Author's Note: Slightly AU in that Natasha's birth year is earlier than 1984, since this story takes place during the time of Soviet Russia.


If Natasha had known it was going to get this bad she would never have broken his legs.

About a week ago, someone had gotten into the Lubyanka. The intruder had trashed the place, leaving bodies and papers scattered everywhere. Although the KGB was hard at work putting their headquarters back together, there were so many papers that it would take a while before they knew whether anything had been taken. But there was so much extremely top secret information in that building that anybody who broke in would almost definitely get some of it.

But they had known the intruder had gotten much, much more than just a few important papers, because they knew who the intruder was. See, he had left a calling card in every body he had left behind: a long black arrow – and that meant it could only be one agent: Hawkeye.

People argued about whether Hawkeye or Natasha was the better agent. He was certainly more discreet; nobody even knew what he looked like because the only evidence he ever left was an arrow. He was ruthless, efficient, and brilliant at his job. Nobody knew where he came from, or what his real name was, and rumor had it that he could shoot your eye out in any conditions – including a raging hurricane. Hawkeye had a habit of killing from a distance; Natasha liked getting close to her target, often completely seducing him, before killing him. That's how she got her nickname. Hawkeye got his nickname because only a hawk could see well enough to shoot someone's eye out from so far away that the victim wouldn't even hear the twang of a bowstring, no matter how silent and still the night.

She didn't know why he always shot his arrows through his targets' eyes. It was probably a psychological thing – it increased the fear surrounding him. An arrow through the eye wouldn't make a target any more dead than an arrow anywhere else fatal, but it seemed worse.

Natasha had been sent to find Hawkeye, capture him, find out what information he had stolen and whether he had told anybody any of it, and then kill him.

Four days ago she had found out that not only did he probably take a bunch of secret files, but he had also taken every single list they had of what secret documents were in the building – including the list in the director's home. It became even more imperative that she find out what he had taken, otherwise they would never know.

It had taken her longer than usual to catch up with Hawkeye – he was good.

She was better.

She had finally caught up to him in Budapest, just 170 kilometers from the border and his people.

She had tied him up and chained him up and padlocked him up until he had no chance of getting out, because she wasn't about to underestimate the man who had gotten into – and out of – the Lubyanka. And then, as an extra precaution, she had broken his legs so he wouldn't be able to go anywhere if he did somehow manage to get out of the chains.

She had just begun . . . encouraging . . . him to give her information when she had seen Fyodor Raskolnikov out the window at the bottom of the building. And he wasn't alone. черт побери! She needed to leave.

But she wasn't going to leave Hawkeye or kill him until she knew exactly what he had taken.

So she had decided to take him with her.

She had quickly undone most of the padlocks and chains around his feet and legs, and set about using some of the rods and rope from her "Encouragement Table" to set the bones in his legs. Then she had untied him from the chair, leaving only the ropes tying his hands and feet together. Then she had cleaned up the room, leaving no proof she, or Hawkeye, had ever been there. Except for some . . . surprises . . . for Raskolnikov when he came looking.

Fyodor Raskolnikov was the second-in-command of a nasty arms-dealing group called the Спрут. Raskolnikov didn't like Natasha much – probably because she killed his mentor. Or maybe because she killed his brother.

The Спрут as a whole also didn't like Natasha. While the Спрут sometimes worked with the KGB (the Спрут often sold American weapons), Natasha was only sent in when the Спрут was selling Soviet weapons to the Americans (which, for obvious reasons, the KGB didn't like) – meaning the Спрут really really wanted the Black Widow dead.

And they had the manpower and the gun-power to do it by overwhelming her with sheer numbers.

But she wasn't that easy to kill. She had slung her bag of tools over her back, then grabbed Hawkeye and carried him out of the room and up the stairs to the roof, planning on using a board she had put up there to run over to an adjacent roof (she could jump the gap easily, but not while carrying Hawkeye). But the Спрут had people on the surrounding roofs, effectively blocking her escape route. She could shoot her way through – easily. But nobody had seen her yet, and she hadn't been sure how confident the Спрут was that she was here. It would be best if she could get out without anybody seeing her.

And she did have another way out.

The problem had been that she was with Hawkeye.

