Claire goes through a lot of phases in her life. Not the usual ones a woman would, but different ones that she names herself.
There was her gray phase, her years at the hellhole of an orphanage with her brother. She kept to herself, didn’t speak much and turned to her brother a lot.
The next is her circus phase, where she trains in the flips and twirls and tricks of an acrobat and an archer and being put on display high above the crowd in vibrant purple and blue as she swung and jumped and shot.
It also blurs into her first years as a hero, where she gets mistaken for a criminal and taken in by strangers on a few occasions.
Then there was the red years. She calls them this because everything she thinks about is red. The red of the ink as she signs the contracts that make her a killer, the red of her lips when she colors them to go undercover, the red of the blood that she spills on every job, that covers her hands even when they’re clean.
The red of her partner’s hair as she twists her fingers into it and falls into bed with him after a long mission.
There’s her static phase, because once Nate left her everything went fuzzy for her. She meets Bobby in this phase and he pulls her out of her slump for a bit anyways.
Bobby introduces her to S.H.I.E.L.D. and they take her along because she’s the greatest shot they’ve seen in more than 20 years, she can make shots that no one else can even dream of attempting.
Bobby puts a ring on her finger and she’s happy, for a while. She stays content and happy with her life until Bobby takes a shot meant for her and her signature is at the bottom of a death certificate bearing his name.
She wears his ring around her neck with hers alongside it, but it hurts her to look at it and see those lovely, trusting blue eyes in her mind.
She descends into her own type of mental hell, and she calls it her black phase. Nothing really gets through to her unless it’s orders from Fury.
And it’s during this that she meets Phil Coulson. He sees her and instead of building a wall against his sympathy, she lets him in.
And on the first night he brings her coffee up to her room and gives her that warm trusting smile that Bobby had, she cracks and lets tears run down her face.
He just holds her and nestles her close and coos words of comfort to her in his deep voice.
For once since her circus phase, she feels at home.
The next phase is one she doesn’t think she’ll ever get out of and she calls it her new phase. Phil introduces her to the famous Tony Stark and his team of misfits. And she hates them.
She hates how snarky Tony is and how overly-polite to her Steve is and how isolated Bruce is and she hates them all.
But when she’s grabbed in a fight and the enemy fists a hand into her waist length blonde hair as he forced her to the ground and breathed his intentions in her ear, she didn’t expect them to help her. She didn’t expect the Hulk to crash into him and Iron Man to go after him and Steve to be at her side with a hand on her shoulder and the other on her elbow asking if she was alright.
They find her the next day in the locker room, a pair of scissors in one hand as she snips off the last of her lovely hair to an ungodly short pixie. She has Tony adjust it so it is as short as it can be and still look nice.
She’s in her room after the haircut when she hears an accented voice from the door that sends a chill up her spine.
“My, what a look on you, Barton.”
She leaps to her feet as she spots the red hair and the glowing green eyes and her arms are around his neck and she’s speaking against his lips, so happy and excited because he was back and alive.
“I missed you.” She mumbles against his lips and she feels a knot unravel in her chest.