Warnings: This story contains bullying, physical and verbal; sexualized assault of a minor; minor-on-minor violence; homophobia and homophobic language; swearing; mentions of an eating disorder, child abuse, and possible non-con of a minor (though you can choose to read it as rape didn't happen- it's left vague.)

This was written to fill a prompt on avengerkink, and it got long so I'm posting it here.

After intake is finally, excruciatingly completed, Natasha is led by the falsely cheerful woman down a hallway to the residential wing. The woman (Director? Caseworker? Paper-pusher, in any case) points out features along the way.

"There's a courtyard out that door—no smoking on premises, of course. Library in here—it's small, but very nice for quiet study. You enjoy school? Have a good work ethic? The rec room is right next door—we even have a Wii now, donated by a local foundation. Everyone takes turns."

Noise seeps through the closed rec room door—television, at least two competing music beats, raised voices—and Natasha catches a glimpse of frenetic motion through the thick glass window before they sail past.

Her assigned home is one of four beds in a square cement-block room, hers bare but for a plastic-covered pillow and mattress. A narrow dresser doubles as a nightstand and desk, with a plastic chair set before it; a plastic drawer-bin fits under the bed. The woman points.

"Your linens are in there; fresh sheets and towels are passed out once a week. See your day monitor if you have an accident, don't just take more from Laundry. Get settled in and then you're free to explore the premises or join the others in Rec. Another resident checked in just last week, so you won't be the only newcomer!" She points again, this time at the packet in Natasha's hand. "But I recommend you familiarize yourself with the guidelines of Mountainview. It will make things easier for you in the long run." She smiles, wide, empty, already disengaging from her newest charge. "Welcome, Natasha. You'll find a safe haven here."

Once the woman has gone, Natasha lowers herself to perch on the edge of her bed. Her hands, clenched on the strap of her bag and the intake packet, tremble subtly.

For a long, blank moment she allows it; then, with a shudder and furious blinking, she stills her hands and slides to her knees to pull the drawer from beneath the bed.

Natasha has unpacked, made her bed, and committed the rules to memory and is staring sightlessly at the pages in her lap when her roommates burst in, chattering, shrieking out giggles and knocking against each other in effort to get through the door.

"Did you see the nerve of that little dickwaffle," one girl in the back is saying, and "Gonna get his ass handed to him is what," the one in front says. Then she jams to a stop at the sight of Natasha, sitting on the bed with her back braced on the wall. "Oh, looky here—new girl."

The two girls in back jockey to get through the doorway, but the lead girl punches at them with elbows and shoulders and they subside, resorting to craning to see around her.

Tall, and slender—painfully so—with cheekbones sharp as one of Uncle Alex's blades, and startlingly pale eyes, the lead girl looks Natasha up and down with the beginnings of a sneer twisting her lip. "Who're you?"

Queen Bee, Natasha assesses, and her drones, but she answers, a cautious testing of the waters. "Natasha Romanov."

"That Russian?"

"I suppose."

"You suppose?" Queen Bee makes a pfft sound. "Don't you even know what you are?" Her drones giggle, and Queen Bee seems to draw confidence from the sound, chin rising as she steps into the room. "Family mobbed up and busted? That how you got here?"

"No," Natasha says softly, eyes tracking warily.

"No," Queen Bee mimics, and her drones giggle again and Natasha sees how it will be—that she will grovel and flatter, or she will be the target of venom and barbs.

Ah, well. It's not like she expected this to be easy.

"Who're you?" Natasha asks, because if it's going to be hostile she may as well put names to her enemies at once.

Queen Bee looks a little miffed that Natasha has gone off-script already, but "Cherie," she answers, and, with a jerk of her head toward the others, "Kaitlyn; Elena."

"Ellie," the black-haired drone corrects. "Is that your real hair?"

Cherie laughs, low and derisive. "Better hope so—who'd choose such a trashy color if they weren't born with it?"

