Natasha dreams in Russian.

Entry into the Fanfiction Royale competition. Category: Other - Character Study.

A character study is a fanwork which explores a character's psyche in depth, focusing specifically on a single character rather than a relationship.


1. Dominion

She dreams in Russian.

For all her friends seem to forget, for all she may try to pretend, Natasha still dreams in Russian. Dreams that are snatches of memory, with gunshots beside deafening and echoing walls, and snow that swirls in gusts and mists and engulfs all it finds in its path. She dreams of starlight, voices lyrical against the sloe black night, or of a long-gone relative whispering words velvet soft into her childhood ear. She dreams of rain in St Petersburg, sleet in Moscow, sunshine on the Volga, sweat and blood in the Hotel National; all the while with thick and ceramic voices in her head, shattering the cold plate glass of a spy's solitude.

Then there are dreams that aren't memories. Flights of fancy, flights of fantasy, what might have been, what never will be. She dreams of a grandmother who loves her dear, a father's warm and kind cigars in the evening half-light. Numbers of brothers, platoons of sisters, simple life in the Ukraine. Dreams of farmhanding, cattleherding, of a grey life in a listless office building, of adventuring and cutlassing. She dreams of the dangers of life, not death. She dreams beautiful, stained in Cyrillic, bound in books of words that creak with the familiarity and ache of homeland.

When she wakes, her mind is left behind in Russia. Words will twist past her lips in a language Steve doesn't understand, that Tony cannot comprehend. This early, she doesn't care for the strain of translation - she waves them off, curls into the sofa and out of herself. As she is woke, she sheds her snake skin and slithers into English, and the world looks at her like she was the one who didn't make sense.

It snows in New York; Natasha smiles fond at the fall they call a blizzard, fingers swooping frozen letters onto frost-sparked glass. She speaks her language quiet - Russian was never meant for shouting. Ballet and battle and black earth all spoken with the same breath as she ducks and weaves, throws punches, rises and falls like the hills she grew up in. Hills she still sees as hers, no matter how far away she may ever be.

And when she hurts, Clint speaks to her in Russian. His mouth is a butcher's block, his accent a knife. The words are not home, but they're close - they remind her of a cold and a belonging she could never shake. She sinks into Clint's voice, his tongue that curls around her tongue. Russian appeals to her baser instincts, anchors her to the board like a rook, eases her mind of thinking too hard when her body is already broken.

Now, now, she bleeds on the floor, her skin turns as red as her hair, the tiles shining with it, and he whispers soft. Lullabies she hasn't heard in years, songs only half remembered. He speaks her language with reverence, as though at liturgy, her nature is a church to him. Blood loss, light headed, visions swim before her eyes. Childhood friends with guns in their hands, memories of echoes in the slow darkness, vodka poured slick into the sewers, and Clint's voice, and Russian, and Russian, and Russian, and Russian.

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