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Saturday, May 31st, 2014 12:50 pm
Title: Every Me and Every You
Summary: Natasha knows what it's like to know another person completely.
Content notes: Warnings for mentions of imprisonment, torture, mind control, identity crisises

The thing is Natasha always takes the presence of Clint's mind in the back of her head for granted. Clint himself wasn't telepathic, and so it was up to Natasha to make sure that she muted both ends of the conversation so that they didn't keep walking around with each other's thoughts in their head. It hadn't been fun for the full week that they were practically each other and had to stay in the same area so they didn't drive each other insane with their diverging thoughts.

These days Natasha keeps Clint in the back of her mind like the familiar press of the dagger strapped to her thigh. It comforts when she thinks about it, but otherwise she has become desensitised to the feeling. She notices it even less when she has other things to focus on.

Right now, Natasha is busying turning the minds of the men interrogating her to think of her as helpless and frantic in their grasp when she's exactly the opposite. She's not powerful enough a telepath to stage the entire interrogation in her mind, so she has to do some actual acting. She is however good enough to slide their attention away from the fact that they are revealing a lot of secrets in their conversation with her and with each other.

The ring of the phone almost causes her to drop the act, but not her telepathic grip. She's too well trained for that these days. With a little mental nudge, the nearest man hands the phone to her, thinking the man on the other end of the line is the man who wants her to know that he's given the kill order.

That's just a pretty thought Natasha has put in his head. "It's Clint," says Coulson, and Natasha turns her attention to where she keep Clint tucked into the back of her mind. His presence is still there, but when she tries to read his thoughts all she gets is serene blue.

She redirects her telepathy in that direction and chooses to beat the men up with ordinary fists.

When Natasha was too young to know better, she only used her power to give her food, money and pretty baubles. That was why Natasha just held out her hand when the blonde woman came up to her out of the crowd.

The woman smiled, a flash of white teeth behind red lips that pressed themselves into a more reserved but still amused line. Not satisfied with a smile and naïve in her belief that her power was absolute, Natasha prompted, "What do you have to offer me?"

"I'm here to let you tap on the full potential of your powers."

"I don't remember thinking about that," said Natasha.

"Oh but you did. You wanted a roof over her head and a constant supply of food," the woman insisted.

It had been a thought that had passed through Natasha's mind often enough that it was possible for her powers to sow the idea in someone's mind and only come to fruit later. So she saw no reason to disagree. Even now when Natasha is all grown, she wonders whether the woman had telepathic powers of her own. Back then, Natasha had just taken her hand and let herself be led away without question.

By the time she knew that the roof over her head came with iron bars, she was already shut in.

The more Natasha's mind prods at the blue, the more she thinks that the blue is the entirety of Clint's thoughts at the moment.

She's not used to thinking of Clint's mind in this way. Clint's mind to her is sharp and quicksilver, shifting rapidly from point to point but always clear in where it wants to go. This blue shifts just as quickly, but like the glint on water Natasha can read nothing from it.

Or perhaps Natasha can't read anything from it because Clint's true thoughts are hidden under the blue, like silver fish in a blue ocean. She keeps that thought in her mind for later. Right now, she has another hint to follow up on. The sheer size of the ocean in Clint's mind means that trying to hide which direction it is in is laughable.

"I know the general direction where the Tesseract is in," she tells Dr Bruce Banner. "But we need you to pinpoint its exact location."

Natasha found that wheedling passers-by for food and money that they could spare and trying to turn men and women against their orders were two very different things.

She made the mistake of trying to counteract an order with an order. The telepathy was convincing, but when she read their minds all she could read there was fear. The fear inspired by a voice in their head was nothing compared to fear of breaking orders from the organisation they belonged to.

Natasha tried sympathy next. She was a little girl, they could see h- how upset s-she was couldn't they?

The first person she succeeded in charming was allowed to make it to the main doors, before being gunned down just inside. Natasha cried for three days straight.

Natasha realises that the blue in Clint's mind is closer to ice than water when it starts splintering on the way to Germany. The cracks that web out under her psychic touch are slow enough that she is able to put the auto pilot on. (She sends a quiet note of thanks to whoever made that a function on all planes.)

At her entry to the back of the plane, Captain America and Stark look up. "I need to stay with the plane," she tells them, the lie coming easily. No need for any psychic touch here - the two of them regard her as the specialist in this mission and take her words at face value.

"Right. Mind opening the bay doors when we've got 15 mins on the ETA?" He punctuates his comment with a jab of his thumb.

Cap frowns. "Was that the approach we agreed upon?"

Or perhaps they were too busy arguing with each other. Natasha goes back to the front of the plane as they hammer something out. They'd let her know once they decide what they want to do. She is more interested in how the walls around Clint's mind are cracking. Vague impressions of a shadowed door, other armed men, the dim glow from an electronic number pad...

Stark pings her to open the doors, and as she does the walls around Clint's mind comes tinkling down.

Natasha seizes on the images Clint is sending her and barely manages to close the cargo doors before chasing after the connection that has eluded her for so long. She tugs Clint's thoughts in tight, seeking out the familiar feel even as she demands Where were you?

What should be the warm press of steel is instead ice cold as it is layered all over with blue. Natasha takes a moment to make sure that the blue isn't directed at her, before diving in deeper into Clint's consciousness.

She's just in time to watch Clint sink an arrow into a guard's neck.

Natasha has been in Clint's mind when he's killed before. It's part of their job, and sometimes they need to be in each other's mind as an extra set of eyes and ears. That's why she knows it's not Clint that's behind the shot. It's the blue.

