“Of course,” said Matt. The three of them were in his father’s old office, alone in the house; his mother had gone off just before her arrival to spend an evening with Mariah and her family. Carter had confirmed she was working within the CIA to root out the Hydra elements in it, and hinted that she had even specifically taken her new job for the purpose. She’d been odd about it, though; her heart didn’t indicate she’d left much out, but for numbered agents that meant nothing, and Matt was pretty sure there was something she wasn’t telling them. Still, he trusted her far enough for this.
“As for the rest of the names you’ve gotten out of this, some of them I knew or suspected already, but some I didn’t, so I thank you for that, and I’d now have to keep an eye on them anyway. Form the kind of email account I did, and I’ll report to you what I find out. I’m already looking into Jasper Sitwell, trying to find out how long he was working for Hydra. If he was when he took Matt and those two students on that mission, that could definitely be significant to you.”
“But what about the Goldsmith?” asked Karen. “Do you have anything on him?”
She shook her head. “No. Honestly, until you contacted me, I had never even heard of Max Obderbrowski, or his time going by that moniker. I’ve looked into him since, of course, but there isn’t much in the recent records about him. And while I can certainly try to find out if he’s interacting with any of my colleagues, although remember that’s not information anyone in the organization will want me to have…well, even if he is a threat, he’s not the CIA’s job, or at least they won’t see him as their job.”
“You have any contacts with the FBI, then?”
“No, you’ll have to rely on someone else for that. I’ll just give you what I can, and take any information you’re willing to give me. Though speaking of the FBI, what if they have Hydra moles? You’d need them to do anything legal against Obderbrowski, with the kind of crimes he’d be likely to be involved in.”
“I know the FBI’s doing an investigation into their own ranks,” Matt told her. “That’s public news, of course, but Karen, you said a couple of your friends have heard from their friends they’re not doing it for show or to cover things up? That they genuinely want to root any Hydra operatives out, even if they get embarrassed in the process?”
“I have,” Karen quickly confirmed. “Agents Zamir and Obbados both said it.”
“I’ve heard whispers of similar,” said Carter. “Maybe we could rely on them to take your Goldsmith into custody if slipped the proof and keep him there.”
“Let’s hope so,” said Matt, and he was sure Karen knew what he was thinking.
“Meanwhile,” she said, looking around, “would there be any objection if I maybe came back here sometime and looked through Agent Connelly’s old files? I suppose I should really ask Mrs. Connelly about that…”
“You should,” Matt agreed. “But honestly, I doubt she’ll have any trouble with it if she knows you’re a friend of ours. Although she may also insist on feeding you if you stay late enough, but that might not be a bad thing.”
“That would be nice, actually,” said Carter. “My own cooking skills are pretty mediocre. I suppose I shouldn’t let her too much if we want this to remain a covert alliance…”
“Once or twice?”
“Maybe.” She rose. “Email me when you have the account set up?”
“We will,” said Karen. “I think I already know which of the servers we’ll use.”
They saw her downstairs and to the door, and shook hands with her in farewell, and then she was gone. Matt and Karen were left alone in the house.
He had been out of the brace for over a week now, and was well on the path to being back in fighting shape physically, enough so that they would probably have the date for their departure from DC set within another. But much as he had worked to avoid and get past muscle atrophy, Matt was still finding himself tired out at the end of the day if he’d spent even a normal amount of it standing up or walking. It wasn’t even eight yet and already the release of tension with the meeting with Agent 13 being over had brought on the onset of fatigue.
Karen noticed, of course. Lately he was starting to think she’d gotten as good at reading him as he already was at reading her. “We can go upstairs,” she said. “At least for a little while. I’m tired too.” She even offered her arm, which Matt certainly didn’t need, especially within the house, but he took anyway.
Though even at her first words her heart was beating too fast, and her skin was too hot. An increase in both combined with shortened breathing as they went off, and by the time they reached his bedroom, she was fully aroused. Matt stopped them, and sighed, “Do you really want to have sex in my childhood bed?”
