She saw him fall. She faltered ever so slightly but she knew he was wearing Kevlar so she resumed her shooting without even blinking and edged her way around the building to get closer to him.

Something wasn't right. His breathing was stuttered and he wasn't moving.

"Barton! Barton, get up!" She ducked behind a concrete slab and dragged him towards her.


The medical evac team swarm around her and she looks down at her hands and they are so red, they are gushing with his blood and she realises the bullet must have nicked something important because there is too much blood here. He won't make it.

Four days later, and with the doctor bringing her the best news, and the worst news within breaths of each other, she climbs into his bunk and inhales his scent from the sheets.

She can feel him still, and some small gut feeling tells her this will work out. Because for once in her life, she deserves a happy ending.

Eight months later and their baby girl is brought into the world, and the team surround her and praise her and her child. She reminds them that Alexandra is not just hers, she is his as well, and they fall silent as they stare at this part of Clint they will cherish like family.

Five months later, and a knock on her door leaves her cautiously approaching with a gun in her hand and her heartbeat in her ears. All of the team have the combination, and whoever is there has not been extended an invitation.

The knock sounds again, and she edges along the wall silently as she flips open the monitor to the camera outside.

She nearly loses her balance.

"No," she breathes, clutching a shaking hand to her mouth as her breathing accelerates.

"Go away! I won't fall for that! You'll have to do better if you want her, but the cruelty of making a doppelgänger of - of him! I will find you people and I will destroy you. Don't think I won't protect my child."

She sees him inhale a breath, and he looks up at the camera. "Your - your child? Nat? We have a child?"

Pain lacerates her heart.

"Just go. Please. I've lost him once. Don't make me suffer more."

He makes a small whimper at that. "Nat, the last thing I remember before waking up in the middle of nowhere, with a mission pack on deep undercover long term operation in a facility in Colombia is being dragged out of your arms with blood loss and an inability to move. I haven't been allowed contact, and no-one told me I have a child!"

Her heart pounds so loudly she thinks it might burst out of her chest.

"What do we remember differently? What do you tell me every night when you think I'm asleep? What happened the first and second time we met?"

She grips the monitor tightly. Please let it be him. She has seen people remade and if it is not him, she doesn't think she could cope.

"Nat. We will always remember Budapest differently, because it was a clusterfuck of a mission but you had the time of your life. I tell you that I am the black in your ledger, because you save me every day and your quest for salvation is one of the most beautiful things I love about you. And really? You're gonna make me talk about you leaving me buck-ass nude in your bed whilst you did a runner and then got really pissed at me when I found you? You need to come up with better security questions, sweetheart."

She wrenched open the door.

He's standing there and it's like the last year of her life never happened. He smiles, apologetically.

"I'm sorry. It wasn't a job I could decline, and the council knew I would so they dumped me there without Fury's knowledge. He thinks I've been dead too. He's literally living up to his name right now." She presses her lips to his.

"Get in here Barton. You've missed a hell of a lot, and this isn't going to be easy - for both of us.

She leads him to the nursery, where their daughter sleeps amongst a starry ceiling with lasers built in that block entrance from the door and the windows to the crib should intruders enter the house.

Natasha appreciated Stark's paranoia sometimes.

She gently lifts their daughter and he chokes on a sob as be cradles her carefully from her mother's arms.

"Thank you," he says, looking up at her over his daughter's perfect face. "For her. Thank you. I can't even describe how sorry I wasn't here - you thought I was dead and you still had my child. Thank you."

The pain is receding in her heart. She smiles at him. She thinks her happy ending might just be real, after all.