For broken_arrow | Underneath It All
Natasha liked the shadows. She was comfortable in them, she knew how to operate out of sight. Everything had changed though. It started with the battle of New York and the Avengers, but it had most certainly been aggravated by the many heads of HYDRA revealing themselves. She wasn't used to being so off-balance and if she hadn't taken the offensive and brought herself out into the open she would have ended in a far worse position. If she was going to be left without a shadow to hide in, it would be on her terms.
It had helped having Captain America by her side, Steve Rogers now a man and partner she could trust. He wasn't Clint, though. He wasn't the archer she had truly built a working relationship that had no equal. They had been through so much together. They knew the best and worst, and they could still trust each other.
Natasha had briefly been forced to consider life without Barton by her side when Loki had used his staff, but a little cognitive recalibration had fixed all that and she had Clint back. She could have really used him the last few weeks, but they'd been seperated when he'd been posted on another mission and Natasha had stayed close to nation's capital.
The last time she had seen him they'd burned off some excess energy after a bumpy mission, their boundaries of friendship flexing to accomodate the moments they needed a little something extra to get through the day. She hadn't received word from, or about him, since HYDRA surfaced and she'd be lying to herself if she didn't admit to the growing concern in the pit of her stomach. She couldn't risk looking for him though. She couldn't risk blowing his cover when all eyes seemed to be on her after the press conference.
Instead, she went through the motions to keep herself safe, and pick up shattered pieces of SHIELD so they could work on a defense against the old enemy. She had found a home in the Avengers Tower, embracing the more public side of life so that there was nothing she could be blackmailed with, and any safe houses remained just that - safe and unknown to anyone but her and Barton. She hoped he'd found his way to one of those, but again she couldn't risk a search. And that really was starting to frustrate her.
She sighed as she dropped her bag on the floor, shedding her jacket and draping it over the back of a chair as she considered the bag of take-out she'd brought home. Another quiet night planned, another evening of trying to pretend that she was content to stay on a shortened leash.