"Natasha," Steve whispered with absolute concern in his voice. It unnerved her. "Your hands." He crouched down, the shield gleamed against the moonlight. His blue eyes, so pure and focus settled on the small lines of blood trickling over her palms. It was disarming for her to allow him to become close to her, and yet Natasha felt her heart pounding for him not to go. Steve kept his stern gaze focused on her wounds.
It was in his nature to care, however she didn't have a sense to mirror those emotions. She wanted to run. That was unbred in her nature. She felt safe with him, not because he was capable and strong. He was still a man. Not a victim of a merciless experiment. Not the imposing and relentless Winter Soldier. She tried to exile those images of his menacing face and piercing blue eyes out of her mind. "Does it hurt?" he asked, with a soft edge in his voice. She refused to answer him. She couldn't feel pain-she could feel his touch invading the coldness of her skin. A thermal heat pooled in her veins.
For a moment, they both stare at each other, their eyes intent and daring, and then as if someone jabbed a blade in her heart, Natasha averted her eyes away from him. A tiny breath escaped her lips, a secret urges to become compromised. "No, I'm fine." She replied with a faint smirk, her eyes narrowed to the drops of red collecting on the floor. "I'm use to this..." It was a nonchalant voice, one that she used to deceive him.
"Pain doesn't bother me like it does for some people." A small shrug gave him the indication she is trying to hide the truth. "Besides you're the one who needs medical assistance." Her green eyes level with the splotch of blood dripping from his bruised temple.
His frown melted into a lopsided smirk, and his blue eyes brightened with utterance. "Well," Steve paused, and he leaned back, in the contrast of accepting her concern for his wounds, his hand overlapped her scraped knuckles. He lifted his gaze up to her, really looking deeply at her. There was relief in his eyes. A promise of security and attachment that pulled her back in. Even though, it felt unrealistic she begun to believe in it. "I guess we both need some time to mend, Nat."
His words sounded unbroken, and she listened to his anguish rattling in his chest. He was a wounded soldier. He sighed, allowing the grief to harden over his strong and commanding features. She saw his turmoil, and there was no denying that he wanted to release everything. He wanted his tears to rain down and drench over his dark blue uniform. She knew he hasn't cried for almost seventy years-he needed to heal. They both needed to.
Natasha leaned towards him, copper ringlets fell into her softened eyes, and she caressed his chiseled skin with a gentle touch of heat. "Somehow we're going to make it out alive, Steve." Her lips pressed together letting the vibrancy of rose to color over them as her jaw set. 'I'm not sure if will be standing, but I know we'll live because..." Her eyes close for a moment, and heart calmed to a content beat. It was a silent surrender. "...we're the ones who never give up the fight."
"Nat, we need to stop pretending that..." We don't love each. His soul echoed. His light eyes flicked down ever so slightly, and the fullness of his lips twitched into an unsteady grimace. She watched his face crease as a single tear slipped a slowly pace over his firm cheek. He wrapped his hand over her wrist, feeling her pulse. It's his lifeline to cling into when the world turns dark. He knew she would be there at his side...She is his shield. Finally, he looked at her, dead on, with no resistance welling in his stare, and pulled himself in closer, broad muscles ripple against his uniform, it was restricting over his feverish skin. Long suppressed desire made his heart jolt. He failed Peggy...He gave her away to time because of his choice to save. He avowed himself never to let chance beat him down. This moment with the woman he had trusted many times over was a way to redeem all that he lost.
"Is there something on your mind, Steve?" Natasha's smoky murmur invaded his thoughts. She waited as patience was betraying her. "Well, come on spill it..."
"I want to dance with you," He confessed, it's not the words he wanted to say, but he knew she understood the clear meaning. He inclined his head, meeting her gaze with sorrowful blue eyes shimmering with unspoken emotion. "I want you..."
"You want me?" Natasha furrowed her eyebrows, trying to grasp the truth shining in his eyes. A pang of doubt reminded her that she is the Black Widow. She cannot love because sharing her heart is a attachment that leads to weakness. She cannot become weak. Playing the game of love is like Russian roulette, pressing a gun to her head and spinning the chamber. Sometimes it would be empty and other times a bullet would discharge out and hits deep. Now, she finds that maybe there can be an equal chance. Steve was a good man of valor and compassion...and his strength always manages to outweigh evil."In someway, she didn't want to him to die. To make her feel guilty. "For what?" she tried to misinterpret everything, her eyes hardened in green embers of fire and she stared at him. "Tell me what you want from me, Steve?"
