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Under or Over

By Abztract Isight

Scifi / Action

Chapter 1

They saw Thor leave with Loki, the captain left on his motorcycle and Bruce Banner drove off with Tony Stark. That left just Romanoff and Barton. After saving the world from an alien attack, they chose to take some time off, whether people liked it or not.

"Well I need a massage and a little RnR. What are you up to?" Clint asked getting into the driver side of the S.H.E.I.L.D. vehicle.

Natasha sighed, "that's what I plan on doing. You're welcome to join me, but the location is top secret and you'll be wearing a blind fold until we arrive."

He grinned, "sounds mysterious. Sure why not." He waited until she got in and buckled up.

"Take us to the airport please."

"This gets more interesting by the minute," he laughed. But in no time they arrived at the airport.

She made a quick phone call and said, "once we're in the plane, then the blind fold goes on."

When a remodelled Synergy airplane was rolled out on to the runway, Clint's smile got huge. "We're flying in that? I thought you didn't know how to fly planes."

"S.H.E.I.L.D. is working with John McGinnis and I've been helping with the test flights. This plane is easier to fly than the standard equipment we normally use. Stark Industries has also contributed some technology to this remodel, although no one at the agency knows that except you, me and him. This is the second prototype, on loan to me for now," Natasha explained.

Clint raised an eyebrow, "then why do I have to wear a blind fold? You know they have some sort of tracker in it."

"Come on, I'm not that rusty as a spy. You know I've removed it by now."

He sighed and put the blind fold on to humour her, when he was in the plane. She knew as soon as it came off, his eyes would see every detail and give him knowledge that others overlooked. But the only one who knew where her compound, her private sanctuary was located, remained to be Tony Stark. Him and his damn technology had discovered it. Well actually it was Jarvis, but as everyone knew, Jarvis was just another extension of Stark. That was when it had just been a simple cabin. Then Stark had convinced Romanoff to build better and more, until it became what it was now. He'd even convinced S.H.E.I.L.D. to put some funding into it, explaining that Romanoff could train operatives secretly at the location. They'd gone along with it, so had she.

"Well since I can't see shit, I'm taking a nap. Wake me when we arrive," Clint said.

She grinned, thanks to Stark's modifications, the plane could go supersonic. They'd be on her personal island in no time. As soon as Romanoff was given the airspace clearance, she hit the button. Unlike the others, they had only a few days off, to recover so to speak. Then S.H.E.I.L.D. would call them in for a new assignment. It seemed like only a few minutes and really was thirty, when turbulence woke Barton. He pretended to sleep through it, even though he could tell they were descending. He had to admit, Romanoff could really fly this bird well; the landing was super smooth.

"Okay we're here, you can take off the blind fold."

He did so, slowly, letting his eyes adjust to the sudden light. Then Barton took it all in. The sky, the wind, types of plantation, even the bug splat on the plane. His senses told him right away they were on an island. He wondered where in the ocean they were.

"Are you coming or just going to stand around all day?" Natasha teased, walking to a motorcycle and putting on her helmet.

Barton snorted and walked over to what apparently was his machine. Clint noticed they were modified sports bikes and they had Stark's name on them. "Since when are you and Tony Stark such good friends?"

"Let's just say he finally owed me one and helped design this place. You know how much I love my privacy."

Clint rolled his eyes. "Anything I should know about these machines?"

"They go super fast and as soon as you start rolling it encases the rider. You'll appreciate the secure structure when you see how fast they go."

He grinned, "I'd say let's race, but I have no idea where we are going."

"Speed junky," Natasha teased through the microphone in the helmet.

He chuckled, "you're one to talk."

In answer Romanoff gave throttle and shifted gears quickly, leaving him behind. In no time Barton was right on her tail. He appreciated the straight-away they were on, but his helmet's computer advised of the approaching winding road. They screamed into and out of corners, dipping the bikes low. The faster they went, the bigger his smile got.

"I love these machines. Remind me to ask Tony to get me one."

Shortly they raced through some lasers and finally Romanoff reduced her speed. She explained that if those lasers didn't recognize them, they'd have been dust in two seconds flat. They slowed down to about 40 km as they travelled down a long lane way, finally gearing down to first and parking on what looked like some kind of conveyor belt.

