She never slept when they were together, never warmed the sheets beside him, and never stayed for breakfast. Cuddling on the couch turned quickly to foreplay and didn't happen afterwards. Oh, when they were together, she enjoyed herself, uninhibited in a way Steve couldn't be, but there was always the sense that part of her was hidden, locked away or missing. And that bothered him. He'd read her file, back before they'd met, when Loki stole the Tesseract and they'd been called into action; he'd heard what she'd said, what Loki had taunted her with, the details of a vastly different childhood than he'd led, one far worse than anything he could imagine. They'd even talked about it once, when they'd started this, when she'd balked at his need for more than just a quick blowjob or fast orgasm. She'd made her position clear – she simply wasn't capable of more than that, of any kind of true intimacy, not after the Red Room and the training and the amount of blood that covered her hands, she told him. Horse shit, all of it, Steve knew; she clearly loved Clint like a brother, sharing all her secrets with him, feeling safe enough to sleep in his room, one of only two people she truly trusted. The second was Phil Coulson, the man who helped bring her into S.H.I.E.L.D., the man she mourned when he died, and moved Heaven and Earth to find once she realized he was alive.

When they were with the others, they bantered and laughed, drank and danced, watched movies and shared take out. They never touched beyond what friends would do, and kissing or hand holding or … what did Tony like to call it? Oh, yeah … eye fucking were all right out of the question. So were dates, although they could go to dinner or the museum or an art show or a ball game as friends as long as they mixed it up, sometimes taking Bruce, sharing a table with Phil or sitting with Tony in his skybox. Not wanting anyone to know, not wanting to deal with anything more than simple sex that was her plan for avoiding emotional entanglements. Too bad Steve had a completely different idea of how their relationship was going to go … and he was a damn fine strategist when it came to winning the war for Natasha's heart.

She'd left him lying on his bed, sated and sleepy, wishing she'd curl up next to him so he could feel her warmth as he drifted off. Next morning, he was knocking on her door, bags filled with everything he needed; she answered, wearing shorts and a tank, no makeup covering her beautiful face, eyes sleepy but open.

"Steve?" She glanced at the bags and back to his face; he kept his look carefully neutral, just a friendly morning visit.

"I've got a new recipe." He walked in and she stepped back, confused. The fact that he even got in the door, he counted as a win. "Strawberry Banana pancakes. I need a taster."

"It's … oh my god, Steve, it's 7:42 in the morning." She ran a hand through her hair, pushing it back from her face. "We were … up late last night."

"It's breakfast time." He walked into her small galley kitchen and sat the bags down on the granite counter; Tony certainly didn't skimp on décor of the Tower. Their rooms had come with all the devices and gadgets a cook could ever need; Steve had taken the time to figure out how each one worked, looking them up on the internet then plugging them in and pushing all the buttons. Natasha's were covered in a thin layer of dust, her griddle still in the original box.

"Okay." She tilted her head, that familiar look of concentration on her face. Puzzling him out, she was filtering his behavior through a thorough set of criteria designed to understand and develop the right response. If he were a terrorist, she'd already be taking him down; this relationship thing? Not quite in her wheel well. "Pancakes. I can do pancakes."

"Good." The ingredients came next, set out one by one on the counter top. He'd bought everything, assuming nothing; he'd never been in her kitchen before, much less opened the door to her fridge. Come to think of it, he didn't even know if she could cook. The subject had never come up. She always ordered take out or took her turn washing dishes. "It shouldn't take long."

"You cook. Why doesn't that surprise me?" She perched on a stool and watched as he mixed the batter, cracking the eggs and measuring out just a little bit of sugar to add a touch of sweetness.

"What, men aren't supposed to cook? Or just men from my generation?" He teased. Resting her chin on her hands, she stifled a yawn and blinked while he poured the first pancakes onto the griddle.

"Neither. Making breakfast is just so … you." She smiled that tentative little upturn of the corners of her mouth that he adored. As he cut the strawberries, she nicked a ripe plump one, biting into it with her teeth, juice running from the corner of her mouth. He stirred instantly as her pink tongue swiped along the bottom lip to catch the drops. It amazed him, how easily he responded to the smallest breath, the least little turn of her head, just the faintest glint in her gorgeous green eyes. People liked to believe that he was innocent; the whole internet seemed to believe that he was a virgin, and, yeah, he knew about fan fiction, although he didn't get the whole Tony thing. Honestly, he and Tony would kill each other within two days; he'd haul off and strangle the man. Still, Tasha had gotten a kick out of reading some of the racier stories, telling him the details, making them both laugh. Strange that there were so few about the real life couples like Tony and Clint, and virtually none where he and Tasha were together. But the virgin thing? What did people think? He and Peggy had only just met before she was off to the European front, and he was on tour with a bevy of very nice, very good looking showgirls. He didn't work his way through most of them like the director or the producer did, but he did date; much as he didn't like to admit it, his new body got a completely different reaction from the opposite sex, and he learned about the pleasures of making love. Okay, he didn't sleep around much – he was still an old-fashioned guy – but he wasn't the hopeless mutt some people made him out to be.

