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with you, i'm safe

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If Jessica’s being honest with herself, she’s kind of always had a low-key crush on Natasha. It started off as a bit of hero worship in her early days as an Avenger, mostly because Natasha fought tooth and nail to prove that she had a place on the team. Jess admired that because of her own doubts about her place amongst the heroes. Then, as they worked together, Jessica admired Natasha for who she was, the way her compassion and her ruthlessness wove together. She became a friend- hanging out after missions, working out in the tower. Jess loved that she got to connect with another person who related to so much of her past.

Once they started working together on the Secret Avengers, that’s when, retrospectively, Jessica notices her admiration turn into something more. She’d always enjoyed spending time with Nat, but found herself craving more and more time together. She chalked it up to being excited about having someone new to hang out with, especially because it was right around the time Carol went into space. There have been so few people that Jessica has genuinely connected with, particularly in a romantic sense, that she had trouble recognizing something that was right in front of her.

Then one day, they were working a small bust for fun. They could have sent some junior SHIELD agents, but they were bored and restless hanging out in the Helicarrier. Plus these hooligans were using a twisted version of the Easter Bunny or something as their mascot. It was too good to pass up. The bust was even simpler to execute than they thought it would be. They came in through the roof of the old warehouse the gang was using as a base of operations. Dropping down on wires, they landed right in the middle of a little team meeting.

“Well, well, well. What do we have hare?” Natasha said as she surveyed the room. Jessica had burst out laughing despite the situation. Nat threw a wink at her, and Jessica froze.

Oh my god. I have a crush on Natasha Romanoff.

Thankful that they weren’t skilled fighters in the slightest because her mental preoccupation was making it somewhat difficult to focus, she flung herself into beating up the weird rabbit themed gang. And now, now Jess has a problem.

 

~

 

“I thought you were making plans with Romanoff? Another spa day or something” Carol asks.

Jessica shrugs and traces the condensation on her glass.

“She had said something about catching up with Sharon, so I never actually asked her if she wanted to go.”

Carol raises an eyebrow and gives Jess a look. Jessica ignores it and continues.

“Besides, you just got back from space. That means mandatory best friend hanging out to fill me in on what happened. I heard Chewie’s an alien now?”

“I don’t know what’s going on, but you’re deflecting. I know you are. Though, I did really miss you. So I’ll tell you about space, and Tik, and the actual biggest fucking asshole in the universe. But then you’re gonna tell me what you’re not telling me.”

Carol weaves the tale of her time in space and by the end of it, Jess is laughing and stressed in equal parts about the antics that Carol got up to with Rocket and Tik.

“Is motherhood treating Chewie well?” Jess jokes.

Carol rolls her eyes, “Yeah, but if you want an alien cat, I’m sure she’d allow it. There are like 1000 of them.”

“You mean you don’t want that many cats in your apartment?”

When Carol kicks her foot underneath the table, she can’t help but smile. God, she really did miss Carol. It seems like it’s been years since they’ve spent time together just joking and being stupid. Plus it’s helped her keep her mind off of her current situation. Mostly.

“So tell me about what you’ve been up to? Doing stuff for Maria, right?”

“That’s supposed to be a secret”, Jess teases, “but yeah. Mostly working with Barton and Natasha.”

Carol grimaces, “How has that been?”

“Not as bad as you’d think. Nat makes it better.”

Carol raises her eyebrows.

“No one’s replacing me as your best friend, right?” she jokes.

Jess snorts, “Never. There are no new best friends.” She starts tracing the condensation again, trying but not quite succeeding at keeping the dopey smile off her face.

“Good because I- hey, I know that look, Jess. What’s going on with Natasha?”

Carol is her best friend, but Jessica still feels hesitant bringing it up. Mentioning her growing feelings for Natasha makes them real in a way that Jess hasn’t had to deal with yet. She doesn’t want another train wreck relationship. Besides, even though no one could replace Carol, Nat has become a really good friend, one that she can really trust. For Jessica, those are few and far between. She doesn’t know if she could take that leap of faith. For all that she’s a superhero, Jess doesn’t feel very brave. But maybe talking to Carol will make her feel better. That’s how friendships are supposed to work, right?

Carol waits patiently while Jessica is warring with her thoughts. Jess brings her hands up to her face, covering her eyes.

“I kinda want to be a thing with Natasha. Like with Clint, but better. Way better.  God, it sounds so high school.” She removes her hands from her eyes.

Carol raises her eyebrows.

“I know, I know. I didn’t go to high school. But remember, the movies. The thing is, I’m a grown woman and I’m kinda freaking out because of a crush.”

Carol smiles, sort of softly.

“I might not be the best person to give romantic advice, but I don’t think you should hold back. Go for it. So much shit happens to us. And we, god Jess especially you, we deserve happiness.”

Jessica kicks at Carol’s feet under the table affectionately; then she smirks.

“I’ll talk to Nat if you call Rhodey and try not to screw that up.”

Carol groans and throws a pretzel at Jessica’s face. She just picks it off the table and pops it into her mouth, smile smug.

Her mind is still running circles, though. Jess will laugh and joke, but honestly- honestly she’s scared in a way she never has been before because she’ll call it a crush, but it’s much more than that.

