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07 February 2013 @ 10:51 pm
Fic: Dust to Dust  
My prompt for be_compromised’s Secret Santa 2012 was this gorgeous thing from sugar_fey: 1930s dustbowl AU. Clint and Natasha are members of a travelling circus. Dark/supernatural elements a la Carnivale optional but very welcome. The bones of this fic was what I started to write before my eventual gift, The Nature Of Dust, took over my brain.

Title: Dust to Dust
Rating/Warnings: PG13 for language and adult themes; highlight to view: *a burial, cootch show, 1930s sexist thinking, implied/off-screen selling of sex (consensual), reference to past domestic violence*
Length: 1,360 words
Summary: The carnival stops for a stick of a lad, nothing but bones and bones are what he’s burying. Natasha doesn’t care what his story is. She’s not a goddamn fortune-teller. Clint is a farm boy that the carnival picks up and Natasha is one of the carnival’s dancers. Avengers/Carnivàle fusion.
Author Note:I’ve only watched half of Season One of Carnivàle so far, so if there are any spoilers they’ll only be for that :)


Dust to Dust


It starts with ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

The carnival stops for a stick of a lad, nothing but bones and bones are what he’s burying. Natasha doesn’t care what his story is. She’s not a goddamn fortune-teller.

She waits with her sisters by their trailer instead of joining the impromptu mourners. Wherever the dust falls is mourning ground. They see no need to mark this spot in particular.

The dust covers everything.

Natasha goes into town in one of the pickups, the truck branded with the carnival motif and her branded as a woman from it and it’s no surprise that there’s trouble. People draw conclusions and that’s nothing she can argue against. She doesn’t care. There’s a freedom in being able to hit back, in lashing out, in causing pain. They’re not paying customers.

The new boy shows up and pitches in, helps finish it, and it’s over sooner than she’d like. He offers her his jacket on the drive back. It’s a reminder that a torn dress, hanging off one shoulder and baring skin, is shameful. His jacket, holey and ragged, is just as in her opinion but no one asks for that.

He doesn’t tell her that she should have known better, like everyone else would and will. He’ll learn.

He does.

Natasha and her sisters are the revue dancers to the customers, the cootch show to everyone else. She sees him watching that night, hovering at the back. It’s a good show.

Once upon a time in Russia she’d been a ballet dancer. A long road later she isn’t. Carmine used to be a chorus girl. Lorrel was heading to New York to try and become one. Now they’re Natalia the Russian firebrand, Carmini the Italian seductress, and Lorrel the Grecian muse.

Life is hard all over. That’s that.

She sees him again when she steps out the back of the tent, dust sticking to the sweat slick on her skin as she wafts her robe and hopes for the wind to dry her off. It’s Carmine’s turn to do the blowoff and it’s likely she’ll give one lucky mark something extra after, so Natasha has time to spare. Time to talk even, so she grabs the boy’s jacket and heads over to where he’s leaning against a trailer.

They’re whores, she hears him say to Samson, and she’d hit him but there’s a touch of surprise in his voice that makes her lips curl upwards.

Only some of them, she wants to tell him, and only when they want to and why not take advantage of eager pricks with money to waste?

Only some of them, she wants to tell him, but she can’t, because only some of them means not me and there is no individual her. There are three of them and they’re sisters, not by blood but on the inside and to deny that would be to betray it. Besides, you can bare all your skin and let men fuck you, but that doesn’t mean you’re showing them everything that you are or letting them inside you.

And you’re a Saint? she says instead, lifting the hem of his trouser leg with her bare toes to reveal the skin rubbed raw around his ankle.

Natasha, she corrects him and hands him his jacket.

Natasha.

Her name is not whore.

His name is Clint Barton and it turns out that he has sharp eyes. He notices everything, all the little tricks that people are up to, just doesn’t get the whys until she explains them. He’s a roustabout for the most part, but a great shill for any games needing hand-eye coordination – tossing the rings just so, hitting all the targets, and making the marks think they have a change of winning. Trickshot negotiates with Jonesy for Clint’s time, says he wants to teach the kid archery.

He’s got a story and he tells it to her one night, about a brother who got him in trouble with the law and then got himself killed, about a father who beat their ma, about him being able to heal people, fix them, but not himself, not the broken pieces of his insides.

Natasha never tried to fix her pieces, just found others with pieces like her and Clint is another. Shake them up and you could hear the parts rattling around, broken parts and emptiness, that’s all any of them have.

He’s got another story too, one that he doesn’t know the whole of yet. The carnival was buried in his past but a dust storm’s clearing the top layer off, peeling it back.

Natasha isn’t stupid. She’s got eyes herself and she can figure things out.

There’s a blind fool trying to tell Clint what’s what, nightmare clouds on the horizon, and nightmares in Clint’s head, which she knows about because he tells her. He tells her about a photograph found, a woman found, pieces of history found.

To give life you have to take it from somewhere else, he’s been told.

Natasha can understand that. What she can’t grasp is this: there’s so much life that’s been taken away from this land and the people here, and where has that life been given?

