The first message comes while they’re in Siberia.
Clint barely feels his phone vibrate through what feels like a thousand layers of clothing (and he’s still fucking freezing.) He ignores the first buzz, keeps himself focused on the warehouse below. They’re sitting on a terrorist cell that’s hoarding a shit-ton of palladium--SHEILD has taken a particular interest since the stuff damn-near killed Stark a few months back.
The second buzz has him wondering who the hell is trying to get in touch with him now and why? Fury knows they’re out here, no way in hell he’d be trying to pull them out of the field right now and he’s not sure who else has the capability of reaching him out here where hell’s frozen over.
When he feels the third buzz, he glances down towards Tasha’s post, wondering if he’s alone in this. He isn’t. She’s abandoned her infrared binoculars and is yanking a glove off with her teeth. She pulls the phone from her near-skintight snow camouflage (because apparently the cold doesn’t affect Natasha Romanoff the way it affects normal people).
It’s the what-is-this-shit look she shoots him that finally prompts him to check his own phone.
Rodgers hasn’t seen Godfather. Or anything since Wizard of Oz. This must be rectified.
Movie night. Tomorrow. My place.
Malibu. Tower’s not done yet. Bring a bathing suit.
Must be nice to have all that free time, he thinks with an internal eye-roll, not to have Fury breathing down your neck. (He’s been forgiven. It wasn’t his fault. But no one looks at him the same way anymore.) He looks back at Tasha, offering her a shrug. (She does. Maybe she shouldn’t.)
Then they’re both back to work, with Stark’s invitation nothing more than a mild inconvenience. And even if he is interested (which he can think of a couple hundred forms of torture he’d rather endure), the mission takes up most of the next twenty-four hours between recon and infiltration and securing the half-finished biological weaponry for Hill’s crew to retrieve.
By the time they’re back in the crap motel room Norilsk, Clint barely has the energy to strip off his jacket, let alone the ability since it feels like the joints in his fingers are now frozen solid. But he does, and drags himself into the shower, and of course the water is cold because isn’t that just his luck?
Tasha looks like she’s asleep when he emerges from the bathroom, which of course means she isn’t. Still, he pads softly across the room and gets into bed with as little disruption as possible. Stretching out on his back, he stares up at the ceiling. As exhausted as he is, sleep isn’t going to come. (Sleep means nightmares, and these days nightmares are memories playing on repeat.) He lies there and breathes and doesn’t move until Tasha insinuates herself into his arms.
And it isn’t like they haven’t shared beds before. They have. But it was... before. Since then, it’s been separate rooms or separate beds (just to be safe, just to keep her safe) and he would have taken the floor but she kept looking at him like he was an idiot. So, he’s agreed to the bed, but this is something he isn’t expecting.
“Body heat,” she mutters, curling herself around him. “You’re freezing.”
Her leg hooks around his calf, foot sliding against his and he can already feel numbness dimming in his toes. “And you’re a furnace.”
She doesn’t reply. Her eyes are closed and she breathes evenly and if she isn’t asleep she’s certainly letting him think so; so, he does the same. Except he doesn’t close his eyes. If he closes his eyes, he’ll see it again.
He’ll see her , not as his partner but as his target.
Digital numbers on the clock change and change and change and mark the passage of the night until daylight starts to filter in around the edges of the curtains. It’s 8:01 when there’s a buzzing from someone’s phone, buried in discarded pants on the floor.
Tasha rolls over, groping around on the floor beside the bed and finally comes up with her phone. She flicks through the messages, shakes her head, and pushes herself out of bed. “Unbelievable,” she says, tossing the phone onto the mattress before disappearing into the bathroom.
He rolls onto his side and sees on the screen Stark, Rogers, Banner and Thor, all sun-drenched out on the beach by Stark’s Malibu Barbie Dream House.
Enjoying the arctic? Find Santa’s workshop yet?
Clint shakes his head. “Unbelievable.”
Tomorrow night. Matrix marathon. You in?
Missed you guys last night.
This is becoming a thing. Rear Window. Tower’s got that new building smell. You know you want to.
What’s the matter? Don’t love us anymore?
I’m giving you a week’s notice. Holy Grail. Monty Fucking Python. You have no excuses.
