The knock sets all of Natasha’s senses on edge. She’s been lying in bed for at least an hour, staring at the ceiling with her heart pounding in her ears, watching light from cars on the street below passing across the tiles. She ought to be running, her instincts insist, ought to have disappeared already. But she can’t bring herself to do that yet, not until she’s convinced that everyone else will be all right.
Taking a breath, she sits up, glancing at the clock on the nightstand: just after midnight. And she almost never has visitors. She places her feet solidly on the floor, grabs her gun off the table before going to investigate. The proximity alarm hasn’t been triggered, so chances are good that whoever’s there is a friend, is someone whose metrics are already coded into her system. She’d be cautious in the best of times, though, and the past few days have been anything but. It’s Steve standing at her door when she checks the monitor, shifting from foot to foot and running a hand through his hair as though he can’t make up his mind whether to knock again or not.
Natasha decides to take pity on him and opens the door quickly, realizing as she steps back to let him in that the gun is still in her hand. She clicks the safety back on wordlessly and sets it on the kitchen counter, not bothering to explain herself.
Steve is wearing a pair of faded jeans that are ripped at the knee, and a too-tight shirt with a screened print of a bear on it. Either he’s undercover again, she thinks, or he’s somehow found himself stuck with only a box WalMart reject merchandise to choose from.
“Hospital charity clothes closet?” she guesses.
He grimaces and nods. “Turns out they deemed the uniform a biohazard.”
Natasha raises an eyebrow. “Well, it did go for a swim in the Potomac. Why not ask Sam to bring you some things?”
Steve shrugs. “Already went home for the night.”
“And you think you already owe him too much,” she supplies, sure even before she sees his reaction.
He sighs, giving her a helpless look. “I can’t go home. Can’t go to S.H.I.E.L.D. anymore. I don’t--This is why you keep all your safehouses, isn’t it. Because you always thought something like this might happen.”
There’s something different in his eyes, Natasha thinks. Something dark and a little bit desperate. He hasn’t come through this as unscathed as he’d like everyone to believe. None of them have.
“I didn’t think it would,” she admits, which is true. Even knowing of Fury’s secrets, even seeing S..H.I.E.L.D.’s lies about the Tesseract exposed, she has never expected a betrayal of this magnitude. “I just--like to keep my options open.” But she hasn’t, really, has put too much on the line all along, safehouses notwithstanding.
“Beginning to think I should’ve done the same,” he says curtly.
“That’s what friends are for,” says Natasha, taking a few steps closer and looking up to search his eyes.
Steve inhales raggedly, and there’s a vulnerability to the sound that makes her stomach twist.
“Stay here tonight,” she whispers, reaching up to touch the tender new skin where stitches marked his cheek just a few days ago.
He shivers, and Natasha moves instinctively, stretching up on the balls of her feet as she wraps an arm around his neck. Steve exhales in a rush, pulling her in, his breath hot against her skin as he rests his chin on her shoulder.
“Tell me what you need,” says Natasha, though she already has an idea from the lines of tension in his body, from the aching emptiness that still seems to stretch between them, even with their bodies pressed together like this. She runs her free hand over his back, hopes he understands what she’s offering.
“You,” Steve breathes against her ear, and she’s strangely relieved that he’s gotten the message, that he isn’t going to reject her out of some misguided sense of guilt or morality. “I need you.”
Natasha takes half a step back, her fingers still curled into the edge of his shirt, and looks up, smiling slowly. “Kiss me.”
Steve swallows. “We avoiding S.H.I.E.L.D. again?”
“Definitely,” says Natasha, and leans up to kiss him again instead. He makes a soft noise against her mouth, his hands coming to rest at her waist, and he’s definitely different than he was at the mall, more relaxed, or maybe just less controlled. She can feel his erection pressing into her stomach before he pulls away, a flush rising on his cheeks in the darkness.
“Bedroom?” she asks, taking his arm and steering him in that direction before he has a chance to respond, to think twice about what they’re doing or the implications it might have. He stumbles after her like he’s still a bit uncertain on his feet, like he hasn’t quite regained his full strength. He’s just been released from the hospital, she reminds herself, resolving to be gentle, though she’s pretty sure that even in his current condition, he wouldn’t really need it.
“Sit,” says Natasha, when he pauses at the edge of the bed, looking at her for direction. She moves to stand between his knees and grabs a handful of his shirt, giving it the look of disdain it deserves. “This needs to go immediately.”
“Yes ma’am,” says Steve, and for a moment there’s a glint in his eye, just before he looks down to pull off the offending shirt. His chest and abdomen are discolored by greenish fading bruises, marred by the lines of surgical incisions not quite healed enough to disappear.
Natasha can sense his insecurity by the change in his breathing, the way he doesn’t meet her gaze again. She chooses not to comment, though, just sits beside him and pulls her own shirt over her head without pretense. “Want to compare scars?”
Steve looks at her uncertainly, then seems to commit to whatever he’s just been thinking. “Lie back?” He waits for her to comply before speaking again. “I want--Can I touch you?”
“That was the idea,” says Natasha, not unkindly.
He stretches out beside her on the bed, running a fingertip along her jaw, down the side of her neck, pausing over the stitches on her own shoulder, the spidery red lines that mark her skin from the electricity that raced up her arm.
“You took these hits for me,” he says, his voice heavy with regret. “Because I involved you.”
Natasha gives him a hard look. “Is that really what you think? I took those hits with you. And I involved myself.”
Steve sighs, giving her a look that says he isn’t convinced, but also isn’t going to fight with her, his hand still hovering over her collarbone, like he isn’t sure what to do next.
