Heart Of Stone
Summary: After decades of being HYDRA’s most prized possession, you’re finally free and find yourself under the protective eye of the Avengers. But with a piece of one of the Infinity Stones embedded into your heart, you’re never truly safe...
Pairing: Wanda x Reader
Warnings: blood, kidnapping, death, panic/anxiety attacks, isolation, very slow burn romance (especially this part)
requested by anonymous
@therealmeari @diaryoflife @cantcontroltheirfear @women-am-i-right @catching-up-with-kayla @obsessed-with-wandamaximoff @beforeoursecrets
@myfavoriteficss @pinkytoecrust @cyncity32 @ironscarletwidowsoilder @peachbear88 @magicallymaximoff @peggycarter-steverogers @this-is-my-last-life
You were lost, screaming for your mother as you wandered the streets, weaving through the crowd at a local flea market. Your face red and puffy, wet with tears, as your heart hammered in your chest with pure fear. Eventually, your sobs became too much, cutting off your ability to speak as you stopped walking, letting the crowd go around you as if you weren't a small child crying in the middle of a crowded place, lost and alone.
You blinked a few more tears out of your eyes as a man kneeled down in front of you, sending you a soft, warm smile. You hiccupped, using a fist to rub one of your eyes. You felt yourself calm down at the man's confidence, kindness. You hiccupped once more before they faded away, a frown permanently engraved on your face.
You just wanted your mommy.
"Hello," he said, his voice just as soothing as his smile. You sniffled, your hands bunching the front of your shirt in a tight ball, pulling the fabric against your back. "What's wrong, dearie?"
"I can't find my mommy," you answered, your voice shaky.
He frowned, placing a hand on your shoulder. "Well, I can help you find her," he offered. "I think we could find her a lot faster if you and I worked together."
"Like… like a team?"
He nodded, the smile returning. "How old are you?" His hand fell off of your shoulder, knowing you weren't going to run now that he had offered to help you reach your desires.
You released your shirt to hold up five fingers and he chuckled. He stood up, offering you his hand. You stared at it for a moment, a bit more hesitant.
"I'm going to help you," he said, his voice strained. It was as if he was forcing himself to be patient, but you were just a kid and didn't know his true intentions by reading his voice. He had promised you something you wanted, and the last thing on your mind was this kind man hurting you.
But that didn't stop you from saying, "My mommy told me not to go with strangers."
He sighed, his hand going back to his side. He knew he couldn't force you in the middle of this crowded area. The instincts of all the parents surrounding him would kick in to protect you if you start screaming, so he had to gently guide you onto the path of willingness. "Well, my name is Dr. Zola," he told you. "There. Now I'm not a stranger."
You sucked on your bottom lip, looking at his gentle smile. He had a point, you knew his name so he wasn't technically a stranger. And the longer you were without your mother, the more desperate you got to want his help in finding her. "Okay," you said softly, accepting his hand when he reached out to you once more.
His large hand engulfed your tiny one and he waited for you to walk with him, side by side. You shouted for your mom, completely unaware that he wasn't doing the same. Your eyes scanned the crowd, looking at each person's face in hope that it's your mom, but got sadder each time it wasn't.
"I think I see her!" the doctor said, your eyes perking up at his claim. "This way." He pulled you to the side, making a beeline to a car waiting on the edge of the flea market.
You heard your name being called from somewhere behind you, feeling the man's hand tighten around your own as you looked over your shoulder. You caught a glimpse of your mom desperately calling out for you between the people, pushing against shoppers to reach you, but the man pulled you into his arms, no longer giving you the option to walk.
Your screams tore your throat raw, bystanders turning their attention to you as the man started to run. You reached for your mom over his shoulders, seeing the panic on her features as everybody parted, giving her space to run after you. You wondered why nobody was helping her. Help her!
Your vision of her was cut off as he tossed you into the back of the waiting car, closing the door behind him and ordering the driver to take off. His hands kept you in the seat, weakly fighting against him as you cried for your mom.
The man lost his kindness, the warmth fading away into coldness as he glared at you. His large hand clamped over your mouth to muffle your screams, the hand pushing against your chest only got stronger, forcing the air out of your lungs and you gasped underneath his other hand. Your face turned red, eyes wide as he leaned closer to you so you could clearly see the anger he managed to hide earlier in his eyes. "Keep quiet." His voice held venom that paralyzed you. He tentatively released your mouth and relieved some of the pressure against your chest, quiet once more.
Your hiccups were the only thing penetrating the silence, though he seemed to be okay with those.
He looked towards the driver. "Drive faster," the doctor ordered, turning his head back to you. "I'd like to get started as soon as possible with our new subject." He stroked the side of your face with his free hand gently, wiping away some of the tears on the way down. "I have a good feeling about this one. Subject 13."
You were shaking with fear, eyes wide and lip quivering. You wanted him to stop touching you, to leave you alone, but he continued holding you down. Forcing you to stay in the seat, your back against the leather, and his hand pushed against your chest so hard, you were barely able to breathe properly.
The rest of the ride was left in intense silence, the man not once letting go of his hold on you. You managed to stop crying, though the fear was still fresh in you. You figured it wouldn't do you any good to cry anymore, tears drying on your cheeks the longer you were trapped in the car.
You couldn't see outside the windows well with the way you were lying, only being able to see the sky. That's what you focused on, watching the clouds zoom by as the driver raced the car through the streets, letting the calmness of the sky flow through you. Your eyes fluttered close, the sun's glare passing through the window and settling on your face. You took calming breaths, feeling the doctor's hand release some of the pressure against your chest.
When the sun vanished and the sky was replaced by darkness, you opened your eyes. The car pulled to a stop, the roof of a building blocking your view of the sky. How long have you been in the car for?
The doctor's hand left you for a moment, opening the door and leaving you alone. You moved to sit up, but a hand wrapped around your ankle pulled you towards them, forcing you back onto the seat. You were dragged out of the car, landing on your feet with a hand pushing against your shoulder to keep you still, flinching when the car door whizzed by you, slamming shut.
"Get the room ready," the doctor demanded, looking down at you with a wide smile. "I want to jump right into the testing."
"Yes, sir," another man stated, sending the doctor a rigid salute before racing off ahead of you.
You watched the man run off, feeling the doctor's eyes still on you. Fear prevented you from running, from screaming, though everything inside of you wanted to scream, telling you to run and don't look back. But you were paralyzed.
The doctor forced you forward, his hand on your shoulder guiding you alongside him as he slowly followed after the man from earlier. He guided you down a dark hall, closed doors with windows too high up for you to see through them, but that was okay, the random screams of agony that seemed to come from behind some of the doors told you you didn't want to see what was happening in those rooms. You kept your eyes forward, the doctor's grip on your shoulder tightening every time you flinched at a scream.
Tears crawled down your cheeks, but you forced yourself to remain quiet knowing the doctor doesn't like your screams. And you don't want to see that cold anger in his eyes again.
A door was pulled open by a couple of guards upon you reaching it, the doctor not even stepping a foot inside the room. You tripped to your knees when he pushed you forward, the doors slamming shut with an echoing thud, a lock clicking shortly after. Your breathing was uneven as you rose to your feet, a bland room with a metal pathway built into the middle of the floor leading to a floating object. One edge of it sharp and ragged compared to the other sides, which were a bit more smooth and natural; as if it were broken, a part of it was missing. And it drew you in like a magnet, though you were too terrified to move. A mirror sat on the wall on the other side, unbeknownst to you that there was a small audience looking through a window on the opposite side of the mirror.
It felt like forever before the room was filled with a brief moment of static, followed by the doctor's familiar voice. "Subject 13, would you please step forward." His voice seemed to be a bit more rasp, like he was speaking through a walkie-talkie. And even with his confirmation, you were still frozen to your spot, your knees shaking.
"That's you, sweetheart." A second voice, feminine. Much softer and gentler than the doctor's, understandable, sympathetic. You wanted to go to that voice. You wanted that voice to wrap you in her arms and tell you that everything's going to be okay, but you couldn't.
"Are you sure this is going to work, Dr. Zola?" A third, male. He seemed a bit bored, his voice monotone. It was as if he's been here multiple times before, to be excited, to have his hopes up each time only to be brought back down with the same results. "All our other subjects died before they even got near the thing."
The doctor hushed him impatiently, snapping at the third voice. He wasn't in the mood for doubt. "Come on, Subject 13. Step forward." The patience was no longer in his voice, wanting to show the third voice that he was wrong. "I have a good feeling about this one." He wanted to prove that feeling right.
The female sighed, annoyed with the two men. She knew pushing you wasn't going to help anything. She cleared her throat before saying, "It's okay, sweetie. All you have to do right now is take one step. We can take it slow, we got all day." She immediately shushed the two men before they could say something.
You wished you could see what she looked like so you could imagine being in her arms, seeking the comfort of a mother since you're most likely never going to see yours again. Though, you did settle on your mother. Replacing your mother's voice with hers as she held you in her arms one night, protecting you from the monsters under your bed, telling you that it'll be okay… mommy's here.
