The Stream of Warm Impermanence

Author's Note: Thanks for bidding on me in the Marvel Trumps Hate auction, Kimmy! I hope you like what I came up with... Have some soft assassins reassessing their relationship - plus (non-explicit) smut! 😉

Title from Changes by David Bowie.

***

“You have an address now!” Clint grinned up at Natasha from his perch on the sofa they’d just deposited facing one of the massive panoramic windows. “Come on, you must admit it’s nice - I can send you letters, if I want to.”

“Clint, you live one floor above me, you can just come by.” Natasha rolled her eyes and turned away from him in order to hang a painting that Clint was pretty sure was worth more than his car. “I might not answer, of course.”

“What did you say - you’re always happy to see me? I couldn’t hear you with your back to me,” Clint teased, making a show of adjusting his hearing aid. The smile on Natasha’s face as she cheerfully signed fuck off sent a zing of warmth through him. It was rare that his partner felt safe enough to let her guard down and show a bit of her playful side.

It went a long way to dissipate the last doubts he’d harbored when they’d accepted Tony Stark’s invitation to live in the rebuilt Stark Tower - or rather, Avengers Tower, as Tony insisted on calling it. Which reminded Clint of the elephant in the room, which they’d rather studiously ignored in favor of settling into their glamorous new digs.

“So, now that we’re here,” he began rather reluctantly, and Natasha immediately picked up on the change in tone, sitting down next to him and giving him her full attention. “Have you given any more thought to Tony’s offer?”

“Have you?” On the surface, Natasha remained calm, but Clint knew her well enough to recognize that she was as conflicted as he himself felt. Crossing his arms, he stared at her impassively, willing to wait for as long as it took for her to finally continue, “SHIELD, Nick, has been good to me, to both of us. I don’t want to betray that.”

Natasha sighed, and Clint reached out, squeezing her shoulder reassuringly. “But he was the one who started it, the Avengers Initiative. Tony is only taking it to the next level.”

“So you’ve already made your choice?” Natasha’s voice held no trace of either approval or accusation, as if it didn’t matter to her one way or another. It was always like that with her, and it had taken Clint years to be able to look through her many protective layers. The fact that she’d allowed him to do so never failed to make him feel as if he’d been given a precious gift.

He slid the hand that had been resting on her shoulder around the back of her neck, and Natasha followed the unspoken invitation, folding into his side. As always, they fit together perfectly, and Clint allowed the familiar flutter in his stomach to pass before replying earnestly, “You know better than that. I’m not going anywhere without you.” Pressing a kiss into her hair, he added with a smile, “Can’t have anyone else watching your back.”

“You mean that you’d be lost without me, Barton, admit it,” Natasha shot back, and as always in the fact of such statements Clint had to stop himself from agreeing with inappropriate sincerity. They’d set their boundaries long ago, and while Clint would have been more than happy to move them, he was too afraid that Natasha would bolt if she felt trapped by the depth of his desires.

They were a unit, partners, and occasionally Natasha would glance at him with those beautiful eyes of hers and claim his lips in a kiss, the way she was now, straddling lap in a smooth, decisive motion. It was probably her way of putting off the decision, but Clint might be a fool sometimes, but not fool enough to resist. Resting his hands on her hips, he firmly pulled her against himself and kissed her back.

There hadn’t been time for that before, not since before the Battle of Manhattan, before Loki, and Clint could feel the last of the tension he’d been carrying with himself ever since the ice-cold touch of that scepter had trapped him inside his head, drain away. Natasha smiled against his lips, grinding down, wordlessly telling Clint that she knew exactly what she was doing to him.

Sex with someone he could communicate with so effortlessly had pretty much ruined Clint for anyone else, even without those pesky feelings that had just kept growing ever since Budapest. They’d come closer to losing each other then than at any other time in their partnership, with the exception of the recent fucking alien invasion. Which Clint very decidedly wasn’t thinking of right now, not when his hands were busy worming their way underneath Natasha’s top, her skin warm and alive under his palms.

He flicked open her bra, and they broke apart long enough for their shirts and Natasha’s bra to end up on the floor. Clint kissed his way down the line of Natasha’s neck, nipping playfully at the soft flesh where neck met shoulder before closing his lips around one nipple, already pebbled and hard. He covered her other breast with his hand and was rewarded by a sharp intake of breath.

Natasha was never noisy, but Clint was comfortable in silence, and he didn’t need to hear to be able to get her to shiver and writhe in pleasure against him. The friction on his cock was delicious, and they began rocking back and forth, heat zinging through Clint’s body. Looking up, he checked in with Natasha, whose subtle nod was all the permission he needed.

Grinning, he flipped them over, so Natasha was on her back, strong thighs slung around his waist, allowing him full access to body, spread out underneath him in a show of trust he knew not many people were privileged to see. Inserting a hand between their bodies, he unzipped her jeans, and she wriggled out of them with a smirk. Displaying herself with a hand behind her head like something out of a fantasy, she ordered playfully, “Your turn.”

“Yes, ma’am!” With a mocking salute Clint obeyed, his jeans and briefs joining the rest of their clothing on the floor. Then they were skin to skin, and his world narrowed down to Natasha and the feeling of her body around his - first his fingers, then, after she’d fallen apart with a shudder and a gasp, he slid into her wet heat and had to close his eyes to make himself last. They weren’t exactly competing with each other - except he’d be damned if he let go before she’d come at least once more.

At some point her fingers in his hair threatened to unhook his hearing aid, but Natasha immediately straightened it, well aware that he enjoyed the sounds of their coupling. The simple tenderness sent a flutter of butterflies loose in Clint’s stomach, and he had to kiss her again to stop words he knew from experience she didn’t want to hear. Fucking Budapest again. Shaking himself slightly, Clint turned his attentions back from the painful past to the rather more pleasurable present.