For a few weeks, Natasha thinks Stark’s incessant badgering is the worst thing in her life. Ever since Loki had been taken back to face Asgardian justice, whatever that entails, life has gone back to almost-normal. And, since almost-normal involves endless training and missions and fire-fights and slipping in and out of identities the way other people change clothes, endless invitations to watch movies somehow truly seems the worst.
Then, in North Korea, ‘worst’ gets its proper definition back.
It’s hard to pinpoint what the first mistake is. Whether it was bad intel or a mole or any number of miscalculations, that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that when they’re surrounded and the ammo starts flying, Clint manages to get--no, not manages; puts--puts himself between her and a bullet.
It only takes a split second. He throws his weight against her, momentum carrying them both to the ground, and then there is blood. His blood. No exit wound. It’s lodged in his shoulder and there’s no way he’ll be able to use his bow now; he’s officially out of the fight and she can’t fight and protect him at the same time.
It’s a waste, really, the number of explosives she uses to cover their retreat, but maybe enough structural damage will keep the mission from being a total loss. At least, that what she tells Fury when he finds her pacing in the waiting room at the SHIELD hospital. He conveys more shock and disbelief with one wide eye than most people do with two.
“They were waiting for us,” she says. “They knew we were coming.”
“I’ve seen the two of you walk out of ambushes without royally fucking up,” Fury says, eye narrowing in scrutiny. “What made this time different?”
It’s the question she’s been asking herself since they were airlifted from the enemy base, watching him flicker in and out of consciousness until his body went still. He’s always been there, by her side, through fights in the past--not once has he ever taken a hit for her. It wouldn’t have crossed his mind. She can take a bullet--has taken a bullet--gets up and keeps going. She heals fast. So, why? Why now?
She swallows, folds her arms across her chest. “I don’t know.”
The conversation doesn’t go any farther, a nurse appears at the door -- he’s-awake-you-can-go-in-and-see-him-now. She brushes past Fury her legs carrying her quickly down the hall.
Seeing Clint pale in the hospital bed is somehow worse than watching his body be manipulated by a god with greasy hair. She can’t do anything like this. He looks at her with unfocused, drugged up eyes. “You’re okay.”
“And you’re an idiot. What the hell were you thinking?”
Awake, yes. Coherent? Not so much. His answer is a jumble of syllables that make no sense. Nothing about this makes any sense.
“Clint,” she says, her voice even and measured, “what were you thinking?”
“Couldn’t... see you get... hurt.”
Her entire body feels like a violin strung too tight, wires ready to snap at any moment. “We’re not superheroes.” The words shoot out before she even really knows what she’s saying. “We are not gods or machines or history. We don’t run around in brightly colored pajamas and we don’t just throw our lives away on a whim! We--”
She stops. He isn’t listening. If he hears her at all, nothing is sinking in. There’s clearly too much morphine in his system, because all he’s saying is, “It’s fine.”
“It is most certainly not fine.”
Fury’s standing in the doorway. Has he been there the whole time? How didn’t she notice? She looks down at Clint and her head is full of slow aching chords played on a violin where there should be focus and awareness. She tries to push it away. It’s childish.
She shoots Fury a warning glance. “He can’t hear you.”
“Yes, I can,” Clint slurs.
“He’s not going to understand anything you say.”
“Yes, I will,” he says, utterly failing to sit up.
“What’s two plus two?”
He’s quiet. His mind is at work. His eyelids flutter shut and he falls back against the bed. “Catfish.”
She would laugh if it didn’t make her gut twist to see him like this. “See what I mean?”
“This is about you, Agent Romanoff,” Fury says. “I need you back in Korea doing damage control.”
His tone definitively tells her she has no choice. She can’t help but look back at Clint, slipping back into a drug-induced sleep.
“He’s in good hands; I have a top-of-the-line facility lined up where he’ll recover,” Fury assures her. “But I can’t take both of my best agents out of the field at the same time.”
He isn’t wrong. It’s logical. Her skills are needed. And it will be easier if she doesn’t have anyone to look out for; easier if she doesn’t have anyone else to protect or worry about—or who’ll get themselves hurt with reckless heroics.
She feels her phone buzz on the way out the hospital doors.
Not you. The film. Saturday.
Clint finally comes out of his morphine sleep feeling like a truck hit him and apparently in New York City. It’s the most logical conclusion he could come to seeing as he awakes to Stark standing at the foot of the bed with a Dunkin Donuts bag in his hand (and why would Fury bring him out to the far east?)
