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Like a moth to a flame

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2012

S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier

4 months after the Battle of New York

 

 

There were few unreachable things in this world for Natasha Romanoff. She could count them with less than the fingers of one hand. 

Family, motherhood, peace.

She wouldn’t ever say it aloud, but the fact that there were so few things she couldn’t have was exactly what kept alive a minuscule flame of hope inside her chest.

That’s why she was an Avenger. No family? Get yourself a band of dysfunctional superheroes as a substitute, and Nick Fury as the ultimate badass paternal figure (not that either of them would ever acknowledge the way they felt about each other, but Nat knew, deep down, words weren’t necessary).

Motherhood? Being Auntie Nat to Clint’s kids was something she didn’t take for granted and still, she knew it wasn’t enough. And perhaps one day she could make her peace with that. One day. Not now. 

Talking about peace: if she couldn’t have peace of mind, at least she would fight for the rest of the world to have it. At some point. Because – wasn’t the whole point of the Avengers to come to a day when they weren’t needed?

So yes, some things she couldn’t get by changing names, batting her eyelashes at someone or flirt her way out of a situation. 

But the list was so short that when she met Maria Hill she was beyond pissed to have to add another line to it.

When Fury recruited her there was quite a fuss among ranks on the helicarrier. Clint even commented that it was almost as intense as when Natasha joined S.H.I.E.L.D. At first, Barton thought that professional jealousy could be the root for Natasha’s unprecedented curiosity for Agent Hill. The crew had renamed her as Agent Eye Candy, Deputy Director Blue Eyes, Hotshot Ice Queen… all wildly inappropriate, of course, but perhaps Natasha felt like she had been ousted as the object of desire of the whole crew. Clint knew she never liked the title, and that Natasha flirted with everyone just to remain in character, to keep the walls up; it’s not like she didn’t despise sexism and harassment, but her training had taught her to remain in control even in the most awful of situations. Sex and sensuality were weapons for Natasha, and she had mastered them as well as knives and guns. 

So, perhaps her little obsession with Hill was empathy? Natasha’s defence strategy had always been that of remaining inaccessible for everyone, occasionally breaking hearts with her overconfident smirks and swing of hips during combat training, charming everyone with her straightforward humour. 

But Hill… she truly was an Ice Queen. It was obvious that some of the buzz had reached her ears. She never seemed to be bothered by the mess deck rumour mill. Everyone wondered why she never took days off or shore leave. What made her so special that she was recruited to be Fury’s second, just like that? She commanded respect, trust, a little fear, too… and it was not as if no one could make her smile. She was so annoyingly by-the-book, yes, but she knew when to make a joke or how to respond to witty remarks from her subordinates. She was excellent with public speeches, presentations, briefings, combat analysis, tactical decisions and capable of convincing birds to fly in the opposite direction. She built excellent rapport with her team, and she was accessible when someone needed her to solve a problem. Yet not a word of her personal life or an out-of-place remark left her mouth, ever. 

She was a fucking role-model, and that made Natasha’s blood boil, for some reason.

Clint liked her. She was reasonable, most of the time, and balanced Fury’s ruthlessness quite well.

Natasha, on the other hand, could not make her mind up. All she saw behind Hill’s behaviour was strategy, methodology, survival techniques. Hill was a professional from head to toe, and every movement of her body, every word she let herself pronounce was a calculated step to produce a specific response from her team.

She was scary because she was better than Fury at the game of bringing people together by manipulating them with words, saying exactly what they wanted to hear. And better yet, she knew when to stay silent.

It was clear she made an effort, every day, to be ordinary. And that’s why Natasha knew she was hiding that she was nothing of the sort.

What pissed Natasha the most was that Hill seemed to use this gift genuinely: each time she created a strategy, each time she measured her words to accommodate them to her interlocutor, Hill appeared to be truly taking into account the greater good and what was best for everyone and the feelings and hopes of the other person and– ugh! Natasha knew there had to be more. It drove her crazy for a year, since Hill had joined S.H.I.E.L.D. Hacking her file had left her with more questions than answers, and as good as she was at hiding her hobby, as Clint referred to it, Barton found it incredibly amusing and told Natasha she needed to find herself a boyfriend because her unfounded suspicions about Hill were the product of boredom.

 

New York was horrible. Many people died. But they had saved Manhattan and, potentially, the world, so morale was off the charts. It had helped that the Avengers were a thing now, and they occasionally worked on the helicarrier. Everyone felt like part of the team. 

