They start that young? Banner's voice was tight and if she hadn't know better now, in retrospect, she might have thought the good doctor was about to cry.
She was born with red on her ledger. On her hands. Lots of red. Red everywhere. She was born and then her mother died and this is text book psychopath beginnings, yeah she knows. Stark combed through her file when he figured everything out, but she threw him a bone with the mommy-issues shit. Figured they could bond over something.
"I don't have mommy-issues, Ms. Romanov." And he'd turned his back on her and thrown her file in the trash and they didn't speak for a month after that, until his shitty-ass music blew through her comm systems on her plane and there he was.
She threw the guy a bone. She tried.
And she doesn't need any of this horseshit, seriously. She doesn't need to be babysitting a death machine. Banner meditates on the plane to the ship and he only asks where they're going once. She can't remember and he doesn't really give a shit so he closes his eyes and sleeps and she's okay with that. She needs to focus.
Barton requires a lot of focus.
Barton has been compromised.
Romanov has been neutralized. And then he pulled the arrow out of her shoulder and hefted her to her feet and told he it was time to meet the boss.
"Good guy, Fury. You're gonna hate him."
Like any good assassin, she passed out in the car on the way there. Woke up tied to a hospital bed, the Hawk in her room, fingers twitching on a couple of throwing knives. She'd steal them later.
"Why do they call you the Black Widow?" he asks, watching her muscles twitch under the sheets, peeling her back with his eyes. She stops moving. Doesn't speak. "Whatever. You'll be debriefed in a few." He goes outside and stands by the door, shuts it after some apathetic looking suit comes in and undoes her restraints.
His name is Coulson and he seems sweet but she's not listening.
It's okay, really. He's not actually saying anything important.
"Welcome to Shield, Ms. Widow."
It was a name she didn't choose, something her father called her when she was small, before she Started That Young.
Daddy's black widow. Daddy's spider. You gonna eat me, baby?
Barton is nice to look at, so she looks. Eye candy. Real easy on the eyes.
She takes to swatting him on the ass when she can, which is pretty much all the time. It escalates to quiet violence in the locker room and they are trying very hard not to kill each other when she meets Fury for the first time, drops her knife, and Barton lands a good kick under her knees.
She manages to take him down with her.
"Impressive," Fury says. His eye says otherwise.
She feels like a child on an operating table.
She is a child on an operating table.
Fifteen and they are about to put her under.
She's proud of that fire. Still proud, can't really say why.
"You killed people," Barton says.
The fact that most of Shield thinks the two of them are fucking is laughable at best. Because Barton doesn't want her near him and she could care less where he puts his dick, so long as it isn't in her.
She just loves him.
Like she really fucking loves this man and she knows he loves her because sometimes he will help her up and hold her wrist a second too long and write her name with his finger. Sometimes he will brush a hair away from her face and they will share knives and hide out in the cold together because Budapest is going to be easy I swear he'd said.
And maybe, sometime in the night, they were drinking vodka to keep warm and she had slurred against his neck that she loved and his lips were on her temple and he was holding her and the world was spinning.
"Love you, too, Nat."
"They start that young?" Banner's voice is steady.
Love is for children and Loki is smiling because he thinks he has her figured out but just because he's clever and just because he knows her, doesn't mean he can see her.
He hasn't pulled her skin away or shoved her shoulder back into socket or wiped blood from her face or survived alongside her.
So he can go fuck himself because he doesn't fucking know her.
"I owe him a debt."
Later, there is schwarma and Tony and Bruce are talking in low voices with Steve and Thor is distracted and Clint's legs are in her lap.
"No more red," he says.
"No more red," she says.