Disclaimer: I don't own Marvel comics or characters or movies, and am making no money off of this fic.
AN: Written for the October 11th Winterhawk Mandatory Fun Day prompt: Winter Soldier!Clint Barton.
Fear Response by luvsanime02
Natasha stills like a spider frozen in a fear response when the mask comes off of the Winter Soldier's face.
It can't be.
It definitely is.
"Clint?" she asks through numb lips.
"Who the hell is Clint?" And it's nothing like his voice, not really, there's no inflection at all, but it's still very definitely Clint Barton staring back at her. Natasha can't- She can't think. She can't move. She needs to do something, because this is the fucking Winter Soldier, and if Natasha doesn't act now, she's going to die. She might die, anyway.
She still can't really bring herself to do anything.
There's an explosion nearby, and Clint - no, the Winter Soldier - falls back, and Steve's trying to chase after him but he disappears. Just like that.
Of course he disappears. Before today, the Winter Soldier had been a complete ghost story. Natasha knew that he existed only because he'd almost killed her before, shot right through her, but no one had ever publicly caught so much as a glimpse of him before today.
They've seen much more than a glimpse of him now. They've seen his face. The information network must be-
Something in Natasha's mind snaps back into place and she tugs out her phone, ignoring Steve's increasingly demanding questions. She has a job to do. Natasha needs to find and erase any mention of Clint Barton as the Winter Soldier before it even reaches the network. She needs to make sure that the wrong people don't find out that Clint is still alive.
And right now, that means everyone.
"Who was that?" Steve asks, demands, because that's Steve. He knows that something's up.
"A ghost," Natasha answers, still typing frantically. Sam has jogged over to join them, and he seems fine at a glance, which is all that Natasha can spare for him at the moment. She can't allow herself to focus on anything else but what she's doing, on containing the information before it can leak. This is what Natasha does, who she is. How she was trained.
She can't think right now about Clint's dead eyes and dead voice, about how she thought that he was dead for so long, and how the reality is much worse. So much worse.
("Who the hell is Clint?" in that monotonous voice, and Natasha ignores her shaking fingers. She can't afford to lose it right now. She was trained better than that.)
They're quickly surrounded by HYDRA agents, of course, because Clint's been in HYDRA's hands for over a decade, and Natasha will kill every single last one of them for daring to lay their hands on something of Natasha's. She tucks down that rage, makes her face as smooth as glass, and lets them cuff her.
Steve's been shot. He didn't say so beforehand, but Clint - no, the Winter Soldier - definitely shot him. It's a good thing that he'll heal fast, but in the meantime, he's losing a lot of blood. They're in the back of a van, on the way to be executed, and Natasha can't let that happen. She still has red in her ledger - even more now than she knew, because Clint is alive and Natasha never saved him.
She'll save him now. Natasha will save Clint if it costs her everything, even her life. Especially her life. She owes Clint that, and more. They're saved from the van, and Steve and Sam still want to know how Natasha knows Clint (because of course they've figured that much out), and Natasha can't tell them. She can't say anything.
She needs help, though. Natasha can't go after the Winter Soldier - not Clint Barton, but so close to being him that Natasha has to bite down hard on her lip in order to keep her expression neutral - alone. That would be suicide. She needs someone whose skills rival Clint's.
Natasha's fingers fly over her phone. SOS NEED ASSIST PLEASE.
James doesn't like to involve himself in anyone else's business but Steve's, and that's the result of a lifetime of friendship, but she and him were trained together for a time. James knows how Natasha thinks, how she'll move in any given situation, and right now, he's her only hope.
She gets an affirmative within the minute, and Natasha takes a moment to try and breathe. Just breathe. Steve will be angry with her for involving his best friend, and Natasha can't worry about that right now. She needs to make sure that all information about Clint stays suppressed, and she needs to figure out where Clint is, and then she can tell the others what they need to know.
For now, Natasha can only focus on what's right in front of her. She can do this. She has to do this. HYDRA's making their move, and Fury's dead because the Winter Soldier - not Clint, never Clint - killed him, and Natasha needs to get a handle on her emotions right the fuck now.
("Who the hell is Clint?" in that awful, nothing voice, and Natasha can't hear anything else - the sound of that question echoes in every beat of her heart.)
Natasha can't deal with all of this at once, but she has to. She's got a job to do.
(Twenty-four hours from now, Natasha will lose Clint again, but so will HYDRA. She'll also find out that James has met Clint before and slept with him without knowing who he was, which she's never going to let him live down, but that's tomorrow, not now.)
For now, Natasha waits and plans and hopes like hell for a miracle, because she sure doesn't see any other way that this will all turn out okay. She hasn't had much hope in over a decade, but Natasha finds some within her now for Clint's sake.