So, so, so many favorites for this one and thank you! But you know, reviews really do feed the muse, so please leave one on the way out…especially on this, the last chapter of Encounters, they are always, always appreciated and extra thanks to those who did leave one. I am percolating a new Clint/Natasha story.

Cause you've set me on fire
I've never felt so alive, yeah

Hoping wounds heal, but it never does
That's because you're at war with love

And I'm at the point of breaking
And it's impossible to shake it

See, you hoped the wound heals, but it never does
That's cause you're at war with love
Hope it heals, but it never does
That's cause you're at war with love!

Chapter 4 - Love

Stark Towers – 6 hours after

The next time they sleep together they had been separated for nearly a year; her dealing with Tony Stark in California then the trip to Russia, him in New Mexico. When they finally found each other again the first thing he'd did was try to kill her. Granted he hadn't been of his own right mind, but still, not a great way to greet your partner.

Barton's been compromised.

The words replayed in her head even as the group stumbled their way back to Tony Stark's home after eating their meal of shwarma. After delivering Loki to the local SHIELD base she and Barton had been instructed to remain together with the other Avengers until Fury arrived to debrief them. Which would be the day after next.

They couldn't stay on the base, it was overrun with media, so Stark had offered his tower, where they could hide on the top floors for a while, where reporters and the general public couldn't get so much as a glance at the world's newest heroes.

Plus Fury had decided – in a rare moment of compassion – that they needed time to decompress and sleep.

Tony had gladly offered up his building, explaining he had a few guest rooms usually reserved for upper level management in Stark Industries when they visited the area. And they had power, which was a bonus.

Shuffling into the one remaining functional elevator, Tony spoke sharply to the AI. "JARVIS, how many guest rooms are currently available?"

"Four, sir." The voice immediately called back and Tony cringed. One short.

Slowly the billionaire turned to the group, knowing what seemed to make the most sense, but unwilling to piss off either assassin.

Natasha spared a glance at Clint; he was dead on his feet - only being kept upright by the corner of the elevator he was propped against. If she hadn't slept in 36 hours, it had to have been far longer for him. Without looking back at Stark she snapped out, "We'll share."

Instead of a comment about their sleeping arrangements as she'd expected, Tony merely nodded at the two agents.

As they arrived on one of the higher floors Tony quickly pointed them to bedrooms, sending her and Clint to the farthest one, whispering to her as they went by "it has the best view". Natasha rolled her eyes even though part of her did appreciate the gesture.

Opening the door, Natasha sucked in a deep breath; the room was painted a slate blue, with light grey linens. But the best part…the wall across from the bed was nothing but floor to ceiling windows, the city on full display as the sun started to slip past the horizon.

Clint grunted next to her and slowly worked his way toward the bed to her right. Snapping out of the trance, she followed him, bending down to start untying his shoes.

"You don't have-"

"Just…let me help you Clint."

He must have been tired, because all Clint did was nod and lean back while she pulled off his boots and socks, pushing them to the side on the floor. Then she stood between his legs and carefully pulled off the vest he wore, tossing it by his shoes.

As she stepped back, he stood unsteadily and pushed down his pants, leaving him in just boxer-briefs. Natasha pulled back the ridiculously expensive sheets and guided Clint in, but when his back hit the mattress he hissed in pain.

"Roll over," she whispered and he complied. And when his bare back was exposed to her she sucked in a deep, pained breath. "Oh, Clint."

From shoulder to lower back diagonally, was an enormous bruise with small cuts interspersed through the deep purples, reds and blues. Tilting her head she realized what the shape was…his quiver.

One hand reached out and gently traced the mark, noting his skin was warmer where the bruise was.

"JARVIS," she spoke lowly and the AI returned in an equally quiet tone.

"Yes, agent."

"I need pain medication."

"Nat…" Clint started but she cut him off with a squeeze on his upper arm.

"There is a small kitchen on this floor, with a first aid kit, ma'am."

"Thank you," she said and whispered to Clint before slipping out of the room, "Right back."

Five minutes later she returned, this time locking the door behind her. For a brief moment she wondered if maybe they shouldn't have at least showered before going to bed but then recognized they were both so damn tired, standing long enough to shower was probably out of the question.

Approaching the bed, Nat thought Clint had fallen asleep until he rolled over carefully, eyes open and staring at her.

The sun was basically down, but lights from the city illuminated the room enough that she could see the events of the last couple days etched into the solemn expression on his face. He was clearly still tortured by what he had done while under Loki's control but Natasha didn't think now was the time to try and talk to him about it. It was all still so raw…for them both.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, she coaxed him into taking three Motrin and drinking most of the bottle of water.

Clint reached out and pushed some hair out of her face. "You ok?" he asked.

"Yeah, I'm ok."