“Can you blame me? It’s silk sheets, Matt. When am I going to get that chance again? Heck, when are you going to? It’s obvious you never did anything there as a teenager. Did you ever even dare jerk off in them?”
“Once or twice. Very rarely.” He’d spent far more time on his knees praying for forgiveness for such lapses; bad enough how many times he’d done it in the shower in the morning back then. “Though you know, if anything happens to my current sheets, I’ll probably get silk ones as a replacement, at least if it does in the next few years. I mean, I’m sure the textile industry will sooner or later experiment with all the designs of Agents Simmons and Logaard that are now on the net, but they’ll probably be even more expensive for a while.”
On the other hand, he thought, words like this implied he thought she should stay with him, pressure he didn’t want to put on her, even accidentally and out of other motives.
“Obviously,” Karen continued, “we weren’t going to do anything with your mother in the house. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been comfortable with that either. Also you were in the brace. But you’re completely healed now, she won’t be back for hours; we’ll be asleep long before then, and this may be the only chance we have to have sex at all before we leave DC, and even when we get where we’re going, we might have trouble finding the time. If you really don’t want to I’ll understand, of course, but, well…I think you might.”
She wasn’t wrong. It had been the right thing for them, to just sleep together the way they had without doing anything more, to have that comfort and closeness without complicating it further. But it had meant a lot of less than pure thoughts at night, a lot more wet dreams than he’d had in recent years (he was grateful she’d made no comment about that), and more than one moment when he had wanted very badly to just kiss her, roll her onto her back, press her down into the sheets, and make love to her like there was no tomorrow, in the way he hadn’t been able to while still injured anyway.
Still, “I can’t promise I won’t freak out.”
“If it makes you uncomfortable we can always stop.”
He took them forward and pushed the door open, but said, “There are no condoms in the house that I know of. This is a very Catholic household.”
“My shot’s still good, I got out of that hospital in Rome tested clean, and I haven’t had sex with anyone besides you for nearly a year. You went through the normal checkup in the Triskelion, right?”
“Yeah, and it’s been a few months for me since before that, so I know I’m clean.” That brought on very mixed feelings, though, the idea of having sex without a condom, which he’d never done in his life. He was pretty sure he would feel the difference far more than most men would, and that he would like it. But he worried, too, that having experienced the alternative would leave him unable to fully enjoy sex with a condom.
Not that he would necessarily have to go back to them, if he and Karen stuck together. But he didn’t want to rely on that.
With him still hesitant, Karen slipped her arm out of his and went and saw down on the bed. “We could just make out,” she said. “Neither of us ever got to do even that, and I know you probably don’t feel like you were robbed over it, but, well, I do.”
There was a lot Karen felt she was robbed over, which was only right of her. Thinking about it like that for a moment led Matt to say, “If that really would make you feel better, well, it’s not like I wouldn’t enjoy it a lot. Maybe too much, honestly.”
“Like I said, just call a stop to it if you really don’t want to.” She walked to the bed, and jumped lightly onto it, knowing what hearing her body in action and feeling the currents in the air from it would do to him, even before she pulled the blankets back to partially unmake the bed.
He saw down next to her, trying not to give in to the urge to put he hands in his lap and bend his head as if he was looking at the floor, because they weren’t awkward teenagers, and that was one part of this fantasy he didn’t feel like recreating and didn’t think she did either. “How do we start this, anyway?” he asked.
“Well, I don’t know how we would’ve were we ten years younger, but I think this will do,” she said, and started kissing him, softly and chastely at first. But when he started to kiss back things went pretty fast; half a minute later he was on top of her with her tongue aggressive in his mouth. They hadn’t even kissed on the mouth that much since they started sleeping here, and this was another thing Matt had missed, just tasting her this way, listening to the sounds in her throat, the air flying in and out of it faster and faster, her hands in his hair, fingers moving to stroke his ears and send shivers through him, her body shifting soft against the sheets.