Obviously Natasha had picked up on his moment of distraction, however, because he suddenly found himself on his back with her riding him, the way that never failed to push him to the brink faster than anything else. She was breathtaking like this, completely in control with miles of creamy skin, flushed with passion, and red hair falling over her face as she balanced herself on his chest, setting a brisk pace.

It also gave him perfect access to her swaying breasts, his hands traveling from there down her flat stomach and to the small bundle of nerves that made her throw back her head. Her muscles tightened around him, and liquid heat raced through Clint’s body, pulling him over the edge along with her. He bucked upwards, but Natasha’s grip on him remained tight, and they stayed locked together.

Spell-bound, Clint drank in the sight of Natasha so open, so lost in the moment, and much to his surprise she didn’t look away from him. It was enough to send intense aftershocks racing through him, and he gasped, helpless to stop himself, “‘Tasha, oh god, Tasha…”

It was the sort of adoring expression he usually tried his best to hold back, out of self-preservation if nothing else. However, it had all been too much - Loki, being trapped in his own mind, Natasha bringing him back, Coulson’s death, Tony’s offer of an entirely new life away from SHIELD - and with his body still boneless with contentment, Clint knew his every emotion lay exposed on his face, at least for Natasha.

Through his post-orgasmic haze he tried to steel himself against the inevitable withdrawal, letting his hands drop from Natasha’s hips to the side, giving her an out. Again he was surprised, though, when she didn’t move, although her face closed off a little, hiding whatever she was feeling. Her fingers twitched a little, however, digging into his shoulders, a movement so slight he wondered if she was even aware of it.

“Natasha?” he finally inquired, forcing the words past his suddenly dry throat. “It’s fine, we can just… go back to the way things were.”

Still she didn’t respond, didn’t move away either, for what felt like the longest pause in Clint’s life - and he’d done more than his fair share of waiting, considering his line of work. When she spoke, it was in a shocking non-sequitur: “Coulson’s alive, you know.”

“I… what?” Clint was staring at his partner, feeling as if he’d just been blindsided by the Hulk.

Natasha shrugged, studiedly casual, and finally lifted herself off Clint’s body, only to lay down next to him on the expensive and luckily rather spacious couch. Resting her chin on his chest, she gazed up at him. “Fury faked his death somehow, an incentive to get us to work together.” Reading his instinctive outrage, she shut him up with a hand over his mouth. “It was necessary at that point - and it worked, after all.”

Sighing, Clint accepted her word for it, wrapping her in a loose embrace. “Do you know where he is now?”

“No.” Natasha shook her head, her lips twitching when Clint raised an eyebrow. “Alright, not yet. I’m sure Fury is giving him the best-possible care, though.”

“Your trust in Fury will never cease to amaze me,” Clint mused out loud, the argument almost as old as their partnership. “So you want to stay with SHIELD, wait for Coulson to come back?”

Another long silence, which Clint whiled away by lazily stroking Natasha’s hair and down her back, while marveling absentmindedly at the technology that ensured a room temperature warm enough to keep them comfortable, curled up naked as they were. Had Stark installed his fancy AI into the new Avengers apartments? They would have to investigate later - just as soon as they’d finally finished their talk. Usually Clint was good with not-talking, but this was one time when they needed to spell things out.

Finally, Natasha sighed and raised herself so she could meet Clint’s curious gaze more easily. “No. I want for us to take Tony up on his offer, and when Coulson comes back, I want you to convince him to join us. You’ve always been his favorite, as baffling as that is.” She’d kept her voice light, but now her eyes slid away from Clint’s, and he could feel her body stiffen in his arms. It was all the warning he got before she blindsided him once again: “I love you, you know that, right?”

“Umm, I…” Clint stammered. Clearing his throat, he managed to rasp, “No, I… I didn’t.”

Natasha sat up, entirely unconcerned by her nudity, and forced him to meet her eyes with two fingers under his chin. Apparently, now that she’d said it, all qualms had vanished, and her eyes and voice were warm as she repeated, “I love you.”

This time, she accompanied the declaration by signing them, and somehow that made them finally sink in, become real. Heart beating so hard Clint could almost hear it, he sat up as well, gathering her hands in his and kissing them gently. “I love you, too.”

He was dimly aware that he was probably grinning stupidly, and Natasha was regarding him with a fondness she’d previously hidden most of the time. “You know why I didn’t -- why I couldn’t... before?”

It was rare for his partner to be so inarticulate, and it made Clint’s insides clench in sympathy, because he did know, of course he did. Pulling her into a hug, her head against his shoulder, their bare bodies pressed together in a way that felt just as intimate as when they’d actually been joined before, he asked gently, “So what changed? It’s not as if we haven’t stared death in the face before.”

“Always so dramatic, Barton,” Natasha quipped. She didn’t evade him further, though. “It was Loki. He tried to taunt me, so I told him that love is for children - and even as I spoke, I knew I was lying.”

Lifting her head, she pressed her lips to his, hard and with an edge of desperation. Clint knew what they’d done to her as a child, not the particulars, but more than almost anyone on this planet. And now he knew what it felt like, to be taken apart, emptied out until all that was left was a shell that could be filled and made to obey.

They kissed, and it was different from all the other times they’d done so. It wasn’t a prelude to sex, instead it was a promise, a confirmation. They would start a new chapter in their lives, and they would do so together - partners in ways Clint had only ever dreamed of.

During his time with Loki, he’d been trapped in a nightmare. Now Clint was kissing the woman he loved, who loved him, and he was wide awake.

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