Natasha sighed, almost a declaration of relief, as she turned the key to shut off the ignition. They had arrived at their next abode in one piece.
“You weren’t kidding about the view,” Sam noted as he glanced out the back seat window of the Titan they stole back in Russia.
The small resort town of Sevan sat at the edge of a crystalline lake, overlooking a vast canopy of mountains across the water.
“This place is quite the hidden gem, boys,” Natasha’s gaze fell to the glistening peaks for a brief moment, then to Steve, next to her in the passenger seat.
“We should be able to lay low here for a while,” Steve proclaimed, surveying the scene through the windshield, “We can blend in with the tourists.”
The three procured their bags and trudged toward the entrance to the inn. It was quaint, but Steve could surmise that this stay would fortunately be one of their more pleasant endeavours of the last year. Although, a part of him was concerned that their presence in Sevan would inevitably disrupt its tranquility. At this time of year, there were many families staying at the nearby resort.
They were tracking Soviet arms dealers en route to Aleppo. Some of the mercenaries, led by a man named Dusan Chadov, were ex Hydra operatives in possession of leftover Chitauri tech. Natasha had suspected that they too would be passing through Sevan any day now; she’d managed to place a tracker on the caravan during their last covert encounter. Sevan’s more sparse population would make it an ideal place to subdue them before they could reach the rendezvous in Syria. This would be their last opportunity with the element of surprise still preserved. One problem at a time, she hoped.
A soft rush of cool air enveloped them as they stepped into the lobby. By the time Steve was finished assessing the scene, he could see Natasha already conversing with a woman at the front desk. She flashed one of her signature smiles while exchanging phrases in Armenian.
“Are there any languages she doesn’t speak?” Sam murmured, leaning toward Steve while they both observed.
“I don’t think so,” Steve replied softly, punctuated with a slight curl of his lips as he watched Natasha. Still smirking, she sashayed back toward them, dangling a room key in her hand.
It was objectively an upgrade from anywhere they had previously stayed since fleeing RAFT. The walls, and sheets of the two double beds were a pristine white. A single painting of the mountains was mounted on the wall above them. However, this room still had a story to tell; the faint scent of stale carpet and dust collected on the corners and edges of the ceiling and base boards.
“So just the one room, huh?” Sam raised a brow, then gently released the handles of his duffel bags and hopped backward onto one of the beds, “Damn, this ain’t bad though,” he squirmed and dug his neck further into the mattress.
“It’s the only vacancy they had...I’ll take the floor,” Natasha declared as her eyes settled on the expanse of grey carpet between the two beds, “It can’t be worse than Kursk.” She raised her shoulder in a slight shrug.
“No you’re not, I will,” Steve uncrossed his arms and moved off of the wooden dresser he was leaning on.
“I’ll be fine, Steve. Your shoulder is still healing,” she placed a hand ever so lightly on his bicep, the same spot where a bullet had hit him that same night in Kursk, roughly three days earlier.
Seeming unphased by her touch, he stared into her eyes as he uttered softly, “Nat, you know that’s not an issue.”
“Can we deal with this later?” Sam interjected, breaking the awkward tension, “I’m like, starving.”
After settling in and hiding their weapons, they went to explore the town’s single main strip and grab dinner, posing as a young couple and their best man scouting Sevan for their destination wedding.
They had just been seated on a restaurant patio overlooking the water when Natasha decided to flip a coin to determine who would play her husband. The setting sun cast an incandescent glow over the lake and mountains. Nat and Sam were lost in their laughter, spitting out ideas that fed into the cover story’s ridiculousness. Steve couldn’t help but smile fondly at the sight of his friends enjoying a pure moment of serenity. There had been very little time for moments like this. Just then Natasha’s newly blonde hair caught a glint of the remaining sunlight. When she had dyed it just before they left Kursk, he fixated on the desaturation of her fiery complexion; hated it because it represented yet another part of them that they had to strip apart just to survive. But now, as this light immortalized her smile surrounded by wisps of silver and gold, it was already starting to grow on him.
“...I still say it should be two grooms and a female wedding planner,” she mused, slowly removing the hand covering the coin.