You took a step forward and the woman praised you. A wide smile tugged your lips and you took another step, earning another good job from the woman, her voice encouraging. You walked the rest of the way, down the metal pathway and towards the floating object.
The spectators were quiet now, watching with bated breath as you got closer to the stone. You had to go on your toes, but you reached up and grabbed it in your tiny hand, gripping it tightly as you landed on the balls of your feet, bringing it to you to get a good look at it.
It started vibrating in your hand, the sharp edge of the stone cutting your palm as it was ripped away from you by an invisible force. It floated in front of you, furrowing your eyebrows with confused awe as you watched the stone spin. You balled your injured hand into a fist, no pain flowing through you at all, blood dripping to the floor between your clenched fingers.
"This… This is incredible!" the third voice exclaimed. "It's reacting so differently than it did to all the others!"
"I knew it," the doctor whispered. "We need to perform more tests immediately!"
"Wait," the woman snapped and everybody froze again.
You held your injured hand out, not realizing it was bleeding until you saw the red liquid dripping down your wrist, but you paid no mind to it. You poked it with a blood-covered finger and the stone stopped spinning.
Before you knew it, it launched itself at you, faster than the speed of light. You didn't have time to react, you didn't even feel it. You were vaguely aware of the gasps that came from the intercom, falling to your knees as you looked up at the mirror. You saw the hole in your shirt, through the middle of your chest, right where your heart should be. Blood covered your front, the door opening behind you, and footsteps running to reach you.
You were out before you felt anybody touch you.
You had always found the silence comforting because it meant they were done with you for now. No more tests, no more experiments. Just you locked in your room (which, in reality, is a prison cell, three walls made of pure concrete with a steel door on one of them, the fourth wall being reinforced glass opposite that of the door; they enjoy keeping a very close eye on you) being left alone for hours on end. But among that comfort, you found a source of unease. Not knowing when they were going to interrupt that silence with the screams counting down their arrival, leaving you on edge, always managed to take that comfort away from you. You ignored every noise made, every sound. You waited with bated breath when you heard a bang, releasing it a moment later when no other noise was heard.
A scream echoed throughout the halls. "One," you whispered to yourself. This has been your life for the past nineteen years.
You looked up from the scar on your hand, sitting against one of the concrete walls on your single mattress - the durability has been worn out throughout the years you've been using it - so you could gaze at the drawing on the opposite wall, a small portrait of the outside made of chalk, the size of a normal window. What used to be a brilliant blue for the sky, a bright yellow for the sun, a vibrant green for the grass, all faded from age, but the image was still there. This was your own window, something you had drawn when you were a kid, the voice of the woman - Dr. Bakshi, you had eventually learned - had snuck a few pieces of chalk your way. They found out quickly after you had drawn the first piece of the window - the sun - but they had seen how obedient you were ever since retrieving the chalk.
They let you keep it.
"Two," you whispered upon hearing the second scream, your eyes not once leaving the fake window. Seeing the sky - even the fake sky - brought a moment of tranquility over you. It was your escape, your feeling of control. It was the only thing you wanted to draw on the wall, Dr. Bakshi had to refer to pieces of paper when she realized that, wanting to give you something that’ll pass the time whenever you were locked in your cage. And your art was tucked in the corner of your cell, having mastered the skill over the past two decades. You appreciated her for it, having something to do while awaiting the arrival of the mad scientist, something to distract yourself from this thing that’s called life, but... you’ve found yourself without motivation the past few years. Dr. Bakshi took notice of your lack of painting, the blank pieces of paper piling up as you disregarded your previous works.
She was beginning to worry, you saw that, but there was nothing you could do about it. You just didn’t want to draw.
You had found yourself a connection with Dr. Bakshi throughout the years of being here, though you knew it was just an act to get you to behave. An act to get you to have a connection with someone here so you didn't lash out. So you would be hesitant to escape. And it worked, much to your disappointment. You knew that she'd be in between you and your freedom, not wavering an inch, and you couldn't hurt her because of that connection.
A third scream, silently counting to three as the scream was cut abruptly short, dying.
"Subject 13." You didn't react to the voice, slowly looking over at the glass wall to see Dr. Zola on the other side, looking at you with a wide smile. He greeted you with a slight nod as you climbed to your feet. He wasn't flanked by guards today, then again he hasn't required any guards for a long time.
You were disciplined.
"How are you today?" His eyes wandered over to your fake window, pursing his lips through his smile. "I see you still have your little fantasy."
You stood in front of him, hands clasped behind your back, waiting. Your mouth remained shut, staring blankly ahead as the door opened behind you, a single guard waiting by the door. Dr. Zola's smile remained on his face when you didn't move an inch, proud of himself for having broken you, raised you to be so obedient, so bendable.
"We have some new tests for you," he said, the guard behind you waiting for permission to guide you away. He claims to have "new" tests every day. Yet it was just the same three tests repeated each time. You learned to keep your mouth shut, though. "Take her to the chamber."
The guard behind you cleared their throat, a sign to start walking. You followed willingly, marching down the all-too-familiar halls like a zombie. The guard didn't even need to tell you where to go anymore, memorizing the pathing like the back of your hand. You grew up walking down these halls, you were accustomed to them.
But when you turned to go into the room you've always gone into, the guard stopped you by clicking her tongue, causing you to freeze and turn away from the room. "Change of plans, 13," she stated. "Keep going straight."
You followed her orders, walking further down the halls. Within the nearly twenty years you've been locked up in this place, you've never seen passed anything that's not in between the testing chamber and your cell, and you wanted to look around, but you knew you had to keep your eyes straight or else. You weren't familiar with these halls even though they looked the same, the feeling of discomfort settling in the pit of your stomach as the guard had to now verbally guide you to a new location. Maybe the doctor wasn't exaggerating this time. Maybe there really is a new test for you.
"In there." She pointed towards a door at the end of the hall after turning a corner. It was the only door in the corridor, the door propped open as the guard followed you to it. The second you stepped into the room, the door slammed shut behind you. You were getting a sense of deja vu.
"Welcome, 13." That feeling of discomfort faded away upon hearing Dr. Bakshi's voice, looking to your right to see her smiling face. You practically ran over to her but froze a few feet away. You frowned, meeting her eye, and she sighed, knowing exactly what you're thinking. "It's really me, sweetie."
You grinned at her, relieved. Usually, whenever Dr. Bakshi appeared during one of your tests, it was just a hologram. At first, it was obvious, the technology wasn't as advanced back then as it is now, but then it grew into something that was hard to distinguish immediately. You had always assumed that her presence was just that of a hologram to get you to settle down and it had always worked despite knowing the truth. She was always too busy doing other projects to be there for you all the time and you took advantage of all the times that her physical form spent with you, sitting outside your cell and telling you about her day. You hung on to every single word she said, too.
"This is a new test," she explained, gesturing towards the middle of the room, but you didn't look away from her. You wanted to hug her, you wanted to feel her arms wrap around you, but you couldn't. She couldn't. The strict rules they had here, the no physical contact aspect that came along with the many other rules they had for you.
She sighed when she realized that you weren't listening to her, folding her hands in front of her as she gave you that look, that mom look. You blinked, shaking your head.
Her soft laugh made you grin as you turned to look towards the center of the room, seeing the giant pillar of concrete that filled a huge part of the space, connecting the floor to the ceiling. The width of the pillar was wide enough to fit three people alongside it before seeing them from the other side. What do they want you to do with that?
As if she read your mind, Dr. Bakshi answered your unspoken question, "Destroy it."
You looked back at her, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Her laugh made you smile a little bit again, relaxing at the ease it made you feel. You looked back at the pillar and sighed.
"I know you can do it," she offered as you walked towards it. She followed you, staying several feet behind you. "All the other tests you've done, they were only building you up to this." She sighed, her hand twitching out to rest on your shoulder - you saw the movement in the one-way mirror and frowned slightly, wishing she'd just give in to the motherly feeling despite the audience behind that wall. "That feeling you sometimes get? That's the stone."
The stone. She explained it to you when you had woken up after your first interaction with it many years ago, having been in a coma for almost a week as the stone settled. It had embedded itself into your heart and nobody - not even the hundreds of doctors and scientists - can explain how you're still alive. They showed you X-rays, even though you were five at the time and didn't really understand what you were looking at. Dr. Bakshi had explained it, pointing to the picture of your heart, and tracing the small outline that had entangled itself into it. The stone cut through you to get to your heart, puncturing the tissue and putting itself front and center. Dr. Bakshi had a theory that it's the only reason why your heart is still beating… literally.
"The heartburn? The… stomach aches? I call them overloads." You continued to stare at the pillar. "We've been giving you doses of an artificial drug to keep them at bay, but after the latest test we learned that the longer we keep you on this drug, the more likely you're not going to make it to see 25." That would've been in a few months. The drugs they give you when you feel the pain, you were told they were just pain killers. Simple over-the-counter medicine to ease your pain. "Preventing you from overloading is slowly killing you, 13, so we've decided that instead of forcing you to keep that power inside, we're going to train you to control it."
