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It's not that Steve can't talk to women.

Okay, well, it was a little bit, when he was younger, but he grew up a lot after Project Rebirth, and not just physically. He spent a lot of time with the women in the Star Spangled Show, and he never had any problem talking with them.

It's just people he's attracted to. Honestly. It's why he got stammery and stupid around Peggy all the time. And sometimes around Howard, too, though Howard was such a talker he probably didn't notice.

But apparently they made movies about Steve after he crashed, some hilariously inaccurate, some meticulously researched. All of them, however, had one thing in common:

Steve Rogers Can't Talk To Women.

It's not easy, waking from the dead to find that your entire world is gone and in addition everyone who knows you thinks they know more about you than they do because of the movies. Everyone thinks he's some kind of raging phobic, and a lot of them think he's the worst kind of prude.

He's not. He thinks about sex -- thinks about it a lot, truth be told -- and he'd like to have some, if he could just stop being an idiot around the people he'd like to have it with.

He gets along fine with Agent Hill, because she's a commanding officer and she's not really his type. Ms. Potts, too, who is smart and nice and off-limits because she's Tony's girl, and Steve would die before he'd make time with another fella's girl. And Black Widow, though Natasha is exactly his type -- but in the field she's Black Widow, and Black Widow, he gets along fine with.

Natasha is another story. She's someone you fight alongside and admire from afar when the battle is over.

He's moderately ashamed of just how much he's attracted to Natasha, because a relationship should really be built on something other than sex, shouldn't it? He can't shake that feeling even in this modern day. He doesn't really know her very well, except that she's an amazing fighter and if she isn't actually utterly fearless she sure does put on a good front.

He doesn't want to settle down and start up housekeeping with her or anything. Maybe he doesn't even want a relationship at all, which is a revolutionary concept within his worldview. But he'd like to get to know her better, if he could figure out a way to do it that doesn't make him look like the world's biggest fool.

And if he can't get to know her better, well, there's no harm in indulging in fantasy. They could...after a battle, maybe, in the showers. Or working on post-mission reports late at night, alone in the conference room. Or maybe she needs help...moving furniture or something...

Even Steve can't get behind that last one. It's difficult to imagine Natasha Romanoff needing help moving a couch.

***

"I don't get you," Tony says, flipping his helmet up, surveying the rubble of what used to be a very nice office building before AIM took it over and the Avengers had to destroy it. Apparently they had to destroy it because the steel frame was conducting energy that would have allowed AIM to use their doodah open a something into the whatsit, and if they succeeded, bad things would happen.

Tony and Bruce are the scientists. Steve doesn't pretend these things will ever be more than a something-something to him.

"What's to get?" Steve asks, sighing.

"You see Barton over there?" Tony asks, gesturing with his head. Clint is standing at the police barricade, which is crammed with eager onlookers -- never let it be said New Yorkers would let bodily peril stand in the way of exciting street theater -- signing autographs. Thor is there too. Widow is perched halfway up the steaming heap of rubble, watching idly.

"I'm sorry, are we changing the subject?" Steve asks.

"No, I'm making a point," Tony says. "You're young, single, literally the peak of human perfection, and famous. You could turn your head and whistle and any one of those women over there would come running. Clint's taking full advantage, and good for him. The hell are you doing back here with me?"

"Post-mission coordination," Steve says.

"Don't play dumb, Capsicle."

Steve looks out over the crowd of people, but to him they're just a big blur of faces. They're the people he fights to protect, the people he's supposed to represent, but that's different. That's the job.

"I don't want to whistle," he says. "I don't...think I'd want the kind of woman who'd come if I whistled."

"There's something exceptionally wrong with you. I blame the seventy years on ice. Can I scan your brain?" Tony asks.

"No," Steve says firmly. "Stop jawing, we have work to do."

"Look, I am very happy with Pepper, very, very happy," Tony says, shuffling alongside him as Steve walks towards the remains of the office building. "It's just that monogamy is a new look on me and Thor's shacked up too so I'm counting on you and Clint to be my proxies until I get used to this."

"Well, more for Clint then, I guess," Steve says.

"Hey, are you guys aware you have your comms on?" Clint asks over their radios.

