The Day Marriage
Maria Hill doesn’t know she has a moiety until she’s eleven, and meets her grandparents for the first time – all four of them. They live across two neighbouring apartments in Little Italy, and have done so for over forty years.
“Yes,” says her Evening grandmother, touching her chin with one gentle finger, her eyes shining with bright tears. “Oh, yes, so like Liliana. Such a darling Evening girl.”
Moiety, it turns out, is one more thing Maria’s mother gave her, along with her life.
When Clint Barton wanders back from a mission trailing the Black Widow behind him, at least the hard cases high-up have no accusations of moiety bias since Barton has no moiety. Sex might be a consideration – still is to those who have no knowledge of his family – but there’s more in Barton that’s true to the point than just his arrows.
And there’s more to the Black Widow than the spy persona – a fact which becomes brutally clear when S.H.I.E.L.D starts to peel back her layers, trying to work out who she was, what she’s become, and why she turned herself in to S.H.I.E.L.D.
As it turns out, Maria is the agent on duty when the woman screams once and then goes into a shuddering catatonia. And while her instructions are not to interact with the subject, her instincts tell her that physical contact will break whatever mental breakdown cycle the woman’s programming is imposing on her – a breakdown cycle that the sedatives they’re injecting may not be able to inhibit, risking her conversion and everything they’ve worked for so far.
Slapping the Black Widow is a risk, but then, bringing the Widow in was a risk, too, and S.H.I.E.L.D has so far survived that.
And Maria has always been one to judge her risks carefully.
The objection is a split-second too late. The Widow’s head has snapped up, and her gaze fixes on Maria, bright as the sun and as intense as a summer’s day.
Something tugs at Maria’s belly, a startling elemental pull of attraction, before the subject exhales and her lashes drift down over her eyes as the sedatives take effect.
At first, Maria discounts the contacts.
Romanoff brushes past her in the confines of the Quinjet hold, when there’s plenty of room to move around. One gloved hand picks a leaf from Maria’s hair as they crouch in muddy snow, waiting for the signal to move on the bunker. She stands too close while watching the feeds, leaning over Maria’s shoulder to tap through to the specific camera she wants.
It doesn’t click until the night they’re relaxing in a S.H.I.E.L.D safehouse: Maria checking her mail on the couch, Romanoff cleaning her weapons at the table.
Maria notices the silence; the steady sound of parts being moved around stops, and Romanoff is suddenly staring into empty space, the rasp of her breath loud in the apartment’s quiet. She notices the stillness, like the woman has been frozen where she sits.
“Natasha?” Maria waits a moment, then approaches to lay a hand on one slim shoulder. Cold skin under her hand, under the weft of the shirt—
The room spins in a twisting blur, walls, ceiling, light. The edge of the table is sharp against her lower back, hard metal digs into her back and she hisses in pain. She kicks out, uselessly, Romanoff’s hand hard at her throat. The blue eyes are blank and staring as though the Black Widow moved on instinct rather than thought.
Her eyes fix on Maria and her brows draw down. Then recognition pours in, like sunlight spilling through an opened door.
“Maria?” The hand pulls back as she steps back, her expression slightly shocked. “Was I triggered?”
“Apparently.” She manages to roll off the table, wincing as she straightens up. She’s going to have a nice set of bruises tomorrow. More concerning is the lack of rhyme or reason for the triggering. “Did you remember something?”
“I don’t—” Romanoff’s lashes drift down. “Evening,” she says, and her voice is softer, the accent more pronounced. And when she looks up, there’s a heat in her eyes.
In spite of the pain, in spite of the ache, in spite of the violence that heat jolts through Maria like a vibrator held against the clit.
“No,” she says, denying Romanoff, denying herself.
After that, Maria feels Romanoff’s eyes on her more often than not, observing her moves and her habits, watching her actions and choices.
Maria doesn’t sleep with her co-workers at S.H.I.E.L.D, and never has. She’s been careful not to follow up on any attraction she felt, even if it was returned.
The truth is that, even back at the Academy, she realised that any sexual relationship within S.H.I.E.L.D would involve the careful navigation of power and trust issues. Field operatives – the best ones – need to be good at lying, good at deception, good at seeming to be other than they are. Even if they’re not going undercover, they have to compartmentalise, because not everyone they encounter will have the classification for the job.
So the Black Widow’s sudden interest complicates things, even though Romanoff doesn’t wear her rejection, either in public or, so far as Maria can tell, in private.
She does confront Maria, just once.
“Is it because I’m a woman?”