“Rise and shine, Sleeping Beauty,” Tony says, with a mouth half full of crumbs.
Clint’s body fights him as he tries to sit up, every bit of him stiff and sore. There’s a dull throbbing in his right shoulder and he realizes that it’s not stiff, it’s been immobilized and in a sling. “What happened?”
“Pricked yourself on a bullet. Slept for a hundred years.” Stark takes another bite of his doughnut and continues with his mouth full. “Well, hours. About four days. Doc said it looked like you hadn’t slept in weeks.”
The details slowly start filtering back--the ambush at the base, the snipers hidden where they didn’t expect them.
In harm’s way.
Every rational thought flew out of his head and he acted on the most basic instinct (the most flawed instinct.)
“So what did you do, anyway?” Tony’s voice jerks him out of his thoughts. “You know, to piss your glorious director enough that he’d actually leave me in charge of getting you back on your feet.”
“You--” he trails off. That’s not important. “Where’s Natasha?”
An impossibly smug grin crosses Stark’s face. “Oh, I get it now.”
“What?” Clint snaps.
“Don’t worry. Your girlfriend’s fine. Off and away taking out evil-regimes and whatnot.”
“She’s not my girlfriend.” The way he splutters is nothing but undignified, and he’s surprised Stark passes up an opportunity for a 'lady doth protest too much’ crack. Instead, Tony tosses him a plastic bag and it lands on his lap.
“Go on and get dressed,” Stark says, heading for the door. “They need this bed for someone with cancer or something.”
When he’s finally alone, Clint lets out a deep breath. Tasha’s safe. Of course, she’s safe. There’s no way she would not be safe, with or without his boneheaded attempt at self-sacrifice. Dressing turns out to be an awkward affair with his arm all but plastered to his side, and in his mind he can practically hear her snort of amused derision. But he manages to get himself covered enough to walk out onto the street.
Stark’s waiting for him in the hallway. He pushes a powdered doughnut into his hand and leads him outside where his driver’s waiting. Stark babbles away about his new tower--"you’re gonna love it”-- rattling off specs that Clint probably should be absorbing. Instead, he spends the entire ride staring out the window--half memorizing the path they take, half-wondering what she’s doing right now. Where she is.
The sun dips low and the streets of Manhattan are a blood red when the limo pulls into the garage underneath Stark Tower. “Looks a lot better than the last time you saw it, right?” Tony says, opening Clint’s sling-side door.
“Well, there’s less debris. It’s an improvement.”
Stark’s face twists into a kid-in-a-candy-store grin. “You haven’t seen the best part, yet.”
The best part, apparently, entails an elevator ride up a few dozen floors--the business end of Stark Enterprises-- and a walk to a second elevator that hums to life when they step inside. “Full body identity scan,” Tony says. “Uses ten points of identification, including voice and brain wave detection in the event of alien mind control.”
Clint’s brow furrows as he stares that the obliviously smug billionaire. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were being paranoid.”
“Welcome home, Mr. Stark and welcome back, Mr. Barton.”
It’s the tiniest bit creepy.
Tony shrugs. “Well, it means no one can just hack off a hand or carve out an eye to get inside.”
It’s a good thing he didn’t eat that doughnut because his stomach clenches and he’d be throwing it up right now. Does Stark know about the scientist at the gala? The mutilation? He didn’t arrive until after and seemed pretty occupied by Loki. Still, Stark’s no idiot. Word must have gotten around.
But there’s no malice in his voice, no accusations or finger-pointing. In fact he’s downright cheery as he addresses the computer home. “JARVIS, take us to the top floor.”
The elevator lurches to life, carrying them several more floors before the doors slide open. Whatever he’s been expecting, this certainly isn’t it.
Turns out, Stark’s right--he loves it. In fact it might just be the greatest view in the world. He presses a hand to the glass that reaches from floor to ceiling, wrapping around the entire exterior of the room and stares out at all of New York glittering with evening lights.
“Mirrored from the outside, no one can see in. It’s pretty much all but Hulk-proof. Bathroom’s around the corner behind the elevator, and I got a couple other goodies that I’m not going to tempt you with until that arm’s better.” Stark certainly sounds proud of himself. “It’s all yours. Any time you need it.”
