This was actually my first attempt at a BlackHawk fic but it has taken me forever to complete it despite the fact that I basically had it written of paper months ago. I am lazy, what can I say.

This one is a little out of character for Natasha but I do think the movies showed a softer side of her and if anyone was going to bear witness to her break down it would be Clint. I would also like to say for any of you that have read and asked for a continuation of 'The In Between' I have started a follow-up and I am hoping to complete it soon. Thank you to everyone for their love and reviews!

As always, I apologize for any spelling and grammar mistakes as I have no beta. Oh and I know that in the film, Natasha and Clint left in a SHIELD issued car but for my purposes it was a loner.

PLEASE REVIEW! I know it's easy to just read and move on but we writers love to hear what you have to say, even if it's just a simple 'good!' or 'that sucked".

Breath In, Breath Out

The battle was won, though the war had only just begun. They all stood witness as the two Asguardian's teleported back to their world. The eerie blue glow of the Tesseract burning her retinas but she refused to look away, if only for the piece of mind. One Aaguardian would return to the spoils of victory and the other to eternal damnation. Or at least that's what SHIELD's finest were voting for.

One by one they nodded their goodbyes before scattering to the wind to lick their respective wounds until the siren call of a world in peril brought them together once more. They were moths to the flame, helpless against the sweet addictive sting of adrenalin. Soon they would be back, but until then they would enjoy the reprieve.

Tony had graciously loaned Natasha and Clint a sleek SUV with enough high-tech toys to have Clint giggling like a school girl in glee. Natasha wasn't as easily impressed. Knowing Stark, his gift was bugged. He had been not so subtly hinting that he suspected they were 'screwing like rabbits' in their down time. No doubt the purvey bastard was hoping for some free porn with her naked ass front and center. At least she assumed that it was her ass Stark was hoping for, with his propensity toward eccentricity it could be Clint's ass he was hoping to get a peek at. Not that any recon she had on Stark would suggest that he swung from the other side of the tree, but nothing would surprise her at this point. My, my, what would Pepper think, Natasha thought with a snort.

Despite her suspicions she had no intentions of sharing this with her partner. After the stress of the past 48 hours he was liable to put an arrow through the iron billionaires smirking skull. Natasha wouldn't shed a tear over the loss but she was not about to add another stain to Clint's already hemorrhaging ledger.

During the heat of the battle the haunted gleam in his eyes had dimmed, but she could see the tell-tale signs of guilt seep back into his rigged stance and the hard set of his jaw. He was drowning in his sins.

There were very few things in life Natasha was sure about at the moment, but one thing she knew with complete certainty was that she would do anything within her power to ease his pain.

"Where to Tasha?"

Including removing herself from the equation, he would be better off without her complicating everything. If only her faithless heart didn't skip a beat every time he said her name like that.

"To the airport."

Short, simple, and to the point. No emotion, as it should be. Emotions are the enemy, unneeded complications in an already complex world.

A quizzical brow shot up behind the dark rim of his ridiculous sunglasses. Even with his eyes shaded the simple gesture spoke volumes. He knew she was hiding something. Damn him for knowing her so well. Damn her for allowing him to know her so well. Logically she knew such intimacy was inevitable; if not necessary when you relied on someone to watch your back. Unbidden, the cold voice of the Widow whispered to her of weakness. A weakness she had spent a lifetime trying to outrun.

She had been strong and independent once. Drowning in the blood of her past, hopelessly lost, but at least it had been of her own making. A gun for hire, she had been about to complete her latest assignment with her usual cool efficiency, then he had come, looking every bit the avenging angel sent to escort her to the flaming gates of hell.

Natasha had looked upon him with begrudging respect, and as she closed her eyes she was glad it was him that would end her miserable life. Anyone that could hunt her down and sneak up on her without her knowledge was worthy of ending her. But fate had other ideas for her. As the seconds ticked by the cold sting of an arrow through her black heart didn't come. Opening wide emerald eyes, she dared to look at the face of her demise. Had she been any other woman she would have been caught spellbound by his chiseled good looks but instead she looked beyond the surface and into his soul. It was then that her life changed forever. In his steel-blue eyes she saw her own tattered soul reflected back at her.

He had offered her more than a job that day; he offered her a chance at redemption. Not a day had gone by since that Natasha had not been thankful for his presence in her life. She had told Loki that she owed him a debt but it was more than that, she owed him her life and by extension her soul. Only her debt had been paid, she had saved his life countless times and he hers. Yet with each save the debt resets in a never ending cycle that keeps her tethered to his side.

