?

Log in

 
 
31 December 2012 @ 04:02 pm
طائر غريب  

Title: طائر غريب (Strange Bird)
Fandom: The Avengers
Rating: PG-13
Pairings: Clint/Natasha
Wordcount: 5,889
Warnings: Crack? Slight crack? Tranformywhatnow? Eh?
Disclaimer: Watch me as I write fiction about fiction. Also, if I owned these characters, they’d have at least a film trilogy to themselves by now. And each one would be written and directed by Joss Whedon.
Beta: The wonderful shenshen77, who has been ridiculously encouraging. Any remaining mistakes are my own.
Notes: So I read a couple of stories like this, and then woke up at five in the morning one day and this was sort of just there. Russian and Arabic translations from Google Translate, so apologies if they are inaccurate.

PS: if anyone knows where the quote at the beginning comes from, I’d be eternally grateful. I’ve been looking and I can’t find anything. I’m starting to think someone just made it up.

Summary: Natasha Romanov’s life was saved by a man who had once been a hawk, though she did not know this at the time.


أنا طائر غريب، لكني لست حتى طائر، وهذا أغرب جزء
‘I am a strange bird, but I am not even a bird, and this is the strangest part’

Natasha Romanov’s life was saved by a man who had once been a hawk, though she did not know this at the time.

She was finishing up a mission in Zagreb, an extraction-slash-assassination job with an oil tycoon and all round arsehole, when she turned around and he was just… there. No one had ever managed to sneak up on her before and it unsettled her more than she was willing to admit, even to herself. Her gun was up before she had time to process, but he just looked at her calmly, apparently unfazed by the .9mm pointed right between his eyes.

He had a bow in his hand and a gun at his hip, and, if he was anything like her (and she assumed he must be, because who else would be able to stand within two feet of her without her knowing?) he had more weapons hidden away where she couldn’t immediately see. But he didn’t use them. He just stared at her not blinking and then, telegraphing every move, raised his hand and covered the end of her pistol.

“I’m supposed to kill you,” he said, sounding as if he was coming to the realisation that this was not the most logical course of action. “But I think… I think you should come with me instead.”

_

Natasha followed the man who had once been a hawk because he wasn’t scared of her; because he had managed to catch her completely off guard. And because she instinctively trusted him and that terrified her.

_

“Why do you use a bow and arrow?”

“Guns make too much noise.”

She huffed out a laugh. “That’s why silencers were invented.”

The man who was once a hawk turned his gaze on her, piercing and steady. Her smile died.

“Guns make too much noise,” he said.

Later she found out that the first time he was taken onto a firing range to use a gun, the noise scared him so much that he screeched; an inhuman, birdlike sound. A remnant of everything he had been. Of course, she didn’t know this yet and he was comfortable around guns now – and knives and any weapon involving projectiles – but he preferred archery. He preferred the silence.

_

She’d had almost no contact with him in the three months since he’d brought her in. She’d been interviewed and questioned and her motives examined and re-examined and, as far as she was aware, he had been disciplined and sent out to some base in Massachusetts to train new recruits. When she’d asked about it, saying snidely that it didn’t seem like a great punishment for failing to carry out a mission – and it wasn’t to her; her understanding of ‘punishment’ involved beatings and starvation and, occasionally, death – she was curtly told that he hated large groups; that it was punishment enough. However, no one would tell her any more than that, and he was rarely, if ever, mentioned in her presence.

But on those odd days where they were on the same base, she had observed him; in the training centre, in the canteen, on the range (she wasn’t allowed any weapons yet, though she was permitted to watch. It was frustrating but she understood why). She had also, of course, heard about him; other agents calling him Hawkeye and praising his skill, discussing his loner tendencies and ‘weird vibes’, doubting his loyalty – that last one was to do with her, she was sure. Nevertheless, despite this and the fact that she had had very little face time with him, she still had this terrifying (wonderful) instinct to trust him. And she had learnt to trust her instincts.

Still, she knew nothing concrete about him. So eventually, after three months and no real answers, she decided to break past the encryptions, the security protocols and the firewalls, and find some answers of her own. She didn’t think he had lied to her at all since they’d met, so she reasoned that he wouldn’t have lied to her about his name.

