Title: Even So

Author: Girl Who Writes

Characters: Clint, Natasha

Word Count: 914

Rating: G

Genre: General

Summary: After death-defying feats, so much paperwork, hours of evaluations, their blood spilt in dozens of countries, endless cups of tepid coffee and hours upon hours of silence, they are together in this.

Notes: My first completed and posted Natasha/Clint work! - even if it is of the gen/friendship persuasion. Written for tumblr's Clintasha Week 2013.

Disclaimer: The MCU belongs to Marvel and Disney, and I make no profits from this fan-based venture.

It should not have worked, but it did.

They were both liabilities, both turncoats, seeking sanctuary on the edge of the knife.

But few people were left to marvel over its success. In the seven years since Black Widow had joined SHIELD, the witnessing agents had moved on - to different departments, to whatever passed as retirement for SHIELD agents, or to a hole in the ground. It was SHIELD, after all - few people ever made it to full retirement.

And none of the newer agents, the recruits, ever looked beyond the legends and gossip that surrounded Hawkeye and the Black Widow, for their origins, for their earliest days under a legitimate authority. All they knew, the only whispers that were exchanged, was the knowledge that Black Widow had changed sides from Russia; was ice and steel with her emotions under lock and key, and had training that not even SHIELD would authorize.

They knew that Hawkeye was the only one that could convince SHIELD of the merit in his bow, even at the enormous expense of the tech. That no matter how many memos were sent, how many higher-ups complained and ranted, Hawkeye would only ever follow the orders of one Agent Phil Coulson.

They were legends in the halls of SHIELD, so rarely glimpsed by the recruits. When they did show up, together, they were followed by the eyes of everyone - recruits wants to absorb some of that greatness through osmosis; fellow agents who had known and trained with them, curious what had brought them back to base, and higher-ups looking for a chink in their armour, a single weakness or flaw.

They saw nothing. They did not know or understand. They saw the Black Widow and Hawkeye, maybe Agent Romanov and Agent Barton. But they never looked for Natasha and Clint.

Why would they?

Natasha knew what it was liked to be stripped of all meaning and intention, to be manipulated and rebuilt in someone else's image.

Clint knew what it was like to be betrayed by the ones that you trust the best, to be discarded time and time again. To only be valued for what you could do for them.

They both knew how to build themselves up, how to construct a seamless facade.

So they let the other agents see their training, their sparring - when Natasha twisted Clint's arm so forcefully, they could see the joint as it dislocated; when Clint cracked her across the face so hard Natasha's lip split and stained her face and shirt scarlet.

They let them see them filling in reams of paperwork, exchanging files with Agent Coulson, disappearing into Fury's office for assignments that most of the agents envisaged as being impossible, incredible, terrifying.

They were usually worse.

But it was what they didn't see, that was important. It was so easy to write them off as the organization's fatalists, as the acceptable losses to SHIELD - why else would they get such impossible, secret tasks? They were the broken fragments of humanity that were rebuilt for Fury's use and the world's benefit. What else could they be?

But they were wrong. Even someone who has been beaten down, broken and rebuilt is still human.

There were so many little pieces. Natasha's gentle but callused fingers running carefully through Clint's hair, carefully snipping. Clint's hands stained charcoal and golden after helping her dye her hair for a new cover. How when his missions went sour or long, when he was stained with blood and grime and sweat, starving and exhausted, she would be there in his quarters with a first aid kit and a tray from the mess, so that he didn't have to drag himself to the cafeteria, or the infirmary (if anything makes them snap, it will be the disapproving clucks of the doctors and nurses, as if their wounds were the result of irresponsibility or negligence).

It is late night card games, a mug of coffee at an elbow during marathon sessions with paperwork and thin black stitches cross-crossing flesh that will probably scar. It is a playful tug on a ponytail, a blade intentionally left beneath his pillow, flicking M&Ms at each other across Coulson's office, Coulson giving them that look as he tries to finish his phonecall.

It is his bow restrung after a week in the infirmary - not perfectly, but as well as she ever managed under his tutelage.

It is a replacement of her favourite heels because it was kind of his fault she'd had to leave her pair behind in that hotel in Berlin.

It is that knowledge that if she ever loses herself again, he still has that arrow he pointed at her all those years ago. And if he ever turns his back on them, she has a bullet in her gun for him.

Because since that day in the back streets of Prague when he had that arrow aimed at her, her face already bloody and her feet bare, they were partners. They were both reforged that night, each reflected in the other.

And that after everything, after death-defying feats, so much paperwork, hours of evaluations, their blood spilt in dozens of countries, endless cups of tepid coffee and hours upon hours of silence, they are together in this. And finding someone they could stand shoulder to shoulder with, could let the cracks show, could be human before agent, would always be worth the pound of flesh that Fury - that SHIELD - demanded.