Chapter 1: Hope
Her stomach was queasy as she glanced once more into the regions of the toilet that should not be closely inspected by any human being. Running her hand through her short hair as she braced herself once more against the bowl as her thin shoulders shook with the effort of trying to empty her stomach contents. She could feel sweat beading on her forehead as she closed her eyes and started to count to ten before she slid down onto the floor. All her energy spent from her morning ritual of emptying her stomach. She knew the signs but disbelief coursed through her veins. It should not have been possible with the amount of modifications and damage that her body had taken. But yet, she rested her hand on her stomach, gently cupping the growing life that her body now held.
Abortion did not even cross her mind. How could she even think that she could get rid of the only thing that held a little bit of him? The tears slipping silently down her pale cheeks as she leaned her head back against the wall. Her eyes still closed against the fresh onslaught of pain that was piercing her in the region of her heart; pulling her knees to her chest as she rested her forehead upon them. Her mind pulling her back to the morning that he left her, quiet and pliant amongst the rumbled sheets. His callous fingers dancing along her spine as his lips followed as he murmured promises of return before capturing her lips in a searing kiss that lead them down the path of last night activities. A small smile tugged at the corner of her lips before she wiped at her eyes and forced herself into a standing position in front of the bathroom mirror.
Natasha took a careful look in the mirror at herself, taking notice of the weight that she had lost from the news that she had received not four weeks beforehand that her partner, Hawkeye, had been killed in action. The dread filled her stomach as she thought about it when she rubbed at her arms. She was at a complete lost on what she was meant to do. She felt she could not properly mourn because Clint's body was never formally identified among the dead. She was in a complete no man's land, neither here nor there, at present. But she was certain on the only thing that her body was saying but her mind was trying so hard to deny. Natasha splashed some water over her face to hide the fact that she was not sleeping as well as she should have been and she had been crying.
It was time for her to face reality and start to get on with her life as best as she could. But first, she needed to confirm what she instinctively already knew. Quickly, she rinsed her mouth and ran a comb through her shorten locks. She walked out of the bathroom as she snagged the first article of clothing that she could find and tugged them up and over her body before she stepped through her door in search for the resident doctor, Bruce; rolling her eyes when she did finally found him sitting at his desk in one of the labs.
"What can I do you for, Natasha?" Bruce hummed as he continued to stared down through the microscope. His fingers adjusting the settings before he briefly looked up and jotted a notation down on his pad beside him before he placed his pen down and folded his arms. His rich chocolate eyes rested upon her as she shifted around on her feet.
"I think I'm pregnant!" Natasha blurted out before she started chewed her inner cheek which was most unusual for her. She was never this nervous before but she never did think that she would have been in this situation. She had seen how Bruce's brows drew together as he tried to comprehend what she was saying.
"Well, it wasn't me." A smile played with the corner of his lips before he unfolded his arms and walked over to a cabinet. Shifting a few things around before sighing as he pulled what he was looking for out.
"That would be an impossible feat." Natasha retorted with some heat to her voice. The mental shaking was going away now that she had let someone else in on her secret.
"And we just won't mention that a certain archer who would have had me pinned to the wall in a heartbeat." Bruce smirked as he patted the area beside him. "There's two ways we can do this, blood or urine." He carefully watched her mouth move into a thin line at the mere mention of needles. He could understand her utter distasteful stance on the subject, especially after being used as a pin cushion. "How long do you think that you are?"
"I don't know. Obviously more than four weeks." Natasha bit out. She really didn't like where the conversation was heading. "What's the difference?" She placed her elbow on the table and rested her chin in her cupped hand.
"Well, with blood we can get a base line on what is happening and start to monitor you from there. I realise that this is an impossible situation to be in but we have to make sure that the baby will be delivered to full term or not."
"Okay." She huffed as she held her arm out for the blood to be taken.
"I want to run full blood work to see what vitamins and minerals that you would be needing as the pregnancy progressed. We need to also get your weight as well to make sure that you're gaining the correct amount." Bruce muttered off as he carefully drew the desired amount that he would need for the tests. He would only like to do this once if he was able too. He could feel the daggers that Natasha was throwing at him.
"So how long does it take?" Natasha murmured at she glanced down into her lap. She could already feel herself getting nervous. This was another completely foreign emotion to her. Her brows drew down as she pondered on this thought.
