Natasha honestly wasn't sure how she ended up on Twitter. Her account was mostly filled with stupid pictures of the Avengers in compromising positions and snarky tweets, but she was relatively low key. Unlike Steve, who had taken a shining to modern social media and had thousands of tweets with a thriving fan base, Natasha was one of the less social of the group, choosing to deliver her sass face-to-face rather than her screen.
Despite the downfall of SHIELD and the precarious standing of the Avengers as agents of good or law-bending vigilantes, they had become reasonably settled and comfortable. The new headquarters were training new agents and superheroes alike, and the recent pushes to incorporate the Avengers as a more public and accountable group led to a certain level of celebrity status, something that Natasha never really expected.
When she signed up, she was accustomed to the shadows, the title of assassin-turned-agent leading her to prefer the anonymity the Black Widow persona and SHIELD offered her. But now, with her 1.2 million Twitter followers, and an oddly popular fan base of Widow supporters, she was definitely in the limelight.
So when she opened Twitter casually to a mention from Steve, pointing for her to check the trends, she definitely wasn't expecting to be number 5 worldwide: #GetBlackWidowAGirlfriend.
As soon as it started, she had text messages and tweets coming in alike, mentions flooding her notifications and a flurry of messages on the WhatsApp group absurdly titled 'Super Bros'.
@BrooklynSteve: You should definitely check out the trends, @BlkWidow.
@ManWithAMetalArm: We all know @BlkWidow has the hots for me guys ;) #buckynat
@GeniusExtraordinaire: Someone let @BlkWidow know the celebrity limelight has finally hit her.
@HawkGuy: I'm 100% in agreement. I know there's a few hotties that you would definitely like @BlkWidow
Her phone hadn't stopped vibrating and beeping as she hastily scrolled through the tweets. Why was everyone suddenly so interested in her love life?
Natasha breathed a sigh of relief as the familiar ringtone of the one person she definitely want to talk to sprung up amongst the swarm.
"Imagine my surprise to see a worldwide trend that wants to get my girlfriend a girlfriend?"
The redhead couldn't help but smile into her phone. She could hear the bustling of Stark Industries in the background, but the voice was snarky. Natasha could tell there was a smile on her face.
"Well, Director Hill, it was definitely a surprise to me too."
She stretched her feet out in the break room of the Headquarters, the couch not quite comfortable, the stiffness from a lack of frequent use. It was still hectic round the training facility as things smoothed over.
"You really need to stop calling me Director. And the last time there was this kind of scandal surrounding you, they'd found out about Liho. A girlfriend is definitely a step in the right direction."
Oddly, the cat had become a internet sensation. After a lazy picture on July 4th, of Liho next to an American flag, the internet had exploded. The idea of the infamous Black Widow owning a slightly chubby cat, feet up and watching the parade on the TV had been something people hadn't expected. She'd purposely left out Maria's feet next to hers, and her body curled into her side. There was a level of privacy that Natasha still wanted to maintain, and her long term girlfriend was definitely one of those things. Well, until now.
"What even caused this? As far as I know, I'm not even out..." Natasha mused.
"Beats me. But just think of people's reaction when they find out we've been having a secret clandestine love affair for the last 4 years..."
Natasha's eyes flickered over the door, Steve's form silhouetted by the strong sun outside. He grinned, and gestured outside. Looks like her times up.
"We'd be on Ellen and everything," Natasha joked, nodding lightly to Steve while standing up, "I gotta go, Mar, more amateur agents to train and all that."
She thought she heard Tony's voice filter through the phone, and smiled, "Well I've just had the pleasure of your colleague arrive, so I'll try not kill him. And remember I was an amateur agent once."
"Oh, you were never amateur," the redhead spoke softly, "You'll be home at 5?"
"Of course. Be sure to put the chicken on when you get home."
Once, those words would have made the ex-assassin flinch, but they slipped out effortlessly every time she spoke to the ex-director.
"I swear to god Steve, if I find out you had anything to do with this, I'll murder you."
