A post-movie fill for the cottoncandy-bingo prompt "Person & Loved One(s) Sick/Injured Simultaneously".
Many thanks to eiluned, Bees, and Amanda for their input and help. Special thanks to eiluned for the line at the end (you'll know it when you see it); she came up with it during a chat about the situation, so if you recognize it from her stuff, that's why :-)
Happy reading! If you've the time, I always adore comments!
In the end, they joined the others for shawarma because there wasn't anything better to do.
Well, no, that wasn't right. There were plenty of other things to do - go to medical, for instance. She hadn't walked right since part of the Helicarrier landed on her, and she knew for a fact that Clint was hurting, even if the others didn't notice. She could tell when her partner was trying to hide a limp (particularly when she was doing the same).
She had been worried about what they would do, how they would take care of the alien bodies littering the street, how they would get help to the wounded, how they would secure Loki; she wasn't sure she was up for much, not in her condition, and the rest of the team didn't look much better.
But then SHIELD came, packed up the errant god and carted him off to who-gave-a-shit-where, and when Stark asked them if they were hungry, she'd looked to Clint before she even thought about the blood running down her forehead. He'd shrugged, more with his eyes than his shoulders, which probably meant that he was stiffening up, but hell, if he wanted to pretend that he hadn't just gone through a plate glass window, who was she to stop him?Happy to cede responsibility, she acquiesced to the minor field medicine provided by the roaming triage teams. A young operative patched her up (she remembered the girl from a training session two months ago. What was her name? Lane? Land? Lang? Something that started with an l …).
Natasha sat on the hood of a totalled car, her hip flush against Clint's as the medical team gave them both a once over, as they wiped her forehead and handed them both a small handful of pills. They both refused further immediate care; neither of them were the type to take needed assistance away from others just because they happened to have saved the city twenty minutes ago.
As it turned out, neither was the rest of their team (a funny turn of phrase, that - team, as if they'd been fighting together for years rather than a few hours).Faced with the choice between slinking off to fend for themselves or following Tony to the restaurant he'd spotted during the thick of the onslaught, they'd opted for food.
The walk to to the shop was short, but that didn't mean it wasn't arduous. The adrenaline was starting to wear off, and she had started to feel her injuries more keenly, even through the haze the strong painkillers provided. Clint was worse off, though, and she could see the fatigue in him, a tangible companion on their journey (frankly, she wasn't sure how he was still upright; he'd told her that when she'd knocked him out, it was the first time he'd been unconscious since New Mexico). Her leg was starting to really fucking hurt, and she could tell that once she took her boot off it wasn't going back on, but she let him throw an arm around her shoulders and lean on her as they walked anyway.
Oddly enough, Stark was the only one among them who'd never had shawarma before. Even Steve, whom Stark had called 'Grandpa' on the short walk over, pointed out that he was from Brooklyn not Iowa (Clint hadn't been able to hold back a snort at that), and that he'd grown up with Greek neighbors. Even Thor, for shit's sake, though he called it something else in that archaic, almost quaint way of his.
The owners were more than happy to feed them even though their place was falling apart. They were recognized immediately, of course, what with four of them still in their uniforms, but in that particularly blasé way of New Yorkers, all the proprietor had said was "don't worry about it" when Stark tried to pay. Then the old man had turned around and went back to sweeping up the debris on the floor.
No one had much to say, all of them with thousand yard stares plastered on their faces, and the silence was just starting to skirt the edges of awkward when a woman brought their food.
She and Clint both have eaten their fair share of Middle Eastern food in their day, but if asked, she would have to admit that she'd never tasted anything better in her life.
Maybe fighting aliens did that to you.
She helped Clint prop his foot up behind her, and she could tell from the wince that he didn't bother to hide that she wasn't going to like the look of his leg when she finally got his pants off later tonight. She met his eyes for a long moment, wondering if he'd done something to his knee; his left was the one with the pins in it from the explosion in Azerbaijan - another mission they'd only survived by the skin of their teeth. He did that strange half-shrug, half-eyebrow raise again, however, so she figured it could wait until after they ate.
She wondered if Loki fed him while he was under his thrall. She decided not to think about that almost as soon as it crossed her mind.
Clint finished eating first, but that came as no surprise. He'd told her once about the orphanage he'd been in, and the circus he and his brother had run off to hadn't been any better when it came to people stealing food. The man was greedy with his calories, always had been. Still, he didn't stop her when she'd started in on his fries.
Stark invited them all back to his tower afterward, promised them their own floors, if they wanted it, but while Bruce and Steve and even Thor seemed game, Clint most definitely wasn't, and she sure as shit wasn't going to leave him alone in whatever bolt hole he crawled into.
She said something about heading back to SHIELD, mumbled about reports to file and getting down to medical, but if Stark knew it was a brush off (and he probably did because he was an expert at such things himself), he didn't comment.