She gives him thoughts like those, all of the thoughts and questions inside her head, and she gives him her story and her past. She wraps it up in smoke as they pass a cigarette back and forth in the shadows beyond the carnival lights, waiting for another show to start.

He’s almost always around in between her shows, waiting for her out back. She searches him out at meals. He starts practising archery and she watches. She rehearses with Carmine and Lorrel under the afternoon sun and it’s her his eyes fix on.

She lets him under her skin and shows him herself in return.

Dance for me? Clint asks her one day, and she should have seen this coming but she didn’t.

Her skin is nothing that others haven’t paid to gaze at and outside of that she isn’t shy, walking around in robes and underwear at times and why not? She should have known that nudity is only ever this for her, a thing to be asked for and to put on show. It’s just… She’ll strip off her layers and bare all for free, because it’s him asking, when really she wants to tell him that she already has, that he’s seen everything there is of her to see, and that was a gift no money could buy.

Her insides shrivel. All of her broken pieces break into pieces even smaller, too small to rattle even. If she opens her mouth ash will billow out, yet another cloud of dust to add to the many.

Like you danced before, in Russia, he says quietly, and she realises that he means ballet.

She doesn’t have any ballet slippers, she’s wearing an old dress and her feet are bare, and she’s a long way from Russia, but if there’s one thing that Natasha knows it’s how to dance. So she does. She hasn’t for a long time, but he’s shaken up her pieces, he’s asked and she can’t say no, but she dances for herself as much as for him. Whether it’s ballet or a blowoff she can never not dance for herself.

Everything that she is becomes movement and maybe that’s something new, something she hasn’t shown of herself after all. It’s not a stripping or a peeling back; it’s a shaking off the dust, sending it flying as she spins. It’s freedom.

Never mind the cootch show, Clint says, admiration in his voice and plain to see on his face, I’d pay to see that.

You, she tells him, don’t have to.

And when she dances like this, with his eyes on her, she feels like a phoenix being reborn, all the pieces inside of her set alight and they’re kindling for something bigger, something whole, a blaze. She feels like she could set the world on fire with new life, burn the dust and this life away.

Dust to dust, ashes to ashes.
 
 
 
Atlas of Clouds: reginafranztastisch on February 7th, 2013 11:21 pm (UTC)
Oh my word. This is fantastic. ♥
inkvoices: avengers:smile (clint&tasha)inkvoices on February 8th, 2013 06:00 pm (UTC)
Thanking you! *twirls you*
sugar_fey: avengers: hawkeye/black widow firesugar_fey on February 7th, 2013 11:51 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow. This is incredible! *twirls you*

She doesn’t have any ballet slippers, she’s wearing an old dress and her feet are bare, and she’s a long way from Russia, but if there’s one thing that Natasha knows it’s how to dance. So she does. She hasn’t for a long time, but he’s shaken up her pieces, he’s asked and she can’t say no, but she dances for herself as much as for him. Whether it’s ballet or a blowoff she can never not dance for herself.

Everything that she is becomes movement and maybe that’s something new, something she hasn’t shown of herself after all. It’s not a stripping or a peeling back; it’s a shaking off the dust, sending it flying as she spins. It’s freedom.

Never mind the cootch show, Clint says, admiration in his voice and plain to see on his face, I’d pay to see that.

You, she tells him, don’t have to.


ALL OF THE FEEEEEEEELS. I love this, it's perfect. :D
inkvoices: circus:woman/natashainkvoices on February 8th, 2013 06:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it, because you did nearly get it as a gift. Fire poi, ballet, nope, no sucking up theme at all going on *whistles innocently*.

Clint is the one who never has to pay, who only has to ask, and what he asks for she would give him/has given him already as best she knows how :D
spilt ink - sugar_fey on February 8th, 2013 10:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
spilt ink - inkvoices on February 9th, 2013 09:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
inkvoices: circus:woman/natashainkvoices on February 8th, 2013 06:13 pm (UTC)
Wow, thanking you! I have a thing about Clint seeing Natasha, and Natasha being okay with showing him, and him seeing that bit more than anyone else even her... *nods* A THING. Glad you enjoyed *twirls you* <3
(Deleted comment)
spilt ink - inkvoices on February 9th, 2013 09:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
A clean house is the sign of a misspent lifealphaflyer on February 8th, 2013 12:35 am (UTC)
Beautiful, beautiful piece. Many wonderful turns of phrase, but this struck me for some reason - "they’re sisters, not by blood but on the inside and to deny that would be to betray it."

Be proud of this one, my friend.
inkvoices: avengers:past behind you hug (C/N)inkvoices on February 8th, 2013 06:15 pm (UTC)
That's me trying to aticulate my thoughts that if you're sisters by blood you can never not be sisters, but if you're sisters by choice, whilst that's no less great a thing, to deny it is somehow worse because people can see on the outside two people are related but if you're related on the inside people can only see it if you show it, tell it, and denying it is a kick in the teeth...kind of thing.

