A reality in which a blow to the head would not stop a mind-controlled assassin, an unstoppable truth, necessary brutality without any thought of a happy resolution, and an intense hatred for all things Divine. Clintasha, in some ways.
I own nothing.
Not once had she ever believed in God. There was no deity in the star-studded skies with their immortal gaze turned to Earth, seeking examples of truth, shining prominence of humans and their talents. No evidence was to be given, and the proof of her worship was slicked clean by frost-bitten, weapon-wielding hands when she came of age. The only savior she needed was herself.
If there had been such creatures watching over not only her, but humanity in full, then where were they when injustice occurred, when crimes were committed, silenced by the blinding, dark-sung night? If there was amorality amongst the thrones, if timeless eyes scoffed at mortal attempts to find peace with their own existence, practicality and perverse pleasure in their art, she wanted no part in such a system.
Although, if there was a god of murder, they would be well aware of her.
By poison, dripped dripped into too-full wine glasses, by a neatly-timed blow of weapons to pressure points, of daggers to veins that left little for the rivulets of life. By trickery, her lips smiling one minute by a claret sheen of lipstick, the next her mouth set in the firm, hard line of her mission of the duplicity she assumed with her dresses and choice of heels for the morning.
Black Widow, a spider whose fangs dripped with venom, who used those in her bed for her own purpose - be they selfish or situational - all with a goal in mind that she herself didn't know.
Monster, the whispering, faded light of her victims proclaimed. Machine, unspoken, heaving breaths articulated, hands grasping for support or weapons, both unfulfilled requests to their grave. Judgment in the final seconds was part of it, no matter the name-calling.
How someone who looked like her could bring about the demise of so many seemed to stun those in her crossfire, someone who was deemed beautiful, exquisite, without flaw in the throes of the passion they granted her. Passion that was, until they were gone from the world, one-sided.
She fought for herself, the craft of her work unparalleled, the world of criminals and thieves her victims, and playground for the savagery she bridled, sheathing carnality with the hafts of her weapons, with the still-settling shrapnel of the explosions she caused. The world would burn if she wanted it to; the world that she slipped in and out of by playing the part of the martyr, the aloof beauty, the eye-candy to the arm of whomever was with her at the time was a well-rehearsed script, forged and sculpted with the stage of experience, exotic or remote locations the back-drop for the place she created a name for herself with.
To this exhaustive hour, after enough introspection and self-speculation to last a lifetime, she found herself wondering if all of that had any purpose, other than painting a bulls-eye on the back of her head. Was it self-destruction, the inexcusable truth of consequence that made her fulfill her past, blood-mired and body-littered though it may have been? She didn't know.
What she did know was that there was someone she owed her life to, if not a favor created with every breath she took, every time she so much as bat an eyelid. It was fitting that she would have been executed at a dizzying vantage point instead of in the justice system, locked away or euthanized with the assassins who killed too close to enemy-lines. There was not only a bounty on her head, but a full-fledged guillotine with her name on it.
If Clint didn't know already, he was a far better person that she ever could be. She could forsake her old ways, use her expertise and tactical know-how in anyway she desired from S.H.I.E.L.D, but it didn't erase the fact that she was still breathing, still alive and well thanks to the expense of a change of heart from an arrow-smith. Easily, her heart could have been punctured, blood spilling from the cage of her ribs, thick red life pooling from her lips, staining her teeth.
There was no arrow; just a redirection of her talents that let her be assimilated to the good side, to a purpose that was the walking diametric of all that she once stood for. If the roles had been reversed and she had been assigned to impale a wild-at-heart assassin with only his vendetta to answer to, Barton would have been dead sixty seconds after the notch of the bow strings.
He spared her, she owed him. He granted her life, she had a debt to settle.
And, as much as it was a profound blow to her ego, it was a truth she had to live with until the time came for her to help Clint, for the circumstantial apex that pointed at her mission: help Clint, help Hawkeye, help her unneeded savior.
Never in her wildest dreams did she consider what this could entail. Of all the scenarios that filled her dreams, that colored the black tapestry behind her eyelids, of all the times she fought alongside her friend and comrade in arms, none pointed to this reality. That being said, she meditated herself fully into a state of restful subconscious, a purposeful deterrence to any horrors her mind had the capability to act on, to create in sleep. Nightmares remained unclear, little more than glimpses snatched from her memory, nothing more than that time in Italy, that beautiful killing on the train to Russia, the cacophonous snap of a man's neck as she fled from a charity ball.
She purposefully reigned in her imagination for the sake of a personal failsafe, that way there was no chance of allowing it to run wild, of allowing herself to consider her past acts, sins of the minds of those who believed in the glistening feathers of guardian angels as well as the prayer beads handed out to those who acted. She didn't desire for fear, the the ever-elusive phrase for "what-if" to tear her world asunder, for her heart, for the full glut of human emotion to drown her, to infiltrate her every inner-devising, every pass-code preventing entry.
Maybe that was why she didn't see this coming, the betrayal of the one who granted her life.
Their steps were precision-borne, a fist blocking a blow here, a flip of the leg there, side-steps, exhalations, balance everywhere. An even match in simulated combat; an even match in a true fight.
As true as the God of Lies allowed his puppets to be that is, the glowing blue light of Clint's eyes dictating the truth of an entire mind-control operation. Loki needed pawns who wouldn't think for themselves, people that would loss their sense of disobedience entire in order to see his plan through to the end. Without honor, with practice, with every intent to inflict harm to all.
