Title from Ingrid Michaelson's "Die Alone". (you make me think that maybe I won't die alone) so there you go. Enjoy, and maybe let me know what you think/what I should write next? I don't mind prompts at all! Mostly fluffy, this is my take on everybody's headcanon: in which Natasha and Clint sleep together to ward off nightmares. And by together I mean in the same bed, although they do eventually end up sleeping together. Uh, rated M maybe, for a teensy vague sex scene that is more emotional than it is porn, because it just didn't want to become porn, man. I tried.
I never thought I could love anyone but myself, but you make me think that maybe I won't die alone
It's a cosmic law, you can't go through a catastrophe and emerge expecting your world to look the same, every nail and splinter in its place, every person in your personal globe paused in mid-step, waiting for you to appear so that they can put their feet down and start crossing roads again. Something so big will shake your world, and by extension, everything inside will have been shifted at best (and broken, in a worst-case scenario).
Vaguely, Natasha thinks that this train of thought is way more dramatic than the real stuff is in the grand scheme of things. One person's universe can shake and fall apart all it wants, but the real big bang around her just keeps rotating it its infinitesimally small fractions, as though an individual falling out of orbit wouldn't jam its engines. Oh, the physical world looks a little knocked up but the mechanics are still the same, she knows. It's her world that's been shaken to small pieces she's now stoically picking up on her own. She knows that Clint's small planet in his head must look a lot worse. It's what happens when you keep stuff closer, and she never has. She's been trained to be Black Widow; never was Natasha until he found her. He is the only thing she keeps close.
Loki had found her equilibrium and shaken it. Despite all the collectedness she'd chosen to display to him, that was the moment that she saw him take her head like a snow globe and shake it so hard that even the statues attached to the bottom of the weight tumbled out of their placeholders and spiraled in a free-fall against the glass. Natasha takes a deep breath because construction work is going to take awhile.
The one thing that hasn't changed so much is her trust in Clint. It's still wrapped around her like the glass around her world that doesn't break, the one thing that keeps her standing in the wake of so much destruction. She thinks that what scares her even now is not the thought of him killing her, so much as it is, the thought of losing him for good.
For so many reasons, Natasha pushes aside her heart and uses her head instead, seeking him out to spar and train and eat and everything in between. She spends nearly every waking hour with him, coaxing him back to her. He doesn't trust himself. It's like he looks at his body and is bewildered that he should have any control over it at all. Sometimes, when she looks at him, she thinks he looks like he wants to physically fling his body away from him – but he's trapped in it, and that's a thought that sends him into attacks when he dwells on it too much. Control is a trigger, because for so long he's been a sniper, someone with the ability to flip the switch between life and death with one arrow, and when his own life is taken away from him momentarily he's left gasping in the wake of his loss, never knowing quite where to start again.
To her it's simple, and it remains so even as she picks up his broken pieces and holds his hand as they guide them back together.
She's with him every minute of the day when he's conscious and awake. He can't bear the thought of her not being there in sleep, but he tells himself it's for her safety, so he grits his teeth and suppresses the urge to ask her to stay every night. It doesn't stop until his nightmares come too swift and too loud for her to ignore, and then she starts to pick his lock and slip into his bed, something for him to hold onto.
The first time it happens, he yells her name and she knows that she can't continue to ignore this part of the problem. It's no longer about respect and allowing him to keep up appearances when she's personally involved. It takes a minute to slip the bobby pin out of her hair and into the lock, and another to make the lock pop open. By the time she's closing and locking the door behind her, he's awake and looking at her, panicky, like he doesn't know if he's still in the nightmare or has woken up.
She meets his gaze steadily, even if her heart is unraveling from the broken look he's giving her. She wants to know, as a natural instinct, if the dream is going to re-open the channels in his mind and tinge his eyes a glowing ice-blue, but she fights it for him. One of them needs to be strong in this twister. Before he can say scarce more than her name, she's slipped under his sheets beside him, pressed against him from shoulder to shin, where her legs tangle with his.
She knows about professional boundaries, about partnership and friendship, but she also knows that when you shake a world so badly everything crumbles, the lines you've drawn for yourself before shift as well. She is willing to let them shift, she cannot deny the way her feet are now on the other side of the line, in the space she never thought they would cross into. That thought in mind, Natasha turns and presses her face into the curve of his neck and holds on tight. This is as much for her as it is for him, she's holding them both together, so that neither of them can break too far apart, so that they can find each other when the storm passes.
He's shivering and she stays quiet, holding on as tightly as she can, and she feels his arms slip around her in response moments later. When she wakes later in the night from a nightmare of her own, she sees doubt in his stricken gaze. He tries to pull away, but she doesn't let him.
"Please," she says quietly and firmly in the dark, "I want you here. Don't go away,"
In the bright, in the day, she could never say such tender words. But here in the dark she's shaking from fright, from the thought of surrendering to the predicament of losing him, and she wants him to be tangible and close more than ever. They fall asleep a second time and wait for morning to come.