“Because I’m the Black Widow?”
“Are you uninterested?”
“It’s not a question of interest,” Maria says, a little exasperated by the grilling. “It’s a question of trust and complications.”
Considering that previous propositions seemed to be more about getting her into bed because she presented a challenge, or because someone was looking for a weakness and figured that sex might be it, Maria thinks she has reason to be cautious.
And yes, she’s attracted to Romanoff; the woman is beautiful and terrifying and sensual in ways that make Maria’s mouth water. But attraction is not the same as acting on it.
“So you don’t trust me.” Romanoff doesn’t sound hurt; just thoughtful. God only knows what’s going through that brain of hers, though.
“I don’t trust anyone.” And, no, it’s not a particularly nice way to live, but it’s the only way she knows how.
Romanoff watches her for a long moment, before the blue eyes drop, the lashes lower, and she nods. “All right.”
It’s a strange thing for Natasha to realise how little she still knows herself. S.H.I.E.L.D may have given her back some parts of herself but other parts remain shadowy, even after the safehouse – the table, the light, the sudden fall of Evening...
She understands why Maria isn’t willing to make the move; but it still stings. This is the first time Natasha’s been able to choose her partner herself, and Maria’s unwilling. That thought doesn’t sit quite right, but she clings to it anyway, particularly when Hill – Maria – becomes careful after that, although nobody would know it for anything but fastidious.
Well, almost nobody.
“Should I ask what happened between you and Hill?” Clint asks as they prep for the mission and Maria calls in with their local contact to affirm the situation.
Natasha checks her ammunition cartridges. “No.”
Later, after they’ve come back rather more battered than they went in, Maria crouches down in the passenger hold, her fingers resting on the floor for balance, and offers another gel pack to replace the one that’s been on Natasha’s eye for the last hour. “You okay?”
“Sure.” Natasha lowers the gel pack from her eye. “Aches a bit.”
She watches Maria’s mouth quirk, then blinks when a finger reaches out and lifts her chin, angling her face up so Maria can better see the bruise.
Their eyes lock, blue to green in the darkened hold.
It’s at that moment Natasha realises that everything in Maria’s life is controlled – brutally, absolutely. There is nowhere that she can let go, no-one who can give her an outlet. And yet...something in Maria craves that release – to know and be known; Evening’s shadows giving way to Morning – the light of day.
Slowly – very slowly – Natasha leans forward and brushes her mouth across Maria’s, fitting her lips against the softness of her skin. A moment later, Maria’s lips part in acceptance of the kiss, and the fingertip against Natasha’s skin strokes down her throat, setting her senses aflame.
It’s only Clint’s call that they’re en route inbound to the Hub that separates them, smiling.
Sex with the Black Widow is, for want of a better word to describe it, intense.
Romanoff knows what she wants and knows how to go about it. Her body is a weapon, and Maria is the helpless, quivering victim under her hands and mouth and body.
Afterwards, she tries to remember how to breathe as Romanoff props her head up on one arm and trails her fingers over Maria’s thigh, smiling.
“No jokes about me biting your head off?”
“I’d need breath to do that. And a twisted sense of humour.”
The gesture the slender hand makes is very much, ‘And, your point is?’
Maria’s mouth twists as she pulls up the discarded bedsheet to ward off the post-coital cool-down and to cover her nakedness. And wonders where this goes next – if anywhere. For once, she wasn’t thinking about the day after when she climbed into bed with someone, the coil of care and concern overriding sense and consideration.
“This doesn’t change anything if you don’t want it to.”
Maria doesn’t ask how Romanoff knows what she’s thinking. The woman is a natural observer and a trained spy. Instead, she asks the expected return. “Do you want anything to change?”
A twitch of a smile. “This could get circular.” She considers for a moment. “I want you. That’s enough for me.”
Maria thinks about this for a while. Sex is one thing, a relationship is another, but at the end of the working day...
“I want someone to trust.” Someone to trust with her body, with her reputation, with intimacy, with all the things that she balances out of sight of S.H.I.E.L.D’s demands for her professional time and effort. And perhaps trusting the Black Widow is a risk but Maria has always been one to carefully judge risk.
It won’t be a relationship in the conventional sense of the word. They don’t need to be tender, or affectionate, or exclusive. Trust is enough – at least, it is for Maria. The question is whether it will be enough for Romanoff.
After a moment, Natasha’s mouth curves in a smile, the softness of it a little unexpected. “I can do that.”
I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start,
with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.
~J. B. Priestley~