"Ronald McDonald?" Kaitlyn asks, fake-innocent, and the three dissolve into giggles once more.

A burning knot draws tight behind Natasha's breastbone, but she remembers Uncle Alex's lessons and lets only a careful blankness show on her face. She goes back to staring at Mountainview's rules while the girls crash around the room, between the dressers and beds, in and out of the shared bathroom that connects the adjoining room.

Finally a bell rings. "That's dinner, Clueless," Cherie snaps when Natasha waits to see what it signals.

The dining hall is crowded, noisy; it smells of tomato sauce and onions. Natasha hangs back to watch the dynamics of the place. It's not hard to sort out the hierarchy—Cherie is top of the foodchain of girls; a blond boy, with heavy shoulders and large hands, controls the boys. Cherie and her drones flutter around him and his own entourage. They bring drinks, a forgotten fork, extra bread; and then, their serving duties completed, the girls settle across from the boys at the large round table nearest the windows. Cherie glows when the blond slaps her ass in passing.

The corner nearest the kitchen doors and trash bins seems least desirable; Natasha takes her tray there, to a table filled with the youngest kids. They slide sideways glances at her but don't object when she pulls out a chair. Noise is centered at the window table, with the blond boy keeping up a constant, and loud, commentary on whatever fleeting thought seems to cross his mind. Natasha keeps her head bent but not ducked too low as she eats, watching from guarded eyes.

She sees the altercation coming before it happens—a slight, dark-haired boy with the drawn-in hunch of one who has known years of abuse rises to return his tray; two boys at tables nearest the blond's shove their chairs out, blocking his way; then Kaitlyn does the same, forcing the boy to detour directly behind the blond. The blond's foot shoots out; the dark-haired boy side-steps, and receives a vicious kick to the ankle for his trouble. He stumbles, his tray tilting, and dishes and silverware crash to the floor.

The blond and his cronies whistle and high-five while one of the aides comes over to hand a sponge to the dark-haired boy. "Clean it up, Bruce," she sighs, not unkindly, and a ripple of low, mean laughter circles the table. Bruce flushes and drops awkwardly to swab at the floor.

The aide goes back to the steam trays; the blond boy is grinning, leaning back in his chair, as he casts self-satisfied looks at the younger boy crouched on the floor.

Suddenly he yelps shrilly and lurches forward against the table. "What the fuck?" he yells, clutching at the back of his head. "What the fuck, man?"

"What the hell's wrong with you?" one of the other boys demands, and "Danny, what?" Cherie asks with deep concern. The blond throws himself off his chair, scrabbles his hand across the floor, and bounces back up holding something aloft.

"Somebody shot this at me!" he screeches. He waves something between thumb and forefinger to the table at large. "Shot me in the head!" He stares wildly around the dining hall.

"That's a dried bean," Ellie announces.

"I know it's a fucking bean! It still hurt! It coulda put a hole through my skull!" He glares down at Bruce, who pales and backs away.

"Naw, man, it wasn't him, I had my eyes on him the whole time," another boy says.

"Then who the fuck is firing shit at me?" The blond—Danny—is shooting fevered glances around the room again. Some of the other kids are watching curiously, others focusing carefully on their trays and not the altercation, but no one looks overtly guilty. Even the kids directly behind the blond have scared but thoroughly innocent expressions.

It's only when Natasha rises to bus her tray that she catches sight of a boy sitting alone on the far side of the room, wearing the very faintest of smirks.

He can't possibly be the culprit, though; no one could possibly have hit Danny in the back of the head from that angle.

Natasha learns quickly to hide her toothbrush and underwear; she learns which areas belong to Danny and Cherie and which are safe to linger in; and she learns which staffers are malicious and which are merely indifferent. How to keep her head down and her mouth closed, that she already knows.

Monday morning finds Natasha filing down the drive with the rest of the residents, to await the buses from the local middle and high schools. She has a cheap black backpack issued by the State, basic supplies, a voucher for lunch, and a lump in her stomach.

