Author's Note: another pitifully short chapter, because I want to update but haven't had the time to write what I want! Warning, major drama and angst in this chapter though...

Thank you SO MUCH for Romey123456, Bic24, Natforlife3 and Guest for reviewing! :) You make this worth it

WARNING: injury description

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way a medical professional, and while I did do a lot of research for the following chapter, it's possible I left some horrendous inaccuracies so apologies to anyobe who actually knows their medical facts!


She vaguely registered Steve talking to her.

"Do you still want to see her?"

She didn't. She did. She needed to.

"Yes." She whispered.

Steve stopped in the doorway. It was a rectangular, windowless room, with two beds in it, and a small nurses station in the corner, next to another door.

One bed was empty. And in the other was Natasha.


Steve had seen Natasha hurt before. She's been shot in the shoulder when they took down SHILED, and after the battle in Sokovia they figured out she had dislocated her knee but kept fighting on.

He'd seen her in the med-bay in the Tower, never staying a second longer than necessary.

He'd seen her when they found her in the rubble of Strucker's base, a blood-covered figure, who was lifted like a doll onto a stretcher.

But he'd never seen her like this.

It was a punch to the gut. He tried to arrange his face into a mask of calm, so that Wanda wouldn't freak out, but Natasha had always been better at that than him.


Natasha who lay in the hospital bed swaddled with machines. She was as pale as the white linen of the hospital bed, her red hair brushed back off her face, exposing a vivid purple gash on her upper-cheekbone stitched together that contrasted her ghostlike face.

A feeding tube snaked into her nose, and a ventilator was clamped into her mouth, breathing for her.

Steve recalled Dr Lee mentioning things like mechanical ventilation, dialysis, inotropes but he couldn't remember which machine was which.

He just saw Natasha. And she looked small. He never saw her like this, off-guard, at peace, eyes closed, lying flat on her back, monitors swarming her, beeping ominously, monitoring everything, at all times.

She couldn't even breathe for herself, and Steve knew that Natasha could do everything and anything.

She wore a coarse hospital gown that exposed collarbones that protruded alarmingly from her skin.

The nurses had attempted to clean her, and the grime had cleared away to leave tiny scratches that covered her from head to toe.

One of her hands was in a thick plaster cast, elevated on a pillow, the plaster covering her fingers all the way to the elbow. An IV snaked into her other hand, that rested on top of the thin cotton blanket.

Under the blanket her chest was swaddled in bandages and drains.

And she lay completely motionless.

Wanda had gone still in the wheelchair. It was as if they were frozen.

A nurse came in. She was short, and bustled past, checked the machines.

"She might be able to hear you, you know. It's always great when family talk to coma patients." She looked kindly at Steve and Wanda, without any glimmer of recognition of who they were.

They were just another worried family. More scared relatives.


Natasha was family.

Wanda wheeled herself out from the room.

Maria Hill was waiting outside, with a face like ash.

"A nurse took Wanda back to her room. She'll need another day or two of rest but then she'll be fine to go." She swallowed. "I need to talk to you Steve."

Steve ran a hand through his hair, trying to get it to stop shaking.

"Okay. Let's find Stark."

Steve. Tony. Sam. Vision. The remaining Avengers sat in the hospital cafe.

It was late at night by now, and it was empty, a lone waitress nervously hovering by the coffee machine. The table was sticky and the chairs hard and wobbly.

Bruce Banner. Thor. Natasha. Wanda. Clint. The missing Avengers.

Maria Hill looked like she wanted to melt into the plastic chair she was sitting on. Tony was on his fifth coffee. Sam looked confused. Vision had his eyes closed. The air prickled with tension.

Maria cleared her throat.

"We sent a team to the original explosion site, where the fire was. Where Barton was last seen."

She swallowed. Her facade was crumbling.

"There's no easy was to say this." Her voice crackled slightly. "He's been missing 15 days. My team swept the surrounding 10 acres of burnt woodland. If there was a needle in that haystack, they would have found it. If he was there, they would have found him. They, they didn't find him."

She inhaled a breath.

"But. They found something. A tooth. And the Shield dental records confirmed it as… his."

"Clint Barton is missing, presumed dead."

It was midnight.

The corridor with Natasha's private ICU on it was relatively calm. The nurse on the night shift patrolled, regularly checking each critically ill patient.

Natasha lay, quiet, still, unmoving. The machines beeping masked the sound of delicate footsteps as they approached her bed. They stopped next to her. A hand wavered above hers, and retreated, gripped the side of the bed instead. The knuckles went white, almost green.

"Natasha," pain dripped like acid from his voice.

"I'm sorry," whispered Bruce Banner.

Yes. I did just do that. Sorry.