"You don't have to do this anymore."

Natasha stared at him through tear-filled eyes as she pictured her sister: this morning, alive and laughing. By nightfall, dead, a bullet through her brain because Clint Barton had showed up and saved the life of Natasha's target. But she was the famous Black Widow. She would not allow herself to cry, and she would not allow herself to give in and return to the United States with the assassin who'd been sent to kill her. "Go back to your country," she told him flatly, sneering at his bow. "Go back and take your medieval weapons. Is that the pinnacle of weapons technology in your part of the world?"

He ignored the insult. "Listen to me, Natasha. You can come back to the States with me, and we'll fold you into our organization. You don't need to work for men like Bagrov, men who threaten and blackmail."

"Like your boss never threatens?"

Clint pictured Fury. Oh, he threatened people. But not in the way Anton Bagrov did. "He'd never threaten your family, Natasha. And he'd never make you feel like you weren't able to walk away."

"Whoever your boss is threatening is someone's father. Or brother. Or son. Or… or sister."

"I'm sorry about your sister," Clint said quietly. "If I had known, I would have called in someone else from my team. We have people everywhere. We could have saved her."

She folded her hands. She was getting information, just as she wanted. "You're still out to kill."

For a moment, he wanted to ask her where she suddenly acquired a conscience, but thought better of it. "We're in the business of doing good. We exist to protect. Anyone we're going after has either killed a lot of people, or has a plan to do something disastrous. We don't kill people if we can help it; we'd rather bring them in."

"Were you all like me, then? Lost assassins?"

He chuckled softly. "No. And let me say, you're the first target that I've ever considered bringing back as an ally."

It all sounded wonderful- leaving the world of the Russian mafia behind, starting over in a new place with a new mission, putting her skill set to work for the good of the world. But she couldn't just abandon her family. Her little sister Nadya was still in the clutches of Bagrov's son, their one insurance policy that Natasha would continue doing their dirty work. Beneath her hard shell, her emotions fought with each other, threatening to ruin her composure.

Clint sensed her inner conflict and leaned forward, putting an arm around her for comfort. She recoiled violently, shoving him away.

"Hey. Sorry. It just looked like... it looked like you could use a friend."

She looked back at him, her eyes hard and unforgiving. "I'll come with you on one condition."

"What's that?"

"In the morning," Natasha said, "we regroup. And we go straight into the lion's den, and we kill them all. If I'm finished here, none of them will be alive to follow me."

"Deal."

xx

The next day, after the job was complete and they were washing the blood from their hands in a motel room, Natasha felt electrified. It was over. Nadya was free, and Clint had offered to give her a new identity and a chance to start fresh. She'd declined, but both sisters were in good spirits as Nadya boarded the train for Russia.

Natasha looked up at the mirror, at Clint, and saw something she loved and despised at once. This man was saving her. She couldn't stand the thought of being saved; she'd always relied on herself, and that's the way she liked it. But adrenaline rushed through her veins, and she couldn't hold back; before he knew what was going on, Natasha had him pushed against the wall, lips on his, fingers pulling at his uniform.

Who was he to say no? He dumped his quiver of arrows to the floor and kissed her hard.

Natasha had never really had a "type." She hadn't really given herself time to think about men, unless she was thinking about how to kill one. But if she had a type, it would be exactly what this man was: strong yet taciturn, and composed in the face of danger.

Their clothes hit the ground, and Clint picked her up, reversing their positions, pinning her against the wall. He slipped inside; there was no need for talk, only release. There were no words, just sounds: the slow drip of the faucet, the whir of the ceiling fan, the slap of flesh against flesh, their gasps and moans and ragged breaths.

When she let out that first low moan, it was the undoing of Clint, and he fought to keep it together until she came, shuddering against him; then he let go inside of her, wanting desperately to repeat her name, but doing so only inside his head, afraid to ruin the moment.

After it was over, he set her down gently; without a word, she walked right to the shower and shut the door.