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Summary: But Natasha’s heart was crashing against her chest as she retched into the inflight lavatory. Her hands shook as she wiped bile from her mouth and attempted to stand despite the fact her legs had collapsed under her minutes ago. She was going to die. If Clint wasn’t already dead, she wasn’t going to be able to save him. She was going to have the life squeezed out of her by the Hulk. He was in charge of the negotiation, he had all the control, and she knew it. S.H.I.E.L.D. knew it. The scores of specially trained S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers she just spoke to were about as useful as plastic army men if something went down. She didn’t let it show in her voice as she commanded them and told them the plan. She only let the ruthlessness and authority show. That’s the only thing the Black Widow has room for. Even Natasha Romanoff doesn’t have room for panic attacks in airplane bathrooms, but Natasha Romanoff is constantly defying people and nature, whether she wants to or not.
WARNING: Brief mentions of rape, explicit talk about sex, tantric sex, and non binary gender sex. No actual sex though, just talk about it.
The plane was in a tailspin hurtling towards the ground. Black smoke streaking through the sky, flames and debris added to the canvas. There was no way to stop, there was no way to get out. The only thing to do was to watch the ground, not the ground, the city, speed closer and hope the people in the buildings got out.
Except they weren’t crashing. They were descending into Karaket, India smoothly. But Natasha’s heart was crashing against her chest as she retched into the inflight lavatory. Her hands shook as she wiped bile from her mouth and attempted to stand despite the fact her legs had collapsed under her minutes ago. She was going to die. If Clint wasn’t already dead, she wasn’t going to be able to save him. She was going to have the life squeezed out of her by the Hulk. He was in charge of the negotiation, he had all the control, and she knew it. S.H.I.E.L.D. knew it. The scores of specially trained S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers she just spoke to were about as useful as plastic army men if something went down. She didn’t let it show in her voice as she commanded them and told them the plan. She only let the ruthlessness and authority show. That’s the only thing the Black Widow has room for. Even Natasha Romanoff doesn’t have room for panic attacks in airplane bathrooms, but Natasha Romanoff is constantly defying people and nature, whether she wants to or not.
She stood up and rinsed the acrid taste from her mouth and steeled herself before she changed into something less obvious then a little black dress. A simple top, a long skirt, and a shawl. Frankly this is something she would have worn at home, but it worked to blend in here. At least she’d be comfy when she died.
The air was hot and sticky, though it always is in India. She liked it here; she could just blend into the crowd. No one asked questions, just if she wanted to buy wears. India was a good place to go to disappear, Bruce Banner had the right idea. She could hear the frantic yells of the girl she paid to lure the doctor to this hut. Her footsteps across the kitchen, through the bedroom, out the window.
“Should have got paid up front, Banner,” the tired doctor sighed to himself.
Remember your script, don’t let him know you can’t breathe, and keep him calm. She took a shaky breath, show time.
“You know, for a man who’s supposed to be avoiding stress, you picked a hell of a place to settle.”
“Avoiding stress isn’t the secret,” he said noncommittally, now exploring the room.
“Then what is it? Yoga?”
“You brought me to the edge of the city, smart. I, ah…I assume the whole place is surrounded?”
“Just you and me,” she smiled softly, reassuringly, like she’d spent so much time practicing as she lied through her teeth.
“And your actress buddy, is she a spy too? Do they start that young?” he nervously fidgeted.
“I did,” she said, holding back a wave of nausea and rage.
“Who are you?”
“Are you here to kill me, Miss Romanoff? Because that’s not going to work out for everyone,” he said, almost disappointed.
“No. No, of course not. I’m here on behalf of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
“S.H.I.E.L.D.,” there was tension in his words, Natasha’s fingers flinched towards one of her many hidden weapons, but just barely. “How did they find me?”
“We never lost you, Doctor. We’ve kept our distance, even helped keep some other interested parties off your scent.”
“Nick Fury trusts you. But now I need you to come in.”
“What if I said no?”
She smiled ruefully, and took a hippy step forward, “I’ll persuade you.”
“And what if the…Other guy,” he said through gritted teeth, “says no.”
“You’ve been more than a year without and incident. I don’t think you wanna break that streak.”
“I don’t always get what I want.”
She was getting tired of this quickly, he made her nervous. “Doctor, we’re facing a potential global castastrophe.”
“Well, those I actively try to avoid.”
She pulls out her phone and pulls up a picture, “This is the Tesseract,” she hands it him, “it has the potential energy to wipe out the entire planet.”
“What do you want me to do?” He looked skeptical, “Swallow it?”