"Here comes Ronnie McDonnie," Cherie sing-songs as Natasha drifts up to the bus stop. The other girl is hovering around Danny, trying to drop little touches onto his back and arms, but the boy keeps shouldering away from her to kick gravel at the youngest kids and scuffle with his friends. He looks up at Cherie's taunt, and, with an oily grin, saunters over and yanks Natasha's braid.

"Yeowch!" he says, shaking out his hand. "Burned my fingers on that red hair!"

The look Cherie shoots Natasha is deadly.

The first bus pulls up in a cloud of exhaust and Natasha hangs back to let the others board ahead of her. She scans for an empty spot while Danny and Cherie and their pack shove toward the back. There's room halfway down the aisle next to a boy who looks to be about Natasha's own age of thirteen; she squeezes past elbows and rolling backpacks.

"No, you don't, JINS," the boy says hastily as she starts to slip into the seat. He slings one leg up onto the vinyl padding. "Go sit with Lardass over there, not here."

Flames boil under her skin as she looks to the indicated seat. There's already a Mountainview kid sitting there—the boy from the dining hall who'd dare smile at Danny getting popped in the head.

He's half-turned toward the window as if he's paying no attention, with his chin sunk in the collar of a bulky coat at least two sizes too large for him. He doesn't even flick a glance at her, but hitches sideways. The coat makes him look far heavier than he actually is, so there's room on the bench seat for another person.

"Find a seat!" the bus driver bellows, and Natasha drops quickly beside the boy.

The noise level rises as the bus jerks into motion; Natasha sneaks a peek at the boy, who is still staring fixedly at the window. "What's JINS?" she asks, low.

He cuts his eyes to her, then away again. "That's us—JINS—Juveniles In Need of Supervision. We're, like, trash, to the regular kids."

Natasha tells herself she doesn't care.

They've put her in the basic classes, she realizes immediately. All those tests she'd been given after Uncle Alex didn't come back to their last home and she'd ended up with DYFS—pages and pages of little ovals to fill in in a test booklet—they'd been placement tests. It's a bit humiliating, because Natasha is bright, she honestly is. It's just that all those intervals as she and Uncle Alex crisscrossed the continent have left gaps in subjects adults consider vital.

She doesn't actually mind until science class. No one has treated her like trash (yet, says a little voice in her mind) and the school is big enough that her newness barely registers with anyone. She thinks if she can pass unnoticed she can get through this ordeal somehow. Some people even seem friendly—a golden-haired boy approximately the size of a small mountain had stopped her as they entered the classroom and boomed, "You would make a perfect Ophelia!" She has only the vaguest idea what that had meant, but he'd said it with genuine admiration.

And then Cherie slouched in.

Whatever hopeful feeling was loosening Natasha's chest withered and tightened. Cherie glared daggers as she marched past, and Natasha could feel the weight of her glower on the back of her neck as class began. Not even the sight of a familiar face—her seatmate from the bus was sitting cattycorner behind her—could calm the sick dread churning Natasha's stomach.

She'd gone all day without seeing her toxic roommate, and now here she was, at Natasha's back every day.

The strangeness of her placement gradually begins to fade, but Natasha remains wary and alert. After school there are scheduled activities ("To promote healthy socialization"), and a changing roster of chores ("To teach life skills and responsibility"), and even some free time; Natasha uses that mainly to scout out bolt-holes.

Her name comes up for kitchen clean-up one night, along with the boy from the bus, and, of course with her luck, Cherie.

The aide gives the three of them a flat stare. "Cherie; Clint; Natasha—ya'll know what to do," she says, and retreats out the back door with a cigarette and her phone. Cherie claims the easiest task—shifting bins of dirty dishware over to the counter by the huge industrial dishwashers. She points. "You—Ronnie McDonnie—scrape and load." She snatches a sponge and goes out to wipe down tables.

Clint dumps the pots and pans into the sink, squirts soap, opens the faucet full blast. Natasha turns to fumble with a dishwasher latch until it springs open; she stares into it.

