Title: Wash the Day Away
Genre and/or Pairing: Bruce Banner/Natasha Romanov
Spoilers: The Avengers.
Word count: 966
Disclaimer: I don't own it.
Summary: Bruce gives a wounded Natasha a bath.
Notes: For this prompt over at avengerkink
It was supposed to be easy—a simple interrogation, with Agent Romanov asking the questions and Bruce explaining what the man was talking about, if the weapon really existed and if it was going to wipe out half a city if they didn’t disable it.
Bruce was surprised that he was still surprised when the easy things turned out to be hard.
Agent Romanov had only asked two questions before someone outside fired a single shot that hit the scientist’s assistant between the eyes and something on the floor above them detonated, bringing the ceiling down on them. He'd got off easy compared to her, had managed to avoid most of the debris.
Now, in a small hotel room on the outskirts of the city, he sits of the edge of the sagging bed and looks out of the window. The room is less of a room and more of an apartment someone’s tried to force into one room and failed miserably. The kitchen is a counter, a microwave and a sink that occasionally makes gurgling noises, all along the wall furthest from the door. A small, broken divider separates a bathtub that looks old enough to be an antique and a toilet that only works on the third flush from the bed and kitchen.
The ruined building is only a few blocks away, close enough to see the fire still burning on the top floor and the remains of the floor that had almost been obliterated by the explosion.
I should be glad that the program failed, he thinks. The only damage had been to the almost-abandoned lab and the empty warehouses on either side of it. It hadn’t been much of a weapon in the end.
He closes his eyes. The room is clean, even if it smells slightly stale, as if it’s a place people have been avoiding for a long time. It’s the kind of place he would have avoided before, too close to too many sources of stress.
“I need your help,” Romanov says from the painfully exposed bathtub, the water sloshing quietly when she moves. “I can’t reach some of the cuts and they need to be cleaned.”
She sounds just as confident as she does any other time, but Bruce doesn’t move for a long moment.
There’s a handful of torn clothes, bloody tissues and washcloths discarded beside it. Agent Romanov – Natasha, because it seems ridiculous to call someone by their surname when there’s a good chance you’re about to see them naked – is leaning forward, her arms on her knees. It makes her look like something from a painting or a print that belongs on the wall of an expensive apartment. He swallows.
Thankfully, although Bruce is unsure how thankful he is, the impression is ruined by the cuts, bruises and scrapes that run across her back. He averts his eyes the closer he gets, groping around the side of the tub for the pile of clean washcloths, breathing a sigh of relief when he finds them without having to actually look because he doesn’t think he’ll be able to look Natasha in the eye if he accidentally sees her naked.
The water’s just the right side of hot, very faintly pink when it catches the light just right, and Bruce dunks the first washcloth under before he leans across the edge to get a better angle to wipe across the cuts. The naked curve of her shoulder presses against his, and he can feel the heat of her body through the water which soaks through his shirt in seconds. Natasha doesn’t flinch, doesn’t complain when he touches her, even when he has to get what he thinks are fragments of concrete out of the one.
“Lean forward,” Bruce says after when he’s sure that all the cuts on her back are clean enough for them to go back to Tony’s building without her risking infection, cupping his hands and gathering enough water. From the amount of bruising, it’s going to be less painful for her to stay leaning forward, than it will be if she tries to put her head back. He checks that her eyes are closed before he lifts his hands and lets the water fall over her hair.
It takes him a few minutes, soaking the clean washcloths to use as well, but he’s satisfied that he’s got all the brick dust, concrete and blood out of her hair.
The cut just below her right eye is bleeding again, drops of bright blood dripping into the bathwater, loud in a room that’s silent, save for their breathing. Bruce hesitates before picking up one of the other washcloths and pressing it to her cheek.
Her hand comes up to take it, her fingers brushing across his.
“Natasha,” he says, because he remembers that she called him Bruce before the other guy came out, when she was trapped and scared – and he can still see her face when he thinks about it, remembers wondering if he was going to hurt or kill her. She’s warm, but he can feel the water beginning to cool on her skin when he touches her shoulder, fingers sliding across her skin, gentle enough that he doesn’t accidentally press on a bruise.
She doesn’t say anything, just leans back in the bath, inhaling sharply. He wants to tell her to be careful because she’s probably bruised her ribs.
Bruce doesn’t avert his eyes this time, letting his gaze drift over the exposed skin, pale but darkened in places by bruises and cuts that are just beginning to stop bleeding. There’s a nasty graze her stomach that he catches sight of before Natasha leans forward again until the ends of her hair are almost touching the water.
“Thank you,” she says quietly.