Chapter 29

The fight was finished within minutes. Instead of dragging it out, they hurriedly slayed the rest of the animals. There was no more need for showmanship. There was no more desire for a performance. The world had seen it all, but it didn't seem to matter.

Danielle numbly worked to heal those citizens left. People were crying, she heard news anchors hurriedly explaining what had happened here, she vaguely noticed camera crews floating around, getting footage of the carnage. She didn't reply when a reporter asked her for her comment, she only continued to heal a woman's broken leg.

Natasha was gone, refusing to leave Clint's side, they'd been taken by a SHIELD aircraft back to base.

Steve was talking to a reporter, Danielle noticed as she glanced over her shoulder, as were Hakim, Kailei, and Ana. She noticed the distinct look of distraction in each of their eyes.

"Who are you?" an old woman asked, grabbing Danielle's hand as she walked by. She looked up at her with her watery brown eyes, trying to recognize her.

Danielle smiled, leaning down.

"My name's Danielle, what's yours?"

The woman shook her head, smiling to herself. "You're doing good." she said quietly. "So much good. You don't believe me, but you are." She looked over at Steve, smiling again, brighter.

Danielle swallowed, nodding, trying to think of something to say.

"Thank you." Danielle

She turned away, scanning the trauma tent for any other injured. When she realized there wasn't any, she turned away, walking from the medic center in silence. She walked towards Steve, waiting for him to finish the interview, standing to the side, quietly, Natasha's screaming still echoing in her head.

He wrapped it up when his eyes fell on her, shaking his head and walking away from the anchor. He took her hand without a word, heading towards the second SHIELD ship, waiting for them on the grass. His jaw was clenched, and he didn't say anything to her. She could tell how upset he was, even though he was hiding it quite well. She glanced over her shoulder at the old woman, who sat in the same chair in the shade of the tent, watching them go.

The rest of the day went by in a haze. The news programs showed multiple clips of the flustered politicians trying to backtrack, to stand their ground without using the word "exceptions."

Danielle finally found Natasha back at the compound. She was in a training room, throwing knives at a small target. Danielle sat near her, watching her in silence. She saw Dr. Banner through the glass of the lab at the other end of the room. The steady chink of the knife hitting the target was the only noise in the room.

She sat there for nearly an hour as Natasha ignored her. The only occasional sound came from behind the closed lab door, of Banner and Kiara exchanging quiet words.

"Everyone's going home." a voice said as the door opened. Danielle looked up at Steve walked towards the women, Natasha did not. "Ana's the only one staying, she signed onto an operation with SHIELD."

Danielle looked at Natasha as she stood. "Do you want to go say goodbye, Tasha?"

"Nyet." she said sharply.

"She's doing better than I would be." Danielle commented as soon as they stepped out of the building.

"I'm worried she's going to snap." Steve said. "She can be dangerous. She doesn't care about too many people, but she, uh..."

"Cared about him." Danielle said flatly, feeling a surge of anger at herself as she did. She should have been there, she should have taken that bullet.

The goodbyes were brief, slightly stale. She hugged Hakim the longest, as he was the only one whose company she truly enjoyed. They boarded their planes, leaving Steve, Ana, and Danielle alone on the tarmac, watching as the jets flew off in opposite directions.

It was over, everything, yet it didn't feel over.

Danielle and Steve stayed at the base that evening. She packed up the stuff alone in their room, wondering what was next for them. Everything seemed quieter, calmer. Fury had flown out that afternoon to address a press conference in New York.

Steve walked into the room.

"There's a briefing tonight about our next mission, but I need to ask you something first." he said, sitting on the bed where she loaded up her suitcase.

"Go for it." she said.

"Do you want to keep doing this?" he sighed.

"Doing what?"

"Working for SHIELD."

"What are you talking about?"

"I don't want you to-"

"If I didn't want to be here, I wouldn't be." she said simply. "Do you not understand that?"

He frowned. She took his face in her hands, kissing him on his cheeks.

"We're safe now." she said. "You and me."

"Yeah." he said. "Are you hungry? I'm starving."

"Let's go find something to eat."

In the mess hall, Natasha sat alone at a table, a plate of food in front of her that had clearly not been touched. She looked over at the pair as they walked in, but didn't say a word. They gathered their own meals and took a seat across from her.

"Tasha-" Steve began, but she shook her head.

"I'll be fine. Don't push me."

The door reopened suddenly. It was Kiara.

"Natasha!" she shouted, running towards her. "Natasha, we need you- we...he's,"

Natasha was on her feet, her eyes wide with hope. Kiara approached her, breathless. "The serum..." she gasped. "Shit, why did I run-" she held a stich in her side. "Come with me."

The two women hurriedly made their way from the mess hall. Steve and Danielle exchanged a look, and then stood quickly themselves, following them outside and to the lab.

Banner had erected a medical room divider in the lab, and came around from it as the four of them walked in. He looked thrilled.

"It worked." he said.

"What worked?" Natasha asked, her voice hollow.

"Seeing as the other scientists used up the rest of my serums, I had to whip up a new batch. Low power, similar to Danielle's. The only problem was pushing it through his blood stream, since his heart wasn't beating."

Natasha put her hand over her mouth, slowly forcing herself to cross the room. Banner pulled the divider to the side, and in a makeshift hospital bed, Clint sat, his eyes half open, smiling smugly at Natasha. A sob caught in her throat as she saw him, her eyes squeezing shut. She shook her head.

"Hey, Tasha." he said, his voice thick, like he'd just woken up.

She soundlessly approached him, and stared in silence at him, her mouth moving slightly.

"He's okay?" she whispered, finally, looking at Banner.

"I am." Clint replied.

She pushed tears off her cheeks, nodding, and then laughing. She grabbed his hands, holding them to her chest.

"Don't you ever do something like that again." she said in between her laugh-sobs.

"Wouldn't dream of it." he said.

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