Clint makes note of her as soon as she’d finished stating her name in front of the class. The way she shifts her bag strap impatiently on her shoulder, twisting uncomfortably as the teacher speaks to her, the way she’s suppressing a roll of her eyes–
Rushman, right? Natalie Rushman, he’d have to remember that.
“Hey – name’s Barton. Clint Barton.” He offers her a hand as she comes to sit beside him, trying to be friendly even if he is wary of the way she looks around at everyone else. He doesn’t have too many friends himself, sure, but he’s sure she would at least appreciate some semblance of company.
She looks at him for a moment before she takes his hand in a smooth, firm shake, just a hint of a smile playing on her lips. “Pleasure, Barton-Clint-Barton,” she repeats after him, and she slides into the seat beside him. “I’d offer mine, but...”
“Think I got it, Natalie,” he laughs and nods, a bit thrown by how comfortable she seems, for all the aura she insists on putting out. They say that they’d transferred her in – that her scores had been just high enough to allow her to join them in their senior year, never mind a couple of months.
“When’d you arrive?” He asks her halfway through the class, his chin propped up on his hand, turning to her again. Clint isn’t sure she’s even used to friendly, what with the way she stands, her posture tight and straight-backed. “I mean, did you oversleep or something?”
She raises an eyebrow at him, and she shrugs, looking down at her hands for a moment. The rhythm of her pen stops as she considered her answer, too, which Clint finds he likes a bit more than he should. “Smashed the car straight into a pole at that bloody junction,” she says, rolling her eyes. “Had to take some extra time to drop it off before I came in.”
“Ouch.” Clint winces a bit at that, and he looks back ahead to the board, pretending that it doesn’t bother him in the least. Red hair, twisted back into a messy bun, haphazardly pinned against her head; A scarf around her neck despite their recent weather, and the impossibly constant rhythm of her pen tapped against the desk. “Shame. You missed math.”
“Shame?” She snorts incredulously, and Clint laughs as he shakes his head.
“Suppose not,” he says. Natalie rolls her eyes.
Another pause, and Clint tries to genuinely focus – not because she’s particularly distracting, no, but he’s missed his coffee, barely awake as it is. Natalie isn’t the first transfer they’d had, and he knows very well she won’t be the last; Not when people were moving in and out of the area all the time, and it isn’t like he’d have many classes with her. Not enough to worry about.
“Barton?” She finally speaks up, and her voice cuts his thoughts clearly. She doesn’t turn her gaze to him, but she continues to drum her pen, the tap tap tap– “Take a picture,” she says, pausing the beat, swinging her eyes over with some amusement. “It lasts longer.”
“Has anyone seen Clint?” Tony asks as he drops down at the table beside Pepper, sighing heavily. “Poor guy ditched Gym, didn’t think he had it in him.”
“Might be sick,” Steve suggests from the corner. “Y’know, some people do that–”
“Rogers, you don’t understand,” Tony interrupts, and Steve bristles even as he falls silent. Tony stands up, leaning over to Steve, dramatically troubled. “This is Clint Barton, hereby otherwise known as Robin Hood–”
“And fuck you, too, Stark,” Clint supplies tiredly from behind him, holding his tray and his bow slung on the back of his bag.
“–passing up on the opportunity to outshine every bastard in class,” Tony finishes with relish, before turning to Clint. “What happened?”
“Wasn’t ditching. Got called out,” Clint smirks, sitting down in the last empty spot beside Bruce. “Someone got their panties in a bunch over the bow.”
“Could take someone’s eye out,” Bruce shrugs, and Clint rolls his eyes.
“Not with my aim. Thor not around?”
“Loki’s picked a fight, Big Brother’s stepped in,” Tony supplies dryly, and Pepper lets out a tired sigh.
“Boys,” she grumbles.
“Excuse you, Pep,” Tony nudges her. “Council treating you well?”
“Under the impression that I’m the only one they don’t behave with.” This is usually the part Clint stops listening, favouring the silent company Bruce offers as he begins to munch on his apple. ‘Course, lunch usually ends noisy, Tony and Steve getting into some spat or Thor insisting they visit him to keep Loki company. A round of strange hugs and some weirder handshakes later, they would split up for classes again, only to reconvene the next day.
Tony calls them family, and Clint thinks they just fit. Always have.
There’s Stark, the billionaire’s son – and the billionaire himself, more recently, since his father’d died. Bruce, the favoured lab-partner, the two of them losing the rest of the group as they launch into conversation about stars. And blueberries, on the odd day, but no one questions them.
Steve, the... Clint wouldn’t call him old-fashioned, not with the way he looks at things, but he seems to think Steve still needs some damn good alcohol to take that edge off most of the time. Weirdly enough, there’s Thor and Loki, the sons of hippies that Clint doesn’t quite ever want to meet.
Halfway through lunch, some girl from the English class he shares with Steve attempts to talk to the man again, sticking her head in at their table. There’s a bit of a collective smile at how bloody nervous he is, Clint smiles as he gives Bruce a shrug. Steve’s already flushed, and Clint thinks he’s going to be sick if he has to watch. “Think I’m taking my leave,” he murmurs, and he gets up quietly.
