Clint was not a heavy sleeper. All his life he had woken in the middle of the night for no reason, with no stimuli. He woke from bad dreams, sure, and if there was a noise when there shouldn't be he was crawling up the wall in seconds, but even without those he would float in and out of consciousness. He was used to it, it was just the way he was.
The second time he woke that night, it was not caused by anything. Clint's eyes blinked open sleepily, his wings soft against his skin. He had a tendency to wrap himself up in them like a bat when he slept. He felt safe.
But right now he felt kind of hot too, so he loosened his wings slightly, rolling out of them onto his side. Much better. Next he switched the focus to his breathing, keeping his eyes closed and trying to count his breaths like May had told him to. It felt weird though. Even when he thought he was holding for one beat, he could hear it. Like his brain and his body weren't agreeing.
Sighing in frustration, Clint opened his eyes again, looking around for his phone so that he could play some candy crush before he fell asleep.
He was surprised when his eyes met the now familiar green ones of Natasha Romanoff. "Natasha." He said softly, sitting up. "Wha- what are you doing here?"
She was sitting on the sofa on the other side of the room, watching him like a cat. She was wearing the loose fitting SHIELD issue pyjamas, knees folded up to her chest. She said nothing.
Clint yawned. "Aren't you supposed to be in your room? How'd you get out anyway?" It was supposed to be locked at all times, not that Clint was worried.
She still didn't reply, but something like sarcasm flitted across her face and Clint grinned. "Fair point." He said.
When she continued to sit quietly and not move, Clint felt the need to say something. "Do you need something?" He asked, half-jokingly. "It's gonna be kind of hard to sleep with your staring at me like that."
Her gaze wavered, and Natasha turned her head to look at the floor.
Clint softened. "Did you have a bad dream?" He knew he was the closest thing she had to a friend.
A quiet shake of the head.
"It's okay if you did you know." He murmured. "Anyone would after what you've been through."
Natasha swallowed. "I don't dream." She said, finally speaking.
Clint raised his eyebrows, but didn't argue. "What is it then?"
He sighed. This was such a mess. Natasha was one of the deadliest people in the world. But it was getting harder and harder to see only that. She was also a person. She had a surprisingly hilarious sense of humour. She was shy. She was mischievous. She was curious. Childish, in a lot of ways.
Clint looked her over. She seemed so small. Bare feet and loose clothes. Messy hair. "Aren't you cold?"
Natasha shrugged, and Clint winced. Right. Russian. "'I've got a blanket if you want." He leaned to pull it from the drawer under his bed. His wings kept him warm enough. Anything else felt constricting. "But you've gotta come over here for it."
Clint saw Natasha's hands ball into fists, but there was no tension to her. She was apprehensive, but not scared. He smiled, and waited.
It wasn't long before she sat beside him on the bed, but rather than warm herself with the blanket, Natasha held it, rubbing the material between her finger and thumb, and tugged at his wing with one hand until Clint wrapped it around her shoulders. He smiled. Better add 'cuddly' to that list of things he hadn't expected. "It's okay if you don't wanna tell me." He murmured. "But if you do, I swear I won't tell anyone. I'll keep your secrets." He tightened his wing fractionally. "You don't have to be scared."
Natasha sighed softly, pressing her cheek against his feathers. They were soft. She swallowed. "I care about you." She whispered in the dark. It wasn't hard to say. It wasn't hard to think. But it would be hard to lose.
Clint frowned. "I care about you too." He said. "Is that bad?"
"I'm not supposed to." She toyed with the blanket. "Caring makes me weak."
"That's a lie." Clint murmured. "That's what they made you think. It's not true."
"It feels like it is."
Clint smiled. "Look at me." He said gently, taking her in. Her messed up red hair, the lost green eyes, her wingless shoulders. "I care about you." He said, "And I wouldn't change that for anything." He swallowed, "It's easier not to care, but trust me, it's way more fun when you do."
"I could lose you."
"Yeah." Clint pressed a kiss to her hair. "I could lose you too. And that scares me, but I'm not going to stop caring because I'm scared."
Natasha hesitated, then let her head fall onto his shoulder. "Can I stay?" She asked softly.
Clint smiled. "'Course." He murmured, shuffling back so that there was room to sit more comfortably.
At the permission, Natasha abandoned any pretence and burrowed into his wing. Clint chuckled quietly and brought the other around, wrapping them both in a cocoon of dark feathers. He wasn't sure if Natasha slept. But she stayed there until morning.