He doesn't need anyone.
Since a tender age, he's been raising himself, teaching himself, and he's too used to it to really know how it feels to need someone other than himself. He doesn't need Sam, though he definitely doesn't mind having the other man around. Sam does a good job of watching his back the rare time he can't and he's been in enough tough spots to know that a partner is totally worth having around. And he doesn't need Hetty, even if she is the closest thing to a constant parent he's had in his life. He doesn't need a team, though much like Sam, having them around isn't a detriment either.
It's the evening after another shootout, another close call where the building blows up behind them, that changes his mind.
He's not really sure what it is about this one. Maybe it's the way the gun was pointed. Maybe it's the fact that it wasn't pointed at him. Maybe he's finally losing it and he should look into early retirement. He's done good work, been in a lot of unfortunate situations, the Director would probably understand.
Whatever the reason, his hands are still shaking, long after the danger has passed and long after they've been debriefed. If the temporary psychologist taking Nate's place noticed it, the man didn't let on and he isn't sure if that's a good thing or a bad. Either way, he's surprised at how glazed his eyes feel as he returns to his desk and really just stares at his computer screen.
He doesn't realize he's waiting until she drops into the chair next to him. She looks over and he catches her gaze. She offers him a smile, then a beer and he doesn't realize he's agreeing until he's already following her back to her apartment. He's been by before, more than once, because they've been drinking and someone has to make sure one of them gets home in one piece, but it's been a long time since he's been by sober and he's pretty sure he's never been by in the aftermath of something that's shaken him so badly. He's not quite sure why his stomach is churning so completely, only that it is and it unnerves him.
She's quiet as she offers him the beer, uncapping it with a skill he's seen before but never outright admired. It's odd that his unnerving seems to be centered on being with her in her space when he's done it so many times before. They've been up close and personal for missions more times than he's been able to count which includes all manner of intimate actions. But this feels different, and even different from the odd time he's crashed on her couch. There's something underlying the tension this time and if he was a smart, savvy man, he'd be walking away.
But he's not, and he's sure it's going to be a decision that will be his downfall – how he's not sure – but he can't make himself move from leaning against her counter.
They sip in silence until she pushes herself from the counter and heads to the living room. She's tense, he can see it in every line of her body, in every step she takes. Even when she sits on the couch and flips on the television he can see it. She can't settle on a channel. He stays in the doorway between her kitchen and her living room, just waiting. He's not sure what he's waiting for, but he doesn't move all the same.
Then it comes.
"Why do we do this?"
He feels the surprise rocket through him, along with a darker thrill that she's about to confide in him. "Why do we do this?" he questions. There's too many answers to her question and he needs her to be more specific.
She drops her head back, her neck arching and he can actually see her swallow. "We get up every morning and go to work where we pretend to be someone we're not to try and catch people who are trying to destroy everything we stand for and we're not even guaranteed to come home at the end of the day. Why do we do it?"
He's not used to questioning himself. It's safer that he doesn't because he's just missing too many pieces to make the pretty picture she wants him to give her. He makes his way over to her couch, considering as he sits beside her and she doesn't take him as off guard as he thought when she shuffles slightly and they're pressed together from knee to hip to shoulder.
"I don't buy that we're made for it," she says, her voice quiet now because he's right beside her and he feels the comment in the breath that washes over his shoulder. "I don't buy that it's just who we are. Because that means we don't know who we are and I can't believe that."
He can because he's never been sure of who he is. He plays so many people, trying on different personalities day in and day out in hopes of finding just that. At least, that's what Nate told him. He's not totally sure he believes it, but he loves his job and if that means he has to put himself on the line every once in a while – okay, often, but that's his fault as much as it is the job he does – he's okay with that.
But it's becoming painfully obvious that she isn't.
He can't have his people questioning themselves. It's dangerous to everyone involved and admittedly, she's too good at what she does for him to want to think about her leaving. They all question the job from time to time, when they lose a battle they shouldn't have. They ask if its worth it, if it really makes sense, if what they're doing is ever going to make a difference, but at the end of the day, they all know it does, so they go back to their work, back to their real life and much deadlier games of pretend and they catch the bad guys. Because that's the job.
So he thinks carefully and somehow his arm ends up behind her on the couch and she ends up with her head against his shoulder. Their beer bottles are on the table, half finished, but neither feels the inclination. Instead, he's comfortable and she's breathing steadily and he's comfortable and content. Until she changes the game completely.
