Facing Your Own Demons

Or Fall

ALRIGHTY! This is the finale!...I think.

Take a seat because this will probably be a long one.

"How's it looking?" Asked Natasha, as she watched the strange, clear liquid spin inside the centrifuge machine.

"Right now? Like pretty much nothing. We haven't even begun to scratch the surface with this stuff and we only have two days left," Banner fret, miserably. Natasha leaned back against the wall.

"We'll get it done, Doc. That's still a good 48 hours time to iron this thing out." Bruce eyed her wearily. She seemed to have so much confidence in him. Why? He had done nothing but manage to pull her into the very center of danger and trouble. He was a nightmare for anyone that got too close to him and now she was putting her life in his hands. Which, more the likely, would slip through his fingers.

Bruce continued to work as quickly and hard as he could. He let Natasha sleep in the cot in the far corner for a few hours. When Natasha awoke and went to check on Banner and the current project, she found the once clear liquid was now a dark, almost unappealing, shade of brown. Bruce explained to her that the liquid was right now extremely hot and had to be cooled to the precise temperature. The physicist continued to ramble on. He would slur and mess up words easily. Natasha volunteered to watch their little concoction while Bruce took a much needed nap.

To Natasha, the stuff looked absolutely vile. Although to her it did look like the sort of thing that already ran through Strucker's vein's. Cold, vile and generally revolting. Seemed just right to her. The chemical's cooled quicker than Natasha expected, or would have liked them to really. She had to wake Banner up with in only three hours. The scientist groggily pulled himself out of the cot and forced himself back to work.

Natasha, not sure what else to do, kept up a lasting conversation to help keep Bruce awake and more coherent while he was working. They talked about nothing of real importance. Shared a few stories, talked about the team, Bruce even told her a story about when he was still with Betty. That of course brought up the horribly daunting subject of the past.

After Bruce had finished his little story, Natasha had gone silent. He figured the thing's about her past troubled her a lot. He decided not to push it. And maybe that was why Natasha decided to speak.

"I grew up here, ya know." Banner set the phial back into it's stand and looked back at her. Natasha knew what she was getting into. This story was by no means a joyful or pleasant one, but it was her story.

"Not all of it, but most of it. I used to live in Moscow, but I guess that's more the ancient history now," she said with a shrug, trying to hide the pain in her voice that was already threatening to seep in. "One night when I was maybe 7, there was a terrorist bombing in my neighborhood. The men heading it hit my house. I remembered hiding in the my basement, barely able to move from all the debris surrounding me." Natasha found she was barely able to continue. Bruce said nothing, he just stood there calmly, waiting to see if she would continue. Against her better judgment, she did.

"I was dug out about five hours later. I was brought to a man named, at the time, General Strucker. He took me aside and he gave me two option's. 1: Come away with him, learn how to work as a mercenary, a rightly justified one, or so he put it. Or 2: I could sit in the rubble and ashes of my desolated house, wait and chance it and hope that I would get lucky." There was no need for her to continued, Bruce knew what she chose and to be honest, he's not sure if he entirely blamed her. If someone approached him when he was young, offered him a way out of the system, he would have most likely taken it.

"And now I've been compromised," said Natasha, shaky and empty. The feeling came with the memories, she couldn't seem to shake either one. Bruce picked his phial up again.

"Just say the word and this never happened," said Banner, resuming his work at the same speed as before. Natasha was blatantly stunned. She had just poured out everything to him. He deepest secrets and regret's. Thing's that should have permanently shamed her. She knew he had just learned that it wasn't a cruel twist of fate that dumped her in a bad position. No, there was no way she could ever justify it because in the end it was all her choice.

"I'm going to lie down," muttered Natasha, as she quickly left for the other side of the room. Banner only hmed, but he assumed she was gone to fast to hear it. He decided that he would keep everything Natasha had told him quiet. Nobody needed to know. He also decided that he was not going to just forget.

Natasha had ended up falling asleep and for quite some time too. She was awaken when Banner started shaking her. He seemed panicked about something so Natasha got right up.

"Natasha wake up! The guards are here. They're saying some in Russian and I can't understand it." Natasha only had to listen to two little words to get the jist.