The mutters had been constant. The giggles followed her everywhere, and all of a sudden the Avengers training facility had descended into a high school drama.
The tweets were still pouring in, and Natasha was tired. She had come accustomed to being in the public eye. But having every agent looking at her and getting the odd picture. She was used to being intimidating to the young agents, not the focus. When the center opened, the new recruits were shaking in their boots at the sight of her. Now they were gawking. She wasn't sure what was better.
"I swear, Nat. This was not me." Steve muttered in the dining hall, "But it might be good press for the group."
The ex-assassin rolled her eyes. Clint and Phil had already been out and proud for the last 2 years, and their romance had gained the attention of fangirls all over the world.
"Every other one of us is somewhere on the spectrum, Steve. I don't need to be the poster child for gay rights in America."
She had never been ashamed, and neither had Maria. But there was a level of privacy she liked to maintain and the hashtag was delving in to territory that she wanted off limits. Albeit it was funny, and Steve seemed humored by the idea.
"Says the woman with over 1 million Twitter followers and the regular shitposter in the group."
Two years ago, she would have been surprised at Steve's reasonably vulgar language. But numerous missions in dire conditions lead her to barely bat an eyelid.
Her phone buzzed once more.
Pepper Potts [13:04]: Thought you should check this out: http://buzzfeed.com/five-times-black-wid
There was articles now?
"Oh my god."
Steve leaned over as the page loaded. The bold black title taking up the whole screen: Five Times Black Widow Was Really Gay.
Natasha was going to murder the person who wrote this article. No-one would know. They'd just disappear.
"The infamous Black Widow has been seen on a number of occasions to lean towards the sapphic side. Most obvious is the pride float she proudly stood on at NYC Pride in June."
The Avengers float had been a ridiculous idea, but considering the majority of them were some level of LGBT meant it felt fitting. They'd decided to all go, decked out in rainbow flags and body paint, and had a blast. The picture they'd chosen was one of Natasha leaning over the float, her pride flag draped over her shoulders. Maria could be seen faintly in the background.
"This is bullshit."
Natasha glared at Steve, his wide grin mocking her.
"This is hilarious."
By the time Natasha got home, she was frustrated with every single agent they trained, and just wanted a quiet night in with Maria and Liho on the couch.
She'd barely got in the door before her phone rang, Rule the World (Girls) blasting from the speakers. She'd kill Tony for hijacking her phone and setting up personal ringtones.
"Did you enjoy the article?"
Pepper's voice rang out over the speaker as she bent down to pet Liho.
"It was wonderful, thanks. Just the highlight of my day."
Pepper's light laugh filtered through in response, "It's just a bit of harmless fun. It'll blow over in the next few days. To be honest, it can't be worse than the time Tony got so drunk he was found spread eagle naked in the middle of Central Park."
"It's still a pain in my ass."
"Why don't you and Maria come out for drinks tonight? I think Tony is getting everyone together, and you could do with the unwind."
Placing the chicken in the oven, she smiled slightly as she heard the door open and the light clicking of Maria's heels coming through the door.
"I'll ask Maria. She just got back." Natasha replied, craning to get a glimpse of her girlfriend. "It would be good to drown my sorrows in cheap brand vodka."
"We'll pick you up at 8."
Natasha couldn't help but smile at the site of the former director coming into the kitchen. She looked tired, probably Tony's fault, but looked far more relaxed in the t-shirt and plaid tracksuit bottoms she'd just changed into. Natasha thought she'd never looked more beautiful.
"Here's the celebrity of the hour."
"You know there's articles now? Like full on articles about how gay I am." Natasha wound her arms around Maria, fingers twining round the bottom of her t-shirt and grazing the skin of her lower back.
"But you are." The short haired woman muttered, her lips coming down to meet hers.
"And they don't know that."
Natasha loved these moments. She never thought she'd be this domestic. It was never really something she'd seen as part of her life. But having an apartment and a girlfriend and an annoying cat was exactly what she wanted.
