gelbes_gilatier: (it's like this...)
[personal profile] gelbes_gilatier
Title: Of Struggling With Shadows in the Dark
Fandom: The Avengers (2012)
Rating: T
Genres: more gen than het but with Clint and Natasha, one never knows...
Summary: It’s been a few days since they blew up half of downtown New York and saved the world. Or maybe Cap and Stark and Banner saved the world and Natasha of course and he was there for the spotting and the shooting, lucky to have been accepted back on the light side of the Force.
A/N: So, uh, apparently, Clint wanted to say his piece, too and then he was being a stubborn bastard. But we managed to work around that and low and behold, there you go. A companion fic or maybe even a remix of Who Knows No Mercy and maybe the prelude to my big bang story. We shall see.

PS: You'll find the translation of the lyrics used as an introduction below the story.

( Who Knows No Mercy )

Of Struggling With Shadows in the Dark

„Bist du nicht müde, nach so vielen Tagen
Dich noch im Dunkeln mit den Schatten zu schlagen
Spuckst heißes Blut aus, du tobst unter Schmerzen
Drehst dich im Kreis, bis die Wände sich schwärzen

Ich find dich am Boden, deine Finger verbrannt
Die heißen Kohlen immer noch in der Hand.“

Wir sind Helden, „Bist du nicht müde“

It’s been a few days since they blew up half of downtown New York and saved the world. Or maybe Cap and Stark and Banner saved the world and Natasha of course and he was there for the spotting and the shooting, lucky to have been accepted back on the light side of the Force. Clint tells himself it doesn’t matter what his part was in the entire thing, so long as he didn’t get killed and wasn’t the one to nearly blow up New York and the rest with it.

It doesn’t work.

Every night he’s sure it’ll be the one he’ll finally sleep through. Every night he gets up exactly two and a half hours later, not having to change clothes because he didn’t even bother to take them off in the first place and takes his bow to a hangar in the ship’s aft, far away from anyone who might be busy during the graveyard shift after all. He spends almost the entire night in the hangar before it’s back to psych evaluations and being avoided by basically everyone except Natasha.

They haven’t been cleared for missions yet, Natasha and he. They’re bound to the helicarrier, waiting, waiting, waiting. Natasha is patient, so, so patient and must have learned somewhere, somehow to sit something like this out. He’s patient when he’s lying in wait for a kill. He doesn’t have patience for being cooped up in a ship lying in the water like a bird with broken wings.

There’s too much energy coiled up inside of his mind, taut like the string of his bow nanoseconds before he releases an arrow. He starts going to the hangar because it seems the only way to release the energy is shooting at demons and demigods in the dark. Natasha, she runs and punches and shoots bullets at clearly visible targets. He needs something entirely different.

What he needs is concentration and precision, his vision reduced to a tunnel that’s as wide as his arrow’s shaft and spans from the point on his bow to deep in the hangar. He knows there’s nothing there and he always retrieves the arrows in the morning after his first check in with the poor bastard they assigned him as his “reality coach”, as Agent Hill put it. But in the night, he knows what’s down there. Who’s down there. He never puts a name on any of it but he always hits them.

Clint hasn’t told anyone about this, not even Natasha. He knows she knows something must be up because she’s Natasha and Natasha always knows what’s going on with him. If he were honest, he’d say that this is why he hasn’t given her the opportunity to talk to him for longer than five minutes yet. He’d say that this is why he just can’t look her in the eye anymore. So he can’t look anyone in the eye, anymore. That’s not an issue, not even when it’s about Fury. He’d like to say it’s not an issue that he can’t look Natasha in the eye but that would be a lie. He’s tired of lies.

He’s tired of nightmares, too. Tired of hearing Loki’s voice still in his ear, in his head. Tired of seeing Coulson’s empty chair in meetings, tired of Coulson’s office door that ceased bearing his name just an hour after the battle of New York was over. Tired of the restlessness that makes him wake up two and a half hours after falling into bed each night. So he keeps shooting arrows at phantoms.

It’s not healthy, that much he’s aware of. But then again, being a master assassin and all means that he did a lot of things that weren’t healthy – neither to him nor his targets – before and until now he got away from it relatively unscathed. Until now he always had Natasha to fall back on and keep him sane. Until now he never told anyone the things he told Loki when he was under the tessaract’s influence.