“Haha, yes!” Sam exclaimed. It jolted Steve out of his revere.
“Sam,” Nat teased, “I’m very flattered, but you do know how this works, right? The mask comes off once we’re behind closed doors.”
“Just the mask?” He continued playing along.
Steve coughed into his glass of water as he was taking a sip, taken aback by Sam’s boldness. He knew they were just joking around, but a small part of him was starting to wonder if Sam harboured a genuine interest in Natasha.
Natasha looked at both of them once more before another chuckle escaped her lips. “Well, don’t you think you should buy me a drink first, hubby?”
“Excellent idea,” Sam exclaimed, straightening up as he slapped a hand down onto the edge of the table.
“The caravan could be arriving any time soon. We don’t wanna be caught off guard,” Steve leaned in and whispered, trying to be discreet.
“Well,” Natasha pulled out her burner phone, “My tracer has them pegged as still being about seventeen hours out. And it transmits an audio feed over a secure channel. They made a pit stop in Nalchik, and assuming they haven’t caught on, should be arriving tomorrow afternoon.” She shifted her gaze back up towards the guys, while she tucked the burner back into her pocket, another playful smirk tugging at her cheeks, “Like I said, Sevan is a rare gem.”
”A bar crawl would help us learn the terrain,” Sam made a gesture with his arms, raising his hand to eye level and sliding it away from his face, “We scout around, grab a few drinks, then we got the game plan for tomorrow’s showdown.”
“Alright fine,” after a long pause, Steve held up his hands in defeat, grinning and slightly shaking his head, “Let’s live a little.”
They paid for their meals with a few dram coins, wandering the streets for a short while before stopping at a bar with loud, inviting music. A single blue neon sign adorned the wall above the entrance, depicting the name of the establishment in Armenian characters.
The entire inside seemed to exhibit dark earthy tones, with all of the furniture a deep varnished wood. It was dimly lit with a warm incandescence, and a few primary coloured spot lights floating about the space in abstract patterns. The front side featured a long bar with tables across from it. In the back, a few people were dancing in front of a small, oddly caged booth with a dj inside.
The trio made their way to an opening at the bar. Sam threw his arm around Natasha, and she scoffed playfully. “What’ll it be, woman?”
“Whiskey. Sour. Ts’itrus,” she directed the onlooking bartender and glanced to both of the boys for approval.
“We’ll take three of those and a round of Dos Equis,” Sam added as he held up three fingers.
“Shnorhakalut’yun,” Natasha added, thanking the bartender.”
They kicked back the whiskey sours in a matter of seconds, taking more time to sip on the beers. Eventually Natasha, with the support of Sam, ordered a couple rounds of vodka shots, leaving four of them for Steve in an attempt to actually get him to feel something.
“I’m telling you, it’s not gonna work,” Steve laughed as the bartender slid the glasses toward them, “...unless this place serves Asgardian mead.”
“Have more faith in Stolichnaya,” Natasha handed him two of the four shots. They caught each other’s gaze for a brief moment.
They clinked glasses before tapping them once more against the bar edge and throwing them back.
Steve downed two more of them immediately after the first. Natasha raised an eyebrow at the sight.
Just then the music changed. Sam’s eyes lit up and he immediately raised a fist, beginning to bop his head to the beat. Steve couldn’t recognize the song, but he knew the genre was called rap.
Sam’s energy was infectious. Both Steve and Natasha smiled and chuckled as they watched their friend begin to rap along to the lyrics. Shortly after, Natasha found herself mouthing some phrases of the chorus. Steve was swaying ever so slightly, admittedly finding the song catchy as well.
Sam pointed to Natasha then, beckoning her to join him. Her lips pressed into a smirk, she took his hand and he spun her around so that her back was to him. She let her eyes flutter closed for a brief second, then began to sway her hips to the music while leaning against Sam. Sam clutched at her hips in response, still rapping along to the song.