Train you? They don't fully understand how this power works. You don't even fully understand how it works. Their tests limited you from using them, their drugs prevented you from branching out. You didn't take your medicine this morning, you realize. It was the only way to know that it was a new day.
You felt like a small fire had been set off inside of your chest, pushing against it to fight it off. Dr. Bakshi stepped to the side, the large pillar blocking her from the hidden audience. She was close to you now, you could feel her body heat and you froze, eyes wide as you stared at the mirror, not being able to see her in the reflection.
There was a high-pitched noise, nothing that affected you, but something that affected the recording devices planted throughout the room and it took you a moment to realize that it was her pushing a button on a small device to make that noise. She wanted to talk to you without being heard.
"You need to do this," Dr. Bakshi whispered in your ear, your muscles tensing at the closeness. "I've learned their true motives. They're pampering you as a weapon and it's time for me to step up once and for all." She sighed, her breath fanning over the side of your face and you didn't know what to do. "It's time for you to be free, 13."
The high-pitched noise halted and she stepped out from behind the pillar several moments later, out of sync with the noise so as to not draw attention to her. You sucked in a deep breath and looked at the pillar. The burning in your chest intensified, your veins glowing bright yellow in your arms and you bit back the screams - no screams.
"Embrace it, 13!" Dr. Bakshi stated, watching as your face contorted to show the pain you were feeling.
The force that left your body made you arch your back, bending backward, your arms spreading wide. Your jaw clenched in agony, your eyes squeezed shut.
And then it was nothing. The burning in your chest now a dull ember as you straightened your form, opening your eyes and looking around to see nothing but trees. The only evidence that a building existed here was the huge scorch mark surrounding you, circling far that told you just how big the building truly was, having only been confined to two rooms.
It took you a moment, but you realized that there was nobody surrounding you. No Dr. Bakshi, no Dr. Zola, nothing. Not even a measly little guard or two. You've killed them, all of them. You took a shaky deep breath as you decided the first thing you wanted to do with your newfound freedom is the one thing you've always dreamed about; you looked up at the bright blue sky, not a single cloud in sight. The sun was high, brilliant, forcing you to squint your eyes against the beams, the smile on your face wide as your eyes fluttered close, letting the warmth of the giant star soak into your skin.
The moment was ruined when you heard someone speak behind you.
"Stark, there's no building here." It was a woman's voice, not Dr. Bakshi, and that sort of disappointed you. The tone was condescending, snarky. A hint of humor behind it. "I don't know what you want me to say. It's just an empty-"
You felt yourself hold your breath when you heard the woman abruptly stop talking, your chin going back down and muscles tensing as you heard footsteps slow to an end somewhere behind you. You closed your eyes, willing yourself to run, to escape, but you couldn't move. You were frozen in fear.
"Hey." It was a male's voice, loud, confident, demanding. Much like Dr. Zola. Someone took a step forward and you just assumed it was him, whoever he was. You remained still, your back to them. You don't know how many there were, fear paralyzing you once more.
You had seemed to get even tenser at the male's voice, your muscles locking as your eyes opened. You sucked in a deep breath, finally filling your lungs with air. You didn't want to move, you didn't want them to attack you. You didn't want to kill any more people.
"Steve." The female from earlier, softer, gentler. Much like Dr. Bakshi. You felt yourself relax at her voice, hearing someone take a step forward. Her next words were pointed towards you, "What's your name?"
Your name? You… don't remember. You haven't heard your name in twenty years, always having been referred to as Subject 13, or 13 for short. You started to panic, your jaw clenching as you tried to remember your name. It's as simple as knowing how to ride a bike! Which… you don't really know how to do either. Your childhood wasn't so great, you'd be the first to admit it.
"How old are you?"
Now that you could answer, but you couldn't find your voice anyway so it didn't really matter. You heard someone walk towards you, soft footsteps and, the second you saw a flash of movement in the corner of your eye, your eyes squeezed shut and you held your breath once more.
"Romanoff," the man warned, further behind you. So it was the woman conjuring up the courage for confrontation, stopping in front of you. You could hear her breathe, feel her body heat radiating off of you and you… relaxed. There was something soothing about her, calming. And when you opened your eyes, meeting her green ones, you relaxed even more. They reminded you of the grass you had colored in your cell wall, when you had first drawn it, of course. The vibrant green before it faded away in due time. They calmed you.
"Hi," she practically whispered. She sees the fear on your face, too scared to even run away. When she looks at you, you don't see her looking at a monstrosity like everybody else. Her features were soft, unwary. She… trusted you not to hurt her. And you thrived on that trust. You wanted to prove that her trusting you was the right decision.
Was this a part of the test?
"I'm Natasha, but you can call me Nat." She smiled at you, a genuine smile, one you haven't seen in decades. You continued to stare at her, your jaw locked tight with fear and she saw that, too. Her eyes flickered quickly, looking you up and down. You felt embarrassed about your attire, your poor clothing, looking like you've lived in a dumpster your entire life. She slowly moved her arms to cross them over her chest, but when you flinched upon her movement, she put her hands back to her sides.
"Romanoff," Steve called again, panic seizing you once again when you heard him start walking towards you. His footsteps stopped when Natasha sent him a subtle shake of her head, speaking to him in code with her eyes.
"How about you come with us," Natasha suggested, looking back at you, "and we can get you some food."
Food. All the scientists have been giving you was the same thing every day which you had eventually stopped interpreting as food. The mysterious gloop they had given you allowed you to live all this time, so clearly it had some nutritional value in there. Didn't make it any less sickening.
Natasha laughed at your expression, a light-hearted laugh, much more satisfying than Dr. Bakshi’s, and it was enough to put a small smile on your face. You wanted to go with her.
You nodded, which made her chuckle even more. She gestured for you to walk, and you turned around to finally see the man she had called Steve. You tilted your head at his outfit, eyeing him up and down and he suddenly lost his confidence. He cleared his throat, looking at Natasha behind you. And to think that you were embarrassed about your clothes.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" he questioned, his hands grabbing his belt buckle.
"Look around, Rogers," Natasha said, gesturing to the open field surrounding you, "there's no base here. So, either Stark's information was wrong, or the entire building just up and vanished."
He looked down, eyeing the dirt, the burn marks, and he sighed. He knew something was fishy here and he was going to find out, but she had a point. There's no base to infiltrate, so they had some free time and food does sound good right about now. "Fine," he declared, giving in. He threw his arms up in the air and turned around. "I'm driving."
You smiled as your new comrades laughed. You had settled in a booth at a diner Steve chose, stuck in between the window and Natasha, sitting as far against the wall as you could. You didn't know what you had ordered, you just pointed at a picture and the waitress nodded her head as she scribbled something down. And when she came back, placing the plate of food in front of you, your smile had slowly faded, staring at the sticks of fried potatoes with obvious confusion.
You were too focused on your plate to notice the shared look of concern between Natasha and Steve, the redhead turning to you to tell you what the food exactly is; French fries. You nodded but didn't reach to grab one, hesitant.
Natasha noticed, sending a glance towards Steve before turning back to you. "They're good," she assured you, smiling softly. "Would you like me to try one?"
You nodded, looking at her as she pulled a fry off your plate and popped it into her mouth. She chewed happily as you watched her, an eyebrow raised dubiously. She gestured for you to try one after she swallowed, vaguely aware of Steve's watchful eye when you turned back to your plate.
You mirrored Natasha's movements, grabbing a single fry off your plate and putting it into your mouth. You chewed slowly, letting the taste of the salty stick cover your taste buds. Your face was blank, unreactive as you swallowed the fried food. Everybody waited with bated breath for your reaction, and a smile slowly formed on your face.
Steve smiled as Natasha laughed in victory when you reached for another fry, popping it into your mouth and chewing more confidently.
"So, how long have you been with HYDRA?" Steve questioned, making you look at him with confusion.
HYDRA? You didn't know who that was. You've only met Dr. Zola and Dr. Bakshi, along with one or two guards. These two were the first new faces you've seen in twenty years, knowing Dr. Zola had wanted to keep your interactions to a minimum. Nobody but the people you knew weren't even allowed to walk past your cell. This was another one of the rules they had for you.
Steve looked at Natasha for help, but she ignored him by sliding your drink towards you. "Try this," she offered and you stared at the dark liquid. You had only been given water along with your mystery slop and this drink wasn't even close to water. "It's soda. Very good."
You picked up the glass - cool to the touch - and brought it to your lips. You took a small sip, scrunching your nose at the carbonation and earning another chuckle from both Steve and Natasha. Yet, you took another, bigger drink, letting the liquid run down your throat.
"See? I wouldn't lie to you," she assured with a wide grin when you looked at her. They both went back to their own food, both of them keeping an eye on you as you focused on your fries, munching on them as they spoke.
"What did Stark say about you bringing home a stray?" Steve questioned.
Natasha sighed thoughtfully, swallowing her food before saying, "I haven't told him yet."
