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The violet hues over the sky sent shivers down his spine as he trekked up the mountain. The snow fell in flurries, clinging to his suit, and utility belt. When he looked down where it hung on his hips he saw the faint amber glow through the pouch. Not too long ago it beamed an entire variety of colors, but five successful returns later he had one left. He hadn’t even planned for this to be his last conquest but the universe worked in such ways he can’t begin to understand.

As he neared the top of his climb, chills ran down his neck. The realization that Natasha once stood in that very spot about to meet her fate, a fate that Steve was yet to accept. God he missed her. There was so much he wanted to do, no had to do, and now he never would. When he had no one, he had Natasha. And in her last moments of breath...

I didn’t want you to be alone,

she was alone, and nothing broke Steve more.

Shuddering at the thought, he didn’t have time to think of it all as he made out a shadow hovering over the slabs his feet walked on.

“Ah, Steven, son of Sarah.” The gruff, deep voice spoke.

That voice... it was so familiar.

The figure turned and its hollow eyes pierced into Steve’s oceanic orbs.

“How are you here?” He asks exasperated.

“That is of ill importance. If I’m mistaken you have something for me, do you not Captain?” Red skull asked, his voice held no vindication or hidden meaning. It was honest, and that scared Steve more than it should have.

Steve was drained of energy to ask anything further, or care for that matter. He had his mission, and he would be damned if he was on the wretched planet another minute.

So, the blonde just nodded in response as his gloved fingers reached inside his belt and pulled out the small gem. It emanated an orange glow complimenting all of the darkness around him. It would’ve made for a beautiful scene under different circumstances.

Hesitantly, he stepped forward and held out the rock in his palm for his former enemy to take. However, Schmidt’s hands remained under the dark cloak.

“It is a sacrifice.” He responds simply.

Steve furrows his brows in confusion.

“Over the edge.” The other man instructs.

The soldiers breath hitches in his throat. Its unhealthy but he’s made Clint relive and tell him what happened on that day time and time again. He knows over that ledge is where Natasha lived her last moments as she fell to doom.

Pushing past the pain he slowly walked toward the cliff. Be strong for her. He reminded himself over and over as the gap between him and its end became smaller.

Once his toes nearly hung over and the crumble of rocks beneath can be heard, he breathes again.

The war is over Steve. You can go home.

Home? Did he have that anymore. He knew Sam and Bucky were back and he was more than grateful. But Natasha held a place in his heart that they couldn’t fill, no one could fill. Maybe if he just stayed a little longer... maybe if he flung himself off that ledge, then maybe, just maybe they could see each other again.

It’s a pipe dream.

He mentally scolded himself. It would be selfish, Natasha would never want him to do that, especially on her account. If she can’t survive, he may as well do it for her.

“I’m sorry.” Was all he could manage aloud on a choked sob as he chucked the rock into the abyss.

Before he could even move the entire sky flashes blue, and his world went completely dark.

............

A gasp escaped his lips as he sprung up from the water. It was warm and shallow, almost peaceful. He didn’t have time to think about the fact, being overcome with the confusion of where the hell he was.

The sludge beneath him sunk under his hands as he firmly placed his palms on either side of his hips to prop himself upright. Closing his eyes he took a deep breath, finding it hard to breathe. His world went went black as he relished in silence for a moment. He recalled Clint explaining how he woke up in a scene similar to this one, and it was almost peaceful. But it didn’t last for long.

Soft whispers were around him.

Steve.

It was her voice. Just as soft and smooth as it had been just days ago. His eyes remained shut to live in the dream just a second longer.

Steve is that really you?

His lips pulled upward as she continued to speak.

Steve, please tell me this isn’t another dream.

A tear left his eye causing a small ripple in the water as it made contact. God he never wanted to wake up from this.

But then, he felt it. The small weight of a light and feathery touch on one of his shoulders. The hot breath close to his ear.

His eyes snapped open and turned to the source of the feeling. Glassy emerald eyes bored into his own as she knelt at his side.

“Natasha?” He cried, his voice full of disbelief.

All his mind has done the past few days is drift off to this very moment, had he been able to sleep.

“Please tell me this is real.” She cried out, her body racking with sobs.

He didn’t respond, he couldn’t. Instead he wrapped his arms around her shoulders. She collapsed into his embrace as he stroked her hair and assured he was here.

“How?” She questioned once her cries subsided.

“I don’t know. It doesn’t even matter.” He responded pulling away to look into her eyes.

After mere moments he missed her touch and pulled her back into his chest.

“God I missed you.” Steve said tears staining his own cheeks.

“I missed you too.” The spy croaked.

Time virtually remained motionless as they melted under one another’s touch. Steve pulled away first, only to grab her hand and check for the device. He gave it a soft tap as her black suit transformed into a white and red quantum one.

“Wait, what if this reverses the effects, what happens if when,” She begins to protest with a shaky voice.

Steve’s cuts her off without apprehension, unable to consider repercussions.

“I need you to come home.” He said simply.

Natasha managed a small smile. His own suit appeared replacing the navy blue one.

“Three, two, one.” He counted.

Natasha nodded as they both clicked the watch.


His feet landed on the ground and he stumbled a little atop the platform. The eyes of Banner, Sam, and Bucky watching him carefully.

“Did it work?” He hears Sam whisper to Bucky.

His eyes search aimlessly. Where was she? He could’ve sworn it was real.

“Cap did you return the stones?” Banner asks Steve directly.

The blonde jumps from the machine and begins to scan the landscape with his eyes.

“What the hell are you doing?” Bucky questions, watching his friends frantic form.

“Did she come through here?” Steve hurriedly speaks out, body going from left to right as he looked out like a maniac.

“She?” Bucky waggles his brows.

