A/N: For Lovedrr and ym4yum1… Thank you for inspiring and challenging me.

Disclaimer: I don't own Marvel or Captain America. Unbetaed, all mistakes are mine.


The Set-Up

"What about Naomi?" Punching and twisting, Natasha Romanoff lifts her leg and kicks her opponent in the chest.

"Now?" Steve Rogers huffs as he flattens one of his own, immediately ducking another man's fist. He groans in frustration, holding a hand up as if to stop the new guy's attack but the noise is aimed at the shapely agent fighting alongside him. "You really wanna talk about this now?"

They haven't seen each other in months, not since the graveyard. While he hasn't missed her awkward attempts to find him a dance partner, he's missed her. She grins before dropping to the floor and sweeping her opponent's legs out from under him. "Why not?"

"Fine," he answers, knocking the man he's fighting away with his trademark shield. "She's not smart enough."

Natasha's brow arcs and she takes Steve's arms, allowing him to support her weight as she kicks high and wide. "I said a date, Rogers. I wasn't suggesting you marry her."

Steve follows behind his partner knowing better than to push in front of her as they clear the level. He grunts his answer and her voice drops lower as she continues to nag while listening for more attackers. "There's always Sharon."

Sharon Carter. Agent 13. The 'nurse' across the hall who had attempted to show him she was all too willing to play doctor. "Thanks," the hero tells the spy. "I'll pass."

Natasha pauses for a minute, so intrigued by his answer Steve has to catch a fist that nearly connects with her jaw. Sharon was perfect for him… except for the part about being related to Peggy. She could admit that was awkward.

"Didn't your mother teach you any manners?" he asks, twisting the man's arm behind his back. "It's not nice to hit a lady."

The redhead laughs. "I appreciate the sentiment, Rogers, but I'm no lady."

As if to prove her statement she knees her would-be attacker in the groin. When he drops in agony, she forces him down on the dirty concrete floor and digs the heel of her boot into his neck before looking up at Steve. "Karen from accounting is a triple threat. Looks, brains and…"

"Not. Interested." Steve answers firmly, eyes holding her gaze.

Natasha's brow furrows and the curl of her lip into an almost pout is on the edge of devastating. He shakes his head and rubs the back of his neck as they continue moving through the building. Lifting her weapon, she easily dispatches two men and turns back to their conversation as though they're two friends having coffee rather than members of the Avengers on a mission. "Everybody needs practice, Cap."

Not taking his eyes from hers he flings his shield at yet another man using his peripheral vision. The metal plate knocks the gun from the assailant's hand and sparks against the concrete wall before ricocheting back to the soldier. Steve easily catches it before answering. "Maybe I have my eye on someone."

"Who?!" she asks, her tone brightening immediately as the pair slip into the server room to complete their retrieval. After quickly decoding the system and setting up a thumb drive, she glares at him to clarify she's still waiting for his answer. "I could do a little recon, find out if she's interested."

He remains tight lipped, crossing his arms and leaning against the wall. "She's about as subtle as a bomb. I think I'd know if she was interested."

Natasha rolls her eyes and snorts a laugh. "C'mon, of course she's interested."

- - -Captain America- - -

Later…

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Steve asks, his eyes darting between the three men at the table with him.

Clint Barton says nothing, though he could speak volumes about the woman he brought into SHIELD. He sort of enjoys watching the Captain sweat. As Natasha's friend he's already decided he'll do his part when the time comes.

Tony Stark claps a hand on Steve's shoulder and gets a look the Captain immediately finds intimidating. "You may be beyond help," he says. "JARVIS, calculate the odds Black Widow says yes."

"Shall I pull Agent Romanoff's dossier and walk you through specifics as well, sir?" The voice of Stark's AI and butler is clear as a bell and Tony looks to Steve in mixture of challenge and question.

Pepper Potts saunters into the room in cutoff shorts and bare feet with a glass of wine in her hand. "That won't be necessary, JARVIS. I've got this one."

Scooting back, Tony makes room as Pepper perches in his lap. Four pairs of eyes rivet to the leggy strawberry blonde.

"Looks like Iron Man is about to be schooled," Sam Wilson says, leaning forward and breaking his silence. He barely keeps a straight face when Tony shoots him a withering look.