He's spent too much of his time tonight being unsure of the shifts and this one is no different. He feels her lips on his cheek first, smooth and warm and he's honestly surprised. There's not enough alcohol involved for it to be a drunken thing and he turns his head as she pulls back. She's looking at him and her eyes are dark and even though he doesn't really know what's coming next, he knows what's coming next.
It's not their first kiss, not really because they've kissed before in the context of a case, but it feels all the more new and different for the circumstances. His hand weaves its way into her hair without the conscious permission of his brain as he kisses her back.
And something leaps inside him.
There's no slow burn to this, and he's not even sure there's anything resembling a spark. There's just an explosion that's so incredibly huge that it takes over everything. He feels her arching into his body, twisting so her breast brushes against his side and though he has absolutely no idea what's going on, he does know that he can't stop.
He outright needs her and the idea shocks him as much as it thrills him.
He's the one to move her, his free arm reaching the whole way around her waist until he can essentially yank her over. She moves just as easily, born of practice and seamless teamwork. But they've never used those skills for this. She straddles his lap and he takes advantage by sneaking a long-fingered hand under her t-shirt. She arches into his body when he does, her hands wrapping around his neck.
Her body yields to every touch of his hands, to every brush of his fingers and he finds himself reveling in every response. She shifts with him and against him until he's not sure if she's responding or initiating. Then again, he's not sure he cares either.
He almost lets out an embarrassing groan when she pushes herself away and stands, but then she's pulling him with her and she's fully against him and he forgets why he was so upset in the first place. He lets her lead because she started it and because she knows her apartment in the dark better than he does. It has nothing to do with the fact that he's on the verge of ripping her t-shirt off just to see if the front of her is as smooth as the back and it's that feral idea that makes him grit his teeth when her mouth travels against the stubble of his jaw. He's pretty sure he's gripping her hips tight enough to leave bruises but since she doesn't seem to be complaining, he doesn't bother to let up.
Somewhere, he knows this is a terrible idea. He knows that he needs to slow down, to remind himself of who she is and the fact that they have to face each other in the morning, but none of it matters because her hands are slipping beneath his long-sleeved t-shirt and he can feel her nails on his stomach. He all but picks her up as he swings her around and he realizes just in time that the door he's about to press her against is open slightly. He stumbles into her bedroom and tumbles her to the bed because it's easier than keeping himself upright. She lands on top of him with a squeak that is so unlike her he almost laughs.
But then her hands are under his shirt again, pushing it upwards and he lets her pull it off him because that need he felt with that first true kiss spikes in his stomach. He's helpless to it and while he knows he should care, he's too wrapped up in her and in them to let it bother him for too long. When she pulls her t-shirt off he's not bothered by it at all.
He's a man, so he can admit the fact that he'd thought about what a woman like her wore beneath her clothes. He'd anticipated simple cotton for day-to-day wear, but what he finds was something completely different. White, dotted with small blue stars and he actually pauses when he sees it. It seems so unlike her, so different from the take-charge better-than-good agent that he works with day-to-day.
"Don't judge me."
He laughs at her whisper as he traces the fabric, realizing it's satin. "Wouldn't think of it," he promises as he brings his mouth to hers again. He distracts himself with their kiss trying to tamp down the need racing through his blood. He's never felt it before, not the pounding in his ears and veins, nothing like this. And all it takes is her. The thought floors him, at least until her entire body presses against his and then his thoughts scatter. Her hips press solidly against his. She is the one to groan at the contact, pulling her mouth from his to arch backwards.
His hands wrap around her back, pressing her into him as best he can. He is lost in her, a feeling he hasn't felt in a long time. He loses in his work, in the people he pretended to be, but never a woman. To him it's too risky, too difficult, too messy. But this… this is thrilling. And terrifying. Both because of the feeling, and because of the woman.
If he'd had the brain power in between the kisses she's trailing over his shoulder and down his chest, he would see that it made perfect sense. They're so in tune in the field that it just fits that they'd be the same here. And he already trusts her with his life, even in situations they can't predict, in instances where it's likely one of them is going to get hurt. Or worse. With her, he doesn't have to be strong because she's seen too much of him to truly think of him as invincible.
But her breasts, now bare and he's not sure if he's the one that removed the bra or not, call to him, so none of those thoughts even flicker through his brain. He's too focused on the sights and smells and sounds of having her like this, lying on top of him, naked from the waist up. He lifts her effortlessly, sliding her up his body until he can take a breast in his mouth. He's surprised at the choked sound she makes, so he slides his tongue over her nipple again and her breath catches. He's never imagined, in a million years, that of all of the people, it's him and her.
