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Agent of Hope

Chapter Text

Groaning at the bright morning light, it’s with a certain misguided aim that you reach out to turn of the alarm clock. You don’t normally hate mornings, but it’s hard to find joy when you’ve had nightmares for the third night in a row (not to mention the migraine that comes with them). The other side of the bed is woefully deserted, the sheets already cool to the touch which means Brock’s already up and about.

”Rough night, huh?”  his coarse voice comes from the doorway.

There’s no reason to hide it…nor explain it. ”Just need to get started…” you rasp back, reaching for the bottle of water, ”or maybe there’s a handsome fellow who’s willing to either rub or crush my skull.”

His laughter is jarring, but you hide the displeasure because you know it’ll annoy him. He’s the kind that believes in working through everything, that pain builds strength of character. My character’s fucking thicc. Of course Brock had urged you to go to the doctor and agreed with the sensibility in getting some scans done, but when the specialists didn’t find anything wrong, your boyfriend began to dismiss the pain. The nightmares are harder to ignore, but dreams are, well, just dreams.

”Ain’t got time for finger-magic, sweetie, but there’s coffee and eggs ready for ya.”

When he kisses you goodbye, it’s passionate. Loving. He might forget that not all are like him, but the man loves you. And still, as soon as the kiss is over, he slips effortlessly into the mental state of an agent who’s putting the final touches on a big project, and the man that walks out the door isn’t your man.

 

…   Days later   …

 

With the deadline nearing, Brock puts in a lot of extra hours at work. You miss him. Being an agent takes up a lot of time, obviously, and his entire life has brought him to this point in his career. Maybe it’s pitiful to admit that you’re second (a lot of your friends seem to think so), but it works for the two of you because there’s never been any pretence otherwise. At least it leaves you free to pursue your own dreams as long as they don’t involve kids or a man that is home at a set time.

“How was ya day, princess?” Strong arms wrap around you together with a sweaty musk that overpowers the dinner you’re putting together.

You have to twist to find his chapped lips with yours and get lost in the warm, hungry kiss. Damn, he can work wonders. Simply Brock’s presence is full of energy, happiness, and there’s no one who could make you feel as safe.

“Not bad, and I finally got the answer from R.E.” Customer’s can be slow and more than often the more prestigious they are, the worse they treat you or your employees…especially the women.

Brock’s dark brows nearly covers his eyes as he tries to think. “The…Rand?” You nod in confirmation. “Ya’d think they wouldn’t even bother to check anything before signing the check.”

“I’m sure they didn’t. It’s a powerplay to remind me who’s in control. Don’t they teach you that at agent school?” Poking him teasingly in the belly (or on, due to the rather spectacular abs), it surprises you that he doesn’t quip back.

A wet sputter behind you alerts you to the pasta and you finish the rest of the cooking while listening to Brock bragging about how smoothly the project is going. He calls it the “change” and sometimes “reveal”, anything more substantial is confidential. Of course and agency like SHIELD wouldn’t have any plans leaking prematurely no matter how stoked the involved parties are.

“This is it, baby!” Brock’s lying naked in the bed after a needed evening shower. “This whole thing’s been on the way for decades and I fucking get to be’ere for it!”

“Of course.” A kiss goodnight before you cuddle up against his perfect shape. “You won’t let anything stop you from reaching your goals.”

“Damn straight.”

 

…   Days later   …

 

Even though the footage is pixelated due to the distance of the camera, your heart still plummets just like the enormous flying hangar-ships falling in slow motion like leaves from a tree. You’ve barely seen your boyfriend the last couple of days, but you know he’s there, fighting to keep the plan on track despite of those actively working against it. Captain America. That part hasn’t been cited  on the news with a valid source, of course, just like there’s no explanation of what the three vessels are for. But you know. Night upon night, nightmares and agony have warned of today’s events. Death and destruction under two different circumstances, and regardless of the horrors playing out on the TV screen this is the lesser of two evils.

Not a single soul at the studio is working, their attention glued to screens of various sort just like you. Some are sitting alone in shock while others have huddled up…a few have gone to the rooftop to see the looming cloud of smoke and dust in the distance. You don’t know how the nightmares can be coming true, but they are.

Stabbing pain penetrates you skull, causing the view of the office to be replaced by a white, spinning fog. You feel yourself tumble from the chair, the desk only breaking your fault partially on your way to the floor. Body shaking and breath stuck in your throat, there’s nothing you can do except clutch your head until the moment passes in a blur of images. This…this is it. Brock’s project, the hangars delivering death from above. Pieces are added to the puzzle, some fitting with what you already know in an obscure way and others showing you new scenes. A hospital. Brock seething with hate as he points a weapon at…you.

You wouldn’t be able to explain any of this to another soul and, frankly, you’re not sure you can explain it to yourself. All you know as the pain subsides, is that the “change” is a synonym for “hostile takeover” (a term you’ve learned from Brock) which would have been the first step towards a dictatorship.

Shaking and sweating like a horse, you reach for the metallic trashcan that’s supposed to be the only occupant under the desk. The excruciating pain’s lifting, leaving a dull ache and a nasty bout of nausea behind. Already, your mouth’s filling with spit in anticipation of what’s to happen.

Chapter Text

The world around you is fluctuating between dullness distanced from you by a film of silence or much too close with all the hustle and bustl- with the ceaseless bombardment of goddamn everything! People are crowding you in the subway close enough that the sharp stink of sweat is inescapable. But as much as the pushes of foreign bodies make you anxious it also grounds you somehow because there’s no calm for your thoughts to run circles in your throbbing head.

Did he know? Rumours are flying in the press and accusations used as ammunition in the offices of important people. It’s hard to know who knew what in the lower ranks before SHEILD got razed. Hydra. Can Brock be one of them? You’re his girlfriend, and that title makes you want to shout to the high heavens that the man in your life is innocent and had nothing to do with what seems to be the planning of a massacre…nothing crosses your lips, though, and the suspicion is killing you.

The pre-recorded voice announces the stop, and you shoulder your way out of the stale-smelling cart, following the stream of people up to ground level where there almost is a sense of clean air. Almost. Are people watching you as you hurry down the street towards the hospital? Probably not. They don’t know who you are or why you’re shaking as you reach the counter in the hospital lobby to ask for Brock Rumlow, boyfriend.

Fear choked you just as horribly as the nausea once you came to under the desk. On shaking limbs, you clawed your way up on the chair before reaching for water and chewing gum while trying to ignore the phone lying useless near the potted Cala lilies that your secretary loved. It wouldn’t help to call, so you had to wait. Pretend to be fine and wait. It was the longest 24 hours in your life. No sleep or food out of sheer terror. Next day you called in to leave instructions, and then you waited for the right time because that’s what you’d seen. Brock in the hospital. Brock injured. Brock raging.

The nurse’s warning isn’t necessary and so you listen without hearing, only content when she walks away to give you the privacy you need in the “trying time”. At least it’s a private room. Drawing the curtain aside, there’s no shock at the sight of bandages, tubes and whatnot. It’s a miracle he survived, the nurse has explained, but the real miracle is that Brock’s awake. He just doesn’t react to your presence.

“Brock…?” you try tentatively and without effect, “Rumlow?”

You’ve read somewhere once that survivors might mentally be locked in the mindset they were in when the accident or whatever happened. Maybe that’s not true, but it works with Brock and as such he’s reduced to Rumlow the agent.

“Copy.” The man’s voice is a hoarse whisper. “The bathard go’ in the way.” The wires holding the jaw together slur his speech. “Cap’n and hith bitheth go’ in the way o’ the plan…”

All of a sudden the room is too small and a cold is seeping into your bones. No. No NO! The redhead working with Captain America (according to rumours) has opened the floodgates that used to contain all the secret files of SHEILD and, apparently, the part of Hydra that was working from within. There’s too much for someone like you to read through, but news stations and a ton of more trustworthy organisations are working through them, revealing the broad strokes as they go along.

“What could you’ve done differently…Rumlow?” It’s strange to call your boyfriend by his last name, but what you’re piecing together is revealing a very different person than your Brock.

Wires strain, lips split open in the same way the wounds on the lower half of his face does, sending thin tendrils of yellow and crimson rolling down his chin and throat until they’re swallowed in the bandages of other injuries. His eyes are the worst. A fire has been lit behind them, destructive and out of control as it burns with madness.

“Killed them. Killed Cap. Killed hith friendth.” The voice contradicts the far-away gaze, dropping the temperature in the room even more. “Long ago. I thould ‘ave killed Rogerth.”

No. This can’t be real. Battling your own body, it’s a miracle the voice stays calm at least. “And now?”

“Ne’er back down. Hail Hydra.” A cough rattles his body from the effort, but by then you’re already out of the room.

 

 

Trailing an invisible path through the apartment, you can’t find rest in the home you used to share with Brock. Rumlow. Hydra agent. The shock has dissipated, leaving you numb enough to think logically in the hopes of finding a solution to the mess.

That’s when it happens again. As if the constant throbbing in your head the last days wasn’t enough, a new flash of excruciating pain makes you crumble like a used napkin. Brock. People in black picking him up at the hospital. Home, they are searching. Picture of you. Agony threatens to split your skull as poisons and explosions takes place in your mind – with Brock at the centre of it all. Hatred. Death. You know the men must be other Hydra agents and that they’re coming to take care of things. Of loose ends. I’m a loose end.

Stumbling to your feet, still swaying and with tears streaming down the face, you force yourself to act. There’s a backpack for hiking on top of the cabinet where enough of your clothes and a few irreplaceable belongings can fit. Peeling the photos from the frames, you take them too, pain from your head echoed in your heart at the finality of it.

What now? There’s nowhere you can go, where Brock won’t be able to track you down. The realization gives birth to another fear, and you scramble to find your phone. It’s gotta go. Unlocking it, the first thing on the screen is an article about the redhead, Natalia Romanova (maybe, she seems to have many names). Clever grey eyes bore into your soul with the clarity even pixels can’t remove, giving you the answer.

Half an hour later, you’re on a bus, phone already discarded in the frenzied hope that that will delay Brock and his fellow…fellow…fellow traitors.

Chapter Text

…   Rumlow’s PoV   …

Don’t wannit. Don’t want morphine. Vaguely aware of familiar voices, Brock tries to tell them, but they are too busy moving the world around him to listen to the slurry mumblings he manages to produce. He knows they gave him more of the damn painkillers straight into the vein through a drip as soon as they arrived. They didn’t even ask him which they should know is the wrong way to go about things because he is the team leader, the one who has to stay clear minded and make decision. But things are happening around Brock without him having a say in it. He knows he’s in good hands, Hydra cares for its own people. Own people…ownpeople…people own…people. The thought is plucked out and warped by the strong painkillers without losing the sense of urgency. People. Person. He knows he was talking to someone earlier. When? Time’s fuzzy and noncooperative. Shouldn’t’ve said…anything.

A male voice, strong and authoritative in its familiarity, reaches him through the haze of the drugs. Too much…don’t wannit. “Who knows?”

Brock must have spoken out loud. Fuck. “Grl-giiiirl…” a pleasant heat on one side of the face distracts him.

Focus, agent!”

Focus…foscu…foxes…sneaky foxes. “Girlfwiend…go’ meh to…to…’ee knowth.”

“Your girlfriend knows you allegiance?”

Even the world has stopped as a shadow looms over the injured agent. Keep moving. Get up. Adrenalin begins to course through his veins, clearing his head a tiny bit although it’s an uphill battle against the potency of the chemicals they’ve introduced to his bloodstream.

“Yeth,” the growl is unmistakable, “bith ith done for…loothe end.”

 

…   Reader’s PoV   …

 

Personally, you think you’ve been pretty damn smart about the way of running because not only had you discarded any electronics right away, you also only used cash to buy the bus ticket to Cincinatti, but got off in Columbus only to hitchhike back to Pittsburg (long live the group of university girls who took pity on you) where you found a new bus to New York.

Sure, the stunt took about nine extra hours, but hopefully it’ll throw any followers off your trail.

Maybe I’m being paranoid. Resting your head against the window by your seat, you can see the skyline of New York against the morning light. So what if you know that Brock’s Hydra…according to the news there are no secrets about that organisation anymore. They won’t come for me…I’m just being silly. But a throbbing headache begs to differ. It feels like someone’s digging your brain out through the skull with a teaspoon as the only tool - and that’s without considering any of the skull-splitting pain flashes. Just the thought of those episodes has you looking around nervously. I’m going insane.

Paranoia and some sort of hallucinations, yeah, things aren’t looking great even if you bought that explanation yourself. You don’t. I saw them fall from the sky. The memory and the meaning it now has keeps you from sleeping, real and imagined carnage blending seamlessly in your mind. I saw before it happened. With what Brock had said at the hospital and who he works for. If ever he or they find out that there’s the slightest chance that you saw the failed “project” before it happened? You’d be hunted down and either used as a tool with no regards for human rights. Or they’ll kill me.

From the bus stop, it’s the longest 15 minutes walking in your entire life.

When you finally walk up to the enormous glass doors, the knees are about to give out from under you and your palms are sweaty. Somehow, a larger group (maybe employees) is entering the lobby and you manage to join the chattering people rather inconspicuously according to yourself, but the sensation of victory is short lived, though. A long desk is off on one side perfectly across from the elevators, with security stationed at each their own passage. Not that it would help you if they weren’t there, as all doors in sight are equipped with card readers. Keep going or tell someone? Both options are bound to have drawbacks.

“Can I help you?”

The speaker’s right behind you, making you twitch out of surprise. At least he sounds tired rather than condescending, so you turn with a tiny smile on your lips, hoping to look friendly rather than threatening. Short curls are receding above the temples of a round man who looks like he smiles a lot. Just not now where suspicion gleams in the small eyes instead.

“I uhmm…I need to speak with –“

“No, that’s not how it works.” The interruption hardly comes as a shock, but it’s still disheartening. “There are no walk-ins, all visits have to be booked in advance.” He’s already ushering you towards the doors you came in through.

Gotta say something. You dig your heels in. “Sir, I understand the formalities, but this is urgent.”

“Should’ve called ahead, then.” Clearly, it’s bothering the man that you aren’t cooperating.

All too aware of the scene you’re causing, the part of your mind that is in control keeps an eye on the remaining security personnel. None have moved yet, probably just waiting for a sign which will signal the end of you attempt to talk to Tony Stark.

“Please, sir, I beg of you,” your voice is lowered, “this is important…it’s about what happened in…in…” you reduce the sound to a dramatic whisper, “in Washington.”

 

…   Rumlow’s PoV   …

 

Hydra has a lot of facilities off the books and Brock knows that he’s at one of them. Judging by the lack of windows, this one’s most likely underground even if the room he’s in still is equipped like a state-of-the-art hospital. They’ve taken the morphine away when they reached the place, not bothering to question his wish, and in return Brock’s gotten a functioning mind. Sure, there’s pain now, but he’s had worse…although that might have something to do with damaged nerves, according to a doctor. Pain won’t stop me. And he has a lot to catch up on including a girlfriend who might know too much.

How?

[Y/N] shouldn’t have known where he was. The hospital never called her. The woman just showed up all on her own, asking for him and even describing the injuries.

How?

“Lucky guesses” doesn’t explain it so there’s got to be another explanation, and Brock’s narrowing the options rapidly as he takes everything into consideration. Lack of surprise at major catastrophes (horror, alright, but not actual shock) is one of the big clues.

How?

Some sort of sixth sense or worse. Like one of those mutant freaks or genetic experiments running around pretending to be more than anyone else. Rogers is only the tip of the iceberg and the Soldat is nothing but a mimic of that. Even Romanoff. Then there are freaks like Banner and on and on the list goes so perhaps it isn’t too far fetched that [Y/N] should be some sort of monster too. Freaks can be useful. But where is this specimen now?

 

…   Reader’s PoV   …

 

The world longest elevator ride has brought you to a part of the tower that looks suspiciously like a holding cell. Except stylish. Sitting at a concrete table in the middle of a tastefully naked room, you’re staring at the round face of the security guy (Hogan) while he studies all sort of information on a tablet, sometimes conferring with a bodyless voice referred to as Jarvis. Whoever Jarvis is, he seems to know all there is about you with the exception of the migraine inducing visions.

“Please, if you could just get mister Sta–“

“Not unless you talk to me first.” The man barely glances up at you, already used to this exchange by now.

Perhaps I should just give in and tell him all? It’s tempting and you’d like to trust anyone working for Iron Man himself, but trust is hard to come by after the events of the last few days. Compromise. You’re just about to say something when a beeping precedes the door opening to let in none other than the famous Pepper Potts. Thin and impeccably dressed, she looks like she owns the place even with the lunch tray in her hands.

“Happy, why don’t you take a break, mm?” The gentle voice isn’t actually giving him a suggestion and Hogan swallows any protests he might have had and leaves you alone with the woman. “Miss [Y/L/N], I thought it was time you got some food.”

The tray is pushed towards you, showing off the delicious looking pasta-dish and making your stomach growl as a reminder that you’ve not eaten for almost 24 hours. Getting here had been more important. Pulling the food a bit closer, it’s all you can do to restrain yourself from gobbling down the food within seconds as if you’ve been starving for weeks. Fuck it’s good.

“Thank you.” You even remember to swallow before talking.

Her smile makes the freckles on her cheeks dance prettily. “Why do you need to speak with Tony so badly?”

“I don’t,” the answer obviously surprises the whatever she is to Stark, “I need to talk with Romanova but don’t know how to get a hold of her…then I remembered what happened here in New York and I thought…well…I gotta try, right?”

Now that you’ve told that much, the pasta doesn’t taste right anymore because your stomach tightens with worry. It’s a madman’s plan! No way will Romanova or even Stark see little, unimportant you. This is as far as you’ll ever get and soon, you’ll be back out on the street with no place to hide from Brock. Rumlow. And when he and the hydra-goons find you. Paranoia. You’ve got to believe they won’t come looking. You still can’t convince yourself, of course.

“Miss [Y/L/N]…[Y/N],” Potts  implores gently, “why do you need to talk to any of them at all?”

Where do I start? Rubbing your skull, you feel the stress starting to take its toll on you. “Washington…it’s not over…”

Did they turn the lights up? The LED’s are glaring overhead and you have to squint in the harsh light even when looking down onto the plate where the white porcelain reflects each diode, only blocked by the Penne al’Arrabiata which is making me sweat thanks to the spices. It’s when the world starts spinning you realize what’s about to happen just a second before pain slashes through your head.

Chapter Text

You vaguely remember moving about with the help of Hogan, but you had been too out of it after the onslaught of information. And now? Now you’re too stumped by the absence of pain to really worry about anything else. It’s amazing. Normally painkillers would leave you sort of woozy and there’d still be some of the throbbing left (not to mention sensitivity to light, sound, and movement), so the numbness almost makes you cry with relief and you breathe deeply to calm the emotions suddenly bubbling.

“Morning.”

The one word is enough to bring the fear back even if it had been said relatively kindly. Blinking owlishly, you home in on the speaker and nearly lose your goddamn mind all over again. Stark. Reclining leisurely in a chair, he looks like he’s been there for a while: the suit jacket has been discarded and the vest unbuttoned to allow a better view of the dark red shirt with the rolled-up sleeves. Bringing the legs back from an extended position, Iron Man himself leans in to study you without a word.

“Mi-mister Stark…” As if he wouldn’t know his own name, idiot! Swallowing hard, your throat has gone as dry as the desert. “Sorry for uhm for the…the…chaos, I guess.”

A wry smile ripples the well-groomed beard. “If you mean having some sort of episode after claiming Hydra isn’t done…then yeah, chaos would be a fitting word.”

There’s a warm undertone to his voice, planting a suspicion (that you don’t dare phrase) in your belly. Too nervous to return Stark’s gaze any longer, you focus on the surroundings instead only to be further rattled. Rather than a random couch, you’ve been brought to what seems like a high-tech mini hospital. Sure, you’re wearing your own clothes, but everything else fits the bill right from the type of bed to the monitors on a panel above that thankfully isn’t in use right now.

“You complained your head was hurting, so you’ve gotten something for that…but you gotta explain what that was about, miss,” Stark urges, “’cause that didn’t seem like a regular migraine.”

Here goes. “It’s…not. It’s partially the reason I came here.” You have to breathe in a few times to steady your voice. Maybe he’ll just think I’m crazy. Am I crazy? “Br- Rumlow isn’t dead and he isn’t about to quit working for Hydra.”

“Hydra’s exposed. They’re as good as gone.”

“No.” The billionaire doesn’t challenge you again but just waits for an explanation. “Rumlow is…was…my boyfriend. I didn’t know who he really was working for, I swear! But I found out and…and…”

Stammering, you manage to relay what’s been happening on and after things started to go wrong in your life. The nightmares that woke you with your head pounding and sweat running down your body, then how they fit a bit too well with all sorts of horrors happening in the world…but dreams are dreams, right? Except they’re not because now it happens when you’re awake and it’s worse and scary as fuck.

“Now…it happened a-again,” you try to explain as you wipe tears from your cheeks, “Rumlow is somewhe-where else…not a-a normal hospital ‘nd he’s getti-ing better already. And the o-o-others…Hydra people…they’re looking for me. He told them!”

“Told them you’re a lose end?” The concern is obvious even if the tone is that of someone analyzing and strategizing. “Or that you can…what? See the future? Witness things even if you aren’t there?”

A surge of relief fills your with warmth. “Lose end and…erm…both, I guess?” He doesn’t doubt me?

Silence falls, one where Stark thinks, and you fret about the future. Maybe you should be admiring the view beyond the glass wall facing lower Manhattan. Maybe you should offer solutions. Truth is, however, that you got nothing. Coming this far was the main part of the plan, and yeah, you’d hoped to tell Natalia Romanova-or-something, but this is hopefully just as good. Hopefully. You hide the shaking of your hands by busying them with the powder-blue blanket, smoothing it and then folding it in tiny creases that create patterns.

The single clap of Stark’s hands startles you. “Alright. Gotta call in Nat or Rogers on this too, but you’re not going back out there while those bastards are looking for you.”

Iron Man’s entire demeanour has changed, becoming warm and almost fatherly as he personally sees to it that you’re set up in one of the many guestrooms and more food is ordered for you (apparently the bit of pasta hadn’t stayed inside). The best part of it all, though, is how your future is looking brighter all of a sudden.

Chapter Text

“Happy” Hogan has abandoned all animosity towards you and assigned himself as personal assistant, fetching stuff and guiding you anywhere you’d want to go (not a lot of places). The bed is beyond amazing just like the room with the en-suite bathroom which kind of resembles a spa. You’re invited to join your hosts for what turns out to be a slightly less awkward dinner than you’d feared – thanks to Stark’s ability to ignore anything called shame (and Potts is actually really sweet and caring). In other words, you should be able to relax and get a good night’s sleep now that you’re in a safe environment.

