A knock at the door, soft, suiting the dark hours of the predawn. She has no idea of whom it might be, only who it isn't. Tony doesn’t knock, well not usually. Besides, he had already dropped by earlier in the day. Pulling open the door, her eyes widen a bit in surprise, having heard her late night visitor was taking a leave of absence. One, that Charlotte had assumed, would take her far from Manhattan, and not alone, at least for a while.
Natasha leans against the doorframe, the small smile on her lips actually reaching her eyes – if you know what to look for. Before Charlotte can speak, she says, "I knew you'd be up."
Raising an eyebrow, she motions her guest inside, shutting the door behind them. "Hacked into the security system already?"
This time, her eyes are practically laughing. "That would be too easy."
"And you never do easy." It was not a question.
"You know I don't." The words brush past Charlotte's ear, the breath of a whisper.
She pauses, looking into her friend's eyes. Because that's what Tasha is now, a friend. Unexpected, unlooked for, but nevertheless, counted amongst those that Charlotte considers one of her own. Tasha's gaze is open, hiding nothing, and yet, at the same time, dark with secrets. She remembers the first time she looked into those green eyes, Natalie Rushman's eyes, from legal. She'd thought Natalie was beautiful, but she didn't hold a candle to Natasha.
"What do you see?" Tasha asks the question, not one Charlotte had expected.
She bites briefly on the tip of a fingernail as she contemplates her reply. Then she says, "A ballet. It begins with tragedy, sending the girl on a long, dark journey, and after many trials, and much suffering, she reaches her destination, discovering that which she'd thought long lost."
Tasha rolls her eyes. "That's very fanciful."
"And what are you but fanciful?" She lays her hand against Tasha's face, her thumb stroking the line of her cheek. "The girl you were, becoming the woman you are now? The stuff of stories and tales." Tasha goes still at her words, and she drops her hand, turning away, wondering if she's said too much. At least there's always the comfort of good manners. "I'm a terrible hostess, keeping you in the foyer." Charlotte walks towards the living room, Tasha following.
"Wait." The hand on her shoulder stops Charlotte by the gas fireplace, the glass crystals in the hearth reflecting the light of the flames into the dimly lit room. "I asked."
"You did." The hand falls.
"It's just…for a moment, you sounded like him."
Like him "Like Loki."
She takes a deep breath, turning, not wanting to remember. The reason Tasha has found her still awake at 3 a.m. "Inadvertent, believe me. But perhaps not that surprising."
"Oh?" Tasha sounds as if she has no idea.
Charlotte laughs at the faux innocence. "Don't pretend. You know why."
She crosses her arms, tilting her head, no more innocence. "The centuries are written across your page; yours and his—" a step closer "—a sympathy."
A nod, accepting Tasha's interpretation. "In the more traditional sense of the word." Her legs no longer feel as if they can hold her, and she sinks onto the sofa. "The centuries pass, and we adapt. But what we were is still what we are, in the deepest part of our soul. In the darkest hours before the rising of the sun, that past can demand acknowledgment."
Tasha follows suit, sitting down at the opposite end of the sofa. She pulls her legs underneath her, back against the armrest. "It's how I knew—knew you would still be awake. If you sleep, you remember that other life you lived, the one that Loki created when you were imprisoned in his dreamscape."
There's no point denying it. "My dreams became his to do with what he would. I fear that if I sleep too deeply, I'll find myself there again, in that place of never ending winter. My life bleached of all colour, without hope. Trapped."
"Loki roots out the darkest aspects of what we are, and those we pretend we've forgotten."
"You feel it as well."
"Monsters and magic; that's what I told Clint. But you live it every day."
"You think me a monster, Tasha?"
"Of course not. But you are a kind of magic."
"Like Thor," she points out, reminding Charlotte that not all similarities are evil ones. "The difference is, you're our magic; Earth's magic. All of you are."
She laughs, wondering what Methos would think, being considered magic by Natasha. "And yet, the idea that those whom our forebears' thought of as gods walk amongst us, fills me with as much wonder and trepidation as it does for any mortal. Such magic is beyond our ken, just as it is for you."
"Actually, that makes me feel better." Tasha shoots her a smile that Charlotte returns.
The two women fall silent, both content with a gentle companionship and their own thoughts. Time passes, the only sounds the hiss of the gas from the fireplace, and the noise of the city floating up the tens of stories, drifting past the open patio door of the penthouse.
Natasha, however quiet, is there, on the edge of her perception, watching. She almost asks what is it that she sees, but doesn't. Continuing to embroider, she puts her audience from her mind.
"It's very pleasing—" Tasha leans forward "—watching you."
She lifts an eyebrow, looking up at Tasha, catching a glimpse of impishness in her eyes.
A cocky little smile, and she adds, "Embroider."
Her hand stills, the wash of years drawing her back; a tidal pool of memories. For the briefest of moments, she sees another face when she looks at Tasha. A mental shake, and her hand moves once more, placing tiny stitches into the silk contained in her hoop. "He used to say that, my husband." She stops the apology she knows is on Tasha's lips. "What we were is still what we are," she repeats her own words from earlier. "And this dawn is very dark indeed."
"Yes." Just that one word, but it holds the full measure of understanding and empathy. Tasha slips closer, till their shoulders just touch, the curls of her red hair skimming Charlotte's jaw. "Not a night to be alone."
"No." Charlotte takes her hand, twining their fingers. "I am grateful to have you here with me, awaiting the dawn."