"Boys will be boys," Pepper says, lifting her glass to her lips as she rolls her eyes. She takes a sip of the wine and addresses Steve as if he's the only one in the room. "Have you considered she may be trying to decide if she's your type?"

Steve's brows furrow and lift, he stares at his hands. "No. Wouldn't she just ask? Isn't that what modern women do?"

"Some of us are willing to… take out the trash …to prove our point," Pepper answers, her fingers sifting through Tony's hair. "Old fashioned is underrated."

"It was one time!" Tony protests causing Pepper to flush a deep pink and hide her face in his shoulder as their friends laugh.

- - -Captain America- - -

MISSION: Roman Candle

PHASE I: Threat Assessment

Time: Tuesday, 1500 Hours

Natasha Romanoff isn't the type of girl who enjoys being fussed over. She isn't entirely sure why she agreed to a spa day with Pepper Potts, but it's too late to back down. She's coated in mud and wrapped in seaweed. Her companion relaxes next to her with pads of cucumber over her eyes and all Black Widow can think about is how badly her safety is currently compromised.

"I have a name for you to add to your list of potential dates for Captain Rogers," Pepper's words hardly distract her from her panic. How could the woman be so Zen when there was no safe escape?

"Oh?" she tries to temper her tone.

"Mmmhmm, she's a sweetheart. Natalie Richardson. She's in our R and D department. Very smart, gorgeous." Pepper rattles on and on and Natasha shuts down. It's different when she's the one in control. She can hack them and find out all of the little details, see if they're worthy. At least that's what she tells herself. "I'm thinking of inviting her to the benefit on Saturday and introducing them."

"No," she says just a little too quickly. "He'll hate that."

"Are you sure? I mean it was practically his idea." Natasha misses the subtle twist of Pepper's lips. "He asked us for help, said you've been distracted about his personal life on missions."

Natasha's blood boils just a little at the thought. She was more than capable of multitasking. It shouldn't be a surprise to her partner that she was carrying on simple conversation. Not only that, but she was doing it to make him more comfortable. Normally she doesn't get involved. Getting involved could get you killed. "Well, if it's what he wants…"

Jealousy. The green eyed monster rears her ugly head and Natasha instantly wishes her smart phone was within reach so she could find out who this Natalie Richardson was and squash her before she became a problem.

- - -Captain America- - -

MISSION: Roman Candle

PHASE II: Scoping The Competition

Time: Wednesday, 0130 Hours

There is a sigh and JARVIS's distinct voice fills the quiet. "Sir, Agent Romanoff is attempting to access Stark personnel records."

Tony groans and tugs Pepper closer. "Remind me why I went along with this?"

Big blue eyes blink at him in the dark and his girlfriend draws a heart on his chest. "Oh, yeah. That." His hands slide under Pepper's shirt and he kisses her long and deep.

JARVIS gives the pair a moment before clearing his throat. "Sir, should I activate the Firework Protocol?"

Tony is distracted by the woman in his arms and the AI repeats, "Sir?"

Pepper giggles and bites her lip. Now that he knows what it's like to be in love, he can see why she wants to help Natasha and Steve. Tony smiles in the dark, moving over Pepper and kissing her throat. "Light 'er up, JARVIS."

"Firework Protocol activated. Goodnight, Mr. Stark."

- - -Captain America- - -

The computer screen glows an eerie blue in the dark of her bedroom. Resisting was futile. Pepper had practically invited her to do this. A few more keystrokes and…

Like candy from a baby, Natasha is in. You'd think Stark would be more careful. She looks for Richardson's file and quickly downloads a copy before logging off.

She disguises her hack as a data glitch. If they find it, Tony would just do maintenance and move on. That man's ego…

"Is not important," she tells herself, tugging the files so they spread out in burst pattern on the screen. She needed to check out Steve's date.

Natalie Allison Richardson. Born in Monterey, California August 1984. Natasha's heart sinks as she opens the photo. Petite with dark hair and elegant features. She looks a lot like Peggy. Maybe she is what Steve needs after all…

- - -Captain America- - -

MISSION: Roman Candle

PHASE III: A Little Help From My Friends

Time: Thursday, 2100 Hours

"All systems go. The Firework Protocol was a success." Tony cracks his neck and walks toward the bar. "Pepper was right, Natasha bought it."

