I wanted to play around with some alternate backstory ideas, and this is the result. It's an alternate universe where Clint and Natasha are freelance assassins instead of working for S.H.I.E.L.D. Thanks to Enigma731 for the beta!

Disclaimer: nothing you see here is mine.

Clint finds the Black Widow on a bed, laid out for him like an offering, looking smaller and younger than he expected when a man with a heavy accent paid him to take her out. The man was some flunky from Brighton Beach and normally Clint would send him packing with a message that Clint dealt with the guy in charge or not at all, but he needs to see if the rumours are true. He's told she has a kill list to rival his own and her skills are some of the best in the business, but she doesn't even move when he strides towards her, and that's when he sees the red stain spreading across her baby blue halter-neck.

Bullet wound in the stomach. Someone got here first. He looks back at the face of his would-be kill.

Her breath comes in thready gasps, sweat glistening on her waxy skin, stringy hair as red as her blood. She's barely conscious, and yet she has the audacity to stare straight back at him, like looking him in the eye could be some final act of defiance.

Go on, her eyes say. Do your worst.

Her lashes flutter as she passes out. He presses his gloved fingers to her throat and feels a faint pulse. He could put his gun to her temple and that would be it, the hit would count as his.

Instead, Clint dials 911 and leaves.

When he sits on the roof across the street to watch the ambulance arrive, he tells himself that it would have been too easy. No fun killing a girl half dead.

The abandoned warehouse is cold enough to freeze his balls off, but it's the perfect place to dispose of a body. Clint loves the classics.

He steps away from the remains of the burnt corpse on the concrete floor. Maybe he can have a beer on the way home, pay some pretty tart to keep him company. This job pays well enough.

"You know," a female voice rings out behind him. "The arrows are a nice touch."

He spins around, handgun drawn, ready to fire, and comes face to face with the Black Widow. "Easy, soldier," she laughs, holding up her hands mockingly. "I'm unarmed and I'm not here for work."

Clint doesn't lower his gun. "Pardon me if I don't trust you, princess."

A smile plays on her lips and she spreads her arms. "You can frisk me if you like."

Clint walks around her in a slow circle, keeping his gun trained on her while his other hand runs over her arms. She sighs, a simple rise and fall of her shoulders, as his fingers travel down her back, lingering over her sides. Her jeans are too tight for a gun, though his hands itch for those soft curves.

How long has she been recovering? Beneath that shirt, will he find a scar across her skin? The thought is dizzying. He walks back to the body still smoking on the floor, getting some distance.

"Name's Clint," he says gruffly, keeping his eyes on her face.

"Pleasure." She draws out the word, lingering on the vowels. "I'm guessing you know who I am."

Clint bows his head. "Miss Romanova."

"Natasha, please." She pulls a tiny box out of her jacket pocket and shakes out a cigarette, bringing it to her lips. Clint can't help following the movement. She cocks her head. "Got a light?"

Clint produces his lighter and the flame hisses to life. Natasha's smile widens at the sound and she bends herself towards it.

He tries not to fixate on the way the her deep red lips close around the paper as she inhales, her eyes sliding to the side as if lost in thought for the barest moment. Then she looks into his face.

"You were going to kill me. Why didn't you?"

She breathes out a cloud of smoke and moves in, hooking her fingers in his belt, lips turned into a pretty pout. Her breasts are pushed up, full and round. She's temptation in human form.

"Didn't seem fair."

"Honour among thieves?"


She laughs, catching his earlobe between her sharp little teeth. "Do you want to fuck me?"

His voice drops to a growl. "Anytime, anywhere, baby."

"Then take me to a room."

The motel he takes her to has probably not been cleaned since 1965, but that doesn't seem to bother Natasha as she arches up from the sheets. Clint kisses and bites his way down her body, finding the fresh scar on her abdomen and running his tongue along it til she shudders.

He kisses down further, tastes her cunt until she moans and pulls at his hair. He kneels, leans forward and finds her neck again, sucking at her pulse point, and her bruises tomorrow will bear his name.

Natasha pulls him up so they're face to face, sinks her teeth into his lip until it hurts just right, eases off before she breaks the skin. He looms over her, kissing her with his aching mouth, until she moves her face away. "Got a condom?" she breathes.

