She gets back from a mission in Timbuktu on a late Wednesday night - or an early Thursday morning, however one wants to look at it - and she heads for the kitchen. Her wounds have already been treated by the S.H.I.E.L.D. doctors, and her breathing is heavy because of the fractured ribs on her left side. The adrenalin in her body is still high so she can't make herself go to sleep just yet.
She puts water on the stove and a frozen dinner in the microwave before going to grab some utensils. She hears footsteps behind her and on instinct grabs the first knife from the cupboard before turning around in one swift motion.
Bruce chuckles as she holds a knife to his throat. "I probably should've knocked or something."
She lifts an eyebrown and nods her head to the side, lightly shrugging. "Probably.", she smirks, putting the knife down.
"Good to see you back in one piece, Ms. Romanoff.", he says, a light smile on his face. "We were beginning to worry."
She knows that when he says we he actually means I and the thought of him worrying about her and missing her is a pleasant one.
"Took a bit longer than expected to get the information needed, but nothing I couldn't handle.", she goes to sit at the table and Bruce hurries to help her. "Bruce, I'm fine."
"I know you are, Natasha.", he says but still helps her sit down on the chair. Her breath hitches in her throat as the pain in her ribs becomes stronger.
Natasha looks at him and concludes that arguing with him will get her nowhere so she gives him a smile which he returns before the microwave dings and he goes to take the dinner out.
She digs into it quickly as if only now realising how hungry she is. "Couldn't sleep?", she asks in between bites. She probably knows the answer he'll give her already - with time, she's started reading him like an open book - and the silence doesn't bother her, but she still tries to politely make small talk and he appreciates it, really.
He shakes his head. "There are good days and bad days.", he replies. "This is a bad day."
Natasha nods in understanding and continues to eat as Bruce leans on the table, putting his head in his hands. He's tired, but somehow sleep won't come no matter what he tries and she absolutely knows the feeling.
He probably does doze off for a while, though - maybe he really is dead tired, or maybe it's the effect of her calming presence; he doesn't know for sure but would bet on the latter - because the next thing he sees when his eyes open again is a cup of warm tea on the table in front of him. He looks up at Natasha who only smirks as she brings her own cup to her lips.
"Thank you.", he says, taking the cup off the table and into his cold hands. The warmth of the cup soon passes onto them and he feels.. content.
"One of my personal favorites.", Natasha replies while he takes a sip. "Helps soothe the nerves."
"Chamomile?", Bruce asks, his eyes closed as if he's concentrating on the taste.
"Among.. other things.", Natasha smirks.
"Do I want to know what those things are?"
Natasha shrugs. "Probably not.", she replies and a laugh escapes Bruce's lips.
This sudden sense of tranquility comes over him every time he's with her; especially like this, when they're sitting together, drinking tea and talking and at least for a few moments forgetting about things they can usually never forget. Being with her makes him feel like he's.. home.
He finds that he missed that feeling, and he quite likes it.
Bruce examines her face, noticing a faint bruise on her left cheek – nothing too horrible, but it still makes him want to wince a bit because th thought of her being in pain hurts him – and a slight cut on her bottom lip, which obviously isn't as bad as it looks since she still keeps biting down on it every once in a while. Her eyes catch his, then, and she smiles while sending him a reassuring look that whispers I'm fine and he simply nods an I know, his eyes never leaving hers.
He gulps down the last of his tea and goes to put the cup in the sink. As he passes her, she just lifts her own cup for him to grab and it's become such an unconscious movement for the both of them showing just how many times they've done this; the late night talks over tea as the morning sun rises, creeping in through the windows and filling the room with natural light.
Putting the cups in the sink, he walks to stand behid her. His hands fall softly on her shoulders and she shivers as if she's cold. Bruce slowly massages her shoulders and she brings her head up to look at him, a small smile on her lips.
His arms around her make her feel safe and she realises that this is exactly what she needed after the awful weeks in Timbuktu. She made a good judgement by staying quiet and letting the S.H.I.E.L.D. doctor assign her bed rest for at least two weeks instead of her usual nagging to get back to work in a matter of days, because now they won't dare call her on a mission and she gets to keep this feeling of home and love and safety alive for a while longer, uninterrupted.
"How about we give sleep another try, meri jaan?", he asks and she puts her hand over one of his, her thumb moving over it.
She nods, and they go.
Later – when his arms are around her waist and when her light breathing and her heart beating are the only sounds that fill the room – he finds himself falling asleep and knows that this time he'll sleep more peacefully that he has in years.
She turns his bad nights into good, and he can only hope he does the same for her.