Note: I don't own The Avengers or Hide Me Babe by Garrett Hedlund

Chapter 4

Darlin' don't you cry tonight
The moon is full and the world is right

"Go to sleep," a drowsy voice called out in the darkness.

Clint kept his eyes trained on the ceiling, his arms crossed behind his head, body stretched out along the length of the couch. Like usual, Natasha got the bed and he got the couch. "How do you know I'm not asleep?"

"Because you just answered me."

"Maybe I talk in my sleep."

"Maybe I can hear you staring at ceiling."

"You can't hear someone staring."

"If they stare loud enough, I can."

"That doesn't even make sense."

"Doesn't have to make sense. You're like the world's most high-strung cat - a giant ball of tension curled up at the foot of the bed. It's palpable."

"Palpable? Throwing out those ten cent words there, Romanoff."

"How much does the word 'asshole' cost me?"

He rolled onto his side, punching his pillow into submission. "More than you can afford."

She sat up, her back against the headboard. "Clint," she said softly, her voice drained of sarcasm. Great, he thought, time for concerned-partner mode.

"I'm fine," he said.

A pillow slammed into his head, seemingly out of nowhere. "Ow!" he yelled out in surprise. "What the hell was that for?"

"That was for lying to me."

"I wasn't …" he started lamely.

"Yes you were. You're not fine. Stop saying you are." She was pissed.

"Stop assuming I'm going to fall apart." He was trying to keep his voice down – he was pretty sure Natalie and Chuck Brown wouldn't be fighting on their first romantic night away from Chucky Jr.

"I don't think that," she whisper-yelled back at him.

He tossed the pillow back at her head but she ducked just in time - the ugly painting on the wall behind her wasn't so lucky and rocked slightly back and forth. "Actions speak louder than words, Hot Sauce."

Things were quiet after that. He returned to his vigil of the ceiling and she returned to trying to ignore the fact he was wide awake a few feet away from her. He started silently counting down from thirty, thinking that was a reasonable number to start from. "Seventeen. Sixteen. Fifteen."

"Clint," she interrupted, right on time, and he grinned, unseen in the darkness.

"Natasha," he answered.

"If you want to talk, we can, you know?"

"There is something that has been on my mind …" He took a deep breath, composing himself, steadying himself. "You gave me the cover name Chuck Brown, which technically means you've actually given me the cover name of Charlie Brown. Thanks, Nat."

"I'm being serious."

"So am I. Do I get to call you Snoopy?"


Swing. Hack. Chop. Natasha was getting alarmingly good at using the machete to tame the Brazilian wildlife that dared to grow in their path.

Sweat dripped into his eyes and he wiped it off with the back of his hand. Early morning and the day was already too goddamn long.

"It's hot."

"You said that."

"And humid."

"It's the jungle."

He slammed his hand flat against his neck and winced. "And there are bugs."

She stopped and turned, glaring at him. "We just fought an army of aliens from outer space and you're going to whine about some mosquitoes?"

"Screw the mosquitoes - there's this rare spider, about yay high." Clint held up his hand, level with the top of her head. "Scary as shit."

She narrowed her eyes at him and then turned on her heel, continuing their trudge through the overgrown foliage, her machete swings becoming a little more aggressive.

"Since when did you become such a wimp?" she asked, her back to him as he followed the makeshift trail she was creating.

"Since we got orders to hike dozens of miles into the fucking jungle and up a mountain when we could just parachute in and be done with it."

"You lose the element of surprise when you bring in quinjets and parachutes and a dozen foot soldiers. Fury wants this done quietly."

"Easy for him to say while he sits in his office, pushing papers around and barking orders," he grumbled.

Natasha didn't say anything and the sounds of the jungle filled the silence as they continued their hike.

The air was thick and wet, and it made everything – clothes, boots, supplies – feel a thousand times heavier. Clint yanked on the straps of his backpack, tightening them over his shoulders as he felt them loosening up a bit with each step they took. His collapsible bow was hidden in the lining along with a few dozen arrows, his quiver and a couple of guns and some knives. If they happened upon any civilians, they had a cover story about wanting to stray from the beaten path and have their own romantic adventure. If he'd come across anyone who told him that he'd wish them a very happy funeral because shit like that got you killed. But in their little scenario, Natasha was a closet Indiana Jones fan and Clint was the pushover who couldn't say no.

"Let's go rent a helicopter and do this the easy way. Fury doesn't need to know," Clint said after a mile or so. "Afterwards, we head back to the beach, have some piña coladas, maybe get caught in the rain …

Natasha stopped and turned, brushing her damp hair out of her eyes. She grinned slowly. "Make love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape?"

