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Summary: When he finally dragged himself out of the shower and into fresh clothes he came out to find Natasha on the couch, knees pulled up to her chin, just staring off into the distance. He sat down next to her and began to gently rub her back. She twitched and tensed up at first, but relaxed quickly. He didn’t know how long it was before she said something, but if he hadn’t been paying attention he probably would have missed it, it was so quite.
“I let my guard down.”
Rating: Whole fic is NC-17 or hard R.
WARNING: this chapter has mentions of rape.
The rain drops pattered against the window like millions of tiny heart beats. It soothed him, but he still couldn’t sleep. His mind felt more akin to the roiling black sea below the cliff the cabin was perched on. He watched the sea, and the lightening dancing in the clouds. Here at the edge of the world the deadliest humans had been stripped away of all their armor and left raw like a fresh burn.
He still didn’t know what to think. She seemed like the Natasha he knew, but he couldn’t get the image of her standing in the freezing rain, broken eyes, shivering in oversized gear out of his head. And the fact she’d locked her bedroom door. In all the times they’d shared living spaces and sleeping quarters, she’d never locked her door to him. But everything had changed in a million different ways now. Less than 48 hours after they’d caved in to years and years of pushing back desires and ignoring feelings and made love came the mission that had been harder on either of them than anything they’d ever done. Worse than Sao Paulo or Dubai. Worse than anything Natasha had done for the Russians. She was raped, and Clint couldn’t stop it. He couldn’t save her. He could only watch. True, he’d killed the man, but it wasn’t enough. He wanted to burn the building down. Make sure the mole in the intel team got what they deserved. But mostly he wanted to help Natasha heal. He wasn’t sure how to do that. He could give her sutures, he could reset her limbs, knock her noggin hard enough to bring her back to his Natasha, he could deal with her moodiness after bad missions, when the hydra like demons of her past reared their heads, but he did not know the first thing to do now. His instincts were telling him to wait, and she’d tell him what she needed. And he was used to waiting, it came with the job. But this had to be the hardest, most frustrating helpless thing he’d ever experienced.
There wasn’t a clock in the room, something he sensed was probably on purpose, but sometime in the dark of the night he heard Natasha screaming in nightmare. He rushed out of bed and into the living area. He knew her door was locked, and he didn’t want to unnerve her, so he just stood still in the small gap between their doors, listening and waiting. He knew she was awake when he heard a frustrated yell he’d heard before and a subsequent smashing of an object on the wall. He waited, and waited. Eventually he sat down, leaning against the wall. Still waiting and trying to figure out some way to make it better. Eventually he couldn’t fight off the hunger for sleep anymore and drifted off.
Clint was a light sleeper by nature. All the time in the marines and secret ops had tuned him to wake up at the slightest sound or movement, so when he awoke to Natasha making breakfast, hair wet from the shower, cheeks still pink from her morning workout, and coffee already on the table he was pretty damn surprised to say the least. There was even a blanket over him.
“You like peaches and cream oatmeal, right?” She said without even looking away from her work.
“Uh, I—yeah. Yeah, it’s my favorite.” He pulled himself off the floor, he was stiff all over and his ankle fucking hurt. He limped to the table and saw his daily dose of healing meds from S.H.I.E.L.D. next to his coffee. He swallowed them with a sip of his coffee and Natasha set a steaming bowl in front of him and sat down with hers before he even realized she was behind him. “You’re like a fucking ninja, Tasha. Jesus.”
“You know as well as I that I’m better than a ninja. Or do I have to remind you who saved your ass during that mission in Tibet?” she said flatly before blowing off her steaming spoon.
He smiled a bit, that was the Natasha he knew. They ate in silence for a while. He didn’t know where she’d gotten fresh peaches in Alaska at this time of year, but he did know this was probably the most delicious breakfast he’d ever eaten. And he was thankful to see her eating. He’d seen many food trays come out of her recovery room untouched. When they’d finished, she grabbed the bowl and walked to the sink and began washing. There as a dishwasher, but she’d probably never used it. She said she liked doing dishes, it was something so normal compared to everything else she does. He thought it was endearing, but he’d always teased her for it.
“I should be taking care of you, not the opposite,” he said, walking up behind her. She tensed when she sensed him behind her, he could see the way she gripped the spoon and sponge like weapons. He used both hands to grab a towel so she could see he had nothing, and her shoulders relaxed a little. He dryed and put away what she washed.
“I don’t need to be taken care of,” She said. She passed him a dripping plate and she opened her mouth to say something, but shut it again.
“No, you don’t. But I want to take care of you,” he said gently, even he had to admit that was really fucking cheesy. He saw her smile, it was weak and tired, but it was the first he’d seen from her in a week.
“Clint Barton: Ripped straight from a chick flick and delivered to me in the Arctic Circle,” she tapped his cast lightly with her foot, “You’re even gift wrapped.”
“Well, I couldn’t show up to my lady’s secret fortress without some trophy of my travels, right?”
They finished dishes and he excused himself to shower. He turned the hot water up high and stood under the steaming spray. His ankle was already feeling better, S.H.I.E.L.D. really did have the best medical tech around. He laughed a little when he finally looked for the soap and realized there was a shower shelf with his favorite body wash and shampoo on it. But he reached for Natasha’s wash instead, popping open the cap and inhaling the scent he’d grown so familiar with. It smelled like roses and spring water. He remembered the first time they’d ended up smashed together in a tight space hiding from the enemy. Leather and Kevlar clad bodies pressed together, his head tucked into the crook of her neck to shield his face, he had started laughing, a low chuckle deep from within.
