Five Reasons Why (We Don't Mention the Elephant in the Room)Author: tartanshellRecipient: wabbitseasonFandoms:
Daredevil/Iron Man 2Characters/pairing:
Matt Murdock (Daredevil)/Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow)Rating:
Pinch-hit written for the prompt, What's a beautiful ex-Russian spy doing in Hell's Kitchen? wabbitseason
, I hope you like it!
July in the Kitchen, and it's sweltering, even at a quarter to ten on a Sunday morning. The window's open, letting in air thick with the scent of tar melting into cracks on sidewalks, nearby roofs. Outside, there's sticky ice cream residue on hot pavement, a kid walking by with a freshly-bathed dog and a cherry popsicle. Sweat everywhere; salt on the breeze and baby powder deodorant. Foggy's wearing Old Spice and a clean cotton t-shirt, sitting with his feet propped companionably on Matt's coffee table.
Newsprint rustles. "Seven-letter word for 'nocturnal scavenger?'" he asks.
Matt does a quick mental letter count, sprawled at the other end of the couch with one arm draped across the back cushions. "Raccoon?"
"Nah, that'd give us gibberish for four across," Foggy says. "I'd say 'starving lawyers,' but that doesn't fit, either. Speaking of, how was
It's hard not to smile, but he manages it. Barely. "The cheese was good. We made caprese salad. I like a good, fresh mozzarella."
"So do I, but I object very strongly to being paid
with cheese. The barter system died out for a reason, Matt, and--"
"You know," he says, because he can't help it, "we could start a movement. Bring it back. Sort of a utopia hippie commune thing. We get paid in cheese and sports equipment; turn around and see about paying our utilities with legal services, salsa lessons, maybe sexual favors here and there..."
Foggy snorts. "The sick part is, some electric company employee, somewhere, probably would comp your bill if you paid with sex."
"Yeah, but I wouldn't, for electricity." Matt wrinkles his nose. "I've got standards. And don't use the lights. Heat, maybe. Or the water bill. Food..."
"Hell, you could have sex with Mr. Amir for cheese and cut out the lawyering altogether."
"He's not my type," Matt says. "And I don't like cheese that
"Good thing he doesn't pay with sushi, then," Foggy mutters, and clears his throat. He shifts, dry paper-sound as the Sunday Times
falls slack in his hand, and turns to Matt. "So, speaking of sex. Natasha's back in town?"
It's not really a question, seeing as he arrived just as she was on her way out to get breakfast half an hour ago. But Foggy and Natasha have a complicated relationship ('strained' would be another way of putting it), and Matt isn't entirely surprised that Foggy's not-a-question tone toes the line of maybe-a-little-disapproval. Given that it's not a question, he doesn't dignify it with an answer.
"I don't get it," Foggy continues, undeterred. "I mean, she's got to be one of the most beautiful women in the world. What's she doing in Hell's Kitchen?"
One of Matt's eyebrows lifts, almost of its own accord, and Foggy sighs. "Besides doing you, apparently. Didn't you say she had business here?"
"I--well." Business, yes, but nothing he can tell Foggy about. "Yeah, in the City. She's only in the Kitchen because she's staying with me."
"Which I also don't get, by the way."
They've had variations on this conversation for years, but Natasha hasn't visited in awhile. They're about due. "Oh?"
"Come on," Foggy says, his shoulders shhhking
softly against the couch upholstery as he straightens, "you've known her for, what, six years? Seven?"
He doesn't need to count. "Eight, actually."
"Eight years, Matt. Which makes this the longest relationship you've ever had."
Matt closes his eyes, with a fleeting wish, for the first time in a long time, with Foggy, in his own house, that he'd grabbed his dark glasses when getting dressed. "During which time she and I have been together maybe a grand total of two months. Maybe."
makes this the longest relationship you've ever had."
"Two words, Matt: Marry. Her. If you've found a woman you can manage to be with for eight freaking years, then for the love of God, don't let her get away. Even if it is Natasha. Because you know sooner or later, she is going to get away, and to be honest--and selfish, here, for a minute--I don't want to be the guy left picking things up when she does." He's quiet a minute, then breathes a laugh. "If nothing else, do it for the beautiful redheaded children the two of you could have, you know?"
