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31 August 2012 @ 11:06 am
Fic: Feels Like Floating  
Title: Feels Like Floating (aka Going Down With this Ship)
Author: nightswhisper
Fandom: Avengers
Characters/Pairings: Clint/Natasha, Maria/Phil, implied past!Natasha/Unnamed Male
Summary: Natasha didn't have friends really. She couldn't afford them. THen the spitfire known as Hill joined the troop. A look at the development of Natasha and Maria's friendship which is drawn towards their personal relationships--or, rather, how one formed the other.
A/N: Written for the Clintasha promptathon. It needs work, but I wanted to make sure I finished this one. Apologies.

Also, Maria's Dress :: Dress Tasha tries on :: Bridesmaid dress

Natasha isn‘t accustomed to having friends. Co-dependent allies, yes. Friends? Not so much. A traditional friend of the same gender usually meant competition or that one day you’d be staring down a sight playing the ’who will shoot first’ game. Her life just didn’t work for it. Then a spitfire known as Maria Hill, a girl with a nasty selective bite and an extensive record of honors joined S.H.I.E.L.D. Well, to be fair that record was sprinkled with a few military discipline notices about ignoring orders and breaching security. To her credit, and the only part that concerned Fury, was that in each incident of insubordination Maria came out morally on top with a few saved lives to boot. Given their purpose, this was good.

Natasha wasn’t sure how to handle having another level-headed female presence. She had been prepared to treat her like any other coworker-at arm’s length. But one night, trailing a local offender on her off time, she ran into the officer with several shopping bags from independent stores wearing…a dress? A flash of guilt almost crossed Maria’s face. Several cocktails later, and a few jokes at the expense of their coworkers, they came to even ground.

It wasn’t that Maria thought she couldn’t have what would traditionally be called a feminine side. It was just easier to maintain a certain mentality to do what they did and to stop the shadowing harassment. It also helped you from getting unnecessarily attached. Somehow the two formed comradely that Natasha assumed was just as close to definition of a ’normal’ friendship someone like her could have.

It started with bonding over the ridiculous behavior of some of the egotistical misogynistic ways of their profession during off-duty drinks. It moved into working out together. Natasha had shared her love of the arts with Maria. In turn, Maria had opened Natasha up to the world of feminine joys for your own sake--not for the part of a mission. The spa was a magical place. Natasha wouldn’t admit it to anyone but Maria, but it was rather liberating. (Clint didn’t count. Because Clint just seemed to know those sorts of things without her saying a word--which was slightly irritating to her armor. She wiped that thought away with a couple shots.)

“You know, after you take down a few highly ranked politicians and traffickers, leading on poor Joe Someone from Nowhereville, USA to get a free drink just doesn’t really feel like an accomplishment.” Natasha mused over the moderate beat of what was considered music.

“You’re just grumpy ‘cause the person you want to string along isn’t here for you to play with.” Maria didn’t have to look to her right to know what kind of look she was receiving.

“And you’re just being a bitch ‘cause you can’t stand the thought that someone actually likes you. You-you. Not half you. Though you might give him a heart attack if you showed up in that dress.” Natasha gloated into her drink. It was a low blow, but she was only returning what she was given.

Clint was a sore subject with them. Maria, along with half the hellicarrier it seemed, were convinced that the master assassin duo were madly and completely in love with each other. None of them seemed to understand that there was a connection they shared, one forged of trust, dues owed, respect, and stability. They chalked it up to some emotion that retailers tried to sell in a bottle. And in every other way possible. She knew Clint better than anyone. He sure as hell knew more of her than she’d like. But she trusted him as much as she could anyone in this world. That didn’t mean she was harboring some storybook emotion for him.

“He’s so…Irritating. Does he really think some person with super human powers is just going to sweep in and save us from all our problems magically? No. It’s about US. We’re the ones that are here. We’re who we have to depend on. But Fury just…he sends everything to him! And he’s so childish. I mean, really, do you know how much he spent on a… on a playing card?” Maria flailed over her drink with an animation that betrayed her irritation for something a little more unsettled the moment Natasha made her remark.

