So I've been taking requests from friends to do oneshots/coming up with pairings I don't usually write.
Thankfully, this one I passively ship (cannot say the same for some of the others). I hope I did it justice!
Four Times (and more) That Natasha Saved Clint's Ass (possiblyhislife)
The team hears the story for the first time after (surprise surprise) you've dragged Clint out of the jaws of almost-certain death, again.
Almost-certain, you stipulate, because Death has become a lot more flexible since Loki, in a not-so-rare moment of brotherly kindness, threatened to destroy him (you have no idea how that works but whatever) if he dared take Thor's soul.
For the record, you count slamming your knee into Clint's groin before he can suggest that maybe, just maybe, Thor dying could count as being completely Loki's fault – as the thirty seventh time you saved his life.
In any case, you're all at Stark's tower afterwards; in what you can only think of as an instant of mental collapse, Fury and Coulson deign to join you.
(You suspect it's the promise of Stark-funded alcohol.)
Post-battle recoup turns, inevitably (at least where Stark is concerned) into who fucked up the worst today and how much can we laugh without throwing up from alcohol poisoning?
It's rather unsurprisingly Clint who gets it the worst this time. Thor slaps him on the back (you're fairly sure you hear a rib crack or something), saying something appropriately insulting and sexist about the inevitable trauma of having one's life saved by a woman.
You smile slowly at Thor, deliberately sweet and calm.
He actually flinches, and your smile widens before you look away.
"But honestly, Natasha," Steve says quietly, leaning across the table to look at you earnestly, "nice work today with, you know, saving Clint…" He catches Clint glaring at him and rather carefully doesn't say again.
You shrug, slightly more expressive than usual because alcohol gets even the best of them (not really, since Steve's definitely the best of them and he could be drinking water for all the damage it does him). "It's not anything I don't normally do."
Coulson snorts (alcohol, you bastard, you think with amusement). "Tell me about it. I think we've got you down on the payroll as Barton's bodyguard."
"Really?" you ask with interest; apparently the pay for that is good, and even if you don't actually need the money-
"No," Fury says flatly.
"What's this?" Stark breaks his conversation with Banner on…you don't even know. You studied quantum physics, biochemistry, genetic engineering – but you can't even begin to decipher any of their conversations. "I want to hear this story."
As the others lean forwards with interest, Clint groans.
Truth be told though, the first is more an anecdote than a story.
(One that sort of sets the tone for your impression of him for the next however-many years.)
Thor and Stark find it hilarious, though that isn't saying much; but even Banner laughs a little – a genuine laugh, not the nervous manly giggle that is normally the best anyone can get out of him – before stopping, blinking, as though he can't believe he laughed. Even Steve chuckles, though he looks shamefaced afterwards when Clint turns to him with a look of wretched betrayal.
Director Fury actually smiles.
It's back before you defected, when you're still spying on behalf of a government that did nothing but exploit you from the moment your parents died. You're liaising together in North India, taking out a radical fascist group that, for once, both your countries can agree to hate.
He's late, and so you go ahead without him; the only reason that you don't kill him on sight is because you manage to recognise his face from the ridiculously paltry description proffered to you by your superior.
"You're late," you say flatly.
He grins. "Duck." And then he shoots straight at you…
…and the arrow goes straight through the right eye of the man who'd been standing behind you with a knife clutched tightly between his fingers.
(For the record, you knew he was there.)
About ten minutes later, while condescendingly explaining to you how you owe him your life, he falls into the harbour. You laugh for about two minutes till you realise that he hasn't surfaced yet.
In your mind, this is jointly filed under Times Natasha Has Saved Clint Barton's Sorry Ass and Moments When Natasha Has Realised The True Incompetence Of American Education.
(It's also the first time, according to Clint, that you kiss him. You don't think trying to breathe some semblance of air into his miserable excuse for lungs counts as kissing.)
(He still hasn't paid you back for that sari. It was silk.)
You know you're drunk when you start telling this one, for the simple reason that if you were sober you wouldn't be telling it.
You know Clint is drunk when he lets you tell it.
