Pretty as a Purl

by Liliththestormgoddess

Disclaimer: I don't own the Avengers, or Marvel comics.

Sub-summary: Natasha knitted when dreams haunted her. She knitted when she was scared. She had started to knit to deal with her fear for Clint, and now she's knitting to deal with her fear for the Avengers. And that's what really scared her.

A/N: Here it is, guys. The last chapter. For real, this time. This one took me a while to write; I'm sure you can imagine why. Thanks so much to everyone who reviewed, read and favourited this story. Hope you guys enjoyed the ride. On a side note, I am still working on a multi-chap fic and hoping to post it soon. Keep an eye out.

Tony Stark

Natasha would later claim that her anxiety came from staying around Pepper for too long.

Pepper Potts was normally a very calm and collected person. She was a pillar of strength and fortitude, and was known for her driving attitude and her ability to strike any deal. Some of the weaker souls were said to have quaked in their boots when she entered the room, her presence making her seem bigger than she actually was.

Natasha knew this to be true. She had worked for the woman, after all. And because she had worked for her, she knew Pepper quite well. After the whole New York fiasco the two had started to talk once again. As the only other female presence, the two had instantly formed a pact to keep the others safe and relatively sane.

But even Virginia 'Pepper' Potts had breaking points. And Natasha was currently watching her friend come apart at the seams.

It was understandable, though. Pepper normally fretted about Tony's safety and rightly so. He was a lunatic who went up against bad guys on a daily basis. But when you're boyfriend is nearly incinerated, and his suit literally melts to his skin, you are allowed a small meltdown. Natasha understood.

What she didn't understand, however, was why she was left to deal with it.

"You're a woman," Clint had told her with a shrug as he fled from the waterworks. Natasha resisted the urge to flay him. She may have been a woman, but she was raised as an assassin. Most of the time if she was acting like a woman it was to get what she wanted, and most of the time she used it against a mark. She didn't do comfort and girl talk and stuff.

The two women were waiting outside of the operating room, as they had been for the past three hours. The surgeons had to take it slow, removing as much of the armour from Tony's skin as they could before they tackled the parts that had melded to his skin. It was predicted to be a very long process. And Natasha could not take Pepper pacing and wringing her hands for several more hours.

Clint had run off, Bruce was assisting the operation, Steve had disappeared to talk to Fury, and Thor had also disappeared to parts unknown. That just left Natasha and a very distraught Potts.

"Pepper," Natasha tried once again, her voice soft. "Please, sit down. You're making me dizzy."

Pepper spun to look at her, blinking several times before she was able to process the words, before sitting stiffly down in the chair next to Natasha. She stayed there for about five seconds before she leapt up again and began to pace.

A small ding came from her jacket pocket, and Pepper jumped in the air. It took her several moments before she realized it was her cell phone. She quickly dug it out and frowned at the screen. "No, no, no," she moaned, typing harshly. "I said I wanted it by Friday, we had a contract!" The phone let out several more dings and Pepper pounded on the keys as she walked, muttering harshly under her breath.

Natasha sighed deeply. "Pepper."

The other woman kept typing.

"Pepper," she said a little louder.

No response.

"Pepper!" Natasha yelled, making the other redhead drop her phone in surprise. "Pepper, you can't do this to yourself. Not for the next eight hours. You need to find something else to occupy yourself, or you'll just wear yourself down."

Pepper turned to her and Natasha's stomach clenched when she saw the fresh tears there. "What am I supposed to do?" she whispered.

Oh, no. This is what Natasha was hoping to avoid.

What could Pepper do? What would Natasha do? Well, most of the time, to relieve tension she would head down to the range and shoot everything in sight. Or punch the shit out of a punching bag. But Pepper couldn't do those things. What else was there? She was floundering now, because more tears were joining the ones on Pepper's cheeks and Natasha couldn't stand it.

And then it hit her. Knitting. Granted, it wasn't her greatest idea but it was the best she had right now. And if it helped her, whose to say it wouldn't help Pepper?

Natasha jumped from her chair. "Knitting," she said simply.

