[identity profile] violetrosesky.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] het_reccers
Fandom: The Avengers
Pairing: Natasha Romanoff/Clint Barton




Although Joss Whedon’s The Avengers came out only a few short months ago, the relationship of Natasha Romanoff (aka the Black Widow) and Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) started long ago, in the comic books. Natasha was introduced first, in April of 1964. Five issues later, Clint appeared on the scene. The two characters were closely linked from the beginning and, even back then, there was a hint of a romance between them. 

Natalia "Natasha" Alianovna Romanova (aka Natasha Romanoff) is a superheroine, femme fatale, and secret agent in the Marvel universe. As a young girl, Natasha was taken (along with other young female orphans) to the covert "Red Room" facility, where she spent her childhood in the U.S.S.R.'s "Black Widow Ops" program. She was brainwashed (a process that included the implanting of false memories) and trained in combat and espionage. She was also experimented on and ‘surgically enhanced’. After leaving the “Red Room,” she got engaged to a pilot named Alexi, but the supposed death of her fiancée led Natasha to her training as a secret agent. It was much later that she met the reluctant-criminal turned superhero archer, Hawkeye. Although the Soviets attempt to keep her brainwashed, he helps her find herself again. Her love for Hawkeye eventually wins through, and she defects to the U.S.


Clint Barton is a super hero and master archer known as the "World's Greatest Marksman" in the Marvel universe. He was orphaned as a child, and spent six years with his brother in an Iowa orphanage before running away to join the Carson Carnival of Travelling Wonders, where he was trained in archery. After Clint discovered that his mentor was embezelling money from the carnival and was unable to inform the authorities in time to catch him, his relationship with his brother became strained. Clint took the name "Hawkeye” and performed for the circus before witnessing Iron Man in action and becoming a costumed hero. A misunderstanding leads to accusations of theft, and Hawkeye is soon believed to be a dangerous criminal. It is at this point that Hawkeye meets the Black Widow, with whom he falls in love. He attempts to help her steal technology developed by Tony Stark, but the Black Widow is seriously injured in a battle. Hawkeye rescues her but, before Hawkeye can take her to a hospital, the Black Widow disappears. Following this event, Hawkeye joins the side of good and begins fighting evil with the Avengers.

But this is not where their story ends, and, although their relationship in the comic books has been one of the most interesting (and one of my personal favourites of the entire Marvel comic-verse), it is the movie-verse versions of their characters that we are here to discuss today. Please remember that although the characters of the movie-verse share many similarities to the comic book counterparts on whom they are based, they are not the same characters. 


Natasha Romanoff (played by Scarlett Johansson) is introduced to the movie-verse in Iron Man 2. She is a highly trained spy working for S.H.I.E.L.D. but posing as Tony Stark's assistant. We do not know much about her past, but we do know that it shares many similarities to her back-story in the comics. Scarlett Johansson has said that Natasha and Hawkeye "have a long history. They've fought together for a long time in a lot of battles in many different countries. [They're] the two members of this avenging group who are skilled warriors — we have no superpowers. The Black Widow is definitely one of the team, though. She's not in the cast simply to be a romantic foil or eye candy. She's there to fight…”


Clint Barton (played by Jeremy Renner) is first introduced to the movie-verse in a short cameo in Thor. He is also an agent with S.H.I.E.L.D. and a master archer. Renner has said that what drew him to the character was "how he wasn't really a superhero; he's just a guy with a high skill set.” About Clint’s life as a sniper and his relationship with Natasha, Renner has said “It's a lonely game. He's an outcast. His only connection is to Scarlett's character, Natasha. It's like a left hand/right hand thing. They coexist, and you need them both, especially when it comes to a physical mission… Hawkeye is not insecure about his humanity - quite the opposite. He's the only one who can really take down the Hulk with his [tranquilizer-tipped] arrows. He knows his limitations. But when it comes down to it, there has to be a sense of confidence in any superhero."

Since we know a little more about the characters, we have finally come to the all-important question – “Does Natasha love Clint?” And while the answer to this question may seem like it should be simple, it’s actually quite complicated. 

