Title: "Breathe" (1/4)
Fandom: The Avengers
Characters: Clint Barton, Natasha Romanoff
Rating: Mature (cautiously)
Warnings: language, blood, injuries
Written for the b_c Valentine's Day Minin Promptathon for a prompt by by crazy4orcas - Clint and Natasha. Valentine's Day. Rockie Mountains. Blizzard conditions. Plane crash. SHIELD is forced to call off the search and rescue.
Summary: Natasha and Clint have been partners for less than a year, yet something is building between them neither wants to acknowledge. Then a plane crash forces them to face their fears. Will help arrive in time?
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the story, though I would appreciate a Clint of my own, thank you :)
Author's notes: All the cookies in the world to my wonderful betas alphaflyer and anuna_81! Ladies, you are wonderful and helped me tremendously in stretching my writing muscles, I can't thank you enough! And a shout-out goes to hufflepuffsneak, who was an awesome cheerleader :D
Feedback is love, so please share your thoughts with me 3
A groan coming from her left was the first thing Natasha registered as she regained consciousness. One second there was nothing but blackness, the next she was wide awake, a splitting headache thrumming along to the beat of her heart. She opened her eyes and took a deep breath as she assessed her surroundings. Or at least she tried to take a deep breath until a sudden sharp pain in her ribcage made her pause and expel all air from her lungs. Wonderful. Those ribs were at least cracked. She settled on taking shallower breaths and looked around herself.
Mangled pieces of carbon fiber, metal and glass were all around her; she was in the remains of the Quinjet. It hit her like a ton of bricks: the blizzard that had come out of nowhere, her frantic mayday call to the helicarrier, Clint's desperate struggles to keep the damn thing airborne. He'd at least managed to control their descent until they'd almost made a safe landing when the wind had taken control of their craft and slammed it into the ground.
Clint. Already fighting with the clasps on her flight harness, she turned to her left, looking for him in the twilight of the destroyed cockpit. Her eyes settled on him, slumped over in the pilot's seat, her stomach clenching in a tight fist of apprehension.
"Clint," she called out, getting the first buckle to release, immediately starting on the next.
She could see him move now, small movements accompanied by more muffled moans. He was alive at least. Why wouldn't the damn clasp open, damn it! She let out a yell of frustration before she went for the knife strapped to her thigh, making short work of the remaining straps. Stupid. Should have thought of that sooner. Clearly, the headache was interfering with her thought processes.
Once free, she got up and immediately winced as pain pulsed through her left leg, emanating from her knee. Bruised bone, must have slammed it on the dash, how fucking marvelous. There'd probably soon be a nice contusion to go with it too, but that was yet forming under her pants. Sucking in a few shallow breaths of air, she bit down the pain and picked a way through the debris to her partner.
"Clint?" she said again as she put a hand on his shoulder.
She felt a tremor run through him at her touch and he drew in a gasping breath. He moaned again as she cupped his face in her hands and lifted his head, her thumbs gently stroking his cheeks. Please be okay.
A trickle of blood made its way slowly from a gash in his hairline as his eyes blinked open and his face scrunched up in confusion and pain.
"Clint?" Please be okay.
"Tasha?" he whispered. "What - ?" he trailed off as he was wracked by a coughing fit that ended in yet another groan.
He sluggishly wrapped his arms around his abdomen, "Fuck, tha' hurts!"
"What, what hurts?" Natasha's eyebrows kneaded together as she tried to assess his injuries. He hadn't been strapped in when the blizzard hit and then there'd been no time for him to do so. Be okay, dammit!
"Everything?" he tried to make light of it, but failed.
There was a slightly hysterical edge to his voice, tears springing up in his eyes and rolling over Natasha's hands. All color drained from his face.
His behavior alarmed Natasha, her concern for him growing. On their first meeting she'd shot him; it was only a flesh wound to the leg, but she knew it must have hurt. He'd barely even limped as he'd proposed a new start for her with SHIELD. And now - tears?
"Need t' lie down, help please?" He ground out, the pain apparently stronger than his usual stoicism.
Her own pain forgotten, she took another look around the place. Debris littered the whole cockpit area; there was nowhere to settle him down safely.
Catching his cloudy gaze, she asked, "Can you hang tight for a second? I'll need to find a place to set you down, okay? I've no idea how bad the damage is. Can you do that?"
He nodded, groaning, "Jus' hurry, will ya?"
She picked her way through the debris to the cargo hold, wincing as she put weight on her bruised knee. Luckily, the damage appeared to be minor and Natasha could clear a spot without too much trouble. Every move hurt, but Clint seemed far worse off. She quickly checked the holds and breathed out a sigh of relief upon finding a surprisingly large amount of blankets, a field med kit, a flashlight and bottled water.