"Okay, I give." Natasha gave him a dazzling smile; boy did that work really well. His body went from warm-up to ready-to-go in three seconds flat, but he tamped it down. For his plan to work, he had to keep this nice and easy. "What are you up to?"

"I was hungry," he answered; he'd found straight honesty worked the best with her. "And I wanted some company; for some reason, your sweet tooth came to mind." He made short work of flipping the pancakes over; they were golden brown and smelled of the cinnamon he'd added. "I bought pre-made whip cream; I hope that's okay. I usually like to make my own, but that takes a lot of time."

"If it's one of those cans with the nozzle, you're forgiven." Those intelligent eyes were following his every move, cataloguing all the details, adding everything together. "Did you know Clint likes to eat the cream right out of the can? Takes it out of the fridge and just shoots it in his mouth."

A laugh bubbled up; he could imagine Clint doing just that. Tony too. And Thor would make a battle out of it. Yeah, they had to get some cans for the communal kitchen. "Well, that's one benefit to ready-made."

He stacked the round cakes onto the plates he'd found in the cabinet, layering bananas and strawberry slices between each one, letting the fruit spill down the sides as he put the last of it on the top. Powdered sugar – he'd brought his own in the shaker he kept in his kitchen – and then he popped the syrup in the microwave to heat up. Fumbling with the can, he tried to open the whipped cream, turning it on its side and staring at the instructions.

"Here," Natasha took the can, pulled the red strand of plastic, and popped the top. Shaking it vigorously, she circled white swirls on top, spinning them up to a peak. Setting the can aside, she slid her plate towards her and picked up a fork Steve had put out; he stopped her with a hand on her wrist.

"The syrup's the best part," Steve said. Still warm, he passed it over to her.

"Strawberry?" She poured the thick liquid in a spiral, the red color hinting at the flavor. She snagged a banana, scooped up some syrup and popped it in her mouth, then licked her fingers. "Oh. That's good."

Of course, she knew what she was doing to him; seduction was a skill set for her, but Steve knew she had rules to separate work and her own life. Always consensual, never manipulative, those were lines she wouldn't cross. No, she just truly enjoyed teasing him, testing his patience and pushing to see how long he would wait; he loved that about her, how she didn't treat him like some icon or ideal but like a desirable man. He forked up a bite of pancake – less syrup because he didn't like it as sweet – and tasted. Fluffy cake and warm syrup mixed well; he closed his lips around the tines as he slid the utensil back out. A small sigh from Natasha, and she took her own bite. Closing her eyes, she swallowed and licked her lips.

"Okay. I give." Right to the heart of the issue, that was Natasha. "I appreciate the food and the company, but I need to know the next move here."

"Whatever you want." Reaching over, he dragged his thumb across her chin, smearing a bit of syrup as he did. He went back to eating as she hesitated then took another bite herself.

"You've been reading again, haven't you? Did Tony send you a link to a Cosmo article, 'How to please a woman'?" She gently razzed him as they ate. "I warned you about clicking on links from Stark."

"He's better than Clint's advice on dating," Steve laughed. "Let's see … don't call her back immediately, don't meet the parents for at least six months, always bring your own condoms."

She almost choked at that, coughing to clear her throat. "If he said that, I just might have to kick his ass. Again."

"I made two of them up. I'll let you guess which one is true." He sopped up some syrup with pancake; drops fell on his hand and his shirt as he leaned down to his fork. He saw her eyes darken as they focused on his fingers resting on the countertop, and he knew what she was going to do before she moved, her smaller hand scooping up his larger one, bringing it to her mouth. A light brush of lips and the tip of her tongue caught the circles of sweetness, leaving hot little jolts that ran right down to his semi-aroused cock.

"Don't call her back right away. That's so Clint; still hasn't moved out of his room even though he's living in Tony's suite." She let his hand go. Running a finger along the edge of the plate, she offered it to Steve. He leaned over and closed his lips around it, rolling his tongue around the tip. She gave a breathy sigh as she drew her hand back.

"Nope. The condoms. He gave me the talk about protection in the 21st Century; I think he drew the short straw." He cleaned his plate of the last pieces of fruit; Natasha slid hers over for him to finish as well. "Never assume they have protection. A gentleman always provides his own … and gets peace of mind as well. Like I didn't learn everything I needed to know on the circuit; a pregnancy could end a showgirl's career."