You were too busy with your own food to pay attention to their conversation, figuring out that you could shove more than one fry in your mouth and taking advantage of that. Natasha watched you with gentle eyes, a small smile tugging her lips. There was only one thing on her mind as you made eye contact with her behind your cup, chugging your soda through a wide smile: What did they do to you?
"You should probably warn him before we get back," Steve suggested, making her look back at him. "He's not going to be happy about our... surprise guest."
"I can handle Tony Stark," Natasha assured. She was too focused on trying to make you feel comfortable to worry about what Tony's going to think. She sees the trauma behind your eyes because she's held trauma in her eyes, too, knowing the trust you give out is rare, difficult to earn. She wanted to be one of the few people you trust because she's aware of how difficult life could be if you had nobody on your side rooting for you. She wanted to be that person, too.
"Rogers," Natasha stated sharply, "I have it handled."
Steve sighed, dropping the subject. He knew better than to keep pushing, but as he looked at you finishing the last of your fries with your full concentration on the ketchup Natasha had squirted onto your plate, he knew something was going to go wrong. Maybe not now, but eventually. And he needed to prepare himself for that.
You were told to stay in the car, but you had been driven to your destiny the last time you were in a car. It was easier with Natasha alongside you, her calming aura brought a wave of relief over you, letting you feel safe within the confinements of the vehicle. But she wasn't here, and neither was Steve. You were alone, feeling a pressure push against your chest like a hand was pinning you down to the seat.
You turned your head to look up at the sky, but the parking garage completely blocked your view. You tried to sit through it, knowing she'd be back soon, but the pressure against your chest only continued to build, pressing harder and harder until you were nearly suffocating inside the car.
You threw the door open, scrambling out of the car to breathe in the fresh air, gasping and coughing, shaking at the memory of Dr. Zola.
You ran as far from the car as you could, not even bothering to close the door as you raced out of the parking garage, but you froze when you finally saw the sky. The day was ending, the sun was setting, causing a swirl of colors that took your breath away. Purple, pink, orange, twirling together in perfect harmony. You lowered to the ground, crossing your legs as you found yourself incapable of taking your eyes off of nature's masterpiece. Dr. Zola was no longer on your mind, knowing that this was something you get to see every day now managed to relax you even further.
Natasha and Steve were talking in hushed voices as they returned to the parking garage, both of them freezing in their tracks when they saw the car door open.
"I knew this was a bad idea," Steve declared angrily. "She's been with HYDRA for who even knows how long because she won't talk to us. She hasn't said a single word the entire day."
"She doesn't even know what HYDRA is, Rogers," Natasha snapped, remembering the confusion you displayed at the diner. Steve followed her closely as she made her way to the car, rounding the opened door to look into it, sighing when she confirmed that you weren't in there.
"She could be tricking us, Nat," Steve stated, "or she was brainwashed! Isn't that HYDRA's M.O.?"
She turned away from Steve, already annoyed with him, and felt her breath caught in her throat. She cut off Steve's upcoming sentence by holding a hand up. He followed her stare, letting out an annoyed sigh as he crossed his arms over his chest. She took a step forward, but Steve put a hand on her shoulder.
"Do you want me to hang around?"
She looked at you sitting on the ground, noticing your relaxed shoulders and your even breathing. She doesn't need him lingering around, not if she wanted your trust. She looked at him, shrugging his hand off his shoulder as she shook her head gently. He sent her a look, double-checking her answer, and she rolled her eyes. "It'll be fine, Rogers." With a hefty sigh, he walked away.
She knew he was going to hang around anyway, though out of sight was better than the other alternative, right out in the open.
She made her way to you quietly, settling down at the entrance of the parking garage next to you, bringing her knees to her chest as she looked up at the sky, a small smile on her face at the sight.
You sat in silence for a moment, enjoying her company while at the same time marveling at the sky, but it soon ended once she spoke, "It's beautiful."
You nodded in agreement even though you knew she wasn't looking at you, a small smile tugging at the corner of your lips. You sucked in a breath and slowly released it, tearing your eyes away from the sky to glance at Natasha. Your hands fell into your lap, playing with a loose thread of the jacket Natasha let you borrow.
You cleared your throat, opening your mouth. It's been so long since you've held a proper conversation. Another rule, no talking. Dr. Zola didn't want to hear your voice, and you'd be greatly punished if he did. His fear of you caused him to act rashly, demanding you to do silly things like not holding a conversation with someone. You couldn't even laugh. But here, with Natasha, you felt safe. Safer than when you're with Dr. Bakshi, who's now just gone. Obliterated. Because of you.
"I… I don't know my name." She looked down, not wanting to scare you by staring at you. Your voice took her by surprise, not really expecting you to speak. "They… always called me 13, short for Subject 13."
She rested her chin between her knees as she listened to you, hearing the hesitation in your words, the lack of confidence in your sentences.
"I've... been with the doctors for almost twenty years." You tried to recall your life before that, with your mom. You tried to remember your mom, what she sounded like, what she looked like, but you couldn't. She was a faded memory, a blurry face. "Who's… HYDRA?"
Natasha picked her head up and looked at you, pursing her lips together as you made brief eye contact. But in that short moment, she saw the authenticity in your question. You had no idea what HYDRA was. They haven't told you a single thing within the twenty years you've been their prisoner, just going through test after test to see the strength of your powers, but even those tests didn't show the full capability.
"They're not good news," Natasha assured softly. She sighed, eyeing your face as she spoke in a soft tone, gentle, "They're a terrorist organization."
You looked down at her words, rubbing the scar on your palm with your thumb. You were stuck in silence once more, your jaw locked with anger and betrayal. "I… lost someone today." You had time to process it. The guilt weighing down on you as you finally realized that everybody you had grown up around is dead and it's your fault. Dr. Zola, dead. Dr. Bakshi, dead. "I killed them all, didn't it?"
Natasha released a soft sigh. She saw the satellite footage Tony brought up - in an attempt to prove himself right, that there was a building there. And they were both right, there was a building, but not anymore. And when it was all said and done, you were the last one standing.
"You were trying to escape."
"It's time for you to be free." You sighed, your head lifting up to watch the darkening sky. You feel at ease now that you can talk to someone, knowing that you weren't going to be punished for it. This was only the beginning of your freedom, the luxury of being able to do normal things without extreme consequences. No more rules.
"What would you like your name to be?" You furrowed your eyebrows, turning your head to look at her. She sent you a soft smile, the kind of smile of a person you could trust. "I don't know about you, but 13 isn’t a very good name."
You… laughed as you turned your head. The first time in twenty years you've heard the sound of your laughter. You had forgotten what it sounded like, what it felt like. Your chest felt lighter, bubbles rising in it as you looked down at your hands, staring at the scar caused by the thing that's keeping you alive. You took a moment to think, pursing your lips together as Natasha patiently waited for your answer. "Y/N…" you said slowly, a wide smile tugging your lips as you looked back at her. That name felt right, familiar. Natural on your tongue, a calmness floating around you as you nodded confidently.
She mirrored your smile, looking back up at the sky thoughtfully. "Y/N." You felt proud to hear her say it, memorize it. "I love it."
The two of you continued staring up at the sky, peaceful.
"This is a bad idea."
Natasha crossed her arms over her chest, glaring at Steve as they conversed in front of Tony, who seemed to not even be the least bit interested in the argument. He sat there at the table, twiddling his thumbs and staring off into space while Natasha and Steve stood on opposite sides, facing each other.
"I trust her," Natasha snapped.
"She made an entire building disappear!" Steve countered, placing his hands on his hips. "Disintegrated within seconds! She’s going to do that here!"
"She won't." Her jaw was clenched tightly, glaring at Steve with daggers. But he didn't back down, fearing for the safety of his team and everybody in the proximity of you. "Y/N was experimented on."
"Y/N?" Tony looked at Natasha, now interested in the conversation. "She talked to you? You guys said-"
"Apparently Natasha's an exception," Steve declared, looking over at her.
"Because I showed her human decency while you treated her like the enemy," she countered. "She's been trapped as a HYDRA experiment for twenty years. She's only ever seen the inside of that building her entire life. She doesn't remember her own mother. She didn't even remember her own name! She had to make one herself!"
"She can't stay here," Steve retorted, shaking his head. "I let you have your little moments by taking her out for lunch, but I'm drawing a line. Not if it endangers everybody here."
"Maybe she could stay here," Tony said, his eyes distant as he thought.
"Tony, she's dangerous."
"She's just a kid," Natasha defended.
"She's 24," Steve declared.
She rolled her eyes. "Who has been locked up since she was five!" You hadn't lived a full life, forcing adulthood on you at an extremely young age to survive.
"Even more of a reason not to trust her," Steve stated, gesturing towards Natasha. "She's been raised as a HYDRA operative, groomed to be on their agenda."
"She's not." Natasha ground her teeth together, angry that Steve wasn't listening to her, annoyed that Tony is now completely tuning out their entire conversation, his nose stuck to his phone screen. She remembered your reaction when she told you what HYDRA is. She knew you're not one of them, if only she could make Steve see that.