She deftly arranged some of the blankets into a makeshift pallet on the floor of the hold, set the rest of her haul close by and picked her way back to her partner. Getting him from the cockpit to the hold was a feat of will for both of them. He was heavier than he looked and she had to take most of his weight as he stumbled along beside her. He barely managed the few steps it took, guarding his left side, limping heavily.
She carefully helped him to the floor, her ribs and knee protesting at the abuse, but watching him helpless like that hurt even more. Damned man. Why was his pain affecting her like this? She pushed the thought down immediately; she needed to concentrate on helping him.
He was shaking like a leaf and white as a ghost by the time he was settled and horizontal, curled up on his right side. He was spent from the short trip, panting heavily, his eyes shut. His face looked a mess, the left side already swelling up, blood smeared all over. Sitting in front of him, she pulled the med kit closer and carded her hand through his sweaty hair, comforting herself as much as him.
"I have to check you over, okay? You have to tell me where you're hurt, alright?"
He nodded, teeth clenched, a defiant look on his face.
"Dizzy? How's the vision?"
A concussion, then. She put it on her mental list.
"We have to get those clothes off if I'm going to see anything."
His eyes flew open, fear showing for a split second at the thought of moving, the pain taking away his usual mask of unconcern. She gently stroked his arm as she got her knife from its holster.
"I'll cut them off, okay?"
His muscles relaxed a tiny bit as he nodded marginally and she set to work.
The shirt fell away, revealing a brutal array of forming bruises in all shades of red on his chest and abdomen, most of them around the lower left side of his ribcage. Placing her hands on his left shoulder, she ran her fingers down his strong, sinewy arms, keeping her eyes on his face.
He flinched when her hands came to his wrist, she bent it and he grimaced.
"Sprained," he rasped out.
She nodded and repeated her examination on his right arm; everything seemed fine here, only some scrapes on his knuckles.
She gently placed her hands on his chest, stroking lightly over his smooth skin, checking for movement in the bones underneath. His chest was covered in a light sheen of cold sweat, his skin getting warmer the closer she got to the discolored area.
She felt movement underneath her nimble fingers as she lightly brushed over the deepest bruises. Those ribs were definitely broken; she could feel the displaced ends of the bones grinding against each other minutely. He went rigid under her careful examination, sucking in a wobbly breath.
His abdomen was slightly warmer where the bruising was worst; he was guarding his left side and stifled a gasp when she gently pressed down. His hand moved out and clamped around her right wrist with more force than she'd thought he still possessed.
"Stop," he rasped out, looking at her pleadingly, "Please."
She cautiously extricated her wrist from his death grip and cupped his cheek again, stroking it lightly with her thumb.
"It's okay, I'm done here. But I still need to check your legs."
She could hear him gulp in the absolute stillness of the downed craft and felt his jaw clamp tightly under her hand.
He nodded and she cut off his pants, revealing his legs. A cursory glance showed lots of bruising again, but at least there were no bones sticking out at weird angles or open wounds. He twitched when her hands pressed around his left thigh.
"Bruise," he panted out and she nodded in assent, moving to examine his other leg, which seemed mostly unharmed.
A concussion and broken ribs, that wouldn't be too bad. Not after plummeting from the sky in a freak snowstorm. And since she had no way to assess internal damage, she hoped for the best and forced herself to swallow her residual fears as she looked him in the eyes and bundled him up in the remaining blankets.
"'s the verdict, doc?" he panted out, sucking in shallow breaths.
"You'll live, I guess."
"If SHIELD finds us in time, you mean," he replied, calling her bluff.
"Well, I am no doctor, so it wouldn't hurt if they got here sooner rather than later, yes."
She couldn't quiet the niggling voice in the back of her head that told her that they couldn't have gotten off this easy. She owed him that much honesty and the way her, well, their luck ran, she was pretty sure that her assessment was correct. It was only a matter of time until the other shoe dropped. But she would do everything in her power to keep him comfortable and alive for as long as she could. And longer still, because just thinking about not having him around – no, she couldn't let herself go there. Not yet.
"Guess I'm screwed then."
"Don't talk like that. We're too valuable to SHIELD for them to just give up on us."
She really hoped that it was true, for his sake. And… her own.
"I've found some water. Do you think you can drink some without throwing up?"
She was concerned about the concussion, the broken ribs surely exacerbating any queasiness from the blow to his head.
"Not sure, but I'll try."
She'd held the bottle for him as he took a tentative sip and then another. He begged off and Natasha could see his throat working furiously on keeping the water down. It was of no use; seconds later he retched up the water he'd just drunk. He groaned, his face scrunching up in pain as his abdominal muscles contracted, aggravating his injuries, a litany of Fuck falling from his lips as he tried to curl in on himself.
Natasha's stomach clenched as she caught sight of what ran down his chin. The water was tinged red.