After an unsettling briefing, and some cagey avoidance of the issues at hand, Hawkeye and Black Widow clear the air and hatch a plan.


SHIELD Base, Training Room


May 15, 2013
"If you want to pursue this, I'll pursue it with you. No questions asked. But you have to be sure this is what you want to do."

Despite years of training, just as missions require preparation, agents still require practice. Multiple sparring rooms line the walls of the SHIELD base of operations, each the same as the last: black walls, and black padding for floors. The thickness of the mats provides some measure of protection for sparring agents, trying to best one another. A single camera rests in the corner of each of these rooms as well as a window on the door should someone which to study or watch those practicing their craft.

Dressed in her black nylon suit, complete with its SHIELD marking on the shoulder, Natasha takes an all-too obvious kick towards her opponent. There's no attempt to fake out her opponent, no attempt to retaliate, just an uncharacteristically blatant move. Her red curly hair dances with each movement, but her eyes give more away than she'd like to admit. Her eyes linger with that same discontent seen in the briefing only days before. But she's been oddly silent on the subject, even more than usual.

Her shoulder shifts right, an obvious tell that she aims to hit from the right, but as she does so, her gaze tracks up to the camera, following which, her eyes eagerly scan the rest of the room rather than refocusing on her opponent, leaving her vulnerable, even if for a moment…

Natasha's not the only one that's in black nylon. Okay, yes she is. But Clint Barton is also in his own body armor, which has flavors of purple littered all in it. His arms are free, but he lacks any actual weaponry. Granted, weaponry is his forte and what he happens to be a master of, but there's nothing wrong with doing a little hand to hand combat with his partner.

That kick that comes in his direction is blocked with too much ease. He really shouldn't be able to block anything like that from the Black Widow. While there would normally be a snarky remark about such, he doesn't say anything. He just looks at her in the split second before she's on the move at him again.

"Stop." Clint says, holding up a hand to slap away that fist that's headed in his direction. "I feel like we're at Senior Prom and you're dancing with someone else." Barton takes a couple of steps back, tracking with his knowledge of the room that Natasha is looking at the camera in the room.

For the record, instead of launching an attack at her vulnerable areas, Clint just looks at them. Unf.

And then she finds it. With only one camera in the room, several dead spaces exist therein thanks to its single angle. When she turns back to face Clint at the sound of the word, there's actually a curve to her lips. The block rather than the word actually causes Natasha to stop in her tracks, at least for a moment. When she looks at him, there's a very different gleam in her eye. "Clint," she breathes rather than speaks his name, "I wouldn't want this dance with anyone else," she counters evenly.

This time, she aims the kick towards the centre of his chest with full force. There's a different purpose now: enter one of the dead spaces and linger only to find the next dead space and repeat. Her eyes track to the spot, it's a clue, a hint, and her green eyes try to indicate that it is, indeed, something she wants to achieve.

See, it is unfair that Clint is at a disadvantage due to Natasha being painted into Nylon and that just makes him stay less focused on whatever it is that he should be focused on. Like the sparring match. At least, well, that's the way it looks when he gets kicked in the chest and goes stumbling backwards. Anybody looking through any cameras or any screens will just see Barton getting Romanov'd. As usual.

"There she is." is offered for snarky cover as he takes to spinning from that kick and armless cartwheeling himself into the first of their Tour of the Dead Zones. He can read Natasha like not many can, so he's more than ready for her when she comes up with this plan of conversation. "Does this count as foreplay?" Might as well make the spar watchers roll their eyes.

As Hawkeye cartwheels away, Natasha chases in turn, no cartwheeling on her part, just a run to the dead space, a pursuit of sorts, "It's so much better than foreplay," she deadpans. Once she's certain they're both in the dead space it, she lets her guard down, her hands even fall to her side. And her lips part, she wants to say something but somehow it doesn't come. Now that there's space to say it, she can't seem to give it a voice. The longing to say it, the longing to name it, doesn't actually enable her to speak. Even in the dead space.

Instead, in a nearly unsettled way, her eyes squint and her eyebrows draw together. Her lips roll over her tongue, and one of her hands grasps at her opposite arm as it dangles near her side. She swallows hard as she circles the dead space for a moment, staying in it, but just barely as she settles around the edge. In a way she judges herself for her inability to say it aloud, even here. Silently she curses the Black Widow, the part of her that holds her tongue, especially when unsure, when uncomfortable, and on the edge of exposure.