"I don't want anything from you, Natasha." He replied, flipping her hand as his thumb traces along blemished skin. His eyes gleamed back so sincere it makes her soul twinge. "Never will I ask or force you to give me something, but I do want you to have the freedom to chose if we are meant to stay friends or dance partners?"
End game. Natasha shifted her eyes to the doorway. Impulses flooded in her blood. She wanted to run... She wanted to escape before he would take her into his arms and secures her into his world. 'Partners?" she repeated in a low breath, and found the truth beyond the fathomless oceans of blue of his gentle eyes. She caught up with his soul, and froze in a heartbeat.
Fight. Run. The coldness of her past harbors her back as the space grows thick between them. She swallowed the heavy air and rocked back and forth against the chair. She could feel his eyes boring into her, imploring her to say something. And she ached.
She couldn't stop looking at him, it confirmed to her that whatever feelings have manages to crawl through her since the day they met on the helicarrier. And for Natasha Romonova, feelings were ice that penetrated deep, clawing and hurting her, and they had become instruments of torture. Although, she would never admit, it scared her more deeply than any demon of her past ever would.
Steve's response is a soft smile and a faint nod to her timid question. A vulnerable look entered his eyes that he is certain mirrors her own. Both of them are taking a large risk here in compromising themselves in their line of work. Despite how much the world had changed around him since his original time, Steve didn't believe it was a weakness to love someone-to be with someone. Reaching out to Natasha like this always presented the risk of endangering not just their friendship but also their working relationship with each other.
The conflict waging in her emerald orbs as she stared intensely at him, sending his heart into cartwheel mode. He wasn't sure to expect a perfect landing or a crushing fall... This wasn't easy for her, he knew that. Neither is it for him. His heart had taken awhile to open itself up again, and now he lay it bare to her decision.
"Partners. There's no one else I want." Steve added emphasizing by laying his hand gently over hers. "The question is..." he looked up and his blue eyes locked with her green, "what do YOU want, Tasha?"
This is unfamiliar, and unreal. She peered down at his shield, the weight of his burdens were etched in alloy.
Does he trust me?
"This is all happening to fast," she finally said, swallowing down hesitation. "I'm not sure I can be trusted...I've done terrible things. More than you could ever know, Steve." It hurts to her to reveal so much. She was the Black Widow. A daughter that had been reborn in the chambers of the Red Room. She invaded, stole and destroyed. The Black Widow cannot love. She poisoned and drove knives through hearts. "If anything happened to you..." A pause made her heart become fractured with a backlash of remorse. "...if your blood ended up on my ledger I could never forgive myself."
Steve wouldn't lie to her and say nothing could happen him—to either of them. He wasn't Stark who arrogantly believed he was invincible with his gifts and recklessly disregarded all possibilities of danger. But Steve was, at the end of the day, still a man-and Natasha a woman. ...But Steve also couldn't lie to himself that if something were to happen to Natasha because of him that he'd never forgive himself either. He still carried the burden of what happened to Bucky deep in his heart after all these years... but living in fear was never something he wanted. Not for himself—not for anyone.
He could see Nat looking at his shield as if locked in a trance, doubting herself, denying herself. "I trust you, Nat; with my life. And there is always the risk of something bad happening...Regardless if we're together or not, its always there. We're both soldiers...but we're also still human." He gently reminded. "And if there is one thing I could never forgive myself for..." He coaxed her into meeting his gaze; strength and unyielding sincerity shining his blue pools, "Its living in fear...instead of just living."
Some part of him wanted to feel the iciness of his regrets dissolve in the combustion of blood curdling in his veins. Steve allowed the silence between them stretch into the weaves of choice and desperation, restlessness is what he felt, the extract same recurring ache of daring to make a single move to change the course of his life, without the cold and intensity off guilt jabbing into his heart—he failed to save Bucky from HYDRA. The reproach of his emotions to reach out for his brainwashed friend haunted him deeper than a knife slicing through him in the dark. No resistance to the pain. Numbness.
"You would risk your life to share one with someone like me?" Natasha asked in a harsh murmur, low and grating enough. She wrenched her eyes away from the shield, and felt her guarded emotions falter. She tried to find a reason to walk away from this moment, in the contrast of feeling a deep connection with him fuse her blood, she leaned in closer. Steve was true of heart, virtuous, with a strong will that could never become compromised with manipulation of the Red Room. He also was naive, innocent and pure with women. He never twisted the truths with false hope, and never disarmed himself when his limits were pushed. Natasha never believed in herself that maybe there could be a second chance to feel the scars of her heart fade with his love. "You don't know what I've done to survive in this world, Rogers. My past always finds away to hunt me down." Her gaze latched onto his shapely lips, and breath hitched as the risk begun to reach levels of the kill zone.