The file “Barton, Clinton Francis” told her that he was 32 (he didn’t look it), came from Iowa (he didn’t sound like it) and had joined the circus aged 10.

But it didn’t tell her anything about him; about the man who could sit up in the girders of the training centre without moving, for hours at a time; who hit every target, every time; who was quick to smile and quick to laugh; who’s lightning fast reflexes were only matched by her own; who would occasionally fall asleep right on the edge of the disused stairwell in C Block, not at all fazed by the height, or the very real possibility of falling to his death 23 floors below.

So she continued to search – every ID code, codename, reference number. She used photo recognition and cross referencing and all the tricks she could think of. It took her three weeks of dodging security, of eye strain and very little sleep, but eventually she found something that explained this man.

On February the 4th at 04.38am, Natasha Romanov discovered that her life had been spared by a man who had once been a hawk.

_

She didn’t really know how to bring this up with him – and to be honest she wasn’t sure if she entirely believed it.

(But she did, because in some very fundamental way it explained everything.)

_

The first time they were paired together for a mission it was purely due to necessity, and Natasha had to admit to being relieved. She wanted to work with him – wanted to learn more about him – but was well aware that she was very, very far from being in the position to actually request her partners; defecting didn’t make you trustworthy after all.

Natasha was well aware that if Fury and SHIELD had anyone else to send, she wouldn’t be doing this – but it just so happened that the mark, a man called Maurice Santiago Ramirez, had a particular weakness for curvy, Eastern European blondes. And she could play a mean Eastern European blonde. So six months after being brought in she was back in Eastern Europe – though in Ljubljana instead of Zagreb – as Katarina Litvinenko, though (hopefully) this time no one was being sent to kill her.

The man who had once been a hawk was acting as her backup. She was to get all the information she could from Ramirez, give the signal and then become another terrified woman in the event of his assassination.

She was also under no illusions that this time, if she did anything off script, the man who had once been a hawk would pull the trigger on her. He wasn’t just her backup; he was also SHIELD’s failsafe on a very large gamble.

_

The mission went so flawlessly that they became instant partners from then on in. Natasha didn’t know how he felt about this, but she was secretly pleased. Now they trained together, and she got a great deal of pleasure from the way she would continually best him. But she liked even better the way he would always laugh and get back up, returning to combat stance and going again. And again and again and again.

The man who was once a hawk became much better at close quarter combat as a result.

And Natasha smiled more.

_

“Clint…”

He looked up from his notebook. They were doing surveillance, watching a town house in Paris which was conveniently located opposite a cheerful café with hand painted signs and a red and white striped awning. It was an easy mission – a form of downtime after ten months of difficult missions – and their cover story of a struggling author (him) and a student revising for exams (her – she was learning Arabic) worked wonderfully given the setting. Though it had to be said, recently she had drunk more coffee than was probably healthy, and it had apparently given her caffeine-induced courage to broach subjects in public that shouldn’t be brought up in private, if at all.

“I – you.” She was never this inarticulate, but she forced it out under her breath; “Вы когда-то были ястреба.” (You were once a hawk)

The only noticeable change that came over the man who was once a hawk was a tightening of his fingers around his pen.

“Я взломал систему.” (I hacked the system)

He tilted his head to the side. It was such a birdlike movement she suddenly felt incredibly guilty.

“Вы доверили мне.” (You trusted me) Because he did. He always had and she didn’t know why. “Мне очень жаль.” (I’m sorry)

His eyes flicked over her face.

“Когда?” (When?)

“В феврале прошлого года.” (Last February.) It was over a year ago now.

There was silence as he continued to look at her, and she fought to not shift under his gaze. Then he simply looked back down at his page.

“I still trust you,” was all he said.

She was momentarily rendered completely speechless. Why? Why did he trust her after that? Why did he trust her anyway? She opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, thankful that he was looking back at his notepad so as not to see her so utterly at sea, before choking out a “Why?”

He looked back up at her, a small smile on his lips which made her breath stutter for a moment.

“Because you didn’t tell anyone. And you’re still here.”

