Title: Fire and Ice

Author: SatineSatire

Rating: T

Pairing: Tony Stark/Natasha Romanova

Summary: The sequel to It's a Start. A collection of stories that will show how friendship and a romantic relationship develops between Iron Man and Black Widow. Other Avengers will make periodic appearances.

Disclaimer: Marvel owns these awesome characters.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

- Fire and Ice, by Robert Frost

It had been 2 months since Tony had kissed Natasha – and she had kissed him back. Not that you would know it by how she acted around him. At first, she had ignored him and then she had disappeared. True, it was on assignments for S.H.I.E.L.D. but it irked him that she acted as if the kiss had never happened.

He enjoyed when people admired him, he found it amusing when people hated him, but the one thing he couldn't stand? Indifference. That was unacceptable.

Tony sat in his lab at home, wondering what to do about that, but as it turned out, she came to him.

"Agent Romanova is approaching," Jarvis alerted him.

"Oh, is she? This should be good." He moved his feet off the desk and headed upstairs to answer the door. "I knew you couldn't resist me," he said after opening the door. "What, no black leather catsuit?"

Her expression was neutral, but at the last question her eyes narrowed slightly. "This isn't a social visit but no, I didn't see the purpose in attracting unwanted attention," she answered pointedly, stepping inside.

"Why else are you here, then?" He moved away from the door, gesturing for her to come further inside and to the living room.

"To talk to you about a possible Avengers assignment." She entered the house and was silent for a long moment. "I am your… liaison with S.H.I.E.L.D. now, since Agent Coulson's… since he is no longer with us." She looked at him, her expression briefly showing sorrow.

His smile faded at the reminder of their failure. And it was their failure. They should have done something to prevent Coulson's death, should have contained Loki better, should not have allowed themselves to be ambushed… should have, should have. Some heroes.

"Have a drink with me."

Her brow creased, a subtle indication of irritation. "I told you that I'm not here for a social—"

"In memory of a friend," he added. "Have a drink with me in his memory."

She fell silent, again showing that faint expression of sadness. It vanished in a moment and she nodded, going to sit on the couch. "All right."

"What's your poison?" he asked as he headed over to his bar. She merely arched an eyebrow and he laughed at himself. "Right, Russian Red. Vodka."

"Did you seriously just call me Russian Red?" she asked, aghast.

He flashed her another grin as he made their drinks. "What? It suits you."

"Ha ha," she replied, trying not to feel charmed by his teasing expression.

Tony came back and handed her the small glass of vodka, having poured some scotch for himself. He sat down beside her. "To Coulson," he said, clinking his glass against hers and knocking back his drink. It burned in a good way and he released a breath.

Natasha drank hers in one long swallow and set the empty glass on the coffee table.

He was silent for a beat and then ground out, "He was such an idiot. What was he thinking, taking on Loki like that?"

She stared at him, surprised by the pain and anger in his voice. "He was an agent, Tony. He was doing his duty but more than that, he was brave. Not… everyone can be saved," she said gently. She was going to say that not everyone gets a happy ending, but it was too depressing and cruel to utter that aloud.

"It was a waste… of a good man."

"I know."

He scrubbed his hand over his face and gave her a rueful look. "I guess you're probably used to it, huh?"

"In this type of job, it's always a risk," she agreed quietly.

"Why you? Why get into this? You're gorgeous – you really could model."

She smiled slightly. Usually she would have cut off any sort of personal talk, but maybe it was because the question showed interest in her as a person, not just her body… maybe it was because he was still genuinely upset about Coulson's death and she had an urge to comfort him.

Or maybe it was because she hadn't stopped thinking about that kiss, and when it was just the two of them alone together her steely control could crack and she might allow herself to dream of what might be between them. That was why she'd deliberately made it impossible for them to be alone, until Fury had assigned her back to him.

Natasha was too professional to protest and had told herself she would not allow her feelings to get in the way of completing her work.

"The choice was made a long time ago. Not by me, but I've dealt with the fallout. This… for better or worse… is what I'm good at. Maybe one day it'll be enough to make up for the things I've done in the past."

Tony looked at her speculatively but she refused to meet his gaze. He slid his finger underneath her chin, careful to avoid her mouth in case she got an idea to bite, and gently lifted it up.

"Hey. Who the fuck cares what you've done in the past? The present is all that matters."

She shied away from him, not wanting comfort or understanding, knowing that she deserved this torment.

He blinked, for the first time seeing the wounded woman beneath her icy armor. But he had never been good at being warm and fuzzy, and despite his interest in her the magic words to make her feel better didn't come to mind.

Instead he reached out to caress her cheek, leaning in to kiss her.

Actions spoke louder than words, didn't they?

Natasha thought about turning away, but in her hesitation his lips covered hers and she immediately began to respond to him. I should not be doing this again, she told herself. They had no future and she wasn't even sure she liked him, for god's sake. But warmth began to spread throughout her body and she relaxed, sliding her hands to his shoulders.

He was more cautious than the first time he had kissed her, and pulled back after a few heated moments. This was a lot slower than he was used to doing things, but she fascinated him and didn't want to run her off again.

He brushed his thumb over her rosy lower lip and she blinked at him, slightly out of breath.

"So, about the upcoming job?" he prompted, moving to sit back casually and put a bit of space between them.

It took her a moment to get her bearings and she flashed him a grateful look before becoming all business. She retained her professional persona even while leaving his home once she had outlined the contents of the files she'd brought with her. He leaned against the doorway to the front door, watching her head out.


She turned, head tilted inquisitively.

"Have dinner with me tomorrow night."

"Was there a question somewhere in there?" she asked sarcastically, arching an eyebrow at his bossy tone. "No. It's not a good idea for people who work together to get involved with one another."

"I'm not, and nor will I ever, be employed by S.H.I.E.L.D.," he replied dismissively.

"That's just semantics."

"Fine, forget dinner. Come over tomorrow and we'll just have sex."

She scoffed. "Yes, when hell freezes over," she answered, turning back to walk to her car. But not before he saw her lips turn up, showing that she wasn't as put off by the idea as she wanted to appear.

He grinned. "Goodnight, Natasha. Think of me when you're in bed tonight."

She gave him a blank stare, shook her head – in amusement? – and drove away, but hadn't displayed outrage or death threats.

In his opinion, that was progress.