Title: Spiraling into darkness
author: Cindy Ryan
timeline: AU
notes and summary: see part one

Twenty-four hours later Clint Barton sat in Nicholas Fury's office. The two guards had been ordered to stay outside so Clint sat alone not even handcuffed. That part he couldn't figure out. He more than proved to be a threat and yet the only thing Fury had done was put two guards on him. Hawkeye leaned back in the chair and tried to ease some of the tension in his muscles. Every part of him ached. On top of that he was exhausted.

Clint didn't know what Fury was waiting for. Throw him in a cell and be done with it. Hawkeye had no life now. Hell, he hadn't planned really on anything past Asgard. Hadn't thought he'd get off Thor's planet alive. Part of him had counted on that. Get revenge for his wife in a blaze of glory. Hawkeye was at one of his lowest points of his life now. So much so the blaze of glory revenge death Clint wished he had made a reality. Of course he had failed at that too. Now he was supposed to go on living and Clint simply didn't know how to do that. Couldn't wrap his mind around moving forward without Tasha. Knowing he was the reason she wasn't with him. Nothing seemed possible any more. The door opened and Fury walked in shutting the door behind him. Clint watched silently as the director walked to his desk and sat down behind it.

"The Asgardian government is not pressing charges against you."Fury stated quietly. "Neither is Jane Foster."

"How is she?"Clint asked still regretting hurting the scientist.

"Recovering in the medical facility on Asguard."Fury reported. "You gave her a concussion and a couple bruised ribs."

"So why isn't she pressing charges?"Clint asked.

"She understands your situation."Fury replied.

Hawkeye remained silent staring past Fury and out the window. There wasn't really anything more to say. Foster and Asguard might be willing to let things slide but Clint had no idea where to go from here. Natasha had saved his life and Clint knew he should honor her by living it. Life for Hawkeye had never been easy and it looked like the next few chapters wouldn't be an improvement. As the anger and grief slowly abated Clint missed Natasha terribly.

"If you're willing,"Fury was saying as he leaned forward. "S.H.I.E.L.D has an opportunity for you."

"Besides life in a jail cell?"Clint asked.

"You'll undergo the required therapy but I'm willing to reinstate you to S.H.I.E.L.D as a trainer of new recruits."Fury offered quietly.

Clint laughed bitterly. "I'm hardly the poster child for recruitment."

"You may not think so but you know what to look for in people. You've proved that in the past. I think the spot would be a good for you, Clint. Give you a chance to heal and recharge."Fury stated.

"Why are you giving me a second chance? I've hurt a lot of people within S.H.I.E.L.D."Clint commented.

"That wasn't you and everyone knows that."Fury responded. "Natasha never gave up on you, not for a second."

Clint stood walking to the left of the door and leaning back against the wall.

"Yeah, look where that got her."Hawkeye stated bitterly. "You don't know how much I tried to kick Loki out of my head but I just couldn't. During that last fight with Tasha...I was aware of everything but was just along for the ride."

"I'm not saying this will be an easy thing to get past."Fury began. "None of us have ever had this experience. You didn't have anything to rely on; no training to overcome mind control at that level. S.H.I.E.L.D needs good people. Take the time you need to recover and heal; use this opportunity to do so."

"I'll think about it. That's all I can promise."Clint replied after a long moment.

"Good enough."Fury acknowledged with a nod.

Clint gestured with an inclined head to the guards on the other side of the door.

"Am I free to go?"Hawkeye inquired.

"Yes."Fury affirmed.

Without another word Clint turned on his heel and left the office. The guards didn't try to stop him. With a future undecided Clint walked out of S.H.I.E.L.D headquarters and into the bright weekday afternoon sunlight.

Jane awoke in one of the softest most luxurious bed she'd ever been in. Oh she still felt the aches and pains from being thrown across a corridor but besides from that she was extremely comfortable. She could feel the sunlight on her face. It still amazed Jane that the air and sunlight wasn't Earth's. That she was on another planet. It'd taken a long hard road to get here. One she hadn't thought she'd survive but in the end everyone Jane loved and cared about was safe. That was worth the killer headache she was experiencing. Jane opened her eyes slowly to find Thor sitting in a chair near the window. The Demi-God looked away from the window when he saw she was awake and moved closer to her.

