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Natasha flinched awake when the distant voice rang in her ears. She recognised it as female with it's high pitched quality.
"Agent Romanoff, you need to let him go," the voice repeated.
"Get Dalton in here quick," another voice called out, causing Natasha to snap her head upwards to find it's source.
She deduced that the voice was male by the deep and stern quality to it. She blinked her bleary eyes in an effort to get her swimming vision to focus. She took in the worried face of the SHIELD agent in front of her. It was Agent Lowell, one of SHIELD's brightest and best.
Natasha clenched unconsciously and only then did she realise there was something solid and heavy pressed against her chest.
She looked down and took in his pale face, his eyes closed, features completely lax. Her arms were encircling him in a death grip and she remembered singing to him, willing him to hold on until the medics got here.
A hand came forward to rest on her arm that was clasped around Clint's body, "You need to let him go.." Lowell repeated carefully.
Reluctant and terrified, Natasha maintained her grip on Clint's still form.
Clear and stern eyes met her own and Natasha heard Lowell speak up again, "Romanoff, it's okay, you can let him go.." the agent soothed, coaxing the red headed assassin to loosen her white knuckled grip.
Natasha nodded shakily, realising that she was being childish. Clint needed help and she knew she could do no more for him.
She loosened her grip on him, biting back a whimper as he was pulled from her embrace. The loss of his reassuring form against her made her chest ache. A rush of words and terms assaulted her clouding senses and she struggled to piece together what they were saying.
"He's tachycardic..hypotensive...BP's dropping.."
She sat there, bleary eyed, as she watched the team of medics swarm Clint. A male medic approached her and started to take her vital signs. He strapped on a blood pressure monitor and placed two fingers on her neck. "Romanoff, can you tell me where you are?"
Natasha snapped her eyes towards the new figure kneeling in front. She licked her lips before she spoke. "We're-" she hesitated, pausing to clear her throat, "-we're in the safe house?" she answered with uncertainty, her eyebrows arching, looking for confirmation.
If she was being honest, she wasn't sure where the hell they were any more. Everything was a blur. A blur of blood, a blur of voices, a blur of groping hands on her body.
"What day is it?" the male voice interjected her thoughts.
Natasha furrowed her eyebrows as everything began to lose focus again. The agent's tanned face started to blur at the edges.
"Romanoff, look at me..do you know what day it is?"
The medic glared worriedly and she knew that her answer was incorrect. Her head started to feel heavy as she tried pull herself together and concentrate. The medic pulled out a pen light from his bag of supplies and began to flash it in Natasha's eyes. She had to resist pulling away as a splitting headache began to blossom in her mind.
"Pupils are dilated and unequal.." he announced to another medic who had lowered down beside him. "Concussion?" the younger medic asked, eyes flashing with a hint of concern.
The tanned agent nodded once, "A nasty one, yeah."
Natasha could feel her self drifting off again, black dots spotting her vision. She felt herself slide to the floor, unable to keep herself upright against the wall. She felt the hardened floor now beneath her.
"Romanoff, c'mon, keep with us."
She turned her head to the side and took in Clint's unmoving form on the ground beside her. She was laying in the same position he was, just a few inches across from him. She let her eyes examine his ashen features, his body slumped on the cold ground. Her heart leapt in her chest when she heard Lowell's voice bark loudly.
"Guys, we need to get him out of here," Lowell urged, her voice borderline frantic.
"We need to get him stabilised first," a thundering voice chastised the blonde agent.
Natasha recognised the voice. It was Dalton. Somewhere in the middle of her confused haze he had arrived, brusque attitude and all with him.
"Sir, he won't make it if we don't move now.."
"All right, let's get going guys!"
Natasha forced her eyelids open to keep her focus on Clint. He was removed from her line of sight when the medics slid a backboard underneath his limp body, lifted him, and ventured quickly out of the safe house.
"Romanoff?" the agent in front of her asked worriedly, noticing her unfocused gaze.
Natasha tried to respond, tried to form words but her body wouldn't cooperate. She was done, her energy sucked clean. She had done her job, she had stayed with Clint until help came and she felt some comfort knowing that he still had a fighting chance, however slim that chance may be.
"You'll keep me updated?" Coulson's voice boomed down the line.
Natasha was sat up in the SHIELD infirmary bed, the phone pressed against her ear. Her face was sporting purpling bruises and a thin line of stitches decorated the spot above her eyebrow.
"Yes, sir," she replied bluntly, wincing as she spoke, her split lip hissing in protest.
"Good, mind yourself..I'll be in touch," Coulson bid his goodbye and then hung up.
Natasha let the phone slip from her grasp and allowed her head to fall back against the pillow. She had been in the SHIELD base in Prague for the last four days now, recuperating, worrying, wandering from her room to Clint's, hoping to see him up and awake, finally, but no such luck.
She rubbed her forehead absently and tried to take her mind off everything that had happened in the last few days. Her mind wouldn't relax and she thought of her partner again. She was itching to see Clint, to feel his presence near her, to see his thoughtful yet childish eyes, to hear his gruff yet soft voice whisper in her ear again.
She huffed as she lifted herself off the bed gingerly, unhooking her IV line. She pulled her dressing gown off the hook on the wardrobe, wincing as she enveloped herself in the soft material, her muscles still stiff and achy from their ordeal in Istanbul.
She stepped carefully through the corridor, preparing herself to face his ashen features, to examine his tiny freckles as they stood out in contrast against his pallor. She turned the handle of the door and took in the familiar sight. The room was dark, only a dim light on the beside table illuminating their surroundings.
