This is a recursive fanfic - it's based off of weepingangelofnewnewyork's Melt, which can be found in her oneshots file, Of Arrows and Arachnids.

It turned out pretty tropey, but I kinda like it. Hope you like it, too! :)


It was the headache that woke him.

A dull pain, pulsing weakly at the base of his skull, spreading all the way up to his forehead.

Clint had gotten wasted frequently enough to recognize the aftereffects of a drunken night before he even opened his eyes. He groaned weakly as a wave of nausea washed over him, willing his head to stop buzzing.

What did I do last night?

Gradually, he became more aware of his surroundings, enough to recognize the fact that he was lying on his back in bed. He forced his eyes open, and his gaze came to rest on an unfamiliar ceiling.

He blinked a few times, bewildered.

Where am I?

Squinting in the dim light, he rolled over onto his side to examine his surroundings. The digital clock on the nightstand read seven-fifteen, but any trace of sunlight that might have been creeping up the horizon was effectually blocked out by a set of heavy, red curtains – the only light source in the room was a table lamp on the other side of the bed.

A bottle of Advil sat on the nightstand next to the clock. Clint popped it open and poured two or three pills onto his tongue. He swallowed them and flopped onto his back, staring up at the ceiling as he gradually returned to his senses.

He was in a hotel. That much was obvious. It was also becoming evident that the buzzing in his head was in fact not another symptom of the hangover, but rather was the sound of the shower running. His mind easily filled in the blanks – he and Natasha were on a mission, they were staying in a hotel, and she was already up and showering.

He noticed abstractedly that her bed was already made, and it struck him as odd – housekeeping couldn't have been in yet, as he was still in bed, and he knew Natasha wouldn't make her bed if she didn't have to.

(In hindsight, that should have been his first clue.)

Slowly, gradually, more details began flooding into his mind. A target. A mission. Philadelphia. Project D.A.Y.B.R.E.A.K.

That's it. STRIKE Team: Delta had just finished rooting out an underground network of notorious drug lords in Philly. He and Nat were staying in a hotel, and exfil was scheduled to arrive on Saturday.

But what about last night?

Sluggishly, Clint sat up, and—

Wait.

Why am I naked?

It wasn't unheard of for him to sleep undressed, but if he was sharing a hotel room with Natasha, he would ordinarily have been wearing boxers, at the very least.

(That should have been his second clue.)

Clint tossed his covers aside and swung his legs over the side of the bed, feeling oddly stiff and sore as he did so (third clue). He rose to his feet, and found himself standing on a tuxedo and a dress of Natasha's – shiny, smooth, and red. The clothing was in an untidy heap on the floor, which puzzled him – he and Natasha were hardly neatniks, but it seemed like they would at least have hung up their expensive formal wear before going to bed. (Clue four.)

Clint mentally shrugged and started across the room towards his suitcase. He removed a fresh set of clothing and began dressing himself. By the time he fastened his jeans, the last vestiges of bleariness and confusion had faded, and he was able to think more clearly.

He had just tugged on his shirt when realization struck, and his chest constricted painfully.

Slowly, he scanned the room, taking in the pile of clothes on the floor and the two beds – one neat, one messy. Too messy. Then his gaze moved to the bathroom, where Natasha was showering.

I'm imagining things.

Slowly, Clint approached the messy bed. Sitting on the nightstand near the clock was Natasha's jewelry. Natasha's pistol. Natasha's widow bites.

The bed he had woken up in – that wasn't his bed.

It was Natasha's bed.

(Five.)

His mind spinning, Clint sank down onto his own bed.

It's a coincidence. It has to be, there's no way…

What the hell happened last night!?

He leaned back onto the bed, and slowly, the night's events filtered back into his head.

xxx

"Wait, so what is this shindig for again?"

Clint stood in front of the bedroom mirror, viciously twisting his bowtie in submission. He surveyed his reflection in the mirror: he was clean, freshly shaved, and tuxedo-clad, all ready to go, down to his glossy black shoes.

Except for his rebellious bowtie.

Natasha made a noise of disinterest from the bathroom. "I don't know," she admitted. Clint glanced towards the bathroom door, which was open, spilling golden light into the bedroom, but all that was visible of his partner was her shadow. "Some millionaire SOB who's staying here is having some kind of a blowout in the lobby," she went on. "I just thought it would be a nice way to celebrate the end of Project Daybreak."

