Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters used in this fic.
General Warnings: Rated M for Violence and Suggestive Themes
Author Notes: Hey guys. So it's another new story, (like I've said, the plot bunnies have been hounding me. And also multiplying rapidly.) but surprisingly I've actually been responsible this time around! *GASPS ARE HEARD FROM ALL AROUND THE WEB* Yeah, I know, pretty exciting, huh? XD
Anyways, I've written a fair amount of this story before posting this first chapter, so the plan is this: I will be updating every two weeks on Friday sometime from 4:00 PM to 12:00 PM for at least the next couple of months. So get ready for an actually consistently updated story guys!
I would like to thank my bestie for reviewing this before I posted.
Other Important Notices Include: Because of all the plot bunnies literally assaulting me recently, I will soon be uploading a list of all the stories I'm currently working on, ones that I'm not currently working on but have a solid idea and outline for, and literally just ideas of HEY what if I did a _ story! That'd be fun! So yeah, if you'd like to be a part of what I'm doing here, please check out my profile soon and fairly frequently because I plan to get that list and poll up there within the next month or so. Thanks so much for all your continued support! Onto the story!
AN UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER
The first time any of them ever saw him was in Budapest. And oh what a memorable meeting it was.
"GET DOWN!" A voice shouted from behind her. Only the chaos of the moment and her iron-clad control from many, many years of experience over her instincts allowed Natasha to stop herself from twisting around violently and shooting the person currently hurtling towards her. Only a moment later, the figure impacted with her side and foreign arms wrapped around her and Natasha is a second away from slamming her elbow back into the sternum of whoever was crazy enough to be out during the middle of a bloody gunfight decided to tackle her, before a hand shifted from her back to cradle her head as the man (as she could now identify by their new...proximity) adjusted her in his firm hold so he would take the brunt of the fall. Natasha took a quarter of a second to be grudgingly impressed and grateful, and then another to be annoyed (she was the Black Widow for god's sake, she could take of herself thank you very much). She took one more to take in the bright orange color of the man's hair that suddenly assaulted her vision, before a barrage of bullets whizzed over their heads and ruffled their hair, barely missing them by a few centimeters, and they slammed into the ground.
Natasha winced at the sound of the rough impact, preparing for the pain she knew was coming, before she came to the not entirely unexpected but still pleasant conclusion that nothing hurt. She inwardly berated herself for forgetting they were in the middle of a war-zone as the popping of gunshots and the spray of bullets on the ground next to them snapped her out of the brief moment of distraction. Natasha instinctively whipped her legs around the man and rolled them out of the way of the incoming bullets, and was surprised once more when she found the man's calm eyes staring into hers as they both moved away from the danger and under the cover of the rubble of a fallen house.
Once (relatively) safe, Natasha immediately moved off of the young man and took cover behind a particularly large piece of rubble she absently recognized had formerly been a wall (judging by the pins still embedded in the slab where pictures had hung). Listening with bated breath, Natasha heard the sounds of gunshots slowly move away from their position. Hopefully toward Clint's distraction. According to Clint, it was totally not his fault that the assassin had tried to off him with a timely slice to the neck the exact moment he had been about to push the detonator. She glanced back at the man, intending to give the standard don't worry sir, you're in shock speech only to draw back at the sight of the relaxed and composed form beside her.
Her first thought was he looked as if he'd been here before. Not just here, in the city. Here in the blood and chaos of war, with the baying of hunting dogs lusting for blood and the clips of guns and the bodies strewn across the ground, looking almost peaceful if not for screams of terror frozen on their lips. Her second was that civilians, at least to her knowledge (of which she was fairly confident in its width and accuracy), were not supposed to look comfortable in a war zone. The only logical conclusion? This man was not a civilian. No way a regular civilian just wandered into a war zone haphazardly and tackled an armed and clearly dangerous person to the ground without there being some sort of explanation.
Then as she became aware of the quiet and strained atmosphere, she noticed the tensed muscles of the figure before her, coiled as if ready to spring into action at any given moment, and the intense laser-focus of the man's eyes on her hands and, most probably, their location proximity to her pistols. Natasha forced herself to relax, placing her hands up in front of her in a placating and calming gesture to soothe the tense man crouched in front of her.
