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The Right Partner

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When it happens, it’s not the way Steve expected.

He doesn’t even see it coming. He always thought he would—always thought he’d have time to imagine it, daydream about it, maybe be a little scared. But the truth is, he’s sitting on the bed with Natasha, they’re tired and grimy after another long fruitless week chasing a ghost, they’ve started talking about sex for some reason and Steve hears himself say, “I've never done that.”

Natasha raises an eyebrow. “Done what? Slept with a target while undercover to win their trust?”

“Slept with anyone,” Steve says.

The thing is, he hates talking about himself. Even more when it’s about something fairly intimate. But it’s been a long fucking month without Sam, who agreed to take a break only because Natasha was coming back from Europe to help and they were getting nowhere anyway. They text a lot, and most of Sam’s messages sound like I worry about you, man. Steve knows one day Sam will come back and pretend it’s not a big deal. Sam is too good for him, and so is Natasha, and they already know so much about him anyway—they know about Bucky and it’s all that matters right now; some days Steve thinks Bucky is all that ever really mattered—so the words come out of his mouth easily.

He says them tonelessly, but he’s surprised to feel some kind of vengeful pleasure as he speaks. Maybe he’s just angry at himself. He’s always angry at himself. But maybe he also wants to shock Natasha, who’s been trying to find him a date for ages, jokingly at first and then not at all anymore, when all the while Steve didn’t even—wasn’t even—Christ, why did he say that.

Natasha hesitates for almost one full second, which is a lot for her.

“Are you saying you’re a virgin?” she says.

“Yes.” He’s flushing, with anger and shame and the feeling of powerlessness which only got worse and worse since—since his fucking birth, really. It only seemed to ebb during the war, and even then, it was an illusion, because what did he do that really mattered in the end? Nothing at all. He was powerless against bullies as Steve Rogers, he couldn’t stop the war as Captain America, and he couldn’t even save his best friend as either of them.

“And you’re bringing that up… why?” Natasha asks.

Steve, who was glaring at the wall, turns his head to look at her. Then he looks away again. “I don’t know.” He scrubs a hand over his face. He’s so tired, but there’s also this buzzing energy under his skin which won’t let him sleep. “Forget about it.”

“Does it bother you?” she asks.

He can’t help looking at her again. “What?”

“Being a virgin. Does it bother you,” she repeats calmly.

Steve looks at her for a long time. She just looks back. He briefly wonders how and when she lost her virginity, then realizes the answer to this question would be too painful and too sad even by his standards. Which is saying a lot.

“I—” he says. “No. Yes. I don’t—”

He presses his fist over his mouth. She just waits.

“I was waiting for the right partner,” he says. “That’s what I used to say. Then Peggy came along and I thought she was the one. She probably is. Was. But now it’s—”

He shuts up again, for an even longer time.

Natasha still waits.

“It’s so stupid,” he chokes out at last. “Christ, it’s just—just sex. And with everything that happened—everything that’s still happening—it shouldn’t bother me. It’s so damn stupid.”

“It’s not stupid,” Natasha says quietly. Even when she has nothing else to say, she never lets Steve say something negative about himself without offering a counterpoint. It infuriates him. It’d be easier if she just let him blame himself.

“I’ve waited for so long I’m not sure I’d know how to stop,” he hears himself say. “And even if I did, who would even—?”

Again, he doesn’t finish his sentence, screwing his eyes shut instead and exhaling. Natasha, God bless her, doesn’t say Steve, a lot of people would be lucky to sleep with you or suggest another inane date.

“It’s stupid,” Steve says again, low, with a clenched jaw. “I know it’s nothing to obsess about, but I don’t know that, since I’d have to actually do it to—Jesus.” He suddenly realizes what he's saying, realizes he's tired, rambling, making a fool of himself.

He gets up. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m gonna go take a shower.”

“You know,” Natasha says, “there’s a very obvious answer to your problem.”

When he turns around, she's raising an eyebrow, self-explanatory. Steve blinks.

