A/N: So I wrote this for Anuna, and it's not my usual type of work, but I had a lot of fun writing it. Hope you enjoy, and that you're having a wonderful holiday, whatever you celebrate!
The trouble starts in Antigua, inexplicable site of the newest in a long line of alien invasions, though Natasha won't know that for weeks later. All she knows is that she's fighting off what Tony has so helpfully nicknamed a "Big Ass Ugly Bug," and judging by the fact that its pincer just went straight through her chest and even a Red Room soldier can't survive that, she's losing horribly. Her world fades to red and grey and black as she falls backward in the cave, hearing a splash that must be her landing in a pool of some type.
She wakes up to find five of the most attractive men on the planet leaning over her, identical worry on their faces. She coughs up liquid, but it's clear and not red, like it should be. "What happened?"
"We fought off an invasion of Big Ass Ugly Bugs while you took a nap, Tsarina," Tony, always helpful, says.
Natasha glances at Clint—he's relieved, but trying to match the other guys' levels of relief—before she glances around and spots her dead foe, the one she's sure that killed her. It has Widow's Bite burns on its mandibles, and it's crumpled on the cave floor. Its pincer is bloody, but her chest is whole.
"Huh," she says.
"Did you hit your head?" Thor asks. He knows better than to reach and feel for himself. Clint's the only one that can get away with that.
"No, no, I feel…" She feels fine, actually. Maybe she hallucinated her death. It wouldn't be the first time. "I feel okay."
"Good. You can help with the clean-up, then, Sleeping Beauty." Tony flips his visor down and rockets off, which she can tell is his way of telling her he's glad she's alive. She rises slowly to her feet, not because she's in pain but because she's still a little puzzled about the blood on the pincer. Where did it come from? The bugs bleed green, not red.
Clint shucks off his top layer of armor and hands it to her, as her uniform is ripped down the front. She doesn't mind the nudity so much, but SHIELD does, so she slips into the vest, which smells of the oil he uses on his bow, and dust, and sweat. It's a nice smell. If their fingers brush for a second longer than necessary, none of the others seem to notice.
Natasha does her best to forget about the bug. She solves the dual problems of returning Clint's armor and showing him she's grateful to be alive by jumping him the moment they're alone at Avengers Tower. Clint doesn't protest, nor does he seem to mind just how often that sort of thing happens. She can't help it. Her knee isn't acting up, and sex with him is amazing, and they're not hurting anyone, so why stop? Plus, sneaking around Avengers Tower is a thrill since the other Avengers have no clue the two assassins are together. Sure, there are frat reqs since they're still technically SHIELD, but as far as Natasha is concerned, Fury can shove those up his ass. She tells Clint so one night while they're cooling off in one of his favorite hiding places in the vents. Since his arms are still around her, she can feel his chest shaking with the laughter she knows he's trying to hold in for her sake.
Their enthusiasm, however, starts to get to even her enhanced metabolism. A combination of late nights with Clint anywhere but their own rooms—too easy—and back-to-back missions in between has her feeling draggy and tired. Finally, Clint strong-arms her into getting her annual physical a month early. Because she's trying to learn to compromise, she goes.
She comes to regret that one rather quickly.
"Agent Romanoff?" They send in one of the nurses to talk to her after they've done all the blood-work and weigh-ins. She's young and fresh-faced and for a tiny piece of a second, Natasha feels guilty for not remembering her name. But SHIELD nurses are a dime a dozen, so she flicks the guilt away.
"Yes?" she asks, sitting up and hating the papery gown.
The nurse looks apologetic. "I need to draw a second sample of your blood."
Suspicion immediately arises. "Why?"
"We're afraid the first sample might have been contaminated and we'd like to double-check, that's all." The nurse puts on a sunny smile. "If you could hold out your arm, please? This'll be quick, I promise."
Natasha doesn't. "What's wrong with the first sample?"
"We noticed some…inconsistencies."
Natasha immediately goes back through all of her recent battles, not allowing fear to dig its claws in yet. She doesn't think she got contaminated in any of them, but it's a possibility. The Skrulls they fought in Hong Kong last month bled purple instead of the usual green. "You'll have to be more specific," she says. "Is it a toxin? A disease?"
"Well, it might be considered a parasite." Coulson, of all people, is standing at the door, looking as unflappable as ever. "What Nurse Patterson here is trying not to tell you is that there were elevated levels of hCG in your blood-work."
It takes a few seconds to click into place. "That's impossible," Natasha says. "The Red Room…"
"That's why we want to double-check." Coulson gives her a smile and grabs her hand and Natasha's so shaken that she lets him. hCG levels are an indication of pregnancy, she thinks. She's studied biology. She knows the ways human bodies move and function, what hormones they produce, how they age and they heal, and how they scar. She knows that her body does not do these things.
