Disclaimer: I own nothing.
"You set off a dream in me.
Getting louder now, can you hear it echoing?
Take my hand, will you share this with me?
'Cause, darling, without you…"
Never Enough – Loren Allred (The Greatest Showman)
Nine hours and thirty-three minutes.
It had been nine hours and thirty-three minutes since he'd found her body nearly seven miles from their farmhouse, trying to get to the next closest house.
Twisted, broken, frostbit, and covered in –
His eyes snapped up and he saw his partner standing in the doorway of their – his bedroom. Years of working with her could tell him that she was just as wrecked as he was, but she was much better at hiding it.
"The quinjet's ready when you are."
He waved his hand dismissively. "Go back to Manhattan without me. I…I'm not leavin' just yet."
"She wouldn't have wanted – "
"It's not really up to you, Nat. I've gotta…I've gotta get through this and grieve how I'm supposed to. Goin' back to the tower won't help." He looked down at his hands, cringing at how her blood still stained them. "I need some time."
It wasn't how he wanted to spend the rest of his time at their cozy farm in Iowa. It was the one place where they weren't supposed to have to hide. The one place that was kept so far off the grid that even JARVIS didn't know about it.
Was it really only twelve hours ago that she was kissing her awake and making love to her?
"Ugh, no, morning breath," she groaned, trying to cover her face from his assaults. The sun streamed through the window and she was pleasantly toasty beneath the down comforter that she'd insisted that they needed to add to the bedroom.
Clint simply smirked and pulled her hand away, kissing her soundly as he pulled her on top of him. Her chocolate curls hung around her face in the most beautiful way and her skin was still pale from sleep. Her plush lips were wet from his ministrations and he was content to just stare at her in awe. "God, you're so beautiful."
She giggled, the sound like tinkling glass. "You're not too bad yourself, cowboy. How long have you been up, anyway? I heard the gate to the garden close a while ago."
He cocked his head, worry creasing his brow. "I haven't been outside. Cold as hell and don't feel like losing any of my appendages. Probably just the wind, sweetheart."
The firm line of his erection attested to that and she ground down against it wantonly. "I can vouch for that. I'm pretty fond of your appendages, too."
"It doesn't do any good to dwell on things."
He shook away the memory and stood up from the bed, his toes still slightly numb from the cold. "I should've known. She told me that she heard someone in the garden. She told me and I ignored it. I waved it off like it wasn't important." He paced the small room, mindful of the redhead that was watching him like a hawk. He should've known better. He was trained to know better. And she'd paid for it. "I'm gonna find who's responsible for this. And they're going to pay. Just like she did."
She sighed. "Just check your phone occasionally. I'll keep in contact – "
"Lost it earlier today," he huffed, "Don't need it much now."
Tony Stark was known to be callous and crass in the best of situations, but when one of his team, one of his family members, laid down their life, it caused a ceasefire on all snark. Especially when the vein of his snark was now permanently tapped out. She was the pillar that kept them all together, that bound them tighter than the Avengers Initiative ever could. She made the tower a home. Gave Clint someone to call home.
Natasha jerked her head. "He's going to stay behind and see if he can get anything else out of the local police. I know Coulson's on it, too, but it's not enough for him. He has to stay busy."
Tony nodded. He knew how it felt to be separated from Pepper, but Pepper wasn't dead…
"Steve and Barnes will fly out in the next few days to keep an eye on him," the redhead said as she flipped the controls on the quinjet. "The worst thing we can do right now is hover." She looked over at the brunet appraisingly. "You've already got JARVIS running local cameras, right?"
"And private ones. Anything that he can find, really. She fucking…fuck, Romanoff, she ran six and a half miles in the snow fucking barefoot." Tony swallowed against the lump in his throat. The condition that he'd seen her in had been horrific to say the least – and he killed dozens of Chitauri for Christ's sake – and he could understand why the archer was reacting like he was. "She's a warrior. She…she was a goddamn warrior."
Twelve hours and fifty-two minutes.
Clint stared at the official report, willing it to say anything else but deceased.