And it’s something he likes about Bruce – he doesn’t ask, and he nods. “Nest?”
“Yeah. And only if you need me,” Clint says carefully, but he nods – Bruce isn’t going to tell them where he’s gone, he knows, not unless something truly remarkable happens where Tony trades him the secret to the arc reactor. “See you.”
He slings the bow on his back when he reaches the staircase, shoving his hands in his pockets as he begins to climb up. It isn’t like anyone’s there to see, no, but he likes being up in the air more than he would admit, looking down at everyone from a place no one would be able to touch him.
When he’s approaching the roof, he notices that it’s oddly cold, and he pokes his head around to see that the door has been left ajar. Frowning, he hurries his step just a bit. Who the hell’d been up, if not him – and left the door open?
Pushing it the rest of the way, Clint steps out, shifting the string of his bow on his shoulder, adjusting his bag. Sure, could be a freshman messing with his head, dragging his girlfriend up, but he couldn’t be too careful – he knows that he’s made a fair few enemies over the year he’d been there, and he wasn’t taking chances.
The slight amusement in the voice behind him has him whipping around, looking above from where the voice had come from. She isn’t just on the roof, she’s perched atop the exit, her legs neatly folded as she looks down at him. Some time over the day, her bun seems to have fallen out, and she props her chin up as she leans forward.
Five floors up, and she’s chosen to sit on top of the stairwell. It must be nice, Clint notes, slightly higher than the rest of the concrete around them, the roof lying bare. It isn’t like anyone sees it, most days, and Clint usually sits alone for the better part of lunch, sometimes collecting his thoughts, sometimes aiming his arrows to the wall, or out to the trees.
Clint finds his words again, and he relaxes as he registers it’s just her. “Rushman, hi,” he greets her, looking up with some difficulty as the sun gets in his eyes. “How’d you get up here?”
“I walked, like you,” she replies simply, and she seems to consider a moment before she uncrosses her legs, hanging them over the edge. Clint lets a surprised smile spread on his lips as he watches her move, and he shakes his head as she throws her weight down to the ground in a graceful roll forward. “People are going to start thinking you’re following me, you know.”
“Hardly,” he rolls his eyes, and he watches her get to her feet again. Her movements are almost feline, swift and graceful. “How’d you find this place?”
She stares for a moment, and her reply is slow, almost confused. “You mean the roof? How hard is it to find the top of a building?”
“No, I didn’t – I mean, no one really visits,” he groans, and she raises an eyebrow mid-stretch, having been popping her joints out as she straightens up. “I mean, I’m usually on my own.”
“Yeah. No one comes up, no one that I know of,” he returns, and she smirks.
“What, you own the roof, now, do you?” She asks slowly, as if she’s assessing him.
“...Can’t say I wouldn’t like to, some days,” he responds after missing a beat, and he takes his bag off to set on the ground as he turns out to the view of the rest below. “Not mine, no. Friends call this the ‘nest’, though, and no one else’s protested much.”
“Nest?” She repeats.
“Nest,” he confirms, and he shrugs.
Natalie laughs, and she nods. “Yeah, I’ve heard about the name. ‘Hawkeye’, something like that? World’s Greatest Marksman?”
It’s his turn to raise an eyebrow at her, and she raises her hands in surrender. “Stark,”she says, like it explains everything – and the funny thing is, it does. “Wouldn’t shut up in my ear during Gym, said you’d ditched.”
“Principal’s office,” he retorts. She’s interesting – a love for high places, it seems, and a sharp tongue. “Barney called me that,” he says after a while, not sure if that’s a story that he should be telling her. “Got damn good aim with a bow, and Barney christened me Hawkeye.”
He rubs the back of his neck, and he looks around with some hesitation in his voice. “Yeah. Barney, he’s, uh– Dead, y’know. Accident.”
Her mouth falls into a small ‘o’, but she doesn’t even blink – like the idea of a dead brother doesn’t bother her in the least. It hangs in the air for just a moment, and then Natalie speaks again as she moves to the edge. “So,” she breaks the silence, looking at him, and then a smirk spreads on her lips.
He seems a tad afraid. “What?”
“Nothing,” she replies absently, and then she’s moving to get up, picking her bag up where he hadn’t seen it before.
Clint stops her, and he frowns. ‘What was it?”
“No, it’s really–” She pauses a moment, cocks her head to the side, and thinks it over. “You’re just really weird, Barton.”
“What do you mean ‘weird’?” He asks her, affronted.
She pokes her tongue out. “I would consider that an accomplishment.”
Natalie pulls her hair back up into her bun, pinning it back against her head, and she nods to him as she makes for the stairs. Her lips are still twisted into a smile, and Clint doesn’t really know what to say besides “thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” she responds graciously, winking. “Later.” She mock-salutes him, disappearing, and then Clint waits a moment as he blinks at the space she’d been in less than seven seconds ago.
Natalie Rushman. He turns out to the school, leaning out on the ledge they’d been sitting on, and he shakes his head. Wild, barking mad, and painfully interesting.
He decides he likes it.