_

It took her two more days of alternating between scanning the building opposite and learning Arabic in a, bizarrely comfortable, silence with him before she managed to ask her other question; a question she had asked him on and off for the past year and a bit. A question she’d never got a satisfactory answer to.

“Почему ты не убил меня?” (Why didn’t you kill me?)

The man who had once been a hawk looked at her.

“Come on, you’ve never given me a proper reason.”

He shrugged, turning back to his notepad. “I could see you were also once something else.”

She laughed. She’d never been anything other than what she was now.

“Oh yeah, and what was that?”

He looked at her, unflinching and direct. “You had once been a little girl,” he said. “Before you were this, you were a little girl.”

_

She never asked him if he was the only one; if it had been an experiment or an accident, or if he just was. She never asked Fury or Hill. If she actually let herself think about it, she’d admit it was because she wanted it to be just him – that he was special.

And if she was really honest with herself, she’d admit that it didn’t matter. There could have been hundreds of them, thousands, and he would still be special.

Anyway, Natasha liked to think he just was.

_

They were in a dive bar three blocks down from HQ. It was nineteen months since he had brought her in, and they’d formed an incredible partnership based almost entirely on a trust that no one else quite understood. Two years ago, she had been very high on these peoples hit list; and he… well, he was a man who had once been a hawk. It wasn’t common knowledge by any means (she was fairly sure that she was the only person at SHIELD apart from Fury, Hill and Coulson who actually knew that particular fact) but it couldn’t be denied  that there was something… different about him. Mostly this manifested as agents being ever so slightly wary of him. She wasn’t sure if he’d noticed – and if he had, he didn’t care.

Nonetheless, their success rate was the highest the organisation had seen in years and this particular one – terminating the leader of a child sex ring in Indonesia – had been particularly successful.

Hence the dive-bar.

Though she had yet to broach the subject of… Before with him again – he was a man who had once been a hawk, how do you bring that up in casual conversation? – she had learnt much about him in the meantime (though this time she used the tried and tested methods of asking and sharing and friendship, rather than hacking and decoding confidential files.)

For instance, he made soft clicking sounds in the back of his throat when he was happy; as expected, he wasn’t entirely comfortable around cats; he loved rock music and hand checking his fletches and terrible American beer and you should never ever bet against him when playing darts.

Natasha had also discovered that he could smile at her, carefree and so happy, and something in the region of her chest would momentarily clench painfully. She tried to ignore that bit.

Right now he was fighting his way back through the throng at the bar with two beers and a vodka cranberry for her – made with good vodka. She had impressed the importance of this to him when they had first been paired together and he’d never forgotten since. In fact, she has never had to remind him of any of her preferences. She tried to ignore that too.

He was grinning at her now, open and so happy, with a bruise at his temple and two of his fingers taped together. He trusted her, has always trusted her, right from the beginning, and all she has done was make sure he didn’t die when his reckless grace took over and he did stupid things like take hits for her. (That was another thing she tried to ignore.)

This night was a good night, so she decided to repay him in kind. She just needed to work up the courage.

Talking wasn’t something they needed to do. They had found out quite early on that they could exist in each other’s company quite easily, having no need to talk and instead communicating with smiles and head tilts and quirks of the mouth. Unfortunately, this wasn’t going to work this time.

“You said I was a little girl once.”

His whole demeanour shifted, at once going from exuberant to serious with his attention suddenly fixed entirely on her; turning on a dime in that way that he had. It was equally unnerving and thrilling, and for a moment her words caught in her throat, but he just waited for her to continue.

“I – ” she began. She was not sure how to articulate this. She’d never wanted to before. “When I was… before. Before everything. The… killing and…” She trailed off again and he just waited, patiently. “Just, before everything.”

She wasn’t really sure how to continue.

“It’s OK, Tash.” He smiled at her; a small, understanding thing, with his head tipped to the side like a bird. “You don’t have to tell me. It’s alright.”

“No. You trust me with… you know. And well, I’m still alive. I owe you this.”

He smiled again. “No you don’t, Tasha. You don’t owe me anything.”