"It's alright, I'm not a threat. You can trust me." She said slowly, making sure to keep eye contact. The shrinks back at S.H.I.E.L.D. liked to say the gesture "helped build a sense of trust and rapport between the initiator and subject." Natasha inwardly snorted. Whatever. She wasn't complaining at the inadequacy of the ability of most humans to realize they were being manipulated; it only helped her flawless record of successful interrogations. The man gradually softened, before he finally allowed himself to slouch down against the felled wall of concrete. He let out a heavy breath as he did so, hand coming up to run itself through his hair as the stress of the situation finally settled in.
Natasha watched quietly, instincts tingling. No matter how ordinary or innocuous he looked now, her senses told her, screamed that this man was dangerous.
"Thank you." She said grudgingly. At his confused look, she reluctantly clarified. "For saving me." Comprehension flickered in eyes and he nodded.
"Are you alright?" She asked him. His eyes flickered toward her, before he sighed once more.
"Yeah, I'm good. You?" She quickly gave her body a once over, noting the graze of a bullet on her left bicep, and a slight tear in her suit right below the knee that had probably occurred when she had vaulted through the window that morning. How the time flies. Her eyes made their way discretely over to the figure of the man and swept his broad frame as she sat down and leaned against the wall. Natasha figured if she was going to be stuck here for a while she might as well get comfortable. She couldn't see much, as his back was mostly flush against the rubble, but she saw the clear scrapes all along the man's forearms. It must've happened when we fell.
She continued her perusal until her eyes alighted onto his right hand, cradled gingerly against his chest. Bleeding profusely, some of the skin had scraped off the back of his hand and one of the fingers was bent at an awkward angle. Shit. Her eyes widened. That was the hand he used to-
Natasha moved swiftly to the man's side, who started at her sudden movement, before wrenching the man's arm toward her. He yelped, as grumbled under her breath at stupid men who refused to see common sense.
"Hey, what're you d-?" His mouth clicked shut as Natasha shot her deadliest glare at him before returning to her examination of his hand. Moving quickly and efficiently, she unzipped a pocket before drawing out some bandages and a small bottle.
"Don't overreact." She said, and the man barely had any time to respond before she poured the bottle over his hand.
"Bloody f-!" The man cut himself off, almost biting his tongue in the process of trying to smother his shout. Natasha wrapped the roll of bandages around his hand, and ripping the end off with her teeth, she shoved the end under and tied off the bandage in a practiced motion. He jerked his arm out of her grasp, eyes mutinous as he hissed in pain.
"Oh please, stop whining." She scoffed, rolling up the rest of the bandages before placing them and the bottle back into her pocket.
All was silent. Then-
"You're a moron."
The man looked up from his injured hand, before staring incredulously back at her. Natasha clarified.
"Don't you know that when someone asks if you're alright, you're supposed to say 'I'm injured' if you are injured!" Natasha didn't know when she had become so, so...motherly. Ugh. It was probably Clint's fault. The man rubbed the back of his head with his uninjured arm, a slight tinge of pink dusting his cheeks. Blinking at the sudden turnabout, she started at the suddenly young appearance the action had given the man. Looking closer, she realized he couldn't be more than 25 at the most. Her eyes flicked back up to meet his as he began to speak.
"You're right," he said, sighing, a slightly embarrassed element in his voice. Alright, that was enough weirdness and surprises Natasha had had for one day.
She stood, before saying curtly, "Come on, if we stay here much longer we'll be sitting ducks." Natasha walked briskly off, making sure to sweep the road for any hostiles before moving onward, aware of the man suddenly rushing to catch up with her. She made to tell him to stay quiet, who knows when they'll be back, before she realized he wasn't making any noise. His footsteps stayed as silent and swift as her own. This was more than being used to war. This was training, and much more importantly, experience. Natasha felt her danger meter tick higher.
They walked on.
"So," she said casually, "what should I call you?" The man looked at her strangely, pensively, as if deciding whether or not to answer her question, and something in his heavy gaze made Natasha felt very young, despite their obvious age differences. Odd, she thought as she shook the strange, fleeting feeling away.