“Well he wants you to find it. It’s been taken,” along with my partner, she mentally added. “It omits a gamma signature that’s too weak for us to trace. There’s no one that knows gamma radiation like you do. If there was, that’s where I’d be.”
“So Fury isn’t after the monster?” she could detect the faintest trace of hope in his voice, behind the annoyance and obvious distrust.
“Not that he’s told me.”
“And he tells you everything?” his tone was quickly becoming dark.
“Talk to Fury, he needs you on this.”
“He needs me in a cage?”
Uh oh. She could feel the bile rising in her throat again as his hands tightened into fists, “No one’s going to put you in a—“
“STOP LYING TO ME,” the rough voice yells from somewhere inside of Banner but entirely not Bruce Banner at all. Her entire body reacted, she swallowed her stomach she grabs her gun and without hesitating points it at the scientist. Her hands are shaking though, she’s holding her breath. She can’t stop it. Something snaps back in him, he’s smiling sheepishly and holding up his hands. “I’m sorry. That was mean. I just wanted to see what you’d do,” he smiles a little. “Why don’t we do this the easy way where you don’t use that, and I the other guy doesn’t make a mess.”
She’s still frozen, he can see the tremors wracking her body, for a moment she chides herself for her unprofessionalism, but really who can blame her?
She lowers her gun, she’s got to call off the dogs before things do get messy, “Stand down. We’re good here.”
He smiles at her with a hint of laughter hiding behind it, “Just you and me, huh?”
When they are safely back on the plane headed for New York City and Banner is comfortable she dismisses herself. She barely gets the door of the bathroom slid shut before she’s back to retching into the stainless steel toilet, shaking so violently she can hardly support herself, tears streaming down her face. The hint of green tingeing Banner’s skin as his fists had slammed the table so hard there were dents in it flashed, the face of her rapist, the feeling when Coulson had explained what happened to Clint, the dead, cold look she saw in his eyes on the security feed before an arrow destroyed the camera, all flashed through her mind and her body tried to expel it through her stomach and mouth. She collapsed on the floor, shaking and sobbing over the toilet. She cursed her weakness. If anyone saw her like this, she would have killed them before it had registered to them what was going on. She was Natasha Fucking Romanoff, and she was in fucking charge of this. Kind of.
Eventually she pulled herself off the floor, fixed her makeup, and popped some gum in her mouth. She hadn’t been tasked with actually talking to Banner beyond getting him to come with, and she wasn’t someone who sought company outside of Clint and occasionally Mariah Hill or Phil Coulson. But here she was, walking towards Bruce Banner, who was calmly reading a paperback of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. She almost smiled, something about him was kind and soft, you wanted to hold his hand and have a picnic, if you could forget about the fact he was also anger and hatred incarnated in strength beyond measure.
“I never pegged you as a fan of Russian literature, Doctor Banner.”
“Please, call me Bruce. And are you a fan, Romanoff does have Russian origins? Daughter or granddaughter of immigrants?”
She let her born accent permeate her voice, it sounded rusty to her, but it was undeniably Russian. “I was born, and trained there as a spy. I defected,” her American accent, which had become her natural slowly seeped back in, “to the USA after my current partner spared my life on orders to kill me.” Her mouth suddenly snapped shut; she had no idea why she was admitting this to him.
“So why did S.H.I.E.L.D. take you?”
“Fury doesn’t like wasting valuable assets. That’s why you’re here, you’re the best there is at this gamma radiation stuff.”
“And my other assets? I’m sure you have others besides being a master negotiator.”
“I’m an assassin. One of the best in the world, if I say so myself. You, Doctor,” he gave her a pointed look directed at the title, “Bruce,” she corrected, “are a brilliant scientist and strategist, if your ability to hide and work on the o—your self control while being in a constantly stressful manhunt is anything to go by. You might have a way of looking at things killers and soldiers don’t.”
“Fury told you all this?”
“He’s a man of few words. He trusts you. and I trust him, most of the time.”
He laughed, “Is there anyone you trust all of the time, Miss Romanoff?”
“Please, Natasha. And there is only one person I trust, it’s my partner.”
“Tell me about him?” The doctor shifted in his seat, looking at her with interest. It wasn’t very often either of them had conversations about their personal lives. Here, in the middle of the night, flying over an ocean in the cabin of a nearly empty plane Natasha had swept for bugs three times over already, she figured, she had control over the uncontrollable man. She felt a strange sense of calm and kinship to him already. She was still scared shitless, but she saw there was much more to Bruce Banner than everyone else saw. He sensed her hesitation, “I’m sorry, that was out of line,” he laughed nervously, “my apologies.”