"Yeah." Clint fishes a foil packet from the pocket of his abandoned jeans and tears it open with his teeth. In no time at all she's pushing him over, sinking onto his cock and riding him until the world narrows down to his need and her pussy clenched around him and her breasts bouncing with each thrust. He comes, his hands gripping her ass, and he could fuck her forever and still want more.

She collapses against him, shaking, until she catches her breath and climbs off him, taking care to hold the condom in place. "Might want to deal with that," she remarks, flicking her eyes towards his crotch.

"Right." Clint ties off the condom and tosses it into the basket next to the bed. Natasha looks bored.

He threads his fingers through her hair, brushing it away from her face. "Got somewhere to be?"

Natasha says nothing, just rolls over and pulls the blanket over her shoulders. He watches her for a few long moments, tracing the curve of her waist and the rise of her hips with his eyes, before turning away so he can sleep facing the door.

She's gone in the morning and so is his wallet, and Clint can only laugh.

Clint tries to drown her memory in the gasps and sighs of other women, but he always thinks picturing someone else while you fuck is unforgivably crass. Instead he jerks off in the front seat of his truck, music turned up loud to cover the sound, because it's the closest thing to a place he can call his own. He doesn't call it home, because 'home' means 'Iowa,' means 'Dad' and 'Barney' and "there was an accident on the highway." It's one foster family after another and leaky circus tents, men who see two abandoned children and think 'profit.'

The circus led him to his truck, to his arrows and his bow, and his mentor lies buried under an Iowa sky after Clint discovered moving targets were more fun. He joined the army and did a few tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, became as deadly with a sniper rifle as he is with a bow, and when he came home he went where the money was. There are plenty who'll pay for skills like his. The Amazing Hawkeye, one of a kind.

He never fails to make a hit, until a dying girl sees right into him.

He catches a flash of red in the corner of a news report on a burning hospital, and smiles. There you are.

The next time, Clint finds her.

She's over by the bar in a seedy club, wearing a red piece of cloth that barely qualifies as a dress. Her hair gleams under the strobe lights, her hand wrapped around the stem of some violently pink drink, and Clint feels that urge to stalk his prey.

He makes his way through the seething crowd, sidles up behind her and brushes his lips against her ear. "You owe me a new wallet."

Natasha's eyes flutter closed, her head tipping back, and Clint thinks he has her just as she whips around to face him, actually tossing her curls. "Bullshit. That wallet was crap. You should be thanking me." Natasha gives him an appraising look, enough for him to see the hunger flicker in her eyes. "Can I buy you a drink to make up for it?"

"I pay for my own drinks."

Natasha rolls her eyes. "How macho of you."

He reaches around, letting his fingers run over her naked back. "How about you give me a dance instead."

Natasha licks her lips.

She leaves him little clues, a lipstick hourglass in a bathroom mirror, a chalked arrow on a wall, and once, boldly, a note passed to him by a grubby child with a hotel and a room number. They all mean the same. Come find me.

Clint follows the signs and fucks her in back rooms, in alleys, in suites in fancy hotels with their skin spattered with blood. He leaves her his own messages, even if he doesn't have quite her flair. A glass of champagne sent to her table, a note in her handbag. They meet over a dead body and he takes her in the front seat of his truck.

Afterwards Natasha sits back on his lap, her face unreadable in the darkness. "I need to leave town," she says. "Will you come with me?"

Clint's kiss is the answer.

Violence is Clint's profession, but Natasha makes it an art.

They're two days out of New York, her bags in his truck, when he sees her in action for the first time, catches the star attraction instead of the remains. She's stunning, as deadly with a knife as she is with a gun, a force of nature levelling all in her path. With Clint by her side they are unstoppable. The armies of the world have nothing on them.

Clint would bet on her over the red, white and blue.

They drop bodies in Washington and split the profits. Clint buys a new gun, and Natasha turns up in a fiendishly expensive evening gown that ensures they don't leave their hotel room that night. They drive where the jobs are and if none come up they keep on driving, crossing state lines, sleeping in hostels or the back seat, never staying more than a day in one place. The money is good. The sex is better.

