"It okay if I crash here for a bit?"
It's an innocent enough question, and he knows his answer is going to be yes before he even has time to think about it, but that doesn't stop him from just staring.
Bruce blinks hard, squinting at the red-headed assassin on his doorstep and trying to figure out how she even got here.
Natasha is waiting patiently on his front porch, blinking up at him with those big puppy eyes of hers, a cut on her cheek slowly dripping a line of blood down her jaw. She has her left arm hanging limp at her side, right hand clenching what looks like a poorly-bandaged bullet wound in her bicep, and the cant of her hips suggests that she is favoring one leg. Her hair is matted down with dried blood on one side, the bright red of split flesh just peeking through her copper locks. Mottled bruising is just starting to bloom across her knuckles and over the bridge of her nose, and there is blood running from one nostril down to her lip. She sniffs a little as he stands there dumbstruck, and shifts her weight with a slight wince.
"Bruce?" she prompts softly.
"Yeah, sure. Come in," he says, manners ingrained in him more heavily than his shock can pierce through. "You, ah...you're looking a bit rough, there."
"Leaping out of moving cars will do that to you," is the casual reply as she slides past him and makes a beeline for the living room couch like she's been here a hundred times instead of having just showed up out of the blue.
Somehow he doubts that leaping from a moving car is the whole truth, but he saves that particular interrogation for later.
Bruce watches from the foyer as she drops onto the middle cushion of the sofa, kicks her shoes off, and promptly curls up like a cat, her head cushioned on the padded arm of the couch.
"There is a bed, you know," he informs her, and Natasha hums a little sound in the back of her throat but makes no move to get up. "Also you're going to drip blood on the upholstery."
She again makes no move to, well, move, and Bruce makes his way to her side.
Natasha flinches hard when he runs his fingers over her shoulder, and he murmurs an apology but doesn't back away. Easing her jacket off coaxes a pathetic little whine from her, and he frowns when he gets a better look at the damage.
"Have you even treated these?" he asks, peeling back a hastily-tied cloth and ignoring her hiss of pain when he prods the swollen, red skin around the poorly-closed bullet hole. "Did you at least get the bullet out?"
"Went all the way through. Had to improvise to stop the bleeding till it closed up a bit. I've only had time to change the bandage once," she murmurs. "Have anything to drink?"
"Sure...yeah...how about some-"
"Water," he says a bit sternly, and the assassin has the nerve to pout at him. "You don't need alcohol messing with your system right now."
"I would care to disagree with that. Alcohol sounds like exactly what I need right now."
"Well, as the closest thing you have to a doctor at the moment, I'm putting a ban on alcohol. When was the last time you ate?"
"At all? Or an actual meal?"
"Two days ago. I did manage to steal a peach on the way here, though," she adds as he gets to his feet with a sigh. "It's not like I'm starving. I know how to take care of myself."
"Which is why you're currently lying on my couch, half-dead and bleeding everywhere, I assume," he counters, shooting her a look as he leaves the room to get her a glass of water and some proper bandages.
Natasha doesn't bother to answer that.
When he comes back in from searching through his cabinets for the first aid kit, Natasha is sitting up again, carefully sliding clumps of dried blood out of her hair and setting them on a tissue that she has spread on the coffee table. She's wiped most of the blood and dirt from her face already, and with it out of the way he can see the little split in her lip, the dark shadow of a bruise on her jaw, and a speckling of road-rash on her cheek.
"What gave you the head wound?" he asks casually, sitting down beside her. "Should I be checking you for signs of concussion too?"
"Probably. And it was a crowbar."
"It's not like I tried to get hit..." she says defensively.
Bruce sets the first aid kit on the table with a long sigh, barely resisting the urge to roll his eyes at her. Natasha shifts over to make room for him on the couch, and he carefully lowers himself to her side with a groan.
"Drink," he orders, holding out the water, and she raises a brow as she takes the glass.
"Something tells me I'm about to be sorely disappointed."
"If you're expecting anything distilled, then yes."
Bruce ignores her pout in favor of popping open the first aid kit and digging out the disinfectant and some heavy-duty bandages. Natasha obediently takes a sip of the water as he soaks a piece of gauze in antiseptic, but she recoils before he can press it to the wound.
"Natasha," he scolds, and she makes a face, watching the gauze unhappily.
"That's gonna sting like a bitch."
"I'm already in enough pain, and being refused anything to help."
"You're not getting booze."
"I'll get you some aspirin once I'm done."
In a rousing display of maturity the assassin sticks her tongue out at him before looking away with a huff, and Bruce has to take a moment to fully register the action.