Clint turns back to face him. “Why?”
Stark arches an eyebrow. “Why are you even asking?”
After a rushed good night, Stark leaves him alone in the glass room to explore the space that’s been given to him. Not space to keep him away, not the extra berth most of SHIELD gave him these days, but space to bring him in, to call his own. Clint watches the city beneath him, morphing into a new kind of life that only takes place after the sun goes down but still as bright and as vibrant as the day, until exhaustion reminds him that if he doesn’t rest it will take a hell of a lot longer to heal.
The bed, he finds, is circular, built into the floor with more pillows around the edges than he could possibly use. It takes him a second to realize--it’s a nest. Get it? a note on top says. Because you’re Hawkeye.
He crumples the paper. “Funny, Stark. Very fucking funny.”
Sleep comes quickly, but brings its usual unwanted memories. In his sleep, his body is whole and strong but his mind is fractured, a prison. Some part of him watches his body move and fight and kill, trapped on the inside and unable to stop. Unable to stop him from taking aim at her. From raising his bow, a blade, a gun. In his dream, she dies a hundred times, with all the meaning of a hundred ants under a boot. No—there’s more malice than that. A child with a magnifying glass. He takes joy in watching the destruction it creates.
It’s a booming voice that finally rips him from the nightmares. He reaches for a weapon and fails--both to find a weapon and to reach. The sting in his shoulder reminds him he is injured, recovering, alone. Except, he’s not alone; there’s a Norse god holding a tray in his room.
“Good morning, Barton.” Thor’s smile could cause tooth decay. “I’ve brought you warm frosted pastry rectangles and the greatest beverage your realm has to offer.”
“Thanks?” Clint says, still shaking sleep from his voice.
Of course. Poptarts and coffee. Thor sets the tray down by Clint’s good arm and lowers himself to sit on the mattress beside him. “I don’t mean to intrude,” he says, as Clint starts on the coffee. Good coffee, too. Imported from Italy. Stark has good taste. “But your sleep seemed uneasy. What is troubling you, my friend?”
“Aside from the fact that your brother hijacked my mind and used me to destroy my team?” His words fly sharp and fast but accomplish little.
Thor gives him a look that is not quite pitying. “How did you come to injure your arm?”
Clint stares down into the mug of coffee. His own dark, warped reflection stares back. “Got shot,” he says. Then, under his breath, for the first time out loud he adds, “Trying to protect Natasha.”
“You fought her, when you weren’t yourself,” Thor muses like suddenly everything makes sense. “A word of advice. Guilt is a fool’s ally. It is a heavy burden that gives poor advice and accomplishes nothing. You do not strike me as a fool, Barton.”
“Jury’s still out on that,” he replies. Thor makes it seems so simple. Just put it aside, forget the way people look at him, forget the strange reflection he sees when he looks in the mirror. For the moment, he thinks, he’ll put it aside. “So what brings you to our world?” Clint asks, picking up a poptart. (Strawberry. He really likes strawberry.)
Thor grins, and Clint is almost afraid. “It is Saturday. It is the night for moving pictures!” And then Clint is the recipient of an overly enthusiastic pat on the injured shoulder. He nearly jumps out of his skin. “Tonight we are watching ‘The Lord of Rings’.”
Lord of the Rings. You don’t want to miss Legolas, do you?
Wonder Boy liked it. We’re doing the sequel next week.
What do I need to do to get you in here?
I’d offer sexual favors but I’d like to keep all of my equipment, thank you very much.
Last shot. We’re doing James Bond.
Natasha returns from a morning run along the Seine to find yet another pestering text from Stark. The man never seems to let up. In the past few weeks, she’s continued to receive one pathetic plea after the other--and she no longer has anyone to complain about it with. The thought makes her feel suddenly hollow, and she tosses the phone down on the bed and crosses to the window, staring out at the Eiffel Tower.
After four weeks of endless and flawlessly executed missions, Fury seems to have decided that she’s done enough penance for Korea, and Natasha finds herself with a stretch of downtime and isn’t quite sure what to do with herself. She should be relaxing, training, anything she wants. The apartment in Paris is something she acquired years ago--safe, secure, and beautiful; a retreat she comes to almost often enough to call it home. Yet, something doesn’t feel quite right.