"Considering where we are," Bruce glanced around at the state-of-the-art technology that surrounded him. "We can confirm your pregnancy in about an hour. The rest should only take a couple of days." He frowned for a moment as he continued to watch her. A sudden feeling of primal protectiveness flooded his body as the Hulk made his decision known, which in turn, made Bruce uncomfortable at the flaring sensation.
"That is good." Natasha hummed absently as she watched her fingers lock and unlock before she glanced up and pierced Bruce with her intensive expression. One that Bruce gathered that she had picked up from Clint when he had been alive.
"What am I going to do?" She whispered distraughtly as she quickly stood up and started to pace the floor.
"What do you want to do?" Bruce hedged. He had been in these situations before but never when the other parent was gone. It was strange watching such a strong person slowly fall into themselves.
"I'm not made to do this. I was never created to give life, only to take it." Natasha's shoulders slump as she turned to look at Bruce with pleading eyes. Bruce could understand where she was coming from.
"Do you think that Clint thought that when he gave you a second chance at life?" Bruce slowly stood up before going around the counter and leaning a hip against it as his arms folding across his chest as he lifted his brow up and waited for her to answer his question.
"No one knows what that crazy male was thinking at the time." Natasha spluttered as her cheeks slightly tinged with red. She knew well and proper what he had been thinking in that dark mind of his; the dark attraction that seemed to simmer deeply for each other. The dancing flight or fight instincts with the innuendos and sexual tension that swirled around them as they traded blow for blow. The atmosphere heating up with each moment until he had her pinned to the wall with a strong forearm to her throat and his breath heavy against her ear. That was when she realised she was truly in danger when a sharp tingle flared down her spine to rest in her nether regions.
"But you sure did." Bruce chuckled at the dark glance she shot his way. "I'm a male. I have an inkling of what he was thinking." He shrugged his shoulders unapologetic as he stood up straight again.
"You have been spending too much time with Tony." Natasha muttered as she briefly closed her eyes against his probing ones.
"Really, wouldn't have noticed." Bruce smirked as she threw another glare at him. "Anyway, I love this bantering but I need you to step on those scales for me." He indicated them with the direction of his finger.
"Why?" Natasha asked as she stalked over to the scales and eyed them like an enemy that they were.
"Once again, we need a base line to begin somewhere to monitor how your body is dealing with the baby." Bruce stated in his ever patient way as he watch Natasha step onto them and groaned when she see her weight.
"So in other words, I'll be watched closely." Natasha muttered darkly as she turned her heated gaze upon Bruce. Who in turn only raised his eyebrows and waited for her to say her weight back to him. "Weight is 45 kilograms."
"You have lost some weight but that was to be expected." Bruce clucked his tongue as he quickly wrote it down before staring at her again. "I need you to start moderating your alcohol intake and eating more healthy. You need to gain the weight back that you have lost. How are you sleeping?" He scribbled some more.
"When I can." Natasha murmured as she lowered her head down. She did not want to speak about the nightmares that kept her awake at night.
"As long as you are able to get your bare minimum! I can't ask for anymore than that." Bruce nodded his head. He knew that she would look after herself. "As you already know that you will be feeling sick and these times, may or may not, be mornings only. May I suggest crackers in the mornings before getting out of bed to help with the morning sickness? There is a possibly that the tiredness may increase and your body will become hyper sensitive as well." He racked his brain for more information that she may need.
"Is that all?" Natasha asked as she stepped off the scales. Her stomach was starting to growl and she still needed to begin her morning routine. Though, she would now have to take it a little easier if the results turned out to be positive.
"Yeah, I think." Bruce scratched at the back of his head.
"You know to keep this to yourself for now." Natasha warned just as she stepped through the door and made her way to the kitchen to find herself something to eat. Bruce shook his head before he started to analysis her blood work and contemplate about the impossible situation that they all face now; possibly a pregnant Natasha with no Clint in sight. He shuddered slightly at that thought.
He was officially killed in action. At least this way, he could save them from the monster that lurked deep within; the beast that only came out to play whenever Hawkeye was needed. The cruel and unfeeling person that he had became when he had to take the shot. He did not have that inner struggle of debating with himself on the rights and wrongs of his job. He was a proficient assassin. He enjoyed his work and that was until Loki came into his already twisted life and jacked knifed it into something that he could barely comprehend anymore. Sure, he finally got to taste and feel Natasha's skin but he had crossed a line that he promised himself when he first went up against her. He would not betray her trust like he did.