Clint finally worked his bowtie into a satisfactory shape. "Groovy," he commented. He turned towards the bathroom. "You about ready?"

In response, the bathroom light flicked off, and his partner stepped into the bedroom. She was dressed in a short, close-fitting dress – shiny, smooth, and red. It was sleeveless, and offset by a simple pair of diamond post earrings, and her hair was secured off her neck by an intricate silver comb.

She smirked. "Whenever you are. Also, please never say the word 'groovy' again."

Clint let out a rather breathless laugh as she started for the door and stepped into her heeled shoes. You look beautiful. The words were on his tongue, but he bit it before they could slip off. He had determined long ago to never let on to the spy how he felt about her – they were partners, and telling her he had feelings for her would only screw things up. And anyway, he was well on his way to being over her.

Or so he told himself.

"So, are you ready?" Natasha turned to him, raising her eyebrows.

He smiled as he joined her by the door. "Let's do this."

It was a short trip to reach the party – a brisk stroll to the elevators, two floors down, and a trek through several hallways to the lobby. The lobby was an energetic flurry of partygoers – it seemed that most of the hotel's current boarders had come down to participate in celebrating some unknown event that they didn't know about and didn't care about. Said SOB had arranged to have multiple tables set up in the wide area, and there was a buffet table on the far side of the room and an open bar across the way.

Through an unspoken agreement, the two SHIELD agents headed for the bar, cutting a winding trail through the scattered tables. After procuring a vodka each, they made their way to a table in the corner of the room.

Unsurprisingly, Natasha took the chair against the wall. With one wall at her back, another on her left, and a full view of the room in front of her, Clint knew she would feel unexposed while still being aware of her surroundings. He claimed the seat across from her, taking a drag of vodka.

A few minutes passed, filled with sips of alcohol and companionable silence.

"So," Clint spoke up. Natasha looked up, her eyes catching the light. "Got any plans for the night?"

She quirked an eyebrow. "Drink, chat, hang out."

Clint nodded archly. "Nothing too crazy, then."

Natasha smirked. "Well, if I get bored, I did see a couple guys by the bar who weren't terrible-looking."

There was an odd sort of pressure on Clint's windpipe, making it difficult to force a laugh. She was joking, of course – even if Natasha was the type of girl who picked up guys at bars, Clint knew her goal tonight was to relax and celebrate the end of Project: D.A.Y.B.R.E.A.K., she wasn't aiming to hook up. And neither was he.

But he still wasn't exactly thrilled by her comment.

Maybe I'm not as over her as I thought I was…

Of course I am, he interrupted himself. I'm getting over her… I'm probably just feeling protective about her since she's my partner. That's all it is – I'm just feeling a natural, brotherly sort of—

"There's the one. With the crew cut." Natasha indicated a tall blonde guy who was crossing the room. "Not bad, huh?"

Clint took a large gulp of vodka, feeling it burn its way down his throat. Something told him that he was going to need a lot to drink tonight.

xxx

The shower went off in the bathroom.

Clint sat up on his bed and looked apprehensively towards the bathroom door. He didn't think he wanted to see Natasha until he figured out exactly what had happened last night. Otherwise, he would have no idea what to say to her.

A few tense minutes ticked by. Then Clint heard the hair dryer start up, and he exhaled in relief. Good, I have a few more minutes at least.

He returned to the task of reliving the events of the previous night.

He knew he must have drunk quite a bit – the rest of his memories from the night were rather jumbled and blurry around the edges. He couldn't remember everything that he and Natasha had chatted about at the party, but he was pretty sure that something kind of important had happened after he went to the bathroom…

xxx

The room was tilting a little when Clint came out of the bathroom. He had long since shed the heavy jacket of his tuxedo, but the absence of this garment didn't seem to be doing much for the heat. The noise from the party echoed oddly in his ears, and it was difficult to get a sense of direction, but he managed to stay upright as he made his way back to Natasha.

Her face was hidden behind her glass when he reached the table, and when she lowered it, Clint noticed detachedly that her cheeks were flushed, a sign that she was already getting buzzed.