Could love become real between us? Natasha thought, feeling everything become out of balance. More than an emotional connection?
The reflections of the flames of war were captured in the depth of his piercing azure eyes. Steel. His short blonde hair singed with ash as she fingers gently caressed his jaw; wiping the smear of blood that lingered on the curved edge of his full lips. He leaned in her, wrapping his solid arms around her. It was the weight of his gaze that kept her trapped in the moment, it stripped her down as the guarded layers of her heart dissolved within a single pulse of daring risk. A deep breath. That's all she could do as the world became tainted with darkness and wanted to release everything. To feel the unbidden pain ooze out her. She wanted to feel the security of him embrace her like a shield. Doubt entered her mind. "It never changes."
Steve's jaw tightened in response, the gravity of Natasha's turmoil and her fears were reflected in her rich green embers. The pain and defiance inside of them made her seem a lot older than she actually was. It was a distinctive sight that Steve would see each time he looked into the mirror. HYDRA, Zemo...Bucky. Steve knew what it was like to have the past catch up to him and threaten his present. He would be remiss to think that there wasn't a risk of it destroying his future. Natasha had to live with that turmoil for much longer than he had. Spending her every waking hours looking over her shoulder, filing a field report, and worrying that tomorrow may be her last day where a demon from the distant past had returned to destroy her.
It was vexing, it harrowing... it was lonely.
"Maybe it doesn't," Steve conceded, a soft imploring look glistened across his boyishly handsome features as he coaxed her once again into meeting his stare. "But it doesn't mean you have to face it alone." Steve of course wouldn't be presumptuous to think he knew every part of Natasha to say she felt the same as him-that she needed him as much as he felt he needed her. But he had hope that this life of self-sacrifice, denial and fear wasn't what she wanted.
Natasha stared. For a moment. A single breath managed to recoil in her chest. She wanted him to pull her into an embrace, to feel the warmth and security of his arms lock her down. She knew it wasn't real. There was one question that seemed to engulf her thoughts -Why does it hurt so much to feel? For that moment of convincing herself that it was a dangerous game to love Captain America, she felt his fingers slid over the tensed skin of her forearm. She felt the soothing heat penetrate deep into her wounds.
"Wait..." Her damn heart prevented the nagging confession to pour from her lips. "I think we need to focus on the mission. Fury had agent Hill sent me coordinates of HYDRA's storehouse." Another breath and she ruin the moment. Steve didn't pull back. Instead his shining blue eyes mirrored her doubt as his large hand moved to her shoulder. Her eyes flicked down. "If you could go back to 1944 what would you change?"
"I guess I would find some way to fix my mistakes." Not my best answer. Steve heaved out a shallow breath with a hitch of grief. At one time it had crushed him to watch footage of Peggy Carter holding her son and daughter in the old reel films Sharon had given to him. He'd lost the love of his life-his strength and fire.
Steve didn't want to look back into the reflections of the past. Just the present. Admitting that the heartbreak still overwhelmed him with a jagged and ugly wound, would be like surrendering to defeat. Steve had to move on. He resettled his blue eyes on her. His expression honest and pure. Everything seemed to pause between them. The fullness of his lips held a uneven smile as he sighed and continued. Yet, the weariness still had managed of claw into him. And he languished for a long time before finally taking another risk."Maybe I would finally have that dance with the right partner..."
"You're taking about that woman in the picture...Peggy Carter because you still have feelings for her. Don't you, Rogers?" she said, her face darkened as a cold semblance of the Black Widow reemerged over her pale skin and her guarded expression made his heart ache on top of all the regrets. She chewed on her lip. "It doesn't take much to read your emotions. Do you still love her?"
Steve blinked back the tears gathering on his lashes. "It's kind of hard to love someone who doesn't remember what had been lost." His smile faltered. "There was something between us that I thought would never become undone, Natasha, she moved on with her life and married a good man. She deserved to have family, and I can't be selfish and hold that against her, and I can't pretend that she is young and that we have a chance to dance again." His lips peeled back into a grimace and he halted in his thoughts. He pulled over the tarnished silver compass, his thumb rubbing over the cover.
Everything was starting to sink in and he felt the sickening soil of grief whirl in the pit of his stomach. It was noxious and made him feel a bit feverish. Steve wanted to abandon all emotions and become anew without the jabs of regret forcing him back to the moment when he last heard Peggy's voice calling out to him on the radio. Steve closed his eyes and leaned back as a tear slipped down his cheek. "My love for Peggy will always be real, but I need to move on and find a reason to live out of the past. I'm becoming a relic...Nat."
