Author's Note: I love Clintasha so much! Anyways, I have lots more Clintasha stories in the works, but none of them have turned out right so far. Still, I wanted to write something for this pairing and I was pleased when this suddenly popped into my head. Please enjoy!

"You gotta laugh because if you didn't, you'd cry."

-Craig Ferguson

Her laugh broke the silence of the almost empty bridge of S.H.I.E.L.D's heli-carrier. It was only about eight o'clock, but many of the technicians were relieved at 5pm when the heli-carrier docked and supplies were transferred onto the ship. That was how Steve had gotten on board. He had learned the first time to never be late to his training sessions with S.H.I.E.L.D's number one assassin.

Laughter was not unusual on this ship—though no one dared to show any emotions near Fury—yet it took Steve by surprise to hear Natasha laughing for one thing he had learned about the infamous Black Widow was that she didn't express her emotions easily. She hid behind a wall so thick that those who tried to break it ended up with a concussion and a trip to the medical ward. Despite the fact that Steve had proven himself to be a good leader and a loyal comrade, Natasha Romanoff hadn't truly been at ease around him. Sure, she was polite to him and the battle with Loki's army had caused the team to get closer considerably, but aside from a polite greeting whenever Steve showed up to train twice a week, she pretty much ignored him.

Steve noticed that a lot actually.

Natasha ignored pretty much everyone aside from Director Fury and Agent Barton. Fury she treated with a respect; however, it was Barton that was allowed to see Natasha—not the Black Widow façade, just Natasha Romanoff. Somehow, he had managed to break down the wall and emerge on the other side of it unharmed. Steve knew that the two agents had a history together—Natasha's reaction after learning Barton was taken by Loki was evidence of that history—and he wondered just how far that history went. Another peal of her laughter silenced Steve's musings as he faced the meeting room that the two partners were sitting in.

Through the glass of the windows, he could see the smile light up on her face. Clint smirked as Natasha's laugh reverberated off the walls. Three months after Loki nearly took over the world, three months after Clint had almost killed her, and three months after Coulson had died, here Natasha was—laughing and smiling in a fashion that Steve had never seen before. The woman before him was the total opposite of the hardened assassin he had met when he had first arrived on the heli-carrier three months ago.

"Captain?" A SHIELD technician questioned and Steve spun around. "Is there something wrong, sir?" Steve shook his head.

"No," He dismissed quickly and then let his gaze slowly drift back to the partners. "Everything's fine." With a nod, the SHIELD technician disappeared down the twisting corridors of the heli-carrier. Steve took a seat on a chair and spun around in it, waiting. His training session was supposed to start over a half an hour ago, but if it meant letting Natasha have a break from her life as the Black Widow, then Steve was willing to wait.

About 15 minutes later, Natasha stood before him, apologizing profusely.

"How long have you been waiting?" She questioned.

"Not long at all." He lied easily.

"Okay, just give me two minutes to go set up the training room." She and Clint share a glance and Steve watched as Natasha once again dissolved into the background and the Black Widow appeared once more. Clint waited until after she was gone before nodding respectfully to Steve and beginning to leave.

"Agent Barton?" Steve started, not really sure why he didn't want the archer to leave.

"Yes, sir?" Steve sighed. No matter how many times he had insisted that Clint call him Steve, the archer always seemed to conveniently forget.

"You and Agent Romanoff . . ." Steve's voice trailed off and Barton's stance instantly tensed. Steve could sense he was heading into dangerous territory and he had to tread lightly. "How long have you two been partners?"

"About five years." Clint replied.

"You two are close." Steve mumbled and Barton nodded, yet had an odd glint in his eyes.

"We've been through a lot." He stated, his tone conveying that the topic of him and Natasha was now off-limits. Steve opened his mouth to ask another question when a voice cut him off.

"Okay," Natasha began, once again appearing. "You ready?"

"Yes." Steve replied as he began to head down the hall.

"Nat?" Clint's voice was almost a whisper, so soft and gentle. It was a tone that Steve had never expected to hear from him. Back in his own time, that tone was reserved for lovers strolling along together. "Get some rest, okay?"

"Yeah, okay." She replied. They shared one final glance that spoke volumes before Clint finally disappeared into the twisting halls of the heli-carrier. Natasha began to walk and Steve quickly moved to keep up to her.

"Nightmares?" Steve pressed, now noticing the dark bags under Natasha's eyes.

"I'm fine." She said, voice weary as if she had answered this question numerous times before. He didn't press the matter any further and the two headed into the empty training room. It was as he was stretching that he noticed the small tremors in her hands. Frowning, his eyes scanned her and he noticed the shakiness of her steps and how she was oddly unstable on her feet.

"We could do this tomorrow." He suggested.

"What? Why?" She questioned, slightly bloodshot eyes meeting his. How had he not noticed this earlier?

"I mean, if you need to rest—"

"I don't," Natasha spat, getting into her fighting stance. "Come on, Cap. You getting soft on me?" Her eyes belied a challenge and reluctantly he got into his fighting stance. She charged and he quickly dodged, attempting to keep distance between them. He couldn't take the risk of hurting her when she was in this compromised position.

"Listen to me!" He bellowed, as the master assassin attempted to break through his defense. "You're not okay! You're showing signs of sleep deprivation! You need to—"

"Shut up!" She screamed as she kept attacking him and Steve knew that there would be no getting through to her. Still, he had to stop this fight before she got seriously hurt—

Suddenly, Clint appeared and in one swift motion stopped Natasha and held her securely in his arms.

"That's enough, Nat." He told her softly and Natasha immediately stopped struggling.

"I tried." She whispered brokenly, her eyes flashing with sheer pain. Clint stroked her hair gently.

"You did it," He assured her. "You stopped Loki. It's okay." She buried herself into his chest and his arms enveloped her. Steve felt like he was intruding on an extremely private moment. Muttering a quick goodbye, Steve practically ran out of the training room and went back to the bridge.

When the ship descended from the sky once more, Steve returned back to his apartment, hoping that Natasha was resting and nightmare free.

The next week, when Steve returned for his training session, he noticed that the bags under her eyes were gone. She had clearly gotten some rest. She was also laughing with Clint once more in the empty meeting room.

Steve decided that he really didn't need to train after all and left the two to their own devices. For it was clear that Natasha and Clint were going to develop into something more than "just partners" and Steve wouldn't stand in the way of that.

As he sat down on one of the chairs on the bridge, he closed his eyes and remembered a different time, a different place when he had made a girl laugh like that.

Author's Note: If you have a moment, please review! I hope you liked it!