A/N: Ahhh, I'm so sorry for not updating, I've been very busy lately but here's the next chapter. Finally x)

It's four in the morning when Natasha wakes up, watching the sky pale and lit up her neck resting in the crook of Tony's arm. When she gets up, she pulls the quilt off the top of the bed and leaves him snoring slightly— pads out into the kitchen for a glass of water. When he wakes up, she's curled on the window seat with a book.

"Which one?" Tony asks, voice raspy with sleep before he says anything else.

"Harry Potter, actually, I've never read it in full. Never got the chance I suppose," She looks down. "Too busy."

"Keep it, then."

"I can't, it's yours and I'd never find time to read it, Clint and I—"

"Please, I'm a billionaire, you don't think I could buy another copy of the Sorcerer's Stone? You'll get a break eventually, it's an easy read."

He stands up, walks over and puts his hands on her shoulders—she cannot help but flinch a little at them. His thumb strokes the nape of her neck idly, and she shivers.

When she pushes herself up, swinging her legs off of the window seat, her knees knock against his where he's standing in front of her and rest there. They are touching, and normally, she wouldn't really find it in her to mind, but after last night—and god, she is sober now, she is thinking now and she thinks that she shouldn't have let herself get this close. Tony's eyes are lazy and warm and focused on her face. She smiles weakly and he smiles and there, that's better, that's like ease.

"Call it a belated birthday gift," he says.

"Oh, how very generous of you, Mr. Stark," She says, shaking her head and she feels him shrug behind her.

"I know, I'm awesome like that."

He reaches an arm out and she steps in next to him, lets him loop his arm around her waist against the quilt, his fingers lighting on the bone of her hip, grazing the edge of her stomach.

"I've got to get back to headquarters. Well," she says. "This afternoon."

He smiles. "Good, because I'm not done with you yet."

They stumble through the streets, sun bright in their eyes and the scent of hot pavement and fumes, and really— he's forgotten where they're going. Or rather, he isn't even sure he had a place in mind.

"We're lost." Natasha stops, tugging on his arm. "You don't even know where you were going to take me."

"No"- he's trying here, head swinging around- "No, we are not lost. I—"

"Yes." Natasha shakes her head. "Yes, we are."

She sits herself down on a bench. "This is your fault," she states, pointing a finger at him, "Therefore, I insist that you if you wish to continue, you have to carry me to whichever destination you wish me to reach." She's looking at him. Expectantly.

It's his turn to sigh but his arms slip around her easily and he hoists her up, her eyes go wide in surprise, she hadn't expected him to actually do it, she wasn't being entirely serious. For about ten seconds, it's golden.

He sweeps her off her feet.

"Tony, I—"

Then they fall, hard,and they're a tangle of limbs on the sidewalk, her hair is all over his face and why the hell is she laughing?

He glances at her and she doesn't stop. His back hurts, his knee is sore but she's laughing and she manages to look perfectly put together when he helps her up.

"Er. Sorry. It's too early in the morning for this," He says, brushing off his jeans.

"I'd say that the once great Tony Stark has lost his spark," She teases, elbowing him.

He shoots her a look. "We both know that's not true. I'm still practically asleep, I haven't eaten breakfast yet."

"Whatever you say." They start walking together and he finally looks down at her, and laughs.

"Okay, maybe that wasn't my smoothest moment," He admits and she nods.

"You think?"

"But I have figured out where I'm going to take you."

"And where's that?"

"It's a surprise."

"Another one?"

"I thought you liked yesterday?"

"Yes, well," She looks down, clears her throat. "I mean look, about yesterday, I think it is best if we, if I'd just— if I could— or you could—it's really not that big of a deal but—"

He looks at her.

She stops.

"Natasha," he says, and she averts her gaze, but he must have seen the way her cheeks pinked at her name in his mouth, "I get it."

She leans heavily on the heel of one , she'd promised herself she wouldn't do this. "Of course that doesn't mean that we can't," She looks down. "Continue."

"Was that you admitting that you actually," He smirks, one hand pressing into the small of her back. "Like doing this?"

She shakes her head and can't help smiling— the pleased lazy shiver making tracks between her vertebrae is not something she entirely wants to shake.

His arms slide swiftly up her sides, hooked through her own and her palms are pressed to his back. He can feel her, all of her through the fabric that divides them and she feels warm and soft and still sharp, like the taste of fresh lime in the corners of your mouth.

She pulls a face, "I might, if you could actually learn to carry someone properly."

He shifts from one foot to the other, a beat of uncertainty, for a second he looks like a child. Then he smiles and he's all devil.