“What’s so fucking funny,” she’d hissed.
“We’re covered in blood, we’re probably going to get shot in the next five minutes, and the mission is probably botched, but all I can think about is how good you smell.”
She groaned and he could practically hear her roll her eyes, “well if we survive, I’ll buy you a fucking bottle of my body wash for yourself.”
After all these years, she still used the same soap. He smiled, he was probably the only person that knew what a creature of habit the Black Widow was. Her rigorous lifestyle had trained her for orderly schedule, but she didn’t do it for order, she did it for comfort. Always had a cup of tea before bed, the same brand, three sugars and a splash of milk. Always listened to Phillip Glass when she was sad. Always brushed her teeth before she did anything else in the morning. Even on missions she carried disposable single use tooth brushes. Just like her dishwashing thing, she liked to have some semblance of normal. Clint had always just done whatever felt right, but when they had spent long periods of time together he also found comfort in her habits and routine. They fit together like matching gears and moved like a well-oiled machine, both on and off the field.
When he finally dragged himself out of the shower and into fresh clothes he came out to find Natasha on the couch, knees pulled up to her chin, just staring off into the distance. He sat down next to her, and began to gently rub her back. She twitched and tensed up at first, but relaxed quickly. He didn’t know how long it was before she said something, but if he hadn’t been paying attention he probably would have missed it, it was so quite.
“I let my guard down.”
He didn’t say anything, he just waited for her to elaborate. He rubbed her back gently with the flat of his hand, patterning circles that soothed them both.
“When you… when you said those things about… I said to myself, ‘I don’t have to hide it anymore. I can finally say them too. I won’t have to wait till we’re both,” she started shaking and let out a shuddering breath, “till we’re both bleeding out in some hopeless shithole on the other side of the world to say them.’ And then everything just happened. And we got the call from Fury and during the briefing on the plane, all I could think was,” she let out sort of a choked half sob, half hiccup, he could see her eyes brimming with tears. If her tears fell, he knew damn well his would too. “I thought, ‘This is going to be so simple. Lure and shoot mission, back to laughing in your bed in 72 hours.’ And I just…” Hot tears fell from her eyes. Clint wanted so badly to wipe them away, but he held back, leaving his hand where it rested on her back like a support beam. He felt the sting of tears hit his own cheeks and snake their way down through the forest of stubble. “For the first time in my life, I was completely powerless. Even all the times I’ve been fucking brainwashed I had more control over myself then when I took that drink in my hand. It was the only one I’d actually drank that night, everything else I managed to pass off without him noticing. I thought ‘victory drink!’ and” she took another shuddering breath, “next thing I know, that fucking pig is on top of me, and I can see your arrows stuck in the glass, and I can’t move. I had no control,” for the first time she looks at him, “I don’t know how to get over that feeling of no control. At least here I know every inch. I can lock everything. Nothing can sneak up on me, not even you. But I still feel like any minute it’ll disappear and I feel like I can’t breathe.” Her eyes were red rimmed and pleading.
“I distracted you. I made a bad move and it’s my fau—“
“Don’t twist my fucking words, Clint.” Her eyes narrowed at him in anger briefly before she looked away. “I’m just saying that…Fuck, I don’t know what I’m saying, but it’s not your fault and martyrdom doesn’t suit you so if you keep blaming yourself for this I’ll rebreak your ankle, asshole.”
He couldn’t help but let out a little laugh, even she couldn’t hide her slight smile. He still felt like shit, but the fact she wasn’t going to let him take the blame for it made him realize she was okay.
“Okay, okay, I’ll patch my bleeding heart for you, Nat,” he said almost sarcastically.
“Thanks for giving him an undignified death, by the way.”
“Had you not been hurt, I would have made him suffer more.”
“I appreciate the sentiment,” she leaned into him for the first time; he wrapped his arm around her shoulder as she laid her head on his. He kissed her hair gently. “I banned you from my recovery room,” she admitted quietly.
“Because I needed to have some control over what was happening to me. Because things between us suddenly just exploded and I needed…I need to be in control right now,” she looked at him, “are you mad?”
“No, because you trusted me enough to let me come here, into your private little Natasha hidey-hole.”
“If you ever tell anyone I said this, I will kill you myself, but frankly I don’t know what I’d do without you right now.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” he kissed her forehead again, and then added “unless you want me too.”
She smiled weakly and settled back into his shoulder, “so you’re not going to be mad when I say that I want to, uh, shit” her brows furrowed, she rarely had trouble finding the right words, but he just waited. “I want to take things slower..between us I mean. I need to get my shit in order before I can… before we can… just, I need some time.”
He pulled away, and he saw a brief flash of panic in her eyes, but he turned her face towards him and looked her dead in the eyes, “You are in charge of the pace we go at. I won’t make a move without your permission. I’ve waited eight years, I can wait a little longer, Natasha.”
“I swear to fucking god we’ve turned into a chick flick,” she let out a small laugh and smiled sadly, “but thank you.” She abruptly stood up off the couch, “Jesus all this emotional stuff is exhausting, I need a nap.”
Yeah, she was going to be alright, he thought to himself.
She stopped in her doorway but didn’t turn back to him, quietly she said, “I’m trusting you with everything, Clint.” She gently shut the door behind her.
He waited to hear the lock click.
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