So of course, you don’t.

All through the night, you toss and turn, startled by the slightest noise that sets off horrendous imaginations about Brock catching up to you. When it’s not your conscious torturing you, it’s the few minutes of sleep that twist dreams into nightmares with rather unpleasant consequences related to both Hydra and the Avengers, and you wake bathed in sweat and tears streaming down the cheeks.

Eventually, you give up and morning finds you pacing the room, nails digging into your palms in an effort to keep yourself grounded.

 

…   Romanoff’s PoV   …

 

Godfucking damn it. The last thing Natasha needs in the middle of dealing with the mess (that she herself helped create) is for Stark to beg for her to come up to New York. Alright, so maybe getting out of Washington to lie low does sound tempting. Good thing I got a few covers untouched. The black wig is hot even with the air-con blasting on full power in the sports car, a necessity anyways due to the gothy leather outfit that goes with this alias. Drumming the fingers on the steering wheel, the Black Widow glares at the slow traffic with a murderous look only an assassin can conjure. It doesn’t make a difference. 

Exuding confidence is a manner of surviving for Natasha, and no one would have seen the difference as the private elevator to the Stark residence level encapsulates her but a weight falls from her chest when gravity is pulled through the soles of the combat boots and the tug in her belly hints at the speed she’s heading upwards with.

Composed, with the exception of a genuine smile, she steps out of the cabin to greet the genius billionaire. Worried, pulled an all-nighter as usual, smells of motor oil. Several other tiny things hint at Stark’s latest activity without disclosing what it’s all about. At least it’s not anything too scientific bothering him, or he would’ve called Bruce instead. Natasha pulls off the wig and runs the fingernails across the scalp to shake the real hair loose.

“Thanks for coming, Red.” The relieved smile barely reaches the man’s eyes. “Wasn’t sure if you’d be able to make it, but this is relevant to the Washington-case.”

Stark doesn’t reveal anything else, preferring instead to lead her towards the lounge where the warm summer sun is streaming in, granting the otherwise cold interior a soft glow that suits the sight of the two women nestled on the couch.
Pepper is perfectly dressed as always with the exception of the towering heels she normally wears. Soft, cream blouse tugged neatly away into a navy pencil skirt; a discreet flash of gold from the wrist and neck as if the sunlight has collected there.
The other woman is not skinny like the practical leader of Stark Industries and lacks the tough energy that Pepper is driven by, instead it’s a tired face with eyes widened by a mix of nerves and a stubborn attempt to stay awake. Talk about pulling an all-nighter, Natasha’s internal commentary points out and adds a note about the tightly clenched fists and untouched cup of tea that’s been left to cool on the table. This stranger is the reason Stark called her here…but why? The pained eyes hide a story more interesting than the meekness hints at. Victim of sorts.

“Romanoff, this is [Y/N],” Stark introduces with his usual flirty attitude, “don’t bite her, she’s a good girl and has got something interesting to say.”

The chick stands up, revealing a [bodyshape] figure wrapped in soft clothing that screams “cocoon” more than confidence. Civilian. Somewhere from Natasha’s heart comes waves of tenderness and pity that just as quickly are stuffed back down into the depths they came from. This is clearly a case, meaning that there’s no room for anything except professionalism. Cold logic fueling all the skills of an observer, of a questioner who needs to piece truth together from the warped memories of a traumatized person.

Yet, as the story is told, floating on a melodic voice that slowly grows in strength as no resistance is offered, Natasha’s opinion of the woman changes: the pity that had surged briefly is replaced by a solid amount of respect because the events [Y/N] has gone through are more than any regular person would be able to handle. And it’s only just starting. No wonder the girl’s rattled. Not only has she been dating a creep like Rumlow (and no, that’s not just hindsight speaking), she’s also dealing with something more-than-human and no one in their right mind would actually appreciate that 100 percent. Bruce’s of course one of the extreme cases, however Steve’s not always grateful for the side effects of the serum. First world problems.

 

…   Reader’s PoV   …

 

You’re still shaking as the door to your temporary home closes gently behind you. Not only did you have to retell everything, showing pictures of you and Brock as if it was some sort of show-n-tell in elementary school. No no. You’d had to serve yourself up on a platter for none other than the Black Widow, possibly the most frightening woman you’ve met to date including a tycoon like Pepper who had been very quick to show kindness towards you.

Natasha Romanoff…well she isn’t mean, she’s just very intense. She doesn’t blink quite often enough for one, and the attentions he pays you is so focused it’s like you’re an ant stuck under a burning lens with no way to get out of the concentrated ray of light and heat. And what a gaze. Storms have been trapped with lightning and roaring seas to create the eyes of the Black Widow, but as much as the woman scares you, she draws you in with the tamed power. Former assassin. Current Avenger. The words are meant as a reminder for you to not get lost at sea.

Tumbling onto the bed, the leering ghost of Brock is replaced by the attentive curves of Natasha’s face. And I thought I was fucked? Hah! The only cure is going to be distraction or maybe some sleep when you’ve calmed down a bit, and you reach for the remote for the flattest TV you’ve ever seen (no logo, but a few hints of red and gold).

You wake to Hogan’s voice from the other side of the door asking if you need food, but you’re too woozy from sleep to answer and feel yourself drift off as the lights dim on their own and the TV turns off.

Chapter Text

Some people take the buss or train to travel through the US. Others use a car which grants more freedom. And finally, if you’re rich enough, it’s possible to cover greater distances by plane. Of all the options available, you’ve never imagined flying in one of the futuristic jets you’ve seen in the news. It’s not exactly comfortable in the sense that it’ll be fit for civilian transportation as such, but the seats are snug and the cabin is dangerously quiet as you sit there with two heroes (however dubious their reputation might be) in the cockpit.

“We’re gonna be there ‘n ‘bout ten minutes,” Natasha smiles at you over her shoulder.

Ten? Obviously, there won’t be much traffic to slow you down up here in the sky, but that still sounds ridiculous. On the other hand, you don’t dare to contradict the Black Widow, so you just nod. Besides…who are you to tell what’s normal flying time for these jets.

Apart from the angular panes at the nose of the plane there are no windows to neither look out nor let the light in through. Finding the shadowy area blessedly cool, you allow yourself to close the eyes and at least attempt to empty the brain. Just a few minutes of relaxation might help with the dull ache that’s returning as the painkillers stop working. Amazing painkillers. They make you a bit loopy, but it’s not too bad especially when compared to how the migraines disable any and all functions (or so it feels).

“[Y/N]…”

Natasha’s soft voice right next to you makes you scream, and you’d have fallen out of the seat if you weren’t strapped in. Heart racing, blood pumps through the veins in your skull almost killing you with the throbbing, and in an attempt to alleviate it, you dig in your fingertips in and squish as hard as you can with them and the palms, eyes screwing shut to stop tears from falling.

“Shh, it’s okay. I’m sorry,” the ex-Russian only dares to whisper as she places a cool hand on your neck, “I’m sorry. Let me.”

The fingers carting gently through your hair first on one side of your face and soon also on the other are supposedly those of a killer, and for a second you think death by Natasha’s hands might be kind. She runs small circles along your temples and brows before doubling back working out some of the kinks at the base of your skull. Sooooo…gooooood. You swear you can feel you mouth start to hang open as you give in to the touch, slumping forward with eyes closed until you forehead finds rest against something. Whatever it is smells nice. Cinnamon-y yet cool. Heaven.

People are talking outside the bubble of relief that’s lulling you into a state near sleep. Then the hands still.

“[Y/N], we’re about to land.”

It’s hard to ignore the Black Widow’s murmur against your hair. “Hmmmokay.”

Battling the heaviness of your limbs, you manage to sit up and smile weakly at the retreating figure, getting a lopsided grin in return. Wait. Heat flushes through you, hot and strong from the stomach where a leaden cold remains. I just…she…my head was resting against her stomach?

 

…   Romanoff’s PoV   …

 

The girl’s got spunk, that’s for sure. Several days after arriving at the Compound north of New York, and the [Y/N]’s still going strong. Sort of. She hasn’t broken down completely, and that’s a huge win in Natasha’s eyes at least. She quietly accepts the hour-long sessions of interrogation although the answers are sparse if there are any at all.

Leaning against the doorframe, Natasha regards the woman silently, noting the dark bags under the eyes and the tiny winces that almost are supressed. All of this, this mess, is fairly new for [Y/N]. There’s been no panic. No crying or shouting.

“I don’t have anything new, sorry,” [Y/N] prompts quietly, voice meek and almost sad.

“Didn’t expect you to.”

Soon, there are only a few steps dividing them, yet somehow it feels like half the world because even right next to this woman there’s not really anything Natasha can do to reach her. All there is for Stark and her to do is to protect the unwilling witness as much as they can. Witness. The world has changed more than even Fury could have anticipated now that there are people who can see things that they haven’t even been near (without the use of any technology).

Nat would have given her life to have kept the old world. But here we are.

She’s checked everything she can together with Stark (or rather, Jarvis) and the results have been depressing: not only is Rumlow alive, oh no. The bastard’s back in the hands of Hydra gods know where - they’d come for him shortly after [Y/N] had left the hospital and after that there’d been a moment of peace before the manhunt began.

“They’re looking for you.”

“I know.” The scoff is subtle but unmistakable. “They’re looking the wrong places.”

“They’ll find out eventually.”

A tiny smile has grown on [Y/N]’s lips but is now wiped away, allowing serious eyes to bore into Natasha with a force that could break concrete…and even the Black Widow’s heart. “Then I hope you can keep me safe.”

“I’ll do everything I can!” The promise shouldn’t have slipped past the lips so easily. But I mean it.

Mentally chastising herself, it’s a vain attempt of convincing the inner voice that the eagerness to help the girl only has something to do with strategy or at the most an attempt at compensating for all the wrongs Natasha’s done in the past.

[Y/N] pulls the knees to her chest, wrapping the arms around them. “So…you asked the Captain to come?”

Oh. “Guess I should’ve figured you’d know that.” It’ll be practically impossible to keep anything from the scared woman even if it’s for her best. “He’ll be here the day after t‘morrow.”

“’Kay.”

Chapter Text

…   Romanoff’s PoV   …

Steve arrives just an hour before Natasha has to leave for hearings on a grey Monday morning. At no point has the former spy attempted to sweeten the impressions of what will be happening after dumping all the files from SHIELD online, so she knows that this is only going to be the first of many sessions with men in suits thinking they know better.

That’s not the reason she doesn’t want to go.

“Whatever you guys do,” the redhead hisses at Sam Wilson and the Captain, “do not question what she’s been through.” Sam looks like he’s about to crack a joke, but a glare silences him. “And don’t question her sanity, or I’ll carve out your kidneys and sell‘em on the black market.”

“We’ll behave, Nat, don’t worry.” Solemn, blue eyes underline Steve’s promise.

Turning on her heel, Natasha stalk out of the kitchen where she’d cornered the two guys, heading towards the garage. [Y/N]’s parting words still echo in her head: “They’ll need you, all of you.” It’s comforting to know that the strange woman who knows more than she should is adamant when it comes to the future of the Avengers.

Avengers. Not too long ago, there was no official name for the odd group of people who ended up saving New York, but the name was on everybody’s lips before the dust had settled and the shawarma had been eaten. Heroes. That’s how they’d been seen by a lot of people even if it didn’t seem entirely true to the image they’d had of themselves (not counting Stark, who’s always more than happy to bask in the spotlight). A good team, sure, they’d coincidentally worked very well together and even in the midst of battle, Romanoff had dared hope that this would clear her of some of the sins. It’d worked out for a while. Kind of.

 

…   Reader’s PoV   …

 

The arrival of the men surprises you in more ways than one. First, there are two. You’d not expected anyone to accompany the Steven Grant Rogers, but you’re honestly happy for it because the second guy has an aura of relaxation and trust about him. The Captain himself? Not so much.

Watching Captain America is in many ways similar to watching Brock, even though they are like night and day, the few similarities are striking and make your guts tighten and feet twitch from wanting to run away. Brock and Rogers are both unbending, disciplined and meticulous to the point where they shape the people around them rather than vice versa. Tall and broad, they fill the room with their presences, preventing any competition of the alpha-male title.
Icy eyes push you off the couch and to your feet and set your hairs on end all over your body, and as the man steps closer, it’s like moving back in time to the few times you’ve seen Brock advance on someone who displeased him. Automatically, you retreat.

“Sorry.” At least Rogers sounds like he means it. “I didn’t mean to erm…to make you uncomfortable.”

The moment you take his hand in greeting is the moment invisible “lightning” strikes you out of nowhere, carving through the crown of your skull all the way to your toes. Skull with octopus. Sunglasses. Colosseum. A big, dark hand reaches up towards iron bars. Laughter as sunglasses shatters on stone, revealing a milky eye in a serious face. Someone calling out for a [Y/N]. The man’s  name is Fury and Captain America is charging into the cell where he’s kept. [Y/N].

[Y/N]. It sounds closer. “[Y/N]!”

Strong arms are supporting you as the world revolves on its own and you have to close your eyes in order not to puke. It’s a relief when you feel a steadier surface beneath you.

“Shit, Steve,” another voice comments with horror, “Romanoff’s gonna kill us, man!”

Steve. Captain America! Waves of adrenalin help the eyelashes to flutter open briefly, enough to spot the veteran’s face near yours.

“She’ll be fine.” Regardless, he still asks Jarvis to fetch Stark. “Hey, [Y/N], can you hear me?”

“Mmmhmmm.”

Oh yeah, you can hear him more than plenty, the voice is sending new stabs of pain through your brain. The skin of your face folds and cracks like drying sand when you fight against the urge to keep your eyes closed, and you’re relieved at how tears and eyelashes block most of the view to the blue eyes, because they aren’t the ones you really want to see and neither is the face that’s peeping at you from behind Roger’s shoulder.

The words are clumsy in your mouth. “They got…him...Fury?” Looking to the men for confirmation is useless, but what else can you do? “I saw…in Rome…”

The explanation is rambling and you have to try several times before especially Wilson gets past the point where you know who Fury is and that he’s alive, but eventually they accept the baseline of what you saw and that it requires action. Now.

“Don’t throw any toga parties!” Tony Stark grins jovially, hiding a worry behind the sunglasses. “We’ll be back before you know it.”

“I don’t like it.” The words aren’t yours even though they could have been. They’re coming from Sam who’s biting his lip as he looks back at you from the ramp of the jet. The statement has been repeated several times already. “Natasha’s gonna kills us, guys.”

Roger’s heavy hand is warm and reassuring on your shoulder, the little squeeze a gentle comfort that you aren’t actually all alone in this mess of a life. “I know, but we owe it to Fury –“

“Besides,” Stark butts in like a cat wanting attention for the mouse it brought home, “I’ve designed the security here and both Jarvis and Happy is just a call away to help take care of our little prophet!” Pausing a moment at Sam’s side, the glasses are lifted momentarily. “And I’m not gonna tell Romanoff we left, are you?”

The worried man sees the opportunity and takes it. “Uhm err no?”

It would be nice if you could be as easily swayed as Sam Wilson is in this matter, but as you watch the quinjet taking off, the apprehension of being left alone at the so-called Compound is settling in as a deadweight on your chest.

 

…   Rumlow’s PoV   …

 

It hurts to move. It hurts to look in the mirror and see the crust-covered wounds that crack and ooze from the tiniest of movements. It hurts more, however, to know that [Y/N] is getting cozy with Captain Fucking America and his buddies…that she didn’t even let him try to explain things to her so they could recover what they had and move on together.

Freak. The term applies more to [Y/N] than to himself even with the view as he stands here by the sink. All this time, and he didn’t even know he was sharing a bed with a genetic miscreation – a monster that has decided to throw everything aside and flee with the tail between its legs, taking the one useful aspect along with it and out of grasp from Brock. Mine. No one takes anything away from him.

Straightening, the upper body protests as joints move and muscles tense under the torn skin, and Brock hisses at the pain.

“Ya shouldna be up ye’.”

The wise-ass nurse is silenced with a curse. I need to be up. There’s revenge to be had and a monster to catch, and Brock will be damned if he’s going to miss out on any of it.

Chapter Text

You’re unable to identify what woke you up but poking your phone to light up with the time leaves no doubt you ought to be sleeping quietly. Fluffing and turning the pillow to enjoy the cool side, you settle down for several hours more of sleep in the soft cocoon. Oh yeah, Stark has invested in some very nice beds and your eyelids are getting heavy again when you hear the unmistakable sound of glass breaking. Faintly, so it’s not too close to your room. In the lounge?  Pushing the covers away with trembling hands, the night air hits your skin which suddenly is covered in a thin sheen of sweat, still you don’t pause as you tiptoe over to the door and open it quietly to listen better.

The light from the lounge is reflected and softened by several corners and barely able to reach the end of the hallway with the bedrooms. Barely is enough, though, and you follow the gentle glow, careful not to make a sound. Barely breathing, you come to a halt by the door leading to the shared living area.

You can hear the footsteps and sounds of glass being swept away. No talking. No sounds from anywhere else and you start to suspect that there’s just one person.

“Miss [Y/L/N],” Jarvis’ clear voice cuts through the night like a knife, causing you to jump, “is there anything I can do to assist?”

You don’t have time to answer the digital entity before Natasha’s voice calls out for you. “[Y/N]?”

Peeking around the door, you see the redheaded hero standing over a broken glass of wine with dustpan in one hand and kitchen towel in the other. The leggings and tank top proves that she’s finally taking some time off from either training or preparing for one of the many hearings she’s been attending over the last few days. The outfit also does very little to hide the shape of Natasha’s lithe body.

“Hi…erm…” Why’s it always so hard to find anything to say to her? “Didn’t mean to, you know…spy or anything…”

A pretty smile, although it’s small, replaces the frown. “You heard a sound and wanted to make sure things were okay?” You nod from behind the shielding self-hug you’re recovering with. “It’s hard not to be on alert with all you’re dealing with, I know.”

Again, you can’t find any words, but you’re not sure you’d want to say anything because Natasha’s gentle tone is poking at a hard bubble inside your chest threatening to burst it and the only way you know of keeping it from exploding all over the place is by staying silent. The polished floor is studied carefully as another way to keep yourself together.

In your periphery, the former spy is putting down the things before walking over to place a slender hand on your shoulder. A shudder goes through you. For a second, you fear that she might break off the comforting contact, and you lean into her touch without really meaning to. It just…feels so good to be close to another person. Tasha. You can’t say it, but you hear the shiver in the breath you let loose. Oh. Wrapping you in an embrace, the woman holds you tenderly and safe.

“I’ve got you,” Natasha murmurs into your hair, “I’m taking care of you.”

The woman has been driving back and forth between the two cities (sometimes several times a day) to make sure you’re not alone for too long. Sometimes the two of you talk, but more often than not it’s enough just to have her around because Nat’s presence is soothing.

This is the first time she’s hugged you, though, and your feel your body melting against hers as all the walls you’ve build up begin to collapse. The bottom lip hurts from the hard bite you sustain to keep your reactions in check. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.

 

…   Days later   …

 

The sweater still carries the faintest trace of Natasha’s scent, so you refuse to remove it even if it’s more than warm enough on the couch where you’re splayed in the hope of getting a nap. Sleeping has been bothersome due to a multitude of nightmares and migraines, all of them hinting at something bad. But what?

It would be a lie to say that the premonitions so far have been easy to understand, but this time it’s even harder because the few things you do see keep changing all the time, making you think that finally it really is “nothing more” than paranoia and the stress of it all getting to you. It just doesn’t feel like it.

You’ve spoken to Natasha about it, and of course she got very concerned and refused to write it off as overthinking. Quite the opposite. The former spy has added several safety measures, some of  which are starting to feel more imposing than you’d expected at first – the worst one is restriction from going out.

The sun is shining, birds are chirping happily as they flitter in and out of the distant trees in search of food for the second round of babies. Just a little stroll. Surely, if you stay on the terrace there’s nothing wrong with stepping outside for a few minutes. And so you push off the couch, stretching while you convince Jarvis to (reluctantly) unlock the door.

The concrete tiles are warm under your feet, sandy pebbles poking into the soles as if trying to wake up your body. Smelling the breeze, you sigh at the blissful impressions of newly mowed grass mixing with sun-heated stones the way that only an afternoon in late summer can conjure, and for a moment you feel bad for Natasha’s who’s cooped up with a bunch of pissed-off politicians et cetera, but there’s nothing you can do to prevent any of the hearings which only the amazing woman attends as a representative of the Avengers.

Tony, Steve and Sam are still off in Europe somewhere (besides everyone knows not to place Iron Man in front of a camera if it can be avoided). Thor is…somewhere. Banner is avoiding stress, and no one is objecting to that plan at the moment. Of course, Natasha had offered bringing Clint up to hang out with you, both as an extra safety measure as well as simply for the company. The dissatisfied puff of air escaping your lips sends a dandelion seed spiraling out of control. It’s not that you don’t appreciate the offer and in a way you wish you’d accepted it, but how are you supposed to? These people have gone out of their way to protect you. Causing more trouble would make the guilt worse than it already.

Warm tiles are replaced by cool grass which you dig your toes into. Maybe it’s to feel it. Maybe it’s a subconscious attempt at anchoring yourself in a world where you feel like an intruder. Regardless, it’s not enough to keep you in place as strong arms wrap around your torso and a hand clasp over your mouth. You feel the jab of a needle in your thigh and your struggle is brief as the intense activity sends the drugs through your system quickly. Just before darkness consumes you, you see the dark tactical gear with the tentacled skull.

Chapter Text

Feeling the buzzing, Natasha pulls the cellphone out under the table. The blue light is probably obvious to the people staring her down from their high seats, but she can’t care less about their self claimed entitlement after this day’s six hours (and still counting) of their brainless questioning and attempts at shoving the blame unto her and the Avengers and SHIELD. Natasha rolls the eyes at a senator before focusing on the screen between her fingers.

The chair scrapes harshly over the stone floor, sending jarring shivers through the people around the accused agent which she ignores. In fact, they could have shouted at her and she still wouldn’t have noticed. Fuck. Vaguely aware that someone is calling out to her, the woman turns and strides out of the room, attempting to lessen the pace before it becomes an actual run when she’s out in the long hallway. Shit.

The phone is partially buried in the dark, red locks that bounce and sway with each step. C’mon! Steve answers on the third ring, the sound of shots reverberating along the connection but with little effect on either of the speakers.

“Nat?”

“They got her.”

A few choice curses are dug out from the fourties. “We’re wrapping up here anyways, call you back.”

“Hurry.”

Natasha cuts the call short, fingers already itching to tap in the next number when she takes a deep breath to steel herself before stepping out the front doors and into the veritable storm of camera flashes and shouts from impatient journalists. It’s impossible to hear the beeping unless she presses the phone hard against her ear, but there’s only one ringing tone before the call is answered.