Yes I do, she thought. And this is the reason I do. I owe you because you don’t make me. I owe you because you don’t ask. No one has never not asked. She scowled at him, telling him without words that he was an idiot and she was going to do this, dammit.

“My mum used to take me dancing.” She didn’t look at him when she spoke, focussing instead on his taped-together fingers wrapped around his half full beer bottle. “I did ballet. Kid’s stuff, but it was fun. I loved the music. I – I miss that. Sometimes.”

After years of practice, she knew that there was very little in her voice or on her face that would indicate how vulnerable she was feeling in that moment – but she also knew that he could see it anyway, despite everything.

A long silence followed, and after a while she risked a glance up at him to gauge his reaction. His eyes immediately caught and held hers, and she couldn’t look away. Distantly, part of her registered that it was comforting that she couldn’t read him all the time; that her training hadn’t completely erased the need to know people properly. Then he tilted his head to the side, broke eye contact and drained his half empty bottle, grinned – uncontrolled and so happy – stood and held his hand out to her.

She stared blankly at him, then down, focussing again on his taped-together fingers.

“C’mon then, Tash,” he said, still grinning. “Teach me to dance.”

_

She asked him about his cover story once, over an encrypted channel on a boring mission in Jeddah. Not this cover story, this one she knew – his cover story, Clint’s cover story. She thought it was silly – running away to the circus and learning archery. Who ran away to the circus these days?

There was a smile in his voice when he replied, and she found that she’d begun to note them, these smiles that were hers alone.

He said that it was a few weeks After, and they were trying to introduce him to the ‘real world’; show him TV and sport and American culture. He was taken to a carnival with cotton candy and bumper cars and a small circus. He was told this was important, though he admitted that later he worked out that Coulson just really, really wanted a day off. But he’d enjoyed the lights, watching the magicians closely to try and find their secrets, how silent the bows were, how elegant the dancers. So he decided that that was what he had done – age 10, after running away from an orphanage with his brother; he had joined the circus and learnt archery.

“The lights were amazing, and Coulson smiled. And besides, the trapeze looked a lot like flying.”

_

“OK, so I was a little girl who missed dancing and you were once a hawk. What do you miss?”

The man who was once a hawk looked down at his hands, spread his fingers and then his arms. He looked up at her, and there was such sadness in his eyes that her breath caught.

“I can’t fly anymore.”

_

It was shortly after that that she had started to collect feathers for him, though she wasn’t entirely sure why. If it survived the journey back in whatever she had to stuff it in for transport, she’d give him one. They sat on his windowsill in an empty jam jar marked ‘для полета’ in her elegant hand.

For flying.

_

“Can you remember anything? From before?”

The man who had once been a hawk had a tendency to escape medical after bad missions and hide in one of two places; the roof of A Block, or the abandoned stairwell in C Block. Where he went would depend on how injured he was (and the weather, of course. Even he wasn’t so stupid to escape medical only to sit in the pouring rain for four hours.) And after this mission – a particularly bad one in a snow covered Vladivostok, where he’d been shot twice and fallen three floors onto a discarded pile of bricks and scaffolding – guaranteed that he’d only make it as far as the stairwell.

“Wha’ d’ya mean, b’fore?”

He had also managed to get a pretty impressive concussion. Normally he was much more on the ball.

“You know, before… this. Arms and legs and no feathers.”

“Oh. Yeah, I guess.”

He was sitting very close to the edge, and it was making her… uncomfortable. She didn’t like him being mere inches from death at the best of times, but especially not with two bullet holes, a concussion and more bruises than no. She wanted to hold onto the back of his shirt or something.

There was a long silence, then;

“Hawks see in ultraviolet, right?”

The man who had once been a hawk jerked at the sound of her voice, the least composed and in-control of himself she had ever seen him. “Hmm? Yeah, tha’ was weird. ‘S less… vivid, now.”

He turned to look at her then and his hand came up to hover somewhere between their heads.

“’S like, your hair. It’d be less… this. More…” he touched her hair gently and her whole body locked up. People didn’t touch her, didn’t get into her space. He was the only one she even allowed close enough to entertain the possibility. She didn’t think too hard about what that meant; if she thought too hard she’d find an answer she was sure she wasn’t ready for.