Natasha wasn’t sure if it was her ability to read people, a skill she had spent years in developing. More likely, it was from knowing Maria. This wasn’t the end of the story. There was something about Phil Coulson that just got under her skin. Natasha hadn’t determined which percentage of “that” was repulsion and which was self-denial.

“Coulson’s reliable. Gotten me out of more than one scrape.” Natasha supplemented. “Respectful. Always treated me according to my performance. He’s never catcalled…well maybe anyone.” Natasha wrinkled her nose in thought. Not that she had given his off-time a lot of thought.

She, and Clint, had known Coulson since the day the joined SHIELD. He was a good man, a little goofy. After Clint, and maybe Maria, she’d trust the veteran agent above others. He had a good heart. And a well contained but none-the-less obvious crush on his like-ranked co-worker. He wouldn’t bank on it. As carefree as Phil was, and as much of a fool he could make of himself, he had the same personal demons as many of them. Which led him to believing he wasn’t worth more than he had. Certainly too old, too bizarre, for the fireball that was Maria.

“That…” Maria took another drink. “is because he’s afraid of women.”

“Not of you.” Tasha rebutted. “Actually he’s probably more afraid of you than someone like me. The only thing I can do is beat him to a pulp. Or put a few holes in him. You, you can torture him endlessly just with your presence.” He was also a hopeless romantic. They all had their soft sides, it seemed.

“Shut up.” Maria huffed and downed the last of her drink. “At least you get to work with a guy who you’re…you’re perfect with. Have you ever watched the both of you? It’s like looking at one person split into two. However you got that soul connection, knowledge thing, I want it. It’s almost a shame he’s in love with you. I‘d get in on that.”

Natasha stiffened, back straightening. “Barton’s not in love with me.”

“You keep telling yourself that honey.” Maria snorted. “And you’re not going to convince me you’ve never gotten cozy with him.”

“Sex isn’t love.”

“Ohhhh…oh NOW we’re talking.” Maria grinned, slamming her fist on the table with victory.

Fortunately for Natasha, duty called and the conversation was dropped… for then. Not forgotten. It wasn’t the last time her coy coworker sprung the conversation with her. No matter how much she insisted, Maria would not let the idea go. Never in their years did anything come from their arrangement. Even the sex was few and far between. She could count on one hand the times. Sex and forced partnership usually brought feelings. Neither of them could afford to be caught up in sentiment. It was too easy of a move to play. Loki had proved that.

Loki. Magic. Tragedy. The incident left a sour taste in Natasha’s mouth. Her heart still twisted at one piece of the aftermath. After the world had been turned upside down, SHIELD’s staff was deployed on recon and she was released from duty, Maria came to Natasha distraught. The assassin had never seen her friend in such a state.

“I lost him. I didn’t even have him and I lost him.” She preambled, curled up into Natasha’s embrace as she ran through a list of everything that had kept her from seeing the appealing side of Phil. The age difference, their place in command, his opposing personality. But he was undeniable charming in his own way. He had a heart, and a sense of humor that was sometimes able to crack her shell. Natasha had been there to console her friend that night. She was also there when Phil showed up out of the blue, emerging from his recovery in hiding.

Natasha didn’t try to conceal her victory when she watched Maria, stunned and jaw hanging, witnessing Thor crushing Phil happily from her perch on the above deck. The shaky smile Phil slipped when catching sight of Maria was subtitle. She simply nodded before turning away. Natasha knew her friend better than that. Appearances had to be maintained.

Natasha found her friend mysteriously missing from her quarters later that evening.

A few months later Natasha exited a briefing only see Clint, freshly cleared to return to duty after an incident in the Baltic’s, waiting for her. With his uncanny sense of timing he immediately stopped her in her tracks. She looked utterly befuddled. He didn’t ask with words, only a look, allowing her to avoid the conversation if necessary.

“Fury wants to see you at 15:00. I think you’re getting that Brazilian case.” She said in monotone, distracted.