STRIKE Team Delta still did some missions for S.H.I.E.L.D., and when the Black Widow and Hawkeye were aboard, everyone pushed to give their best. It was a bonus for the crew: the ship was already ran with an almost perfect balance of Fury’s implacable pragmatism and Hill’s unfaltering commitment.

 


 

 

Clint found Natasha on the conference room above the bridge. Her arms were crossed over her chest. She hadn’t changed out of her field suit. Their mission had ended hours ago. She watched silently as the familiar symphony of the bridge played below her.

“You’re just hurt because she turned you down. You really can hold a grudge, Tasha.”

“What?”

“Hill, obviously.”

Clint approached her and Natasha frowned, shaking her head slightly. When Clint reached her side, he sighed as he confirmed how perfectly placed Maria Hill’s post was on the line of Natasha’s view.

“You tried everything with her, and it got you nowhere. Girls nights out that she politely declined, sparring sessions you lost on purpose, help with stupid missions you could’ve done with the tip of your pinkie… you were so obvious, so sloppy. When you found out she's gay, you tried to seduce her, remember?”

“I did not.”

“You did. Amateur.”

Natasha scoffed.

“S.H.I.E.L.D. punishes fraternisation.”

“As if that’s stopped you before.”

Clint looked at her now, his voice showing a little more concern than he intended to.

“But, seriously, you tried it and she said no, thank you, as if you were offering her a piece of bread while having lunch. No follow up, no sexual tension afterwards… You are still hurt, Romanoff. No man or woman has ever turned you down before. That’s the reason you still come up here every time we come back.”

Natasha closed her eyes for a moment and shook her head.

“You’re wrong, Clint, there has been people–”

“…who said no but you eventually charmed your way in. Not with Hill. And you didn’t even wanted her, you just wanted to be right about her, to feed your master spy ego. But she shut you out and you are going crazy trying to understand why.”

“That’s not…”

Natasha paused herself the moment she registered the pitch of her voice going higher than usual. Clint nodded his head at her, no more teasing in his tone.

“Let her be, Tasha. It’s obvious she’s on our side, and that’ll have to do. She’s a puzzle you can’t solve, there’s magic in that. Just let her be. You should focus on more tangible, rewarding things.”

“Like what?”

“Get yourself a boyfriend.”

Natasha’s laugh echoed through the room and Clint’s concerns let his body as that wonderful sound reached his ears.

“You’re out of your mind, Barton.”

“C’mon! It will be so much fun. Double-date with me and Laura? I know the perfect nerd.”

“Who?”

“Banner, of course. Laura suggested it, actually. It’s amazing how she hasn’t met the guy and already thought he would be perfect for you.”

“Banner? What–”

“You don’t like him?”

“Uh, I don’t know, it’s just…”

“So… he’s a good guy. Except when the other guy comes out, you know what I mean? Give him a chance, Tasha, you might find something interesting.”

He’s not a puzzle I can’t solve, Natasha thought. There’s no magic in that, I have him already figured out.

Natasha swallowed hard. She caught a glimpse of Hill’s upright figure, her hands crossed behind her back, giving orders, commanding the bridge like she was born to do it. Clint misunderstood Natasha’s silence for a moment of self-consciousness. He liked to see her at a loss of words, from time to time, knowing only he got to see the not-so-confident side of the mighty Black Widow. He put a friendly hand on her shoulder, and Natasha snapped back to reality. 

Let her be, Clint’s words resonated in her mind.

“Ok. Banner. I’ll think about it,” she said with her best playful smile, that one not even her best friend could tell was fake.

 

 

 

 

 

2014

Avengers Tower

6 months after the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D

 

 

 

As the elevator finally reached Stark’s penthouse, Maria could feel herself already regretting being here. She had been foolish enough to accept Pepper’s invitation. But she had told her everyone was going to be there, and it certainly had been a long time since they had spent some time together, all of them, just hanging out.

Tony was the first one to spot her, and yes, hearing the first words that came out of his mouth, she immediately knew this was a mistake. Too late.

“Oh, no girlfriend tonight, Hill? Smart choice, the guys here would be drooling over her all night. I’m telling you, Hill’s going out with one of the most beautiful ladies in the Stark staff… uh, ah, coming in third to Maria herself and Pepper, of course, who sits at number one and is the queen and owner of my absolutely taken, enslaved heart.”

Rhodey’s laugh echoed through the room, though everyone else was eyeing Pepper intently and holding their breath.

“Nice save, boss.” Happy chimed in, not happy at all.