He had surprised her by speaking. "You could always go through that underground tunnel in the basement."

How had he known about that? He wasn't supposed to know about that! That meant that he had been watching her before he went to Moscow, and the only reason he would have for watching her was if she had been his next target – until his bosses had decided whatever information he had stolen from the Lubyanka was more important.

She wasn't sure how she felt about that.

Fine. They'd go through the underground tunnel.

She had glared at him as she picked him up again, and he had raised an eyebrow back at her as she had run back to the stairs, heading down to the basement.

Natasha had stopped at every landing, making sure she couldn't hear anybody coming up the stairs. On the third floor, she had heard someone, so she ducked out of the stairwell and snuck into one of the third floor rooms. She had set Hawkeye down so she had better access to her guns, and glanced out the window to see if she would get lucky and be able to leave that way. But no, the building was still surrounded. There were even more members of the Спрут than there were before.

A few minutes later, she had snuck out and glanced in the stairwell, confirming that it was empty again. She had grabbed Hawkeye and gone down to the second floor. She was halfway down another floor when Raskolnikov came through and saw her. She had reached for one of her guns (Raskolnikov would have been dead already, but she was carrying Hawkeye), but there had been a gunshot and Raskolnikov fell to the ground, a bullet through his eye. Hawkeye had grabbed one of her guns and shot him.

She had stared at Hawkeye, shocked that he was helping her. But he had just said, "You run, I'll shoot." Natasha had stared for another second, but the shot had attracted the attention of other Спрут lackeys on the first floor. So she had started running up the stairs again, with Hawkeye shooting every Спрут he could see.

"You know, it would be easier for me to shoot if my hands were untied," Hawkeye had said, still with a blank expression.

"Not a chance," Natasha replied, kicking a door into a Спрут's face as she ran past the fourth floor.

Eventually they had reached the roof, and Natasha quickly shot every Спрут she could see on the adjacent roofs, while Hawkeye continued shooting the members of the Спрут that had followed them up the stairs.

Once she had killed all the Спрут minions, she had quickly grabbed the board and dropped it to the nearest roof, picked up Hawkeye again, and run across. She had kicked the board onto the street so the Спрут goons would have to jump (most of them were typical heavyweight thugs and wouldn't have been able to make the jump).

Then she had run down the stairs of the adjacent building until she got to the second floor. The first floor was a restaurant, and it had an extended roof over some of the tables on the side opposite the building she had come from. She had hidden a board there, too, just in case she had heavy luggage with her, which was good, because Hawkeye had been getting heavier by the minute.

She had grabbed the board and extended it to the window of another building, ran along it, and then pulled it in behind her after putting Hawkeye down. She hadn't wanted anybody to know where she had gone.

But it had been impossible to know whether someone had seen her. Many of the civilians would willingly tell anybody who asked about the woman who had run across a roof carrying someone else. So she had to keep moving, and get as far away from there as possible.

And she had to get on the streets. She could have hidden in crowds, although it might have been difficult to be inconspicuous if she was carrying someone. For that matter, she hadn't been sure how far away from there she could get if she had to carry Hawkeye the whole way.

But first she had needed to know something. She had turned to Hawkeye. "Why are you helping me?"

"They were Спрут, right?"

She had nodded.

"I've . . . caused problems . . . for them a few times, when they've been selling American weaponry. I figure my lifespan is a bit longer with you."

It was true. If Hawkeye had been doing the same thing to the Спрут as Natasha had, they would kill him instantly. She needed information from him, so she would keep him alive until she had it.

If she could.

But while they had been talking she had gotten an idea.

She had glanced out the window to check where the Спрут lackeys were, but they didn't seem to have figured out where she had disappeared to. So she had hidden her guns and picked up Hawkeye, hoping it was going to be the last time for a while – he was getting heavy – and carried him down to the street on the other side of the building.

There was a bus stop right outside the building, and buses were such a common sight that nobody would look twice, never guessing that she was on one.

She had waited until a bus stopped and the crowd waiting to get on had mostly disappeared before dashing out of the building and heading toward it. But then she had to stop, because the last person trying to get on the bus was an old woman, and she was so slow Natasha had considered just shooting her and hijacking the bus. It wasn't like the старуха was going to live much longer anyway.

