NATALIA:I was only 16 when I met him. A young newly trained assassin, I had been sent out to take out a powerful client who had recently figured out how to undercut my boss. If he spread his knowledge, our boss's services would be rendered... Unnecessary. He would become a useless person, having expired due to advances by others. So naturally, we just eliminated the competition.
This particular target had several bodyguards, but they were all clumsy and slow. What good was a guard who couldn't even SEE the attacker? I had taken out nine of his ten outer guards, expecting way more inside the room. My ear piece buzzed to life, the partner I'd been assigned spoke from the other end. "I'm not exactly sure, but... There seems to only be one person in that room. Either it isn't him, or he didn't expect this assault. At all.
I took a deep breath and braced myself to kick the door in, pistols raised to what I'd known would be heart level if he was standing and head level if he was sitting. Right as I raised my leg to kick the door in, my earpiece buzzed again. I waited for my partner to speak, instead finding a sharp object poking my back. I smiled to myself before acknowledging the sharp object. "So you're a late bodyguard, and you're going to do what the others couldn't? You're going to protect your boss, and kill me?" It wasn't until he spoke that I truly understood the gravity of my situation.
"Natalia Romanova, you've caused quite a stir in our organization. I've been sent here to eliminate you." I sighed deeply before responding. "Please just tell me you're not some cheap amateur. Please tell me they realize how dangerous I really am." He looked past me at the door I'd been poised to kick in. "Your target is still alive?" I nodded. "Yeah, thanks to you." I realized our voices were picking up slightly so I gestured towards the staircase on our right. "Please, at least give me that." He held his hand out, looking dead at my guns. I handed them over; sure I'd be able to get them back off of him if needed be. It seemed all he had was a bow and a quiver of arrows. No matter how effective those would be on me if he kept me in an execution stance, I had a feeling he'd try to talk to my face.
Once we were in the stairwell he began searching me for other weaponry. "I know no good assassin hands over all their tricks at the first request. You're hiding something." I rolled my eyes, trying to hide how impressed I was that he knew that. No good assassin traveled with less than a pocket sized arsenal of murderous weaponry. He found my poison darts, throwing knives, all the common assassin weaponry we were all equipped with. It wasn't until he got to my wrists that I got nervous. He couldn't know about my electrically charged wristbands could he? No, my spider bites were a complete secret. Nobody who had ever seen them lived long enough to pass the info along. The moment he pulled my wristbands off though, I knew he must have known somehow. He did it so deliberately, so sure of some hidden danger, it wasn't even possible that he hadn't known. I realized I was now completely defenseless. I was essentially a sitting duck, waiting for this man with a bow and arrow to go Robin Hood on my ass.
But then he surprised me. "Miss Romanova, you have a choice here. I came here with the orders and intent to eliminate you. However, if you'd rather live, you can come back with me, and I can vouch for you. I'm sure with your particular skill set the organization would be happy to have you. All you have to do is walk away from your target. Leave him a live, leave with me, and you'll start with a clean slate." I looked up into his eyes, noticing for the first time how impossibly blue they were. I decided to keep my tough act on, to see how he reacted. "Go back with you so you guys can... What- Kill me there? Slow torture? Oh it's starvation isn't it? You'd love a chance to kill me on your own turf, where you don't have to just quickly and quietly snap my neck or drive that arrow through my heart."
And then he surprised me again. He actually sat his weapons down, behind him in the corner on the pile of my weaponry. He pulled his little assassin tricks out and laid them with mine. "If I wanted to kill you, you'd be dead already. I'm not going to torture you. But right now you have two options. Come back with me, or stay here and be killed. If you kill that target, you'll be shot the second you exit the building. I won't have any choice. But if you walk with me now, you're safe." I studied his face closely, unsure of what I wanted to do. It seemed as if he was giving me a life or death scenario. Of course I wanted to live. But at the same time, I'd be disobeying direct orders from the head boss at OUR organization. I could either die fulfilling my mission, fight for all I was worth and SURVIVE my mission, or go with this blue eyed demon, who would either kill me or actually let me live like he said. Right now, my survival was a priority. I decided to do the craziest, most life-altering thing I could have possibly done. "The moment I see a damp rag that might have chloroform coming at me, you and your co-workers will be dead." He smiled, well aware that he'd caught more than just my interest, he'd appealed to my desire to stay alive.