 

~

 

Natasha breaks into Sharon’s apartment through the window. She sets up camp in the kitchen, brewing coffee and pulling out ingredients for cookies. She’s actually kind of surprised that Sharon has everything. Her cupboards are usually pitiful.

There’s a cookie sheet already in the oven and Natasha’s starting to place more on another when Sharon opens her front door. Nat can hear Sharon pause and creep forward slowly.

“I figured it was you.”

Natasha doesn’t stop rolling cookies and teasingly says, “Then why’d you move so cautiously?

“Can never be too sure, yeah? Plus I wasn’t completely positive til I smelled the cookies.”

Nat looks over her shoulder quizzically.

Sharon crosses her arms and gives Natasha a look.

“Please, you only bake cookies when you’re stressed about something.”

“Maybe I just wanted to catch up. I haven’t seen you in a while.” Natasha says.

“And you broke into my apartment, not Steve’s, which means you’re stressing about something emotional, but you’re trying to ignore it.”

Damn. She’d forgotten how well Sharon knew her.

“I brought wine.” She tosses out, choosing not to give Sharon a response.

Sharon rolls her eyes, “Fine. I’ll let you ignore your emotions for a little while.”

 

~

 

The thing is, throughout her life, Natasha has found herself falling quickly into relationships. Her feelings sort of jump out of nowhere, and she falls fast. She figured that was her M.O. But this time, this time with Jessica, something is different and she doesn’t know what. She’s been present in this slow spiral in a way she never has been before. It was like every interaction with Jessica added up, building this fortress of kindness and shared experience that she feels safe within. Every time Jessica had her back on the field or she opened up to Nat about her past, it was another brick laid. The final brick was when Nat got out of the black hole with Lady Bullseye and Jess held her hand for the duration of their ride on the Helicarrier. She didn’t pry or push, she didn’t even say anything. She was just a solid presence of comfort and Natasha felt something inside of her settle.

Natasha’s eyes were open every step of the way, and it is exhilarating. It makes her giddy, almost. She feels normal. Maybe she’s human after all.

The only problem is that she doesn’t know where to go from there. Within herself, it feels so significant. It feels huge, and that makes her unsure of herself. So she keeps putting it off. She keeps making excuses. Her atonement isn’t completed and probably never will be. It’s not safe. She’s not good enough. The list grows and grows inside her head and she can’t escape it.

And when Natasha wants to ignore her emotions, maybe go to the range, eat massive amounts of cookies, and inadvertently get advice… well, that’s where Sharon comes in.

 

~

 

“If you want my opinion, I think you’re being ridiculous.” Sharon offers.

Natasha snorts. They’ve finished the bottle of wine and are currently making their way through the coffee and cookies on the couch.

Examining the cookie in her hands so that she doesn’t have to look at Sharon, Natasha says, “Logically, I understand that. But for whatever reason, I just can’t make myself do anything about it. I’m afraid I’ll mess it up.”

“Aww, you have a heart!” Sharon teases.

Nat groans and buries her head in her arms. Sharon rolls her eyes.

“You are supposed to be my ‘we’re badasses; let’s punch something’ friend.” Natasha says, voice muffled by her arms.

“Correction: I’m your ‘giving it to you real’ friend because I’m your best friend. And like I said you’re being ridiculous. Seriously though, I’ve never seen you be like this, Nat. I’m taking it as a good sign. This is a good thing. It won’t be easy, but I think it’ll be worth it.”

Natasha just shifts so she’s lying down on the couch with her head in Sharon’s lap. Sharon sighs.

“You’re pathetic.” But she strokes her fingers through Natasha’s hair anyways.

 

~

 

They’re working an undercover case, Natasha, Jessica, and Clint, trying to catch a weapons dealer who has been developing WMDs for numerous terrorist organizations all over the world. Jess and Nat infiltrated, posing as potential buyers while Clint is on standby as back up and external surveillance. Natasha admits to herself that she has been enjoying the time she’s gotten to spend with Jess during this mission without the constant presence of Clint. Since that time he first showed up in the spa, it was like he never left. It’s kind of hard to seduce your ex-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend when he’s constantly around. Nat is definitely relishing the benefits on quality time with Jessica, even if it’s not quite in the way she wishes. Despite her talk with Sharon, she hasn’t actually gathered the courage to talk to Jessica yet. There’s always something that gets in the way whether it is missions, or other agents, or her own brain psyching herself out again. So she’s stuck in close quarters with Jess, where they spend most of their time, when they aren’t with the target, together. It’s torture and it’s wonderful. She gets to see Jess in the morning, sleep-mussed and slightly grumpy. They’re pressed along each other as they sprawl out across one of the beds to watch movies. And it’s especially tortuous because sometimes, Natasha catches a look on Jessica’s face that makes her question if she should be as unsure of herself as she is. Perhaps Jessica feels similarly. Of course that’s when everything goes to shit.

