Pieces of Her

She's my partner… my partner.

I never realized I was a possessive, jealous bastard before.

The thing is, when you're the only two people in the world that matter to each other, you don't get jealous. I was never resentful of the men on the other side of the scope, the one's in Nat's arms, they're just marks. Even if I've never touched her like that, it didn't matter. She's more possessive of her toothbrush than her body. And I've been allowed to use her toothbrush - sure, only that one time… but still… that counts.

But now, being part of a larger team, the parts of her that were just mine… aren't anymore.

It starts with Banner, the mild-mannered fucker:

He's touching her.

Returning late from a solo mission, I see them sitting together at the kitchen table at Avenger Tower. They're drinking tea. I tell myself I'm not spying. It's not my fault if I'm quiet, I am an assassin after all.

She says something, her voice hushed, eyes dark. He says murmurs a soothing in reply and puts a hand over one of hers.

I wait for her to jerk her hand back. I wait. I keep waiting. In all the time I've know her, she's never let another human touch her for this long voluntarily – other than me. They're just sitting there, together. And HE'S TOUCHING HER.

I must make some involuntary noise because they both turn.

She leaps up and is by my side in a heartbeat. She gently takes my face in her hands. "You okay?" The soft words caress my battered body and ego.

"Barton, Jesus, you look like hell."

"Thanks, Doc." You touchy bastard. I'm not going to admit that my bruised ribs hurt like hell and I think my self-administered stitches are coming lose. "I'm a little busted up, but I should be able to avoid the med bay this time around."

Nat slides my arm around her shoulder and eases some weight onto her shoulders. "I'll get you patched up and put to bed."

I shake her off, "I'll be fine." I need some time to process this new emotion and I don't want her around stripping me bare when I'm raring to either kiss her or put my hand through a wall just because Bruce Banner was practically holding her hand.

"Don't be an ass, Barton." The hurt in her voice kills me. "Let me help."

I am. I'm a jealous ass, and I don't feel like explaining that to her. "All good. See you tomorrow." And I limp to my room, alone.

The next time it's Thor:

"Lady Natasha, I come bearing a gift in honor of your naming day!"

I wince, Thor has yet to master the art of 'indoor voice.' I wait for Nat to roll her eyes; she hates it when people insist on celebrating her birthday. But instead, she turns and gasps in delight. "Is it really…"

A birthday gift is usually flowers, jewelry, balloons or gift card.

NOT a hogtied Hydra drug lord wearing a ridiculously large red bow on his head.

"I've been told one wraps a present, but this human kept tearing his wrapping paper. I'm afraid only the bow remained, my lady."

Nat and I have been hunting this bastard for close to 3 months. He squirms trying to dislodge pieces of scotch tape with remnants of pink ducks. Looks like Thor tried wrapping him in baby shower wrapping paper.

"I have taken the liberty of clearing his interrogation with Sir Fury. He is all yours."

Natasha looks like a child on Christmas day who just got the dolly she's always wanted… a psychotic child who can't wait to take it apart bit by bit. The Hydra agent's eyes widen in fear. Poor Nat, I don't think this will take long, after being kidnapped and gift wrapped by a god, then delivered to an assassin as a birthday present, he already looks ready to break.

She looks up at Thor and smiles. "Thor, this just might be the best birthday present ever." It's a sweet and sincere smile she rarely graces anyone with… even me! I swear the giant lout blushes. "Come and bring him to interrogation room 3."

She's practically skipping out the door past me. "Hey Clint, want to share my birthday present?" Her grin turns feral. "I'll even let you play with some of my new toys." She dangles a set of shiny new handcuffs from Stark in front of me.

I can't help but laugh. "No thanks, Thor got him for you. You shouldn't have to share."

Is that a trace of disappointment, quickly schooled behind her mask? Must be my imagination.

"Okay, party pooper." She skips out the door, leaving me alone with my thoughts and a small box I forgot to give her. I decide to stick it back in the closet.

And then there's Captain America:

Now I know I shouldn't be threatened by a virgin old enough to be my grandfather – but this just takes the fucking cake.

She's dancing with him.

It happens while we're watching some crappy 1940's Fred and Ginger movie, because he wanted to take some dame to see it a few decades ago and missed the chance. I'm on a sofa near the outside of the room, and Nat's basically using me as a recliner (not that I'm complaining).

From our vantage, I can see something that, as a dude, I'm honor bound to ignore. Steve Rogers is tearing up. His eyes are glassy and bright with tears as he watches these two dancers/air force pilots/dog trainers (seriously, the plot makes no sense) twirl around in black and white. Screwball dance movies were never meant to cause as much misery as I see on Cap's face.

I think I'm the only one who notices when Nat tenses in my arms. She silently gets up and elbows Steve. "Come on, you're gonna have to learn some time. Dance with me, Cap."

Steve manages not to stammer too much as she pulls him to his feet. I watch he hesitantly puts his hands around her and she smiles encouragingly

Tony whispers behind me. "Is our KGB assassin giving Captain America giving dance lessons?"

