Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters.
Last chapter people! Thank you for all the views, alerts and reviews.
Infirmary, SHIELD Headquarters, New York, October 2007
Clint was sat up in the bed, pillows propped at his back. He picked at the plastic covering the IV line in his hand. He reached a hand up to his face, scratching absently at the nasal cannula fitted under his nose. He looked up when he sensed a presence in the doorway.
Natasha was there, her left arm encased in a white cast. It lay in a sling, hanging loosely around her neck.
"I see you got those butterfly bandages," Clint spoke, noticing her forehead.
"You remember that?" she inquired, surprised that he managed to recall anything after Dixon's bodyguard decided to introduce Clint's side to a screwdriver.
It had been almost two weeks since their capture in Munich. Clint had only woken three days ago.
She sat down in the empty chair beside the bed.
"Yeah..I can't remember much after I got stabbed, but I do remember you talking to me while I was drifting in and out," he replied, his mind flitting back to the vague memory.
"We had a close call, Clint."
"Not the first, won't be the last," he responded simply. "We got through it though, didn't we?"
Natasha nodded, pausing for a moment, thoughts wandering aimlessly in her head. She thought about Dixon and the mission and her mind flashed back to Coulson's face when he informed her that their abductor had escaped. She told Clint as soon as he was lucid enough to take in the information after his coma.
"Clint, you know there's always gonna be someone waiting to pounce, someone waiting for us to expose ourselves" she deduced regretfully. "There's always going to be people from our past in search of revenge."
Clint nodded in understanding. "There's always going to be a reason for us to look over our shoulder," he agreed. "It's one of the hazards of the job, Nat."
"You're a hazard with that mouth of yours," she admonished playfully, raising her free elbow, nudging him slightly in the arm.
"Hey, that asshole deserved to have his feathers ruffled," he replied, casting his mind back to his taunting of the burly muscle man. "My mouth was the only weapon I could employ at the time."
Natasha shook her head in disbelief. She couldn't fathom how Clint had mustered up the energy to keep giving as good as he got during the horrifying interrogation. "You gonna be okay?" she asked, eyes peering at the white gauze and bandages wound tightly around his waist.
He looked down at the gauze and raised his eyes back to her, "Nothing that a few weeks of healing wouldn't mend," he said, echoing her words from the mission.
She smiled and reached forward to lightly place her cast-free hand on his IV-free hand, the meeting of their warm flesh comforting one another. "Get some rest, Barton," she whispered gently.
Her voice almost lulled him back to sleep. He smiled back at her as she rose to her feet. "You too, Romanoff."
They both came away from that mission with more than physical afflictions, scars that would decorate their bodies for a lifetime. They came away from that mission with the a greater understanding of one another, a greater sense of confidence in each other. He had been there for her, and she had been there for him. Although they hadn't committed to trusting each other completely, they knew that Munich had played a part in bringing the two of them closer together.
Infirmary, SHIELD Headquarters, New York, Present day, 17:30pm
Clint stared at the small sleeping figure in the cot adjacent to the bed he was sitting on. He was leaning his forearms on the edges of the cot, taking in the newborn's presence with an audible sigh. She was wearing a snow white baby grow with a tiny cap to match, covering her auburn wisps of hair. She lay on her belly with her head to the left and her arms parallel each side.
Aware of the change in Natasha's breathing coming from behind him, Clint turned his head to see her open her eyes lazily. She blinked heavily for a moment and focused her eyes on her partner sitting on the bed.
"Hi," Clint greeted with a gentle whisper. "How're you feeling?"
"Good...feeling good," she replied, a content smile appearing on her features. "We back at base?"
"Yeah, we arrived a couple of hours ago." He paused for a second, "You were exhausted, you slept through the whole flight."
Natasha sat up, plucking the pillows behind her to support her shoulders. She moved her head slightly to peer into the cot. "How is she doing?"
"She's great. Bruce weighed her..came in at 7 lbs 6 oz," Clint announced proudly. "She has auburn hair...just like you." He reached down to peek at the hair at the nape of the baby's neck. "She's been sleeping like a log for the past few hours as well."
Natasha couldn't help but grin at the sight of Clint's eyes transfixed upon their daughter. "Clint, we need a name."
"Really?...I was hoping we'd call her 'Baby Blackhawk' for the rest of her life."
"I'm sure Stark wouldn't disagree," Natasha beamed. "Any ideas?"
Clint raised his eyes to the ceiling, thinking. "Nothing springs to mind, yet...What about you?"
She peered down at the newborn, who yawned sweetly. "I was thinking maybe Alyona? It's got a bit of my Russian heritage in it," she suggested.
Clint nodded, approving of their christening. "Alyona, it is then."
Natasha flickered her eyes back to Clint. "Alyona Edith Barton," she added confidently.
