Aaaaaand, the last bit! Thanks to everyone who's read and reviewed and followed so far! I'm so happy to see your response! Thank you guys so much!

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God, he'd missed her.

They've been around each other, circling each other for years, ever since she'd left her old life behind and joined the Avengers. And even if things were awkward between them for a while, they'd become friends again. She was a real friend, the kind he could tell anything to, the kind that didn't put up with his shit, and would bail him out of jail at three in the morning. He didn't have a lot of those in his life, and Natasha, well, Natasha was the first among very few.

He'd learned to content himself with that friendship because he couldn't live without her, and he'd convinced himself that as long as she was reasonably happy, he would be, too.

And then Tony threw a New Year's party, and she'd let him take her home. He'd question how he got so lucky, but that would probably ruin it.

He fully recognized that he was thinking too hard, particularly since the woman in question was currently draped across him. He'd always been a carpe diem kind of guy, but there was something about Natasha that drew out the sentimentality in him. He brought a lock of her hair to his face, breathed her in, the lightest remnant of her shampoo (something herbal, minty) lingering amid the stronger scent of sex that permeated the room.

"What are you thinking?" she murmured, twisting her face up toward his, resting her chin on his chest.

He grinned. "Just how glad I am that I ran into you on that balcony." It was true, after all, even if it wasn't exactly what he'd been thinking at the moment.

"Yeah?" she asked, returning his smile, amusement dancing in her eyes. "So you weren't just going to go home with the first girl who batted her eyelashes at you?"

She said it without malice, easy flirtation coloring her words instead.

"Nah, I was holding out for the first girl to offer me a drink that cost more than my car."

She stretched up, pressing her lips lightly to the corner of his grin. "You don't own a car, Clint," she whispered against his lips, tracing her tongue along the edge of his mouth.

He shrugged, rolling her onto her back and hovering over her. "Details," he said, and then he kissed her, slowly, carefully, thoroughly. She was pliant and warm below him, relaxed in a way that he'd never seen, and he wanted to shout with joy that he'd been the one to bring her there. The suspicious twinge in his chest deepened along with their kiss, tongues sliding languidly across each other, skin pressing against skin, and he wanted to drown in her scent, her taste, her touch. He ached for her, burned for her, loved her more than the air he breathed. What the hell was she doing to him?

It took a moment for his brain to catch up with his thoughts.

Wait, he thought. Backup. Love?

Sure, he loved her, but was he in love with her? He broke off their kiss and rested his forehead against hers, panting. Cupping the side of her face in his palm, he ran a thumb over her bottom lip, swollen and red and full. She nipped playfully at him, her eyes flashing with delight, and the impish grin she gave him plucked at his heartstrings.

Well, he had his answer, at least.

He could taste the words on his tongue (he'd always had a big mouth, too big for his own good), but then her fingers slipped around his still-sensitive cock, gripped him, and he bit his lip until he tasted blood to keep from calling out. With a twist of her hips and a burst of force from deceptively small wrists, she flipped him over onto his back, her smile turning wicked in the dim light filtering in from the street.

"Fuck, Nat," he hissed, and he looked down between them to see her palm his cock, to see her stroke him back to full attention. She squeezed him once, twice, and a drop of precome glistened on his glans, and Jesus fucking Christ, she was sliding down his body, bending over him, looking up at him as she licked the moisture away.

He repeated his previous curse, and she chuckled.

"I know what you like, Clint," she said, and his name had never sounded so good as it did rumbling out of Natasha's mouth, especially given the way said mouth was hovering next to his dick. She nuzzled his length with her cheek, pressed a kiss to the side of it, an oddly tender gesture at odds with the utterly filthy look she was shooting him, and goddammit, yeah, he still fucking loved her.

He was starting to worry in earnest that his thoughts were going to make themselves apparent, that they would spill out into the open and wreck the fragile thing that had grown up between them in the last few hours, but then she swallowed him down and he wasn't thinking about much of anything at all.

