Sleepless in New York

July 21, 2015:

Natasha Romanoff catches up with Clint Barton at a SHIELD Safehouse to check in on her old partner.

New York City

S.H.I.E.L.D. Safehouse


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Clint can't, for obvious reasons, go back to his apartment - what Kate calls his 'bed-stuey' - right now. Too many variables, too much risk. But he was getting ready to go stir crazy waiting for developments at the Triskelion and finally convinced the folks there to take him to a safe house for some sleep and other rest while stuff was tracked and processed. He's been here about an hour.

These places are all the same. Bland to blend in to everything around them, painted in common colors with trite decorations. And Clint hadn't brought home a whole lot with him. At the moment he's just waiting for his ronin suit to wash and dry and looking through the stock of pre-placed clothing to see what might fit. He's showered and cooked a bit of dinner and… not sure what to do now. May and Jemma are tracking Clint-Bot. Kate's… god knows where. Wouldn't even look at him. He doesn't feel like turning on the news but he can't sleep just yet.

There was very little going on in SHIELD and the world around her that Natasha didn't know about, so when she read the security briefings on Clint having been an LMD for the past year and a half; she was sick to her stomach.

How could she have not noticed? The man had been her partner and friend for years, she had owed it to him to have been able to tell the difference between real-Clint and fake-Clint.

She hadn't though, but she would never admit it to anyone, because it was also a matter of pride.

Arriving at the safehouse through an alternate entrance she unlocked the door and stepped in holding a bag of takeout food. She hid her guilt with an amused expression as she smelled the dinner Clint had cooked, "Smells like you tried to burn the place down Barton."

"I thought about it." Clint says as he glances up from the couch where he's staring at a blank TV screen. At least SHIELD safehouses have nice TV screens. "But you know they'd want me to reinburse the budget and I just don't want to fill out the paperwork." His skill at cooking is… well, lets just say he's better at Archery.

Still he stands up. There's a sword in the corner of the room, oiled and in the scabbard and a bow not far away. "Nice to see you Nat. Could use a friendly face right now." Or well, one that is not having a huge freakout.

"Just make something up, only Fury would know the difference."Budgets and Requisitions. Natasha didn't waste much time with accountants, it was likely nobody bothered because she would find some way out of it. The bags of takeout are set down on the table in front of the couch and she sits down casually beside Clint, crossing one leg over the other.

"If you wanted a friendly face, you might have the wrong person here for company." Natasha teased with a light smile; Clint would know better than most how good she was at putting on an act though, it was impossible to tell with her.

"Do you want to talk about it?" She would listen of course, but there wasn't much she could do to fix the situation outside of hunting down those who did it.

"Yes… no…" Clint shrugs, gesturing to the couch for Nat to make herself comfortable. "They keep really bad beer in these things. Want one?" He's already going for the 'fridge.

"Eighteen months Nat. I spent most of it drugged and hooked up to machines I couldn't even guess the function of. I come back to find out what I thought were feaver dreams… weren't." He sighs. "It took my life. Took my friends. My job. My name." Everything with his name on it for the last eighteen months, tainted. "But you know what the worst part is Nat?"

There's a noise as Clint opens a beer and takes a drink. "It hurt Kate. Or well, it didn't but finding out… you know what I mean right. The look in her eyes when she found out, and the way she won't look at me now…"

Natasha Romanoff says, "Would I say no to a really bad beer?" Natasha would take it gratefully before opening up the takeout bag and removing some individual portioned boxes of thai food from a place a little place that her and Clint knew about.

She could relate to what Clint was saying, feeling genuine sympathy either way. Her life was like a fever dream, a succession of memories that belonged to her and at times seemed like they had belonged to someone else; it wasn't something she would ever burden anyone with.

"The truth can hurt more often than not, sometimes you need to make your own truth. You're going to get through this and so is Kate, she's tougher than she looks and she has you to thank for that, no matter what." She tries to smile comfortingly at Clint, even if it was a futile gesture, "You didn't do anything wrong. ""

Clint snorts. "Kate was always tough. I just taught her to shoot." Not entirely true, that second part, but the first definitely is.