"You can leave the helmet on the bike," Natasha instructed. "We're here."

Barton looked around and then a little more closely in front of them. At first it looked like the lane way just continued on, then he noticed the cloaking glass. She said something in Russian and a sliding door opened. They walked in. The place remind him a little of Stark tower, in that the ceiling was high and had huge panels of glass. To one side it looked like a solarium, with a tropical forest growing inside. There was too much to see and take in, it was more than he'd expected.

"Being an agent doesn't pay this well. Had something left over from being a spy eh?"

Natasha dodged the question, but explained a little about the architecture. "I needed a place where I could instantly relax. Stark Industries worked with Bart Price to design this place. It's a little pod like, based loosely on the design he did for Steve Skilken."

Romanoff whistled sharply. Two large dogs came bounding toward them. One seemed to be a bull mastiff crossed with great dane. The other an akita-malmute-collie mix. They skidded to a halt in front of her, tails wagging so hard, that their bodies bent with them.

"This beautiful girl is Mokos and he's Kupalo," Natasha explained.

Clint said, "the bull mastiff-dane is named after the Russian goddess of life and he's summer?"

"Close, he's named after the god of summer solstice. I rescued her in South East Asia and him in Bolivia." She shrugged, gave the dogs a hand signal and they fell into heal beside her. "I'll show you around later. Right now I need a massage, a drink and then a soak in the jaccuzi."

"Sounds like a plan," Clint agreed.

They went up a bunch of stairs, to a second level of the main pod. Romanoff lead him to his bedroom and then continued down the hall to her own, the dogs following her. In his room Barton found a spectacular forest view. He had his own ensuite bathroom too. It was well laid out. In the closet he noticed clothing his size, including a few swim trunks. He had just finished stripping down and putting one on, when there was a gentle knock on the door. Barton put on the black robe he found in the bathroom and opened the door.

He followed Romanoff back downstairs into the tropical solarium. The temperature was perfect inside. Two massage tables were set out, with the therapists waiting. Once they both had laid down on their stomachs, the massage began. Light relaxing music played in the back ground.

"I might just fall asleep again."

"No you won't, trust me. When they start working on the sore muscles, you'll be awake," Natasha said.

Shortly Barton found out she was right. It was painful, but in a good way. His back was the worst, from when he had fallen onto of his quiver, during the fight against the Chitauri. He involuntarily groaned when a particularly bad knot was worked out of his muscles.

"Aren't you glad we have a few days to get back to normal?" Natasha asked softly, gritting her teeth when the therapist hit a bruise.

He grunted, but said nothing.

After an hour, the session was done. She said, "just leave your robe and follow me."

Barton's eyes couldn't help notice the one piece swim suit she wore, it accentuated her figure in all the right parts. They walked down a pathway, through a tropical forest. At the end of it, a wall of fine water washed them, before they got into a jaccuzi that was sunk into the ground. The dogs lay near by. A bottle of Barton's favourite beer awaited him and she had a vodka cooler. Some things never changed, while other things were vastly different.

"Good thing I didn't invite you over to my pad, it's a dive compared to this place," Clint said after taking a sip of his beer.

They both sat with their arms above the water. The warm water helping what the massage therapists had done. He noticed Romanoff's eyes closed, but Barton knew, that just like him, she wasn't completely relaxed.

Natasha replied, "it's really not my place at all. I have trained other S.H.E.I.L.D. agents here. Really it's their facility, but my property. They know sort of where it is, but only Tony knows the exact location."

Clint laughed, "still being mysterious I see."

Romanoff peaked at him from under her eyelashes, admiring his muscular arms. They'd always had serious chemistry, but circumstance and timing had never allowed either of them to follow through on it. He'd saved her and she'd saved him, their friendship was strong, he was the only one she trusted, ever. And Barton was the only one who'd ever seen her weak and terrified. This past adventure, made her realize she loved him and she didn't know how to handle it.

"After this, I'll give you a tour of the rest of this place. You'll like the gym-training room."

"Any new toys they give you?" Clint asked lowering his arms and sinking into the water up to his neck.

"Some I'm sure you haven't seen before," Natasha teased.

