“I thought I was your superhero, you know… hero,” Clint says.
He’s been wearing the same t-shirt for at least three days, and is drinking coffee straight out of the pot, and his face is currently held together by cheap band-aids that are peeling at the corners.
“Sure,” Kate says, “but then I met you.”
Natasha’s snicker is soft, discreet, like the flick of a knife blade, and Kate could have picked any number of Avengers to admire, but she picked the scary one, because Kate’s a whole lot like Clint, and she doesn’t learn better either.
(“If you’re not at least a bit scared of Natasha, then you’re doing it wrong,” Kate told Billy in front of Clint once, months ago.
“What’s ‘it’?” Clint asked.
“Life,” Kate said, and Clint shrugged and said: “well, that’s nothing new, anyway.”)
Natasha Romanov is terrifying on a number of levels, far older than she looks, and carrying secrets that could crack the world open if detonated just right. She’s almost scarier when she’s just herself, in chic civilian mode, quiet and amused and graceful, because at least when she’s in uniform you know she’s got hidden blades and an agenda or seven and someone’s going to die. When Natasha’s just Natasha, the lines are blurrier.
Kate should really have picked, like, Squirrel Girl for a crush, but she’s never known what’s good for her, and Natasha, burned assassin with glinting eyes, is a lot of things, but good doesn’t even come close.
This is the worst.
Kate regrets everything.
She’s not leaving Clint anything in her will, he’ll only lose it.
“Again,” Natasha says.
Kate stays down on the mat, and runs her tongue over her teeth to check that she still has the same number she had this morning. “I don’t think I have any ‘again’ left,” she says.
Natasha’s expression is unimpressed and crazy hot and Kate is a glutton for punishment because she’s pushing herself to her feet before she remembers she doesn’t have the energy to stand, let alone spar another round with the fucking Black Widow.
“Are you going to kill me?” she asks, “and if you are, are you going to buy me a coffee afterwards?”
“You said you wanted some help,” Natasha responds. She’s barely broken a sweat, a few aesthetic locks of her red hair peeling out of her ponytail; Kate doesn’t even want to think about what she must look like right now.
“And I regret it now,” Kate says.
Natasha’s mouth firms. “You won’t always have the bow or the gun or the back-up or the plan. One day you’ll just be a girl with her knuckles, if they aren’t broken.”
“I’ve been that girl,” Kate says. Her mouth tastes like blood; she thinks she’s bitten the inside of her cheek.
“Getting away with someone once doesn’t mean you’ll get away with it again,” Natasha points out, and she’s right, of course. “Now, come on. Hit me.”
Kate groans, but she tries.
“I did warn you,” Clint says, and hands Kate another icepack.
“I had fifty bucks on you managing to hold on three more minutes before you cried,” Clint says grimly, but his face is soft, and he’s been kind as he patches Kate back together.
“Asshole,” Kate says without heat, trying to find a comfortable way to sit on this chair without aggravating any of her bruises. “Who’d you owe the money to?”
“Jess,” Clint replies. “Carol said you’d hang on longer than that, Sam thought you’d crack earlier.”
“You’re all the worst,” Kate says, “I have no idea why anyone lets you guys look after the world.”
“’Cause we’re all crazy bastards who let Nat beat the shit out of us in the name of training,” Clint responds. “And now you’re a member of that club: welcome, and stuff.”
Kate wants to sleep for about three weeks.
“And here’s me thinking an Avengers initiation would involve more weird sex stuff,” she mumbles.
“The spandex is pretty misleading,” Clint agrees. “But we all decided Tony didn’t need the encouragement.”
Well, that’s true enough. Kate groans, and wonders if her ankle is as sprained as it feels.
“Cheer up,” Clint says, “Bobbi bet that Nat would break your nose.”
“That’s not as comforting as you think it is,” Kate tells him.
Her phone beeps with a text: same time, same place, next week.
“That means Nat likes you,” Clint informs her.
“Oh god,” Kate says, and debates investing in body armour.
“You got this out of Star Wars, didn’t you?” Kate says, and gets an electric shock for her pains.
Kate’s long ago given up on trying to tell Natasha that she’s the one with the arrows, she doesn’t need too much raw physical training, and has instead invested in a decent first aid kit. Clint says this means that Natasha respects her now, and also that Kate should’ve really picked someone to have a crush on who wasn’t going to injure her this much.
Kate agrees with him, but what the hell, she’s gone this far now.
‘Now’ means that she’s blindfolded and shaky-legged in the Avengers gym, apparently learning to dodge bullets with the help of a machine full of whizzing electric shocks. Kate would say that this is impossible, but Natasha gave her a demonstration at the beginning, and she was fluid and perfect and this would all be so much easier if she didn’t make bits of Kate clench awkwardly, if she didn’t make her stomach twist the way it does.
But she does, and Kate hears a spit of electricity, dives, and gets a graze of pain along her shoulder blades as a reward.
“Not bad,” Natasha says. “Get up.”
Natasha’s behind her; Kate sucks in a breath, twirls, and manages to bring her crashing to the mat while a fake bullet fizzes over their heads.
Kate yanks up the blindfold; Natasha’s grinning up at her, brilliant and sharp.
“Well,” she says, “now we’re getting somewhere.”