AN I don't own Avengers/Marvel of any of its characters. Clintasha fluff!

Clint slept with a knife in one hand after the Loki incident. It was fine, at first, because no one at SHIELD really saw him sleep and Natasha left him alone at first. He'd only half expected her to come looking for him anyways, let alone comfort him even if that was what he wanted. She was the one he'd almost killed. She was right to be scared of him. Right to avoid him. It wasn't like they didn't see each other every day, still, or like they didn't work together for the majority of each day, including weekends. It just wasn't them alone together.

But she did come looking for him, three week after the incident once most of the damage from the invasion had been dealt with. She knocked softly on his door but didn't give him time to get up and open it before she punched in his code and stepped inside. He still had one hand on the knife, the other just barely pulling back from turning on the light. She frowned when she saw it.

"That for me?" Clint rolled his eyes at her and sat up, not taking his hand off the knife.

"You know it isn't. What are you doing here?" She shrugged, sitting on the edge of the bed.

"Couldn't sleep. Thought you might be up to. We haven't talked since the fight on the catwalk." Clint shuffled in bed, making room for her and stalling for time as he tried to figure out what to say that wouldn't give him away. She sat cross legged to face him, still very clearly aware that he hadn't let go of the knife.

"I know," he finally settled on. "I figured you needed space." Her eyes never left the knife, even as she spoke to him.

"Why? Because you hold a grudge over how hard I hit you?" But he wasn't in a joking kind of mood. He sighed and lay back down, slipping the knife under the blanket so she couldn't stare at it.

"No, because I almost hurt you." She frowned again, scooting closer. He tightened his grip on the knife.

"That wasn't you and you know it. Besides, it's not the first time. Hell, I almost gave you a concussion-we get hurt, that's the job. It wasn't personal." But he shook his head.

"You know what I meant, Tash. I almost killed you. I was going to kill you." She nodded, slipping to lay down beside him.

"I know. But you didn't." Easy for her to say. She still trusted him apparently, somehow, but he didn't trust himself. It wasn't easy to get over the sensation of watching your body do something your mind and heart were screaming and fighting against. Watching his hands close around her throat and refuse to let up was what haunted him, still. Not the invasion, not Loki, not the space techno monsters that destroyed half the city. The sight of his hands closed around her throat, stealing her breath away. Killing her.

"Clint," she started again. "You do know that wasn't your fault, don't you? You were being controlled. There's nothing you could have done." The more times it popped up in his dreams the more detailed it got. Until he saw the tiny twitches of muscles in his hands, tightening and adjusting to make sure she couldn't wriggle out. Watched the pulsing of the vein in her neck slow and then disappear. Watched her face turn red, then pale white. Watched her eyes as they stared up at him, first with determination and then with true fear. He hated that look. Hated the idea that she was scared of him, even if she had every right to be.

"Hey," Suddenly her hand was on his arm and he flinched without thinking. He didn't want to touch her, he wasn't sure that he wouldn't hurt her still.

"Look at me." She turned his face so that he didn't have a choice but he avoided her eyes for as long as he could, looking at her cheeks and her forehead and her nose and her chin and… oh god. The ring of bruises around her throat. He wanted to throw up. He would have if he'd eaten anything in the last two days. But her expression only softened even more until she looked downright sad.

"Look me in the eyes, Clint." He didn't have a choice. Besides, after all the shit he'd put her through she deserved at least a little cooperation, right? So he met her eyes. And god there was so much trust and love in those wide emerald rings. She looked at him like he was the world to her, like he could do no wrong. Did she not remember?

"Clint, you didn't do anything wrong. You didn't hurt me, he did. You didn't almost kill me, Loki did. You didn't do anything-it was Loki, okay? It was all Loki. You couldn't have stopped him, regardless of what you did." He shrugged.

"I could have killed you."

"No, Loki could have killed me. But he didn't, and neither did you. I'm right here." She reached out and took his hand in hers. He tried his hardest not to flinch but he still tensed when she did, afraid of the contact. She took his hand and pressed his palm against her chest, just under the neckline of her tank top. Her skin was so warm… so alive. But beneath it her heartbeat thudded against his hand in a steady, strong rhythm that said she was still alive. She was okay. That let him relax a little, if only enough to ease the tension in his shoulders, but she didn't let him pull away.

