AN: Woah! Hold up there! Okay, so this is a companion piece to my other story, 'The Backwaters,' but I reckon you'll probably be able to understand this well enough without having read that. In case you don't, I'll just give you a basic run down at the end of this. Now, speaking of THIS! WHAT IN THE HOLY HELL? I meant for this to be a quick oneshot- perhaps two thousand words, max! Instead, I'm splitting it into two halves (btw, fair warning, I've no idea WHEN the second half will be up), with the first half standing at 5590 words! I DID NOT PLAN FOR THIS TO HAPPEN!

Hopefully- for the sake of my sanity- the other companion pieces won't be this long! They probably won't be up for quite a while, I'm sorry to say, but- as depressing as it is- schoolwork needs to come first. That said, I managed to get this done, so there's a start!

And to all of you who read The Backwaters, reviewed, followed and faved, THANK YOU SO MUCH! I hope this piece lives up to your expectations, and if you want to review/follow/fave it too, well! I certainly won't complain!

So, with that little spiel over, I now present you with part 1 of... THE RUNAWAYS (dramatic music plays in the background)


They live in a little house a little way into the woods, with a beat up old car and more alcohol than food. His mother is a slight thing, with skin so pale it's almost translucent and eyes constantly widened with fear. His father is a beast of a man, tall and dark and heavyset, perfectly happy to take out any smaller creatures that get in the way.

Clint's earliest memory is from when he is about three or four. His father comes home even later than usual, even drunker than usual, bloodshot eyes and cheeks reddened from the alcohol. His father always has red cheeks. Clint thinks it makes him look like a devil- like a devil from the children's cartons he watches when his father isn't home.

If his father is a devil then his brother is an angel- the same dark hair as their father, but eyes so blue they gleam, stepping in front of him as their father slams into the house.

"Boys!" he shouts, and their mother takes it as her cue to flee. "BOYS! Get down here now!" Clint is trembling, but Barney takes his hand and leads him downstairs. Their father looms above them, his breath reeking of whisky, and with a casual bat of his hand he sends Barney tumbling to the other side of the room before snatching Clint by the ankle and shaking him, shaking him and shaking him until the world goes black and the memory ends.

They live in a large house in a nice neighbourhood on the edge of town, with a lady to do the cleaning and a man who cuts the grass in summer and shovels snow in winter. Her mom is beautiful, with gently curling red hair and eyes like melted chocolate. Her father is tall, with dark hair and a well trimmed beard.

Her earliest memory is of the three of them walking through the snow. Her parents are holding her hands, swinging her into the air as she giggles gleefully. It's the day after Christmas, and the snow is taller than she is- without them she would be trapped in it.

"You know, Natasha," her father tells her in Russian as they hike her over a particularly deep drift, "one day you will be tall enough to get through the snow. And when you are, you will be the most beautiful woman in Russia- all the men will want to dance with the Lady Romanoff." Her mother shoots her father a look and after their next swing, she chips in.

"But you will choose only the best boy, won't you Natasha? Because you will be very smart too, and you will not need a man to protect you. Will she?"

"Oh, no," her father says, backtracking quickly one he realises what he's done. "Of course she won't. She will be so smart and strong that, uh, she'll be the one protecting her boy. Isn't that right, Natasha?" She pauses, considering, before turning to her father.

"Papa, can I do a ballet practice?" Both parents smile indulgently, and they turn to go back indoors, making a game of following the footsteps they'd created before.

"Natasha," says her mother as they walk, "you never answered your father's question."

"I'm not going to be clever and strong," she replies, clambering over a small log that is in her way. Her parents frown slightly, glancing at each other concern. "I'm clever and strong already," the little girl continues, oblivious to their relief at this statement. "Papa, can I have some chocolate after my ballet practice?"

"We'll see," he hums, and he swings her up onto his shoulders, carrying her back home.

When Clint is six, his father pushes Barney down the stairs, breaking his arm in a way that the bone is poking through the skin. Their mother, in a unique display of initiative, loads her family into the car and drives them to the local hospital. Barney is whimpering the entire drive, while their dad warns him of the consequences of bleeding on the seat.

When they get there, it turns out that Barney has to have an operation on his arm- nothing major, but enough that they'll have to remain at the hospital several more hours. Clint sees an opportunity- after all, according to the TV, doctors help people. He slips away from his parents and finds the reception desk, where he asks a lady in blue, one of the many ladies in blue, if he can speak to the doctor. The lady, who says she's a nurse, asks him why.