Pepper took Maria’s coat in her hands and smiled at Tony, her eyes screaming murder.

“Yes, very nice indeed.” The CEO said, simply, and disappeared off to hang Maria’s coat or perhaps to burn Tony’s AC/DC vinyl collection.

Maria scanned the room quickly and saw the usual suspects: Thor, dressed in Earthly clothes, chatting with Steve and Sam; Clint reclined on the couch, looking unapologetically amused by Stark’s fuck up with Pepper; Rhodey and Happy, trying to fit in with visible effort; and sitting on the corner, sipping from a straw in a piña colada, Natasha was glaring at her intensely, looking stunning as always in a short red dress. She seemed to be miles away from whatever story Banner was telling her. Bruce was sitting intently close to her, and Maria adverted her eyes from them and proceeded to properly greet everyone. Thor had other plans, though, because the God of Thunder engulfed her in a bear hug and patted her back as if she was one of his Asgardian comrades. Luckily, he released her quickly so she could resume breathing. He squeezed her shoulders, gentler this time, and began to speak with the goofiest grins she’d ever seen on the guileless god.

“Well done, Lady Maria, the joy of my friends dances like my own joy in the hall of my heart. Are you planning on bringing little Ladies Hill or little Lords Hill to the world with your beautiful maiden?”

She could see from the corner of her eye that everyone was trying hard not to burst out in laughter at Thor’s words and her perplexed look of horror. Everyone, but Romanoff.

“Uh… that’s not how it works, Thor, and I haven’t even met her parents yet so no, no continuing the House of Hill for now…”

“Ah, your love’s still young, then.” Thor raised a glass in his hand and put an arm around Maria, keeping her close. He looked to everyone else, proudly. “I can perform weddings since I’m royalty.” He turned to Maria again, more than excited. “Let me know if you need me if ever you decide to make your lady your betrothed.”

Patting his chest gently, Maria finally set herself free of Thor’s attention.

If that happens, Thor, you will certainly be the first one to know.”

“Imagine Thor performing Maria’s gay wedding. You’re already a lesbian icon, my friend, you don’t need to increase your legend,” Sam laughed through his remark. Maria thought about walking to the bar and pouring herself a drink, but she was too aware of a pair of green eyes, enigmatically fixated on her.

“The Lesbian People love me a great deal, that is correct, young Sam, and I’m happy to be their champion!” Maria couldn’t help but smile at Thor’s enthusiasm. He was genuinely made of sunshine. He put a glass in Maria’s hand, who was unable to protest as Thor kept rambling on. “Raise your glasses my friends, for Lady Maria and her absent beloved!”

As everyone else drank to the God’s toast, Natasha put her piña colada on Banner’s hand and said something in his ear. He nodded slowly, his eyes showing a little confusion. She stood up and graciously walked towards Hill, grabbing her gently by the arm and whispering something, only for Maria to hear.

“Come with me.”

Maria didn’t have time to process the request as Natasha pulled her close and she was literally being dragged out of the room, focussing her attention on not falling while keeping up with Natasha’s steps. After a few seconds, they found themselves in one of Tony’s bathrooms for guests. Natasha finally released Maria’s arm to lock the door behind her.

 

Back in the room, everyone seemed a little perplexed. 

“Wait. What was that?” Tony asked to the air.

Barton shrugged it off and poured himself another drink.

“Girl stuff, probably. They haven’t seen each other in ages, they’re going to gossip about Maria’s girlfriend and Banner’s obliviousness.”

And Banner just showed his perpetual frown.

“What?”

 

Meanwhile, in one of Stark’s eight bathrooms, things were also a bit confusing. 

“What the hell, Romanoff?”

“You have a girlfriend.”

Natasha’s voice was flat, toneless. She crossed her arms over her chest and just regarded Maria with an unreadable expression.

Of all the things Maria was expecting, that kind of statement was not on her list.

“Uh… well, yes.”

“Why?”

Natasha took a step forward, but nothing changed in her voice and body language. She didn’t even blink.

“What do you mean, why?” Maria scoffed as a lock of brown hair set itself free from her low bun.

“You didn’t have a girlfriend when you were with S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Maria shook her head and laughed this time. In part because she couldn’t believe how weird Romanoff could be sometimes, in part because the intensity of her green eyes on her was creating heat in her cheeks and wetness between her legs. And she hated all that. And she had to conceal it, somehow.

“Are you sure about that?”

“Yes.”

“Are you even hearing yourself, Romanoff, what is wrong with you?”