Her lips were hot and slick around him, and he felt her tongue swirling around the tip of his cock as she sucked him, and fuck, this was every dirty fantasy he'd had for the past decade playing out in front of him. He couldn't tear his eyes away from her, not for a second, and he held her face between his palms while she blew him, licking him, tasting him, scraping her teeth lightly on his cock.

He felt himself approach the edge of orgasm with a strong sense of disbelief; he'd never had trouble getting it back up after an orgasm, but he'd only rarely come twice in such a short amount of time. Now that he thought about it, the last time had been with Natasha, too.

He twitched his thumb where it pressed into the side of her face, drawing her attention. "Baby, as much as I want to come down your throat, I'd rather put my hard on to better use and fuck you senseless."

She released him, pressed a surprisingly sweet kiss to the top of his dick, and said, "Sounds good to me."

She slid back up his body, and he kissed her, licking his taste from her mouth, the blend of them assaulting his senses. She moaned against his lips, twisting her arms around his neck to hold him closer, and his arms tightened low around her back in response.

She straddled him then, her knees pressing into either side of his waist and he nearly lost his sense of control when he felt her wet slit rub against his cock. She moaned throatily, opening her eyes and smiling even as she continued to kiss him.

"You're a real hot piece of ass, Barton," she said in between nips. "Why the fuck did we break up again?"

He just laughed. "Sex with you was never the problem, babe."

She smiled ruefully, obviously remembering the string of events that had led to their separation.

"That was a long time ago," she said quietly, still clinging to him, so he knew she wasn't annoyed. "We've both changed a lot."

He tucked a finger under her chin, tilted her face up toward his. "For the better, I think," he said soberly, and he pressed a swift kiss to her lips. "You, for example, somehow managed to get hotter."

She smirked and kissed him back.

They didn't talk anymore then, just fell into the easy rhythms of sex, gasping into the air, breathing each other in, hands and lips and teeth rediscovering every nook and cranny they'd ever half-remembered in a wet dream. She flailed for another condom, digging around blindly until she found one, and she tore the packet open swiftly, urgently. This time, she rolled the thin latex over him, taking her time with it, staring at him, his face close enough to hers that he could see her pupils dilate.

She guided herself down onto him with a low moan, one that he echoed, their voices tangling in the air the way their bodies were on the bed. They rocked together slowly, maintaining eye contact, and the intimacy implicit there hit him like a punch to the gut. She never would have done this before, never would have been this vulnerable, this open, not when they were younger and dumber and less jaded. But now, here in his apartment on the shitty side of town, now, she didn't shy away from his gaze, met his eyes unabashedly, and little gasps erupted out of her open mouth with every thrust of his hips.

"Clint . . ." she breathed, unable to get her thought out. He knew the feeling. "Need . . ." she tried again.

He slowed his hips, touched her cheek, her brow. "What do you need, Nat?" He'd do anything for her, anything she asked him. That, at least, had never changed.

"Fuck me," she said, and it sounded ridiculous, must have sounded that way to her, too because she snorted, rolled her eyes at herself, and then turned her head and bit her lip, squeezing his cock inside of her and shuddering delicately with pleasure.

"I want you to fuck me from behind."

"I think I can manage that," he said, and then he helped her to her knees, bent her over in front of him. "You have a beautiful ass, baby," he narrated, splaying his hands low on her back and parting her ass cheeks with his thumbs. "Shit, your pussy is wet."

"Wet for you," she said, punctuating her words with a strange, animalistic noise.

He dipped his fingers inside of her briefly, teasingly. "Jesus, Nat," he groaned. He removed his fingers to her vocal disapproval, but then he replaced the void with his cock, bottoming out inside of her, filling her up until his balls slapped against her pussy. She cursed in Russian, too quickly for him to follow, but he'd been around her enough to recognize the intent.

