A/N: My first published stab at Brutasha. Originally written for my incredibly lovely (and talented-check out some of her work) friend-NothinButTheRain here on FF. She introduced me to the ship and constantly and selflessly reassures me and eases my turmoil when I'm editing. Bruce and Natasha are an established relationship, mountaineering in Chile, and it gets affectionate. Please tell me your thoughts, constructive criticism and reviews are appreciated. I eagerly await May 1 along with you all. :)

The rainfall stains the heavy night air with a chill that settles on her skin like frost on a glazed lake. Wet bullets barrage the nylon canvas of their tent and pave a darkened, damp trail down the sides, dripping and sloshing onto the soft earth beneath them. She's separated from the cool mud by three layers-the thin floor of their shelter, her sleeping bag, and the damned camisole and shorts that serve as her pajamas. It might as well be nothing as tremors of night's chilly stillness creep up her spine and resonate throughout her body. Every droplet that smacks against the angled roof above makes her nerves come alive. Underneath her trembling skin, she's filled with a cold that doesn't quite freeze her into a pseudo comatose state, for that would be merciful. No, she's quivering with the kind of frost that festers and wages war with the heat pumping in her veins. It's a chill that has her senses standing on edge, full attention, clearly aware of each quake that echoes along her limbs.

She lies there, trying to internalize the outward signs of icy discomfort, and involuntarily thinks of Bruce and his kindly spoken sentiments, insisting that she go to bed wearing something heavier.

We're in the South American rainforest, she had contended, I'll be fine. She mocked her logic now, reversed her train of thought and retraced its illogical journey. Mistakes were a rarity for her, an obstacle she thought conquered, but this one gnawed a hole that would leave a scar for later remembrance (not regret, she learned to forgo regret long ago).

He'd pressed, "I have an extra shirt-"

Bruce. It had been the end to his vocalized concern and the start of her torment. They parted the evening with a lingering kissed pressed from her lips to his, a hand rubbing her exposed shoulder, reluctant to depart even when they parted. He'd murmured a question against her mouth, offering a prospect of added heat, which she mindlessly-foolishly-dismissed and sunk into her sleeping bag thereafter. He stayed up, listening, monitoring, she knew, just to make sure though they shared the understanding of her headstrong ways.

Part of her wishes that he had been stubborn and belligerent with his counsel, because then she could lay there and be angry with him. Rage would stoke the embers of a fire, long extinguished now, that would've provided her some distraction or shred of warmth. Instead, she's left with spite for only herself and it stabs at her like icicles.

A gasp escapes her, a wisp of air forced from her deflated lungs, and she freezes.

In the quiet, she realizes that she has not been as surreptitious as previously thought, contributing the occasional shuffle of her sleeping bag to the soundtrack of the light downfall. She can't see Bruce behind her, but she can hope that he's not awake. She doesn't feel his eyes watching her, just his presence beside her as he slumbers with soft pants and a long sleeved shirt the color of the navy sky before the sun departs.

She waits with the rain beating against her eardrums.

When she thinks she's safe to shudder, her expectation is dashed with a simple dictation that penetrates the suffering of her solitude. "Natasha."

Statuesque silence serves as her response, ever determined to overcome this conflict on her own like always. It's imperfect, penetrated by splashes of thick rain, the noises of the forest delayed by the full and sodden air that clutches and snags on every surface. Where there should be crickets and cicadas orchestrating the evening's tune, a rustle of leaves and underbrush, wind whipping their haven, the persistent storm reigns, creating an ambience inappropriate for the Andean mountains. Nothing suits their setting. Abnormality is somewhat of a regularity for her, but this has completely disrupted her-

Behind her, a bag comes undone and her irksome thoughts close with a slow, easy zip. With it, there's a tiny decrescendo of breathing, a falter in his gentle, deep rhythm that's so small she doubts it's intentional. The synthetic fabric of his cocoon-a thin shell well suited for their mountaineering-shuffles with his body, shifting to one side in an unspoken beckoning.