Looking back on it all now, I can't believe how stupid I was. Not the part where I decided to go with him, no. The part where I acted like I was better than everyone else. I was such a narcissist. How I had managed to be a good, successful assassin was beyond me.
Setting the photo of Clint and I back on the mantel, I continue unpacking. We'd decided to try living with one another a few months ago, only to find that neither of us had enough room in our small houses. It took us weeks to find a house we agreed on, and even longer still to pack all our belongings and bring them to the new house. Truth be told, I missed my old place already. I'd had a perfect set up so nobody could ever possibly even think of sneaking up on me anywhere in the house. I hadn't familiarized myself with the new house yet, at least not well enough to feel comfortable taking showers alone.
Once we'd been unpacking for a good number of hours, I slipped over to him and hugged his waist. "Sweetie... I want to take a shower. Will you keep watch?" I could almost sense the smile that crept across his lips. I knew he loved when I asked him for help; it made him feel like he was just a little more important than before. Truth be told, he was far more important to me than he would ever know, and I liked to keep it that way. He helped me dig out a towel and some clean clothes, before putting his back to the bathroom door. I leaned my forehead against his shoulder blade, breathing in his scent. "Thank you, Clint." I closed the door, and turned the hot water on. As the water heated up, I slipped out of my dirty yoga pants, and my oversized t-shirt. Clint had refused to let me wear my "good" clothes to move, so this was what I'd been stuck in. I slipped my hand under the shower head, making sure the water was hot enough, before slipping off the rest of my clothes and stepping into the shower. It took me awhile before I could fully accept that Clint was watching the door for me, and that I was safe to take my shower.
Once I'd finished, I stood in front of the mirror for awhile, taking in every inch of my skin. I saw scars from missions I'd done long ago, birthmarks I'd long since memorized. My body was like a map. I smiled at my reflection before pulling Clint's t-shirt onto my body and walking out of the bathroom, heading straight for the bed. Exhaustion was the worst part of the move so far. Clint crawled in next to me and curled up close to me, as I slipped into a much needed slumber.
I found my hand stroking Natalia's hair even before she'd completely dozed off. Once I was sure she was asleep, I carefully shifted from the bed and went to unpack more stuff. I knew she would wake up wondering what had happened, but she would put two and two together. If she didn't get rid of this fear she had, this fear of the unexpected, I didn't know how she'd ever live a normal life. Well, as normal a life as any S.H.I.E.L.D. operative could have. My hand brushed against something soft, a stuffed animal. I lifted it from the box and examined it. "So she kept it..." I smiled to myself as I shifted the small pink bunny to my other hand.
The first date she'd actually let me take her on had also been a secret mission. We'd been sent in to question the owner of an amusement park, who had claimed to have found the body of a man S.H.I.E.L.D. had been hunting for some time. Seeing how he complied easily and no interference had crossed them, they'd been given a little bit of extra time to enjoy themselves, which was an EXTREMELY rare treat when you worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. like they did. She had been mesmerized by a certain game involving fish, paper, and patience. After seven tries she'd given up. That was when I had stepped up and got myself a round as well. I won the game, and consequently, the small pink bunny as well. She'd carried it around at the park but said she'd donate it to kids or something after that. I was not only shocked and surprised she'd actually kept it, I was honored that it was in her special box.
I moved my eyes to the rest of the box's content, noting hard, clear presses with flowers in each one. It wasn't until I got to a particularly rare flower that you can only get from South America that I realized what she'd been doing. "Saving them all..." I smiled to myself, shaking my head slightly. I'd been purchasing her flowers since day one. It would seem that she was now collecting them. I placed all her things back in the box and pressed it under her bed before working on the next box.
After about fifteen boxes, I stopped. The box I held in my hands contained all the photo albums from all our missions together. Budapest, Israel, Japan, China, Monaco... I sat down to look through the photos. I got to the photos from Egypt and could barely stifle my laughter. There we were, standing on top of camels as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Photos of us skydiving over South Africa, rafting in rapids, and photos of beautiful scenery we'd seen across the years covered the pages. I smiled to myself, remembering my favorite mission, the one where she'd first told me she loved me.
"Clint! Clint! Come look, the view is spectacular! I can't believe we got assigned to New Zealand together!" I watched Natalia run ahead of me, standing atop the mountains. The sun illuminated her frame, casting a brilliant glow across her skin. Her smile was glowing brighter than usual, and I loved it. I walked over to the edge slowly, not for fear of falling, but because I enjoyed hearing her excited calls telling me I needed to see what she was seeing. The longer I took, the more urgent she sounded. It was almost too adorable. Who would have thought that THE infamous Black Widow could be adorable? I never would have thought she could be anything less than lethal, had I not saved her life and fallen for her in one fell swoop.