The hulk sighs, instantly picking up on the reference.

“Steve, we talked about this...” Bruce almost warns.

Steve turned to meet his eyes.

“She was there.” He states.

“She can’t come back. She’s,“ The doctor protests, seemingly defeated after having this argument so many times...

He’s interrupted by the sound of the machinery taking place close by. Snapping his neck so his eyes could see what was going on, he fell to his knees at the sight.

Natasha looked down at her hands as they began to aimlessly search her own body, making sure she was really there.

“Oh my god.” Sam rasps out in disbelief.

Bucky's mouth is agape as Bruce looks at her form downright confused. Tears well up in Steve’s eyes as he pushed from his knees and climbs on the platform. He reaches her in an instance and grabs both her hands to stop their rapid roaming. Once their touch connects and the electricity fills their body, she responds by meeting his eyes.

“You did it.” She speaks her voice exasperated and tired.

“Whatever it takes.” He reminds pushing a strand of hair behind her ear.

He can’t take his eyes off her own, but as seconds continue he notices her lids falling lower, like they’re added weight as time ticks on. Her eyes roll to the back of her head and he can only see white as she’s collapsing. He catches her before her body can make contact with the floor.

“Nat!” He yells petrified.

Chapter Text

Steve sprints to the house they’d been staying at nearby as he clutches her against his chest, praying to whatever god that she’ll be alright.

“Upstairs!” He registers Banner yell from behind.

Steve quickens his steps as he climbs the stairs. He gently places her limp body atop the sheets as Bruce, Sam, and Bucky catch up with him. Banner runs across the room and pulls out a bag of supplies and dumps it onto the surface of a nearby table top.

“Go.” Bruce says gently turning to Steve.

He remains still.

“Sam. Bucky.” Banners pleading eyes say to the men.

Sighing, they both firmly grip Steve’s upper arm and force him down the steps. Surprisingly his body complies, too emotionally exhausted to do otherwise.

Once downstairs, they set him on the couch. Bucky sits next to him, as Sam paces.

“I guess I’ll say it...” Bucky half whispers to himself sitting forward to meet Steve’s eyes.

“How the hell is she here?” The brunette questions.

Sam stops moving, and brings his full attention to Steve, awaiting the answer himself. Moments draw on as Steve processes the events of the past few hours, and when he’s ready, he opens his mouth to speak but is abruptly cut off by the sound of a door.

“Hey, sorry I took so long. I stopped at a market on the way home.” Wanda’s voice announced walking inside, grocery bags in tow.

Following the intimate ceremony they had for Tony, Clint invited Wanda up to spend the night with Laura and the kids to which she humbly accepted. The witch knew that’s where Natasha would have been.

Wanda walks into the living room, the trio all looking at her haphazardly.

“What’s with the looks?” She asks confused.

The three men exchange looks.

“James?” The witch says searching for answers.

“Natasha’s upstairs.”

Bucky’s the one who says it. The soul stone is some kind of alternate reality everyone lives into. And from Steve’s understanding and Sams explanation, Wanda and Bucky have grown close in more ways than one. The prospect was odd to the Captain but if they were happy, who was he to stop it.

Once the words reach Wanda’s ears, the bags drop from her arms with a loud thump, and she’s sprinting up the steps.

“Wanda!” Bucky calls leaping from his chair.

Bucky’s fast, but Steve’s faster, hurdling himself in between the couple, going two, three steps at a time. When they reach the top Wanda is catching her breath as her mind begins to register the presence on the bed. With a loud gasp the younger redhead keels over, and Bucky is there to catch her weeping form. One of her hands desperately clutches his black t-shirt as the other covers her mouth as an attempt to quiet her loud cries.

“What’s the status?” Sam asked once reaching the top.

Banner was draping a blanket over Natasha and preparing a syringe.

“She’s freezing.” Bruce said sounding concerned as he flicked the needle.

Steve was motionless. He positively could not lose her again, the prospect of it alone sent his body into a stand still state of shock. But when Bruce inched the needle closer to her pulse point, he jumped. Knocking it to the floor, the green giant turned to the blonde accusingly.

“Don’t. She hates needles.” His hoarse voice comes just above a whisper.

No one is in the mood to argue with Steve, not like this. So, they all just stand still, not knowing what to do next.

“She’s freezing,” Bruce reiterates.

“Her body temperature is below normal. If we don’t warm her up soon she’ll become hypothermic.” He explains.

“Why?” Wanda croaks.

“I don’t know. I can’t explain things like these, science can’t explain things like these.” He emphasizes.

Steve leaps into action and pulls the blankets back.

“Steve.” Sam warns, knowing during times like these soldier becomes irrational.

Seating himself on the bed he places his palms atop both her seemingly hallow cheeks. He almost retracts his hand at the ice cold skin, but his palms remain. Bruce steps forward to interject until Bucky places a tentative hand on his chest.

“He runs hot. If anything’s gonna fix her, it’s him.”

The statement was meant to be casual, but it had so much depth to it. Because in all honesty Bucky was right, when Steve came out of the ice. When he was supposed to be dead, the only person who truly helped him navigate, she made him feel like he had a place in this world.

Now they all knew, Steve even accepted, if anyone could help Nat through this it was him.

Steve was absently rubbing her arms with his hands. However as the rubbing continued, he noticed his hands gathering small red flakes. It had been the dried blood on her uniform. Scowling the slightest bit, scared by the sight, he jumps back.

“We should get her changed.” Bruce suggests lightly.

Steve hurriedly wipes his hands at his pants, noting he himself is still in his uniform. Once gathering his composure, he turns to Bruce and nods slowly. All heads turn to Wanda knowing she should be the one to do it. Stepping forward, and throwing a look, they all take it as a cue to leave.

