The new Avengers building smelled like the holidays. Thor and Jane were in the outdoor kitchen cooking the turkeys (and keeping warm under Thor's cloak). Wanda and the children were in the community room watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Steve, Bucky, Natasha, Pepper and Laura were in the main kitchen cooking the rest of the feast. Sam has been there earlier but had taken a van into town to pick up the local veterans who didn't have families. Tony, Vision, and Clint had taken a jet the night before. Tony wanted to introduce Vision to Thanksgiving football. He had promised to have "the boys" back by dinner. Clint had gone to make sure that promise was kept. Tony, being Tony, he had tried to convince everyone to go and let him have dinner catered. It was not a big surprise that most of the Avengers preferred to stay home and cook dinner themselves.
Laura took Pepper aside and was whispering to here while flipping through a book of music cds. Finally they seemed to agree on something and slipped the disk into the player built into the wall. As the opening notes blasted from the hidden speakers Nat’s head lifted from the bowl she was stirring with a jerk. Her eyes grew wide as she shook her head at Laura. Laura just grinned and belted out the lyrics as they began. "Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog!" Nat continued to shake her head as Pepper joined in the singing. By the first chorus a laughing Nat had joined in. Steve and Bucky leaned against a counter and watched, bemused as the women danced around and shouted as much as sang the lyrics.
The song ended and the girls collapsed against each other giggling. After a pause the opening notes of the next song played, Nat looked at Laura and grinned.
"You didn't really make a disk of these songs did you?" She laughed. Straightening up she took a deep breath and walked over to the player and punched the button to pause the song. "If I am going to do this, I am going to do it right," she declared.
With a glance over her shoulder at the two men in the room she winked and tapped the player to restart the music. As the piano trilled up and down the scales she turned back to face the wall. The first words were sung quietly as she spun around slowly. "First I was afraid." As the tempo picked up the volume increased as well. Soon the assassin was strutting across the kitchen singing to the two super soldiers who were by now looking at her with a combination of fear and awe.
This is the sight that greeted Tony and the three men behind him. Natasha Romanov, arguably one of the most feared women in the world, out singing Gloria Gaynor. Laura and Pepper were flanking her as they sang backup to "I Will Survive". Steve and Bucky were backed up against the counter looking for the world as if they were about to dive out the window behind them.
As the last note faded away, Nat leaned in between Steve and Bucky. Turning her head to the left she gave Steve a quick, loud peck on the ear. Then turning to the right she grinned at the look of pure terror on Bucky's face and gently bopped one finger on his nose. The sound of applause and a wolf whistle had her spinning, her body language switching in the blink of an eye.
"Who knew you could sing like that Agent Romanov?" Tony asked with a grin. "Or move like that?"
Laura moved quickly to silence the music as the next song started. Then she turned to her husband. "I thought you guys were going to a game?"
Several things happened at that moment to prevent Clint from answering:
The timer on the oven went off and Bucky turned to remove the pies that were baking.
Lila ran in from the community room shouting to her father about how poor Miss Wanda hadn't ever had a Thanksgiving dinner. And that Mr. Sam was back with a bunch of heroes.
Vision moved across the room to greet Wanda and wave his fingers in front of the crying baby she held. Nathaniel was entranced by the magenta skin and stopped crying to try and catch the fingers.
Cooper ran in asking if it was time to eat yet, now that everyone was here.
Thor and Jane came in through the outside door. Thor was shouting about having heard the jet return and how the birds still had an hour to cook. Jane was trying to reassure him that no one minded waiting.
Steve moved past Tony and Pepper to greet the veterans that were waiting in the community room.
Through it all Natasha stayed frozen in place, her eyes locked on the man hanging back in the doorway. Then when Thor saw the man and moved to greet him, Nat turned muttering something about not leaving the turkeys cooking unattended, and exited outside. She didn't stop to even grab a coat.
Once outside Nat wrapped her arms around herself and shivered from more than the cold air. She moved closer to the large open pit that had three of the largest turkeys she had ever seen spinning slowly over it. The glowing red logs in the pit gave off enough warmth to keep her from feeling the bite of the frosty air in front of her, but her back was cold. She resisted the impulse to turn and warm her back as she heard the door behind her open then close gently.
Natasha didn't have to look to know who had come out. She kept her eyes on the fire, and if they were a little wet it was because of the smoke not any emotions. She stayed still, even as she heard footsteps come to a stop a few feet behind her. Then she heard the sound of a long zipper and the slide of a coat being removed. Then another footstep and the warm weight of a coat settled on her hunched shoulders. Strong hands moved into her view to gently push the front of the coat closed, then moved to her shoulders.
"You were in such a hurry to get away from me that you forgot your coat." The hands slid reluctantly away. "I can leave if you want.”