The next night is scarcely any different, but when he wakes, silent but tense and poised to fight, she's already there. Her cool fingers are smoothing away the lines in his brow, circling over the knot in his chest. She curls close into him and holds him tight against her, and he turns his face into the skin over her clavicle.
It remains like this, a pattern establishing itself in this new age they have come into together, like a new house built steadily from bricks. Weeks later, when her eyes snap open into awareness and her muscles are braced for pain, he simply draws her close and presses a kiss on her cheek as if to say, it's just me now. That's all it takes, her frame relaxes visibly.
Outside of these nights, Natasha is aware that some part of her is softening; things are changing. You can't get the architecture of a city to ever be the same as before, anyway, and in re-construction you discover flaws that used to be there, cracks you have to cover and new ones you have to make (or allow to be made). She thinks that maybe it's okay to give herself a little leeway, as long as everything else comes back stronger. And it will; she knows because she has always come back with reinforced determination, fiercer after a fight.
It's clockwork now, and Natasha knows by instinct when Clint wakes. His entire body has gone rigid, but this time he turns away from her and scrubs a hand over his face. He makes to get up, but she slips a hand against his heart and he stops. He still refuses to meet her gaze, so she presses the tips of her fingers to his chin and turns him to face her.
His breath stills when her lips nudge against his own, and she kisses him softly for a long moment before she draws back.
"That's okay," she murmurs, and he's not sure if it's question or a statement because her words curl up lightly at the edges. It's comforting anyway, and he nods, so she does it again, her tongue licking lightly at the seam of his mouth. He parts his lips to her, and then she's closer than she's ever been, shifting into his lap and curling her fingers into his hair. He can't stop his arms from folding around her soft waist and drawing her to him, just like he can't help the way their tongues are slipping against each other, a desperate way to reaffirm that they're both here and alive.
Later, he will find out that she needed it just as much as him, because she'd dreamt of dying and of losing him and he'd dreamt of killing her like he's never done before.
They're a thing, then, and it doesn't really matter what other people are saying. It doesn't, because somehow rebuilding has involved bridging so many aspects of their personal lives together that they're knitted together like an old jumper. They hate to think of what would happen if one were to take the fall, because everybody knows you pull a stitch on the loose hem of a knit sweater, and the whole thing comes unraveled, seams splitting. The only evidence of the clothing after that is the way the yarn is tangled and stringy, and that's hardly proof at all because it's a mess you have to clean up. They cling close, and it only makes them stronger in fights because they're each fighting for two lives now.
They don't sleep together, until they do. It's a particularly bad night, her dreaming of Loki killing him and him having a nightmare so vivid he's convinced he's killed her, and when she wakes gasping, he's already watching her, trying to convince himself she's still alive. Her eyes are searching wildly before she can register that he's right there beside her.
He wants to say hey, it's okay, I'm right here, but she's already clambering onto him where he's leaning against the headboard and kissing him hard, with a hint of what feels like desperation.
He kisses back, and it's not delicate or gentle because she needs to feel pain, needs to feel like he's alive, but after awhile he steadies his hands on her shoulder and tells her slow down, but she's shaking her head and she looks like she's close to sobbing.
"No," she breathes, and her voice is husky and frayed at the edges, "Please, I just - "
"What is it, Nat?" he asks softly, worry knitting his brows, and she closes her eyes tight even as she says, "I need to know – I need you to know – we have to both be here, I want to know we're us,"
Even amidst her low, sputtering voice, he gets what she's trying to say. The only way to truly affirm that they're okay now is to go through what the nightmares have detailed and see if things turn out any different. His chest tightens even as he frames her face in his hands and draws her close, kissing her slow and deep. It's too much for her after awhile and she wants to feel him, she's rocking in his lap against him, and he's hard and heavy against the inside of her thighs. In her need, she slips out of the sweatshirt and underwear she's wearing and presses back against his bare chest.
His hands are everywhere at once, slipping across smooth flesh and holding and feeling and making sure she's real, and she can only cling to him amidst it all. It feels like a storm, this coming together and this understanding, this need to make it all tangible. When he strokes at her she cries out and arches, fisting a hand in his hair and meeting his lips frantically, and then she's wet and he's slipping into her like they've done it before, only they haven't, neither of them. She's never quite experienced a coupling so emotional and broken, but she holds on anyway and is still holding on when the flames lick up both their spines and force them over a new edge.
After, when he's slipped out of her and is lying back beside her again, she presses every part of skin she can find against him and nestles her head in his shoulder. He's part amused and part aching with affection because he never thought her to be capable of such need and tenderness, but she is holding onto him like he's her buoy in a choppy sea when it's really the other way round, anyway.
He presses a kiss against her forehead and says what she's thinking, "It's really just us now,"
She hums a quiet, contented sigh in reply and lets her eyes drift shut beside him. The nightmares keep coming, but rebuilding is coming easier now, and they know to fortify the walls and buildings with everything they share. Alone, building an entire world out of debris is something she'd probably always be cynical about (why bother when everything comes crashing down anyway) but with him, she knows that things will be stronger. They always are after a fight.