By the time Matt Murdock was half-awake, her heartbeat was already elevated.
It took him a moment to separate it from the din of New York noise, the cars, the traffic, the hum of electricity in the accompanying buildings, but there it was.
It rose, still, persistent, the rush of blood followed by the hollow sound of her heart. Her breath, too, picked up despite her sleep, lungs filling with air.
She was holding her breath.
Her left arm twitched beside him momentarily, the pads of her fingers touching his leg.
She sits bolt upright like she’s been electrocuted, muscles shivering and twitching as she finds her gun on the nightstand, loads it effortlessly, and points it in front of her.
“Nat,” the young man says, quietly, still listening to the beat of her heart. He listens to its rapid, fluttering beats inside her chest cavity, echoed and echoed throughout the rest of her body.
Her breathing steadies suddenly, shaky breaths lengthened out, long inhales and longer exhales – her training.
Her heartrate drops to an even rhythm. “Yeah?”
She removes the gun’s catridge and checks there aren’t any bullets in the chamber before putting it back on the bedside table. Matt protested at first – it was hard to sleep for the smell of the gunpowder and the solvent, but Natasha Romanoff refused to be unnarmed, promising, instead, to leave it on the nightstand instead of under her pillow.
“Same one?” he asks, reaching for her in the dark. He doesn’t know what she dreams and thinks that if were ever to ask, she wouldn’t tell him anyway.
“Similar,” she murmurs, in reply, sliding back under the covers. Ever since her confrontation with the Scarlet Witch, ever since the young woman had pressed her long, pale fingers to Natasha’s temple, she had been having nightmares.
Or were they nightmares? Could they be called that, if they were memories? Some memories she didn’t even know she had.
She’s moved from a bed to a long, cold metal table. The clock is right in her line of sight. The time says 8:15. She clings to it, wondering if it’ll be the last thing she sees.
“Lie back,” a voice says, even though she has a feeling she’ll be restrained anyway. “Count back from ten.”
The sting of the needle, the fight to stay awake, to keep staring at the clock. That fucking clock.
Then she wakes up.
It’s not always the same dream. Sometimes, it’s the first time she killed a man. They don’t always start out the same way, but they end the same way. With Natasha Romanoff lurching forward in her sleep and gasping for breath, reaching for her weapon.
She only ever dreams about the missions that went wrong. The split second after she’s lept off a ledge, waiting for the fall.
All the memories she’s ever repressed, back to haunt her, after so many years.
The Scarlet Witch said the nightmares would fade soon, but soon was a little too vague for Natasha Romanoff, who had a history as murky as the water in the Thames in London.
Matt holds her against him, tuning out the churning sounds of the streets outside, listening instead, to her steady pulse beneath his lips, mouth in the crook on her neck.
“Matty?” she asks, unsure if he’s asleep or not.