Natasha had gone with Dr. Banner back to make his official report to SHIELD and apologize for wrecking their helicarrier, though he was the only one of the team who really thought that was necessary. She sat next to him while he told the agents taking notes about where he woke up, and his journey back to New York, and finally about waking up in the city’s rubble.
“I’m sure that Agent Romanoff can tell us about the time that you were…indisposed.” The agent pushed up his glasses and looked over at her
Oh, boy, could she. Natasha respected Dr. Banner, but she was here because no one else could come. Captain Rogers was, in the words of Tony Stark ‘leaking’ from a wound he had taken while fighting the Chitauri, and hadn’t been allowed to escape the tender mercies of Tony and Pepper Potts. Thor was, possibly literally, sitting on his brother’s head. Clint had point blank refused to enter SHEILD’s headquarters, and the farther that Stark was kept from SHEILD’s staff and computers, the better life would be for everyone.
“And I will be sure to include those details in my written report. The one that SHEILD pays me for.” Because she had just spent the afternoon saving the world. She wasn’t about to spend the evening talking to a paper pusher with an over inflated sense of self-worth.
Out what was probably once a hall, Banner gave her a crooked grin. “Going to lock me up in the armory now, Agent Romanoff?”
“I don’t think it could be called an armory anymore.” She quipped “They usually have four walls without holes, and can actually keep things in or out.”
Dr. Banner rubbed the back of his neck “So where are we going?”
“Back to Starks to find a shower and steal his booze”
He gave her that crooked grin again “Showers and alcohol. Sounds like paradise.”
The shower in Stark Tower that they found still got hot water and they shamelessly stole Stark’s expensive soaps. Natasha had gone first, and Jarvis had advised her as to where she could find some clothes for herself and Dr. Banner. When she returned with clothes for him she was dressed a long flowing skirt of Pepper’s and a band tee shirt of Stark’s. Banner had just emerged from the shower with one towel wrapped around his waist, using another to rub at his head.
“You had a skirt like that when you came and got me” he observed
“I can’t wear skintight jumpsuits everyday” she shrugged “Brought you some clothes”
Dr. Banner hesitated a moment before realizing that Natasha wasn’t going to turn around and play at any false modesty before he dressed in the clothes that she had brought.
He kept rubbing his hair with the towel after he finished, before he just grimaced and set it aside. “Can’t manage to get the plaster out of my hair.”
“Get up on the counter top Dr. Banner, and stick your head in this ridiculously large sink.”
“Please” he glanced at her with his big brown eyes “Bruce.”
“Alright Bruce, I’m going to wash your hair.”
He sat on the sink counter and glanced at her “You really want to do this? After everything that happened today?”
“The Hulk may be able to take me down any day, but I know at least sixteen ways to incapacitate you at this moment without instantly triggering his appearance.”
Dr. Banner…Bruce, just gave her that sad little grin and lay on his back with his head in the sink like she’d asked. She started the water, and completely rewet his hair before spilling a glob of Stark’s fancy shampoo into her hand and lathering up his hair.
She could feel him tensing slightly, then relaxing as her hands worked through his still grimy hair and massaged his scalp.
“The training I went through isn’t like joining the army, or the circus, or teaching yourself to fly a huge metal suit. I know what it’s like to lose yourself. To wake up and not know what you’ve done. Or worse, to know and hate yourself for it. And today you did that for us, not knowing how it would end, or the effect it would have on you.”
“Stupid, huh?” Bruce nodded bitterly
“And brave.” Natasha pointed out “We needed a leap of faith, or a gamble or whatever you want to call it. And you were brave enough to see it needed you be you, Bruce.” She rinsed his hair in the sink and rummaged around in the drawers beneath them until she found a comb. She gracefully climbed up on the counter top as Bruce sat up and carefully worked through the snarls in his hair, combing out the last of the rubble and dust as she did so. Bruce was silent through all of this, and she eventually finished and put the comb back in its drawer. She turned to leave, but Bruce called out.
“Agent Romanoff –
“Natasha. Thank you.”
She glanced over her shoulder at him and smiled a little “I bet Stark has awesome vodka.”
“Well then…” Bruce clamored down from the countertop to follow her and Natasha smiled again to herself.