Without really knowing why, Clint took his chair and slid it around next to Natasha's, trapping her on all four sides by the two walls, the table, and himself.

She looked at him, laughing, as he collapsed into his seat. "Why'd you do that?"

"Do what?" Clint teased.

She laughed again, another sign that the alcohol was starting to affect her. "You moved your chair."

Clint grinned and shoved his chair closer so it knocked into hers. "I just wanna be near you," he drawled.

"Let me out," Natasha laughed. Her green eyes were sparkling, a combined result of the vodka and her laughter, and Clint's pulse stuttered as he gazed into them.

Damn, she's so hot… Fortunately, he was just sober enough to keep this particular thought to himself.

"Why?" he asked instead, lounging back in his chair.

She shook her near-empty glass in his face. "I wanna get a refill."

Clint sat up hopefully. "Can you get me a gin and tonic, too?"

She rolled her eyes, laughing. "You've had enough to drink tonight."

"No, I haven't!" Clint argued.

Natasha sat back in her chair. "Let's see… you've had two vodkas… a scotch… a beer…" She kept talking, ticking off each item on her fingers as she went, but Clint wasn't listening. He wasn't interested in rehashing his drink history; he was more interested in the shapes Natasha's lips were making as she spoke.

Her eyes were fascinating, too – he could never get bored of watching them. They were fastened on the ceiling now, long lashes fluttering reflectively.

You said you were over her, a little voice in the back of his head reminded him. You need to stop staring at her.

He knew the little voice was right, but at the moment, he was a bit too drunk to care. And a bit too preoccupied with how soft and smooth her skin looked…

He felt a hand on his wrist. He looked down in surprise, to find Natasha guiding his hand away from her bare leg and placing it in his lap. He hadn't even realized he was trying to touch her. He looked up at her, horrified, but she had withdrawn her hand without so much as pausing in her monologue.

"… and then you said you wanted a gin and tonic, and I said you shouldn't," she finished, looking him artlessly in the eye. "So you've definitely had enough to drink."

Clint looked down at his wayward hand for a moment.

Natasha brandished her glass again. "So can I get a refill now?"

"Sure," Clint said absently. He stood up, holding the table for support, and Natasha slipped past him and headed towards the bar.

He was such an idiot. He wasn't over her, he'd never been over her; he wasn't even almost over her. This whole time, he'd been pining for her – and the worst of it was that this whole time, however unconsciously, he'd been holding out hope that maybe, just maybe, she would someday return his feelings.

Her reaction to his touch just now was all the proof he needed that he'd been fooling himself. She had been calm, indifferent – had moved his hand away from her like it was second nature, like he was just another of those lecherous drunks who were always trying to feel her up. She didn't feel anything for him, she'd never felt anything for him – she had always thought of him as just a friend. As a partner.

And she always would.

He had to get over her. He had to. He needed to stop kidding himself that his halfhearted attempts were dulling his emotions, and he needed to take real steps to ensure that he was getting over her. Otherwise, he was just going to keep getting his hopes up, and then keep getting disappointed. He had to get over her.

But how?

"Hey there, gorgeous."

Clint turned, surprised to find a tall brunette hanging by his elbow. Slender, pretty.

But not Natasha.

He was about to turn away in disinterest, but was prevented when the brunette slid long, cold fingers behind the waistband of his pants.

"I noticed you looked a little lonely," she purred.

And then, inspiration struck. He hadn't been planning on hooking up tonight, but now that he thought about it, what if it was a good idea? Spending time in the arms of a pretty woman could be just what he needed to forget his feelings for Natasha – the first step in moving on in earnest.

It just might work.

Clint caught the brunette by the hips and pulled her up against him (her hips, he noticed subconsciously, were higher than Natasha's and too narrow).

"Interested now?" the brunette cooed.

Again, Clint hesitated. What about Natasha? He half-glanced towards the bar.

Well… what about her?

Natasha wasn't interested in him. He didn't owe her anything, wasn't committed to her in any way.

She probably didn't give a rat's ass about who he hooked up with.

Clint took the brunette's face in one hand and covered her mouth with his.

She hummed happily, her fingers tightening greedily around his waistband. Her perfume was strong, sort of orangey and sour, but her mouth felt very nice against his, and her hair was slick and smooth when he buried his fingers in it.