If he were an honest man, Clint would admit to being obsessed with Natasha's hair. He loves the way it looks against white pillows, the soft feel of it on his skin, the way she mewls when he pulls it while they fuck.

Tonight he has a lock of it wrapped around his finger as they lie in the back of his truck, looking up at the starry sky. Clint was born in the country but Natasha is a city girl born and bred, and whenever she sees the stars something flickers across her face, like for a second she is the girl she never got to be, and she makes Clint feel young again.

"I lost my virginity in this truck," Clint remarks, to see her reaction.

"Did you."

"She was a contortionist. The things she could do…"

"I'm sure," Natasha says dryly. Then, "I slept with my father's chauffeur when I was sixteen."

Clint tugs lightly on a red curl. "Classy."

Natasha strokes the skin above his shirt collar with a fingernail. "Papa wouldn't let me talk to boys my age, so I fucked my way through his staff. He wanted me pure." She chuckles darkly. "If only he knew."

Clint's arm tightens around her, his free hand forming a fist against the metal truck floor. "Where's your father now?"

Natasha gives a one armed shrug, and he knows her face hides a childhood much like his own. "Somewhere he can't find me."

His thumb brushes her lip. "He tried to own you."

"Yes." Natasha kisses him, and her lips taste of salt. "But I never belonged to him."

"I have a job," Natasha says as Clint fills the gas tank.

"Yeah?" Clint watches the numbers click over, wiping the sweat off his brow. It's high summer and he's stripped down to a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off, not that it makes a difference. "What kind?"

"Standard." She's leaning against the door looking perky and harmless in her tiny denim shorts, scanning the gas station for threats. "It's in Malibu."

"Malibu? Guess we'll need more sunblock."

"Clint, they want me to go alone."

Clint rests his hands on the roof, staring down at the concrete. "How long?"

"Two weeks, maybe more."

"Right." Clint walks off to pay without looking back.

The light from the hotel sign shines directly into their room, casting the bed in shades of blue and green. Clint puts his phone away just as Natasha comes out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel and rubbing another over her wet hair.

"I've got a hit lined up in Chicago."

"Anyone I know?" Natasha grins in the way that tells him she's more interested in fucking than talking.

"Nah." Clint reaches for her and pulls her into his arms. She melts against him as he slips his tongue into her mouth, pulling at her towel until it falls at her feet. He can feel her damp skin through his shirt and he cups the back of her neck, pushing his hips against her so she can feel him harden inside his jeans.

Natasha's breath catches and her fingers start to work his belt. Clint pushes her hands away and holds her face. "I've got something for you."

"Really." Natasha raises an eyebrow as Clint walks over to his duffle bag and rifles through it. He finds the small black box he bought.

"Here," he says, straightening and holding the box out towards her. Natasha stares at it, then back at him, an incredulous expression on her face.

Finally she takes it from him, turning away as she opens it. There's a long moment where she doesn't move, and Clint watches her back, his arms useless by his sides.

Slowly she faces him, her head bowed. The necklace dangles from her fingers and the light catches on the tiny, silver arrow.

He shrugs at the question in her eyes. "Going away present," he rasps. "To remind you of me." He flicks his head towards her. "Try it on."

Natasha smiles then, and he feels it burn, down to his core.

"I have something for you first."

He strains against the belts tying him to the bedposts. His skin tingles with anticipation, and he tries to crane his head around as best he can, looking for her. Natasha's hand slaps him lightly on the shoulder. "No peeking."

Clint closes his eyes and tries to keep still, when he feels Natasha's lips on the nape of his neck. Slowly she kisses and licks her way up and down his spine, straddles his back and presses herself against him.

"Are you ready?" she breathes.

He's so hard he could go off at any minute. "God, Tasha, just do it."

Cool metal touches his shoulder and then he feels the bite of her knife. Clint hisses, uses all his will to stop himself from moving as the blade leaves a trail of sharp, stinging pain. Natasha hums while she works.

Then the knife is gone and Natasha kisses his skin once more. Clint feels a tissue brush over his back before she unties him. Panting, Clint sits up, massaging his sore wrists. He sees his shoulder reflected in the mirror on the wall. A bloody hourglass carved into his flesh.

Is this enough, Natasha? Am I enough for you?