"I'm fine." A simple urge that's issued like a commander's instruction. Returning her earlier stillness, he waits.

Headstrong pride threatens to spite her. It urges her to stay confined inside her lightweight case that's inhaling the bitter edge in the atmosphere rather than repelling it. If she tries hard enough and fixes herself in the right position, sleep will allow her to forget. This chill should come as a relief from the smoldering Chilean sun, which has left their company for only a temporary time. She's perfectly capable of handling this herself.


Screw it, a voice chimes from the pit of her gut. She forgoes her stubborn dignity and abandons her sleeping bag, freeing herself with a deft hand swept down her own zipper. In three swift motions, she transfers her body from the cover sealing her in cold over to Bruce, immediately filling the contours and gaps in his figure with her own. His arm is around her at once, quick to secure them in a pocket of warmth that communicates the rightful spirit of the rainforest. The heat brings a contrast so stark to that of her personal icicle that a final shiver ripples out from her spine, down her legs, through her chest, and out her nose, buried in his chest with her head tucked under his chin.

Comfort and the vigor of life bloom within her chest as she settles into the blanket of his body and focuses on the harmony of their breaths. Her torso chases his while he retreats in his subtle yet profound exhalation, and in return he presses against her in reassurance when air has escaped her and she surfaces to retrieve a wisp of its essence.

He fastens her to him with a sleeved arm spanning the bare spread of her back. The other acts as a support for her head, a position that's bound to make him go numb, but she can't bring herself to deny the tenderness of the hand that's dipped into the waves of her scarlet curls. The pads of his fingers caress and explore the jungle of her roots in a way that has her spiralling into the suspended place between reality and dream where she floats through an abyss of him.

She's got an arm tracing the outline of his side, the other flattened somewhat awkwardly, but warm nonetheless, on his pecs. Their legs are stacked, one of hers situated between both of his and the remaining nestled along his form. Her foot trails the leg of his pants up, breezing over the planes of his feet. Their toes embrace and lure them into a tangle of intertwined ankles and smooth soles.

Time doesn't pass, but releases them from its restraints for a stolen moment. It lifts and evaporates into the precipitation that plummets from a sky that encompasses a world separate from theirs. They drift not as two individuals but as a shared spirit.

The intimacy she knows with him as been both the most intimidating and rewarding experience she's ever encountered. She's forgotten her name yet sharpened the definitions of herself. The new vulnerability has made her know fear, anger, adventure, and a happiness beyond bounds. They'd spent so much time backing away from others, putting endless distance between themselves and their vices, their weaknesses, that they fell into a place where they found each other. The emotional withdrawal can hover over them still, though it cannot transcend the barriers of the walls that separate them from all others. Beyond the shields and the defensive fronts, there's them and this-uninhibited solace and affection.

After their personal eternity passes, he dismantles the wordless tranquility by withdrawing his chin so he can dip his mouth into the crest of her hair, "Better?"

Her nod is a mere nudge of her head, nuzzling ever closer. A bold hand slips beneath the sensible shirt he's got on and finds purchase on the grooves of his ribs, fitted for her fingers.

His small smirk spreads across her crown and he rasps, "Please bring something warmer next time."

She growls a playful, languid moan into him. "I'll do it on purpose next time."

"You don't have to forget your clothes to share a sleeping bag with me," he taunts lightly, earning him a kiss deposited on his jaw. He presses a mark of endearment to her forehead before she settles into the crook of his arm. Unbeknownst to him, or so she suspects, she watches him submit to a placid respite through hooded eyes and lets their limbs grow loose with the relaxation of rest. As she wanders and weaves through sleep's ether, among a spectrum of reflections that visit her without the censorship of consciousness, he anchors her to her identity, a reminder of her soul that she willingly and unequivocally shares with him.

They bring only one sleeping bag on their next trip.

If you enjoyed this piece or found something to improve, please leave a review and/or favorite. (A writer begging for reviews as a dog begs for a treat, naturally.) I would love if I could keep writing for these two, I adore them quite a bit. Thanks!

x Secret x