“And?” He asked.

“I…I think I have to help plan a wedding. How do you plan wedding if you‘re stationed in a communications dead zone?”

Clint hadn‘t laughed harder in recent memory. “I think you’ll manage. Seriously, Nat? You, a wedding? All frills and cake tasting and--okay, okay. Wedding. Gotcha.” Clint went from prodding to straight-laced with one glare. Clint followed her as she started walking down the corridor.

“So who’s getting hitched? Oh god. Don’t tell me Fury bribed someone to--”

“Maria.” Natasha rolled her eyes.

“…Really? Huh. Always thought she might have been after you. As much as she hogs you and spends that time in very short dresses. Was kind of hoping, actually.” Natasha resisted the urge to hit him.

“So you could watch?” She purred in her best mocking tone.

“Sweetheart, I’d be more than watching.” He waggled his eyebrows at her. She almost slipped a chuckle.

“Straight up, though. I can’t believe the guy actually got the guts to ask. Knew he was sweating bullets about something.” Clint probably knew Phil better than she did. They had known each other longer. She was surprised he hadn’t been giving warning.

“Is that so hard to believe?” Natasha asked as she entered her quarters, unsurprised by her partner followed her, leaning up against the wall as she opened her drawer to start packing essentials. “She’s young. He’s relatively so. Life is short.”

Anyone else would guess she was being her own rational, defensive self. Clint wasn’t everyone else as he loved to remind her. Her name was soft on his lips as he came behind, placing one hand gently on her hip. The coil she was holding her muscles in released slightly as it fell back into a familiar weight. “You’re mad. You don’t believe all this marriage and lifetime commitment stuff, that’s all. I didn’t think you’d be so into it.”

“She’s not me. She wants this. He does. And if that’s what they want, that’s what they want.” Her breathing changed as Clint worked his fingers into her shoulders. “I guess…it’s kind of nice”


“It…the idea most people have of it might be silly. But, everything’s so messed up in life. If they can still believe in the idea of marriage--it’s nice.” She wrinkled her nose when he kissed her neck reassuringly.

“I’m going to be late.” She said slickly. He didn’t need to hear anything else to know the conversation was effectively over.

As fate would have it, Natasha was an excellent planner in general. Throwing together a high security wedding while on an equally secretive mission just seemed to be one more skill set in her repertoire. While she had been away the couple had worked around policy issues--Fury had been very clear. They were both his direct subordinates but their positions were very similar. It shouldn’t create a conflict. If it was an issue one of them would be removed from their post. They had also determined a location. It had been Clint’s idea apparently, to hold the event in the middle of the ocean. It would be away from surveillance. Security would be easily covered with an easily monitored environment.

The wedding party was small. Natasha had been given the title of maid of honor. Maria recruited the single family member she still spoke to, a cousin who worked in one of Shield’s ghost companies, as an attendant. Her father was not to be invited. Phil recruited Clint as his best man. Sure, he had a few buddies in SHIELD and some friends from college. But the two had developed a decent connection outside of working regularly together. That, and security clearance was a hell of a lot of paperwork neither felt was necessary to endure. The cake would be from Maria’s favorite bakery and delivered the day before. The ceremony would be on deck, the reception in the dinning hall while the top was refurnished for dancing and drinks starting at sunset.

There were only a few details left to fall into place. The most pressing of which was the matter of a very specific dress. Natasha had always been keen on designers. It wasn’t a particular obsession with fashion. Clothing was essential to every part of her job. She needed to be able to fade into the social scenery around her. She had to be comfortable. She usually had to conceal things. Certain labels had a tendency to be more versatile than others in these matters. All the same, she did appreciate something that made her feel a little more like herself than her standard uniform.

As such Natasha had been selective in the shops she took her friend to. Her plan had backfired slightly. Maria had fallen in love with about ten different gowns and had started to separate them into traditional conformity, durability, range of motion, and personal style preference. She was, after all, willing to be ready for anything at any time. It was engraved into who she was. Unfortunately their time wasn’t unlimited. Somehow this combination, and some note of traditions, lead to Natasha slipping into one of the options.