She knows twenty-two ways to cook hotdogs—two involving a car's engine—but this high-tech appliance is nothing she's familiar with.

Cherie breezes back into the kitchen carrying used glasses and forks. "What is your problem, moron? Haven't you ever seen a dishwasher before?"

Natasha flushes. "Is there a certain way it has to be filled?" she forces herself to ask. There must be—all the different racks and baskets and fold-y bits… she doesn't want to be responsible for breaking this thing.

"Oh my god, you are, like, too stupid to live! It's a dishwasher, you feeb—you put dishes in it and turn it on!"

Natasha's face is burning nearly as bright as her hair. "Could you just…"

"Are you Amish and stupid? How hard could it be, dumbass?"

"Fuck off." Clint elbows Cherie aside. "Go puke up your dinner."

Cherie pales. Her mouth opens soundlessly and then she spins and rushes from the kitchen.

Clint doesn't spare a glance after her, he just rolls out the bottom rack and starts slotting plates into it. Bowls are propped in the wider center spaces, glasses on top, silverware sorted in the baskets. He doesn't say a word until he's filled the soap dispenser and toggled it closed, set the wash cycle and started it. "Okay?"

"Yeah." Some of the heat has cooled from Natasha's face at his matter-of-fact demonstration. "Does she puke up her dinner?"

"Usually," Clint shrugs. He's shed his ever-present bulky jacket, and he starts rolling his sleeves up over sinewy forearms.

Natasha slips between him and the sink full of pots. "I got this."

He hears her unspoken 'Thank you'. "Okay. I'll dry."

The hostilities escalate. Natasha hides her toiletries and sleeps in her favorite jeans. She lurks in the library, with its battered collection of paperbacks and Bruce's silent company, or outside in the bushes lining the side lawn, away from the courtyard—Cherie's domain—and the basketball court—Danny's. Some of the other kids send her pitying looks, but mostly they're just glad not to be a target.

Danny, though… Danny makes a point of tugging her braid most mornings at the bus stop, as well as delivering one filthy innuendo or another. Making her blush or blanch seems to have become his mission in life. He ignores her sharp 'Stop its' and her knocking his hands away.

Cherie's gaze turns stonier every time he does it. There are barbs, whispers, insults.

Arriving at the science classroom makes her physically sick to her stomach.

"Fair maiden!" Golden-haired Thor has reached the door before her, and he steps aside with a bow and a flourish, holding it open for her. She has a momentary flash of warmth before reality in the form of Cherie's glowering face dashes ice over her.

The teacher dims the lights, fires up a Power Point presentation, and for a few moments Natasha relaxes under the cover of darkness.

Then something flicks onto the back of her shoulder.

A smothered giggle from behind her sends her stomach plummeting, but she starts to turn, to knock whatever disgusting thing has been thrown at her off of her back.

"Don't move!" A low mutter raps out from her other side, and Natasha freezes.

Something whizzes past her, barely skimming her back and the braid lying along her spine. She looks down, and a huge wad of virulent green gum, caught on a thick rubber band, is now lying in the aisle. She turns; Clint is staring his hands, folded innocently on his lab table.

Natasha waits, gaze fixed on him, until he feels its weight and sneaks a glance at her. 'Thanks', she mouths, and he lifts one shoulder in a shrug.

They never catch him at it.

Someone trips or shoves Bruce or another young kid, and within seconds that someone is clapping a hand to their ass or arm or thigh and squealing. Dried beans or sometimes acorns from the tree near the driveway skitter away after impact, but no one ever sees where they come from.

Only Natasha.

Uncle Alex had trained her to always be vigilant, to carefully observe her surroundings, and she alone catches the silent and swift strikes.

Only she sees the quick twist of a rubber band around Clint's nimble fingers, and the unerring accuracy of his aim. Only she notices when he scrounges bits and pieces and upgrades to a slingshot. Only she sees when it increases his range and he starts disappearing into the treetops, and, she suspects, the ceilings.