"What is this shacked up?" Thor adds.

"I didn't know we even gave you a comm, big guy," Tony says, helpfully deflecting the conversation away from...whistling.

Steve looks up at the building to gesture Widow down, because transport will be here any minute to take them to SHIELD for a post-action debriefing. She's watching him, keen-eyed, with an unreadable expression on her face.

***

Tony, with his usual combination of arrogance and unbelievable generosity, built them each a floor in Stark Tower.

They have their own private places they can go to, but they're not really people who have a whole lot of houseguests. Most days, sooner or later, they're all in the penthouse -- Bruce and Tony will come out of the private lab, Clint will be up mooching food out of Tony's fridge, Thor just wants to be where everyone else is, Pepper lives there, and Natasha is friends with Pepper. Steve usually ends up there when he's summoned to settle a dispute, or because Tony and Bruce set something on fire and only Steve can talk Dummy down from his extinguisher rampages. (The irony of being the only one the robot will listen to is not lost on Steve.)

So they sort of fell into the habit of communal dinner, at least a couple of times a week, and Steve likes it. He can cook a little -- Bruce is teaching him how to be better at it, having given up Tony as a lost cause -- and when they're all in the kitchen, getting in each others' way, pots simmering on the stove, it feels nice. Like Bucky's house used to feel, with Buck and Steve and Buck's multitude of sisters underfoot.

"Meatloaf and mash?" Natasha asks, leaning around Steve to peer at the mixture he's making with his hands. Hands are the only way to do proper meatloaf. "You boys ever think about branching out from beef and potatoes?"

"Um?" Steve says. Her hand is resting on his lower back.

"There's a salad," Bruce points out, leaning past them both to grab another potato.

"It's a chicken cobb salad."

"We're growing superheroes, we need a lot of protein," Bruce replies, and Steve feels awkward with them arguing around him. "Besides, you have to ease Cap into things."

Natasha makes a little hum with a note in it Steve can't identify, and her fingers skritch against his shirt before she leans back and hops up on the kitchen island behind them. Steve goes back to mixing, focusing fiercely on the bowl.

Meatloaf is actually something he's pretty good at. Especially now, when he has access to good meat and a wide variety of it; he carefully doesn't ask how much the meat costs because he suspects he'd be horrified, but he can't deny cutting beef with pork is much nicer than cutting it with cheap offal or grated turnips the way they had to do when he was a kid.

"Jesus Christ, I think I just came a little," Tony announces, when he swallows his first bite of the meatloaf. Steve rolls his eyes. Natasha, who he didn't think was even going to take any, makes a noise of agreement that hits him in the pit of his stomach and he bows his head over his food to hide the blush.

When dinner is finished and they've talked themselves out over coffee, Steve wanders out onto the penthouse terrace to stare at Manhattan. It's something he does often -- it gives the others time to talk without him around, and teams need that, need their space from their commanding officers. Besides, he's still fitting this New York into the mental map he had as a younger man, and looking at it from this high up helps, strangely enough.

One of the enhancements Erskine said he might get from the Serum was improved hearing, but it didn't happen the way Steve expected. It's not that everything's louder, just that he can pick out patterns better among background noise, and he can hear noises in the silence with more acuity. So he hears Natasha coming, which nobody else probably would.

She sits on the guardrail next to where he's leaning, perfectly balanced, and draws her knees up to her chin. He watches the city; she watches him.

"We should talk," she says finally, and Steve fights the urge to stiffen.

"Bout what?" he asks, keeping his eyes on the Chrysler Building.

"Nothing specific. Just talk," she says. "We don't ever really talk."

"Oh."

She squints at him. "Don't tell me you're afraid of me."

"No, not afraid," he says. "Why would I -- I mean -- "

"Some of the SHIELD boys get freaked out by a woman who can kick their ass. Admittedly, pretty much everyone's freaked out after they've seen me with a garotte," she adds thoughtfully. Steve swallows.

"I uh. Well. I'm not afraid of Tony and he can kick...he could take me when he's in the suit," Steve says. "Don't tell him I said that," he adds, because it's not like Tony needs more ammunition.

"It's different when it's a woman. More threatening." She shrugs. "But I hear you worked with female soldiers during the war."

