Disclaimer: I do not own the Avengers or any of the characters in the story except for Cole Williams. If I did, there would totally be a Hawkeye/Black Widow movie in the works.
Author's Note: This is my first story to post on this site and my husband had to talk me into it. That being said, while I embrace constructive criticism remember this old saying if you choose to leave a review "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all"
The end is here! I hope you enjoyed the ride!
The song that inspired the chapter titles for this story was "Superman" by Five for Fighting
"Tasha." Clint whispered it faintly, coughing wetly and taking an unsteady step towards her.
"Clint." She called in panic as he listed to the side, crashing heavily to the ground where he laid unmoving, eyes closed.
We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up…discovering we have the strength to stare it down. -Eleanor Roosevelt
Natasha was on her knees a split second later.
"Someone, help me!"
Already, her hands were running over Clint's body, trying to find the source of all the blood. She barely even noticed when Bruce dropped into a crouch on Clint's other side to mirror her movements, and made only a mental note when Steve hollered for an emergency medical evacuation. She also caught Tony moving out of the corner of her eye, taking it upon himself to make sure Williams was unconscious before he hovered over Clint's too-still form with Thor, unsure how to help as Clint's unconscious body coughed, blood bubbling at his lips.
The helicopter was there in less than 10 minutes.
When they touched down, Natasha and Steve were frantically doing CPR and there was a slick, scarily large pool of blood surrounding them. The SHIELD medics tried to push her away but she fought like a woman possessed, refusing to leave Clint's side.
Thor finally wrapped his strong arms around her and bodily lifted her away as the medics went to work on their patient. The team huddled together, watching as they hooked up AED pads to Clint's chest after cutting away his uniform. A cry of anger ripped from Natasha's throat when the machine didn't deliver a shock.
"No shockable rhythm. Continue CPR." The machine spoke, but it was the medics who answered. There was a flurry of activity, and suddenly, Tasha had to quiet moving just so she could watch.
Watch the medics do CPR. Watch them breathe for Clint. Watch them stop suddenly, and then stick a needle in his chest, and pull back the plunger. It filled lazily with blood.
"Got a pulse! Let's get him on the chopper. We'll stabilize him on the flight back." Natasha couldn't believe the calm in the man's voice. It made her want to strangle him, as if not sharing her passion would bar him from saving Clint.
"I'm coming!" Her voice was a snarl, daring anyone to argue.
"Romanoff, there isn't room." The medic didn't argue, just spoke calmly, clearly unintimidated. "You'll get in the way, and we need space to work if we're gonna save him."
"Natasha." Bruce's voice pulled her attention away. "Let them do their job. Clint won't leave you without a fight, you know that."
The medic took her lack of response as permission to leave and he ran for the chopper, climbing in next to the stretcher Clint was strapped to.
The team watched silently as the helicopter sped away into the night.
Steve looked over the edge of the roof at the oblivious civilians in Times Square.
"They have no idea what he just did for them." Steve's voice echoed softly, more than a hint of awe evident as he eyed the abandoned sniper rifle positioned on the roof.
"Clint Barton is a true hero." Thor agreed. "He would surpass even the greatest on Asgard."
"I've never seen anything like it." Even Tony seemed quiet, his usually hyper persona nowhere to be seen.
Bruce nodded silently, glancing over his shoulder at Natasha, who was retrieving something off the ground. She stopped on her way back to them, crouched, and picked up something else. His eyebrows shot up when he saw the two terrifying knives in her slightly trembling hands.
"Clint's." She clipped out the one word, her voice blank.
"You'll get to give them back to him." The assurance in Steve's voice was clear, but she didn't answer. All she did was stalk away, stopping at the building's fire escape and standing there with her back to them.
After a few moments, it was Stark who broke the silence.
"I saw Clint's gear on the next rooftop. I'll me damned if I let him ruin another bow." Tony cleared his throat, then with the thrusters cutting into the night, flew off to retrieve the bow. The rest of the team slowly left the rooftop, Steve contacting SHIELD to find out where they were taking Barton.
The disheveled group sat in the infirmary waiting room on the helicarrier, no one speaking. It had been six hours since they'd arrived and all they'd been told was Clint was still in surgery, they'd only gotten snatches of the doctor's frantic shouts before Clint had been whisked out of the emergency quadrant and into surgery. Phrases like "punctured lung", "bleeding out", and "low oxygen" haunted them as they waited.
Natasha was huddled in a corner, her knees drawn up to her chest and her chin resting on them. She stared blankly ahead, her gaze distant.