With that thought she strikes out at her true target, but her attacks slide right off and she finds herself back in her seat.

It became a tactic - refuse to do something, and one of their own people would be offered up as a scrapegoat. "You're too valuable for us to punish," they explained, right as they killed someone or the other.

"The effect you have on emotions is astounding," said one of the men. Scientist, commander, guard - what did it matter? If Natasha didn't get attached, she didn't have to get hurt. "We'll like you to learn to use your power consciously."

Then came the stream of test subjects, more faces for Natasha to forget. She did what she was told, reading people in intensity of emotions, and never, never examining her own.

She meant to do the same to this new test subject, no matter that all he was projecting at her was a field of blankness. She touched her mind to his -

And found herself sucked in to what felt like an endless hall of parallel mirrors, looking at him looking at her looking at him looking at her looking at him -

"Stop that!" they both yelled at each other. They moved in tandem with their fists raised to strike and the knowledge that this was going to hurt -

Getting to know the being responsible for putting the blue in Clint's mind is almost anti-climatic.

Loki's own mind is dripping with so much of the blue that his whirring thoughts churn it into a froth. It doesn't take much for Natasha to insert her own little psychic nudges and make him believe that she is torn over the betrayal of the man who shares her mind.

Bonds can be temporary, and love is for children. Natasha knows this all too well.

They both awoke to the sound of a file impatiently tapping a table.

Natasha-Soldier noted that there were around 10 people in the room, but the only one they recognised was Zola. Salutes hardly seemed appropriate when they were so clearly compromised. For lack of a clear instruction on what to do they watched Zola, waiting for a cue. The rest of the men didn't matter, not when they were armed too lightly to take out the Winter-Natasha.

The scientist's eyes flicked to someone unseen in the shadows. "When I lent him to you I did not mean for you to break him."

The man wrung his hands, and the voice that had heralded the start of the experiment so calmly was stuttering now. "We thought that they would be no emotions for her to latch on! We thought - "

"Obviously your hypothesis has been proven wrong. It is time to throw out your experiment and start a new one."

"Of course," said the man. "Of course. When would you like to discuss the details?"

"Oh there's no time to waste. Attention." The catch phrase drew Natasha-and-Soldier up to their full respective heights. "Kill him."

Winter-and-Romanov sprung at the shadowed shape, two bodies and four hands and a howl of rage and hate echoing in the shared spaces of their minds.

When Clint boards the Helicarrier, Natasha is ready.

It helps that he has been broadcasting his location the closer he came to her. The blue drifts across their bond, but doesn't quite obscure it. Natasha isn't afraid of the blue after seeing it in Loki's mind. It's dangerous, but so is Natasha.

What disconcerts her more is meeting Clint face to face, and not having his mind register her. She can see through the bond that he does see her, but he dismisses her as another face in the crowd. Only when she goes to fight him does Clint reassess her as a threat. His body attacks her, but his mind is still.

Natasha attacks both, every physical punch and kick accompanied by a psychic attack that bleeds away the blue. But there's still so much of the blue, and there's still no response from Clint even as her mind burrows in for any sign of his thoughts.

She is so deep in his mind that when she kicks him in the head she can feel the aftereffects on her own. Gritting her teeth against the pain, she notices that the blue falls back, before surging forward again like the tide.

Now that she know how to combat the blue, she is relentless. When she succeeds in knocking Clint out, all she can hear is the harsh sound of her own breathing.

"You know how to kill now," said the Winter Soldier, when they were able to determine his voice and her voice from each other.

"I hate you for that," she spat.

"I don't understand." It was a statement of fact. All the emotions that echoed around their shared mind was hers. Natasha felt sick, and made sure the Winter Soldier did too.

"I hate him too."

The Winter Soldier spread his bloodstained hands. "Wasn't that why you wanted to kill him?"

"No! No! No!" was all Natasha could say aloud, but in their mind she said, We killed him because of your orders!

"My orders and your desire," the Winter Soldier insisted. "That is why you initiated the bond. I can put the thoughts in your mind to action."

Natasha reared up to strike him.

He deflected, of course she knew he would, but she had not expected the stance to come to her so easily, or to be able to identify the kick she wanted to use. She fell back, panting with the force of the revelation.

"You know what I know," said the Winter Soldier. "What else would you have me show you, Natasha Romanova?"

She bared her teeth at him. "Show me how to fight so I can be free of you."

He shows her how to fight, but when the bond finally snaps neither of them are the cause of it.

Natasha hears Clint before he actually wakes up.

Love is for children, but Natasha finds herself so glad that this bond hasn't been broken. She presses up to the quicksilver of his thoughts, demanding that he wake up.

His thoughts twine around hers so fast that she starts to laugh, even as she winces a little from the mental pressure. At least she can hear him again, and it is almost like the heady first time of connection just before they were one mind in two bodies. Speaking of which..

"Don't leave me again. I might end up forming a bond with someone else."

Clint raises an eyebrow at her, even though he is radiating fierce agreement in their mind. "I just woke up and you're already threatening to cheat on me?"

"When you were being mind-controlled," When you weren't there, their minds fill in. "It felt like the Winter Soldier's mind between missions."

Clint's hand and thoughts wrap around Natasha's. "I won't leave you like he did," he said, words and thoughts as one.

"He didn't have a choice." You didn't either.

They are pressed to each other's side now, a continuous line from shoulder to hip, joined hands resting on their lap.

We'll fight for each other. As you did for me. As I will for you, Clint promises across their bond. Natasha-Clint sighs and relaxes for the first time in days in this sense of completion.