When the Black Widow first met Captain America, she said playfully, "It was quite the buzz around here, finding you in the ice. I thought Coulson was gonna swoon." After checking out Steve Rogers carefully, Natasha Romanoff couldn't help by think, 'I can understand why…'
New York. December, 2012.
Captain America is a great leader. He inspires everyone to be better just by being around him. Besides being an expert tactician and an experienced field commander, he's an excellent observer and his enhanced senses give him unmatched advantages. This is perfect when navigating through the intricacies of government agencies, like S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Army. Also essential for him to be the leader of the Avengers – definitely not an easy group to manage. It's his job to assure that they work as a team, and he really cares about them. So, he watches the Avengers.
Steve Rogers is a man from the past, struggling to find his place in the present, and he likes to watch Natasha Romanoff – he has been watching her since he first saw her. Different from any woman he'd met before, she's fascinating, and not only as a team member. The Black Widow is outstanding, no questions about it. But it's the woman inside her, the one she fights so hard to conceal, who had captured Steve's interest and invaded his dreams. Unequivocally, she's very attractive, but for him, the spy is far from the cold person she pretends to be. And that's what draws him to her.
When they met, half a year ago, the artist in him was instantly captured by her red hair shining like fire under the sunlight. Looking totally distant and confident, she gave him those elevator eyes. Not that he would ever brag about it, but Steve was used to being admired. Yet, somehow, her scrutinizing eyes made him feel… different.
She sure knew how to use words. "It's going to get a little hard to breathe."
More than any woman that had passed through Steve's life before, Natasha took his breath away.
With the grace of a ballerina, she moved ahead, guiding him to the Helicarrier's bridge. He couldn't deny it, he found her truly… hypnotic. Even though, it was interesting to see the Black Widow in action, spreading her web to catch him, to observe and understand who he was. He had read her file and he could certainly read her. The description of her skills hadn't been exaggerated.
But then, she turned to check on him, just for a moment, as if she wasn't sure about the effect she had on him. That was when he saw a tiny breach in her perfectly well-fortified armor, and it was enough for him to notice a different Natasha inside her. A glimpse in her eyes combined with a pulsing vein on her forehead that could possibly be translated as… Curiosity? That was really a great surprise, and made him pay Nick Fury ten bucks – not that the Director would ever know the real reason.
Whoever has the chance to really know the Captain will learn that people, not things, are what marvel Steve Rogers.
Despite his sweet awkwardness around her, Steve is a mystery Natasha can't decipher. He's the first straight man who seems immune to her charms, and he respects her as a woman. That's why he got her attention and, frankly, she finds herself wanting to be next to him, working, sparing, and learning from his vast experience. On the other hand, she saw him dealing with other women and men, with absolute class and professionalism. Nonetheless, while keeping everybody at a distance, he remained all alone. Although everybody fancies the superhero, she tries to understand the man from the past – a much more complex fish-out-of-water than she was when she came from Russia.
She's paying close attention when Tony Stark asks all the Avengers to attend a ball to benefit New York victims – after the battle with the Chitauri. The nearly imperceptible tension in the Captain's body doesn't go unnoticed by the Black Widow. They're just teammates, but she's always a bit kind towards him, and when everybody leaves, she approaches quietly.
"What's the problem, Captain?"
Her direct question takes him by surprise, but he can't lie and replies quite ashamed, "I don't know how to dance."
"I can teach you."
She doesn't joke or pity him. Instead, she invites him to her floor and leads him to her ballet studio. "JARVIS, play Michael Bublé. I'll be right back."
Still intrigued by him, she can't miss the opportunity for a test. The music fills the ample space, and he's admiring the suave melodies when she returns, wearing a navy blue taffeta evening gown, with a low heart-neck, puffed sleeves and a merry-go-round skirt. It's a pin-up dress she used in a vintage themed party, and the Black Widow doesn't miss her target.
The Captain's jaw falls in awe and it takes a few seconds for him to find his voice. "Ma'am… You look amazing."
The test worked. She got his attention, although she's still not sure about why. Is it her or the whole 40s look? Or is it about dancing? Smirking, she hides her satisfaction, "Thanks, Cap. And it's Natasha." Getting close, she reaches for him, but noticing his hesitation, she frowns, "Anything wrong? The dress?"
Embarrassed, he takes her hand. "God. I'm sorry. Natasha. It's more than perfect… it's beautiful."
"You need to learn it the right way. Shall we?"
Calmly, she leads him to the center of the room, as he tries to concentrate on her words.
But he can't lie to himself. She's the most beautiful woman in the world and he can't believe she dressed like this just to dance with him. Despite his racing heart, he can't cross any line. She's my teammate… she's doing me a favor.
Breathing in deeply, he tries, "Right. I hope I don't embarrass myself too much in front of you."
"Don't worry, your secret is safe with me." Her smile is mysteriously sweet, as she asks, "Do you like the music?"
Although he's definitely unbalanced and tense, he doesn't feel uncomfortable. "Yes, it sounds almost familiar."
"I thought you would like it. The guy is young, but sings classics with new arrangements."
"Thanks, Natasha. I really appreciate it."
Waiting for instructions, he stands uncertain at the beginning, but she knows exactly what to say. "JARVIS, start with the older slow dancing songs. Feel the movements, Cap. It's like a choreographed fight, just slower," she talks to distract him, while putting his hand on her waist.
Gracious and skilled, she's very patient with him and it works. After the initial clumsiness, he focuses on the lessons, revealing himself to be a quick learner. After all, he has the coordinated body of a perfect athlete, the smoothness of a stealth spy, and the soul of an artist.
"I didn't know modern music could be so beautiful," he praises.