And then just when Natasha had been about to get on the bus she had seen a Спрут at the other end of the street, and he had seen her. So she had finished drawing her gun (she had started drawing it already: the old woman had been very slow) and pointed it at the bus driver, pushing the old woman out of the way, because while the old woman was technically on the bus, she hadn't yet moved very far into the bus.

"Drive. Quickly," Natasha had snarled.

The bus driver had taken one look at her gun and stepped on the gas. Hawkeye had grabbed one of her guns again and was watching the passengers, who had been watching the two of them with wide eyes and open mouths. Except for the slow old woman, who had been glaring at Natasha and looking like she was about to launch into a long lecture on respecting your elders. Natasha had ignored her. She should have shot her.

"Stop taking my guns, Hawkeye," she had said as she motioned one of the passengers out of his seat so she could put Hawkeye down.

He had looked at her unrepentantly. "You took my bow!"

She had been about to reply, but the bus had stopped, and she had turned to see that there was a group of workmen crossing the street in front of the bus.

Snarling, she had dragged the driver out of his seat and taken the wheel herself, pushing on the horn and driving forwards, causing the workers to jump out of the way, cursing. The bus driver had been cursing her, too. And the old woman had glared at her hard enough that it might as well have been a curse.

She had ignored them all and continued driving as quickly as she could. She was more used to cars, which were much more maneuverable, and less likely to tip over when going around corners, so she had to concentrate. When she had gotten a bit used to it, and was in a less busy area of the city, she had noticed that Hawkeye had gotten into friendly conversation with the old woman. They had been discussing Natasha and her anger management problems. Funny, Hawkeye was.

She had swerved around a car and then done a double take: she had recognized the car's driver. He was a Спрут. She had left him alive last time to give a message to Yuri Loginov, the head of the Спрут. But she had shot him in the hand and then stepped on it. And from the look on his face and the way he was shooting at her, he remembered her, too.

Other cars full of Спрут goons had come after her, and more came to cut her off. One advantage of being in a bus, she had supposed, was that when she was completely blocked off, she could purposely drive into one of the cars and kill everyone inside without hurting herself at all.

And she had known that would probably happen soon. She hadn't known where the Спрут had gotten so many cars, but she had been about to be surrounded. And all the thugs had been shooting at the bus. Hawkeye had told everyone to duck, and he had been shooting back, but there had been only two of them, and she had counted eight cars filled with men shooting back at them. Time for a final stand.

Except it wouldn't be final if she had anything to say about it.

She had looked for somewhere she could stop the bus that would give the two of them the cover they needed and also give them places to shoot from. Hawkeye had gotten out of his bindings and was rummaging around her bag of supplies (which she was not okay with), but when he pulled out his bow and quiver she understood. And was a little more okay with it. As long as he didn't turn on her, she was fine with him being armed with his favored weapon.

She'd have to remember to ask him why a bow of all things was his favored weapon.

His first shot had landed in the middle of a car full of people, missing every single one of them. She had looked at him incredulously, and was startled when the entire bus was rocked by a blast from the car he had shot. She had grinned. Perfect. They had been in an empty square (well, it had been empty after they had gotten there. It probably hadn't been two minutes before), and the ruins of the cars near the blast were great cover, with plenty of holes to shoot through. She had driven the bus into yet another car full of Спрут and kept driving until it crunched against a wall. Now there was a triangular area blocked by the bus on one side, a wall on another, and the ruined cars on another. There was a door in the wall, which she would have to watch out for so nobody could sneak up on them—or maybe she could rig it to blow if someone tried to open it.

She had slung her bag of supplies around her back, grabbed a gun in each hand, taken a deep breath, and jumped out of the bus, rolling quickly across the open ground between the bus and the ruined cars. There was a smattering of gunfire, but she hadn't been hit. She had taken a quick look into each of the bombed out cars, making sure there weren't any survivors who could be a problem later, and then she had glanced out through a contorted window frame on one of the cars and taken note of all the shooters. They were attempting to rush her and overwhelm her with their superior numbers. She had smirked. Bad idea.