“Touch me,” says Natasha, grabbing his hand and trying to direct him. “Take what you wanted.”
He moves resolutely, flattening his palm over her heart before moving lower, his skin warm and surprisingly soft. Steve lets his eyes slip closed as he caresses her breast, a flush rising on his cheeks again. It’s sweet, almost reverent, but it isn’t enough to satisfy either one of them right now.. She wants to change things for him somehow, wants to make them better, or at the very least wants to chase the emptiness from his eyes for a while.
“My turn,” she interrupts, catching his arm and sitting up again, neatly rolling him back against the pillows. Natasha straddles his hips, pressing a kiss to his mouth before he can voice the question she sees in his eyes.
She leans forward, tracing the outline of a bruise just below his collarbone with her tongue. He inhales sharply at the contact, arching up against her, and she can still feel his cock straining against the fabric of those ridiculous jeans. Everything about his body is strong, sinewy, solid like she’s expected. But the intensity of his reactions is a surprise, the way his breathing stutters at even the lightest touch. This is going to be fun, she thinks, more fun than she’s always thought it might be.
“Not going to ask if this is my first time?” Steve asks, his voice already a little rough around the edges.
Natasha looks up and runs a finger along the waistband of his pants, watching his adam’s apple bob as he swallows. “Wasn’t planning to. But since you brought it up. Is this your first time?”
“Since 1945,” he answers with a tight little smile, and only then does she recognize the setup as the joke it is, as the fact that he’s trying to remember how to laugh for a while too.
Natasha snorts softly, the feeling still warm in her chest as she kisses a path down his stomach, pausing for a moment before undoing the buttons on his jeans and shoving them down his hips along with his underwear. Steve bites back a whine at that, lifting himself off the bed so she can get rid of his clothes entirely. She pauses for a moment when she’s finished, studying him laid out like this. The serum did its job, no question, but his body isn’t as flawless as the imposing image of Captain America might suggest. There’s a whitened scar running along his inner thigh, and a pockmarked one on his shoulder that she thinks might once have been a bullet wound. There’s a cluster of freckles on his left hip, too, and she kisses them first, then each of the other imperfections, the marks that tell his story, that make him human. He shudders under her touch, and it’s then that she finally wraps a hand around his cock, aware that this is a vulnerability he’s showing her as well.
“More,” he whispers, as she starts to stroke him, and he props himself up on his elbows to watch her, the depths of his eyes fathomless with need again. “Please.”
“Like this?” she asks, experimenting as she gives him more friction, twists her wrist and listens to him groan. For a few moments he seems overwhelmed, unable to do anything but writhe under her touch and breathe.
But then he forces himself to focus on her again, resolutely, surprises her by running a hand up along her side, cupping her breast again and stroking his thumb over her nipple with more confidence than she’s expecting.
“Fuck,” Natasha hisses, suddenly conscious again of her own arousal, of something beyond the sensations she’s giving him. “Yes.”
Something in him seems to snap, then, and he pulls away quickly, rolling them over again so that he’s on top, leaning down to kiss her roughly, hand catching in her hair in his haste. She laughs, helping him get her shorts and panties off in the tangle of limbs. He ducks his head to take her other breast in his mouth, grinding against her hip in a way that seems almost subconscious, almost beyond his control.
“Condom?” he manages, when he comes up for air.
Natasha laughs again, feeling just a bit off-balance, thrown out of her equilibrium in a way that makes her stomach do delicious little flips of anticipation. She nods and reaches into the nightstand drawer, fumbling for a moment before she finds what she’s looking for.
“You ready for this?” she asks, waiting for his affirmation before she rips the packet open, rolls the condom on, watching the way the muscle in his jaw jumps at the contact with her hand.
She doesn’t ask him anything further, just helps him get into position. And then he’s fucking her, fast and a bit rough, with more certainty than she ever would have imagined possible from him. He moves the way he does in a fight, athletic and graceful, with an edge that borders on reckless abandon. Steve bites his lip, grits his teeth in concentration, trying valiantly to maintain the pace and rhythm he’s set as she rakes her nails over his back. It’s clear that this isn’t going to last long, though, that everything about tonight is too raw for him.
“Help me,” he pants, meeting her eyes frantically. “Help me make this good for you.”
Natasha finds his hand tangled in the sheets, pulls it down between them and guides him to her clit, shows him how to touch her. He catches on quickly, and there’s something in the desperation of it all, something she allows to sweep her away. Her orgasm is short and a little shallow, a slight release of tension in a storm that’s only just beginning. The relief in his face at having given her this is immense, though, and she decides that’s all she really cares about in this moment.
“Let go,” she says against his ear, and he thrusts twice more before he comes with a guttural cry, burying his face against her neck as his whole body shakes.
“I’m sorry,” Steve gasps against her neck, his breath coming in ragged sobs, his shoulders trembling as he holds on. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Natasha.”
“Stop that,” she shushes him, not moving away yet. For a long while she just holds on, carding her fingers through his hair and listening as his breathing gradually slows, as he comes back to himself.
Finally he pulls away, gets rid of the condom and falls back against the bed, his limbs heavy with exhaustion she knows must reflect all the ways his body is still healing.
“You okay?” she asks quietly, and for a few breaths he says nothing in the darkness.
“Thank you,” he answers finally, and he seems to be struggling for the words to express all the things he needs to say, all the truths he isn’t ready to face yet. “That was--thank you.”
“I know,” says Natasha, running her fingers along the sweat-slick skin of his back. “I know. I’m here, okay? Whatever you need. Just--stay here tonight.”
Steve nods silently and curls in around her, his heartbeat quick against her shoulder as an approaching truck on the street below lights up the room like an artificial dawn.