“Clint.”

The welcoming voice chuckles. “You look pissed, smile to the camera.”

It’s tempting to flip it the bird but that won’t help. “Ha…ha…no.” A murderous gaze clears the rest of the way to the car strategically parked right outside the building. “Need you asap.”

“Trouble with the press?”

The door slams, finally shielding the ex-Russian from the scuffle. “Check Jarvis’ message.”

Clint grunt unintelligibly, a sure sign that he’s following orders without wanting to miss the show on the TV where reporters are speculating on Natasha’s tire-squealing exit. There are other voices carried faintly through the phone, evidence of the balance the archer has managed to find between his occupation and a family. Something tugs at her heart and she buries the nose in the thin shirt that still smells a little bit of the woman who turned up out of nowhere.

“Crap.” He doesn’t need to say much else but adds that he’ll be ready.

But where? “Jar’s tracking them, keep you posted.”

 

…   Reader’s PoV   …

 

Not only is your head pounding, your body is also aching with a billion tiny razorblades swimming through your veins and to make it all worse: the place you’re at stinks of dried piss and you’re not all to sure that it isn’t coming from the sorry excuse of a mattress you’re lying on. It’s impossible to see, though, as there are no lights. Wriggling around gingerly, at least you can move freely and sit up. Where the fuck am I? The memories are blurred, only reluctantly untangling themselves from the pain and fussiness to be organized, emptying you from all but cold, immobilizing dread.

You’ve spent some of the time at the Compound by reading up on Hydra. They’ve had a hand in much more than you could ever have imagined, apparently, working from within to shape the world by enabling innumerable horrible events throughout history. If they had succeeded with the latest plan, it would only have topped the list of horrors due to the immediate number of deaths.

Now they’ve got you.

Leaning back, the wall is coarse and damp against the cotton on your back. Your bare toes are cold. Your cheeks are wet from silent tears that flow steadily no matter how hard you try to convince yourself that it’s all going to be okay. The Avengers will come. Natasha will come. Please…come for me.

Resting the back of your head against the wall sends a few crumbling bits of plaster or something down your shirt, but you don’t bother with it because you’ve noticed something else: up in the darkness more or less ahead of you, there’s a tiny dot of red light glowing. Turning your head in the darkness, you find another to your left. Cameras. Placed in diagonal corners, as far as you can judge, there’s no place you cannot be seen. But it’s dark. Do they work even now? No one has come although you’ve clearly been awake for a while, and as you wave a hand in front of your face, it’s only the brief disappearance of the light that proves the movement is real. Hesitating, you give one of the cameras the finger.

You’re starting to get hungry by the time footsteps approach and stop. A faint click is the only warning before a naked lightbulb overhead flickers on with an angry buzz, and you squint under the harsh glare to take in the room.

There’s a seatless toilet in one corner, the metal gleaming in the light that does absolutely nothing to improve the basement-like cell where the lowest foot of concrete on the walls is loosening the grip due to the damp. Dust lies in fat layers on the few surfaces, sticky and dark not unlike some of the patches on the mattress you’re sitting on…although a few of those are more brownish. Yuck.

The squeak of metal against metal makes your hairs stand on end. Or maybe it’s the fear of who will walk through the door as it slides open, granting a brief glimpse of a similarly nasty hallway beyond the figure.

“Hey, baby,” Brock’s voice is clipped, bandages and what-not still wrapping around his skull and jaw, “missed me?”

You don’t want to answer, don’t want to look at the broken man with eyes fiery from madness, but looking away can hardly be a safe choice either. Focusing on his chest, you realize that there must be almost no bandages hidden beneath the tight black t-shirt. How? He’d been crushed as the building fell, almost rebuild at the hospital to the extend that he was more metal and broken bones than any healthy parts.

“Don’t like what you see?” The lisp is minimal unlike the limp as he steps closer. “Look at me!” You do as he says, heart pumping in your throat and guts churning with panic. “Look what they did to me, what your new friends did to the man who loved you!”

Meeting his once gorgeous eyes is harder than anything else right now. “You did this to yourself…” is all you manage to whisper at first before finding your voice, your defiance, “you deserve what happened. Hydra? Don’t play the victim when we both know you’re not!”

Brock moves quickly considering he’s recovering and the force behind the back-hand slap is numbing the first seconds until the impact registers like fire across your face. There’s a taste of blood on your tongue, seeping out at the corner of your mouth until a strong hand grabs you by the jaw with renewed pain.

“Don’t think your friends are all that innocent, baby,” Brock hisses, his spit landing on your face, “Hydra wants a better world, I’ll make you see.”

“Njwh!” It doesn’t sound as defiant as you had hoped, but you can’t shake your head free.

A patch on his bandages along the temple darkens with moisture as Brock’s face splits in a grin. “Stubborn girl, we’re back together now, so stop fighting it.”

Surging down, his lips with all the chapped wounds and poisonous words crash upon yours. Too stunned to fight him, you feel his tongue slither along the seem of your mouth to gain entrance with nothing but sheer force. This is nothing like the passionate man you fell in love with. Gone is the caring soul, replaced by a fickle monster that will hurt you in any way imaginable…a fear that’s proven true as his teeth dig into your lower lips so hard it draws blood.

“That,” he whispers against your face before licking the hot drops of crimson away, “was just a warning.”

When he stands, he pushes you easily halfway onto the cold floor, but you don’t mind. Every fiber in you has gone numb as you come to terms with just how royally fucked you are. Please, Tasha.

Chapter Text

You’re moved often, sometimes by car and other times by train but apart from that, there’s not a lot to actually complain about considering you’re a prisoner of Hydra…and your ex. The food your keepers serve is decent, consisting mainly of water next to some sort of stew or porridge if lucky (stale bread if less fortunate). Not only is there always a relatively soft surface to sleep on, they even provide a musty blanket too which is enough to stay warm enough to prevent getting sick.
Sometimes Brock interrogates you, trying to charm or guilt you into spilling the secrets you’ve learned about the Avengers or to explain what you can do, other times it’s one of his co-villains that takes the place of bad cop. They all end up screaming at you, though, because you keep quiet while pretending not to know anything. You talk back to Brock, deny that your actions were based on anything but coincidence and what you’d seen in the news…even when he threatens with letting the others take over for him.

“They won’t be kind,” he promises as he leans uncomfortably close to you, “they’ve got ways to make ya talk.”

Glaring at him, you shrug. “Won’t change what I say.”

“No?” Strong hands grab your shoulders so hard the bones in your joints grind against each other painfully – the man is healing unnaturally fast. “Ya’ll end up singing for us. For me.” The hatred in his smile is replaced by a twisted tenderness. “Ya used to hum when cooking for us, remember? When ya were sad…the one from Dumbo. I always knew when it’d been a bad day. Ya should be rehearsing that one now.”

Gods, you hate his guts. Detest the twinkle in his eyes as he grins even now, thinking he can scare you into submission or weaken you by reminiscing about the time spent together. Fuck you. Those days are gone, and nothing will bring the feelings of happiness back. No matter how desperately Brock tries to use the past as a way of getting under your skin, you won’t forget what has happened since. He has tried every day. The man has talked for ages about the dinners shared, the walks along avenues in the evening, the soft touches that used to leave you sighing with bliss in the mornings of lazy Sundays. Creep.

Forgetting to think, you spit in his face.

The punch leaves you wheezing for air as the room disappears in a haze and you try to hold down the stomach contents. Blinking tears away, you stare emptily at the ceiling, only slowly realizing that you must have been knocked onto the floor.

“Bitch.” The dark shape of Brock blocks the light above you as he kneels over you. The spit is still glistening on his face. “This will cost ya.”

 

…   Romanoff’s PoV   …

 

“This is my fault! I should’ve been there!” The stoicism of Happy is crumbling day by day, reaching a new low this afternoon.

Jarvis is good, old fashioned spy-work is better. And still neither have yielded any results yet which is setting all people present at the compound on edge to the point where no one dares speak louder than a careful mumble…especially near Nat.

She hasn’t, despite Sam’s worries, killed anyone or even threatened with hours of torture. However the spy has lost her signature composure, honed through decades of work in the hardest of businesses where there is no room for mistakes or softness. They can only watch as she paces the rooms of the Compound unless she’s tapping away angrily on a keyboard to gain access (legal or not) to mainframes, surveillance systems, anything potentially containing information on [Y/N]’s whereabouts.

“You were with Pepper as you’d been told to,” Stark comforts the distraught Head of Security slash friend, “don’t beat yourself up.”

“But –“

“Shut up!” The groan is louder than Natasha had intended but is as such quite efficient. Running a hand down her face, she tries to calm down. “None of you’ve done any wrong, okay? We knew there was a risk…I knew and still underestimated it. Now there’s nothing we can do about what has happened so let’s focus on what we can do.”

What is left? They’re already using their networks, cashing in favours from old acquaintances on both sides of the law, and running every shred of evidence in all the databases they can think of. Still, the trail is running cold now that it’s been days. Checking the clock above the wall where the date is displayed in bright blue, digital numbers, Natasha feels her guts tighten. Eight days, two hours, and 15 minutes. [Y/N], where are you?

A pling from Clint’s phone isn’t what makes her look. It’s the soft “ooh” as the archer and best friend sits straight, for once abandoning the leftover pizza from the night before.

 

…   Rumlow’s PoV   …

 

Bruises litter the skin of [Y/N], itching at his conscience like a mosquito bite.

Brock had used to run his fingers softly over the smooth surface and watch the tiny hairs rise as goosebumps erupted along the path he’d chosen. Little bumps of pleasure that he could smoothen with kisses that inevitably would grow hungry just like her sighs.

Now the sighs are replaced by guttural cries when his hands land on the love of his life. Oh, he still loves her, she just doesn’t see it right now. Doesn’t see why Hydra is important and that his own actions will bring them peace. A better world. A simpler world. [Y/N] will understand eventually, and then the bruises will fade away to leave room for pleasurable shivers.

Tilting her head, the scarred man dries away the salty tears, smearing away they clean paths they had created down her cheeks. “Shh, it’ll be ‘kay, baby,” he coos, pretending not to see how she cringes, “just tell me, okay? Tell me what ya’ve seen.”

The scared woman swallows her sobs before she answers with a slow and hollow voice. “No matter what you do…it won’t change my answer and still you wouldn’t believe me.” She still doesn’t meet his eyes.

“I wanna trust ya, I swear,” Brock promises. He means every single word. “We gonna get through this, we used to be so good together. I want that again…don’t ya?”

But [Y/N] hesitates. Anger flares through the would-be boyfriend so hot that he loses control. Her throat is soft and wiry under his palms even as it begins to spasm at the grip of his fingers. The words coming from her bluing lips don’t pass the barriers of rancor emboldened by the flickers of panic in [Y/E/C] eyes. Only as the orbs roll backwards does he let go, huddling down with an ear to the chest, nose buried in the warmth of the breast as he listens for the frantic heartbeat to regain its strength.

 

… Reader’s PoV   …

 

The scream that jolts you awake is raw and desperate, worse than the pain that has been blessedly absent for the longest time since you learned the truth. Until now. Rocking back and forth in the little bunk mixes with the natural roll from the ocean outside the hull of your current prison and soothes the panic as if you were a baby swaddled and safe in its mother’s arms.

Nothing could be further from the truth, though, and you hear the pounding of boots nearing. Breathe. The grey light of dawn blurs the horizon, taunting you with the impossibility of freedom. Breathe. The metal tumbler rolls as the door to your cell is unlocked. Breathe…don’t show him. There’s no squeak of hinges here on the ship, just a shift in the air to tell that the only way in and out has been opened to let in Brock.

“Morning, baby,” he drawls, voice almost perfect now that the last bandages are gone, “bad dreams?”

You know better than to ignore him or to flinch when he sits down and wraps you in an embrace that once would have been kind. It makes you want to scream and fight, to claw at his face even if the difference would be invisible with all the scars, but at least it would be better than the pitiful complacence that’s keeping you alive physically while grinding your soul to dust. And still, the warmth of Brock’s arms are soothing in a twisted sort of way because as long as he’s caring for you, there’s no new pain.

“Why don’tcha tell me what ya saw this time, huh?” His lips are soft now when he kisses your forehead.

I can’t. “It it was ju-ust a nigh-nightmare.” Calm down. Get control of you voice, girl. “Just a nightmare.”

The gentle caress on your back stop as the man sighs deeply. “Baby, I know when ya’re lying.” Strong fingers tangle in your hair and yank so hard your throat is exposed and you have no clear view of Brock’s face. “Where’s the honesty? The trust?”

This time it’s impossible to supress the shiver as he licks a stripe from clavicle to chin. He’s done this before: kisses, licks, touches. None of it wanted and still never crossing the line where you wouldn’t be able to supress it. Maybe that’s the point? To tiptoe the line as a show of power, that he could rape you but chooses not to. Maybe you’re supposed to be grateful, feel like you owe him. I don’t owe him shit. As if Brock can read your mind, he lays you down and settles heavily between your legs, his abdomen crushing against yours.

“Ya know,” he hums to your cleavage as he pulls at your dirty shirt, “the boys really want to get to know ya better…it’s just me stopping them.” He kisses away the fresh tears as his words remind you of what you saw in you vision. “But if ya don’t want to help me out…why should I help ya?”

Your skin crawls at the obvious threat. I could tell him…tell him something. Anything. “Please don’t,” you plead shrilly from fear, “I’ll tell you, I promise! Don’t let them near me!”

There’s a hesitation to Brock’s fondling, inviting you to go on, and you begin to make up a scenario right then and there about how Hydra will keep working in the shadows although all subgroups constantly are on the run from the Avengers, from governments, from a man with a ruined eye. Anyone!

“CIA, FBI,” you babble while trying to think of other agencies in the hopes of pleasing the man who’s staring down at you with renewed intensity, “more…much more…they’ll find some of y-your erm places and kill…kill Hydra people, but capture most alive and th–“

“Stop.” A finger rests on your lips, but you don’t dare to move to get rid of it. “The man with the eye.” Fuck. Breath sticks in your throat as you realize the mistake. “Ya mean Fury.”

“I don’t know!”

But you do and Brock can see it in your eyes. A grin spreads on his face, tugging at the scars until his right eye is almost hidden in the uneven mass of red and pink and tan. Tasha, please.

The redheaded hero isn’t there to save you as Brock claims the prize after having waited so long for you to mess up.
No one intervenes as screams are pushed from your lungs with each snap of his hips that breaks down your will to fight together with the dams that kept the horrors contained in the back of your mind.
There’s nobody to help you recover afterwards before they drag you into another room where you’re strapped into a chair with a headpiece full of wires to connect with your greased-up skull.

Chapter Text

…   Romanoff’s PoV   …

She botches the landing a bit, the sharp sting in the ankle like an elastic snapping is proof of that. Getting rid of the parachute quickly, Natasha is already scanning the deck for the nearest hostiles while trusting the team to handle anyone immediately out of range. She’s right to do so. The first one has already fallen at the stern with one of Clint’s arrows lodged in the chest, and the next is about to have an up-close encounter with Captain Fossil himself.

The messy part of securing the ship is over quickly. Too quickly. It’s manned by a skeleton crew even on a (supposed) course to Japan with a near empty cargo hold. All of it smells fishy…well, not the ship itself, but the situation, and Natasha has made sure to keep one of the hostiles alive and capable of talking.

Oh, he will talk. Turning slowly, there’s no hesitation in any of the former assassin’s movements, no emotions in her eyes that could give the man hope as he stands partially suspended by impromptu handcuffs from a thick pipe. He will talk because she needs him to. Where is [Y/N]?

 

… Rumlow’s PoV   …

 

Staring at the vacant eyes of his love, Brock knows he shouldn’t harbour any illusions of the future of their relationship. It’s doomed. And that’s okay. He can’t trust the woman anymore anyways and she’s worth more to Hydra than to him. He won’t be selfish if there’s a chance he can help the cause.

A soft whimper draws his attention to the lines between [Y/N]’s brows and the parting of her dry lips. Another “nightmare”, or so she would claim if it wasn’t for the medication that keeps her mostly sedated. Pliable. Perhaps it’s silly, but part of Brock misses the feistiness that had surprised him when they’d captured her about a week ago. More than that? The days are still a bit of a blur due to the pain from his injuries and the steely focus he’s applied to the task at hand. Breaking her. Even with the drugs, he’s not entirely convinced of her surrender. That’s one of the reasons for the heavy sedation. The other is the theory that being in a near-sleep state will somehow trigger the visions without [Y/N] being alert enough to lie about it or withhold any information.

“Hey, baby.” Reaching for her hand, anger bubbles when she clenches her fist subconsciously to avoid holding his. Instead, Brock shakes her gently. “Hey, are ya dreaming?”

For a moment she looks at him, eyes squinting in confusion. “’I’mmm no’ the’e.” The words are mumbled, oozing out over the split bottom lip with a sluggishness fitting a drunkard. “Not…the-ere…”

“Where?” It’s tempting to shake her hard, yell at her, but doing that just shuts her up completely. He’s tried.

“Whe-where we…were…ship.” The P pops. “Can’t finnn…hrm…find meh.”

Leaning in over the chair, both of Brock’s hands are squeezing the armrests hard enough he wouldn’t have been surprised if the metal buckled. “Someone’s looking for ya?” But [Y/N]’s attention is gone, eyes glazed over and focused on infinity.

What she said is enough to raise red flags, of course, and he ignores the ache in the torso as he climbs up the ladder from the former swimming pool of the abandoned school he and his team of Hydra personnel are using at the moment.

There’s no need to shout the order at the agent to take over guard duty…but it feels good. Further down the hall there’s a bend which has become a tac-station where there are more people to bark orders at. Can’t find her. Who can’t find her? Avengers, of course. Phones flash brightly in even with the extra lamps they’ve set up, pc-screens flicker with images from surveillance.

“No answer, boss.” The wiry man with the too-long hair reports, clicking off the phone.

Shifting his attention to the technician, Brock only needs one more answer to be sure. “Live feed?”

“’S cut, sir,” she explains, “this was the last bit…”

The frames per second is low, but enough to show the unmistakable shape of a red-and-gold suit landing on a ship’s deck before being obscured by the damned Dorito-shape of Rogers. Next moment the image resets and the insurgents are gone.

“How long ago?”

The techy doesn’t dare look up at him. “Less than an hou–“

“How. Long?”

The fresh scarring covering Brock’s face, neck and upper torso throbs with the pace of his heart. Not now. He has to calm down as long as the objective is this clear, and the deep breaths help a bit even if his knuckles are white from how hard he clenches his fists.

“F-forty-two minutes. Sir.”

A shuffle at the far end of the hall catches his attention. Team change. 30 minutes ago, the rotation was done and the chick sitting by the screens isn’t the culprit which means she gets to live, contrary to the fucker who’s slinking into the shadows in the corner but not out of range of a bullet.

“Get a fly-by from nearest base.” He takes the phone from the second in command and redials while he continues to spit commands. Amateurs. “If anything’s out a place, run a sweep code red….assume clean-up. Prep for relocation and double the guards.”

 

…   Romanoff’s PoV   …

 

Technology is a great thing in many ways and at the moment Natasha’s cherishing the wonderful concept of GPS with passive trackers found in the SUV the Hydra-team had been using until Steve and Stark convinced them to stop the car. “Convinced”, the redhead smiles wickedly to herself. Tiny, laser-guided missiles and a pissed off Captain are very good arguments in their own right.

“Got it.” Turning the device over, she shows both map and co-ordinates to the others.

The trip will be longer than any of them want, Natasha more so than the others, but at least they know where to go. More importantly, they know there’s a chance of success. [Y/N]’s alive. The sense of relief is bittersweet, mixed with the pain of having been told what the poor woman is suffering through at the hands of her ex and his buddies. The Avengers will have to be careful not to spook her or in any way do anything that triggers reactions to the nightmare she’s lived. Still alive. That’s all that matter right now, the recovery will come after and it will be long, hard, and dark.

 

…   Reader’s PoV   …

 

You can’t exactly figure out what part of you is hurting. You just know that the ache never really leaves, it just changes in slow waves from dull to sharp, from tear-jerking spikes to non-stop throbbing, never giving you a chance to sleep properly.

Or maybe that’s the people? Brock has been there almost all the time, watching over you like a hawk and always with the questions. Asking. Asking. Asking. You don’t want to answer him, but if you don’t…No! Not answering is worse. Especially when he sends the other people away. As long as there’s someone else, even the once that put needles and pain in you, then he doesn’t hurt you too much. Answer. Answer. Answer.

Your head is heavy, too heavy to lift so it just lolls from one shoulder to the other as you try to see who’s there because it’s been so quiet. Too quiet. It feels good to turn the face the other way. Cool steel and something soft and dark touches the skin of your forehead and cheek, calming the burning feeling and slowing the flashes of pain in your head for just a moment. It passes too soon and you chase the sensation, the relief by shifting a bit further.

Something chafes on your wrists, keeps your arms stuck to the thing you’re sitting in. Why? Thinking it might be because you will leave otherwise, you yank feebly at the restraints in a futile attempt at breaking free of them. It just hurts.

In the beginning, it feels like an ember that has landed deep in your brain. Just a tiny grain of searing pain. But within seconds, it expands to become a razor wire running to your forehead and to the base of your skull. Sharp, jagged, and burning hot as it feeds you images you don’t want to see of people you never have met getting killed and fleeing screaming. Of Natasha locked in a cell somewhere with old radio gear. Steve in full suit walking across the tarmac of an airport. Of Brock, on his knees with blood running from the corner of his mouth. It’s random and overwhelming, each scene flickering by so fast it makes you feel nauseous thanks to the combination of the pain.

Bile burns in your throat and nostrils, the sour discharge stinging your eyes with it’s stink.

“Fuck, that’s gross!” The voice comes to you through the ringing in your ears. “Get the hose!”

The words don’t make much sense, but you know what’s going to happen because each time they’ve managed to trigger a potent enough vision you end up puking…and then Brock or someone else grabs the hose and rinse you with the icy cold water. In a way you don’t mind, because it lessens the pain grating through your brains.

But the cold water never hits you this time.

Chapter Text

…   Romanoff’s PoV   …

“This is more like it!” Stark sounds cheerful over the coms.

He’s flown ahead to scout together with Sam, eager to make sure no one escapes him and the rest of the team of Avengers as they head through the vacated part of town.

Peering down a side road, Natasha has to admit that it’s more than just a single neighbourhood that’s been abandoned long ago. The town was dependant on one industry only, not atypical for a lot of the rural mid-states, and when that went belly-up the entire town was vacated out of a need for jobs. Splintered windows beneath sheets of plywood, boarded up doors, and overgrown patios and curbs. Ghost town. But the place isn’t completely empty. A bit of hacking through Stark’s suit has proved that someone’s accessing the electrical grid and the water at one location only: a school. Perfect place for a large group of people take hunker down for a while.