Natasha was silent and tried to attack the problem overwhelming her mind. One chance to tell him. "Lots of people have reasons to live out of the past." She was twisting his words and hiding the truth. She had to downplay her own game. "We all have done mistakes, but it doesn't mean that we have to keep on living with those faults, Steve. You have a choice to put everything behind you and move on. When she searched his acute gaze, pale azure and she saw the remnants of pain, cloud cover of a storm that never dissipated. "Sometimes it's a dare. I know you won't regret it."
A smile ghosted across Steve's lips, it was faint yet full of irony. Though she would never say it aloud, Natasha always liked to see him smile. It wasn't like the smugness one would expect to see in Stark's, nor the flippancy in Clint's, the timidness in Banner's, nor the robustness in Thor's. Whenever Steve smiled, humble and true...it was reassuring and it was pure. A rare sight in Natasha's life. It provided her with a warmth that she had felt missing within her being for a long time. A warmth she craved and that left her cold in its absence.
A soft chuckle blew past Steve's lips, though it sounded more like a rough exhale. His gaze fell away from hers a moment, lost in the sea of his past that he had yet to swim out of. Natasha felt compelled to touch the smoothness of his jaw in an effort to draw him away from those depths and back to her, but her resistance remained strong and stubborn. "I've taken a lot of dares and a lot of risks in my life." Steve continued quietly, still staring into space as Natasha watched him, "some I'm sure weren't my best acts in judgment... I have a wealth of regrets to add on them too," finally his blue eyes returned to hers, earnest and true in a manner that caused a flutter within herself, "but the biggest regret would be not telling you how I feel about you, Nat."
She felt her walls begin to crumble.
"Steve," Natasha felt disarmed. The world was sinking under her feet. Uncertain breaths evened as she folded her arms over her chest. She was uncomfortable. He managed to pull on the threads of her web. Daring herself to look at him was a risk; Natasha bit her lip and allowed her green eyes to search for a distraction. There was deep, abysmal awareness that clawed into her bones.You can't love me, Steve. I'm not a good girl. I'm not your Peggy Carter.
She was unsure if her heart would accept the truth pouring out from his mouth. Her stomach roiled and skin grew slightly feverish. "I think you might be entering a delusional state. You slammed into that car very hard." It was her method of cover up to prevent emotions from betraying all of her defenses and heart shields. To expose her soul when she caught the trusting gleam in his eyes.
Steve could now see the vulnerability in Natasha's formerly stoic features that had broken away from his passionate stare. Her words that were before doubtful and somewhat skeptic were now were evasive and timid. Lacking in their usual resistance. Steve felt that he was close to reaching her. Unconsciously, his hands slowly reached out and took hers into his own, feeling a surge of electricity and strength within him at her proximity. She was very warm and soft; a sure contrast to her normally solid exterior. Like a magnet, Steve felt himself drawing even closer to her as he leaned forward, his soft blue eyes searching out her own.
"Natasha," he whispered to her, imploring her to meet his gaze as though it were his life-line. In a way it was. A wetness formed at the corner of Natasha's eyes that remained staring off to the side, unblinking and timid towards meeting his gaze. "Since waking up in this new century, a lot has confused me and left me feeling alone, but the one thing I am sure about is that without you, I'd be truly lost. You've stood by me and fought with me when I thought I had no one else." A pinch began to form between Natasha's eyebrows, her fierce green eyes watering as her crumbling expression warred between defiance and submission. Steve could feel her hands form into emotional fists in his own.
"And the truth of it is...there was no one else I would have rather had by my side." Steve continued to pour out his feelings to her, unwilling to stop in fear that he may never have this opportunity to again. "I care about you, Natasha. I know you think that your touch is something that leads to ruin, but its not. Since you've come into my life, Nat, as both a partner and a friend, I have never felt more stronger and more attuned to the world we're in today..." Steve swallowed thickly, so close to the end of his confession where he found his heart racing wildly in his chest. His breathing hitched and he felt prickles along his skin as anticipation filled him.
Closing his eyes momentarily, Steve latched onto his courage and spoke, "the truth of it all is, Natalia Romanova...," finally opening his eyes, he nearly lost his nerve once he found her tearful green eyes staring back at him intently. "I love you." His world-his soul laid bare for her.
Run, she thought, barely in a heart beat after his confession sliced through the icy barrier of her beleaguered heart. She sat there, unable to move, stuck in a red haze of her past as violent and intense images of lifeless bodies piled on the snowy rooftops of Moscow rushed and flooded her mind. She tried to pull out of the void, grabbing onto something -an anchor to guide her out of the tempest-the heart of the storm she had been drawn into since Ivan enrolled her into the dance school. Threads of memory raveled as the searing blue eyes of a murderous and haunting demon reborn out of the ice -the Winter Soldier. He was the first victim of her damned heart, they were efficient and well trained operatives; he was that little red haired ballerina's mentor and partner known in the Red Room as James.
