They were both silent for a long while. When Tony finally blinked, he shook his head, looking away from her only to look back at the hospital sign behind them. "Well, I guess my uknown debt to Barton has just been repaid," he muttered sarcastically.

She watched him silently for a few moments more.

"You're not saying anything," he observed.

"Neither are you."

"Are you going to elaborate, or is that some big secret too?"

She remained calm, she had been prepared for him to be on the defensive after hearing her confession. "After you got back from Afghanistan, the rumors spread quickly. Everyone wanted to know your secrets. My handlers wanted to be the first."

"The arc reactor? That's what all this was about?"

She nodded.

"I'm used to people coming after me, but this…." He whistled. "This is new." He paced back and forth a couple of times as he took it all in. "Someone broke into my private safe at the Chicago townhouse. That was you?"

"Yes," she said, her eyes remaining steady on him.

He laughed. "Now that, that's impressive. I can't even tell you where the blasted thing is in that place, let alone what the code is. Well, I guess it's a good thing I wasn't there at the time."

She shook her head. "I was just looking for information on the arc reactor technology at that time."

"No, but then you were in my house a few months later, weren't you? In Malibu? I had just gotten home from dinner with Pepper and I knew something was off. My entire security team and I followed you for six hundred and thirteen miles before you got away."

"I remember."

"The Black Widow wasn't going to stop, huh? You didn't get close enough to me the first two times, of course you had to keep going."


"You hi-jacked my private jet, right? Planted a bomb? I wasn't there that day, either, but my pilot? He wasn't so lucky, now was he? His name was David Johnson. I knew him since undergrad. Had three young children, him and his wife."

"Tony, I… I'm sorry," she whispered.

"You're sorry?!" He shouted. "The arc reactor, huh?" His breathing quickened as he placed his hands unconsciously on his chest. "I- I told you everything…. Let you touch it, let you touch me!"

"Tony, you're panicking," she said, reaching for him, but he pulled quickly away, backing up from her. "I'm not going to hurt you now."

He held up his hands. "No, you… you've already hurt me." His eyes narrowed. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because I care about you."

He snorted. "That's how you do it, right? Black Widow?"

"Tony, it's me. Natasha. I'm not that person anymore."

"Wait a minute." He stopped pacing. " I was only back six months before Fury planted you in my company. How long had you been a part of S.H.I.E.L.D., huh? Like, three weeks? Was that your test? If you could be around me and my house without killing me then you must be good enough for S.H.I.E.L.D., right?" He shook his head, his eyes slightly wild.

"I went through a lot of de-programming when I got to S.H.I.E.L.D." she informed him, her voice soft. "It was months of mental and physical training before I was sent out on my first mission. And I promise you, that was far from my first mission."

"Right. And Fury wouldn't have sent you if he wasn't absolutely sure you could handle it, right?" He asked bitterly, still shaking his head.

"I know. I know this is a lot for you right now," she said calmly. "And I understand that you probably need some time…"

He paused for a moment, his breath coming in quick, sharp gasps. "God, not now…" he groaned, trying to steady his hands, which he hadn't realized had been shaking.

"It's okay," Natasha said, holding out her hands to him without touching him. "You're okay. Just breathe deeply, Tony. Eyes on me, remember?"

"Oh, you can bet that my eyes are going to be on you, Agent Romanoff," He said, his voice slightly shaky.

"Tony, I'm not going to hurt you. You have to believe me."

He nodded as his breathing started to slow to normal. "I know that. It's not part of your mission right now, right?"

She shook her head. "It's not about the mission. And we're on the same side now. I didn't know you back then, but I know you now. Or at least, we were having fun getting to know each other, right?"

He placed a still shaking hand over his mouth as he steadied himself. "I- I've got to go, gotta get out of here.."

"Tony, wait. I get that you need time, but please, don't run away from me now," she pleaded.

He looked up at her again, a slight chuckle caught in his throat. "Run?" He asked, tapping on his forearm before raising both arms in the air. "Come on now, darling. You know running's not my style."

Before she could even blink, his armor had completely surrounded his body and locked into place. "I'd much rather fly."

With that, he was gone before she'd finished shouting, "Tony!"