"Ichigo." Natasha nodded, having already noted the young man's nationality.
He was silent. No surname was offered. That was alright, she supposed. Natasha could understand unwillingness to dredge up the past that could be connected to a last name. But not for her purposes.
"No last name?" She asked, picking her away around the rubble strewn across the path.
He grunted. "Not anymore." Natasha raised an eyebrow. Whatever answer she had been expecting, that was not it.. 'Not anymore' implied he had once had a last name but didn't go by it anymore, not simply an unwillingness to use or share it.
By the tightening of his shoulders and darkening of his eyes, Natasha wouldn't get anything more out of that line of questioning.
"So," she continued, "what is a guy such as yourself doing here?" Ichigo looked at her, confused.
"I travel a lot." Natasha raised another eyebrow. "What?" He said defensively. "Is it such a surprise a tourist is exploring the 'Pearl of Danube'?" He said, referring to the famous nickname for the capital of Hungary.
Natasha almost rolled her eyes.
"What I meant," she retorted, giving the man a pointed look, "was, what are you doing in a bombed part of the city?"
He shrugged. "So you just wandered toward a live battle zone where a bomb went off?" She asked skeptically. "Looking for a good postcard photo?"
"Yup," he said, face straight and voice neutral. Natasha had the urge to punch him. His eyes glinted in amusement and she realized he was laughing at her.
Natasha was having a bad day. Thus she felt completely justified in entertaining the brief thought of maiming the man next to her. She was about to plant her fist in his smug, smirking face when something pinged at the edge of her field of vision, and the two tensed.
"They're coming," she murmured, eyes flicking around wildly for some cover, anything at all, but the destruction to this street had been minimal and they were out in the open. Heavy footsteps thudded closet, and Natasha readied herself. A quick glance to her right told her that her companion was also sliding into a ready stance. Her sharp eyes identified the stance as one from the higher levels of karate.
The footsteps came closer. The two shifted until their back were almost touching. Natasha was once again stuck by the man's, Ichigo's, composure. She was sure now that this mysterious man was experienced in battle.
Another second and they were surrounded. There were six of them in all. No guns, Natasha nodded in satisfaction. That should make this much easier.
The men laughed at their apparent good fortune, lifting their metal bats and smacking them against their palms in an act of intimidation, smirks never leaving their faces.
"Look at what we've got here, men." One of them said cockily in the the local Hungarian slang. Too bad for them she could understand them quite clearly.
"The woman looks nice." One of the men growled, looking her up and down appreciatively. She made sure she looked harmless next to the intimidating figure beside her. It wasn't too difficult to accomplish, especially when Ichigo was scowling, dark and menacing and promising immense pain to anyone who even dared to step within the range of his fists.
Natasha watched him out of the corner of her eye. No matter how menacing he looked, Ichigo was severely limited in whatever fighting capability he had by his injured hand, as it was quite likely his dominant. She was on her own. She didn't mind all that much, she had faced worse. But it was certainly quite a mess; she would have to be extremely careful with containing the situation, since Ichigo was in the line of fire and under her protection. She didn't especially want to see the young man die and take the answer to this enigma with him.
Circling around them like a predator examining his prey, the leader hummed in agreement, hungry eyes sweeping her body.
"Yes," he agreed, walking closer and gripping her chin roughly, "I think she will make a fine addition to our- urgk?!" The man's voice cut off with a gurgled choke as Natasha delivered a ruthless chop to his throat, and he dropped like a stone.
Not waiting for the others to realize what had happened, she blurred toward the next closest target, leaping up to wrap her legs around his neck, ankles locked together and twisting sharply, yanked him to down to the ground. He was unconscious before he was even aware his leader had been taken out.
She ducked the bat swinging for her head and gave him a solid uppercut to the chin, before grabbing his arm and bringing down her elbow in that spot where, if hit a certain way, would break his arm in half. She hit her mark perfectly, and the man fell.
Natasha whipped around to take care of the others, heart beating quick and unceasing in her chest as her mind brought up dreaded images of Ichigo shot and lying on the ground and the barrel of a gun smoking, only to see Ichigo standing over the three bodies, grinning and stretching his neck leisurely.
