“You still think you’re the only monster on the team?”
I've thought about that statement from time to time, even the look in Bruce's eyes when I said it. He switched from sympathy to his signature confused-puppy face. He even slowly turned his head to the side as if to say "I don't get it"
I didn't quite understand the words coming from my mouth then either, but as a trained assassin, when you start something, you keep going.
If i could do over, I wouldn't have said I was a monster because, Hell, even a monster can have babies. And not having babies doesn't make you a monster.
I'm not sure if I would ever consider having kids and having a family. But that’s because Natasha was stripped from me. They took all the Natasha out of me and made me a shell that was Black Widow. You’re not going to fight for your humanity if they take away everything that makes you human. Pain, periods, emotions, childbirth. Everything gone.
Sterilizing me, making me hallow, taking away my one of my last choices. It didn't make me a monster, it made me a product. A barcode on the shelf with no meaning. My value only being in my usefulness to manipulate, to fight, to be THE BLACK WIDOW.
It's all Black Widow knows, but what about a life that Natasha would have wanted?
I can't sit and think about that for too long though. It starts to leave cracks in my confidence. Even going from assassin to Avenger, I could take my emotions, my pain, and construct them into logic. At least being an Avenger made me feel more like Natasha and more like I was making a choice. I mean, at any given moment, I could have killed them all, sided with the villain, and run off into the sunset but I didn't HAVE to.
Choosing to be an Avenger was the freest I've felt in my life.
I felt like I could do this, I could use Black Widow for good. I could take her negative qualities (her hollowness, her manipulation) and use it to save the day.
And with this choice, parts of Natasha could peek through.
But then watching them, one by one, turn to dust and wither into nothing. When I was so sure we had Thanos, that we would win. It was almost like I understood why I was trained into Black Widow. Because after the snap, watching my friends die made me feel intense heartbreak. This is what it’s like to be human, pain is debilitating
The first year after the snap, I could dive right back in to Black Widow. Honestly, she kept me going because I felt like we will win. We have won every time before this. we just have to think of another way. Logic took over.
And then in the second year, trying to get ahold of Thor almost killed me.
I entered Thor’s place, unannounced. The entire inside was pitch black. Widows covered. I could hear loud snoring in the background.
"Thor? It's Natasha"
A sharp, throaty snore let me know he was now awake. A clanking of bottles rattled as his feet touched the floor. Even in the dark, I could tell his eyes were bloodshot. His stance lacked power. His shoulders hunched and he swayed a little.
"What do you want!" he roared, and before I could answer, I heard something whiz past my head.
"Leave me alone! Leave me alone!" He kept throwing bottles, narrowly missing my head
I effortlessly missed them all, hearing them crash behind me. "Thor, I-"
Before I could finish, I was weightless, my feet lifting off the floor. Then I felt the cold, hard wall on my back, and a glass shard pointing at my neck. Wet, hot tears were hitting my shoulder, and they weren’t mine.
"I don't, I don't want to kill you" Thor said in between sobs, his breath was hot with beer "But you can’t make me go. I failed.”
Thor began sobbing uncontrollably now, almost spitting before sucking in big gulps of air.
It was Black Widow who was able to calm him, to convince him to put her down slowly. But it was Natasha that couldn't bring herself to force him to come back. Because, again, Thor had a choice and Thor didn't want to be reminded of his entire planet being killed, including his brother.
Black Widow probably could have forcibly made him come back. But the Natasha in me said "I can't take away his choice too. I can't make him face this like Black Widow. I have to let him be human."
The words barely landed on my ears before I knew what I had to do
"A Soul for a soul"
in that moment, everything seemed to run through my mind in slow motion. Monster. The Snap. The glass to my neck. Clint and his arrow. And now...
It wasn't that I felt my life mattered less. But there was something that finally gave me a sense of relief.
The choice to turn back home and figure out another way to defeat Thanos without the soul stone. It wasn't the most effective choice, but dammit, it was one.
Or the choice to end this. After five long years, to finally end the suffering that Thanos caused. If we had all the stones, this WOULD work. And I could die, without hesitation, knowing just that.
Before I could turn my head to look at Clint, I realized that he knew that he had choices too.
Clint was tired of pain, of having everything he loved taken away from him. So I knew before I could even say that I would do it, that Clint already decided.
I ran for the cliff because I could do it, I could just jump, and restore everything that we have worked so hard for, including giving Clint back what he loved most: his family.