He leaned down over her, pressing his chest and stomach to her back, and she arched into his palms when he gripped her breasts.

"Yesssss," she hissed, and he was really fucking glad she was so strong because it freed up both of his hands to touch her. As much as he liked grabbing hold of her tits, he also really liked rubbing her clit while he fucked her, liked feeling her ripple around his cock and his fingers simultaneously, and this way he could do both.

She ground out instructions from between gritted teeth, and he felt her start to flutter, start to ripple and clench around him. He pinched her clit between his fingers, bit down on the crook of her neck, told her she was beautiful, hot, everything he'd ever wanted, had ever dreamed about, had ever needed and then she was coming, crying out his name. He couldn't stop himself, couldn't stave his orgasm off any longer because she really was everything he'd said, and he exploded inside of her, whiting out from the pleasure, the intensity of it all.

They collapsed together in a heap on their sides, and he pulled her back against him when she might have shied away, when once upon a time she would have shied away. Maybe they were both different people now because she didn't try to shrink back from him, but just the opposite. She nestled into him, dropped her hand down to his thigh to draw him closer, and she melted against his mouth when he turned her face to kiss her.

"Missed you," she whispered, and he'd never agreed with anything more.


She wasn't sure when she'd fallen asleep; Clint had preceded her into slumber (some things would never change), and as much as she had wanted to sleep through the night, the unfamiliar bed had kept her from finding true rest, despite how relaxed she was.

She'd woken up last around three in the morning, and she'd ended up staring at him, watching the rise and fall of his chest. Maybe the soothing sounds of his breathing had put her back out, but she was awake again now, and alone in bed. She reached out, touched the sheets beside her, found them still warm. He hadn't been up long. She searched around the room for the clock, found the green light of the digital readout on top of what was either a bookcase or a dresser.

5 am.

Looked like she'd ended up staying the night.

She sat up and stretched, listening for Clint. She thought she heard the sound of running water and the clinking of a glass out in the kitchen. She stood, fumbled around on the floor for something to ward off the early morning chill, but came up short. She shrugged and headed out toward the main room naked. It was nothing he hadn't seen after all. Nothing he hadn't licked, for that matter.

She found him bent over, leaning on the kitchen counter with a glass of water in his hand. She moved softly enough that he didn't hear her approach, and she raked her gaze slowly over his body, appreciating the sight of him, dressed in nothing but his boxer briefs as he sipped.

"Hey," she said softly, and she realized she must have been mistaken about him not noticing her because he turned toward her without surprise. His eyes traveled up and down her body, taking her in, and she stood still, feeling herself react to the unabashed appreciation writ all over his features.

"Hey," he said at last, leaning on one arm. "Did I wake you?"

She shook her head and moved to stand next to him. She took the glass when he offered it, drained the remainder of the contents.

"Thanks," she said.

They were quiet for a while, standing next to each other under the fluorescent light.

Breaking the silence, he asked quietly, "Still no regrets?"

She could hear the uncertainty in his voice, the underlying question about his value that he wasn't willing to pose outright. She remembered this about him, knew all about his self-worth issues – it was what enabled her to manipulate him back when they'd first been together. It wasn't that he wasn't aware of it; Clint knew better than to trust people, knew that it was a weakness of his. He'd had his trust and his heart broken so very often in his life, but he wanted to trust, would reach out again and again, only to have his hand slapped away.

Looking at him there, forehead muddled with uncertainty, she was transported back a decade, back to when she'd left him in the lurch, when she'd betrayed him. She hadn't wanted to do it, hadn't wanted to hurt him, not really, but then neither had she the intention of getting in that deep with him in the first place. He was only supposed to have been a means to end, and instead he turned out to be one of the only good things that had ever happened to her. It had nearly killed her to do it, and she was grateful every day that he was big enough, good enough to forgive her those sins. She liked to think that he eventually understood her motives, understood that she never wanted to hurt him.