Bruce leaned against the window, staring out into the stormy sky. It was raining. He thought it was fitting.
Tony was sitting silently next to Pepper, her hand clutched tightly in his. Her eyes were red from crying.
Thor was staring pensively at the doors separating them from Clint, as if he could will them to open. His hammer forgotten in the seat next to him.
Finally, Steve forced himself up from his seat and sat carefully next to Natasha.
"He loves you, you know," he whispered, his voice low and calm.
"Love is for children." The response was immediate, blank, seemingly more out of habit than any real attempt to respond. Steve smiled sadly.
"That's what he said."
Her eyes cut over to regard him, focusing for the first time in hours.
"He said what you two had went way beyond that."
Her eyes welled as he spoke.
"He would never leave you, not unless he didn't have a choice."
"And what if Williams took that choice away?" There had been too many choices taken from them lately, something she and Clint knew far too well.
"Well you know Barton better than me, Romanoff…does he ever let anyone make him do something he doesn't want to do?" he asked before standing and leaving her alone again.
Natasha blinked, a weak smile tugging at her lips.
No he doesn't. Not even for me.
"Rogers." She called him back. He arched an eyebrow at her in question.
"Natasha," she stated simply. Steve smiled, nodding.
It took 14 days before Clint really proved Rogers right. He'd been off the ventilator for two days and the doctors had promised he would wake soon. Natasha was the only one there, the rest of the group having gone to get food. She was staring out the window blankly when he stirred.
Her head whipped around so fast her neck popped. She was at his side in a second, her hand in his sandy hair, brushing it off his too-warm forehead as she watched his eyes drift closed before she could see them.
"Clint?" Her voice was a whisper, but she silently begged him to show her his stormy blue eyes. As if hearing her silent plea, his eyes blinked open in the next moment.
"Hey," he rasped weakly.
"Hey," she nearly sobbed, leaning forward to press a desperate kiss to his lips. She pulled back and curled her body around him, burying her nose in his neck. She was holding him like he might disappear.
"Hey, I'm okay." He tried to assure her, but it wasn't very convincing when he sounded as weak as kitten.
She pulled back, her eyes suddenly hard.
"мудак!" She spat the nasty Russian term at him.
And then she hit him hard in his unwounded shoulder. He wasn't as surprised as he should have been. She always got pissed when he scared her.
"You died," she revealed abruptly, staring into his eyes angrily. "For four minutes you were gone."
"You think I'd leave you that easily?" he challenged softly.
As quickly as her anger had appeared, it dissipated. She blinked and salty tears spilled out of her eyes.
"Don't ever do that again," she instructed firmly, a tremble in her voice that Clint knew no one but him would have been able to hear.
Clint winced as he did it, but he brought his right hand up to wipe the tears away.
"Tasha, I can't make that promise any more than you could in Dubai last year," he chided gently.
She huffed a laugh, recognizing the hypocrisy of her request.
"I can promise not to leave without a hell of a fight, though," he added, his tired eyes sincere. "Is that enough?"
She nodded, willing her tears away as he tugged her down to snuggle into his side. She was the Black Widow, she didn't cry unless it was to manipulate. But, six long years ago an assassin named Clint Barton had been sent to kill her. He made a different call. And three years later, he had wormed his way through her defenses. Now he was a part of her. He had a grip on her very soul, and with him there was no Black Widow, there was just Natasha. And Natasha couldn't lose her Hawk.
Clint didn't think it should be so sunny. He stood, staring at the headstone of the man who had changed his life. He thought at least some clouds would be fitting.
He served his country.
He shifted, adjusting the sling his left arm was immobilized in. He absently rubbed his finger across the stitches on his temple. He cocked his head, regarding the stone as if he expected it to come to life.
"Natasha is threatening to tie you to your bed," Steve announced as he came to stand next to him.
"I bet she is." Clint smiled slightly.
Steve looked at the stone with him.
"Tell me about him?" Steve asked quietly.
"I didn't get to know him. You knew him better than anyone…so, tell me about him."
Clint was quiet for a moment, deciding where to start.
"I was 18 when he recruited me. I was working a contract for some nasty Hungarians. I had bad intel. Got hurt. Coulson cornered me in an alley."
"Doesn't seem like a good way to recruit you," Steve mused. Clint laughed a little.
"No. It was like backing a wounded animal into a corner. I don't think he expected me to fight back quite so fiercely, but he subdued me eventually. Then he did what I still think is one of the stupidest things he ever did. He let me go. I could have killed him right then and walked away, but there was something about him. So instead I asked him what the hell he wanted.