Steve felt as if he were watching in slow motion. He was aware of how much dancing had changed, but their movements seemed intimate. He swallowed hard as he watched Natasha’s face, the sight of Sam’s hands resting on her hips, and the way she moved them. He couldn’t tear his gaze away, and he hated it. He reached for the last shot and downed it instantly. He wanted to surmise that his friends truly had a mutual interest in one another, but he couldn’t discern why the thought bothered him. Maybe it was the moments he and Natasha shared trapped in the secret underground Korennaya catacombs of Kursk, just a few days prior.
Chadov’s men had cornered him and Natasha, after being separated from Sam. They were lured into a chasm with no way of climbing back up, and his shoulder had just been shot. It had felt like hours in the dark, with no signal to the comms, and they were convinced that no one was coming for them, that Sam had been killed or captured. Natasha had wanted to keep Steve talking to distract him from the pain. He remembered focusing only on her voice, and in those moments, presuming those depths to be their tomb, she had shared things with him that she had never shared with anyone. He remembered the kiss, her soft lips pressed chastely to his temple, and then finally his own lips, where they stayed until Redwing had finally found them. Sam had emerged roughly twenty minutes later with new grapple hooks and all the details about what had conspired above ground.
The abrupt music change brought him back to the present. Natasha had finally broken apart from Sam, mouthing something about finding the ladies room. Sam pulled out two stools at the bar and motioned for Steve to sit down.
“So do you wanna tell me why you’ve been unusually quiet since we left Kursk?” Sam took a swig of what remained of his beer.
“What do you mean? I’m fine,” Steve answered before motioning to the bartender.
“Well for one, you’re actually trying to get drunk,” Sam studied him intently as he muttered a thank you and apprehended another glass of whiskey. After another brief moment he sighed, “Y’know I’m not actually trying to sleep with Nat,” his eyes were peeled to a poster behind the bar. At the sound of the words, he could see Steve’s head whip around to face him in his peripheral. He smiled.
“Sam, I don’t—“
“Oh please,” Sam raised an eyebrow, “You think I’ve already forgotten what went down in those caves?”
Steve sighed, “We thought we were gonna die there, Sam. It didn’t mean anything in the long run.”
“Then why haven’t you been able to take your eyes off of her since we left?”
Steve went quiet, exhaling softly, giving Sam a look of defeat.
“Look,” Sam continued, “I’m just gonna drop my advice, whether you want it or not,” he smirked, “I’ve known you guys for three years now, and I noticed it the day you crashed in my guest room.”
“This...thing,” Sam gestured arbitrarily with one hand, “You’re always thinking the same, moving in sync with each other. You wanna know how I see it? You should just share the damn bed already.”
“Mmhm, and what about the cover, Cavalier?” He jovially raised an eyebrow before taking a swig of his whiskey.
Sam froze, deadpanned before continuing, “Steve, look around. There ain’t a damn person in this town who knows black from white right now,” he gestured to the bar full of drunk people, “We joked about having a fallback but honestly, nobody here’s paying attention. They’re on vacation and you know what, so are we,” he lightly tapped Steve on the shoulder, beer in hand. His face lit up, “...for the next...sixteen-ish hours,” Sam laughed as he stumbled over his own words, with Steve joining him.
After a pause, Steve sighed, “You had all this planned since we got here didn’t you?” he chuckled, shaking his head.
Sam shrugged, trying to conceal a grin, “You really get to know the people you’re on the run with, in this case, even better than they know themselves.”
“So who’s ready for another round?” Natasha appeared from behind in between them, draping an arm across each of their shoulders.
Sam slid slightly away from the bar, staring off into the distance behind Nat’s head, then he adjusted to address both of his friends, “Have a shot for me, I’m gonna go scope out the terrain for a bit,” he shifted his gaze to the source of his distraction, a young brunette woman with long, silky hair and full lips, sitting at a booth across the bar with a few friends. She was giving Sam some looks, beckoning him to go over and talk.
As he got up from his stool, Natasha watched with amused bewilderment, her brows furrowed and mouth held agape, “Hey, are you cheating on me?” she scoffed out a laugh and then turned back toward Steve who shook his head and smiled as he threw back the last of his whiskey, “Well clearly someone’s having a riot,” she concluded as she took Sam’s seat. She beckoned for two more Stolichnaya shots from the bartender.
