A/N: If you're waiting for the next part of Tiny Avengers, I'm really sorry! It will be up, I swear. I've just hit a little block. So in the meanwhile, have some Clintasha. Part 1 of possibly 2. x
The streets are alive with death and destruction. Explosions fill the city and screams fill the air. The sky is a dark, almost opaque reddish-brown and there is smoke everywhere. Civilians stumble for shelter while enemy troops storm the place, trampling everything. In a word, it is hell.
And it's nothing new for Natasha Romanoff.
She is using two pistols at once, firing with equal skill with both hands. One bang and two enemies are down, one shot from each hand. Someone attempts to sneak up on her and she spins at once, knocking them down with the barrel of her gun.
She turns to her right, aiming for a large man who is barreling foolishly at her, when she is knocked off her feet and shoved behind a nearby overturned car. She whips around.
"Clint, what are you doing? I was- Clint?" Her partner is down, his face contorted in pain. She looks up to see the wicked-faced man aiming again.
Bam! And he is tumbling over the edge.
She turns back to her partner. "Clint? Clint! Oh, God," she breathes, seeing the dark red patch spreading over the archer's chest. "Fury! Agent Barton's been hit. He's hurt, bad."
"A medical team is heading over there now. Keep him sheltered, but get back into the fight." A crackly voice sounds over her communication device.
"Screw the fight, Fury, I am so not moving. Clint, just hang on."
Clint looks up at her weakly, mumbling, "Don't worry 'bout me, Nat, 'm fine."
"Like hell you are." She shoots someone behind her without looking. Looking up, she sees the first aid team hurrying over. "Thank God." She moves back, letting them do their thing. One of them looks up at her and purses his lips before they load Clint onto a stretcher and rush him off.
Natasha's heart drops into her boots, and she barely notices as somebody tries to club her over the head. She isn't paying attention as she punches him so hard that he crashes into the ground several meters away. She isn't watching as she shoots everything in sight, screaming in rage. And she isn't listening as Fury shouts at her to get back into form while she sprints after the medical team, still shooting whoever got into her way.
"Why did you take that bullet, Clint? It was stupid."
"It was aimed at you," he whispers. "That's reason enough."
Natasha stops pacing. She turns to face him. "What drugs have they got you on?"
Clint manages a weak smirk. "Dunno. Too drugged up to remember."
She rolls her eyes at him, but grows serious. "Clint... Really. Why?"
"I've told you the truth, Nat." Clint looks up at her, and she knows he isn't kidding. "You're the best partner I could ask for." He struggles to sit up and winces.
She gently pushes him down again. "I know that," she says with just a hint of good-humoured arrogance. "I don't think you do, though. You obviously didn't have enough faith in me to let me deal with the bullet."
"Nat, you didn't see it." He grins at her obnoxiously and she stops herself from punching him. "And I wasn't questioning your skills. I'd be dead if I did... And I wouldn't need a bullet from the bad guy for that." He shakes his head. "No, I mean you're the best partner I could have out of work. You're all I have, Nat, and you're enough for me..." he finishes with a mumble, his eyes flickering.
She doesn't know how to respond.
He waits. When she doesn't say anything, he continues. "I really care about you, Natasha. I didn't used to understand in what way I cared about you. I've wondered if it was love... But I wasn't sure.
"But today I knew. When I saw the bullet. I knew."
She has stiffened.
"I think I love you, Natasha Romanoff. I think I've loved you for a while."
She finds her voice and says what is possibly the least sensitive thing ever. "Is that the drugs talking?"
He laughs. "The sappiness probably is. But the message is the same."
She stares at him.
"I..." She stops and looks at him hopelessly.
He drops his gaze dejectedly. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything."
"I think I might love you too." She whispers the words, unsure if she wants him to hear.
His head snaps up so fast that he groans and grabs his bandaged chest. She realises that he would have heard her from the other side of the world.
"Whaat?" he asks disbelievingly.
She looks at him shyly. "I... Well, for a while now, I guess. Conflicted feelings... I wasn't sure. I never really knew."
He doesn't look away from her.
"You trusted me." Her gaze is just as unwavering as his. "When nobody else did. That's when I started to trust you. Just a bit.
"The missions... They helped. Getting to know you; not really your personality, but the way you do things. Even the way you fight. It helped me identify with you. I started to sort of align myself with you, something I'd never done before. You did it too, I think. And I think it was because we were always, well... The perfect fit, I guess. We just worked. Just fit snugly together like a glove.
"Then after the missions, on our days off. Still hanging around you, and I never knew why. You were such a jackass sometimes, too."
"That's when I started really trusting you. More than that. Counting you as a friend. I've never really had a friend.
"I don't know when it turned to love. I don't even know if it has. I don't know what love feels like. Maybe this isn't love. Maybe it's just shock. It could be indigestion and I wouldn't know."
He laughs again.
"I think it's love, though. But I never knew. Not consciously, anyway. Maybe I always did, deep down..."
A doctor comes in suddenly and the flow of conversation stops. The doctor smiles apologetically. "Sorry, kids. Chat time's over. I'm gonna give you some drugs to pull you under, okay, Clint?"
"No, absolutely not!" Clint protests. "Deep and meaningful conversation about feelings happening, dude! Natasha's opening up! This is a moment for the history books! Mmf!" His last phrase is muffled as Natasha claps a hand over his mouth and smiles sweetly at the doctor.
"Go ahead, doctor. Ouch!" she yelps as Clint bites her finger. She glares at him, and he grins at her mischievously.
The doctor smiles a puzzled smile and gives Clint a quick injection. "You're welcome to stay, miss, but this one's not gonna be all that interesting." He jerks his head at Clint, grins at them and leaves.
Clint's eyes ate getting heavy and he mumbles, "Natasha."
"Hold my hand."
"What are you, five?" She clucks in disapproval, but grasps his hand nevertheless.
"If... If I'd asked you to marry me, would you have said yes?" It's barely legible this time, trailing into a muffled mess, but she hears, and she freezes.
"Natasha?" he asks, and she can tell he's struggling not to go under. Not yet.
She pauses. She thinks about all their arguments, all their fights. She thinks about the times they laughed together and played like little children. She remembers all the missions when she had his back and he had hers. She remembers the times they never speak of, the times when one of them falls apart and the other one has had to put them together. She thinks, and she answers.
She's not sure if he hears because he's just about succumbed, but his face breaks into a big, sleepy smile, and she realises that once again, he might have been a hundred meters under water and he would have heard her. And she realises that he always has heard her, because he always listens.