I read a lot of Clintasha fanfiction. A lot. And almost all of it takes the point of view that Clint is the one who realizes he has feelings, which is okay, because given the dynamics of the couple involved, that's the likely scenario. I wanted to explore the other one. I'm starting with Natasha's POV; chapter two will be Clint's POV. Also, I reference some comic canon here, but only as it's useful; this is based on the movie. Thank you for reading!
Natasha Romanoff was not happy with herself. Frankly, she wasn't happy, period. When had this happened? How? She was the Black Widow. Things like this did not happen to her. She happened to them, thank you. Them being men. She, Natasha Romanoff, happened to men for a living. She did not, under any circumstances, fall for them. This could not be happening. It could not have happened.
She and Clint had been working together for four years now, and they were a scary-good team. Their missions operated at peak efficiency, only getting better with time. No matter how difficult or high-risk, the team of Hawkeye and Black Widow always succeeded. They communicated both on and off missions in ways that other agents envied. They knew each other inside and out, and in growing to know her partner that well, Natasha had apparently come to love him.
It took her a long time to realize that's what was happening, or that that's what had already happened. In the Black Widow training program, in the Red Room, trainees weren't allowed to become close to each other. They didn't even become close to their trainers. The only constant they were allowed was Mother Russia, which Natasha never quite bought into. Allegiance to a country that changed ruling philosophies in the middle of the program? A crucial interruption at a crucial juncture of indoctrination resulted in fairly epic failure.
So Natasha had no basis for recognizing love, not subjectively, anyway. She was trained to recognize it in marks. But as a Black Widow, she simply hadn't been allowed to love anyone, romantically or otherwise. And now she felt like the teenager she had never been, unsure of what to do with this new onslaught of emotions. Outwardly Natasha showed no sign of her revelation; inwardly, she felt like an emotional bomb had gone off inside of her.
Up until a few weeks ago, she and Clint were simply the best of partners. And that perfect set of affairs hadn't been unsettled by a near-death experience or a daring rescue, no, no, nothing that...honorable, damnit. No, what threw her life into a tailspin was seeing a junior agent with a perky blonde ponytail and perky little boobs flirting with her partner, and her partner flirting back. And suddenly Natasha wanted to whip out her Widow's Bite and shock that perky ponytail into next week.
No, no, she couldn't do that. She was an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. She could accomplish the same thing through an undercover up. No one would ever have to know Natasha was involved. Her mind was already several steps ahead, analyzing tactics and planning for eventualities when Clint turned his head and saw her, the expression on his face changing when he saw hers. That look brought Natasha back to reality.
Had she really just done that? Wait, had she seriously been planning how to kill a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent because the woman was flirting with her partner? As she looked away from Clint's wary gaze, Natasha acknowledged to herself that her insane anger came from the fact that Clint had flirted back. And why shouldn't he? He didn't have a girlfriend or a wife or anyone to go home to besides her. Clint was an attractive, virile man – he had needs. Who the hell was she to get mad because he moved to fill them?
Neither having any experience herself nor anyone to talk to, Natasha turned to the only thing that seemed like it might be able to help – American media. Knowing that S.H.I.E.L.D. could and would track her Internet habits but being beyond caring, Natasha turned to the online world for help in approaching her situation. How did Americans view love, or at least how had they been culturally conditioned to view it? If she could become familiar with that, maybe it would give her some insight into how to deal with being in love with one. Maybe? It's not like she had anyone else to ask. Having no personal frame of reference, the spy turned to lists of American romance movies on the Internet. Sure, that seemed like a good place to start.
The first movie she watched was "The Notebook".
Oh, sweet merciful heavens, is that what love looked like? That was miserable! That was messy, and confusing, and it looked incredibly painful. Although the couple did have fifty-something years together. That part wasn't bad. But did it really have to be that hard to get there?
Clint grew up in middle America, had been exposed to the standard round of pop culture that everyone else in the U.S. had. Knowing that he preferred movies made during his own lifetime, Natasha stuck to more current movies. Next up? "Dirty Dancing".
When she was done with that one, Natasha felt more prepared to lure marks in through provocative dancing, but not necessarily closer to understanding love. Although...maybe that wasn't true. It certainly lead you to do things you wouldn't normally do. Baby dirty danced, Johnny had an affair with a rich girl. As normally Natasha wouldn't plot the deaths of fellow agents, maybe her jealous rage really was a sign of love. Okay, not a total waste of time.