What had begun as mutual respect had slowly evolved from a tentative friendship, to a partnership, and finally into companionship. So intertwined were they that it was sometimes impossible to distinguish were one begun and the other ended. They functioned independently of each other but were at their best together. A fact that SHIELD had recognized and taken advantage of by partnering then together when ever possible.

Clint represented safety, peace, and the closest thing to home she had ever know.

It was because of this truth that she was running, but she would never admit that to her self or anyone else. Some truths are best left locked in their prisons for all eternity.

They arrived at the airport in record time due to Clint's kamikaze driving. Stark had given her a pointed look when Clint had taken the keys; he'd assumed she would be driving. Something about her control issues, he'd once mentioned. Natasha had let Clint drive quite frankly because he needed to drive. He was still wired, too many left over endorphins still running rampant through his head after Loki's mind fuck.

He pulled up to the gate, giving her a pointed look, which she promptly ignored. There were no long-winded goodbyes or tears, just a short, to the point farewell.

Then she slammed the door on his smirking ass.

He was beyond infuriating sometimes. Couldn't he see she was doing this for his own good? She continued to lie to herself on her way through security, mentally berate him for the duration of the flight - she really should have sprung for first class - it was only once she'd finished unpacking her few belonging (aka her guns) in the sterile hotel room did a single tear escape.

She was a fool.

The horrors of the last few days spun blazing trails around her head like a sick cycle carousel. Hulking monsters, gods, and magic, all things they had never been trained for. Enough ammunition for a life time of hellish nightmares, as if she didn't already have enough for two life times with her sorted past.

The list was long and colorful but it was the memory of crystalline blue, a webbing of manipulation obscuring his steel grey eyes that woke her from a dead sleep with a scream poised on her lips. The urge to claw the image from her mind before the lies replaced the truth in her memory was almost unbearable.

She was compromised. Clint "Hawkeye" Barton had compromised her. From the moment he had dropped into her life she had been his. It was a truth that dogged her heels for months now, only she could no longer deny it.

Natasha hadn't seen it then, but Loki had shown her the bitter pill she had unknowingly swallowed the day she joined her fate to his by joining SHIELD. Clint, her trusted partner, confidant, and friend had compromised her that long ago day. Every moment spent together was another nail in her coffin. He had been methodically weaved himself into her soul, each stitch strengthening his hold over her until she no longer knew what was Natasha and what was Clint's influence.

She could have killed him on the Hellicarrier, would have had she not managed to knock his thick skull out. But that knowledge came with a mind numbing realization. She would have completed the mission, like a good little SHIELD agent, but once the dust had settled…Natasha Romanoff would have been no more.

That was her real reason for leaving him, to breathe again. Breathe without his scent choking her, but she hadn't counted on one thing.

He was he air now.

The longer she stayed away the more acute her suffocation became, until she had no choice but to track him down.

Natasha lasted exactly 3 days, 14 hours, 29 minutes, and 12 seconds from the time he had dropped her off at the airport before she reached his little slice of heaven buried deep in the hills of Wyoming.

The cabin made for a picturesque setting, back-lit with snow-capped mountains and surrounded by miles of unspoiled wilderness. Every square inch of its rugged glory spoke of his love for the project. The delicate arch of the windows, and the hand carved molding surrounding the door were all a testament to Clint's masterful attention to detail and skill as a carpenter. He has always been good with his hands.

For a second she was almost jealous of the house, it held a part of him that she had only glimpsed through the years.

She had been here once before, long ago, after one of their many missions gone wrong. Natasha was inches away from death and in need of month's worth of strict bed rest to recover. Clint dragged her to his then unfinished cabin, kicking and screaming the entire way. Drugs had been involved in preventing her from re-injuring herself, but after two weeks of battling her stubborn partner Natasha stopped long enough to appreciate the beauty of Clint's home away from home. She had never told him but their time here were some of her more cherished memories.

Pulling the dark SUV up the gravel path to the rear of the triple level cabin Natasha got her first glimpse of its owner. Clint sat sprawled out on a deck chair with two glasses and a bottle of her favorite Vodka set out beside him. He was waiting for her.

She choked back the lump forming in her throat and tried to draw breath around the sudden tightness constricting her chest. Just the site of him and the air felt heavier, more substantial, her lungs expanded and contracted with new ease. She fought back an inexplicable need to abandon the vehicle, sprint the distance separating them, and collapse into his arms. Content to simply share his breath until the tightness subsided to a more manageable ache.

But as Natasha was not prone to bouts of pathetic emotional outbursts she calmly parked the car before exiting with her usual air of indifference. She kept her movements languid, each step measured in hopes of disguising the slight tremble in her limbs. A few more strides and she was leaning gracefully against the ivy-covered porch banister.