His voice fell to a whisper. “Dunno. ‘S hard to ‘splain.” His voice fell even further, and suddenly she wasn’t sure they were talking about the same thing. “You jus’ don’ know.”

­_

“What type of hawk were you?”

“Huh?” He was hand checking his fletches. It was three in the morning and neither of them could sleep.

“What type of hawk were you?” she asked again.

He looked sort of shocked. Like he’d never been asked that question before. Which of course could be true, after all; very few people knew about it.

“Um. I – I don’t know.”

“What do you mean, you don’t know?” she demanded. “How can you not know?”

He looked at her incredulously. “You do realise it’s only you lot that go around naming shit and classifying stuff and boxing it all up to make sure it doesn’t spill over, right? No other thing on earth goes around naming shit. I have no idea. I was me, I flew around and ate and slept in high trees.”

“So you’ve never been curious? You’ve never like, asked? Or looked at pictures to work it out?”

He suddenly looked rather uncomfortable, curling in on himself and turning his attention back to his fletches.

“Clint?”

He made several aborted attempts to speak before saying quietly “No. It hurts too much. It makes me think of flying and…” his voice dips lower, almost as if he doesn’t want to be heard, “I think about flying enough around you as it is.”

Natasha had no idea what to make of that.

_

She knew he probably never really had a choice, but she wanted to know anyway.

“Do you ever regret it?”

He didn’t have to ask what she was referring to.

“No,” he said.

Her heart clenched, and she didn’t want to think as to why.

­_

“Do you think it’s… animal cruelty to take away your ability to fly?”

He smiled at her, amused. “I’m not an animal, Tash.”

She thought about his eyesight, his ability to hear and see things that normal people just couldn’t. She thought about his patience and ability to stay high up and concealed, without moving and for hours on end, just watching; about his superior balance and accuracy; the clicks and whirrs he made when he was happy and thought no one was listening. She thought about his eyes and how they just saw.

“Yes, you are,” she said. No malice, no accusation, no fear.

_

They were in Bogota and everything was very much south of OK.

The mission sounded simple, really. So simple, in fact, that there had been a great deal of questions back at HQ as to why both of the agency’s best agents were needed to carry it out.

What most people didn’t have clearance to know was that recent intelligence indicated that Collins’ may have been compromised. No one was entirely sure what had gone wrong but Collins was deemed too valuable to loose.  So here she was – fighting side by side with a man she had known for less than an hour, while bullets rained down around them.

Simple. Right.

_

Collins had been undercover in Bogota for so long that the last time he’d been in the USA Natasha had still been running around the world killing people for money. Hell, she wasn’t sure, but the man who had once been a hawk may still have been a hawk the last time Collins had been in the USA. His was the longest running deep cover operation SHIELD had, and it had been phenomenally successful.

This of course made the extraction all the more difficult. The crime syndicate to which Collins had been assigned had hugely varied interests and incredible influence. Collins mission had been to infiltrate the drugs operation in South America, a division overseen by a man only known as El Fijador – the Fixer. The syndicate had loyal members and a huge intelligence network. If anything about either the deep cover mission or the extraction attempt was linked back to SHIELD, the results would be disastrous.

So, no arrows for the archer, no Widow’s Bite for her. No SHIELD insignia, no well-known codenames, no real names. No fake names that could be linked to either SHIELD or any of their other fake personas. Minimal contact in the field and plain clothes SHIELD backup for emergencies only. Everyone arrives and leaves separately.

In short; Collins was an extremely valuable asset. Don’t screw this up.

_

“So, how are we doing this?”

She knew the brief back to front, and knew that he did too. This was an unusual mission to say the least, at least for her; if deep cover agents got exposed where she used to work, they were left for dead. SHIELD’s approach was… kinder – if sometimes much, much more risky.

The man who was once a hawk frowned at the table. “You do realise that this has a 99.9% chance of becoming an absolute shit storm, right?”

Natasha gave him a look.

“Well, as long as you’re OK with that.”