By the time they came up for air, also, he was close to fully hard, and the heat of her arousal was rushing through her body and out of it to his. They should had known better than to think they could stop at kissing. Matt had never been good at that with anyone, what with how responsive his body was, and she really had gotten herself worked up just from the thoughts of what they might do together on these sheets.
When the bulge in his pants brushed over her thigh, Karen moaned, and her legs moved apart slightly. Her skirt kept them from going too far, but it was enough for the smell of her to get much thicker in the air. It was a smell that had always gotten to Matt, right from the early years, when it had meant recovery from what had been done to her. She’d told him then it had been half a year since she’d started at the Academy before she’d been able to get wet again; she'd ultimately been frigid for nearly two years.
She knew what it did to him, too. Her breathing was way too quick and her voice too excited, as she pulled away to whisper, “Do you want to stop here, before we get too far gone? Or do you want…”
He did not want to stop; that much he was clear on. Answering her second question wasn’t quite as easy, but after giving himself another minute and a few more kisses, he answered, “I think I want to go down on you. Eat you out until you’ve come at least once, maybe twice. Or maybe just get in you for the second one.”
“You’ll need to, won’t you?” Her voice was a little hoarse, her heart hammering from his words. “You won’t want to come on these sheets, right?” And of course, he couldn’t come on her. That she’d never be able to stand.
In fact, the thought worried Matt, and he said, “Karen, have you done this without a condom? After S.H.I.E.L.D. took you in, I mean?” Before then, of course, had been the reason he had to worry.
“Once,” she said readily. “Just after the shot kicked in. I wanted to see if I could.”
“That wasn’t healthy of you,” he said, a little dismayed. He hoped it had been with one of the other guys she was more comfortable with, at least. Why hadn’t he been available?
“Well, I did it anyway,” she retorted, as unrepentant as she always was. “And so now I know I’m good with it.” She was pulling at her top, and added, “Get my skirt off? And your own stuff off?”
Matt maybe only fully realized how much he'd missed this when he had Karen’s legs on his shoulders and his mouth full of her, had her body thrumming in response to his ministrations. He loved doing this to any woman, but to Karen especially. He knew just which paths on her flesh to carve with his tongue, could tell just by just how her blood was engorging her when to tease, when to bring his lips in and suck, when to slide his fingers in. When she got close he groaned in anticipation, and that first orgasm found his entire face pressed to her skin to feel it quiver, losing himself in her pleasure, still lapping greedily at her juices. He’d been in that position the first time, the second orgasm she’d ever had, she’d told him later, the first coming at her own hands only days earlier. The knowledge still humbled him.
He stayed there a little longer, lingering, keeping her body twitching, her blood thunder in his ears. But he didn’t know how much longer he could last, and he really did want to make her come around him. She’d been the first woman he’d managed that with; before her he’d always needed to have his mouth down there instead, and from the moment he’d first experienced the sensation of her inner walls clenching around his dick while her body shuddered with pleasure, Matt had been hooked. Still he found himself hesitant, worry lingering, as he pulled up and had his dick brushing up at her entrance, reaching out for her hands. With one of them she found his and whispered, “Come on, Matt. I promise, I won’t break.”
She kept her hold on it, and with the other reached down to start working her clit as Matt pushed in. He hissed with the heat of it, the wetness, the slippery feeling of skin on skin. When fully sheathed, he had to pause and try to breathe, head against her chest, centering himself by listening to her heart. She was getting close again, and a good thing too, because he was almost completely gone already.
His thrusts were slow, both out of lingering worry for her reaction and to try to last just a little longer, God, he never wanted this to end. This was something he’d done plenty of times before, but not like this. Karen’s sweet inner flesh had never pressed itself into his skin, smeared itself around the head of his dick until he thought his head would explode just from that, tightened itself with no barrier to accommodate until he felt taken and consumed, and when her legs locked themselves around the small of his back he let them push his hips forward, drinking in her moans. He didn’t know how different it felt to her, but he did know how good he was making her feel, her body now able to tell him that in yet one more secret, searingly intimate way.