There was a shrill clatter nearby, and he jumped away from the brunette, feeling oddly as though he'd been caught lying or cheating. Then he turned to see what the commotion was.

His heart missed a beat.

Natasha was standing frozen about twenty feet away, seemingly oblivious to the shards of glass and clear vodka that was pooling around her shoes. Her hand was curled in front of her like she was holding an invisible cup, and her lips were parted in shock.

She was also staring at him with a strange expression in her eyes, like she was suddenly seeing him in a whole new light.

Then the expression vanished, replaced by pure rage.

She began stalking towards him, eyes blazing. Clint's heartrate was climbing, and he tried to back away, but the brunette, oblivious to the life-threatening danger they were in, wrapped an arm firmly around his waist, standing her ground.

"Is there a problem?" she asked snidely, as Nat reached them.

Natasha didn't even spare the brunette a glance. Her hand closed around Clint's forearm, and she yanked him towards the hall.

The room was revolving around him, and he stumbled, trying to keep up with Natasha's determined pace. He could hear the brunette shouting behind them, but he didn't turn around and she didn't come after them.

Natasha was furious – he could practically feel the hot anger radiating off of her in waves, and he could definitely feel it in the crushing grip of her fingers. She took a sharp right and dragged him through a door, and then he was staggering up a staircase, grabbing her shoulder with his free hand to keep from face-planting on the steps.

They had barely reached the top of the staircase when a vague question stirred in his mind – why was she so angry with him? It was none of her business who he kissed. His alcohol-dulled mind was unable to form a solution as he stumbled down the hallway and into their suite.

Natasha slammed the door behind them. She pulled Clint roughly into the back room, slamming that door, too, then threw him down onto the bed.

Natasha's palm was pressing into the center of his chest, and she was bending over him, breathing hard. But even now, she seemed too livid to speak, and she just stared at him for a minute, eyes flashing dangerously.

"You," she seethed, "are not allowed." She leaned over him until he could feel her warm breath on his face. "Not. Allowed."

She glowered at him a moment, driving her point home, then she straightened, moving to the far side of the room. Without her hand pinning him down, Clint started to slip off the edge of the bed, and he scrambled up to keep from hitting the floor. Stars whirled before his eyes, and he moved to the center of the bed and leaned back against the pillows, willing the room to stop spinning.

"Why?" he finally managed to croak.

Natasha had yanked off her shoes and was hurling them, one by one, at the wall. "Because you can't do that!" she snapped, jerking the silver comb out of her hair. Her fiery curls tumbled free around her shoulders. "You can't just go around kissing people like that, you have no right!" She snatched a small stack of clothing from the floor and whirled, glaring at him. "We're done here. You better be in your own damn bed when I get back!" She pivoted and headed for the bathroom to change.

Clint struggled to sit up. "Nat!"

She spun around, scowling accusingly at him.

Clint's thoughts were swirling in his mind, but somehow, he managed to grasp the one that had crossed his mind on the stairs. "Look, Nat," he panted, flopping onto his back again. "All I did was kiss her. Why does it matter?"

Natasha's glare grew fiercer. She stood still for a minute, her hands curling into fists, then started towards him, the pile of clothing spilling unnoticed to the floor.

Clint watched nervously as she neared the bed. If she decided to punch him, there wasn't much he could do about it in his current state. The mattress shook as she climbed onto it, then suddenly, she was slipping one knee over onto the far side of his hips.

Her hands hit the mattress on either side of his head, and she bent over him, eyes burning from under a scowling brow.

"Because you're mine, goddammit!" she snarled. She leaned down and kissed him between the eyes.

Clint was too drunk, shocked, and thrilled to speak. He lay still, hypnotized, as even more possessive, heated kisses landed on his cheek, his chin, the tip of his nose, the corner of his lip… He was losing his breath, losing his senses, losing his mind.

Then she sat up, staring fiercely down at him. "You're all mine," she breathed, "all of you. Understand?"

Clint nodded faintly.

Natasha's eyes flicked down, and she pressed one last kiss to the side of his nose. Then she straightened and started to ease off of him, having apparently proved her point.

"Tasha." Clint caught her knee before she could slide it off over his chest. She paused, looking down at him.

