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Life Without You Isn't Living

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The floral breeze of spring whipped through Nat's long ginger hair. Blowing her ankle length white dress in the direction of the wind gracefully. The aroma that the wind carried was sweeter than sugar. The cheerful melody of robins and canaries was music to Clint's ear and food to his spirit. He smiled at her wholeheartedly. The type of smile that radiates from within. That is born of purity and trust. For from his soul an unfathomable amount of love floweth forth for the woman before him. Although it be unconfessed. In all her beauty and wisdom. She looks angelic. Surely heaven sent. Standing in a field of daises with a crown of pink roses adorning her head. The glow of dawn shining brightly across her bewitching face.

Clint jolted awake from his blissful dream and snapped back to reality. The image of Natasha still plastered to the back of his heavy eyelids. He looked around his darkened living room in a hungover fog. Bottles and cans of various alcoholic beverages scattered everywhere. His TV on static. And his coffee table piled high with unopened mail. Mostly bills. He rolled over on his couch and sat up with a groan. He let out a deep sigh, running his rough hands over his face and through hair that  was all matted to one side. Why the universe allows him to wake every morning is beyond him. The last six months of his "life" has basically consisted of waiting to die. Drinking whilst awake until he wasn't. Whenever he's not asleep, he's blackout drunk. Being sober and coherent is just not an option. It allows his mind to wander. Back to her and back to his brokenness. Ignoring your problems is far easier than acknowledging them, let only accepting them.

Even then he can't escape her. He can't escape his pain and guilt. He's miserable. Simple as that. Death is all he desires. To be set free from this hell. Cause at this point he isn't truly living. Clint got up from his couch and shuffled into his kitchen. In search of a poison to temporarily numb his agony. Preferably whiskey or rum. He's aware that he can't keep living like this. Drink, pass out, repeat. He knows that he has to move on eventually. But he can't forget her. He can't just live like she never existed.

Clint opened his pantry and was met with only empty glass bottles. No vodka, no rum or whiskey.. Nothing. He'd drank it all. His heart started racing at the realization. This can't be. He began scowering his kitchen. Violently throwing all of his cabinets open looking for something, anything with an alcohol content. But found nothing yet again. His ears were ringing and his breaths were quick and shallow. He yelled in frustration as he flipped his empty wine cabinet over. It shattered into a pieces when it hit the floor. Clint fell to his knees in defeat, tears rolling down his cheeks. His trembling hands clinging onto his marble counter tops. As the world felt as if it was spinning around him. Distant whispers of Natasha's voice echoed in his mind. He was relapsing into his crippling grief. Flashes of that day on Vormir assaulted his mind. Causing him to spiral into panic.

After a few minutes Clint finally stood to his feet. His knees weak and his tongue was bone-dry. A splitting headache engulfed his head. He made his way upstairs and into his bathroom. Turned on the shower, stripped down and stepped in. The hot water stung his skin. Miserable or not he still tries to put somewhat of an effort into looking put together on the outside. Despite being a crumbling mess on the inside. He washed up and stepped out after about fifteen minutes and continued getting dressed. 

He trotted down the stairs and grabbed his phone and wallet. Throwing on a black leather jacket and leaving his Brooklyn townhouse. Stepping into the cool night air. He didn't even bother driving. Cause if everything goes according to plan. He'll be too drunk to drive anyway. So he'd committed to walking. His local bar was only four blocks away. The bar where he'd spent several nights drowning his sorrows. Clint shoved his hands into his pockets and began on his way.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Clint threw his head back as he downed his third shot of rum. Already feeling the affects of the alcohol beginning to take hold of his body. The strong liquid stung his tongue and warmed his chest as it trickled down his throat. He exhaled sharply when the sensation passed. The bar was bustling with people. Tens of clamoring, unintelligible voices surrounded him and music was playing loudly. Even in such a lively environment he feels alone. Distant. Like he's in his own separate universe. Or a ghost that can't be seen. He's become an empty shell of a man. A leaf blowing in the wind. He's not the man he was before Thanos. Really nobody is. And he'll never be the same after Vormir. He didn't just loose Nat that day. He lost himself forever. 

