Desire is easy enough to simulate. Half-lidded eyes, parted lips, a murmured “please.” He’s never shown any sign that he doesn’t believe she really wants him.
Pleasure, too, is easy to fake. It’s not just the finale, the orgasm. It’s everything from the cant of her hips to the way she bites her bottom lip, hard enough to hurt. She moans for him, sighs for him. Everything, everything for him.
Afterwards, he lies next to her, his fingers stroking a question into her skin. He’s spoken the question only once. The answer’s always the same. She gets out of the bed, slipping back into her clothes, and leaves.
Natasha stands in front of the mirror in her room, still wet from her shower. She vaguely notes the scar on her right hip, the one across her left knee. There are more, but most of them are too faded to notice. She tilts her head to the side, marveling, as she often does, at the fact that Clint will take her body as payment for her debt. She would ask much more.
She pulls on her robe and does a quick survey of the room. She has yet to learn to feel comfortable in Stark Tower. She’s not used to having a place to call home.
She sits on the bed. Natasha has a lot of work to do, now that the Avengers team has officially been re-formed. Fury has adopted a softer touch with them, talking often about trust. Trust isn’t what she needs. It’s too easily betrayed.
What she’s looking for is loyalty. It should be relatively easy to gain her teammates’ loyalty, as long as she goes about this the right way. And she will. She knows exactly what to do.
They’re battling the Squadron Sinister in the Arctic. Once again, aliens are involved, but Nebulon has yet to make an appearance in the battle. Tony’s taking on Dr. Spectrum. They’re firing energy back and forth at each other, overhead. The Hulk and Thor are going are after the Whizzer. Clint, appropriately, is handling Nighthawk, while Natasha and Steve take care of Hyperion. Natasha doubts this is going to last long.
Bullets don’t have much of an effect on Hyperion, Natasha quickly discovers. They slow him down a little, but he’s got some kind of healing ability she’s never seen before, other than with some X-Men. He’s as strong as Steve, maybe stronger, Natasha thinks, when Hyperion throws Steve across the snow covered ground.
He comes after Natasha then, and she gets him with her Widow’s Bite. He takes a step back, but he’s got her by the neck just seconds later, squeezing the breath out of her.
Then he’s skidding backwards across the snow, thanks to Steve.
“Thanks,” she wheezes.
Tony figures out Doctor Spectrum’s weakness—ultra-violet light—and once he goes down, the others follow. They dismantle the laser cannon that the Squadron was trying to use to melt the polar ice caps, and disaster is averted once again.
They head back to New York on the Helicarrier, all exhausted and bruised.
Natasha waits until the next day to approach Steve, in his room at the Tower. She doesn’t bother to wear anything special, just jeans and a plain white t-shirt. If things go according to plan, she won’t be dressed for long.
“Natasha,” he says. “What’s up?” He’s catching up with modern phrases very well.
“I just wanted to properly thank you,” she says, in a low voice. She figures it’s best to start slow with Steve; he strikes her as the skittish type.
Steve shrugs. “No big deal.”
Natasha hums. “I think I owe you.” She steps closer, looking up at Steve through lowered lashes.
Steve’s eyes widen as he realizes what she’s saying. “I don’t think that’s necessary,” he says, stammering a little.
She makes her smile slightly predatory. “Oh, I insist.” She takes another step toward him, but he steps back.
“Natasha,” he says, “you don’t have to do anything for me.”
She puts her hand on his cheek. “I want to,” she says, just on the edge of a moan. She moves her thumb over his bottom lip, watches his Adam’s apple bob.
Before he can say anything, she kisses him, softly. He doesn’t move away, which is a good start. She parts her lips, touching her tongue to his lips. His mouth opens under hers, and their tongues meet. Kissing him is more or less what she expected—slow and tender.
Her hands move down the front of his body, down until she’s cupping his dick. He makes a low sound, sort of a moan, into her mouth.
