Always. Never. Yours.
Disclaimer: Alas! Not mine.
Note: Enjoy all!
Chapter 1: Always
They sat around the too small table in silence. The shawarma wasn't amazing, but after the epic battle, it did the job. Clint sat, his feet pressed against Natasha's side, as he ate and fought total exhaustion. The silence stretched on around him, punctuated only by the chewing and the sounds of the shopkeepers cleaning the debris.
'Shouldn't we help them?' Steve asked quietly, as he glanced in the worker's direction, shattering the quiet.
'Nah. We just saved the world. We deserve a minute,' Tony replied glancing around the table at the exhausted team around him.
'SHIELD already has clean-up crews dispatching throughout the city in conjunction with the military,' Natasha stated, her eyes never leaving her food. Clint nudged her lightly with his foot and when she glanced over at him he offered her a small smile. He could tell she was fighting a smirk as she rolled her eyes and turned back to the table.
Clint was aware of Tony's eyes on them and he turned to face the Iron Man, his features moving back to a blank state. Tony's dark eyes pierced his for several long moments, and Clint wondered what the billionaire-would-be-hero was searching for. Finally, Stark broke the stare and his eyes touched upon each person at the table before he put down his schwarma and cleared his throat. Clint tried not to laugh as Thor froze in the middle of stuffing a sandwich the size of a basketball into his mouth. The god could eat!
'Well?' Tony asked, as if that one word would be enough.
'Well, what?' Banner responded. Clint moved his eyes over to him and noticed how utterly exhausted and defeated he looked. The guilt the man bore could be seen as evident as if it were tattooed on his forehead. Clint shuddered slightly at the memory of his own recent guilt. He understood Banner a bit better now. Not being able to control your actions was a form of torture.
Natasha must have felt him shudder because suddenly he felt her warm hand on his upper thigh. She had leaned back in the chair and her body pressed deeper into his legs. Her eyes caught his and he felt the world around him black out as he lost himself in his partner's gaze. Flashes of their fight flew through his mind and he wanted to scream, cry, and punch something at the thought of hurting her.
He knew that she could see the inner struggle within him as her hand on his thigh held tighter. One perfect eyebrow lifted in question and he allowed himself to release a breath he hadn't realized he had been holding. He opened his mouth to assure her he was fine when suddenly the rest of the world came crashing back into focus as Tony continued his previous line of questioning. Clint shook his head to clear away the moment and turned to focus on Stark's words. He smirked a wee bit, however, when Natasha did not remove her hand from his thigh.
'Well, what do you think about the team? I still like the Avengers moniker, and well, all the rest of the letters fell off of my building except for the 'A' so I guess it sort of worked itself out,' Tony said. He glanced around at them all once more and huffed a sigh in impatience. 'Thor, buddy, pal, amigo, what say thee?' Tony asked, only somewhat mocking the big man.
'You know I must return to my realm, but I have enjoyed this battle with you all and count you among my friends. I shall return, if I am so able, if you ever have need of me,' Thor pronounced in his godly and stately manner before returning to devour his food with more relish and enjoyment than Clint had ever himself witnessed.
'Excellent!' Tony practically shouted. 'I knew I could count you in.' The smile that crossed Tony's face was far too triumphant and calculating for Clint's liking, but then again, the man was a genius and who was the lowly 'Hawkeye' to decipher the ways of Iron Man.
'Cap, old man? You in, soldier?' Tony asked while turning his piercing stare onto the living legend. Steve finished chewing before leaning back in his seat and holding Tony's gaze. Clint liked Steve, and he respected the man and the soldier. He could tell that the Captain was weighing Stark's sincerity. Clint was momently distracted as he felt Natasha's fingers start to dance a merry design upon his leg. He fought the urge to look towards her and allowed his body to stay relaxed under her ministrations. Clint realized how exhausted she must be in order to let herself go this much. It wasn't often she willingly touched him in public, and he'd be damned if he woke her up to the fact now.
Clint's eyes shot back over to Steve as he finally formulated a response. 'The world I knew is gone. The people I knew and loved are gone. I have done more in the past 3 days with you all, than I have done in the several weeks since I awoke. I said some very critical things of you, Tony, and I know now that I was wrong. We all fought well together, and I think this dysfunctional family could do some good. Count me in,' Steve said, a bright smiling lighting up his face as he reached over to shake Tony's hand.
'A family you say? Does that mean I get to be the dad?' Tony asked impishly, though his eyes and firm handshake with Steve conveyed his acceptance of the importance of the moment.
Sitting back down Tony looked to Banner. Banner simply looked back. Clint watched the two weigh each other up. He felt Tasha shift in her seat, her body moving against his legs and he pushed them into her a bit harder just to help root himself in the reality of this moment.