Notice the wording I used. I ask ‘Does Natasha love Clint?’ not the other way around. There is no doubt in my mind that Clint loves Natasha and that Natasha loves Clint. It is in every glance they share, every word they speak to (or about) each other, every movement that they make. But because of her past and what she went through as a child, Natasha is very good at hiding her emotions. She has always been taught that emotions make you weak - first in the Red Room, then in beginning of her career as the Black Widow, and then through her work with SHIELD. She believes that if she shows emotions, especially towards someone else, it would show this weakness; they would become a target for her many enemies, and a distraction that will prevent her from doing her job. In her relationship with Clint, it is different. It has been different since the very beginning. 

We know that they first met when Hawkeye was sent to kill Black Widow, and instead recruited her into SHIELD (effectively saving her life), but since then, their relationship has changed drastically... They are partners for SHIELD, but they are more than that. 
Part of what makes Hawkeye and Black Widow's relationship so interesting is that it’s almost all implied. You never see them kiss, or say the words “I love you,” but their connection is obvious, even before they share the screen. We see at the beginning of the movie that the Black Widow is in the middle of an interrogation when Coulson calls her and insists she come in. She refuses, until he says one thing: “Barton’s been compromised.” That one sentence is all she needs to hear in order to drop everything and come running. And remember, she's coming in from Russia... it's not like she's next door to the SHIELD base. 

Once she arrives at the helicraft, she follows her orders. Even then, she does her own private search, trying to find Clint herself, because she can’t just leave him or give up on him. When they capture Loki however, Clint and Natasha’s relationship comes to light more, and takes a larger role; it is the Black Widow who interrogates Loki, and their conversation is quite revealing... 
Remember that Loki at this point has seen inside Hawkeye’s mind. Loki knows that Natasha is important to Clint, and Loki knows (even if we don’t) the exact nature of their relationship. That is why he is not surprised when Natasha comes to him. Instead of asking what Loki’s plans are or anything of that sort, Natasha focuses straight away on Clint, asking what has been done to him, and what will be done to him if Loki were to win the battle. Now this might well have been an interrogation tactic, as it is revealed to be later, but it also shows the concern Natasha has for Clint’s wellbeing. 

It is at this point that Loki asks Natasha if she loves Clint. Her response is the quote that sticks out in my mind (and actually inspired this ship manifesto) - “Love is for children. I owe him a debt.” 


Because of the characters’ pasts, and because of the aspects of their relationship that we have been privy to throughout the movies, in my mind, when she says that "love is for children," Natasha is not saying that she doesn't love Clint. She's saying that it's more than just love; that love does not accurately describe their relationship, because it is not a strong enough word, and does not show all the facets of their relationship. She is trying to express that, the idea of love as a singular emotion, or the thought that her connection with Clint can be simplified into one simple little word, is what she believes is childlike. She believes that it’s innocent and naive to think that.

The fact that Natasha not only has an answer to the question, but that the answer is automatic with no hesitation, shows that she has been thinking about that question quite a bit. The words “I owe him a debt” also have more significance than it seems. This may not make sense at first glance, but look at it this way...  Although she brushes it off, claiming that the debt is in exchange for not killing her when they first met, but it is so much more. As Loki says, her world is hanging in the balance, about to crumble, and she is bargaining for one man. 

Yes, Natasha has “red in [her] ledger” and she’s “like to wipe it out” - she has killed countless people, has done terrible things. But when she asks Loki about saving Clint, it is not that she thinks that by doing it she will wipe clean her ledger, because as Loki says nothing “makes up for the horrors... they are part of [her] and they will never go away.” It is that she’s trying. She’s trying to make up for her past. To save the man who is her partner, and who saved her from the self-destructive path she was on. She has changed since he saved her, and this chance to change would not have come without his help. She is no longer the person who uses her “very specific skill set” without a care for who she uses it on or why. As her partner, Clint has helped her with this change - has helped her regain herself, and turn herself into the woman we meet first in Iron Man II and then again in the Avengers.  