He was lost when she came. That sent him over half the time anyway, especially when she was as loud and as violent in her limbs as this. Now, the almost unbearable heat she had inside took him to the brink, and the first clench of her body around his dick, even before her orgasm hit the rest of her, finished him off. He nearly screamed with it, his body wrecked with his pleasure, his everything wrecked further with Karen’s. It faded slowly for both, although even after his orgasm had passed, Matt still kept moving as best he could, worked Karen though the end of hers, until at last her head and arms thudded against the silk, and she let out a long, contented sigh.
For the first minute or so, as they just lay there, Matt’s mind was quiet, allowing him to simply feel happy as he and Karen shifted until he was more laying against her than on top of her. But when she pulled herself up, said, “We really do need to get some towels; I’ll do it,” kissed him, and left the room, Matt was left alone, and the guilt started to set in.
It wasn’t even just doing this in this bed, in this house, knowing the fact alone that he’d waited until his mother wasn’t here to know about it made that something to be ashamed of. As he listened to Karen move about the bathroom, he heard her make a noise of discomfort as she peed, groan in protest as she leaned over the sink. He had used her to satisfy his own lust, something especially wrong to do to her given her history. His focusing on the carnal pleasure of skin on skin was made worse by that too; even if she’d done this before, even if she’d been enjoying herself during the act, they couldn’t really know how the experience would ultimately affect her, even now. After all, her last go with it had been very different circumstances, when there hadn’t been the stress of their world having recently been destroyed to consider.
And that was leaving out the lingering worry, especially now, as to whether he should be bedding her at all. Even if her ability to consent wasn’t in question-that first time between them hadn’t happened until she’d been able to tell him with a steady heartbeat that she understood she could refuse him whenever she wanted to, the more time they had with S.H.I.E.L.D. no longer existing, the more aware he became of how they were both clinging to what they knew, and she, as Colonel Talbot and Maria Hill had both pointed out, hadn’t really had a choice in what she’d ended up having to cling to in the first place. Even if it, and he, was what Karen sincerely believed she wanted, just about everything else she’d ever known in her life had been the stuff of nightmares. There was an argument he’d been taking advantage of her for years, and he ought to beg her for forgiveness. Except, of course, if he tried, she’d yell at him that she was no victim anymore and she’d made her choices herself of who got into her bed from the time he’d enabled her to have that right-she’d said that line to him more than once, heartbeat unshakable.
At least she seemed good when she returned with a pair of dampened towels, heart practically sedate, even humming a little under her breath, and if she wasn’t quite walking normally, she was so close to it Matt didn’t think she was even feeling any soreness. She tossed the towels onto the bed and they each took one and cleaned themselves. Once dry and changed into her silk nightgown, she lay herself on top of the blankets Matt had crawled under, not even caring about the wet spot, the sex having left him now truly exhausted. Her body was practically singing its good mood, and she clearly wasn’t feeling at all sleepy; she was just keeping him company.
“I’m wondering if Sitwell wanted me dead,” she said. “I’m pretty sure the Goldsmith did; I knew too much by then, and I’d actually said things to him…hadn’t refused to obey his commands, but made clear I really didn’t like it.”
“He might not have,” said Matt. “After all, when it came time to send someone into the basement to get at you, he sent me. I thought that odd at the time, you know. We’d already heard enough about you I wasn’t sure you weren’t someone he ought to have gone and handled himself. Maybe he was hoping I wouldn’t kill you.”
“He did yell at you, though,” she said. “But if he was working for Hydra, I suppose that could’ve just been for appearances. Still, we can’t know.”
“I would like to think it, though. That he wasn’t entirely evil.”
“Me too,” she said. “That’s strange, isn’t it? I mean, he didn’t really mentor me much. Lead me through the evaluations, but he wasn’t very nice about that. Really, my wanting to think better of him is just…” There was a deep fury, there. Matt understood it. They were both still struggling with the fact that so many of the people they’d worked with had been who they’d been. But ultimately, he forgave, and she didn’t.