Banner heaved a heavy sigh and started to say, 'Tony, you know I can't…'
'Like I said,' Tony interrupted him, 'I have several levels devoted to R&D. A candyland awaiting your every whim. We can start small. You don't have to go out in the field yet. Baby steps. Only what you're comfortable with.' Tony paused here and Clint could see Bruce teetering. 'We need you. And you need us.' With Tony's last statement, Clint could see Banner's resolve crumbling.
'I will stay. For now,' Bruce agreed. 'But if anything goes wrong…'
'If anything goes wrong, then who better to be around then the mighty Avengers?' Tony finished Banner's sentence for him.
Clint couldn't help the chuckle that escaped him and he felt Natasha's hand slide away from his thigh as Tony's gaze landed on her. 'What about you, Agent Romanov? Fancy playing with the big boys?' Tony asked as he leaned forward slightly.
Instead of answering him, Natasha turned towards Clint. He turned his head and met her searching stare. He knew what she was asking. He knew what she wanted. He could read her better than anyone. Her face, to everyone else at this table, was closed off, cold, hard and unyielding. To him, her face was open and her eyes were pleading with him for more than just a look.
Clint cleared his throat, glanced around the table fleetingly, then back to Tasha before saying in Hungarian, 'Where you go, I follow.'
A small smile, very small indeed, graced her face before she turned back to Tony and said, 'We're in.'
A short silence met her words as everyone stared at the two of them in confusion. Tony recovered quickest and said, 'I didn't realize you two came as a set, but seeing as I was going to ask the Hawk Man anyways…two for the price of one.'
A heavy, expectant silence fell around the table as a tense air began to fill the room. Natasha had gone ramrod straight next to him and Clint wondered if he had been wrong in saying what he had. The silence stretched and he wished she would turn to face him so he could read her mood. Everyone at the table stared at the two of them cautiously, picking up on the unease that had appeared out of nowhere. Thor had even stopped eating to watch the two as though they were entertainment.
Unable to take it any longer, Clint nudged Nat with his boot and whispered, 'Tasha?'
'Did you mean it?' Natasha asked. She hadn't turned to him, her body was still tense, but her voice carried firm and strong. Clint would have seen the confusion cross the other's faces if he wasn't so busy watching her profile. He processed her words for a moment longer than she liked and she practically hissed, 'Did you mean it? What you said before?' She lowered her voice and whispered his words from earlier back to him in Hungarian, 'Where you go, I follow.' Her head now turned to his and her fiery eyes blazed into his. Anyone who said this woman was cold didn't know her like Clint did. 'Did you mean it?' she stated again more forcefully.
Clint allowed his brain to catch up for one moment before he knew what she was asking. He put his feet on the ground and leaned his body forwards towards her till they were only inches apart. He allowed his eyes to show all the emotion he normally kept hidden as he lost himself in hers. He reached up and very gently and briefly pushed a scarlet lock away from her bruised and bloody face.
Chapter 2: Never
After their little display in the shawarma shop, everyone assumed they were sleeping together. Clint couldn't help the frustrated laugh that echoed through his dark, empty room at that thought. The others assumed that their closeness hid a physical intimacy. And it did. Just not to the extent that the others thought or to the extent that Clint wished.
He lay in his SHIELD issue bunk below a blanket, his hands laced behind his head as he actively fought off sleep. The nightmares were too overwhelming. Every time he closed his eyes he was destroying her, hitting her, betraying her. So instead of sleep, he sat up and pondered the gossip surrounding he and Tasha like a high school girl.
He and Nat went way back. They were each other's family; each other's rock. But beyond a love and trust built on desperation and survival, he had never touched her in the way he craved. He was in love with the woman, but the Black Widow was not a woman who would be loved. He had made his peace with it long ago, but it didn't stop the pain from residing in the hidden corners of his heart.
Yet, hope had flared within him a few days ago at her actions in the shawarma shop. Her desperation to hear him confirm that he would follow her always and the first real smile that he had ever seen from her that had bloomed across her face was enough to make his killer heart skip. Since then, he had done the only logical thing. He had avoided her.
It wasn't very hard in the chaos and aftermath that followed the epic battle in Manhattan. But avoiding her was proving harder the past couple of days. She was everywhere. She was intoxicating. And she smelled so damn good. Still, as much of a toll his avoidance of her was taking on him, Clint began to realize that it was worse for her. The dark circles under her eyes had begun to give her a skeletal appearance and she looked beyond exhausted. She had begun to take on the haunted look that was normally reserved for Banner.
Clint let out a long sigh. He knew of her nightmares. He knew how real and brutal they were for her. Every fiber of his being ached to go and comfort her but he feared his ability to control himself. After Loki, control was almost a trigger for Clint. He had come so close to losing her, far closer than any physical wound had ever reached. He knew now, that she was what kept him sane and that if he went near her now, he would ache to lose himself in her and that thought terrified him. The thought of her acceptance just as much as the thought of her rejection, terrified him.
