Welcome to Girl, Compromised sequel 2.0.
The general consensus was that the original sequel I'd started writing completely sucked, so I've deleted that and started over with this one. There are already changes in this first chapter, even though there are parts that I kept from the first chapter of the original sequel, but I promise that this is definitely going to be a reboot and hopefully one that is more enjoyable and less sucky. This chapter should be the only one that resembles the original sequel.
Thank you to everyone who sent me your thoughts and opinions on the now deleted sequel, and thank you to everyone who's deciding to stay on this journey that I'm trying to redo. Hopefully it's better. As for my song recs that I do almost every chapter, there are going to be repeats from the original sequel because some of those songs were too perfect.
That being said, if you want extra emotions, listen to "Poison & Wine" - The Civil Wars. I know it's a repeat, but it's a damn good song that's damn fitting for this chapter.
Let me know what you think of this. Seriously, if there's anything that seems out of character or weird, please tell me instead of letting me get through 10 chapters of stuff that sucks. So these first few chapters will definitely need feedback because I'm going with a different approach, and I really need to know if I'm going in the right direction and what y'all think. So talk to me!
If this mission had been any other mission, it would have ended with Clint and Natasha still in their uniforms, covered in blood and sweat and reeking to high heaven of gun powder and sweat as they tried to race towards an adrenaline-fueled sexual release. If this mission had been any other mission, Natasha would have grabbed Clint's short blond hair and tugged hard, crushing his mouth brutally against hers as he fucked her so hard against the wall she would have reverted back to thinking solely in Russian, something she only did whenever she was completely out of her mind.
But this mission ended in shawarma. It ended in exhausted, sore muscles, and a mouthful of shawarma that was probably in the better half of all the shawarma Natasha had ever eaten in her life. As she took another bite of the delicious, calorie-filled meal, she noticed the irony that she had had shawarma long before she'd ever eaten chocolate chip pancakes, and she couldn't help wondering how real her life actually was. Especially after everything that had happened with the aliens and Loki and punching the shit out of Clint, she was pretty sure that her life wasn't actually a real thing.
She lifted her green eyes and let them fall exhaustedly on Clint, silently assessing his mental, emotional, and physical states as he ate his own shawarma. Honestly, he looked more tired than anything. He looked completely worn out as if he'd been going nonstop—she could see the evidence of his exertion in the light red-rimming around his eyes and the unnatural pale blue his eyes only turned whenever he'd gone over 24 hours without sleep.
Clint felt Natasha's gaze on him, and he glanced back at her, his eyes meeting hers. Subtly, Natasha cocked one red eyebrow up as her way of silently asking him if he were ok. Without saying a word, Clint blinked back to let her know that they would talk about it later, and Natasha replied by pressing her lips together. After seven years together, the two assassins had a language that only they understood, and Natasha had never been more grateful for it than in that moment.
"Ok, team, I have a proposal," Stark said suddenly, causing Natasha's attention to snap back to what was happening in the rest of the world around her. "What do you say we all just go back and stay at the Tower tonight? It'll be hell trying to get out of here for anyone else who lives anywhere else in the city."
"I'm ok with it," Dr. Banner replied almost immediately. "Truthfully, I think that probably is the smartest thing to do. Keep us all together, anyway."
"Perfect. The good doctor is in. What say you, Thunder-And-Lightning-Very-Very-Frightening?" Stark redirected his attention to Thor.
"Your hospitality is greatly appreciated. I would very much like to take you up on your offer," Thor replied with a gracious nod.
"Awesome. Spy Kids?" Stark narrowed his dark eyes at the two spies, his expression expectant and patient. Natasha hesitated as she tried to think of the right thing to do without waiting for too long. Realistically, she knew that the smart thing to do was to decline the invitation, to just suck up how long it would take to get to the closest safe house she and Clint had in the city so that they could recuperate in peace and quiet together. However, she wasn't entirely sure how Clint's leg would hold up. With a quick glance, she looked down at it and tried to calculate how long she thought he would take to limp through the destruction of downtown and beyond when they could just stay at Stark's Tower. She lifted her eyes up to Clint's, again silently asking him what he wanted to do. If Clint really didn't want to stay at the Tower, he'd make it known, but he just stared back at her, his way of letting her know that he was fine with whatever she decided.
"We're in," she confirmed as she looked back to Stark.
"Good. Cap?" Stark moved on as if Natasha had barely spoken.
"Alright," Steve answered in a calm, steady voice. Natasha noticed the easy way in which the young Army captain replied—any ounce of the animosity that had formerly existed between him and Stark now seemed to be gone, and she couldn't say that she minded all that much. She couldn't say that she felt as though she knew either Steve or Stark all that well, but she felt that she got pretty accurate reads on people, and she picked up on the fact that both Stark and Steve read as good guys.