But Steve was being stubborn, his arms crossed taut over his chest, his jaw set. Natasha knew her words weren't going to reach him, only time will allow him to see that you could be trusted. Until then, Natasha was just going to have to fight for you, defend you against the accusations he's throwing your way.
"She could stay here." Natasha perked up at Tony's statement, watching him stand up. "I can build her a room that'll absorb the energy she releases if she does that… obliteration thing again." He grinned, proud of himself, as he looked at Natasha.
She sent him a smile, thankful, but Steve wasn't going to let this go easily, even if it is two against one now. "You're going to let her stay here?" He threw his arms up in the air as Natasha tried to hide the growing grin on her face. She wanted to rub it in, but she remained still. "Did you not see what she did?"
"I don't think she knows how to control it," Tony defended, shrugging. He swiped his phone off the table and shoved it into his pocket, glancing at Steve carelessly. "And, honestly, I don't have to care what you say. This is my building and the kid is more than welcome to stay." He walked out of the room, proving that he truly doesn't care about Steve's arguments. She loved when Tony pulled the "I pay for everything" card, especially when it's used in her favor.
He looked at Natasha as the door closed behind Tony, leaving just the two of them in the room. She couldn't stifle the condescending smirk anymore, mirroring his stance and crossing her arms over her chest as his eyes narrowed. She doesn't think she's ever seen Steve this angry before, the patriotic man was always the first to give anybody and everybody the benefit of the doubt. Except you. And she couldn't deny that he had brought up some fair points, but he'll soon see just how trusting you can be.
"Guess I really don't have a say in it anymore," Steve stated. "If this blows up-"
"Then it's on me," Natasha assured. She knew she had to take full responsibility, she wasn't going to deny it. Taking you under her wing was something she wanted to do, making sure you have a better life. She wants you to feel safe, to feel loved.
"No," Steve declared, shaking his head. "If this blows up, then there won't be anybody to take the blame." He marched out of the room, Natasha sighing as she soon followed him out.
She made her way to your new room, a room she quickly put together before she had that meeting with Steve and Tony. She wanted to give you your own space, somewhere you could go when you need to feel safe. You had told her about the cell they made you live in, the single mattress, the childish drawing. She made sure you had more than a flimsy bed and an actual window to look out of. Your dressers wouldn't be filled and your walls would be bare, but give it a couple of months and the room would look like someone actually lives in it.
She knocked softly against the door before pushing it open, freezing when she saw the mattress off the bed. She stepped into the room, looking towards the other side to see that you had strategically placed your mattress a few feet away from the window, sleeping peacefully. She sighed. You've been so accustomed to sleeping in a smaller space that you're just not quite used to having a room bigger than five feet. She let you be, leaving your room to go to her own.
It's going to take some getting used to, but you'll get there eventually.
The very first thing Natasha did in the morning was making a beeline straight to your room, her steps faltering when she saw that your door was wide open. She peeked in, either way, pursing her lips together when she saw that you weren't inside. She sighed, scratching the back of her head as she made her way to the kitchen.
Relief flooded her body when she saw you sitting at the table with Tony standing over your shoulder, both of you staring at something in front of you. The further she walked into the room, she managed to see that it was a cell phone in your hand, the frustrated concentration on your face as Tony tried to teach you how to use the basic necessities of it. Your free hand was pushing against your chest as if you were in pain, but other than that you were perfectly fine.
You didn't seem interested in the small device the least bit.
You looked up at her approach, a wide smile crossing your face as the frustration evaporated. Tony picked his head up as well, mirroring Natasha's relief as he took a step back from his spot next to you. He walked to her, blocking her view of you and making her look at him as he stopped in front of her.
"Steve's right," he stated, making her stomach drop for a moment before he added, "you're the only exception." She couldn't help but feel a bit proud of his words. "I'm going to be working on her room most of the day to make it more suitable for someone like her. I'm sure you won't have a hard time keeping her preoccupied." He patted her on the shoulder as he walked away, sending you a bright smile when you looked back up at her.
She's the only one you would talk to. For now, at least. She knows that the longer you're here, the more comfortable you'll be around everybody. She finished walking the rest of the way to you, joining you at the table. You had pushed the phone towards her, smiling.
"Mr. Stark... He thinks I should have it," you told her as she picked it up. "He... He already put in all the contacts I need." She scrolled through the phone, smiling softly as she saw that Tony had already done most of the work in setting it up. "I don't really understand it yet... but I'm getting there."
You wanted her to be proud of you, to see that you can advance further in life now that you weren't being held captive. But the frustration you felt trying to maneuver through the small device almost made you give up - it was easier to not be as technologically advanced as everybody else when you didn't have the access to the technology - but then you saw her and that was enough encouragement you needed to refocus.
She smiled reassuringly, sliding the phone back to you. She sighed, crossing her hands over the table as you picked up the phone again, brows bunched together with focus as your tongue jutted out between your lips. You were trying, she saw that, and the last thing needed was discouragement. Which is why she's going to get you out of the compound, away from Steve for the day.
"Hey, I think it's time to get you your own clothes." You looked up at her words, eyes bright with hope. She chuckled lightly. You had been using other people's clothes, though they didn't seem comfortable on you. They were either too big or too small, not perfect, and she wanted to give you something that's yours while Tony works on your room. "Get you something more pleasant than what you're wearing now."
You shrugged, your eyes casting back down to the phone, which had gone to sleep. She smiled softly, wondering if you knew how to turn it back on. "I... I’m pretty sure anything is better than what it used to be." HYDRA had stopped giving you new clothes when you had stopped growing. Your laundry day and shower day had to be at the same time.
You looked back at her when you had tapped the phone screen several times, though it still remained blank. She shook her head with a smile as she showed you the power button.
Almost two hours later, you followed Natasha through a nearly bare parking lot, cutting through to the small clothing store located practically in the middle of nowhere. You were relieved by the secluded nature of this small store, not having to worry about many people being near you. You cleared your throat quietly, trying to stifle the burning in your chest.
The inside of the store was barely alive, a couple of workers spread throughout the aisles along with a handful of customers sorting through the racks. She watched you closely as you sorted through some shirts, your lips pinching together tightly as you searched. You didn't know what you were looking for, you didn't know what you found comfortable or not. And after looking at a couple shirts, you turned to Natasha with your face pinched in confusion. She smiled at you softly.
"What's the difference between cotton and… polyester?" You looked back at the shirts, rubbing the two different fabrics in between your fingers.
Natasha stepped forward and you froze when her elbow brushed against you. Physical touch, even for a fraction of a second, was completely new to you. She noticed your pause and side stepped away from you a bit, clearing her throat. "Cotton is natural, polyester is synthetic," she answered as an employee stepped up to the two of you.
"How are you ladies today?" he questioned happily, looking from Natasha to you. You immediately avoided eye contact, busying yourself with the shirts once more as your eyebrows furrowed. "Do either of you need any help?"
"No," Natasha assured gently, "we're all good here. Thank you."
"Of course, that's what we're here for." The employee smiled and placed a friendly hand on your shoulder - a normal gesture for someone who is used to human to human contact. Considering the last physical interaction you had was Dr. Zola forcing you into the back of his car, you instantly tensed under his palm, your jaw locking so tight, Natasha could've swore she heard it click. Your heart hammered and the burning sensation in your chest went from a dull sting to a roaring blaze.
"That'll be all." Natasha stepped in between you and him, forcing his hand to slide off of your shoulder and walk away. She turned to look at you, your hands still caught in between the shirts, but that's not what she was staring at.
The veins in your arm glowed a dim yellow, your muscles tensed tightly. This was not a good sign.
"Hey," Natasha said softly, glancing over her shoulder for a brief moment before stepping closer to you. She was careful not to touch you, her hands remaining by her sides. "It's okay. You're safe."
You were safe, that wasn't the problem. She's not. "My- My powers." You looked at her, eyes filled with fear. The yellow in your veins slowly grew brighter with each passing second, your hands falling to your sides as the shirts you had been holding disintegrated to ash beneath your fingers. "I can't… I'm sorry."
You looked away from her in shame as her face softened with realization. Tony was right, you didn't know how to control it. You taking out that building had to have been the first time an accident happened, but how has HYDRA managed to prevent this… thing from triggering? Natasha had to think quickly.
"You can," Natasha stated confidently, your head turning back to her. "I'm not going anywhere, Y/N."
The burning in your chest grew, forcing your face to contort in pain, and you shook your head. You needed her to leave. The only person to show you kindness and you were about to make her disappear. Just the thought of that made your insides ignite with a much more powerful burn, your eyes squeezed shut as you turned your head away from her once more. You didn't want to think about it, attempting to calm yourself down but being incapable of such a thing.
And then, suddenly, you were being held. Arms wrapped around you in a tight hold that made you freeze. An affection you've never felt before, a gesture you don't know how to react to. But… it was warm. Comfortable. You felt your body relaxing to the sensation the hug was bringing you, Natasha taking a giant risk in holding you, in touching you. And you didn't think you'd yearn for human touch before, but you didn't want her to let go.