“What’s the play, Nat?” Steve’s voice calls the former Russian back to the situation.

Go in, kill what moves, save [Y/N]. But it has to be more detailed than that. “Sam ‘nd Steve take the south entrance, Tony find a way in from west or make one…we take the north side.”

The man in a can is hovering far above the building sprawled out between wild grasses and shrubberies, allowing Jarvis to do its work while everyone else moves to the desired positions.

It’s a good thing. Thanks to Jarvis, they know how many Hydra-goons are waiting as the wannabe rescuers storm the place, moving methodically along the main hallways without forgetting to check each room…just in case. It’s silent work with very few surprises until they inevitably encounter the first opposition, five for each pair (counting Stark and Jarvis together, of course).

Hydra trains their people very well, forming teams with strong bonds and a capability for adapting rapidly under pressure. It’s hard to tell from the grunts or weapon-noise through the coms how the others are fairing against the enemy, but at least Natasha is a force that not even Hydra can withstand at the moment. She bears down on them like a hurricane and without any regards for her own safety except what is needed to reach the next target and the one after that.

 

…   Rumlow’s PoV   …

 

Grabbing the few things he needs, Brock’s mentally racing through the plan for getting the hell our of dodge. The second in command knows. Each and every Hydra member has to be ready to lay down there lives to ensure the goal is achieved, but sometimes the higher-ranking officers are part of a bigger puzzle that requires them (in this case Rumlow) to leave before it’s too late so they/he can fight another day.

“And the girl?” Crouched behind a corner at a T-intersection in the hallway to avoid the shrapnel and bullets, the man glances over at Rumlow on the other side of the hall.

“Not a priority.”

That’s it. A death-sentence in three words. The second knows what it means and there are no need to say anything else even as the two men meet each other’s gaze for a second before Rumlow twists to look around his own corner. An arrow whistles by with only an inch to spare and lodges itself in the wall behind him.

“COVER!” The last of his shout is drowned in the small explosion which makes a whole in the wall. Bloody Robin Hood.

Debris and smoke is raining down as Rumlow unfolds himself from where he’d landed on the floor. His ears are ringing and there’s probably a part of the less healed wounds that have re-opened on his shoulder, but it doesn’t matter right this second.

So she cares! The fiery hair is partially breaking free from the ponytail, floating in thin wisps around Romanoff’s face as she engages two Hydra agents simultaneously. The grey-green eyes are normally calculative, showing the same detachment that he himself has been trained to utilize during any mission. Not this time.

A second expands and stretches, slowing the embers to the point where they look like fireflies hovering in the air and the sound of fighting is a distant rumbling. There’s more than enough time for Brock to notice the snarl curling the pretty lips to show a flash of white teeth. It’s the eyes that does it, though. It’s almost funny. All this time he thought having [Y/N] would be a matter of principles and strategy for Captain bloody Rogers, that that’s the reason the Avengers are coming for the freak of an ex…but it’s the emotionless less bitch who’s invested. It’s so obvious it’s tempting to stay and watch, to be there when Romanoff finds the limb body.

Time snaps back like a rubber band, flinging Brock and the world into action once more. As he run down the hallway and away from the noise, it’s the fear – the desperation – in the Black Widow’s eyes that gives him wings.

 

…   Reader’s PoV   …

 

The sound of an explosion reaches you from far away, stubbornly pushing through the fluffy nothingness that surrounds and cools you. Smaller sounds can be heard too, but you just…just can’t be bothered with it all. What does it all matter anyways? Wanting to go back to the calm fluff, you refuse to open your eyes to find out what’s happening…it will only bring you pain anyways, and you’re so fed up of the constant aching from within and outside. When was the last time you weren’t hurting while awake? It’s impossible to tell. Maybe you’ve always been in pain, head electrocuting you and body ripped apart bit by bit. Or is that your soul? The dark silence comes to your rescue, quieting your brain and the world again.

Darkness moves in your mind, tearing your thought to pieces with pure agony. Tunnel. Running. It’s not you fleeing in the dark, but someone else. Images of landscapes and helicopters come and go together with random faces you’ve never seen together with the hot sunlight over a city you’ve never seen although you recognize the green shape tearing through the street. There’s a scream above it all, much closer and with a different quality to it. Me? Your throat is raw as the dirty tiles between leather of the real world breaks through your vision, the faded turquoise pulsing with your heartbeat in your head. The sound of yourself nestles itself over everything else, lulling you into a pained rest of brightest white before the darkness rebuilds a cocoon around you.

You see the slender legs (black pants covered in dust) wrapping around the neck of a man. You see the tendrils of red whip into the field of vision as the male and the entire hallway spins. The sounds you hear don’t fit that image, though. Instead there’s a metalling sound followed by a sort of oingoingoingoing and heavy boots.

“Shit!” The deep voice makes you wince, it’s much too loud this close to you. “I don’t know, hold on…”

Big hands touch your face, then neck, feeling around for something. Stop! You have to get away from the groping hands. They’ll wrap around your throat, pull your clothes aside to squeeze your breasts painfully, and tear your pants off before they pin you to whatever surface is available. Then the real pain will begin. Deep and unrelenting.

“Hey! [Y/N], it’s okay, it’s me!”

But the man’s words don’t matter. “It’s me…don’t you remember? We were good together…loved each other…look at me, baby…” Soft words whispered into your ear so many times in an attempt to stop you from struggling, promising you that the pain will go away. But it never did. He always hurt you. Or let the others send lightning through your brain until the skull would nearly split. Not again! You won’t let any of them hurt you again. Get away! And there comes the dark fuzz from the corners to save you, bring the peace and nothingness with it.

“Don’t let her fall.”

You spill out of the monstrosity of a chair, nearly spilling the non-existent contents of your stomach as the movement is halted by something. Someone. The broad figure has a strong grip on you, holding on so you can’t get away no matter how much you begin to struggle. Every shift in the limbs sends pain screaming through the muscles even as the shoves and pushes become weaker. No! You barely have any energy left, but this is your chance to get away. Away from Brock. Home. You know there’s no such place, the apartment you had was shared with the last man you ever want to see again. That’s not a home anymore. Tasha. Please, find me. That’s where you have to go, where you’ll be safe. Tasha. Nat!

“Easy, she’s … -er wa-” the voice fades in and out as darkness returns.

 

…   Romanoff’s PoV   …

 

At least she’s alive. The words running on repeat in Natasha’s head are meant to be a way to calm herself. A soothing mantra. However, as she runs down the halls of the derelict school, it’s not enough to keep the worry tugged away because this is about [Y/N], and everything she can hear the guys say on the coms is verifying the horrible fears supressed lately.

“Talk to me,” she pleads, ignoring that her body would prefer the air for itself rather than talking.

The second of hesitation is oppressing through the little earpiece, speaking volumes more than any words could.

“She’s in and out of consciousness,” Steve finally explains, “alive, but far from healthy.” Natasha can imagine the way the Captain’s jaw must be set right now. “Nat…she freaks out if we’re too close if she’s awa–“

As if on cue, there’s a strangled wail from Steve’s end and something that sounds a lot like a man in sudden pain. “Fuuuuu…she…my balls…” Sam whimpers broken.

“Almost there.”

The sight of [Y/N] shivering figure is like a punch to the guts. It’s not the dirt, torn clothes, or even the bruises and blood. It’s the way the woman is huddled into a corner of the deep end of the pool as far from Sam and Steve as she can possibly get and the haunted look as she tries to hold her head up in an attempt to keep track of the men while battling fatigue. But worst of all? [Y/N] is trying to hold the tattered trousers tightly closed with one hand behind a shield of knobbly knees and broken fingernails that sometimes stray to her scalp where hair has been sheared off in patches where bluish gel still sticks.

“[Y/N]…” I have to be slow, have to be calm. “It’s me…Natasha. [Y/N], can you hear me?”

Frightened eyes blink in confusion, searching for the source of the female voice echoing in the empty pool. Tears glide slowly down the poor girl’s cheeks along paths crusty with old salt.

“T-Tash-a?” Hoarse. Broken. The once rich sound has been reduced to a ghost. “Whe- Nat?”

The former spy recognises the grimaces caused by conflicting emotions that hurt more than any physical pain could ever do, and she wants to rush over to hold the woman. Keep her safe now when she couldn’t before…but one wrong move will be disastrous.

“I’m here. Can I come closer?”

Inch by inch, the abused woman unfolds enough to stretch her arms towards Natasha. One in each other’s embrace, [Y/N] keeps feelings the rescuer’s face and threading the dirty fingers through the flaming hair. A soft smile is on her lips, only wavering when Steve tries to come closer – at least he gets the point and retreats again.

“Y’ere,” the former prisoner sighs.

Unable to hold her own head any longer, she lets it sink onto Natasha’s shoulder. The redhead is thankful, that way she can allow her lips to quiver as they want to without the concern that the poor soul in her arms might see it. Fiddling with a zipper, she pulls out a syringe.

“I’m here, [Y/N].” At least her voice is still even. “I got you, go to sleep.” The needle finds its mark, unnoticed by the exhausted woman, and hot tears begin to fall on her head as the sedative enter her system. “I got you.”

Chapter Text

…   Romanoff’s PoV   …

The idea of letting any of the guys carry [Y/N] feels wrong, so Natasha heaves the worryingly light woman into her arms and hurries outside with the rest of the team in tow. They’re busy calling in cleanup to dispose of the mess. Mess. Somewhere long time ago, did the ex-Russian get lost and took a wrong turn leading her down a path where dead people and battlefields are considered “messes”. It’s all she can remember, but now that she carries [Y/N] to safety… Stop it! What’s done is done. Regretting the past won’t change anything and the redhead needs to focus on the future because that includes protecting [Y/N]. Protecting her from messes.

“They’re standing by at Metro-Gen when we get back to New York,” Stark informs.

Hospital. The worst-case scenarios are plenty, but the Black Widow decides after rapidly evaluating them all as best she can in the spur of the moment. “No.”

“No…what?”

“We’re taking her back to the Compound,” Natasha clarifies without slowing down the strides.

She can sense the way the men look at each other behind her back, but this isn’t something she’s going to discuss with them because they’re not the ones able to relate to [Y/N]’s trauma and the extend of the aftermath. The woman sedated into temporary oblivion is Natasha’s responsibility and needs more than the clinical care any professionals can offer her at the hospital.

Stark’s smart enough to relent: “Want me to alert our medics and Helen?”

“Yes, but don’t rush.”

The dozen feet from the school entrance to the quinjet’s ramp is quickly covered, and Natasha settles down in a corner, tugging [Y/N] closer to her own body. I’ve got you. The unconscious woman’s breathing is slow and shallow, dirt is caked on the skin and partially hiding the many cuts and scrapes. They’re the least of our worries.

Steve’s shadow falls over the women while the other guys settle in for takeoff. “What do you mean…’don’t rush’?”

“Simple...” She meets the clear blue of the Captain’s eyes unwaveringly. “No one touches her or does anything to her without her consent.”

“She’s visibly woun-“

“You heard me.”

The jet-engines are roaring, the sound breaching the hull and rumbling through the passengers. Even so, silence reigns heavy as Steve’s jaw clenches and Natasha’s left eyebrow arches in an unspoken challenge. Try me, Fossil. Stark’s wisely focusing completely on flying the damn plane. Clint knows his former charge well enough to know why this is important to her. And Wilson…Wilson sidles over to the tall, blond Dorito and clasps a hand gently on the broad shoulder.

“Not this time, man,” the deep voice soothes, “ther’are other kinds o’ wounds and we gotta respect tha’. Y’know...”

The jaw unclenches, blue eyes abandon the narrow stare in favour of pained realization. “Of course.”

 

…   Reader’s PoV   …

 

You know it’s a nightmare, the warped images of your past hunting you, spinning a vortex of panic and nausea that no amount of struggling frees you from. There’s no doubt even in your state that this is happening in your sleep because you don’t feel any pain at the moment.

There’s you old home with Brock smiling from the bed even as your turn your back on him to run away, legs heavy as if you’re struggling through sand yet unable to halt as the view changes to the damp cell you were kept in for a while. There’s no door anymore, no way in or out at all. Tiny cameras blink at you with evil, red eyes. The cold floor squelches under your feet, red liquid soaking your ankles and the rotting mattress by the wall...oh, god…the wall. Now it’s clear where the wetness is coming from. And what it is. Twisting and turning to avoid the view of severed limbs, you feel a scream rising in the chest, but it won’t come out and… Just as rapidly as before, the scene changes to show a woman strapped to a monstrous version of a dentist chair fitted with wires penetrating her skull. And there’s Brock again. Leering. Naked. Rutting into her without any regards to her lack of willingness. It’s sickening to look at, but you can’t look away no matter how hard you try. And suddenly, you see it from her point of view. You are her. Now the scream escapes.

Gasping to suck in air through a dry throat, you can still hear the ringing of a scream in your ears. Much closer, though, is a soothing voice. Soft like velvet, it tells you to breathe slowly and that everything’s going to be better. Tasha. She’s the only one who can talk like an angel.

“You’re safe now, [Y/N]”, Natasha hums close to your ear, “I’ve got you.”

Gentle fingers stroke your cheeks, wiping away tears of relief. And she lets you cling to her, almost pulls you onto her lap to rock you in her arms while continuing to hum a foreign tune.

Eventually, the tears stop coming and your hero help you wash your face and arms, careful to let you set the pace until you eventually are confident enough to take care of the rest of your broken body on your own in the shower. Natasha stays close, just on the other side of the door from where she can keep talking to you about everything and nothing. The weather, the hearings she still has to attend, the summers of your childhood. It helps. Your body is broken beyond recognition but almost magically the woman’s words calms you, distances everything you touch and feel.

“I s’pose a doctor should look at this mess,” you offer forlornly from the steamy bathroom where you’re trying to dry off.

There’s a gentle agreement from the other side of the door. “Only if you’re okay with it.”

Am I? The thought of someone scrutinizing your body makes your gut clench. It’s for my own good. Nausea bubbles, throat constricts. It’s to help me. The view blurs no matter how much you rub your eyes with the back of your hands.

“[Y/N],” Natasha’s voice is closer, her arms hesitantly wrapping you in her brand of safety, “you don’t have to. I can help you instead if that’s better.”

And there it is: the warm ember in your chest that promises you’ll be better. Maybe not okay but at least better.

“I’d…rather that.” Turning, you encircle Tasha’s waist with your tired arms. “Please, I like that more.”

She helps you get dressed in soft clothes that hang gently on your oddly skinny frame. After that, you’re so exhausted you almost fall asleep on your trembling legs. Instead, Natasha help you get to bed and forces you to eat and drink just a little bit before lulling you to sleep once more. Anything else will have to wait.

Chapter Text

Logic has no place in your mind anymore. You must have lost it during the time Brock kept you prisoner. It’s not the only part of you that’s changed either. Any sudden sound scares you, especially if it comes from just the other side of the door, from the part of the world that you haven’t dared go out into. Not yet. The room is a cave where you can be safe because you are the one who can lock it as you please, meaning you can keep people out…and you do. The only one who’s given access is Natasha.

When your redhead hero is with you, things feel better. Less twisted, less grotesque. The looming shadows become peaceful rather than threatening as if, for a moment, Tasha has been able to restore your mind that otherwise makes monsters out of nothing. The horrors are still there when you close your eyes or when you look at the wounds healing under the attentive care of your saviour, and you wish the broken parts of your soul could be fixed as quickly as the rest of you. It can’t.

Waking in the night, screaming, it’s Natasha’s cool hand that wipes away the tears streaming down your cheeks. Her lips that murmurs in your ear to breathe.

“It’s a nightmare. It’s not real.” She leads your hand to her chest. “Feel my heart, feel the bed you sit on…that’s real.”

Hearts synchronize. Breath calms. She’s your haven.

 

…   Romanoff’s PoV   …

 

The two redheads are breathing deeply as they leave [Y/N]’s room. Pepper’s beaming with elation at the progress they’ve witnessed, but of course Natasha can’t shake the worry. For the first time since the return to the Compound, the woman in recovery has lower the defenses enough to let in another person.

“She’s doing much better,” Pepper offers.

“Mhm.”

“And I promise to keep you updated…I’ll be there for her each day.”

Natasha knows she owes her friend a glimmer of optimism despite the turmoil. Of all the parts of her life affected by the fallout after dumping SHIELD/Hydra intel on the net, leaving [Y/N] behind for a few days is the worst. It’s inevitable, of course. The moment the former Russian became the spokesperson for the agency and the Avengers during the hearing, she knew it’d be near impossible to dodge out of any hearings and the week she’s been granted is much more than she could have hoped for. Now the time is up.

“Get Jarvis to monitor her sleep discreetly…she has nightma–“

“I know. Nightmares.” There’s nothing but kindness in Pepper’s voice. “You’ve gone over everything twice already. Now, you’ve got to get going or you’ll be late.”

Still, it’s with reluctance that Natasha grabs the few things she’s packed and heads for the car, only pausing to wave at the guys sitting in the lounge. Clint’s on the phone and Nat knows he’ll be sending greetings from the family later. Just for her. No one else knows about the wife and kids.

She makes it in time for the hearing although she has to change in the car – at least Stark has made sure the windows can be completely darkened, having had his own experiences with the press. And the throng of shouting and chaotic people can only follow to the sets of double doors leading into the opulent building. By the time Natasha takes her seat, she hasn’t checked the phone much more than a dozen times.

The hearing is long, exploring the history of Hydra with the help of “trustworthy” intelligent officers and historians which requires very little direct involvement from the Avenger’s side with the exception of a senators attempts to hold her responsible for events older than the redhead. Ticking away slowly, the clock marks the seconds as slowly as though they were minutes. Time comes to a near standstill while Natasha studies the people around her, then the condense water on the side of the glass as it slides onto the table to form a ring…anything but the phone that feels heavy in her pocket.

 

…   Rumlow’s PoV   …

 

“She WHAT?!” Spittle flies onto the lowly agent standing in front of Rumlow. “The order was – it –”

Words fail the man as he paces back and forth, momentarily lost to the world around him. He doesn’t give a shit that the scar grows red and throbbing when the blood rushes to his head, doesn’t give a damn if the people in the room think he’s overreacting. Firstly, it’ll be his ass on the line with the higher-ups hear about this. Secondly, even a dimwit should’ve been able to know why [Y/N  Y/L/N] could never be allowed to fall in the hands of the Avengers one more time.

Rounding on the pale and shaking agent, Brock gets up close and personal to whisper: “Either you go finish the job…or I’ll acquaint your brain with the floor.”

“Bu–“ Rather than finish the protest, the agent bites his tongue then nods and leaves.

“You,” Brock barks at another random agent, “follow and make sure he does as told.”

Rubbing the tender wreck of a face, Rumlow tries to calm down, marching out of the room with a tall man in tow. Not a word is said while the first cools down and the second polishes the monocle before replacing it with a click and folding the handkerchief neatly. Who uses that anymore? A glance over at the buzz shaven man is all Brock can muster right that moment. Handkerchief. Monocle. Bloody German.

“Zo, you are certain zis voman of yourz is gifted…but you let ze Afengers take her?”

Oh, what wouldn’t Brock give to punch the guy in the face. Preferably with a sledgehammer. “I was told to retreat and leave the cleanup to the imbeciles.”

“Many good agents vere lost ven SHIELD fell.”

“Yeah, well…they’ll be honoured.”

“Indeed. Hail Hydra.”

“Hail Hydra.”

Finally alone, Brock stomps the last of the way to his quarters and locks the door behind him.

Kicking off his boots to feel the cold concrete under the feet, he stands with eyes closed and arms hanging lose, breathing deeply as he counts under the breath.

At five thousand his eyes snap open, his gaze landing on the ceiling where pictures and notes are attached in perfect rows linked together with a few pieces of strings. There’s an overwhelming amount of photos featuring the same face over the span of several years, most of them taken without the subjects knowledge to capture the soft smile or the tongue escaping from behind the lips due to concentration. And the eyes blazing with a tenacious stubbornness that kept her from breaking during the time they last were together. [Y/N], how could I not end you? It was close alright, but each time he thought she’d reached the point some hidden source of resistance would well up.

After so long, it only makes sense Brock’s superiors wanted him off the case and on to something that could wield results and he’d been fine signing off on her death warrant. Or so he’d claimed. But his ex isn’t dead and his soul screams to the deepest pit in Hell with agony at the thought that she’s with someone else rather than him.

 

…   Romanoff’s PoV   …

 

Several texts are waiting, and one voicemail from Clint. He’d called Laura just as Natasha had suspected, asking for any sort of advice the sensible woman could give them. Naturally, the Mrs. Barton repeats the same things they already know.

“Miss Romanoff,” a drawling voice calls out, “care to explain where you’re going?”

Dark-red hair bounces as she pins the senator with a cold stare. “The hearing has been adjourned for the day and I intend to do exactly as I’ve been asked…hole up and wait for the session tomorrow.” She considers adding some less diplomatic words but thinks better of it.

Walking down the hallways, the glow of the phone in Natasha’s hand helps ward some curious people off while the rest get the point with a glare. Pepper. Cap. Automated messages from Jarvis. None of them are from [Y/N], and the woman can’t help the heavy knot of worry that’s growing in the stomach though nothing seems to be out of the ordinary. It’s gonna be a long night, she sighs, putting the phone away.

 

…   Reader’s PoV   …

 

It’s just not the same. Even if you try all the mindfulness and meditation techniques you can think off, your heart keeps racing and you can’t sit still. Turning the restlessness into intense training (as much as it’s possible in the little room without any equipment) has barely made any difference except that you’re now sweaty and weak.

You step into the shower on shaky legs, carefully avoiding to look at the reflection in the mirror and glass door. Eyes fixated on the tiles a foot above your head, you stand under the warm water, allowing it to flush away the dirt from a long day spent on your own.

Well not entirely alone because Pepper had stopped by both with the most delicious meals anyone else could want (but not you) and simply for the company. It’s a bit better than no one, but eventually the oppressing worry radiating from the kind woman became to much and you pretended to be tired only so she would leave.

Reaching for the soap, the bright scars on your hands and arms come into view causing you to freeze mid-motion. The wounds are healing well, and Natasha is confident that the barely will be anything left to see thanks to Dr. Cho’s prescribed treatment. It’s not even the scars that bother you the most. Under the healing skin are parts that still are broken and you’ve no idea how to put it all back together. Pieces of you seem to be missing, others have been graffitied on to the point that you don’t recognize it. The scars? They are the reminders, together with the fading bruises, and the thinness of your body. You know the changes all too well even if you haven’t dared look at yourself because you couldn’t keep your minds blank as Brock did what he did. You felt it all. Felt it and hated it, and now you hate what he’s left you…but it’s all you got, and an ember of stubbornness tells you to grow strong and rub his face in it.

