A/N: This begins when they are all together at the end of the movie, with Loki gagged as Thor takes him back to Asgaard. I'm saying Clint and Tasha are 'partners with (occasional) benefits'; generally after a tough mission. They'd both claim it was just physical, especially Tasha (after all, 'love is for children'). That the UST would distract them, so they resolved it.

As they looked at the gagged and restrained Loki, Natasha leaned over and whispered to Clint, "With that gag on, no one will hear Pretty Boy scream when some Asgaardian Bubba makes him their bitch."

As she'd intended, Clint smiled.


Natasha was just finishing getting ready for bed, when she heard a soft knock at her door. "Come in," she called.

"Clint," she greeted as he entered.

He took in the tank top and sleep plants she wore as she took in the in the tee shirt and loose pants he wore.

He sat on a chair, and she silently sat on her bed facing him, sensing he wanted to talk – a fairly rare occurrence.

"You interrogated Loki," Clint said, making it a statement, rather than a question. He knew her. He knew Fury. He knew the game. Tasha was the best at interrogations, and she'd have trusted no one else to do it. Not ego or bragging, just an acknowledgement of fact; like him always hitting the target. Knowing strengths as well as weaknesses, and using those strengths.

She tensed slightly – most would have missed it, but Clint wasn't most people. "Yes. That is my skill set," she, needlessly, reminded him, careful to keep her voice casual.

"What did he say?"

"That we'd brought the monster ourselves. That's how I knew he'd planned to somehow unleash the Hulk," she replied. She knew it wasn't the answer he wanted, but said it anyway, hoping to distract him.

"What did he say about me?"

"Okay, Mr. I'm-So-Vain, what makes you think your name even came up?"


"He said he'd make you kill me," Natasha admitted, hoping he wouldn't press further.

"There's more," Clint said softly.

"He said he'd make you kill me… intimately. In all the ways that would hurt me most," she said, her voice also soft – refusing to meet his eyes.

He moved to sit beside her, and gently lifted her chin until their eyes met. "The rest…"

"No," she almost pleaded – almost.

He didn't say anything, but held her gaze.

"Then he'd let you come back to yourself so that you'd know what you'd done before he… he killed you. He said he'd kill you, Clint."


"The worst part is… When he said he'd kill you I wasn't just angry… I was…" She looked down.

"You were what?" Clint prompted.

"Relieved. That monster said he was going to kill you, and I was… relieved," she admitted, her tone heavily laced with self-loathing, which tore at Clint's heart.

"Of course you were," he responded. Her eyes snapped back to his. "You knew I'd rather be dead than continue to be his puppet – a mindless killing machine, betraying everything and everyone that mattered to me. I'd be relieved to have him kill me at that point." Clint spoke with complete honesty, and they both knew it. He didn't add that he would never be able to live with the guilt of having killed Natasha – especially not in the way Loki would have made him kill her.

Tasha took a shaky breath, and a bit of the tension left her.

He placed a light kiss on her cheek; the place he usually kissed. Sometimes for friendship, sometimes for show, but never really romantic.

Then her words silently echoed between them. "…make you kill me… intimately. In all the ways that would hurt me most."

He placed another kiss on her cheek, where he'd no doubt hit her hard enough to fracture her cheekbone.

His hand came to rest against her stomach. Another wound, not fatal, but extremely painful, would be there. Her muscles tensed beneath his hand.

His hand moved from her stomach to push back a piece of hair. He leaned in and placed a kiss just below her ear, where her jaw met her neck. They both knew that if he'd been forced to kill her in the way that would hurt her most, that is where the fatal wound would have been placed.

He'd have put a knife right there, a place she'd never let any other man kiss her. There wasn't even anything especially sensitive about that place – just that he was the only one who'd ever kissed her there, and the memory of the first time he'd done it. Every time he'd done it. He'd only done it a few times, not even every time they'd been together, so each one was easily remembered.