She closes the curtains and starts to peel off her sweat soaked clothes. That’s when her phone buzzes twice. She hopes it isn’t Stark. She’s disappointed.
From Russia With Love.
I picked it especially for you.
With a huff, she tosses the phone onto the bed and slips into the bathroom, and draws a warm bath for herself. She sinks into the water hoping that it will ease the tension in her body.
Dozens. Dozens of whining texts from Stark, reaching her everywhere from Dubai to Johannesburg, but she hasn't heard a word from Clint since ‘catfish’. She hasn't even been able to pinpoint his location. Fury has been downright unhelpful and her own research proved fruitless. She wouldn’t put it past the director to be running interference--things have run smoothly solo, and he would prefer she keep it that way.
She reaches for the tap, lets hot water fill the tub, lights a candle and squeezes her eyes shut. This isn’t helping . It isn’t fair, she thinks, the thought bubbling up in her mind like a petulant teenager. Clint is her partner--when she’s in the field, she knows he’s got her back from far and away, until he had to go and get himself shot—like something out of a terrible action film.
No. Before that. The first time she lost him to gods and magic--that’s when it all went wrong, and as much as she’d willed it to go back to the way it was before it never had. She remembers the distance he kept, the guilt in his eyes and the blame in the eyes of others. Then the distance closed, and he would have given his life to keep her safe. Every time she revisits Korea in her mind, there is no logical explanation, no reasonable explanation--just a foolish one.
Love doesn’t belong in their line of work.
She stays in the tub until the water goes lukewarm and retreats to her bedroom as she dries. As Natasha runs the towel through her hair, she catches sight of the phone lying on her bed.
STARK. 3 TEXTS.
The flicker of irritation quickly fades to inspiration.
She’s dressed in minutes and stows away in cargo on the next flight to JFK International.
She knows Stark to be an expert programmer, who takes great care to protect his assets. Still, it wouldn’t hurt simply to test the new tower’s security. Since this is just an experiment, she’s only takes non-lethal stun weapons to use on the guards. They’ll wake up, just fine, in two to four hours.
The first floors are simple--fingerprints, key cards--the actual labs and offices require more, but they’re not her target. No, her only interest is in the top floors, and no amount of research turned up another access point beyond a single elevator. The entire top segment of the building seemed to be independently self-sustaining.
Once inside, all she needs to do is remove the access panel and rewire the controls. “Almost too easy,” she says to herself, crouching down to get to work.
“Welcome, Agent Romanoff,” JARVIS’s electronic voice greets her. The elevator lurches to life and combined with the unexpected greeting, she finds herself sitting quite undignified on the floor when the doors slide open, and she’s greeted by Stark holding two large bowls of popcorn.
“I’ve been trying to get you here for the last two months,” he says with a raised eyebrow. “What about any of this surprises you?”
She clears her throat as she gets to her feet. “Sorry about your guards,” she says, striding out of the elevator.
“Hazards of the job. They go over it in orientation, or so I’m told.” He pushes one bowl into her hands. “We waited for you.”
Stark has his own movie theatre. Of course Stark has his own theatre--a last minute luxury thrown in at the end of construction. “Guess what I found,” he announces to the room.
“Look who came out of hiding.” Bruce Banner’s smile is wry but oddly comforting. Rogers and Thor greet her with equal warmth.
Until the movie starts, and it’s been a very long time since she’s been in the theatre. And it isn’t like they aren’t staying silent, making commentary on the movie. And she just cannot help herself. So many things are just... wrong--horrible accents, sloppy technique and AR-7s don’t come in .25 caliber.
Her criticisms are met by popcorn to the back of the head.
Since he’s a god, she’ll let Thor live.
She slips out half-way through the movie, finding herself in the atrium and unsure of what to do with herself. A clink of glass leads her to find Pepper kicking off her high heels and pouring herself a drink. She looks up, eyeing Natasha with a smile. “Cosmo. Do you want one?”
“Oh, no. No, thank you,” she says.
“I didn’t think so.” Pepper sets a single shot glass, fills it with vodka, and slides it towards her. “You get tired of the boys’ club in there?”
“They are very exuberant,” she says. She downs the shot. Stark has good taste in vodka, if not movies.
