Natasha found Steve in the gym. For once, he wasn’t doing push-ups or punching another bag to destruction; instead, he sat hunched on the edge of a bench. Natasha strolled up behind him, silent by habit. She picked up Thor’s megaphone (given to him by Stark as a headache-inducing prank) as she passed it. She poked the middle of Steve’s back with a toe.
He jumped and shied away from her touch. “What?” He laughed when he saw her. “Didn’t hear you.”
Natasha smirked. She hefted up the megaphone and said, “I know.” The words screeched out and echoed around the gym. Putting the megaphone aside, she swung a leg over the bench, facing Steve. In his hands, he fingered a locket. Gently, she took his hands in hers and turned them palm up.
The locket was worn, scratches covering the surface, heavy, and round. Steve ran his thumb over it, and Natasha mimicked his action on his palm.
“Sometimes…” Steve closed his eyes, taking a shaky breath. “I wonder if it’s silly to hold onto little trinkets like this.”
Natasha continued rubbing his palm. “When I was four, there was an old woman in our town. Everyone believed she a psychic.”
“An Old Mother Russia tale, huh?” Steve grinned, but it was half-hearted. He bent his head down. “I’m sorry. Please. Continue.”
Natasha smiled gently, indulgent of the awful joke. “The other children talked about how this woman could tie a part of your soul to an object, so that no matter where you were, whoever had that object could find you. So my mother and I went once. I had my doll, and my mother used her comb. We exchanged them afterward so we could always find one another.”
“You don’t want to hear the ending.”
“Natasha. Tell me.“ Steve leaned forward until his face was only a few inches away. “Please.”
“I was… recruited the next year, and that was the last I saw of her. I kept the comb for years.” She squeezed Steve’s hands, so large, calloused, and impossible, yet inarguably comforting. She found it silly to think them safe.
”But despite that,” she continued, “I think it must have given something for my mother to cling to. Some kind of hope. And who knows, maybe I’ll see her one day.” Natasha shrugged a shoulder. The lie came easily to her.
Steve brought up one hand to his lips. “For not being a romantic, you sure do put on a good performance,” he said.
“I can do anything if someone gives me a good reason to.” Natasha wrapped her free hand around the back of Steve’s head and pulled him in for a kiss.
Neither of them needed to chase ghosts anymore.