"I promise I can," Tony glances sidelong at her, the corner of his mouth curling upwards, then he descends, kissing her in an attempt to wipe the sour look off her face.

"I'm holding you to that," she says, letting him go.

Natasha looks around the busy street, trying to commit everything to memory, something to pull out later and remember this day, when her phone goes off.

She answers, listens silently before hanging up.

"What's going on?" Tony asks.

The words don't come easy, but they come. "I—" She frowns. "It's Director Fury, he needs us to come in. All of us."

When they arrive, the familiar SHIELD atmosphere greets them warmly, despite the cold white tiled floors and sharp suits everywhere, it welcomes them like an old friend. Natasha slips off to go to her quarters and Tony goes to the meeting room. The interior is uniform in color. Black, silver, with the occasional fleck of steel and glass. Steve, Thor and Bruce are already waiting and Tony sighs and throws himself into the chair left of Bruce.

Natasha slides into the seat left of Tony's and Clint slides into the seat next to hers. She's back in her SHIELD uniform and she looks as professional as the rest of 's like a white dwarf, small but somehow not eclipsed by the giants who roam around her. She shines so dimly, but burns as hotter than the rest combined. His eyes flicker over her, appreciating more than he's inspecting. She is exactly as he expects and doesn't look away as his eyes roam carelessly and then meet her face. He remembers the first time he met her, the red of her hair had seemed almost unbearably bright against her pale skin and when she smiled, it was all lips and no warmth, he'd looked straight at her and it was like she was looking through him.

Tony, smiling to himself, jostles with her for elbow space on the table. She makes a face at him and attempts to shove his arm away, but he elbows her back.

"Behave," she hisses, clutching at the glass table to keep her balance.

"You first," he whispers back. They lapse into silence as Nick Fury comes in, looking the same as he ever does, somehow unchangeable and un-aging.

He's saying something but Tony's pressing his shoulder into hers.

"So, you gonna come by later?" He whispers.

Natasha doesn't look at him, but she leans close and whispers, "Not if you're going to drop me again."

Tony strangles a laugh. And Director Fury clears his throat dramatically; Tony and Natasha look to see him glaring daggers at them both.

"We've received some new information on the rising threat, Thanos. A credible source tells us—"

"Mind telling us who this insider is, Fury?" Tony cuts in. Nick gives Tony a wide and soundless look and Tony nods. "Right, I'll shut up now."

"Thanos means to court Death, or the entity known as Death," Fury continues. "In order to impress Death, he's going to destroy the Universe."

"But he can't actually do that right?" Steve frowns. "I mean, no one man can do all of that."

"At a surprisingly young age, Thanos wiped out the population of his planet. And then he traveled the universe seeking ways to kill populations in order to woo Death," Director Fury tells him. "I assure you, he can and will do everything to wipe out not only Earth, but everything."

"So what's the plan of attack?" Natasha asks him, expecting an answer, and everyone looks to Nick, expecting Director Fury to play leader, wise man, saint— whatever works.

"We're working on it," He says, doesn't hesitate, can't hesitate, he has to be resolute. "In the mean time, we need you all to stick together and keep an eye out."

Nick leaves the room and everyone gets up to leave, Clint stops Tony and Natasha at the doorway.

"Where were you two today?"

"Reconnaissance," Tony says. It comes out easily, a cover story established long ago.

Natasha rolls her eyes but looks up at him, Clint barks out a laugh and shakes his head—"have you slept with the enemy yet?"

"I hope to," He smirks. "I hear it's quite the strategy."

"So, does he know that you like him?" Clint asks Natasha when they're alone, whispering in conspiratorial tones.
She levels him with a stare. "No. And I'm not going to say anything."

"I think he likes you too, you know. I mean, if you're telling the truth, he took you out to a beach, you spent the night at his house and then he was going to take you out again the next day," Clint says, shrugs. "I don't know, but it seems to me that you two are getting together."

"Well," she says, scooting her chair closer, wincing at the sound it makes against the metallic floor of Clint's room. "You seem to think you know everything."

His mouth curls into a smile. "Yeah," he says. "I bet you're even learning to trust him."

She scoffs, "Hardly," she says, and watches his smile broaden. "Clint, I'm serious."

He shakes his head, still smiling, "I have no control over this."

"I know, I know." Natasha stands up and drags her leather jacket on. "I'll see you tomorrow."


She leaves the building and starts driving, finding herself on her way to Tony's house.

Tony looks up at where Natasha's standing at the foot of the bed and she doesn't smile at him, but there's something playing behind her eyes that tells him she's happy she's here with him. The t-shirt she wears has a neckline that is all the way up her neck and the sweatpants don't reveal much either. She doesn't want to be a display piece, doesn't need to be. No more skin is shown than is needed.