The most revealing statement in this exchange between Loki and Natasha, however, is what Loki says next: “I won't touch Barton. Not until I make him kill you, slowly, intimately, in every way he knows you fear. And then he’ll wake just long enough to see his good work. And when he screams, I’ll split his skull.”


Natasha’s immediate reaction is one of pain and distress, and although this is revealed to be a ploy, Natasha’s interactions with Clint later in the movie shows the statement’s true effect. Because, Loki’s words would terrify and horrify even if they were about someone you barely knew, but the fact is that Clint is more than that. He’s her partner. Her friend. He isn’t just a co-worker, or someone she’s somewhat acquainted with - he’s someone who knows her well enough to know the ways she’s afraid to die. As a superspy and an assassin, that’s an incredible amount of intimacy. It’s exactly the kind of emotional connection that Natasha has always been taught is a weakness. It can’t just be that they probably slept together, it can’t just be some romantic fling. It’s more than that. And Loki knows that just as well as Natasha does, because he has been inside Clint’s mind.

When Natasha is forced to fight Clint, she could very easily have killed him; he’s an archer, not an expert in hand-to-hand combat as Natasha is. Instead, she smacks Hawkeye in the head, trying to save him, even though she has no clue if it will work.  And it does. Loki shaken out of his head, Clint calls her “Tasha” before passing out. Another sign of their obvious intimacy, as Natasha is not the sort of woman to allow just anyone to call her by a nickname or any other outward or obvious sign of affection.

She waits in his room while he is unconscious although there are no doubt other (probably more important) things she could (and probably should) be doing. She is by his side when he wakes up, ready with a glass of water to take care of him. She comforts him, reassuring him in the wake of Loki’s control.


When he asks her if she knows what it’s like “to be taken over by someone else... to be unmade”, she responds quietly, “You know that I do.” And although he doesn’t react verbally, it’s obvious that he knows exactly what she’s talking about. It’s just another thing that they share - something else that connects them. 

Their connection and trust is not shaken by Hawkeye’s time under Loki’s spell and, once she is convinced that Hawkeye is free of the magic, Natasha trusts him enough to vouch for him when he offers to fly Captain America and her into battle. 


And of course, when the two of them are fighting side by side in the final battle, Black Widow comments that it’s “just like Budapest.” Hawkeye retorts that “you remember Budapest very differently than I do,” And of course, while we all want to know just what happened in Budapest, nobody except the two of them do (and they’re not sharing). Obviously, it was something significant if they brought it up in the middle of a war they were in great danger of losing...

Even in the after-credits scene, where the team is eating shawarma, if you look closely, Clint has his leg on Natasha’s chair. This small gesture shows the level of comfort they share, and the closeness of their connection.  


--

Now, on to the Recs...

Fic Rec #1: We Were Emergencies
Author: Gyzym
Rating/Warnings: Explicit
Why This Must Be Read: Inspired by a few throwaway lines in the film, the author spins a narrative that is wonderful and gorgeous and brutal and REAL. The characterization of Clint and Natasha, and the detail of their relationship as the story progresses are stunning.

Fic Rec #2: Hiding In Suburbia
Author: TashaBlackWidow
Rating/Warnings: K+
Why This Must Be Read: Don’t read the title of this fic and assume that it involves an undercover mission. That is not what story this is. Instead, this story takes place on a beach next to a broken down truck and explores Clint and Natasha’s relationship, showing its depth and the possibilities in the future they might one day share. It illustrates what could have been, and what still might be.

Fic Rec #3: Bows and Catapults
Author: Flying_android
Rating/Warnings: K+
Why This Must Be Read: This story is heartbreaking and funny and amazingly sweet all at once. It can easily work as a prequel to the movie, but can be read as an AU fic as well. This story is captivating and you quickly fall in love with Clint and Natasha as children in the same foster home, sharing their adventures and their lives. 

Fic Rec #4: Mr. & Mrs. Barton (Or: Why Natasha Sends Jennifer Aniston an Annual Apologetic Fruit Basket)
Author: Shellybelle
Rating/Warnings: Explicit
Why This Must Be Read: We all know the story of “Boy meets Girl.” In this case, it’s “Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl get married. Boy and girl neglect to do background checks.” There is a romance, a marriage, and then, predictably, everything goes absolutely to hell. It’s fast-paced and funny, but still romantic and easy to fall in love with.

