A little post-WS drabble. Maybe it's kind of pre-romancey Brutasha? Speaking of which, can we talk about how my favorite Avengers ship might just be canon by next summer?!
Usual disclaimers apply (which is to say that I don't own the rights to the characters, yadda yadda...).
She found him in a bar in a tiny Guatemalan village three days after her entire world finished imploding. It would have been sooner, if he'd been in New York where she'd last heard from him. When Stark told her he had taken off again, a sudden, suffocating fear she couldn't explain had gripped her. What if he'd already seen it on the news? Or watched it appear on the internet? What if he already knew?
She wanted a chance to explain, in person, what she had done and why she'd done it; after all, it wasn't just her secrets she had splashed all over the internet for the world to see. The others had little or nothing to lose, and it had been her choice to face the firing squad for her many sins. But she'd had no right to make that decision for him.
She couldn't take it back. She couldn't change what she'd done. She couldn't reasonably expect to make it right with an apology and an explanation.
But those were the only things she could do, so she had to at least try.
"You found me," he said quietly, his eyes trained on the ancient television above the bar. Apparently this was the only TV in the village that received American news broadcasts, and Natasha didn't need to look at it to know what was scrolling across the screen.
"You weren't in New York," she ventured cautiously, "It took some doing."
"Yeah, Tony," she forced herself to look at the screen, "Obviously you've heard."
"And saw," he glanced at her, "How'd the hearing go?"
"About as well as can be expected," she shrugged, "I don't care. Even if they decide to persecute me, they'll never find me."
"Spoken like a true fugitive," he smiled ruefully.
"I could say the same for you."
"Yeah, well, whatever privacy I had before is shot all to hell now," it was his turn to shrug, "I thought it might be a good idea to get out of the city for a while."
"It was," her eyes drifted back to the screen, where a general named Talbot was ranting silently, his mouth moving but without the sound, he was laughable instead of menacing, "They asked about you. At the hearing, I mean. They wanted to know where you were. I told them I didn't know."
"Thanks," he nodded gratefully in her direction.
He obviously didn't know the details of what had happened. If he did, he wouldn't be smiling like that. He wouldn't be thanking her. And a small, petty, lonely part of her wanted to keep it that way.
But that was not why she was here.
"You really shouldn't be thanking me," she said. Her voice was barely above a whisper.
She had rehearsed this speech a thousand times on the way here. She'd known exactly what she would say, and now it had all flown out of her ears like so much rushing wind. She barely shut her mouth in time to keep from stuttering like a fool.
"Why not, Natasha?"
She'd always loved the way he said her name. Soft and gruff at the same time. He rumbled when he talked. She found this endearing and ridiculously pleasant to listen to. And now she was just stalling, even as he stared at her with those sad, beautiful eyes that were quickly filling with realization.
"We had to stall Pierce. It was the only way to take down the Helicarriers. The only way to expose Hydra. I had to…" she squeezed her eyes shut for a split-second and shook her head, "No. I chose to release it all. SHIELD's whole database. Including the Index. Including who you are. And that wasn't entirely my call, but I had to make it. And I wanted to tell you in person and explain why, before you heard about it on the news. I'm sorry I couldn't find you in time. I'm sorry for… for everything."
She was fairly sure this was the most words she had ever said to him at once, and he was no longer watching her warily, he was staring at the bar surface, his eyes burning into the scratches in the weathered surface, his fingers tapping out a nervous rhythm on the wooden bartop. She stood up.
She'd said what she'd come to say, and now the ball was in his court. She expected him to never speak to her again.
So when she felt his fingers curl around her wrist and a light tug on her arm, pulling her back to her seat, back to face him, she was surprised to find no anger or malice in his eyes. Instead, she found concern.
"You're okay, though, right?"
She blinked at him, "I'm… I'm fine. As fine as any of us can be, anyway."
"It said Fury…" he gestured at the television, "I mean, it said that he was-"
Even as she put on a sad face and nodded, she leaned forward so he could hear her low whisper, "You shouldn't believe everything you hear on the news."
He looked relieved. Maybe because Fury had kept his word, let Bruce go, and kept his name out of things as best he could. Even if it was only out of gratitude, she was grateful for that much. Because Nick Fury was the closest thing to a father she could remember ever having, and losing him, even for that brief few hours, had been painful.
"But you and Steve… the other guy? There was another guy on the news footage…" he looked back at the television, as if Sam would magically appear. She couldn't help but smile a little.
"Sam. His name is Sam Wilson. And yes, we're all fine," she suddenly found a hangnail on her left thumb incredibly interesting. He was Bruce Banner, and so it was in his wheelhouse to be deeply concerned for all of their safety before anything else. But sooner or later, they'd get back to the "anything else".
God, but he was stubborn. She sighed impatiently.
"Bruce, you heard what I told you, right? I mean, I… it's my fault. And you can hate me if you want, just don't pretend I never said anything, please."
He looked at her, a startled expression on his face. It softened suddenly to something she couldn't quite identify. He started to say something, but then appeared to change his mind.
"It was going to happen eventually," he said finally, glancing back at the screen, "And I suppose it's nice to know I'm not alone in this."
She only then registered that he was still holding her hand, because he was squeezing it comfortingly.
"I don't hate you, 'Tasha," he whispered, "I'm proud of you."
And she didn't know until right then the weight she had been carrying; how badly she'd needed to hear those words.
"It's okay," she whispered, "We're gonna be okay."
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