“Maria. What’s the point of this?” Natasha sighed.

“Our build isn’t entirely opposite and this way I get to force you to look stunning. Since you’ve sworn off all things matrimony.” Maria partially mumbled as she straightened out the gown after tightening its laces.

Natasha sighed, shaking her head. “But I can’t tell you what feels good for you.”

“Anything that makes him stop in his tracks. And maybe tease him about what’s to come.” She smirked evilly. Natasha rolled her eyes.

At the same moment Maria seemed to notice the source of her problem. Ordering Natasha to stay put she ran outside. From the corner of the full length mirror she caught the sight of Clint being dragged into the boutique muttering something about communications being off and needing to check on them. No, he was fine he didn’t have to come in. Really, it would be okay. Alright, alright! He was sorry for stealing her coffee--please don’t make him try on the filly ones. Natasha put her hand on her hip, twisting to glare at him to stop whining.

“You can survive a few frills, Barton. You might even like the silky ones.” SHe raised a brow only to see that Clint had stopped mid step and was agape.

“Tasha you…you look…you…” He stumbled. She looked down at herself. The sleeveless bodice was ribbed wrapping leading to a diamond burst of jewels. Flowery patterned lace that complimented the jewel accent gave way to a form fitting front that ended at her ankles and trailed behind loosely.

“…I guess this isn’t a bad choice then?” Maria smirked, though her eyes were on Natasha. I told you so was written all over her face.

“Sadly, I think it’s a little too…hampering. I need something a little shorter in the back.” She said absently heading to the racks as an attendant came over to wax on about superstitions about seeing the bride before the wedding.

“Oh, uh...she’s not.” He fumbled, waving his hands.

“You turned our connection off on purpose didn’t you?” Natasha accused the bride-to-be while the shopkeeper tried to size Clint up. Maria wouldn’t say a peep.

A few months of planning, a rescheduled day or two, sweat, tears, blood, and a mighty security detail and the day finally arrived. Natasha was confident in her planning. Not even the bride seemed nervous. If anything Maria was determined. The ship gleamed in the late afternoon. Caribbean waters reflected a spectacular merging of blue and green that impressed even the demigod in attendance. Lights were spiraled around every possible railing and fixture. Chairs and an decorated in native flora from near by private islands--owned by Stark industries of course-- weaved around sparsely leading to a crowning at the top of the arch’s framework.

A light knock came from behind the cabin that was serving as a dressing room’s door. Natasha spoke through bobby pins as she finished twisting part of Maria’s hair back and fixing it with crystal pieces and small flowers meant to reflect the feel of the deck. Clint spoke through the door to give them the ten minute warning before he went to take his place near the alter.

As the orchestra began on tune the small crowd settled into their places. Leading the way when their procession began, Maria’s cousin started the tell tale walk. Clint mumbled, lips barely moving, to Phil about how the women didn’t have to be stuck in tuxes. He kept the cursing in his head. His protests died on his lips as Maria’s cousin gave way to Natasha who glided up the aisle.

“Sure you don’t want to switch places with me?” Phil gleamed victoriously at his best man’s expression.

“Pretty sure that would be one surprise Maria wasn’t counting on.” He quickly recovered.

Phil didn’t have time to respond. Through a ruffled split on the right of her dress, Maria’s leg peaked from her first step down the carpet. She wore no veil, but a sheer wrap around her elbows compensating for the single strap that swung over the opposing shoulder. Maria wasn’t one to blush. The adoration she was receiving from the expression of the only person who mattered made her lower her eyes and peak back up with a soft grin.

The only sobering fact was the sight of the Director guiding her to her destination. It had been his condition. If he was going to give his blessing to this, he was going to do it traditionally. It certainly was a reminder. Natasha settled into her attentive expression. It wasn’t the most difficult thing she had to give her attention to, but her mind buzzed. They looked so…happy.

