Author: Kat Lee
Challenge/Prompt: tamingthemuse #556: Serendipity
Word Count: 1,803
Date Written: 24 March 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Marvel Comics, not the author, and are used without permission.
"You're thinking too much again," she says, her voice slipping through the shadows and bouncing off their bed and silk sheets before ringing in his ears. Her easy words don't shatter the comfortable silence that's hovered between them for the better part of an hour since they retired together. It's been a long day, but he can't sleep. He's also not at all surprised that she knows he's awake; after all, dancing in the shadows and knowing him are two parts of his dearest friend that are as naturally parts of her as her fighting ability or bright, red hair.
He strokes that hair now where her head rests on his bare shoulder before admitting just as softly, "I've been thinking about something I overheard Bruce tell Tony this morning." Perhaps it's funny that of all the things they've endured today, fighting almost all day and night long and saving the world twice, that that short conversation, or at least the piece he heard of it, is what keeps circling around his tired mind now. But given the memories it invoked, Clint's not really surprised. That mission was one of the hardest times in his life, but also the turning point of his life and the thing that's come to mean the absolute most to him out of everything he's experienced.
Natasha doesn't ask. She just waits in the comfortable, familiar shadows for him to tell her. If he wants her to know, they both know he'll tell her when he's ready and not a moment before, and if he doesn't want her to know, Nat will find something else for him to think about or rather not think, just do. His fingers thread gently through her short hair. She turns her head, her cheek pressing against his palm, and looks up at him in the darkness.
"You know that Word of the Day calendar Tony bought Bruce for a stocking stuffer last Christmas?"
"Yes," she answers patiently. He knows that, if it took him all night to tell her what's on his mind, she'd still be just at patient, even if she had to wait until after dawn to sleep. If the roles were reversed, he'd like to think he'd be as patient and understanding, but even after all these years spent beside her, he can't be certain. People fear Natasha's anger, but it's his anger that's always quick to be lit.
"His word of the day today was serendipity, the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for."
"That sounds nice." He can practically hear the smirk her lips lift into in the dark.
"It is," he says, still stroking her hair. "Bruce told Tony that it made him think of when he joined the team. He wasn't looking for a friend, a family, a partnership, but he got all three."
Anybody else would ask Clint what the term made him think of, but not Nat. She just waits with all the patience of a spider watching a fly in her web. He knows she doesn't mean him harm, though. Her patience stems from just the opposite desire. She wants him to always know he's free to tell her what he wants to share when he chooses to share it; it's one of so very many traits they've come to share in common over the years they've known each other. And, God, it was so long ago that he first met her . . .
"It made me remember when I took the mission to bring you in." Again, she could interrupt him. Again, she could correct him, remind him that it wasn't so much bring her in as it was to bring her down, but she doesn't. She just stays silently, listens compassionately, and waits patiently.
"I wasn't at all sure I wanted that mission. I wasn't ready to leave the States again, and to go after a young girl?"
This time, when she smirks, she does speak. "You make it sound like you're so much older than me."
"I felt that way," he says simply, leaving out the fact that some days, he still does. He doesn't have to say the words; he knows she already knows and feels the same.
She slides closer to him, moving her cheek from his palm back to his chest. She feels the soft rise and fall of his breathing beneath her soft flesh and listens to it, and all he doesn't say, for a moment before admitting softly, "I felt more than old when you found me. I felt dead inside."
"I know," he reminds her, turning his head to place a chaste kiss on her forehead. "I was too. I didn't think I'd ever find another mission to enjoy again, thought already I wanted to quit the agency but didn't know how to get out alive."
"They do say it's impossible." She smirks again.
He smiles fondly and resumes stroking her hair, his fingers sweeping through her short bob and down her neck. "We found a way," he remembers aloud. "They told us it was impossible, told me I had to take you down or be taken down myself, but we beat them together and found so much more along the way. I went from being a man who had nothing to lose to feeling like I had the most important thing in the world to lose." His hand comes to a stop this time pass her shoulders. He kisses her head again. "I had you to lose," he murmurs.