“N-no. It’s alright. But if I tell you something, you tell me something. This really is just you and me, no Fury, no S.H.I.E.L.D., no ulterior motives. I have a feeling neither of us get to…Share very often.”
A brief smiled twitched across his lips, “That sounds fair. Are we gonna have to pinky swear or make a blood pact or something?” he teased, and she actually smiled.
“No, but if you cross me you will never be able to hide from me, and I am worth than the wrath of anything you or the big guy can throw at me.”
“and I believe it,” he held out a hand, “secret alliance?” She took his firmly. They were softer than she expected, they shook. “So, tell me about him.”
“His name is Clint Barton. He’s the world’s best marksmen. He’s spent more time with a bow and quiver and a sniper rifle even though he despises guns than he ever has with another human being. He’s so fucking cocky sometimes, but he’s so laid back. He likes to carve in his spare time, which is actually really cool, he’s started making furniture for our—“ she stopped dead, there was a horrified look on her face.
“Our?” Bruce’s eyebrows raised in amusement. “He’s more than just one kind of partner, I take it?”
“Uh, well, I guess. I just kind of accidentally happened. That sort of thing does when you spend all of your time together for 8 years straight. You either fall in love or kill each other. The first almost happened when we met so I guess that only leaves one option,” She was nervous babbling and she knew it, but it was word vomit and she couldn’t stop it. “We had this mission that went totally south and I was compromised and he tracked me half way across the world just to make sure I was okay even though he knew I could have easily killed him. I trust him with my life, my body, and my secrets. We exchanged vows. We’re married. Not legally. But enough for us. Except we got in this ridiculous fucking fight because Fury is actually trying to break us up as a team, he doesn’t know about our personal relationship, but I underreacted and he over reacted and now he might be dead or worse and I don’t know what I’d do without him!” she took a deep breath, she’d been talking so fast, slowly building volume until she realized she was yelling and there were tears brimming her eyes and she was with someone who was actually a total stranger. There was a hand on hers.
“Deep breaths. It’s okay, it’ll be okay. We’ll find the Tesseract and you will have him back. You’ve got a helluva way of doing things, and I don’t think you’d stop until you did anyways. But, can I suggest something without getting my teeth knocked out?” he fake winced a little. She let out a weak laugh.
“yeah, yeah go ahead.”
“You should probably talk about these things more often, get a therapist or something.” He laughed nervously, she smiled.
“You’re probably right, but now I’ve got you, Doc.”
“Good point. Happy I can help!”
“Damn. Okay. Well, while I’ve been in India I’ve been spending time learning more about the Kama Sutra and tantric sex. You’re right; one of my secrets is a form of yoga.”
She gave him a sly grin, “Nailed it.”
“I mean everyone has needs and…I’m assuming you know about Betty?”
“Yeah well she was amazing, but after…It was a risk getting my heart rate up so we could never really uh, BE, together again. I heard she got married though, do you know anything about that?”
“She did. Has a baby on the way too. I’m not supposed to tell you that.”
He smiled though, a genuine smile, not his sad normal smile, if she believed in souls she could have sworn his was glowng. “Good! That’s wonderful! She always wanted a family. I’m so happy for her! But anyways, everyone has needs. And I uh. I actually went to some monks to learn how to control them or quell them. And they turned me on to tantric sex. It’s all about becoming aligned with your body and your soul and the earth and letting the energies flow through you. I was really afraid of what might happen if I actually tried with another person. But somehow eventually I found myself at an orgy, I don’t know how,” he shrugged noncommittally, that sheepish smile on his face.
“It happens to the best of us,” she’d be lying if she’d said she’d never been to one. Missions take you interesting places.
“Anyways, I decided just to…Go for it. And I had a really good time and it was a great release and I just felt so much more peaceful and the other guy seemed sated and so I kept going. Eventually I ended up not only with women, but men too. Also a couple intersex folks.”
Natasha raised an eyebrow in amusement.
“Anyways, I’ve realized that I like masculine people more than I like feminine in a sexual way I guess. I’ve never told anyone, I guess I didn’t really have anyone to tell. I have contacts and patients, but no friends.”
“I know the feeling.”
“It feels good to get that off my chest.”
“I’m glad I could help,” she smiled at him.
Maybe Bruce Banner could be her friend one day. Maybe they’d just share secrets. She dismissed herself to get some rest. She trusted Bruce, but she didn’t trust the other guy. She slept with her gun in her hand. She dreamed a loop of the image of Brainwashed Clint’s soulless eyes staring at the camera before it went blank.
Banner was right, she’d get him back even if it took everything.