So, I sort of saw this movie twice in a matter of five days, and when watching the Tony Stark snarky scenes, I realized exactly how fucked up in the head he'd be by this point. And I'm bored, having pretty much nothing to do in my classes now that AP testing is over, so writing this is my way to be un-bored (and hopefully get over my writing block). Takes place after the movie as if everyone stayed in New York.

Also, note: no Tony and Pepper romance. Robert Downey Jr. and Gwenth Paltrow had no chemistry as a couple, and her scenes were quite literally the only things I didn't like about the movie. Otherwise, this thing was perfect. Sorry if that bothered anyone (and for the love of god, don't flame of me for my opinion).

Mostly not told in his POV. So sort of like a third party's view on the character, each on how he (or she) starts to realize that something's a little off. I...don't really think I have an excuse for this one.

And I don't remember the comics, so if there are any disconnects in background, please excuse them. Actually, just consider this AU, since I plan on screwing with it a lot. A lot of it will be insinuated.

Wow, this was a long author's note. I apologize.

Disclaimer: Don't own.


It's the bathrooms where Natasha first starts to notice it.

After an argument with Clint, she blows off steam by running the paths of Central Park and by the time she gets back to Stark Tower her legs are aching from the strain and all she wants to do is relax in a bath to get rid of the soreness in her muscles. It takes checking eleven washrooms before she's forced to accept the sad fact that her room isn't the only one with just a shower - not a single room in the entire twenty-two story building has a bath. And it takes half a second for her to figure out why.

She ends up giving up after realization strikes her and takes a burning hot shower that hurts but feels so wonderful and ignores the possibility that she's worried because she doesn't worry about anyone other than Clint since he's the only one who deserves it. Even if he does have his own fair share of jackass moments.

"Jeez, Natasha," comes her friend's voice as she exits the bathroom, wrapped in a towel because she expects no one else to be there but he's sitting on her bed like he was invited. Lucky for him the run and hot shower relieved most of her stress, or she might kick his ass, wrapped in a towel or not. "You were in there for half an hour."

She scowls and walks over to the closet, throwing her civilian exercise clothes into the hamper. How Stark managed to convert six floors into what're pretty much penthouse suites for all of them in under a week is somewhat of a mystery, but then again about half the stuff he does is, so it really isn't all that surprising. "Shut up," she says. "It's not like we have anything going on."

"Yeah." Clint lays down, hands tucked behind his head as she wiggles into a pair of jeans. "I have to say, the break's pretty nice."

"As long we never eat shawarma again." Clint gives a low laugh. "Hey, that was disgusting."

"Thor seemed to like it."


They avoid the subject of their argument to avoid apologizing and she slips inside the closet door to finish dressing. "So is everyone else still gone?" she asks.

Clint answers, "No - well, actually, I almost got roped into food shopping but played rock-paper-scissors with Steve, so he's gone. Bruce is...somewhere. I'm assuming here. Thor's in a completely different dimension, and Tony's locked in his lab again. Something about cell phones and avoiding radiation." Right. That sounds about normal. She exits, ruffling her hair with the towel to get out the worse of the moisture. "So why'd you end up spending half an hour in the shower?"

"I wanted a bath, but Stark doesn't have any." She throws the wet towel over the end of her bed and thinks that for an assassin, her room's pretty messy. Or at least the end board is.

"Guys don't take baths, Natasha."

With a shrug, she sets on the edge of her bed next to him. "Pepper does, and she's over all the time," she points out, and sometimes she forgets that she knows more about Stark than every one of the other Avengers combined. By this point she's worked for him and with him and is the only one who's read his full file. "And we should get sushi tonight from that place on Eighth."


Again, she shrugs. "'Cause I feel like it," she answers.

She misses Clint's frown as he sits up, leaning back against the headboard. "Are you okay?"


"You're acting weird."

"Just because I'm Russian doesn't mean I'm not allowed to like sushi." But that's not what he meant and she knows it. To anyone else, she wouldn't be this transparent, but the two of them have known each other for a long, long time. Sparing lives does that to people. "What, would you rather get dinner from the place downtown?"

"Russian food's disgusting, no offense," he answers. "Not as bad as British, but still. Unless it's a desert."

She hums distractedly in agreement. As a kid she pretty much lived off of apple crisp. The digital clock next to her bed reads 4:15. "I'm going to go bother Stark," she says, running her fingers through her wet hair to work out a few knots, too lazy to go back into the bathroom for her brush. "You should come."

Clint shakes his head. "I don't feel like arguing with JARVIS."

"No one ever wants to argue with JARVIS," she says and stands. "So, I'll see you later then. About the sushi."

"Right," he says, but doesn't get up from the bed. "I'm going to steal your room for a while. I think I left a book in here."