"One or two," he nods.

"So. Why don't we ever talk?" she asks, settling her chin on her knees.

"Nothing...to talk about?" he ventures.

"You talk with the boys. Even with Pepper."

Steve just stares at her dumbly. He can't come up with a lie. He couldn't even spit out the truth, at the moment. He is an idiot. This is why he's never had sex; clearly Darwin was right about natural selection and Steve should not be allowed to breed.

"I was born and raised in Russia," she says, looking out over the city. "It was a very different culture. Not much like the one you come from, either, but...I remember how it feels to be a stranger in a place you're supposed to call home. If you wanted to talk, we could."

"Thank you," he says. And doesn't say anything else -- and, after a while, she leaves.

***

It eats at him, that he wasn't better at that. Not because he wanted to charm her or anything, but from her point of view he can see how he'd just seem uninterested in talking with her. He can see how she might think he doesn't like her, and he can't have that. They're a team; nobody can be left out (left behind).

But when he wakes up the next morning, determined to apologize and make another stab at conversation, she's gone. To Minsk, apparently, or at least that's the cover story.

"SHIELD had a job for her," Clint says, sitting at Natasha's breakfast table, eating her food. "She'll be back in a day or two."

"I don't like SHIELD taking our people," Steve says gloomily.

"SHIELD is our people. We are SHIELD. Did you not get briefed on that?"

"You know what I mean."

"Solo work keeps us conditioned. Expect it'll happen to you too, sooner or later. Relax, what's eating you?"

Steve drops into the chair across from him. "Nothing. What're you eating??"

"Some kind of grain," Clint says dubiously. He spoons something reddish and lumpy out of the bowl in front of him. "Maybe berries?"

"Any good?"

"No."

"Then why are you eating it?"

Clint shrugs. "S'fuel. What'd you need Tasha for?"

"Just had to talk to her. It'll wait."

Clint raises an eyebrow.

"I might have given her the impression I didn't like her," Steve adds. "I wanted to apologize."

"Tasha knows you respect her. She doesn't need to be liked."

"Sure," Steve says. He wishes he knew how she manages that.

***

Natasha comes back in the middle of the night two days later, looking pleased with herself and sporting an impressive black eye. JARVIS, with more obedience to the chain of command than tact, wakes Steve, and he stumbles sleepily out of bed, hauling on a pair of khakis over his pajamas, not bothering with shoes.

"Before you ask, it's classified," she says, when Steve meets her in the elevator lobby outside her quarters. "And you really don't want to know."

Steve holds out an ice pack. She smiles at him. She's wearing a black hoodie and a pair of jeans, not her battle uniform, and she's in those ridiculous flip-flop things everyone wears now, so maybe she's already had time to get checked out and changed, maybe she doesn't need an ice pack --

"Thanks," she says, pressing it over her eye as she allows the door mechanism to scan her other one. "You didn't have to get up."

"JARVIS woke me. Not that I didn't want to, I always want to know when people get home, you know," Steve says, following her in. Why did he do that? She probably just wants to sleep.

"Coffee," she calls from the kitchen.

"I can make it," he says, because of the many machines of the future, one of the few he has mastered is the coffee machine. At least, the one in his kitchen. The one in Tony's has more moving parts than most cars.

"No, I was telling JARVIS," she replies, and turns, and he was about to step past her, and they're suddenly very close. Steve swallows and steps back.

"Yes, of course," he says, and stays in the doorway while she takes two mugs off the little mug tree next to the machine. Natasha's kitchen, improbably, is full of stuff -- pots and pans and fruit bowls, racks for mugs and tea towels, mysterious kitchen implements, a mostly-decorative tea service, tchochkes and ornaments. It's not at all what he thought she would have, but the clutter is comforting. There's always something to look at.

"Was the black eye worth it?" he asks, for lack of anything else to say.

"Mission accomplished," she replies, taking milk from the fridge. Steve awkwardly picks up a little wooden doll sitting on the counter, fiddling with it --

And it comes apart in his hands. He stares down in horror, but Natasha just laughs.

"It's a matryoshka," she tells him, taking it out of his hands. "See? It's supposed to do that."