Natasha took another step forward.

“Answer my question, please.” 

Maria mirrored the spy’s pose and crossed her arms over her chest, her bewilderment giving room to utter annoyance.

“Okay. I don’t know why I have a girlfriend… it’s just something adults do when they’re attracted to each other and have things in common and find it pleasant to spend time together?”

Natasha took another step, and now she was on Maria’s personal space, their chests inches from each other. Natasha looked up into those sapphire eyes and for a moment, Hill forgot how to breathe. She hated herself in this very second, she hated that Natasha had injected her venom in her while she was defenceless, distracted, out of practice. She knew better than to let herself be trapped in the spider’s web, but Natasha had made a move on her prey too quickly, too expertly. 

“How long have you been together?”

Natasha’s unperturbed gaze lowered a little, and Maria could feel her heart beating loudly in her chest as those green eyes landed on her cleavage. She didn’t flinch, though, she wouldn’t give her the satisfaction.

“What is this, court-martial?” Maria asked, her voice now dangerously low despite her futile attempt at humour. 

Natasha’s eyes seemed lost, only for a second, and the next sentence, she spoke it with something Maria had never seen her display: vulnerability.

“How long? Please, tell me.”

It was a trick, Maria knew, but she voluntarily stepped into the trap.

“Three months – no, four.”

Something dark crossed Natasha’s eyes. She smiled, for the first time since she had decided to catch Maria in her web. It wasn’t a real smile. Maria could see sadness, guilt… jealousy? It couldn’t be. Natasha had no right. Not here. Not now.

Romanoff took another step and now Maria’s back was pressed against the bathroom wall. The tiles were cold against the black silk of her Armani. Natasha wet her lips, and Maria could feel her breath against her chin. She was having a very hard time not to close her eyes and beg her to step away from her. Before–

“What’s her name?” It was just a whisper now, and Maria wondered how someone’s voice could make her physically hurt.

“I don’t think you should follow down this path, Natasha…” Maria finally gave in. She closed her eyes, her voice pleading for Romanoff to stop, to put an end to whatever this was. But the torture was only beginning. She felt Natasha’s fingertips caressing her jawline. She closed her eyes even tighter.

“What’s her name? Tell me.”

Natasha’s touch was doing something to Maria’s blood now. She felt it boiling inside her arms, her chest, her sex…

Blue met green and this time, Maria didn’t blink.

“Rachel. Her name’s Rachel.”

“Is she pretty?”

Natasha kept her tone casual, but her hand changed Maria’s cheek for her hips, joined by the other, squeezing gently and pinning Maria against the wall. There was no escape from the trap now.

Maria took a deep breath, closing her eyes again, having a hard time picturing Rachel’s face. She was blonde. Tall, with long, tanned legs. Brown gentle eyes. She was absolutely beautiful. And she wasn’t Natasha.

“Yes… she’s… uh, she’s g– she’s pretty, yes.”

“Do you love her?”

Eyes wide open now, Maria regarded Natasha as if cold water had been splashed against the back of her neck. 

“That’s it, Romanoff, you must be drunk already–“

Maria took Natasha’s wrists in her hands, trying to jerk away from the Widow’s grasp. But the spider hold was tight on her prey.

“Do you love her, Maria?” Natasha repeated again, sinking her nails in Maria’s hips. Maria hesitated.

Hill’s eyes turned deep blue sea dark, and Natasha could see real water welling up behind them.

“Tell me, do you?” Natasha’s voice was just a whisper now, daring Maria to stop fighting the venom.

And Hill would hate herself for it in the future, but she gave in. Her voice broke, finally.

“You have no right to ask me something like that.”

Natasha nodded and closed her eyes. Then, she did something unexpected.

Romanoff released her hold on Hill’s hips only to wrap her hands around her waist. She rested her head against Hill’s chest. She listened to Maria’s accelerated heartbeat, and let herself be rocked by the tide of her breathing, her eyes closed, her mind unable to process the peace it all brought to her, instantly. 

Maria’s body was rigid, unsure whether this was the spider’s final bite, or if she was being shown mercy. After long seconds, she couldn’t feel any venom on her blood, so she mirrored Romanoff’s actions with an unexpected gesture of her own.

Maria rested her chin over the top of Natasha’s head, and wrapped her arms around her. She held her against her chest, and cursed to herself as she confirmed something she had suspected for years: their bodies fit perfectly, as if they were hand-made to be joined together, like two missing pieces of a puzzle.

