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You Had Snot Running Down Your Nose, But it Was Still Love at First Sight

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After the battle of New York, the debacle of losing Clint, getting him back but losing Coulson, Natasha exercised her rights as Clint’s best friend and best ally to hide him away from the world. When Hydra slithered out of SHIELDs cracks, she had kept him hidden, giving him time to heal as she mopped up the mess of her burned identities and helped to clean up the mess left of SHIELD.

What she didn’t expect, when she went to get him months later, when the Avengers seemed stable enough to trust them with Clint, was to find Clint not alone but with the Winter Solider, formerly James Buchanan Barnes.

“He just came in one night I was having a panic attack.” Clint tells her months later when they’re curled up on the sofa in her apartment (or floor, thank you Tony Stark) in the Tower. She nods and cards her fingers gently through his hair.

Clint continued, “I recognized him from Steve’s drawings and surveillance photos that…Phil had shown me, and what you had told me. Of course I was afraid, I mean c’mon there was the Winter Solider standing right in front of me wearing Bucky Barnes’ face, but I couldn’t have done anything if I’d tried.”

He shakes his head, a frown tugging at the corner of his mouth. Natasha gently gives his head a shake, and presses a kiss to his temple.

“You were still healing and grieving, my foolish hawk. I regret that I could not have been there for you.” She said softly into his ear.

“Yeah well, one Russian assassin mother hen was enough as it turns out,” he quips, and Natasha is pleased to see a small smile on his face.

“And…?” She prods when he doesn’t say anything else.

“And he just stayed. He cleaned up after me when I got sick, and cooked me food, and was all silent and broody, and eventually less broody. After awhile he actually talked, and I sorta fell for him. By the time you came to get me, we’d talked and he wanted to see Steve, and stay with me, and I wanted him around so…” Clint shook his head. “I still don’t know why he did it in the first place, but I’m definitely not complaining.”

“That’s good, doll,” a rough voice suddenly said, “or I’d be a little hurt.”

Clint’s head whipped around and a smile lit up his face. “James! You’re back!” he said excitedly.

James leaned against the back of the sofa and bending over it kisses Clint warm and sweet. Pulling back he nods a greeting to Natasha who returns it, a small smile on her own face. “Yeah,” he says, “the mission wrapped up quick, and I hitched a ride back with Steve on his bike. How about we order in some food?”

“We already have, there may be some left if a greedy bird didn’t eat it all when I wasn’t looking.” Natasha says interrupted by an indignant, “Hey!” from Clint that has both she and James laughing.

James goes to the kitchen to fix himself a plate, hearing the gentle bickering continue on the couch as he goes. He thinks back to meeting Clint in the little cabin in the middle of nowhere...

The Winter Solider entered the small cabin. It wasn’t on any maps he’d ever been shown, and he’d only been told the location once. Told by someone he couldn’t remember, who had said it was a place to use as a long-term safe house. That’s what he needed now, some place where he could try and be quiet and still, and wring some meaning out of the chaos of his brain.

He’d worked his way across the country, taking Hydra installations as he went interrogating and killing anyone he found in his quest for answers about what had been done to him. What he had done. The one thing he knew, more certain than anything, was that anyone with that sinister black shape on them was not to be trusted or allowed to live.

By any logic the safe house should be empty now, its existence a secret within the many secrets of Hydra. Anyone who knew of it likely an ocean away or among those he had killed. Instead, as he approached he could see a thin tendril of smoke rising from the chimney. Frowning slightly he approached the cabin stepping quietly and cautiously, hiding as often as he could behind trees and logs. When no shots or shouts had rung out by the time he stood on the small porch, he rapidly shouldered open the door and went inside.

The warmth of the cabin was a shock after the cold outside, but he ignored it as he rapidly checked the corners, and then the small kitchen, bedroom and bath. That done he returns to the main room and looks with interest on the blond haired man curled into himself, sobbing into the arm of the sofa and gasping for breath.

“No seriously James, what made you stay?” Clint calls out interrupting his thoughts, and James shakes the memories away with a slight sigh.

“It was love at first sight,” James says, flopping down beside Clint on the sofa, shoving him over with his hip to crowd Natasha and keeping a firm grip on the beer and bowl of noodles he’d foraged. “You had snot running down your nose and your eyes were red. You were such an adorable tragedy I couldn’t kill you, or leave you to die like you obviously would if no one looked after you.” He smiled wistfully staring off into the distance as if at the memory of Clint’s pathetic teary face and heard Natasha choke back a laugh.

“Then you just kind of grew on me.” James continued mercilessly. “Like Stockholm syndrome. Or a rash.”

Natasha is laughing openly now, clutching her stomach, and gasping for air. Clint is looking at James with a stunned open-mouthed expression that has James snorting. James takes advantage of Clint’s shock to pull him close, careful of the injuries which were keeping Clint out of the field. He presses big loud kisses to Clint’s cheek and face until Clint laughs and shoves playfully at him. Clint starts to bicker with Natasha as she slowly calms down, but the broad smile on his face stays and gives James a warm feeling as he eats his dinner, content crowded onto the sofa with the two of them.

 

Later that night, as they’re laying warm under the soft covers of their bed, James pulls Clint close again and speaks softly to him, “Honest, it was love at first sight.” he says pulling Clint’s hand up to kiss his knuckles.

“Even though I was a mess? Am a mess?” Clint whispers, contentedly nuzzling his cheek against James’ metal shoulder, his voice soft and sleepy.

“Sweetheart, you’re my mess. Wouldn’t want you any other way.” James whispers back.