Natasha had felt that once. She had been where Maria was. She remembered it fondly. She also remembered the terrible conclusion it came to. It had been one of the more lingering horrors of the many in her life. And while she had been disillusioned she’d be lying if she said she didn’t miss the blind faith and fairy tales most lived in. She couldn’t help but sneak a glance at the man standing beside the groom. He caught the look and gave her a wink with the eye that was far from the audience. She had to admit, heat or not, Clint could clean up well.

If there was one thing working for SHIELD had ever taught any of them it was to not trust silence. Silence was deceptive. Just as Phil took Maria’s hand to slip a band of silver onto her finger an explosion took them all by surprise. One was followed by two, than a third. The boat rocked violently sending chairs skidding across the deck and the groom sliding into the bride. Natasha braced them both. A sickening crack, a groaning, filled the air as the crew ran to locate the damage.

Instantly into the role of their professions the members of the Avengers present went looking for the source. They didn’t make it very far when another snap was heard. Guests and crew alike screeched as the captain and head of maintenance ordered the life boats to be pulled. From behind the smoke a creature flew. Alien, they could assume. How it had snuck by security wasn’t something of a priority right now. But if Tasha had to guess, she’d say it was snuck in as a different form and waited among the gifts being stored below.

It was messy work. Thor and Tony ended up taking out more of the boat than would have been salvaged. Guests were soaked, even the ones that made it into the boats. Decorations littered the otherwise crystal sea. The bride herself had ended up in the water until Fury pulled her and Phil into a boat. Natasha hadn’t been quite so lucky. She had thrown a detonator into the air that had been pinned in place by a quick shot from Clint and the compressed half-size bow he retrieved that was hidden in the archway. Of course.

Unfortunately it sent her diving into the ocean with a grace that could have earned her an Olympic medal. This boiled down to meaning that twenty minutes later she was pulling herself up out of the water with a waterlogged chiffon dress clinging to her as others slowly joined her and stray supplies that had made their way to shore. So much for that outfit.

Exhausted and wet was a small price given the lack of casualties. Natasha turned to Maria waiting for the worst. But when She fell into Phil’s arms tripping with her single heel that remained on her foot they started…laughing? Natasha fumed.

“They find this funny? All this work is gone and…it’s funny?” She gaped.

“Calm down, Tasha.” Clint said trying to find a place for his retractable bow before he finally discarded it in the sand. It had been broken anyway.

“Yeah, I don’t think so. Do you know how hard it is to get a hold of a caterer when you’re in a South American jungle?” She looked at him as if he had grown three heads.

Clint sighed, took her by the shoulders, and turned her back towards the bride and groom. The officiator had been right behind them. Bleeding heart as he was, Steve produced the rings he had saved in passing. Sopping wet, hair disheveled, and with Phil’s pockets handing out, the priest completed the ceremony directly from where they had been interrupted.

Unaware of her own actions, Natasha leaned back into the body behind her. Clint’s hands rubbed her shoulders and arms up and down to warm them, resting his cheek close to hers as they watch the ending of the event. “Maybe it’s not so bad.” She mumbled leaning her head into his.

“The damage?” Natasha groaned.

“You know what I mean.” She huffed. He ignored her heading towards a washed up cooler.

“That we can still have a reception?” He ventured as he popped open the lid to find tumbled versions of some of the appetizers.

Natasha groaned but helped the others collect remains. Just as the sun began to set one of the musicians started playing so that the couple could have their first dance. The music continued and people gathered around them. Thor had obliged them by finding dry wood and lightning it with his lightning to create a circle of bon fires. Pepper made Tony stop fiddling with his arrangements to get a pick up to dance.

“You’re not going to stand there.” Maria ordered her red headed friend when they started to mingle. “You’re my maid of honor.”

“Some honor I did to you.” Natasha sighed.

“You did fine. But, you know, it’s tradition for you to dance with the best man.” She waggled her eyebrows. Across the circle Natasha could see Phil having a very similar conversation with Clint. The lights started switching on.

“Oh you didn’t…” Natasha let her arms down defensively.

