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Title: Heavy in Your Arms (15/15)
Author/Artist: Koren M. (cybermathwitch)
Disclaimer: Not mine. If they were, there'd already be a Black Widow/Hawkeye movie.
Pairing: Clint/Natasha, Coulson/The Cellist, Fury/Jin Mae (OFC)
Rating: Adult 17+
Warnings: language
Spoilers: None
Word Count: 1,429
Summary: Meeting again.

Author's Notes: See Chapter 1 for more notes.

kadollan and sweetwatersong make this story so much better. :D

I owe everyone a huge thank you. I love and appreciate every single comment, piece of feedback, and kudo that I've received. It's the end of this part of Clint and Natasha's story, but not the end of this particular universe or these characters.




Previous Chapter

One Year Later

It was cold and raining when he arrived in Amsterdam, and the weather hadn't improved any by the time he left his hotel and wandered along the river to the small cafe. Clint ordered a coffee when he sat down.

And then he waited.

He'd wondered if he'd be able to feel her. If being in the same country, or the same city, or the same street would be close enough proximity for that "sense" of her to return. It had dulled to a vague echo, never quite as intense as it had been in those first frantic days, and he didn't know if that was a natural result of time and settling or if they'd stretched it too thin for too long. They hadn't had enough time to find out before everything had gone to hell.

At the moment, Clint couldn't feel anything past the knot in his stomach, heavy like a lead weight.

She'd left.

He'd let her go.

It was the hardest thing he'd ever had to do, because he knew that despite SHIELD gutting the Red Room headquarters, and taking down a large portion of their chain of command, there were still plenty of active members and operatives, many of whom would love to get their hands on the Black Widow. She'd been circumspect, but hadn't kept herself completely off the map. He'd watched after her as closely, but he'd never gone so far as to follow her to whatever city or job she'd found herself in. She'd wanted that distance, so he'd respected that.

He knew his place was at her back and he wanted to protect her, but he also understood what she needed to prove, to herself if no one else.

So he sat in the cold iron chair, coffee untouched at his elbow, and he waited.

*****

Natasha stared at her reflection in the mirror and removed the wig she'd worn to the meet. Instead of arranging it neatly on its stand, she dumped it unceremoniously into the trash bin. She wouldn't be needing it anymore.

She'd dyed her hair brown first, then black, changing it periodically as she'd skipped across Europe despite her intel proving that the Red Room had, in fact, been badly splintered by SHIELD. She felt freer than she ever had in her life, and thought changing her hair color was a small price to pay for that new reality.

She's spent the last year in a variety of ways.

She'd killed a man in Prague, then taken a burglary job in Milan with competing collectors, then she'd spent four months working on corporate espionage in London. There she'd turned herself into an average English secretary, had gone out with her co-workers for drinks or to shows, spent weekends shopping or on the occasional visit to the countryside. It had almost been like a vacation, a chance to see "how the other half lived." When she went to dinner with other women from the office, they'd suggested potential dates and she'd brushed them off with a small half-smile. The subject of bonds had come up from time to time, and she'd listened intently, ignoring the tugging in her chest.

Two months ago, she'd cut her hair short and had switched to wigs while the dyes faded and her true color grew back in. She wasn't sure what told her that it was time - a change in the wind, perhaps. She'd never considered herself a fanciful person before, hadn't realized she had the capacity for it, but she was discovering now that she did. In the early morning, or very late night she allowed herself to wonder if that had come from Clint's influence or if it had always been within her. That same fanciful streak let her imagine butterflies doing an intricate dance in her stomach as she watched the clock tick towards noon. It would take her fifteen minutes to walk from her hotel to the cafe, with an extra five minutes added on, just in case.

She felt like she was suspended in time, standing on the precipice of something larger than herself. She'd glimpsed that feeling once before, but this was bigger. More. They'd let her go and she knew it was because James had offered and Clint had asked, had bargained and begged to give her time to escape and to keep them from coming after her.

