Title: We Were Always Just That Close
Word Count: ~3,000
Prompt: "where Steve and nat just start sleeping together (non sexual of course) as a source of comfort when they both experience nightmares and it becomes a regular thing"
Summary: She's not sure anything she couldsay would be helpful, considering she's awake in the middle of the night just as he is.
For: helentran07 …Okay, so it turns kind of sexual at the end, but I hope you don't mind!
We Were Always Just That Close
She wakes up with a gasp, a hand gently grasping her arm as her heart thumps in her chest. She turns her head, squinting against the light of the lamp that hadn't been on when she'd fallen asleep, and finds Steve staring down at her with a worried and slightly alarmed expression.
"Sorry," she murmurs, pushing her fingers through her hair, and she hates how shaky her voice comes out. "Did I wake you?"
"It's fine. I… I wasn't getting much sleep, either," he admits.
He looks as distraught as she feels, and she presses her lips together and doesn't say anything in return. She's not sure anything she could say would be helpful, either, considering she's awake in the middle of the night just as he is. Even if his touch hadn't startled her into waking up, it would've happened in a matter of minutes, anyway.
This is why she hates getting a decent amount of sleep: she gets nightmares. It always, always happens. At least when she's too exhausted to function by the time she gets the chance to rest, her sleep goes dreamless. It's not exactly peaceful, but she sure as hell prefers it over the alternative. This assignment was as easy as they come – get in, get the files, get out. It only took a few hours, but they were given a window of two days, so their flight out of Los Angeles wasn't until 10:00 the next day and they had a little downtime.
And she doesn't mind that. She just hates the restless sleep that usually comes after.
"So, you're…" He brushes his thumb over her skin, and it's an oddly comforting sensation. "Are you alright now?"
"Yeah," she says. He nods a little, moves to stand up, but then she says, "Steve," and he pauses, meeting her eyes again. His hand is still on her arm, and she wonders if he didn't want to leave as much as she didn't want him to. Maybe that doesn't make any sense, but whatever.
"What's wrong?" he asks after she doesn't say anything for a moment.
She doesn't really know how to ask him to stay, though, so she just says, "I'm a little cold," in this quiet voice and hopes he'll understand.
Steve just stares at her for a moment, his expression unreadable, and for a brief moment, she feels almost nervous. She's not really sure why. But then he brushes his thumb over her skin again, and okay, maybe she's a little in love with how that feels. "I could lie down with you for a bit, if you wanted. Keep your warm until you fall asleep," he offers, and she lets out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding, smiling. Neither of them moves right away, though, and if they didn't have a flight to catch in a few hours, she wouldn't care.
"Come on, Rogers," she says, pulling back the covers. "We don't have all night."
He falls asleep before she does, which makes sense considering he did a lot more fighting than she had.
Not that he knows that, of course.
She (almost) always follows orders, especially Nick's. She trusts the guy with her life, but she trusts Steve, too, and she's doing things behind his back that he may possibly hate her for. Yes, she's mostly just sent in to retrieve information, tie up loose ends that no one else knows about. But her diverging from plans puts lives in danger every time, of her own team and of innocents, and she didn't think twice about it before Steve. He makes her question things – everything – and she's not sure if that's good or bad, so she just tries not to think of it at all.
She's dreading the day Steve finds out what she's been doing, or Nick finds out that she's starting to have her doubts.
(The worst part is that she's not sure which one she'd hate more.)
But they're hiding out in the bed of a pickup truck with only a tarp cover over their heads and their suits keeping them warm from the Detroit winter outside. So, not very warm at all, and she's wearing a full-body thermal underneath but it's not making much of a difference.
She's just beginning to fall asleep when she feels Steve stirring beside her, hears his breathing pick up, becoming more erratic by the second.
"Steve," she says. His eyebrows are furrowed and he looks so distraught that, for a second, she feels a little terrified herself. She leans up on her elbow and reaches for him with her other arm, placing a hand against his cheek, and then suddenly the world blurs as she feels a hand grip her too tightly, shoving her onto her back. "Steve," she breathes.
He's staring back at her and she can practically see the recognition settle in his eyes, followed by realization.
"Natasha…" He yanks his hand off of her, and he quite honestly looks a little mortified. "I can't believe I just… I'm sorry, Natasha."
"You don't have to be." There's a pause when she can tell he's not quite sure what to say to that. "Although, I must admit I can't imagine why you'd find the cold so unsettling."
He lets out a breathy laugh – which, yes, she can see – and sounds relieved, like he knows she's teasing and like that's exactly what he wanted to hear. It makes her smile. And he being sort of pressed against her like this is the warmest she's been since their team drove out here. "Lie back down," she tells him. He furrows his eyebrows, but she just nudges his shoulder and he does as says, moving to lie on his side, facing her. She shifts closer to him, rests her head on his bicep as he lets out a breath, his body relaxing against hers.
