"Avengers: Between the Panels"

A/N: Hello fabulous readers! For this fic I'm going to go "between the panels" – tell you the interpersonal stories that happened to the characters that weren't written in the comics. The main pairing being Clint/Natasha, but certainly not limited to them & may address friendships, family, & other stuff too. We'll see what crazy stuff my brain comes up with!

Rating will be T to start, & each chapter will have its own rating & warnings. This will NOT be updated regularly, FYI, just when I get the inkling. I can't promise that it'll in chronological order as far as the comics go. I may even post alternative events for the same scene. Plus some may be shorter than chapters you see in my other fics. Read & follow it anyway. You've always wondered what happened between the big fights & story lines when no one was looking, haven't you?

Rating for this chapter: T for swearing

Background: This chapter occurs as part of the comic "Winter Soldier 14," which is the end of Widow Hunt. Background: When Clint & Natasha made their appearances in comic in the 60's in Tales of Suspense, they were lovers and villains. But, Natasha was still with the KGB and was manipulating Clint for their purposes. Natasha left when the KGB called her back, but since I can't find a copy of these to read I can't confirm my suspicion that she really did love him but did as she was told so they wouldn't kill him.

Anyway, when she returns and joins the Avengers Clint won't have her, as far as I can tell (again, I can't find the old copies) (My guess is heartbreak & wounded pride). They both goes on to illustrious careers with the Avengers, working together from time to time. They both have several serious relationships. Clint marries & later divorces Mockingbird, aka Bobbi Morse. Natasha has a long relationship with Daredevil, & later with Winter Soldier (Bucky Barnes). In fact, she was with him as late as 2013, until the conclusion of "Widow Hunt," where all her memories of him were wiped away. I'm going on the theory here that this occurs in continuity before the Avengers Assemble series begins.

Let's go between the panels in Winter Soldier #14.

Chapter 1: Winter Soldier #14, Widow Hunt conclusion

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entire chapter told from Clint's perspective

As I'm standing around with the guys and Hill, trying to come up with some plan, I notice that Barnes is a bit distracted. I don't blame him. I remembered how it felt, to lose her. To be abandoned by her. Hell, even our circumstances are similar. She wasn't really in control of herself back then, like she isn't now. I had let my young, stupid pride get in the way of forgiving her, of reconciling.

God I was such an idiot.

I've long since lost the juvenile need for such pride. But I've also long since lost hope of ever having a chance with her again.

I think she may have ruined me for all other women.

She's got history with all us guys here, some more than others. We're a fitting group to hunt her. Myself especially.

Despite her… intimate relationship… with Barnes, and their history, I may actually be the one who's the closest to the real Natasha. Over the years she's told me the stories of her past, taken me with her on many a "Widow's Marker" mission (See Avengers Assemble #12 & 13), and we've fought together as Avengers for years. But it's the other stuff that's made us, well, best friends perhaps? Like hanging out drinking beers and vodka while we debate the comedic merits of Broken Lizard vs. Monty Python. Or how we'll sometime do things just for fun like a motorcycle ride. Well, maybe she humors me on that one, but it still counts. Or how she'll come to me after a difficult mission when she just wants to decompress and doesn't want to be touched, or just wants to be held. Or how she'll kick my ass or bust my balls just when she knows I need it to keep my legendary pride in check.

Or maybe that I'm the only Avenger who has a Widow's Marker.

Or maybe it's REDACTED (See Secret Avengers #1).

Regardless, this is Bucky's ballgame. She's his woman now. I keep my smart mouth shut and follow orders for once. Because god knows he's won't.

Not that I can blame the guy. He's in so deep with Natasha. Reminds me of myself back… hell, what has it been, 10 years now? Longer? Anyway, reminds me of me back when she had me trapped in her web. I kind of wish I'd stayed ensnared sometimes.

