Disclaimer: I don't own the Avengers.
Warning: This fic contains a possible spoiler for the movie.
Settling The Debt
"Love is for children. I owe him a debt." – Natasha Romanoff
They sat next to each other with their backs against the wall. She filled him in on everything, even quietly admitting, "I was compromised."
He nodded, although she wasn't sure he understood. He stood up and paced a couple of steps.
"How's your head?" she asked, with genuine concern etched into her face.
"Still attached, so I guess I'm doing better then some."
"Mmmm," she agreed.
He stopped pacing and turned to face her. "It's ironic, isn't it?" He said after awhile. "I showed you mercy when I spared you, and you… showed no mercy when you clocked me." He chuckled so she would know he was kidding.
"Yeah… sorry," she muttered lamely, rising from her seat to join him. "It was the only way I could think of to bring you back."
"So… I guess we're even now," He said quietly.
She shook her head. "We're not even, Clint. You saved my life. I… hit you really hard on the head. I still owe you one."
"Natasha, I've told you this many times before. You don't owe me anything."
"And I've told you… I owe you everything. My whole life."
He groaned inwardly, knowing from thorough experience that he wasn't going to win this. He stared at her thoughtfully for a long moment until something that had been plaguing his mind clicked. My whole life…. "Okay. Then let's settle."
She looked up at him questioningly. "What am I supposed to do? Practically kill you myself and then spare you?" Her eyes lit up mischievously. "Although you do know too much… perhaps I should…. I mean there's no other way besides…"
The words hung in the air and for a split second she wasn't sure if she'd heard him correctly. Then her eyes met his. She laughed. "What? Are you insane? Jeez, I must have hit you harder than even I thought."
"I'm perfectly alert," he said quietly.
She sighed. "Come on, Clint. Be serious. "
"I'm not laughing," he pointed out.
She pursed her lips, unsure of what to say. For the first time in the years they'd worked beside each other, confided in each other, protected each other, fought against each other, sought relief in each other…. He had caught her completely off guard. She sighed. "Clint…"
He threw his arms up at his sides. "What do you want? Do you want me to get down on one knee? Both knees? What, Natasha?"
"What are you doing? You know we can't just … just get married!" She folded her arms across her chest and stared him down.
"Why the hell not?"
"Stop it! You know why!" She hissed.
"Give me one good reason, Nat."
"I…. " She searched for something, anything to say to make him see reason, but all she found was that she was not prepared to have this conversation.
"You have to know. You've always known, haven't you? How much I-"
"Stop!" She hissed. "Don't say it! You can't say that, Clint. This is crazy. You're out of your mind!" She paused to massage her temples. "Will you just drop it?" she pleaded.
"Fine. I'll drop it. If you look at me and tell me that you don't feel the same way." He reached forward, placed both hands on either side of her face and tilted her head back to look at him. "Tasha… I want you to look me in the eyes and tell me that you don't love me."
"I…. I don't…. " She searched his face for some sign that he would give in, not make her say the words he knew she couldn't utter, but this time she knew he wouldn't. "I…. can't," she whispered, squeezing her eyes shut.
"I knew it. I knew it, Tasha." He lowered his hands to her shoulders, closing his eyes as he placed his forehead against hers and they were both silent for a moment.
It was she who spoke first, her voice barely above a whisper, as she placed her palms against his biceps in a half-hearted attempt to push him away. "Love is for children."
"What?" He opened his eyes to find hers staring back at him. "What are you talking about?"
"Love is for children," she repeated. "That's what I told him when I tried to do some damage control. That's how I was compromised. He knew how to use you against me." She shook her head to clear it, feeling as if the Earth was suddenly spinning. "He knew everything, Clint, he knew!"
His eyes bore silently into hers. For once, he didn't know what to say.
"Love is for children," she said again. "And I…." she sucked in a shaky breath. "I… am a lovesick fool when I'm around you!"
He kissed her then; roughly, urgently, desperately, passionately and she pulled his face hungrily to hers, shoving her tongue in his mouth and pressing her whole body flush against his.
When they finally pulled apart, she shook her head slowly. "What do you want from me?"
"I want you by my side," he said softly.
"You've had me by your side for quite some time now," she replied.
"I want you in my bed every night."
"You've had me in your bed," she reminded him.
"I want you to do something honest."
"We're only honest with each other," she said calmly.
He nodded. "Then you see."
"God, Clint. Can't you just… let me save you?" She smiled dryly.
He took a deep breath. "That's exactly what I'm asking you to do."
"Save me, Tasha," he whispered. "Save me from this hellhole we call a life. Make something meaningful out of me."
She stared open-mouthed, stunned. Her eyes narrowed in deep contemplation and she was silent for a long while, listening to his heavy breathing. "Fine," she said finally. "I'll make you a deal."
He cracked a half smile. "I'm listening."
"'When this is all over…." She gestured with her hands. "If… if we live through this, and we both come back to S.H.E.I.L.D., I'll marry you." She held out her hand.
He took it, ignoring the obvious fact that she didn't think they would both make it back, or was quite possibly hoping that they both wouldn't. He knew though, from a lot of shared history that they both would do everything in their power to make sure that they did. If this was all she could give him… he would take it.
"Fine," he accepted, grasping her hand and shaking firmly. "It's a deal."