"It's about my brother," he says, and explains how Barney got his broken arm. The nurse's frown gets deeper and deeper as the story progresses, and by the end he's worried that her face might fall off.

"That's very bad," she says, and he's relieved that she understands. "That's very, very bad. What did you say your name was?"

"Clint," he tells her breathlessly, and she straightens up. She's going to help me he thinks, and he wonders what she'll do. Perhaps she'll call 911, and get a load of fire fighters to help stop his dad. Or the army!

"Clint, has anyone ever told you the story of the boy cried wolf?" He pauses, because isn't that the story about the boy who lies a lot? Next thing he knows, his ear is in a vice like grip and the lady is dragging him through the hallways, only to deposit him in front of his parents.

"Oh?" says his father when she's finished explaining his 'lie.' "I see. Honey, stay here and wait for news on Barney. Clint's obviously upset at what happened to his brother, and we need to have a talk." His mother pales, but nods. The nurse smirks smugly and stalks off. Clint learns the hard way that not everything you see on TV is true- the doctors don't care and the nurses are snitches. The army won't come and the fire fighters- well, he's not even sure that they exist. In this painful world, he and Barney are on their own.

She's eight and curled up on a plastic chair in the waiting room, devouring yet another book. Her room at home is already filled with them, unlike the hospital- all they have are magazines about cooking and how to get skinny, both things she's never had any interest in.

Down the corridor, behind the third door on the right, her mother is hooked up to lots of creepy tubes and buzzing machines, which make her think of the aliens from one of her books. The aliens stole her mother's hair, and if the whispered conversations she pretends she doesn't hear are true, they're stealing her mother's life as well. Her father is in there, doing something, but she's not allowed in because she's a child, and if that isn't the most unfair thing in the world then she doesn't know what is.

"Do you want anything to drink" One of the nurses smiles down at her, but she doesn't return the beam, sombrely shaking her head back as she has the last five times this nurse has asked. She is not a shy child; she simply does not have anything to say to these people around her.

The sound of a door shutting echoes through the corridor and then her father is there, eyes red rimmed and lower lip trembling. She stretches her arms up and he lifts her gently, holding her close.

"Mama is gone." His voice is rough, cracking with grief. "Tonight I need you to pack your bag. In the morning we are going to America."

At school they are known as the Barton brothers, the freaks, the poor kids with the shabby clothes and the father that everyone knows is a drunk. When they come to school with bruises, the teachers blink and look away, and the other kids throw stones and call them names, names which Barney takes stoically but which cut Clint to the quick, useless, worthless, weirdo, ugh guys better go, Clint Barton's here. He's sat at the back with Paul, who's dyslexic, and Sadie, who everyone calls downy and who doesn't know how to smile right. Sadie's a lost cause, he knows that from the start, but he tries to talk to Paul. Paul knocks his tooth out, and the next day Barney breaks his face. The brothers are suspended from school for a week, and the reaction at home is ugly to say the least, but after that no one messes with Clint. At school they're known as the Barton brothers, mad, bad, dangerous, I hear Clint carries a lighter, yeah, well I hear Barney carries a knife. Don't get too close- they're known to be violent.

Her school in America is completely different from her school in Russia, and though at first she speaks no English, she doesn't have to to know that they're making fun of her. She slowly picks up the language, and she watches American TV shows, and when she's meant to be practicing ballet she's actually mixing her dance with the punches and the kicks performed by the heroes. Strong and clever, her mother had said, but it's hard to be clever when you don't know the language, so for now she'll settle for being strong. Her dad has started to drink a lot more than his usual one scotch in the evenings- it's now three, or even four, and she doesn't like to see him like this, slurring his words and falling over. The kids at school find out, somehow, and Natasha quickly learns the English for 'drunk Russian.' She decides to show them exactly how strong she is, and the day she gets suspended from school for fighting is the day that they're granted their American citizenship.

When the police car pulls up outside the house, Barney locks himself in his room while Clint hides in the eaves of the attic. Their parents are home, and Clint sees his father being led away in cuffs while his mother sits in their scrubby little patch of grass they call a yard and cries. It takes Janie the policewoman an hour to talk Barney out, and then another two hours for her and her partner, Dan, to find Clint.

"We're not going to hurt you," she promises, and then "you can trust us." Clint thinks about nurses and firemen and scars from a belt; his father had never used a belt on him before that, but he really went wild that time, blood everywhere, he complained that it stained the leather, all because he trusted a nurse. But Barney is standing there, Barney will be going too, and Clint gives a small nod before getting into the car.

