#64 Unexpected Romance

I can't not write angst when it comes to Bruce. It's why I'm so addicted to him.

Natasha couldn't think of a place more comfortable to sit than Bruce's lap.
She tapped the keyboard of her laptop in a calm speed. The computer perched above her on the counter, and she sat on Bruce's lap as he sat on the barstool.
He watched her silently, though she could feel his eyes drinking her in. That's what they did: took big gulps of reality and sent images of her into his brain. She didn't need to look at him to see it.
That's probably what she loved about him, that she didn't need to look. Ever. Being around him was like stepping up to a fire after a very cold day, or taking a shower after a hard bout of training. He made her feel so good. They way he talked to her, acted, did everything, it was as if she was sacred. She could feel it, on these days they had to themselves, as soon as he entered the room. Like if he kept focusing hard enough his thoughts would turn her to gold. In her mind she pictured them as they were now, her tapping at the keys and him watching, and she began to glow. And the longer he looked at her the brighter she became, until the whole room was made of light and she couldn't see him anymore through her own brilliance, even as his love kept fueling her.

He took a deep breath inwards, pleased. He pulled her closer, enveloping her torso in his arms, burying his face in her side, pulling his legs up, like he wanted to wrap himself around her. She wakened from her daydream, and saw she had typed "room was made of bursting light" under the miscellaneous incidents header.
"I don't deserve you," he whispered to her body, and she felt guilty. Mostly because that was why she loved him, that he didn't ask her for anything, not even her love in return, and that's why she had given herself to him. It wasn't about trusting him, because she didn't. And she hated that she didn't. It wasn't something she needed from him, and she didn't mind the pain that came with it. His complete lack of expectations was like a strange, contrite freedom. Addicted to his love is what she was, and she was ashamed. He shouldn't be that way, he should love himself too. She shouldn't be the happiest thing in his life, not the way she was now.

Still typing with one hand, she took the other and put it on his head, ran her fingers through his hair. Kissed him. Her lips whispered back, "Thank you." And she thought, I'm sorry.

Bruce stared at her eyes, because that was the only thing he could do. Her body was so perfectly pale, gorgeous head to dainty toe, but he couldn't look at it. He'd carried her to the bed, listening to her ever so quiet laughter, lay down with her there and peeled the clothing from her skin, and now he couldn't look at her.

Hesitantly he reached out a hand. From the way her expression changed, he knew she'd seen his expression change. She took his hand in hers, guided it to her face, her neck, downwards. He continues himself, a little more sure, stroking her chest. His hand reaches her breast and he stops. His thumb moves over a scar, thick and newly formed, and he strokes it. He gave her that scar, the last time he lost control. He traced its length, from a thin spindly line on her clavicle to thick, twisting pink flesh right above her nipple. In his head he imagined his hands moving over her, that scar and all her others disappearing under his healing touch. Like the doctor he pretended to be, the power to heal instead of destroy. But then tremors shook his hands as they faded to green, and he ended the daydream before it turned into a nightmare.
He took a shaky breath inwards, pushing back the anger. Anger at himself, that was the worst kind. That anger was when he loses control. Instead he looked down, finally, at the rest of her body. Her heavenly skin was covered in hellish scars, like roots of pain growing into her body. From the smallest puncture wounds on her belly and thighs to long animalistic scratches down her back and over her butt, and the worst ones, the thick pinkish marks where layers of skin had been scraped off, on both her hips and below her left breast.
He stared at those scars and felt guilty. They were all from the other guy, and though he tried to distance himself by calling that freakish beast a different person, he knew it was still him. He lets the guilt take place of the anger, replaces his bitter feelings with sorrow and regret. He won't change if he lets his heart get low.
He looked back at her face, laying there in the pure white sheets, hoped his sorrow doesn't show too much in his own.

Natasha pulled herself closer, pressed her body against his still-clothed form. She moved her arms around him, pressed her face into his chest, snaked her legs around his.
"I don't deserve you," she said in a shaking voice, muffled by his shirt.
It was the greatest mystery of his life that she could ever love him, even though he was killing her one fucked up mission at a time. He figured she didn't really. More likely she was sorry for him, and he was just grateful he had her pity. It probably wouldn't last, since nothing good ever did. He'd do anything to keep that, for as long as possible. She helped keep the beast away, provided him a tiny bite of pleasure he hadn't tasted in years. He didn't want to give that up too soon.
He put his hands on her back, slid them lower slowly. Felt every inch of the stretched pink scar tissue, every tiny knot and pockmark and bump, stopping on her perfectly toned butt. He put his nose to her hair and breathed her in, put his lips to her forehead and kissed her.
"Thank you," he said in a pathetic, depressed voice he was ashamed of. He tried not to say it, but he didn't feel right until he also whispered, "I'm sorry."
She looked up at him, and kissed him, her lips taking his apology and giving him her own.

They held each other in silence for hours, letting their unspoken words float between them, over them, through them. Understanding came without speaking. Their guilt hung over them like a pendulum, counting down the minutes until it cut them apart. They both could feel it swinging, hear the soft whoosh of air as its blade swept by.

It wouldn't last and they didn't pretend that it would. But for now they had this farce of a romance, apologies they could give and receive to help numb the doubt. And for the moment, at the very least, they had each other.