The recently displaced archer returns with a second beer and some forks. Plates? Who needs those.

"Thanks for saying Nat… just, you know. Feels… dunno how to describe it. Dirty. This isn't going away. Whatever that thing did, whatever it was really up to, it's gonna be with us - all of us - for a while."

"We'll figure it out, together." Natasha gave Clint's hand a little squeeze before taking the beer from him, "That feeling might not go away though, not for a long time, some things you just have to live with." It didn't sound like a lie, more like a rare truth spoken from experience.

A drink of the beer was taken before she set it down, giving Clint a moment to dig into the food before asking, "What's a SIGMA Agent?"

Clint chuckles. He and Nat have been working together for a while and he's glad that at least won't change. And it's nice to have someone from his past not looking at him like he just shot their dog. Which isn't entirely fair to Kate right now. Clint knows she's hurting and knows that part of what's hurting him is that he can't make her stop hurting. Because he's (kind of) the reason. They'll… talk at some point he's sure.

The question from Nat draws him out of his thoughts and refocuses him on the situation. "SIGMA Agent?" He shakes his head. "Not a clue. Why do you ask?"

Natasha felt that love just led to pain, what happened between Clint and Kate only reinforced that; if Kate hadn't loved she wouldn't have to deal with this right now. Still, she pitied the girl for what had happened but she didn't feel Clint was responsible at all.

"Oh, no reason. Heard it pop up before." Natasha reached over and grabbed one of the takeout containers along with a pair of chopsticks, foregoing using a fork, "So you think you're feeling up for a trip to Chechnya?"

"I'm not sure SHIELD's gonna let me anywhere near another field op until I have a nineteen point psych eval." Standard proceedure, after all, Clint knows.

"Also I have a lot of cleaning up to do…" Just… everything. He can't even start to list what it all is and knows the longer he waits, the worse it's going to be. "So there's that. But if I can help and it won't take forever and a day… and they let me, I might be interested." It's tempting to just throw himself into work and block it all out. Tempting enough that he'd probably do that if it just weren't an option. The small, often ignored objective part of his mind knows that's a good thing. He hates that part of his mind right now.

"What's in Chechnya?"

She was both relieved and disappointed that SIGMA Agent and Chechnya seemed to be of so little relevance to Clint's memories, not even a hint of recognition. They would have to deal with interrogating the LMD and the captives before moving on the location in Chechnya quickly, hopefully the spoofed data would keep them busy long enough.

"A really nice summer festival, way better beer than this to." Natasha took a swig of the beer before picking through the takeout, lying outright but it was for the best. It was likely obvious to Clint she wasn't being honest..

If Clint didn't know anything, there was no point in placing him in any further risk.

Clint's eyes narrow as he takes a sip of his beer (it really is that bad) and starts to pick through the takeout.

"Better beer in Chechnya. Who'd have thought?" He says dryly. He knows Nat well enough to know that she's likely to get into something. She's good at it. It's what she does. He can't stop her and honestly he doesn't want to.

"Just be careful. Maybe take some backup. Don't we have a ninty year old ass kicker laying around?" Beat. "Oh, and Cap." Trying for a little humor there. It comes off a bit strained.

"Don't let her ever hear you say that. She won't be pleased." Natasha was amused though, the humor had worked to break up the situation. Captain America's mention has her eyebrows raised just a little, especially given the resignation from the Justice League: Avengers. She wondered if it had anything to do with the group being partially founded by an LMD…

Clint hasn't even started to think of all the implications of that. That'd be enough mess to keep him occupied for weeks. The degree of the security breach here is rather outstanding and he just hopes that no one pays more than he had to for it. "Is she ever pleased?" Clint murmurs of May. She's a solid Agent. Good in a fight. Quiet outside. But he's never seen the woman smile. Not since… well, not in while.