"Is this really a good idea?" Steve asks, rubbing the back of his neck. "She's my partner…"

Shaking his head and chuckling, Tony pours a drink. "Relax. All's fair enough in love and war, right? At least you'll know."

Steve passes his own glass between his hands on the surface of the table. "I'm not comfortable with deceiving her. It isn't right."

"Look, Cap," Tony raises his hand and moves back to his friend. "If anyone's being deceptive, it's the rest of us. Old fashioned only gets you so far."

"But it's who I am," Steve answers. "And if that doesn't do it for her..."

Tony laughs hard. "Nobody knows what does it for Romanoff, but it doesn't take a genius to see she's into you."

- - -Captain America- - -

"What's gotten into you?" Clint asks.

Natasha sips her vodka and tries to shake him off. Partners, friends, former lovers. He can read her in a way no one can. No one except for maybe Steve. "I don't wanna talk about it."

A smirk teases at the corner of the marksman's mouth and he takes a drink. He watches as she sifts in her seat, defeated. "Okay," he says carefully, "So, how about this girl they want to set Rogers up with? I thought that was your deal."

Natasha groans. "I said I don't wanna talk about it." Slamming her empty glass on the bar, she pushes off her stool.

"Natasha," he calls out to her. "Nat, c'mon…"

She keeps walking, her hips swaying purposefully as she walks toward the door. He doesn't follow her. That was never part of the plan. Instead, he pulls out his phone and texts Stark. "Ball's in his court. The fuse has been lit."

- - -Captain America- - -

MISSION: Roman Candle

PHASE IV: Two to Tango

Time: Saturday, 1920 Hours

"May I have this dance?"

A hand extends to her and she looks up into a deep chocolate gaze. Offering a watery smile, she debates saying no but slips her palm into his. She's watched Steve dance with Natalie most of the evening and her façade is starting to crack. "Sure, Sam," she answers softly. "I'd like that."

The Falcon leads Black Widow out on the floor and they dance slowly. Sam is a good partner, respecting her personal space and not holding her too close. He's quiet for a while, watching her watch Steve. "He's miserable, you know."

Natasha pulls back and looks into Sam's eyes. "Excuse me?"

He grins at her, his tongue sliding over his lower lip. "I know what you're thinking," he turns her around so he can observe his friend, chuckling as Natasha tries to keep Steve in her sight line. "He looks happy. Why wouldn't he? Beautiful woman, soft music."

She blushes slightly, her eyes lowering. Sam's hand slides along her lower back and his voice is low. "But she's not the girl he wants and we both know it."

Natasha gasps, startled by his words. What happens next makes her knees wobble. Steve's voice is soft and filled with humor. "On your left."

As easily as he's had her back and protected her with his shield, Steve Rogers takes Natasha Romanoff into his arms. His posture is relaxed and he holds her in a way she's never allowed herself to be held by anyone else, close. So close she can feel his breath.

"I got tired of waiting," he whispers, tucking her hair behind her ear and nuzzling his nose against hers.

She tips her head, lashes fluttering. "Waiting?" she repeats. He shouldn't affect her this way, making her blood run hot and filling her with desire. She should be immune to his charms. "For what?"

"A sign," he breathes shyly as his pulse quickens at his next confession. "I wasn't sure you were interested. Until tonight."

Her answer comes in the form of a shiver, her hand tightening on his shoulder as she moves closer. "Steve…"

"Just go with it," he says, shaking off her confusion determined to get at least one dance. Twirling her around the floor without missing a step, the soldier cradles the spy close. He aches to steal her lips and show her just who he wants to practice with. But he doesn't, not yet. Maybe later when he takes her home, walking her to her door because it's how he was raised.

Dipping Natasha back, Steve slowly straightens to his full height so she's pressed against him from chest to knee, she bats her lashes and he gives her a charming grin. "You see?" he asks her, flexing his palm in her grip. "Sometimes the perfect partner is right in front of you…"


A/N: For those of you hoping for an update for my How to Seduce a Fossil, it's coming. Soon. I got sidetracked by real life, the amazing writings of new found friends and this little plot bunny. Share your thoughts?