what would you want me to do?
There is a small, mad voice that whispers when she's just this side of sleep. This voice is not new - it's never been friendly in the way that it's familiar. It hurts the way old scars burn and tear open, the ways that summer suns can break open old bones on the right day. A storm that brings around a fire to burn the forest. Things that weren't enjoyed, maybe necessity. Maybe they were just the ugly things that needed to happen for the world to get back on it's way - and occasionally, she would ask who was she to argue with how the world would turn. How the surprises were never truly surprises, how things were supposed to be expected, anticipated. How there was nothing new. Nothing would be new.

The voice pretended, as it always did, like it belonged in the throat of someone that used to love her - the way a person back to a favorite color or a picture from a birthday party that you weren't sure you remembered - but you were there, in the faded colors and in frame all the same. A sound that would call them home, wherever home would be. This voice sounded like home - and home didn't want her anymore. Which, truth be told, she was waiting for. She'd been waiting for it for a while. Home knew she was, had always been, would remain, selfish and cold in the middle of the night. What happened when she got what she wanted, what she'd come for, who had been left.

She would always remember how they laid, how they fell. The floor, the sofa, the bed or the ground - splayed out on a table like they'd had one too many good times in one night.The side cars and taxis, the last bed in the infirmary, in houses she'd never really remember ordinarily except for the bodies. How frail these things were and how no one seemed to mind when the sun came up the next day. How there would always be someone else, someone faster and someone younger. Someone better - the next day always, if nothing else, provided that.

The words were the same, they were always the same. Cold and just for Natasha - like the ground would open up and swallow anyone else who heard the secret - loud and brassy as it was. She would memorize the way they came out - the way the mouth was angry around the words when they were said. How she.. How she always was, always would be. And in that, perhaps, in that she could disregard and go on - that was herself. Outwardly, anyway. Because in truth, how many, really truly moved forward completely from everyone and everything - far away that these prickles didn't pinch at the soft fleshy parts - and they, all of them had that. Which was terrible, really.

That morning she crept from a bed that was warm and perfect with the light barely coming in from the blinds. Pillows that had deep dents and sheets that were bunched and pulled around, she slipped away from the just-barely-started-to-deeply-sleep sound of the person next to her, who never slept. He never slept and he never stopped and it wasn't fair. (That was not what was fair - there were several things, but all of them were incidental unfairnesses) -- but she left the bed quietly, she managed to get past the three other sleeping sounds in the living room all sprawled out and exhausted in their own ways.

She turned on the hot water and the steam took over the mirrors, she left little words scrawled out and stupid, backwards and silly for anyone who wanted to wake up next. I love you, you should get that checked out -- hearts, a moon, a star with an arrow through it. The water was hotter than she should have had it, it made all the pale parts of her bright and angry-hot, it stung and then she remembered she couldn't stay like that. She apologized as she fixed the water. She apologized as the bubbles ran down from her hair and over her chest, she apologized while she leaned against the shower wall. She apologized for weekends not being everything that everybody set them up to be. She apologized for bad concerts and stupid movie plot holes, she apologized for taxes and voting being rigged, trees being lost and for people being so ugly only on the inside and how hard that would be to figure out, she apologized for whatever vacation they wouldn't get to, how home was so much different - how there were burned cities and people, so many people - for lying, for learning to lie, for stained floors and walls. How the summer would be too hot to enjoy and how much she hated the winter when it froze people outside in the streets - for the colors that it turned skin. For the purple blue white color not being nearly as pretty as it sounded. For her accent when she got angry, for taking so long.

Eventually she stopped, eventually the water was turned off and she smelled like herself. She smelled like honey and violets and something else she couldn't ever put her finger on. She was soft and damp and tired again, her wet feet leaving marks on the floor as she'd wrapped a big beach towel around herself twice before getting back to bed, her wet hair pointedly pushed up against Steve's chest as she'd brought his arm around her middle with a hum. Of course, with all of the apologies - there were also a few thank you-s that she said silently and they would always make up the balance, the difference - push her over whatever edge that needed to be. And that was, well. There was that - and that was good.