But she forces it, kind of. "Have you ever purposively left something out of a report?" It sounds like an interrogation rather than a confession, but it is actually the latter. Her eyes silently apologize for her inability to state it outright.

Cint doesn't move. He just crosses his arms over his chest and stares at the Black Widow. He doesn't need to say anything and he doesn't need to move, lest they no longer find themselves in the dead zone. He just keeps his eyes locked on her to make sure that he catches any silent information that's passed in his direction. Again, just because he's amazing at reading her doesn't mean that he doesn't still need to pay attention. Natasha is very good at what she does and it takes someone like Barton to weed through that.

Barton notices the various differences in her demeanor and stance and that just has him pondering and waiting. But when the question is asked, he has two answers. The first, "All the time." Barton doesn't even elaborate on that, because he's making sure that she understands there's a kinship here between the two of them. She can trust him. And now, the second answer, "What did you do?" It's accusatory but it has a right to be. One doesn't beat around the bush with the Black Widow.

Natasha releases a slow breath as her second arm crosses over the first, thereby meeting his stance. The accusatory tone is enough. "I think I've been compromised." And there it is. Plain and simple. And finally the truth. And in saying it, in naming it, she breathes a little easier. Days of the same tension and she's finally finding relief. And it shows. Her gaze eases, her lips relax, and she releases a quiet breath. Not that it makes her any safer.

And then, perhaps strategically, she asks a second question, possibly related to the first, "Do you think I am more than the Widow?" Something in her gaze wants an answer, but it's not demanding.

"You are to me." Clint says almost without realizing that he's said it. He's pretty much just being as honest as he can at this point because that's the only way to make sure that Natasha continues to be honest with him. He doesn't seem to be too worried about what he just said because he's moving right on to the problem at hand. Which is the possible comprised positioning. "We've been through worse. Separately and together." He's not even going to bring up that assignment in Dubai. The one with the — yeah. That one. "I'll get you through this one."

There's a nod, a flicker of appreciation at the answer. Natasha's gaze softens further. Safe space is enough. "I wonder sometimes," she says through Clint rather to him. And then she becomes present, and actually directly confesses, "A lot lately." Her gaze tracks downward. Again her tongue rolls over her lips. "The mark, Samuel Sterns, I brought him in. And now I'm on point." There's no tone with the words, just their reality to give them weight. The plain facts that her entire role is to throw him off balance. To declare their presence publicly and silently. But then, she left things out of her report. Tasha raises her chin to catch Clint's gaze, "He recognized my accent." Her non-existent accent that no one has ever identified. "With a few words he had identified the city I was born." There's a pause. "I mastered that. I — it doesn't exist."

Her lips press together tightly. The rest of the story notwithstanding she takes a pause, a break from all of the things she refused to write down. She swallows hard and then clears her throat. Another question follows, this time it's genuinely a question and not a confession, "Have you ever openly defied a direct order because it felt… wrong?" Her head turns to glance at the camera, checking its range of vision again, not that it ever changes. "I don't ever remember defying a direct order."

Clint narrows his eyes. His reactions to the things that Natasha is saying is about as unreadable as he is sometimes. He doesn't even really say anything, just paying attention and reading between as many lines as he possibly can. It's hard to do that with the Widow, though. It really is. When genuine questions are tossed in his direction, he just kind of shrugs. "We've all done it. Even if we don't know we have. We are who we are first. No matter what we tell ourselves, SHIELD always comes second to the way we were. The way we are." Clint has forgotten all about being in the dead zone. He has blocked everything from his vision but Natasha.

Again the thoughts are met with a nod. "Right." Natasha's teeth toy with her bottom lip as she cants her head to the side, her gaze turning to the window in the door. It's happily empty. And in looking at the window, any hints of vulnerability disappear. Almost. "I don't know if I should've brought him in," she states blandly. "He was mild mannered. Almost kind. Apologetic. He didn't want to come, but I persuaded him. I did what I do." Again she toys with her bottom lip, "I was led to believe that the General wanted to help him, a lie I perpetuated in my persuasion." And then comes the clincher, "But once he was in custody I lost my clearance. I had no access to check back. And Ross refused to answer my questions." Her breath catches in her throat. "But I let it go. Because — " the Widow follows orders.