Satisfied with everyone's responses, Stark turned back towards Banner and started going on and on about something to do with science. And seeing as how no one else seemed to give a shit about what Stark was blathering on about, and no one else seemed to be giving a shit about anything other than going the fuck to sleep, Natasha turned back to Clint.
"How's your leg?" she asked quietly, careful to keep her voice low enough so that just Clint could hear without straining to make out what she was saying. She didn't know if he felt comfortable enough to let the rest of the Avengers know about his hearing, and even so, it wasn't her place to be the one to make the reveal. That was Clint's decision—not hers.
"It's ok," he murmured back at the same volume. "It hurts like a bitch."
Sympathetically, Natasha offered up a quiet nod. He rarely liked to admit when he was hurt, so if he didn't feel the desire to cover up how injured he actually felt. Earlier during the battle, he'd jumped off the roof and gone crashing through a plate glass window, thereby injuring his ankle and giving himself a nasty gash up the back of his calf that had made Natasha visibly wince the first time she'd looked at it.
"I bet," she agreed.
"Your head?" Clint asked. Natasha watched his eyes flick up to the cut she'd received on her forehead earlier, and she gave a nonchalant shrug.
"It's ok," she replied. "I'll live through it."
"You sure?" A hint of a smile tugged the corners of Clint's mouth upward, and Natasha couldn't help the smile that threatened to overtake her own mouth. Up until that moment, she'd been worried about the Clint Barton she would get back from Loki, but as she watched the archer's dry sense of humor still manage to persevere despite everything he'd been through so far, she felt her anxiety start to ebb just the tiniest bit.
"I'm not sure, but here's to hoping," she answered. With a discreet smile just for her, he brought his shawarma back up to his mouth and took another bite.
Oh, Clint, Natasha thought to herself as she tried not to scrutinize his every move. What on Earth happened to you? And where do we go from here?
But Natasha didn't get to know these answers until several hours later. She pushed the door open to the bedroom that she and Clint got to share on the top floor of Stark Tower, inwardly sighing as she caught sight of the bed. Behind her, Clint limped into the room.
"Jesus. It isn't home, but by God, I think this'll do," he sighed, his voice coming out with just the slightest edge to it the way it did whenever he was in pain. "Want first shower?"
Natasha felt her tongue grow thick in her mouth. Even though she could sense that he wasn't 100% Clint, he was still Clint. It was so like him to selflessly ask her if she wanted the first shower—there he was dirty and sweaty and exhausted, and yet he was still asking her if she wanted the privilege of getting clean first. She turned her gaze on him and noticed the differences in what they were currently doing versus what they usually would have been doing.
She and Clint were supposed to be on top of each other now, grabbing and grinding and bruising each other with vicious kisses that verged on breaking skin and drawing blood. But that was clearly not going to happen tonight. Instead of fucking each other senseless, they were boneless and weightless as they tried to pull themselves together long enough to make sense of who was going to shower before the other.
"No. You can have it," she replied. Clint looked as though he were about to argue, but he just quietly exhaled instead of protesting. "I have some extra clothes for you in my duffel bag." He glanced over at her with a curious expression in his blue eyes, and Natasha shrugged half-heartedly. "I was planning on getting you back. So I packed stuff for you."
"Thanks." Clint's voice was nothing but genuine, and he crossed to the bag before glancing up at her. "Mind if I take this into the bathroom?"
"Not at all." Natasha watched him nod and then lift the bag over his shoulder as he started his painful limp into the bathroom, quiet as he shut the door behind him. She swallowed hard as soon as she realized that she was by herself. Her body screamed at her to fall back into the soft mattress and to bury her head into the pillow as she lost herself into the glorious unconscious state known as sleep, but she didn't let herself. Instead, she made herself sit upright so that she would be ready to shower as soon as Clint was done.
That was one thing that the two did separately. Well, unless they were planning on having shower sex. But it was one of the few times that the assassins could get some alone time to decompress and let go of all the stresses underneath the hot spray of water, and it was something that neither of them was willing to give up unless they were actually going to have shower sex, a feat that they only attempted every now and then since they were too impatient to really try to find a good way of going about the complicated act.
Usually, Clint showered in under seven minutes, but today, he was in and out in under four. Natasha's body went still with surprise as she heard the shower switch off from behind the closed door. Clint took a fast shower on a regular day, but he really must not have wanted to stay in for that long if he was going to take a four-minute-max shower. She pulled herself together long enough to crawl to the end of the bed so that she didn't look like she'd been waiting for him to come out, even thought that was exactly what she'd been doing.