"Dancers too," she offered. He blinked; she so rarely mentioned her own past that it was always a surprise. "But Clint didn't say 'a gentleman.' That's all you."

"True. Clint's exact words were 'sheath it before you thrust it,' I believe." He stacked the empty plates together and left them in the sink, next to the mixing bowl. The whole conversation with Clint had been humorous; he and Natasha had already slept together by the time it took place and Steve had used protection, having read all about different options on the internet. Then they'd realized they were constantly under medical review – after every battle or encounter, detailed blood work and workups – and, between his super soldier serum and her Red Room experiments, they were as safe as anyone could be

"Oh, a sword metaphor. How … blunt," Natasha laughed. "Next you'll tell me he was talking about rockets and trains."

He circled the end of the breakfast bar and stopped next to her; turning, she faced him, the height of the stool putting her face almost even with his. "Hey, he didn't go for the bow and arrow thing, so I give him points for that. Still, it was pretty funny that he thought I'd need …"

The whipped cream hit him in the cheek, just below his eye, part of the creamy sweet stuff spraying in his mouth; he wiped at the white mess as Natasha laughed at him, the offending can still in her hand. Gathering a palmful of cream as a slow smile crept across his face, Steve hesitated, feinted as if to reach for a towel, then tried to smear it on her, but she was too quick.

"Oh, it is on," he warned. She retaliated with another squirt, hitting his shoulder this time, and then she evaded his hands, hiding the can behind her. She was agile, but didn't want to get away; he was faster but wanted to enjoy the moment. They played for a bit, acting like kids, laughing and running from each other, getting messy as the fun devolved into Steve throwing handfuls of the melting cream back at her. Some landed in her hair, longer curls that she'd grown out recently; more splattered on her neck, sticky trails running down. His excuse was that he got distracted by the white drops sliding towards the vee between her breasts, disappearing under the curve of her black tank top. That's how she got the drop on him, pinning him against the edge of the breakfast bar, her full weight pressing his arms back onto the counter, bringing their bodies into contact as she knocked his feet apart and bore down with her hips to keep him in place. The mood shifted immediately, heat flaring as she ground against him, feeling his instant response and giving him a wicked smile before she leaned up on her tiptoes and licked off a stripe of cream that was crawling down his chin. Suddenly, it was a race of mouths and tongues and hands as they covered as much of each other's body as they could, the sweetness of the whipped cream mixed with the salty sweat. She held him still as she traced his cheekbones, the curve of his ear, the strong jaw, taut muscle of his neck. When she released his hands, Steve nuzzled into Natasha's hair, wound the curls around his fingers and tilted her head back to chase the sticky lines down her neck and across her chest until they were both breathing heavily, starting to burn with the need building between them. Stepping back, she pulled her top over her head, tossing it randomly behind her, and his brain stuttered for a few seconds at the sight of her beautiful breasts, rosy rings, weight just right to fill his palms. Seeing her always affected him; far from perfect, her body was littered with scars, reminders of old wounds and hurts, signs of who she had been and who she was now, and he loved every one of them. Slipping his hands around her waist, he lifted her effortlessly up onto the counter, nudging her knees open so he could step between them and reach for the bottle of syrup, still slightly warm. Her eyes widened when she saw it in his hands.

"Seriously messy there, Steve." Her voice was husky, a sure sign she was aroused. Plus, in public, it was always Cap or Rogers or Captain. Only here and now, when they were together, would she use his given name.

"Thus the counter and not the bed." The whole point of the morning was to do what they wanted, just be together. He trickled the syrup across her chest, rivulets clinging to her curves; she moaned at the feel of it and the low sound went right to Steve's cock.

"You're going to do the dishes," she complained, shivering under the heat of his gaze.

"I already made you breakfast," he said and dipped his head, swiping his tongue across her collar bone to gather up the little pool that had collected in the dip there. Systematically, he covered her skin, working his way down until he breathed warm air over a nipple, watching it pucker and grow hard before he licked it and pulled it into his mouth.

"Oh, fuck," Natasha groaned. "Don't you dare … say anything about … second breakfast." She braced herself on her hands, clasping the opposite edge of the hard granite, arching up, begging without words for him to take more of her, and he did, cupping one breast and rolling the nipple between his finger and thumb as he sucked hard on the other one, just how she liked it, nipping the hard nub. He took his time; she liked the head long rush to the pinnacle, and he was perfectly content to put off his own pleasure until she'd had one or two orgasms first. He watched the flush creep up her face, the flutter of her eyelids, her lower lip caught in her teeth. When he'd paid plenty of attention to both breasts, he followed the lines of syrup down to her belly button, just barely visible above her shorts, cleaning them off with his tongue.