"Shut up, Tony. She'll kill you with that soda straw." And I want to garrote Steve Rogers with the red vines I'm holding.

I watch his hands on her waist, so big they almost encircle it completely; her small hands barely reach his over-muscled shoulders. The simple height difference means that she's pressed directly against his chest, and I want to shove my way between them like a middle school monitor telling them to stay at arm's length.

They sway for a few minutes and I'm convinced that the reason I'm turning red is because Stark keeps the heat up entirely too high.

She spins away as the music ends, and he's smiling, like she's fucking healed him or something.

She saunters back over to me and gracefully jumps back onto the couch. She leans across to lean back against me again, but I jump up. "Sorry, Nat. Bathroom break."

I scurry away, and don't return. That night, my dreams are haunted by a dancing Natasha. She's always dancing with someone else.

I nearly kill Tony:

Returning from the range, I hear her laugh.

The Black Widow has almost a dozen distinct laughs from giggly to smoky. Every one of them has a purpose, from the simpering to seductive to intentionally irritating.

But this is not a black widow laugh, it's a real, honest-to-god Natasha laugh.

It takes less than two minutes to get into the air vent above them. Tony's mixing a drink behind the bar, while she sits on the other side, a cut crystal glass of his very good vodka in front of her. She's plain losing it as he sings a TERRIBLE off-key rendition of an old Russian drinking song.

It took me almost a year of cracking jokes in her earpiece and after missions before I heard that sound. But now she's giving him a full-throated Natasha laugh as she gasps. "Tony, you suck. Have Clint teach you to sing that properly, PLEASE."

Now I know, intellectually, that Tony has Pepper, but I also know in my gut (and from our conversations while she was undercover at Stark industries) that he was very much in lust with Natalie Rushman from legal.

I try and remind myself of how infuriated she was by his childish, petulant behavior, how much she disliked him. It's hard to remember as he suddenly claps his hands in victory and points at her. "That's it! The first real thing you've given me!"

Perceptive bastard.

She pulls the mask up quickly, something like fear crosses her features before the stoic façade is complete.

Tony sets the bottles down and smirks down at her. "You've started unbending around the rest of the team. You let Bruce, Steve and Thor in just a little under that icy exterior… I was beginning to feel left out."

"You're drunk."

"I'm not drunk, Ladyhawk."

He must be to call her that. She pushes the chair away and moves to leave.

"You know it's killing him, right?"

She freezes.

"We're becoming a team, a family, but every time you allow someone to see a new emotion, he feels like he's losing that piece of you."

"You're wrong." Her voice is strained.

"Hawkboy doesn't share well… And worse, he doesn't realize that you're doing it for him."

She goes to the window, staring out at the city below. He follows standing far too close for comfort, my comfort anyway. She's ignoring him.

"Poor Pinocchio. You're trying to become a real girl, for him."

She shakes her head. "You don't know what you're talking about." She sounds like she's trying to convince her self more than him.

His hand reaches over and gently caresses her cheek. "I'm talking about becoming human."

The gesture is too intimate, she retreats to the bar and takes a long drink, putting space between them. Tony is undeterred. "If you can dance, touch, smile and laugh… perhaps you can even love." As much as I want to hear this, I also kind of want to put an arrow through his arc reactor right now. "You've never voluntarily taken a lover, have you?"

"Shut up!"

I never pegged Tony as a mean drunk, but he's relentless. "You're afraid you won't know how to love him." He takes her hand and places it over the glowing circle under his tee shirt. "I don't even have a heart, and you're breaking it, Coppélia."

She tries to pull away but he keeps her hand under his. "Would you like to take me for a test drive first, just to see what it's like when there's no mission on the line?" Despite the lewdness of his proposition, there is a genuine concern in his eyes, like he's truly offering to help. My fingers itch to reach for an arrow.

There's a sharp sound and a small perfectly formed red handprint on his cheek. "Niet." She removes her hand and this time he does not stop her.

As she turns to leave, she throws over her shoulder. "But thanks for the offer, it was almost… sweet."

His shoulders slump and he shouts after her. "Don't let it get around… I was just trying to get into your pants… I don't care about your stupid issues, really, I don't. I just wanted sex!" It's a sad thing, listening to someone try and convince himself of a lie.

I want to go to her, but Fury puts her on 'an easy New York job' that night as a dancer and she's out before I can even say goodbye. I'm stuck on escorting a caravan of phase 2 tech across a god-forsaken desert for a week before I'm allowed to catch up with her.

She's undercover in a classical ballet troupe. Natasha will catch the eye of a specific Russian arts patron during a performance, when he approaches her after the show, I'll get his access card, copy and return it while she distracts him. Simple mission, child's play.

I sneak in to surprise her at the deserted theater. She's rehearsing late into the night after everyone else has gone home, unaware of my presence high in the scaffolding.

Oh shit. Why didn't I pay attention to the details of her cover: she's playing Coppélia.