He cursed himself as he punched his pillow into submission. He really needed to get his mind from the last time that he saw her and how she looked against his sheets. The light from dawn's fingers skimming along her curves as her pouty lips were opened slightly as she softly drew a breath into her lungs. He just could not help himself as he lightly traced her spine with his callous fingers. Whispering words that he knew he had no right to speak and promise to her, of all people. Watching her squirm awake as he gently roused her back into the land of the living before he sent her back into the heavens with his hands, mouth and body.
One thing that he could be happy about was the modifications done to Natasha body. Otherwise, he would not have taken the risk that he did. A small smirk played on his lips as his hands pillowed his head. His mind drifted back to the examination room when she first came in to be processed and the feelings of being appalled by having that decision forcibly taken away from her. No one had that right and he had never pressed the matter with her. No one lived long in their line of work. There was always someone out to get you and that was what you had to live with. He chuckled darkly at the first moment that he had laid eyes on Natasha. The flowing lines as she moved with grace as she worked the room, getting closer to her target. The way that she had fought him with everything that she had. He had finally meet a kindred soul; someone that he could call his own.
She was his equal, his mate, and there was nothing that he could do about that. So he did the next best option that was opened to him and he became her best friend in a life that was new and exciting to her. It took time to build that trust between them, to have that comfort zone where they could be themselves and not the masks that they put on for the world to see. They were together in every sense of word but the physical sense with no matter how much he wished differently. Natasha just never seemed ready to begin anything with him, so, he waited for her. Kept his silence and locked away whatever weak emotions that he held for her. Knowing that one day she would allow him to be what he wanted to be, her mate; someone that she would be able to trust and call her own.
And when that day finally had come, he left her alone and hurt to fulfil the mandate that the council wanted; his life. So Fury, not wanting to lose a brilliant asset went about making sure that Hawkeye was dead. Staging the explosion was easy but getting out of the country without the council still knowing that he was walking and breathing had proven to be difficult. Clint Barton had been retired permanently to the wilds of Alaska. He was just thankful that he already had a cabin hidden deep within the mountains. Completely and utterly off the grid. Just the way Nat and he had discussed on a number of occasions had they been able to get out of the game. Squeezing his eyes closed as the wall of pain hit his chest. It was a lonely existence but that was the price he paid to protect those that he loved most dearly.
"Hey, has anyone seen Natasha?" Bruce stuck his head into the kitchen but only seem to find Steve standing at the sink as he gulped down the glass of water. Lifting his brow up as Steve held up one finger. "You want me to wait?"
"No, she's in Clint's room. Well, that is where the music is coming from." Steve shrugged a broad shoulder as he quickly rinsed the glass out and placed it on the drainer to dry. "She seems to be very quiet today but I'm glad that she came out of the room. I wonder if she'll be up for a sparring session later on." He muttered to himself as he turned and walked out of the room. Bruce's jaw had dropped to the ground as he watched the broad back of Steve Rogers disappearing around the door jam.
"Okay!" Bruce murmured as he lifted his brows up and down before giving himself a big shake before going back to his mission of finding Natasha Romanoff, who it had seemed that she did not want to be found, since he had already looked into Clint's room first. He mentally ticked off the places that he had already been . . ."You idiot." Turning on his heels and headed straight for the roof to a certain perch of a Hawk.
"Bruce." Natasha called lightly from the spot that she laid hidden in. Her head peering down at him before she flipped herself out of the nest and down onto the ground, making the Hulk growl at her intentions. His skin was starting to take on a slightly greenish tinged to it. "Don't worry. See no hurt." She held her arms out and slowly turned in a circle to show that she had no harm done to her. "Sorry Bruce."
"That is fine. It seems that you might have someone that will be highly protective of you." Bruce smiled at the irony of the situation that the rage monster wanted to protect a life. It was proof on how far the Hulk had come in his growth. Sure he was still simmering with rage and hatred but it was more focused now and a little less destructive. "Do you want to go somewhere more private?" His tone hinting at the news that he was delivering.
