In the Black

An Avengers fiction by Lywinis

"Why is it," he said, one time, at the subway entrance, "I feel I've known you so many years?"

"Because I like you," she said, "and I don't want anything from you."

He smiled. "That's not true, Natalie. No one wants anything from me. I don't know, I just feel like I've met you before."

Her heart twisted, but this was for the best. She frowned for a brief moment, remembering him tall and strong, bow in hand and his back warm against hers as they faced impossible odds. She remembered the icy blue fading from his eyes, the broken way he whispered her name. This was for the best. He was in so much pain. He deserved a second chance.

"No, Mister Cross, we've never met before I bumped into you on the subway," she said, and forced a cheerful smile on her face. "Just that deja vu that never really happened. It feels like that."

She'd wanted to see how he was doing. Phil was adamant that she not do it; the wipe was a delicate process, and she was far too tangled up in his past to keep from breaking him wide open. She couldn't leave well enough alone. Like a phantom limb or a missing tooth, she had to prod the space where he had been, and it hurt.

She was never content to leave him alone; she never had been, that was how they'd gotten so tangled. She blinked back the stinging in her eyes and shrugged deeper into her coat, the chill in the air no explanation for the cold sinking deep into her bones.

She had to let him go.

She stood on tiptoe, a swift, sudden movement, and pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth. His eyes widened in surprise, but she didn't wait for the flicker of recognition that she knew would never come.

"Live a good life, Mister Cross." She stepped back and turned away. "You won't be seeing me again."

She walked away, dropped her heart on the platform and left it there, raw and aching. She ignored his cry to wait, and vanished around a corner, melting into the crowd. She pulled the cloth of her sleeve back, pressing the radio to her lips.

"Aaron Cross is not compromised. SHIELD is to maintain its distance, and you will not interfere. Observation only from this point on, under orders from Director Fury."

"Acknowledged, Agent Romanoff," said Phil, his voice heavy with regret. "Are you...?"

"Fine." It came out clipped, and she took a breath. "I'm fine. Returning to the rendezvous point."

Love was for children. She'd repaid her debt in full, and her ledger was clear again.

A/N: In case you weren't aware, Jeremy Renner is the new Bourne star, and this has been churning in my head ever since I saw the preview earlier tonight. Ow, my heart.

(What is it with me and heartwrenching Avengers fics? I don't know but I don't think they'll stop any time soon.)

Hope you enjoyed, Constant Readers.