Clint went to down yet another shot. But a familiar voice cut through the chaos. Stopping him with his lips on the rim of the shot-glass. He turned and saw Wanda enter the bar. Smiling brightly and with Stephen at her side. It kind of shocked him. He'd almost forgotten that he had people left on this earth that he knew. Or what you would call "friends". 

He watched as Wanda and Stephen made their way through the sea of people and over to the bar. His heart started pounding as they neared. But they still haven't noticed him much to his relief. It's not that he doesn't want to see them. He just-It's complicated. Before he could pull himself together Wanda's eyes locked with his.

"Clint?" She beamed over the loud music. She couldn't believe her eyes. She had begun to think that he was dead. After the funeral he'd cut all ties to the team and moved to Brooklyn. The rest of the team had all dispersed but stayed in contact after the compound was destroyed. Most of them staying upstate or moving into the city. Except T'Challa who had a country to run and Scott who had a daughter to catch up with.

He looked bad. Like he'd been through hell and back. Lifeless and miserable. It became apparent to her that the last six months hadn't been kind to him. He'd been there for her when her brother died. He was her anckor in a way. But now.. Seeing him like this is heart breaking. They'd all dealt with Thanos and the decimation in their own ways. But just by looking at him she could tell how he'd dealt with it. He hadn't. 

"Yep, it's me.. Hey Wanda." Clint forced a smile. "Strange." He greeted Stephen with a nod. And he gave a stern but warm nod in response. Him and Stephen had only ever exchanged a few words in the past. Just about casual stuff, nothing too deep. So neither of them knew each other all that well. They were just friends through Wanda. Speaking of Wanda, she sure looked a hell of a lot better. Smiling and laughing. Far from the moping ball of rage she was months ago. At least that was something that he could smile about. Seeing her doing better was nice.

"I've been trying to get into contact with you since the funeral. But you kinda dropped of the face of the earth. How've you been?" Wanda asked. She knew how he'd been. She knew him to well for his own good. But she was trying to take things slow. To be nonchalant. If she asked him "what's wrong?" He would immediately shut her down. So she had to play it cool if she was going to get inside that head of his. 

"Fine.. Just fine." Clint replied dryly as he downed yet another shot of rum. Wanda shot him a subtle knowing look. 

"How 'bout you two. Fury assemble a new team yet?" Clint attempted to divert the conversation away from himself. 

"In a way. He just has a lot of pieces to pick up.. Things are complicated but coming together." Stephen chimed in.

"Stephen and I were just going to grab some wings. You're free to join us if you'd like." 

"I'm-"