He grew quiet, reflecting on the past. Barton respected Romanoff and if he gave himself a minute, he would admit he loved her. They'd been on many missions together, he trusted no one more than her. She'd brought him back and saved his soul when Loki took it from him. He'd brought her back,  when she was a raw exposed nerve. They were much alike. She out classed him in certain skills, but he held his own.

A few drinks later, Natasha looked at her hands. "I'm turning into a prune. Ready to get out of this thing?"

He nodded and stood up, giving her a great view of his chiselled chest and abs. Then Barton picked up a towel and handed her the other. He noticed the dogs sit up too. They were Romanoff's body guards, her personal shadows. "Tell me how to get back upstairs to my room and then I'll change and be ready for the tour."

"I've got to go up there too, so come on." Again she led the way. "Do you like the view?"

Barton smirked, but chose not to answer the way he was thinking. Clint raised his eyes up off her ass. "Love the glass wall and the view into the tree canopy. Feels like a tree house almost."

"One panel opens up, so you can get fresh air. I can show you later if you haven't already figured it out."

Romanoff left him again and went to her room to change into jeans and a t-shirt. This time he was waiting for her, leaning against the wall by his door. Clint wore a pair of cargo pants and a black t-shirt. "So where to next?"

She showed him all the levels of the house, then took him through a passage way to the gym. It had mats for ground work, weights and a wall with various weapons too. One other wall was for rock climbing and repelling.

"Impressive. Perhaps when we are both up for it, we'll have a hand to hand combat session?" Clint challenged.

"Sure why not. Out this door brings us to the stable. We have a few horses. Feel like going for a ride?"

"I'm a bit rusty, but why not. Show me the grounds. Your dogs will love the run I'm sure."

Romanoff flashed him a smile. Then picked out friesian-arab cross geldings for them both. Barton saddled his horse and she did hers. They lead the horses outside and mounted. He noticed the dogs kept a respectful distance, but stayed at heal. They walked out of the yard and then through an automated gate.

Clint could see a path cut through trees and grass that was wide enough for the two horses to walk side by side. "Is this were you go for a jog?"

"There's a separate gravel path for endurance runs. The horses's hooves chew up the path too much and who wants to twist an ankle out here."

The horses responded to the gentle cues and began to trot, then canter. Their movement was very fluid and comfortable to ride. They came to an open field and Clint felt the need for an adrenaline rush. "Feel like racing?"

Natasha gave him a side glance, "feeling competitive today?" After he nodded, she signalled the dogs to her side of the field, but far enough away from the horses. "On the count of three..."

Both riders tucked low over the horses' necks as they launched forward. When you rode something that had a mind of it's own, it added to the adrenaline rush. You never knew what unpredictable thing could happen. This time though, the two horses both enjoyed the run, each pushing the other to go faster and faster. Barton gave a primal yell and his horse stretched out even more, drawing ahead of Romanoff's beast. The dogs ran beside them. Barton's horse left them behind. He began to slow his mount down, as he saw a curve coming up ahead. Eventually he brought the horse to a slow canter and reined in until finally they did a cool down walk.

"Way to go. I thought you said you're riding was rusty?" Natasha said, having caught up to him.

Clint shrugged and grinned, "I guess it's like riding a bike, after a minute everything comes back to you."

The ride continued, taking them around the outside of the compound and then back to the stables. They both stripped off the bridles and saddles then rubbed down their horses, before turning them out in a grassy paddock. The dogs were no where to be seen, but a sharp whistle from Romanoff brought them back to heal.

"I'm getting hungry, shall we go in for dinner?" Natasha invited.

Clint nodded. "Sure but I smell like horse. Let me go wash up and change. I'll meet you in the dining room."

"Don't get lost," Natasha teased, then went to do the same.

They sat down to eat and both had beers this time with the meal. He knew Romanoff could drink far more than he could and still stand, but Barton did notice she was drinking faster than he was. The vibe he had got back on the S.H.E.I.L.D. airship when he was coming out of Loki's mind hold, was the same he was getting now. Romanoff was hiding something or not facing some truth. Tonight he intended to get to the bottom of whatever was bothering her.

Barton brought up working with the Avengers, then some of their mutual past assignments. Their reminiscing was taken to the living room area, she continued to drink heavily. Romanoff stood up suddenly and felt the world spin, but before he could react she was stable again. 

"I feel like a swim. I'm going to change, see you in the solarium."