For all that, she thought that the friendship, the trust that had grown up between was better, deeper, more meaningful than what their relationship had been, could ever have been, operating under such false pretenses. Wondering if he knew she felt that way, she touched his cheek lightly, cupped his face in her hand.

"No regrets here, Clint," she said.

She could see him wrestling with his next question, knew that he didn't want to ask it. She also knew he needed to ask it, whatever it was, so she kissed the corner of his eyes and said, "Tell me."

He bit his lip, looking so very young and for a moment she was back in the little dive bar on the shit end of the town where they'd met, and her heart ached for him.

"It's okay, whatever it is," she said, imbuing her tone with as much honesty as she was able. "You know that, right? You're my best friend, too."

He looked away before he spoke. "I just . . ." He laughed under his breath, almost as if to himself. "We didn't make a mistake, then?"

She got it, knew what he was bothered about then, and if she were perfectly honest with herself, she was troubled by it, too. They'd been friends for so long, just friends and nothing else, and this could interfere with that, if they let it. She didn't have a lot of friends, not real ones, not people she could count on to drag her ass out of the fire when shit got real.

Given all of that, all the baggage and the uncertainty, she said the only thing she could think to say.

"I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, but you weren't . . . you aren't one of them, Clint." She leaned in close, ducked down a bit and put herself underneath his face, right in his line of sight. Whispering now, sensing the importance of her statement, she said it again. "You aren't a mistake, Clint."

A lifetime of pain and doubt crossed between them in the space of three heartbeats, their frantic breathing the only sound in the room. It was so much, too much, and he must have felt it too because he grabbed her, pulled her against him, and he kissed her like she was the most precious thing in his life.

He certainly was in hers.

She wrapped herself around him, pressed her body against his, her breasts flattened against his chest, her stomach against his stomach. He bent her backward, threaded his fingers in her hair, and it felt like he was consuming her, eating her whole, breathing her in and making her a part of him. It was all she could do to hang on for the ride.

They dropped to the floor without thinking, sinking down into a puddle of intertwined limbs. She wrapped her legs around his waist when he laid her on the linoleum, and she thrust upward against him, desperate for him, needing to get closer, needing to get him under her skin the same way she'd gotten under his. It was as natural as breathing, the way they came together, and she reached between them, helped him pull his underwear down over his hips, freeing his cock with a growl. This time, neither one of them thought about a condom, neither one of them wanted it, and as stupid, as reckless and idiotic as it was, maybe it was what they needed in that moment, to be together without a single barrier between them.

He felt like fire inside of her, a thick, heavy heat between her legs, and she moaned freely as he thrust into her. She never recalled feeling like this, not with anyone, not even with him; she never even thought she could feel like this, and, damn it all, she never wanted it to end. He fucked her relentlessly there on his kitchen floor, except that it wasn't fucking at all, more like that other thing, that act she dared not name for fear that it would make it too real, more real than she could bear right now with her emotions so raw.

His mouth never left hers as he moved inside of her, and she imagined that she could feel his body fuse to hers, become part of her, and when they came, it was together, endless wave after wave of pleasure that overrode her brain and all of her good intentions and left her screaming her release into his mouth.

He kissed her forehead, her eyelids, her cheeks as they came back down, clinging to each other. He nuzzled her, rested his head in the crook of her neck, and her back might regret it later, but for the moment, she was content.

She was drifting off again when he roused her, tugged her to her feet and took her into his arms. Were it anyone else in any other situation, she would resist, wouldn't let herself be carried, but this was Clint, and she trusted him, so when he swung her up in his arms, she went willingly, sighed into him and hooked her arms loosely around his neck.

He tucked her carefully into his bed, tugging the blanket up over her shoulders and joining her, pulling her into his arms.

"Hey, Nat?" he asked, a bare whisper in the early morning dark, one that registered dimly on the edge of her rapidly fading consciousness.

"Hmm?"

"I'm glad you're here."

"Me, too."