Disclaimer: I own nothing.
A/N: Based off a quote from the Natasha/Loki scene in the movie. Names come from the Black Widow profile on the Marvel website.
Clint Barton was good at his job. When he had first been taken on as a SHIELD operative, a lot of people doubted they could trust a former circus freak. Now he was one of their best agents and if he didn't always sit down and shut up the way he should, it didn't matter much because he was the best shot in the world.
He hadn't always been an assassin. When he got to SHIELD he had been put on a lot of reconnaissance missions, higher ups giving him guns and telling him he needed to learn to shoot straight before he could do anything else. It wasn't that he was bad with guns; he was just a hell of a lot better once he had a bow in his hands. Eventually people started realizing that.
Clint was 21 the day he killed his first man for SHIELD. It was also the first day he heard himself referred to as "The Hawk." After that he continued down SHIELD's predetermined path for him, never asking many questions and always getting the job done. That is, until the file for Natalia "Natasha" Romanova came into his hands.
The first thing he noticed was her eyes. He didn't know where the picture had come from, but somehow the camera had gotten close enough for him to read the utter lack of expression in them. He knew those eyes, had seen them in the mirror for years, and he remembered that the only way they could look so dead would be if you had lost everything there was to lose.
The woman was dangerous; he could clearly read that in her long list of accomplishments. The Black Widow, they called her. Fascinating. He wondered if SHIELD had ever tried to recruit her. Chances were they probably hadn't thought that would be an option. He wasn't so sure. But then again, it didn't really matter what his opinion was. He had a job to do.
The plan was laid out for him on the flight to Russia. Clint was to wait on the rooftop across from her hotel and when he got a shot he was to take it. They weren't really concerned with hiding the hit. He took his orders grudgingly, an unfamiliar sense of unease falling over him.
None of them were expecting a kidnapping attempt.
Clint watched it happen through her window, fingers itching on his bow. His requests for orders on the comm were met with radio silence and without thinking he fired fours arrows in succession, taking out the men she was fighting. Her head whipped around and her eyes met his. Even over the distance he could see a spark flare in those dead eyes. It would have been easy for him to take the shot. Instead he found himself setting down his bow and motioning for her to join him on the adjacent rooftop.
He didn't know what he was doing. It was the first time he had ever directly disobeyed orders, but for some inexplicable reason he felt he had to at least speak to her.
She appeared in less than two minutes.
"Who are you?" Natasha asked quietly.
"I think in this case you want to be asking who I work for," Clint responded carefully.
"Fine then. Who do you work for?" She shot back.
"And what does SHIELD want with me?" She murmured. From her defensive stance and concealed expression he could tell they both knew the answer to that.
He told her anyway.
"To kill you."
Natasha let out a short laugh.
"That is highly ambitious of them."
"For them maybe. Not for me," Clint replied.
"If you were going to kill me Agent Barton, I would already be dead. So why aren't I?"
He was momentarily surprised that she knew his name, but then again, his reputation was almost as well known as hers in their circles and he was the only master archer on the SHIELD payroll.
"Fancied myself a partner. You up for it?" He asked.
Clint hadn't realized he'd been thinking it until the words were out of his mouth. He hadn't worked with a partner before. Might be fun. He'd certainly prefer it to killing her.
Her eyes narrowed.
"You want me to work for SHIELD? How do you know that they would even take me?"
"They like to keep me happy." He paused as the chatter in his earpiece started up again. "Think about it Ms. Romanova. You have about five minutes before someone else comes in to try and finish my job."
He wasn't completely sure that she would agree at first, but after her eyes searched his and found he was completely sincere, she gave the slightest nod of her head.
"I accept your offer Agent. Take me to SHIELD."
With that Clint called in the situation to Coulson who threatened him with paperwork and disciplinary action but sounded slightly proud. The two assassins were picked up by a SHIELD team and brought back to the US where Natalia Romanova became Agent Natasha Romanoff. The rest, they say, is history.
He's never regretted making a different call.