“Not at all,” he said gently. “He’s dead; there’s no need to hate him, and no point wasting energy on it.”
“You’re right,” she said, and leaned into to press her head against his. She’d scrubbed her face in the bathroom and brushed her hair just now. He didn’t think there would be a time when her touch would ever be unwelcome to him. Or even a time where he would refuse anything she offered him. He’d had it reinforced tonight that he was too weak for that.
“For Christmas,” says Matt’s mom, before Karen can give her own answer. She knows they won’t contradict that. He hopes they can make good on that anyway.
They’d packed up the rented car the previous day with all the contents of both their apartments they’d have room for in the flat they’d rented in Burlington. They rest had gone into storage. There’d been surprisingly little there; neither of them had ever carried around very many possessions. Nobody had made any comments even as it had become obvious that Matt and Karen were planning to share an apartment when they reached their destination, but Mariah and Jessie had both audibly smirked at them more than once.
His mother was the only one who knew they were going to Vermont. The others all thought they were going to New York, and that they were at least going to live there until such time as Matt decided to attend law school somewhere else. It was hardly the first such lie Matt had been obliged to tell his siblings, but he felt this one much more strongly than he had the previous ones.
“Call me when you get there,” he mom said as Karen climbed into the driver’s seat, and Matt sat down beside her, carefully avoiding knocking his feet into the new laptop they had put in front of it. Jessie had commented that this was an odd place to put it. None of them knew, of course, that they were about to put it to important use during the trip.
Matt received kisses from each of his sisters one last time, and George said to him, “Take care of yourself, Matt. We mean it.”
“I know,” he said. “I will.”
His mother might have been crying a little bit; at the very least her smell made clear she was close to it. He started waving as Karen turned on the ignition. “They’re waving back,” she confirmed for him as the car starting to move.
He stopped as he felt them turn a corner, and then they were on their way. Matt found himself still listening even as they pulled further away. He felt a sharp stab when he heard Juliana’s voice ask, “Mom, they aren’t in danger of getting killed anymore, right?”
“I hope not,” he heard Mariah’s voice answer.
“Well,” he heard Jessie say hopefully, “the news is claiming a lot of the people being held by S.H.I.E.L.D. who Hydra broke out are now accounted for, right? And we haven’t heard about any other former agents getting killed by the others either.”
Their conversation went on that way for far too long, his mother silent throughout all of it, even as they seemed to go into the house for brunch. But thankfully by the time they got far enough away their voices grew harder to hear they were starting to talk about other things. And then he couldn’t listen any more anyway, because Karen was driving her way through Georgetown, and in a moment he would have something else to do.
“I’ll park at the far end, out of immediate sight,” she said. “I’ll let you out near the fountain, so you’ll have to walk the park’s length, but it’s not that big.” Matt listened to the sounds of the Potomac, growing louder as Karen drove down to the riverbank and finally stopped at the edge of Georgetown Waterfront Park.
Matt stepped out of the car and walked towards the sounds of the fountain and the children playing in its streams, as Sharon had instructed. His shoes and his cane tapped out the changing patterns of the pavement, until finally he reached the railing on its edge, the river water flowing below him. He kept his hand on it as he moved to the right, until his cane tapped the legs holding the plaque up. It listed the donors who had paid for the park, according to Sharon, and under its edges there was room to hide a flash drive.
He found it quickly, securely enclosed in that special magnetic sleeve designed to hold flash drives without putting their contents as risk for being damaged. Was it Simmons’ friend who had devised that one? Matt no longer remembered. In another moment it was slipped into his pocket, and he was walking away, now concentrating on the sound of the car Karen now had in park.
“You want me to listen to it through my earpiece, so you can concentrate on driving?” he asked as he got back in and turned on the laptop. “Or do you want to listen with me?”
“We should be able to get onto the highway pretty quickly,” she replied. “Once we’re there, let’s listen together.”