"It's not like that." The response is automatic, but that doesn't make it any less honest than it is now, or was eight years ago. "If--when--things change, there'll be nothing to pick up. She's not--"In love with me. The type of girl you marry. Interested in that anyway. Elektra.
There are a number of good ways to finish that sentence, all of them true, but the best one strangles him, and he trails off, shaking his head. "It's just not like that," he mutters again, before looking up, grateful, when the door opens. Saved by the bagels.
"Breakfast," Natasha announces, dropping the paper sack in Matt's lap. She sets coffee on the table before depositing herself onto Foggy's lap, his startled exclamation almost lost beneath the crinkle of pages. "Mmm, good-looking," she purrs, laughter bubbling beneath the put-on throaty sex. "Give me a proper hello."
She doesn't mean for it to be casually cruel, no more than a cat does playing with a mouse because it moves. It's only her nature, and Foggy's issues aren't her fault. Still, it's part of the problem, and Matt winces inwardly even as he laughs. "Making a move on my girlfriend, counselor?"
"I'll leave the maneaters to you," Foggy replies, dull heat in both his face and his pants, voice strained dignity trying for light. "But I'll take the coffee she brought."
"And a bagel. I got lox and cream cheese, and capers if you want them." Her lips smack against Foggy's cheek before she rises, maneuvering in the narrow space between them to spread the contents of the bag across the tabletop. No doubt giving Foggy a lovely--and intentional--view of her fantastic ass in the process. The bagels smell warm and fresh, thick and yeasty, with the back-of-the-tongue smooth fish scent, too, and the spicy bite of capers. Matt inhales deeply, suddenly starving.
Foggy's stomach growls, but he shifts, pushing toward the edge of the couch, tense and ready to stand. "I should really--"
"I bought you a bagel, Franklin, and a coffee with cream no sugar, the way you like it. Stay," Natasha says, dropping the bombshell sex kitten and relaxing into herself again. As much herself as she ever is. "Stay; eat a bagel; talk to us. And I will not eat you."
Not today, Matt thinks, fishing for a bagel. But someday, she is going to push too far. Someday, this whole thing is going to explode. Unless it doesn't, and they have a great two or three days, a week maybe, every ten months, year and a half. Because it is
. Two or three days, or so. Every now and then.
A plastic knife scrapes against a little tub of cream cheese, and the caper smell intensifies when Foggy opens them. "So, okay," he says. "We were on fourteen down. Seven-letter word for 'nocturnal scavenger.'"
"Opossum," Natasha replies, without missing a beat. She perches on the back of the couch, strong coffee in one hand and on her breath. "And, let's see...fifty-eight down is Malamute, seventy is lapis lazuli, seventeen: David Duchovny. And then thirty-four across is Topeka, and that one, there, that is Boeing..."
By the time she finishes, Foggy's very still like he's not sure whether he wants to kill her or worship her, and Matt's pretty sure that smugness smells like black coffee and sandalwood perfume, and tastes like the bagel he's eating. It's a good morning, exactly like this.
It's later, cooler summer Sunday evening, the pulse of the city slowing, not quite late enough for leather. Matt stands on the roof in his civvies, worn jeans and a t-shirt and loafers, the portable grill cooling behind him, burning off the last of a smoky hamburger smell. They had burgers for dinner, more of the fresh homemade mozzarella and farmer's market tomatoes.
Natasha comes out, sandaled feet quiet. She's pulled one of his shirts on over her silk camisole; blending her scent with his as the fibers warm against her skin. There's sharp and malt, too, and he holds his hand out for her to press the cold bottle into his palm.
She swallows; makes a tch!
noise. "You buy shit for beer."
It's what his dad drank, but he's pretty sure she knows this. Knows, and says it anyway, because it is true. His dad drank shit beer, and he drinks shit beer, because it smells right. He tilts the bottle and swallows, and it's really more about the cold and wet than the taste, anyway. "Snob."
"Mm, you say that like it's a bad thing," she says, and the tiniest of breezes telegraphs her shrug. "What can I say? I have good taste."
It's funny, how he can hear it sometimes, in her voice. Her English is flawless, neutral, and she can do better Brooklyn and Long Island accents than Foggy at his best. She speaks perfect French, and Italian, and German, and Japanese, and he's been with her when she's convincingly been Parisian Babette--a persona named after Foggy's Toyota, incidentally--and when she's been Joan from the Midwest and even once, here in the Kitchen, when she spent a weekend fooling everyone as his cousin Peggy Murdock from Cork.