He'd let her go, despite what he wanted.

At first the dreams between them, which had continued no matter the distance, had made her feel like she was breaking apart and losing her mind. That everything she remembered with him had been some kind of a lie. She had moments where she thought she was being childish to think it was all real - but she'd wanted to believe them so badly. All her life she'd subsisted on the information that the Red Room had handed her, trusting them blindly to tell her the truth. They'd presented soul bonds as a weakness, of course, because it had been her job to exploit it. As a trick to manipulate those around her.

Clint always knew when she was too close to that edge, and she would find some kind of token or reminder in her mail a few days later. Something to prove that he really was out there, and the dreams really were real.

She often felt like something essential was missing, not from within herself but from her side. She expected to see him out of the corner of her eye, expected to hear not only his voice but the rhythm of his steps or the sound of his breathing. It made the world around her feel hollow and echo the way an empty room did. Night had become her favorite time of day, because at night she could dream.

Sometimes he was there, but their nights didn't always coincide, depending on where they were and what their current missions were. At first they'd mostly dreamed themselves into a tangle of limbs and bare skin, but there were also quiet moments and whispered conversations. She knew he'd been in Cambodia and Thailand, then Greece and Peru and Cameroon. He knew that she'd successfully double-crossed the French art collector because the Italian had been willing to pay more, and that she'd had a closer call in Prague than he'd liked to have thought about.

He'd given her a message from James that had made her heart soar in new and unexpected ways, with relief and something warm and affectionate that teased at old memories.

She told him what it had been like to watch a new musical from the cheap seats in the Palace Theatre, and he'd shown her the beach near his job in Kalamaki and promised her he'd take her back someday when they were together again. It was as close as he ever got to asking her to come back to him. He'd gone so far as to make it clear, not too long after she'd first left that if she ever wanted it she could have a job with SHIELD.

"They'd do handstands and cartwheels," he'd promised her, "and not because they want to study you or take apart your head. You'd make a fantastic agent. Barnes seems to have taken to it like a duck to water. You probably would, too."

She hadn't had the heart to tell him that James had been American and military before he'd been anything else, and she wasn't so sure it was the right place for her. But she'd kept his offer under consideration, and finally, when she simply couldn't stand it anymore, couldn't stand the empty feeling and the vague but growing, echoing sense of loss, she'd whispered:

"Meet me in Amsterdam, at the cafe."

*****

Her hair was shorter than he remembered it. In their dreams, she'd still had a long riot of curls. Clint felt like he couldn't breathe as she walked towards him and he wondered if she felt the same way. He wasn't even aware that he'd stood up until she'd got close enough he could see and meet her eyes.

She stopped next to him, barely inches away, and it was like the first night all over again, like standing on the cliff's edge and waiting to take the step.

"Do you want this?" he asked hoarsely, and she still knew that what he was asking was do you want me?

This time, she had an answer.

"Yes."

Comments

( 4 comments — Feedback is an Act of Love )
sweetwatersong
Jul. 29th, 2013 03:19 am (UTC)
\o/

That is all.

Only, you had it nailed down before I ever got my hands on it, so I'm pretty sure it was awesome to begin with. Way to go, Koren - you did it! :D And what an awesome story it was.
cybermathwitch
Jul. 30th, 2013 04:10 am (UTC)
:D

::blushes:: But you fixed my typos! And also asked me ALL THE QUESTIONS OMG (this is not a complaint) about what was happening which really helped me translate the story from my head to the page. :D (Just like you're doing now on those other things. So there! ::G::)
crazy4orcas
Apr. 23rd, 2014 02:27 am (UTC)
BIG SIGH, HUGE SMILE ON MY FACE. =D

This was AMAZING!
cybermathwitch
May. 14th, 2014 01:41 am (UTC)
:D Thank you so much for all your lovely comments! I appreciate them so much. I"m sorry it took me so long to reply, but I read and loved each one. :D
( 4 comments — Feedback is an Act of Love )

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