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professionalism is... hard

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Natasha sleeps in Wanda’s bed for a night, and almost instantly, she knows it’s a mistake.

 

She knows it’s a mistake as Wanda curls up tightly against her, her warm (adorable) puffs of breath eventually evening out, the heat of her slender body steadily seeping into Natasha as the minutes pass and they remain delightfully intertwined beneath the sheets.

 

She knows it’s a mistake, because her wrist aches for the cool and familiar sting of the metal cuffs she’s left in her bedside table for the night just down the hall, and her brain shrieks with vengeful reminiscence that sets every nerve in her being painfully on edge (it’s something of a miracle that Wanda’s formidable neuro-electric powers haven’t picked up on her severe psychological unrest at the current moment); and, no matter how entirely precious Wanda looks resting unperturbed upon her bare collarbone, or the sheer amount of comfort Natasha takes from the pleasant sensation of Wanda’s stable exhales ghosting over her skin, or even the warmth that blooms in her chest at the knowledge that Wanda is here, with Natasha, trusting her enough to fall asleep entangled so intimately with Natasha’s restless limbs… it’s not enough.

 

Which isn’t Wanda’s fault, or Madame B.’s, or really anyone's but her own—and so, she remains silent; motionless under the solid weight of Wanda’s willowy frame, determined not to allow her own trivial misgivings to trouble Wanda for even the most infinitesimal of moments.

 

Because, this? This is exactly what she wanted—what she’s wanted for a very long time, ever since the first instance upon which they truly met (again, the shipyard doesn’t exactly ‘count'), and Natasha caught a glimpse of those devastatingly deep sea-blue eyes and she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she would never be the same.

 

And, as for the issue of 'sleeping’—well, Natasha’s sleep cycle is irregular at best, and she’s most certainly no stranger to long stretches of consciousness fueled primarily by sheer force of will: 36 hours, 72… 96.

 

So, really, maybe this isn't such a mistake after all—because Natasha can do this; she knows she can.

 

What’s more, she wants to.

 

(More than she’s ever wanted anything else before in her life.)

 

— —

 

It all falls apart on a Monday.

 

(Truthfully, Natasha’s still rather unsure as to why exactly she thought her blatant executive dysfunction as a human being might end any other way.)

 

It’s the tail end of November in New York, blankets of fleece-white snow beginning to fall intermittently for hours at a time, and for Natasha, that means one thing—the anniversary of Nadia’s death.

 

More specifically, the anniversary of Natasha—Natalia’s first kill; and, of course, because the Red Room weren’t proponents for anything shy of outright inhumanity, it had to be someone she knew.

 

It had to be Nadia.

 

(It had to be someone whose death would break her.)

 

Natasha was eight or nine, she thinks; Nadia was around the same.

 

They were friends, back in the beginning… back when Natasha didn't know any better than to place her trust in such childish and exploitative attachments.

 

She remembers everything about that day, even amidst the unintelligible profusion of falsified recollection that plagues her relentlessly throughout each day—strained gasps filling her ears as she crushed the exposed windpipe of the girl she called friend, the sickening thump of Nadia’s heartbeat slowing beneath her palm, the light that Natalia watched rapidly fading from bright-blue eyes when it finally stopped.

 

At the end of it all, she supposes that it’s true what they say (even if her slanted adaptation is admittedly somewhat morbid): you never really forget your first.

 

Because maybe it’s morbid, but that doesn’t make it any less true—there she stands, 23:39 on the 29th of November, lighting a worn-down candle in a barren Catholic church off the streets Downing and Bleecker, as if she doesn’t know damn well (and has for a while) that there’s no one up there who gives a damn about the nine-year-old Nadia who never got to grow up, much less the jaded and weary monster who killed her.

 

And, of course, she’s not asking for forgiveness—she’d never be so foolish as to pursue such a blatantly unattainable respite (whether it’s an illusion, or not); she knows very well she can’t be forgiven.

 

(Honestly, she’s not quite sure she wants to be.)

 

But she’s there just the same, because it doesn’t feel right to lounge around the Tower and cuddle with Wanda and poke fun at Clint like she always does; it doesn’t feel right to have family tonight—not when Nadia never did, not when Natalia had a personal stake in sealing her deplorable fate, not when Nadia died under the bloodstained hands of the only one she’d ever dared to call ‘friend.’

 

No, Natasha may be selfish and gruesome and monstrous—but tonight, she isn’t.

 

Tonight, she sits in silence upon the wooden church pews and watches the lone candle burn before her and prays silently that if there’s a heaven up there, Nadia’s found it, even if Natasha knows damn well she won’t be joining her—especially since Natasha knows damn well she won’t be joining her.

 

Tonight, she atones, even if it doesn’t make a lick of difference. (She knows it never will.)

 

Tonight, she tells Nadia that she’s sorry, again and again and again until her words break down, until the heavy Slavic accent she worked for so long to conceal seeps back into her words, until all that’s left is a meaningless procession of broken Russian whispered quietly into the all-encompassing silence around her, the candle burning low and the chapel shrouding itself in darkness and a cold feeling curling in her chest with every moment she forces herself mercilessly to remember.

 

She stays there uninterrupted for a long time, having left her phone back in the tower atop Wanda’s nightstand, the pleasant scent of the burning wick perusing the quiet atmosphere, bitter thoughts of Nadia oscillating ceaselessly throughout her weary brain; she stays there for a long time, and she is not disturbed… nor is she forgiven.

 

Funnily enough, it seems that that ever-infamous sentiment indeed rings true: there really is no rest for the wicked.

 

— —