He had outlined most of their plans. He had a gift for seeing the bigger picture. Natasha was given free reign over close quarter missions though. It was logical; play to your strengths. Coulson only interjected when necessary.

For this mission it was decided that she would work close quarters and ascertain if Collins’ cover was indeed blown. If it was, she’d warn him and do all she could to get them both out in one piece. If not, she would collect the current information and subtly let him know not to worry SHIELD like that again.

The man who had once been a hawk would cover her back from a block away.

(Natasha had come to feel mildly off kilter if he wasn’t around to back her up. Not enough to compromise anything, but it was there nonetheless. However she didn’t examine it too hard, as the feeling that accompanied that train of thought was now very close to the feeling she’d had the time she had to jump off a five story building into a canal; wild and out of control and like perhaps this was a very bad idea, but it was way too late to change her mind now.)

_

It took two days for Natasha to work out that Collins’ cover was indeed in jeopardy, and though Natasha argued that two days was hardly long enough to get all the evidence needed for a good extraction plan, Coulson countered with the need to get Collins out quickly – if he was compromised they needed to act fast. As such, she spent less time than she’d like hashing out a plan with Coulson, Fury and experts back at HQ as to how, exactly, she was supposed to get him out of there without either of them ending up dead.

Unusually, the man who had once been a hawk took no part in the formulation of the extraction plan, opting instead to sit still and watch her as he had been doing for the past two days. His frown deepened the more risky the plans got.

_

It turned out that his concern was well founded, because using a honey trap plan, both for warning Collins and for cover to leave the club, was all very well and good until it was clear that El Fijador had been tailing Collins – and she’d warned them that two days recon wasn’t enough – and gun-wielding henchmen were thrown into the mix before she could even get Collins to the exit point, never mind through it.

As soon as the first shot was fired the people in the club panicked, and Natasha used the confusion as cover to reach the agreed-upon exit for this mission – the staff exit from behind the bar – only to discover that the alley it lead to was already crawling with El Fijador’s men.

It was at this point that she decided that she was very happy that her contact was a seasoned SHIELD agent, and not some terrified civilian who couldn’t tie their shoelaces, let alone know which end of a gun to hold.

Collins got them back inside before the goons in the street could open fire and they once again joined the rapidly dispersing and panicked partygoers flooding out of the front exit, trusting to their civilian clothes and acting abilities to hide them. Which worked for about fifty meters from the club’s entrance before someone recognised Collins – or Natasha’s long, flame red hair – and all hell broke loose.

The street was rapidly engulfed in a barrage of gunfire, with several civilians caught in the crossfire at almost point blank range. One – a girl, probably not even 18 yet and wearing fewer clothes than was decent – caught so many bullets her entire dress became soaked in a matter of seconds. The crowd scattered as blood spread over the cobbles, and Collins and Natasha dove for cover in the arched doorway of a nearby casino as bullets began peppering the stonework.

Collins was creased on the arm and Natasha was cursing her dress that gave her absolutely no protection what so ever. Between ducking behind colonnades, she managed to pick off a fair few of the gunmen – but if they didn’t move faster, they would soon be outflanked – and Collins covering her blindside almost as well as her hawk.

(Wait, what?)

(Never mind. Concentrate.)

“Please tell me you have backup.”

Collins.

“Yes.” She ducked out of the way of another barrage of gunfire, pressing herself into the stonework and picking off men to her right with her ever dwindling supply of bullets.

“Yes, there’s backup” – she couldn’t hear anyone in her ear – “plain clothes agents” – she’d lost her comms link. Shit – “and… another agent” – as if on cue, bullets began raining down from above.

She was standing now, covered by a pillar and Collins, and suddenly her gun clicked empty, and those gunmen with slightly more intelligence had got round to the other end of the street and they were outflanked.

In the end, she wasn’t even sure what happened. Suddenly her vision was blocked by a person jumping down from the top of the colonnade, and then just as suddenly that person was on the floor with blood pulsing from a bullet hole in their shoulder. And that person was Hawkeye. Barton. The man who was once a hawk. Her hawk. (Not ‘her’ hawk dammit. Not hers not anyones oh my God ClintClintClint…)

And she was screaming, yelling his name again and again. Collins hit the shooter right between the eyes and suddenly the place was crawling with plain clothes SHIELD operatives and she couldn’t focus on anything other than the pool of red that was spreading out from the bullet hole in his shoulder, just missing his Kevlar.

