Laura hadn’t fallen for Clint first; she had been struck first, though. And, yes, she had heard all the possible jokes about Cupid and his arrows, thank you very much for your contribution.
But it was still true: she hadn’t fallen first. Clint had, all stumbles and stutters. Laura had been struck, first, curious about this boy—distracted, rumpled, so very human—and his perfect, perfect aim. You don’t get perfect marksmanship by being born with it.
Gods are born, maybe, but Steve Rogers went to army drafting station after station, said “yes” when Erskine asked him. Tony woke up in a cave with a box of scraps and didn’t just roll over and die; when he got home, back to safety and riches, he took everything he had learned in that darkness and built himself a new skin, new life, new name. Sam pushed himself through basic, through pararescue training, and taught himself to fly.
Laura liked to pay attention to how people got to who they were.
Natasha had spent a childhood without choices—she was lethal and slippery because she had been manufactured that way. But when Clint didn’t pull the trigger, she could have killed him—even after that, she could have vanished to Brussels or New Zealand or Laos. Once back in the States, she could have signed a non-disclosure agreement and gotten assimilated, somewhere normal, with an admittedly heavy watch.
But little Natalia Romanova had taken SHIELD’s offered employment papers and signed them Natasha. She saved Clint’s life three times on three different missions, that first year they worked together, and she still seemed to think she had red in her ledger there.
And Clint—Laura sat forward the first time she saw him, this circus kid who gulped from a stained coffee cup before stumbling onstage and proceeding to take eighteen perfect shots, with three different bows, four of them without even looking.
Laura leaned forward. These things were not gifts.