They headed back to her apartment in the city, picking their way through the eerily deserted streets. Clint was fading fast, but then, so was she, and they only made it back to her building through sheer force of will. By dumb luck, the building was untouched, but that didn't make any difference to the elevator that hadn't worked in the six years she'd owned this place, so they hoofed it up the ten flights of stairs.
Now that they were alone, Clint was leaning more heavily on her, was wincing and cussing under his breath as they moved, and she was starting to worry in full force now. Clint didn't complain about injuries. Ever.
Still, she didn't ask the obvious, didn't ask him if he was okay because it was pretty clear that he wasn't. She just held onto him, supported him as he walked, and took comfort in the fact that he was dead set on returning the favor.
It was a Herculean task to pull off their clothes before they collapsed into bed, one that she had to accomplish mostly by herself. He was already half asleep by the time she'd tugged his pants off and discovered that she was right about his knee. It was swollen, black and blue and a worrying shade of red, but she'd keep an eye on it and force him into the infirmary if she had to.
She thought he was entirely asleep by the time she pulled off the last bit of her suit and tucked her weapon into its usual place by her bed, but when she laid down beside him, he'd pulled her close and whispered her name, and she drifted off to sleep with his arms tight around her.
Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, Clint shouted her awake. Her hand was on her gun before she realized that he'd had a nightmare, that they weren't in danger. Well, not the physical kind anyway.
She replaced her gun on the nightstand and turned toward her partner. He was sitting up, hunched over with his face in his palms and the sheets pooled around his waist, and she could see the thin sheen of sweat covering his body glisten in the moonlight.
"Clint?" she asked softly, but he didn't answer, didn't even move. She knew he heard her; he never missed anything, so she reached out, laid a tentative hand on his shoulder, tried his name again.
He came unhinged at that, became a live wire, sprang into action. Before she knew it, she was pinned beneath him, his mouth working hot on hers. She stilled for a moment, surprised by the sudden change in him, surprised by the force of his onslaught, but then she relaxed, arched against him and spread her legs.
They've been here frequently enough, screwed up so badly by the mission, so far beyond comfort that the only thing that made the world stop hurting was to fuck it away. He'd done it for her and she for him too often to count, but they were partners before they were lovers, and this was one of the things that had made them cross the line long ago. She was good at this, could do this for him, and even if she couldn't stop his nightmares, she could provide the relief of her body.
She'd be lying if she said she didn't need the same thing from him right now.
He reached between their bodies to tug at her underwear, skidding them down over her hips with more force than was necessary, but she didn't mind. The better part of him, the part that was Clint and not Barton or Hawkeye dragged an impatient finger between her legs, stimulated her until she was damp, until she bucked against his hand and moaned. It didn't take much to get her there, it never had, not with him, and moments later he was heavy between her thighs, thrusting up inside of her, burying himself to the hilt and shuddering under her palms.
She brought her legs up around his waist as he began to move, clutched him closer as he pounded out his frustration. He didn't kiss her, just buried his face in her neck, but then, this wasn't about romance or sweetness. She wouldn't have accepted it from him anyway, not right now. He needed this to feel alive, just as much as she needed to feel the vitality in him, because as much as he almost lost himself to Loki, she nearly lost him as well. The roughness, the harshness with which he approached this act, the way he moved inside of her was a reminder of all of that, of all of the ways that he'd been taken from her, of all the alternate realities where Loki had killed him instead of enslaved him, of all the worlds where she'd killed him.
He came with a shudder, and she couldn't tell if the moisture on her cheeks was his or hers. It didn't matter.
They rolled apart without speaking, but he was breathing easier, if a bit more quickly, as they fell back asleep.
Sunlight on her cheeks woke her up, and she stretched, raising her arms over her head and scowling at the stiffness in her shoulders. Clint was still in bed beside her, and when she turned toward him, he was watching her with an inscrutable expression.
He didn't say anything, just stared at her, his eyes boring into hers, and if they were anybody else, this would be awkward. He would apologize for fucking her without making sure she came, for waking her up and accosting her without so much as a "by your leave". If they were anyone else, she would demur and pretend that she didn't care. Later, after awkwardly getting dressed, they would exchange fake promises to call each other next week, and that would be the end of it.
But since he was Clint and she was Natasha, he pushed her into the mattress and slid down her body, sucking on her skin, dragging his tongue over her nipples, between her breasts and tracing a line down her belly. He worshipped her with his mouth, his own version of an apology, hitching her thighs up over his shoulders, willingly putting himself at her mercy even as he suckled her, lapped at her clit, rolled it between his teeth and grinned as she came apart against his face.
He moved back up her body in the same manner that he'd traversed down it, pressing his mouth to every bare patch of skin he passed. This time, he kissed her full on the mouth, his tongue begging for entry and grazing her teeth when she granted it, and when he reached between them to guide himself inside of her, it was with a mutual sigh of pleasure.