They take him to a place that isn't an orphanage, it's a home, except it isn't really. It has about fifty other kids, and they all look angry all the time, they hit him and push him and he has bruises here as often as he did before. Barney is fine- Barney knows how to fight, learnt to punch from their father, learnt the hard way sure, but it keeps them away from him. They take out their anger on Clint, take out their frustrations on him, because one Barton is as good as another. It isn't a home, because Barney isn't standing up for him, and Clint is reminded yet again that there are no heroes.

The aliens take her father, too, soon after the new passports are issued, so she's sent to a big cardboard building filled with kids that are meant to be her new brothers and sisters. Only thing is, her new brothers and sisters spend all their time shouting and jeering and kicking and punching, and Tasha is very glad she chose strong over clever, because clever would be of no use here. She hates them, hates them all, all except one boy who's name she doesn't know, who has permanent bruises on his arm and so much pain in his eyes that it makes her heart burst. The next time she sees the older boys messing with him, she steps up to do something.

"Hey, Barton!" one of them crows. "Look! It's your handsome prince, all ready to rescue you! What are you gonna do, bitch?" Her knuckles are split and bleeding by the end of the fight, but the important thing is that they retreat. Clint, however, looks even more depressed than before.

"Great," he mutters. "Now when they come back they're going to be extra mad. Thanks." She frowns, because he's not meant to be annoyed, he's meant to be grateful to her. Perhaps he doesn't understand how things work.

"No, they're not, because they're not going to come back." He quirks an eyebrow.

"How'd you know?"

"Because they know they don't want to mess with my friend." If possible, his frown deepens, but now he looks more confused than worried.

"Why? You're scary. You could be friends with anyone here." And, for the first time since she arrived at this stupid cardboard building, she smiles.

"Yes, but I want to be friends with you."

Barney pulls him aside to talk soon after. The first time they've really spoken since they arrived, and it's because he wants Clint to give up his only friend.

"We're family Clint," he says, mouth twisting in anger. "It's you and me against the world. You really gonna let that girl come in and ruin things?"

"Yes," snaps Clint, scowling up at Barney, "because she helped me when you wouldn't. Go away, Barney; I don't want to talk to you."

About a week after she becomes friends with Clint, the big teenager that she knows to be his brother comes up to her, and he looks angry.

"Listen here, you little bitch," he snarls, and she grimaces, because he spat on her face. "You're not going to talk to my brother any more, you got it? You're not even going to look at him! If I see you so much as in the same room as him-"

She does the only thing she can think of. She socks him in the jaw.

"Clint?" They're sitting on the roof of the orphanage. It's out of bounds, but it's the only quiet place in the whole building, and the frigid air is refreshing.


"They told me earlier- I'm getting adopted." It's like time stops, and Clint can feel his stomach drop. No. No, she can't be. She's his only friend. She can't be adopted.

"That's great," he manages weakly. "When do you go?"

"In two days. I'll write to you, I promise." He nods. He can't bring himself to reply.

The man, who is a divorced dentist, has quite a big house, though not as big as her house in Russia. He gives her two teddy bears when she arrives, as well as a plate of cookies. That night, when she goes to bed he gives her a hug

The next day they make a cake together and he gives her a new dress- pink, her least favourite colour. That nigh, when she goes to bed, he gives her a kiss on the cheek.

The third day at his house, he explains how he's going to home school her, because, although her English has improved very quickly, he still thinks she'd be better with one to one lessons. School kicks off with a beautiful set of colouring pencils, and what is clearly a very expensive set of marker pens. That night when she goes to bed he kisses her on the lips.

Three days later she's sat cross legged on the floor, scanning through the letter she's written for Clint. It's short, and to the point, but he'll understand the urgency. He has to.


He's evil. He seems sweet, and he acts sweet, but he's a bit too loving for my tastes; Kapeesh? Please, you have to get me out.


Barney finds him the night that Tasha leaves, sat on the roof with his arms wrapped around his knees.

"I told you," says the older boy. "It's you and me against the world. You see how fast she left you? That's not me Clint; I didn't stick up for you because I didn't want things to be like they were back at school."

"What do you want, Barney?" asks Clint listlessly, staring at the same stars he'd stared at with Tasha just three nights before.

"Clint, I'm getting out of here." Clint freezes before turning to face his brother, throat closing up.

"You... you're getting adopted?" Barney laughs.