“He said the cover’s bullshit,” Steve turned toward her, raising his brows.
“Didn’t think he’d get bored of me that quickly,” she joked as she slid him another shot.
Steve could swear he started to feel the alcohol actually kick in, “Well for what it’s worth, you’re the most interesting person I know,” he remarked, studying her intently as he held the shot in his hand.
She caught his gaze and smiled softly. She stood then, lifting her glass toward his. He followed suit, leaning closer to her so he could hear her, “To rare gems and neon lights.” Their eyes caught one another’s as their glasses met, and they took the shots. Steve became hyper aware of her proximity then. He began to slowly pull back.
Suddenly, Natasha gripped his elbow, stopping him, “Don’t move,” she continued with a stoic undertone, her lips inches away from his ear, ”Two agents just walked in. Locals.”
Steve tensed under her grip. He swallowed hard before following her lead, turning to get an inconspicuous look at the men. He lightly placed his lips on the expanse of neck just under her ear. “We need to move.”
Nat reached for Steve’s hand, and with the other, pulled out her burner phone to send Sam a message. Code blue. 6 minutes.
“You think it’s Chadov, or us?” Steve continued, his lips to her ear. The men took a seat at two stools relatively close to the door. One of them began talking to the bartender, his voice washed out by the music
“Could be a coincidence. There’s no way to know,” her lips were inches from his, “We need to head to the back...blend in.”
Steve slid an arm around her waist, pulling her toward the crowd of dancers.
Natasha led him through the commotion, gently and calmly pushing their way through. Finally, she stopped once they were completely enveloped. She spun around, leaning her back against Steve’s chest so they could both observe the agents. She slung an arm behind her, around Steve’s neck, pulling his head down to her level so she could speak, “You remember the escalator? Now you’re the cover. Follow my lead.”
Before he could react, she was swaying her hips to the music, the back of her head pressed into his shoulder. Steve was attempting to watch the agents, but he felt his brain short circuit once Natasha began grinding her hips into his pelvis. He closed his eyes for a brief second, taking a deep breath to drink in her scent, and process just how close they were. Feeling him hesitate, she reached for both of his hands, sliding them to rest on her hip bones, left partially exposed by the crop top she was wearing. His thumbs slid effortlessly along the creases of her pelvis. He gripped her harder then, and finally began to mirror her movements, swaying back and forth, occasionally dipping lower. Natasha let out a breath, mesmerized by how quickly he was able to match her. She could feel him through his jeans, and the taut planes of his chest through his soft, button down shirt. It sent heat pooling deep in her core.
Focus Nat, she mentally scolded herself. She could feel the alcohol fighting her as she tried to zero back in on the agents. They had each apprehended a drink and would occasionally glance around and behind them, like they were waiting for something to happen. She reached upward to grip the nape of his neck again, “Thirty seconds,” she declared within his earshot.
Steve leaned down to nuzzle her neck while his eyes darted in front of them, surveying the bar once again. Natasha could feel the pleasant light scratches of his beard just under her jawline. She hummed in approval, inaudible over the music, but then she found herself pressing even more firmly into him. He slid one of his hands further up her abdomen, stopping just underneath her breast, splaying his fingers across her rib cage while the other ghosted across the curve of her thigh.
They were both so shamelessly encapsulated by one other in that moment. To his own surprise, Steve was actually able to feel a hint of the shots catching up to him, which only made the euphoria of being this intimately close to Natasha that much harder to walk away from. He was drowning in it; the neon lights, the smell of alcohol in the air, the bass of the music vibrating throughout their cells, and his bones, coiled for the next fight. He would singlehandedly take on every member of Chadov’s caravan just for the chance to keep dancing with her, cover be damned.
You don’t know my mind.
You don’t know my kind.
Dark necessities are part of my design.
Tell the world that I’m
Falling from the sky.
Dark necessities are part of my design.
Suddenly, Sam was in front of them, brows raised, lips pursed into an amused smirk. Steve immediately let go of Natasha, who stopped rolling her hips and ran her fingers through her hair to brush it aside.