She separates the two halves of the doll to reveal a smaller doll inside, then pulls that one apart and the next one too, lining them up on the counter. There are six, all told, the littlest one smaller than his thumb. He stares at them, fascinated, until she nudges his knuckles with a mug filled with milky coffee. Real milk was at a premium in the war, and he still hasn't gotten used to being able to put as much as he wants in his coffee.

"You know I'm not concussed or anything," she says, sipping from her own mug. "You don't have to stick around if you don't want to. I'll be fine to get to bed on my own."

"Well, I sort of wanted to...talk to you," he says, picking up the littlest doll and toying with it. "I meant to earlier, but you were gone by the time I came looking for you."

"I'm glad," she says. "I hoped you'd take me up on it."

"No, I meant..." he sighs. "Look, I don't want you to think I...that I didn't want to talk because of you...being...you."

Natasha just looks at him.

"What I mean is, it's not that I can't talk to women or something, but...I never really...maybe?" he runs a hand over his face. "If any one of the many women I failed to be able to talk to were still alive -- " Oh Jesus, what is he even saying? "Well, they'd tell you this is...me. I'm trying to say -- "

"Steve, be quiet for a minute," she says. Steve closes his mouth, still looking down at the dolls. "I speak nine languages, I think I can translate. I shouldn't take it personally that you didn't want to talk, because conversation doesn't come easy to you. At least, not with me. I'm not sure why, but it's your problem, not mine. Am I hitting the mark?"

He nods.

"What do you think I'm going to do to you if you just try to speak plainly?" she asks.

"This is me trying to speak plainly," he sighs.

"Poor boy," she says, sounding equal parts affectionate and amused, and stands on her toes to ruffle his already bed-crazy hair. She takes the doll out of his hand and begins packing the rest of them back into each other, carefully lining the top and bottom halves up so that they look right. "Can you explain, why me and not Pepper? Or Maria?"

Steve sips his coffee, trying to put his thoughts in order. She's standing so close, and he feels guilty for all the fantasies he's ever had, guilty for the covert looks he's snuck at her.

"Steve?" she prompts.

"I just think -- you're very pretty," Steve blurts, turning to her. "Beautiful, I mean. And -- not that I don't...I like you, I respect you, but you're so...and you always smell nice," he adds, horrified at the words coming out of his mouth. "Even after a mission, you smell like gunpowder usually and I like that smell and -- oh, my God, I'm so sorry," he finishes, stepping back from her. "Tony's right, there's something wrong with me."

"Hey, no, calm down," Natasha says, following him, not giving him an inch. Steve can feel his face heating. "I'm flattered."

"But," Steve says miserably. There's always a but.

"No buts," she replies, and she leans up a little and kisses him.

Oh.

Okay, kissing he can do, he's kissed plenty of women. Well, three. Well, two, he probably can't count the time he kissed Bucky's little sister on a dare when they were nine.

He inhales, aware of her hand on his shirt, her other on his arm, two spots of heat and sensation. He fumbles his own hand up to her hip, then slides it around to the small of her back to steady them both, bending his neck a little. Her -- her tongue is in his mouth, slightly unexpected, but it feels nice, slick against his.

She sways back and he takes the hint, letting her go.

"Okay," she says. "I get it now. Also, wow."

"Yeah," he replies dazedly. Her fingers curl against his arm.

"Listen, I don't want to lead you on," she says. "I'm not really looking for a boyfriend."

"I'm...not actually looking for a girlfriend," he says. She laughs a little.

"Captain America wants a hookup?" she asks.

"I don't know what that is," he admits, worried it's some exotic sexual thing.

"A one night stand. Sex with no strings," she translates. "In the morning, we go back to being friends."

"Oh." He nods. "Yeah, I...yes. I guess."

"You guess?" she gives him a sardonic look. "Because I could kick you out and have just as much fun sleeping for the next ten hours."

"Oh..."

"That was a joke, Steve." She runs her fingers down his arm, pressing her thumb to the inside of his elbow.

"I'm just...I don't know if I'd be any...good," he stammers. "I haven't. Ever. Y'know."

She blinks.

"That body, and you never took it out for a spin?" she asks.

