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When Natasha slips on the suit, it's like zipping together the edges of a new skin. The black leather melt across her flesh like liquid, molding and forming along her bones until she's more suit than human.

She always stops the zipper right at the cusp of her breasts.

There are no specific regulations regarding an agent's catsuit, and in the end societal laws are clear on what must be covered and what doesn't have to be -- she's not breaking any rules. But the flash of soft and vulnerable skin makes people uncomfortable, and uncomfortable people are prone to lash out at the source with hurtful anger. There are a limited number of people in the world who would dare to say a thing about it to her face, but their gossip is all loud whispers and judgmental words. After New York, the media had been quick to label the "unknown female" as "the bonus", a woman fighting with the boys to keep the feminists happy, but showing enough skin that men would also be lining up to support the Avengers, if only to get a closer look at her revealed cleavage. "Sex sells!", they all would say, and give S.H.I.E.L.D. more credit than they were due for being so strategic.

She has been called a whore behind her back by agents she has fought beside and protected for years. She has caught dignitaries, handlers, and Tony fucking Stark staring at her chest and dismissing what comes out of her mouth because boobs. Very few people take her seriously as anything more than a "sex kitten" with claws whenever they see her in the suit, curves exposed. And she gets it, she does, and the logical part of her mind tells her to take the zipper the rest of the way up.

But in truth, the glimpse of her breasts that gets everyone so bothered one way or another -- it's the only part of her body she can stand to have so exposed.

On her lower abdomen, right above her hip, there is a bundle of pink, rigged skin drawn together in a hunk of gleaming scar tissue, courtesy of an unidentifable bullet fired from the gun of a man who could have just as easily killed her. There is a matching scar on her lower back, on the other side of her spine, a little thicker; the exit wound that reminded her daily that she was no one's shield.

Zig-zagging in little bumps like rumble strips on the sides of a road, two thin white lines cross permanently under her shoulder blades; matching sets twist around her upper thighs like collars, around each toe in dotted "cut here" lines-- courtesy of a past she doesn't remember and can't forget.

The back of her neck, just under her hairline, the remnants of being held down too long while struggling to get up, to get away, because she hadn't learned yet.

She can't look at them, can't touch them, can't think of them, and keep pretending.

But her chest is flawless -- the skin has never been touched by the cruelty of a weapon or by fate. Sometimes, when she looks in the mirror, she can pretend the rest of them don't exist, either, because anything so ugly could not be on the same body as them. She'd be lying (and she does, to the face of everyone else) if she ever said she she doesn't take the smallest amount of pride in their perfection. In that she can show them off to the world and to herself without waiting for the flinch of disgust.

So she closes the zipper over her secrets like a second, melting skin to the outrage of angry feminists who claim she's being used for her body, the roars of obnoxious powerful men who say she serves no purpose to this world outside of sex appeal, to the laughter and scoffs of a populace that claim she's nothing, don't take her seriously, because of her boobs.

And she stops the zipper right at the cusp of her breasts.