Clint's lazy grin matched hers. "If you insist."

She tapped her chin with the machete. "Hmm … raincheck?"

He threw his head back and sighed. "You're killing me, Tash."

She jabbed him with the tip of the machete and then flipped it in the air, catching the dull side of the blade, presenting him with the handle. "Have at it, Arrow Boy."

"Arrow Boy? Seriously?" He took the blade from her and did a couple of practice swings to loosen up his shoulders. "You've been hanging around Stark too much."


Several hours and many miles later, Natasha stopped suddenly and dropped her pack onto the ground. "Here looks good," she announced, stretching her neck and back and twisting from side to side.

Dropping his pack next to hers, Clint started to gather up branches for a fire while Natasha hunted for leaves to make two pallets for sleeping. A capuchin monkey had taken up residence in a grizzled old tree that marked the edge of their camp. Clint cocked his head to the side and the little guy did the same. Clint tilted his head to his other shoulder and again, the monkey mimicked him. Laughing, Clint started to wave at him but he stopped when he heard the unmistakable sound of his partner clearing her throat.

"Made a new friend, I see," she said, kneeling down to arrange a bundle of large, shiny green leaves.

"Jealous?" He dumped a small armload of branches and sticks onto the ground. Everything was damp as hell, so getting a fire started was going to be a pain in the ass.

"Terribly," she said, her voice flat and emotionless but he noticed the way the corner of her mouth quirked up. Put a gun to most people's heads and they would swear up and down that Natasha Romanoff didn't have a sense of humor, but he knew better. It was subtle and it was drier than the Mojave desert in August, but it was there.

The sun had set by the time they were settled in for the night. Natasha suggested roasting Clint's new monkey friend for dinner, but they wound up scarfing down a couple of MRE's from their packs.

Clint had been in the jungle tons of times before but that still didn't make him feel a hundred percent comfortable when the sun went down. It was the eyes – his overactive imagination produced thousands of pairs of them, all trained on him and Natasha – watching, waiting … for what, he didn't want to know. It was like having a thousand tiny fingers running up and down his spine. He shivered without realizing it and Natasha caught the reaction.

"Cold?" she asked, even though she knew that couldn't be it. The fire was small but kept away any chill that would set in with the sun going down.

He shook his head. "Brain just working overtime," he explained, tapping his temple.

"Hate it when that happens," she said and this time she wasn't trying to be funny.

He nudged the glowing embers with a stick, watching as the tip started to glow. He pulled it out from the fire and watched it fade in the darkness before the spark could catch. "Is it time for our regularly scheduled program, Fix the Shit That's Wrong With Barton's Brain?"

She smiled a little, more sad than anything and shook her head. "Nope. It's not. I can't keep pushing you."

"I don't mean to be an ass," he admitted.

She pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around them, resting her chin on her knees. "You're not being an ass."

They sat in silence, staring at the fire, a million miles away. "Is this helping?" she finally asked quietly.


"This? The mission? Being out in the world again?"

"Away from the roof of my apartment building?" He meant it as a joke, but the minute he said it he pictured himself sitting up there, on the ledge, a small part of him hoping that gravity would make the decision for him.

She nodded.

He looked down, absentmindedly digging the stick into the dirt, drawing an arrow. He didn't notice when it the end hooked and a scepter took shape, but Natasha did and she clenched her fists, digging her nails into her palms.

"Yeah, I think it's helping." He raised his head, his gaze catching hers across the campfire. "How about you?"

"Me?" She blinked a couple times, not expecting the question. "I'm fine – just miss my partner is all."

He laughed. "Sure."

"If you stay away much longer I'm going to wind up getting partnered with Steve, I just know it."

"And how would being partnered with Captain Awesome be a bad thing?"

"He's a nice guy and all but I'm pretty sure every other thing out of my mouth would terrify the poor guy. We are not a match made in heaven. He needs a more gradual introduction into the real world."

"Have him spend the week at Stark's and he'll be jaded and cynical in no time."

Natasha smiled. "That's not a bad idea."

Something screeched in the distance and Clint's hand went for the bow on the ground next to him.

"Jumpy," Natasha observed. He could tell she was doing more than just sitting with him – she was observing, cataloguing, diagnosing – and he was pretty sure he was failing whatever test it was that Fury sent them out there to take.

"I'm -"

"Fine," she finished for him.




A/N - Sorry this took a ridiculous amount of time to write - I kept getting side tracked. Anyway, thank you for all the likes, follows and reviews - you guys have been terrific. And the "Pina Colada" exchange between Clint and Natasha is from the song "Escape (Pina Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes, a song I do not own, I don't even think it's on my iPod and I apologize profusely if it's now stuck in your head.