Pepper frowned. "What?"

"Have you ever knitted before?"

"I – uh," Pepper sniffed, brushing a strand of hair back from her face. "Um, I think so, when I was little. My mother tried to get me into it, but I – I really didn't have the knack for it."

Natasha hesitated a moment before reaching out and grabbing one of Pepper's hands. She didn't know how to do this stuff, but she figured it was a safe enough gesture. She could feel the tension in Pepper's hand, but now she had the woman's complete attention. "Let me show you," she said. "It will keep your mind off things and your hands busy. And it really helps with the stress."

"Okay," she responded weakly.

And that was how the two women came to be, knitting in the waiting room. Natasha was able to skip the basics because Pepper was able to recall the simple stitches, but she still guided her hands through the motions, coaching her along. Because her actions required both dexterity and focus, Pepper's mind slowly drifted from the situation behind the doors and concentrated on the wool beneath her fingers. Natasha could pinpoint the exact moment that Pepper was able to restore some semblance of calm and sanity as her shoulders relaxed and her foot stopped tapping. Natasha pulled out her own needles and worked on the opposite end and together the women extended the blanket. They carried on in this fashion until the operating room doors opened.

Pepper promptly dropped everything that was in her hands and dashed towards the doctor. Natasha, in a calmer manner, set her knitting aside and approached the two, catching the doctor's words of reassurance. When Pepper disappeared inside Tony's room, Natasha headed back towards her own bedroom. A few hours later Clint came to tell her that Tony was awake, but it was only late at night when she slipped down to see him.

Natasha, deep, deep down, liked Tony. It was a…complicated relationship. He loved to tease her. She loved to threaten his life. And they both had each other's backs, come hell or high water, no questions asked.

When she slipped into his hospital room, the lights were off and only the lights of the machines and Tony's arc reactor cast a glow around the room. Tony was sleeping, and from what Natasha could see, most of his upper body was swaddled in gauze. His face was relatively unscathed, surprisingly.

Natasha cast a sympathetic glance at Pepper's slumbering form in the chair next to Tony's bed. She sighed as she walked over and surveyed the exhausted woman. That position could not be comfortable. Yet, she knew without asking anyone that Pepper had put up a fight to be able to stay in this room. Gently, Natasha pried the knitting needles from her limp hands. The exponential growth of the blanket was testament to the amount of stress that Pepper had been under.

As she was using the new blanket to cover the sleeping woman, Tony began to stir.

The billionaire let out a soft moan before his eyes fluttered open and he regained consciousness. "Pep," he slurred, "Make a donation to that wishing foundation. 'Cause I think I had a taste of hell, and I ain't going back."

Natasha moved closer to his bed. "Pepper's sleeping," she told him.

Tony groggily turned his head in her direction. A loopy smile formed on his face. "Heyyy, Spidey."

Natasha frowned at the nickname but ignored it because he was sick and on lots of pain medication.

"'S'nice blanket," Tony muttered, gesturing with a heavily wrapped hand towards the blanket draped across Pepper's lap. "Pepper showed me." When Natasha remained silent, he said, "Were you knitting too?" Despite the drugs and exhaustion running through his system, Tony still managed to sound like the intruding bastard he was.

Natasha's eyes narrowed. "No. Pepper made that."

"Ah, c'mon, I know Pepper doesn't knit. Or didn't. And Bruce doesn't either."

"I don't knit," Natasha insisted, her voice lowering dangerously.

"Yes, you do! I know – ah, okay, okay, you don't! You don't!" Tony's eyes widened as Natasha brandished one of the knitting needles at him. He let out a breath when she returned it to the basket at Pepper's feet.

Settling back into his pillows, Tony looked over at Pepper, and his expression softened. "She looks…calm now. She was – I think the knitting helped." His voice was barely over a whisper, but Natasha could hear the silent words behind it. Thank you for looking after her when I couldn't. Tony would never say it out loud, and Natasha would never admit, even on the pain of death, that Pepper's hands had not been the only ones shaking as they knitted.

Instead, she simply said, "Go back to sleep, Stark," before walking out.