Natasha didn’t tell him about it and Fury didn’t and Hill didn’t and in the end no one told him. Stark didn’t, either but Stark didn’t even hesitate when Clint asked him to make the security camera feed from Loki’s interrogation available. Later he wished he hadn’t and he’ll never tell Stark about it because he’ll never be in the mood for Stark’s brand of “told you so”.

He keeps replaying the video in his head over and over and not even his bow and the arrows can silence that. He knows he killed fellow SHIELD agents under Loki’s influence and civilians and he’s aware of the fact that in the end, Coulson’s death is on him, too and if he’d stop suppressing it, the repercussions would kill him.

But it’s Natasha’s face when Loki starts screaming at her, starts telling her all the secrets Clint was never supposed to tell anyone, that goes straight to his heart and every scream squeezes a little more, until his heart is a tight ball ready to explode any moment with shame and guilt and pain. The pressure never lessens.

So he keeps coming back to the hangar and then he hears the bulkhead creak open. It’s on the other side of the ledge he’s standing on and for some reason, he’s rooted to the spot, just for a moment when he sees Natasha gracefully stepping through the bulkhead’s frame. It’s not surprise keeping him there even when he registers that she’s here in her workout clothes, just a moment he needs to assess the situation.

Or maybe the realization that always slams into him when he sees her in her track pants and tight t-shirt. Or in just about any other piece of clothes. Natasha looks hot, so hot.

He blinks, tries to get a grip on all the crap inside his head and takes a step forward, towards Natasha. Look into her eyes, make her see you can still do that. It doesn’t work, mostly because of what he can see there. It breaks his carefully exuded control over everything inside his head he just labored so hard to get. It’s like Natasha’s pain just annihilates his carefully constructed walls.

The only thing that’ll keep him upright is turning away from her and shooting, shooting, shooting so he does. He concentrates on the dark and he thinks he’s doing fine but then he can feel Natasha walking by behind his back. It’s like his entire awareness is on her for a millisecond, hairs raised on the back of his neck and everything. He didn’t even get to his usual loner reflex of making people invading his privacy pay for it.

There’s a moment when he waits for her to say something, anything but there’s relief when she doesn’t. Relief that she just sits down on the crate at the far end of the balcony, and keeps watching him as his instincts tell him.

Clint doesn’t mind Natasha watching him. She often does, in training and the best time was when she asked him to teach her how to shoot a bow like he can. She spent two hours exclusively watching him, being still like a statue and once or twice he doubted she even breathed. Then she got up and brought with her a bow she got God knows from where and shot ten arrows, mimicking his stance and moves, looking like they were hers and he’s pretty sure she only missed the bulls eye three times because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings or something.

He’s still grateful she kept to her guns and the Widow’s Bite as her weapons. He’d been out of this game in a matter of days and what would he have been then? Just a guy with a bow, that’s right. But maybe then… maybe then he wouldn’t have been Loki’s willing puppet and maybe he wouldn’t have told him everything he knew about Natasha and maybe he wouldn’t have killed all those agents. Wouldn’t haven’t been responsible for… wouldn’t have…

Don’t do that to yourself, Clint.

That’s what Natasha said to him. If Natasha said it, must be the way to go. So he doesn’t do that to himself and keeps shooting arrows instead. Until the moment he allows himself a peek to where Natasha is sitting and he catches her with her eyes closed. It’s a rare sight and it does something to him. Enough that he takes down the bow and feels his feet carrying him towards her. Until he’s standing right in front of her and he see her chest moving beneath her t-shirt, regular little breaths, keeping his eyes glued to it, for reasons not sexual at all… and then he feels her eyes on him.

She doesn’t blink, at least for a humanly impossible amount of time and he thinks she’s searching for something. He doesn’t know what, isn’t even sure if he wants to know for what she’s searching but after another moment he feels an odd relief that she looks as she found what she was looking for and is maybe even glad about that. Clint can’t help but dredge up a little smile from the dark depths of his heart for that. Then, for some inexplicable reason, the most intelligent thing he can come up with is, “Miss the sound of the engines, too?”