She'd never really know the effect she had on me, I was certain. I wasn't even sure myself how far she could push me before I'd stop her. I was almost sure I'd never stop her. Weather it be her pushing me to do my best on missions, or her deciding to push me off this cliff this very second, I was sure I'd just follow suit.
I finally reached her standing point, looking out at the horizon with her. She'd slowly snaked her hand with mine, and smiled into the wind. I remember her looking over at me, that gorgeous smile plastered across her face as if she had been smiling her whole life, as she whispered "I love you, Clint.." I'd stared at her, barely registering the sunset that threw shadows on us as it slipped from view, barely aware of the increasingly cold winds. With four little words, Natalia had changed my life. And I'd never let her go.
We had turned to go back to the snowmobiles, realizing any longer and we'd probably be stranded there until the next day. I wasn't sure exactly how cold the nights in New Zealand would be, but I could take a guess from how cold the days were. We had been almost back in when our snowmobile had hit a rock, mostly buried by snow, and crashed. I remembered being so scared that Natalia would get sick, so I'd carried her the rest of the way. We'd beaten frostbite to the door; neither of us caught hypothermia either. Doctors tell us it was sheer dumb luck. I think it was because Natalia was in danger, that I was able to move twice as fast.
I put the photo albums away and began unpacking her clothes for her. She'd need them tomorrow; Fury hadn't given us much time for the move. I found a simple black dress, the one she'd worn on our sixth date. I'd taken her out to a fancy dinner, one we decided to skip anyway. We found ourselves at the local diner instead, eating hamburgers with root beers. I smiled to myself as I hung it up. Everything we owned was another memory we'd created. Each of her body suits had their own little defects by now. The one with the cracked belt buckle was from the time we'd had to fight Thor's brother's army of alien scum. The one that had paint splatter on it was from the Mardi Gras celebration mission we'd gone on. And the one that looked like it had been licked by a dog made of acid? That was the time that some guy lost his cool in Singapore and started making acid more controllable as a weapon. Not a good idea, crazy scientist man... Not a good idea. I'd had to shoot him in the back of the head, he'd hurt Natalia. Nobody hurt her, unless they wanted to die. It was an unspoken rule between me and the rest of the world. Or universe, whichever you'd prefer to say.
I glanced back at Natalia laying on the bed. She was an angel, if I'd ever saw one. A deadly destructive-when-mad angel, but an angel nonetheless. And I loved her with all that I was. I glanced around for more boxes to unpack, relived to find there wasn't a single unopened box left. All that were open had been emptied, as well. It seemed like the hardest part of the move was now over. Now all we have to do is settle in. "Easier said than done..." I murmur to myself. Natalia doesn't stir; I don't attempt to wake her either. The more she gets rest, the better I'll feel. She'd been awake for days, running herself ragged trying to move everything to this hours on time, to unpack, to be ready for work when we got forced back to it. I thought we'd all earned ourselves a nice long vacation, too bad the rest of the world refused to let us have one.
I glanced at the clock and noticed I'd worked through the night. If I knew Natalia, and I did, she'd be getting up soon to start her day. I crawled back into the bed, having learned long ago how to sneak past her natural guarding, without being caught. I laid my face so our noses touched slightly, and watched her sleep. A short while later, as I'd thought, her brilliant green eyes opened and she stared straight back at me. I leaned forward, kissing her softly. "Good morning Natalia" I said with a grin. She stretched out and yawned. "I know you weren't keeping watch all night, Clint." I laughed and sat up, shaking my head. "I was finishing the unpacking. Less work for you, right?" She looked around, clearly happy I'd decided to do it. "But what if someone came after one of us, or even both of us in the middle of the night?" I shook my head. "That wouldn't happen though and even if it did... We have tricks up our sleeves." I smirk at Natalia. "I know you like to make sure everything is safe but I can promise you this. As long as I'm around, I won't let anybody hurt you." I pushed a lock of her hair behind her ear and smiled lovingly at her. "You don't always have to be on guard..." I leaned in and kissed her once more before getting out of bed and suiting up, ready to face anything the world threw at me, so long as Natalia was by my side.