Clint turned to meet Natasha's eyes with his own. The memory of his mother sprung to the forefront of his mind. "Nat, you sure?" he inquired, eyes shy.
"Yeah, why not?..It's got a nice ring to it."
Clint lips curved into a smile at the sight of his partner. Pure exhaustion and lack of sleep failed to hinder her internationally known beauty. A post-pregnancy glow now seemed to envelop her and he found himself gazing at his partner for a long moment, silently counting his blessings. He felt like his mind was trying to play catch up to what had happened in the last few hours. He felt the need to pinch himself to make sure that he wasn't dreaming of the bizarre whirlwind of events.
He had become a father and somehow his mind found it hard to register it.
"Fury came to see me shortly after we landed," Clint spoke up, quenching the long silence.
Natasha looked up, aware of his grim tone.
"He told me that one of his teams managed to storm Dixon's base in Kiev and intercept his plans to send more muppets after us," he continued, eyes serious. "He's dead, Natasha."
"Are they certain?" she asked, needing confirmation.
"Yeah, they confirmed it with DNA samples," he answered, calming her alert state. Natasha nodded slowly, absorbing the information.
Between being pursued by Dixon's henchmen, stumbling through the Amazon rainforest and giving birth in a cave, she found herself reeling from the last two day's events. Fury had promised to protect them, through any way he could. Even though their "vacation" didn't exactly go the way they had anticipated it, Fury remained true to his word. It was through his determination and conviction that herself, Clint and Alyona survived.
She eyed Clint's SHIELD jacket, laying across the seat beside the bed. The logo on the shoulder was visible, reminding her of Alyona's birth. It was ironic, in a way, that it was Clint's SHIELD jacket that enveloped Alyona after she was born.
The jacket stirred thoughts in her mind about the agency. The lifeline it had given her when she was at her lowest. SHIELD was the reason she and Clint encountered each other. SHIELD was the reason they had finally revealed their love for one another. SHIELD was the reason that Alyona had come into their lives. SHIELD and the Avengers were the reason they had managed to escape the Amazon and they were the reason they were finally safe from Dixon's clutches.
All the missions she had suffered through, bled for, risked life and limb for, now seemed like only a small price for what she had gained in return, joining the agency. Her conversation with Loki flitted across her mind.
"Your ledger is dripping, it's gushing red, and you think saving a man no more virtuous than yourself will change anything?"
"You lie and kill in the service of liars and killers."
"You pretend to be separate, to have your own code, to make up for the horrors. But they are part of you, and they will never go away."
Loki was right, in a twisted kind of way. She shouldered the guilt, she stitched up the wounds of her past, willing them to heal as she pushed on. She defied his words. She wanted to be better. She longed to be free of the imagery of her victim's blood on her hands. She wanted to atone her sins. SHIELD had allowed her to do that. Clint had provided her with the opportunity to do that. And now, the Avengers had adopted that role.
She had found a family in her colleagues at SHIELD and in her Avenger team mates. She found her soul mate, and now she had become something she never thought she would be, a mother.
"We're gonna be all right, Nat," Clint spoke up, wary of her silence.
Natasha raised her eyes to the archer, lips curling up as she spoke, "I know we are."
Their exchange was interrupted by a faint noise coming from behind Clint. They drew their gaze to the cot where Alyona was eliciting small successive hiccups.
Clint smiled and moved to pick her up, her eyes remaining closed, his strong arms surrounding her small body. He snuggled her close to his chest and rocked her gently. He moved towards the bed and placed her in her mother's arms. Natasha embraced her gladly, drinking in the baby's scent. Alyona's soft skin caressed her bare arm, causing Natasha to embrace her even more. She couldn't get enough of her.
"She's all ours, Clint," Natasha spoke up, raising her eyes to where the archer stood at the side of bed, arms folded across his chest.
Clint smiled proudly at his partner. He glanced over his shoulder when movement in his peripheral vision caught his eye. He moved his eyes to look through the glass pane on the door. There stood Tony, Bruce, Steve and the newly arrived Thor.
Steve nodded respectfully, Bruce beamed from ear to ear, Thor brandished Mjolnir above his head and shook the hammer proudly, and Tony waved like an excited schoolgirl.
Clint chuckled to himself, shaking his head, slightly embarrassed by their congratulatory displays of affection. Natasha kept her eyes focused on Alyona, unaware of the excited commotion outside.
Suddenly a voice boomed outside the door, reaching both Clint's and Natasha's ears, causing them to erupt in laughter.
"WHO'S UP FOR SHAWARMA?"
Can you guess who had the last line? :P
I'll be posting another story in the next few days so anyone who is interested have a look out for it! It is set before the Avengers formed and follows our intrepid pair on one of their SHIELD missions as partners back in the day.
Slán go fóill! :)