They stood like that, in each other’s arms, for what felt like an eternity, but was still too short.

“Do you love her?”

There was no coldness in Natasha’s tone this time. No more games. There was hurt, hesitation, guilt.

Maria sighed and held the redhead in her arms even tighter. 

“Do you love Banner?”, she asked back. It was a simple question, no cruelty behind it.

Natasha looked up to Maria, their eyes locking immediately, their mouths closer like never before.

“I don’t know. Perhaps. Yes. I could.” 

Maria nodded as she gave Natasha the saddest of smiles.

“You have your answer, then.”

Maria hated how her voice sounded so defeated, so lost.

“I want to hear it from you. Do you love her, Maria?”

There was no hesitation this time.

“No.”

Natasha responded to that by placing a chaste, slow kiss to the tip of Maria’s chin. Hill closed her eyes, she was on the edge of falling apart.

“Could you break her heart, ever?” Natasha asked, her voice the softest Maria had ever heard it.

Another kiss to her jawline. Maria felt a hand slowly going up her thigh, caressing her hips, reaching her waist, sending electricity down her legs when it reached the elastic of her underwear…

“Natasha…”

And another kiss. And another, this time below her earlobe. Natasha sucked the skin there, and then she licked her neck as if she was a lioness. She wanted Maria to smell like her, to be imprinted with her essence, her bite marks, to inject the venom of the Widow in her veins, forever. 

“Tell me to stop. Tell me to stop, Maria, and I’ll stop.”

Maria couldn’t help herself when her head tilted to the side, exposing more skin to Natasha’s expert lips. The redhead seized the opportunity and took Maria’s earlobe in her mouth, glad that the ex-agent wasn’t wearing any earrings tonight, biting her gently as one hand on Maria’s hip helped her keep her balance and the other went inside Maria’s underwear, past her pubic hair and into her sex.

“God… what are you – doing…” Maria’s breathing came in ragged gasps now.

Natasha knew exactly what she was doing.

“Something I should’ve done a long time ago.”

Natasha found the tip of Maria’s clit and began to circle it, not surprised when she felt more than enough wetness to help her task.

Maria’s hand rested on Natasha’s shoulder, squeezing hard as a curse, a plea and a burden came out of her mouth, all in one word.

“Fuck.”

Natasha was fascinated by the way Maria responded to her touch, she couldn’t have enough of her, she couldn’t understand how she lived all those years without these sounds; she couldn’t imagine herself going back to the emptiness of not having her. 

“Tell me to stop. And I’ll stop, I promise.” Natasha’s mind didn’t really think she could stop if Maria asked her to, but she had to be sure this was something they both wanted. For an answer, there were Maria’s moans.

“Oh, God.”

Natasha kissed her neck again, never stopping the rhythm of her fingers dancing with Maria’s clit. 

“It’s not God, Maria. It’s me.”

“Nat…”

Natasha kneeled before Maria, who lost her voice when she became aware of what the redhead was about to do. Romanoff creased Maria’s dress up to her waist. Hill gasped when she felt Natasha’s hands gripping her black panties and tearing them apart in one swift motion. Natasha dedicated her one final look, kneeling between her legs, as her hands came up to grasp Maria’s buttocks firmly. 

“Say my name, Maria. Say it.” The Russian hissed, never breaking eye contact.

Then, she launched herself forward and covered Hill’s sex with her mouth, circling her clit, moaning against wet folds, her tongue greeting every inch of her.

“Nat, fuck… ah!”

Natasha entered her smoothly with one finger, then two, while her tongue didn’t give Maria any kind of rest. Maria’s legs were trembling, faltering, so Natasha broke their contact only for a second, to bring one of Maria’s legs up across her shoulder and keep her steady against the wall. Soon they found a shared rhythm and Maria had to bite the inside of her cheek until she drew blood just to stop herself from screaming, while her hands messed up Natasha’s hair, clinging to her, letting her know how close she was.

Natasha wanted nothing else but to stay like that forever, but by some willpower she didn’t know she had, she was able to jerk away from Maria and stand up again. Maria moaned in protest, but it all went away when she looked at Natasha, regarding her with nothing but insatiable desire. She was raw, her chin dripping with Maria’s body fluids, her hair, a mess, her forehead sweating, her breath uneven. Her eyes, darker like Maria had never seen them. 

