After the cold, swallowing absence, that lack of self, he welcomes the heat of battle, welcomes the calm, steady fire in his veins, and the bead drawn down against his enemy.
He was unmade, and also unmaking, lending himself to a conqueror’s arm. There is no escaping that. But she smiles at him, small and wry and knowing, and holds out a hand, and together they pick their way through the aftermath.
He wonders, sometimes, about the fire in Loki’s eyes, as he talked about freedom from freedom, and the peace of never having to make a choice. Wonders what could have damaged the man so, that for moments at a time, he almost seemed to believe it.
He’s not sure about this team, when he didn’t know them, when he was dumped in the middle of them with his mind freshly scrambled. But … he played Pinball with Tony Stark for the ball, and Manhattan for the board. If this is the kind of game Avengers get to play … count him in, baby.
No-one believes this, but Natasha is not a girl, to him. (Well, obviously she’s a girl, though woman is more the word, he’s not suicidal enough to suggest different). It wasn’t her looks, that stopped his arrow, all those years ago. It was … the look in her eyes, acceptance at the line of death, and simple confusion, when he made another choice.