There had to be a way to shake him from this, to snap him out of the murderous trance, to wake him up. There had to be someway for him to see sense; there had to be.
Blow after blow was delivered, without mercy, and the slightest hint of stopping, a machine ingrained with Clint's killing instincts, a machine without any memory of one another. Her fists hit his head once, twice, thrice, meeting nothing but flesh, hair, and skull, his teeth bared, hands groping for her arms, the intent brutal. She hit the base of his skull, his forehead, his neck, flipping herself until his neck was between her legs, squeezing until his air supply was gone, subconscious hurtling to its welcoming oblivion.
Over? Was it?
Five minutes. Ten, twenty. She managed to hurl him over her shoulder and run down metal-racked staircases, down corridors, through the pipes, squeezing in-between the obstacles that barricaded them for safety, from the doctors that could siphon out whatever was preventing Clint from seeing reason.
There were hands on her neck suddenly, her vision blooming in flashes of color, muscles constricting by the death-grip. She flung him from her shoulder, slamming his head against a thin metal bar to her left, awaiting his surface to reality, to the realization of whose side he came to, of what he had done.
It never came. His eyes glinted with the same blue light, a power commanding him by the gods she never believed in, his perception skewered, altered by the control of another.
If there had been time, if he had not pined her to the ground, clawing at her neck, her face, her eyes, she would have sedated him, would have found the malicious, calculated god and snapped his scepter in half over her knee. If there had been time, a time in which she accepted that her time to repay her debt to him was as overdue as the seconds drained away at their tussle, as well as the realization that, had Clint woken up, he would have understood with ever-dawning horror the damage that had been done to him, the damage he had inflicted, she would have done something about it, anything.
He was too good a soul to live with such a woe, with such painful knowledge of the sins he committed. He had rebuilt himself plenty of times, but not once had he ever been made such a heinous weapon.
The debt was life, a life saved to a life owed. She'd release him from a loss of his mind.
This was no longer Clint Barton, she embraced with a twist of her hips, her knees slamming into his ribs, no longer the man who believed more than the rumors about the infamous Black Widow and saw a spark of something that resembled goodness deep within. This was a controlled player in a puzzle that could ruin the world entire, all due to gods that she never invested faith in.
And look what gods had done, she told herself after the deed was complete: broke the neck of her unneeded and yet very needed savior.
She didn't need comfort, no matter when it was offered to her by her team. Bruce's eyes gauged her ramrod posture as if seeking weakness, an interesting reaction in her, as if she had become little more than one of the components he examined beneath a microscope. Steve, their still-adjusting leader closed his eyes when he heard the news of what had happened, and the way his hands shook, as if seeking to rest on her shoulders was not overlooked. She was glad they chose to tremble at his side only, for their target sought no proximity.
Tony was capable of showing emotion, of bouts of ambiguous questions that connected to another segment of his twisting world, his jaw that hung agape and eyes colored by shock revealing that truth to her. Thor's reaction was a combination of wrath and full-out deflation, his eyes brimming with moisture first, fists clenching and un-clenching, his jaw gnashing his teeth together as if he could hold the will of his brother in his teeth. He left the room, excusing himself with footfalls tainted by two griefs: the thought that Loki was truly lost to him as well as the death of someone he barely knew, hitting him in the heart like a well-timed arrow.
A fitting analogy.
Coulson's belief was still in heroes no matter if one of them had fallen to a place where mind-control could not touch such a soul. His jaw was set as if by wire, his throat bobbing ten times, a curt nod of his head revealing the sadness he couldn't express outright, a loss in control that he didn't want the hastily assembled Avengers to witness lest he be thought weak.
Fury remained impassive but there was a trace of foreign emotion on his face, something that made his lips shift down at the edges, his posture a little too perfect as he surveyed the area from above, from the panorama that he made his home.
There was nothing that could have been done, they all understood in their own way, the realization fresh, still-bleeding as they marched into battle against Loki and his army of destruction. Not a thing that would have ensured Clint's resurface, reversed from the hold on his mind. They understood that.
What Natasha knew was the brutal, veracious blade of loss, cutting with fire into her breast, her heart filled with the smile of a man who loved her, of a man too afraid of change and alteration to speak of it, a man who saw but a glimpse of her true nature and accepted her through to her black, deceitful heart.
There was no one else like him, not a one in the world.
The gods must have dictated that she kill the one who cared about her, a being that would defy them. For, if a god fought alongside her, against a god with horns and plots for armor, it must have been so.
She bathed in what she created, the chaos she stifled with more chaos. Bred by fire, she controlled the flame, exploding what was necessary and fleeing from the rest only to be brought to the front-line once more.
It was how it was meant to be all along, this plunge into red. She might have fought for a worthier cause, dismissed her heart and childish notions and terms to eradicate the red in her ledger. But it by no means kept her from a brief taste of normalcy, tainted by the horror of this concept of a team, of making people stand by you: mourning when they fell, even if it was necessary.
She began a habit that day, the day of Thor's return to Asgard with the muzzled, beaten god who forced her to bend: cursing such deity's, creatures that denied her the peace of a gentle smile, the deep peals of laughter to a shared joke, entwined memories.
It might have been dawn, or perhaps dusk when the one directly responsible for coloring her world left this one entirely; it didn't really matter.
What did were the spots of red she envisioned on her palms, a slow-spread of crimson that began at the base of her fingers, staining them indelible no matter how many lives she supposedly saved.
If it took belief to curse gods, then she counted herself as a believer.
...We'd be so less fragile
If we're made from metal
And our hearts from iron
And our minds from steel...