The yellow glowing in your arms faded into nothing, a tear crawling down your cheek as you turned to face her, letting her bring you in deeper. Your arms went up hesitantly, pondering if you should enclose them around her just as she was doing to you. And you decided to leap into it, your eyes squeezing shut as you wrapped your arms around her in a tight hold. This was a better feeling, holding onto her.
Your head rested against her chest as she sighed, relieved that she had managed to get you to calm down, another point for her against Steve.
She continued to hold onto you until she felt you start to pull away, looking at you carefully as you released a breath. "I'm… sorry," you whispered.
"I would like... to go back now." You fiddled with your hands as you avoided eye contact, looking down at the ground to see the ashes of the shirts you had ruined. "Please."
With a sigh, she nodded and gestured for you to lead the way.
It’s been almost a month since you’ve found your new home, a safer home. The love and affection everybody has shown you, not to mention the patience… it was nothing like HYDRA. The rules they had given you in your last home don’t apply here. You can speak, you can touch, you can be free, you can smile and laugh and just be you… but at the same time, you couldn’t. You had the ability to leave your bedroom at any time, but you live in fear now that you know the truth behind those pills HYDRA made you take. Overloading is always a possibility and, until you taught yourself to control it, you were forcing yourself to stay inside your room, only ever leaving to get some food and use the bathroom.
You feel as if you’ve just come full circle at this point, having built up hope for a new life, a better one, only for it to just end up being locked inside four walls. Except this room was protected by vibranium - which Tony had ensured you that it wasn’t just a metal, though you had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. According to him, vibranium is nearly indestructible. You didn’t want to test it on purpose.
He, however, can not make vibranium see-through; he had to get rid of the window. And, when you managed to get your hands on some paint, you had drawn your own window… like that of the chalk one you had in your last cell. Only, this was a lot brighter since it was fresh, and a lot less childish. Your hand was steady for lack of fear, the lines straighter and less chunky. This was your favorite of the two since it held less trauma, a comfort that could be found between the strokes, but there was still a sense of anxiety hidden amongst the picture. A feeling you couldn’t shake when you looked at it, frozen in terror as the memories would sneak into your thoughts. All the experiments, all the tests, coming back to you like a strong wave pulling you under, drowning in the depth of the ocean of evocation. And today… was a bad one.
You were sitting on the mattress you had pulled off of the bed, dragging it to the other side of the room to sit in front of the painting on the wall, the unused paint placed in the corner with no intention of using it anymore. The dark, silent room brought a sense of calm over you, but there will always be that sense of unease. Your brain trained to not trust it, not knowing when the silence was going to be interrupted with the screams to count down their arrival, leaving you on edge, always managing to take that comfort away from you…
You shook your head quickly, reminding yourself that you’re not there anymore. You were safe, in the company of people who trusted you and looked out for you, but you couldn’t seem to wrap your head around that fact now. You were too busy searching for the screams to count down his arrival, hugging your knees to your chest as your heart battered against your ribs like it was trying to break down a door. Tears burned your eyes as the veins in your arms lit up the room in dim yellow light, your stomach twisting and your chest burning. Teardrops rolled down your cheeks as your thumb dug into your scarred palm, desperately trying to get a grip on your quick breathing. You held back the sob from building in your chest, your shoulders shaking as your chin rested between your knees. The burning increased in strength, the power in your arms grew brighter. You bit back a scream - no screams.
But when you heard the door open behind you, the light flickering on after a moment, you released the breath you didn’t realize you were holding, panic searing through you as you realized someone was entering the room at the worst possible time. Your face was red, not only from the tears but from holding back everything you were feeling. And you listened to the footsteps making their way to you quickly, the mattress bending at the added weight and your heavy flinch didn’t stop her from resting her hands on your shoulders.
“You’re okay.” Natasha’s voice was soothing, cool, gentle. No trace of fear in her tone and you didn’t understand why. Dr. Zola always had a hint of fear when he spoke to you, despite the authority he held, so why was she so calm? You were on the verge of an overload and she was right next to you! What a ridiculous time to be here!
“You need to leave,” you managed to whisper, remembering that you were allowed to speak. “Please, Nat…” But she only repositioned herself closer to you, wrapping her arms around you as she brought you into her, and the bright yellow in your arms slowly started to fade.
“I’m not going anywhere,” she promised softly, her chin resting against the top of your head, and you felt the sob that wanted so badly to escape earlier tear through your throat. Her arms wrapped around you even tighter, and you relished in the hug she gave you. The comforting hold she had on you smothered the burning in your chest, untwisted the knots in your stomach. Your tense muscles relaxed as she gently soothed you, her eyes glancing towards the painting on the wall in front of you, the lines barely visible in the dim light. “How about we take a walk?”
You pulled away from her, eyebrows furrowed in disapproval. She knew what your answer was going to be before you even opened your mouth, but she let you say it anyway. “I… I don’t think that’s a good idea.” You looked at her outfit as you recalled the mission she mentioned. She shouldn’t have to worry about you after having just dealt with whatever she was sent to deal with. She should be resting, she looked more exhausted than you and you just had an anxiety attack. “It’s just- It’s much safer for me to-”
“Lock yourself in a room like you’re back at HYDRA.” She pursed her lips together when you met her calming green eyes, an eyebrow shooting up in an arch as she shook her head. “Come on, we won’t leave the compound.” She climbed off the mattress and stood up, offering you her hand.
You stared at it for a moment, knowing without a doubt that you trust her with your life, before finally accepting her hand and letting her pull you to your feet. She waited patiently as you slowly made your way to the door, holding it open for you as you peeked your head out of it, looking up and down the hall for a brief second before stepping out into it. She smiled at you proudly once you started walking more confidently beside her.
You avoided eye contact with everybody you passed, though none of them seemed even the least bit concerned about you, walking by without a glance in your direction. You hid partially behind Natasha, keeping your eyes on her back as you remained as close as you could to match her pace without tripping her. She didn’t seem to mind, either way, continuing forward as if you weren’t practically on top of her.
She was guiding you past anything you’ve ever seen before, having only restricted yourself to the path to the kitchen and bathroom, but this was going far beyond what you were used to. You couldn’t help but feel a moment of deja vu. The last day spent in your prison was the first day you experienced more than your cell and the testing chambers. But, unlike then, you had no reason to fear anything. The trust you felt towards Natasha was more than you felt towards Dr. Bakshi.
Your breath caught in your throat when she opened the door to a balcony, a wide smile on her face as you stepped out onto the platform. Your eyes immediately captured the sparkling stars in the sky, and she chuckled softly at the gasp that escaped your throat. You reached the railing, placing your hands over it hesitantly before leaning against it, too busy watching the stars twinkle against the dark sky to focus on anything else.
Natasha stayed by the door for a moment, watching the light in your eyes shine brighter than the stars above you. She was giving you the opportunity to enjoy it quietly before she spoke. “You know, it’s almost been a month since we met,” she pointed out as she stepped up next to you. “It’s… been a month since you got out of the compound.”
You leaned over the railing and looked down at the ground below you, enjoying the rush of being so high up in the air. You remained quiet, your eyes casting back towards the sky as a soft smile lifted your lips. “HYDRA… had rules.” Out of the corner of your eye, you could see her look at you, the sympathy clear on her face. You cleared your throat, your eyes tracing a random pattern in the stars. “They... put those rules in place, not only for themselves, but for me. I lost control for one second and everybody was just… gone.”
You didn’t bother erasing the tear that managed to escape your eye, Natasha watching it slide down your cheek for a moment. “Y/N, what HYDRA did to you… They’re bad people.”
“I know,” you said, replaying your last moments with Dr. Bakshi in your head, “but… not all of them were bad.”
She released a sigh as she turned to look at the sky, a slight frown on her lips. “You could be a lot of help to the world.” You furrowed your eyebrows, finally tearing your eyes away from the stars to look at her. “I grew up in a similar situation like you, groomed to be somebody’s weapon… but I refused to let that define me.”
“Just one mission.” She turned her body to face you, her hip leaning against the railing and her hand resting inches away from your arm. “We just found out we’re up against two enhanced people today and… they’re very powerful, Y/N. With your help, we might just stand a chance.”
You looked away from her, looking straight ahead of you. You couldn’t be trusted, your ability to grasp any sort of control on your powers was working slower than you’d like, and it was harder now that nobody really understands how it works. With the HYDRA scientists out of the picture, they can’t train you. Not like Dr. Bakshi and Dr. Zola were. “I don’t know how much help I’ll be…” You trailed off, looking down at your hands. “What if I overload and… I can’t.”
“I will be with you every second,” she promised, her arm sliding forward to rest gently on your wrist. You didn’t flinch at the contact, and she smiled softly at the progress. “I know you can do this.”