Barely any time passed before Clint opened the door, and he stepped out while towel-drying his hair. "You should be good."
"Thanks," Natasha murmured as she passed him. He didn't show any indication of having heard her, and she only realized after she'd shut the door behind her and started up the shower that he probably hadn't had his hearing aids in. Quickly, she undressed and leapt into the shower so fast that she knew she was going to have her own personal shower time beat before she'd even let the water completely drench her hair. More than anything, she wanted to be with Clint. She wanted to sit and talk to him and figure out what had happened, what Loki had done to him.
God, she couldn't stop playing Loki's words over and over in her head. At various points throughout the battle, she'd remembered Loki's chilling words, the confidence of his tone, and even the coolness of his eyes as he'd promised her that he was going to have Clint kill her in all the ways she feared most. Even though she was alone, she swallowed hard and scrubbed her hair as hard as she could. She knew that she was being irrational, but running her own nails through her head made her think that she could scratch Loki's memory out.
She rinsed the shampoo and then the conditioner out of her hair as she tried not to hate herself. Technically, she didn't even have any Loki memories to go off of. She just had one solitary incident with him, and Clint was off in the other room with about a thousand probably coursing through his head right then. She didn't know what the hell he'd gone through, but she knew she wanted to find out.
Natasha shut the water off and stepped out onto the bathmat outside the shower only to get dressed faster than she'd ever dressed before. It was just a matter of minutes, and then she was done, opening the bathroom door and crossing back into the bedroom. She had half-expected Clint to be on his way to go to sleep, but he looked alert and awake as she crossed towards the bed. His blue eyes landed on her, and he gazed at her steadily, as if he were watching every little move that she was making. Sometimes he did this—he watched her the way he would watch one of his targets. He looked her over head to toe and then back up, trying to find out what made her work physically and emotionally, and quite honestly, Natasha couldn't fault him for it when she did the same thing to him.
It was a spy thing—just out of habit. They looked at each other and tried to figure out what they didn't know just by looking, and sometimes they were successful at discovering little things about each other. But today, Clint seemed to find nothing. His face was appreciative and quiet and nothing more.
"Hey," she quietly greeted.
"Hey," he said back. Natasha pulled back the covers of the comforter and sank down into the bed, her muscles instantly relaxing into the luxury that Tony Stark provided in his guest bedrooms. For a second, everything almost felt normal. She could almost pretend that they were back in their apartment with no one else around, but that was only if she focused hard enough.
"It's been almost four months since the last time I saw you," she said as she kept her voice cool and controlled so as not to give anything away.
"Three months, and a little over a week," Clint specified in that tone of voice that was so him she wanted to cry.
"Yeah. That," she said. Silence passed between them as they tried to figure out what to say. "Clint—"
"Nat—" Clint stopped talking as he realized that she was talking, and Natasha stopped speaking the moment she heard Clint's voice. Grinning wryly, she looked down at the covers.
"Do you want to—to talk?" she asked, hoping that she didn't sound as awkward as she felt.
"Not right now." Clint's voice was steady and firm, letting her know that he was standing by what he was saying. She nodded and looked up at him.
"Ok," she said. "I'll listen whenever you want to."
"I know." He took a breath and let it out, his shoulders lowering with each ounce of oxygen that he let drawn out of him. "Honestly, my head's killing me right now, and I can't focus on much else other than my leg."
"Didn't you get any pain meds?" Natasha asked with a frown. Clint shook his head. "I have some in my bag. You can have some if you want."
"Ok." Clint usually argued with her, but tonight, he surprised her again and didn't fight her on it. Natasha wasn't sure if she wished that he would argue, but she didn't give any indication as to how she felt about it as she slipped out from beneath the covers to cross over to the duffel she'd left inside the bathroom. There in the side pocket right where she'd left it was a bottle of Percocet. She pulled it out and lifted it triumphantly into the air. Without thinking, she tossed it at him.
"Think fast," she said. Clint lifted a hand to catch it, but it bounced off his wrist and fell onto the bed. He stared at it as if he truly hadn't expected to drop it.
"Not fair," he mumbled, but Natasha could tell that he didn't mean it. She crossed back to the bed and slid back beneath the covers, watching him pick up the bottle and unscrew the lid. Only then did she notice the glass of water on his nightstand, and she wondered where he'd gotten it from. Most likely, while she'd been in the shower, he had wandered out into the main area of the floor Stark had stuck them on, and he'd managed to find a glass and a water source.