Fic Rec #5: Two For the Show
Author: mousie tongue
Rating/Warnings: T
Why This Must Be Read: This is a High School AU, in which a young Natasha Romanov ends up in the state's custody at a group home, where she meets fellow resident Clint Barton. The idea (and its execution) is fantastic, and all of the characters fit into this AU so seamlessly. One of my favourite things about this story is that their lives and relationship are beautiful in their imperfection. They make mistakes, things don’t always work the way they want them to, but they still try. 

Fic Rec #6: Six Cities That Are Not Budapest
Author: igrockspock
Rating/Warnings: T+
Why This Must Be Read: This story is a beautiful concept, and a perfect tribute to the character of Phil Coulson and his relationship with Clint and Natasha. The familiarity between Clint and Natasha, and their failed attempts to be more normal than they are as they grieve for the death of their friend, is what makes this story so achingly lovely.

Fic Rec #7: Keep Marrying You ('Til I Fall in Love)
Author: Della19
Rating/Warnings: T+
Why This Must Be Read: This is an AU fic which is a part of the Stop All the Clocks Series but can be read alone. Clint meets his wife when he’s unable to kill her. Don’t all great love stories start that way? This story takes a look at the five weddings of Clint and Natasha, and the reason he couldn’t take the shot.

Fic Rec #8: A Matching Set
Author: CyberMathWitch
Rating/Warnings: T+, Language and Violence
Why This Must Be Read: This is a look at the idea that Natasha was not the first Red Room girl (former or otherwise) Clint had been assigned to kill. It gives a bit of insight into Clint’s mind as he takes out each of his targets except for Natasha, and why he made a different call. This story is both slightly dark and entirely beautiful. 

Fic Rec #9: Nothing Else Matters
Author: TashaBlackWidow
Rating/Warnings: T , Violence
Why This Must Be Read: This story begins after a mission went wrong, and Natasha was severely injured. The raw emotions Clint (and by extension the reader) experiences as he deals with the situation are very powerful and the thoughts going through Clint’s mind as he and Natasha spend what could be their last time together brought tears to my eyes.

Fic Rec #10: A Remaking
Author: im_ridiculous
Rating/Warnings: R, Language and violence
Why This Must Be Read: This story is about the two sides of the mission where Clint was supposed to kill Natasha. I love the alternation of POV and the two numeral styles used to differentiate between them – this is a beautiful and innovative use of form in the story. I also really love the author’s interpretation of the line “Love is for children,” and the role it plays in the story and the interactions between the characters.

Fic Rec #11: Agent Barton's Strictly Professional Interest  
Author: im_ridiculous
Link: http://im-ridiculous.livejournal.com/1382.html
Rating/Warnings: R, References to violence 
Why This Must Be Read: This is the prequel to the fic, A Remaking, and is an incredibly funny piece (which contrasts with its counterpart’s serious nature). This story does not actually feature Natasha as a character. Instead, it shows a series of hugely entertaining interactions between Clint and Phil Coulson as we see the origins of Clint’s fascination with Natasha (long before he ever laid eyes on her).

Fic Rec #12: How Can I Help You Today?
Author: lar_laughs
Rating/Warnings: T+, mentions of M/M
Why This Must Be Read: A Corner Drugstore AU, where Clint and Natasha are Pharmacy Technicians. I have never read another AU of this type, and I would never want to read any other. This fic is perfect! It is outrageous and hilarious, and yet somehow manages to stay away from the crack!fic area. Each of the characters is different, and yet the same as we are used to – and totally in character!

Fic Rec #13: Dear Natasha
Author: remembering-budapest
Rating/Warnings: T
Why This Must Be Read: This is one of the most popular fics for this pairing. It has the entire fandom in floods of tears as they read Clint’s letters to Natasha as she lies in the hospital, in a coma. If you have been on tumblr, or have viewed the “Clintasha” tag on tumblr, chances are you have heard of and most likely read this fic. 



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