Of course she's good. She's the best. It's what she does, and you don't get to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. field agent--or Russian spy--without being one hell of an actress. But it's what's underneath that that interests him. What's beneath Natasha Romanoff: Black Widow, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, martial arts expert, wildcat in bed. He can hear it sometimes in her voice, when she's only Natasha, when she's with him. Like faraway creaking hinges on old doors, a minor key violin, the smallest, faintest echo of her mother tongue. It's twilight nearing full dark, he thinks, and he can hear it tonight, a little.
"I know where she is," she says, out of nowhere, as he takes another drink. He doesn't choke, barely.
"Oh?" he asks. Surely it has been long enough that it shouldn't hurt this much. His guts shouldn't clench this much every time he thinks of her in Japan, or wherever she is now. Doing whatever it is that she's doing. Someone--it might have been Natasha; he doesn't remember--told him awhile ago that her costume is red. Of course it is. Someday, he'll be able to breathe when he thinks of her. To not feel like he's drowning choking dying, maybe.
Natasha steps closer. Speaks softer. "Do you want me to tell you where?"
He needs space. Air. He walks to the edge of the roof and, very precisely, finds the ledge with the bottom of the bottle. Glass scrapes against the brick, and his other hand follows the sound, palm skating against the rough hard solidness of it. The stone's still warm, deep inside, from the sun.
She follows, because it's not in her nature to back off, shut up, pull punches, wear kid gloves. "Do you want me to kill her for you?" she asks, same neutral conversational tone. Her pulse accelerates, though. She prefers this option.
Matt leaves the bottle on the ledge and buries his face in his hands. Her forehead, a moment later, is warm between his shoulder blades, through the thin fabric of his t-shirt. Her arms slide around his middle, fingers lacing together at the waistband of his jeans.
A minute of this, and he can breathe again. Lets his hands fall, one of them covering hers. He brushes her knuckles with his thumb. "Sorry," he says. "I--"
"You are still very fucked up about her. I know." She squeezes him, hard and brief, before stepping back. "Come. It's dark enough. Let's go hurt someone."
He wants to protest that it's not like that.
Later still, they're on some bar roof six blocks over, and his ribs hurt like a sonofabitch. His cheek, too, because he was off his game tonight and didn't duck fast enough. There's blood drying on her knuckles, and the faintest trace of it fresh on her breath. Split lip, he's assuming. There's not enough for it to be a knocked-out tooth, and she'd never be so careless. She's still wired, more than he is, and while he's leaning back against a vent, recovering, she's pacing, making little quick bird-movements with her hands. She stops and lights a cigarette, not bothering to offer even a cursory apology. He doesn't expect one. Right now, she's more Widow than woman.
"You didn't say," she says suddenly. "Do you want me to kill her?"
"What?" All innocence, and if he weren't fairly certain that she could kick his ass, the mood she's in, he'd be tempted to hit her. "All I asked is what you want."
"I want you to stay, this time," he says. "Stay with me, and we'll figure this out. We can start with a week in bed, and order in every meal. Or go to Paris, or something. And after that, we can really do this. You can get a day job for cover, and every night can be like this." His lips quirk. "We can even think about the redheaded kids Foggy thinks we should have. Send them to Catholic school and take them to the Park. Let Foggy babysit on the weekends. That's what I want."
"Fuck you, Matthew," she says, hard and blood-tinged on a puff of smoke. "No, you don't."
He sighs, letting his head fall back against the metal. The mask is hot, tonight. And no, he doesn't. Isn't sure if he said it just to hurt her. "I could."
"You know better," she says, quieter. "And, I don't want to be a mother. I don't want your domestic bliss, morning coffee and a crossword, Central Park on the weekends. I am not that woman."
Neither is she, anymore. And never will be, on the wrong side and across the world.
"We could figure something out," he says, and almost wants to. "You know we could make something work."
Natasha grinds out the stub of her cigarette with her heel. "I want a hot shower," she announces. "And another drink, and an aspirin, and for you to fuck me. Hard. Let's go."
