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Title: Right Thing, Right Reasons
Author: [livejournal.com profile] telaryn
Word Count: 949
Fandom: Avengers
Characters: Clint, Natasha
Rating: PG
Warnings: Spoilers for events in The Avengers (2012).
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit obtained.
Summary: The morning of the funeral, Natasha finds Clint has retreated to an unexpected sanctuary.
Author's Note: Written for [livejournal.com profile] angst_bingo's Round 5, for the prompt "waking up in bed alone".


Sunlight through the drawn curtains was the first warmth to reach him in longer than he could remember. Clint hugged the pillow he'd been wrapped around even more tightly to his chest and tried to pick Coulson's scent out from under the mild detergent that had been used to clean the well-used linens.

"When this is over, we’re both going to take some time off. We’re going to talk about everything, I promise – figure out if there’s a way for us to go forward.” Everything else had started to fade, but Clint still clung fiercely to that moment, determined to carry the memory to his grave. He’d been stupidly in love with his handler (emphasis on ‘stupid’) for years, and finding out that those feelings were reciprocated strongly enough that Coulson was willing to talk details with him was the best he’d ever felt in his life.

Morning continued its soft, creeping assault on his senses, and eventually Clint’s eyes opened to a world soaked in soft, golden light. Now that the haze of the tequila he’d been drinking the night before was finally starting to fade, he could take in more detail about the room. The fact that it was clean and orderly was no surprise – but unlike Phil’s various offices around the world, this room had personality. All the little hints Clint had gotten over the years of the man who lived and breathed a world beyond his suits were writ large here – proud testament to a man of depth and wit and wicked humor.

That’s why he kept you around. Why he liked you. Rolling on his back, Clint scooted himself into a sitting position with his back against the headboard, still clutching the pillow to his chest. A framed poster commemorating a jazz festival that had taken place in Chicago in the mid-nineties hung on the wall opposite him; splashes of red, orange and purple that logically shouldn’t have worked with the balance of the room, but now that he saw it Clint couldn’t imagine anything else occupying that space.

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” he managed, his vision blurring with tears. Clint’s voice was cracked and broken from disuse – inside he felt hollowed out and burnt, like nothing was ever going to be all right again. Hugging his knees tight to his chest, he buried his face in the pillow and tried to stop the sobs that were threatening to claw their way out of him.

Clint felt Natasha slip into the room a moment before she spoke. “That, downstairs, is one of the sloppiest jobs I’ve ever seen.”

Without lifting his head, Clint pointed at the nightstand where he’d last seen the empty bottle of tequila he’d dragged upstairs with him. He heard his partner move to pick it up, sensed her studying it, forming her conclusions, and by the time she set it gently back in place he was ready to face her. “Just me,” he said, lifting his head and meeting her eyes. “Seemed…appropriate…under the circumstances.”

The redhead artfully raised one eyebrow. “Is it the only one?”

Clint settled into a more normal position on the bed, his muscles automatically unknotting themselves in Natasha’s presence. “Yep. Wanted to be numb, not sick.” He scrubbed a hand absent-mindedly through the tangle of his hair. “What are you doing here?”

Shrugging, Natasha took a seat on the edge of the bed. “You really think I was going to let you leave without finding out why?”

”I want to make sure everyone’s focus stays where it belongs today.” Hard words, but the fact that Director Fury had seemed to realize how they were going to affect Clint made them somehow easier to hear.. ”That’s going to be impossible if you’re there.”

“He’s not wrong,” he said, feeling strangely calm. He shook his head as Nat’s expression clouded with anger. “Let me finish. I’m trying to accept what you guys have been telling me, that I’m not responsible for what happened, but Jesus Nat – you’ve heard the talk. I know you have. I’m betting there are more people at HQ right now who think I’m guilty than not.” He paused, arms tightening reflexively over the pillow in his lap.

“If I go,” he said, his voice breaking again, “everybody’s going to be looking and whispering and speculating. He…he doesn’t deserve that.”

Natasha was quiet for a long moment; Clint could tell by her expression that she was working out what she wanted to say in her head, making sure none of the meaning was lost in translation. “Just say it,” he said finally, switching to Russian.

She glared at him briefly, but dutifully said, “You loved him. And from everything you’ve told me he loved you too. If you don’t have the right to attend his funeral, who does?”

Clint smiled wistfully. “This isn’t about rights,” he said, retreating to English again. “This is about making sure a good man with a distinguished career gets the send-off he deserves.” He reached out and gently pushed at her arm. “Besides, aren’t you the one who always said ‘love is for children’?”

His partner’s eyebrow went up again, saying more eloquently than words that she didn’t see any contradiction at all. “Pull yourself together. I’m betting you could use some breakfast after marinating in a bottle all night.”

It took Clint a moment to put all the pieces together. “You’re not going?”

“I want to honor the man I knew, Clint,” she said firmly, “not the one Fury is going to parade in front of the troops this afternoon. And I can’t think of anyone who’s going to understand that desire better than you.”

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Telaryn

September 2015

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