"God, no, Clint; who would want me? I'm running away! I'm running away and I want... I need you to come with me. We can go to New York! Anyone can make it big in New York- even two screwed up brothers that nobody wants. We can have a better life than anything this shithole has to offer." Clint bites his lip, unsure- if they run away, how will he stay in touch with Tasha? He can't get her letters if he's living on the streets.

But Tasha has been adopted and has a new life, one far away from Clint and this beaten orphan nonsense. She doesn't need him anymore- hell, she never needed him in the first place, and without her, there's nothing for him here.

When he receives her letter a few days later, his blood runs cold. He understands all right, and he wishes he doesn't. He shows the letter to Barney, whose lip curls up into a sneer.

"So? What do you want me to do about it?"

"Barney, we have to help her," Clint insists. Barney shakes his head and turns away, but Clint steps in front of him. Not this time. "Barney, you're going to help me get her out of there or you're going to New York alone." The older boy narrows his eyes and steps forward, towering over Clint dangerously.

"Who says you get a say in what happens? You're coming to New York if I fucking tell you to come to New York."

And Clint wonders when this happened- when his older brother, his protector, the one with their mothers blue eyes and quirky, crooked smile, suddenly began to look more like their father. Looming. Dangerous. Threatening.

But Clint is tired of being threatened.

"If you try to force me to do anything, I will yell loud enough that the staff come and stop you. Then neither of us are going anywhere."

We're coming tonight. Put these into his food, and then grab as many val valu valubles as you can. We'll be there at midnight.

She wakes up to find the note on the end of the bed, and scans through it three times before tearing it to pieces and flushing it down the toilet. With it come two pills- she doesn't know what they are, but that night she offers to serve the soup and puts them into his bowl. He's face down on the table by the end of the meal.

The house is filled with fancy rugs and expensive sculptures, a massive TV and a luxury massage chair. Nothing big enough for her to snatch. In his briefcase she finds a brand new phone and a music player. His wallet has several hundred dollars, and in a safe that was hidden behind the painting she chances upon a load of jewellery and a photo of a pretty lady she's never seen before. She takes it all except the photo. She also takes the canned food from the kitchen, and a can opener too. She doesn't know where they're going, but wherever it is, they'll need to eat. The young Russian doesn't know who constitutes 'we' either- as far as she is aware, Clint has no other friends at the orphanage.

When he arrives with Barney, her heart both sinks and lifts at the same time. Lifts because it's Clint, and he's here, and she's getting out. Sinks because the only time she's ever spoken to Barney Barton, it ended with her punching him.

But he's brought gasoline and matches, and he lets her stare for a few minutes as the flames race through the house, the light of them flickering through the windows as they consume everything, the dress and the teddy bears included. Good riddance.

Then they're running- along winding country roads, through farmer's fields, more exercise than she's gotten since her father died, legs aching and lungs burning and still they run, until the flames are only a flicker in the distance. As the dawn sun peeks over the horizon, they collapse on a ridge, gasping and wheezing and abruptly swallowed by sleep.

The next day they trudge, away from towns and roads and people, away from anyone who might see them and worry about three homeless kids. Cause that's what they are now, isn't it? Homeless kids. Clint finds the idea invigorating.

They trudge and trudge, and they get chased a few times, when it turns out they're on someone else's land. Heads down, shoulders bowed, muscles stiff from the night before. They can't risk a fire, so they eat the food cold. They've no utensils to eat it with so they use their fingers or they drink it, and when they're done the leave the cans on the grass.

A week after they run away, Clint finds himself being shaken awake by his brother.

"Huh? What's going on?" he asks, mind still foggy from sleep. Next to him, Tasha sleeps soundly.

"I'm giving you one last chance," hisses Barney. "It's me, or it's the bitch; your brother, or some stupid girl who left you behind when she got adopted." Clint blinks at him blearily, taking a second to understand what is being said.

"For fuck's sake Barney, how many times do I have to say it? I'm not leaving Tasha behind. Now go to sleep."

"You've got until dawn to change your mind," warns Barney, "and if you don't, you're going to regret it. If you make the right choice, you'll meet me at the roads."

"Whatever," mutters Clint, already falling back asleep.

He leaves them with a mars bar and half a bottle of water, which Clint has drunk by midday, much to her annoyance. Everything else is gone- the money, the food, even the two coloured pencils that she took with her from the bedroom. All of it, taken by that dick that Clint calls- called- brother.

