Prompt by sweetwatersong: Hey love / Is that the name you're meant to have / For me to call / Look love / They've given up believing / They've turned aside our stories of the gentle fall — Vienna Tang
Is that the name you're meant to have?
Natasha wakes to the dull hum of the television and murmured words she can barely make out in a flat tone. It sounds like… She sits up. Her voice. It's her voice she's hearing.
Slowly, she makes herself slip out from under the covers of Clint's bed and roots around on the ground for his shirt to pull over herself. She half-wraps herself in blanket and shuffles out to see her partner slouched forward on the couch, elbows on his knees, as he watches what appears to be security footage from the Helicarrier. She listens for a moment longer, squints to take in the image from across the room, and oh.
She steps forward and sits down beside him, gently, as if her weight is too heavy beside him.
He glances sideways in her direction but not at her. He looks as if he pulled on a pair of jeans and nothing else before coming out here. She wonders idly when she started trusting him enough to not wake up.
"Love is for children. I owe him a debt," her statement leaves the television and falls inside her where it echoes on all the Clint-shaped surfaces.
"Couldn't sleep?" she asks quietly. She wants to ask him, How long have you been watching this?
He nods, a decidedly Clint nod, scratching the back of his neck, eyes trained on the floor. Then suddenly, he's staring directly at her, and her breath catches.
"Who was talking in there?" he asks, voice rough and low.
She leans back against the couch, curling her feet up beneath her. She notes he is following her movements with a steady gaze now, paying little heed to the screen. It feels like an improvement.
"I don't know," she answers.
He studies her for a spell, then pauses to turn off the footage.
Silence settles comfortably over them. It's been almost a week. The first few nights, Clint had clung to her, whispering her name—"Tasha"—like a prayer, tears hot on her skin, but they hadn't slept together. They just…were. They held each other in pure comfort until the nightmares faded from under their skin, and he could sleep for longer than a fitful hour, tossing and turning and wanting her as far away as possible or wide awake with a knife in her hand. After, they had settled, finally able to rest together, and tonight, they had carefully stepped back over that bridge of intimacy between them for the first time after Loki, checking in with Clint every step of the way to make sure he was still okay, still in control. Natasha slept.
They haven't, she realizes now, really talked about her at all. She tugs the blanket more comfortably around her, shifting under Clint's gaze in a way she rarely does, but he was not the only one shattered into pieces and left doubting himself.
In that moment between Clint's possession and his rough calling of her name, she didn't know who she was—the Black Widow, Natalia Romanova, or Natasha. Loki had blurred the lines by holding her heart hostage, and all her carefully constructed walls proved to be lies. She's been compromised.
But Clint was always the one who saw her and knew exactly who he was facing. She had accused him of that once before and heard his disbelieving laugh, but he was. He always was.
She shakes her head and meets his gaze. "You called me 'Tasha.'"
His expression doesn't waver from its intensity. She doesn't know what he's thinking.
Finally, his hand reaches out and brushes over her knee.
Natasha stares at him. She leans forward and leans her forehead against his shoulder. She feels his breath in her hair.
"Is that what I should call you now?"
She shrugs. "You've always called me whatever you like." Nat, Tasha, Natasha, Widow, Red. His penchant for nicknames has been as consistent as it was frustrating over the years.
He kisses her softly on the top of her head.
She doesn't disturb the tentative peace by speaking.
"They don't believe it any more, you know," he goes on softly. "That I spared your life, so you guard mine."
She sits up and cocks her head at him.
"They don't even believe we gradually moved from friends to partners to maybe love."
The words are deceptively simple. Natasha doesn't like that she doesn't know where he's going with all of this. "Clint."
But Clint just huffs a laugh in an undertone and smiles. "Even the god of lies doesn't believe the truth." A liar believes everyone else lies.
Loki believed she was begging for her lover, not the ground of her sanity, the keeper of her memory, the foundation of her life, the other half of her breath, steady and even beside her. She loved Clint, but she would never burn the world down for a lover. She had loved a man before and left him behind. She had spoken truth. Loki blurred the lines of who she was to herself, the sense of identity Clint had spent so many months building up for her stone by stone, then years cementing, and she'd resented Loki for it.
Natasha looks at Clint now and settles for a contented hum as she cuddles into his side and his arm tightens around her. For a moment, she does not need a name, for she has something solid right here for all that words can't capture it. She thinks that she and Clint are indefinable, and perhaps so is she.