She had watched them, hidden, waiting for more of them to get out into the open, and for them to get close enough that there would be nowhere for them to go when she started shooting.

Three . . . two . . . one . . .

She had stood up and started picking off the closest Спрут goons. One . . . two . . . three and four . . . five . . . six, seven, eight . . . nine sprouted an arrow when she shot him, and it had taken her a moment to figure out what had happened, but once she had noticed, she realized that half the bodies on the ground had arrows in them. The Спрут thugs had finally realized what a bad idea rushing her was, and had started running towards the closest cover.

But because she had waited for them to get close before starting to shoot, most of them had been far from cover. A couple more had fallen to arrows, and she had started shooting again. Ten through sixteen had been running away in a straight line – stupid. Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, and twenty had been zigzagging, but had been too panicked to do it effectively. Twenty-one and twenty-two had been trying to pile up the bodies of their dead comrades – probably the smartest thing they could have done in that situation, but it had been too late for them.

Four of the Спрут gunmen had been working together, taking turns shooting at her and running away from her. It was a good tactic – she couldn't stand up to get a good shot because there was always someone shooting at her. She had crawled into the car she was using as cover and found a twisted piece of metal on the other side that led to a hole that she could shoot out of without exposing herself. Twenty-three . . . twenty-four, and the last two had dived behind some cars before she could shoot them.

By then all the Спрут gunmen had been either behind cover or dead. She hadn't known how many were left, but between her and Hawkeye, there had been about fifty dead bodies lying strewn around the square. Not bad.

She had glanced around the square, paying attention to any movement, gunshots, or other noises, and making note of where each of her enemies was hiding. The men behind the car on the far right had been firing at her almost constantly, hoping to keep her pinned down and distracted from the men who were trying to sneak from car to car to attack her on the left. Their covering fire was pretty effective—she hadn't been able to stand up to get a good shot, but she hadn't worried. She had known the ones on her left were trying to sneak up on her, and she would easily be able to pick them off once they started coming at her.

But she shouldn't let them know that she had figured out their plan, so she had found the same hole in the car that she had used before to shoot out of. One, two, three, and she had missed the fourth guy, because he had ducked down just in time. He probably had to reload – it was almost impossible that he had noticed his companions had been shot before ducking down: Natasha was too quick. But he wouldn't come back up anytime soon.

She had climbed back out of the car, content to wait for the Спрут thugs to come to her, and had glanced around for Hawkeye. He had been sitting on the ground (she hadn't known how he had gotten that far with both legs broken) and he had been pointing people to the door in the wall, and watching for anybody shooting at them, but the gunmen were all too worried about Natasha. 'With good reason,' she had thought, smirking.

She had turned back to the Спрут when she heard the sound of more cars screeching into the square. They had called reinforcements. черт побери!

She had stood up and shot at the Спрут minions in the front seats of the first car, but the glass was bulletproof, and the bullets had simply put thin cracks in the glass. She did have some bigger guns with her that she could try, but it had been easier simply to shoot out the wheels, which she had quickly done, causing a three-car crash. She had seen a quick flash of movement, and then the entire crash had exploded. Hawkeye must have shot an exploding arrow.

She had looked over, and sure enough, Hawkeye had been close by, shooting more arrows around the side of the car she was taking cover behind. He had glanced at her and nodded.

"How did you get over here with broken legs?" she had asked, looking back out and shooting more of the Спрут.

"I walked on my hands," he responded, completely seriously.

"Excuse me?"

"You don't know how to walk on your hands?" he had mocked. "I think there's been a serious oversight in your education, Widow."

She hadn't answered, but vowed to learn to walk on her hands as soon as possible.

Both of them had continued shooting constantly while talking. They worked together well. It was almost like what she always imagined having a partner would be like (nobody wanted to partner with her, just because she shot the first guy she had been partnered with – he was an idiot: she had done the world a service).

But there were so many Спрут goons that even with Hawkeye's backup, Natasha knew they would quickly be overwhelmed.

Even if Hawkeye could walk on his hands, there was no way he could run as fast as he would need to in order to get away from the Спрут. And Natasha wasn't quite quick enough while carrying someone else. They were stuck.

If she had known it would get this bad, she would never have broken his legs.