He'd been on the other end of this conversation many a times. Having to tell others that their loved ones had passed on. How they were in a better place. How they hadn't suffered.
And it was all a fucking lie when it came to her.
She'd fled the home that they were supposed to be safe in. She'd left with only a silk nightgown and thin robe on. Barefoot and pregnant – pregnant – she ran as far as she could from the safety of their home, from whoever was pursuing her.
She died alone in below freezing temperatures, miles away from home. Her feet had been black from frostbite, but it was the blood that made him panic. From what the coroner had said her lungs had burst from running so long in such cold weather. Blood had filled her lungs and she'd essentially drowned.
Clint felt tears slide down his face as he'd looked at the small swell between her hips where their child had been resting. Where they'd been waiting nearly four months to meet their perfect baby. She'd had an appointment scheduled for the following week and they were going to learn the gender.
"Just…don't freak out, okay?" She asked timidly, her hands behind her back as she stood in front of him.
He'd slumped down onto the couch after wrangling the horses back into their pen, sweaty and tired. Exhausted eyes met vibrant blue and he managed a small smile. "Can't freak out when I feel like a noodle, sweetheart."
Slowly, so slowly that it ought to be illegal, she pulled a little white stick out from behind her, glancing at it before handing it to him. Clint stared at the little plus sign dumbly before he scratched his head.
"I'm pregnant," she hurried to say, seeing as he wasn't saying anything.
He swallowed. "We're gonna have a baby?"
She nodded excitedly before she smirked. "That or a bird. I'm not sure yet. But I – oh!"
He swept her into his arms so quickly that she hadn't even realized that he got to his feet. He swung her around like she was the most precious thing in the world.
"I'm going to be a daddy," he kept chanting, holding her as tight as he could.
She laughed along with him, tears filling her eyes. "You are. You're going to be the best daddy in the world, babe."
Clint threw the report across the room for the third time that day. It was gut wrenching to see his new future laid out before him. His old life of her and their child cut away in a mere day. Now, he'd have to deal with the empty house and abandoned nursery.
He wasn't sure how he made it down to the police station, but he did. He listened to what the officers had to say, giving slight nods when necessary. They still weren't sure what had happened.
"Oh, fuck, please!" She writhed on top of him, canting her hips in just the right way that she was seeing stars. "Yes! Right there!"
He obliged her. Planting his feet on the bed, he thrust up into her as he held onto her hips, feeling a sort of manly pride when he felt her release soak his abdomen. She was nearly boneless on top of him and he flipped their positions with ease. His rough hands dug into the soft flesh of her thigh, his thrusting soft and gentle to help her come down from the high she was riding so beautifully.
Clint woke in a cold sweet, his face stuffed against her pillow so he could breathe in what was left of her scent. His hand trembled as he scrubbed his face, ridding himself of the sleep in his eyes. A quick glance at the clock told him that he hadn't slept for more than a couple hours and he shut his eyes.
"I love you so much, Clint," she whispered, snuggling into the side of his body.
He smiled and rubbed her belly gently. "I love you, too, sweetheart. You and our little sparrow."
Clint's hand met the mirror in a spectacular fashion. Glass splintered around it and blood dripped down his forearm into the sink below.
A robbery gone wrong.
How could someone be so stupid?
He'd ignored when Steve had come to the house, blatantly shutting the door in the American icon's face. He wasn't scared of his metal-armed sidekick either. As of now, Clint was indefinitely done with the Avengers. Done with saving the world. How the fuck could he manage to protect earth when he couldn't even protect his family?
There was no pain as he wrapped his hand. No regret either. He'd smash a million mirrors if it meant he could feel something other than a gaping hole in his chest.
A fucking robbery.
Sure, a few things had been missing from the house, but nothing that wasn't replaceable. Except her.
The crooks had been caught and identified – read forced to confess by one scary as hell leader of SHIELD – and Clint hadn't so much as got to see the bastards. They claimed that they thought the house was empty, that no one was ever there. Thought it would be perfect for a little heist. It went south real fast though when they realized there was someone in the house. One of them claimed that they only waved the gun at her before they took off, but the others claimed not to have seen her.
