wasn't that often, Kate reasoned with herself. And she'd never felt the need for a drawer before.

Of course, it did come in handy to have spare clothes and arrowheads and a toothbrush—yes, a toothbrush!—besides other essentials. Okay, Kate acknowledged three weeks later. Natasha was a genius.


"What are we doing?" Clint asked.

The three of them had curled up together on the couch again, but Natasha had snagged top somehow and Kate's legs were sound asleep. She wasn't looking forward to the pins and needles of sensation returning. Then Clint asked that and Kate froze.

"You thrive in ambiguity," Natasha replied. It was her night to hold the popcorn, and she tucked in another bite between words. "Leave it."

Clint looked at them both for a long moment, paused on Kate's hesitant expression, then shrugged. "Ambiguous usually means I can keep what I have a little bit longer."


What were they doing?

Kate peeled herself out of her much-damaged uniform a couple days later and had to fish her own shampoo out among the numerous varieties Natasha kept for different kinds of covers. It used to be there was bar soap and handsoap because Clint had no kind of taste when it came to personal care products.

When she wandered back out, feeling better, she dropped onto the stool in the kitchen beside Natasha scribbling on a sheet of paper next to the housephone.

"Steve says they'll bat cleanup." Natasha handed her a cup of coffee.

Kate lifted it over Liho's nose—and whoa, cat on lap again—to take a sip. Lucky lolled his head against her knee.

Natasha made a funny little unhappy noise and handed Kate the box of bandaids Clint used for all non-hospital worthy injuries.

It was all very domestic, very ambiguous, and very worrying.

"I'm surrounded in fur," Kate said.

Natasha smiled and picked up Liho so Kate could actually use the bandaids.


"You're a fine pair," Natasha informed them from the bedroom doorway, hands on her hips.

Kate just glared. Clint groaned and put the pillow over his head, presumably to better shut out her mockery.

So it hadn't been a great time to find out Clint's grappling arrow needed a stronger line.

"We got the lawyer out," Kate pointed out. Mission success. Ha! Even if her ribs would be feeling it for weeks.

Natasha sighed and shooed Kate a little closer to Clint so she could crawl in beside them. "Don't blame me when you're black and blue in the morning."

Kate wanted to whimper at the idea and bury her head under the other pillow, but she was a little more focused on the startling fact that she was wedged between Clint and Natasha in bed, and Natasha was turning out the light for them to go to sleep.

Clint rolled back out and threw his arm over Kate, hand tangling into Natasha's. Natasha's other arm curled against Kate's shoulder.

It was warm. It was snuggly. But it was also…

"Guys."

"Hm?" Clint asked sleepily because, of course, Clint always got the picture when Kate wasn't negotiating and Natasha didn't negotiate either so generally ignored whatever she wanted to.

"I don't thrive on ambiguity." She air quoted the last word and looked at Natasha like, 'Really?'

Natasha muttered something darkly in Russian and sat up on one arm to lean over and kiss Kate, startling her into an embarrassing squeak muffled by wow, lips, and then Natasha's mouth was gone and she was leaning her whole body warmly on Kate's so she could reach Clint and kiss him.

He stared at her. Kate stared at her.

"That's what we're doing." Natasha dropped grumpily and sleepily onto her back and curled around Kate like Liho usually curled around Natasha's arm. She reached out across Kate and tucked her hand back into Clint's.

Clint was grinning. Kate was still staring.

She pressed her head back against the pillow and tried to process what had just happened, or really gradually happened over the course of the last few months.

"Guys."

Natasha grumbled. Clint reached out and flicked on the light switch. Natasha buried her face better into Kate's neck, which really wasn't helping because three human bodies in one bed under a blanket and…

"Um… I'm really hot."