A fill for the cottoncandy_bingo prompt "Caretaking", as selected by EuphoricSound. Thanks for the inspiration, bb!

Thanks, as always, to all you lovely people for the encouragement! I couldn't do this without you!


She feels raw after a fight, exposed like a nerve, as Bruce would say, her emotions raging far too close to the surface and threatening to boil over.

Clint knows this, though, because he feels the same way, except that he doesn't mind when his emotions slip out, doesn't mind that other people are aware of how he's feeling, and he tends to use that to distract the rest of the team from her, to draw them into other conversations and away from Natasha while she tries to zip herself back together.

It doesn't really work, of course, but she at least manages to keep herself upright and silent while they make the short flight back to the Tower, and then everyone is too busy with their own post-battle rituals to notice the way that Clint puts an arm around her as they slink off together.

It should feel like a retreat, used to feel like it, especially back when she went and hid by herself, but Clint has been her partner for years now, and they've been tending to each other for most of that, so more and more lately it just feels soothing and centering. Like something she can't live without, and she supposes she's grateful that she doesn't have to.

She refuses to think about all the ways in which she could lose him, refuses to think about what she would do without him because she's lived through that once and she's not sure she can do it again.

Clint takes them back to his floor because it's closer than hers, and she can feel herself start to unwind the moment the door slides shut behind them. She drops some of her masks in front of the others because they're her team and she likes them, she really does, but the only one who ever gets to see all of her, the part that's weak and needy and sore and human is Clint. But then, the reverse is also true, and if that makes them exposed, well, then they're only exposed to each other. It's a liability she can live with.

He helps her out of her suit and she helps him out of his, and they leave their gear in a disorganized mass on the floor of his living room. Stripped to her underwear, she follows him back to the bathroom. The bathrooms here are covered in marble, and it makes her feel like she's in a particularly expensive hotel, but Tony could not be persuaded that they would want anything different, and she's grown used to it anyway. It's kind of nice, after all, to have a Jacuzzi in your apartment.

Clint closes the lid on the toilet and sits down with a groan of exhaustion, stretching his legs out gingerly in front of him, and she stoops to collect his medkit from beneath the sink. She opens the kit, neatly arranges all the things she's going to need on the counter before her, and she stands over him to get started.

They don't talk as she cleans his face, pulling the tiny shards of glass out of a nasty cut on his forehead with a pair of tweezers. He hisses when she disinfects the area, but at least it won't require stitches.

The gash on her side, however, is another story.

They shower together first, before he sews her back together because even though it's not the best idea to put off that sort of thing, she's not going to feel like a sponge bath after he patches her up, so she'll just deal with it. Besides, that'll also give the painkillers a time to start working.

He has to help her out of her bra because she can't lift her arm easily, and he washes both of their bodies because she can't bend either. After, they lean against each other underneath the hot spray, letting the water loosen some of their tension, but she can tell that Clint's arms and neck are hurting just from his posture. He's half-hard, too, but that part of it can wait, will wait until after everything else is taken care of, the last itch to scratch before they fall asleep.

He helps her sit on the sink after they shower, and he sews her back together with his usual painstaking efficiency. He makes tiny stitches, ones that shouldn't scar too much, but even when they do, she doesn't mind, likes the wispy reminders of their relationship marring her flesh. He wipes away the blood when he's finished, covers the area with gauze, and tops everything off with a swift press of his lips, like she's a child.

She always feels like one around him.

They head back into the bedroom, purged of the physical indicators of battle, and when he sits down on the edge of the bed, she takes a position behind him. He sighs and leans into her at her first touch, as she skims her hands up and down his shoulders, across the plane of his back, over the thick muscles of his arms. He starts to loosen, starts to relax more underneath her touch, but she can feel the tension, the stress that is coiled there and she's going to do her best to dispel it.

She works through the knots as best she can with her limited range of motion, eventually encouraging him to lay down on his stomach so he can relax more fully. It's a slow process, one that might be tedious and tense if it were anyone else below her, but with Clint, rubbing out his stress kind of has a complementary effect on her.

Eventually, he sighs that breathy sigh he uses when he's feeling really good, and then he turns over beneath her, helps her swap positions so he can do the same for her.

Her aches and pains are different, of course; she's not an archer, so her stress is carried in her legs and low on her back, the soles of her feet and her joints. But he knows this, knows all the little places on her body that seize up during and after a fight, knows just the right amount of pressure to apply to get them to go away, and this is her favorite part of decompressing.

Well, almost her favorite part of decompressing.

