Disclaimer: I own nothing except my great love for this movie and its characters and actors.

Author's Note: Greetings, pretty much as soon as I saw the movie I had to write this. While I walked into the movie, I was prepared for them to just be good friends, but their amazing chemistry soon had me shipping them like a UPS employee. They were just amazing and I had to play with their relationship.

Hope you like it!

"I won't touch Barton, not 'til I make him kill you. Slowly, intimately in everyway he knows you fear and then he'll wake just long enough to see his good work and when he screams I'll split his skull."

The acidic words of the bitter god echoed in Natasha's ears as she jolted awake. The knife she kept under her pillow was tensed in her grasp as she tried to steady her breathing. Upon ascertaining she was not, in fact, trapped in the labyrinthine passages of the Helicarrier, she slid the weapon back in its spot slowly as the nightmare faded. Natasha glanced at the clock on her bedside table.

The harsh red numbers read 3:43, eliciting an annoyed grunt from the spy.

The dreams were getting worse. As a glorified assassin for most of her adult life, Natasha was no stranger to loss of sleep over visions of her past; but this was different. This was personal.

She was used to being haunted by things she'd done, people she'd hurt, bad decisions she'd made and all of the pain she'd caused in her long bloody history. But that wasn't the case this time and that's what gnawed at her the most.

Loki had gotten under her skin with his threats. He had managed to perfectly encapsulate her worst nightmare: to have one of the few people in the world she cared about used against her and have there be nothing she could do about it.

That's why she'd built her armor so thick. In her experience, love and compassion can kill you quicker than any knife. But people always found a way in and it was almost more than she could stand to imagine her and Clint being used against each other in such a real way. That is what had shaken her normal detached demeanor so badly.

Cursing the god of mischief for robbing her of her sleep from galaxies away, Natasha rose quickly. Unable to stand lying in the dark alone with her black thoughts for another moment, she called to JARVIS to turn the lights on dim.

She glanced about her Spartan apartment in the newly converted Avengers Tower that, while still under repairs after the attack, was enough for the SHIELD Agent for now. She ascertained that the only distraction to be found in the barren suite was cleaning her weapons and she didn't particularly think that to be the best course of action given her troubled thoughts.

With a sigh, she left her room. It had been a little over a month since the battle of New York and she still hadn't managed to sleep through the night more than once and Natasha didn't count that on account of the pain meds she'd been ordered to take for her fractured ribs. She still had a few bumps and bruises but Natasha had never been the complaining type.

Padding silently through the only recently completed living quarters floor, Natasha couldn't help but admire the speed and efficiency of Tony's workers. She supposed that was one of the perks of being a billionaire.

Entering the open living area that included the kitchen that was her goal, she smiled fondly at Bruce who lay asleep on the couch, his laptop still open on his lap and papers spread all around him.

Bruce had said he wasn't interested in being an Avenger but that didn't stop Tony from enthusiastically throwing so many interesting and groundbreaking projects at the scientist until he didn't even realize he'd been basically living in Stark's Tower for a month instead of laying low in South America. No one could deny that, while pompous and egotistical to an overwhelming degree, Tony was, in fact, a genius.

Making as little sound as possible, Natasha got herself a tall glass of ice water to calm her nerves before retreating to the balcony connected to the open, multi-purpose interior.

Taking several long gulps, Natasha stared out at the still bustling city, hoping that the cool night air would clear out the mangled apparitions clouding her head.

"Can't sleep again?" a voice asked from the dark corner of the balcony that hugged the building.

Natasha instantly spun, blaming her brooding on her lack of observation as her body automatically poised for an attack and her eyes adjusted to find the owner of the voice.

Leaving his shadowy perch, Clint jumped from the low wall and into the soft blue light from the kitchen and the city around them.

Natasha's instincts screamed in alarm upon seeing his face for, in that moment, when his face was illuminated for the first time, his blue-grey orbs appeared for the most fleeting of instances an unnatural light blue. Natasha kept her cool, as always, her face not betraying the sheer terror she felt when her nightmare addled brain created such a horrid vision.

Her body must have betrayed her in some minute way, however, either that or her partner knew her well enough by now that he held up his hands in a reassuring manner, inching closer, "Nat, it's okay. It's me."

She let out a breath she didn't know she was holding and shook her head, saying more confident and calmly than she felt, "I know."

He didn't believe her for a second and dropped his hands, narrowing his eyes in a pained expression, "You thought I was him, didn't you?"

She didn't say anything. Him being what they all insisted on calling Clint's brainwashed self. He knew her well enough to see past any reassurance she would try to give and they had long ago agreed not to lie to each other.

"No matter what, it always comes back to what I did." He said quietly, his conflicted gaze to the city.

"What he did." Natasha corrected with the crucial distinction.

He shrugged, letting her know that despite what he said and what they told him, he still thought that it just boiled down to semantics.

She stepped closer, putting a hand on his forearm in a rare show of physical comfort.

"Clint, that wasn't you and I know it. No one blames you." She'd said these lines before, but now, in this decidedly intimate setting, it had never been more important that he understand them.

"Doesn't change anything," He asserted, "No one can forget either. They look at me and see the monster; see the things he made me do. And I can never make up for that."

"We're not asking you to. The only one responsible is paying for his crimes. He's light years away and not our problem anymore." She reminded him, intently, willing for him to believe her this time.

"If only it was that easy." Clint muttered almost to himself.

She continued to stare at him before saying with unusual delicacy, "You know, if I were the emotional type I'd say 'give it time'."

He met her eyes then and she took in the normal, reassuring hue of his before he cracked a slight grin, "But you're not. So are you going to tell me to get over it?"

She held his gaze, daring him to look away before continuing, "I'm not a soldier either, but war is a hard thing to come back from."

They stared at each other for a long minute as he let her words sink in before Clint finally broke the moment by looking away. He looked to his military-grade watch to see it was after four in the morning.

"It's late." He remarked for something to say after such a poignant moment, "we should get some sleep if we're going to make it through tomorrow."

"I don't sleep." She said simply before looking at him with a raised eyebrow, "I wait."

He chuckled at the break in the tension, thankful for their old, hardcore, Russian spy joke.

"Of course you do. My mistake." He said with a small grin as the serious of the previous conversation dissipated, "Well good luck with that."

She rewarded him with a smirk, picking her forgotten water glass off the ledge and putting a hand on his shoulder in passing, "You too."

Returning her glass to the kitchen, Natasha made her way back to her room and slipped back into bed, unsure if the conversation with Barton helped or not. Either way, she just hoped it hadn't called up anymore nightmares.

Feeling the lateness wash upon her, Natasha closed her eyes, wishing for a dreamless sleep.

Author's Note: and there's the end of the first chapter, I know it was a little brief but I promise the next one will be longer.

Also, thanks to joannemelanie-nemo-potter on tumblr for transcribing the line at the beginning, because I really wanted to get that right.

Okay, so I still have more I would like to do with this story, I just want to know if anyone actually wants to read it. so please, if you liked it, or had any questions, please review. That is what makes both me and my muse happy and keeps the inspiration flowing.

That and watching Avengers as many times as humanly possible (going for number 3 today!)

But anyway, review!