"He told me who he was and who he worked for and offered me the job. After my training, he became my handler."
"Something tells me you made things interesting."
"You got that right. I didn't like following protocol. I'd had enough of that in the Army. I liked doing things my way, he liked doing things his. But for some reason the man put up with me and eventually we found common ground. Don't get me wrong…there were some times when he threw protocol to the wind without a second thought and pulled my ass out of some very hot fires, but I tried to keep him out of that position. Though it happened a few more times than he thought it should."
Steve watched a wistful smirk light Clint's face.
"I trusted him more than anyone, Steve…" Clint admitted sadly. He blamed the pain meds they had him on, or maybe it was that of everyone, he knew the Captain would understand, and he desperately needed someone to understand. Natasha was trying, but she and Coulson had shared something closer to a normal handler and agent relationship – more than that, but less than the bond Phil and Clint had shared. Brothers? Father and son? Clint couldn't define it, and didn't want to try. He only knew that he missed it, fiercely.
Steve didn't look at him when he responded.
"His name was Bucky. We'd been friends since we were kids. I was the smallest kid on the block," Clint gave him a sideways look that he ignored with a small smile, "and he was like my brother. He always looked out for me no matter who it pissed off. Then he went off to war and I became Captain America…"
Steve sighed sadly, remembering too clearly the distant past, hating that it felt like just yesterday.
"When I heard he'd been captured," he shook his head, "I was determined to save him. I was going to finally be the one saving him and I did, along with a lot of other good men. Together we took on Hydra, me, Bucky, and my team…and dammit if we didn't win in the end, but the cost was so high … almost too high…" He released a shaky breath and Clint remained stoic beside him, listening, "I trusted him more than anyone. For no other reason than he had always been there, and I knew he always would be…and then when it really counted, I couldn't save him."
"But you did." Clint's reply seemed to come out of nowhere. "When he was captured, you gave him what? Months he wouldn't have had."
"Yeah, I guess…" Steve sounded uncertain.
"If there's one thing I've learned about debts, it's that there aren't any between friends," Clint told him quietly. "It's not about owing each other or keeping score. It's just about doing your best to do your best all the time." Clint blinked, realizing he should be taking his own words to heart.
"Sounds like good advice," Steve mused, tossing him a sidelong look. Clint's lips quirked.
"Before I met Phil, all I did was keep score. I was a marksman, it's what I did. How many kills did I have? What was my best distance shot? How fast could I retire multiple targets? Everything had a measurement…every favor that I gave someone, meant they owed me one in return. It's just the way I had always lived…"
"Then you met Phil."
"Then I met Phil." Clint smiled fully now, remembering. "I never asked him for anything for over three months because I didn't want to owe him. But he was a sly son of a bitch…I would come back to my room after a rough mission and find a first aid kit, my safe houses all had roof access, I never got reported when I broke protocol…I finally confronted him about it, telling him to cut it out because I didn't like to owe people.
"He told me I didn't owe him a damned thing but to keep doing my best to do my best. That it was all I would ever owe him. First time he saved my life, I was ready to start a tally, but he just patted my shoulder and said he didn't do it so I'd owe him, he did it because I was his friend. I never kept score with him again."
"So you're saying...I shouldn't blame myself for Bucky?"
"I'm saying he wouldn't have held it against you."
"And neither would Coulson," Steve added meaningfully.
"Yeah, I'm starting to get that." Clint could almost smile.
"Thank you…for what you said, what you told me…I know it's hard for you…" Steve smiled a little.
"Because I'm a cold, emotionless assassin?"
"No! I didn't mean-" Steve turned quickly, stunned to see a smirk playing on the archer's lips.
"I do have a sense of humor…a pretty good one, actually." Clint chuckled a little laugh.
"I'll keep that in mind." Steve smiled.
Clint shifted a little wincing in pain.
"You should get some rest," the Captain suggested quietly.
"Yeah, probably…" Clint agreed but he didn't move.
They both stared at the headstone for a few silent moments.
"Tell me more."
Clint smiled and did. Maybe the sun was okay after all.
Wow! I can't believe I've posted an entire story! What do you think? Reviews are a good way to let me know exactly that! :D
My next story entitled "Trust"
Here's the summary:
When SHIELD assigns Clint a mission to take down a black market arms dealer in South Africa, Tony is hired as a "consultant" to join him. But when unexpected events lead to their capture, the two men must learn to work together if they're going to get out of South Africa alive.