"Sure." Natasha murmured as she made her way down into Clint's room, sitting on the edge of his bed as she clasped her hands together and placed them between her knees. There were boxes laying around as his closet was opened to reveal the contents to be moved into those boxes.
"It's positive, Natasha. Congratulations." Bruce stood there and waited for the fireworks to begin. He was expecting an explosion to happen as he delivered the news that she was expecting but had been hoping that it was all a terrible dream.
"Oh my!" Natasha whispered as her shoulders slumped forward. Well, she was expecting that but still, it was highly unexpected. She would try to figure that statement out later as she continued to stare at Bruce like he had grown another head. "I don't know what to say."
"Yeah, I figured that one out." Bruce smiled as he tilted his head with a flickering moment of concern at her deathly pale face as she continued to stare at him. "You're going to be alright?"
"Soon." Natasha stated as she swallowed the information and processed it. Not really liking what she came up with but she would play the hand that she had been dealt with. In effect it was a miracle that she had conceived at all and she was not going to turn her nose up at this. Had it been anyone else's child and the results would have been very much different. "Can we find out the gender of the baby?"
"Yeah. Sure. We can." Bruce eyes widen as she stood up quickly before her eyes rolled back up into her head, making him run the short distance to catch her body with a Hulk bellow for good measure. Bruce groaned at this as it would make it difficult in keeping her secret if this was how the Hulk reacted.
"What's going on?" Steve was the first one through the door with his shield strapped to his wrist. Tony was panting behind him as he eyed the situation before them. Natasha groaned as she held her head for a moment.
"Easy, big boy!" Natasha croaked at the tightening of Bruce's arms around her ribs. "What happened?"
"You fainted and the Other Guy didn't like it." Bruce was not going to say that it was his way of asking for assistance. A smirk played upon her lips. The jig was up already.
"Why would she faint? You don't have germs, do you?" Tony practically back-pedalled out the door as Natasha smiled evilly at him.
"Yeah, it'll come to get you." She retorted as Bruce laid her gently on the bed. Her smile was full of sharp and pointed teeth. "Get back here, Tony." She called out. "I'm pregnant." She whispered as the room grew silent.
"I didn't know that you were with someone." Steve muttered as he glanced at her in his own bewildered way.
"Oh, that's rich!" Tony smirked as his head came through the door way. "And who plays the lucky papa?" He eyed the two men before him. "I know it wasn't me," He tilted his head for a moment before tacking on. "Because Pepper would seriously maim me."
"You really can be a moron!" Natasha snarled at him as she pulled her upper lip back. She was getting ready to flay him alive. It had been a while since she skinned someone. She was pretty sure she could still remember.
"Take your head out and think logically for a moment." Bruce puffed a breath out before taking his glasses off and rubbed at the corners of his eyes, praying for the strength not to strangle the man that stood before him.
"Well, it's not Thor." Tony stated as he rubbed his hands together. "We haven't seen him in a couple of months. Not since he took Loki back to Asgard." Which really only left one other possibility. "Clint?" A look of complete disbelief washed over his face. "Legolas? Really?"
"Yes, the child that I carry is his." Natasha hissed through her teeth at him as her accent bleed through with her words. This would have been a clear indicator to Clint to remove himself from the impending danger that was a very angered Nat. Tony not so much before he realised his mistake and ducked his head in time as a knife went flying in his direction.
"Hey, that's not nice." Tony whined from his position on the ground, carefully looking up at the upset woman on the bed.
"Next time, I won't miss." Natasha hissed as she closed her eyes. It had been an emotional draining day and she had no more tolerance to deal with Tony and his stupid questions.
"Looking we'll let you rest and than you can find out about the gender of the child. Sound like a plan?" Steve offered up in the silence as he watched the greenish tinged leave Bruce's skin, putting his hand down for Tony to grab onto as he was hauled back to his feet. "And Tony, next time, keep your mouth shut." He shook his head as they left the room.
Natasha closed her eyes as she shifted upon Clint's bed. Tears clung to her lashes as she rubbed her face into the pillow while laying a hand on her stomach, breathing in deeply as she done something that she had never done before. She spoke to Clint like he was standing there waiting. Her lips trembled as she spoke her words to him out loud:
"I'm sorry but I'm keeping it, Clint. It is all I have left and I'm being selfish for once and not following the rules."