At his exit, Steve takes it upon himself to change. Not caring much for his appearance he grabs a pair of sweats and plain black t-shirt, and pulls it on quickly after scrubbing his hands clean. After he desperately gets any remnants of Natasha’s crusted blood off his skin, he turns to the door.

Leaving the small room, he steps to the bedroom, knocking softly before Wanda tells him it’s alright to enter. His breath catches a little when he sees her. She’s being swallowed up in one of his navy blue sweat shirts as she has a pair of grey sweats rolling at the hips, paired with socks. Then something catches Steve’s eye, hanging around her neck.

“Did she have those on?” He asks pointing to the chain.

Wanda nods a ghost of a smile on her lips, and one upturns to Steve’s as well.

……….

[Twenty four hours until the Time Heist]

“So you’re off to New York, I’m off to Vormir.” Natasha points out to Steve as she stands in the doorway of his bedroom.

He sitting on the edge of the bed in a white t shirt and flannel bottoms, his dog tags jingling as he bounces his leg nervously.

“Huh?” He says his eyes meeting hers.

“This will be our first time on separate missions in almost a decade.” Natasha points out.

“Whose idea was it to send me to New York anyways?” Steve chuckled.

“Tony.” They said in unison.

“It’s okay, I’ll have Clint... and I know how much space scares you Rogers.” She laughs as she sits next to him.

He manages to laugh a bit himself. However it doesn’t last as a silence casts over them.

“Nat,” Steve begins slowly.

She turns, her watery eyes gazing into his.

“Promise me you’ll survive this. That we’ll make it out of this one together.” Steve states seriously.

“Rogers it’ll only be a minute.” She shakes her head, not wanting to have the conversation.

“Natasha.” It’s almost pleading as both his hands grab one of hers.

“You have to promise me the same. You’re a real self sacrificing idiot you know that?” She tries to laugh, but it’s dry and a tears falls from her eye.

Steve takes his thumb and gently flicks away the moisture as he cups her cheeks.

“You’re not expendable.” He whispers low and throaty.

She shutters at his tone and proximity.

“Steve,” The spy begins to argue.

“You’re not expendable.” He says louder with more confidence as he pulls her in and places a gentle kiss atop her head.

“It won’t be the same without you next to me.” The redhead whispers her hand wrapping around the wrist laying on her cheek.

“I know.” He says softly.

The blonde retracts his hand, causing Natasha’s eyes to flutter open. Her emerald orbs watch him carefully as he pulls the chain over his head. With tentative fingers he slides it over her own head and brushes away the hair.

“I can’t...” Natasha pulls the chain but Steve’s steady fingers stop her.

In all the years Nat’s known him she’s never seen them leave from where they laid over his heart.

“I want you to.” Steve says simply.

“It’s only a minute.” She says carefully.

“Yeah, and it’ll be the longest damn minute of my life.” The soldier claims honestly.

She begins to fiddle with the charms on the ends, finding comfort in it. As she starts to muster a response Steve pushes back atop his pillows and stretches an arm out.

“Come on.” He says waving his hand.

She smiles ever so slightly and settles into the warmth of his embrace. As he strokes her blonde tipped hair and the exhaustion creeps in, he speaks one last time.

“You’re the one I want next to me when this is all over. When we win.” He says confidently staring down at her.

She shifts her gaze up to meet his own and leans in to peck his cheek, as the pair fall asleep.

………...
Self sacrificing idiot.

The words play over in his head, and it sends chills up his spine. Wanda must note the fact because she speaks.

“Has anyone contacted Clint? Peter?” Wanda questions.

And fuck, the idea slipped his mind fully, and the Witch reads the fact from his expression.

“This will be an interesting call to make.” She sighs, walking downstairs to get her phone.

Steve inches closer to her and sits on the bed. His hand finds her creating friction as he pulls up the blanket for her to stay warm.

“I know you hate the cold Nat, but I just need you to fight a little more. Okay?” He whispers looking at her pale face, trying to keep his emotions in check.

He sucks in a sharp breath and sniffles as he hears heavy foot falls approaching. Knowing who it is, he turns.

“I found some stuff that was some help, also managed to contact Nebula who knew a lot about the stone, her and the guardians are coming now.” Banner explains.

“They are?” Steve asks.

“Sure. Everyone is, they all owe her that. Wanda’s making calls now.” Bruce nods.

Steve understands, and his lips pull into a thin line.

A silence falls over them before he clears his throat.

“From my understanding it’s her body adapting to life again. The cold is the same effect as if she were a corpse, but since she died in some un natural ways, her body has to respond before coming back. It’s just a matter of time Cap.” The doctor says.

It’s not the most comforting thought, but at least it’s nothing life threatening as far as they know.

“And she’ll be alright?” He asks.

Bruce shrugs.

“They don’t publish books on these things, with definitive answers, but Natasha’s always been stronger than the rest of us.” The hulk says with a sad smile.

Steve nods and he does his best to smile back, but it never meets his eyes.

“I’ll let you be. Keep her warm.” Bruce instructs as he walks down the steps.

The soldier climbs into the bed next to Natasha. He’s soft and is gentle, almost hesitant as he reached out and pulled her against his chest. Normally he’d feel uncomfortable doing this with her in this state, not wanting to take advantage, but he was a human thermos, so it was really for health benefits. And that was true, but that doesn’t mean Steve had to enjoy the feeling so much, but he does. He thrives off the feeling. Sometime into holding her he manages to drift off, and he dreams of her.

It’s always her.

Chapter Text

“Red?” It’s Tony’s voice.

“Tony!” Natasha cries and she leaps into his arms.

He catches her and laughs.

“What are you doing here?” She asks looking around, she’s back atop the sand dunes of the stone.

“Just came to pay a visit.” He smiles.

