Natasha's first impression of Tony Stark had not been a pleasant one. No self respecting woman liked walking into a room and being 'ogled' as Pepper had put it, and then he had felt the need to google her, as well as requesting her immediate transfer to act as his 'assistant.' That had been the plan of course, but it automatically meant that she had no respect for him.
Pepper on the other hand was different. She was a woman who knew what she wanted and how to get there, but she was pure enough that she wouldn't hurt someone else to achieve her goals. Her open smile and kind words meant that Nat had never had a chance of not liking her, but she was still surprised at how quickly they became friends. Pepper had some slight issues adjusting her view of Nat from assistant to master spy, but she took it in her stride and never blamed Natasha for the lies she had told.
The one thing Natasha had never understood about Pepper though, was why on Earth was she staying with Tony – billionaire playboy, in his own words – when she could do so much better? She had once asked her, receiving only a laugh and a knowing smile as an answer.
But then the Avengers became reality and she had watched Tony save the world. JARVIS had left Stark's comm. line open at the end, and so the whole team had heard his last attempt to ring Pepper. And though she would never admit it, her heart broke for him. She was by no means a romantic – she had seen the worst in people for so long that sometimes she found it hard to see the good – but there was something so entirely beautiful about Stark's apparent last act that she couldn't help but feel for him. The complete defeat in his voice as he told his AI to make the call had touched her in a way she couldn't describe.
After that, she strove to look harder. She had learned by now that Tony wasn't the unfeeling bastard he liked to pretend he was, and she had somewhat forgiven him for his actions when they first met, but now she was truly focussed. And so, she saw.
It was small things that no one else would see; the way as soon as Pepper walked into a room a small smile would slide onto Tony's face as though he had been in pain when he couldn't see her, but now all was right with the world. In the way that when she was overworked or tired he would go behind her back and organise it so she could just take a day, and then whisk her off to god knows where (Nat didn't ask and Pepper didn't tell) so she could relax.
And sure, Tony would whine whenever asked to do something he found distasteful, but provided Pepper was the one asking, he would never outright say no. Whatever she wanted, it would get done.
He would move Heaven and Earth for that woman, Nat realised, watching as the two of them danced to some music Stark had playing softly through the speakers. Pepper was laughing, embarrassed at dancing in front of the others, and Stark was telling her not to be so self conscious, but his eyes were warm and sincere and never once drifted from her face, drinking in her features like a man starved. Natasha had a funny feeling that if he could, Tony would never leave this moment, or let it end. He exuded contented bliss.
But, like everything, it had to end. And it did, three weeks after the self conscious dance at the top of Stark Tower.
Pepper had been taken, and by none other than a strand of the Ten Rings.* Nat have never seen Tony so furious or terrified. He was a nervous wreck, so much so that it had taken Bruce a solid twenty minutes to calm him down enough to explain who the Ten Rings were and why on Earth they thought it would be a good idea to kidnap Iron Man's girlfriend.
Once the story was told every single member of the team swore that they would get Pepper back, and that the people who took her would face justice (Well, Steve said justice, Nat was just planning on killing them – she cared about Pepper a lot too).
And so they went, and they got her back. When Tony found her, he had ripped off his helmet and just held her. She sobbed into his metal coated shoulder, clinging to him and all he had done was wrapped his arms around her and kept her close. The team tried to pretend that there weren't tears streaming down the billionaire's face too. He hadn't let Pepper out of his sight for a good week after that, and it was at least a month and a half before she was allowed anywhere alone.
She had moaned to Natasha about it, but found little sympathy from the spy – who for once agreed with Tony wholeheartedly. Pepper seemed to believe that she was the only one in the world that worried about those they were close to.
"You really love her, don't you?" Nat asked Tony once as he watched Pepper pacing in her glass walled office talking to someone (rather animatedly) on the phone. The spy was fairly sure that the billionaire hadn't even noticed her presence until she spoke – he had that half smile on his face and his eyes were soft and unguarded. He looked up at her with a jolt, and blinked for a moment as he let the question process.
"How could I not?" Was his only answer and Nat found that she couldn't respond to that.
"If you ever repeat this I will kill you slowly and painfully," the spy warned sternly, before relenting. "But she's lucky to have someone like you."
"No she isn't." He replied immediately, his voice firm. "She'd be a lot better off without me. I know she worries about me, and because of who I am, she's constantly in danger. You saw what those bastards did." Natasha shuddered at the reminder, remembering the terror when she had realised that they had taken Pepper. "I'm nothing but bad for her. I... just can't seem to be able to let her go." Suddenly he looked so forlorn, that Nat felt an almost foreign, very human instinct to comfort him.
"Maybe you shouldn't try. Yes, you have faults – rather major ones – but that doesn't matter. She loves you Tony. And it's more than that: the way you look at her..." She trailed off, looking towards Pepper's office. "I've seen a lot of people, good and bad, and I've learned pretty much all there is to learn about human nature and reading people. And you couldn't live without her Tony. And I don't mean you'd forget to eat or sleep – which you would – but I think that if she wasn't there with you... I don't think that you'd have been the kind of man who flies through a portal with a nuclear bomb to save a city." She smiled warmly at him, then let it fall back into her usual grin.
"You know," Tony said after a moment, "I've never quite been able to work you out. I mean, Natalie was relatively simple. But then she became Natasha and she never made sense." The spy laughed at the convoluted logic. "Well, whoever you are, thank you. When you're not threatening to kill me, or maim me or in general do me harm, I kind of like you."
"Well, maybe, when you're not being an arrogant, self obsessed playboy... Nah, I still don't like you," she laughed and he joined her. He was fairly sure she was joking – it was hard to tell. "Just, do me one thing," she said, serious once more. She glanced back at Pepper's office to see the woman sink into her office chair, face in her hands having finally gotten off the phone. Natasha had the sinking feeling that she might be crying. "Be good to her."
"It's all I strive to be," he replied softly, as he went to go and comfort the woman that he loved.
Damn, I love writing this story. Fluff is so fun and happy to write. Although, this does kind of make me feel lonely, but oh well. I'll stick to the positives. Natasha was fun to write because she's so hard to read, it makes it more of a challenge. Plus I like playing with the idea that there is a very soft side to her that she doesn't ever really get to let out. I get the idea that Pepper and Nat would actually be really good friends, and that Pepper has an agreement with her to make sure that Widow keeps Tony safe. I can just see it happening.
I think I might do Banner next, cause he's awesome and I love him and Bruce and Tony should so have their own movie together to have geeky science bromance adventures... Anyway...
Hope you enjoyed :) Thoughts?
*I'm considering writing this as a story...