Clint put the pill in his mouth and tipped back his glass of water, swallowing it. He grimaced and set the glass back down on his nightstand. "There we go. Hopefully that'll do something."
"Yeah, I hope so," Natasha agreed. And again, they were left to their silence that was full of things they both wanted to say but couldn't figure out how to. That was one thing that hadn't changed with them over the years—they both sucked with words and how to talk about feelings when they both couldn't stop feeling the damn things. It always struck Natasha as funny how she could share a living space with this man, eat the food he cooked without ever once worrying about him poisoning her, and raise a cat with him, but she couldn't bring herself to tell him all the words that sharpened the edge of her tongue with the momentum they longed to burst forth with.
"Natasha…" Clint's words trailed off, and he sighed, letting his head fall back against his pillow in mild frustration.
"We don't have to right now. We don't have to," Natasha said reassuringly. Purely out of habit, she lifted her hand and placed it on the inside of his wrist. She was used to Clint leaning into her touch or relaxing beneath her hand, but as soon as she placed her bare skin on his, he reacted in a way he never had before—he jumped. He jumped as if she had burned him, and he stared at her in a way that she could only describe as accusing. He blinked in surprise, and then he looked down at her hand still on his and swallowed.
"Sorry," he said. "I don't…that just…"
"It's ok. I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking." Natasha drew her hand away, ignoring how badly she wanted to touch him and curl up into him. She should have been holding him or playing with his hair or something, but she couldn't make herself move.
"No, it's—it's me being…I'm sorry." Clint swallowed again and looked away. Natasha shook her head, but he couldn't see her. Suddenly, he looked back at her with his blazing blue eyes, the intensity bright in them. "I missed you. I really, really missed you."
Despite the heaviness of the unsaid words pressing in on them, Natasha found it in herself to laugh, and so she let out a stutter that managed to pass for a laugh, meriting a small smile from Clint. "God. Yeah. I missed you, too. I really did."
"Noelle?" Clint's face suddenly turned concerned. Tension entered his facial muscles, widening his eyes and making his mouth go still. "Is someone watching Noelle?"
"Yeah, I got Allison from down the hall to take care of her," Natasha replied before Clint could become any more worried. "We'll have to change the locks again, though, because I had to tell her where to find the spare."
"Oh, ok." Clint visibly relaxed, and Natasha couldn't help smiling.
"I swear you love that cat more than you love me," she remarked. Clint tossed her a look, but she could have sworn that she saw a smirk deep in the lines of his face, a face she would have known without needing to look at it at all.
"Not true," he protested. "I was just concerned for her safety."
"I know." Natasha leaned back into the pillows, and she turned her head to look at Clint. Slowly but surely, he was starting to drift off. "Hey. Clint."
He blinked his eyes several times as he realized she'd said his name. "Yeah?"
"Hearing aids." She tapped her ear to remind him that he'd put them back in after his shower. His eyes widened just a little, and he reached up to pull them out when he stopped himself halfway, pausing to look at her with a slight frown on his face.
"Yeah?" She watched a cloud pass over his face, and she waited for him to elaborate on it. He pressed his lips together and took a deep breath.
"I'm not safe to be around right now," he said carefully, as if he were afraid that his words would make her bolt from the room.
"I don't think you're something I can't handle," Natasha replied, her own voice careful as she watched his face react to her statement. He looked disturbed by her response, and for a moment, she thought that he was going to argue with her, but he just sighed.
"Ok," he said. "I just…wanted to let you know."
"Ok. I have received the message, and I'm not going anywhere. Just so you know," Natasha answered. She kept her eyes on him as he slowly took out his hearing aids and placed them on the nightstand before leaning over and turning the light off. Just like that, they were plunged in darkness. Natasha sensed exactly where Clint was in relation to her, and she sensed precisely how far away he was and how he was lying. He was lying facing her, his arm tensed as if he were stopping himself from moving towards her to drape it over her waist the way he always did whenever they fell asleep together.
This wasn't how it was supposed to happen. They were supposed to fall asleep next to each other, protecting each other, curled into each other. That was what was normal. Not…whatever this was. But Natasha knew better than to push anything. She would never push Clint to do anything he wasn't comfortable with, and it was clear that he wasn't comfortable with being too close to her right then, as much as it killed her to acknowledge it.
She longed to turn the light on and make him listen to her. She longed to touch him and reassure him that she was there for him, that she always had been and always would be. She wanted to show him that she was willing to wait for him to talk as long as he needed her to because she of all people understood what it was like to be unmade—she wanted to do all of this.
But she didn't.
Instead, she lay completely still and closed her eyes. For the first time in a long time, she was falling asleep in a bed beside Clint, but she'd never felt more alone.