She knows that she is sterile. Blindly, she holds out an arm, and Nurse Patterson, all bolstering smiles and "there there" statements, takes another sample of her blood.
Coulson sits with her while she waits, and shows her his newest acquisition. It's from 1943, he tells her, showing her the card in its plastic sleeve (he used to think sleeves were like cheating, until Fury used his collection to make a point. Now the collection sits in a biometrically locked safe). A woman in Poughkeepsie found it while she was cleaning up her great-uncle's attic.
Natasha teases him about his snobbery about all things vintage and absolutely does not, does not wonder if it's truly possible, if they got something wrong this whole time…
This time when the medical personnel come back, it's Nurse Patterson and Dr. Singh. "Need me to leave?" Coulson asks, moving to get up.
Natasha shrugs. "You'll just ninja it out of somebody later on," she says. "You should stay. What's the verdict, Dr. Singh?"
"We'd like to run some more tests, including a sonogram, but it appears, Agent Romanoff, that you are indeed expecting."
The wall between Natasha's feelings and the rest of her breaks, and disbelief and confusion finally flood in. "How?" she asks. "How is that possible? The Red Room, they said that it would never be possible, they ensured that."
"Right now, we don't know anything conclusive about how this could have come to be. But we ran tests on your blood and all of your DNA is human, so it's probably not an alien infection."
"No, the father is human," Natasha says, and stops. Father.
"Perhaps you'd like to call him to come keep you company?" Dr. Singh asks.
"No, I think I'll be okay. Do what you gotta do, Doc," Natasha says, and focuses every ounce of energy she has on not freaking out because what the hell? She has a tiny person inside of her? How is that even possible? And what the hell does she know about raising a kid? Or having a baby? Or anything remotely human?
She's the Black Widow. These are things that happen to other people.
The tests take hours and hours. They bring in a lot of different pieces of equipment Natasha doesn't recognize, and she's poked and prodded by pretty much every doctor SHIELD has. Coulson stays the entire time, though he does send somebody out to fetch them chili dogs from the cafeteria. Natasha would rather not eat—is that the pregnancy talking? Is she going to start getting cravings for weird foods?—but she knows how it will look if she doesn't, so she blithely polishes off the chili dog and makes jokes about some of Coulson's new recruits. He probably notices that her fingers are shaking the tiniest bit, but he doesn't comment.
"Well," Singh says, hours and hours later when the chili dog is a less-than-fond memory that might make a second appearance. "The tests yielded some interesting results."
"I'm not pregnant?" Natasha asks, and she's not sure if there's hope in her voice or not.
"No, no, you're most assuredly pregnant. But see here?" Singh holds out a SHIELD tablet that contains x-rays of her bones. "This is your knee at last year's physical. There was irreparable damage to it that not even your augmented healing could control."
"Yes," Natasha says. She still won't go back to Jakarta.
"But now…" Singh flicks his fingers and a new x-ray appears. "Your knee is completely healed."
"Don't know. It's not the Red Room healing serum, though. That's still in your blood, but it leaves traces on wound sites, and there are none of those on your knee. Have you been exposed to anything lately?"
Coulson hands over another tablet, and Singh glances through the report. "I see," he says after a long moment. "What about this incident? With the…Big Ass Ugly Bug? You said you had a hallucination about it?"
"Yes, I thought it had impaled me, but I woke up and I was completely fine." Now that she's thinking about it, Natasha begins to put it together. "My knee didn't hurt after that. Could something in the bug blood…"
"Or the water."
"It says you remember falling into some water." Singh shows her the tablet, and she blinks. She'd been on dry land when she woke up.
Coulson, however, immediately pulls out his phone. "I've got an agent that can be there in six hours," he says. "We'll get you a sample, Doc."
"Are you saying this is like some…fountain of youth? Some healing lake of water just magically made me able to get pregnant and fixed my knee?"
"Stranger things have happened, Agent Romanoff."
"No," Natasha says. "No, they haven't."
Coulson gives her a supportive smile. "Are you sure?"
"You show up pregnant, and then we'll talk."
It's late when she makes it back to the Avengers Tower. Coulson offers to come back with her—he totally knows who the father is, she realizes, but she can't quite bring herself to care about that right now, not when the rest of her is caught between wanting to throw up and wanting to run very, very far away—but she needs some time alone. She's going to have to tell Clint, she thinks. And she's going to have to hope to hell that he understands she wasn't trying to trick him because given the mood she's in, she wants to punch something and she's not real picky about what that is.
She finds him in the kitchen, head buried in the refrigerator. "Hey, Nat," he says without looking up. "I was just about to make a liverwurst sandwich. You want in? Double or nothing."
"I'm pregnant," Natasha says, and even spoken aloud, it doesn't sound real.
