They Won't Leave You Alone
Later that night Natasha got to thinking about her departure. Surely her and Banner's absence wouldn't just go unnoticed. None of the other, except Steve, even knew Fury was alive and she wasn't really sure on how the others would react to her taking a covert mission from him. They would either be skeptical, suspicious or wanted to help, all of those were bad options. There was only one thing she could think to do.
"That's one hell of a favor, Romanoff," Steve had breathes, eyebrows raised after she'd voiced her astonishing request. Natasha had subtly pulled him into the kitchen on the twenty-sixth floor near to a screening room. One of them had, apparently, had the brilliant idea of showing Steve and Thor a popular, current action movie. Natasha had volunteered to get everyone some more drinks and had volunteered Steve to help. While the speakers blared in the screening room, Natasha was sure the others couldn't eavesdrop on their conversation. "Don't know if I'm exactly the man for the job."
"Too many people know about this already, Rogers, I think you and I both know it would be best to keep this quiet, at least for a while," Natasha suggests. Steve looks conflicted and concerned. "I know you don't like lying to the others, I really do understand that believe it or not, but the truth might do more damage than it's worth."
"It never does," Steve deadpans. Natasha deflates. She'd imagined this conversation going just a little bit better. "But I get where you're coming from. I'll do it." Natasha blinks rapidly a few times, not expecting such a turn around. "I just need to know one thing- You and Banner...are you two really up for this?"
"Of course," Natasha starts to answer immediately before's Steve's expression alone cuts her off.
"Are you really?" Natasha takes in a marginally shaky breath before answering this time.
"It's my job," she answers, but it still doesn't seem to fully satisfy the soldier "you catch sight of these things and you can't exactly close your eyes and look away; Banner and I are the two most suited people to handle it, as odd as that sounds." Steve continues his stare for a moment longer before stopping, sighing and nodding.
"I can handle the others, but only if this gets resolved quickly."
"Understood," Natasha answers curtly. She moves towards the fridge, thinking that it would be very odd if she didn't actually come back with any beverages. Steve grabs her arm as she goes to walk past him.
"You don't have to talk to me like that, Natasha, just- just be careful, okay?" Natasha's eyes trail upwards from Steve's large hand gripped around her upper arm, all the way up to his face, his features masked, but filled with concern that she can read.
"Okay," she affirms.
Bruce had packed up a few things for his little trip with Natasha. He had been on the run for years, not being able to procure nice thing's. Or, in fact really much of anything. Plus, packing light meant not as much to slow him down if he had to run- Bruce quickly shook those thought's away. He wasn't being hunted anymore, He was safe here with Tony and the other's. General Ross and or Talbot couldn't touch him. Not while he was here.
Bruce finally decided that he should try and get some sleep before tomorrow. He had a feeling he would need it.
A huge flash of Green flooded his vision; Flooded everything around him. Then there was screaming. A woman's voice sounding out above all the others. They were all shrieking in panic. In fear of him. People were crushed, shot's were fired, blood spilled, bones crushed. All him. It was all him! Blood pouring out of the chest of the woman he loved. He came too close, they shot at him. He killed them. Smashed their rib cages in! Instantly dead. Dead! all of them dead! He had just murdered them. It was his fault. ALWAYS HIS FAULT! The guilt was consuming, crushing!
Blood, needles, screaming, begging! Fire, bullet's, guns, even more screaming! It was a vicious cycle and it never stopped. Another gun shot fired; On him. They die! They always die! Why couldn't they just leave him alone!? WHY CAN'T THEY JUST GO AWAY?! THEY NEEDED TO GO AWAY!!!
"Bruce! Bruce snap out of it, you're having a nightmare! It's not real!" pleaded a frantic voice. Banner shot up, his head colliding with someone's chest. That person grabbed his shoulder, steadying the tremor's that were racking through his whole body. That person was rubbing his shoulder's gently, coaxing him to relax. Bruce looked up to find a pair of very concerned blue eyes staring down at him. That person was Steve Rogers.
"Bruce, Your eyes...You need to calm down. It's over, none of it was real." Oh, but it was, Bruce wishes he could say. But he doesn't. All of those dreams were just that. They were images, memories. Bad ones. Things he wasn't ready to share. Not yet, but maybe someday...
"Bruce, can you hear me?" Steve asked, sounding even more concerned than before. Bruce hadn't realized that he had zoned out again. He kept getting pulled back into those tormenting thought's. One's that never stopped haunting him.
"Jarvis," Steve called up to the ceiling. He did find it sort of strange talking to nothing- or rather, a disembodied voice. "Can you get a?- "
"No," Bruce interrupted breathlessly, "I'm-I'm okay." Steve's whole expression was only concerned. "You don't believe me?" He asked, slowly starting to get his breathing under control. Focusing on slow, even breaths. He was still shaky, his forehead and bare upper half were covered in sweat, but otherwise he seemed okay.
"I woke up and heard you screaming, Bruce. Screaming." Bruce turned his gaze away from the soldier. For some reason he was ashamed. "I think you were having a panic attack or something."
"You would know If I was really panicking, Cap," Bruce answered solemnly. Steve sighed. He wasn't concerned about Banner Hulking-out, he was concerned about Banner himself. Whatever is enough to make someone scream like that in the middle of the night had to be the complete opposite of something good. And also had to be something very terrifying.
"Sorry I woke you up," Bruce murmured after a short pause.
"It's not a problem," was Steve's hasty reply. Than another spot of silence fell between them. The only thing that could be heard was Bruce's heavy breathing.
"Bruce, what can I do to help you?"
"Can you knock me out forcefully enough to stop me from dreaming?" Steve stifled a light laugh.
"Sorry, I can't take the nightmares away, but I do know what's it like." Bruce glanced up at the soldier once again, silently asking him to continue. So he did. "I sometimes have dreams that I'm back on the battlefields of WWII," he confessed, "And sometimes I have dreams that the wars over and I've woken up and...there's nothing." It was possibly Steve's greatest fear. He promised he wouldn't let anything Loki said get to him, but that one line, "A man out of time," He couldn't shake it. Steve let out a low laugh.
"Here I am trying to console you and it seems that it's the other way around." Bruce shrugged.
"I don't mind at all, Cap. Maybe, if you want, we can compare." Steve grinned slightly.
"Then I believe it's your turn, Dr. Banner." They spent the remainder of the hour comparing dreams and stories from before they became Avengers. And it was honestly the longest conversation Bruce had had with the guy. It was actually nice. He finally opened up about some of the thing's that happened to him. Excluding the horrible thing's the military tried to do to him. He didn't want to offend Steve in any way. Afterwards, Banner found he was finally able to drift off to sleep peacefully, for the first time in many years.