“What,” he says. Then it fully hits him. “I—what? Nat. No. God, I didn’t mean—I wasn’t asking you to—”

“I know,” she says, with the smile in the corner of her mouth which means, idiot. “I’m the one offering, Rogers.”

“I don’t want you to be offering that,” he says desperately. “I’m not—we’re not—it’s not some kind of convenience—”

“It is for me,” she says.

Steve’s face must clue her in, then, that it wasn’t quite the right thing to say. She shakes her head as if to dissipate her words, then says, “Steve, I’ve done it as a job more times than I can remember. It’d be nice to do it with a friend.”  

Curiously, Steve settles down a little with these words. Maybe because she still referred to them as friends even though they’re talking about having sex with each other. Maybe because she’s genuinely offering, in a way only she could.

Steve still shakes his head. “No,” he says. “Thank you, but—no.”

She shrugs. It’s all very casual. “Okay then,” she says. “Go take your shower.”

 

*

 

Steve takes a shower, dries up, puts some clothes on, goes back into the room to tell Nat the bathroom is free; but instead, what comes out of his mouth is, “Okay.”

She looks up, looking a little alarmed. “Okay?”

“Okay,” he repeats tightly. He looks out the window, almost grinding his teeth. “Let’s do it.”

She looks at him, at his wound-up body, at his red eyes and stiff posture, at the misery and the self-loathing she can probably read in each of the lines on his face.

“Maybe it’s not a good idea,” she says carefully. “Steve, if it’s important to you—”

“It’s not,” he spits. “It shouldn’t be. Nat, I lost everything, yet I still managed not to lose my goddamn virginity.” He laughs and it’s bitter and jagged and harsh. “It was supposed to be something sacred, something pure, something to make my life better if I waited. Well, news flash—it fucking didn’t. And I don’t want—” He takes a deep breath. “I don’t want it to become this… this symbol or something. So much of me is already a symbol. I want to do something meaningless for once. I want to make it meaningless.”

He stops, surprised to realize he’s a bit breathless. Sitting on the bed, she’s still staring at him, pensively.

Steve raises a wry eyebrow. “I guess making a speech out of it isn’t really helping my case.”

“I’ve done worse, for worse reasons,” she says.

It's his turn to stare at her.

“Now, Rogers, one last time. Yes or no?”

He stares. And he stares.

And he says, “Yes.”

In the movies, that’s when the ellipsis happens.

Steve almost expects to instantly and inexplicably wake up the next day next to a disheveled Natasha. But the moment doesn’t stop. He stays there standing, staring at Natasha, and she nods, and ties her hair in a ponytail like they’re about to spar.

He regrets everything all at once. Yet he doesn’t say it. It’s started, now, and he’s going to see this through the end.

He’s still skinny, though, still five foot nothing and disastrous with the ladies. At least in his mind. He stands there, clueless and miserable, furious at himself and also at Natasha, because his automatic response to any kind of challenge is anger.

She smiles at him, as if she knows. “Come on, then, Rogers,” she says, and pats the bed next to her. “Let’s make a man out of you.”

He scowls, but the spell is broken. Natasha is his friend, and it’s so much easier to imagine doing this with her. Tomorrow, they’ll go back to normal, except hopefully Steve’s restlessness will have been soothed by a minuscule fraction.

“Just the once, though, right?” he still mutters, shucking his white tank top over his head.

“Oh yes,” she says, “This is a chore I won’t be repeating.”

He smiles, just the tiny hint of a smile, and sits next to her on the bed. He keeps staring ahead when she takes off her black shirt. In the corner of his eye, he can see her bra is black, too.

“Steve,” she says. “If you can’t look at me, we’re not doing this.”

He looks up at her, wearily.

She’s beautiful. Her breasts are round and full and perfectly complimented by the dark lace of her bra. Her skin is pale and spotless, save for a scar under her collarbone and another above her hip, where Bucky shot her.

“We can stop this anytime,” she says. “I hope you know that.”

“Yeah,” he says dully.

“Steve,” she snaps, startling him. “I know you’re too stupid to realize backing off is actually an option, but if you let me do something you don’t want here, you’re making a rapist out of me. Are we clear?”