It's not the next time you save his life, but it's probably the only time you're ever going to have to have saved Clint from a superpowered Zoroastrian priest who thinks he's a demonic courtesan sent up from the depths of darkness by Angru Mainyu to tempt all good heterosexual males into the stinking hole of iniquity and lustful rapture that is, apparently, homosexuality.
(The fact that, when you found Clint, he was tied naked and spread-eagled to a bed, seemed to you to blast a couple of holes in the sincerity of the priest's religious fervour.)
Nevertheless, in your mind, that rant marks the beginning of your desperate desire to not be so unfortunately not-attracted to women.
(It hasn't happened yet, but miracles do occur.)
So after Banner and Steve have both stopped blushing, and Clint has stopped weeping (you're not sure if that's from the shock of reliving his trauma or from the fact that said trauma's now officially going to be the subject of Stark's merciless mockery at least the next few days), you try for a shift in mood; or at least, for something doesn't immediately fall under the category of embarrassing.
It's hard, but you'll have time to tell those stories later.
Afghanistan, 1987; and for the first time, you're not paying attention to anyone else's reaction. Instead, you meet his eyes, knowing that he's thinking the same thing you are.
(And this is beyond normal levels of drunk if you're willingly D&Ming with Clint.)
(And of course you don't tell the truth this time, because there are some things that Steve and Thor and Banner and even Stark, that unethical but terrifyingly moral prick, couldn't understand.)
(But you think it, and you know he's thinking it too.)
This is just after you've given up on the Soviet Union.
Unfortunately, the Soviet Union hasn't given up on itself; and you're forcing yourself to wait it out till that finally happens; so you're in that lovely awkward position where the Soviet Union thinks you're still totally into them, and the United States are positive you're on the right side.
And clearly, neither of them know how to court a girl, and so instead of the gifts and flowers that you totally deserve in exchange for perhaps eventually deciding to swing in favour of one or the other, you find yourself placed in charge of defending Tohir Yo'ldosh, some obsequious sadistic toad of a local politician.
It works out fine for the first few months (you help the more respectable political prisoners escape at night, and he pretends not to notice because any protection is better than none).
(Of course, Clint has to come along to fuck it all up.)
"Agent Romanova, what do you think?" Yo'ldosh asks you in heavily accented Russian, smarmy smile twisting his lips.
You idiot, is what you're thinking, staring at Clint as he leans heavily against the wall of the tiny interrogation room. "He's not going to speak," you quietly respond.
The man chuckles, a horrible grating sound. "Well," he begins, "I am certain that-"
"I've encountered Agent Barton before," you say quickly – too quickly, and you berate yourself briefly for it – "he's not going to speak."
But sadists are sadists, and it takes two hours of listening to Clint scream as you watch, impassive, before Yo'ldosh concedes defeat.
"I suppose you are right, Agent Romanova," he sighs petulantly – in English, this time, even more horribly mangled than his Russian, and you know he wants Clint to hear him.
Somehow, through the blood and bruising and broken bones, Clint's mouth curves in a smile, "Damn straight," he rasps out, before biting straight through his lip when Yo'ldosh delivers a kick to his shattered left thigh.
"I truly wish it did not have to come to this," the man says, false sincerity oozing from every pore. He turns his head. "Bring the girl in!" he shouts.
The girl is fourteen. She's bruised and bewildered.
She's Yo'ldosh's niece.
Alright so it turns out this puffed-up little ingrate is actually crazier than you thought; as in, he transcends sane crazy and makes it into genuine Freudian insanity with room to spare.
"Talk and we will let you go" (lie – you know very well that Yo'ldosh had already ordered the shallow grave for Clint's body to be dug) "or do not talk…and I will get angry."
He shrugs. "And perhaps you will be hurt" (some more) "or perhaps," you see the girl (Fila, her name is) flinch from his touch, and that's when you know he's already raped her, "someone else will. She is my sister's child. I would not like to see her dead, but there are things we must do for our country."
You very carefully keep your expression blank.
But that's another thing, like swimming, that he obviously never learned.
The politician sneers when Clint's eyes widen. "Ah yes, your American sense of justice. I am appealing to your American sense of justice, Mr…what did you say his name was, Agent Romanova?"