"Better?" she asks needlessly.
"Yeah," he says.
The arm she's not using as a pillow is draped over and she's not exactly complaining. She curls into him a little more, and she can tell that they're both about to fall asleep, so she mumbles, "You know, for this to be most effective, we'd have to be naked."
"Natasha," he says, and the fact that he practically sounds like he's whining makes her laugh.
First class is spacious, so there aren't a lot of people around them, but Steve is beginning to stir and someone will notice soon, especially since the flight attendants will be coming down the aisle in a few minutes. So she sets her hand over his, squeezing it gently and watching his eyes fly open, drawing a quiet but sharp breath.
He's gotten better at waking from his nightmares without being so reckless, so long as she's the one to wake him.
His eyes snap onto her and she mumbles, "It's alright," smoothing her thumb over his knuckles.
He glances around, as if trying to remind himself where he is (actually, that's probably exactly what he's doing) before turning to look at her again. She tilts her head and takes a deep breath. "I'm fine," he murmurs, but he grips her hand a little tighter rather than letting go and this faraway look settles in his eyes, and she thinks (knows) he's hardly fine. So she shifts in her seat to make herself more comfortable, resting her head against his shoulder. "You don't have to do this," he says, though he already feels more relaxed with her close.
"Go back to sleep, Steve," she tells him.
"Yes, ma'am," he says with a soft chuckle, and she falls asleep with a smile on her face.
She falls asleep almost as soon as her head hits the pillow, while Steve is still in the kitchen and talking to Sam about nothing in particular.
So, yes, it startles her more than just a little bit when she feels a hand touch her shoulder. She grasps a wrist, twists their arm away from her as she sits up too abruptly, a rush of dizziness coming over her as she almost throws herself back against the headboard. "Hey, hey, hey," a voice murmurs softly, soothingly, repeating this as she presses her hand over her heart. She narrows her eyes a little as her vision focuses, stares through the darkness as she makes out Steve's face in the moonlight coming through the window behind him.
"Where…" She glances around the room – Sam's guest bedroom.
He touches her arm, and considering she'd come close to breaking his wrist a minute ago, she's glad he's not hesitant.
"Are you alright?" he asks, and she lets out a shaky laugh, because that's too many questions in one and she's not really sure she has an answer she likes for any. She nods, but he just tilts his head. "What's going on? You haven't… woken up like that in a while."
She exhales, tucking her hair behind her ear. "Everybody we know is trying to kill us, remember? That might make it a little hard to sleep," she jokes, because it's easier than saying the truth – mostly because she doesn't know what to make of it, let alone how she would begin to tell him. In a matter of hours, the organization she worked for, that was supposed to be setting her on the right track and putting her on the right side of the fight, turns out to not only to be the enemy, but also attempted to have them killed and most likely had a hand in the death of one of the few people she felt she depended on. Nick is gone, and she's being targeted, and every order she's ever carried may not have been for justice at all.
And yet, what scared her most – what brought her nightmares back and woke her up in the middle of the night – was falling asleep without Steve beside her.
She's not sure she's ready to consider what that means.
"Should I… Do you need something?" he asks, already beginning to get up.
"Don't," she says quickly, grabbing onto his forearm. He gives her this look that makes her feel like she's already said too much, and she presses her lips together, then lets out a breath as she loosens her grip. "Sorry," she begins. "I didn't…" But she trails off, unsure of how to finish.
He blinks, staring at her, and she can't bring herself to look away.
"Natasha," he says after a moment, even though he already has her attention. "We're alive, and we're together. We'll survive this."
And, somehow, she knows that also means: I'm alive, and I'm here for you, and as long as we're together, we'll survive this. It may be the most comforting thing anyone's told her, and she doesn't really know what to say to it. A small part of her feels a little bit like crying, and she knows she will if she lets herself, but she's not really ready to right now.
He sets a hand over hers where hers is still holding onto him and says, "Let's get some sleep."
And even if he hadn't pulled her into his arms once they're lying down, she would've tucked herself against him, anyway.
She dreams of him drowning.
It leaves her gasping and shaking in her bed, which is terribly ironic considering she wasn't the one that went under. She remembers watching his body falling into the water, and she remembers almost literally not being able to breathe as it happened, so maybe that's the connection.
She sits up, closes her eyes and pushes her fingers through her hair and feels kind of pathetic when a tear falls down her cheek. Not because she's crying, but because she's crying alone in the dark. It's stupid, because she knows she'd hate it if someone were here to see her cry, but whatever. It's late and she's exhausted, so she thinks she's allowed to not make any sense right now. And she'd cried when she thought Fury had been dead, cried a little harder even after she'd left the hospital, but she hasn't cried like this in a long time.