“Visit?” Natasha’s face falls.

“Sure. I was just with my mom, dad, Jarvis, Coulson, hell I even saw Loki.” Tony explained.

“Peter? Do you have him?” Natasha asked frantic.

Over the years the two grew close. Following the sudden death of his aunt he killed the man responsible, which went against the accords. Long story short, the teen lived out his days with Natasha until Tony managed to strike a deal to safely get him back to school and normal life. Stark even became his legal guardian.

“No I don’t.” Is all Tony says, but he doesn’t seem sad.

“I don’t understand.” Natasha said scrunching her brows.

“It’s okay. You will.” Stark offers.

Tony plants a kiss on her hair as he begins to walk away.

“Wait!” She yells.

He turns.

“Where are you going?” She asks.

“I’ll see you again. Wake up Nat.” Is all he says.

..........

Steve managed to get some rest after Wanda insisted he eat some soup before the sun went down. He doesn’t even remember drifting off, unsure how long he’s been out for...

The room is pitch black when Steve hears the gasp. Sitting up, he finds Natasha clutching her chest desperately.

“Nat.” He says in disbelief.

She heaves a bit, and the soldier rubs circles on her back. Once catching her breath she cries. Without reluctance, he pulls her in close, and absently strokes her red tipped blonde hair.

“Hey you’re okay. It’s over.” He silences her with a soft kiss on her crown.

“Did we win?” She says voice breaking.

“Yeah Nat we did, and it’s all thanks to you.” Steve assures brushing back her hair as he wipes her tears.

Her small shaky hands reach out to grasp his face, making sure this was real.

“Thanks to me?” She says pushing for elaboration.

“You and Tony actually. A pair of self sacrificing idiots.” Steve says a bit sad.

Natasha frowns as more tears leave her eyes.

“Tony?” She croaked.

“It was the only way, he knew that. We all knew that.” Steve responded.

Natasha nodded, but her tears didn’t stop. Carefully pushing her back into the pillows he clings onto her, and she to him, as he lulls her to sleep.

The minute her lids block out the world around her, she feels like she’s falling off the cliff all over again.

Her fear kicks in and her eyes snapped open with a harsh gasp.

A pair of strong arms encircle her waist. She escapes the embrace and sits up to check her surroundings again. Still in disbelief she’s here.

“Nat?” Steve’s soft, sleep filled voice sounds.

He must’ve of managed to doze off while she was attempting the same.

“You alright?” He continues, propping up ok his elbows.

“Just... weird.” Is all she manages, too drained to get into it.

“Come lay back down. I missed you.” He says, and Natasha knows had he not been that sleepy he wouldn’t have had the courage to be so bold. Probably press her to talk, so she complies instead of pushing it.

The redhead climbs in next to him and he pulls her flush against his side.

“I missed you too.” She says her eyes welling with tears.

He squeezes her tighter and she sniffs the scent of his cologne, something she missed so much.

.........

The pair manages to fall back asleep. This time Natasha’s sleep was hollow and empty, not like the last time. When she wakes this time her eyes flutter open to Steve shaking her lightly.

“Hey, there’s some people here who wanna see you.” He says offering a gentle smile.

Her lips tug, and she gets up from the bed, not bothering to change, she starts down the steps. Before she reaches the bottom she stops and Steve hears in the heavy breath she takes. Placing a soft hand on the small of her back and offering an encouraging smile, she continues.

Her eyes light up when she sees the group. All the guardians manage to make it, Wakanda’s finest, and familiar faces from around the compound, not to mention Morgan and Pepper made the trip along with the Barton clan. Her eyes find the teenage boys in an instant. His brown orbs sparkling in disbelief.

Before Nat could even speak, she gets a splitting pain in her head and falls to her knees with a scream.

“Mr.Stark,”

“I don’t feel so good.”

The voice she recognizes as Peters sounds in her head as images of him turning to dust appear in her mind. However the dust blows with the wind and her eyes follow it. There the particles assemble together again and she watches as the boy wakes up with a sharp intake of air. Suddenly, they’re on the streets of New York, and it’s pouring.

“Mr Stark!” He calls.

He runs around the pavement looking for Tony to find nothing. Instead Natasha watches as a car come crashing from nowhere and the boy screams, as does Natasha.

Her eyes snap open again and the entire group stares in fear. Steve’s at her side helping her to her feet.

“Nat, what’s wrong? Are you okay?” He asks concerned, his hands atop her shoulders.

She shakes her head back to reality.

“Sorry, I just. This is new to me. I’m okay now I promise.” She says the last part turning to the group.

Relieved the group smiles back. Peter speaks first.

“Welcome home.” His voice breaks as he absently sheds tears.

Then he’s running, and she’s doing the same. She catches the youngest avenger in her arms as he sobs into her shoulder, and the spy informs she’s real.

After the emotional reunion, Clint chirps from his spit behind the counter.

“You’re so damn stubborn.” He smiles, as he steps forward and hugs her, tears mingle with the embrace.

Following the hug from Clint it triggered a series of events, the Barton children’s caroling Natasha. Everyone was grateful to have her back, hell even Nebula gave her a hug with a small smile.

As Natasha conversed with everyone she had missed, no dry eyes in the house, Clint made his way to Steve.

“Please tell me you told her.” Clint asks sipping lemonade.

“Uh,” Steve stutters.

“God man, literal death and you can’t grow a pair. You’re hopeless.” The archer says annoyed.

I mean in his own head he’d like to think it’s a secret. One he only shared with Sam and Bucky, but everyone has always been so god damn nosy when it comes to them, he shouldn’t be surprised. Not that Barton dropping any comments is surprising, he probably realized it before Steve.