“I’ve told them it’s fine as long as they clean up their popcorn, we don’t need to be getting rats in here.” Pepper takes her drink, settles down on a couch, apparently doesn’t ever stop working. “Besides, I am not actually a fan of Sean Connery, which seems to be blasphemy around here. But at least I’m not the only one skipping out tonight. You know, he wouldn’t say it, but I think the subject matter-- I think it made him miss you.”
Natasha tilts her head, eyes narrowed in bewilderment and Pepper looks back at her, apparently confused by her confusion. “Clint. He’s... up in his room.”
“Yes, he’s on the top--”
Natasha’s in the elevator before Pepper can say ‘floor’.
For a moment, she just watches him. His movements are slow and strained, tense with frustration, unable to produce with his body the results in his mind. The shooting range is something Stark must have put in just for him.
“Your arm’s looking better.”
Everything about him changes as he turns to face her--tension draining away and replaced by something else, something softer and brighter. “Range of motion is slow to return, but it’s getting there,” he replies.
“Did I tell you you’re an idiot?” She tilts her head, unable to fight a smile.
He sets his bow aside with a small grin of his own, rolls his shoulder, winces. “I think I remember something like that. I’m not sure, they had me on some pretty heavy drugs.”
“Well, you’re an idiot.”
“I want to show you something.”
She studies the room--his room--as he leads her to the elevator. The bed is unmade, blankets rumpled. Sparse and untidied but comfortable. “You seem comfortable here,” she says and, after a half-second more of observation, arches an eyebrow and adds, “It’s a nest.”
“Stark’s idea of a joke.” The elevator door chimes as it opens. “Come on.”
JARVIS takes a moment to scan them both and the elevator descends. “Apparently, he’s gone to great lengths to design each floor to suit the training needs of each Avenger.”
“And since when are you an Avenger?” she asks, lips twisting in amusement.
“Stark seems to think we are.”
The doors slide open again to a new floor, a new maze of rooms. It could be any one’s, it’s set up to suit any agent’s needs--the cabinet of throwing knives and pistols is massively impressive. But against the far wall, in polished wood, is a ballet barre--and she knows it was built only for her.
Muttering a curse, she shuts the door to the training room, and stands in the elevator shaking her head. ““Does he really just expect us all to settle in and play house? The fall he took must have done some damage to his brain. We’re not super heroes, Clint.”
“‘We are not gods or machines or history. We don’t run around in brightly colored pajamas and we don’t just throw our lives away on a whim...’” She raises and eyebrow and he shrugs. “ Yeah. I remember that speech. Sort of. It’s a little fuzzy.” He walks in beside her. The doors slide shut. “And not just because of the drugs.”
His voice is sad and solemn and too much like a song on a violin. “I hurt you, Tasha. He made me hurt you. And I thought, somehow, I had to make up for that.”
She runs her fingers over the healing scar along the back of his shoulder, not enough pressure to hurt him, just enough to feel. “And losing my partner again helps me how, Clint?”
“Well, like you said, I’m an idiot.”
When the doors slide open again, they step out onto his floor. The lights of Manhattan glimmer in the night, and she walks forward to the nearest window and wraps her arms tightly around her chest.
“I need you with me,” she says quietly, eyes fixed on the view of the city. “I need you back. I need you not to throw yourself in front of any more bullets for me and … I,” she falters, knowing how to put this into words. “I need us back.”
He walks up and presses his hands against the glass on either side of her, until she’s standing in the circle of his arms, then leans down and rests his forehead on the top of her shoulder. His sigh is weary and bone-deep. “It’s not going to be the same,” he says “ I’m not the same. Ever since Loki— I can’t promise—”
“I don’t care,” she says, reaching up to catch the side of his face in her hand. “I don’t care. He tried to take you away from me once, and I got you back.” She looks around at the room they’re standing in. “I’m not losing you, again. I can’t lose you again.”
She stares out at the city below, and his arms slide around her, hold her, and, like the rhythm of the city at night, something has changed. Changed but beats on, vibrant.
This isn’t a home. Homes are for mothers and fathers and children that she can never have because her life is to make sure that other people can have those things. This is a refuge.
And this isn’t love. Love is something teenagers sing cheery words about over sickeningly simple, repetitive chords. It’s a show to an audience, played by actors to manipulate the ones who watch. Love is flowers and soft words and schoolgirl crushes and a life that exists within the confines of normal. This isn’t love. It’s something far more important than that.
And she isn’t going to lose it again.