He was hardly conscious and she was pressing down on his shoulder and rambling, terrified, in all languages she knew he understood, calling him an idiot and a fool and don’t you fucking die on me you fucking moron. You gotta learn to dance, Clint. You gotta learn to fly again. Clint? Clint! With the last of his strength he turned and smiled at her – small but so happy – and said “Tasha” like she had given him something precious, though she couldn’t think what it could be. All she knew was he was not going to die dammit, Clint! and she was still repeating this as she watched him sink into unconsciousness.

Natasha then did something she had done precisely once before in her entire life.

She panicked.

_

Almost as soon as they had arrived, the SHIELD agents disappeared. Collins was immediately flown to a SHIELD outpost in Buenos Aires to be debriefed and then disappear completely, while the man who was once a hawk was flown to a hospital in Panama City – it was thought too dangerous to keep him in Colombia.

Natasha was flown with a small group of agents to Port-au-Prince as Maria Lopez, then to Mexico City on a commercial flight three days later as Elizabeth Walker and on to New York as Camille Levac.

Other agents took other routes with other names and she didn’t see him for two weeks.

_

Her arrival was heralded by debriefs and damage control and mitigation strategies and more secrecy acts than she thought strictly necessary. She was given no information about the man who was once a hawk past a curt “he’s tough, he’ll make it” from Fury, and Coulson had been sent to London for some reason so she had no one around who might even feel a fraction of what she was feeling.

So when she finally heard that he had made it back to New York HQ, she dropped everything and went in search for him.

He was on the roof, because of course he was. He had a bandage around his shoulder and his left arm was strapped down. His t-shirt looked impossibly soft and the whole left side of his face looked rubbed raw; bruised and discoloured with a cut above his eye. The wind was pulling at his jeans and hair and Natasha felt as though she could breathe again.

Two of his fingers were taped together, the same two that had been taped together all those months ago. She shouldn’t remember those kinds of things, but she did.

He was still standing closer to the edge than she was comfortable with.

She didn’t know what to say.

She thought of him getting shot again. Of the blood and the panic and him motionless in her arms, and she thought it happened. It shouldn’t have happened but it did. How did this happen? What did you do, Clint? And she tried to say something; to explain that she wasn’t built for this, wasn’t allowed this. She tried but she was silenced by him moving closer – so close she could feel his body heat even in the wind – and saying;

“Guess what, Tasha.”

His face was so close to hers she couldn’t focus on it, his eyes bright blurs and his breath ghosting over her lips. She tried to focus on him, this man who had once been a hawk, but her body wasn’t completely under her control.

She swayed towards him slightly, and breathed out a “What?”

The man who had once been a hawk grinned down at her, blinding and so happy, and said “I can fly now” and kissed her.

Her heart soared.

­­_

A year later and Natasha Romanov and Clint Barton could dance a better foxtrot than most professional dancers. Because of course they could.

 
 
Current Music: the cinematic orchestra - arrival of the birds
 
 
 
4thdixiechick4thdixiechick on December 31st, 2012 05:42 pm (UTC)
Aw, that was so sweet!
Atlas of Clouds: benchfranztastisch on January 2nd, 2013 10:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! :)
I'm not weird, I'm limited edition: highly problematic kissinganuna_81 on December 31st, 2012 08:11 pm (UTC)
I ... oh my God, you blew my mind away with this. This is SO SO SO GORGEOUS - your prose, your choice of words, your Natasha - voice, so guarded and careful and yet soft in its own way. I love everything about this, the slow build and her gradual realizations and revelations about him, and how hard it's to open up about those ... most profound things that define us. they're almost unspeakable and impossible to explain - the man who once was a hawk? I can't even, I mean I can't possibly put into words how much I love that. He was once a hawk. How did he stop being a hawk? And become something else? How does that even happen to any of us, in terms of our own personal identity?

