Five Phone Calls

Author's Note: Vague spoilers for "The Winter Soldier". Implied Steve/Bucky.

Yay, my two OTPs survived the movie! 🙂 My only real complaint is that they never did explain why the heck Nat wouldn't include Clint - if there's one person in the world she trusts, it's him. C'mon, just one word about him being somewhere out of touch (like Darcy said in Thor 2 about SHIELD)...

I.

"Someone killed Fury - and something's wrong with SHIELD." To anyone listening Natasha sounded calm and matter-of-fact, but Clint could hear the slight tremor in her voice even over the distance between them. "I'll need to go to ground."

"Understood. Are you on your own?" he asked, trying hard to match her calm, when all he wanted was to race to her side.

Natasha seemed to be moving quickly now, her breath coming a bit faster: "No. Well, I hope not. Fury went to Steve, before… before."

Clint released a breath he had not been aware of holding. "Good, that's good. He's pretty handy in a tight spot, our Captain." He forced himself to grin. "And you're not too bad yourself." He could tell he'd made her smile, so he'd done all he could for now. "Go, now, Nat - and let me know when it's safe."

"I will. Clint…" She didn't say anything else, but he could hear it anyway. They'd both be more comfortable if they were in this, whatever it was, together, but that was their job, their life, and there was no use in wishing things were different.

He looked at the silent satellite phone and put it down with just a bit too much force. It was still frustrating as hell. Clint needed to find something to shoot. Preferably something that shot back.

***

II.

"Pick up, pick up, pick up…" Clint was pacing back and forth. He'd tried getting in touch with his handler but obviously Natasha had been right and something was very wrong with SHIELD. Clint had cut all ties instantly and vanished, as far as his one-time employer was concerned, but there was one tie he desperately needed to re-establish.

"Clint." He had almost hung up - again, this being the sixth or seventh number he'd tried - when suddenly the voice he'd been dying to hear reached his ear. "You alright?"

He laughed in wry amusement. He could tell she was in mission mode, but still she worried about him. "I'm pretty sure I should be asking you that. What the hell is going on, Tasha?"

Her voice was tense and tinged with a tiredness he hadn't heard in a long, long time: "Not quite sure yet. But something big is going on, and I'm not sure we'll be able to stop it. And even if we do…" She stopped herself, and Clint could hear Steve's voice talking in the background.

"You've got to go." It was a statement, although Clint would have liked nothing more than to keep her on the line forever, have her explain everything and maybe cheer her up a bit.

Natasha made a noise that he was pretty sure was an apology and then said in a rush: "Get away from anyone connected to SHIELD and find a new bolt hole, one that no one knows about."

His free hand clenched with the desire to reach through the line and hold her. Instead he focused on keeping his own voice calm and reassuring: "Already have, the day after your last call. Don't worry - you know me, I always land on my feet."

"True," he could hear the smile in her voice, and it stayed with him long after they'd hung up without much further ado.

***

III.

"Hm. So Cap and you just put all of us out of a job, it seems?" Clint was still not sure what the hell had happened, only that from one moment to the next the world as he'd known it had ceased to exist, and Natasha's calm voice on TV had announced why.

He could hear the wry smile in her voice: "Sorry. Seemed like the thing to do at the time. I'll fill you in when you get back, promise."

"Yeah, about that, Nat…" Clint looked around the silent embassy he'd infiltrated to make this nightly call. "You'll have to get me some new ID or else have Stark fly me out of here. I'm not exactly popular just now, and someone burned all my covers."

Natasha coughed. "Again, I'm sorry, Clint - I'm kind of at loose ends here, too. Can you hold on a bit longer?"

Clint cocked his head and once again wished he'd be there with her. Losing all the protection she'd so carefully built over the years must be throwing her for a loop, even if Natasha would rather die than admit it. "Hold on - as in, on this phone, or in this shit hole? Affirmative for the latter, sure, but I estimate I'll have to haul ass in approximately 90 seconds max."

"So no problem, then." Clint could picture the considering look on her face exactly. God, he missed her! "Be sure to get rid of all SHIELD tech, we don't know who can track it, and report back in two days. Alright?"

Grinning, Clint started to climb back into the ceiling: "You're the boss, Nat. Just… no unnecessary risks, you hear me?" Before she could do more than take a deep breath he'd disconnected the phone and closed the air vent behind him, right in time for the security sweep.