He blinks, stunned.

“Uh,” he says. “Yes. I’m—I’m sorry.”

Her expression softens by a fraction. “Are we doing this?”

“Yes,” he says, then tries for a smile. It must come out wan and forced, because she rolls her eyes.

“You don’t have to smile, Steve, this isn’t a photoshoot.”

He actually laughs at that. “Thank God.”

She smiles, too. Then she leans forward and kisses him.

It’s like the last time she kissed him, and it’s nothing like that. Her lips are still soft and warm, and she still cups his face with the exact same gesture. But it’s loaded with what they’re about to do, and suddenly Steve knows what’s about to happen—he will be too awkward and too frightened to get it up, so she’ll do it for him, jerk him off or suck him off or grind down his lap until he’s hard.

And he can’t allow that, can’t let this actually become a chore for her.

So he kisses back. He cups her face as well, and he kisses back, with just a hint of tongue when she parts her lips in surprise. He instantly draws back, looking at her in open worry.

“Is this okay?” he asks anxiously. “I mean—you’ll tell me, too. If I do something you don’t want.”

She smiles, and it’s a rare genuine smile this time. Steve can’t help smiling back, though it’s embarrassed and sheepish. “What now?”

“Nothing,” she’s grinning now, “I almost forgot you’d still be you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he says in false indignation, and she swats him behind the head and says, “Take off your pants, Rogers.”

So he does.

Natasha does the same, and it’s the least sexualized stripping Steve ever saw. But when they’re both clad in their underwear, she kisses him again, he kisses back, and this time, they don’t part.

Until they do. “Am I still terrible at it?” he asks, a bit breathless against her mouth.

“At least you’re practicing,” she says, and she kisses him again to shut up his inevitable answer. This time, he lets her take the lead, tries to take the time to actually feel what she does. She isn’t shoving her tongue down his throat; rather tracing his lip with it, pressing softly, slowly, until he’s responding again and this time, he can feel it’s better—they’re more in sync, listening to each other, and maybe this is just another kind of sparring after all.

Steve still isn’t getting hard, though, and he refuses to make that Natasha’s job. He tries running his hands down her back, almost freezes when he feels the curve of her hips. His heart, he realizes, is beating a bit faster. He never did touch anyone like that, after all. Never took the time to touch bare skin, for the simple pleasure of it.

Natasha is soft and smooth. She hums a little in his mouth when he presses his fingers into her lower back, and pushes her hips forward. Steve feels himself beginning to respond. Just a little.

Maybe this will be easier than he thought.

“Unclasp my bra,” she says when they part for breath.

He blinks. “What?”

“My bra,” she repeats with her lopsided smile. “This is a mandatory pit stop, Steve. The Virgin Shall Fumble With the Clasp.”

Steve does recall Bucky telling him something like that, the first night he came home covered in lipstick and smelling like perfume. He quickly pushes that thought away and focuses on the now. He and Nat are pressed rather close together; he looks down her back to see how the clasp is done. It's just some kind of hook; doesn't look that complicated. He reaches out and undoes it, then slips off the bra and holds it up, raising his eyebrows.

This time, she bursts out laughing. “Supersoldiers,” she says, and before Steve can protest that it’s really not that difficult, she kisses him again, and he only remembers he just took off her bra when she guides his hand to her breast.

From then on, it gets easier, because he’s been given permission to touch, so he can explore. He’s still quietly terrified of any sort of underwear—hers or his—coming off, though. But he can feel her nipples harden under his fingers, and he surprises himself by jerking his hips. She’s not idle, either—she’s running her hands over his back, sides, torso, tracing his muscles. Once again, it’s not very sexual; he feels like she’s mapping his body, preparing to draw it or sculpt it, maybe.

Then her nails scratch down his back and he gasps.

“Yes?” she says.

“Yeah,” he answers in a breath, wincing when she plants her nails into his skin and almost rips him open. “Oh yeah.”