They’re meeting with the dealer for the final time in a fancy boardroom on the 34th floor of the hotel with Clint just outside the room, recording the faux deal and waiting for Maria and Nick to arrive. SHIELD is 20 minutes out when their cover is blown because Deadpool shows up. He bursts into the room, looking for Clint. Bodyguards start to flood the room from all corners, Clint just after them already firing sparking arrows in order to cause diversions.

“Goddamn it, Clint! What the hell is he doing here?” Nat shouts as she blasts a guard in the knee with her spider bites.

“I don’t know! You work a couple cases together, and he imprints like a lost puppy.” Clint responds.

“I resent that.” Deadpool comments as he punches a guard in the face. Jessica rolls her eyes as she slides across the table to zap a man with her venom blasts. Despite the unwelcome presence of Deadpool, they aren’t having a difficult time picking off all the guards. The main problem was the sheer number of them.

Clint fires an exploding arrow in an attempt to bring the chandelier crashing down on the remainder of the bodyguards. It deflects off the gems in a way he definitely didn’t anticipate because it nicks the ceiling, which starts to crumble.

Just like this mission, Natasha thinks.

The chandelier does come down, but the combined weight of it plus parts of the ceiling start to crack the floor. She and Jessica both spot the dealer trying to make a break for it with his head bodyguard at the same time. They sprint forward, ignoring the crack in the floor. Jess skids to a stop and bends forward slightly. Nat plants her hands on Jessica’s back and uses it as a springboard to propel herself forward, locking her legs around the guard’s neck and throwing her bodyweight backwards. Curling around herself, she flips and the bodyguard lands on the floor with a thud. She allows herself a smug smile before the floor collapses underneath her.

She feels her wrist being grabbed as she watches the bodyguard and the weapons dealer fall a few floors. It seems the weight of the chandelier was a bit more than she originally thought. Once it gained some momentum from its fall, it managed to damage and collapse a few other floors beneath. Jessica is hanging half way off the splintered floor, using the advantage of her wall-sticking powers. She heaves Nat back up onto the floor and they shuffle away from the edge.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so thankful for spidey powers. Thanks, Jess.” Nat tries to joke because Jessica’s eyes are impossibly wide and her chest is heaving. It all happened too quickly for Natasha to register being frightened, but Jess is visibly shaken up. Natasha touches her shoulder.

“Jess, are you okay?” Nat’s getting worried because Jessica still hasn’t really moved and her expression hasn’t changed.

All of a sudden, Jessica surges forward and presses her mouth to Natasha’s.  Before Natasha has time to react, Jess scrambles back.

“I.. I’m sorry.” Jessica gets up and rushes from the room just as Maria enters with her swarm of SHIELD agents to clean everything up. Natasha sits there, confused even more than before.

 

~

 

Later that night, when she’s back at her apartment after a long and tedious debrief with Maria, she hears a knock on her door. Glancing at the clock, she notes that it’s almost 11. She opens to door to find Jessica, determined look on her face. Silently, Natasha steps aside so Jess can come in. Immediately, she heads for the living room and starts pacing back and forth. After a moment, she stops and spins towards Natasha and seems to steel herself.

“I lied. I wasn’t sorry. I’m still not sorry. I’ve had to deal with so much shit in my life, but you’re one of the best things in it. And I keep almost losing you. Nat…”

Natasha pauses and briefly closes her eyes. She can tell that Jess is holding her breath.

“I am so glad you said that.” Now it’s her turn to rush forward as she kisses Jessica, hard. She pushes all her internal doubts aside and revels in the feeling of their mouths moving together. Jessica runs her hands along the base of Natasha’s neck and into her hair. Nat never thought she’d get this chance, and now she’s not going to mess it up. Breaking away, Natasha grabs Jessica’s hand and leads her toward the bedroom.

They don’t have sex, but it gets close. Jess stops it with a whispered, “Wait, I want this to be different than what I had with Clint.”

Natasha is perfectly content to lay in bed with Jessica, her hair a tousled mess and her lips still tingling. They lay next to each other, arms bent at the elbows, fingers tangling and re-tangling while they hold their hands aloft.

“Where do we go from here?” Natasha asks, voice hushed. Jessica hums.

“I’m not really sure… as long as I’m with you, I’m not really worried.”

Natasha can feel warmth spread through her and a soft smile grow on her face. Thinking about how this day started compared to how it’s ending, she starts to chuckle, which then grows into a full belly laugh. Jessica turns toward her, eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

“Our lives”, Natasha says as her laughter dies down, “will never be boring.”

Jessica grins. “Don’t I know it. But we’ll be together, yeah?” She sounds unsure, like she needs Natasha to reassure her that this is really happening.

“Yeah, we will.” Natasha leans forward to press a light kiss to the corner of Jessica’s mouth. She feels Jess’s lips quirk upwards. After so much uncertainty, Nat feels relieved at the simple way they’ve just fallen together.

“I’ve got an idea. Let’s pretend we’re normal people. Just for one night.” Jess says as she leans back.

“Chinese food in bed? Wearing only our underwear?” Natasha supplies.

“Hell yeah!”

Nat jumps up off the bed to go grab her phone and a takeout menu. She hears Jess follow her.

Hooking her arm around Nat’s waist Jess says, “We definitely need to get chicken lo mein.”