Clint knew he should let her go. They were both wasted, and he shouldn't let this get any further.

But she was watching him with a fierce light in her eyes, and he knew how little it would take for her to kiss him like that again. And the temptation was just too strong.

So he said, "Prove it."

Something eager and feral sparked in her eyes, and she went for his throat, attacking him with wolfish aggression. He wasn't sure whether she was kissing him or mauling him, but either way, it was effective. His head swam with pleasure as he knotted his fingers through her soft hair, as if to give himself the illusion that he was controlling her.

Her mouth worked its way down his neck, stopping only when she reached his collar. Then he felt a tug around his neck, a loosening, and she drew her head back with his bowtie between her teeth.

She tossed it aside, and a warning bell went off in the back of Clint's head – he had to stop this. They were both drunk, and they were taking it too far—

And then her supple lips closed over his, and he forgot how to think.

Her mouth was warm and exciting, and he pressed his hands into the back of her head, driving her hungrily closer. He was vaguely aware of her fingers at his throat, unfastening the buttons of his shirt, and he swept her hair aside, running his hand down the back of her neck till her found her zipper. He unzipped her dress as far as it would go, the swarming elation in his head building to a frenzy, and then he slipped one hand into her dress, resting his palm on the warm skin of her back.

A thrill rolled through him – he had never touched her like this before, and he would have been content to stay like this for hours; her soft mouth pressed to his, his hand claiming just this small part of her as his.

But her fingers were steadily working their way down his shirt towards his waistband, and her growl of impatience vibrated against his lips when she reached a particularly stubborn button. And he knew there was so much more he could do than just touch her back.

So much for not hooking up tonight.

xxx

The rest of Clint's memories were tangled and hazy. He vaguely recalled her fingers in his hair, her hot breath on his ear, her name on his tongue. But the remaining events of the night were a blur of heat and pleasure, as if he had slowly grown more and more drunk on her as the night progressed.

I don't believe this.

Clint sat there in shock for a moment. He couldn't believe he had actually slept with her – it was something he'd been fantasizing about for a long time, but he was still stunned that it had legitimately happened.

And rather disappointed that it had happened when they were drunk – not only because he consequently couldn't remember most of it, but also because it was possible that it hadn't been genuine on her part.

He wondered what her feelings were on the matter.

Clint jumped when the bathroom lock clicked free. He watched apprehensively as the door swung open, his heartrate accelerating, then Natasha stepped out.

Her eyes met his, then she crossed the room to the bed.

Neither of them spoke as she climbed up onto the end of the bed and sat cross-legged facing him, her gaze resting in her lap. A moment passed in silence.

"So," Clint said.

Natasha twisted her mouth to one side, eyes still on her lap.

"Look, Barton," she said at last. "I think we should just forget about it."

Clint felt his heart fall. "Oh…"

So it wasn't real on her side.

Of course.

"I mean, it was bound to happen at some point, right?" She finally lifted her head, her green eyes fastening on him. "We spend a lot of time together, we both probably drink too much, and…" She inclined her head, her red curls falling forward over her shoulder. "It was just a stupid hook-up, Barton," she stated. "We just have to move forward."

Clint remained quiet for a minute. His chest ached with disappointment as he watched her calmly pick at the bedspread – of course his love was unrequited, he was an idiot to think that it could have been anything but. Of course she didn't feel anything for him beyond friendship; she had been drunk last night, and she hadn't known what she was doing. He should have recognized that immediately.

She wanted him to move on, and she was right. He should have moved on a long time ago.

Slowly, he began to nod. "Okay."

Natasha looked thoughtfully at him for a minute. And then a wave of guilt washed through him: She had been drunk last night. She hadn't known what she was doing.

Last night was his fault.

Natasha slid her legs off the side of the bed and stood up, turning away.

"Wait, Nat." Clint stood up, and his partner faced him again, raising her eyebrows expectantly.

Clint swallowed. "I…" He hesitated, dropped his head.

"I wasn't drunk enough," he said quietly.

He could feel her watching him keenly, but she didn't reply.

Clint shoved his hands into his pockets, scowling at the floor.

"I mean, I know I was pretty smashed," he continued. "I just – I wasn't nearly drunk enough to excuse… that. I could've stopped it, but…" He hunched his shoulders helplessly. "I didn't want to."