This reads like a poem and it feels like lace, and it even reminds me of a dance (waltz? possibly, only after they become in-sync with each other, because in my mind there isn't anything more delicate than waltz.)

GUH!!! I AM FLAILING AND SPINNING IN CIRCLES AND I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF. THIS IS SO UTTERLY GORGEOUS.
Atlas of Clouds: verb nouns!franztastisch on January 2nd, 2013 10:15 pm (UTC)
OH MY GOD YOU ARE TOO KIND. THANK YOUUUUUUUU!

Seriously, this is perhaps the nicest comment I have ever recieved. *HUGS YOU*
A completely happy writer: Marvel - baby Hawkeyelar_laughs on December 31st, 2012 09:03 pm (UTC)
I have SUCH a thing for Clint-used-to-be-a-bird fics and this was the loveliest by far. Granted, I've only read one other but I'm almost positive this will be the top of the list forever! Wonderful, wonderful job!
Atlas of Clouds: change my worldfranztastisch on January 2nd, 2013 10:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! *hugs*
workerbee73 on December 31st, 2012 09:06 pm (UTC)
This felt like a fairytale. I loved every minute.

Wonderful story. <3
Atlas of Clouds: winchesterfranztastisch on January 2nd, 2013 10:16 pm (UTC)
Eep! Thank you! :)
hufflepuffsneak: scarlett cheershufflepuffsneak on December 31st, 2012 10:13 pm (UTC)
Awwww. I love the little details, the taped fingers and such. And them dancing together = automatic win.
Atlas of Clouds: reginafranztastisch on January 2nd, 2013 10:16 pm (UTC)
:D Thank you!
sugar_fey: avengers: hawkeye fallingsugar_fey on January 1st, 2013 12:41 am (UTC)
Oh, this is unbelievably gorgeous. I love Clint-used-to-be-a-hawk fics and the ending is perfect.
Atlas of Clouds: winchesterfranztastisch on January 2nd, 2013 10:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! :)
The Queen of Procrasti-nation: renner smileshenshen77 on January 1st, 2013 11:17 am (UTC)
You already know how I feel about this, it is gorgeous prose coupled with a fairytale, I love this so much!!!!

And I'm so happy that you chose to trust me with betaing this, it has been a pleasure to work on this with you <3
Atlas of Clouds: epicfranztastisch on January 2nd, 2013 10:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you again, my dear, for your wonderful beta-ing skills. You made this infinately better than it would have otherwise been. *hugs*
A clean house is the sign of a misspent life: quiveralphaflyer on January 18th, 2013 09:41 pm (UTC)
I have no idea how I missed this. Thank goodness for All Things Friday recs!! This was lyrical and wonderful. Your Natasha -- gorgeous. I soared there with them at the end. Be proud. Be very proud.
Atlas of Clouds: winchesterfranztastisch on January 18th, 2013 09:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much. :)
Crazy4Orcascrazy4orcas on January 23rd, 2013 04:48 am (UTC)
Beautifully done! What a wonderful read. It flowed so well and is a smooth story. I loved all the little details. And the feathers she collects for him, too sweet!
Atlas of Clouds: benchfranztastisch on January 23rd, 2013 03:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! :D
Salmastryonsalmastryon on May 17th, 2013 07:03 pm (UTC)
this is beautiful.
Atlas of Clouds: artfranztastisch on May 17th, 2013 07:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
inkvoices: avengers:assassins huginkvoices on January 19th, 2014 12:58 am (UTC)
I came back here because of the AU ATTF and have I really not commented on this, ever?! Tell me I at least mentioned something in an email or somewhere! Because I really do love this. The concept of it, yes, but mainly the execution, the way you don't get bogged down in the details, in the hows and whys, but more the things that can't be pinned down, like what it feels like to fly and how the world would look differently as a hawk and things wouldn't be labelled. And this from Natasha, for whom love is something that can't be pinned down or defined. Who has all these questions, and Clint showing her that it's not about questions, and... LOVE. Like flying :D
Atlas of Clouds: benchfranztastisch on January 19th, 2014 09:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you! But I'm sorry to say I have no recollection of you talking to me about this. But yes, I am very proud of this one.