"How do you feel?"Thor asked as he placed a light kiss on Jane's forehead.

Jane cherished Thor's tenderness as she felt his hands grip hers. She could see the worry in his eyes and the tension on his face. Jane knew this whole mess had taken it's toll on the man she loved.

"Better."Jane replied as she let go of Thor's hands so she could ease herself into a sitting position.

"Good."Thor acknowledged with relief. "When I saw what Barton had done...and I did not know if you were alive or dead...I..."

Jane retook Thor's right hand in hers and squeezed it as she smiled. "I'm alright, Thor. A few more days of rest and I'll be good as new."

Thor sat down next to Jane and lightly caressed her left cheek with his free hand. "You are remarkable Jane Foster. I love you."

"I love you too."Jane replied as she blinked back happy tears.

Thor kissed her and after they broke apart he rested his forehead against hers. "I am glad you are alright and that we are together again."

"Will you show me what your father discovered to let you travel to Earth?"Jane asked as she looked down at their linked hands.

"I will."Thor promised. "I will also show you whatever you wish to see of my planet. My home is yours now and always."

"I look forward to it."Jane replied softly.

Jane shifted and let go of Thor's hand. He in turn pulled her onto his lap and wrapped Jane in an embrace. As Jane rested her head against Thor's chest she knew how lucky she was. When she first awoke less than a day ago she'd been surprised to see Nicholas Fury waiting with Thor. He'd asked her if she wanted to press charges against Hawkeye. Jane had been tempted but in the end she just couldn't. All through her captivity Jane had seen Clint was a man in pain; in extreme grief. She knew punishing him for something that was a side affect of Loki's actions wasn't fair and wouldn't help him heal. Jane hoped that Hawkeye would be able to heal and move on and not let Loki win. Loki had already caused too much damage and heartache.

The next day Clint took a deep calming breath and laid the bouquet of white roses against Natasha's tombstone. He slowly knelt next to his wife's grave and lovingly traced the letters of her name in the stone. It still felt wrong; so very wrong. Again anger welled within Clint and with an effort he shoved it back.

"I tried to get you justice and take out Loki."Clint began as he rested back on the balls of his feet resting his arms on his legs. "I failed though I almost got him. Almost doesn't count for a hell of a lot in clearing ledgers. You taught me that."

A light rain began to fall but Clint ignored it. He watched the rain drops hit the rose petals and drip off soaking into the soil.

"Everyone tells me I should forgive myself and move on."Hawkeye continued. "S.H.I.E.L.D gave me a second chance and even though it's not my old life I don't know if I deserve that second chance. I do know you'd want me to take it."

Some water began to pool at the edge of the left side of the gravestone and Clint reached up and wiped it away. He glanced up at the gray sky for a long moment before looking back at the grave.

"Fury offered me a training spot with the new recruits. Something that would certainly keep me busy which is probably what I need but I just can't see past how much I miss you and how much of it is my own damn fault. Everybody says that it wasn't my fault that I couldn't control what Loki had on me but I still think I should've been stronger should've been able to deal with it. Never should have put you in the position that I did. I'm sorry, Nat, more sorry that I can say. "

A rumble of thunder and the rain picked up speed causing Clint to move the roses sideways and closer to the gravestone.

"You freed me and I'll be forever grateful for that. I think I will take Fury up on his offer."Clint stated softly. "I don't know if I'll ever be able to forgive myself for what happened. But I will try to do something worthwhile with the second chance you gave me."

Clint stood and for several long moments he let the rain wash over him as he stared at his wife's name. Remembering their relationship and how much he'd enjoyed being her partner in every sense of the word.

"I love you, Natasha."Hawkeye stated quietly his voice barely audible above the rain. "I always will."

Slowly Clint turned and walked out of the cemetery.