I push that thought deep down into darkness where it belongs. She hadn't been interested in me again after I rejected her. She moved on with her life. So did I. I need to be thankful with what I have. Jess and I are having a lot of fun, right?

Well, anyway. Hill's talking.

"…We've got three possible strike zones. So we're going to have to split up."

Steve gives Bucky what he obviously thinks is the lowest priority target, but who knows really? I just hope someone else finds her before Bucky. He's far too compromised to even be a part of this mission, but how does one say "No" to a desperate and determined Winter Soldier and not find themselves in a coma for weeks?

It's much sooner than I thought when we get the word that, of course, Barnes has found her, and he isn't waiting for us. Logan snorts.

"Ah hell… that crazy friggin' kid…"

xxxxx

We arrive on-scene as Bucky is beating the hell out of some guy. Remind me again not to piss off the Winter Soldier.

Bucky's got creepy bad guy on the ground with a gun. The helicopters move in, illuminating everything. At least he isn't going to kill the dude with this audience.

I think.

Before he pulls the trigger Nat takes Barnes down and is trying to make a run for it with Mr. Creepy. Of course, being nasty bad guy of the day means he's using Tasha as a hostage, despite her brainwashing.

Idiot. Does he want to die?

"What-?!" Nat's a little surprised. "What are you-? STOP!"

Her voice cuts right through me… like I haven't heard it in years. We've been just friends for so long, so why the desire now? Why the jealousy? Maybe being around Barnes & seeing what they have made me want more than what our current friendship is?"

"Do it Clint. Now."

I hesitate. Shit.

The sound of my own arrow sinking into the flesh of her calf will haunt me for the rest of my life.

But it gives Barnes the shot he needs, and McCreepy is down.

Natasha's going to be physically fine of course, but…

"Natasha, please, it's me, Bucky… it's James."

"Who the hell is Bucky?!"

Son of a bitch.

xxxxx

They work on her for days, rebuilding synaptic bridges in her mind. And at first, it seems like a success.

She remembers defecting from Russia… (she remembers me) remembers being an Avenger… (she remembers ME) she remembers working for S.H.I.E.L.D. … she remembers everything… (She remembers me!)

… everything except Bucky. Crazy Creepy villain, (who survived, of course, the bastard), has apparently ensured that was the only strand of her memory that's been permanently severed.

I think I know how he feels. To lose her to the insanity that was the Red Room, who still manages to dig their ugly claws into her skin to this day. But it's not without all hope. Logan has connections with telepaths, after all, & I heard Dr. Strange owes Cap a favor…

So you can imagine my surprise when Barnes wants to give up.

"All I've ever brought her is trouble… nearly got her killed at the Red Room when we first met…" We tried to talk him down, to give him some assurance. He's having none of that.

"She's better off without me." And with that he walks away.

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

I feel the anger boiling deep in my chest. How can he just give up like that? How can he walk away from her like that? How…

But then I remember my own actions. At least Barnes is trying to be noble.

Well no, FUCK THAT. He's being selfish.

Waiting is hard. Trying to be with someone who doesn't even remember you while treatment after treatment fails is agonizing. Just ask the children of parents who suffer from Alzheimer's as to why they end up spending less and less time with their loved one. Because it slowly kills the spirit of the healthy person.

But I'm honestly surprised with Barnes. He's older. He's wiser. He's been through a lot already. A lot with her. He's not some young punk who's ego is too big for his own good.

I'll probably never really understand why Bucky walked out. But I do know one thing for certain. Even if he truly believes he's doing this for her, he will deeply regret it one day.

xxxxx

Cap and Logan visit Natasha for a few minutes before heading out. I mull around for a little while, get some coffee, and chat with a few starry-eyed young S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Every time I find myself walking towards her recovery room, I seem to find something else to do.

I tell myself I should just go home. It's too soon to see her. She's confused. I should just be respectful of Barnes.

Who am I kidding? I'm scared.

What if she doesn't remember me as well as before? What if we're just colleagues now? Or worse, what if she remembers just fine?