***

IV.

"It occurred to me - are you sure your phone is still safe for me to call?" As greetings between them went, this one wasn't particularly exceptional and the sound of Natasha's soft laughter made something inside Clint relax.

"It's Stark tech, so it's probably as safe as we can get right now. Nice to know you still care, Barton. Thought the local attractions might have distracted you." Clint actually blushed - he had not meant to stop the terrorist attack, he had just kind of stumbled into it as he was hiding and waiting for an opportunity to call Natasha again.

"Well, I had to pass the time somehow, didn't I? Just sorry I couldn't keep our date three days ago," he finally said and was rewarded with yet another laugh through the wire. Natasha must have found a new hide-out, or else she wouldn't be this relaxed. "I guess the news coverage explained it, huh?"

Not that he'd been in the coverage, but Natasha knew his style better than anyone and would be keeping a close eye on this region anyway as she worked on getting him out. His suspicions were confirmed immediately: "I swear, you can't stay out of trouble without me to keep you in line - you're just as bad as Steve, always running around saving people."

Clint grinned, then remembered they didn't have much time before he'd have to hang up again - he only felt comfortable calling Nat from secure embassy lines and those were annoyingly well-secured. It was a different embassy this time, though, with a slightly looser sweep schedule, so he felt comfortable enough asking: "How is our heroic leader? Ripped down everything he believes in again since I last called?"

He liked Steve, he really did, but this whole situation was still just a bit much to take in. He knew Natasha could tell what he was not saying. "He's alright, I think. For a certain value of alright that includes going after a dangerous assassin with only Falcon as backup."

"So, he still hasn't let you set him up on a date?" Clint knew all about Natasha's quest, which was 50% amusement and 50% friendly concern. Okay, so maybe 70% amusement. 80 tops. "Nat, I hate to break it to you, but sounds to me as if you might have been barking up the wrong tree - he doesn't need a replacement for Peggy Carter, he needs Bucky."

Now he could almost hear Natasha's eyes rolling. "You don't say. Clint, whatever would I do without you to put me right?"

"How about we don't find out and you get me back State-side - or wherever it is you currently are - asap," Clint suggested. He was really starting to miss hot showers and decent food. And Natasha, of course, but that went without saying.

Natasha instantly became all business, which Clint took as a good sign: "Well, first you'll need to make your way to this border pass…" As she explained her extraction plan to him, Clint couldn't help but smile widely. She must have pulled some serious strings, especially considering her current exposure, and Clint felt familiar warmth spread through him - this was Natasha's way of saying that she missed him, too.

***

V.

"Barton, where are you? Your contact tells me you haven't shown up." Natasha sounded annoyed and impatient, and Clint ducked his head, biting back a laugh.

He knew she could hear his smile in his voice, though. "Aww, you worried, Tasha?" Before she could rip him a new one, he quickly continued: "Just making sure it was safe, a police car passed through a couple of minutes ago."

"Good call. You'll have new papers soon, but until then, keep your head down. Do we need to reschedule?" Natasha sounded much less tense, the wheels in her head already turning to adapt the plans.

Clint slid off the roof quickly and quietly, cradling the burner cell he'd, ah, requisitioned. He figured now was the time to come clean: "No, don't. Not when I can already see you standing there, a sight for sore eyes." She whirled around, and he could tell even from this distance that her eyes were blazing. It was never a good idea to sneak up on the Black Widow, and Natasha hated surprises, but a couple hundred metres should give her enough time to forgive him. "If you'd told me you were my contact, I'd have been here on time, police car or not."

Her stance relaxed, proving his calculations correct. "Yeah, well, never let anyone else do a job…"

"... that you could do better yourself," Clint finished for her, and their eyes met. The place deep inside of Clint, the one that always felt wrong when they weren't together, unclenched, and he knew he was grinning stupidly.

"How about you hang up, Barton. This is getting ridiculous." Natasha of course was barely cracking a smile, but she was still holding her cell to her ear, and he could see the necklace he'd given her after New York glint in the sunlight.

Clint closed the last few feet between them: "But you like me being ridiculous. And I'm kind of having trouble believing you're actually here and not just a voice on the other end of the line."

"Well, let's see what we can do about that…" With that Natasha plucked the phone from Clint's hand, letting it fall into the dust right next to hers, and Clint closed his eyes, breathing her in.

***

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