He finally mustered the courage to look her in the face, but he couldn't read her expression.

"I took advantage of you, Nat," he said softly. Another current of guilt tugged at his chest, and he closed his eyes. "I took advantage of you while you were drunk, and… I just can't excuse that, Nat. I can't forgive myself for that." He rocked shamefacedly back on his heels, his gaze returning to the floor.

Natasha was silent for a minute.

She hates me.

"Thank God," Natasha breathed.

Clint froze, looking up at her in bewilderment. "Huh?"

Natasha exhaled and crossed her arms over her chest.

"Barton," she began. "You… you had more to drink than I did. A lot more." She dropped her head, her gaze falling to her feet. "Technically… I took advantage of you."

Clint just stared at her. Wait, what?

"This whole time, I've been so worried," Natasha went on, not meeting his eyes. "I just felt so guilty, because I thought—" She squeezed her eyes shut. "I mean, I didn't know if, if you… Well, I thought you would be upset about… what happened."

Wait. She thought I would be upset?

"I mean, I was drunk," Natasha added. "I just…" She paused, then arched her eyebrows, her gaze still fixed on the floor. "Let's just say I knew what I was doing."

Clint remained silent for a minute, processing the information.

Then, relief melted through him. It wasn't his fault, and it wasn't her fault, either. They had both been drunk, but they had also both been sober enough to stop what had happened. And neither of them had tried to stop it.

Which meant that they had both wanted it to happen.

Gradually, a lopsided smile stole across Clint's face. Natasha was still staring determinedly at the carpet.

"Wait, so…" he began slowly. "So you're saying you wanted to have sex with me?"

Natasha stiffened. Then she registered the teasing quality of his tone, and she finally met his eyes, a smirk tickling the corner of her mouth.

"Did you?" she returned, one eyebrow quirking in amusement.

Clint's grin grew broader as warm happiness coursed through him, and then he drew his hands out of his pockets and took half a step towards her.

"C'mere."

Natasha took a hesitant step forward, smiling diffidently at him.

"Come on." Clint chuckled affectionately as she stepped readily up to him, and then he slipped his arms around her waist and pulled her to him.

He felt her inhale, then she wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him. Clint rested his chin on her shoulder and closed his eyes, breathing her in.

It felt so good to finally be honest, after all this time. He loved her, more than he'd realized, more than he'd dared to admit even to himself until now.

And now it seemed that she might feel the same.

After a minute, Natasha pulled back. She was smiling, lids lowered, and her hands came to sit at either side of his neck. Clint moved his hands to her hips, resting his forehead against hers.

"So, wait." Natasha's fingertips lightly stroked the back of his neck, giving him goosebumps. "So, you don't regret last night?"

"Hell no." Clint chuckled and pressed his fingers into the small of her back, pulling her up against him. "I only regret that I was so drunk I forget what the sex was like. I mean, I'm assuming it was good?"

Natasha breathed out a gentle laugh. "I'm sure I'll get the chance to remind you."

Clint smiled, before tipping his chin up to kiss her mouth.

It was meant to be a brief, chaste kiss, and it was at first. But as soon as he pulled back, Natasha's hands slid up to grip the sides of his head, and she moved in again. She then proceeded to leave a series of soft, breathy kisses across his lips, leaving his thoughts blank and his head reeling. He responded with a similarly controlled passion, kissing her slowly, carefully, savoring the taste and feel of her, not wanting to rush it.

Despite their measured movements, Clint somehow felt short of breath when they broke apart. Natasha dropped her arms around his shoulders and leaned her head onto his collarbone, and he locked one arm around her waist, the other hand straying up to coil itself into her hair.

"Wait, so…" Clint began hazily. "What happened to moving forward again?"

Natasha exhaled contentedly, her breath skittering across his clavicle. "We will be moving forward," she murmured. "Just not in the way we expected."

"I love you," Clint told her frankly.

Natasha's arms tightened around him, and he felt her lashes tickle his collarbone before she spoke.

"Me, too."

And standing there in the hotel room, his arms full of the woman he loved, Clint felt a rush of anticipation inside him, and he knew as certainly as if someone had whispered it to him:

This was the start of something amazing.