"I'm right here, I'm okay. I'm with you, Clint, are you with me?" He hesitated. Even though she'd taken his hand and moved it, he still hesitated to try and move. He'd laid down, but only because gravity had helped. Every time he was still for too long, like trying to sleep, he became irrationally terrified of moving. Like one of these days he was going to wake up and try to move, only to have his body stay exactly where it was. To feel Loki's icy blue presence in his muscles again, holding him there. But she squeezed his hand where she held it to her chest, prying for a reply.

"Yeah." It wasn't much but his mouth opened and spoke without and extra effort. He was relieved, but not very. Still his other hand clutched the knife at his side.

"Clint, you can let go of the knife. Loki is back in Asgard with Thor, he won't get you here." But Clint just gripped the handle of the knife harder. "Really, Clint, I promise. Loki can't get to you here."

"It's not for Loki." That made her stop. She lifted her other hand to cup his cheek and made him face her again but he refused to open his eyes. He was terrified that he would look up into hers and see that fear there, the realization that he was actually going to kill her. He never wanted to see that look in her eyes again, even if it wasn't real. But, she slowly thumbed along the bone of his cheek until he let out a sigh.

"For me?" she asked again.

"For me." He felt her tense on the bed, clinging to his hand just a little harder. Slowly, he heard her let out a breath above him and sniff a few times. Trying to compose herself.

"Why do you have a knife for you?" It was a question, but it was clear from her tone that she didn't want to know the answer. He stayed quiet.

"Why, Clint?" His name meant it was serious but he still couldn't bring himself to look up into her eyes so he made his mouth work again.

"Because if he comes, if I feel him take control again, I only have a few seconds to react."

"React how." It wasn't a question anymore but she still asked it. He bit his lip, feeling her pulse against his hand make him braver.

"I think you know." She did, it was evident in the way she clutched his hand in hers like a life preserver. She knew. He'd slept with that knife and carried it as close to him as possible ever since the incident. If Loki were to come back, or if he felt his own control slip away, he knew from experience now he only had seconds to do anything about it. And there wasn't much that could be done in seconds. No text of warning, no calls for help. But it was enough time to plunge a knife into his chest. It was enough time to take his body back before Loki stole it from him again, before he was just watching life play out before his eyes. Loki was not going to take control of him again. He wasn't going to hurt Natasha, even if that meant taking that knife and burying it between his ribs. He'd practiced the motion. He could do it in under two seconds, which he hoped was fast enough. He hadn't had to yet, thankfully, but that didn't mean he wasn't prepared to.

But above him, Natasha's breath caught. She lowered her hand from his face down to his chest, placing it right over his heart like some kind of human shield. Like she thought he wouldn't gladly ram the blade through her hand too if it meant he didn't have to see that fear in her eyes.

"Clint, put the knife down." He didn't move, didn't shake her of or wiggle away, but he didn't let go of the knife.


"Clint..." There were tears in her voice but for once that wasn't enough to move him. He did care, at lot actually, but it wasn't enough to get him to let go. The knife was his way out. It was a security system, a backup plan, to stop the one future from playing out that he couldn't allow himself to think about. He was not going to hurt her.

"Clint." Above him, her voice cracked. She lowered herself onto the bed beside him and slowly shifted in against his side, crying. He comforted her as best he could but didn't loosen his grip on the knife. He pulled his hand away from her and wrapped it around her shoulders to hold her, even when she shook with sobs, but he didn't let go of the knife.

"Clint, please." He didn't let go. "Clint, you have no idea how much I need you. I need you alive!" He felt her reach out and close her hand over his where it touched the handle of the blade, but didn't answer. She tried to pry his fingers away but he wouldn't let her. He couldn't.

"Clint, please! I love you!" That made him falter enough for her to get beneath one of his fingers and pray it away. Just one, but he wanted to cry regardless. She didn't understand. Why was she taking his one way out of that hell away from him?

