I've always wanted to try this particular one, but I've never been brave enough to actually write it, so please be gentle. Also, I know little of the comics, so a lot of movie! Character might slip in there. Steve finds out that Ironman is in fact Natasha Antonia Stark.

xxx

Steve found Natasha Stark to be much too forward for his taste. If they had been back in the forties instead of here and now, the woman would have been labelled a… Steve frowned at himself and forced his thoughts away from what Ms. Stark would have been in his time. After all, he wasn't there anymore… or was it then?

In any case Ms. Stark was almost exactly like her father had been, drinking too much and sleeping with anything that moved. It was familiar in a way, but at the same time it was so very unfamiliar. Which was why he avoided Ms. Stark unless he absolutely had to.

Her bodyguard, Ironman, on the other hand was fast becoming his close friend, though he had never seen his face. Ironman had explained that he couldn't reveal himself, even to Steve, or he could put Ms. Stark at risk; and Steve would never knowingly put a lady in danger, no matter what she was like.

They talked outside of battle sometimes, he and Ironman, and finally the man beneath the armour had gifted him with his name, Tony, and Steve had cherished that trust with all the honour it deserved. But still he wished he could meet the man without the armour. It would be nice to have a friend in the world outside of the superhero one.

xxx

Natasha Stark walked into an avengers meeting with a nasty looking bruise on her temple. Steve noticed it immediately and frowned, it didn't look accidental; it took a lot of force to do that much damage; and Steve had seen bruises like that in his old neighbourhood.

He tried to bring it up to Ms. Stark when the meeting was over, to try and discreetly find out who had hit her. She laughed at his concerns and leered at him. "If I'd known all it would take for you to start paying attention to me was a few bruises, I'd have taken a drunken dive down my stairs months ago Stevie." And she'd patted his arm with a little too much familiarity that made him stiffen before she disappeared like a high energy whirlwind.

Steve had asked Ironman, because the man was supposed to be her bodyguard. He'd laughed at his concern too. "I can't protect her from herself you know?" he'd said, "Ms. Stark is…" Steve waited for the sentence to be completed, wondering how a metal suit could seem to have so much expression. "She's trouble Steve, she always has been. You'd be better off just staying away from her as much as you can."

"Why would you say that?" Steve asked, genuinely curious.

"I've known her a long time Steve. You show anymore interest in her and you're not going to be a virgin too much longer; and when she's done with you she'll probably just leave you by the wayside while she makes off with the next man she meets. Take my advice and just don't encourage her."

Steve pondered on Ironman's words; they seemed very harsh, especially coming from someone so close to Ms. Stark. Steve started paying a little more attention to what other people said about Ms. Stark, and he was surprised to find that many seemed to share Ironman's opinions, even Pepper Pots and Happy Hogan, the two people closest to Ms. Stark where very frank about her shortcomings, though they at least had good things to say about her.

Steve decided that maybe he needed to make his own opinion of Ms. Stark, and not one based on what other people said.

xxx

She was forward. Much to forward.

That was Steve's first observation.

She would flirt with him, make suggestions that left him blushing, and wasn't afraid to talk about her sex life with anyone, and from what he could tell, her exploits in that field were rivalled only by Thor, and he was a god who had lived almost forever, it was to be expected of him.

She was also full of her own self importance; not in the way Howard had been, quietly confident. She bragged often and loudly of her accomplishments, even if no one was listening. Telling all about her new inventions and what they could do. She bragged about the latest gala or event she had been to and how she had stolen the whole show.

She was invasive and loud and pushy, and everything about her made Steve's nerves screech whenever she was around him. When she was in a room, all the wanted was to be out of it.

On the flip side she was a genius, and the things she made for the team were amazing; and she had created the Ironman suit, so he supposed she had good reason to brag. And there were times… not many, but some, when he was sure he would catch a flicker of deep sadness on her face; usually when someone ignored her or scoffed at what she was saying; but it was always gone so quickly he was never really sure it had been there to begin with.

It was that look that made him keep looking for something to counteract all the negative things he had observed about her.

xxx

"Steve, you've got to stop this." Ironman told him one night.

"Stop what?" Steve asked.

"Stop digging around Natasha."

"What do you mean?"

"You're not going to like what you find, so you might as well stop while you can still work with her."

"Tony, what are you talking about?"

Tony sighed, the sound loud in the still night. "Ok fine, you want to know about her?" he waited for Steve to nod before continuing. "Ms. Stark is, or rather was, a warmonger. She made weapons, designed the most devastating things you could ever use in battle. She made them, she sold them and then she lived off the profits and she didn't once think about all the innocent people out there being killed every day by her weapons. Not until she was nearly killed by them herself." Tony shook his head and sighed again.

"She made the ironman suit because she felt guilty Steve. She's not in this for some higher purpose, she feels guilty and she's trying to make up for it."

"Isn't that a good thing?" Steve asked softly.

Ironman shook his head. "She's going to fuck it up Steve, just like she does everything else in her life. At the moment she's guilty, but she's probably going to end up exactly the way she was before."

"Can't you stop her, you're her friend right? Can't you help her not fall back into old habits?"

Tony laughed at that and stood. "I wish I could Steve." And he took off without a backwards glance.