His door hissing open stopped all train of thought as he reached for his weapon in less than a blink of an eye. He had his gun out from under his pillow and aimed at her head before he realized it was her. He wasn't completely surprised to see her. She had his bunk codes and he knew she was reaching her breaking point. She looked so small and fragile and Clint suddenly realized just how much she had been suffering. Her eyes met his over the sight of his gun and as he lowered it he said quietly, 'Nat.'
Her name from his lips seemed to release her. She moved into the room, the door hissing shut behind her. She reached his bed and quickly took off her sweatpants before pushing him over and climbing in under the blanket. He froze as she curled her body into his side, her arm draping across his chest and her breath rushing into his neck.
Clint could do nothing but stare at his bunk's ceiling and feel every inch of her pressed into him. He thought he would come undone when she whispered his name into his neck, 'Clint.'
He finally relaxed his body into the bed and into her. He put the gun within reachable distance and wrapped his arms around her pulling her tighter into him. He let out a contented sigh and closed his eyes, the darkness of the room no longer pressing down on him, instead almost cushioning them both.
'Stop avoiding me,' she whispered into his ear, her head having shifted.
He turned his own to the side and met her gaze. They lay there holding each other, their breath mingled, faces only inches apart. He watched the anger and pain in her eyes recede into relief and comfort. His heart broke as he realized how much he had hurt her by avoiding her.
'Where I go, you follow. Remember?' she teased him, nudging his nose with hers. Clint's breath caught and he couldn't stop the soft smile that graced his face. The darkness of the room softened her features and he could see the tired playfulness present in her features.
'I am so sorry, Nat,' he whispered as his grip on her tightened. The flashes of how he had tried to kill her flew across his face.
'I can't sleep, Clint. All I see are images of you dying. Images of Loki manipulating you, destroying you, forcing you to destroy me. I keep reaching out to grab you and take you to safety, but each time I am too late and I grip nothing but air. I try to hold onto you, but you go away,' Natasha whispers to the dark room and to the only person she has ever trusted.
Clint knows how much this has cost her, the revelation of her vulnerability. He turns his body to face hers and holds her even closer. He feels her arms slide around his neck and she pushes herself into him, sighing at the feel of him.
Clint fights every urge currently screaming at him and focuses only on holding her.
'Sleep now,' he whispers into her hair. 'Sleep now and don't you dare let go of me,' he orders her as he tries to lead her out of the blackness.
Her grip on him is almost bone crushing as she whispers so only he can hear, 'Never.'
Chapter 3: Yours
When he awakes in the morning they are still wrapped around each other. Despite his muscles screaming at him, he ignores the pain as he stares at the woman in his arms. 'Damn,' he mutters before he can stop himself.
'What?' he hears her soft voice as she stirs against him, her head pulling up from his chest and her sleepy eyes opening slightly to look at him.
'I could get used to waking up like this,' he says, only half-joking.
She smiles coyly, and almost shyly, at him. She moves her body slowly away from his and he watches as she stretches. His muscles scream at him in pain as he to shifts a little, moving the aches out of his body.
'Did you sleep?' he asks her softly.
She pauses mid-stretch and regards him for a moment. 'Yes, for the first time in a long time,' she replies with a smile. She sits up and throws the blanket off of them before standing and stretching once more.
Clint's mind shuts down as he realizes she slept all night next to him dressed in only black underwear and a too small white tank top. He had seen her in less on numerous occasions, but never in one as intimate as this. He watched as she went into the bathroom and closed the door.
A long breath escaped him and he rubbed his hands over his eyes and through his hair. He glanced at the clock and realized it was only 5:30 am, still far too early to start the day. His mind kept flying back to the image of her long, lean body stretching after having spent the night in his arms. He groaned and buried his head in his hands as he continued to lie in his bed.
He heard the bathroom door open and her light steps as she walked back across the floor. The room was still quite dark due to the early hour and that only helped enhance every sense he possessed. He felt, more than heard, her draw close. He felt the bed dip as she crawled back under the covers. He felt as her warm, mostly naked body turned and pressed against him. He felt her sit up and lean over him. He felt her move his hands from his face.
'Clint,' he heard her whisper. He opened his eyes and met her gaze head on. He felt his hand move to run a hot trail up her bare thigh. He moved his hand to her ass and pushed her down on top of him. Her face betrayed no surprise, only pleasure at the feel of him beneath her. His earlier thoughts had left him riled up and there was no doubt she could feel the evidence of that pushing into her abdomen.
Her eyes blazed fire as his hands traveled into her hair and brought her head towards his.
She halted his movement with only inches between them. Her finger came up and traced along his face down from his forehead, along his cheek, across his lips, before trailing hotly down his throat. She regarded him seriously and he could feel her breathing increase as she shifted over him slightly. 'Mine?' she asked as she regarded him, her eyes open and vulnerable.
One word escaped him before he claimed her lips. 'Yours.'