"Steve?" She asked as he lifted up and stepped away; he picked up the syrup bottle and put it back in the microwave, setting the time for 20 seconds. "You're not …" Oh, he was. He fantasized a lot about her, indulging desires he'd never dared dream about. And the best part? She had no hesitation helping him fulfill them. He spun her around, curled his fingers under the waistband of her shorts and underwear, and pulled them down as she lifted up, tossing them over her shoulder just as the microwave dinged. The bottle warmed his hand when he picked it up; he dripped a small drop on his finger to test it then grinned at Natasha.

"We'll shower afterwards," he promised. Resting on her elbows, she watched him with hooded eyes lit with desire, opening her legs as he tilted the spout and let the thick liquid spin into her pubic hair, trickling down. With his fingers, he parted her lips and the heat seeped over her clitoris. Her head fell back, hair flowing onto the counter, eyes squeezed shut as she moaned.

"Oh, hell, Steve. That's …" She broke off as he bent down, running his tongue over her clit, sucking lightly at first then harder as she moved her hips, lifting with each brush. He loved this, the smell, the taste, all uniquely her, the way she bucked when he grazed the sensitive nub with his teeth. Trust. She trusted him enough to let her guard down, to open herself up to him, not just his mouth, but to his control. Winding her up tightly, moving to dip inside of her with the tip of his tongue, he never wanted to lose this, the way she pleaded for faster, harder, more please. When he licked her clean, he slipped a finger inside, twisting as he eased in and out the moist wet heat; standing, he could lean over and kiss her, let her wind her arms around his neck and bury her hands in his hair – she had this thing for messing it up – plunder her strawberry flavored mouth as he pulled her upright and added a second finger. He swallowed her gasp when he found the right spot, the one that made her come undone; she clenched tight, arched back, and came, crying out his name as she shattered beneath him.

She rode out her climax as he held her, her forehead on his broad shoulder; this moment, when she was at her most vulnerable, was precious to him. All too soon, she was back to herself, her hands pushing down his sweatpants, fingers curling around his hard length, a light squeeze that narrowed his focus to the blood rushing into his cock.

"I want," she murmured, locking her legs around his waist, hands sliding up his arms, urging him forward. "Do it, Steve. Make me … breakfast."

The glint of humor in her eyes was too much; he surged into her, filling her up in one thrust, the feel of her around him enough to make him teeter on the edge of coming. "Tasha," he moaned into the curve of her neck; there was no hope of going slow when she circled her hips like that and teased his ear with her tongue. "So sweet and hot."

"That's the syrup," she laughed; he turned that into a gasp, thrusting hard, bracing his hands on the counter, trapping her between his body and the granite.

"No, it's you." He didn't give her time to react, setting a fast pace as he drove them both upward, the spiral in his gut tightening; reaching between them, his finger and thumb found her clit and rubbed, pinching lightly, and she tumbled again. The clench around his cock was delicious and just what he needed to tip him over, one last thrust, straining as he came, vision going dark around the edges.

"You mentioned a shower?" she murmured when they both had their breath back.

"And laundry. I've got syrup all over my shirt."

"Something to be said for getting naked," she said. "In fact …" Tugging at the hem, she helped him pull the t-shirt up and off, "… I'm pretty sure that was just round one." She slid off the counter and picked up the syrup, popping it back in the microwave. "Shower's tile. Easy clean up."

Well, hell, his cock had a mind of its own and Natasha's words and that sexy smile she gave him were stirring it up again. Kicking off his sweats, he followed her as she carried the bottle towards the bathroom.

"Hey, Nat, weren't we supposed to meet for …"

Clint drew up to a halt only two steps into the room and just stared. Steve saw Clint's eyes widen, the pieces fall into place; laying his drawing pad on his lap, he waited for Natasha to respond from her yoga mat on the floor.

"That's tomorrow. The training starts at 11:00." She didn't break pose, holding the hummingbird without even a quiver, not looking up. "Don't make me revoke your access. Knock next time. Or I'll drop in on you and Tony during porn night."

"But … Steve?" Clint looked to him for help, but Steve just shrugged his bare shoulders, his shirt still in the dryer.

"You're on your own."

"Right, well, tomorrow." Clint gapped like a fish a few more times then backed out the door.

"Twelve minutes," Steve offered.

"Nine max. Don't forget JARVIS." Natasha replied.

She was right. Everyone would know very shortly that they were sleeping together. Steve tried really hard not to show how happy he was with the turn of events.

"I can appreciate a well-waged campaign, you know," she said. "But no gloating is allowed."

He picked up his pencil and went back to the drawing, roughing in the line of her back and flow of her legs. He didn't need to gloat; he was happy to have her anyway she'd let him.