It's his third year of law school, his second year being Daredevil. He told S.H.I.E.L.D., politely but firmly, that he wasn't interested three weeks ago. It's evening in November, and he's sitting at his carrel in the law library with a stale sandwich and taped class notes when the Black Widow saunters in, reeking of soft black leather, expensive shampoo, and sandalwood perfume. And she's turned on.
She smells amazing
The thick Braille volume on his desk thumps deafeningly when she pushes it to the floor, slithering between the edge of the desk and his chair in order to straddle his lap. His hands twitch at the sensory overload, and it's all he can do not to slide them up her thighs, where the leather has to be tight as a second skin.
"What are you--" he manages, torn between outrage and being more aroused than he's ever been in his life.
She leans close, and he remembers her scent from the meeting with Fury, but God, not like this. That was in costume on a rooftop at midnight when they practically ambushed him. Not like this, surrounding him and molten heat pressed up against him and almost drunk from her hair in his face. "We know who you are, Matthew Murdock," she says, throaty whisper, lips moving against his ear. Younger voice than he would've thought. "I know who you are. Come play with me."
The only safe response is anger, and he shoves, hard. "The fuck-- How dare you-- Here
But the Widow only laughs, sliding back to sit on the desk with liquid grace. "Redhead temper, I see. There's no one here. It's late. Put your books away and change, and come play
with me. You know you want to."
He shakes his head. "I don't know what you're thinking, but I'm not--"
"You are. You are going to change into your leather, and then you are going to come and dance with me. And then we are going to shower, and fuck, and then we'll order a pizza, and you will tell me how a blind law student does what you do. Because I've seen you fight, and you fight beautifully. And then, Matthew Murdock, if all goes well, we will do it again."
There are a million things he could say, to that, but the one that comes out is, "How do you know I don't have a girlfriend?"
"It's ten o'clock on a Friday night, and you're in the library with plans to go out and fight crime until you're exhausted. I know
this life, Matthew. You don't have a girlfriend, and you probably never will."
She's beautiful, and he's lonely here with his books and notes and sandwich, and she smells incredible. And she's right. He could keep fighting this, but instead, he surrenders. Lets his guard down and looks up and smiles. "It's Matt, actually. And it sounds like I've got you."
One of the most beautiful and deadly women in the world is in his shower, and he loves her. She inhabits his home, and his life, as comfortably as she wears her black leather, like a second skin. She's one of his best friends.
And it's not enough.
The fall of water stops, and Matt stretches sore muscles, rolling into the cool spot where she slept last night. It'd be good of him to get up, throw some pants on, start a pot of coffee for her and tea for him, but the scent of her shampoo on the pillow is enough to get him aroused again, and it just feels too good to move.
The bathroom door opens, letting out steam and warmth. There's rain drumming staccato on the bedroom window, enough to get a broken silhouette sense of her standing there, one hand on the doorjamb and the other on her hip.
"Morning," Matt murmurs, and then stops, wrinkling his nose. "Clinique and Ivory soap, and a new dress. With cheap shoes, by your standards. Joan from Kansas again?"
She laughs. "Natalie Rushman, actually. Starting my new job today. You'll love it."
"Yeah?" He rolls onto his side, up on one elbow, intrigued. "And what business does oh-so-very-clearly-harmless Natalie have in Manhattan? Or is that classified?"
"I said you'll love it, didn't I? I'm working for Stark Industries."
"That's not so ba--"
"For Tony Stark himself. I'm his new assistant."
It's a good thing he didn't make that tea, or he'd be dealing with it going up his nose. "Oh, God." There's a lot he could say, including, 'Please don't sleep with the billionaire playboy who may or may not be Iron Man,' but instead, he just shakes his head. "Do yourself a favor, and don't tell Foggy. He'd never stop asking you for an in with Stark."
"Which you don't want."
"He can pay plenty of lawyers to get him off the hook for DUIs and trashing hotel rooms. Just not me."
"He does seem like a dick," she agrees, and bends to brush a kiss against his cheek, leaving waxy lipstick behind. He bets anything it's red. "Wish me luck?"
He sits up, at that. Tilts his face toward her. "You're not coming back?"
"Love you," she says, already halfway out the door. He smiles a little. Lifts a hand.
"You, too, Natasha."
He does. Truly, deeply, lastingly. It's just not enough. Not like that.
The front door closes, and he falls back on the pillow that smells just like her. It's early on a Monday, and he's got time to listen to the rain.