Clint does not rise or even move. In fact, if she didn't know his hearing was almost as good as his vision, she'd have suspected he didn't hear her. She waits him out.
Finally, he swivels. "That explains the exhaustion," he says. "Is it aliens?"
"No, you jerk, it's yours."
The refrigerator door shuts on its own. They're standing across the kitchen from each other, and she can't read the look on Clint's face, which is even worse. "Oh," he says, and Natasha wants to throw something at his head. That's all he can say? "Are you okay?"
"I don't really know."
"Like, I mean, are you healthy?"
Natasha suddenly feels like laughing. "Actually, yes," she says, collapsing onto one of the stools at the wet bar. "The healthiest I've ever been because two and a half months ago, a bug stabbed me in the chest, but I fell in a magic fountain, and now I'm pregnant."
"Well, that's a nice sitrep." Warily, like he's approaching a predator, Clint crosses the kitchen. Natasha tenses, but he just puts his arms around her, awkwardly. Like he's not sure how to hug her anymore. It breaks one of their major rules—no affection in the common areas—but Natasha's spinning so far out of control that she doesn't care. She sags against him, pushing her forehead into his shoulder.
"How mad are you at me right now?" she asks.
"I don't know. How mad are you at me?"
"It's not your fault," Natasha says.
She feels his chest shake, and she realizes he's actually laughing. When she lifts her head to give him a narrow-eyed look, he's grinning. "It's not your fault either," he says. "What was it you told me? This is monsters and magic, and nothing we were trained for."
"I understand better when the monsters are trying to kill me, not impregnate me." Natasha knows she sounds grumpy, but there's not anything she can do about it.
"Hey, that part was me, not the monsters."
She hits his arm, not hard enough to hurt. "Don't rub it in. What the hell are we going to do now?"
Clint lifts his head to think about it. She's not fooled at all by his nonchalance: she can feel the way his hands aren't entirely steady. For the man who never misses, that's a huge deal, she thinks. And it's comforting, knowing she's not the only one shaken by this. Maybe, Natasha thinks for the first time, it might be okay. "Well, if we do decide we're having a baby, we should probably tell the others we're together. At some point. Otherwise they're going to be really confused when there's a tiny redheaded archer running around the Tower."
"Who says he's going to be a redhead?" Natasha asks, and Clint's hands spasm on her waist.
He manages to keep his voice even, though, when he asks, "He?"
"Too soon to tell. I'm just pointing out that given my luck and how surrounded by men I already am, I would give birth to a boy." The word "birth" makes the room start spinning. Natasha tightens her grip on Clint. "Oh, God. We'd make the worst parents ever."
"I can think of worse." Clint lowers his face to hers, but before he can kiss her, Tony walks in, munching on an apple. The two assassins freeze.
The scion of Stark Empire, however, doesn't even bat an eyelash. "Looks like Steve owes me fifty bucks," he says, and, retrieving a bottle of lemon juice and a gallon of milk, walks out. "Banner, too," they hear him call over his shoulder.
"How long do you figure it'll take him to design a suit of armor for the baby?" Clint asks, and Natasha puts her head against his chest and groans. "What? It was an honest question."
She doesn't lift her head. "How? How is this my life?"
"You wouldn't trade it for the world," Clint says. He touches her chin, making her look up and meet his eye. She has no problem deciphering the look on his face now. There's happiness, and hope, and even a little fear when he looks at her. "Permission to view this as a miracle and be happy about it?"
She can't stomp on that hope, not when he means so much to her. "Okay," she says, "but you're the one that gets to tell Fury."
"Deal," Clint says, and kisses her. It turns heated surprisingly quickly, to where they're pulling at each other's clothes and Clint tugs her toward his suite, which has the benefit of being closer. At the elevator, she breaks away, laughing at just how quickly they've moved from no affection in common areas to JARVIS is probably going to have to delete this to keep Tony from uploading it to Youtube. Her shirt's unbuttoned to the navel and his is completely gone, his hair already standing on end from her hands. "What?" he asks, feigning innocence, which does not fool her in the slightest. "You're already pregnant, so what's the worst that could happen?"
Natasha begins to list every single thing in chronological order of recovery time, and it's only when Clint kisses her to shut her up and pull her into the bedroom that she stops.
Later, practically smothered under one of Clint's arms as he sleeps, Natasha puts her hand on her abdomen. Miracle, she thinks. She wouldn't precisely have used that word to describe it, but she likes it. It was a miracle she survived against the Big Ugly Ass Bug, and because she did, somebody else will, too. And it's a miracle that she found the one person in her life that would find this a miracle, too.
She's Natasha Romanoff, not a woman who's ever given much thought to things like miracles, but this one, she could definitely get used to.