Natasha kneels in front of him and pulls her hair aside, offering her neck. His breath coming hard, Clint picks up the thin silver chain from the bed sheets and fastens it around her, bending to kiss the clasp. She shivers, turning her head to kiss him as his hand comes up to grip her throat.

The rooftop is baking in the summer heat. Clint keeps an eye on the street, trying to ignore the sweat threatening to drip into his eyes.

Ten days. Ten fucking days without her now.

He's been like a trapped animal ever since she kissed him on the cheek and left for Malibu to do god knows what. He's prowled from bar to bar, speaking in monosyllables, challenging patrons to pool games. By the time he leaves for Chicago, he's ready to unleash hell.

But he's a sniper, and his job is about precision and patience, not losing your cool.

Clint watches through the scope as his target leaves the building surrounded by security.

It's okay. He can wait.

Clint is staring down a glass when Natasha sends him a curt text message at two in the morning. Job done. Time/place?

Clint chugs down the rest of his beer and types a reply, a grin spreading out on his face. That old hunting cabin we found. Tomorrow. I've got a surprise.

He sees her through the window and moments later she's in his arms, her heavy bag falling to the floor with a thump. "Do you know how hard it is to hide a weapon in a bikini," she gasps in between kisses. "I hate Malibu." Her skilled fingers work his belt buckle. "What was the surprise?"

"Fuck." Clint slides both hands under her ass and lifts her up, her hair falling around their faces like a bloody waterfall. "Never mind that now. You're wearing way too many clothes."

He walks her towards the armchair in the corner and her face lights up as she catches on. Natasha shoves him into the chair and steps up so that her legs are on either side of him, and Clint savours the sight of those long, bare limbs.

There's a wicked glint in her eye as she plays with the edge of her shirt, sliding it up to reveal teasing inches of skin he's been denied.

Clint places his hands on Natasha's hips as she pulls off her t-shirt. He leans forward, pressing soft kisses to her stomach, feeling a rush of satisfaction when he hears her sharp intake of breath.

Slowly, she undoes the button on her shorts and Clint takes the hint, reaching to draw down the zipper and slide the blue denim down her legs. He leans his face against her, breathes her in, before drawing her gorgeous body onto his lap.

She's naked before him except for the necklace that rests between her collarbones. Clint presses his lips to it, then bites a bruise onto her skin. She bears his mark, as he bears hers.

Groaning, Clint bends his head to take a dark pink nipple into his mouth. Natasha arches, digging her nails into the back of his neck as he licks and sucks, using his teeth the way she likes it. She rolls her hips and he can feel how wet she is. Hastily, he undoes his fly, freeing his cock and entering her with one thrust, and oh, he loves her cries.

"I'm gonna make you scream, girl. Scream my name so everyone hears."

The jobs are drying up.

Clients cancel, contacts won't return Clint's calls. Natasha does some digging of her own when they reach Boston, finally leaving to meet with a former employee of her father's while Clint paces the length of the cheapest motel room they've stayed in yet.

When she returns an hour later, her hair is damp from the rain and her face grim. "People are looking for us."

"Yeah, I figured." Clint rubs his hands over his face. "Any word on who it is?"

"Some suit." Natasha crawls up behind him on the bed, her lips brushing the back of his neck. "Apparently your mark in Chicago was a big shot."

Clint snorts. "They're really sending an FBI-whatever suit after us? Losers." Natasha laughs with him as he draws her in for a kiss.

"Let them try," Clint says. "Let them fucking try."

They're nearly out of bullets and the man outside on the megaphone won't stop yelling. "This is Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. Come out with your hands up."

I'll kill you first, Clint thinks. I'll burn all you fuckers to the ground.

He turns to Natasha, who is reloading her Glock. "They're after me mostly," he says. "I'll give myself up and you can get out while they arrest me."

Natasha shakes her head, her mouth pressed into a grim line. "I owe you."

He kisses her, savours every sip of her he can take. "I saw a house in Iowa," he murmurs when their lips part. "I was going to show you."

Natasha kisses him again briskly and hands him his bow and quiver. "Blow them to bits, Hawkeye."

Clint pauses before he nocks an arrow. No reason to not take a chance.

"Do you love me?"

Natasha's smile could flay him. "What does it matter now?"