Thanos couldn’t get the stone, it was the only thought running through Bruce’s mind as he charged full force at the titan. He didn’t expect it to have much of an effect, not with the other five stones glowing on the knuckles of his gauntlet, but Wanda needed as much time as possible and any distraction was better than none.
But it was almost too easy for Thanos to eliminate the threat Bruce presented. His whole body felt like it had fallen asleep as the blue glow engulfed the entire suit and he phased right through Thanos and landed in the stone wall behind him. As easy as batting away a fly and Bruce was immobilized.
The suit solidified and Bruce was trapped within the rock, useless. The suit powered down and his chest felt tight, like he would suffocate soon if he didn’t find a way out. He was powerless as one after the other, his teammates were flung carelessly to the side, out of Thanos’ path.
His jaw clenched when he saw Natasha run at Thanos only to be immediately halted by the earth coming up and wrapping around her in a twisted fist. Bruce struggled uselessly against the suit and the rock, his breath coming in short pants. He needed to get out of the wall. He needed to help, but all he could do was clench his fists and lean forward hoping that the rock would give just a little.
He cursed Hulk for hiding and not helping, cursed his own inability to fight how he wanted to fight. How had it come to this, Earth’s best defenders rendered useless in the face of a single being who only needed one last piece to his puzzle for universal destruction.
A glowing yellow light blinded him for a moment and everything went silent. The only sound Bruce heard was the breeze rustling the leaves on the trees around him and his own short breaths in his ears. He strained to see through the trees hoping that they’d done it, that the stone was gone. But his relief only lasted a moment as the bright light flashed again and realization settled like a rock in his stomach.
Thanos had the Time stone.
“No!” he yelled, his throat burning at the effort he was putting into getting free.
Bruce pushed and pushed against the suit, feeling like the already small space closing in around him like a coffin.
It was over, they lost.
Hope surged through him when he saw Thor’s axe fly through the air and land in Thanos’ chest, but it was short lived. The snap sounded like a crack of lightning and Bruce felt the air leave his lungs.
“What did we do?” he whispered to himself.
The rocks around him receded and the lights of the suit flickered back on. Bruce pushed away from the wall and took a few slow steps to test the suit’s functionality. When it didn’t crumble around him he took off in the direction of the others, but stopped short when the screaming started.
Before his eyes he watched the tree disintegrate into a cloud of dust, floating away on the wind. It was happening, half the universe gone with a snap and Bruce felt like he would be sick. He could only stand and watch as Wanda went next and he wanted to scream, slam his fist into the earth at the unfairness of it all. They didn’t deserve to go like this, whisked away like they’d never been there, hadn’t made their mark on the people who were left to mourn them. He fell to one knee in the suit, overwhelmed in the face of their failure.
Until a quiet voice shook him to his core.
“Bruce.” he turned his head toward the source of his name.
Natasha laid on her stomach, clawing her way out from under the pile of earth Thanos had trapped her in. Her entire front was covered in dirt and blood dribbled down the side of her face from a cut above her eyebrow.
The suit opened up and Bruce fell out of it unceremoniously, scrambling up to his feet to get to Natasha.
But he was too late, as she reached out to him her fingers turned to ash.
“No,” Bruce said and watched her remains float away on the wind out of reach.
He ran, full speed to get to her faster to try and stop what was already happening, unable to accept that this was their fate, but his body crashed into an invisible barrier and bounced back, landing flat on his back.
Bruce couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. He was paralyzed by the sight of her slowly drifting away. A tear ran down his cheek and a weight settled on his chest that he couldn’t fight if he tried. All he could do was watch, clawing at the ground to try and reach her, feel her one last time before she disappeared completely.
A small smile slid over her face and Bruce’s lips trembled.
“Natasha,” he cried, smashing his fist into the ground.
“I guess we missed our window,” she whispered and the rest of her vanished with the next gust of wind.
A sob ripped through him and he covered his face with his hands.
His own agonized cry pulled Bruce out of his nightmare. He sat straight up in bed and took a moment to take in his surroundings and remind himself that the battle was over, they were safe, for the time being.
Bruce laid back against the pillows and stared up at the ceiling. It’d been almost a month since they’d returned home from Wakanda and he’d had the same recurring nightmare almost every night, the nights when he actually manage to get more than a couple minutes at a time. The landscape changed slightly, depending on where in the battle it picked up, but it always ended the same. Natasha died and Bruce was powerless to stop it, forced to watch while his worst fear was realized.
He felt like he might throw up.
With a heavy sigh he brought his hands up to scrub them down his face. He pulled them away, surprised to feel the wetness from his eyes.
“Oh god,” he muttered to himself and sat back up to swing his legs over the side of the bed.
He was too afraid to close his eyes again. Most nights he’d fall back into a fitful sleep, but Bruce felt another sob building in his chest. He’d spend the next few hours wandering the Avengers compound until he was too exhausted to keep moving.
Bruce stood, from the bed and headed for the door, not bothering with shoes or a robe. But as soon as he opened the door, a shadowy figure rushed in and clung to him for dear life. Even in the dark it wasn’t hard to figure out that it was Natasha who’d been waiting outside his door. Who else would come looking for him in the middle of the night?
He didn’t fight it and buried his face in her air, taking in her sweet scent and warm body pressed against him. She was shaking, shivering against him and he heard her sniffle quietly. Bruce cupped the back of her head and kissed her temple.
“I’m here,” Bruce whispered, holding her close.
He started to relax with her in his arms, the physical reminder that she was safe enough to soothe his mind. He felt guilty, the amount of relief that washed over him when he woke up and she was still there, just down the hall. So many people had been lost, but having her there was enough to keep him moving, keep him searching for a way to fix everything.
They stood together for a long time, quiet and just holding each other. Eventually, Natasha let go and pulled him toward the bed.
“I don’t think I can fall back asleep,” Bruce said quietly as she rounded to the other side and pulled back the blankets.
She shrugged and climbed into his bed. “Then just hold me,” she said, her eyes shining as she looked up at him.
Bruce nodded and climbed into bed beside her, scooting until he was pressed against her. Her skin was freezing and she snaked her arms around his waist to pull him impossibly closer.
“Did you get any sleep,” she asked, her breath warm through his short.
“A little,” he said, reaching his hand up to run his fingers along her hairline. She hummed softly and pushed her thigh between his. “Did you?”
“No,” she shook her head, her hair tickling his chin.
They lapsed into silence and Bruce thought she might have fallen asleep, but her quiet words startled him.
“I heard you screaming.”
He closed his eyes and felt his cheeks warm. He was glad for the dark room and their proximity kept his embarrassment hidden.
“Sorry,” he muttered.
“You said my name.”
She sighed again and pulled away to look at him. She brought her hand up to rest on his cheek.
“I’ve had them too,” she said, running her thumb through the stubble along his jaw. “Dreams where everyone I love is gone, Clint and the kids, Laura, you.”
His breath caught and he looked down into her eyes. He saw fresh tear tracks on her cheeks and suddenly felt the wet spots on his t-shirt.
“What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know,” she sighed and tucked her head back under his chin. “But we’ll come up with something.”
He kissed the top of her head and gave her a squeeze.
“It feels wrong,” he admitted. “That we were spared.”
“You’ll drive yourself crazy, thinking like that.”
He blinked back the tears in his eyes. “I can’t help it.”
“Stop thinking,” she whispered, giving him a nudge.
He got the hint and rolled onto his back. She moved her leg over his hip, straddling him. She leaned over him and kissed him, leaving him breathless and squirming beneath her.
“Just for tonight.”