Suddenly he stood and in a few fast strides was on the opposite side of the room. "Damn it, Tasha! You should be kicking me out of your room, not letting me… We both know what that just was… What he'd make me do…"

She wanted to go to him, but knew he'd react better if she kept her distance for the moment. "But he didn't make you do it. He's gone, and I have you back. He can't hurt you again. Or make you hurt me."

He took a few deep breaths, his eyes and expression calming. She held out a hand, but stayed sitting on the bed. He couldn't help his moth-to-a-flame movement towards her.

"I trust you, Clint," she said softly, keeping eye contact. "I won't let him take that away from me. If he takes away our trust in each other, he wins. I won't let him win. And I want you to stay tonight." If sleeping in his arms was what it took to prove she still trusted him, she was more than willing to do that.

"Tasha," he said, pulling his hand back.

"Just sleep. We're both to injured for anything more anyway. The Hulk was a nightmare… And the memories Loki brought up… I'd rather not be alone tonight, and I don't think you want to be alone either."

He turned, and she thought he was going to leave, but he stopped by the door and turned off the lights, before turning back to her.

She slipped under the covers, and seconds later he joined her. She turned to rest her head on his shoulder, and rest her hand and arm on his chest – her hand over his heart. He placed a kiss on her forehead, then relaxed back.

"What did you mean when you said you were compromised?" he asked into the darkness.

"Loki found my weakness. Others may think they know it, but Loki really did," she replied. There was no one else she'd admit that to, but… this was Clint.

Clint was silent for a minute. Some would think her past was her weakness. It wasn't. Not anymore. Her past had made her the person she was today. It wasn't her weakness. Her weakness was… "Me."

She nodded against his chest.

"But that's only half the story, Tasha. Yes, we are each other's weakness. But we are also each other's strength," he reminded her.

"We are," she agreed.

"I want you to do me a favor," he said.

"Anything," she replied.

"Create a safe house – hell, make it two or three safe houses – and don't tell me anything about them." They both had safe houses, and each knew the locations of the other's safe houses. That knowledge was just one more level of trust between them.

Her eyes narrowed. "And why would I do that?" she asked, even knowing his answer.

"So that if… if I'm compromised again, you can have somewhere safe to go. Somewhere I can't find you. Damn it, Tasha… I was trying to kill you."

"I know that," she snapped. "And I was trying to stop you."

"Stop me, not kill me," he replied. They both knew there was a world of difference.

"Four words, Clint."

"What?" He knew from most people the four words might me 'I love you, Clint', but this was Tasha. She meant something else. Four other words.

"I was in Russia. In the middle of a mission. In the middle of the interrogation. The guy was telling what I wanted to know, and Coulson called. He said four words. 'Agent Barton's been compromised.' Four words, and the mission didn't matter. The information I was supposed to be getting didn't matter. Getting you back was the only thing that mattered.

So I will pray to a God a no longer believe in. I will work with a demi-God, a Tin Man, a super soldier, and even a Green Rage Machine… I will kill people, innocents, and add even more red to my ledger… But I will not hide away to protect myself when you need me. If I ever hear those four words again I will get you back again, just like I did this time.

And I trust you to do the same for me. It's not the super soldier, the demi-God, the two geniuses – one of whom has all but unlimited resources, and the other of whom turns into a monster who can take on an Army by himself – that I trust to bring me back if I'm ever compromised like that. It's you, Clint. My partner.

You'd never hide away in some safe house if I was compromised, so don't ask me to. Not that. Anything but that."

Clint sighed, knowing he'd just lost the argument. Because he would do the same for her. She was right that he'd never hide in a safe house if she needed him, so it wasn't fair to ask her to. Clint Barton knew himself to be many things, but didn't consider himself a hypocrite.

"Don't put more red in your ledger for me, Tasha. I'm not-"

"You'd better not finish that sentence, Clint…" she warned, her hand lightly thumping his chest. "You are worth it. I'd rather live with more red in my ledger than live without my partner."

"So would I," he quietly admitted.

Both fell silent, and soon fell asleep.