He’s at half-mast, and his concern slowly starts shifting from not coming at all to coming too fast, especially when she guides his head down and he’s sucking at her nipple, fondling her other breast with his right hand, splaying his left hand behind her back. Her fingers are in his hair, tightening a little when he nibbles, so he bites down and she moans.

It’s small and low and breathy but he still feels inordinately proud. He pushes again, gets her to lie on her back. He doesn’t want her to feel trapped, but he has no doubt she could flip them over effortlessly. When she looks up at him, she’s smirking, and he’s breathless, lips parted.

“God, you look stupid,” she says, running her fingers through his hair.

He gives a half-smile which falls into an open mouth again when she tugs hard at his hair.

“This,” she announces, “will make things a lot easier.”

Steve reopens his eyes, looks at her. She looks a bit more flustered than she sounds. Her nipples are erect and her breasts round and perfect, and Steve wants to put his mouth on them again, so he does. Natasha moans again, and this time Steve has no hesitation at all when he looks up and says, “Tell me what to do.”

“What?” she asks, breathy but her hand still in his hair.

“This is my first time,” he points out needlessly. “I don’t know what I’m doing. Tell me what to do.”

She looks into his eyes for a second, then smiles. “Yeah,” she says, “okay. Put your hands under my thighs.”

Steve does, and kneels on the floor with her sitting on the edge of the bed when she tells him to, lifts her legs up and spreads them when she tells him to. When she tells him to, he bows his head, and when she tells him to, he mouths at her folds through the black cotton of her panties.

It’s salty, and there’s a heady smell which is just infinitely her, and the intimacy of it should weird Steve out, maybe, but it only makes him harder. He hasn’t been hard in—a while, and never with someone else in the room. His hands tighten around Natasha’s thighs, but he pulls back when she pushes him away. She slips her panties off, then spreads her legs again.

It looks a little weird, is Steve’s first candid thought as he looks at her pink folds already a little glistening. But her smell is heavenly and he wants the taste back on his tongue, so he puts his face into it—and Natasha pulls hard at his hair.

“No,” she says firmly, and before he can scramble back up in panic she goes on, “slower. Start with the very edge of the lips. Mine, not yours,” she adds with a smirk in her voice, and Steve groans into her vagina and it might be the weirdest thing he’s done in his life. Which is saying a lot about how fucked-up his scale of weirdness has gotten.

He licks the edge of Natasha’s folds, tentatively, feeling like a complete moron. But—thankfully—she doesn’t stop talking.

“You can push your tongue inside. Go down then up, and repeat. Keep a steady rhythm, and don’t forget to breathe. You’re staying there for a while.”

His cock jolts as that. She doesn’t care, keeps his face firmly between her thighs, and it makes him even harder, his cock filling enough for the foreskin to pull back. It feels heavy and hot trapped in his underwear, and he’s beginning to leak a little. Natasha, though, is getting wetter and wetter and he’d rather focus on that. She gives him even more directions, what to do with his nose and chin (as it turns out, putting his face into it must be taken very literally) and what pace to keep. She puts her fingers down to guide him to her clitoris, and when he licks up to it he feels her legs spasm and close on each side of his head. He can feel smooth skin but also iron muscles rolling underneath it.

He hasn’t felt this safe in a while.

“I was—thinking,” she says, and he’s getting giddy when she hears how flustered she is, how breathless. He has no doubt she could hide it and stay perfectly impassive; but all the same, he doesn’t believe for a second she’s faking anything. She’s letting him see what he’s giving her, an equivalent exchange that makes them both more breathless, looser and warmer, sweat and musk and femininity filling up the air in the room. Steve’s face is a slick mess and his jaw is beginning to ache, but he’s happy to be of use. Natasha’s hand is still firm in his hair.

“About condoms,” she goes on. “We don’t need them. We don’t get sick. So—” Her legs spasm again, more violently, pressing hard around Steve's head. “God,” she exhales, “fuck—stop, come up, come on.”