However, when Rocket came prodding around Wakanda following the fight he kept asking Steve where he could find his wife. The comment threw him off, and he gave the raccoon a quizzical look.
Rocket just replied: “Okay how hard did you get hit. Your wife. The blonde.”
This was after being in each others presence with the creature, for maybe three days, maybe.

Sighing he watched Clint walk away and tell something to Wanda that made her chuckle low, as Nate gathered at his fathers feet. Smiling at the normalcy of the scene, his eyes wander the room to find Natasha. He finds her outside on the porch, alone. Concerned, he goes to her.

The slide of the glass door makes her jump.

“Sorry.” Steve apologizes as her scared eyes snap to his own.

She shakes her head and smiles sadly.

“Now what are you doing out here? Everyone’s in there for you.” He points out softly.

“I’ve been figuring out for the last ten minutes what to say to Pepper. How to explain to her why I’m here and Tony’s not without her resenting me. They have a kid Steve, a damn child.” Natasha says almost frustrated.

Steve heart breaks at her words. Just because Tony had those things doesn’t mean she deserved it more than him. It didn’t mean that she shouldn’t be alive.

“You have a family too.” Is all he can manage in that moment.

She lets out a breath and her shoulders relax a little.

“I know... it’s just, this is a lot.” Nat admits unable to come up with words to explain it.

“I’m here. We’re all here.” He offers a smile.

She bows her head sadly and fiddles with the dog tags. The spy hears Steve’s feet shuffling and she slowly turns. He’s extending a hand to her and a smile is on his lips.

“Come on. We’re going to talk to Pepper.”

Natasha shyly grabs his hand and can’t help but let her cheeks burn at the use of the word ‘we’.

A few tears from both Pepper and Nat, as well as several sloppy kisses from Morgan, she found herself at peace. Pepper wasn’t in the slightest upset at Natasha’s unexpected return and claimed that if Tony were still around this is exactly how he would’ve wanted things, both Nat and Steve nodded as this, before vacating to get some food.

Somewhere in the shuffle Sam, Wanda, and Bucky managed to push a few tables together and gather chairs around it. Some feasted at it, while others gathered at the porch, or couch. It was calming, almost normal. When Natasha’s appetite was seemingly small so all she did was munch on some bread before getting up to clear her plate. She reached the trash can and bent over to open the cabinet, struggling to juggle her drink and plate. A voice came from behind her.

“Here let me.” It was Bucky as he went to grab the plate.

At this their hands brushed and Natasha heard the ringing in her ears again. She jumped back and cupped them with her hands trying to suppress a scream. Before she knew it, her mind was flashing with memories that weren’t her own.

“Steve?” It was the soldiers voice and the scenery was one of a Wakandan landscape.

In an instance the gun in his hand dropped with a loud clunk, and his knees were buckling. But he never hit the dirt, instead of disintegrating into dust. But seconds later, the dust was piling back together to take shape of his body. Natasha blinked in disbelief, and when she opened her eyes she was in a cold basement. Bucky strapped to a chair nearby.

 

Longing.

Rusted.

Seventeen.

Daybreak.

Furnace.

Nine.

Benign.

Homecoming.

One.

Freight Car.

Each word whispered by a raspy voice in Russian.

Bucky looked like he as struggling but when the tenth word left the man's lips, his blue eyes darkened.

“Ready to comply?” The man nearby asked.

Bucky remained stoic and nodded.

“First mission, kill Captain America.”

Natasha’s breath hitched. As the hinges around his wrists became undone.

“As you wish.” The winter soldier stood cocking a gun on a nearby table and walking out the door.

Next she felt someone tug on her and the next time she opened her eyes she was on the floor curled into a ball as everyone circled her.

“Natasha!” Steve’s voice was the one to draw her back.

Releasing her hands from the spot on her head, she sat up. Her eyes finding Steve’s and next shifting to Bucky’s who looked guilty and concerned.

“What happened?” It’s as Peter who came running in, and squatted next to her.

“I’m fine.” Natasha groaned.

“Passing out is not fine.” Clint retorts as he and Steve help her to her feet.

She rolled her eyes at the archer and did her best to remained balance. Her weight shifted and she landed in Steve’s arms.

“I’m just really tired.” She explains.

“I’ll take you upstairs.” Peter offers as Steve hesitantly passes her to Peter and he wraps an arm around her waist.

“Let me say bye to Pepper and Morgan first.” Natasha mumbles,

Pepper told her she had to leave tonight because Happy and Rhodey were going over to help her clean stuff out, while everyone else was saying.

Peter escorts her over where she shoos him off gently and crouches to Morgan’s level.

“Bye kiddo, be good for your mom.” Natasha whispers as the little girl pulls her into a hug.

Morgan pulls away and her chocolate brown eyes meet Natasha’s green ones.

“My daddy talked about you a lot.” She says almost shy as she twirls Natasha’s hair in her hands.

“He loves you three thousand, maybe even more.” She whispers so it’s only for them to hear.

“I love your dad very much too.” She responds getting choked up.

“I hope to see you again.” Morgan says with glittering eyes.

Natasha nods.

“You bet.” She smiles, and plants a kiss atop her head.

Standing up, Natasha hugs Pepper.

“Don’t be a stranger. You are my kids god mother.” She laughs into Natasha’s shoulder.

“I won’t. Have a safe trip Pep.” Nat says pulling away.

“I’ll see you.” Pepper offers before scooping up Morgan and heading to the door.

“Bye uncle Pete!” The little girl shouts with a smile.

Peter waves as his teeth sparkle to the young Stark.

“That’s sweet.” Natasha slurs, as she loses her footing.

“Come on. If I let you fall over Mr.Rogers will kill me.” Peter says seriously as his hand finds its way around her hips as he supports her up the steps.

