Sharon grabs Natasha's wrist with impressive speed.
Characters (this chapter): Natasha Romanoff, Sharon Carter. (Implied past relationship).
Content Warnings: Canon-typical violence.
Rating: Teen & Up.
Natasha yanks her forward, using Sharon's grip against her. After one fatal second of hesitation, Sharon reacts. She counters, ducking low, swiping Natasha's legs out from under her. Prepared, Natasha jumps, spinning, blocking Sharon's punch with her bicep. She catches Sharon's next swing, and Sharon's other hand lands on her wrist. Natasha swoops low, maneuvering around Sharon by twisting her arm up behind her back. It leaves Sharon at an awkward angle, neck and chest exposed. She struggles, making an unhappy sound. It's not a draw, but Sharon's getting better. Natasha releases her, stepping backwards.
"Did that hurt?" Natasha finds herself whispering.
"It's all right." Sharon massages her shoulder. "That wasn't-"
“Watch your footwork when you swing from the left, your center of gravity should be lower, it gives you an advantage over larger-”
“Natasha, your hand-”
She pulls her wrist out of Sharon’s line of sight.
“I’m fine.” She winks. “This job is hell on my manicure.”
Sharon presses her index and middle fingers against her temple, closing her eyes while she decides what to say next.
“I didn't mean to- I wasn't trying to restrain you.”
Natasha takes a breath. “But I’m fine.”
“You didn’t say the Winter Soldier attacked you.”
“I said he contacted me. The rest was a given.”
Sharon groans, deep in the back of her throat, almost like a growl.
“Go clean up. Please.”
It’s one of the few things Sharon is frequently adamant about. It doesn’t seem necessary to clean up a couple of bruises, but Natasha goes anyway. It will give Sharon time to let her emotions dissipate.
Sharon’s bathroom is cosy. It’s the same design as the other bathrooms in the building, exact same fittings and tiles, but Sharon has added enough details to make it feel like it’s something other than a duplicate. The bathmat and shower curtain match, and Natasha knows they get rotated out at the same time, at the first sign of mildew or mold. There’s a potted plant by the window: a peace lily. Easy to care for, thrives in low light environments. An excellent choice.
Natasha rinses her face in the sink, running her fingers through the matted hair above her ear. Checking for evidence to remove. There’s a little blood there, but she doesn’t think any of it is hers. She’s glad Sharon didn’t notice. There’s blood on her wrist, too, and she’s sure none of it belongs to her. The sample is probably contaminated, but she collects it anyway, storing it in her breast pocket before she cleans her forearm. It’s sore, and the joints pop when she flexes, but it can’t be worse than a sprain. Should heal in under twelve hours, even if she doesn’t rest it.
The shoulder can wait. Sharon won't see it.
The last time she was in this bathroom, the sun was shining through the slender, frosted window, and she and Sharon were intimate. Natasha still remembers the imprint of the experience on her body, the warm water and the cool air and Sharon’s strong, soft hands exploring between her thighs. When Sharon got dressed, it was in the pink nurse uniform, and Natasha briefed her on Steve Rogers, the new things she’d learned about him. There were few significant details, but she felt it was worth mentioning that he is a man prone to risks, that he was angry with her when she prioritized her mission over saving the lives of the hostages.
She had revealed too much exasperation to Sharon, who had told her she should be glad that she was on a team with someone that would save her life. It was difficult to explain to Sharon that it was irrelevant, that she was trained so she would never need someone to save her. That it was the entire point of her specialty. Sharon kept arguing hypotheticals that would never materialize: what if someone was stronger, or smarter, or faster, or more prepared? What if she was outnumbered? Natasha could think of many examples when she had faced these odds, and survived, but Sharon still didn’t understand? Finally, Sharon had grabbed her hand, and asked her:
“If it was the other way around, and it was down to me to save your life, and you be honest with me, would you trust me to do it?”
Sharon had asked her to be honest. She had said no. It was not optimal, but also not very surprising when Sharon informed her it was the end of the sexual component of their relationship. Because Sharon had asked for truth, Natasha has to assume this is the outcome she wanted. The stipulation that they remain friends is confusing.