You made the mistake of looking at her, her shining emerald irises pleading you to say yes. She wanted you to come, she wanted to watch you use your powers for good, to prove to you that they’re not a burden, but a gift. So, when you nodded your head in the most subtle way possible as you turned away from her, she smiled widely in victory and turned back to the stars. “I… don’t want to hurt anybody.”
She turned her head to look at you once more, her eyebrows furrowed together in confusion as her smile slowly faded away. “I wasn’t asking you to.”
“I know,” you assured, nodding. “I see… when you come back from missions. The blood and… and the bruised knuckles.” You shook your head, having your fair share of hurting people. “I’ll help you, I’ll protect you, but I… I don’t want anybody to get hurt anymore. Even if they’re… bad people.”
“Okay, Y/N,” she said, sending you a soft smile when you looked at her. “You won’t have to do any fighting.” She wasn’t sure how she was going to stay true to her word, but she’d be damned if she didn’t try.
Natasha laughed lightly at your expression as you watched the sky fly by through the windshield of the Quinjet, your eyes just as wide as your smile as the clouds rushed by. You were so distracted by the new experience that you couldn’t hear the rest of the team’s quiet conversation behind you, mostly tuning it out to enjoy the view. Your hand absentmindedly rested on Natasha’s shoulder as she drove the jet, trying to get as close to the window as you possibly could without hitting any of the multiple buttons on the dashboard.
“Can you… go faster?” Natasha glanced at you, but you were stuck in a trance, not being able to take your eyes off of the sky.
“This is as fast as we can go,” she said, laughing. “Want to sit in the chair?” She didn’t think it was possible, but your eyes had grown wider when you turned to look at her. “Yes, I’m being serious.”
“I don’t think… I can’t drive it.”
“It has an autopilot mode,” she assured, quickly putting the jet into autopilot and moving to stand up. She gestured for you to take a seat and you glanced at the empty pilot seat before looking back at her. “I’ll be right here the whole time.”
You nodded your head and sat down in the chair, your face lighting up as you took the steering wheel into your hands. You could feel the vibration running through your body, the slight tugs of the wheel as the autopilot kept the jet steady. Laughter bubbled in your chest, and Natasha felt herself smile widely when she heard the happy giggle escape your throat.
It wasn’t much longer after that until you felt the jet begin to land itself, quickly moving to stand out of the chair. You didn’t react when Natasha placed a gentle hand on your shoulder, guiding you to the back of the jet to join the team. You’ve become well acquainted with the members, and Steve seems to be warming up to you as time goes by, but you are still struggling to fully trust them, not yet comfortable around them. So, when Clint moved to pat you on the back to give you a good job for “flying” the jet, it felt like time had moved in slow motion to Natasha. She saw that you knew it was coming, your body instantly tensing as his hand slammed against your shoulder, the yellow running through your veins up your arms, and she was quick to step in between the two of you. She shook her head no towards Clint as she walked with you off of the jet.
You walked close to Natasha carefully, your heart beating in your chest as your eyes couldn’t stay still for more than two seconds. So far, she had kept her promise and had lured you away from the fight, keeping a distance from the Ultron-infected robots while seeking out the enhanced individuals on the outskirts of the building. And you were on high alert, sweat dripping down your temple as you looked around warily, your hands fidgeting with each other and you couldn’t help but wonder exactly how Natasha was so calm during this.
When you heard a sound behind you, you instinctively stopped walking and turned to it, eyebrows knitted together tightly as you stepped forward, your eyes scanning the room in search for the source of the noise. You tried to slow your heart down, taking another cautious step towards the sound, knowing that this is what Natasha would do, but when you saw nothing out of the ordinary, you turned back around.
“Y/N?” You heard Natasha call to you, looking towards the opened door to see her appear in front of it briefly before it slammed shut on her. Her fist banged against the door, taking a couple of steps forward before you heard another noise behind you.
Slowly, you turned around, making eye contact with an unfamiliar face. You instantly felt a spark in your heart, your breath hitching in your throat. And if she felt that same spark, she didn’t show it.
The woman tilted her head dangerously, chills running up and down your spine. “You’re… different,” she said, her accent very familiar to you. “You’re not like the others, are you?”
“I… I don’t want to fight you,” you stated and she chuckled lowly. “I don’t… want to hurt you.”
“Yeah, you’re definitely not like the others.” You watched as red smoke twirled around her fingers, the bright yellow filling your veins on instinct to defend yourself. She wasn’t going to let you walk away, she wasn’t going to surrender… You had to fight her. And you weren’t going to hold this against Natasha, she didn’t have any control over this.
“Please,” you pleaded one last time, but the woman only shook her head with a sinful smirk.
When you saw her hand twitch towards you, your arm went up instinctively. You remember this test from Dr. Bakshi - steady your breathing, focus on your target, concentrate. You felt the energy blast flow around your hand as the yellow beam shot at her, and you were a bit relieved when she threw up a red forcefield to protect herself, the beam slamming against the shield harmlessly. You had to shoot another one at her, your teeth gritting together tightly, knowing you had no defensive maneuvers against her powers like she has against yours. You needed her to keep her distance from you.
You stopped for a moment when you heard the woman scream out in pain, fear gripping your heart when her hand hovered above her arm, your eyes immediately locating the wound caused by your beam. It was a flesh wound, barely any blood, but the degree of heat you knew the beam had must’ve hurt worse than leaving your hand over an open flame. When she looked away from her wound and at you, her eyes glowed a frightening red as she stepped towards you. You picked your arm up once more in defense, but you didn’t get very far when you felt a force stop you, looking down to see her red vapor catching your arm and preventing you from moving it. When you picked your head back up towards the woman, she was gone.
“Let’s see your nightmares.” Her voice was cold in your ear, her presence close enough for you to feel her breath brush against the side of your face, her hands going up to you and your surroundings instantly changed.
“Tag, you’re it!” You looked towards the voice of a five year old, watching her run away after slapping her hand against one of the guards HYDRA had put on her watch, laughing as he chased her through the small room that she will come to know as the testing chambers.
“I’m gonna get ya!” the guard exclaimed, laughing along with her childish fit as she ducked and weaved to avoid his hand, doing anything to refrain from being it. You watched with tears burning your eyes, remembering the memory you had tried so hard to forget and succeeded in doing just that, the guard snagging the child by her waist and pulling her close to him so he could lift her into the air. “Look, Doc, I done caught me a wild one!” The child fell into a tantrum of giggles as his free hand tickled her, placing her back on his shoulder as he spun in circles.
Dr. Bakshi chuckled softly, shaking her head as she returned to the clipboard in her hands. “You two are absolutely adorable.”
But everything soon came to an end when the door opened, Dr. Zola entering the room to lay his eyes on the scene before him. The guard immediately placed the child onto her feet, his hands flying away from her as the room fell into silence. “Dr. Zola, sir,” the guard greeted, his eyes flashing to Dr. Bakshi for a brief moment. “I thought it was Dr. Bakshi’s turn to-”
“Change of plans, agent,” Dr. Zola interrupted, and you wanted to look away, but there was something preventing you from doing that. “We have rules set in place for a reason.”
“I know, sir, but-”
“Remind me of the rules, agent,” he interrupted abruptly, his eyes meeting the child’s and you could see the coldness in his eyes once again. The burning in your chest grew as your stomach twisted into knots once more.
The guard looked at the back of the child’s head for a brief moment, and you knew she couldn’t tear her eyes away from Dr. Zola because she was too afraid to. The guard cleared his throat before returning eye contact with the scientist in front of him, “Subject 13 is not allowed to speak, even when spoken to. Subject 13 is not allowed to come into any form of contact with any other human. Subject 13 is not allowed to be left unsupervised. Subject 13 is not allowed to leave her cell unless it is to the testing chambers. Subject 13-”
“It seems you do know the rules.” Dr. Zola was impatient, annoyed that he was taking time out of the child’s training. “It’s been a week, agent. You two seem cozy together.”
“Don’t lie to me!” Everybody in the room flinched at the man’s sudden outburst, his eyes flashing to the child in front of him. “We’re going to try something new, 13. Let’s show your friend what your powers are capable of.”
Dr. Bakshi took a step forward, holding the clipboard tight against her chest. “Arnim, she’s a child.”
“And children need to learn,” he retorted immediately, not even bothering with a glance in her direction. You watched, shaking your head in silence, as the child slowly turned around to face the guard. “Come on, 13. We don’t have all day.”
But Dr. Bakshi wasn’t done fighting. “Don’t do this, A-”
“It’s already done! Do it, 13!” Dr. Zola demanded loudly.
You saw the child’s face - your face - when she turned around, tears crawling down her tiny cheeks uncontrollably, snot dripping down her nose, and the guard could only smile at her softly, reassuring. “It’s okay,” he promised, nodding his head as he took a few steps back. He knew what her powers were capable of, having seen it during her training sessions, so he knew what Dr. Zola was asking of her. And the child knew it, too. “Do what he says, kiddo, and it’ll all be okay. I promise.” He got down onto his knees to maintain eye level with the kid, his smile not wavering an inch as the yellow slowly formed on her arms like veins, her tiny fists clenched tightly by her sides. He nodded once again, resting his hands on his knees as he leaned back onto his legs.
