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Budapest is chapter seven. Avengers events from chapter ten to fourteen.
Summary: He was breaking. His nightmares increased. Every night he woke in a cold sweat, hands fisted in the sheets, fitting off Loki again. And he’d begun the unsettling habit of sleep walking. If Natasha had noticed, and surely she had, she didn’t say anything. Sometimes he’d wake up in his work shop, or the kitchen, just slumped against things. More than a couple times he had woken up standing on the edge of the balcony, or hovering over a sleeping Natasha. This scared him. When this happened he dreamed of Loki’s voice in his head, the pied piper leading the way. Whispering in that seductive voice, “Do it.” Clint wouldn’t have to ask what to do, he knew what to do.
He watched her eyelids twitch in the throws on REM. He wanted to brush the locks of red out of the way for a better view, but she looked too perfect to disturb. And after everything that had happened, she deserved the rest.
After Thor shipped Loki back to Asgard, and Fury had let the team disperse to their various getaways, the couple made their way back to their secret home. It felt like coming home, really. All the times he’d been away from various apartments and safe houses coming back just felt like opening a new, single use, sterile box. Like a familiar hotel. But never home.
This felt like home. They’d come home from debriefing to dusty sunlight pouring through the wooden shutters, a fine layer of dust settled on the counters and table tops, and the warm smell of wood and cotton. Natasha set to dusting and wiping down the windows and sent Clint to the grocery store.
“This is how you’re going to start our vacation?”
“We just leveled most of Manhattan Island, I just want a little order and cleanliness. Also spaghetti.”
She turned back to her work, opening up the house and letting the breeze flow through the house. He just watched her for a moment. She looked so natural like that; dusting, humming some old song to herself, barefoot, jeans and a tshirt. She looked as comfortable and in place here as she did on the battlefield. He couldn’t decide if it was scary or beautiful, so he went to the store.
After dinner he swept her up in his arms, and they made love gently and slowly. Something that was a first for both of them, taking their time, letting things build and build until the climax was so tantalizingly steep when they tipped over the edge they thought they’d never come down. With all the chaos and the pain and destruction, though they were made for it, sometimes they just needed a little delicacy. Especially now. Their minds both on the mend, fragile, scarred, and on the razors edge of dangerous.
She was healing. Her nightmares seemed to come less often and less terrifying. But she had become over cautious, almost obsessive about checking door locks, running back ground checks, checking the security system, and counting weapons and ammo in the house. She was waiting for the Red Room to come back, waiting for them to find her. He could see the determination in her eyes as she counted rounds and clips, she couldn’t hide forever and she knew it. But it weighed on her, waiting to die. He could see it in the circles under her eyes and her bleeding cuticles. Feel the tension in her shoulders at night when he held her.
He was breaking. His nightmares increased. Every night he woke in a cold sweat, hands fisted in the sheets, fitting off Loki again. And he’d begun the unsettling habit of sleep walking. If Natasha had noticed, and surely she had, she didn’t say anything. Sometimes he’d wake up in his work shop, or the kitchen, just slumped against things. More than a couple times he had woken up standing on the edge of the balcony, or hovering over a sleeping Natasha. This scared him. When this happened he dreamed of Loki’s voice in his head, the pied piper leading the way. Whispering in that seductive voice, “Do it.” Clint wouldn’t have to ask what to do, he knew what to do. Nights he fought hard against it, he ended up on the balcony. Nights he didn’t, he woke up standing over his sleeping wife, teeth grinding and hands in tight fists.
He stopped sleeping. Went out to the workshop instead.
“You have to sleep, Clint.”
“I’ll be inside in a bit, I just want to work a little more.”
“You said that last night.”
“Did I?” he asked, knowing full well she was telling the truth. He was too tired to deal with this. He worked on sanding the bow arc smooth.
“Is this about Loki and the sleep walking?”
“Just can’t sleep, Tash.”
“We’ll figure something out, come on. Please come to bed, Clint.”
“What if I kill you?” he asked tightly, “How am I supposed to live with myself?”
She sighed, “you’re not going to kill me.”
“I dream about it. I can hear him, feel him telling me what to do.”
“We can ask Fury for help,” she took a step towards him and reached for his hand. He pulled it away and turned back to his work.
“Fury can’t help me. Just go to sleep, Natasha.”
She’d wake up in the mornings to breakfast on the table, but Clint no where in sight. He stayed away. She’d coax him out of the workshop some nights to watch a movie, even get him to come to bed. but he’d sneak out back to his loft in the shop and sleep there. One morning after a few weeks of hide and seek he woke up to “We need to talk,” carved into his workshop table.
He stomped into the house, “what the FUCK, NATASHA!”
She was seated in a padded rocking chair, gently pushing herself to and fro with her foot, reading some philosophy book, “What the hell is your problem?” she said without looking up.
“You ruined my fucking workbench, that’s my problem.”
“Make a new one.”
“I would if I had another fucking workbench to work on.”
“Not my problem, Clint.”
“No? What is your fucking problem, Nat? Jesus Christ!”
“I’d just like to spend some time with my fucking husband without him getting all moody and stalking off to wank and brood in his workshop. Have a nice dinner with him instead of leaving him a plate outside the back door like a fucking dog,” she spoke in a clipped tone without looking up from her book, which pissed Clint off exponentially. “I’d just like to work things out, and help him. But he won’t fucking let me. I can’t even touch you without you pulling away.”
“I gave you your space and time, why can’t you give me mine?”
Her book snapped shut, “That was different!”
“Yeah, you’re right. Because this doesn’t get better, Natasha! It just keeps going. There is no escaping this, escaping him. I am going to want to kill you for the rest of my life.”
“Clint, I can help you. I’ve been through this, we’ve been through worse.”
“What are you going to hit me in the head again?” he threw his hands up in frustration, “this is so fucking pointless.”
“it’s fucking pointless to soak in your misery, refusing help, refusing to try to get better, and just submitting to Loki and your fear of losing to him, Clint. I am you fucking partner, I am your fucking wife, the only person you submit to is me, and I’m pretty sure asking you to get your shit together is a reasonable fucking request.”
He didn’t say anything, just stood there, glaring at her.
“All the times I’ve been compromised, even when you found me and didn’t know me, you didn’t leave my side until we figured it out. Until you got me back. I vowed to do whatever it takes to get you back if you’ve been compromised. And I searched the globe for you, but you’re not all here. We’ve still got work to do,” she reached forward and took his hand. “Clint, please. I don’t want to force you to get help. You don’t have to fight me.”
“But something in the back of my mind, this cold, scratching voice is telling me to.”
“We’ll figure something out, okay? We’ve been through worse.”
“No we haven’t. I hardly know who I am and hear voices, and you’ve become paranoid because you’re being hunted by the Russian government who wont stop until you’re dead. I’m pretty sure this is as bad as it gets, Tasha.”
“I’m pretty sure we just took out an entire fleet of alien warships and troops and defeated a god. We’ve done the impossible before, it’s our job. It’s practically our hobby.”
“Fine. Whatever,” he fake bowed to her, a bitter look on his face, “I submit to you, oh mighty Natasha.”
“Cut the shit, Clint. I’m trying to help you.”
His face broke, “I know, I’m sorry,” he said softly.
“We’ll figure it out, okay?”
He nodded solemnly. She reached out to hug him, just holding him and breathing in the scent of his workshop and his sweat. He held her back. It was the only softness and comfort he’d allowed himself to feel in weeks. He pressed his face into her hair and closed his eyes, “Will you promise me something?”
“If we can’t get him out, if I still pose a threat to you, kill me. Please.”