"Natalia," he spoke with the utmost of compromise. He stood in the doorway, dressed in black tactical gear-his long tresses of brunette hair, messy and drenched with sweat. There were reserves of cunning and collective patience in his darkened gaze, steel azure that seeped into her bones as his full lips twisted into a rueful smirk. He knew how to evoke dread-slice deep and suck breath out of his female victims with a hard, fathomless, melting kiss of malevolence. "Why are afraid of me?" he implored, daring her move toward him. "You're beautiful, Natalia. Lethal. I love you. Please become mine. Let me have a dance with you..."
Those nights ended with her pinned to the floor, being devoured by his hunger and then feeling drained, used and empty. The Winter Soldier wasn't a man, but a monster who had darker feelings ,trauma and guilt that he couldn't fight, nor justify as pain when impulses of his savage nature controlled him as his emotions for her outweighed his instincts to kill.
"I don't want to hurt you, Natalia. I can't control the urges...You have to get away from me. Run.
He was bounded by the commands of his his handler that kept his true moral existence-James Barnes from seeping out of the cracks of the icy exterior of HYDRA's hybrid -a darker negative from Captain America. He killed people he was order to terminate, hunted and manipulated. They were equals out in the field and cross fires, but after she saw the glimmers of his memories return, he was mind swiped and thrown into a locked chamber and deactivated until HYDRA needed to reactive him for another mission. When she finally saw him, he had put a untraceable slug into her stomach during her recon mission in Odessa. And she truly knew that James Barnes had been swallowed into the inescapable abyss.
Natasha wanted a second chance of redemption. Clear her red ledger. She wanted it more than anything else she'd ever wanted. She made terrible mistakes in the past that scarred her and left her desolated and stripped bare to face the storms of the past alone. She loved Steve to point that it hurt so much she couldn't survive without staring into the mixing blue stirs of his passive gaze. He made her feel home whenever she was around him. Black and white. Those were the shades and tints of her life before he saved her and the world became full of colors, in focus, bright and pure. And it was beautiful. He was beautiful.
She met his clear blue eyes in the relative absence of light. She took a small breath. It probably was a risk, but she had to know. "Steve, do you really mean those words, but is it because you're alone and need to feel whole again?" she asked, quenching the last ugly crush of emotions down her throat. It finally hit her, the truth with him was that he beloved love was a deep connection to share with someone for a lifetime of struggles and victories. It was real. No strings attached or condemning shackles. Freedom.
Steve stared deeply into her emerald eyes, rushing far through the rich sparkling forests where beyond he could see her truly now-the barren and indecisive woman who suffered and inflicted much hardships, who didn't believe she deserved a life of peace, happiness and love; and who also believed her life-force if anything-deserved to be drowned in the sea of blood which she had spilled over the decades since her inception-her creation. However, a glimmer of hope lingered as it seemed Steve's words helped to distract her from the doubted still festering inside of herself.
Listening to the doubt and solemnity in her words, Steve felt something within him snap like a cable suspending too much weight. His azure blue orbs burned with an intense affection that sparked a fire of anticipation within Natasha of what was to come next. Slow but surely, his long smooth fingers interlocked with hers, feeling the sparks of electricity trailing up his arms. Like a magnet, Steve inched closer towards her, never breaking eye-contact until he could feel her warm breath on his lips and he covered her mouth with his own.
The moment his lips touched hers, it was as if his brain had shut down and his heart seized total control of him. What could only be described as fireworks went off inside of them. Tendrils of passion coiled around them, as Steve felt the softness of her full lips begin to move against his own. While their first kiss had been chaste and almost fleeting, this one was bore the full weight of their feelings for each other.
Natasha didn't open her eyes. She had been running for a long time from the past, she never stopped to breathe. As she felt the melting calmness of his lips crush against hers, everything that she was in all those life times became stripped away, and the darkness soon faded in a devouring twist of pressure, contact and security.
She was no longer standing on the edge of uncertainty, feeling the existence of pain dissolve into her bones and discarded all her masks. There was no mission. No danger or terror to face. Defenses were lowered and hearts soared with ignition of new energy and strength.
She tasted the purity and trust seep out of firmness of his lips as they deepened into the kiss. And they disappeared into that world that they had created when their souls were freed out of the icy prisons of guilt and isolation.
They met the other half way through the shadows of the past and the light of the future.The End.