“Now, 13!” You watched the five year old you lift your hand and point your palm towards the guard, your body shaking as you bit back the sobs building in your chest.
“No.” It was a voice that didn’t belong in the memory, a voice that pulled you out of the trance as your surroundings wavered back to the present to find yourself on the floor, though you were mentally not back yet. The memory you had forgotten was coming back to you, hitting you like a cement truck. It took you a moment, but the voice that had interrupted the memory was the very same one who put you in there. Yet you didn’t have time to do anything about it, still feeling her presence in the room, before the doors behind you were kicked open.
“Y/N?” You heard Clint’s voice, but your mind was too busy finishing off the rest of the past to be bothered looking in the man’s direction, not being able to watch him electrocute the woman when she tried to sneak up on him. And he appeared in front of you a moment later, looking at your glowing arms and shaking form as he kneeled down to your level. Your eyes were unfocused and far, your mind watching yourself kill that guard in cold blood.
You could hear Clint call Natasha through the earpiece, beckoning her to your location. She’s just a child! You couldn’t stop repeating that moment in your head, the burning in your chest becoming so unbearable that you just wanted to scream, but you knew you weren’t allowed to. The yellow flowing through your arms ran up your neck, teasing your jaw as you replayed the guard’s death by your tiny, child hand. Children need to learn!
“I’m here.” Natasha’s voice was barely audible to you, seemingly far away from you as the nightmare continued. She didn’t hesitate to fall to the floor in front of you, slightly pushing Clint out of the way. You could vaguely hear Tony’s demands in the earpiece, not paying attention to Clint’s answer, barely even feeling her hands cupping your cheeks. “Hey, Y/N, it’s okay.”
“I’m not going anywhere, I told you that,” Natasha stated. “It’ll be okay.”
“It’ll all be okay.”
“I promise.” “I promise.” Natasha and the guard said it at the same time, blinking focus onto Natasha’s face to see the worry in her eyes, not a single trace of fear. And she sighed in relief when the yellow veins crawling over your skin faded away, your eyes glossed over with unshed tears. She felt her heart flutter in joy when you fell into her, her arms instantly wrapping around you to pull you tighter against her. You sobbed into her shoulder, and despite everything that had just happened…
…you found yourself not being able to get that woman off your mind.
There was a soft knock on your door, but you didn’t react to it. You didn’t turn when the door opened and closed, and you didn’t acknowledge the additional weight on the mattress. Natasha sighed next to you, crossing her legs over each other as she sat next to you, looking at the painting on the wall in front of her. You hugged your knees against your chest tightly, slowly blinking, as you stared at the fake window as well, but you weren’t focused on it.
“Did you… win?” Natasha looked down at your question, recalling the Battle of Sokovia in her head, the amount of lives lost.
“We did, but it wasn’t a fulfilling victory,” she confessed softly. “It would’ve been easier if you were there.”
“No… it wouldn’t have been,” you countered gently, shaking your head. “It’s easier if I’m… here.” It’s over a week since your first mission, yet the nightmare you were forced to repeat continued on in your head on a daily basis, reminding you that you’re no superhero. And you were foolish to believe you could be, you were designed to be a weapon, nothing more.
“You say that, but I think you and I both know it’s not true,” Natasha stated. “Come on, let’s get out of this dark and depressing room. We have some new members that you should meet.” She moved off of the mattress, getting to her feet as she made her way to the door.
“We’re also going to get some food in you.”
“I’m… I’m not hungry.”
She rolled her eyes as she reached the door, pulling it open and looking at you. “We got French fries.” You pursed your lips together for a moment before standing up, turning around to see the wide smile on her face. “I knew the fries would get you.”
You walked alongside her on the way to the kitchen, a comfortable silence settling between the two of you. You wrapped your arms around yourself, seemingly not being able to take your eyes off of your feet as they marched forward, but when you passed a bedroom with a partly opened door, you couldn’t help but pick your head up slightly to peek into the room as you walked by. You felt your heart skip a beat when you spotted her on the bed, your steps faltering when you caught a glimpse of her. And, in that brief look, you saw how sad she was, feeling that sadness twist your stomach as Natasha slowed to a stop when she noticed you weren’t next to her anymore. She smiled softly at you when she saw your expression, her head tilting to the side knowingly as she stepped towards you.
“She just lost her brother. She needs somebody to talk to.” You turned away from her to look at the door, the bad memories of your one and only encounter with her being overpowered by the strong feeling in your gut. “The fries will be ready when you’re done,” Natasha assured before you heard her walk away.
You stood outside the door for a bit longer, your hands fiddling with each other as you mustered up the courage to walk into the room. The second person you’d find yourself talking to and you never would’ve thought it was going to be her.
You knocked lightly against the door, her head instinctively looking over at you, and the knots in your stomach uncoiled when she sent you the friendliest of smiles. She pulled her sleeves down past her palms as she looked down, giving you permission to enter her room. You walked in slowly, your thumb digging into the scar on your hand nervously as you sat down in a chair close to the TV, your eyes landing on it to see it playing an old sitcom.
She glanced at you, noticing how intently focused you were on the television. “I Love Lucy.” You tore your eyes away from the screen to stare at her in confusion, her soft laughter caused the resting butterflies to flutter to life in your stomach. “That’s what the show is.”
You looked down at your hands as you nodded, listening to the TV play the sitcom.
“I’m surprised you’re in here,” she continued after a moment. “After what I did to you, I’m sure I’m the last person you’d rather be talking to.”
You cleared your throat, letting the warmth of her presence flow through you. “I don’t really talk to many people anyway.” She chuckled lightly and you picked your head back up to look at her. “You’re a HYDRA experiment, too, right?”
You watched the smile fade away from her face and you felt your stomach drop when she turned away from you. “Uh, sort of,” she answered. “I, um… My brother and I volunteered for it.”
You furrowed your eyebrows in confusion and the silence that lingered in the room made her look at you. You tried to come up with words to say, not even thinking about the fact that she volunteered for something you were forced to do, but trying to say something comforting was twisting your tongue.
She saw your thoughts run through your head, only kindness circling your brain, and she decided to save you the effort to try and come up with an ice break by saying, “I’m sorry for making you relive…” She breathed out half heartedly, shaking her head. “I know it’s unforgivable, but it’s-”
“The need for survival makes us compliant sometimes,” you assured her quickly. “I don’t blame you for anything.”
You couldn’t help but mirror her soft smile, quickly looking to watch a few minutes of the TV to hide your burning cheeks from her, to distract yourself from the memories trying to sneak their way into your mind. You sucked in a slow breath, letting the air fill your lung capacity before releasing it just as slow. “How do your powers work?” The question was sudden, but you feel as if you could ask her the same, only you feel as if she doesn’t fully understand her powers. At least you knew where yours came from.
“I don’t know how my powers work,” you answered, rubbing your hands together. “HYDRA scientists tried to train me, but they…” You cleared your throat, looking down at the scar on your palm. “I can’t control it, so I just lock myself in my room. It’s the only safe place.”
“I can try to train you,” she offered. “I have a pretty fair understanding of powers.” She smiled at you warmly and you felt yourself nodding. The room settled into silence once again, but neither of you felt uncomfortable.
As you return to the TV, you feel as if you should confront the fact that her brother has died. The grief she must be feeling, hiding behind her soft smile and comforting eyes. Shrugging it off like a chip on her shoulder, she should talk about it, you knew that was a healthy thing to do as Natasha had informed you of so many times, but you didn’t get a chance to ask her about it before she was speaking again.
“Do you enjoy it?” You looked at her, confused for a brief moment, before you realized she was talking about the show. “I can change it if you prefer to watch something else.”
“It’s funny,” you told her, looking back at the black and white screen. “I don’t… This is the first show I’ve watched, so I don’t really have… anything to compare it to.”
“Well, in that case, I have a lot of stuff to show you. The Dick Van Dyke Show, for starters,” she offered, climbing off of the bed. Your breath hitched in your throat when she was close to you, changing the TV to play something else, and she returned to the bed. When you looked at her, she patted the empty spot on the bed next to her, and, before you knew it, you were moving to join her. “This is my favorite show.” She looked at you, holding her hand out. “We should properly introduce ourselves now that we just had a deep conversation. Wanda.”
You stared at her hand for a moment, swallowing the saliva forming thickly in your mouth, before you slowly accepted the handshake. Relief flooded through you at the touch of her, your muscles relaxing at her touch. “Y/N,” you told her confidently, smiling as she shook your hand.
She mirrored your smile and you could feel the heat coming back to your cheeks. “Y/N,” she repeated and your heart skipped a beat at the sound of your name coming off of her tongue. “Beautiful.” She released your hand, a smile still on her face, as she turned her back on her to watch the TV.
While she focused on the show, you found yourself focusing on her, your chest burning and your stomach twisting… in a good way.
To be continued...
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