[text - encrypted] If you’re sending this, Agent, you know I’m not at HQ.
Two minutes. He gives her two full minutes. Natasha’s a relatively neat woman, it shouldn’t take her longer than that to find her sweater. As he counts the seconds, he tries to hold onto the image of her standing in the doorway with a smile on her face. She looked beautiful in a way Phil isn’t used to, and It’s easy to imagine that soft look was given in a different context.
At forty-two seconds he has to turn his focus to finishing his tea in order to remain in his seat. He’s spent most of his life surrounded by people like Natasha, and with her odd behavior and the growing pit of dread in his stomach, he knows the likelihood of her returning is slim.
Why? That’s the question of the hour. Why the strange attitude, why the invitation into her home and bed, why the reaction to him texting Clint, and why does it seem with each passing second like this of all things was what pushed Natasha away from them?
What would have happened if he would have said yes? What will he do if he goes in there now, and finds her actually getting a cardigan? Would he change his answer?
No. He knows he wouldn’t.
At ninety-three seconds the teacup is empty. At one hundred and ten, he’s headed to the bedroom door.
At one hundred and twenty, he finds the empty room and open window. A quick glance around the room, then outside, confirms that Natasha is nowhere to be seen. He wonders if she managed to grab shoes.
Phil dials Clint’s number, lifts the phone to his ear. “Clint, she’s gone.”
Her car is not parked in front of her building. It’s not foresight; it’s always parked somewhere different. Makes it harder to follow her. And yes, many would say that’s paranoid; Natasha would say it’s the reason she’s still alive.
It’s because of this that there is no engine to hear through her open window. She darts down two dark alleys, duffel tucked firmly beneath an arm, her shoes beating the pavement, and unlocks the trunk smoothly. It’s almost choreographed, it’s so seamless. The duffle goes in, and then she’s sliding into the driver’s seat. Key, turn, engine, go.
And then she’s leaving behind the past 15 years of her life. It’s strangely okay, because she had a different life once, and she has a different one now. She’ll probably have a different one again at some point.
Tasha’s original plan had been to drive west until she hit the coast, and then fly international from there. She hadn’t decided where to exactly, knowing that unpredictability made it harder to be followed.
It was on that note that she woke one morning in the cold snap of Northern Montana. Her team would expect her to leave the country; it’s what she did. But based on the principle of reverse psychology, they would also expect her to stay domestic, possibly as close as she could get to the SHIELD base without running the risk of mixing circles.
Once you factored in reverse reverse psychology and unpredictable behaviour — as if there were such a thing between trained spies — it was the Schrödinger’s Cat of escape plans: she had exactly as much likelihood of having left the country as she did of having stayed put. Which meant that her logic had to change.
If they were going to be looking, she had to make herself harder to find. This meant population. She immediately discounted the top 5 in the nation, as well as capitals and the most populous city of each state, and came up with… San Antonio. It was winter, so it wouldn’t be all that unbearable, and it provided a good opportunity for disguise. Which meant the red hair was out, and rather than rely on a wig, she stopped in at the first salon she found in the Midwest to go wheat blonde.
She didn’t hate it, and her grimace was a little less in the rearview mirror.
A day and two cafes later, she picked up a pair of boots at an antique mall, because she knew nothing screamed suspicious like new boots in the South. And when she crossed the turnpike into Texas, lit Marlboro Red idling in the ashtray of her newest rental, a Dodge, she couldn’t help but smile: at least she wouldn’t have to hide her guns anymore.
So…although I wasn’t buying one of the very cool EFX Collectibles New York Comic Con exclusive S.H.I.E.L.D. badges for myself, I bought them for a few friends - and in exchange, one of them is sending me some great Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D goodies, plus - at my request - this fantastic piece of original art:
By Agent J (aka, ChaosNDisaster on tumblr)
"SHIELD Trio: Black Widow, Phil Coulson, Hawkeye"
Thank you again, J…I love this!
I’m happy you like it, and I’m the one who has to thank you - for offering to get me a badge, and for actually asking for this piece in return. A lovely opportunity to do some more SHIELD stuff, and not just for myself this time :))
It is 4:32 AM, and Natasha is seated behind the wheel of a rental car — her third, in as many aliases, all paid in cash — and the rain is pouring down as she drives.
She knows there is another car out there by now, two agents drinking too much coffee, their luggage slanting against each other in the back seat. And she knows that in this weather, Clint will be driving, his knuckles white on the steering wheel. His eyesight means that he will make better time than she does, but she has an advantage — she knows where she’s going.
She’s not sorry she’s left. Once she’d made up her mind and turned the key in the ignition, it was so easy to fall back to the reality of only having herself to rely on. Probably because it didn’t split her attention. Here, with only herself to answer to, she has no worries about where she might fit into a team that wants but doesn’t need her, and no worries about who will take care of Clint. Phil would never let him down. She knows that as well as she knows anything, and it’s what keeps her driving through the night.
Her lips quirk as she thinks about her next step. This is probably still Minnesota. It doesn’t really matter to her; one stretch of highway looks much like the next, and she has literal miles to go before she sleeps. And so even though she’s given up the man who has been her eyes for too long now, she presses the accelerator down a little more, her fingers relaxed on the wheel.
The Black Widow drives in silence, a weapon of her own again.