When they reach the top Peter sets her on the bed and throws the covers to her shoulders.

“Rest Nat.” Peter instructs as he walks back to the steps.

“Peter.” She says voice groggy as she reaches for his hand.

When it makes contact she gets flashes again. This time it’s Peter dirt and grime covering his face and he’s walking over to someone, Natasha is pretty sure it’s Bucky, but the image fades when his voice breaks through the air.

“Yeah?”

“Where have you been staying?” She asks concerned.

He shrugs.

“Here and there. I was with Pepper and Morgan after the service for a night. Then Lang took me to Barton’s.” Peter explained as if were nothing.

“But I need to find you some-“ Natasha begins.

“Shh.” He cuts her off abruptly.

“Rest now. Worry later.” The teen says.

“That’s my line.” Natasha barely mumbles before her eyes shut and the world goes dark.

Chapter Text

“Natasha.”

Her eyes flutter open slowly, but as she sits up she realizes she not in bed. Instead she’s back in the shallow pond.

So it all was a dream.

“Natasha.” The familiar voice called again.

She rubbed her eyes with her palms as the blurred body of Tony Stark came into view.

“Tony?” She breathed looking at him.

He extended a hand to her and she grasped it as he pulled her up.

“Am I still dead?” She asks confused.

Tony chuckles.

“No. Everything from the past twenty four hours is very real.” Stark assures.

“Then how are you here? How am I talking to you?” Natasha questions.

“That’s not important right now, let’s talk about the kid.” Tony begins, and honestly if he hadn’t averted to that topic she probably would’ve argued and asked more about how the hell she was with him.

“He’s back.” She clarified.

Tony scoffs.

“Please I know. He had to watch me die.” Tony says sadly, like that was the worst part.

Natasha’s mouth falls agape, Peters been through hell and back that’s exactly the last thing he needed.

“There’s something I meant to give you, five years ago.” He begins to speak before she can.

“I never got the chance. I told myself when this was all over and we got him back I would, but here we are.” Iron man explains.

“Well what was it?” Nat asks curious.

“Call Pepper for me. Tell her I had some papers for you in the top left drawer of my desk. She doesn’t go in there as is, so I bet it’s untouched.” Tony tells her, his voice breaking slightly over his wife’s name.

Natasha nods.

“But what is it?” She presses for answers.

“Later. Wake up Red.” He smiles softly.

……...

“Hey you’re awake.” The voice says.

She rubs her eyes to rid clear her sight. The redhead can’t help but smile at the sight of blonde.

“What are you doing up here?” She asks, but not complaining.

The spy plants her palms on the mattress as she pushes herself to sit upright against the headboard.

“The Captain insisted I supervise while he and the Witch went to gather you some belongings.” Thor explained.

“Belongings?” She echoed.

He nodded.

“The avengers base was wrecked during the battle. My apologies Natasha, I fear your possessions are gone.” The god tells her sadly.

“It’s okay Thor, I’ve got everything I need.” She smiles placing a hand atop his larger one.

She knows all the important things she needs are locked away in her apartment and other corners of the world. All the material things anyways. She wasn’t trying to be cheesy but being with her family again was enough.

“He never gave up Natasha. None of us did.” Thor tells her, and she knows that the ‘he’ is Steve.

Her green eyes just stare at the now larger blonde, almost prying for him to go on.

“Barton told us that whatever being inhabited Vormir said it could not be reversed, and Banner attempted to return you in the snap.” He began.

“As usual with all the odds against you, you’ve managed to return.” He smiles.

She does the same. The door sounds downstairs, and Thor sighs and stands from his chair. Natasha pushes back the covers to do the same, but he stops her.

“I’ll inform Steve you’re awake.” He assures.

She looks at him quizzically, not understanding why she can’t follow.

“He’ll he angry if I let you get up without his supervision. He can wield the hammer now, might hit me with it.” Thor joked as he started to climb the steps.

Natasha chuckled. She knew she could join him down the stairs, but decided not to, she had a phone call to make.

Her hand found the device as it punched in the number. On the fourth ring she picked up.

“Natasha. I didn’t expect to hear from you so soon.” And Nat can practically hear the smile through the phone.

“I actually had a question.” The spy began nervously.

“Shoot.” Pepper responded.

“Tony, he said he had some papers or something to give me, but he never got the chance.” She gulped at the last part.

“Sure.” The strawberry blonde replied.

Natasha opened her mouth to explain where she believed its location to be, since Tony, whatever form he was in, told her so. But Pepper beat her to it.

“I bet he kept it in the top left drawer of his desk. He puts all that type of stuff in there. But I never bother even trying to clean it, and I’m not starting now.” She chuckles.

Natasha laughs too, but for an entirely different reason. At the fact of how well both she and Tony know one another. It’s endearing, and something Natasha wishes for. But as she hears Pepped shuffle through the phone she remembers that Steve keeps all his military documents in his sock drawer, oh...

“Ah ha!” Pepped cheers in celebration.

“There is a large manila folder with your name on it. I’m going into town later for dinner with Rhodey and Morgan, I can send it out. What’s your address?” She asks.

Natasha settles on giving her the nearest post office, and Pepper explains whatever it is, Nat will have it within three to five business days. They bid their goodbyes, and just in time Sam is at the top of the steps, luggage in tow.

“How do you feel?” He asks placing the bags down.

She shrugs.

“Can I get up? Rumor is I need Steve’s permission.” She says sarcastically, and Sam knows she’s joking because she’s on her feet in no time.

“So he’s a little over protective, can you blame the guy?” Sam shrugs with a grin.

Natasha’s face contorts in mock confusion.

“Please I’ve had my share of brushes with death before I knew Steve and I survived.” She points out, slipping on some socks.

“Yeah but this time you didn’t.” He says seriously.