Following the Internet again, Natasha moved on to "Titanic".
Well, um, okay. Really? Um...so love motivated people to...change their lives, be better people, break out of their comfort zones. That was clearly the message about love in the sinking ship film. That applied, didn't it? She was here working for S.H.I.E.L.D., after all. But she hadn't been in love with Clint when she met him. No, that snuck up on her. She went with Clint because he offered her an alternative to the empty life she was living. She stayed with the agency, though, and she was a better person now than when she came in, she knew that for sure. Had Clint motivated that? Was he part of the reason she had changed into something less irredeemable than she had been before? Well, yes, but not all of it was due to him. A lot of it came from who she was inside, how she had chosen to change. The same could be said for Rose. Jack was dead by the time Rose started actually living her life. So love could motivate, but she herself was still responsible for her own actions.
She still wasn't quite sure that sitting through the boat sinking had been worth what she gained, because, well, just because, but fine, she had to watch all of that to see how Rose's life turned out. Seriously, though? This is what American teenagers grew up on? And while these were all chick flicks, she knew that Clint had seen them. Well, maybe not "The Notebook", but apparently everyone had seen "Titanic", multiple times even. And she remembered Clint making a "Dirty Dancing" reference when Patrick Swayze died. Something about wanting to dance like him so he could impress girls in high school. Even if he hadn't seen "The Notebook", though, any girl that he'd ever dated had. It was still part of Clint's cultural make-up.
Okay, all of the sites said "Gone with the Wind" was required viewing. It wasn't made in the time parameters she had set, but given the vehemence with which it was championed online, Natasha figured she'd better watch it. On to Civil War Atlanta it was.
Um, if nothing else, it was probably more realistic in its depiction of love. Because it was fairly unclear from scene to scene whether Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler were going to have sex or kill each other. Modern Americans, though, seemed to prefer happy endings. Even "Dirty Dancing" avoided pointing out that in the end, the couple had to break up. Natasha had to wonder, though, was America's media culture in any way preparing them its citizens for the realities of living a life with someone? The majority of screen time in these movies seemed to focus on a couple getting together with not much time given to how to sustain a relationship. Then again, dealing with that initial realization of love was Natasha's focus right now, wasn't it? If she and Clint did "get together", though, she didn't want it to be a fleeting thing.
She set about on a new quest, and her search for a movie about a long-term relationship did indeed yield results. "Brokeback Mountain" it was.
Well, that was depressing. Again, the overarching concept seemed to be that love was formative like a powerful waterfall. It shaped lives, defined self-images, never let those it felt it go. Much like the web of an orb-weaver spider catching its food, love absolutely never let its prey go. Of course, Natasha wasn't trying to get free. But could she? If she wanted to? Or would how she felt about Clint follow her no matter where she went or who she went with for the rest of her life? Well, if that was how it was going to be, then she might as well be with the guy she loved rather than settling for a substitute. Okay, then, what now?
One more movie. Having spent two weeks watching and thinking about American romance movies whenever she had a free moment, Natasha felt more educated than when she started. She still needed to know what to say, though. The Internet hadn't let her down so far. The last hurrah? "When Harry Met Sally".
A long-term relationship punctuated by scenes of elderly couples telling their stories. She had ended with a good one. Apparently words were the way to go. None of this messing around stuff, just like on an op. Once you know who you love, you tell them. She got that from all of the movies, actually – the object of your affection may or may not return your feelings, but keeping them bottled up seemed to end disastrously no matter what. Relationships that could have started sooner, don't, ruining lives. Innocent bystanders get dragged in as collateral damage when involved parties settle for them. No. No, she wasn't doing that.
If Clint was horrified to find out that Natasha was in love with him, she would have to hope that the two of them were professional enough to continue working together. They had to be. If they weren't, well, at least she wouldn't feel like this anymore. Either she and Clint would be together or they wouldn't. If they were, all was well. If they weren't, she could deal with the pain and move on. Now she just needed a plan. She had been watching a lot of movies, though. And she was Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow operative of S.H.I.E.L.D., product of the Red Room. She lived to create plans.
I am really curious as to everyone's response to this. Let me know what you think! Oh, and Meg Ryan's famous scene will be mentioned in the next chapter.