"You and I remember Budapest very differently."
He is sure that when she brings Budapest up that she is remembering the actual fight. They had been extremely out-numbered and he had run out of arrows.
And then she had been wounded, badly. She didn't remember anything that happened after she had been shot, he had asked her. But the memories were always there for him, always just below the surface, threatening him and his attention when they were on a mission.
Budapest, August 2008
"Clint," Natasha's voice was strained as she reloaded her gun, her eyes never leaving their adversaries. "How'd they make us?"
They were currently holed up in an abandoned building, deflecting fire from the streets below. They had been sent on the mission with the understanding that there would be no more than 10 men that they'd have to take out. Instead, they found themselves battling over 50.
"I have no idea, Nat," he replied in clipped tones.
His back was only turned away for a second before he heard Natasha scream. The sound sent a panic through him; Natasha would never make a sound like that, unless… He turned around and saw his worst fears in front of him; Natasha, on the ground, with a wound in her lower stomach. Her hands were covering the wound and she looked up at him, her eyes panicked.
"Clint," she said, her voice betraying her fear. She had been wounded before, of course, it came with the job, but never severely as this. It was her voice that scared him more than anything; she had never been one to let it be known that she was in. He was on the ground beside her in an instant, his hands covering hers as blood blossomed between his fingers.
"Hill, I need back-up and a med evac, Black Widow is down," he said and he received Maria's static filled reply in his ear.
"Hawkeye, take cover if you can," she said before he heard the faintest whistle in the air, signaling that SHIELD had deployed a missile. He covered Natasha's body with his as best as he could before the square below the window they were stationed at exploded. The whole building shook and Natasha groaned.
"Hawkeye," Maria's voice was in Clint's ear again. "Med staff is coming in from the back." Clint looked at Natasha's face; there were tracks in the dirt on her face from tears. He felt his heart skip a beat.
"Tasha, listen you're going to be fine," Clint said, squeezing her hand.
"Clint," she whispered. "Just in case," she began to say but Clint shook his head, blinking back the moisture in his eyes.
"Nat, don't, you'll be fine."
"But if I'm not, I need you to know," she continued, her breathing measured and forced. "You saved me. You saved my life and…" Natasha trailed off, her eyes rolling back up in her head. Clint choked on his breath and suddenly the SHIELD field medic team was surrounding them and there were hands, pulling him away from her. He tried to fight them, but only half-heartedly.
The rest was a blur to Clint. He sat in the med-evac heli and held Natasha's hand while they tried to stop the bleeding. He was pushing everything down, ignoring what was going on, he refused to think about the possibility of losing her.
He sits in the hallway on the floor, outside the operating room. His hands are still stained with her blood. He can't bring himself to get up to seek somewhere to wash it off. He can vaguely hear the heart monitor in the operating room. It beeps steadily. It's the only thing that reassures him.
A doctor comes out and sees Clint sitting on the floor.
"Agent Barton?" he asks, and Clint looks up.
"Natasha?" he asks.
"Agent Romanoff is fine. We removed the bullet, it missed anything vital, but she lost a lot of blood. We're going to keep her sedated for now, to help with the pain, but she's fine."
Clint exhales. His hands start to shake.
"Can I see her?"
"Yes. She's in recovery now."
Clint slowly stood up and walked down the hallway to the recovery room.
She was the only one in there. Clint pushed the door opened and sat down by her bed. Her face was incredibly pale, but the heart monitor beeped steadily and assured Clint that she was indeed still alive. He took her hand in his and brought it to his lips.
"Oh Tasha." Her name is quiet on his lips and he closes his eyes, willing the tears forming there to go away.
He stays with her until she wakes. She is groggy when she does, but there's a smile on her face when she sees Clint.
He has never been more relieved.
So when he sees her on the back of one of the alien carriers his heart freezes and he panics.
"Nat, what are you doing?" It is a struggle for him to keep his voice neutral. He wants to scream at her; get her off the carrier and shake her until she's dizzy.
"Uh, a little help?" is her reply. He's frustrated but pulls an arrow and aims for Loki anyway.
It's after they've eaten. Everyone else is walking ahead of them but Natasha keeps him back, away from the others. She waits until they are a good deal ahead of them before she turns to Clint and puts her hand on his arm.
"I'm sorry," she says, and he knows instantly what she's apologizing for. Her hands slides down his arm and her fingers twine with his.
"Just… just try not to do something so stupid again, okay, Tasha?" Clint says, squeezing her hand. She opens her mouth to reply, but they're interrupted when Tony turns around yells at them.
"Hey assassins, get your asses moving."
Natasha pulls her hand away from Clint's, but she allows him to sling his arm over her shoulder. She leans into him, just enough, and he smiles. He is alive, she is alive, they survived again.