The destroyer lazily plodded on, a dark blip on indigo water. Soft, near-silent waves rippled outwards in its wake. Every wall mount, bulkhead, and hanging light poured midnight onto the walls, the floor, the frigid air itself. A solitary guard paced, his grimace made clear by the agitated gait, clutching a firearm too large for his frame. The other guards huddled in a small holding area above deck. Their sleep was frothy; they slumbered with the countenance of those who expect to be summoned within seconds. No one on board had mustered any attempt to conceal the impressive array of weapons festooned about like Christmas decorations. In Myanmar, convincing government officials to ignore weaponry was literally child’s play– it was an initiation rite for promising young scoundrels.
In the center of the ship, a gust of wind gently whistled against the sides of a cylindrical container. Jet-black and plastered with counterfeit shipping labels, it was one of several dozen such containers stacked with engineer-level precision, identical save for strategically-placed airholes that could not be detected from the outside without a thorough investigation.
“You know,” Clint Barton whispered, “To be honest, I have occasionally thought about becoming a CPA.” He allowed his bow and quiver to shift an inch to the left; he’d been stationary for almost a full day, and his face said that even such an infinitesimal movement felt better than any deep massage ever could. “I mean, regular business hours. A 401K. Holiday parties. When was the last time we were invited to a holiday party?”
“Kosovo, ’99,” Natasha said quietly, rubbing her arms. Unfortunately, being a highly-trained, ruthlessly effective spy and assassin did not protect one from pins and needles.
“I said invited.”
“Technically, Fury said we were welcome to partake after we–“
“What, I was going to take out a team of trained killers and then steal their cheese spread? “
“They had excellent Pepper Jack.” Natasha mumbled. She sipped tiny wisps of breath. The Black Widow Program had taught her techniques for conquering claustrophobia–as well as hundreds of other skills–but spending three days stuffed in a tube did not rank well on her list of preferred missions. “And for the record, I’m a world-class martial artist in like a dozen disciplines, a master spy, and an expert tactician.”
“I’m aware of your resume.”
“I’m asking why I’m in a container. “
Clint rubbed his eyes. Nine more hours left until he could nap–six if he could convince Natasha to begin her watch early. He wondered if he should’ve chosen the lighter armor. “Because you’re not Fury.”
“I forgot my eyepatch and intimidating coat at home. Let him be here in this tin can if he thinks it’s such a terrific idea. I’ve got a Lush bath bomb set I’ve been waiting to try and two seasons of The Good Place to watch. He may be Fury, but I’m furious.” Natasha grinned, ignoring Clint exaggerated groans. “See what I did there? Anyway, I ran S.H.I.E.L.D. once. Fury’s a capable leader, but he’s not God. And as we both have a coworker who’s an actual deity, you’ll appreciate that.”
Faint staccato drumming rapped on Clint’s side of the container. They heard a barrage of violent shouting in a guttural language. “That’s not Burmese,” the archer noted, checking the tension in his bow. The thunder of boots smacking the deck at frantic speeds grew louder.
“Of course it wouldn’t be anything I know. I speak Portuguese, German, French, Arabic, some Russian–“
“What, now you’re giving me YOUR resume? Who do you think taught you Russian?” Natasha tapped on her bracelets, inspecting the power level. She smirked. Despite not being charged since yesterday, they had retained nearly the full 30,000 volts. As the container’s lid unlatched, the assassin silently finger-counted to three. Clint nodded, and leapt in tandem with her, spinning in opposite directions. The mercenaries were engaged before they could regain focus.
“Where did you learn Armenian?”, Hawkeye yelled, his voice muffled as he ducked a roundhouse kick from one black-masked foe and subdued another with a fierce blow to the sternum.
“Of course. In an afternoon, right? Was Banner there? Did he–“
Natasha winced as her side crunched, pummeled by a bear of a merc twice her body weight. She grimaced and swung her other leg to meet his torso. He stumbled, and she seized that small pocket of confusion to slam her electrified bracelets into his chest. “We’re going to do this now?”
“Well, we could schedule a meeting,” he grunted, trying unsuccessfully to reach his quiver as two men cornered him. “But our profession isn’t really suited to–“
“OK. Fine!”, she yelped, suddenly behind his assailants. A heavy fist slugged each in the back and now they moved as a haladie, polar tips of one weapon. “Yes, Banner was with me. I needed to sort things out. Did you want an apology? Because I’m kind of busy at this particular moment, and even if I wasn’t–” She slid forward, allowing a brutal knife swipe to pass over her head. “It’s just sort of ironic that you’re jealous of a man who occasionally becomes a giant green-eyed monster.”
Clint squinted as a triad soared towards their targets. Boomerang arrow. Shrapnel arrow. Sonic arrow. He said nothing.
“It’s ironic because jealousy is often referred to as a green–“
“I got it,” he gasped, lodging a backhanded punch in an attacker’s face as he released the bow.
The deck was silent except for their labored breathing and the whimpering of surprised, very bruised henchmen. “Well, what about Laura?”, Natasha said, steadying herself. ” We stayed in your house. The whole team. Your son is named after me. Your daughter calls me ‘Auntie Nat.’ What right do you have–“
“None,” Clint murmured. “I love my wife. And my children. And I…I know Banner makes you feel safe, and while we’re talking about irony, I realize the contradictions in that.” He slipped into her grasp, their arms interlocking. “But you can’t turn off a magnet. There’s always going to be a part of us that can’t separate. Tell me I’m wrong, Nat. Look at me and tell me you could stop.”
The assassin tried to speak and permitted herself several false starts before closing her eyes and tightening her grip. In the next room, the codes Fury had sent them to retrieve lay snugly in their protective lockbox. Natasha would confirm receipt with S.H.I.E.L.D, and the agency would congratulate itself on maintaining peace in their time. In a few moments. There was plenty of time.
This story was requested by an anonymous patron who asked for “shipping of Hawkeye and Black Widow from the Avengers.” The decision to have them literally shipped ON a ship came out of a discussion with @jillwebb and @snarke.