The gun in her hand feels heavy, so heavy, and she meets Nick’s good eye, and sees him nod. It’s ok. She
can lower it, and Alexander Pierce can breathe a few moments longer.
He won’t see the sun set, and won’t cause any more deaths,
any more destruction to SHIELD than he’s already wrought.
It’s almost over.
 
She would wipe away the tears she knows are clinging to the
corner of her eyes, but it would make her look weak.

Five minutes later when she bites her tongue, pinching the
final Widow’s bite in her fist, preventing the name badge from burning a hole
in her chest, she doesn’t stop the tears.

Nick won’t think any less of her.
The pain is still enough to knock her out for a heartbeat,
and she relishes the darkness.

*

The memory grips her, and an icy tendril of fear caresses
and slides down her spine.

The red room.

Her first actual weapon besides her fists, her legs, and her
sharp elbows.

It’s heavy and cold and metal and the trigger fits her
finger as it curls against it, nestled in her palm, she doesn’t see the man in
front of her, only the target on his forehead.

Click.

‘Very good Natalia.’

The snake like whisper comes, filling her ears, her mind,
and her heart beat skitters to a stop, before beginning again with a shudder
like an engine turning over.

Reality returns, and Clint’s holding her in his arms, even
as Red still swirls in her vision and she’s fighting to understand that it wasn’t
real, it’s not real anymore.

*

He thinks he’s clever.

Bruce Banner, also known as the Hulk. He’s torn apart half
of New York single handedly, and Natasha thought she could handle him like any
other man.

Her arms shake slightly as she holds the gun between two
hands, and yet her aim is true. Her nostrils flare as adrenaline fires through
her veins, lighting her up and alerting her to the exits and reminding her of
the earpiece to call for backup.

“I’m sorry.”

His words fall on deaf ears, well, not really, but she is in
Battle Mode, and the joke is flat.

She leans away and puts him directly in her sights,
flinching and yes, bad posture, but she will shoot him in the head if she has
to.

*

One gun in each hand, she fires as quickly as possible,
until they both click empty.

The Winter Soldier.

He is more deadly than she can possibly put to words.

Steve has now seen his power, his capabilities and yet,
there’s something else. Something he’s not telling her, and she sees it every
time they meet, every time he and the Winter Soldier fight.

He’s holding back.

Captain America is not
giving it his all, he’s giving ground with every punch, each kick is less
offensive and more out of despair and desperation.

What?

When they reunite, and things have calmed down, Steve is
looking at Nick’s fake headstone, and she chokes on the words.

She wants to know. She needs
to know.

How does he know the man from her nightmares and worst
memories?

How does he know the man who trained her, before she had to
be broken and remade?

He looks up, catches her watching him, and she smiles.

The mask slides into place easily.

She’ll find a way to ask him another day.

*

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