Chapter Text

15. Kintsugi

Every day, though mostly when Natasha is there as support, you challenge yourself in the hope that the fears holding you in an iron grip will dwindle with each (preferably) positive experience. Obviously, it begins in the small like shaving your legs, putting on tighter clothes, one day even uncovering the mirror in the bedroom although you try not to look at it. I’m still me, you pray to whatever might listen even though you know that the “me” you want to be is gone and you need to find a new version.

The sun is shining today, and you’ve felt particularly bold and added makeup while using the small mirror that only shows your face. Natasha’s lounging on your bed, reading up on some of the older SHIELD cases for the hearings.

“Do I look okay?” You ask, biting your lip to keep it from quivering with sheer nerves.

Grey eyes studies your face before she closes the folder and comes to stand before you. “Come.” She holds out her hands for you to take and pulls you to your feet. “From an objective standpoint…the wounds have healed very well, leaving only the faintest scars it seems. You look healthy again…”

That’s not what you meant. Far from. But you can’t find it in you to explain, so you just nod silently and start to sit only for Tasha to tug you back up and into her arms. It’s safe there. She’s warm and strong and lovely and has held you almost every night because she agreed to stay either in the neighbouring room or even use an extra mattress on the floor next to your bed simply to be close enough to save you from the nightmares that haunt you. Now though, her hands aren’t on your shoulders or arms. They’re on your waist, and it makes you cringe inside.

“I’ll let go in a moment, but please listen to this,” the redhead urges sweetly, “I see your doubt and insecurity…the kindness and worry and brains you’ve got…” Her forehead rests lightly against yours, the tips of your noses meet. I’m safe here. “But I also see you as the sexual woman you still are…so I can promise you, what I see is more than just okay.”

The meaning of her words take a while to settle in and when it does, it makes you blush. “You…but it’s not…” Your brain doesn’t want to co-operate, so you just end up stuttering uselessly.

“Let me show you.”

Following her to the mirror, you worry about what she’ll do. It’s Tasha…she won’t hurt me. Obediently, you stand there before the cold surface, Natasha’s warmth against your back and her chin resting on your shoulder. You’re faintly aware of how hard you’re squeezing her fingers with yours, but she doesn’t complain as your body refuses to let go. The deep breath you take is forced and does little to actually calm you. Sweat is breaking out, stomach is a knot made of lead, and the heart is working overtime. All of it from the thought of looking at your dressed body in the mirror.

“Wanna know what I like so you can look at that first?” the sweet voice suggests. “I like your feet that ground you here with me.”

Feet? The surprise snaps your eyes open to look at the sock-clad limbs in question. The big toes have been pressed in towards the rest after ears of wearing shoes that are too narrow, but you have to admit that your feet are…fine.

“I’m always happy to see your ankles, the way they stretch over into the foot when you’re reading and waving your feet through the air.”

“Are you gonna go all the way through my legs like that?”

You can feel the smile against your ear. “Well…you do have both sexy and strong legs.”

You don’t like that word, sexy. Brock would say that when he rutted into you, squeezing you full of bruises with his hands. At least the way Tasha says it, it sounds a bit different – like an actual compliment – almost as if it’s spoken in a new language. A language you want to learn even if you know it will be difficult.

“They don’t feel…that. None of me does.”

“It feels broken, right?” You nod. “There’s a sense of sticky dirt left behind under the skin that just won’t come off and makes everything feel like borrowed clothes that are a bit too small or sit weird…and no amount of adjusting seems to make a difference, like you’re supposed to pretend it’s the same clothes as always –“

“But they’re not.” Oh.

You find her face in the mirror and your throat constricts. She knows. Not in the sense that she’s read a book or spoken to someone else, no. She knows because she’s been there, and the knowledge makes your heart hurt because even if you wanted someone to understand you…it wasn’t supposed to be because they’d gone through something like it too. There’s a shimmer in her eyes, a wetness that she doesn’t bother blinking away.

“I hate this body,” you confess.

A featherlight kiss on your temple and then a sniffle before she looks back at the reflection. “That won’t go away overnight. I love it, because it’s been so strong…it brought you through hell and made sure you came out on the other side. It’s a body that refused to give up. That’s why I love it so much even if it’s different now.”

“The scars…”

Tasha brings your arm up and studies the white lines cutting around your wrists. “Tales of courage and willpower. Beautiful.” You’re about to continue when she adds: “Both the scars I can see and the ones that are hidden. Rose gold gluing the pieces together and making the result unique and unbreakable.”

“Pretty image…”

“Then it fits, sweety.”

 

…   Romanoff’s PoV   …

 

Some days are still horrible for [Y/N] and generally followed by worse nights where reaching out to wake the woman from her nightmares is a gamble because the real touch induces worse panic attacks. There are also good days, though, and it seems there are more of them now if they keep in mind that everything is relative. A good day means a day with no sweater to cover the scars and body. A good day is the day that [Y/N] allows Sam to visit in the room (although he has to stay near the door and both Pepper and Nat are there). Later the same arrangement is used for the rest of the men.

“We’re still doing what we can to track Rumlow down,” Steve’s explaining, the long legs stretched out before him as he sits on the chair with hands folded over the challenged t-shirt, “we’ve found a few Hydra-places and taken care of them. That’s given some leads.” It’s just a matter of time. “We’ll find him, okay? We’ll make him pay.”

“Pay?” There’s confusion in [Y/N]’s face. “Like…you’ll kill him? Drag him to prison? How can anything fix what he did?” Neither Avenger has a good answer because there is none. “You know…I see him sometimes in my…my visions. See him killing…civilians or…or he’s travelling…I see him smile.” She has to pause to breathe deeply, steady the voice. “I’ve seen him hold my pictures…kiss them…”

Steve shifts on the chair, clearly uncomfortable with the imagery whereas Natasha remains still as stone. These visions are news to her, but they change very little as far as she sees things: the bastard’s got to go. Preferably in a slow and painful way.

“He’s demented, yeah.” At least the Dorito-man gets that much. “We won’t let him hurt you again.”

Hands find each other in the mess of the bedding, allowing the ex-Russian to squeeze [Y/N]’s fingers gently.

“I know…you’ll all keep me safe…”

The hearings have been going at a steady pace considering that some of the historical events involving SHIELD and Hydra can be confirmed by other agencies. Especially the CIA is able to provide records supporting what ex-SHIELD agent Romanoff explains because they’ve been busy analyzing every line of data dumped online, and their short representative is wonderfully bright, connecting the dots as the hearings progress.

“– which eventually escalated from attempts at destabilizing to outright interfering as seen in Libya and later in Iran.” Agent Ross calmly flips a page in the report, allowing the slower politicians to keep up on the timetable depicted there. “All spliced intel is labelled clearly with sources and you’ll find that those detailing Hydra’s activity coincide with the unauthorized actions.”

A slight cough announces the question that proves the person hasn’t understood anything. “So…SHIELD has harboured a military agency involved in terrorism and cold-war strategies?”

“If that is how you see it then, in turn, the US government has done so too and would be considered accomplishes to the same extend as SHIELD.”

Oooh, nice one. Natasha sends a small smile to the blond man with the efficient brain. There’s no immediate sign that he sees it, but a few minutes later Ross sends a smirk back across the wide space.

 

…   Reader’s PoV   …

 

Well…if I’m gonna do it, it might as well be this time. The structure of your days follows a perfect clockwork, and in 27 seconds Happy will be arriving with dinner which he will set on a little table out in the hallway after having knocked to your room. This time he’ll find the door open. Anytime now.

The slight shuffle can be heard from down the hall, and the leaden butterflies in your stomach are beating up a storm. He’s whistling an airy melody but stops when he notices the change in the routine. A few more steps, this time hesitant, and he peers around the doorframe.

“Oh…didn’t expect this,” he admits with wonder in the round face, “how’re ya feeling today, [Y/N]?”

Right now you feel like puking from pure anxiety. “I’m okay. Could...would you mind erm bringing the tray in here?”

You point to the desk not far from the door (still a safe distance from you), and Happy’s face lights up in surprise and then genuine delight. He’s an adorable man who’s done nothing but support you the best he can and to see him look so proud at your request makes you feel a bit giddy. Moving slowly, he enters and carefully steps over to the table where he adjust a few of the items on the tray before exiting the room once more. He only turns once he’s out the door.

“Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you,” Happy smiles, blinking rapidly to hide the wetness filling his eyes.

 

…   Rumlow’s PoV   …

 

Meetings with people in fancy suits has never been one of Brock’s favourite activities, but at least he’s only present digitally like several of the others attending. The screen shows glowing live feeds of people he knows of from files, several of which used to range further down the chain of command until the fall of SHIELD and subsequentially parts of Hydra…and that is the reason for the gathering. Leaders have died, but their organisation must survive, and in order to ensure that there’s got to be a clear leadership established once more. Brock gets that.

“Where are you on the Winter Soldier,” someone asks him.

Hiding a sigh, the scarred agent stares at the little camera before him. “There’s very little to go on, perhaps we trained him to well?” There’s a general ripple of amusement which he loves to kill. “We know he’s been to the Smithsonian, but after that he’s AWOL…not following any of the subprotocols. Roger’s focus has been divided between the Soldier, the Widow’s pet, and obviously unearthing any of our bases…as you know.”

“Any leads on Fury?” This time the one asking is a younger guy, one of the climbers. What was his name again? “I’ve not been able to get anything on his whereabouts from Coulson.”

Strucker’s monocle gleams. “But your cofer remains intact, yes?”

“Of course.” Ward! That was it.

The meeting drags on and Brock has to fight the restless sense of urgency because on the other side of the door there should be an agent with a status update on a certain ex girlfriend.

Chapter Text

A deep breath. “I can do it.” The statement is for your own sake.

“Yes, hon, ‘cause you’re strong and unbreakable.”

“I’m gonna do it.” Somehow, though, your hand keeps hovering right above the door handle.

Natasha smiles softly at you. “Of course.”

I can’t let her down. “Right…right…now.”

The metal doesn’t burn your hand and no lightning appears out of nowhere to strike you down, meaning that you safely can open the door to the hallway. That in itself isn’t new and neither is the view on the other side of the threshold where the grains in the reddish wooden floor stretches towards the kitchen and living room one way and past the other personal rooms to the labs the other way.

Natasha steps past as if to prove that it’s safe outside your “cave”. Turning to face you, there’s only calmness in her eyes and the hands she offers you don’t shake.

“Take aaall the time you need…I’m not leaving you.”

That’s what’s new: you have decided to leave the safety of the room and join the rest (at the moment consisting only of Tasha and Clint). Opening and closing the door hasn’t been a problem for a while, but with the new intention the world is spinning lazily around you because the air can’t accommodate the frantically beating heart and fill the lungs. You’ve walked the path before, bare feet carrying you to the lounge on a sunny day…eventually bringing you outside where the grass tickled your toes before –

“[Y/N]! Breathe.”

You’re not outside with black-clad Hydra-goons attacking you. Instead it’s Natasha holding your hands, anchoring you in the present. The rise and fall of your chest slows, deepens, stills as you take the first steps on shaky legs through the passage and into your hero’s waiting arms.

“You did it!” Her smile is radiant enough to light up your world.

The success doesn’t stop there because you make it all the way into the kitchen where you and Nat make a late lunch for the three of you. Clint joins. At first, he takes a seat at the counter-table facing the workspace, but despite the barrier between you, it makes you jumpy to have him that close when you can’t keep an eye on him all the time. The archer takes it kindly when you manage to stutter a request which is immediately followed by an explanation which he waves off good-naturedly.
You don’t stay to eat with the friends and co-heroes, preferring instead to retreat to the shelter of your room.

 

…   Romanoff’s PoV   …

 

A promise had been made when [Y/N] ended the exercise, forcing Natasha to stay behind in the kitchen, and as much as the woman would love to come along to make sure everything is okay, she also believes that promises are supposed to be kept. Well, some.

“She’s doin’ better, huh?” Somehow, Clint’s eating a third sandwich stuffed with pretty much anything he’s been able to find. “I mean…this was her idea, right?”

A flash of pride straighten Nat. “Yeah…she’s determined to take back control and it’s nice to see the progress.”

“How ‘bout the nightmares?”

“Still there…not as often, but just as bad.”

The guy stuffs his face while pondering the options. “Supposedly…there’s this thing sorta like mindfulness, ya know? But it helps kinda –” a new bite is worked around before he can continue, “ – control your dreams while still sleeping…Laura says so.”

Natasha can’t help the way her insides almost vibrate at the idea of some technique for [Y/N] to get a proper night’s sleep. “Got anything on it?” Studies? Articles?

“I’ll send it all.”

 

 

Ever since becoming a student in The Red Room, sleep has always been a light affair for Natasha. Something that had to be done efficiently at any moment or in any place but without ever letting the guard down because doing so would equal weakness, and even though she’s learned to actually enjoy sleep more now that the assassin-turned-Avenger has friends…well, it doesn’t take a lot to wake her up.

A scream from the neighbouring room is more than plenty to drive the body into motion, sprinting with the gun drawn the few yards into [Y/N]’s room to find the woman safe aside from the nightmare riding her. Discarding the weapon on the dresser, Nat tiptoes over to the bed, eyes never leaving the figure tensed so hard she’s shivering.

“Jarvis, lights on five percent.”

The whispered order adds enough in combination with the sharper beams from the hallway to illuminate details like the glistening trails across hectic cheeks…and open, unseeing eyes swallowed by a thin white shroud. Not a nightmare. All there can be done is hold [Y/N] until she comes back from the vision and then calm her, make her feel safe again.

“I’ve got you, babe,” Nat whispers into the hair of the woman, wrapping herself around the shaking body, “I’ll always be there for you if you’ll let me.”

Chapter Text

17. Sunrise

You’ve been lying awake for a while now, feeling the steady rise and fall of the chest pressed against your back accompanied by a gentle flutter of breath tickling the small hairs on your neck. Wish it could last forever. Neither peace nor the throbbing pain in your skull can defy nature’s call, though, so you carefully detangle yourself from the soft limbs and tiptoe to the bathroom.

The skin is sticky with sweat, hair matted, and there’s a distinct burn in the back of your throat hinting at how close you must have come to vomiting in your sleep because of that vision. Gross. There’s no way, you’ll slip back under the covers to Natasha as long as you resemble a ghoul…and besides: a shower tends to improve almost any crappy feelings. Although the sound of falling drops is jarring in your ears, there’s an anticipatory prickle running down the spine with the promise of selfcare.

Towel wrapped tightly around your body, you sneak a peek into the bedroom, but the grey light of dawn reveals everything is exactly as you’d left it including the woman with the red hair sprawled across the pillow. Still quiet.

Refusing to put down the towel until you at least got undies on, you struggle to get the freedom of movement needed. C’mon! The damp fabric nearly slips from your grasp. Just…bit more. Wiggling, you get the first piece of clothing in place, then reach out for a dry t-shirt. Hoping that you won’t catch a glimpse of your own reflection as the towel drops and see the fine scars on what used to be your body. It still is! My body, my life. You almost believe the mantra on a good day.

As your head pops through the collar, the one thing you dreaded does happen and the shimmer of movement in the mirror catches your attention…except it’s not your own shape captivating you. An observant gaze is committing everything to memory from under long lashes, the stoic face unable to hide the amused quiver of her lip.

“Naa-aat!” But how can you stay grumpy at her when she giggles so prettily, lazily stretching before lifting the duvet as an invitation for you to return to the warm nest?

“Sorry, I was just curious why you’d be trying so hard to be sneaky…you didn’t even breathe.”

“I didn’t?”

She pulls you closer the moment you plant your ass on the mattress, not caring about the drops raining from the still wet hair. “Got me worried when you snuck out, then more so when it took longer than expected.”

The underlying message takes a few seconds to sink in, time Natasha uses to make sure you lie comfortably. The thought is sobering. To know that this woman is worrying so deeply about your state even after having faced aliens and defeated bad guys. Politicians want her head on a plate as a symbol – but she lies awake because of you. Rolling over to snuggle closer, the feel of smooth skin beneath the tank top she wears helps calm the guilt building up. Fuck me! SHE thinks I’m worth it.

“I shouldn’t feel bad…” the tiny mumble passes your lips, “…right?”

“For…?” Oh boy, how do I explain? But Tasha continues. “No, don’t feel bad for being loved or for being strong.”

Fingertips trail along the Avenger’s arm, setting off goosebumps to prickle against your nose against her neck. Cinnamon. The soft duvet. A gentle roughness against the ring-finger as the alluring path passes over the uneven bump of a scar, reminding both of you of the hazards of your lives but more frequent for Nat in spite of your own horrors. She’s amazing, your hero. Hard and sharp like the steely knives tugged away in her boots, belt, and anywhere else…and somehow wonderfully pliable beneath your hand as it runs lazy patterns across the flat belly. A dragon dressed in silks.

Moving as in a slow dance on a high wire running over the dip of Tasha’s belly button, the fingers pull the softest of sighs from her lips as she arches, presenting the pretty curve of her neck to your lips while pressing tauntingly into you with the butt.

It's making you dizzy. Aching with need for the Black Widow on all levels of your existence to the point where you don’t know what’s right or wrong. Maybe it’s just a reaction? Is this even me? Thoughts race through your brain, chasing each other down endless rabbit holes with you in tow. And each time you’re about to catch up, they little bunnies turn around to reveal the twisted face of Brock. It’s not real. You know that and nothing about Nat makes you feel like you’re back in your ex’s grasp because they are so different as anyone could be. Maybe that’s the reason? Would I –

“[Y/N].” Natasha twist around in your hold, grasping your hands firmly. “I need you to breathe. Now.” The face before you is swimming at first, but each ragged breath makes the features stand clearer. “Good.” Soft lips on your forehead, a thumb swiping something from your cheek. “Don’t rush or push, baby. We’ve got time to do things right if that’s what you really want.”

Thin silk-threads begin to stitch your heart together as you lie there in silence, enjoying the calm that settles while grey morning wanes and the sun reclaims your world and you finally can relax. All the worries that had spiralled you out of control a moment ago seem to dissolve, barely leaving a bitter aftertaste – the worst of which is the molasses-like pounding of the head.

“I’ll get you something for the pain, hang on,” Tasha whispers.

She’s gone and back before the empty spot in the bed can cool, slipping on a band-aid that releases the analgesic little by little through your skin.

Chapter Text

You’ve taken to roaming the Compound when there aren’t a lot of people around or when bad dreams keep you from sleeping. Partially it’s a way of reclaiming some of the freedom you’d denied yourself but mostly to wear yourself out which is why you’ve taken to the gym, feet pounding against the rubber rolling away with an incessant whirring that you don’t dare to drown out with music – and really it’s enough noise to hear your heartbeat pounding to the slower puffs of breath.

No matter how much you tire your body, the thoughts remain the same…particularly the confusion as no one has asked what things you see whenever a vision splits your skull. I’m worth more than that, you remind yourself, I’m not just a source for information to Natasha. You believe it until you catch a glimpse of the faint lines marring your skin. The Black Widow and her friends have your trust as long as the water isn’t too hard and cold when you stand alone in the shower, legs trembling and body aching. There’s no doubt in your heart except when the ghost of Brock’s voice screams at you to tell him everything.

But for all the randomly triggered memories there’s plenty of life savers to pull you back from the stormy sea of terror in you mind. One of them is a thin bracelet made by Stark which begins to glow in a gentle pulsating rhythm which helps you time your breaths and focus on something else when you begin to panic. Another is the small messages left behind at different places from Happy and Pepper, each celebrating the steps you’ve taken to get as far as you have and encouraging you to be proud. Sure, you don’t always agree…but it still helps you judge yourself kinder.

“Where’s the guac?”

“Not so Hawkeye now, huh?”

“Shut up, Tony!” Clint retorts, with a grin, “or y’ain’t getting the tzatziki.”

“Oh nooOOOooo.” The eyeroll is visible even from the other end of the table. “What shall I ever dooo?!”

Most quiet down as Pepper discreetly clears her voice. “I had some of the tzatziki, Tony.” There’s a second of dead silence in which the words sink in.

This is…nice. Sitting at the end of the table nearest the door, it doesn’t seem that clustered even if it’s your first meal with pretty much everyone. Of course, everyone is a relative term when neither Banner, Rhodey, nor Thor are there (thankfully), but half-dozen people or so is more than enough to challenge you when they get too rowdy and only Natasha’s hand on your knee can keep your grounded. Each time you feel the heat from the palm soothing you, making it possible to let go of the worries and fears bubbling somewhere beneath the surface.

No one expects you to make conversation. Instead they allow a safe little bubble to stay around you and follow your or Tasha’s lead for the rest: if you are okay with interacting, they’ll gladly accept rather than force it upon you. Fuck, they take good care of me.

“You okay?” Red locks brush against your cheek.

Nodding, you take a second to steady your voice before answering. “Yeah, so far. ‘S just been a while y’know.”

“Yeah.”

Sharing the silent moment the two of you take in the scene. A group of friends in some way or another sharing a meal. Beers and wine accompany the weird mix of delicious food, but none of the treats can distract from the delightfully horrible formation of tiny drones hovering above the table and constantly spelling out quotes from the last of all the hearings Natasha has attended.

The last-last. Finally, the politicians had run out of questions (and variation of them) to rain down on the former spy in return for the hard work she’d put into cleaning up the many messes regardless of them being her own or not.

 

…   Romanoff   …

 

It comes and goes, the waves of tension radiating off of [Y/N], and it’s no wonder really. By the time Clint has eaten all the guac and Stark’s done with praising himself in a speech he’d originally claimed was to honour Tasha, it’s obvious that [Y/N] is hanging on by a thread.

“What d’you say we leave the cleaning to the guys?” The sweetheart of a survivor smiles emptily, a tiny nod as answer. “Then let’s go.”

The hand is shaking in Nat’s and refuses to let go of her even when they’re in the safety of the room with the door closed.

“I’m sorry,” [Y/N] whispers.

The arms only remain empty for a few seconds before the tired body finds its place. “You know I’ll say you shouldn’t be –“

“And then I’ll say that I still am.” At least there’s a tiny laugh accompanying that comment.

“So we’ll settle with a ‘you did amazing’.” The former Russian kisses the slightly clammy forehead. “Yeah?”

A heartbeat of silence. A deep sigh which could be relief as easily as it could be from fatigue. “Mhmm, okay.”

The redhead allows herself to be pulled onto the bed and positioned the way [Y/N] likes best when they cuddle up. A bit of toe-work and wiggling around, then their shoes land on the floor.