"Time's up," she said, quickly hopping off the cot. Banner looked extremely stricken.

"What? I thought we had more time. The drug isn't ready yet!" The heavy door swung open.

"Мастер готов. Где лекарство?" Bruce looked to Natasha for help.

"They're asking if the the medicine is ready," she answered. She then walked over to one of the tables an grabbed the phial filled with the dark liquid. "And yes, it's right here." The guards quickly grabbed both Natasha and Bruce. They lead them down through the many corridor's of the place. Natasha knew exactly where they were going. Bruce was starting to get a pretty good idea.

They arrived at an incredibly large, almost medieval looking, sort of throne room. Bruce could tell from a faded outline that someone sat upon the dark red throne. He had a well-educated guess too. The man stood, he seemed a little shaky on his feet. As he finally stepped into the light, Bruce could see his appearance.

He was a tall, pale, cold looking man wearing a dark green trench coat with the black armor of the Red Room underneath. His hair was black and his eyes looked nearly black themselves they were such a dark shade of brown. Long, old looking, scars traced over the whole right side of his face, tracing down onto his neck and under his clothes. The man might have almost been handsome if not for it.

"My friends," he said, his tone icy. He opened his arms wide as he walked down the carpeted steps. He seemed too inviting. Natasha wanted to shrink back as he edged closer. "Thank you so much for joining us most esteemed Dr. Banner. Your research has opened so many doors." Bruce didn't answer, nor did he want to. The man merely sighed and turned his attention to Natasha. Guards dragged Banner off to the side.

"Miss Romanoff, I'm so happy to see that you have come home."

"Save it, Strucker,"she spat in defiance, only to get smacked in the back of the head by the brute guard behind her. Stucker tsked and began to pace in front of her.

"Now where are all those manner's I taught you, hm?" Strucker int erupted himself as a small coughing fit erupted from his throat. A few seconds later when it was over he eyed Natasha again. More intently than before.

"I trust you haven't forgotten how to share," he said, holding his hand out to her. Natasha slowly placed the vial in his hand. Strucker quickly snatched it up quick, closing his bony finger's around it.

"Ah yes," he said, turning his back to Natasha, "this is it. This is to be my legacy." He loaded the contents of the phial into a syringe, which was placed in preparation inside his pocket. He turned back to the other occupant's in the room.

"It's alright, please, celebrate this victory." Natasha didn't move. Strucker sighed. He grabbed a gun from one of the guards and wailed her with the end of it. Natasha fell to her knee's with a sharp hiss.

"Manner's," said Strucker, wryly. He eyed the syringe wearily. "Though, it hasn't exactly been tested yet, so I suppose we shouldn't rejoice until after." Strucker quickly grabbed Natasha by the collar of her shirt. Hand's bound behind her back, she stared back up at him in true fear. Her life was his hands. His cold, unforgiving, hands.

Strucker held raised the syringe. Banner's mouth fell open. He- Baron Strucker was about to test the drug on Natasha. Right now. The drug was experimental! Unfinished! Not even test phase ready! She was going to die. Be poisoned and murdered! Bruce felt so useless. He had to do something! The edges of Banner's vision began to flit green.

Strucker held the needle just inches away from Natasha's neck. Natasha did nothing to try and escape, nothing to fight. What was the point? All that would do is serve to entertain Strucker. No, even in staring into the open eyes of death she wouldn't give him the satisfaction. Strucker seemed displeased with this. His lips curved into a frown. He leaned in close.

"I thought you better than this, Natalia," he whispered. It was impossible for Natasha to miss. Natalia. Her old name, her given name. According to Strucker, her weak name. A tie to that small, naive, innocent girl she used to be. He cut that tie and changed more than just her name. He gave her a new life and now he was about to end it. "Good-bye, Natalia."

"ROOOAAAARRR!!!!" Natasha whipped her head to the side. Banner was gone and the Hulk had assumed his place. The blood had drained from Strucker's face. The guards immediately opened fire on the Hulk. He growled loudly as he began to punch, beat and smash them all down.

