Length: 792 words
Summary: written for the prompt Clint has to cut Natasha's hair on the wonderful and epic be_compromised promptathon.
Author Note: I kind of talked myself into filling my own prompt, oops. Check out It's a fresh start which is anuna_81's take on the same prompt. We both put our two Master Assassins in a bath, heh. Originally posted on the promptathon thread, but I'm feeling organisational.
He’s always careful when he does it.
He isn’t ever careful with her normally. Gentle, yes, sometimes: her hand in his, his hand in hers, in the infirmary with the quiet beeping of machines; his voice in the dead of the night, the only indication of the tears on her face because she cannot feel them; a kiss dropped on her bare shoulder. Gentle, yes, but not careful.
It isn’t that he believes that she won’t break. She has broken in the past and he knows it, but she’s pieced herself back together, over and over, and he knows that too. He knows that he doesn’t need to take care of a woman who can fly a jet through an aerial attack, bring down governments, and take him in a fight. Who can remake herself.
He is careful in this though, brushing her hair until it lies straight, using two fingers as a straight edge, a section of hair held between them as he closes the blades of the scissors. She doesn’t understand why. For all intents and purposes hair is dead; cutting hair can’t cause pain.
(It’s a part of her, he tried to explain once, and a part he was taking away.)
Scissors, of course, can hurt. She knows many ways to kill someone with a pair of scissors and not always using the blades. It wouldn’t be particularly difficult to stop someone if they switched from cutting her hair to attempting to kill her, but for a long time after – after leaving, after coming to SHIELD, after – Clint was the only one she’d trust to do this.
It isn’t just having blades wielded near her head that makes her vulnerable in this. It’s the warm hands, the fingers through her hair, the faint memory of a time when someone did take care of her and she was a child who did need taking care of. It’s the relaxing feeling that creeps up on her, her guard dropping and her vigilance easing. It’s leaning back and letting someone change you.
(It’s a part of her, he tried to explain once, and a part he was taking away, but she asked him, she asked him to do this.)
She takes him by the hand and leads him to the bath, peeling herself out of her suit and letting it fall, letting it come to rest on the tiled floor next to his. He gets into the water because she tells him to and she isn’t taking care of him, with his distant eyes and steady, always steady, hands, but she’s being gentle. Telling and not asking; not asking him to think.
She gets in after him, lowering herself into the water slowly to prevent too much of it sloshing up the sides of the tub and refusing to wince as it stings her cuts and scrapes. There’s blood in the water, along with the dirt and ash and other things, and she doesn’t know which of them it’s from, if it’s even theirs or from the aliens, their victims, or, strangest of all, a member of their team. The Avengers. It doesn’t matter. It’s not much.
Clint wraps his arms around her without being prompted, callused hands on her skin and his chest warm against her back, and if he holds her a little too tight it’s not something she will ever mention.
They stay like that for a while, just breathing, because they can. Then Natasha reaches for the small basket on the wall, where the soap and shampoo lives, and hands him a small pair of scissors.
“I never do it right,” he says softly, but he takes them from her anyway.
He’s right. No hairdressers would ever employ him. She has, every time, had to trim errant locks of hair herself and as Natalie Rushman she’d curled it in the hope of making any faults look less notable, but Ms. Potts had still tried to recommended a professional. Several times. He’s getting better though and he’s still the only one she trusts to do this.
(It’s a part of her, he tried to explain once, and a part he was taking away, but she asked him, she asked him to do this, she trusts him to do this, and it will always be him.)
Her hair is matted in parts and they both know from experience that trying to wash it when it’s like this will only make it worse. Instead he separates the disaster areas from the rest, straightening it as best he can, and uses two fingers as a straight edge, a section of hair held between them as he closes the blades of the scissors, all oh so carefully.
She leans back and lets him.