Her suspicion is confirmed one evening as she slips down the halls looking for a quiet place to hide out until bedtime. The weather has turned bitterly cold, and huddling in the bushes outside has very little appeal.

Someone is at the door to the janitor's closet, hunched over the doorknob. Natasha recognizes the coat enveloping the figure, and glides up behind him on silent feet.

He's so intent on what he's doing that he doesn't notice her until he breathes out a huff of frustration and Natasha murmurs, "What are you trying to do?"

Clint nearly hits the ceiling.

Natasha backs up a hasty step, hands raised, as Clint hurls himself sideways to slam his back to the wall. His normally blank hooded eyes are alive with sudden panic.

"Sorry! I'm sorry!"


"I didn't mean to startle you."

He sags a little against the bricks, panting. "Give a guy a little warning, shit."

"Never drop your situational awareness," Natasha tells him. She moves forward, eying the scratches on the lock. "What are you using to pick that—I mean, to try and pick that?"

Clint grimaces. He rolls his neck, settling his coat around his shoulders, and pushes off the wall. He holds his hand out to Natasha, palm flat.

She tsks at the object on it. "A nail? That won't work—it's too thick, and the point is too sharp to apply even pressure."

"You have a better idea?"

She thinks for a moment. "Can you get me a couple of tines from the garden rake Dawn was using in the yard the other day?"

He studies her for a long moment before he nods. "Go somewhere else 'til I get back, don't just hang out here."

Natasha rolls her eyes. "Duh."

She skulks around the kitchen, letting that night's clean-up crew think she's trying to scrounge leftovers, until a flicker of motion at the doorway prompts her to return to the utility hall. Clint hands her two thin metal strips.

"Okay, good." Natasha bends one in half, creasing the flexible metal into a V-shape. "Now watch."

She slips the ends of the bent piece into the keyhole, pressing and turning until they catch on the mechanism within. Holding it in place with one hand, she pushes the second strip into the doorjamb and wiggles it against the latch.

The door pops open.

Clint hisses in appreciation. "Cool. Thanks."

Natasha shakes her head, reaches around to the inside knob to depress the locking button, and pushes the door shut again. "Uh-uh. You do it."

"I just wanted the door open. It's open."

But Natasha stands firm. "You do it."

It takes him a while. His shoulders start to twitch and he jumps at every distant doorslam and shout, but he keeps at the lock. Finally Natasha steps forward, covers his hands with her smaller ones, and guides him through the motions.

The door pops again, and again she closes it. "You…"

"…do it, I know."

This time he manages on his own. It takes him eight minutes, but he manages.

His grin lights up his usually solemn face.

"Good," Natasha nods. "Once more, Barton."

He cuts his time in half.

"Keep practicing," Natasha tells him as she turns to leave. "You should be able to get it down to seconds, especially with a lock you know well."

"Wait," Clint says as he tucks the metal strips away. "Do you, uh… want to see why I needed in here?"

The ever-present lump of ice in her stomach softens a little, but Natasha feigns nonchalance. "Sure."

They slip into the closet and Clint flicks the lightswitch once he's pulled the door closed. Floor-to-ceiling shelves are filled with cleaning supplies, and the floor is cluttered with buckets and a floor buffer. Clint upends one of the buckets, steps onto it, and reaches for a shelf above his head. "Follow me."

He pulls himself up onto the shelves and bumps a ceiling panel, lifting and sliding it aside. Then he sticks his arms into the resulting gap and hoists himself into the ceiling.

His head pops back out as Natasha begins to climb. "There's a conduit right above your head, and an air duct to the right—grab those, not the ceiling tile grid."

Her arms burn as she drags herself up, but she manages to pull herself up without assistance. As soon as she flops into the narrow dark space, Clint starts crawling away. "Stay on the pipes and crossbeams," he says over his shoulder. "The ducts make a helluva noise if you lean on them, and the drop ceiling's flimsy."