In Strucker's distraction, he didn't notice Natasha twist the syringe out of his hand. Natasha quickly plunged the needle into Strucker's thin neck. His brown eyes went wide. His arms fell and so did he.

"You are damned with the blood you have on your hands, Romanoff! You will burn in hell one day, I will be waiting to return the favor!-" Strucker's mouth foamed and his body jerked involuntarily. His veins seemed to turn blue under his pale skin. He suddenly stopped, Natasha watched for only another moment, reminding herself of the chaos around her.

"Yeah, see you there," Natasha said as she turned her back to him and grabbed a gun from a fallen, more like maimed, guard. She fired on a few. They fired back. Natasha found she was harshly grabbed right out of the line of fire by a large, green hand. The bullet's intended for Natasha hit the stone wall behind right where she would have been. Hulk threw a fist into the stone wall, creating a sizable hole, which he threw Natasha out of. Natasha quickly got up, ignoring the sting from actually getting thrown by the Hulk. Had he just saved her? Was the Hulk actually protecting her? Was Banner?

Natasha was on her feet quickly, running directly for the high fence surrounding the compound. She quickly started to climb it, despite the guards who were armed and in pursuit. Natasha was just lucky they were bad shot's. Natasha cursed as she was nearing the top and discovered that there was barbed wire laced around the whole top. She kicked off the fence, still holding with one hand, and tried to swing over. She did mainly. The arm that she had launched off of had been scratched pretty good.

Once on the other side, Natasha proceeded to run for the hill. There was a moment where she was concerned about Banner. She knew very well that the Hulk could handle himself, but for some reason the thought's didn't leave her mind. She could figure something out. She would figure something out. Natasha held he lower forearm as she continued on. The sky was dark and the night air was brisk. Maybe Strucker decided it would be better at night. Even if he failed and they somehow managed to escape they would most likely freeze to death. Natasha might've too in the hours she had been running.

"Clint!" Tony yelled, pointing out of the quin-jet window. "Is that?-"

"Natasha!" Steve shouted. Clint flashed the light's down on the woman in question. Natasha looked up, she grinned widely. She furiously waved her hand in the air.

"You're right, it's Nat," Clint declared happily. Natasha watched at the quin-jet descended to the ground. Steve jumped out as soon as it touched down.

"Natasha! Are you okay?" Steve quickly threw and arm around her and started to lead her to the jet. She was freezing, he lips were blue and she was shivering like mad.

"Banner," Natasha muttered, lowly. Clint looked around, Bruce was no where to be found. Despite the two not having a very good history, Clint didn't think she would just abandon him to get away. Tony, however, did.

"Where's Bruce?" Tony asked almost immediately after Natasha had come inside. Steve grabbed a shock blanket from one of the compartment's and threw it around Natasha's shoulders.

"He t-turned into the H-Hulk," Natasha answered, still shivering.

"Where did you leave him then?" Snapped Tony. Steve glared at the engineer. The sheer distaste in Steve's expression was enough to get Tony's attention.

"That's enough, Tony. Give her a minute." Tony grumbled and walked back to the cockpit. She had left Bruce, just left him! He had learned a thing or two about Taking the easy way out, it just wasn't something you did at the cost of a friend!

"He's at their base. Th-e Red R-Room." Natasha was promptly sat in the co-pilot seat as she gave Clint direction's. It wasn't nearly as long a trip as it was the first time. Of course Natasha wasn't on foot.

Even Clint was surprised to see the amount of destruction. Even for the Hulk in the amount of time that he had had. The jet once again touched down and the four Avenger's quickly hopped out. Natasha had brought them back to the spot where she had escaped. They all climbed back through the hole.

Steve was blown away by the amount of bodies strewn about the large room. Bloody, mangled bodies laid everywhere. Motionless and dead. Steve was sure Banner was provoked, but the scene before him was a little off-putting.

There was destruction everywhere and in all directions. It seemed impossible to tell which way the Hulk went. Tony slammed his iron clad hand down on a large, fallen piece of stone. Steve placed a hand on Tony's shoulder.

"Don't worry, Soldier. we'll find him." Tony quickly shook his hand off.

"I'm not a soldier. And neither is he," said Tony, referring to Bruce.

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