This wasn't better or more fulfilling or anything but different than the night before, and when she rolled them, he let her, let her take control and sit astride him, ride him, raise and lower herself on his hardness. They've done this before, too, made love slowly in the morning after a rough mission, connected with each other in a way that neither one of them dared talk about for fear that it would break the spell and ruin the tentative, fragile thing that somehow existed between two people like them.
He rolled his thumb against her clit as she moved, heightening her pleasure and obviously his own, even if one were to judge solely based on the dilation of his pupils and not take into account the way his other hand clenched tighter in the fold of her hip, the way his mouth fell open and he panted into the air.
It did not take much for her to come again, especially not with him looking up at her like that, like she was the ground he walked upon, the air he breathed, and she contracted violently, bent over his torso with her forehead pressed against his while she gasped her pleasure and gripped the sides of his chest, carefully avoiding the bruising on his ribs.
He held her face as she returned to herself, kissed the tip of her nose, her eyelids, the swell of her cheeks. He was still hard inside of her, still throbbing and she fought the urge to cry again because it was morning now, and tears in the daylight were too real, even for them. He was here, alive and beautiful and pulsing inside of her, and she never wanted to be apart from him again.
He kissed her sweetly, tenderly, like he meant it, and he slid out of her while they switched positions again. He moved her onto her side in front of him, curled around her back and dragged her toward him until her ass was pressed firmly into his hips, and then he lifted her leg over the top of his, took her hand in his and helped her guide them back together.
He hit deeper inside of her from this angle, could penetrate her more fully and still pluck at the tips of her breasts, teasing her, playing her like an instrument. He breathed her name into her ear, and fuck, love was supposed to be for children, but she couldn't even bear to think about that right now, not with him inside of her like this, not with him taking her apart and putting her back together with the basest of motions.
This third time, they came apart together, her hand between her legs and his between her breasts, and she twisted her neck almost painfully to kiss him through their orgasm.
When it was all over, when they could breathe again, they peeled themselves apart, and she liked to think she could feel the reluctance in him, that he was just as reticent to disengage from her as she was from him.
They showered, separately so they might actually get clean, and she puttered around in the kitchen, looking for caffeine but coming up short while he dressed in the bedroom.
"Coffee?" he asked hopefully when he emerged, his hair still dripping and his skin pink from the heat of the water. She wasn't surprised by that, wasn't surprised that he'd tried either to burn or scour Loki from his skin. She wanted to hug him, to clasp him to her breast and comfort him.
Instead she said, "I'm out. Place around the corner okay?"
They made it down the stairs in much the same way they'd gone up it - leaning against each other and helping one another through the worst of it. He was still favoring his left leg, probably would be for weeks, if the sight of it in the daylight had been any indication. For her part, she was shuffling along in flipflops, having tried and failed to get her boots on this morning.
It would have to do.
They made it to the cafe in one piece, neither one of them voicing the concern that it wouldn't be open, that something had happened to the shop or its owners, but she relaxed when she saw that the door was propped open and the daily specials were advertised in brightly colored chalk on the sandwich board outside.
She took a seat at a table by the window, leafing through a forgotten paper while Clint ordered their coffees, and when he plunked her mug down in front of her, she was surprised to see the loopy grin on his face.
"What?" she asked. He hadn't grinned like that in ages, hadn't smiled at her like a child with some huge secret to spill since … shit, she couldn't even remember.
"So, they've renamed some of their drinks."
Oh god, surely he couldn't mean …
"Yours is a Stark Reactor." He was practically snorting his mirth as he sat down next to her.
She looked at her mug skeptically. "What," she said flatly, more of a statement than anything else, not really asking him anything so much as she was questioning the sanity of the universe.
"Don't worry," he said in between sips of his own. "It's still the same thing you always get - regular with a double shot of espresso."
"Thanks," she said, and then they were quiet again, slipping into the easy silence that was the hallmark of their partnership. When you could communicate as much and as easily as the two of them did without talking, there was very little need for chatter.
She was so engrossed in watching the pigeons outside the window that she nearly missed his whispered, "I love you, you know."
She stared at him while the words settled. And then she said, "I knew there was a reason I saved your sorry ass."
If they were anybody else, this would be weird. If he weren't Clint and she weren't Natasha, this would be awkward and off-putting. He would cringe and walk away, assuming he'd been rebuffed, and she would roll her eyes and let him go without regret.
But since they were Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow and Hawkeye, they knew each other well enough to recognize what just happened. She understood that when he said he loved her, he meant it and would always mean it. Just like she knew that he understood her reaction, understood why she didn't say the words back, couldn't say them, but meant them all the same.
He reached out across the table to hold her hand, and she gripped his fingers back while they watched the world go by outside the window.