"Pepper invited us out for drinks with the gang," Natasha muttered against Maria's collarbone, "I'm tempted to get beyond smashed."
"It would be good to see everyone."
The moment was disrupted by Liho jumping up onto the kitchen counter and pushing between then, his small meows signalling the need for food.
"Feed your cat." Maria murmured, lightly scratching him behind his ear.
"So he's my cat now?"
Going out with the team was always eventful. They had this dive bar that was off the beaten track, and they could generally drink without getting bothered. The place was happy to have Thor drink half of their supply, and always provided them their table in the corner.
This night was a rather large gathering, despite their busy schedules. Rhodey was in from Washington on business, and Bucky was back from his covert mission in Russia, so it was the general group, the extras, and everyone's plus ones.
"First rounds on me!" Tony shouted, the response of cheers coming up from most of the group. It was tradition for Tony to buy the first round, and they always bought the most overly extortionate, most alcoholic drinks they could.
Half an hour later and the first round finished, they were suitable buzzing, apart from Thor, and the conversation was loud and boisterous. It was rare that they managed to all get together, that wasn't focused around fighting an alien invasion or the annoying politics of being a somewhat public organisation.
Natasha had stuck to her word and drank a respectable amount of vodka. Maria's hand felt heavy on her thigh, vaguely listening to Bruce's tale of his work in Cambodia.
"You really should just come out and say it, ya know," Tony said in her ear, loud over the general bustle of the group.
"About what?" Natasha said, taking a deep drink of her vodka and coke.
Tony raised one eyebrow over his obnoxious yellow sunglasses, and smirked at her.
"They have no reason to know about me and Maria. We're not exactly a celebrity couple in the spotlight."
"You know, when I started dating Pepper, it was madness. They were so obsessed with the 'Boss dates Secretary' thing, and utterly dismissed Pepper's actual work. But it blew over in a week, when the next big scandal happened. But then we were happy and we didn't have to hide anything."
"We're not a scandal though. We're just two women who happen to be dating and have been for a long time."
Tony finished his scotch and stood up to move, "Exactly. You've been dating forever, and are basically married. Why not show the world how cute you two are?"
He quickly got out of her reach as she scowled at him. She didn't appreciate being called cute.
His words echoed round her head as she stood to buy a round, the absence of Maria's touch making her shiver slightly. She definitely needed more alcohol.
She woke up to small paws kneading into her shoulder. She wasn't even sure how she got home. Things had gotten a bit mad after her conversation with Tony. Somebody got out a deck of cards and it descended into drinking games.
She vaguely remembered saying goodbye to everyone, her and Maria hand in hand down the street. She remembered Maria's lips on hers, her breath on her neck, the flash of a light.
She scrambled for her phone, pushing Liho off her, the light as she turned on her screen blinding slightly.
52 texts, an insane number of Whatsapp messages, and several snapchats, probably from last night.
She quickly opened her browser, and did a quick google search of herself. News articles flooded her screen.
Black Widow kisses mysterious brunette after night out
Widow's mysterious beau revealed as Maria Hill
Twitter fans respond to BW outing
"Maria," she shook her girlfriends shoulder, trying to ignore the pain behind her eyes and the scratch of her throat. Damn hangovers. "Maria!"
Her girlfriend mumbled, rolling over and briefly opening an eye towards her, "What?"
"They got pictures of us last night. We're all over the web." She shoved her phone into her face.
"Wonderful." The ex director grabbed her phone and threw it down the bed. A thin arm wrapped round her waist and Maria tucked her head into her shoulder. Her cold nose against her collarbone felt oddly relaxing.
"Don't you care?" Natasha muttered as Liho settled between them.
Maria looked up at her, her short hair wild from sleep and her leftover makeup slightly smudged.
"I love you and I don't care that people know."
Natasha looked down at her family, both sleeping peacefully. This was her life, and she was content. She didn't care if the world knew.
Later that day, after several days silence, Natasha uploaded a photo of the three of them in bed, snuggled together.
@BlackWidow: lazy saturday mornings #BlackWidowHasAGirlfriend