"Tash, let go. I'm not going to ask again." But she didn't let go, she didn't even move or hesitate, which he both loved and hated. She trusted that he wouldn't hurt her. But she wasn't going to let him keep the knife.

"I love you," she whispered again, still tear-filled and choked. "I love you and I can't imagine this world without you. I need you to be alive." She earned another finger, which he cursed himself for. She was not going to be the one who talked him into giving up his way out. She was not going to be the reason he hurt her.

"Natasha, just let me have this." But she was persistent.

"I love you. I love you and I need you," Another finger. "You mean the world to me, Clint. If you were gone… I don't know what I'd do. Probably drink myself into acute alcohol poisoning just to get away from the weight of having you gone. God Clint I don't even want to think about it!" Another finger.

"I love you, you know that right? I know we've never said it before and I know we've been avoiding the whole kiss thing since Lebanon but I love you. So much so that it scares me. I'm so in love with you it feels like I might stop breathing when I think about you dying. Please. I love you, Clint." Finally, she pried his thumb off the handle of the knife.

She flung it across the room into the bathroom, hearing it clatter in the tub, and clutched his hand in hers but he felt he like he couldn't breathe. He wanted to throw up again. If Loki were to take control of him, there was no telling what he would do. He would make him kill Natasha, first. A pledge of loyalty. But he would make her die slowly, just for the torture. Because he knew how much Clint cared about her.

"Clint." He'd forgotten that she was still crying into his shirt, now shakily holding both of his hands in her own and trying to nuzzle closer against his chest. "Please say something." What to say… he couldn't yell at her for taking the knife. He couldn't be mad that she wasn't scared of him. He couldn't even blame her for taking his knife.

"I love you too." She took the hand that still had the imprint of the knife's handle on it and placed it on her waist just above her hip.

"If you need to hold onto something, hold on to me." And he did. He gripped her so hard he was sure there were bruises where his fingertips touched her skin but she didn't wince or complain once. She just kept the other hand pressed flat against her chest so that he could feel her pulse, know she was safe and alive.

"Clint, I know you won't hurt me." He snorted but there was so much confidence her voice that it made it hard not to just believe her. "I'm serious. I know you'd never hurt me, that's why I'm not afraid of you. There are very few things stronger than magic but love is one of them. So don't be scared of losing control. Just remember that, if it ever does happen, you have a weapon so much stronger than his and you didn't even know it. You love me. And you will never hurt me, trust me."

He finally caved and wrapped her in his arms, pulling her tight to his chest until tears poured down into her shoulder. She was still crying too. She clung to him and hugged him so tight it was like, for the first time, she realized that she might truly lose him. And she gripped him so tight it made him feel like nothing could reach him through her arms. Slowly, he began to stroke her hair and she did the same, both just crying until their bodies didn't have the energy to cry anymore, even if their minds did. Hers because he'd almost killed himself. Him because he hadn't done it.

But lying there, wrapped in everything that was her made it a little easier to put that thought out of his mind and trade it for this one, this reality. Where she was alive and safe in his arms and still trusted him completely. He wanted to cry again, though he was too exhausted. He hadn't been sleeping due to the nightmares and tonight was no exception. But he felt the tug of sleep in his mind so he managed to loosen his grip on her just enough to pull a blanket over them. She sighed into him, contentedly. But he was exhausted, no matter how much he wanted to scream and hit something and cry and throw up all at once. She nuzzled her face into that spot between his neck and his shoulder that she loved. It was like her own little pillow. So, she settled in and quickly let her breathing low and even out. If had hadn't known her better, he would have thought she was asleep. But she was just relaxed, at ease. Comfortable. She was comfortable with him, even after everything he'd done. How was that possible?

"I love you, Clint." He kissed her temple because he couldn't help himself, but he stopped when he heard what she said and processed it. Truly processed it. For the first time that day, actually for the first time in his life, he gaped at her because he understood the weight behind those words. It was I love you, it was I trust you, it was I'll do anything I can to protect you, it was I trust you with everything I am. It was more than just I love you and yet she said it anyway.

"I love you too, Tash."

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