She smiles into the pillow as the motion of his hands shifts from being soothing to another sort of therapeutic entirely. He's still kneading her muscles, but the movement of flesh against flesh is different, and he gradually slows to a standstill with his hands warm on her ass.

He pauses, waits for her assent, and when he's got it, he resumes his motions, his greedy palms indicating his interest. He starts with slow circles, rubbing the muscles at the tops of her thighs, spreading her legs and working the flesh between them. He gravitates toward her center and then he's running his fingers up and down along her slit, dipping inside of her, and she knows he can feel how aroused she is right now, how wet and aching she is for him.

She moans, all the encouragement that he needs, and she's so relaxed and simultaneously excited right now that she doesn't even start when she feels his lips take the place of his hands, just mewls and bucks, desperate for more. He lifts her slightly, slides a pillow under her hips to change the angle, and then his mouth is back, pressing directly against her center this time, and she grinds against him, gasping for air and clutching at the sheets.

He's good at this, so good at figuring out what she needs, so good at giving it to her that she would feel guilty about it if she didn't already know that he's getting as much from this as she is. He's the talkative sort, especially after sex, and she knows if she lets him, he would compose sonnets to how much he loves eating her out, how much her loves rubbing his face against her, how he'll never get enough of her taste or watching her body spasm in front of him.

He teases her with the tip of his nose, his fingers digging into the flesh of her ass, still massaging her as he unexpectedly thrusts his tongue inside of her. It feels good, fucking perfect, in fact, but she's greedy and she wants more, she wants him so she presses back against him firmly, moaning her frustration.

He turns her over, and the sight of him aroused and laying between her legs is enough to make her squirm. He snakes a rough palm up her body, rolls one nipple between his fingers as he drops his face back down between her legs, and fuck he's maintaining eye contact as he eats her, sucking her clit into his mouth and dragging his tongue across her sensitive bud, and she has no coherent thought for this kind of intimacy, no way to express how much she needs this, how much this grounds her, how much it helps remind her of who she is and why she does the things she does.

God, she needs this.

He's humming against her as he sucks, swirling his tongue around and in between her folds, and when she comes apart, it's around his fingers, pulsing against his tongue, all the while shouting and moaning and cursing his name.

She releases her fingers from where they've tangled in his hair, helps pull him up her body to close the distance between them. He's fitted against her at last, and she drags him down for a searing kiss. She can taste herself on his lips and she's ready to come again just from that, so she spreads her legs wider to receive him, grunts throatily as he slides his thick cock inside of her.

He feels like home when he's there, heavy and hard between her thighs, reminding her that he's alive and here and with her and he's not going anywhere. She wraps herself around him, clings to him as he fucks her, thrusting slowly and deeply within her and it's like he's another part of her, the half of her that's always been missing, even when she didn't know it.

His mouth is a firebrand against hers, hot and sweet, and their tongues tangle, not fighting for dominance so much as fighting to please the other, and she can't even remember a time when she didn't have this to come back to at the end of a mission, doesn't even want to remember it.

She feels him tense up even as she coils back toward her own release, feels herself clench up and grow slicker in response, and she uses her heels to hold him more firmly inside of her. He tears his mouth from hers in an effort to breathe more deeply, carefully braces himself on his forearms so as to not disturb his earlier sewing, and the new angle he creates with the cant of his hips hits her in just the right spot.

She groans wordless encouragement into his ear, nipping at the sensitive flesh of his neck and digging her fingernails possessively into his back. She knows they're close now, knows that they're almost at the end of this, but time dilates, draws out and expands. They come together, endlessly, mindlessly, and she can't tell how long it lasts, how long she ripples and seizes around him, how long he pumps into her.

He lays between her thighs for along moment while they catch their breath, and now she thinks that maybe this part is her favorite part of their post-mission ritual – the pleasant weight of his body on top of her, covering her like a blanket as she feels his heartbeat reverberate through her body, her own heart beating out a counterpoint.

Or maybe she can't pick a favorite at all, and maybe there's no need to because he's kissing her sweetly now, running his tongue along her teeth and cradling her face between his palms. He doesn't say anything, he doesn't have to, he just stares down at her wide-eyed and bemused, brushing his fingertips over her face and neck, dropping the occasional peck to her nose, her eyelids, her brow.

When they eventually roll apart, it is just long enough to clean up one last time, to wipe away the remnants of their pleasure, and then they're entwined together again, differently this time, wrapped around each other beneath the sheets.

She drifts off with his arms encircling her, and they're not ready to face the rest of the world just yet, but they will be by morning.