Steve would have gladly stayed there forever, but she’s pulling him up and he climbs on the bed, divesting himself of his boxers on the way. She kisses him, deeper than before, and his cock jolts again at the thought that she might enjoy this, tasting herself in his mouth. And then her hand is wrapping around Steve’s cock, and he sees white behind his eyelids.

“Christ—”

Of course she’s good at this, handling him way too easily, twisting her wrist as she goes up and down, rubbing him slick with his own precome. Her other hand gropes his ass, travels down, prods at his balls from behind.

“Trust me?” she asks. Her fingers are slipping between his ass cheeks. He doesn’t know what he thinks, but he knows it’s not no.

“Yeah,” he pants, clenching his jaw when she holds him in an even firmer grip—“fuck, yes, yes.”

She must have sucked on her fingers, because the first one is slick when she pushes it inside of him. It sends tingles up and down Steve’s spine, and he’s flushing hot and jerking his hips in her grip—she’s turned it slow now, agonizingly slow strokes up and down his shaft, and he’s trying to thrust up into her fist but she won’t let him—and when she adds another finger to push deeper, the burn only lasts for a little while. It feels great, but then she pushes deeper and angles her fingers and it feels—fucking amazing.

“Jesus,” Steve says as she starts jerking him off faster again, “Christ, Christ, stop, Natasha—stop—”

She stops and he kisses her, hot and feverish.

“I’m gonna,” he says in her mouth, and he’s scared all over again, he’s fucking terrified for no reason at all (or maybe because he’s going to do this now, going to lose the last thing he had in common with the skinny little guy whose best friend was Bucky and who was gonna make the world better—) but she says, “I know—come on,” and she sounds so beautiful, breathy and hoarse, and she’s lying on her back and he doesn’t want that, doesn’t want to rut on top of her and empty himself inside her, covering her with his huge body. So he’s the one who sits back, hard and ready for her.

She smiles, then, an amused little smile, but there’s nothing sarcastic to it—she’s flushed and wickedly happy and gorgeous. And then she straddles Steve, and he helps her guide his cock into her, and she’s sinking down, and Steve gasps at the wet, tight heat, so slick and sweet, closing around him and going away then sinking back again, Natasha rolling her hips in languid waves, fingering herself as she goes, lips parted, head thrown back; and Steve is losing his breath as well, jerking his hips in time with her movements to jab at her deep every time she comes back down, and, well, it's happening, it's now.

They’re moving together and it’s easier than fighting; and it’s getting faster, and suddenly Natasha comes, beautifully loud, a series of broken-off breathy moans that culminate into some kind of discharge running through her entire body, fluttering and clenching around Steve, Steve who arches and lets his eyes roll back and comes and comes and comes.

 

*

 

“Wanna go again?” she asks ten minutes later. They haven't moved, tangled into each other on the sticky sheets.

“We said just the once,” mumbles Steve.

“We can do several rounds,” she objects. “There’s a lot of things we haven’t tried yet. Live a little, Rogers.”

He smiles, and laughs a little when she kisses him again.

Yeah, he can go for another round. Or maybe two or three.

 

*

 

The sheets smell like them in the morning. Steve feels good, which is a surprise in itself. Bucky’s still out there, and they’re no closer to finding him than they were yesterday.

But it still feels good. It’s a weight off his chest, something he finally managed to leave behind. It’s like mourning, like growing up.

“You feeling okay?” Natasha asks, coming out of the bathroom, hair damp from the shower. She’s fully dressed, in uniform with stingers already fully charged.

“Yeah,” he says.

She looks worried, and he knows why. Maybe it was a bad idea. Maybe he’ll regret it later, not making it count. Then he immediately deems that thought the stupidest that ever crossed his mind. Of course he made it count. Hell, his virginity couldn’t be in safer hands.

“I’m fine,” he says, unable to say more but trusting her to know—he’s always been a terrible liar, after all. “Thank you.”

She smiles, her half-smile which is always a bit fond, always a bit sad. “Anytime, partner.”

He knows that she doesn't mean it, that it really was just the once; and he’s infinitely grateful to her for that, for remaining his friend when he can’t afford to lose even one, even to love.