It’s odd. She can’t deny how much scent of soap and flowery shampoo that fills the nostrils with each breath means to her. This feels like a home. Their breaths are synchronizing just like the heartbeats that thumb through the clothes and echo within the mattress for Nat to hear whenever she turns the head to look at the other woman.

“I was thinking…”

[Y/N] lifts her head a tiny bit to catch her gaze. “Tell me.”

“This is not to pressure you…but I practically spend more time here than in my own room –“ ff course, the worry flashes back into those pretty eyes, nearly breaking Nat’s heart, “– so would it make sense if I just, you know…moved in?”

 Kids before Christmas ain’t got nothing on this girl! The joy erupts like solar flares. The smile, tentative at first, could melt the hardest soul and all the polar ice in the world before the plump lips find the target, only pausing to whisper a breathy “yes please”.

Chapter Text

…   Romanoff   …

 

The tinny jingle from the Goldfish commercials doesn’t cause hesitation to the hands moving rapidly to find and connect the right parts needed in the task of assembling three different guns. Only when the last weapon is locked (and loaded) does Natasha spin the cell phone on the table with a frown. Unknown caller, but the small dots in the corner indicate that Jarvis is tracking down the number already and will have an answer in three…two…one…ugh! Langley.

“Afternoon.” The tone is flat enough to show the lack of enthusiasm without being downright rude. “What more does Langley want post-hearings?”

She can almost hear the crooked smile. “Hrph…I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, miss Romanova.” The twist to the last name sends shivers down the former Russian’s spine but the familiar voice continues. “I’m agent Ross…we met during the hearings…?”

The silence is allowed to reign in an attempt to get the man to talk, maybe say too much. Meanwhile, Natasha brings the Glock 26 behind the back and starts to dismantle it, counting the seconds it takes before every piece of metal is spread out on the couch cushion behind her, careful not to lose the pins or the little spring for the trigger.

“Miss uhm…miss Romanova? You there?”

Nervous. Not enough. “…yeah.”

“Good! Good. Yes…” Some paper rustles through the line. “Right…I know the hearings’ve been long and prob’ly bothersome,” agent Ross hesitates to allow for some comment but gets none, “s’I can completely understand and respect if y’aren’t interested, however…I believe that you may ‘ave information that could be of benefit to u- to the Agency, I mean, in terms of filling some gaps. Erm I think…what I’m trying to say’s would it be possible for you to – off record – have a look at our older intel?”

Wait…waaiit…one more second. An intake of breath is Natasha’s cue. “You want me to shed light on old cases that’ve gone sideways?”

“Well –“

“You think either SHIELD, Hydra, or maybe my former handlers could’ve botched it for you guys?” By now the short agent’s sputtering in embarrassment, maybe hoping for the weak protests to soothe any slights the insinuation could have caused. “Send me a top ten and I’ll see what I can do.”

“Really?!”

Yeah, why would I? Simply put, Natasha hates being out of the loop, and the spy in her is aching for the chance of (legally) getting hold of CIA intel. More than that, though, she’s learned the hard way how precious the currency known as “favours” are. Owe someone something? They’ll have a hook in you forever. Someone owes you? It can be the difference between life and death. An IOU from a CIA agent…that could be handy.

“No promises I can actually tell you more than y’know already.”

Movement behind her makes the Avenger turn her head, a smile already curving her lips at the presence of [Y/N] who eyes the weapons (and parts) cautiously.

“Oh, no! That’s okay, no worries!” An idiot might refuse the tentative offer and Ross is far from that. “I’ll compile the files and get them to…you…uhm…”

“I’ll text you an address.” A slightly oil-greased finger hovers over the phone already. “Bye, agent Everett Ross.”

 

…   Rumlow   …

 

The fly circles the room a few times before finally settling on the person in the corner, climbing across brown-stained jeans in short sprints before reaching the lax hand and taking off again. Next time the insect lands it’s by the dried spatter on the wall where the bullet had made a small crater when it exited the skull of…who was that? A glance at the pens and the old-fashioned glasses makes Brock guess at some dusty field of expertise like history or literature. Whatever it had been, the man had decided it was better to risk it all and go looking for Hydra on nothing but a rumour.

“Don’t mind zat,” Strucker dismisses the sight easily, “ze interesting zing is zis.” Careful not to touch, he points at the darkened veins and (with the help of a metal rod) the unnaturally blue eyes. “Ze experiment was quite a success, my friend. We are able to channel ze power of ze weapon into humans.”

“They all end up like this so far?” The eyelid hasn’t lowered again, so the endless glow of space is staring blindly at Brock no matter where he moves. “A bullet in the brain? Why did he get that?”

Chuckling softly, Strucker wipes the little stick in a handkerchief which he folds before depositing both in a pocket. “Zis man gained immense strengz but lacked control.” Oh. “Perhaps zere is a stronger connection between the state of mind and ze results zan we anticipated. We are now looking for actual volunteers.”

Fuck. However Loki did it remains a mystery still, but Brock won’t give up the hope that it will be possible to figure out how to control another person with the staff. Damnit, he’d seen the bit of salvaged footage and read the debriefs portraying the events when the Asgardian came to Earth and brainwashed top agents in no time.

The results of Strucker’s and his team’s work is vital both for the promotion of Hydra’s scheme…and to get anything useful from [Y/N] when she will get back again. I’ll be damned if it kills her. Brock’s all too aware that his craving for the ex-girlfriend wouldn’t be condoned if anyone knew – to be fair, he doesn’t quite like it himself because it makes him feel like he isn’t in control of his own damn mind. Every dream is either about missions and kills, sending adrenalin pumping through his veins, or they feature every detail of [Y/N].

The little smile when she was lost in thought. Her spine curving to jut the breasts upwards, skin subtle under Brock’s hands. Remembering the teasing hitches in her breath on a sunny morning, light filtering through the windows to catch in her hair as they made their bed creak together a lifetime ago.

“Godfuckingdamnit!”

Already, an erection is pressing painfully hard against tac-pants and Brock shoves a fist down to reposition the stubborn cock only for a new memory to appear the moment his fingers close around the shaft. Shea-butter mixed with sweat on pebbled nipples…perfect taste. There’s not much room to move the hand, but at least the pants are easily opened allowing for longer strokes.

The speed accelerates with each recollection, fist tightening and twisting while the echoes of [Y/N]’s moans are replaced by cries tearing from her throat when he took her with force. Fuck, it was so good, the man admits to himself, the struggle…oh yeah…the…the control. Breathing laboured, Brock has to lean against the wall, unable to stagger the last few steps over to his cot. She’d begged and pleaded, and he had been the one to grant her peace…or not.

He grunts as he comes. White stickiness spurting between his fingers, adding to the blurry haze from the inability to focus on anything else than the rush thrumming through the veins. It’ll be a short reprieve before the need returns like an endless hunger that nothing can sate. One thing can. But [Y/N] isn’t here, she’s tugged away somewhere with the fucking Avengers and that makes it all a million times worse because to think that Romanoff or maybe even Steve get to be close to her. Get to touch her, smell her.

It stings pleasantly when the hand connects with the drywalling and the structure behind it, thin strings of cum hanging from the torn plaster. At least that clears Brock’s mind a bit.

 

…   Reader   …

 

Lying awake all night, it’s almost a relief to sense the grey dimness take over the room and allow the outlines of furniture to stand out – not even Natasha’s steady breathing has been able to calm your mind after the hours of training spent to tire out your body at least. Why this time?! You’ve spent more than enough nights trying to escape nightmarish memories and negative thoughts but this…this issue is different and you’re happy with the decision you’ve made. I should just tell her.

It’s almost possible to make out the contours of Tasha against the white pillow, darker hair spreading like a halo of smoke. You know she sleeps lightly. Brushing your lips featherlight across her cheek, and she already turns to find your mouth with her own. Sweet and lazy kisses, a single tug to your bottom lip. Morning breath is a non-issue when she invites you into a bubble of gentle safety. Home.

“Morning, babe.” Her fingers tease the shortest hairs in your neck. “You’ve managed to sleep at all?”

There’s no reason to answer, just plant a peck on her nose. “I’ve made up my mind,” you offer as consolation, “and I hope you’ll understand why it’s important to me.”

The love never disappears from the touch while she sits up against the headboard. If it was light enough, you think you might see cautious interest mingled with concern in her eyes because Tasha isn’t as good as hiding it as she thinks she is. That’s a secret though.

“Okay…” She drags you onto her lap, straddling her so the strong arms can wrap around your waist. “Is it about the call from Ross?”

The scent of shampoo still clings to her hair as you bury your face in it, happy to talk into the red mess. “Yes, but mainly it’s about wanting to do what I can.”

Of course your reasoning isn’t perfect, but Natasha doesn’t interrupt even once as you explain how you want to do your part to support the hearings and the new request from the CIA by giving a testimony. Gifted or not, at least there’s information about Brock that can be of use and it seems someone else than just the Avengers are trying to clean things up…hopefully that includes tracking down the people that can be identified to Hydra through the data dumped on the net the day SHIELD fell. You promise to keep the ability secret to anyone outside of Natasha and her friends...admitting that you’ll have to be careful although you’ve got the most convincing cover to any strange phrasing “thanks” to what Brock and his people have put you through while in their hands.

The colours have returned to the world by the time you finish explaining. Dusty lavender heightens the rosy cheeks of the woman looking at you with a serious expression that makes your stomach knot. I have to do this. It’ll be hard as fuck, but it feels right. Feels important.

“I’ll let him know,” Tasha whispers, pulling you in for a tight embrace, “and I’ll be with you all the time.”

Chapter Text

The inlaid granite had felt hard under against the soles of your shoes, cold and grey and absolutely not helping with your nerves. When the stone had given way for carpet, that too had been dark in contrast to the naked walls coloured with some indeterminable off-white shade…at least there was a single palm tree in a much too small pot in the room you’d been led to, otherwise Natasha’s hair would have been the only bright colour in the room.

Your throat is dry, but you’re determined not to stop – if you do then you’ll never be able to start again. “It felt like-like an eternity even b’fore the threats and b-beatings and-d-and I messed up.” Tasha’s hand twitches. Want to hold my hand or kill Brock? “I tried to win time…peace…anything, by making up a story ‘cept i- he…” Your hand shakes so hard you spill some of the water from the crickly plastic cup which is empty before the dry knot in your throat has been washed away. “The point is…I can ermm identify and y’know…tes-…-tify…?”

The eyes boring into you are impossible to categorize in terms of colour, but you recognize the glimmer of pity before you have to look away. There’s been no show of emotions while you told of the life you and Brock had shared before things were brought out in the open, barely any frown as you explained how Hydra came and took you, but now…just a broken sentence hinting at your living nightmare.

I don’t want the pity. Everyone at the Compound walk as on eggshells around you, avoiding certain subjects as the let you decide the pace but there’s no pity just room to heal and grow stronger…what agent Ross radiates make you feel ruined all over again. No, worse than that. Guilt surges in the pit of your belly, pushing the shoulders up to your ears as if that could shield you from anything, when in reality nothing of what happened is your fault but the choice of a deranged man working on behalf of a genocidal organisation. Both of whom knows how to get where they want.

“Can I trust you, agent Ross?”

The simple question startles both him and Natasha, the latter sending you a warning look.

“I like to think that you can, yeah.” There’s a simple sort of honesty in his voice, matching the down-to-earth vibe you’ve been getting from him and which you know is one of the reasons your hero has agreed to co-operate to begin with. “We can do this off the books if you want?”

At least Tasha relaxes a little bit when you nod.

Whether or not she’s being protective or supportive, Natasha has moved closer to you. It doesn’t prevent Ross from leaning as far across the table as he can without getting his ass out the chair, and you’re secretly thankful for his short stature.

“That’s…either insane or improbable,” he breathes, fingers carting through the now messy hair, “but with all the shit happening the last years…oh fuck me!”

The exclamation isn’t a request or order but still makes you cringe inwardly. It’s Nat’s hands being squeezed so hard the blood flow is hampered and you’re grateful she’s here even if the assassin side of her is plotting ways to teach Ross to back down.

“Let me make this very, very clear,” she states subtly, “if any of this leaves the room without [Y/N]’s consent…”

A smirk dances at the corner of her lips only for you to see when the poor man blanches, his head probably full of all sorts of horrible options for his untimely demise.

“Understood!” A finger slips inside the tie in a futile attempt at loosening it slightly. “Hrm…perhaps we should continue this at another time?”

 

…   Romanoff   …

 

Not many people manage to surprise the former spy/assassin the way [Y/N] has today and she almost feels prouder than worried even now as she guides the car through the traffic. Next to her, the astounding woman is sitting with a foot on the seat, an elbow resting on the knee to further support her head. By now there must be dents under the chin from the knuckles because [Y/N] hasn’t moved since they got off the highway but merely been staring out the side window. Squinting at the faint reflection, Natasha can’t see the frown usually visible in times of serious pondering. What’s going on, babe? Talk to me. She’s about to ask for just that when [Y/N] breaks the silence.

“I’m sorry I told him what I can do anyways…” A few dust motes hover in the temporary silence. “Thing is that…that he does the same as you and the others? Which means that he doesn’t…he doesn’t…ask…” Breathing shakily, the girl looks back out the window. “None of you have been forcing me to tell anything. Not about what happened. Not about what I…see.”

Oh. “Ross didn’t either.”

“Nuh-uh.” There’s a small smile obscured by the shaking head. “Bro-Rumlow and…those…they kept pushing, forcing me to tell and it was never enough!”

Natasha knows the reason behind it. Hydra doesn’t have room for values such as personal freedom, individualism, moral, anything else but furthering their cause.

With someone that could potentially tell the future in their hands, they’d been sitting on a golden mine and of course they’d had to dig quick and deep to get as much of the valuables as possible before the treasure trove was whisked away. It didn’t matter to them that said treasure was a person and the mine was her mind.

Сукин сын! Through the sleepless nights and the countless days spent comforting the survivor, even nursing her back to a semblance of thriving, most of the horrors have been revealed although never in too great detail. What has never been said, Natasha has been able to fill in the blanks from simply because she’s seen that kind of world and she knows the messed up rules Hydra plays by. The only comfort in this mess is that Rumlow had never shared the spoils with anyone.

“Sweetheart, it’s your life and I don’t have the right to make the decisions for you,” Nat explains softly, “I promised I’d be by your side and that stands whether or not you want to share your intel with me…us…or not.”

A warm hand slips over on the Avenger’s thigh to give a little squeeze. “I know.” There’s that smile again. “And I appreciate all the room and trust you and the others show me…I really do.” The hands stays, thumb tracing light circles on the denim. “Besides…you’ll come to respect agent Ross in Berlin.”

Huh? No explanation follows, though, and Natasha decides to let the spy in her go unsatisfied and instead hope that [Y/N] will tell more in due time.

The rest of the way to the Tower, where Happy, Stark, and Pepper are waiting, the women chat about the hunt on the remaining Hydra cells.

 

…   Reader   …

 

Ever since getting to the safety of Stark and the Avengers the very first time, you’ve been keeping notes about the vision. At first it was short key words on your phone, but the last week it’s been full on recounts in a notebook covered with flappable sequins (navy blue one way and a sparkly rainbow-coloured mix the other), most of the contents naturally being older visions that you try to recall.

Rubbing your left temple in small circles the fingers on the other hand mindlessly trace patterns to break the monochrome surface. Nothing makes sense. You almost whish you were back to the old days where the pain-inducing dreams seemed like nothing more than just freak coincidences and a lively imagination…but then you’d still be with Brock and that’s one nightmare you’d give anything to be without. I thought I loved him…a sour taste echoes in the back of your mouth, the barely visible scars itch. He thinks he still does.

The disconcerting thoughts are broken by the sound of approaching footsteps which can only belong to Happy. He rarely makes it up to the domestic floors of the Tower so when he does, he makes sure to pop by wherever you’re hanging out, brightening your day with one of his full-face smiles.

“Heya!” He allows a box to drop onto the couch so he can stretch a bit. “How’s it going, tiger?”

Meh. “Okay…trying to make sense of my life and shit, y’know?” It’s nice not to have to explain for Happy to get it. The man is empathy incarnate and the nod encompasses that. “Watcha got there?”

As if partially surprised at the box still resting  on the soft seat and somewhat chuffed that he knows something you don’t, Happy pats the cardboard lovingly. “Oh…just a little somethin’ somethin’ mister Stark has asked me t’get him…” Shifty eyes, then he leans closer to whisper: “You’ll see eventually.”

“So secretive, my dear sir!”

“Ay, never betray the trust o’ som’one ye care ‘bout, little girl,” he hums in a horrible pirate voice, “’specially not if they’re a super’ero or assassin or whatnot, if ye get mah drift.”

A slight cough behind Happy makes the poor man blanche. “Wise words coming from a man who’s decided not to go straight to their boss who just happens to be such a hero.”

Even with a sickly green smoothie in hand and an old band t-shirt, Tony Stark’s presence takes over the room. Not in an uncomfortable way, there’s just no denying the imposing alpha-male-thing he’s got going. It makes your toes curl and thighs itch with the need to get away and find Natasha.

Chapter Text

Somehow the buzzing from the old fashioned fixtures overhead hits a frequency more annoying than a mosquito at night and the light glares off of any shiny surface, causing you to squint in this world of greys. It’s hard to keep track of the maps and pictures agent Ross is showing you, but you do recognize some of the scenes from your nightmarish memories. Through an increasing blanket of fuzz, he shows you photos from the interior of a ship. It felt bigger, but in reality it’s nothing more than a smallish trawler.

You want to ask how they found it, but the words are warbled, coming from far away. The warmth of Natasha’s hair sweeps into view, blocking some of that awfully bright light before you taste the sour discharge in the back of your throat. Fuck.

Not a sound is heard, but you know the man would have a deep voice, a foreign language that would make you think of heat and traditions from before the alphabet you know. He looks kind, the stocky man, as he stands before an audience. Sweeping rows of tables makes you think of a lecture hall, but that doesn’t fit with the glass façade behind him. Glass that suddenly shatters, pushed into the room by a torrent of fire. You see it in slow motion, how a younger man leaps out of nowhere to push the speaker away as finally there’s a voice proclaiming the king is dead.

 

…   Romanoff   …

 

Holding [Y/N] up so she won’t choke in the vomit, Natasha doesn’t bother explaining to Ross what’s happening until she hears the first groan (which could resemble the word “fuck”) is preceded by a flutter of lashes. It’s over.

“Might want to get rid of this,” the former spy remarks, pushing the waste bin across the table to the CIA agent.

Surprisingly, he just accepts, making sure to return with a relatively unused one and even extra plastic bags. “Anything else I can get? Want me to call a doctor?”

If only that would help. “I’ve got something for the pain so I can get her back…learned to be prepared.”

“This happens often?” Shock makes the already pasty face paler.

“Every time she sees something.” Soft hands run circles on [Y/N]’s back, nursing the poor woman as she’s curled together, head cradled between shaking hands. “Imagine getting your skull hit by lightning…overloading every single neuron until the whole thing is overcharged and ready to burst only it can’t explode it can just keep hurting her.”

It’s obvious how Ross’ entire idea of how premonitions work is being re-evaluated and adjusted to allow for what he’s just witnessed. Not as romantic as books or movies claim, huh?

Natasha sits patiently, answering the confused agents many questions (though, to be fair, he actually finds the answer to a lot on his own), while nursing [Y/N] back into a shape where she can drink some water to swallow some of Dr. Cho’s pills and eventually stand on her legs. Wobbly, sure, but well enough to make it down to the car.

 

 

“How you feeling, babe?” She looks better. There are bags under [Y/N]’s eyes, but at least the ashen shade that had covered her face is gone. “Dare to get some food in you?”

There’s a brief moment where the option is considered before dismissed. “Thanks though…” Then she resumes the scribbling in the notebook Happy has given her, sometimes absentmindedly stroking the sequins or highlighting something – this time in an electric purple shade which she adds to something else after leafing backwards. “Has…has there been aaa…a bombing with a king or something?”

It’s a quick search for the combined forces of Natasha and Jarvis, both coming up with nothing relevant despite the pressure of a growing frown on [Y/N]’s face. The red-head recognizes the thinning line of her girlfriend’s lips and knows an intervention is needed if ever the woman is going to get some rest, but she has also seen firsthand how important it is to work through the vision as soon as possible or it will keep interfering with everything else.

Carefully lowering herself onto the bed behind the pained woman, she runs slender fingers across [Y/N]’s scalp, eliciting a sigh. “What else can I do to help?”

“Thaaaat,” a breathy moan divulges, sending chills up and down Nat’s spine, “it feels sooo good, hon.”

Nails cart gently through messy-looking hair, fingertips circling the temples and adding pressure at the nape of the skull. Back and forth while the woman between the hands start to relax into the touch. Then the slender fingers find the shoulders, kneading gently but deeply into the tangled mess of tense muscles in the vain hope that some release can be found and might help ease the pounding headache Natasha knows is reigning.

It must be working because [Y/N] sighs deeply, a content smile growing on the lips as she arches her back in relief, free breasts stretching the front of the lose t-shirt that replaced most of the ensnaring and sweat-soaked clothes the moment they got home. It’s so simple, so natural to slide a hand along the clavicles and trace the neckline of the shirt with a fingertip while the other traces a path back into the mane that smells so perfectly, and Nat can’t resist the urge to plant a feathery kiss on the top of the ear.

Did you see this too, sweetheart? See me fall in love with you? It doesn’t matter if [Y/N] knew, though, because it won’t change how right it is. It has brought a new worry into Natasha’s life, but it’s a price she’ll gladly pay over and over again as long as she gets to listen to this woman’s heartbeat, taste her kisses in the grey morning hours, know that the trust they share can’t be broken. Not by anything.

[Y/N] twists in the Avenger’s grasp, subtly moving the southern hand to rest on a boob under which a rapid beat is drumming. Led by her own hair, Nat is guided until mouths meet. There is still a tender lightness to it but also an urge, a hunger that demands more and wouldn’t it be wonderful to give in? To gorge in the sweetness without fear of causing damage?

“It’s okay, Tasha.” Hot breath carries a scent of toothpaste. “I want it. Please?”

Anything for you. A searing kiss is the only answer Natasha can muster at first. Then, without breaking contact, she pulls [Y/N] onto her lap like a goddess placed on a pedestal to be worshipped. A stray thought tries to ruin the fun by pointing out how lovely it would’ve been to slowly remove any trousers, but it’s a notion that’s squashed the moment soft thighs settle around Nat’s in a strong hold.

The first buttons of the red-head’s blouse are worked on uncontested while the remainder pop from the brute force of [Y/N] pulling at the fabric, finally allowing colder hands to roam over pale skin, finding and caressing a few old scars and toying with the fine lace.