She stared. Ichigo just shrugged at her. "I took karate when I was a kid," he said as way of explanation. That didn't explain how he took out three men with only a single hand! Bells rang in her ears, warning of the danger that was this man.
"That's some dojo," she said holding back her disbelief and wariness, impressed at his skills. He shrugged again. "It seems like have experience with real fights, not just the usual sparring that dojos run." She crossed her arms, waiting for his reply.
"Well," he said, crouching down to pick up his bag he had dropped at the beginning of the fight, "I got into a lot of street fights when I was young." Natasha hummed to herself as Ichigo pulled a black beanie out of the bag and tugged it over his head to cover up the vibrant color. Possible former criminal activity?
Her earpiece crackled to life, and Clint's harried voice rang through.
"Nat! Nat, can you hear me?!"
She stopped and pushed on her earpiece to respond.
"Yeah, you're coming through loud and clear." She told him. He let out a long sigh of relief.
"Good. That's good." Natasha explained what had happened.
"They had a jamming device that was blocked our comms. That's why I didn't respond. I was unable to reach you after the explosion until I tracked down and destroyed the device." There was silence over the line, then-
"I'm glad you're safe Nat." Clint swallowed audibly, voice raspy. "I was worried when you didn't pick up."
Her eyes softened almost unnoticeably. "Yeah. I'm fine. Don't worry about it." Ichigo shifted in discomfort in her peripheral, feeling out of place in what felt like a very intimate moment.
"What about you? Are you alright?" Natasha asked brusquely, moving away from the emotional moment.
"Um, ah, well you see…"
"Clint," she said warningly, her voice promising pain unimaginable should he even think about lying to her now. Ichigo snorted.
"Okay, I may or may not have gotten a nasty slice along my jaw from where that assassin tried to behead me, after chasing me down after the explosion."
Natasha could have facepalmed.
"Tы тупица." (1)
"Hey!" Clint replied indignantly.
"You are a trained agent, you should've been able to take her without any damage." Natasha rolled her eyes.
"But she took me by surprise!" He protested furiously. "Not fair, Nat!" She grinned.
A slight cough drew her attention back to the tall young man beside her, now much less noticeable without the bright orange of his hair to distinguish him from the background.
"Clint, I'll meet you at LZ for exfil. Widow out."
"Roger that. Hawkeye out."
She glanced at Ichigo, who raised an eyebrow.
"Well, it seems your ride is here." He said. She nodded.
"Seems so." There was a pause.
"Thanks again for the save back there." Natasha said. She wasn't someone who usually liked other people, as she was more of a loner at heart (not to mention her assigns tendencies and background tended to encourage other people to keep a wide berth) but her time with this strange man surprisingly hadn't been all that bad. Natasha couldn't remember a time when she had taken to someone so quickly save for Clint back when she had first joined up with S.H.I.E.L.D., and been so comfortable in their presence. He was just a stranger, and a civilian. So why was Natasha oddly reluctant to part company with him?
He paused for a moment, and then smiled. Natasha was struck by the genuine expression on his face. Now that she thought about it, the unusual man hadn't once smiled during this whole encounter. Not too surprising, considering the circumstances, but something told her this was a rare occurrence, this sincere and open emotion.
"It was no problem," he said easily. "Thanks for the first aid," he replied, gesturing to his bandaged hand. And with that he picked up his pack, turned and walked away.
"You're welcome," she murmured, taking one last look at the peculiar man that had popped up from the middle of nowhere to save her from taking a bullet to the head, before turning and briskly but carefully making her way toward her destination. She didn't look back. Something told her they would meet again, this master spy and enigma of a man.
Later, when asked by Fury for her full report, Natasha would gloss over the events that had occurred after the explosion and subsequent separation from her partner. Fury would give her a piercing stare but the only response he will receive is silence. Natasha didn't know what made her do all of this, but that same something, that feeling told her to stay quiet. Her instincts had never let her down before, and Natasha trusted they wouldn't this time. So she'll stay quiet, watching and waiting for the next time she would meet the strange man who had saved her that day.
(1) You dumbass.
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