rhiannon42 said: MCU!Natasha, the other times she tried to find the Winter Soldier
There’s a hole in her mind where a lover should be. “Boy crazy,” says Yelena, applying her lipstick in a disdainful red slash over pursed lips, but Natasha knows that this is different. Something has been cut out of her, and the ragged edges are bleeding memory. Whole conversations make no sense, weeks and months become blurs around a figure she can never quite see.
At night, huddled over a sniper rifle or pretending laughter over bad wine in a worse hotel, Natasha probes her subconscious until her mind aches from the effort. All she can recall, when she can recall anything, is the hot, sharp smell of cordite, and the flash of sunlight on silver.
The Winter Soldier doesn’t exist, they tell her, after her scars have healed and her mission is recounted in full. You must have been mistaken. It was another sniper, a reflection on the ridge, a ghost.
Natasha gives their lies the consideration they deserve, then carries on looking. Databases turn up names of dignitaries killed by operatives that would not have been available, convenient explosions on unmonitored borders, wounds in history that correspond exactly to the fading web on her stomach. She keeps digging. The Black Widow doesn’t exist, either, and ghosts must look out for one another.
He’s trying so hard to be Bucky that she feels guilty for studying his face to find signs of the Soldier. Not HYDRA’s fist: but the man he’d been when they ripped him from her. When they’re close, she puts her hands on his skin as if her touch can bring him to the surface.
His confinement is written on his body in scars and knotted muscle, true, but that has nothing to do with it. Instead, sometimes there’s a furtive quirk of his head. A quick smile, easily extinguished. When they kiss, he tastes the same- blood, and metal, and something cold, like ice.
He holds her with the Soldier’s careful tenderness, kisses her with the same raw urgency.
She finds him there, buried under the guilt and desperation. Not the Winter Soldier, not Bucky Barnes, but the man she’s been looking for all her life.