Disclaimer: I own nothing.
A/N: This was heavily based on a beautiful work of fanart someone posted on tumblr. Unfortunately, I do not know who the original artist is.
This is wrong, very wrong. Natasha knows it, feels it; yet she can't do anything about it. She isn't about to dwell on how unfair the whole thing was, because she knows crappy things happened to good people by now. She is a highly-trained assassin, they both are- she knows that better than most people.
Clint Barton lays on the bed, limp and with a few tubes doing God-knows-what stuck in him, and she can't help but feel like somewhere, God is laughing.
Serves you right. That's what he's probably saying. The amount of bad karma she has racked up over the years is a bit astounding. It sort of comes with her chosen profession.
No. Natasha shakes her head, shaking those thoughts from her mind. It should have been me. It should have-
No dwelling on this, Black Widow. You don't dwell on the way things could have been. You don't get survivor's guilt.
Besides, you don't even believe in God.
She takes his still-bloodied hand in her own. It was the most affectionate gesture towards her partner that she could bring herself to make. Natasha Romanoff was never good at outwardly displaying her emotions. They made her weak, vulnerable. A scared little girl.
His hand is cold, and limp - uncomfortably limp - but it's Clint all the same.
Nothing but the sound of the humming of the hospital walls.
"Clint." She says again.
He doesn't move.
"If you die, I will kill you."
He doesn't so much as twitch at her threat. He wouldn't have even if he was awake. We're partners, you know, He would have said. You'd miss me too much.
Miss him too much.
A breeze comes through the open window.
She arrives back at the Avengers Tower after midnight, not bothering to answer Tony Stark's annoyingly invasive questions about Clint's condition, how exactly he ended up that way, and why she never answered his questions. She simply shrugs off her yellow jacket and pours herself a glass of water.
Natasha looks up to see Bruce Banner leaning against the doorframe of the kitchenette.
"…Stable," she says simply.
"Ah." The doctor replies, sensing she doesn't want to talk about it. "Good to hear."
Natasha frowns, staring bleakly at her glass. "He should be awake by tomorrow."
An awkward pause.
She puts her glass back down on the counter. It sounded more like she was trying to convince herself than the doctor, in her own ears.
Bruce offers her a worn smile.
All of his smiles have a twinge of sadness to them, she notes.
"Tell him that I send my regards."
On the second day, nothing changed.
She would have brought flowers or something, but she decided not to. The thought had only crossed her mind for a few seconds, and she knows Clint would have hated them anyway. They would have made him feel like he was dying, which he isn't. Or an old man, which he also isn't.
A punctured lung isn't dying. Fractured ribs aren't dying. They heal. The doctor with the plastic smile and tired eyes had told her that.
Natasha sits in the plastic chair at his bedside and waits.
Who decided it was a good idea to make hospital chairs hard and uncomfortable?
Is this what it felt like, just observing?
How did he do this all day?
Spying was her job. Observing was his. She had gone undercover many, many times, posing as a professional in many different jobs. When she observed, she was always part of the action, in the center but posing as the sidelines. But he never did. Clint always sat on rooftops with his arrows and watched from a distance. Calculated.
God, waiting is boring. Patience is a virtue she only possesses in certain circumstances.
Hawkeye is still unconscious. Something about bloodloss and a head injury. She couldn't be bothered to pay attention to the diagnosis. Besides, she had been there when it happened.
The wall of the building they were in collapsed in the explosion, and-
And he pushed her.
Nat, get of the way!
She could still hear his voice yelling at her.
She would hear his voice talking with her soon enough.
After hours of watching the news on the TV with bad reception in his room, the nurse comes in to announce that visiting hours are over. Clint Barton (or Francis Eagle, as far as the hospital was concerned - she'd given them a fake name) still hadn't moved at all, nor opened his eyes. The Black Widow turns off the TV and squeezes her partner's hand gently.
She isn't supposed to feel this way about someone. Worried. It's because I owe him a debt and he's my partner.
But she realizes that he's one of the only things she has.
He knows more about her than anyone else alive. And somehow, she feels comfortable with him having her back.
"You idiot. Stop compromising me."
By the third day, Natasha was getting impatient. He should have woken up by now.
It's raining outside. She can hear the drops hit the window over the sound of the hospital as she lays in bed with Clint. There was enough room for her to make herself comfortable at his side without moving him.
The chair was starting to hurt her back, she reasons with herself. Nothing more.
She had taken his hand in both of hers when she first decided to lay with him. It's still limp, but comfortingly warm. The blood was washed off by now.
Watching the steady rise and fall of his chest somehow makes her feel a little better. Reassurance that they'll be standing back-to-back and fighting enemies on all sides again soon.
She remembers all their old missions - Budapest, Vienna, Tokyo, Kiev, Valetta, so many more - and how they'd pulled through every time. Sometimes, against incredible odds. He'd carried her out of burning buildings and collapsed government offices before, and she'd dragged him half-conscious through the streets of Oslo. They'd never counted themselves heroes, just two people doing their jobs.
She also remembers that he let her live. He should have killed her, but he didn't. For that, she owed him more than her life. He saved her.
Her ledger is dripping, gushing, with red. But somehow, Clint made her feel like there was some hope left in her yet.
Being dead shouldn't hurt this much. Damn.
If there was a hell, Clint Barton figured he'd be going. But there's no fire. He just feels like his chest had been hit by a freight train and his head by a sack of bricks.
He cracks open an eye. The blinding white light makes the pain in his head worse.
It sounds like someone is talking, but no one that he knows. An anchorperson, maybe? Was the TV on?
"…And tonight on the 5 o'clock news…"
Where the hell am I?
That voice, he knew.
Natasha Romanoff was laying next to him, a small smile resting on her lips. It wasn't often that his partner willingly showed her emotions, much less smiled. Damn, he must've scared her good.
"…Tasha," He manages. His voices sounds weaker than he would've liked.
For a second, she looks like she is going is slap him, but she never raises her hand to do so. She looks tired, worn- like she hadn't slept for a few days. Not that she has a regular sleeping schedule anyway.
"How are you feeling?"
"Crappy," he says bluntly.
"Don't you ever scare me like that again."
She rolls her eyes, leans over, and presses a kiss to his forehead.