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hang your head (and let me in)

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Natasha watches. That’s what she’s always done.

She knows that she doesn’t trust Nebula. Not yet. A part of it is human instinct, because Nebula is not human, she is alien. She’s alien in a way that makes animals anxious, makes people look away, unsettled and deeply frightened.

So Natasha watches Nebula, but she also watches Tony.

She’s good at this part—she’s been watching Tony for a lot longer, and she knows his tells, his tics, his triggers. Tony doesn’t let very many people in, and when he does, those people tend to stick around for a long time. Nebula is a guest—a guest at the Facility, a guest on Earth. Everything about her says impermanence.

But Tony lets her in. And this is the part Natasha doesn’t understand yet.

Nebula sits on the floor of Tony’s workshop, hunched over, back arched and arms braced around her knees. She watches Natasha back, which Natasha doesn’t mind. It’s like a challenge.

Tony sits behind Nebula. He has a screwdriver between his teeth and pins scattered on the floor. He’s working on Nebula, on the metal and mechanical parts of her. He’s good at it. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be. His hands are gentle in the core of her—at her spine, inside the hollow of her ribs. He touches her like he would touch a woman, not a suit of armor.

“It doesn’t hurt,” Nebula says, looking straight at Natasha. Natasha realizes that she was wondering, and now she knows.

Tony pauses. He grazes a thumb over Nebula’s deep blue flesh at the notch of her spine, and Nebula’s eyes close like she’s close to ecstasy, just at that brief moment of contact. “Good,” he says, so softly it makes Natasha ache.

“Good,” Natasha agrees, and keeps watching.