A faint smile ghosted her face as she spied Clint, bare chested and flat out on the bed, one pillow propping up his head slightly. A nasal cannula was fixed under his nose and across his face, giving him the extra bit of oxygen to help expand his weakened lungs. His midsection was plastered in white gauze and bandages where he had sustained the troublesome bullet wound. He had required a lengthy surgery to remove the bullet and repair the damage it caused. Numerous blood transfusions later, he remained unconscious and Natasha felt like she was inches away from pulling her hair out.
She let her eyes roam over his face, noticing the faint stubble shading it's lower half. He was breathing soundly, the breathy inhaling and exhaling pricking up her ears. She could hear his heart monitor beeping faintly in the distance, filling the eerie silence with it's quiet murmuring.
She eased herself down into the chair beside his bed and undid her dressing gown, shimming it off her shoulders to let it fall behind to rest on the chair. She inched her hand forward to grasp his own. She took in the dark circles surrounding his eyes, exhaustion still seeping through his lethargic appearance. She tighten her grip around his hand, willing him to reciprocate, to squeeze, to do anything. She let her head droop and it came to rest over her hand that encircled his on the bed.
"I can't do this without you, y'know..." she muttered quietly, her words falling on deaf ears. She stiffened suddenly when she felt Clint's hand twitch. His legs shifted beneath the sheets and he groaned audibly as he tried to ebb away from the drowning darkness.
"Clint?" Natasha spoke up, startled by his sudden movements. He began twisting in the bed, recoiling from her touch.
Fear gripped her like a vice and she stood up, not expecting the sudden change in his condition. She inched forward, panicked thoughts racing through her mind. "Clint..look at me! Look at me!"
He wasn't responding to her frantic calls and he thrashed wildly, the clean white sheets crumpling in response. He ripped the nasal cannula from his face and flailed aimlessly against an invisible presence. The more he drifted towards consciousness, the more agitated and disoriented he became.
Natasha placed her hands on his chest and pressed down lightly, allowing him to feel her reassuring touch, some form of skin to skin contact. He stilled as he felt her touch, fear and confusion encompassing his every muscle. He forced open his scrunched eyes and waited until his vision regulated itself.
Natasha watched as his eyelids rose, revealing his unfocused and pain clouded eyes. She breathed a relieved sigh as he visibly relaxed, his mind finally registering her face.
He tried to take in a breath but his chest protested and he coughed with a harsh wheeze. His jagged and heavy breaths penetrated the air, borderlining hyperventilation and she knew that she had to do something quick to calm him before he passed out again.
Without hesitation, she lifted the blanket that encircled his rigid body and climbed into the bed beside him, laying her body beside his. She managed to slip one arm under his own and place her palm flat against his chest. It felt like she was touching a hot furnace. "Clint, calm down..I'm here.."
Clint turned his head and pinned his eyes on her, fighting to control his ragged gasps. He was still struggling to draw air in.
She mimicked deep breaths and nodded, instructing him to do the same. "Breathe with me..that's it, just breathe.." she soothed, rubbing small circles on his bare chest. Clint reciprocated, never leaving her eyes as he drew in breath after breath.
Relief washed over her as he matched her movements, his breathing decelerating to a more manageable pace. "Keep breathing, Clint.."
Clint followed her instruction and let a faint smile appear on his exhausted face. Disorientation finally began to melt away as he finally came back to her.
"You okay?" she asked, her emerald eyes laced with concern.
"I am now.." he croaked, his voice barely audible. He turned his body towards her, settling more fittingly against her, both their bodies pressing firmly against one another.
Natasha chuckled lightly and she held a breath when she felt Clint's hands move to settle around her waist. She swallowed thickly, "I almost lost you.."
"I almost lost you.." he replied with a shaky breath, putting emphasis on the last word, remembering their nightmare in Turkey. It seemed like years ago to his fatigue-ridden mind. He let his eyes roam over her face, taking in her bruises and stitches. His eyes then settled on her lips, full and inviting. His jaw tensed unconsciously in contemplation and he raised her eyes to meet her own again.
"Well I'm not going anywhere, Barton.." she stated reassuringly.
"Promise?" he asked, eyebrows raising curiously.
"Promise.." she answered, a hint of reassurance and hope in her tone.
Clint blinked when he felt soft lips crush against his own, her subtle movement mashing them together perfectly. He closed his eyes, acknowledging her gift, a gift he yearned for. He deepened the kiss, moving his hands to the small of her back, pulling her slender figure more firmly against him.
She responded gladly and leaned in closer, her lips impatient and hungry. The tension that had accumulated in her stiff muscles completely seeped out of her and she instinctively moved her other hand to encircle Clint's body fully.
With their feet entangled under the sheets, they continued to press their eager bodies against each other, feeling the reassuring brush of flesh against feather light kisses. Clint reached up to glide his hand through her curls and he let it rest there to massage her scalp lightly.
A cacophony of heavy breaths encapsulated them as Natasha finally broke the kiss and studied Clint for a long moment.
Clint met her gaze and they stared longingly into each other's eyes, trying to read each other's guarded minds. His blue-grey eyes spoke volumes but the only thing Natasha could hear was their audible breathing in the silence. Clint slowly removed his hand from where it was invested in her scalp and replaced it onto her waist once again. He began to trace small circles there, eliciting an involuntary moan from her lips.
His feather light circles caused Natasha's goosebump covered body to shudder slightly, the alluring caresses tickling her in all the right places. "Rest.." she whispered softly as she watched his eyes slide shut with contentment.
Clint nodded gratefully and sank willingly into her embrace, nestling his head against her chest. Natasha smiled and responded, drawing him in closer to cradle his muscular frame against her own.
She knew in that moment that she had found home.
Hope you all enjoyed Catch-22..!It's been a pleasure! :D