It’s a slow maelstrom of desire that spins and pulls the women. Natasha isn’t sure when the t-shirt is discarded, she just knows how perfect the hard nipple feels against her tongue and lips and that the weight of each breast is the loveliest burden to hold and massage until [Y/N] rocks against the jeans.

It can be seconds later or minutes when the former spy pulls out the sweetest sounds by stroking the silken folds, already slippery with need. Each pass over the clit has the woman on top moaning, trying to stifle the sound against Tasha’s skin which is puckered after kisses and teasing bites. It’s not enough to silence the quaking groan when the adept fingers brings the roaring sensations to a blissful peak and [Y/N]’s body shudders and stiffens, core clenching around a few fingers that had reach inside and found the right spot.

 

…   Reader   …

 

Inside you are heavenly chorus is singing the praises for Tasha, for the fact that she proved your hope right and showed that, yes, being intimate could still feel good. Pfft…inadequate word. It had been beyond amazing, reducing you to a soft mass of euphoria collapsed onto her gorgeous frame.

Once relatively conscious again, you wanted to reciprocate.

“No, babe, not this time,” Tasha shushes you, stopping any complaints with kisses, “tonight I take care of you, ‘kay? And right now you get to rest.”

Of course nothing she says is a lie and she makes sure to clean you before tugging you under the covers. You’re half asleep by then and smiling like a lovesick fool.

“Tasha –“

“Nuh-uh!” A finger lands on your lips. “Unless you’re about to say you love me too then you’re going to sleep. Right now.”

“I guess I have to stay awake then.” But the smirk on your face is stretched into a yawn and you feel warmth echo inside your bones and mixing with the bliss your hero has left behind.

One more kiss, a whispered promise that she’ll be back to check on you, then darkness descends with a gentle peace.

Chapter Text

…   Rumlow   …

 

The first call comes in at 4PM on a Saturday. It’s short, clear, and sends Brock’s blood pumping at a rate it normally only reaches during the obsessive dreams featuring [Y/N] that forces him to jerk off. “Target S in sight”. Abandoning the half-made plans for an infiltration of a CDC-lab (in his opinion a brute insurgence would be better anyways), Brock hurries off to the TacSit room with the hopes of establishing a live connection to the agent at the scene. Goddamnfinally!

The primary objective was pure damage control at first which, after a few days, extended into an alteration in the official plan: eliminate any advantage Rogers and his bunch of bastards might have as if that hadn’t been standard for ages. After some discussions, the leadership allowed to recover (alive) what’s been lost - the cost being the unsupervised leadership of Project S, as dealing with [Y/N] and her visions was dubbed. Brock decided he could live with that, knowing that upervision is a hell of a lot better than no involvement at all.

“What’s the status?” he barks the moment the door swings open for him.

Frantic fingers push buttons lit by the bluish glow of screens before a headset is thrust his way. There’s a moment of silence in the headphones, then a small plop before the faint noises of the city can be heard along with a quiet, monotone narration of the events. No visual.

“Reinforcements ‘bout ten minutes out,” the voice of the agent explains.

It’d been pure chance. After ages without unscheduled trips, [Y/N] and the Widow have broken cover by leaving the tower for something as stupid as a stroll and window shopping. It’s tempting to think it’d be a simple takeover, but nothing involving Romanoff is simple and any relaxation she shows is a cover for plans A, B, and all the way through Z.

The agent is tailing them through a street market when the dreaded words are heard: “Shit! Lost sight of Widow…”

There are a few tomb-quiet seconds where no one dares to breath.

“Hold this, please.” Spoken by a perfectly calm woman the request heard over the line makes the hairs on Brock stand on end.

There’s nothing they can do at HQ beside listening to the sudden still of breath before a wheezing gurgle, nor the evident handling of the earpiece before the connection is cut (probably crushed under a boot).

“ETA on team?” It’s a judgement call Brock has to make whether to call off the reinforcements or not.

“Engaging right now, sir.” Burn the fucking bridges, then. A screen flashes to show a crude map with a bunch of small dots clustered very close together indicating the approximate positions of the team members. “Switch to channel three for audio.”

His fingers know the way to the little button on the side of the headset, clicking it twice to get to listen in. With no eyes on the situation, Brock is forced to stay quiet as anything he says only will serve as a potential distraction, but it’s frustrating to hear the grunts and surprised shouts before the first clear word comes through the line: shooter. That’s the last Brock hear from the team.

 

…   Reader   …

 

“OW!”

“I know. Hold still…” the self-appointed Nurse Natasha orders patiently but pauses for a moment in the task of wrapping your hand, “at least you didn’t break it.”

You cast another glance at the x-ray displayed on the screen. “Feels like it…maybe we should call a doctor before you c’ntinue?”

“Ha!”

With steady hands, your love winds the elastic dressing around the thumb, careful to smooth is out, and of course it hurts…but honestly not a lot more than it would anyways, and you know you’ve gotten off lightly - your last experience with a Hydra ambush had ended differently. The memory makes you shiver. You still have nightmares randomly during the week, and the attack today is almost a guarantee that tonight will be a bad one even if the only physical result is a sprained thumb, and a bruised cheek and upper arm. Damn, Hydra goons must be made of steel.

A sound by the door to the infirmary startles you, the resulting movement causing the pain to flare up. How can everyone move so quietly? Even munching on a sandwich (coffee in the other hand), Clint sidles over with nothing but the softest of tread.

“Guess no one’s taught you ‘ow to throw a punch, huh?” he comments dryly.

Pain or not, the guy has a tendency to state the obvious. “Not yet, no, thank you very much.”

“Yet?” It sounds more like an off-hand comment next to the thorough inspection of Tasha’s work (pointing out tiny creases before she has a chance to fix them). “Plan on making it a habit to hit on guys?”

Groan! “Only to teach them a lesson or two…I’m gonna need lessons first though.” It gets silent enough that you can hear the faint sound of traffic almost 20 floors below. “I just…I need to know. Can’t stand being so…so useless! Y’know?”

It’s smart of Clint when he chooses a tactical retreat, granting Natasha and you some privacy, and maybe you imagine it…but isn’t that a wink before the door closes? Does he agree with me? A hint of confidence straightens your back as you wait for Natasha to secure the wrapping.

The red-head is thinking, considering all possible options and outcomes before voicing an opinion. Maybe it’s harder for her this time too because she has a more personal stake in it than she has been used to for years…and gods know she’s a tiger mom: ready to fight to protect the few near and dear to her. What will be valued highest here? The ability to protect oneself or avoid digging into a metaphorical wound that’s just starting to heal?

“Nat…”

“I – yeah, I get it and it’d be smart even if everything’s fine, I just –“ steeling herself with a breath, she meets your gaze, “on two conditions, okay?” She sees your placating shrug and takes your hands (carefully). “I won’t a…friend of mine to train you, not me.” You wait. “And I want you to see a psychologist too…in fact, I think you should do that anyways.”

Oh.

 

…   Romanoff   …

 

Natasha can see some of the light dwindle in [Y/N]’s eyes. Just hear me out. Physical injuries are easy enough for the former assassin to deal with but the trauma on mind and soul...well, the lessons taught in the Red Room weren’t exactly focused on that except to exploit it. I should’ve insisted on this long ago. Every argument is met with silence and downcast gaze. Sometimes a nod. Thankfully, it helps to promise women for both projects, and by the time [Y/N] accepts the conditions, Nat has already decided to call in any favour needed to get none other than Maria Hill to assist with the self defense.

“Please,” the coming trainee says meekly, “don’t tell anyone I’ll be seeing a shrink.”

Ingrained taboo? “I think Steve and I are the only ones that haven’t made use of it…and I’m not even sure about Cap.” She tilts the somber face up again. “It’s not weakness to need help like that, babe. It’s strength. It’s tough, but I know you’ll come to like it, so to say.”

“Logic’ly…urgh…I guess it makes sense but I just…wanna forget!” There are tears in the [Y/E/C] eyes from both the prospect as much as the knowledge that: “I can’t forget, though.”

Chapter Text

…   Romanoff   …

 

The change comes creeping in like the first light of dawn that suddenly makes it possibly to make out the shape of furniture in the dark and later adding a depth to the surface even before the colours are visible. Some days are exhausting for both [Y/N] and Natasha in each their own way. One is drained from the weekly session with the psychologist or maybe the hard physical training under the stern but kind guidance of Maria. The other, a certain redhead, finds it had to stand by. Hands off even as her love struggles with nightmarish processes that set off nightmare after nightmare until her throat is raw from crying out in anguish. No preparation can make it easier. No knowledge of the importance can soothe the Avenger when she rocks the shaking woman in the dark of night.

But that’s not the real change.

The change is the flashes of peace. The straight back and head held high. It’s the healthy thoughts that are voiced, each time with a sense of acceptance that they are the truth.

Sitting in the kitchen of the Compound, [Y/N] is allowing herself to be completely absorbed in the book she’s reading only glancing up when the glass of lemonade is empty. Clint, who’s sitting next to her, is twirling a straw around in his own empty glass but otherwise only paying attention to the take-out menu. Supposedly. Natasha is fairly certain that she’s heard him drinking even after he’d drained the jug and as such running out of options for a refill plus it’s the kind of stunt the archer has pulled on pretty much anyone who isn’t paying attention to their snack, drinks, or food.

Mister Barton,” [Y/N] begins hyper-politely, “do you have any knowledge of what might have happened to the last half of my lemonade?”

The man puts on the perfect display of surprise spiked with such a subtle outrage at the underlying accusation that Natasha knows 100% that he’s guilty. “What? Why should I know?”

“Not buying that,” you happily announce, “so I guess I’ll use you to test out something Maria told me about.”

You refuse to tell the suddenly nervous archer what it is, merely patting him on the shoulder as you get up to make a new batch of lemonade.

 

…   Reader   …

 

Every single muscle in your body is sore. It hurts to put on a sweater. There are muscles in your back you didn’t know you had screaming at you when you bend to put tie the shoes. Hell, you can barely face going to the loo because your thighs and butt are punishing you for all the work you’re putting into the training with Maria, but at least it’s finally paying off. The former SHIELD agent is an exceptional teacher: honest, but kind without talking to you like you’re a kid. Most importantly, though, there’s an unspoken understanding of why you feel like you have to learn to defend yourself and perhaps feel like you’re in control of your own body. So that’s where she’s started.

First, she has helped you get into shape with simple cardio and strength, teaching exercises you can use on your own in the impressive gym two floors down.
The second step has been to show how to use defend against simple attacks by using the other person’s body (weight and size) against them – your own stature is irrelevant or can even be used as an active benefit.

“Aaaah.” Hot water sloshes against the sides of the tub as you lower yourself into the soothing bath.

Natasha’s voice drift through the gap by the door: “Should I be jealous?”

She’s perched on the bed with the blue light from the tablet creating shadows almost as ominous as the intel she’s studying for tomorrow’s missions. Well, it starts in the morning when the present Avengers (Tony, Nat, Cap, and Clint) all leave for wherever they’re heading, and if all goes well they should be back in three days.

“Mhmmmmm…I’m having an affair with the bathtub.” The heat seeps into stiff limbs, dissolving reluctant tensions. “Sometimes we even go as far as adding bubbles to our fun.”

There’s an audible snort and you can imagine the exasperated eyeroll that doesn’t diminish her smile. Perfect, that’s how it is. Sliding deeper into the water, jaw skimming the surface as steam rises past the face, you’re completely enveloped in subtle heat and it lulls you into a drowsy contentment that pulls the eyelids down.

A rustle of clothes seems to filter in from far away before the water and you are stirred by sleek limbs as Natasha settles between your willingly parting legs, back against chest, with a quiet moan. Perhaps it’s an addiction rather than natural behaviour, but your hands are drawn to her, first massaging the tension from shoulders that hold up your world too before flat palms start stroking her arms. Her chest. The swell of her breasts where fingertips tug and twist the rapidly hardening nipples only for the warm water to soothe the skin.

She’s your friend, ally, and lover. Someone you never planned on being such an integral part of your soul and though logic dictates you could be happy without her, you simply don’t want to try. Natasha.

You love these moments when the tough hero melts like snow in your hands, head resting against your chest and mouth slightly open to release the quaking sighs of satisfaction conjured by you and no one else. Tasha is surrounded by you, laid out bare and vulnerable and easy to read. Breaths hitch, toes curl, her fingers dig into the flesh of your thighs as your fingers move faster now they’ve found her clit. She’s granted a few fingers for the core to clench around, and holy fuck, the heat fluttering around the digits that curl against the soft walls is beyond divine. Better than any bath could be.

The name on her lips as she falls apart in your hold is like a prayer. Or the praise from a goddess who has decided to adorn the life of a mere mortal, you.

“[Y/N]!” There’s a hint of a whine to her gasp. “I love you.”

The red locks are matted against her skull from the steam but still soft on your lips as you find the way to her ear. “I lo–”

Out of nowhere, the pain bombards you, starting in your head but sending rigid tendrils into the rest of your body.

Gone is the gentle lapping of the water and the comfortable weight of Natasha’s body against you. Fighting against leaded eyelids, you catch a glimmer of white and steel illuminated by a (thankfully dimmed) panel of LED lights overhead, but it’s the smell of hand sanitizer that reveals where this is. Infirmary. This time, as you try to look around again, it’s evident that you’re alone. Aware of an itch on the back of your hand, it’s with some trepidation you begin to search for the button to call for the nurse or whoever’s on duty.

What happened? You recall the bath, the sighs on Tasha’s lips before…the vision. The scene had unfolded (or will unfold) somewhere tropical, a lush jungle as a backdrop for the little houses in a village or maybe the outskirts of a town. It’s the two-story building with the flaking reddish concrete that holds Brock, so that’s where you have to go because you’re the only one that can get access to the place. But…why? There’s no logic to it as far as you can tell. Why would he let me in? But he did, or will, waiting on the other side of the door with a crazed smile as if it had been an agreement to meet. It hurts just to think about it, and not just in your head.

A door slides open with the ssshhh of vacuum, allowing the petite Dr. Cho to enter with Maria Hill in tow.

“How you feelin’?” Maria asks, phone in hand and thumb dancing on the little screen, “Promised to let Natasha know as soon as you woke up.”

Your throat is dry when you try to answer, but Cho is already prepared and stands with a glass of water with a straw in it. It’s drained before you try again. “I’m ‘kay…I guess.” Admittedly, you wouldn’t quite mind volunteering to test a guillotine, but that just means you’re alive. “Where’s Tasha? Why am I here?”

 

…   Romanoff   …

 

48 hours. Learning to wait had been a part of Natasha’s training, but the last 48 hours after [Y/N] seized up in the bathtub have been the longest and hardest to get through for the former assassin. Steve had offered she stayed back, he could ask his buddy Sam to cover, but of course she can’t accept that either. The redhead needs to stay busy which isn’t an option if she stayed by the side of the bed. Useless, that’s what Tasha would have been.

“Everything’s okay?” Clint asks, placing the last slice of cheese on the impressive sandwich he’s made.

There’s a distinct absence of weight on Natasha’s chest, a pressure she hadn’t allowed herself to focus on until now when she finally can breathe freely again. “Yeah, everything’s fine.”

Chapter Text

“Keep moving,” the instruction rings out, “hands up, elbows in.”

If she could just sound tired. But Maria Hill is in excellent shape, meaning that seemingly nothing steals her breath as she circles you with the clumsy focus pads. Of course, your hits don’t make the woman stagger either, although she’s claiming you’ve improved.

It was hard at first to really want to hit hard. Maria had suggested imagining HYDRA agents in her place or maybe even Brock and it had kinda worked…until a split-second before the impact when you’d suddenly become acutely aware that it was, in fact, Maria standing there ready to take the punch. Screw the padding and your weak arms, the idea of potentially hurting someone made you hold back a bit.

Not today.

Today your fists are coming in heavily, sending little shockwaves through the rest of your body as the pad stops the forward movement. Gotta get ready. An urgency is fueling you, allowing you to take her comments and turn them into action while each breath burns in your lungs and your arms are getting tired. You know what you’re working towards. More importantly, there’s finally new clues on where Brock Fucking Rumlow is. Finally, for the first time, there’s a quiet grunt as Maria takes a tiny step backwards.

“Again.”

She doesn’t have to say it because your arm is already drawing back. We’ll find him. Fist hard (and with the thumb safely outside the other fingers’ grip). I’ll never ever be his again! The sound is both sharp from the latex cover and muted from the foam inside, creating a sharp thump or a silenced slap depending on how you look at it. Either way, it feels satisfying. I gotta get better.

 

…   Romanoff   …

 

[Y/N] is not the one to greet them as the quinjet lands and Natasha’s surprised to feel a tiny sting of something uncomfortable in her heart at the idea that her girlfriend hasn’t made it out there despite ample warnings from Jarvis and maybe Maria Hill too. At least the latter is waiting rigidly by the doors with a frown plastered on the face.

“’Bout time you got back,” she announces with the business voice.

Stark scoffs. “Missed you too, honey.”

But the dark-haired woman ignores him, going straight to Natasha instead. “I’ve tried to get [Y/N] to take time off between training, but she won’t listen to me.”

“After the intel?”

“Of course.”

“Does she eat?” Clint gets involved with one of the major concerns he has, having spent more than enough time as a kid and adolescent stealing or scrounging for food.

“Some.”

Regardless of food-intake or training regimen, Nat would be hurrying to wherever the woman is because a few days had turned into more than a week and the distance, the absence, had been so horrible that not even Thor or her oldest friend could soothe the ache. So close now. The red-head stalks down the halls under the guidance of Jarvis. Soft lips, perfect voice, oh god the scent too! In a moment she’ll be able to drown herself in the nearness of [Y/N].

The slapping of flesh against latex can start vastly different tracks of thoughts especially when hard breathing is added. Natasha knows what to expect as she silently steps into the gym and her eyes are immediately fixating on the near perfect stance and the fists’ paths to the sandbag.

“Elbows in, babe,” she offers after a few minutes, making the woman squeal in fear and/or delight.

The ensuing pounce sends them sprawling onto the sparring mats, limbs tangling delightfully (though uncomfortably) to provide maximum proximity. It doesn’t matter that teeth clank against each other or that half the kisses don’t even land fully on the lips – it’s still the best greeting Nat could wish for.

Out of breath, [Y/N] eventually does pull away long enough. “Welcome home!”

“Imma have to leave more often just for the sake of this.” There will always be missions, but it’s still an empty threat. “C’mon, girl, training’s done for today and you need to tell me everything I’ve missed, ‘kay?”

 

…   Rumlow   …

 

It’s a gamble, and one that Brock would normally stay the hell away from in any other situation, but allowing the right information about his plans to leak out might just do the trick and lure [Y/N] out of hiding – if for no other reason then simply to find some sort of closure as it’s naïve to assume Rogers and his pets haven’t gotten her mind all twisted and set against Brock and Hydra.

He doesn’t see the files about the new safehouse, rather the gaze has travelled through time to a rainy morning where Brock and [Y/N] had snuggled up in bed with each their steaming cup of coffee and candles lit on the dresser while they simply listened to the sound of wet Washington.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that those idyllic days are far away, that the woman he’ll bring back from the Avengers won’t readily accept the change…but there are ways to make people forget. Make them comply. Now more so as Strucker’s experiments have payed off in the shape of the twins. The little witch could be useful.

“Make sure t’ set up full security to a dummy server,” Brock orders to the lowly agent who’s been waiting for the superior to act, “and secure the rooms here and here to block ground penetrating scans…that’s where backup’ll be.”

“…yes, sir.” The hesitation is audible, making Brock raise an eyebrow in question. “It’s just erm uh…the uhm…won’t…-”

“Won’t they know it’s a trap?” he calmly finishes the question for her and allows time for an unsteady nod before nearly shouting: “Not if ya do ya goddamn job properly!”

 

…   Reader   …

 

You’re all for preparation, avoiding stepping into a trap set up by Brock. But Hydra doesn’t know what you’ve seen, the advantage it gives you and the Avengers. There are a handful of options where your ex might be, sure, but not more than what can feasibly be kept under surveillance.

Snuggling a bit closer to Natasha’s sleeping form, it’s hard to be pessimistic. I might even see more about it all. It’s not an actual invitation for a vision…but a little bit more knowledge? Yes please. Especially to explain why on earth you’d walk up to Brock’s door on your own – Natasha had of course objected to that idea and even ventured that you shouldn’t be anywhere near the place. Ever. Is that possible? Perhaps the lovely redhead will accept you to be bait to lure Brock out. I’ll be safe with Tasha there.

Careful not to wake her, you turn in her arms only to find she’s looking at you in the dimmed light. Lips plump, eyes nearly black, and hair tousled. Gorgeous. There’s nothing more natural than kissing Nat, playing with her responsive mouth to draw out a sigh even before your bodies try to melt together. Hands wandering along the curves, hills and valleys which you know by heart but never tire of exploring.

Tonight Natasha takes charge, dancing along your neck to your nipples while she greedily massages your waist, breasts, hips until you’re free of what little clothes you were wearing, and she zones in on your clit. Never breaking eye contact. There’s no gentleness now, but heavy licked stripes each ending in a flick of the tip of the tongue.

You’re keening. Reaching for her, it’s all you can do to maneuver yourself and her on the side with heads resting on each others’ thigh. Damn. Nat might have favouring you, but even in the dim light it’s obvious that she’s enjoying everything and the moment your lips touch her fold, chin brushing against the red curls, her moan makes you shiver. Both of you know this will be a battle where you each bring the other to the edge. A balancing act where one’s fall will drag the other over the edge too.

Chapter Text

How to do it? You need to figure out more than just one thing before presenting the most important point to the Avengers. Do I try to get hold of him or what? The idea itself is repelling. After Natasha and the guys had saved you from Brock, the last thing you want is to reach out to him.

Your ex is like venom. The bite from the monster had been painful, but the taint lingering in your blood and under the skin is in some ways worse because it can’t be washed away…not even after months and months of therapy. The antidote (the mental tools you are learning) helps for a while, allowing you to find rest or at least convince yourself that you really are innocent. But Brock still lingers in the shadowy recesses of your mind, waiting for a moment of weakness to poison you all over again. It’s gotta end! And I can’t sit around waiting for that asshole.

“[Y/N]?” Tasha’s voice calls out for you over the low bookcases, and you see the triumphant look on her face. “Found something.”

Weaving past a few other customers, you leave the biographies behind and head the children’s section where your girlfriend is waiting with a bright smile. Hands behind the back, a gentle rocking from the heels to the balls of her feet. Whatever she’s found is intended to be a nice present for Bruce’s birthday.

“Show me.”

With a flourish, she presents to items: a book featuring the Hulk as a hero for the kid reader, and an oblong plushy that fits in your hand. Staring at the latter, you realize that it’s a simplified, huggable version of the same Avenger, green skin and dark “pants” parting the sausage-like shape in two sections.