Her eyes locked with his and she begged him to read between the lines, to understand what she couldn't say. I'm ok since you're back where you belong…with me.

Then he slid backwards on the bed and she stripped down to her bra, panties and a lightweight tank top, slipping in next to him so they were facing each other. Nat reached out and ran her fingertips along his hairline, noting the debris still in his short hair.

Maybe that shower wasn't such a bad idea.

But now that she was warm and comfortable in bed (and with him) there was no hope of getting back up until she slept a solid twelve hours.

"I'm sorry…" he whispered.

"Don't be," she replied and cupped his cheek. "Please don't do this Clint. Not right now. Now we sleep, ok?" She felt him nod and Natasha placed a kiss on his forehead.

One of his arms wrapped around her waist and pulled her closer; holding onto her like a drowning man would grip onto a piece of debris. She was keeping him afloat, keeping him sane.

Her fingers played gently with the hairs at the nape of his neck and it wasn't long before she felt his entire body relax as he drifted into sleep.

Kissing his temple, she shifted into a more comfortable position in his arms and it wasn't long before she followed him.

When Natasha woke next she was disoriented; the strange bed was nothing new to her, nor was her bedmate (who had untangled himself from her at some point during the night). But her brain was still struggling to wake and for the life of her, Natasha couldn't determine the time, for some reason the room was practically pitch black. Then she remembered where she was.

"JARVIS?" she practically whispered after looking around uselessly for a clock – the one thing the damn room didn't have - not wanting to wake Clint, who was still sound asleep beside her. The AI responded in an equally low tone. "Yes, agent?"

"What time is it?"

"Eleven thirty three am."

Holy shit, it had been nearly eleven at night when they'd finally fallen asleep. Stretching her body, Natasha was unsurprised when nearly every muscle and joint made a popping noise. She ached. Everywhere.

Slowly getting up, Natasha realized why it was so dark despite it being nearly noon; the room seemed to have some kind of tinting on the windows that JARVIS had probably "activated" while they slept.

From the corner of her eye she saw a slip of paper on the floor. Picking up the note, all it said was:

Open the door.

Cautiously she did, surprised to find a black bag sitting on the floor of the hallway. Looking around Natasha saw no one and grabbed the bag, pulling it into the room and placing it on the small desk by the door.

Despite part of her assassin brain telling her not to, she slowly opened it to find fresh clothes in both her and Clint's sizes. There was a note written in precise, familiar, handwriting sitting on the top.

Hope you don't mind, thought you both might like something clean to wear. - Pepper

Of course, the woman thought of everything – their belongings were still on the heli-carrier. She chose not to dwell on how she had placed the bag outside the door and slipped the note in the room without her or Clint waking, they were usually both far more aware than that, even in sleep. It was a testament to how exhausted they really were and proof that Fury's decision to lock them up in a tower was probably wise.

Pulling out cotton yoga pants and long sleeved green shirt along with fresh undergarments, Natasha walked into the bathroom. And stopped.

Was there nothing that Tony Stark didn't overdo?

The room was enormous, far bigger than any of her assigned quarters at SHIELD. Double sink, deep soaking tub, and two person shower with enough heads for three people, including two rain heads.

Tempted to take a long soak, she realized that probably she'd just fall back asleep in the tub and after investigating the shower decided the body sprays would do the job in relaxing her muscles.

Easily she found towels in a small cabinet and set that and the fresh clothes on the counter by the sink.

Waiting for the water to warm up, she stripped off her underwear and tank, staring down at her body. She was a mess of bruises and shallow cuts and abrasions. And her ankle still hurt. The first Avengers mission had gone well, but had taken a toll on her physically and emotionally and Natasha wondered if it was worth it. She sighed. Of course it was. Not only was New York (and the world for that matter) safe but she felt as though the red in her ledger had finally been wiped clean. In some small way it felt like a new beginning.

Finally she stepped into the shower and let out a low moan of approval when the warm water from the jets hit her, and for just a second she silently thanked Tony for being so over-the-top.

She stood there under the streams for an unknown amount of time, just watching the dirty water circle down the drain. Again it felt like her old, red-tinged life was going with it, leaving a new woman in its place.

As she was trying to rinse some of the crap out of her hair, the feeling that she was being watched settled over her.

Cracking one eye open slowly, she saw Clint standing in the middle of the bathroom, just staring at her. His expression was impassive.

"Get in here already," she all but yelled out to him, pleased when he followed direction and stripped off his boxers. As he stepped into the shower she turned on the body jets that she hadn't been using, pointing where he should stand to get the best angle and commented, "Stark's actually good for something for once."

Clint grunted his assent and closed his eyes as the water soothed his abused muscles. Stretching both arms out, he was just able to touch each side of the shower stall, somewhat holding himself up.

