AN: This is a sequel of sorts to my story "Between" although you probably don't need to read that to understand this. Credit to the reviewers of that story for getting me to sit down and write this. Background: Clint and Natasha are together, Thor is the only one that knows. The three have a bet on when the Avengers will notice. Post-battle.
When Thor reappears in Avengers tower after the bifrost is (finally) repaired, with His Jane Foster in tow, he is somewhat shocked to discover that the rest of the Avengers still haven't noticed Clint and Natasha's relationship. At first he thinks that the assassins are being intentionally sneaky, since if the team finds out in the next three days Thor wins the bet, but when Jane gives Natasha a knowing smile during their first dinner with everyone together he decides that they are just idiots.
Jane and Natasha disappear the next morning to have a "girls day" with the Lady Pepper. Thor isn't quite sure what a girls day is, but Clint tells him that it is probably best not to ask too many questions.
Thor likes Clint, even if he doesn't completely understand him, and they settle in together to watch a football game on one of Tony's obscenely large televisions. After Clint finishes explaining the rules, Thor decides to ask the question that has been bothering him since he saw Clint kissing Natasha the morning after the battle.
"Why do you hide your love? Is it forbidden?"
Clint shifts slightly and reaches for his drink. "Not exactly. It used to be, when we both did more undercovers." Noticing Thor's confused look, he clarifies. "We used to have to pretend to be other people for a really long time to be able to spy on them. I once pretended to be a cop here in New York for almost four years. Being in contact with other agents when you're doing that is really dangerous, so we were just friends that hung out together when we both happened to be at base at the same time."
"And then… we both got promoted a bit, to doing more missions that were in-and-out, usually together, and we realized…" Clint's face colors a little, and Thor smiles, remembering his own moment of realization with Jane. "Anyway, there's no rule against us being together, but the bosses don't really like it because they think it makes us vulnerable. They don't like agents being used against each other."
"Like Loki used you against Natasha."
Clint winces and nods. Weeks later, he still has nightmares about killing Natasha- slowly, intimately- and he has lost count of the number of times they have rocked each other back to sleep. Having some personal experience with being compromised he thinks he understands where SHIELD is coming from, but he also knows that leaving Natasha would make him even weaker, even more vulnerable.
"So who knows?"
"Hard to say. Officially, just you and Jane. Coulson knew- we could never hide anything from him- and he may have told Fury or Hill."
"Why not tell the rest of the team? They would understand."
Clint smirks. "Nice try, but if we do tell them it won't be until Friday." He sighs. "Honestly, at this point I'm getting concerned that they haven't noticed. It's not good that we're this out of touch with each other. While you were gone we all went our separate ways. I mean, we all stayed here, but we haven't actually gotten to know each other better. That could be a serious weakness."
When the ladies come back from their girls day they are laden with shopping bags and seem rather gleeful. Pepper, in particular, cannot stop laughing. The men are generally bemused, although the good mood is infectious and everyone gathers in the kitchen while the robots get underfoot as they prepare dinner.
At one point, Natasha sidles around to Clint and Thor with a grin. "So, Pepper knows. Jane wanted to gossip and it was too hard to do in code. But she's promised not to tell Tony."
Clint looks across the room and catches Pepper's eye. She winks, then angles her head at Tony and shrugs. Clint interprets this to mean "yes, he's an idiot, but he's my idiot."
The next morning, those in the know are gathered in the kitchen re-hashing the terms of the bet. Jane and Pepper want in, and Thor wants to pick another time slot in the future since it seems increasingly likely that his current guess will be wrong.
Their laughter is interrupted when the tower fills with Fury's voice, barking at them to get to the roof so that a chopper can take the team to the helicarrier.
Tony has a look on his face that could be the beginning of an argument, but Clint and Natasha know Fury well enough to be convinced that this is something serious. Within moments the team is on the roof and Jane and Pepper are on their way to the reinforced basement, just in case this new battle will be in New York.