“Does she touch like this?” Natasha said, raising her hands to touch Maria’s breasts. She stepped forward, pressing her body against Maria’s. She took one of Hill’s hands in hers and placed it over one of her own breasts. Hill squeezed gently, and Natasha felt the world turning around her. “Do you come undone on her fingers like this?” Natasha let one hand over Maria’s right breast and with the other, she found her swollen clit, once again. Maria moaned against her head. “Do you think about me when she does this to you?” Natasha entered her with two fingers again, and Maria raised one leg to wrap it around Natasha’s waist. Natasha began a new pace, with Maria groaning in her ear. “Do you close your eyes, and see me? It took me just a second, Maria, just a second to know–”

"Ты заткнёшься наконец или нет?" (Will you shut the fuck up?) Maria whispered desperately against Natasha’s ear. The Russian words and the imperfect accent in Maria’s voice added fuel to Natasha’s desire.

They met halfway. The kiss was ravishing. They messed up their lipstick, their teeth clasped together, their tongues danced with each other sloppily and their saliva flowed  together until it was one, in the most chaotic of ways. They didn’t care.

It was their first kiss, and it had everything they had hoped for: passion, power, desperation. All the things that had been left unsaid over the years. And hunger. The ultimate hunger.

"Как красиво. Mоя Маша." (So beautiful. My Masha.)

Natasha kept whispering things in Russian, until she felt Maria coming apart in her hands. Maria’s orgasm washed through her with the power of a wave that also shocked Natasha, who had been unconsciously grinding against Maria’s thigh and felt a replicate of the earthquake inside her own body. There wasn’t any screams because they put that fire out in each other’s mouths. 

They trembled together for long seconds, and Natasha rested her head against the taller woman’s chest, thinking that the second movement of Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto no. 2, op. 18, had nothing on Maria’s heartbeat.

Natasha felt hands gently pushing her away, and watched dumbfounded as Maria cleaned herself, her body language showing nothing but the soldier she used to be. Fear or something worse crept up Natasha’s spine.

“What are you doing?”

Maria smiled at her quickly, fixing her hair in front of the mirror.

“There’s a party we need to go back to.”

Her voice was calm, her eyes showed something else.

Natasha took tentative steps towards her and placed a kiss on her bare shoulder.

“Maria?”

Hill jerked away.

“Stop.” The one word she couldn’t say a few minutes ago made Natasha’s heart skip a beat. “This… this was a mistake.” Maria finally breathed, looking down at her hands, her palms resting on the bathroom sink.

It was Natasha’s turn to be absolutely lost.

“What?”

“This never happened, Romanoff.”

“Are you out of your mind?”

Oh, how the tables had turned. Natasha couldn’t close her mouth, couldn’t believe she had her, she had her only to lose her now. And she couldn’t understand why she didn’t move, why she didn’t protest, why she didn’t anchor her hands to Maria’s waist and begged, pleaded for her to stay.

Maria shook her head and took a deep breath. She turned to Natasha, a condescending smile on her lips. So out of character. So not her Maria.

“Yes. Yes, I am out of my mind. So now, please, you get out of my head. This is it, Romanoff. I don’t want anything else from you. Fix your hair, redo your makeup. I’ll take the other bathroom, I’ll be done before you, wait a few minutes to go back to the party.” Maria said the words the same way she used to give orders on the helicarrier’s bridge, the same way she used to guide Natasha through missions. Collected. Calm. Indisputable.

Natasha didn’t even blink.

“You’re serious. You want to act as if nothing happened.”

Maria shrugged her shoulders and looked at her, ungraciously failing at seeming unconcerned.

“What were you expecting?”

Natasha took a deep breath. Whatever this was, whatever was coming in between them was not in the room with them a minute ago, when they were coming hard in each other’s arms. So that could only mean one thing. 

Natasha took a step forward and gently cupped her face, trying to lower Hill in order to meet her eyes.

“Maria… what are you not telling me? It’s me. You know I can help, whatever it is.”

Hill was about to give in, give in to a kiss, give in to the truth, give in to Natasha’s arms. She deserved this. She deserved to be able to send the rest of the world to Hell, for once, and not put everyone’s needs before hers. And rest, finally. Stop fighting.

But it just wasn’t in her nature.

She grasped Natasha’s hands, firmly, and took them away from her face. She closed her eyes, and once she was sure she had fought back the tears, she looked at Romanoff and said what was needed to be said.

“Stop. You said you would stop if I told you to. I’m asking you now, Natasha. Please stop.”

With that, Hill left the bathroom.

And Natasha stood there, speechless, suddenly remembering something they used to tell them in the Red Room: if you don’t have a heart, no one will break it.

Another lesson she had refused to learn.