The world turned slowly, achingly, as if time had stopped. In the distance, he heard the last remnants of the explosion. A scream pierced through the smoke, and then it all came rushing back.
"Noooooooo!" He shouted as her body slumped to the floor. His hands shook as he grabbed for her, but she was just out of his reach. "Ohshitohshitoshitshitshit," he huffed, his breathing coming out in short, fast gasps that seemed to rip his chest apart.
"Clint, stop it. You're panicking," Bobbi said, placing a firm hand on his shoulder. "She took a bad fall, she might have a concussion. We have to see if there's anything else wrong."
He crouched down to the ground, placing a hand under her head, his body started to shake again when he realized there was so much blood.
"I can't call for an extraction. We'll have to get her to the jet," Bobbi informed him with a frown. "Dammit," she cursed.
"Bobbi, Bobbi, she's bleeding! Oh, God. She's bleeding so much!"
Bobbi bent down over them, smoothing Natasha's hair gently away from her forehead. "Natasha, honey, can you hear me?"
She groaned softly, but audibly. "Is it over?"
Bobbi nodded with a frown. "They're all gone, but we can't call for help. How badly are you injured? "
"Mmmph, head hurts," she moaned.
"We have to get her to cover," Bobbi said. "Tasha, we're going to try to pull you up. Can you move?" She nodded to Clint and he placed both hands under their fallen comrade.
"Shit!" He cried. "Look at her leg!"
Bobbi cringed when she realized where all the blood was coming from.
"Dizzy," Natasha moaned.
"We have to wrap that and keep pressure on it," Bobbi said, already tearing off a piece of her trench coat. "Here, help me lift her leg."
Natasha howled in pain at the contact.
"Sorry. I'm sorry," She said gently. "But we can't stay here. We're going to have to move you."
"Come on, baby," Clint said soothingly. "I'll try to make this as painless as possible," he said, scooping her up.
She shrieked loudly, burying her face in the crook of his neck.
"It's not that far," he promised.
"Clint, be careful. She can't lose anymore blood than she already has," Bobbi warned.
He looked down into her face, her eyes squeezed shut and her mouth slightly open. "Stay with me," he whispered, tightening his hold on her.
Once they got to the aircraft, Bobbi helped him lower her to the floor. "We won't make it out of here," she said. "And the radio's broken. You have to stay here with her. I'm going to go for help."
"Are you crazy?" He asked. "The closest secure location isn't for miles!"
"What choice do we have?" She hissed back. "She needs serious help if she's going to make it, and we can't contact anyone. Now just stay put, both of you."
"What am I supposed to do? I can't—Bobbi, I can't lose her."
"Clint, you can't let your emotions get in the way. This is Natasha and she needs you. Keep pressure on that wound, and make sure she has enough water. I'll be back as soon as I can, with medical aid. " She turned to go. "And, you probably should make sure she stays awake."
"How the hell am I supposed to do that?"
She grinned. "Talk to her. Isn't that the one thing you're good at?"
He turned his attention back to Natasha. "Nat. Nat, you're going to be okay, right?" He said, crouching down beside her. "Looks like it's just you and me for awhile now, kid."
"Cold," she moaned. "So cold."
"Um," He looked around but found nothing in the fallen aircraft. "Here," he said, sliding down next to her and pressing his body firmly against hers. "I'll keep you warm."
She settled in between his legs. "Keep you safe…"
"Had to…. to save you…"
"So you really did take that hit for me? On purpose? Oh, Nat. Why?"
"Mmmm, head hurts….."
She was quiet for a moment and he reached down to touch her face with his hand, frowning at the lack of color behind her skin. "Nat? You've gotta stay awake, baby. Stay with me okay?"
"So dizzy," she answered back in a weak voice. "Just need to…. close my eyes for a second."
"No! Tasha, look at me. You have to open your eyes and look at me, okay?" He swept his hand across her forehead. "Shit, I think you have a fever. Nat, come on, please. Stay with me. You can't leave me."
She opened her eyes to look up at him. "Not going anywhere."
"Are you still cold?"
"I.. dunno… so sleepy…."
"Don't go to sleep yet, sweetheart. Talk to me. We never get a chance to talk, just the two of us anymore."
"… do something?"
He leaned his head down closer to her face so he could hear her. "Anything. I'll do anything you want, Tasha. Just stay with me."
"Sing… me… sleep…."
"No, you can't go to sleep right now, remember?"
"Okay, okay," he said, running his fingers through her matted hair. "I'll sing to you, but you have to stay awake though, okay? You promise?"
"Promise," she breathed. "Sing…"
"Um, um," he ran a hand through his hair, searching his brain for something, anything that would appease her. "Hey there, Delilah what's it like in New York City? I'm a thousand miles away, but girl tonight you look so pretty, yes you do…."
She smiled weakly. "Clint, d'you… love me?"
He pressed his face against hers, pulling her as close as he could get without disturbing her leg. "Very much. That's why you have to stay with me. I can't live without you, Nat. Just stay with me."
She paused in front of the door to his room at the Avengers' Mansion. It was open, so she peered in cautiously. "Hey," she said quietly, with a soft knock.
He looked up from his perch on the couch and stood up swiftly when he saw who it was. "Nat! How are you feeling?"
"I'm okay. All thanks to you, I heard," she said with a bright smile.
She folded her arms across her chest. "So, what are you still doing here? I thought you'd be home by now."
He ran a hand through his slightly disheveled hair. "I, uh, didn't feel like sitting on a subway train for half an hour after a mission like that," he mumbled.