Clint had yet to acknowledge her but for the amused/ self-satisfied tilt of his lips. Her teeth ground together painfully but she held her tongue, unwilling to break the silence. He had known she was coming, he had known long before the perimeter sensors had picked up her vehicle three miles back and the bastard was waiting for her.

Their eyes caught and held; a challenge was issued. She held his gaze for a long moment but broke away first, blinking and then refocusing her gaze over his left shoulder. Internally she cursed, spit and hissed every profanity in every language she knew. Damn him for the weakness he instilled in her, she had been strong once, but on the outside she remained calm.

At least he broke the silence first, a small victory in their game of wills.

"What took you so long, Nat?"

Bastard! His voice was equal parts heaven and hell to her frayed nerves. A myriad of conflicting emotions waged war in her head. The teasing note of his comment triggered her flight response, while his eyes reflected his concern. Run, her body told her but her mind insisted that she stay and fight.

She chose nether, settling for bold-faced lies instead.

"Thought you could use some company." She offered casually before taking the empty seat across from him. If he caught her lies he didn't call her on them, he only shrugged a powerful shoulder and poured her a generous shot of Vodka.

They stayed like that until the sun had set behind the painted mountains, the fading light bathing the sky in a cascade of pastels. Maybe it was the dream like quality of their location or the bottle and a half of Vodka that was consumed between the two of them, but when he turned to her, his skin lit in shades of warm amber, his eyes pleading with her, she found her tongue moving without her consent and words spilling forth before she could sensor them.

"I've been compromised, but not for the reasons I gave before." They were only words but they felt like lead weights being dropped on her chest.

Clint offered a nod. "What did Loki do to you?" the muscles in his jaw flexed as if he wanted to say more but stopped himself.

Breathe in, breathe out, over and over until she found the strength to continue. "He's not the one," she whispered looking out into the distance. "His words brought it to the fore front but he's not the one."'

Clint was still then, waiting. Maybe he already knew what she was about to say.

"You watched the tape."

It wasn't a question.

"I did." There was a sliver of ice lacing his words that sent a shiver down her spine. She hesitated and he rushed to save her as he always did.

"Nat…you know that I would never-"

"You would have." She cuts him off. He knew it was the truth and bowed his head in shame. It was her turn to save him.

"I don't blame you Clint. I would have killed you if I had to."

"Good." There was pride in his voice.

Natasha felt sick.

With a shuddered breath she readied herself for the gauntlet. "I was stalked, thrown around like a living rag doll by Banner's evil twin. Coulson was dead, Loki was gone, and we had failed. But none of that mattered. I sat there watching you breathe, prepared to put a bullet in your brain if I had to, and I knew…"

She blinked and he was in front of her, kneeling at her feet, his hands as blood stained as her own cradled her trembling fingers between his palms. If she looked down on him now she knew she would be lost. Every instinct she possessed told her to clamp her mouth shut now, to deny everything and do what ever it toke to put the lid back of these feeling, but she couldn't. This was why she came here wasn't it? She may not have known it at the time but this thing between them, years of repressed emotions built up until they were like a poison, eating away at them from the inside out.

"I knew that if you died I wouldn't be far behind." Set free her words exploded forth and then she was falling. Tipping, teetering over the edge, then falling head first into the abyss.

The world fell away until arms caught her mid fall, suspended in bands of steel she was pulled back over the edge and on to solid ground.

An eternity passes wrapped in each others arms. Her smaller frame cradled by his larger bulk. Protecting her but also drawing strength from her nearness, drinking it in, letting it seep into his veins and sooth his own spirit.

Old demons demanded that she fight, scream, claw until she was free of her cage but they were all drown out by the blessed sound of her name poring from his lips into the shell of her ear.

Over and over, every possible variation of her name passed his lips, calling her back to him, serving as an anchor to her bleeding soul.

When the storm had subsided to a manageable roar Clint broke the silence.

"I remember." He whispered against her hair and she didn't need to look up from her place against his chest to know what he meant. Some how she knew he was referring to his time under Loki's control and it sickened her that he would have to live with such memories. A though struck her then, here she was confessing her sins and he was comforting her, her...when it was Clint that was used like a loaded gun, pointed and shot at will. She was every bit the monster she had been trained to be.

"All the questions Loki asked me about SHIELD, about you and I was helpless against the pull to answer him. I betrayed my country without a blink of an eye…"

"Clint…" she made to correct him, assure him that none of it was his fault and that he didn't ow her anything but he silenced her and continued without pause.

"There was one question thought, the last question he asked me before Stuttenguard. He asked me if I loved you.'

Natasha's heart stopped and her world narrowed to his next words. "And what did you tell him?" She asked in a near whisper, the hand that rested against his chest clenched his shirt reflexively. She could feel the sting of hot acidic tears burning at her eyes, but she blinked them away, welcoming the pain.