"Great!" Wanda cut in, not giving him a chance to answer. She knew what she was doing and so did Clint and Stephen. She wasn't about to let him suffer in silence whether he liked it or not. Even if that means forcing him to eat dinner with his friends for the first time in six months. It's a start. Stephen on the other hand officially become the third wheel of this night out. And wasn't really to fond of the idea of it becoming a therapy session. But he kept his thoughts to himself. 

~~~~~~~

Clint begrudgingly sat at a secluded booth with Stephen and Wanda. The lights were dim. Live music was blaring loudly and drunken laugher filled the bar. He hadn't planned on eating anything but eventually gave in. It's pretty difficult to sit around and watch the other people at your table eat, even if your appetite is dismal. So he ordered the same thing that they'd ordered: buffalo wings and an ice cold beer. But he was still distant, obviously pondering about something. He was glad to see some familiar faces but now is just bad timing. 

"So um-" Wanda spoke up to diminish the awkward silence but Clint cut her off. 

"When you two were.. dusted. Were you actually dead?" 

Wanda was taken aback by his out-of-the-blue question but answered none the less. "No, not exactly. I don't really know. I remember turning to dust then.. I woke up in a pool of what appeared to be water, surrounded by an endless expanse of orange as far as the eye could see. "

"Orange?" The wheels in Clint's mind started turning. 

"The soul realm. A gathering place for the victims of the decimation and of the soul stone in general. That's where we were until Bruce snapped us all back." Stephen explained. 

"Soul realm, like-like quantum realm." Clint perked up. That rung a bell. He may not be Tony Stark but he was listening when Tony and Bruce were rambling on about time travel, dimensions and quantum energy months ago.

"In a way. The soul realm is dimension derivative of the soul stone itself. Beyond the quantum realm. If you were to be murdered for example you wouldn't enter the soul realm. You'd have to be snapped our sacrificed." Stephen explained further. After being brought back he'd done extensive research on said realm. Being the sorcerer supreme and having multiple realities created due to the avengers timeline meddling encouraged him to broaden his knowledge on alternate universes and realms. The soul realm of course being the one that sparked his interest the most. 

"Clint-" Wanda began softly. She saw that hopeful gleam in his eyes and could almost read his mind. She knows about Vormir. And she knows how much Natasha meant and still means to him. She loved her too. They were practically sisters. But this is madness. 

"Is there a way to enter the soul dimension through the quantum realm?" Clint cut her off again urgently. Leaning his folded arms eagerly against the table in anticipation of Stephen's response. 

Stephen paused. His eyes flicked over to Wanda who shook her head to say "Don't you dare". Getting his hopes up like this is only going to make things worth and she knows that from experience. But he isn't one to withhold information from people. Plus, the man asked a reasonable question. "In theory.. yes, but this isn't an enter-exit situation. Instead of traveling through the quantum realm you'd have to travel deeper until you pass through it entirely. Hence entering another realm of existence. But that is something that the human anatomy simply can't withstand." 

Wanda bit the inside of her cheek and glared at Stephen. "Clint-" She began. Clint suddenly shot up from his seat and grabbed in his jacket. "I gotta go." he stated in a rush. 

"Where are you going?! Clint, Clint!" But he didn't answer, he all but sprinted out of the bar in the blink of an eye and was gone just like that. 

~~~~~~

Clint turned the corner into his driveway at record speed. His heart was pounding and his lungs were on fire. But his mind was elsewhere. To hell with feeling tired. He jumped all of his porch stairs in one step and rammed his front door open. He immediately bolted upstairs. Skipping two step as he did. He ran into his dark bedroom and flipped on the lights and began diligently searching his dresser drawers. 

"Where is it? Where the fuck is it?" He mumbled to himself as he searched, throwing clothes everywhere. Until. He finally found it. Alast, there it was, hope. Clint looked down at the small device in his hand. It was the same device he'd used to help save humanity all those months ago. A fully functioning time-space gps. With two tubes of Pym particles. Enough for a round trip. He'd kept the watch after everything went down for a moment just like this. Just in case that someday, maybe, there would be hope. How he got the particles is a longer and much more complicated story. Technically having all of this stuff in his possession is very, very illegal. It's honestly miracle that the FBI isn't or hasn't been up his ass already. 

Clint slid the watch over his wrist and activated it. The red and white nanotech suit spread out and covered his entire body, closing over his face. He shut his eyes and inhaled deeply. Just being in this damn suit again is almost too much. All of the horrible memories came rushing back. But he had to clear his mind. He had to calm his nerves. He's going to see her again or die trying. Either option sounds great to him. If this doesn't work, it better kill him. 

Clint carefully inserted the particles into the holding compartment of his suit. "This better work. Please work." He whispered to himself. He didn't even bother trying to punch in any coordinates. Besides, the wizard said "this isn't an enter-exit situation." So he's just going to wing it. This is most definitely a suicide mission with a very small chance of working. Has he lost his mind? Possibly. But if he doesn't make it at least he can rest in peace knowing that he tried. 