“That’s the cutest merch I’ve ever seen!” And there’s no doubt that you’ll have to get it for him because he so often gets ignored as opposed to the more regular-looking heroes on the team. “I want one!”

“Whaaat? You got me to cuddle with!”

“You don’t fit in my pocket.” Slipping past Tasha, you spot an entire selection of them featuring almost everyone on the team. “Oh…maybe I can find one of you.”

She drops you off by the tower (the current residence) before zooming away again for something Avenger or spy-related, but that’s okay as you need to order a Black Widow plushy without Natasha knowing it.

Safely up in the room, you dump the few bags on the bed before hanging the coat on the hook behind the door. What? A muted clunk of something bouncing against the wall catches your attention. The pockets should be empty. Jarvis debunks that assumption after a quick scan but promises that it’s nothing more than a box and some paper.

 

…   Rumlow   …

It had been simple, according to the agent. A smooth walk-by in the bookstore while [Y/N] wasn’t paying attention. She hadn’t stuck close to Romanoff, ha! Of course that sort of carelessness won’t be acceptable when [Y/N]’s back with him, but for now it’s for the better because it makes everything so much easier. I wonder…it would be too much to hope for, but the distance could also be explained by a sort of distance between the two women, making it even more likely that the plan will work.

Brock had spent an entire day putting together the contents of the little plastic box before handing it over to an agent with a fresh face. A short note revealing nothing except a caution to stay safe, not pushy. But the pictures, they are the crème de la crème. Some are all photographs of [Y/N] from the smiley, happy days, others show Romanoff, Rogers, and the other bitches in action…and the best thing is that no photoshopping has been needed to make them look like cold-hearted killers. His favourite picture is that of the redhead chilling in a couch with a gun in the hand and a corpse sprawled at her feet. Thank you, KGB. The red room had taken a perverse pride in the students’ accomplishments.

Turning over on the cot, it’s all too easy to imagine [Y/N]’s horror-filled eyes staring at the gift. She’ll refuse it at first, pretend to know it’s not true, but after the twists her life has taken, she’ll have to check if she wants peace of mind. And you’ll see, sweetie, I’m not the bad guy here. One nudge at a time, Brock will show the girl who really cares about her.

Chapter Text

Of course, you had showed Natasha (and subsequently the rest of the team) the little surprise you’d found in the coat pocket. Hands shaking, you had laid out every single picture of them and their deadly work, but also photographs starring yourself. Smiling. A sparkle in the eyes. And almost exclusively in close contact with the ex boyfriend from hell, Brock Rumlow, formerly known as your love. It made you sick to the stomach even before you pulled out the note.

Scribbled in the square, painstakingly clean handwriting of a man who preferred to use his hands for other things, the little slip of paper had kept screaming at you even as it lay on the table for all the present Avengers to see. Natasha had gone dangerously silent, causing Clint to wriggle nervously in the chair until Tony (of course it was Tony) broke the silence with some snarky comment to break the tension.

That was almost a week ago.

Now, you’re pretending to play their game.

Perusing the mix of seasonal decorations of varying quality, you discreetly wander a bit away from Tasha. There’s a stall between the two of you when you pause to pick up a pouch of spices, coat hanging loosely around your form as you force yourself to stay put when people get too close for comfort.

“I don’t get what you like about it,” you announce to your girlfriend who’s trying to convince you of the delight of Pumpkin Spice, “first off…you could mix it a lot cheaper on you own.”

The smile is audible in the voice. “That’s not the point.”

“Well, at least admit it’s hyped”

“Sure, it is.” There’s no shame or guilt.

Someone brushes by you, reaching over the display for a back of lemon salt. It’s hard not to be obvious as you (hopefully discreetly) follow the guy’s movement out of the corner of your eye, seeing him amble over to the fish stall and by calamari. I’ll never eat that again…too many tentacles.

More than once during the hour you wander the market before heading back to the Tower, you pat the pocket with the little box. It’s being reused for a message of sorts, a tentative answer to Brock as though you might truly be changing your mind about trusting the Avengers – there’s no promise that you’ll return to him…not yet, because that would be suspicious. But despite your vigilance, the change happens without your notice. One box swapped for another and waiting for you to discover it which you do when you get upstairs and hang up the coat.

 

…   Romanoff   …

Jealousy? The tight knot in her chest and the churning stomach doesn’t quite fit with that diagnosis, Nat has to admit, leaving very few other options. Stomach bug…nah. Worry. Fear, maybe. Perhaps it’s a combination, but regardless of what is causing the restlessness and discomfort it’s clear what the cause is. [Y/N]. That wonderful, brave, stubborn…perfection.

Natasha can’t be mad at the girlfriend even if they disagree wholeheartedly about the level of involvement, and damn it, it’s hard to argue with someone who can use the argument “I saw the future and…”. Besides, Rumlow is a pain in the ass and the team needs a way in, some strategy to find and reach him.

“Babe…” [Y/N] sighs, “you’re thinking very loudly.”

Squirming around, she turns in Natasha’s arms to lie chest to chest and with their legs tangled together until it was impossible to tell where one started and the other began. A gentle kiss fumblingly placed on the spy’s forehead due to the dark before lips trace the bridge of the nose and then drop to willing lips. Calmness.

Growing up in the Red Room and during the many years after, the former Russian never thought she ever would allow anyone to have this sort of power over her…then she’d met Clint and through him people whom she now considered friends. Compromised. Emotions had always been considered a liability until then, but Nat learned that emotions, and love in particular, also can make you stronger.

What [Y/N] makes her feel is beyond anything before. Completion. The constant ache living inside her is gone, filled up by something that had been missing without her knowing it. But it’s more than that, and it requires a whole new language to express.

Still Natasha tries her best: “Y’know what I’m thinking…don’t ya?”

“Let me seeee…” Oh, the woman knows alright. “You’re split between knowing what’s needed aaaand…wanting to do anything to keep me safe?” It’s not necessary to answer. “And if you’re anything like me then it’s just as much for your own sake as it’s for mine…y’don’t want me hurting any kinda way.” A soft kiss on the cheeks makes the Avenger sigh. “Also ‘cause it’d hurt you.”

Lips meet slowly, moulding to each other until Natasha feels like she has to apologize – an attempt that’s stalled sweetly. There’s no need for words.

Please, you gotta stay safe, babe!

 

…   Rumlow   …

It’s a slow process to rebuild the connection with [Y/N]. Days or even weeks pass sometimes where it’s impossible to get close enough for any of Brock’s people to do the exchange, and on top of that the stubborn bitch (Sorry, love) is hard to convince to give up on the Avengers or to come back to him like she’s supposed to.

With each box, however, she’s a bit closer. A month more, give or take, then perhaps she will be ready to return of her own free will.

Come back to me, sweet cheeks. I’ll take care of you.

Chapter Text

It’s a tension at the back of your knees. It’s muscles itching to work overtime – fight or flight. It’s a sour taste at the back of your mouth at the point where no amount of water can wash it away. Still it doesn’t matter because what you’re doing, your mission of sorts, is going to be worth everything.

It’s taken much too long to get to this point where your walking up the dusty lane towards an inconspicuous house in the outskirt of…where’s this again? Somewhere in Sierra Leone. You had known, memorized the town’s name as well as anything else. Memorized the plan. Now, however, it’s replaced by a memory of something that hasn’t even happened yet, making your skin crawl as cold shivers run down the spine. Red sand clings to the boots (much too warm for the temperature). Like blood.

“Something nice…” you mumble, grasping at a flicker spark of joy before it’s swallowed, “…something nice…”

Red like fiery hair. And suddenly, it’s possible to recognize the blue of the sky in the teasing sparkle of a pair of grey eyes capable of looking into your very soul, making you feel safe and at home. The churning lead in your guts lessens. Now you can let the shoulders sink and even look up towards the goal: a heavy door painted green behind which Rumlow waits.

 

…   Rumlow   …

Every single note and stick-figure drawing Brock has received from [Y/N] is kept in a tin as evidence. At first her replies had been brief, hesitant in the wording and quite confrontational…but that was to be expected. She has still to admit her feelings for him, but it’s obvious as the communication extends how she recognizes the true nature of the Avengers. Why spend resources on catching someone, when they are willing to come on their own.

Brock isn’t a fool. Far from. There’s always the risk of a double-cross, his own plan mirrored to out him or more of Hydra. And regardless of the reasoning for [Y/N] to come today, she will have to be processed and vetted before he will allow himself to trust her. But it will be much easier this time.

Watching the screen, the ex boyfriend sees the hesitation melt away from the figure to be replaced with resolution. Come to me, baby. All the other screens show…nothing. No, would-be heroes. No pesky Mister Rogers with a shield and the American flag so far up his ass that he can’t relax. No red-head traitor. All alone? It’s hard to believe, so Brock doesn’t, flicking a switch instead that light a tiny, orange diode in the two free-rooms, as the team have started calling the scan-blocking basement sections. On your marks.

There’s a muted sound of footsteps outside preceding the knocking on the door. Twice, a pause, and once. Good girl.

He’s smiling as he unlocks and pulls the door aside just a crack to see the nervousness on [Y/N]’s face, but it’s not enough to drown the stubborn set of the jaw or the air of…excitement? Eager to come home?

“What’s a girl like ya doin’ in a place like this…?” Such a cliché, but it rolls off Brock’s tongue with a neat drawl.

The hint of an eyeroll also hints at times passed. “Girl’s just wanna have fun. Nice decoy to free me up from ‘em.”

Them. Not Natasha or Steve or whatever. “Only the best for ya, as always.” She has said the password but hesitates to enter when Brock opens the door fully. “C’m’on in, babe.”

“How long we got?”

“They’re smart, but th’ain’t that smart…I’ll guess an hour.” There’s a tickle of something he can’t place in the woman’s smile. “The cool air’s escaping, get it.”

Like in a dream, she really does step over the threshold, carefully keeping a bit of distance between them. I should’ve expected that. It still gnaws inside Brock, tugs at the side of him that needs the bitch to understand, to accept her place. But he bites it back. All the anger and possessiveness is shoved deep down somewhere dark because he knows he’ll bring her to her senses. Soon.

Brock casts a brief glance to a screen out of the girl’s view showing a mix of live feeds from local and global news stations, a few of them covering the draught and the lack of safe drinking water while the majority heralds the wedding of some celebrity. No breaking news. It’s not typical of the Avengers to work quietly, especially not if the glorified tin can is flying around blasting rock music. Well…at least one of those idiots has style. Haven’t they taken the bait?

“All alone?” There’s an air of something studied mixing with the playful tone. “I’d half begun to think I was –“

“Shut up.” Thankfully, [Y/N] does as told, body ripe with fear to the point where he almost can smell it. “Why’re ya here? Really?”

“Really?” Perfect confusion. Innocence. “’Cause we’re not over yet, Brock.”

Something beeps from the console of screens and the hydra agent is about to turn to see what has caused the alarm to go off when [Y/N] reaches for him. Such a simple gesture, still it sparks an old habit in the man and he takes the hand in his for a long second – one he would wish could last forever. But he has to let go, hand slightly sticky from her sweaty touch. Another alarm begins, and he can hear the sound of the agents in the free-rooms banging on the doors though an oceans rush in his head. The world sways, unfocused. What the fuck? Oh, yeah, there comes the sea sickness even if he hasn’t felt it since he was a kid.

“You know,” [Y/N] softly whispers from far away into his ear, “when I said we’re not over…” She has a stronger grip than expect on his arm and shoulder, somehow forcing him on his knees. “I should’ve said I’m not done with you, Rumlow.”

The world might be reduced to a stormy sea, but he can still feel the nauseating pain as the shoulder dislocates. I’ve had…worse. That much is true. It’s not even the pain, really, making him sick to the stomach, rather the knowledge of what [Y/N] wants to get even for.

“[Y/N],” he slurs, the tongue too thick in the mouth, “I-I-I…lllo’ ya…” That lands his face pressed onto the dirty floor at an uncomfortable angle. She’s…holding my ass…

“No, Rumlow, you don’t love.” There’s a sound of metal against metal. “Let me demonstrate what you do.”

 

…   Romanoff   …

“Damn, sweetie…”

Even Nat is impressed, and slightly grossed out, at the creativity her girlfriend has shown. So much so, she almost feels sorry for Rumlow who’s passed out on the floor in a sticky pool of almost every bodily liquid of his own. Well if almost means not at all.

Sam had taken one look and then gone outside to hurl, and even Thor looks shocked. “My lady, your enemies will surely know not to stir your wrath from this day forth.”

“My track record with coping mechanisms isn’t great…so…” Tony can’t look at it either, but at least he hasn’t lost the bad humour. “Let me know if’t works, ‘kay?”

“Oh, it feels very…cathartic…” [Y/N] looks at the guy with a distanced calmed.

Too calm. Cathartic or not, this will undoubtedly have consequences both legally and emotionally for Rumlow’s former prisoner. None of it can be explained away as self defense. It can’t be by the time the person is face down, ass up, and the metal sheathed where the sun don’t shine.

“I’m gonna take her to the quinjet, you guys stabilize him and see if he can talk…ever…”

And so Natasha leaves the men behind, steering a dazed woman by the arm across the uneven terrain through a patch of dried out shrubs behind which the plane is waiting.

Once onboard, she observes the mechanic reactions as [Y/N] complies with every order without uttering a single word. Come back to me, baby. The former assassin can only hope that the words reach far enough, somehow breaking through the shell her girlfriend’s mind has build in record time to prevent any of the grotesque happenings from settling. Eventually the good advice of reason are spent, leaving nothing behind but an insufferable ache.

You were doing so well, why did I let you go? “I’m sorry, love,” Nat whispers hoarsely, fingers stroking the blank face, “I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have been here. It’s my fault, please come back. You can get through this too, alright?”

On and on, the pleas dripple out similar to a hushed prayer that knows no end. The tears falling aren’t [Y/N]’s this time because for once Natasha can’t be the strong one. Kneeling before [Y/N], she wraps her arms around the living statue’s waist and buries the face in the heat of the soft breasts where she can hear the heartbeat. Slow and steady as opposed to Nat’s own that beats so frantically, she couldn’t hold her hands still if she tried.

Some things change the very foundation of a person.

In the Red Room, the girls were taught not to show mercy, to follow orders unblinkingly even if it meant the death of an other. Though the first fatalities weren’t at the students’ own hands, they knew what the consequences were once they forced another child to give up or be flunked. The changed had already started. By the time a girl graduated, became an adult though never a woman, the transformation was completed. It was expected. A flinch. A faint taste of regret in the dark of night. Nothing more.

Outside the Red Room, for people growing up in normal lives, only a low percentage of people are prepared for the Graduation, and most of those never have to complete the change themselves. For the lucky ones, violence and unnatural death will not become a habit of theirs.

[Y/N] had been one of the lucky ones until the day Hydra captured her, placing her at the mercy of Rumlow. Her change had been forced upon her, nearly killing her in the process. Perhaps Natasha, the team, even the victim herself had been fools for thinking she would be alright and the metamorphosis never would be complete. My fault. Today had been Graduation, and the ex-Russian brought the student to the test.

“Shhh,” gentle and soothing against red hair, “It’s okay, Tash, I’m here…it’ll be okay.” Gentle fingers cart through the fiery strands, nails scraping against the scalp in a calm rhythm. “I know what I did…I’ll never do it again.”

They’re both crying as they lock gazes.

“Do you know that?” Be honest. “Have you seen it?”

“This is the first time you ask me what I’ve seen.” The smile is gentle and almost reaches the [Y/E/C] eyes. “I have to continue therapy, but yeah…never again.” Soft lips kiss the salty water away from the upturned face. “I’m all yours now.”

 

…   Reader   …

Of course the clock isn’t ticking. After ages of therapy, you should be used to that…instead it makes the silence way heavier than strictly necessary. Or maybe it’s because this session is so important? Double session, actually. Pinching your brows, you manage to divert the attention from the missing tick-tock to the bit of dirt under a nail as you wait for the team consisting of a psychiatrist and a psychologist to ask the question they want to. It’s silly really. Anyone can rehearse an answer fitting with the “need”.

“So, how are you feeling, [Y/N]?” one of them final begins, glasses dangling from between to fingers and a pen in the other hand.

You take a moment, do a mini body scan. “Right now I’m nervous…” They both nod at your answer. “Generally speaking…pretty good. Still get the odd nightmare where it’s like I’m back.”

“Back?”

“M-hm.”

They want you to define the term, but it’s fun to see them try to be correct and direct at the same time. “To when Rumlow first held you against your will or…?”

“Or when I took revenge? Both.” You give them time to scribble ferociously before continuing, “I don’t think there’s some specific reason it’s one situation instead of the other…not always at least. And the technique to guide myself away from the nightmare is beginning to work a bit.”

The glasses are pulled down again, so the Psychologist can look at you directly. “Is there a difference in the intensity?”

“No. Both…events were horrible. For different reasons, sure, but horrible. What I did…” Both doctors hold their breaths as you ponder your words. “There’s an explanation for it…but no excuse. I know that.”

With all the nodding they’re doing, it seems only fair if they get a kink in the neck eventually. Sometimes the bobble-heads ask more questions, about the house arrest in the tower or your relationship with the Avengers. They never once get into specific about Natasha and you, although it’s there like some elephant in the room. Even professionals can have issues.

By the time the two hours are up, you’ve got them smiling genuinely. Perhaps, maybe, if you’re lucky…will they clear you?

“Who sends letters nowadays?” Tony scoffs, dumping a big, brown envelope on the newspaper you’re reading.

Justice Department! It’s damn near impossible to tear open the thick paper because your hands a shaking so much, and when you finally do, the words barely make any sense, so you don’t protest when the genius billionaire snags it out of your hands.

It feels like forever, longer than the months you’ve waited to hear what the psychiatrist’s and psychologist’s decision is, before Tony finally looks up. “Jarvis!”

“Yes, sir.”

You can’t read his face, allowing the nerves to run amok. “Call the team, Pepper, and Happy.”

“May I inquire as to the occasion?”

“Yeah.” Finally, his face splits into a huge smile. “We’re gonna celebrate.”

Chapter Text

Still flying high on a comfortable champagne-buzz, it’s impossible not to feel like you’re in heaven when Natasha trips you onto the bed, straddling you to contain the bounce from the mattress.

“You’re in trouble,” she smirks, already trailing feathery kisses along the clavicle.

Shivers run down to your core because the definition of trouble appears to be the best kind. “What you gonna do? Punish me?”

“Don’t tempt me.” Teeth find your nipple through the few layers of clothes, adding a spark of pain amidst the pleasure Tasha’s hands are doling out in long strokes up and down your body. “You’re grounded until I’m back, that’s for sure.”

The team, including Thor, is leaving to follow up on some of the very convincing leads Brock has given once he was able to talk again. This time it’s somewhere in eastern Europe where they hope to find a Hydra research facility tucked away in a mountainous area with only a smallish city nearby. Not even your bad feelings about the mission have been able to change their mind.

Grabbing Natasha’s face between your palms, you manage to hold her attention for a moment. “Watch out for the girl.”

“I know. We will.” The kiss is sweet and tender with promises beyond anything words can muster while still stealing your breath completely. “But first I gotta deal with…this…one…woman…” the redhead explains, underlining the last words with chaste pecks along the jaw and neck.

It’s not entirely clear when - while undressing each other in between caresses and heat-guided mouths - the Black Widow manages to pull out silk ropes to tie you spread-eagled to the bed, however your reaction is evident as she slides a lazy fingertip from your knee to your folds. I trust you. Natasha knows many kinds of torture, but only one is reserved for you and it’s the sweetest of all, causing your body to ache and thrum with delight even before she has started.

For a moment the playfulness is gone, contained storms locking with your gaze. “You know what to say…?”

“The usual,” you whisper. Rumlow.

It’s never been needed. Natasha treads carefully, slow to push your boundaries out of respect for the past. In fact, most people might not even ensure the safety measures she insist on are in place for what the two of you have tried to so far…but that only makes it more important.

“Good girl.” The crooked smile is back, accompanied with a glimmer in her eyes.

She knows you, knows how to elicit any reaction from the traitorous body of yours. You might as well have “Belongs to Romanoff” tattooed on every limb the way her touch leaves traces of lust behind. Nipples puckered hard, goosebumps dancing the tango across the planes of you belly and along your arms, shivers urging you to roll your pelvis until the Venus mound is cupped by your girlfriend’s palm as she plays in the wetness.

Little sounds of delight erupt from Natasha whenever you manage to graze her shape with your lips or when your suggestions (of what you would do to her if she lets you free) tickle her imagination.

“You keep using your mouth, but maybe for the wrong things?” she purrs.

Elegantly as ever, the heavenly thighs lock around your stretched arms and chest, keeping you steady as she lowers her core towards your face. Never once does she stop what she’s doing to your clit, she only has to lean forward to lavish it with licks that you greedily mirror as you delve face first into the damp, red curls. Sweet cinnamon, but salt and sour at the same time too, and you know you’ll never be tired of the taste. Or the way she responds.

“Oh, [Y/N]! Right…ye-eah.”

It makes you smile into her cunt, spreading the folds to plunge the tongue inside after a long and heavy lick.

Then you still.

Distracted.

Something smooth and cool is running through your own wetness, something much thicker and longer than expected. I trust her. Maybe you said it out oud, because she abandons the hesitance and latch on to your clit with lips and tongue simultaneous with the vibration beginning to pulse through the toy, nudging at the entrance to your greedy core.

It’s been a long time. The stretch is almost painful despite the urgency you feel for more. Natasha’s steady hand guides the vibrator partially in and out, tracing your folds with it and running it along her tongue onto the clit that sings from the extra stimulation…but she doesn’t let you cum.

And if you forget to pay attention to her needs? Cold air flutters across your exposed flesh at the abandonment, making you pout, and whimper…even if you do return to the delicious task above you. The feel of Nat’s nails tells how close she is along with the heavier breathing. A bit more. It applies to you too, hips thrusting towards the pumps of the toy filling you out each time now. Bit more.

Every nerve in your and Natasha’s bodies are focused on the heavy, sweet lump deep within. Filling and tightening. It’s almost too much. A nimble tongue dances on the most sensitive of spots – a duet with a partner out of sight but reaching across the distance until, finally, there is no such thing as distance or time. All there’s left is a rainbow of ecstasy crashing through you both, convulsing lovers crying the names of each other as bliss explodes.

It takes a long time to ride it out, each movement sends new waves through your overstimulated bodies, but even as Natasha lies down next to you, tossing the silk aside to set you free, the hunger isn’t sated and you can see it as dark embers in her eyes too.

“That’s gonna last me a day. Tops.” You kiss her nose to make sure she knows how wonderful anything with her is.

The wicked smile lights up your world. “That long?”

Tops,” you repeat with a grin, “now gimme that thing.”