They creep through dusty dimness, zigzagging now and then to navigate around walls. Finally Clint pulls himself into a corner half-blocked by a huge steel duct.

Natasha squeezes in next to him. "Where are we?"

"Over the dining hall." He lightly taps the smooth steel. "This is the kitchen exhaust vent."

"So… what? You just hang out here in the dark?"

There's a click, and a beam of light cuts through the space. "I have a flashlight." Clint's voice is a little defensive. "And sometimes I… patrol."

"Patrol." Now that she's seen his setup, it's obvious what he means. "You can see into the rooms."

"Most of them."

She goes breathless with sudden horror. "The girls' shower room? The bathrooms?"

"No! That's fucked-up creepy." She feels his shoulders lift in a shrug. "Besides, there's no drop ceilings over those rooms. And the vents aren't accessible except from below."

"Good to know."

"I'm not… I'm not like Danny, y'know."

"I wouldn't have followed you up here if you were."

That seems to be as much of a personal exchange as he can handle. Clint pushes up onto his knees. "Getting late. C'mon, Romanov, I'll show you my vantage points on the way back."

Each room where the residents congregate has at least one ceiling tile with a loop of wire twisted into its upper side. Clint has only to flatten on his stomach, lift an edge of tile by the wire, and line up his shots. Natasha is impressed despite herself.

"How did you get up here in the first place if you couldn't pick the lock?" she asks as they slither back down into the closet.

"Sometimes they forget to lock the door." Clint pats his pocket. "That won't be a problem now."

"Better keep practicing, Barton."

Winter grinds along slowly.

Cherie and Danny mark Valentine's Day by having a screaming fight outside the sophomore cafeteria.

Natasha and Clint mark it by finding a way onto Mountainview's roof.

It's windy and cold up there, but Clint thinks they can swing down to access any window… as soon as Natasha works out a way to open them from the outside.

Two days later, he sidles up to her in the hall between classes. "Metal spatula from the Home Arts room. They were decorating cakes this morning."

Natasha's eyes light up at the thought of a flexible metal tool, perfect for sliding into a window frame. "I'm on it."

"Cool." Clint gives her braid a light tug in farewell.

Natasha continues on toward math class, mentally mapping an infiltration of the cooking classroom. As she reaches her classroom, she's brought up short by another yank on her braid, this one hard enough to wrench her head backward. Shocked, she lashes out; her hand connects not with Clint's arm, but with Danny's meatier one. He's glaring hotly at her.

"Get off!" she snarls, and after a heartbeat he opens his hand and lets the rope of her hair slide free.

Natasha swears silently, a foul curse she'd heard Uncle Alex spit a time or two, as she watches Danny plow his way down the hall, bumping aside other students. Shaken more than she wants to admit, she vows not to let Danny get that close to her again.

Stealing a cooking utensil proves to be no challenge at all; avoiding Danny is a much more delicate dance. Whether prompted by his very public fight with Cherie or by sudden possessiveness from seeing Clint's hand on her hair, Danny is suddenly ever-present, lurking in the girls' wing, staring, trying to follow her.

"What the hell is up with him?" Clint asks one evening when Natasha has to detour out a bathroom window in order to dodge Danny while still making their planned rendezvous.

She's not surprised he's noticed, even though they ignore each other in public. "He's just being weird. Leave it, he'll get bored and focus on someone else."

Clint worries at his slingshot. "Want me to pop him?"

"No! You'll just make it worse. Leave it, Barton."

Natasha is jolted awake early one morning by Kaitlyn and Ellie pinning her to the bed. The girls' eyes are skittish with fear, so she doesn't rip free and lash out at them. Then Cherie is above her, holding a nail file to Natasha's throat.

"One warning, bitch—that's all you get. Stay away from Danny."

Natasha regards her levelly. "Tell him to stay away from me. Get him to keep his sweaty hands off me and I won't stick that file in your ribs."