It is not in New York, or anywhere in the immediate vicinity. Instead, the team is quickly briefed and bundled into a jet that is headed for middle-of-nowhere, Kansas.
There wasn't time to fully explain the situation, but Fury says that he wants to intercept the threat before it gets to a city, and after the devastation of Manhattan no one wants to argue with that logic.
Clint is piloting and Natasha is strapped in the gunner's seat, and in between checking gauges and adjusting the flight plan they exchange glances. Clint wants to promise that he won't leave her again, won't put them in a situation where he can't protect her, but he knows that he won't be making the tactical decisions and that she would smack him upside the head for trying. Instead, they clutch hands for a moment when the monster appears on the horizon and silently promise each other that they will be alright.
This battle is significantly faster than the battle against Loki. The team has a plan (or rather, Steve has a plan, and everyone else listens) and they are fighting only one adversary rather than hundreds.
Natasha ends up taking care of the tactical piece again, in large part because of her size. While the others distract the- thing- she is able to duck underneath its flailing appendages and vault off a leg to its chest, where she tosses a grenade into its mouth and flips backwards before the explosive detonates.
But the monster has one final defense, and as it dies its skin crackles with a greenish-bluish light and Clint can only watch in horror as the energy leaps off their enemy and into Natasha's face.
Somehow the back-up unit has Natasha in a medical plane before anyone else has really started moving, and they take off before Clint has a chance to jump on board. Instead, the team is hustled into another jet, where they all collapse on the floor and try not to think the worst as they continue to listen to Natasha's screams over the comm.
She is still echoing in their ears and the two aircraft must be connected because they can also hear her over the PA of the rescue plane, and mixed in are the frantic words of the medical crew as they try to keep her alive.
Clint paces the length of the plane a few times before banging his fists against the wall, pressing his forehead into the cool metal and trying to control his breathing. He can feel Thor behind him, ready to keep the other men away if necessary, but they still seem too shocked to move.
"Agent Barton?" Clint's head shoots up as someone on the other plane- presumably a medic- comes over the comm. "We need help. Agent Romanoff won't hold still long enough for us to get an IV in. We've got her strapped down but she's too small for them to fit closely and there aren't enough of us to hold her."
Tony snorts. "Typical. Even when she's dying she has to make everything as difficult as possible." Clint thinks about punching him but Steve beats him to it.
"What-" Clint's voice cracks and he takes a moment to collect himself, dropping to one knee. "What can I do?"
"We were hoping you might have some idea of how we can calm her down. She's conscious but doesn't seem to be particularly coherent. We're not sure yet if it's brain damage or just shock."
Clint's training kicks in as he pushes the thought of a brain damaged Natasha to the side and thinks of things that make her happy- summer rainstorms and trips to the ballet and the two of them together- and wishes that he could be there to hold her, to rock her the same way he does after she has a nightmare.
Everyone else jumps as he suddenly straightens. "Is her ear piece still in?"
"Yes. Should we remove it?"
"NO. Leave it." Clint takes a deep breath, and turning his back once again on the rest of the team, he begins to sing.
"I've heard there was a secret chord, that David played and it pleased the Lord, but you don't really care for music, do you…"
Everyone else is too shocked to move. Even their pilots are casting curious glances. The craziest thing about the situation is that as Clint's voice gains strength, Natasha's screams begin to drop out, so the Avengers are left staring as Clint sings and the medics presumably get the IV in, because the voice from before cuts in mid-way through the song to say "Thanks, Barton."
Clint takes a deep, shuddering breath and turns, slumping against the wall and sliding down so that he is sitting on the floor.
Steve has a look of putting two and two together.
"Where in the hell did you learn to sing?" Bruce asks.
Clint is about to answer when Steve cuts in. "Forget that, why didn't you tell me? I can't strategize when I don't know my team. This is huge."