"But you never lost me, Barton, and you won't."
"I know, Nat, and I -- " He stops, smiles, almost chuckles as he admits, "You're so going to hold this against me later, but I thank God every day for that and that I found you when I did. Talk about serendipity. I went off on a mission, half hoping to be killed and found a reason to live."
She's quiet for a long time, but neither dozes. Their bodies are tired, so spent from the events of the day that perhaps they're pass the point of being tired enough to sleep. Neither reaches for the escape; they reach for each other instead. "I thought you were a crazy American, easily defeated, just another egotistical male."
"And now?" he asks softly when she doesn't elaborate.
"You're still crazy," she answers, and he plainly hears the grin in her voice, "and egotistical. But you saved me not from either of our governments so much as from myself. After losing my first partner, my husband, I didn't want to continue. Every mission I went on was my way of searching for release from this life. But when you found me, . . . I went from wanting to die and feeling dead inside to feeling intrigued by you. I wanted to see what crazy thing you would do next." She laughs, a musical sound that rings through their room and makes his lips lift into a wide, beaming smile. "I still want to see what crazy thing you're going to do next. You say I gave you a reason to live. I was alive, but I felt dead before you. You pulled a Lazarus. You breathed life back into the dead."
His fingertips trace a heart on her bare back. "Talk about your serendipities," he murmurs, grinning. "We both wanted to be gone from this world. Neither of us wanted the missions we were on. But they gave us everything we needed when we found each other."
She smiles, a warmth spreading from her body into his. "Yes," she agrees, "they did." She clears her throat a moment later. "But enough of this sappy, pillow talk, Barton. Are we going to sleep or screw?"
Clint laughs. "God, Nat," he says, rolling his eyes, "only you!"
"You wouldn't like me half as much if I wasn't as direct." She winks at him in the darkness.
"Oh, yeah, I would," he returns, rolling her over onto her back. His lips cover hers, silencing the words that bubble up into his throat. He so much more than simply likes this woman. He loves her. After all these years, she's still his reason for living, his reason for being. She is his greatest treasure wrapped up in her small, deadly, completely human, and more vulnerable than either of them will ever admit aloud form. She is his reason, and he thanks God every day for sending him on that mission. He didn't want to go, but he wouldn't still be here now if he hadn't went.
Going, finding her, wanting and needing to protect him finally made him feel alive again. She makes him feel alive every day. He no longer has to fight to get that feeling. He no longer has to cheat death to get the adrenaline rush he needs like a junkie. All he has to do is be beside her, hear her laugh, feel her dancing around him rather it's in an actual dance on a dance floor somewhere or dancing through the bullets being fired by their enemies. After all this time, she is still his reason, and he loves her greatly even if he'll never put his feelings into actual words. He doesn't have to tell her, though, any more than she has to tell him that she feels the same way about him.
Her actions tell him every day. He sees it in her eyes every time he gazes into them. He sees it in the way she always fights by his side, never leaving him for long no matter what other crazy things are happening in their life. He hears it when she screams his name and tears into their enemies with her own guns just before they can take him down. He feels it when her hand touches his, when she kisses him, when she loves him with lips, tongue, and even teeth sometimes. He feels it now as her body sings in perfect unison with his, and they dance together through another sleepless night.
He doesn't miss the sleep, not any more. He'd rather be with her, just as he'd rather live his life with her by his side than ever truly consider death again. She's everything he needs, from his reason to his serendipity. He only hopes he can be half as important to her as she is to him, but Nat's every moment as they dance together, again and again, through the shadows tells him that he is. They truly are two parts of the same whole, two sides of the same coin, lifetime partners who will always keep the other going. He thanks God for more than just the mission where upon he found her; he thanks Him, every day and every night, for her.