She doesn’t answer, doesn’t nod or shake her head. Instead she turns her head away to the hangar, as if the answer to his question is somewhere down there. For a moment all he ever wants to do is stare at her neck, slender and well sculpted, and so white. He wants to stare at the silky skin and never look at anything else in his entire life.U

ntil he realizes he wants to tell her something. He wants to tell her something and he wants to stop shooting, do something, anything else. So he folds his bow, puts it away carefully into  its case. He gets back to Natasha, suddenly can’t see her look away from him anymore. “Tasha?” It startles him how quiet he sounds, but the look she wears, that’s harder to take. The look in her eyes reminds him of when she told him You know I do. when he asked her if she knew how it was to be unmade and it tugs at his heart strings a little. “I shot a couple for you, too.”

Clint hopes it sounds casual enough that she wouldn’t see how many he shot for her and how well he aimed, at least not right away. The smile she gives him, small and a little like a reward, tells him she knows exactly how many he shot and how well he aimed. Of course she did. So it surprises him that she says, “I hope you shot some for Agent Coulson as well.”

Dark, dark clouds move across his heart, past Natasha’s Don’t do that to yourself, Clint., past denial and hope and straight towards anger and self-loathing. For a split second, he allows himself to see it as what it is, allows himself to feel all the pain and all the guilt, so his voice is hoarse when he replies, “Enough that they’ll haunt Loki even in Asgard, wherever that might be.”

Natasha’s sad, weary smile pushes into his mind, past the clouds, gives him a way from something he isn’t ready to deal with yet, gives him something real and solid and now. He needs to feel that, needs that closer, so he sits down right next to her, just like that. Their thighs are even touching.

He didn’t cry when he heard about Coulson’s death and he isn’t very likely to do so now but when he feels Natasha so close next to him, he simply has to draw her to him, all possible consequences such as being killed by the Black Widow for so much as touching her be damned.

Natasha doesn’t kill him, in the end. She doesn’t even need pressure applied to finally turn around and put her head on his shoulder. He waits a moment, just a short one, to see if this isn’t something Loki has engineered. Something that is only happening in his head and will end with him waking up to see Natasha dead at his hands.

When it doesn’t happen, still doesn’t happen, he allows himself to breathe in Natasha. He smells the faint scent of sweat from her workout, a clean smell like soap without any perfume added he remembers from countless stakeouts and nights in hotels, waiting for a mark to make their move. He smells the very, very faint trace of gunpowder that seems to accompany her everywhere, too and he doesn’t think about how he knows all the layers of how Natasha Romanoff, master assassin and spy, smells up close.

Clint never feels her relax into his arms and that’s okay. He’d be alarmed if she did. He knows from a fact that she never relaxes, not even in her sleep and he’s oddly proud of the fact that he never told Loki that. Never told Loki he knows how Natasha looks in her sleep.

Love, Natasha told Loki, is for children. He knew she sees it like that, one of the reasons he never acted when he was close enough to kiss her or whisper something in her ear, like I love you. He just never realized, until now, that she’s right. It is. Because what he has with her, that’s something else entirely. Something deeper. Something better.

He knows that because if it weren’t, she’d simply have shot him instead of “recalibrating” him. If what they have was anything less than what it is, he’d be dead now, just another  thread to SHIELD and the world order eliminated by the Black Widow. That he isn’t dead is something… special, for lack of a better word. It’s not something to be ashamed of, not something to spend your nights shooting arrows at nothingness for. And all it took for him was Natasha standing in the doorway and looking at him and letting him embrace her.

He can’t help but smile into her hair. As long she can still do that, things can’t be too bad. Things maybe are good enough that he’ll be able to deal with the fallout in a matter of weeks. There’s strength in this thought. Strength in the knowledge that he’s got someone to pick up the pieces with him. He’s grateful Natasha gave him that. Because they’ll need this. In the days and weeks and months to come, they’re going to need it. They’re definitely going to need it.

“Aren’t you tired, after so many days
Of struggling with shadows in the dark
You spit out hot blood, you rampage with pain
Spin in a circle until the walls are black

I find you on the floor, your fingers burned
Hot pieces of coal still in your hand.

”Wir sind Helden, “Aren’t You Tired”

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