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nothing but a fear

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“Doesn't it, you know, bother him? What you have to do?”

“He doesn't get jealous, if that's what you're asking,” Natasha says with a shrug, spinning away on her chair just enough to signal conversation is now over.

For most people, it is what they are asking. They mean 'bother' as if it means arguments and jealous rages, they mean 'doesn't he get possessive', as if she were a possession that others played with without his express permission.

Most people, Natasha thinks, are idiots; further more, it is none of their damn business, and so she feels nothing over the deception she perpetrates when she says, 'no'.

– –

It depends on how one defines 'jealous'.

Jealous, adj.
1: a ) intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness b) disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness
2 : hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage
3 : vigilant in guarding a possession

(4: none of the above)

– –

“Does it bother him, those missions?” asks her new therapist, and Natasha resists the urge to throw something because she has to go through this all over again.

(Not that there was anything wrong with her old therapist. Clara just happens to be in Chicago, and now Natasha is living in Clint's box of an apartment in San Diego because he really shouldn't be alone after Loki did a number on him. And then Clint suggested that if she was staying, they should probably get a bigger apartment, which yes, please, now.)

“Yes, but it's not...jealousy. He doesn't get angry, or possessive. If he did, I'd-” Natasha stops, shrugs.

“What would you do?” asks Valerie, who so far hasn't risen to Natasha's jabs and thus might be okay.

“I'd leave. I've got enough shit to deal with, particularly after those missions, I don't have the energy to deal with someone's crap as well.”

“But he's not....hiding it? Knowing you'd leave?”

“I'd know if he was hiding being angry. I think he...I don't know. It upsets him. But I don't think it's the flirting, or the sex with other people. Me, maybe? I don't exactly come back in the best headspace.”

“So, he's upset because you're upset?”

“I don't, I don't know. I think so. Partly.”

“Have you tried talking to him about it?” and it's not Valerie's fault, she's new, but Natasha looks at her and starts to laugh.

– –

jealous, adjective
1. feeling resentment against someone because of that person's rivalry, success, or advantages (often followed by of ): He was jealous of his rich brother.
2. feeling resentment because of another's success, advantage, etc. (often followed by of ): He was jealous of his brother's wealth.
3. characterized by or proceeding from suspicious fears or envious resentment: a jealous rage; jealous intrigues.
4. inclined to or troubled by suspicions or fears of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims: a jealous husband.
5. solicitous or vigilant in maintaining or guarding something: The American people are jealous of their freedom.

(correct answer is: 5)

– –

The boxes in their new apartment are still mostly unpacked when she's told to get out of Linguistics (where she had parked herself after Loki and the Chitauri and dared SHIELD to do anything about it while Clint was still falling apart) and get on a plane to Prague. There is a party to infiltrate, information both verbal and electronic to steal from a playboy of a thief, and it's easy.

Clint picks her up from SHIELD in his ridiculously beloved car. He says, “Hey, you,” and she smiles back and says, “Hey, yourself.” He has worry in his eyes and in the corners of his still wonderfully easy smile; she doesn't touch him until after she's home and after she's had a long hot shower and is safe in her oldest, comfiest jeans and one of his shirts.

They sit on the couch and she tucks up her feet, slips her fingers through his, rests her head on his shoulder, and then she huffs a laugh.

He doesn't say anything, just presses a cautious kiss to her head and stays where he is, which is between her and the front door.

She sleeps between him and the door now, ever since Loki, but for how many years has he been sitting between her and the door?

At least five.

Observant, Natashka, very observant.

The rest of the night is passed with Die Hard and a silence that is both solidly comfortable and fragile around the edges, all at once. She takes a deep breath, tucks herself in against him, and ignores the fragility.

Later. She'll inspect it and poke at it later.

Later, when she's not feeling fragile around the edges herself.

– –

jealous adj.
1. Fearful or wary of being supplanted; apprehensive of losing affection or position.
a. Resentful or bitter in rivalry; envious: “jealous of the success of others”.
b. Inclined to suspect rivalry.
3. Having to do with or arising from feelings of envy, apprehension, or bitterness: jealous thoughts.
4. Vigilant in guarding something: “We are jealous of our good name”.
5. Intolerant of disloyalty or infidelity; autocratic: “a jealous God”.

(...maybe a combination of 4 and parts of 1.)

– –

“It reminds me of when we fight, a little,” she tells Valerie, because Valerie is solid and okay, and Clint's reactions are starting to bother her, and because Natasha's head is a mess that she needs to have monitored by other people. (Or at least, she feels better when someone else is keeping an eye on what her thought-patterns and emotional reactions are doing.)

“How so?”

“Once we calm down, he's very solicitous. He may or may not apologise, mind you. At least, not with words. It'll be with gestures, to make me feel better, but there is also a bit of a...edge to it, sometimes. As if....he's afraid I'll leave. But, I'm not, so...” she gestures, the movement an indulgence.

But she spends most of her sessions hugging a pillow like a child would, which is a far bigger indulgence.

“It doesn't have to be a rational fear,” Valerie points out.

“Yeah, I know,” Natasha mutters, because she does know. She just tries not to analyse Clint like he's a target; it seems unfair, and it seems wrong.

Therapists, though, will be therapists.

“You said before that if he got the angry kind of jealous, you'd leave. Because you wouldn't want to deal with anyone else's crap?”

Natasha tilts her head slightly, studying the woman for a moment. “I couldn't handle anger. I've been dealing with the rest of his baggage for a while,” she says, because their first session was months and months ago; because she's known Clint for seven years.

Valerie nods. “So, why do you think that he is still afraid?”

Natasha had said 'as if' he were afraid, but she'll roll with it. “Irrational fear I'll get tired and leave, because he has issues with change and people leaving him?” Natasha suggests, helplessly, and then takes advantage of the lack of control she allows herself to smack her hand into her forehead. “Which...would also explain his freak-outs when we were apartment hunting and he'd go and vanish and stare people in Balboa Park until he calmed down. Clint.

– –

jealous, adj.

(It's complicated, okay?)

– –

“Does Barton ever get jealous? Of you...seducing people?”

“No,” Natasha says with a shrug, and tightens the strap on her simple black pumps. Most people when they say 'jealous' refer to anger and 'you are mine' possessiveness. If anything, Clint's brand of possessiveness runs to the 'am I still yours?' worry rather than rage, shows itself in cups of tea and her favourite movies and hugs rather than harsh kisses and raised voices.

But mostly, it's none of their damn business.