Of course, she could always abandon him. But her bosses really needed that information. It wasn't worth her life (well – not to her), but she would do her best to get them both out alive.

"Hawkeye!"

He nodded at her to show he was listening.

"We need to get out of here!" She had to shout to make herself heard above the gunfire. "Any ideas?"

"Yeah! You stay here and hold them off while I sneak out through the building behind us!"

"Funny!" she growled. "I was thinking the opposite!" He was useless, he really was. How he was still alive . . .

Well, he wouldn't be for long after they got out of this mess. She just needed that information first.

He looked amused, but then he pulled an arrow with a grappling hook on it out of his quiver and said, "Or, we could grapple to the top of the building and hope that we find a way to get out from there."

It was really the only option they had. Except for running and leaving Barton behind. Which she could always do later if she had to.

"Let's do it."

They moved closer to the wall – it turned out Hawkeye did know how to walk on his hands. She was definitely learning how to do that.

They strapped themselves together so they could both have their arms free, and then he shot a grappling hook arrow to the top of the building and started pulling them up, as she provided covering fire.

Something bumped into her shoulder, hard, and she turned to look and realized with a thrill of horror that she had been shot. She couldn't let Hawkeye see. He had stuck with her so far because he needed her while his legs were broken, and she had stuck with him because she needed to know what he had stolen from the Lubyanka. But with a bullet through her shoulder she wouldn't be useful to him anymore. She could not let him know.

The pain, when it came, was so white-hot she almost dropped her guns. As it was, she paused long enough for Hawkeye to notice and ask if everything was all right.

She said it was, even though she thought it was unlikely that she would reach the top of the building without passing out.

But she did, and although Hawkeye looked at her funny, he didn't ask why she was moving slower than usual, or why she was only using her left arm. He seemed nicer than most spies she had met: he probably would wait for her to pass out before killing her, so she wouldn't even know what happened. It would be quiet, quick, and painless (except for the bullet she already had in her shoulder). She should feel grateful, but . . . she really didn't want to die.

The whole city block was connected, so getting to the roof of the next building wasn't difficult at all. The building at the other end of the block was easy to scale, which was good, because Natasha was quickly losing all feeling in her right arm on top of losing her vision and feeling very hot and very dizzy, and both of Hawkeye's legs were still broken, meaning he had to scale the building using only his hands. They got to the bottom, Natasha struggling the entire way not to pass out, and snuck unobtrusively (as much as someone who was walking on their hands could be unobtrusive) into a small, dimly lit café.

She fainted before she had gone three steps in.

↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑ =ö= ↑

Natasha woke up slowly. Unless there was literally a knife to her throat or a gun to her head she always woke up slowly. Seemingly slowly. Actually, her mind was wide awake, while her body continued to look asleep to anyone who might be watching. Her shoulder still hurt, but it had clearly been bandaged, and didn't hurt as much as before. She was lying on a bed and there was a blanket over her, and part of her shirt was missing, probably cut off by whoever had bandaged her wound.

She could hear the hawkers outside an open window; she was probably on the fourth or fifth floor of whatever building she was in. She couldn't hear any movement inside the room she was in, so she opened her eyes, still doing her best not to move so that unless someone was looking right at her, nobody would ever know she had woken up.

There was nobody in the room. There was a table next to the bed with some bread, some soup (at room temperature, unfortunately), some water (also at room temperature), and a spoon.

On the ground was her bag, with all her supplies still in there. On top of the bag was a new shirt that looked her size.

Next to the food on the table was a note with a long black arrow stuck through it: 'Until next time.'


Author's Notes

Fyodor Raskolnikov: His name comes from Fyodor Dostoevsky, who wrote Crime and Punishment, and from main character in the book: Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov.

Спрут: means "Octopus" in Russian. It's the name of the Soviet submarine that runs aground on US soil in the 1966 movie The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming.

черт побери: a Russian swear

старуха: means "old woman" in Russian

Yuri Loginov: His name comes from Yuri Padorin, a Soviet admiral in Tom Clancy's book (and in the 1990 movie) Hunt for Red October, and from Igor Loginov, a Soviet GRU Intelligence Officer who tries to destroy the sub Red October in the same book/movie.