Painted doll lips, circles on her cheeks, eyelashes painted on to look a cupie doll. The costume is exaggerated German folk garb. She leaps and twirls in a beautiful defiance of gravity, her movements are sharp, angular, doll-like, a marionette not in control of it's own destiny. She's rehearsing the same piece over and over again. A doll seducing a young man who thinks she's a real girl.

There's something very wrong here. By the fourth time, I notice the tears streaming down her face as she beckons the imaginary young lover. The man who will volunteer to die on an alter to give her his soul. By the sixth, I can hear the sobs. I watch horrified as she forces her body to go through the motions again and again. Her toes bleed through the pink satin of her point shoes by the thirteenth repetition. At the end of the sixteenth time, she screams with rage.

She starts yelling at her phantom pas du deux partner as the starts the music again. "Come to me my poor, stupid love." Doll hands lure him to her. "You've fallen in love with a puppet." Choking out angry words as she delivers one perfect pirouette after another. "This doll can't love you, idiot Hawk."


She suddenly stops and starts laughing, a frightening, maniacal sound. "This choreography is stupid." She suddenly changes the style, the doll movements are still jerky and awkward, but now it's somehow sensual as well. The doll is becoming the Black Widow. She does a flirtatious over the shoulder kiss at the imaginary boy and removes a piece of her costume, luring him with it. Turning the doll's dance into a strip tease.

It's erotic and horrible beyond words.

"Don't worry, Clint." She talks to the imaginary partner as she unlaces the corset. "I know how the ballet ends. You'll try and die for me, but a real girl will save you." The white peasant top is teased down each shoulder. "Perhaps Bobbi or another soldier like Maria." She removes the skirt with a sensual roll of her hips. "This doll will not get your soul in the end." She's now nude save for a thin white leotard and blood stained pointe shoes. The music reaches a crescendo and she leaps and twirls like a puppet without it's strings, collapsing as the music ends.

She sobs on the floor. "I will never be a real girl."

I can't watch anymore. Noiselessly I rappel down one of the ropes landing angling the swing so I land near her. I'm in such a rush, I misjudge the angle slightly and end up landing on top of her, grabbing her waist and pulling her to me as we tumble across the stage floor together.

We roll to a stop, I'm on top of her as she's crying and beating on my chest. "God damn you, Clint Barton. What are you doing here?"

I kiss her. There's nothing else I can do. I slam my lips into hers like I want to devour her. She struggles for a moment and I almost stop, then something in her changes and she's opening her mouth under mine, fingers trace up my shoulders clinging to me as desperately as I am to her. We're locked like that, lips duel in a fury of passion and need. Sitting up I pull her into my lap and she wraps her legs around my waist, I push against her center, hard and aching for her, groaning into her mouth. Impatience makes me uncharacteristically clumsy and I rip a strap from her shoulder, the apology dies in my mouth as her eyes widen in arousal. Jesus I love this woman. In for a penny, in for a pound, I take the thin material in my hands and tear it completely from her exquisite form. My greedy hands cover her breasts as I devour the soft flesh of her neck.

She suddenly stiffens in my arms, her eyes locked on an over sized set piece. I follow her gaze, it's a huge mirror, we make a striking tableau, but with her makeup, it still looks like a man embracing a doll.

Some part of her psyche seems to break watching us. She stands and walks to the mirror, eyes locked on her reflection, a naked, perfect china figurine. "The doll seduces him." It's a horrified whisper. She punches the glass and it shatters. A thousand refractions of a broken doll stare back. "Go find a real girl, Barton." Her voice is hard, the Black Widow's voice.

This is what it feels like when your heart breaks.

She turns to walk away and I lose it. "No, no, no!" I grab her in a tight embrace and force her to watch us together in the mirror. Taking the ruined leotard, I gently wipe away the paint from her cheeks. "LOOK!" She leans her head back against my chest and tears running down her cheeks as I remove the comically over-drawn eyelashes on her lids . "You're here, you're real." Tears still fall. Gently, I move the cloth over her lips, erasing the cupie doll lips and uncovering the lush ones I'll love for the rest of my life. "You're real."

She stares at our reflection in the broken mirror, searching. "If I'm not the widow… Who am I, Clint?"

"You're mine." When did being a possessive jerk turn into a beautiful truth? "My partner, my love." And to prove I'm not a COMPLETELY possessive jerk I continue. "You're Bruce's confidant, Steve's friend, Thor's warrior comrade, and Tony's… well I'm not quite sure about Tony."

She laughs, and it's a balm to my tired soul.

"You're real to all of us."

She kisses me hesitantly. "I'm afraid… I don't how to do this… love you..."

I kiss her back, desperately. "You've loved me wonderfully for a long time… Protected me, comforted me, we've been lovers for years. We just didn't call it that."

She smiles up at me and it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I take her face in my hands and brush away the tears marring her cheeks. "You're a real girl." I place a feather light kiss on her lips. "My girl." Her returning kiss is searing and perfect.

Who knew I was such a jealous, possessive jerk. Turns out that's just fine.


Authors note - thanks a million to the talented DJ Liopleurodon for the support and beta work!