It's almost odd to see her like this, because she's Natasha Romanov, because she's always prepared for a role, always in the middle of this mission or that one, always using whatever means to achieve her end. Because she's guiltless eroticism on two long legs.

Natasha sits on the end of the bed, passes a hand over her face.


Maybe she can feel his eyes on her. Maybe he is just that obvious.

Tony clears his throat. "Are you… you know?"

"Am I what?"

"Are you...okay?"

She laughs, sharp and not particularly amused. "Not really, but you learn to deal with it."

"Well, from my standpoint, you look cold. And in need of a nap."

"Gee, Tony. What gave that away?" She just shakes her head, "But what if the entire universe collapses if I do? And with the way things have been going lately, I wouldn't be surprised if it actually did happen."

"Well, maybe it'll be safe to sleep, just for a night." He says, and the smile he gives her should have been comforting, but only served to let her know that she'd be alone in sleeping, should she choose to.

Tony leans back against the sea of pillows and soft sheets on his bed and smiles to himself as Natasha sprawls out in the center of the bed.

"So, tell me a story," says Tony as he's half-way through pulling his t-shirt off.

"Which one?" She says, "There's quite a few."

"Pick one."

She pulls down the waistband of her sweats, (underwear? what underwear?), and reveals a scar. "One of many," she tells him, and, he realizes that he's never noticed them before, "this one is my first one though. I was fifteen. A guy pulled a knife on me and then I killed him. It was self-denfense, but then again, I guess we all have blood on our hands."

It had never really bothered Tony before that blood could be on his hands— but he has killed for the good of the people, maybe even losing some of the said people along the way. And this thought becomes deafening as a chorus, screaming in apex. And for a moment, it wears heavy, heavy as millstones before he feels Natasha looking at him and he feels her presence as a tangible fact near his own.

"Let me touch it," he says, and she pretends to sigh dramatically, pulls down her sweats until they're almost off her hips, bares her heart and her skin to his hands, lets him.

After being Iron Man and being in that cave when he was captured, Tony finds himself uneasy around the things that are too clean, too perfect. Blood and filth and war have ground into his skin, and a woman with scars suites him fine, suites him best.

He meets her eyes, and does not shy away at what he sees there, although she thinks he should. There is a long, long moment of silence, and then—

His mouth snags on hers, cutting through the air between him. Her hand furls in Tony's hair and pulling, nails against his scalp and fingers against the back of his neck. Tony's quick, knowing hands search for skin against fabric, and his fingers curling into her flesh.

She reaches up and runs a hand through hair, feeling it curl beneath her fingers, the scrape of beard under her jaw as he kisses her neck, hands pulling her in at the waist and moving slow and sure and easy down the slope of her back. Tony's hands know where to go, cartography of her body easy beneath his hands like maps long-made.

She bites at the soft skin of his neck and feels him swallowing, swallowing; she slides a hand between his legs, palm against the ridge his cock makes through his pants and he muffles his mouth against her hair.

Natasha opens her mouth, but before there are words, there are Tony's teeth against her lower lip, biting to draw blood.

She pulls away from him, falling sinuous against the sheets. "I think I'm gonna go to sleep now."

He laughs and shakes his head. "Of course."

She smiles with self-satisfaction as folds her arms behind her head. She should stay awake with him. She should try to coax him into closing his eyes too, they could both do with some sleep. Instead, she curls against him and shuts her eyes.

Tony lays beside her and wraps an arm around her. Her mouth quirks and she is smiling for him.

This would never work, they both know it but there's no reason to skip to the ending just because they see it coming.

She knew about love once, of course she did, it's indoctrinated with everyone, but the cleverness and knowledge of how the world really works knocked it out long ago, and good thing too. There is still space in some vestigially clever part of her brain, some part not quite caught up to the maddening touch of Tony's body against hers, some part of her thoughts that's kept the space to ponder over the idea of love. But god, she's worried that that's what's behind her own eyes. She might be fuzzy with sleep, but she can feel the particular care with which Tony's arm is curled around her. They care, it's not just lust, she thinks, how invasive.

Eventually he'll get bored of her, or she'll get bored of him, she's almost certain. There's too much risk and this, she, isn't worth the loss—not when he has all the world opening up before him, not when he's got money in over-abundance and fame and the title of 'hero'. If the roles were reversed she'd never pick him.

(This is a lie. Poorly constructed and easily seen through. But it's enough to let her sleep at night. That's all that really counts.)

All is not well, but it never is, not in the job, and not out of it.

She closes her eyes, and they fade, warmly, to black.