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little ballerina

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Natasha Romanov sat quietly on the couch as her friends chattered around her. It was the first time in years that they had all sat together without the threat of the world ending or without one of them punching another. It was… nice. Really nice. If you really pressed Natasha, she would admit that the Avengers were the closest thing to a family she had and the past few years had been torture for her. Hell, even the spider kid had grown on her in the time since the Snap was undone.

But despite the fact that her family was back together, there was an extremely heavy thought that weighed in her mind. It was distracting her to the point that she wasn’t even aware of the others calling her name until Bruce nudged her knee with his.

“Nat? You okay?”

She looked up, her eyes refocusing on the people in front of her. “Yeah. Yeah, of course.” She took a long sip of her vodka, barely feeling the sting of the alcohol as it slid down her throat.

The others went back to conversing, talking about how Peter was doing at MIT, what time Clint’s wife and kids were getting to the compound, how Bucky was adjusting to living in the twenty-first century, etc., etc. However, Natasha could feel the concerned glances being thrown her way by Clint and Bruce. Their gazes burned into her head like fire.

“I want to infiltrate the Red Room.”

All conversation stopped as the nine others paused, turning to look at the assassin. It was the most she had said all night and to say something with such gravity was a shock.

"Damn," Sam muttered as he took a swig of his beer, "I thought we just gone done saving the world."

“What’s the Red Room?” Peter asked, his eyes wide. Despite the fact that he was now twenty-two years old, he still had the same puppy eyes as when he was fifteen and swinging around New York City in a onesie.

Natasha stood up, her arms wrapping around her waist. Despite the confidence she projected, the Red Room was one of the few sensitive topics she hated discussing. “The Red Room is where I was trained. They take girls as young as five and turn them into killing machines.” She looked down at the ground as she felt her hands start to quiver. “That is, if they survive.”

Bruce’s hand reached up to take hers, a rare moment of PDA between the two. “Nat… Are you sure?” His brown eyes were searching her face worriedly, his thumb rubbing her hand soothingly. “I’ve never been more sure of anything in my entire life,” she breathed, her eyes meeting the other’s as she looked around the room. Despite how much she loved each and every one of them—yes, loved—being vulnerable was still terrifying. The Red Room had torn her down and built her back up into a weapon of mass destruction. There was no telling how many girls had graduated from the program since the 1930s. There was also no telling of how many had died trying.

Steve stood up, setting down his mug of Asgardian mead on the table. “If you want to take down the Red Room, then we’re going to take down the Red Room.” He gave a nod to Natasha, who smiled weakly in response. Once Steve was on board, it was only a matter of time before the others joined.

She turned to Tony, who let out a long sigh. “You know I’m always ready to save a bunch of mini-Russian assassins.” Pepper smacked his arm lightly, shooting him a look. He rubbed his arm, muttering under his breath. “I’m kidding! You know I’m in, Pep.”  The others quickly gave murmurs of agreement and Natasha felt a weight come off her shoulders as she took her seat in between Clint and Bruce once again. Tony stood up as he went to grab another beer, pointing at Natasha. “We start tomorrow.”