Natasha watched as the water trailed down his body, as his muscles clenched and released.

"Clint…" her tone dripped concern.

"I'm ok, really. I'm…ok." Even he didn't sound all that convinced but she accepted it for now.

She reached out and touched a bruise that had formed on his upper chest, the memory of kicking him there flashed through her head. Then she let her hand trail down to another similar bruise on his abdomen, another one administered by herself.

In response, his hand reached out, tracing the mark his bow had caused across her upper chest when he'd held her down with it.

"Turn around," he commanded and she looked at him confused, but complied. There was some rustling behind her then Clint was slowly massaging shampoo into her hair.

She tilted her head back so he could reach every spot and reveled in the feeling of someone else washing her hair. It was wonderful, how his fingers firmly rubbed her scalp before pulling the shampoo gently back into her hair, taking the time to make sure he covered every strand while still being careful of the cut near her hairline.

"Rinse," he said quietly and again she complied, moving forward so the rain showerhead was directly above her. After rinsing he gently pulled her back and repeated the shampoo, less thoroughly this time and again she rinsed.

He pulled her back a second time and applied a generous amount of conditioner to her hair. A small smile crept across her face and she quipped, "Should I be concerned about your knowledge of women's hair products?"

"Hilarious, Romanoff," he deadpanned back to her and the smile grew wider, typical Clint response.

Then she rinsed her hair again and finally she was starting to feel a little more human.

"Your turn," she said as she turned to face him and he assented by handing her the men's shampoo that had thoughtfully been provided by Stark.

Washing his hair was a shorter task, but made far, far more intimate by the fact they were facing each other, and she had to reach just a little to get all of it. It brought them close together and Natasha could feel a flush of desire race through her, she was certain her skin was probably tinted pink from it.

As she finished, he grabbed one of her wrists and pulled it to his mouth, kissing the delicate skin on the inside.

Then he stepped back, rinsed his hair and grabbed the washcloth she had brought in and the body wash, placing a generous amount in the cloth.

"Turn," he directed, his tone deep and husky. She knew that tone, it sent a wave of pleasure through her body.

She did and instantly felt the washcloth on her back; he washed slowly, using enough pressure to be relaxing without causing her pain. Her head dropped forward when he worked his way up to her shoulders, gently massaging the tense muscles there.

Then his hands slipped to her abdomen, washing in slow, gentle circles that worked their way closer and closer to her center.

"Clint…" she practically whined.

"Yes?" he asked in that voice of his and Natasha laid her head on his shoulder. He leaned in and kissed the top of her shoulder as his hand with the washcloth moved over her hip, then thigh before sliding over her abdomen again where he switched hands and repeated the pattern on the other side of her body.

"I need you," she said and turned in his arms, pulling him in for a sweet, loving kiss.

"Anything for you," he responded against her lips and pushed her against the one somewhat dry shower wall.

The kisses quickly escalated to passionate and wanting and she hopped, wrapping her long legs around his waist while his hands landed on her bare behind, holding her up.

He kissed down her neck, his tongue finding the dip at her throat and she pushed her head back against the tile. As he guided her onto him, Clint kissed her hard, maybe harder than he needed to, but dammit, he needed to make sure she knew it him in here. That it was all him, nothing of the monster that had inhabited him for nearly three days remained.

"It's ok, Clint," she whispered into his ear. She always was able to see right through him, sometimes (most of the time) it was infuriating, but in that moment it was comforting. Her fingers worked their way through his hair, then down his neck gently. "It's ok…"

Then she started moving against him, encouraging him. Clint gripped her ass and moved faster, harder.

She moved with him, arms wrapped tightly around his shoulders, keeping their balance.

His lips returned to hers, teeth nipping at her lower one, then he buried his face in her neck and mumbled, "Nat…God, Nat." She knew he wasn't calling out her name in pleasure but in some kind of strange apology.

She remained silent, he needed to get it out.

Suddenly his movements sped up and she gripped onto his shoulders, riding the wave that quickly took over her body, sending her careening over the edge of pleasure with a small cry. He came a few thrusts later and instantly released her legs so she could stand, but kept her pinned against the wall, his arms wrapped possessively around her waist; face still buried in her neck.

Natasha slowly stroked his neck and shoulders, knowing he needed a few minutes to gather himself.

When he pulled away she smiled gently and ran her fingertips along his jawline, then down his strong, corded neck, stopping at his shoulder.

A strange expression crossed his face then reached out and grabbed her hand, twining their fingers together. "Nat, I lo-"

She didn't let him get it out, covering his mouth with a swift, meaningful kiss before resting her forehead on his. This was a new Natasha Romanoff, one who was willing to acknowledge the feelings between them, even if the actual words were still hard for her to hear. And say. So instead she came as close to it as she could.

"I know," she said. "Me too."