Uncertainty overlays Cherie's hard expression. She glances from the younger girl's too-calm face (mistake #1) to the thin metal clenched awkwardly (mistake #2) in her hand, and then pushes up with a toss of her head. "I mean it, bitch. You don't want to mess with me."

"It's true," Kaitlyn nods as she and Ellie hastily release Natasha and step back. "People who fuck with us get hurt. People who fuck with our men get hurt even worse."

"Are you blind? Haven't you noticed he's fucking with me?"

Cherie has no reply to that. "Just back off or see what happens."

One thing that happens is Cherie has an epic fight with Danny in the corridor leading to the boys' locker room. It's the talk of the school the next day, and neither Cherie nor Danny are on the evening bus-run. Kaitlyn's eyes are red at lights-out and Ellie shoves Natasha hard into the doorframe. "She got taken to juvie, you skanky bitch!"

Natasha stares back, her shoulders tensing, her hands rising slightly. "How is it my fault that some skeeve I can't stand won't leave me alone?" she asks, deadly soft.

Ellie shoves her away.

They don't touch her after that.

Danny is back the next day, strutting and swaggering after his overnight stay in lock-up. Too many witnesses confirm he never laid a hand on Cherie, even after she'd started slapping and kicking him, for him to be held on assault charges.

He winks at Natasha across the dining hall and she nearly throws up.

He gets one hand fisted on her hair and rocks her back against the wall with his other forearm to her chest, and then grins down at her, triumphant.

Stupid, stupid, rookie mistake stupid, Natasha berates herself, even as Danny pokes his fingers through the strands of her braid and tugs.

Danny never misses a meal; she'd thought she was in the clear as she'd lingered a few minutes in her blessedly empty room. She'd thought the halls would be empty as she wandered in late to dinner.

She'd been wrong, oh-so-wrong.

He kicks out behind her and the rec room door slams open. The TV is on, sound turned loud in the empty room. Between that and the noise from the dining hall no one is going to hear her, even if she screams.

Danny drags her around the doorjamb and lets the door swing closed.

"Be nice now," he pants, shifting his arm so he can reach the button of her jeans. Natasha can feel his fingers scrabbling and she's sickened by the heat of them. "You got carpeting installed yet, little girl? I wanna see if it matches the drapes."

His arm drops lower, grinding into her breasts, and Natasha whites out.

She drops her head and sinks her teeth into his arm, clamping down hard to try and get her teeth to meet through cloth and flesh. Danny howls, wrenches away; she moves before he can strike her, driving a stiffened hand into his gut, then jabbing upwards beneath his ribs. He drops, choking, and she slams her foot at his balls.

She hits thigh instead as he snaps into a protective curl on the dingy carpet, but it's a good, solid kick with a lot of force behind it—he'll have a massive bruise.

Color bleeds back into her vision; Natasha backs up, breath shuddering, and waits while Danny writhes and gags.

"You bitch!" he finally wheezes. "You fucking little c…"

She poises one foot over his throat. "Shut up."

Danny goes still.

"I'll say this once, so listen closely." She bends, speaking low under the blare of the TV. "You touch me again, you come near me, you think about me—I'll tell everyone we fucked. And then I'll tell everyone we fucked just the once, because you piss your bed, and I don't fuck someone who reeks like a hamster cage." She waits for his eyes to re-focus on hers. He still looks stunned at how hard she'd been able to hit him. "And if you go after anyone else who isn't interested, same thing—everyone finds out what a pissy little dick you are."

"Nobody's gonna believe a piece of shit like you," Danny blusters.

Natasha turns, smooth grace although she's quaking inside. "Want to put that to the test?"

She leaves him on the floor before he can sputter some sort of comeback.

Natasha marches up to Clint and hands him a pair of sewing shears she'd lifted from the Home Arts room. She twitches at her braid. "Cut it."

He looks from the scissors to her hair, and then his gaze settles on her face. "Do I need to handle something?" he asks quietly.

"No. It's handled." Natasha gestures sharply. "Just cut it off."