Natasha freezes at the sudden tone shift.

“Okay genius. I recall you dying too.” The redhead argues.

“Come on. You knew I was coming back. There was no way you Steve and your self sacrificing ways weren’t gonna bring me back.” he pauses, “When you went, we all thought it was it.”

The words make Natasha cringe, deep down she knows he’s right.

“And you’d also think dying would be a big enough push to tell Steve how you feel. You two are morons.” He finishes.

Natasha groans annoyed.

“I didn’t know this was resurrect and ridicule Natasha. Last time I checked I’m fifty percent why you’re here right now.” She growls.

Sam chuckles as she brushes past him to the steps. On the contact Natasha hears the dog whistle like sound and falls to her knees.

She sees Sam struggling in some foliage. He turns to dust like the others as she spots a frantic Rhodey just yards away.

“Sam! Sam where you at?” He calls out.

Natasha watches as the specks rebuild themselves and Sam is brought back.

“I’m here man! I’m here!” Sam pushes himself up to go to War Machine, but he’s too late.

Rhodes turns to dust like the others.

Okay, what? Natasha thinks.

Sure the last five years were a blurb at best but she knows for a fact that James Rhodes did not succumb to Thanos’ decimation.

Sam is running to the pile on the dirt and trips. Before Natasha can watch him hit the ground she closes her eyes and hears a thump. But when she opens them again, she’s atop a sandy dune. She notices Sam nearby struggling to stand.

Then she spots it. The small detonator flashing red inches next to Sam's body. So she tries something, something she hadn’t attempted in any of her previous visions.

If that’s what you could call them.

“Wilson!” She hollers.

Nothing.

“Sam!” The spy is almost desperate as she runs to him.

He lifts his head up and she sighs in relief thinking he’s noticed her presence, but it’s not her he’s looking at. It’s the man in the sky with a set of wings similar to his own. He flies down and scoops the rpg.

“No!” Both she and Sam yell as the explosion goes off meters from the ground in the soldier's hand.

He falls to the ground along with the ash and debris and Sam is sprinting to him. He grabs his bloody form as tears stream his cheeks.

“Riley.” He shakes.

“Why’d you do that?” Sam cries.

No response.

“Why?” He chokes out barely audible and broken.

Natasha feels moisture build up in her eyes as he clings to the lifeless body.

“Natasha.”

Shaking her head she feels two strong arms around her own.

“You okay?” Sam asked

She sighed. She was okay, she was back in the bedroom as opposed to the battle field. Sams told her the story a few times, just bits and pieces, so she knew that the man falling from the sky, Riley was his previous partner, hence why he carried the survivors guilt.

“I’m fine. I just stood up too fast.” The lie falling effortlessly from her lips.

Sam snorted at this, and turned to grasp the railing on the steps. Nat stops by gripping his arm tightly. When she does she sees flashes of Riley’s corpse as the medics drag Sam away. Her breath hitches and she retracts her hand from where it laid on his skin.

“Don’t tell Steve about this.” She tells him.

“Why shouldn’t I?” Sam asks with a raised brow.

“Because he worries too much, and I’m fine.” She insists.

“Whatever you say Romanoff.” He replies with an eye roll.

They reach the bottom of the steps in no time and Steve grins at the sight of her, but turns his attention to Sam and glares.

“You let her get up.” He scolds.

Sam laughs, he was too predictable.

“I’m fine Steve.” She says offering a ghost of a smile, but it wasn’t that convincing.

Steve wanted to reach out and pull her in his arms, or at least ask if she was alright, but before he could muster any courage, someone cleared his throat from behind.

“Hot dog or hamburger?” He smiles lifting a plate.

Natasha laughs.

“Hamburger.” She responds snagging one from the plate.

Everyone began unpacking some goods and set the table as she munched on the sandwich.

“I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Star-Lord.” He says the last word in a deeper voice.

Natasha furrows her brows. She’s read all about his guy during his five year absence.

“Okay Peter,” She emphasizes his real name, causing his face to drop.

“I’m Natasha.”

“Well I know who you are. Steve really doesn’t shut up about you.” He stage whispers the last part and Bucky chuckles loudly as Steve blushes.

“Rocket doesn’t shut up about you either.” Nat says trying to save Steve some embarrassment.

But what did he say.

A hand is brought to her attention as Quill waits for her to shake it.

“Nice to properly meet you.” He smiles

She grins back, and takes his hand.

Mentally she’s preparing herself for the impending doom to come at the brush of their skin.

“Mom!” It’s a little boy that looks eerily similar to Quill.

Peter must’ve forced his hand away because the image goes as fast as it came. Sighing in relief and thanking whatever god she didn’t tumble over to send her friends, more specifically Steve into panic.

“You good?” He asks.

She nods and puts on her best smile.

Natasha seats herself in between Parker and Steve. Practically sandwiched between his broad shoulders and Peters excessive tendency to spread his limbs, she realizes there’s no where she’d rather be.

She turns to the right as Spider-Man hurriedly digs into his mac and cheese like someone’s about to steal it from him, as Steve lifts up his third burger. The soldier notices her intent staring and places his food back on the plate.

“Hey, everything alright?” He asks concerned, his hand reaches to touch his own.

At the contact she almost flinches away, not in the mood to be exhausted by another one of her premonitions, but it never comes. All that remains is the warmth of his hand, and it's a relief she hasn’t felt in days.

“I’m good.” She tenderly squeezes his hand back, she stifles a yawn before she can stop herself.

“You’re still tired. Do you want me to take you upstairs?” The blonde offers.

“You worry too much.” She shakes her head.

There’s a pregnant pause among them as their friends converse around them.

“Last time I didn’t worry enough.” He states.