The towels hanging on the wall are pink and blue, and soft, fresh from the laundry. She can smell the detergent in the fibers when she dries off. When she hangs it back up, she takes .6 seconds longer than the task requires because she is trying to get it to hang the way it was when she found it. An unnecessary gesture. If anyone cared to look they would find her DNA all over the absorbent, blue fibers. She’s left traces of herself all over the apartment. And Sharon would corroborate her presence here. She ends up placing it beside the pink towels. The color scheme is reminiscent of the boy-girl assignments in the prenatal unit. The information is irrelevant, and it’s unsettling that she remembers it now. She ignores it.
Sharon is waiting for her on the other side of the door.
“Are you all right?”
“This isn’t my first rodeo.”
Sharon bites back a groan.
“That’s not what I- I mean you.”
Natasha isn’t sure what she’s angling for.
“Injuries like this heal.”
Sharon touches her wrist, not pulling.
“S.H.I.E.L.D. is gone. Pierce is dead. It’s not bothering you?”
Natasha looks form Sharon’s hand to Sharon’s face.
“Nat, all your secrets are out-”
Natasha backs away, out of her grasp.
“Not all of them.”
“Enough of them.” Sharon stands her ground. “Which is why-”
“If you read something that bothered you, just say it.”
Sharon doesn’t look angry, but she’s been trained by some of the best.
“I didn’t read them.”
“Why?” If their roles had been reversed, Natasha would have read everything. That’s just due diligence.
“If there was something in those documents you wanted me to know… I was waiting for you to tell me-”
“I’ve never lied to you.”
Sharon grits her teeth.
“I never said you did.”
“You knew what I was.” Natasha finds herself counting exits in an apartment she knows intimately.
“Nat that’s not- we’re having two different arguments right now.”
“I’m not angry.” She ignores the tight, anxious feeling inside her chest. “I understand.”
Sharon looks deflated.
“I don’t think you do.”
Natasha passes her, gathering her things.
“No, you said it was over. I shouldn’t have come back. I shouldn’t have asked you for anything.”
She feels Sharon’s hand on her shoulder and freezes. She’s been conditioned to attack when someone grabs her from behind, but it’s extremely unlikely that Sharon would attack her. The odds of her success in a one-on-one fight are not good.
“Natasha. I also said we could still be friends. You’re always welcome here.”
Natasha nods, then breaks out of Sharon’s grasp.
“Thanks, Sharon. I’ll be fine.”
She leaves the way she came.
She does a perimeter check around the apartment complex, spanning six blocks, before she returns. There is no one trailing her.
The lights in the kitchen are on, there is shattered glass and blood on the floor. She doesn’t disturb it. The air is cool, streaming in through the broken windows. She reserves one moment to be impressed at the Soldier's skill; he took his shot at Fury through the wall, must have used Rogers to place him. She checks the apartment for surveillance equipment, ignoring her own devices. There are some of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s, which she deactivates. It’s doubtful anyone is listening, since Steve won’t be returning to the building for at least one more day. In the wake of Alexander Pierce’s spectacular betrayal, there isn’t enough manpower to go around monitoring empty apartments.
She places a tripwire near the front door, attached to a grenade pin. It’s not elegant, but it will be an inconvenience for approximately thirty seconds, which is twenty more than she needs.
The bedroom alone is neat. Not a trace of dust. The closet door is open, revealing a neat array of jackets, crisp khakis hung to the far left, and a solid mass of collared, navy shirts, punctuated by the occasional white-and-navy plaid.
The bed is made, with tight corners folded over and tucked firmly beneath the mattress. The pillows look soft. The white sheets lie in crisp lines beneath them.
Setting down her bag, she sits on the floor beside the bed, in the corner across from the door. Not visible from the window, but there are excellent acoustics coming from the street. There’s a gun in the bedside table, and her own weapons are easily accessible from this position. There’s no fire escape in this room. The egress routes are limited, but she will have plenty of time to get to one if anyone tries to enter.
A quick sweep of the room should clear it. Removing the impression of her footsteps from the carpet will be the most difficult part. Most of the surfaces are so light that one of her dark hairs will show immediately. Steve will never know she was here.
She plugs her phone in beside her, and closes her eyes.
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