Shaking his head, he captures her elbow to keep her still and begins to clean the wound. Natasha hisses out a filthy and rather detailed curse in pain, but doesn't otherwise fuss.
It's a mostly clean shot, and from what Bruce can see there's been no damage to her bones. He focuses on disinfecting it so that he can bandage the puncture and let it close up on its own, being careful not to disturb the blood that's already clotted. He mutters an apology when he drips disinfectant into the wound and Natasha bites out another sharp curse, digging her fingers into the arm of the couch in agony.
The cleaning is the worst part, for sure, and by the time he starts to pack clean gauze around the wound Natasha is slumped back against the sofa, exhausted. It only takes him another few moments to bind her arm in clean bandages, and he sits back with a huff of breath once he finishes tying it off.
Natasha is casually sipping the water he brought when he glances up to check on her, looking around his place in rapt curiosity, and he can't help but suspect that it is to distract herself from the pain.
She finishes off the water as he's cleaning up the medical supplies, and she shoots him a glance as she leans to set the glass on the table.
"We're back to formalities again?" he asks before he can stop himself, and Natasha makes a face.
"I think it's only fair to warn you that you're harboring a fugitive."
"I kind of figured it was something along those lines. And on that note," he says, leaping on his chance while he has it, "if you don't mind my asking, who exactly is it that wants you dead this time? And why?"
"I think the term they agreed on for what I did was 'high treason,' and as for the who, well..." she gives a little shrug, looking aside and dropping her voice to something that's almost a whisper. "The United Nations."
"You pissed off the entire UN?" he asks, and Natasha winces a little at the scolding tone he can't quite keep out of his voice. "Natasha, what the hell did you do?"
"I may have helped their top two wanted men escape. And got reported for it," she shrugs. "Let's just say that the King of Wakanda is probably not on speaking terms with me right now."
"And so you thought you would hide with me."
"If you'll allow it, of course."
"Well I'm not about to kick you out," Bruce says, and he doesn't miss the way her shoulders slump in relief at that. "Don't think you're getting off the hook, though. You're grounded. Two weeks bed rest, and I don't want you leaving the house."
The smirk Natasha gives him tells him exactly how seriously she's taking his threats, and Bruce frowns.
"I mean it, Natasha. You're beat to hell as it is, and if you're on the run from the UN, I can't afford to let anyone see you. Stay inside."
"Yes, Sir," she mocks, curling up in the corner of the sofa once again, and Bruce just barely resists rolling his eyes as he moves to sit her upright once more.
"No napping until I'm sure you don't have a concussion."
She groans pathetically but doesn't argue, and Bruce gently turns her head towards him to peer into her eyes.
"How's your vision?" he prompts. "Not seeing double? No blurriness?"
"Feeling groggy? Sleepy?"
"Exhausted, but not groggy."
"I got hit with a crowbar, what do you think?"
"I mean outside of the bruising," he mutters, moving a hand to shade her eyes from the light and watching in relief as he pupils dilate slightly.
"Any light or sound sensitivity?"
"Not that I've noticed."
"You know what day it is?"
"Last I checked it was June fifteenth. Wednesday. "
"You know where you are?"
"Tangxi, China," she says, rolling her eyes, and Bruce moves his hands away, watching her pupils constrict with the added light.
"Do you remember what exactly happened when you got hit?"
"Guy came up behind me while I was grappling a knife with his buddy, dropped me to the ground. I recovered in time to kick his feet out from under him and make a run for it."
"So pretty clear memory of the event?"
Bruce nods, letting her go, and leans back as she raises an eyebrow at him.
"Am I clear?" she asks.
Bruce hesitates for a second, his hand straying to the table to grab a cotton ball.
"One last thing... Think fast."
He tosses the fluff at her, and Natasha raises her hand to block on instinct. She glances down at the cotton in her lap before shooting him a look, and he shrugs.
"Coordination and reaction time seem okay. I think you should be good, but if you start feeling anything out of the ordinary, let me know," he orders.
She gives him a little mock salute, then curls up in the corner of the sofa once more, letting her eyes close.
Bruce watches her for a long moment with a worrying ache in his chest and a tight lump in his throat.
Someone had tried to kill her.
He really isn't surprised by this - it is Natasha, after all - but it still hurts to know that she'd nearly died and he hadn't even known about it until just now.
He pushes himself to his feet with a groan, pausing to grab a blanket and toss it over the red-head's sleeping form before heading to the kitchen. Some food definitely wouldn't be amiss.
He pauses in the doorway, giving one final glance back at his surprise house-guest.
"Sleep well, Natasha," he murmurs before leaving the room. "You're safe here."
He leaves the room before he can see the affectionate little smile quirking her lips.