He looks sad and guilty. This would definitely be something she’d need to bring up later. Let him know what happened wasn’t preventable and all that matters is she’s here now. Being it isn’t the time or place she just offers a sad smile and speaks.

“I’m exactly where I need to be.” She answers his earlier question.

Steve smiles, and neither retracts their hand as they dive into their meal.

Nat is distracted by some tale Rockets spinning as he stands on the table, and she laughs, and Steve smiles at the interaction. He feels a pair of eyes on him and he focuses in on the man across the table.

T’Challa winks at him and cocks his head in Natasha’s direction while throwing a thumbs up. It’s something out of character for the usual poised king. Steve blushes wildly as Shuri nudges her brother.

..........

Dinner was successful and Steve directed all their friends to each room in the large remote mansion he got his hands on. It’s no Avengers Tower, but it’s enough. Though the day was full of laughter and smiles, he’s still hurting. Hurting over the fact that he couldn’t prevent what she did, find some other way, and he knows she’s back, and he couldn’t be happier. But he also knows her. All of her. He knows there’s something else going on in that beautiful head of hers and Steve would be damned if she goes through whatever it is alone.

He steps out from the bathroom. As he runs his hands through his hair. The working of his beard is coming in as stubble and he decides to let it grow in, Nat did once tell him that she loved the beard. Smiling the slightest bit at the memory he pads over to where Natasha’s been taking residence, and funny enough it’s where he had been sleeping prior to her return.

He notices that there’s no light pouring from the crack beneath the door, so as quietly as he can he pushes it open. The soldier expected her to be asleep but wanted to check on her nonetheless. However, he was shocked to find her perched at the foot of the bed, staring blankly at the wall.

And she must really be focused because she doesn’t even turn her head as his entrance, and it’s almost concerning.

“Nat.” He breaks the silence in a tentative, soft tone.

She shakes her head the waves of the red and blonde hair burrowing at her shoulder. Her sad almost void eyes connect with his and offers a pathetic attempt at a smile.

“Oh hey.”

She looks unsettled and it makes him nervous because he absolutely aches for her.

“What are you doing?” He asks carefully slowly walking to her.

“Just thinking.” Nat purses her lips, her tone full of anything.

The bed dips as he plops himself beside her.

“Care to share with the class?” The blonde jokes lightly turning to face her.

She chuckles, but it’s dry and almost as if she’s working on auto pilot.

When she says nothing, he reaches for her hand. She flinches at the touch, terrified of the memories it may unleash, but when his hand remains she coaxes herself into lacing her fingers through his.

“Nat.” The Captain almost pleads.

“It’s really nice that everyone came out here to see me. Spend some time together.” She starts.

“But?” Steve knows it’s coming.

“But I can’t pretend,” she takes a deep breath before continuing.

“I can’t pretend that it never happened.” The redhead states.

“Nobodies asking you to.” Steve argues.

“Feels like it.” She mutters.

Now it’s his turn to release a breath.

“I wish I could pretend it never happened. That when we won you were there, but the thing is you weren’t. I failed you, and as much as I want to push that from my mind, I can’t Nat. I just can’t.” He shakes his head in defeat.

The confession makes her shiver. Failure was a topic she was taught not to take lightly.

“Don’t do that to yourself.” She whispers her voice hoarse.

“If anything I’m glad you weren’t up there with me.” She can’t believe the words to her own ears.

Steve’s head snaps and his fingers tap lightly against her chin as he pushes it up so their eyes are reflecting one another.

“I should’ve been there.” He rasps.

“No.” She deadpans.

The soldier looks hurt, but his hand remains as it smoothly cups her cheek.

“You being there would’ve made what I did would’ve made what I had done near impossible, but less of a choice.”

It’s a self contradicting statement, but he gets the idea anyway. She’s basically saying she would sacrifice it all for him, even if it meant losing him. It’s bittersweet.

Despite getting the picture, he wants to know more. Fully wrap his head around her words so he can finally be useful and help.

“Less of a choice?” He implodes.

“The world needs Captain America.” It’s a simple statement in attempts to mask all she really wants to let out, but it’s enough.

There’s a pause.

“Steve Rogers needs you.” Is his response.

A tear escapes her eyes and he’s swiping from where it’s sliding down her hollow cheeks without a beat.

She bites her lip nervously trying to come up with any response.

“I’m not saying we ignore this, but no matter what you say, todays been a long day. Sleep.” His voice is tougher but not in an intimidating way, it’s no nonsense.

Her lips quirk recognizing the tone from so many different occasions.

Taking the small smile as enough he returns one back and stands to leave. Before he can reach the door, a hand wraps around his wrist. Her touch is feathery but it’s there, as he closes his eyes to basque in the moment.

“I’m scared to sleep.”

Whenever she doesn’t drift off and see Tony, which is nice but tinges her with sadness, she’s left on the cold concrete slab as the harrowing memories of those before pass through her mind at lightning speed.

He stares blankly and she’s worried she’s crossed a line. They used to share a bed practically every night, but maybe it’s different. Maybe he fears her touch as much as she’s been scared of his. But why?

“It’s just that when I close my eyes,” she starts to justify it, but he stops her.

“You never have to explain it to me. I’m here.” The captain says more sure of himself as his eyes melt into her own.

The statement makes her sigh in relief as he throws back the covers.

She crawls forward until her head hits the pillow and he follows suit. Laying flat on his back, he extends his arm as an invitation which she doesn’t think twice about. Despite all the terrible things plaguing her mind, Steve puts that at bay. She knows now she’d be a damn fool to pull away from that.

“Sleep well.” He murmurs, exhaustion evident in his voice.

She grumbles words of agreement, as he leans down as his lips brush her fiery red hair. At that, she lets her lids fall, praying for a peaceful slumber.