And then, as if needing to defend herself any further, she tacks on, "And Masters lied in our briefing, that bastard. I didn't shoot Sterns in the leg. I just threatened to shoot him in the leg." Pause. "That's a big difference."

"You leave Masters to me." Barton says as if he's been waiting for an opening like this for months. There's even the slightest movement of his hand from the resting position on his bicep which allows his fingers to crack at the knuckles as he suddenly has an the tip of an arrow between two of those fingers. He's getting really good at the sleight of hand thing.

There's a moment of pause. "If you want to pursue this, I'll pursue it with you. No questions asked. But you have to be sure this is what you want to do." Clint doesn't dare say what he thinks she's planning aloud, just because he doesn't trust the room that they are in. Dead Zone or not. Paranoia does that. "I've been on the other side." Of SHIELD, he means. "I'm not exactly dying to end up there again."

Are they about to go SHIELD on SHIELD?!

"You should threaten to shoot Masters in the leg and then do it and ask him if there's a difference," she actually smirks at the notion. A satisfied smirk with all signs of delight. Even with everything else in her mind, a real smile, no matter how ironic, can be found.

As far as the rest… "I — " Natasha's eyebrows knit together a little tighter. "I want to be more than the Widow." Swiftly her head shakes, "No, I need to be more than the Widow." Her hands drop to her sides in resignation as her eyes silently plead her case as she once more seeks out Clint's gaze. "Something's wrong here. I don't know what it is."

She swallows, "I don't understand how someone so mild mannered can first escape and then kidnap four SHIELD-associated scientists. They're not trained like you or I, but that couldn't have been an easy feat…"

"Nobody's trained like you, Natasha." Clint admits, knowing even his own skills do not match that of the infamous Black Widow. "If you want to play Nancy Drew, I'll back you up. You just tell me what you need." Clint doesn't really want to be anything but supportive at this point because there are not many people in this entire organization that he trusts. And there are even fewer that he likes. Natasha manages to fit both of those bills.

The arrowhead is gone again, as if he just wasn't playing with one. He's always up for practicing his sleight of hand with signature tech pieces. "I'll see what I can get out of Masters."

There's a flicker of a smile at the statement about her training, but it's cold and oddly distant, especially for this space "I don't think anyone would want to train like that." Including herself. There are some things Romanoff would rather keep in her past. Natasha gives a quick glance to the door again and then one to the camera, and she takes two steps closer to Clint. There's virtually no distance between them now, so close he can probably feel her breath near his skin. The room's blindspot is not that big. Her voice drops to a low whisper, "I think Sterns needs to be stopped, but we need info about what happened here," she toys with her bottom lip once more, "Dr. Ross had nothing to do with any of this. But her father…" Tasha's eyes track down. "It's revenge. Take our scientists, take his daughter? Sterns was in custody for two months, there's no way he didn't clue in about Thaddeus Ross, not when it took him minutes to figure out — " her non-existent accent.

She takes a slow breath as her eyes track back up. The beginning of the conversation had been very different. And this is where she returns to it, letting it come full circle "He's in Russia, Clint. But more than that, his party? The small village outside Chechnya where — " where the Widow was made. She leaves the rest to Barton's imagination and changes tracks on a dime, "It can't be coincidence."

Her arms cross at the notion of what to do. "Beta team has to know what's going on," she agrees quietly. "Masters is crackable. He seemed angry about Hill taking over, even if it's temporary. That's a good angle to pursue." And then as a side thought, "I think we need backup. I'm going to work on that before the mission. I've already pursued some leads. They're in my security folder." In a way it's a strange detail to include, but Natasha doesn't give information she doesn't deem necessary.

Her eyes meet Clint's gaze again, just inches from his face, this time those green hued eyes light up with an idea, possibly one that's been cooking this whole time, but then with Tasha there is no way to know. "We could pull a Dubai." It's said almost casually. And then with her more persuasive tone, "It could work." The dreaded Dubai that she'd barely made it out of last time, the Dubai that Hawkeye had avoided mentioning just minutes before as an example of something they'd barely escaped from. "He offered me a bribe once, maybe I can convince him I want to work for him now." Carefully, at mentioning such a thing, she studies his eyes, steadying herself for whatever Clint's reaction may be. She'd barely made it out of Dubai, and underneath her nylon suit, she had at least two scars to prove it. All of which she knows he knows. Her lips part to speak again, but nothing comes out.

