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The Promises, Our Yesterdays

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Bobbi Morse is a scientist and a seasoned spy. She's got a brain in her head and she knows how to use it. On the job, these days, her life depends on it, and she makes it work every single time.

In her private life, more often than not, her brain kinda shorts out. Maybe it's the lack of stakes. Maybe she thinks better under pressure. Whatever it is, it's gotten her into a fair bit of trouble, even before she had the misfortune to run into one Clint Barton and fall for him ass over teakettle.

 

***

 

Two days after they signed the divorce papers, Natasha drags her out for a coffee date. Natasha's multitasking these days, trying to nurse both their broken hearts. As separations go, theirs is amiable, tears and some yelling but no persistent hard feelings. Still, they've had something good and now it's gone, and there's no way that doesn't hurt. Sometimes Bobbi thinks that actually makes it hurt more.

“How's he doing?” she asks after the hellos and the kiss on the cheek, because she can't quite help herself.

“Hanging in there, much like you are,” Natasha says. It's accompanied by a knowing smile and head-cock, like all this is somehow endearing, like they're teenagers having a squabble. The analogy might not be that far off, but there's no way in hell Bobbi would ever admit it, and besides, they might not have been out for each other's blood and every possession, but nevertheless, they're done. No getting back together, no third or fourth chance. Bobbi knows this. She hopes Clint does too.

She picks up the menu and scowls – fifteen different sorts of fancy coffee, and no hint as to which would be closest to a plain old milk-no-sugar. “Tell him – ”

And then she stops, because she's bad at voicing her emotions and he's good at misunderstanding whatever words she does find for them, and that's actually been part of the problem.

Natasha reaches across the table and touches her hand. “I will.”

 

***

 

They met on a mission, back when Bobbi was a scientist with friends in high places and Clint was a newbie agent constantly on the verge of being thrown out on his ass for insubordination. One week later and they've put a ring on it; she didn't join SHIELD until a year into their marriage, and it wasn't his idea. Fury had been courting her for awhile. Clint tried to talk her out of it, and she believed him when he told her it was out of worry, not patronization. But, either way, Bobbi never much cared for being told what to do.

Six years later, and here she is, with the job but without the husband, and she can't find it in her to regret either of these choices. She never considered quitting the former.

 

***

 

Their superiors try and let them lick their wounds for as long as possible, after the divorce, but eventually the shape of the job that needs doing outranks concerns for what happened in their private lives. And because they're both professionals and Natasha is a way better mediator than anyone who doesn't know her would ever expect, they manage to postpone the drama until after the civilians are saved and the bomb is defused.

Their own personal explosion happens when they run into each other, later, in the locker room. Bobbi turns off the blow-dryer and sets it aside, gathers her hair into a bun, and when she looks up there he his, a towel wrapped around his middle, staring at her.

She meets his gaze and cocks an eyebrow. “Anything you want to say?”

It comes out a lot harsher than she intended, and he looks way, face reddening. “Yes,” he says. “No. I'm sorry.”

He's been apologizing since she announced that she was moving out, and at first that sort of worked, but only until it dawned on Bobbi that he had no real idea what he was apologizing for. He just decided to take on the blame and try and make up for it, which made her furious and sad and also love him more. And yes, even now, she still does. That was never the problem. Their problem was everything else.

For a moment, she sways between shouting at him to fucking stop saying you're sorry and walking over to somehow make it better, and it's because she still loves him that the latter wins out. She walks over, and she puts a hand on his shoulder, and he peers up at her with these goddamn blue eyes, and when Bobbi realizes her mistake it's already too late. Suddenly her hand is on the small of his back instead and the towel is falling to the floor, they're not kissing so much as actively devouring one another. Bobbi knows she should be the bigger person, the functional adult, and put a stop to this. Instead she fumbles to get rid of her jeans and underwear so he can put her up against a locker.

She walks out without a word, after. She feels the bruises on her back from the unforgiving metal surface for days, but that's okay, because Bobbi's pretty sure the same goes for the scratch mark she left on his. She considers them their parting gifts to each other, because she swears this is it, one final goodbye, and the next time they'll meet it's as exes and friends and nothing else.

 

***

 

Clint brought Natasha in shortly after Bobbi had been elevated to active agent status – even brilliant scientists courted by the director himself need to go through basic training – and she never once considered not backing his arguments to have her assimilated into SHIELD. Natasha became his partner, but Bobbi became her friend. On missions, whenever they were all sent out together, she turned out to be the missing link they'd needed to work together more smoothly than Bobbi ever thought possible.

At home, though, not even Natasha could have saved them.

 

***

 

Right around the time they're sending Clint on sentry duty in New Mexico and Natasha on a babysitting job with Stark Industries, Bobbi looks at the skyline from her balcony and feels a pinch of finality that she could neither understand nor explain. It's like her grandfather used to frown and squint at the sky, moments before it started to rain.

A few weeks pass, and she's about to discard it, stupid superstition. Then she gets a text from Natasha, informing her Clint has been compromised and Natasha herself is on her way to board a plane and enlist the Hulk, and also there's an alien on the lose and they've sent Captain America to pin it down.

Nothing is ever the same again after that.

She leaves voice messages on Clint's phone, and isn't surprised that he doesn't call her back. Who does call is Natasha, not twenty-four hours after the battle of New York.

“He needs you,” is all she says when Bobbi scrambles to pick up after the first ring, and it's more than enough. As far as Bobbi is concerned, in sickness and in health didn't cease to apply the moment she signed on the dotted line for a second time and ended her marriage.

His place is dark when Bobbi gets there – he never did ask her to return her spare key – and she finds him sitting cross-legged on his bed, in the dark, staring out at clouds of smoke still visible in the distance. He doesn't turn when she enters the room, even though she's sure he sensed her presence.

“Natasha called me,” Bobbi says, and the flinch he gives at the name is all she needs to know about why he sent her away, and also why Natasha actually listened and left.

She sits down on the bed next to him and pulls him down so his head rests in her lab; he resists, at first, but not for long. For a good while, she doesn't say anything, just cards her fingers through his hair, and when he finally lets go and she can feel his chest heave with muted sobs, there are tears brimming in her eyes as well. Because it's him, and it's them, and she never got any good at seeing him beat himself down for things that aren't his fault in the first place.

 

***

 

Bobbi moved back in twice. The actual process of their separation spanned months. In hindsight, she's not sure whether that made it harder or easier.

The odd thing is, even during their back and forth and their brief stint in therapy and all these other things couples do when they find out they don't really work together but also don't quite want to be apart, they were still friends. They held each other up even as they tore each other down. They fucked on the day she packed the last box in their former bedroom, and then again on the day she put it away after he'd helped her unpacking it at her new place. For awhile she wonders if it's a sign of weakness, the inability to make a clean break, the refusal to stop caring.

It's not until long after their divorce has been finalized and the world crumbled around them twice that she decides it's a sign of strength.