"Embarrassing, huh?"

"I wouldn't call it that, no," she says, and when he looks up, her eyes are dark, interested, measuring. "Would you like me to show you?"

He shrugs, mortified.

"Listen to me. I'm not asking you to be good," she says, resting her hand on his chest again. "I'm asking if you'd like me to teach you how to be good. I know you're a quick learner."

"You'd like that?"

"I can't think of anyone who wouldn't, to be honest," she says. "Yes, I would."

It's probably wrong to be grateful, but in that moment he is so grateful for Natasha, for how she's effortlessly sensible about these things. He's known since she rescued Clint that behind the ruthless, efficient assassin is a person who is capable of gentleness and kindness, but he didn't think anyone got to see that part of her unless they were...special, somehow. In a way he couldn't hope to be.

"I'd like that," he says quietly, and leans back in, raising his hand to rest it on her hip again and promptly knocking over his coffee.

She jumps to the side, and he fumbles to right the cup, and there's coffee everywhere --

And then she laughs. A real, loud laugh, rueful and open.

"It's just coffee," she says, as he casts around for something to mop it up with. She takes his hand, pulling it away from the counter, tugging him along behind her. He goes with a backwards glance -- what a mess -- and then suddenly she's backing into a wall in the living room, pulling him close. Their hips are touching, their chests, they're kissing before he understands fully what's going on, worried that she can feel how eager he is but unable to pull away. She doesn't stop kissing him even when she jumps a little to wrap her legs around his waist, and he groans.

He's oddly surprised he can hold her weight. This body is strong, it's done far more than hold up one very light woman, but in his fantasies he still thinks of himself as skinny Steve, five foot nothing and allergic to everything.

His hips move of their own accord, pushing against her, seeking out friction and pressure, the warmth of her body. He curls around her, face pressed to her neck. She bites his earlobe, tongue flicking against it.

"Got me?" she asks in his ear, and he nods into her skin, feeling her pulse against his lips. "Bedroom?"

He leans back, wondering if she means what he thinks she means, and she wraps her arms around his shoulders, shifting so that he's actually holding all her weight. It's not difficult to carry her, not at all, with his arms around her and her thighs flexing against his hips. When they reach the bedroom she does some kind of special assassin move that tumbles them both onto the bed, and he hears himself laugh without thinking about it. He's fought the worst the world has to offer and Natasha Romanoff just took him down without a second thought.

The laughter is short-lived, cut off by a groan as she rolls her body up against his. He's not sure he should make so much noise, but it seems like she likes it, or at least he hopes that's what it means when her fingers dig into his arms.

For a while all they do is kiss. Deep, wet kisses like he's never really encountered before, straying to the corners of his mouth, to his cheek, her beautiful throat, the dip between her clavicles just visible above her clothes. He shivers when her hand comes up to brush his hair the wrong way, and she pulls him up by the hair for a last kiss before rolling them over, easing back and tugging on his t-shirt until he sits up with her in his lap.

"Here," she says, guiding his hands to the hem of the hoodie. He tugs it up and off, and she's wearing nothing but a tight red bra underneath.

"Not my sexiest," she adds, but Steve hasn't ever been more turned on in his life. She pulls the bra off and he just looks at her, the slight ridge of her ribcage, her breasts, her face.

"Can I..." he starts, raising a hand, hovering it over her skin.

"Yes," she says, serious and not at all like she thinks he's ridiculous. She bends forward, kisses his temple, and murmurs, "They're fun, trust me," in his ear.

He rests a palm on her waist, bare warm skin, sliding it up past her breasts to her throat, his other pressed over her heart. She leans back a little, looking surprised.

"Did I do something wrong?" he asks.

"No, baby," she says, and he blushes at the endearment. "I'm just not used to...reverence," she finishes, tilting her head to nuzzle her jaw against his knuckles.

"You should be," he says without thinking, spreading his other hand wide, thumb stroking the side of her breast. Her skin is impossibly soft and smooth, nipple rough and firm when the edge of his thumb brushes it almost by accident. She exhales on a soft whine, leaning into it.

"I'm not sure you need much teaching," she mumbles, and he smiles and curls his hand, cupping her breast. "Head of the class, gold star for you."