So they hike along the motorway until they reach a small town at the edge of a forest. The town is crappy- run down houses with tatty paint and weeds in the garden, boarded up store fronts and rubbish in the streets- but there are people there, and people mean food. They follow a forest path a little ways along until they find a clearing. That night, she heads down to the town and returns with two cans of food. It's not much, but it's enough.

Six days later, a genius and his cousin stumble into their lives.

They wave goodbye to Tony, but he doesn't wave back. Just like that, he's gone, and Pepper is still snivelling, and Clint feels cold, and none of them feel like playing bullshit.

School starts up again the next day, and he and Tasha are left to their own devices while the others are in lessons. They talk, and they hunt for wild plants, and they wonder what they're going to do when winter comes. He wishes they'd thought to ask Pepper to leave the fishing rods.

When school finishes, the others troop down to the lake for a lacklustre game of cards. Even Pepper's steady stream of chatter dwindles down to the occasional comment in the face of their melancholy. The space left by the missing three eats away at them, like an infected wound. That evening, Steve suggests that perhaps they only come down every other day- they have to be able to keep up with homework, after all, and this way they'll have more to talk about. Clint asks Pepper if they might be able to borrow the rods, and her face scrunches up as she considers.

"Daddy will notice if I don't bring them back," the ginger says finally, "but we have a crafts book at home, and one of the pages is on making fishing rods; I can lend it to you, if you want." Clint nods, and she tells him to meet her by the diner the next afternoon, an hour after school lets out.

They leave again, and Clint feels worse than ever. Tasha shoves him and tells him to stop moping, because he's going to have to get used to it.

That night it rains again, for the first time since their disastrous campout. They take refuge in the hillock, which no longer seems cool and sophisticated, but now reminds her of a musty barrow for the kings of old. The blankets are stiff with mud, and she thinks there may be spiders hiding in them. She doesn't mention this to Clint.

The ginger wishes she could shake them out of this slump that they've gotten themselves into, but she doesn't know how. Suddenly all their problems, which seemed so small at the start of the summer, seem to turn big. It's overwhelming, crushing her down, constricting her lungs and making her feel like-

So Tasha turns her attention to Clint instead. He's curled up on the blankets, lip bloody from biting it so hard to try and keep himself from crying. Seeing that he has her attention, he finally admits what is on his mind.

"I want Tony back." The voice is small, barely even a whisper, and trembling dangerously. She puts his head in her lap and stokes his hair back, looking after him because no one else will. And in this moment, this stillness, she voices aloud an idea that has been nagging the back of her mind since the young prodigy drove away.

"What if we went to New York?" Clint freezes, staring up at her with his large brown eyes.

"Why would we go to New York?"

"Tony's gone. Thorki are gone. The others are all at school. You heard Steve, Clint- when will every other day become once a week? Become 'oh, I haven't spoken them in a while, I should probably... I've got homework, I'll do it tommorow'?"

"So we just leave?" he asks, and struggles to sit up. "Tasha, I don't want to. I... we... we already ran away once. Why would we...?"

"Forget I said anything." He looks at her quizzically. "It was just an idea. A suggestion. But if you don't want to, then we won't." The dark-haired boy looks relieved and settles back down, while her thoughts return to the problems. "If we stay here, though, I think we should have a contingency plan.

"What in the hell is that?"

"A backup plan. In case something goes wrong."

"What would go wrong?" She scowls.

"I don't know. Just with Coulson prowling, and Ross and his gang out for blood and stuff... what if we get separated? What if we get caught, and they split us up, and send us to different homes or whatever they're even fucking called? What then?"

"Okay, okay, calm down. Christ, forget I asked. How about this: New York is our Conting-whatever plan? If we ever get separated, we meet at the base of the Statue of Liberty on your birthday the year you turn sixteen. And if our orphanages won't let us out, then we try again the year you turn 25. Sound good?" Tasha hesitates, then nods.

"Base of the statue of Liberty," she confirms, before yawning. "We should probably get some sleep. Tomorrow we've got a full day of doing nothing." Clint grins.

"I love being a runaway!"

He hates being a runaway.

Mosquito bites pepper his arms, and his nails are long and grimy. His dark hair now reaches his shoulders, and he's pretty sure he smells really, really bad.

"You smell really, really bad," Tasha agrees, seeming to read his mind and wrinkling her nose. "Like, as bad as the bathrooms in the orphanage-home-whatever you fucking call it." He scowls and flips her the bird.