When you remove her entire past with Bucky the result is that she's been single now for quite a while. And all this time I've been… me. Obnoxious, goofy, flirty, sexy (I do work out…), me. She'll have memories of all these years of us getting to know each other deeply, developing the closest trust I've ever felt with another person, and with no romance in her life the entire time.

I'm deathly afraid she's going to want to change that.

Not that I wouldn't want it… I mean SHIT have you seen the woman? But I'd hate to lose our friendship, our partnership, over something as stupid as sex. Sex always messes things up anyway… Plus nothing to say of a MAJOR breach of the guy code.

And have I told you that the Winter Soldier is one scary badass?

Well hell, here I am standing outside her door.

I shouldn't be doing this, I shouldn't be doing this, walk away Barton…

Eye contact. She's got me now.

"Clint?"

I smile a weak smile as I walk in.

"Hey." Brilliant, Barton.

"Hey."

Her smile widens as I sit next to her bed, and she takes my hand. Her touch sends fire up my arm. "I wondered when you'd show up."

"Yeah… well…" shit brain has frozen what do I do what am I supposed to say…

Her smile transforms into a coy smirk. "Well, you don't have to worry. I'm not gonna kick your ass just yet…"

Oh right. The arrow that I shot her with.

"Tash, I'm so sorry…"

She shakes her head. "Don't even start, Barton. You did your job. You know I'll heal fast. It probably won't even scar."

My heart fell a little at that. I kind of wished it would. Then there'd always be something there to remind me…

"Well, there's a shortage of perfect legs in this world. It's a pity to damage yours." Typical, Barton. Fall back on sexual comedy. Idiot.

She snorts. "There's my Clint." My heart aches a little at her word choice. Her Clint.

"Well, I'm glad you remember," more than she knows…

She smiles, and squeezes my hand. "Me too."

We just sit there for a few seconds, and I'm already lost in her eyes. Dammit. I gotta get out of here.

"So Nat, I'm really sorry, but I'm kind of behind on some Avengers stuff…"

"No problem Clint. Steve's already told me that we've got something coming up. I'll be seeing you around very soon, partner." She smiles. Genuinely.

I smile and kiss her hair (god how I love the smell of her hair), then turn to make a quick retreat.

"Later Nat."

I try to control my reaction as I walk out the door, but my heart speeds up as I replay her words. When I round a corner I run one hand over my face and through my hair.

I'm such an asshole.

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A/N: Well there you have it, chapter 1! Not starting on the most upbeat note, but I felt it was necessary considering all the history here. But we DID have a little Clintasha flirting at the end there! Next up, I dive into Avengers Assemble #1 ( I think)!

Big thanks to my beta(s) What's-that-on-the-wall! Anyone else interested in being a beta for future chapters? (I like to have at least 2) Please don't forget to follow the story, and review if you have the time & inclination! (& follow me as an Author, as I've got others in the works too – I'm not forgetting about Avengers Instruction!)

One last A/N: After much research I think the best way to tell Marvel that we want ClinTasha in the movies & comics (& what the heck, even the cartoon!) we should email them. Be nice about it, for heaven's sake, but send your comments to mheroes marvel . com I personally think it would help if you follow SOME comics so you have having something intelligible to say about them, but that's up to you. If you're interested in ClinTasha comics I think the titles with the most potential to have Clintasha tension / interaction is Avengers Assemble & Secret Avengers, with regular old Avengers pulling up the rear. There might be some stuff in Captain Marvel too, with Infinity right around the corner, & it looks like they will make appearances there. Plus you might find that you like Captain Marvel on its own, since it is awesome. Probably not much Clintasha in Hawkeye comics for at least a while, but holy hell Hawkeye is a fucking awesome comic & you should read it anyway. & don't forget to watch Avengers Assemble on DisneyXD Sunday mornings. Ramble over.

Thanks again! Hope you enjoyed it!