“You have no proof.” Maria looked as if she were the cat who consumed the canary.

Natasha was about to talk with her friend about the meaning of the word “meddling” when a familiar voice cleared its throat. Before her, a ruffled Clint half bowed dramatically. “May I have this dance?”

Natasha paused, wondering what the fluttering of her normal pulse was. Weighing her options she finally accepted and let herself be pulled into the center of the ring. Clint held her close, but gently. His grip light enough so that she didn’t even need her super senses to escape if she wanted. Natasha didn’t want to. Not like this. Not with warm sun turning everything golden. Not with the consistency of Clint’s scent, the sound of his breath.

She wasn’t sure when they started or when they’d stop. Clint seemed all too happy to continue on. This wasn’t the first dance they shared, or even the most intimate. For some reason her limbs felt heavier. Her resolve was weaker. She felt safe here, isolated with blessings. Clint had always been kind, patient, devoted. He had…he …had…he had always been in love with her. The realization hit Natasha with a force that took her breath away. Her gasp was enough to cause him alarm.

“Just a rock.” She lied so he wouldn’t press the matter. Instead she rested her head into his shoulder.

What had she gotten herself into? No matter what they had done to maintain their distance, he was still head over heels for her. She knew that look--the one that said he couldn’t go back to where he should be if his life depended on it. The terrifying part of it all? Natasha didn’t want to run. She should. This was potentially fatal for him. She should feel betrayed--the one man who hadn’t been put into submission by her charms, who had been able to act like a rational human around her, wasn’t so fool proof as she had thought. It would ruin everything they had. It always did. Something always happened.

“Tasha, this is crazy,” He broke her raging thoughts. “but I think those two might actually be able to pull this whole marriage and superhero thing off.”

She turned her head to watch what he was looking at. Maria was beaming from more than the natural glow. Natasha had seen her in every state possible--the one she wore while in uniform, the careless woman painting her nails at three am, the bagel fiend who emerged early in the morning-- but no matter what she did there was a regime to it. She had order, neatness, tension. Not here. Here she looked like she could melt into a cloud. She had the same look at the alter. But she had stepped right into position during the explosion without even thinking.

“They know where the line is. They just might be able to. Takes talent.” She agreed, sensing his hesitation in the sudden tightening of his body.

“We could do that.” He supplied. “If we weren’t…us. We could be like that.”

“You just want to see me in one of those gowns again.” She poked at him verbally.

“No,” he lowered his lips to her ear. “I want to take you out of one of those gowns and wake up with you there. Instead of an empty bed. Preferably with a rinse and repeat whenever possible.”

“Well, Mr. Barton, aren’t you full of temptation? Sadly You’re going to have to find a better proposal than that. Starting with how you’ve skipped a few steps.” She quickly regained the strength in her legs that had almost been forgotten.

“Well, I guess I could start somewhere.” He was quick with his words, though they were masked by a thin layer of questioning.

“You could.” She ran her hand deliberately up his spine.

“…Tasha…” Are you saying what I think you’re saying? Is this more than your joke?

“Clint.” You know me. You know it is.

Natasha wasn’t sure she was being entirely rational. But, be it the setting, the scenery, or the scotch that was being tossed about, she wasn’t all that hard pressed to get out of it. Not when Clint had his hand enveloping her waist and breathing so close to her own air. Not when the most precious things she had lost seemed tangible again. Even if they still had to face---no. Natasha refused to hurt this moment. Maybe tomorrow. Not today.

Today she had a dance to finish.
Current Mood: dorkydorky
Elven Ranger: Clintashanightswhisper on September 3rd, 2012 02:27 am (UTC)
Oh gosh. Tasha really is ticked off a lot in this. Oh dear. I need to think more. I guess I just see Tasha as this person who can work her way through almost anything but curves/thinks not routine she finds meddlesome because she's just not used to the human side of things when it concerns herself. Headcanon fails?

Thank you hun! I will say it's made me want to explore more Maria + Tasha friendship feels. Yup.