They've had their fair share of partners – and he's smarter than she thinks in being able to determine when she's been out and when she's been out all night – and yet there's a seamlessness to them that has his heart in a vice. She's arching and twisting, both into his touch and away from it. He's so focused that when her nimble hand deals with his jeans, he doesn't realize it until she's brushing against him through his cotton boxers.
Now it's his turn to choke on air and he recognizes that maybe that's not all that masculine. The infinitesimal part of him that isn't focused on the feeling of her hand against his length winces in humiliation, but she has a triumphant look on her face that is too hot for him to ignore. It's a challenge, if a subtle one and he responds by flipping them over.
And onto the floor.
She let's out an oomph of surprise and he almost asks her if she's okay. But his hips press against her just right and she's freaking mewling at the pressure. He's shocked at the sound but not stupid, so he lifts off. She whimpers, so he makes quick work of dealing with her jeans and underwear before coming back to her. And then he pauses.
"Kens," he said, his voice rough. He can't help it.
"Ask me if I'm sure and I'm getting my gun," she manages to breathe just as she shifts a knee and he settles more firmly against the heat of her center.
He drops his head to her shoulder, forcing himself to take a deep breath. If that's how she feels through the cotton of his boxers, he isn't sure he'll last when he's not wearing them. It's a fleeting thought and but solid enough that it shocks him. He actually jumps, and he's afraid she's going to laugh at him but she just bites her lip and closes her eyes. He's rubbed against her in his surprise and she deliberately arches, anchoring her hands on his shoulders as she does so.
"Off," she murmurs breathlessly. "Take them off."
She's quite obviously referring to his pants since they're the only thing left, and he follows her orders with efficiency. Something in his brain reminds him to get the condom in his wallet.
"Could you be more stereotypical?" she gripes.
He latches onto her breast in retaliation and revels in that little catch of her breath. His hands streak down her sides, sliding between the thighs that still cradle his hips. She's damp and hot and he can't believe how much it's making him feel like a sixteen year old. They work together for Pete's sake. He's probably seen more of her on the job than her boyfriends have seen in her off hours. And yet here, like this, he feels like he's floundering.
She doesn't waste time though. She grasps him, guiding him, and despite the fact that he can feel the dampness, feel the heat, he remembers to sheath himself first. Then he's sliding inside and he actually has to stop when he's all the way in. His head falls to her shoulder again and he can hear her panting harshly.
There's something akin to wonder in her voice and she's the one to set the pace. It's a fast one, and he knows that this is as much about feeling alive as whatever undercurrent there seems to be. Because this is more than just life-affirming sex to him. He wouldn't just do this with a co-worker and he knows her well enough to know she feels the same. This is going to be… something. It's going to be confusing and it's going to be insane but he knows it's going to be a hell of a ride.
It doesn't take long before she's crying out and he's following her over that precipice and he sprawls on top of her despite himself. She's still panting harshly when he picks up his head, but when he does she looks at him. They're not ready to talk about this, not willing to really even think about it, and he's completely willing to pretend that they don't have all of the complications in the world to deal with. But still, she tightens her arms around him, not willing to let him move away too quickly. He's okay with that, because she's warm and firm beneath him, alive, as odd as that sounds because they've been in this much danger before and it's never resulted in this.
"You're thinking," she murmurs into his neck and he realizes she's falling asleep. "It's giving me a headache."
He chuckles, because he can't help it, and rolls on the mattress until she's sprawled above him. She surprises him when she tilts her head to meet his mouth in a slow, languid kiss. He surprises himself with how easy it is to fall into that simple meeting of mouths and how right it feels to slide a soothing hand up the supple curve of her spine. She sighs when they separate.
"If you're going to be up all night," because she knows him and knows that sleep isn't something that usually stays with him, "you're making coffee in the morning."
He grunts his assent because, God, she's just told him he's staying the night and he's not used to that. Of course, this is her and she's been doing unexpected things since he met her. He smiles when she burrows in closer because a cuddler is not something he would have pegged her for and decides that hey, maybe she's on the right track. Morning will come soon enough and they'll have to talk about it or deal with it or hey, maybe even ignore it and go into work and do this all again.
Not that he has a problem with that. All they've done is proven they're still seamless, that there's nothing they don't just fit in doing. It's terrifying and comforting simultaneously. They shouldn't work in bed, there should be something they can't do together and it should definitely be this, but then again…. It's a shocking comfort to know that they fit here too.
And in the morning, he's still there, and he does make coffee and he gets a smile that actually twists his stomach in knots and shoves his heart into his throat.
In that smile he knows one thing with startling clarity. It's not enough. One night is not enough. It will never be.