"It's new for your time, but it's classic today. Clint calls it cheesy," she smirks.
After working more closely with the Avengers, the soldier realized that the archer and the spy are like siblings, contrary to the rumors around them. A small laugh escapes him, "Knowing his music taste, I'm not surprised."
They dance and talk for hours, stopping only for drinks and food. Slow songs mean romantic songs – it feels like the respectful, normal first date she never had before. Keeping her usual cool mood, Natasha is secretly surprised by the fact that she feels so at easy with Steve. He's the perfect gentleman, and she doesn't remember meeting one, especially with his godly body and deep blue eyes. The redhead can't help being charmed by this sweet side of the Captain, realizing she has never seen him so relaxed.
Above all, she's totally unprepared for the feelings that he evokes inside her. You are a very handsome young man, Steve Rogers… and for the first time, perhaps, I'm allowing myself to see that. To see you as someone other than the icon called Captain America. An intelligent, sensitive man, who is also the embodiment of masculinity. Be careful, Natalia Romanova… you're thinking some very dangerous thoughts.
It's quite late, but he's finally getting comfortable with the rhythms, so she asks, "One more before we call it a night? Lead away, Cap."
Turns out that having Natasha in his arms is surprisingly natural for Steve – they fit together. He tightens his hold on her, before they're being carried away by the beautiful song.
'Wise men say only fools rush in…' Bublé's melodious voice fills the place, and Natasha's eyes fall slowly to Steve's lips – even for the aloof spy, it's hard not feel attracted. It's been a long time since she had anyone this close, but she looks away discreetly.
'Some things are meant to be…' the lyrics are just perfect, and Steve realizes he's in deep trouble. He was attracted to her before, but after today, he has no escape… or hope.
When it ends, he says sincerely, "This is really a great song."
"Can't Help Falling In Love. It's from the 60s, originally by Elvis Presley," she explains, before raising her face to look at him, and he never saw anyone more beautiful. "I'll show you more tomorrow, okay? Now that you're a pro in slow dance, we can try other ballroom styles." Then, she leans in, and kisses his cheek, making him blush for the first time. "Good job, Cap."
"Thank you, Natasha."
To have the boys all dressed up appropriately, Pepper Potts called tailors to make customized tuxedos, and jewelers to bring cufflinks, tie clips and watches. For the ladies, they offered assorted pieces of jewelry and couture gowns. By all means, when you're Tony Stark, or living under his shelter, you don't go shopping – the stylists come with clothes, models, and everything else. It's the celebrity lifestyle.
With daily dancing lessons and other themed dresses, by the end of the week, Steve learned a few simple styles, and they get more comfortable around each other.
Proud, Natasha praises him, "You're a natural, Steve."
"I have the best teacher," he replies, kissing her hand, "Thanks for helping me, in everything."
"My pleasure. You think you're ready to face the ladies at the gala?" He blushes and she smirks, "Don't worry, you'll be fine."
On the gala night, Natasha wears a black silk-taffeta gown, expensive jewelry, with her hair and makeup done in a classic style.
"Nat, you're stunning," he says, offering her his arm.
"Thanks, Steve. The tux fits you perfectly too."
They're heading to the group table when the band starts to play a lovely tune. Instantly, Steve invites, "Nat, would you do me the honor of allowing me this dance?"
Smiling, she nods, and the duo makes the Captain's official first dance more than memorable.
The crowd cheers, while Tony and Clint complain that Steve is getting all the attention. Quickly, Natasha goes back to her unapproachable state. Needless to say, she's not a fan of human contact. But, discreetly, she observes everything from a safe distance. With his polite, chivalrous manner and movie-star look, Captain America dances the whole night, making the Avengers benefit ball a huge success.
After that, Steve and Natasha's relationship changed completely.
They end up working together more frequently, and trusting each other as partners. The similarities that they share make it all easier – such as being private people and placing the work first throughout their whole careers. Their differences, however, make their bond unique – they have complementary and, therefore, mutually strengthened skills. As an unexpected result of their partnership, the soldier and the spy start to question their own lives, what they wanted for themselves.
Steve's quest is simple – he wants to know more about the real Natasha.
Although she can mask her real emotions perfectly, he sees beneath her exterior. And, since she's great at reading people too, she knows she can't hide much from him. Gradually, she starts to break down the barriers that she'd put up and learns to trust him as a friend. Deep inside, she worries about him being lonely, and wants to help him adapt to modern times.
In spite of looking like an odd duo, they find a surprising relief as they learn to rely on each other, realizing that their well-oiled working relationship had turned into a more intimate friendship.
They're on board the Quinjet approaching their target, and Steve is about to jump, when Natasha asks, "Did you do anything fun Saturday night?"
"Well, all the guys from my barbershop quartet are dead, so, no, not really."
He looks at her wondering what she wants… hoping… But she throws his hopes away, "You know, if you ask Kristen out, from Statistics, she'd probably say yes."
As usual, he's straightforward, "That's why I don't ask."
She keeps teasing him, "Too shy or too scared?"
"Too busy!" he replies before jumping without a parachute, because Captain America doesn't need one.
After another successful mission, they're leaving S.H.I.E.L.D., when he takes the chance, and asks, "Are you doing anything fun tonight?"
"Nah, just thinking about relaxing and catching a movie." That's her way to unwind from all the stress, particularly after a tough day. He looks so handsome and lonely that she doesn't resist. "You can join me, if you're not too busy," she invites, winking playfully.
With a broad smile, he replies willingly, "I'm never busy for you, Nat."
Jumping on his bike, Steve follows Natasha's car back to the Avengers Tower, to their first movie date.