"What about you? How are you taking all this?" Because talking about that? Way easier than trying to think how he feels about it. He still hasn't processed it all.

A tiny smirk cross Natasha's lips at the question about Agent May, she doesn't answer though; whatever classified details she knew about the other woman (like her being an actual person with feeling and not a highly skilled robot) are kept to herself.

She winked at Clint before grabbing a little more takeout, it was a total lie. She was hurt and distraught, just like everyone else was but it was easier than admitting the truth. "I'm not the one who got kidnapped and replaced, so I'm—-"

She sighs and just admits it, "-Disappointed in myself that I couldn't do anything about it. I'm sorry, I owed you better Clint. After all you did for me."

As Clint's already seen, the damage from one person abducted and replaced extends far beyond that one person. So, on reflection, it's not an answer that he didn't expect. It still makes him grimace. "We all got taken for a ride." He says quietly. "Pretty rough one. I'd say… don't beat yourself up about it but that'd be pretty hypocritical of me. I wonder every hour if there wasn't /something I could have done differently. Just… don't go off the rails over it." He smirks, a ghost of the one he used to have. Still hurts. "Save that for me."

"You have a standing reservation to go off the rails and it's my job to make sure that someone is there to give you a hand back up. You have nothing to worry about." Natasha wouldn't lose it over this, some people would likely lose their lives though and would be made to pay dearly along the way for crossing someone she cared about, "So forget about you and forget about me. What do you think about how much the world has changed in the past year?" She was most definitely referring to the recent events in the USA and around the world; seemingly set off a few months ago by the JL:A.

"I'm still catching up." Clint admits. "I spent most of those eighteen months literally under a rock and the last three focused only on staying alive another day. Trying to get home. I'm a bit… I mean I just…" Okay, he's got to just say it.

"… who thought it was a good idea to put me on a team with someone like Wonder Woman? I'm kind of shocked the LMD didn't get punched to the moon. You know how I can get sometimes." Then again, he'd apparently, well he remembers this. With Kate. Which maybe steadied him. It. Ugh. Pronouns.

And there's that thought again. But she's not ready to talk yet and honestly he's not sure he is either.

"Seems like a lot's happening though. A lot of it not good."

"I have to admit, I thought that was suspicious but I was just too busy to question it." Natasha had been surprised that LMD Clint had done so well, it was impressive; if they prevented any bad from coming of this, in a weird and sick way, the LMD Clint would have managed to also accomplish a lot of good.

That didn't mean she intended to show it a single drop of actual mercy during interrogation.

"Dead president. Crucified heroes. Angry and ignorant government officials. It's a mess but it's mostly politics which makes it a bigger mess, since we can't fix it ourselves." The beer is finished and the empty bottle is set down, no way she was having a second one of those.

Poor Clint, she thought it might be time to leave him so that the recently returned could do some reflecting.

"It's always that way Nat, the politics. Why do you think I joined SHIELD?" To do good, sure. To make a difference, yes. To do it in a place where he could just do his job and not worry about the politics? Absolutely.

Clint looks up, reading his friend fairly well. "Headed out?"

"I always thought you joined SHIELD for the benefits package. I know that's why I'm here." Natasha joked with her old friend, she understood better than most though that doing good as a matter of perspective, at least SHIELD was a less nefarious side of the coin than the other options.

Uncrossing her legs slowly, she stood up and continued to smile at Clint, "You know how it is. No rest for the wicked." No doubt she was going to go back to working on cracking the mystery of SIGMA and who was controlling Clint as soon as she got back to The Triskelion.

"Well you know, benefits package, making a difference, po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to." Clint snarks but his heart isn't in it. "Thanks for dropping by Nat. See you soon, okay?"

"Count on it Clint." Natasha headed for the door and left her friend behind with a very heavy heart. She owed it to Clint to get this all cleared up, no matter what it took. For now, she would leave the poor man to clean up his former/current life. She didn't envy that.

At least Clint had some leftover takeout and crappy beer to keep him occupied.

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