He mashed the button between his index finger and thumb and off he was. Shrunken down to subatomic size and into the realm that connects all the realms. Clint stiffly placed his hands at his sides to be more streamlined as he flew through dimensions. On a whim and all alone. He shrunk smaller and smaller with each passing second they deeper into the realm he got. Vibrant blends of pinks, purples and oranges whizzed past him. He could feel himself losing his grip as the quantum energy invaded his mind and overtook him with ease. He was losing it. But he couldn't turn back now even if he wanted to. The terrain around him suddenly shifted and morphed into somewhere entirely different. A dark violet expanse with glimmers and sparkles of orange light flickering throughout.

His eyes fell like they're going to burst and head like it's going to shatter under the immense and incomprehensible pressure that his body was experiencing. The glass windshield of his suit cracked slightly and he began to panic. "No, no, no" He begged to anyone who was listening. He started to slip away. His vison blurred and his hearing became muffled then everything went black, and he was out cold. 

~~~~~~

Clint groggily blinked his eyes open. His vision was dotted and hazy and head was aching profusely. He couldn't hear anything. Because there was nothing to hear. A deafening silence surrounded him. His brain was jumbled and disoriented. He blinked his eyes open and close a few more times until he was fully conscious. He was laying on his back.. In a pool of. Water? Clint quickly stood up and frantically scanned his surroundings. Only to see an orange hue as far as the eye could see. No trees or any sign of life for that matter. Just an orange vapor hovering above a ground of redish colored water. He did it. He fucking did it. 

"..Clint?" A shaky voice whispered from behind him. 

Clint froze. His heart seised. His brain stopped. His blood ran cold. It can't be. It can't be. He slowly and almost hesitantly turned around to see none other than Natasha Romanoff standing no more than ten feet away. Still wearing the same suit that she was the day he lost her. Tears streamed down her cheeks "H-Hi there hawkeye." She stuttered between sobs. 

"Nat, Natasha?"

"Yeah, it's me." She nodded. 

Clint sprinted over to her and picked her up of the ground. Smothering her in a tight hug. Tear rolling down both their cheeks. Feeling her warmth again was heaven. The sweet aroma of vanilla and rose in her hair smelled like home. She was home. He squeezed her tight and wouldn't dare let go. Not ever. Not again. Natasha wrapped her arms around his neck as he swung her around, her face buried deeply into his chest. Clint sat her down and fell to his knees, he wrapped his arms around her waist and sobbed.

"We won Nat, we won. The stones, Thanos.. Your sacrifice wasn't for nothing. We won, we got the stones and brought everyone back." Clint cried. That's all he's wanted to say for months. It kept him up at night. It was driving him insane. He had to let her know that they won. She had to know that her death wasn't in vain. That she wasn't forgotten.

Natasha kneeled to his level and cupped his tear stained cheeks in her trembling hands. "I knew we would." She managed to smile. 

"Nat, all I've thought about for the past six months is you. I love you okay, I love you so much and-"  Clint was interrupted by Nat's lips crashing into his. She kissed him desperately and wholesomely. And he of course kissed her back with the same amount of passion. The taste of their tears blended with the taste of each other. Her lips were warm and softer than velvet. Clint pulled into his frame to deepen their kiss. When they finally broke away they rested their forehead against one another's. 

Her break tickled the tip of his nose as they both caught their breath. "I can't live without you." Clint choked. 

"Yes you can." Nat firmly assured him. She saw the bags under his eyes and the wrinkles on his forehead. She has a pretty good idea of how he'd spent the last six months. And she can't have her soulmate moping his life away because of her. 

"I can't-I can't just moved on like you never existed. I can't forget you."

"Not forget.. Cherish those memories of us. Lock them away in your heart and visit them every once in a while. Don't forget, heal. Can you do that for me?"

"Nat I-" Clint began to protest. "I'll try." He nodded. 

"I love you and I'm okay, I'm totally fine. You can heal." Nat soothed him, fighting back her own tears. She wants him to stay. She wishes he could stay. But he can't. Fate has chosen this path for the both of them. 

"Please, I can't leave you here."

"Clint, Clint Barton look at me." Nat tilted her gaze to meet his. "It's okay." She softly whispered. She wrapped her arms around his torso and captured his lips in one last kiss.