But then he pulls away. “I thought—Clint,” he says.
She shakes her head. “No,” she says. She backs him up to the bed, pushing him back and then climbing on top of him.
He looks uncertain, still, but he places his hands on her hips. “You’re sure about this?”
“Of course.” She leans down and starts kissing him again.
It’s not an unpleasant experience. Steve is an attractive man, and she likes feeling his body moving against hers. Maybe they’ll do this again, sometime.
He turns shy as they lie together after. “I liked that,” he says. “I mean, of course, but… “ He strokes his fingers over her skin—and it’s too familiar. She sits up and gets out of bed, not bothering to look back at Steve as she gets on her clothes.
“Yes,” she says, as gently as possible, “it was nice.”
And then she leaves.
Natasha usually abstains from Tony’s movie nights, but she makes an exception this night. It’s been a few weeks since the end of Pepper and Tony’s relationship, and he seems to be recovering well. He’s not throwing outrageous parties or drinking himself blind. No self-destructive acts at all.
As far as she can tell, the break-up was amicable. Pepper’s still running Stark Industries. She stops by the Tower often enough, greeting her old assistant with a polite small talk whenever Natasha runs into her. She’s said she misses having Natasha around. Natasha wonders if she means it.
Natasha sits next to Tony on the leather couch, and Tony’s face registers his surprise, though he makes no comment. They’re watching Ghostbusters tonight, but Natasha’s not interested in the movie.
She has to proceed carefully. She’s felt Steve watching her ever since they had sex. He’s expecting something more than she can give him. She should have realized this would happen, but she hadn’t considered the aftermath before going to Steve. She’d only felt the weight of her debt to him.
But she has work to do, loyalty to capture, and she’s certain that there will be no messy aftermath with Tony.
She takes it slow. First she moves her leg so that her thigh presses against Tony’s. He looks at her, briefly, before returning his attention to the movie. She’s aware of everyone else in the room, vigilant in case they notice what she’s doing.
Her hand flutters over Tony’s leg, and Tony again looks at her. This time, Natasha captures his gaze, puts real heat into her eyes. It should be enough. She does nothing else for the rest of the movie.
After the movie ends, the others return to their rooms, but Natasha lingers. So does Tony.
Tony’s eyebrows go up. “Natasha Romanoff,” he says, “are you trying to seduce me?”
Natasha smiles. “And if I am?” She’s never really enjoyed flirting, but she’s willing to indulge in it for him.
“Well,” he says, putting his hands on her waist and drawing her closer, “you may be succeeding.”
They don’t do it in the living room. Instead, they go up to his bedroom, where he bends her over and fucks her from behind. She doesn’t have to fake her orgasm.
“I thought you didn’t like me,” he says as she’s getting dressed.
“What makes you think I do?” she says, because she knows he’ll like the teasing edge to her voice.
“The mind-blowing sex? Or was that hate sex?”
She sits back down on the bed, half dressed. “I don’t hate you,” she says. “You’re tolerable. Mostly.”
He barks a laugh. “I like you, Romanoff.”
That’s good. It’s not exactly what she was aiming for, but it seems she’s achieved her goal anyway. She stands up and finishes dressing. “Good night, Stark,” she says.
In the next few days, she’s careful to watch Tony for any sign that he’s gone lovesick like the Captain, but the only recognition he gives their encounter is the occasional wink. It’s a relief.
After a Doombot nearly takes off her leg, Natasha’s forced to walk with a cane. Steve frets over her—anything I can get for you, Natasha? Tea? How’s your leg? She wanted him to have her back, but his hovering is irritating. She takes to escaping to her room whenever he’s at the Tower.
At the two month mark, Natasha walks into Dr. Banner’s lab, not even limping. She’s hoping he’ll tell her she doesn’t have to use the cane anymore. Secretly, she’s been walking around without the cane whenever she knew she wouldn’t get caught.
