Title: White
Author: Serena

Summary: The life of Natasha Romanova in vignettes.

Ship: Eventual Black Widow/Hawkeye

Timeline: Set in the MCU. The first segment is (or, the story begins) at the end of 1986/beginning of 1987.

AN1: Most chapters will be lengthier and more complex as Natasha ages.

AN2: I began this project with the goal of showing Natasha in her full complexity, without the flattening or whitewashing as some fic authors are wont to do. I hope I did her justice.

Subject Age: 3

A voluptuous woman who looks like her, minus the flaming red mane, and a taciturn man who wears thick, round glasses.

A fire.

She doesn't know how it started, or what it means.

There's heat and Mama and, Go, my love. I'm coming.

She remembers the dancing red and orange, someone holding her from running towards the flames, one long scream of terror and pain, and then silence.

Subject Age: 8

"But I don't want to study." Studying is the worst. The library smells like stale water and dust. The ticking of the clock is like thunderclaps, slow and rolling.

"But, Natalya, you must."

She screws up her nose and turns her head away. "No."

She knows what the book says. She's read this page at least a dozen times now. Lenin's Decree on Peace. Twenty-sixth of October, 1912. Her tutor has highlighted certain passages for her to focus on. Her eyes fall on the most recent one she's read.

All these examples of proletarian heroism and historic achievement serve us as a guarantee that the workers of these three countries will understand the tasks which lie before them by way of liberating humanity from the horrors of war and its consequences, and that by their resolute, unselfishly energetic efforts in various directions these workers will help us to bring to a successful end the cause of peace, and, together with this, the cause of the liberation of the toiling and exploited masses from all forms of slavery and all exploitation.

The tutor places a gentle hand on Natalya's shoulder. "You know how important this is to us."

"But it isn't," Natalya says, shrugging away the man's hand. "It's not important."

"It's not? Then why would we ask you to learn it?" Natalya pauses. This is a trap, and she feels so stupid for walking right into it. The cool air of the library raises goosebumps on her arms. She clenches her fists together over the textbook. "The government knows best what you need. Do you believe this, Natalya?"

She grits her teeth. "Yes." It comes out reluctantly.

The tutor smiles indulgently. "Good. Then—"

"But why this?" she interrupts, "Science and history and geography is pointless... Why can't I just do my target practice? I like guns," Natalya reminds eagerly.

The tutor sighs. Natalya's heart falls at the look on his face. "Of course you do, Natalya. It is not often that someone as young as you becomes so accomplished." His tone is indulgent, praising, and Natalya allows herself a prideful smile. "But in order to use those skills, you need a target. And to accomplish your future missions, you have to know all about your target—where they come from, what they know, what they do. This knowledge will help ensure your safety as well."

Natalya looks up at the tutor, away from the infernal Soviet history book, away from the rise of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, the necessary disposal of the tyrannical czar Nicholas II, the history of the Red Army, the righteous invasion of Afghanistan. The proud history of her country. "But I thought my safety was of no concern." The safety of all above the safety of one. An ideal that has been central to her life as much as Love is for children.

The tutor nods, seemingly pleased with her answer. "You are not wrong, Natalya," he says, "we would all gladly lay down our lives for our cause. But can't you see the benefits of being able to complete a mission while staying alive?"

Natalya frowns and folds her arms over her chest. She looks back down at the textbook and faces a bright red portrait of her flag, angry at being proven wrong. "I suppose so."

Her frown gradually becomes a neutral line as she stares at the red of the Soviet Union's proud banner. Her tutor leans closer. "We would never want you to fail your country. Do you want to disappoint us?"

She swallows the suddenly large lump in her throat. She whispers, "No, it's not that..."

"I know, Natalya. There are many things we must do that we do not find enjoyable." The tutor chuckles, always kind but firm. "Teaching history is not my favorite way to spend my time."

Natalya looks at him questioningly, but doesn't say anything.

"But I do it because I know how important it is. And in time, Natalya, you'll learn to appreciate the necessity. Our government knows what is best for us, what the world needs. It's a great burden, which is borne for our sakes. We must do anything we can to help. We must never disappoint our country."

Natalya is quiet, but mouthes 'no.'

The clock ticks on.