"Barton," you reply (not numbly, calmly. You can't afford to go numb now, you know.)
"Barton," he says with a smile. "Your Western sense of honour. "Oh, I will let you go," Yo'ldosh adds magnanimously, and this you believe. He'll let Clint go, when he's bruised and beaten and too broken to do anything more than wait for thirst to take him.
(Not that you'd ever let that happen, but you're fairly certain he'd prefer that to believing that Fila's blood is on his hands.)
"So, Mr Barton? What is it to be?"
Clint's face is hard, and it's obvious he doesn't – can't – believe Yo'ldosh. "Go to hell," he spits.
Yo'ldosh exhales heavily. "Very well," he says sadly. Then he reaches out, grasping Fila by the wrist and shoving her towards you. You reach out instinctively, and perhaps it's the last trace of any maternal instinct you've ever had, but your arms hold her close to you, an ineffectual attempt to protect her in a way you're never really going to be able to.
"Break her fingers, Agent Romanova, if you will be so kind."
You're up to the thumb of her right hand (all the fingers on her left hand broken as neatly as is humanly possible, because if she actually lives long enough they'll heal quickly, even if her screaming indicates that she doesn't appreciate the effort) when you see his face finally crumble into capitulation.
No, you think fiercely. No. It's just fingers, you idiot. I'll think of something, or he'll get bored; and he's not going to kill her as long as he thinks there's a point to having her alive.
Telepathy. Telepathy would be good right now, you suppose. You know one of the leaders of the peaceful mutant movement is a telepath (Xavier? Is that his name?), you should look into some way you could possibly steal his genetic material. Or transfer it to Clint; you can read faces just fine, but he's illiterate at anything that isn't the peculiar brand of English that is American.
He opens his mouth.
You reach around and dig your fingers into Fila's trachea.
She dies quickly, with a gurgle and a cough of blood.
Dropping her body to the floor with a distasteful sneer on your face, you step towards Clint. He's staring at you, horrified.
They're all staring at you.
Way to make a girl feel good about herself, you want to say, or nice to know my hair's looking alright today, but that's the difference between numb and calm. One's smart, the other one is stupid.
What you really want to say – this is why women are more dangerous than men. We do what's necessary, not what we think is necessary – you don't.
"He's useless," you announce as you hoist Clint off the floor. "Not fit for anything but having his throat slit."
With that, you walk him out the door.
You're counting on Yo'ldosh thinking you're too cold-hearted a bitch not to break Clint's neck and drop him in that shallow grave.
Turns out you're right, because no one follows you.
Clint rounds on you about a mile out of the town (an act made rather less dramatic by the fact that he yelps in pain and clutches at what's probably a whole collection of broken ribs). "Now you listen to me, Natasha," he begins, eyes furious, but you shake your head.
"Yo'ldosh raped her three days ago. He was going to use her till he got bored and then kill her, if he didn't decide to have me strangle her just to watch the expression on your face. After her fingers, her arms were going to be next. She plays the lute, and she was never going to play again, and you can't deal with this sort of stuff but I can."
When you finally run out of steam, he doesn't respond for a long moment – just stares at you.
"Well?" you demand, shifting nervously from foot to foot.
You're about to look away when he lunges forwards and kisses you hard, bloody hands wrapping around the back of your neck to pull you closer towards him.
"Thank you," he whispers against your lips as he draws back a few minutes later. You step closer to him and press your forehead against his.
That's the moment you decide that fuck courtship, you're defecting.
This is the story you actually end up telling when Afghanistan falls through. A Jack-the-Ripper copycat breaks into your apartment in Southern New Zealand (the crazy must come from the constant proximity to all that wool, you decide) and must be blind, because he comes across Clint snoring on your couch and decides that Clint's army-style haircut must just be a result of the World's Greatest Shave, and that obviously a girl with silk paintings and a bathrobe draped over a chair must be into khakis and plaid shirts.
It's not a particularly exciting story, but it does mark the first time you get to experience (sort of) what being a policewoman might have been like.
Sort of because you end up being held for the guy's murder.
So not really.
(Though you do get to verify the absolutely true urban legend that policemen get water for their coffee from sewers, and coffee beans from pine trees.)