THANK YOU <3
purely_distelpurely_distel on February 8th, 2013 09:09 am (UTC)
Absolutely magnificent, love! I don't even ... with the feels and ... <3 <3 honestly - this was AMAZING! The feeling of the whole era was almost tangible, as if, when I smacked my lips while reading, I could taste it, the dust and the sweat and the sweet beginnings of maybe something and ... I sound creepy, I will stop now *laughs*
inkvoices: avengers:smile (clint&tasha)inkvoices on February 8th, 2013 06:18 pm (UTC)
Wow, thanking you! I've been imersed in the 1930s dust bowl since I got that gorgeous prompt - Carnivale, Water for Elephants, circus non-fiction, trawling the web - so glad it's managed to soak in enough that I can bring it to life for you :D Glad you enjoyed it! Heh, not creepy. Or not by my standards anyway ;D
The Queen of Procrasti-nation: renner smoldershenshen77 on February 8th, 2013 03:55 pm (UTC)
What a lovely work of art! The prose is just incredible and the feels... ah, the feels! <3
inkvoices: avengers:jeremy renner b&winkvoices on February 8th, 2013 06:19 pm (UTC)
Thanking you! <3 Have a sexy Renner icon in return :D
spilt ink - shenshen77 on February 8th, 2013 06:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
spilt ink - inkvoices on February 8th, 2013 06:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
spilt ink - shenshen77 on February 8th, 2013 06:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
spilt ink - inkvoices on February 8th, 2013 06:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
spilt ink - shenshen77 on February 8th, 2013 06:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
spilt ink - inkvoices on February 8th, 2013 06:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
spilt ink - shenshen77 on February 8th, 2013 06:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
spilt ink - anuna_81 on February 9th, 2013 12:15 am (UTC) (Expand)
spilt ink - inkvoices on February 9th, 2013 01:12 am (UTC) (Expand)
workerbee73 on February 8th, 2013 06:05 pm (UTC)
Dude, this is stunning. I literally have no words right now.

**bows down**
inkvoices: avengers:smile (clint&tasha)inkvoices on February 8th, 2013 06:21 pm (UTC)
afgsdfhjbsdhskagfbhabhgabghdb i am GLAD YOU LIKED IT!

THANK YOU <3
I'm not weird, I'm limited editionanuna_81 on February 9th, 2013 12:14 am (UTC)
Honey I am DEAD. Allow me to pick up pieces of my brain and I shall come back with more coherence - this was just stunning!!!!

No actually.... I can't even put it to words, you know? They connect, slowly, and seek each other out and in this world where everything is cheap and sold and nothing is special any more, they find that. he gives it back to her, that life that's been taken? Oh, and she is reborn. Such STUNNING metaphor that works for any Clint and Nat of mine.... woooonderful.
inkvoices: avengers:nobody diesinkvoices on February 9th, 2013 09:12 pm (UTC)
Wow, thanking you! SQUEEEEE *twirls you* <3

Yes yes yes, there's this juxtaposition in circus/carnival with the magic of the show, the facade presented to customers, and then the reality behind the scenes, which is often harsh or at least far from easy, so where everything is cheap and sold and the magic is lost he shows her...in the dancing, it's still dancing, there's still joy and magic, here it is. Giving life back, without taking it from elsewhere after all.

And in what I've watched of Carnivale so far we get this lad who's old life is literally buried (his mother) and destroyed (his home) with this new life in the Carnival and he's able to gift life, but only by balancing with taking, and no way could I resist mirroring that with Natasha reborn/remaking/reclaiming and equal opposites and all those themes of wonderful :D
Christina Bchrisfaithalin on February 15th, 2013 07:57 am (UTC)
Once again I love the pairing of circus/dust bowl imagery with these two. This was really beautiful and has a lyrical quality to it. The ending was perfect as well.
inkvoices: circus:shake some dustinkvoices on February 18th, 2013 04:05 pm (UTC)
Well I love playing with it, so that works ;D Glad you enjoyed it!
Crazy4Orcascrazy4orcas on May 7th, 2013 02:01 pm (UTC)
Wow, this is gorgeous!

Never mind the cootch show, Clint says, admiration in his voice and plain to see on his face, I’d pay to see that.

You, she tells him, don’t have to.

And when she dances like this, with his eyes on her, she feels like a phoenix being reborn, all the pieces inside of her set alight and they’re kindling for something bigger, something whole, a blaze. She feels like she could set the world on fire with new life, burn the dust and this life away.
-- STUNNING!

So many FEELS for this: She’ll strip off her layers and bare all for free, because it’s him asking, when really she wants to tell him that she already has, that he’s seen everything there is of her to see, and that was a gift no money could buy.
inkvoices: avengers:assassins huginkvoices on May 26th, 2013 06:53 pm (UTC)
(Sorry it's taken me so long to reply :S )

Thanking you! And thank you for letting me know which bits especially rang true for you. I have so many feels about Clint seeing Natasha and Natasha letting him! I'm so glad you enjoyed it :D