Tony looks at him like he has grown an extra head. "You want to strategize using his voice? I mean, don't get me wrong, that is some serious quality, but I don't think that monster would have been too impressed-"
"You self-obsessed idiot! I'm not talking about his voice! I'm talking about his relationship with Romanoff!"
"You think I'm an idiot? There's no way they could be in a relationship without us knowing." Tony, Steve, and Bruce all turn to look at Thor, who has started laughing.
Tony, looking remarkably petulant, looks from Thor, to Clint, to Thor again. "Son of a bitch."
Thor is still laughing. Clint is smirking, biting back his own laughter.
"Well?" Steve prompts. "Do you have something to say for yourself?"
"Thor won the bet?" Clint offers. Thor looks excited. The others look even more indignant. "By the way, Stark, your lady friend already knows."
Tony's stream of swearing is interrupted by a raspy-sounding Natasha. "Hey, Clint?"
"You didn't sing my favorite verse."
That does make Clint laugh. Trust Natasha to retain her music preferences even through potential brain damage. He leans his head back and closes his eyes and picks up the song again.
"Maybe I've been here before, I know this room, I've walked this floor, I used to live alone before I knew you…"
By the time they get back to New York, Natasha is stable again. The medics aren't quite sure what happened, but the only lasting effects of the energy blast seem to be aches, pains, and some seriously frizzy hair.
When the planes land on the helicarrier, Fury is waiting on the deck. They all wait for him to start yelling, but he just points out the chopper that will take them back to the tower and says "Romanoff might need some help for the next few days." His glare makes it clear that the assassins are not off the hook, but Clint is grateful that the Director is leaving them alone for the time being. He's had enough stress for the day.
The medics are trying to persuade Natasha to get into a wheelchair and she is threatening to shoot them all when Clint strolls up to her bedside. She casts a curious glance towards the rest of the team over his shoulder, but he just shrugs and cuts her question off with a kiss.
The loud banging from the doorway distracts them, and they look over to see Thor holding Tony in a headlock, one huge hand clamped over his mouth. Thor shrugs. Natasha laughs. Clint wraps her blanket around her and scoops her up in his arms, carrying her out onto the deck and into the helicopter that will take them home.
The ride in the helicopter is quiet.
Natasha has dozed off, head tucked in the hollow under Clint's neck. He is stroking her hair, eyes closed, as he hums something that sounds like a lullaby.
When they land on the roof Clint nudges her forehead with his nose, causing her to wake up enough for them to have a quick, murmured conversation. Her arms twine up around his neck as they kiss, and while it's really pretty chaste the whole thing has such an air of intimacy that the others look away.
There is no shawarma after this mission, just a trail of battle weary soldiers coming home to Jane and Pepper, who are full of nervous energy but had the presence of mind to pull some dinner together.
Clint and Natasha share a glance and excuse themselves to bed. She hasn't left his arms since he picked her up in the medical plane and is clearly dozing off again.
Clint carries her to his room, which is really their room, and helps her out of her uniform and into bed. Natasha is quickly falling into the deep sleep she needs to heal, but manages to stay awake long enough to curl up in his arms.
"I love you, Clint."
"I love you, Nat."
His arms tighten and her breathing evens out, though the worry isn't quite off her face.
He thinks for a moment.
"I set out on a narrow way many years ago, hoping I would find true love along the broken road…"
AN the second: Why yes, I am a huge sap! The singing!Clint thing was inspired by Jeremy Renner's interview on The View a few years ago where he sang one of his original songs. Dude's got a killer voice. I know I've seen other stories that involve singing!Clint, so hat tip to them as well.
The songs used are "Hallelujah" (I was thinking of the Rufus Wainwright version, but pick your favorite) and "Bless The Broken Road."
Also, for other fans of The Unusuals who caught the reference, I have this head canon that Jason Walsh was actually Clint Barton undercover to investigate the NYPD for SHIELD.