"Well, what am I supposed to do? Or do you have a shower hidden up your ass? 'Cause that would explain a lot!" She cuffs him upside the head and he stumbles away, laughing.

"Try the lake, idiot. You'll at least get some of the dirt off you." So she goes foraging in the woods while he strips off and dives in, scrubbing at his filthy skin with his fingernails before swirling his clothes, which are crusty with sweat and other, gross things, through the water. By the time Tasha comes back, he's changed into his spare clothes, wet hair clinging to his scalp. She bursts out laughing.

"You look like a drowned rat!"

"I do not!" he yells, and grabs at her arms. They grapple, and he eventually succeeds in pushing her into the lake... sort of. She grabs his ankle as she goes down and drags him in after her, soaking his clothes. Again.

So he has to just sit there for an hour in the sun, doing nothing while he waits to dry. Tasha is alright- she has her spare clothes to change into. He takes this as yet more proof that nothing good can come of trying to be clean.

He still isn't completely dry by the time he heads up to town, clothes chafing uncomfortably. Tasha smirks at his stilted gait and he pulls a face at her. When they finally get to the diner he is hot and uncomfortable, longing to take another dip in the coolness of the lake.

Tasha has two dollars on her that she grabbed from the counter of the last house she broke into, nearly two weeks ago now. They have been living off the food that Tony bought for them, but it won't last much longer, and they'll have to start the burglaries again. It is not an appealing prospect.

"I'm going to grab us some ice cream," she says, indicating the dollar store across the road. "You stay here and wait for Pepper."

"Yeah, sure." He sticks his hands into his pockets as she crosses over, trying not to look like he is loitering.

"You sure look shady," says a little voice; it's Pepper, grinning up at him, because, like Tony once said, she never seems to do anything but. "Are... are you wet?" She's clutching the book close to herself and eyeing his damp clothes apprehensively, like she's worried that they'll bite.

"Don't worry," he promises, "I won't damage your book. Swear." She hesitates a second longer, and it's a good thing she does, because a hand falls on each of their shoulders.

"Hello," says Coulson.

One second.

Okay, more like two minutes, but still! He should not have been able to get into trouble that quickly! She's standing at the till, clutching three Popsicles (because it was a three for a dollar deal and she figured Pepper might want one) when she glances through the shop window and see Clint and Pepper on the other side of the street, being loomed at by Coulson.

Even a surprise attack by Ross and his gang would be better than this! Quickly stepping away from her purchase, Tasha sidles out the door and tries to look discreet as she watches the scene unfold before her.

"Phil!" gasps Pepper. "I mean Agent! I mean... I..."

"Hello," he repeats. Despite the heat the man is immaculately dressed in a starched black suit, piercing blue eyes staring down at her; these eyes now swivel to Clint.

"Ah; Clint Barton. You've given us quite a scare young man, what with running away and all. Not the best of your ideas, I have to say. But it's all right- I've found you, safe and sound, and we can get you to wherever you need to be." Clint tries to take a step back, but the fingers dig into his shoulder with a sudden intensity that makes him wince.

"Please, sir; I can't bear it, I like it here, you don't understand I-" he freezes, catching sight of Tasha. Coulson follows his gaze and his eyes widen when he catches sight of the redhead. "RUN!" yells Clint suddenly, as loud as he possibly can, and Tasha doesn't have to be told twice. She darts away, weaving like a rabbit through the throngs of confused pedestrians. Coulson hesitates, unsure if he should follow, before deciding against it and turning back to Clint.

"Never mind- we'll find her soon. As for you, young man, I'm sorry but you have to come with me. Oh, but one more thing." he turns back to Pepper. "I don't appreciate being lied to." What with the terrible turn the events have taken and the full intensity of those sharp eyes focused on her, Pepper looks as though she might cry. Clint widens his eyes slightly, and gives an almost imperceptible nod. It's okay he tries to tell her just do it. She understands.

"I've never seen him before in my life," she sniffles. Coulson sighs, shakes his head, and leads Clint away.

Okay, so basic rundown- Tasha is from Russia, parents dead, sent to an American orphanage. Clint's dad beats him and Barney, they get sent to same orphanage. Tasha gets adopted, Clint and Barney rescue her. The pills were sleeping tablets, and Barney lets her drop the match that burns the house down. After Barney ditches, they spend an almost idyllic summer with the other Avengers, which is detailed in The Backwaters for anyone who wants to read *shamelessly self promotes* After that... well, you'll just have to wait for part two!