It’s no use trying to roll up her pants, so she takes them off. She has plans for today, so she’s wearing red satin panties. Not that she thinks Bruce will be so easily seduced. She expects a struggle with him.
Dr. Banner’s perfectly clinical as he examines the raised, unsightly flesh on the inside of Natasha’s thigh. He nods, and says, “Yeah, you should be fine without the cane.”
“Oh good,” she murmurs. “I’ve been waiting for this.” She slides off the table and gets to her knees, placing her hands on the front of Bruce’s pants.
He jumps, as if electrified. “Natasha,” he says, “what are you doing?”
“You’ve taken such good care of me,” she says. “I thought I’d take care of you for a change.”
He gently moves her hands away. “You don’t owe me.”
As she thought, this is going to be a struggle. Bruce isn’t the kind of man to accept pleasure wherever and however he can get it.
“Don’t think,” she says. She takes his hand and sucks his index finger into her mouth. She lets it slide back out. “Just let this happen.” She looks up at Bruce. “Please.”
Bruce lets out an audible breath. “Natasha.”
“Shh,” she says, and undoes his belt. He doesn’t try to stop her. He makes a vague sound of protest when she takes out his cock, but his protests turn into a sharp inhale when she puts her lips around the tip.
She sucks down his dick greedily, and his resistance crumbles. He tangles his fingers in her hair. She looks up and meets his eyes. There’s something in them, something searching, and Natasha looks down, her heart beating faster for some reason. She doesn’t look up again, just sucks and licks his cock while he makes small, controlled sounds of pleasure.
He tries to push her away when he’s about to come, but she keeps her mouth on his dick and swallows his come.
Bruce pulls her to her feet and just looks at her for a moment. She tries not to look into his eyes, but can’t help it. Again there is that searching something in his eyes, and it makes her feel exposed. He looks like he’s about to say something, but he changes his mind.
Natasha ends up pushed against the table, gripping the edge so hard it hurts, as Bruce goes down on her. He’s hitting all the right spots inside her, and it’s not long before she comes.
She gets on her pants as quickly as she can. Bruce puts a hand on her arm, but she shrugs him off and leaves.
She feels shaken, doesn’t know what to do with herself. She contemplates going out for a walk, but she ends up in her darkened room. She sits down, breathes in and out slowly.
It’s fine. She’s fine. Whatever happened with Bruce—it doesn’t matter.
Perhaps she acts rashly, going to Thor so soon after her encounter with Bruce. Natasha pulls him aside after a meeting with Fury, no plan, no thinking ahead. She’s not even certain what she wants from him.
She knows he’s still with Jane, and he seems to love her. There’s probably no point trying to seduce him. But she pulls him into an empty room anyway, shutting the door behind her. “Thor,” she says, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you.”
He waits for her to go on, but for a moment, she is at a loss. She almost leaves, so suddenly thrown that she feels she must escape.
Instead she smiles and reaches out to trail her fingers over Thor’s arm. “I’m so glad to have you alone for once,” she says, trying for playful. “You’re hard to corner.”
Thor’s never been good at hiding what he’s feeling. The confusion is plain on his face. “What do you need, Natasha?”
She smiles again, this time reaching up to touch his face. “You, of course.”
Thor moves back. “I think I must misunderstand,” he says.
She shakes her head. “You don’t misunderstand at all.” She leans up, but Thor turns his head away before their lips can touch.
He puts his hands on her arms and looks at her intently. “You know I love Jane,” he says. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” she hears herself saying, before she can think about it. She shakes off his hands and turns to leave.
He gets in her way. “What troubles you?”
Natasha can feel her whole body trembling. She’s angry, suddenly, angry at him for saying no to her. Not because she truly wants him, not because she’s hurt by his rejection, but because—
She needs to get away before her control slips further out of her grasp. “Forget it,” she says, and it comes out too rough, too aggressive. She needs to make him believe she’s all right. She tries again. “It’s fine,” she says, softer.