It's encouraging enough that he risks bending forward to press his mouth to her skin, and she twitches in his arms and turns so that her nipple is pressed to his lips.

"Bite a little," she says, and he freezes. "Gently. Just a little."

He obeys, and if it's more from her tone of voice than because he really thinks she likes it, her reaction it proof enough. She jerks sharply, moaning, and then pushes him away and begins tugging at his shirt, bunching it around his arms. He lets go long enough to pull it over his head, and she scratches her fingernails against his chest and he didn't know that would feel so good --

Then she kisses the fading red marks and starts sliding out of his lap, working her way down, and he should probably be participating but her warm, damp tongue is slicking the the creases of his abs, and he can't think much beyond Oh, wow.

It's not that he's entirely unfamiliar with sex, with what goes on, but it doesn't occur to him what her goal is until she's breathing hot and fast against his stomach, her hands working the fly open on his khakis. She laughs when she encounters flannel under them, and belatedly he thinks maybe Captain America pajama bottoms aren't the most erotic thing in the world.

It's not ego. He's Captain America, there's no man more suited to wear Captain America pajamas. Plus they were a gift from Bruce, and they're really comfortable.

Natasha doesn't seem to think they're at all the mood-killer he does, just tugs at the waistband and slaps the side of his thigh to make him shift his hips. When he lifts, she pulls it all down and off in one swift movement, and he's naked. In bed with a woman.

Well, on bed anywa --

"Oh God!" he hears himself say, when she sucks the head of his dick into her mouth. "Oh, my G -- Natasha -- "

She looks up at him, mouth working against his skin, hot and tight and shifting against him, sparks flaring along his nerves. She's so beautiful and he has no idea what to do with this except try to breathe and try not to come. He has a faint feeling that would be rude.

She leans back, and the cold air after her mouth is a shock.

"Don't move," she orders, and kisses his thigh, and then takes half of him down in a single sweep of her mouth. He gasps and clings to the bed, trying to be good, fighting the urge to thrust up, to get more. It's the best kind of torment, and he's so hard --

"Please," he groans, stomach flexing with the effort of keeping still. "Please stop, please -- "

She leans back, looking concerned.

"I just..." he's breathing heavily, and the old worry surfaces -- is it an attack? -- eighteen years of habit forcing him calm before he has to struggle for every breath. "That was going to end fast," he says weakly, and she smiles and rests her head on his knee. "And I want, uh. I didn't want it to be over that soon."

One of her hands is wrapped around his ankle, rubbing the spur of bone there, and it's oddly soothing. They stay like that for a minute, Steve struggling for control, Natasha watching with a faint smile on her face. Then she rises to her feet gracefully -- everything she does is graceful -- and steps between his legs, hooking a hand in the waistband of her jeans.

Steve can take a hint.

He tugs at the button, pulls down the fly, and there's a flash of white cotton before she's stepping out of the last of her clothes, letting them drop to the side and pushing on his shoulders, pushing him to slide back up the bed. She straddles his thighs, one hand resting on his stomach, and plucks at his wrist with her other, guiding it between her legs. She's warm and wet, and coarse hair brushes his palm as her fingers press his inside her, showing him where to touch.

"Pay attention," she says, and then grinds down against his hand. "This is importa -- oh," she breaks off, as the tips of his fingers find a hard little ridge of flesh. "Remember this part. Right there."

It's amazing, the emotions playing over her face, the way her hips move, the little shudders of her body, the way she rides his fingers. Important is an understatement.

His whole body is buzzing with awareness, every nerve on end, but his eyes are on her face, the way her eyelashes sweep her cheek, the way her mouth falls open when he curls his fingers. She makes soft pleased noises, sensual little moans that could break him if he let them. Eventually she pushes at his wrist and he draws away carefully, his hand sticky. Natasha rests a palm on the bed and leans over him and he's not sure what's coming next, but she opens a drawer in the bedside table. Oh -- a skin. He's familiar, in theory.

She opens the little packet, and he wants to laugh because the packet looks like something you'd find chewing gum in, and the thing inside looks ridiculous.