Natasha sure as hell gives a lot of information. Clint, on the other hand, tends to be the more action oriented type. Besides, his thoughts are filled with the many ways he's going to get to kick Masters' ass all up and down some SHIELD facility. Or, if he's lucky, he'll get the chance to catch him in transit and it can just be taken care of in a much more personal manner. That would be the reason that there's a semi-smirk on his face the entire time he's listening to Natasha.

"Wait. Backup? Since when did the Widow and the Hawk need backup?" Clint almost sounds like he's a little offended. Like maybe she's suggesting that his skills are not as up to par as they should be. Or as up to par as hers. But then again, nobody's the Black Widow. Nobody.

"Why don't we make it a slightly modified Dubai? As much as I hate to say this, I think a few less bodies and no explosions might be better this time." Clint then pauses, rethinking his last time. "Okay, one. One explosion. A little one." Yeah, Clint is going to have fun with this one.

"To my knowledge, we've never considered committing light treason before," Natasha muses quietly before issuing Clint a smug smirk. "And we don't need anyone, but — " she takes a deep breath. "If I'm pulling double duty, then… " She looks through rather than at Hawkeye for a moment, as she makes yet another confession, this one far more nonchalant, "I don't want you needing to pick up the mess I'm pulling us into alone." And perhaps this is not the thought she should be sharing, but there it is.

"We can tweak Dubai. But let's not tweak the part where we live," Tasha smirks. Her voice once again lowers to a whisper, "I'll do once a week check-ins just as with Dubai." The notion of the explosion causes Tasha's lips to hitch up on one side before turning on her heel to face the opposite direction, back to Clint while her gaze turns up to the camera again — must stay in the dead zone.

Clint just resists the urges to make this less professional than it is. There's no time for that at this exact moment. Not that there's ever really been time for that. Instead, he just continues to keep his face firmly invested with a smirk. A smirk that Natasha may or may not see, but there it is either way. He's a smirky bastard, okay? It comes with the territory of being the Team Snark.

Still, though, Clint can't help but to lean closer and perhaps just offer a bit of a whisper. "Come on. It won't be any fun if we don't make a little bit of a mess." With that being left to hang there as if there's so many ways it could be taken, Clint is probably referring to the fact that the two of them are so good that they can handle any fallout of light treason and then some. Probably. Maybe. Right?

For a second it might seem to Clint like there's no reaction to his thought from the Widow, yet she lingers rather than steps away, and, if he's looking closely, Clint might actually see goosebumps at the base of her neck, in the space where red locks don't quite meet nylon, exposing the smallest patch of skin. Closeness bares reaction, even from the reactionless. "Mess is more fun when you're not alone," she whispers in return. "Not that I think either of us will be alone." That said, Natasha peers over her shoulder, a bemused smile playing on her lips. For a spell she watches him from the corner of her eye, while she mentally, and in some respects, physically, creates her personal fences once again. Those little divisions between Natasha and the Widow that help her keep herself separate from her job find their place as she mentally places up her own shields — those little divisions The Red Room had created for the 'protection' of their agents.

In doing all of this, the smile is tamed, replaced with an extreme stocisim. But her gaze towards Clint, over her shoulder, remains. When she speaks again it has the smooth, never excitable cadence and tone of the veiled Widow, protected and cool: "I trust you." The three little words are oddly vulnerable despite herself, and prompt Natasha to finally step out of the dead zone and back into the range of the camera. If someone noticed the agents not training, there's no indication. For now, all seems well.

And then in the centre of the room, in her cheekiest tone, the Widow asks, "Now, did you want another go?" Pause. "You will never beat me in hand to hand — "

Clint doesn't need or want to even say anything. He just slides himself out of the Dead Zone and into the fight once again. He grins and holds his hands up for a moment, looking as though he's ready to jump back into the fray without missing a beat. "You're right, Widow. You're absolutely right."

And in one quick and swift movement, Clint is spinning on his heels and yanking out a small pistol crossbow, which pops open and his hand tosses in a blunt mini-bolt, which then gets aimed and shot off in Natasha's direction. Of course, it's just a dummy bolt with a rubberized tip. For sparring, of course.

"So why even try?" Grin.

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