Romanoff seemed to be almost running away, uncomfortable to be alone with him. He didn't understand it, but changed into a new pair of swim trunks. When he came to the pool, she was already in it floating on her back. 

"It has two sections; one has a current to swim against and another is calm. It winds along the side of the house. The two sections join at the ends."

"No current is the way I will go," Clint said easing into the water.

She swam beside him. They did two laps and then he got out. "Want another beer?"

"Sure, might as well bring a few in the ice bucket," Natasha suggested.

Alone she tried to stop thinking about Barton. He was in great shape, even with the bruises and scrapes still visible. Romanoff was having a hard time not just going into his arms and giving into what she felt. But Barton was a co-worker and she knew not to mix business and pleasure. She accepted a beer that he returned with and took a long swallow.

"I know something is bothering you. What is it?" Clint asked her directly.

Natasha shook her head and lied, "nothing." She downed the rest of the beers and then asked him to bring her a bottle of vodka, that was in the liquor cabinet.

He knew it was useless to keep pressing her, so he let it drop. Barton brought Romanoff the requested bottle and a glass. She'd tell him when she was ready. 

"This place is beautiful at night. I can see why you like coming here to recuperate." Clint stood up looking out the glass windows, sipping his beer.

She said nothing and polished off a number of glasses of vodka. Natasha went to stand up to join him by the window, slipping in the process, "shit!"

His reflexes where not dulled by the beer and he caught her in his arms, before she fell. "You okay Tasha," Clint asked softly.

She nodded, looking up into his blue eyes. Her heart hammering in her chest. Her eyes fell to his lips. Natasha's hands could feel the hard cords of muscle in his arms holding her up. "I... sorry." She regained her composure and stepped out of his arms. "I guess it's time for me to go to bed."

Barton watched her retreat, finally understanding what the tension had been. The look she'd had in her eyes when they had dropped to his lips, had told him volumes. Romanoff was feeling vulnerable and had let some of her affection slip through her defensive walls. He sighed, picked up the bottles and carried them to the kitchen. The lights turned off automatically as Barton left the room and went upstairs. In his own room, he put on track pants and stood looking out at the night sky. The stars were out with the moon, casting strange light on the tree tops.

In her own room, Romanoff changed into silk pj bottoms and a t-shirt top. Then she got under the covers. She knew she was drunk and hoped to sleep well that night. But that was not the case, she tossed and turned, fighting the blankets. The past kept creeping into to her dreams, making the night relive her most weakest moments.

Barton sat up suddenly in his bed, coming awake instantly. Had he heard Romanoff's scream or was he having a bad dream? He listened to the silence and was about to lay back down, when he heard it again. She was definitely in distress. He tore off his blankets, ripped open his door and ran to her room. Once there Barton carefully opened the door and scanned the room. She was alone, which meant some dream gripped her mind. He went to her bed and sat down.

"Natasha wake up!"

He had to shake her, for the dream to break and her eyes finally sprang open. Her eyes were glazed and it took Romanoff a moment to remember where she was. The look of horror and fear, had not yet left her face. She struggled against him, trying to attack.

"It was a dream, that's all, you're safe," he reassured her, enduring the assault with a bear hug.

Natasha clung to him, breathing hard, not truly believing they were safe. "Hawkeye?"

"Yes it's me," Clint replied.

She sighed then, trying to regulate her breathing and heartbeat. "It was a dream, just a dream...." Natasha repeated, trying to convince herself she was okay. She let go of her death grip on his arms.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Clint asked gently.

"I can't, I don't remember..." Natasha stuttered. "Can you just let my dogs in?"

He nodded. "Did the Hulk's attack on you drag up bad memories?"

Natasha nodded, "I haven't felt that helpless in a long time."

"You're safe. Try to get some rest," Clint said, then went down the stairs and called to the dogs.

The dogs didn't need further invitation. They ran up the stairs to Romanoff's room. When he went to check on her, both dogs were on her bed. Barton stepped into the room and they raised up their heads and growled. He backed out slowly and closed the door.

They'd been through this before, sometimes she'd wake four or five times. Either she'd wake up fighting or terrified. The past never could leave Romanoff alone. Barton wondered if he'd go through that later, due to Loki messing with his mind.



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