His amusement ends abruptly when she presses it lightly to the crown of his cock and rolls it down, fingers sweeping over hot, sensitive skin. She wraps a hand around his shaft to be sure it's settled, and it's so much better than his own hand, ridiculously better, even through the rubber.

She settles down on the bed next to him and when he leans up on an elbow to turn, to kiss her, she pulls him on top of her, between her legs.

"There are a lot of fun ways to do this," she says around kisses, and he's no longer shy about running his hand up and down her side, enjoying the feel of it. "But let's stick to the classics for now."

Her hand is between them, guiding him, and oh, the warm clutch of her body around him. He has to stop moving because it's blinding, this feeling.

Then she lifts her hips a little, back arching, breasts pushing up and he bucks without meaning to, body colliding with hers.

"Sorry, sorry I -- " he gasps, and she does it again.

"Don't be sorry," she says, pulling his head down to her shoulder. "Do it again."

His hips thrust desperately -- a hot slide in, a tight pull out -- and she moans. Every move lights up his body, makes him aware of her fingernails digging into his shoulders and her heels pressing on his thighs. She moves in a rhythm and he follows it, natural, easier than he'd thought this could possibly be. He has to kiss her, can't possibly not kiss her as he rocks into her -- beautiful, competent, fearless Natasha. There's nobody he'd rather fight alongside, nobody he'd rather share this with, nobody he'd prefer to teach him how good it can feel.

Her hand creeps between their bodies again and he pushes it aside, fingers sliding down to stroke her, propping himself on one elbow so he can touch her and fuck her and kiss her --

His orgasm takes him by surprise, he's been sliding along the edge of it for so long. He shudders against her body, coming so hard he can't breathe.

He's aware he's heavy on top of her, and when he can move he rolls to the side, clumsy and dazed in the afterglow. The rubber starts to slip off and he tugs at it, then tries to figure out what to do with it before finding a trash can on the other side of the bed. When he turns back, Natasha is smiling at him, but there's a high flush on her cheeks, a slightly glassy look to her eyes.

"Oh, you didn't..." he feels awful, suddenly, like a failure.

"Women don't always," she murmurs, knuckles rubbing his cheek. "I still liked it. Don't make a fuss."

Well, that's just nonsense. It won't be tolerated.

"What you did...before," he says, hoping she understands. "Can...can men...?"

She turns and buries her head in his chest, laughing. "You're not real," she says, and he frowns.

"Is that yes?" he asks.

She rolls onto her back, stretching her arms above her head, which does fascinating things to her breasts.

"Yes," she says, smiling. "Knock yourself out, soldier," and he slides down her body to kiss her hip, her thigh, the soft skin just below her waist.

It takes a little awkward rearranging to sort himself out -- her legs over his shoulders seems best, even if it probably looks silly. He's uncertain about this, but when he touches her she writhes, and he lowers his head, tongue searching, tasting her until he finds what he's looking for. It's certainly...different, and a little hard to breathe, but Steve is nothing if not determined. She pushes against his mouth, gasping his name, so apparently he's doing something right. And then her thighs tense and she shudders and ripples against his tongue, crying out.

When she's limp on the bed, lax and sated, he sits back on his heels, feeling pretty well satisfied with himself.

"Definitely a gold star," she murmurs, while he wipes off his mouth and crawls back up the bed. He's not sure if...if he's allowed, but he pulls her against him and noses into her hair, and she goes easily, fitting her body against his. They're both slick with sweat and a little sticky, and he's conscious he probably tastes like her when they kiss, but she doesn't seem to mind.

"Thank you," he says, and this is good too, curling up with another body against his.

"You're welcome," she answers, hardly more than a sigh. "Sleep now, kay?"

"Okay," he agrees, because that does sound tempting, and for the first time since he woke from the ice there's no tension in his body, no tightness to his shoulders. He feels like he never wants to move again.

She giggles into his skin. "I just deflowered Captain America."

"Well, I guess someone had to," he mumbles, and she laughs louder as he drifts into sleep.

***

When he opens his eyes, the sun's already well up in the sky, shining through the wide glass windows and striping the bed with light. Natasha is curled up with him still, which he didn't expect; she's tucked under his arm, huddled against his body like it's a shelter.

