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Last Resort

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“So, if that kiss in the mall wasn’t your first since 1945, does that mean you’ve gotten plenty since you came out of the ice?”

Steve didn’t even stop to question where she’d come from, how she’d found him, or how long she’d been around. With Natasha those kind of answers were rarely what he actually wanted to hear anyway. Instead he sighed and dragged another mug down out of the cupboard, absently pouring more milk into the saucepan of cocoa he was stirring. “It’s been actual years since that kiss. Are you ever going to let it go?”

“Will you ever give me a straight answer about it?” She sidled up beside him, leaning against the countertop. Her hair was darker now--some drugstore boxed brunette--and she was wearing a leggings-sweater-boots combo that made her look like every other young woman he might see in one of Ottawa’s many coffee shops.

“You looked better as a redhead.”

“You only say that because the red was natural.”

“You’re not wrong,” he admitted as the milk began to froth. “I like when you’re you and not whatever someone else wants you to be.” Without being asked she held the mugs steady for him to pour out the cocoa. She doctored both with whipped cream and cinnamon while he rinsed the pot, the two of them moving about his tiny galley kitchen with an ease that spoke of long familiarity. “Why are you here, Natasha?” he asked after everything was clean and they were both leaning against the counter with cocoa in hand.

Instead of answering, she asked another question, her eyes focused on cream she was swirling with her pinky. “When was the last time you had a good cuddle?”

“Would you please get off the subject of my love life?”

“Maybe I’m not asking for you.”

Realization hit him like a ton of bricks. He’d seen it almost a century ago in the army: soldiers struggling to ask for affection that they desperately needed. Touch starved. Natasha wouldn’t ask for that from anyone she didn’t trust, and she’d come to him. Gently, he took the cocoa from her hands and set both mugs aside before drawing her into the circle of his arms. She tucked her face against his chest--so small for all her terrifying power--and slipped her arms around his back. She relaxed against him almost instantly. He pressed his face against her hair, happy to find her scent the same despite the dye.

“You don’t have to ask for this, you know,” he assured her, rubbing one hand up and down her spine. “We’re friends.”

“Friends,” she snorted, flexing her fingers against his shoulders. She tipped her face up and gave him the most honest expression he’d ever seen. “Rogers, I’ve been putting the moves on you for years, and you never take the bait. Asking was the last resort.”

Well. That changed things. As he lowered his lips to hers he promised to never make her ask again.