Actions

Work Header

Red

Work Text:

 

“I want you to remember me this way,” she says, looking down at him, but all he sees are the stars behind her head.  

“Remember you how, Tash?” Clint asks. She takes his face in her hands and kisses him long and deep. She bites his lower lip until it bleeds.

“Just like this,” she says. 


--

 

Her hair is long when she leaves for Russia.

 

--

 

She comes back from the shower, dripping wet and still quintessentially, fundamentally Tash.

Tash, who evaporates when she dries her hair and braids it. Tash, who hides so many different passports on her person and in her luggage that Clint loses track of them all. 

Tash, who never leaves the room but doesn’t stay there, either. 

She kisses him chastely on the lips as she walks out the door. 

He can feel the scab, new and thick and raw.

 

--

 

Her hair is long the first time they meet, and she tries to kill him. 

Tries. Almost. Not quite. 

 

--

 

She has been born at least four times: 

Once the old fashioned way, bathed in blood and screaming.

Once in the Red Room, bathed in blood and silent as the grave.

Once when he lowers his bow and she becomes Natasha. 

Once when he falls in love with her and she becomes Tash. 

And also:

A dozen other times she doesn’t tell him about or can’t. She counts them late at night on her fingers and toes and he watches, amazed by her mnemonic. Every scar a tiny death, every digit a reincarnation.

“I never, ever want to have children,” she tells him one night, apropos of nothing, curled against him under the covers.  

“Okay,” he says. 

“Sorry,” she says, without feeling, and they never have the conversation again after that. 

 

--

 

Her hair is long-

 

--

 

“I don’t like you going out and seducing other men like it’s a game,” he says before the Stark job. She pegs him in the center of the forehead with a perfectly-thrown hairbrush. 

“I don’t play games,” she replies, continuing to pack like nothing has happened. “Games are for children.” 

She straddles him then, breathes down his neck until his heart rate quickens and he’s painfully hard. “C’mon, Tash,” Clint groans. She shakes her head, long hair whipping around her shoulders like ropes of fire. 

“I want you to remember me this way,” she says as she walks out the door.

 

--

 

I want you to remember me this way. 

I want you to remember me this way.

I want you to remember me this way.

Remember you how, Tash? 

 

--

 

Her hair is long when she goes to Russia, and short when she comes back. 

He does not know what happens to her in-between. 

 

--

 

This is what happens to Clint Barton: 

He jets out to New Mexico with six junior agents who won’t last a fortnight in the desert heat. One of the juniors is showing off pictures of his girl back home, and Clint - he’s seen enough movies to know the kid just signed his own death certificate. 

Clint’s not used to being in charge of people, not like this. Once they get onsite he lets the juniors get up to their own devices, spends his days exploring the high places where no one ever looks. At night he dreams of Tash. 

 

--

 

She is above him, her head ringed with stars, her hair a thousand tiny tongues of flame. “I want you to remember me this way,” she whispers. 

Remember you how, Tash? 

She rips his tongue out with her teeth. 

 

--

 

Her hair is long. 

 

--

 

The scab on his lip is important, but the Tesseract won’t let him remember why. 

In Stuttgart, he shoots men in the third person. The sleep deprivation sets in. He sees a woman in the corner of his eyes - long red hair, wreathed in stars. 

Loki is taken (this is the plan) and they are left to get back to the US on their own (this is the plan) and Clint can’t sleep (this is not the plan). He watches himself stare at walls, string and re-string his bow, plot kill shots with deadly precision and total detachment. 

He stands on the path overlooking the great lawn in Central Park. A couple lies on the grass below. The same woman. A man with no face. 

“I want you to remember me this way,” she says, and devours him whole. 

 

--

 

The scab flakes off before they storm the Helicarrier. He feels the conspicuous absence of memory, but the Tesseract stops him there. 

 

--

 

Everything happens in third-person. 

Her hair is short, not long, and when they fight Clint feels a thousand miles away. Like a ghost moves his body. The body. It’s not his. It hasn’t been his since New Mexico. He’s been watching it from afar while it commits crimes with his face.

(He always saw better from the cheap seats, anyway.) 

With a sickening crack, the whole world slides sideways. 

Tash stares at him, her fists raised. 

Clint plummets back into his body, and then further down.

 

--

 

Her hair is short. 

He has no time to ask her why she cut it. There are crimes to atone for and battles to fight. How she came by her bloody halo is not important. 

Another rebirth. He doubts she’d tell him, anyway.

 

--

 

When it is all over, they walk through Central Park in the dark, fingers barely touching. Her hair bobs around her chin, short and curled and fiery. 

“This isn’t how I remember you,” says Clint, gesturing to her curls. 

“I’m not Samson,” Tash replies, grabbing his wrist. Clint stills, staring down at the great lawn. “My strength is not my hair.” 

They roll across the empty grass, laughing like the children they aren’t, have never been, will never have or be. All of this feels familiar. All of this happened a long time ago. All of this is happening right now. 

She has already done the Stark job, Clint reminds himself. She has already been to Russia. 

“I want you to remember me this way,” says Tash, but all he sees are the stars behind her head.