Nat couldn't answer. She was distracted by the scent of the coat and by the shaking of her hands as she lifted them to pull the collar tighter under her lowered chin. Then she felt movement behind her head. He still held enough static charge from riding in the jet that she felt her hair lift slightly, drifting she knew, towards the hand that he held just off her head. With a small movement she lifted her chin enough to make contact with his hand. When the silence had stretched to the point where she was sure he was about to move away, she finally found her voice.
"Bruce. I'm scared." Part of her hated the fact that her voice shook. “Scared that if I ask you to stay, you will go again.”
Bruce moved closer and stroked his hand down her head, then slid his arms loosely around her, linking his hands in front of her belly and rested his forehead on her shoulder. “I know how much those words cost you. Thank you for not kicking me out."
Nat let out a decided un-ladylike snort. "As if I could."
"You could, Nat. One word from you and I would leave. This is your home." He turned his face away from her. "The very last thing I want is to make you uncomfortable." He squeezed her gently. "Or sad."
Nat turned her face into his hair indulging in the warm scent that was Bruce. "Why did you come?"
Bruce released her and took a step back. "Well, I have been eating week old cookies for months now, and Tony promised fresh, hot gooey ones. Besides, it's Thanksgiving, and I haven't been able to spend it with family in too long."
"I am not baking today." She turned to face him for the first time since leaving the kitchen. "I am in charge of the cold salads. Bucky is baking the cookies and some pies."
Bruce's lips lifted in a half smile as he shrugged. "Then I guess I will just have hang around until you bake more cookies."
"In that case, I may never bake again." The smile on her face slipped as her eyes grew serious. "How long were you planning to stay?"
His eyes grew sad. "Nat, I can't stay. You know that." He wrapped his arms around himself, tucking his hands under them. "Tony, Clint and Vision showed up early this morning and sorta kidnapped me." As she tilted her head and raised an eyebrow at him he shrugged. "Ok it didn't take much." Bruce ducked a bit and muttered softly,"I've been wanting to see you."
"You knew where to find me." Nat wiggled around to slip her arms into the coat. Then she worked the sleeves up so that she could get her hands uncovered. "That's more than I can say about you." Bruce watched as she clutched the front of the coat closed.
"You knew where I was." Nat stepped closer to him until she was looking up at him. "You sent me cookies every week for the last six months." He was looking down at her. "It was you that sent them wasn't it?"
She reached out and took his hands from under his arms. "I didn't know that you were there." She slid his hands into the coat with her. "I never received so much as a thank you note." She placed her hands on his chest and leaned up onto her toes, bringing her face close to his, her eyes never leaving his.
Bruce clutched her back holding her but letting here lead the way to wherever this was going. "Why did you send cookies, Nat?"
The door behind them slammed open before Nat could say anything. Tony inched out with one hand over his eyes. "Everyone decent? 'Cause you know, we gotta check the birds."
Nat settled back onto her heels and dropped her forehead to Bruce's chest. "Remind me why I can't kill him?"
As he gently lowered his face into her hair he muttered. "Right now I can't think of a reason.”
Tony stood in the doorway fingers spread wide over his face and grinned. "How about because if it wasn't for me you two wouldn't be canoodling right now? OW!" He stumbled a step forward as Pepper slapped the back of his head.
"Tony, we told you to leave them be." Pepper took hold of the back of Tony's shirt. "Nat, could you check the temperature on the turkeys?" She ignored the babble pouring out of Tony's mouth and pulled him back inside.
Bruce took a deep breath taking in the scent of the woman in his arms. As he felt her shift he pulled his arms out from under the coat and stepped back slightly. Nat dropped her hands from his chest and turned to the turkeys still slowly spinning over the fire. Briefly her mind touched on the thought that the turkeys were a lot like her thoughts.
"We need to talk about," she reached for the thermometer. "Well about a lot of things."
She heard Bruce sigh before he spoke. "I know. But not right now? Let's just enjoy the dinner?” His hands settled on her shoulders as she moved the thermometer to the next roasting bird. When she didn't respond he sighed again and squeezed her shoulders gently. "It's up to you Nat. Whenever you want.”
She waited until she was done checking the last turkey before turning to face Bruce. "We need to let Thor know that they’re done." She raised her hand to the side of Bruce's face. "We can talk later." She smiled at him. "Let's get you inside before you freeze."
"I was warm enough a few minutes ago.”
"We have guests waiting, and I don't want to think about how Tony will be if we let the turkeys over cook." She moved her hand from his face and took his hand.
Looking down at their joined hands Bruce let the wave of sadness pass through him. "I promise you,” He squeezed her hand. "I won't leave until we get to talk about it all." He used their joined hands to nudge her chin up so that he could look into her eyes. "I am thankful for the chance you’re giving me.”
Nat smiled at him. "And I am thankful that you’re here."