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30 Shades of Purple

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[Beginnings — Chicago]

His head lies in her lap. Looking up and blinking against the light, she is haloed — gold everywhere. No one can tell him that it is just standard blonde. She talks to him in that slight twang that always tinges her words, and instead of arguing with her account, he turns to her stomach to defend himself. She says that whatever is in there can hear him, so it only seems fair to tell his side of the stories.

There are a lot of stories. He doesn't always come out the best. Sometimes that's fair. Sometimes it's not.

This is his second chance, their second chance, a new beginning. He's not going to screw it up this time by being him or letting her be her. They are going to make it work if it kills them. Her words, not his, but he likes the sound of them. That's what love means — and he's an expert. He's fallen in love again and again but this time.

This time.

It's for real.

Now he's going to have it all. He's not going to ruin it by looking to the bottom of a bottle. He's not going to raise his hands when he's angry, and he's not going to walk away. Again.

The past is behind them, and there is nothing but this and now and day by day. He's always adored her enthusiasm. It feeds his own.

She brushes her fingers through his hair and he closes his eyes and just drinks up the way it makes his scalp tingle, the scent of orange blossoms, and the soft sounds of the rain on the windows.

When did it start raining?

Beams of bright light were streaming in through the curtains that Bobbi had to have — no such thing as manly curtains, so he had let that one go. Now the rain pelts the panes and it makes him open his eyes. The rain runs red down the glass and … rain isn't red.

Propping up to his elbows, he blinks at the the window, then looks up to Bobbi.

The red smears into a bloody handprint across the glass, dripping from the fingertips.

"What's wrong, sport?" She tilts her head, her smile turning up on her face. It's wide and beautiful and always shows all of her teeth. The smile widens until her lips pull away from her teeth, and the flesh rots backward across her sallow cheeks. Crimson rivulets fall from her eyes, her nose, her ears.

He moves a hand to her face, but it's slick and red before he even reaches for her.

"No. No, birdy. Birdy, don't go again." Her hair falls out in clumps where he touches it, and her head lolls backward.

"Don't worry, sport. It's going to be all right."

He wraps his arms around her, pulling her to him. She crumbles under his embrace until there is nothing but ash over him, around him, invading his nose and mouth and mingling with his tears. He chokes and coughs and tries to hold tight to the nothing that is already there.

"No!" He can barely move. It feels like something is pinning him in place. He writhes about, straining to pull free.

He swings his legs around, falls, hitting the floor hard.

When he pushes up onto his forearms and lifts his face from the rug, it's dark. So dark that it takes a moment for his eyes to adjust, for him to realize where he is.

It's raining. Hard and pelting the window. Flickers of lightning illuminate the room in brief flashes. The sound of the storm drowns out the hammering of his heart.

A soft knock sounds before the door opens. Natasha is still tying her robe when she leans one hip against the frame.

"You all right? Sounded like there was a fight in here." The side of her mouth turns up slightly, slight sympathy in her eyes. Natasha doesn't wait to be invited in. Crossing to the bed she sits lightly down on it and leans back against the pillows.

Clint tries to hide his embarrassment in the dark. He winds the purple sheet around himself, shaking off the last bits of his dream and climbing back onto the bed.

"No. No fighting. Storm woke me." He tries to brush if off casually with a wave of his hand.

"I like the storms."

"I know." He's still staring out the window, waiting for his heart to slow down. Wiping a hand through his sweaty hair, he reclines against the headboard next to her. "Me too."

"Third storm this week." She's not talking about the weather, and he knows it.

"Comes and goes, I suppose."

She ruffles his hair and he leans his head on her shoulder, sighing deeply. He closes his eyes and just enjoys her fingers in his hair. It soothes him back to resting.

"I don't really like the rain, Tasha," he murmurs, drifting off again.

"I know. But sometimes it does rain. Eventually you learn to carry an umbrella."

She lets the quiet settle, not moving while his breathing evens out.