"I said no."

"Oh…" Words have power and those three words were a bullet to the heart, ricocheted through her rib cage, punching through every organ until her indies were a mess of bleeding flesh. Her eyes snapped shut, adrenalin flowed through her system, muscles tensed in preparation to flee. Every fear that had stilled her tongue over the years had just been realized in one horrific moment. She surged forward but had no momentum as she was still tangled in his arms, and fell backwards.

Natasha struggled but his arms tightened around her.


She ceased her mad dash for freedom and looked up. Green met blue and held. He never called her Natalia.

"I lied." Thump…thump. "I lied, Tasha. I don't know how, but I lied to him."

Her brain was on overload from too many ups and downs. This was the cruelest form of torture he could have inflicted upon her. Frantically she searched his eyes for any sign of deceit but found only bare truth reflected back at her.

"Clint, I don't…" she trailed off, her voice trembling too much to form the words on her tongue.

A ghost of a smile pulled at his lips and his callused fingers reached up to wipe away the traitorous tears falling down her cheeks. Unable to resist she leaned into the touch desperate for more.

"Don't you see Nat? I was compromised long before Loki." There was a pleading note to his voice that pulled at her heart. Tinny tendrils of hope reflected in the silver blue of his eyes. Believe me, they whispered, and she did believe him.

"We both were." Her voice sounded foreign to her own ears but at the same time entirely right.

His answering smile is hesitant, as if he was unsure if he head her correctly or if he could trust the meaning behind the statement. But Clint has never been one to back down from a challenge, not when he stood to gain so much.

The seconds crawled to a near stop, inch by inch the distance separating their lips lessened...

Only that wasn't fast enough for Natasha. Impatient she crashed her lips up to meet Clint in a passionate kiss. Her heart skittered to a screeching halt in her chest before a shock of electricity jump started the abused organ once again. Like most things in her life kissing had always been a means to an end, a tool to be used when needed, which is why she had never allowed herself to feel the touch of his lips. Not for a mission and never in friendship, this was one line she had promised her self to never cross, and now she understood why. There was no going back from this feeling growing in her core. Each sweep of his tongue, caress of their roaming hands was another root taking hold.

Despite her protests they did not have sex that night. Her hungry hands scraped down his chest and ripped at his belt but her efforts were thwarted. Clint ripped his lips away from her ivory neck with much difficulty and caught her hands in a vise like grip. She pouted at him like an angry kitten but he only shook his head laughing as her pout turned to a feral hiss. His kitty had claws and she was prepared to use them to get what she wanted.

" nice." He admonished quietly, kissing her fingertips one-by-one. "Not tonight. I would be willing to bet nether one of us has slept recently." When she doesn't bother to correct him he continues. "Let me hold you tonight. I need to be close to you Tasha, please."

Oh but if that wasn't the sexiest thing any man had ever said to her, but who would she be if she didn't put up a token fight? "Feeling old are we Barton? Afraid you can't keep up without a good nights sleep?" She challenged sweetly. The fingers still laced with his tracing tantalizing circles over his bruised knuckles.

One brow shoots up before he swoops in like the predator whose name he bares, throws her over his shoulder and marches them straight to the bedroom. They are both laughing as he tosses her on the bed. He makes slow work of their clothes, touching and teasing her skin as she is unveiled before him. Settling beside her, he draws her in and seals their lips in a heated dance but after a moment the kiss slows, becoming something loving rather than arousing in nature.

"Not tonight..." He whispers again.

It wouldn't be hard to push him, seduce him as she has others but she likes this side of him and there is always tomorrow morning. Hands raise in surrender and she falls back against the ornate headboard. "You are no fun..."

She liked the way his laughter resonates through the room and settles in her core and she smiled in return. "I am plenty of fun." He punctuates with a nip to the sensitive skin of her collarbone, eliciting a yelp from her lips before he arranges her until her head was pillowed on his chest and their legs tangled in the sheets. This was nice, almost normal and it reminds her of just how far from normal their lives truly are.

Long after the sky has darkened to obsidian they remain awake, silent but content. The morning would bring new complications, but she welcomed the change rather than denying it. This was enough for tonight enough for possibly the rest of their lives.

So much of her life had been conducted in the shadows, but with Clint she could almost feel the morning sun chasing the darkness away.

The End

No matter how many times I try to imagine the 'I love you' moment I come up empty. I see them as more of a silent understanding type of couple. Just a casual 'you know I love you?' making it's way into conversation one day. But that is just me. *shrugs*

Please Review! Come on, you know you want to...Please I'll give you a brownie! ;)