“I have hurt you,” he says. Guesses.
Wrong. “Leave it, Thor,” she says, abandoning her efforts at control. She needs to get away.
But he’s not letting it go, so she does the only thing she can think to do. She strikes out, trying to take him down. Of course he overpowers her, trapping her in his big arms.
“Please Natasha,” he says, “tell me what’s wrong.”
She struggles, futilely, against him. And suddenly she’s a child again, in Petrovitch’s arms. Fighting because she believed, she foolishly believed that he cared about her, when she was just another little girl to be brainwashed and trained. Just another Black Widow.
She lands a lucky shot to his gut, and he releases her. She’s out the door and running down the hall before he can even gather the breath to call her name.
Natasha leaves for Russia without saying a word to her teammates, or Fury. Fury especially won’t be happy, but she doesn’t care.
She has no particular love for her native country, but being there grounds her. She spends a week in Moscow, renting a room that isn’t nearly as nice as she can afford. She expects her teammates to show up in the Helicarrier to retrieve her; she doesn’t make it hard for them to find her. No one comes.
When she returns to New York, she walks into Stark Tower as though she was never gone.
Jarvis informs her that the team is waiting for her on the fifth floor. She ignores the AI and goes to her room, where she finds Steve.
“We’d all like to speak to you, Natasha,” he says.
She considers telling him to fuck off, but looking at him, she can’t bring herself to be so rude. He doesn’t deserve it. “Why?” she says, tossing her bag on the bed.
“I think you know why.”
They look at each other for a moment, then she shrugs. “Fine.”
Thor and Bruce wear twin expressions of concern, tinged with pity. She hates them a little for looking at her like that. Clint won’t look at her at all.
Tony nods. “Welcome back,” he says. There’s no pity in his eyes, and for that, she’s grateful.
“Anything eventful happen while I was gone?” she asks, lightly.
“Nothing we couldn’t handle,” Tony says. “So. I think you know what this is about.”
“Yes,” Natasha says, crossing her arms. “You’ve figured out that I fucked nearly everyone in this room.”
“To put it bluntly,” Tony says.
“Did you want to?” Bruce asks.
She looks at him, sliding a smile on her face. “It was my intent, of course.”
“You were upset when I turned you away,” Thor says. “But I think not because you truly wanted to be with me.”
She stops smiling. “What do you want me to say?”
“Why?” Steve asks. “Why would you sleep with us when you didn’t want to?”
She closes her eyes briefly. She knows there is no way out of this. She could lie, but they won’t believe her. “I needed to feel safe,” she says, hoping that is enough.
Clint remains expressionless, but Steve, Thor, and Bruce look shocked by her words. Tony doesn’t. She’s sure he’s already figured this out. And she’s equally sure that he understands, on some level.
“I don’t understand,” Steve says.
“What good will this do you?” Natasha asks. There’s no way to soften the blow. This will hurt them. “Knowing that I came to each of you because I needed to know you would be there for me? That you would be loyal to me, in some small way, because I’d let you have my body?”
They are all silent for a long time. Then Clint mutters something and gets up, leaving the room.
She watches him go. “Excuse me, please,” she says, following him out.
Clint is waiting for her in the hall, and it’s all in his eyes. She flinches looking into them.
“I’m sorry,” she says, because it’s the only thing she can think to say. It’s not enough, will never be enough to salve the hurt she sees.
“I thought—” He laughs humorlessly. “God, I really thought you loved me.”
“I was careful to make sure you did,” she says. She doesn’t try to make him believe that he was the exception, that he was the one she came to because she really did feel something for him. Even though she knows she could probably convince him.
He doesn’t say anything, so she says, “I owe you my life,” trying to explain.
He shakes his head. “They really fucked you up in that program, didn’t they?” he says.
She wants to say something more, but remains silent. When Clint starts walking away, she lets him go.
She would have given him anything. Too late she’s realized it’s what she can’t give him that matters.