Steve wasn't quite sure what to make of this particular revelation.

xxx

Then it happened. Ironman took a direct hit to chest and went down like a ton of bricks. By the time Steve and the others had dealt with the villain of the day and Steve could go to see if Tony was hurt; the helmet lay discarded to the side, the gauntlets were off and slender fingers were fighting with the twisted chest plate, ragged breaths, heaving and whistling, as every attempt to loosen the armour failed.

Steve stepped forward to help, stepping around the downed figure to the front to help more easily. But he froze when he knelt down, and the desperate brown eyes of none other than Ms. Stark stared up at him through damp strands of hair.

"S… Steve." She gasped out.

That shook Steve from his daze and he reached forward and gripped the twisted metal and pulled, it strained for a moment before giving way. Her hands flew immediately to her chest, and he couldn't stop his eyes following. The black t-shirt had a hole cut that showed the glowing reactor on her chest, and he frowned, he had though it was part of the suit.

"Cr… crack..ed." she croaked out, eyes becoming panicked. "Steve… need to get to my… my lab. Be… before the pow..er runs out. Ple…ase…" and she slumped forwards. He caught her easily, and he was never more thankful than to see Happy Hogan pull up in his life.

xxx

Steve watched Natasha's chest rise and fall; unwillingly fascinated by the steady glow beneath the t-shirt Pepper had dressed her in after replacing the arc reactor in her chest. Steve had never been more scared in his life watching the reactor flicker in the car on the way back, the way Natasha's face grew paler and her breathing became more and more laboured.

Pepper had mentioned the shrapnel the reactor kept from her heart, and Steve was thrown back to the war again, watching men die from such things. It made him feel sick to think of her that way.

He had stayed.

He wasn't entirely sure why.

His world had been turned upside down again. The man behind the armour he had begun to consider a true friend was not, he had learned, a man at all, nor as honest as he had thought. And the woman he had thought selfish, invasive and pushy, was actually moonlighting as a superhero. It didn't make any sense, but he knew if he wanted answers he was going to have to stay.

xxx

Natasha had him removed from the room as soon as she'd woken, and Happy had enforced this desire with an apologetic smile. Then she'd avoided and ignored him since. It had been three weeks, and Steve was no closer to getting his answers than he had been watching her sleep.

This continued until the day Steve stepped in front of Ironman in battle to take a blast meant for the armour. He woke hours later to find Natasha seated beside his bed, fidgeting with one of the gauntlets of the suits. When she saw he was awake she stood and leaned over him for a moment.

Then she burst into agitated motion. "What were you even thinking? Seriously? The suit could have taken the hit without so much as a scratch. Why'd you have to step in and take it like that?" she did wait for him to gather his thoughts and respond, just barrelled on. "Is it because you know I'm a woman now, is that it? Suddenly I can't look after myself? You know, it's all your fault this whole thing happened to begin with. Why'd you have to assume Toni had to be a man?" She glared at him. "Actually… you don't have this problem with the Black Widow. So is it just me? Am I not…" she glanced away from him, her shoulders slumping a little. "Yeah. Ok, I get it. Now you know who I am you think I'm some sort of—"

Steve didn't want to hear what she thought he thought of her and interrupted, voiced raspy. "It was aimed at your chest piece." He told her, feeling the spike of fear race through him again.

"It was aimed at my…?" Natasha looked down, hand reaching up to brush the area over the reactor.

Steve nodded.

Natasha stilled completely and stared at him as if she was seeing him for the first time. "You idiot." She told him. "You absolute idiot. How could you even think that it was ok to just jump in front of me like that? You could have died; and it would have been my fault. I would have killed Captain America, and seriously, it's not like I need another reason for the whole world to hate me."

Steve was incredulous. "You'd have preferred it if I'd let you take the hit and probably died when your reactor broke?"

"Better me than you!" she shot back.

Steve watched her storm from the room, and couldn't stop the worry creep up on him. Why would she say that? How could she think it was ok for her to end up dead?

xxx

"You have some serious self worth issues." Was Steve's opening gambit when he finally managed to escape the grasps of the other avengers and make his way down to the lab under the tower.

"Really?" her tone was flippant, but Steve ignored that; he'd been thinking and he was sure he had it all worked out now.

"Yeah." He replied. "The only thing I don't understand is why?"

She stiffened, but continued working stubbornly.

"So you made weapons. Weapons aren't dangerous by themselves Tony-Natasha-Ms Stark, It's what the people who use them, use them for. It's not your fault if some of those people used them to hurt innocent people. You've been punishing yourself for things so far outside your control, for too long."

She was quiet, and Steve wasn't sure how this was going to end. "You can still call me Toni you know. My Mother… she used to call me it sometimes, when dad wasn't around." She said finally, nearly a whisper.

"Ok Toni." Steve said softly, stepping forward.

xxx

Neither could say who started it. Steve had been the one to start the conversation to begin with, this much was true. But after the talking was finally done and the two had been left standing, in companionable silence, much like the one they had once shared when Steve had know Ironman as only Tony, neither of them could say who taken the first step.

They were kissing.

Then Toni was murmuring about how she was going to fuck this up, and how Steve was going to end up hating her because she was selfish and a drunk and every other terrible thing she could think of to warn him off; and he was whispering that none of that mattered, that all she had to do was be herself; be the Toni he had started to truly care for in their time together, the one that he know knew to be the real Natasha Antonia Stark.

Neither could say who started it; but that didn't matter, as long as neither of them finished it.