(It means something, but she's ignoring it right now.)
She washes the tears from her face afterward, pulls on her robe and decides to head down to the 24-hour diner across the street from the hotel and kill some time until she's tired enough to fall asleep without another dream.
She does not expect to see Steve asleep on the couch when she walks into the sitting room.
What is he doing here?
It's been almost three months since she's seen him, after he left with Sam to find Bucky and she left just because she needed to leave. He's possibly the only person she hasn't had contact with since she went off the radar. She talks to Maria and Pepper often enough, with restricted lines and private lunches in different countries, and wherever Pepper goes, so does Tony, so she's seen him, too. There's a job for her at Stark Industries and a place for her to live in the Tower if she wants it, and she knows that's where she'll end up when she stops running. Clint has found her twice already, and Nick sort of just appears whenever she steps foot in Europe. She'd even seen Bruce and Sharon when she was in New York last.
She wasn't avoiding Steve, and more than once, she's thought of meeting up with him. She just wasn't sure what she'd say. She still isn't sure what she'd say.
But she's missed him and that's kind of all that matters right now.
She crosses the room, sits on the edge of the coffee table and sets a hand on his arm, shaking him gently. He wakes quickly, alert, but then turns to see her and gets this smile on his face as he relaxes against the cushions again. "Hey," he says, and god, she's missed him.
"Hey," she echoes. She moves her hand up, traces her fingertips along his jawline, and he closes his eyes and leans into her touch. "What are you doing in my hotel suite?"
He lets out a breathy chuckle. "Looking for you," he answers. She brushes her thumb over the corner of his lips and he opens his eyes again, meeting hers. He's tired, but she can tell he's still very much awake, like now that he's really looking at her, he's not going to stop. Then he furrows his eyebrows a little. "Have you… Were you just crying?"
"Oh," she says with a soft laugh. "It's nothing."
He sits himself up, places his hand over hers where it's still resting against his cheek. "What happened?" he asks.
"Nothing," she repeats, laughing again. "It was just a nightmare, but…" She shrugs, and she can tell he wants to ask her something else, but she's smiling at him and it makes him smile, too, gripping her fingers a little tighter. "I'm better now," she finishes.
"Yeah?" he asks.
She nods and he pulls her hand from his face, kisses the back of it gently and then brushes his thumb over her knuckles. "Steve," she breathes. He meets her eyes and she pushes her other hand through his hair, just because she has the urge to. "Let's go to bed," she says softly, and he smiles a little wider, like he'd been waiting for her to ask all along.
His fingers are drawing randomly over the curve of her hip, so she knows he's awake and he knows she is, too. It's only 2:00 in the morning, and it makes her think of when she'd only wake at odd hours like this because a nightmare startled her.
But then Steve is pressing a kiss to her hair and then her throat, and she's thinking that, god, she's glad she's up right now.
He lifts himself up on his elbow, pushes her shoulder down gently until she's lying on her back, and then he's pressing a kiss to her lips and she's setting a hand on his arm and kissing him back. They're deep, lazy kisses, because she loves it like this – when it feels as if they have all the time in the world – and she pulls him closer. And she's kind of (really) distracted, obviously, which is not at all an easy thing to do, so she's not really sure how he got so good at it. The fact that he's the only one she's this intimate with probably has everything to do with it. But she's not paying attention to anything other than his lips, so she lets out this noise of surprise when he brushes his fingertips where she's wet for him.
"Steve," she breathes.
He shushes her softly, kisses her throat again and murmurs, "Close your eyes," against her skin, and she digs her nails into his bicep a little and does exactly that.
He brings her so, so close, working his fingers in these slow and teasing strokes and driving her insane, and she swears him whispering, "You're amazing," into her ear is what sends her tipping over the edge. He kisses her flushed cheek as she's coming down from her high, nuzzles his face against her neck and just holds her as she catches her breath.
"What was that for?" she asks after a moment, because it's not like she's complaining, but…
"I wanted to make sure you were alright." She furrows her eyebrows and he lifts his head to look at her. "Before, when you were up this late, it was usually because… well," he trails off, shaking his head. "I was just a little worried."
She smiles. She can't remember the last time she woke up from a nightmare, but it's sweet and totally like him to still be concerned.
"Well, it was just a false alarm," she begins, placing her hand against his cheek. "But I'm a fan of your comforting tactics."
"Just as long as they're only used on you, I assume?"
She arches an eyebrow. "I feel like I should I be concerned that you had to ask."
He knows she's just teasing, but he leans down and kisses her gently, slowly, his hand curving over her hip as he says, "You don't have to be," and she closes her eyes, smiling.