It was a cluster fuck.
His agent mind told him that they were probably telling the truth about figuring that no one was home. That past two months was the longest that they'd ever stayed for one time and they had only done so because she was pregnant. She didn't want to be around the labs or the tower if catastrophe hit.
But his boyfriend and father mind were telling him that someone had to pay. Someone had to take responsibility for what his life had become in her absence.
His suit wasn't nearly as nice as it should've been. He should've listened to Tony and got fitted, but he just didn't want to.
Clint was a man of simple things. And going to his girlfriend's funeral definitely didn't fall under that category.
He saw her friends, mourned with the God that called her his shield sister. He held up the small astrophysicist as she wept all over his suit jacket. Curt nods and clenched jaws were reserved for the men in the room that he used to call his teammates.
It was as if Clint was watching a scene from a movie. Like someone else was making sure he was going through all the right motions and keeping proper diction. He was a passenger in the grand scheme of things.
He listened as each person took a turn telling everyone else about how great she was, how much she'd be missed. It all sounded like white noise to him. Insincere bullshit. No one understood what he was feeling. No one had lost their other half in such a significant way.
"Did you want to say anything?" Natasha asked when the room finally quieted.
He merely shook his head. He had a lot to say, but no one he wanted to say it to that was there.
"He's gone dark," Natasha said as she looked up from her phone.
There had been no activity at the little farmhouse in Iowa. In fact, all the livestock and horses had been re-homed to neighboring farms and the house was seemingly closed up for the remaining winter. Clint had also taken his tracker out and somehow destroyed it, which seemed to distress her further.
Tony looked up from his Stark tablet, a small crease appearing between his brows. "It's not the first time and it won't be the last. Coulson hasn't heard from him in almost a month. Give him time. The funeral was hard on everyone."
Being at SHIELD was the last place Clint had expected his feet to carry him. After completely opting out of the Avenger Initiative, there wasn't too much left for him in Manhattan. His bank account wasn't running low by any means, but his quality of life had plummeted.
It had been six months since the incident.
And everything was still just as hard.
He was planning on selling the farmhouse and taking one last mission, one that he wasn't sure he'd come back from.
"You know this is a suicide mission, right?" Agent Coulson asked from the other side of the desk, his brows furrowed with worry.
He nodded curtly. "I'm aware of the hazards of the job, sir."
A manila folder was slid across the table and he read it over briefly, noting that Natasha wasn't mentioned in any way. Good, he thought, less people to cut ties with.
The agent floundered for a moment before he nodded. "It's good to have you back, Barton."
Packing up the farmhouse was proving to be more difficult than he'd originally thought. Between the two of them, they'd accumulated quite a bit of stuff. Most of it, he boxed up and donated while the rest – like the furniture – came with the house, he supposed. He put it up for sale, setting the proceeds to be added to the Maria Stark Foundation since it's what she would have wanted.
He stopped dead in his tracks when he found his cell phone wedged between the seat cushions of the couch. Idly, he flicked it on and continued packing, only pausing when he heard it ding.
Setting down the boxes he was carrying to his truck, he held down the number one until his voicemail played.
"Hey, babe. I…I don't want to worry you, but there's someone in the house. Like multiple someones. I…fuck. He saw me. Jesus, Clint, where are you?"
He slid down the doorframe and held onto the phone like a lifeline. His lungs hurt from how hard he was breathing and his cheeks were wet.
"Where the hell do you keep the guns? Fuck. No, I can't shoot like this. I…shit, he's coming. I…I gotta get out of here. I'll be at the neighbors, okay? Meet me there if you get this. Goddamn it's cold."
Clint's fist made its way into his mouth as he bit down, trying to force down the howl of agony that was trying to claw its way up his throat.
"I love you, babe. I'll see you soon. Me and Sparrow will be waiting."
At the mention of their unborn child, he lost it.
He grieved for everything he'd lost, everything that was stolen from him by a couple of thugs trying to get rich on a few baubles.