Before I could do it, before I could see myself soaring over the cliff and giving into a painful bone crushing death, Clint was right behind me pulling me back
"No, I won't let you" he said.
Clint and I went back and forth, finding exits in each others traps before getting reeled back in again. Before we knew it, our struggle lead us over the cliff.
This was the first time I panicked. I couldn't die and take Clint with me! This cannot happen!
A rough tug of my arm let me know that Clint was hanging on to something while also hanging on to me. His eyes trying to force me to not hang there with my dead weight.
"I can't" he said, his voice trailing.
In the short fall to the bottom, I would process the rest of this sentence before hearing nothing at all.
What I thought was going to be "I can't pull you up" was really "I can't lose you too."
Which why we hung there, dangling on the edge of this cliff. Me, trying to will myself to drop, and Clint using the same amount of energy to keep me alive.
I couldn't have him carry my death as another destination on his guilt trip. I wanted him to know that the only way for me to take back Natasha, was to finally have a choice. Even if it was the last choice I'll ever make, I still knew, while hanging off that cliff, it was a damn good one.
Let me go, I told him, doing everything I could to absolve him of the guilt I knew he would carry with him later
But instead his grip tightened with a stubbornness that let me know he would let us dangle here for another 5 years if it meant that he didn’t have to watch another loved one die.
So I did it, a kick to the cliff to completely loosen his grip on me. and I was weightless.
You would think death is terrifying, especially as it's unknown affects are looming near. Black Widow would have braced herself for the fall, positioning herself to feel as little pain as possible.
But as I, Natasha, hurdled faster to the ground, an image of a shiny yellow circle popped in my mind. And I was able to give in, peacefully, to choice.
Clint remembered reading about Survivors' Guilt in his youth and thinking it was a crock of shit. "I'd just be happy I made it" he thought.
It's thoughts like this that haunt him now. No longer can he pretend as if he doesn't understand beating the Big Evil, getting your family back, and still being riddled with soul crushing guilt. He now spends days looking out of his front window at his daughter, practicing her archery. Being so grateful to witness this moment and feeling crippling guilt that this is also something he never deserved to experience again.
He returned to his home after Tony's funeral. There were a few mutters about Nat around the lake and, he knew it wasn't enough, that Natasha deserved 10 of the funerals that Tony got.
But when he would start, it brought him back to that moment at Vormir. All he can hear is "let me go" and it would be enough to bring him to tears for hours.
His wife suggested the funeral again, and after protesting for months, Clint finally decided that it was time.
In his bedroom, he looks in the mirror analyzing his black suit. He can hear the kids chattering outside.
"It's time, honey" his wife says
Clint feels like the air just got knocked out of him. His feet become cemented to the floor and he can't move. He knows every step to this door means that he's going to have to let Natasha go again, and he's not ready.
His wife gently puts her hand on his shoulders. "Clint it's ok"
With her touch, he starts to let go of the tension in his shoulders and allow her to lead him outside to the backyard.
When discussing Nat’s funeral, the final deal was that the family would have their own funeral in the back yard, but as Clint struggled with planning, his wonderful wife took over. As Clint stepped outside, his jaw dropped.
Dressed in black, his children adorned their smiles, each wearing red sashes around their waists. White flowers were strung between two trees. Looking at all of this in this moment wasn’t sad. It brought on a peaceful calm that Clint hadn’t felt in years.
"Oh my god, guys, “Clint says, feet getting stuck again "it's beautiful"
As his wife lead him further into the backyard, Clint could see that in-between the white flowers were single red roses. In the center of the backyard was Natasha’s tombstone. Surrounding the tombstone was a beautiful array of tea light candles.
Clint stared in amazement "You guys did all of this?"
There was nothing now that could hold back his tears. His wife was crying now too. And the whole family, huddled around the beautiful lighted tombstone, cried and grieved together, letting time slip away.
"I made this Daddy, can I give it to her?" Clint’s youngest son asked.
"Yeah son" A very choked up Clint tells him "go ahead and put it on her tombstone.”
Just when Clint didn't think he could cry anymore, he wipes his eyes and reads the tombstone.
"Natasha Romanov. To The Question You Didn't Need Answered: You Were Always Worthy"
Next to the tombstone, his youngest son lays down his gift to Natasha. It's a hammer from a hardware store with a red bow. Clint feels another surge of tears when he notices that on the handle of the hammer, his son wrote, Natasha.