The hospital wing was silent except for the sound of Steve’s pacing footsteps. Natasha sat motionless on a chair, her clothing stained dark with blood. Her hands were clasped under her chin and she was staring blankly at the floor. Tony was opposite her, arms crossed and watching the rain outside.
“You shouldn’t have deviated from the plan,” he remarked, as though he was commenting on the weather. Her eyes snapped up but he wasn’t looking at her. “That’s how people get hurt.”
“Are you saying this was my fault?”
“I’m saying we had a plan for a reason and you broke away. He could have handled himself.”
“There were thirty guys in that building, armed to the teeth, snipers on the roof- and you were too busy showing off,” she shot back at him. Tony leaned closer, his eyes boring into hers.
“This team can’t function if you don’t trust us, and if you had listened he wouldn’t be in that room right now.” Steve’s footsteps stopped.
“If I had, he would be dead instead of in surgery.”
“No, if you had, my suits would have taken out the guards with minimal loss of life and he would be fine, but because of your ignorance-“
“Say that again,” she growled, standing. He stood up, inches away as he looked down into her eyes. Steve was just about to step in between them.
“This is your fault. If he dies that’s on you.” Her eyes changed from anger to shock at Stark’s words, letting it show on her face for a brief second before she turned and walked quickly down the hall. She heard yelling behind her, but she ducked into a spare supply room at the end of the hallway and slammed the door. She leaned against the wall, her hands pressed over her mouth as she sank to the floor. If he dies, if he dies, if he dies. Her fault. She heard the door open and knew it was Steve. Her stomach clenched.
“Still in surgery. He’s going to be fine,” he said softly. He sat down on the floor next to her, watching. “That was a shit thing for Stark to say.”
“Language,” she said with a humorless laugh, leaning her head against the wall behind her. Tears were falling freely down her cheeks. She didn’t hide them. “What if he-“
“He won’t. He’s gunna be fine.”
“There was so much blood,” she whispered. “I mean I’ve seen.. but not like that.. not from him..” She clenched her hands together, feeling the panic rise up in her throat. “It was everywhere, it’s.. oh god, it’s everywhere Steve-“ She looked down at herself, seeing the blood stains in her jacket, trying to rip it off. “Get it off, get it off, please-“ her voice cracked in desperation. He quickly reached out, taking it from her and tossing it aside on the floor where she couldn’t see it. He set his hands on her shoulders.
“Nat, listen to me. None of this was your fault. You did the best you could, we all did. And in a few hours when he wakes up I’m sure he’ll be looking for you first.” She was quiet for a few minutes.
“I never told him,” she finally whispered, wiping her eyes. They were red and puffy.
“He knows.” She nodded, but didn’t say anything, lost in thought. Steve helped her up and gave her his hoodie. She zipped it up with a shiver. When they returned to the waiting room, Tony was gone, but neither of them mentioned it.
“Are you for Mr. Barton?” a nurse asked. “He’s fine,” she said quickly. “He just woke up a few minutes ago. I’m assuming you’re Natasha? He keeps asking for you. Wouldn’t even let me take his vitals until I came to get you. Come this way.” She opened the door and led them through a maze of hallways until finally they reached his door and the nurse left. Steve squeezed her shoulder.
“Why don’t you go ahead? I’ll drop by later tonight.” She nodded, a lump in her throat as she pushed the door open and walked in. He was hooked up to several different machines and she couldn’t see the extent of the bandages underneath the blanket he was laying under. He had a cast on his left arm and a large black and blue mark on his cheek. He looked up at her with sleepy eyes.
“Tasha,” he whispered. “Come here.” She sat down in the chair on his right and he instantly reached for her hand with his. She kissed the back of his hand, tears falling from her eyes to his soft skin. She couldn’t speak. “Hey, it’s okay. It’s okay Tash. I’m fine, look at me, never better.”
“I was so scared, I thought.. I thought you.. You need to rest,” she said, wiping her eyes.
“Come here.” He patted the bed next to him. She looked at him skeptically. “Please.” She climbed up into his bed very carefully, laying on top of the covers, close to him but not touching him. He moved closer, leaning his head against her shoulder. “You smell like Steve,” he mumbled. She laughed softly.
“He gave me his hoodie.” He was breathing more deeply now. “We won,” she continued, knowing he was falling asleep. She just wanted to talk to him. “It’s over now. But you scared me. I thought I lost you. I… I don’t know what I would do without you.” She lay there quietly, watching him. After a while, when she was sure he was okay, she let herself fall asleep.
When she awoke a few hours later he was still sleeping. She got up slowly. Her body was aching. She saw a duffel bag sitting on a chair in the corner and realized Steve must have dropped her off some clothes. She grabbed them and changed quickly, tossing her dirty ones in the trash. She sat on the chair, watching Clint. The door opened. It was Steve with two cups of coffee.
“Hey,” he said quietly.
“Hey.” She took the coffee he handed her. He sat down in a chair next to her.
“You okay?” It hadn’t occurred to her if she was okay. She had been so worried about everything else.
“Yeah, I’m… I don’t know,” she confessed. “Maybe Tony was right. I didn’t trust him. Maybe if I would have things would be different. But I just saw Clint fighting and there were so many people and I just.. I couldn’t focus.” She paused, thinking it over. “I don’t get distracted. I can’t afford to get distracted. But I did… and it.. scared me.” She took a sip of her coffee. “It scared me to think about losing him and it still does now and I don’t know how to balance it.”
“It’s hard when you love someone. Even harder with this job. But that doesn’t mean you made the wrong decision.” She nodded, closing her eyes as she leaned against the arm of the chair, resting her chin on one hand. She could hear Clint’s monitor beeping steadily. She was exhausted. “You should get some rest, Nat. He’s going to need your help the next couple weeks.” He could sense her hesitation of what she wanted to say so he waited patiently.
“Do you think it was my fault?”
“No.” His voice was firm and honest. “And if it makes you feel better, I told Stark to fuck off.” She laughed in surprise at his language and he smiled. “Get some rest. I’m going back to the tower but if you need me, call me.” He touched her shoulder reassuringly before he left. She sat quietly, drinking her coffee.
“I’m mad at you.” She looked up at Clint.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“You didn’t.” He struggled to sit up and she sat on the edge of the bed, helping him up and stuffing some pillows behind him for support.
“Why are you mad at me?”
“For blaming yourself. Tash, none of this was your fault. We had a mission and I got hurt. It’s part of the job. And if we analyze every mission and wonder what could have happened or what could have went differently we’ll go crazy. You saved me.” She nodded, considering his words. “I trust you with my life. I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she said softly, helping him lay back down. She crawled into bed next to him and felt him snuggle in closer to her, his cast draped over her waist. “Get some sleep. I’ll be right here, always.”
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