Sam took another moment to appreciate the scenario before continuing, “Your boys over there just left,” he motioned toward the now empty bar stools, “But I'm thinking we should still cut the scene in case they come back,”
Bewildered, Natasha lightly shrugged, “Six minutes are up, boys.”
They made their way out of the back exit, surveying the dark streets for any suspicious activity, but as they began their trek back to the motel it became apparent that no one was tailing them. The three of them walked side by side down the boulevard, still reeling over the night’s events. It had been a long while since either of them had had actual fun.
“I like Sevan,” Sam declared into the night, “Maybe I’ll come here again when I get married for real.”
“You got some work to do in the romance department if you wanna make it that far,” Natasha joked. She playfully punched him in the shoulder, and both of them erupted into a fit of soft laughter.
Sam caught Steve’s gaze and winked, then while Natasha wasn’t looking, smiled, subtly nodding his head in approval.
Steve rolled his eyes, having to bite off a laugh.
“Alright dancing with the stars, I’m calling dibs on that shower right now,” Sam declared as soon as they got back to the room. He removed his wallet and phone from his pockets and threw them onto the bed he had claimed earlier. He then slung his duffel bag over his shoulder as he headed toward the bathroom. “Steve maybe you can work out the sleeping situation for you and Natasha in the meantime,” he had to fight the urge to laugh out loud.
Natasha’s gaze followed the bathroom door as it closed behind him, she furrowed her brows in response before turning to face Steve, who was noticeably blushing. Natasha couldn’t help but find it adorable.
Steve sighed then, running a palm down his forehead and nose, “Natasha, Sam and I both think you should take the other bed.”
Immediately, Sam coughed deeply from inside the bathroom.
I swear to God, Steve thought.
“I already said I’m taking the floor. You guys don’t have to coddle me just because I’m a woman. We’re a team,” she took a few steps toward him, so that they were roughly a foot apart.
“I didn’t mean it like that-“
“But that’s just it,” she leaned slightly forward, the heels of her feet barely grazing the carpet.
He sighed, “Nat, my shoulder’s fine and you know it.”
“I know, I-“ she relaxed her expression, lips slightly parted and eyes loosely searching his, “I thought...after Kursk, you could use the rest.” He didn’t say anything more so she continued, “Seeing you like that in the catacombs...it really terrified me.”
He held a look of defeat, “Nat-“
“Please Steve, I’m insisting. I’ll be alright. You can return the favour at the next hostel.”
She turned to move toward her duffel bag, but Steve caught her arm, stopping her. Then he leaned down and captured her lips with his.
At first, she was taken aback, but quickly gave herself over to the kiss, splaying her hands across his shoulders and pressing harder against him. Steve slid his hands down to rest on her waist.
Noting that he now had his back to the bed, she gently nudged him backward. He sat, pulling her in to straddle his lap.
After another moment, their mouths finally broke apart. Steve closed his eyes, taking a deep breath before ghosting his lips over her neck.
She threaded her fingers into the hair just above his ears, “You could have just done that sooner,” she spoke, almost a whisper. Everything was silent, save for the soft haze of the shower running.
Steve let out a breathless laugh against her skin. “Well I didn’t wanna be blunt about it.”
“Because we weren’t blunt enough with each other back at the bar?” there was a hint of a chuckle scratching its way through her deep voice.
“I didn’t wanna make assumptions. You were technically supposed to be married to Sam-“
She playfully rolled her eyes, “Yes Rogers, let’s share the bed,” she smiled, mirroring his, staring down at him. After a moment, she began to untangle herself from him. She hopped to her feet, sashaying her way back over to her duffel bag, fully aware that he was intently focused on the sway of her hips the entire time. Another smirk crept it’s way to her lips, “And maybe even after we no longer have a bunk mate.”
Donning a fresh t shirt and shorts, Sam finally opened the bathroom door to find that all of the lights in the room had been turned out. He padded around the corner to find Steve asleep in the other bed, an arm lightly encircling Natasha. It also appeared that they had changed clothes. He smiled to himself, proudly, placing his bag on the floor next to his bed, and settling in for the night. Whatever conflict might have been waiting for them the next morning, Sam knew the three of them would conquer it.