Grief wasn't something he was familiar with. As a child, he avoided it at all costs, instead choosing to make up colorful scenarios that included everyone happy and whole. He didn't deal with the grief of his father beating his mother to death or how his brother had sold him into the circus as soon as his father ate a bullet until he was much older. And by then, he couldn't really categorize it as grief. More of an acceptance if anything.
And she'd understood that. She understood what it was like because she lost both of her parents in a car accident when she was eleven-years-old. She'd lived with her grandmother and told everyone at school that her parents were simply on vacation. A long vacation.
They were two peas in a pod. And they were so in love that it was sickening to damn near everyone around them.
He'd found her in a tiny New Mexico town when he was working for SHIELD and they'd hit it off in the only country bar, seeing as they were both from the south.
Since then, he hadn't let her go. Foregoing missions that would take him away from her for too long and improving his Kevlar so it was stronger than how it looked. He took no risks in his safety because he couldn't leave her like that. He wouldn't leave her like that.
And that's exactly what she did to him.
His ears were numb from listening to the voicemail so many times, but he couldn't stop. It was the last piece of her that he had.
"Coulson said he was airdropped into Bulgaria about five hours ago," Tony said as he walked into his lab, noticing Natasha behind his computer. "You don't have to hack, y'know. I'll give you my password."
She rolled her eyes. "Why would he be in Bulgaria? There's an uprising. He'll get himself killed."
"I think that's the plan, spider girl. He even sold off his place in Iowa." He turned around and blinked. "Wait, are you taking a jet?"
"I've got to get to him before he does something stupid."
Tony enacted JARVIS' lockdown protocols, waiting until the redhead glowered at him. "You read the coroner's report, right?" At her tight nod, he continued, "Then you know she was pregnant when she died. How do you think Barton's handling that? He lost his girlfriend and child in one fell swoop. Guy's strong as fuck to hold up this long."
"There's more to live for."
"And if I remember correctly, you felt the same way before I convinced you to come aboard as an Avenger," he said as if she hadn't spoken. "Barton was the one that helped you clear out all the red in your ledger, but it's different this time."
Natasha growled. "I have to help him. Now, either you let me take a jet or I'm taking one anyway."
Clint grabbed the last arrow in the quiver, holding it loosely in his hand. There was a gunshot wound on his shoulder, a through and through, not deadly. A rib or two were definitely cracked and the pain he was feeling in his lungs made him think that something was punctured.
Nocking his arrow, he let it soar through the air, hitting the intended target that was fleeing from the platform down below. A bullet quickly found it's way into the soft curve between his neck and shoulder, knocking him flat on his back.
He looked up towards the blue sky and blearily noticed that it was the same shade as her eyes. Maybe it was a sign.
The target was dead, his mission was complete.
Blood pooled around him and he coughed, grimacing at the iron taste that now coated his mouth.
"Oh, babe, what did you do?"
Her voice floated to him as he closed his eyes. He smiled dumbly. "I'm coming home, sweetheart. Hope you missed me."
He was sure that his words weren't as clear as what he thought. Blood loss was a hell of a thing.
"Clint? Clint! Wake up! Open your eyes!"
He could hear Natasha above him and he knew that was all wrong. She wasn't who he was waiting for. He shoved at her weakly when her small hands hit his face.
"Dammit! Stark, I need back up, now! Send a medic. He's lost…he's lost so much blood."
Clint was enjoying the pictures that were playing on the insides of his eyelids. He could see his girl holding a small bundle, a pink bundle. He had his girls now. He'd hold them and never let them go.
"I love you, babe. I'll see you soon. Me and Sparrow will be waiting."
He smiled for the first time since he'd found her body.
"I'm comin', Darcy. I'll be with you and Sparrow soon."
Clint Barton was a simple man. A man that wanted nothing more than to be with the love of his life and their child. It was a prayer that, after six long months, was finally answered.
"Clint? Clint! CLINT!"
So, I couldn't sleep last night and I watched a movie that had Jeremy Renner in it and, well, this is the result.
I hope you all like it!
Drop a review if you'd like.
See ya on the flipside! (This is a oneshot)