She nods and exits the room, bare feet padding silently on the soft carpet floor. Stark really had gone all out on making this place nice, but she guesses that's just the way he is - he likes the extreme. At least the colors aren't bright. She'd probably have to kill him. Reading a Letter by Bogdanov-Belsky hangs near her door, a picture that he apparently found in the basement of his old place, though what a Nineteenth century Russian painting was doing there is subject to speculation.

Though it takes a while, she finally finds him in the second to last laboratory - or, not really him, but his location. Out of the eight others she checked, this is the only that's locked. She knocks, more a halfhearted attempt because she knows it won't work, and ignores JARVIS when he tells her Stark is working too hard to be interrupted, and thinks that she might know more about him than any of the other Avengers alive, but she's the only one who has no idea how to get in; Clint climbs through air shafts that Tony can't rig for infrastructure reasons, Banner knows the code to override JARVIS' system (though she doubts it'll last that way for long), Steve manages to annoy him until he's let in, and Thor doesn't count because he's in a different dimension.

That, and she's pretty sure she's the only one that Stark really, really hates. He doesn't really bother trying to hide it either.

She knocks again, louder. "Stark!" she calls, and gets no answer. She tries again, "Clint and I were wondering if you wanted sushi tonight!" Silence. She hits the door again, harder. "STARK!"

"I've got food here. Stop pounding on my -"

"No you don't!" Again, silence. "Stark, when's the last time you ate?" When she still doesn't get an answer, she groans and says, "JARVIS, override lock down."

"I'm sorry, Ms. Romanoff, but I really must -"

This is the problem with AI. She can pick any lock in the world and nearly any code but most aren't designed by certified geniuses and god, is it annoying. "When's the last time you slept?" A pause. "Dammit, Tony, answer!"

To her surprise, the door slides open and he's leaning against the frame, irritation plain on his face, hair sticking up at weird angles from fingers running through it, bruise-like exhaustion gathered under his eyes, and oh, fuck him if he says he's slept in the last twenty-four hours. Though she doesn't really care, the lack of any bathes or pools (which she noticed the first time she ended up on Stark Tower and thought nothing of it) reminds her that he isn't really a selfish jackass, that he's been through as much shit as the rest of them and he drove a nuclear missile through a dimensional rip into space to save the planet and she just wants to go back to hating him in peace. Even if they do live together.

"Stop trying to imitate Steve," he tells her, "or acting like my mother. Whichever one you're channeling."

"I just wanted to find out if you wanted food," she answers defensively.

"That's not why."

No, it really isn't, but she supposes that it's part of the reason. "When's the last time you slept?" she asks.

With a frown, he says, "This is what I mean, Mom."

Before he can reach, she grabs his arm and yanks him forward, out of the lab. "JARVIS, shut the door," she says quickly and it slides closed.

"You know I can get back in, right?"

"Yeah, but I'm not letting you." He's surprisingly compliant as she drags him down the hall towards the elevator. "Listen, you're going to get a few hours of sleep," she orders, "then you're showering, and coming out to sushi with us. Got it?"

"I don't want to," he says, and sounds like a child. "I'm working on something. Why are you doing this anyway?"

For the third time in half an hour, she shrugs. "Let's say we're called in," she says, though it's only been about two weeks so she doesn't think it's going to happen but you never know. "You'd come with us. But you'd be sleep deprived and hungry, which lowers your ability to think straight, genius or not. We need you at hundred percent, got it?"

He frowns and says, "Trust me, I'm fine. It's only been three days. Less...about seventy hours, I think."

"Fucking idiot." He makes a sound of protest, but she ignores him. "Jesus, are you trying to kill yourself or something? Because if you are, I'm pretty sure space would've done the job for you." When he doesn't answer with something sarcastic and obnoxious right away, she feels an uncharacteristic spike of worry. "Tony?"

They're in the elevator now and he looks asleep on his feet and Natasha wonders if she can tell JARVIS to put him on lock down for health reasons. Probably not, but it might be worth a try. "What did you say?"

"Were you always like this?" she asks because she might know him pretty well (or about as much as anyone could really know Tony Stark) but she didn't meet him until after Afghanistan when he was already fucked in the head and walking on death's doorstep. He nods, but it's in an absentminded sort of way that doesn't mean much of anything. And since he's so tired, she takes the opportunity to add, "So what else doesn't this place have? You know, besides bathtubs," and feels his arm tense beneath her hand.

"So that's what this is about?" he says.

"Sort of," she answers. "I figure the whole manipulation thing won't work on you. You aren't stupid enough." It's a compliment, but she makes sure it sounds like an insult. "You can answer, you know. It's not like I have the right to tell anyone - I was the only one with full access to your file."

"Oh, goody." The elevator door slides open and she lets go of him before following him inside. "And to answer your question, cramped spaces, specific shades of brown, and uncovered light bulbs. Will you leave me alone now?"

She shakes her head. "You're still coming out to eat with us," she says and though he exits without saying anything and presses the button so the door slides closed, she knows he'll listen.

For just this once.


I really need to get better at ending things. Reviews are appreciated! : D