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Scars (And What They Say)

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Natasha isn’t an open book, she never has been. It’s one of the many things she’s still trying to figure out about herself, it’s not that she doesn’t want to open up, no. If anything she’s almost desperate to, she’s been carrying so much inside for so long it feels almost unbearable at points. It’s just that every time she’s about to open her mouth and blurt out how she actually feels all she can think of is how it’s weak, how she’s better than exposing everyone around her to her own problems. Some teachings of the Red Room never left. Still, she has moments where things get so overwhelming she ends up losing that little bit of control and saying something, it happens for the first time with Hill after the Stark mission. She’s just tired after that assignment, fed up of being ogled at like she was some prize to win from Stark and the casual diminishment of her capabilities. It was late that night, around one or two in the morning and she had been lazing on the couch in Maria’s office while she had been typing up a report
“I used to lie awake in the Red Room like this and wonder what would happen if I just ran away, left it all behind.”
She regrets saying it the moment it comes out of her mouth, she can hear Maria stop typing for a second.
“What did you think would happen?”
“I thought I would have been shot. Still, it almost had more appeal than staying there.”
Maria just hummed slightly at that before turning back to her work. She speaks again a few minutes later
“I’m glad you didn’t, get shot I mean. You’re better than most of the agents here at least and I need you to keep Clint in check.”
Hill gives her a soft smile at that, Natasha almost isn’t sure how to react. People weren’t nice to her in that way, they never had been but Hill had always been different. It had been Hill who had kept an eye on her during her first week in SHIELD, Hill who forced her to go to Medbay after missions and get checked over, Hill who had given her everything so far and asked for nothing in return. Natasha feels a little bit of the pressure in her chest lifted

Natasha meant for that to be a one-time thing, she really did but after that, the dam breaks. She isn’t sure if it’s because after years of holding things in for someone to finally listen, even just for a moment, meant that everything seemed to turn on its head or because it was Maria that had listened. Maria “Hardass” Hill who had stopped and genuinely thought about what Natasha had said. They get closer after that, the nature of their relationship changes in a subtle sort of way. The boundaries Natasha has around everyone get lifted for Hill, and the sort of cold demeanour Maria takes with everyone else gets lifted for Natasha. They talk more, Natasha invites Maria to catsit for her while she’s out on missions. That’s when it happens for a second time, Hill had been staying at her apartment overnight and it had gotten to the early hours of the morning again
“I had a sister, Yelena. She was everything to me, I don’t know where she is now, I’m too scared to check.”
“I just-”
Natasha takes a breath at that, she isn’t sure what just happened.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that-”
Maria turns her head at that
“You don’t need to apologise, friends talk to each other. I complain to you about work all the time, this is the same thing just on a different level. Considering just how much I talk to you I think you deserve a chance to get something off your chest every now and again”
“But you’re Hill, you’re different- I don’t…”
“And you’re Natasha, you’re smart, capable, able to put up with Clint’s bullshit, surprisingly emotionally adatable, pretty-”
“You think I’m pretty?”

It comes as a surprise to nobody that they end up in a relationship, least of all Clint, who upon finding out just sticks his hand out as Colson passes him five dollars. Natasha chases him around SHIELD for an hour after that. Maria moves her stuff into her apartment and forces Natasha to actually make her apartment look like a home instead of an IKEA advertisement, it’s nice though, the kind of domesticity Natasha never thought she would have or even deserve. People like her, villains, didn’t get to have this kind of happiness and yet here she was anyway (The fact that Hill had even chosen to have a relationship with her made her doubt if she was the monster she had convinced herself she was.). A part of her still believes that though, the part of her that drives her to take a blade in neat rows over her skin each night despite the fact that Hill is just in the next room. She hates herself for it, but it’s the only way she's found to manage everything. To manage the years of trauma she’s lived through. The ones that leave her waking up in the dark, drenched in sweat and screaming to the point she has to clutch onto Maria in the night like she’s the only thing tethering her to the world. The third time it happens, it’s Maria who initiates it. They’re lying together on the couch. Natasha with her sleeves rolled up (A stupid, rookie mistake). Maria spots it then
“Tasha, we should talk-”
“I know we need to put Liho on a diet, but it’s just hard-”
“About the scars-”
She feels her heart drop in that moment as she pulls her sleeves down desperately as if that will change something, help Maria to understand that she wasn’t weak- that the cutting was just a vice
“Natasha, breathe with me okay. Just in and out”
She hadn’t even noticed how her breath had sped up. They sit there for a few minutes before Maria speaks again
“I’m sorry, I should have done something sooner. I just didn’t know things were that bad for you, I hadn’t thought to question it… It just seemed like another thing that would have done more harm if I brought it up”
“You aren’t annoyed at me?”
“No, Tasha- Who would ever have-”
She can see the realisation dawn in Marias eyes
“The Room.”
“It wasn’t that bad, they didn’t really do much. So long as it didn’t impact my performance.”
She can feel Hill move across towards and then- and then she’s got her arms wrapped around her and Natasha just breaks. She doesn’t know how long they spend there, she talks for most of it. Bits of her past that had sat with her for so long they had almost bound themself to her being, to how she thought, how she acted and through it all Maria had listened. Sat down with her arms around her and listened. She talks about the cutting, how it just helps her feel grounded, how the pain and the scars just act as a reminder that she did that to herself, not the Red Room, that she’s out of their control. Maria asks her about her other scars and she answers, she tells the truth with all of its unflinching cruelty and unfairness. It’s only after that, as they lie together that Maria suggests Natasha starts seeing someone. It’s only after that, that Natasha throws all of her blades out. It’s only after that, that Natasha Romanoff finally starts to feel loved. Natasha Romanoff isn't an open book, she never has been, but with Maria Hill, it's a completely different story.