She regarded him carefully. "It's been three days," she said softly.
"I, uh….. ah, you know…"
She smiled. "Well, I could drive you home now if you want."
His gaze darted over to the time on the cable box and back to her as she watched him expectantly. "Uh, yeah. Yeah, that'd be nice."
"Okay. Come on, my car's parked right outside."
"Thanks," he said softly when she pulled up in front of his apartment. "You, uh, wanna come inside? For some coffee, or whatever?"
She nodded wordlessly, following him through the door that was attached to the kitchen.
"Have a seat. Make yourself comfortable. I'll just get this pot on."
She stayed where she was standing, patting the dog awkwardly on the head when he came over to sniff at her sneakers. She looked around at their surroundings, taking in the small living area and the minimal furniture.
"It's cozy," he said, watching her.
"It's purple," she said tonelessly.
He grinned. "Yeah, it's a private joke," he told her, handing her a purple mug with a large "H" on it.
"Funny," she said, raising it to her lips.
He leaned on the counter as he watched her drink. "How much do you remember, from the other night?"
She groaned. "Ugh, I tried to forget most of it, honestly. A botched mission isn't something I think of fondly."
"Right," he said.
"But I do remember a soundtrack. Like, pretty much everything on the second album from Plain White T's."
He shrugged. "Actually, it was the third album. The newer stuff is much better."
"Clint… you sang to me?"
He met her gaze. "I had to do something, to… to.."
Without warning, she threw herself into him, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck and pressing her lips to his. He caught her easily enough, but not before stumbling back a few steps.
"Whoa," he said when she pulled away, her arms still encircled around him. "You keep rewarding me with gestures like that every time I do something nice for you and I'm gonna get spoiled."
"Well, what else do you want?" She asked, a little huskily. She lowered her mouth to his neck, sucking softly at the tender flesh under his ear.
"Mmm, that's nice," he murmured.
"So, do you have a bed here, or are we going to have to get cozy on the couch?" She nearly purred, ghosting her nails down his chest.
He nodded over his shoulder, gesturing towards his room before lifting her up and hauling her in the general direction.
They kissed passionately, stumbling all the way through the door and onto the bed.
"This is probably a bad idea, right?" He asked breathlessly, with one hand on her breast and the other creeping lower on her body.
"Probably," she agreed, sinking down into the mattress and pulling him on top of her.
He awoke slowly to her familiar scent on his pillow and a lazy smile spread across his face as he reached for her, the smile lowering to a frown when he realized he was alone. He pushed himself up out of bed, feeling sunken and heavy as he pulled on a pair of sweatpants and made his way around the corner to the kitchen. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes, wincing against the false lighting, and then his mouth dropped open.
She stood at the counter, with her back turned to him, dressed in a rumpled tank top and his purple boxers, her long red locks pulled back in a loose ponytail. "Morning, sleepyhead," she greeted him without turning.
"What are you doing?" He wondered, graciously accepting the mug she thrust at him with a boyish smile.
"Making coffee," she said idly.
"You stayed the night?"
"Is that okay?" She asked, arching an eyebrow as she watched him intently.
"Yeah! Yeah, of course. Christ, stay as long as you want." He took a sip from the mug. "Okay, your coffee is so much better than mine. Stay forever."
She rolled her eyes. "I think we'll have to order breakfast. You don't seem to have anything edible around."
"Um, there's a diner around the block. Hey, Nat."
She looked up at him, her gaze steady on his.
He was never one for subtleties, so he bluntly asked, "Are we gonna do that again?"
"What, like now?" She asked, brushing her bangs out of her eyes.
"Huh," he said, watching her chew on her lower lip. "I meant, like ever, but that's an interesting—"
He was cut off by her rough kiss, as she'd somehow managed to throw herself into his embrace again. He groaned softly into her mouth, backing her up against the counter and he was pleased to find her already wet and moaning when he slipped his fingers into his boxers.
"Clint…" She gasped as he found a deeper angle.
"God, you are so hot in my underwear," he moaned, hooking his fingers upwards.
"Aaahhhh," she breathed, burying her face in the crook of his neck and sinking her teeth into him.
"Hmmm, I meant are we going to do this ever again, but let's see how you feel after I make you come in my kitchen," he said with a soft growl as he moved his mouth down the hollow of her throat.
"You're such an ass," she moaned, bucking her hips against his hand.
"You love it," he whispered, lowering his head to mouth at her breasts through the thin fabric of her tank top.
She cried out as she unraveled around his fingers, nearly gasping for breath.
"Nat," he said quietly when her breathing returned to normal. "You saved me."
She shrugged. "You don't have a healing factor. You would've been a goner."
He nodded. "You could have been too. Do you have any idea how lost I'd be without you?"
Her eyes widened. "Clint, don't…"
"I can't lose you. I'm sorry if it's weird, but shit, Nat, I can't…"
"No." She shook her head. "It's not weird. It's… you… you've learned a few things….."
He grinned. "Well, it's been quite some time since…. " He trailed off awkwardly. "Tell you what. Why don't you come back to my room and I'll show you what you've been missing all these years?" He added, wiggling his eyebrows.
She placed a tentative hand to his cheek. "When that bastard pointed his knife at you, I just… I felt what I've been missing all these years."
"I don't know how to do this, Clint." Her eyes were wide and vulnerable when she looked at him.
He sighed, placing both hands on either side of her face. "It's okay. Just stay with me."
She nodded."No more talking," she said, her arms encircling around his neck.
"No more talking," he agreed, leaning down to kiss her.
"You can always sing, though," she said with a laugh.