She wakes when he shifts, but she doesn't tense up -- just raises her chin to rest on the ball of his shoulder and smiles.

"Better?" she asks. "Think we could hold a conversation now?"

"I hope you didn't..." he gestures with his free hand. "Just so I'd talk to you."

"No. Many motives, but that wasn't one of them." She rubs a hand across his chest, settling it over his heart. "Also, now I can cross 'lick Steve's abs' off my bucket list."

"What's a bucket list?"

"That's what you fixate on?" she asks. "Not the part where I wanted to lick you?"

"This is a very confusing century," he admits. She kisses his arm and pushes herself upright, sliding out of the bed.

"I need a shower, and someone to brag to," she says, stretching. He admires the curve of her buttocks, the hint of round breast. She looks over her shoulder at him and perhaps mistakes his admiration for concern, because she adds, "I wouldn't. Not if you didn't want me to."

"No, it's okay," he says, feeling oddly shy considering he's naked and staring at her. "I don't know who I'd brag to, but I guess I feel like that too."

"Dare you to tell Tony."

"Is that...proper?" he asks. He thinks about Tony and Clint and Bruce, and the kinds of things they talk about sometimes when it's only the men. It can be crude, and he wouldn't want to talk about Natasha that way.

"Sweetie," she says, bending over the bed to kiss him. "Brag all you want. It can only be good for both our reputations. Pepper's going to be so jealous."

"Pepper?" he asks, voice rising about two octaves. "But she's Tony's girl."

"She's not dead," Natasha informs him. She pats his head. "I'm going to get a shower, and you should too, and then let's go up to the penthouse and look well-fucked together and make everyone seethe."

He can't really argue with her strategy on this one. He rolls out of the bed, intending to reach for his pants, and is startled when Natasha kisses him again.

"Any time you want to augment your education, you call me," she says. "Especially if you want to practice with your tongue."

Steve nods and watches her go, all hip-sway and smooth pale skin.

***

When he finally makes it up to the penthouse, showered and at peace with the world, Tony and Pepper are drinking mimosas, Pepper tucked under his arm on the couch. Steve pours out a cup of straight orange juice, then helps himself to the Sunday brunch spread, which Clint is already decimating.

"You look happy," Tony says suspiciously.

"I see why they call you a genius," Steve replies.

"You never look happy. The closest you get is patriotic," Tony continues, peering at him. "Did we pass a new amendment to the Constitution? Did someone give you a flag?"

"Leave him alone," Pepper chides as Natasha walks in. Steve falls silent, enjoying his breakfast, listening to Tony and Pepper bicker about Tony's many personality flaws. Natasha sits next to him, picking at her eggs, which draws him into a conversation about fresh food in America and wartime rationing, and he's halfway through a story about him and Bucky and an incident involving some powdered eggs when Tony sits up sharply and says, "Oh my God, you fucked."

Steve glances at Natasha, who just looks smug.

"What?" Clint demands.

"It was a hookup," Steve announces, proud of his new grasp of slang.

"Friends with benefits, baby," Natasha says gently. "It's called friends with benefits."

"Oh!" Steve nods.

"Oh my God," Tony yells gleefully. "It's like some terrible diplomatic cautionary tale."

"That's what you wanted to talk to her about?" Clint asks.

"Well, not directly," Steve allows.

"Who's talking about what?" Bruce asks, stumbling in from the lab, looking like he hasn't slept since yesterday.

"They fucked!" Tony says. "Captain Spangles and the Red Menace."

Bruce looks at Natasha, then at Steve. "Did you record it?" he asks mildly.

"We should do that," Natasha stage-whispers. "We'd make a fortune."

"The KGB agent and the American icon. It sells itself," Tony agrees. "Cap, I can't actually ask you the questions I am dying to ask because she'll kill me with her pinky if I do, but I have all the questions. All of them."

The chaos mounts around them as Pepper debates this "all the questions" concept with Tony, and Clint chimes in to support the tradition of locker-room talk, and Bruce comes down on Pepper's side, and Steve just eats his breakfast and grins at Natasha.

"I like talking with you," he says in an undertone, while the debate rages around them.

"Steve, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," she replies.