“Decided to go after Banner?” Steve asked, leaning in the doorway of Natasha’s quarters at the new Avengers facility.
“It’s been months. He’s out there somewhere. I just want to make sure he’s okay,” she said, not meeting Steve’s eyes.
“When you find him, kick his ass for me,” Steve said with a short chuckle, only half kidding. He saw up close how the Hulk taking off with the quinjet affected Natasha. She wasn’t the same after he left. She became closed off and threw herself into training their new team. Like he told Bruce what seemed like a lifetime ago, they both deserved a win.
“Think you can watch the kids while I’m gone,” she joked with a smirk, trying to defuse some of the tension in the room.
“I can handle the team. Take as much time as you need.”
Natasha nodded her head and looked around her small place, it didn’t feel like home, not yet at least, not like the tower had. She grabbed the small duffel bag sitting on the counter and slung over her shoulder.
“Bye, Steve.” She said as she walked past, stopping briefly to kiss his cheek.
Steve watched her go, hoping more than anything that they were ready for her to find him.
Natasha’s search started where Fury thought the quinjet crashed into the ocean. He had been right, but there was no sign of Bruce or the Hulk anywhere. She looked everywhere for him, every place SHIELD had ever documented him being, but came up empty. No one had seen or heard from Bruce Banner. He was good at making himself disappear and even with her Avengers resources she was struggling to find even a whisper of him. She refused to give up her search, but every day it seemed like she was farther away from finding him than when she started.
After another long day of asking around and searching for any trace of him, Natasha retired to her hotel for the night. As soon as she walked into the room she knew she wasn’t alone.
“I know you’re here. You can stop hiding.”
The Vision phased through the bathroom wall seconds later. He looked at her concerned.
“What’s going on? Does Steve need me to come in,” she asked with a sigh, dropping down on the bed.
“No. For now, everything is peaceful.” he answered.
“Why are you here?”
“I wish to aid in your search of Dr. Banner,” he told her.
“No offense, but I don’t need your help. This personal,” she said. The Vision had grown on her during their months of training, but this was something she needed to do alone.
“He means a great deal to you, doesn’t he?”
“You have no idea,” she breathed out, looking down at her feet.
Vision kneeled down in front of her and offered a piece of advice. “Maybe you need to start from the beginning,” he said and Natasha’s eyes widened in realization. He smiled at her and said, “Good luck.” before floating out of the room.
Natasha knew exactly where she needed to go.
Bruce washed his hands after spending the last few hour elbows deep in a gaping leg wound that ended in the limb needing amputated. His patient would live and that’s all that mattered. He had one more person to exam before he could leave the small clinic, but he was more than willing to do it.
He’d made his way back to Calcutta a week after waking up on a beach in Fiji. He’d spent the last few months focused on helping people again, not that being a part of the Avengers wasn’t helping people. This was just less destructive.
While he was there, he was able to finally come to terms with the Hulk and what he was. The Hulk wasn’t just a monster, he was a protector, had been from the very beginning. He saved Bruce’s life when he should have died from the gamma exposure. When things were too much he took over and got Bruce out of there. His methods were flawed but effective. Bruce realized they needed to work together, not against each other. For the first time since the accident, Bruce and the Hulk were at peace.
He only wished it had happened sooner.
His last patient of the day was a simple suture job that took fifteen minutes and then he was out of there. The walk to his shack was a long one. By the time he got there he was exhausted and ready for bed. But when he opened the door he knew something was off. It felt like deja vu, but he couldn’t let himself hope.
And then her voice drifted across the room.
“You know, for a man who’s supposed to be avoiding stress, you picked a hell of place to settle.”
Bruce couldn’t believe his eyes as Natasha stepped out of the shadows, exactly like the night they met. She smirked at him, but he could see the pain in her eyes, pain he’d caused. She looked at him expectantly.
“Avoiding stress isn’t the secret,” he recited from memory.
“Then what is? Yoga?”
Bruce shook his head. “It’s acceptance.”
Natasha was silent and he continued, “How did you find me?”
“I had a little help from a Vision,” she told him taking a step toward him. “You’re not an easy man to find.”
“I’m sorry,” he started but she cut him off.
“Don’t be. I understand why he left. He was protecting me and I can’t hold that against you or the big guy.” Natasha assured him taking another step closer. “You look good.”
“I’ve had a lot of time to think.”
“So have I.”
They stood there and just took in the other for several long moments before Bruce spoke again.
“I missed you, Natasha.”
“I missed you too.”
“Did we miss our window?” He asked wringing his hands together nervously.
“I think we just opened a new one,” Natasha said taking the last few steps toward Bruce.
“I adore you,” Bruce whispered and leaned in for a kiss.